In Japan, there are kami. For as long as the land has lived, they have inhabited the forests and rivers, the wind and grass, fire and light, life and death.
Shrines are conduits, long-standing temples to oaths made and boons granted. Honoring benefactors and appeasing the more dangerous. Some are tricky, some benevolent, some malicious, but all draw power from the earth, the land, the providence of Japan.
So of course in Britannia they summon demons instead.
For Suzaku, who grew up in a shrine, it’s about the closest thing to sacrilege he can imagine.
It does make sense though, that the kami are the single thread holding his homeland afloat even as Britannia forever tightens the noose. Japan is still an Area in all but name, but the Britannians remain leery of the kami. It unnerves them, that there are beings abound that can have the power of a loosed demon and none of the binding.
Suzaku has done well for himself in Britannia, as conflicted as he is on the matter, but it’s finally reached the tipping point. So far he’s served admirably as the Knight of Seven from raw skill alone, but now…
But now Suzaku is to conduct a summoning—for a knight’s contract, even; binding a demon’s power to strengthen his own rather than simply calling upon them for aid.
(He wonders, will his family blessing hold? Will the blood of the Vermillion Bird, Guardian of the South, still run through his veins? The power that leaves him stronger, faster, heartier than everyone else, that let him hold his own on the Rounds until now? Or will Britannia and his personal penance taint even the gift of his lineage?)
But the emperor has spoken. Suzaku Kururugi, by order of Charles zi Britannia, will henceforth take upon himself a contract with a demonic being.
So here he is, three protective circles in while he finalizes the summoning circle—and who’s to know at that point really if he uses the Sumeragi’s star as the base for his gate instead of any Britannian sigil as he traces the lines here for the knight’s contract as is expected of the Rounds; the call for personal power in exchange for a price and the possibility of attaining Geass for any demon that grants him such.
And oh, do they call when he ignites the gate, opening a raw wound in reality for him to search and them to peer back though, hissing at the back of his mind but held back by his wards.
I’ll grant your every wish
Little knight, let me strengthen you
With me you’ll be invincible!
Come, let me give you power
You are strong, I will make you stronger—the strongest of them all!
“My,” a voice cuts through the noise, amused and uncaring. “Well you’re certainly damaged.”
Suzaku’s flicker of attention snaps the hazy gate into place, the shard of reality where the demon resides brought to the forefront as the image shifts into clarity.
His first thought is that he’s…beautiful, this demon, with elegant, disaffected lines to his sprawl and haughty air about him. Of course, it doesn’t matter in the end, Suzaku will cut him down without pause if need be, but he can still take a moment to appreciate it.
Something sparks in the demon’s eyes, knife sharp and hungry. “That’s the nicest thing someone’s thought about me in a while.”
Suzaku frowns in mild confusion. “That you’re beautiful?” He doubts it. “That I don’t care?”
Then he starts, hand going to his sword at his hip that—damn, is instead at the center of the circle as the anchor point for the gate. But still, the blessing from Suzaku’s oath of loyalty as a Knight of the Rounds should ward his mind.
“Yes but you see,” the demon drawls, all lazy indifference over deadly intent, “that is the gift of my lineage.”
The smile instantly goes hard and nasty. “Rule breaking.”
He can’t help the quirk of amusement that tugs at his mouth and the demon’s own turns to pleased instead.
“Well then go on then,” chides the demon, “don’t just stand there. You’re looking for something after all, aren’t you?”
Something about the demon is…electric. His aura is full of drama and flair, a lightning rod of energy and vicious sparks that singe.
It’s enchanting, enthralling, intoxicating, and for a moment all Suzaku wants is to feel that fire; perhaps not from within but for even a breath to simply to bask in its presence.
But even more than that…
(‘Damaged,’ he had said. ‘Damaged,’ because he could tell. Damaged. Like he didn’t care. Like he simply accepted it and moved on and—)
(“‘That’s the nicest thing someone’s thought about me in a while.’”)
For the first step, Suzaku feels like a puppet on strings, tugged along and agency be damned, but each after that has more and more purpose behind it. A flicker of surprise enters the demon’s stance as he steps to the center of the gate, the tear that connects their two points of reality, standing on his side, the other side—both, when here at this nexus, the center of the Sumeragi’s star. He steps into the space of convergence and the world simply…shatters, cracks, breaks apart and unfolds around Suzaku as the demon’s image fractures into shards of light, a stained-glass triptych his mind is forced to assemble into a single image. A mosaic of self, each panel different yet each the same and all watching Suzaku with those hungry, glimmering eyes—eyes that dance like the priceless shard of alexandrite in the necklace Euphemia had shown Suzaku with a giggle when he’d jokingly asked about her least favorite piece of jewelry: clear violet with murky darkness nestled in bottomless facets and an acid green undertone when the light strikes it just so.
The demon leans back on his throne-like chair, one leg crossing over the other in a dizzying, wave-like, churning kaleidoscope and Suzaku squints against the metaphysical form of the demon, mind-bending to experience yet still relatively digestible for a true form…and more human too, unexpectedly.
All the images laugh, some softly, some sly, some into the back of his hand, but then the visage shifts like a prism working in reverse and the images all converge until he is simply three shafts of light. “Any better?” the demon half teases with a lilt to his voice
Like he can’t tell.
“It’s more of an impression of your thoughts than anything else,” says the demon with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Your blessing does grant you certain protections after all and as I said, that is not my area of expertise. I am simply very, very smart”
And very, very beautiful; ebony haired and pale skinned and with those hypnotic, alexandrite eyes. Dressed in a dark, high collared surcoat held together with glimmering gold chains over his long, sleeveless tunic. Slim black gloves reach just shy of his shoulders and the front of the violet tunic is trimmed with gold, cut from the waist down to reveal black heeled boots that flash gold under soles as the demon recrosses his legs…
Preening, it feels like.
The demon gives him a sly smile and his own once over, eyes dragging up Suzaku’s body. “Well then, what on earth could you want from me? Other than the view.”
Suzaku’s jaw works for a moment before he finds his words. “…What is your price?”
There is a sort of empty pause, then the demon laughs; laughs loud and long and entirely at Suzaku’s expense. “My god, are you serious? Hah! I feel as if we must both now agree that I am very, very smart and you are very, very dumb. You’re doing this backwards, you fool. My price? That’s last! I’m supposed to proposition you first, then you’re supposed to ask me what of my power I can offer to you.”
“I don’t need power, I need…”
“…Yes?” says the demon in a mockingly patient voice, resting his chin on laced fingers.
“…Balance,” whispers Suzaku, mind cast to the past and his mother’s words, his lessons with Kaguya, Tohdoh’s constant reminders to rein in his strength.
Suzaku can almost feel the demon’s thoughts screech to a halt. The humor is gone from his face as he straightens, an intent look fixed on Suzaku. “You certainly are an odd one, and an idiot no less. I suppose…” He gives a considering hum. “My price, hm? Perhaps we could have a simple trade then, my help for yours?”
Help. Suzaku had “helped” Japan had he not? And it says nothing of what kind of help the demon would offer him. “What you want can’t be that simple. Help? I’m not that much a fool.”
Something almost pleased flashes across the demon’s face, before his eyes sharpen into icy slits. “Never betray me, and my aid will always be at your disposal.”
“I…that’s it?” That can’t be it.
“Ah, but it seems fair enough: I would never be able to act through you out of your allowances, would I not? That is how these things work after all. Imagine, all of my power yours to command for the simple price of not doing something. A certain type of loyalty sure, but no less than what is expected in any usual partnership.”
“No,” Suzaku says slowly, brow furrowed because… “No, I want something from you too.” Something doesn’t feel right. The balance is skewed—and not in Suzaku’s favor.
A delicate brow is raised. “Power?”
“A promise.” Suzaku is not a fool, he knows a silver tongue when he hears it. “Can loyalty truly be called such if it could be based upon lies?” he asks and the demon’s eyes go wide, shock giving his face an innocence that makes him look young. “If I know the truth then I can abide by your cause. But,” his hand rests on the pommel of his sword, thrust in the ground at the center of the gate he stands before, “only if it does not invalidate my own.”
“You would betray me then if you deemed it so?” The demon almost laughs the words out, incredulous. “You do know what that would mean if you were to break our contract, yes? Your blood boiling away in your veins and your soul forfeit for my pleasure.”
Suzaku just watches him, steadfast. “Give me your word, and I will give you my life.”
The demon stares at him before haunting delight crawls across his face. “You,” he says with breathless rapture, “are truly the most disastrously fractured human I have yet had the misfortune to meet.”
And then suddenly the demon is before him in a flash of light, a skew of a prism casting him close, the cut in his overlong tunic falling around his legs like a split skirt as he stands before Suzaku, eyes glimmering. Dangerous and radiating restrained power.
“My aid for your allegiance and my word for your life. Very well, by my name as Zero, this pact I shall offer to thee,” he declares with savage glee.
Suzaku has barely accepted the oath before the demon—Zero is upon him, five buzzing brands of energy gripping his jaw and forcing Suzaku’s mouth open. A tongue of flame caresses against his own, licking in and up, sliding against Suzaku’s upper palate as the roof of his mouth, sparks, starts to bubble, melt, lines carving away flesh as they engrave themselves in a jagged, dizzying pattern that he already knows soul deep. For a moment, feathers of fire build up in his throat but Suzaku breathes through them as he always does, accepting the electrifying, potential energy of Zero’s power to slide flush within him.
Then Zero bites his tongue, teeth slicing through in an impossible shape. Power lights up his senses but this feels more familiar, like a boon offered from a kami: Zero’s promise.
Suzaku is gasping as he leans away, blood and saliva running down his chin as Zero licks a smear of red (blood, Suzaku’s blood) from his upper lip, watching Suzaku with a predators’ expectant gaze, but this part he remembers.
“This one, as Kururugi Suzaku, does so swear to uphold this contract,” he forces out, hyper-aware of the mark Zero left as his bleeding tongue rasps against it—and crap, he mangled his phrasing, but it doesn’t seem to matter, Zero’s lip curling in satisfaction as he loosely wraps his arms around Suzaku’s neck.
“Oh my, surname as well?” Zero croons, tone smug to the point of concern. “Well then Suzaku Kururugi, you may call me Lelouch vi Britannia.”
And the shock of already being granted Zero’s personal name almost pushes it from his mind but, “Wait, vi Britannia? What—!?”
The laugh he gets as a response is high and manic, rich and loud and dripping mirth and oh, Suzaku is in so much trouble. “Oh wouldn’t you like to know!” The demon leans in ever closer as the contract sears their souls together. “Earn it,” Lelouch breathes in his ear, voice a hot snake sliding into Suzaku’s brain.
“Yes, my lord,” drops from his mouth, unheeded by his mind.
Suzaku’s first step out of the gate is an epiphany, the next an illumination, the one that finally clears the summoning circle a revelation.
Lelouch, Suzaku realizes as heady power rocks through him, bringing him to his knees, is not like the others.
Immensity crashes down around him as he fully anchors the demon’s presence to the material plane because Zero is not like the demons that grant Anya her lightning-swift speed, Gino his knack for explosions, Bismarck his split-second foresight.
Lelouch is the entropy of the void. Rule breaking, he’d said but this isn’t just that, this is the stars coming into alignment and miracles falling into your lap but by the grace of Zero himself, a finger on the scale to tip fate in his favor, the impossible brought to bear, the unthinkable made real by the beat of butterfly wings.
Infinite potential compacted into the shell of Suzaku’s skull.
“I am going to vomit.”
“Hey! Woah dude, Suzaku are you okay?”
“You’re not going to throw up, calm down.” And he doesn’t know whether to sigh or sob when Lelouch reels himself in and Suzaku stops feeling as if he’ll split at the seams. “It’s been a while since I had to fit myself in a space that wasn’t solely metaphoric.”
“—zaku, Suzaku! Hey man, c’mon.” Hands support his shoulders as the dry heaves settle, the other Rounds who had come in a show of support finally able to see him again after he left the now inert circle.
“I’m fine. I’m fine, Gino,” Suzaku stutters, mouth dry as he waves the Knight of Three off. “He just didn’t…fit.”
The toothy grin Gino gets at that almost makes his headache come back. “Too big huh? Yeah they can get overwhelming like that.”
“Not big, it’s just—” The largest bonfire on Earth could never compare to a nuclear reactor held in the palm of your hand, the scale is too immense.
Lelouch will not grant him power, he does not have power to grant.
Lelouch is power.
“Flatterer,” Lelouch murmurs, voice a sensation that drags fingers down his throat from the inside.
Suzaku’s breath stutters as he tries to hold in a shiver but that just seems to encourage Lelouch to run a touch of power through their contract and…ah.
There is absolutely no way he isn’t in over his head on this in every conceivable way, Suzaku can’t help but think as he lists to the side, stumbling into hands that are warm with Guren’s power as Gino scrambles to catch the dead weight of him as he falls.
With a twist to his heart, Suzaku feels the echo of a sly smile trapped under his skin.
Ohh, Suzaku is in so much trouble.