Disclaimer: I do not own Code Geass or any of its canon characters.

AN: I want to thank everyone that has read this so far. This story is now over a quarter million views and half way up the first page when ranked by number of favorites.

Chapters like this are hard, mainly because I'm so much better at writing war than love, conversation, and emotion. I doubt I'll ever write a story that doesn't have its fair share of conflict. Hopefully someday I will be able to paint feelings with words as well as I do destruction. *Suddenly wants to go waste 2 days reading Dauntless again*

Daybreak. The first dawn of a new world. A world in which the Holy Britannian Empire was no longer an unstoppable juggernaut seemingly destined to subjugate the Earth. The man behind the miracle sat down in a familiar chair with a mug of fresh coffee, his fifth. Lelouch vi Britannia was mentally and physically exhausted after what was undeniably the hardest thirty hours of his life.

Only a few months earlier, he had sat at this very same table balancing the school budget, organizing mountains of paperwork, and doing whatever else Milly Ashford commanded him to. Now he was working to create order out of chaos and build a new country. At the front of his mind were the other Britannian garrisons across Japan. They were small and militarily insignificant compared to the force his Black Knights had spent the last day fighting. After all, Tokyo was the heart of imperial power and the center of Britannian influence in Japan. No other section of the country had seen armed resistance as fierce as central Japan, and the outlying deployments were tiny in comparison to the capital.

He was hoping he could either convince or intimidate them into surrendering without a fight. While the Black Knights were capable of breaking them into submission, his forces had taken terrible losses in the fight for Tokyo. The Britannian military fought with all the ferocity they were known for. Black Knights combat power had been reduced by nearly sixty percent taking the city. Not quite a Pyrrhic victory, but definitely not the decisive ass kicking both he and the media were making it out to be.

Lelouch was one of very few people that knew just how much damage they had taken, and he needed to keep it that way. If it became common knowledge that they had been weakened so much, even the threat of nuclear attacks might not be enough to prevent other powers from invading. The High Eunuchs of the Chinese Federation in particular were known to have little regard for human life. It was certainly not a stretch to imagine them being willing to throw away hundreds of thousands, if not millions of their troops to secure Japan's invaluable sakuradite resources.

There were plenty of other problems to deal with as well. It was still unknown how the millions of Britannians living here would respond to his victory. It was all but certain that most of the nobility would oppose him to some degree, and he couldn't blame them. The Black Knights' promise of equality was a direct threat to the source of their power.

The presence of so many Britannians, including royalty, among the ranks of the Black Knights would help ease the concerns of the commoners, but he did not know by how much. The fact that the Black Knights were unwilling to slaughter civilians in the streets could possibly work against them by emboldening radical elements of the opposition to incite riots.

This was far too much for him to handle alone in the condition he was in. What he needed right now was a distraction, something to pull the peoples' attention away from the conflict and lingering tension. Lelouch took a look around the room, recalling memories of a more peaceful past. From fun and exciting to terrifying and humiliating, there was almost nothing that Milly had not put him through in this room. At that moment, he remembered his former boss's greatest talent, the ability to spawn celebrations of legendary proportions out of thin air. Perfect.

"Lelouch." Zero looked up from the mass of papers and maps on the table in front of him. CC was standing only a few feet away in her spotless white uniform, a concerned look on her face. She came closer, eying the mess on the table. "You're exhausted."

"It doesn't matter. I still have so much to do."

"You can't keep going at this rate. You need to rest." CC came up behind him and draped her arms across his chest. "Please, Lelouch." He looked away from the table and sighed. "You know better than anyone that the Black Knights are perfectly capable of functioning without your constant management. Your sister knows what she's doing, she won't let the world fall apart if you shut your eyes for a few hours."

"You know, you're starting to feel like that little white angel that's supposed to be on my shoulder." Lelouch leaned back and looked up at her.

"I'm no angel, boy, just your witch." She looked down with a smile.

"That's right. You're my beautiful, wonderful witch. What would I ever do without you?" He replied in a tired, slightly sarcastic voice.

"I'd imagine that you would work yourself to death. What was it that the Japanese call it? Karoshi? You're pushing your limits, and when you cross them you will start making mistakes." CC stepped to the side and put her face between his and the table.

"Alright, you win. Only a few hours though." Lelouch finally accepted that she wouldn't stop until he gave in. He was slightly annoyed at first, but pushed it away. She was only trying to help him. He got up and left the room, walking back to the wing of the building that he had called home for seven years.

Lelouch opened the door to his room and looked around. The room was just as he had left it months ago when he abandoned his student life to become a full time revolutionary. As he started undoing his Zero outfit, he heard footsteps behind him. Lelouch glanced over his shoulder. CC stepped into the room and shut the door, locking it behind her. The immortal woman started unzipping her own white suit. His unblinking stare got her attention.

"See something you like?"

"You know I do, but it's not that. I was just thinking about the day we first met."

"It wasn't exactly a romantic first date."

"I was just...remembering how you changed the world in that one moment." He began, letting his cape drop to the floor. "If you hadn't taken that bullet for me in Shinjuku, none of this would have been possible. I would have died, Kallen and Ougi's resistance would have been killed or captured. You would have been stuffed back into whatever slice of hell Clovis had for you. But worst of all, Charles would have won. He would have been the living god of his cold new world." Lelouch turned and looked at her as he finished undressing. She looked into his eyes, her expression slightly happier than neutral. CC gently pushed him down onto the bed before falling in next to him. She pulled him into a hug, knowing how comforting he found it.

"I owe you so much, but I've given you so little. When I fell in love with Kallen I lost sight of what you mean to me, and I-" CC put a finger over his mouth.

"Stop Lelouch. Don't you dare go down that road of what ifs and what should have been, and don't you ever doubt your love for her. There's nothing you can do to change the past. Not even Code or Geass can undo time, so thinking about it will bring you nothing but more pain. I know where you were going with that, and I don't care if you say it or not. I know that you love me Lelouch. I also know that you love Kallen more, and honestly I don't care. That you care about me at all is all that I need to be happy. Your crazy plan is more than enough proof. If you didn't, you would have just used me to the extent of my usefulness in your revolution and ended up killing me like I originally wanted."

Lelouch simply shut up and hugged her back. He was too tired to argue, and her comforting warmth was quickly melting through his ability to stay awake. He felt himself rapidly fading away, and spent the last of his energy to put a whisper in her ear.

"I do love you, you've more than earned it."

Cornelia stepped back into her old office with a smirk on her face. Even though it made perfect sense, she was still surprised when Lelouch tasked her with running the country once again. He had enough to worry about without having to deal with actually going through the motions running the place as well. Especially considering Cornelia already had experience in the position.

She took a few steps forward and realized that the room had not changed much since she had last seen it. The Knight of Two most likely never used it more than once or twice, and princess Carine certainly hadn't. There were a few folders, a stack of papers, and a coat that she did not recognize. Other than that, it was still the same as when she had been viceroy.

The princess sat down at her desk, looking through the glass wall at the snow covered city. From above, the damage seemed surprisingly minimal. No layer collapses, no fallen buildings, and no raging infernos. This was certainly not by accident. It was in neither side's best interest to target the city's critical infrastructure. The only obvious signs of the battle from her view were a few wrecks of Britannian military aircraft, still burning where they had fallen on the city's upper layer. He certainly had no shortage of creativity, Cornelia was certain about that. She was fairly certain that her brother's idea to steal a modern airforce would go down as one of the great twists of military history.

She reached down and opened one of the desk's drawers, finding something she was not expecting. Inside lay a nearly empty bottle of rum, a pistol, and a single bullet. She immediately felt herself drawn back to that terrible night after Narita. Cornelia picked it up and slowly spun it around, taking in the details of the projectile.

"Now that would have been a tragedy." She mumbled to the air. Never before in her life had she felt so broken, so hopeless. Without Guilford's support, she likely would have ended it right there. She forced herself away from her memories and back to why she had returned in the first place.

Right now, she had a country to keep together. She got to work summoning powerful members of the nobility, Tokyo's police commissioner, and some notable Japanese community leaders. She needed to get everyone in the same room and talking to each other before they started drawing lines in the sand. At best, she could prevent additional conflict. At worst, Cornelia could simply detain them until Lelouch could use his Geass to set them on the same page.

It wasn't an idea that she particularly liked, but it would be quick and effective. Destroying someone's free will was something she would rather not have a part in, but she trusted that her brother would not cause unnecessary damage. He was comparatively careful with how he used the power, unlike some other members of the royal family that, given the opportunity to do so, would have no hesitation about turning the country's ruling elite, if not the whole world, into their slaves.

The snow storm accompanying the battle had passed only a few hours after the fighting had stopped. Cleanup operations had begun even earlier. Although the combat was fierce inside the city, most of the damage was cosmetic. There were plenty of bullet holes, wrecked vehicles, pieces of destroyed aircraft, and some fire damage scattered around. As bad as it looked, there were no collapsed buildings, no significant layer damage, and no major disruptions to utilities.

Less than an hour after the colonial government surrendered, essential services were out in force. After being assured by the Black Knights that they still had their jobs they began helping the victors clear the aftermath of the battle from the streets. Most public workers went through the transition with little friction. The police were the clear exception.

Being the only armed force of the colonial government remaining, the majority of the capital's police officers felt uncomfortable around Black Knights personnel. This was most easily seen in the SWAT and Knight Police units, who had training and equipment comparable to the military. They had never felt so afraid before, and it was hard to hide. These were people that they had been openly persecuting only 48 hours earlier, and now they were firmly in control after butchering the army. They all feared just one incident gone wrong would spark a purge ending in their executions. But it had not come.

Instead they found themselves conducting what was as close to business as usual as they could imagine considering the circumstances. Police units had been directly attached to Black Knights units, as they were operating under a new set of rules but had no time to be retrained. To their surprise, they were allowed to keep their weapons. The Black Knights had decided that having a functioning police force on the streets now was more important than overreacting on the possibility that someone might end up doing something stupid.

With the influx of extra manpower, the city was effectively running smoothly by nightfall on the 20th. More importantly, the operation started to build the first layer of trust between Tokyo's sizable police forces and their new rulers.

With other services they had also shown the knightmare frame's great potential for civilian applications. The same knightmares that had been attacking the city only hours before were now assisting fire department crews to clear debris and extinguish fires around the city, mostly from the burning remains of war machines. The tension and additional conflict Lelouch and many others had feared did not appear to materialize, at least on the surface.

It took the Holy Swords almost five hours to find Colonel Todou. The two battle scarred Gekka knightmares rolled up to find his own Gekka, or rather what was left of it, leaning against a nearby building. The unit was critically damaged, missing its right arm, the top half of the cockpit, and half of its left leg. Todou himself was standing about 30 meters away, keeping himsef warm next to the burning wreckage of the white Gloucester that had been his opponent.

As they came to a stop next to him, they noticed something else. A body, face down, surrounded by red snow on all sides. The cockpits opened, revealing Chiba and Asahina.

"Colonel! Are you alright?" Asahina asked, amazed at what he was seeing. They had been fearing the worst when his IFF stopped transmitting and he could not be reached over radio.

"I'm fine." he nudged in the direction of the corpse. "We fought until both of our knightmares were destroyed. I continued my duel with the Knight of Ten face to face." The fact that he was still standing and the Britannian was cold and dead said enough about the outcome. "What of the Glaston Knights?"

"Three of them were killed. The other two managed to escape through the sacrifice of one of their own along with a smoke screen and a number of chaos mines." Chiba reported. "Colonel, Urabe and Senba fell in battle." The Colonel let out a long exhale, closing his eyes and looking down.

Lelouch opened his eyes and instantly realized something was wrong. He was not in bed, not at Ashford Academy, not even in Japan. He awoke in a grassy clearing, surrounded by forest on all sides. It was an unusually clear night, with millions of stars and a full moon visible in the sky. It was supposed to be December, but the warm breeze blowing through the field gave a clear indication that wherever he was, it was summer.

He looked around, trying to find something, anything that would give him a clue as to where he was or how he got here. A short distance to his left he saw something illuminated by the moonlight. A naked woman, laying on the ground next to a charred wooden post, surrounded by a pile of still smoldering ashes. She stood up, her green hair shining in the moonlight. Recognition hit him hard.

"CC!" Lelouch yelled out as he ran over to her. There was no response. She looked around, right at him, and then away as if she saw nothing. Having closed the distance, he reached out and tried to touch her. His hand went right through her, as if he were a ghost. CC looked down at herself, touching around her body, her expression seemingly amazed.

Lelouch stepped back, still not understanding, and looked at the situation. He saw the iron cuffs and chains attached to the pole, the ashes on the ground, and that all of her clothes were gone. A second later it hit him. She had been burned alive, her bones having fell through the loose fitting metal restraints with the absence of flesh. Somebody had chained CC to a stake and burned her to ashes, probably unaware that her Code would regenerate her even from that state. Adrenaline and anger filled him. He tried again to communicate with her, and again found it impossible. She could not hear him, see him, or feel him.

He quickly looked around, searching for the footprints or wheel marks of whoever did this. Instead of finding a clue, there was a blinding white flash. When it subsided, the entire world had changed.

From the clearing, he now found himself standing in what appeared to be some kind of modern laboratory or medical facility. Around him were men and women dressed in white like doctors or surgeons. Just as before, they paid him no attention as they went about their business. It was as if he were completely incorporeal. There was a glass window in front of him. Lelouch looked through it and tried to suppress the urge to vomit.

CC was on the other side of the window, tied down to a table with thick leather straps. Her abdomen had been sliced open, and the skin pulled off to the sides. One of the surgeons stood over her, wielding a large knife instead of a scalpel. He was cutting out large chunks of her. He looked over to the right and saw that she was not even dead. Her eyes were open, tears pouring down her face. The room must have been completely soundproof. He could see her scream, but heard nothing except for those on his side of the divide.

Lelouch found himself sickened by what he was watching, and even more so by his inability to stop it. Just then, an idea clicked in his head. If physical means were useless, perhaps Geass would affect them. He looked at the nearest person's face and his left eye lit up.

"Die!" He half yelled half screamed at the man in white. Nothing happened. Without warning he felt something hard connect with his face, but nothing was there. The world started to fade again. A second blow landed, this time he felt it as a hard slap.

"Wake up Lelouch!" He heard CC's voice yell at him. He opened his eyes and saw CC raise her hand to slap him again. It was only then that he understood what was happening. He was back in bed, his heart racing, his breathing heavy. "Lelouch! Calm down. It was just a dream." He reached up and pulled her down on top of him. "Are you alright? I've never seen you have a nightmare like that. You used your Geass in your sleep. Ordered somebody to die." Lelouch said nothing for a minute, the time it took for his senses to convince him that it was not real; that she was not being dissected alive. It took him longer than normal. The dream felt far too real.

"It was...about you." Lelouch recalled in detail what he had just experienced, a few tears involuntarily falling from his eyes. CC listened closely, the look on her face betraying her familiarity with what he was describing.

"Lelouch, that was not just a dream." She told him, his eyes widening. Before he could ask, she told him. "Those are my memories." She shifted around, resting her head next to his left ear. "That first one was the night I received my Code." she began to explain. "My Geass was Absolute Affection. All I ever wanted was for someone to love me, and so I gained the power to make anyone love me. I used it on everyone I could. When the nun that tricked me into taking her Code died, so did my Geass. They all suddenly realized that I had used them, and they burned me as a witch that same night." His head turned, and their eyes met.

"The second was about five years ago. Those were Clovis's people in that lab. That was...mild compared to some of the things they did to me." Lelouch's Geass lit again, even though there was nothing for him to use it on. He was doing nothing to hide how he felt. CC suddenly felt a surge of warm happiness as she watched him. He was angry that somebody had hurt her. Angry enough to kill for her, enough to unleash unspeakable horrors on her torturers. He really did love her. Nobody had ever loved her like that before. He suddenly pulled himself out of her embrace.

"I've slept enough." Lelouch stated as fact, despite it having been barely 200 minutes since he got in bed. He got up and began putting his Zero outfit back on. "Come with me. We're going to visit my sister."

Fortunately for Cornelia, and probably everyone else as well, the flash meeting that she had arranged had actually gone rather well. It had taken just under an hour for everyone in attendance to settle in agreement. The Japanese were happy to see an end to the fighting. The Britannian nobles at the table found themselves divided. Many were visibly unhappy with the outcome of the battle. They quickly agreed to Cornelia's suggestion of simply leaving the country and going back to the Britannian mainland. If they were so unhappy with the situation, the last thing that needed to happen was forcing them to stay so that they could stir up problems.

A few saw it differently. Many of them simply had far too much invested here to easily pick up and leave. That, and there were huge opportunities to be found in the creation a brand new country. Once they were assured that the Black Knights had no intention of harming or degrading the Britannian populace, they were quick to get on board.

As those gathered began to leave, one did not leave her seat. The Japanese representative from Kyoto, Kaguya Sumeragi. She was the odd one out among the meeting. Most of the people in the room were male and over 30. In many ways they were the stereotypical rich and powerful elite.

Kaguya, female and about half of their ages, had little outwardly in common with them. Cornelia had expected Kyoto's representative to be Kirihara, and was quite surprised to see the young girl walk through the door. A few, all Britannian, who did not know who she was, made the mistake of thinking she was soft and easy to push around. They found out the hard way that she was in fact sharp, very intelligent, and manipulative. Although they way she did it was nothing like Lelouch, Cornelia was still impressed at how the girl could rip through arguments and back powerful men into corners with ease. Her ability to twist others' words and meanings to her own advantage had an elegance that somewhat reminded her of Schneizel. But Schneizel wasn't nearly as adorable.

As the last one left, they were alone in the room.

"I am curious as to why you were sent here instead of another. I would have expected the most powerful head to attend, even with the short notice." Cornelia wondered. While she didn't doubt Kaguya's ability to speak for Kyoto, she did find it interesting that they would send their youngest and least experienced.

"I volunteered to come. I was so happy to hear that Lelouch was still alive. Even more so to know that he's leading the Black Knights. It may be selfish of me, but I really want to see him again." Kaguya replied in her normal cheerful tone.

"You know my brother?"

"Suzaku Kururugi is my cousin. We spent a lot of time together before the Britannian invasion. Lelouch was always so nice, but always with a dash of cold and mysterious. It made him interesting, far more so than Suzaku who was always painfully direct. The last time I saw him was a few days before the war. I never stopped wondering what happened to him, or hoping that he was alright. Even though he was a prince, I was always certain that he had nothing to do with the destruction of my country. He really felt at home here in Japan."

"I still don't know much about what happened to him after he was sent to Japan, just a few bits and pieces." Cornelia responded. "You're welcome to stay in the palace if you wish. I'll let him know you're here."

"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" The Britannian man holding an assault rifle glanced over to the guard on the other side of the door. She had not stopped staring at the girl chained to the chair in the center of the room for hours.

"I don't know what to feel. A lot of people died yesterday because she's a stubborn little bitch. On the other hand, I'm old enough to be her mother. Not that I'm trying to start a debate on nature versus nurture, but I doubt she ever had a chance at becoming a decent human being growing up around so many monsters." The Japanese woman leaning against the wall with a pump shotgun responded, not taking her eyes off the center of the room.

The chains binding her wrists and ankles to the bolted down metal chair rattled slightly. Her blue eyes looked up at the two Black Knights guarding the door. The room wasn't a prison cell or purpose built interrogation room, but a cold and empty concrete storage closet in the maintenance tunnels below Ashford Academy.

"Finally decide to wake up?" Carine looked almost shocked at where she was. A few seconds later, memories started coming back to her. She was one of the last to fall at the very end of the battle. Surrounded and out of ammo, she charged the attacking Black Knights. A tank round tore the right leg off her Gloucester, and incoming fire from enemy knightmare frames triggered the automatic ejection system.

"You ejected right into the side of a building, straight into a load bearing column. You were unconscious when they pulled you out of the rubble." The male guard informed her.

"Where...am I?"

"You're strapped to a chair in a concrete room under armed guard. I'd say that eliminates most possibilities." The female guard replied.

"You're awaiting interrogation, execution, or whatever else they want to do with you." The other guard answered more directly. Carine instinctively glanced at the only door in the room. The only way out. It didn't go unnoticed.

"You scared, little girl?" The Japanese guard stepped closer to the former Viceroy. "I had three children. I loved them to death. I worked hard to be the best mother I could for them. They would have been about as old as you if the Britannian Army didn't murder them. Shot to pieces in their own fucking home." She moved closer, their faces now inches apart. "I could take my knife and carve their names into your chest. You would scream and beg just like anyone else would. And then maybe, I could teach you what real fear is."

The sound of the door opening interrupted her. In walked Lelouch vi Britannia in his black Zero suit, followed closely by CC dressed in a white pilot's uniform.

"Yukiko's just softening her up. Nothing physical." The male guard quickly said, covering for his friend. He knew that she wouldn't disobey their orders to leave the prisoner unharmed, but their new arrivals didn't. The fact that she really would enjoy butchering the defenseless princess made the threat sound far more intimidating. She stepped away as they approached. Lelouch stepped forward and pulled something from his pocket. He held it up a few inches from her face for her to see.

"A bullet?" Carine observed.

"Your death." Zero corrected her. "But before I put this in your head, you're going to do a few things for me."

"I'll do nothing for you, traitor." The imprisoned princess countered.

"Oh you will. You think that you have a choice, that you can resist, but you don't, and you can't. I own you, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it." Lelouch pulled another small object from his pocket and placed it in her hand. A clear glass white pawn. "That is all you are now. In fact, that pawn is worth more than what remains of your life. Unlike you, I can always play another game with it later." Lelouch turned to leave. "I'll be back when I'm ready to make use of you, my dear sister."

After Lelouch left with the silent CC, the male guard looked over to his partner. "Well I think we know now who the better professor of fear is."

"Shut up, Jake." Yukiko shot back.

"Planning anything fun for her?" CC asked her accomplice as they made their way back to an elevator that would return them to the campus above.

"Despite what I said in there, I'm still not quite sure what to do with her. Carine holds no particularly useful influence, and she has no great connections to exploit. Her military career was brief, and she would do little to help bring more of them to our side. Forcing her to switch sides wouldn't do either. The Black Knights range from generally disliking her to outright hating her. Convincing them to accept her would bring us virtually no benefits for the effort required." Lelouch went through the possibilities as they rode back up.

"Why not just kill her then? It's obvious you will at some point anyway." CC suggested.

"True, but I'm sure I can think of a way to get something more out of her. In all her mediocrity, Carine is still royalty. That in itself gives her life value beyond her abilities."

The elevator reached the top, and the pair stepped out into a familiar setting. A place Lelouch considered to be home, his third. As he walked along the hallway, glancing over through the row of broken windows to see a few of his knightmare frames outside, he felt determined to make sure he would not need to find a fourth. He moved toward the exit, intent on going directly to the one place in Tokyo he could never be prepared for.

"Miss Ashford." Milly turned around to find the now somewhat familiar Jeremiah Gottwald behind her.

"The damage to the school wasn't as bad as we thought. There's a lot of glass to clean up from all the broken windows, but my minions can handle it." Jeremiah laughed. Neither of them had slept since yesterday. Milly was still running the show at the Academy, determined to give all she could to get the campus fixed up quickly. As crazy as she could be sometimes, she really did love Ashford Academy. She also knew that Lelouch did as well, and he certainly wouldn't want it to stay closed. Especially as a result of his own war. They turned the next corner just in time to see Rivalz finish brewing up another pot of coffee.

"I'm glad this is turning out rather well. To be honest, opening that door last night was one of the scariest moments of my life. I couldn't stop thinking about what would have happened if the roof had collapsed." Jeremiah confessed to the president.

"Well, you opening that door WAS the scariest moment of my life." Milly reached over a grabbed a fresh mug of coffee, having lost count of how many she had drank hours earlier. "While you were worried about the roof, I was practically waiting for the army to come down there a shoot us to pieces and pin it on you guys."

"You really think they would have? While I know they would kill civilians, I've never heard of Britannian troops murdering Britannians en mass. Rumors or otherwise."

"The only people Lelouch really trusted with his past before all this started were just me and my grandfather. When I was younger, I kept bugging him to tell me about what happened to them. You know what they say about curiosity and cats. Well, one night he got sick of it and told me absolutely everything." Milly looked down at her coffee. "My dinner ended up on the floor." She looked back up at him. "So yeah, I seriously considered it knowing what they had done. I guess was lucky that he had armed the Ganymede."

"What you did last night was very brave." Jeremiah complemented.

"I suppose it was. But I don't have a soldier hiding in me somewhere. I couldn't willingly put myself in a position like that again. One little taste was enough to tell me I'm no fighter, and that wasn't even real combat. That's why I turned down your offer, although I am grateful that you think I'm good enough." The president paused for a second. "I'm sorry. We got so sidetracked that I never asked what you needed me for."

"I spoke to Lelouch when he was leaving the school about a half hour ago. He wants you to throw a huge Christmas party. He said something about relaxing and making people laugh and smile."

Suzaku stood at attention as both Prime Minister Schneizel and the Knight of Two entered the otherwise empty conference room. He felt slightly fortunate for his time spent on the HMS Yorktown. The layout of every Salisbury class assault carrier was identical, and he had no trouble finding his way around on the HMS Galatea. While he had been waiting, he wondered if the battlegroup had been named Neptune because of the Galatea being the center of the formation. Not that it held any relevance, his mind had just started to wander from being tired. Secilia had kept him busy since their evacuation, leaving no time for sleep. Not that Lloyd would have let him sleep anyway after having abandoned the Lancelot.

"Sir Kururugi, I appreciate your loyalty in light of recent events. When it became clear that Cornelia had switched sides and joined the Black Knights, I feared that you may have as well. It was under my sister that you rose from nothing to knighthood in the space of a few short months. That is an amazing feat by any stretch, and completely unprecedented for a non Britannian. I would not have been surprised if your loyalty to her were stronger than toward Britannia. Although you are technically still a Number, it feels wrong to address you as such considering your accomplishments." Schneizel began.

"Thank you, your highness." Suzaku replied, feeling a bit more comfortable. "I doubt I could have switched sides even if I wanted to. By choosing the path that I have, I burned too many bridges with those on the other side. Although I hope to change it some day, most Japanese people regard me a traitor for siding with Britannia. Had I tried, I would likely have been thrown in a cell the Black Knights the Lancelot against you." Suzaku explained.

"I'll be assigning you a Gloucester until we reach the mainland. As mad as Earl Asplund is, he'll get over it once he starts on another project. Being the best test pilot he has ever had, I suspect Lloyd will forgive you soon anyway."

"Are there already new projects in development?"

"Of course. The ASEEC in Area 11 was only a small part of Camelot. I have a research facility in Colorado developing a more practical seventh generation knightmare frame with combat data you collected in the Lancelot. Related technologies such as the Blaze Luminous and the Maser Vibration Swords are already being incorporated into select units. Your contribution so far has been very valuable to our efforts, and I am glad that you are here to continue on." Schneizel revealed.

The quickest way from Ashford Academy to Tokyo University Hospital was definitely by air. However, Lelouch saw no need to waste the time of a transport pilot. With the city's southern bridges virtually untouched by the battle, it did not take long to reach the facility by knightmare. Leaving their knightmare frames outside, Lelouch and CC made their way into the hospital and made for the nearest elevator.

Upon reaching the thirteenth floor, the doors opened to reveal a half a dozen heavily armed Black Knights infantrymen standing guard. The newcomers were almost immediately approached by a middle aged Britannian woman, a doctor judging by her appearance. She looked surprised and a little nervous.

"I'm doctor Hallison. Sorry if I seem a bit uncomposed; I wasn't expecting you to show up unannounced." The woman in the white coat introduced herself.

"H..How is she?" Concern that he had been suppressing now creeping its way back. "Please, tell me the truth."

"Alright. I won't sugar coat it, it's not that good. Right now Kallen is critical, but stable. Considering the extent of her injuries, that alone is a miracle." Doctor Hallison told him.

"I want to see her." Lelouch said in a way halfway between request and command.

"Follow me." Hallison started to walk down the hallway to their right. Fifteen rooms down, another two guards stood outside the last door at the end of the hall. They opened the door for them. The room on the other side was spacious, far more than he was expecting. A few meters away was a bed similar to the one he had seen Nunnally in after their mother's assassination.

Far from the mangled body and nightmarish mass of tubes and monitoring equipment he had imagined, Kallen looked almost peaceful laying on the gel surface. Most of her body was covered with a white blanket, leaving her neck and head exposed. She was hooked up to a respirator, and had two IV drips which disappeared to entry points covered by the blanket. Her vitals were displayed on a screen off to the left, measured in real time by the high tech bed itself. He didn't even notice the other medical personnel in the room until nearly a minute later.

"How bad is it?" He asked Hallison, his voice sounding almost hollow. She sighed before explaining.

"The blunt force trauma from the explosion was...extreme." Hallison hesitated, She had been informed of how important Kallen was by the frantic princess Euphemia that had brought her in. Euphemia had been threatening bloody murder if they didn't do everything possible save her, and the last thing they wanted was to have to face a very emotional woman with a gun if they failed. Hallison tried to think of a more sensitive way to say it, but couldn't, and decided to just say it. "Kallen suffered fifty seven skeletal fractures, a puncture in her right lung, and massive internal bleeding amounting to almost a third of her total volume."

She stopped when she noticed the tears pouring down Lelouch's face. It was a sight the doctor was hardly prepared for. The fearless Zero, a man brave enough to start a war against Britannia, and cold enough to execute his own brother, crying his heart out for the girl on the bed. He wiped away the tears one side at a time and turned to her.

"I'm sorry, please continue doctor. How I feel won't change the situation, and I know that Kallen wouldn't want to see me drowning in sorrow." He said in a calmer voice.

"Don't worry, Zer-Lelouch. Although she will need a few more surgeries to correct the internal damage, I expect her to make a full recovery. It won't be quick though. We have her in an artificial coma right now, and it's unlikely that we can bring her out of it before six weeks at the earliest. It will take a lot of time for those injuries to heal, even with the advanced technology we have here." Hallison explained to them.

"I would like to stay with her, but there are important matters that require my attention. She would probably be mad if I sat here and cried over her anyway." Lelouch turned to leave. "If she needs anything, or if there is any change in her condition, inform the guards immediately. They won't be leaving until Kallen does. Also, bring an extra bed in here if you can spare one. Once the situation quiets down you will be seeing a lot more of me." He told her, sounding more like the Zero she had seen on TV.

Lelouch was half way across the southern bridge leading out the city back in the direction of Ashford Academy when his Gekka caught an incoming transmission. Upon accepting it, Rakshata's smiling face appeared on the screen.

"Zero, one of your cleanup crews found the Lancelot. It was damaged and abandoned, probably due to the energy filler being completely depleted. They are transporting it to Narita right now. I can barely wait to get my hands on the Pudding Earl's masterpiece."

"Excellent. Don't completely destroy it, Rakshata. I have some ideas for that unit. In the mean time, I want you to get me a complete copy of the Lancelot's combat data. The Guren's as well; it should be retrievable considering that the cockpit is still intact. I want to know exactly what happened last night." Lelouch instructed the eccentric scientist, who was always busy playing with her pipe.

"Of course. Would you like me to start work rebuilding the Guren?"

"No. Kallen's injuries were extensive. She won't be back in a knightmare for two months at the earliest." Lelouch informed her, successfully stopping himself from showing just how much it hurt. "I have a couple new project ideas that would best be explained in person. In the mean time we do need to start producing Gekkas, and lots of them. Compared to any of our current or theoretical adversaries, our forces are significantly outnumbered. Having superior knightmare frames will go a long way toward mitigating that." Zero explained.

"Very well. I'll start examining the Lancelot's internal systems. The design blueprints contained in the information you stole months ago were obviously outdated. Probably from before they even built the first functional prototype."

"Were the Lancelot's MVS blades or the Varis rifle recovered?"

"We have one of the swords. The Varis was destroyed at some point in the battle. They found a few pieces of it, but not enough to reconstruct the weapon without filling in the blanks first." Rakshata told him, sounding slightly disappointed. Lelouch shared the feeling. The Varis was bar none the most powerful knightmare small arm ever created. While the Gawain's primary weapons were more destructive, they were also built in to the frame, not a hand held weapon that could be easily carried into battle by any knightmare.

The conversation ended as Lelouch approached the front gate of the school. He wanted to get to work cleaning up their home above he ballroom, as well as assess the structure's safety. He needed to be sure everything was in place before he contacted Sayoko. Now that the region was firmly under Black Knights control, and there was little risk of another serious battle, he wanted to return his sister to some semblance of a normal life.

The past few months had been hard on the former prince. Sending Nunnally away with Sayoko was a hard decision to make, but he had been certain of it. The events that followed confirmed to him that he made the right choice. Being far away in Hokkaido, she was out of harms way. Her survival had also been easy to hide, preventing anyone from attempting to use her against him. A few months apart was a small price to pay for ensuring her safety.

Although there was still much to do, Lelouch was completely certain that he could easily manage it from home. The more he thought of home, the more a surprising thought started to stick in his head. Lelouch found himself wanting his old job back. He never regretted the course he had chosen for a moment, but missed the happy and somewhat carefree days before the revolution. He sighed and shook his head at his reflection on one of the Gekka's blank screens.

"I'm far too young to be reminiscing."