A/N: Good evening all! WOW it's been almost a year since I've updated this story. I apologize for that, but work had been keeping me on my toes for most of the time, and it's still not done. Deployed for several months, on a sail right now, and I have a few more before the year is up. With luck, I'll be in school next year so I might have more time to write.
I'm actually uploading this while at sea, because we have kinda okay wifi on this little patrol boat.
Now then, we're finally starting to get to the end arcs of season 2, and we'll see where this goes from there.
I won't say any more than that. Merely, enjoy chapter 23, and leave a review if you feel like it.
Fall of a Kingdom
"Oh, come to think of it, I never finished my match of chess with Zero." Schneizel mused, threading his fingers together and looking over at the board to the side.
"Zero will not be attending this meeting." Diethard informed us, looking sternly our way "Not until we hear the details of your proposal."
"What a pity that is." the white prince frowned, before recovering his composure and looking my way "Though I'm sure you know myself, Cornelia, and even my aide Kanon by reputation, however, I don't think you know the other young man at this table. Andrew, please, introduce yourself."
I stood from my position, before bowing in their direction, surprising the delegation across from us.
"Good afternoon, I am Major Andrew Dixon, of Princess Cornelia's Royal Guard. I've fought in various battles against yourselves such as Narita, Fukuoka, and Tokyo to name just a few of them. I've sparred against various Knights of the Round and I hold the nobility title as the Duke of Collingwood.
"I look forward to a fruitful exchange of diplomacy in this room."
Sitting back down in my seat, I was greeted with a deadpan glare from Colonel Tohdoh, expressions of displeasure from Tamaki as well as the woman who was across from me, and a look of intrigue from Diethard.
"The major here has been instrumental in how events have played out, and he's not finished yet. He's one of the main reasons that Princess Euphemia survived the SAZ Massacre that was, ultimately, caused by Zero." Schneizel stated, and at once, I was able to deduce his plans.
He was going to discredit Zero, by using the one card at our disposal to do it.
"Oh yeah?!" Tamaki shouted, slamming his palms down on the table "What proof do you have about that?!"
"Tamaki please, let calmer heads prevail through this discussion." Diethard muttered, looking one outburst away from slapping the redhead, before turning his attention to the delegation in front of him.
"And how do you intend to prove that your highness?"
"Zero, is not the type that consults with others, so I'm not surprised that he isn't going to be attending our meeting. He keeps his cards close to his vest, and holds his comrades at an arms length." Schneizel mused, lacing his fingers together.
I couldn't help but watch in rapt fascination at a master manipulator at work.
It was truly a terrifying sight to behold.
Diethard looked slightly taken aback "You speak as if you are intimately familiar with Zero. Why is that?"
"That's because I am. More so than any of you." Schneizel smiled, taking in their flinches "Zero, is our younger brother, Cornelia's and my own."
The Black Knights side of the table looked something akin to goldfish, eyes wide and mouths slightly open.
Even the ever stoic Tohdoh was aghast at the news that was out in the open.
"Zero, your leader, is none other than the former 11th prince of the Holy Britannian Empire, Lelouch vi Britannia. The man who I both loved and feared more than any other." the white prince finished, as we all watched the other side of the table recoil in shock.
"Impossible!" Tohdoh growled, anger plain on his features.
Tamaki was next to speak, disbelief evident in his eyes "You're telling us, that Zero, is a Britannian prince?"
Cornelia shook her head lightly, eying the newsman on the other side "Diethard please, in all this time you never figured that out? Even with all the information you were getting from Jeremiah and Villetta?"
"Your breath is wasted here." Diethard replied with a smile "You cannot sew the seeds of chaos in our ranks with mere rumors. It's not his lineage or history that matters, only the miracles that he has brought to the people here."
"What if they weren't miracles? What if they were merely tricks?" Schneizel stated, looking at me "Major Dixon, could you please elaborate?"
"Certainly, your highness." I automatically chimed, surprised that I was being called on during this event "Zero is the holder of a special power, known as Geass. This power causes the absolute obedience of his subjects, no matter the order he gives. In layman's terms, you can think of it as extreme hypnosis."
"You mean to tell us, that all the miracles he's performed have been due to that power?" Tohdoh asked, as Tamaki stood from his seat.
"You tryin to dis my man Zero? He's got brains and guts and kicks Britannian ass! A prince with Geass Power! Where's the proof of all this bull? Huhh?!"
The door behind them opened as Tamaki was on his little rant, and a man and a woman stepped through.
I recognized the woman as Villetta Nu, an ex-Pureblood soldier and Knightmare pilot. Having seen her in several news broadcasts from before, I was slightly surprised to see her here.
I was also able to deduce the identity of the male who was there, a look of anger and betrayal on his face, as it was Kaname Ohgi, the General Secretary of the Black Knights, who, again, I had seen on several news reports.
"I have the proof." Ohgi stated, pausing as the other members of his group looked at him in surprise "What he's saying is all true. Zero is a former Britannian prince named Lelouch, and he controls people with his Geass power. Nothing more than a con man.
"Zero's been tricking us all along. Using us, like pawns, ever since the very beginning."
"You don't mean this Ohgi…" Tamaki whispered, his mouth agape with horror.
"But if that's really true then…" the woman in front of me trailed off, as Diethard stood up, silencing all protest.
"Then it doesn't matter. It doesn't erase a single thing he's done for us." he bellowed with conviction, before smiling "And if he really does have this Geass power, doesn't that just help us? It's another weapon to use in our fight against Britannia."
"Yes, that would make perfect sense." Ohgi mused, his face hard "If he only used it against our enemies that is."
"Are you saying he used it on us?" the woman across from me asked in horror, and I couldn't help but feel a little bad for her.
"Of course." Cornelia spoke up, getting into the conversation once again "He used Geass to control his own sister Euphemia. He made her slaughter the Elevens in the Special Zone."
I winced at that, the memory of that day dredging up terrible feelings from deep inside me, the memories of watching such a sweet, gentle young woman, my younger sister in everything but blood, laying on the stage bleeding from a gunshot would caused by her own brother.
It made my stomach roil and my blood boil.
"You're lying!" Tamaki roared, his anger finally getting the better of him "Zero would never do that! He's a knight for justice!"
Schneizel calmly reached in his jacket and withdrew a recorder.
"We have evidence."
Pressing the play button on the device, the silence room was suddenly filled with a conversation between Suzaku Kururugi and Lelouch.
"Did you use your Geass power on Euphie? Be honest."
"You caused her to massacre the Japanese?"
"I ordered her to do it."
The button clicked again, silencing it as the prince tucked it away once again.
The Black Knights on the other side of the table looked gobsmacked. They appeared to be unable to process what they just heard.
"Then…that whole bloodbath was…" the woman muttered, looking in my direction.
"Was from the warped mind of Zero." I seethed, clenching my hands into fists to try and control myself "Euphemia was just a girl looking to do something nice for the Japanese. Zero was in control the entire time."
Surprise filtered through their eyes, and I assumed it was due to the fact at how pure and unmitigated my rage was towards that event.
"Zero slaughtered our people for his own ambitions. Disgusting." Tohdoh growled, his eyes firmly on the table in front of him.
"That recording is fake!" Tamaki shouted, grasping as straws as Kanon stood and walked over to their side with a stack of papers in his hand.
"These are people in incidents that we suspect he's manipulated with his Geass."
Having not seen the report from before, I had no idea who was in it, but I knew a few for sure.
"Cornelia…Darlton…Euphemia…Suzaku." I thought, my resolve cementing further that we needed to bring down this monster lest he hurt anyone else I care about again.
My mind flashed to Nonette, and I knew that he would never get his claws into her.
Not while I still had a breath in my body.
"I can't…believe it…" the woman muttered, something akin to disgrace in her voice "All those people."
"Clovis…" Diethard mused, a look of anger on his face as he looked at all the portraits in front of him.
"He used it on me too." Villetta chimed in, her voice filled with disgust.
"That explains why Gao Hai suddenly started acting differently…." Ohgi ground out, obviously pissed beyond anything.
"It also gives us an answer as to why Jeremiah and the others suddenly became traitors." the woman stated plainly, hardly any inflection.
Man, I really needed to learn her name!
For…official purposes of course!
Schneizel spoke up finally, letting them stew in their own minds for long enough.
"His Geass might be controlling even me now, there's no way to be certain about that. When you think about it, it's a terrifying prospect."
"Uhh yeah! It is! Although, Cornelia knows that I'm somehow immune to it. Might be because of whatever force brought me here." I thought, watching their faces contort in fright.
"We could be…" they muttered, looking between one another, as Kanon sat back down.
"There's one more thing. We notified Zero about the F.L.E.I.J.A. warhead before the battle. We wanted to avoid using it. It's still in the Lancelot's communications records…however…"
Tohdoh's face darkened, an expression of unbridled rage on the normally calm mask "He never told us that."
"I wanted to put my trust in Zero! I wanted to believe in him!" Ohgi choked, his face contorted with what appeared to be pain "But we mean nothing to him! We're just pawns."
"He's been treating us like chumps?!" Tamaki groused, slamming his fist to the table "Damn! How could he do this?"
The redhead let out a scream of despair as Schneizel leaned forward in his seat.
Oh boy, things were starting to get good!
"Everyone. Zero is my brother. Would you please hand him over to me for justice?"
I was in absolute awe of the beseeching tone that the prince used, though I knew it was a ploy for them.
You didn't get to be the best politician in all of Britannia without being able to change masks at a moment's notice, now did you?
Tamaki, by now, was in tears, head down on the table and would provide no more use to us during the exchange, however, I knew that things in here were finally starting to wind down.
"On one condition." Ohgi spoke up, drawing all eyes (minus Tamiaki, who was blubbering like a baby) to him.
"You think you're in a position to bargain over this?" Cornelia rounded on them, but was silenced when Schneizel lifted a hand.
I would've done something comforting here, such as clasp her hand, or squeeze her thigh…however, this really wasn't the place for gestures such as that.
"Let's hear him out." Schneizel mused, though I had an inkling that he already knew what Ohgi was going to say.
"Our Japan. Return it."
Cornelia recoiled as if she had been struck, and even Schneizel and Kanon appeared to be taken aback.
Well, I mean I didn't do much of anything, save for some subtle eye widening.
"We're betraying our comrade, so at least we deserve to regain Japan. Otherwise, I could never…forgive myself." Ohgi finished, closing his eyes at the end of his sentence.
"Well, it appears as though we don't have a choice then." Schneizel sighed, closing his eyes as the rest of us looked to him "In return for turning over Zero to our custody, Area 11 will be yours."
"Brother…you can't..." Cornelia stuttered, before she was stopped by a glare from the prince.
"This is the only way Cornelia. Trust me." he stated, getting up and walking to the center, at which Ohgi did the same.
"We accept your terms." The Japanese man said simply, clasping hands with the Prime Minister of Britannia, much to the surprise of all in the room.
"Ohgi you can't be serious! Helping the Britannians? What are you thinking?" Tamaki groused, head in his hands.
"Think of it as…a non-aggression pact, a ceasefire if you will." I spoke up, standing from my chair and leaning on the front of the table "We're merely not attacking each other for a little bit, with a common enemy to get rid of."
Chuckling to myself, I thought "This sounds a lot like the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939 between Stalin and Hitler right before Germany invaded Poland."
"Well put Major." Kanon nodded, coming to stand beside me as the other side of the table resigned themselves to what was happening.
A silent conversation passed between Cornelia and I when my eyes locked on hers for a second.
Any longer than that, and people would probably start getting suspicious.
I stayed back as Prince Schneizel worked his magic, Kanon right by his side for assurance to the freedom fighters that we were indeed going to hold up our end of the bargain.
"Major, may I speak with you?" the woman who I had been seated across spoke up, walking up to me.
Her uniform was…different than that of the other females that I had seen.
A green tunic with red accents, as well as some black around the top, with a green knee length skirt, and black thigh high boots.
Personally, it was a good looking uniform, and she wore it well.
"Certainly." I replied easily, a disarming smile on my face as I took a few steps away from the rest of the group to ensure a modicum of privacy that I knew I wasn't going to get.
This was technically an enemy base, so it wouldn't surprise me if they had the ability to monitor and record conversations.
And with how massive this ship was, it was a certainty that they had video recording for security purposes.
"What do you wish to speak of Ms…?" I trailed off, finally learning the name of the woman who had been staring me down for the last hour.
"Chiba. Nagisa Chiba. Captain of the Fourth Squad." she replied, smiling slightly, but I knew it was merely for show.
"A lovely name for an equally lovely woman." I complimented, chuckling lightly at the blush that darkened her cheeks "What is it you wish to talk about Captain Chiba?"
"Chiba is fine Major." she informed me, her voice slightly higher in pitch.
Nodding, I told her "Well then I'd be offended if you didn't refer to me as Andrew."
And then she paused.
It was if she was trying to work up the courage to not offend me with whatever she was saying, and I couldn't help but smile.
"Chiba, I'm a big boy. Whatever you're going to say won't throw me into a towering rage or anything." I chided, laughing at the predicament we were currently in.
Her face flushed once again, surprising me.
Every piece of intel I could recall crossing my desk with this woman's name on it, stated her being very proud and traditionalist, and absolutely despising Britannian military.
Well, it was a damn good thing I wasn't Britannian.
Finally, she appeared to find her voice, though she kept it low to avoid the others hearing our conversation.
"When you spoke about the Special Zone attack, you referred to us as…Japanese rather than Elevens. I'm curious as to why a member of Cornelia's forces, a symbol of everything we oppose, would refer to us as our proper names. I mean, you are a Britannian Major, so could you just enlighten me?"
Now after that, I had a hard time controlling my laughter, and it slightly angered her.
"Hey, I asked you a question. I want an answer."
Her tone brokering little room for argument, I put a sincere smile on my face, one I usually saved for Nonette or Cornelia or Euphie.
"Chiba, let me tell you a secret. I'm not Britannian."
I had left a pause in for dramatic effect, and it worked if the subtle widening of her eyes was any indication.
"I was born in Area 2. In Toronto. I was hand selected to join Princess Cornelia's advisory team after my graduation from the Royal Military Collage. While Area 2, most think, is pure-blooded, I'm not. I continually refer to myself as Canadian, and my comrades, as well as my uppers and lowers know that and they also do it.
"Yeah, I know they don't give out nobility titles to anyone, especially Duke, but I managed to catch the eye of the princess, and, well according to her and Sir Guilford, as well as my mentor, General Darlton, God rest his soul, I'm…I mean, I had been instrumental in the clean up of Area 11.
"Whether it was cracking down on Refrain, running the rescue at Lake Kawaguchi, or, admittedly taking part in Saitama or Narita, though the first one I am obviously not proud of, I managed to do what I had been trained for."
She was silent for a moment, mulling over my words, before she spoke again.
"How old are you Andrew?"
The question caught me off guard, and I needed to do a double take at the woman, who chuckled at my expense.
At least she was getting more comfortable with speaking with me…I think.
"Well let me think here…I was busy researching Geass, and then we got to Pendragon in January…and then I was trapped in the Geass Order for just over four months, so I missed my 20th birthday." I mused, an index finger tapping my chin in thought.
A gentle sigh drew my attention to Chiba, who was shaking her head.
"You should be in university. You're a young man with his whole life ahead of him. You shouldn't be serving on the front lines of the Britannian military, commanding troops and…writing the inevitable letters."
I barked a laugh, drawing some attention for the others, waving it off.
"I wish I had a choice in the matter. My father was a Duke when my parents were still around. He pushed hard for the military path, said it would make me a man. I like to think that they're looking down on me, and they're proud of what they see." I replied, a bitter smile on my face.
"I'm sorry…I didn't mean..."
"You didn't know." I cut in smoothly, trying to put her at ease "I was basically abandoned from the start. My folks died when I was around eight, terrorist attack while they were on vacation in the EU. I was just lucky enough to get into the RMC and then get a post that most people wait a lifetime for. Don't worry about me Chiba, I'm a lot stronger than I look."
"So…you were trapped in the Geass Order?" she spoke up after a moment, once again, causing me to laugh.
"I was. It was actually your attack on the place that broke me out. Can't tell you anything else though. I know you're fishing for information, and while I won't tell anyone about it, I am entitled to some secrets." I chided, causing her to flush a dim crimson, which only served to increase my mirth.
We talked about the weather, about Knightmares, and everything else between.
Chiba didn't push me anymore about any classified details, to which I was grateful, and I knew to back off whenever I was encroaching on territory I knew I wasn't welcome in and had no place in commenting on.
Schneizel spoke up again, garnering all attention to him and effectively silencing the conversation I was having, saying "I believe we should begin preparing our ambush for Zero. Somewhere dimly lit would be preferable."
"We could use one of our storage warehouses. Warehouse 4 is on the lowest level so we'll have the most time to get ready when Zero is on his way." Ohgi suggested after a moment of thought.
Everyone seemed to agree with that course of action, and once the news had spread to other members, it spread like wildfire.
Before long, we had five large floodlights behind us, with around eight Knightmares on the ground, while myself, Chiba, Tohdoh, Ohgi, Tamaki, and a few other members stood on a catwalk overlooking the elevator.
Prince Schneizel and Kanon stood off to the side, looking on impassively as Ohgi made the call to have Zero brought down to the warehouse where we were lying in wait for him.
I really hated playing the waiting game.
I mean, I'm a pretty patient person, but something about combat or even the mere thought of it, gets me pumped and ready to go into the fight.
"Nervous?" Chiba grinned, glancing at me out of the corner of her eye but keeping her gun level with the elevator.
Once again, I had managed to get my trusty revolver back, and this time, I planned on keeping it.
"Not nervous." I replied, cocking back the hammer as I saw the lights on the elevator start moving "More…exhilarated. I'm no combat junky, but I get pumped up before stuff like this."
Not even a minute later, the tension was so thick as the elevator doors opened, revealing Zero as well as a red-haired girl with him.
This, was the woman who had 'killed' Monica. I knew that it had to be.
Silence reigned above as the duo below us walked out, taking probably about ten steps before the floodlights behind us snapped on, surprising them.
"Surrender Zero." Tohdoh ordered, his voice as level as always.
"How dare you try to run a con game on us!" Chiba shouted down at the man.
Ohgi was the next one to speak.
"We know everything about your Geass power."
"Zero, the renowned hero, died in battle before he could triumph." Diethard spoke calmly from his position standing by the Knightmares, camera in hand "But his gallant life and daring deeds will continue to live on in myth and legend."
"Is that the script you've written for me Diethard?" Zero shouted, still of poise and elegance.
"Actually, I wanted to film your glorious campaign and triumphant victory over Britannia, but that show has been permanently cancelled I'm afraid." the propagandist stated, shaking his head.
"Everybody trusted you Zero! Yoshida and Inoue sacrificed their lives for you!" one of the resistance members called, their displeasure showing plain as day.
"Wait a minute!" the redhead shouted, shielding Zero with her body "This is all one sided! Look at how far we're come with Zero! At least let him answer!"
Her desperation was almost funny.
"You're in the way Kallen! Do you wanna die with Zero?" Tamaki yelled, gesturing wildly with his weapon.
Killing Lelouch was the simple idea, and, it appears that's the way we went with it.
In all honesty, I thought we would be capturing him, but, I assume Schneizel thought he was too dangerous to risk a capture with his Geass, so they plan on just killing him, and then probably wiping out the Black Knights once their leader is gone.
If a battle against them without Lelouch goes the same way as last time (as in, the First Battle of Tokyo) then Britannia had nothing to fear.
Though I really hope it didn't come to that.
Zero had been standing there stock still, though the redhead, Kallen, was whispering something to him that I wasn't able to make out.
Finally, a move was made.
Zero started laughing, kinda like the classic evil villain sort of way.
His hand went to his mask, and he took it off, pulling the black cloth covering the bottom half of his face down with it as well.
"Fools! You finally figured it out. I've been using you all. That's right, you're all just pawns in my game."
Ohgi muttered something I couldn't catch, while Tamaki simply screamed "ZERO!"
Lelouch continued on his monologue, as if everyone else wasn't there.
"Kallen, you were my most useful piece. Like a well-played knight, this whole world was the board for this game. And all for my entertainment."
She turned away from him, the light reflecting back slightly off a few tears dripping down her face.
As she began walking away, Tohdoh shouted "Get ready!"
Safeties clicked off as people ensured that they were ready to fire, that their bullets wouldn't miss the man who promised miracles; but all he delivered was nothing more than cheap tricks.
But as soon as that order was given, Zero's personal Knightmare crashed through the ceiling, deflecting the barrage of small arms fire.
"Are you okay brother?"
Cries of surprise echoed for a moment before Tohdoh gathered his wits.
"Never mind! Open fire on the Shinkiro!"
"Wait!" Kallen screamed, as if she was going to defend Lelouch.
And that's when things really got strange.
Everyone around me just sorta…froze. They stood there, not moving, not firing, not shouting…just…nothing.
I glanced around and watched the Knightmare scoop Lelouch up before beating a hasty retreat to the outside.
Once it had been gone for about five seconds, it was like someone pushed play on life again as everyone came back, gasping in shock that the Knightmare had just…disappeared.
Even though I knew that wasn't the case, there was no point in drawing attention by saying 'Hey! You all were stroking out for like fifteen seconds while Zero escaped there! I was the only one lucid!'
Because that would go over so well.
So, I played it up, acting like everything I had actually just seen was what everyone else had seen, even though it was wrong.
"I'll talk to Cornelia later about this." I thought, narrowing my eyes in annoyance at the situation we found ourselves in.
Lelouch was somewhere out there, roaming free.
Who knew what kind of chaos he had planned, or what else he was going to do in the near future.
Ohgi and Tohdoh disappeared somewhere in a hurry, presumably to figure out what the hell was going on, and what the status of the Knightmare was.
It would be in bad form if they had no air patrols or anything to at least keep them safe and combat threats, whether they be internal or external to the ship.
"Mr. Reid, you'll have full Britannian cooperation with the mission to recover Zero, wherever he may be hiding." Schneizel said loudly, drawing all eyes in the room to him "We shall not rest until Zero has been captured."
"Cornelia, Kanon, Andrew, let's return to our transport and liaison from there. It's something of a mobile command center." the prince stated, turning around and walking out.
Offering the woman next to me a smile, I held out my hand.
"It's been a pleasure Chiba, I only wish our meeting was under more…fortuitous circumstances."
When her hand grasped mine, I clicked my heels together and dipped my head, something I usually reserved for meeting people far above my pay grade.
"Likewise. If you're still alive after all this, we'll compare war stories." she mused, slightly surprised at my actions.
Laughing lightly, I said "Well, yours will probably be much cooler than mine, as you were a member of the Four Holy Swords."
"I never told you that…" she trailed off, causing a smirk to appear on my face.
"I've done my homework. Farewell." I replied, dipping my head once more before turning and following the small cadre of Britannian's out into the halls, before a shout caused me to pause.
Looking back, Chiba had taken a step towards us, followed by another, until she was somewhat close.
"I think your parents would be proud of the man you've grown up to be." she whispered, only loud enough for me to hear.
I couldn't help the megawatt grin that broke onto my face at those simple words. Those simple words that meant so much, and she didn't even know the weight they carried.
The weight of another world.
"Thank you, Chiba. Now if you'll excuse me, it seems like my eyes are sweating a little bit." I replied with a chuckle, wiping my eyes and finding my hands coming back damp.
She laughed at that, and I turned around, catching up with my group and our guide.
Thankfully, they had given me space to speak, without intruding on the moment I had just had.
Strange how mere words can be enough to bring someone to tears.
Getting back, we found Villetta waiting for us near the craft, nervously standing idle.
"I'll meet you inside." Cornelia whispered to me, before breaking off and heading for the woman.
Nodding, I followed the prince and his assistant as they boarded the ship, taking in the plush interior and looking around.
"Please, have a seat wherever you like Major. If you wish for a drink, I can have one of my stewards bring you something." Schneizel informed me, as a uniformed woman appeared next to him.
"Um…scotch, if you have it." I said with a slight bit of hesitance, sitting down in the luxurious seat that seemed to conform around me.
The woman nodded, and disappeared, reappearing a scant thirty seconds later with a bottle and a glass.
"I hope this meets your expectations my lord. Would you like any ice?" she stated, placing the tray on a small table and bowing.
"No, thank you. That's all for me." I informed her, to which she bowed again and then went to Schneizel and Kanon, taking their orders for wine.
Pouring myself a glass of the amber liquid, I swirled it slightly, watching the gentle movement, as we waited for Cornelia to finish talking with Villetta so we were able to depart to…wherever we were going.
"I apologize for the delay brother. I was just answering some questions that Baroness Nu had as well as assuaging her concerns that we would not be punishing her." Cornelia stated, walking aboard and taking the open seat next to me.
Calling for a glass for herself, she poured a drink from the bottle I had and set it down between us lacing her fingers as Schneizel called the pilots and told them that we were all aboard and ready to depart.
"If you don't mind my asking your highness, but where are we going?" I asked, feeling the gentle vibration of the lift moving us up to the flight deck so we could get airborne.
"We'll be going to my personal ship, the Avalon for transit to another destination that I will elaborate on at a more opportune time." he replied to me after a moment, not doing very much to quash the nervous feeling I had in the pit of my gut.
It was a relatively quick transit time, with conversation flowing between all parties, the banter light and friendly, though I was still on edge due to the whole everybody freezing thing.
It was almost as if they had frozen time, but I was unaffected…
Probably because it was a Geass of some sort.
Landing in the hanger bay of the Avalon, I had just finished my glass of scotch, leaving the still relatively full bottle behind, we disembarked the transport into the airship.
"Everyone is probably in the lounge, come." Schneizel beckoned, allowing us to follow through another maze of corridors that I would probably need to get used to.
Reaching the area that was the loudest, I was pleased to see several couches, a large screen television, a few pool tables and a dart board.
As well as plenty of people I knew.
Lloyd, Cecile, Gino, and Suzaku were all present inside, my face lighting up when I saw them.
They almost made it to attention, before Schneizel stopped them.
"Please everyone, relax. There's no need to stand on parade here."
"Princess Cornelia! It's been far too long your highness!" Lloyd smiled, in that way that only he can do.
"Right." Cornelia deadpanned, before eyeing the entirety of the group "Where is Lord Guilford?"
"Well…" Cecile trailed off, directing her eyes to the floor.
"Cornelia, I'm afraid Lord Guilford was caught…" Schneizel began before Kanon cut him off.
"He went missing after he launched the F.L.E.I.J.A warhead. It was his heroism that saved all of us."
"Nice save, but still…Cornelia is not going to be happy about this." I thought, watching her eyes widen in disbelief.
"Guilford?" she muttered, still comprehensible, but her voice full of emotion.
"We may not know if he's alive or dead, but he did a great deed." Schneizel consoled "You should be proud of him. He did a great deed, and he served you well as your knight."
Suzaku took several steps towards us, his expression annoyed.
"What are you saying? I'm the one who fired the F.L.E.I.J.A warhead. That was my deed of honor, the feat I needed to become the Knight of One."
"Hold on Suzaku." Gino cautioned, but the Japanese teen pressed on.
"Is this manipulation designed to protect Lord Guilford's legacy?"
Cornelia spoke, her voice carrying a dangerous edge to it "What are you saying Kururugi?"
Schneizel broke in, always the peacemaker, but his tone was different.
"I suggest you stop this train of thought Suzaku."
"No." the boy cut off, his face hard, and his voice emotionless "I've been naïve up until now."
"No…you?" Lloyd drawled sarcastically, leaning against the pool table, but Suzaku did not abate, walking to stand in front of the royals
"Stubbornly maintaining that the means are more important than the end result. I was idealistic and a fool. In any case I insist on what is due me your highness. Make me the Knight of One."
Surprise filtered through everyone's expressions.
"Suzaku, have you finally fucking LOST IT?!" I shouted to myself, but not speaking up.
This was not a matter that I should step into.
"You've crossed the line into insubordination Kururugi." Cornelia growled, her voice sharp and unyielding.
"Anyway, only the Emperor has the power to dub a warrior the Knight of One." Lloyd stated, pausing as a ball on the pool table dropped into a pocket "Which means…"
Schneizel sighed, and looked down, closing his eyes for a moment before lifting his head.
"Which means, I shall rise to this."
Exclamations of surprise came from the scientists, as Cornelia took a step forward, chiding him, though he continued along.
"If I become the Emperor, it will remove the problem. It's really as simple as that."
"Highness, what you said just now…" Gino rounded, coming to stand in front of Suzaku who had turned around.
"Please, your highness, what has led you to make this decision?" Suzaku calmly mused, not bothering to turn around.
Prince Schneizel actually looked somewhat upset at that and spoke.
"He considers our affairs to be mundane. Cornelia, you've seen how he abandons the throne in favor of his dangerous research, how war and politics are mere trifles and annoyances to him. His people are locked in a life or death struggle, and yet he has no cares whatsoever for their wellbeing. Such a man has no right to rule."
"Oh Christ it's a coup d'état." I stated, watching the looks change to shock and awe for Lloyd, and unhidden horror for Cecile.
"That's wrong." the bluenette stuttered, grasping the pool cue she had like it was a lifeline.
"Your highness, as a Knight of the Round, I can arrange an audience with the Emperor. Give the order, and I shall do so, and assassinate him." Suzaku said, his tone without warmth.
"Suzaku." Gino growled, before he was cut off again by his counterpart.
"Gino, if I'm destined to be a killer, then so be it. I know what I am, and what I must do. What matters, are results. What are your orders, Prince Schneizel?"
The only sound in the room for the next few seconds was barely audible breaths, everyone on the edge of their seat so to speak.
I mean, they were discussing high treason, and murdering the Emperor on top of that!
"Sir Kururugi, my orders are as follows," Schneizel stated, taking a step forward "You are to assassinate the Emperor, Charles zi Britannia, in order to usher in a new age of peace and prosperity for Britannia."
"I understand, and obey, your highness." was all the teen replied with, before walking past us and out.
"This is absolute madness. I cannot stand by while this is happening." Gino groused, throwing his pool cue away and beginning to walk out.
Though he was stopped when Kanon drew his gun and pointed it square at him.
"I'm afraid that is impossible. You're too deeply invested in this right now, that you're not able to just walk out. The same goes for all of us now." Kanon said, his eyes shifting about the room "I won't hesitate to kill you should the need arise."
"That's quite enough Kanon, I think they get the point." Schneizel tutted, as two guards appeared wielding some sort of halberd like weapons, escorting Gino out as he complained about it.
I too, was offered the chance to go along with them, but refused, citing that I wanted to catch up with Lloyd and Cecile instead of going to watch more politics in action.
I'd had more than enough political bullshit for one day.
"Oh my. It appears as though we've ended up in the middle of a shit storm." Lloyd sighed, as Cecile yelled at him for his cursing.
"You can say that again." I groaned, sitting down heavily beside Cecile on one of the couches "What do you think about this?"
She was silent for a moment before she shook her head, her eyes locking onto mine.
"I think…I don't know what to think. Part of me is angry at Suzaku for what he's doing…but another part is…relieved? That we finally might be fixing the government of this country. I just don't know what to feel right now."
Lloyd had gone off to god knows where, so it was now just Cecile and myself, sitting there quietly and not speaking, each left alone with our own thoughts.
"Lloyd told me." she finally said, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Told you what?" I asked, somewhat confused at what she was talking about.
"Your secret." she muttered, her eyes locked on the floor. "He let it slip one day when we were still working on that nuclear theory before Prince Schneizel set us to work on his projects. I learned months ago, while you and Princess Cornelia were off searching the world.
"I haven't told anyone though, and I've made sure that Lloyd hasn't. I know how disastrous that could be for you."
My stomach felt like it sank down to my boots at her statement, but I offered a weak smile when she finished.
"You have my thanks Cecile. There's only six people I know of who are still alive who actually know the truth behind me. You, Lloyd, Cornelia, Nonette, Euphemia and Guilford. There's a few who might, but I'm not sure." I muttered, letting my head fall back "You're a good friend."
The scientist's cheeks darkened somewhat, and I let loose a chuckle at her expense.
I also, decided to have a little more fun with her.
"What's wrong Cecile? I would think you'd be used to receiving compliments considering you're a beautiful young woman?"
The moderate flush deepened further until her face matched the hue of a tomato rather well.
"You…you're not serious." she replied shyly, appearing to not believe my words.
"Cecile," I stated, mustering as much sincerity I could in my voice, as well as putting my right hand on top of her left.
She twitched, but didn't move her hand, and I continued.
"You are a talented, intelligent, witty, and stunning woman. Any man who manages to snare you, will be one of the luckiest men on the planet."
In all honesty, I didn't think her face could get any redder, but, I was proved wrong.
It almost seemed like steam was going to start pouring from her ears.
She leaned over, putting her head on my shoulder.
"Cecile?" I questioned, my tone unsure.
"Thank you." she whispered, her eyes closed "Please, let me stay like this for a bit."
Not bothering to reply, I simply wrapped an arm around her shoulders, snugging her up and doing my best to make her feel better.
We stayed in that position for what could've been hours, but in reality, it was a couple of minutes, but we were just lost in the presence of another person.
Separating, I offered her a warm smile.
"Thanks Cecile. I needed that."
Again, she flushed, but this time, she put on a lovely smile.
"I think we both needed that." she stated, bumping my shoulder with hers, asking "Want to play some pool?"
Nodding, I got up and grabbed a cue, placing it on the table and beginning to gather the balls.
It's not like we could really do much else in all honesty.
It was almost as if we'd become prisoners. Unable to leave, but we had a lot of amenities.
We played a few racks of pool, with Cecile winning a majority of the games, but I won a couple eventually.
In all honesty, I think she might've just felt bad for me and let me win a few.
"Andrew, are you ready?" Cornelia's voice roused me, breaking my concentration and causing me to faff my shot.
"Damn." I muttered, letting my eyes wander to her before placing the cue down "I'm at your service your highness."
With a quick goodbye to Cecile, I followed along back to the hanger, and was told we were going back onto the Black Knights flagship to meet with UFN representatives about the current situation surrounding Zero.
We got back on the same transport that scant hours ago took us off of the ship, my bottle of scotch still there on the table, so I called for a new glass, and on the ride over had a drink to calm my nerves.
With any luck, I wouldn't need to say much, leaving most of the talking up to Prince Schneizel, and to a lesser degree, Cornelia.
Landing aboard without any major incidents, we were received by Ohgi, and led through the halls to the same conference room we had been in just a little while ago.
While I wasn't even close to buzzed, my head seemed clearer as we walked, and I spotted the man who I had knocked senseless when I was still in my cell.
A bandage across his nose, and a nasty black eye starting, I couldn't help but flash a smug smile to him, while all the time he just scowled my way.
Also on a positive note, Chiba was our other 'guard' so I fell back slightly from the group, smiling at her.
"Didn't think I'd be back this soon." I mused to her, her mouth staying stoic, but a slight crinkle around her eyes indicating that she wanted to laugh.
"Suppose we'll save the kill tallies until after the war is over then hm?" she replied quietly so as not to draw attention to us.
"First round of drinks is on me." I offered, causing her to nod in acceptance just as we reached the meeting room.
It appeared that we were the last ones to arrive, with our side of the table (the same one we had previously) was empty, ready to receive the Britannian delegation.
The other side consisted of Diethard, Ohgi, Kaguya (I had her picture cross my desk several times when I was working in Japan) a young girl with white hair and predominantly Chinese or Korean features, and then a man who I didn't know, who also shared the same features with the girl.
Introductions were quick, and I merely nodded when Schneizel said my name, uncaring about anything flashy due to my fatigue.
We were only about fifteen minutes in the meeting, discussing the cooperation between all forces in order to capture Zero, when Kanon took a call.
He whispered something to Prince Schneizel that I couldn't quite hear, but the look on his face indicated that it was either very important and he was trying to downplay it, or, it was playing out exactly as he planned.
Standing abruptly, the prince spoke, his voice smooth and collected.
"My apologies Lady Kaguya, the meeting will have to be postponed. We need to go to Kamine Island at once."
"So, back to where the Geass hunt began eh?" I thought, my jaw tightening at the prospect.
"I see." the chairwoman hummed, smiling lightly "Then we shall go with you as well. There's only one person I can think of that would be attacking the Britannian Emperor in the situation. I believe we all know who that is."
"I agree Lady Kaguya." the black haired Chinese man, who I had learned was General Li Xing-ke, said.
"That changes things." Kaguya continued, looking directly at Schneizel "We have a few points to verify before we go on. We can continue the meeting once this matter has been settled."
The delegations stood from their seats, making way for the bridge, or in our case, our transport.
"Cornelia, you will be in command of the Avalon. I will be taking control of the Great Britannia and directing the battle from there." Schneizel commanded once we were all aboard the transport.
"Are you certain this is the best course of action Schneizel?" Cornelia questioned, looking towards her brother.
"Completely. You needn't worry about me Cornelia. All will go well." he waved off, as we landed back aboard the Avalon.
"At least now I'll have Cornelia alone so I can talk to her about what I saw aboard the Black Knights ship." I thought as we stepped off the transport, turning and watching the small vessel take off and leave with Schneizel and Kanon aboard.
"Cornelia, there's a…matter I wish to discuss regarding Geass." I mused as we walked through the halls of the Avalon, my eyes shifting to ensure there was nobody.
"Go on." she prompted, slowing her pace slightly so we could walk alongside one another.
"When that Knightmare showed up, when we were about to kill Lelouch, it just sorta…disappeared, right?" I queried, to which she nodded.
"Well, that's not true. Everyone just kinda…stopped moving. Everyone but that Knightmare frame. It plucked Lelouch off the ground and then flew away. Everyone unfroze probably about five seconds after it left, so I'd be willing to bet that the pilot of that thing has a Geass that messes with either time itself, or the perception of time within a certain area."
Cornelia mulled the words over in her head.
"It makes sense when you think about it. A useful power to have, but it's still Geass, which is a disgraceful power in itself." she replied, as we reached the bridge of the ship.
"Ah Princess Cornelia and Major Dixon. Lovely to see you both!" Lloyd called from where he was standing on the raised platform, Cecile at his side "Have we gotten any news hmmm?"
"Merely that I'll be taking command here while Prince Schneizel takes command of the Great Britannia and controls troops." Cornelia stated, her voice authoritative and hard "We're heading for Kamine Island. That's where Zero is. Navigation, plot a course."
"I think I'll go and lay down for awhile in one of the bedrooms that this place is sure to have." I muttered, getting a nod from my princess, I saluted and sauntered out of the command center and began looking for somewhere to nap.
Finding one with relative ease, and ensuring it was unoccupied and probably not going to be used for awhile, I scrawled a note on the door to let people know that I was sleeping in there before I closed it.
Taking off my boots and putting them at the foot of the bed, I stripped out of the tunic and dress shirt of my regular uniform that I was able to get on the Avalon previously.
Laying down on the king-sized bed, I let out a groan of contentment.
Considering I had been in the Geass Order, followed by being a prisoner under the Black Knights, I had all but forgotten what a real bed felt like.
I allowed my exhaustion to catch up, and with an empty mind, I fell into a blissful and ignorant sleep.
Little did I know though, things were going to change majorly in the near future, and it wouldn't all be roses.
Waking up, unsure of how much time had actually passed, but feeling well rested, I allowed my arms to tighten around the other person who was occupying the bed.
"Cornelia must have snuck in while I was out just so she could catch a little bit of sleep."
Inhaling deeply to begin to clear the sleep from my mind, my senses were assaulted with the smell of green apple.
My eyes cracked open, mind muddled at that for one simple reason.
"Cornelia uses lavender scent shampoo and conditioner, and Nonette doesn't use green apple either."
My mind finally connected the dots that I knew, and I mentally facepalmed.
Either I went sleepwalking and ended up in someone's bed, or someone else decided that they wanted to share with me.
Cornelia was just going to love this.