A/N: Uhhh...hi? Two years eh? Whoops. My apologies for not updating literally anything, but I haven't found the time. And when I did have the time, I didn't have the motivation to do anything at all relating to fanfic.
Hope everyone is doing okay with the pandemic and all that. I've personally been off work for 5 months now, and it was kinda rough, but I think I may have gotten the mojo back and flowing finally.
This chapter is pretty short, and I do apologize for that, but it's whatever. A chapter is better than no chapter after 2 years, am I right?
Anyways, enjoy chapter 15!
Also if you enjoy, don't hesitate to leave a review. I do read each of them and tale them to heart.
PSA: I don't own any of this, it's merely being used for entertainment purposes and all that jazz.
Chapter 15: Assemble the Troops
"I see." Cornelia mused, looking at the assembled group in front of her.
Both of Lelouch's knights as well as the three other members of his personal squad were standing in front of her desk, and she was just awaiting the arrival of her brother.
Guilford and Darlton were waiting out in the hall, guarding the door to ensure that no nosy maid or soldier decided to eavesdrop on the conversation going on inside, and while they were indeed curious about what the princess was talking about, they knew it was none of their business.
Jeremiah had just finished his explanation to Cornelia on the current state of affairs and that they were now in the know for all future plans regarding their rebellious acts.
"As you can see, your highness, plans are moving along just as predicted. Your brother should be making his appearance to the resistance groups in the near future."
"Thank you Gottwald." Cornelia replied with a tired smile.
Her conversation with Lelouch earlier had been weighing on her mind, and while she was pleased that he had finally begun walking the road to recovery, it didn't mean that her actions and his reactions didn't leave her mentally drained.
Without any preamble, Lelouch opened the door, his eyes alight with a fire she hadn't seen since the day when he went to confront his father about the murder of his mother.
"Excellent. Everyone is here now." he stated, a small grin on his face as he closed the door behind him.
"Now then, I believe Jeremiah has filled you in on the missing particulars? I'll be departing for the tailor downtown. They've got my uniform for the debut prepared, and I need to go and pick it up. It should be quite a lively week here."
"Quite right your highness. There's still much to prepare in order to ensure success in our mission." Jeremiah replied, bowing slightly.
"Do we have a timeline on when General Darlton or Lord Guilford will be brought into the fold of the plan?" Villetta asked, glancing between the two royal siblings.
"As of yet, I'm unsure of where their loyalties lie, so I will leave the discretion of the matter up to Cornelia on when to inform them of our plans." The prince mused, lighting a cigar and chuckling at the dark look Cornelia sent his way.
He knew she didn't approve of his habit, but she held her tongue on the matter.
"Well, it will need to be within the week. They'll be sure to know something is up, and as to where their loyalties are, I know that they will not turn us in. They are fully loyal to me, as are my troops.
"All are battle hardened veterans of several campaigns, and they won't turn their backs on their commander. Much like the 5th Ontario is to you, my troops are to me. The time to topple Britannia has come, and we will be the ones there to take the place of leaders to ensure in a new age of prosperity and peace."
Cornelia's speech brought a smile to all their faces.
"Ah, that reminds me your highness," Jeremiah interjected, garnering their attention "Your address to the 5th Ontario Regiment is scheduled to begin in two hours."
"Thank you for reminding me. I'll take care of that after I pick up my costume. I expect to see you both their as well. We need all hands on deck for this. Ensure that we have adequate protection should things go awry. Oh and Cornelia, I'll be taking Darlton with me downtown. I'm sure that you won't mind considering you have both my knights here."
With a flourish, Lelouch departed the office, heading into town to make a certain pickup.
"What preparations have been made in order to contain the flow of information should someone in 5th Ontario have second thoughts of the rebellion?" Cornelia asked, looking to the two knights for clarification.
Jeremiah started to field the question posed to the both of them.
"Well your highness, several censors are in place to ensure that all internet communications are monitored before being sent out, due to the fact that the OSI will more than likely be taking a higher than normal interest in the situation that will be unfolding.
"We've also accessed the OSI databases through some rather…underhand approaches to keep tabs on their agents to prevent an incursion into our territory once we begin operations."
"In regards to protection during the event with the 5th Ontario," Villetta continued, smoothly taking over from her fellow knight "We have several Ashford agents who will be present in the ballroom where the speech will take place. On top of that, the Zero Squad will be on standby with Knightmares at the ready should anything get out of hand.
"Ashford troops will also be on standby with APC's and police cars should we need to set up a perimeter should anyone actually get out with the intent on spreading rumors or attempting to alert the authorities to our plans."
Nodding, Cornelia knew that the two of them had things well in hand for what would be happening that evening.
The pretense of a party was a viable ruse, and would serve their purpose nicely.
While she nor Lelouch were party animals, they would be playing host to his regiment as a well deserved reward to finishing the Africa campaign and that would be the time to strike.
Troops with high morale and steadfast loyalty were much easier to convince than troops with no morale.
Roughly two and a half hours later
"I assume everyone is in position?" Lelouch mused, glancing slightly at Jeremiah as they leisurely strolled the ballroom.
"Yes your highness. The men that Reuben promised us are all standing by, as is the Zero Squad. We merely await your announcement and if required, will move in on the unruly parties."
"Excellent. Now is as good a time as any then." he smiled, bounding up the steps onto the stage and standing at the microphone.
Clearing his throat, all eyes turned to him as a hush fell over the crowd.
Grinning at his troops, all of them garnered in full dress uniforms, he lit another cigar, watching as smiles came to a few faces and a couple laughed.
The ice was broken. Now, it was onto the easy part.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the Black Knights, I welcome you all to the Imperial Ballroom, Tokyo branch. Having you here is a pleasure for both myself, and Princess Cornelia.
"The sands of Africa are behind us, and I'm proud that we were able to finish the mission.
"You all fought like lions in the scorching sun and the endless dunes in order to bring the rabble that was the Middle Eastern Federation into the fold of Britannia."
He paused here, as cheers erupted through the room. Holding up his hands with a smile, Lelouch continued,
"Tonight is your night. A night to unwind and relax. Even though I may be your commanding officer, I wouldn't turn down the offer for drinks with any one of you at any time. I may even foot the bill if I like you enough.
"Take heart in the fact, that in my eyes, you are an elite regiment. I wouldn't trade you even if I had the entirety of the Knights of the Round at my beck and call."
As easily as the carefree atmosphere descended, it was shaken at the next six words.
"But, we have a new mission."
A collective inhale spread throughout the room as the assembled troops held their breath.
"This mission, will not be easy, but I have faith that you will be able to complete it. Now, I want the truth from each of you. Not as an Imperial Prince, but as your commanding officer. How many of you have been wronged by Britannia?"
Confusion replaced trepidation on their faces, as murmurs started going around, mostly wondering what the hell he was talking about.
Seeing this, Lelouch smiled, and raised his hand.
"I, have been wronged by Britannia. I was cast out from my family for questioning the circumstances of my mothers death, and the lackadaisical way in which the investigation was performed.
"A child of only ten years of age, cast out by the emperor and exiled to Japan to die when the world erupted into war.
"However, I survived."
The confused troops looked on, as both their executive officer and aide de camp raised their hands as well.
"I was wronged by Britannia, for falling for their lies and slander" Jeremiah stated, glancing down "They preyed on my weakness, and used it to twist me to their purposes as a tool. Nothing more. Not a human, not a man. Just a tool."
All throughout the room, people began raising their hands. Spouses of members began to as well, thinking of either their own, or their friends forced marriages in order to gain political standings.
Unsurprisingly, every member who was classified as a number in his regiment, put their hands up, determination on their faces and a few tears due to the thoughts at what Britannia had done to their countries and freedoms.
Lelouch spoke again, his voice hard with no room for argument
"You all have suffered under the tyrannical oppression of Britannia, and it's foolish leader. I, am here to change that. I've had enough of the constant war for no reason. I've had enough of the lies upon lies that Britannia has been built on.
"I say, that I've had enough, and I'm not going to stand for it one minute longer. I will not sully myself anymore as a pawn of this dictatorial regime, and neither should any of you."
Angered murmurs arose from the crowd as they nodded in agreement with him.
Throwing his arms out to the side, Cornelia rolled her eyes in the back of the room.
Her brother, always the one for theatrics.
"Then I give you a choice! Join me, and we shall overthrow Britannian rule. No more will they threaten the peace of the world. No more will you be pawns in the game for the Emperors amusement. Join me, and we will right the wrongs that have been put into the system so that your children and grandchildren will be able to grow up in a peaceful time!
"We shall no longer be constrained by the whims of the Imperial Palace! No more will sons be ripped from families, no more will fathers or brothers be sent off into needless combat! I say, that Britannian oppression ends, here and now!
"Join me, and fight for the freedom of the future!"
His voice, which had stayed somewhat neutral through the entire procession had swelled into a crescendo of pure anger.
The hatred in his voice was burning white hot, and his eyes were alight with a fire that most had never seen, but the cacophonous cheers and shouts that arose from his troops was all he needed.
"I ask you, all of you, who will fight with me?"
"I will." Jeremiah replied, stepping forward.
"As will I." Villetta continued, also taking a step forward.
"You'll have my cooperation as well." Cornelia shouted, walking through the massed troops that parted for her as she moved to the stage.
"I'm with you all the way Princess." Darlton smiled, as both he and Guilford stepped onto the stage in agreement.
Soon enough, every member of the 5th Ontario was shouting in agreement, and Lelouch let his eyes sweep over the room carefully.
Everyone seemed to be in agreement with him, with no dissenters in the ranks.
Breathing a sigh of relief, he wrapped up his speech.
"I thank each and every one of you for your support. Of course, you must not allow any information to slip, as what we're going to be doing is basically treason, and we all know the punishment for that. Now please, this party is in your honor, enjoy yourselves and have a good evening."
Once again, cheers arose as the small crowd of royals and nobility stepped off the stage and into the conglomeration below as the music came back on, once again lightening the mood as the drinks began to flow.
"Keep an eye on everyone here. I'm going to my study for a breath of fresh air. If anyone gets too drunk or unruly, send them to me for discipline." the prince muttered, as both he and Cornelia left the room in the capable hands of their subordinates .
Once out of the hustle and bustle of the ballroom, Lelouch let the exhaustion show through as he rubbed his eyes, taking a deep pull from his still burning cigar.
"I think that was the best outcome that we could've ever hoped for." he muttered, running a hand along his chin like he was stroking a beard.
"Agreed. You handled it well. There's some Schneizel in you. You've got a gift for being able to write speeches that could move mountains." Cornelia replied, lightly bumping her shoulder against his.
They entered his study, and walked out to the balcony, the quiet hum from the city below providing ambient noise as the pair leaned on the half wall surrounding the balcony.
"Timing is going to be critical, and free time is going to be hard to come by once this all actually kicks off." Lelouch stated, watching some ash drift off out of sight into the night air.
"I know, but it will be worth it in the long run. This will mark a turning point in the world." she muttered, leaning her head against his shoulder and promting him to put his arm around her and pull her close.
"Moments like this will be few and far between. Let's make the most of them while we still can." he whispered, placing a kiss on her cheek.
She sighed, nuzzling deeper into his embrace as the pair stood there in silence just taking solace in the fact that they would be there for each other, and nothing could hold them apart.
Several Days Later
"Everything is prepared, correct?" Lelouch asked, his modulated voice amplified out of the helmet, and his question directed at Villetta.
"Yes your highness. Connection has been established to the de facto mayor of the Shinjuku Ghetto and we've got confirmation from our server room that the JLF is listening in. Once you unmute yourself and click the camera, Zero will make his debut."
"It's all falling into place." he thought, smiling under his helmet as she closed the small room that he had sequestered himself in.
Using a VPN, he was able to mask his location but allow them to know he was in Japan.
But there was next to no way that they could know that he was in the palace.
Clicking the required things, the image that greeted him was of a man in his late fifties with thinning hair, glasses, and a threadbare suit and tie.
This was Shiraki Nobu.
"Good afternoon Nobu-san. I trust you're doing well?"
"I'm fine. And may I ask, who are you?" the man asked, eyeing the masked character strangely.
"My name is Zero. I've been the benefactor that wished to meet with you." Lelouch replied smoothly, folding his hands in front of him.
"A benefactor hm? I assume you're a Britannian, so why would you want to help us lowly numbers?"
"I am indeed a Britannian, and as to why I want to help you, I know there are resistance groups in the ghettos. I merely want to word passed on the back channels that someone is willing to fight against Britannia, and that we would like to recruit people who are also willing to fight for a just cause." Lelouch stated, leaning forward onto his elbows.
"Well, what if nobody wants to join you?" the older man asked, folding his arms in front of him.
"Then my promises from before still stand. I won't renege on the medical or food supplies being sent to you.
"My cause is to free Japan from the rule of the Imperial throne. To cast off the collar and shackles that bind this country and to.."
"Spare me the political bullshit Zero." Shiraki interrupted, appearing unamused "If your supplies make it here, I may consider your request and have information passed on to contacts. That's all."
"That's all I ask." Lelouch smiled widely "The deliveries will be arriving in two days time. I thank you for your time Nobu-san. Have a pleasant day."
The feed went dark, and he placed a piece of tape over the camera before removing his helmet.
Opening the door that adjoined to his office, he stripped off the costume, tugging his pants on as the door opened to admit Villetta back inside.
She stumbled a moment before recovering and closing the door, turning back with a light blush dusting her cheeks.
"I assume everything went to plan your highness?" she asked, allowing her eyes to alternate between looking at his uncovered torso and the carpet off to the side.
"Yes it did. Are you enjoying the show here?" Lelouch replied, chuckling as he pulled on his dress shirt and tucked it in.
"Of course." she mused, looking at him and smiling lightly.
He walked over to her and kissed her lips gently, relishing in the feeling of her lips on his.
The moment was lovely, but he pulled away far too soon for her tastes.
"They're expecting us in two days. Have the trucks loaded and prepared." he instructed, as she bowed in acknowledgement before leaving to go see that all was ready.
Things were finally in motion.
This was the first tiny step to toppling an empire.
Jeremiah stepped in next, thankfully waiting until he had finished dressing, to offer his thoughts.
"How long do you think it will be before the JLF contact us?"
Musing, Lelouch shrugged.
"I have no idea. I assume they'd wait until at least the trucks arrive to show that we mean business. They may wait a day after that, or it could be a month. I honestly don't know."
The answer may not have satisfied him, but Jeremiah knew that he was doing the best he could with the materials he'd been given.
"Understood your highness."
Once again, Lelouch was left alone, able to do some paperwork that he had been neglecting.
After all, he was the Sub-Viceroy and was required to do paperwork.
Some of that, was authorizing the rebuild of the Shinjuku Ghetto as well as offering better jobs to the numbers around Tokyo, but other forms were for the tax revenue for the country that was being sent to the homeland.
However, upon closer reflection of the numbers, there were several glaring discrepancies that nobody could miss.
"Well…nobody but Clovis that is." Lelouch thought, putting the form off to the side and writing a note to meet with the minister of internal affairs within the next day.
He might have just found another ally to his crusade of justice.
The Next Day
"Minister, I'm glad that you could take the time to meet with me today." Lelouch smiled, raising to his feet and shaking the other mans hand.
"Of course Sub-Viceroy. I can always make time for you." Duke Rory Lawson stated, taking the seat that was offered to him "To what do I owe the pleasure your highness?"
"Well, I was going over the tax revenue sheets for the month yesterday and found some…odd numbers. Would you happen to know anything about that?" Lelouch questioned, passing the forms to him.
Any type of poker face the man had instantly vanished at the sight of the paperwork, sweat starting to bead on his brow as his eyes unfocused for a second.
"Got you!" Lelouch smirked, tenting his fingers as the Duke began to sputter.
"Your highness, I fail to see what's so odd about this."
"Do you? Well, it appears that tax revenue has been steadily skimmed from the top of the budget. I had this chalked up to Clovis' spending for parties, but since I've been here, the numbers have stayed steady. It appears that we're missing a few million pounds of revenue per year.
"I'm well aware that the NAC is in charge of these numbers, and I doubt a man as highly educated as yourself would fail to notice the skimming of that much money from the budget."
Leaning back, Lelouch smiled as the man across from the desk allowed his face to fall and his eyes to rest on the floor.
He sighed, and then spoke.
"Arms deals and hush money. The arms deals to fund the Eleven resistance movement, funneled through the Six Houses of Kyoto to the resistance groups around the country, and the hush money to myself and several other members of Internal Affairs."
"What this is, is tantamount to treason against the Britannian Empire." Lelouch stood, walking over to the window and looking out at the settlement below.
"I'm aware of that your highness, but may I speak freely here?" Duke Lawson stated, and getting a small nod, he continued "Myself and the staff below who have gotten the bribes have seen enough to know that Britannia is wrong in their ways, and that we will not abide and stand by while wanton slaughter is going on.
"We work to try and free Area 11 from the Britannian fold, and even though it is treason, it's the right thing to do."
Letting the words mull over in his mind, Lelouch opened his desk and pulled out two cigars, handing one to the Duke, who looked surprised.
Exhaling a mouthful of smoke, he idly twirled the stogie in his fingers before speaking.
"Minister, did it ever occur to you that people felt the same way as you did? That people are tired of Britannia and the atrocities that they commit on a near daily basis?"
"Of course it did, but what else can we do? I've already dug my own grave for the death sentence that's hanging over my head, now I just need to lie in it." Lawson sighed, taking a draw from the cigar.
The sound that came next, surprised him.
It wasn't a gunshot or anything, but Prince Lelouch was laughing.
"I fail to see what's so amusing your highness."
"You!" Lelouch managed to get out "You're hilarious. Even more dramatic than I am. Minister, you're keeping your job, and your life. If that's truly how you feel of Britannia, I want a man like you on my staff.
"I've despised Britannia, and anyone willing to risk their lives in order to help fund the resistance movement is a friend of mine. Just do a better job fudging the budget. If need be, I can help subsidize the tax income or have money funneled to Kyoto in order to balance the accounting sheets."
The shock on the ministers face was palpable, and he smiled, leaning back and finally at ease.
"You have my thanks Prince Lelouch."
"Think nothing of it, and say nothing to your subordinates about this meeting. If I find out that you've talked, to anyone about this, it will be your head. Do you understand Duke Lawson?" Lelouch questioned.
"Of course your highness. I won't speak a word of this to anyone."
Raising to his feet, which prompted Lawson to do the same, the pair shook hands and parted ways.
Once he was gone, Jeremiah stepped out of the adjoining room, shutting off a recording device as he did so.
"Get all that Jeremiah?" his prince asked, causing the knight to nod.
"Yes your highness. It will be useful blackmail material when properly edited to remove your voice. Should he decide to talk, this will be made public and he will be hung."
"Good. Thank you for your time. That's all I should need you for today." Lelouch told him, before saying "Have the trucks departed for Shinjuku yet?"
A simple shake of the head told him everything he needed to know.
"Inform me the moment they leave. I expect Villetta and the Zero Squad to keep everything in the ghetto well in hand."
Saluting, Jeremiah left the office and began walking slowly down the hallway.
"I'm proud of you, my prince. You've grown so much, and I look forward to following you into hell in the name of justice."