In August of 2010 of the Brittanian calendar and the 10th year of the Kyoroku Era in the Japanese system, the Sacred Empire of Japan invaded the small island nation of Brittania. This was accomplished despite the powerful technology known as the Knightmare Frame, a mobile armor weapon of incredible military potential, which Brittania had developed and which had kept the independent nation safe for some time, for Japan wielded a much larger amount of the potent material Sakuradite that enhanced their own Knightmare Frame's power despite the Brittanian's more advanced Knightmares, and overwhelmed the Brittanian forces, nearly destroying the country until it surrendered, and became a colony underneath the Empire of Japan.
It is now the year 2017, and a new chapter in history is about to begin, written with blood as its ink, the pen a mysterious power known only as Geass.
But for good or ill, none can say for certain.
Seven years ago…
Two boys sat watching a bloody sunset, a palette of colors that evoked a sense of mourning and loss, of childhood's horrifying murder, a wailing requiem for innocence. Around sat the ruined corpse-city of a nation, rubble scattered around like severed pieces of rotting flesh from a long dead body.
One of the boys sat crouched over himself, huddled and broken, his eyes mirrors into a shattered soul- he had already lost his innocence before this day. All he was losing now were the last shreds of peace he had clung to for so very long.
The other boy stood, defiant to the end, glaring at the sun as if challenging it to burn him away, and in his eyes a fire of his own that burned as fierce and all consuming as the sun's own was lit.
"It's all over now. Thank you for coming to meet me, even though… even though you're not supposed to," the first boy said softly, eyes downcast. "You'll keep your promise, right? I can't take care of her, but you can…"
"I will," the other boy replied, his tone a challenge not to his friend, but to the world. "I should never have left… if I had been here during the invasion…"
"You had no choice… we would only have used you as leverage against your father," he responded reassuringly, but his tone was fragile, like glass- whatever strength this boy possessed once had long since departed him.
The other boy had no reply to that, and turned away. It was only as he began walking away that he finally spoke again.
"Lelouch… I'm sorry about all this… but I promise you…" he vowed, emerald eyes alight with the flickering inferno of a revolution.
"I will crush Japan!"
"I heard the world up, late night.
Holding my breath tight, trying to keep my head on right.
There's a chill in the air, nobody could care.
How you're caught up in the fight of your life."
-"Heard The World" by O.A.R.
The Sword in the Stone
He awoke, unusually enough, before dawn, waking to sweat soaked sheets, screaming the names of people he hadn't seen in seven long years.
Eyes staring at him accusingly, screaming silent obscenities at him, cursing him and promising him that they would meet again in the place where all sinners go…
"A bad dream," he muttered cynically, pressing his hand against his face, covering half of it, as though trying to hide himself from the relentless ghosts that plagued his thoughts. Irritably, he swung himself around until his legs were hanging off the bed, allowing him to sit atop of it.
For a long while, he sat there, trying to wish away the bad memories that refused to let him lie in that bed in the peaceful oblivion of sleep any longer. Finally, too frustrated and never one for that kind of sedentary thinking anyways, he stood, not bothering yet to dig a shirt out of his drawers, leaving him in nothing but a pair of black sweats.
Instead, he strode towards the windowsill, pushing aside one of the curtains, exposing the pre-dawn sky. The barest beginnings of light were starting to crack through the black curtain of the night, illuminating clouds and throwing them into sharp relief. Below, some hard working Brittanian boy, no older than himself, rode a bicycle on by, throwing out the daily news in front of his door.
Idly, he wondered if the news would have anything interesting to say. Anything that would make this world seem a little brighter, a little better, as if it were breaking the chain of pain and misery that had existed since the first man dropped from the trees and thought to walk on two legs.
But it wouldn't. It never did.
And that was because...
"This world... won't change. Not on its own."
The words slipped out of his mouth without his meaning to, laced with potent, but checked, rage and malice, like a sword begging to be released from its sheath, to draw blood and war and death. His teeth ground against each other, and his fingers curled around the rough cloth of his curtain as though strangling it.
And then, as if sensing his rage, the door opened with the slightest creak, and he heard a voice.
"You're up awfully early."
The tone was sly and catty, and he knew there would be a smirk on that face without turning around.
"So are you, C.C.," he said in reply, curling his lip in amusement, turning to glance back at her.
"You're pretty noisy when you wake up, boya," the green haired woman murmured silkily, with a sly look that would have driven the blood pressure up of most men, aided by the fact that she was dressed in nothing but an overly large white buttoned shirt, exposing endlessly long porcelain legs and a hint of cleavage.
"Do you have to walk around like that?" he asked curtly, arching his eyebrow.
She gave him a pretty little pout in response. "Don't like it?"
"I don't particularly care," he scoffed, crossing his arms and smirking down at her. "But I think Jeremiah's chivalry is offended when he sees you walking around like that first thing in the morning."
C.C. snorted and pushed him back softly, turning away. "You'd think that man would have gotten used to that by now."
He rolled his eyes, thinking to himself that Jeremiah was too devoted to his ideals of knightly honor to ever get used to a woman like C.C.
"Did you need something, C.C?" he questioned, striding over to his drawer and selecting a plain white shirt, pulling it over his head as he waited for a response.
"Did you dream about it again?"
The question caught him off guard, and he froze midway through pulling his shirt down. With a dangerous look in his eye, he turned and pulled the shirt down, glaring at the witch who had kept her back to him, hands folded at her back.
"Dwelling on bad memories doesn't help anyone," C.C. commented lightly, giving him a hooded look as she turned her head slightly to look back at him.
"I can't help what I dream, witch," he shot back irritably.
"Dreams are but an expression of our inner self," she replied airily, turning away to stare at the ceiling. "If you dream it, you were thinking about it, if only in your heart of hearts."
"And how can I not think about it!" he snapped suddenly, slamming his hand down on his dresser with a loud thump. "How can I not remember that... that..."
And then suddenly, without him even hearing her move towards him, he felt C.C.'s arms encircle him, pulling him into soft embrace as she leaned her head against his back.
"Let it go," she murmured quietly, breathing softly against his back. "You can't change the past, you said that yourself, that day, seven years ago. You can only move forward, and shape the future with your own hands"
"... I did, didn't I?" he chuckled softly, a bitter tone in his voice, letting himself lean into the embrace, needing the comfort of another's warmth, if only for a moment-
And then, suddenly, the door flew open with a loud bang and a frantic voice screamed, "My lord! Are you okay!"
Quick as a cat, C.C. pulled away from him, and stood off to the side as though nothing had happened, smirking at the newest arrival.
"Your precious prince is fine, Jeremiah-kun," she said slowly, teasingly, "He just had a mild temper problem, like all teenagers do."
"C.C...." he growled threateningly, and she merely chortled and sidled off to the door.
"Think about what I said, bo-ya," the witch said, and left, leaving him to turn towards the man who had so panickedly burst into his room.
"My apologies for intruding, sir," Jeremiah Gottwald said graciously, kneeling before him, dressed similarly to himself, in a plain black t-shirt and gray sweatpants, both of which were clearly drenched with sweat. "When I returned from my morning run I heard a noise in your room and your voice and thought something was wrong..."
"Jeremiah, stop kneeling," he muttered, rolling his eyes but with a soft tone in his voice. "You don't need to do that sort of thing anymore to me, remember?"
"You are still my liege, regardless of where you are or what titles you have," the knight answered immediately, keeping his head bowed. "My loyalty is absolute and unchanging."
"And I thank you for that, Jeremiah," he said quietly, a forlorn look in his eyes. "You are truly a knight of Brittania, and I am glad to have you in my service."
"You are too kind, my lord," Jeremiah replied respectfully, and then finally glanced up at him. "Since you are up already, what would you like for breakfast, Lelouch-sama?"
"Something filling," Lelouch Lamperouge, formerly Lelouch Vi Brittania, the seventeenth prince of Brittania, said lightly, a smirk forming on his face, "I get the feeling today might require it."
Elsewhere, another young man laid deep in the confines of sleep which had eluded Lelouch, a peaceful dream which laid to rest the usual scowl that adorned this young man's face. And despite the depths of his sleep, his face held lines that should not exist on a young man's face as though he bore the weight of trying to change the world, and his eyes bore remnants of bags, as though his sense of justice would not let him sleep for long.
His sleep, however, was peaceful, deserved, and-
Blearily, his eyes opened, and then immediately shut as he pulled the silken covers of his four poster bed over his head. The room around him was clearly opulent, containing a polished, lacquered wooden desk and dresser, an overtly large mirror complete with a light gold filigrees, and large double doors.
He hated it.
"Go away Milly," he muttered sleepily.
"No can do, Suzaku-sama," Milly Ashford answered sternly, clad in a modest one piece maid outfit, complete with a white headpiece atop her head, a playful glint in her eyes that belied her tone of voice. "I am the head of the household staff and the Master's own personal maid. Thus, I can't let you sleep in so late!" and with that, she yanked the covers off of his head forcefully, leaving him to curl up into rather pathetic ball and groan pitifully.
"Milly!" Suzaku protested, embarrassed. "I'm half-naked under here!"
"Oh for God's sake Suzaku-sama," she muttered, rolling her eyes and crossing her arms irritably, "I washed those boxers you're wearing right now just yesterday. I don't think seeing you in a state of undress is really that big a deal."
He groaned and rolled away from her. How is she always so cheery in the mornings?
"It's the principle of the thing," he countered grumpily. "Anyways, I was up late last night, writing a new draft of proposals to send to the homeland… can't you let me just skip the meetings today?"
"What would be the point of writing those new proposals if you miss the meetings they're for, hmm?" Milly replied cheekily, and forcefully tugged him off the bed, toppling him to the floor.
"Those meetings are full of yes-men who will agree to whatever I say, just because I'm the heir apparent," he retorted tartly, groaning and rubbing the back of his head as he began picking himself off the floor nonetheless. "And you didn't have to knock me onto the floor."
"Yes, yes, my apologies master," Milly said distractedly, waving her hand in absent dismissal. "Now get dressed. You have a meeting with Shinichiro Tamaki-san in an hour."
"What, the Secretary of Labor and Agriculture? Again?" he rolled his eyes irritably. "I swear, that man has more complaints than the entire city."
"Too bad for you that you're the one who has to deal with it, eh, Suzaku-sama?" Millay said cheerily, handing him a towel. "Now, get in! The main bath is already prepared."
"Which one of us is the master here, huh?" Kururugi Suzaku, Crown Prince of the Sacred Japanese Empire and Governor of the province of Brittania, complained.
"Lelouch-sama, breakfast is ready!" Jeremiah called out, absently stirring the pan of sunny side up eggs with his left hand, a frilly pink apron tied to his front (a prank from C.C., who somehow convinced Jeremiah to wear it through means that Lelouch did not really want to know).
"Thank you, Jeremiah," Lelouch answered, nodding crisply as he fixed the red tie of his school uniform (a white shirt with a green sports jacket and black slacks), descending down the stairs and into the kitchen/dining room, which were basically combined into one room, with the stove, microwave, fridge, and other parts of the kitchen on one half and the modest table (enough to comfortably fit four, but only three chairs were ever occupied) and chairs of the dining half on the other. There was also a television situated across from the head of the table, against the wall and on top of a small cabinet of its own, centered so that both people sitting on one half of the table and the other could see it clearly.
"Took you long enough," C.C. teased, already halfway through her second pizza bread (her standard morning fare). "Any longer and we'd be late."
For her part, the witch was also dressed in a school uniform, a white sailor style blouse with blue sleeves and a plain black skirt, complete with long white leggings.
"I don't want to hear about it from a woman who spends an hour in the shower," Lelouch retorted immediately, smirking.
"Why Lelouch…" she answered huskily, leveling him a hooded look, "Are you curious about my… private time? You pervert."
As always, he sputtered and flushed deep red, causing C.C. to laugh out loud amusedly.
Luckily, he was saved by Jeremiah, who set the plate of eggs in front of him. "Breakfast is ready, Lelouch-sama," the knight said graciously, bowing his head.
"Ah… thank you, Jeremiah," the ex-prince said gratefully, nodding back as he settled into his chair.
"No thanks necessary, Lelouch-sama," Jeremiah answered immediately, as he removed his apron and hung it up on a nearby hanger, before settling down to eat as well. There was a companionable silence for a moment, and then the television broke through the silence.
"And in other news, the People's Representative within the Empire's government, Schneizel El Brittania, has made yet another public statement that he is no way connected with the terrorist group referring to itself as the Brittanian Liberation Front, or BLF. Naturally, no one has been more cooperative in working with Japanese officials, but of course, Representative Schneizel is a former prince of Brittania, and such allegations are natural…"
Jeremiah and C.C. watched the television with varying degrees of interest, while Lelouch merely looked bored, not even looking up from his plate, polishing off the last of his peppered egg.
"Fools," he scoffed, a slight sneer on his face. "Do they really think my brother is so spineless as to have completely bowed to their will? He is connected to the BLF, they just aren't smart enough to figure out how he's doing it."
"You really think so, boya?" C.C. asked with a bemused smirk.
"I know how my brother fights," Lelouch answered succinctly. "He's working with the Japanese to ingrain himself into their confidence and help Brittania from the inside, while he secretly aids those helping Brittania on the outside."
His eyes narrowed and his lip curled in distaste. "He plays both sides, and he is the one who benefits most."
"Lelouch-sama…" Jeremiah began hesitantly, glancing over to his liege lord, "Forgive me, but…"
Without even changing expression or looking over at his knight, Lelouch interrupted, "You want to know why I haven't done the same as my brother, or any other member of the royal family… why I do not fight our colonial masters."
Jeremiah looked mildly stricken at how candidly the question was stated, and opened his mouth to try and make it sound more polite, but Lelouch continued on without waiting for a response.
"My brother only fights this way because it's the only path he sees open to him… while I know there are other ways… I believe there is a path outside of war," he clenched his fingers and cast a pointed look at C.C. "Until certain conditions are met, however, my actions are still limited."
"Certain conditions?" the knight blinked, before he noticed the significant look his lord was casting towards the female member of their household. His confusion was ignored, however, as the two seemed engulfed in a world where only the two of them existed.
"C.C.," Lelouch began slowly, "Have you reconsidered-"
"My answer is still no, boya," the witch interrupted briskly. "The power of Geass is not something to take lightly, and I will not hand it over to a child."
"A child?" he arched his eyebrow with a dangerous tone in his voice.
"You do not know what you ask," C.C. replied tartly, casting her eyes downward, a dark look in her eyes. "What kind of path you are asking to take."
"I need that power!" Lelouch shouted, slamming his hands down on the table, rattling the plates. He glared over the table at C.C., who continued to eat the rest of her pizza bread nonchalantly, pointedly ignoring his angry stare.
With an angry huff, the former prince stood from his chair. "Thank you for the meal," he muttered irritably, and stormed back upstairs. "I'm going to get my bag."
After he had departed, Jeremiah glanced over at the only other occupant at the table with a hesitant look. "C.C.-san," he began slowly, "If I might be so bold… why don't you agree to Lelouch-sama's request? It pains him so much not to have the power of Geass, to be unable to help his country in the way he truly desires…"
"Jeremiah," C.C. said softly, and the tone immediately gave him pause. "Do you care for him?"
"Of course," the knight answered without hesitation.
"Would you protect him from anything that was going to harm him… even if it was himself?" the witch continued quietly, glancing downwards, fixing her eyes on the table.
"C.C.-san?" Jeremiah murmured, blinking in surprise.
"Power corrupts, Jeremiah," C.C. stated, a subdued tone in her voice. "And I will not see him corrupted by my own hand."
For a long time, neither spoke, with C.C. continuing to stare blankly and Jeremiah struggling to find something, anything to say to her.
"Oi, C.C. Let's go," Lelouch broke the silence, sighing as he descended the stairs, school bag held casually over his shoulder.
"Yeah, yeah," C.C. replied, rolling her eyes, not a trace of her subdued tone left in either her voice or expression, vanishing entirely like morning mist.
"We're off," Lelouch replied casually, as he stepped out the back door, with C.C. tailing close behind.
Jeremiah, for his part, stood as well, nodding at his prince. "Have a good day, Lelouch-sama, C.C.-san. Now, please excuse me- it's almost time to open up the bakery."
In addition to being Lelouch's full-time guardian and caretaker, Jeremiah Gottwald had also gained a new profession- the proud owner of a small corner bakery, entitled Orange Breads. Not the typical job one might think a former knight of Brittania would take, but that was exactly why Jeremiah had taken it.
After all, who would think that the friendly, somewhat air-headed local baker was a highly trained soldier and royal knight guarding one of the last of an imperial family that was scattered to the winds?
The world was lightless, soundless, tasteless. An endless, timeless, deathless oblivion of pure and unending darkness. How long she had been plunged into this world, she did not recall, and what of the world she had been in before that, she could only tease an image or two out of her beleaguered and weary mind.
A flash of a smile, a murmur of a word, the barest hint of some tantalizing scent, and then the images were gone and only oblivion remained.
The images mixed and swirled like rain washing dirt, muddying the waters of her mind with the past, the present, and maybe even a passing glimpse of the future, diluting into dreams of half seen things and whispered sounds.
Time had no meaning here.
Hunger did not exist, nor did thirst.
And so she dreamed on, a thoughtless sleep with a muddied mind in a deathless void.
"I have the target in sight boss."
"Roger that. It's just like our intel said. Looks like a nice and easy grab and smash."
"We have intelligence boss?"
"Hey, we have damn good intelligence."
"Coulda fooled me!"
"Hey Rivalz, do you really think it's a good idea to be joking right before a mission?"
"Aw, lighten up. I'm just messing with Gino. No need to interrupt some good pre-battle banter."
"Yeah, come on Shirley. As your commander, I'm ordering you to relax! Come on."
"… boys. Don't get cocky! This is serious!"
"Yeah, yeah, I remember."
Gino Weinberg shrugged, and a grin flashed over his face.
"Well, you heard the lady. Let's get started then."
"I'm afraid your requests for more Brittanian laborers for the factories in Glasgow is simply not possible at this time, Secretary Tamaki-san," Suzaku answered briskly, setting down the thick stack of forms to glance over at the older man. He was dressed according to his station as a Prince of Japan, clad formally in a simple green haori jacket over a silken black kimono and matching hakama pants, with the kimono bearing the traditional five crests, each bearing the Imperial Crest- a yellow-gold chrysanthemum, outlined in black, with sixteen petals and the tips of sixteen more petals showing beneath those. While simple, everything about it spoke to the traditional Japanese authority, hailing back to the traditions of old that retained great power even in this modern age of machines and metal.
It was the outfit Suzaku wore with the most disdain, the most secret hate.
"What? Aw, come on, Suzaku-sama, I'm not askin' for much," Tamaki pleaded from across the table, dressed smartly in a black suit and pants, leaning forward.
"Secretary Tamaki is right," another aide chimed in, nodding his head sycophantically. "My lord, strictly speaking, the factories in Glasgow-"
"I have a report here," Suzaku interrupted flatly, gesturing towards his personal computer, "That indicates that those factories are mistreating and abusing their Brittanian workers. One report even indicates that a woman may even have been raped!" he added, a tone of outrage in his voice.
Before he could continue his rant, however, a voice broke in from his immediate right.
"Prince Suzaku," Colonel Kusakabe Ichiro, his Chief of Staff and liaison to the military, cut in mildly, a note of condescension in his voice, "If I may be so bold, these accusations are from Brittanians themselves. No doubt they are merely attempting to stir up trouble. You can't expect to take their word over the word of our fellow countrymen. And in any case, we are the ones who carry the justice of heaven."
Silence dominated the room after his statement, and some eyes drew towards the flag of Japan hanging on the far wall. Within the red sun of the white flag, sat the two kanji letters under which the Empire fought its wars.
Ten, for Heaven.
Chu, for Punishment.
Tenchu, heaven's punishment. We who deliver the punishment of heaven onto the world that will not kneel before the one true ruler, the true divinity, who sits atop the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Around the table, heads bobbed in affirming nods- all except for one.
"To stir up trouble?" the prince sputtered, clenching his fists. "Is that what you think, Colonel Kusakabe?"
The rest of those assembled at this meeting fell back at the barely checked rage present in their prince's voice, but Kusakabe took it in stride.
"My lord, I know the owners of that factory, and I can assure you that they would do no such thing," the Colonel replied with an oily tone, "And this factory is an important element of our military capabilities here in Brittania. More workers must be found."
"The decision to assign those workers, however, belongs to me," Suzaku countered coldly, fixing a steely look at his Chief of Staff. "And I have made my decision, Colonel, and that is final."
For a moment, Kusakabe stared back at him, a hard look in his eyes, before he bowed his head. "As you wish, my lord."
Suzaku bit back his disgust, turning towards Tamaki with a more apologetic look. The Colonel might be a corrupt, scheming politician, but Tamaki was more a fool than anything else, and didn't deserve his ire.
"It's just too much, I'm sorry," he finished, inclining his head as he stood up sharply. "Now, if you'll excuse me."
All those present at the meeting stood as he did, and bowed deeply in respect as Suzaku strode quickly out of the room, not deigning to give them a return bow.
"Rough meeting, Suzaku-sama?" Milly asked, bowing deeply to him, having been standing just outside the door to await her master's return.
Suzaku smiled wearily.
"A bit," he replied, and Milly fell into stride behind him, head still bowed respectfully. "I'm going to head out for a bit, Milly- would you mind covering for me?"
"Not at all," she responded graciously, bowing deeply. "Should I prepare the usual excuses?"
Despite his frustration and exhaustion, Suzaku chuckled. "Just as long as you don't tell them I was out finding 'love slaves for my future imperial harem' again, okay?"
Milly smiled cattily. "Why Suzaku-sama, don't you know me at all?"
"That's exactly why I said it," he muttered, shaking his head.
"Geez, that stupid prince," Tamaki muttered angrily, as the door shut resoundingly behind Suzaku, "Where does he get off yelling at us like that?"
"The Emperor is much too lenient with the Prince, even if he is the heir apparent and his only son," Colonel Kusakabe agreed, sounding annoyed. "But it cannot be helped. The Prince is the governor of this region, and his orders are absolute. We cannot get more men to the factory just yet."
"We could try askin' the Emperor," Tamaki suggested, but the Colonel shook his head.
"Going above the Prince's head for a matter like this isn't worth it. No, we need to save that for more pressing issues…" Kusakabe's voice trailed off, as his phone began to ring.
The Colonel frowned, but he recognized the number and put the phone to his ear. "I told you never to call me at this number," he warned dangerously, but he recognized that the caller had to be in desperate straits to need to call. "What is it?"
The message was only a single short sentence.
Ten minutes later, Kusakabe had his persona military forces organized and ready to go- now this was the kind of pressing issue that required going above the Prince's head.
What the boy wouldn't know wouldn't hurt him, after all.
Elsewhere, someone else's phone pulsed slightly, having been on silent, because of his surroundings.
Only two people in the classroom seemed to notice- the teacher continued to lecture on and on and scribble the occasional near illegible note on the board at the front, while the rows of individual desks were filled with students who were either falling asleep, trying and failing to pay attention, or were doing something to kill the absurd boredom.
Lelouch let a brief grin cross his otherwise bored face, as he pretended to continue to pay attention to the teacher, even bothering to let his pen flow freely across the page, taking brief, shorthand notes that he really didn't need anyways.
C.C. fixed an unreadable gaze upon him, the shade of a frown on her face.
As always, he waited at the grassy knoll in the public park, a small area tucked away on the far side of a lake, behind a cherry blossom tree. It was disguised well enough by that tree and several bushes on different sides that it was practically invisible to most patrons of the park. The London Settlement, being the principal city of the Japanese province that was once Brittania, and as such it was a fairly bustling, clean city, made so in order to showcase the might and wealth of the Japanese Empire.
He waited at the park because it was the only place he could still sometimes pretend that the Empire hadn't yet touched this country. He had always been more comfortable, more at ease amongst the rough and tumble of rocks and trees and grass, with shorts worn above skinned knees and a shining sun overhead.
Sometimes, he was able to close his eyes and pretend he was at peace.
A step, at the edges of his hearing.
Lelouch had a distinct gait, a slow, measured movement that belied a kind of inherent grace belonging to those born of royalty, a grace that he himself had never learned.
He should be where I am, he thought to himself. He's far more cut out for this.
"Did I pull you out of class?" Suzaku asked casually, gazing up at the endless sky, arms crossed behind his head to make a makeshift pillow. He had changed out of his formal kimono and into simple jeans and t-shirt- clothes he could get dirty in, get lost in a crowd in, be free in.
"Like I really need it," Lelouch scoffed, rolling his eyes, taking the final steps up the hill so that he was standing just behind Suzaku's head, looking up at the same sky. "What's wrong?"
"Why would something be wrong?"
Lelouch raised a cynical eyebrow, looking unimpressed. "You're not even frowning today. When you're not frowning, it means you're not upset- you're angry."
Suzaku chuckled. "You know me too well."
"We've been best friends for seven years, I would think so," came the bored answer, but the undercurrent of warmth was audible to his ears- the mutual understanding worked both ways, after all.
"It's nothing new… just… this Empire. This world. It won't…" Suzaku bit his lip- he wasn't halting his words because of hesitation, but frustration.
"It won't change," Lelouch finished, already knowing the answer. They were best friends, after all. "How is she?"
Suzaku let a smile cross his face. "She's fine. I check on her every day, just like I promised. I could let you see her, if you want…"
A tremor, like a disease patient trembling, ran below Lelouch's skin, a memory like a cancer eating away at his control.
"You know I can't. It's not safe," he said slowly, the words as dry and stale as desert air, as though he had repeated them over and over to himself for years.
Only silence followed, wind whistled through leaves, mixing with the soft lapping of waves against the shores of the lake behind them, enwrapping the two boys in a world of peace all their own.
And as is the way with reality, that peace was utterly shattered by the sounds of war in the distance.
Shirley Fenette was what some people would call a 'girly girl'- she enjoyed little girl motifs, the color pink, flowers, and dresses. She was slim and delicate looking, with long strawberry hair and pale skin.
Which was why no one once thought she was actually a dangerous member of a Brittanian resistance cell, dedicated to bringing down the colonial government ruling over their country.
"Shirley, a little help here? I could really use some directions," Rivalz Cardemonde begged nervously, dressed, like her, in a gray jumpsuit and matching hat to cover his eyes, sweating hands on the wheel of the eighteen wheeler truck they had commandeered for this mission, which just barely managed to fit their cargo and their "insurance". He wasn't at the legal age to drive, but it didn't really matter, considering they had just stolen military property- at this point, breaking driving laws was the least of their worries.
Frankly, the whole mission smelled wrong to her- the information had come from sources that even Gino seemed somewhat skeptical about, but the chance to secure some important new military technology shipped in from the Japanese homeland was too much for them to pass up.
Shirley rolled her eyes. "The drop off point is outside Havering. You need to take the next exit and then make a right. We went over this at the briefing."
"I'm sorry we can't all remember stuff like that all that well," Rivalz shot back sarcastically, more out of nervousness than anything else. He had gone on several missions with her, and though he still got nervous under fire, he was reliable and hard working, which earned him a degree of trust.
"Look, let's just keep moving, alright?" Shirley muttered, pulling her hat closer over her eyes- it was important that they weren't identified. "God only knows when those damn Japanese bastards will figure it out-"
And right on cue, an electronically amplified voice interrupted her tirade.
"This is the Japanese military- stop the vehicle immediately and surrender yourself to our custody. If you do not, we have been authorized to use lethal force."
"Well, we're in trouble now," Rivalz said, chuckling morbidly, glancing over at her.
"Just keep driving," Shirley said determinedly, whipping off the hat as she unbuckled herself out of the passenger's seat. "I'll take care of this. It's why we have that 'insurance', anyways."
Shirley Fenette was what some people would call a 'girly girl'- she enjoyed little girl motifs, the color pink, flowers, and dresses- and as a result, not only did people not realize she was part of an underground terrorist cell, but that she was also a very capable Knightmare Frame pilot.
"Wait, hold… hold on… I… I need to catch my breath…" Lelouch panted slowly, hands on his knees, sweat practically rolling down his neck as he attempted to regain his breath, causing them to stop at the sidewalk of a formerly busy intersection (but thanks to whatever was causing this commotion, the number of cars had decreased dramatically).
"We only ran a few hundred feet," Suzaku said lightly, tone unchanged, as though he had been at a brisk walk instead of running headlong towards whatever disturbance was in the area. "Come on, it can't be that bad. I think whatever's happening is just ahead."
"Go… to… hell," he shot back, glaring daggers at his best friend. "We're not all meatheaded idiots. And why are we running?"
"I want to find out what's happening with my own two eyes," Suzaku replied quickly, a hint of impatience in his tone.
"You're too damn impulsive," Lelouch scowled, rolling his eyes in consternation. "Why don't you just make a call and find out what's happening? You're the head of the government here- shouldn't you have people for that?"
"… I left my phone behind," Suzaku admittedly sheepishly. "I didn't want to be bothered."
Lelouch gave him a look that could have melted steel and turned timber to ash, as he pulled his phone out, moving to punch in a number-
When an explosion not ten feet away occurred in street next to them, causing Suzaku to stumble and Lelouch to fall flat on his ass (leaving no question as to which one of them had the better sense of balance and physical ability).
They had barely recovered when an eighteen wheeler truck came barreling down the street like a massive land missile, followed swiftly by a white Knightmare Frame running interference behind it against several pursuing tanks- thankfully, they were going the opposite direction, so they were on the opposite lane, across the street.
"I guess we know what's happening," Lelouch coughed, trying to pick himself back up. "Eh, Suza- Suzaku?"
He blinked, scanning the street, only to find his friend already half a block down, running full tilt after the battle.
"Get somewhere safe!" Suzaku yelled behind him, "I'll find out what's going on!"
And before Lelouch could even comprehend and reply, he was gone.
"Damn meatheaded idiot," Lelouch swore loudly, picking himself up, and started after him.
Since the very first time she stepped inside a Knightmare, Shirley had to admit she received a thrill at handling such a potent machine, feeling the power at her fingertips. A dark part of her relished it, a part she was sometimes ashamed to admit existed, but that was fundamentally a part of her since that day, seven years ago.
"This is for you, daddy," she whispered softly, her personal, private ritual before battle, and charged forward with her Knightmare.
Because Brittania had developed Knightmare Frame technology first, even now, the old Knightmares made back during the war were still effective enough to fight on somewhat equal grounds with the newer Japanese Knightmare Frames. This particular model was known as the De Danann, one of the last series developed by the Brittanian Knightmare group, the Ashford Foundation, before they collapsed in the aftermath of the war.
The De Danann was white, with a cylindrical head that contained a Factsphere within, and bulky arms and legs that were occasionally somewhat clumsy, but it was fast and it carried two sharp Slash Harkens attached to the sides of its chest, which was all Shirley needed.
The tank in front of her swiveled its turret towards her, but before it could fire, she hit the controls and the De Danann lunged forward, smashing its fist into the front of the tank and crumpling the vehicle with a single blow.
Before the other two remaining tanks could respond, Shirley's Knightmare launched its Slash Harkens, easily slicing through the armor of both tanks, destroying them in an instant- conventional armored vehicles were growing ever less effective against Knightmares, and even an aging one like the De Danann could handle it easily.
However, that was only up against three tanks- Shirley could see using the sensors that reinforcements were coming in fast and hard, and this time, they would probably be using the Japanese Knightmares as well.
"Rivalz!" Shirley yelled loudly into the communicator. "Take a left at the next light and head into the Underground! We'll try to lose them there!"
Most of the once famous London Underground, the train tunnels that had once connected the old bustling capitol of Brittania, had been so heavily damaged during the invasion that the Empire had decided to abandon them altogether, replacing them with above-ground railroad tracks that now served the same purpose for cheap public transportation. As a result, however, the Underground became a breeding ground for those who refused to live in a city run by their oppressors- resistance fighters like Rivalz and Shirley knew their way around far better than the Japanese Army.
Now if only they could reach it in time-
Overhead, one Knightmare transport plane soared overhead, two more following close behind, and Shirley bit back a curse. "Rivalz! Their Knightmares are here! I'll slow them down, you keep going! I'll meet you at the drop off point!"
"Be careful," Rivalz replied, and the truck swerved left, down towards the Underground. There was no actual road into the Underground, but there were still a few abandoned rails that headed into tunnels- Rivalz had just cut onto one of them, a route they had used in previous missions.
For her part, Shirley found herself having to deal with the enemy Knightmare Frame, which was rapidly descending from its transport plane. The machine in question was a generation ahead of her aging De Danann, making it a Fifth Generation Knightmare Frame- the new model created after the invasion, ubiquitously named "Shinran".
It was painted a deep forest green, featured a more streamlined design than her De Danann, but the armor was significantly thicker, especially around the cockpit and shoulders, and the shoulder armor even boasted a wicked looking spike that Shirley had seen used as a makeshift weapon before. The head design was closer to a human's than her Knightmare's odd cylinder-shaped one, and boasted two overly large horns, purely for aesthetic value. To add to all this, it was equipped with an assault rifle, whereas her Knightmare had only its Stun Tonfas and Slash Harkens.
A brief trill ran through her stomach, the anticipation of battle. Grinning, the picture of a valkyrie springing out of myth, Shirley charged forward, extending her Stun Tonfas attached to her Knightmare's arms as she did so.
The Shinran Knightmare Frame pulled back, trying to put enough distance between them to use its assault rifle- a mistake, as it turned out, as Shirley rushed forward, correctly predicting its movement and slammed her left Stun Tonfa down on the arm carrying the rifle, shattering the enemy Knightmare's arm in one go and causing the rifle to fall.
Her Knightmare might have been a generation behind the Japanese machine, but Brittania was the creator of the Knightmare Frame to begin with- its Knightmares, while fewer in number and not having nearly as much of the precious Sakuradite to use as fuel, had always had an edge in power.
With a swift thrust, Shirley slammed her other Stun Tonfa directly into the chest of the Shinran, crumpling the cockpit, likely killing the pilot within, causing the Knightmare to collapse onto the road, unmoving.
She had no time to relish the victory, as the other two transport planes had already released their deadly cargo, and she was now facing down two more Shinran Knightmare Frames.
Gritting her teeth, Shirley pushed her De Danann forward, trying to close the distance again before they could draw a bead on her and open fire with their weapons. Cleverly, they split up, one going left and the other right, forcing her to split her attention- she chose to hit the right one, firing her Slash Harkens.
The enemy Knightmare ducked one, but the other caught its arm and sliced it off at the elbow, causing it to drop its rifle. Feeling confident she had stymied that opponent for at least a few moments, Shirley turned the Knightmare just in time to avoid a burst of fire, though not nearly fast enough to avoid getting clipped as part of her left Stun Tonfa was destroyed- but she still had her right, and proved it by dashing forward and crushing the side of the Shinran's head with it, causing it to spin out of control and crash into a nearby building.
The other Knightmare fired off its Slash Harkens, trying to take her by surprise, and it half worked- Shirley couldn't turn fast enough and her De Danann lost its right arm. She paid the opponent back in kind, however, as her own Slash Harkens tore apart the torso and destroyed the cockpit.
Ahead off in the distance, several more Knightmare transport planes came into focus, and below, a convoy of armored vehicles and tanks- the second wave of the pursuers. She had already lost both her Stun Tonfas and her right arm fighting three of them. Any more would be suicide.
It was time to go. Shirley briefly paused to grab a fallen assault rifle, and then took off, avoiding using the same route Rivalz had, knowing another way to get into the Underground that was farther away, so that they wouldn't be able to use her to find him.
Hopefully, he hadn't gotten himself into too much trouble…
"Colonel, that De Danann is escaping," his aide reported nervously, glancing over at him.
"Ignore it. One rebel is not as important as the cargo they stole from us," Kusakabe snapped irritably, hands clenched over the hilt of his ceremonial officer's katana, planting its sheathed blade firmly on the floor of the armored transport he sat in.
Damn. How the hell did those insurrectionists find out about this shipment? Who could have leaked it… the only ones who should have known were the people who developed it at the research lab and himself…
"Faster," he instructed impatiently. Let me find them in time, damn it…
"Oh man I am so freaking lost," Rivalz muttered, pulling the truck around another bend. He had to admit, he was rather terrible with directions- Shirley was always the navigator during missions. Still, Havering had to be in that general direction, right… with determined resolve, he made a right-
He hit a dead end.
"Oh screw it, I'll pull over and get the map."
Suzaku was already far inside the tunnel following the runaway truck when he started reconsidering his decision to follow what was likely a group of terrorists. He was confident in his martial abilities, but still… On the other hand, he was curious what prompted such an immediate response from the military, and without his authorization to boot.
Was Kusakabe planning something?
He might have been the Governor and the Crown Prince, but most of the politicians and officials still liked to keep him out of the loop, preferring to think of him as a boy. Sometimes, the only eyes and ears he could trust were his own.
His train of thought was derailed, so to speak, after watching the truck suddenly pull over down a corner and stop, killing the lights. Was the driver trying to hide, or was this the meet up point?
Creeping up carefully around the corner, he watched as the driver exited the vehicle, holding what Suzaku guessed humorously was a map. It was too dark to tell the sex or age of the driver with any certainty, but from the tall, slender frame, Suzaku guessed it had to be an older male.
Swiftly, he closed the distance between them, and pulled the driver into a headlock.
"Don't move!" Suzaku hissed, tightening the grip.
"Y-you'll never get anything out of me!" came the stammering voice of a young man, probably younger than Suzaku himself.
He was so surprised he nearly lost his grip, but regained control at the last moment. "I'm not with the military," he muttered, which was technically not a lie. "I just want to know, what's in the truck?"
The young man stopped squirming at that. "Why should I trust you?" came the defiant question.
Suzaku felt a faint smile cross his face. This young man had guts, at least. "I swear it," he said quietly. "I can't let you see my face just yet, but I promise I just want to know what's in there."
It took a few moments before he received a reply. "… I don't really know. This truck was already loaded with the stuff when we got to it, we were just supposed to hijack it. Some kind of new military technology that just arrived this morning… the boss said it was supposed to be a quick smash and grab. Didn't expect this."
"New military technology?" Suzaku blinked. Now there had to be something wrong. Any kind of important shipment would have gone through him first and foremost, especially if it was valuable enough to dispatch Knightmare Frames after.
Just what was the Colonel planning?
"Give me the keys, I want to have a look. After you give me the keys, get up against the wall, and don't turn around. I won't hurt you or take whatever it is in there- I just want to know what it is," Suzaku promised slowly, letting the grip relax a fraction. "Do you understand?"
"… it's not locked, I think. We didn't have time to lock it… you just need to remove the outside bolt," the driver admitted, but handed the keys over anyway.
"I'm going to let you go now. Don't turn around." And with that, Suzaku let go, and darted off for the back of the truck, just in case his prisoner decided to break his word. Since Suzaku had the keys, though, the other man couldn't take off with the cargo.
Removing the bolt, Suzaku opened the doors…
What he saw was not what he expected. In the far back, there was a single, dominating container, made up of smooth, polished metal that looked as though it had no openings or edges to speak of- as though it were simply a large rectangular block cut from some unknown, alien material. It would have puzzled Suzaku, had he not seen what was lying just at the feet of the black shape, like a sacrifice at some unknown altar.
The first thing he realized was the color pink dominating his vision, a vibrant pink that completely contrasted with the darkness around them. The pink was coming from long hair that looked unnaturally lustrous, almost supernaturally so. His eyes traced the hair to the delicate face of a woman that, even in this dim lighting, he realized was astonishingly pretty, and strangely familiar.
This beauty was marred, however, by the black gag and blindfold that had covered her mouth and eyes respectively, and as he glanced farther down he realized this girl was in one of the prisoner restraining suits created by Japan, with numerous buckles that tied the victim up at the ankles, knees, elbows, and wrists, completely freezing movement.
After another moment, he realized she was completely and utterly inert, comatose to the world- she had been drugged.
This was the military technology Kusakabe was smuggling into the country?
"What the hell is he doing?" Suzaku breathed, disgustedly removing the blindfold (revealing a delicately framed nose and long, long eyelashes), lifting the girl in his arms, holding her delicately, moving to take off the gag-
"Working for the betterment of our country, my Prince."
Suzaku whirled about, searching the darkness, when he was suddenly blinded as several floodlights kicked in, causing his vision to turn white as he reflexively put his hand up to shield his eyes. After it returned, he blinked furiously several times and removed his hand, coming face to face with his traitorous military commander, backed by five armed men alongside an armored vehicle and two Shinran Knightmares.
Off to the side, the body of the driver, who was revealed to indeed by a young man with blue hair, was restrained by another soldier.
"Working for the betterment of our country or yourself, Kusakabe?" Suzaku spat, narrowing his eyes. "What did you do to that boy?"
"The boy is fine. I need him for questioning, after all." The Colonel smiled like a serpent. "You don't understand what you're holding in your arms, my Prince. That girl, and the other parcel in that truck… they could change the face of war forever."
Suzaku scowled. "You're insane. This is just a girl."
Kusakabe sighed, shaking his head disappointedly as he rested his hands atop his katana, which was plunged into the dirt. "You just don't understand. In any case, I must ask that you release the girl- she's my property."
"Property?" his nostrils flared, and his fists tightened, aching to break the world between his fingers. "She's a human being!"
"If only you knew," Kusakabe snorted, and then jerked his head, and the soldiers behind him moved forward to take the girl from his grasp.
Suzaku shot them a glare, and stood, still holding the girl in his arms. "In the name of my father, the Emperor who sits upon the Chrysanthemum Throne, and as the Crown Prince of holy Japan and Governor of Brittania, I order you men to stand down and arrest the Colonel!"
The soldiers didn't even slow down, and grabbed at the unconscious girl, trying to pry her away from him.
Angrily, Suzaku tried to fight them off, shouting again, "Didn't you hear me? I'm-"
"Your orders don't count for anything here, boy," Kusakabe said venomously, chuckling. "Men obey those with real power, not puffed up princes who pretend they have a say in the world."
"You bastard!" Suzaku snarled, and lashed out with a kick, striking the nearest soldier and sending him crashing away into another man. He kept a firm grip on the girl, pulling them back towards the truck's cargo hold, when he was stopped by the distinctive click of a gun being cocked.
Kusakabe's unpleasant smile became as thin and sharp as a killing edge. "Like I said, your orders mean nothing here, my prince," he said, using the title mockingly, and motioned with his gun. "Now, set the girl down. I would hate to spill royal blood here. And don't think that the Emperor can save you. The Chrysanthemum Throne is half a world away, and if I can present him with what this girl represents, he won't need you anyway."
"I wasn't counting on my father's protection anyway," Suzaku growled, refusing to let go, even as he turned around.
"Indeed, I rather imagine he'd be pleased being rid of some whoreson he was forced to call his own blood," the Colonel replied, a sardonic, mocking play of a smile on his lips. "Isn't that why he sent you to this accursed island when you were a child, seven years ago? To hide such an embarrassment from the eyes of the court?"
If Suzaku could have done it without loosening his hold on the girl in his arms, he would have torn out Kusakabe's throat with his bare hands.
"In fact…" Kusakabe raised the gun, finger dancing at the trigger, "Why don't we just find out how angry he would be if I killed you?"
The gun went off.
The world was no longer lightless, soundless, tasteless. There was a light at the edges of her mind, burning so bright that even the ravenous, jealous darkness that consumed her could not keep her from it.
What that light was, she couldn't say. Maybe she knew it, but in this unending oblivion she had forgotten so very much.
But it was warm and it was real, and she longed to find it.
It's you, she whispered, opened her eyes, and pushed herself forward in time to catch the bullet, which pierced her breast, a merciless sword of white hot agony. But it was all worth it, because she could feel again for the first time in what might have been eternity.
For Suzaku, it all happened too fast to react to. Kusakabe was a trained, professional soldier- he wasn't going to wait a moment to add a pithy one liner to his threat. He was just going to shoot.
Even if he had been capable of even thinking about moving, he wouldn't have- to do so would have been to let go of the girl, and once he did he wasn't sure he'd be able to take her back from those men.
As the gun went off though, his mind finally kicked in, just in time to watch as the very girl had been trying to protect suddenly push through his grip and move herself in the way of the bullet, which pierced her chest, splattering his face with her blood, anointing him with the sacrifice of an innocent girl.
"Damn it!" Kusakabe swore loudly, looking annoyed. "Now look what you've done! I might have just ruined our only test subject!"
Suzaku's trembling hands reached out to turn the girl's face towards him, her violet eyes now open and unblinking, as if accusing him of her death.
And with horror, he realized he knew this girl.
"Lelouch, don't be mean to him!" she said loudly, nudging the glaring, amethyst eyed prince away, and flashing him the most brilliant, beautiful smile he had ever seen. "It's okay. Welcome to Brittania, Kururugi Suzaku-san. I'm Euphemia Li Brittania, but you can call me-"
"Euphie?" he whispered, eyes widening. Impossible.
No one had seen her since the fall of Brittania, over seven years ago- she was missing, declared dead. Even Lelouch swore he had never been able to track her down, despite all his best efforts. Unlike most of the other royal children, who had either gone into exile or cooperated with the government, her location seemed lost.
She was dead.
This was her. This was Euphie.
"What is she… why was she in there…" he breathed, half-mad, babbling words without knowing it.
"You've never seen death so close before, have you?" the Colonel questioned, raising his eyebrow, chuckling, sounding vaguely bemused. "It's always a shock that first time. But don't worry, I won't miss this time."
Shaking, his shocked mind finally allowed itself a thought- not to move him out of the way, but to berate him in the last few moments before his brain would be reduced to so much gray pulp and blood on the walls.
You can't even save the life of one girl. This is the extent of your justice? You're going to die without accomplishing anything?
Suzaku shut his eyes, and waited for death.
You don't have to die.
The thought was a foreign intrusion on his mind, the voice unlike his own- the voice of a woman, a pleasing, soft pitch in his ears.
Was this some kind of last minute hallucination?
I will give you the power. I know you can use it. You're the one I've been waiting for.
"Farewell, my dear prince." Kusakabe smiled thinly, and fired.
Lelouch scowled, glancing down the tunnel suspiciously. He thought he had heard gunshots, but… there was no way Suzaku would actually be stupid enough to go into the Underground alone, right?
He thought about it for another moment.
"That goddamn idiot." Lelouch cursed his erstwhile best friend, even as he started down the tunnel. "If we live through this, I'm going to kill him."
A hollow threat, in more ways than one, Lelouch knew, but it felt nice to say it.
But at the same time, he couldn't shake this nameless, vaguely malignant dread that plagued his heart. Something terrible was about to happen.
You'd better be safe Suzaku, he thought determinedly, and moved a little faster.
The world had turned into a maelstrom of violence and sound, a chaotic vortex that drowned his senses.
Was this how it felt right before the bullet?
I'm sorry, Euphie, he whispered silently, and pulled her body closer to his own- maybe in death his grip on her would still trouble the soldiers.
What happened next, however, was not the feeling of a tiny cone of death piercing his skull, but the sound of a bullet ricocheting off of something metallic.
"W-what the hell is that?" Kusakabe said loudly, but it sounded distant to his ears, as though coming through a high, keening wind that absorbed most of the noise.
The smell of gunpowder filled his nostrils, and yet it felt as though the scent stayed there, unable to effect him. Sweat born from frayed nerves rolled down his neck, and he didn't even notice. His own heartbeat practically roared in his ears, and still, he heard it and felt it with a curious dissonance, analyzing it, feeling it without experiencing it.
Nothing felt real in that moment, except the machine in front of him.
It was golden, radiating such magnificent glory that it caused a frightful awe in all who saw it, like a god of myth and legend descended to earth. It was a Knightmare Frame, or at least that was all he could call it, because that was the closest man-made creation that could come even close to being categorized with this beast that seemed to have sprung from some sort of terrible, fiendish imagination. Unlike other Knightmares, which looked like clumsy imitations of men, this was the image of man as he could be, a magnificent specimen of metal exaltation. It had no unwieldy Landspinners to propel itself, but true feet, set in three toed claws, and a helmeted head with a mouthless face and burning red eyes, a terrible knight sprung from fairytales. It wielded a mighty blade in one hand, half again as tall as Suzaku himself, as bright as the stars and as keenly edged as the eyes of a hawk.
And without thinking, he already knew its name, for that same ethereal voice was in his ear, whispering it to him.
This is your power.
Without thinking, as though he were an automaton, a slave to the effulgent, alien magnificence that was this machine, the Caliburn, Suzaku glanced over at Kusakabe, his men, and his war machines that seemed as paltry and insignificant as dry leaves before a wildfire, and spoke only two words to this newly gestated god.
And as this golden warrior-god, this Caliburn, did as he requested, taking its massive blade and slicing through Kusakabe's body and the body of five other men as though moving through air, and then lunged forward and stabbed through the armored vehicle as a child might put his finger through the sand, before finally turning its attention to the Shinran Knightmare Frames, who fought it like wasps fighting a giant, stinging it with their bullets that were no more than an annoyance against its unnatural armor before being destroyed with a single swing of that terrible sword, a thought, a realization, an epiphany that might have come on the trumpets of angels or maybe the murmurs of devils, came into being in his psyche.
This was it.
This was what he had waited for his entire life.
A means to fight against a society that had fallen into corruption and ruin, a power to use to defend the powerless, and a justice against the injustices of a world gone mad.
Kururugi Suzaku laughed, and the world trembled before him.
Welcome to my new pet project- I won't be working on it very much until I finish Revenant, but I thought I'd post the first chapter and see what people thought about it. This'll mostly be my nice side project to work on continuously after Revenant.
I'm aware I haven't truly set the stage yet, but with this story, I'm going to introduce the elements gradually, to ease you all in- besides, it's no fun to show you guys all my cards right away. Everyone will be playing a part, in some capacity, though all roles will be reversed in some fashion or another. Admittedly, I haven't thought of what to do for everyone yet, just the core cast and some of the supporting, but as the ideas come to me I'll continue adding more characters to this mythos. Not all the characters will switch roles with the person taking their place, by the way- Shirley has taken Kallen's role, but that doesn't mean Kallen has taken Shirley's… *grins*
Pairings will occur in this story, just as it did in canon. I'm still not totally decided on how it will all play out, or who will be with whom, but I'll be playing around with a number of different ships, so keep an eye out- just know that no pairing is set in stone.
This chapter took a long time to finish (read: started it over half a year ago, left it alone, and then came back to it a few days ago and wrote most of it in a day and a half), because I was basically trying to run it completely parallel to the original first episode of R1, and didn't realize how much it would take to make the whole thing come together. After this, though, things will begin deviating rapidly from canon- I'll have some arcs that will parallel the original story, but other times I'll be changing things entirely.
Kusakabe is one of the one-shot characters in Code Geass season 1, the guy who took over the Kawaguchi hotel and held the Ashford girls and Euphemia hostage. He seemed a good fit for my purposes, so I used him here, which is what I'll probably be doing with several more minor characters.
Its funny- I picked Havering at random as a place, and then went "oh shit, I need a place that's close to the docks", only to find out it is, in fact, close enough to the ocean and the London dock area to count. Big thanks to hungrybookworm though for letting me question her about England - any inconsistencies with the original country you can just attribute to this being fiction and an alternate universe to boot, because I already tried to make it as accurate as I could.
The De Danann is a reference to the Tuatha De Danann, an ancient people in Irish mythology. I didn't really know how to describe it, but basically it's this world's version of the Glasgow Knightmare, but with better specs overall. The Shinran is the equivalent of the Sutherland, and I named it after a particular Buddhist monk. Points to whoever actually knows the sect of Buddhism he belongs to.
And yes, Suzaku's Knightmare, the Caliburn (the original translation of Excalibur from Welsh, which eventually became Excalibur) is inspired by Nunnally's Knightmare in Nightmare of Nunnally, but I'm also drawing heavily on the Evangelions from Neon Genesis Evangelion and Linebarrel from Kurogane no Linebarrels. Suzaku himself is what I can draw about his younger self, pre-patricide- it seems like he has the same ideals about justice as Lelouch, but the trauma of killing his father caused his views to change. I'm aware that he got the most amount of time here, but what can you do? It's supposed to parallel episode one- next chapter the other characters will get their chance to shine as well. As for what's going on with Lelouch… all things in time, my friends.
Thanks for reading, hope you leave a review, and see you next time!