"Now the reason the enlightened prince and the wise general conquer the enemy whenever they move and their achievements surpass those of ordinary men is foreknowledge."
- Sun Tzu
Chapter II: Prince
Sword of Arawn
He was alone now, as he preferred the most, standing upon a world within a world. Compared to the world he was used to, it was quiet and tranquil here, as well as outside the reach of most other humans. As such, it was one of the few remaining places in existence that Charles zi Britannia could find peace for himself. However, that was not the real reason why he had come here as much as it was one of the side benefits.
Standing in the midst of the temple-like structuring that was the Sword of Arawn's form, Charles continued to look "up" into the sky toward the image that resembled the planet Jupiter, viewing the image with a mixture of curiosity and distaste. Ever since he was a small boy, he had looked up at it, with the full knowledge of what it was and what influence it held upon his world. How he would have loved to simply reach his hand up and wipe it away like a blemish upon a window or a stain on his clothing, but even he did not have that kind of power. For that reason, all he could do was look at it from his place, knowing as well that the more he gazed upon it, the more it gazed upon him. And he did this with the same unflinching power that he wielded upon those he ruled over.
As he collected his thoughts, his ears picked up the sound of footsteps moving toward him. Footsteps that were too small and light to have been one of his guards, as well as ones he had been able to recognize since he was much younger. "You are late."
He did not turn to face V.V., but he did hear the sound of child-like laughter escape from the immortal's lips. It was child-like because while the one before him appeared as such, Charles knew very well that he was no child. "My apologies Charles, I had been so busy with matters back in our world that I had lost track of time. Not that time truly matters in this place."
This time, Charles did turn to face the new arrival, and in what would have been a newsworthy event had he done it elsewhere, offered V.V. a small smile. "Nonsense, you've always had a problem with timing." He then shifted back to business. "I don't suppose you're going to tell me you've found C.C."
V.V. frowned at that. "Unfortunately no. C.C. continues to elude us despite the bait you made for her eight years ago. I believe I told you back then that she would not fall for such an obvious trap."
"As obvious as it was, it has been quite beneficial to us anyway," Charles explained.
The smaller one nodded in understanding. "Yes, I have heard of Britannia's progress in this Great World War of yours. However, I need not remind you what would happen if you were to conquer the world before we get every Code…"
"That will not happen," Charles stated firmly. "As I have learned from my time as Emperor, there are many means of prolonging a conflict without drawing attention."
"I should hope so," V.V. replied, apparently content with the answer Charles had given him. A moment of silence came between them as V.V. moved to stand at the Emperor's side before continuing. "One thing does trouble me about this whole thing, however…"
"And that is?" Charles asked, raising an eyebrow.
"How no one or nothing has stepped up to upset our plans," V.V. explained.
Charles nodded. "It has been rather silent for the past few years. I believed after the Black Rebellion had been put down that another enemy would step up to challenge us, but that hasn't been the case. Disturbing really."
"Perhaps that abomination put more weight on its newly chosen pawn than we anticipated. That said, I still think Lelouch should be killed at the first opportunity." V.V. offered.
"I still have use for Lelouch," Charles stated. "Both for the war and for other matters. And since you have not been able to track any other leads to C.C., then that makes him all the more valuable."
"And dangerous." V.V. countered. "Don't tell me you've actually developed some fatherly attachment to Lelouch over the years, Charles. That's not becoming of you."
That earned a small chuckle from the Emperor. "I view Lelouch no differently than I view my other children. Another pawn to be used and disposed of in equal fashion."
V.V. walked closer so that he could study his pupil carefully. "Does that include Nunnally as well? Because from where I'm standing, she should have no more reason for being alive."
"It does, and I disagree," Charles responded. "Should the need arise, Nunnally has her own uses."
V.V. opened his mouth, seemingly to respond to that. However, after a moment of consideration, he decided to wave it off. "I'll take your word on that one," he answered simply.
He then found himself looking up at the same sky that Charles had been gazing at not long before. At the same image of Jupiter that hung in the air.
The immortal's expression turned to one of disgust. "Such an ugly form," he glowered with hate. "It will be all the better when neither of us will have to look up at that false god any longer."
"It will not be long now." Charles said in a reassuring tone. "Ragnarok will put an end to that thing soon enough, Master."
"And give birth to a new world in the process." V.V. concluded.
Britannian Formidable-class land battleship Fortitude
Tobruk, State of Libya, European Union
February 18, 2025
A near silence dwelled over the bridge of the Fortitude as the battle continued to play, with all eyes either focused on their respective stations or upon the main monitor at the top of the bridge, where numerous icons were moving about. All across the screen, blue and red tinted signals moved through the lines and blocks that made up the city of Tobruk, a fair number disappearing every few seconds with a "LOST" banner taking their place, while the blocks that represented the buildings also broke and shifted within the gridline from whatever damage they received. The battle had been going on for over an hour now, itself having shifted within the city itself in half that time, and their enemy was fighting as fiercely as ever to keep them from taking the city, and with it the rest of Libya. Even so, for whatever amount of time and losses it took, it was clear that they, the Britannians, were winning the battle.
Standing toward the rear of the bridge, just a few meters away from the throne-like command chair his liege was currently occupying, Colonel Michael Augustus could only remain by and watch with everyone else as the battle was carried out. Even though he had served as his general's aide-de-camp since first arriving in Africa, all throughout having been present to witness his battles firsthand, he had to admit that his superior was thoroughly outdoing himself on this one. As the EU's last refuge within Libya, Tobruk had been a heavily defended target, enough that it had been speculated a certain enemy commander had taken particular interest in keeping it out of Britannian hands. And yet, with but a relative sized army and keen tactical sense, his liege had broken through the outlying defending forces, laying waste to their capital ships and the bulk of their forward lines in the process, and broken into the city itself and taken to street to street extermination of the inner defenses. Granted, his assault was further bolstered by three of the strongest knights in all of Britannia, but his liege had still accomplished what very few commanders, Britannian or otherwise, could have done. And those who could more than likely had the same blood and lineage as the general himself.
If this keeps up, we'll be marching on El Alamein by the end of the week. Augustus thought to himself while suppressing a grin, casting a corner glance toward his superior. The very man who was responsible for Britannia's campaign in Africa, and by extension, its successes within.
For his part, as Augustus saw from a corner glance, his liege looked over the battle with a somewhat bored expression. Casually laying his head against the hand of his right hand, the left still gripping the arm of his chair, the young general eyed the bridge's main monitor wearily, his amethyst eyes keeping watch over the various signals and movements within the screen like an eagle over a valley. However, whereas the rest of the bridge kept their own watches with rapt attention, lest certain details, or much more certain enemies, slip through their gazes, the general appeared almost slothful by comparison, as if he found the battle to be disappointing. Knowing the general as well as Augustus did, that was indeed the likely case. Especially as a certain opponent had yet to reveal himself.
"Reinforcements reported in Delta Three," one of the operators reported, her voice enough to dispel the silence momentarily. "Looks like another knightmare company."
Looking back up with a little bit more attention, the general took the information in stride. "Have the units in that area withdraw to Delta Two," the general commanded. "Then order nearby units to circle and ensnare. And be on the lookout for enemy movement in Gamma One."
Augustus raised an eyebrow to that. "My lord?"
The general smiled knowingly. "Delta Three is a feint. The enemy will be focusing more efforts in Gamma, to keep us from reaching their headquarters."
As if on cue, a slew of new signals emerged in that exact sector. "New units confirmed," another operator announced. "Ten Panther IIs and four Panther IIIs. Axe and Lance units are engaging."
Augustus didn't have to look up to see his liege's smirk. "Reinforce them with Hammer unit, as well as Eagle One. Once we break through that sector, it will be a short way to the enemy headquarters."
This time, the Colonel allowed himself to smile at his general's progress, especially as the aforementioned units took action against the new enemies. I take it back. At this rate, we'll be in Berlin a week from now…
Suddenly, one of the other operators looked up. "New enemy forces emerging in Epsilon One! Multiple units, numbers unknown!"
This time, the general frowned. It was more of an annoyance than a setback, but it was still something more that had to be dealt with. If anything, it showed him how desperate the enemy was getting, as well as reinforcing the notion that the opponent he had been expecting was not present. "Order Auriga Squadron to move in and engage," he ordered with the proverbial wave of the hand.
At that, Augustus arched an eyebrow. "With respect, General, that particular unit is…"
The general physically raised his hand that time. "I know what you're going to say Michael, just as I am well aware of Captain Ashra's reputation," he answered. "However, they're the closest as well as the best qualified."
He then settled back into his chair, arms rested at his side. "Besides, it's not like they're alone and unmonitored," he added, his eyes looking over a particular signal in proximity to that sector.
With a howl of bloodlust, Captain Ashley Ashra's custom red Gloucester charged down the street toward the European formation, casually skating around their machine gun and bazooka fire as if they were in slow motion, all the while his three squadmates could only push themselves to keep up. A few of the Sutherlands that were granting him and the rest of Auriga Squadron covering fire were less fortunate, the bullets and rockets mowing them down one after another, but Ashley hardly paid attention to them; as far as he was concerned, they were neither one of his unit nor had he even ordered them to back him up to begin with. All that mattered to him were the feldgrau tinted knightmares that lay ahead, the latest numbers to his long and distinguished kill sheet.
Moving straight up to his first target with blinding speed, Ashley smashed his Gloucester's shoulder into the enemy Panther II, causing it to tumble backward a few steps. As he had expected, the European built knightmare's armor was tough; tougher than its Britannian contemporaries as well uglier in Ashley's opinion, its bulky, spiked shouldered design making it appear like a stereotypical European soldier in full combat armor. A stereotypical soldier with a singular red eye on a track, which rotated around and flashed menacingly as it brought its machine gun to bear. Sneering, Ashley returned the gesture by deploying his factsphere, then smashing his lance straight through the enemy knightmare's head, obliterating it one stroke. He then withdrew the lance and jumped away, launching a grenade from the assault rifle in his opposite arm, destroying the entire upper torso, but not before the cockpit block ejected.
"Eleven," Ashley glowered as he landed back down, just in time to detect another Panther II come charging at him, its battle axe set for an overhead chop. Bringing the lance around again, Ashley deflected and knocked away the blade, then countered by launching his slash harkens, but the enemy devicer foresaw the attack and evaded both, twirling on his knightmare's landspinners as he did. Ashley retaliated by firing a burst from his assault rifle, but the Panther II banked around that as well, then returned fire with its own rifle, forcing Ashley to go into evasion as well, ducking and skating around the bullets while trying to keep a bead on his opponent.
That was when Ashley at last performed an attack the enemy pilot didn't see coming. After spinning away from another burst, he brought his lance around again and utilized a little known feature about the weapon. Specifically, he triggered the rocket motor at the lance head's base and launched it, sending it straight into the Panther II's torso, its heavy armor little more than paper against the lance's rocket assisted penetration power, all the way to the cockpit. The momentum drove the now dead European knightmare back and through the side of a rather decrepit building. Even if the pilot somehow survived the lance strike, Ashley doubted he or she would be getting up any time soon.
"Twelve." Ashley let out as he threw away the handle. He then promptly swung his assault rifle back, where he fired a few rounds into the bazooka another Panther II was aiming at his side. The resulting explosion destroyed the entire frame, as well as a fair section of the surrounding area. "Thirteen. Come on, is this the best you kraut bastards can…"
"Auriga One, behind you!" 1st Lieutenant Rene Laurent's voice called out over the radio in warning, interrupting him. Both he and 1st Lieutenant Jan Manes were both engaging targets at that point, but the former just managed to catch sight of another enemy bearing down on his commander.
The warning came soon enough. A sudden burst of fire came no more than two seconds after, causing Ashley to reverse his Gloucester around a building corner. He then deployed his factsphere again for a brief scan, smirking at what he found. "Oh? Looks like I finally have a challenge…"
At first glance, it looked like another Panther II was attacking him, but certain details dispelled that image, namely the long, curved spikes on each shoulder, the more narrowed head with horn-like fin attached and the shield assembly on its left arm. It was from these details that Ashley identified the unit as a Panther III, the European equivalent to the Gloucester meant for aces and/or commander types. Though it wasn't the most advanced knightmare frame in the EU arsenal, it was certainly a switch from the Panther IIs he had been massacring to this point.
With that, Ashley brought his Gloucester out from cover, firing his machine gun as he went. True to its reputation, the Panther III was quick to keep up, moving almost as fast despite its bulk, forcing Ashley to duck underneath its own stream of fire as he passed. He fired another grenade in an attempt to take out its assault rifle, but the Panther III deflected the explosive with its shield and continued to fire. As a result, one of the bullets clipped Ashley's own rifle, rendering it useless, to which the captain threw it to the side and drew his MVS, both turning crimson upon activation.
At last being able to fight in his favorite form, Ashley licked his lips in anticipation. "Now let's see if you can really keep up," he glowered as he put his knightmare to full speed, banking from either side of the street as the Panther III continued to pour fire from its rifle. Putting all power to his landspinners, Ashley again focused on moving from one side of the street to the other in rapid succession, forcing the enemy knightmare to reverse, also swaying back and forth as it went. If nothing else, the continuous stream of bullets was doing wonders to the surrounding streets and buildings, but like many other things Ashley could care less about that. Using the superior mobility of his Gloucester, he eventually closed the distance and slashed the barrel of the rifle away. In spite of that triumph, the enemy devicer was just as quick to discard the remnants, draw his machine's oversized battle sword from the aforementioned shield and parry the intended killing blow.
The dance continued for that much longer, with both knightmares exchanging sword blow for sword blow as they sped down the streets. Eventually however, the Britannian ace again closed the distance and executed a slashing attack that cleaved a large piece of the Panther III's shield. He then spun around to impale, but the European knightmare countered by firing its slash harkens, to which Ashley was forced deflect with the flats of his blades. The cyclopean unit used that opening to make a counterslash, but Ashley dodged that attack as well, parrying the metal cleaver and then knocking it away entirely. Then with certain flourish, he brought both blades down to impale.
However, the European pilot wasn't done yet. Seeing the singular angle of Ashley's attack, the Panther III banked to the left, allowing the Britannian unit to force all of its momentum toward where it had been standing before. This allowed the Panther III to circle around toward the exposed cockpit block, where it immediately moved to cut into.
Like hell! Ashley just managed to think before instinct kicked in. Putting his Gloucester into a crouch to evade the attack, the ace then went into a full ninety degree spin, sweeping his right sword through the Panther III's torso, bifurcating it. Both halves then fell back as the cockpit pod ejected, flying off some distance away.
"Fourteen," Ashley grunted just as Rene and Jan's knightmares came speeding up to his own.
"You alright Auriga One?" Jan inquired as both Gloucesters came to a halt.
Before Ashley could reply, he felt a 'pinging' noise ring through his cockpit block, which was soon followed in rapid succession. Looking over to his side monitor, he immediately identified the origin: the Panther III pilot, now having abandoned his own cockpit pod, was shooting at him with a service pistol!
At that, Ashley burst out laughing. "So you want to die that badly huh!?" he bellowed as he turned the Gloucester around and went into a charge, MVS aimed high. He was just able to savor the white-faced terror of the European pilot before he brought down his sword to strike.
The blow never connected however, as a great blur suddenly placed itself between Ashley and his target, the MVS striking a green energy shield as a result. Eyes widening at the intervention, Ashley instinctively threw his Gloucester back, with Rene and Jan's own units moving into to flank him. "What is this!?" he growled angrily.
Blaze Luminous shields dissipating, the Lancelot stood back up to its full height as the European pilot quickly ran away. "Disgraceful," a new voice called out over the radio. "Is this how the great Auriga Squadron operates? Slaughtering the helpless?"
White hot anger began to emerge within Ashley as the words struck. "Stay out of this Whitey!" he bellowed. "We don't need your kind to watch over us!"
I suppose that could have been a worse remark. Sir Suzaku Kururugi, Knight of Seven and White Knight of Britannia, thought as he stared back toward the red Gloucester through his center monitor. He had certainly heard worse over his lifetime, even after he had been inducted into the Rounds. Such was life.
"Regardless, there is more than enough fighting happening. I suggest you focus on that rather than killing downed devicers, Auriga," Suzaku admonished, then turning away before Ashra could respond. It wasn't his best dressing down, but he was sure it, when coupled with his status as the Knight of Seven, would be enough to keep the unruly Captain Ashra and his ilk in line. And if not, then there were those further up the chain than he who could do it. As had been stated, he had more than enough to do now without worrying about the Imperial Army's less honorable knights.
By all account and purposes, Tobruk was now a city on fire. All throughout its streets, the blue knights of Britannia fought hard battles against the mighty grey knights of Europe, while equally blue landships continued to shell the city and fighters and VTOLs went about their own dances above. In another life, Suzaku would have felt regret and sorrow over such wanton destruction – the youth he had been seven years ago certainly would have – but not now. Now, while he felt remorse for the innocents caught in the fire as well as hope for those who managed to make it out, he knew that the destruction was necessary. Only through the fire of battle could Britannia conquer and unite the world. Only through the fire could peace, the peace that she had envisioned, at last be obtained.
As he sped down the streets, Suzaku gazed over his sensors, finding that, as he had mostly expected, the battle was quickly turning toward their victory. As he looked over the tactical data, he saw the European numbers dwindling, with many units withdrawing deeper into the city to guard more strategically relevant points, all the while Britannian forces were in full, if slow, advance. Nearby, a Typhoon multi-role fighter dove from the sky and dropped its payload on a nearby barricade, obliterating it and its defenders in one strike, allowing Britannian knightmares in proximity to move through. Not far from that, Suzaku also saw a European Hornisse attack VTOL fire a spray of missiles toward another group of Sutherlands, only for them to evade and have one of their number strike the Hornisse down with its slash harken.
It's almost over. Suzaku thought with some relief. Of course, 'almost' was not the same as it being actually over, and the Knight of Seven did well to keep that in mind. Thus, it was not long before he found more fighting to be had: friendly knightmares were now making a push into the enemy headquarters, and the Europeans were effectively holding the line around it.
Much to Suzaku's surprise as he read over the data, the European force wasn't just made up of Panther IIs and Panther IIIs; unless the Lancelot's sensors or the Britannian ELINT systems were malfunctioning, there appeared to be Panther Is mixed in as well. The Japanese born knight raised an eyebrow at that; he had heard the Europeans were having logistical problems, but even he didn't expect the elite 1st Panzer Army to be forced into using fourth generation leftovers. Not that the Panther I was a weak design; quite the contrary, it was just as well armed and armored as Europe's later generation units.
But not for long. Suzaku thought as he jetted across the street toward the engagement area. Once he entered range, he drew his VARIS and targeted the closest enemy knightmares, a pair of Panther IIs, and fired off dual green shots. Both struck straight on, obliterating both enemy knightmares and opening up a way for Suzaku to pass, from which he entered into melee. Naturally his presence was far from missed, with fearful cries of the Lancelot's and/or the White Knight's presence being cried out by the enemy, while their fire focused more upon the Lancelot.
Maneuvering around the bullets and shells, Suzaku continued to fire off his VARIS, striking down more and more Panther IIs and at least one or two Panther IIIs during his initial assault, all the while the Sutherlands and Gloucesters around him either took advantage by pressing their own attacks or providing covering fire for him. In the midst of this, Suzaku once again reflected how much easier the assault would be if the Lancelot had retained its float system, but he knew that was seven years of water under the bridge. Float technology just wasn't feasible, as he himself had demonstrated during the attack on Kyushu long ago, when usage of the unit had left the Lancelot severely depowered. As such, unless supported by VTOLs, knightmares remained entirely ground or sea based, while the dream of the floatship ultimately ended with the Avalon alone.
Even so, it wasn't like Suzaku needed a glorified jetpack to take the objective at hand, as his blowing off the head of another Panther III best showed. However, by doing so, one of the Panther Is moved in to where its comrade had been standing and fired its assault rifle at the white knightmare. As such, Suzaku was forced to reverse his landspinners as well as engage his Blaze Luminous, either maneuvering around or actively deflecting the bullets while attempting to find an opening.
Fortunately he didn't have to wait long, as he had the Lancelot go into a roll across the ground, moving to the Panther I's right, to which the fourth generation knightmare was just too slow to catch up. From there, Suzaku fired off another VARIS shot upon reorientation, taking out the rifle arm and knocking the enemy knightmare back several meters. The Panther I retaliated by drawing its battle axe with its opposite arm, but by that point Suzaku was moving again. He closed in and leaped into the air, performing a Blaze Luminous reinforced spin kick that knocked the Panther I away and onto its side against a nearby structure, which might have been a statue at one point. Suzaku then promptly switched the VARIS to burst mode and fired off the finishing shot, destroying the Panther I, the structure and much of the nearby surroundings.
It wasn't long before additional enemies, namely two Panther IIs and a Panther III, targeted him again, to which Suzaku was forced to leap away from their assault rifle attacks. Upon landing, he withdrew his VARIS and replaced it with his MVS, to which he sped into the firing wake. Quick to respond, the Panther IIs both drew their axes and moved in to engage the Lancelot at close-range. Their first and last mistake, Suzaku thought, as he easily maneuvered around their attempts to hack him, then proceeding to cut them down. The second one just managed to raise its blade up at the Lancelot's head before Suzaku slashed it across the torso, causing the frame to collapse to the ground as the cockpit pod ejected.
At that, Suzaku turned to deal with the Panther III, only to find that the European knightmare was already upon him, having taken the time Suzaku had spent dispatching its subordinates to cross the distance. Just as Suzaku brought his left MVS down to strike, the enemy knightmare parried the blade with its own, and then struck the Lancelot's torso with its shield. Gritting his teeth, Suzaku attempted to withdraw, but the Panther III only pressed the attack, forcing the Round to engage his Blaze Luminous to defend. The Knight of Seven was just able to see the Panther III's mono-eye flash blood red through the green of his shield, to which Suzaku moved to engage his hip-mounted slash harkens to counterattack.
The Panther III was indeed struck by a slash harken as second later, but not the Lancelot's. Rather, before Suzaku realized what was happening, another knightmare frame launched itself into the Panther III's side, knocking it away and thereby allowing the Lancelot to reorient and reverse itself. Colored in green with gold highlights, the newcomer drove its elbow into the European knightmare, then emitting an energy blast that tore straight through the Panther III. The cockpit pod ejected away just before the stricken machine exploded.
"What was that Suzaku?" the voice of Sir Gino Weinburg, Knight of Three and Eagle of Britannia, laughed over the radio as the Elyan sped toward additional targets. "Don't tell me you're getting slow."
"Hardly," Suzaku countered as he swung both MVS about and charged, following his comrade in against the enemy barricade itself. "What are you doing here anyway Gino? I thought you were still engaged in Sector Theta."
The Knight of Three let out a laugh at that as he slashed another Panther II diagonally with his maser vibration lance. "We cleared that sector a long time ago!" he hollered as he fired his left hip slash harken, impaling yet another Panther II through the middle and causing the cockpit pod to eject. Another Panther III, one armed with a bazooka, attempted to level its aim at the green knightmare, but the third Round was much faster, leaping around the projectile and dashing over to the command unit, where he proceeded to sweep it off its feet. Gino then finished it off by striking his lance blade into its torso. "Now I'm here to strike at the heart!"
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes lest he lose focus, Suzaku could only join his fellow Round in attacking the Europeans at melee range, effectively ripping a hole through the defensive line. Two more Panther Is moved into focus their fire on the pair, but both Rounds had little issue dancing around them, from which they both dispatched the older knightmares with single strokes from their melee weapons. After that, Suzaku twisted around and launched a slash harken into a Panther II's head, drawing the enemy knightmare to him so he could slash its torso, cutting into its Yggdrasil drive. Then, without halting his movement, he flung the grievously wounded frame into one of the remaining Panther Is, with both detonating in the resulting explosion.
"Show off!" Gino called out as he sped the Elyan at another Panther I, which was desperately trying to gun him down only for the Knight of Three to literally dance around its fire. After that, it got close enough to move in and cut away the left arm arm in a running slash. The Panther I twisted around to counterattack with its axe, but Gino easily circled around its attempted chop, then dashed again and cut away the right arm as well. The Elyan drew upon the disarmed knightmare's side and made another run, cutting away both legs on a single pass. And then at long last, Gino finished it by stabbing one end of his lance into the knightmare's broad torso, disabling the Yggdrasil drive within. All in little more than a minute.
Once more resisting the urge to roll his eyes at his fellow knight's display, even when he was in the middle of impaling yet another Panther II through the center, Suzaku could only withdraw his sword and let the now pilotless knightmare fall back and look for more targets. By now they had well and truly breached the headquarters grounds, with several of the regular troops moving in to secure it. There were still a fair number of Panther IIs remaining, and at least one Panther III, which one of the Gloucesters took out with a lance strike. Alongside them, there were also a fair number of ground troops attempting to resist, but as far as Suzaku was concerned, they were little more than a nuisance.
We've breached the fortress. Suzaku thought as he engaged his factspheres, scanning the main headquarters building for any last minute surprises. He wasn't about to let the battle turn sideways after getting this far.
What his sensors picked up within the main hangar, however, made his eyes widen a fraction. A transport VTOL? Suzaku thought as his factspheres picked up the vehicle in question, which was beginning to lift up from the hangar. That has to be carrying the local commander!
He quickly keyed into the Fortitude. "White Knight One to Fortitude, we have a Victor-Tango taking off from the HQ. Possibly carrying enemy command staff."
Seconds later, the VTOL emerged from the building and took to the open sky. And once again, Suzaku wished that the Lancelot retained its float system, as the transport was already too high for him or Gino to catch in time. "Requesting air support to intercept."
Britannian Formidable-class land battleship Fortitude
Tobruk, State of Libya, European Union
"Affirmative White Knight One. Standby," an operator replied as data on the retreating VTOL was calculated and catalogued. The tactical screen now displayed the target icon, designated Victor One, as it began moving away from the battleground.
Augustus sniffed with contempt. It was just like a typical European commander to flee with his or her collective tails folded in, though he had expected more from a member of the 1st Panzer Army. Then again, if the intelligence collected on the man in question was accurate, then he wasn't a typical European to begin with, let alone a member of the European Army's elite African force.
I also suppose that really means he isn't present… Augustus thought with mixed feelings. He knew his liege was certainly disappointed at that, but if it allowed them to take Tobruk more easily, then so much the better. The last thing they needed now was that particular opponent showing up to unravel things. "Redirect any available fighters to…"
"No need for that," the general raised a hand, halting Augustus in mid-sentence. After allowing all eyes to all on him, the general smiled in his trademark devious manner. "We already have more proper, though somewhat excessive, means."
He then tapped a switch on the arm of his chair. "Juggernaut One, if you would please."
"Acknowledged," Dame Anya Alstreim, Knight of Six and Juggernaut of Britannia, lazily replied as she placed her hands back on her knightmare's control sticks. A moment later, the Hector rose back up from its kneeling position atop the Fortitude's bridge, where it then deployed its own factspheres to gather further data. Her target was a long distance out, moving further and further away at great speed, and above all else had a profile almost as small as a knightmare frame. However, even if it were in her ever stoic nature, Anya was far from worried. She had taken down far more difficult targets than that.
If anything, Anya was grateful to be doing something again. Ever since the battle had moved into the city, where the Hector's overwhelming firepower would have done more collateral damage than anything else, she had been stuck behind all the action, providing occasional long-range fire support when the opportunity presented itself, but otherwise just sitting in her cockpit with nothing better to do than update her Twitter account. Hardly the sort of thing people expected the Knight of Six to be doing when a battle was on. "Destroy or disable?"
"Disable," the general replied from the other end, his voice holding calm reassurance. Clearly he had no doubts toward Anya striking the target either. "We may need the prisoners."
"Very well," Anya answered once more in her usual bored expression as the targeting scopes folded over her eyes. On the outside, the Hector's two shoulder shields folded in front and merged into a single construct, with four barrels extending from within the maw. Residual crimson and black energy began to charge from those barrels as the assault knightmare's primary weapon came online, ready to fire.
But Anya didn't depress the trigger just yet. As an apparent sniper, she was patient, waiting for the target to move into the best firing position before she let loose her steed's stark hadron cannon. In this case, she allowed the VTOL to gain altitude and move further east in its obvious trek to flee Tobruk for Egypt. That way the resultant blast wouldn't cause too much damage to the city itself, or the soon to be Numbers within.
Breathing steadily as a habit, Anya's eyes remained fixed to the targeting scopes, completely entranced on the VTOL. Her target reticle was just left of the VTOL's tail - precisely where she wanted it be – and the VTOL itself was gaining further and further distance from the battleground. She just needed to wait a few second longer until…
"Firing," Anya sounded off before depressing her trigger. An instant later, the stark hadron cannon fired, sending a combined burst of crimson energy sailing into the horizon and over the city. Little more than a few second later, that beam surged directly behind the VTOL, its residual heat and energy striking the small craft like a tidal wave when the beam itself didn't, causing it to tumble through the air as its engines incinerated and its frame melt and bent.
From there, Anya watched as the craft spiraled into an emergency landing. Though the craft itself would never fly again, its passengers would be unharmed. Whether they survived the landing or not, however, was beyond the Knight of Six's control. "Target down."
"We see it," the general confirmed from the other end. And though Anya couldn't see his face, she knew a new smile, one of appreciation, had just folded over his lips. "Well done Anya."
And in spite of all her lacking emotion, Anya couldn't keep a tinge of red from emerging over her cheeks at her commander's compliment. "Least I could do."
Britannian Formidable-class land battleship Fortitude
Tobruk, State of Libya, European Union
"Victor One down in Sector Theta Three," the operator reported with a note of satisfaction in her voice. A feeling that quickly became present throughout the bridge. "All proximity units moving in."
Augustus himself certainly felt it as he took a drawn breath. "Well," he spoke, visibly savoring the sense of impending victory. "It looks like Libya is officially ours."
"Perhaps," the general commented while leaning forward, seemingly lost in thought as his eyes became fixed upon the tactical screen.
All at once, Augustus knew something was amiss. Or at least it had to be; the general never had that expression when things were going according to plan. "Sir?"
At that, the general shook his head and leaned back. "It's nothing," he exclaimed to Augustus. "I just would have expected the enemy to have more out there, considering we're now on Egypt's doorstep."
A flat but knowing smile emerged on Augustus' lips as he recognized the tone of disappointment. As much as he preferred an easy victory to a hard fought battle, the general was still a man who craved challenge, even from Britannia's enemies. What else could one expect from the man who, as a child, challenged the higher members of the Imperial Family to games of chess? Up to and including Prince Schneizel himself?
That all said, Augustus still preferred the way things were going now. "I'm afraid this is all we're going to get, sir," Augustus answered with a tinge of sympathy. "The Europeans were long spent even before we reached this point. And they can't afford to divert their Egyptian forces away at this stage of the game."
"Agreed," the general concurred. "But at the same time, it isn't like our opponent to allow us this kind of victory without one more move to make," he said, placing his hand at the side of his head in thought. "Even if that move is simply a previously unnoticed pawn."
"Heh," Augustus found himself nodding at the assessment, though he still believed the enemy to be well and truly defeated. "It would appear that you have taken all of your opponent's pawns sir. As well as his bishops, rooks and queen."
This time, the general smirked back. "That still leaves his knights, Colonel."
Before Augustus could reply, another voice broke over the bridge. "White Knight One to Fortitude," Suzaku sounded off. "Enemy headquarters secure. Light casualties sustained."
The general nodded at this. With that accomplished, all that remained was the clear the last pockets of resistance throughout the city. Or to call for their surrender anyway. "Acknowledged White Knight One," the general answered. "Standby to…"
"New contact detected, Sector Lambda Five!" an operator sounded off, interrupting the general and causing all attention to shift. "Enemy knightmare now engaging Saber and Pike units! Type unknown!"
This time a sense of dread moved through the bridge. Unknown? the general thought, mixed feelings beginning to emerge within as he turned back to the tactical screen. Could it be…?
"What…?" Augustus let out as he looked over the tactical display, which showed the contact engaging at least two squadrons of knightmares. And much more, destroying them one at a time, while the sounds of panicked and dying Britannian devicers could be heard from the radio excepts. "What is this?"
"Visual contact!" another operator sounded out, the tactical screen flashing with a corner vidwindow.
The dread on the bridge immediately intensified as all eyes turned to the mono-eyed face of the enemy as it tore into a Sutherland. A face that belonged not to a Panther II or a Panther III. The face of a newer, far more powerful beast.
Fortunately the general recovered fast. Though he had never seen up close until now, he more than recognized the knightmare model. "Have all available units, including Eagle One and White Knight One, intercept immediately!" he commanded at once. "Juggernaut One is to provide fire support when able as well!"
Then, for the first time in the entire battle, the general stood up from his chair. "I'll be deploying as well," he announced, causing attention to shift back to him. "Have my Mordred prepared at once!"
"Sir, is that really necessary?" Augustus questioned, now distinctly uncomfortable at the prospect of his superior going out to fight this new threat. "With the Knights of the Round out there…"
"All too necessary," the general commented as he turned to exit the bridge. "This is an enemy we can't afford to let escape. Much less hinder our progress."
"Die already, monster!" a hapless Sutherland pilot screamed as he unleashed the full fury of his assault rifle at an unwavering adversary. The enemy machine swiftly brought its arm about, revealing a gun emplacement along the forearm. However, it soon became apparent that this weapon was different from the standard machine gun, as instead of firing standard bullets at the Sutherland like one would have originally expected it to, it launched a series of energy shots in a single rapid burst. Blue tinted shots launching forward, the attacking Sutherland was quickly obliterated, leaving virtually no traces behind.
Upon seeing the resulting destruction, the pilot within the knightmare's confined cockpit pod could only smirk. The engineers at Krauss-Clement GmbH, the European Union's primary knightmare manufacturer, had truly outdone themselves with his machine, as well as all of the truly advanced weaponry it had to offer. A second later, he began moving again in search of new prey.
Speeding down the street, mono-eye twisting to meet its next target, it took aim with its unique rifle and fired a single sapphire colored beam, also composed of ionized energy, into another Sutherland, which went straight through and caused it to detonate. More Britannian units in proximity attempted to attack, raining bullets, slash harkens and grenades at the European unit, but the machine evaded all these with grace, and counterattacked with just as much ferocity. Even though Britannian victory was all but imminent, at least this European knightmare frame was continuing to hinder the Britannian advance in Tobruk, and the streets and rooftops within the Libyan city would become red with blood and metal as a result.
Twisting around, the machine fired another spray of beams from its rifle, splitting the next Britannian formation apart while simultaneously claiming yet another Sutherland as its newest kill. The Britannians were quick in their attempt to reestablish order, but the European pilot of the venerable machine would not allow them to do so. Instead he charged, shoulder slamming a Gloucester and sending it slamming into the side of a deserted building. From there, it reversed on its landspinners and fired another arm gun burst into the trapped frame, causing a great explosion when its Yggdrasil drive detonated. A significant chunk of the building was taken out with it, but by some miracle the structure remained standing, albeit very much gutted.
From there, it sped toward another Gloucester, one that was equipped with a standard assault rifle rather than a lance, which fired a grenade at the incoming foe. To the bad fortune of the Britannian pilot, the enemy pilot dodged the grenade with relative ease, although it came close to clipping his knightmare's left shoulder armor, allowing the EU machine to speed around its target and drive the barrel of its rifle, the venerable blitzgewehr, into the back of the vulnerable cockpit block. It then fired another beam right through, withdrawing to allow the pilotless Gloucester to fall flat to the ground and exploded as well. Even more of surrounding street was destroyed as a result, though the nearby buildings only suffered light damage.
"These Britannians are pathetic. Where are their masters, der schwarze Prinz and die Ritter der Tafelrunde?" the knightmare's devicer muttered with distaste as he butchered his enemies like cattle. This was punctuated even further when he fired his left arm mounted blitzvulkan, destroying another Sutherland that was trying to sneak behind him.
Despite his pride, the pilot wasn't foolish enough to get distracted from the battle around him. So when his combat computer beeped a warning, he immediately heard it and set out to deal with it. Reflexes kicking into gear, he had his knightmare dodge to the side just as a very recognizable green knightmare came charging in, the curious device on its elbow lit to strike. Though it initially missed, the Elyan was quick to correct itself and move straight at him, lance readied to strike.
"I think you've killed enough of our troops for one day friend!" Gino stated as he swung the lance down for the kill.
The enemy unit evaded the lance and reversed on its landspinners, all the while its pilot shot a grin. "I'll be the judge of that, junge." he replied.
"Go down!" he heard a voice yell from the side. Turning, the pilot just caught sight of the Lancelot standing on a nearby rooftop, leveling its VARIS rifle and firing a shot. He dodged it easily enough and countered with another blitzgewehr burst, forcing the Lancelot to evade in turn. At that, the European knightmare launched its right hip mounted slash harken into the building's roof and shot upward, moving to leap at the white and gold knightmare as it came back down.
Unfortunately for the European pilot, the Knight of Seven foresaw the attack, and so reversed the Lancelot just as the feldgrau tinted knightmare fell upon the roof, bringing its knee down where his Britannian foe had once been. There, it was forced to evade again as the Lancelot readied another VARIS shot, rolling to the side of the shot and positioning himself to return fire, only to be forced to move away yet then again when the Elyan also leaped on the roof. The European retaliated with blitzgewehr and blitzvulkan shots of its own, firing at both enemy units simultaneously, but the Knights of the Round were too quick, and none of his shots hit. At the same time however, none of the return attacks struck him either, as his own knightmare was more than able to continue evading them.
Then, all at once, the two Britannian units leaped off the rooftop simultaneously, landing back on the street below. Knowing what was about to happen next, the European pilot jumped away as well. A second later, a great stream of crimson hadrons surged through where he had been, the resultant shockwave causing the building to collapse. A dust cloud exploded into the street as a result, with the European knightmare landing right in the middle of it, mono-eye menacingly shifting back and forth in search of its adversaries.
Red eye shining venomously through the dust, the European soon found himself encircled. Various Sutherlands and Gloucesters had moved up from the streets and nearby rooftops, all training their weapons on him, while a group of Viper attack VTOLs descended from the sky above to track their own weapons on him. Simultaneously, the Lancelot and Elyan moved at the head of the formation, weapons ready and willing to kill if he so much as moved. All guns and blades were trained on him now, but none dare move lest he move as well. Thus caused the standoff, as the Britannians awaited to see if their European adversary would make the first attempt, while the European devicer could only standby and search for an opening to exploit.
Through the resultant pause and silence, Suzaku was quick to identify the enemy knightmare. Although he had never seen it in person before up to this point, its design fit the photographs that Britannian intelligence had obtained some months earlier. The European Union's premiere Eighth Generation knightmare frame, Loewe.
His gaze turned into a frown at that realization. Looks like they've already begun production, and while Britannia is still struggling to put the Exeter into sufficient numbers.
"Identify yourself," Gino spoke up, half to break the silence and half to know who the Loewe's pilot was. It was pretty obvious he was an ace, both from his displayed skills and the fact he managed to obtain such a high end knightmare despite being so far out from Europe.
Just as well, the pilot responded, a vidscreen appearing on all the Britannian frames' monitors, which displayed a handsome blonde haired man in an EU pilot suit with piercing blue eyes. "I am Oberst Erich Hartmann of the 32nd Panzer Battalion. I wish to parley with your commander, dem schwarzen Prinzen."
Before anyone could reply, a velvety smooth voice entered over the radio and was heard by all those gathered. "So the famous Erich Hartmann wishes to speak to me directly? This should be interesting."
At that, the one side of the encirclement parted, with the Lancelot and Elyan stepping aside almost in reverence, to allow a newcomer unit to enter in from the distance. Casually walking up to the area, its landspinners retracted for the time being, it was apparent that the newcomer was not a standard knightmare; in fact, it appeared to be an exact twin of the Lancelot, except with certain differences.
Twin ruby colored eye cameras observed the Loewe as it approached, seemingly reflecting the bemused malevolence of its pilot, while its armor, painted in a fantastic combination of black and gold, retained majesty and grace that one would expect out of a Britannian design. A large black cape calmly swayed off its back as it walked, and while its hands were bereft of weapons, the familiar pair of MVS and a VARIS rifle were both stored in the appropriate back mounts, complementing the slash harkens in the arms and hips and the easily discernable Blaze Luminous shield mounts in its forearms. A knightmare that, just like its twin brother, was easily recognized by both Britannian and European alike, for its devicer was a man of great legend.
Finally coming to a halt directly in front of the Loewe, its cape now billowing from an updraft of wind, the knightmare frame Mordred gazed back toward the singular mono-eye of its apparent adversary, just as the voice of its devicer rang out for all to hear. "This is General Lelouch vi Britannia, His Imperial Majesty's Commander of the African Theater," Lelouch announced. "And I have some demands of my own to make, Herr Oberst."
"State your terms, 'Your Highness'," Hartmann replied, spitting out the last part as if it were poison.
"No terms," Lelouch swiftly answered. "I demand two things: the unconditional surrender of your forces, and the answer to this question…"
The prince made sure that he was looking the enemy ace directly in the eyes before he continued. "Where is General Rommel?"
Much to the amazement of those gathered, the European Colonel gave a sharp bark-like laugh toward Lelouch's inquiry. "Well out of your reach, Britannian schweine," Hartmann stated. "I find your terms unacceptable and your presence vile. Therefore, I refuse to surrender to you or answer any more of your foolish questions."
While the insults did nothing to affect Lelouch's iron demeanor, he was now especially curious. What is this man playing at? "Look around you Colonel. You are hopelessly outmatched; you have at least fifteen knightmares, eight VTOLs, three Knights of the Round and myself to contend with at once, plus many more to come. Even with that state of the art machine of yours, escape would be impossible."
"I have no intention of escaping, brat," Hartmann sharply answered with a determined glare. "Instead, I wish to throw you a gauntlet."
Suddenly, the Loewe withdrew and replaced its blitzgewehr. "You Britannians are fond of honorable duels, yes?" Hartmann continued just as his knightmare's back sword mounts, similar in design to the MVS on the Lancelot and Mordred, folded down, with the European knightmare grasping their hilts. "If that's the case, I challenge you Prinz Lelouch to a fight to the death. Just you, myself and our knightmares."
At that, the Loewe drew both swords out, their blades shifting into a cobalt blue gleam instead of MVS' familiar crimson glow, and pointed the blade of the right sword toward the Mordred. "What say you, 'Your Highness'?"
Everyone, even the normally taciturn Suzaku, stared inconspicuously at the Loewe, not believing what they were hearing over their respective radios. However, the moment was soon broken as Lelouch, bemusement now visible within his voice as well, spoke up once more. "You do realize, Colonel, that even if you emerge victorious, you lose anyway," the prince pointed out. "My men will not give Tobruk back to you, nor allow you to depart this city alive should you manage to kill me."
Hartmann actually flashed a great smile in response. "I am aware of that," the colonel replied. "But at the very least, I will send one of Emperor Charles' unruly spawn to Hell before me."
The colonel's already present smile took on an even colder effect as he added. "And that makes this fight all the more worthwhile."
Not liking where this was going, Suzaku had the Lancelot step forward. "Your Highness, allow me to fight him in your place," the Knight of Seven said, the Lancelot's emerald eyes gazing at the side of its twin's head. "There is no reason for you to risk yourself here and now."
Lelouch answered by having the Mordred look back toward its brother. "No Suzaku, the challenge was issued to me alone," he said, resting his knightmare's left hand on its brethren's shoulder in a human-like gesture. "Besides, it would be rude not to honor the final request of a dead man."
He then withdrew the hand and looked back toward the Loewe. "Colonel Hartmann, I accept your challenge," Lelouch answered as the Mordred's landspinners both extended. "Should we suspend the rest of the fighting for our duel?"
Hartmann shrugged at that. "I see no reason not to," He replied, then switching over to broadband. "This is Oberst Erich Hartmann to all units. Stand down and await instruction!"
Likewise, Lelouch also switched over to his force's general frequency. "This is General Lelouch vi Britannia. All Britannian forces, cease combat operations and await further orders."
With that finished, Lelouch looked back toward his adversary and drew his MVS. As soon as both blades turned active crimson, Lelouch entered his knightmare into a readying pose. "And now, Colonel, en garde!"
"Möge der beste Mann gewinnen, whelp!" Hartmann answered with a battle cry as he had the Loewe launch forward on its landspinners, a move that was immediately matched by its Britannian opponent.
With a thunderous clanging, both knightmares slammed their blades together, beginning the duel. The Mordred swept at the Loewe's torso, only for the European knightmare to leap back and fire a blitzvulkan burst, which the Britannian unit deflected with its specially crimson colored Blaze Luminous. From there, the European knightmare charged forward again, slashing to decapitate, only for the Mordred to bank to its right and circle around it, moving to strike at its cockpit block. A quick ninety-degree spin was enough for the Loewe's sword to intercept the Mordred's, while its second blade was in turn met, deflected and knocked away by the Britannian unit's second Blaze Luminous, from which the black knightmare moved to impale. The Loewe simply banked to its left to evade the strike, the reopening fire with both blitzvulkans.
At that, Lelouch engaged both Blaze Luminous shields and reversed his landspinners, deflecting the twin bursts of ionized shots while moving outside the encirclement, where he turned around and sped away. Hartmann was only all too keen to follow, brandishing both blitzschwerts as he had the Loewe charge down the street after his adversary. Both knightmares soon moved into the distance, disappearing into a nearby alleyway, where only the sounds of clashing blades and gunfire signified that the duel was still on.
Suzaku sighed in frustration as he and the rest of the gathered knightmares moved to follow, all while the VTOLs returned to high altitude to gain a better view as well as broadcast the duel throughout the battleground. Before he said what he was going to say, he made sure that he switched his comlink over to the Knight of the Rounds' private frequency. "I wish he wouldn't keep doing this," he complained. "It's unbefitting of a Prince to engage in pointless battles like this one."
"Oh don't worry about him Suzaku," Gino replied as he moved the Elyan to keep up, his voice holding certain optimism. "Lelouch has long proven himself to be able to hold his own in a fight. And unless Zero comes back from the grave to aid the EU, then we've pretty much won this battle anyway."
"Recording," Anya spoke from the distance, having activated the Hector's battle recorder while keeping watch over the various vidscreens on her monitors. There was no doubt that she would put it up on her Facebook page after the battle was over, should Lelouch emerge victorious anyway.
While he still felt this was a waste of time, Suzaku turned his attention back up to the duel like everyone else. As a little time passed however, the Knight of Seven unconsciously smiled as he saw the duel continue to unfold.
"Is this the best you can do, whelp?" Hartmann taunted, his heavily accented voice sounding both patronizing and hateful at the same time, as he continued their running duel, slashing at the Mordred as it continued to speed down the streets. "I thought Britannia's schwarzer Prinz could put up a better fight!"
Instead of verbally replying, Lelouch gained some additional distance before launching both of his arm mounted slash harkens, only for the Loewe to bank and dodge each in quick succession. This unknowingly confirmed to Lelouch that, for all of its advancements, the Loewe lacked formal energy shielding – something that he may yet be able to exploit. In the meantime, the Loewe countered by firing off its blitzvulkans again, to which the prince evaded by performing a reverse leap, all the while retracting his harkens. This caused Hartmann to leap after him, so that, by the time both frames landed, they were once again in close quarters of each other, thus causing their swordfight to resume. In turn, they had ended up in a more open area of the city – what may have been a public park at one time – thereby allowing further room to maneuver as well as additional space for the other Britannian knightmares to standby and observe.
Gritting his teeth through the various slashes and parries, as well as narrowly evading a solid right hook that was meant throw him off balance, the prince had to inwardly admit that his opponent more than lived up to his fame. Though he wasn't nearly as skilled as others Lelouch had fought in the past, namely his legendary instructor, Erich Hartmann was nonetheless one of the premier knightmare aces within the European Union's muster, one whose skill was quite easily at Round level. That naturally made the challenge more appealing to Lelouch, who was never one to back down from an opponent to begin with, no matter how skilled or otherwise superior they may have been. And of course, there was always the thrill of battle himself, something he had grown accustomed to over the last five years.
And so the duel continued throughout the ruined park as both titans came at each other with blades bare and their pilots relentless. The maser vibration swords and blitzschwerts clanged against each other again and again, with each pilot acting and reacting with the best of their skills. The Loewe moved to perform an overhead chop, only for Lelouch to roll the Mordred out of the way, then launch his slash harken in an attempt to decapitate the European knightmare. Hartmann however, saw the attack coming and narrowly moved the mono-eyed head of his knightmare out of the way, then retaliating with his blitzvulkan only for the Mordred, though still kneeling, to reverse on its landspinners while retracting the harken. The European knightmare then gave chase, to which Lelouch slashed apart a nearby dead tree and, using the flat of his sword, swatted its remnants at his opponent, who swatted away in turn with his right arm.
Soon enough however, Lelouch struck first blood, having shifted his velocity from reverse to the right, from which he circled around and made a running slash at the Loewe's torso. It wasn't a deep cut, as the Loewe managed to leap away before Lelouch could deliver any critical damage, but it was still enough that a prominent scar was now displayed across the European knightmare's chest. Needless to say, Hartmann was livid. "Scheißkerl!"
The Loewe's hip mounted slash harkens shot out and smashed against the Mordred's left shoulder; while it wasn't enough to punch through the hide, it did throw the black knightmare off balance, which was all Hartmann wanted. The Loewe then shot forward and delivered a hard kick into the Britannian knightmare's chest, as well as two overhead slashes with the blitzschwerts that would have easily cut into the black armor had Lelouch not managed to regain control, dodge the first, and then deflect the second with his Blaze Luminous. From that, Lelouch countered by dropping down and making a landspinner assisted sweep kick, knocking the Loewe off its feet, but just as he was about to perform a finishing stab the European knightmare nimbly reverse flipped back up, crushing a nearby see-saw in the process, then charged forward again to interlock its blades with the Mordred's.
As both frames stared into each other's eye cameras once more, Lelouch decided to give his opponent one last chance, although he already knew the good colonel would never take it. "If you wish to surrender, Herr Oberst, now would be the time," Lelouch offered sardonically. "I promise that you will be treated as a prisoner of war as opposed to a corpse, which you will immediately become at the end of this battle."
Lelouch then took note of his surroundings, namely the various worn and decrepit buildings. "Your answer?"
The Loewe's mono-eye seemingly flashed in response, while metallic sounding laughter, the sort that conveyed both amusement and disdain, followed before the words came. "Not on your life, scum. I'd rather die knowing you will be in hell waiting for me!"
The Mordred's pigeon blood colored eyes seemed to glow a little at its opponents proclamation. "So be it," Lelouch replied.
And with that, Lelouch broke away and distanced himself a little before switching out his left MVS for his VARIS rifle. Hartmann just barely managed to catch sight of the Mordred withdrawing the peculiar weapon, before a series of scarlet tinted shots began to launch at his direction. The Loewe immediately banked to the right to evade, but Lelouch kept his aim, chasing the EU knightmare across the ground.
It was at that point during the battle that Hartmann mirrored his opponent's move and redrew his blitzgewehr, turning the duel into a running gunfight. Lelouch, fully aware of what the weapon would do to his machine, did his best to maneuver around the blue tinted ionized shots while maintaining his own fire. Unfortunately, one or two managed to hit him in non-critical areas, with additional damage being made when Hartmann suddenly putting his knightmare into full speed and ramming the Mordred in a landspinner assisted shoulder tackle. One that both knightmares slamming through the side of one of the larger nearby buildings, which was likely once a hotel of some kind.
While the tackle and the blitzgewehr spray had not caused too much damage, Lelouch saw from his displays that, amidst the structural damage, the impact had also damaged his VARIS; it was unlikely he'd be able to fire it again. The prince was far from happy about the damage his machine had taken, but he was still in this fight. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, he threw the now useless rifle at the Loewe, which simply sidestepped it, and then used the opportunity to have the Mordred charge at it for a change, redrawing his second MVS in the process. Once he was close enough and the EU knightmare had taken aim with its primary firearm, Lelouch banked to the right and chopped the rifle into two.
"An eye for an eye." Lelouch stated over the comlink, which his opponent grinned venomously at.
And from there, the two knightmares danced back and forth within what may have been a lobby at one time; a great ballet that seemed to go on for an eternity, as either pilot attacked or defended with their swords. The fierce style of the European ace was easily a match for Black Prince's mechanically timed and precise movements, and for a while it seemed that the duel would continue even after the battle had been long won. Armor gashed and broken, power units draining, and with neither fighter willing to relent, the spectators, who remained outside but were monitoring the fight with their factspheres and other sensors, began to wonder if their machines would end up collapsing on their own before any victor could emerge.
At last then it seemed the end had finally come, as Hartmann had the Loewe launch a slash harken into the ceiling to lunge over the Mordred's next slash, from which he leaped over the black knightmare and then turn around, smashing the Loewe's massive right foot into the Britannian unit's side just as it was about to turn around. Following this, the Loewe brought both of its fists down into a hammer blow, nearly crushing the less bulky knightmare's head, thereby causing it to stumble back even further, from which the mono-eyed unit tackled its opponent once more, sending it through another nearby wall and into what was likely a banquet room. The Mordred fell against its back as a result, where it fired its right arm slash harken, seemingly a desperate attack, only for the Loewe to evade that as well.
Lelouch's head rung and a brief nausea had reached into his throat, but by some miracle his machine had managed to take it, with very little damage done to the Mordred's structure. His steed was banged up to be sure, but otherwise functional. Lelouch reminded himself to send a commendation to Colonel Asplund and the rest of Camelot just as the Loewe kicked the knightmare's chest once again, seemingly to be sure that its opponent was down. It then deftly pointed one of its blitzschwerts toward its opponent's head, such that its blade tip filled Lelouch's front monitor.
"Concede defeat, 'Your Highness', and I will grant you a mercy killing," Hartmann called out over the radio once again.
Lelouch merely smiled, despite his situation. His adversary was exactly where he wanted him, and the good Colonel did not even realize it. "For a non-Britannian, you are quite the nobleman Herr Oberst. I see that your reputation is not only for your skill in combat."
The deviousness returned to Lelouch's eyes as he said. "However, I'm afraid I must decline your offer."
One could almost hear the wonder in Hartmann's voice. "And why is that, exactly?"
Before he answered, the Prince's smile swelled until it threatened to encompass his entire face. "Because I am about to win."
Before Hartmann could enquire as to how that could happen, Lelouch snapped his knightmare's left arm out and launched the harken embedded there, sending it flying out a nearby broken window. At the same time, Lelouch withdrew the first harken from the wall, or specifically foundation, it had impacted before, which had already began to spider web with cracks. Moments later, the sound of rumbling and the sensation of falling dust and debris landing on their knightmares and surroundings alerted both devicers to an all too inevitable truth about their current environment.
Realizing all too late what was about to happen, Hartmann began to move the Loewe once again. Unfortunately for him, Lelouch was faster, and so launched his hip mounted slash harkens next, sending them into the Loewe's feet, destroying the landspinners within and causing the European knightmare to lose its balance. And just as his opponent began to fall on top of him, Lelouch tapped his left rollerball trigger, causing the left arm harken, which had clamped into another building across from the current one, to pull the Mordred away, thereby allowing the European knightmare to fall on its face. That was the last Lelouch saw of it before the Mordred was flung out into the street once again and several metric tons of ruined building systematically collapsed in on itself.
Once outside, Lelouch used the momentum to reorient his knightmare and then relaunch his right arm harken, anchoring it into the target building's higher levels. From there, Lelouch pulled the Mordred upward, using the moment to launch himself straight onto said building's roof. Now with a full bird's eye view of Tobruk's newest collection of debris, Lelouch watched to see if anything, or anyone, emerged out of it. None did.
"Rest in peace, Oberst Hartmann," Lelouch said out loud, hoping that wherever his opponent had ended up, his words would reach him. "And do not worry; you will have plenty more company on your end when we have finished winning this war."
As if on cue, a communications window appeared, displaying the image of one of Lelouch's knightmare commanders. "Your Highness, the EU forces are falling back in all sectors, and those that are unable to have surrendered," the officer reported. "It's over."
Lelouch took a moment to consult the Mordred's Druid System for that. Sure enough, fighting had ceased completely through the city, and whatever European units that were left were now surrounded by Britannian ones. The battle, at long last, had concluded.
"Then victory is ours." Lelouch proclaimed, unconsciously settling upon his trademark grin, the one that was known by both his allies and his enemies, which perfectly reflected upon his self-confidence and his indomitable will. Knowing full well that all eyes were now looking up to his new perch, waiting for the response of the one who gave them this great victory, Lelouch quickly decided what he would follow up with.
Raising the Mordred's right arm, still clutching its MVS, into the air, he then called out with every inch of his being. "ALL HAIL BRITANNIA!"
"ALL HAIL BRITANNIA!" Suzaku, Gino and Anya echoed, raising the blades or fists of their knightmares as well.
"ALL HAIL BRITANNIA! ALL HAIL BRITANNIA! ALL HAIL BRITANNIA!" the soldiers roared, the numerous Sutherlands and Gloucesters raising their own fists, machine guns, lances and MVS into the air as well. With great speed, the chanting spread like wildfire, until almost every Britannian soldier within the city and around it had joined in, their cries of victory heard over the radio for miles. The only ones that weren't were currently occupied with holding down the latest prisoners of war.
All in all, another victory for the Britannian Empire in the North African Front.
"ALL HAIL BRITANNIA! ALL HAIL BRITANNIA! ALL HAIL BRITANNIA! ALL HAIL BRITANNIA!"