Hey, I know its been a while, I know i've been a horrible author- but the last year has been one word...
7 subjects. 6 higher. hours of homework. Grinds 3 times a week. little sleep.
All in the hope of getting into my dream english course in university next year...
I hope you can all understand why I have not updated in a while. I seriously tried, but inbetween juggling all that work and writing...
I'm truly sorry. And I jsut want to say that I got some lovely, inspiring messages from many people over the next year and I want to thank them. They encouraged me greatly not to give up on this story, and don't think for a second I have! The Lady of Zero lives!
But I'm literally in the middle of my exams- I wrote the final bit of this chapter on a break, and so I don't honestly know when I will update next- but I will update!
Again, I want to apologize and thank all my loyal followers who read this story-I'm SORRRYYYYYYYYYY :( (sobs over computer)
enjoy this chapter. :)
Again, my bad :S
"I have completed reviewing the officer candidates." Diethard Reid added as Lelouch gazed with admiration at the Ikaruga outside. "You will be using the Ikaruga now, will you?"
"Correct." Lelouch sighed, turning his gaze from the repaired ship salvaged from the sea. "Now, as far for the one responsible for domestic affairs..."
"I understand." Diethard nodded, crossing his arms as he began, "I will make sure there is cooperation with the information management section and build around that. Excuse me, then."
Lelouch nodded, turning back to view the Ikaruga for a moment before smiling. He still could not believe their incredible luck regarding their position. Not only had the Chinese Government allowed them the use of Penglai Island as a sanctuary from Britannia, but Rakshata had guaranteed them financial backing from an Indian Technology group. Allegedly, they felt kindred to the Black Knights as they wished for independence from the Chinese Federation. With all the knightmares, technology and money they received, Lelouch was snot going to argue with that train of thought.
As the door zipped closed behind Diethard, Kallen, who was examining the functions of the control room in the tower, glanced at him from across the room.
"Can we really trust Diethard Reid?" she asked rather bluntly as Lelouch pressed a button making the windows one way. "He used his own discretion with Sayoko back then..."
"It actually makes it easier to read his thoughts now." Lelouch explained as he removed his helmet taking a breath of unfiltered air before continuing, "That man is trying to make a symbol out of Zero, and turn him into a god. One can very easily predict his actions from that train of thought."
"Besides," he added as he sat down at the screen, overlooking the budget for the Ikaruga's repairs, "he has a rare talent that is unlevelled in regards to media manipulation."
Kallen shrugged, not arguing with his answer as Lelouch both internally and externally cringed at the amount of zeros he saw on the budget. Kallen climbed up beside him on the table to reach a control board before asking instead over her shoulder,
"Do you really plan on taking over the capital of the Chinese Federation?"
"In a method of not becoming invaders." Lelouch answered as he added, "If Luo Yang falls into our hands, then conditions of defeating Britannia will also be met." Lelouch paused after a moment as he received no reply.
Glancing up, he blinked as his eyes met Kallen's own, a light smile on her features. "What's wrong?" he blinked, causing her to pause, her eyes widening and a blush running over her features as she opened her mouth, twisting to reply...
And promptly falling off the table, onto Lelouch.
Lelouch stared upwards in shock as Kallen lay on top of him, staring into her eyes as she stared back.
"Tell me, Lelouch," she finally started, her blush remaining, "why did you come back?"
Lelouch did not reply for a moment as he recalled seeing Kallen in Ashford Academy. Those really were some of the happiest days of his life, he realised, as he recalled sitting in the Student Council room, being ordered around by Milly, ordering Rivalz, Shirley's blushed comments, Kallen's stark and blunt answers, Nina's shy contributions, Nunnally's calm nature and even his debates with Amaya.
"Kallen," he began softly, not moving from the floor. "When this is all over, let's return to Ashford." Kallen blinked in surprise as a silence fell.
"Tabasco sauce." Lelouch raised an eyebrow as he twisted around, glancing at C.C, sitting quietly in the corner, a piece of pizza in her hand.
"How long have you been there?" he wondered aloud, not receiving an answer as she said again,
"Who cares where is my Tabasco sauce? There's nothing but la yo sauce in here. What should I do?" her annoyance filtered through as Kallen stumbled to her feet, stammering,
"I really wouldn't know."
"Me neither." Lelouch agreed as he pulled himself up, pausing only as an announcement filtered through.
"Zero-sama, Onee-san, please hurry to the Ikaruga, we have a problem!"
Kallen felt her heart pick up as she exited the room, the door zipping closed behind her as her legs numbly carried her down the empty corridor. She was painfully aware of her burning cheeks as she turned the corner, and leaned against the wall.
"I can't..." she whispered, her hand moving to her mouth as she shakily admitted to herself, "I can't...Love..."she paused before she found herself continuing
"Lelouch..." his name still felt strange to her. For a year, he had been Zero...Now that he was Lelouch, it meant so much more...
'Don't forget about Amaya.' her subconscious told her once again as she closed her eyes, leaning her head against the wall as she bit her lip. 'Don't forget about your mission!'
"But..." she shakily whispered, before she paused. Glancing to her left, her eyes widened and froze as Amaya walked icily by, not greeting Kallen as she scrambled up.
Panic ran through Kallen as she stood silent, while Amaya paused. Had she heard? Did she know? It had been careless of her to say such things aloud in a corridor, she cursed, as she stared at Amaya's back, searching for words she could not find.
"There's an urgent meeting in the control room." she called softly over her shoulder, more coldly than Kallen expected. Kallen opened her mouth to reply, before she turned, straightened and continued down the corridor, leaving a shocked Kallen in her wake.
"What?" Lelouch snapped, surprise taking her as Lelouch repeated, bewilderment running through his head,
"A marriage of convenience?" Amaya nodded, eyes narrowing in thought as she sighed,
"Yes. Invitations to the ceremony were sent to the Sumeragi Concern." She stood from her seat as she explained, "The Empress, Tianzi, is the bride. She has invited Kaguya," her eyes went to a nervous Kaguya as she continued, "as a friend." Lelouch nodded slowly, before Amaya began, cautiously,
"And...The groom..." she looked up at him through his mask as Lelouch felt anticipation build. "It's Odysseus. The First Prince of Britannia, Heir Presumptive." Lelouch mentally cursed, realizing this would be near impossible to politically prevent the marriage.
"The plan we have prepared will not be ready, time wise." Diethard needlessly pointed out, a short silence following. "It can't be that the Eunuch Generals..."
"No..." Lelouch shook his head as he sighed, "It was a move made by Britannia." 'In order to place themselves in such a position to expel us from our haven, or even capture the Black Knights themselves...The Chinese Federation will be in their control...' Lelouch clenched his jaw an anger as Ohgi hesitantly began,
"Then we're..." he trailed off in silence, Lelouch's thoughts exactly filling the silence to the whole room. Lelouch narrowing his eyes as he answered lowly,
"The worst case scenario."
'Damn.' Lelouch cursed mentally again, 'I had planned to already be controlling Tianzi before this happened. To think that the mediocre Prince would be used this early.'
"What are you all worried about?" Tamaki sighed, rolling his eyes before adding, "Britannia doesn't concern us, right?" Lelouch felt his eyebrows heighten at the idiocy of the man as he continued, shrugging, and "We were exiled."
"It's not like we've been forgiven." Futaba, one of the newer volunteer members who ran the Ikaruga's defence system, pointed out. Amaya nodded, before adding lowly, deep in thought,
"Britannia is attempting to take the land we were exiled to. They'll turn the Chinese Federation against us with their new influence." she glanced back at Lelouch as she sighed, "And if that happens, we are, what the professionals call, screwed."
"So what the bloody hell are we!" Tamaki snapped, eyes widening as he spat, "Some damn wedding gift!"
"Hey, that's a nice way to put it!" Kaguya's eyes sparkled as she gasped, Lelouch seeing Amaya nod in agreement.
"Certainly a very fitting place for us in all this."
"Why the hell are we sitting around here for?" Tamaki ignored them as he added, desperately, "This is a HUGE PROBLEM!"
"Well done, Tamaki." Kallen snapped, as Amaya added,
"Why do you think we are all talking about it?"
"Zero, behind this..." Diethard hesitantly began, Lelouch nodding in silent agreement as he sullenly concluded,
"Indeed. There is another man." Lelouch narrowed his eyes as his brother, Schneizel, flashed through his thoughts. "A chance to resolve both the icy Chinese Federation foreign relations, and put an end to the Black Knights, all under the guise of a marriage of convenience."
Lelouch shook his head as he hissed,
"A man that played such a devil-like move..."
Xingke stood frozen as he stood on the runway, to welcome Prince Schneizel El Britannia, along with a handful of Eunuchs.
As he saw the blond man step out of the plane, he managed to choke out what had bewildered him for the last five minutes, since he had discovered his purpose for arriving in the Federation.
"They're going to sell Empress Tianzi...To...Britannia...?"
He felt anger cloud his emotions as he made a note to call an immediate meeting of his supporters.
To save the Chine Federation from Britannia.
To stop the marriage of convenience.
To save Tianzi.
But...Xingke's heart clenched, as he realized the price for this would be...
"So, we're going?" Kallen asked hesitantly as Amaya nodded. "We have been given four tickets. One for Kaguya, one for myself, one for Zero," she glanced back at Kallen as she concluded, "and one to act as both Kaguya and Zero's guard."
Kallen nodded in understanding as she followed Amaya towards the residence area, in order to prepare for the event. She stared at Amayas back as she followed her into her quarters, the doors hissing closed behind her.
Amaya paused then. Kallen stared at her back as she turned, slowly, her eyes meeting Kallens. Kallen felt shock course through her as she realized something she had dreaded.
Amaya had heard her that morning.
"Amaya..." Amaya shook her head, slowly placing her hands on her shoulders.
"Tell me." Kallen felt her throat dry as Amaya stared at her. "Tell me the truth." she urged, Kallen swallowing as she realized there was no way out of this...
"Amaya…I love Lelouch!" Amaya's hands dropped as Kallen's eyes filled with tears, taking shaking breaths after her proclamation. Amaya's mouth opened slightly, trying to find the words, as Kallen continued, suddenly unable to stop speaking,
"I love how he always has a miraculous plan, I love how he keeps calm in any situation, I love how he can keep going, no matter what-"
"You don't love him…" Amaya suddenly whispered lowly, her eyes never leaving Kallen's as her eyes widened.
"Yes, I do Amaya!" she cried as Amaya continued, her eyes wide,
"No…You don't love Lelouch…" she never took her eyes away as she declared, coldly,
"You love Zero." Kallen stared at her, her hands falling limply by her sides as Amaya continued to stare at her.
"N-no…" Kallen whispered, the word echoing around the room. Amaya said nothing, as Kallen continued, "I…I love him…" Amaya's eyes continued to stare at Kallen, as she declared, simply, quietly,
"Zero is but one small, almost non-existent, part of who Lelouch is." Kallen shook her head as she took a step back. "No, Amaya, I…I don't love Zero…"
"Really?" Amaya whispered as she took a step nearer. "All that you have listed are characteristics of Zero." Amaya's eyes narrowed as she prompted,
"Name any characteristics of Lelouch that you 'love'!" Kallen blinked again, opening her mouth as she began,
"I...I..." her mind ran through Lelouch in school-her heart panged as she refused to admit she had not thought much of him. In fact, when she thought about it...She knew nothing about Lelouch...
Amaya shook her head in shock as she turned around.
"And after you abandoned him on that island, too..." she heard the anger rise in Amaya's tone, as she began,
"You know the position I was in-"
"All I know is the result!" Amaya snapped, turning again before concluding, "Lelouch lost his memories for almost a year, the Black Knights lost Zero, the Japanese lost their saviour, Nunnally lost her brother, the student council lost their friend, and I lost Lelouch!"
Kallen looked away, her heart torn as silence fell.
"...Get ready for tonight." Amaya finally sighed, turning to her wardrobe. Kallen blinked in shock.
"What?" Amaya turned warily around as she explained lowly,
"Your feelings are your own, and frankly, so are Lelouch's. I trust his." Kallen stared at her as she continued, "You are one of the best pilots. Do you really think I'm going to, what, fire you for your supposed love of Lelouch?" Kallen didn't reply, as she added,
"This will have no implication on our professional relationship." she added, Kallen wincing at the word 'professional'. Amaya saw this, and looked away, adding, "Give me some time, Kallen..."
Kallen nodded warily, before turning herself towards the uniform storage unit in her room.
Suzaku portrayed no emotion as his eyes once more flitted over the elaborate Royal Engagement Ball. The Interior was nothing less than magnificent. The fine outfits worn by the Britannian nobles, as well as the Eunuchs, were glimmering amidst the sound of the band playing, glasses of champagne chinking, light conversation and polite laughter.
Yes. The Ball was magnificent...Yet Suzaku could not enjoy it. He understood this marriage was a powerful alliance for Britannia. He understood this would corner Zero...Yet, he could not help but feel a twinge of doubt as he saw the young, terrified Empress up at the Podium, next to the elder by at least 20 years Prince Odysseus, who himself looked slightly, if not acceptably, weary of the young Empress.
"Did the Empress acknowledge all this?" he found himself asking Cecile as they did yet another aimless stroll around the room. Cecile paused before expressing a regretful sigh.
"If their side is saying its okay, then the only thing we can do is to trust them..." the flat-open doubt and avoidance of the sentence caused a short pause to form between the two, before she added, with another twinge of regret, "This is the one path towards peace."
Suzaku released a small sigh of relief that he wasn't the only person feeling regretful of the marriage before agreeing with a sad smile.
"But anyway," Cecile smiled, trying to wisely change subject, "Let's try to enjoy our time here as guests!"
"SUZAKU!" Suzaku released a wary sigh as he heard the overly-hyper call of Gino Weinberg hurrying up to him. "I found it, I found it!" His sky blue eyes sparkled as he beamed, holding out a tray, "This is it, right? The charred newt you were talking about before. How do you eat this thing?"
Suzaku could only stare at the decorative newt carved painstakingly from carrots as he slowly observed, "Gino...That's just decor for the dish..." Confusion flashed past Gino's eyes as he glanced down at the plate again, repeating,
"...Decor...?" his eyes met Cecile's as he whined, "But we just ate a similar looking bird just now, didn't we?" Suzaku blinked, his eyes widening in realization as he rounded on Cecile.
"Bird...? You mean a phoenix?" Cecile smiled sheepishly as she gasped,
"Was it really that kind of dish?" her gaze turned pensive as she added, "I thought it was meat, but it was carrots-" she paused as she suddenly turned to Anya on her portable computer/phone, under specific instructions from the missing Knight of Two to take pictures of the mythological 'charred newt'.
Suzaku sighed as he shook his head away from the depressed whining of Gino, his eyes meeting Milly's from across the room, attending the Ball with Lloyd, whom it was recently discovered, was still her fiancé.
"I wish Dimitri was here!" Gino whined again as Suzaku glanced back,
"The Knight of One called him back for a briefing-" Gino rolled his eyes before pouting,
"His dad really is a slave-driver! He could have at least let me come back too..." Suzaku shrugged before reminding,
"This is an official event for Britannia's foreign affairs; they needed at least Three Knights of Rounds. Especially as Prince Schneizel is attending to celebrate the marriage, he organized it after all..." Suzaku paused as he again found himself staring at the scared little girl on the podium, and only managed to tear his eyes away as the Announcer suddenly proclaimed,
"The Prime Minister of the Holy Britannian Empire, the Second Prince Schneizel has arrived." all eyes of the Ball turned immediately to the entrance staircase as he gracefully ascended into the Ball. Suzaku's eyes, however, fell on his partner...
"Nina...?" he murmured, all noting how he actually had a partner. All knew that Schneizel was barely ever seen with a woman, and even rarer still was with that woman for more than one dance. Suzaku saw directly that this was the case, and Nina was there not as a date, but a companion. Schneizel was, although arguably the most eligible bachelor in the Empire, forever single, probably waiting for his arranged marriage to a foreign Princess or daughter of a noble.
Suzaku's eyes narrowed slightly, however, as he saw her attire. He felt the knife in his heart slowly twist as he saw the resemblance to Euphy's style...His eyes dropped as he made another reminder to visit the mainland as soon as possible to visit Euphy, who was being kept in a secret location, lest the Elevens attempt revenge on the comatose girl they believed slaughtered innocent people.
Suzaku buried these thoughts to the back of his mind as he, Gino and Anya all knelt in a line before Schneizel. "It has been a long time, Your Highness. His Majesty has instructed us to be under your command here, Prince Schneizel." Gino, as Knight of Three, greeted the was the slightest of pauses before Schneizel responded, warmly and impressed,
"Three knights members, how extremely dependable...However..." Gino glanced upwards in shock as he queried,
"Ah...Yes, Your Highness...?" Schneizel smiled warmly down at them in jest before exclaiming,
"This is a night of celebration. I wish you would be a bit more relaxed." Gino smiled sheepishly before agreeing,
"Yes, Your Highness." Suzaku stood from his kneel just as Nina asked inquisitively,
"Suzaku, how is everyone at the academy doing?" Suzaku smiled, winking as he nodded towards Milly.
"Look over there." he smiled, Milly waving as she called, "Hi!" Nina's eyes widened before she smiled,
"Milly!" Suzaku released a breath he did not realize he had been holding, as he found himself again ignoring the Podium.
Taking a deep breath, he told himself, yet again, to try and enjoy the evening.
"The Eunuch Generals and Schneizel already have a secret pact. Marriage and cession of territory. Therefore, they will receive Britannian peerage." Zhao Xianglin began bitterly, Xingke's eyes narrowing as he gazed down at the illuminated map of the Forbidden City on the table between them.
"Peerage?" he repeated, anger welling in his tone as he felt his jaw clench. "They would sell their own country for status?"
"What of the people?" another of his comrades spat, eyes glaring as he slammed his hand onto the table, another snapping,
"We have to kill the Eunuch Generals!"
"Yes! We need to stop the wedding, even if it means moving up our plans!" Xingke's eyes moved over to them as he mentally calculated this new information.
"However," Xianglin mirrored his thoughts, "If we initiate a coup d'état now, we would certainly be going to war with Britannia." there was a moment of silence as Xingke crossed his arms, staring again at the map as he felt all eyes fall on him, waiting for his decision.
"Choose peace..." he finally concluded, "Or..."
He paused, his eyes closing momentarily as he remembered the first time he had seen his Empress. Face pressed into the dirt before her feet, his guard asking for his execution order...
And her, so young then, he thought painfully, saving his life.
And then him promising her that one day, he would take her away from these walls entrapping her. He promised her, touching their little fingers and thumbs together,
'The Pledge of Eternal Harmony'.
Xingke that night gazed down upon the Hall where the celebration was held, as he wondered aloud, silently to himself,
"To protect the Empress or the alliance for peace..."
He stayed put for another moment, his fist clenching as he knew the decision he had to make.
And then, he turned, and headed back to the meeting to let them know his final decision.
"Representative of the Sumeragi Concern, Sumeragi Kaguya!" Suzaku felt himself freeze.
"...Kaguya...?" Suzaku repeated in confusion, before realization took hold of his heart. "What?" Suzaku whisked around as gasps ran through the room. And they had every right to.
For standing just behind Prince Schneizel, stood his little cousin Kaguya, next to Kallen. And on her right, even more shockingly...Suzaku's eyes narrowed as he clenched his jaw.
"Zero and his Lady." Kanon Maldini, Prince Schenizel's Aide noted with a frown. "Coming in so openly..."
"Guren's pilot too..." Gino noted, his eyes sparkling before Anya added monotonously,
"Things just got interesting..."
Within five seconds, the red clad guards of the Forbidden City had the four wanted criminals surrounded, weapons aimed right at them. Suzaku felt his anger rise as he saw the Lady of Zero smirk up at Zero, who returned with a nod, before he saw Schneizel move out of the corner of his eye.
"Stop this fight already." he ordered sternly, adding, "Tonight is a celebration, no?"
"But," a Eunuch whined before he turned his attention to Kaguya.
"Miss Sumeragi, could you refrain from bringing Zero and his guests with you at tomorrow's ceremony?" Kaguya opened her mouth to argue, before glancing up at the Lady of Zero, who nodded.
"That cannot be helped, I suppose." she answered slowly, as the Eunuch angrily spat,
"If the Prime Minister demands it...Dismissed!" with one hand signal, the guards all moved back, Schneizel moving forward. Anger welled within him as he quickly moved before his path, facing Zero.
For a moment, he glared at the mask, convinced that it was both Lelouch and not Lelouch under that mask. He gazed back silently at him, and Suzaku could imagine Lelouch's violet eyes meeting his gaze with a smirk...
"Kururugi, do you remember me?" Kaguya beamed as she twirled in front of Zero, hands on her hips so like the Lady of Zero, as her eyes glittered, Gino and Anya coming up beside him. "Your cousin?"
"Of course." Suzaku answered softly, as he felt the eyes of Gino fall on him.
"Now Kaguya," the Lady of Zero smiled, standing beside Kaguya, hands also on her hips as she stood next to her, her eyes falling on Suzaku behind her mask. "You know that Suzaku no longer considers us his family. That placement is now reserved for Britannia, like his loyalty that used to belong to Japan."
Suzaku clenched his fists as Kaguya smiled sadly at her, the Lady of Zero now moving beside her, gently resting a hand on one hip, her mouth coolly melting into a calm smile.
"All the same," she continued, "here we must save our personal matters for the battlefield, right," her head tilted slightly before confirming, "Suzaku?" Suzaku did not reply, his eyes narrowing before she brightly added, clapping her hands together,
"Ah, which brings me to my Lord Weinberg and Lady Alstreim!" she smiled warmly at them as they stared at her in grim silence. "You are both such wonderful amusements on the battlefield! You have both certainly been improving as of late! Along with Lord Waldstein, of course." she did not pause before adding, "Me and Kaguya both do hope Suzaku has not been causing you too much trouble?"
"Only about as much trouble as you seem to cause for your people." Suzaku shot back in equal annoyance. She managed to retain her smile as they stared at each other in a death stare for a second, before Kaguya pouted. She too glanced at Suzaku before regaining her smile, clasping her hands before noting,
"Come on now, we should all be nice, now that we are the only ones left of the Six Houses of Kyoto, after all." there was no pause before Suzaku interjected slightly coldly at the memory of Kirihara,
"Kirihara and the others were all supporters of terrorism. The death penalty couldn't be avoided." Suzaku declared this with a stern glare at the terrorist in general noting the Lady tense in anger at his words, before Kaguya sighed, hands on her hips, shaking her head,
"Have you forgotten about the fact that Lord Zero saved your life in the past?" Suzaku felt as through icy water had been thrown on him as she added with another judgemental sigh, "Do you plan on bringing the death penalty on the one who saved your life?"
Suzaku felt his chest seize as his gaze fell again on Zero, who had stayed uncharacteristically quiet as he answered coldly, "That is a completely different case."
"Such a pity!" Kaguya sighed, clapping her hands together as she pouted up at Suzaku, "If only words could kill a person!"
"Prince Schneizel." silence fell as Zero spoke. Suzaku's eyes flew from Zero to an amused Schneizel as Zero added, "A game of chess, if you will?" Schenizel's chest tightened as a slow smile spread over Schneizel's calculating face, eyebrow rising questionably as Zero continued,
"If I win, I would like you to give me Lord Kururugi." Suzaku's eyes widened as a gasp of confusion caused him to blink.
"What?" Kallen spluttered as even the Lady of Zero and Kaguya's heads suddenly spun to look at Zero as if he were mad.
"Are you mad?" Suzaku heard the Lady of Zero hiss pointingly quietly as he continued, pointingly ignoring her query,
"I shall give him to Kaguya." Kaguya squealed with excitement as she clapped her hands, eyes wide with excitement as the Lady of Zero simply let out a low breath.
"That would be the best present ever!" she cried as she gazed up at Suzaku. He continued to gaze, however at Schneizel as he continued softly,
"Please await my good news." he asked softly as Schneizel gazed at him, sizing him up.
"And if I win," he responded softly, "I will have you take off your mask."
A silence fell.
Suzaku stared in shock at Schneizel as the Lady of Zero gazed in silence, her lips tightening notably.
"Fine by me." was Zero's surprising answer, as the Lady of Zero finally gazed at him in shock. Schneizel, from behind the three Knights, laughed amusingly for a moment before noting,
"This may turn out to be an entertaining bonus."
"You are an idiot!" Lelouch smirked as they headed towards the room set up for the game, Amaya hissing angrily in his ear for the millionth time. "Baka, fool, moron, ejit, idiot!"
"I know what I'm doing." he responded with a grin, Kallen following a few steps behind, and Schneizel a few meters ahead. He paused as she spun in front of him, her blazing eyes hidden by her mask.
"This isn't a chess game in the garden anymore!" she hissed, "You bet your identity as Zero-"
"As long as Suzaku is gone from here, I can cast my Geass on everyone." he murmured in her ear as she did not relax. She seemed, Lelouch thought, confused, angrier.
"That's what this is about!" she hissed, "I could have distracted him-"
"He would never have fallen for that." he returned, as he continued to walk, Amaya behind him. He was forced to pause again as she caught him by the cape, and spun in front of him again.
"I know why you're doing this," she nearly growled, "Schenizel's the only one who you have never won against-" Lelouch wanted to roll his eyes, but Amaya continued. "I get it. You need to beat him." she looked pleadingly up, "But this isn't the right time-"
"There will never be the right time." he suddenly responded lowly, Amaya shaking her head as she pleaded again,
"Lelouch, please, not tonight, not betting your identity-"
"Do you believe in me?" the question burst from his lips before he even thought them, startling Amaya.
"Of course I do!" she snapped, her hands shaking, "I'm asking you-"
"I'm asking you to trust me." he responded softly, touching her shoulder. He paused. "I need to do this." he found himself whispering lowly, his grip tightening.
Amaya gazed at him for a moment.
"Is something the matter?" Schneizel's voice broke through like a stone. He held her gaze for another moment before she replied, still looking into his eyes, through his mask,
"We are coming now."
And Lelouch smiled as she stood aside, and walked by him into the room.
Gino gazed with interest across the room as Zero made another silent move. He noted the Lady of Zero, standing at his right, watching intently, frowning in thought as Schneizal cooly made a counter move. He frowned as she reminded him of someone...The way she clenched her jaw...He shook his head, dismissing it as ridiculous to say the least.
"So..." Anya noted, grasping his attention, "This is the ace of the Black Knights, pilot of the Guren." he glanced down as she zoomed in on Kallen Stadfelds, or Kozuki Kallen's face, staring stoically ahead, alert and cautious. He noted how her hair matched her knightmare, and nearly smirked at the irony.
"Yeah, the one from before..." he noted, recalling her rising to distract them as the Lady of Zero escaped."She's better looking than her wanted poster." he noted, giving her a wave and a wink, receiving a raised eyebrow and a glare in return.
"I can feel it's going to be a fun night." he chuckled down to Anya, who paused as she received a text.
"Dimitri says to stop being distracted by pretty girls." she noted, Gino rolling his eyes in indignation as he muttered,
"So he is watching, then..." he paused as a clack rang across the room. Zero made another move.
"Prince Schneizel is losing." Anya commented neutrally as Gino glanced again at the poker-masked Zero. Gino furrowed his brow as he took in Schneizel's calm composure, noting softly,
"Don't bet on it."
"I didn't expect you to strike back there." behind his mask, Lelouch furrowed his brow in thought as he gazed into brother's calm and composed eyes. He had always wondered how he could keep such a straight poker face when he was young; 'Remember,' he felt a voice tell himself as he glanced at his own pieces, 'You have also learned how to keep a poker face.'
'To be expected of Schneizel,' he admitted reluctantly, 'The one man I couldn't defeat...' he felt a grin tug at the corners of his lips as he gently reached for his King.
'But that was 8 years ago...'
"King?" Schneizel raised an eyebrow of interest and shock as he held the piece floating for a moment amongst the gasps and murmurs of the crowd.
"If the King doesn't move personally," he challenged, "his subordinates will not follow." and with that, he placed the King on the board, glancing back at Schneizel, awaiting his reaction.
"A good insight." Schneizel bowed his head in agreement as he concluded gently, "Well then, I shall do the same." Lelouch's mouth opened in shock as he picked up his own white king, and moved it nearly directly before his own.
'Unexpected.' he noted, glancing up at Amaya, who had remained silent throughout the match, watching with interest. He glanced back at the match, his fist clenching as he moved his piece, and the dance began.
The game had turned from one of intrigue to one of stubbornness; this match, Lelouch realized, would define how much he had changed since his days as a child in the Palace Villa, to prove to himself how far he had come. With that, he moved his piece a final time, a grin forming.
"And?" he asked, glancing back towards his brother, "You won't be able to advance any further." he felt a prick of annoyance as he simply gazed at the board thoughtfully, a hand on his cheek as he noted,
"Hmm...At this rate, it'll end up being a threefold repetition." Lelouch paused a moment, before reluctantly accepting this. His point had been made; he was as good as Schneizel. He glanced at Amaya who gave a short nod.
"It's not the desired outcome, but shall we call it a tie?"
"No." Lelouch blinked, his mouth opening slightly as Schneizel continued, "You must not underestimate the White King." and smiled, leaning forward and picking up his white King...And placing it right before his own.
"It can't be..." Lelouch felt his breath catch in his throat as he stared incomprehensively from the board to Schneizel.
"Checkmate." He was letting him win.
He felt his calm gaze stare through him, into his own eyes as he tried to process the insult.
"What is the meaning of this?" he felt the words bite from him as he felt rage boil. "Are you telling me to grab victory?"
'By accepting this, it signifies my submission to him-' he did not feel his fingers bite into the arms of his seat as he grit his teeth.
'I cannot allow this...This kind of humiliation!' and with that, he moved his King back-a sitting duck for Schneizel's own King. He felt Amaya's gasp and knew the sacrifice he had made. His identity. He gazed at Schneizel as he found he did not regret it.
Schneizel gazed at him for a moment, as though trying to sum him up.
"His Majesty would have taken the King without any hesitation." Lelouch felt a strangled gasp leave him, eyes widening in rage as he added, "I seem to understand what kind of a person you are now..."
"Schneizel...' He was about to respond, however, he was stopped. Amaya snapped, "Kallen!" as she stood in front of him, Kallen whipping to her right as a girl in pink had flung herself in his direction, a knife in hand.
Lelouch gripped Amaya by her upped arms, nearly throwing her behind her as he whipped around, coming nearly face to face with a raging...
"Zero! Vengeance for Princess Euphemia!" He stared in shock at her distressed figure, struggling hard against Suzaku's , however, was not his concern,
"Are you alright, my Lady?" he asked, glancing toward Amaya, who nodded.
"I'm fine, Zero." she replied through Nina's rants as Suzaku.
"Looks like you're an eleven after all!" she screamed at him, breaking free as he stared at her shocked, diving again at him only to be caught by Kallen.
"Kallen..." she whimpered as she backed away, the knife flung from her hands, tears streaming down her face. "You're half Britannian, yet you-"
"No." she snapped, unemotional as she corrected sternly, "I am Japanese." he felt Amaya move beside him as Nina gazed in disgust at her.
"Japanese? You mean an Eleven, right? An eleven pretending to be my friend!" Lelouch stared in shock as she screamed, "Give her back! Give Princess Euphemia back!"
She fell into Suzaku as he caught her, muttering "He...He killed her..." as Suzaku gazed hatefully at him, Nina dropping to the floor, sobbing madly.
"Nina..." he heard Kallen sigh as she bent down to her level, grasping the fallen knife as she began slowly, "I'm sorry...For all that I've done...But..." silently, she handed the knife over to Gino, who helped pick her up and carry the girl over to a guard to take her out of the silence stricken room.
"Forgive me, Zero..." the call drew the attention back to Schneizel, who held the white King in his hand. His eyes widened as he gently tapped it against his own, the Black King falling with a soft tap that echoed around the room. "But I believe I win."
Lelouch stared at him in shock as he felt Amaya freeze. The room came alive again as he stood, staring across at him. Whispers grew, as he felt his chest go numb.
Lost. He had lost again to him...
"Now, Zero…" Schenizel announced, silence descending as he continued, "I'll have you hold up you're end of the bargain…" Gasps flew as Amaya's eyes widened behind her mask, as Lelouch declared, his fists clenched,
"…I am a man of my word…"
"Wait!" all eyes turned to her as she leapt before Lelouch, before Schneizel. "I'll remove my mask instead!" she declared, as Schenizel raised an eyebrow of intrigue.
"My…Quite a show of loyalty, I will admit, my Lady…A loyalty and courage I greatly admire." he bowed his head slightly to her before continuing, "However, the deal was for Zero to remove his-"
"Which would be better?" Amaya interrupted, "The Rebel's mere identity, or the true identity of a Princess of Japan, Zero's Commander in Chief and pilot of the trump knightmare frame of the Black Knights?" she paused, seeing silence descend upon the room, as she continued, adding,
"And let's not forget the last surviving member of the Fujiwara!"
her heart beat wildly as she saw she had caught Schenizel's attention, his eyes glittering with interest as Lelouch touched her shoulder.
"Fujiwara-sama, stop this foolishness!" he stated, with a pleading tone. However, the room descended into silence as Schneizel gave a slow nod, his eyes coolly resting upon Amaya as he announced for the room to hear,
"Lady Fujiwara, I accept your offer…Instead of Zero, you shall remove your mask…Right here, before me." Amaya's eyes widened slightly at that, as she glanced at a suddenly alert Suzaku.
"…Here…?" she repeated, as Suzaku's eyes narrowed slightly. Schneizel gave a nod, as Amaya felt something flew over her. She felt Lelouch grasp her shoulder again.
"For God's sake, Fujiwara-sama-"
"No…" she whispered, a small smile spreading across her face. She looked Suzaku in the eye, as she turned to Schneizel. "I want them to know…" glancing back she met Schneizel's eyes as she began lowly,
"I want your word that you will keep to our agreement. Zero shall not have to remove his mask." she felt Lelouch's grip tighten on her shoulder as he began, fear creeping in his tone,
"You have my utmost word, my Lady. These good people shall serve as witnesses that Zero needn't reveal his identity at this moment it time, that is, if you instead take his place." Amaya nodded, as silence descended upon the room.
"Very well then..." she whispered, her hands, almost like she were in a dream, moving to the side of her mask. She felt Lelouch's hand leave her shoulder, accepting that she truly was going to do this. She took an intake of breath, feeling the smooth and cool mask underneath her fingertips.
She had been protected by this mask for so long...Not just during the Rebellion, but since Japan was destroyed...She had hidden behind it for so long, so many years...
'Well...' Amaya felt the situation almost comical as she felt a small smile spread across her face as she closed her eyes a millisecond. 'I won't hide any longer...' And with that, Amaya pulled the mask away, and opened her eyes.
The silence became tense as she declared for all to hear, being transmitted all over the Chinese Federation, Britannia and most importantly, Area 11,
"My name is Fujiwara Amaya," She saw Suzaku's face wince in pain, his jaw clenching as she continued, "daughter of Fujiwara Mai, granddaughter of Fujiwara Hiroto," her eyes now went to Schneizel whose face now dawned a somewhat amused smile, his eyes glittering mysteriously as she continued,
"the Head and Hime-sama of the Fujiwara Clan, and the future Empress of Japan!"
A few seconds passed before the whispers rose, whispers turning to confusion, confusion turning to anger and disbelief, as Lelouch whispered how they should leave, his hand returning to her shoulder. Amaya could not and would not move, surrounded by the anger not only in the room, but Amaya knew, all over Britannia and Area 11.
"The daughter of Mai Fujiwara?"
"Wasn't she the wife of the Knight of One, Duke Waldstein?"
"No it can't be, his daughter was killed! She along with his wife!"
"But she looks so much like her...She definitely looks Britannian..."
"Dear God, she is a Fujiwara!"
"Don't you forget her Fujiwara mother! She's a half-number!"
"A traitor! A half-number traitor of nobility and Britannia!"
"A Britannian woman on the throne of Japan? As if she'll be accepted..."
"It seems my prediction has come to pass..." Amaya's eyes once more turned to Schneizel, narrowing in suspicion as she snapped,
"Excuse me?" Schneizel lowered his head a moment in apology before explaining, with a soft smile,
"Forgive me, my Lady Waldstein, it is only that..." her head cocked slightly as he released a low chuckle, "I have had my suspicion that you may have been the Lady of Zero for some time now..." Amaya's eyes widened slightly as she felt her throat constrict, surprise taking hold of her as she blinked for a moment. She clenched her fist as she regained her composure,
"I remind you that I am to be addressed as Hime-sama, as according to my rank in Japan!" she snapped, staring Schneizel straight in the eye as he bowed his head for a moment.
"My apologies, my Lady." he began, surprisingly politely, "It is simply that I recognize you as Lady Waldstein." he added with a chuckle, Amaya's hand clenching once more before she coldly answered,
"That is no longer my name, Your Highness." she answered, throwing out his formal title as she stood straighter. She again felt her rage boil as he only nodded in...sympathy, Amaya thought, disgusted.
"I am afraid though, my Lady, that by calling you by that title would be acknowledging Area 11 as 'Japan'." he sighed before adding, "I must settle, therefore, in calling you 'My Lady'." Amaya clenched her jaw as she stared icily at him, his light violet eyes twinkling as they stared innocently back.
"You have most certainly changed in these years, my Lady..." he voiced softly, his eyes glittering as Zero swept before her.
"Prince Schneizel," he began lowly, anger swelling even through his mask. "It is at this point, that we shall take our leave." Schneizel raised an eyebrow as he nodded in agreement, adding with a sigh,
"That may be wise." he bowed his head slightly before smiling, "I congratulate you. You were an esteemed opponent."Amaya saw Lelouch's fist tighten as he said this, and anger took hold of her.
"I would say more than esteemed." Amaya suddenly called, standing beside Lelouch. She eyes Schneizel before explaining, "This match not only shows Zero's intellect, but also his integrity. Zero has proved that he would rather lose the entire game, than subject himself to the humiliation of a false win." her eyes met Schneizel's as she added darkly,
"I believe this speaks volumes for ones character. Wouldn't you say?" she ignored the gasps running through the room as she saw Schneizel's lip twitch upwards once more, a chuckle rising as he nodded.
"I agree with you, my Lady." Amaya then blinked in shock as he suddenly called a waiter over, delicately taking a glass of champagne in his hands before adding,
"I'm afraid I must also remind you and your cousin to refrain from bringing Zero with you to the wedding tomorrow..." Amaya clenched her jaw, nodding as she ground out,
"I look forward until our next match..." he noted, dipping his head to her as she felt Lelouch beside her.
"We have to go!" he whispered urgently in her ear, Amaya nodding as she turned on her heel, Kallen following as she swept from the room, without so much as a backwards glance.
Perhaps if she had, she would have noticed the plotting gleam of Schneizel's eyes, as he took a sip of the champagne, his eyes following her until she had left the room completely.
"What have you done?"
Lelouch did not hold back as the doors closed behind them as they entered his private quarters. The trip there had been a silent one, and upon returning back to Penglai, no one had spoken. No one knew what to say.
"What have you done?" he repeated as he threw his helmet across the room, eyes blazing as he crossed the room, clutching her shoulders. "You were never to take the fall for me, how could you-"
"How could I not?" she snapped, shrugging his hands off as she glared back. "I told you it was too big a risk-" Lelouch cursed as he turned, holding his head in his hands.
"Was I supposed to watch as the Black Knights strongest card was stolen away?"
"Yes!" he snapped, glaring back as Amaya put her hands on her hips in defiance. "You were not supposed to intervene-"
"What would have happened," she snapped right back, "If I had let you reveal yourself?" a silence fell as she continued, "The Emperor would know, Suzaku would know, Schneizel would know, the whole world would know!"
Lelouch dragged himself to a seat as he felt all his strength leave him. Amaya followed as she ranted,
"The world would know that Zero, the crusader against the Britannian Empire, was an exiled Britannian Prince! They would think the Black Knights were not fighting for freedom, but for your revenge against the Emperor." she leaned over Lelouch, eyes blazing as she continued,
"We would lose nearly all our support nationwide, we would lose maybe even the Black Knights support, you would have been left to suffer the consequences! The Black Knights would have fallen, and I was not going to let that happen. I sacrificed my secret to save the Black Knights and you."
Lelouch said nothing as he looked past her. He knew what she said was true...But to sacrifice her most precious secret...
"My identity was bound to be revealed." she continued, as though sensing his thoughts. "Either way, one day, I would have had to reveal my identity. It was simply a matter of timing, and for what reason." she smiled before adding, "Besides," Lelouch glanced at her as she shrugged, "It's the way of the Samurai to sacrifice themselves for their comrades."
Lelouch sighed as he covered his eyes with his hands, Amaya sitting beside him as she shrugged again,
"Frankly, I'm glad the secrets out. One burden off my shoulders."
"But your father..." he drew off as Amaya's eyes darkened, her lips tightened.
"Yes." she nodded, "He knows. So does the whole of Britannia, Japan and the world." She glanced over at him, fire in her eyes as a plan whirred through her head.
"I bet that they will, most likely tomorrow, make a grand speech centred on it." Lelouch noted as she nodded standing again as she sighed gravelly,
"I won't let them dig my grave." he blinked as she moved to leave the room.
"Where are you going?" he called, springing to his feet and reaching for his mask. She turned, putting her hand on the door as she announced,
"To change into my Lady of Zero suit."
"Why?" he furrowed his brow as he followed her out of the room.
"Because if there is going to be an announcement about my identity," she sighed, as they walked down the corridor,
"Then I'm going to be the first one making it." Lelouch smiled, chuckling as he noted,
"You're more cunning than most people realize." she sighed as she glanced at him.
"Can you get the tech nerds to prepare a nationwide broadcast to Japan within the next half hour?" she asked, shrugging before sighing, "Best not to leave it too long." Lelouch chuckled as he nodded.
"Right away, my Lady."
"Good Evening, people of Japan." Amaya paused a second before continuing, her voice maintaining order in its tone. "I am Fujiwara Amaya Hime-sama, the rightful Empress of Japan. Otherwise known as the Lady of Zero." She paused again before releasing a sigh.
"I realise the controversy rippling through you all even as I speak to you now. Why did I hide my identity? Why choose now to reveal all?" she smiled sadly before continuing, "As you all know, I am half-Britannian. Many therefore doubt my great love and loyalty to my country...The truth was, I was afraid. I was afraid of that doubt." She paused, gazing out as she continued softly,
"However, as the last year has passed…You, the people of Japan, have over and over inspired and shocked me with both your loyalty and your courage." She smiled softly at the screen as she added, her hand touching her heart,
"You have made me brave…And so I promised myself, tonight, that now, I am going to be brave for you…" She clenched her hand for a moment, before taking a deliberate pause to look at the camera, gazing intently through towards the eyes of her people.
"The Britannians believe that because of my blood, you will forsake me." She declared softly, "They believe that now, after I have revealed my identity to you all, that the Black Knights and Zero will lose support." She felt a chuckle rise as she continued to gaze into the camera to her people.
"I do not believe that." She felt her grin deepen as she felt herself stand straighter. "I wish to ask you, every person in this great nation who calls themselves, openly or secretly, Japanese, to help me prove them wrong." She threw out her hand to the screen as she continued strongly,
"Prove to them that we are not like them! That we do not discriminate based on blood, religion, nationality or beliefs." She threw her hand back as she clenched it to her chest. "Stand with me, whether as your Lady, you're next Empress, or simply as a fellow Japanese!" she paused, gazing intently at the screen before she added seriously,
"I understand that many will feel torn. I hid my identity. I am accepting my responsibility for my misdeed to the Japanese." She paused, adding softly, "I understand if many will not accept me as their Empress…And I wish it to be known that my first and foremost concern is not of the throne-but of the wishes of my people." She took a deep breath before continuing softly,
"If you do not wish me to take the throne, I will obey your wishes." She continued to hold her gaze as she continued, "If you wish me to take the throne, I will take it proudly and humbly, and rule in accordance of your wishes." She found a smile form as she gazed softly at the camera.
"There was a great speech said once by the Samurai Yoshida Shoin in the 19th century that I greatly admire and believe in." she touched her hand over her heart as she continued strongly,
"The Fujiwara are first and foremost Samurai. We live to protect Japan, and remain loyal solely to its inhabitants." She closed her eyes a second before adding, "This speech sums up everything I wish to convey to my people."
Schneizel felt a smile form on his face as he watched Amaya gaze strongly out of the screen. Her hauntingly green eyes looked directly into his, and he would have sworn that she was not addressing her people by television...But in their own living room.
'A natural Royal...' he found himself musing, a hand grazing his chin as she began reciting slowly, with deliberation and pride,
"'Everyone who was born within the pale of our Empire must know the reason why it is called the Great Empire of Japan."
Lelouch found himself smiling softly as he watched from the side. Another obstacle from their path, gone...Lelouch released a sigh as he glanced again at Amaya. Unfortunately, he measured, with that obstacle gone, so was Amaya's last line of defence against her father...
"Isn't our Imperial Dynasty something that has been going on forever from time immemorial, in one single unbroken line?"
"Vassals of His Majesty received their domains from one generation to another. Rulers have been feeding the people, and so we must be grateful for it, and we are greatly indebted to them."
V.V smirked to himself as he and Charles watched the televised speech. He gently held his glass of wine to his lips as he chuckled.
"So, Jinx..." he mused, Charles glancing down at him as he murmured, "This is where you fit in, in this game..."
Dimitri sprinted down the hall. Ignoring the shouts of his advisors and subordinates, he threw open the doors leading to the Knights of Rounds Private meeting area, and paused as he saw the television was already on...
And his sister dominating the screen. He felt his strength leave him. His skin paled as he felt his fist clench as he moved forward, holding onto one of the high backed chairs.
"Amaya..." he croaked, eyes wide in disbelief as she continued,
"Rulers and the people are of one body. Loyalty to the ruler and filial piety to the parents are one and the same thing. In this world, our country is the only one that possesses this character."
"Good evening, Dimitrios." Dimitri glanced down, and his eyes met the singular eye of his father. He held his face in his intertwined fingers, leaning back, watching with interest and perhaps even amusement.
"You..." Dimitri croaked, staring down at his father, as his father paused the television. "You told me she..." his father glanced up as he spat,
"You told me Amaya died!"
"Yes." The Knight of One nodded, eye meeting his again. Dimitri felt like someone punched him in his stomach. He let go of the chair as he took a few steps back, sure he was going to be sick.
"You knew." the words rushed out before he registered he had said them. "You knew she was alive!" he said nothing for a moment before nodding,
"It was never confirmed she had died." he confessed, as Dimitri clenched his jaw. "Her body was never found. I was aware of the possibility of her survival, but all my searches met a dead end."
"WHY DID YOU NEVER TELL ME ABOUT THESE SEARCHES?" Dimitri felt his voice get louder with each word as his eyes moved again to the frozen screen. His father stood slowly, causing Dimitri to take another step back.
"Because I anticipated this reaction." he answered, the coldness biting into Dimitri as he added, "Do not forget your place, Knight of Two."
Dimitri stared after him in shock as he unpaused the television, before leaving the room, adding over his shoulder,
"You fly to Area 11 tomorrow, Dimitri. I will follow soon."
"As the Imperial line has been so from the beginning of time, our loyalty must also be maintained forever...
This is Loyalty." Amaya again looked into the screen, placing a clenched fist over her heart as she ended,
"This is the way of the Samurai."
Hope you all enjoyed it, and I hope to update again very soon, after my exams!
Wish me luck everyone!