Fandom: Code GEASS: Lelouch of The Rebellion
Pairing: Schneizel el Britannia x Kururugi Suzaku
Warnings: Mentioning of promiscuity and past nonconsensual sex. And please welcome back the angst.
Disclaimer: Code GEASS belongs to Sunrise.
Challenge: 30_romances #04. Highest order
Word Count: 3749
Summary: A guide for a knight of imperial princes and princesses.
A/N: This ends up not as light and fluffy as I intended, but I really enjoy writing it. I hope everyone will enjoy reading it too (and please try not to strangle Suzaku at the end of this fic).
To vspirit, I hope this is what you meant with chapter six, although I still have no idea what on earth is chapter two.
Previous installation: Palace of Illusions
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By Lord Fironas Adelman
Lord Protector and First Knight of His Majesty Gaius la Britannia, the Sixty-Fourth Emperor of Britannia
In the subject of knighthood, loyalty comes before everything. It is the law. It is the foundation of everything he does. It is the sword and the shield he wields. And in the name of loyalty shall a knight pledge his life to his lord.
“What I don’t understand…”
General Bartley Asprius paused, fingers drumming on the paper-strewn surface of his desk to fill the silence his trailing words left untouched. Narrowed eyes evaluated the young man standing upright in front of him, a faultless picture of Britannia’s warrior and pride. But picture was a convenient façade and he knows that the red blood coursing under that tanned skin harboured a different kind of threat.
“I will not question His Highness’s decision,” the General said again, his voice rumbling low against naked walls and emptier room, spartan despite his elevated status, “but answer me this, young man. What is your motivation in accepting the appointment?”
The reply was that of a soldier, short and firm, sprinkled with as little emotion as possible. “It was His Highness’s wish.”
A china doll polished to perfection – how to speak, how to behave, how to measure the situation and execute inferences. Suzaku Kururugi would have been a masterpiece, had the situation been a little bit different.
“Yes, it might be His Highness’s wish,” the General said callously, “but I asked for your real reason behind this excruciating travesty.”
“Where my loyalty lies.” A blunt thrust, words cutting into the delicate veneer of his challenge. A well-seasoned veteran, General Bartley opted for a direct retreat instead of charging mindlessly head-on.
“Put it that way if you want,” he said, dignified even in flight. “Ambition has destroyed more powerful men than any other cause. I cannot risk the possibility of your ambition clashing with His Highness’s one day.”
There was a flash of anger in dark green eyes, sharp and implausibly intense, but it was quick to vanish before he could set any judgment on the source. Bartley wondered if derisions had lost their edge on this young knight, and could not decide whether the idea actually made him feel better or worse. It was admirable in a way, a proof of completely mastering oneself, but he still remembered a boy not so long time ago, with vengeance burning in his eyes and raw pain crackling beneath his broken voice, and the suspicion lingered.
“My loyalty is not so fickle so as to possibly endanger my lord and master in the future,” Kururugi answered with the same lack of emotion as displayed on his countenance. The General was almost impressed.
“That is if it really lies with your master,” he still persisted with the ruthless assault and inwardly congratulated himself when the first sign of frustration made its way through fissures of the glass mask. Imperfect still.
“His Highness has my loyalty and eternal servitude,” the young man announced, staring straight to his eyes – fierce, challenging, and the insignias decorating his blue coat suddenly felt like they were nothing. “This pledge, General, I did not make lightly.”
That pledge, Bartley reflected, was where the problem had reared its hideous head in the first place. Because of the pledge, Kururugi had in his hand such power as of yet unheard of in the hands of a Number. As the personal knight of the Second Prince, he would later command the Seventh Imperial Fleet and the Camulos Knight, a company directly under His Highness’s order. To trust that kind of authority… it was imprudent. Dangerously unwise. And the balding Army General had had enough personal experience to acknowledge that oppressed people made the worst kind of servant, often perfidious and deceitful.
“An Eleven should not climb this high,” he murmured and it was meant to hurt. The young man stood unflinching, like the jagged, rocky shore too long since used to ferocious storms and angry waves battering its outer shell.
“But Area 11 is now a part of the Britannian Empire, General,” he said steadily, only the slightest inflection in his voice to speak for that old, smouldering passion to his motherland. Bartley found himself mulling over this point.
“Then you wish not for independence?”
“I wish for the best for Japan,” he declared, proud, the worthy son of a sacred country blessed by the sun – and even its fallen remnants gracefully sank their claws into Britannia’s core. “My homeland cannot fight on her own between the Empire and Chinese Federation. But His Highness, I am convinced, will be a just ruler when the time comes.”
“Take care of your words, Sir Suzaku,” the General warned. “These walls have ears and we are trapped between the most treacherous yet.”
And then realised belatedly that the young man had managed to stand on the same ground as him and his fellow Britannians to his eyes. Surprisingly, the realisation felt straightforward, almost natural, like he had been expecting it.
“My apologies, Sir,” Kururugi bowed slightly, withdrawing his eyes to a more neutral ground. General Bartley once again found himself moved toward silent admiration.
After all, their situations were not that different. He had also decided to follow the Second Prince and while it had only been a matter of saving his neck almost a year ago, things were evidently quite different now.
Loyalty. Ever so ambiguous. After all, who could measure such thing?
A knight has many roles to fulfill: in court, society, military, and the last but not least, within the scoop of a more personal relationship with his lord. Some are indisputably more important than others, but when it is possible, balance has to be put into practice to the best of its ability.
[Chapter III: Of Roles; p.37]
As a soldier, he wore his uniform with pride and stood on blood-stained battlefields, the air heavy with heat and smoke. He tried not to choke, and not to wonder how far it was from the condemned crossroad, how long it had been since his feet made their choice and taken this path. Because there was no room for regrets in this, or he would begin to wish and wishes were dangerous things.
As a boy, he curled in his sleep and fell into the arms of nefarious shadows, not daring to look up lest he might see his father’s face. Drawn, tired, and yet entirely devoid of anger. Only blank disappointment that fed on his soul like the vindictive eagle of Prometheus. But then the ship lurched and he jerked awake – and realised that it was just another nightmare he couldn’t outrun.
As a knight, he sat in Lancelot’s cockpit and watched as Knightmares burst into flames with each thrust of his swords, with each fire from his guns. It was a detached reality, beyond this shield of white steel, and only the distant proximity kept him sane. He destroyed to protect, killed to live, cried to smile, but war blurred all lines and he pledged his loyalty to the source of these timeless ironies.
As a lover, he lay in a darkened room, white sheet warm and damp under his sated body. Another set of breathing, close enough to send a shiver down his spine, ghosted over the heated skin of his cheeks, followed by whispers of sweet words that sounded too much like a lie wreathed in spring blooms. But he still clung to the other man like a dear lifeline and offered him his heart – or the ghost of it, since he was far too cowardly to retrieve that treacherous thing from Lelouch’s cold, dead hands and entrust it to anyone ever again.
As a Britannian, he treated his honorary status like a delicate ornament made out of glass, beautiful, fragile, serving its purpose well in this world of masquerades and fancy dresses and patrician manners. Society had their eyes on him, waiting for the smallest gaffe, and he stared back at them with hands fisted on his side. If winning and losing was all there was, then he would burn bridges, part seas and freeze hells to ensure his victory.
As a Japanese, he spoke to the mute walls of his room every morning, words that rolled smoothly on his tongue like the fine texture of honey – the language of deities and legends lost in the chaos of time. A small prayer, a small reminder to those memories of summer nights with their fireflies and thin sticks of fireworks that burned much too quickly to last a moment of laughter. And then he walked to the window, pulled the blinds up and looked to the east, witnessing as he did every morning the bloodless rebirth of the sun, the golden and silver and ashen, and he vowed that only such future deserved to court his motherland.
As Kururugi, he wore his name like the broken crest of an ancient aristocratic family long since fallen to ruin. The scorns in their eyes stung like the slow, languorous licks of fire on his raw flesh, but he stood proudly in front of the ranks of nobility. He was the traitor, the murderer of his own father, but the name would not bear shame because of him.
As Suzaku, he looked at his empty hands, the crisscross lines etched deep into calloused skin, and wondered what Lelouch or his father would say, if they had already forgiven him for what he had done. But then an arm draped over his stiff, naked shoulders, and long fingers, achingly pale in comparison, wrapped around his own, shielding his eyes from the sight – memory – of blood smeared on trembling palms, and he felt the colours dissolving. Because the chest against his back was beating with life and the voice that whispered to him was that of his lord.
“I am here. I will protect you.”
To properly address the members of Imperial Family and nobility, there are appropriate titles to be used. Emperors and Empresses are to be addressed as His or Her Imperial Majesty, as is the consort of the throne. The other members of Imperial Family hold the title of Imperial Highness, including princes, princesses, and other Imperial wives. As for the members of nobility, rank decides the title by which they will be addressed and thus this particular knowledge ought to be committed to memory.
[Chapter IV: Of Etiquette and Address; p.59]
He was a tall man with rust-coloured hair and confident manner. His pale blue eyes were hard as cold steel and they lit up slightly as they came to rest on him. The firm set of his jaw perfected this picture of a battle-tempered soldier, augmented the prominence of his presence, so much that he almost shaded the imperial who stood in front of him into obscurity.
Suzaku felt his blood running cold. He would recognise the man anywhere, even if two years had passed since they had last seen each other, even if too many things had changed.
“So, you are Suzaku Kururugi?”
The question broke him out of his stupor and Suzaku forcibly tore his gaze away from the knight to the prince. At some thirty-odd of age, Odysseus di Britannia cut a less striking image than that expected of a crown prince – certainly nothing like his flamboyant, dashing second brother. Having only seen the eldest prince previously from afar, Suzaku couldn’t help but make a mental comparison between the two brothers before then reminding himself to bow courteously and answer the question.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
The tall man behind the prince shifted and Suzaku felt his muscles stiffening in instinct. This corridor was deserted but for the three of them, and if Odysseus left then…
“My brother chooses his knight well,” the prince said again and there might be a condescending note in his voice, but Suzaku was too overwrought to take notice of anything but the unconcealed malice in icy blue eyes which hadn’t let go of their intent scrutiny of him. “I look forward to your performance in the Spring Tournament,” he added and glanced at the man behind him. “As does my knight, I am sure.”
“Of course, Your Highness.” Even his voice remained the same haughty drawl that Suzaku remembered, the same rough inflection which had filled his sleeps with nightmares for weeks, and his agonizing hours of waking with memories of brutal pain and angry tears behind his eyes.
The man stepped forward and held out a gloved hand to him. “I have heard of your skill with the Knightmare Frame. It certainly will be an interesting tournament in April.”
Suzaku couldn’t tell how he finally managed to take the hand without flinching, or how he could bring himself to stay his feet and meet the eyes of the man who had violated him in every way imaginable. His voice trembled so badly and it was only and only the thought of his prince – lord, master, everything – which allowed him to form any word at all.
“It will be my pleasure, Lord Kreindler.”
A knight of the Imperial Family has an extensive range of duties and responsibilities, as shall be listed and subsequently explained in the next section. The most important of these is of course to ensure the safety of his lord, often not only in the physical sense. Everything else should come second, including his own wellbeing and obligation to his family and kin, should he have them.
[Chapter V: Of Duties and Responsibilities; p.86]
The clear, resonant notes permeated the tangled vines of his mind like steady ripples on water. The intricate riffs that seemed to flow with the wind wafting in from the open windows. Music befitting the halls of gods and angels, as glorious and stately as the player himself.
Eyes closed in pure enjoyment, he looked like a picture painted to perfection, one that hung in palace halls and recited of regal beauty. The glow of the afternoon sun brushed an ethereal touch over the spectacle, warming wisps of golden hair and pale skin unused to its glare. Graceful fingers danced over black-and-white keys, relishing the quick leaps of notes and changes of cadence as the pianoforte continued to sing. A refined, complex sonata.
It was like the story of an unworthy mortal yearning for the love of Apollo, the god of the Sun. A pitiful love story, one which never ended happily.
Suzaku sat with his hands tightly gripping the arms of his chair. He was getting used to these social functions and small gatherings, but the Crown Prince, quietly reveling in his brother's exquisite performance, was sitting directly in front of him and to his right was the imposing presence of his knight. And every time he saw the man was like a slap to his face, reminding him of his scars, the mud and filth he had drowned himself in, and how the recollection clashed so spectacularly with his present condition, where he was now, whom he had pledged himself to.
How could anyone so low, so dirty, ask for the smallest scrap of affection from a prince?
The round of applause marked the end of the performance and the crowd immediately rose to their feet. Words of admiration poured freely from their mouth, saturating the air like the sweet scent of rotten apples, so sweet that it almost made him sick, but the Second Prince accepted all these with the same innate gracefulness that underlined his every movement.
How could anyone so low, so dirty, pine for a being so inherently above him? It was insolence. Madness.
The voice that made his heart stop beating and his insides curl in fear. Suzaku found that he couldn’t breathe when the man stepped close enough to breach his personal area. “I haven’t gotten the chance to say how nice it is to see you again. Since the Academy, wasn’t it?”
Fear turned to ice in his stomach, and he took one involuntary step back. “Lord Kreindler–“
“I wonder if you’ll visit me sometimes,” the taller man ignored his feeble attempt to build distance between them. “We can catch up and talk about old times.”
He should not be afraid anymore, but the cold whispers of this recurrent nightmare, and the sight of his prince, smiling gently like the sun on a cloudless winter day, were enough to send him scrambling to the nearest bathroom and turn out the content of his stomach.
A knight has to become the person closest to his lord, be it in the matter of trust or dependability, but even then, he must always remember his place and never expect more than what is required of him, for his purpose is to serve and only to serve.
[Chapter VI: Of Lines and Appropriateness; p.105]
The first was a lady with long dark hair and a smile which so openly mocked the frozen shock written all over his face as she glided past him. The faint whiff of her perfume was tainted with a headier scent and Suzaku didn’t need to look inside to understand what had just happened behind the bedroom door.
The second was Lady Salinger, and she was lounging on the bed, her naked body modestly covered in silk sheets when he quietly entered by the prince’s order. Her smile was small and shy, and she was quite obviously uncomfortable by the situation, but for once Suzaku discovered that he didn’t care – not when his lord was still smiling indifferently like there was nothing wrong with this picture.
The third was a faceless, nameless woman as he waited for the prince behind the door leading to the drawing room, and pretended that the gasps and unrepressed moans he was listening at were something else entirely.
The fourth was when Suzaku forced himself to stop counting. And the fifth was when he tried to stop caring.
But the sixth was when he admitted that he could not. Because every time the prince pulled him into his arms, whispered words of affection caressing his ears like sweet poison, he would close his eyes and surrender and let the cold hand rip his heart out of his chest and smash it repeatedly to the wall. Again and again.
It was when he realised that he had fallen in love. So utterly. Foolishly. Irrevocably.
The words of thine lord are the law and there shall be no other but thine lord.
[Chapter VII: Of The Highest Order; p.134]
She was stunning, as always. Her gown was white and ornately beautiful, almost as beautiful as the smile embellishing the small curve of her lips. In her left hand, between long digits of loose fingers was a closed fan decorated by pearls and silver tassels. The length of her pink hair gave colour and life to her monochrome surrounding, a garden that looked almost otherworldly in the white drape of snow.
Her eyes, he noticed, seemed like they were looking straight into his soul. As always.
“Clovis painted this just before he went to Japan,” the masculine voice brought him back to present attention. His lord, he discovered when he finally looked away from the painting, was studying him with a pair of contemplative eyes.
“It was not my intention to make you recall any painful memory, but I thought you would like to see it.”
Suzaku hardly knew how to react to this sudden, small though it might be, display of thoughtfulness, especially on something as inconsequential as what he would or wouldn’t like to see. Euphie was a subject they had never discussed between them, but to show him a portrait of her made him think if the prince actually knew more than he had let on.
In the end, he settled for politeness – the safest of all – and bowed as low as courtesy demanded of him. “I am deeply honoured, Your Highness.”
The same gentle smile which had broken his heart more times than he bothered to count materialized easily on the handsome face. “A prince is allowed to indulge his knight every now and then, is he not?”
Suzaku looked away and tried not to think about those ladies on the prince’s bed – or the bile rising to the back of his throat, or the fact that his heart was now hammering in his chest two times faster. And then perhaps he would be able to believe it.
Those lies. Little white lies to keep him there. It was deeply ironic if the prince really had no idea that his knight barely had any power over his own heart anymore.
“I want you to soar to the sky with me,” Schneizel suddenly said, and Suzaku knew that it was yet another distillation of those flames that burned too beautifully in order to beckon moths closer. He had tried to shield himself against them, to defend the last bits of his sanity, but nothing could ever prepare him for this kind of onslaught. Not when the look on the Second Prince’s eyes spoke to him of dreams and unfulfilled ambitions, far in the clutch of indefinite future, and an offer to share them.
“And I want you to be there, at my side when I take the world into my grasp.”
“As a knight.” It might be the bitter edge of accusation, or the echo of a foolish hope. Suzaku suspected that it was both.
The prince did not bother to suppress his smile. “I take it that you want to be something else other than a knight to me?”
And he was reminded to a story of an unworthy mortal loving the god of the sun, so utterly unattainable. But that, he realised, was not his place. Was not his role.
“No, my lord.”
“Good,” the note of approval was smooth – smooth enough to cut into his soul without hurting. “Then I suppose you agree to my proposal?”
He was a knight, first and foremost. Everything else should – must – come second and wait for their respective turn.
“Yes,” Suzaku said softly, solemnly, “I shall be at Your Highness’s side. Until death himself comes and takes me.”
He imagined the violet eyes darkening. And then his body was crushed, his lips claimed, his skin marked, in front of the portrait of the woman he loved.
Next Installation: Before Dawn