Chapter 24: Seduce and Destroy
Rewritten: May 23, 2010
""...Courting a man is like robbing a bank. You come up with a list and choose the target. This is followed by research—where are his weaknesses, his vices, who are the important people in his life? The third step is execution, which can be effected stealthily through patient tunneling or directly with guns blazing, each with its own pros and cons. In both cases the object is the same: Accessing the vault—or in our case the wallet. Like bank robbery, Courtship is an endeavor not lightly embarked upon. The complacent and faint-of-heart should return this book to the store now, then sit back and trust family, friends, nosy neighbors, and ad-supported dating websites to find your One and Only for you…
But if you're unwilling to gamble with your future—if you're unwilling to wait as the clock on your Best By Date ticks on—active courtship offers the best odds for securing a Happily Ever After. The story of Snow White is instructive in this regard: Prince Charming is a rare and precious commodity, even in fairytales. Of the eight men our heroine encounters only one who is rich, handsome, and worthy of consideration. The other seven are hairy, snotty, sleepy, grouchy, vertically-challenged, anti-social mountain men in their late-fifties to mid-sixties who share a hut. If you wish to catch one of the few Prince Charmings in the real world, it will require much more spunk and initiative than that displayed by Snow White…
… Keep in mind the rule of supply and demand: The higher you aim the more competition you can expect. Courting a sixty-two year old thrice-married baronet will not be nearly the challenge as say Prince Schneizel, arguably the world's most eligible bachelor with an income of 160 million Pounds sterling. Again the bank heist analogy: The greater the treasure, the heavier the guards and the thicker the vault doors, and in turn the more digging and daring and bigger dynamite required. Figuratively speaking, the decision of whether to rob a local bank or the Britannian Bullion Depository at Fort Amherst is one you should weigh carefully before you take any action…
This book does not attempt to provide a guide to courting actual royalty. But for the truly ambitious, suffice to say that minimum qualifications include: three generations of aristocratic pedigree, a very pleasing appearance, an excellent education, and an unblemished personal record that can stand up to the scrutiny of a thorough background check…"
"So You Want to Catch Prince Charming." By Ashley Appleby. Berkeley Publishing, LLC. 2016."
Karl the doorman surveyed the empty lot. He checked his pocket watch; two mad-packed hours had rushed by since the first guest arrived for the Governor's Ball, by far the busiest shift he saw in his five years with the Strand Hotel. Thankfully the reporters and most of the nosy onlookers had dispersed and things were quiet once again. His shift was nearly done, after which he planned to stop by his favorite watering hole. The manager had given him tomorrow off and he was looking forward to a relaxing day at home and sleeping in—a good reward for a fine evening's work.
At that moment a sleek sports car drifted loudly around the driveway and pulled to a screeching halt; someone was very late to the party. Karl stepped quickly up to the landing and opened the door with a bow and a tip of his cap. "Good evening, ma…"
The greeting caught in his throat as the most gorgeous pair of legs he'd ever seen swung out the car door.
Rivalz munched slowly as he gazed thoughtfully at the ballroom filled with the rich and famous. The chamber orchestra had just finished performing a rousing Strauss and signaled intermission with some light-hearted Mozart. He had fancy food in his belly and fine champagne in his system. He was feeling philosophical. "You know what's funny?"
"I know more than half the people here, and yet I feel like a total stranger."
Shirley rolled her eyes and pointed her seared scallop skewer at Rivalz. "Just because you've seen someone on TV doesn't mean you know them."
"True, but you can get to know a lot about someone without ever knowing them." Brushing away a crumb, the teenager popped another hors d oeuvres into his mouth. "Like that guy there, Shin Seijuro. I know he plays for the Forty-Niners, sacked opposing quarterbacks twenty-two times last season, and gives half his paycheck to charities who help the Elevens."
"So why don't you go talk to him?"
"Are you kidding? He'd snap me in half like a toothpick." Rivalz gave Shirley a sheepish look. "I mean, it's probably bad manners asking for autographs at a party, right?"
Nina, clutching a glass of fruit punch, looked apprehensively at certain faces in the crowd. "Why are there Elevens here?"
"Got invited, just like us." Rivalz took a swig from his glass. "Japanese celebrities didn't lose their status just because their nationalities switched, and you know how much the Governor LOVES celebrities."
"I'm sure these people are alright." Shirley placed a comforting arm around Nina's shoulder; she was surprised Nina decided to attend after the mugging attempt, as well as how quickly she recovered emotionally after Prince Lelouch had come to their rescue.
"I mean, yeah, of course!" Rivalz piped in to reassure his worried friend. "All of them here are honorary citizens, if not full citizens. Not at all like those Numbers you ran into."
Nina chewed her lower lip; a sour taste welled up in the back of her throat but she swallowed it down. "… But they all look the same."
Marika was perched on a sofa in a sitting area away from the center of activity. She kept a polite distance from Villetta, who was seated on the opposite end. The two arrived together, and though the young lieutenant remained upset at her superior, she also felt a tiny bit of guilt for the hurtful words she said the day before. "No sign of danger or suspicious persons, ma'am."
"Not expecting any." Villetta sipped her daiquiri. "We're not working tonight. You should go enjoy yourself."
"Oh I will." As soon as one of these men get a clue. Marika was wearing a pastel blue gown that she purchased last minute. The color made her look younger than her age, but due to her own stubbornness she had no time to be choosy. She had been brought up proper, in a society where the weight of style rivaled a person's substance. With the media out in force tonight she knew that showing up in her military uniform would have been shockingly inappropriate, unprofessional even; Kewell would have rolled in his grave.
Her companion, on the other hand, was able to find an outfit that complemented her perfectly. No surprise there—tall, tanned, well-proportioned women tend to have an easier time finding dresses that look good. It irked her to admit it, but the Baroness Villetta Nu was beautiful and elegant, despite her time on the frontlines, and it was obvious who received the lion's share of attention. As if to prove her point, a gentleman walked up and bowed to the older woman. "Excuse me, ma'am, but may I have the pleasure of this next dance?"
Villetta smiled but shook her head. "Thank you for the invitation, but I'm on duty."
Marika stared after the dejected suitor before turning to her superior. "You just said…"
"I know, but it's a good excuse when you're not feeling social." She paused to reflect for a moment before continuing, "It's probably why I joined the military."
She chuckled. "It's true. I decided early on it was the best way to get my parents to stop bugging me to get married."
"Clearly, it hasn't stopped men from trying."
The pair spun towards the eavesdropper, a tall young man dressed in a crisp tuxedo. Villetta recognized him instantly. "Claudio! What are you doing here?"
"General Gottwald sent me here on a covert mission." He smiled and extended his hand towards Marika. "I don't believe we've met: Captain Claudio Darlton. First Regiment, Second Battalion Knightmare Company, pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Lieutenant Marika Soresi." It was rare to see an officer with such curly hair; she found it kind of cute. "Its bad operations security to tell people you're on a secret mission, you know."
"My cover is blown." He frowned and touched his forehead melodramatically; Marika giggled. "Actually, the general just wanted me out of his hair for a while; called me a worse nagger than his mother. I've been given orders to make reports to the Prince on the division's progress."
It was a long flight just to make a progress report. "Is that all?"
"I've also orders not to return for a while, preferably a month." Concern appeared on the young captain's face, "Things have been kind of hectic at the division. I try my best to keep matters organized, but I'm afraid I've tread on the general's toes more than once in the process."
Villetta laughed and shook her head. "You're doing fine. Jeremiah just doesn't like neat organized people. The two of you will learn to live with each other."
"That's reassuring." Picking up two Martinis from a passing waiter, the captain handed one to Marika before turning to face the ballroom. "Where is the Prince by the way? I arrived a bit late so I didn't hear them announce him."
The fact that Claudio didn't question her age before getting her a drink made her like him even better. "His Highness is busy meeting the locals, been at it since he walked in."
Across the ballroom, Lelouch's shoulder sagged with the kind of weariness that comes from continuous mandatory schmoozing. The only break he received was when Clovis called for attention and made a welcome speech that went on for eight minutes, after which he called Lelouch to the podium amidst thunderous applause. Reflecting the brothers' difference in personalities, Lelouch's speech lasted less than two minutes, and then the parade of well-wishers and dignitaries resumed. He made a pleading face at his childhood friend, whose experience navigating high society and her role as Student Council President gave her intimate knowledge of the upper crust, which made her the perfect guide to get to know who's who in Area Eleven. "How many more important people do I need to see tonight?"
"You're the one who asked me to do this, so no complaining." Milly walked side by side with Lelouch, her hand resting in the crook of his arm. "There are just a few more. Then we can call it a day."
Lelouch took a deep breath; he could handle a few more. "Very well, who is next?"
"Lord Stadtfeld, the next Marquess of Weinstraube-Stadtfeld. He owns pieces of prime real estate in the Areas and has lots of noteworthy friends. His wife, Lady Stadtfeld, is somewhat of a gossip queen; handle with care."
The prince spotted the couple in question; the name rung a bell. "Stadtfeld, the same…?"
"Yes. They're Kallen's parents, although she doesn't mention them often." Something niggled in back of Milly's mind, but she couldn't pinpoint it and decided not to bring it up. "Lady Stadtfeld recently bought a thoroughbred named Star Dancer for two million Pounds."
"Got it." Lelouch closed the distance with a few quick strides and thrust his hand towards the middle-aged gentleman, who had the look of a serious man but was presently taken by surprise. "Lord Stadtfeld, thank you so much for coming. I'm honored that the Tycoon of Tokyo himself made time for this little gathering of ours."
The prince watched as surprise slowly transformed into delight. A smile spread across the real estate magnate's face as he returned the handshake firmly. "The pleasure is all mine. I wouldn't have missed this for the best commercial land in the Concession."
"By that you must mean the parts you don't own already." The prompted a round of hearty laughter from the small group. Lelouch turned to the wife, who was surprised and delighted to find herself personally addressed by royalty. "Lady Stadtfeld, I hear you've acquired a new colt. Will Star Dancer be racing in this year's derby?"
"Yes, yes she will!" Flattered that the prince knew of her newest pride and joy, Lady Stadtfeld's face lit up like a bulb. "She's getting used to the climate here, but I'm confident she'll make the podium three months from now."
"Perhaps I shall wager on her when the time comes." Lelouch was pleased—in two minutes of conversation he had gained the good graces of another influential couple. "I have not seen Kallen all night. Did she not come with you?"
The older couple exchanged looks. Lady Stadtfeld appeared especially confused. "No, I was not aware that she was invited. Only two invitations were delivered to our home…"
"I asked Milly to personally invite those on the student council." Sensing something amiss, the Prince continued. "She never mentioned this?"
The Stadtfelds shook their heads. At that moment the herald—stationed by the entrance and who had been silent for the better part of half-an hour—announced the latest to arrive in a booming baritone that traveled over the din of the party.
"The Honorable Miss Kallen Stadtfeld."
Lelouch eyes moved towards the entrance. Many others also turned around, curious to see the sort of person who shows up two hours late.
Then he saw her.
The partygoers parted like the Red Sea as she made her way towards center of the dance floor. Silver high heel sandals clicked softly upon the hardwood floor as the latecomer stepped into full view; conversations paused, voices hushed, men forgot to breathe. A sheer red evening gown glided across the contours of her body like waves caressing a tropical beach. Her skin—revealed from her shoulders to the small of her back and along her thighs—was a sun-kissed tone of honey, contrasting against the paleness of most of the other ladies. Her brilliantly-colored hair was done up in a bun with a single pin, revealing a mouth-wateringly smooth nape. She was Aphrodite; regal, haughty, in command, and her arrival cast a spell over all who saw her.
"Wow." Rivalz, who had been gawking with eyes like saucers, reached to loosen his collar. "I didn't know Kallen had a smoking hot twin."
And then she saw him.
Their eyes met, locked, and Kallen approached the Prince, who was not unaffected by the vision before him in spite of his outward composure. The first time he had seen her she had been pretty and demure, now she was stunning, arresting, with a rebellious air and a scent of danger. He remembered years ago, when Cornelia had given him "the talk," and told him about women who wielded their irresistible charms like poison; his sister might have been warning him about the girl before him now. "Good evening, Miss Stadtfeld."
She curtsied, and the Prince's throat felt dry when he almost caught a view down the front of her dress. "You seem… different."
She chuckled. "First impressions can be misleading."
"Indeed." Already he was coming to realize that there was much more to the girl than just a pretty face. "Your parents and I were just talking about you."
"Good evening father, mother." Kallen looked coolly at her stepmother. "I wanted to surprise you, which is why I didn't tell you about my invitation. I hope you'll forgive me."
Lelouch felt Lady Stadtfeld's radiating displeasure and decided to intervene before they drew more attention. "You've come at a good time; dinner will soon be served. Seating is prearranged, but I can have a chair added to my table."
Kallen smiled graciously; this cloak and dagger gig was almost too easy. "That would be lovely."
Dinner was a roundtable affair. Governor Clovis, eager to meet his little brother's new friends from school, arranged to have Lelouch, Milly, Kallen, and the rest of the student council sit with him. True to his reputation, he was a generous and gracious host even to teenagers, with an astonishing breadth of knowledge that he employed to keep the conversation inclusive of all participants—Food, travel, the latest movies and fashions, the newest innovations in consumer electronics. All things leisure were within Clovis' purview. By the time the soup had been cleared away and the first entrée served, the topic had moved once more to the man of the hour. "So, Lelouch, how are you enjoying Area Eleven?"
"Alright, except for the one incident, everything has been up to par."
"Ah yes. Sadly, where there's dense population there's bound to be correspondingly high rates of crime." Clovis learned about the mugging attempt from Lelouch shortly after the culprits—three undocumented Elevens from the Shinjiku Ghetto—were arrested. By way of apology, he had bouquets delivered to and personally phoned Shirley and Nina at their homes to assure them that he would do everything in his power to clamp down on crime in the future.
Shirley, who was sitting two seats away from Clovis, thanked a server as he refilled her water glass. "The situation must be especially tough here; so many commute between the Concession and the outer districts, it would be easy for a criminal to slip through unnoticed."
"If I remember correctly, prior to the establishment of Area Eleven Japan had one of the lowest crime rates in the world." Kallen swirled the champagne in her glass as she continued in a teasing tone. "A pity that crime rates are up after seven years of Britannian rule, in spite of Your Highness' diligent administration."
Clovis laughed uneasily. "Well, I mean, that's…"
"Regime change is always followed in the short term by increased levels in crime and unrest. Area Eleven is no exception."
Everyone turned towards Lelouch, who was working on his wild caught sea bass. The prince continued. "In fact, compared to Britannian experience with other Areas, Japan has reovered at a remarkable pace; GDP—which had been stagnant for two decades prior to invasion—is back at prewar levels. Debt and organized crime is down, employment and consumer spending is up."
"Yes, exactly!" Bolstered by his brother's assist, Clovis leaned forward in his chair. "The Elevens had been living under a failing democracy for what, seven decades? They've been ruled by hereditary plutocrats in a system paralyzed by special interest and cronyism. Their balance sheet was a disaster—without intervention Japan would surely have gone bankrupt. Now we're able to deliver public services at far less cost to the taxpayer than before. All things considered, I'd say things have never been better for the Elevens."
Kallen seethed inwardly. "But isn't it true that millions who live in the ghettos still lack regular water and electricity? Not to mention safe housing and job opportunities."
"Your concern for the Numbers is touching, Miss Stadtfeld. Of course, the welfare of all imperial subjects is of utmost importance to us. However, with limited resources, the development of Regular and Honorary Citizens—the most productive members of our society—must be prioritized." Clovis smiled kindly at the young woman, "And then there's the terrorist threat, not that you or anyone should be concerned, as they've been rather quiet lately."
The young freedom fighter clenched her hands beneath the table. "Perhaps they're just biding their time."
Lelouch signaled the server to clear his plate. "Or they've realized the futility of their cause and come to grips with reality."
"Oh? And what reality might that be?"
"That the Elevens have embraced their new regime and moved on with their lives."
Lelouch looked straight at Kallen, who looked straight back. He was intrigued by this girl; unconventional, unflinching, and unafraid to speak her mind, traits which he admired and found to be so rare among the aristocratic class. She obviously had some sympathy towards the Numbers, which was unremarkable in and of itself. It was easy to feel sorry for the former Japanese, once one had seen the conditions in which they lived. Of course, most aristocrats-or Britannians, for that matter-had not seen the ghettos, and so the plight of the empire's newest rank of third-class citizens went largely unnoticed except by NGOs and a few enlightened noblemen; he decided Kallen was probably amongst them, and that explained her more liberal views.
Unsure what to make of the sudden tension, the members of the student council turned to their president, who appeared highly amused. Waiters served up red wine to accompany the upcoming meat course. Clovis tapped the side of his glass with a spoon. "I think that's quite enough politics for one night. A toast! To my little brother: May your stay in Area Eleven be full of new discovery and pleasant surprises."
Everyone raised their glasses. Lelouch touched his glass against Clovis and Milly's to his right. Never adept at detecting the mercurial moods of women, he smiled at Kallen, who was seated to his left. "Cheers."
She smiled back, and then she reached up and emptied her glass of wine over his head.
Kallen heard several gasps from neighboring tables—the commotion caused by a woman passing out sounded like her stepmother. Her friends were aghast, her mission was a wash, along with three month's worth of allowance for the dress and the car; but it was all worth it to see the look on the arrogant bastard's face.
To avoid causing further sensation amongst the guests, the prince was promptly and discreetly escorted from the party by hotel staff so that he could clean up and change. Immediately after—blaming the effect of alcohol on her weak temperament for her unseemly behavior—Kallen bid goodnight to her friends and excused herself. But instead of heading for the front entrance, she hurried to the front desk, where it was a simple matter to learn which room the prince was being taken to: A suite on the fourth floor. Moving quickly, she reached the correct room and waited outside the door. She didn't have to wait long; a few minutes later the elevator door opened and a fresh faced bellboy stepped out balancing several bags and a box. He was surprised when he saw Kallen, who presented him with her best flirtatious smile. "Are these clothes for Prince Lelouch?"
"Thank you, I can take it from here."
"Um, I'm not sure I'm allowed…"
"Stephen, is it?" She read his nametag as she reached for the bags. "Listen, the Prince is… expecting me, and no one else knows about our rendezvous. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
A blush accompanied his look of realization. "Perfectly ma'am."
"Good. We would be really grateful if you could keep this to yourself and not let anyone disturb us till morning." More than enough time for her to knock the prince out, tie him and gag him, call Ougi and Tamaki to bring the van and a large suitcase, roll their prisoner downstairs to the underground parking lot, and make good their escape. It was a simple and effective Plan B—far better, she felt, than feigning interest in the loutish prince over an indefinite period—and she congratulated herself for her fast thinking.
She took a folded fifty pound note and tucked it in Stephen's chest pocket. "And there's more where that came from."
The bellboy nodded emphatically. "You got it, ma'am. Call for me if you need anything, anything at all! I'll be right here in a jiffy."
He turned and took off before Kallen stopped him. "Stephen!"
She smiled, lifting the bags in her hands. "I need you to help me open the door."
"Oh right! Sorry ma'am, I completely forgot." A swipe of the keycard unlocked the doors, which the bellboy held open for Kallen. "I'll leave this card with you. Please enjoy your stay, ma'am."
"Thank you. Goodnight."
The doors closed, and Kallen was left all alone with her prey. The suite was spacious and lavishly appointed. Kallen heard the sound of someone in the shower. She pulled out the hairpin, freeing her hair into its natural state. Kicking off her heels, she tiptoed silently on the thickly carpeted floor towards the bathroom. As she drew close, she took a small sowing bag from her purse; the press of a secret button produced a concealed blade. The sound of running water grew louder. Taking a deep calming breath, she put her hand on the knob and turned softly; the door was unlocked. She cracked open the door. The bathroom was filled with steam. Her vision was obscured but she could still make out her target's silhouette behind the shower curtains. She slid in silently and backed the door shut. Knife in hand, she reached out and threw back the curtains…
… And was surprised to find a pistol pressed up against her chest. In turn, Lelouch was dismayed to feel a blade held beneath his chin, where the slightest pressure would severe his jugular, leading to lethal blood loss in a short amount of time. Their bodies and faces were close to each other, separated by mere inches, the heat and humidity in the room masking nervous perspiration by both as they stood in a tense standoff.
Cornelia had been right. Beautiful women are dangerous.
Lelouch swallowed, the action causing him to feel even more keenly the pressure from the knife's edge. Sweat ran down the side of his face; he flexed his trigger finger. He studied the multitude of emotions on the intruder's face: Surprise, fear, outrage, panic—if she was an assassin she was a poorly trained one, although it wouldn't require a professional to kill him under the circumstances. But if she was an amateur, then there was hope for them both to walk away alive... "Like what you see?"
"This may be stating the obvious, but… I'm naked."
Momentarily distracted from the gun aimed at between her breasts, Kallen looked down, and produced a very un-assassin-like shriek, causing Lelouch to wince. His initial theory appeared to be on shaky ground as his assailant covered her eyes with her free hand before remembering her need to keep an eye on him, which, due to his bareness, placed her in a predicament. She eventually settled on peeking through the cracks between her fingers while avoiding looking down. "WHY ARE YOU NAKED?"
It was an amusing reaction and not at all what he expected. "Usually, people undress for showers."
"I know that!" Her eyes drifted down—partly by accident—before snapping back up; the desperation of her situation competed with a need to crawl into a hole and disappear.
Lelouch was worried. He did not enjoy being in his current position, held at knifepoint by an excited girl-whose purpose remained a mystery to him-while naked. To make matters worse, the spray from the shower had made her wet from head to toe, which made the sheer fabric of her gown turn almost translucent, clinging to her skin and mapping every dip and curve, which meant he could—and did—see everything, which made it hard for him to concentrate.
Realizing what was causing his distraction, Kallen hastily tried to cover herself with her free hand (revealing her burning face) while shifting her body, but her efforts were in vain. Angry, embarrassed tears threatened to spill over-how could she have messed up so badly? "What are you looking at?"
"You, but could you blame me considering the situation we're in?" He noticed the tears and cleared his throat, softening his tone. "Listen. Kallen… you don't mind if I call you Kallen, do you?"
Her mind was racing, her heart was pounding. "... No."
"Kallen, I think we got off on the wrong foot. I don't know who sent you..."
"No one sent me."
"Okay. I don't know what I've done to anger you, but I'm truly, deeply sorry if I've upset you in any way. I want to make it up, but first I need to know one thing: Why are you here?"
Kallen was bewildered: Was he playing for time? Was it possible that he didn't know, that her cover had not been blown? Even so, there was no way on earth she could come up with an explanation that could save her from the current situation; her life hung by a miniscule thread and there was no escape.
"I… I wanted to get to know you…… more intimately."
She shut her eyes in anticipation of the gunshot. But when three, then ten seconds, then fifteen seconds went by without anything happening, she slowly reopened her eyes. To her astonishment, Lelouch's expression was not one of cruel satisfaction or disbelief, but of a man deep in thought. Unbeknownst to her, her explanation—which wouldn't convince a fifth grader under normal circumstances—actually made a good deal of sense to the Eleventh Prince of the Holy Britannian Empire.
His mind traveled back to a few years ago: Early on, as part of his plan for revenge, Lelouch had set out not only to curry the favor of the ruling class but also popular support from the masses. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He was not only a war hero but a celebrity idol, a frequent feature in entertainment as well as political news. Fame however carried unforeseen consequences. For example, he became wildly popular with girls and young women. Not that he particularly coveted their attention, but it was always nice to have fans… or so he thought.
The first sign of trouble came when he began receiving small locks of hair in the mail. Although somewhat creeped out, he appreciated the sentiment behind the gestures. This was followed by strange faxes and phone calls. Then fan sites—which began as harmless portals of adulation and innocent hero worship—became more fanatical, publishing scandalous tales featuring him and his subordinates, even his half-siblings. Then he noticed that some of his clothes went missing, later spotted at an online auction site dealing in celebrity collectibles.
Things came to a head when four girls disguised as maids infiltrated the palace grounds and made it so far as the entrance to the Aeries Palace before their ruse was detected and they were taken into into custody. Security guards found rope, chloroform, and a brand new yard waste bin large enough to fit a person inside. Upon questioning it was revealed that the four (all minors) had hatched up a plan to "borrow" the eleventh prince. They were to have taken him to a secret location and return him two days later by leaving the prince-unconscious and unharmed-besides a busy street for the authorities to discover. In the end, the Fan-tastic Four (unimaginatively dubbed by the press) were handed suspended sentences plus many hours of community service after Lelouch intervened on their behalf. He was never one to pass up good publicity, and the public reacted favorably to the leniency shown by the prince, who was now not only praised for his bravery and brilliance, but also his mercy and kindness. That was also when Lelouch decided things had gotten out of hand, and that going someplace faraway and lying low for a bit while passions cooled sounded like a good idea…
… But now, six thousand miles away, he learned there was no escaping from a woman if she was determined to have him, like the one standing before him. He had seen girls angry at him, especially recently, after some irresponsible news outlets began reporting that the warming of Lamperouge-Ashford ties could result in marriage. He knew how scary a woman's envy can be-though he could never understand the why. He knew he was at least partially responsible; had he been more careful building and cultivating his public image, perhaps none of this would have happened. And now, this girl from a prestigious English family had plunged herself into scandal by spilling wine on him and sneaking into his hotel room in order to be alone with him.
Perhaps, thought the prince, this poor girl is merely besotted with me.
It did explain a lot things: the mercurial personality, the lying to her parents, the pains she took to impress him... even the wine might just have been a plan to get him out of his clothes. He wondered about the knife, whether it was an assassin's weapon or merely this fan-girl-turned-stalker's chloroform of choice. He studied her again, this upset, blushing girl flustered by seeing him and being seen by him; surely a committed mercenary, the likes of which he encountered in North Africa, would have cut his throat already. That left only one possibility. "… I understand now."
His minute of silent pondering had felt like an hour. "Excuse me?"
"I think I know why you're here." He lowered his gun a few inches, and after a few moment's hesitation she reciprocated by taking her knife out from under his chin, but still within striking distance. "You fell in love with me before we even met. When we did meet it was like a dream come true, and you felt compelled to act on a once in a lifetime opportunity, thereby devising this plot to have me alone and to yourself."
Kallen was about to protest but bit her tongue. She nodded silently, ashamedly, like an underage pantie-thief caught in the act. She had been grasping blindly at straws when she invented an excuse for her presence in his room; she had no idea that he would buy it. This was her only way out.
Lelouch observed her closely and continued. "… But, the sight of my intimate familiarity with Milly and news of our impending engagement—just rumors, by the way—proved too much for you to handle. Which explains the knife; you came tonight determined you were going to have me, or no one would."
It was like something out of a bad paperback romance. Kallen swallowed her pride and nodded again, lowering her knife further for dramatic effect. Confidence in his theory bolstered, Lelouch turned off the shower before he continued in the manner of a detective explaining the circumstances of a sensational crime he recently solved.
"Perhaps... what caused you to snap is you compared yourself to Milly and you found that your assets fell short of hers. You were afraid that-used to seeing Mt. Everest-I would pay no attention to your Mt. McKinleys." From reading on the internet, Lelouch learned that women were sensitive and vain about their size as men were to certain body parts, hence the wide selection of commercial products and procedures offered to increase size. Milly-blessed from birth and needing zero assistance in that department-would naturally be the envy of any woman. "So you brought your knife as backup. In case you failed to seduce me, you could, ahem, have your way with me or die trying."
For a moment, Kallen reconsidered stabbing the man in front of her, even if it meant getting shot.
She could not decide which was worse; getting arrested and executed as a terrorist, or being misunderstood as attempting to force herself on this sleaze ball, not just because she was a lust-driven stalker... but because she was jealous of Milly's BREASTS? The incredible thing was that Lelouch-by all accounts a brilliant mind-appeared sincere. She even caught an unmistakable look of pity, which incensed her further; was it possible that the man acknowledged by both Europe and Britannia as a military genius could be this clueless when it came to understanding women?
The irony, of course, was that no matter how wrong Lelouch was-and he was wrong, off by a mile-there was nothing she could say to defend herself, as to do so would be suicidal. Tempted though she was to grab him by the throat and beat some sense into the chauvinistic idiot, she decided that bearing the shame and surviving was the more noble order.
At that moment, when it seemed like things might resolve peacefully, the doorbell rang. Kallen attempted to spin around but her bare feet slipped against the slick tiles. Arms flailing, she fell towards Lelouch.
Marika watched as her superior attempted a third call. "Any luck?"
"No answer." Villetta returned her cell phone to her purse. She had been trying to reach her commander after she heard about the wine spill, but to no avail. She looked to see Claudio jogging back towards where she and Marika were standing. "Well?"
"The front desk called his room but no one is answering. I've got the master key though."
"Let's go then."
The three officers piled into the elevator. Claudio pressed for the fourth floor, and then stared bug-eyed when Villetta hiked up the hem of her dress and reached through the side slit in between her legs. He exhaled when she removed a compact pistol that had been strapped against her inner thigh. "You could have given me warning."
Her mind was on more important things. "Are you two carrying?"
"Yes." Getting on one knee, Claudio pulled out a pistol from a hidden ankle holster; his father had a policy of never leaving home unarmed, and taught his sons to do the same.
Marika frowned. She, unlike these ridiculous grownups, did not smuggle a gun to a banquet. "Is this really necessary? For all we know, he could have met a girl at the party; maybe he just wanted some privacy."
"I seriously doubt that." The elevator door rung open and Villetta stepped out into the empty hallway. "If his highness was seeing anyone—and he is not—I would be the first to know."
They knocked on the door, then rung the doorbell. No answer. The three exchanged looks. They swiped open the door. Claudio raised his eyebrows at the hairpin and the pair of women's heels lying on the floor. No sooner had they entered than they heard a muffled crash from further inside the suite. Villetta and Claudio advanced in tandem and with guns at the ready flung open the bathroom door. "Your highness, are you…!"
What they found was a half-naked girl—who Marika and Villetta remembered seeing from Ashford Academy—lying on top of their completely naked prince. Fittingly, the couple looked up like guilty teenagers caught in the act; his arms were around the small of her back, her face was tucked against his neck, his knee was bent up against her groin, her breasts were mashed against his chest. They had been showering together, were red in the face, and breathing heavily. The curtains were nearly torn clean off, implying the haste and passion with which they embraced one another.
It was an intensely awkward moment. "My lord, is… is everything alright?"
By a small miracle, neither her purse knife nor his gun had gone off when she suddenly dove into him. Both weapons were pressed against the side of the bathtub and out of sight from his subordinates; Lelouch then made one of the most fateful snap judgments of his life.
"Yes, everything is fine."
Claudio put away his weapon and did his best to refrain from grinning. Marika smirked and shot a pointed glance at Villetta, as if to say I told you so. The baroness was mortified and unable to look straight at her commander. "I um, tried to reach you, sir. You didn't answer, so…"
Lelouch thought fast; he had caught her red-handed, breaking into his room and threatening him with a knife. On the other hand, her last name was Stadtfeld, and her father was a man with whom good relations could go far. He also considered himself somewhat responsible for the poor girl falling head over heels for him, and felt obliged to salvage her reputation as best he could. As Clovis was fond of saying: with great mojo comes great responsibility. "Sorry for not answering. I've been sort of busy."
"Quite right, sir."
"I'm going to ask the three of you to keep this to yourselves. Not a word to anyone; not to my family, not to Miss Stadtfeld's family, and certainly not Clovis. If anyone asks, tell them I decided to spend the night here because I was tired and had too much to drink. Tell them Miss Stadtfeld stayed for the same reasons at a different suite. I'll phone the hotel shortly for to arrange for a second room for us. Is that clear?"
"Very good, sir." Lelouch's orders were so thorough and succinct the three officers could not help but think that he pulled this sort of shenanigan all the time. "Sorry for interrupting. Good night sir. Good night, Miss Stadtfeld, and uh, enjoy your stay."
The trio filed out. Lelouch sank into the empty tub as both he and Kallen heaved a deep sigh of relief. It was late. He was exhausted. His body ached in ten different places, his subordinates were under the impression that he sneaked out for a quickie with the girl who had embarrassed him in a public setting. He had a feeling that he'd have some explaining to do in the morning.
Kallen's heart was pounding, her head hurt from inside and out, but she was alive. Alive! And free to fight another day. The tension drained from her body so suddenly she all but collapsed as she let her eyes drift close, her entire weight resting on top of the smooth, inviting mattress that was a bit uneven but was warm and smelled pleasantly of clean soap and...
"Um, could you get off me?"
Her eyes flew open. She saw his face so close she could feel his breath. Lelouch struggled mightily to stay still, because he could feel her heartbeat, which meant she could feel his, and every move he made could literally (and figuratively) rub her in the wrong way, and he definitely wanted to avoid that.
For both prince and outlaw, it was truly a night to forget.
The maid had just finished tucking in the princess. "Yes, milady?"
"Has my brother called?"
"No milady. He did say that the banquet could go on quite late, and that you should not wait for him."
"I'd like to stay up just a while longer, if you do not mind."
After making sure that Nunally was comfortably propped up with pillows, Sayako left and returned with a mug of warm milk with a bit of honey and a cup of tea for herself. With the soothing melody of a nocturne playing quietly on radio, Nunally blew carefully on the surface of her hot drink. "Sayako-san."
"Do you think brother is enjoying his time here?"
"I believe so; if not, the young mistress will see to it that he does."
Nunally smiled—she wanted nothing but for her brother to make friends, have fun, and live happily. "I'm glad we're here in Area Eleven."
To be Continued.
Author's Notes: First time I rewrote a chapter after publishing; the emerging consensus from reader feedback however was that I had taken the slapstick too far, and the shower-scene became OOC. I hope this repairs things somewhat.
From start to finish this chapter took seven days of diligent writing. Prior to that, my life was consumed by final exams for a month. Summer course will begin soon and after that is an internship at a foreign country. Nevertheless, I hope to up the productivity significant during the next three months.
The inspiration for this chapter came from early on in season one, when Code Geass caused a stir with an intense shower scene featuring Kallen and Lelouch. At the outset I wanted to explore the possibility of how things would play out in reverse, with a nude Lelouch instead. A key to the chapter was Lelouch's ego (about his own popularity and intelligence) and canon insensitivity to women, which worked together to allow Kallen to get out of what seemed like an impossible favorite part was picturing Lelouch, naked with Kallen molded against him, giving orders as if nothing was out of the ordinary. This is only the beginning of Kallen and Lelouch's tumultuous encounters, and much more lies in store for them. The next chapter should carry a more serious tone, as well as a more involved role for other characters including Suzaku.
Thank you all for your patience and reading. I hope you'll continue to follow this story.