Sorrow of the Prince

His name was Lelouch Lamperouge. Though that was not his only name, it was the one he preferred for himself the most. Though a young boy, he had become many things over his lifetime. As Lelouch Lamperouge, he was a top student at Ashford Academy, gifted in subjects such as mathematics, science, biology, geography, history and even things like cooking and housekeeping, as well as being a good friend to many. As Lelouch vi Britannia, he had been the Eleventh Prince to the Britannian Throne, the son of Emperor Charles di Britannia and the late Empress Marianne vi Britannia, the direct brother of Nunnally vi Britannia and the indirect sibling of countless others, and formerly the seventeenth royal in line to the Britannian throne. As the warlord known to the world as Zero, he had been a keen strategist and military leader, having organized one of the greatest rebel armies since George Washington's Continental Army, and had more than once challenged and beaten his former homeland of Britannia despite having been outmatched in numbers and up until recently technological power. Three different lives, yet each one his own and well beyond others of his age.

And yet for the first time ever in his lifetime, even amongst past tragedies which there were a good number of, Lelouch wished he were someone else. Today had originally been promised to be another great victory over Britannia, but instead it had become the worst tragedy since the death of his mother.

Nunnally, his beloved sister, was dead. She and what he could only summarize as millions of others, including several of his Black Knights and his personal maid/kunoichi Sayoko Shinozaki, had all been slaughtered by a new Britannian mass destructive weapon that he had never seen before, and thus never took into account for his plans. The weapon had been fired into the heart of Tokyo, the Japanese city that the Britannians were supposed to have been protecting from him, and had vaporized an entire eight kilometers of the city, with the government building and his sister being caught in the middle of it.

It had all been meant for her! Lelouch's mind cried out when his body refused to, even as more tears streamed through his eyes. This had all been for making a world a better place for her! And now she's dead! My little sister is dead!!

It took a great amount of personal restraint to keep from totally breaking down in the cockpit of his knightmare frame, the Shinkiro, as well as the knowledge that his troops would detect something amiss if he did not come out in his usual calm but proud posture. Thus, with both the calm, solemn nature of an executioner and the finality of the condemned under his axe, Lelouch set the Shinkiro into its designated holding cell on the Order of the Black Knight's flagship Ikaruga and then began going through the power down procedure. Once he completed that, he reached over to the compartment on his left and had it slide open, revealing his trademark cowl and mask.

He couldn't help but shake his head in disgust at them. Although he did not want anyone to see his face, especially at a time like this, the man named Zero had no desire to confine his head to the captivity that was shaped as a black headpiece with a dark blue orb at its center. At the very least he wanted to let the air touch his face, cool and comfort him after all he had just gone through. However, Lelouch knew that was impossible, and so reminding himself that all he had to do was make it to his personal quarters where he would be generally alone and isolated, he slipped the mask on and let it automatically attach itself to his head. Instead of wrapping the cowl around himself though, he chose to hold it around his right arm; if he was going to wear the mask, then he might as well not use the cowl.

The Ikaruga's hangar was naturally a busy place, as mechanics and technicians ran up and down the entire length, already performing repair work on the Knightmare Frames that survived the onslaught. More than once, Lelouch saw pilots slumped on the ground, silently mourning the death of a comrade or two at the foot of their machines. He felt it was unprofessional, but Lelouch never blamed them for it, especially now.

What he hadn't been expecting was his ever loyal commander, Kyoshiro Tohdoh, to be standing at the foot of the hangar, waiting for him. Earlier the former Shogun had ignored Lelouch's direct orders to search out for the Britannian Governor, that was Nunnally, amidst the ruins and had instead ordered the Black Knights to retreat back to the Ikaruga. Lelouch wanted to skin Tohdoh alive for that, but in retrospect it was the best decision. Besides, he already sent his latest follower, Jeremiah Gottwald, to search for Nunnally instead. Although he really didn't want to, Lelouch walked up to Tohdoh, who despite losing many of his subordinates, kept his hardened stern expression.

"Report Tohdoh." Lelouch said in an even voice. He hoped the voice synthesizers in his mask drowned out any emotion he had been feeling at that time.

"All surviving units have been accounted for Zero." Tohdoh immediately began, narrowing his gaze, as if he were trying to see the face that hid behind the mask. "I have not been informed on how many Knightmare Frames and pilots that we have lost out there, but we can expect it to be a high number. Our forces at the Kagoshima coast have also stopped fighting; it seems the Britannians had lost the will to fight for the time being."

"Are we still capable of fighting this war?" Lelouch asked. It had been a side request at best, but he needed to know all the same.

Tohdoh's look became even grimmer. "As I said, I have not been informed of the total number of losses, but in my opinion Zero, we can still fight."

Hesitantly, Lelouch nodded. "Good." He looked over the Akatsukis. "Give the men whatever they need to ease their grief. I don't care if it's sake, just pass it around. I want us up and ready to fight at a moment's notice, just in case the Britannians decide to press their advantage."

Lelouch then looked back down the hangar at where Kallen had placed the Guren's latest incarnation. Although downtrodden, he was still quite impressed about its performance in the battle; Kallen had even managed to defeat Luciano Bradley, the Tenth Knight of the Rounds and the feared Vampire of Britannia, while barely extending herself with that machine. Had this been any other day, Lelouch would have been overjoyed at regaining such a powerful piece that was Kallen and her extraordinary Guren.

"And if you can find Rakshata, tell her to come take a look at this new Guren. I want its specs listed and delivered to me by tomorrow." Lelouch turned back to face Tohdoh.

Tohdoh nodded. "As you will Zero." The former Shogun then turned one hundred eighty degrees and began to walk away.

However, before he could make a good distance, Lelouch stopped him. "And Tohdoh…"

The older man stopped and looked back, his attention gained.

"I would like to apologize to you for my… outburst." Lelouch admitted. It was a violation of one of his personal rules; he never, never apologized for the things he did or the orders he gave, no matter how bad they turned out. But in light of the circumstances, he felt it was necessary just this once. "I should not have done that, especially when you had already lost Asahina. In light of the circumstances, you were right to counter my orders and have us retreat."

Tohdoh arched an eyebrow at Zero's uncharacteristic admission, but decided to take it for what it was worth. "I… accept your apology, Zero. Asahina will be missed, but I do not wish for his sacrifice to be in vein, nor the others that have died here. At the very least, this retreat will by us some time to regroup."

"Yes." Lelouch agreed. "Now go carry out my orders. And get some rest as well Tohdoh; I'm going to need you and Chiba for our next operation."

"We will be ready then." Tohdoh replied, then turning back to do what he was told.

As soon as Tohdoh was gone, Lelouch lost whatever composure he had managed to hold onto and had he not been who he was, he would have fallen back from the nausea that was coming in. 

Fortunately, he felt a hand come up behind him and hold him back up.

"Are you alright, Zero?" a rather high pitched sounding male voice asked beside him. Lelouch didn't have to look; he knew the voice belonged to Rolo, his so-called brother.

At first, Lelouch said nothing, but then soon turned his head to look at Rolo. "Where's… Where's Nunnally?" he asked outloud, only enough that Rolo could hear him.

Rolo wasn't sure how to respond to that, and it was clear all over his face. Instead, he took Lelouch's cowl into his arm and then wrapped his "brother's" own right arm around his shoulder. "Come on, I'll get you to your room." They then began to walk the long journey down the ship.

"Master! Ah-!" C.C.'s voice chirped as the door to Lelouch's room opened. That was all Lelouch heard out of her as Rolo began to drag him toward his couch.

"Hang in there, brother!" Rolo said as he nudged Lelouch further and further.

"….Where's Nunnally?" was all Lelouch could reply with, sounding more like a drunk instead of the former prince turned warlord that he was supposed to be. All of a sudden, light met his eyes and Lelouch was forced to squint as Rolo removed his mask, placing it on a nearby table.

"You have me, brother." Rolo responded, trying his best to sound reassuring while he had Lelouch sit back. Even then, Lelouch did not turn to face Rolo, instead keeping his gaze fixed on the table in front of him. "We came all this way just by ourselves, didn't we?" Rolo added on.

The sound of a ringing cellular phone broke the silence, and from his peripheral vision, Lelouch watched as Rolo dug into his pocket and brought it out. He noticed that Rolo's white heart-shaped pendant was attached to the phone. "Jeremiah? I want my brother to be left in peace for right now. Postpone this until…"

Unconsciously, Lelouch's eyes shifted toward that pendant. Even to him now, it was such a simple design; a small tin heart with a golden clover engraved at the center. It was likely meant to be a love locket that girls kept little pictures of their friends or boyfriends in, not quite something that a guy should have been carrying.

"Ah, I see… It might be rather meaningless though."

For a girl… Lelouch thought. He remembered now; it had originally meant to be a birthday present for Nunnally, but after the Britannian Emperor had rewritten his memories to have Rolo be his stand in sibling, he had given it to him instead.

At first, that explanation meant nothing to Lelouch, but slowly it grew in his mind. For Nunnally… For Nunnally… it kept going over and over again in a constant, steady beat. Of course it had been for her, not this emotionally unstable stand in that the Britannians replaced her with to keep an eye on him. Everything had been for her. So why was Fate so cruel that the stand-in was still alive, when his long justified death was so past due, when the real one had been killed off? The one that he had put some much effort up to save?

As if his insides had spontaneously combusted, Lelouch felt energy enter him again. He felt his body stiffen as he felt an all too familiar hate embrace him in its warm arms.

"I'll be right beside my brother…"

He dares call me brother!? That inner outburst did it. Without warning, Lelouch stood up and snapped his hand forward, taking the phone out of Rolo's hand and holding it up in the air. "Why is this in your possession!? I was going to give this to Nunnally… To Nunnally!"

Rolo looked at him in confusion, but Lelouch didn't stop. "Do you think you can serve as her replacement!? You damned imposter!"

And with that, Lelouch threw the phone at Rolo's face, which it bounced off of and fell onto the ground. Lelouch thought he heard C.C. wimper, but once again he didn't care; he was too pissed off to care about anything right now.

"You still don't get it, do you!?" Lelouch glowered at Rolo, who was looking down at the phone in even more confusion. "I hate you! I goddamn hate you!! I even tried to kill you several times, but I kept missing my chances!"

"Bro…ther…" Rolo barely managed to stammer.

"Get out of here!" Lelouch practically roared. "Don't ever show yourself before me again!"

Rolo's eyes widened in shock, but Lelouch ordered him once more. "GET OUT OF HERE!!"

A moment of silence followed that outburst, as neither Rolo nor Lelouch dared to move, almost as if they were frozen into the scene. If Lelouch had been himself, he probably would not have made such that order; Rolo was, after all, still a Britannian trained assassin equipped with one of the deadliest Geasses Lelouch had seen yet, and at the same time his emotional composure was so unstable that Rolo practically killed on a whim. Part of Lelouch expected that the next second he felt he would be on the ground with a narrow cut along his side and Rolo standing over his dying body with a bloody knife in his hand and an incredulous look on his face.

Instead, Rolo closed his eyes for a second, likely to hold back any tears, then as slow as he could, got up from the couch and walked over to the door. As he reached it, he turned one last time to look at Lelouch, as if to check and see if his "brother" would change his mind about the order. All he saw, however, was a face full of hate and sorrow, the kind one would expect from a man who had just lost his entire family. Lelouch could see it didn't make sense to Rolo, but then the fool had been following him all this time and not once did he wonder if his brother was truly there for him.

And after that moment past, Rolo turned around entirely and walked out the door, saying nothing along the way.

"Finally…" Lelouch muttered, sitting back down on the couch. C.C. was still there, but he ignored her; he really didn't feel like putting up with her innocent naiveté right now. He just wanted to be alone and in silence until he could put himself back together again; assuming he could still do that.

Time past as it always did. Lelouch was still sitting on that couch, staring off into space. C.C. was there at his side, looking him over as if expecting to find some kind of physical wound, but daring not to say anything less she get a verbal beating like Rolo. For the moment, Lelouch tolerated her, but if she became a bother to him in any way he would not hesitate to tell her to go away.

Truth of the matter was Lelouch was trying to figure out how exactly did this all start. Ever since he became Zero, he never once looked back at the mistakes he made; instead of regretting them, he chose to carry them, bearing the burden in much the same way his former friend Suzaku had chosen to do. That in itself seemed to be a mistake; it felt like that he had carried the weight so far that he had no longer bothered paying attention to his movements so he wouldn't make any more.

Perhaps it started when he first found C.C. in that werehouse and made that infernal contract with her so that he could receive the Geass. Lelouch inwardly shook his head at that; what would have happened if he had only refused her offer? Sure, he had been cornered by a squad of Britannian soldiers led by a zealous commander, but there might have been a way to convince him to let him go if he had tried; Lelouch was a master negotiator and diplomat after all.

But he shook his head at that; at best that had been a major step in his development toward Zero, but that wasn't what started it all.

Perhaps it was when Japan had been conquered by Britannia in the first place. He may have lived the life of luxury at Ashford, but Lelouch wasn't blind to the injustices that the Britannians were doing to the Japanese. They didn't even allow them to keep their nationality, instead forcing them to refer to themselves as Elevens; lower class citizens of numbered Britannian district instead of nationals of a proud nation. There had been many times where Lelouch wanted to step in and prevent those injustices, and that was a side benefit of being Zero. Perhaps if he had rid himself of those desires, all of this wouldn't have happened.

Again, he was in disagreement with that line of thinking; for him to even be thinking like that and not being some random spoiled rich kid like he pretended to be, the whole set of motion had would have started before.

And then a new thought entered Lelouch's mind, something that he rarely thought about, but never forgot: the death of his mother. Yes, that's where it all began. Before that he had just been another random Britannian royal, one of many in a long line to the throne. Had his mother, the great Marianne vi Britannia survived, there was no doubt that Lelouch and Nunnally would have grown up to be no different than the likes of Schneizel or Cornelia. He would not have spoken out of turn to his father and passed off his royal title and claim to the throne, he would not have been exiled to Japan and forced into being a political hostage, and since the Ashfords would not have lost favor over that, Ashford Academy would not have existed and Lelouch would never had met Suzaku, Shirley, Milly, Nina, Rivalz or any of his other friends. He would have grown up to be just another Prince and possibly even became the next Emperor of Britannia if luck had been on his side.

Lelouch paused with that thought. Would that have been the better life? Certainly it would have been a boring one, but at the very least he would have still had Nunnally, as well as Euphemia at his side. He would never had gotten his hands covered with the blood of his own brother Clovis, and he might have grown up to be on good terms with Cornelia, who now hated him for turning Euphemia into a killing machine with his Geass, even though it was accidental, which she didn't know.

Yes, maybe if his mother had survived, it would have been better for everyone. Or at least, it would have been better that he chose not to turn into Zero. Now he really had no one left; Nunally and Euphemia, the two siblings he loved the most, were dead. Suzaku hated him so much that twice he chose to betray him, something that even a schemer like Lelouch would never had done to him, even in his own best interest. Shirley, the woman that Lelouch truly believed that he had loved, even if he wasn't sure at the time, was also dead. His army was slowly failing him, even if they still had the will to fight, and C.C., the woman that started everything and had been at his side the longest, had been reduced to the mind of a ten year old peasant girl. There really was nothing left.

"Master…" he finally heard C.C. speak up. "Please take off your clothes."

Lelouch looked up a little at that. "Huh?"

"Are you wounded somewhere?" C.C. asked with concern evident in her eyes. "If it's somewhere you can't reach, I'll…" she immediately held up a box of band-aids.

Although he didn't have the energy for it, Lelouch felt himself laugh on the inside while his outside turned into a frown. "You're right… It's not somewhere I can reach…"

"Zero, may I enter? It's me." a new voice sounded. This time it was Kallen.

Immediately, C.C. got up and ran behind a book case to hide as Lelouch looked up to see the door open. Kallen quickly entered, still dressed in her red pilot suit and headband. "Ohgi asked for you to come to the fourth cargo bay."

"The Fourth?" Lelouch wondered.

"He hasn't told me anything specific…" Kallen clarified.

"Master…" C.C. spoke up again from her hiding place. "Please… take off your clothes… I'll do my best!"

"Huh!?" Kallen's expression turned from business to incredulous on a drop of a coin. "What were you two doing all the time that I was captured!?"

"N-no!" Lelouch found enough energy to look back and answer. "C.C. lost… her memories." He looked down again. "It was my fault… The C.C. you knew doesn't exist any more."

Kallen looked back at C.C. with a confused gaze, causing the green haired witch to again cower behind the bookcase. A look of sympathy crossed the young pilot's eyes. "I see…" she said.

"Well then…" Lelouch said, getting up quickly. Reaching out, he grabbed his mask and placed it over his face, then began putting together his cowl. "Let's see what Ohgi wants, shall we?"

"Ah, right." Kallen nodded, standing at attention now as Zero walked past her to the door. She soon turned and followed after him.

Once again, Lelouch took up the mask of Zero and became the man that could inspire love, hate, dread and admiration all at the same time. Sure, he did not have much fight in him left, and it may have felt like he was doing this all for nothing now, but there was still some small ray of hope in him. Perhaps at the end of all this, there would be something for him, some kind of reward for all of the trials and losses that he had faced, or perhaps there would be judgment for all of the sins that he committed.

But for now, he was still alive and he was still Zero. And that would have to do for the time being.

A/N: Needless to say, this took place during Turn 19, just after the Black Knight's attack on Tokyo and Suzaku destroying a good portion of it with the FLEIJA bomb. Apologies in advance for any grammar errors or misspellings, I did this all without proofreading.

I also apologize in advance for any bad characterization on my part, especially towards the Lelouch – Tohdoh scene. Lelouch's outburst over Nunnally at the beginning of the episode, while understandable, seemed to inspire even further doubts in Tohdoh. That said, I figured Lelouch would at least try to take a moment and reaffirm Tohdoh's faith in him, if only so that he would continue working for Zero. And yes, I know Lelouch would (normally) never apologize for anything, a fact I had written in, but I thought it was fitting for the scene I was trying to create.

All that said, I found my own ending to be ironic, considering in the next few minutes Lelouch would have found his own army against him and he would then lose all will to live until Rolo showed up with the Shinkiro. It's from my sadistic sense of humor I guess. Hope people enjoyed it.