By: Steven Watemaker
He was no stranger to the sensation of blade meeting flesh. He pushed in the sword, both with hesitation and conviction, and watched his victim fall, bleeding to his death. The triumphant roar of the crowd rang in his ears, and for a moment he relished in the high of his victory. But there was no time to celebrate. "I have a world to change", he whispered to himself.
The crowd started chanting in jubilation. Their tone was a pitiful mix of sadism and awe. It was weird. It was new. It was fulfilling, but at the same time saddening. It was giving him all sorts of emotions that he did not dare feel before. He was happy... He was distraught... He became a walking contradiction. Then, the masked man smirked. He became they symbol of the new world. "So this is how it feels" he thought... and then he finally understood. He had become Zero.
Far away, a red-haired woman was in tears. She just had witnessed an assassination. But to her, it seemed like suicide. It was like one side killed another side of the same coin. She couldn't comprehend it. It was like some sort of sadistic farce that was ripping her insides out. It was bittersweet. No, it was more bitter than sweet. She knew that the world would be a better place from now on. She knew that peace had been obtained... So why the heartache? And why the pain?
As her binds were released, she fell to her knees and sobbed. Kouzuki Karen was distraught. Karen Kouzuki was confused. Karen Kouzuki was relieved. She felt bad for herself, having all these conflicting emotions... Little did she know that the assassin had the same feelings coursing within him.
And so begins the downward spiral of Obsession and Despair.
Seven weeks had passed. Kouzuki Karen no longer lived a double-life. She was a student at Ashford Academy, where she was doing quite well, without many absences which were before attributed to her work as a terrorist. She still works part-time for the Order of the Black Knights, though. The Military arm of the United Federation of Nations is tasked with the burden of keeping the peace within the Federation. Fighting insurgents, terrorists, and all those whose goal is to break the peace is their objective. Karen... was their ace. And under the leadership of its commander, Li Xingke, and its mysterious CEO, Zero, it has done its duty quite well in the days following the fall of Emperor Lelouch vi Britannia, the tyrant 99th emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire. But something bugged most of the old members of the Order: Zero's true identity...was Lelouch himself.
But as Kyoshiro Todou kept saying, "As long as he brings resukts, who cares who he is?" This became some sort of mantra that rang every time the topic came up. Indeed, the CEO's identity remained shrouded in mystery and confusion. But Karen was a stubborn woman. And sooner or later, curiosity will catch up with her. That time finally came one rainy day.
Zero's work was harsh. He regularly retired to his chambers after long hours of working. If he wasn't commanding the battlefield or signing tons of paperwork, he was nowhere to be seen. Sometimes one can see him walking around the lush gardens near the new Pendragon City, oftentimes he would be at the shrines of Japan. He was very unpredictable. But his quarters at the Ikaruga were constant. And that rainy day, he was cooked up in his office doing a video conference with Xingke. At times of peace, most of the Black Knights were doing secretarial duties, and that was one of the days Karen was free and was able to help around. So, she was asked by Tamaki (who was, as usual, cleaning up messes he himself made) to give an insane pile of papers to Zero's office.
The steel doors opened, and the masked man was still talking to his commander. But three seconds after she had stepped in, Xingke signed out. Zero swiveled his chair and looked at the person who intruded into his lair.
"Karen... I appreciate your help today." He tried to be courteous.
"It is my duty to help out." She replied. At that moment, she had him alone. He was in his office, and she could easily bolt him to the floor and take the freaking mask off. After all, Lelouch was a wimp whose bodily strength was inversely proportional to his intellect.
"You have been relying much on Commander Li lately." She said.
"Well, it's pretty hard to make decisions." Zero admitted. Karen narrowed her eyes.
"Anything wrong? Please just place the papers on the table. You are dismissed." Zero was typing into his computer and didn't look as Karen slowly advanced towards his desk.
She placed the pile of papers in his table. "Who are you?"
Zero looked at her. "I am Zero."
"Lelouch is dead." She replied.
"I know. I killed him."
"Stop playing games with me."
"Pardon?" the man within the mask raised an eyebrow. Not that his companion would see it, though.
"I don't know how you did it, but you faked Lelouch's death, right?"
"Faked?!" Zero was starting to raise his voice. "I eliminated the single most evil person in the world and you think I faked it?"
"Frankly, yes. Lelouch."
At those words, Zero chuckled.
"What's so funny?"
"Lelouch is dead."
"I thought that had already been established." Karen's sarcasm was slowly matching that of her superior.
"I am Zero. Zero is a symbol. He has no other name, he has no other identity. Zero is Zero. Lelouch is Lelouch. We are two different people. One of our biggest differences is that I'm alive and he isn't." He sounded like he was reading off a poorly-written script.
"Take the effing mask off." Karen started, and she reached towards the mask. As if upon instinct, Zero stood up, and in one fluid motion grabbed her arm and slammed her torso into the desk, causing papers to be disarranged and articles to be shaken.
"What?! Lelouch... can never do that." She conceded.
"I'm glad we have that clarified." Zero said, resuming his seat. "Fix yourself, Miss Kouzuki. You are dismissed."
Infuriated, Karen bolted out of the room.
Zero took off his mask and wiped his gloved head on his face. He then buried both hands into his brown locks.
"What have you gotten yourself into, Suzaku?" He asked.
Outside, Karen was furious. At the same time, she was disappointed. In that mix of feelings, she formulated her resolve. "I shall unmask Zero."