Jounetsu no Hanzai
Author's Notes: Semi is Japanese for Cicada. Souri-daijin means Prime Minister. Bouei-shou is the title given to the head of the Japanese military. Tourou Nagashi is the tradition of floating paper lanterns. A real city, Hakone lies between Mt. Fuji and Tokyo. Kantei refers to the Office of the Prime Minister.
****August 8th, 2010****
"You dirty Brit" was the first thing Kururugi Suzaku ever said to Lelouch, when he found the thin, dark-haired boy hiding out at his father's shrine. While suffering a shower of kicks, Lelouch had hurried to explain that Souri-daijin Kururugi had given him permission to stay and that he was only an outcast of Britannia. He claimed to avidly hate Britannia, so Suzaku calmed down and listened. Before long, the two had become fast friends.
In early August 2010, the ten year olds Suzaku and Lelouch were running and play-fighting among the woods and fields behind Kururugi Shrine. Being the son of a military man and martial artist, Suzaku was already making headway in learning several fighting styles, including ninjutsu and Jujutsu. Lelouch, in contrast, only knew a very little bit about fighting. Young Suzaku loved beating him at every sparring match. As for Lelouch, he liked to learn from his many mistakes, as well as try to use innovative strategies to survive longer before losing the match. This way, both of the boys enjoyed themselves. It was difficult to believe they had met less than a year ago.
"Hey," said Suzaku, panting after a brief skirmish, "Lelouch. Do you hear that? Something is rumbling."
"All I hear are the stupid, noisy semi," replied Lelouch in his little high-pitched voice. "I hate bugs."
"There's something else behind the sound of the semi," Suzaku insisted. "I wonder if it's a fleet of our jets. Let's get to a clearing with a good view. Come on, we'll get to a nice place at the top of this hill."
The boys ran through the trees up the steep mountain foothill. Where the ground leveled out higher up, a patch of sunflowers bloomed among the grasses and briars. Above the sunflower patch there was an almost sheer wall of rock about eighteen feet high. Without hesitating, Suzaku began to scale the wall, knowing there would be a good view of Mount Fuji from there. Lelouch lagged behind and was clumsier with climbing. Finally, Suzaku gave him a hand up, and they both looked to the skies around and above the mountain.
They saw airships and war jets, but they did not belong to the Japanese army. Lelouch at once recognized them as Britannian. There were hundreds of them. They were passing over Mount Fuji, probably getting ready to veer northeast toward Tokyo. Suzaku was the son of Souri-daijin Kururugi, and he had heard his father say many times that Britannia would someday invade. Seeing it happen, though, was unreal, and Suzaku hoped his fears were wrong.
"Your dad's gonna be freaking out," Lelouch said nervously. "Let's go back to the Shrine."
****August 11th, 2010****
Over the next few days, it became clear that the fears of Suzaku and his father had come true. Britannia had declared war on Japan. The fighting was bound to start on the shorelines all around the archipelago. The Souri-daijin became insanely busy trying to prepare the military and keep the citizens calm. He had one other critically important job, too: making sure the main group of politicians and legislators wouldn't flee the country. The assemblymen were terrified by the might of Britannia and threatened to leave at once for different territory.
Genbu Kururugi addressed a large gathering of the politicians just a day after the news came of Britannia's war declaration. While the legislators bickered and panicked in an outdoor amphitheater near the Shrine, the Souri-daijin stood on the platform above them all. He was dressed in his military uniform. Even without speaking, the burly man had a presence of strength, will, and pride.
"My people," he began. "Every man loves his life, and to that he has a right. I am not here to tell you to stop treasuring your lives. Rather, I urge you to consider the immensely high value of your lives. If the honored representatives here today were to flee the country, the people remaining behind would fall into a state of panic. They would not be collected enough to put up a fight. Thousands of them would die in battle and bomb raids. The rest would become slaves. And the culture of Japan, which is our very heart and soul, would cease to exist. Do you really have it in your hearts to deprive the people of your invaluable presence?"
The politicians had stopped fighting and chattering and had started listening. Genbu knew exactly what to say to get their attention.
"Now consider," Kururugi continued, "what would happen if you remained faithful to your country, its culture, and its upstanding people. Your presence alone would prevent a full-blown panic. Law and order would remain stable while the military and I prepare to engage the enemy. Ladies and gentleman, you will be remembered by history if you make the brave choice to stay and fight. You will bring honor to your families, to your names, and to your gods. Your hearts will rest easy, as well, free from guilt. But if you should choose to run away, disaster would fall not only on the people who depend on you, but also on yourselves. The Japanese are despised by all three of this world's ruling powers. Will you run to the Chinese Federation, and be subjected to starving naked in thatched huts? Will you run to the European Union, and become victims of discrimination who are denied the right to vote? Or will you perhaps run into the jaws of Britannia, which will tear you with its fangs and swallow you in pieces? There is almost no neutral territory left in the world. My people, our one and only hope is to stand in unity. We are the Japanese, we are descended from gods, and we will not back down from a challenge!"
Several of the politicians were obviously moved by Genbu's passion, applauding his speech readily. Slowly, others began to join in out of a sense of obligation. Last of all, the critical thinkers of the crowd began to realize that, indeed, they had nowhere to run. So they applauded too. In a moment, everyone was cheering for Souri-daijin Genbu Kururugi. In the end, only about a dozen legislators would end up fleeing the country. The rest stayed behind, putting their faith in Kururugi.
Suzaku had been listening to the speech from backstage, sitting with his mother and several immediate relatives of the Souri-daijin. The young boy had not understood everything in the speech, but he got the gist of it. He was amazed by his father's power to sway people. A crowd of angry cowards had transformed into a pack of fierce patriots in mere minutes. Suzaku realized in awe that the people of Japan would stop at nothing to serve and obey such a leader, whatever he may command.
****August 15, 2010****
Britannian invaders clashed with Japanese defense forces starting on the 13th. Thanks to the enemy's use of destructive, versatile Knightmares, the Japanese fleets, tank battalions, and infantry suffered immense losses. It was little more than one-sided slaughter. The Japanese were forced to retreat further in-land. While they recovered and gathered up their strength, the Britannians were quickly moving toward Tokyo to invade it. In the brief time of fighting from the 13th to the 15th, no less than two thousand soldiers across various battle locations died, while twice that number were wounded.
It became clear that winning against Britannia would be nearly impossible. People began to hate Souri-daijin Kururugi, and urged him to call for an immediate surrender. Genbu held off on the decision in order to host a large memorial service for fallen soldiers on the night of the 15th.
Normally, the ceremony would be held at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, but everyone was starting to evacuate Tokyo because of the coming invasion. It was held instead in the city of Hakone. People all across the country were holding such services. The memorial Kururugi supervised in Hakone was relatively small, consisting of about three hundred relatives of the fallen, local politicians, and military officers. Outside a relatively new shrine, six ceremonial altars were built. On these were pinned the names and photos of some six hundred casualties. The service participants each crowded around one of the six altars to offer their prayers and blessings to the dead. Suzaku was led within twenty feet of one of the altars, his mother hold his hand and pulling him along.
"But mom," whispered Suzaku. "You and dad aren't Shinto or part of a western religion. Well then, how am I supposed to pray? What deity do I use? And won't it be lying to do that?"
"Hush, child," snapped the stressed mother. "You can pray to the spirits of the dead. Even if they're not really listening, it won't hurt to tell them how you feel. Tell them you're sorry they had to die, that you will honor their names, and that they will surely be reincarnated."
Suzaku's brow was furrowed in uneasiness. He had always found it difficult to believe that the dead could hear his blessings and wishes. He wasn't even sure that reincarnation was real. But none of that mattered, he decided. What mattered was that he spend a few minutes thinking about the dead warriors as a way to show respect to their memories.
After the prayers and blessings, everyone went down to the edge of the shore of Ashi Lake for the ritual of Tourou Nagashi. Some people wrote the names of their lost loved ones on the outside of the lanterns. Then they set them floating away down the huge lake. Watching all the lights and colors float by was beautiful but depressing at the same time. Suzaku wrote "Etsuko-san" on his, in memory of a young soldier who had once trained with him at the shrine before being deployed. He had been one of the first to die.
Sometime shortly after the ceremony ended, Suzaku wondered out of sight of his mother. He walked around aimlessly, wondering how many more people were going to die. By the time he realized he was lost, everyone seemed to have gone home, and the lanterns on the lake were drifting far, far away. Suzaku stopped and took a careful look around. He felt fairly certain of his location now. The fastest way to get back toward the altars, where his parents would be waiting, was to take a short cut through a few alleys. Confident in his ability to defend himself from an enemy, he proceeded down the narrow street.
While he probably would have been able to defend himself from a single enemy without any problem, Suzaku did not stop to consider the possibility of multiple adversaries. That was exactly what he was up against. A teenage girl with a combat knife melted out of the shadows and stood in Suzaku's way. Several paces behind her, on the far end of the alley, the silhouettes of two strong men could be seen. Suzaku instantly thought of running back the way he had come, but when he turned, he saw a couple more teenagers closing off that end of the alley. Suzaku swore under his breath; what was he supposed to do against five enemies?
The ten year old began to feel his adrenaline, and desperately fought for his life. He managed to give the girl a good kick. She staggered backward and dropped her knife. Suzaku reached for the knife so that the girl wouldn't grab it again, but suddenly she had recovered and was charging at him to grab his throat. Without thinking, Suzaku drove the combat knife into the teenage girl's chest. Seconds later, he realized what he had done, and completely froze in shock. That gave the two men enough time to reach Suzaku and start mercilessly beating him with punches from rock-hard fists and kicks from steel toed boots. As he shouted in agony, trying to see through the blood pouring over his face, Suzaku realized he could die at any minute. He struggled to rasp out some words:
"What are you doing this for?!"
The men and the two other teenagers threw him to the ground. One of them placed a boot on the boy's head, preventing him from moving.
"You're the son of the Souri-daijin," said the thug. "We've been waiting for a chance to capture you for days. You see, we all lost loved ones, and we want the killing to stop. If Souri-daijin Kururugi doesn't announce a surrender in three days, we'll simply murder you, his only son."
"That's quite the diabolic scheme," said Genbu, appearing as a burly silhouette on the far end of the alley. He folded his arms, while his face was contorted into an icy glare.
"Well, if it isn't Kururugi himself," said the lead thug with a dangerous smile. "Did you get worried enough to come look for your son yourself? That makes things simpler. Prime Minister, if you don't announce Japan's surrender right away, I will crush the life out of your son with my bare arms while you watch him die. Well, Kururugi Genbu? What's your choice?"
From around the corner, three special-forces bodyguards rushed into view. In a matter of seconds, they had peppered the four thugs with bullet holes. The two teenagers and the two well-built men fell down, stone dead. Suzaku shouted, shocked but unhurt, thanks to the careful aim of Genbu's bodyguards.
"Suzaku, get to your feet and start walking," ordered the Souri-daijin. "We can't afford to be seen like this. We need to get back to where there's more secret service security. Besides, your mother is worried sick. It may all be a shock to you, but man up. Start walking."
Stumbling to his feet and walking with a stagger, little Suzaku followed behind his father. He stopped briefly by the body of the dead teenage girl. Trembling, he pulled the bloody combat knife out of her body and slung it through his belt, concealing it with his jacket. The he stumbled on behind Genbu.
"Dad," Suzaku rasped in a weak, high voice, "I… I killed that girl back there. I-it was an accident. I swear… she was going to get me in a strangle hold. I did it before I knew what I was doing. I pushed that knife through her, deep into her. Dad… please tell me this is a dream. I've… I've murdered a girl."
"Murder?" scoffed Genbu without so much as looking at his son. "You just said you didn't really mean to kill her. Even if you were bloodthirsty enough to WANT to kill her, you would have been justified to do so in self-defense. You aren't a murderer. You're a young warrior."
"What…" stammered Suzaku… "what does that make you then, Dad? You ordered your bodyguards to shoot the four kidnappers in cold blood, even though you weren't any danger. Dad, doesn't that mean… YOU are the murderer?"
Genbu stopped and turned around. He placed a stern hand on Suzaku's skinny shoulder and looked him right in the eye. He noticed Suzaku's green eyes were wet with tears, but he spoke without pity.
"Do not ever accuse your father of murder," he ordered. "Next time you say something like that, I'll take a bullwhip to you. Listen. I killed those thugs because I was afraid they would kill you. Sometimes you have to kill to protect yourself, and sometimes you have to kill to protect what you believe is precious. If someone ever puts precious lives in danger for no reason, then you kill them, Suzaku. You don't show mercy."
"Yes sir," murmured Suzaku. He followed his father back to safety, and after the family reunited, they wearily returned home.
****August 28th, 2010****
Suzaku had not spoken to Genbu for several days. He was furious with his father for continuing to order the army to fight when they were so obviously overpowered. Though he was only ten, Suzaku understood most of what going on. In his mind, saving lives took priority over all the other duties of Japan's ruler. If Japan surrendered, the people may be treated harshly, but at least the majority of the 130 million people would be able to live on. Genbu Kururugi, however, ignored that fact.
Cities were falling all across the country. The Britannians had enough sheer manpower to focus their invasion on five or six coastal cities at the same time. From there, they moved inland. By the 25th, Tokyo had been taken over. Everyone was urging the Souri-daijin to surrender before the entire Japanese military was wiped out. The second in command under the Souri-daijin, as well as Bouei-shou Nakayama, wished to cease fighting as soon as possible to stop the all-out slaughter. Another five thousand soldiers had become casualties since the 15th, and an unknown number of city civilians had been destroyed by the malicious Britannians.
Suzaku was told to stay home with his mother and bodyguards in the shrine, while Genbu Kururugi went to the temporary, makeshift Kantei just twenty miles away. He was going to address the country there. Genbu had not told his Cabinet that he was going to announce a surrender. However, he looked so crestfallen that it seemed obvious he had finally seen the sense in submitting to Britannia. When the Souri-daijin had left, Suzaku's mother took most of the bodyguards and said she was going shopping to relieve stress. Left alone, Suzaku distracted himself by practicing the moves with the combat knife he had taken off the dead girl.
Mrs. Kururugi was still out shopping when the Souri-daijin returned home. Suzaku, swinging his knife in the main sitting room, was surprised to see his father enter the room carrying a bottle of strong sake. He sat on his knees by the bamboo table and began greedily gulping down the sake. Suzaku just stared. Silence ruled the room until one of the secret service bodyguards entered and asked Genbu to stop drinking. After all, he had a press conference in just a couple of hours. The Souri-daijin did not look happy being told what to do.
"Leave me alone and get out," he ordered gruffly. "You agents are so goddamn annoying. I order you out of the house for an hour so I can have some freaking PEACE!"
"But sir," said the bodyguard, "you are the Souri-daijin of Japan. It's our duty to always protect you."
"Then kill some time patrolling the outside of the house and the shrine," snapped Genbu. "Come back after you've checked every inch of the perimeter for intruders. I just want some time to myself."
The guard obeyed reluctantly, and the Souri-daijin went back to drinking. His face was already flushed from the alcohol. Suzaku stopped swinging his knife and looked at him, wondering if he should leave the room, too. He decided he would leave after trying to make up with his father. The boy was tired of staying furious at the old man. But what could he say to break his three day silence?
"D-dad," Suzaku stammered at last, lowering his knife. "H-how was the address to the country?"
"Terrible," replied Genbu, slamming the sake bottle down on the table. "Everyone was ridiculing me. Some of them even hate me. This country is done for when its citizens fail to serve their Souri-daijin with respect! Shit! I've never had to put up with such brazen disrespect in my entire life!"
Unable to hide his surprise, Suzaku said, "It's hard to believe they would all hate you. I mean, you're doing what's best for Japan, aren't you? I guess some people think that surrender is cowardly, but saving people from cruel, unnecessary death is more important than pride."
"Surrender?" Genbu repeated. "SURRENDER?!" he roared. "Is your brain damaged, brat? I didn't order a surrender! I didn't, and I never will. The foolhardy politicians and even the idiots running the military tried to urge me to surrender. When faced with war, a worthy ruler never surrenders. I have faith in the potential of my country to become great, and I take pride in our history of honorable battle! Anyone who wants to surrender is dead to me!"
A strange, silent rage rose up in Suzaku. It began in his stomach and crept up to his chest, spreading with a sensation like heat into his arms and legs. His face burned, but not with embarrassment. His heart pounded wildly, but not with fear. He gripped his knife.
"SO YOU DON'T CARE IF YOUR PEOPLE DIE?!" he screamed with an explosion of livid energy. "It's impossible for a tiny country like Japan to defeat the Empire of Britannia! Don't you know that?!"
"I do know that," Genbu shouted back. "But Japan has its pride! It will never surrender! It would be a sacrilege to the honor of all our warriors, past and present! This is a do-or-die war! The Japanese military WILL be wiped out, but it will go down fighting. Even if the Britannians destroy every aircraft and every ship, even if they kill all of our 190,000 soldiers, the Japanese will keep their honor! If they truly desire surrender, then they all deserve to die anyway!"
Thrashing his knife back and forth to let out his fury, Suzaku yelled, "You're a monster! I can't believe you, dad! Are you really going to sentence thousands of soldiers and hundreds of civilians to death?!"
Genbu stood up, wrath showing on his fierce, bearded face. "How dare you talk back to your father and your Souri-daijin! To think my son is showing such disrespect. Shit, you're even waving a knife around in MY presence! Suzaku, I haven't struck you in two years, since you seemed to have become a better son. But this is unforgivable. I'm going to give you a belting that you will remember until the day you die!" Genbu started walking, approaching his enraged son. "Hand me that blade this second, and I'll let you off without snapping any of your bones."
The energy of outrage become too powerful for Suzaku to handle. His heart thundered, his body trembled with adrenaline, and he could only see in tunnel vision. He saw his father approaching him, quickening his pace with each step. Suzaku could tell from the burly man's body language that he intended to grab the knife with his left hand while using his right to punch the crap out of the boy. As the father advanced, the son's ire exploded. He could no longer think, but only act.
In a flash, Suzaku covered the remaining distance to his father, and drove the combat knife into his torso, just above his stomach. Genbu froze in shock, and Suzaku yanked the knife out of him, spattering blood. The Souri-daijin's white shirt was quickly being flooded with a deep red. Suzaku's nostrils filled with the smell of blood, and for a moment, some of his senses returned.
The Souri-daijin toppled backwards onto the low bamboo table, breaking it in half. Blood was already pooling underneath his robust body, and his breath came out in desperate gasps.
"You fool," he rasped. "What have you done? Loosing blood like this… you hit the mesenteric artery. Su-Suzaku, I'll bleed to death in just minutes! Suzaku, what have you done? What are you doing? Help me!"
Suzaku dropped the knife, fell to his knees, and screamed in horror. He realized what he had done. His father, his dear father, was bleeding out right in front of him! The shame of what he had crushed his soul. The boy began to vomit on the floor uncontrollably, while tears of guilt, grief, and remaining rage flowed down his face.
"Suzaku, help me!" Genbu cried in a frantic, pathetic voice. "I'm—I'm dying. Suzaku, I don't want to die! This can't be right! No! Suzaku, what have you done? HELP ME!"
A new emotion swept through Suzaku. It covered him like a black silk cloak. His heart slowed down and the hairs on his body stood on end. He felt cold and clammy, and there was a terrible, heavy feeling in his stomach of morbid dread. He knew what he had to do.
If Genbu kept on screaming, it was only a matter of time before the bodyguards showed up. If they heard him shouting "Suzaku, what have you done", then everyone would know the son had murdered his father. But Suzaku was determined that would not happen. He would be killed or jailed if his crime was discovered, so Suzaku acted in self-preservation mode. He picked up the knife.
"I'm sorry, father. This will hurt, but it will end your panic and your pain."
Suzaku knelt beside his father, stabilized his trembling hands, and quickly, forcefully slit his throat.
The screams of the Souri-daijin stopped. For a moment, he moved his mouth silently, eyes wide, body twitching and jerking. Then he stopped moving completely. Suzaku put the knife in Genbu's hand and positioned his right arm so that it looked like he had slit his own throat.
"Well, Dad," the boy smiled through tears, "I guess you can't give me that belting now, huh? I would have deserved it. I wasn't worthy of being your son. But if we happen to meet in an afterlife, I'll let you beat the shit out of me without complaining."
He paused to utter several sobs of despair before continuing.
"Then again, Dad, I am only doing what you taught me. Remember what you said? 'If someone ever puts precious lives in danger for no reason, then you kill them, Suzaku.' Dad, you were putting the lives of thousands—maybe hundreds of thousands—in danger. But it's ok now. Everybody will see that you killed yourself, so they will surrender, and live. We'll all have rough lives, but we won't be dead. Maybe someday, Britannia will even treat us as citizens. I promise to win the trust of the Britannians and change any unjust systems from within. I'll make life better for our people. I promise, Dad."
****September 3rd, 2010****
Everything had gone just as Suzaku predicted. The brief investigation ruled Genbu Kururugi's death to be suicide. Bouei-shou Nakayama then took over and ordered an immediate surrender. By August 31st, less than a month after Britannia declared war, all fighting had ceased. Britannian occupation began. Mrs. Kururugi, with the remaining secret service agents, fled into hiding. She asked Suzaku to come with her, but he refused. The boy chose instead to accompany Lelouch and his sister Nunnally.
The two young Britannian outcasts were making their way the new Ashford residence just north of Tokyo. The Ashfords were one of the few families of Britannian nobles who knew that Prince Lelouch was alive and who wanted to give him shelter. Suzaku and Lelouch walked on foot for the first few days, taking turns carrying the crippled Nunnally. They passed through several battlefields and destroyed towns, where bodies were strewn around grotesquely.
Finally, on the morning of the 3rd, a vehicle full of former military men spotted the children and agreed to drive them to the Ashford residence. They pulled over to find some food and supplies in Hakone. Once there, they discovered the bodies of roughly a dozen soldiers scattered on the streets. So the men set up a makeshift bonfire near the truck and burned the bodies. The smell was sickening. Most of the men wandered off to find food and get away from the grim fire. Only one soldier stayed behind with Suzaku and Lelouch.
The dark-grey military truck was parked near a metal boardwalk built right up against Lake Ashi. The sunset dyed the whole sky brilliant orange, and Lake Ashi's waters took on a purplish-red hue. Rather than looking beautiful, however, the colors spoke of the fires of destruction and the spilt blood of soldiers. Lelouch started to look incensed, like he always did when passing through a city that had been so wrecked. He paced back and forth, full of angry energy, while Suzaku sat on a pile of scrap metal, feeling deeply depressed.
"I will…" muttered Lelouch. Then, in a stronger voice, "Suzaku, I will… destroy Britannia!"
Suzaku said nothing, but thought to himself that it was impossible for anyone to defeat Britannia except another empire. Little did Suzaku know that, in seven years, Lelouch would lead a rebellion against Britannia with only the sparse forces of terrorist cells. No one could have known what Lelouch would one day accomplish, because for the next seven years, many things remained hidden. Lelouch wouldn't be the only one keeping secrets, either. Suzaku would never betray his own dark secret: the fact that he caused Japan's surrender by murdering the Prime Minister.