AN: AND I ARISE FROM THE DEAD ONCE MORE LIKE A JACK-IN-THE-BOX WORRIOR DEMON! Yeah so, I had this internship for a while, during the second half of which my supervisor moved away to North Carolina, which meant that for the reminder of my time there I was the only resident designer under my division of the company. So in conclusion until very recently I've been working full time. Between work and school I had naturally been pretty limited in my time to write so…yeah being a grown-up sucks. I thank you all for being so patient.
I do not own Code Geass and I in no way profit from this fan fiction.
Ch. 52 Snow
St. Petersburg, Britannian Occupied Russia
Icy wind hammered against the frosted windows of the fort barracks. Inside one of the chilly rooms a young woman lay in bed, tossing and turning in a troubled slumber. She abruptly awoke with a startled gasp only to find herself tangled in her twisted bed sheets. "A dream…it was just a dream." She told herself with a heavy sigh as she cradled her head in her hands, wiping the cold sweat off her forehead before running her fingers through her long hair.
She looked over to the rattling window on the opposite wall; it was snowing much harder than usual. The storm must have come quickly judging from the Britannian flag that was still strung up on the flag poll out in the distance, flapping violently in the wind. Somebody would have to answer for that in the morning, but it was of no concern to her.
Deciding to brave the cold she left the warmth of her bed and pushed aside the case that held her rifle in order to make room for her on top of the nearby dresser. Once she was situated she reached under her right thigh to open the top drawer and began blindly digging through it, looking for something that would help calm her nerves. Finally pulling out a pack of cigarettes and a zippo lighter she leaned back against the freezing glass of the window. "Only three left." She muttered in disappointment as she pulled one out from the crumpled pack and lit it. Taking a deep inhale, she stared into the tiny flame still burning from the lighter. It burnt bright and warm in contrast with her bitter surroundings.
"It can't be…it just can't be," she whispered, letting out a puff of smoke as she gazed into the luminescent glow. Despite what she told herself she knew it wasn't just a dream. "That idiot…"
The mountainous terrain rushed past the Bellatrix in a green and brown blur as Villetta raced through the devastated landscape, "What could have happened to him?" she wondered nervously as she frantically searched for the Merlin's IFF signal. Any attempts to contact the Prince remained unanswered. What if he was injured, or had been captured, or worse?
However, she was picking up one IFF signal, The Lancelot's to be exact. Following the scattered remains of what looked like a Burai she came upon a clearing that had been utterly destroyed. It looked like a bomb had gone off. There were rocks, dirt, and debris everywhere, and there right in the middle of it was the Lancelot. The white Knightmare was acting…strange for lack of a better word. Major Kururugi didn't seem to notice her has the Lancelot continued erratically to move about the clearing, seemingly fighting an invisible enemy.
"What the fu…?" she cut her sentence short, instead opting to get to the bottom of this by getting on her radio. "Major Kururugi, what are you doing?" Receiving no answer from the teenaged pilot she tried once more. "Kururugi, are you having a malfunction? Do you require assistance?" She could tell the Knightmare was beginning to slow down in its wild movements.
Just then her factsphere picked up some movement from the left, she spun in that direction and she readied her machinegun as something emerged from the greenery.
"Lower your weapon Major Nu. It's only me."
Villetta gasped when the unmistakable black frame of the Merlin finally came into view. "Your highness, you're alright?"
"I'm fine." he replied dully.
"You weren't responding to any radio calls. We thought something might have happened to you."
"I was busy trying to get through to Kururugi." he explained, it wasn't a total lie. "But as you probably figured out he's unresponsive. I didn't want to leave him alone like this but I didn't know how to help him, so I decided to wait it out at a safe distance."
"What is wrong with him?"
"I…I'm not entirely sure." That wasn't a lie either, "One moment he has Zero cornered, and the next the Lancelot goes out of control." Lelouch explained as the movements of the Knightmare in question began to slow down to a crawl. "I was just now coming back to check on him."
"He seems to be running out of steam now." Villetta said as the Lancelot finally fell down to its knees and came to a full stop.
"Radio Jeremiah and the others and tell them to have ASEEC come and bring him back to the G-1. And request a medic to make sure he's alright."
The order made Villetta's breathing falter for a moment. Good lord! He didn't know yet!
"Is there something wrong Major Nu?" Lelouch asked noticing her hesitation.
Villetta took a deep, shaky breath, "Sir, there is something I must tell you…"
"So Zero escaped again?" Cornelia sighed as she and her knight walked through the G-1
"The Japan liberation front hammered our defenses. And he slipped away in the confusion." Guilford explained.
"Despicable, using someone else to cover his movements." The princess spat "What about Lelouch and Kururugi?"
"Major Kururugi is safe now. They had to wait until his energy filler ran out to finally stop him."
"Stop him? From what? Was there a problem with his unit?"
"Apparently it was going berserk."
"Hmm, a failure unworthy of my older brother's forces." she muttered quietly, "What about Lelouch? Have our search parties sent any updates on his whereabouts or have been able to contact him yet?" she asked as a timid subordinate holding a stack of papers interrupted their conversation.
"Er…Excuse me, your highness?"
"What is it?" Cornelia answered sternly.
"I was just wondering who the acting Viceroy was at this time, so I knew who to give these reports to."
Cornelia's eyes narrowed, "What do you mean by acting Viceroy?" she hissed in a dangerously low voice.
"Um…well, P-Princess…Prince L-Lelouch declared himself t-t-temporary Viceroy earlier t-today." The underling stuttered nervously.
She raised a finely groomed eyebrow at that, "And just how was he able to do that?"
Just then Darlton came out from the nearby main control center, possibly saving the innocent messenger from a most unfortunate fate. "Princess, you might want to take a look at this."
She and Guilford followed the scar-faced man back into the spacious room; the first thing Cornelia saw was that the main communications console, the very thing that kept the G-1 in contact with those out on the field, had been destroyed by a single bullet.
Outside the G-1
Marika and Lilyna sat near their Gloucesters and surveyed as the Corpsmen ran about checking the surviving pilots from recovered Knightmare units for possible injuries. It was easy for a wound to go undetected when you out on the battlefield. Only now when the adrenalin was wearing off did one take notice of such things.
A rookie pilot approached them and held out a pack of cigarettes out to them with bandaged hands. "Would either of you lovely ladies like a smoke?" he asked in an overly friendly manner. The fresh bandages were a dead giveaway that he was a novice, gripping one's controls too hard usually caused this type of injury. Not to mention the fact he was still trembling despite his best effort to hide it.
"No, thank you." Marika answered politely while Lilyna merely held up her hand to decline.
"Alright then, the offer still sands if either of you change your minds." He said as he walked off with shaking steps. They knew he wasn't just passing out cigarettes to anyone; he was looking for someone to talk to so he could better ease his frayed nerves. They simply didn't have the time to entertain him, he would have only added to their frustration. They should have been out there looking for their Prince but instead they stuck keeping watch out on the defensive line as per Viceroy Cornelia's orders.
A sudden ruckus nearby sent people scurrying to break their makeshift formation. The guards-women moved to get into their Knightmares when they saw the Merlin practically fly in like a bat out of hell. The black Knightmare hadn't even come to a complete stop when it dropped down to its knees, leaving large muddy skids in the ground as Lelouch opened the cockpit and moved to jump out.
"Your Highness, there you are!" Marika said, relived that he was alright. "Everybody has been looking for you. The Viceroy wants to see you immediately."
"It will have to wait." Lelouch said flatly as he hurried past them.
"But she sounded really mad and she ordered us to bring you to see her if we saw you." Lilyna explained as she grabbed his shoulder, apparently fearing the older Princess' wrath.
"I SAID, IT WILL HAVE TO WAIT!" Lelouch snapped, throwing the blond girl's hand off of him. "Why are you taking orders from Cornelia anyway? You are my knights!" he reprimanded before storming off once again only this time shouting, "Where is Nonette!"
The two guards-women ran after him. "Your highness what is going on? Where are you going?" however, a stern voice made them stop in their tracks.
"Lieutenants!" the girls turned to the direction the voice came from and saw Villetta climbing out of the Bellatrix, "Forget about what the Viceroy said for now and let him go."
Lelouch hurried through the G-1, making his way through the overflowing medical bay. He stopped and asked any of the over worked medics he passed in the hallways as they tried to rush by with their arms full of bandages and other emergency medical supplies. No one had seen Nonette or Jeremiah. No one had received any word on either one since Villetta had last seen the Knight of Nine. They were still unaccounted for. Lelouch took a deep breath as the knot in his stomach seemed to suddenly tighten ten fold. This was not part of his plan.
"…insane…The Knight of Nine…."
"…supposed to do?...Has a gun…"
The frantic whispering amongst the driver and the other two passengers in the front seat was getting on Nonette's last nerve. These pathetic excuses for men made her sick. There was a man clinging to life in the back of their van, and all they seemed to care about was him bleeding all over their precious research.
"Shut the hell up and just drive!" She screeched, making all of them jolt in terror but effectively shutting them up nonetheless. Taking a deep breath, she turned her attention back to Jeremiah. It was not difficult for her to tell that he was beginning to blackout; they were running out of time. "Goddammit! You can't do this Jeremiah, you can't!" She cried, slamming her fist into some of the equipment he was propped up against. "You're stronger than this! Getting bumped off by some Number is too disgraceful of a way for the only remaining Gottwald brother to die!"
He looked at her incredulously. "How…how do you…?" he managed to rasp out.
She slumped down next to him, "You're not the only one Her Majesty ever took a liking to. That story isn't exactly a secret." C'mon Jere-Bear...Don't do this. Not when they need you most! Not when he needs you most! Don't tell Marianne how sorry you are with your death, tell her son with your life." She said quietly. "Your loyalty is still needed on this side...Please." She said with tears threatening to spill over, but before they could she felt the van begin to slow down.
"I told you to drive! Why are you stopping?" she demanded, getting up to grab the hair on the back of the drivers head, and then giving him a good wrap on the head with the barrel of her pistol.
"Th…there's a roadblock!" The man whimpered.
"A road block?" Nonette asked as she looked out the windshield and saw that there was indeed Britannian roadblock. She violently shoved the man's head forward into the steering wheel, unintentionally making the horn blare when the man's forehead made contact. Garnering the attention of the surrounding personnel before moving to jump out of the back of the van.
"Nonette Enneagram Knight of Nine." She announced, having noticed that some of the privates had their guns trained on her after she had burst out of the van's back doors. Clearly they were expecting someone far less friendly. "And if you don't believe me you can get your commanding officer over here to check the tattoo stamped on my ass that says so! So tell me. Who is in charge here?"
A large man with a black goatee stepped forward. "That would be me Lady Enneagram, Sergeant Hendricks." He stated before noticing her blood soaked piloting suit. "My lady, you are wounded. I'll have one of our medics treat you right away."
"No!" She urged forcefully. "This blood is not mine. Sir Gottwald is in the back of the van, severely injured." The moment she spoke those words a blond private immediately rushed past her and over to the van, in what almost seemed like a panic.
Sayoko had not been able to stand the idea of sitting idly by while there were hundreds of men and women in need of medical attention. With the task Lelouch had requested of her over she had decided to make herself useful by helping treat the wounded rather than sitting idly by in the mobile base. Still in her disguise, she found that no one cared who she was or what unit she was with amidst all the chaos. All that mattered right now was that she had capable hands. That was how she found herself being dragged out to this outpost transporting and treating the wounds of any person they happened to find, and hopefully blocking an escape route for any terrorists that were still in the area.
When she got to the van she saw the damage. He looked terrible; one could tell at first glance that his injuries were severe at best. His face was pale and covered with blood, which gushed freely from under his left eyelid and out of the corner of his lips. Parts of his piloting uniform had been burnt way on his upper torso, reveling patches of seared flesh, his normally tidy hair was disheveled and matted in dried blood and sweat. "Jeremiah…Jeremiah, can you hear me?"
Hearing the voice echo his name Jeremiah forced his good eye to focus. It was the scout Lelouch had been disguised as earlier, but no…it couldn't be Lelouch. The plan was to switch back when he got to the G-1…so that could only mean, "S…Sayo…?"
"Shhh…don't say my name. Someone might hear." She said quietly for fear that someone could be listening.
"Things are…getting darker." He confessed in a wavering voice. He has fading fast.
She forced him to look at her. "No, stay with me. Atashi anata ga shinu wo yurusenai." She murmured in a soothing tone so only he would hear. "Ai…Ai shiteru."
Nonette stood and watched from afar as the medic tended to Jeremiah. Something was off about this picture. She watched closely as the two seemed to exchange some words. It was odd, she had never seen this person before yet the two acted so familiar with each other. She couldn't help but notice that the young man seemed unusually upset by Jeremiah's condition. Without thinking she found herself marching up to the stranger who was treating Jeremiah, getting close enough to let her shadow cast over the both of them. "You, boy! Do you have any idea what you are doing?" She snapped impatiently.
"Somebody get a stretcher!" the young man called paying her no mind before he finally looked up at her, seeming unfazed by her menacing tone. "His injuries are too severe. I can't field treat them. We need to air lift him to the hospital immediately."
"The chopper should be circling back any minute." Sergeant Hendricks confirmed as two more medics scurried past him with the requested equipment and began working with the first to carefully get Jeremiah out of the van and on the stretcher. The moment they got him on the ground the scientists peeled out, turning around as fast as they could. Their screeching tires kicked up dirt and gravel as they sped away with the backdoors still flapping open.
"Somebody go after them!" Hendricks ordered, noting the suspicious behavior.
"Don't bother, just let them go." Nonette contradicted with a blasé attitude. "They are useless anyway…bloody cowards. We have more pressing matters to worry about." She finished turning her attention to the body on the gurney as the sound of the helicopter retuning to their location started to become audible from somewhere off in the distance.
Jeremiah gestured for the medic to come closer from his position on the stretcher when the young man leaned and Jeremiah whispered something in his ear before he looked back up at Nonette.
"Lord Jeremiah requests, Knight of Nine, that you personally go to Prince Lelouch and inform him of his current status, as well as convey his apologies to his Liege."
Lelouch kept moving through the halls of the G-1 in a stony silence trying to figure out his next course of action. He'd just gotten word from one of the recovery teams that Nonette and Jeremiah's Knightmares had been found abandoned near a riverbed in their assigned location. They had said that Jeremiah's Gloucester had been an unrecognizable wreck and that the inside of his cockpit looked like a blood bath. And Nonette's headset had been found smashed to pieces beside it. Trying to figure out what had happened to the two he somehow found himself wondering into the now empty main command center. He decided to stay here for the moment. Unlike everywhere else it was quiet, he'd be able to think more clearly here. Had they been captured? Could the enemy have been waiting for Nonette when she had gone back to aide Jeremiah? If so, what use would they have had for a dying if not already dead man no matter whom he happened to be?
Unfortunately the quiet in which he could think didn't last long enough to come up with a conclusion.
"Your highness, there you are." Guilford voice echoed from the doorway as he stepped past the threshold of the large room and came up beside him. "Viceroy Cornelia wishes to speak with you."
"Guilford, I do not have the time or the patience to deal with either you or my sister at the moment." Lelouch said firmly, not even bothering to look at the man.
"I really must insist your highness." Guilford pressed with a dour expression on his face.
Lelouch sighed heavily in sheer frustration and turned to face the demure man beside him. "Sir Guilford incase you and Cornelia haven't noticed, the Knight of Nine and my personal knight are both missing! And there is a very good chance Jeremiah might be dead! So you can go tell that bitch that she'll just have to wait!" Lelouch hissed maliciously. Guilford sprang back like he'd just been slapped in the face. No one had ever dared to speak about his princes in such a manner.
Lelouch's eyes suddenly widened as his caught a glimpse of something just over Guilford's shoulder. It the bullet riddled communications console he had destroyed only hours ago. He pushed past the momentarily stunned man and ran his hand over the bullet hole in the piece of equipment. "Her head set was smashed to pieces." He whispered to himself as it suddenly hit him. Nonette must have tried to call for help when she got there. But when she unable to make contact she probably had gotten frustrated and taken him off to find some…Which had mean he was still alive when she came back for him! With this realization and without another word to Guilford Lelouch swiftly moved out of the large room. His mind was racing; he needed to rejoin his guards-women outside. He needed to talk to Villetta; she had been the last one to see either of them.
He raced back outside to where he left the remnants of his guard, not giving a single soul who would distract him the opportunity to do so in the favor of meeting with Cornelia instead, a meeting that was certain to erupt into a shouting match over which one of them had over stepped their boundaries. He felt his body instinctively tighten the moment the cool mountain air had hit him. From where he stood he could see that the women were right were he had left them.
He kept moving. Marika and Lilyna both were staring at Villetta with shocked faces, no doubt they had managed to badger the woman into telling them what had happened. But before he was able to reach them a voice called out to him.
"YOUR HIGHNESS!" It was none other than Nonette shouting to him. She was standing up in the front seat of a fast approaching jeep that was being driven by some private he couldn't remember the name of and didn't care too. He was relived to see her, which was very rare when it came to Nonette. However, the feeling was painfully short lived when he realized that her uniform was covered in blood. Once the vehicle steadily slowed and came to a stop she jumped out and ran to him, "I have a message for you…"
"What is wrong with him?"
"We don't know. Only he and Prince Lelouch know what happened out there."
Suzaku wasn't quite sure what was going on around him. All the lights and sounds were a giant blur. He could feel his heart racing, and several people were trying to talk to him but he couldn't make out what they were saying.
"Suzaku? Suzaku can you hear me?"
Dammit! Why couldn't these people speak Japanese for once! He was vaguely aware of someone else's hands trying to pry his own away from the Lancelot's controls. No! Zero was still out there! He struggled against the foreign appendages in order to regain his grip. It wasn't until a softer and far more delicate pair of hands took hold of his own, that he finally let go.
"It's going to be ok."
Kallen silently moved the busted up Shen-Hu through the mountain terrain, while Zero lounged lazily behind the seat in the cockpit, making himself as confortable as the cramped space would allow. She'd wasted no time in retrieving him after receiving the much-anticipated call that the masked leader was alright, albeit stranded in a cave. Yet there was something that was eating at her.
"Hey…Zero can I ask you something?" She asked nervously breaking the silence.
"What is it?" Zero's synthesized voice asked back.
"Well, it's just that when I got to the cave there where tracks from another Knightmare. I…I guess I was just wondering what had happened after you got separated from the others."
"You can say our royal ally helped me out of a tight spot involving a certain white Knightmare." Zero answered nonchalantly, wrapping his distinctive cloak around himself tighter.
"Lelouch?" Kallen whispered as they finally reached the escape point where everyone else was waiting for them.
"Kallen you're back!" Ohgi greeted as she and Zero exited the Shen-Hu. "Zero, you're unhurt? We were worried when Kallen couldn't raise your Burai earlier."
"My Burai was destroyed but I am otherwise fine." The masked leader replied as he tightened his cloak around once more. Kallen found the sudden mannerism rather peculiar but shrugged it off as it the result of the brisk mountain climate. "Have you taken stock of our losses yet?"
"We've lost a few Burais but as far as we can tell we haven't had any casualties." Ohgi replied.
"Good. Make sure all of the wounded have been field treated and then get ready to move out. There is a JLF route Lelouch neglected to tell the Viceroy about that we can use to avoid the check points."
"Where is he?"
Sayoko looked up from her chair in the ICU when she heard Lelouch's distressed shouting. She knew he'd come here as soon as he heard. She jumped to her feet as the young prince rounded the corner of the connecting hallway and spotted her, still dressed as the anonymous soldier.
She grabbed him as he tried to move past her and held him tightly, blocking him from going any further.
"Unhand me!" He demanded as he struggled to break free of her grip. His thrashing only resulted in her pulling him in close to her, enveloping him into a full embrace. He realized that her arms were trembling.
"Lelouch you can't go back there. They haven't been able to stabilize him yet." Even with her voice synthesized to sound like a man's he could hear it quivering.
"H-How bad is it?" He asked in a quite desperate voice that she hadn't heard from him in years. She could only shake her head in response.
"Lelouch...?" A soft voice interrupted, and he turned to see the source of it.
"Euphie?...What?" Lelouch asked seeing the worried face of his younger half-sister.
"Th-They brought Suzaku here. I heard you yelling. And I…" She trialed off noticing the private still holding Lelouch, it was the same one she saw with him before. She was sure of it.
"Suzaku? Why is Suzaku here? What is wrong with him?" he asked, pulling himself from Sayoko's grip. Had CC lied about not harming him?
"I was hoping you could tell me that." She admitted in a quiet voice. "You were the one out there with him weren't you? Lelouch…Please, tell me what happened."
Lelouch paused to look back at Sayoko. The grave look she was giving him, even through that mask, was enough to tell him that the best thing he could do for Jeremiah right now was to just get out of the way and let the doctors do their jobs, no words were necessary. He took a deep breath and turned his attention back to his sister, "I think I need to speak with Suzaku….You." he said looking back too Sayoko. "Stand guard here, and keep me updated on Jeremiah's condition."
"Yes, your highness."
Euphie silently lead him from the ICU and to a room that Suzaku had been confined in. By the time they got there the Japanese boy seemed to have finally calmed down quite a bit, but still looked extremely confused from his spot in the hospital bed. He was however coherent enough to notice when they entered the room.
"Euphie, would you please excuse us?" Lelouch asked. Her first instinct was to refuse but the demeanor of his voice although calm left no room for argument. Once the princess hesitantly disappeared back behind the door Lelouch made his way over to a chair situated to the left of the occupied hospital bed. "What happened back there?"
Suzaku paused in an attempt to gather his thoughts but it proved to do him little good, "I-I don't know. One moment I have Zero cornered, the next…I see…I see..." he trailed off suddenly growing paler than he already was.
Lelouch frowned. What could Suzaku have seen that would shake him up this much? What he'd seen when he touched CC was very jarring yes, but it wasn't traumatizing. What had she done to him?
"Lelouch? Can…can you tell me how Zero got away? Do you know how he did it? I can't remember…"
"The um…the Lancelot lost control and he got away in the confusion." Lelouch answered truthfully.
Suzaku snapped his head up at that, "Lost control? So Zero escaped because of me?" The Japanese boy asked, suddenly becoming more agitated.
"Look, Suzaku. It isn't your fault the Lancelot began malfunctioning." Lelouch said in an attempt to clam the distressed boy back down.
"I lost control and your calling it a malfunction? I-I saw…" The rest of the strangled sentence died off in Suzaku's throat as he briefly trialed off again. "How could a malfunction cause that…?
"Suzaku…" Lelouch started but was quickly cut off.
"No! I know what you're doing Lelouch. I know you're trying to cover this up to protect me!" Suzaku accused as he buried his face in his hands. "What point is there in protecting me? Why are others going to suffer for it rather than me? Why is my failure being covered up again?" Suzaku rambled frantically as he ponded his clenched fists onto his lap.
"Look, Suzaku." Lelouch all but growled out, "The truth is that I'm not one-hundred percent sure what happened out there myself. But I know you, and I know what happened could not possibly have been your fault. It was a legitimate accident!"
"If it was a legitimate accident then why are you trying to cover it up?" Suzaku countered.
Lelouch sucked in a large breath, "It is my duty as a military leader to protect my subordinates." He stated calmly, the irony of the whole situation wasn't the least bit lost on him.
"And it is my duty to uphold the law and do what is right. Even if I can swallow being protected as your subordinate, I still can't swallow being protected as your friend." Suzaku said almost morosely.
"Can't it be both Suzaku?" Lelouch asked indignantly.
"It could be…but is it?" Suzaku said, looking Lelouch straight in the eye. "I know you well enough to know that it is only because we're friends that you are doing this."
And with that Lelouch exploded, "DAMMIT SUZAKU! IF I CAN'T AT LEAST PROTECT MY OWN MEN THEN WHAT GOOD AM I! WHY WON'T YOU JUST LET ME PROTECT YOU?"
"BECAUSE I DON'T DESERVE TO BE PROTECTED! I'M A MUR…" Suzaku suddenly cut himself off.
The room became deafeningly silent as the two boys stared at each other for what seemed to be an eternity. "…Suzaku, Is there something you want to tell me?" Lelouch finally asked, his voice cutting through the silence like a knife.
"No." Suzaku answered flatly as he looked away from his friend's gaze. "There's nothing. You're the superior officer, do what you want."
It was with a heavy mind and much reluctance that Lelouch eventually excused himself from the room. Euphie immediately accosted him as he stepped out into the brightly lit hallway.
"Lelouch, what happened in there? It sounded like the two of you were arguing…" She began anxiously, only to be brushed off by her brother with out even so much of an acknowledgement to her presence.
There was just too much weighing on his mind right now to give her a second thought. Suzaku was about to call himself a murderer back there. There was no doubt in his mind about that. Was there something so painful that Suzaku was keeping from him, despite their friendship? Or did he simply think that way of himself because of his insufferable honor dictating a self-loathing for aiding Britannia? Either way Lelouch could relate, so he decided not to push the subject for now.
Euphie watched as Lelouch walked away from her. Only now was she beginning to understand how much he had changed.
Elsewhere in the Hospital
To Marika and Lilyna, chaos had been the only way one could describe the scene at the hospital. The evacuees from the now obliterated mountain town milled aimlessly about with nothing to do and nowhere to go as they waited for the military to organize relief efforts. Over flow of the wounded solders that could not be treated by the over-worked medics in the G-1 were being rushed in and treated by anyone with medical training that happened to be available.
When they had first arrived at the hospital entrance, trying in vain to catch up with their Prince. Villetta had gone to find a doctor or really anyone who could tell them of the situation concerning Jeremiah's condition, leaving them to try to track down Lelouch, needless to say that finding the prince in this cacophony of madness was easier said than done.
As they raced through the labyrinth of sterile white hallways lined with bustling doctors, nurses, and orderlies trying to attend to as many people as possible. Lilyna noticed that Marika was lagging behind, seemingly deep in thought with an unreadable look on her face.
"We're terrible knights." Marika lamented in a broken voice as she shook her head.
Lilyna strode over to her friend and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Look, I know you're upset about all this. I am too. But we need to find his highness."
Marika lifted her head to look her in the eye. "No…don't you get it Lilyna? We're no better than my traitor brother. What if something had really happened to his highness out there? Lord Jeremiah wouldn't have been able to help him." The strawberry blonde said despondently, nearly on the verge of tears.
"Marika, Viceroy Cornelia gave us orders to guard the defensive line what other choice did we have?" the blonde tried to reason.
"That's just it Lilyna…remember what Lelouch said earlier? We aren't Princess Cornelia's knights we are his knights. What do you think Lord Jeremiah would have done if he had been in our position?"
Lilyna thought for a moment. No doubt he would have flat out refused the order then go on to make a lewd suggestion to Sir Guilford pertaining to what he should go do to himself, before hopping back into his Knightmare and taking off to find Lelouch without so much as a second thought. She fought back a melancholy laugh at the thought of it. She felt a bit ashamed of herself for not realizing a thing of such magnitude until now. Marika was right. They had failed their prince today. It was by the virtue of pure luck that he had turned out to be fine.
Nonette eyed the medic she had first seen at the checkpoint from afar as she waited for an update on Jeremiah's condition from the doctors. She couldn't help but go over the bizarre scene she had watched from the hallway earlier in her head. Who was this person to put his hands on the prince and speak to him in such a manner? And the familiarity expressed by Jeremiah at the checkpoint earlier…what was that about? Deciding that she was going to find out, she went over and nonchalantly slid up next to the medic, resting her elbows on the counter of the nurses' station behind her.
"Have you heard anything yet?" She asked, "About Lord Jeremiah, I mean."
Sayoko's stance stiffened at Nonette's close proximity, "They've managed to stop the bleeding, but that's all I've been told so far Lady Enneagram." She answered with the foreign voice.
"Nothing else though?" Nonette asked casually.
Sayoko shook her head, "Not yet my Lady."
"You know, I don't believe I ever got your name or rank."
"It's…Private Smith." Sayoko said thinking quickly.
"What unit are you with?"
"…Unit Five." Sayoko answered, relaying on her training from childhood to mask her nervousness.
"So you're Private Smith from Unit Five then?" Nonette asked taking note of the information in her mind. Her uneasy feeling that this person didn't belong grew all the more stronger.
"Yes, my lady." Sayoko confirmed awkwardly.
"Well, Private Smith from Unit Five, I can take over from here. Surely a medic like yourself will be of much more use helping with the relief efforts outside."
"I'm afraid I was given orders from Prince Lelouch to remain here Lady Enneagram." Sayoko refused respectfully.
Nonette's pale green eyebrows knitted together. "Is that so? I'm relieving you of them then. We really need all the help we can get out there."
"I was given direct orders from his highness." Sayoko reaffirmed.
"My orders are as valid as his, I'm a Knight of round aren't I?" Nonette countered.
Sayoko turned and looked Nonette in the eye, "I already have my orders Lady Enneagram."
Nonette her a cold nod, "So you do." It would seem Lelouch had been very deliberate in keeping this person here.
Suzaku's Hospital Room
After the spat with Lelouch Suzaku found himself wondering if everything he had done in that past seven years had been at all worth it. All his life he had strived to live by the bushido code, follow the path of justice. He wanted to trust Lelouch's judgment, but how was he supposed to live with himself if he kept getting protected from his own faults? Just like he had been protected years ago from his brash decision to violate every principle others had tried to instill in him. Everything he had done since had been to atone for the sin of killing his father. In the end he had to wonder if he was the same friend Lelouch remembered from all those years ago.
The sound of someone gently knocking on the door distracted him from his dark thoughts. "Suzaku? Do you mind if I come in?" Euphie asked as he opened the door just enough so she could poke her head in.
"Its fine, come on in." He answered quietly.
"It sounded like you and Lelouch were arguing earlier." She said with concern as she sat down on the foot of the bed. "Is everything alright?"
Despite his dark mood he found himself with a simpering grin, she was always thinking of others before her self. As a mater of fact he could still hear the honeyed sound of her voice resonating in his ears as he remembered how she had contacted him right before their launch, pleading him to bring her elder sister his earlier offering…
"Suzaku can you hear me?" the sweetly feminine voice asked through the static.
"Euphie? Is that you?" Suzaku asked, pressing his headpiece closer to his ear in an attempt to hear better. "There's lots of static but yeah, I can hear you."
"I'm on the Auxiliary radio. Lelouch shot the main one. I'm afraid doesn't have a very long range."
"He did what?" The Japanese boy yelped. He hadn't known the exact circumstances of Lelouch's seize of command.
"Never mind that now." She insisted sounding worried, "There's something I want to ask you. I didn't want to bother Lelouch with it, but could you possibly bring a new power pack to my sister? Lelouch mentioned that she might be low on power and I'm worried for her."
"I'm sure Lloyd and Miss Cecile keep spares on hand. I can ask for one of those." He offered.
"Oh thank you! And please, be careful out there." Her relieved voice finally said full of gratitude before she signed off…
"We just had a little bit of a disagreement is all." He answered finally. "It will be alright."
"Oh that's good. I was worried." She said with relief. "I know you two are close friends. You know, Lelouch wrote me once before he and Nunnally disappeared. I was so worried about him when he and Nunnally were sent away. But then the letter came, in it he said he made friends with a Japanese boy."
"He did?" Suzaku asked. He'd never known that Lelouch had sent any letters back home. After Nunnally had told him about what had happened to them and their mother he'd always assumed Lelouch had cut all ties with his family.
Euphie nodded, "That friend that he wrote about…that was you wasn't it?" she asked with unshed tears in her eyes. "Wh…when I thought that Lulu and Nunna had died, I found comfort in knowing that they had had a friend."
"Suzaku, you've done so much for Lelouch, Nunnally, and me. Now that you need help please let us give it to you."
Suzaku's face immediately darkened, "So you heard what we were arguing about."
"Only parts of it, when you two started shouting." She admitted. "I don't know any of the details but, I think that you should trust Lelouch."
He sucked in a breath, as her plea struck a chord in him. Did she even realize what she was asking of him? Could take on the burden of one more of his failures for her sake?
"That's all I wanted to say really. I should let you get some rest now." She said quietly as she abruptly stood up and moved to the door. She was out in the hallway before Suzaku even had the chance to say anything stop her. After taking a deep breath to compose herself she decided that it was time that she head back to the G-1, Cornelia was no doubt wondering where she was. However, when she began moving she hadn't even been able to make it even ten feet when she was nearly trampled by a couple black clad knights rounding a corner.
"Princess Euphemia! We apologize! We didn't see you there!" Two feminine voices rang out after she had nearly been knocked to the floor.
"No, it's quite alright." She said, noticing that the two sets of small hands bracing her, belonged to none other than the youngest two of her brother's personal guard. "Lt. Soresi, Lt. Vergemon, what are you doing in this part of the hospital?"
"We're looking for his highness actually. A few nurses said that they saw him come this way with you not too long ago." Marika answered.
Euphie shook her head. "He had been here but left after speaking with Suzaku. Maybe he went back to the ICU, that's where I had found him before." Her eyebrows knitted together when she remembered how she had found him yelling about something, but she had been so preoccupied with what was wrong with Suzaku that she'd nearly forgot about it. "Now that I think about it he seemed really upset about something earlier. Is there something going on there?"
"Highness…" Lilyna began gently, "Lord Jeremiah, he was critically injured in the battle today."
Emergency Evacuation Point: Location, Unknown
"Where are they?" Bartley nearly shouted for the ten millionth time. In they span of just one hour pudgy general had nearly worn a hole in the floor with his nervous pacing. A handful of scientists dressed in white lab coats watched anxiously as their boss continued to wring his hands and work up a sweat. "What if they got stopped at a check point? They have some of our most important research on board. If Viceroy Cornelia found out what was really going on…" He couldn't bring himself to finish the sentence. It would certainly be the end of them all if the real details of Code-R got out. So uneasy was the group that the sudden distinctive crackling nose from a walkie-talkie made them all jump.
"General Bartley, we have a positive ID on an approaching vehicle. It seems to be them." One of the lookouts outside informed.
"Thank god." Bartley sighed in relief, if he didn't know better he'd say that he had been on the verge of cardiac arrest. "Let them through."
He and the other researchers headed to the area of the hide out where the van was being let in. Once it came to a full stop the three inside came stumbling out of the front seat, shaking violently and nursing some already forming bruises to their heads and faces, as the others rushed to the back doors to begin unloading the research and equipment, but gasped when they opened the doors.
"General! There's blood all over the place in back!"
If the condition the van's three occupants wasn't shocking enough, the fact that there was now drying blood all over the equipment in the back certainly was, so much so that Bartley's monocle fell off, "What happened?" he demanded. There had obviously been someone else in the back of the van; someone had seen what was in there!
"The knight of nine stopped us and demanded that we take her and Gottwald to Narita hospital." One explained.
The blood drained out of Bartley's face, "You let them see what was back there!"
"She had us at gun point! What else were we supposed to do?" another argued. "I think she was far too concerned with Gottwald's injuries to notice what any of that stuff was anyway. We got stopped by a checkpoint half way there and dropped them off, then hightailed it out of there as soon as we could. No one seemed to follow us."
"Gottwald was injured?" Bartley asked.
"Yes," the driver said, holding a newly gotten icepack to his forehead. "Severely by the looks of it. You all saw how much blood was back there. I don't think he'll be a problem either though, He was pretty out of it."
Bartley wiped some imaginary smudge of his eyeglass before putting it back in place. "But it is a problem! This is still a top-secret project. Whether lady Enneagram saw anything suspicious or not won't stop her from getting Viceroy Cornelia to investigate." This wasn't good this wasn't good at all.
The bedlam had begun to die down as time went on. Those with less serious injuries had begun to be directed to the medics that were now set up in tents and vehicles outside. Civilians had begun to be moved elsewhere to temporary emergency housing far away from the mess. Rescue and recovery efforts had begun to be organized. The sky had begun to darken.
Lelouch found himself sitting near Jeremiah's hospital room in the ICU trying to let what Sayoko had told him not but a moment ago sink in. They had managed to stabilize Jeremiah's condition for now, but the general prognosis was not good. He felt numb as he watched his knight lay unconscious in a hospital bed through the observation window. How could this have happened? How could things have gone so terribly wrong?
He was so lost in his brooding that he hadn't noticed Nonette come back in, and had been startled when she placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Relax, it's only me. I came to give you this." She said as she handed him a small box. "I asked one of the recovery teams to collect it. I mean if there was anything left to collect that is."
Lelouch silently took it and peered inside. He found that there were various miscellaneous trinkets inside it, all of which looked singed by heat. It quickly dawned on him that these things where the personal effects from Jeremiah's Gloucester. Good luck charms and reminders of why he was fighting. Lelouch himself kept things like this, nearly every Knightmare pilot did. Reaching inside his fingers found a string of beads, curious he pulled it out of the box to examine them. It turned out to be a rosary; it's glass beads now blackened and warped. Lelouch knew that having lost his faith long, long ago that Jeremiah must have kept this thing with him for some other reason, or just simply out of habit. Lelouch knew this because he was the same way. However, this tawdry string of devotional beads was not the most interesting item among this box of random objects, that honor belonged to a partially melted figurine of St. Peter. Normally this sort of thing would not catch his attention but what made it so extraordinary was the fact the face had obviously been blackened with paint. Why the hell would Jeremiah keep something like this? Lelouch decided to leave it for now; the thing was beginning to give him the creeps.
That was when he noticed a few pieces of paper buried at the bottom. He gingerly picked them up to find that they had been photographs. The charred corners of each one were rolling in on themselves, and most of them were so damaged he couldn't tell who or what they might of been of. However, there was one that had the faint image of a woman still visible on it, despite the chemical distortion of the film. Looking closely he realized that he knew this woman…it was his mother!
Lelouch let out a despondent laugh and shook his head, "Jeremy, you sentimental fool."
"Is that Lady Marianne?" someone asked. Startled once again Lelouch nearly jumped.
"Will you people stop sneaking up on me?" He demanded as he looked up, it was only Euphie.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to." She said quietly.
"It's fine Euphie. I'm just a little on edge right now."
"I understand." She said as she sat down next to him. "Your lieutenants just told me about your Knight…I'm really sorry Lelouch. Earlier I didn't realize…but he's tough guy. He'll recover won't he?" she asked optimistically.
Lelouch's eyes were downcast, staring into the box he was still holding in his hands. "They don't think he's going to make it Euphie." he said disheartened.
Euphie fought back the tears being caused by seeing her brother in this much pain and rested her forehead head on his shoulder. "I am really sorry Lelouch." She repeated, at a loss as to what else to say.
"Why did you come with us today Euphie?" He suddenly asked. "It's no place for you."
She had to pause to think for a moment on a way to answer that, "I guess that when I realized the things you must have gone through during your time in exile I just…I just wanted to understand what your reality truly was."
"You've been sheltered all your life Euphie." He said as he got up and placed the box on the nearby counter. "I would not expect you to ever be able to understand, nor would I ever want you to." He said as the oppressiveness of the atmosphere suddenly stuck him. He need to no longer be here; at the very least he needed to get some fresh air. As he moved passed his sister and out the door he could hear the unmistakable sound of a strangled sob came from Euphie's lips.
Once out side he lazily propped himself up on a pillar of an ambulance port. He breathed deeply of the fresh mountain air his exhale turned to a visible fog before his eyes.
"It's getting cold again." A feminine voice that he immediately recognized said.
"Is it really a good idea for you to be here CC?" He asked looking in the direction her voice had come from. She was in uniform again, and holding a wool blanket. Whether she had on the uniform he'd given her or if it was one she had stolen from someone else he couldn't tell, nor did he really care which one it was.
"Do you want me to leave?" She asked, offering him the blanket.
Giving himself pause he quietly took the blanket and wrapped it around his shoulders. "…No, you can stay for a little bit."
"So tell me, is he at least out of pain for now?" she asked as she leaned against the same pillar he was occupying.
Lelouch's brow furled, "How do you already know about that?" He didn't think it had become common knowledge yet.
"I have my ways." She answered nonchalantly.
"I'm actually kind of glad you're here. My sisters aren't the kind to understand easily, and Suzaku isn't in his right mind at the moment. It's just…it's good to have a friend with me right now." He admitted.
CC's eyes widened as she looked over her shoulder at him. A friend? He considered her a friend?
"I don't know why snow is white." Lelouch continued. "But I think it is beautiful. I don't hate it." CC moved closer to him and took hold of his hand to comfort him. It was the least she could do.
This was the first thing Sayoko saw when she came out through the automatic glass doors of the hospital, her master holding hands with Miss CC and talking about snow.
'Ah, snow…' Sayoko thought as she looked up to the darkened sky, it had indeed begun snowing once more.
AN: Emotions running pretty high here huh?
Snow is a symbol of a fallen warrior to the Japanese. And anyone who knows the significance of St. Peter with a blackened face gets cookies!
Ok so…I'm just going to address this here because I keep getting this question in reviews: as of this point in time I have no plans to use characters that are exclusive to the Knightmare of Nunnally spin off manga. I haven't read it and I'm not familiar with any of them. Same with any of the other spin off mangas, or the spin off anime, which as of yet hasn't even been released in Japan soooo…yeah.
Special thanks to: All That Is Left Unsaid, Velshard, Ghost Writer Orange-kun, and LoPe21 for all of their helpful information.
Reviews make me write faster ;D, And no I am NOT going to kill Jeremiah.