Disclaimer : All characters and places belong to Sunrise Inc., ©2007-2008.

"Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem.
(By the sword it seeks peace but only under liberty)."

---- Algernon Sidney


Zero's Sword


She perked at the sound of the voice, blinking from the sudden intrusion that ended the conversation she was having. Turning around she found herself face to face ('What face?' she queried, mentally kicking herself) with the Renegade of Britannia.

"Z-Zero!" she exclaimed much too enthusiastically for her own tastes. Gathering her composure, she asked more calmly, "What brings you here? Is there something you need from me?"

"Your loyalty and spirit are enough," said the black-clad rebel nonchalantly. (Kallen flushed at that comment.) "But I need nothing of the sort, physically speaking. I came here to offer you a proposal."

Cerulean portals widened. "A . . . proposal?" Shinichirou Tamaki, the other conversant, lifted a brown brow. What could his best buddy want from Naoto's little sister?

Zero nodded. "Yes. Join me. Let's take a walk, shall we?"

"O-Okay." The teenager fell in step with the man.

He turned to his fellow Black Knight. "If you'll excuse us, Tamaki."

Shinichirou frowned inwardly. "Alright then. We can bond some other time."

Once the pair was down the hall and well out of earshot, Zero spoke. "I believe you have seen the new Burai Knightmare, have you not?"

Kallen did. She recalled the tide of awe and pride upon beholding them. "Yes. I heard the Kyoto House retrofitted them from the Glasgow. Do you think they'll be enough to compete with Britannia's Sutherlands?"

"Strength in numbers is not the only way to win a battle," the Renegade reminded her. "It takes a clever mind, plenty of resources, organization and the condition of one's environment to calculate the outcome. One must also account the enemy's strengths and weaknesses, what weaponry they use, what tactics they issue, who their leadier is and so forth.

"But methodologies are just that. They do not give you insight as to what lies behind a person's mask. They do not provide a glimpse into the world's true colors." The overhead lights reflected a myriad of ripples off the tulip-shaped helmet as they neared the warehouse. "As Sun Tzu once said, If you know both about yourself and your enemy, you can come out of hundreds of battles without danger. However, do not think the Kyoto House is our ally just because they offered supplements to the battlefront."

"And why not?" asked Kozuki, perplexed. "We're one of them now, aren't we?"

Zero inclined his head. "Ah, but that is where you're wrong. The Kyoto House merely backs such factions. This is only a test."

"Well, I'm just glad we've come far enough to be tested after all."

He chuckled, and Kallen imagined him to be smirking, casting her a sideways glance. "You're quite the optimist, but don't get your hopes too high up. Ah, there it is," Entering the chamber, he gestured to their left. "This is what I wanted to talk to you about."

Following the direction of his gaze, the Black Knight subordinate was welcomed to the sight of a massive, slender crimson Knightmare Frame. From its helm-like head to its gleaning silver right arm, nothing could quell the astonishment gracing her features. She could quite fully express it with words.

Zero introduced her to the impressive model. "Behold: the first Japanese Knightmare Frame, the Guren Nishiki, built and presented to us by the Kyoto House. What you see here is a weapon that is compared to the likes of those of the seventh generation, including Britannia's Lancelot. However, it is also different. The Landspinners can be retracted from the legs instead of being commonly attached to the ankles. It lacks long-range weaponry, but equipped with a knife, a grenade launcher, and a Slash Harken makes it perfect for close-range combat. The right arm is a Nuclear Pulse Emitter; it acts as both a shield and a radiant wave surger that can interfere and destroy a Frame's electronics. At our disposal, it is the most powerful Knightmare Frame."

"This is it," breathed Kallen after spending a moment composing herself. She whirled on the Renegade ecstatically. "This is exactly what we need! With this we'll be on par with Britannia!"

"For now, as of this moment. Keep in mind of what I said."

The girl scratched the back of her neck. "Heh, sorry. But who will pilot it? Have you thought of someone?"

"As a matter of fact, I have. Here." From the folds of his cloak he retrieved an item and tossed it to the surprised and unsuspected redhead. She glanced down at the ignition key, a beautiful white and red feather. "The Guren is yours, Kallen."

"Mine?" she parroted. "Why me? There are many others who are more talented than I am, and you're our leader. Wouldn't it be better if you were to pilot it?"

Zero folded his arms over his chest. "I can pilot a Burai well enough. You, on the other hand, are the Black Knights' Ace. When the situation starts to get rough, that is where you come in. That is when the Sword strikes."

"The Sword? What do you mean?"

"My proposal is this," the man in black said coolly. "Be my Sword. Be the Blade that banishes the taint that is Britannia. A King needs a strong weapon to protect the Shield and its master. After all, you have a reason to fight."

Kallen stared at the key cradled in her palm, a distant, thoughtful cloud curtaining the world around her. She always did find herself fascinated by the rebel's actions, from his quick thinking and evasive maneuvers in Shinjuku to the coordinated attacks at the Lake Kawaguchi Hotel. At one point she didn't imagine she would ever cross paths and be further involved with the war. But now . . . now she had a chance. A choice that, if accepted, that would bring power, renown, fear, hate, and hope in the future.

Hope . . . for the future. For Japan.

"What do you say, Kallen Kozuki?"

For Yamato-damashii(1).

She clutched the feather, azure orbs searing resolutely.

"I'll do it."

Behind his facade, Lelouch vi Britannia closed his eyes and smirked.

'You made a wise choice, Kallen. A wise choice, indeed.'

That was when you earned the nickname "Zero's Sword", the crimson blade that fought with the strength of one thousand demons. It's unfortunate that your title can longer be put to use, since Lelouch is gone.

At least you're calm. I need you at your bravest, Kallen.

Why is that? Because not all tears can bring back the dead. Not all wishes can change the world.

For every action, there is a reaction.

For every choice, a consequence.

For every virtue, a sin.

Do you know where I'm going with this? No? Allow me to explain.

For every angel that walks on earth, a demon follows in its path. Two months ago, before the Black Rebellion, there was you. You and Kaminejima and Suzaku Kururugi. A difference of opinion. Two radical ways to end the war.

By the end of this discussion, I want to know what your answer is:

Angel or demon.

Which one are you?

(1) Literally translates to 'Japanese fighting spirit'.