A Test of Courage
Let it never be said that Lelouch Lamperouge was afraid of ghosts, vampires, and things that go bump in the night. That was why he was here, in this dark cave, proving just—Holy Heaven, what was that?
They said that somewhere on the island there was a cave which was haunted by many, many vengeful ghosts seeking revenge from any poor, unsuspecting soul that might venture too closely. Apparently an old sea captain had used the cave to store his vast wealth of treasures and ill-gotten goods. The captain was said to be highly superstitious and so he would bring innocent virgins to the cave and sacrifice them on full moons by sucking their blood dry while leaving their bodies to rot and protect his vast store of wealth.
Eventually, the captain died at sea in a terrible storm that capsized the ship and he was never heard from again. But every now and then, on the night of the full moon, they say that the captain rises from the depths of the sea and claims another poor victim to sacrifice in that cave, dragging them to the very back of the cavern, kicking, screaming, and marking the end of their life with a trail of blood. Even now you can still hear the sorrowful wailing from the innocent virgins the captain had claimed.
"Bull," Lelouch declared loudly, once the story was over.
Shirley shrieked at the sudden break in silence and shivered, huddling closer to Milly—who was grinning ear-to-ear at Lelouch. "It's a true story, Lelouch."
Lelouch scoffed. "The only thing true about it is how ridiculous that story is. Ghosts don't exist."
Next to him, Suzaku grinned. "So you're saying you don't believe in ghosts, Lelouch?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
"You were clutching onto my arm pretty tightly there for most of the story for someone who doesn't believe in ghosts."
Lelouch flushed horribly. "That doesn't mean anything! I was cold! Ghosts don't exist!"
"Oh ho~ Well, Mr Hot-Shot, if you're so keen to disrespect the old sea dog then let's have you prove it," Milly challenged, folding her arms.
"Guys, enough! Let's just... go to sleep, okay? I don't want to hear about ghosts and… and vamp—"
"Fine!" Lelouch declared, not having heard Shirley's pleas for security—having locked stares with sinister blue eyes.
They were taunting him.
Milly grinned like a lunatic who had just been released from a nearby psycho ward. "Great! A test of courage it is then!"
Suzaku smirked. "If you think it's so stupid, Lelouch, you're just going to have to prove it to us, won't you?"
Growling, Lelouch glared at him. "Fine! And when I come back I'm going to make you all eat your words about me being afraid of ghosts!"
Having provided the candle and lighter, Milly lit a candle. Shadows lit up her face like a grinning demon. "One candle, to the back of the cave. No flashlights. We'll see who's got guts."
This was a bad idea.
A very, very, very bad idea.
Whose idea was it to come out in the middle of the night with just a candle again?
Oh right, Milly's.
And just why was he out here, in the middle of the night with—
Actually, let's not reiterate that point.
The cave was damp, dark, and the candle wouldn't let him see any more than three feet in front of him. This was fine since the cave literally had no wrong turns.
"This is stupid!" he said loudly.
With one hand holding the candle, Lelouch tried to rub warmth into his stiff arm with the other. It wasn't horribly cold in the cave, but it was cold enough for Lelouch to regret not bringing a coat or jacket of some sort.
Or even Su—
He was just cold.
And suddenly there was noise from somewhere in his periphery. Quickly turning to scan the area, Lelouch glared in the dark for any sign of green or evil blue eyes. No doubt they would be out here trying to prove his courage was useless and or non-existent (which was only slightly further than closer to the truth).
Swallowing the lump in his throat and ignoring higher reasoning that he probably didn't want to look in that little duct where the noise came from, Lelouch held the candle out in front of him to illuminate the way. The candle shone feebly, shedding light on a mouse scurrying away in the dark.
Letting go of a breath he hadn't realized he was holding, Lelouch let his shoulders relax. Turning the candle back to the direction of the back of the cave he—
Something brushed his cheek.
It was something… soft… silky…
Violet eyes dilated while all major thought processes simultaneously told him to do one thing.
And so Lelouch ran. He ran for dear life. He ran like an army of arachnids were hot on his heels and already sharpening their fangs in anticipation.
Screw the test of courage!
Screw sticking it to their faces!
Screw his damned pride!
Spiders were going to eat him alive in this wretched cave and that trumped all!
While Lelouch did not believe in ghosts, vampires, or things that go bump in the night, spiders were very real and he had already failed numerous times to prove to everyone he wasn't afraid of them.
Right now, his only thought was getting out of this—
And then he tripped on something.
Arms wind-milling wildly and hazardously, Lelouch landed flat on his face.
Panting in exertion, Lelouch blinked in the darkness, having just realized he had lost that stupid candle while valiantly fleeing an eight-legged demon hell-bent on devouring his soul and feasting on his entrails. It was only two seconds later that he realized he hadn't just tripped over something but someone.
A hiss of pain. "It's me."
"Suzaku! What the hell are you doing here?"
He laughed sheepishly. "Trying to scare you?"
"Suzaku! What the hell!"
While Lelouch couldn't see anything, he could just feel Suzaku wince.
"Milly's idea. Saw that one coming."
"You lost the candle. She's not going to let you live this down."
Lelouch stood up and dusted himself off. "Don't worry. I anticipated this. I brought an extra. With a lighter."
"You anticipated screaming like a little girl and losing the candle in the process?"
"It was—I didn't—Okay, first of all, I didn't scream like a little girl, and second, you have to be prepared for everything," he defended, lighting up the candle as the wick caught fire.
A small sphere of light lit up Suzaku's face. There was mud on it from when Lelouch tripped on him. Heck, there was probably mud on Lelouch's face too.
"Give me the candle."
Lelouch frowned. "Why?"
"Because there's—please? Just do it?"
Grumbling, Lelouch did as he was told and flinched slightly when Suzaku reached out to him, raking a hand through his hair and wiping the mud off his face.
Jumping back at contact, Lelouch turned away, flushing. "W-What was that for? I could've cleaned myself up."
"I know. I just didn't want to lose another candle."
"Oh. There was just a spider in your hair and I was getting it for you. I know how afr—"
Milly looked up towards the entrance of the cave at the sound of another blood-curdling scream bouncing off the cavern walls. "Oh my. It looks like Suzaku did his job."
"They're alright, right?" Shirley asked, looking back into the darkness with concern.
Laughing, Milly turned back to Shirley. The preparations were almost complete. After this was all over, Lelouch would never again mock her for her stupidly over-elaborate events and long-thought-out scheming ever again.
Never mind that this entire camping trip was an over-elaborate and long-thought-out scheme to get back at Lelouch for doing just that.
For the better part of two months she had been subtly feeding him more and more ghost stories. This, according to Sayoko, resulted in his slight fear of the dark, a fear of the basement of the Student Council building (of which there's supposed to be a ghost living there), and nightmares about various monsters.
"Oh they're fine. This cave is harmless."
"But what about that—"
"I made it all up! This cave is just a cave. No vampire pirate. No sacrificed virgins. No full-moons. No nothing."
Shirley glanced back to the darkness. "So… why was Lulu screaming so much?"
Milly hummed in thought. "Suzaku probably pulled that spider trick again. Gets him every time you know. There. Now you look dead."
Holding up a mirror, Shirley blinked and poked at her face. "I don't even look like me."
"That's the point. Now all you have to do is lay down on that big flat rock like I told you to so I can pour over the fake blood and dress up as Mr Vampire Pirate."
Suzaku let out a contented sigh. "It's kind of romantic, don't you think? Here we are, on a test of courage you already failed—"
"I didn't fail."
"—cheated at. You're hanging onto my arm for dear life—"
"—and I get to play the knight in shining armour."
"You're no knight. And who'd want to be romantic with you anyway?"
"Says the vice around my arm cutting off circulation."
"Shut up! It's cold!"
"Shall I give the lady my coat, then?"
Lelouch hissed. "Shut up!"
Suzaku laughed as they made their way to the back of the cave to place the candle.
It was just a little further to the back of the cave—according to Suzaku—and then they could place the candle and they'd be done. Lelouch was more than ready to leave this spider-infested cave full of ghosts, vampires, and things that go bump in the night.
Not that the last three existed of course.
"Hey, Lelouch, look, it's the end. You can see the moonlight shining down on—"
"Is that a…"
They stopped. "It's… It's a…"
...dragging them to the very back of the cavern, kicking, screaming, and marking the end of their life with a trail of blood.
Lelouch looked down and gagged, holding a hand over his mouth. He shielded his eyes by covering them against Suzaku's jacket and right shoulder..
"It must be a wolf or something that left its food here," Suzaku supplied as an explanation.
"So a wolf just attacked a girl and dragged her here to be eaten?"
"You… don't think it's…"
Lelouch's eyes widened and he tightened his grip on Suzaku's arm. "…that… pirate?"
A shiver shot straight up Lelouch's spine like lightning.
Suzaku frowned at him. "What was what?"
"That! That just now!"
"There it is again!"
Suzaku hummed. "Sounds like metal. Dragging on the grou—"
There was moaning.
Ghostly vampiric moaning.
...every now and then, on the night of the full moon…
"Suzaku, it's… is it a full moon tonight?"
"Okay, I'm going to go check it out. You stay here with the candle," he added, handing the candle over to Lelouch.
"Stay he—what? Are you crazy!"
"After that we can call the authorities about that dead body over there."
"Suzaku, you better not—"
"Do you want to come with me?"
The moaning got louder.
"Then stay here and don't move."
And then Suzaku was gone.
Lelouch shivered, holding the candle closer to him.
And so, here he was.
A random dead girl behind him on some flat rock bathed in moonlight like some sort of evil sacrifice.
An unknown entity of evil somewhere in front of him.
A best friend who may or may not make it back alive off in the darkness.
So he was just a little scared. And maybe that fear stemmed from the fact that there was a trail of blood on the ground, some dead girl behind him, and some unknown evil cornering him off.
But that didn't mean that ghosts, vampires, or—
That was Suzaku.
Okay, calm down, he thought, let's look at this logically. It was probably just Milly—or even Suzaku—pulling one gigantic prank on him.
That had to be it.
"Ashford! Kururugi! I-I'll get you for this! If this is a joke…!"
When Lelouch was looking out at the darkness from under a pillar of moonlight, he looked up at the hole in the cave opening to the sky. And then he looked back to—
She had no face.
And her neck was bloody.
Very, very bloody.
Lelouch turned back around, feeling his body shake with some very real terror as an old, ragged-looking pirate slowly came into view from out of the darkness. He was dripping wet and there was seaweed stuck to his everything. In one hand he was holding a large metal object. In the other—
Being dragged by the collar.
...the captain rises from the depths of the sea and claims another poor victim to sacrifice in that cave…
Lelouch felt his body freeze with terror.
Okay. Rationally speaking, it couldn't be Suzaku if he was being dragged on the ground like that. It couldn't be Milly—her frame wasn't that large.
Ghosts, vampires, and things that go bump in the night don't exist, so—
And then something cold wrapped around him from behind and—
"Won't you play with me?"
Cover your ears.
Over in a nearby glade a flock of birds flew up from their nests and perches in a sudden flurry of feathers, squawking, and complaint.
After all was said and done, there was crying, laughing, and, well, laughing.
Suzaku got up and dusted himself off, kneeling next to Lelouch—who was hugging his knees and flat-out bawling.
"Come on, Lelouch, it'll be alright."
"Did you see him jump when you grabbed him, Shirley!?"
"Who's afraid of ghosts now, Lulu?"
Lelouch didn't stop crying.
Suzaku sat down next to him and wrapped an arm around him, rubbing his back soothingly. "It was just a joke, Lelouch, calm down."
"Man! That scream!"
"Let's get going, Milly, I want to get this fake blood off me."
Slowly, they all made their way back to the entrance of the cave to a bright moonlit night. Lelouch had finally calmed down enough for boiling, hot rage to sweep through his system and flush out any other emotion.
"That'll teach you to make fun of my events!"
Lelouch growled. "You're psycho! Absolutely nuts!"
Milly just cackled.
Quite literally cackled.
"Hey, Milly… what's that?" Shirley suddenly asked with a tremor in her voice, tugging at the other girl's sleeve.
They all looked out towards the beach.
The still water had broken from something large moving slowly out of the water. It was a person silhouetted against the light of the moon. Wearing a large coat and carrying a chainsaw in one hand while the other—
Long black hair.
All four present froze at the sight.
But Lelouch was the first to move. "Okay, you got me! I'm not going to fall for it this time."
Shirley shivered, huddling behind Milly—who was huddled behind Suzaku.
"Lulu, only four of us came on this camping trip!"
The figure didn't stop—trudging at an ungodly slow pace towards them.
Step by step.
When the man stopped moving, he slowly reached over to pull the cord on his chainsaw, letting it roar to life. Hefting his weapon high he let out a low growl of—
The girls were the first to run—shrieking in horror—followed closely by Suzaku—who was carrying Lelouch.
Nobody decided to mention what happened again.
Approximately one week later Suzaku had managed to get Lelouch to admit that, maybe, just maybe, he wasn't holding onto Suzaku so tightly simply because he was cold. That maybe he was less scared during the times Suzaku was there. And that perhaps they could be maybe just a little more than friends.
Lelouch found he was only slightly horrified when, after announcing such to the rest of their friends, Milly gave an exasperated, "Finally!"
Three days after that they were going out on a first, official date-but-not.
"CC, have you seen my favourite shirt?"
CC looked up from her book at him. "No. Why do you need it?"
"Because I'm going out on a d—I'm going out."
"It's over there. Under the desk."
Lelouch glared at her but said nothing, retrieving his shirt. "I don't know what time I'll be home tonight. Sayoko won't be here so just order pizza or something. You have my credit card number."
"Okay~" she answered noncommittally, nose back in her book.
"I'm heading out then."
Lelouch closed the door behind him, but not before hearing—
"Have fun, virgin!"
- Minute Maid
Beverage of Queens.
P.S. I'm back.