Author's Note: Hello everyone. I hope you feel that your patience is rewarded with the longer chapter. The credit goes to Hiroshi Mori and Mamoru Oshii for writing and making such a wonderful anime as Sky Crawler. The concept somehow blended seamlessly with the story. (So yeah, my excuse this time for being late was because of the massive edits that I've done after watching the anime :P) Many thanks to rawrchelle for the beta, I hope you enjoy.

Disclaimer: I do not own Code Geass in any way or form.

Recommend: For best viewing pleasure, set your width to ½.

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Chapter 8

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"Were you jealous?"

"Hmm?" C.C. toyed with his fingers absentmindedly. Both snuggled in each other's embrace while staring at the dawning horizon.

"Back then on Damocles, were you jealous of Kallen? Was that why you decided to stay behind?" Lelouch nuzzled her hairs gently.

She didn't answer him at first, but she let go of the hand and moved it from his abdomen toward the chest and paused over his heart. His eyes fluttered close at the small dances that she made with her fingertips. The heat from her palm was most welcomed beneath the cool sea breeze. In fact, her entire length was radiating such pleasurable warmth that he didn't care much about anything else – at the crook of his arm, at his side. She was so considerate that she even spared her thigh to cover his private parts.

When he regained his consciousness, the first thing that he saw was her infuriating smile. And before either one could voice a single word, he shoved her back and pinned her down on the soft grass. True to his words, he had her all to himself.

The ferocious consummation paved way to the calming peace that they both shared with wordless joy. Their climax brought them to a new level of intimacy. The sweltering lust and the eternal destitute that they both possessed united as one at their culmination, the ultimate union of both body and soul. He could felt her light presence at the back of his mind, like a tranquil buoyancy just beyond his own consciousness, never intrusive, poised patiently for his consent before crossing.

The field of stars was revealed to him once again before his drowsy eyes. His own hand came up and laced with hers. The answer was not really important-

"Not so much as jealousy." Her breath tickled his skin. "More like consolation knowing that her feelings for you were genuine."

"And that was enough for you to leave me be?" Lelouch peered down at her, feigning disbelief.

She looked up at him with that mischievous smile of hers, "Old habit dies hard, I was self-centered."

"Not everything that you did was selfish." Lelouch stroke her face gently with the back of his hand, "at least the Bristols didn't think so."

"They were deceived," C.C. frowned, "I didn't do anything that warrants such allegiance."

"I beg to differ milady," Lelouch mocked with good humor which earned him a smack on the arm.

Then his eyes turned serious. "There were many that were touched by your bravery…myself included."

"You?" She was genuinely shocked.

[How could I not?] The curtain parted at the snap of his fingers. It was his turn to smile crookedly at her. [You didn't think I was out in the oblivion this whole time, did you?]

[This is…] C.C. was speechless. Hundreds of canvases were decorated meticulously in this new wing of Memory Museum. "You…you gone through them all?" she finally uttered.

Lelouch nodded, his demeanor turned solemn. "You are the bravest woman I've ever known."

"That's not-" Her features dropped, but Lelouch would not let her do that now.

"We all have our vices, as you have witnessed mine." He tilted her chin up and looked into her sodden orbs. "It was because of you that I have vanquished my demon. It was because you that I have found my true path. I will not let yourself or anyone else deprives you from what you deserved."

C.C. acknowledged by pulling him closer. But she added with mirth, "I think you were just saying it so you could woo me over."

"What can I say?" Lelouch chuckled. "I like older women, especially the ones that possessed immortality."

That earned him another smack on his arm.

"How long do you think it has been?" Lelouch asked, still smiling.

"It had been four days since I came about and I have no bearing prior to that." Her palm resumed its position over his heart.

"Adam and Eve?" Lelouch suddenly burst out laughing at the thought, looking around.

"Fitting," she smirked at him, "but not quite."

"Why wouldn't it? We now possess the fruit of good and evil. The world see me as the Demon King and you as my queen, this is so appropriate." Lelouch was delighted.

"And what do you plan on doing, my dear Adam," C.C. snorted lightly, but decided to indulge him.

"All in due course my lovely Eve," Lelouch smirked, the wheels turning in his head while he stared at the first beam of rising sun, embracing her full. "All in due course."

********

"There it is again."

Yamasaki rolled his eyes and snorted with frustration. His shift partner, Saito had been telling him about this phantom operation conducted by the Imperials for the past few days, everything since air patrol shot down an Imperial oceanic patrol craft.

"I am telling you, something is going on out there," Saito insisted.

Yamasaki sighed in defeat. "Do you know what is out that way?" He tried to suppress his impatience but failing. They went over the data recording, but he saw nothing but electronic noises and sensor ghosts.

"Of course, I did. It's a series of island chain."

"You meant sand bars?"

"Islands," his friend insisted stubbornly.

"Fine, islands, but the largest one no more than three square kilometers, now tell me, Saito, what can one do on an island only three square kilometers? It wasn't even on the map." He sighed inwardly again; he hoped this was the last time that they wasted their energy on this pointless argument.

"There are a lot of things they could do, like…like a staging area, eh…refueling point…em-"

"Saito, please," he groaned. "If you haven't been following the news lately," he narrowed his eyes, "let me tell you what was going on around the world. The Imperials are now embroiled in a bitter civil war ever since the Demon King was obliterated with the Damocles almost two months ago. The Chinese Federation, although they withdrew from the UFN because of the Damocles incident, it is still our ally fighting against Britannia on the European front, and as of this week, advancing into the occupied territories. So tell me again, Saito, why would the Imperials have anything to do there, seven hundred kilometers off the mainland?" He arched his brow.

"…"

"And to alleviate your doubt if you still have any, don't you think the AWACs over at Kanto would pick up any bandits even if the Imperials were flying below our coverage?"

"…"

"Don't mope, Saito," Yamasaki teased his friend, "you knew as well as I do why we got stuck here on this damn island, manning this antique." He waited for him to look up his direction, "because you can't drink for shit," he laughed, in which Saito also smirked. "Remember the last time that you punch-"

BEEP.

Both men froze in mid-stride and turned toward the offending instrument.

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP…

"See, I told you!" Saito threw him the dirty look, their training kicked into gear.

Yamasaki had already picked up the Hot Line. "Radar contacts! Bearing zero-eight-seven, range six-four-six kilometers. Numerous contacts, count- my God, count four-one-nine and increasing, course two-five-two, speed five-five-six KPH." He worked his dials to transmitting the contact data to the regional air-defense headquarters, and soon more people were watching the electronic drama unfolded. Then his screen went white.

"I plotted eight, possibly nine jammers, bearing zero-four-zero to zero-five-zero," Saito said over his shoulder, "very powerful ones, estimate we have stand-off jammers."

Contacts are lost for the moment, Yamasaki did a mental calculation, with their equipments, they could overcome the jamming in about ten minutes…but a lot could happen in ten minutes…

"I hope we have enough to stop them," Saito said without turning.

Yamasaki didn't answer. Even if they managed to pull all the forces that were currently fighting in Europe, what sort of damage would the Imperial have inflicted upon the cities and how many civilians would have suffered?

********

Jeremiah clenched his teeth again as the low flying bomber plunged unexpectedly that made his stomach flip and rebel. He took a shuddering breath and was grateful for the oxygen mask, for he whimpered slightly as the aircraft went through another pocket of turbulence.

"My lord, we'll be reaching the drop zone in ten minutes," the pilot announced over the intercom. "Please proceed to the capsule."

Jeremiah got up with wobbly feet following the crew chief. After he was situated in the drop pod all he could think of was his Majesty's last words.

Should anything happen to me, Jeremiah…seek out C-Two and swear your allegiance to her in my stead. His emperor's intense stare quelled any objections that he had before he turned himself in to his brother.

Even if she decides to assume the throne, the ninety-ninth emperor continued, safeguard and defend her from all enemies, and serve her until the end. She is my will.

But before he could fully carry out his Majesty's last will, the Knight of Zero – Suzaku Kururugi, decided to carry out what he still could with Zero Requiem, essentially a half-hearted, partial implementation of what was doomed to fail. Despite his fiercest objection, the coronation was facilitated without his presence, and three days later, the formal Baron of Sheffield declared the crowning illegitimate and the rebellions began in earnest. Many of the nobles and their generals who were stripped of their privileges and powers formed into an alliance and became the heart of the insurgency. Furthermore, the rift between him and Suzaku had widened tremendously with his refusal to support him with Nunnally's ascension to the throne.

Granted, the little girl was the daughter to the late Lady Marianne and sister to Emperor Lelouch, and Zero Requiem was formulated solely for her to assume the throne. But the outcome of the battle had already deviated so much from what was envisioned. She was now manipulated like a mere puppet to the powers that be, not even mentioning his Majesty's standing will. The ensuing discord greatly hampered the suppression effort, and the uprising flared up like wild fires. As it was, Suzaku was able to sway the Army because his closeness to the Empress and his prowess over the battlefield, while Jeremiah commanded the Navy and the Air Force. To make the matter worse, UFN seized this opportunity by attacking alongside the European borders, further destabilizing the already weakened regime.

His search for Lady C.C. had already begun at the conclusion of hostility in Japan but because of the uprisings and the invasions, a bulk of his resources had to be diverted to contain the threats. After nearly two months of futile efforts on both fronts, when he was about to give up hope, a coded message reached him at his command bunker.

Courage derives not from bravery but confidence,

Confidence comes only from faith,

Faith is awarded to only those who were loyal.

He knew right then it was what he was looking for. Less than half a dozen people had full access to the after action report of the entire incident on Damocles and he had gone through every page. Although he didn't remember the last phrase ever being mentioned on any of the reports…

It took him forty-eight painstaking hours before he could assemble enough assets from the already low reserve pool, and inevitably a call from Suzaku Kururgi.

Gottwald, why was I not informed of this operation sooner? Suzaku had asked with annoyance. You have allocated a considerable amount of forces from the European Theater in the hope of unbalance the UFN in the Pacific, it seems like a waste of valuable resources.

We can always bombard their citie-

Out of the question! Suzaku barked, losing his composure. I have said it time and again, and this is also her Majesty's wish, we will NOT attack UFN cities under any circumstances!

And yet we let UFN attacking ours? Jeremiah bit back other venomous retorts. Suzaku didn't answer him but his goal was accomplished. He and his powerful Lancelot Albion will hold down the European front while he reclaimed her ladyship. Since any major troop movements into the area would only invite attentions and inevitably endanger his charge, he also enlisted the help from a certain SAS Sergeant who he knew he could trust in this particular matter.

Bristol and his handpicked crews were inserted to the pickup zone twenty-four hours after he received the message. Just prior to his own departure, he was informed by his intelligence chief through unofficial channel that SAS had deployed an entire regiment into the area without order twelve hours after Bristol confirmed "objective" secured. All attempts to contact Bristol were met with silence until he received one call on his cell phone.

"Come."

There was no mistaken who it was. That single word compelled him to board the nearest transport that took him to the closest airbase and to that end, into an infiltration pod that will deliver him to his emperor.

"Five seconds, good luck, My Lord," a detached voice came over the intercom. The indicator lights above his face turned from red, to yellow, finally, green and then the floor was pulled from under his feet.

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Jeremiah and his remaining staff followed hastily behind the SAS detachment that was there to collect them. Two of suffered concussions and had to be left behind with the medics. One was killed when his drop pod ricocheted against a palm tree and split in half by the razor sharp volcanic rocks. He himself was still trying to recover from the adrenaline shock while coordinating the aerial battle that was now underway.

The rugged terrain led them toward a torrential waterfall in the distance. Along the way, heavy weapon emplacements and camouflaged missile batteries scattered across the palm tree growths. The blooming of the waterfalls were making communication difficult so he left his staff at one of the local command post and forged ahead with his escorts. They proceed to the foot of the waterfall, a under hang beneath the downpour and entered through a lighted cavern. The narrow tunnel soon took him into a spacious cleft; the rocks muffled the rumblings on the other side.

It was filled with men and equipments. Large displays with tactical and strategic information were constantly been updated. Stations were arrayed in clusters with men and women relaying orders and instructions. The humming of generators were the only differential from his own command center.

Bristol appeared before his eyes. "My Lord, his Majesty is waiting for you."

His anticipation flared exponentially. He had wondered countless times whether or not if he was hallucinating for hearing that command. They were soon joined by four other SAS operatives and head deeper into the grotto. Soon, only he and Bristol emerged from the tightened pathway into something resembling a rock garden with a natural skylight. And there, his charge, the man that he swore his loyalty to, the man that bared the future of the Empire was gazing at the passing clouds.

"Your Majesty!" Jeremiah exclaimed. He half ran half stumbled, dropped down to both knees before the granite steps, his head bowed in shame and whimpered, "I have failed you." He felt disgraced, for all the trust that his Majesty placed in him, he couldn't even execute a simple will. Instead, he got sucked into a position where he himself could have prevented. He was only thinking about his future. The coded transmission that he received now hit him with full force. He lacked faith and thus he was disloyal. The humiliation was so vast that he almost wanted to draw his pistol and finish himself off right there and then.

"Many people have failed me over the years Jeremiah," he heard. "You have yet to join their ranks."

"Your Majesty…?" His head came up, clearly confused. Lady C.C. appeared next with his Majesty, holding his hand and guiding him to the only chair on the higher platform.

"From what I gathered," his lord smirked; looking down at the woman now chose his laps as her seat and lay slothfully on his shoulder. "You held out against Suzaku admirably. Not many could say the same, certainly not those rotten nobles and opportunists who shored up his cause."

"You have too much confidence in me-" Jeremiah stammered.

"Jeremiah," Lelouch resounded. His purple hues, together with Lady C.C.'s golden orbs were staring into his soul. "Self pity does not become you. I want my orange, not a self loathing, molding strawberry."

Jeremiah looked up into his Majesty's measuring eyes, stood up slowly, straightened his tunic and bowed deeply. "Orange is at his Majesty's and her highness's bidding."

"Hmm…" Lelouch's grin grew, his chin rested idly on Lady C.C. head. "Now just how quickly can we crush this insurrection?"

********

Kaguya Sumeragi surveyed the men and women seated beside her in the humongous room. A few looked deep in thoughts, but most wore a blank expression on their side of the conference table. The four bodyguards accompanying the envoys were fidgeting nervously at every noise.

You reap what you sow.

The thought came to her mind. She didn't want to be here. She didn't want to chair the UFN again when she resigned her office a month ago in protest over the invasion of Britannia. She tried, in vain to advocate peace between the two superpowers amongst the UFN member nations. But after the civil war broke out in Britannia, all they saw was a longtime rival embroiled in turmoil and an opportunity to reclaim the territories that were once lost. It only took Li Xingke five minutes to set off the debate and casted vote from for Chinese Federation to swing in favor for the "expedition." The same man she and her aides suspected to be the mastermind behind of the Tokyo Munity.

Every investigating effort was stalled by bureaucratic red tapes and the timings were just too perfect for him to recommence hostility against the Empire. She understood from the military aspect of attacking your opponents when they were off balance, but by doing so they also withered away their best chance to normalize a peaceful liaison with the Empire. Despite her fervent objection, the Council passed the motion for the invasion with overwhelming majority, even under the threat of her resignation.

The passing of the resolution left her disheartened and made her realize the true color of these men and women, who referred themselves as "politicians." They were not interested in shaping a better future or maintaining world peace. Instead, all they could see was how much advantage and benefit they could gain from the chaos. Those who initially opposed the invasion changed their strides midway through the deliberation, deciding that they should also "see the light."

There was not a single minister present on the day she left her office, with the exception of her staff and Ohgi Kaname, were there to see her off. The usual people who used to work with her every day were all coincidentally absent. She expended whatever political influence that she still garnered and personal sway that she had with Tianzi to relocate some of the prisoners UFN captured from the Second Battle of Tokyo – namely Lloyd Asplund and his adjutants, people who possessed the knowledge to make the terrible tools for war, but to no avail.

The invasion progressed just like Li Xingke had projected. Caught looking at the wrong directions, the defending Imperial forces buckled under the strain and were forced to give up ground. In fact, the outcome of the operation developed so well, the Black Knights needed to commit additional troops to preserve their flanks and keep on the momentum. In three weeks, the Black Knights pushed the Imperials back to as far as central Siberia. Everyone expect nothing but victory.

Then one televised broadcast changed all that.

It was seven days after the massive aerial battle that took everyone by surprise but was later deemed as nothing more than a diversion for the Imperials to relieve pressure on their current fronts. Although she was no longer the chairwoman and member of the UFN council, she was still the minister of foreign affairs with Japan and she was going through her daily briefing with her staff when another staffer slammed open the door and rushed to turn on the wall unit.

And Kaguya's heart stumbled. She heard a noise resembling her own but couldn't tell if it was a sob or a moan and her vision blurred looking at the dear face of Lelouch Vi Britannia on the giant view screen.

He was talking but she could not discern its meaning, all she could think of was the longing and the regret on those sleepless nights imagining him being alive.

"…committed treason against the empire have been condemned and executed. To the cowards of United Federation of Nations, your days of reckoning are numbered. The Holy Britannia Empire will not tolerate his territory being marched upon, his citizens being subjugated and the kingdom being defiled. This is the consequence of your futility."

His audacious gaze vanished and was replaced by half a dozen smaller pictures. She recognized two in the green-monotone night vision views, a bigger one in wireframe view, two in pitch black and another one with legends and arrows. It didn't make any sense to her, but she knew that something extraordinary was about to happen. The movements in the wireframe view caught her eyes, as she looked closer, the larger humanoid objects were accompanied by the smaller patrons and vehicle of various shape and sizes. They didn't look to be-

Then the connecting lines disintegrated. Individual wire that was part of battle frames, pilots, soldiers, trucks or tanks flew apart. The deadly glow of fiery spheres illuminated the other screens. The locations changed but the outcome was the same, countless deaths flashed before her eyes. Just when she began to feel sick, Lelouch reappeared on the display.

"By my order, the forth and the sixth Shock Army have flanked and encircled the remnants of your battered forces. Those interned as prisoners of war will be treated with accordance with appropriate conventions. However," his eyes narrowed, "the following people must be yield to the closest Imperial outpost." The list appeared on a split screen, and the first few names were Lloyd Asplund, Cecile Croomy, and the list went on. "All military units within the Imperial border are to remain stationary and prepare to be disarmed. Any unauthorized movements will be considered to be a further act of war and such unit will be destroyed without mercy." His eyes grew harder still. "We have thus far refrained from attacking your population centers but that will soon change. If those terms are not met forty-eight hours from now, the Empire will declare and wage unlimited war against the UFN. You have seen what I can do, what I have done, if you so wish, I can do more still. The choice is yours, choose wisely."

The screen went blank and whatever regular programming came on but her room was in a deathly stillness. Her shaking hands dropped from her lips and before she could even clear her throat her phones started ringing.

That was two weeks ago. The members of the council gathered at her residence and practically begged for her return as the Chairwoman, largely due to her prior associations with Lelouch but mainly because they lost contact with Li Xingke when the Imperial launched their counter offensive. As appalling as their intentions were, she returned with great reluctance just so more lives could be spared-

Her breath hitched and the limbs froze. Just to the far side of the long conference table, at the Imperial side of the room, Lelouch strode in elegantly his ensemble of bodyguards. Everyone from the UFN delegation scrambled to get their special visors on. Someone shook her out of her daze and offered a visor to her, in which she put on clumsily. Dressed in his emblematic white wardrobe, Lelouch sat down with equal grace and stared her in the eyes.

"How are you?" she blurted out, while ignoring all the disapproving glares around her. Although they were separated by almost forty-feet of space, but to her, he was close enough to touch, versus the eternal separation that used to be.

Lelouch tilted his head to one side and looked on almost curiously. "Not very pleasant at the moment." His tone was genial, but his expression was anything but. "All things considered."

Kaguya swallowed hard, blinking back angry tears and cleared her throat. "The United Federation of Nations wishes nothing more than bringing a peaceful resolution to this unfortunate tragedy-"

"The UFN will deliver to us the living bodies of every single person who had a role in handling and abusing our personnel while under your custody," Lelouch interrupted coldly. "Those guilty of the crimes will face our justice."

"What crimes do you speak of?" Kaguya asked with dread.

"Does the UFN not consider rape and torture a crime?"

"Those were harsh accusations. In addition, the Empire cannot dictate our internal affairs. Those responsible will be trial by jurors and be punished by our code of laws," one minister challenged.

"Is it your desire to wage full scale war with the Holy Britannia Empire?"

"Wait a minute-"

"Because if those people are not delivering to us by week's end, you will be." Lelouch inclined forward on his seat in a predatory manner. "You may have mistakenly overestimated your bargaining power in this matter."

"This is not a negotiation." Ohgi stood up, his eyes glared venom. "Lelouch, we will not be ploy of your games any longer. You who caused so much heartache and sufferings should be the one who atone for your wrong doings," Ohgi accused pointedly.

The murmur of assent echoed about the room.

Lelouch leaned back into his plush chair. His gaze turned to the finger that was drawing lazy circles around the rim of the crystal cup in front of him and droned, "Who is this man that is talking to me right now?" His eyes narrowed with his chin hoist high above, without looking up from his finger playing. The murmurs die off in an instance.

"The world has had enough of your treacherous schemes, all we want is justice!" Ohgi spat from across the table, his fist slammed on the marble top.

"How humorous," Lelouch chuckled without smile. "Hearing this from a man who betrayed his belief, his comrades, and his country."

"What are you talking about?" Ohgi shot back uneasily.

"Everything Japan has, everything the Black knight possessed, the equipments, the organization, the personnel, even the power that you currently weld, who made that possible? You? What have you done in your little pathetic life that you contribute to any of it?" Lelouch stated coldly.

"Of course I-" Ohgi stammered.

"Who made that possible?" Lelouch roared. He shot up from the chair he was sitting and it crashed down with a thunderous clap. All those present flinched, like they were the one been challenged.

"I-" Ohgi went paler than before, looking around for anyone to stand against Lelouch, but they either looked at their shaking hands or away, Kaguya looked on with equal silence.

"If it were not for your betrayal and utter idiocy, the battle of Japan would not have taken place, and the tens of thousands of lives would not have been in vain!"

"It was all your own doing! You are the one who treated everyone as nothing more than a pawn. You the one who brought the whole thing upon to the world," Ohgi tried to match Lelouch's fierceness.

"Part of being a leader is to bear the responsibility when your implementation went poorly, or did you think it was all for fame and glory? Or perhaps it was easier to lay the blame on someone else again?" Lelouch snickered.

"Of course not, I-" Ohgi began but paused, he looked down on the table, hung his head between his shoulders.

"All you ever did was to take credit from someone else's hard work; Kallen's brother, myself, and God know how many countless others. You are the Prime Minister of Japan not because you earned it; because you happened to be the next guy in line. So was the resistance cell, so was the Black Knight. The only thing or person you have ever earned was probably your mistress, and let's not even mention the sadistic way that you lewd her, who was an agent of the enem-"

"Shut up! Shut the fuck up!" Ohgi screamed hysterically, his composure lost at last. He leapt over the table and charged toward Lelouch, whilst everyone looked on with shock.

Before Ohgi was able to cross the middle of the huge conference table, the glass pitcher disappeared before Lelouch and it shattered on Ohgi's face.

The man dropped like a ragdoll and stopped just a few feet from Lelouch on the conference table.

"Such a small price to pay so thousands could rest in peace." Lelouch murmured, but loud enough so everyone could hear it.

The four UFN guards stood dumbstruck by the opposite wall. None of them made any move to stop Ohgi, and no one dared to move him off the table.

Lelouch took a deep breath and peered to one side; two of his personal guards stepped forward to flank him while the third righted the fallen chair and seated their emperor.

"Now with that sack of human flesh out of the way," Lelouch looked at Ohgi's unconscious form, "we can go on with our business." He leaned back into the high-back chair, his fingers laced together and his thumbs tabs methodically.

The UFN guards finally moved away from their assigned spots in response to their counterparts, each pair flanking either side of table, but none came closer to the centerline.

The two Imperials to either side of Lelouch took one step away from their emperor but made no attempt to move forward. The one stood behind Lelouch moved past the two and strode purposely forward until he too was before the centerline. He produced a data chip from his breast pocket and extended it to the two UFN guards in front of him who looked at each other in dread.

"Accept it," Kaguya ordered.

One of them snatched it from the Imperial and made a beeline back to her. Kaguya examined the chip in question for a long while, closed her eyes and sighed in defeat.

What does it matter now?

The survivors of that dreadful counterattack finally surrendered to the Imperials at the Siberia Pocket. All attempts to relieve the beleaguered units ended in disaster. More than a quarter million men and women, lost. The spearhead of the Imperials was now marching into the EU cities unopposed. The Chinese Federation withdrew from the UFN and their northern army was decimated at the Battle of Mongol under the full weight of the Imperial might, and was now under constant Imperial interdiction attacks. The fighting force of UFN had essentially been reduced to impotence.

And yet Lelouch called for this meeting, in midst of overwhelming victories.

She opened her strenuous eyes, winced at Ohgi's prone form and gazed at Lelouch, who now rested his chin leisurely on one hand, yawned lazily, waiting.

Without another word, Kaguya inserted the data chip into the terminal and the content of the document made her snap her head up and look at the Britannian emperor.

And everyone seated had the similar response.

"What is the meaning of this?" Kaguya asked guardedly.

Lelouch gazed at them through hooded eyes. He didn't respond to the question for close to a minute, closed his eyes and snorted in annoyance.

"Exactly what it meant, Chairman Sumeragi," he scoffed. "Terms of my surrender."

"But why?"

"The basis does not concern you," Lelouch replied nonchalantly. "But know this," his eyes sharpened, "failure to accept my offer and comply with my term will mean the eradication of the United Federations of Nations." He stood up from his chair. "Forever."

"This is ludicrous," the Chancellor of EU objected. "What you proposed was occupation of our territories."

Lelouch stopped in his track and peered over his shoulder. "Would you prefer that I annex Europe into the Empire, so we don't have to go through with this?"

The man blanched, stumbled weakly back into his seat.

Lelouch waited for two more seconds before resuming his steps, and left the stunned ministers of UFN without another word.

********

"I just wish there is another way," Nunnally sighed wistfully.

Kallen couldn't help but sigh in unison. "If there is, Lelouch would have thought it." She winced as the next rows of prisoners were pushed down into the pit.

"I've seen enough." Nunnally averted her eyes and steered her wheelchair toward the ramp. Then she stopped. "Do you think Onii-sama is still angry at me?" She asked in a small voice, eyes brimmed with tears.

Kallen smiled with as much assurance as she could muster, but her mind drifted back to that fate-binding day.

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The atmosphere in the royal chamber was eerily quiet, not the usual clamoring debates amongst the generals. Suzaku would normally be conducting the proceeding but he was called away to deal with a particular volatile sector. When contact was lost with his unit, so did the communication in and out of the new capital. There were unconfirmed reports that the UFN invasion had been repulsed, some even suggested that the leaders of the rebellion were slain. But just like everything else in the capital, were shrouded in a murky uncertainty.

"So we know of nothing beyond what you just told me?"

"I am afraid not, Your Majesty. All forms of courier confirmation failed to return. We have every reason to believe that we have been cut off deliberately…" The man hesitated.

"What is it general?" Kallen prompted. She already guessed where this is heading and knew what sort of answer these men would receive.

"Your majesty, in light of the recent development, perhaps we should evacuate-"

"Where would we go general?" Nunnally demanded with annoyance. "The country is in ruin. If we abandon the capital now, how could we earn the trust of the people ever again?"

All of them spoke up at once but Nunnally would have none of it. "Absolutely not, general. We will weather this until Suza-the Knight of Zero return-"

"He won't be joining us for a while." Someone announced from behind them.

Kallen's head whipped around so fast she nearly lost her balance. That sound, that voice, it couldn't possibly-

"Onii-sama!" Nunnally exclaimed in sheer joy. Her wheelchair started to move toward the lone figure by the chamber doors but stopped. Kallen had been with Lelouch long enough to realize the cold fury that was about to be unleash upon them.

"Leave us," he intoned coldly.

His words brooked no arguments. Whatever that people wanted to say died in its track and everyone with the exception of Nunnally and Kallen fled the room in face of the Demon King's impromptu return.

"Onii-sama-"

"Seventeen thousand eight hundred sixty-five dead, twenty-one thousand nine hundred seventy wounded, more three hundred thousand civilians displaced. That-" he paused for emphasis, "was the feat of your failed reign. Nunnally Vi Britannia, it seems that you are every puppet master's favorite toy."

"Lelouch, you've been unfair-" Kallen started.

"You think this is harsh?" Lelouch raised his voice. "Then try and explain to those who lost their sons and daughters and loved ones. Try and explain how their beloved Empress fucked this one up so royally that many innocent lives had to perish because of her idiocy!"

Nunnally burst out crying. Kallen hurried over to her side at the same time glared at Lelouch. "How could you be so heartless? Suzaku was the one who staged the whole thing."

"Of course he is, but the decision to accept the throne was entirely her own." He walked toward the windows. "Making decisions were easy." Lelouch kept his gaze at the smoking ruins in the distance. "But living by the consequences of your decisions is something that you'll have to contend with."

Kallen kept her eyes on him; traced his every line with the glowing light in the distance. Remembering his habitual movements while thinking, how his fingers entwined and played…Lelouch span around and walked toward them. Kallen ducked her gaze to focus on calming down Nunnally. She heard him stop feet away from them.

"My only fallacy was believing that I could shield you from the atrocity and the cruelness in this world, if I were to lay out my plan impeccable," he sighed. "And look at where it got you."

Nunnally reached out for his hand and for one terrible moment Kallen almost thought that he would bat it away.

"I am so sorry Onii-sama, I didn't mean for any of this to happen, please believe me," Nunnally begged, one hand covered her trembled lips; her entire being was shaking like a leaf in a storm.

Lelouch's eyes softened. He kneeled down before her, "You are destined to shape the world according to your vision. All I can do for you is to maintain the peace during that transition. If you truly have the resolve, this is what I have to offer…"

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"Lelouch!" Kallen caught him just outside the hallway, after promising Nunnally a quick return, who sat in stunned silence when Lelouch revealed his plan and what he was capable of.

The man stood in place and regarded her with a raised brow. "Would you like to go home?"

"No," she replied decisively. "I will stay will Nunnally and fulfill her endeavor, but that was not why I came out." She took a deep breath. "I realize now that I am not able to love you the way a normal girl would." She sounded more convinced with every word. "But I will do anything that you ask of me. Anything at all, that is my love to you." Just like in the club house of Ashford Academy, his features betrayed no sign of emotions.

"Thank you Kallen," Lelouch said after a tense silence. "Your devotion to Nunnally was enough for me."

Kallen nodded her consent and return back to the throne room.

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"No," Kallen said resolutely. "He was more angry at himself than anyone else, for not implementing Zero Requiem as it should." She steadied her hand on Nunnally's shoulder. "Remember what he said towards the end?"

I hope you can leave some sort of legacies when all is said and done, he had said. Do not count on me or C-Two to carry on for you. The most I will do for you now is maintaining the pretense of peace so you can lay down your ground works. After that… The Humanity will be on their own.

Nunnally nodded mutely.

"He wants you to rebuild the world that he had torn down, and he will sacrifice his freedom to ensure that the peace is maintained."

"I just wish there is another way," the young empress sighed again. The guard details snapped to attention when they descent to the ground floor. The passing prisoners, the ones who just been "executed," saluted them with genuine respect as they exited the giant sound stage onto their next destination to become temporary residents of the Empire.

********

"Milly-san, ready in five seconds."

Milly Ashford smiled in thanks to the cute teleprompter who smiled back shyly. She rinsed her lips and pushed the cup out of the camera shot and put up her best smile for the day.

"Five, four, three, two…" The cue man's fingers were still counting down.

"Today is a momentous day in history. The one hundredth empress, Nunnally vi Britannia has…" Milly stuttered.

Is it true?

The floor manager was waving and pointing at the teleprompter in panic.

"…has condemned his brother, Demon King Lelouch vi Britannia, to life imprisonment…here is the footage from inside Britannis." Milly couldn't help but cover her mouth in shock.

Nunnally's image appeared on the screen. "My dear citizens, it was with a heavy heart that I have condemned my brother, Lelouch vi Britannia to life in prison, for crimes against humanity. The sentence will be carry out by the UFN, at an undisclosed location for impartiality…"

********

The hover car slowed and finally came to a stop before the tall siege gate leading to the courtyard. He watched the driver take out both of their IDs for the seventh time to the dour face sentry who was demanding it. The side door was then opened as another armed sentry approached with a facial scanner. It was a long journey for him. Since air traffic in the region was prohibited. His vehicle had to pass through six check points up the winding mountain path, three manned by UFN and the remaining by Imperials. Along the way, heavily armed patrols and camouflaged battle frames scattered amongst the tree lines. The site was located deep in the heart of the former EU territory now also part of UFN, in the rugged mountains region of Bavaria.

After the sentry was satisfied with whatever he was reading on the scanner, four others entered and ushered him outside. A reception committee was waiting for him.

"Sir Kururugi, I am Cutter…" The impeccably dressed middle age man winced at his bonding shackles. "The head butler here at the palace."

Palace? That is so like Lelouch, Suzaku thought with mild amusement, turning the place of incarceration into his personal retreat. He looked up at the towering citadel just beyond the main gate house, a palace indeed.

"This is Colonel Bristol, the head of palace security," Cutter motioned to his left. A gruffly looking man, who was flanked by four other guards, stood looking at him with measured eyes. The Colonel didn't react nor ignore the introduction, but simply watched on impassively.

"Well, Sir Kururugi, may I offer you some tea?" Cutter smiled with embarrassment.

Suzaku already knew what was coming when Lelouch called for an audience. The look that he gave Cutter was enough as a reply. "But of course, this way please." Cutter bowed courteously.

One of the guards moved to lead the group while the rest "franked" both him and Cutter. Eight more joined their ranks as they approached their destination. Suzaku noticed that none of the guards carried guns except for a few officers including Bristols. There were also scores of maids and butlers working in here, hardly a place for-

"Sir Kuraragi," Cutter's voice called for his attentions. He was now standing by an entrance of what looked like a labyrinth garden. "Please follow me."

Numerous bends and twists later, they emerged onto a flouriest patch and that was when he saw both Lelouch and C.C. chatting amicable beside a blooming cherry blossom tree.

Ignoring the protest from Cutter, he lurched forward but then his steps faltered. It took him a moment to know why. Instead of wearing his white imperial vestment with gold trims, Lelouch was adorned in black. The elaborated embroideries on part of his stoles and cummerbund were donned in silver. The embellishments that were once crowned with rubies were now coroneted by the greenest of emeralds. And the change in C.C.'s wardrobe was even more evident.

Gone was the contrasting black dress to his previous white. She fashioned herself in a pink gown with silver trimmings. The flanking shawl and linking wrap had the matching intricate embroideries bejeweled with emeralds. The high cut side revealed her obsession with thigh stockings. Suzaku didn't even know that he remembered details like this, but their changes were so stark, he was forced to recall details from memories. Even down to C.C.'s wing shape hair crown and the slight trinkets on their belts and garments. Even their demeanors seemed to have transformed.

Suzaku was almost mesmerized by the scene before his eyes. C.C. giggled at something Lelouch asserted and Suzaku was momentarily taken aback by her obvious vibrancy. The air of cold superiority that she used to wear with her vanished without a trace. They looked…happy. Her smile faded faintly and she steadied a hand on Lelouch, who turned his head and nodded in greeting. The surety and the nonchalant glimpse in his eyes were particularly bothersome.

"I'll take my leave," he heard C.C. sigh. "Now play nice."

"Always," Lelouch replied innocently but pulled her closer for a chesty peck on the lips.

Suzaku averted his eyes at their apparent display of public affection. He was here to confront him and he would let nothing else to distract him until he got what he came for.

"I see that you are still his shield." Suzaku dipped his head in greeting when C.C. was walking past.

She did not answer, but the look that she gave him was most unsettling…was it pity or-

"Suzaku." Lelouch said with a pleasant tone, but his eyes were cold. "It's nice to see you again."

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They walked in an uneasy silence after Lelouch ordered him to be unbound, despite the venomous protest from the Colonel. They were heading to the sitting room as suggested by Lelouch.

"You are not afraid that I will take your life?" Suzaku glared at him.

Lelouch pursed his lips, his features seemed contemplative. "Why would you want to do that? The UNF was gracious enough to grant me this refuge, while-"

"Spare me the bullshit Lelouch," Suzaku cut him off angrily, blocking his path. He couldn't contain himself any longer. "Why did you have me arrested?! Why did you not follow through with Zero Requiem like we have agreed?" His body was tensed, his hands balled into fists and his facial features wrinkled with the same frenzy back on Kamine Island.

Lelouch's lilac hues stared back calmly at a pair of coiling, contracted lime irises.

"Because it was flawed," Lelouch offered coolly and attempted to walk around him. But Suzaku would have none of it.

"Do you take me as a fool!?" Suzaku screamed. His hand lashed out and grabbed onto his lapels, shoving him back forcefully. A button popped and he noticed offhandedly the faint scar on Lelouch's lower neck but it was quickly overcome by anger. "Stop playing games with me, Lelouch!"

Simultaneously metallic claps echoed around them, whatever those guards unsheathed would not affect the outcome. He was ready to-

A shadow with a trace of silver flashed by the corner of his eye, it reminded him of the sleeves from Lelouch's new wardrobe. But before he could finish the thought, he was strangled by something cold and incredibly hard. Because he immediately tried to dislodge himself by series of punches but couldn't. Whatever was gripping him caught him just right below his jaw, prevented him from looking down to see his attacker.

Hoards of footsteps stumped the floor around him. He should have finished Lelouch off on the Kamine Island, regardless of what he had told him. Now that he reflected, Zero Requiem was nothing more than a ploy so Lelouch could save his own ass.

"Stand down your men Nicolas," he heard Lelouch's voice. "Suzaku and I would like to have a conversation in private."

"As you wish, my Lord," the voice, presumably from Colonel Bristol replied respectfully and the steps faded away.

"It seems that you have always tried to strong arm me when things don't go your way," he heard Lelouch said. "As matter of fact, it had always been the case, ever since we knew each other."

"Le…lou..ch…" Suzaku managed to croak out, he could barely wheeze through the tight grasp. His vision was graying out at the lack of circulation.

"Even if we were to go through with the plan," Lelouch sounded musingly, "there will still be deaths and sufferings, the past few months was the testament to that very fact. Our version of peace could never be achieved. And what guarantee do I have that you would not betray me and Nunnally again for your own belief?"

"What…are you talking about?" Suzaku wheezed.

Lelouch's voice dropped suddenly. "Remember how righteous you sounded before my father? The manner in which you conducted the succession placed Nunnally's life in danger, you exploit her as a puppet for your own personal scheme. You also conspired, adhered and levy war with the enemy against the Empire. Tens of thousands of lives perished because of what you did, all under the guise of executing Zero Requiem, what do you have to say for yourself?"

Suzaku tried hard to gasp for air, right before he lost consciousness, the hold loosened enough to cause a sudden rush of blood that thundered through his temples. It also allowed him to move his head enough to see Lelouch's extended arm that led to his current state. Suzaku didn't know how he had the strength to do it and yet…

"Suzaku…" Lelouch pronounced his name deliberately, all the while kept the firm grip on his throat, left him barely tiptoeing, dangling barely off the ground, without suffocating.

Before Lelouch could continue, Suzaku gathered whatever strength he had left, using Lelouch's arm as leverage, curled his body up onto mid-air and placed a well aimed kick at his captor's jaw.

Suzaku's heel connected with the intended target, but instead of breaking free from the grasp, Suzaku heard rather than felt his face slam into the nearest wall. Before he could yelp in pain, a ticklish sensation followed immediately after by throbbing stings around his neck. He froze. His heart thumped loudly within his chest, he could feel warmth seep down his neck and shirt.

"Suzaku," Lelouch growled. The intonation was hard and cold. "Do you know why war has never been completely eradicated in our history?"

Suzaku's body began to shiver, he didn't know why.

"It is a sense of reality that was quintessential to humans. They needed the misery that it brings to sustain the illusion of peace in their everyday life. Humans are forgetful of their past sins and sufferings; I've seen it with my eyes, I've lived it. Zero Requiem was nothing more than a child's fantasy for an imperfection that cannot be rectified." He was pulled from the wall like a ragdoll, staring at Lelouch's impassive features. "At least not for this cohort," Lelouch mulled.

Suzaku stumbled to the ground when the deadly grip loosened; his own hands came up almost immediately to cup his wounds. The cut was deep, the moment his fingers made contact with the exposed flesh, the pain shot through his heart, disoriented his thought. He didn't have to see it hand to know that it was slicked with his own blood. Instead, his eyes were staring at Lelouch's…claw.

His slender fingers were jagged in a very sinister way. Each claw was in a form of curved, double edge blade, with blood, his blood, still dripping from its so very sharp tip.

"If I have wronged you in anyway, do feel free to defend yourself," Lelouch offered.

Suzaku didn't answer. He couldn't answer. Deep down he knew what Lelouch said was true. When he brought Lelouch before the late Emperor Charles vi Britannia, he knew of Lelouch's intent to challenge the Empire and restore Japan. But he betrayed his friend in lieu for his Knighthood, believing his method of transfiguration from within the Empire was the best way, the way that Euphy had wanted. When Nunnally had assumed the throne, his sole purpose was to topple the Empire from its very foundation. Together with the UFN he might possibly-

"Since we need war to maintain the peace," he heard Lelouch say. "There must be an enemy that cannot be defeated to make the peace last…and that is where your use for me ends."

Suzaku's dazed sight stayed affixed on that inhuman claw, blinking in dumbfounded fascination as it slowly morphed back to normal. The approaching footsteps brought him out of his trance.

"My Lord." Suzaku recognized the voice of Colonel Bristol, and judging by the volume of footsteps that followed, probably trailed by an army of his men, ready to take him down.

He raised his head and met Lelouch's gaze.

"What are you?" he croaked weakly, all trace of malice fading.

Lelouch simply looked at him without a word, and when Suzaku thought he would not answer his question, the man spoke in a deliberate manner. "I am the consort of my beloved queen. I am the sibling of my enchanted sister. I am the symbol of malevolence," he paused briefly, "and I was once your friend."

And with that Lelouch departed with swiftness, only slow momentarily beside the Colonel, whose eyes never left Suzaku with a deathly glare, and still managed to bow reverentially to his lord. Suzaku was wrong; the Colonel was not accompanied by an army, but rather, two dozen lean and strapping Palace Guards, which resembled a pack of ravenous wolves, who would devour him alive should they be given the command. He closed his eyes in the face of his looming doom, his thoughts wondered far, far away.

********

C.C. met him half way to his intended destination, in which Lelouch sank ungracefully into her inviting arms.

"He was my only friend…" he croaked.

What she saw broke her heart. Lelouch was biting down hard on his lips not to make a noise but stray tears had already trickled down from his beautiful eyes. His jaws quivered, as he was trying his hardest to still his sob.

"I only have you now," Lelouch cried brokenly onto her, clinging on desperately.

"You will always have me, Lelouch," C.C. soothed, stroking his hair tenderly.

[But for how long?]

"For as long as you wish it to be." She held his sweet face in both of her palms, her thumbs wiping off the tears that wetted his boyish face. "I believe you in your choices, like you believed in mine. You might have lost a friend, but what you gain," she gazed into his uncertainly eyes, willing him to believe, "what you gain is decades worth of peace on earth."

They stayed like that until finally, Lelouch held her face in both of his as well, and both their lips levitated in a passionate, searing kiss.

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"I was so naïve," Lelouch slurred over her left breast, his lips tickling her nipple.

"When were you not," C.C. muttered drowsily, her hand resuming her caress on his tussled hair.

That earned her a soft chuckle sounding both tender and warm. "Rather heartening of you, Witch," Lelouch grumbled. He pushed himself up on shaky arms for a comeback but was captivated by her alluring beauty under the moonlight.

"What?" A faint blush spread across her pale feature under his bemused eyes.

"You are so beautiful…" he said in a daze.

"Stop it, you silly…" She looked out the windows in embarrassment but her legs straddled him beneath the sheet.

"For the longest time, I thought the perfect world for Nunnally must be bartered with my sacrifice," he spoke barely above a whisper, the back of his hand caressed past between her soft bosoms. C.C. nibbled on her lips and inhaled sharply but remained silent. His violet orbs held her luminous gold under the soft glow, immersed in an endearing, familiar silence.

"But I just now realized beyond any doubt that the only way to ensure the continuance is to live it," he sighed with remorse. There were so many thing that he didn't say, but she understood.

Her hand came up and cup his chin, prodded him gently so their eyes meet once more. "Just another mistake you have to learn in the series of many to come."

"I was expecting something a little more soothing." He smirked down at her.

"Not likely, boya." She grinned mischievously in return. "But I will take this as an apology." C.C. pulled him down for a searing kiss and their limbs entangled once more to profess the love and the forgiveness that awaited them through eternity.

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To Be Continued…