Disclaimer: I do not own Code Geass nor do I own anything affiliated with Fatal Frame 3.
Everything is explained in my author's note at the end. Forgive the sudden change of story format, but as I am having to resort to typing this all out on my phone, I wanted to limit as much unnecessary words as possible. No touch screen on this phone so yikes! It's like typing the world's longest text message.
Prologue: "I'm sorry I'm alive."
The air was littered with falling ashes of finely chiseled crystal that, although cold to the touch, elicited a pleasant shiver throughout his body that only persisted the longer he remained rooted to the snow-covered stone pathway under his feet. There was an underlying current of despair resting beneath the omnipresent ice, like a restless shell of a passing soul searching in vain for a way to reach something beyond their grasp. Lelouch couldn't explain the reason for it nor could he describe the sensation of urgency and loneliness that instantly swam over him upon settling his gaze onto the ominous edifice nestled against the craggy snow topped mountains surrounding him.
'Where am I?' he wondered idly, honestly less concerned with how he came to be here than with why his emotions were urging him onward.
The front of the edifice's yard was lined with brightly burning candles that shuddered whenever a breeze or stray snowflakes blew through their struggling flames. Dark stone lanterns were entombed within a blanket of snow, the candles within and around them dead with cold from their wax skin to their wick hearts. Turning his gaze upward, Lelouch noted that out-of-place decorative paper lanterns were hovering around the building's entrance, each glowing with a warmth that contrasted starkly against the dreary atmosphere. Lelouch couldn't help wondering who had distributed the candle light and why, when the structure itself seemed so devoid of life.
'What is this place?' he wondered, curiosity taking precedence over any hesitation as he took a few steps toward the entrance. 'How could a place like this have survived?'
Lelouch considered all the possibilities as to what the building could have been used for and, basing his assumptions on the building's impressive architecture, it was some kind of shrine (most likely a Japanese one seeing as Lelouch himself lived in Japan, or Area 11, as it was now called). Years ago, such a building would have been bustling with life as the people inhabiting it moved about their daily lives. Perhaps the structure had been used as a guest house for visiting foreign dignitaries or perhaps it had been a very sacred piece of ancestry to the Japanese. But once the Britannian Empire had seen fit to wrongfully invade the island nation over seven years ago, this place would have ceased to exist. 'I suppose it's possible that it could have survived the bombing
'I suppose it's possible that it could have survived the bombing,' Lelouch mused, the snow crunching beneath his feet as he took a few more steps forward. 'But to think that nothing was destroyed is...it seems impossible.'
And even if nothing had been destroyed, someone would surely stick close (perhaps even live inside of it) instead of abandoning it in favor of the ghettos. But it seemed completely abandoned. Not even a sliver of light could be seen glowing beyond the darkness crawling around the windows and it was deathly silent.
But someone lit those candles.
Someone must live nearby or else why light the candles at all? There would be no point. Besides, if the building was kept dark out of fear of the military discovering their safe house, why keep the front yard lit? That would defeat the purpose of keeping the shrine dark. On the other hand, maybe the candles were serving a different purpose. Lighting a candle did not automatically signify that someone needed an area brightened, after all. Candles were used for many different things. Some were mixed with a perfume-like fragrance to freshen foul air, some were merely used as decor to liven an otherwise dull room, and some did not seem to have a clear meaning at all (like the ones lit during a wedding or funeral), they were simply lit in unspoken understanding because, for whatever reason, people wanted them present.
So, maybe they weren't meant to illuminate the path at all. Maybe they were placed here as a sort of...offering.
To the dead.
'Maybe...these candles are lit in...remembrance.' Lelouch thought distantly, his steps slowly halting as he wrapped his arms around himself and stared down at the flickering flames.
That would be more likely, he surmised. Someone could be coming here just to place candles as a way to remember who and what they had lost so many years ago. Doing so at a place of holy significance was predictable, but as long as they were never caught, they could continue to honor their destroyed nation and lost loved ones in a place that remained seemingly untouched by Britannian influence.
Thinking about it in such a way made Lelouch feel as if he were committing burial desecration.
'I don't think I should be here,' he thought, feeling guilty about having ever found such a place. 'because I...I know what it feels like to lose everything. Someone really treasures this place and I could never-...I should leave.'
A long time ago, when Lelouch was just a child, he lost both of his parents due to the carelessness with which Japan had been invaded and ruthlessly bombed by the Britannian military.
His mother...all he remembered of her was the kindness and warmth of her smile and the gentle way she would tend to he and his younger brother, because she loved them so very much.
And his father...he prided himself on teaching Lelouch. Chess, poker, reading him stories, and explaining complicated things that no child except Lelouch could ever hope to grasp at that age. Because Lelouch was smart and it was a fact his father had always been proud of.
And they both died (right in front of his eyes) in a sea of fire and muddy red dirt.
Even when he pleaded for his mother to stop smiling at him when her lips were being stained with dripping crimson. Even when he cried for his father to open his eyes and help his mother stand because her legs wouldn't work. Even when he screamed at them to stop saying their goodbyes once they realized they could not protect their children anymore (but they wouldn't-they couldn't-leave he and his unconscious brother alone with the blackened horses, the fiery carriage, and the exploding hills like this.)
They still died.
Lelouch flinched at nothing in particular and his fingers dug into the chilled fabric of his jacket, the tears that suddenly trickled down his cheeks leaving frozen trails clinging to his skin.
'Mother...Father...why did you have to die like that?' he grieved, a sob breaking the silence that reigned over him. 'If...if I had just agreed to go with you those few days before the bombs fell, you...would still be here with us!'
Despite any logical points of view concerning the tragedy, Lelouch placed a chunk of the blame on himself for his parents' gruesome death (the rest was given to the Holy Britannian Empire-his own mother country-with seething hatred).
A week or so before the air raid that ultimately killed them, Lelouch's parents had been considering a move to Australia to stay with his grandparents until all the pointless squabbling over Japan's Sakuradite mines finally ended. They were tired of the constant hostility between the two nations and were worried that a war would break out over their greed. But Lelouch liked living in Japan (even though most of the Japanese boys bullied him mercilessly and called him horrid names for hanging out with the girls because they were normally the only ones who were nice to him) and he complained about how he would eventually lose the feeling in his cheeks due to Grandmother's awful habit of pinching them. His father had jokingly concluded that Lelouch would miss all his girlfriends if they left and his mother had laughed with that bell-like laughter of hers at Lelouch's cheek-pinching complaint. His brother had also complained about the suggested move to Australia, saying how airplanes scared him and made his stomach sick from looking out the window. Besides, Lelouch had continued to argue, they had an underground safe house in case of such emergencies. So should a war break out, they would all be safe.
After seeing how much their children would miss their home, the decision was made and they didn't go.
A week later would find Lelouch grasping his weeping brother's hand as he pulled the distraught sibling away from their parents' still warm corpses, both children covered in bloodied dirt and tear stains.
"I'm sorry." Lelouch cried, shivering a bit violently as a sudden gust of wind blew against his back. "I'm sorry I'm alive."
Lelouch sometimes wished (in secret, because no one would understand) that he had been killed instead of his parents.
"Rolo needs you more than he needs me." he continued, remembering the vision of despair his little brother had been for such a long time afterward. "I've tried so hard to be a father and mother to him and give him everything you would have, but I...I just can't take your place. I never could. I'm nothing like you were."
Lelouch laughed to himself derisively, the sound deafening in the silent snow.
"I can...I can't even remember what you look like."
His memory of them had faded dramatically over the years and there wasn't much that he could remember about their appearances. What he did remember, he treasured. He was terrified of forgetting the little that he knew so he kept a journal detailing everything he remembered (both good and bad) to keep their memory intact. As long as he had that journal he would never forget them and felt a bit more at ease knowing this.
"I wish both of you were here." he said to the air, his momentary weakness beginning to fade as he wiped at his frozen tears halfheartedly. "Sometimes I'll catch Rolo sending me these strange looks, like he hates me for...trying to replace you...and I know he must think the same thing. I shouldn't have survived."
He was only trying to give Rolo what they lost, but there was only so much that he could accomplish on his own. He could not replace his parents (and he wasn't actually trying to), but still. He tried to do the impossible for the only real family he had left. At least he could say that he tried when it all finally sunk into irreversible failure.
Lelouch breathed a long suffering sigh as he grimaced and threaded his fingers through his dark locks, the rush of depression irritating him.
'What's gotten into me? I'm standing in the snow sniveling like a child.' he reprimanded to himself, forcing his body to relax from its rigid posture. 'Honestly. Of all things...'
Lelouch had his weak moments (as did everyone), but the control he held over his emotions was uncanny, downright frightful at times. He could maintain a mask of complete indifference no matter what he was experiencing on the inside (whether it be anger, depression, or otherwise). So no one ever honestly knew what he was thinking or feeling (because he turned his life into a lie to protect his heart and the hearts of those around him).
Losing his control like this was alarming.
'I've felt strange ever since I got here. I wonder if this place is having an affect on me?' he wondered, his attention returning to the looming building. 'Not that I believe in curses, but...no. What a foolish thought.'
He shook his head at himself for acting so childishly.
'I suppose Milly may have a point. I do think a bit too much.'
He sighed again.
He couldn't deny that being here, for whatever reason, was having a negative impact on his feelings. Leaving would the best thing. But...
'I want to know if anyone is inside.'
He took a step forward and was immediately overcome with an intense urgency to leave the bewildering structure behind, as if it truly were the cause of his sudden trip down memory lane and consequential moment of tearful weakness. But while he agreed that leaving his discovery behind was probably best (the risks of catching a cold were high considering how ill prepared he was to survive in these freezing conditions), he couldn't help the feeling of wanting to take a peek inside regardless.
'I feel...that someone is waiting for me...' he thought, taking another step towards the entrance.
And he moved onward, Lelouch's legs carrying him nearer and nearer to the entrance steps (where the doors were awaiting his prodding hands).
'There's someone inside. Someone must be living here.' his thoughts continued, growing more firm in the belief that this place was not as vacant as it appeared on the outside. 'At least, someone is visiting, if they don't actually live here.'
That made sense too, didn't it? Whoever lit the candles could be inside, couldn't they? Just because there was a chance they could be caught or just because they didn't live here didn't mean that they couldn't walk inside for a moment. And who knows? Maybe they had been snowed in and were waiting until the mountain path cleared before they made the journey home.
'If they don't want me here, I can always leave.' he decided resolutely, his feet finally pressing down against the stone steps leading up to the double-doors. 'There's nothing wrong about that, right?'
But as Lelouch ascended the steps and stretched his shivering arms out to brush his fingertips against the door handles, he had to wonder: if there was nothing wrong with taking a little peak inside, then why did he have the feeling that, once he did go in, he would never leave?
Without much effort, the doors opened at Lelouch's insistence. He hesitated for a moment (was this really a good idea?) before taking slow steps inside and pulling the doors along with him to shut out the cold winds. A touch of lightheadedness hit him upon entering. Behind him, the doors closed with an ominous finality and the dim lighting assaulted his sight unforgivingly. He squinted at the surrounding darkness, unable to see much of anything while his eyes were adjusting to the sudden lack of light. Despite being sheltered from the icy winds, it was still fairly chilly (most likely due to lack of a need for inside warmth) and the room was narrow like a hallway (which Lelouch supposed that it was and he would confirm that as soon as his eyes finished adjusting). Faint candle light illuminated the darkness in circular globes, like little yellowish-orange suns spinning in their own little universes. And as his eyes gradually grew accustomed to the darkness, he could see that he was indeed standing within a hallway. Old dressers and what even appeared to be a broken baby carriage along with other junk items had been pushed up against the hallway's walls (which certainly made the already narrow hallway even narrower). To his left was something of a wooden cage, complete with a small locked door that would lead any visitors to yet another small door on its other side. To his right hung a tattered piece of cloth that poorly concealed a dark child-sized passageway that led to places unknown.
'It really does appear vacant,' Lelouch mused, taking a small step inward as he continued his survey. 'but the candles along the walls are lit. Someone has been here recently.'
Candles did not remain lit forever. Eventually, they would lose their flames when the candle wick reached its end and all the wax melted. These candles weren't even to their halfway mark yet. Lelouch sighed at himself, his sudden obsession over all these candles grating on his own nerves.
'I feel like a stalker and after this, I might as well label myself as one.' he mused, allowing his eyes to close for a moment as he pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance. 'I shouldn't allow my emotions to control me like this. Just remember who you are, Lelouch. Just remember how you're supposed to act and act that way.'
He counted backwards from ten in an attempt to calm is nerves and once he reached zero, he took in a deep breath to gather up all his wandering emotions and let them all spill out in a depressed sigh meant to expel them from his mind. And it worked. He felt himself calming down and felt his wild emotions stabilizing as his warm breath joined the frigid air. With his new found placidity, Lelouch dropped the hand pinching the bridge of his nose and opened his eyes. He was prepared to simply turn around and leave, to put the discovery and memory of this little experience far behind him and resume his life as if he had never been here to begin with.
But when he opened his eyes, all the resolve and clam clarity he had gathered evaporated from his hands without leaving so much as a speck for him to cling to.
"...Mother?" he cried, shock evident upon his features as he stared down the hallway where a womanly figure wearing his mother's benevolent smile stood.
That same smile he treasured above all memories. That same smile he never saw her without.
That same smile she wore on her death bed.
She never said anything as she stood there. She just smiled twice as large at being recognized and extended a hand to her darling baby boy, urging him to come to her with a slight curling of her fingers.
But Lelouch was frozen in place, disbelief mixed with a host of all the emotions he had been trying to withhold only moments ago etching themselves into an expression Lelouch had not used in seven years (not since he stood by helplessly watching his parents die).
The woman inclined her head in question at his hesitation, but Lelouch couldn't think. He could barely remember how to breathe let alone think to rush into his mother's awaiting arms. It was only when she dropped her hand and turned to walk down an adjacent hallway did he snap out of his stupor.
"Mother?" he questioned, taking a shaky step forward as he watched her hand fall and once she turned away to leave, he ran after her. "Mother!"
He dashed through the narrow hallway, doing his best to avoid bumping in to the junk littering the floor.
"Wait!" he called out to her retreating figure, pleading with her to wait for him.
He winced as something slammed into his side. He stumbled and fell (having accidentally run into the edge of a dresser) and winced as a throbbing pain flared through his chest from both the collision and having the air knocked out of his lungs.
"Wait!" he shouted again, immediately gasping for breath afterward. Refusing to let this clumsiness deter him, he shakily climbed back onto his feet and shouted at her again.
And after a moment of vertigo and breatheless coughing, he resumed his chase and followed her as she glided around a corner.
He called and called and ran and ran, but no matter how much he called or begged or screamed for her to stop (because he needed her to talk to him, he needed to ask her if he was doing right by Rolo, he had to tell her something he had wanted to say to her for years), she didn't stop (and for someone who was merely walking, she was always strangely too far away for him to reach).
This refusal to stop for her own son threw Lelouch into a mess of paranoid desperation. He didn't understand why she wasn't responding or why she had turned away after showing a clear interest in wanting him to come to her.
'Why?' he questioned, tears rushing down his cheeks as he barged through a countless set of doors and stumbled through rooms that each carried a fleeting feeling of he being stared at. 'Why won't you wait for me? Am I that unforgivable? I now I'm older now, but do you really hate me enough to leave me behind...again?'
He threw open another door that his mother had gone through and skidded to a breathless halt after colliding with a decaying wooden railing, nearly toppling over into the small tree-coated garden a few inches below the outside walkway he had run onto.
"Where?" He questioned aloud, leaning against the railing as his heavy panting froze into translucent vapor.
She was gone. The woman with his mother's warm smile had disappeared, quite literally having vanished without a trace.
"Mother?" he called out questioningly, glancing wildly in every direction in a vain search. "Mother, please! I-I saw you come out here!"
His eyes narrowed with fresh tears and he turned around as he stepped back while curling his fingers in his hair.
"Why aren't you-!"
His voice shook violently after that initial exclamation. He had to cover his mouth with a hand to stifle an oncoming sob while turning in another direction. He closed his eyes, squeezing more warm liquid down his face.
"Why are you leaving me again?" he asked despairingly, his voice lowering hoarsely with every word he spoke. "I just want to talk. Please..."
Lelouch felt weak in the knees, like he would collapse at any given moment from the weight of his emotions. And he couldn't understand why all his dammed up feelings (all the things he kept hidden under a carefully woven mask of lies in order to protect his heart from even more grief) were bursting forth in such fast torrents. And the thing that scared him the most was that he couldn't grasp onto the lever to seal the overflowing emotions back.
If he could just see his mother again, if he could just speak with her...
"N-No." he muttered, giving in to the urge to collapse onto the wooden floor boards creaking beneath him.
He wasn't entirely certain what he was saying no to (because his mind was a mess and it was all he could do not to scream out in frustration while he scrambled to gather his rational thoughts and calm down), but he repeated it again regardless.
'Calm down. Calm down. Calm down. Calm down.' he tried to tell himself repeatedly.
He allowed his emotions to get the better of him (almost instantaneously, he realized in embarrassment) and had blindly run after a phantom from his past in hopes of finding closure from a childhood tragedy that he was never able to stop thinking about (after all, he never even got to say goodbye because he was too busy pleading for his parents to wake up to bother saying his farewells). And now that the flood gates had been opened, he was drowning in seven years worth of bottled up heartache and self-loathing and he had no one there to throw him a safety raft or outstretched hand to keep him above the current.
'I can't fall apart over a memory. I've done so well at keeping everything stashed away. I can't afford to lose it now.'
Lelouch was a strong individual. He could handle heartache better than most. Something like this was nothing difficult as he had done it for years. He did slip from time to time, but he was always able to compose himself rather quickly. This latest slip should be no different.
'She's dead. My mother is dead.' he reminded himself. 'Who I saw...it couldn't be her. I probably hallucinated the whole thing.'
A hallucination was highly unlikely, unfortunately. Lelouch wasn't one to ingest or inject drugs into his system and the chances of there being any hallucinogenic properties in common household dust was ridiculous. He only proposed the option in a continued attempt to smother his feelings (which wasn't working as well as he hoped).
'If I just stop thinking about her, then...'
Then what? What should he do then?
He knew it was dangerous to think in such a way, but...
'...what if she really was my mother?'
If it really had been his mother, then he should find her.
'But where did she go? Why did she just walk away from me like that?' he wondered. '...doesn't she want to see me? Did I upset her? Or maybe she's disappointed in how I treat-'
The floor boards creaked suddenly, startling him out of his train of thought and he wondered who or what had come in behind him. He hadn't heard a door open or close (but perhaps his mental battle grew too loud for him to hear it).
Whoever or whatever had joined him outside was getting closer.
And the closer it got, the worse Lelouch felt.
He wanted to turn around, to see who was making such a fuss (it sounded so pained and fatigued).
But he also wanted to run away. Perhaps it was due to the way the newcomer moaned and sobbed in such a disturbing way or...no. He was certain that this was the only reason.
The crashing wave of emotions (ones he was both familiar and unfamiliar with) kept coming the longer he unintentionally waited for the ghastly voice to reach him. All he could think about was the pain he felt as a child, when he lost his parents. The pain he felt whenever his brother gave him those strange looks, as if silently confessing his resentment to Lelouch for daring to replace their parents.
The more pains that hit him, the more he couldn't seem to stand.
Like the pain of living a lie (a double one at that).
Or the pain of a betrayal he had no memory of.
The pain of being abandoned.
"...don't want to see...anymore."
And the pain of surviving.
Cut that off in an infuriatingly odd and bad place, amirite? Anyway, hey you gaiz! Long time no see! Did you miss me? ...yeah. Didn't think so. But I sure missed this place and you all a lot. I had planned to update a story recently, but since it is stuck on my laptop (that gave me the blue screen of death, that mother effing buttface hard drive) I can't update shit. :U I'm trying my hardest to recover my files, but there isn't a really good chance that any of my back-up plans will work (should my plan to replace my CD drive so I can actually fix the boot error fails). I do have the updates backed up (except for the one I finished and updated ones) on an external hard drive, but without another computer, it does me no good.
Enough about that.
The point is everything is on hold until I get this fixed (and no telling how long that will take). I will be fiddling with this love child (that I decided to chapter) until further notice. Be advised that it takes me quite a while to type all this out and make corrections. This alone took me three to four days (and I was writing this like crazy every day). Oh and this is an AU, more or less. Takes place in R2 a few months before Lelouch got his memories back. It's a bit of a crossover, but only concerning the Manor of Sleep from FF3. Oh and pairings...well, what do I usually write~? Lol That and there will be ZeroLuluness~ Sorry if the chapter feels rushed, by the way. My fingers were getting seriously tired while trying to wrap this introductory chapter up and it just kept dragging on and on and...you get the idea. lol Not sure if anyone will be interested in seeing another chapter or not honestly. Please leave me a review if you have the time and I'll see you next chapter~! C: