A/N: First I would like to thank everyone who has reviewed and thank you to AnubisGundam0 for beta and cleaning up the chapter.
Part of the reason the update took as long as it did was that I wanted to wait for the latest arcs to continue on through and learn some details about the Nova that could be useful and with everything I have learned most of it aligns perfectly with what I have planned. I even have new ideas to add to the mix, but enough about that time for the chapter.
The sensations that came from an active Ereinbar Set between a Pandora and her Limiter for the first time creating a dizzying sensation making it a momentary challenge to orientate oneself, one that Lelouch knew he would adjust to in time. Even so, Lelouch couldn't help, but admit the sensations of his senses combining with Chiffon's as one was a surreal experience that was difficult to describe particularly when you're looking at your own face through another person's eye's or hearing your voice in stereo, like those echoes you sometimes get over the phone. On the one hand, his Freezing Field had grown much stronger in intensity and could be expanded to cover a much larger area in all directions. However, on the flip side, there was an unforeseen side effect that left Lelouch worried as to how adjusting to the Ereinbar Set with any other Pandora would've gone.
"Chiffon, are you sure you're alright with this?"
Lelouch was lying in his bed, but he wasn't alone because resting against his back with her arms wrapped around his waist was Chiffon. Both were wearing their traditional nightwear, Lelouch wore a black shirt with matching pants while Chiffon wore a pink nightgown. The feedback from Chiffon's sense of touch through the Ereinbar Set was like a buzz of electricity as she pressed herself against his back, he could even feel the minuscule discomfort from her three remaining stigmata in her back. He was well aware that she was receiving similar feedback from him.
Embarrassed didn't quite describe what Lelouch was feeling, but rather the gentleman in him wasn't sure if being this close in such a way early into their partnership was a good idea.
"Of course," She answered, "This method is the most effective way for our brains to adapt to and synchronize our five senses."
The method in question was to literally sleep on it while their Ereinbar Set was active, allowing their brains' sleep processes to map and explore the new nerve pathways they now had access to. It was at this time that he understood the hidden meaning behind the phrase 'explore each other's bodies' during a 'First Room Invitation.'
Unfortunately, it also brought to light the double entendre in that phrase, arousal. Being a perfectly healthy young man in close proximity to a pretty girl, he couldn't help but respond as nature intended. The most disconcerting thing, however, was, sensing through the Ereinbar Set, her own arousal in response to his.
Chiffon chuckled into his ear.
"I'm…Not…Doing…Anything," Lelouch groundout.
She chuckled teasingly. "I don't quite believe you."
Lelouch groaned internally at that remark, but there was little he could do about it. It was annoying, but what was worse was the fact that he didn't know of any alternatives to what Chiffon had suggested. There was the 'dancing' method where both Pandora and Limiter would dance together with the Ereinbar Set active and steadily synchronize their movements. However, Lelouch didn't entirely trust his legs at this time. Of course, he wasn't sure of any other methods, which only complicated matters even more so.
I guess this is probably why no single Limiter has partnered with more than one Pandora, Lelouch thought because he suspected trying to adjust to having more than two people's senses linked must be taxing. How does Miyabi manage with three Limiters… on second thought I don't want to know.
Trying to calm his thoughts and body, Lelouch allowed sleep to gradually take him at the first opportunity.
However, Lelouch found himself in a particularly strange dream.
"Chiffon," a female's voice called out.
The dream Lelouch was experiencing was taking place in what appeared to be a small town, probably in the countryside given the size of the buildings around him.
"Lucy," Chiffon said, responding to the girl standing down the sidewalk from her.
Lucy looked to be no older than he and Chiffon were, being at least seventeen. She possessed intriguing lavender-tinged silver hair cut to shoulder-length with dark blue eyes and a fair skin complexion. She wore an elegant sleeveless white and blue dress that revealed her very slender physique with a sunhat on her head.
"Come home, now," Lucy ordered in a cold monotone voice before adding, "my little sister."
"No," Chiffon replied.
"Little sister," a woman standing behind Chiffon asked, "Chiffon? Is she one of your sisters from the lab?"
"Then I have no choice," Lucy replied as her otherwise bland expression turned serious, especially as she cast a glance at the woman behind Chiffon.
"Aureriel," Chiffon called out in a panic realizing the danger her friend was in, "RUN!"
Chiffon glanced over her shoulder at a young woman with hair styled similarly to Chiffon's wearing a white dress. She even seemingly kept her eyes closed, similar to how Chiffon does.
Yet that one instant was all the girl named Lucy needed to begin her attack.
Chiffon responded by manifesting some kind of transparent barrier to deflect Lucy's attack as her right hand, a hand that was surging with arcs of energy as she thrust it forward in a spear-hand strike attempting to strike Chiffon with it.
As Lucy struggled to penetrate Chiffon's barrier, a heated exchange began between them.
"The world is not ready to learn of our existence yet," Lucy snapped irritably. "Your reckless actions will not only hinder dad's will, but also the ability of Chevalier, the cornerstone of humanity's defense, to protect everyone from the Nova! Do you understand that!?"
The struggle continued between them, but upon realizing the stalemate, Lucy devised a means of breaking it.
Chiffon realized it as Lucy shifted targets to attack Aureriel, both to create an opening and to eliminate a witness.
She narrowly blocked it, but Chiffon had endured some cuts as an indication of how close the attempt to shield Aureriel had nearly cost her. Regardless, Chiffon knew this would complicate the battle between them because she would need to remain mindful of Aureriel's safety while dealing with Lucy at the same time.
Seeing it all through Chiffon's eyes made the dream all the more intense.
Then suddenly it ended when a gunshot rang through the air.
Suddenly without warning Lelouch awoke, his mind groggily trying to grasp an understanding of what exactly he had just experienced.
He couldn't rule it out as a dream, although the more logical part of his mind suggested it was the only possibility, yet at the same time, another part of him suspected otherwise. The dream seemed far too vivid, like reliving a memory. The strangest part was that no-one in the dream acknowledged his presence, as if he were an unseen observer watching a scripted scene, centered on his new partner.
But I've never heard of any such experience happening between a Pandora and their partner in the past, Lelouch realized. Unless it's one of those things, nobody talks about.
He knew their senses had been linked, but never once had Lelouch heard about anything about sharing dreams.
That caused a concerning thought to come to mind because Lelouch was now wondering if the process worked both ways. Even though Chiffon had been made aware of his true identity had put Lelouch at ease with her, he couldn't help but wonder if she too was witnessing something similar. The question was what?
Should I ask her?
Lelouch contemplated that thought briefly, but how would he even explain something like that even if it was to her or someone else. However, it made sense that no-one wanted to publicly talk about such experiences, sharing something so personal about either partner with an outside party would be a faux pas, and it would explain why such deep bonds were both long-lasting and intimate, eliciting an immense trust between the two.
Maybe I should ask her some other time because...
Lelouch's eyes looked down to see Chiffon's arms wrapped around his waist, hugging him as if he was a body pillow like the night before. Even worse was the fact that not only was Chiffon hugging him tighter making him self-conscious of her modest chest pressing firmly into his back, but she showed no signs of waking up anytime soon, and Lelouch was about to learn that Chiffon was indeed a heavy sleeper.
Across the East China Sea deep inside an underground bunker, Gengo Aoi sat inside his private lab provided to him by both his allies within Chevalier and the Chinese Federation. The aged scientist was conducting a review of the information he had received regarding Lelouch along with a blood sample courtesy of one of his spies within West Genetics' medical staff.
The blood sample had taken when Lelouch was first enrolled as part of testing his compatibility as a Limiter, few people realized that boys had to undergo the same testing for compatibility as girls. Girls were compulsorily tested starting at the age of 10, whereas it was voluntary for boys who more often than not got tested when they applied to enroll at Genetics. This was how Lelouch was able to fly under the radar for so long.
Gengo already had a suspicion as to how Lelouch was capable of Freezing without a Baptism. He might be the offspring of a Type-Maria; a woman born naturally with a Stigmata, he had already identified a handful of women and girls with this condition scattered across the world, some of them already adults. It wasn't a far cry that a son born from one of them would have comparable potential to that of his grandson. Nevertheless, he still had to confirm it.
The fact that Lelouch Lamperouge was, in reality, Lelouch vi Britannia was both intriguing and concerning given his ties to Charles.
To think that Chiffon would partner with one of Charles's offspring, Gengo thought as he observed the process on his test on Lelouch's blood sample.
As Gengo mused at the irony as the test, he'd began a short time ago on Lelouch's blood came to an end. The results were displayed upon his computer, but before he could start reviewing the results, he was interrupted by the woman who was both his bodyguard and his right-hand woman. The red-eyed Korean Pandora with back length black hair approached Gengo with a puzzled look on her face dressed in the standard battle dress for active duty Pandora.
"Maybe, although women being born naturally with a stigmata isn't unheard of, they are few in number, this is the first case of a male I have become aware of," Gengo answered as Su-Na Lee leaned in over his shoulder to examine the results on Gengo's screen who had also turned his attention back to them.
Gengo was surprised by the results.
Stigma tissue index: 45%
"That is quite a high number, has anyone else ever had such a high number?"
The aged scientist regained his composure rather quickly, but the test results were shocking especially since the common Type-Maria offspring usually had a Stigma tissue index between ten and fifteen percent being the recorded highest number to date, but forty-five percent was both shocking and concerning for a myriad of reasons. Gengo began wondering how Lelouch could be born with such a high percentage, and his tests didn't show any signs of genetic tampering. At those levels, he wouldn't be surprised if Lelouch and Chiffon's Stigmata were resonating.
They were probably unconsciously drawn to each other.
How can this be? None of Charles's other children have demonstrated abilities akin to those with a stigmatic body. Did Lelouch inherit it from his mother?
"Are you alright," Su-Na inquired, noticing how serious Gengo's expression had suddenly become.
"Oh," Gengo realizing he was completely lost in thought, "sorry about that. Anyway, you have people you trust working inside West Genetics, right?"
"I do yes, and they are keeping us updated on anything we want to know as per your request, we also have some contacts within East Genetics too."
"Ask them to keep a closer eye on Lelouch for me. Then we need to do some investigating at Genetics Valhalla," Gengo ordered as he began contemplating this surprising revelation.
His Stigma tissue index is higher than my own grandson by fifteen percent… And then there's his mother..., did Charles manage to pull the wool over my eyes this one time?
Later that day, around midday in West Genetics, Lelouch was trying to eat lunch. However, he was mildly annoyed because he spent most of the morning trapped in Chiffon's unyielding embrace. His mood didn't improve when he noticed various students talking behind his back, and given their body language and their whispering, Lelouch assumed they were under the impression that Lelouch wasn't a virgin anymore.
Nothing happened you, idiots! He wanted to yell at them, however, from what he'd heard this was a typical roasting of first-year Limiters after their 'First Room Invitation.'
"So how are you holding up," Ganessa asked parking herself and her plate lunch opposite of Lelouch.
"The rumor mill is going to be annoying me for the next few weeks, but otherwise I'm perfectly fine."
"Yeah, and that's not going to help when it comes time for me to pick a Limiter of my own," Ganessa remarked with a sigh of annoyance. "Do people really think the First Room Invitation and Baptism always end with the Pandora and their new partner having sex?"
Lelouch's annoyance kept building, but thankfully the appearance of another student who had become the most recent subject of the rumor mill had silenced everyone present in the mess hall.
She was a Pandora Lelouch hadn't seen around the academy before, so there was no question she was new, but what made her stand out was the cold glare of her blue eyes and her long blonde hair. Still, Lelouch was surprised by everyone's reaction; he wondered why everyone had suddenly gone quiet upon her appearance. Surely the peanut gallery behind him would've been talking up a storm, but they were utterly silent trying to avoid drawing her attention.
"A new student I guess," Lelouch asked, breaking the silence.
"That is Satellizer L. Bridget, she recently transferred to here from East Genetics, she is the youngest daughter of the Head of the L. Bridget Family," Attia answered making her presence known as she accompanied by her Limiter, Mark, joined them at their table. "Apparently she earned quite a reputation that gave her the name the 'Untouchable Queen.'"
"So she either benefits from her father's connections or her skills are that formidable," Lelouch inquired as Ganessa became further intrigued by the discussion.
"Well her skills are supposedly formidable from what I've heard," Attia noted before adding grimly, "but she would've been in the same year as Elizabeth and me if not for the fact she brutally attacked a prospective limiter that left him unable to continue in such a role. As a result, she got knocked back a year, so she's a first year despite technically being a second year like us."
"So East is dumping their problem child on us now," Lelouch remarked.
"It's not uncommon for struggling Pandora to transfer to other facilities," Attia pointed out. "A few of them manage to turn themselves completely around, others have... washed out. It remains to be seen which she will be."
"Judging by that expression, I'm a bit doubtful about that," Lelouch said wondering if the incident between her and the limiter was due to the guy being interested in the L. Bridget name more than anything else as they practically owned Chevalier.
Typical ladder climber, Lelouch thought.
"By any chance was the Limiter she crippled a playboy jackass or something, you know, a Limiter version of Miyabi?" Ganessa asked thinking along similar lines. "Some guys can be really pushy about pairing with a particular girl." As a member of the Roland family, she was familiar with the type.
"Details have been sketchy on that part, so maybe, but I don't have a definitive answer for that at this point in time," Attia told them.
"I see, but if it is I doubt she'll be looking for a Limiter this time around comes her second year, and with a rumor like that spreading around no Limiter would want to get close to her." Lelouch pointed out suspecting that was likely what happened since he couldn't imagine Satellizer wouldn't have attacked unless she was provoked.
Suddenly without warning, Chiffon appeared as she quickly sat down next to Lelouch.
"Guess what Lelouch!" She said to him, seemingly oblivious to the atmosphere.
Lelouch turned to his very cheery partner, "What is it?"
"In a couple weeks, the school will have the second year students leading platoons of first-year students in a training exercise and guess who's leading one?"
"You," Lelouch knowing it was the obvious answer.
"Uh-huh," Chiffon answered with an enthusiastically nod of her head, "in a few weeks we're going to be competing against seven other platoons led by the top second-year students."
"Other top second-year students," Attia said before recalling she was the fourth-ranked student, "this could be fun. I suppose it's a completion between the second years leading their respective platoons?"
Chiffon nodded in confirmation, "yup and for the record we won't lose because my limiter is a diabolical genius and schemer in his own right."
"Really," Attia said as her eyes narrowed at Chiffon as she threw down the metaphorical gauntlet. "Do you think you can beat a Platoon led by me and my own Limiter?"
"Yes," Chiffon replied with a Cheshire cat grin. Lelouch wanted to stop things from escalating but was intrigued all the same.
"Because we'll have the best of the first year students," Chiffon replied before turning to Ganessa, "hey Ganessa, want to join our platoon."
"Hell yeah!" Ganessa replied without a second thought, eager to be on the same team as Lelouch.
Attia was left temporarily dumbfounded by Chiffon's sudden recruitment of Ganessa but was quick to recover seeing that Chiffon was trying to stack the deck in her favorite by recruiting the highest ranked Pandora among the first years.
"Quick question," Mark asked, briefly intervening in the conversation, "who are the other Platoon leaders?"
The answer was obvious, but Mark asked to remind Attia they didn't just have Chiffon's platoon to worry about.
"Aside from myself, the others who will be leading platoons Marin, Cero, and Attia here to name a few," Chiffon answered.
"I see the competition will be fierce," Mark commented as Attia causally made a note of that.
It was ultimately a reminder that Chiffon's platoon wouldn't be their only competition.
"Hah," Ganessa boasted proudly, "with the number one first-year Pandora there is no way you can lose. Chiffon and I are all that is needed."
"Maybe, but the point of this exercise isn't about one-on-one combat," Lelouch began sagely. "But learning to work together as a single unit and coordinate your efforts against a common foe, because defeating a Nova is unquestionably a group effort. The number of Pandora that can go toe-to-toe with a single Nova are few, and they rarely survive the engagement."
"That's true," Chiffon said in agreement.
"Teamwork is the objective lesson of this exercise, so overall team performance and how the second years lead them will be deciding factors for evaluation at the end, I believe," Lelouch said before he finished his explanation. "Most Nova Clashes in recent memory were resolved through the coordinated efforts of multiple Platoons of Pandora, so that is the first lesson being taught here. This is also the kind of training our seniors in the fourth year reserves frequently participate in."
Chiffon giggled, "All the more reason we'll win."
"We'll see about that," Attia retorted.
While annoyed, Both Lelouch and Mark shared an exasperated sigh at the fact what he had just said had gone over both girls' heads.
Fast forward two weeks, and in spite, Attia and Chiffon treating the training exercise as a competition, Lelouch, after a little digging, had learned more details about the location where the training exercise would take place, after obtaining a map he began familiarizing himself with the terrain. It was moments like these that gave Lelouch a much-needed break from the hellish physical regimen he was being put through by their training instructor; Yu-Mi Kim, as part of his so-called punishment, however, Lelouch knew they were merely using this incident as an excuse to enforce those training exercises to get him into better shape…
Enough so he could at least keep pace with his partner without completely tiring himself out.
To support their partners, Limiters typically followed their partners into battle via APCs. However, circumstances may require them to follow on foot, and as such, it was required that they maintain a certain level of physical fitness, requirements that Lelouch's underwhelming lack of and had a bad habit of avoiding whenever he could get away with it.
For the training exercise, the group had chosen a remote area near the city of Ōmachi in Nagano Prefecture of Area 11. They were near the base of the Japanese Alps with Lake Kizaki within view from their location upon the mountain ranges with miles of lush forest around them.
"Alright, listen up," Yu-Mi Kim declared, for this occasion, she had traded her standard attire for the black and magenta battledress worn by active duty Pandora. "As you all know, there are eight platoons of Pandora taking part, your platoon shall be led by Chiffon Fairchild, with Ticy Phenyl as her second in command."
Lelouch stood among the assembled first year Pandora and Limiters, but among those he was familiar with were Ganessa, Suzaku and Satellizer.
"The exercise will begin at eighteen hundred hours. Your objective is to locate eight Type-S Nova dummies concealed and scattered around the training area," Yu-Mi explained. "We will grade you on the time you take to complete the task, and your ability to coordinate your fellow Pandora, so effective teamwork is what we're looking for."
I don't think anyone else might see it that way, Lelouch thought sighing internally.
Lelouch had examined maps of their location and had determined a dozen potential locations of the target dummies, which according to what he had heard were three times smaller than an actual Type-S Nova, the same type that had appeared during the eighth Nova clash four years ago.
I imagine the small size was to make them both harder to find and easy to identify as training dummies so as not to panic any locals that may stumble across them while hiking in the mountains, Lelouch deduced.
They were far enough away from the city that Lelouch doubted that it would be a problem, and yet there was a remote possibility of some civilian entering the area to snoop around. There was a lot of prestige that came with enlisting as a Pandora to the point that they were often treated like celebrities, so it was likely the academy wanted to play it safe to avoid unnecessary trouble.
Like most of the Limiters, Lelouch wore a dark green battle uniform while the Pandora among them wore their traditional magenta Volt texture uniforms, although Lelouch wondered if their footwear would be a problem for this terrain.
"I'll be monitoring your progress after I leave; in case of emergencies we have provided each platoon with a satellite phone including rations and supplies needed to camp out at night here in the mountains."
With that Yu-Mi Kim boarded the transport that brought them out to the mountains, however around the same time seven other VTOL transports lifted off from the other clearings where the remaining Pandora platoons had been dropped off. Once Yu-Mi Kim had departed, cheery Chiffon turned to the members of her platoon. "Ok everyone let's get set up so we can win this!" Chiffon exclaimed cheerfully.
Everyone, except Ticy and Lelouch, looked at Chiffon uncertain how to respond. With a sigh, Lelouch decided he should take charge of the situation.
"Alright let's get these tents set up, the weather forecast says there will be rain tonight," Lelouch said before pointing to the group. "How many of you have set up a tent before?"
When only Suzaku raised a hand, Lelouch let out an exasperated sigh and began delegating tasks.
"Ok Suzaku, I want you to take a group and show them how to set up a tent."
Suzaku nodded his head.
"I'll take another group to do the same, so we can help one another establish camp faster."
As Suzaku and Lelouch each took a group to teach them on how to build a tent while assisting the others in erecting theirs simultaneously Chiffon was left pouting over how Lelouch got the platoon to follow his orders.
"How come they listened to him?"
"Maybe you came on a little too strong," Ticy offered with a sympathetic pat on Chiffon's shoulder.
The only one not taking part was Satellizer because she wanted to stubbornly set up her own tent despite not knowing how. Further complicating matters was the fact she would likely have to share a tent with someone, a fact that bothered her.
After instructing his group into completing set up of their first tent, Lelouch noticed Satellizer. He had a feeling this would happen, over the past two weeks he had investigated into the incident that had taken place at East Genetics; apparently, she had always been standoffish. However, it had all come to a head when a Limiter; Levon Brooks had visited her at her dorm room, no one knew what exactly had transpired between the two. Only that she went berserk and the second year Pandora's sharing the dorm had attempted to subdue her, but fighting escalated to the point that the third years had to get involved.
To avoid a similar incident reoccurring, he had prepared in advance. As far as he was concerned so long as Satellizer followed orders, he didn't require her to conform.
"Here," Lelouch said, dropping off a tent to accommodate one, "I suspected you aren't the type to share a tent with someone so I figured this is more preferable for you?"
Satellizer was slightly surprised by the offering, but she accepted it.
"Yes, this is more preferable," Satellizer replied a little relieved before offering a silent thank you with a nod of her head.
Chiffon, having witnessed the exchange, was stunned.
"He even got the Untouchable Queen to follow along...to some extent," Chiffon gaped feeling more ineffective as a leader.
"I think that is Lelouch being prepared if you consider how much of a lone wolf she supposedly is," Ticy pointed out.
"I guess so," Chiffon said knowing the kind of reputation Satellizer had attached to her before coming to West Genetics and what she made known upon arriving. "Lelouch thinks she has a bad case of haphephobia, a fear of being touched."
"Well if that's true it would explain a lot," Ticy said in agreement.
The pair had observed Satellizer since her arrival two weeks ago and wondered if Lelouch might be onto something. Satellizer had made it a point to avoid physical contact with everyone and anyone, particularly other Limiters, and those who tried to touch her seemingly caused her to overreact violently.
"Talk about being crazy prepared," Chiffon mused.
Elsewhere the other platoons were also working on setting up their respective camps, but because most Pandora came from wealthy and aristocratic families, none of knew had much experience when it came to setting up tents and were desperately trying to recall their six boot camp training. Granted most did during their basic training before formally enrolling in West Genetics, but they were generally small and easy to set up traditional tents. The tents they were provided were much bigger designed to accommodate two and provide plenty of room to move around inside and stand up within them.
Their large size made set up difficult, especially for one person, practically demanding that two people work together.
Elizabeth and Attia's camps were struggling slightly, but others like Cero and Arnett's camps were coming along but not as quick as Chiffon and Ticy's encampments.
Two encampments were worthy of taking note of, and their tents were seemingly coming up as fast as Chiffon and Ticy's platoons were.
"Good work, now Virginia could you help Tyrol and the others?"
Their platoon leader was a second year, seventh-ranked among them, Pandora of sixteen with short sandy brown hair and blue eyes with a fair skin complexion.
"Sure thing Marin," replied Virginia to their leader Marin Maxwell.
Virginia was among the first year Pandora possessing mid-back length green hair and brown eyes dressed in the standard Pandora uniform while her friend and fellow classmate Tyrol, a fifteen-year-old with shoulder-length black hair and blue eyes was working with another Pandora to set up another tent.
Her ally, best friend, roommate, and second in command of her own platoon; Ingrid Bernstein was also working alongside her Limiter and her platoon to establish their camp. Ingrid, currently ranked eighth among the second years, possessed back-length red hair and bluish-green eyes with a fair skin complexion.
"We'll be ready in time for the exercise to begin," Ingrid remarked to her Limiter, Leo who seemed confident in their chances.
The evening eventually rolled in, and once the clock hit six pm the exercise began with teams of Pandora deployed at the command of their platoon leaders, but Chiffon despite her troubles trying to be a leader, at first her group had the advantage of having someone as strategically gifted as Lelouch. Inside one of the tents where a table had been set up with Lelouch examining a map of the area while he had a walkie-talkie on the table next to him. Suzaku, Ticy, and Chiffon were inside the tent with him, but all four were wearing yellow raincoats because it had begun raining outside shortly after seven.
"This is Alpha group we have located and are engaging a Type-S dummy," the walkie-talkie spoke.
"Roger that," Lelouch said, picking up the radio before speaking into it, "confirm the location and proceed to the next recommended location of the third target."
"Two dummies already," Suzaku said impressed to see Lelouch hadn't lost his touch when it came to strategy, "I am impressed you were able to deduce their locations."
Lelouch grinned, "It's merely a matter of examining the layout of the area and determining where they could've hidden the eight dummies. I suspected they had to be placed in small easily concealed valleys or ravines where hiding them so they couldn't be spotted from the air as we were flown into the area, so it was a matter of also considering the locations with heavy vegetation for better concealment locations."
"We've got this in the bag," Chiffon replied with a bright smile.
"At this rate, we'll be finished by nine?" Ticy said considering they had found two dummies within two hours of the exercises start.
Lelouch smiled before he offered, "well we could just get five and leave the rest for the other teams since they are supposed to learn the value of teamwork."
"Nah we should teach why you can't beat this alliance of Chiffon's and Ticy's platoon.
"This is Bravo Group," the walkie-talkie chimed, "we reached target location, but I guess the Untouchable Queen beat us there first."
"She arrived faster than I expected," Lelouch mused before speaking into the radio, "Copy that, change course and hunt down target four. Leave target three for Satellizer."
"Understood," the Pandora replied.
"Well, that is hardly surprising, the Untouchable Queen is going off on her own," Chiffon commented upon seemingly disappointed by her lack of willingness to work with a team.
"Thankfully, I anticipated that and planned accordingly. I provided Satellizer with a map of the locations I suspected where the Nova dummies would be at. Given her competitive nature, I knew she would be eager to engage as quickly as possible, it seems my suspicions were correct when I asked her earlier, she's a real go-getter."
Ticy was surprised, "Wait so basically you asked the Untouchable Queen?"
"After she had her tent set up, I inquired if she would be taking part in our meeting, but Satellizer said no and was determined to hunt down two of the enemy dummies because she wanted to go to bed early. Anticipating this, I decided to make use of her as the tip of the spear, henceforth the map I gave her." Lelouch admitted with a devious smile to the group.
"You really give me supervillain vibes like those characters in those superhero movies," Chiffon admitted crossing her arms around her waist.
"Yeah I have to agree with that too," Ganessa said arriving as she opened the tent to announce her presence before proudly proclaiming, "I have returned from claiming the head of the first dummy."
Lelouch brushed the supervillain comment aside, "well done Ganessa we have more than enough points to secure victory for us."
"Should I go for the rest," Ganessa offered eagerly with fire in her eyes.
"Hmmm we should leave some for the others," Lelouch replied, but Ganessa and Chiffon were ready to argue with him on that one.
Meanwhile, in her platoon's camp, a frustrated Attia slammed her fists on the table upon finding out Chiffon and Ticy's platoons had found and eliminated three out of the eight target dummies. Mark was trying to calm her down while Elizabeth and her Limiter standing across from her just opposite of the table did the same.
"Calm yourself, Attia, there are still five targets left."
"Knowing Chiffon she's already goading Lelouch to move in on the rest of them, but I," Attia began before shouting, "I REFUSE TO LOSE!"
Elizabeth, Mark, and even Elizabeth's own limiter were shocked by how determined Attia was to prove herself the better of Lelouch.
This kind of reminds me of the time when I enacted that plan to make her my partner, Mark commented internally because he had manipulated events and turned Attia's own manipulations on their head that the pair became partners as a result.
Around the same time as the rain began to pour down harder, Ingrid and Marin were currently in the middle of having a strategy meeting themselves inside their own tent.
"Chiffon and Ticy's platoons have already claimed three dummies. I didn't think they would be able to track them down so quickly," Marin acknowledged while trying to do something to score some points for her platoon and Ingrid's. "I guess the rumors of Chiffon's new limiter being a very devious young man is true."
"What makes you say that?"
"According to what I heard, he is a very resourceful young man who thinks outside the box, so he likely studied the maps and deduced the likely locations of the dummies."
"How could they deal with them so quickly, we fought them before in simulators haven't we?" Ingrid asked, confused by the ease the dummies were being eliminated.
Marin wrapped her arms around her waist before contemplating a response.
"I don't know if the objective is just to track them down and eliminate them or they aren't combat-capable dummies to avoid any accidental civilian casualties from mountain climbers wandering into this area since this area is a popular spot for outdoorsmen."
"Are you saying their platoon likely took advantage of this by breaking up into individual squads to cover more ground?"
Marin nodded in confirmation, "probably which has allowed them to score three points in quick succession. Nevertheless, we must press on, Ingrid I need you and half of the platoon on this ridge within the next hour."
After that statement, Marin pointed to an area on the map they had prompting a question from her best friend and roommate.
"Can we move our platoon there fast enough? What if the others are already converging upon that ridge," Ingrid asked.
"If we want to have any chance to beat the other platoons we have no choice, although this may be a training exercise we are expected to treat this as a real combat situation," Marin explained. "We're supposed to spend a week out here, so I imagine conducting search and destroy is merely the beginning. I am sure in the days to come they'll introduce combat-capable dummies since we'll likely eliminate them before they can pose a risk to some wandering tourist."
"This isn't a competition, right?"
"Officially it isn't," Marin acknowledged, "but what we do can affect our secret rankings. Our advantage here is that we aren't fighting Pandora, but dummy Nova. However, while this is just a way for the first years to get useful experience, we must not only treat this as a real battle, but we must do what we can to teach the first-years how to survive. Our organization is sustained by rules and the natural order between people to be effective."
"You're right Marin," Ingrid offered with a smile, "That is why everyone respects you because they can tell you are trying your best. I'll follow your plan so keep pushing us forward."
"You flatter me Ingrid, but I don't have any talent," Marin admitted. "My family was killed by the Nova when I was a child, so I worked hard to become a Pandora. But, unlike you and the others, I am not that compatible with my Stigmata. Compared to Cero, Attia, Elizabeth, Arnett, and even that beast Chiffon, I am basically an average person. I barely passed the Pandora aptitude test, and even then, my stigmata causes side effects. That is why I work so hard, so I don't get kicked out of the academy."
"Marin," Ingrid began, "you're wrong; you are talented."
"You have the talent that can push others to work twice as hard, including me, and remember you are the seventh-ranked Pandora among the second years. Even with your disadvantage, you accomplished that, which is why I respect you greatly for that."
Marin was surprised, but she smiled in return.
"Thank you, Ingrid."
A distance away from Marin's camp as Ingrid and her platoon were going to move out to cover more ground with numbers a pair of Pandora at their camp were on watch duty. It was unlikely they would run into trouble out here it was best to be the safe side since no one knew if someone would wander into their camp since there was a lot of forest and mountains all around them.
"Geez these outdoor exercises are killing me, and I am soaked to the bone," a Pandora complained.
"I know, but maybe we'll be finished with it soon. I heard some of the other teams got most of the dummies so far."
"Well that's good, but we're going to be out here for a week, right?"
"Here," the Pandora said, offering a candy bar, "maybe this might help you through the night."
"Thanks," the other Pandora said happily accepting the candy bar, and her friend who began opening another one was about to partake of one when she saw something behind her causing her to freeze.
At that moment a real Nova beheaded the unsuspecting Pandora causing the other Pandora to panic and flee, but it was in vain as she was quickly decapitated by an authentic towering Type-S Nova. It was three times bigger than the dummies they had been hunting, and its face was vaguely humanoid with no eyes, but the rest of its body was oddly shaped.
The deaths of the two Pandora alerted the rest of the encampment, but it was too late for them.
A young man with black hair had hurried into her tent just as she was about to rest for a bit, but upon seeing the panicked look upon her limiter's face, she quickly snapped to attention.
"What's wrong, Albert!"
"It's a Nova, but it's not a fake one it's a real Type-S!"
News began to quickly spread to the other platoons, but the closest to Marin's encampment was Chiffon and Ticy's platoon not counting Ingrid who had likely received word of what happened.
"A real Nova, here?" Lelouch grimaced upon receiving the news while Chiffon, Ticy, Ganessa, and Suzaku were present.
"An entire platoon has been wiped out, which means it must've appeared right on top of them," Ticy added.
"So they were caught completely off guard then," Suzaku said, feeling sympathetic for those killed.
"What's the situation now?" Chiffon asked, causing Ticy to relay what she heard when they were contacted by the observation command center.
"Fourth-year students from West Genetics combined with additional reinforcements from the staff are being mobilized and should be here within twenty minutes. Marin Maxwell's platoon due to their proximity to the platoon that was wiped out is currently moving to engage the Nova, but they're only half strength while Ingrid's half is doubling back to support her."
"Likely to stop the Nova from making its way over to the city nearby," Lelouch replied calmly. "And I assume we have been asked to wait on standby?"
"Yes, we have."
"Lelouch if they go in then," Suzaku began, but Lelouch didn't let him finish.
"I know they'll get slaughtered. Marin will likely have the first years form pairs, but none of them have much experience, especially those becoming Limiters for the first time and same goes for the other platoon including ours. At best I estimate they'll hold their own against the Nova for five minutes at best before they start incurring casualties leading to panic and a collapse in their ranks. Marin is also the seventh-ranked second-year Pandora, but I heard she suffers from a low compatibility issue that would be barely able to slow down a Type-S on her own. Even if Ingrid somehow makes it in time their chances of survival are meager," Lelouch said as he weighed the likelihood of their survival chances.
Without High-End skills like Accel Turn, there was no way to cover the distance in time, let alone defeat Type-S. However, there was one among West Genetics second-year Pandora that had High-End Skills; His partner Chiffon and her Illusion Turn. With it, she could cover the distance in a blink of an eye, and buy Marin the time she needed for her platoon to disengage to a safe distance. But it would essentially be asking her face off against the Type-S alone, and the last person to do that was back during the 8th clash was Kazuha Aoi gave her life to take down a Type-S developing High-End Skills like Accel and Tempest Turn on the fly. It was Marin's only hope, but could he bring himself to ask it of her?
"As the situation stands we can't sit around," Chiffon pointed out.
"I agree since the Nova could just come after us since we aren't too far away," Lelouch said knowing to wait for reinforcements wasn't going to be an option especially if the Nova came after them.
"Then we are going to help?" Suzaku asked hopefully they could do something to help.
"Yes, but gather everyone first," Lelouch remarked grimly. If they legged it and Marin was able to hold out long enough, they could make it time to support them.
Within a few minutes, Suzaku and Ganessa had gathered the first year students and limiters under their command outside of the tent Lelouch, Chiffon and Ticy have been having a meeting in.
"Thank you for gathering," Lelouch said to the gathering, "as I am sure you have all heard a Type-S Nova has appeared and wiped out one of the platoons in a surprise attack."
Lelouch studied the surprise expressions among some of his fellow students.
"Reinforcements will arrive from the academy within twenty minutes, and there isn't enough Pandora at the observation base to assist, but I don't know if they will get involved or not," Lelouch remarked before asking. "Your platoon leaders Chiffon and Ticy intend to assist Marin and her platoon to at least stall for time until reinforcements arrive. Therefore I am asking if there are any among you who are willing to join us?"
There were some surprise and mutter gasps mixed with whispered discussion among the first year Pandora and Limiters.
"Know that I will not force any of you to take part, but those who do not, I will ask that you prepare for the arrival of any wounded Pandora and Limiters. They'll likely be in need of immediate medical attention," Lelouch pointed before saying further. "You can fight and protect your fellow classmates or stay here and tend to the wounded as they arrive because we'll send them here since one of our objectives is to save as many lives as we can. I won't blame any of you if you do not wish to fight with us, and no one else shall because I know we're asking a lot of you. So are there any among you prepared to fight and save your classmates, just remember responding to situations like these is what you enrolled in West Genetics for."
Lelouch allowed an uneasy silence to settle over, but within a minute, Satellizer, Ganessa, Trish McKenzie, Audrey Duval, and Aika Takeuchi stepped forward, and soon almost every member of their platoon also stepped forward. Chiffon, Suzaku, Ticy, and Lelouch were surprised by how many Lelouch had convinced to fight with them.
"I think I speak for most of us when I say," Ganessa began with a bold smile, "let's go kick that Nova's ass."
Lelouch almost chuckled at that one, "very well then I expect each of you to choose a Limiter to temporarily pair up if you wish to do so. The Pandoras will be acting decoys to its attacks; mobility is life in this battle, so Limiters are to focus on keeping their Pandoras free of the Type-S's Freezing field. Chiffon and Ticy, you're our heavy hitters. Ticy you're on Striker duty, when you see an opening move in, smash its armor and expose the core, then withdraw evening if your attack fails to connect. Once the core is exposed, Chiffon will move in and try to destroy it." Chiffon and Ticy nodded.
"I'm going to pin down that Type-S with the strongest Freezing Field I can manifest, hopefully, I can immobilize the bastard. Suzaku I'm leaving it to you to punch a hole in that thing's Freezing so Ticy and Chiffon can get a shot at it."
"Leave to me."
Lelouch turned back to others. "I'm sorry to ask this of all of you who choose to fight, but its best way to ensure you'll survive. If you find yourselves unable to fight, then try to help the wounded withdraw from the battlefield if you can. We'll march upon the Nova once you are all ready. Now time's a wasting."
A/N: the next chapter shall be Lelouch's equivalent to Shinjuku Ghetto, but instead of Britannia their enemy is a Type-S Nova.
"Messiahs have to perform miracles to be recognized" – Lelouch as Zero.
There is little I can say without spoiling what will happen in the next chapter, but will their intervention be enough to prevent a bloody massacre?
I have also put up a new poll on my profile, a curiosity poll meant to gauge interest because I am contemplating having Chiffon, Ganessa, Windy May and Amelia Evans become romantically involved in a harem, but aside from Elizabeth, I am pondering I am wondering about anyone else. I don't plan on going too big, but its an idea I am merely toying with. The poll consists of characters who either don't have a Limiter and those rarely used in some pairings.
I may keep it to those four, but if conditions are right and I do decide on a harem for Lelouch, then I might be willing to expand to seven at max.
Anyway read and review, and let me know what you think.