August 8. Pendragon. Royal Palace.
'How?! This is impossible!'
Lelouch froze. Right now before him on the screen was the face of his little sister. The one who was the meaning of his life for years. The one for whom he was ready to fight the entire world. The one who was believed to be dead. His eyes went wide as many emotions started to overflow him. Confusion and panic were the most prominent ones. He didn't know what to think. This situation was problematic for the emperor. His mind told him to stop and critically analyze what was going on, but his heart was screaming. This was bad.
He trembled as he said it, but Lelouch couldn't do anything. This was Nunnally, she was alive! He should be happy, but what she just said. It made no sense to him. How can they be enemies?! Lelouch didn't want to believe it! From the corner of his eye, he saw how Schneizel smirked. The emperor's blood boiled. 'This bastard! Schneizel! All of this-!'
However, before Lelouch could do anything, he felt a warm hand on his shoulder. A glance showed him that C.C was looking at him with concern. He saw the worry in her usually calm eyes. She didn't need to say but he could feel it nonetheless. Lelouch closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
'I shouldn't show any weaknesses. I can't. But...but this is Nunnally. My little sister, the same one for whom I did everything.'
This was Nunnally, but she was with Schneizel and Cornelia. He didn't know how it was possible but if it is really her, then it means that this entire time she was alive. After the second battle of Tokyo, Lelouch thought she was dead. He was ready to die while taking out Charles, only to change his plan to take over the world in the memory of Nunnally and others who died because of him. However, now his little sister was in front of him, and Lelouch didn't know what to do. Should he rethink his plans? Should he back down now? Did the fact Nunnally is alive change his goal?
While Lelouch was troubled by his inner thoughts, C.C decided to do something. With a warm voice, she whispered.
"Do not forget about the others."
Lelouch froze. Others? Did she mean Knight of the rounds or his lieutenants? His lovers? A slow realisation of who she was talking about came to him.
'Nunnally might be alive, but Shirley, Rolo and Euphemia aren't. They died because of me, but they never stopped believing in me, no matter what I did they were there for me.' People he held dear were killed because of his actions. After killing his parents and having his revenge, his new dream was to create a world where something like this wouldn't happen.
'Nunnally was my reason to move forward, but after her death, I decided to continue my revolution. I wanted and still want to change this world...Schneizel thinks he can scare me with this, make me question my dream. No! I won't allow it!'
But what Nunnally just said. She called herself his enemy. She wanted to fight him. Nunnally his enemy? Ridiculous. Could Lelouch do it? Could he fight the girl who was his reason to live all these years? Could she stop him?
'No, I can't allow it to affect my plans. Nunnally, she is alive but this...but she can't change what I had already started...I can't stop now or ever. I must go on.'
When he opened his eyes, the look of panic disappeared. Instead, it was a cold and focused stare that made Cornelia flinch while Schneizel showed no emotion, only his smirk faded away. With a calm voice, Lelouch spoke.
"Nunnally vi Britannia, my sister who was supposed to be dead after the battle in Tokyo. Killed by the actions of Suzaku Kururugi. My first question is, how? Sayoko told me she failed to save you in time."
He needed to learn answers first. How did Nunnally survive? Was it even Nunnally or was it someone else? A plot by Schneizel to trick him? Lelouch needed more information. The girl in the wheelchair was silent for a moment. It was Schneizel who answered.
"There was a second emergency train under the government building. That's how she escaped." The emperor glared at him but the former prime minister simply smiled.
"Lelouch, I know what you might be thinking. I'm your sister. The one who was with you all these years." Nunnally said. "And now, I'm your enemy, Demon Emperor Lelouch. I will be the one to take your throne that you stole. I shall put an end to your regime, brother."
There was dead silence as everyone waited for his reaction. Cornelia didn't stop glaring at him but even she was on edge by all of this. She didn't support this kind of move, but Schneizel wanted it, and Nunnally agreed as well. C.C. stared silently at her warlock. Thanks to their connection she could feel how her partner was troubled by all of it. And yet, he didn't show any of it.
'This is Schneizel's doing. All of it! Nunnally was alive all this time and yet he decided to reveal her now. Why? Schneizel wouldn't do something like this unless he was sure he was in a good position.' Did his older brother plan something? An attack perhaps? No, the palace was well secured and his people would have learned about any movement a long time ago. What then, was the endgame of this?
Whatever it was, Lelouch was going to learn it, but he wouldn't play into his older brother's hands. Schneizel wanted him to panic, to make him afraid but Lelouch won't fall for it. This might be the real Nunnally but Lelouch cannot allow himself to be defeated at this stage of his plans. He sacrificed too much. He won't back down now. Because of this, the White Emperor smiled and let out a short laugh.
"How cute. You think too much of yourself, Nunnally. You're my enemy? Don't make me laugh, sister." Lelouch put on the mask. Cornelia shouted at him.
"Stop playing games, Lelouch! This charade of playing the emperor must end!"
"But my dear sister, this isn't a game for me. I'm the Emperor now. The most powerful man in the world. Or are you still thinking I'm a child from Arries Villa? Please Cornelia," Lelouch's gaze became cold as ice. "That child died ten years ago."
Cornelia said nothing, instead, it was Schneizel who continued.
"Lelouch, we all know how you took the throne. Geass, a power that helped you to enslave everyone under your command."
"Correction, Schneizel. I mainly used it on purebloods and others like them. The majority of my followers and soldiers are loyal to me not because of Geass but because unlike the rest of our family, I actually try to improve the lives of people."
Cornelia snorted. "Improve?! Don't make me laugh, Lelouch. Don't you see what you are doing?! You enslaved our family and destroyed everything Britannians soldiers fought and died for!"
Her younger brother looked confused.
"Are you talking about social Darwinism, Cornelia? The system where so-called strong fed on weak? Where nobility did as it pleased, committing crimes without punishment, destroying the lives of millions? Or perhaps about how Britannia treated natives in its colonies? Please enlighten me, dear sister. Because I can't understand what you are talking about." He clenched his hands. "Cornelia, perhaps you can't understand it but our dear homeland wasn't some sort of Utopia. It was a harsh nation that would slaughter millions for the sake of its belief in superiority. There was nothing about old Britannia that was good, A rotten empire with a mad man in charge."
"Britannia wasn't perfect but at least it wasn't controlled by Geass, Lelouch."
The young emperor smiled at his brother's words.
"Oh, Schneizel, please don't tell me you're so naive. I'm sure Cornelia already told you about our uncle but I will tell you a secret." He drew in closer to the screen. "Charles had Geass. I'm surprised that Suzaku never told you anything about it." There was something funny about how they confusingly looked at him. "Don't tell me he never said anything about it?"
"About what?" Cornelia didn't bother to hide venom in her voice but Lelouch couldn't help but chuckle.
"Really? Our knight in the shining armour never told you anything? About how our dear dead father went insane and tried to kill God? About his Geass? Or maybe-" a devilish smile appeared on his face. "About the fact that Marianne vi Britannia was alive all this time?"
Lelouch laughed when his siblings froze. Cornelia had a shocked expression, she didn't want to and couldn't believe in it, not lady Marianne! Schneizel's usual fake smile temporarily faded away. He had his suspicions ever since the day when Charles died, but he couldn't confirm them. Bismark wouldn't answer any of his questions and the former prime minister had no means to force the knight to speak. Although learning about Lady Marianne's survival was unexpected. Nunnally on the other hand was thinking about something else.
Nunnally said nothing but Lelouch could see how this truth was affecting her. All three of his siblings were taken back but this truth.
'Unlike me, she never hated Charles. She never forgave him for leaving us to die in Japan but Nunnally didn't hate father as I did. Marianne was always a kind mother in her memory.' A small part of Lelouch wanted to comfort her but then the larger, more cynical part stopped him. Instead, it told him to go further.
"M-mother is alive?" her voice started to tremble as tears started to form on her face. However, Lelouch's next words made Nunnally freeze once again.
"Was alive. I killed her with Charles on that day on Kamine Island. You're welcome, sis." Lelouch saw how Nunnally's expression became shocked while Cornelia was first to start yelling at him.
"You are lying! This is impossible, Lady Marianne died-"
"Her Geass allowed her to take control of a little girl's body. She survived and continued to serve Charles as the knight of the round." Schneizel raised an eyebrow.
"The Knight of The Round?"
"Anya Alstreim, she was just a noble who was sent to be mother's next student. And our dear, kind mother hijacked her body and did whatever Charles ordered her to. An unexpected side of Marianne the Flash, don't you think?"
Cornelia couldn't believe it. "I-impossible! These are nothing but lies!"
"Well, you can go and ask Suzaku. He saw everything with his own eyes. In fact, you can go and ask him right now. I will wait." Lelouch smirk didn't leave his face. "I feel like you need to figure out stuff on your end before calling me and making empty threats."
"But these aren't empty words, Lelouch." Schneizel was taken aback by the new information, but it won't change his plans. Although, he would need to question sir Kururugi after this. Cornelia was going to do more than asking questions on another hand. "Lelouch, despite what you said, our intentions are still the same. Nunnally will become Empress and we will make you accept it."
"Make me? Schneizel, you couldn't capture me when I was defenceless. What makes you think you can force to do anything?" Lelouch's voice became serious. "Or are you going to use F.L.E.I.J.A. again?" He didn't answer. "What? Come on, just admit it. Your only weapon is that thing. Your forces cannot be compared to my armies. Your Knightmares and pilots are limited while I can call upon as many soldiers as I please. Geass is just a useful tool for me. However, should you start bombing my cities with F.L.E.I.J.A, I won't need to use Geass at all. People will join just to take you down anyway."
F.L.E.I.J.A. was a terrifying weapon but it didn't mean Schneizel could do as he pleased. One wrong move and the former prime minister would only make people more willing to join Lelouch. After all, no one wants to follow a leader who destroys everything. Of course, Lelouch would prefer to avoid such risks but it didn't change the fact that Schneizel could use F.L.E.I.J.A. without any consequences.
'It was used only once but it was enough for me to make both Schneizel and Suzaku into monsters in public eyes...Huh, so that's why he is using Nunnally.'
Schneizel couldn't call himself the emperor, not publicly at least. F.L.E.I.J.A. explosion in Tokyo was one thing, but he already had a bad reputation in Europe and outside the empire. Compared to Lelouch who did everything to improve the lives of former numbers, Schneizel couldn't compete with him in that regard.
'There is no nobility to support him and the governors I placed in charge are loyal to me. If he and Cornelia tried to announce themselves as rightful rulers of Britannia, my propaganda machine could easily tarnish them even further. I would destroy whatever support they would gain. But Nunnally isn't like that.'
Unlike them, Nunnally had done nothing that would soil her reputation among the public. Sure she was disabled, but the fact that she tried to peacefully solve the situation with the Black Knights could be used as a bridge for an open alliance between the two. Lelouch knew that they might work together but he was sure that even the Black Knights should understand how dangerous it would be to unite with the people who killed millions of the Japanese. Nunnally was a safe option, while Schneizel can just play the role of the loyal subject to her, it won't fool everyone. It is obvious who is in command but it might be enough for the Order to work with them.
'Troublesome indeed. I suspect that Nunnally is going to announce her claim for the throne to the public soon. It can complicate some of my long term plans but I should be able to handle the damage control.' Nunnally might be innocent compared to her siblings but at the same time, she didn't have any achievement that could be compared to the White Emperor. It was likely that she would gain small support but nothing compared to Lelouch.
Nunnally who was silent after learning about the survival and death of her mother finally spoke.
"No one wants to repeat what happened in Tokyo on that day. No matter what, we won't use F.L.E.I.J.A. as an offensive weapon. I can promise you that, Lelouch." The raven-haired emperor looked unimpressed.
"It's not for you to say, Nunnally. You might call yourself a rightful ruler but in my eyes, you're nothing but a puppet. So Schneizel." His attention turned to his brother, ignoring how Nunnally looked hurt. "We both know who is in charge over there, well at least I hope you're controlling things. Taking into account how you didn't know anything about Geass or Marianne makes me wonder if you are actually in control."
Schneizel knew where he was going with it but unlike Nunnally, he wasn't affected by Lelouch's words.
"Lelouch, I'm always a helper who guided our homeland towards the bright future. Nothing changed, I'm just helping a rightful empress take her position and fix the mess you have created. In fact, I would have loved to help you to replace our father before you did all of this. The Black Knights, the Special Zone Massacre and taking the free will of our siblings and nobles. I want nothing more but a bright future for our people but I can't stand the way you do it. Lelouch, I always thought of you as my dear little brother but even I can't close my eyes and ignore the crimes you committed. This Geass is too dangerous. We cannot allow you to do as you please anymore, Lelouch."
Lelouch would have applauded for such good play but he knew his older brother better than this. Schneizel knew how to convince people but he wasn't better than Charles. The former prime minister did everything according to his own views. He cared about the numbers as much it was required from the person of his position but he never understood their struggles or desires. It was convenient for him to run Britannia with nobility and purebloods. Schneizel loved to be in control and didn't want to lose it to someone like Lelouch.
'I'm sure it must be painful. To spend all these years building your support base, working with nobility, making yourself irreplaceable to the empire. Only for me to come and turn everything upside down. Everything you did, Schneizel, all of your achievements and accomplishments, I made all of them obsolete. Huh, I actually feel sorry for him now!' Lelouch wanted to laugh but the emperor knew if he did, he wouldn't stop.
For Schneizel, everyone was a useful tool. Maybe Lelouch was like him in the past, but now he had people he wanted to protect no matter what. To create a world for them. Nunnally was one of them but now Lelouch wasn't sure. Still, they disliked the fact that he used his Geass. It was just a tool for him, but they were afraid of it. They had no protection against it, they didn't understand it and were afraid of it.
Geass is the Power of Kings but to Lelouch, it was a weapon that helped him achieve his goals. However, this weapon didn't bring only victories to the Demon Emperor...
"And what exactly is bad about my rule please tell me? The fact that I got rid of the number system? Destroyed the nobility? I'm trying to change the empire as Euphemia wanted."
"Don't you dare speak about her!" Cornelia shouted." You are the one who killed her! Because of you, my sister is labelled as a monster!"
Lelouch said nothing. His face didn't change but he felt an ache on his chest. The little sister who always loved him died by his hand. He was the one who made a fatal mistake that day and Cornelia was right. And yet.
'They won't see me as anything but an enemy...In that case, I will show you my best performance.'
And so the Demon Emperor laughed like a mad man.
"Yes, I was the one who killed her, Cornelia. The one who killed Euphemia. And you know what? I did her a favour." Both Cornelia and Nunnally froze, horrified by his words. Schneizel showed a stern look before asking.
"Explain, Lelouch." The emperor waded away.
"Euphemia had a good heart but was too naive to make a hard decision. Giving away her right to the throne for the sake of the Special Zone was a noble but ultimately worthless sacrifice. Charles stopped caring about Britannia and matters of the mundane world a long time ago. He knew that her idea would never work out and you did too, right Schneizel?" Lelouch leaned forward with a grin. "You know that neither the nobility nor the military would allow something like this. While the creation of a Japanese autonomous zone would improve the relationship between the two nations, it would lead to more problems within the empire. Even if I didn't kill her, Euphemia's project would have been crushed from within."
No one inside the empire supported Euphemia in her attempt to help the Japanese. Charles allowed it, but the old man knew it wouldn't end well for a kind princess. The upper class of Britannia wouldn't allow for something like this zone to exist for too long. The existence of a special zone itself threatened the safety of other colonies. If this worked out, other numbers would have demanded the same and the Britannia inner system would start to collapse if it was allowed. Old Britannia couldn't allow any form of self-government to its conquered nations. Euphemia gave up her right to the throne, she had no allies inside the court and even Cornelia wouldn't be able to protect her. In fact, this problem would have been used by the enemies of Cornelia to destroy her.
"You know that her plan would have never worked, or at least was hoping to, Schneizel."
"What are you talking about?! Schneizel supported Euphemia from the start!" Cornelia intervened again. "He was the one who spoke with our father about it."
"Yes, he was a negotiator. Euphemia could never convince Charles on her own. But Schneizel, let's be honest here. You just saw this plan as an experiment didn't you?" His older brother said nothing but Lelouch was sure he hit the nerve. "An experiment to see how far you can go away with such radical reforms before either the emperor or nobility tried to stop it. How far Euphemia could go before she would have been forced to make a hard decision. How effective it might be to pacify the native population in the future."
If Euphemia's plan showed at least some positive changes, it could have been used as a precedent for the future. Japan wasn't the only nation that wanted independence from Britannia. There were others but they weren't as successful in creating anything close to the Black Knights. Even if Euphemia's dream would have been destroyed from within the empire, someone like Schneizel could have found a use for this example in the future when he would need to deal with a similar problem.
'But my Geass...that massacre ended Euphemia and her dream in a way that even he couldn't expect.'
"...Euphemia wanted what she thought was the best solution for everyone. She was young and inexperienced, and eventually, she would have realised just how difficult it is to change Britannia from within." Schneizel said with a sorrowful expression. "I know that one day something would have gone wrong inside this special zone of hers, but I was sure that either I or Cornelia would have been there to help her...But you destroyed everything before it could even start."
"You killed Euphy." Nunnally said with a sombre tone. "Lelouch, I can understand your desire for vengeance against our father, but Euphy-! She never deserved it. Everything you did, all these deaths and pain you caused. You need to stop, big brother."
'And I will never forget this. I won't allow myself to forget it.' That day, that moment when Lelouch pressed the trigger and took the life of his sister, it was the moment that changed everything.' I knew that one day I would be forced to fight people I cared about. But Euphy...Her death changed everything. Not only I lost my first love but my first friend as well. Suzaku would never forgive me for her death, and he shouldn't. I don't need his forgiveness. I never needed it.'
"...I know my sins, Nunnally. But it won't stop me from doing what needs to be done. I know my goal and I will achieve it. My entire life I only wanted to avenge our mother and kill that man who sent us to die in Japan. But after learning the truth I had realised something. This world is rotten to its core. Britannia isn't the only thing that must be fixed. We live in a world where war has become the norm. Where dictators and monsters raise to power while people allow them to do as they please. Where the death of millions is nothing but another statistic. I hated Charles, but he was right about how the strong rule while the weak obey. It is because the weak don't do anything and allow monsters to walk over them. Europe tried democracy but it failed. Britannia expanded at the expense of the blood of innocents and no one tried to stop it until I took the mask of Zero. I cannot allow any government, any system to continue this. To repeat the mistakes that allowed someone like our father and uncle to rule."
"And you are ready to use Geass for it? To take away the free will of people like our father apparently did? To wage war for the sake of your goals like you did in Europe? Lelouch, you speak about how the world is terrible and yet you do the same thing that Charles did. I see a little difference." Nunnally said with anger in her voice, something that took off guard both Cornelia and Schneizel.
"That's because you're blind, Nunnally. All these years I spent taking care of you while you were obvious to the outside world. I sheltered and protected you from anything that could have harmed you. You can't see how bleak our world is… Do you remember the times of invasion? When you, Suzaku and I made our way across the destroyed Japanese cities. How I would carry you through the fields of the dead. You didn't see what Suzaku and I saw there. I didn't want you to think about it, to learn how terrible the world really is. However, now you're calling yourself my enemy, telling me how wrong I'm for using tools to achieve Euphemia's dream."
"Euphemia would never do it like this, Lelouch! You know that Euphemia would never approve of violence or this power of yours! She would call it a fate worse than death." As Cornelia spoke, her eyes became watery. In her eyes, this was the worst way to insult the memory of her little sister. "Don't you dare speak about her dream when you are doing nothing but ruining it! Everything she believed in, you spit on it."
"Cornelia," Schneizel called out, worried about her state.
"What a pathetic display, sister. And this is the Goddess of Victory who brought triumph to Britannia? How disappointing." Lelouch said with a disgusted expression. "Did you also cry over people you killed like this, Cornelia? Not only over Japanese rebels who fought for the sake of their families but everyone else who fought against you? How many people did you kill without carrying what they had loved ones as well? Euphemia lived her entire life next to the mass murderer who was celebrated as the hero of the empire. Have you ever wondered how she felt being the little sister of someone who wouldn't hesitate to slaughter Japanese while she wanted to help them?"
"What is your point, Lelouch?" Schneizel said.
"I'm not a saint but at least I acknowledged Euphemia's dream, unlike Cornelia who never believed in her, never gave her a chance to prove herself. She was a caged bird that Cornelia would rather keep imprisoned. No wonder someone like Suzaku easily made his way into her heart." Lelouch laughed. "I killed her and I might smear her innocent dream with blood, but at the very least I acknowledged Euphemia and her ideals. Something neither you nor Cornelia ever did."
"You understand nothing, Lelouch."
"On the contrary, dear sister. I understand more than either of you do. While you two were in relative safety, I had to carry Nunnally through the battlefields. I know what it's like to live with the fear that you might die because of a stray bullet. I know the feeling of hunger when we haven't eaten for several days. How it feels to be on the other side of our nations 'superiority' when we were hated for the simple fact that we were Britannians." Memories from childhood started to overflow Lelouch. No child should ever experience what he, Nunnally, and Suzaku did.
'I won't deny the truth. There are probably children in Europe who experienced all of these because of my actions. But, I didn't stop when people I cared about died because of me, so I can't stop now either. It would be an insult to anyone who died for my sake.'
"Cornelia, you are a soldier who did as your emperor ordered without caring what it is like on the opposite side. You know that war is hell and yet you were fine with it, never questioning anything."
"I did all of it for Euphemia!"
"And I did the same for Nunnally. I created the Black Knights, became Zero, I killed people, all of it for her sake." His gaze focused on the little girl in the wheelchair. "But now I see that it was for nothing."
"No, I should correct myself. It wasn't just for Nunnally, not anymore at least. I always wanted to change everything and you being my sister was my motivation until recently. However, now I see how deluded I was. You aren't my reason to live, Nunnally. You're a parasite who was in my way all this time."
Lelouch didn't know where this had come from. Was this part of his act? Or were these his honest thoughts? He didn't know but he didn't care either.
'All these years I tried to survive and do something others couldn't. They have no right to criticize me nor my actions! They didn't go through what I went through. I want what is best for everyone but they can't see it. They are stuck in the past but I will force them to acknowledge the future I should create! I finally see the answer that was always before me!'
"Schneizel, you spent your life inside the Royal court. Tell me, brother. Have you ever looked a person in the eyes before taking his life? Have you ever seen the fear as you pressed the trigger? I did. When I killed Cloves for the crimes he committed. He ordered the massacre just to cover his inhuman experiments." Lelouch felt how C.C looked away, that time was far from pleasant for his witch. "And you know what I felt?"
Schneizel said nothing, already abhorred by all of this.
"Satisfaction. The same satisfaction I felt when I destroyed Cornelia's forces, and killed everyone who stood in my way during the Black Rebellion. I felt alive. I felt great because I made a change in the worst possible way. I killed, I destroyed and brought chaos. But you know what?" His smile became vicious. "I loved all of it."
Lelouch smiled with the smile that sent shivers down Cornelia's spine and even made the ever collected Schneizel become unsettled for a moment. The Emperor rose up from his throne and spread his arms at the sides. That wild smile never left his face.
"I loved destroying what I saw as wrong. I loved killing those who I labelled as guilty. I loved all of this because unlike others I managed to make a change. I gave the Japanese people a chance to fight when their spirit was broken. I did what everyone thought was impossible and challenged the might of the Holy Britannian Empire and I won numerous times. I lost the battles but I never stopped fighting. I was discouraged but people around me always were there to support me. I'm the man of Miracles. I'm Zero. I'm The Emperor!
"I will burn down this world and create a new one from its ashes. I won't stop until I achieve absolute victory. Until my dream of a gentle peaceful world is complete. And no one would stop me. So, hear my final warning!" The Demon Emperor pointed his hand at them, declaring his final word. "I, Lelouch vi Britannia, will stop at nothing to defeat all my enemies no matter who they are. Should you continue to oppose me, I will destroy you. I will kill everything and everyone you hold dear. Nunnally."
His cold gaze fell on the little girl he called sister all these years.
'She was my only motivation all these years but now I see that it must be changed.'
"You dare to call yourself my enemy and challenge my rule. Yet, you're nothing but a little crippled parasite who was ready to listen to anyone as long as they took care of you. You never had power on your own. You're still a puppet to those around you. Nothing changed...Heh, you might be alive but now I see that I don't need you anymore, Nunnally. Only after your death I finally realized what I must do to change the world. The assassin from Geass Order was a better sibling to me than you ever have been."
'Rolo, despite everything that happened, in the end, you were the brother who never betrayed me.'
"I lost people who loved me but I won't stop. I will continue my revolution for the sake of their memories."
'Shirley, you loved me but I only caused suffering to you and your family. After everything I have done, I don't think I was worthy of your love but you never stopped believing in me. No matter what, you continued to love me, you died because of me. I should create a world which you would have loved.'
"I will make the dream of the princess who wanted peace into a reality!"
'Euphemia, I will cleanse your name and will create the world you wanted. A gentle world without wars, I won't stop at anything.'
"Nunnally, it would have been better if you stayed dead because now I will stop at nothing to crush you and your new masters."
"How dare you!/Lelouch!" Both Cornelia and Schneizel shouted while Nunnally couldn't hold it inside anymore, as tears fell from her eyes.
"You want war? I will give you war!" Lelouch screamed with rage that he didn't feel for a long time. "This conversation is over."
Before either of his siblings could do anything, he cut off the connection. Soon their faces disappeared from the screen, leaving only Lelouch and C.C. The witch looked at her warlock with a worried face, troubled by the things she didn't tell him. This was exactly what C.C wanted to avoid but now that it happened, she needed to speak with her warlock. However, before she could say anything, the Demon Emperor started to laugh. This laugh was no different from the time when he learned the truth about the identity of the pilot of the Lancelot.
Lelouch laughed from insanity and inspiration of everything that happened. She saw the tears starting to form on his face as he continued to laugh.
"Nunnally wants to be my enemy, Cera! Hahahaha! Just think about it! How ridiculous it all is?! She wants to fight me?! To take my throne?!" Lelouch stopped as every emotion left his face, leaving only a cold, serious expression.
"In that case, she will die."
'This didn't turn out the way I wanted.'
Schneizel thought to himself as he stared at the mess before him. Nunnally was crying while Cornelia tried to calm her down. Right now all the Royals were inside their secret base. The former prime minister knew that one day he might need to hide from his father and this place was prepared a long time ago. However, hiding there from Lelouch made Schneizel chuckle.
'My little brother grew up into a dangerous individual.' He calmly observed his sisters, disappointed with how this went. 'I knew that Nunnally alone can't convince him to stop, but I hoped that at least it would make Lelouch doubt himself. However, it might have the opposite effect...Doesn't matter either way. Damocles will destroy whatever Lelouch can throw at it. Geass or not, little brother won't stop me.'
"How did it go, Your Highness?" Kanon, his loyal subordinate, asked as he made his way towards the Royal trio who were sitting inside the garden of the future war machine.
"Not as effective as I hoped it to be. Lelouch was shocked at first but I'm afraid we didn't manage to shake his resolve."
"We were expecting this, my Prince. Still, it won't change your plans?"
"Of course it won't. We only called him to give him the last chance to surrender and declare Nunnally as Empress...Tomorrow, we will move to the next stage of the plan."
They gave him a chance to back down but now it is time to make their move. Schneizel glanced at his sisters. With a trained fake worry in his voice, he asked.
"Nunnally, how do you feel?" Cornelia helped her to wipe away tears before she answered.
"Worse than I expected. I know big brother won't listen to us, but I hoped to solve this without-" she looked down. "I wanted to believe-"
"We can't solve every problem with only words, Nunnally. Lelouch showed us his true colours. He won't give up his powers. It is too late to save him." Schneizel was sure of it. He said it not only to make sure his little sister didn't forget her place in his plans but because he was sure Lelouch was beyond redemption. Their brother won't go down without a fight.
'And who can blame him? I wouldn't want to give up everything either. This Geass is such a useful tool. Such power, no wonder Lelouch became like this.' Schneizel knew little about Geass but he could admit, this power was tempting.' All my life's work was undone by him in a matter of days. My connections with nobles, alliances and reputation. Destroyed by him and his power. A lesser man would have been infuriated but I'm impressed by what he managed to achieve. Still, it won't change the fact that I must defeat him.'
"What about the things he told us?" Cornelia asked. "I don't trust Lelouch one bit but if Lady Marianne - if what he told is partially true...Did Kururugi tell everything? Can we trust him?"
Schneizel wasn't surprised by her suspicion. Among them, she had the hardest time working with Suzaku. They both loved the same person and both failed her, but it mattered little to him. Suzaku was a useful tool that had his own reason to despise Lelouch, but if their brother didn't lie, it would mean that the Japanese knight wasn't as honest as he believed. It would appear it was a good thing Schneizel made sure to add some modifications to his new Lancelot.
"I'm sure we can trust Suzaku." Nunnally started. "He wouldn't lie to me. I'm sure of it."
Both of her older siblings looked at her with doubt. Schneizel glanced at Cornelia and silently nodded. His sister understood what he meant and made her way towards the Knightmare hangar. He then turned back to Nunnally.
"I don't doubt it, Nunnally. But it is likely that Sir Kururugi didn't mention some details about how our father died." He gently placed his hand on top of her tiny ones. "We will need to discuss it with him again; meanwhile, you should take a rest. I'm sure this wasn't a pleasant conversation to you, Nunnally. You have an important task tomorrow."
The little princess said nothing and only nodded, but it was visible that she wasn't happy by how things were going at all. The guards escorted her back to her chambers. However, she couldn't help but start thinking about Lelouch's words. She didn't want to believe in the words he said. Not after everything, she learned about him, but deep inside Nunnally couldn't help but wonder about some things he said. A single question was on her mind as she entered her room.
'Am I a puppet?'
Inside the hangar.
Suzaku stared at the Knightmare before him. His Lancelot Albion received quite the beating after his last fight with Lelouch and his minions. While the damage wasn't critical, it was still concerning. Their resources weren't unlimited. While as the Knight of The Round, Suzaku will get the best treatment, it didn't mean the Japanese boy wanted to waste materials that others might need.
Another issue was the engineer/technician/anything to do with Knightmares.
"I feel like I now understand how Lloyd felt wherever pilots trashed his creations!" Complained the feminine voice of his new friend, Mariel Lubie. The female creator glared at the boy before her. "Come on, Suzaku! I know you can do better than this. Was it so hard to avoid a hit or two? Or better all of them?"
"It was a difficult fight, Mariel. Cut me some slack." Suzaku coughed, a little embarrassed.
"I wish but his highness prioritizes his Damocles before Knightmares. I swear that ugly thing will eat all of our resources before we even launch it in the sky."
Suzaku noticed that Mariel inherited more quirks from Lloyd than she was willing to admit. Still, he was worried about the Damocles as well. The giant creation wasn't even complete but many were nervous but how well it would work in a real battle. Personally, Suzaku hated the idea of using the F.L.E.I.J.A. again, but he wasn't the one calling the shots.
'But if we can defeat Lelouch with it then I'm fine...but I would love to avoid using it again. I must prove Lelouch that he is wrong and F.L.E.I.J.A. isn't a way to do it.' Suzaku was sure about one thing. F.L.E.I.J.A. won't kill Lelouch, he will. His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of a new person.
Mariel immediately saluted as princess Cornelia made her way towards them. However, Suzaku quickly noticed that she was angered by something, and her glare didn't leave him. He started to feel nervous. Mariel noticed it too and whispered.
"Suzaku, did you mess up or something?"
Before he could answer, he felt how princess Cornelia lifted him by the collar. Suzaku felt like her grip was going to strangle him. Her violet eyes didn't leave him, as she hissed.
"I have a few questions, Kururugi."
Pendragon. Royal Palace. Lelouch's office.
It wasn't a stretch to say that after the call, the Emperor wasn't in a good mood.
C.C stared silently at her warlock as he called Alfred and gave his orders. She could feel the turmoil inside her partner, the witch felt the same. This wasn't how she wanted this night to go. The things Lelouch said to Nunnally, his anger and feeling of betrayal, she felt it too. However, she also felt his confusion but worst of all, his grief. As if he already buried Nunnally inside his mind. C.C couldn't allow him to be like this.
'I can't allow him to do something he will regret for the rest of his life.'
"I want my legions to be prepared for any potential attack. Send me any report about activities on the border with UFN. Schneizel wouldn't call like this until he was planning something. I'm sure he will make his move soon." Lelouch sounded paranoid, but more than that, he was furious." I want the knights of the round to take a rest while they can. Should enemies make their move, they will be the first forces to respond."
"Should we declare martial law?" Alfred asked as he was writing the orders his master made.
"Not yet. Maybe Schneizel wants me to start panicking like this. He might use it to start chaos, especially if he has F.L.E.I.J.A… I want our reserves to be alerted as well. Fill up the Nemesis, I want it to be fully operational for the next 72 hours nonstop." As Lelouch finished ordering, at least for now, Alfred respectfully nodded before leaving them alone.
Lelouch returned to his throne and took a deep breath. C.C could see that he was exhausted from that call. He needed rest, it wasn't good for the Emperor to be in such a condition. The witch knew what her warlock was capable of when he was desperate. C.C would have loved to comfort him, but she also knew there was something she needed to say as well.
"I can't believe it." Lelouch interrupted her, he sounded hurt. "Nunnally is alive. She is alive, C.C. But why does it have to be like this? Why is she with them? Why? Is this punishment for everything I did? If it so-"
Her warlock stared at her with surprise, she rarely raised her voice. C.C placed her hand on his shoulder as she called him. The witch saw the look of despair on his face. She bit her lip, he needed to hear it.
"I need to tell you something important. It is about Nunnally." his violet eyes stared at her, waiting. C.C sighed, this was hard. "...I knew that she was alive."
Neither of them said anything but for C.C this was even worse. The silence continued for a few moments but to her, it felt like an eternity. She could see how his eyes went wide, he opened his mouth as fear formed on his face. She knew this was going to happen, but C.C continued to hope for the best. Lelouch asked only one question.
C.C took a deep breath before she started.
"Back in Moscow, D.S told me about… she told me about how her power allowed her to see the different possibilities. Because of her power, she saw that Nunnally was alive all this time and was with Schneizel and his people. Your sister was alive all this time but with the enemy." C.C told it slowly, making sure to notice every change on her warlock's face. "She told me everything and we decided to keep it a secret from you for the time being."
"But why? Why didn't you tell me anything?"
He sounded betrayed and C.C knew why. They were partners, they were the closest people in this world. There shouldn't be any lies or secrets between them. And yet, C.C lied to him. Lelouch had all right to be angry with her but he wasn't. He was hurt, he felt crushed and C.C couldn't take it. She lowered her head.
'I knew this was going to happen but I did it for your safety. I did it for you, Lelouch.'
"C.C speak to me. Why did you and D.S do it?" Lelouch asked again but C.C didn't know how to answer. "Cera?"
"Because we were worried about how you might react to it, Lelouch." Both turned towards the new voice. D.S looked at them with a sad look on her face as she entered the office. Lelouch rose up from his throne and walked towards D.S.
"Explain yourself, D.S. What is the point of all these lies?! Why didn't you tell me about it back when we met?" Lelouch shouted as he looked around. "You said Collective Unconscious owes me a debt. Is this how 'God' is treating a person who saved it?! Nunnally is alive but apparently, I'm the last person who learned about it."
"Collective Unconscious wants you to win, but I want you to survive no matter what, Lelouch. The fact about Nunnally is that we didn't know what you would do. Both I and C.C were afraid you might react badly. We decided to deal with it ourselves. That you might endanger your life again because of your sister."
Lelouch glared at her. "D.S, my life belongs to me and I will do as I please. Neither you nor anyone else can dictate to me what to do. I won't allow others to control my life anymore." He said slowly, his voice is full of venom. "If I decide that I must die to achieve my goals, I will do it without hesitation. And you have no right to stop me."
C.C froze when she heard it. The memories about the potential future she was told about, started to play out in her mind. The Zero Requiem. How her Lelouch allowed himself to be killed by his best friend. The witch looked at her warlock with fear. 'No, I won't allow it.'
"I don't need backstabbers in my ranks, D.S. You and I made a deal. I thought I could trust you. C.C, I thought I-"
When Lelouch turned towards his witch, he froze. In front of him was standing his green-haired partner, but the emperor saw something he had never seen before on her face. Tears. C.C, the witch who lived for centuries, the annoying pizza lover who wasted his money like it was nothing was crying. Both D.S and Lelouch were taken back by it. Neither ever expected to see this side of the immortal code bearer. Her gold eyes looked at him with tears as she spoke.
He said nothing, his anger left him, now replaced with concern. D.S didn't know what to do, this was unexpected. Lelouch on another hand, without words, closed the distance between himself and his lover. Lelouch opened his mouth but nothing came out, instead, he only hugged her. It didn't stop her tears as she pressed her head against his chest. With a quiet voice, she whispered.
"I don't want you to die, Lelouch."
"I've been alone all this time. I stopped feeling anything until I met you." her gold eyes stared at his violet ones. This was the first time when he saw her like this, scared. "I don't want to lose you, Lelouch."
Lelouch said nothing and only continued to hold her. He was silent for a time being before glancing at the third person in the room. With a calm voice, he asked.
"You said you two wanted to fix it without me knowing." She slowly nodded, Lelouch continued. "What have you done until now?"
"Do you remember Miss X? The one Zevon boy talked about?" After he nodded, D.S added. "I recruited her to be my spy inside Schneizel's forces...We wanted to use her to find Nunnally."
"...We didn't decide on what to do with her yet." She didn't say it but Lelouch immediately understood what she meant. He said nothing, trying to suppress the emotions inside him. He needed to be calm and think rationally.
"Very well. I want a full report by tomorrow morning, D.S. And this time don't leave out anything." She nodded, she wasn't going to hide the truth from Lelouch anymore. Both she and C.C now could see how it affected him. "Now, please give me and C.C some privacy...We need to speak."
She said nothing and did what he asked. However, on her way out, D.S added.
"Lelouch, you can hate us for our lie. But C.C and I did it because we both care about you. We did it to ensure you will live on," She slightly smiled. "I'm sorry for my actions but I'm not sorry for my intentions."
Once the door behind her closed, Lelouch turned to his witch. She didn't raise her head, still pressing it against his chest. Lelouch slowly put his hand under her chin and gently raised it. Violet met gold as Lelouch stared at her eyes.
When they just met, these eyes were cold and uninterested in anything. Now, Lelouch could see an ocean of emotions inside them. Once a distant witch was now at his arm, crying. Lelouch would have smiled if not for the situation. With a warm tone, he spoke.
"I remember our deal, C.C. I promised to make you smile. I want to make you feel emotions again. I like to think I'm succeeding in it, but-" Lelouch gently wiped the tears from her face. "I never had intentions of making you cry, my witch."
She said nothing, her eyes never leaving his. Lelouch could feel how she was in turmoil. She lowered her head again.
"I don't want to lose you, Lelouch. I don't care about anything else. I just want you to live."
"And you are ready to hide the truth from me?"
"Yes." C.C said without hesitation." I will lie if it means keeping you alive. Lelouch, I-I-I can't do it anymore. If something happens to you, I won't be able to go on anymore."
"Lelouch, tell me something. Did you ever consider something like Zero Requiem?"
He froze. C.C felt like her heart was stabbed. Lelouch thought about it, maybe even planned at some point but didn't do it. At least not yet. With a trembling voice, she whispered.
"Don't tell me-"
"When you, Suzaku and I left World C, I thought about something. After killing my parents I realised how rotten our world is. Where people like Charles and V.V can do unspeakable things without consequences. I wanted to change it. At that time, I had two options." Lelouch remembered that night. It was just a few months ago, but to him, it felt like five years. "I could either go and conquer this world and rule it until my death. Making sure my successors will continue my work and keep this world safe. Or, I could go the Zero Requiem route, becoming the enemy of everyone. Force people to fear and hate me for generations to come. Before being slain by the hand of the masked hero."
"Why? Why did you even think something like that? Sacrificing your own life like that?!"
"Because if it means achieving my goals, I'm willing to ditch my life, morale or feelings. I never wanted to see my loved ones in pain, and yet, I only cause more suffering to those around me. So many died because of me...Maybe I just wanted to escape this pain? Maybe I became like your past self." Lelouch asked her and C.C froze. "Maybe I just became tired of everything. And the death seemed to me like the only way out."
"Never say it again. I beg you. I was seeking death because I didn't have anything to live for. I never had family, my friends would die and leave me behind."
"And my friends died because of me, C.C. Even Nunnally is now my enemy. She was the meaning of my life for so long. And now, she wants to fight me. To destroy everything I worked for."
"She is a child who is confused and afraid, Lelouch. She doesn't want to fight you more than you want to fight her. She might have been your motivation but you have outgrown it. Now, you have other things to fight and live for."
"Your friends, your loved ones, the future you want to create." She placed her hand on his cheek. "Me? I know I'm selfish, but if it means keeping my love alive, I'll become your reason to live, Lelouch."
Lelouch was silent, he stared at her face, thinking about all of this. C.C lied to him, she and D.S both did. Nunnally was alive and he didn't know it. They said it was for his sake, but what right did they have to keep something like this from him? He was her brother, the one person who cared about her more than anyone else. However, wasn't it hypocritical of him? Lelouch himself lied to keep people he cared about safe. Student council, Suzaku, and Nunnally herself. Lelouch kept secrets from them for as long as possible but in the end, the truth was revealed. They learned about his identity as Zero, about Geass, about everything he did. They left him, became his enemies.
Everyone but C.C. His witch never left him, never betrayed him. She kept her own skeletons that she didn't want to talk about. The truth behind his mother's death, the true plans of Charles, she knew it but never told him. However, he didn't care. Lelouch didn't care about her secrets, he didn't leave her back in Geass Order, he didn't leave her to Mao. He changed their deal, made them partners and promised to make her smile. And now, she did so because, like Lelouch, she wanted to keep a person she cared about safe. C.C didn't want him to die, she never wanted it.
"I've lived alone for too long. I've seen empires rise and fall, while I was never able to die. Everyone I knew died while I continued to live... I stopped caring about the world around me. My only dream was to finally end it all. To get rid of my code and..." C.C stopped when she saw the look in his eyes. Lelouch didn't want to hear it, being reminded of her old desire. "...But then I met you. The insane boy who wanted to destroy his own homeland. I found you amusing. I thought you were a fool who would get himself killed one way or another but I decided to stay with you. I started to feel things I have forgotten about. I was no longer just curious about you but completely absorbed by your plans. You stopped being just another means to the end. I started to see us as partners. And now-" C.C looked at him. "I love you, Lelouch. I love you and I'm afraid because I might lose you."
"Heh, I remember how one witch told me something about not saying obvious things back in Moscow," Lelouch smirked but C.C didn't look fazed.
"I don't care about that anymore. I will say it millions of times if it means you won't put your life in danger. Lelouch, I know how you feel about Nunnally. About how I and D.S kept it a secret from you. I could feel the pain you felt when your sisters spoke with you. I felt your anger, your fear as you talked with Nunnally. I know I shouldn't have lied to you, but I did it for your sake. Hate me if you want, but it won't stop me from keeping you alive. I can't lose you and I won't allow anything to take you away from me."
She became silent, waiting for Lelouch to scold her or order to take her away. C.C hurt him with her actions and she knew it. However, she didn't care about any punishment, her resolve won't be changed no matter what.
'If Lelouch hates me, I will endure it. As long as he is alive, I'm happy.' C.C thought about it but deep down she was afraid that he might stop loving her. She knew it was selfish but the idea of her warlock hating her was painful. Still, if it was her punishment for lies, she will accept them, no matter how it hurt her heart,
Instead, her warlock remained silent. He slowly moved away from her and walked towards his table.
"After what happened tonight, there is a lot of work to be done. We will need to prepare for whatever Nunnally and Schneizel will throw at us."
C.C blinked in confusion.
"Yes, C.C. We." Lelouch rolled his eyes. "Don't play dumb, witch. I can handle many things but I still need you by my side."
"But I-I lied to you!"
"And?" Lelouch asked with a raised eyebrow, she wanted to scream. Why was her warlock so casual about it?!" You lied to me tonight and so what? You said nothing to me about my parents and it didn't change our relationships."
"But this is about Nunnally. Aren't you angry? Shouldn't you hate me?" Lelouch looked at her with a surprised look.
"I'm angered by the situation and irritated by the fact my lovers kept something this important as a secret. But I will never hate you, C.C. Nor, should it change my relationship with D.S. She and I have our own deal." Lelouch said as he sat on the throne. "Granted, I'm still angry at both of you and you won't get off so easily. But it won't change the way I feel about you. After all, aren't you're my witch-"
"And you're my warlock." C.C didn't notice how she smiled.
"And nothing will change that. Now, my little sister might be alive but I will not allow Nunnally to crush my plans. This world is mine and I will make everyone see it as such. Doesn't matter who stands against me. The Black Knights, my old friend or even my sister. As long as we're together, nothing will stop us. Now, my witch, we have to prepare and plan our next move. Does my little sister want to fight me? Very well." Lelouch smirked darkly.
"Then we should show her what happens when you challenge the Demon."
And here is a new chapter! There are some things I need to explain. Let's start with something some of you might be unsatisfied with. Lelouch forgiving C.C and D.S. I know this feels a little rushed for him to forgive them in one chapter but I have reasons for it. I don't think Lelouch will be angry at C.C to the point he can't trust her. In the show, Lelouch didn't bring up the fact that C.C didn't tell him the truth about his parents, and I like to think this was because he understood why she did it. The same here, he doesn't like it but he can understand why they did it. Lelouch can be angry at what she and D.S did but he won't stop trusting them over it. But don't worry, C.C and D.S stunt will have consequences. Another reason was that I didn't want to create a long drama over this. There are already several plot lines and I didn't want to introduce a new one at this stage.
About Nunnally. Some reviews pointed out that there is no reason for her to be an enemy of Lelouch since our favourite emperor hasn't done anything wrong or outright evil yet. And I can see the logic but Nunnally, Schneizel and Cornelia have enough reasons to fight Lelouch. They know about the Geass and that the Royal family became his puppets because of it. Cornelia didn't forgive him for killing Euphy and Nunnally is manipulated by Schneizel. To them, Lelouch is the uncontrollable emperor who can go too far with his Geass and control over the people. But I will explain it later in the next chapters. Also, people asked why Schneizel's group contacted Lelouch this early and what he will gain from it. I will try to explain it in the next chapter because as Schneizel said the next step will start tomorrow.
Anyway, hoped you enjoyed the chapter! See you next time! :D
Editor: Kingpin Lunamaria.