Lelouch thought himself a corpse before that day in Shinjuku, a mindless puppet caught up in the machinations of powers greater than his control, unable to do anything other than be drowned against the raging current of the world.
He thought a corpse was one who had no control over his own destiny.
When C.C. met him, even she wasn't cruel enough to tell him he had never been dead before.
C.C. has had many different deaths. Slow deaths, quick deaths, water deaths, fire deaths, poison deaths, sword deaths, and even one time where she actually ended up dying from a stray lightning bolt.
She has never been killed.
And she's seen even more deaths than that. Plagues, famines, and run of the mill human violence, she's seen them all a dozen times over. People she's never known for more than an instant have died in front of her, and people she thinks she knew for years die just the same.
They all die, and with them, their memories of a green haired woman who never could do the same, faded like words on an old, unvisited tombstone.
C.C. has never been killed, but she still knows she's dead.
"Your mother is dead," his father says to him, that horrible, horrible day. His words ring out through halls that are vacated of laughter and life, and his eyes are terribly cold.
He says that because that's how his father has always dealt with him. Grass is green because it is, the sky is blue because it is, and his mother is dead because she is.
Dead is dead.
When he finds out that dead isn't quite as dead as he thought, Lelouch finds that it's just one more reason that he should never believe in absolutes.
C.C. remembers a story she heard once. It's odd, that she had forgotten the names of her persecutors, her lovers, but a story out of the mists of time remained with her.
The story goes that a king had a dream of his destined queen, a woman of perfect, crystalline beauty that dimmed the sun and stars themselves. He went fever-mad with love for this woman he did not know, and immediately divorced his current wife and sent out of a missive to his subjects, searching for this singular, perfect woman.
Many hopeful women came before the king, hoping they would be the one from his dreams. Though there were great beauties, great singers, great lovers, all manner of women great and small, none could match the king's vision of perfect beauty. Despairing, he bequeathed the reigns of his kingdom to his steward and left alone, towards distant lands that might yet hold the queen promised in his dreams.
He searched throughout the world, coming to the courts of his distant cousins and allies, to the houses of kings and emperors, noblemen and beggars. And though many women came to him, either as offers from those seeking alliance or simply because the king was still strikingly handsome for his age, he refused them all. His eyes gazed over every woman with the cold judgment of one who has seen perfection and will not settle for anything less.
He sought the counsel of wisemen and mystics, shamans and hermits. They used their rituals of smoke and mirrors, blood and bones, yet none could divine the location of this queen of dreams.
In his despair, he wandered the earth a vagrant. His once handsome countenance was tainted by disappointed and anger, and he looked more beast than man.
Finally, one day he found himself returning to the land of his birth, the land where he had once been called King. And there, walking the streets he once ruled, was his perfect queen, the vision of crystalline beauty that could make the stars weep and poets lose all ability to speak.
He ran to her, called out to her, but she did not turn. He yelled until his voice broke, and still she did not spare him a glance. Desperate, he reached out with a shaking hand, to grasp her by the shoulder and beg her to become his queen.
But his hand passed right through her, and his voice did not reach her.
You see, he was already dead.
"What's dying like?" Lelouch asked off handedly, fingers winding about the crown of the black king, the points pressing against his fingers like poison thorns.
C.C. gives him a weighing look through hooded eyes, sprawled out on the couch, at his skin, unmarred, but his brow weighed heavy with sins and hate.
"Like something you should only have to feel once," she answers.
One day, in that void year between Kaminejima and Babel Tower, C.C. stops and suddenly realizes she doesn't feel quite so dead anymore, that she feels like she has time again. Her past feels like it is saturated with Lelouch, not an empty void of mists and forgotten ghosts. She can only see violet eyes with torment in them, only hear the promise of a demon-king standing beside a witch, only feel the vague softness of his lips against her own.
Dead, she finds, might only be that vague waiting of one to be born.
As he sits atop his throne on the day he's chosen to die, Lelouch briefly wonders at himself.
His whole life, those without power have been those who are dead.
Yet when he looks at the people he has called friends and comrades, stripped of their power, he marvels at the life in them. They feel rage and hate, betrayal and sorrow, love and longing.
And here he is, the most powerful man in the world, perhaps in history. Without equals, without challengers, the closest thing to God on the planet.
And he can't seem to feel a single thing.
The real tragedy, C.C. thinks to herself, is that that perfect queen had to start living just as her king was dying.