Rest In Peace
"I can't control my destiny. I trust my soul, my only goal is just to be. There's only now, there's only here. Give in to love or give in to fear. No other path, no other way. No day but today."
"So that's it then," Kallen said softly, glancing back and forth between Suzaku and C.C. "We've won?"
"I suppose so," Suzaku agreed, feeling suddenly drained as the rush of adrenaline faded, and the red light around his eyes from Lelouch's Geass order, which had thus far been pushing his body to move, canceled out as well without a threat to his life.
As a result, his knees buckled as the wounds and bruises he had accumulated in the fight against his doppelganger finally came to the fore. He nearly hit the floor, but Kallen gave off a soft cry and caught him before he did, supporting him with her uninjured shoulder with a concerned look.
"Sorry about that," he apologized tiredly, a grateful tone in his voice. "I guess I didn't realize how tired I was."
"You and me both," Kallen joked lightly. Her shoulders ached from supporting Suzaku's not insubstantial weight, but of the two she was likely still in better health than him. "How the heck do we get out of here?"
"Your way out is over there," C.C. called out, gesturing with her hand.
They followed her gaze towards the original platform they had found themselves standing on at the beginning of this battle. As they stared, the air rippled visibly, almost like a heat shimmer, and a wooden door, like one would find in an old fashioned mansion, came slowly into existence in front of them.
C.C. paused, and then shook her head. "Nah. Too cliché."
The wooden door blinked out of existence, and was replaced by…
"A glass elevator?" Kallen blinked, turning back towards the witch. "Why that?"
"You should read more," C.C. suggested in lieu of an answer, and gestured for them to go towards it. "Get in, and it'll take you right back outside."
"And you?" Suzaku did not miss what she hadn't said, about herself. "You sound like you're not coming with us."
"I'm not," C.C. agreed lightly, but cast her eyes away, refusing to meet his accusing gaze.
"What the hell?" Kallen blinked, and would have jerked towards the other woman, had she not been supporting Suzaku precariously on her shoulder. "Why not?"
"First and foremost, is that the work here is not done, but your part in it is over," C.C. replied easily, her face a blank mask that hid any emotion. "The rest is left to me. Marianne's will may be broken, but it's hardly gone, and making sure she can't reform and return isn't something I can leave to you, now can I? Lelouch took a gamble on her having been destroyed years ago- this time, we're making sure. And beyond that, it'll take time to repair what she did to the World of C, warping it to her own needs and twisted mentality, and fixing it is something only I can accomplish."
"It's not like you to be so altruistic," Suzaku said slowly, a guarded expression on his face. "Why are you staying behind?"
C.C.'s lips quirked.
"This is my part of the plan. Lelouch needed you and Kallen to defeat Marianne, and me to do the cleanup." A brief expression of melancholy flashed across her face. "But if you want the truth? What I told Marianne before was the truth- she and I are just the revenants of a darker time. The Geass and all its' powers do not belong in this world… a world that will be decided upon by you."
She looks… tired, Kallen realized with a start. C.C. was an immortal, after all. Living for so long, burying all the people she cared about and leaving them behind…
"You want to rest," she whispered.
C.C. smiled- it was small, but genuine.
"This is where I belong. Amongst the dead. You belong out there, in the world he's given you," she said softly. After a moment, the smile went away, and she spoke in a louder, more commanding voice. "When you leave, there will be no way to return, and no way for anything to leave the World of C. The threat of Geass should be done. Nothing will ever escape this realm again. From here Geass originated, and here is where it will stay until the breaking of the world."
Her promise rang out throughout the sunset sky, and everything seemed a little dimmer.
"Thank you. For this, and for a lot of things," Suzaku said quietly, head bowed slightly as he separated himself from Kallen unsteadily. He held his hand out for her, in a gesture of respect.
She took it with a smirk. "A witch being thanked… it's been a while." Her eyes softened. "Thank you for that."
C.C. glanced over at Kallen, who's face betrayed an array of emotions, and chuckled. "Now, now, are you going to cry?" she asked teasingly.
"Shut up," Kallen muttered, and pulled the witch into a hug, missing the surprised expression on C.C.'s face at the contact, before it settled into a kind of annoyed fondness.
"Take care of Lelouch, would you?" C.C. murmured into her ear with a chuckle. "He's your responsibility."
"What, you're forcing your turtle onto me?" Kallen said indignantly, pulling back with an outraged look. "Even when you're making a sacrifice like this, you're still shameless!"
"Fine then, don't respect my last wishes," C.C. sniffed, playing at being hurt, and turned away, showing them her back as she clasped her hands behind her. "Now off with you two. You've got a lot of work ahead of you."
Suzaku chuckled slightly at their antics, and Kallen shot him an annoyed glare as a result. They waited for a few more moments, and then finally, reluctantly turned away.
The words were so soft that they could have been imagined, and C.C. hadn't even turned around to say them.
Nevertheless, it brought a smile to both their faces.
Suzaku and Kallen shared once last look back at the witch, and then stepped into the elevator, disappearing in a flash of blinding light.
The flight back to Tokyo seemed to be little more than a blur, apart from Suzaku's rather embarrassing encounter with Lelouch the turtle, who bit his finger. Kallen left C.C.'s plane where it was- a part of her still hoped maybe the witch would one day be free from her duty to restore the World of C. After fetching the turtle, Suzaku and Kallen climbed aboard Lloyd's ship, which had been waiting on the outskirts of the island.
There was little speaking on the return flight, as Suzaku and Kallen were utterly exhausted from their battle, content to sit next to each other in the mildly comfortable chairs and contemplate the events in a companionable silence.
Nina and Cecile seemed to understand this intuitively, asking them nothing about what happened in the cave, and even a quick elbow from Cecile got Lloyd to shut up about it quickly enough.
Kallen felt her wounds ache- as soon as they returned to the ship, Cecile had immediately worked to bandage and clean their wounds. Hers weren't too bad, at least not compared to Suzaku, who Cecile noted would need at least a few weeks convalescence to heal the internal bruising and cracked ribs from his battle with his dark doppelganger. She would have to keep the pressure off her shoulder for a while, but overall she got off light.
Despite her injuries, though, she'd never felt quite so right in a long while. She thought about Lelouch, and even the pain of that seemed lesser now. Maybe someday, it would only be a small pang of 'what if' than anything else, now that she knew the full extent of what he had done for her, and for everyone else.
He gave his life for the world, for the future- Kallen would have to do him the honor of living in that world.
Kallen looked over at Suzaku, still bearing the full regalia of Zero, who noticed her gaze and seemed to glance back questioningly. "What is it?" he asked.
"You look right in that," Kallen replied. "I never noticed how well it fit you."
To that, Suzaku had nothing to say, but only seemed to straighten, adjusting the weight of the mask accordingly.
It did fit now.
"Wow… look at that," Nina breathed audibly, and caused her to turn.
Kallen stared out the window, and smiled.
The dawn never looked so good before.
The Empress and a delegation were waiting for them at the airstrip when they arrived, and both Suzaku and Kallen felt immeasurably relieved when they saw the others safe and sound as they stepped off the plane.
"Empress," Suzaku greeted warmly, making quick strides to stand in front of her. "I… I can't tell you how good it is to see you alive."
"I'm sorry for worrying you," Nunnally replied gently, and clasped his hands in her own. She leaned in close, and added softly, "Suzaku-san."
Suzaku blinked, and almost jerked back, but regained control at the last moment. "How did you-"
"You'll tell me everything later, won't you?" Nunnally said over his whispered question, in a louder tone, making it seem as if she were asking him for a report on his doings over the past few days.
Suzaku felt a bit apprehensive, but to his surprise, an even larger part of him felt relieved. Maybe he'd missed being Kururugi Suzaku more than he thought.
"Ougi-san, Weinberg-san, Toudou-san, Jeremiah-san," he greeted in turn, inclining his head towards them, and they each gave him a warm smile and a salutation in greeting. "I'm glad to see all of you are alive."
"You look like hell," Gino observed dryly, grinning irreverently as he glanced behind Zero, where Kallen was descending slowly from the plane as well.
"Kallen-san," Nunnally said delightedly in greeting, and the redhead smiled back.
"You missed the fun," Gino quipped as Kallen's feet touched the concrete, waving with a grin.
"Trust me, we didn't," Kallen responded tartly, shaking her head and rolling her uninjured shoulder. "How are you, Empress?"
Nunnally let out a quiet giggle. "You're about the fiftieth person to ask me that in the past few hours, Kallen-san. I'm perfectly fine, thanks to the efforts of Cornelia-onee-sama and the foresight of my brother."
Most people would have assumed that to mean Schneizel, but Kallen knew at once who Nunnally was really thanking, and smiled along with her. They could never acknowledge Lelouch openly, but they could pay him quiet tribute in their own different ways.
"So how are things now?" Suzaku asked quietly, turning towards Ougi and Toudou.
"The diehard loyalists to Hideyoshi have been rounded up- he gathered those up in the government building, needing to secure the capitol before anything else, so thankfully they were all in one place and we didn't have to expend much energy capturing them. Cornelia is handling that right now as we speak, along with Guilford, Anya, and Sayoko. We've also recaptured the Shiroda forward base, and Captain Katsuragi Keima, commander of the secessionist forces at the base, has turned himself over to our custody," Ougi informed him quietly.
"I talked with him," Gino cut in solemnly, and all eyes turned towards him- the man was, after all, his former lieutenant. "I told him we could give him leniency, but he wouldn't hear it- he's asking to be dishonorably discharged at the least."
"He dishonored himself. He wants to at least have an end befitting that," Toudou rumbled.
"Still… he's a good kid. I don't want him to be paying for this for a long time," Gino muttered, scratching the back of his head. "People will be staying away from anyone who allied themselves with Hideyoshi now though, for fear of repercussions or being seen as sympathizers."
"I could use a new assistant," Ougi interjected thoughtfully. "If you think he won't mind."
Gino shot him a grateful look. "No, I don't think he will."
"Well, if that's all settled, I'm starving! I feel like I haven't had a good meal in years!" Lloyd suddenly called out, startling everyone as he descended from the plane, waving his arm energetically until Cecile appeared behind him like a ghost, wearing a terrifying smile.
"Lloyd-san, don't you think that was a bit rude to the Empress and the others?" she said sweetly, but there was an undefinable quality in her voice that was simply… scary.
Nina descended the plane last behind them, waving shyly at Nunnally, who gave her a warm smile in return.
"Lloyd-san has a point. It has been quite a trying few days," Nunnally said softly, glancing around the airstrip at the others assembled before her, giving them each a warm, grateful smile. "All of you, get some rest. That's an imperial decree."
There were chuckles, but Nunnally remained undeterred. "I was serious."
"That's… quite a use of your executive power, Empress," Jeremiah coughed.
"A day of peace is something this world, and all of us, deserve. The work can wait, just for a few hours anyway," Nunnally responded. "Let's just enjoy being alive and in this bright new world, shall we?"
And to that, everyone could only agree.
"Zero, please take me home," Nunnally requested softly, glancing towards him. "I'm feeling nostalgic."
"Home, Empress?" Suzaku blinked. The Empress had no residence in Tokyo, as far as he knew.
"Do you think Ashford Academy still has my old room?" she said in lieu of an answer.
Suzaku felt the edges of a smile curling on his lips. "I think we know someone who can influence the school chairman, Empress."
Milly would be only too happy to oblige them, he was sure.
Nunnally turned towards the others and smiled again. "Thank you again. All of you. Your efforts have averted the greatest crisis we have faced thus far. I hope to count on all of you again in the future."
"Of course, Empress," Toudou said crisply, bowing.
"Though hopefully not for another ten years or so, at least," Gino joked.
"Hopefully not," Nunnally agreed, a hint of mirth dancing in her eyes. And with that, she bid them all farewell, and left with Zero.
"Home sounds like an excellent plan," Jeremiah added, after they had gone, and murmurs of agreement were heard, along with decision about where they would each go next. Eventually, they all separated, save for two.
"So we beat the bad guys and saved the world… now there's just one question I've got to ask. Kallen, what's with the turtle?" Gino asked, blinking, having just realized that the redhead had been carrying a small plastic carrier this whole time.
Kallen glanced down. Lelouch the turtle opened a single eye up at her, snapped its jaw, and then settled back down. "It's… a long story."
"A long story, huh? I've got time," Gino suggested, grinning.
Kallen flicked her gaze over at him, expression unreadable. You wanted me to live on, right Lelouch?
And heck, what was living without having a bit of a life anyway.
"Fine then. Let's get some coffee, I'm starving," she said briskly. "I'll tell you over breakfast."
"Did you just ask me on a date?" Gino blinked, before his face broke out into a goofy grin.
"Friends get coffee together all the time, you know," Kallen reminded coolly, rolling her eyes, but her lips quirked into the barest hint of a smile.
"Right, right. Hey, can I see the turtle?"
"Careful, he bites."
"Don't worry, animals love me. I'm utterly loveable. I- YEOW!"
"I told you."
"That was a helluva night!" Tamaki whooped, shaking his head as he took a deep swig of some expensive sake that he had liberated from Ougi's kitchen, to the disapproving glare of his wife. Since his bar had been all but destroyed, they, along with Minami, had retired to Ougi's private residence, which was large enough to accommodate them, and were currently occupying the dining room.
"It's a little early in the morning for sake, don't you think?" Viletta said disapprovingly, frowning at him as well as she bustled in with a few plates of food- nothing fancy, just something quick, considering they were all tired and too hungry to wait.
"It's a celebration of life!" Tamaki said in reply, grinning, pouring himself another generous helping of sake. "Too bad Toudou didn't join us! That guy's too stiff, wanting to go right back to work!"
"I'll raise my glass to celebrating life," Minami agreed, raising his cup of tea. "Though I'll refrain from any alcohol."
"Me too," Ougi agreed softly, holding a simple glass of water. They drank deeply, though Tamaki wobbled unsteadily as he set down the sake cup, and his wife Ayame gave him a reprimand in the form of a pinch.
"Don't drink so much," she sniffed. "You'll be a bad influence on our child."
"Child?" Tamaki's eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he toppled out of his chair, barely being caught by his shocked wife in time.
"Did he just faint?" Viletta said slowly, trying to contain her amusement and failing miserably, as the twitching in her lips could attest.
"Well, here's another toast to new life- may this child never know war," Ougi murmured, smiling fondly as he raised his glass, which Minami knocked together lightly with his own.
"We'll make sure of that," Minami agreed.
They settled into a content silence for a few minutes, before Minami suddenly had a thought.
"Hey, you know, where was Kento during this whole thing?"
Ougi blinked, searching his memory for where the last original member of the Black Knights had been this entire time.
"Oh, it was his vacation this week. Bad timing, or good timing for him, I suppose," he chuckled.
"We've fulfilled our final orders then, it seems," Sayoko observed quietly. They stood on the rooftop of the government building, having just finished packing the last of the prisoners from the battle into a convoy bound for a secure facility near Nara. Cornelia and Toudou would oversee their delivery, and had given them leave to rest.
"Lelouch's plan was a little nuts," Anya muttered, quietly leaning against the railing of the rooftop.
"Lelouch-sama's sacrifice remains secure, and that is all that matters," Jeremiah said in lieu of a reply, gripping the railing as he stood next to Anya, a content smile on his face. "We did not fail him."
"So what shall we do now, hmm? We no longer have orders from our master to consider," Sayoko murmured.
"He wasn't my master," Anya interjected, wrinkling her nose, though she smiled.
"The world will still need protecting from the shadows," Jeremiah reminded them both. "Geass may be gone, but there will be other threats. And if not… there's always the farm. Growing things has its own rewards."
"I do like oranges," Sayoko said lightly, smiling.
"This feels right," Nunnally whispered softly, as Zero- Suzaku, she corrected mentally- wheeled her into the Ashford Academy clubhouse, which had been hastily cleaned and cleared for the Empress' private use. "You know, I never actually saw this place with my own two eyes until today. It's more beautiful than I ever imagined."
Suzaku said nothing to that, merely taking in the sights as well. Though it had been years since he'd been part of the Student Council, anything he looked at could generate a private memory. The stairway where he would often sit with Lelouch and Rivalz and Shirley and try to puzzle out the homework with their help, or the television set that once hosted a 'Monster Movie Night' for the Council…
He blinked, throat suddenly tight. God, he missed those days.
"Come on," Nunnally's voice cut in over his thoughts, and she laid a soft hand atop his own. "I'd like to see nii-sama's old room."
They got a few steps into the hallway when suddenly a loud, cheerful voice broke through the quiet silence and a black haired blur practically launched itself at Nunnally. Suzaku was halfway into a fighting stance despite his battered body before he recognized the voice.
"Nunnally!" Kaguya practically smothered the other girl in an embrace, happily nuzzling the other girl's cheek fondly. "I'm so happy you're alive! I took the first flight out here the second I saw that broadcast!"
"I'm sorry for the deception, Kaguya-san," Nunnally whispered, hugging the other girl back fiercely. "And I'm sorry for worrying you."
"You'd better be!" the Chairwoman said mock sternly, pulling away and planting her tiny fists on her hips in what could be described as a lecturing pose. "Never worry your big sister like that!"
Big sister? Suzaku blinked, but shrugged after a moment. He'd known Kaguya all his life, and still he couldn't understand the girl.
"I won't do it again," Nunnally promised solemnly, though her eyes glimmered with amusement. After a moment, both women broke out into giggles that were unbecoming of world leaders but absolutely fitting for the young women they really were.
"Well, now that that's settled… you looked positively famished!" Kaguya observed, hand on her head as she shook it helplessly. "I suppose I'll have to find you two some food. I know! I'll make you some! Make yourselves comfortable, it'll only take a minute!"
And without waiting for a reply, she dashed off into the kitchen.
"… I hope she's gotten better than when she was a kid," Suzaku muttered, before realizing with a start what the implications of his statement were.
Nunnally smiled. "I already know, remember?"
Suzaku relaxed, but only by a fraction. "We should talk about this somewhere secure."
"My old room," Nunnally suggested, and the two of them headed down the hallway and into the room. She took a brief moment to take in the surroundings she had lived in for many years in total darkness, before returning her gaze to Zero.
"So how did you know?" Suzaku asked quietly, locking the door behind him.
"Take off the mask," Nunnally said in reply. After he did so, Nunnally sucked in a deep breath.
She'd never actually seen Suzaku's face as a child- she knew the shape and feel of his hands and face, but how it looked was something she'd only known in pictures and videos. This Suzaku, however, looked older than even the years could have allowed- the burden of Zero, she supposed sadly.
However, he still seemed… strong. More determined than she had ever seen this Zero look before, even at the start of her reign.
"Lloyd-san told me," she informed him, and he sighed exasperatedly.
"It's a wonder he kept it to himself this whole time," Suzaku muttered. "Does Cornelia know as well?"
"She suspects, I think, but she decided she didn't want to know your identity and left the room," Nunnally replied. "But I…I needed to know."
"Well, now you do," Suzaku murmured, and leaned against the wall, watching her with an unreadable expression. "So now you know everything."
"Yes," she acknowledged. "About you… about nii-sama… and the Zero Requiem."
Suzaku sucked in a breath quietly. He never wanted to have this conversation. "I'm sorry about…"
"You gave my brother peace. To do what he did… it had to have been killing him to play the monster," Nunnally interjected softly, shutting her eyes and glancing down at the locket around her neck, where the picture of Lelouch hung.
He relaxed as a tension he didn't even know he had leaving his body at her forgiveness. "Thank you."
"No, thank you… you stood by him, and now you've taken on the heavy burden of being Zero, the guardian of this new world. We all will shape the future, but you will guard it diligently, won't you?" Nunnally said, studying him with a careful look. "You've given up everything for this purpose. I… I envy your strength."
"It wasn't strength… not at first," Suzaku corrected, glancing down at the mask in his hands. "I took it on as my punishment. But now… now I think it was Lelouch's gift to me. He believed I could be something more… and I intend to live up to that expectation."
"We both will," Nunnally interjected, and they shared a smile. "We'll both build the world my brother dreamed of, with our own hands."
That was their promise, to the one who had sacrificed everything for them and the world.
A picture perfect ending… really, too perfect, she thought to herself, wrinkling her nose in annoyance. I can't believe how well it all worked out.
"You played a dangerous game," C.C. muttered out loud, reclining back onto one of the smoother pieces of rubble, hands planted on the sides. "One false move and it would all have been over. If a single action had gone out of place or one person had failed to act as you predicted, this whole scheme would have fallen apart."
She glanced at golden glow that effused throughout the false sky, permeating clouds. An eternal sunset, a twilight unending. She supposed there were worse reminders of her immortality. And besides, spending forever guarding humanity against darker powers did have a certain appeal to it, she supposed privately. At least it meant she wouldn't be bored, and she still had company.
Though she would never tell him that.
"But it didn't," came a smooth, cultured voice, followed by steps upon the stone platform, which seemed to suddenly appear as if out of thin air. "It went exactly according to plan."
"Exactly according to plan?" C.C. said skeptically, raising her eyebrow. She didn't turn back to look at the newcomer, but remained facing the sunset. She didn't need to look at him to know his face, after all.
"Well, it was cutting it a little close," he admitted, a contrite tone in his voice. "But in the end they pulled through, just as I hoped."
"You put a lot of faith in them," C.C. commented airily, leaning back, facing the sky, where the planet Jupiter hung overhead like a sleeping god.
All the gods were sleeping now… of course, time would only tell whether or not they would awaken again.
C.C. would wait eternity until they did.
"I trusted that they would not let me down," the figure responded defensively, now standing directly next to her.
"And if they had failed? If Suzaku and Kallen hadn't found the strength to overcome Marianne? If Nunnally hadn't been able to convince the tides of war to ebb away? If Toudou had decided to betray everyone?" C.C. questioned ruthlessly, arching her eyebrow critically as she turned towards him. "You gambled with a lot of lives. You even lied to Jeremiah and Sayoko, manipulating them into forming their little agency just so there would be a first line of defense, instead of just telling them how to solve this crisis."
"It was a necessary risk," he countered, sounding irritated now.
"For your little test?" C.C. asked coolly. "Even I have to say, this plan was your most reckless. If one thing had gone wrong-"
"It didn't," he stated flatly. "And why are you so insistent on pursuing this issue? If you had a problem with it, you could have told me so before, back when I was alive."
"Back then it was only one of many crazy little contingencies you came up with for after the Zero Requiem," C.C. answered, a heated rebuke in her voice as she replied. "You've always been a manipulator, but this was just wrong."
"You do know I'm just a memory, right?" he muttered frustratedly. "I'm not the man himself, but an echo, like the rest of the dead who reside in the world of C. If not for the leftovers of my Geass on the gods, I wouldn't even be strong enough to become corporeal- and even then, I could only do it because I was called here by your summons due to your position as a Code Bearer."
"You're all I've got to complain to," came the witch's response, tinged with an icy tone. "And if I find your little game offensive, can you blame me?"
He sighed, and planted himself down next to her, a resigned expression on his face that remained as it always had, unchanged from her memories. The World of C was the place of the dead, after all.
"No, I can't," he confessed tiredly. "Even though I'm a simulacrum of him, even I barely comprehend the logic of this scenario. To allow my mother to attack the world like this, to let it spin out of control where it could have been prevented years before…"
"You told me it would be a test of the world's resolve. That if the peace couldn't survive this test, then the Requiem had failed," C.C. recalled, shaking her head incredulously at the words she quoted from memory.
"It succeeded, however," he pointed out. "And everything proceeded as… I…" he hesitated over using the pronoun, "Envisioned. The leftover remnants of anger from the war, the true holdouts, were exposed, and crushed. The world tasted war again, and remembered how bitter it truly is. It was small, but the scare was enough to stir up true resolve- not just fear of me, a fear that would inevitably fade, but a true determination to see the world change."
His voice gained strength and confidence, and C.C. was reminded that not only was he intelligent, he was insufferably arrogant about it sometimes.
"Suzaku has grown past his old guilts and demons- he's become what I dreamed Zero should be, a defender of the peace, a hero of justice. Nunnally has inherited my dream, and will build the world I envisioned. Even Kallen has been healed of the damage I did to her before I died, and I think I gave her some semblance of closure."
"How very perfect," she interjected drolly, an insincere smile on her face.
"It was." He smiled with a hint of self-satisfaction, ignoring the tease in her words. "All in all, I'd say the final act of the Zero Requiem was quite a master stroke. Genius, you could say."
C.C. shook her head, a resigned look on her face.
"You're so full of yourself, you know that?"
Lelouch smirked back and said nothing.
As I mentioned in a message to Tetsukon, this story was originally born from watching Red vs Blue: Reconstruction (and if you haven't seen Red vs Blue… watch it), and the opening sequence is a homage to the first chapter of Reconstruction. I had several different ideas that came together here- the first was "Something Lelouch did comes back to bite everybody in the ass", the second "How would the world cope without Lelouch to handle a crisis", the third "What about Brittania and Japan's previous tensions", and the last being "Lelouch left a plan for everyone after his death a la the Seldon Plan". That last one I considered developing into a series where new crises appeared and Lelouch had left specific instructions at each turn, but that just stopped working for me after a certain point because it would become a deus ex machina that the readers would expect and I'd basically be rewriting Asimov's work.
This was not a Gino/Kallen end, for those who might want to bite my head off. I simply wanted Kallen to live a little, that's all. Interpret the end as you will. I threw in that bit about Sugiyama Kento because a reviewer pointed out that I completely missed him and I hate leaving plot holes, so even if it's a half-assed way to do it, I answered that problem and I can sleep a little easier (plot holes bug me that much, yes).
And yes, everything that happened in this story was "just as planned" by Lelouch. He believed enough in his friends to let them face this threat with only minimal interference on his part. Is the morality of it justified? Eh, that's not my place to say. You decide. But, in my opinion, this does make Lelouch the technical "antagonist" of the story. So… yeah, the initial allusion to Lelouch being the villain is actually true. I like it when red herrings turn out to be true.
Thanks for following me this whole way guys. It's been a fun trip for me, and I hope it was the same for you. I don't think I'll ever make a sequel to this, though a side story or two is not out of the question, especially expounding on the adventures of Lelouch the Turtle.