Author's Note: OK, so, just to keep you all informed. The dates in this chapter, the ones given regarding historical events, have been appropriately adjusted, having taken into account the fact that the Ascension Throne Britannia (ATB) Calendar starts 55 years before the Gregorian Calendar that we use. I have warned you, so just add 55 years to any historical date and you'll get the actual year. Enjoy.

Look at my profile for my writing schedule! BEFORE you ask me in a review or PM!

As always, Read, Review and check out my other stories.

Disclaimer: Code Geass isn't mine.

Beta'd By BigCC.

"Kallen" - Speech

'Lelouch' - Thought/mental communication

"{Die}" - Geass Command

"Halt!" - Loudspeaker

"Roger." - Radio/Walkie-Talkie

Chapter 33: Corruption in Kyoto: Kadzuki's Rebellion

Two Days Later, After School

C.C.'s Room, Lamperouge Siblings' Wing, Ashford Academy Student Council Clubhouse

C.C. was completely silent as she worked on polishing her sword. Regular maintenance was important for any implement of war, whether it be modern or medieval, and the Immortal had long ago learned that it was always best to do this kind of thing with her own two hands.

'No one should know your blade better than you.' One of her contractors had told her this ages ago. She believed it was Napoleon who had said it, it certainly sounded like something that the imperialistic and overly dramatic little gnome would say.

She was pulled from her musings when the door to her room opened, revealing her latest contractor.

"C.C., I…" Milly started to say before pausing.

"I take it you're feeling better now after you threw up a couple of nights ago when we got back from Fukuoka?" C.C. asked pointedly without looking up, making the Ashford Heiress blanch in shock.

"How…?"

"I granted you a Geass, girl. That leaves a connection between us, one that I can use to locate you, as well as get a very general idea about your health." The verdette replied, looking up just long enough to grace Milly with a rather smug smirk. "You were quite nauseous for a couple of hours after Lelouch, Sayoko and I left you in the guest bedroom here."

"I…am a bit ashamed of that." Milly admitted. "I don't want to lose Lelouch by having him think I'm squeamish like that."

"What nonsense are you prattling on about now?" C.C. scoffed absently as she continued her work. She had taken a liking to Milly, but she was still a bit of an overdramatic teen at times. "Aside from either born soldiers or born killers, and the line between those two is one of the finest you'll ever find, everyone suffers some kind of issue after taking a life for the first time. I did the same thing after my first kill over six-hundred and fifty years ago, back before I'd had much in the way of combat training. It was a soldier standing guard at a castle that I needed to leave. He was a young boy, barely old enough to shave, but devoted to his duty and he would have sounded the alarm had I not snuck up behind him and cut his throat. I managed to flee for a day and a night before I allowed myself to vomit in disgust at what I had done."

Milly listened with wide eyes. It was so hard to imagine the proud, confident and somewhat distant Immortal woman before her reacting in such a way.

"The sad thing is, Milly, that the human mind is very adaptable and can acclimate to a surprising number of situations; each kill after the first becomes easier and easier to do." The Immortal sighed sadly. "At least in your case, the matter was entirely a matter of self-defence."

The blond girl bit her lip as she remembered the incident in Code-R's Tertiary Site in Fukuoka. They had been rounding up the scientists so that Zero/Lelouch could Geass them into divulging everything of value that they knew before C.C. was allowed to take her well-deserved pound of flesh. Unfortunately, one of the guards had been smart enough to rip off his transponder and destroy it when he had realised that Auger/Sayoko was using the base's own systems against them. He had sprung an ambush in the stairwell as Milly/Incognito had been escorting one male researcher (with a large overbite and bad acne scars) from the lowest level.

Milly had reacted almost instinctively as he had leapt out, brandishing a submachinegun in her direction. She had drawn, aimed and fired her dual pistols faster than he could draw a bead on her, putting a bullet through each of his eyes like they were targets at the end of a firing range.

At the time, she had played it off easily by embracing and using the persona of 'Incognito' as a shield and had merely chivvied the terrified man she had been escorting up the stairs, and she'd even played it down to her boyfriend and fellows as they had stolen every bit of data in Code-R, swiped every experimental prototype and mock-up model in the labs, sent the Geassed staff of Code-R out to travel to their new home-away-from-home until they had transcribed everything they knew about Code-R, its funding and its shell companies down before C.C. was allowed to deal with them, and finally departing the area after allowing the Immortal Witch to hardwire the entire facility to blow three days later.

It had only been after that, when she had been left alone in the guest room and without something to distract her, that she had felt the overwhelming need to empty her stomach of everything she had eaten that day.

"I know. He would have shot me if I hadn't reacted fast enough." She admitted, though she still sounded a bit unsure.

"Not that it would have done much except bruise you." C.C. offered with a smirk. "The costumes that Lelouch makes us wear are bulletproof and knife resistant, including the helmets. It would take an armour-piercing round to do more than bruise us, maybe crack a rib if the weapon firing is strong or close enough. And I highly doubt that the bumblers they had guarding those maggots were given anything close to that firepower."

Honestly, the one who'd tried to ambush Milly had been the only competent one there; the rest had been fool enough to charge in and trust that superior numbers and a 'spray-and-pray' mentality would win them the day.

"So…I'm just going to have to get used to it?" Milly asked softly.

"If you wish to continue taking part in combat missions then sadly yes." The Immortal shrugged. "And I've been in Lelouch's mind; I can't help but reach out to it whenever we touch. He admires and loves you, Millicent Ashford, and would not think less of you to beg off of missions from here on out if you wanted. You have skills other than those of a soldier that will be useful to our young prince."

"I would still prefer to stand at his side, to watch his back with you and Sayoko. God knows there are going to be more than enough people ready to stick a knife in it before this is done." Milly shook her head stubbornly. "I'll get used to it soon enough, I suppose."

Putting her sword down, C.C. got up and looked the girl in the eyes seriously. "As you wish. But do not keep things to yourself, Milly. Lelouch, Sayoko and I are here to talk to, and none of us are going to think any less of you for needing time to adjust."

"R-Really?" Milly said in a quiet tone.

"Dear girl, out of the four of us, you are the closest thing to normal that there is." C.C. offered with a smile that was both gentle and the smallest bit patronizing. "I am a seven-hundred-year-old Immortal who has, at a very conservative estimate, slain enough people to populate a large village over the years, Sayoko is a trained kunoichi who has been raised to think of killing as an inevitable outcome rather than as a mere possibility, and Lelouch is of the Britannian Imperial Family, raised with the mind-set that casualties are an inevitable part of life. By comparison, you have been raised with care and love by your grandfather, albeit with a lot of the usual training that most of the actually competent members of the Nobility go through. What you have lacked until now is a reason to put that training to use, as well as any kind of mental training to prepare you for the possibility of taking a life. Considering you were able to last several hours before you were overwhelmed by your realisation of what you had done, that isn't anything to be ashamed of."

As seemed to be the case a lot when Milly dealt with the Immortal, she found her cheeks flushing a fiery red at the complements she got. Really, who was the so-called Ashford Casanova around here?!

"A-Anyway, thanks for that." Milly smiled at C.C. brightly. "I also wanted to ask about Geass. I don't really know much about it, but I've heard you refer to mine as a 'Ward-type' and to Lelouch and Sayoko's as 'Standard Absolute-types' and I was hoping to find something out about them."

"Hmm…I suppose a quick explanation wouldn't go amiss." C.C. mused as she sat down on her bed and gestured for Milly to sit in the chair nearby, which the girl did. "First off, there are three main types of Geass: Absolute Ward-type, Standard Absolute-type and Absolute Seal-type. All Geass manifest as powers to do with the mind or, to be more concise, the mind and the nervous system."

Milly nodded to show she was following.

"To start with your own type, the Absolute Ward-type of Geass is usually seen as being weaker than the other two, mostly because they are the type that most often develop some form of negative side-effects from regular use, as well as sometimes being resistible."

"Wait, I thought all Geass were impossible to resist." The Ashford Heiress protested.

"To the vast majority of people they are. However, there are always the exceptional ones that can defy the rules." C.C. nodded at her. "Dear Sayoko is proof that a strong enough will can resist and defy the effects of some forms of Geass. She was able to resist the effects of Desmond's Ward of Absolute Slumber for over five minutes, which is very impressive. In the case of your Ward of Absolute Puppetry, I would guess that someone with a strong enough will or one with great control over their own body could resist your control, perhaps even managing to fight it off to a point, although it would probably cause muscle and nerve damage for them to do so."

"Yikes…" Milly winced, as with a portion of the Ashford's manufacturing business dealing in the medical equipment, she'd been taught enough about medicine to know that nerve damage was never pleasant.

"By far more common than Absolute Ward-types are the Standard Absolute-type Geass." C.C continued. "Out of all Geass, they are the ones that manifest approximately half of the time in the case of my contractors, making you one of the other half. They can have amazing power, as seen in Lelouch's Geass of Absolute Obedience. In the Standard Absolute-type category, there are also two subcategories, that being whether the use needs to lock eyes with their target to take effect or not. Sayoko's Geass of Absolute Empathy is an example of a Type-2 Absolute Geass, as she merely needs to be able to see her target's body in order to use her power."

"Can the Geass use mediums other than eyesight to take effect?" Milly asked, curious.

"Heaven yes." The immortal laughed. "Lelouch needs to verbally order people once his Geass is activated, remember? The mediums used to activate all three types of Geass are sight, sound and touch, although a few like Lelouch's combine two or more. I saw a Geass once that was startlingly like Lelouch's, except it worked solely through the user's voice; the Geass Sigil appearing in his eye was merely a sign of its activation, nothing more."

"Could that have worked over speakers?" Milly shuddered at the possibility.

"No. Although he lacked the traditional 'range limit' that Lelouch possesses, speakers, and most electronic mediums, disrupts the power of a Geass in that manner, which is why Lelouch cannot Geass someone via a recording of himself, for example." The verdette shook her head.

"What kinds of Absolute Geass have you seen?" the blond asked.

"We would be here until this time next year if we were to talk about all of them." C.C. said with a chuckle. "As a random example though…I met a brother and sister team a couple of hundred years ago with mirrored Geass; the brother had the Geass of Absolute Pain, while the sister possessed the Geass of Absolute Pleasure. Together, they would have made a terrifying team of torturers, as you can steel yourself against pain, but not pleasure, especially if you're hit by them one after another."

Milly shuddered again before a thought occurred to her. "And you didn't give them their Geass?"

"Including myself, and whatever idiot gave V.V. his Geass and Code, there were, and still are, at least seven Code Geass Bearers across the world at the time, Milly." C.C. said with a snort. "I am fairly certain that one of them is about three times my age, although I've only ever heard rumours and half-remembered stories about whoever it is. Anyone who manages to make it past the millennium milestone are usually so apathetic toward the world around them that they give out Geass to people for little more than a bit of entertainment. The siblings I mentioned were one such 'entertainment' made by a Code Bearer."

"That's…" Milly shook her head in dismay. Giving out what were essentially Superpowers for no reason other than entertainment? What kind of crazy were these…?

"Yes, I am aware." C.C. smiled sadly. "Anyway, to move on, the last classification of Geass would be what is, arguably, the most powerful: Absolute Seal-type Geass. It is this type that Charles zi Britannia possesses, the Seal of Absolute Consciousness. Seal-type Geass are frequently the most useful type of Geass possible, as most of them can be used on people without Lelouch's once-per-person limitation. An extremely well-known person who possessed this Geass-type would be Nobunaga Oda."

Milly's eyebrows shot up. While Britannian occupation had tried to wipe out or rewrite most of Japan's history, some things simply didn't die easily. "The man known as the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven? The man who embodied the Japanese Sengoku Period until his death in 1527?! That Nobunaga?!"

"Yes to all of that." C.C. smirked. "He possessed an extremely powerful Geass, Milly, one that was perfectly suited for the field of battle on which he excelled. It was called the Seal of Absolute Insight. It permitted him to see the moves of his enemies several steps in advance; where they would move troops, what their orders would be, and such things as that. It was mentally exhausting in the extreme to use though, and in order for it to work, he had to consider someone his enemy, which is how Mitsuhide Akechi managed to catch him off-guard at Honnō-ji Temple."

"Wow…sounds like something Lelouch would have." Milly commented.

"Lelouch's Geass fits him better, because he desires to be in control in all aspects of his life, not merely the battlefield." C.C. countered. "As a statesman, Nobunaga was excellent, and as a battlefield commander, he was also excellent, as well as innovative and ruthless. But from what I've learned Nobunaga always saw himself as warrior general first and foremost, thus his Geass would react to that when his contract was made and grant him the power to rule absolutely over the battlefield."

"Huh…" Milly looked thoughtful for a moment. "You never gave any examples of Ward-type Geass that you'd encountered."

"Aside from yourself and Desmond, most of the Geass Order has Ward-type Geass." C.C. answered with a snort. "I'd be here all day if I were to mention them all. I…my previous contractor, before Lelouch, was a Ward-type. He was a boy from the Chinese Federation, and he possessed the Ward of Absolute Telepathy, allowing him to hear the thoughts of anyone within his bubble of about 500 meters radius and 300 meters height around him. He…Mao…showed me why a child should never be given a Geass; their desires are too mercurial and whimsical, which often results in a powerful Geass. But children lack the will to control and tether that power. Mao's Geass went Runaway inside of a handful of months."

"M-meaning that he HAD to listen to the thoughts of those within his area of effect…oh god!" Milly looked sickened.

"It drove him insane." C.C. confirmed sadly. "To him, I was the only 'real' person around him, because he couldn't hear my thoughts. I left him and returned to Britannia when I concluded that he wouldn't grant my wish."

"Yes…your wish…" the Ashford Heiress murmured. She was silent for a moment before looking shrewdly at Lelouch's first girlfriend. "…C.C., um…did you ever possess a Geass?"

The agate eyes of the Immortal widened slightly at the question, but she relaxed after a moment. "Yes. I was a Ward-type Geass User. My power was the Ward of Absolute Love." She admitted quietly. Lelouch had already parsed out that Geass had something to do with her Code, so letting this slip wasn't damaging.

"Love?" Milly blinked.

"I was a slave, Milly. A lowly, peasant who had been sold to a fat pig of a French Noble in lieu of payment of her parent's debt." C.C stated bluntly, all emotion and life leeching out of her expression as her voice dropped to a monotone as she recalled something she'd rather forget. "I was beaten daily, I was shunned by the few other females on the estate…I was treated like shit on a shoe, simply because they could. The bastard was a raging homosexual who gathered likeminded fellows and servants around him, which is the only reason that I wasn't raped daily as well. I hadn't known love, even from my parents, as faint as my memories are of them. So quite naturally, my greatest desire was to be loved by others, which my Geass allowed me."

Milly tackle-hugged C.C. as she finished her rant, bearing the other woman down to the bed. Dark sapphire met startled agate as the girl hugged the immortal with all her strength. While C.C. could have easily broken her hold, the concern that the Ashford Heiress was feeling for her was literally radiating from the girl like waves from the sun. She didn't even need her little link to the blond girl to tell that.

"Milly? Milly, I'm fine. It's been literal centuries since that time and the stupid bastard died miserably in the Hundred Years War." The verdette said softly, trying to reassure the blond girl. "He was literally gutted alive by English troops, if memory serves."

"But…it's not fair…you didn't deserve all of that…" Milly said wetly.

"In case what has happened to your family and Lelouch isn't enough of a clue my dear, life isn't fair." C.C. chuckled sadly. "We all just have to trim sails and survive in order to get by though. It's what I've done for hundreds of years, and it isn't quite as soul-destroying as it sounds so long as you refuse to give up what matters most."

With one last squeeze, Milly let go of C.C. and let her up, but stayed sitting next to her rather than move back to her chair.

"So your Geass made people love you…was it one kind of love, or…?" Milly asked after a moment spent flicking unshed tears away.

"I could make people love me depending on how I wanted them to love me; as a sister, a friend, an aunt, a daughter…that sort of thing." C.C. replied, lost in memories of that time. "The only time I had ever seen sex before that had been when I had been forced to watch my 'master' rut with his guests or servants and I associated that with sex for quite some time before I got over it. Imagine a fat, smelly, greasy man rutting with another man equally as fat, smelly and greasy, add in that it usually involved multiple people and multiply it almost daily for three or four years, and you'll see why I avoided the idea of having anyone view me as a lover."

Milly almost threw up in her throat at the mental image. "Urp…I'd really rather not."

"So yes, it's why I didn't use my Geass to have a large harem of faithful swains." The immortal smirked. "It wasn't until a couple of decades after I got my Code that I finally managed to rid myself of the mental contamination that had me connecting my former 'master' to carnal acts. The next thing I know, I'm in Venice having a very nice time with an affluent and libertine Venetian Noblewoman who taught me a lot on the art of lesbian lovemaking. End of story."

"And on that note, I'd better go." Milly said, checking the time. "Grandfather wants to have me look over the designs for the new Knightmare Factory that he's going to be building for the military."

She stood up, and then paused before looking back. "One thing…you said that Absolute Seal-types usually don't have the weaknesses of Lelouch's Geass. Do they have any weaknesses?"

"Aside from being hard to control?" C.C. paused in thought. "Well…in the case of ones like Charles', which places a semi-permanent effect on someone, the biggest thing is that they can be broken with time. The initial command is Absolute and cannot be resisted, just like an General Absolute Geass, but unless the user regularly reinforces the Geass, a Seal-type effect will eventually degrade to a point that, as long as the target has a strong enough will to resist it and the right external stimuli is applied, the Seal can be broken and its effects erased."

"Huh…makes sense. If the victim has a strong enough will, they must subconsciously struggle against the command warping their true self. If the Seal itself is not constantly repaired or reinforced, it only makes sense that it'll eventually be eroded away." Milly mused.

C.C. smiled, pleased that the girl had caught on so quickly. "Yes, completely correct. Lelouch's Geass is far more powerful though, possibly the most powerful Standard Absolute-type Geass I have ever seen. If anyone is able to even temporarily resist his orders, it will likely be if he orders something that is completely repugnant to them, such as, say, ordering Princess Euphemia to order a massacre."

Milly turned green at the thought of her gentle friend being forced to carry out such an order. "Gods, no…"

"Lelouch is aware that his Geass might turn Runaway if his willpower dips by much, so he is going to be careful about what words he speaks while he isn't wearing something over his eye." The Immortal reassured her.

"Good…good." The Ashford Heiress said. After taking a moment to recover, she smiled at C.C. gently. "I know you're older than the rest of us and have the whole 'wise, all-knowing immortal thing' going on, but if you do ever want to talk, we are here for you, OK?"

Taken aback at the offer/reassurance, C.C. smiled back after a moment.

"I'll keep that in mind." She said. "Now, off with you before Reuben comes in here, thinking Lelouch is having his wicked way with you."

"Grandpa knows better than to interfere with Lelouch and I." Milly huffed, reaching up and touching her bruised neck and eye. "The only reason that I haven't jumped Lelouch is because we both want our first time together to be without these stupid bruises reminding us of that louse Desmond."

The immortal nodded understandingly. She was going to do her best to forget that little maggot herself. That little boy had been so utterly ruled by his obsession with the midget and his jealousy against his 'pet' assassin that any form of original thought would have died a quick, lonely death in that shrivelled bit of grey matter he'd called a brain. That kind of obsession, particularly when devoted to someone as foul as V.V., always made her skin crawl. Fortunately, she could bury her own memories quite well thanks to her Code, so she'd get on with that pretty soon.

"Oh, and one more thing…" Milly sashayed over and kissed C.C. on the lips, slipping her some tongue as she did so. The squeak of surprise from the Immortal woman was very satisfying to Milly, as was the uncontested domination of her mouth that the blond enjoyed for a moment before C.C. fought back, tongues duelling for a moment before they broke apart.

"…and what…was that in aid of?" C.C. murmured throatily.

"Just to remind you that our little session is still scheduled as well, dear." Milly whispered back. "I signed on not just for Lelouch, but for you and Sayoko as well. I intend to make the best of what I've been offered. No arguments?"

"None from me." The verdette practically purred. "And you won't get any from Sayoko either. She's really starting to enjoy performing for Lelouch."

"Always knew there was a bit of an exhibitionist streak buried under all that decorum, my instincts are never wrong." Milly smirked. "Ta-ta now."

With that, the Ashford Heiress strutted out of the room, closing the door behind her.

"This century is becoming more and more interesting." The immortal mused, a smirk of her own crossing her face. "I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds."

Later

House Head Meeting Room, Six Houses of Kyoto Secret Base

Taizō Kirihara watched stonily as the struggling forms of three old men were brought before him and the remaining loyal members of the Six Houses, their arms bound behind them. The information that Lelouch had passed on recently regarding the likely source of the funding for the so-called 'Neo Shinsengumi' had borne fruit at last.

While he would have loved nothing better than to have arrested and dealt with the idiots summarily, he and Lelouch had eventually agreed that they needed to gather enough evidence so that the three reactionary idiots who were most likely responsible had more than enough rope to hang themselves with.

Investigating them had been very simple indeed; none of the idiots realised that he had long-since planted bugs in their communications systems and microphones in their private quarters, as well as subverted more than a few of their servants. With those tools in play, he had monitored their dealing with Kadzuki, which had admittedly consisted of them shouting at the Major for 'exceeding his authority' and threatening to 'pull all of their support if he did anything like that again.' It had been more than enough to show that, while his former compatriots had thought that they held his leash, the attack dog they planned to use as Zero's foil was out of their control, if he'd ever been so in the first place.

Worse, more than a third of the low-level scientists who worked for the Six Houses had been lured to his side, taking with them several minor projects that they had been working on, as well as the last of the prototype Raikō. Although that last wasn't a big loss; its shortcomings and strengths had been displayed for all to see who knew it had been there and while it was a superb defensive weapon against even massed Sutherlands in an enclosed space, out in the open it was far too vulnerable.

"Taizō! What is the meaning of this outrage!?" Hiroyosi Yoshida demanded from his position on his knees in front of the remaining four members of the Six Houses.

"You cannot simply arrest us like this!" Tatsunori Osakabe bit out.

"Not without evidence!" Tousai Munakata finished, his face turning puce from his anger.

"Evidence…ah…such as this recording of a call between yourselves and one Major Sentarō Kadzuki that took place several nights ago, perhaps?" Kirihara asked archly, holding up a disk and tossing it down in front of them before reaching for another. "Or this footage of men from the Yoshida and Osakabe Clans moving several Burai-Kai into trucks? Or perhaps even this recording of a meeting you had before the Battle of Port Yokosuka? Is that sufficient proof?!"

With each item of proof, the three reactionaries paled more and more.

"T-Taizō…you were spying on us?!" Osakabe snarled, trying to use his indignant anger to cover his shock.

"That's Lord Kirihara to you, Osakabe." Kaguya said coldly. "He is the head of our group and is deserving of respect for that. You three traitors, however, are not deserving of that respect."

"Traitors?! How were we to know that the fool Kadzuki would attempt to assassinate Zero?!" Hiroyosi spluttered in outrage.

"By the fact that the man has formed his own group despite the fact that we directed all Japan Liberation Front personnel to join the Black Knights, perhaps, Grandfather?" Akira Yoshida said stonily, his gaze towards his older relative lacking any warmth. "I can only be thankful that even you three were not foolish enough to disclose Zero's true identity to Kadzuki. The kami themselves only know what the fanatic may have done."

"Impudent brat!" the elder Yoshida snarled. "I don't know why you think you can get away with this, but you cannot! Kubōin, do something!"

"Why would I?" the elderly man raised an eyebrow at his former peer. "I have reviewed the evidence and it is both damning and conclusive. You three knowingly and deliberately provided funds and materials to someone deemed to be a threat to the future of Japan, in spite of all reports from General Todoh indicating that Kadzuki is a walking time-bomb and PR disaster waiting to happen. That the first thing he did after acquiring your first few loads of supplies and equipment was to attempt to dishonourably assassinate Zero on the field of battle shows that not only did you choose poorly, but that he was never under your control in the first place."

"You would hand the future of Japan over to that…that…brat! We had to do something to counteract him!" Munakata spat.

"Those who fight apart, all die together, Munakata." Kirihara stated simply. "There has been enough in the way of bloodshed between resistance groups over the past seven years. The populace of the ghettos have almost had their spirits crushed under the jackboot of the Britannians. Fairly soon, they will forget the pride of being Japanese altogether. It is imperative that Japan is liberated soon; otherwise our reason for existing will cease to be. You reach for the stars, when we have only just managed to crawl our way out of the gutters…all thanks to Zero. If you three cannot see that much, then you are guilty of both hubris and blind hatred. I cannot permit you to continue acting against the future existence of Japan."

"What kind of Japan will there be with that…that…that Britannian bastard-child at the helm?!" Hiroyosi screamed. He looked around eagerly at the guards that lined the walls…and found to his disbelief that none of them reacted beyond looking at him in disgust.

"Did you really think my personal guard would be affected by your words?" Taizō scoffed contemptuously. "I picked those loyal to me, first and foremost. Several of them were my guards back during the last days before the invasion. They remember the boy Lelouch was and his hatred for the monster that sired him…and find you wanting for wishing him dead."

"To answer your question, however, it will be a Japan free of the rule of the country that took his mother from him, that crippled his sister, which cast him off like refuse, which tried to kill him in the first stages of the invasion!" Kaguya stated in a frigidly ice-cold tone of voice, her eyes looking at the old fool before her as if he were already dead. "Britannia means so little to him by this point that I don't doubt he only considers himself Britannian due to the location where he was born, nothing more. He has stood for our people, protecting them from his own blood, delivered food and medical supplies to them, even returning to us the Sanshu no Jingi that we thought lost forever and still you remain convinced of your rectitude? There can be no saving you. Agreed, fellow family heads?"

"Agreed." Kirihara growled.

"Agreed." Akira said frostily.

"Agreed." Kubōin nodded.

"By a vote of four in favour, two suspended, the Family Heads of the Six Houses of Kyoto find its former members Hiroyosi Yoshida, Tatsunori Osakabe and Tousai Munakata guilty of high treason to the people of Japan and the Six Houses itself." Kaguya stated. "Taizō-dono, I leave sentencing up to you."

"Thank you, Kaguya-hime." The old industrialist nodded genially. He stared down at the three old men before him, their faces frozen in shock, horror and disbelief that this was actually happening to them. They had counted on their long service to the Six Houses and their lineage to protect them from the consequences of their actions.

Unfortunately for them, they had tried to leash a mad dog and had failed, and that failure had nearly cost Japan everything it had gained recently.

"First, I strip Tatsunori Osakabe and Tousai Munakata of their positions as Family Heads, effective immediately." He said with a dangerous glint in his eyes. "Second, your rights to name your successors are removed; we will appoint Family Heads of our choice to those positions, as outlined in the Rules of the Six Houses, under the section pursuant to treason and subversive activities to the disadvantage of Kyoto House as a whole. Third…I sentence you three to death."

"You have no right to do that!" Osakabe roared, fighting his bonds futilely. "No Leader of the Six Houses has that right over any of the Six Families!"

"Ah, but I am not speaking as the Head of the Six Houses with that last one." Taizō Kirihara said with a small, cruel smirk. "I am speaking as the Sesshō (Prince Regent) of her Imperial Highness, Empress-elect Kaguya Sumeragi, the Chrysanthemum Throne Herself."

The former House Heads looked at him in appalled silence. Yes, with the main bloodline of the Imperial family dead, only the branch houses of Kururugi and Sumeragi were left, and the last Kururugi was a bedamned traitor, but the idea that there would be a thrice-damned Empress on the throne was too much to believe! The last female ruler of Japan had been the Empress Go-Sakuramachi who, while proving to be an excellent ruler for her brief time on the throne, had abdicated in favour of her nephew in 1716!

Emperor Shōwa and his entire family had committed honourable seppuku rather than fall into the hands of the Britannians. In the seven years since, Munakata, Osakabe and Hiroyosi had entertained dreams of marrying Kaguya off to an easily biddable relative who would father a child by her and force her to abdicate in favour of the brat, setting themselves up as the Sesshō and de-facto rulers of Japan…until Taizō had taken her under his wing and made her strong-willed and politically savvy, displaying a strong and ruthless intellect as she rebuffed all attempts to force her into a marriage.

"That reminds me, you will have to pick a reign name." Taizō noted to Kaguya.

"Until Japan is freed, choosing a reign name is pointless." Kaguya sighed. "Let the Nanashi (Nameless) Period continue until we are free."

"As you wish." Taizō nodded before turning back to the three stunned traitors. "Now, I am nothing if not sympathetic to you; you have all served Japan with distinction for many years and as a result, you get to choose: Honourable seppuku or a dishonourable bullet."

"Fuck that!" Osakabe roared and renewed his struggle.

"So Osakabe choses a bullet to the brain." The Head of Kyoto House noted clinically. "And the both of you?"

"I have done nothing dishonourable that I need atone for!" Hiroyosi spat. "All I have done was for Japan!"

"Seppuku." Munakata sighed. "Will I get a kaishakunin?"

"Indeed you will, as I am not stupid enough to allow you to grasp any kind of weapon." Taizō smirked. A kaishakunin was someone who assisted a person in committing seppuku by beheading them after they stabbed themselves in the stomach with a tantō. In the cases where it was too dangerous to allow the person committing seppuku to be allowed to grasp a weapon, the second person, the kaishakunin, was the one who dealt the only blow, signalled by the first grabbing a fan or something else harmless. "Do you want to write a jisei?"

"A death poem? Hardly." Munakata scoffed. "I chose my path, now I will reap the consequences. There is nothing more that needs to be said"

"Munakata, you fucking sell-out!" Osakabe shouted.

"I prefer to leave this world with honour and dignity." The other man said calmly. "You chose your path and I now choose my own."

"Take those other two and deal with them immediately." Taizō ordered and the guards moved in to roughly pull the two defiant traitors to their feet.

"Curse you, Taizō!" Hiroyosi screamed as he weakly fought his captors. "Curse you to hell and back!"

"I'll doubtlessly join you down there in a couple of years' time, you old fool." The industrialist replied calmly.

"You'll regret this!" Osakabe growled, glaring hatefully at his former comrades as he planted his feet firmly. "You'll regret supporting that brat when he brings all of Japan down on your heads in flames!"

"My future husband is unlikely to do that, Osakabe." Kaguya smiled beatifically at him. "He will lead Japan into the future. It is a shame you will not live to eat humble pie when you are proven so drastically wrong."

Screaming and cursing, the two old men were unceremoniously dragged out of the room by the guards. Munakata looked calmly at his former superior, a sense of serenity falling over him as he approached the end.

"Look after Japan, Taizō." He said quietly. "Kyoto House is all that remains of the old Japan."

"Rest assured, old friend, Japan is in good hands." Taizō replied before signalling to the guards to escort the last traitor from their presence. As they had been talking, forces loyal to the Six Houses as a whole had initiated a purge of all suspect personnel who had helped the rebellious members deliver goods to Kadzuki. They were also doing a complete overhaul of all security procedures and codes just in case Kadzuki's or his men had somehow managed to acquire their base's location from any of the three traitors or those that answered to them.

Sadly, the only information that Kadzuki had given the two former House Heads was a set of coordinates to leave the supplies at, which when tracked down revealed a clearing in the middle of a forest, nowhere near any former JLF bases. Kadzuki was faithful to the basics of secrecy, if nothing else.

Ignoring the pair of gunshots that echoed through the base, the old oligarch turned his attention to his fellows.

"Now then, I believe we should discuss the replacements for Tatsunori and Tousai." Kirihara said calmly. "Nominations please."

Later

Commander's Office, Hidden Base of the Neo Shinsengumi, Unknown Location

"Hm. So all our sources from inside Kyoto House have gone silent, have they?" Major Kadzuki mused. He was slipping on his pale blue haori as he spoke.

"Yes sir." Sergeant Minazuki replied professionally. "All appointed dead drops were empty and all scheduled meetings were no-shows."

Although she sounded professional, the sergeant was naked from the waist up, although she was pulling on her bra as she spoke. She was the Major's mistress, and had been since before the Invasion, and he called upon her to perform for him whenever he wanted her.

"I see…that is a disappointing outcome." Kadzuki actually frowned. "I had hoped that the rest of the Six Houses were as ossified and hidebound as those three fools who gifted us with supplies. Still, it is of no matter."

"How are we to get supplies now, though?" Minazuki asked as she finished getting dressed. "Food and water are good, but we only have sixty Knightmares, and that's including the five regular Burai, plus enough Energy Fillers, spare parts and ammunition for two, perhaps three, battles before we run dry."

"Ah, Ayako, Ayako…" Kadzuki chuckled lightly. "I was fully expecting someone in the Six Houses to trip over the doings of Hiroyosi, Osakabe and Munakata eventually, so I prepared several…contingency plans for when that happened. Although I must confess, I was hoping to get more than a single load of supplies and funding out of the fossils before they were silenced. I suppose they were even more incompetent than I imagined."

"Contingency plans, sir?" the sergeant asked with a blink.

"I have several, but most will take some time to be useful. Fortunately, a contact of mine in the Japanese Government-in-Exile in the Chinese Federation is sending us supplies within the next two days." The Major said with a frown.

He trusted those relics and bootlickers about as much as they likely trusted him, but he doubted they'd send him faulty supplies. The main problem was the quality of the supplies, considering the Chinese Federation's Gun-Ru Fourth Gen Knightmares were pieces of crap suited only for mass-fire and human wave tactics. The kami alone knew if their Energy Fillers would even slot into Burai-Kai, let alone how well they'd preform.

"Another one is that several of the less than stellar Britannian Base Commanders out in the sticks have yet to be noticed by that naïve princess and have all the competency of my shoes." The leader of the Neo Shinsengumi continued. "A lot of those are materiel transhipment locations for the Britannian military's bases in far-flung parts of the country. A few decisive, simultaneous strikes and we will have all the supplies we shall need for quite some time."

"That's good to hear, sir." Minazuki nodded firmly.

"Now we come to your…position." Kadzuki said mildly. "Being a mere sergeant is unfitting for my lover and trusted aide, so I am now promoting you to the rank of Second Lieutenant, effective immediately."

"Sir, the men might speak of nepotism!" the woman protested, although not that strenuously.

"They already know that you speak with my words." The man snorted. "This will simply make it official. Moving on, how are those scientists doing?"

"Sadly we swayed more lab assistants than actual scientists and engineers to our side, but those who came are settling in to their new quarters well." The newly frocked officer replied after a moment. "However, the designs they brought are...interesting, to say the least. One of them has come up with a land battleship design combining the best parts of the Britannian G-1 and the Chinese Federation Longdan into a single composite craft."

"Indeed?" Kadzuki raised an eyebrow. Out of the three superpowers, the Euro Universe was the only one not to invest in some form of land battleship, preferring to use command trailers so their officers could escape a battle relatively unnoticed if something went wrong.

Miserable cowards, the lot of them.

The G-1 was exclusively for the use of Britannian Royalty and Imperial Generals and could comfortably transport and launch up to ten Knightmares and had a field hospital mounted in the back. Its main weakness was the fact that it was nearly defenceless against Knightmare Frames. Its only armaments were a single front mounted cannon and a pair of side-mounted CIWS. The main cannon itself was originally designed as an antitank weapon and was too slow to deal with Knightmares and the CIWS were designed more to deal with angry mobs or infantry rather than Knightmare frames.

The Longdan was larger and much more heavily armed, able to bombard the enemy from afar with its two large 31.5 inch main cannons, as well as attack closer-in enemies with the thirteen or so regular main battle tank cannons. It could carry dozens of Gun-Ru Knightmares and was even more heavily armoured than the G-1. Its own large size, at least three times that of the G-1, made it very impractical for urban combat, however, and it was far slower as well.

"Well that's encouraging. See to it that the scientist has what he needs to complete that project." Kadzuki directed. "Has he named it, by any chance?"

"She. And she's named it the Ryūgū temporarily." Minazuki replied.

"Dragon Palace, eh?" Kadzuki smirked. "I like her way of thinking. Any other standouts?"

"Aside from the Ryūgū and the miniaturised Raikō Cannon that you already know about, there is one other." The 2nd Lieutenant stated. "A proposal for an enlarged version of a Knightmare, but not like the sort used by the former Middle Eastern Federation. Rather than a simple tank on legs, this will have all of the manoeuvrability and agility of a Burai-Kai combined with overwhelming firepower…or so the scientist in question claims."

"I find myself intrigued. Why did the Six Houses not fund his research?" the Major asked curiously.

"According to his subordinates, it's because the man pushes things too far and tends to forget the limits of your average human." Minazuki replied, scorn in her voice for scientists in general and that one in particular. "If we carefully monitor his progress and ensure that several of his colleagues knock him down a peg or two every now and then to keep the end product usable, it should be a worthy investment."

"Hmm…set people we trust to this project, Ayako." Kadzuki said seriously. "Even more so than with the land battleship project, this could be a game breaker. Again, has the scientist named this project?"

"Again, just a temporary name, sir…the Ryūō." His lover answered.

"Do I sense some collaboration between our two scientists, perhaps?" the Major raised an eyebrow.

"The opposite sir, they cannot stand each other." Minazuki smirked. "Which makes the coincidentally matching names all the more amusing."

"Ensure that the first one, whatever her name is, designs one of her Ryūgū to possess a special launch cradle for the Ryūō once we have enough proof that it will actually play out." Kadzuki ordered. "Have you found out if any of them know the location of the Six Houses and their base?"

"None." Minazuki shook her head. "These are low-ranking researchers and their aides, sir. The scientific base and the Six Houses' base have always been kept separate. Even though all of the scientists had been to the main base at least once, they were kept completely in the dark about its location and surroundings. All of them had different journey lengths and all of them had no chance to see any windows or anything that could as much as hint to the location of the base. The senior researchers might know, but none were palatable to our cause and we didn't want to risk gaining the rest of Kyoto's attention by trying for an abduction."

"Well it's likely that the old science base is being moved as we speak, so a fat lot of good that does us." Kadzuki sighed impatiently. "Ah well, no use to moan about spilt milk now."

After a few more minutes of talking, Minazuki left to carry out his orders. Kadzuki returned to his desk and started on the paperwork. Even in dissident and rebellious organisations, there was paperwork.

A minute later, he looked up and raised an eyebrow. "And exactly how long have you been in the room, Valefar?"

Standing in front of his desk was a figure wearing a form-concealing robe with a hood. The only part visible was a gunmetal grey helmet that completely enclosed their head. The helm's faceplate was slightly elongated and completely featureless save for a dark visor where the eyes should be. The only decoration was an elongated triangular design done in red, starting just above the visor and going down the length of the mask.

"Long enough to see you rutting with that woman." Valefar replied, their voice a synthesised one that altered pitch, tone and reverberation on a completely random basis as far as Kadzuki could figure out. "She was already loyal enough to you without the promotion. Have some of your little band of fanatics already started plotting against you, for you to need a strong right arm?"

"Hardly." Kadzuki scoffed. "My men are loyal. I reward loyalty and competency, in that order, and Ayako is both in spades. She would allow me to get her with child should I order it."

"Hmph. So you have started to see that Zero is not as simple as you imagined, I take it?" the masked and cloaked person before him prodded verbally.

Kadzuki scowled. It had been shortly after the Battle of Narita that Valefar had contacted him, offering their support in exchange for sanctuary. Intrigued, the Major had met with them and been astounded by the mysterious power that Valefar possessed. As a token of good faith, Valefar had informed him that Zero possessed a power as well, one even stronger than Valefar's own.

Quite how Valefar had known about that was something of a mystery, but Kadzuki had reluctantly allowed that if Zero did possess a power such as Valefar's own, then he was no ordinary man indeed.

What bugged the Major was that he knew about as much about Valefar as he did about Zero; basically nothing aside from their appearances and names. He had no clue as to what Valefar's goal was, or even what gender Valefar was, making talking about them very awkward indeed.

"He was behind the purge of the Six Houses?" he asked the figure before him.

"Your move at the end of the Battle of Yokosuka probably tipped him off that you had more supplies than what you had managed to squirrel away when you defected." Valefar replied placidly. "That you had information on both the Guren Nishiki and whatever manner of Knightmare Zero himself was piloting also showed you knew more than you should. From your actions he likely deduced your intent and manner of thinking. From what you showed him, he used logic to trace back to some of the few sources of supply you could appeal to and commenced to slam the door shut in your face there…permanently. I have little doubt that the Six Houses are even more solidly in Zero's favour than they were before."

"Well now…that's interesting." Kadzuki mused, tapping one finger on his desk. "It would take a sharp intellect and clear mind to do that so quickly after a fierce battle and an assassination attempt; I had hoped that the two combined would have at least knocked Zero off his game for a bit. Useful information to know about our masked friend."

"Do you really intend to rebel against Britannia? They will not let Japan go due to the Sakuradite beneath the earth here." The masked figure asked intently.

"Over 70% of the Sakuradite reserves are on Honshō, with Hokkaido and Kyushu holding 28% of the remaining amount. That leaves a measly 2% on Shikoku, and it is that I intend to reclaim." The major replied steadily, naming the smallest of the four main islands in the Japanese Archipelago. "With enough preparation fortification, it would be impossible for us to be dislodged without the attacker suffering extreme casualties. Far more than it is worth to Britannia."

"You forget that surrendering even a single island would be a wound to Britannia's vaunted pride, something Charles the Conqueror would never allow. Your forces cannot absorb those kinds of casualties, neither can Zero's…but Britannia's almost endless armies certainly can." Valefar pointed out clinically. "What you need is something to keep Britannia from invading in the first place. The best sort of fight is one that you win without having to throw a single punch, after all."

"Charles zi Britannia invaded without hesitation despite the two children of his former favourite consort being present." Kadzuki snorted. "If you know something that could make the Blood Emperor hesitate, then by all means, elucidate me."

'Blood Emperor' was the nickname that the 98th Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire had gained after the Emblem of Blood Period, and it had spread far and wide across the world with the increased stepping up of the Britannian conquests over the years, but it had never been more prevalent after he callously invaded Japan in spite of his son and daughter being present. Their declared deaths after the invasion had cemented Charles' status among the international community as an unfeeling tyrant who sacrificed his own family without hesitation or feeling.

"I used to work for him as an agent…he has an entire clandestine agency filled to the brim with people like Zero and I." Valefar stated lazily. "They're so secret even most of the Office of Secret Intelligence doesn't know they exist. Threaten to expose that, with proof to back your claims up, and he will, begrudgingly, acquiesce."

Kadzuki had to admit that the idea of an entire organisation of people with mysterious powers as strong as or stronger than Valefar's own made his blood run cold. Suddenly, all of those 'accidental deaths' and 'deaths by misadventure' that had cropped up over the years since Charles' rise to power suddenly took upon a much more sinister light.

"And the instant that I bring it up, he will no doubt unleash his army of mysterious power users upon me!" he snapped harshly.

"I have sympathisers within the organisation, some of whom owe me their very lives and are as dissatisfied with their life in the shadows as I am." Valefar said silkily. "They will no doubt come at my summoning. And please, call the power a 'Geass' as that is its proper name."

"Geass…" the Major tested the word slowly. "Is there no way for me to acquire one?"

"From my knowledge there are always seven Code Bearers alive on this world at any time, one of whom is in Japan right now…the Immortal Witch C.C., who likely gave Zero his Geass in the first place." The masked figure said coolly. "I find it unlikely that she will give you one so long as Zero still lives, though if you manage to prove yourself his superior that may change. The only other one I know of is the one who gave me mine…the little psychopath known as V.V., who works on behalf of the Britannian Emperor directly, meaning that it is even more unlikely that he would give you one. The rest are all very good at hiding and have avoided the world stage thus far, something which I doubt will change any time soon."

"Tch. Well, it was only a thought." Kadzuki dismissed the idea once he knew it was unfeasible. "Is this…V.V. character likely to send someone after you?"

"Oh heavens, yes." Valefar said in amusement. "I can think of at least three off the top of my head who will be his first pick to do so. Agent Naberius, Agent Viné and Agent Vassago, likely. Naberius can stop a person's subjective experience of the passage of time within a radius around him, Viné can force people to lose consciousness in a designated area and Vassago can make those of the opposite gender to herself fall in love with her. The Wards of Absolute Suspension, Absolute Slumber and Absolute Feminine Captivation, one after another."

"Those…are fairly terrifying abilities." Kadzuki said haltingly.

"They are, but they have their weaknesses. The first and second only affect living beings, so installing plenty of computer-controlled and remote-controlled gun turrets with AI smart enough to recognise allies from enemies inside the base will negate their effectiveness enough." Valefar stated. "The last is troubling, but it only works on men, or rather, only on those who mentally see themselves as being male. I think of myself as neither, so it doesn't work on me, and if you do a recruitment drive to drum up more female soldiers, you'll lessen the effectiveness of Vassago by a bit."

"Right…right." Kadzuki nodded. He made a note to get the science team on the turret idea quickly, and another note to get Minazuki to do a drive in the ghettos to get some more women involved. "You know, things were a whole lot more simple when I didn't know about Charles zi Britannia's real hidden blades in the shadows."

"Simple and easy equals boring and predictable, Sentarō." Valefar replied in amusement. "I do hope that you make things interesting for me…"

With that, the figure turned and left.

Sighing, Kadzuki checked the time and swore quietly. Time to head out and give a fulsome speech to the troops before the raiding parties departed. It was the first deployment of troops he'd ordered since Port Yokosuka and he had chosen more stable commanders than Captain Ikazuchi, who had led the suicide attack on Zero at that battle. All those involved had been radicals even amongst his own men, people who taken the ideals he'd espoused to build the Neo-Shinsengumi far too literally.

Fools and madmen, impossible to keep on a leash for long; so he'd gotten rid of them in a way that would hopefully knock his foe off-balance long enough for him to build his forces and prepare his next move.

Now he needed to lay down the law to those that remained: keep to the samurai code, be professional and no executing people out of hand or at all. One or two were slightly too keen on instituting the old samurai 'right to strike' law right now, but he would hold firm.

'Not now.' He would tell them. 'In the future, the Japanese samurai will take their rightful places again, and all of the old privileges will be back, including Kiri-sute gomen, but for now, tolerance and restraint is needed.'

Being the leader of a group of fanatics was a lot of work.

"Well, at least I won't ever get bored." Sentarō Kadzuki smirked as he stood up and headed for the door.

Minutes Later

Unused Hanger, Neo Shinsengumi Base

"Comrades in arms!" Kadzuki shouted. He was standing at the front of the hanger, with the near-entirety of his group clustered within, with those unable to be there in person listening via radio. "The time has come for Britannia to once again know fear! For those proud so-called Knights to taste defeat once more!"

"Banzai!" the hanger roared back.

"Those of you who are to leave on these raids know your orders. Stick to them, and all shall go well." He stated. "For those of you who are not going, fear not; all members of the Neo Shinsengumi, myself included, shall ride out and bring low the enemy in good time! Until then, remember that even as simple a duty as guarding the base or monitoring the security cameras is serving Japan!"

"Banzai!"

"Before I bid you all farewell, I must stress once again that you do not have Kiri-sute gomen as of yet." He said, putting on his 'paternally stern' countenance. "Should I allow it; the cowardly Britannians would strike back against those in the ghettos unable or unwilling to take a stand for the good of the country! We are the Neo Shinsengumi, the protectors of our nation! We shall fight the enemy, we shall defeat the enemy and we shall have them know their own powerlessness! If the enemy refuses to lay down their arms when you have ordered them to, then deal with them as you must, but there is to be no killing of unarmed soldiers or of civilians should you come across them! Anyone who does such things, and I will know about it, shall commit seppuku in front of the entire base! Comport yourselves with honour, remember your pride as samurai and above all else…nihon banzai!"

"Nihon banzai! Nihon banzai!" The fanatics roared.

Drawing his katana, Kadzuki thrust it into the air. "For the honour of the Neo Shinsengumi!"

"FOR THE HONOUR OF THE NEO SHINSENGUMI!" was roared back at him as a multitude of other katana were drawn and thrust into the air, a veritable forest of steel seemingly sprouting before his eyes…and they were his to command.

'Zero…I shall see exactly how well you command in person once the Ryūgū and Ryūō are completed.' The Major thought as he sheathed his weapon and dismissed his enthusiastic troops to their duties. 'Until then…Britannia shall know the rage of the Japanese samurai!'

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Next Chapter: The White Knight Returns

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