Chapter 28: Besieged on All Sides
(Chinese Federation – Britannia Border)
Tohdoh and his Three Holy Swords stared at awe and confusion of the Knightmare that appeared before them. Its sheer presence seemed to resemble that of a human bio-skeleton.
The brown Knightmare was about the height of an Akatsuki colored in brown. Half of its armor plating were missing, showing the silicon wires and grotesque tubes that powered its body. Even the sakuradite energy core that powered the machine could be seen from a distance. One could probably say that it was an incomplete work of art… but regardless, its half dressed form made it a terrifying presence on the field. Its head was shaped into the form of a sightless woman (AKA: Justice, the lady holding a sword and scale) and its limbs were detached from the main torso, floating lifelessly around it like they had a mind of their own. Some would call it a metallic version of a zombie with its skin and bones showing from side to side.
"What is that thing?" Urabe asked, breaking off from his awe. "I've never seen anything like it"
"Is it a new Britannian model?" the youngest member of the sword looked over, aiming his weapon just in case it was hostile, which was most likely of course.
"Be on guard" their commander barked out, "It approaches…" the group spread out, surrounding the strange skeletal frame from all sides.
Truly this Knightmare gave out a terrifying look but the Black Knights held their ground. They've faced worst enemies and were outnumbered once or twice before and the presence of the famed General Tohdoh strengthened their resolve.
The Morgan Le Fay looked around, analyzing the threat presented to her. They were just as experienced as the Federation forces and the Britannian troops she encountered in the border fort but they were less in number which gave her an edge.
"Eliminate…" a hallow and ghostly voice echoed from its speaker catching the group's attention.
"What the? Did it say something?"
"I think so…" Asahina noted as well. "Hey you there. Who are you and what side are you on?"
"Eliminate… all… threat…" it sounded like a voice. A feminine voice at best with a twist of a banshee. "Must complete… mission"
Tohdoh quickly noted its battle stance and ordered his troops to ready themselves. "Here it comes! All units, fire at will!" the troops open fired at the Knightmare only to have their bullets bounce off the blaze luminous shield protecting it on all sides. "A blaze luminous? Such immense shielding. Asahina, Senba, go around it with your swords. Urabe, you're with me. (Yes sir!) The rest of you, provide covering fire!"
Asahina leaped out in his Akatsuki commander and struck the shield. "Heh. It's just like the ones the Lancelot uses. It's strong but it can run out eventually with enough hits"
"It can't seem to attack while we're attacking it either" the eldest member of the sword added striking the shield again with his blade. "These Akatsuki models are amazing though. Way different than our Jimmus and Burais back home"
Urabe circled around the Morgan Le Fay and quickly struck it from above, but the shield that the Morgan was given seemed to protect it from all angles. "Ugh. This thing is a tough nut to crack. I guess it's just an incomplete model from the Britannians" He charged again striking at different points of the shield. The other members of the attack group followed suit firing and striking at the shield, visibly weakening it with each blow.
But as each strike made contact, Tohdoh could not help but feel slightly disturbed about this. This enemy was deliberately taking each of their blows without even moving. It was as if it wanted them to attack. "Something is wrong here…" The machine seemed to notice his hesitation and turned its half silicon head towards him. "Is it just waiting there to be obliterated… or is it… (gasp) Everyone! Back off immediately!"
Asahina, who failed to hear the order, was already too deep within the Morgan's line of defense to back off. Just as everyone withdrew to a safe distance, Morgan Le Fay saw an opportunity and hastily grabbed its attacker's arm. "Hey! What the heck? It's fast!" the bespectacled soldier attempted to break free from hold but the machine's grip was far tighter than he could've expected. "Damn it. I should've seen this one coming. But I still got one arm to use!" he aimed his radiant wave missiles at the enemy and pulled the trigger. "See ya skeleton face!"
He expected to see the Morgan melt away in a bubbly doom like all Knightmares that faced the Radiant Wave Surger's power. But instead, the man only saw a Geass symbol appear before his screen, cutting off all power to his frame. "W… what the? What happened to my machine? My power's being cut off" He never even got a chance to fire his missile when he pulled the trigger.
Urabe saw this and quickly intervened making some distance between his friend and the enemy frame. He sliced his blade between them hoping to at least cut off the enemy's arm. "You ok Asahina?"
"Y… yeah. But my energy filler died out on me"
"Don't worry. We'll handle this. Everyone steer clear of its arms. That grip is enough to crush a stone into pieces"
Tohdoh agreed and quickly reformed his ranks. "All units. Prepare for Spinning Life or Death formation! (Sir yes sir!) Senba, with me. (Yes general!)" two Black Knight pilots moved in from the rear of the enemy but the only to be grabbed by the Morgan's sharp claws on their head pieces. "Damn. Its reflexes are fast"
"It's… it's draining our energy filler!" the pilot who got grabbed panicked looking at the Geass symbol that appeared on his computer screens. "It's like some kind of leech!"
"Haaaa!" Senba attacked again, breaking the enemy's grip on his subordinates. "It's getting faster with each move. I guess it's been holding out on us" he sliced his blade upward earning another hit on the Morgan's shields. "Geh…"
But Urabe could care less about their admiration for that machine. "Well let's see if it can handle all of us at once! Not even the toughest Knightmare can match our strength" but before the senior member of the swords could move, Asahina's frame stabbed his leg from behind. "Bwa? What the? Asahina! What are you doing?"
The young sword looked at his screen and saw what his Knightmare was doing but he wasn't the one pulling the machine's strings. "It's… it's not me! I lost control! It's not responding to any of my commands! (Whack!) The Knightmare… it's moving on its own!"
"But that's not possible!" Senba looked in disbelief only to quickly turn around to parry the other two Knightmares that were disabled by the Morgan. "Geh! What is this mutiny?"
"It's not us sir!"
"We're not the ones doing it. Something has taken control of our unit!"
Tohdoh saw this and quickly analyzed the situation. "That machine must be controlling our own Knightmares against us. Asahina, eject! The two of you do the same!"
The soldiers followed orders and fled from the battle but still their Knightmares continued to move as if possessed. "What the hell? They're still fighting even though their energy has been completely cut off!"
But quickly Senba and Urabe repelled the soulless husks returning to their commander's side. "I've never heard of such ability before. There has to be an explanation for this"
The Morgan then hovered behind its new ranks of followers and even though no one could see it, they could feel a strange grin coming from its skeletal face. "Join me. All machines will join me… even when they fall" and in an event that shocked Tohdoh himself, the Knightmares that the group thought destroyed began rising again. The Gun Rus that were burnt down were now rising from the sands like if mummies returning from the afterlife.
"What in hell is going on here?" the general grunted bearing his heavy blade. "Those damaged Knightmares are… rising again"
"That's impossible! With the damaged they've sustained, they shouldn't be able to move!"
The Morgan gazed upon its weakened foe and with a wave of its hand; the 'undead' machines marched onward to battle.
A/N: Zombie robots… eat your heart out undead fans.
(Britannia) (Pendragon Royal Palace)
Suzaku Kurugi sat at the garden of the royal palace that dawn, grooming Arthur on his lap as it purred. The little cat was a strange little critter. It often wandered into this place despite the palace royal guard keeping tight security over each and every door. Sometimes Suzaku would wonder where the little fur ball would disappear to and sometimes he even wonders how it manages to get on board the Slepnir's hanger. But regardless, the little black cat gave him some form of comfort in this world. It was perhaps one of the few things that he had left of Euphemia.
But of course… that comfort could not compare to the weight of sadness and regret that lingered in the boy's heart. After the battle at the Chinese Federation, he could already tell that Zero had the upper hand in this war. There were reports coming in from the intelligence officers that independent countries were marshaling towards the U.F.N. supplying it with all the aid they could muster. The masked vigilante's reputation with the people soared and there were even a few Britannians that shared his ideals.
The former Japanese looked up to the morning sun and sighed. There were still many scars on his back and many more in his soul that had yet to heal. He had already contacted the OSI hoping to get some shed of light but they've reported that Lelouch had been in school since Prince Odysseus's failed wedding. He wanted to go and check the school personally but his duties as a Knight sealed his passage there. With the whole empire going into a state of panic, the presence of the Knights of the Round gave some relief to the people.
But even so… many were ill content with the crowned emperor. Because of his many absences from the royal court, only Schneizel, Nunnally and Odysseus were there to make the choices. Nobles were becoming paranoid and even now, many were abandoning their home to find shelter in the capital city.
"Troubled mind?" the boy looked up only to see Anya snapping a picture of him.
He returned his gaze to Arthur and nodded. "Nothing but trouble. Even though I chose it myself. Decisions I made eight years back"
"Do you still place trust in him? The you from eight years ago?"
"Huh? Are you asking that the choices I made were foolish?"
"Memories that people have are always vague" the young pilot dodged the question. "No point in believing in them. (I have to disagree) But I know it. In my case: I kept a diary from nine years ago. I don't remember anything from it at all" she looked up to her little diary and opened some of its earlier contents revealing pictures from the time she was a little toddler. "And there's more I don't trust. The data I stored doesn't match any memory I have"
Suzaku's eyes widened noticing some similarity to the power of Geass. "Could it be? Could that be because of the power of Geass? But why would the emperor use it on Anya?"
"Even recent things. Like the breakfast I had this morning, I don't recall going to the dining room or even what was on the table"
But then another voice suddenly entered the garden, catching both of their attention. "Oh? Kururugi. I thought you'd be here" it was Guilford who appeared.
"Lord Guilford?" the boy raised himself from his seat. "I thought you were going to the E.U. to aid with the defense"
"I was, but my mission changed prior to his majesty's orders" the bespectacled knight explained happy to see his comrade as well. "I am to guard Pendragon along with the Glaston Knights. With the increase of unrest among the people, he thought that my presence here would ease some tension up. The rest of the support force led by Sir Waldstein will be arriving here shortly"
"Lord Waldstein is coming too?"
The former Knight of Conelia nodded. "Yes. Along with him would be the Knight of Ten Luciano Bradly, the Knight of Nine, Nonnette Enneagram, the Knight of Four, Dorothea Ernst and of course the 2nd Regimental Guards and their personal forces"
"The whole contingency? That's a massive invasion fleet!"
"Well it is a continent we're protecting after all" Guilford seemed to agree. "They will also be amassed in Area 7 and 9 for support. I only wished they would bring me along as well"
Suzaku and Guilford shared a laugh. "That's true. With you at the frontlines, I wouldn't have any worries at all. Oh and allow me to introduce you to a friend of mine. This is Anya Alstreim, the Knight of Six"
"Yes. I believe your reputation precedes you" the young knight extended his hand in a gesture only to be returned with a camera shot and the girl muttering 'recorded' in the process. "Uh? This she just took my picture?"
"Don't take it too hard" Suzaku waved his hand defensively for her. "She does that to everyone"
"Well I guess a life at the frontlines has dulled my sense in etiquette" the bespectacled knight laughed it off feeling quite awkward. "I've also been in touch with your legal Guardian, Duchess Einstein. (Nina?) Yes. She's been quite a help providing new improvements for our Vincents. With the coming war approaching every edge we have on the battlefield will be a great welcome" Suzaku could visibly see and hear the man sighing over the topic. Over the year that he's been with the man who was proclaimed the Spearhead of the Empire he never once heard him sigh with such defeatism. But it was to be expected. With the E.U. continuing its aggressive actions and the U.F.N. forming under the banner of Zero and not to mention to huge scale defeat at the Pacific Ocean, it only proved that the Black Knights were becoming a force to be reckoned with. If Zero wanted it… he could probably launch an invasion to Britannia right this second.
(Britannia – Federation Border)
Tohdoh sat in silence as he cut the arms of another possessed Gun Ru as it tried to ram him from the side. Even with its pilot dead and its weapons destroyed the Morgan used the mass of the machine to become a decoy while the other zombiefied units continued their attack. Only he and Senba remained in that battle and while they were busy dealing with their own troops, Morgan Le Fay hovered just a few feet away from them as if she was an audience watching a bad play turn sour.
"Senba, what's your energy status?"
"Still running" the round member of the group replied, his voice ringing with confusion and exhaustion. "I have about fifteen minutes left. More than enough to take this rabble"
"Be careful on the ground as well. Our soldiers ejected from their frames but they're still operational. Not only does that monster infect our machines but the infected ones can become host to the plague as well"
Tohdoh chopped another infected Akatsuki, cutting the lower half away but to his irritation, the upper half continued to harass him forcing him to slice every part like a carrot.
"This fight is becoming a lot like a bad dream. I've never heard of any machine that's capable of doing something like this"
"Neither did I…"
But just as they were about to take down the next wave of attackers, the Morgan suddenly released her grip on the Knightmares when she received a transmission from its master. Its half-skeletal head twirled around as if it had smelled something fishy. Its arms swung about as if trying to reach for an object that did not exist.
"Not here…" its banshee like voice hissed out. "New orders. Command… accepted… Returning to Mother…"
"Mother?" Tohdoh raised a brow before he noticed Senba charging in for the kill. "Wha? Senba! No!"
"Take this!" Senba's blade cut a portion of Morgan's armor but it wasn't enough to cause significant damage. The enemy literally ignored his attack and quickly flew away as if drawn to another target. "Commander, the enemy is retreating. Should we pursue?"
"No. Gather up the survivors and withdraw for now. One mistake and I might be facing you next Senba. Until we know what we're dealing with we should regroup for now. Perhaps Rakshata can explain what that monster is"
(Hollington) (2 days later) (Lelouch's estate)
Rolo and Sayoko were waiting that morning at the new pool-aquarium building that was constructed a few weeks earlier for the arrival of Lelouch. After hearing that the master was returning, Rolo ensured that the OSI would be around to ensure security around the complex. The construction workers that were supposed to be finishing with their task were asked to leave for the week as well so to make sure that the Knightmares inside will not be discovered.
"This place… are you sure it is safe master Rolo?" the ninja maid asked.
"Don't worry. I built it prior to my big brother's instructions" the boy replied proudly. "Not only does this place conceal a secret hanger at the lower deck, the marine biologists from around the country are using it for study with underwater animals. In a few days time this place will also generate income by holding swimming contests from the main city. It's the perfect cover-up building" he then paused for a moment when he noticed a shadow rising from the pool. He knew immediately that it was the Shinkiro. "Ah… welcome home… brother"
Lelouch's face appeared from the cockpit. "It's good to see you Rolo. I see that you've followed my instructions precisely. I'm very proud of you" the self proclaimed little brother blushed slightly at his compliment. "Sayoko, did anything change while I was away on this mission?"
"Nothing of immediate concern, my lord. I noted all the detail in designated files. Your only appointment for today is the party I scheduled for your friends in the student council"
"Very well. Have George prepare lunch for me. I haven't eaten for quite awhile and I feel a little famished"
"So you'll be staying here for quite awhile now, right brother?"
"Yes. I have to develop some effective countermeasures for the Knights of the Round. We were able to catch them by surprise at the Chinese Federation but they won't fall for it again once we fight them head on. The Lancelot is bad enough and we don't need the Tristian and the Mordred getting in the way again. Besides, it will take some time before the other nations fall under our rule. Like two hyenas fighting over leftover meat, the Black Knights and the Britannian army are taking over the now dissipating countries of the old Federation"
"If you want, I would be more than happy to support you in the J-8 stealth fighter that you built. (See chapter 13 for the machine) It might not be as powerful as your Knightmares but its fast and strong enough to take down any opponent"
"No. The J-8 will stay here. If anything should go wrong I would like to have a vessel that's fast enough to escape from here. Besides I wouldn't want anyone else to rescue me from danger"
"Of course!" Rolo puffed his chest proudly for his brother's trust.
Upon their arrival at the mansion, Sayoko quickly changed into her second disguise of a blonde maid in Lelouch's service. She feared that if Milly sees her she would recognize her as a maid from Japan.
"Master Lelouch" one of the maids called out to the master of the estate. "Forgive me for interrupting but your friends have arrived at the main gate. We have prepared rooms for all of them"
"Ah excellent. We shall go and greet them" Lelouch quickly put his act together and went on to see his friends. But to his surprise, another member of the old student council had appeared along with the group.
"Hey Lelouch, Rolo! Milly yelled out to the top of her lungs despite the fact they were only a few meters from them. "You won't believe who I was able to bring along! I hope you still remember… (Nina?) Hey! Let me finish first!"
"It's good to see you again, Lelouch" Nina bowed timidly just as before when she was in Area 11. Lelouch was indeed surprise to see the young scientist but he kept his surprised act in check. To actually see Schneizel's top researchers and the Duchess of the Floating Garden was almost too good to be true. It felt like a golden chicken had come by in its own will to lay golden eggs in front of his house.
"Nina? Nina Einstein?" Lelouch paused for a moment before returning to his cool and calm posture. "I don't believe it. It really is you. I haven't seen you for so long. The last I heard you were in the University of Chicago presenting your thesis about fusion energy"
"Oh you saw that?"
"I watched it on television. Quite an interesting concept you presented" Lelouch added before turning his attention to Rolo who seemed to be questioning her moves. Lelouch was worried but quickly dashed that away to confirm something. "Oh by the way, I'm sure you remember my brother Rolo"
"Umm… no not really. But Milly told me about him during our phone conversation" Nina looked at the young boy rather curiously before raising a brow. "Milly said that you were his long lost brother. I'm amazed that you were able to find each other again. By the way, have you heard about Prin-"
Lelouch quickly grabbed the girl by the shoulder, moving her away from the group. "Uh… why don't we talk later? It must've been a long trip from the capital" but in the boy's mind he was panicking beyond belief. "This isn't good. As I suspected before, the emperor never had a chance to use his Geass on Nina. Therefore she clearly remembers me and Nunnally at Ashford Academy. This is bad… really really bad. I can only assume that she hasn't told anyone because of my status. I'll have to fabricate a story before things get out of hand"
"Hey anyway Lelouch!" Rivalz butted in. "Is it true that you just bought the latest model of the Revelator? I'd love to try it on the tracks. I heard that it had a new engine and sweet compartments"
"Heh, you and your taste for bikes" Lelouch faked a laugh while all of his alarm systems were going off inside his head. "Yes it is true. But I'm having it refitted at the garage today so you won't have the chance to ride it. Perhaps another time. (Aww…) By the way, where's Shirley? I thought she'd be here"
"She's still getting her stuff from the limo" Milly answered before looking back. "Hey Shirley come on! Don't be a slowpoke!"
"Alright already, geez. It's not like we're in a race" the orangette answered appearing from the doorway. Again to Lelouch's surprise, the girl was outfitted with an eye-patch on her left eye, making her appear like a pirate of some sort. "Besides, some of these are your stuff too prez. You should at least hold your own weight"
"Oh come on now Shirley. You just got out of the hospital so I'm sure you're fine. A little exercise now and then can be good for the body"
"What kind of twisted nonsense is that?" Shirley let out a sweat drop.
"Shirley… (hmm?)" Lelouch opened his mouth, his mouth unconsciously moving to the said girl. "I heard about what happened to your eye. Did you have the doctors check it?"
"Yeah don't worry about it" the girl waved it off playfully. "It's just an eye infection. The doctor said it was because of the salt water when I went swimming in the beach last week so I should avoid swimming for a couple of days. I should also put this eye patch too to keep the infection from spreading to everyone else"
"It looks pretty rad through" Rivalz added. "You look like one of them old day pirates. Hey, try saying 'arrrrrrggg' for me"
The gang laughed, reliving the old times they had together. Even Lelouch seemed to find a sense of calmness around them. But just as they were unloading their belongings, the butler approached his master with a cordless phone in hand. "Master Lelouch, you have a phone call"
"Yes, thank you George. (To Rolo) Rolo. Why don't you bring everyone to their rooms to freshen up? We can all have lunch together at the dining room later" the boy agreed and quickly escorted the old student council to the upper floor where the guest rooms were located. Once he was alone, Lelouch quickly answered the phone. "Yes, this is Lelouch Lamperouge… who am speaking to?"
But for the third time that morning, Lelouch's eyes widened… this time so much that they nearly bulged out of their sockets when the voice on the other line spoke. "Um… Lelouch?" It was Nunnally who called.
"N… n… Princess Nunnally?" Lelouch calmed his heart down as he spoke. He quickly recalled that Princess Nunnally has been making frequent visits to this place for casual talks with Sayoko along with Prince Odysseus. The poor girl must be pretty lonely in the palace. After checking his surroundings making sure that no one was close enough to eaves drop on his conversation, he continued. "How may I be of assistance your highness?"
"Sorry to call you so early in the morning Lelouch, but I was hoping we could make another arrangement for a meeting. I wanted to discuss something with you in private"
"Yes of course your highness. When will we have this meeting?"
"I'm quite busy at the moment here in Pendragon so I'm not quite sure when. I just wanted to give you a notice before I arrive"
"It would be my pleasure to serve you your highness. I will try to keep my schedule open for next week. Please call me when you have a proper date for our meeting. (Sorry…) No, please don't be your highness. It would only be my honor to serve the royal family in the best of my abilities. Good day…" a silent click on the other line confirmed the end of the call. But as the boy placed the phone down, he cleched his heart to relieve him of the pain. "I have enough problems as it is conquering the Chinese Federation and now I have to deal with Nina before she spills everything about me and create more confusion! But how? If I knew that she would be coming I would never have used my Geass on her in the Chinese Federation"
(Pendragon Royal Palace)
Inside the royal palace, the highest members of the royal family who were present at the moment were having a strategic discussion. Odysseus of course being the eldest in the family was having difficulty diffusing the situation seeing that his other family members were bent on declaring war with the U.F.N.
"Don't you think this is a bit rash?" Odysseus spoke out trying his best to convince at least one or two members to see his way of view. "Declaring war with the U.F.N so quickly? Even though we've manage to open a channel of negotiation through the E.U?"
Schneizel who was also present seemed to agree. As much as he wanted to face Zero again in a match of wits he still despised war above all else. He wanted to agree with Odysseus but that move would only favor his rival opponents in the family. Taking the losing side wasn't exactly a brilliant strategy. The plan was in debate for about a few hours until Bismarck Waldstein, the personal knight of the emperor came to deliver his orders. The emperor's words were clear. They were to declare war with the U.F.N the moment all the neutral nations picked a side.
"I say it's a wonderful ideal" Karine, the wildest and 2nd most violent member of the royal family agreed to the plan. "Why not destroy them all? Wipe them all out and take their land for our own!"
Schneizel looked at the Knight of One sadly. "Is that what his majesty said?"
"Yes…" was his reply. "He told us to take all of it as he has no doubt that Zero himself will be leading this campaign. I'm already assembling the Knights of the Round together. They should be here in a matter of hours"
"Those savages humiliated Odysseus" Guinevere hissed annoyingly in agreement to the invasion plan. "Not only that but that Zero has been a symbol of defiance ever since he appeared in Area 11. Bringing his entire Black Knight out of the picture would only calm our investors"
"Guinevere please" Odysseus begged. "I harbor no grudge for the incident that occurred with the empress. Our war with the E.U. is still ongoing and the other areas that we've conquered are becoming more violent due to increased terrorist activity. Even that, we've finally been able to secure a negotiation channel with the U.F.N. So I would prefer if we settle this matter around open dialogue rather than a show of force that you have shown when you took the fleet to attack the United States of Japan without our father's permission"
The princess grunted irritatingly remembering her failed invasion campaign to the United States of Japan. Not only did Zero humiliate her in front of billions of people nationwide, it loosened her favor within the royal family itself. That alone was more than enough reason for her to agree with the whole invasion plan.
"Oh you're just saying that because of Nunnally, aren't you Odysseus" Karine bantered. "That girl is putting strange ideas in your head. You should really do something about her"
The prince sighed as he turned his eyes towards his younger relative. "Karine. Nunnally is around your age. You should make an attempt to be friends with her. She gets lonely every now and then and I can't always be there to look after her"
"This would be an easy matter to solve if Cornelia were present" Guinevere added earning a silence gaze from Schneizel. "Bismarck, have you heard anything?"
"I have not" came the giant man's stern answer. "And she apparently hasn't contacted Lord Guilford either"
"Then I guess only you'll be flying alone out there along with the rest of the Knights of the Round"
But then Schneizel suddenly opened up. "We can station two divisions around the Russian border" The eyes of the royal family cast their gaze on him like a beacon suddenly lighting out of no reason.
Even Bismarck himself seemed rather surprise of his response. "Are you offering to take command of the army, Prince Schneizel?"
"Battle is unnecessary. The Chinese Federation has fallen apart. But because of the incident that I created there our movements are being monitored carefully. We've barely gained a foothold in the area and since our reserves were destroyed in Kazakhstan we cannot even secure a prominent supply route to the frontlines. I feel personally responsible for our delayed actions here so I would rather be out there redeeming myself than to be cooped up here"
"We already have capable commanders guarding the frontlines. Surely there shouldn't be any reason for you to risk your life"
But Schneizel did not back down. "I am aware of that. But also… there's something that I want to confirm. (Hmm?) Do you remember Monica Kruszewski, the Knight of Twelve? (Yes of course) I've been hearing radical rumors spreading around the military ranks that she may still be alive"
"Wasn't she killed in the battle for Area 11?" Karine recalled hearing the news broadcast from last year which pretty much overtook every channel in every country around the world. "If she were alive, wouldn't she have reported to Bismarck or something?"
"True. But this rumor also speculates that she may be in liege with the Black Knights" a round of gasps and murmurs filled the room. It was an unbelievable topic. The Knights of the Round were notoriously loyal to the emperor and to hear one betray to the side of their enemies was unheard of. Such rumors alone could spring up distrust within the ranks of the military.
"Are you certain about this information?" Odysseus looked rather bewildered too. He has encountered the Knights of the Round a few times as well, Kururugi being the most common one seeing that he was also a close friend to Nunnally. "Surely such rumors are exaggerated from facts. Best not to take interest in such things brother"
"What do you think about it Bismarck?" the 1st princess questioned the man. "Have you heard anything about this rumor?"
"No. This is my first time hearing such things. Monica was supposedly killed during the Battle for Area 11 over a year ago. It would be odd if she were alive and not report to the emperor….. I will have to report this to his majesty if this rumor appears true" but then the man stopped when he noticed the entrance suddenly opening revealing the soft feature of the young princess Nunnally.
"Sorry to keep you waiting everyone" the young girl spoke up as she moved forward on her wheelchair.
Odysseus stood from his seat in a quiet surprise. "Nunnally? Where have you been? I was worried that you may have gotten lost"
"I apologize. I was making call to a friend. Am I bothering?"
"No… not at all little one" Schneizel spoke out using a much gentler tone than before. "We were simply discussing the war with the U.F.N. (War?) Yes. Apparently his majesty decided to deliver the first blow to our new enemy"
"But surely our peace talk with them have gotten through" Nunnally reasoned. "Shouldn't we at least try to negotiate?"
"That certainly isn't an option" Bismarck stated lowering his head slightly to greet the new guest. "As you probably know, the one who is uniting these countries together is none other than Zero himself. This man has already declared himself to be an enemy of Britannia and is rallying support day by day. Even till now, his Black Nation on Horai Island is becoming more and more influential. Even the E.U. is dissolving itself to join his side. And so with the increase of power there is no doubt that the U.F.N will become an enemy of the Empire"
"If that's the case, an attempt should…" Nunnally began only to be cut off by her elder sister.
"Enough. This discussion has been concluded. Your judgment is clouded Nunnally. You hope to bring peace in a war ridden world. You should stop being so naïve and grow up like Schneizel here"
"Guinevere, please!" Odysseus pleaded again only to be ignored.
"Well it's true. She seeks to ask for a ceasefire with that killer of royalty. What else can I call her but naïve?"
"I agree" Karine added to the bullying of the young princess. "If the royal family starts talking of peace than the other nobles might think of us as weak cowards. I for one agree that we should attack and continue this war!"
"I understand that. But even so… to declare war without even trying is a crime itself" Nunnally took her place besides Odysseus hoping that the rest of the family members would at least listen to what she have to say. "Our ongoing war with the E.U. has drained much of the economy in various Areas in the outer lands. Homes are being destroyed and taxes strain the lives of even the commoners. By conquering them, we burden ourselves with the responsibility with maintaining their lives and ensure our stability"
"Don't be ridiculous" Guinevere snorted. "Zero is nothing more but a madman. Like he would try and listen to anything we say? Surely your late brother, Lelouch would be disappointed to hear you say that"
Odysseus's eyes snapped at the woman who dared speak of Nunnally's sibling that way. "Guinevere! There hasn't been confirmation about Lelouch yet! If we found Nunnally than surely Lelouch must certainly be alive"
"And captured by that madman? Surely he's as good as dead. Zero has already killed Clovis and Euphemia in Area 11. Another of the royal blood on his dirty hands would only add to his kill counts"
But then… something snapped in Nunnally's mind. It was true that she still had hopes that Lelouch was still alive but hearing that Zero was an enemy of Britannia disheartened her. There was a good chance that he may already be dead but she didn't want to believe in that. She wanted to believe that somewhere out there waiting for her.
With renewed vigor… she opened her mouth. "Lord Bismarck…" the one eyed knight turned to the blind princess with little interest. "I would like to make a request to the emperor…" a round gasps echoed the room. Odysseus held his breath in disbelief, Karine covered her mouth to stop herself from speaking and even Schneizel himself turned his unshakable gaze to the poor girl with a brow raised in interest. "Before he begins his campaign to invade the U.F.N borders we should at least send an envoy to protect to continue with the negotiation. I am sure that we can come to terms with the senate members there"
Bismarck underestimated the young princess. He thought of her to be nothing more but a child who had been given power but now he realized that this crippled girl had enough courage in her heart to stand against her father's wishes.
"Now you're just being hardheaded Nunnally" Guinevere added recovering from her earlier state of shock. "Even if the emperor did agree to your outrageous request, who will be the one to lead the peace talks? Hmm? Schneizel has already volunteered to command our forces in Germany and the Knights of the Round are being assembled for this campaign. Odysseus is already busy with the peace talk with the E.U. as well. Not to mention that he needs to stay here to act as sub minister of the national guards"
Nunnally braced herself against those words like a leaf bending from a typhoon storm. Her invisible gaze turned to her closest ally, Odysseus but no words could come out of his mouth. And so with a heavy heart, the girl spoke again. "I will do it… (Huh?) I will personally go to the U.F.N consulate and negotiate a peace treaty with them"
"Nunnally!" Odysseus stood up from his seat. "Surely you must be joking. You're the minister of the National Guard here in Pendragon. You can't abandon your duties and go on this crusade. If you go to the Black Knights, they'll surely capture you!"
"I know the risk brother Odysseus" the child smiled at him thanking him silently for his continued support. "But I simply cannot sit idly by and watch as people continue to kill each other for reason such as hate"
A small urge of irritating murmurs and groans echoed around the room, some seeing this event as nothing more but a naïve child's dream of a peaceful world. But those murmurs quickly died down when the 2nd Prince stood up from his seat with a smile appearing on his face.
"Very well then… (Huh?)" all eyes turned to the prime minister who spoke out suddenly in support of the blind princess. "Nunnally vi Britannia, you have inspired me today with your words. Never before have I seen a spirit such as you with such resolve to even speak against our father's commands. I Schneizel, 2nd prince of the realm gladly pledge myself to your cause. I will immediately arrange an audience with the emperor and grant you permission to commence peace talk with the dignitaries of the U.F.N"
"Brother Schneizel" Odysseus looked up slightly in awe.
"Please Odysseus" the 2nd prince raised his hand in gesture to let him finish. "This is the first time I have ever been moved by such words and I believe that if peace reigns then we can finally focus on rebuilding our land rather than conquering more. You have my full support in this"
"Schneizel, you can't be serious!" Guinevere spoke up only to be silence by his charismatic eyes.
"I am as serious as I can be, sister. This young girl is offering a chance of peace and as prime minister, I can only agree to her ideas"
"Thank you, brother Schneizel…" Nunnally looked up to the man following only the sound of his voice. "But I do not intend to go alone. I wish to have one advisor accompany me on this mission"
"Of course! I will personally draw out a list of candidates who will accompany you to Horai Island"
"I appreciate your offer brother, but I already have a person in mind" the blind princess raised her hand in refusal. "Someone who shares my point of view and has long been a supporter of a coexistence with Britannia and other nations"
"Hachoo!" Lelouch let out a sneeze quietly blowing the bad spirits away with a silent prayer. "Ugh… my immune system can't seem to sustain itself. Going from one continent to another at such a short time is really messing up my internal wellness"
"Lelouch!" Milly yelled out forcefully pulling the boy out of his trance. "Are you listening to a thing I'm saying? (Huh?) It's not like you to dose off like that. I know that my lectures can be boring but at least have the courtesy of letting me finish first"
"Sorry about that. Please go on"
"Well… as I was saying. I was planning on holding a food contest for this Christmas Festival at school. The gardening club, and cooking club all agreed to this and even the motor club want a piece of the action"
"I'm not sure I can agree with that prez" Shirley replied looking at the president with her good eye. "As an athlete I'm not allowed to eat too much because of the upcoming competition with the other school"
"Oh come on now Shirley. You have to add some meat into that body of yours or else you'll literally be nothing but skin and bones"
Nina chuckled at this. A part of her remembering how Milly constantly bickered to her subordinates about making the school festival a big thing. "I see you still haven't lost your touch on festivals Milly"
"I take that as a compliment"
"That's quite a wild event Milly" Rolo added suddenly earning the attention of the group. "Not even the school director would agree to it. Such a show could even shut down the school if the board of education finds out about this"
"I agree" Rivalz paled. "Wouldn't it also drain half of our school funding to support something that big? The cost of ingredients and not to mention the livestock needed for all the chefs"
"That's because she doesn't intend to use the school funding" Lelouch deduced just by looking at the woman's smirk. "You're planning to use my area of the school to supply your campaign, aren't you?"
"Oh don't worry about it" Milly grinned teasingly at him. "I plan to compensate you for every penny you lose. You're already attracting a lot of customers with your shops and stalls built right next to school. Think of the profit that will come after. Besides, it will be a mutual thing. You'll provide the supplies and the students will do all the work and after that we'll split the income 50/50"
Lelouch thought for a moment looking at the plan Milly laid out. Surprisingly, it did seem like a good plan. He would only be charged for the supplies of ingredients and the school will provide the manpower needed for the event. Not only would this cover his operations around school he could also ask some of the school faculties to participate as well. Heck, he even planned to let Viletta join the swim club café that Shirley always wanted.
"Alright, I'll concede" he said finally earning a positive noise from the group. "I'll set up the deal with some of the farmers around my land and Pendragon. I'll have it delivered to school by next week"
"Yes! Lelouch, I owe you big time"
"You do owe me a lot…" he grumbled.
"Well that shouldn't be too troubling for you, friend of royalty" Rivalz nudged the boy on the side earning a confused look from the dark prince. "Don't forget that you have some influence with the royal family. Shaking hands with the prince and princess. You're moving up in the world, aren't ya?"
Nina's eyes widened a bit. "Oh, you mean the funding for the local police force in Pendragon. I saw that on the news the other day. Very admirable"
"Don't say that he's better than you Nina" Milly stated suddenly. "What about you Ms. Big Shot? Being Prince Schneizel's personal researcher must be really rewarding. He even made you Duchess of a small patch of land"
"H… how'd you know about that?" Nina blushed. Even this information seemed to have caught Lelouch's interest. "That was supposed to be top secret"
"Oh it wasn't a big secret. It was all over the net. Even a girl like me has an interest in royal gossips"
"A head researcher aye?" Lelouch sharpened his eyes in interest. "That's quite a feat. I may be asking things out of my jurisdiction but can you share us anything on what the prince has you developing? Surely you must've made something that caught his interest"
"Sorry but that's classified information" Nina replied playfully which the boy played along with.
"I bet it's the kind of secret where that if they tell you then they have to kill you" Rivalz added.
And so the party of the old student council went on without a hitch. Lelouch enjoyed most of the celebration as well except for the time he had to cover Nina up to hide her from speaking Nunnally's name. Little did he know that his troubles were only just starting.
After the party died down and the servants retiring for the night, Lelouch decided to use this opportunity to find out more about Nina. Sensing a golden opportunity of discovering Schneizel's plans he had to sway the green haired girl to his side. He knew Nina was a member of Schneizel's personal entourage but he never thought of her to be an important figure until now. This little bit of information far paid the price for the ingredients that Lelouch had to give to Milly. He took a mental note to look into the royal gossips more often for more dirt.
The boy conflicted with himself for a few hours in his room, formulating a plan to get Nina to spill at least a portion of her research but all attempts seemed futile as the dark prince has made a small pledge with himself not to use his friends as tools.
Later that night when Lelouch thought to clear his head with a bit of a drink from the kitchen he noticed the green haired girl that he was thinking about sitting by the balcony overlooking his giant pool. Surprisingly, Nina appeared to be grooming Arthur, the cat who somehow manages to mysteriously appear from time to time.
"Nina?" the bespectacled scientist jerked back at the call of her name. "What are you doing out here so late? I thought for a girl with your metabolism you'd be asleep by now"
"Oh… sorry Lelouch" the girl apologized returning to pet the little cat by the balcony. "I couldn't sleep so I thought a little walk around the house might help. You're mansion is so much bigger than mine"
"Well I have invested a lot in the neighboring land after all" Lelouch joined the girl leaning beside her scratching Arthur by the neck in which the little feline creature purred calmly in response. "So how are you feeling? (Hmm?) Being a Duchess must be quite difficult considering your circumstances"
"Well… it's kind of lonely but I get used to it. After all, I wasn't exactly the social type back in Area 11. Even back then my focus remained on my studies and the only friends I had were you, Milly and the student council"
Lelouch simply laughed inwardly to himself. "Heh. I guess you and I have that in common. (Huh?) We tend to keep to ourselves and never associate with people outside of our circle. It can be a mixture of a blessing and a curse. (Lelouch…) By isolating ourselves we make sure that no one can possibly hurt us and in turn… we make sure that we won't be able to hurt them. A self confinement. If you think of it that way, the good side of this self built prison outweighs the bad"
Nina gazed at the young boy as he poured his feelings on their relation. "From the way you say it… it makes me feel sad" she turned her gaze to the crescent moon which shone rather calmly that night. Like a personal nightlight for all to see. "For me, I kept myself away from others because I wanted to be alone. The only thing that mattered to me was my research and my studies. But then Princess Euphemia taught me that I was special in my own way"
The dark prince then recalled a conversation he had with Milly one day. He remembered that Nina had a close attachment with the princess and had admired her since the hotel jacking back in Japan. He quickly put this to his advantage to build a foundation between them. "Is that why you became a scientist? (Hmm?) To take your anger out on Zero?"
Nina seemed disheartened and a bit ashamed of herself but she recalled that Lelouch was an extremely sharp person and could detect a lie a mile away and that alone was an understatement.
"When I returned to the homeland… all I could believe in was my hatred. In all my life now I wanted nothing more but to destroy Zero. For a whole year, it was probably the only thing that kept me going"
"Vengeance is a powerful feeling" the elder Lamperouge stated knowing well that feeling of hatred and anger. "It feeds your hunger for a purpose. It makes you stronger, faster and places your mind in a state of trance. But once that feeling disappear it creates a vacuum in you that you'll find difficult to fill"
Nina nodded, agreeing to his answer. "Yeah… I guess that's one way to describe it" she turned her gaze to Arthur and rubbed his cheeks lovingly. "I used to hate Zero… I despised him, I even thought that if I could get close enough I would have a chance to avenge Princess Euphemia. But now… for some reason… I feel like that anger has left me"
"That's a sign of moving on. (Huh?) I'll agree… there are times when even I want to go to the past. Life was so much simpler and peaceful back then. But in the end… time will not wait for you. It will move on… with… or without you"
For the first time in weeks, Nina let out a true genuine smile come out of her lips. Her eyes darted from Arthur to Lelouch's purple eyes. The boy looked back making the young genius yelp out in surprise. She never once thought of Lelouch to be more than an acquaintance to her but after today… she appeared to have grown closer to him. It was as if he understood how she felt truly… unlike those who claimed to have knowledge of her feelings.
"By the way Lelouch. (Hmm?) Something still bothers me. Your sister was Nunnally vi Britannia isn't it?"
The boy flinched quickly remembering the woman who was not Geassed by the emperor. "Y… yeah?"
"Then if that's true… doesn't that make you a member of the royal family?"
Lelouch was then quick to analyze Nina's knowledge. "I see… so she knows Nunnally only as a member of the royal family. That's no surprise seeing that neither of us had made any debut when we were in Aries Villa. She wouldn't know of Lelouch vi Britannia… only Lelouch Lamperouge instead. This will greatly complicate things. But if I play my cards right then I can use this situation to my advantage"
"It's a long story really" he began, making things up as they go. "I'm not really a close member of the royal family but I am a part of it. They pretend that I don't exist so you won't find anything about me in their roster. As for Nunnally, she was found by the emperor and was given the position of minister of the national guards. Because of that, Milly and the other members of the student council decided to protect her reputation by denying she ever came to Ashford Academy. If anyone found out that she was studying with the commoners it may discredit her position"
"Is that so?"
"Yes… we all decided on it. As for me… well I…" But before Lelouch could continue, Arthur suddenly stood up from his comfy position and hissed at the new presence that arrived. "Hey. What's wrong Arthur?"
The two looked behind them and noticed Shirley standing there, eye patch in place on her left eye. "Oh… sorry… was I interrupting?" she asked innocently sticking her tongue out playfully. "I didn't mean to eaves drop… I just couldn't help myself"
"Shirley?" Lelouch raised a brow in curiosity. "Don't tell me you couldn't sleep either"
"Yeah… I was out to get some water from the kitchen when I saw you two by the balcony. Sorry if I was disrupting something important"
"Not at all" the boy waved it off. "We were just reminiscing of the old times. I'll ask George to fetch something for you"
"That's alright, I can get things myself" the orangette smiled. "Besides, I wouldn't want to be spoiled like you, Lulu"
"Hissssss!" Arthur hissed again as the woman took a step closer to them.
"Hey, what's with Arthur?" Nina asked, looking strangely at the cat which seemed to bear some strange distrust with the woman in front of them. "I've never heard him do that before"
"It's probably the cologne I have on me. I guess it doesn't like the smell" Shirley suggested, sniffing her shirt. "Hey Lulu (Hmm?) There's something I wanted to talk with you about but I see that you're busy. Maybe after school then"
"If it's something important, then maybe you should say it"
"Well… I guess there's no harm in trying but…"
But before Shirley could continue, Sayoko, who was still in her disguise interrupted the conversation. "Master Lelouch. Forgive the interruption but you have a phone call waiting for you. It's from your business clients" Lelouch knew immediately that it was a call from the Black Knights. If it wasn't something of great importance, Sayoko wouldn't have come herself.
"I see… another time then" Lelouch nodded giving both the girls in the balcony a silent farewell before following the ninja in disguise to the computer room at the boiler room. Shirley nodded to this and withdrew herself from the scene hiding a rather sharp object within the sleeve of her shirt.