Author's Note

Come one, come all. What I have for you today is something that should hopefully tide us all over until Akito starts getting translated again. This is A King's Crossing, a multi-chapter fic that's going to try to achieve quite a few things. And with a little luck it might actually pull it all off.

This fic is mostly classified as a standard AU – I say mostly because it's actually a bit more complicated than that, but for the most part this is the easiest way to put it. A huge aspect of this story is going to be world design – there's always more meat to a story that fleshes out more than just the characters, and so one of my goals for this story is to put a large amount of emphasis on the setting. I'm going to actually devote a special kind of chapter to this a little further down the line, in fact.

But for now you have this chapter with the standard narration to go through. Yes, this is a bit lengthy. Actually, this one is really lengthy. But fear not – these chapters will get shorter as we go along. Significantly shorter, might I add. This is just the intro.

As far as warnings go, at this point in the story all you need to watch out for is some bad language. And only really in this first scene coming up. Aside from that, you're good to go.

So without putting this off any longer, sit back and enjoy the opening.

(And relax, I know I skipped ahead a number in my chapter count. Don't worry about it.)


Chapter 2 : The Roundabout

When Cain murdered Abel, madness was born.
The sort of madness that lies in every one of us.
An insatiable desire for conflict and strife.
Something so far beyond our control that we both know and fear it.
And all that it takes for that madness to spread –
Is another.
Two siblings. A parent and child. Two people that love each other very much.
And some form of desire to tear them apart.
It matters not how many times one man lives.
He cannot escape his chains.
He cannot escape 'life.'
He cannot escape 'consequence.'
But man will always try to break free.
A man will always try to become a king.
A man will always fail.
Man cannot escape madness.
And neither could we.
But this time –
Will things finally change, brother dearest?
Will you finally escape your chains?
Will you finally show me the world I want to see?
Will you? Lelouch?
But even if you don't…
Please.
Live on.
You are our last chance.

I open my eye – and morning has come once again.

The sky was overcast and the swampland around me was as dense with fog as one could expect. The remnants of the town that once stood here were at least partially visible through it, although only the larger collapsed buildings had any amount of presence left to them. The small paths that served as roads were as unpaved as ever and the pickup truck I'd hopped in the back of on my way towards Ueno bopped along through it without care at a measly speed as to conserve gas. It was an average dreary day, far too average for what was essentially ground zero of a dirty conflict that arguably still hadn't ended.

I sigh, adjust my eye patch, fix my hat, and let it all sink in –

Today is just another day. Another day to add to the long list of days that I could almost recall individually by heart. Another day, another dollar, another round of mouths to feed, another tireless expedition to another source of income, another search for the answer to life, another commute from one end of the world to another – and for me, another excuse to keep on doing what I do without question. In the end I suppose it's all meant to be – for every individual today is just another day and bears no more significance than any other day. Everyone on this earth ultimately will wake up and go to sleep just like they had on any day – it doesn't matter who they are or what they do, let alone where they go or who they meet.

Everyone is an individual, they say. Everyone is unique. Everyone has a certain thing about them that no one else has.

Everyone is a name and a number. That's how it's always been. Even if you're rich, even if you're poor, even if you're bleeding out on the floor in front of a hospital that won't take you in because you don't have insurance – everyone is a name and a number. And in the end no amount of personal satisfaction can ever change that.

The only thing that gives an individual meaning is power. And those that have that power are free to do as they wish.

Those with power are kings among men. And kings will always do as they wish.

After all, they have meaning. There is purpose to their existence. They have power and the capacity to use it. And so they will, and without reserve. Power is boundless. And so the ways man can gratify himself with power are also boundless.

Such is the nature of this land. Such is the law of this blasted landscape, rife with lawlessness and chaos derived from the context of freedom. But we are never free. For we have no power. And without power, we are nothing.

In this ruined land of Tokyo the landscape was shaped by power. The name 'Britannia' was simply a label – a label applied to the power that nation possessed. It was this power that gave form to this new world. And ultimately power is the only thing that can restore it to what it once was.

But such benevolence does not exist. This land has been blown away by nuclear conflict. Those that survived the fallout wish they were buried in the ground with their loved ones. But they still live on. Some less voluntarily than others. In the end everyone is nothing more than a name and a number. But those with power claim to be something more.

Those with power see fallout and disaster as 'opportunity'. Opportunity for change. Opportunity for renewal. Opportunity to determine just who was the best of the best.

And those without power are doomed to their whims. After all, names and numbers don't have any significance. In the end everyone is born and will one day die. It doesn't matter what they achieved over the course of their meaningless existences. For without power they have no significance. And so their actions amount to nothing. Their actions never shape the world. They might as well be dead from birth.

For as long as I can remember I've had a dream – a dream of turning the twisted order of this world on its side. To give power to the people that deserve it. To prove that power isn't everything and that one's actions determine their true worth. That perseverance is a greater display of power than any amount of money.

But such a dream was a boy's dream. A dream that was founded in blind hope. Power can't be overturned with words or aspirations. Hopes and dreams have no place in this world.

I have since come to understand how the world works. How power can only be overcome by a greater power.

And so –

And so I've come to challenge power in my own way.

This is a land of ruin. A land where law is corrupt and chaos is truly just. And all of us, name and number aside, must learn to survive in it. And to survive is to challenge power – to survive is to defy the order. To be powerless and survive day after day is to essentially laugh in the face of god –

And those with power will always know. Those with power will always envy those who possess true strength.

And that alone is more satisfying than anything else in the world.

Today is just another day. Another day devoted to living in the ruined Tokyo. Another day devoted to this line of work that I've come to enjoy tremendously, yet at the same time dislike considerably. Another day where I can marvel at the freedom I've won myself – the freedom to take in the moment, sit back, and simply 'be'.

But of course such a luxury is too much. Even for people that consistently pull their own weight – no, the whip shall crack and shall crack harshly, no matter what. After all, people without power can only gratify themselves in a world like this at the expense of another.

This was all the more apparent today – it was all the more certain that this would never change. That there was no way to escape the dogs or even the masters that trained them. It didn't matter if you were another dog or even one of the masters – the cycle of idiocy that we call our reformed society goes on and on without end.

I was not alone in the back of this pickup truck. There were in fact three individuals with me. Three individuals that simply would not cease their pointless chatter for a span of two seconds to even so much as catch their breath. Each one is an average, middle aged Britannian central class – Britannians living in Japan that are neither nobility or particularly poor that have fairly standard first world jobs that feel the need to bitch about every little thing, even if not outright. They simply have so many stories to tell each other about themselves, real or not – they need to get their lifelong stories off their chests as soon as possible. After all, their lives are mundane enough that they'd probably forget the whole thing before the week was up.

The one to my right continues going on from one mundane topic to the next. "You know, I've got a feeling that all the women in the world are just out to get us, you know? You try to live at all you just get shit for it, again and again. It's not like I'm gonna become a fag or anything, but you get the idea, right?" For all intents and purposes we will call him Julian. Julian is a clerk working for some small time business and gets paid to sit around and do nothing. He has been divorced twice and is currently cheating on his latest girlfriend. He has a tendency to do what he thinks feels good comes from personal animosity towards aforementioned job which he claims is too boring and lifeless for an exuberant individual such as himself with more untapped potential than there is water in the ocean. He has a tendency to throw a tantrum every time something doesn't go his way and tends to take it out by partaking in the appealing Britannian pastime of Eleven Home Invasion – granted it only takes spending one afternoon sex free for him to lose his top. His stories mostly involve him bashing in heads – both kinds of heads, mind you – of people less fortunate than him.

"Yeah, I hear ya. If only all women were like Elevens. Just sat still and took it in stride. All the shit we put up with over 'em – unacceptable is what it is. I don't see them working all fuckin' day, I just see 'em bitching nonstop." The man in front of me, Joseph, concurs. This was a man who was not fortunate enough to secure unskilled pay at so little cost, working two jobs in three different prefectures while living in a fourth. Despite this he seems to be fairly rich and even better off than Julian. Perhaps establishing that his day job involves scamming the working Japanese men out of what little money they could scrape up and that his night job involves mugging people indiscriminately can shed some well deserved light on this subject. Joseph believes himself to be a hard worker entitled to whatever he desires regardless, however. And when he's denied what he thinks is owed to him purely by the size of his wallet he tends to take it out on married Japanese women and pay off the authorities when things go south.

"Don't act like women are so terrible. It's just not true." A third voice, potentially one of reason, rings out.

"Oh really? Name one bitch who doesn't flail around like some overpriced fish." Julian doesn't really expect a serious answer but he gets one regardless.

"My fiancée is intelligent and beautiful –and she doesn't act like she owns the world."

"I'll bet. As long as she owns you she's set." Joseph chuckles.

"Fiancée? At your age? Tell me you at least wrote up your will already." Julian sighs. "You should stick to the slums until you're at least thirty… If you know what I'm getting at."

"Yeah, there's nothing better than knocking up an Eleven." Joseph concurs.

Off in the corner, spaced a little further apart from the other two was Jonathan, the traditional upstanding citizen, who had broken his silence and made his opinion known. "I really don't get you two. What's so bad about having a meaningful relationship with someone? You really need to respect other people, you know."

Joseph scoffs. "Come on, kid. It's not like you've been with enough girls to say something like that. And Elevens don't count."

"That's because I have the self control to stick to the people I care about. I see a relationship as an equal partnership. And you have to respect the other person or there's just no point to it." Unlike the other two men, Jonathan finished school here in Japan and intends to put his arsenal of textbook certified knowledge to work to better himself and those he cares about. He is an average commuter who works in a cushy office but doesn't take advantage of his fortune and does just enough to satisfy himself while putting out the full one-hundred and ten percent for his job. He takes such shoddy forms of public transportation as this to spread the money he earns around. He consistently bashes Julian and Joseph for their selfish ways of life and believes that their tendencies are not only morally wrong but offending to him personally.

"So you're saying you would cheat on your girl if you didn't have the 'self control'?" Julian makes it very apparent that he doesn't take the younger man seriously.

"No, I wouldn't." Jonathan sighs. "I don't need to pretend that I'm someone I'm not when I'm with her. I don't need to lie to her face every time I see her. There aren't any secrets between us. We have a healthy relationship. Maybe if you had something similar you wouldn't be so quick to judge women." Jonathan's tendency to play the noble white knight and his apparent infatuation with his perfect fiancée doesn't particularly keep him from having sexually assaulted many a Japanese woman, however. And he doesn't find a single thing wrong with it – after all, assaulting Japanese women is legal. If it's not against the law he can do it and not be seen as any worse for it. And if his college mates did it, why shouldn't he? He's supposed to be the cream of the crop, right? And the worst part is that his fiancée probably knows and cares just as much –

Joseph laughs. "Tell me something. How often do you hit the slums on Lord Vincent's Day? Don't tell me you haven't – all you college kids are the same these days."

Jonathan doesn't reply.

"Don't bother asking. It's not like he's going to tell us the truth." Julian sighs. "You know, in a few years, once you've had your first kid with this girl, you're gonna want to get out so badly but you'll never pull it off. I guarantee it."

"I'm not like that." Jonathan insists, but he doesn't really seem to be denying their claims.

"Face it, kid. We're all in the same boat here. You're not gonna be any different from us before too long – and don't forget it." Joseph then turns to face me. "Why don't you tell 'em? I mean, can you believe the shit this kid's spouting?"

...and as for me, my face tilted skyward and hidden beneath my favorite fedora and my arms wrapped around the large sack of trinkets I always carried with me, wanting nothing more than to disappear – I suppose I should at least provide some sort of introduction for myself.

I am Lelouch Lamperouge. And where all these men fail I succeed. I am a thief – a high class thief who steals from those that trample upon those less fortunate. I am by no means a sort of Robin Hood – I steal from the rich but do not necessarily give to the needy. I provide for those I am tasked to provide for. I will not tear down my fellow man, nor will I come to his aid with open arms. I act not to gratify myself or my existence, or even my lack of power, but to preserve all that I hold dear. I will only deter the exploits of those who consider themselves better than I and will put the fruits of their blind elitism to more proper use. And in this world, in this ruined Tokyo, this is the only form that values and morality can take.

You can only give as much as you can take. But if you wish to be more than a name and a number, if you wish to transcend the idea of social order, you have to take that much more. Give that much more. But most importantly you have to hunger – hunger for a certain light that so many, by no means excluding these three men, have lost sight of.

"Hey, I asked you a question, man. You asleep or something?" After no more than two seconds of being ignored Joseph is ready to set me on fire and piss on my ashes.

I adjust my fedora and peek at his disgusting face from underneath. I simply stare at him like that, producing no response for him.

"Hey, is there somethin' on my face or something?"

I can't help but grin. He set himself up a little to perfectly for this one. "Hm… Yes, there's quite a lot on your face. A few layers of skin you don't need, an eyeball or two, that god-awful mouth that won't stop flapping – you ought to take better care of yourself." Julian snorts with amusement while Joseph glares at me. Jonathan is largely unresponsive, likely because he can sense the conflict coming on.

"Hey, who the fuck you think you're talking to? Talkin' shit like that to my face –"

"Are you supposed to be someone important?"

"Damn straight – I'm real working class gent. There isn't a man in the fucking world who puts as much in as I do. And I put up with my share of shit, so don't you think about givin' me any."

"Ah, my apologies. I hadn't been informed." I then look away from him, once again staring up at the sky, my face once again hidden under my fedora.

"Looks like this guy thinks he's some pretty hot shit, Joseph." Julian grins, shrugging his shoulders. "Are you a rich boy like this kid over here? Or are you some kind of piece of shit who thinks he rules the world?" Oh, the irony of that statement.

"If you're asking if I'm Japanese, the answer is no." I reply, still relatively ignoring what was going on only just in front of me – Joseph was clearly ready to rip my head off, and my giving of precisely zero shits towards his hurt feelings wasn't making it any less apparent.

"Well, excuse me." Julian narrows his eyes and shakes his head. "You know, you're enough of a snob that my pal over here could rip you a new asshole and I'd let it happen. What kind of cunt did you crawl out of? Don't tell me your some kind of piss-breed."

"My mother was German." I reply.

"German?" Joseph suddenly laughs. "Are you serious? They let shit like you in this country?" This was almost amusing. On top of everything else this man was racist.

"Is that somehow unsatisfactory?"

"You know what? I've had enough of your snob bullshit. Get your ass out of my fuckin' truck." Joseph fumes.

"Your truck?"

"You don't know what kind of shit I put up with – as far as I'm fuckin' concerned this truck is mine. I fuckin' –"

I glance at him from beneath the rim of my hat again. "Oh, so that's your reasoning? How unfortunate. For a moment I thought you were going to say something intelligent."

"You asshole…" He then glances down towards my bag. "And what the fuck are you carrying around a big-ass thing like this for?"

He reaches out to grab it, and in that same instant I grab his arm.

He flashes a toothy grin. "Ah, you don't want me to see what's inside, huh?"

"I'll only say this once." I once again start look up at the sky, trying to avert my gaze from his disgusting mug with as much effort as possible. "If you touch my bag I'll snap your neck."

Joseph then puts two and two together. "You- you're some kinda crook, aren't you? The shit in this bag is stolen, ain't it?!" He narrows his eyes even further. "Shitstains like you make me sick. Social bimbos are what you and your folk are. Get the fuck outta my truck before I bash your fuckin' face in."

I now understood just what had pissed him off so much – he'd seen a less pitiful version of himself in me. And for his own sake he wanted to rip me to pieces to satisfy his own petty desires. In the end doing so wouldn't benefit anyone, not even himself – his life is finished, one way or another. From now until the day he dies he will simply be on loop.

"I'm not going to repeat myself." I respond with the same lack of care that this time around make Jonathan clam up – rather ironically he was the physically weakest of all three, but he was somehow the only one who figured out I was being dead serious. Joseph once again starts fuming while Julian starts laughing.

"With guns like those? You probably couldn't snap a twig, rich boy." Julian rolls his eyes before leaning back. He glances out at the road for a moment. "You know, if you're really that sick of his trash talk, Joseph, you could probably dump him off here. It's far enough away from the next town – no one'll find 'em."

"Good idea. I think I'll do just that – but first let's get a look at what's inside this bag –"

Joseph reaches out and latches onto my bag with his filthy hands.

I told him I'd only say it once. I did give him a fair warning.

With one quick motion I twist Joseph's head around a hundred and eighty degrees. He's slumped over lifeless before he can even realize what happened.

"What the fuck –" Before Julian is able to even finish his thought I've already drawn my revolver and shot him between the eyes.

Needless to say Jonathan let's out what quite possibly suffices as the least masculine scream I've ever heard in my life.

The truck comes to a stop, rather conveniently right along the side of a small hill. I nonchalantly stand and walk towards Joseph's corpse – stripping him of his wallet and of the shiny silver watch on his wrist, I lift him over my shoulder and roll him over the edge of the truck – I watch with some amusement as his body rolls down the hill into the dirtied water below while Jonathan looks on in pure terror.

I then do the same to Julian – ironically enough Julian had twice the amount of cold hard cash on him than Joseph had, and on top of that had what seemed to be a very expensive looking cigar case – pleased with the haul, I sit back down, this time right across from Jonathan. I wonder for a moment how much of Joseph's ramblings had been complete falsehood – but no matter. His story is over, and let's be honest – he won't be missed.

The truck still hasn't started moving again. The driver is apparently going to be waiting this whole scene out. Jonathan has likely soiled himself by now but despite having the perfect opportunity to run for his life he doesn't move a muscle.

I give him a rather confused look. "I can't help but be curious –"

"P-Please, don't kill me! I swear to god I have nothing to do with them – I mean I don't even know anything about them aside from how sleazy they were, if you let me go I swear I won't say a word about this to anyone I –"

I raise my hand – he cuts himself off almost instantly. "Tell me something. You're in college right? Or did you just graduate or something to that effect?"

"I-I graduated this past semester…" He stammers out his response – the look on his face suggests that he has a pretty solid grasp on whatever he believes will be the outcome of this conversation.

"Ah, yes. I believe you said you finished at Ashford Academy, am I correct?"

"Y-Yes, that's right."

I smile. "Ah, see, I know someone who goes to Ashford. You must've worked hard to graduate."

"U-Um, yes, it was hard work, but I did what I could."

"My friend has spoken at length about this year's graduating class. I heard ninety percent graduated with near full marks. A rather impressive feat."

Jonathan suddenly seems to relax – of course, he's likely had this conversation plenty of times before. He's likely been praised for his success on countless occasions – this is something familiar to him. Something that saps away his fear. "I-I was fairly surprised too. I didn't think so many of us would do so well." But I wonder – has anyone ever questioned the validity of his success to his face? No matter – I was about to do something worse shortly.

"I've also heard a number of other things-"

"Such as?" Jonathan cuts me off. He was desperate to find some sort of normalcy in this – he wanted to believe this would go like every other conversation he'd ever had about his school, even if he'd previously addressed such things with boring disdain. His life is flashing through his eyes – but he doesn't want this to be the end.

"That this year's graduating class made every excursion fun for everyone – particularly the runs down to the slums and into the homes of unsuspecting Japanese women. In fact, I think Ashford has never seen such a corrupt group of individuals in all it years." I shrug my shoulders, casually pulling out my revolver again and waving it around – the moment it catches his eyes Jonathan is glued to it. When he starts speaking again he isn't even looking anywhere near me.

"C-Corrupt?! B-But that's not –"

"Oh? Are first degree murder and sexual assault not signs of corruption?" I lean forward and flash a most menacing glare at him, practically peering into his soul. "Or is it perfectly fine, 'because they were Elevens'?"

I can practically smell it now – at this point Jonathan is only moments away from voiding his bowels entirely, but even so he manages to speak. "P-Please, I didn't-"

"You didn't mean to? Do you honestly think I'm stupid enough to believe something like that?"

"N-No, please, I'm sorry –"

"Tell me something – I'm sure by now you can tell what I've got under this hat, right?"

He nods his head vigorously. "T-There's an eye patch… Over your left eye."

I nod. "Correct. Would you like to know how I came to need such a thing?"

The conversation keeps going, but he no longer has any control – not over anything. And so he finally breaks. "I- Please, just… Just let me go. Or shoot me – whatever the hell you want to do, I can't take this –"

"When I was no more than nine years old I was drafted into a very particular war. I'm sure you know which war I'm talking about, right?"

His eyes widen slightly, if such a thing were even possible considering how they were already bulging out of their sockets. "Y-You were… You were in Russia?"

"That about sums it up, don't you think? And do you know what sort of thing happened to people in that war?"

"T-They died?"

"Ah, if only it were that simple. Yes, people died – but more importantly those that survived made demons… Only those who sin can create demons. And I can tell just from the look in your eyes that you've made plenty of them. And it's only a matter of time before they catch up with you."

I back away, holstering my revolver. "Turn around." I order.

Jonathan does as I command. I reach into his pockets and pull out his wallet. Extracting the sizable sum of bills and noting the thicker object it was wrapped around I stuff the now much lighter object back in his pocket. "How much did those shoes cost?"

"…A-About two hundred dollars."

"Hm. I half expected these to be close to a grand. Take them off regardless." He does so – I stuff the shoes into my bag. "Now tell me something - how much were you paid?

"H-How much was I paid for what?!"

"Don't think I didn't spot this in your wallet." I slip the small, credit card like object out of the wad of bills and flash it in front of him. "What was the pay? How much were they paying you?"

"I-I don't know who you're talking about!"

"Spill it... Surely you know by now that men like you who get hired for this sort of thing tend not to come back alive."

He hesitates before he stammers out an answer. "T-They promised me enough to marry my fiancée. A-And then..."

"And then enough to clear out whatever other skeletons you have in your closet?"

"S-Something like that..."

"What did they tell you? What was your assignment?"

"O-Oh, come on you know I can't tell you that! They'd find me and kill me if -"

I press the revolver against the back of his neck. "And if you don't tell me what job they gave you I'll save them the trouble."

"I-I...I was supposed to track the big guy - you know, the boss... Please don't make me say anything else...!"

"And did you succeed?"

Once again he hesitates. And this time I restrain his arm and start pulling back - only a little more pressure and I'd break it completely.

"Y-Yes!" The moment he answers I release him. I shove him forward, causing him to stumble slightly.

"Now get moving –Walk down that hill and keep going straight in that direction. You should hit the nearest town before nightfall."

"Y-You're letting me live?!" He almost shouts with joy.

"You have two choices – to either continue living your life as before or clean up your act. Take responsibility for your actions and don't throw them all on someone else's shoulders. Don't defer to the law for every little thing. Don't hide behind it like a coward and expect it to come to your rescue every time. No matter how righteous you find your actions to be you will never matter to anyone – not even to yourself – if you can't bring yourself to understand others. Start by understanding the plight of these people your homeland are responsible for."

"I-I will, I swear it...! I'll repent, just you wait…!" Jonathan hesitates for a moment, but once realizing he has nothing left to lose he takes off –

Not even bothering to see how far he manages to stumble past the base of that hill I load my revolver and with little effort blow his brains out from a fairly lengthy distance. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that you were going to die no matter what."

In the end it's best to die with hope in your heart. In truth I hoped that his heart had stopped before it had let it all go. After all, while he sealed his own fate, it was not his fault that he was robbed of his chance to repent.

After a rather uncanny moment of silence I turn towards the front of the truck. "All clear." I shout to the driver. Out of the driver's window the driver extends a thumbs-up. Securing my bag I get out of the back of the truck and hop in the front passenger seat. The driver sighs.

"I thought I was going to have to do something about them – I didn't realize how well you could handle yourself." The driver sounds somewhat relieved. "…But don't you think that was a bit dark? I mean, I know you had the time since he didn't take off, but that was a bit cold. I don't think the boss would've wanted him to go out that way."

"He brought this all on himself. This is what happens when you get with the wrong crowd."

The driver extends his hand. "I take it you got the piece, then?"

I hand him the small ID card I'd pulled out of Jonathan's wallet from between the bills – this card had, all along, been my true goal.

I apologize if my narration has been a tad on the… unreliable side towards the end there. I tend to build myself up to be more of a heartless figure than I particularly personify. In fact, if I'm to be honest, the level of sadism you've just witnessed is something I have a knack for avoiding. In essentially every other instance killing is something I avoid at all costs. But this level of deceit is part of the profession – well, not exactly part of the profession, but I suppose I'm not a particularly normal street rat, so there's that to consider.

In truth, this whole scenario had been set up. While Joseph and Julian were unfortunately unavoidable casualties, Jonathan had been employed by Britannian Law Enforcement to spy on an associate of mine and was going to die no matter what – he was apparently good enough to have cracked my associate's verbal message encoding fairly quickly and had to be put down before he could leak any serious information.

My associate and I go back a ways – in fact it was mostly due to his assistance that I took to thieving to provide for my family in the first place. Occasionally he calls me up and contracts me to perform tasks like these – the general rule of thumb is that I only have to part with whatever valuable item he wants. The rest is mine to keep. Furthermore, I'm not paid in cash for my efforts – instead I'm given intel about valuable items that no one's gotten around to stealing yet, which certainly works out better in the long run despite the extra mile I have to run.

Jonathan was apparently on his radar as early as last week, but he'd chosen not to call me in until he felt that it was as urgent as it was going to get. Recently law enforcement has been contracting civilians, primarily college students that graduate at the tops of their classes, to perform mole operations for them primarily to bring criminals out into the open. They blend in far too well, but on the downside they aren't quite skilled enough to be entirely discreet. After tracking him down to a truck stop in Ginza we decided that we had the perfect opportunity to strike. The plan was to take him down, while at the same time secure proof that he had been contracted by law enforcement, among other things. The ID card apparently was the only article that I had to secure.

The exact purpose for this was rather beyond me. I was just doing my job as usual, so I knew virtually none of the details beyond what I've already disclosed.

All I knew for certain was that my associate is under heavy surveillance, and that Jonathan had more or less uncovered his location. Law enforcement is willing to go to all sorts of lengths to see him behind bars and so it's become near impossible for him to even wake up in the morning without having someone watching his back. That pretty much goes without saying, considering how he's one of the three most well known criminals in Japan.

"He definitely knew where we've been hiding him. He was probably heading up to Ueno to let his superiors know where we'd been."

"What makes you say that? Is there some branch of the law in Ueno that takes intel like this? He should've gone straight to Yamato."

"There isn't. But that's precisely the point, isn't it?"

"Couldn't they at least have had the kid phone them? It's not like they don't know how hard-ass we are about this kind of stuff."

"Phones are still too risky for them. They don't know which lines he has tapped and which he doesn't."

"But… A college boy? His life was just getting started. Why'd they cite such a young one?" Before I forget to make note of it, the driver is a Japanese man who works for a friend of mine. Despite Jonathan being Britannian, he still felt sorry for him to some extent – surprisingly enough a large number of Japanese could sympathize with Britannians who were exploited by the same system that had ruined their country, even if the Japanese were so much worse for it. Granted you wouldn't find any dissenters working in the sweat shops underground, but even so it was somewhat remarkable to see how reasonable these people could be.

"Because he wouldn't stand out. Because he wouldn't have known the risks. Because they'll see the money and be oblivious to everything else. They were probably planning to pay him a small fortune. Or at least act like they would and feed him to the dogs before they'd have to pay up. Hopefully the more of these we kill the fewer they'll send out."

"Taking down their own, eh? Damned Britannians… Ah, no offense or anything, Lulu."

"It's not an issue…" I then sigh, fixing my fedora. "Although I'd appreciate it if you refrained from using that nickname."

The driver laughs. "Oh really? What, is that name limited to girlfriends only?"

"She's not my girlfriend… In fact we're only recently acquainted."

"Hah, really? It seemed like you two knew each other for years."

"I assure you, she's simply overly friendly."

"Heh. You act like that's a bad thing."

"For my purposes, perhaps it is."

"Huh… Not really sure what that's supposed to mean… But anyhow, we're about an hour away from Ueno. You're gonna have to get back to Shinjuku on your own, though – I've got to get this back to the boss."

"Understandable. So where exactly am I headed this time?"

"We found an old Japanese manor that a Brit aristocrat renovated. There's quite a bit you could snag but the main point is to make off with the stone slab in the master bedroom. Apparently it's some valuable artifact that you could probably sell off for lose to seven hundred grand."

I raise an eyebrow. That was an awfully tremendous sum – but more importantly I'd been tipped off about it for pulling off a fairly simple job that I'd done several times before. Clearly what Jonathan had on him was worth quite a bit. For and ID card to have such worth despite its owner being dead – I was a bit too curious about it, even for my own good. "Exactly what is that card for? I'd imagine something pretty spectacular."

"Sorry, I can't say a word about it. Until the boss gets into Shibuya I can't risk anything getting out."

"What, you think I'd tip off the authorities about your plans willingly?"

"Not willingly, no."

I suddenly see what he's getting at. "Ah, I see. I suppose that it's for the best then."

It would seem that my curiosity would have to go unsatisfied for now. But ultimately whatever it was that they had in mind wasn't any concern of mine – I had other things to deal with, particularly the manor that I was going to break into later tonight.

From then on the ride continues in total silence. There's little debating that the atmosphere was less intense now – we'd done our job, and even if there were more complications later for now it was sufficient to leave it at that.


Ueno Prefecture, Several Hours Later

The sky is notably darker, the streets are as unclean as ever, the sound of police sirens was audible no matter how far away from the back alleys you were, the locals are unfriendly, the houses are either cardboard boxes or three story mansions –

Yes, Ueno has not aged a day.

It didn't take much work to figure out where the manor I'd been told about was located – Ueno was a bit more urban than the other prefectures, but even so the number of residences did not help my destination hide itself whatsoever.

It's probably worth mentioning how things work around here – in the ruined Tokyo, there is very little, as I've already mentioned. But along the outer rim of the wasteland are the 'new' prefectures of Tokyo, which were now nothing more than the bits and pieces of the surrounding cities that survived the chaos. It's more accurate to refer to Ueno Prefecture as Ueno City, but for the sake of consistency I've decided to regard it as such.

None of the prefectures are particularly close to each other. In fact, aside from the commuter crowd they all practically had nothing in common. The social standards, the degrees of Britannian influence on the culture, and even the prices of goods varied from place to place. The one thing they all did have in common, however, were the tunnels.

Running underneath Tokyo are miles and miles of tunnels where the unfortunate people of this once proud nation now reside. If you were married to a Britannian or at the very least betrothed to one you had a chance to survive the fallout. Even if you didn't and you were at least above middle class status you had a very solid chance of keeping your home. But if you were the least bit normal, the least bit unfortunate, your fate was sealed – you were to live in the tunnels underground to dig. And dig you would, for an eternity. The workers have come to live down there, and will continue to do so until the digging is finished.

Despite my initial description, Ueno itself wasn't exactly considered a trash heap, but to a serious extent it was one of the ailing prefectures. Crime is astoundingly common here and law enforcement was incredibly active, although extremely disorganized as half of the officers trying to crack down on looters were in the houses doing the looting themselves. Most common citizens, Japanese or otherwise, had resorted to looting as well as domestic Ueno goods are by far the most worthless on the market – after all, you can never quite know what is stolen and what isn't. And no one wants to buy stolen goods. It's only ironic that almost one hundred percent of Tokyo's population still do anyway. But anything from Ueno simply 'couldn't be trusted'. Or so the new economic standard stated.

I find myself taking a fairly busy street to get to where I need to go. On the street corner two officers have arrested a man with a handgun at his feet, while on just the other side someone under the influence has crashed a car into a shop window. Further down the road are the usual peddlers who scam passerby out of their cash for worthless trinkets. I know all of them by name, funnily enough – I've been here often enough that I've been haggled by all of them more than once.

If you were a high profile thief this was essentially the best place to hide out. You can get away with a lot more than you could in places like Shinjuku that were much less slum-like. Unless, of course, if you're one of the big three. This is not to say that I am one of the big three. Since I'm not. But that aside, there's enough chaos going on that I should be able to sneak into the manor without too much difficulty.

I decide to make my move at around nine in the evening. The usual robbing hours were between one and eight in the morning, but I knew this area well enough – all the rich families would be out at gathering hall at the center of town. It was not only the safest place to hang around but the average rich folk would even get to show themselves off. And rich Britannians never passed up on an opportunity like that. Especially when they were only sort of rich, as all aristocrats insane enough to live in Ueno were.

In this area the smog from the industrial towers is somewhat prevalent – the mining can be done at twice the speed in Ueno since there's no one quite rich enough to complain about fumes and actually have their way. As such, night falls significantly faster.

The manor itself was just as described – it was old and traditional, but was westernized enough that no one would really care if I desecrated it. It was, however, guarded quite heavily – it would seem the owner was a tad richer than the rest of the folk on this block and was quite serious about preserving that artifact.

Despite the level of security I find my way into the manor without much issue. One of the guards inside had left a window open – I checked my corners to ensure it wasn't some sort of trap but it appeared that wasn't the case. Whatever room this was, there wasn't a soul around, so my entry went off without a hitch.

I feel around the wall furthest away from me – I flip on the light switch I find for all of an instant before I switch it back off – in that one instant I map out everything there is of interest in this room. This was a relatively uninteresting room – disregarding the door a few feet to my right there was a fairly new looking television set in the center of the room that I had no real way of absconding with and a couch that suffered from similar issues – but on the floor there was a high quality rug that was small enough to fit in my bag without issue – I roll it up and as I do I stuff the porcelain tea set on the small glass table near the couch inside.

With that I make my way out into the hallway –and once more I find myself in my element. There are guards patrolling the hallways and for the most part there is little to no lighting – such conditions would deter normal thieves, but I've been living in the darkness since that time nine years ago. Mind you that's not exactly as figurative a statement as I'd prefer – but at any rate, I could move about in the shadows as though I were standing in broad daylight.

I make my way down the hall, once again recalling the fundamentals of my job –

Rule one. Do not be seen. Being seen is the same as being killed. If I am seen, I am dead. And I can make of that statement what I wish.

Rule two. The darkness is my enemy, not those that dwell within it. These men are hired. These are men with families who potentially risk their lives for their sake. These men know the risks of their profession but are willing to risk everything for their family's sake. Killing is prohibited.

Rule three. Everything belongs to me.

I manage to slip into another room, this one having a decently sized china cabinet off to the side. I sweep it for anything that looks valuable – I end up making off with half the contents. I slip out of the room again after waiting for a guard to round a corner – another one is mere meters away from me but fortunately enough facing away. I move slowly and steady my bag – the slightest sound will give me away.

I manage to creep silently enough that I'm able to round the corner and reach the flight of stairs on the other end of the hall without issue. Upon scaling those I find myself in a much smaller hallway with two rooms on either side. I decide to enter the room closest to me on the right –

And I'm met with pitch black darkness.

But this isn't a problem for me –

I manage to move about, avoiding several objects in my way by judging the way the floorboards creak. I manage to find my way safely to a wall – I search along the wall for a light switch, and without too much issue I manage to find one without bumping into anything –

The interior of this room is best described as being in a state of pandemonium. This seemed to have at one point been a collection room for valuable porcelain statues, but in its current state you could hardly tell – everything from the cabinets to the shelves were defaced, broken down, or turned over. But more importantly there were three corpses in the center of the room, each with their throat slashed open.

I suddenly hear something coming from the hallway – I make my way towards the doorway, not even bothering to switch off the light.

I step out into it – the light from the room I'm spills into it – a trail of fresh blood that I was almost certain hadn't been there before starts from the room just across from me and heads into the doorway just to my right.

I decide to go ahead and check. I wasn't sure what possessed me to, but I had to see what was beyond that door.

I'm not one to cower in fear at the mere sign of blood. Right… This is nothing. Nothing like how it was back then.

I open the door slowly –

There's a lamp on near a bedpost – I can tell just from the layout I'm in the master bedroom. The so called artifact is still on its pedestal next to the bed – this I knew solely from the elaborate nature of the pedestal – there was a massive padlock with both a combination and a key lock keeping the glass case shut. The artifact itself was incredibly small and didn't exactly fit the description of the sort of thing you'd expect to find when you thought of an artifact. As opposed to some elaborate ancient looking stone carving or something this artifact was a small, rectangular object with what seemed to be some sort of glass cover imbedded into the side facing the light. There were notches on the sides that almost looked like buttons on a remote controller – the design was simply bizarre. The casing seemed a little too elaborate for something so small, but I'd imagine it wouldn't be the most durable thing in the world. I could only assume that if someone were to smash the case open an alarm would sound –

And then I suddenly get the bright idea to look down at my feet – there's another dead body on the floor just in front of me – and in the back by the wall I suddenly notice something moving through the shadows – it was the assailant.

For a moment I thought it was master thief number two – the second most well known thief in Japan who was known for this sort of thing.

But no –

The perpetrator steps into the light –

Immediately they close in on me, a bloodied kitchen knife at the ready – I manage to drop my bag of loot and dodge the initial strike with enough precision to have enough time to ready my revolver – but my attacker closes in too quickly for me to aim with it. In a matter of moment's I'm overcome with a very specialized style of combat – something that no degree of military training would ever produce. No – this was a unique style of fighting, and it belonged to one person and one person only –

The attacker grabs onto the barrel of the revolver and shoving me with their elbow they pull it away from me – then they throw their knife right at me, giving me perhaps a two second window to duck in cover. I manage to make it through that attack and the knife lodges itself in the wall behind me. But as I try to stand myself back up and reason out a method of getting my gun back, the attacker dismantles my revolver at a near inhuman speed, tossing the remaining scraps off to the side.

Standing there, their 'face' was fully captured by the light.

I'd recognize that mask anywhere.

No, this was nothing short of the worst case scenario.

This was numero uno.

Zero, the Black Knight. The Prince of Thieves.

I fix my fedora and with as much swiftness as I could muster I yank the kitchen knife out of the wall and charge towards him. As expected, my attack is repelled with ease.

I use my current close proximity to my advantage and attempt a leg sweep, but Zero backs away too quickly but immediately lunges forward again, apparently having drawn a much longer knife in the quarter second window I hadn't been pressuring him for.

Readjusting my position I'm ready to parry the strike – we lock blades, neither one of us particularly ready to give in – but Zero was holding one of his hands behind his back, insulting me.

Our deadlock continues – while I'm struggling to maintain my stance, Zero seems almost relaxed.

Suddenly he speaks. "Ah… I know this stance… Heh, and I know that hat. It's been awhile, Lelouch."

"Not long enough for my liking. So tell me – who tipped you off?"

"Don't worry. Your Orange isn't double crossing you. But for all intents and purposes I can't let you have that artifact."

"I think I already got the message…!" I manage to slide my knife off of Zero's and lurch to the left, attempting to swerve the knife around Zero's and land a solid blow, but he manages to read my move completely and backs away with ease.

"This isn't something a small timer like yourself should try to pawn off. It's a bit too valuable for that sort of thing, I'm afraid."

"Oh, I'm small time now? That's almost funny."

"There's a point where the fun and games have to stop. We're drawing dangerously close to that point… In both our profession and in this fight, mind you."

"So you feel the need to take matters into your own hands? For what gain?"

"You wouldn't understand… You are just a thief, after all." He chuckles.

"And what does that make you?"

"Haven't I already told you before? I'm Zero. Just Zero."

With that I charge forward – I completely miss my mark with my next strike, and Zero takes the opportunity to send me flying across the room with a strong kick. He then smashes the glass case protecting the artifact – as expected an alarm goes off.

Well this has certainly gotten a lot more complicated in the last few seconds, hasn't it?

Zero grabs hold of the artifact and makes his way towards the nearby window – tearing off the blinds and smashing the frame with one massive punch he begins to make his escape. I almost take off after him without a second thought, but I immediately backpedal as to not leave my bag of loot behind.

Zero leaps into the destroyed window frame and moves out onto the fire escape just past it – and with a massive leap he soars over the street below –

I had to pursue. I had to get that artifact – this endeavor would practically have been pointless if I left without it.

I try to leap towards him, determined to get at that artifact no matter what – but with my bag of loot slung over my shoulder I'm just a tad too heavy to complete the jump and he remains just out of my reach, landing safely on the building across from the manor with little issue. I only barely manage to hold onto my hat as I fall roughly two stories and slam into the concrete below.

"I'm afraid this is where we part ways, my Dishwasher Prince." Zero waves, turning away from me.

"I'm not letting you go anywhere-"

In that moment a police car appears on the scene, and an officer steps out with his gun aimed, aiming for Zero up on the roof – he shoots and misses, while Zero, using my revolver, blows his brains out with little effort.

With that he flees into the night –

Leaving me to deal with the dead officer and the horde of others that would soon follow. Shots had been fired – that was enough to sic the whole department on me until I was bleeding out on the ground. I glance around – I have a way out, at least a temporary one. All I had to do was follow the alleyway a few meters to my right and I'd be able to confuse them even if only briefly.

Of course the moment I emerge from said alleyway I found another batch of officers waiting for me.

The escape, from there on, does not go smoothly. At all.

Zero had more or less ensured that he'd get away completely undetected – I had two cars after me now, and ditching them on the ground wasn't going to be an easy task. Usually when it came to big escapes like this I had the rooftops to cover me – but thanks to Zero I was now in a situation that I wasn't prepared for.

This by no means suggests that I'm going to get caught. Oh, I fully intend to get away, my bag of loot intact and without a broken bone.

The side streets do me well – I manage to get out of sight fast enough and efficiently enough that I've got myself a good five second lead on that car. The cops around here were known for being reckless drivers, so the chances of a clean escape so early on were slim. Sure enough, I only manage to make it down to the next block before the siren closes in. At this point they may just decide to run me over - of course I couldn't let that happen, but I had very little means of getting around that. I was unarmed, once again thanks to Zero, and in all seriousness I doubt I can bat away an oncoming vehicle with my ego, regardless of how gargantuan in size it may be.

I dive behind a trash can as the car in front starts to speed up – I kick the trash can off the curb and into the road, causing it to tumble right into the oncoming vehicle's path. The car is forced to break and I dart into an alley, making my way to the other end of the block, essentially going in a complete circle. With any luck, the resulting confusion could provide the time I needed to get away.

But apparently the second car caught a glimpse of me – my bag likely gave away my position in this case. And so the second car appears just in front of me, speeding down the alley with the intent of running me over.

I'm not exactly good at stunt work even without a twenty pound bag slung over my shoulder, but in this case I have very little choice in the matter. With a running start I leap towards the wall on my side – I manage to lift myself and the bag and just barely manage to slide my foot into a small indent in the wall. The car is roughly two seconds away from me – with whatever strength I could put into my legs I manage to kick off of the wall, successfully producing the airtime I needed to avoid the car. I take off down the alley in the opposite direction – I had my window. The car I'd just avoided would have to come to a complete stop before resuming its chase and the other car was still effectively neutralized, at least for another forty seconds or so.

I emerge from the alley and take off down the street. At this point I really needed to hit the rooftops, but these streets were too unorganized – I'd have to break into another house if I wanted to pull that off and that just wasn't doable. I dart into another alley and start heading as far away from the action as possible – but at this point I was essentially lost. By now there had to have been more officers on my tail, but at least for the moment could reason out a potential counterattack.

I manage to make it onto another street – three officers on foot are there waiting for me, two behind one car and one in another, and before I can even think of a way around them they open fire. Now I'm actually fairly decent at dodging live rounds from little pea shooters like the standard law enforcement weaponry, even with this bag slung over my shoulder. In fact, back when I was in Russia somewhat had shot at me with a sub machine gun and I lived to tell the tale. The problem here was that I couldn't exactly go back, which was generally how I got through scenarios like this in the past. But fortunately enough I'd been hit with the least intelligent officers I'd seen so far this evening – I had more than enough cover to hide behind. They were still under the assumption that I was armed and were hiding behind their cars like idiots – I could close in and potentially get around them – granted they had a perfectly good opportunity to shoot me dead once I made it over one of the cars so it was up to my experience to ensure that wouldn't happen.

I manage to close in, tossing a garbage can lid in their general direction – the sudden sound draws their attention away from me for all of an instant. But you see, an instant is all I ever need. I break out into a sprint and holding onto my fedora I slide into place along the side of one of the buildings, successfully avoiding the next round of fire. I can hear more sirens closing in –

Already I find this pretty strange. Granted when an officer shows up dead in action their friends do their damnedest to ensure that the one responsible goes down no matter what, but even then there was a surprisingly large number of officers dispatched to apprehend me. Considering the neighborhood I could only imaging what other atrocities were going on at this very moment, but in all honesty I couldn't bring myself to care at the moment. At any rate, I had a strange feeling that there was more to that artifact than my associate had let on – granted it was very possible that he didn't know all the details himself. But in the end it really doesn't matter – Zero has it, and will probably make a fortune off of it overnight. He might even want to retire.

I once again get moving – I grab a broken section of pipe I'd found on the ground near where I'd landed just moments earlier and toss it towards the officers behind the cars. I vault over the car closest to me and in the process manage to kick one of them squarely in the head. I'm shot at mere milliseconds later, but at that point I've already secured myself a weapon – I hold the second officer behind the car with me at gunpoint.

"Drop it." I speak calmly – but the officer doesn't listen – he aims right at me, prepared to take me down in an instant. It's like they know I'm a nonlethal combatant, I swear. No officer, especially not one living in Ueno, would ever risk their lives this definitively.

I don't exactly have much of a choice here – I shoot him, but not dead. I plant a round in his gun arm and immediately rise to my feet and take off – at this point the two cars from the other street have made their way over here and the officers inside were shooting at me from the windows. I adjust my fedora and, seeing a fairly large opening that the completely vacant street just past the small blockade provided, I take off, quickly checking the number of rounds in both the gun I'd pulled off the unconscious officer and the one the other dropped and start shooting at the tires of my pursuers as I move along – I'm not exactly a great shot when it comes to targets moving faster than say a drunk marine on foot, but more importantly I suddenly find myself flanked, as two officers on foot suddenly emerge from a side street – I wasn't exactly cornered, but I was surrounded from nearly all sides.

I duck behind a garbage can and wait out the car. Granted this wasn't exactly great cover from live fire, but I wouldn't be waiting here for very long –

The first car closes in – I take my shot, quickly emerging from behind the trash can and taking a shot at the tire closest to me. Miraculously I manage to land a solid blow and the car goes spinning out of control – I begin to shoot at the officers on foot, at this point firing off warning shots more than anything else. As the second car approaches my trash can is shot full of holes and I'm forced to move away from it –

This was just going to keep on going and going. There would be no end to this – once I took out the next car another would just take its place, and all over something that I didn't even steal. And in the heat of the moment –

I remember.

Tomorrow is Nunnally's birthday.

I'm going to be late for Nunnally's birthday party.

...

I take off down the road, not even bothering to check my corners or even verify if I'd hit the other car. I just start running, my eyes frantically scanning the sides of the road –

Come on, come on come on come on there has to be a telephone booth around here somewhere…!

Consider this Rule four. Do not break a promise with your adorable little sister.

I look over my shoulder – sure enough I'm still being chased. I have to shake them right now – I start shooting blindly at the car and manage to crack the windshield – the car still moves forward regardless, but it would seem as though I'd hit the driver and the car was going to spin out of control at any moment –

But no, that would be too succinct. Instead the car hits some sort of a bump and starts moving through the air – spiraling straight towards me.

I roll. I roll like I've never rolled before, and I manage to just barely avoid being airborne road kill. In the moments after I come to a complete stop to gather myself – and only then do I notice that the car had been flipped over.

I run. I run as fast as I could manage, running down the alley closest to me –

But I don't really run fast enough. And when the car explodes I'm sent flying from the shockwave and land face first in a dirty puddle. Somehow my loot bag has stayed intact, but it would appear that my left shoulder has not. So now I'd pretty much completely lost the officers, but now I was wounded considerably.

I sigh. This still wasn't over. Not by a long shot.

I glance around – this section of town seems completely shut down, or at least people are smart enough to be hiding in their homes when things are exploding outside. First things first – I spot a telephone booth across the street. I race over to it without any delay.

I shove a quarter into the slot and pick up the receiver, dialing a number I was all too familiar with. It was somewhat late at night, even so this call would definitely go through. After all, I said I'd be home about a hour from now. Granted that was no longer the case since I'd effectively lost myself in Ueno, which was why it was important that I got this out of the way right now.

The phone rings for around ten seconds before someone on the other end picks up.

"Hello?" A tired voice greets me – I immediately feel a whole lot worse about this whole mess, even though at this point I'd already killed at least two people and done more property damage than I could pay for with all the trinkets in my bag. That was the sort of effect my sister's exhausted voice had on me.

"It's me, Nunnally."

"O-Oh, good evening, Onii-sama." She very suddenly tries to hide her tiredness but sort of fails in the process – I can't think about how absurdly cute that was at this very moment . I had to make this short.

"Look, I'm going to be late tonight, and I know I said that –"

"It's okay. Don't worry about it." She says with a slight laugh. "But when are you going to come home? Are you going to be here for tomorrow?"

"Yeah, I promised, didn't I? Don't worry, I'll be home by morning. I swear."

"Okay. You promised, remember." I sigh with relief – Nunnally was usually a bit more distressed about these sorts of things, but she'd had a very long day from what I could gather so she was willing to let it go.

"Yeah, I won't forget. Good night, Nunnally –"

But all of a sudden I hear a second voice in the background – no. No, this went way too smoothly for it to go south all of a sudden.

In a matter of moments my ear is assaulted by the most horrific sound that a human being could ever produce – Kallen Kozuki's voice.

"Hey Lelouch –"

"Can't talk right now, I'd love to, believe me, but –"

"Hey, don't think of hanging up on me, you asshole – I swear to god I'll make you clean the bathrooms twice this time –"

I'll make this short. I wasn't exactly born in Japan as you may have guessed – neither was Nunnally, for that matter. When we migrated over, we had virtually nothing to us but our names – simply put, the fighting in Russia left us all in a really bad place. Nunnally and I were, however, fortunate enough to be taken in by the Stadtfield family and were allowed to live in the small apartment above a bar they owned. Kallen, their eldest daughter, has essentially been our immediate family ever since. You can probably reason out the rest all on your own.

"Look, I know I'm cutting this real close, I know I'm a selfish bastard and all that, but look, this really isn't a good time, Kallen –"

"Do you have any clue how much you made Nunnally worry? She's been sitting by the phone all night, and she spent all day dropping off food at the school –"

"Yeah, I get it, but –"

"The next time you're going to pull an all nighter, tell me first, alright? Or at least don't come up with a bullshit story for Nunnally like you always –"

"Look, can we have this talk later? I need to get moving."

"What the hell are you so busy with, anyway?! I had to do your job again today, by the way –"

"Look…" I sigh with frustration, rubbing my forehead. "Things got really bad. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and right now I'm getting mauled by every cop in Ueno, alright?"

What comes next is a slur of swears that when jumbled together like this sounded like something in a completely foreign language.

"Look, I can get out, so don't tell Nunnally about this, alright? I'll be back as soon as possible –"

With that the phone line suddenly cuts out –

And I turn on the spot –

And I'm shot at.

An officer had shot at me –

But –

He misses my head by a sizable margin, instead taking out my fedora, which promptly falls to the floor.

He…

H-He shot my fedora. He shot my fedora off my head.

This bastard…

I'm gonna kill him…!

I turn and pull the trigger immediately, not even really aiming anywhere in particular – only to find that I'm completely out of rounds.

I then get a look at my would-be assailant.

It's a single officer who apparently managed to follow me on foot. It most certainly took skill to pull off something like that.

"Drop the weapon." He states calmly. "In the name of our Lord Charles, I'm placing you under arrest." He once again steadies his pistol. "I won't miss this time."

Ah – wait, this voice –

Ahah.

Ahahahah.

Well I'm certainly fucked now.

He seems to trail off for a moment before he sighs. "…Goddammit, Lelouch. What kind of mess did you get yourself into this time?"

"I swear, listen to me, I swear this wasn't my fault."

This officer, better known as Suzaku Kururugi, the cleanest officer in all of Tokyo, is, believe it or not, a good friend of mine. We met in Russia under less than positive circumstances and we've been friends ever since. Granted that doesn't apply in the slightest when he has to bring me in for manslaughter among other charges.

He rolls his eyes at my comment. "That's likely."

"J-Just listen for a minute – your men are after me for shooting that officer in the street. That wasn't me. This is all Zero's doing."

"I'd bet. Zero hasn't been seen in Ueno in over a year. This place is too easy for someone like him."

"I swear to god – hell, I swear on my life –"

"Clearly you don't have much value for something like that. Drop the gun."

I sigh and consider protesting further, but based on how insistent Suzaku was about these things I decide to do as he says – I drop the gun. I consider reaching for my loot bag, but at this point doing so would be a good way to get shot.

"Now walk towards me."

"Can I at least get my hat-"

"Walk towards me."

I sigh. Of course he was going to go through this whole process. But I knew he knew better – he knew damn well that there was nothing in my fedora. He was just being spiteful.

"Hands in the air." I do as commanded.

"You know," I start speaking, "you could definitely stand to be a bit more elegant about this sort of thing. For example, you could probably –"

"I don't want to hear a damn thing from you." Suzaku interrupts me, his gun still fixed on me as he slowly walks around me, likely attempting to handcuff me.

"Just hear me out. You'll make a much more profound impression if you said something like, 'Suzaku Kururugi commands you – drop your weapon!' or something to that effect."

"It's your sister's birthday tomorrow, isn't it? A shame you'll be stuck in the slammer all night. I'll let you know how the party goes." Suzaku secures a pair of handcuffs around my wrists and latches onto my arm.

"You're not invited."

"Start walking."

Honestly I should've expected this – Suzaku's been stationed in Ueno ever since he became an officer, but more importantly he was essentially the best there was – he was on the fast track to detective status, but even past that he was being considered for high military honors after his performance in both Russia and during the occupation. It only made sense for him to be dispatched on a critical importance call like this one seemed to be.

I start moving – to add insult to injury Suzaku throws my bag of loot over his shoulder and places my fedora on top of my head once more – he probably missed his shot on purpose just for the sake of dirtying my favorite hat.

So what was going to happen now?

Isn't it obvious? I'm going to escape.

"You know, there's a limit to how much of a ruthless ass you can be." I point out something fairly obvious.

"If this train of thought ends with a request to let you go, let me just tell you that I'm not going to listen."

"Ah, right. This has been a pretty long – term dream of yours, hasn't it? To actually catch me doing something and have the opportunity to bring me in yourself. Considering the price that would be on my head if I'd actually been suspected of half the things I've actually done you'd probably get that promotion real quick."

"Don't antagonize me. You've got a serious problem and you need a psychiatrist. Whether or not you'll actually get one is up to the court."

"And you need a physician. All that spinning can't be good for your joints. It's a miracle you don't get vertigo, you know. Actually, no, more like a biological breakthrough."

"…You're not taking this seriously at all, are you?" Suzaku was a bit too tired to get it completely across, but he was getting awfully annoyed with my attitude. Oh, how easy you are to disgruntle, my friend…

"This is only the seventh time you've tried to pin me with something only to have the charges not stick. Granted I have no idea why you're against stealing back something that was already stolen-"

"You're justifying your crimes. That doesn't make them any lesser crime. People who break the law get arrested. There's no exception."

"And you fully agree with the way this 'law' works?"

"We've had this discussion a thousand times. That isn't my call to make. That's the Emperor's call to make. And I serve the Emperor."

"So nearsighted... You'll never see your dream come true this way."

"It's not like you're making it any easier for me."

I don't really have a response for that. Perhaps he had a point. But it wasn't like I could just stop doing what I was doing.

The walk continues in silence. So he had gone after me on foot. That explains why no one else had closed in on us yet. Another peculiarity about Suzaku was that he didn't have his radio with him – he hadn't called in my capture yet and it seemed like he wasn't even going to.

Out of the corner of my eye I try to study him –

And then it finally clicks. He's not even on duty right now. The uniform he's wearing isn't the standard issue uniform, and his pistol –

I recall a very particular law mandated in Ueno. Officers who were off duty generally couldn't be trusted – well, they couldn't exactly be trusted when they were on duty either, but that's neither here or there. The point is that all off duty officers are allowed to carry their weapons around, but for security issues they were permitted one round and one round only.

Now, most officers probably ignored this law altogether. But Suzaku was too well rounded for that –

In other words, he was holding me at gunpoint with a pistol that wasn't loaded. He'd blown his only shot on my hat.

And people call my fedora tacky. The damn thing probably just saved my life. Not from Suzaku, mind you. From the combined efforts of Kallen and Nunnally were I to never make it home tonight.

Well, that makes my next move significantly easier.

"I just have one question. Is that alright, at least?"

Suzaku sighs. "Go right ahead –"

"How long on average does it take you to figure out that your captive's undone their handcuffs?"

In one swift motion I shake of Suzaku's arm and proceed to head butt him – the force of the strike has a fairly negative effect on me, but as Suzaku is holding my bag he's sent completely off balance.

I retrieve my bag and head off down the street.

"Don't worry, I'll be sure to tell Nunnally you wished her a happy birthday!" I wave goodbye as I sprint down the road toward freedom. In a matter of moments Suzaku is on his feet chasing after me –

And just like this, in a scenario that's larger than life –

It's in a world where such a miraculous escape is possible –

It's in a world like this one, where hope is buried away in the deepest despair –

It's in a world like this one that my story begins.