Lelouch saw the image of a fiery, charismatic knight wielding a sword and what appeared to be a Britannian firearm in juxtaposition; it was a passionate piece done by someone who wasn't happy with the current order. The piece went nameless because its painter was most likely executed and exiled for making a motion against Britannia. Still, it survived in this gallery of antique works like an ugly weed. Weeds needed to be cut out of gardens so that proper flowers might have space to grow and blossom, and Lelouch just as quickly stuffed the image into the back of his mind. By the time he and his friends left the art gallery, he had banished it completely.
In a war, two sides representing different ideals stand an equal chance of establishing their right in foreign lands. The invasion of Japan was not even joked about as a "war" or even a small conflict. It was something that just happened in a matter of days where bases, bunkers, and tanks were assaulted by next-generation mobile weapons called Knightmares.
Since then, Britannia annexed Japan and ruled a third of the world they called the Holy Empire of Britannia. Japanese became 11, or Elevens, and those that wanted to hold onto the finer things in life worked their way to being deemed "Honorary Britannians" where most rights were returned to them bar one - the right to call themselves Japanese. Most people were deeply afraid of the Elevens who were scrutinized as savages and worthless subjects. One day soon, Lelouch imagined that this condescending society would run itself into the ground. Already multiple "terrorists" were rising up from the curtains of the Japanese Liberation Front and taking larger steps to ensure that Britannia couldn't snuff out all resistance.
But if that didn't happen, then he still had the next decade to prepare himself to ascend the throne and change Britannia from its head. For Lelouch Lamperouge, his civilian identity, was in fact Lelouch vi Britannia, the lost son of the late Marianne and the Emperor himself. And ever since he had found a place for himself and a single sibling, hatred took a seat in his mind for everything Britannia stood for, most especially his father. The strongest desire in Lelouch's mind was to remove Charles zi Britannia from power, and prior to that, to force the truth behind Lady Marianne's death from his father's mouth.
On the inside, that was Lelouch vi Britannia. On the outside, Lelouch Lamperouge was a brilliant student with good looks and a promising career in business or government once he graduated from the Ashford Academy. The mask of student civility did not falter, it couldn't falter or cease until Lelouch was old enough, or until the Emperor passed away of old age. Until then, he bided his time with his mask.
Today the mask cracked a little. The realization made Lelouch's ears pop. The televised broadcast continued in front of him at school, details about the incident yesterday where the terrorist group calling themselves the Black Knights got involved in a joint operation with the JLF, taking innocent Britannian hostages in order to force the hand of the Britannian government. And now they were airing clips from the very incident.
"...People! Fear us, or rally behind us as you see fit! We... are the Black Knights! We of the Black Knights stand for all those who have no weapons to wield...!"
In these clips was a person dressed in a peculiar costume, one that made him resemble a knight, or far more fitting, a dark knight. His face was concealed behind a wide, ovular mask that looked like one of those alien heads from science-fiction and had a massive, purple dome on the front that was no doubt see-through, but completely opaque from the outside.
This man was shrouded in a thick black cape that obscured the length and shape of his body. The cape made him look vigilant, like a crow spying over its next meal, and as he spoke, it was evident that he didn't fear the swathes of Britannian soldiers and boats that surrounded his entourage; a band of similarly-dressed partners, two were women with knee-length stockings, and the rest were men, while all of them had dark visors to cover their facial features. They were standing together like stalks of corn while their leader addressed the Britannians viewing at home with the promise of change and justice for the weak. They had no opinions, or any fear showing on any part of them.
And for some reason, seeing all this sent a shiver down Lelouch's spine. He wasn't sure, he couldn't nor wouldn't clarify it, but it felt as though he should have been there. Like he was somehow responsible for this act, like he had informed these Black Knights of when and where to strike and how exactly to deliver their message to Britannia. He balled a fist, squeezing the reality within. He was standing right here and nowhere else. And the efforts of these Black Knights and their recently popular leader, the terrorist calling himself "Zero" were just an extravagant band of hooligans with theatrical tastes. Still...
...there was no denying that Zero was in the public eye and that his Black Knights were going to raise hell.
"...no matter how mighty, how formidable our opponent may be!"
The students were in awe of this seemingly mythical figure. Lelouch took a seat, his blood turned cold, his eyes fixed on the screen.
"Those of you in power, FEAR US! Those of you without it, RALLY BEHIND US! We, the Black Knights, shall be the ones who stand in judgement of this world!"
As Zero finished his speech, Lelouch peered into his mask. In that reflection, he saw something dangerous and talented, not just gawdy and full of hot air, something specialized for taking control and conquering others. This, too, was something he couldn't explain. But it felt like he was looking a future enemy, and not just that, but perhaps his greatest enemy right in the face.