Notes: This story was born out of a very simple idea: what if Nunnally had been one of the hostages at Lake Kawaguchi?
Summary: A meeting with Zero leaves Nunnally and Euphemia with conflicting views about the death of Clovis.
Of Monsters and Men
A Code Geass Fanfic by
Nate Grey (xman0123-at-aol-dot-com)
It had been a purely last-minute, impulsive decision, and now Milly wished that she'd never made it. But how could she not have? Just the thought of poor Nunnally sitting at home, playing cards with Sayoko, waiting faithfully for Lelouch was just pathetic. Nunnally had suffered enough in her brief life, and she deserved far better treatment. But she also loved Lelouch so completely that she would never insist that he take her everywhere with him, or impose herself on what she saw as his relatively normal life.
At fourteen, Nunnally was already setting herself up to be Lelouch's baby sister for the rest of her days, and that just wasn't right. If she never experienced the world beyond Lelouch's devotion and Sayoko's nurturing, she would never mature into the beautiful, intelligent woman that Milly firmly believed she could still become.
On some level, Milly still thought that it wasn't a total mistake. She'd heard the sheer delight in Nunnally's voice over the phone, at being remembered and included in a group activity, and without Lelouch, for that matter.
But that simple outing had turned into a disastrous hostage situation, thanks to some madmen from the Japanese Liberation Front, and their guns. Milly, Nunnally, Shirley, Nina, and several other people were being held inside of the Lake Kawaguchi Convention Center Hotel, in a ballrooms on one of the lower levels. So far, they'd only been ordered to sit on the floor and keep quiet. But already Nunnally had drawn the attention of the terrorists: she couldn't move as fast as anyone else, someone had to guide her at all times, and it would've been more of a hassle to remove her from the wheelchair and put her on the floor, in case they needed to move the hostages in a hurry.
Milly knew she was not the only person in the ballroom that had realized it might be far easier for the terrorists to just kill Nunnally, and that frightened her more than anything else. Nunnally must have realized this as well, because she was being extra careful to do exactly what she was told, and never made any of the men repeat himself.
But already Milly had noticed one of the men giving Nunnally dirty looks, as if she were complicating things just by sitting there. True, she was the only hostage not seated directly on the floor, but that was a matter of convenience, for both her and them. A desperate man running out of options in his life, however, was not likely to recognize that, and the ballroom was currently full of those types.
Soon enough, several other men were eyeing Nunnally with growing distaste. Frowning, Milly reached over and gently grasped Nunnally's hand, hoping it was enough to reassure the girl. Shirley soon did the same, and Milly gave her a small smile of appreciation. They were, of course, indirectly defying the terrorists, who had told them to do nothing. But Milly wanted it known that whatever happened to Nunnally, happened to her as well.
But, in true Nunnally fashion, the young girl wasn't at all concerned for herself. As quietly as she could, she leaned towards Milly and murmured, "You should hold Nina's hand, too."
Milly blinked and turned to Nina, who had gone entirely unnoticed by her. After getting a good look, she wasn't sure how that was possible. Nina's eyes were wide and watery, zipping back and forth as she threw fearful glances at the men. Her breathing was loud and fairly rapid, as if she were about to start hyperventilating. She was obviously on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and that was the last thing that anyone needed. Milly's fingers had just reached Nina's when one the men shouted.
"You! What did you say to her?!" He ran over to them, pointing his gun at Nunnally.
Nunnally didn't answer, partially out of fear, but mostly because she couldn't be sure if the man was talking to her.
"She's blind," Milly said quickly, wincing as the man (and more importantly, his gun) turned towards her. "My friend won't know if you're talking to her unless you say her name."
The man sneered at her. "I don't care what her name-"
A second man with a gun walked over, silencing the first with a sharp look. "What is the girl's name?"
"Nunnally," Milly answered, resisting the urge to smile faintly as her young friend turned towards her.
The second man nodded, stepping closer to Nunnally and leaning down so that his mouth was close to her ear. "Hello, Nunnally. My name is Yang. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to ask me. I'll be nearby from now on. Now, would you be so kind as to tell me what you said to your friend here?"
Nunnally nodded. "I asked her to hold my other friend's hand, Mr. Yang. She's very scared."
"I see, and just Yang will be fine," Yang replied, glancing at Nina, which only seemed to scare her worse. "Has this sort of thing happened to her before?"
"No. I'm the only one this sort of thing has happened to before," Nunnally said softly.
"Is that how you became blind, and lost the use of your legs?"
Yang nodded, as if making a decision, and then handed his gun to his companion. "Take my post," he ordered.
The first man scowled, but nodded and walked away.
Yang turned back to Nunnally. "I have given up my gun, Nunnally. You don't have to worry about anyone pointing one at you, or your friends, from now on."
"Thank you, Yang," Nunnally replied. "You're very kind."
"Ah, thank you, but the world is not," Yang said. "You see, my comrades and I are mostly Japanese soldiers. We were proud to defend Japan's honor, and are proud to be Japanese, and that will never change. We despise being called Elevens. Can you understand that?"
"Yes," Nunnally agreed. "My caretaker is Japanese. She has never been anything but kind to me, and I hate to think of how she might be treated in public."
Milly was listening closely, but she was also keeping an eye on Nina, who seemed to be growing more and more upset the more Yang spoke. Milly squeezed her hand several times, but it didn't appear to have any impact.
"It was never our wish to take hostages," Yang was explaining, "but surely you understand that Britannians do not take the Japanese seriously, now that we pose no major threat to them. They will not even acknowledge us by our proper name. The only way to gain their attention these days is to disrupt their lives, often with violence or terrorism. But we are still just Japanese soldiers at heart, fighting for our homeland."
"But you can't go home if it doesn't exist," Nunnally whispered.
Yang smiled, and it was a startlingly genuine one. "I see you understand our plight, Nunnally. I am sorry we had to meet under such conditions. Any other day, I believe you and I might have been friends."
"Can't we still be friends?" Nunnally asked, removing her hand from Milly's and stretching it out towards Yang. "At least for a little while?"
Yang paused, staring at her hand for a few seconds. They never did find out what his decision was, for at that moment, Nina lurched forward and yanked Nunnally's hand back.
Instantly, every gun in the room was trained on Nina.
Yang gave another sharp command in Japanese, and most of the men relaxed, if only slightly.
"Stop talking to him, Nunnally!" Nina cried, shaking her head wildly. "You can't trust an Eleven! In case you forgot, we're their hostages! They're nothing but killers, and they're going to kill us all!"
"I have told you that my comrades and I don't like to be addressed as Elevens," Yang said calmly, though his voice was shaking with barely suppressed rage. "Why do you insist on agitating us?"
"Why do you insist on torturing us?!" Nina demanded. "Just let us go!"
"We will," Yang replied, "the moment Britannia takes the needed steps to let Japan go and regain its former glory. Until then, you will stay here and do what we tell you. And you can start by sitting down, and not speaking another word, young lady."
"What does it matter?" Nina whispered, her voice trembling. "You're just going to kill us, anyway."
"A room full of expendable hostages would be pointless," Yang sighed. "If your lives had no value, we wouldn't bother keeping you alive, and Britannia wouldn't hesitate to destroy this hotel. But that doesn't mean sacrifices won't be made, and the first to go are those that continue to give us problems."
"So you are going to kill us!" Nina yelled accusingly.
"At this point, just you," one of the nearby men muttered, but just loud enough for Nina to hear him.
Without warning, Nina spun around and slapped him across the face. The man froze and stared at her, more stunned by her sudden bravery than the actual blow. But Nina assumed the latter and went for his gun. Her reflexes were nothing to a battle-hardened soldier's, though, and she'd barely taken a step before his gun swung up to point at her chest.
Every member of the Imperial Family was trained in what to do in almost any kind of emergency, and Euphemia had never been more appreciative of that fact. But she was quickly realizing that theory would be a lot different from practice. The hostages themselves were turning out to be more unpredictable than the actual terrorists, and since Euphemia could never guess how they would behave, it would be difficult to assume command of the situation as she'd been taught.
Still, she had no intention of allowing anyone to be seriously harmed or killed, despite what she'd been trained to do.
The training had not been worthless, however: it had helped her pick out the most likely hostages to be executed, which was what had first brought the wheelchair-bound girl to her attention. There was something about that girl's face that made Euphemia's heart skip a beat, but she couldn't decide what it might be. She was familiar in a way that no one else had ever been, and Euphemia's thoughts were continuously drawn back to her.
At least, until one of the hostages began open challenging the terrorists. Euphemia could hear the desperation in the girl's voice, and knew this could not end well. There was no choice; she would have to reveal her identity far sooner than she'd planned, or the girl would die.
Sure enough, the girl attacked a terrorist, and he instantly moved to shoot her.
Euphemia's voice rang out as she stood up. "STOP! As Third Princess of the Britannian Empire, I, Euphemia li Britannia, command you to stop!"
The man did stop, but not because she'd ordered him to. He stopped because he, and his comrades, all saw that they had a very important hostage, and a great deal more leverage than they'd originally thought.
"This certainly changes things," said the unarmed man who appeared to be in charge. "I assume you're willing to aid us in negotiating with the Viceroy, Your Highness?"
Euphemia nodded slowly. "I'll do whatever I can to end this without bloodshed. I'm sure my sister wants the same thing."
Just two floors below, Zero was gradually making his way up to the hostages, surrounded by a ten-man armed guard every step of the way. At a glance, it was difficult to say if they were protecting him, or their own interests, however. Certainly Zero's cause was at least similar to their own, and that was presumably why he was being allowed to meet with their leader. But as this was Zero, there was no telling what he'd do at any given moment, and there was a real possibility that they'd have to kill him before the night was done.
None of that showed in Zero's confident, almost regal stride, though. It was as if the tension in the air didn't effect him at all, like this was just another day for him. And maybe it was.
Anyone else would've been dead, especially attempting to pass through one of Cornelia li Britannia's blockades. But Zero had gotten through, somehow, and without a scratch on him. That practically made him a god of war, or strategy, or SOMETHING to half of the men. Some were even wondering if mere bullets actually could hurt him by that point.
Of course, all of the men were under the spell of Zero's Geass, though none of them knew it. He had even found, with C.C.'s help, a way around the limitation of only being able to control them once. Every additional terrorist the group passed of course at least gave them a brief glance, and when they did, Zero and his single exposed eye were awaiting them.
"You will do whatever I tell you to at any given moment. Now then, let's move on."
The latter part was solely for the men already under his control, both to dismiss any lingering suspicion from the first order (which had no effect on them, as they were already subconsciously following it), and to immediately put them back under his power.
By the time they reached the ballroom where the hostages were being held, Zero had already figured out what he needed to do to safeguard his deal (or contract, an annoyingly familiar voice murmured in his head) with Cornelia and deliver Euphemia safely.
He exposed his eye just before entering the ballroom, and spoke immediately with the help of the built-in distorter/amplifier in his helmet. "No one will be harmed or killed tonight."
The terrorists before him immediately sagged a bit, lowering their guns but not dropping them. Apparently their being soldiers allowed them to resist a tiny bit, but no more than that.
It was beneficial but unfortunate that the command had also been issued to all of the hostages. At least, it was unfortunate in the case of Euphemia: she could've been of some real use to him under a different spell in the future, but at least now she was guaranteed a future.
Movement caught his eye, and Zero felt a chill pass through his body as one of the men stood up. He was unarmed, but he was also standing dangerously close to Nunnally. She didn't look scared, at least, but that didn't really mean anything. His heart had stopped when he'd first realized that she might be among the hostages, but he was glad to see her mostly unharmed.
"So, the infamous Zero has graced us with his presence. I am Yang. To what do we owe the honor?" the man asked.
"The only reason Cornelia hasn't blown up this hotel is because her dear little sister is inside. Euphemia is your best and only way out of this alive. The first thing you must do is offer proof that she is still among the living."
Yang nodded. "That is acceptable to me. We brought along video cameras for that very purpose." He turned to Euphemia, whose eyes were locked solely on Zero. "I trust you will cooperate by telling your sister to hold back her forces for the time being, Princess?"
Euphemia blinked, a little startled. "Yes," she said firmly.
"Afterwards, I will speak to Euphemia alone," Zero said.
A frown appeared on Yang's face. "You do realize you can in no way damage her?"
Zero laughed. "I am no fool. Cornelia will do anything we say, so long as Euphemia is unhurt. No, I merely wish confirm my suspicions about the Imperial Family, and I can only get the information I need from one of them."
Euphemia's eyes narrowed. "I won't make it any easier for you to kill another member of my family! I won't help you!"
Zero strode towards her, and Euphemia flinched as he moved closer, then gasped as he brushed past her and walked right up to Nunnally. "Wait!" she cried as Zero reached out and took Nunnally's hand. "Don't hurt her!"
"I am not interested in hurting anyone in this room," Zero replied. "What I want is information. An unbiased opinion to counter my own ideas. I wonder how the hostages feel about you taking their lives in your hands, Third Princess?" He turned to Nunnally. "Tell me, young lady, do you think that Euphemia is making the right choices so far?"
Nunnally was silent for a long moment. Finally, she lifted her head and said softly, "She's doing the best she can. But she's scared, like the rest of us. It isn't fair to punish her for trying to protect her family. Anyone else here would do the same."
"And what do you think of me?" Zero asked. "Be honest, now. No harm will come to you."
She bit her lip slightly. "Well, you're scary, even on TV. But you saved someone I care about, so I don't think you're all bad. But you also said you killed Prince Clovis, so I don't know..."
"Do you believe that I mean no harm to anyone in this room?"
"I want to, but I can't help thinking that you came here to kill Princess Euphemia..."
Zero chuckled, the sound strangely amplified by his helmet. "That is a logical conclusion. But aside from being members of the same family, the late Clovis and Euphemia are nothing alike. I have no reason to kill her. Him, on the other hand, I was hard-pressed to find a reason not to kill."
"Liar," Euphemia whispered, shaking her head.
"Oh, really?" Zero asked. "I think any of these soldiers could tell you a thing or two about your brother's cruelty, or rather, his laziness, which resulted in his refusal to abolish cruelty that was already in place, and then in his order to exterminate innocent people. But we can talk about that more after you do your part, Princess."
Cornelia frowned as she watched the tape for the third time.
On the screen, Euphemia was seated in an empty room, her hands resting in her lap. "So please, Cornelia, do not interfere any further. I am confident that I can end this crisis peacefully without any assistance. Please trust me."
"She isn't using any of the code words or signals," Cornelia muttered. "There's no way she could've forgotten them. What can you be thinking, Euphie? You can't handle this alone."
Shaking her head, Cornelia rewound the tape and started to watch it again.
Euphemia did her best to remain calm as she was escorted back to the ballroom by Yang. She half-expected to find the other hostages all dead, but that was not the case. No one had been harmed in her absence, and Zero was still talking to the wheelchair-bound girl. She looked a lot less afraid of him, for some reason, and he was no longer holding her hand.
Zero looked up as Euphemia approached him. "Now that we won't be interrupted, it's time to begin our discussion."
"Fine," Euphemia replied coldly.
"Are you still concerned that I won't keep my word?" he asked, almost sounding amused. "Suppose I have someone accompany us?"
Euphemia knew who he meant the moment the words left his mouth. "Leave her out of this! It has nothing to do with her!"
"That's the problem with you royal types. You fail to realize that even the smallest decisions you make impact everyday people at every level. That's just one of the things we'll talk about." Zero turned to the girl in the wheelchair. "Would you like to join the princess and I? I think your opinion would be most welcome."
"If you promise you won't hurt her," the girl said after a moment, "I'll go with you."
Euphemia could barely believe her ears. She was supposed to be using her power to protect these people, and instead, the weakest of them was saving her. Nothing was going as she'd hoped.
"I give you my word, again," Zero replied, and this time there was definitely some amusement in his voice. "Princess, if you would be so kind as to help our mutual friend?"
Keeping one eye on Zero, Euphemia slowly moved to the back of the wheelchair and pushed it forward, following Zero out of the ballroom. When she thought Zero was far enough ahead of them in the hallway, she leaned down and whispered, "You can't trust him."
The girl turned her head slightly, and a sad smile appeared on her face. "I can't trust you, either."
Euphemia paused, shock rolling over her. "Why-"
"Your sister loves you, so much that she'd do anything to save you. But she won't care if everyone else here dies. You know that, too, even if you'd never admit it."
"You don't know that!" Euphemia hissed in outrage.
"I'm afraid I know it all too well. I'll only live if Zero's interest in me lasts. I have far more reason to cooperate with him than you."
"How can you say that? You're Britannian!"
"All I am right now is a hostage. Tell me, does your sister know my name? Do you? What incentive would your sister have to protect me? How would her life change at all if I died tonight?"
At first, Euphemia could think of no response. "My life would change," she said solemnly.
"So would my brother's," the girl replied. "But he wouldn't have wealth, power, and family to comfort him. I am everything in the world to him, and he tells me so every night. If I do die here, you'll meet him, even if only for a moment."
"How can you be so sure of that?" Euphemia asked.
"Because he'd stop at nothing to kill everyone in your family, including you," the girl replied softly. "That's the kind of person he is. Everything else has been taken from him by Britannia. If I die, he'll have nothing but revenge to live for."
"One person can't possibly defeat Britannia," Euphemia pointed out.
"Why not? It only takes one person to rule it."
Euphemia frowned, saying nothing more as they followed Zero into a small office. She paused at finding him standing just inside the door.
"It's quite difficult to reason with someone who has experienced Britannia's cruelty, isn't it, Princess?" he asked smugly.
"The same could be said of serial killers," she answered stonily.
Zero tilted his head slightly. "I have only ever admitted to one murder."
"But you intend to kill other members of the Imperial Family, don't you?"
"If they insist on repeating the mistakes of Clovis? Definitely." He turned away, walking past a desk and staring at a portrait on the wall. "Tell me what you knew about him, Euphemia. What kind of man was Clovis? How did he treat you?"
"He was always a perfect gentleman to me. I almost never saw him without a warm smile on his face. Every year on my birthday, he would take me shopping for whatever I wanted."
Nunnally considered Euphemia's words carefully. The Clovis she remembered most had been a skinny, arrogant boy that always lost at chess to Lelouch. He, too, had been nice to her. But that always came to an abrupt halt after each loss. Then, he wouldn't speak to either of them for nearly a week.
Zero seemed to pick up on her thoughts. "And do you honestly believe he was fond of you?"
Euphemia opened her mouth, paused, and thought for a few more seconds. "I can't be sure," she said at last. "He showered me with gifts, but he never really took an interest in me or what I cared about. He was always boasting about being a gifted actor, so maybe that's exactly what he was doing with me. I think he felt closer to his brothers."
"Clovis was indeed an actor," Zero commented. "He acted as if he wasn't solely responsible for the massacre of Shinjuku."
"But that was-"
"Me?" Zero asked, laughter in his voice. "Oh, yes, the poison gas. Allow me to educate you, Princess. Not one of those people died from gas. I'd bet anything that almost all died from gunshots, and that the bullets all came from Clovis's forces. In case you haven't caught on, there never was any poison gas in the stolen container. That was just a convenient lie for that your elites told their men, and I merely used that lie against them. It's not as if you could tell them that Clovis ordered the extermination of the ghetto, just to cover up his mistake. Then they'd be aware of just how heartless Britannia's Imperial Family can be. Although I wouldn't think that would be such a big secret by now."
Nunnally tuned them out for a moment, suddenly recalling how Clovis would act each time he'd lost at chess. He would rant, scream, and sob until he was red in the face, accusing Lelouch of cheating. But he always came back for a rematch, as if nothing had ever happened. Could such a boy have grown up to become a wide scale murderer? She wasn't sure, but it wouldn't have surprised her. People in their family that she had once thought far more gentle had often matured into people completely unlike themselves.
"Why do you hate my family so much?" Euphemia asked abruptly. "What did we ever do to you?"
Zero didn't reply immediately. Instead he paced the room a few times, and then suddenly spun to face them. "I'm a very fortunate man. Imagine, being allowed an audience with two princesses of Britannia."
Nunnally's heart started beating rapidly. He knew? How could he know? And why would he tell Euphemia?
"Two?" Euphemia said slowly. She actually glanced around the office, as if looking for someone else. Then she looked at Nunnally, really looked at her, and her eyes widened in disbelief. "No," she whispered, shaking her head. "No. No, no, no, no, no..."
Feeling utterly trapped, Nunnally said the only thing she could. "Hi, big sister Euphie."
"NUNNALLY!" Euphemia shrieked, tears pouring down her face as she sank to the floor and buried her face in Nunnally's lap. "You... but you're... you can't be..."
"I am," Nunnally assured her, gently running her fingers through Euphemia's hair. "I've missed you terribly."
"But you're dead!" Euphemia sobbed. "I saw... I SAW you! You and Lelouch, you were... I was at your funeral! And the two coffins, you were IN them!"
Nunnally blinked as she absorbed that information. "That wasn't us, big sister. I promise it wasn't."
Euphemia's head whipped up. "Then Lelouch, too? He's not...? He's...?"
"Alive," Nunnally confirmed softly.
Euphemia started bawling all over again, clutching Nunnally tightly. "You're alive, you're alive," she kept whispering, rocking back and forth.
"I'm very happy to be with you again," Nunnally sighed, stroking Euphemia's hair. "But I hope you realize now that Zero is right, about some things. I can't trust your family anymore. If they would have you believe that Lelouch and I were dead, what do you think they'd do if they found out that you knew the truth? I don't know why you have memories of our funeral, but either it didn't really happen, or some other poor souls were in our coffins." Each possibility was equally horrible in her mind, but somehow the first bothered her more. If something had been done to Euphemia's mind, the same might apply to everyone in the family. Nunnally had never wanted to believe that her father might've had something or everything to do with her mother's murder, despite what Lelouch thought, but now she wondered if he'd been right all along.
Unfortunately, Euphemia didn't look as if she'd taken in anything Nunnally had said. She was still completely fixated on the idea that Nunnally was alive at all. "I used to put your hair in pigtails," she murmured, reaching up to gently run her fingertips along Nunnally's cheek.
"Maybe you can again," Nunnally whispered, even though she seriously doubted they'd ever see each other after that night.
Zero merely stood in silence as he watched the teary reunion. His mind, however, was racing.
Euphemia's reaction was along the lines of what he'd expected it to be. However, it seemed a bit off. Instead of listening to Nunnally, Euphemia just kept hugging her and reliving old, happy memories. It was almost as if her mind wasn't completely able to accept the fact that Nunnally was alive in the present. Once he added in the fact that C.C. had been in Britannian hands when he'd met her, that led him to one conclusion.
"Could it be Geass?" he thought to himself. "Would they really use it on the Imperial Family? Wait, of course they would. They're the most powerful people in Britannia." If that was the case, however, then his spell earlier hadn't had any effect on Euphemia. Maybe that was why she was so reluctant to believe him. He wasn't going to make much progress with her then, and neither would Nunnally. But perhaps the knowledge that he and Nunnally were alive at all would be enough to weaken the current spell on Euphemia's mind.
"I hope you don't expect to share this news with anyone," Zero said aloud, finally recapturing Euphemia's attention. "You have no way of knowing who in the Imperial Family expects Nunnally to be dead, and what they'll do to keep her that way. You can't even tell Cornelia."
That, at least, seemed to get through, because Euphemia's grip on Nunnally tightened noticeably.
"He's right, big sister," Nunnally agreed. "You can't tell anyone that Lelouch and I are still alive. We were hiding for a reason."
"Then you can't come home?" Euphemia asked sadly.
"No, I'm afraid not. Things can't be like they were. Our worlds are too different now."
"But I can't lose you, not again! There has to be some way I can still see you!"
Before Zero could reply, Nunnally beat him to it.
"If there is a way, then you, and you alone, will have to find it, Euphie."
From that point, a certain fire entered Euphemia's eyes that Zero had never seen there before. It was as if Nunnally had somehow breached the wall in Euphemia's mind left there by Geass.
"We will be together again, Nunnally," Euphemia swore.
"I hope so, big sister. I really do."
The moment he was done shooting the supports out from under the hotel, Suzaku sent the Lancelot racing forward. He knew he only had mere seconds before the terrorists got their bearings and took control again.
"Stop right where you are, Lancelot!" came a stern voice over his radio. He recognized it as Princess Cornelia's. "Don't take another step!"
"But, Your Highness, if we wait any longer, the hostages-!" Suzaku cried.
"Stand down and leave this to the professionals, Warrant Officer! This situation is far too delicate for you to handle!"
The statement was so outrageous that Suzaku very nearly protested. Hadn't he just done what they could not? Was Cornelia really that biased against Elevens and Honorary Britannians, even when they were on her side?
"But we're not on the same side," Suzaku reminded himself. "I want to save all of the hostages, no matter what. But she just wants to make sure a Britannian does it." All the same, he couldn't disobey a direct order from Cornelia. So he brought the Lancelot to a halt, and watched as Cornelia and her men raced past him in their Knightmares. Personally, he had his doubts that they could finish the job, and his suspicions were soon proved correct.
Not a moment later, the hotel was rocked by a series of huge explosions, bathing the surrounding area in smoke and debris.
Suzaku felt his heart stop. They were dead, every last one of them, and he'd failed. All his talk about changing Britannia was useless, if he would always allow himself to be controlled by those blinded by prejudice. The fault was not his alone, however. If Cornelia hadn't stopped him, perhaps he could've done something to help. Maybe Zero had been right about change only being possible from outside of Britannia.
All his thoughts came to a stop, however, when he finally noticed the boats slicing through the smoke. Boats that were filled with living, breathing hostages.
A million thoughts ran through Nunnally's head as Milly slowly steered her through the crowd of former hostages, with Nina and Shirley right behind them. Although many of the hostages were confused, as they still had Zero's words ringing in their ears. At one point, the group passed so close to the two princesses that she could hear their conversation. Cornelia wanted to hold the hostages for questioning, probably to gain some insight into Zero's motives. But Euphemia was insisting that they were all tired and frustrated enough, and that the best thing to do was simply record personal information and then allow the hostages to go home.
Somehow, in the maze of people, Milly managed to spot Shirley's father. She had to shout several times to make herself heard, and when he finally did spot them, he gave each of the girls a tight hug, and then practically shoved them into his car in his rush to get them safely home. Of course, he had to take his time with Nunnally, and it was then that they were stopped.
"Please hold on!" Euphemia said as she rushed over. "Sir, would you allow me to make sure that Nunnally gets home safely? I would consider it a personal favor."
Mr. Fenette was so flustered at being approached by a princess that he barely managed to stammer out, "A-As you w-wish, Your Highness."
"I have to go, too!" Milly blurted out at once. "I promised Lelouch I'd stay with her!"
"Of course," Euphemia agreed, her eyes watering slightly as she touched Milly's shoulder. "I'll make sure that all of you are able to get through the Viceroy's barricade."
Overall, Zero was pleased with how things had progressed. He'd left half of the JLF with an order to kill the other half that he could not command further, but only after the hostages were out safely. Anyone left was to then to take their own lives. It might look strange, but he was willing to bet that Britannia wouldn't put any effort into finding out how each man there died, so long as they had their precious princess back.
It had been difficult to send Nunnally out with the other hostages, but there was just no way to keep her with him, not without getting plenty of questions from the Black Knights. He would have to trust that Euphemia would keep her identity a secret, even from Cornelia.
And if she didn't, well, that was just another reason to justify his war on Britannia.
Euphemia was unable to say about half of the things to Nunnally that she really wanted to in her private transport. Milly had a death grip on Nunnally's hand, and could not be pried from her side for anything. While Euphemia admired that kind of devotion, especially after what they'd all just been through, she needed a way to separate the two, at least temporarily. Milly had already insisted that they take Nunnally home first, though, so it didn't look as if there would be a real chance to talk in private.
For most of the ride to Ashford Academy, Milly asked tons of questions. She was mostly concerned about whether or not Euphemia and Nunnally had been hurt in any way while they were out of her sight. Milly even checked Nunnally for bruises, which Nunnally allowed until Milly reached her legs. Both of them were a little startled when Euphemia requested that privilege, and Nunnally was so surprised and touched that she didn't refuse. Perhaps it was a bad idea for Milly to see how tenderly Euphemia handled Nunnally's legs, as if she'd done it before (which she had, even if she didn't recall it), but no one was thinking of that at the time.
"I want to apologize to both of you," Euphemia said at one point. "I know you must both be upset with me, after how badly I handled the situation."
"What are you talking about?" Milly asked, clearly confused. "You saved us all!"
"No, I didn't," Euphemia sighed, closing her eyes. "Zero did, as much as I wish that wasn't true. From the time he arrived, those men followed each and every one of his commands. I have no doubt that things would have been much worse for us if he hadn't come when he did. I still can't believe that the man who killed my brother chose to spare my life."
"He's probably an Eleven," Milly reasoned. "That would explain why he killed Prince Clovis, and how he was able to control the terrorists with no problem. Maybe they were just more of his Black Knights all along."
"They aren't the only people who have problems with the Imperial Family, Milly," Nunnally said quietly. "I thought you, of all people, would understand that they can be just as tough on Britannians. Did you forget what happened to your family?"
Milly blushed slightly. "No, but I assume Elevens get worse treatment more often. I've never heard of any Britannian Liberation Front or anything like that."
"I don't think Zero is Japanese at all," Euphemia murmured. "He seemed to know things that only a Britannian noble would've known. So maybe Nunnally is closer to the truth than she realizes."
Milly stared at the princess for a long moment. "Nunnally... she knows?" Milly whispered.
Nunnally merely nodded.
"That Nunnally is my sister? Yes, I know," Euphemia sighed. "I do now, anyway. I still can't believe that she and Lelouch were alive all this time, and I never knew. When I think of all the time we've lost..."
"It couldn't have been prevented," Nunnally said softly. "Lelouch was so angry after our mother was killed. Even if he hadn't confronted our father, we wouldn't have been able to stay there, knowing that she died in that way. We wouldn't have been able to trust anyone around us. Lelouch is still convinced that it was the work of someone within the Imperial Family, and so they're all effectively our enemies until we find the truth."
Euphemia shuddered slightly. "Zero said something similar tonight."
"Maybe he was wronged by Britannia, too. I can only imagine what cost he had to pay."
"So you want me to go downstairs and open the door to a member of the Imperial Family, the very same people that we constantly have to rescue each other from?" C.C. asked flatly.
"I've already told you, Euphemia is different," Lelouch insisted, his weariness evident even through the cell phone. "I highly doubt she would've been privy to anything involving you, so there's no chance she'll recognize you."
"First Suzaku was different, now her. These exceptions are going to ruin you one day, Lelouch. They are weaknesses that you can't afford yourself for very long."
"You were different, too, and you still are."
"Flattery won't work on me, you know."
"Just make sure that Nunnally gets inside okay, and I'll bring you a pizza."
There was a pause, and then: "Extra cheese, pepperoni, and mushroom. And for every minute after 1 AM that you are late, you will owe me an additional pizza tomorrow."
The line going dead sounded like an agreement to her, so C.C. put down the phone and went downstairs, just in time to hear a car pulling up. Lelouch had a point about Euphemia, but there was always the possibility that Cornelia had brought her up to speed on a great deal of things.
Trying to seem as disinterested as possible (not that it was difficult for her), C.C. opened the rear door to find Third Princess Euphemia and Milly Ashford slowly pushing Nunnally up the wheelchair ramp.
Nunnally figured out who she was almost immediately, probably because C.C. offered no greeting. "Hello, C.C. We didn't wake you, did we?"
"No, I was on the phone," C.C. replied. "Your brother will be very late tonight, and asks that you not wait up for him."
It was terribly easy to see the disappointment in Nunnally's face, but only for an instant. "I see. Thank you for telling me."
"He can't be out gambling now, can he?!" Milly practically shouted.
"Lelouch... gambles?" Euphemia asked in surprise.
"Oh, well it's not so much of a gamble with him, and it's mostly things like chess, but it's the middle of the night! Plus, they should have a T.V. wherever he is, and he should know what happened to us by now! He should be here, waiting up for Nunnally, not the other way around!"
"He offered to bring pizza," C.C. added, as if that were a reasonable explanation.
"So what?!" Milly snapped.
"We like pizza," C.C. stated coldly.
Milly flinched. "Uh, right. Sorry."
"You may go now," C.C. answered, reaching over to take the handles of Nunnally's wheelchair. "I will see to Nunnally's needs and await the pizza. Oh, and Lelouch."
Milly gave her a funny look, but leaned down to give Nunnally a firm hug. "Nunnally, I-"
"Please stop apologizing, Milly," Nunnally interrupted. "It wasn't your fault. I'll be sure to tell Lelouch how you protected me. And thank you for inviting me tonight. It was... really unique."
Her eyes watering, Milly kissed the top of Nunnally's head and rushed back to Euphemia's car, determined not to let Nunnally hear her cry.
"I think she's going to blame herself for a while," Euphemia sighed. "That's a terrible burden to carry in her heart for any length of time."
"I wouldn't worry," Nunnally said confidently. "Milly is very resilient. That's why she's such a good leader. Even if she makes a mistake, she keeps striding forward and still manages to get the best results." She paused, her voice softening. "You... should probably be going as well, Your Highness."
Euphemia actually winced at the title. "I... yes, you're right. I wanted to wait for Lelouch, but..."
"Maybe another time?" Nunnally suggested.
"Yes. Definitely." Euphemia took Nunnally's hand, placing a soft kiss on the back of it.
"Why did you do that?" Nunnally whispered.
"Because tonight, I saw something, Nunnally. Tonight, I saw that you were more of a princess over the course of a few hours than I have been my entire life. And that's something I mean to change about myself immediately. Please tell Lelouch I'm very sorry that I missed him, and that I'll be back to visit very soon."
"Of course I will," Nunnally agreed, squeezing her hand. "Princess, I-"
"Please don't call me that anymore, Nunnally. At least, not until I can lawfully, rightfully say it back to you."
"That could be a long time, Euphie."
"I plan to be around," Euphemia said simply.
End of Chapter 1.
From what I've read, a person can resist Geass a little if the order is completely against their nature. I don't imagine a soldier would be very useful if he were able to drop his weapon so easily. At least, that's how I saw it.
No, Yang wasn't originally among the JLF terrorists. But the only people able to be mean to Nunnally have been completely nuts, and I don't think the JLF was.
I was intrigued when Clovis and Cornelia both thought that Lelouch was dead. I began to wonder, was that just a simple lie they were told, or something reinforced by the Emperor's Geass? I would think that since Marianne died in an assassination, someone would get doubly suspicious when her kids turned up dead as well. And she seemed too well liked (by the few who did like her, anyway) not to deserve some sort of investigation. Cornelia doesn't seem like the type to just accept suspicious info as fact, no matter who it came from. So maybe she was forced to give up on the investigation, or merely stopped when she'd gotten confirmation of Lelouch and Nunnally's deaths through false memories of a funeral.
In retrospect, I'm uncertain if Lelouch's inability to command someone with Geass twice extends to those who have experienced another Geass power once already. For example, if the Emperor did edit Euphemia's memories, would Lelouch still be able to control her? I suspect the answer is actually yes now, due to the fact that Mao's Geass had no such limit on Lelouch (other than range). So it's more likely that it's a built-in weakness strictly for Lelouch's Geass. On the other hand, since people who use Geass grow in power, maybe it's even possible that someone who has it used on them repeatedly can develop a natural resistance to it.