Chapter Thirteen: Bloodbeard's Week Day Four—Eye of the storm
The air was filled with the dust of buildings, the scrapings of metal, and the ash of human flesh. It was exactly as Bloodbeard liked it. He stood outside in the cool night air with his mercenary standing by. Rain fell from the heavens, washing away the blood from his face and body. Without his mask of gore one could call Amadeus Bloodbeard beautiful. He bore the chiseled face of a god, his hair like gold, and his eyes when not filled with the sinister glow of Geass were like diamonds. There was one who saw Bloodbeard in such a state and was so enthralled by his terrific beauty that he lusted to create an entire species modeled after him. Had the man had any talent as an artist Bloodbeard would have allowed him to paint him, as the man had begged for so long.
Bloodbeard relaxed and let the rain spill over his body giving god a decent chance to wash away all the filth of his person. But not even steel wool could scrape away the vile speck of darkness that rested in Bloodbeard's heart.
He felt alive, the cold water stimulating his beaten and broken body.
"Are you sad?" Bloodbeard whispered to the heavens. "Are you sad god?"
The rain merely continued to fall.
"I suppose that's your answer then," Bloodbeard mused. "I have killed many of your children and you watched. You sadist."
He looked to where Lelouch had been in the sky. He smiled, his teeth gleaming like piss and ketchup.
"Years to build and mere days to destroy," he sighed. "Lelouch, you fool. I destroy worlds…and leave nothing. Call up our buddies, tell them it's time to party."
Lelouch felt himself being dragged along the ground. His eyes felt as heavy as stones. His arms were as limp as noodles and his legs might as well have been cut off for all he knew. Was he being taken to Bloodbeard? To die like C.C in that monster's belly? To die without having answers as to why Euphemia was alive? To leave his friends abandoned and leaderless? To leave Kallen and Nunnally alone in a cruel and unsafe world?
Would Bloodbeard try and finish what he started? Would he strip Kallen and Nunnally and rape them before his eyes like he did with C.C?
"No," Lelouch moaned.
He felt the dragging stop and his head fall against the ground. He felt his face fall in water. Drowning, just like in that dream with the angel and the pirate. Kallen being cut down by Bloodbeard, joining the corpses in the sea of blood, while he rowed on a raft of death.
He heard a yell, perhaps the howling of the devil hungry for his tainted soul. He heard the slicing of flesh and the breaking of bone. Death, the grim specter that had followed him for so long, sweeping away his friends and loved ones, leaving him alone, filthy, and broken, like an orphaned bastard.
He felt someone gently grab his head and lift him from the water. Something was slapping his face can calling his name.
"Lelouch," it said.
Slap, slap, and slap.
"Lelouch," it said again.
Slap, slap, and slap.
His head was gently set down and he felt something rest against his chest. Hands then tilted his head and opened his mouth. Human lips met with his and blew air into Lelouch's lungs. The kiss of life ended and Lelouch felt pressure being forced down on his chest. Lelouch was then kissed again and air once again was forced into his lungs.
Lelouch coughed, breathing truly for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. Lelouch's eyes opened barely and he could see at least an outline of who was holding him.
"S…Suzaku?" he asked.
"Don't try and speak," said Suzaku, as his shape became clearer in Lelouch's vision.
Suzaku picked Lelouch up in his arms and walked away from the two dead Infected that were dragging Lelouch along, closely followed by Rivalz, who held Caledflwch tightly in his hands.
Kallen was desperately trying to make sense of the chaos. The ship where Lelouch had been betrayed on and once captained so well had not only been deformed and made a mockery of by a madman, but had now fallen and destroyed much of the city he once lead to free. She could hear the screams of the burning and the dying and desperately prayed that Lelouch was not among them. He had only just returned to her and woke her from her depression like the prince of a fairytale, but their renewed love had been plagued by evil, and Lelouch's torture was hurting her worse than the knives she once pondered on using on herself in a depressed and desperate longing for him.
The rest of the Black Knights were just as shell shocked. Chiba and Anya ran up to them, the former leaping into her husband's arms, glad to see that he was alive, while the latter looked for their third scout.
"Where's Gino?" she asked.
Tohdoh's mind was pulled from the comforting knowledge of his wife's presence and with wide eyes immediately looked around. If Anya and Chiba were able to survive the debris cloud from a distance then surely he should have as well and just like them immediately report back. A thought made its way into Tohdoh's head. A thought he didn't want to bring out just yet.
The knight of three looked over the soaked savage with murderous eyes.
"What?" said Bloodbeard.
Gino tried to strike the madman but the mercenary got in the way and began crushing Gino's hand.
"He's not dead but I'm working on it," said Bloodbeard. "You see I actually want him to suffer first. Get a few good screams out of him, see how far I can push him until he goes insane, and then I might make smores over the burning remains of his loved ones, take a nap, and if I feel up to it then put him out of his misery."
"This wasn't what I wanted," Gino moaned, the pain in his hand becoming worse with each second.
"No, you wanted Lelouch dead and Kozuki to be yours, I got it," said Bloodbeard. "But here's the thing, I get whatever I want and…well there's really nothing after that. Everyone else can kiss my ass for all I care. Besides, you can't just go to them and tell them, 'hey guys, in a blind fit of berserk jealousy I sold you out to the world's most evil psychopath so I can get in on another guy's plow horse,' and expect everything to be peachy."
"Don't you ever insult Kallen," growled Gino.
"I insult everybody," said Bloodbeard. "Well everybody except myself. Besides I was just about to get in on that redhead's pink ass when Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes stepped in. Her as and Nunnally's. Besides I have better things to do that settle your love triangle, although believe me using it to emotionally torture all three parties involved will definitely be something I do for a chuckle when I'm stressed. Merc, do your stuff."
The mercenary nodded and forced Gino to his knees. As Gino screamed in agony while the mercenary activated his Geass, Bloodbeard's cell phone began to ring.
"Hello…oh hey Sissy, nice to hear from you again," said Bloodbeard. "What? Didn't my merc tell you? What was that? You thought…it wasn't a prank I got rid of Ferdinand."
The other on the phone spoke.
"I got rid of him duh, he was a failure," said Bloodbeard. "He just wasn't…one of my best ideas but he's gone now. Yes he's gone, done, dead, fin, gone the way of the dodo, disco, quality education, and subtle political satire. I'd prefer he never be brought up again."
The other continued on. Annoyed by Gino's screams Bloodbeard rolled his eyes.
"Excuse me," he said. "Will you keep it down I'm trying to have a nefarious conversation here. Anyway back to you Sissy…sure no problem…you like my new boy's voice eh? So, is everything ready…oh, I'm so sorry she was one of the best. If you want I'll give you a new one for…oh…just consider it your very late birthday present from me. But right now I have a whole week ahead of me which is why I had my boy call you. I need everything ready before the week is out."
The other spoke.
"Yeah, just the usual," said Bloodbeard. "I have a good feeling about this place and I think I'm onto something. Once I get that cup I am going to toast to my health. My health and the world's sickness. What…oh relax you'll be living out your days in style, even when the world comes to an end. You know when some people see only problems, but other see opportunities. And Sissy, let me tell you know that there are a billion opportunities in the end of the world. So what was that solute you guys came up with? Never mind, it doesn't matter to me. See you later Sissy, and maybe lay off the cake."
Bloodbeard hung up and looked up at the rainy sky with a smile on his face.
"Everything's coming up Bloodbeard," he sighed as he laid back on his lawn chair listening to Gino scream his lungs out.
"Gino?" gasped Rivalz. "Gino betrayed us?"
Suzaku motioned Rivalz to keep quiet and the squire clapped his mouth shut. Lelouch had just relented what M.M had told him in the shelter of rubble Suzaku had put together. The only light was a small fire the knight had started using flesh from an Infected as kindling.
"Are you sure he said what he said Lelouch?" asked Suzaku. "You were terribly injured."
"I heard him clearly Suzaku," said Lelouch. "Gino betrayed us, because I loved Kallen."
"What?" said Rivalz. "That…that's insane. I mean he's a knight. He wouldn't…betray everything he believed in just because he got jilted. Right?"
Neither Suzaku nor Lelouch could find the words to respond. The love of a woman had caused them to become men they never wished to become.
Rivalz sat with his head fallen in disillusionment and sadness. All three were silent, huddled around the fire, surrounded by rain and death.
"Years to build and only days to destroy," Lelouch muttered. "That's how long it took him. Only days."
Suzaku and Rivalz could both tell he was referring to the peace Bloodbeard had shattered. So much sacrifice made wasted, so much spilt blood unavenged, and so many lives lost in so little time.
"It's not over," said Suzaku. "It can't be over Lelouch. You must have a plan."
"I never, in my wildest dreams could ever have planned on how to deal with the end of the world," said Lelouch.
"The world's not gone yet," said Rivalz.
"It might as well be," said Lelouch. "Everything I did only brought us closer to the brink."
"This isn't your fault," said Suzaku.
"I set the stage perfectly for this madman Suzaku," said Lelouch. "I gave the world the most terrible think imaginable. I gave them hope."
Both the knight and the squire were confused by this.
"I gave them false hope," said Lelouch. "What was I thinking?"
"You were trying to make the world a better, gentler place," said M.M, appearing suddenly between Suzaku and Rivalz, the latter of whom leapt in surprise.
"You tried to end hatred and corruption and in your attempt you spat in the eyes of all evil men," said M.M. "Didn't you ever imagine there might be retaliation for you actions? That those who thrive on villainy wouldn't strike?"
"That was what Suzaku was supposed to do," said Lelouch. "I never expected anyone like Bloodbeard."
"An important lesson for life Lelouch, always expect the unexpected," said M.M.
"Where are the others?" asked Lelouch.
"For now they're licking their wounds but I have made arrangements for them," said M.M.
"Well just point us in the right direction too and we'll be on our way," said Rivalz.
"In the morning when the rain passes and the light of Day Four will shine," said M.M. "By then Bloodbeard and his hordes will be forced back into the shadows. For now I believe there is something you have yet to give Lelouch, Sir Kururugi."
Lelouch turned to Suzaku who immediately began rummaging through his pockets before pulling out a familiar red cloth. For a moment Lelouch's heart stopped. He recognized it as Kallen's headband. Horrible thoughts came rushing through Lelouch's head. Was Kallen dead? Was his crimson flower of virtue and glory crushed? His light and hope for the future gone?
"She wanted me to give this to you," said Suzaku. "A piece of her to have with you."
Lelouch's fearful eyes darted between the band and Suzaku's comforting smile. With nervous hands he took up the headband and with a sudden rush he held it up to his face, feeling Kallen's warmth and the smell of her cherry scent. He closed his eyes and imagined that she was with him before laying back and falling into unconsciousness.
Seeing their friend sleeping peacefully with a smile on his face gave comfort to both Rivalz and Suzaku. The two were about to turn back to M.M, only to find the wizard missing.
"Where the heck did that come from?" said Tamaki.
The Black Knights were barely walking from where they fell during the explosions when suddenly they came to a solitary standing door bearing the mark of Geass. Tohdoh looked around the door.
"Interesting," he said.
"This smells like M.M," groaned Tamaki.
"Should we open it?" asked Chiba.
"Open a door that obviously goes nowhere?" said Cornelia.
"We can only know where it leads to if we open it," said Tohdoh.
He opened the door slowly and found to his amazement there was a fabulous mansion inside.
"Well this is more than meets the eye," said Ohgi, entering the house.
"I love magic," sighed Tamaki as he flopped on a fabulous and comfortable crimson couch.
The others followed quickly and as soon as the last one of them was in the house the door immediately vanished.
"What the hell?" yelped Milly.
"Must be one of M.M's tricks," said Lloyd. "I must admit he has nice taste."
"Speak for yourself," said Rakshata. "All the red and gold. I could have done better."
She spoke true as the many of the furnishings on the furniture and walls were decorated in crimson and gold. Many bore a coat of arms, a golden dragon bearing silver lance with the mark of Geass in its eye. Kallen looked at the symbol with particular interest.
"The symbol of the Pendragon," said M.M, sitting on the couch she was on.
Kallen of course jumped when he suddenly made himself known.
"Stop doing that," she yelled, along with Tamaki and a few others.
"It's imperative that none of you leave this little sanctuary," said M.M. "Infected are everywhere, killing whoever they find with absolute hunger and enjoyment. Make no mistake, this is the beginning of hell come to earth, and it is only a shadow of what is to come."
"You really know how to raise people's spirits wizard," said Jeremiah.
"No point in sugar coating it," said M.M. "Soon this city will be dead. An unholy land where nothing but death and damnation survives and any those who survive will gladly give themselves to demise than survive in darkness."
"Where's Lelouch?" asked Nunnally. "Please tell me is my brother alright."
"And what about Rivalz and Suzaku?" asked Milly.
"They are alright," said M.M. "Although Lelouch did fall thousands of feet, lose a few limbs, and was being dragged away by a few members of the damned, and is struggling with a bout of guilt and hopelessness, but all in all he's fine."
Kallen felt like vomiting. The image of Lelouch falling, losing body parts and being dragged by the Infected felt like a burning iron in her mind.
"Fine?" she growled. "After all of that you say he's fine?"
Her yell had no effect on him.
"Well his wounds healed and his champion came to his aid so I would say he's fine," said M.M. "Perhaps not psychologically, but then again that was always going to suffer."
"What?" Kallen yelled.
"At the end of the long road the God-King now walks a terrible price will be paid," said M.M. "In blood, pain, friends, and perhaps even…his very own soul. For the road to hell is paved with good intentions and Lelouch is filled with good intentions. So by that logic, when the entire world rejoices in their salvation, the God-King's final reward may very well be the most painful damnation."
M.M's dark words sent a cold shiver down the spines of the Black Knights. No one dared to speak. No one dared go up to him. No one, save one…the God-King's mate. She struck the wizard across the cheek, but the magus's face remained stoic.
Kallen's ocean blue eyes overflowed with tears. She refused to listen to M.M's words.
She slapped him once again and then a third time before leaving to find another room in the large space.
"I am sorry but for a hero there is no other road save the road of suffering," said M.M. "But perhaps your love will lighten his suffering."
The night came and the rain remained and Bloodbeard sat watching as his Infected continued to burn the remains of Tokyo, transforming it into Babylon, the great den of demons. He smiled as the last of the innocents burned to ash. He considered saving a few for his later plans, as they would require much carrion, but with his connections he could easily amass more than enough tribute. So let his creatures play and have their fun while their father did his business as the tool of unholy wrath.
A tool? Yes he was a tool and he acknowledged that but it didn't matter to him. He was a demon born for war and destruction and he would thank whatever dark god he worshiped for such honor.
He would topple the world and let all who live in it burn to dust. He would impale all men, cut down all women, burn all babies, and have the old made to see Thanatos early. He would bring about the gross parallel of Lelouch's dream. He would create a viler world. A world of chaos and destruction. A world of eternal war. And with the Eternity Chalice he would be able to make such a world, just as he envisioned long ago.
"Are you troubled my lord?" asked the mercenary.
"Have you ever been to the British Isles?" asked Bloodbeard.
"Can't say that I have sir," said the mercenary.
"It was beautiful country," said Bloodbeard. "Lush and green with mystery surrounding the moors and the forests. The Dance of the Giants was a sight to see and every tribe and island had its own magic. It was the land of a great King who had a moment of weakness and thus fell into the bed of a witch and sired a demon. Do you know this story?"
"I do sire," said the mercenary. "Arthur and his Knights."
"Arthur, the Once and Future King," said Bloodbeard. "The future is now my friend. The future is now. Lelouch wanted this. He wanted the future and I am here to deliver it for the future of all men is death and beyond that is the final judgment. But I am not the Judge you understand, I am merely the executioner."
"And I sire? What am I my lord?" asked the mercenary.
Bloodbeard cocked an eye to his mercenary's eager face. He chuckled, he liked the boy, and he was just like him.
"You are my captain," said Bloodbeard. "To serve me in bringing about the end. Is that satisfactory?"
"Indeed sire," said the mercenary. "I am more than happy to serve you my lord. To take what people guard and treasure most…their lives."
"I would have to disagree on that my friend," said Bloodbeard.
The mercenary cocked an eyebrow in confusion.
"A person's life isn't what they guard and treasure most. What they treasure most and can never stand to lose is not their lives," said Bloodbeard. "Not their lives…but…their souls. We are fighting for their souls my friend."
"Their souls?" the mercenary repeated in awe. "I've never fought for a person's soul before."
"My boy you have much to learn and I have much to teach you," said Bloodbeard. "And we have much suffering and death to deal out. We have much to do. Much to do indeed."
"And we only have the rest of your week sire," said the mercenary.
"Now now, there is no need to feel so rushed," said Bloodbeard. "The end will come in due time. You cannot rush Armageddon. Understand?"
"Yes my lord," said the mercenary.
"Good, good," said Bloodbeard. "Ah look, the eye of the storm is heading our way. The brief moment of peace between onslaughts. I think we can give our enemies a day's reprieve before we continue. Besides we have materials coming in that I would like to give all of my attention to. Believe me I would love to tear apart Lelouch at the moment's notice but giving the little son of a bitch all of my attention is foolish. I cannot risk the war because of an obsession or a distraction. That is what makes me better than him my friend. I have nothing to distract me. I only have my goals."
"You truly are perfection my lord," said the mercenary.
"Thank you," said Bloodbeard. "I care for no one, so if you are captured or slain do not expect my tears. I love no one so all the whores I rape are meaningless, just the horses who bear my excitement on their backs. I feel nothing save the hatred and insanity that I am forged of. I love the ways of war and carnage, so expect me to be always with my spear in my hand and my teeth ready for the flesh of my foes. I despise Lelouch and will see him dead, for he is my enemy and the only threat, and I will kill him when I feel fit to. I crave a world of death and despair because I am the tool of darker powers and am happy with my being so. I am Amadeus Bloodbeard, and I am the God of Armageddon, the Mad Titan, and the Man who works Atrocities. I give day four of my week to my enemy. This shall be my only act of mercy."
"But what of the UFN?" asked the mercenary. "What if they expect you to honor your word and spare them if they disband? Or if they choose to stand and fight?"
"Let them fight," said Bloodbeard. "I will grind them all into dust. I will skin them alive and have them roast for the feast of my victory. Now I asked for silence my friend. I hear the singing of my children, their bellies full of blood, and their hearts a tremble with murder. It is the music of the devil, the great symphony of Satan and I wish not to miss a single fortissimo."
The mercenary held his tongue behind a boyish grin as he and his master listened to the howls of the fattened Infected, as each breath carried the stench of suffering flesh, the irony odor of maliciously spilt blood, and the absolute horror of war.
To the ears of those whose minds were of good Christian thought it would have been akin to the grinding of gears, the scraping of metal, the moans of the disemboweled, the howling of wolves, the chattering of beetles, and the groan of gargoyles. All ghastly sounds not meant to be heard by the ears of the pure lest their minds become twisted and mutilated with the thoughts of the sound's terrible origin.
But to the ears of Amadeus Bloodbeard and his new mercenary, they were the strings of violins being strung, the ringing of trumpets and saxophones, the tapping of piano keys, and the beating of drums. To a madman of Bloodbeard's caliber, never before had there been such a sweet symphony of sin, a more omnipotent overture of awfulness, or a more charismatic concerto of carnage.
"As Stoker wrote, 'the children of the night, what beautiful music they make,' wouldn't you agree?" said Bloodbeard.
But the mercenary could not respond. His mind was away, swept up by what to him was the most beautiful music in the universe. Bloodbeard chuckled at his mercenary's boyish behavior. Truly he was a much better being than Ferdinand. He was in that moment less akin to his mercenary and more akin to a potential apprentice.
The role of the wizard suddenly made a terrific appeal to Bloodbeard. A terrific appeal indeed.
The morning came and the king walked ahead of the knight who walked ahead of the squire. They were following the direction Rivalz and Suzaku had come down in hopes of finding Kallen and the others. Lelouch's wounds had healed but he was fiercely sore, both physically and spiritually. He bore the weight of Caledflwch on his back, ignoring Suzaku and Rivalz's offers to carry it for him. But Lelouch's pride and guilt would never allow him to force his burden upon others or accept any form of charity.
As they walked along they smelt the soggy stench of corpses filled their nostrils. They looked down with sadness and disgust as the dead littered the streets along with the debris. People were either burnt from the explosions, eaten by the Infected, or both. Either way they were more corpses on the mountains of dead slain because of Lelouch, as he saw it. More floaters in the ocean of blood that plagued his dreams. The ocean where the Valkyrie drowned and the pirate sailed.
"What do you think will happen if the UFN sees this?" asked Rivalz.
"They'll piss themselves and give Bloodbeard whatever he wants so they don't suffer the same fate," said Suzaku.
"That was going to happen anyway," said Lelouch. "Look around you Rivalz, Bloodbeard isn't a terrorist, he is a demon, he is death, and he is like a plague. This is nothing compared to what he will do if he should get the Chalice."
"Then we need to find a way to get to the UFN," said Suzaku. "Tell them everything about Geass, about the Chalice, and about Bloodbeard."
"They won't listen," said Lelouch. "They're like sheep."
"Then be their shepherd," said Suzaku. "Lelouch you made the UFN, you can unite them."
"They won't listen to me Suzaku, not when Bloodbeard tells them that I'm the one who caused all of this destruction," said Lelouch. "It was because of my power the Ikaruga fell. These deaths and all the deaths of before and of tomorrow are all on my head."
"This is war Lelouch, death is inevitable," said Suzaku.
"This isn't war Suzaku, it's the End of Days," said Lelouch. "And I helped set the stage. I founded peace on a fragile lie and now a madman has not only ruined it he's pushed us to the brink of hell. If I hadn't become a Demon, if I had only been truthful then perhaps none of this would have happened. There's no sugar coating it Suzaku. And no matter what you, Nunnally, Cornelia, Ohgi, Tohdoh, or even Kallen say to me, nothing will convince me that this isn't my fault. I failed. I failed everyone."
Lelouch looked at the sword in his hands. The legendary blade that once was held by a legendary hero.
"I don't know why he even chose me," said Lelouch.
He threw Caledflwch to the ground and broke off into a different direction.
"Lelouch where are you going?" asked Suzaku.
"If I only go to Kallen death will claim her," said Lelouch. "I was wrong to ask her to wed me. Tell her that I will always love her but I can never be with her. Its better she be alone and heartbroken then dead and in my arms. I can't risk her and I cannot save her."
Rivalz was about to go after Lelouch but Suzaku stopped him.
"He needs time," he whispered. "We'll keep an eye on him but give him some space."
Rivalz nodded his head and watched as Lelouch walked away from them.
The house M.M had provided for them was massive on the inside and had a huge bathhouse which the women took advantage of almost immediately. The warm water was made even warmer thanks to Kallen's Geass, making it a sauna as well as a bath. The relaxing heat was just what everyone needed after all that had happened recently. Euphemia was still unconscious and was laying on the marble parameter of the pool being scrubbed by her older sister Cornelia. Nunnally sat with Kallen in the shallow end along with Milly, while Sayoko and Anya were to the side, and Chiba and Viletta at the other, as if everyone had a bathing partner.
"God, this is exactly what I needed," Milly sighed.
"I think we all did," said Chiba, helping Viletta wash her long silver hair.
"It is nice to relax after everything that's happened," said Viletta. "All this hell."
"Can we please not talk about the state we're in right now, please?" said Kallen.
She was still worried about Lelouch and was agitated by M.M's words. Everyone understood this and silently agreed to just enjoy the steamy relaxation of the bath. Viletta's face fell; worried she had unintentionally hurt the poor girl. Chiba put a comforting hand on her friend's shoulder and a gentle nod before she got to her knees so Viletta could help wash her back.
"Are you worried about Taizo?" Viletta whispered.
"Desperately," Chiba answered. "I have no idea if where Kyoshiro and I sent him is even safe at all. I don't think anywhere is safe."
"We just need to keep focused," said Viletta. "I'm worried about Chigusa too but…right now we just need to focus on making things safe for them again."
"Agreed," said Chiba. "But that doesn't mean I won't worry about my child."
"I know," said Viletta. "Believe me I know."
As the two mothers bathed each other the adopted mother of the youngest Knight of the Round was tending to the child she and Jeremiah loved like their own.
"Do you think Gino is alright?" asked Anya.
"I'm sure he's fine and is looking for Master Lelouch right now," said Sayoko. "Don't worry, they'll be back. I'm most certain. Now let me just get behind your ears here and we'll be finished."
She playfully began scrubbing Anya's ears, earning a giggle from the girl she was cleaning. Kallen heard her words and could only think about Lelouch. She felt a hand grab hers and looked to find Nunnally giving a comforting gaze. Kallen took Nunnally's hand in hers.
Nunnally's eyes then went to Cornelia who had just finished rinsing Euphie of the soap she had cleaned her with. The second princess had a foot in the water and was reclining against a marble column. She seemed lost in a sea of thought that Nunnally wished she would overcome soon.
"Do you really think Weinberg is the traitor M.M spoke of?" asked Jeremiah.
He, Tohdoh, and the males of the Black Knights sat in the common room discussing Tohdoh's suspicions.
"He didn't return along with Chiba and Anya and he was the last to return to the bar," said Tohdoh. "Until we find him and hear his side of the story it's nothing but speculation."
"Possibly just speculation," said Guilford. "You all saw how he attacked Lelouch when he was given his Geass."
"But like Tohdoh said we should at least wait until we have Gino's say," said Ohgi.
"And what are we going to do if he turns out to be a traitor?" asked Xinke.
"Yeah, I mean he's faster than any of us," said Tamaki. "He could be a serious problem."
"We should wait until the others return, hopefully with the missing Sir Weinberg," said Tohdoh. "The last thing we need is to be separated now."
"Agreed," said Xinke. "We are pilgrims in an unholy land. We'll only be destroyed if we break up."
"But what do we do if Gino is a traitor?" asked Guilford.
"We'll simply have to deal with that when it comes around," said Ohgi. "Let's hope it doesn't."
Lelouch somehow made his way back to Ashford. He somehow found his way back home, where any boy with trouble would go. Home, a place where friends and family stood at the ready to be there for you and comfort you in your hour of need. The only home he ever really knew and loved.
"Why am I here?" he asked himself.
He sifted through the rubble to where the clubhouse was. In his mind he imagined the good times when he and the student council were always planning out Milly's outrageous schemes and parties. The cross-dressing festival, the cat festival, and all those giant pizzas that always ended horribly but hilariously. So many memories, so many good memories, and now the only feeling he felt when those memories came to mind was pain. The pain of his failures and losses. Shirley dead, Nina driven mad, and Rivalz left alone. He only wanted to make a peaceful world for Nunnally, not a living hell for his friends.
He recalled how once he scolded his father Charles for how forcing his good intention upon the world was no different from an evil act. Perhaps the apple truly didn't fall far from the tree. He had done so much wickedness with nothing but good intentions in his heart and now the world was suffering for his sins.
He tried and tried to make the world a better place but all he seemed to do was make it into a living hell. He felt his knees tremble and give way of despair. He looked up at the heavens with tear filled eyes.
"I know I promised," he moaned. "But what can I do? Everything I've done, every decision I've made, has only led from bad to worse. I know…I know she wanted me to be strong…but I…I'm not. It is impossible. A lost cause."
He stared at the sky as if awaiting a sign from up on high but heard nothing. He begged without words for a sign, a sign to justify while he suffered like Job. To tell him what terrible sacrifice he was to make next. Would it be a sacrifice of his flesh, his blood, or his loved ones?
He chuckled at the hilarity. Here he was, Lelouch VI Britannia, the Demon Emperor, looking from a sign from God. He was no man of faith. He had done great things all without the aid of God or his angels.
What kind of sign would God give such a man?
He heard then a fluttering in the breeze as if they were the wings of a bird. He looked up and saw a torn and tattered flag fluttering by him. He leapt up and caught the flag. It was a wounded and tattered thing; a symbol of a wounded nation's dying soul. It was the flag of Britannia.
Lelouch could not contain his laughter.
"The Britannian flag," he laughed. "If there was ever a poor sign this is it."
He threw down the flag of the nation he had long rejected and was about to walk away. But just as he was taking his third step he felt something in his head call to him.
'You were king of Britannia,' the voice in his head said.
"I swore to destroy that vile nation," said Lelouch. "The title of emperor was just a means to an end."
'You are still a Britannian,' the voice said again. 'Yours is the blood of kings, warriors, and heroes hailing back to the golden years of Arthur. Look once more upon this flag and see not your father's face but see the faces of all that was great of Britannia. See the honor, the glory, and the magic of the great empire. See your mother nation as she is, wounded and scared, in need of her sons to guard her from her enemies.'
"I rejected the Britannian blood within me," said Lelouch. "There is no honor, glory, or magic in Britannia."
'You cannot reject your own blood no more than you can reject your destiny. Always you were born to be king. Always were you to command her,' said the voice.
"Japan has been more of a mother nation than Britannia ever was," argued Lelouch. "It is here that the battle started, not in Britannia."
'Perhaps, but how can you hope to save your adoptive mother when you cannot even save your birth mother? Remember where you come from for so that you may know where you are going. Face your past, strip away all your masks and disguises, and form upon yourself a new foundation. A strong foundation to holster a stronger man.'
This voice felt alien to him but Lelouch took heed of it none the less. He looked at the flag once again and clenched his fists, recalling his father's face and all the hurt Britannia had delivered to him and to his friends. Such a legacy was nothing he wanted to be a part of no matter his blood. He wanted to forget it and become someone else. Someone free from a dark and hurt filled past, from all mortal vice and weakness, and free from his own face. He wanted an armor to protect him and would make him free.
When he was Zero he felt like such a man. As if he had no weaknesses, no faults, and no chains. He felt invincible in the mask, as if he were a demigod to rival Hercules. And now with the power to actually rival Hercules, Lelouch felt weak and insecure.
Should he return to the darkness and the night were Zero was born? Hide himself once again? Seal his face and his heart from all those he knew and held dear and become invincible once again?
Or should he head the voice? Face the demons of his past and make some sort of peace with them? Strip himself to his most vulnerable of forms and dare look into the pits to face the dreaded lights of truth? Stare deep inside his soul and look his inner demon in the eye?
Conflict rattled Lelouch.
Accept his roots or continue on as is? What good would it do him now with Armageddon knocking on his door? He could not dream of leaving Bloodbeard to work freely. But as M.M had said the city was lost.
What to do? What did this sign mean?
"No, no," Lelouch shouted, shaking his head. "It's just a torn flag that flew off a flag pole. It's not a sign from God. It's not a sign from God. It's not a sign from God."
Was this skepticism or denial?
He began to pace around wildly, kicking and screaming like a madman until he ran into a familiar wall, covered with carved crosses. He fell and scrambled back, his mind seeing the girl he had Geassed in an early test of his powers.
"Stop," he yelled to the girl that wasn't there. "Stop, I told you to stop. Stop."
He continued to yell stop to someone who by now was long gone.
"Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop," he yelled and yelled, rising only to fall only to rise only to fall again.
He fell off the pile of rubble he was stumbling on and fell right back to the flag he had tossed aside.
Lelouch forced himself up to his feet and looked down at the flag. All the years of oppression and cruelty served out under that flag. Kings, warriors, and heroes, ha, his was the blood of killers, dictators, and tyrants. He turned his back on the flag, turning his back on his nation seeing nothing but the face of his father.
Nothing but the pain and cruelty those of Britannian blood had become infamous for. Nothing but the killers and the discriminators. He wanted to destroy such a nation. He swore it to his best friend.
His best friend who fell in love with a Britannian, a princess no less. The Angel of Britannia, the gleaming light of hope in a sea of darkness. She was a redeeming quality in the corrupt empire. One of few, like sweet Nunnally, loyal Rivalz, gentle Shirley, cunning Milly, shy Nina, and the mysterious Kallen.
Dear Kallen, what would she have done in his situation?
He pulled Kallen's headband, which he had folded and placed delicately in his pocket, from its place. He inhaled her cherry scent and then looked down at the flag. She had roots in Britannia as well as roots in Japan.
What would she say if he came and told her that in an act of mad depression he cried out for a sign from god and was met by a tattered Britannian flag, a symbol of the empire that forced her mother into servitude, killed her brother, and made her into a prisoner?
"It's not a sign," Lelouch said. "It's just a torn up flag belonging to a nation that I have no love for."
In some form somewhere in his mind he saw whatever harms Bloodbeard would give to the empire as a sort of poetic justice. Seeing this mighty and insurmountable force destroying their homes and making them into the downtrodden. Having their arrogance being punished by a plague the likes known only to Egypt, Sodom, and Gomorrah. Perhaps it was simply Britannia's time to accept the fruits of their sins. Be punished for all their misdeeds.
A strong gust of wind blew Kallen's headband out of his hands but died out before it got too far. It landed on the flag of Britannia. Lelouch knelt down and picked up the headband as gently as if he were holding a child. He then looked down to the flag of the nation he had once ruled as Emperor. The nation from which he was banished from long ago. The nation that was no doubt in current turmoil over the fate of their empress.
"I…I can't," said Lelouch. "I can't go back. I'm not welcome there anymore. I can't possibly go back home with honor."
Lelouch held the torn flag carefully. He didn't see his father's face this time. He saw his sisters, Nunnally, Euphie, and Cornelia, his friends Rivalz, Shirley, Milly, and Nina. All that he loved about his nation.
The nation that was left to die after Rome fell and survived because of the greatness of a true hero. Lelouch always wanted to be like King Arthur. He saw similarities between their stories and hoped he would one day get to meet Arthur in the afterlife. And if what M.M said was right then Arthur was in C's World somewhere. If that was the case why didn't the Once and Future King help him when he confronted Charles?
Why didn't he do something about the man who had so corrupted his nation? Why didn't he offer Lelouch help so that maybe he would have ruled better and be better prepared for someone like Bloodbeard?
"I don't know what to do," said Lelouch as he slumped on the rubble in defeat.
He looked up yet again, hoping for another perhaps clearer sign to fall to him. But alas nothing fell but his spirit.
Behind him was his loyal friend Suzaku looking at his tormented friend with eyes of sadness.
Suzaku had sent Rivalz off to find the others while he tended to Lelouch, leaving Caledflwch with him. Following the trail, through some difficulty given the rubble, Rivalz found himself in front of the door which led to the mansion Black Knights were residing in. Rivalz nervously tapped on the door-less shack and a door suddenly appeared and was opened by Ohgi.
"Rivalz? What are you doing here…alone?" he asked.
"Suzaku and I…"
"Come inside," said Ohgi.
"Yes sir," said Rivalz.
He stepped into the house and with awe just how large the house was on the inside. But before he became to enraptured by the glorious and comfortable looking manor he was led to the parlor where all the knights stood up. Milly immediately tackled Rivalz and held him in a mighty hug.
"Thank god," she whispered.
"I'm alright," said Rivalz.
"What about Lelouch?" asked Nunnally with worry.
"M.M said he was hurt," said Kallen.
"Uh yeah, he didn't look to good when Suzaku and I found him being dragged along by two Infected," said Rivalz.
"What?" yelled Cornelia.
Rivalz shuttered in fright.
"We found him…being dragged by two Infected and well…he's…he's at Ashford and is…he…"
"He's what?" Kallen cried.
"He's…not right in the head," said Rivalz.
Kallen's heart skipped a beat.
"He was screaming and jumping like a madman, talking to people that weren't there, and he looked like he was just going crazy with anxiety," said Rivalz. "Suzaku's watching over him but…he looks like he's a real mess. And it probably doesn't help knowing Gino betrayed us."
Hearts froze in a perfectly synchronized shock.
"No," cried Anya. "That's not true."
"But…M.M said it himself," said Rivalz. "Didn't he tell you?"
"The only thing he told us was that Lelouch had fallen," said Cornelia. "Not this…revelation."
"Hey yeah, the old man could be pulling a fast one on us," said Tamaki.
"No," said Jeremiah. "We can't delude ourselves. Sir Weinberg was the traitor M.M warned us about. Otherwise he would have come for us when the Ikaruga fell."
"And he was the last one at the bar saying Bloodbeard had found us," said Xinke.
"But…but he was wounded," said Kallen, not wanting to believe Rivalz's words. "Bloodbeard must have tortured him."
"Before or after he told him about us?" suggested Guilford.
"This is all speculation," said Tohdoh. "We need all the facts before deciding who is a traitor and who is not. That's what got us into the mess with Lelouch."
They bickered and bickered but Kallen had enough. She wordlessly made her way to the door. She was Lelouch's bodyguard, his Q-1, his friend, and most importantly his beloved bride. It was her duty to help the man she loved through any form of pain and torture.
She opened the door, expecting to see the rubble of Tokyo and the path to Lelouch. But when she threw the mystical opening wide she felt such a pain as if a spear had been thrust into her heart. Those who were watching Kallen were themselves aghast and held eyes the size of saucers. The door no longer led out to the ruined streets of Tokyo, but to a lush green field beholding a mighty and impressive manor.
Guards held their guns at the door and its occupants until a man with golden hair stood above and motioned them to hold.
The others were speechless for a second until Nunnally and Cornelia realized where they were. But Kallen didn't hear her future sister-in-laws say the name of her future brother-in-law. She was catatonic for her beloved was now left alone with a man who would stop at nothing to kill him. Just like before. Only a thousand times worse.
Suzaku had scrapped and salvaged for hours and found that his labors bore fruit. By some miracle there was food in an eatery that had somehow survived the catastrophe. He was able to fix the propane system and cooked the ingredients until he had a meal large enough for himself and Lelouch. He had a feeling Lelouch would not want a single bite due to the feelings that would come up when he saw the particular food he found.
"I finally made a pizza," Suzaku muttered to himself as he loaded the meal into a box.
He walked back to the rubble of Ashford and found Lelouch exactly where he left him. Lelouch had not moved a muscle. He was still sitting with his mind and heart in torment.
"I…I found some food," said Suzaku taking a seat next to Lelouch.
Lelouch did not respond.
"I understand if this brings up some memories," said Suzaku, seeing C.C's face. "But you need to eat Lelouch. Immortal or not you need to keep up your strength."
Lelouch still did not respond.
"Fine," said Suzaku. "If you starve then I'll starve with you."
Not even a blink.
Suzaku placed the pizza to the side and sat. He sat, and sat, and sat some more with the prince, his hungry stomach roaring like a lion. But Suzaku kept by his word. If Lelouch did not eat then he would not.
He looked at the flag of Britannia, the nation he had sided with during the war. The nation of his beloved Euphemia and his best friend Lelouch. The nation that conquered his home and that he swore allegiance to while Lelouch swore allegiance to Japan. They were parallels of each other. Perhaps that was why they understood each other so well.
"Is it wrong…to wish he were in Britannia?" said Lelouch.
Suzaku nearly jumped at the first words Lelouch had spoken in hours. But what did he mean?
"I shouldn't think that," said Lelouch. "But when I look at this, this flag, all I can see is…my father and…and me. And with everything Bloodbeard has done to Japan, a nation that has only recently regained its freedom, while Britannia sits safe, fat, and sound on their arrogant asses, I can't help but wish he was there, burning their cities, blowing apart their families, and shattering their dreams. That's justice after all right? Evil against evil? So what if they're my own people? They could use a lesson in humility."
"Lelouch?" said Suzaku.
Lelouch turned and his face was met with Suzaku's fist. Lelouch's face struck the rubble while Suzaku stood over him.
"Humility? Justice? Look around you Lelouch and tell me if you can honestly wish this upon your own people, many of which are burning by my people," yelled Suzaku.
"Don't you remember what I showed you? Don't you remember the knives?" asked Lelouch. "Of course I would wish this upon my people, the cruel and the wicked, my fellow demons."
Suzaku kicked Lelouch in the stomach.
"Go…go on Suzaku…you deserve your retribution just as I and my kind deserve damnation," groaned Lelouch.
'Now I know why Kallen was so pissed when I wouldn't fight back. She's going to make one hell of a wife for you Lelouch,' thought Suzaku.
"Lelouch you can't wallow in your guilt and self pity," said Suzaku. "Believe me I know what it's like and it's not fun. It drove me into…"
"I drove you into becoming something you never should have been," yelled Lelouch.
Suzaku slapped Lelouch across the face.
"Don't interrupt me while I'm trying to talk/beat some sense into you," yelled Suzaku.
"Sorry," Lelouch mumbled, nursing his bruises.
"Do you even hear yourself Lelouch?" asked Suzaku. "You're a ghost of your former self."
"The demon," Lelouch hissed.
"The liberator," said Suzaku. "You call Bloodbeard's plague infecting Britannia justice? Look what he's done. You may have done terrible things before, your nation may have done terrible things before, but this is an abomination. You said it yourself he's bringing about the End of Days. And what about Nunnally, or Euphie, all our friends, despite Britannia ruling over my nation I saw them as good people and if there is such a thing as one good Britannian then there is hope."
"Hope? There's no hope against this Suzaku," said Lelouch. "The good will die with the bad. The lambs shall fall down with the lions. In barely a month he's destroyed an entire city, ruined the peace, and brought the United Federation of Nations to their knees. They'll disband and even then Bloodbeard will use his hordes to start the final war and when the Chalice reveals itself he'll take it and bring about the end."
"So you're giving up?" said Suzaku.
"Why not?" said Lelouch. "Nothing I've done has been of any help to anyone. I've only hurt those I loved and made the world a stage for a madman."
"What about your promise to Kallen? You promised to marry her after you defeated Bloodbeard," said Suzaku.
"I also promised to return to Ashford with her after the war," said Lelouch. "I just come up with new ways to hurt her don't I Suzaku? She deserves so much better than me and what I can offer her. How could I bring her into my world Suzaku? Into a world of war and terror."
"She's a strong woman Lelouch, she can take it," said Suzaku. "She knows there would be danger in your relationship but she wants to face them with you."
"Would you put Euphie at risk again? Wouldn't you take the soul crushing loneliness of never being with her over putting her in harm's way?" asked Lelouch.
Suzaku said nothing.
"Exactly," said Lelouch. "I should never have made myself known to any of you. You'd be safer not knowing."
"Safer?" questioned Suzaku.
Did he dare tell him?
"Lelouch…there's something…something you need to know about Kallen," said Suzaku. "She's been depressed ever since your death. Severely depressed and…one time at Ashford she…she was about to jump off the roof."
Lelouch froze with shock. Kallen had tried to commit suicide.
"Rivalz and Gino managed to stop her but…that's why she hasn't been in service," said Suzaku. "Her mother kept a constant watch over her and I had people watching her in case she tried again or even went for…went for Refrain."
Lelouch couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"And…" Suzaku tried to find the words for the truth.
Should he tell his friend about what he nearly did to Kallen when she was in prison? What he did to Nunnally when he told her?
"Damn it Lelouch she wasn't safe," yelled Suzaku. "She was just as suicidal as you and she didn't have immortality to protect her. She's half-Britannian, does that make her half as evil as you and Charles?"
Lelouch didn't like that last sentence.
"You're not talking about how bad your country is," said Suzaku. "You're talking about giving up saying, 'take me and everyone else because it's all pointless'. That's not the Lelouch that built the Black Knights from a small terrorist cell into the world's most powerful army. That's not the Lelouch who tore the world's mightiest nation a new a-hole. That's not the Lelouch that Kallen fell in love with. That's not the Lelouch I knew as my best friend. You've never given up on anything in your life. When dealt with a serious blow you came back. You were so unstoppable that Charles had to erase your memories just to try and keep you down but that failed. With everything at its lowest, with your own sister as your enemy you fought on. You fought and you won. And now just because all of your plans have been ruined and you've had your ass handed to you do you decide to quit blaming cursing your own nation because you didn't like what daddy did to you or what you did to others. Britannia wasn't evil Lelouch; it was the selfishness of those in power that corrupted it. You fixed that problem by making Nunnally empress. This isn't the flag of your father's Britannia or your Britannia, its Nunnally's Britannia, the one you made for her. This madman is threatening that world you built. Built for Nunnally, for Kallen, Shirley, Rivalz, Milly, Nina, and I'm damn sure you wanted it for C.C as well."
Lelouch looked up at Suzaku's confident face and could not respond. He merely sat with a blank face.
"No buts Lelouch," said Suzaku, holding out Caledflwch. "Take up your sword and fight again."
"Fight?" said Lelouch softly.
"Fight to save the world you gave us like a father protects his children," said Suzaku. "You're the father of this new world Lelouch. You're the only one who can fight for us."
Lelouch dropped his head.
"I'm…I'm not the man you think I am," said Lelouch. "I'm not strong enough. I'm too weak."
"Then I'll make you strong," said Suzaku. "I will be your knight, friend, and champion, just like I should have been from the start. I'll be at your side just like Kallen and the others will be."
Suzaku held Caledflwch with both hands and knelt down before Lelouch.
"The man who once held this sword has been remembered by the world as a hero who saved the world from darkness and constant warfare," said Suzaku. "There's a reason you're the one holding his sword and his power Lelouch and that's because you are this generation's King Arthur. You're the one who is meant to protect us. So take this sword I hold before and take with it all that you are. The God-King, Lelouch the Godsend, and Zero the Knight of Justice. Take it up Lelouch, take up your identity."
Suzaku spoke with honesty and strength, as if he had absolute faith in Lelouch whereas Lelouch had none for himself. Lelouch began shaking as tears formed in his eyes.
"But…but what if I become the Demon again?" he cried placing a trembling hand on his sword. "What…what if I become selfish and corrupted by this power? What if I betray and hurt people again? I don't want that Suzaku. I don't want to be a Demon. I want to be Lelouch Lamperouge; I want his life, a life without war but with friends and family. I don't want power Suzaku. I don't want to lead or rule or use people anymore."
"Lelouch I know that you won't become lost," said Suzaku. "I'm going to be there with you, every step of the way."
He placed his hand on Lelouch's shoulder. Lelouch raised his teary eyes to see Suzaku's smiling face.
"Why?" asked Lelouch. "After everything, why?"
"Because you're my best friend Lelouch," said Suzaku. "Even after everything we've done to each other, you still are."
Suzaku meant every word and Lelouch lost control of his emotions and broke down in tears. Suzaku hugged Lelouch close and let him loose all his tears.
Kallen opened the door again and again but the scenery would not change. She was in the Britannian homeland, more specifically the villa of Schneizel El Britannia and his young wife Nina Einstein, one of her dear friends from Ashford Academy and the inventor of the FLEJA, the very weapon Schneizel once threatened to use as a means to force peace.
"Damn you M.M," she cursed. "How could you do this to me? How could you leave Lelouch there in that hell?"
"He'll be following soon," said M.M sitting on the couch.
Kallen turned to the wizard with eyes of blue fury.
"I told Lelouch I would carry you and the others to a safe place," said M.M. "Schneizel has managed to keep some order in his small part of the world relatively secure and has tried to keep hold of some order in the empire after last seeing their empress ready to be raped by a madman."
"But what about Lelouch?" Kallen cried. "He's still there and he's not safe."
"He's with his champion," said M.M nonchalantly. "The same man you left him with before when Zero's identity was revealed."
Kallen fumed with sadness and fury at the mention of that horrible memory. When she left screaming and crying on Kamine Island while Lelouch and Suzaku were shooting at each other. She wanted to beat and burn the wizard to death right then and there.
"Lelouch will find his way back," said M.M. "A pilgrimage through and unholy land can do surprising wonders for the soul."
"What the hell are you talking about?" yelled Kallen.
"Sometimes you have to go through hell to get to heaven," said M.M.
"Lelouch has been in hell for months," moaned Kallen. "Alone and in suffering and what did you do to help him?"
"We must all battle our own demons on our own battle grounds," said M.M. "Lelouch's demons are his guilt and fear and he must struggle through them on his own."
"Surrounded by Bloodbeard and those monsters," Kallen cried.
"He'll catch up," said M.M. "If you love Lelouch and have faith in him then have faith that he will find his way."
Kallen wanted to respond but couldn't find the words. She wanted to scream and to shout but her throat felt as if there was a plug stuck in it.
"Besides you have duties to attend to Knight of One," said M.M. "You need to be here with the empress and the Black Knights to try and mount a plan."
As much as she hated to admit it the wizard had a point. She had a duty to Nunnally and to her friends. She left towards the villa praying that Lelouch would be alright.
"Sire, the sun is beginning to fall," said the mercenary to Bloodbeard.
"So it is," said Bloodbeard. "Well, I did say give them a day. But it isn't day right now isn't it?"
"It is not my lord," said the mercenary.
"Well then, I guess who ever decided to stay on the leaky lifeboat is going to drown," Bloodbeard giggled. "Show the boys a good time."
"Yes, my liege," laughed the mercenary.
Author's Note: Day Four everybody and Bloodbeard is back and he's up to his usual tricks. I'll be touching on some subjects I had in the Interlude series but not exactly. Like Bloodbeard said Ferdinand is finished. He wasn't one of my more developed characters. But he is gone so please no mentions about him. And I'm sure you can guess who Bloodbeard's new mercenary is.
But what else is Bloodbeard up too? Just wait people I actually have put into thought what Bloodbeard's plans are for the world and those in it.
Next: Day Five—Valley of Wolves and Vermin