CHAPTER 2

"THE ZERO OF NEW"

Suzaku lowered his head feeling ashamed, guilt ridden. They were faceless, but everyone of the 25 million people he killed with that blast from Damocles continuously haunted his thoughts.

Over the past year, he had felt increasingly despondent; and Nunnally once remarked to him that she noticed he had lost that zest in his eyes she had once come to know, that he rarely smiled, if at all. But he couldn't remember the last time he felt truly happy. The emotion was like a foreign entity that only others had or were allowed to experience.

I'm Zero. I'm not allowed to feel. Behind the mask, I'm nothing.

"Suzaku, come here," Nunnally said.

He looked up and looked into her eyes, the eyes that whenever he saw, he felt guilty for stealing Lelouch away from her. And yet, she never looked sad, and she always spoke highly of him, in only present company. Publicly, Lelouch vi Britannia was a name as taboo as incest or something equally horrible, and no one spoke it out loud.

In the former revitalized Eleven Ghettos, the citizens cursed his name and everyone thanked Zero for killing Lelouch. But the true Lelouch was a kind and loving brother whom Nunnally still adored. He had cared more about the world than anyone could've imagined, and he gave his life for the establishment of a world in peace. His plans had succeeded beyond anything he could've thought possible. All war and conflict had stopped since Lelouchs death. The world had blamed everything evil on him.

Often Nunnally cried for Lelouch, and spoke to him, visiting his grave that was located in the back gardens. It was a peaceful peace. Rolo's body was also buried here, relocated. Lelouch had told Nunnally in his Will of the circumstances in regards of Rolo, and despite the implanted memories given to him by their father's attempt to rewrite his mind, he wanted Rolo to be remembered as the brother he never had.

In the two months leading up to his death, while Lelouch was Emperor of Britannia, he had implemented many policies and accomplished countless things, most of which still stand under Nunnally's rule. But unlike Nunnally, Lelouch hid behind a facade of deceit. A deceit he wanted the world to think he was a tyrant, so he publicly engaged in acts that helped fuel that hatred. Nunnally, on the other hand, was kind, sweet, honest and loving. And well respected by all. A complete opposite of her brother, people said. Many horrible things were said about Lelouch, but she kept her tongue and didn't retort, despite crying her eyes out in private.

Nunnally give him a smile. "Don't look so sad, Suzaku," she said. "Tell me what's wrong?"

Suzaku shook his head. "It's unimportant. You have more pressing matters than my problems, especially when it comes to the affairs of state, for which your car will be arriving soon to take you to the Senate."

"Suzaku, we've been friends since childhood. You were open with me before with any issues you've had politically, economically or socially, but these last couple of months you've become withdrawn. Now I want to know why."

"No, and this doesn't concern the state, it's a person manner, and one I care not to discuss."

"Then we will stay here until you do. I'm canceling my meeting with the Senate."

Suzaku felt a deep concern. "You can't, that would be inadvisable. This is a gravely important meeting with the heads of state and other political parties to discuss a free trade embargo with worldly nations. You can't cancel it."

"I will if you continue to be stubborn," Nunnally said sternly.

Suzaku sighed. He put his left hand to his face and rubbed closed eyes, and then said, when he looked back, "I haven't been sleeping well. And often I experience insomnia. Nothing seems to work to help me sleep, and if you've been having the dreams I've had, you wouldn't want to close your eyes either."

"What do you dream about?" asked Nunnally.

He sat down in a comfortable chair next to Nunnally's wheelchair. "Horrible dreams. The kind of dreams I wake up in a cold sweat. And I can remember each one vividly. Apocalyptic in nature, end of the world; the annihilation of all life on the planet." He told her the details of each dream, and how a man in a dark cloak and hood had orchestrated it all, destroying the world. An apothecary of doom. "Recently I've been having lucid dreams while awake, visions of the same manner."

Nunnally operated her mechanical wheelchair to a bookshelf about a couple of meters away. She reached for a book and flipped to a page. "I remember reading something like this in one of my dream books. Lelouch was always buying me books like this in brale. I love to read. The consensus by experts say anxiety is the cause; it symbolizes disorder in your life."

"What life. I'm stuck in his mask all day. Look at me, my skin is as white as a ghost. I used to be such an athlete too. Sorry, I don't mean to complain. I'm proud to take up the mettle of Zero, but sometimes it can be so overwhelming."

"Why haven't you said any of this to me before? I'm a good listener. Tell you what, let's take a vacation someplace tropical and well isolated, like an island."

"That's impossible to do, and you know it. We're too important. No one is just going to let us slip away. The whole world would be on alert and won't stop looking for us."

"It's never a good feeling to feel trapped. I don't like seeing you depressed, Suzaku. It depresses me."

"Sorry. This is why I didn't want to discuss this issue with you. I apologize if I caused you any trouble." He stood up and donned the Zero mask. "We ought to leave so you're not late."

"Don't be like that, Suzaku. Don't shut yourself off from me. I don't like it."

Suzaku didn't say anything. He merely stared at her through the face plate of the mask. He tried to clear his mind of all emotion, but as he looked at her, it was like she was staring directly into his eyes, as if the mask wasn't there.

She put the book down, then went over to a glass side table and picked up the phone. And subsequently canceled the Senate meeting.

"Why would you do that! You know how important that meeting was!" Suzaku said upset.

Nunnally stared at him in a disapproving manner. "Take it off. Take it all off. You don't deserve to wear that mask or that costume."

"I can't do that. This is who I am now. If anyone ever saw my face, all of Lelouch's work would be unrivaled. Suzaku Kururugi is dead. I am Zero now."

"I see nothing but a coward hiding behind a facade in attempt to bring purpose to an otherwise worthless existence. Is that how you really feel, Suzaku? That life isn't worth living? Despite my brothers Geass driving you, you still want to die?"

"I made a promise to Lelouch. I accepted his final Geass - to forever don the mask of Zero, to relinquish all ties to the outside world. And I've kept that. What I want is irrelevant."

"But you feel cheated, don't you? Admit it."

Suzaku turned away from her, his cape whipped around. He faced the door. "You are my purpose now, Empress," he said coldly. "Nothing else matters."

"Lair. The one thing I hate most is a lair. Lelouch never lied to me."

Suzaku turned back to her. "We all lie. Its humanitys nature to. Some people are just too blind to see the truth and choose to believe what others tell them. They are the truly ignorant ones. I neglected to tell you something of my dreams," he said spiteful. "Lelouch was in each one. He was the instigator to the apocalypse in envisioned. I told you it was a mysterious individual in a dark cloak and hood who begins it, but it was actually Lelouch I saw donning these clothes."

Nunnally looked shocked, and tears began to form in her eyes. "Why do you have to be so cruel, Suzaku? Why are saying such things?"

"Because it's true. I didn't have the heart to tell you. I knew you would react like this."

She wiped the tears from her eyes, then she narrowed them angrily. "Get out! I don't want to see you for the rest of the day! I'll call back and reinstate the meeting, but I don't want you there!"

"A wise decision, Empress. I'll bid you farewell for now and return to my room."

"And stay there until I call for you."

Suzaku took in a breath, let it out to calm himself. "I'm sorry I made you angry. But I'm not lying about Lelouch in my dreams." He then left her quarters.

Suzaku proceeded down the corridor and away from Nunnally's quarters. He knew she needed to cool off, and so did he. Despite trying to purge all emotion, the impossibility of the task was strongly apparent. It was part of being human. And even if his facial expressions could be contained behind the Zero mask, his body language would expose his feelings just the same.

His fists were clenched, and he could feel his nails digging sharply into his palms through the costumes gloves. But he wasn't angry because of their conversion, he was angry because Nunnally was correct in calling him a coward. He had been hiding behind a facade all his life, ever since he murdered his father. He tried to run away; he joined the Britiannian military to atone for his mistake, and hopefully die. It was said a coward dies many times over. And already he had lost count.

He needed a way to vent his frustration. And at that moment he wished for a boxing match with Gino Weinburg, the man formerly known as the Knight of Three.

When Nunnally was sworn in as Empress, the Knights of the Round were disbanded. It was felt their kind of warlike, militaristic enforcement wasn't needed anymore. Unfortunately, they weren't accepted openly into the general society without some animosity for what they did under Charles via Britiannia's rule. In fact, only Gino and Anya Alstriem were left. The rest died in battle.

Anya became an orange picker, but Gino seemed to just fade away. Suzaku had no idea where Gino was, or Arthur either. But maybe it's a good thing, he thought retrospectively. The last time Suzaku saw Gino was ten months ago, and he had cut his hair and grew a beard. I guess we both have to hide ourselves now.

He heard a door open. "Wait!" He stopped, turned, and saw Nunnally facing him, in front of her quarters. She rolled her wheelchair to him. She was smiling, but showed an equal amount of guilt. "I'm sorry," she said.

"Why are you apologizing? You have nothing to feel sorry for. I shouldn't have spoken to you like that. I'm sorry, Empress."

"No, I need to apologize. Lelouch loved you like a brother. He wouldn't have given you the responsibility of donning that mask if he knew you couldn't handle it. I can't imagine the sacrifice you made to be here now, but I know in my heart, Lelouch wouldn't want you to be sad. Please. If you need to talk to me about anything at all, just say so, and that includes any disturbing dreams."

Suzaku nodded.

"Now, let's get ready for that meeting," said Nunnally.

"You better call the chairman back and tell him you will be attending," said Suzaku.

Nunnally smiled. "I never called him. I only pretended."

Suzaku chuckled. "And I fell for it. I thought you didn't like lairs?"

Nunnally smiled. "White lies are different."

To be continued