"To win everything or to lose everything. That is the essence of war. As such, even after a cease fire or the signing of a treaty, the war will not be completely over; not as long as either side still has some fraction of what they hold dear."
- Charles zi Britannia

Chapter I: Black Dawn

Tokyo Settlement, Area 11 (Japan), Holy Britannian Empire
September 13, 2017

It took a while for Kyoshiro Tohdoh to realize it, but dawn had finally come. It was symbolized by the sun's great light peaking over the horizon, cancelling out the darkness that had been present for the last couple of hours. And with that light, Tohdoh decided, came the promise of victory. A long and well overdue victory.

Picking up speed, he weaved his advanced seventh generation knightmare frame Gekka through the various debris that now littered the Tokyo Settlement, cutting in half a Britannian Sutherland with a thruster assisted slash as he past. Another Sutherland attempted to avenge its partner with a machine gun barrage, but Tohdoh simply launched the slash harken in his seidotou's hilt, which smashed into the Sutherland's head and forced the pilot to eject. Whipping the seidotou around, Tohdoh set his radio to broadband. "All units continue advancing! Once we seize the government bureau, victory will be ours!"

The united reply from the remaining number of Black Knight units soon filled his ears. Despite the heavy losses, they still numbered over four hundred.

Even amidst the destruction, Tohdoh couldn't help but smile at the Order of the Black Knights' fortune. Yes, Zero was gone, disappearing from the battle and taking with him the advanced prototype knightmare Gawain, but he had not left without making sure that the Black Knights were within victory's reach. Most of the Britannian forces had been neutralized now; its air force had been wiped away by a single burst of the Gawain's hadron cannons while its army was still fighting but with numbers dwindling by the second. Viceroy Cornelia li Britannia herself was missing in action, with command being past down to her personal knight, Gilbert G.P. Guilford, a competent commander as well as one of the very few people that could match Tohdoh in a knightmare frame, but even he was outmatched in this situation. And to top it all off, reinforcements from the Britannian mainland would not be able to arrive for another two and a half days.

But Tohdoh wasn't a man that would claim victory before the battle was won; only fools, like several of his late comrades from the now defunct Japanese Liberation Front, believed battles to be won before the final strike was made. The trick now was to see this through to the end without the Britannians regaining the upper hand. It was harder than it sounded, but still quite possible.

Putting more power into his Gekka's landspinners, Tohdoh charged up one of the building remains, using it as a ramp, then leaping off and landing in the middle of a Britannian formation. Activating his seidotou's thrusters, he spun around one hundred and eighty degrees, slicing at least four Sutherlands down the middle, then raised his unit's left arm and fired the mounted autocannon at the enemies that he had not cut. The enemy units were quick to scatter, and the ones with assault rifles returned fire even faster, but by that point Tohdoh had put the landspinners in full reverse and zig-zagged to dodge the bullets. When one of the enemy frames launched a grenade, he was forced to leap back to avoid the explosion.

But the retreat didn't last long, as Tohdoh turned around and charged, targeting the Glasgow that had launched the grenade. The fourth generation frame tried to back away, but Tohdoh Gekka was much faster, and a diagonal cut later and the Glasgow was out of the fight. Tohdoh didn't see the explosion, but he did hear it, and even through the confines of his cockpit it was loud. Even so, it didn't faze him, and he continued on to dispatch three more Sutherlands, cutting one in half at the waist, splitting another down through the middle and then impaling the last one through cockpit. He ignored the sight of blood sprayed across his seidotou when he withdrew it, and moved away to find other targets.

His next attacker actually managed to make him, a rather humorless man, laugh out loud. It was a Knight Police, one of the Glasgows that had been stripped of its military applications and turned over to regular law enforcement. And to make it all the more amusing, it was facing him down with nothing but a pistol and a riot shield, both effective against rioting mobs but entirely useless against other knightmare frames.

"Have the Britannians gotten so desperate that they're bringing regular police frames into battle?" Tohdoh wondered out loud. He drew a cold smirk at that. "Very well, I shall grant you a mercy killing."

And with that he charged at the Knight Police, making minimal effort dodge its fire. Instead of cutting it in half straight away like he had been doing with the regular military knightmares, he banked to the side and encircled the law enforcement unit, which also attempted to turn around to keep the Black Knight frame in its sights, but again, the Gekka was much faster than the antiquated machine. Quick as always, Tohdoh cut the riot shield in half, forcing the Knight Police to throw away the pieces. He then made two stabs into the Knight Police's legs, forcing the knightmare to kneel like a human would with such wounds, and finished it off by beheading it. The cockpit soon ejected without harm.

"You call that a mercy killing, Colonel?" Tohdoh heard from his side. He turned to see another Gekka, specifically the unit belonging to Kotetsu Urabe, speed up to meet him, with a few Burais not far behind. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you've become a bit of a sadist."

"Urabe, what are you doing here? I sent you to take care of Sector Kappa Seven." Tohdoh exclaimed, not happy to see one of his men abandoning his post to come see him. They were in the middle of a battle after all.

Urabe just laughed. "We took care of that sector a long time ago. I felt my talents were needed elsewhere, so I took a force and left Mori in command of the rest."

"I hope for their sakes that Guilford doesn't choose that area to stage a counterattack." Tohdoh stated, which sounded more like a warning to Urabe than anything else. As if on cue, his radar beeped suddenly, signaling an incoming wave of enemy knightmares. "Nevermind. Move in, Tsunami Formation."

"Will do Colonel." Urabe signed off, immediately putting his own Gekka into a charge, followed by the Burais.

Tohdoh did the same, although with the customizations that had been made to his unit, his Gekka actually managed to outrun the other knightmares and came into contact with the enemies first. Among the Sutherlands and Glasgows were more Knight Police, but instead of the amusement he felt earlier, Tohdoh felt pity. The Britannians really had become desperate; he would have felt sorry for them, had they not tormented and exploited the Japanese for as long as they had.

However, as the Japanese offensive grew in strength, the Britannian counteroffensive became all the more fierce. The enemy knightmares started to group together more, making it far more difficult to engage them individually, while the ones that broke from the formation did so at heightened speed. Just as he had dispatched another Glasgow, Tohdoh saw from the corner of his eye one such Sutherland charge out with a heavy lance in hand, aimed directly at him. It was only by his fast reflexes that he was able to move the Gekka out of the way before being impaled; a nearby Burai wasn't so lucky. Tohdoh cursed at the death of a comrade and sprayed the Sutherland with a burst from his arm cannon. He managed to blow off the Sutherland's arm before one of the Knight Police moved in and used its riot shield to deflect the shots.

"Chaos Mine!" someone blared out over the radio. Sure enough, Tohdoh caught sight of the weapon flying through the air, coming up to his general vicinity. With no time to give the order to dodge, he made the Gekka backflip and move out of range just as the chaos mine opened up and rained shrapnel down upon where he had been standing. At least four Burais had been caught in the fire, and only one cockpit block managed to eject.

"Damn it." Tohdoh snarled, turning his Gekka straight at the Sutherland that had been responsible. He charged, not failing to notice that Urabe had brought his own Gekka behind his, so that just after Tohdoh slashed a diagonal cut across the Sutherland that came down to the right, the Four Holy Swords member made a second cut that went down to the left, creating an 'X' straight across the Britannian knightmare's body. The Sutherland fell down on its face and exploded not long after, its cockpit never ejecting.

Their numbers subtracting fast, the remaining Britannian frames chose the better part of valor and retreated back. Tohdoh was about to give the order to pursue, but the voice of Nagisa Chiba, another one of his Four Holy Sword subordinates, soon echoed from the radio. "Colonel, the Britannians are pulling back in all sectors, likely to mount a final defense around and within the government bureau. Victory is only a matter of time now, sir."

"I'll refrain from calling it that until all of our enemies are vanquished, Chiba." Tohdoh stated with resolution. "Have you encountered any Gloucesters on your end?"

"Not yet sir. I think Asahina's force encountered one, but it pulled back to the bureau as well."

Tohdoh looked back at the looming government building in question, one of the few that had not toppled over when Zero's underground sources caused the settlement to collapse. They really are mounting their last defense then. "All forces regroup. We're going to make our push on the government bureau. Expect the Britannians to do everything to halt our progress."


Britannian Emperor-class sea battlecarrier Emperor Maximilian
Pacific Ocean
September 13, 2017

Second Prince Schneizel el Britannia was a man that held very few emotions outwardly. Nervousness was not one of them, at least not usually. But even though he stood on the bridge of the battlecarrier Emperor Maximilian, flagship of the Britannian Imperial Navy's Third Fleet Taskforce 31, with the same cold expression that he seemed to naturally give off, one could still see sparse traces of that very emotion emanating from him. It was a terrifying thing when such a man was shaken by an outside force.

The bridge itself was equally silent. The officers and crew still went about their duties, but they all felt the same fear and doubt that Schneizel was feeling, only they lacked the mental controls to keep it on the inside. As such, there was an eerie calm settled upon the bridge, and possibly the rest of the ship, the kind that occurred before or after a catastrophic storm struck.

And then it all came crashing down with one voice.

"The Elevens have just breached the fourth line of defense." said the radioman, looking toward Schneizel, who turned toward the man after hearing his voice. The Prince quickly noted look of terror in his eyes; it wasn't the kind of terror one had when facing death, but the kind that one had with the knowledge of imminent defeat. "Enemy knightmares are making their way to the government bureau. Lord Guilford is organizing another line now, but it's not likely they'll be able to hold."

Schneizel allowed himself to take a short but deep breath, one that only the most perceptive would barely notice, to calm himself. The last thing he was going to do was let his own inner anxiety get the best of him. "Where is Major Kururugi? Is he among the defense force?"

It was a slim chance, but Schneizel was well aware of Suzaku Kururugi's exploits with the advanced prototype Lancelot. His mere presence alone could perhaps turn things to Britannia's favor. Such a hope was dashed when the radioman, after taking a moment to confirm, shook his head. "Major Kururugi has left the field of battle sometime ago. He claimed to be in pursuit of Zero, who is believed to be moving to the Kamine Islands on the Gawain."

Despite the negative feeling that welled up in Schneizel at that explanation, he arched an eyebrow in curiosity. If Zero is not leading the rebels, then who? Perhaps the man behind the Miracle of Itsukushima. Could that be exploited…?

That line of thought halted when he realized the radioman had said Guilford was leading the defense effort and not Cornelia. "You said Lord Guilford was in command. What happened to Princess Cornelia?"

Again, the radioman took a moment to confirm, and once more, he turned back with a grim expression. "Princess Cornelia has been wounded in action at the bureau's roof garden. Her wounds are deep, but she is alive. They're trying to evacuate her now."

"If they managed to defeat the Witch of Britannia…" someone spoke up with fear flowing through their voice like a waterfall.

"They are still fighting regardless." Schneizel immediately stated, managing to sound firm and reassuring at the same time, without having to raise his voice even. That seemed to be enough for the man who spoke, so Schneizel again turned his attention to the battle. "What about the Avalon? What was its last reported position?"

"Just a minute, sir." the radioman said before he asked the prince's question on the radio. The reply came as fast as the first two. "The Avalon is currently evacuating citizens from the settlement. Shall I send the order for it to support the defense effort?"

Schneizel didn't realize it at first, but he actually formed a brief smile across his lips when he heard that. Lloyd going out of his way to save humans? Even I never thought of hearing that.

Rather than answering the radioman's question, Schneizel paced across the bridge toward where the fleet commander, Vice Admiral Nelson Falkland, was standing. "Admiral, it is apparent that this fleet will not be able to reach Area 11 in time to provide support. Would it be possible to send strike aircraft for reinforcements?"

Being an Emperor-class sea battlecarrier, the Emperor Maximilian held nearly a hundred aircraft and even more willing pilots in its massive hangars. Although combat aircraft had largely been phased out of the modern world in favor of the knightmare frame, very few things could match the range of a fighter or the ferocity of an aerial attack. The Admiral contemplated that and the facts, but then replied with the same grimness as the radioman. "Unfortunately, none of our aircraft have that kind of flying range, my Prince. Even if they did, it would still take hours for them to reach the area."

"Are you sure? I was led to believe that she had long-range fighter-bombers onboard." Schneizel said.

"Even with external fuel tanks, they only have a range of just over two thousand kilometers; double that if they were to land at an Area 11 airbase instead of returning to the carrier. There's just too much sea between here and the islands, sire." Falkland continued to explain, obviously afraid of how the prince would take that. Schneizel ignored that.

Again, the radioman spoke up. "Sir, the Chinese naval fleet has now entered the Sea of Japan. It's likely they're setting up for a land invasion."

That news hit Schneizel with almost with particularly strong effect, though he didn't show it obviously. He knew how it would play out; once the Black Knights vanquished the last of the Britannians from the area, the Chinese would send in their own forces to repeat what they had tried to do at Fukuoka and make their way through the island. At best it would take a few days, but the Chinese would be victorious; whatever Britannian force that wasn't destroyed by the Black Knights would be ill-prepared to face the Federation's numbers, and the Black Knights themselves would be too exhausted from their battle with the Britannians to put up a worthwhile defense. Schneizel doubted that the Black Knights even knew about the Chinese moving in on Area 11, since they were too preoccupied to notice, thus making the surprise attack to come all the more devastating. In the end, the land known as Area 11 and its precious sakuradite would change hands from Britannia to China, with only the Federation gaining what it wanted all along.

He debated for a moment, even as his head turned back to face the sea that was between his fleet and the area. There were very few options he could use now, and none of them he particularly liked, but the stakes were too high not to consider them. Even without the Chinese in the equation, there was no way Britannia could allow Area 11, no, Japan's liberation to become a reality like this. Inner conflict had always been the Achilles Heel of empires of the past, and Britannia was no exception. The moment the world caught news of Japan challenging and winning against Britannia, other rebellions would rise up in the other areas, and the accumulated loss would be seen as a sign of weakness by the European Union and the Chinese Federation. And once the weakness was detected, it was only natural that Britannia's neighbors would do everything within their powers to exploit it. If such a thing were to happen, there was no doubt in Schneizel's mind that the Holy Britannian Empire would cease to exist.

Fortunately, the Britannians were farsighted enough to set up an alternate solution should Area 11 fall from their control. Schneizel was one of the few people who knew of this solution, as well as the lasting effect it would cause. To make it all worse was the fact that there were still Britannian citizens and loyal soldiers on the island, human beings he knew no matter what he did he could not save. Was he to order their deaths along with those of their enemies? Could he make such an order with good conscience, even though in the long run it would save his home nation from certain demise?

One last time, he turned to Admiral Falkland. "Is there anything that we can do for our forces at Area 11? Anything at all?"

Falkland was quick enough to recognize the darkness within Schneizel's tone, and although he wished to say otherwise, he was duty bound to give the prince the full and honest truth. "No, there's nothing we can do that can change this battle around, sir."

Schneizel closed his eyes at that, solemnly nodding. The part that hurt the most was the fact that this could have all been avoided hours ago, with the Japanese gaining their freedom while Britannia retained access to the country's sakuradite, had Euphemia only been herself. She especially would have been entirely against what was about to happen. Forgive me Euphie. I know this goes against everything that you had wished for, both for the Japanese and for Britannia, but…With no more words spoken, Schneizel walked over to the radio station. "Give me your microphone." he ordered straight away.

The young crewman did as he was told, completely confused. Schneizel didn't bother to explain it to him; he simply slipped the headset over his head and hit the 'TRANSMIT' button on the console. "Attention, this is Second Prince Schneizel el Britannia. These are my orders: Lord Guilford and all command staff are to pull back to the bureau's roof, where the Avalon will be redirected to evacuate them. All other Britannian forces are to hold their defensive lines for as long as possible. I also order…"

He paused there, once more silently wishing that Euphemia would forgive him in time, wherever she was. "…the execution of Operation Nero. I repeat, Operation Nero is to be executed within five minutes of this transmission. Over."

Just as quickly, he toggled off the switch and handed the headset back to the crewman. He then walked back to where he had been standing, ignoring the confused glances that were upon him. It was natural as none of them knew what Operation Nero was, outside the reference to the infamous Roman emperor that engineered the Great Fire of Rome.

Finally, Admiral Falkland spoke up. "Sir, if I may, what exactly is Operation Nero?"

"A final solution." Schneizel said, without turning around. "One that will give us victory, but at a great cost."

Those were the last words Prince Schneizel spoke to anyone else that day.

Tokyo Settlement, Area 11 (Japan), Holy Britannian Empire
September 13, 2017

"Above!" he heard Asahina yell out, just as a shadow had cast itself over the field. Making a side glance as he moved with the rest of the troops, Tohdoh looked up to see what its origin was. Sure enough, blacking out the sun itself was that Britannian airship, the one that the Black Knights' intelligence network had identified as the Avalon. At first Tohdoh thought it had come to provide additional defense for the government bureau, but after a second he noticed it wasn't firing at them with its CIWS emplacements. Instead, it was simply flying toward the bureau.

"What are they doing?" Chiba questioned. "Shouldn't they be firing at us or air dropping knightmares?"

"They're moving to evacuate the government bureau, probably of high level staff." Tohdoh answered, having immediately connected the dots.

"Which means we've just about won this battle." Asahina chimed proudly.

"It's not over until it's over Asahina. They likely still have knightmares to throw at us from the building, just to buy time." Urabe spoke up. His point was proven no more than a moment later.

"They're coming out now!" Tohdoh heard one of the Burai pilots yell out, almost in excitement as new blips entered sensor range. Tohdoh looked on and before him, it seemed as though the floodgates had finally opened as an entire legion of Britannian knightmare frames charged out of the government bureau. It was a mixed bag of Sutherlands, Glasgows and Gloucesters, the latter being the high mobility close-combat knightmare valued by Cornelia and her troops, all of which were armed with their trademark lances and billowing capes.

However, upon seeing the Gloucesters, Tohdoh noticed something that struck him as peculiar: of the varying colors that the Gloucesters were painted in as reflections of their pilots, none of them were sporting a familiar vibrant purple color scheme. Where's Guilford? Shouldn't he be leading the charge? Or is he evacuating as well?

Knowing better than to ponder the matter in a middle of a battle, he toggled the main communication channel. "Burais move against their flanks. Four Holy Swords on me; we're going cut through them directly."

"What about the airship?" Tohdoh heard someone ask. It might have been Asahina again, but Tohdoh didn't bother to find out.

"We have nothing to fight it with and it doesn't seem to be interested in us anyway." Tohdoh answered. "Just concentrate on the knightmares."

He waited only a moment for the confirmations of the orders, as well as the other four Gekkas to form around him in a V formation. Katen yaibatous and seidotou brandished, they charged straight into the fold, banking and weaving to avoid enemy assault rifle fire and slash harkens while the Burais added their own fire into the mix.

As he hurtled towards the formation, Tohdoh dropped his crosshairs over the first one he spotted, which was a Gloucester. Judging by the blue tint on its shoulder pauldrons it was likely one of the infamous Glaston Knights, who had only recently transferred to Area 11. Immediately it charged at him as well, lance poised to impale, but Tohdoh attacked first by firing a barrage from his arm cannon. The Gloucester was quick to raise its lance and use it as a shield against the bullets, and Tohdoh responded by moving to slash it through the middle. However, he only manage to cut the lance in half at the pole, forcing the Gloucester to abandon it; but at the same time, this left him open for a follow up attack from Senba, who quickly dispatched the enemy knightmare.

To an outside spectator, the five Gekkas' attack could be best described as quick, efficient and extremely overpowering. Chiba and Asahina both struck against a trio of Sutherlands, cutting apart all three with straight on passes, while Urabe managed to cut off a Gloucester's lance arm, then twist around to finish it off with his arm cannon. Tohdoh himself launched the slash harken from his seidotou again and impaled a Glasgow through the chest, then using a technique he had watched Suzaku Kururugi utilize with the Lancelot, he swung the Glasgow out and used it as a flail, slamming it against three other knightmare frames and taking them all out of the battle before retracting the harken.

Tohdoh then spotted another Glaston Knight affiliated Gloucester approach to his right, lance brandished and ready to pierce the Gekka at its side. He jumped to the side to avoid the charge, then bringing about the seidotou and slash the lance straight on. Seeing its main weapon now useless, the Gloucester abandoned its lance and then reached back, drawing a Maser Vibration Sword from its back. Tohdoh wondered just how a fifth generation knightmare frame could use that weapon, since it was claimed that the MVS was a "lost" sixth generation technology recently brought back into use through the Lancelot. Once more however he didn't have time to ponder it, as he was forced to bring the seidotou up to parry the first slash from the Gloucester.

A series of slashes and parries soon followed between the two knightmares. However, despite the Britannian machine's skill, it was quite apparent that Tohdoh was the superior swordsman, as he made several cuts against the Gloucester's dark purple armor, although the enemy unit managed to keep the Japanese warrior from taking any crucial areas. It was until Tohdoh cut into the shoulder of the Gloucester, the part where the cape was attached to, thus creating a nice sized gash into both the pauldron and the cape itself, did the enemy pilot become truly serious. The Gloucester leaped back and drew its second MVS, as if anticipating Tohdoh's charge.

However, not wanting to have a drawn out duel here and now, much less against an unworthy opponent, Tohdoh fired off the chest mounted slash harken once again. The harken decapitated the Gloucester, and with that Tohdoh sprayed it with the arm cannon, knocking away both of its swords and forcing it to lean forward. Going in for the kill, he made the Gekka speed toward the now headless Gloucester and used its blindness to close in and slash its torso with his seidotou. The resulting explosion was nothing short of spectacular.

Several more destroyed knightmare frames later, Tohdoh allowed himself to look up for the briefest of moments just to see what the airship was doing now. It seemed to have completed its evacuation, as it was now beginning to fly away from the building. Once more, it didn't bother to aid the Britannian ground forces with its own firepower, instead moving as fast as it could to leave the field of battle.

That's it then. We've won. Tohdoh thought, as he noticed that and the fact that the remaining Britannian knightmares had been cornered around the entrance doors of the bureau, completely surrounded on all sides by Burais, whose pilots were waiting for the final order. Among them was the last remaining Glaston Knight affiliated Gloucester, which was missing its left arm while its right still clutched onto its lance.

Switching his radio to broadband, he moved his Gekka to a clearing along with the Four Holy Swords and gave the ultimatum. "To all Britannians, this is Lieutenant Colonel Kyoshiro Tohdoh of the Order of the Black Knights. In a few short minutes, you will be the last of your kind to stand on Japanese soil. Your forces have been decimated and your leaders have abandoned you. If you surrender, I guarantee we will treat you as prisoners of war according to the Tibet Convention."

Though not the most convincing surrender message Tohdoh could think of, but it seemed to be enough to sink in. At the very least no more shots were being fired, with the only movement being made by the Britannians was one of the Sutherlands deploying its factsphere sensor. At the same time though, an uncomfortable calm had settled over the field as the Britannians contemplated surrender or fighting to the end. Either way, the Black Knights would oblige them.

Deciding to attempt persuasion a little more, Tohdoh added on. "No more of you have to die today."

And it was precisely after Tohdoh had finished that sentence that the ground began to rumble uncontrollably. As if they all miraculously forgot about the standoff, both the Britannian and Black Knight knightmares turned about to find what was causing the rumble.

"An earthquake? Now?" Senba spoke up in the confusion.

"Whatever it is it's a big one!" Asahina added, having just looked over his sensors.

And along with the rumbling came a static filled command from the Black Knights' home base at Ashford Academy. "…All remain-knightmare fr-back to-tors Sigma Three an-Theta Six. Abort-mission! Repeat-the mission!"

Tohdoh switched his radio to the same frequency. "Tohdoh to command, what the hell is going on?"

"Colo-situation cri-cal! Britan-deton-sakura-reserves! All units to-fall-sectors…"

"Say again command!" Tohdoh yelled out over the radio, trying his best to ungarble the message.

"Colonel, the quakes are getting worse!" Chiba yelled out to confirm what Tohdoh was feeling underneath him.

"Just how is this possible…!?" Tohdoh yelled outloud. It couldn't have been a natural quake, not now anyway; it had all but struck just as the Black Knights were on the verge of victory. And that's when the realization hit Tohdoh with the same force as the quake, resulting in his eyes widening in horror. Kami help us. They've actually done it…

An explosion suddenly erupted not far from their position, one that was large enough to engulf an entire section of the city. Tohdoh immediately regained the initiative upon seeing the reality with his own eyes. "All knightmares, pull back to Sectors Sigma Three and Theta Six! Go! Find a clearing from any buildings and debris and stay there! It's your only chance at survival!"

The Burais did as they were told, breaking from their encirclement around the Britannian units and speeding away, while the Britannians themselves also broke from their last ditch defensive line, now concentrating on survival rather than fighting. The Four Holy Swords naturally remained with Tohdoh, as he led them down the way they had come before.

"I don't understand… How is this happening!? Why now!?" Asahina bellowed out of confusion.

"The Britannians…" Tohdoh said, with a deathly solemn tone. "They knew they wouldn't be able to hold Japan forever; whether they lost it to the Chinese or to us. So they set up an emergency measure, that if they were to lose Japan, the country and its resources would not fall to a foreign power…"

Almost immediately, the Swords realized what he was referring to, with Urabe the first to voice their matching despair. "The sakuradite! The Britannians are detonating the sakuradite veins!"

"Kami… they run under the entire island!" Chiba let out. "There will be nothing left…!"

"Our country… Japan…!" Asahina voice became barely a mutter.

"As long as we live, then so will Japan!" Tohdoh bellowed, pushing back his own despair to retain his commanding presence. If they were going to survive, he needed to remain their leader. "Therefore, I refuse to lose myself or any of you in this manner! We will find a safe zone, and we will ride this out, even if it means having to fight the shinigami himself for our right to live on!"

The sounds of explosions and crumbling buildings was not far off now, symbolizing the loss of precious time to the five combat veterans. As his Gekka continued to move, Tohdoh allowed himself to look back toward the government bureau, which still stood and proudly displayed the Britannian flag upon its side, if only for a little while longer. He sneered at that image. "It will be a painful existence, and we may just end up becoming the last of a once proud country and race, but we will all live beyond this, if only to fight once again…"

And then he turned his forward once more, refusing look back anymore as the world fell apart around him. And we will remember this day…

The simultaneous detonation of Area 11's entire supply of sakuradite did not fail to register with the world. In only a short amount of time, the entirety of the Japanese isles was laid to waste with a series of massive earthquakes, explosions and volcanic eruptions, all but destroying the last semblances of life upon the surface, before one last great explosion of power encompassed the entire island. To the rest of the world, it appeared as though a great ball of light followed by ash and dust had emerged over an entire area of above three hundred and thirty-seven thousand kilometers, engulfing cities, mountains and forests alike. And then, as that very light died down, everything became deathly silent.

On the thirteenth day of September in the year 2017 of the Imperial Calendar, Area 11, once known as the proud nation of Japan, ceased to exist.

Imperial Palace
Pendragon, Holy Britannian Empire
September 27th, 2017

And with a hard slam, Lelouch vi Britannia, former Eleventh Prince of the Holy Britannian Empire, former student at Ashford Academy, and formerly the revolutionary Zero, was against the ground. To say the least he was not very comfortable with his situation, but not because his face was forcibly planted against the hard floor. Above him stood his one time friend turned enemy Suzaku Kururugi, now a Britannian Major and ace pilot of the advanced knightmare frame Lancelot. And before both of them, sitting upon the literal center of power of Britannia, was the man that Lelouch had long ago grown to hate with his entire being.

"The former seventeenth heir to the Imperial thrown, Lelouch vi Britannia." Charles zi Britannia, 98th Emperor of the Holy Britannia Empire, announced while sitting upon his throne. Even though he wasn't able to look back at him, Lelouch could feel his father's dominating sneer over him. "It's been a long time, hasn't it my errant son?"

With as much strength as he could muster, even with his frail body, Lelouch struggled against Suzaku's grip so that he could glare back up to his father. "How dare you…!"

And with another slam from his captor's hand, he was again against the floor.

"You will not use your Geass." Suzaku stated, not bothering to hide his own distaste for his former childhood friend. Lelouch sneered back up at him, but from his position he doubted Suzaku even bothered to notice. Like it or not, Lelouch was beneath him now, literally.

Almost immediately, the former Britannian prince's mind raced to find a way to escape Suzaku's hold over him, at least for enough time that he could actually use Geass against his father. However, even with his high intelligence and cunning, he knew he could do very little in the current situation. Even as a boy, Suzaku always had abnormal strength to him, and with his own body bound in a straight jacket, Lelouch knew it would be impossible for him to force his way out of his hand.

Alongside, Suzaku was already immune to Geass, as Lelouch had used it on him not long ago; he was starting to regret giving the pilot of the Lancelot that "live" command at Shikinejima, but it was done now. No, there was nothing he could do against Suzaku himself at this point; his only hope was if he could somehow may eye contact with the Emperor, then he could easily turn the situation around. All he needed to do was somehow turn his head against Suzaku's iron hold.

"Your Majesty, I have a request." Lelouch heard Suzaku speak up once again. "Please sire, allow me to join the Knights of the Round, the twelve strongest knights of the Britannian Empire."

"…As a reward for capturing Zero. Is that it?" The Emperor summarized from his position high above them.

And after that sentence was spoken, Lelouch felt a deep anger surge through his body as he saw what Suzaku was doing. "You…" he managed to growl.

"I told you before Lelouch, I was going to change this world from the inside." Suzaku replied emotionlessly and steadily.

That only made Lelouch's fury grow ten times over. "Even if it means selling out your friends to the man that caused the bondage and death of your people!?"

If Suzaku had been shaken by that last part, he didn't show it. It had only been fourteen days since Japan's destruction had been carried out, and Lelouch had only heard about it from a suicide watch officer during his time in the Avalon's brig. He had hoped that had been the final straw with Suzaku, one that would break him of his naïve and overly hypocritical "change from within" ideology, as well as his misplaced loyalty to Britannia.

"…That's right." Suzaku said simply, as if it were an obvious fact, at the same time destroying any hope on Lelouch's part that he saw the error of his ways.

"You traitor!" Lelouch spat with pure hate, inwardly refusing to believe his former friend was capable of what his ears were telling him.

For his part, the Emperor appeared amused by the whole display, and at long last answered Suzaku's request. "Very well. I like the answer you just gave him."

Lelouch turned his left eye back toward the Emperor in another attempt to bring him under his control, but he still couldn't get a clear focus.

"Now then…" the Emperor said, finally rising from his throne. "As a Knight of the Round, I order you: cover up Zero's left eye."

"Yes, Your Majesty." Suzaku acknowledged and lifted Lelouch's head up by his hair while placing the palm of his left hand over Lelouch's one and only chance of escape. All Lelouch could do now was watch as the man responsible for the death of over one hundred thirty million, as well as for his own mother, casually walked over to him with an unwavering gaze.

"My unworthy son…" the Emperor began again. "Who raised the banner of rebellion, although he was a prince."

He then stopped just a little distance from where he and Suzaku were, looming over them with his great height. "Still, there is another way that we can make use of him."

"What?" was all that Lelouch could exclaim. And that's when he noticed the Emperor's eyes shift in color, and a familiar sigil appear in both of them.

"I will rewrite your memory, about being Zero, about the death of your mother, about the continued existence of Nunnally, and even about your time spent in Area 11…" the Emperor explained, as his eyes fully formed.

"No… Geass…!" Lelouch murmured in despair. Of all the things he had expected, that was the one he had never considered. How the hell does he have that!?

"You will remember none of it; you will only live to serve me…" the Emperor's smile grew. "Yes, you will become a most effective pawn."

"No stop! You're stealing what's most precious to me again!" Lelouch struggled to the last against Suzaku's hold, trying to shake his left hand off his head. "First my mother… And now you're taking Nunnally!"

"Charles zi Britannia engraves into you…" the Emperor started, waving his cape outward so that Lelouch could only see him.

"Stop it!" Lelouch cried, even knowing that there was no mercy in this man.

"…false memories of a false life!" the Emperor finished.

The last thing Lelouch could do, even as he felt Geass' power come upon him and his memories shatter one by one, was cry out in denial. All that remained after was darkness.