Disclaimer: I don't own Code Geass. It belongs to Clamp and Sunrise. The idea of a smoker!Suzaku comes from Serena the Hikari of Love's SuzaLulu fanfiction called Disconnected Modem. I highly recommend that fanfiction, it's worth a read :D
Warning: Violence, mentions of blood and some gore in this chapter.
To be fair, Lelouch had had enough training instilled in him from Sayoko (dodge ball practise was good for something at least) that he could escape the first draw of Nemo's metal shard. The adrenaline pumping in his veins, let Lelouch push himself back further as the little girl snarled forward, like a sea monster whose tentacles swirled eagerly towards its next meal.
Lelouch scrambled to his feet, still greatly confused and distraught, but with enough sense to run as far away as possible in the other direction. Screw his stamina, he would run until his lungs collapsed and his body shut down before he looked back now.
Nemo was just faster, inhumanely so.
(Nemo. The name meant nothing to him. Nemo...)
There was literally a white blur that passed by him before Lelouch was thrown back on the ground, welcoming the full body sting which was becoming a regular occurrence today and Nemo pinned him to the ground by the throat. She raised her hand, the metal shard from the blown truck shining, as if anticipating its future drink.
Lelouch struggled in his hold, opening his lips several times, to try and shout. But Nemo's blood red eyes, shining with insanity, glowed. She opened her lips, perhaps to laugh or to say something before she began to giggle.
Then the metal plunged into Lelouch's side.
(Hello Little Prince, the pain seemed to say, after you die for me, would you like to accept my code?)
He screamed, and in that moment, wondered if blood would rush out of his mouth, like a fountain, if he screamed for long enough, like Lavinia from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, her tongue cut for a river of blood.
Laughter echoed around him, surrounding him and his screams as an accompaniment to the concerto of torture. Lelouch wondered if this was the music, the horrible music, which devils played in the depths of Hell. He wondered if they danced with glee when their victims sung (screamed) the right tones, if they laughed because the duet of sadist and victim would feel empty without it.
It felt to Lelouch that the blade was pain solidified, not only digging in the flesh between his ribs, but rushing towards the very tips of his fingers and toes, till even his eyes felt as if they were on fire. He did not bite back his screams. The pain insisted on overflowing through his mouth. If he did not let his voice run hoarse, he felt that the pain would burst within him, tearing him into pieces.
Images entered his mind, flashing like distorted film, meaningless to him. There were images of bodies, all lined in glass tubes, suspended in liquid while an ominous figure stood before them. There were images of a symbol, a letter V, blinking in his mind like warning lights, lights to tell children to stay away from the intersection, or you would be hit. There were other screams, screams of ageless things, things that Lelouch couldn't name but he had a feeling that they were what had been, and what would be.
After a while, what seemed light years in space and time, the images stopped, and Lelouch only knew a name, a name which kept chanting in his mind.
(Nemo, Nemo, Nemo… it whispered. Don't you remember, little Prince?)
His other senses were left untouched. What need did he have for eyes when all he could do was feel? The flashes of pleased red eyes, dipped in poisonous sadism accompanied by awful and dissonant laughter, as musically unpleasant as diminished sevenths, echoed in the hollow crevices of his skull. But it meant nothing to him, the other presence.
He only knew how to scream while pictures of Vs and whispered of Nemo caressed his eyes and ears.
Beside him, the petite girl with long blonde curls and a startling resemblance to his dear sister, watched as warm liquid flowed down her hands, staining her white suit in crimson. She was shaking uncontrollably, so much so that one could have thought she was laughing, as all villains do, at her victim's torture.
And she was laughing, laughing madly, as a thirsty soul would laugh when finally granted with one drop of water.
But there were tears too; tears streaking down her cheeks, like small little hands trying to wash away the crimson of her sins.
Lelouch screamed… and Nemo's hoarse laughter sank into hysterical sobs.
"I'm sorry, Little Prince… I'm sorry…I've cursed you with our fates now…"
Then the shadow of a white Knightmare descended upon them both.
Walk On In
Rivalz jumped out in front of the first military vehicle that crossed his path when he approached the busy free way. The vehicles whisked by, like blades ready to tear any human being into pieces if they dared to cross, any sane human beings. But Rivalz had abandoned all notions of sanity the minute he had run after Lelouch with this crazy plan in mind.
It didn't occur to Rivalz for a minute that the military might not listen to a mere Britannian student or that he might die if an army truck didn't stop. Only fear motivated him, a fear which whispered that Lelouch could be tied up and shot any moment, that the terrorists could use him as a hostage, that Lelouch could be one second closer to death every time Rivalz loitered.
He made his decision within one single heart beat and watched as the military truck rushed towards him. Like an avalanche, Rivalz suddenly knew, it would not stop, would not be able to stop if it wanted to, not at this speed. His sense of self-preservation screamed at him get out of the way before he was hit. But still his feet did not move. Rivalz spread out his arms wide and faced the looming headlights and for the longest three seconds of his life, he did not breathe, he did not move or flinch. He swore that his heart did not beat.
Impossibly, at the last moment, the military truck screeched to a noisy halt, a quarter of an inch from Rivalz's chest. His lungs relaxed as Rivalz gladly breathed in air. Around him, the other military vehicles continued to wheeze by, mere wisps of air compared to his main focus.
The driver of the vehicle, a frazzled woman with blue hair and in a pilot suit, pulled down her window and called out, "You are blocking the road. There is currently a situation in national security. Please move out of the way or we will have no choice but to use force."
But Rivalz wasn't listening. Seeing that he had the driver's attention, he ran up to the driver's window and blurted out, "My friend's been kidnapped by the terrorists. You have to save him or he'll die!"
The woman's eyes widened before they narrowed, "If this is a prank then—"
"Of course it's not a prank! Why would anyone joke about shit like this?" Rivalz yelled. "Tell your soldiers that the terrorists have a hostage! Every minute we waste, Lelouch could be killed at any time!"
She seemed conflicted but before anyone else could speak, another voice joined in. One of the passengers in the truck, hidden from Rivalz's view asked cautiously, "…Lelouch…? You don't mean Lelouch Lamperouge, do you? He attends Ashford academy, just like you…"
Never had Rivalz felt so relieved for his black and gold uniform. Next time he saw Milly's grandfather, he was going to worship the man for a week and then loudly proclaim the glory of uniforms for the rest of his life. No more complaining about what a pain it was not to have casual wear again.
"Yes! That's him—wait," he frowned, instantly on guard, "how do you know who Lelouch is?"
He could count all of Lelouch's acquaintances on his fingers and toes. Lelouch didn't go out much, so his social relationships were limited to work at Pizza House, Ashford Academy, the coffee shop he frequented, the church, where Rivalz took him gambling and the Lamperouge Household. Rivalz didn't recognize this man, nor did he sound as if he fit the description of any of Lelouch's friends at the coffee shop (they were all Elevens, while this man, was clearly not).
This man couldn't be one of the people that Lelouch and Nunnally were trying to avoid, could he? There had been previous incidents where strange people had tried to go after Lelouch (Rivalz suspected they were mere stalkers) and then he and Milly had had to beat them up (in Milly's case, there had been emotional scarring). No one shown up from Lelouch's past yet… but Rivalz was always paranoid that some day someone would… It was only a matter of time.
"Whoever you are, you better not hurt him," Rivalz scowled irrationally, rising up his fists just in case, "or you'll have to answer to me and the rest of the Ashford student council.
Whatever he had been expecting, amused chuckles had not been it. Slowly the door clicked open. Rivalz tensed, readying himself to defend his friend if necessary. But what he saw surprised him too much. The man that stepped out dressed in elaborate silk robes with swirled designs on the collars and outer layers. Ruffles were sewn at the arm cuffs and neck collar, while an expensive medallion hung around the men's neck. Rings adorned each finger, glittering amethyst, onyx and topaz.
The man smirked in a familiar way and had the same calculating edge that Rivalz sometimes saw in Lelouch when he played chess. He also had the same pale skin, though not as smooth looking as Lelouch's. But the man's eyes were slightly colder than Lelouch's save for the degree of worry Rivalz saw there, a worry which could only be for one person…
"Hello Rivalz Cardemonde," said Prince Schneizel pleasantly, though his grim smile said otherwise. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance at last. My younger brother has told me so much about you and your student council… Now," he paused before his eyes darkened, "what was that you mentioned concerning him with terrorists?"
To Rivalz's credit, he did not faint. But he did lose all powers of speech for several costly minutes at the word 'brother.'
There was no hesitation when Suzaku had the Lancelot pull out one of its slash harkens and he made the Lancelot slash down at the little girl who had dared to hurt Lelouch. He pictured the Lancelot as an extension of himself; he pictured himself as the one who had the physical pleasure of ending the one who had tried to kill that boy.
The blade fell upon the little girl, lightning on the devil, but it did not hit her. Suzaku looked up, scowling, as he saw a blur to his right before the little girl appeared at the edge of the blown up warehouse, holding a screaming Lelouch in her arms.
He was momentarily stunned, wondering if he had just suffered a hallucination. The girl had been in front of him only a few moments ago. How could she have run twenty meters away from him in such a small time frame?
Suzaku moved the Lancelot again, determined to catch the girl in the mechanical arm's grasp and watch her collapse under the slash harpen. This time he made sure to keep his arms ready, in case he needed to switch his directions to block the girl's path. He would not be caught off guard by a blur again.
"Take this!" Suzaku shouted, pushing the lever which forced the Lancelot's right arm down upon the girl's head, the slash harken making a colourful swipe at her.
He felt the tremors in the ground when the blade smashed into the concrete, forcing apart gravel and cement. The cluttered rubble fell by the Lancelot's sides, a rain of destruction and Suzaku lifted his head, scanning around for any sign of the girl's corpse.
It wasn't there. He had missed the girl again.
Suzaku swore loudly and turned the Lancelot around, spotting the girl racing on the rooftops of the apartment buildings behind him. She moved like a rocket, her legs almost invisible to Suzaku's eyes. He blinked several times to make sure that he wasn't imagining things.
It was true.
This girl moved in a blink of an eye… it wasn't possible. But then again, Suzaku had seen impossible when Zero had shown him C.C.'s power and when he had fought against V.V., only to realize that the pale blond midget had psychic powers that could destroy a normal human being within seconds. This girl is just like them, thought Suzaku. A slight fear gripped him, as fear often gripped humans when they faced the unknown.
But then he saw the trail of deep crimson, dripping from Lelouch's side and a hot cold fury swept through his entire body. Suzaku saw red, all fear erased. It didn't matter what sort of freak of nature she was. Soon she would be dead; Suzaku would make sure of it.
He moved the Lancelot towards the girl again, wanting to scare her off so that maybe she'd drop Lelouch and give him a chance to slice her to pieces. She moved like a sunbeam, almost invisible to his sight save for the white blur on his screen, running towards the outskirts of destroyed warehouse.
But Suzaku's reaction time was faster than any supernaturally powered being. Perhaps before he had been caught off guard but now that he knew her capabilities, he could accurately judge the best way to approach. The Lancelot's arm fell in front of the girl's path, slamming like the hammer of Thor and knocking her to her feet.
She fell, sprawled against the ground, her blonde locks trailing behind as a curtain to her demise while Lelouch laid limp a few metres from her. The stain on his Ashford uniform was beginning to darken to pure black, bleeding red against the pavement.
Suzaku didn't hesitate, didn't feel anything. He only saw the red, only felt the need to snuff out the girl's life... and it was gone in that one silent second.
The girl's eyes were blood red, much like crimson pooling around her.
She looked at Suzaku, at the Lancelot's eerie blank eyes and (to Suzaku's surprise) smiled coldly at him. "Can you save him?" she mouthed the words.
For a moment, Suzaku wasn't sure what she meant. He almost dismissed it in his apathetic state (the only things that mattered to him at the moment were Lelouch's safety and this girl's death. All else meant nothing… absolutely nothing) but then he blinked and the girl was gone.
His heart skipped a beat, clenched in a fist of absolute terror.
"Lelouch!" Suzaku shouted, though he knew the girl could not hear him from within the cockpit, neither could the Britannian boy whose very life was on the precipice of reality and death.
The Lancelot swerved around, giving Suzaku a view of where he had seen Lelouch fall. The girl was there, smirking sadistically while she wrapped her arms around Lelouch's shoulders, leaning her cheek against the other boy's almost tenderly.
But to Suzaku, it looked only as if the girl was mocking his very ability to destroy her.
The wave of irrational fury, a vision of red, took over his senses once more. "Get away from him!" Suzaku spat, his Lancelot responding to his erratic anger like a loyal shadow.
Its arm rushed wildly towards the girl, trying to hit her once more. But she was gone again, just like that and Suzaku could only feel more annoyance, more anger and frustration rushing in. He had one of the most capable and efficient Knightmares even to be created and yet he couldn't even kill one little girl, one dangerous freak of a girl…
It was like trying to swat a fly with a swatter, knowing that the swatter was too slow to catch such a small and quick target. It was almost impossible.
She was behind him again, carrying Lelouch in her arms; purposefully digging her fingers (with a sickening squelch that Suzaku couldn't hear, but could so very much imagine) in the place of Lelouch's wound to widen it. Blood trailed down her fingers in little trails, decorating her pale skin in thick red threads. She smiled again, listening to the cacophony of Lelouch's screams.
He wanted very much to charge at her again but knew that it would change nothing. If he couldn't attack her with the Lancelot before, he wouldn't be able to know. Suzaku needed to change his strategy somehow and trap the girl. Time was running out… the longer he spent battling her, the more blood Lelouch lost…
The girl stared at him, her smile taunting. He felt his blood boil.
Suzaku had the Lancelot pull out one of its pistols. He pointed it at the girl and began to shoot wildly all around her, watching as the buildings collapsed into rubble. The girl fell, the rubble surrounding her in a circle of chaos. For a moment, she was blinded by the clouds of dust and the sounds of destruction.
Suzaku rushed forward in the Lancelot, reaching out the mechanical arm to try and pry the girl and Lelouch apart. He only hoped that he wouldn't hurt Lelouch anymore than necessary and that this would finally kill the girl.
His target anticipated his movement, even in her confusion. She jumped up and dashed away up on top of the uneven piles of broken walls and concrete, Lelouch like a rag doll in her arms. Suzaku gave chase; the pistol still held in the Lancelot's other hand. He fired up ahead of her path and around her, relying on his previous strategy to slow her down.
It wasn't working.
And Suzaku was running out of ideas to combat against this inhumanely fast girl.
"God damn it, just die already!" Suzaku spat again. "Give back Lelouch!"
She was mocking him again, Suzaku could feel it. The girl smiled coyly at him again and lifted up one of her hands to lick off the trails of Lelouch's blood. Her own red eyes seemed to glow eerily and Suzaku felt the apprehension he had felt earlier return. What the hell was this girl and why was she after Lelouch in the first place?
He pointed the Lancelot's pistol at her again though he knew it was in vain. There wasn't much else he could do, unless he could destroy the entire block in an attempt to crush her. But that could easily kill Lelouch as well and Suzaku wasn't going to take that risk.
He let the Lancelot squeeze the trigger. With a loud bang, he sent the blast towards the girl, preparing for the disappointment when it didn't hit her.
Lelouch regained his grip on reality not long after the first few blasts of gunfire around him. He dimly noted that the loud noises and bits of dust flying into his face meant that he was either being attacked or close to gunfire.
His screaming had stopped for a while now, enough for Lelouch to try and gain a sense of where he was. The pain was still present, but was now a dull reminder that he was alive rather than insane. He was aware that someone was carrying him, at extremely fast speeds, somewhere and that the gunfire was continuing.
He opened his eyes, masking his shock when he saw the girl (Nemo, the voices were whispering again, cruel and mocking. Nemo. Don't you remember her, Little Prince?) who looked so much like Nunnally. She was the one carrying him. It seemed that she was running from the blasts. Once Lelouch craned his neck upwards, ignoring the stab of pain jolting within him and the blood running down his sides, he saw a flicker of white.
There was a Knightmare pursuing them, a white model that Lelouch had not seen before. It was likely one of the newer frames in the military though Lelouch had to wonder why it was here. Perhaps it was one of the frames that were after the terrorist truck earlier and was now trying to retrieve the girl. Lelouch wasn't sure. His head was spinning and everything felt too dizzy for him to reach a proper conclusion.
He needed to escape quickly before he lost the ability to think again.
Even when he wasn't in the right state of mind, Lelouch could tell who the greater danger was. Between the unknown Britannian Knightmare and this girl Nemo, Lelouch was willing to bet his life on the Knightmare. He would rather risk the exposure of his identity than his sanity.
The next move was simple.
Lelouch reached up with all of his remaining strength (fighting the dizziness, the urge to close his eyes again and just sleep) and he hit the girl in the eyes, blinding her.
Nemo hissed loudly, pausing in mid-step.
It was only a moment's hesitation, but it was enough for Lelouch to shove himself away from her hold, pushing her to the ground. He stumbled away, holding his wound with his arm and trying to limp as quickly as possible away from her.
Nemo snarled, blinking away tears (his fingers had actually hit her very hard, surprisingly enough) as she moved forward to pull him towards her again.
That was all of the time needed for the white Knightmare to descend with its pistol and shoot the girl straight through the heart, right in front of Lelouch.
He felt himself freeze, eyes locked with Nemo's, unable to look away.
Dribbles of red fell from her mouth. She blinked slowly, like a newborn breaking from sleep and whispered one last time to him.
And she fell.
Lelouch collapsed upon his knees in shock. Then he began to see harsh visions of the symbol V (Do you remember, Little Prince? Do you remember what you did?) flicker in front of his eyes like a distorted film and the voices returned with a vengeance. (Nemo. They whispered once more… Nemo and another name, a name that used to belong to him…)
For what seemed like the millionth time, Lelouch screamed.
Suzaku had taken the girl's hesitation as a chance to shoot her. He quietly thanked Lelouch for forcing the girl into a position where she was stationary for more than three seconds, just enough for Suzaku to finish her for good.
He watched with satisfaction when she lay bleeding on the ground, unforgiving of anyone who dared to put a violent hand on Lelouch.
It's what she deserves.
The Lancelot hovered over her body and Suzaku stared down at her almost obsessively, waiting until the moment she took her last breath, almost to confirm that he had successfully slain the enemy. The girl whispered something towards Lelouch's direction, something that Suzaku could neither see mouthed nor hear.
Then she turned her head towards Suzaku (knowingly, like she knew he was watching, waiting) and she mouthed to him with a bitter (and oddly satisfied) smile.
"Looks like Zero won't be able to collect all of the geasses now, Mr. White Knight…"
His jaw slacked. Questions rushed inside his brain, threatening to burst from his lips but before he could say or do anything more, the girl's body was engulfed in a white light.
There was a strange lettering on her forehead that also glowed, but in a bright red. She seemed to float, only a few inches off the battered ground and then the light fluctuated and burned brighter.
Off to the side, Lelouch cried out so hoarsely, the instant that the lettering on the girl's forehead shone crimson, that Suzaku felt he could have died as well. He wanted to rush over to Lelouch's side, scoop up the boy in his arms and nurse him back to health.
But for some reason, he couldn't tear his eyes away from the girl. It felt important that Suzaku watch, that he had to watch because something inside him warned that this would be important information that could help Lelouch later on. He wasn't sure why he thought so. But Suzaku wasn't about to question his instincts.
Then the girl's body fell limp, her eyes went blank and most frightening of all… her body disintegrated into little bits of red, gone.
He stood in shock, the Lancelot hovering motionlessly above the spot where the body used to be. It wasn't there anymore, as if Suzaku really had imagined the struggle, the girl and the blood. As if there was no such thing as strange beings with inexplicable powers, no such thing as people like V.V. and C.C…
The coughing and spluttering Suzaku dimly heard through his speakers returned him to his present situation. Lelouch was injured badly, in need of medical treatment. There was no time to question his sanity, not now. Lelouch came first.
He landed the Lancelot just in front of the Britannian student and let the cockpit open. Just before he did so, Suzaku remembered that he couldn't let Lelouch see his face no matter what. If he did, he risked Lelouch finding out his secret, about the Black Knights.
Suzaku threw on his helmet without a thought, making sure it was secure in front of his face and thanking Rakshata that the visor was toned black. The helmet covered all of his features. Lelouch would be unable to tell who he was unless he scrutinized extremely close, high unlikely. Rakshata had also had the foresight to install voice changers to the helmets, so the Black Knights could more easily hide their identities. So unless Lelouch could see through objects, Suzaku would be unrecognizable.
Helmet secure, Suzaku jumped down from the Lancelot and ran to Lelouch's side. He made sure to take the first aid kit (there was one in the back of the cockpit; Britannian engineers were good for something). Lelouch's face looked dark under the view of the visor but Suzaku could tell it was paler than normal. The boy's breaths were so shallow that Suzaku feared that Lelouch could die any moment and Suzaku could be none the wiser.
He carefully put his arms around Lelouch's shoulders and moved the boy to a more comfortable position in Suzaku's lap. There was a squelch from the blood oozing out of Lelouch's wound, followed by a heavy metallic scent.
Suzaku ripped off the outer coat of Lelouch's uniform and tossed it aside. Then he unbuttoned the white dress shirt, now soaked with blood and ripped off the bits of white cloth that were still dry. Luckily, this included the upper half of the shirt, so Suzaku had enough to make a crude pillow for Lelouch's head and something to close the wound, if only temporarily.
With all the gentleness he possessed, he laid Lelouch down.
His heart beat furiously in his throat and Suzaku felt himself make clumsy movements as he tried to pry open the first aid kit.
"Everything's going to be ok, Lelouch…" Suzaku said over and over, a mantra more to himself. Anything to help him focus on the task at hand, to block unnecessary panic.
Fingers nearly dropped the bottle of antiseptic. He wasn't sure if it was necessary to use antiseptic on such a large wound, but it didn't hurt to be careful. Now if only the wound would stop damn bleeding like a river…
Lelouch needed a doctor. This wasn't something household hugs and kisses could heal. But Suzaku pushed that thought away. It was too risky; he needed to concentrate on stopping the blood flow from Lelouch's side. But wasn't ignoring the severity of the situation just as risky?
No. Don't think. Suzaku thought, as his fingers graced the top of Lelouch's ebony bangs very gently. The gloves he wore preventing him from being able to truly touch Lelouch, from having the comfort of touch to confirm that Lelouch was there. Just deal with the blood for now. He tried to put his panic aside. Think of what to do next later.
Mechanically, he took out a roll of bandages and began to wrap them around Lelouch's waist, making sure to cover the side wound. He watched the piercing red disappear under layers of white and then tied the bandages together in a tight knot. He tried not to think of how much bandage was being used.
"Everything is going to be ok…," he said again, once he recalled that he wasn't supposed to know Lelouch's name if he was to act like a stranger. His thoughts were too erratic, filled with cries of Lelouch and an urge to run as far away as possible from the battle ground, carrying the student with him.
But Lelouch was too lost in blood loss to comprehend what was said near him, too lost to realize who was with him. The boy's eyelids were half-closed in a daze. The screaming had stopped. Now Lelouch looked like a mechanical doll, broken and tattered.
Suzaku's heart ached at the sight.
His fingers brushed the side of Lelouch's cheek again and this time Suzaku gave in to the impulse to embrace him.
It's going to be ok...
He buried his face (or rather, the front of the helmet) in the crook of Lelouch's neck, groping desperately for a faint pulse (not that he'd be able to feel it now, with his gloves on).
I won't let Lelouch die...
His arms tightened around the boy's waist. He had never realized how thin Lelouch was. He swore that when he saw Lelouch back at the Lamperouge Household again, he would hover over the boy until he saw that Lelouch ate his fill. He was never going to leave his side again.
It's going to be ok...
The pulse was faint; it was fluctuating between steady beats and slowly dying away. Suzaku's mind raced with possibilities and options, but all of them involved him risking the mission of the Black Knights. He couldn't do that.
If it's for Lelouch, I'll do anything... even betray Zero... even...
No. He wouldn't. Not yet. Waves of anger at himself rushed forward. His revenge on the empire meant everything to him, so did Zero. The ghosts of Toudou and his father would never cease to haunt him if he ever jeopardized his vendetta for the sake of one boy.
(But he couldn't imagine life without—
What? Something seemed to scream at him. Life without what? I dare you finish that sentence, Suzaku Kururugi. Life without what?)
"Enough!" Suzaku yelled out loud, punching his fist to the ground beside the boy's body.
He had wasted enough time. He needed someone he could trust, someone who would not tell Zero about Lelouch, someone who would somewhat understand. He needed them to bring Lelouch to a Britannian medic (it would be too conspicuous if Suzaku went, too risky for the Black Knights) because as loathe as Suzaku was to admit, bringing Lelouch to the Black Knights was not an option. He could not foresee what Zero would do with the boy (Zero would use the boy, some treachery in him whispered. He paid no attention to it.)
Suzaku reached for the black cell phone in the pocket of his vest. There was a moment's pause before Suzaku dialled a familiar number, praying to a God he no longer believed in that the other would pick up.
Tick tock. Tick tock.
You're running on borrowed time, Clovis, the prince felt the oppressive grandfather clock say. It was an ugly antique, one that he now regretted on impulse because it had merely reminded him of home. Such sentimental things would have gotten him scolded by Cornelia for overspending, while Schneizel looked on with coolly concealed amusement and slight disdain.
Clovis wondered, for a brief and foolish moment what Lelouch and Nunnally would have thought of him buying that old clock.
It sat against the wall from the throne, hidden from view, tacky decor, as Clovis could picture a young Lelouch saying without a care. Nunnally would smile sweetly and admire the clock's smooth wooden surface, oak imported from northern Britannia, trimmed with gold and carefully etched designs of angels around the clock and demons by the pendulum. Marianne would only chuckle, a silent shadow to her children's daily interactions, always watching.
The clock was a menacing presence now, a memento nori. He only had so much time left and he wasn't sure when Zero would come to end his life. It was just a matter of what his next move would be.
Only so many more seconds to find out Zero's name, only so many more seconds of hiding behind the real reason for ordering the all the Elevens in the ghetto slaughtered, only so many more seconds to regret every moment that led up to his moment the clock seemed to taunt him.
"Shut up," Clovis clenched his fists. "I don't regret any of my actions. Taking over as Area 11's governor was for them. Capturing N.N. was for them. Restarting the project was for them but now..."
"Now you've nowhere to run," said a voice from behind him. It echoed off of the walls of the empty throne room, as if the intruder was an omnipotent wind.
The prince gasped and turned around. He backed away when he saw the cloaked figure standing on top of the top of the throne, feet poised elegantly as a cat's. Only the gleam of a faceless mask stared in response to Clovis's shock.
"Guards! Guards! Get in here! There's an intruder! Kill him!"
The order escaped his mouth before he knew it, hysterical as it bounced off the walls and repeated back to him in several more terrified echoes. Clovis stumbled towards the door, his feet now possessed by terror. His hands gripped the clasps of the bronze handles, after what seemed like forever to reach, but they slipped because of the sweat seeping off his skin.
He couldn't open the door. He wasn't sure if it was because of his shaking, his nerves or because Zero had somehow locked the doors shut.
Footsteps calmly walked towards him, as mechanical as the ticking from the grandfather clock. Tick tock. Step step. He felt his heartbeat follow the same pattern, only several times faster and far more erratic. He could hear the way Zero's heeled boots clacked against the ground. He could feel it coming closer, at the same nauseating pace and he couldn't help but think of it as a countdown.
Shivers ran up his spine. The footsteps had stopped just behind him. He had still not turned around. He didn't dare too.
Tick Tock. His heart beat erratically again. He could almost feel it jumping out of his chest, wanting to abandon its owner and body to beat elsewhere.
Then Zero spoke, slowly, deliberately and with a confidence that made Clovis half want to stab him with the dull end of a paintbrush or cower in terror.
"Have you learned my name, Clovis?"
An indignant anger rose out of his throat. "It's Prince Clovis to you, commoner!" But then he remembered what Zero was capable of doing and his lips clamped shut. There was no sense in making the intruder angry. Was he going to die a fool after all?
"Your guards won't come… not until I order them to," Zero continued conversationally, as if Clovis's words meant nothing. The dark figure paced around Clovis as a shark would encircle a cornered school of fish. The terrorist raised one gloved hand to point to the glass doors.
There, the governor of Area 11 could make out several silhouettes. They looked to be the guards posted outside of his rooms and the guards that had previously been guarding him inside. But they were not moving to his aid, even after his clear order.
"What are you idiots doing? Shoot the terrorist! He's here to assassinate me!" Clovis shouted towards the shadows beyond the door. He knew that his voice would sound through the walls, and if not, then the command should have been heard on the communication system hooked to every guard's microphone. Again he repeated his order with increased volume.
The shadows made no move. Zero stood quietly in front of Clovis, as if waiting for the Prince to surrender.
His eyes narrowed. He whirled around and snarled, "What did you do? What is going on?"
"I don't believe you comprehend what situation you are in, Clovis. You see, I hold all the pieces now. We are at checkmate, as a young prince that I knew would say."
He quivered unconsciously, wondering what Zero meant with his riddled words. The prince opened his mouth to retort, to panic or to say something when Zero lifted up his other gloved hand and said in a loud voice.
"Guards of Prince Clovis, come in and stand in a line in front of your leader."
For a moment, Clovis thought that they would stay silent and motionless as before. But then he heard an answer, one strong enough to be heard from outside the glass.
"Yes, my Lord."
The answer sent shivers down Clovis's spine.
One by one the guards entered through the door, walking single file between Zero and Clovis. Their gazes were directed straight ahead, ignoring anything else in their peripheral vision. The prince had never seen such blank faces before, devoid of emotion and awareness. He could have sworn that there was a peculiar shade of red in each soldier's pupil but he dismissed it as his nerves playing tricks on him.
The guards stood in a line, facing Zero.
Clovis felt his knees wobble.
"What is the meaning of this?" He whispered. "Are you betraying your country? Me?"
"There is nothing to betray," Zero said. "These pawns have been captured. They are merely under my control now. Soon they will eliminate themselves."
He felt a great apprehension wrap around him. Suddenly he did not want to know what would happen next. He wanted the game to stop, like a child on the verge of losing in a game of hide-and-seek, who wishes to preserve what little honour he had left.
No, wait… He wanted to say before—
"Guards of Prince Clovis, face him now."
Their mouths moved to form the words, all at once. "Yes, my Lord." And Clovis felt as if he were watching a gruesome play being acted out before him when every heard turned simultaneously to look at him, or rather look around him. Each face still held that blank expression.
"Guards of Clovis," said the calm voice, "kindly die at once."
Every hand reached for the pistol equipped to the belt. Like wave, the hands rose, with the triggers pointed towards their forehead.
"Yes, my Lord."
The gunfire rung out in a single bang and Clovis watched in horror as all of his guards fell, the bullets secure in each skull.
Clovis fell to his knees, unable to fight the urge to vomit.
"Now do you understand?" Zero stood over him like an inescapable shadow, "I control all the pieces."
"Watch out for the Knightmares on your left!" Ohgi yelled to Tamaki, who was in a Sutherland to his right.
The other Black Knight hastily manoeuvred his weapon towards the stampede of Britannian frames. It took several shots, while Tamaki was thinking recklessly no doubt, but he had managed to hit all the frames in the cockpit seat. They fell into the graveyard of metal scrap and human bodies.
Tamaki's voice blared into the speakers. "Thanks bishop. I owe you one."
"Don't thank me yet, Rook," Ohgi murmured quietly, his hands tight around the controls.
His eyes scanned the screen in his own Sutherland. Judging from the pink and blue dots on the map, they were heavily outnumbered and the Black Knights were barely able to defend what was left of the ghetto from the relentless military. So far Minami and the others had been able to direct several refugees towards the woods. This district of the ghetto had not been searched yet, but it was by far receiving the worse damage Ohgi had seen.
It was cruel, slaughtering countless people to hide your own mistakes. Not for the first time, Ohgi felt truly angry at the empire and wanted them to pay for their crimes against Japan. This senselessness could not be justified, no matter what viewpoint Ohgi looked at it.
He wanted to hate them… but knew that it wasn't in him to do so.
("Why do you come here?" He had asked the Britannian boy who came to his tea shop every morning, once he grew somewhat accustomed to the boy's visits. "I'm sure you are aware that many of the patrons harbour a deep hatred for your people."
"I thought it was obvious, the coffee is very good," the boy answered right away.
He frowned, "I'm serious, Lelouch. Humour me for a while… why?"
Violet eyes became thoughtful and distant, before the boy smiled quietly and said, "Because you are the owner and you are not the type of man to hate without reason." The boy paused and took another sip from his mug. "Besides, I enjoy our conversations."
Certain warmth, a certain pride, filled Ohgi's chest and from then on, he did not question Lelouch's strange quirks. He welcomed them as a wonderful new flavour that he was missing from his life.)
Ohgi wished for an ideal world, a world where everyone thought without prejudice, just as Lelouch did. But he knew it was naïve and foolish. Such a world did not exist. That was why he was out on this battlefield, a place that should have been a home for many, trying to protect what was left of it.
A quick glance at the radar told him that another group of Knightmare frames were heading towards them. Hurriedly Ohgi told Tamaki and the two other Black Knights with him, to move towards the rooftop. They would ambush the Knightmare frames with gunfire from above. It was a strategy Lelouch had shared with Ohgi when the boy had been discussing his history homework with him.
("Always secure the high ground. The side that does this has the advantage and almost always wins.")
The Knightmare frames rushed in between the battered apartment buildings, as predicted. Then Ohgi gave the word. The four stolen Sutherlands gave fire and the Knightmares collapsed, filled with gaping and empty holes.
"Keep moving forward. We need to secure the rest of this block and scan for more civilians," Ohgi ordered. "If you stray from us, regroup with either Ace or Knight or radio Queen for orders."
"Yes boss!" Tamaki crooned from the other side, probably throwing up his fists in victory. Ohgi always knew the man to live by his emotions.
"I'm going to go ahead and check on the progress of the other groups. I'll meet you back at HQ after the area is secure," he informed them. Once he received an affirmative as a reply, he radioed out and piloted the Sutherland towards the west.
At least he would have… if his old cell phone, the one that he had owned before Zero issued the new ones, had not ringed. Ohgi fell still, listening to the old tone blare in the cockpit. Only a select few knew to phone this number and only in emergencies—Kallen, Tamaki, Suzaku and Viletta. Back when the Black Knights had only been a gang with no future, it was necessary to keep track of those closest to you.
As far as he knew, Kallen and Tamaki still carried their old phones, just in case. They had not told Zero about them, never feeling the need to, as if an inner self was warning them not to put all their cards on the table yet. Now his old phone was ringing and Ohgi was dreading to know what the reason was. The only reason someone would use the old phone was if they had misplaced the new one… or if they had trouble they didn't want Zero to know about.
Ohgi moved his Sutherland to a more secluded area on the radar. Once he took care to see that there were no enemies nearby, he cautiously landed the Sutherland and then dug into his pocket to pull out an old Japanese phone. It still had the number pad, rather than the new keyboard which all the new models seem to carry. It was also bulky compared to the recent Britannian models and the paint had faded over time.
He opened the phone and lifted it to his ear, wincing as he heard loud static on the other end. "Hello?"
"Thank god," he heard underneath the crackling noise of the earpiece. "Ohgi, I need your help."
The voice was half-relieved and half-urgent. It made Ohgi frown and he pulled the phone closer against his ear.
"Suzaku?" He asked, because he wasn't sure if that was Suzaku's voice or not. The speakers garbled up any recognizable tone, but he could still tell that something seemed to have Zero's second Ace terrified.
"Yes, it's me," the other replied impatiently. "I need you to head over to my location. It's life-or-death."
"What do you mean?" He asked, scenarios of what could have gone wrong racing through his head. "Did the enemy get the cargo? Where's Ace? Is she there? Why haven't you called Zero?"
"Enough already!" Suzaku interrupted. "We're wasting time! Hurry up and come to my location—alone. Don't tell anyone else. You're the only one I can trust with this—"
"Oh shit. The military's here. I'll meet you at these coordinates,"Suzaku mouthed the numbers so hurriedly that Ohgi barely had time to write them down on his hand, "in ten minutes. And hurry. He doesn't have much more time!"
"Wait, Suzaku, who is 'he'? What do you mean 'more time'?" Ohgi asked. "Suzaku? Suzaku!"
There was only the dial tone. Zero's ace had hung up, leaving him with only vague instructions.
Ohgi started up the Sutherland and looked at the horizon. Just before Suzaku had ended the call, Ohgi had heard the sound of gunfire. He felt his heart clench and he had a strange feeling that he was making a decision that would change his life forever.
He needed to hurry.
Just as Suzaku shoved the phone into his vest pocket, he saw the Knightmares approaching. They glimmered in the sunlight, armour in dark hues of grey blue and grey purple. A bystander could have mistaken them for iron gods, ready to wage war or perhaps even armoured warriors exacting justice. Suzaku only saw monsters.
Immediately, the Knightmares fired towards him with long range rifles.
Faster than he had ever moved before, Suzaku scooped Lelouch into his arms and ran to the Lancelot. He jumped up into the cockpit easily. Lelouch felt light as a feather to him (maybe from the blood loss… or the fact that he was a very skinny boy). Then he settled into the pilot seat and rearranged Lelouch into a more comfortable position on his lap, so that he was half-carrying Lelouch securely and still able to manage the Lancelot's controls.
The faint body warmth reassured Suzaku that there was still time left. Lelouch would not die.
He tightened his hands around one of the levers, trying to think of the quickest way out of the ghetto and as close as possible to a Britannian camp.
There was some muffled garble on one of the communication channels. Suzaku frowned and shut it off. Unless Ohgi called him back on the phone, he would ignore all calls and then feign ignorance later if Zero or any of the other Black Knights tried to tell him off for disregarding orders. He could always pretend that the speaker was broken, or actually break it.
The Knightmares were coming. They rolled up quickly against the concrete, surrounding him in seconds. Suzaku kept his calm and observed their numbers. About twenty frames surrounded him. They were still trying to shoot him, but Suzaku had moved Lancelot in an one hundred and eighty degree spin, fast enough to deflect any serious bullets.
Then, before the Britannians could react or switch to more effective weaponry, Suzaku activated the Lancelot's float system. His white frame zoomed out from the center of the circle of Knightmares and shot over the rooftops towards where the battles were taking place.
The Knightmares followed, on the ground. Only the eighth generation Knightmare frames had flight capabilities after all, Suzaku smirked to himself. He lowered his left hand from the lever to press it against Lelouch's cheek. The boy's skin was dangerously cold…
Suzaku increased the speed of the frame, rushing in between a skirmish between thirteen Sutherlands (about five were Black Knights, while the rest were mere Brits) which was taking place on a rooftop.
The apartment building was on the verge of crumbling, so Suzaku helped it along by slashing at one of the pillars. The more confusion he caused, the better. Then it would be more difficult for others to pinpoint his path. He didn't want any unwanted eyes near.
His arms moved in closer around Lelouch and his fingers tightened over the Lancelot's controls. Don't worry Lelouch. I'll save you.
His screen alerted him to an incoming missile, aimed for the Lancelot's float system. Quickly, Suzaku moved the Lancelot, dodging the attack. Then another missile came just as suddenly from in front. Suzaku swore loudly and manoeuvred his Knightmare again, almost smashing into an electric pole. But just as he did that, there was another missile, one he did not anticipate, being so distracted.
It hit the Lancelot's right arm and tore off its hand. The slash harken flew away like an arrow, landing in a heap beside mountains of human corpses. Suzaku held his disgust (at himself for being unable to dodge and at the sight of the bodies) to himself.
He looked down at the ground. There were at least twenty Sutherlands, equipped with rocket launchers down below… and all of them were pointed towards him.
Then, when Suzaku thought things couldn't get any worse, one hit the back of Lancelot's float system. And he abruptly felt the sensation of free falling, as if his entire stomach had flipped inside out and was going to flap out of his lips. The world was spinning. The Lancelot was falling.
The last thing Suzaku could think of was wrapping his arms around Lelouch, feeling the faint warmth while clutching the lever desperately with his right hand.
Wake up, little Prince. Your Knight needs you now.
Nemo? Lelouch thought warily before awareness hit him full-force and instantly Lelouch felt as if he had been returned to his body. The boy shot up, his head hitting something hard, something which he realized was an elbow.
He quickly deduced that he was sitting in someone's lap, someone male (no doubt from the chest) and dressed in a white pilot suit, the design of which he did not recognize. There was an insignia on the right side of the pilot's vest, a black chess piece… the king. It struck Lelouch as odd (the designer had good taste) and yet he felt as if he had seen it before in a hazy dream…
"Shit!" The pilot swore, drawing Lelouch's attention to the white helmet with a black visor. He couldn't see the pilot's face and the pilot also seemed to have a voice modifier installed into the helmet. It screamed of suspicion.
But before Lelouch could voice his displeasure, he felt it, the sickening lurch of one's insides when one fell from several feet.
Lelouch's eyes widened. They were in a Knightmare. They were falling (which didn't make sense, unless they were the eighth generation frames that Schneizel had boasted about to him on the phone, the frames that could fly). They were going to die if someone didn't do something now.
His eyes scanned the various screens and gauges on the Knightmare's control panel. Over twenty enemy frames below, shooting missiles at them. A float system which had about forty three percent damage, only half of it had been hit. A missing mechanical hand. Weapons included three more slash harkens, a gun of some sort…
"Aim your VARIS particle rifle at them, then redirect the slash harken you lost towards you!" Lelouch barked, once a strategy had been fully formed in his mind.
"Huh?" the pilot said rather unintelligently.
God, he was a slow person, wasn't he?
Annoyance made Lelouch snap, "Did you not listen? If you want to live, just do as I say!"
"B-But you w-were injured! How are you…?"
That was a good point. Lelouch hadn't felt any pain since that voice had spoke in his mind again (Nemo, probably). In fact, he felt as if the wound wasn't there at all. Maybe the screaming and seeing red little Vs everywhere trend was a phase?
Whatever, he'd think about that later. As well as what the hell had just happened to him, where Nemo had gone and all that jazz. Yes, later sounded lovely.
"Unimportant. Just hurry and fire your rifle. There's a booster on your slash harpen which will redirect it back to your Knightmare's hands. Then you can use it against the enemy," he said efficiently, as if he were back with Rivalz, playing methodical chess against a noble. If only.
"Alright. I trust you," said the pilot.
Obediently, the pilot reached over Lelouch's shoulders and moved several levers and buttons, all too quickly for Lelouch to comprehend. But according to the screen, the Knightmare was pulling out the VARIS particle rifle and pointing it down at the twenty Sutherlands below.
He pressed one button, a message popped on the screen, asking if the pilot wanted to continue on with firing the VARIS. He pressed the button again. Yes.
The Knightmare they were in was pushed backwards into the air, hurtling meters away from the twenty Sutherlands. A colourful pink beam had launched out of the rifle, obliterating the unfortunate few frames that had been in the center of the group of Sutherlands. The force of the beam allowed the Knightmare they were in (Lancelot, Lelouch read the name) to launch backwards over several apartment buildings, far from sight. Just as Lelouch had hoped.
Next the pilot activated the boosters on his missing slash harken. They were installed within each bladed weapon of the Lancelot, allowing the blades to change direction in mid-fall.
Because of this, the fallen slash harken lifted up, like a rocket and zoomed towards the Lancelot's other hand. The slash harken only had one pathway, in a linear direction, thus it slashed through all obstacles. Such obstacles were destroyed, obstacles like the one of the remaining Sutherlands that had not been destroyed by the VARIS particle beam.
Its head was severed in a clean sweep and the slash harken flew smoothly towards the Lancelot's remaining arm.
The Lancelot fell with a sounding thud, onto the rooftop of one of the lower buildings, an old maintenance shop. Judging from the radar, the enemy had been avoided and the Sutherlands didn't know where they were yet.
"That was brilliant...," the pilot said, with what Lelouch detected was awe. "How did you know...?"
"It was easy to figure out," he said flippantly. He didn't want to deal with the details of his IQ or the fact that Schneizel and Lloyd had allowed Lelouch to look at some of the Lancelot's designs when he was bored with schoolwork and chess.
Lelouch decided to change the subject to something of more value.
"Who are you?" He asked sharply. It was best to get the facts now. "Who are you working for and what are your intentions with me?"
You are a terrorist. That was obvious when the pilot was being attacked by the military. And if the pilot was not a terrorist, but an unexpected third part member, Lelouch still didn't trust him. The pilot had not killed Lelouch yet. Perhaps he knew who Lelouch really was and was plotting a ransom. Perhaps he was going to hold Lelouch hostage later for a different purpose.
Or perhaps he would kill Lelouch when the pilot found something to gain.
The pilot was still and did not seem to move. His helmet made it impossible for Lelouch to decipher any emotions from his expressions. Looking into the black visor made Lelouch nervous because he felt as if he were staring into a black hole and a dark emptiness, but he did not show it.
"Sorry," the reply was short, "but I can't answer that."
"Well you can't just keep me here. I'm a civilian. I don't—"
I don't have any part in this, was what Lelouch wanted to say, before his eyes strayed to the screen. He froze, unable to turn away from the footage which seemed to burn itself into his mind. There were bodies littering the ground below, bodies of the Japanese, those who had lived in the ghetto. There was evidence of systematic slaughter, of gunfire being used on them…
"Don't look!" the pilot said sharply.
Then Lelouch felt a sharp pressure at the back of his neck and just before he fell into unconsciousness (the bodies… so many bodies…), he heard her voice again, giggling at an irony that escaped him.
Call him Knight, for now, Little Prince. It is a suitable label… for the time being.
"I still can't believe this," Rivalz blurted, seated in the back by the other man who claimed to be Lelouch's older brother, his half-brother.
Prince Schneizel did not answer. He seemed to think that silence was the appropriate response.
After Rivalz had fainted, Schneizel pulled him into the truck and ordered Cecile (the driver) to send out a command to all communication channels. All military were to be on the lookout for a missing civilian, a male Ashford student and return him, alive, straight to Prince Schneizel. He promised a generous award and promotion. If any soldier accidentally hurt said person, Schneizel would strip them of their military rank (he also implied that a mysterious, and unfortunate, accident might happen to them in the future).
Now they were waiting for word to radio in. Cecile claimed it was too dangerous for them to drive straight into the Shinjuku ghetto themselves, not when the crown prince was in the vehicle. What if the truck got caught in a misfire?
Neither Schneizel nor Rivalz were pleased with this. They stewed over the predicament in the back. Schneizel tapped his fingers on the windows periodically while Cecile looked worriedly at him. The driver kept murmuring something about an earl named Lloyd and a Lancelot, but Rivalz wasn't quite sure if he had heard correctly. Apparently someone had stolen a Lancelot and Cecile tried to stop them, but she had had to eject from her Knightmare…
In the meantime, Rivalz went over the information in his head, piecing together the truth with what he knew about his friend. Lelouch and Nunnally were the missing siblings, presumed to have been killed, who had escaped to Japan almost ten years ago. They had been running away from their corrupt father. They were still running to this day.
This explained the lack of social life, the secrecy, the care Milly took in guarding the two Lamperouges, how much Lelouch sacrifice, the overprotective guardians, that house they lived in which Rivalz felt was armed for war. Lelouch was a prince, heck that made Nunnally a princess too!
Rivalz slumped back into his seat, "I can't believe he never told me."
"He couldn't afford to," the other man responded. "Secrets have a tendency of being leaked if you grow careless and tell even one person."
"I know that, you don't need to tell me," Rivalz muttered irritably.
Normally he would have been appalled at himself for speaking so rudely to royalty (Oh god, Schneizel is going to order my head chopped off!) but at the moment he didn't care. He kept thinking of Lelouch at gunpoint, tied up and bleeding somewhere. The terrorists might use him as a hostage or his body could have been dumped into a ditch.
Poor Lelouch, Rivalz had never known the extent of his friend's circumstances. Now that he did, Rivalz wanted only to find his friend and make sure that Lelouch never had to deal with such horrors again. He had had enough horrors for one lifetime (imagine watching your mother burn to death while your ship sunk). Rivalz couldn't even find it in himself to be angry at Lelouch for keeping it secret. He couldn't blame him.
Who would want to be a prince, if it meant that your human worth was stripped down to being a political tool?
It wasn't a fate Rivalz would allow for his friend. Never.
He got out of the truck, taking one of the pistols that had been stored below the seat.
"Where are you going?" Schneizel called after him. "It's not safe."
"I know that. But I'm can't just sit here and wait. I'm going to go look for Lelouch. He needs me," said Rivalz. "You can't stop me."
Schneizel's face was blank. "Do you believe you'll find him? Do you even know where you are going? The ghetto is a big place. I wonder if you even know how to shoot a gun…"
"I can shoot just fine!" He lied, "Even so—"
"I will accompany you."
Rivalz felt his jaw drop. He saw that Cecile looked like she was about to foam at the mouth.
"What? Your highness, you can't! You have responsibilities. If we lost you—"
"Well, I suppose you will just have to do your best to protect me and prevent that from happening, Ms. Cecile," the prince smiled charmingly at her. "By the way, this is an order."
With a fixed and determined gaze, Schneizel walked to Rivalz's side. "Let us go find my brother."
Ohgi wasn't sure what he expected to find when he arrived at the checkpoint. Suzaku had phoned in again, giving him specific instruction to put on his black helmet and make sure that his face was completely hidden. He also told Ohgi to put on the voice modifier, just in case (whatever that meant, Ohgi still wasn't sure).
The place Suzaku had chosen as their meeting place was obscured by pine trees. It was high up on a rugged cliff, impossible to reach on foot, let alone climb, because of the rough and slippery texture of the stone. A fall from that height would kill a normal human being. Wild grass and gnarled roots covered the rocky cliff, while an old and abandoned shrine (once red, but the paint had worn away) stood just a few meters from the edge. It overlooked the ghetto, hidden from view by green branches.
Once, before a bomb had destroyed this place and left it a barren cliff, Ohgi had met Naoto here. They played games of hide and seek, tag and imaginary games where they were heroes or pirates. Sometimes they left offerings at the shrine, slightly superstitious of what spirits may be lurking there. Later, after Japan was invaded and the shrine unreachable, Ohgi and Naoto formed the Black Knights, a gang. It had been Naoto's idea, of course. The location of the shrine would be shared to Suzaku one day, when Ohgi took him out for drinks, in a drunken ramble.
Returning to this small shrine made Ohgi feel as if he had traveled back in time. He half expected a thirteen year old Naoto to burst from the trees.
But the white figure of the Lancelot, somewhat obscured by leafy pine branches, told Ohgi that time had passed. He was still in the present world, where blood and gunfire were daily occurrences.
"Knight?" Ohgi called out, once he landed the Sutherland beside the white Knightmare and hopped out of the cockpit.
"Bishop, I'm here."
He looked towards the foot of the Lancelot, where a pilot in a white suit and helmet stood. Ohgi climbed down, about to ask what trouble Suzaku was in, when he saw the boy in Suzaku's arms.
It was Lelouch, chest bandaged with blood stained fabric, looking battered and beaten. His hair was tousled and covered with grit. The boy's skin was pale, if not adorned with purple bruises. He looked impossibly thin and fragile in Suzaku's hold, that Ohgi was afraid that one touch might break him.
"Oh my god…," he murmured, moving forward until he was close enough to see Lelouch's sleeping face. "What happened to him?"
The Britannian student wasn't supposed to be here. Several possibilities and doubts filled Ohgi's head. Perhaps Suzaku had told Lelouch about the Black Knights (it seemed plausible, given their sexual relationship, Ohgi still felt embarrassed about the phone call he had accidentally heard). And Lelouch, being the altruistic fool he was, tried to get involved but had gotten injured in the process. Perhaps Lelouch was suspicious about Suzaku's whereabouts and followed him to the battlefield. Perhaps he had been sneaking off into the ghetto to gamble but got caught in crossfire…
"I'm not sure. But I know he's innocent in all this, Bishop. He wasn't supposed to be here but he somehow got caught up in all this. Someone tried to kill him, Bishop; I only just got there… but…" He watched as Suzaku's grip tightened around Lelouch, "… I might have been too late."
"Please Ohgi;" the pilot said his name, forgetting Zero's protocol, "you're the only one I can trust. You have to help me save him. I can't bring him to the Britannian military myself because I can't risk them finding out about me—"
That was true, Suzaku was Zero's ace. If the enemy captured him, it would surely spell trouble.
"—but you can bring Lelouch to the medics. You can pretend that you were here in the ghetto and tried to escape, or you can think of something else, anything. You're the only one who understands that Lelouch wouldn't hurt anyone. Just please—"
"Suzaku, stop! I'll do it, don't worry. I will not let Lelouch die."
The effect was instantaneous. Ohgi watched as the pilot's shoulders relaxed in relief. He was almost insulted by it. Did Suzaku honestly believe that Ohgi was heartless enough to abandon his friend? Even if Ohgi wasn't as close to Suzaku as he was with Kallen and the deceased Naoto, he was on good terms with Lelouch. He valued the boy very much.
Lelouch was his friend.
"Give him to me; I'll make sure he gets to the Britannian medics." Never mind how Ohgi would do it. He wasn't exactly sure at this point, but he had to try.
Silently Suzaku lifted Lelouch into Ohgi's arms, as if the boy were glass. But before he gave the student to Ohgi, he took off his helmet and leaned in close to the boy's face. Ohgi watched as the pilot lifted up a hand to touch Lelouch's cheek, letting it linger for a few moments in a tenderness Ohgi had never seen the pilot use before.
Suzaku was looking at Lelouch the way Ohgi looked at Viletta and the way she looked at him in turn.
Then, Suzaku let his lips touch the boy's forehead, eyes closed. He let his lips stay for several heartbeats, before he turned his head away.
"Take care of him," he said in a raspy voice.
"I promise that I will."
How could he do anything less for the boy Suzaku loved?
They had barely passed the first row of shattered windows and burning overturned garbage cans before Rivalz spotted his first corpse.
At first he had thought it to be a strange smell in the air, maybe rotting compost or a chemical. But the air was too foul and putrid. Besides, the smell reminded Rivalz of the time he had accidentally left meat out to dry in the sink. It had gone bad and so Rivalz threw it out, and the bag had ripped. The next week, when he went to take out the garbage there was that revolting scent, musky and rotting in a way that couldn't be described.
The smell of rotting flesh, or at least, the smell of fresh corpse.
He had tripped over it and sworn, warning Prince Schneizel and Cecile to stay back. They were looking at him in shock and when he realized what his foot had been caught under, he had had to vomit on the sidewalk.
It was a human leg, followed by a torso and arms and a head. He had fallen over an old lady, who now had bloody holes in her blouse, just around her ribs and her lungs and her heart and oh god… He couldn't go on in describing it. Her eyes were now forever glazed with a look of petrifaction, and her lips were still parted, only lifeless and trailing with fresh crimson.
Rivalz felt sick. Cecile had had to stop herself from falling faint while Schneizel averted his eyes. But Rivalz saw the prince's hand shaking in silent fury.
It was an unfortunate civilian casualty. That was that the three of them assumed in the sickening quiet.
They continued on, venturing into one of the deserted garages of a mechanic shop, checking for civilians. Cecile went in first, holding up her pistol. Then Schneizel followed while Rivalz stayed at the back, holding his pistol in a way which screamed of his inexperience with a gun.
They found their next batch of bodies, shot in the same manner, deliberately, just outside the back door. There were signs of a break in and dark muddy footsteps made by boots. Rivalz threw up again and Cecile actually fell. He didn't look up to see Schneizel's reaction, too sick to bother.
He wanted to think it was another casualty, but it didn't look to be so. After all, this family had had nothing to do with harbouring terrorists and this area high on the third floor. Rivalz had doubts that the terrorists had run through here and just killed these people…
Then they reached the next block and they saw soldiers gunning down a crowd of children, fleeing from the school.
That was when Rivalz truly knew—this wasn't an issue of civilian causalities. This was a massacre, plain and simple, caused by the country's army.
"What the fuck are you people doing?" Rivalz shouted, once the shock had worn off. He pointed his pistol at them. He had never wanted to kill anyone before, but seeing these crimes being played out in front of him made him think differently. If these damned soldiers had killed Lelouch as well… then so help them, Rivalz would shoot them until their corpses could not be recognized.
"Rivalz, stop," Cecile said sharply, though her own weapon was pointed at them in the same manner.
"But why? These bastards—"
"Enough!" Rivalz almost didn't hear Schneizel walk up to the soldier's with a menacing aura. "Schneizel El Britannia orders you to stop this foolishness at once! Do not shoot the Elevens or any other civilians!"
The soldiers seemed confused at first, but when they saw the royal robes that Schneizel wore and saw his face, they dropped their guns in an instant. Each of them fell to their knees in a deep bow, begging for forgiveness.
The only ones left alive in the crowd of children, were the ones in the back, only five to six years old, looking helplessly at the older ones who had shielded them from attack. Cecile was herding them back instantly, trying to say soothing words, but only succeeding in frightening the little ones further.
"We're sorry, your highness," one of the soldiers stammered, eyes glued to the ground. "We were only following orders from Prince Clovis. We didn't know that we would displease you…"
Suddenly the air felt oppressive and ice cold. There was a glint in Schneizel's eyes which made Cecile and Rivalz back away slightly.
"…Clovis ordered this…?"
"Yes, your highness… so as you can understand the situation, it wasn't our fault. We were just following orders. We're loyal to the empire—"
"Cecile," the prince said curtly, interrupting the grovelling.
"Yes, Prince Schneizel?"
"Arrest these men. Then get me a radio. I'm going to broadcast an order that the massacre be stopped at once. Then I am going to have a chat with dear Clovis after we locate Lelouch…"
Cecile and Rivalz suppressed their shivers at the obvious killing intent laced in the crown prince's voice, a killing intent which promised more suffering than Satan ever could. Clovis was in for something worse than hell for his crimes and Rivalz couldn't help but think that it was what the bastard deserved.
Quietly Cecile handcuffed the men while Rivalz scouted ahead, watching out for more murdering military and any signs of Lelouch.
He looked down at the street littered with rubble and bodies and felt his stomach twist. A few hours ago, the ghetto was merely a place that Rivalz knew how to find on a map. Today it was a graveyard that he was walking through, searching through dead bodies, hoping that none were his friend.
Rivalz never wanted to call them Elevens again. They were Japanese, just as Lelouch said. It would be wrong to call them Elevens now, especially when he had just seen what had been done to them.
What kind of ruler had he been living under, for all these years? Why had he never paid attention to what Prince Clovis said on the broadcasts? How could he have continued to live his life, so naïve, so carefree when these people… in his own city…
He wondered if this was how Lelouch felt all the time, helpless and angry at the world.
And then, Rivalz heard a cry for help.
He had hidden the Sutherland somewhere in the woods and then changed out of his pilot suit into more casual civilian wear. Then Ohgi dirtied them to make it look as if he had been running a long time and made sure to injure himself to make the overall image more authentic. He needed to look like a civilian, caught up in massacre. Hopefully, he could sneak past the soldiers and get to the medics (he knew that they knew nothing of Clovis's order) he could convince them that he found Lelouch injured in the chaos.
It was fine for Ohgi to reveal himself. He could make a plausible story about visiting an old friend but then getting caught up in an explosion made by the terrorists. Then he found Lelouch, an acquaintance from his tea shop, bleeding on the ground.
Yes, it was a believable story. The medics would be compassionate enough to take care of one of their own, even if they felt distrust to Ohgi. If he got captured based on prejudice, Zero would be able to continue in his plans without him. He wasn't an essential piece like Suzaku and Kallen were and he would not give up any information, no matter how much the enemy interrogated him. It was risky, but Ohgi felt that it was the only way he could truly guarantee medical attention for his friend.
Ohgi set out, carrying Lelouch by the shoulder, sneaking in the allies. He made sure to avoid the soldiers and tried to keep to the shadows. The only positive was that Lelouch was a very light person so Ohgi didn't tire quickly from supporting his weight. It was ridiculous, how one individual who was so important, could weigh so little.
Eventually Ohgi drew close to where the Britannian medics were stationed, about two blocks from the end of the ghetto. He sighed in relief and continued on, until he heard gunshots and saw children running towards him.
He hid in the ally, watching carefully as he saw three individuals not far from the soldiers. One, to Ohgi's surprise, was one of Lelouch's school friends. Once he had met the boy (was his name Rivalz, or something?) when Lelouch had been running late to school. Rivalz had given Ohgi the impression of being a laid back and careless person. But when Ohgi regarded how Rivalz seemed to hover over his friend in his own unique way, he felt himself relax. Lelouch had good friends and he was relieved to know this.
He must be here looking for Lelouch, Ohgi thought. He could think of no other reason. I can use this…
Quietly he waited for Rivalz to separate from the other two with him. He was unable to hear what they were saying, only picking up bits and pieces of vague words such as 'orders' and 'dear Clovis.' When Rivalz moved ahead of the two, looking warily back and forth, Ohgi made his move.
"Help!" he cried out and watched victoriously when Rivalz came running towards the ally.
Quickly Ohgi laid Lelouch against the ground and slipped into a nearby dumpster. When he heard Rivalz's exclamations of joy, he let his back roll back.
Now it was up to the medics.
"He was already bandaged when I found him, I told you that," Rivalz repeated again for Schneizel to hear. "Look, can we just go see how Lelouch is doing? You've been asking me, no offense, crappy questions for the past fifteen minutes!"
He was honestly getting irritated by the constant onslaught of questions. You would think that the elder brother had better things to do, such as keeping vigil over his brother, rather than interrogate him. If this was only a taste of what Lelouch's family was like, Rivalz didn't blame him and his sister for fleeing to Area 11. Schneizel was insanely scary when he cared about someone.
Schneizel looked ready to burn Rivalz to a crisp, with only his eyes. But the fire in his eyes dimmed down once he took into consideration his brother's condition and he nodded.
"Very well, we will continue this conversation later."
They both walked into the medic vehicle, where Lelouch was laid on the back of the car seat, his bandages torn away. Cecile was looking very perplexed, staring down at the scar on the boy's side... or at least... what should have been a scar.
The scar wasn't bleeding or raw. Rather, it had already healed, leaving behind on a light red mark, smooth as the rest of Lelouch's skin, in the shape of a V. The scar stretched up to Lelouch's heart and the midsection of his back, along the side, but nothing more.
Rivalz suddenly had an ominous feeling about it and felt the need to shield Lelouch's scar from the prying eyes of the military.
"...What is that?" He blurted before he could think.
"It's nothing," the crown prince said sharply. In particular Schneizel eyed Cecile with a threatening look, "and it will remain that way."
"Wait, you know something. What is it? Is it going to hurt Lelouch? Well?"
"I said it's nothing," Schneizel snapped again.
Suddenly Rivalz felt very foolish. He recalled what Milly had said about Lelouch having enemies. What if Schneizel was one of those enemies? What if he tried to hurt Lelouch later on and this was part of his plan? That scar on Lelouch wasn't anything to brush off, they were something... horrible. Rivalz had a bad feeling about it.
Schneizel moved forward to place a hand on Lelouch but Rivalz jumped in front of him irrationally, "Don't touch Lelouch!"
Now the prince seemed irritated. "Out of the way. I am not going to hurt him, Rivalz."
"Oh yeah? Well how do I know that? How do I know you're not working for Lelouch's father? How do I know I can trust you, Schneizel?" Rivalz blurted out the prince's name, feeling nothing but anger for Lelouch's sake.
"Because I spent three years thinking that my brother was dead and for those three years I wanted nothing more than to destroy Area 11. But then I found him, alive, along with my sister Nunnally and I swore that I would protect their happiness and protect him and Nunnally. I will never let him die again!"
Then Schneizel fell silent.
"...He's my brother... I don't want to see him die."
They stared intensely at each other. Several minutes passed. Finally, Rivalz nodded, seeing something in Schneizel's expression that convinced him of his honesty and he stepped down.
That was when Lelouch awoke.
"No," the prince stumbled towards the wall, slipping against the glass surface. "Get away from me. Don't come any closer! Stay away, terrorist!"
"From your viewpoint, perhaps I am. But from another, I will be seen as a revolutionary."
"Shut up! You're a terrorist, you're not revolutionizing anything!"
"History is funny that way. I wonder if you will be seen as a tyrant, once I am done with you, rather than an exalted ruler?"
The cloaked figure continued to move towards the terrified Clovis, each step deliberate with an echoing clack. Clovis felt that the closer Zero stepped, the shadows seemed to draw nearer, as if they followed him.
"Have you figured out who I am, yet, Clovis? Would you like me to show you before I give you your final gift?"
"No, get away!"
He didn't know who Zero was, and he didn't want to know. He also didn't want the final gift, he was sure it was an invitation to early grave, one that Clovis couldn't willingly refuse.
One gloved hand reached up to touch the black mask. Then, it felt as if time had slowed. The mask fell, cluttering on the ground. Clovis saw a face, a familiar mouth, nose and eyes... There was no mistake. Clovis felt his heart beat furiously and then, he truly wanted to fall back, wake up, and realize this was a dream.
And the real face of Zero was staring back at him.
"No... no, you can't be...? But you're dead! You were supposed to have died on that ship, nearly ten years ago! They said you burned to death, along with the rest of the project, and then the ship sunk! You can't—"
"Oh, but I can be alive. I am very much alive."
The last thing Clovis saw was a pair of red eyes, glowing with little Vs painted in crimson irises.
Suzaku needed to hurry back to the others. The package that Red and Blue had been sent to deliver to Zero had been compromised. In fact, Suzaku was almost positive that the little girl that had tried to kill Lelouch had been that very package. Such superhuman powers, just like C.C. and V.V., even if it was of a different variety... it was too coincidental.
What had Zero been planning to do with the little girl in the first place? Suzaku wasn't sure if he wanted to know the answer. He refused to believe that Zero would use that little monster in any of his grand plans.
He neared the Black Knights hideout, where the others had gathered after setting free as many refugees as possible.
"Knight," Kallen's voice blared on his communication systems, "Where have you been? Did you get the package?"
He was about to reply, unsure of what sort of lie to tell, when Kallen cut him off again.
"Never mind, that's not important. There's a broadcast being recorded and shown all over Japan. You need to watch it, it's important."
Suzaku frowned, and with one hand, typed in the instructions to connect the Lancelot's control panel to the internet. Once that was done, he logged into a news network and watched with fascination as a screen popped up.
His jaw nearly dropped, but he stopped it in time.
There was Zero, standing on top of the tallest tower (it was a clock tower) of Clovis's palace. Below him, stood the governor of Area 11, standing in front of the edge of the clock, by the number six. He held a noose in his hands.
"Welcome citizens of Japan..." Suzaku watched Zero say with open arms on the screen, "to the execution of the tyrant Clovis la Britannia, third prince of the Britannian empire."
"Lelouch, are you alright? How are you feeling? Need any water?"
"Urgh...," he groaned, unable to stop the ringing in his head. "Rivalz...? Is that you...?" Lelouch opened his eyes, scowling at the bright light before he focused on the hazy image of blue hair and realized that his friend was really beside him. "Rivalz..."
There was an oddly chocked laugh before Lelouch felt a heavy weight around him, crushing his lungs. He quickly realized that his friend was crushing him in a painful hug. "Yes, it's me, buddy! I'm so glad you're not dead! I don't know what I would have done if..."
"Argh! Rivalz, get off me!"
An amused chuckled broke the noisy atmosphere. Lelouch looked up and blinked. "Schneizel? What are you doing here?"
"I was just passing through, little brother. We found you in the ghetto, care to explain?"
Uh oh. Lelouch could sense the overprotective aura rising from the elder man already. Immediately, Lelouch rushed towards a different subject.
"Tell me why you are both here first. Did a pilot in a white suit bring me here?"
They both frowned but before they could answer, a woman that Lelouch recognized as Cecile gave a quiet gasp.
"Your highness, I think you should see this."
She scooted over in the front seat, giving the three of them a view of the small screen in the truck. There on the screen, was a man with a black mask and cape, standing on top of the royal palace. Below him, was Clovis with a noose in his hands.
"...execution of the tyrant Clovis la Britannia, third prince of the Britannian Empire," said the masked man on the screen."I am Zero, leader of the Black Knights, and today I will set you free from him."
Walk On In
Extra Scene: Takes place after Chapter 6
"What's your number, Suzaku?"
The biker was lying on the bed, reading an article in the newspaper that Jeremiah had left lying around. Arthur, for once, wasn't biting him and was curled up at his feet, purring contently. He blinked up lazily, his curls as messy as ever and his shirt rolled up to reveal quite a bit of tanned skin.
Lelouch fought the urge to stare. He was a dignified ex-prince; he could live with some revealing masculine body. After all, he was a male himself. Yup, he wasn't staring. Definitely not.
Suzaku smiled up at him and recited the number which Lelouch dutifully typed into the contact list of his phone. Then Suzaku asked, "So what is your number, Lelouch?"
"You already have the house number, Suzaku," the Britannian boy dismissed the comment. He wanted to leave the room as quickly and discretely as possible. He still felt uncomfortable about the "sibling" issue that Suzaku had shared with him earlier.
A hand snuck around Lelouch's waist, making him freeze. And suddenly, he felt warm breath against his ear and a husky whisper, "But not your personal number, Lelouch. Not your cell phone number."
The room temperature went up several degrees and Lelouch was sure that his whole face was red. It was absolutely mortifying. Why was his body reacting this way?
"Let go, you idiot!" Lelouch roared, stepping back.
This however, made things worse.
Both of them tumbled back, falling onto the bed together. Lelouch tried to run away, but Suzaku's hold was too strong. They ended up rolling around in the sheets, with Suzaku trying to steal Lelouch's phone and him trying to hide it in his shirt (he was desperate, ok?)
At some point Arthur had yowled and tried to bite Suzaku (at least there was a plus side of having a stalker cat obsessed with you), leaving a red mark on his neck.
Lelouch almost reached the edge of the mattress, ready to escape when Suzaku pinned Lelouch's arms and straddled his waist. He grinned down at Lelouch victoriously.
"I'll say," drawled C.C., from the door, watching the show with a camera in hand. "Looks like Suzaku is a top."
Next, there were many profanities from Lelouch's mouth, a little bit from Suzaku, but not so much more than a rather smug grin.
This wasn't quite two weeks later, but I'm happy that I got the chance to update. I hope to update in two weeks from now. You can monitor my writing status on my profile, I usually post information about how much I have written every few days.
Thank you for all the awesome reviews last chapter: Diamone, Aoi Faith, skepsis66, manga-otaku-94, lover-of-light, heckyeahrandom-things, MeLaNch0LYdreams, SecondtoNon, MiMelRox, jadedfox2, Atheist1, HisaAngel, chakra, PXLight, , luckless-is-me, Serena the Hikari of Love, L. Lamperouge, Unnoticed Observer, vanillavillian101, lilyrose225, BeeBee Forthwright, Crispy Rice, Vieh, kolachess, Altair718, mochiusagi, kawa-kire, RiseofaRebllion.
You are all wonderful, thank you so much for reading my work.
Next chapter: Clovis's execution (with key character's reactions), how Sayoko and Jeremiah react to Lelouch being in the ghetto, Suzaku confronting Lelouch, speculations about Nemo and Zero
Please point out any grammatical/spelling errors that I made this chapter so that I can correct them asap. Thank you for reading and please review if you have the time.