A/N: this is next of the re-envisioned chapters continuing Lelouch's readjustment in his new life, but does he finally get the wakeup call he needs to reawaken the demon within once more.
We'll find out in this chapter.
Special Thanks to Greatkingrat88 for helping revise and greatly improve the chapter.
Lelouch had difficulty sleeping the night after his reunion with Suzaku. Even a month after their conversation, the former Emperor was plagued from everything to nightmares, memories of his life before, and guilt over some of his more terrible actions. He managed to mask it well enough while at school. Considering his internal turmoil, his education was faring far better than he had expected. Even C.C. and Garibaldi were impressed by how well Lelouch had adapted to life on Cera. He had even begun to steadily achieve higher grades in class, which was thanks to C.C. and Garibaldi's own efforts in help Lelouch, by means of tutoring him in history and other subjects required of him to learn.
Fortunately, it seemed the more he immersed himself in school work and activities, the less his past haunted him. Distraction gave him some respite from the flood of unpleasant memories, some peace of mind.
School had ended for the day, and Kayto and Lelouch were continuing the ongoing battle against paperwork, Kayto Shield's most hated enemy. Because of the apparent lack of members, the stack of papers and reports on their holos were staggering, to say the least. On the other hand, due to his prior experience as an Emperor, leader of the Black Knights and 2nd Supreme Council Chairman of the United Federation of Nations made working through the piles of reports and budgets a cake-walk for Lelouch.
It nevertheless took a considerable amount of time.
"Wow, you must have been buried in work at your old school." Kayto said appreciatively, as he witnessed Lelouch plow through his share of the work with relative ease.
"I had a lot of experience, but that still doesn't mean I like it any more than the next person." Lelouch muttered.
"I hear that!" Kayto said, giving a light chuckle.
It wasn't long after that when Ava showed up, with a very sour expression on her face.
"Unbelievable. How could this happen?" Ava muttered, before sitting down at her desk, bringing one hand to her face to massage her forehead.
"Is there something going on?" Lelouch inquired.
"The administration is busy overseeing the pool cleaning, so they wish for the student council to oversee the cleaning out of the clubs that were shut down," Ava explained.
This brought back another series of unpleasant memories, but compared to the ones he had as Zero, they seemed trivial. Still not exactly pleasant, though. Lelouch instantly began to suspect Milly's involvement.
"Was it those clubs you closed down for not being able to cover their dues and failing to file the proper paperwork on time?" Kayto asked. Ava nodded in response.
"I don't recall any mention of this before. I guess this happened before I joined?" Said Lelouch.
"You're correct. These clubs were terminated a day before you joined and for the past month the club's former occupants have been cleared out. All that is left now is to clean and ready those rooms for new clubs."
This sounds way too damn familiar. Lelouch thought, as he felt a feeling of déjà vu come to mind.
During his time at Ashford Academy, Lelouch and Suzaku had been conscripted to clean the old club rooms that once resided in one of the academy's older buildings. The oddity of the situation was that these clubs had been deemed too weird for a variety of reasons, but Lelouch thought the last one in there was probably due to people disliking the idea behind it. It didn't sound like a big deal at first, but as Suzaku and Lelouch found out the clubs, aside from the last one, were anything but ordinary. It hadn't been a matter of Suzaku and Lelouch cleaning them, but surviving them.
"What were these clubs called?" Lelouch asked having a bad feeling about this.
"The clubs in question were the Lolicon Club, Paparazzi Club, and Gungan Appreciation Club?" Ava answered, but their names alone convinced Lelouch of likely additional reasons those clubs had gone under.
"I assume you want both of us to handle this?" Kayto said hesitantly, although he would take cleaning up some old club rooms over paperwork.
"Of course!" Ava answered curtly, rising to walk over to a broom closet, revealing some cleaning tools for the both of them.
A short time later in the hallways, Kayto and Lelouch approached the first of the club rooms that needed to be cleaned out, both of them wearing white aprons. Kayto carried a bucket of soap water and a mop, while Lelouch had a broom with a bucket holding some towels and glass cleaner.
"You seemed kind of reluctant back there?" Kayto asked as they reached the first room, but before he got an answer, Lelouch held him back.
"I was reluctant because the last time I had to clean some dead club rooms we ran into some unexpected complications I didn't want to experience again," Lelouch said with a serious expression that, to Kayto, was worrying, yet provoked some curiosity about what could have happened to have left such an impression.
"So… what were these complications?"
"Well, the first club was called The Fall-Down-Seven-Times-and-Topple-Eight-Times Club," Lelouch said with a barely disguised disgust; he couldn't believe he remembered that club's name.
"The... what... that makes no sense?" Kayto said with a look of confusion while trying to imagine what kind of club that must have been.
Oh lord, I can't believe I remembered that too. Lelouch thought internally in embarrassment as he despised that club for its stupid naming and policy, but it was only the tip of the iceberg.
"Apparently the club…" Lelouch began facepalming as he remembered its policy that Suzaku had read to him when assigned to clean the rooms. "Its policy says that 'We are a negative club that believes in falling down seven times and toppling eight times. Our activities will have no victories. The policy of losers is our policy, and we always look down while we walk."
"How the hell did such a club get approved? It sounds like a bunch of nut jobs were running it," Kayto said trying to determine if Lelouch was really being serious or if he was making these stories up. So far, Kayto found no reason to doubt him, considering how solemn he seemed to be about it. Or maybe he was just a really good liar.
"I know, and my head hurts just remembering it, but when we opened the door to clean the room, we found it completely empty."
"Oh. So that's good, right? Then what happened?"
"I walked in, and before I realized what had happened, my friend tackled me to the ground. He saw a hidden pressurized water gun that had been hidden out of view of the doorway that was motion sensitive." Lelouch explained to a stunned Kayto, who looked at him with wide eyes.
"A hidden pressurized water gun almost hit you?" Kayto asked who was trying to look for any signs that Lelouch could be joking, but he saw nothing to indicate that. "You're serious?"
"It was pretty shocking. Especially since it was quite destructive, and could have seriously injured me or worse."
"After something like that, I don't think I can blame you for being nervous."
"Heh, that was just the start… the next club was the Landmine Club."
"They didn't have actual landmines in there, did they?" Kayto looked at him with a look of concern as a mental image of Lelouch entering the club room before being blown up by a claymore mine.
"We endured a total of thirteen of those clubs. It left our cleaning equipment damaged beyond recognition. Only the last club in the building, a Culture Club, was the normal one where nothing happened."
"One of these days I am going to find where this school was and visit it," Kayto said, quite curious to visit find out if these outlandish stories were true.
"I am hopeful things have calmed down since I left, but…" Lelouch began to say as he slowly opened the door. Although Lelouch thought he might be overreacting, it couldn't hurt to be careful. Better safe than sorry, after all. He stuck the mop into the room and began waving it around as he began to say. "I am sure there aren't going to be such problems h-"
Lelouch was suddenly interrupted when a projectile shot out of seemingly nowhere, striking the mop out of his hand.
Kayto and Lelouch were shocked for a moment, but after it passed the two cautiously looked inside the club room to find that a trap had been set up with what appeared to a home-made cannon mounted on a desk in one corner of the room just out of sight when you first walk in. Looking around again, the two found the projectile it fired, a potato. Dropping his knees to recover the mop, he used it again upon getting back to his feet to locate any kind of sensor or trigger.
Another potato fired, confirming Lelouch's suspicions that the potato gun was somehow designed to shoot more than one shot and there was a motion sensor in the room to trigger it if someone or something set off the sensor.
"Kayto, did these clubs accept their disbandment well?" Lelouch asked calmly.
"Ava dealt with the situation herself, but judging by this… not well at all, I assume."
"Then we should probably assume the clubs have booby-trapped their former rooms as an act of retaliation for their closure, since I take it the student council is usually responsible for cleaning anything up left over in the rooms?" Lelouch asked. Kayto nodded in confirmation.
Through some conscientious effort, the two managed to sneak their way across the ground to reach the cannon and disarm it, ensuring it wouldn't shoot at them. The two cleaned the room afterward and left the cannon alone, as the two agreed that Ava should be informed of the nasty trap that had been left for them. When they proceeded to the second club, Kayto and Lelouch cautiously checked for any signs of traps, but when they opened the door slightly Kayto spotted something above the doorframe after the two noticed a horrible smell when they opened the door slightly.
After using their tools to keep the small pan above the doorway from falling, Kayto got it down. They found it was a pan full of fish that had since rotted, the stench of it almost physically painful to endure. After taking pictures of the trap with their holos, the two disposed of the fish, before proceeding to clean that room as well.
Everything went well enough from there, until they reached the final club to clean.
"What has been taking you two so long?" Ava snapped as she approached the boys from behind.
"Ava, did you know that the previous clubs you shut down left behind traps for us?" Kayto said straightforwardly.
"Traps? Don't make up stories, Kayto!" Ava shot back, clearly not buying what she believed to be an excuse. She snatched the mop from his hand, and proceeded to enter the last club room even as Kayto and Lelouch tried to warn her.
"He's serious, Ava! We found traps in several rooms!" Lelouch exclaimed, but Ava was too stubborn to heed their warnings. Who would dare do that to the student council?
Unfortunately, Ava Crescentia had underestimated the loathing she had earned from the clubs she had shut down.
Upon walking in, Ava got caught in an invisible wall of plastic wrap that had been painstakingly coated with some kind of sticky substance and placed in such a way that no one would see until it was too late. Then, a hidden sensor was set off that opened up a concealed bag that had been placed on the ceiling. It dumped a bundle of feathers atop Ava's head, before finally a water balloon was fired from a corner of the room, dousing the president.
"Lelouch, you better stay back…" Kayto nervously warned.
"Why? Obviously, she is going to be angry about this."
"You haven't seen her angry in the ways I have. Mount Crescentia is about to erupt and absolutely annihilate everyone!" Lelouch blinked. Kayto sounded as if some apocalyptic event was about to happen, and judging by the look on Ava's face… he wasn't exaggerating by much. Ava stepped out of the classroom, the look on her face one of pure, barely contained rage.
Very slowly, delicately and carefully, Ava reached a hand up to her face and plucked a few feathers away. She seemed tense, like a metal spring wound so tight it might burst any moment. Outwardly she seemed perfectly calm, but Lelouch saw it in all the small ways; her nostrils flaring, her brows slowly furrowing, the slight tremble in her hand… he felt as if he was watching a ticking time bomb about to go off any moment. Kayto, for his part, looked terrified.
"Er, president-" Lelouch began, but Kayto clamped a hand over his mouth, just shaking his head.
"Feathers." Said Ava quietly, raising the offending object level with her eyes, "How… innovative."
Her hand became a fist, crushing the feathers in her hand.
"Kayto," she said, turning to the terrified student, "we have a full list of the members of this club, do we not?"
"Y-yes, president," stuttered Kayto.
"Good," Ava said calmly, and Lelouch noticed both her hands were clenched fists now. He swallowed. How bad could it be?
"I am going to talk to the principal in the strongest possible terms," she said, her voice trembling very slightly, "in fact, I believe I am going to personally contact their parents."
"Th-that sounds reasonable-" said Lelouch, but he was interrupted by Ava, who didn't seem to have noticed he had even spoken.
"Then," she continued, her voice ice cold, "I am going to contact the police department and report every last one of them. I can think of quite a few charges. Assault. Conspiracy to harm. Harassment."
As she spoke, her voice grew louder, slowly losing the icy cool it had had just seconds ago. Like Lelouch had suspected, it had been the calm before the storm.
"I'm going to call my father, and then he will call every contact he knows. I'm going to file charges. I am going to talk to all of their teachers, personally. I am going to make their lives a living hell until they're on their knees, begging for mercy! I'm going to rip into their grades, sabotage their homework, get them expelled from this whole damned school, then I'll call the next school they transfer to and get them expelled from that school until only the worst academies will take them! I'll ruin their entire careers if I have to!"
Her voice had gone from loud and angry to a furious roar, filling up the entire hallway. Lelouch and Kayto trembled silently, hoping desperately not to become the targets of her wrath. An 'I told you so' would possibly have been the worst choice either of them could have made.
Later that afternoon…
"Well, that day could have ended better," Lelouch said as he and Kayto were walking together through Cera City.
"At least Ava wasn't seriously hurt, but those students will be lucky not to face criminal charges. I can't believe those idiots would hold such a grudge, if you consider what their clubs were like," said Kayto.
"I didn't actually expect those rooms to be rigged with traps, but I suppose my prior experience was helpful." Lelouch said with a slight sigh of relief.
"Yeah, otherwise our afternoon would have really sucked."
"True. To think I was starting to hope that madness like this wouldn't be found elsewhere…"
"I guess it all depends on the people attending those schools."
"True enough…" Lelouch said. As they spoke, they were approached by a girl looking to be a few years younger than themselves. She had blue eyes and white hair styled into a pair of small pigtails, and she wore a white and blue sailor-style school uniform with a brown coat and a pink scarf around her neck. Lelouch guessed she was from a middle-school division of some kind considering her size and age, but he also had a nagging suspicion that she and Kayto were related somehow.
"Oh Kayto, who is this?" the girl asked. Her innocent tone made her seem cute, but Lelouch noticed the hint of a mischievous smirk on her face.
"This is Lelouch the new member of the Student Council and a new friend I made last month that I told you about," Kayto said introducing Lelouch before turning to the young man in question. "Lelouch this is Maray, my younger sister."
"It's a pleasure to meet you."
Maray eyed Lelouch in a way that made the young man nervous.
Why do I suddenly get the feeling that this girl will be like a younger Milly?
"Ooh, he is so pretty," Maray said, her teasing tone further strengthening Lelouch's suspicions. Kayto facepalmed at his sister's response. "So Kayto, are you two going out?"
"Knock it off, Maray. You know that isn't true," Kayto said, clearly annoyed with his sister.
Maray began laughing, which caused Kayto to become quite sore with his younger sister.
"It's nothing like that, and you should know better, Maray!"
"Well, I had to ask, because it didn't seem like you were having much success with Ava or any of the other girls. I figured maybe you were just playing for the other team," Maray replied with a mischievous smile. "Just remember, you've got until the end of the year."
"End of the year for what?" Lelouch asked, knowing that it was probably against his better judgment to ask.
"That Kayto needs to have a girlfriend, or he will face a disappointed sister." The white-haired girl proudly announced much to Kayto's chagrin.
"Damn it, Maray!" Kayto huffed as his annoyance with his sister grew.
"So do you think you'll be available next year when I attend school with Kayto?" The young white-haired girl asked with a seemingly innocent smile.
"Maybe when you are a few years older?" Lelouch muttered, her attitude reminding him of how Milly had teased him back in the day, how she had meddled- sometimes subtly, but more often overtly- with his personal affairs, including his love life. To this day, he felt certain that Cupid Day had been designed with him in mind. He would have to be mindful of how he responded, or Maray might sink her devious little fangs into him and never let go.
"A couple years… but wouldn't you have another girlfriend by then?" Maray said eyeing Lelouch suspiciously.
"I am not looking for one right now." The former Emperor said carefully, suspecting that Maray would attempt to twist his words and turn the conversation against him.
Nevertheless, Maray put on a devious smile.
"Be careful. I might hold you to it."
"Damn it, Maray!" Kayto said, and Lelouch could tell he was holding back a fair amount of frustration and annoyance from spilling out.
"I better take it from here Lelouch, and I'll see you tomorrow…I'll handle this bundle of evil."
"Mou, you know that is not a nice thing to say about your sister." Maray with a pouty expression, but Lelouch eyed the young girl suspecting it was faked somehow.
"Right I'll see you tomorrow Kayto," Lelouch said before departing to leave Kayto to deal with his troublesome and perverted little sister.
I have never felt so thankful that Nunnally never became anything like that.
Lelouch continued home, but as he approached the apartment he was staying at, Lelouch noticed he was being followed. Someone wearing a white cloak was tailing him a safe distance behind him. At first, Lelouch thought he was just paranoid, but as they got closer to the apartment, he realized he had spotted the same white cloak a few times too many for it to be a coincidence. Contemplating his options, Lelouch decided to test to see if he was really being followed. He took a sharp turn into an alleyway, before taking off in a dash down the darkened lane to lose his pursuer.
He jogged down the street, making quick turns and twists left and right, coming out onto another street before finding another alleyway. Finally he found himself in a dead end. He was breathing heavily, tired from running.
"Oh, it's not nice to run from someone only wanting to help you."
The voice was quite mysterious. It sounded distorted and otherworldly, but at the same time, there was an irrefutably feminine ring to it. Lelouch quickly turned his head and saw the person in the white cloak, standing at the end of the alleyway. She was too far away, and the lack of lighting in the slightly darkened alley made it difficult to see inside her hood. But there was enough light to make out the rest of her, as the rest of her body, save for her pale and delicate hands, were covered by her cloak.
Lelouch looked around for anyone else, for any other figures- was this some sort of ambush? But as he scanned the area, he noticed something truly odd. A cat was leaping off a trash can, frozen mid-leap, as if frozen in place. Further down the street, he saw a passer-by, just as still as the cat. Time, it seemed, had stopped for the moment. Realizing there was no escape, he faced the hooded figure.
"Who are you?"
"I can't tell you right now, because that would be just a huge spoiler. You need to play the game if you want to find out who I am." The mysterious voice said followed by a mischievous giggle.
"What game are you talking about?"
"You know. Your favorite game, playing the revolutionary. Don't tell me you didn't enjoy it at times." Said the figure.
"And why would I even consider playing again? There is nothing at stake for me!"
"Maybe there isn't, but there is nothing to hold you back now. You have nothing to lose."
"I fought for three things. A better world for my sister Nunnally, the truth about who killed my mother, and to end Britannia's cruel reign. I achieved all of these goals. Why is the future my responsibility?"
"It doesn't bother you that all you sacrificed for that better world ended up being for nothing, the world you gave all for enslaved and devastated?"
If Lelouch had better eyesight, he would have seen the figure smiling from beneath the cowl of her hood. "I guess I struck a nerve, didn't I?"
"You have no idea what I have been through! Besides even if I did liberate the Earth, PACT would just take it back."
"You fought against overwhelming odds when you tackled the world's greatest superpower, with nothing but a ragtag band of rebels and your geass. You didn't hesitate then, even though your enemy was powerful. But if you want no part of it… why not just kill yourself? But then again… you once told Tohdoh that would be cowardly, didn't you?"
Lelouch stared her down. Who was she? Could it be C.C.? No- she sounded different, and she wouldn't go this far. Somehow, he doubted she'd tell him if he asked.
"Why are you bothering me with this in the first place?"
"Because when motivated, you are far more capable than you realize, especially with the right resources at your disposal." The hooded woman said, tossing a small object at Lelouch, who just about managed to catch it.
"That will lead you to some resources you can repurpose for your own uses, but you'll need plenty of manpower, funds and a secret base to do this at."
"What is it?" said Lelouch, inspecting the item. It was kept in a small container, and he couldn't quite make out what it was.
"Share it with your allies…you'll be very surprised, I promise you." The hooded woman said followed by a mischievous chuckle. "We'll meet again in the future. For now, just know that PACT will not be the only enemy you shall face."
"What do you mean by that? TELL ME!" Lelouch demanded angrily. But as he raised his voice, what appeared to be a rip in the fabric of the space-time continuum suddenly opened up behind the hooded woman, blowing wind and debris around the alley. The woman vanished into the tear, leaving no trace of her presence behind. The flow of time returned to normal, and Lelouch might have written off the experience as some kind of dream.
But the small container, which looked to be an ordinary metal container sealed by a push-button release on top of the cube-shaped item. It was small enough to fit in Lelouch's palm, holding whatever information he was left as proof that the encounter had happened.
Lelouch's mind was a whirlwind of thoughts at that moment; one half of it trying to make sense of what happened, while the other was grappling with his reservations of becoming Zero once again. He had more than one reason for why he had passed the role over to Suzaku. The identity of Zero, and the burden that came with it, left him with a lot of regret and pain. Donning the mask again would remind him of his losses- not just those he had meant to kill, but also those he never had any intention of harming, not to mention the pain of the truth of his mother and her so-called death.
Maybe it was fear of that pain that kept Lelouch from donning the mask once more- but deep down, he felt it was more than that.
He wandered out of the alleyway wholly lost in his thoughts. So much so that Lelouch bumped into someone he wasn't expecting to be in this part of town.
"Watch where you are going, Lelouch!" Ava snapped at him, which was more than enough to shake the young man from his thoughts.
"Huh… Ava? I thought you would still be back at the school?" Lelouch said as he quickly regained his composure before taking a second to pocket the container he had been given. Ava was supposed to stay behind to finish up some paperwork, and had sent Kayto and Lelouch home once they had completed their tasks. Even the incident at the clubrooms failed to stop Ava from completing her paperwork after cleaning herself up.
"I finished my work quicker than I had expected, but I need to make a quick stop off at the market to pick up some supplies for my apartment. The store down the street from here was having a sale, so I decided to take advantage of it." Ava answered, before folding her arms over chest.
"I see. I just didn't expect to see you here."
"May I ask why are you here? Did you come for the sale?" Ava asked.
Lelouch almost used the sale as his excuse, but he noticed something in the corner of his left eye. On the one hand, he might have considered it a godsend that he could use it to change the subject of their discussion, but Lelouch had a feeling what he was seeing was not a good sign. Observing them for a second longer until he was sure Lelouch carefully addressed Ava.
"Ava, have you noticed you are being followed?" Lelouch asked. This got the young woman's attention. Quickly, he added, "Don't look at them directly, but you can see it, right? To your left, near the alley behind us."
Ava used her eyes while mindful not to make apparent movements with her head.
Just down the street near a corner was a group of five men. They were casually dressed for the most part, in various clothes. At first glance, they did not appear to be part of any kind of gang, as far as Lelouch could tell.
"Walk with me," Lelouch suggested, while using his holo in a seemingly inconspicuous gesture to check his messages. In actuality, he was using the built-in camera to get a look at the men behind them, as the two continued walking towards the market. After keeping his eye on the group of men for a while, there was no doubt- Lelouch and Ava concluded that the latter was being followed.
"Any idea why they would be following you?" asked Lelouch.
"I don't recognize them from the academy." Said Ava, furrowing her brows.
"I see…as soon as we enter the market, let's try and lose them and retreat to my apartment for the time being." Lelouch suggested.
"An acceptable plan…" Ava said, at a loss for a better option.
As soon as they entered the market, the two quickly made their way through the rows of food and other products before making their way out through another entrance to lose them. The duo decided to cut through an alleyway to make it to Lelouch's apartment, but as they were passing by an old building set to be demolished, they were cornered by the five men, who had somehow anticipated their actions.
"Don't think we're just some two-bit crooks." Said a man in a simple blue suit as he stepped forward, presumably the ring leader. He had something of a beard beginning to grow around his mouth, and his brown hair had grown to shoulder length, becoming unkempt.
"Somehow I think this is more than some attempt to mug two high school students or to attack the girl with me," Lelouch said as he motioned for Ava to get behind him.
"You are half-right. You are just an unfortunate kid to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. We are after her." The leader said, pointing at Ava.
"I don't even know any of you!" Ava snapped defiantly.
"No, but your father does." The lead thug began before his face began to twist into a mask of anger, repressed emotions surfacing. "That tight-ass had me and some of my friends here dishonorably discharged from the military. He snitched on us all because he didn't like the extra money we were making."
"Why would you go after her?" Lelouch said not trying to hide the disgust in his voice, "This is between her father and you. It has nothing to do with her!"
"Whatever you did I am certain it was something my father couldn't overlook because unlike you, he is an honest man at least. Your extra money was probably you selling military property illegally, wasn't it?" Ava burst out irritably.
"Ava!" Lelouch hissed, "That is not helping!"
"Oh-oh, right…" Ava said, shrinking back, realizing the severity of the situation.
"You bitch!" spat the man in the blue suit. A twisted look passed his face, and he pulled a combat knife from his belt. To make matters worse, the men behind him pulled out handguns.
"I dare not think what you intend to do to her, but… I… can't let you go through with this," Lelouch said reluctantly, knowing what he had to do. He didn't know what her father had done to earn such animosity from them. It didn't matter. Whatever they would do to Ava was not something he could just stand by and watch.
"Ava, whatever happens from this point on, I want you to stay behind me!"
"JUST DO IT!"
Lelouch turned his attention to the thugs, who were chuckling amongst themselves at his attempt at bravado.
"Look at you, kid," said the leader, twirling his knife around with a sadistic smirk, "you're built like a twig. What the hell do you think you're going to do, huh?"
"We both know you were probably going to silence me anyway," Lelouch said, and brought his right hand up to his eyes, unveiling his Geass.
"Because from here on out, all of you are going to forget all about revenge. In fact, you're going to forget you even saw us. You're going to rethink your lives and become productive members of society."
He felt the geass pulsate, its familiar power throbbing in his eye. This was the first time he had used it since that time, forever ago… back when its purpose had been evil, ruthless and destructive. He felt a little hesitant to use it, knowing its legacy, but there was no room for that- he was acting, now or never, now or Ava might pay the price for it. As he spoke the order, he felt a familiar calm come over him, the same as every time he entered battle, when even holding the lives of men in his hands felt like nothing.
"You are so commanded."
His Geass took effect, instantly ensnaring the men under its power.
Ava watched in growing shock. The men, who had suddenly stopped advancing upon her and Lelouch, had seemingly entered some kind of trance-like state, just before dropping their weapons.
"Man… what are we doing here?" said the ring leader confusedly.
"I dunno…" muttered one of his underlings, "but uh… I'll go home, I think. I wanna apply for a job tomorrow."
"Yeah, like hell I'll just be some kinda parasite all my life," said another of the thugs, and the others murmured their assent.
As one, like a group of zombies, the men turned around on the spot and walked away, still entranced under Lelouch's Geass. Ava was rendered speechless as her mind was trying to process what just happened. But her thoughts were interrupted when Lelouch turned around, and Ava's eyes widened at the red light in Lelouch's eyes.
"I am sorry about interfering like this, but we both know there was only one way this would have ended." Said Lelouch solemnly.
"What…what did you do to them?" Ava asked, wide-eyed with shock.
For a moment Lelouch considered casting his Geass on her to erase her memory of what she had just seen, but he hesitated. A full minute passed before he brought his hand up to his eyes to suppress his Geass once more to avoid accidentally using it on Ava.
"What…what did you do to them?" Ava asked, wide-eyed with shock.
For a moment Lelouch considered casting his Geass on her to erase her memory of what she had just seen, but he hesitated. A full minute passed before he brought his hand up to his eyes to suppress his Geass once more to avoid accidentally using it on Ava.
"I simply ordered them to do something, and they did it."
"What are you talking about?" said Ava, in between grateful, confused and angry.
"It- it's hard to explain," said Lelouch, not sure what to do. He might have to use that geass, after all.
He was interrupted by C.C.'s voice. Flanked by Garibaldi, she had walked onto the side-street they were on. A car had pulled up nearby, undoubtedly theirs.
"What are you doing here?" said Lelouch, glad to have a distraction.
"You were running late," said C.C. dispassionately, "and we decided not to take any risks, and went looking for you."
"Thankfully," said Garibaldi, "I was able to track your holo device. It seems you already handled whatever trouble you ran into, though.
"Yes, he did!" said Ava, quite firmly, "What I don't know is just how he did it!"
C.C. gave Lelouch a look.
"You used that in front of her?"
"I had no choice," Lelouch protested, "they- they would have attacked her, or worse!"
"Who is she?" asked C.C.
"I," said Ava indignantly, "am Ava Crescentia, student council president at the academy, and I would prefer if you talked about me like I was actually here!"
C.C. rolled her eyes.
"Lelouch, take care of it," she said with a sigh, "we need to get home."
Lelouch turned to Ava.
"Lelouch, what… what's going on?" said Ava, concerned.
"Ava…" Lelouch said, hesitating. He didn't want to use it on her. That power of his had been used and abused for centuries, always doing harm, always for the worse. He had used it to enslave people en masse, to turn people into puppets who in turn went on to do even more and more harm to others… all for his grand schemes. It had been used enough. It would be easy to use it. But such power… such power shouldn't be used lightly. It shouldn't be an easy way out. There had to be another way. He had to at least try another way first.
"Ava," he said firmly, "I need you to listen to me for a moment."
"If it gets me some answers," said Ava impatiently.
"The easiest thing for you to do," he pleaded, "would be to go home and forget all this ever happened. A year from now I'll be done with school, and you won't ever hear from me again. I'll be out of your way, and you'll be out of mine. Push what you saw out of your mind, and don't think about it. Never mention it to me again, and I won't mention it to you. Life will go on as normal. You'll go on like nothing happened. That's option one."
"And what's the other option?"
"I tell you the truth."
"Lelouch…" C.C. sighed, "you cannot be serious."
"I've had enough of lying," said Lelouch firmly, "and if I'm supposed to do what you want me to do, then I can decide for myself who I can trust, can't I?"
"You're impossible," C.C. huffed, "fine. Go ahead, for all I care."
"The truth," said Ava firmly.
"Listen, Ava," said Lelouch, turning his full attention back to the president, "I am warning you. Once you have the full truth, it can't be undone. Once you know the truth, it may lead you down a rabbit hole you can't come back from. It could even cost you your life one day. You wouldn't be the first friend this has cost me. If you want the truth… if you want the truth, I'll give it to you, but once you know, there is no going back. Do you understand?"
"The truth," said Ava firmly, refusing to back down, "I don't care what it was, that… that is beyond any science I know of. I want to know what it was. I want to know what kind of man you are, Lelouch."
"I am Lelouch Lamperouge. But a hundred years ago, I was known as Lelouch vi Britannia, the demon emperor. I wielded the power you just saw, a geass, to commit great evil in the name of a greater good."
Ava frowned at him at first, like she had just heard a bad joke, but then she took a step back, looking him up and down.
"Lelouch… vi Britannia," she said breathlessly, "and how do you explain not being dead?"
"Cryotechnology mixed with top-notch rejuvenation treatment," said Lelouch, "you should know as well as anyone that medical science can restore dead limbs if needed. Even damaged brains."
"But… even if I grant that absurd story, a full body restoration would be… I mean, a full brain restoration is still more theoretical than anything!" exclaimed Ava. She hadn't believed him at first, but now, Lelouch could tell, she was protesting with far less conviction.
"Not anymore," said Lelouch confidently.
"If it helps," said C.C., "it was the first procedure of its kind. Lelouch, can we leave now? This is not a conversation to hold out in the street!"
Lelouch nodded, and followed C.C. and Garibaldi to the car. He extended a hand to Ava, who had followed behind him.
"Last chance," he said, "if you come with us, your path may be set."
She looked hesitant for a second, but then, stubbornly, she put a foot inside the car.
They returned to the apartment complex, and no sooner had Lelouch taken a seat than Ava began to question him.
"So just how much of what you told me was a lie?"
"Um… well, most of the stories I told were true," said Lelouch, "I just changed a few details, like… in what century they were set."
"Suppose I believe in this ridiculous story," she scoffed, "suppose I believe that just because you look a little like a face I remember from history class, and because I saw something I can't explain… where does that leave me?"
"That's up to you," said Lelouch with a shrug, "you wanted the truth. It's yours to claim."
"Alright. What is the truth?"
"I was brought back to life. Not part of my plan, I might add- I had every intention on dying and staying dead."
"But circumstances changed," C.C. filled in, "and it turned out that when he was needed, he could be remade. Sitting in front of you is the high school student who conquered the entirety of Earth in two years, a little over a hundred years ago, after having built one of the most formidable armies in the planet's history. Of course, he wouldn't have gotten quite that far without the power I gave him."
"And that… would be this geass thing?"
"The power of the king," said Lelouch, nodding in confirmation, "it comes in different flavors. Mine compels absolute obedience to a spoken order."
"And you were brought back… why?" asked Ava.
"PACT," said Lelouch with a sigh, "they want me to take charge of the new black knights, protect the Neutral Rim and so on, become Zero again…"
"You're sounding awfully cavalier about it," said Ava with a frown.
Lelouch shook his head. "I died for the world to know peace. I gave everything- literally- to make that happen. This… is this really my fight anymore?"
"What kind of question is that?" said Ava dismissively, "PACT is ruthless. People are suffering."
Exasperated, Lelouch bent forward, staring into the ground.
"Try and put yourself in my shoes, Ava. Imagine waking up from a death you orchestrated, to a life you never asked to have, only to realize that almost everyone you ever knew was dead. Would you be able to just carry on? This is not the war I chose, and these are not the people I stood up for. Earth's in shackles? That's their mistake. I can't be expected to just fix everybody's problems."
Ava stood up, and to Lelouch's surprise, she stood herself in front of him, yanking his head up by the hair. She raised her hand, and slapped him across the face. Lelouch fell back in his chair, eyes wide with surprise. He brought a hand to his cheek, feeling the sting of the slap.
"Look at you," Ava said, her voice trembling with anger, "sitting there in your chair, full of self-pity. You could make a real difference, and you won't, because… why, exactly? PACT is a brutal, ruthless organization. My own father may have to go to war with them. Members of my family could die. There are untold thousands out in the rim who only wish they could put a stop to them. You can, and you won't. What's your excuse? 'This isn't my world'? 'Not my war'? Are you just going to sit there knowing that all you worked for is going to hell and do nothing? Are you that much of a coward?!"
"I died for my beliefs!" snarled Lelouch, "How many ideologues can boast that?"
"So you thought that'd be the end of it, and it wasn't. Tough luck," said Ava stubbornly, "but if you can make a difference and you won't, you are a coward."
Lelouch glared at her. Ava folded her arms across her chest, and turned to C.C.
"He could make a difference, couldn't he? It's not just a few people and a bit of guts?"
"Oh, no," said C.C., "we have friends in the military and industrial sectors. Our black knights would be a small army in their own right."
"You," said Ava, turning back to Lelouch, "you did the impossible. I could never even dream of going that far. If I could, I would. So don't just sit there moping as if you need a reason to help people who need it!"
"I don't have a stake in this!" Lelouch snapped back, "All I did, I did for my sister- and she's gone!"
"Do you want to be punished that badly?" Ava said, her eyes narrowing, "I remember the history lessons. You were killed after your evil deeds- and you say that was your plan. That was your punishment, right? Your penance?"
"…it was," Lelouch admitted.
"If you want to redeem yourself, then become Zero again! Do what you have to. Or do you feel no guilt at all?"
Lelouch was taken aback. She spoke passionately, reminding him of a time long ago, when he had spoken similar words to the defeated Kyoshiro Tohdoh. When the colonel had sought to die, his life forfeit…
Zero looked down on the colonel, on his knees in the wrecked cell, his face the picture of stoic endurance.
"I pledged my loyalty to General Katase. Now that he's dead, I wish to die too." Tohdoh said.
"Don't be a coward!" Lelouch exclaimed.
"You must take responsibility- responsibility for the miracle that you made." Zero began to speak passionately, now that he commanded Tohdoh's attention. "The Japanese resistance movement is more intense than that of any other area, because Japan surrendered before exhausting all of its military strength. You've failed to continue the great hope known as the miracle of Itsukushima."
"You're saying it's my fault?"
"Yes. People grasp at illusions because they're desperate for miracles. Why else has there been such rampant use of refrain? You must endeavor to the bitter end. Beyond all that's decent, and then you can die. Until the name Tohdoh, the Miracle has grown ragged and tattered."
A small smile appeared on Lelouch's face, as he remembered that time, so long ago, remembered the dedication he had once had. To cower now would be a betrayal not only of himself, but of the people he had killed. Suicide was a cowardly act, and, he decided, he would never do a repeat of the Zero Requiem. The idea of changing the galaxy, though, that intrigued him, despite his lack of a stake in it. Maybe she was right. Maybe he would find redemption in taking up the mantle once more. The guilt, after all, was not gone.
"Very well…this Geass I accept." Lelouch said as Ava took a step back, bringing a smile to C.C's face.
"Now you are truly alive again, Lelouch." The green haired immortal said, before turning to Ava. "And we have you to thank for it."
Ava didn't know it then, but what she had done tonight would have consequences that wouldn't be felt until years later from this night.
A/N: anyone who has played Sunrider Liberation Day and maybe even Sunrider Academy should be able to quickly figure out who was the mysterious being Lelouch encountered who claims to have had a hand in his survival ensuring he would live and be revived later in the future when he would be needed.
Against all the odds and despite C.C. and Suzaku's efforts it would be Ava who finally wakes Lelouch and brings him back to his old self more or less to become Zero once more.
This was a challenging chapter to write because I wanted it to be just right and so it took me a long time to get it right. But I hope this does the trick, and it was done as best as I could get it so some feedback on it would be much appreciated.
Anyway, chapter four I am contemplating to be a graduation chapter or when Lelouch formerly becomes Zero once more which would be a time skip.