Damsel in Distress
Lelouch really shouldn't be surprised how much like a wind tunnel his room can be – he is miles up in the air, at the very top of this spirally, spindly, rickety, old tower. In no less than a few years time, he's more than positive that some lazy old gale from that supercilious west wind will blow through this old tower, equaling it to nothing but rubble, and as a result, equal Lelouch to a week's feast for a lot of vultures…
(It is more than safe to say that he is really hoping for his rescue to be as swift and speedy as he has always heard it should be.)
But of course, if the fall doesn't happen to break him in every way imaginable, then that nasty, vile, scaly creature outside his near-toppling tower would be more than willing to gulp him down in what would be just a day's snack.
Lelouch shudders as he recalls that feral dragon that lingers and lounges (far lazier than any fantastical reptile he has ever read about) on the grassy grounds around his brick prison. Its eyes alone are enough to send any apt and courageous man running home to their mother or hide underneath their blankets until the ghastly horrendous nightmares of the glowering, piercing golden eyes vanish by the will of repression. Those eyes are like a white hot shard – sharper than any needle or knife known to exist – that penetrates through the heart of one's body; leaving behind the very distinct traces of Hell's fury and depression that will echo forever and then a day in their minds with the blaze of the shrilling rage of its roar…
So you see, it isn't the nicest animal in the world. Which is a real shame, it is a very stunning specimen: with those vibrant electric green scales that plate its slim – but powerful – body and wings, the almost ivory looking spikes that trail its back and adorn its head in two proud horns as the same colour spikes from its hands – those claws are definitely more beautiful the farther away one is; but then again, that applies to the beast in general. For not only is it ferocious to the core, it is also has a very bad attitude. Snooty in a way. It snubs those who it deems unworthy of wasting its precious time (but really, what better things does it have to do?) and will languidly fling would-be rescuers away with its tail… or simply eat them.
(Its personality is said to be so domineeringly repellent and atrocious that it has kept one very interested artist prince from coming to Lelouch's rescue…)
Lelouch would damn that beast (in reality, he has) but it seems to be helpful, in a way. He has seen a vast majority of those men try and fail miserably (sometimes fatally) when attempting to spring him from his forced entrapment. At the beginning – the few that appeared – were… less than, shall we say. If Lelouch didn't know better, he'd say that dragon was weeding through the crops for the best picks.
Lelouch sighs to himself as he sits on his bed, leaning against the wall with one knee drawn into the air, while trying to ignore the way that infernal wind insists on flipping the pages of his shabby old book he's read dozens of times over – essentially, losing count. He's actually at his favorite part, but the damn wind won't let up and it is frustrating – never mind that Lelouch could recite the text blindly at this point. And not only will the pages not keep still, but his hair is flailing in a flurry, the biting tips of the raven strands sting his eyes. He furrows his brow, forming a tight frown, and grasping as much of his sable hair as he can, pinning it vainly to his head with one hand – the other battling the yellowed, cracking pages of his book. He hears a faint groan seep through the crusty gaps deteriorating between the bricks behind him as a gust blows through them, sparking an odd chill down his spine.
He doesn't understand why the speed of the breeze is so… furious today. Normally, there wouldn't be enough force behind them to push tumbleweed, let alone flip several pages of any book he reads – because that's really all he has to do other than sleep. The only time a hurricane torrents through his little room is when—
A strenuous coursing growl trembles throughout the foundation of both the tremulous tower and Lelouch's lean frame. He gnashes his teeth, covering his ears at that screeching roar as he feels it vibrate in his head, rattling his bones and teeth. He internally curses himself for being so slow in debunking the odd wind-speed today — he could have braced himself for the nail-scratching-chalkboard sensation that resonates inside his barren room.
Obviously, another brave knight has come to his rescue; otherwise, he wouldn't hear a peep out of that dragon.
He shambles off his bed after tossing the book aside (having a very pathetic and aggravating fight with the sheer white curtains hanging from the beams of his canopy bed) with tears in his eyes from the luxuriate whistling wind bustling around him – which only means that dragon is in flight. It always flies when it is attacked by a stronger foe, that way it can be more evasive—
But its roar almost sounded… pained.
Lelouch stumbles to one of the two windows (set opposite each other) in his room and peers out cautiously—
To see the curled tail of his dragon before it slinks away with another loud growl, the sound of it ebbing away – as if the dragon were retreating.
Lelouch stands very still for a few moments as his hair slowly falls to place, not sure of what he just witnessed – or what he didn't witness. He places his hands delicately upon the insecure windowsill and starts to lean out of the small opening. All he sees are the dying traces of the wind rippling on the emerald lawn far below him and swaying the tree tops encircling his tower. There is no noise – no distant wail, no footsteps trudging up the long staircase behind his wooden door, no shouts, no birdsongs. Nothing.
He just gapes a long while, scanning hungrily for any signs of life other than that of the thick vegetation surround him. But there is nothing – not even a passing cloud. (He is so transfixed on this happening that he doesn't notice the glinting grappling hook embedding into the opposite stone windowsill.)
He looks to the wooden door, eyes wide with anticipation and… fear? After all, any person who is able to send that beast running home to its mother must be a very remarkable person, or extremely dangerous. Lelouch has relied on that dragon for protection, whether he realized it or not, and to suddenly have it gone – the only thing that's been by his side for these past years – makes a strange feeling burrow deep in his gut.
Lelouch stands there flipping through the deductions of all the possibilities that spring into his mind at once; wondering why exactly no one has come for him yet. He has some paranoia that the dragon will most likely return soon (because maybe the offender turned tail and ran, so the dragon chased after it with blind resentment – it has done that before, in fun and in rage). Lelouch remains by the window, contemplating how long it would take him to bust that sturdy wooden door down so he can flee. He's tried before, but it is a very, very strong door. Not to mention that it is locked from the outside—
Until a boy suddenly leaps through his window, tumbling across the floor in an odd sort of grace—
Lelouch whirls around at the sound of the intruder with anxious excitement constricting his nerves and coiling around his stomach, to see a young lad with a messy mane of chocolate brown hair and glittering green eyes. He is wearing a smile on his lips; which grows bigger once Lelouch's eyes connect to his.
Lelouch is speechless. Is he supposed to believe this kid scared his ferocious dragon away? (Had he just scaled the side of the tower? That must have taken him… That would take him all day! How could he have defeated the dragon and then climbed the tower so quickly – and he doesn't even look out of breath!) He looks— but, don't they say looks can be deceiving? Still, Lelouch is skeptical.
Not that this kids seems to notice, he just steps up to Lelouch with a smile so bright it could make the sun jealous, "I am Kururugi Suzaku, and I have come for you, my prince," he claims earnestly in a formal bow, crossing an arm over his chest.
"You slew the dragon?" Lelouch asks, unable to swallow his incredulity.
The boy seems to falter a bit and looks up to Lelouch with a strange expression, "…There's supposed to be a dragon?"
Lelouch would let his mouth hang open if the confusion wasn't so distracting – and who the hell has ever heard of a dragon-less prince(ss)-harboring-tower?
"What do you mean 'There's supposed to be a dragon'?! Didn't you just chase it away?"
He slowly straightens his posture, "No… There was nothing around when I got here." Somehow the kid looks very uncertain with his answer—
But that is probably because of Lelouch's slight glower, "No dragon."
"Uh, no. No dragon—Oh! Wait, I did see one fly past me as I was traveling through the forest. It looked… disgruntled."
"What dragon isn't disgruntled?" Lelouch mutters under his breath, "And why didn't you just use the stairs—?!"
The ceiling is abruptly torn in a violent jerk that shakes this fragile tower, raining debris down on the little circular room in a haze of dust as a familiar groaning growl rumbles above the destruction—
Before Lelouch can catch his bearings on what just happened – what is happening – he feels himself shoved away roughly and shielded by something that wraps around him—
There is a deep thud somewhere in the dirty cloud, and then a strong breeze blows the fog away.
Lelouch, having closed his eyes to protect them, slowly opens them to see his shadow blanketing the worn fabric on Kururugi's shoulder, and there is the tight feeling of arms and hands holding him closely. Feeling heat start to crawl to his cheeks, he tries to push away from the other boy.
"Are you all right?" Kururugi asks when he releases Lelouch, his eyes and voice are so sweetly coated in concern Lelouch thinks he might get a toothache.
He nods, "Yeah, you?" looking over to the figure looming at the center of his trashed room—
Kururugi follows Lelouch's gaze, face contorting in a deep scowl the instant his eyes meet the faceless mask observing them, "What the hell are you doing, Zero!?" he fires at the cloaked man, disdain loaded heavily in his voice.
"Why, rescuing my prince, of course." the other answers as if he were asked the colour of the sky.
Kururugi splutters indignantly a second, "Y-your prince? What makes you think he's yours? And what kind of rescue is this? You could have killed him!"
After all, using a giant disgruntled green dragon to rip away the roof of a dilapidated old tower isn't the safest approach – nor is it the wisest; although Lelouch has to admit, that was quite an entrance (and it is kind of nice to see his protective reptile is back…) and rather effective. Lelouch has to wonder, however, how on earth did that man tame – or at least use – the dragon to accomplish such a feat? Such an… admirable accomplishment?
"But I didn't," his gleaming mask points directly at Lelouch (as far as he can tell), "And I would never harm him."
Kururugi scoffs, stepping in front of Lelouch a little, "As if I'd ever give you the chance," his right hand clasping the sword hanging at his left hip.
That helmeted head tilts slightly, "What are you suggesting my dear White Knight? Does blunt force suddenly suit your taste?"
"Says the Black Knight," Suzaku bites bitterly.
"This Black Knight happens to wield an army. Do you honestly believe that you can, or that I'd allow you, to take what is rightfully mine?"
Kururugi clenches his teeth in response and the once breezy air that stormed Lelouch's lonely single bedroom turns solid rotten, weighted in the space between Kururugi and Zero. It grows oppressive as the two carry a wordless battle across the room (so much so, that none of them seem to notice the light tinkling of a lock coming from that large wooden door…)
Obviously, there's more to this story between the two of them that Lelouch doesn't know. They certainly seem to be well acquainted with each other to banter as easily as they do – but that isn't the issue that has begun to boil Lelouch's blood. Just who do these two gentlemen think they are by saying they have ownership of Lelouch? Last Lelouch checked, he didn't belong to anyone but himself (and maybe that dragon staring down at them with those blazing eyes). They really have some nerve—
"Whoever said that Prince Lelouch belongs to you?" floats in a cool voice from the doorway, coasting over the group with a confident push—
All of them look to the man whom just entered their threesome uninvited. He is tall, blond, blue-eyed, fair skinned – perfectly Arian, simply put. He has a strong air about him as he holds his chin up high, dropping the key to the bulky wooden door – which was located at the base of the tower – into a hidden pocket inside of his regal robes.
How long would it have taken him to travel the spiral staircase? The same time it takes to scale the side of the tower, and "conquer" the dragon?
So, if that's the case, then who was actually here first…?
Lelouch isn't happy that he was beaten to the punch about stating his thoughts, but he is pleased to hear that someone has the decency to—
"If anything, he belongs to me."
—Well, isn't that just lovely. Because at this moment, Lelouch was really thinking that the only thing he is missing right no is another pompous ass who will "whisk him away to a happily ever after". …Yeah right. They'll never get past their debating to let that happen. Honestly, why did they all have to come at once?—
"Oh, if it isn't Prince Schneizel…" Zero drawls with a lazy twirl of his black-gloved hand as he moves towards them; splitting his midnight cape to reveal a very restricted view of his royal-blue suit. "I never would have guessed that you'd actually do your own work for once."
Said prince's cerulean eyes narrow just a hint, "Do I hear the pot calling the kettle black?"
"It doesn't matter, I've beaten the both of you here." Kururugi declares, moving Lelouch behind him as if all hell is about to break lose – in actuality, it probably could. "Neither of you have any ground to stand on."
—Was this some kind of race for them? Just a petty competition to see who got first prize? To have the privilege of boasting their victory, to only prove that they were justly the best of the three? Is that all they see Lelouch as!? Just a prize to be won!? Just a mere piece of arm candy!? Is he even going to have a say in his own future!?—
"Ironic you should mention that…" Zero says smugly, sounding mildly amused. "Because as I see it, neither of you will have any ground to stand on if you do not surrender and hand over Lelouch to me." He swings his arm up into the air in a flourishing swipe, sending his dark mantle flying about him – flamboyant, much? – to gesture up at the irate reptile glaring down at the four of them (well, maybe just a certain three of them). "On my signal, that beast will strike this tower, sending us all to an early grave."
Kururugi's mouth falls open, "You… you wouldn't! You just said you'd never harm Lelouch!" he exclaims, once again grabbing at his sword – nearly drawing it. "You don't deserve him if you think he is so expendable!"
—Why the fuck are they talking about Lelouch like he isn't in the same room as them?! And why isn't Lelouch voicing these things out loud?!—
Schneizel smirks, "No, he's bluffing."
They both look to Schneizel – who has moved dangerously close to Lelouch, causing the brunet knight to swivel; which has, incidentally, made the side facing Zero more vulnerable.
"It would be impossible to tame a dragon with an attitude such as that one in such a limited time-frame," Prince Schneizel affirms with a small glance up towards the dragon. It certainly appears to be extremely feral – just as it is always fabled to be.
"You seem so certain; I'd hate to be the one to step on that pride of yours." Zero remarks sardonically. "You seem to forget: I am Zero, the man of miracles!" he brings his gloved fingers together, forming the start position of a snap – that's the signal? Is it even possible to snap while wearing gloves?
"You speak of pride? I am not the one pulling a dirty stunt to get what I desire," The blond prince retorts; repulsion seeping into his icy blue gaze, "Such is the fact about every 'miracle' you produce."
"At least I am not two-faced. Everyone is aware of my true nature, my true face."
Another scoff is heard, "Must you be so contradictory when you speak?"
"Its symbolism," Zero chides blandly, lowering his arm slowly.
"It's annoying, is what it is," Prince Schneizel murmurs as he turns towards Lelouch – who is still barricaded by Kururugi.
—Oh, that's right… Lelouch can't get a word in edgewise…—
"What makes you think you're any better than him?" Kururugi spits, tossing his head at Zero. "As far as I'm concerned, the both of you—"
"A man who constantly betrays has no room to speak to me with such disrespect," Schneizel states flatly, his cool façade beginning to crack under all this stress.
"I've had enough," Zero announces in a steely voice, tugging Lelouch out from behind Kururugi's distracted protection. "The two of you are wasting my time."
"Wait a second!" Kururugi yanks Lelouch back towards him, "I was here first—!"
"Funny, I didn't see you around when I was handling the dragon." Zero interjects dryly – very dryly – moving to be face-to-mask with Kururugi, daring to lay a hand on Lelouch's other arm.
"Nor did I see either of you as I sneaked around that beast, and began to climb the tower stairs." Prince Schneizel adds, grasping a handful of the back of Lelouch's clothing.
Three grown men exchange a mad dash of eyes – err, two of them do, at least – at one another; the air growing foul and thick with so much spite, so much anger, and so much damn immaturity that Lelouch is beginning to feel suffocated playing nucleus. He glances between them, seeing a familiar glimmer in exposed eyes…
W-what the hell do they think they're doing?! Surely they wouldn't even consider—
Lelouch makes the mistake of fidgeting slightly—
Spurring a game of tug-of-war that has never felt so much like an actual war. All at once, they're yanking and pulling and cursing loudly as they jostle in an uncoordinated dance of jumbled steps that trample everything in their path – including the feet of their opponents, but mostly, just Lelouch's.
"Sto-ow! Don't pull-ouch! Plea—H-hey! Don't tug there! For the love of—God damn it! Just stop—OW~!" Lelouch tries to yell, finding his words eaten away by cries of pain.
Life spent living in solitary confinement with a temperamental dragon being the only resemblance of company can do things to a person; for Lelouch, that meant losing all his patience for imbeciles and man-kind in general – he isn't bitter, not yet, but, his tolerance is not what it used to be. Also considering that he's had years to let the reasons for his imprisonment curdle inside his head like milk set out under the hot summer sun, Lelouch isn't particularly friendly at this moment in time. Treating him like some toy isn't helping in the least.
"EVERYBODY STOP!" Lelouch roars, his deep rumbling voice dicing the stubborn air swirling around their man-tornado—
Causing that dragon hovering above them to screech accordingly—
Everyone, respectively, releases Lelouch and covers their ears, feeling that bone rattling shriek quake down their bodies.
It takes a few moments for everyone to fade back into reality, and as they do, they are met with a stare so enraged they have to blink to make sure they aren't staring at the dragon.
"All of you are despicable! You think you can just charge in here and fight over me like I'm a piece of meat?! You all debate who is better and who is more deserving, but do one of you dare ask this prize who he'd chose? No, you just go on with your ridiculous arguments as if I weren't here, as if I don't have a brain and cannot speak for myself. I may be trapped in a tower, but that doesn't give any of you the right to just automatically assume your ownership because you got here before this guy or because you did this or that! I am not a possession! I am not a prize to be won! You will not treat me with such disregard that I have to yell like a mad man in order for you to listen to every damn word I have to say!"
Lelouch is a little red in the face after that exponentially loud rant he unleashed upon his rescuers. All of them stare, taken aback by the outburst, and their shame is starting to bleed into their faces – well, except Zero's, maybe; it's not like anyone can see it. Silence reigns supreme as Lelouch finds his erratic heartbeat starts to calm down and the agape faces break.
After moments that feel just as long as the years Lelouch has spent in this tower, one of them braves Lelouch's post-wrath state with a question.
"So you want to chose, Lelouch?" Zero inquires, his voice a tad strained.
Lelouch looks to the shrouded man and nods gently, a little dazed himself.
"So, then who do you chose?" prince Schneizel asks.
"Yeah…" Kururugi joins in, "Who do you pick?"
…err; Lelouch hadn't actually thought about who he'd pick. He just wanted the choice.
He shifts his eyes between his three candidates, trying to decide with logic who he should technically pick – but, he can't help but feel like he is getting into the middle of something he really, really, really shouldn't be getting into, nor does he even want to.
"Let's see…" Lelouch starts, putting a finger to his lips and pretending he isn't feeling flares of uncertainty tremble in his insides. "Kururugi, you appeared in my bedroom first—"
His young face brightens—
"But, you didn't defeat the dragon, that's a rule – no, a requirement when it comes to rescuing a person, and you didn't fulfill that condition."
His young face dims.
"So that brings us to Zero…" he points to the masked man, getting no change in disposition upon doing so, "While you haven't defeated the dragon, you seemed to have gotten it under your thumb, however, can you prove that you were here before Prince Schneizel?" Lelouch then turns to the proud blond man, "You say you were here before both Zero and Kururugi, yet you didn't arrive in my quarters until after they had. Can you honestly say that you were the first to come to my rescue? Not to mention you did nothing to slay the dragon either."
Schneizel's face only hardens.
"Seems to me, you all have even footing, not one of you is ahead of the other."
"In that case, who do you choose, Lelouch?" Zero asks.
Lelouch is still working on that…
"Come on! I was here first, regardless of everything else." Kururugi proclaims.
"Yes, so was Schneizel, apparently," Zero states sarcastically.
"Well, this isn't getting us anywhere fast," Schneizel mutters, rubbing his temples lightly with a white-gloved hand.
Another long stretch of silence wraps around the four of them (well, the five of them, since the dragon is still lingering in the air above them).
"Maybe… we could flip a coin?" comes a suggestion at last.
Zero waves it off tiredly, "Do you happen to possess a three-sided coin, Kururugi?"
Kururugi throws a frown at his competitor.
Schneizel stifles an "honestly" behind his hand – also earning himself a frown from the brunet.
"Well this wouldn't be a problem if you all hadn't come at the same time," Lelouch insists, annoyance working into his voice. "…Ok, how about… I'll pick a number between one through twenty, and whoever gets the closest is who I'll choose." Lelouch mentally kept himself from saying "wins" – for obvious reasons. He sweeps his eyes over the trio, seeing nods come from them (one begrudging, one compliant, and one curt.) He sets his lips in a firm line, "All right, I've picked a number…"
"Is it 11?" Zero blurts out.
Kururugi snaps his head to the side, "You picked 11!? That's what I picked!?"
Schneizel blows out a subdued sigh, "I don't believe this…"
Lelouch looks at the other prince with wide eyes "Don't tell me, you picked 11 also." Schneizel nods offhandedly and Lelouch growls in frustration, "Argh! How is it possible for three completely different people to pick the same damn number!? And the one I was thinking on top of that!" He pauses in a shock of realization. "Damn it! That's four people who thought of the same number at the same time!"
Kururugi laughs a little, "What are the odds of that?" he earns himself a heated glare from Lelouch, making him swallow his quiet chuckle. "Just pick another number and we'll go again."
"No," Lelouch denies stubbornly, "knowing us, we'd all just pick the same number again." Lelouch exhales deeply, turning away from the trio. He looks up to the marvelous beast still floating above him, wishing that it could save him from the three stooges that bombarded him today… "Say… You should convince me to pick you. Each of you should state your proposal and whoever is the most convincing is who I'll choose," Lelouch turns around again, "Does that sound reasonable to you?"
"Sounds fair enough," Schneizel agrees. The other two nod.
"Kururugi, you go first." Lelouch orders, pulling the chair from his desk to sit in front of the trio.
His green eyes shift a moment, "Uh, ok." He clears his throat, "I'm not a man of great fortune, but—"
"Oh, here it is: the sob story of Kururugi Suzaku, better ready your tissue boxes." Zero interrupts rather rudely.
"Like you don't use exploits in your own monologues Zero," Schneizel derides.
"You certainly know a thing about exploiting, don't you, Prince Schneizel?" Zero counters.
Kururugi holds his hands up, pushing his palms towards the other's faces, "Can't you two just shut up so I can do this? Then you can talk as much as you damn well please when it's your turns." He says snippily.
"Who are you telling to shut up?!" Zero and Schneizel shout in unison.
Kururugi cringes and then creases his brow, "I am. I swear, it feels like you two just like to hear yourselves talk."
"There's nothing wrong with taking pride in one's linguistic skills – not many are as articulate—"
"As you, Zero? Please… I could talk circles around you."
Zero steps stiffly up to the prince, "Want to make it a bet?"
Schneizel arcs his eyebrow.
Kururugi scowls, "Hey! Don't ignore me and pretend like I'm not standing here, trying to do something important!"
"Shut up!" Zero and the prince shout in unison again—
Lelouch sighs, feeling the throbbing tension of a headache begin to twitch on his forehead. He slings his head back, looking up at the beautiful beast that is gazing directly at him…
That actually gives him an idea…
Hours later finds Lelouch sitting alone outside, one knee in the air with his back against a vibrant backdrop of green scales as he reads a book he's read over dozens of times before with a content smile on his lips.
That nasty dragon lies comfortably on the lush lawn behind him, with a very bloated stomach.
And the dragon was who...? ;]