Title: Eris Quod Sum
Author/Artist: YamiPaladinOfChaos (ypaladinofchaos)
Character/Pairing: Lelouch, Charles, C.C. at the end
Fandom: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Theme: #58 enemy gate
Notes: Written for the 64 damn prompts community on livejournal. Eris Quod Sum is a Latin phrase that is translated as "You will be what I am". This is what happens when I re-read Ender's Game.
"I am your enemy, the first one you've ever had who was smarter than you. There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong. And the rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you. I am your enemy from now on. From now on I am your teacher."
-Mazer Rackham, Ender's Game
On Sunday night, at exactly eight o'clock, they play a game of chess.
His father's robes of office hang over a nearby chair, and his gloved hands envelop the pieces like the hands of God himself (white, of course, because white is the color of kings, the color of the just and the powerful).
Lelouch sits in the chair opposite of the Emperor, dressed plain, wielding the color black (a color that even now suits him), brow constantly furrowed in concentration.
These are not the casual, fiercely competitive matches between Clovis and himself, or the dogged challenges he throws against Schneizel, or the playful, mock games he tries to hold with Euphemia until she gets bored and starts picking flowers again.
This is not a game, not to him, and, he suspects, not to his father either.
On Sunday nights, at exactly eight o'clock, they have a small war.
It is savagery and poetry, elegance and brutality, vicious and beautiful. It is a chess game, and yet on many levels that Lelouch, for all his genius, does not understand, it is more. His father is not as brilliant as Schneizel, who connives and conspires, but he is smart and deadly and wizened by decades of warfare that have killed millions. He could be beaten, but never defeated.
He is the consummate warmaker, the paragon of what conquerors should aspire to become.
It is a ritual they began when Lelouch saw Schneizel play the game up at eight, and his father sat him down, explained the rules, and proceeded to utterly destroy him at the game with minutes, seemingly without heed or mercy for the child.
'I didn't know how to play,' he complained, scooping up his fallen king.
'That's not part of the game,' the Emperor replied coldly.
It was the first lesson. Your enemy would not wait for you to learn how to beat him, and would not show mercy.
That week, Lelouch forced Clovis and Euphemia and Nunnally and even his mother into playing him. On the next Sunday, he fought with everything he had, but he still lost. But it was closer, a far less easy victory for his opponent, and afterward the Emperor had no unkind words, which was as close to praise as he would ever receive.
Even in defeat, improvements can be made, he learned. You can improve.
Two Sundays passed without a game. On the third Sunday after their last game, Lelouch lost again, and far more badly.
'What did I do wrong?' he whined. 'I played just like I did last time.'
The Emperor gave him a cold look and dismissed him.
Innovation, Lelouch understood later, was the lesson. Your enemies are just as smart as you. They learn. They adapt. And they will use that to crush you again.
He did not win the fourth game, which took place two weeks later, or the fifth a week after, or many after that, for more than six months with sporadic games in between.
But he did win, in that sixth month, being just innovative enough, just creative enough, and indeed, just lucky enough, to squeeze out a marginal win. His pieces were scattered to the winds, most dead, but he'd still managed to claim checkmate.
Lelouch bragged about it to Clovis, to his mother, to Nunnally, to Euphie, and even to Schneizel and Cornelia when they stopped by after a strategy meeting, the former chuckling in amusement and the latter rewarding him with a smile and a pat on the head.
The next Sunday, he lost the game again. And two weeks later, the game after that. And three more games in the span of three months.
He couldn't understand. He'd beaten his father, just like he'd beaten Clovis- once he beat Clovis, all games thereafter became easy because victory was a guaranteed outcome.
'Satisfaction and complacency are the deadliest poisons,' the Emperor intoned.
Yet another lesson. One victory does not guarantee another, and overconfidence is lethal.
So Lelouch stopped being complacent, stopped waiting for those Sundays to pass to learn more about the Emperor's strategies, for they were ever shifting, like the wind. He thought about why it was easy to beat Clovis- his half-brother was short-sighted and rarely learned from his mistakes, but more than that, Lelouch understood Clovis and knew how to bait him, how to trick him into weakening his position and how to make him submit.
He asked his mother and everyone else about his father. Their words were often full of useless praise and constricted politeness, but it taught Lelouch that his father is not a man that is easy to understand, or to become close to. His mother had the best information, but she playsed games with her words and never let Lelouch know his father's nature too intimately.
When the sources ran dry, Lelouch turned to books, the countless books about the Emperor's campaigns, against the rebellious factions that fought him for control of the Empire, against the E.U. and the Chinese Federation. Beneath the pomp and hollow praise there were traces of real information. The rebels who attempted to wrest control of the empire had been utterly obliterated, erased, and the Empire, which had grown weak and complacent, was transformed beneath the Emperor Charles into the most dominant superpower in the world today.
His father was good, very good, at grinding down his enemies into dust. He made sure they were gone, completely, and without mercy. He never allowed himself to lose when it could be helped, and those losses were nearly always more beneficial in the long run, seen often as a tactical loss but a strategic victory post-bellum.
It took Lelouch four months of research and six lost games before he obtained another win. But this one was a real win, not a squeezed win that could feasibly be called a Pyrrhic victory, with the winner barely alive and only distinguishable from the loser by the retention of the king.
It was a complete victory, and Lelouch ground his father down into the dust before calling checkmate, a vicious satisfaction in his voice as he said it, almost like a wolf howling after tearing the throat out of its prey.
It never once occurs to Lelouch, high off the satisfaction of winning that will fuel him for years to come, that what you lose in victory might be more important than winning itself.
The Emperor said no word of praise still, but the next day the chess set they used for their games was left atop his drawers, whereas before it had never left the Emperor's private quarters. There was no note and no explanation given, but all the same, Lelouch felt like he had finally won something.
They never played a game again, until Lelouch donned a mask and they played a new game, one where there would be no second game, because the loser would be obliterated before the victor.
"You really like that chess set, hmm?" C.C. commented, lounging atop his bed, winding a strand of emerald hair around her finger.
Lelouch glanced down at the set in front of him, and realized he'd been toying with the black king again. The white king sat across from his position, like a signpost of the future that he was steadily heading towards.
"It's a reminder," he said, remembering Sunday nights and small wars.
"A reminder about what?" the witch questioned idly, flicking a glance over at him.
"About what it takes to win," Lelouch answered, and placed the black king firmly down on the board, in opposition to the white king, and picks up the mask of Zero.
A ghost of a smile crossed his face, a vengeful and terrible grin that promised only death and ruin reflected upon the mask.
The smile of a conqueror.