Hi, hi. This is Aquamarine Crystalline or Rine-Line for short.
This is a SuzaLulu story. It was originally supposed to be a one-shot; but it was so long that it had to be cut up into chapters.
Fandom: Code Geass
Type: Alternate Universe (AU)
Pairing: Mainly SuzakuxLelouch, a bit of implied SuzakuxEuphie and LelouchxEuphie, GinoxKallen
Warnings: Shounen-ai, some fluffy and cheesy scenes, a little OOC-ness
This story's concept came out of a dream I had about Lelouch and Suzaku, in king and knight garments respectively, under a tree, looking serene. I couldn't forget that, and then developed the idea into this fanfic.
Since this is my first fanfic for the Code Geass fandom, you might be a bit surprised at the writing style so I'm warning you ahead. The tone is heavy and it's very symbolic; you'll find layers of meaning beneath the paragraphs and simple actions. Truthfully, I don't usually write like this but for some reason, my mind processes the words and the story's flow ahead when I write, like it comes naturally.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it, and maybe, be touched by it. I got teary when I thought up the plot, actually.
Disclaimer: I only own DVDs of Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch and its sequel R2, and a cellular phone strap that has Britannia's insignia as a dangling charm. All rights go to Sunrise and CLAMP.
1,000 Cranes under a Flame Tree
By Aquamarine Crystalline
"No matter how long... I'll wait for you... because I love you. I'll wait for you... because I want to hear you say that you love me too... That is my wish."
FIRST FLIGHT: A.I.R. (Acquaintances, Illusions and Rain)
Pleasant weather accompanied weary travellers who were trekking the road towards the distant Kyoto Village. Most were riding on carriages or horses and only a few were walking. It is noticeable that there are many of them travelling at the same time, mostly in groups though some went by themselves. This is because there was going to be a grand festival that will be held in the village in two weeks time. Not wanting to miss out on it, many had set off for their destination early so that they can get the best rooms in the inn, socialize with the villagers or meet up with acquaintances.
However, there was one particular man hooded and cloaked in grey and walking by himself whose purpose was not any of those three. Well, part of the reason was to see the festival as well but it wasn't his main goal. Rather, it was a very mysterious and odd one.
His name--- Kururugi Suzaku.
Suzaku took a deep breath as his feet carried him on the path to Kyoto. The hood of his travelling cloak concealed his appearance that all could be seen of him was a slight part of his face and his brown boots that were looking worn out. He had been walking for hours already and he still had not paused for a rest. He did not have the luxury of owning a carriage so he had to go by foot. But then he was a physically fit and strong man so this was not really a problem for him. Other than the fact that everyone else was ahead of him and not tired at all, that is.
He looks out on the path ahead of him. It was late afternoon already and the sun was no longer so high up in the sky. However, it was still light out and the town was only a few miles away anyway. The thought of the comfort of a warm bed and delicious food awaiting him strengthened his resolve to continue onward.
Suddenly, a strong wind blew, sweeping up the dust of the road. The gale managed to knock the chestnut-haired man's hood off his head while the cape billowed at its mercy. Shielding his eyes from the dirt being flown away, he stopped walking as he waited for the windy turmoil to end.
Once he felt it was over, he slowly removed his right arm that was protecting his eyes. He blinked, trying to clear his vision. To his surprise, however, a certain something in the middle of the road right in front of him that wasn't there before caught his attention.
It was indeed, a small, white paper crane.
'Quite an odd place for one, though. Why would it be here? And it wasn't here a while ago too..." Curious, he bent over to pick it up. It was a simple origami creation. Whoever made this, Suzaku deduced, was not an expert but obviously one who made cranes often. The folds were not perfect but they weren't mediocre either. He noticed a few details not found on common paper cranes though. The wings were slightly different, as they were a bit wider, while the tail had small slits created by light tearing that reminded Suzaku of one particular bird his father told him about when he was young.
A flash of movement on the banks of the river to his right did not go unnoticed by the emerald-eyed man and this effectively distracted him from his train of thought. All thoughts of hurrying to Kyoto vanished from his mind. A frown began to form on his face as he strode over to where he saw that suspicious motion: a towering tree with medium thick trunk, spread-out fern-like leaves and---he noted with a strange tingle in his heart--- orange-red flowers.
A flame tree.
As Suzaku got nearer the tree, he noticed that it was the only one of its kind around the area. All the others were either sakura trees, mahoganies or fruit trees. Its vivid scarlet flowers made it stand out among the other plants, the reddish glow emanating an aura of dynamism. It was also not clustered with other tall plants besides a few weeds nor squished in between other trees and there was a considerable amount of open space around it. It was almost like it was the king of the trees with the way it flaunted its lively crimson blossoms as it stood alone on the bank that was on the side of the road while the other trees were planted on the opposite side of the river.
'But... That's lonely, isn't it...?'
This time, Suzaku heard the sound of whomever or whatever he was looking for. It was the resonance of flesh making contact with the grassy field. A rustle. He dropped his bag on the grass and slowly turned his head to the direction where it came from--- behind the flame tree.
Perhaps the hiding figure sensed that he noticed because slightly panicked footsteps were heard afterward. With unusually fast reflexes, Suzaku managed to grab a pale hand in a firm grip, effectively capturing whoever it was. Definitely a human.
And this time, Suzaku's world stopped. He was staring into a complete stranger but why did he have this odd feeling coursing through his veins? It was as if something clicked inside the deepest recesses of his mind. He couldn't comprehend nor explain it. All he could understand was that the feeling of the man's skin making contact with his... wasn't so foreign. Somehow.
Slowly, he lifted his head a little to have an overview of the man in front of him. He was around Suzaku's height and age. Suzaku took note of his features: unnaturally pale white skin, short and silky black hair and hauntingly stunning purple eyes. There was a strange twinkle of a mixture of surprise, realization, relief and happiness in those amethyst orbs, Suzaku thought. It made the brown-haired man feel like this stranger was waiting for him or something...
Who was he?
The travelling man decided to come back from his dream land so that he can voice out his question. However, that act also made him realize that he was still clutching the man's hand tightly earning a wince. With a slight tinge on his cheeks, he let go. For a second, there was a flash of disappointment in the amethyst eyes that disappeared just as quickly. Rather, he just frowned slightly, which of course, was spotted by Suzaku.
Suzaku had to admit, the man in front of him was so... breathtakingly beautiful. In an inexplicable way. He was dressed in regal white robes that accentuated how unhealthily thin and pale he was. It was the vision of an enigmatic angel. His eyes and hair portrayed darkness so alluring and deep, which were in deep contrast to his fair complexion and equally white garments. Well, he wasn't exactly an angel as he has no feathery wings flapping behind him but still, he was a mystery to Suzaku because what attracted Suzaku to him were the rule-benders of the standard depiction of a seraph: those pair of deep pools of lilac and dusk-swept locks. If staring and being awed at them was a sin, Suzaku would have gone to hell and back and be eternally damned.
That description made the emerald-eyed man even more curious of the man standing in front of him.
"Who... are you?"
Heavy tension erupted in the air. The man's frown, if possible, deepened. The distress in his eyes returned, this time much more obvious than before. His response to Suzaku's query was to remain silent and lean back on the tree, closing his eyes, which bordered on contemplating if he should answer Suzaku or not, or if he really didn't want to give a reply to that seemingly simple question.
Now this bothered Suzaku. What was wrong with him asking that? After all, he had just met the man. Isn't it normal for him to ask for a name? For some reason, the ebony-haired man's retort to his question stabbed Suzaku's heart.
"Is it because I gripped your hand too tightly before? It was not my intention to hurt you."
Much to Suzaku's relief, this time, he received an answer. With half-lidded eyes, the man leaning on the majestic tree shook his head.
"So... Can you answer my first question, then?" Suzaku asked again, though this round he was much more at ease.
Once again, he shook his head.
There was no answer.
Suzaku looked worriedly as the silence lingered. Why won't this man answer his questions? Better yet, tell him anything? Not even a single sentence or a word of acknowledgment. Why was he just answering with gestures...
Brilliant green eyes widened with shock and realization. Could it be... He felt it a bit rude to be asking this question but he had to confirm his fears.
"Are you... Are you mute?"
This time, the amethyst-eyed man looked at him fully, penetrating his full entity with a stare so piercing. His nod was all it took for Suzaku's suspicion to be proven true. But... What were at the odds of finding a mute yet stunning man garbed in royal white clothes under a flame tree on a road to village in the deep mountains? Suzaku didn't know whether he should blame his karma or thank his luck, really.
"I sincerely apologize, both for holding you harshly and asking you insensitive questions," Suzaku said as he bowed, slightly flushed from embarrassment, probably.
Surprise flitted across the voiceless man's face at the sight of Suzaku bowing his head and asking for forgiveness. Obviously, it was not an action he expected. But rather than anger, what settled on his face was a smile. A pure smile of happiness.
When Suzaku raised his head, he was not prepared at the sight of the mute man with a gentle smile that seemed to say, 'It's all right.' If he had doubts before that this guy was an angel, they were banished forever to nothingness.
But... Did that mean that Suzaku wasn't talking to a human but an actual angel? Perhaps the heat had gotten to him and he was just hallucinating? Or maybe he has gone to heaven already? But when he gripped the other's hand, it felt so... wonderful... No, he mentally shook his head. It was real.
This time, he shook his head for real, willing away those distracting thoughts and trying to focus back on the situation at hand, only to find out that he had not been the only one distracted and thinking deeply. He followed the other's line of vision, wondering what he was gazing at.
Purple eyes were staring, focused on Suzaku's left hand. Or rather, the white paper crane nestled securely in there.
Suzaku couldn't help smiling. In all his curiosity to find out where the paper crane came from and then meeting the still nameless man under the flame tree, he had actually forgotten that the said object that started all this was still in his hand. Why had he not let it go, Suzaku didn't know.
Smile still intact, Suzaku held it out for the other man to see. "Were you the one who made this?"
His gaze remained intact on the origami before meeting with Suzaku's; then he nodded before taking it from Suzaku's outstretched palm. A small but grateful smile graced his face, to which Suzaku felt a blush rise on his own. He couldn't understand how such a simple smile of sincerity could make his heart flutter but it did, and he couldn't deny it.
He just distracted himself by watching as the amethyst-eyed man let the paper crane fly in the wind, as if sending a wish for the wind to deliver.
With a sigh, Suzaku plopped himself on the bed in the room he rented in the Knight Inn of Kyoto Village. The worker manning the counter and drink bar was a young, tall, blonde man named Gino Weinberg. He was a jolly and friendly guy in Suzaku's opinion because the guy seemed to be more interested in telling stories and having a drink than doing his duties as bartender and accountant. He was chatting animatedly with the customers that it took a good twenty minutes before he was able to take out the key for Suzaku's room on the shelf. In the end, another worker named Kallen Kouzuki had to kick him in the back with annoyance in her cerulean eyes to get him working, as if it was normal to be booting your comrade at work. With a yelp, Gino handed out the key to a waiting Suzaku while apologizing for the delay. Unfortunately, that meant Gino's attention was now focused on him and the blonde started asking him questions (with an arm casually draped over the brown-haired man's shoulder) and just plain talking about the upcoming festival. And the key was still dangling from Gino's hand, with him occasionally twirling it. Suzaku was saved by Kallen again; the fiery redhead scored a strike kicking Gino's crown jewels.
All in all, it took him an hour just to get his key.
He was so tired from his journey. Rest and sleep were on his priority list now. But they were evading him, all because of thoughts of a certain black-haired man. Suzaku closed his eyes, recalling what happened earlier...
The amethyst-eyed man now sat down on the ground, leaning against the tree. Silence descended between the two as the wind blew, rattling the branches of the trees in the area and spreading the fragrance of the colourful flowers of the trees all around. Fallen leaves joined the wind's dance, flying high up in the air.
"So..." Suzaku began talking, trying to make some conversation once the breeze died, "do you live in Kyoto?"
A shaking of the head was his answer.
Suzaku paid no attention to the slight awkwardness of being the only one talking. What was there to feel discomfited at? He was talking to a man who cannot speak yet still responding to his questions even by gestures so it was perfectly natural that his voice was the only one being heard. This made him wonder if the man had been mute since birth or if something happened that made him unable to speak and if he did, what did his voice sound like? Was it as deep and alluring as he was? Still, even voiceless, Suzaku found himself somehow attracted to the man.
Flushing a little, he shook his head. What was he thinking?
"Where do you live then?"
The question was left unanswered as the one who should be replying was busying himself with a twig of the tree that snapped off that he picked up. It seemed he had no inclination to answer in the first place. This made Suzaku want to backtrack and really wish that the man could talk.
"If it is a private matter, then it's fine if you don't want to answer. But if you have no place to go, then maybe you would like to come with me to the town?"
The man shook his head again but there was a small smile on his lips. 'I'll be fine. There's no need to worry over me.'
Suzaku nodded to show he understood before looking up. It was nearing sunset and if he didn't go now it would be night by the time he arrived at the village. His companion seemed to have sensed what he was thinking because he stood up and dusted his clothes a little. Catching Suzaku's attention, he flashed the other a grateful smile before closing his eyes. Then he started to walk away.
"Wait!" Suzaku blurted out before he could stop himself though this time he did not hold the other's hand because the tree branch from before was still there and he had better self-control this time. "Won't you tell me your name at least?"
To Suzaku, it felt like an eternity before the man slowly turned back to face him with a sly and knowing smirk. He raised a forefinger to his lips. 'I'm not telling,' Suzaku could almost hear him say playfully in a teasing tone he imagined the other had if he could speak. Suzaku was left dumbstruck as the man took advantage of this situation to leave, going behind the tree.
Snapping out of his stupor, Suzaku walked in the direction the other trekked, hoping to at least catch his trail. But to his surprise, he was gone without a trace. It was as if he had gone with the wind, Suzaku wondered. Maybe he really was an angel? Perhaps even a ghost.
The thought sent shivers up Suzaku's spine but he ignored it, opting to go back and pick up the bag he had dropped on the ground, slightly disappointed both from the man disappearing without a trace and him not getting the man's name after all. But as he turned to leave with a heavy heart, his emerald eyes caught the sight of something not there before.
For there on the ground near the base of the tree where there was no grass growing, a name was written, most presumably with a stick, with the soft land as the scroll, with cursive and distinctive handwriting.
"Lelouch..." Suzaku repeated in a soft voice, feeling the roll of the name on his tongue. He had to admit, it was not a common name, most especially around the area. In fact, he had not heard of it before but there was that strange feeling in him again when he uttered the name. However, the name had an air of sophistication and royalty, which, Suzaku mused, seemed to fit the man perfectly. His majestic garments and kingly aura only supported Suzaku's claim. But that didn't mean Suzaku didn't like it. In fact, it had a beautiful ring to it. It didn't sound so foreign to his vocal chords.
The act of putting a forefinger to his lips as if to hush him, Suzaku realized, was not because Lelouch wasn't planning on giving his name but rather, he was telling Suzaku not to say his name to anyone.
'It's a secret between us.'
Funny, Suzaku thought with an amused smile, he had only met Lelouch a few hours ago but he was able to understand him even if the latter could not speak. Since when did he become a little bit better at reading gestures and facial expressions?
Maybe it was during the time his eyes were blessed with the sight of the beauty Lelouch possessed?
He adjusted his position on the bed so that his head was now resting on the pillow. His thoughts were directed to the paper crane this time. He had to admit; it was very weird, like it was almost not a crane at all. But rather... Something else entirely. As sleep began overpowering his eyelids, he barely managed to wonder why Lelouch was under the flame tree in the first place.
Suzaku was in a meadow. However, there were quite a few trees dotted around the area. It was a windy day and the leaves of the trees and the grass kept swaying to the flow. There were flower patches everywhere: dainty white daisies, bright yellow sunflowers, delicate unstained lilies and sturdy wildflowers. There was a mountain that loomed over the far north.
It was the picture of paradise.
A neighing brought to his attention that he was riding on a horse. But why did it feel like he was not the one steering the steed? Truthfully, he felt as if he was in somebody else's body, and he was seeing, hearing and feeling everything through the eyes and body of another. But if that was so, then why could he himself feel the chilly slap of the wind? Why could he hear the twitter of birds? It felt too real to be a fantasy.
However, his body was moving on its own as if someone else was controlling it. Yes, he could feel and see but his movements were like governed by some unknown force. He felt himself go down from the horse's saddle and land on the ground, grass rustling from the contact of boots to the wild plants. Up ahead was a tree so familiar to him.
A flame tree.
Wait! There was someone there. Who...? Before he could even finish his query, his feet moved automatically, taking him closer to that person. A smile unconsciously makes its way to his lips. I'm wearing a cape, Suzaku mused, because he heard it swishing at the wind's mercy. Finally, he stopped, a few feet from the person underneath the tree. He had his back turned to Suzaku but he seemed familiar in the brown-haired man's eyes. Another horse was tethered to the tree trunk, chewing on the grass.
"Your Majesty." The words slipped out of Suzaku's mouth smoothly. That's my voice, Suzaku thought. But I didn't say that. Then who did...? Why is my mouth moving by itself...?
"Suzaku." The man said, not even turning back to look. Wait, how did he know my name? Suzaku mentally panicked. Yet his body didn't become frantic; it was responding normally. And the silky voice that uttered his name made Suzaku's heart skip a beat. It was deep and laced with confidence and pride yet at the same time, it was not devoid of emotion. It was like music to his ears; so melodic but powerful.
"Are you making cranes again?" There was a sort of teasing tone in his own voice.
The man sitting under the tree retorted, "And who was it that showed me and taught me how?"
"Then it is my fault that His Majesty is here making paper cranes instead of managing the affairs of the kingdom?"Suzaku's own questioning eyebrow rose.
"That much is obvious."A haughty reply.
"Is teaching my King a pastime something bad? If all He ever does is pour over documents all day long or command his troops into battle, He is bound to gain wrinkles soon."A pout replaced his smile but it was leaning more to the teasing side.
"Not really... And Suzaku, why are you using my titles again? I told you, calling me by my name when we are alone is fine." Then he added in a softer voice, "No one even calls me by my name anymore after all..." Though he could not see, Suzaku knew the man was frowning. He felt a pang on his chest when he noted the melancholic pitch in the other man's voice.
He smiled. "All right then." 'I'll do anything for you, even if it meant I have to give up my life... That is what I vowed, did I not?' Suzaku's own voice echoed in his head.
The man's frown turned into a smile as he turned to face Suzaku. The name escaped Suzaku's lips laced with happiness, care and... What is this feathery feeling in his chest, making him revel in pure bliss and float in heaven?
The next day, Suzaku woke up early. Or rather, his sleep was disturbed by an energized rapping on his door and an equally enthusiastic shout of "Good morning!" that he knew only belonged to a certain blonde bartender. Fortunately or unfortunately, Suzaku can't tell, there was a thump and Gino gave off a shout of pain before there were sounds of him being dragged away. One could only guess the cause and the chestnut-haired man had a sneaking suspicion what happened beyond the door of his room.
He ran a hand amidst his unruly strands of hair. There was no use going back to sleep, though his dream was a bit worrisome. Beams of sunlight were already starting to penetrate his window, spilling past the curtains and brightening up his room. Yawning, he got up, disentangling himself from the wrinkled sheets. He took a quick bath to refresh himself before going downstairs for breakfast. The Knight Inn not only had a bar on the ground floor but also a restaurant so he could eat there. He put on a blue long-sleeved vest and white pants and black boots.
He went downstairs (his room was on the second floor). Gino was already manning the counter with a smile, but there were traces of pain and a twitch behind it. Suzaku had to admit, Kallen was good at kicking sense into others. Literally.
"Ah, Suzaku!" Gino shouted and waved into his direction. Suzaku twitched a little. They've only met yesterday and Gino was acting like they were best friends for years. Where does that guy get his ideas from? "What will you have?"
"Coming right up!"
As Gino went away to brew the coffee, Suzaku took the opportunity to look around the place. It wasn't a super luxurious inn but it wasn't some creaky, falling-apart building either. The floors were wooden but the yellowish-white walls were cemented. Simple chandeliers hung from the ceiling and lighted up the place though they weren't turned on now since it was morning anyway. The lighting of the place came from the sunlight entering through the open windows instead.
There weren't that many people in the restaurant. Perhaps it really was still very early in the morning, Suzaku noted. There was an old couple eating toast and coffee, a man in his mid-thirties munching on an omelette and an old man around 50 years old reading the morning newspaper.
"Here's your coffee, buddy," Gino's cheery voice snapped him out of his thoughts. Since when were they buddies? Suzaku thought incredulously. But then the chocolate-haired man decided that early morning wasn't a good time to be arguing for a lost cause. He had no energy anyways. So he just took the cup with a grateful smile.
When he had drained his cup, he paid the bill and went out, intending to check out the town while Gino sulked for the loss of company.
Once he stepped out of the door, Suzaku had to shield his eyes for the sunlight was shining higher up in the sky now, reigning over the townspeople who were enthusiastically preparing for the festival. There were also the visitors who marvelled at the natural beauty and feel-at-home atmosphere of Kyoto. However, the festival that would be held in two weeks only made the town livelier.
Suzaku himself was not that knowledgeable about the upcoming festival. From what he heard from his cousin Sumeragi Kaguya back in their hometown, it was a special festival- one that was held only every 50 years in Kyoto. Many people from all over flock to the town because of it. It was called the Chigiri no Tsuru Festival. People all over the town would make one crane of their own and send it to the skies together. The festival lasted a week, and that ritual was done at the end of the week. But that was all he knew of it.
He began walking through the streets, checking out the half-done decorations and stalls. But his mind was on its own world as he thought things over in his head. Truth be told, when he first heard about the festival from Kaguya, he had this strange urge to go and check it out for himself. There was a nagging feeling both in his heart and mind. When he told his cousin that he was going there, he only received a giggle and a good luck from her, much to his bewilderment.
But then, as they say, thinking deeply and walking never go hand in hand. And so it went that Suzaku, in his absentmindedness, found himself colliding head on with someone else, making him land ungracefully on the ground.
'Ouch...' he screamed in his mind as he clutched his head, bowing, eyes closed from the pain. He vaguely heard a whimper of ache from in front of him before a beautiful and ladylike but worried voice drifted into his ears.
"Um... I'm really sorry. Are you all right?"
Suzaku opened his eyes and raised his head a little but even so, he couldn't believe what he was seeing.
It was a girl, probably around his age. She had long flowing hair that was of a soft shade of pink. There were separate twirls of her hair and parts of her pink locks were tied in a bun that resembled roses that accentuated her youthful beauty. She had amethyst eyes that immediately reminded Suzaku of a certain man with similar eye color but hers were leaning more to the blue side. Honesty and innocence shone so brightly in them.
Suzaku must have been gaping at her for so long, because worry became more evident in her face as well as confusion. "Are you all right?"
Immediately, he snapped out of his daze and smiled sheepishly. "N-no, it's my fault for not looking where I was going. I-I'm just fine; there is no need to worry. Sorry." He stretched out his hand, intending to help her stand up. However, it seemed she had the same idea so it ended up with both of them stretching out their hands to each other, their fingertips barely brushing.
The pink-haired girl stood up by herself, dusting off her white and purple dress. Suzaku did the same, now facing her properly. Perhaps that now she was able to see his face better, shock mixed with relief overcame her as she stared at him with widened eyes, mouth slightly open from amazement.
"It can't be... A-are you... Suzaku?"
The man in question only blinked from confusion. "Yes... How did you know my name?"
Panicking as if she made a mistake (to which Suzaku raised an inquiring eyebrow), she quickly said, "Uh... N-no, I, um... just overheard Gino Weinberg calling you by that in the inn... so um... Anyway!" She grabbed his wrist, effectively stopping him from retorting that he hadn't seen her in the inn yesterday or this morning, more so never before so how did she know, and started running of in a direction he hadn't intended to go to.
"Wait!" He dug his heels on the ground to stop her pull. It was effective, as she let him go. "Where are we going?"
She beamed. "I'll show you around the town. It's a must and I really do want to. Please?"
"Um... okay..." he said, not being able to resist her eyes. "May I know your name?"
The girl raised a finger to her lips, like she was pondering. The way she did it eerily reminded Suzaku of Lelouch again. 'Why am I thinking about him now?'
"Call me Euphie. That is my name, Suzaku."
Suzaku had a feeling that Euphie isn't her real name but he still enjoyed her company nonetheless. She enthusiastically pointed to him the streamers and decorations hung on the houses and the streets, never tiring of explaining.
"And that is the stall where they sell flowers. Oh and that one is where you can buy very sweet candy. It's quite popular with the kids. And that's..."
"Euphie, can you please slow down? I can't keep up with you," Suzaku said sheepishly.
She blinked her cerulean eyes. "Oh... I'm sorry. It's probably the excitement getting to me. This is a festival only held every 50 years after all..." She trailed off with an unfathomable smile that was so unlike her candid nature.
Suzaku felt he didn't have even a one percent chance of ever deciphering the meaning of that smile so he asked the second thing that came to his head. "Say, what is the festival all about? And why is it held only every 50 years?"
It was almost as if Euphie was glad for this distraction, if the gleeful look on her face was not any proof. "Hmm... That's a question most first-timers to the festival ask. It's quite a long story, you see. Almost like a legend... or even a fairy tale, if you have strange but highly perceptive ways of looking at things. Here in the middle of the street is not the best place for storytelling. Let's go somewhere more peaceful... like say, in the trees near the entrance of the town?"
"Err..." Suzaku was suddenly at a loss for words. Having no other option but to say "All right..." he followed her, distracted by the thought that he was getting nearer to the place where he first saw Lelouch.
'Why am I thinking about him again?'
"Let's see... Where shall I start... Ah, from the beginning, I suppose," Euphie began saying once she was comfortably seated on the grassy field under the shade of a nice big sakura tree, settled in front of Suzaku. The clouds were slowly gathering in the sky, lessening the sunlight blaring at the land.
"You've probably heard of the festival's name, which is the Chigiri no Tsuru. It means Crane of Promise, with a few changes to the name over the times. But the meaning is still the same."
"I've heard that from my cousin," Suzaku added. "She was actually the one who told me about this festival. And well, during that time..." he trailed off, hesitating if he should tell her about what he felt during that time or not to someone he only met a while ago.
"... Is there something wrong? It's all right, you can tell me," Euphie said gently, compassion glimmering in her blue-violet orbs and kindness encompassing her whole being. Suzaku could not resist from the way those sincere eyes looked at him.
He twiddled his fingers as he recalled his conversation with his cousin. "... Well, you see Kaguya... oh, she is my cousin," he hastily added when Euphie looked confused. "It was around two weeks ago..."
Said person winced slightly from the intensity of the overenthusiastic shout. "... Yes, Kaguya?"
Kaguya was a girl of fifteen, with long black hair and eyes the same hue as Suzaku's, an obvious trait that proves their relationship. "I was out in the market this morning and I accidentally bumped into this lady with long green hair..."
Suzaku chucked lightly. Knowing his little cousin's clumsy tendencies, it was probably meant to happen. He decided to just humour her. "And then?"
"She dropped the food she was carrying because I bumped into her. As an apology, I gave her some of mine. We were eating in the park when she told me about this festival in a town far north."
"A festival?" Suzaku repeated, curiosity piqued as he tilted his head slightly.
"Yup!" Kaguya confirmed enthusiastically, glad that she got Suzaku's interest. "She said it was a beautiful festival, one that is held in Kyoto Village, which is very far from here. That's probably the reason we haven't heard of it before. It was held only every 50 years. It's called the Chigiri no Tsuru Festival."
At the mention of the festival's name, Suzaku froze. It was as if all feeling of reality left him. Welcoming darkness filled his head except for that small bit of consciousness that gripped him like a spell. It was like a softly glowing light that was urging him to get closer and take it. It was very persuasive that Suzaku wasted no time touching it. When he had, he shivered even though his surroundings weren't cold and his brilliant green eyes looked like they were hypnotized. Before he knew it, words tumbled out of his lips.
"I'm going there."
Kaguya blinked owlishly, not anticpating to hear that from her cousin. She didn't think she would be able to get him this interested. When she stared at him, he had a weird face on. 'It's almost like he was...' She giggled.
Just like Kaguya, Suzaku wasn't expecting that declaration to come from himself either. He had snapped out of his unusual daze at her giggling, for some reason aware of what he had done. What was that? He couldn't figure it out.
The fifteen-year-old smirked mischievously. "That's nice, Suzaku. But I never knew... Heehee... Good luck!"
"Huh?" Suzaku voiced his thoughts, confused.
But she was already out of the door and off on her merry way, muttering something about becoming a bridesmaid, leaving an utterly puzzled Suzaku.
"I don't honestly know why I said that. I was unconscious in a way when that happened. That's why I decided to go to the festival. I thought that if I went here, I could figure out why that happened to me," Suzaku finished.
Euphie, meanwhile, was listening intently to his story and when he was done, had a face that was partly glad and somewhat thoughtful. 'Looks like fate thought it was time and intervened... Or is it really the power of their feelings, able to reach even across time?'
The brown-haired guy mistook her silent contemplation as disbelief to his story. With a sheepish smile, he said, "I know it sounds silly and unbelievable. Maybe I was just dizzy from the heat that day or something..."
"No, I believe you," Euphie said firmly immediately, much to Suzaku's surprise. His tale was as tall as a tree—so utterly ridiculous. But she believed, her eyes blazing with passionate trust.
The wind was blowing much more fiercely now, tell-tale signs of an oncoming drizzle. This was certainly odd in Suzaku's point of view, seeing as the sun was beaming at him just this morning. Weather must be really unpredictable here, he thought.
As if on cue, the droplets began their assault. Instinctively, both teens shielded themselves as the cover the tree provided was not enough.
"Ayah... I didn't think the rain would come this early today," Euphie said sadly as she stood up and wiped away the rainwater falling on her face futilely. The downpour was becoming steadier by the moment.
At that statement, Suzaku turned to look at her with a bemused look. But then, seeing her drenched brought out his gentleman side. He turned away from her to remove his coat so that she would be shielded from the rain. But to his surprise again, when he turned back to her, she was already gone.
"Euphie?" he questioned to nobody, as the water ran down his hair, his clothes and finally to the grass around him. He wondered where she had gone but then deduced that the pink-haired girl probably went to look for shelter. But why did she leave without a word and without a trace? He didn't even hear her footsteps. However, it was probably the pitter-patter of the rain that drowned it out.
Still, there was no denying the fact that he was now out in the rain alone, soaked to the skin without an umbrella or any object of protection besides his coat and with no idea where to go. He wasn't familiar with the area seeing as he wasn't a resident, so he only had a faint idea of how to get back to the Knight Inn. And the rain wasn't helping.
He sighed, readying himself to go out in the rain when he found a pink rose on the ground, standing out amidst the sea of wet green. There weren't any plants like that, even in the area. So how did it get there? Stranger still, it was lying on the place where Euphie was a while ago. In his curiosity, Suzaku bent down to touch it, as water dripped from the ends of his chestnut hair onto the petals of the flower.
As soon as his fingertips made contact with the soft light crimson-colored blossom, Suzaku was overwhelmed with a strange sensation that vibrated throughout his entire body. But it was not something foreign to him because in the deepest recesses of his mind, he felt like he had experienced it before. Where? When? His mind frantically sought the answer. Just before he was completely detached to the feeling of the real world, he realized: It was during the time that Kaguya mentioned the Chigiri no Tsuru Festival.
Suzaku was surrounded by darkness. Or maybe it was engulfing him instead? After all, he no longer felt like he was in reality, if the fact that he could no longer feel the rain soaking and chilling him to be any indication. But this darkness... It wasn't the scary kind. It was like a blanket that was protecting or possibly barricading him from anything else that may exist or not.
'Where am I...?'
If the sensation he felt before all this was the same as back with Kaguya, then why... why was he here? Back then, nothing like this happened. He only felt dazed for a few moments and then he was back to normal again. But this... It was almost like being transported into an entirely different world.
If one could call this limitless darkness a 'world', that is.
Suzaku was still wearing his clothes from before but they were no longer wet and there were no traces that they were even under the mercy of the rain moments ago.
A flickering of light from behind him got the brown-haired boy's attention. It was a small pulsing ball of fire. The flame was so alive, constantly burning even though no source can be seen. It illuminated in the black surroundings. But to Suzaku's bewilderment, it was not emitting heat. The cold, lonely darkness still overpowered his senses. And just like any human being seeking light under the cover of night, he approached the fireball, which, upon his proximity, burst and grew larger, and the heat was now in the air. It was a comfortable and reassuring feeling, much better than the darkness.
Suddenly, the core of the fire disappeared, to be replaced by a gap that showed something to Suzaku, like a film.
From inside the fire, he could see something that looked like it came from the past. But the most surprising thing about it was---
It was, indeed, the mysterious black-haired man. He was dressed in different clothes to when Suzaku saw him under the flame tree but the one he was wearing in the 'movie' was of similar style: regal and gorgeous. It was a black and purple tailcoat and cape with golden linings.
Lelouch was standing proud and tall in front of what seemed like a court or throne room, where nobles, soldiers, knights, and officials alike bowed before him. He was...
"A king...?" Suzaku wondered out loud, shocked.
But something else gave even more astonishment to Suzaku. For there, standing faithfully right beside the king, was his very own self. Garbed in a blue and white suit with red jewels on it that resembled eyes as well as a huge cape with a similar design to the suit but colored black and blue, there was no doubt that it was him. From the scene, it was obvious that he was the King's knight.
The view dissolved to be replaced by the picture of a battlefield. Spears pierced flesh, arrows flew in the air like a flock of attacking falcons, swords clanged, singing the mantra of metal against metal, will to battle versus the drive to win and one belief against another. What are they fighting for? Freedom? Justice? Peace? Are the countless soldiers fighting for their lives in the battlefield unaware of their cause? Pools of blood, whether of the innocent or guilty, tainted the metal, land and flesh.
There was no doubt in Suzaku's mind as he stared, horrified at the scene before his eyes.
It was a war.
The focus moved to another part of the battlefield, on one side of the two combating forces. Suzaku watching through the flame noted with melancholy in his heart: Lelouch was there. He was the commander, the leader, the king.
Why? He was so young and the look on his face spoke volumes that he didn't want any of this.
An enemy was charging at him from the side, sword brandished. From his position, he wouldn't be able to strike back. He was going to be...
Emerald green eyes widened in fear, even though this was all just a scene playing out of a fire in front of him. He didn't know why but the thought of Lelouch dying struck a fear so deep in his heart. This was pretty confusing for Suzaku, seeing as he barely knew the man, although the nagging feeling in him said otherwise. That is, somehow, Lelouch was an important person to him and he was supposed to be familiar to him.
Before the sword of the attacker plunged into Lelouch's body, it was stopped by another sword, held by his own Knight, the one who looked like Suzaku. Or maybe he WAS Suzaku.
"Your Majesty!" The Knight shouted as he killed Lelouch's would-be-murderer. "Are you hurt?"
"I am fine," he replied. The chestnut-haired man observing from the flame took note of Lelouch's voice, having had heard it somewhere before. Then rain began to pour on the war field. Water washed the stain of the battlefield and the skies wept for the victims, but the fighting didn't stop.
'Rain...' Suzaku pondered.
The blue-clothed Knight faced the King steadily in the midst of the battle. They were surrounded by men killing one another, but the both of them were focused on each other, ignorant of the homicide and the downpour. With determination and passion blazing in his green eyes, the knight who looked like Suzaku spoke without hesitation in his voice.
"Lelouch, I will protect you from your enemies."
Suddenly, Suzaku, still watching, felt his surroundings quake. The fireball disintegrated. Something jolted him from the darkness and forced him back to reality. His surroundings were slowly turning back into the wet grass fields of Kyoto.
Suzaku slumped onto the grass, shivering as the familiar chill of the rain invaded his senses. What was that...?
"A dream...?" He moved his hand, unaware that it was crushing the cause of his experience. The pink rose from before dissolved into petals that were carried away by the wind in the rain. He shook his head as he stood up, droplets from his hair flying in all directions.
"Yeah, maybe it was." No matter how much that nagging feeling was telling him it was real, his rational and realistic side was convincing him not to believe in tales without proof.
'But why Lelouch?' he thought. Why does it all always come back to the mute man? What was his connection to all of this?
The coldness made itself known once again and tried to convince Suzaku to go back to the Knight Inn. If what he saw was real, then who was the Lelouch he met yesterday?
His mind set, Suzaku sprinted off.
Suzaku didn't care that the rain was pouring down on him, the whooshing of the water pounding in his ears. He paid no heed to the fact that his clothes were totally wet. It didn't even enter his mind that there was a possibility he could get sick from the rain.
The only concrete thought he had was that he must go to that place where he met Lelouch. To confirm that yesterday was not a dream...
He tried to remember the way there based from memory. Suzaku darted around trees, raced across fields and trekked muddy paths until finally...
The chestnut-haired teen stopped running, slightly out of breath as he stood a few steps away from the majestic flame tree. Even under the rain, the crimson flowers stood out. They were like pinpricks of fire that couldn't be doused. And right underneath the tree, seated on the grass and leaning against the trunk was...
Suzaku couldn't believe his eyes, slightly doubting, thinking that it might be the trick of the rain. He rubbed his eyes, although the water still flowed continuously. But there he was, unmoving.
Lelouch seemed not to mind the rain. He was staring off somewhere far away and most likely thinking deeply about something too. Whatever it was, Suzaku didn't care because he was too busy staring at Lelouch. The water droplets that drenched him were not clearly visible in Lelouch's pristine white outfit, as if they melded into it. The solid proof that he was bathing in the rain was the water that continuously dripped down his ebony hair, his face and his hands, that seemed to be nestling something securely.
Seeing the black-haired guy like that, Suzaku was under the impression that he was seeing an angel. But this was the Lelouch he was seeing before his eyes. That made him real to Suzaku. He was not a dream, a vision or an illusion. When their hands made contact the first time, Suzaku felt flesh and warmth.
Before he knew it, Suzaku's feet moved on its own, soles splashing water, towards the flame tree. He removed his coat before coming to a stop beside Lelouch. He put the garment over Lelouch, shielding him from the rain.
Suzaku's act obviously snapped Lelouch out of his daze since the water was no longer running down his body. He turned his head to look up at the chestnut-haired man, who was sporting a small smile even though the rain was pounding down on him.
"You'll catch a cold like that. But don't worry..."
A strong wind blew past, making the branches of the flame tree sway.
"Lelouch, I will protect you from the rain."
Amethyst eyes widened in surprise at that statement. Suzaku blinked then titled his head at Lelouch. What was there to be surprised about? At what he just said?
After his shock had most likely passed, Lelouch eased. A small smile graced his face as well, as he clutched the coat that Suzaku put over his head with his hand. It was a smile of gratefulness directed at Suzaku.
When Suzaku saw that, his heart began beating wildly, much faster than adrenaline rush could give. Despite the chill of the rain, he felt heat flowing through his veins, most of it settling at his cheeks. The pounding he could hear in his ears was no longer of the rain but rather of his heart. "L-lelouch?" He stuttered.
What Lelouch had been nestling in his hands before was another paper crane. He set it down on his lap before he tapped the space beside him with his hand then held out that same hand to Suzaku.
"Eh?" Suzaku wondered. Was Lelouch telling him to sit down beside him?
He stared, unsure, at the pale, thin hand. 'This hand is real. Do I have what it takes to hold it?' His gaze turned to Lelouch's eyes that radiated happiness. It was so different from the ones he saw in his vision.
Tan fingers gripped the inviting pale ones securely. Suzaku sat beside Lelouch, his hands never letting go. Emerald orbs searched for the gaze of violet eyes.
Suddenly, Lelouch let go of Suzaku's hand. This surprised Suzaku, since Lelouch was the one who offered it in the first place. But then, Lelouch removed the coat over his head and adjusted it so that both he and Suzaku were under it. He scooted closer to Suzaku and held the other's hand again.
Suzaku's body stiffened because of Lelouch did. He didn't know what he was supposed to do and why Lelouch was acting a bit... affectionate. His heart was beating so fast he thought it would pop out of his ribcage. 'Why is this happening to me?' his mind screamed.
Unfortunately, Lelouch mistook his stiffness as a sign that Suzaku was uncomfortable and was about to retract. But all of a sudden, he didn't want that comforting hand to go. He didn't want to show any signs of disgust or hate to Lelouch. Plus, he liked the feeling of Lelouch's warmth seeping into his body, penetrating every fibre of his being, even more so because of the cold surroundings. So Suzaku tightened his grip on the other's hand and let Lelouch's head fall on his broad shoulder.
Lelouch's questioning eyes met Suzaku's jolly green orbs. "I meant what I said, Lelouch. Although I know it's better if we go search for shelter, I also get the feeling that you don't want to leave this place so..." Suzaku trailed off when he realized that Lelouch's eyes were slowly closing. 'Sleepy ne?' He chuckled inside.
The rain was slowly letting up. Before he completely fell asleep, a voice so familiar to him echoed in Lelouch's mind, bringing along memories of the passionate and determined green eyes of that voice's owner.
'Lelouch, I will protect you from your enemies.'
With his last bit of consciousness and as the rain turned into only a few drops of water, he sought Suzaku's eyes, which were looking at him with gentleness and pure kindness, which were the total opposite to how he remembered those orbs would gaze at him.
'Lelouch, I will protect you from the rain.'
A feathery feeling blossomed in his heart and a smile settled in his lips before his mind drifted to slumber.
Truth be told, Suzaku himself couldn't understand why he'd done that. The rain had completely stopped by the time Lelouch was deep asleep, head rested on his shoulder. By that time, Suzaku was fully aware of what he had done, resulting in him flushing out of embarrassment. They were merely acquaintances, weren't they? They only met yesterday and yet here they were, acting like... like a couple.
Suzaku mentally gulped. N-no, that's not possible! But... this fluffy and soft sense in his chest that was making him feel so blissful only appeared when Lelouch snuggled closer to him. It was like he was flying; his whole body was floating and didn't want to go settle down. It was a strange sensation that travelled from his heart to the very ends of his fingertips and his toes, making every part of his being tingle. It was this very same feeling that was sending his mind into overdrive. It made him feel like he was in heaven.
No, we're not a couple, he firmly declared in his mind. If so, what were they? Acquaintances? But then mere associates don't do things like that. So maybe... friends? Yes, Suzaku's mind supplied. That's what they probably were. He wondered if Lelouch felt the same thing. Maybe he should ask the next time he saw him?
Sunset's rays were the only thing illuminating his path as Suzaku made his way back to the hotel. Only a few puddles remained on the road as most of the water had dried up after the sun came out. It was like the rain was only a passing breeze, going away as fast as it came. Suzaku felt a little tired and kind of sleepy, seeing as he ran in the rain. Actually, he fell asleep a few minutes after Lelouch did, though he knew that falling asleep without drying up after getting soaked in the rain was not good for the health. When he woke up, the ground was already dry, save for a few drops on the grass blades and tree leaves. What's more, Lelouch was no longer beside him and the only trace that he had ever been there in the first place was the crane he left behind, now safely tucked in Suzaku's pocket.
Honestly, Suzaku wondered, what on earth was happening to him? He wanted to go to the festival to solve the mystery regarding that trance he went under when Kaguya told him of the Chigiri no Tsuru. But rather than finally getting to the truth, more mysteries were cropping up: strange dreams, unexplainable feelings, Euphie, Lelouch...
Him again. No matter what he tried to think of, his musings always went back to the black-haired man. The tenderness in his heart always took control when he saw Lelouch, like it was his duty to care and protect him, just like a loyal Knight would.
But were his dreams true? Or were they just that: illusions his tired mind was springing on him? It was apparent that those visions took place in the past, long ago when knights, castles and war were part of reality and not of fairy tales. And Lelouch was in them. Does that mean he was someone from the past? No, that can't be, Suzaku's rational side countered. Lelouch was right here, as flesh and not a ghost. But, his skeptical side doubted. There was this mysterious air surrounding Lelouch: His inability to talk, how he just vanishes unnoticed and the way he was affecting Suzaku. Come to think of it, when he saw the visions in the fireball, he was watching separately. But in his dream last night, he was inside someone else.
Were these mysteries all connected? He questioned to nobody in particular. If so, what were they? Who was Lelouch? And Euphie, did she have a connection to this too? After all, the way she disappeared was similar to how Lelouch did it. And the pink rose lying on the ground... Suzaku was certain that he touched it before he got transported or something.
Too much thinking was making his already tired body even more exhausted. He shook his head. It was better to think about this after a good night's re---
To be continued...
The real mystery begins now. Well, I hope you enjoyed the first part and it made you interested to see this story through to the end.
As a sort of quiz or game for this story, try to make your theories regarding the mystery of Lelouch, Suzaku and Euphie. Oh, and the festival itself as well. Here are guide questions:
1) Why is Lelouch unable to speak?
2) Why does Lelouch keep on making cranes?
3) Why does he appear to know Suzaku and vice versa?
4) Why does Euphie seem to know something about Lelouch and Suzaku? What is her connection to them?
5) What is the festival's connection with the trio?
Of course there are more mysteries as the story goes on but that's all for now.
Despite the story being complete in draft, updates will not be as fast because I'm quite busy with school. However, I assure you there'll be one in at least every 2 weeks or so.
Review if you please, all comments and suggestions are appreciated. (And I heard that for every review submitted, a kitten is saved. I love kittens. XD). Flames will be put out by magic rain.