A/N: Well, even if you didn't expect me, I'm actually back continuing this story. And believe it or not, I've never forgotten about it since last summer, just couldn't get enough inspiration to write down the new chapter. Also, I've changed the style quite a bit, making it much more detailed so I'm eager to hear your opinions, if it's better this way (I personally think it is). It you also decide so, I'll probably be rewriting the first four chapters in the near future, adding more details and some important scenes I thought about during my "break", like the day of the start from Kallen's point of view with some important clues, one of them being the way they actually found out about "poisonous gas" thing, so watch for updates. However I'll be focusing most of my attention on the new chapters.
Also, thanks for all the reivews for the previous chapter. About Angel's Day I'm sorry I said it that way, it's actually another name of the Name Day, as a day of your guardian angel or, otherwise, guardian saint, the one you're named after.
And I have to confess the first part about Euphie is there because I really wanted to write about Euphie but then understood that I absolutely can't have her and Cornelia coming in his chapter. So I wrote about her anyway. And watch out for the clues in this chapter, there's a lot of hints in it pointing to the plot ahead, more than in an average chapter. Now, on with it...
Chapter 5. Reminiscences.
The wind was blowing, rumpling the grass, ruffling the mirror-like surface of the lake and making clouds dance in the light blue sky, assisting the sun in its game of hide-and-seek. One moment it showed itself, making Euphie squint, and another it dived behind the white fluffy mess again, making the cloud shine from the inside, just like a huge lamp... No, after the sun dived behind the next one it certainly didn't look like a lamp... An elephant?... And now it changed to look like an elephant eaten by a snake. Or maybe it was a straw hat? The one Lady Marianne used to wear. The image of her standing near the lake in the Imperial Villa's garden, came to Euphie's mind, as her cheerful attitude started to fade. She remembered her looking at the lake and then turning and smiling to them, while holding her hat from being taken away by the wind. She caught herself at the thought it was one of the few memories of Lady Marianne where she was standing still. She was always so full of energy, moving around, taking part in their games and not considering it irksome as other adults did, organizing all sorts of events, carrying out most daring ideas, not being afraid of the public opinion... And so hospitable. They had always been welcomed at Imperial Villa, and never been distinguished for whom their mothers had been. It gave a feeling of one big family, and everybody loved it, not only she, but also Cornelia, Clovis, and even Shneizel who was never particularly attached to anything. They did all sorts of things... but usually it ended with Clovis challenging Lelouch to play chess, every time believing that would be the time he beat him, but then losing again. Afterwards Lelouch would start to play with Schneizel, and Cornelia would try to learn from Lady Marianne, be it arranging flowers or piloting Knightmare. And Nanally and she would switch between them and then collect the flowers and settle down on the grass to form them into garlands while watching their brothers play. And then they would start finding most unusual places to decorate with their clumsy results...
And when it was cold or rainy they would stay in the mansion. It was so large they ended up finding new rooms every time they wandered, although unofficial rumor among them was that Cornelia actually managed to learn it, she said she would be guarding that place when she grew up so she had to know every corner. Her eyes were shining that time. Euphie hadn't seen those eyes afterwards, not once... And Clovis didn't like wandering, he would sit down somewhere and start drawing. He wasn't good at all at the beginning, and Cornelia used to point that out flatly, she always did, and Clovis would start to go on about how a genius is never understood and they had hard time trying not to show their chuckles... But then, he truly enjoyed drawing, and it was fascinating, watching him, concentrated for hours to catch the spirit itself... And everything deserved to be his model, she once found in his room an album with a full collection of tea sets of Imperial Villa, over a hundred of them (and then she and Nunnally had to hide in the closet not to get caught for sneaking without premission). He even had a whole album dedicated to LeClerc, just a kitten back then. To say the truth, she blushed, even she herself was a model quite a few times. But she always lost her patience and decided to play hide-and-seek instead, dragging angry Clovis along, as he accused her of not understanding the nature of true art. But Nunnally was so cute while asking him to forgive "Euphie-neechan" he always made him give up and join.
Nunnally loved playing hide-and-seek and tag, such an active girl...And despite it being marked as inappropriate for the members of the royal family and dangerous the same way as for the rest of the world, the two of them used to run all across the mansion, up and down the stairs, through all the rooms and corridors... Their little island of freedom in the world of "behaving themselves". They were once so into the game they ended up knocking down the table Lelouch and Clovis were playing chess at. And they ignored them for the rest of the day! Although in the end Lelouch was the one to try and solicit a truce. In the end he could not go to sleep without making up with his precious sister... As at the time they were fighting as to who got to marry Lelouch when they grew up she remembered it was a serious win on Nunnally's side... Lelouch. A dazzling person, so talented, so smart, being able to find a solution to any sort of troubling situation but so pitiful when it came to sports...Charming person. There was something unexplainable about him, captivating, the reason they all admired him... She did not know if that reason was the same for everyone. But for Euphie, it was his manner of trying to act tougher than he really was, trying to be responsible like a royal prince should be and give an impression that he did not care much... when in fact he did. He did care every single time he hurt someone. He would have apologized instantly if he had not been so stubborn. No, it was not even pure stubbornness, he wouldn't have allowed himself such an arrogant feeling. It was his belief everything had to be just, everybody had to answer for actions they committed...
Whistling of the wind returned her to present. It was so hard to comprehend every time. How alive the two of them were there, in her memories, and how reality cruelly didn't have a place for them to be now.
The time that will never return. Why did she recall it now? Because she once again was leaving behind something precious? Or was it because of recent news about Clovis? She couldn't help hearing the rumours that it was Clovis himself and not purists who ordered a massacre. No way she could believe that. How could they even think! She remembered how motivated Clovis was to continue what he considered Lelouch left to him to solve. But then... he didn't write to her once in the last two years. Maybe he was just ashamed to tell her the search she asked him to conduct didn't bring any results, a conclusion painful for both of them. She just couldn't be sure. A scary feeling that her sugar-coated believes did not reflect the reality brought a shadow over her face.
She looked at the sky. While she didn't pay attention dark grey clouds formed in the far corner, quickly nearing. And although the sky above her was still light blue, but she knew the storm was coming. Inevitably.
"Your Highness!" she heard together with the sound of footsteps. As she recognized the voice, she was reminded of the important fact she almost forgot. So when she turned around nothing but a carefree smile could be seen on her face.
In this clouded sky she should have been able to still see an answer. She just had to find it out on her own. She'll ask Clovis why he didn't write to her. She'll visit him and that along would be enough to see if the rumours held any truth at all. She'll search for Lelouch and Nunnally herself, until she'll confirm the truth, whatever it may be. She wanted to visit Japan since Clovis-nii once suggested for her to go with him and she'll go there now. The country Lelouch made a friend and where they disappeared together with Nunnally seven years ago. Her only virtue was the ability to put her heart and soul in everything she did. She couldn't loose even this small gift bestowed upon her.
"Your Highness", the girl repeated, at the same time trying to catch her breath after running all the way from the Academy building, "they said..." The girl caught Euphie's reproaching look as shook her head lightly and corrected herself: "I'm sorry, Euphie, escort came for you, they say it's time to leave..." Euphie's eyes saddened as she heard those words, but even though the smile never left her face, that change didn't go unnoticed to the girl. She knew she had to say something to return those eyes their shine. "So you know," she took a deep breath and then gabbled it out on the single breath, "you know everybody here will miss you! And we're worried, you'll be on your own now and you're always so bold and reckle..." she stopped herself as she noticed Euphie ruffling up, as she always did when accused of being childish, "take good care of yourself, princess. We all will be rooting for you no matter what you decide to do. I'm sure your sincere feelings will get through to everyone, so never give up! You're always continue to be our pink-haired princess no matter where you'll be, and we'll help you in any way we can if you ever need our assistance!"
Euphie put all her heart into the smile she returned. Lydia could never get used to calling her just Euphie as she asked, and she was clearly embarrassed to say all those words of encouragement, so she couldn't phrase it well... But she meant what she said, and wasn't exaggerating while saying it like a representative from others. Actually when she was heading outside to look at the Academy's grounds one last time, Euphie accidentally heard her friends' voices. They were discussing how should they tell her just how much they treasure her. It was so lively she didn't feel like interrupting them, she just listened for a while blushing heavily... She was truly grateful for every word, since she knew they came from the heart. She got support from such wonderful people, and that gave her inspiration, it made her feel there was nothing she couldn't do.
"I will remember these words, Lydia," she said, of course not realizing just how majestic she seemed to be at the moment. She didn't know it was that startling ability to preserve the genuine kindness of her open heart without loosing the supremacy that made her truly royal – approachable for everyone, considering others to be on the same level while naturally standing one step above. She was loved by everybody who came to know her even a little bit, not as a royal descendant, but as cute little princess of their hearts.
"I'm grateful for your support from the bottom of my heart." Euphie continued, and then, after a whirling circle that made her already pleaty dress even airier, she added enthusiastically: "And now, let us go!", following Lydia back inside and not minding first raindrops that fell on her way.
On the other side of the globe the sun continued to shine down brightly, however, unable to chase away the moodiness which took its reign over the Ashford Academy grounds regardless of the will of its students who tried their best to look cheerful and energetic. The whole event, of course, was the work of the Student Council President, who wanted her important friend's last memory of her days in that place to be the happiest ever. Since Shirley and her positiveness were quite popular among the students, they were also trying their hardest – and were quite unconvincing in their act. If the general will was to be announced – nobody wanted her to leave, while continuing to hope she'll change her mind the same unexpected way she stated her decision just days ago.
But Shirley seemed unaware of that wish floating all around her. She was full of her ordinary energy, happy to be surrounded by her friends and full of dreams of the future successes she was going to start preparing for as soon as tomorrow. It was just that strange feeling of something important missing in the perfect picture – but that feeling was well suppressed into the far corner of her mind and explained as uneasiness of leaving her precious friends. But it's not like she was not going to see them again. Just a little break in the beginning so she could concentrate and get used to her new schedule. And after a while, she would visit them all the time. Nothing to worry, really...
Shirley, however, was not the only one whose behaviour confused the members of the Student Council. Lelouch, famous for his talent of craftily avoiding any sort of involvement as long as the task consisted of some trivial paper work, suddenly became the embodiment of responsibility, rational and reliable to the point of being boring, and, demanding in peremptory tone the explanation for all the applications and documents being piled up on the table unread, unsolved and unanswered, enclosed himself in the Council room and didn't even want to hear about any sorts of celebrations, including the current one, till he finished. And as Shirley didn't look bothered by his continued absence during the parting-party events, the other members, which were reduced to mere Milly and Rivalz dragging poor Nina around with them, didn't know what to think. Each of them considered at the back of their minds the possibility of there being a connection between sudden cease of interaction between Lelouch and Shirley and her equally astonishing decision to leave, making vice-president's behaviour only the next link in the chain, but as the reasons for that to happened refused to be found none of them dared to say that out loud.
That way the time flew by quicker than it should have had and unexpectedly it was already the moment to say their goodbyes. Shirley looked sad and a little confused – since truthfully, the feeling of uneasiness about something she couldn't gasp didn't leave her one bit not matter how she tried to suppress it... But she was still motivated enough not to doubt her decision.
She was already standing at the academy gates, accepting all the wishes for her great future successes and expressing her gratitude for every single one. The car was about to come, she had only a few minutes left...
"So, you're absolutely set on leaving us?" Milly asked one last time.
Shirley nodded, not looking her friend in the eyes. She was feeling guilty for some reason every time she was asked that.
"Oh, I wonder, how did you even dare to leave us, and especially your one and only Student Council President?" Milly started seriously and reproachfully with all the necessary dramatic effects, making Shirley lower her head even more, before hugging her friend in a quite inappropriate way (the one she liked so much since it always made people blush and she liked making people uneasy in a way that was fun for everyone, the person in question included) and continuing in her usual reassuring tone,
"Don't be stupid, darling! You should know after all this time that no matter what you decide to do, we'll always support you all the way so don't you dare feel depressed after making such an important decision for yourself! You're looking towards you bright future now and it you're happy, s-o a-r-e w-e".
She said that last phrase slowly, putting a stress on each syllable, as it she doubted Shirley would get the meaning fully if she didn't do that. And than she smiled brightly, looking at her best friend, who finally cheered up again. "Good luck, sunshine, and see you soon! And even sooner than you expect." She put on one of her conspiratorial smiles, and Shirley knew she should expect some surprises in the nearest future. She was happy for that... She was! Even if he mind tried to remind her that she should put all her efforts into training and she wouldn't have any free time to pass with her friends...
The car came to pick her up.
"Well, thank you again, I'll miss all of you!" She turned to the students who were seeing her off. "Have fun and don't forget me too soon!" She laughed. "I'm afraid it's goodbye for now, but we'll sure meet again one day! Good luck!"
And it was when she turned away, only a few steps away from the car's open door, that Rivalz couldn't bear it any longer. He hurried after her and said it a low but emotional tone...
"Shirley, I don't know what happened, but you can't just leave, just like that!"
The girl turned to him, surprised by his seriousness.
"I know it's still sudden... But I've made the decision..." she lowered her gaze again, apologizing. But it was not the way Rivalz wanted her to interpret his words.
"No, that's not what I mean! You can't just leave without even saying goodbye to Lelouch!"
"Why?" Shirley looked at him with surprise, not understanding the special meaning. "I mean, it is sad and even strange that vice-president couldn't come and see me off... But if he's truly busy, I can't disturb him..."
"Vice-president? Shirley, what's up with you? What happened between you and Lelouch, dammit? If you two had a fight you can't just run from it without solving anything..."
"What are you talking about?" Shirley looked more and more confused by the second.
"It's nothing." A solid voice said from behind. Milly placed her hand on Rivalz's shoulder, preventing him from saying another phase. "Rivalz's just playing stupid as usual, it was only a lame joke."
"But President..." Rivalz started, but caught the unambiguous gaze and closed his mouth again.
He would later almost shout at her demanding the reason for acting like that. And would spent long hours analyzing the answer he'd got. She would only say that she was willing to place all her knowledge of Shirley in her opinion that Shirley wasn't pretending that time. She just seriously couldn't understand what he was talking about...
Meanwhile, Shirley advanced the necessary few steps and looked at the huge Academy building one last time. It was shining in the rays of setting sun, but she managed to notice that only one window had its blinds lowered. She could swear she saw somebody moving one corner slightly aside...
Or maybe it was just a patch of sunlight?
Then why was there the feeling, that somehow it was very precious, that person who moved it aside was... Like she was forgetting something really important...
No, not that again.
She resolutely took her place in the car and asked the driver to move on.
Lelouch let go of the blind, making it slide back to its place. She left.
There was perfectly nothing left to say but that. She just left. And it was for the best.
He looked at the table. Every document was read, every question and problem solved, including the ones never made to be taken seriously, everything arranged in strict order... Maybe he should rearrange it again?
He took some documents and tried to concentrate, but the stupid pieces of paper fell from his hands and scattered all around the floor. He banged his fist on the table. It made the papers on the table scatter too, and, moreover, it hurt. He had to put himself together. He couldn't afford being emotional right now. He still had a lot to go. And then, if he were to succeed, then one day...
The situation at the moment progressed according to plan. He had met Kallen, Ohgi and Tamaki as Zero and planted the seed of interest to his proposition. Of course, it was a lot more difficult considering that he didn't have the death of the Viceroy among his credits, but in exchange he knew the exact way to deal with each of them. In his case it meant that he could count on them easily just after he proved his worth using the nearest future chance.
And taking into account who was coming to succeed Clovis, he could be sure his older sister would give him a good enough chance or even a whole set of them. But he had to watch closely the way things were going to advance, since he couldn't afford to make even one slightly wrong move.
And still, it was so strange. To experience the same things all over again. And to remember perfectly the emotions experienced the first time. Right now it was so clear, that the way he acted then was absurd, like a little child who was given a dangerous toy. Going as far as killing his own half-brother. Of course he wasn't perfect, but he certainly did not deserve death. And to think the reason Cornelia was so furious towards Order of Black Knights and Area 11 in general was also mostly the consequence of that stupid act...
To think about it, he had serious consequences to deal with every single time he ever used Geass. Like the fate was making him pay for every wish he had ever imposed on others...
Well, he didn't even believe in destiny. And it was not the time to become sentimental.
He picked up all the papers and arranged them in perfect order together with the ones on the table. Then he rose the blinds and left the room.
Next day the irresponsible actions of the vice-president led to the daily Student Council meeting being puzzled with an unusual problem of not having anything to discuss - and thus being allowed and inspired to be sulking about the loss of their irreplaceable member.
"Now, cheer up, everyone!" Milly was the first to snap out of the melancholy. "Our little Shirley finally found her passion. Let not-so-lucky currently useless us envy and support her with all our hearts! She might become an Olympic champion one day... And a beautiful Olympic champion, I must say!" She laughed. "She'll be her parents' pride..." She said jokingly proudly like she belonged to that last category as well, in a way.
"Yeah, I heard her mother is quite a beauty too!" Rivalz tried being his usual self and though he failed miserably it still succeeded in making others laugh.
"Speaking about moms," Nina said unexpectedly, obviously trying to carry on a theme to speak. "It's Mother's Day soon. What are your ideas for presents you'll be giving?"
'Some unique jewelry in my case" Rivalz followed willingly. "She loves that stuff. And you, President? Thousand and one way to throw a party?"
"No way. She's that book's author," laughed Milly. "Actually, I'm sure yet, probably some set of cosmetics... And about parties," she continued hurriedly, "let's not forget we have another one ahead of us, so I suggest going over the plan one more ti..."
"What about you, Lelouch?" Rivalz interrupted Milly and immediately received a furious glare for that. She wasn't dragging the topic away from moms for nothing.
After an unsettling pause the answer, however, did come. Not from Lelouch, but from Nunnally.
"Our mom... we cannot give her a present anymore." Her hands clanged to the armrests of her wheel-chair. "She died. A long time ago."
"Oh, I'm so... so sorry!" Rivalz was probably wishing the earth could swallow him up, however it was already too late. Trying to apologize and cheer her up he added. "But I'm sure she was a great person, wasn't she?"
"Oh yes, she was really kind and... shining. The best mom ever." Nunnally's voice now had a tiny soft shade of pride, so uncharacteristic for her. She looked delighted recalling the few memories left from her childhood.
Lelouch on the other hand felt even worse, his heart twitched hearing those inspired words. Their mother didn't actually deserve any of this praise. He suffered from guilt of knowing Lady Marianne was in fact nothing like that warmhearted kind image portrayed, and being unable to shatter his sister's beliefs. It would be such a shock to her, even more than it once was to him...
He recalled the time she appeared before him in the Sword of Akasha, revealing her true personality, the kind of person she was. He still could hardly accept that his beloved, caring and radiant mom for the sake of whom he had put so much effort, finding the truth behind her tragic death, was in reality but a heartless arrogant Knightmare pilot, in league with the Emperor all the way, and even more, a Geass user... The Geass that allowed its user to enter another person's heart and reside in it, just as she did with Anya, using her only because she was nearby...
It was there and his refined train of thoughts stopped in its tracks. Why? Why did she get that Geass power? After his numerous encounters with other Geass users he had come to the conclusion that the reason each individual receives a different and unique ability was simply that Geass was nothing more and nothing less than a granted wish, expectedly differing from person to person... and surely bringing only as much happiness.
So Geass actually could serve as a key to one's personality. You just need to play backwards and to guess the demand from the answer. Why did she gain such an ability? Somehow he never really had time to think about that and everything he found out about his parents, apart from the fact they tried to force their ridiculous idea of Ragnarok onto the world.
Just who was that raven-haired woman he used to call his mother?
On that mystery he couldn't solve new questions continued to pile up. The more he looked into the story his "parents" told him inside the world of C, the less it explained the past. Contradiction after contradiction. Why of all things were they sure C.C. would appear following him in his quest while she refused to return to them under any persuasion? They were mad, no doubt, but he couldn't call them stupid enough to just expect her to come without any apparent reason. Even he, and he considered himself a person allowed to understand C.C. fairly well, couldn't have expected her to come into the sword of Akasha even if he had known her past. He still wasn't sure why she had come that time. Was it because she decided to finally give Emperor her Code? No, one thing he knew was that it surely hadn't been that way. But there was no way the Emperor could have known it, wasn't there? He did not possess enough understanding or he wouldn't become as cruel as he was. It wasn't his calculation, nor was it V.V.'s...
Futhermore, his mind continued to crave for logic, why C.C. left the Palace at all, if she convinced even herself that he only true wish was to die? Weren't they, the Emperor and his mother, the ones capable of granting her wish? What could she considered higher than fulfillment of something she should have thought of as the only reason to go on living? She even came as far as joining the pact between the Emperor and V.V., just as Marianne did.. And here here story fell apart completely. What was the reason for C.C. to take part in their little madness? It just didn't end up. Why should someone who's only wish was to die take any interest in bestowing better life on the world in general? Making any effort for the people being the descendants of the ones who used her and tortured her for people she stopped caring for a long time ago? And if that alone wasn't enough of a puzzle, here was the culmination. Triggering Ragnarok would have been equal to creating a "perfect" world without such concepts as life and death thus consequently resulting in inability to die... in other words, straight-forwardly contradicting C.C. wish, the very wish she should have been acting upon!
His head ached as his mind refused to comprehend the result it deducted itself. His logic failed to explain that girl's motivation. "Motivation?" he caught his thought. What was it about motivation in that apathetic green-haired witch whose image he couldn't get off his mind?
"Lelouch?" Rivalz appeared in a too close proximity to his face, trying to read off his expression and guess what was he thinking about so absent-mindly. But the vice-president had already returned to reality. He had already understood the answer.
She came in the evening.
He knew very well she would come and even had worried a little if he would be about to feign appropriate surprise. But when he saw her sitting there and making origami birds with Nunnally he found himself staring at the sight of her and unable to comprehend it, being as amazed as he once was. But if last time he was merely stunned to see her alive and being able to find him, then this time... it was just fascinatingly surprising to find her settled in the room full of old wooden furniture and soft shady colors. In her white modern costume she seemed really out of place, like she didn't belong there. There or anywhere else. Since not having any attachments and even having lost the desire to find them, there was no way for her to obtain a place to belong. Being forced to change her surroundings all the time she had long stopped paying attention to them, being tortured and betrayed countless times she lost the ability to trust people...
"Welcome home, onii-san" quickly followed, returning him to reality.
"Such an interesting friend you have, with only initials as her name."
"Yeah..." The same reluctant answer, but the difference was that he had already regained his composure. And this time, that little game would be going his way.
"Maybe... she's your girlfriend?"
"We're promised to one another, aren't we?" added C.C., obviously implying with her glare that he had to play along. Lelouch, however, had other plans.
"What?..." But now his astonishment had other meaning. Since he quickly turned that astonishment into a laugh.
"C.C.-chan, what are you doing here?" he asked in his most familiar, friendly tone full of well-acted surprise.
What do you mean?" he could swear he had heard a glimpse of surprise in that emotionless voice.
"Big brother?" Nunnally asked for explanation, sensing she missed something.
"Nunnally, don't you remember C.C.-chan?" he was using the same easy-going tone, like he was talking about something trivial and pleasant.
"What do you mean, onii-san?"
Nunnally sound genuinely surprised, and had a reason to. But the thing to enjoy was the look on C.C.'s face. The tables had turned and this time she was left with no choice but to act along herself. He had taken the initiative.
"Don't you remember her? You remember lady Andromeda, our mother's cousin? She's her daughter, we met a couple of times when we were little... Well, I guess you were too small to remember..." he tried to sound as mild as he could, protecting her even from a thought of feeling guilt since she had forgotten a person who had never truly existed. He felt awful lying to her. But he had to, for now. He had a good reason to... And it was also so hard to write extreme confusion on his face to make C.C. believe he was making it on the spot and then not let it affect the voice so that Nunnally wouldn't suspect anything. Hard – but manageable.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I think I really was too small to remember that visit." Nunnally sounded sad and there was nothing he could do about it. He had to put himself together and not forget to apologize when he would have a chance.
"So you see, I think we might have really promised to marry each other. However, we were mere three-years-olds and now it seems strange to me we even knew the word "marriage"..." he laughed again and showed C.C. a triumphant smile.
"Oh... I see." It was like Nunnally cheered up hearing the whole explanation. He wondered why. "Then why haven't you told be you're our relative from the beginning, C.C.-san?"
"I... I wanted it to be a surprise," C.C. answered hastily and obviously being cornered as the theory she was now bounded to was so completely different from her plans.
"Well, I'm really happy to meet you! I should say "meet again", but since I was so small back then.. allow me to greet you like we've met for the first time." Nunnally seemed really happy to meet a relative, especially a girl of her age. "We're second cousins, right?"
"Yes, exactly." Lelouch hurried to confirm. "And can your older brother now show your second cousin her room? Since she's going to stay for quite a while."
"Oh, really? That's so great! Of course you can!" Nunnally supported the idea readily.
With that Lelouch took C.C.'s hand and resolutely dragged her our of the room and closed the door behind him.
"And what was that?" was the first phrase, said with artificial interest mixed with a tiny and barely noticeable grain of sincerity.
"What was that?" Lelouch played genuine indignation. "That's something to be asked of you. You came to my house when I thought of you as dead and when you could bring some kind of tail with you which would result in my arrest or even death, and you tell some ridiculous lies to my beloved sister so I had to lie to her myself which I hate doing, not even counting that I had to come with a appropriate theory on the spot to make your appearance verisimilar! There are no girlfriends who just come out of nowhere and Milly and her grandfather are not buying it! Unfortunately, the only type of people who can actually come like a bolt from the blue out of nowhere are relatives. So I'm going to tell to them that you're a distant relative of lady Marianne, my mother, who's also searching for a place to stay without attracting any needless attention... Much like myself and Nunnally."
"And who gave you permission to tell about my existence to anyone?" C.C. asked in her indifferent tone.
"You're not invisible, basically. So yes, I have to explain your existence somehow and make sure that information won't go too far and won't help someone on your trail. And more importantly... how did you even manage to survive? You were shot in front of my eyes! Who are you? And what about that contract you told be about..." He was darting the questions one after another to make up for the too quick a reaction out there in the room. He had to be surprised properly. And plus, the experience from last time told him that asking those things was the best way to end the conversation with C.C.
"Show me my room." She even accepted the idea of having her own room and "public" identity to escape his questions.
"There's obviously no room for you right now, I had to make that up for Nunnally. I'll let you sleep in my room for tonight. I'll sleep on the sofa and then I'll arrange things properly tomorrow morning." After that he showed her to the room, and she nonchalantly kicked off her boots and immediately proceeded to imitate falling asleep at once. He tried to bother her a little to look natural and then he just sat on the floor, leaning against the bed and waited for her to really fall asleep. To say the truth, it was somehow comfortable having her around. Like something was incomplete without her and only now, when she came, everything had truly fallen into place. It was peaceful with her, she didn't actually demand any answers and didn't talk much... but somehow she got the aura of understanding, without the need to phrase it. He closed his eyes and just appreciated that feeling for a while. Than he turned his head and looked at her. She was fast asleep and while being so looked surprisingly more human-like than ever while awake, finally peaceful and... real.
She twitched in her sleep. Probably having a bad dream... no, nightmare should be a better word, as he knew fully well she had more than enough experiences to torture her in her sleep. But than he still didn't want to wake her up. He slowly got up from the floor and sat on the edge of the bed, gently caressing her hair to chase bad vision away. She smiled in her sleep and loosened her grip on the pillow she had been hugging. He hoped her dream changed into a happy one...
And as he was sitting there and watching over her in her sleep, there was only one thing that bothered him.
He was absolutely and beyond and doubt certain that he had to know her name. He even remembered the exact moment in the past when he had heard her saying in in her sleep. And it was something so precious he couldn't ever have brought himself to forget it.
However, he couldn't recall her name no matter how hard he tried.
She was standing in the middle of the endless and absolutely empty field. The birds did not pass it, the animals did not walk it, even grass did not grow there. Only the dark gray stormy sky above and the black lifeless earth beneath her, covered with something gray... Then she realized it was ash. And as she glanced around the field wasn't empty anymore, covered with blood all over and with dead bodies lying on top of one another, occasionally enveloped in flames. She was still the only living being there. But it still all right. She had grown used to it. Then the flames gathered around and devoured her, as she found herself tied to a stake and burning slowly. It was really painful and beyond the definition of painful, but then again, it couldn't kill her, and it was not the first time as well. But then the silhouette appeared in the fire, stretching a hand to her, and she found herself being about to take that hand and take a step after which she had found herself in front of the lake. They were all there. Marianne, that radiant and calculating woman with the usual cheerful smile on her face. Charles, ruthless and crazy emperor with a soft spot for the classic paintings, taking with V.V. in a low voice. V.V., another Code holder, like her, although far younger, but still trying to bear all the responsibilities like a good and proper older brother should...
All of them, standing there. Standing there, and then, afternoon fading into night, V.V. standing in the hallway, shooting at Marianne standing on the stairs... It was then when she couldn't bear to continue staying emotionless, as she shivered uncontrollably and tried to hold back her tears that long since lost their way into her eyes...
But then she felt something. Like something was trying to lay above hat terrifying picture, something that brought her warmth and calmness though the veil between illusions and reality. She was able to calmly leave that awful building, her suitcase behind her, and set on a new journey. A journey she couldn't expect anything from... and still expected something she couldn't identify herself.
Maybe that was something called hope. Something that some fools continued to believe in. And just maybe...
When she woke up next morning she found herself face to face with Lelouch, as he had bent himself over and was, undoubtedly, in the process of examining her sleeping face. Unforgivable. For him to do such a non-gentleman-like thing and for her to allow such a possibility to exist.
And he shamelessly didn't seem to bother one bit about the situation and had a look of satisfaction on his face, like he was waiting for her awake for quite time. As if.
"So, the princess has finally woken up," he commented, straightening back on his feet. "Rise and shine, and don't forget to put on a proper outfit instead of that thing you're wearing now," he continued on, and pointed on a set of primrose uniform with the Ashford's emblem embroidered on it, lying folded on the chair nearby.
"I'll show you to your room when we get it cleared from all the unnecessary things piled up there," he commented, and then turned and said the next phrase looking her directly in the eyes, his voice serious and composed. "And most important thing – your name. You're now officially enrolled in this Academy as Celestina Chandelier, as I asked Milly to think up something that can be abbreviated as C.C., the rest is result of her too lively an imagination. And – he made a little pause there, - we're telling everyone you're my and Nunnally's second cousin. Milly Ashford, the granddaughter on the Headmaster here, who had been a supporter of my mother, included, as I told her you're aunt Andromeda's daughter and you seek some safe place to hide from the Empire's extra attention, which is the only thing that actually is completely true, isn't it?" he finished his instructive monolog with a little smirk, once again somehow completely taking the initiative and being so strangely prepared for everything.
She didn't like that, didn't like that at all. And then, at the same time, she did. He was indeed the Black King she was searching for...
"Then get out or else I'm never going to get changed."
And with that said, she pushed him out of the room.
A/N: Well, it was one long chapter but I enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as well. Sorry if there're some mistakes in the last parts about C.C., I'm just too sleepy to re-read them now, but I really want to upload the chapter I've just finished anyway... Please review, as I really want to hear your opinions about the new chapter after such long a break.
And in the next chapter Cornelia and Euphie are going to make their entrance, and some highly unexpected decisions are going to distract Lelouch and Suzaku's plans even further...