Hi, Rine-Line is here again.
This update was way delayed, much later than I expected. Blame it on college life which is draining me of my mental juices and my time.
I originally planned to finish this by the end of November but some things came up (like my cellphone being stolen in school, and with it, my Britannia insignia dangling charm attached to it. Sigh...). And then things got kind of hectic because of the holidays so I only got to finish this now.
Anyway, here is another long chapter for you all. This answers some of the questions I posted last time. Yet at the same time, it adds more mysteries for you all to solve. And of course more romance. I get the feeling that some of you might feel this is too sappy and even sometimes cheesy. And also the mystery of Suzaku, Lelouch and Euphie is very frustrating. Don't worry, all will be revealed in due time. Well, not everything though. A lot is going to be just implied so you have to read carefully.
I won't keep you waiting any longer so read on and enjoy. A Christmas present for all the readers who reviewed, put this story and me-the poor, struggling authoress- on their alerts and faves and even those who just clicked on the story and added to my number of hits and visitors. Merry Christmas! XD
Disclaimer: Darn, I no longer have that Britannian insignia charm when my phone got stolen. Oh well, at least now, I have a new cellphone and it has a lanyard that features Lelouch in Zero attire and Suzaku and Gino in Rounds of Knights uniforms. I happen to stare them a little too much sometimes. Hmm... But what I want to point out here is that all this means that I do not own Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch. I still have the DVDs though. And I'm very close to getting a Lelouch plushie.
1,000 Cranes under a Flame Tree
By Aquamarine Crystalline
Love is irrational--- it has no regards for rules and bends them all the way backwards
Love is unbiased--- appearance, ability, status and even gender do not matter
Love is forever--- it can last for eternity, transcending time and space
Love is a mystery--- no one knows where it comes from
Love is a power--- it can change any man from inside
Love is an emotion--- it is in the heart that we feel it
Love is life--- it is the purpose of existence
SECOND FLIGHT: W.I.N.D. (Wishes, Illness, Narratives and Dreams)
The next day, Suzaku felt like hell, in more ways than one. Which was an irony, because yesterday he was feeling like he was in heaven.
He was lying in bed, with a cold and a fever.
His throat was burning. No, make that: his whole body was like on fire. He felt so hot and his vision kept on blurring.
"What were you saying again...? You stayed out there in the rain without anything to protect yourself? You didn't even look for shelter? If you weren't sick, I'd be beating you up right now for your stupidity. Are you an idiot or something? Oh no, wait... Maybe you're not; idiots don't catch the cold after all..."
Suzaku blearily looked at the girl towering above him, namely Kallen Kouzuki, looking so intimidating that she was virtually crushing the wet towel in her hands, making water drop on the floor. He dazedly wondered if that was his fate had he not been a sick and weak guy and a guest of the Inn. She wore a long-sleeved black vest and similarly-coloured shorts and boots. This got Suzaku confused since others wore white, like Gino. Maybe it was just a personal color preference thing.
When he arrived at the Knight Inn the night before, he nearly collapsed at the front door, had Gino not caught him before his face met the floor. Thankfully, the local doctor who made the inn his second home was present along with his nurse assistant so the workers didn't have to take the trouble of bringing him over to the town infirmary. Instead, Gino supported him towards his room, where he had laid down ever since.
Doctor Lloyd Asplund was... weird, in Suzaku's opinion. He kept saying strange things and poked at Suzaku's body with amusement and curiosity, which made Suzaku more uncomfortable than he already was. But he couldn't be sure if it was really that, or maybe his fever was making him delusional. Although, he could remember the indigo-haired nurse whose name was Cecile Croomy, constantly scolding Lloyd and pulling his ear. They bickered like an old married couple but Cecile insisted that she was 'just' his assistant. Somehow, Suzaku had his doubts about that.
Thankfully, his sickness wasn't a terminal one. He was only given some cold and fever medicine and told to get bed rest for two to three days. Lucky for him, the workers at Knight Inn were kind so they took care of him. Gino was worried for his 'buddy' and Kallen was too, though she tried to hide it. So did the other older workers like Monica and Chiba. Suzaku felt a bit embarrassed that they were taking time out of their schedule to care for him really when they were supposed to be hard at work. But Gino insisted that he was a guest of Kyoto and a good friend, and wasn't it normal to take care of ill friends?
Suzaku was grateful to be with such a good guy like Gino Weinberg. So he just decided to put his mind at rest so that he can recover faster. What he couldn't understand was this hidden desire to get better just so that he can see Lelouch again. Wasn't he supposed to get better for his own well-being and not for others?
"Really, you..." Kallen interrupted Suzaku's thoughts as she placed the towel on the sick man's forehead. "You're quite lucky though. At least, you'll be up and running by the time the festival starts."
The redhead's mentioning of the festival made Suzaku remember something.
"Um, Kallen?" He said, a bit weakly.
"What?" She replied, only half-listening as she was busy gathering cups and plates on a tray on the bedside table.
"Has anyone ever told you that... they met someone under the flame tree outside town?" Suzaku asked.
A flicker of surprise passed Kallen's face making her halt her actions. She turned to Suzaku with an eyebrow raised, most likely wondering if it was just his fever talking. But after a few seconds of scrutinizing, she decided that he wasn't in delusional mode.
"I don't really know what you're talking about," she said while arranging the dinnerware on the tray, "because I don't know what a flame tree is."
"Ah..." Suzaku tried to think despite his heat-beaten brain protesting. That tree was called such in one of the folktales his father had told him. Maybe it was called by something else in Kyoto? So he resorted to describing it.
He raised a frail hand to touch the cloth on his forehead. It felt cool to his fingertips. "It's a large tree... with orange-red flowers."
"Ah, you mean, the phoenix tail?"
Suzaku turned his head to look at her sharply, making him dizzy a little from the sudden movement. Luckily, he managed to compose himself to repeat, "Phoenix... tail?"
The female worker lifted the tray with ease. "That really majestic-looking tree that stands by itself along the Kawaguchi River, right?" Suzaku nodded in confirmation. "It certainly is an odd tree. It's the only one around in this area and it seems it was there for who-knows-how-long. No matter what kind of disaster befell the village... Typhoons, earthquakes or fires, it's still standing there. Nobody knows who planted the tree and it was there since Kyoto was formed. But..."
She turned, her back facing the sick Suzaku. "...No one's ever seen anyone there. Not even the children play there because there are lots of trees much closer to the town. So no, not a single person ever said that they met someone under the phoenix tail. Besides, despite the tree looking so beautiful and majestic and all, many believe it's haunted so no one goes near there. I mean, what else would you make of a tree that's older than this town, anyway? Why d'you ask?"
Suzaku's eyes widened. That can't be! Does that mean that Lelouch was...
"You just rest now or your cold will get worse, idiot," Kallen said before leaving the room.
Suzaku sighed. Oh well, there was nothing he could do about it. He shivered a little so he pulled the blanket closer to himself. Being sick was the worst.
He may as well sleep then...
Suzaku was inside his own dream again. Like before, he was witnessing everything through the eyes and body of someone else.
And standing right in front of him was Lelouch in his royal black garments.
The brown-haired man mentally marvelled at how amazing and beautiful Lelouch looked in his outfit. He carried the air of authority really well; his pride and confidence evident with every swish of his cape and every movement of his hand. The smirk on his face would have melted any girl's heart into a puddle and for some reason, that's what Suzaku's heart was doing now, despite the fact that he wasn't a girl. Definitely weird.
Lelouch tilted his head, looking at Suzaku's direction (or possibly the person Suzaku was possessing). "Suzaku?"
The aforementioned froze. Lelouch really did know his name? But how? Suzaku's eyes widened. Could it be... that the body he was in now... was also of a person with the same name as him? Or was it really himself? But he was definitely not born in an era like this.
"Is there a problem?" Lelouch continued to ask in silky tones that made Suzaku's heart flutter.
"Not really," Suzaku's own voice came out of his mouth involuntarily. Now this was confusing him. If this person he was in now wasn't him, then why do their voices sound the same? Why do they look the same? Why do they even have the same name? But then, this was a dream right?
"I just wanted to see you. Is that a problem?" Suzaku asked, tilting his head as well.
Lelouch's cheeks reddened. "Sometimes I wonder what sort of spell overcame me that I chose you to be my knight."
"It must be fate then." Said knight smiled.
"Maybe. But then, it is possible that it could not. Fate can be fickle. The only constant thing about it is that it plans ahead."
At first, the brown-haired knight looked like he was at a loss for words, his mouth open in astonishment. But afterwards, his eyes softened. "You are a really great king. I am glad that I am your knight."
Now it was Lelouch's turn to be surprised. In all the time that he had been acquainted with his knight, he knew that the other was always spontaneous, courageous and loyal, albeit a bit naive. But this... "What are you saying all of a sudden?"
Suzaku just continued to smile.
He didn't know when it began but he knew that it always there, most often residing quietly in the deepest abyss of his heart. Now it was taking control of him, possessing him to the very core of his soul. It was spreading like wildfire throughout his entire body and he could no longer stop it. But he did not mind.
Now, it was making him do this.
The knight savoured the unique but delicious taste that his tongue was picking up. It was pure but addicting and his inner desires wanted more of it. It was such craving he never had before. It was sweeter than honey and much more satisfying than eating those so-called extravagant dishes that the kitchens whipped up. He was a person who was content with simplicity and what he already had. That was the life of a knight and a soldier. Wanting was so foreign to him. But this... It was so intense and unstoppable. The taste was something he would do anything to relish. He would do anything or give anything for this. But he did not mind.
Now, it was making him taste this.
The scent he was inhaling was so heavenly. It was like a spring paradise; the fragrance of the lilies, daisies and the sunflowers from the field were around him. It was more sweet-smelling than any perfume. Oh, if only this was the air he could breathe in every second of the day and be the air he was to live on. The notion itself may have sounded so ridiculous. But he did not mind.
Now, it was making him smell this.
They said that the only sounds you could hear were of nature's symphony from the rustling of the trees and the cries of the many animals, the songs of the bards singing in the bars or in the streets asking for alms, or the clashing of swords in war. But what he was hearing right now was the thunderous thumping of his very own heart. It was so loud, the sound filling his eardrums he could hear nothing else. Who knew it was possible to hear the beating of your heart? But he did not mind.
Now, it was making him hear this.
He felt the new sensation send shivers down his spine, more than what this cold midnight air could ever give him. He felt his insides heating up but he was shivering. It was odd. But was it from excitement? Happiness? Desire? He did not know. Even with all the layers of clothing and armour he wore, he was shuddering. The heat was burning in his bones that he could no longer feel anything else but this. Why? He did not know. But he did not mind.
Now, it was making him feel this.
Suzaku within the dream froze.
He was kissing...
Oh wait, it wasn't him. It was the knight with the same name as him.
But even so, he could definitely feel what the knight was feeling: bliss, contentment and...
Two pairs of lips soon parted, not for the need of breath. It was because of the initiator's hesitance.
Pearly tears soon began falling from emerald eyes, trickling slowly down the knight's face like dewdrops sliding down leaves before they fall to a surface they know would only splatter them.
Suzaku blearily opened his eyes, though he squinted them a little to adjust to the ceiling light. This confounded him for a bit, because he was positive they weren't open when he fell asleep, and that was around after lunch time. He looked sideways to the window and saw that the sun was no longer out. "I've... been sleeping for that long?"
The lights were turned on, and there was a pitcher and a glass of water on the bedside table. Yet he was sure that Kallen took them on a tray with her before he fell asleep. So maybe she came back and replaced them or possibly, been checking on him? He felt another surge of gratefulness to Kallen, and maybe Gino, since he was most likely bugging her about it.
He let out a weary sigh; he still felt sick. This illness was really taking its time. He lifted a hand to his face but to his surprise, he felt something wet. It seemed to be flowing from his eyes.
He felt like a thousand screws were forcefully drilling themselves into his head. And then a hammer was continuously pounding his skull without mercy. Also, a huge pile of stone blocks were weighing on his head that it felt so heavy.
Suzaku sighed. This was totally not the best way to wake up on a lively Wednesday morning.
But then, it was not like he had any choice in the matter to begin with. His illness had not gone away and it looked like it would take another day more. Doctor Asplund did say two or three days...
However, to the currently bedridden man, even that seemed too long. First of all, he did not come to Kyoto just to fall sick (even though it was his fault in the first place---not that he would admit that out loud) and second, this was a festival that was only held every 50 years so he should be sight-seeing instead of staying in bed. If he waited for the next festival, he would be around his 60s by then, and he would not be able to enjoy it as much. This was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and here he was, on his bed in his room at the Knight Inn.
His fever was now down a bit though and his cold was getting better. Well, that was good news, in the very least.
"May I come in?" A small, feminine, seemingly bored voice spoke up from the other side of his room's door. Suzaku would actually have not heard it had he been deep in thought. He didn't even hear her knocking in that condition.
Who was it though? It was certainly not Gino or Kallen, or any of the workers of the Inn that he knew. He wasn't expecting any visitors though.
Then, maybe it was a Knight he'd never met before... (They were what the workers of the Knight Inn called themselves, at least, according to Gino, but Suzaku had a suspicion it was just the cheerful blonde who made that up and did the calling himself. He tried imitating one the day before, while Suzaku was still in bed, and he ended up breaking the desk lamp by accident. Kallen was just glad for an excuse to kick him again. She seemed to get a kick out of them, pun intended. The redhead assured Suzaku that they would replace the lamp soon and that the inn wouldn't charge him for compensation. It wasn't his fault anyways. She dragged Gino out of the room for his punishment of extra work.)
"Yes, the door is not locked."
At Suzaku's reply, the knob turned and a young girl went in. As he had guessed, it was a worker of the Knight Inn. She had pink hair tied up in a parted ponytail. The uniform she wore was white. But Suzaku wondered why she was already a worker; she looked no less than 15 years old...
"That's my name." She laid down the tray laden with steaming hot breakfast on the bedside table.
Suzaku surmised that Anya was a girl of few words, judging by the way she talked and her silent demeanour.
"Are Gino and Kallen busy?" He asked, since it was usually those two who brought his food to his room.
Anya turned to look at him for a moment before answering in that monotone voice of hers. "Gino is working double time for his 'accident'." She poured out a glass of water and handed it over to Suzaku who was just getting up, before continuing, "And Kallen is watching over him to make sure he does it and not get away."
Suzaku couldn't help but chuckle at that as he finally sat up, propping himself up with the headboard of the bed. That was typical of those two, acting like a not-so-ordinary couple.
"What are you laughing about?" Anya asked, frowning.
"Eh?" Suzaku paused halfway to reaching out for his glass of water, blinking. Then he chortled again, albeit a bit weakly since his headache was still bothering him, as he now took the offered drink. "Nothing, really. I just thought it would be very like those two."
The pink-haired girl looked bored as she watched Suzaku slowly drink to soothe his parched throat. However, there was a faint interested gleam in her eyes. She sat down on the chair by the bed. After a while, she spoke. "You have only known them for three days and yet you seem like you know them very well already."
Suzaku drained his cup before answering with a smile, "I guess that's just how I am. Besides, Gino is a friendly guy."
Despite not showing it outwardly, Anya was surprised by his answer. She covered up her surprise by taking the glass from his hands then handing him his breakfast--- squash soup and bread.
She seemed to be deep in thought as Suzaku began eating. The brown-haired man wondered if she always looked like she was bored or that uninterested in her surroundings. He also wondered why she was already working despite being so young...
He couldn't resist asking, "Why do you work here?"
Slowly, she faced him with a questioning look.
Suzaku looked sheepish as he added, "I mean, you look so young so..."
"This is the only place I could go to after my family died," Anya replied, much to Suzaku's surprise. Truthfully, she was as astonished he was. She was a silent type of person who wouldn't talk unless it was important. She had no obligation to answer him, so why?
"Ah, sorry for asking." Suzaku looked sincerely apologetic.
"... It's fine. I don't often talk about it anyways. Only a few people know."
Suzaku looked relieved. "That's good." He took a sip of his hot soup. He stared at his food as a sad smile began to form on his face. "You know, my family's gone too."
Anya remained silent but it appeared that she was listening. "I only have my cousin left. She is around the same age as you. So, I am actually working in my hometown to support the both of us."
"... You left your work to go here?"
"Oh, no. I worked overtime before I left to cover for the time that I'll be here."
"... Then why did you come here?"
Suzaku paused, unsure of what to answer to that seemingly simple question. What had he come here for? To have fun in a grand festival like others were? To be able to tell others that he had gone to a festival that only takes place every half-century? Or is it because of his supposed original goal of solving the mystery of that strange feeling that overcame him when Kaguya told him about the festival like he'd told Euphie?
"That... I don't even know myself. I am not sure anymore either. I just knew I had to go."
But he still managed a small smile. "I hope I can figure it out by the time the festival ends though."
Anya just blinked then nodded. She stood up and took the empty bowl and the glass and put them on the tray. She then proceeded to leave. But before she opened the door, she stopped in her tracks.
"I am sure you can find your answer," she said before going out, leaving Suzaku on his own.
As Anya closed the door of Suzaku's room behind her, she sighed. She hadn't talked that much for a long time. And besides, only a select few could make her talk like that. She didn't know why, but Suzaku had that quality that made her feel like she could tell him anything and he wouldn't mind. Was it his naivety?
Or was it what Gino, one of those select few, called friendship?
A small smile graces her young face. Maybe it wasn't so bad after all...
A cheery Thursday morning greeted Suzaku as he walked the streets of the town, now fully recovered. He took a deep breath, taking in the fresh morning air that he'd been deprived off since he was sick in bed three days ago. He didn't like being cooped up anyways. He preferred the great outdoors, running free and feeling the wind at full power rushing against his face.
Decorations and stalls for the festival were three-fourths done, he noted. People were still busy though and the town was still buzzing with activity. The number of tourists and stalls for some reason overwhelmed Suzaku a little for, in his memory, they weren't that many the last time he was strolling through the streets. Well, being stuck in bed for three days did that to him.
He ran a hand through his brown locks with a sigh. In the three days that he lay in bed, he had been plagued with those dreams again. Plagued, because they kept appearing one after another. Yes, the ones about Lelouch. He felt like they were drilling themselves into his head, as if wanting him to realize something. But what was he supposed to see from some visions of a fantasy story? For all he knew, they were only the products of his vivid imagination mixed with the memories of the tales his father told him and the memory of Lelouch. Before his father died, the old man used to tell him a lot of myths. But then, none of them remotely resembled the scenario his dreams were presenting him.
But... He was also curious about that flame tree outside. So it was called the phoenix tail around here, Suzaku remembered when Kallen told him. It made Suzaku recall what his father told him when he was young...
Little 10-year-old Suzaku was standing in front of a grave on a bright but windy day. The breeze was making the petals of the sakura tree that towered over him and his father beside him fly in the wind and spread its fragrance.
Written on the grave was the name of Suzaku's mother. And today was the tenth anniversary of her death. She died giving birth to her only child, only to never see him grow up. But the reverse also applied, her son never saw her either, except for the few paintings of her in their house. It was kind of sad to celebrate his birthday and his mother's death anniversary on the same day. He could never truly smile nor genuinely cry for decorum of both occasions were preventing him from doing so. It seemed that on this day, as one more got added to his age, he was reminded that his mother died for that. It made him guilty yet at the same time grateful for his mother's sacrifice.
In Suzaku's arms were a bunch of flowers- bright red camellias- his mother's favourite flower, according to his father. He carefully laid them in front of grave as his father watched.
Once he had set the flowers properly, Suzaku slowly turned back to look at his father. Kururugi Genbu had a distant look in his eyes, as if dwelling on his memories, presumably of the happy times he had with his dearly departed wife.
"You know, Suzaku," he began, "your name was actually given to you by your mother."
The brown-haired child tilted his head in curiosity and interest, a gesture Genbu took to be a sign that Suzaku was listening. He continued, "Do you know of the tale of the four gods?"
"Four gods?" He repeated.
"Seiryuu of the west, Byakko of the east, Genbu of the north and..." his father paused to take a breath, " Suzaku of the south."
Emerald eyes widened in surprise.
"Your mother revered Suzaku. She named you after that god so that he may watch over you and guide you in her place."
A sad look was visible on Suzaku's face as the reality that he can never be with his mother on this earth made itself known again.
"Otou-sama, what does the god Suzaku look like?"
"A majestic crimson phoenix."
"Phoenix..." Suzaku uttered softly. It seemed that apart from Lelouch, phoenix was another word that was repeating itself in this strange turn of events. His name being uttered repeatedly, people he only just met knowing his name, the flame tree being called phoenix tail in Kyoto and then...
A bolt of realization hit Suzaku as he stopped in his tracks. He put a hand to his pocket and pulled out a familiar piece of paper folding.
But as he scrutinized it more carefully, he could see another type of bird beyond the first impression of a crane. The many "tail feathers" created by tearing off the tail and the wider wings... There was no mistaking it.
When he first saw Lelouch's handiwork, the legendary bird already came to mind but he shrugged it off, overridden by the fact that it was a folded paper crane. No one made paper phoenixes anyway. But here was one, right on the palm of his hand.
"Oh? It is quite rare to see someone so young like you still familiar with the legend of the phoenix crane."
Suzaku looked up to his side, to see a kind-looking, old woman smiling at him from behind a flower stall set-up for the festival. She must have seen him staring at the origami product on his hand.
"Legend of the phoenix crane?"
"Yes, child. It is an old tale of Kyoto. It has faded with the ages, barely remembered even by the old folks of this town. Not many are aware but it is actually the story the festival is based on."
"Really?" Suzaku uttered, surprised, eyes wide.
She nodded, her gray locks slipping a bit. Then beckoned for him to come closer with a sweep of her bony hand, to which he complied. "Long, long ago, before this place became a town, there was a very prosperous kingdom here."
"What made the place amazing were not the skilled and courageous soldiers of the army or its mines laden with gold and diamonds but the king."
"The king?" Suzaku repeated.
"The ruler of the kingdom was a very young man, barely an adult. He had inherited the kingdom by himself when his mother the previous ruler died. But despite his youth, he was very intelligent and wielded so much power over the kingdom. He was also fearless and with his army conquered many villages and towns to broaden the territory. In this way, the kingdom became so powerful and rich, even if the king was a young man, that it was feared by others.
"Now this young king had a knight, who was very faithful and loyal to him. He was also exceptionally skilled with the sword and he was never defeated in a fight. According to some accounts, he was blessed by the phoenix god when he was born and this is the reason for his abilities. He protected the king with all his might. Both he and the king were extremely close, having been friends ever since their childhood. They were inseparable."
As the old woman told the story, Suzaku wondered why he could imagine her story so vividly in his head. The young king... looked like Lelouch. And the knight... was him. Memories of his dreams were helping largely on that part, he noticed.
"One day, an arranged marriage was agreed upon by that kingdom and another equally powerful kingdom... whose name has slipped out of my mind, I am sorry to say, child... The young king was betrothed to a beautiful and kind princess around his age from the other kingdom. For reasons unknown, the knight was bothered by this and it was thought that it was because he had feelings of love for that princess. No one is sure, however."
Suzaku shuddered; a certain cheerful pink-haired girl suddenly came to his mind. What was going on?
The old lady florist took a deep breath before continuing, "Those two kingdoms were at par with each other when it came to power so this engagement was a way for them to assure that neither will wage war against the other. A contract of peace, you might say. When the princess came to visit to the kingdom... I do not remember exactly anymore... But something happened, and the princess was killed."
"K-killed...!?" Somehow, the image of Euphie lying in a pool of her own blood with a sword plunged into her heart did not sit too well with Suzaku. But it was like the picture itself was in front of his eyes.
A somber look settled on her old features before going on, "The princess' father was completely distraught over her death and blamed the young king and his knight for her bereavement. I do not know why he did so but that is how the story goes. He declared war. And so the two kingdoms fought and thousands of lives were lost. The other kingdom had the winning edge because they had superiority in numbers."
'War...' Suzaku thought grimly.
"The other kingdom divided its troops, one for the battlefield and one headed for the kingdom capital. When the young king learned of this, he had no choice but to divide his own troops as well and had his knight in charge of the one for the battlefield while he led the other troop to defend the capital. Before the two parted, the knight handed the king a paper crane but it had the appearance of a phoenix. The two made a promise to see each other under the tree they used to play under when they were children, after they managed to win. They went their separate ways. The king managed to win in his part but the knight still had not returned. Worried, the king set off alone for the tree, leaving his general in charge. When he arrived there, the knight was nowhere to be found. And so he set the phoenix crane free into the skies, praying and wishing... Waiting for the knight to meet him..."
'I will wait for you...' an oddly familiar voice suddenly resonated in Suzaku's head.
The old lady smiled at Suzaku. "And that's it for the story. The phoenix crane that the young king set free into the skies eventually came to symbolize a wish or promise of undying love. How it came to be that, I have no idea. It became a tradition then a festival. The phoenix crane was soon forgotten and the people now use ordinary cranes. People make a paper crane, then at midnight of the last day of the festival, they make a wish on it then everyone sends them to the sky. They believed that the crane would carry their wish to the gods in heaven. That is why it became the Chigiri no Tsuru... or Crane of Promise festival. It is mostly couples who wish for prosperity and a successful relationship that do this so the festival ended up associated with romance and the like."
'... because I love you.'
Suzaku wandered the streets of Kyoto; the old woman's story still lingering in his mind. When she finished her story, he decided to go so as not to bother her anymore in her work. Though she did insist that he come see her during the festival, to which Suzaku politely agreed before they parted.
'No wonder Kaguya was muttering about bridesmaids and the like. This festival is mostly flocked by couples.'
For some reason, the story was nagging at him but he didn't know why. He wasn't really looking where he was going, just wherever his feet were leading him. And apparently, it was to bump straight into a particular girl with rose-colored hair.
"Euphie?" Emerald eyes blinked disbelievingly. He didn't expect to meet up with her again after she just seemingly disappeared into thin air four days ago.
She smoothed out the folds on her dress that came with unceremoniously bumping into the brown-haired youth. "Are you all right now?"
"Y-yes. How did you know I was-"
"I learned from Miss Kouzuki," she answered readily. Then she clapped her hands. "Since you are all better now, I can now tell you what I was supposed to tell you back then. There will be no rain today, too. Shall we go?"
Before Suzaku knew it, he and Euphie were under the sakura tree again. She sat down on the grass and gestured for him to do the same. Once they had settled, she began, "It is a really old folk tale of Kyoto. Many have forgotten it and it is only known by word of mouth."
"Um, Euphie... I don't mean to interrupt but I have already heard of the story," Suzaku said with a slightly embarrassed demeanour.
"Oh, you have?" Euphie smiled but the tone of her voice was wavering between joy and disappointment. 'But if it was a native who told him, it is most likely the altered version of the story... or the incomplete one.' "So what do you think of it?"
At Euphie's question, Suzaku became grim, contemplating. What did he really think of the story? Was it merely a folk tale? Or was there more to it, like his dreams and this nagging feeling were telling him? What exactly was this nagging him about?
"There is something odd about the story," he began. "That is the only thing I am sure of. But I do not know what exactly is bothering me about the story."
Euphie nodded once then proceeded to ask again, "What does bother you about the story?" She said it like she was not expecting an answer from him. "Is it the fact that the knight was bothered by the king's betrothal to the princess? Why did the princess' father blame the young king and his knight? Or-"
"---Why did the king wait for the knight?" Suzaku finished. "Also, I feel like the story is... incomplete. And it is too... clean. There are so many things left unexplained. I know it is just a folk tale and there is a possibility that it is really just a story but if it was true... There are some things I don't understand, Euphie."
The pink-haired girl did not reply, closing her eyes solemnly. You already know the answer to that question, Suzaku, but you choose to deny it. After a few moments of silence, she slowly opened her eyes and pinned Suzaku with a meaningful and determined gaze. "Do you wish to know the truth, Kururugi Suzaku?"
After letting her first question sink in, she added, "Even if there is no turning back?"
It was as if invisible force was holding Suzaku in place. He flinched inwardly at those unwavering cerulean eyes that seemed to be scrutinizing him, drilling through to the very core of his soul. He couldn't move under the sudden tense conditions, only staring back at Euphie, as she waited for his response. It was so out of character for the cheerful and enthusiastic Euphie that Suzaku knew. But he figured she must have a reason for doing so.
What exactly was this truth she was talking about, Suzaku wondered. Was it about the story? Was it about his strange dreams? (And if she knew of them, how and why?) Was it about herself? Was it about Lelouch?
He had too many questions. And yet she was speaking of only one truth. What was he supposed to know? Will knowing this truth finally set his mind at ease? Will those haunting dreams stop invading his mind in his sleep?
Then, what did she mean by "no turning back"? Was the truth that horrifying and mind-scarring that she needed to warn him about it? Will it change his life forever, all blissful innocence gone in a single moment?
But still, even if that truth only answered one question, it was better than nothing. Even if that truth only shed light on the simplest of questions and even if knowing so would change everything?
Meanwhile, in the busy streets of Kyoto, there strolled a young woman. She had long hair the hue of fresh green apples, which flew freely in the strong breeze. A rather large straw hat with a red ribbon tied around it was jammed on her head and shadowed her face. Slowly she looked up, revealing seemingly emotionless golden eyes, to see the sun covered by a large cloud, the smallest rays of light barely passing through.
In a monotonous voice, she murmured.
"His time is almost up..."
Suzaku was at a loss for words as he stared in a mixture of horror and shock. As soon as he had uttered his response, the pink-haired girl placed her hand over his. When her hand made contact with his, he suddenly felt a rippling feeling all around him, like a stone dropped into a pond, creating a disturbance that continually spreads on an otherwise calm and peaceful body. It also felt so cold, like completely frozen ice. It made him lose the feeling on his hand, the warmth slowly being drained away.
There was so much blood.
Euphie's normally white and light pink and purple dress was stained with blood, the red liquid splattered all over the area where her heart should be. Needless to say, Suzaku was completely and utterly horrified.
Yet, she was still seated in front of him and her gaze still lingered, life still burning in them. How was this possible!?
"I am already dead, Suzaku."
She removed her hand from Suzaku's, and then put it over her bloody stab wound. Her eyes finally let go of their invisible hold on Suzaku as she averted them, looking down at her hand that rested over her chest. "Hundreds of years ago..."
With a sad smile, she looked up to face Suzaku again. Her blue-violet eyes emanated so much sorrow that Suzaku could feel them too. All too clearly...
"Lelouch killed me."
"EUPHIE!!!"An anguished scream tore through the air.
The pink-haired girl felt intense pain when the sword came into contact with her flesh. But after the initial impact, she felt nothing. The numbness was spreading throughout her body. Her life was fading away...
"Euphie..." the young king could only utter her name in painful sorrow and regret. He didn't want to do this but he had no other choice. It was her life or his...
The knight was frozen in place after he cried out her name but managed to regain his senses to catch her as she fell.
Lelouch surveyed the surroundings. The attacking assassins under that vile blonde-haired man were now backing off. The young king seethed in fury. How dare he... Overpowering Suzaku and himself in numbers and then holding his knight at knife point, demanding that he kill the young princess himself or Suzaku will die.
It was a choice not as a king but as a human being that he did not want to make.
Suzaku told him that it was alright that he be the one to die. After all, he was a knight and he was prepared to die, as long as it's for the king. Lelouch was the king and Euphie was a princess. His life could not possibly be compared to theirs. If Lelouch killed Euphie, it would definitely mean war for the two kingdoms.
And it was what that blonde-haired man wanted.
The knight's logic was right but... Lelouch's emotions were disagreeing. Deep in his heart, he didn't want Suzaku to die. That strange feeling in his heart that made itself known whenever he thought about Suzaku or when he was with the knight was making him hesitate to do what would be right for the situation. He was a king and he'd long ago learned to push away his emotions in order to do what was right for the kingdom. That was how the kingdom became powerful and prosperous under his rule.
But he couldn't let Euphie die either. She was the first one outside of his and Suzaku's friendship to have made him open up and show his human side again. She was also the one who made him realize what his true feelings were...
"Decide now, young king! I have little patience," the leader said in a sweetly mocking voice.
Suzaku struggled against the two black-clothed men who had a tight grip on his arms to no avail. The third one who was holding the knife on his neck let the blade gleam a little before letting it slide a bit on Suzaku's neck. A few drops of blood trickled down into the dagger.
Before he could stop himself, Lelouch yelled, "Suzaku!"
Despite being a pacifist and gentle person, the princess could not help but be angry at the scene. That man was playing with both Lelouch and Suzaku and their feelings for one another, although at the moment it was only Lelouch who was aware of them. 'How could he do this!?' she thought.
"I told you. Now make your decision before that knife completely buries itself in his neck. You are an intelligent king; surely deciding is not a problem for you. Or maybe I should kill you instead. But then, seeing how you struggle is much better." The mastermind laughed evilly.
Suzaku was terrified of the prospect of Lelouch dying. He didn't know why, but he was sure that he could not bear to live a day without his childhood friend.
Lelouch was still torn in indecision as Euphie watched in terror at the events taking place. She knew that Lelouch was confused between what was good for the kingdom and what he desired as a human being. To protect the peace or to fulfil his happiness?
Ever since she was a child, she had been overshadowed by her older siblings. They were always better than her, be it studying or anything else. But she was content with it because she always just wanted to make everyone she loved happy. That included Lelouch and Suzaku, whom she has considered her close friends.
"Lelouch!" She called his attention and basically everyone else's as well since the rest were silent and her call tore through the tension.
The pink-haired princess smiled sadly. "It is alright."
Her statement shocked everyone, most especially Lelouch and Suzaku, and including the blonde man.
"What are you saying, Euphie?" Suzaku asked. She couldn't be...
The leader regained his composure as he smirked. "Honestly, Princess. I would have never thought you would offer yourself willingly. But it does not matter to me. You would get killed one way or another, anyway, because you saw something you were not supposed to."
Euphie tightened her fist determinedly. She always had a bad feeling about him and planned to expose how he'd been manipulating her father. But he was one step ahead of her.
Lelouch looked at her worriedly. "Euphie..."
"You told me that you could not live without Suzaku, right?"
'Eh?' Suzaku was surpised.
The young king looked down, avoiding anyone's gaze. He said softly, "Yes..."
"Then do it, Lelouch. For me and for the both of you too. As long as the both of you are alive, I believe the two of you have a chance."
Lelouch remained silent for a while before he finally looked up, meeting Euphie's gaze with sorrowful amethyst eyes. "Are you absolutely sure, Euphie?"
"Yes," she answered without any hesitance.
The young king nodded before he slowly drew his sword from its scabbard. "I hope you can forgive me, Euphie. But I..."
"I told you, it is alright. Tell him, all right? I wish the both of you happiness..."
Suzaku wanted to yell at Lelouch to stop. But he was too stunned to say anything. He could do nothing but watch as the sword plunged into Euphie's heart.
And that was when he cried out her name to the heavens.
Lelouch faced the evil leader, putting on his regal front. "I have done what you wanted. Now leave us alone."
"Oh, I would be more than willing to do so. After all, my still incompetent minions let your little knight go when they should not have. Also, I would rather leave you with time for the princess' funeral. Prepare yourself then."
And he left with his assassins, leaving the three by themselves. Once they were out of sight, Lelouch couldn't hold his emotions in any longer and let the tears fall down silently.
Suzaku cradled Euphie in his arms, as he finally cried. "Euphie! Don't..."
The pink-haired girl was already gasping for breath. "It is too late, Suzaku." She too, was crying. "I am sorry. I wish... I could have known... both you and Lelouch... even better but it seems... that will never happen." She coughed out blood.
"Suzaku... I loved Lelouch when we were younger... and when I met you... and got to know you... I also fell in love with you... Both of you... seemed to return my feelings..." She coughed again. "But... what you two felt for each other... It was different..."
"Wh-what do you mean, Euphie?"
She smiled. "Suzaku... You love Lelouch, right?"
"...Love?" Was that it? Was that what he felt for Lelouch all along? Was that the identity of the strange feeling that possessed his heart?
"Such a strong... and undying love... That you would do anything for him... And Lelouch would do the same for you... Because he loves you too, Suzaku..."
"Yes... He told me... But he never told you... And you..." She coughed out more blood as she became paler yet the tears still flowed from her cerulean eyes. "... never told him..."
"Tell him... Promise me..."
"I will, Euphie..."
"I hope... the two of you... can be happy... forever..." Another coughing fit rocked her body that was slowly being deprived of life.
Her eyes were slowly closing. "Suzaku... I feel sleepy..."
Emerald eyes widened. "No, Euphie, don't..."
"I am... so tired... and... sleepy... Good night... Suzaku..." She finally closed her eyes along with her life.
"EUPHIE!" Fresh tears fell down from Suzaku's eyes.
Suzaku's outburst told Lelouch as much. His back was turned against the two. He couldn't face them, not after what he did.
The knight laid Euphie down gently on the ground and removed the sword from her heart. Lelouch's sword...
Slowly, he turned to Lelouch and the young king could feel the knight's eyes gazing into him. He heard him approaching, steps heavy and slow. Did Suzaku want revenge? To kill him?
'But I deserve it... because I killed Euphie...'
But the stabbing pain never came.
Instead, Lelouch felt comfort as two strong arms wrapped around him like a lifeline.
"Suzaku...?" Lelouch was confused. Didn't Suzaku want to kill him?
"We have already lost Euphie. I do not want to lose you as well, Lelouch. I... I cannot live without you too..."
Slowly, Suzaku let go, giving Lelouch the chance to turn around and face the knight.
He averted from Suzaku's gaze. "I killed Euphie..." He said bitterly.
"... You had no choice. Euphie was willing to die. You did not want me to be killed, even though I was willing to sacrifice myself too. It is not your fault. It lies with that man..."
"Suzaku..." Lelouch wondered how his knight could be so forgiving. If he believed Suzaku's naivety was godly, then now he knew his pure heart was too. "I..."
"Stop, Lelouch. Do not blame yourself for what happened." He raised a hand to wipe away Lelouch's tears. "Euphie wanted us to be strong... and happy."
He felt a pang in his heart at the mention of her name but he tried his best to overcome it. Lelouch leaned to Suzaku's touch, using his hand to prop Suzaku's. He closed his eyes and a small smile graced his lips.
Before Suzaku knew it, he himself had been crying.
Euphie looked worriedly at him. It was the most painful thing to happen to the three of them. And Suzaku had to see it happen again. She directed her gaze to her hand that was resting on Suzaku's hand, which allowed him to see the vision.
"Suzaku," she began, "the folktale the Chigiri no Tsuru festival is based on is a true story. It really happened here, in this very place. The story that you have most probably heard is not the accurate account of the events. But, Suzaku... You have been having dreams about Lelouch and knight Suzaku. Am I right?"
He looked at her and nodded slowly.
"They were real events. Going to Kyoto triggered the memories of knight Suzaku in you."
They were all real? They were not just illusions? Then did that mean the kiss under the moonlight was also true...?
And he actually...
"Suzaku... You are..."
Euphie put her other hand over their intertwined hands. "The knight's reincarnation..."
The brown-haired man was surprised. He almost didn't want to believe it but there was no other explanation for all the strange things that was happening to him. It explained the fact that he had been having strange dreams and visions. It shed light on why he felt like that when he held Lelouch's hand when they first met.
"If what you said was true, then it happened hundreds of years ago. Then how come both you and Lelouch are..."
She closed her eyes. "Suzaku... That is just how strong our wishes are."
Euphie opened her eyes but they now had a dazed look, as if she was immersed in her thoughts. "When one wishes strongly from the bottom of their hearts, it can come true."
"I wished to be able to help Lelouch and Suzaku. And it came true. I can go back to having a human body and then enchantment can conceal my injury. However, I cannot maintain it when it rains. I turn into a flower until the downpour stops."
Suzaku suddenly remembered the pink rose he saw on the field back then. 'So that was it...'
"Lelouch had a wish too."
Euphie looked solemn. "His wish... It was to wait for you. And to tell you he loved you."
"I know." She became even more poignant. "Half of his wish will probably never be granted."
"Half of it?" He knew the reason why the part about Lelouch telling his feelings can't come true but what was the other half about?
"He also wanted you to tell him what you feel."
Suzaku didn't know what to say. What exactly did he feel for Lelouch?
Now that he had been given the truth--- the explanation for everything---What was he supposed to do?
To be continued...
Ahaha! Cliffhanger! (Dodges tomatoes, books, and other unidentified flying objects thrown by frustrated readers)
I know that was mean of me but it just had to stop there. At least, you have a faint idea of what is going to happen next, right?
Here are some points for you all to ponder on:
1)Who is that green-haired girl with the straw hat? (It's a little obvious but I want to see your opinions). What did she mean by her statement? Who was she talking about?
2)Why was Anya given the spotlight somewhere near the start? Do you think she has an important role or was she there only because I could not think of any character to put in the story and I wanted to make the chapter longer?
3)What do you think Suzaku will do?
4)What do you think of the folktale? Was it touching? Ridiculous?
5)Who is the evil mastermind who forced Lelouch to kill Euphie?
I hope you can answer even one of those questions. They motivate me to update (like reviews) and give me more fanfic ideas and plots. So a big hug and thanks to those who willingly take time to help poor me! I appreciate it.
Also, did you notice that there was no Lelouch in this chapter? Oh no! Did I forget him? Ah well, there's going to be a lot of him in the next chapter anyway. With Suzaku, of course!
Anyway, the next update is probably going to appear next year. I am going to celebrate New Year's watching a fireworks display. So I guess this chapter is both a Christmas and New Year's present to all you dedicated readers then.
Just to let you know though, this fic is not going to be abandoned. I know I update like, every once in a blue moon, but there's no helping college life. I take a long time to make the chapter as lengthy as you see. However, I have a proposition to those who are impatient for long update times. Do you want to have a long chapter that only appears every two weeks or so like I am doing? Or do you want a short one but with a regular update time? Responses greatly appreciated, of course.
Review if you please, all comments and suggestions are appreciated. Flames are to be used to heat bath water.
Till next time. See ya~