Title: The Orange from the Apple Tree
Fandom: Code Geass – Hangyaku no Lelouch
Pairings: Zerozaku/?? (anyone who had read any of my previous fics should know who:3), but supporting pairings are Kallen/Gino, Cornelia/Guilford (married), some Sayoko/Jeremiah (yes!), and a little bit of Kanon/Schneizel/Kanon (can… not… decide)
Theme: Family and friendship, light humour, slight angst/drama to spice things up a bit, romance that only develops and establishes after a long period of time. You decide if I succeeded in blending all these elements together or not.
A/N: Post series, from a draft I wrote ages ago but modified after the last turn. Can stand alone perfectly on its own, or go along with Candles and Frames and Flowers and Crystal Gardens (can be found at my writing LJ). No more Geass. They're trying to live as normally as they could.
I gave up trying to make this a long one-shot when the word count hit 13,000, so I decided to break this story into parts. Will probably have a couple more parts, or just one more if my fingers are quick (and if additional plot would just stop popping out of nowhere). I hope you enjoy reading this piece.
Note that this story may not be displayed in the original/intended format. Strikethrough doesn't seem possible in FFNet, so if you have time, I'd like to invite you to read this story at my writing LJ.
THE ORANGE FROM THE APPLE TREE
He saw the faint silhouette of Euphemia li Britannia in his dream. He used to dream of her all the time after her death, or so he thought, for all he could see was foggy visions of her flowing dress and her bright hair. Before he woke up from each dream, the fog would always clear up for a brief second to show him the slightly angered and disappointed expression on the deceased Princess' face. He never figured out why she seemed so mad in his dream, but as he floated in a new dream of her for the first time under his new persona, he was starting to suspect that he was not dreaming at all. He hadn't been dreaming all these years either when he saw her.
After Geass, the World of C, the Thought Elevator and the undeniable existence of Immortals, Suzaku – Zero, he reminded himself strictly – thought he should not be surprised to be on the receiving end of yet another supernatural phenomenon. By the time the fog cleared in his dreamscape and Euphemia remained in his field of vision, he knew he was not dreaming. The Princess' spirit was there to visit him.
With a purpose he had yet to find out; and a look that clearly indicated that she was totally and utterly pissed off.
"It still isn't fair," her ghost spoke, surprising Suza – Zero. "One person shouldn't have had to shoulder all the blame in the world, regardless of how thick the blood of others drips from his hands."
Zero blinked. He was aware of what she was talking about, but he wasn't sure if he was supposed to respond.
"The World and its people should be given the chance to atone for the blood on their hands too. It's not fair to take that right away from them."
He watched as her sharp gaze turned into a hard glare, drilling holes into his shocked green eyes. And then she grinned.
"Oh, yes, the people shall repent. They won't realise it, though. Don't you think it would be wonderful, having them live in atonement for their sins without actually forcing them to, and without the conscious supervision of their minds too?"
She spun around, her flowing dress bouncing with glee. In a flash, she was right in front of him, smiling. "I'm letting you know firsthand so that you'll have time to not be too shocked when it happens. He told me you have the tendency to act rashly when you were still, well, you.
"I don't buy that, though. You're still you, regardless of what name you take or what mask you wear. When the time comes, you'll make sure everybody does it properly. And for the sake of the world, you too. Do it for yourself too, ok? Don't leave anything out. Remember, do it properly this time around."
And then he woke up. He never had the chance to speak. He thought he knew what she was trying to tell him, but by the time she started mentioning something about the World and atonement, he was completely lost. Confused.
Three years had passed since the death of Emperor Lelouch vi Britannia. The world had embraced peace and the people lived in harmony. Minor offenses like theft still happened occasionally, but such crime was trivial and usually dealt with as soon as it took place. The Holy Britannia Empire was renamed to Neo Britannia. Empress Nunnally hated how the old name sounded like they were selfishly arrogant. She never agreed with the ideals of her predecessors that Britannians were mightier and holier than people of other nationalities.
A few months after the Prime Minister of Japan, Ougi Kaname married Viletta Nu, Cornelia li Britannia had settled down with her Knight, Guilford. Although it was customary for the husbands to take on their wives' last name in the ancient rule of the Royal family of Britannia, Cornelia insisted the rule should only go as far public affairs were concerned. In public, she would address herself as Cornelia li Britannia, but in the safe of their home, she was Cornelia Guilford. Their firstborn was a sweet girl with hair the colour of dark magenta, almost reminiscent of her deceased aunt. Cornelia had named her daughter 'Euphemia', with hope that she would grow up to be as beautiful and gentle as her namesake.
Kanon Maldini was still Schneizel's loyal aid, taking care of the Prince's welfare. Gino Weinberg was one of the Royal Knights of the Grand Palace of Neo Britannia, just like Guilford. When you couldn't find Lord Weinberg anywhere in Neo Britannia, he was most probably in Japan with his beloved Koudzuki Kallen. All in all, life was beautiful.
Until Nunnally saw Zero sitting at his table in a daze that very morning.
Empress Nunnally vi Britannia knew her Royal Advisor better than anyone else, probably in the whole world. She could tell when he was feeling down, or when he was confused. He was the one who had shared her grief on every anniversary of her brother's death. He was the one who had been holding her shaking hands. He was also the one whom she tried her best not to burden with her tears. He was always there for her, strong and firm, and so she would be strong for him too.
"Zero?" Nunnally called out to the silent man softly as to not startle him much.
As attentive as ever despite feeling a little bit disoriented, Zero looked up from his paperwork (which Nunnally suspected to still be an empty piece of paper even after an hour). If she could see through his mask, she would find him blinking rapidly to focus his eyes on her concerned face.
"Is anything wrong, Nunnally?"
Nunnally chuckled lightly. She was the one who should be asking Zero that kind of question. "Oh, no, nothing's wrong. It's just that I've noticed something about you today. You seem troubled. Did something happen this morning? You weren't like this before you excused yourself last night."
He didn't ask what she meant by 'like this'. If Nunnally could tell that he was troubled without looking at his face, he wondered what she would say if she could see his deep frown. Her deceased brother would probably be blunt and tell him something along the lines of 'You look like shit, Suzaku' or 'What the hell happened to you?'. Either way, he saw no harm in telling her the truth. She would know if he were to lie anyway.
"Nothing much, actually. I just had the strangest dream."
"Oh,my!" Nunnally gasped. "What a coincidence! I had a very strange dream too last night."
Zero raised an eyebrow even though Nunnally couldn't see through his mask. "A coincidence indeed. You don't seem troubled, though."
Unconsciously, the Empress tilted her head slightly to the right as she thought of a reply. "Hmm… I was too confused to be troubled all day by the dream, but now that I think about it, it really was strange to see someone I couldn't recognise saying something about repentance and atonement."
If Zero did not have a calm reputation to uphold, he would have gasped. Or worse, he would have squeaked indignantly at the similarity of Nunnally's dream to his. He listened to her description of the unknown person she saw in her dream. The more he listened to her, the more he was sure that the spirit who visited her was Rolo Lamperouge. He was about to tell her about his dream when a loud explosion shook the palace. He grabbed Nunnally instinctively, shielding her from possible assassins. The tremor subsided after a few minutes and nothing happened…
…until manly scream that could only belong to the guards of the Throne Room echoed throughout the hallways.
They rushed to the source of the scream, dread heavy in their hearts. Zero initially wanted Nunnally to stay behind, but he couldn't leave her alone when Cornelia and Schneizel weren't around. Upon reaching the throne room, they saw the guards and Gino, who apparently had ran all the way from the main gate right after the explosion, standing at the doorway to the room with horror and disbelief reflected in their eyes. The guards who had screamed seemed to have lost their voice.
"What happened?" Nunnally asked tentatively.
Gino turned his head to his side, body still facing the doorway. "Your Majesty, Lord Zero… There's…"
Zero didn't wait for Gino to finish his words. He slipped past the petrified guards and Gino into the throne room, only to find himself glued to the floor at the unexpected sight. He heard Nunnally's gasp and knew she had followed him inside as well.
In the middle of the room, a boy in bloodied white garment slumped over the Empress' throne, hand falling limply to his side. The clothes he was wearing was too big for him, almost drowning him under the white layers. Zero clenched his fingers to keep from trembling too badly. The mop of black hair and the oversized, blood-soaked and overly familiar white clothes could only mean one thing…
The masked man counted the steps he took as he neared the throne. Shock was written all over his face upon seeing the boy in closer inspection. He looked like he was put on the throne while he was sleeping someplace else, hence the calm look on his face. Zero's eyes were drawn to the front of his clothes where half-dried blood glued the layers of clothes to the boy's body.
No, no, no, no.
He didn't hear anything about this. Nothing like this was ever mentioned in their plans. It wasn't even possible! It was completely against logic, but so was Geass, and Zero and Schneizel were still there to prove the existence of the power. Could CC have known? He suspected the answer to be a firm and truthful 'no' if he could track her down and ask her.
More footsteps were approaching. He heard Schneizel, Kanon, Cornelia and Guilford gasped audibly. Guilford immediately sent away his shocked wife, who was carrying their two-year-old daughter. Such bloodied scene should not taint little Euphemia's eyes. Schneizel and Kanon were by Zero's side when the man removed his dark cape to cover the sleeping boy and picked him up in his arms.
Shock had not left any of them. Nunnally suddenly wished she had her eyes closed. This was all too much for her to take in. "Zero… That wouldn't be… my…my…"
He knelt in front of Nunnally, bringing the boy down with him. Nunnally's hands were trembling as she reached out for the boy. She placed her palm on his cheek and almost choked on the sudden blitz of emotion. "He's warm."
"He's breathing, Nunnally," Zero told her quietly. "He's alive."
Grasping the situation, Gino and Guilford went to handle the witnesses that had gathered outside the throne room. A gag order was necessary, and they would have everyone sign the Holy Oath of Complete Silence before the day was over. Schneizel ordered Kanon to call the Royal doctor and get the maids to prepare a room for the boy.
Nunnally's hands wouldn't leave the boy's, so Zero carefully placed him on her lap. She didn't seem to care about the bloodstains which were not covered completely by Zero's cape. She held him, feeling the warmth of life, watching the rise and fall of his chest. Before she knew it, she was crying and calling out to someone she terribly, horribly missed.
Zero wondered what Kururugi Suzaku would have done in this situation. Maybe he would cry, but Zero wouldn't. He would be calm, supporting the Empress in her moments of weakness. Schneizel looked at Zero, silently asking if he had the man's permission to have a closer look at the boy. Zero's nod was all it took for Schneizel to kneel down next to Nunnally, holding her trembling hand in one of his and feeling the warmth of the boy's cheek with his other hand.
Zero's frown deepened. What was happening?
Dear Mr. Funny Mask Zero,
I'm surprised you were able to track me down, though I have to say I'm glad you didn't come to see me personally. I would have run away if I suddenly see you standing at my door when it should be a cute Pizza delivery boy instead.
I have no idea what actually happened, and I must ask you not to write about such important and shocking information in a letter the next time, even if the letter is written in a secret code the three of us came up with in that horrid dimension years ago.
The world is a funny place, Zero. Unexpected things happen all the time. I guess we should all be used to weird stuff popping out of nowhere by now. I can state here that the dreams you claim many of you saw before he appeared were not normal dreams. It is not uncommon for the spirits of the dead to contact the living, though in most cases the living would not remember such dreams upon their wake.
I don't know what to say about repentance and atonement as I have no clue what they meant. There must be a reason that you're supposed to find out later. That's not really my problem, is it? He's there with all of you, so you guys are the ones responsible for unraveling the mystery.
Just take care of him. Give him happiness. All of you now have the chance to watch him grow up, so don't waste it. If you screw up, I guess you'd screw him up too. Let me tell you about the law of second chances that you absolutely have to remember: the second is never the same as the first. He probably won't remember anything when he wakes up. You'll need to be ready on how to deal with that.
I need to pen off now. My pizzas are getting cold and I'm starting to sound like a nosy next door old lady. Bye.
The 3rd Letter of the Roman Alphabet (x2)
The reply came a month later than Zero had expected. There was no return address on the envelope. Zero suspected that if he were to sniff it, he could probably smell the pizza she was eating when she wrote the reply. He tucked the letter into the most secure safe and locked it carefully. It would be a scandal if the letter found its way into another's hands.
Royal doctors rushed in and out of Lelouch's room constantly, checking his vital stats every couple of hours.
They decided to let the boy keep his name. His real identity would only be known by his relatives and a few others. If words got out that Lelouch vi Britannia was still alive, there would no doubt be a large scale of outrage around the world. Zero would not take the risk. He would not want to expose the boy to dangers. It was bad enough that a few palace hands who had sworn to secrecy went crazy and attempted to murder the boy. When they failed, they committed suicide for fear of punishment. Zero had no choice but to keep everything hushed. Nunnally took a break from her duties to attend to little Lelouch, leaving Zero and Schneizel to take care of the important matters. She was accompanied by Gino all of the time while Guilford was ordered to keep a close watch on his own wife and daughter.
They couldn't afford to let their guards down. Documents were arranged to cover up Lelouch's identity. He was to be Lelouch de Britannia, the 15th Prince who was comatose since the bombing of the Pendragon. He was born after Lelouch and Nunnally vi Britannia were presumed dead. His mother was related to Marianne vi Britannia and had loved the Empress' children; she named her firstborn in memoriam the supposedly departed 11th Prince. Every other detail about him would then gradually develop from that starting point.
Zero left Schneizel and Kanon to observe some matters which needed handling as he excused himself to visit Lelouch. Gino stood guarding the door beyond which Nunnally watched over her sleeping brother. He greeted Gino with a nod and received similar greeting from the blond.
"It's been a month and I still can't believe this is happening," Gino stated off-handedly. "This is all so crazy."
Zero knew exactly how Gino felt. A month ago, they all revealed to each other that they had similar foretelling dreams in which they were warned about something that would happen in the near future. They all agreed that 'the something' was the sudden reappearance of de-aged Lelouch, but none had any ideas what it actually implied or how it was possible for such illogical occurrence to take place.
"Likewise, Gino," Zero spoke just as leisurely. "It's surprising to see you all calm about this. I thought you hated the 99th Emperor's guts."
Gino glared at the masked man, greatly annoyed. He bit back a harsher remark and simply went with "Well, forget about me. I would expect you to not be calm about all these." You were the one who killed him, not me! Wouldn't surprise me if the kid seeks revenge on you, Gino thought. And I know who you are, you arrogant prick! Or maybe I should say I know who you were, Zero
It was funny how they were constantly at odds even after a few years.
Zero snorted, much to Gino's annoyance. "I'm not playing this game with you, Gino." You don't even know half of the whole story. He gave Gino another nod and pushed past the door to greet Nunnally. She asked him if something was wrong. He just told her everything was perfectly alright.
The young Empress held her brother's hand – her brother's warm hand. He was a little bit older than she remembered seeing him as a child. She still remembered his sleeping face. With her sister Euphemia, they used to sneak into his room and his bed while he was sleeping, just to have him yelling in shock when he woke up to find himself immobilised in his blanket because his sisters were sleeping on it. When they were young, Lelouch looked like a beautiful girl when he was asleep. Just like this moment.
"Is he really my brother?" Nunnally asked silently, as if she was talking to herself. Zero had heard the same question many times since the past month and stopped counting after the tenth time Nunnally asked him.
"His DNA has been confirmed. He's your brother, there's no doubt about it. The only mystery now is what, how and why."
"You're sure this isn't part of your – ah, I mean, his plan?"
Zero flinched. Nunnally knew too much for her own good. She was indeed stronger than she was given credits for. "I…" How do I word it properly? "No. I don't think he saw this coming. We buried him, remember? We were all there, as is the Crystal Garden now. Would you…" …like for us to see if his body is still down there, or if it's missing? "Never mind. I don't think we'll ever find a logical explanation to this, but as we all know, many things that had happened during the war itself were inexplicable by logic."
Nunnally shuddered as Zero mentioned the Crystal Garden. She had had Lelouch's body buried near the Grand Palace of Neo Britannia. She couldn't stand the thought of the body of her beautiful brother being consumed by hungry flames until all that would be left of him was a pile of ash. A magnificent crystal tree was built as his grave marker, shielded by an altar, surrounded by a breathtaking flower garden and protected by strong walls. It looked like an ominous fortress from the outside. At night, dome ceiling made of the same material as the grave marker closed over the fortress. All entrances but the one connected to the palace were locked, keeping it secure.
She knew Zero was about to suggest for them to dig up her brother's grave, and he knew she would flat out refuse. Let the dead sleep, she would say.
How was she supposed to treat this little boy, then? How were they going to handle him? As the old Lelouch, or as someone else entirely?
"What do you hope for, Nunnally? When he wakes up, I mean. What would you do if he remembers and what would you do if he doesn't?"
His questions sounded rhetoric but she knew he expected her to answer. She watched him remove his gloves and rested his hand on Lelouch's head, probably checking his temperature.
Zero stared at her.
"I… I'm ready to face him. I want him to wake up soon. My brother is dead, Zero. We all know that. This boy here…he's my brother, but he's not him. He won't be him. I'm going to make sure this boy grows up happy. What my brother lost, I'll give it to him. I…"
"Don't say 'I', Nunnally," Zero interrupted smoothly. "You're not alone, remember?"
She looked up when she felt Zero's hand on hers. The man put a hand on his mask and removed it from his face, looking down at Nunnally with a smile. Nunnally felt herself smiling back. She had almost forgotten how Zero looked like behind the mask. His face looked harder than she remembered, but he was still the person she knew. And if she read him right, there was a small trace of something in Zero's cool gaze.
Something like hope, and perhaps happiness.
It was time for a little stroll down the hallway for Kanon Maldini. He did it every night for 15 minutes, walking the ground with inconspicuous steps as to not distract anyone. He made it a duty upon himself to check on Schneizel every night to ensure that the prince was safely resting in his quarters, although he was about 30 minutes late from his routine this night. Ever since little Lelouch appeared bloodied upon the throne, Kanon would also check on the boy before going back to his room for some rest before morning came.
The large door to Schneizel's private chamber made no sound when Kanon pushed it open after recognising his fingerprints. He was amongst the few privileged occupants of the palace who had access to the room. To Kanon's surprise, the room was bright. The main source of light was left switched on and Schneizel was nowhere to be found.
Frowning in wonder, Kanon left the room and headed straight for Lelouch's room. Schneizel had been somewhat distant ever since the boy showed up. Kanon wasn't sure what the man felt about the bizarre occurrence. He couldn't afford to bring himself to ask Schneizel about it, lest he ended up upsetting the Prince further.
The door to Lelouch's room was slightly ajar when Kanon rounded the corner. A small alarm sounded in his head as he quickened his pace. Pushing the door open, he released a heavy sigh upon the sight of Lelouch sleeping soundly in his bed. He took a sharp intake of breath when the man sitting on the chair next to the bed looked up to acknowledge his presence.
"Prince Schneizel," Kanon gasped, keeping his voice down.
Schneizel smiled at the genuine look of surprise on Kanon's face. "A little bit late tonight, aren't you?"
He felt like something was constricted in his chest at the comment. He hoped the flush in his cheeks wasn't obvious, thanks to the dimly lit state of the room in which he was thankful for. "You… You knew…"
Another smile. "I didn't find out right away, though. Does that make you feel better?"
It took Kanon a few blinks to note Schneizel's half joke. He chuckled lightly and turned his eyes to look at Lelouch's sleeping face. He glanced sideways to look at Schneizel, whose attention had returned to the sleeping boy. His gaze was unreadable though his eyes seemed a little downcast. Kanon wondered what the smile on his Prince's lips meant.
"He looks so fragile," came Schneizel's whisper. "So young. So innocent."
Indeed, Kanon agreed speechlessly. The sleeping boy was the very picture of innocence. He found himself anticipating the day the boy would speak his first word, like a mother anticipating her baby's first comprehensible speech. He could barely remember Lelouch vi Britannia when he was young, laughing with his sisters in the Rose Garden when he first set foot in the Aries Palace for a brief visit back when Kanon first pledged his allegiance to the Royal family.
"He has a whole world of possibilities ahead of him," Schneizel continued, interrupting Kanon's trail of thoughts. "And we're the ones responsible for helping him find his way around.
If he's going to grow up under our care, I wish his days are filled with happiness all year round."
Kanon couldn't stop the smile from blossoming. Schneizel's words were full of love and affection for the Prince. He remembered the days of nightmares, specifically when Schneizel told the Order of the Black Knights that Lelouch had been the brother he loved and feared the most.
Loved the most, and feared the most. Kanon didn't know where Schneizel found the part in his heart to divide his feelings into such extreme opposites. He had thought the 'love' part was just a dramatic lie, but when he thought about it, Schneizel had said 'feared', not 'hated'. They weren't extreme opposites after all.
When there was no 'hatred', there could only ever be 'love'. Fear and hate were never in the same category, nor should they ever be.
"Would you help us, Kanon? Or am I asking too much out of you?"
An invisible lump in his throat made swallowing a hard ordeal all of a sudden. Kanon couldn't even swallow the surprise properly. Schneizel was asking him if he would be willing to watch over Lelouch. Kanon wanted to say 'yes' right away, but Schneizel stopped him by holding his hand up.
"But only if you do this on your own free will, that you can assure yourself that you're doing this for him and for yourself… and not because you feel obligated to follow my orders."
"Don't you think it's about time you stop tolerating my reckless decisions?"
"Your… Your Highness, I'm not sure I follow…" Am I being dismissed as your aid? Kanon wanted to ask. He bit his lips lightly.
"You've done too much for me, Kanon. I don't even know where I should begin with to start thanking you from."
"It was my -!"
"We've been through so many things, Kanon. I don't know what the world would be if what happened in the past never happened. We would probably still be at war, and we all knew Damocles was destined to fail someday even if the plan had worked. We all had been foolish. Yet you followed me, even though I know you doubted my actions so many times."
Kanon wanted to shout. He couldn't. Lelouch was asleep and they were just a few feet apart from the bed. He wondered if Schneizel was planning to have this conversation here all along, knowing they wouldn't be able to argue openly.
"You knew I wasn't afraid of death. You kept me within your watch all the time to make sure I don't recklessly get myself killed. You were scared for me when Clovis died. You were scared again when Euphemia died."
That much, Kanon couldn't argue even if he could.
"But that's enough, Kanon. You don't have to be scared for me anymore. Things have changed, and they weren't small changes. You can stop worrying about me now.
You'd tire yourself out if you worry over Lelouch and myself at the same time, Kanon, and I don't want you to do that to yourself. I meant it when I said you don't have to be scared for my life anymore. Everyday when I see everyone, I'm glad I'm alive. So glad… I'd fight to be alive if I have to."
It wasn't the first time Kanon felt like crying. He bit his lips. Of all the speeches he had heard, this one shot right trough his heart. He was glad to be alive to know the Schneizel who valued his own life. It wasn't about living to serve Zero anymore. It was about finding the meaning of life and appreciating the borrowed time human beings are given to walk the Earth with – and to be happy for it.
"Prince Schneizel… I would serve Prince Lelouch with my life. He deserves happiness. It's not fair for only us to be happy. I… I don't know why, but I'm sure in giving him happiness, we'd all be happy too."
Kanon was definitely sure they would, as was Schneizel.
They spent the next few minutes in complete silence, content in looking at the sleeping Prince.
"Are you staying?" Kanon asked, breaking the silence.
Schneizel nodded. "Just for a bit longer. You can go back to your quarters first. I'll watch over him, don't worry."
Kanon took one last look at Schneizel and Lelouch before excusing himself, making his silent steps to the door.
"Kanon," the silvery voice stopped Kanon in his track. He peeked at the Prince over his shoulder, waiting for his next words. He knew somehow that those lips would not give him any more orders from this day onwards.
"Thank you." For watching over me all these years. "And please, call me Schneizel from now onwards."
Kanon closed his eyes and nodded even though he knew Schneizel couldn't see him. "My Pleasure, Y… Schneizel." He closed the door behind him and left the room just as silently, anticipating the arrival of a new dawn.
Kanon's anticipation was not wasted. He arrived at Lelouch's door just in time to see the boy's eyes fluttering open. Kanon inhaled sharply, stilling himself from running to Lelouch's side too eagerly. Instead, he turned on his heels before Lelouch could notice him to call the doctors and inform the Empress.
They stood around an empty corner of the room overlooking the bed as the doctors buzzed around checking for Lelouch's vital stats. They watched as the boy blinked wordlessly at everything that happened around him. When he tried to answer the doctors' questions, he only managed a squeak. He tried a few times but found himself unable to get a proper word out. Instead of getting frustrated, Lelouch tilted his head and simply looked confused.
"Do you understand what I'm saying?" one of the doctors asked, earning a nod from Lelouch.
"Can you speak?"
"Ahh… Aaah…" was the only sound that Lelouch could produce. It confused him greatly. Everybody else in the room was just as confused.
"Can you say 'Hello?' Open your mouth like this and push the air through your lung. Like this, 'He-ll-o?' Can you try that? Bring your mouth to the sides for a little bit, close your mouth slightly and put your tongue on the tip of the top row of your teeth – yes, like that. Draw your tongue in again and round your lips like this. Try it out, please."
"… Hey.. Heyll.. Hey low…? Hello…? Hello!"
Everyone was utterly confused by then. Lelouch looked so excited to be able to just say 'hello'. Nunnally was glad. For a moment, she thought little Lelouch was mute. The doctors instructed Lelouch on how to say a few more words, which the boy followed and managed to produce. One of the doctors ushered everybody out of the room, leaving the other doctor with Lelouch.
"Is he okay? Why can't he speak?" Nunnally asked, impatient.
The doctor looked through his hastily scribbled notes and frowned. "Honestly, Your Majesty, I'm not sure of it myself. His vital stats are completely normal. The small wound on his abdomen has healed fully, though there's a light scar on his skin left by the wound (Zero flinched inwardly). He understands what we say, but he can't speak and he isn't mute. The way we see it, it's like he has forgotten how to speak. When guided, he can produce words just fine."
Schneizel looked thoughtful for a moment, trying to digest the stream of information that flowed out of the doctor's mouth. "Forgotten how to speak? That's rather… odd."
The doctor nodded in agreement. "Indeed, Your Highness. If you'd like to hear my suggestion…?"
"Please do," Zero motioned for him to go on.
"I would suggest for him to be taught speech production. He seems to be a very fast learner, so I think he'd be speaking normally in no time under proper guidance."
Kanon's mind was already thinking the same thing, as was everyone else.
Nunnally opened her mouth but closed it again, unsure of how to word her next question without possibly getting a rise out of the doctor. "Erm.. Doctor?"
"Yes, Your Majesty?"
She was aware of her guardians' eyes on her. "What about… his mental state? His, I mean, his memories."
The doctor did not flinch or seem to flinch even inwardly. A true professional, Zero thought. "None, Your Majesty."
Nunnally blinked. "None? I don't believe I understand…"
"Pardon me, My Queen. I mean, he doesn't remember anything. He doesn't remember who he is, doesn't know where he is – he just doesn't know anything. It's like there was never anything in his mind in the first place, though it's amazing that he understands our speech in this state. You can think of his state of mind as a newborn's, but with the cognitive ability to understand spoken language."
It was amazing how the doctor tried not to use any medical jargons in his speech. Everything was as clear as the sky on the brightest day. They waited for the doctors to leave before going into Lelouch's room. Nunnally approached the boy first, trying hard to keep herself from smiling too broadly and crying at the same time. She didn't want to scare the confused boy.
"Hello," Lelouch greeted her with his newly learned word, smiling. He wanted to say more, but closed his mouth and gave Nunnally a sheepish look as if to say "Sorry, I don't know how to say it, though I know what I wanted to say".
Lelouch's voice sounded so beautiful that Nunnally wanted to cry. That, or maybe she just terribly, horribly missed her brother.
Nunnally chuckled and reached out to ruffle the boy's hair. "What other words did the doctors teach you to say?"
"… Yes. No. What. Speak. Say. Name. See. Eat. Drink. How. Hi. Who. I. Me. You. They…" He counted the words with his fingers as he said them. After 'they', Lelouch stopped. That was all, his eyes seemed to tell Nunnally. But before she opened her mouth to say more, Lelouch pointed his finger at her and giggled.
"Pretty," he said.
Nunnally stopped trying to keep herself from smiling broadly at this boy. Even though he was confused, he was clever enough to not let his confusion got the better of him. A surge of pride washed over the Empress' senses, leaving affectionate warmth in places where it touched her.
"Thank you," she told him through her smile.
Lelouch nodded. Still smiling, he pointed his finger at her once again. "Who wha.. Who aa… Who are you? What, I, me… mai… What eat.. ee… What ee my name? Who a…a… Um… Who umm I?" Who are you? What is my name? Who am I? He looked at her and waited for her answer, hoping she understood what he was trying to say.
Nunnally anticipated this conversation. "I'm your sister, and my name is Nunnally. You, dearest," she pointed at Lelouch good naturedly, "are my little brother, and your name is Lelouch."
It was obvious to everyone that Lelouch was trying to make sense of the new information. He understood her, but he couldn't figure out how to produce the appropriate speech sound that he wanted.
"See…Sees…ter. Sees,ter. Sister?"
"Nah nah… Nah.. Nah nah.. ee… Na na lee.. Nunnally. Sister Nunnally!"
Oh, oh, oh! Nunnally stifled her gasp. My name… He called out my name, and he tried saying it on his own!
"Yes, yes, that's right. I'm your sister, Nunnally."
"I… Um.. Me… Um… Mai.. My! My name…ees.. is… My name is Lu.. Leu…ss… Um…Aad do say." He meant the last sentence as 'hard to say'.
He didn't know how to produce the 'sh' sound yet to pronounce his name. The doctor was right, Lelouch was very intelligent. He used the speech sounds of words he had learned to try saying similar sounding words, just like how he figured out how to say is after learning how to say sister and how to say 'hard to' from what and you. He really did know the language system. He just forgot the speech production, for some reasons they might never be able to find out.
Lelouch gave up trying to say his own name and turned his head to look at Zero, Schneizel and Kanon who were staying at the doorway.
"Who are they?" Lelouch asked, glad that he was able to form a full sentence out of the words he previously managed to figure out and store in his memory. Nunnally was already chuckling when she realized Lelouch wasn't going to be able to say Schneizel's name until he learned how to properly produce the 'sh' and 'zh' sound. Introducing everyone to the boy would take some time, it seemed, but that was alright. It was going to take time, but they have all the time in the world.
It was half an hour later, and Schneizel was desperately trying to teach Lelouch how to produce the 'sh' and 'z' sound, much to everyone's amusement. Nunnally was laughing, Kanon was chuckling and Zero… Zero was smiling behind the mask.
In the midst of Nunnally's laughter, Kanon's amused chuckle, Schneizel's attempt at being a speech expert and Lelouch's failed attempts to produce the sounds correctly, Zero felt brief touch of warm breeze blowing past him and out into the sky through the open window. He thought he saw a familiar silhouette of a lady facing them before she vanished completely from view.
'Atonement, you said?' he thought, thinking of the dream he doubted he would ever forget. 'Very well.'
Though he wondered if Euphemia's ghost had meant to say gift instead.
Welcome to the world, Lelouch de Britannia.
PART 1 - END
It would be lovely if you could leave me a review after having read this part, just so I know what you think. Just a few words is enough if you don't want to leave a full comment. Your words could be my inspirations :3
Thank you for reading, and I hope you'll stay until it'!