Entropy 1: The Gift of Truth
Empress Nunnally waited patiently in her wheelchair for everyone to arrive. She was in a small auditorium in her palace, seats to her each side and a blank screen to the front of the room, the same as any movie theatre but certainly more private. Zero stood dutifully beside her.
"Your Majesty," he wondered, his voice crisp and metallic through his mask's synthesizers, "are you really sure this is wise?"
Nunnally held back a frown. Suzaku was behind that helmet. She didn't know how, but she knew. He was wearing her older brother's mask and trying to mimic his poise and graceful speech. It came off to her as forced.
A year had passed since Lelouch died. Most the world hated him, but in Britannia a vast majority still hailed his name, his apparent mental decline mattering little to them in comparison to what he did while he was still sane. For one, he'd brought increased equality to the Empire's citizens, endearing him greatly to the peasants. Secondly, he'd defended the nation when, as far as they could see, the Black Knights had bombed their capital city of Pendragon with FLEIJA, defeating them and uniting the world under Britannian rule - quite a celebrated event since the Empire was trying to conquer everyone anyway. Even his assassination had only garnered the Demon Emperor more favour with Britannians, the people speaking out in support of their king, even deranged as he may have been, outraged at Zero, the most hated enemy in their kingdom's history, for stealing his life.
Only a speech by the newly crowned Empress Nunnally had brought Britannia back into line and talked them down from a potentially catastrophic revolt. In it, she'd extolled the former virtues of Lelouch vi Britannia and expressed the deepest regret that his death had become necessary as he slowly fell into tyrannical madness. She made no excuses for her brother's later actions, but appealed to what little popularity he still had as a reformer to convince the Empire it was time for peace.
Following that, the world proceeded to rebuild. Tensions between peoples and nations still existed, but at the very least there was a lull in the endless cycles of conflict, and no matter how grudgingly, everyone came together under the banner of the UFN. Due in no small part to the benevolent guidance of Kaguya Sumeragi, the United Federation of Nations rose to the peak of its efficiency, mediating between angered parties and resolving issues diplomatically where possible, and with the threat of unleashing the Black Knights when necessary. Meanwhile, under their new Empress, Britannia was hesitantly welcomed back into the global community, and the legend of Zero was still hot in people's minds.
And yet, though everything was proceeding as perfectly as could be hoped for, Nunnally couldn't help but wonder why. Why was her only full-blooded brother dead when so many others, less-deserving than he, were still alive? Schneizel and Kanon for instance. The Second Prince - now Crown Prince since tricking her into bombing Pendragon, killing almost all her remaining family including First Prince Odysseus - seemed to be on Zero's leash, and Kanon had little creativity for mischief without his liege's guidance. But even so, they were still alive and well despite their wrongdoings. Why? It was a question that nagged her for a year until...
"This is the best course of action, Zero," Nunnally replied to her caped companion, as decisively as she could.
She resented Suzaku's attempts to be something he wasn't, but then again, she was doing just the same thing, wasn't she? She was no great genius at the workings of politics or finances, or anything else. In fact, she would've rathered been a nobody for the rest of her life. And yet she still performed her role as queen even knowing in her every waking moment that Lelouch should've been the one to rule and not her.
The door to the home theatre opened and an imperial guard walked in, followed by a number of bewildered faces of varying familiarity to the young empress.
Tianzi and Xingke were there, Ohgi and Villetta and others from the Black Knights, Cornelia and other Britannians, Kallen and her friends from Ashford, and even Jeremiah and Sayoko and Anya, each bearing a suspicious glint in their eye as they traded looks with the other guests.
When everyone was finally in the room the guard pounded a fist against his chest, bowed to his queen, then took his leave, closing the door behind him. There was a prolonged silence as each person waited for another to speak, then, as was his way, Tamaki broke the ice, crass and to the point.
"So, is this a party, or...?" He raised his brows and shrugged. "You called us all here, and we are, so now what?"
The tension in the room parted as everyone became certain they weren't the only ones who didn't know why they were there. The Britannian Empress had sent each of these people a formal invitation to join her for an unspecified event, and even paid their travel expenses to help ensure they made it. Why? That was something they were still waiting on.
"Hello to you all," Nunnally nodded to her friends and family, and those she hardly even knew. "I'm very glad you could come. As I'm sure the guards told you, you'll get any weapons you were carrying back when you leave. You won't need them for what I have planned anyway."
Cornelia raised a brow at her sister's words.
"And what precisely would that be?"
"I'm sure you're a little confused as to why I asked you all to be here today, but please, before I explain, we should introduce ourselves." She extended a hand of greeting. "My name is Nunnally."
There was a murmur of surprise from the assembled crowd. Everyone already knew the Empress. It was hard not to. Still, order slowly grew from the chaos and Ohgi stepped forward, Villetta moving to join him.
"I'm Ohgi, and this is my wife Villetta."
Cornelia rolled her eyes
"My name is Cornelia li Britannia." She looked to Guilford beside her and he stood at attention. "Guilford?"
"Yes, Princess! I am Gilbert G.P. Guilford!"
More of the group began to introduce themselves, even if they were already well known.
"I'm Rivalz. It's nice to, uh, meet you all." The blue-haired boy was shaking with nerves being around so many important people, royals and soldiers alike.
"I am Kyoshiro Tohdoh."
"My name's... I'm Nina."
"The name's Tamaki! You already knew that though 'cuz I'm awesome, right?"
Kallen, Milly, and Gino went next, then Tianzi and Xingke, Kaguya, Chiba, Rakshata, then finally Lloyd and Cécile, and Jeremiah, Anya, Sayoko, and even Zero.
There was another pause. Though the war was over, the division between Britannian and Black Knight was a stark one, the previously unorganized crowd splitting during their short introductions into two distinct groups standing across from each other and glancing warily around for any sign of trickery.
Nunnally didn't notice the hostilities, or else she chose not to, throwing on a pleasant smile.
"There now," she declared, trying to refocus everyone's attention back to the matter at hand and away from past hatreds. "If everyone's quite ready, I'll explain why I've brought us all together."
Slowly, as everyone reassured themselves they weren't about to be stabbed in the back, they turned again to face Nunnally, their previous curiosity overwhelming their distrust for the other people in the room. Zero pulled something from his coat pocket and showed it off. It was a DVD case, unadorned except for bright slashes of red across it reading 'R1'. The Empress gestured to the case and continued.
"One week ago I found that in my chambers. There's also another, called 'R2'. I can't tell who put it there or why, or even how they managed to get it past the guards, but whoever it was left it with an attached note."
There were a few small gasps of surprise at the thought of someone intruding in the Empress's bedchambers, but they quieted down as she pulled a sheet of paper from the folds of her dress. There was a message there, apparently written out with a typewriter, the font bold, black Times New Roman. She began to read:
Empress of Britannia, Nunnally vi Britannia,
You have questions. We have seen this. The death of Lelouch vi Britannia weighs on your mind. We have felt this. You know what you're expected to believe and yet you do not. You desire answers. Time has come and gone, and now We present to you the Gift of Truth. Assemble the Cast of Characters, for gifts are to be shared, and witness for yourself what We have seen through Our infinite sight.
She lowered the sheet from her face to check the reactions of those in the room. There was only a blank stare from most of them, though Jeremiah, Sayoko, and Anya appeared slightly disturbed, as if they knew something more than they were willing to admit. Recognition dawned on Kallen's face.
"C.C.!" She stomped and scowled to herself. "It was signed 'C', so it must've been that pizza-witch! What's she up to!? If I could only get my hands-"
"No." All turned as Zero spoke. "It was not C.C. Of that I am sure."
Beneath his mask Suzaku bit his lip. He was fairly certain he knew where the letter came from, and if he was right it didn't bode well for the mortal world.
Nina offered a guess.
"Did you check for fingerprints?"
"We did," Zero nodded back. "There were none anywhere."
Lloyd had been thinking to himself in silence until this point, but now decided to act. With an intrigued grin he stepped away from Cécile and the rest of the guests, ignoring all protocol, and approached Zero, plucking the DVD case straight from his hand and checking it over. The others in the room looked around, wondering if they should stop him, or even just say something, but they refrained. Only Cécile didn't bother at all, merely shrugging to herself and sighing, knowing it wasn't worth it to get involved.
After flipping it about in his hand, taking his glasses off and scrutinizing it in the light, and even shaking it next to his ear to see if it rattled, Lloyd finally turned back to the others with a wide smile of childlike mirth and pointed to the DVD case.
"Let's watch it!"
Nunnally was about to say something along the same lines but held back as the mad scientist popped open the case and pulled out a single black disk, similarly slashed with the red title, and bounded over to a throng of machines by the theatre screen in search of a player. At last Cécile figured it was time to intervene.
"Lloyd, wait for permission!" She began to chase after him but Nunnally raised a hand.
"It's alright," she excused the odd man's actions while he continued searching for something to put the disk in. "I think that's what the note was saying. 'Assemble the Cast of Characters' and share the Truth with them. To be honest, the reason I called you all here was so we could watch it together."
"Ah-HA!" Lloyd called his success as a drive in one machine, apparently a DVD player, opened and he inserted the R1 disk. "Everyone take your seats, it's MOVIE NIGHT!"
The screen, almost as large as a real movie theatre's, powered on and the lights in the room dimmed. Nunnally smiled and gestured to the rows of seats, and although no one seemed particularly sure about this, (exceptions including Nunnally, Rakshata, Tianzi since she'd never been able to watch movies with friends before and found this to be a fun new experience, and Lloyd quite obviously) they filed quickly in to sit down, unsure of what they were about to see.
There was only blackness on the screen and whispers slithered from the surround sound speakers. They were quiet, but fast and overlapping, and growing in intensity. A sphere of cloudy orange appeared amongst the blackness on the screen.
"The hell is this surreal shit?" Tamaki interrupted. Rakshata replied heartily.
"Oh, that's Jupiter. It's a marvelous place reall-" She stopped at a shush from the others.
Though much of the whispering was beyond understanding, one voice seemed to repeat the same line over and over, louder and louder. Kaguya strained her ears and lowered her brow.
The voice was fairly clear now, echoing the same line.
"Don't stop the march of time."
The whispers stopped abruptly and the screen returned to blackness, only for a soft, repeating thump like a heartbeat to begin instead, red letters appearing to accompany it: