Disclaimer: I do not own Code Geass or any of its canon characters.

This story is continued from Rise of a New Moon. If you have not already done so, please read that before continuing on here. You will be quite lost otherwise.

2332 Hours, 31 August, 2017 ATB

Southern Shikoku, Area 11

Shikoku was the smallest of the Japanese home islands included within Area 11, and it had the distinction of holding the smallest known sakuradite reserves in the chain. Honshu laid claim to most of it, especially in and around Fuji. Therefore, while Shikoku was a strategically significant territory for the defense of Honshu, most of the island had been ignored by the Britannians. There were several Britannian airfields, and a naval installation on the north end, along with most of the island's garrison forces, but little interest had been paid to the more remote sectors to the south and west.

Such was the case that Shikoku made the best place in Japan for a wanted man to stay free. At least, as free as you could be when hiding underground. This is what the Blood of the Samurai's once powerful leader had been reduced to, after their string of disastrous defeats in Tokyo, and across central Honshu.

The assassination of Prince Clovis by their fighters had brought about the exact opposite result that they had wanted. Instead of cutting the head off the snake, and watching the Britannians devour each other in the ensuing power vacuum left behind, they had unwittingly propelled Luna vi Britannia to the position of Viceroy of Area 11, and to effectively be the ruler of Japan. Along with the Imperial Japanese Army, her army that had once been the JLF, she had seized control of the country. The problem for the Blood of the Samurai was that instead of a divided enemy squabbling among themselves, they had ended up on the wrong end of a nominally unified Britannian colonial government with overwhelming military might that had wasted no time unleashing it upon them.

While conventional military force was largely to blame for the systematic annihilation of the Blood of the Samurai across most of the country, not every mission called for knightmare frames and battalions of infantry. Some required finesse; the application of a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer. This was one of those times.

Reaper 1-1 allowed faint grin to form beneath his face mask as he heard the go order finally come down through his earpiece. He slowly returned to verticality, making less noise than his own shadow as he got up off the ground. In a twenty meter radius around him, the other four members of his team replicated his action a moment later. The night was as dark as can be, with the combination of cloud cover and the remote location they happened to be in. Perfect for a quiet op.

The six men of the Reaper team began to move forward toward their first objective, a place that they had been covertly surveilling for over two days. Five minutes later they took up concealed positions only forty meters from the target. In front of them was a deceptively natural looking rock formation that appeared to be the entrance to a cave. The two armed men guarding the entrance gave the first hint that it was something more.

After their observation time, they knew that there were at least twelve hostiles that rotated on this guard duty assignment in eight hour shifts. The men themselves were Japanese, dressed in non uniform combat gear, and carried a variety of weapons that were mostly Britannian, Chinese or Chinese copies of Russian small arms, although one older guardsman was seen carrying a Type 64 battle rifle. From his age and gear, it was probable that he had been with the SDF during the invasion. A shame that he ended up here.

Standing before them now were two of the younger enemy fighters, armed with what appeared to be Chinese reproduction AK-101s; The Russians weren't exporting in this direction. As with the last five shifts before them, by this point they were getting bored and complacent with standing around in the dark. They had all the qualities of a good target.

Reaper 1-1 motioned to his team to get ready. As they complied, he raised his weapon, an integrally suppressed M7S SMG, and centered the holographic ring and dot, glowing green through his helmet's light amplification mode, on the right man's chin. He glanced over to see Reaper 1-3 doing the same. After a silent countdown from three, both weapons spit out a two round burst of 5mm caseless subsonic rounds. The pair of men on guard duty never even knew they were under attack before their skulls were quietly perforated. Going for headshots wasn't their standard procedure, but in this case it was the safer move, as even soft armor vests would have defeated the 5mm subsonics.

The M7 series was a strange line of guns of Britannian origin. Originally conceived of as a military and police weapon, the M7's proprietary 5mm caseless ammunition, tendency to overheat, and the possibility of unintentional discharge when a fresh round was loaded into a hot chamber, led to it failing trials for military adoption. Instead of giving up on the idea, the team behind the gun got to work modifying it extensively.

Taking the original design, the design team doubled the length of the barrel, installed an integral suppressor, and developed a closed loop liquid cooling system run by a recoil actuated pump to solve the weapon's heat issues. The result was the M7S, which was even more of an over engineered disaster from a military perspective. However, what they managed to actually create was one of the quietest guns ever built. It soon gained a cult following among special operations communities, as well as intelligence agencies and assassins due to its unparalleled silence and lack of brass to be left behind.

The team moved quickly now, albeit without increasing their noise by very much. Both bodies were quickly disarmed and searched, before being concealed a few meters away. Neither man had been wearing armor, but one did forget to engage the safety on his rifle, which would have made a non lethal hit on him into a serious threat if he discharged his unsuppressed weapon from a twitchy death. All of their weapons were rapidly unloaded, cleared, and placed next to the bodies. The blood would be impossible to hide, but it should be hours before anyone noticed. Plenty of time to get in and out.

A radio was all that the Reapers took from their first kills this night before they moved to enter the cave. Having watched the guard rotation optically, through a directional microphone, and radio interception, they knew the check in schedule, and what to say. Reaper 1-1 was confident that they could fake the next two check ins well enough to avoid detection. That would be more than enough time.

They moved into the cave carefully, having a vague idea of what was inside based on observed conversations between the guards, but no hard intel to pre plan their infiltration.

As they melded into the darkness within, each operator switched his helmet's visual settings from unfiltered transparency to IR overlay. Sensors built into the helmets replaced the need for more traditional tube style night vision systems, allowing them to retain the use of their weapons' regular optics.

Just as the transparent visor could be raised up into the helmet, so too did a second, opaque plate of matching shape mounted in front of it. When rotated down to cover the visor, the contoured screen on the inner face displayed the user's view in their alternate wavelength of choice. In this case, they traded visible light for the pale glow of infrared light. The technology was still a while away from general deployment, but so far it was very promising.

The first hundred meters or so consisted of unlit, natural rock tunnels into the mountain, with visibility of virtually nothing, except for the glow of the weapon mounted IR illuminator at the front of the stack. Then, with stark sharpness, the natural was replaced with the artificial. The rough tunnel opened up into a carved passageway, still made of the same rock, although precisely cut and flattened with mechanical precision.

Reaper 1-1 switched his visibility mode from IR to a mild visible light amplification setting, as the thin string of weak lights across the center of the ceiling gave the area a dim glow. The hallway was wide, and far from empty. Crates and boxes were spaced somewhat regularly within his line of sight, and the space was wide enough to comfortably drive a laden forklift through with plenty of room to spare on either side. He figured it was probably a supply corridor from the main surface entrance down into the underground base.

Turning left, the team made bounding movements, using what cover and concealment was available. Sixty meters further, a set of patrolling guards turned the corner to their front and began walking toward the team. The two new men did not seem to know that anything was wrong. They were moving at a leisurely pace, rifles slung, and seemingly unaware that the base was under attack.

As they neared, 1 and 3 pulled a repeat of their earlier performance and put two 5mm subsonics through each man's head, killing them so close to instantly that they wouldn't have even known it happened. Within moments of the bodies dropping, the team was working to conceal the kills. A box they were using as cover was quickly pried open, and the two dead men were left inside.

The team continued their infiltration into the base, leaving only minimal evidence in plain sight that they had been there. With the enemy's level of alertness and proficiency they had seen so far, there was nothing to worry about. They continued on mission.

A long hour of stealthy movement and one falsified radio check in later, the Reaper team had arrived at what they thought would be their target site. Underneath this seaside Shikoku mountain was a secret base. Construction of the facility had been started once upon a time by the Japanese military of old. Originally intended to be a secret submarine dock, the site was the victim of budgetary shifting and politics in the years before the invasion. The result was that while most of the excavation work had been completed, it was never brought into operation.

Being that the unfinished base was so secret that the Britannians completely missed it during the invasion and years since, it made a great fallback position for the remaining BOTS forces. Given the proximity to Chinese controlled Kyushu, few Britannian vessels, military or otherwise, came through the area. Thus, it was established as the primary supply and smuggling route from Kyushu to Kusakabe's remaining fanatics.

With the help of Atsushi Sawasaki, the regional governor of Kyushu for the Federation, three older Chinese submarines had been repurposed as covert cargo boats instead of going to the scrap yards. Making regular trips from Kyushu to Shikoku, they kept the Blood of the Samurai supplied with items that could not be easily smuggled by other means.

Thus, it was to the good fortune of the Reaper men that one such submarine had just arrived at the hidden dock within the mountain. Attention and focus was fixed on the boat, and the cargo within, which just happened to be almost on the other side of the cavernous room from where they were infiltrating.

Reaper 1-1 took a quick look around the facility, feeling a bit strange. He had spent a lot of time in places like this, albeit completed and well furnished, during his time in Hokkaido. Something in him just didn't like that the enemy was relying on the same kind of hidden bases that had saved the JLF from being hunted down and destroyed. He pushed that thought away; their helmets were recording, so he could study the place in detail at a later date.

The interior of the main facility was effectively a rectangular hollow within the mountain, with twelve large support columns spaced throughout. Roughly a third of the space was water directly connected to the sea outside via an underwater tunnel. Just beyond the docks where the single submarine was floating, a large warehouse made of what looked like low quality sheet metal covered much of the space. Beyond that were rows of rough looking barracks, and a few more well built structures against the western wall.

Making their way toward the built up section of the base was easier than anticipated. There was plenty of lighting at the docks and near the warehouse, courtesy of high powered work lights bathing the area in bright light. Good for the Reapers, since the setup had the effects of casting plenty of stark directional shadows, while simultaneously wrecking the night vision of anybody close to the docks. Professionals would have used much dimmer red lighting.

Moving rapidly through the shadows and between buildings, they encountered no further resistance as they went through the back of the barracks area. A quick glance inside two of the structures revealed plenty of figures occupying cots in their dark interiors. They would in all likelihood sleep through the team's activities completely unaware.

Approaching the structures, 1 got a sense that the building in front of him may have been an original, either for the construction crew or intended for the final MSDF submarine base. It was outwardly older and better made than anything else they had seen thus far.

Using a fibre optic snake camera, 1 and 3 each covertly checked a ground floor window. The snakes fed directly into a vision overlay inside the helmet, making it appear as if they actually had their heads up against the glass, slightly distorted, but more than good enough for this purpose. Satisfied that the bottom level was clear of hostiles, they prepared to breach.

Reaper 1-4 took position opposite from the main stack, and on command from 1, slowly turned the door handle. To their relief, it fully rotated and gently clicked open, no lock and no alarm. 1 took point and led the way into the building, M7S held in his right hand as he slowly palmed the door open with his left. He slowly, quietly, swept into the building. The men cleared the room, and several adjacent rooms, in under a minute. No contacts.

Ascending the stairs, they once again employed optical snake cameras to check around corners at the top. This time, there was a man to the left, facing away in a wooden chair. The other direction was clear. 1 raised his suppressed weapon and took careful aim. The man he was looking at had a rifle, but it was on a sling hanging from the back rest of the chair, not held in his hands. Still, he was going to take no chances, not at this stage.

1 squeezed his trigger, flipping the switch between life and death. The weapon coughed out two rounds, which entered the back of the man's head and devastated his brain stem. He watched as the corpse slumped forward, instantly turned off after the precise hit. There was no way to clean up or disguise this kill without either making too much noise or lingering for too long.

They advanced and almost immediately found what appeared to be what passed for an officer's sleeping quarters among Kusakabe's followers. The man inside the first room was just as asleep as the others in the outside barracks had been. He would never wake up.

The team swept the floor, quietly making sure that everyone they found would be staying in bed indefinitely. Twenty three slowly cooling bodies later, they struck gold.

Room twelve by their count was larger than the rest. While the others seemed to be fairly spartan officers' quarters, or at least the Blood of the Samurai equivalent of such, behind the final door was a space better described as a live in office. A basic looking prefab wooden desk, two computers, a pile of phones, a rack of clothes that they recognized as old JGSDF uniforms, and an actual bed, albeit a small one.

In that bed was the man they had come all this way to find. Reaper 1-1 advanced with the satisfaction of a man that knew his prey had no chance. He let his M7S down on its sling and withdrew a foul smelling cloth from a special pouch on his kit. He grabbed Josui Kusakabe and held the cloth down on his face. The man's eyes shot open, fear, surprise, and panic obvious on the part of his face still visible. He tried to struggle, but in his semi conscious state, held down by a trained killer, and having no choice but to breathe in the chemical cocktail being held against his face, Kusakabe went limp after only a few seconds of token resistance.

The Reapers grabbed the phones and both computers, older model notebooks, stuffed them into RF shielded bags, and distributed the treasure trove of intel among the team. At the same time, Kusakabe was expertly restrained with heavy plastic cuffs, a gag, and zipped up in a black body bag. Carrying their HVT out of this place was a job that fell to Reaper 1-4. 4 was the biggest man on the team, and his kit had been intentionally left ultra light specifically for this purpose. He could keep up, even with an extra 80 or so kilos of weight in a fireman's carry.

With the primary mission complete, getting Kusakabe out alive was a secondary priority. They had him, and he wasn't going to escape from this. A confirmed kill was sufficient if need be. But perhaps they wouldn't need to. After all, extracting him alive was by far the more preferable option. Even to these men, ice cold professionals laser focused on the mission, they wanted him to suffer for what he had done. What better way to do that than to deliver him intact to the mercy of one particularly vengeful Britannian woman, or lack thereof.

But first, something had to be done about this base. It was a concentration of enemy forces that they could not leave intact. However, direct action and sabotage was not their primary mission tonight. They had to get the man in the body bag out of here intact if at all possible. Other, more overtly violent forces had been put in place for just such an occasion.

As they began to trace back through their ingress route to get out of the base, Reaper 1-1 reached for his comms and hit the transmit button for the first time in three days.

0153 Hours, September 01, 2017 ATB

Southern Shikoku, Area 11

HMS Vesper

During the past week of combat operations concentrated on northern Shikoku, the RBN in Area 11 had moved several warships down to provide support. The Blood of the Samurai had no navy to speak of, but the threat posed by the Chinese was ever present. Unlike their internal terrorist enemies, the Chinese Federation was known to possess a powerful arsenal of anti ship missiles. Although they were well within range already, moving warships too close to Kyushu could be seen as provocative. Thus, most vessels stayed in the waters east of Imabari.

Of course, this logic only applied if forces in Kyushu could detect the vessels in question. Enter HMS Vesper, one of several experiments to adapt ocean going combat to the new age of knightmare warfare. An older cruise missile submarine converted into a carrier for Portman class knightmare frames, it was the only ship of its type on this side of the pacific. Unlike the rest of the experimental vessels, split almost half and half between surface ships and submarines, this one was going to be the first to see a combat operation.

Inside the Vesper's hull, the space that had once been filled with VLS tubes for over 150 Jackhammer cruise missiles had been fully converted to a hangar for sixteen Portman II knightmare frames. The RBN operated the boat, while the Royal Marines provided the knightmare pilots. At that very moment, all sixteen marines were geared up and in their cockpits, awaiting a go order. They had been put on alert once the order had been given for the special forces team to begin their part of the operation. The call they were waiting for came in at precisely 0153 hours on the dot.

The Britannian marines, part of an elite raider unit, triple checked their weapons and machines. As soon as all sixteen Portman IIs showed green check ins, the navy sealed the bay and began to flood it in a controlled fashion, capturing the displaced atmosphere in secondary holding tanks to mitigate surface bubbles when the doors opened. The amphibious knightmare frames stood perfectly still until the space was full, and the pressure inside the chamber matched that of the ocean outside the hull. The marines signaled they were ready, and the doors above them opened up.

Each Portman II gently engaged their waterjet propulsion systems, and one at a time over a period of thirty seconds, stealthily lifted out of the submarine. While neither they nor the crew of the Vesper thought there were enemy attack boats in the area, being careful and quiet got you killed a whole lot less than the other way around.

The marine knightmare frames, designated as call sign Mermaid for this operation, formed up outside the boat and began moving the five kilometers to the target location. They would remain under the surface the entire time as to not reveal themselves too early. They had plenty of weapons for when it was time to go loud.

0225 Hours, September 01, 2017 ATB

Southern Shikoku, Area 11

The entrance to the tunnel they were looking for was right where intel had put it in their briefing. Forty meters wide, thirty meters tall, and almost two hundred long, it was an unguarded route of direct access into the mountain base for anything that could swim. The edges were loosely concealed by irregular cuts in the rock, and a buildup of ocean life, but there was no doubt that it was an artificial feature.

Sixteen Royal Marines Portman II amphibious knightmare frames entered the tunnel, and split into teams of four. They immediately identified the enemy sub inside. They were relieved to notice that its screws weren't turning, and its torpedo tubes were pointed in the wrong direction. It was no threat to them, given the circumstances.

One team of Portmans went directly for the sub, with the intent of disabling it. If it couldn't move, it had no way to enter the fight even if it wanted to. The remaining twelve knightmares then surfaced, a team of four to each side of the rectangle that faced away from the water.

The men on the dock, and otherwise on shore within their field of view, all seemed to stop and stare. There weren't many of them, and those that were still awake pulling duties into the early morning probably all wished they were asleep. The marines were here to address that.

At once, the raiders raised their 25mm rifles up above the surface, and opened fire on everything around them. Most of the dock workers, and the three Chinese made Gun Ru knightmare frames they were using to move pallets, were torn to pieces as a mix of AP and HEAT rounds connected with them.

Return small arms fire began almost immediately, but it was almost all from pistols and assault rifles, with the occasional shotgun blast mixed in, none of which had much effect on a knightmare frame beyond wrecking the paint job. Still being in the water, they were offered even further protection from the tiny projectiles as only the upper third of the frame was exposed.

As the fight began, chaos reigned for a few moments as the marines got the situation in order. Once the sub was disabled, the last four marines joined the rest of their force on the surface, and then they quickly got out of the water with the aid of their slash harkens.

The sound inside the cavernous base was overwhelmingly loud, so much so that the marines could clearly feel the reverberating echoes even in their sealed up cockpits. Anyone caught inside without hearing protection would be at least temporarily deaf in short order. Hundreds of explosions in a confined space had that effect.

Even so, the incoming fire intensified as the invading raiders made it onto land. Some enemy infantry began to fire 40mm grenades as a substitute for a lack of anti armor weapons. It made little difference, although two of the Portmans suffered some damage from direct hits. It was annoying, but not enough to stop them. Although looking much worse for wear, all sixteen knightmare frames kept going strong.

Once it became apparent that the base's defenders did not have any heavy weapons, as they were inconveniently stored in the dockside warehouse after being offloaded from sub deliveries, the marines pushed the attack.

Chaos mines were thrown in the direction of the barracks structures that had been identified by the special ops team. Eight of the devices split open in mid air, and the resulting spray of burning hot projectiles resembled a literal rain of fire upon the target buildings. Hundreds of bodies were shredded by the torrent of hot metal and hurricane of secondary fragmentation, some before they could even get out of their bunks.

Normally, any sane opponent would be trying to surrender by this point. Having no real way to fight back, and taking enormous casualties, there was virtually no chance that the Blood of the Samurai fighters would even survive, much less win this fight. But continue to fight they did, their light weapons providing little deterrent to the sixteen amphibious killing machines they were trapped inside the mountain with.

Over the next half hour, Mermaid team cleared out the base, expending most of their ammunition in the process. By the time it was over, these sixteen men had become some of the most lethal in the history of the marine corps. Nobody would ever know exactly how many they killed; too many of the bodies were obliterated by the chaos mines and explosive rounds to be accurately counted. Final estimates would range between two thousand to just over three thousand enemy KIA. With them, the Blood of the Samurai effectively ceased to exist as an organized force.

0252 Hours, September 01, 2017 ATB

Southern Shikoku, Area 11

Escaping from the Blood of the Samurai fortress proved to be far easier than anticipated. As fate would have it, none of the bodies they had left concealed on their way in had been discovered yet. Not too surprising, considering the quality of the enemy's remaining troops. All they had left after their retreat south were the ultra fanatics, and those too stupid to see the end coming for them. Not exactly the makings of a quality force that could stay vigilant on boring patrol routes.

None of the men on the Reaper team had to fire another shot that night. The most tense part of the escape was actually the return to the exterior surface of Shikoku. Coming out of the cave entrance, they were exposed and lacking any overwatch. If there was a time to ambush a superior force, this would have been it. However, the only thing waiting for them proved to be the familiar sounds of the night.

Only a few minutes away through the forest was the small clearing where their extraction had landed minutes before. Two Type 10 VTOL transports were waiting on the ground for them when they arrived, their jet pods vertical and still warmed up.

Surrounding the LZ to provide security was a second Japanese special forces team, albeit of newer JLF origin. All of them were likely SDF members prior to the war, but as far as anyone knew, the two Reaper teams were all that remained of the original JGSDF SFG units. They were the elite of the elite, all of them having been in this business for over a decade. The new guys were good, but most lacked the experience to reach their level.

As the Reapers arrived with the HVT, everybody quickly converged on the two birds that would get them back to Tokyo. The pilots were airborne in moments, and the pair started the trip north, flying just above treetop height to minimize their signature to any potential anti aircraft weapons lurking about in the area. They weren't stealth aircraft, but it would be good enough against anything they were likely to run into on the way home.

0300 Hours, September 01, 2017 ATB

HMS Deucalion, Tokyo, Area 11

For the first time in a long time, Luna vi Britannia distinctly felt out of place. She was still technically an imperial princess, and had seized control of the colonial government. This was by any measure her country now. Yet, standing in the CIC of the Logres-class battleship HMS Deucalion was like a whole different world.

Although the massive vessel was on the ground, docked alongside her Caerleon-class escorts atop Tokyo's superstructure, the ship was still a hive of activity. Primarily, this was due to Princess Cornelia retaining the use of the battleship as her primary command post.

The CIC of a Logres-class battleship was spacious, very well equipped, and surrounded by the familiar security the ship provided. Even landed as it was, most combat stations were manned at all times. It wasn't quite like being permanently on GQ, but Cornelia demanded that her flagship maintain a high level of readiness. Considering who they were standing ready to defend, the crew didn't complain. They were among Cornelia's most loyal troops, and their devotion showed.

All the more reason Luna felt off being here. She had not a single true ally aboard this ship. Although confident that Cornelia wasn't going to stab her in the back, it still felt like the perfect opportunity for that to happen.

Although, as video feeds of the operation in progress played across the main displays, she was constantly reminded of why she had come here. Convincing Cornelia to support joint operations with the IJA, both training and live missions, had been an important breakthrough. Now, she was here to see it through.

This was still the very early stages of those efforts, but there on the feeds before her were sixteen Royal Marines knightmare frames performing a strike based almost exclusively on intel provided from Japanese sources. They had to trust their counterparts, and so far, the results were proving to be very positive. She watched with a grin as the portmans mowed down unprepared BOTS personnel in their own base. It was a one sided slaughter, and that suited her just fine. Watching them die in droves almost made up for the discomfort of having to be awake at this hour.

"Your people were spot on." Gilbert Guilford said from beside her. "Fish in a barrel would have put up more of a fight. I haven't seen a surprise attack work that well in a long time."

"I have confidence in my intelligence services and special forces." She replied plainly, not looking away from the array of feeds.

"Well placed it seems." He replied, equally detached. Instead of the monitors, he was staring at Cornelia further forward in the room. She glanced over at him. Of course he was; she was literally the center of his universe in every capacity.

Luna's attention turned to the man beside her. She did not know him personally all that well, but experiences in both this life and the past, told her that he was one of the most loyal men alive. She would be willing to bet that he would not question her, no matter what path she chose to follow. That could be a boon, or it could be dangerous. Right now, she suspected it was more the former. All Cornelia had to do was tell him to help coordinate their forces, and he would put aside any personal prejudices or reservations in an instant to obey her.

A bit like Jeremiah, really, Luna realized after a moment. He wasn't officially a knight of honor, but he was much the same as the man standing here. Jeremiah, as with Guilford, suffered from the same fanatic blind loyalty to their respective princesses. She suspected that he would do nothing to rein in her more violent tendencies if it came down to it.

A memory of the night in Clovis's Code-R research lab came to mind. It wasn't quite a stress flashback, but she suddenly remembered in vivid detail walking down that line of prisoners, opening throat after throat with warm, wet steel. Jeremiah wouldn't have stopped her, had he been present. But neither would Guilford, had it been Cornelia executing those men in a blood rage.

Of course, Jeremiah had reached that level of personal devotion without sleeping with her. Not that she could hold it against Guilford, considering what she saw as she glanced back at Cornelia.

Luna liked the idea of him being so blindly loyal. She had plenty of tools available to manipulate Cornelia as necessary. Now all she had to do was keep her knight from being disruptive to her plans to get Cornelia firmly on her side.

"Cornelia looks quite pleased with the results so far." Luna said, returning her attention to the feeds.

"Those are the men that assassinated Prince Clovis dying out there, what's left of them at any rate. Her highness wants them all destroyed. If anything, she's hiding her disappointment at not having the chance to kill them herself." Guilford explained.

"You know her better than anyone, Guilford. Tell me, does she really lead from the front as often as is claimed?" Guilford nodded in response.

"Trying to protect Princess Cornelia has undoubtedly given me the most combat experience of any knight of honor in the empire. Most who hold the position perform their duties in a ceremonial and personal bodyguard capacity. Cornelia, however, has spent more time being shot at by hostile troops than she had gossiping in Pendragon."

"Does it bother you that she's always running toward danger?" Luna asked him.

"Not anymore. You could say that I've...come around to her approach. It's why she commands such loyalty from the 5th. Talk to other units in the army, and they say that we can make anything happen.

We performed miracles in the deserts. Feats of speed, maneuver, logistics, and outright combat power that are the envy of the world. All with Princess Cornelia leading from the front. That's how the 5th ended up with the name Angel Division." The knight told her.

"Siwa." Luna muttered. Guilford grinned with pride.

"The NAU's scout reports dismissed us as mirages. The enemy couldn't possibly advance over six hundred kilometers through the desert for an attack when they were supposed to be hugging the Mediterranean coast, right?" He said with a grin.

The Battle of Siwa Oasis had been one for the storybooks. Calling it a "battle" may have been a stretch, considering how one sided the engagement turned out to be. The Britannian 5th Armored Division rolled across the Libyan desert and smashed almost two divisions worth of NAU forces in a laughably one sided action. Completely unaware until they were actually under attack, the NAU troops broke, routed, and were subsequently slaughtered over the course of the next six hours. It set the North African Union on a death spiral that it never recovered from. What was left of their shattered armies fled east to Cairo. Cornelia and 5th Armored would later destroy most of the survivors of Siwa in a fierce engagement just south of Giza, on the opening day of the Battle of Cairo.

"Did she actually lead the first charge, or is that just embellishment?" Luna asked of the opening assault. Guilford nodded with a grin and began to tell the tale.

"It was late afternoon, just past 1700 as we got within five kilometers of the enemy. 2nd Battalion was in the lead as formed up. We were seven Gloucesters and forty Sutherlands with leveled lances as we charged. Cornelia put the accelerator on the floor and pulled ahead in the last five hundred meters. Their front line broke before we even hit them; before we even fired a shot. They saw her highness at the front, lance gleaming under the setting sun, and they knew it was their end." He recalled with a fervor.

"Telling war stories, are we?" Cornelia asked from beside them. Neither had noticed her approach.

"Only the good ones." Guilford said with a smile.

"It's been three years, but Siwa still feels like yesterday." Cornelia reminisced. "I miss that day; that glorious victory. Most of the natives fled in terror, but I will never forget those few that turned to face me with their ancient vehicles. They were brave men. Stupid men, but so brave that they've earned my respect with their deaths."

"Unlike the Blood of the Samurai." Luna said.

"It's a shame there's so few of them left after today. I would love to paint my machine with their blood."

"Don't worry, Cornelia. There will be more war. Remember what I told you. You'll have real enemies to test in the not so distant future." Luna said to her. "And speaking of the future, we need to discuss it."

"How so? The plan we've put together has been working well, even if we're still in the early stages."

"In two weeks, I'm going to hold a conference of every major player in the country, military and civilian. Together, we're going to leave as little ambiguity about the future as possible." Luna told them both.

"In person?" Cornelia asked skeptically. "That sounds like a very high value target for anyone that wants us dead."

"Which is why we're going to meet in the dorsal observation deck of the Hiryu."

"Your giant airship?"

"Can you think of a more secure place on this side of the planet?" Luna asked. "If anyone can destroy the Hiryu with no warning, I'll spend my final moments thoroughly impressed."

Cornelia chuckled at the thought. Even she had to admit that the ship was a flying fortress without equal. She glanced up at it, visible as a long string of lights in the night sky twenty something kilometers away. While she wouldn't admit it in present company, she had thought about that scenario. Even with a surprise attack, she would have great difficulty taking it down with available forces in Area 11, and at the cost of most of them. Luna was right about it being secure from external threats. As for internal threats, Cornelia wasn't worried about that nearly as much. If Luna had shown enough courtesy to board her ship, she would at least return the favor. That, and she really did want to take a peek inside it.

0800 Hours, September 01, 2017 ATB

IJAS Hiryu, 5000m above Tokyo Bay, Area 11

High Security Brig

Josui Kusakabe, former JGSDF and JLF officer, leader of the Blood of the Samurai, sat on his knees, not quite proper seiza, but close enough, as he stared at the smooth metal wall one meter in front of him. To his left and right were identical featureless metal walls, the monotony broken only by a toilet made of the same stainless steel, a small sink, and a sleeping mat. Behind him was a 50mm thick plate of clear ballistic glass that doubled as the cell's door by retracting into the floor.

He did not know exactly where he was, his captors had exercised thorough operational security procedures when moving him, but it mattered little in the end. His enemies, Japan's relentless enemies, had finally caught up with him. Kusakabe had always known in the back of his mind that this was a possibility, but he never believed for a second that it would actually happen to him.

He had expected to go out in a glorious last stand action, should he ever be defeated. Not pulled out of an underground safehouse, and locked in a cage with his last worldly possession being the cheap underwear the guards had given him. Being strip searched by gaijin was one of the worst humiliations he had ever been forced to endure.

Even so, the conduct of his captors up to this point had genuinely surprised him. While their treatment had not exactly been gentle, none of them had tried to purposely harm him. He had been expecting a torture chamber as he was pulled out of an aircraft he did not remember boarding, thick black hood over his head, by two powerful special forces operators. But that fate had not come, which either meant it wasn't going to happen, or they had something worse in store.

Kusakabe almost turned around as he heard new noises behind him. Through the tiny, millimeter wide air holes at the top of the glass door, the sound of approaching boots upon metal filtered down to him. It wasn't the two guards posted outside the door, as he had never heard them leave. That meant it must be someone here for him.

He did begin to turn around as he heard the keypad, and the cell door begin to retract. Standing behind the slowly moving glass, the only new person in his field of view was a single Britannian woman. He looked her up and down.

Black hair just a bit high of reaching her shoulders, piercing violet eyes, and a finely made suit that reeked of self proclaimed importance.

"Oh how a few years can change a man." She spoke. "From a proud SDF officer that fought in one of the most important battles in Japanese history, to a rat cowering in the dirt. You disappoint me, Kusakabe, to say nothing of what General Katase thinks of you."

"As if I care what you people think of me." He replied, wondering what Katase had to do with this.

"What happened to you, Kusakabe? What turned a career army officer with a good record into the monster kneeling before me?" She asked the prisoner, crossing her arms and leaning back against the right wall.

"You imperial bastards happened. The fourth of August happened." He growled.

"I'm not talking about the invasion. You didn't go off the reservation until over a year later. What changed?" Luna asked him, genuinely wanting to know.

"Why do you care, Britannian?"

"Because I want to know what can make a man so deluded as to believe that killing his own people, many of which were innocent children, can be in their best interest, as you've so claimed."

"The penalty for treason is death." Kusakabe spat. "All that collude with the invaders are traitors to their people. They were not, are not Japanese."

"Neither are you, Eleven." Luna told him with a smug smoothness that sent hot rage through his veins. Kusakabe snarled, and began to make a move as if to strike at her, but his arms and legs suddenly locked up. He fell flat on his face as brutal electrical surges ripped conscious control of his muscles away. He lay there convulsing for what felt like long minutes, even though it was just a few seconds. As it faded, he looked up to notice that she was holding a small remote. Of course the damn shackles were rigged to electrocute prisoners, typical Britannian cruelty.

"We are not numbers!" He yelled, face still pressed into the steel floor from the pain in his limbs. Luna put her right boot under his shoulder and flipped him onto his back with a painful yelp. Of all the things this man was, a warrior in peak physical condition was not among them. Military discipline and fitness standards had apparently been left behind when he abandoned the JLF, and made no better by a life in hiding.

"The good people of Japan had it bad enough living under the tyranny of my brother's rule without having to worry about being murdered by savages like you."

"At least we killed that pig." He coughed out, forcing a grin onto his face. Even in agony, he couldn't help it. He was the leader of an organization that killed a Britannian prince. Few could claim such a status, and he was proud of it. Even in defeat.

"And in doing so, you put me in charge. How's that working out for you?" She asked with a hint of mocking sarcasm. He didn't answer as he stared up from the floor. Luna pressed the attack.

"Clovis liked to party. He spent his energy socializing, painting, and leaving the real work to his often incompetent lackeys. Life under Clovis was the best you could have asked for. You were facing a man that could barely command a ballroom dance on a good day, much less military operations. Killing him was the last thing you should have done.

I won my first battle when I was ten years old. I defeated and executed a Knight of Rounds at Narita. And now I've taken over an Area of the Holy Britannian Empire without having to fire a shot, with the full backing of a Japanese army to enforce my rule. You may have killed Clovis, but you never had a chance against me."

She crouched down, the remote control for the shock restraints always in his field of vision. Her finger was poised over the trigger, just waiting to let the electrons sing once again.

"Just kill me and be done with it, you royal bitch." Kusakabe said, his voice a bit weaker. The man was clearly exhausted from the stress of fighting a losing insurgency, and the fate that had befallen him. At least he hadn't completely given up yet.

"It should be obvious by now that I'm going to torture you." Luna told him.

"The electric shocks gave it away." He replied blandly.

"Oh no, I don't mean physical pain. Listening to you scream and yell as you're flayed alive would only give me a headache. I've got something much more satisfying planned."

"I'm not going to play your games." He said firmly.

"Of course you are. But it's more satisfying if you say no." She said with an icy tone.

She reached out and grabbed him. With a knee on his chest, her bare hand on his throat, and looking straight down into his eyes, Luna introduced him to a new world of suffering. Although concealed beneath her shirt and jacket, the bird sigil on her chest flared a brilliant ruby red. Kusakabe's eyes widened in silent, abject terror as he experienced his soul being invaded.