A/N: as always, thanks to everyone who reviewed, left a favorite, and left followers for the last chapter. Thanks again to Jameyofthemegacosmos for his work on the chapter.

I apologize for the delay, but Jameyofthemegacosmos had some things that came up. However, he is working on chapter twenty, and that should be ready to go once he is done with it.

Now before we get into this chapter, some reviews I cannot reply to I need to address.

Jay: I have been working on a rewrite or plans to rework the story to fix the pacing issue.

Blackving: It's no different from an Incubus, so if Lelouch was to have sex with a monster girl, they would receive refined and purer mana from him, giving her more energy than usual. Lelouch will not feel increased lust, and his mind is immune from anything that affects his mental and physical stage, so poisons and such will not affect him. It's no different how the spores from Mantangos don't affect him.

I didn't mean to ignore that question but answering it might lead to some spoilers, so I wasn't sure how to word a spoiler-free answer. However, you'll get your answer in the coming chapters.

As for your other questions, the rescue happens in this chapter. We haven't explored if Monster Girls can gain Geass, but we are positive they are immune to Lelouch's Geass.

I haven't decided how they'll react to the trident.

Anyway, I didn't announce it in the last chapter, but I have a pairing poll on my profile page to narrow down the candidates for Lelouch's harem. It will be one poll out of three or two to cut down the number of candidates since they have been growing quite big. Those who win the poll will get themselves more screentime opportunities. I'll keep the poll open until three hundred votes or enough for an exact result. That will depend on continued activity on the poll like I'll consider closing it if it goes a whole week without a vote.

Now let's go on with the chapter.

Chapter 19

Masked Debut

Around the same time at an old abandoned shoe factory Lelouch, dressed in his armor and mask, hid in the shadows as he watched a middle-aged man enter. The man was entranced carrying a wrapped package as he made his way to an empty table near a broken-down assemble line. The man had black hair with grey hairs wearing a brown coat with a gray business suit underneath it.

Lelouch quietly watched him put the package down before leaving. He remained in his silent trance as he left the factory, but Lelouch emerged from his hiding spot once he was gone. Opening the package, Lelouch confirmed it had everything he wanted.

All research documents related to Code-R and the design specs and blueprints for the GX-series, all of this should be beneficial.

Smiling within his mask, Lelouch drew his sword to open a portal to the city of Agartha. Once he had arrived at his destination, he put down the package on a shelf before removing his helmet.

"Did you get what you needed?" Koyoi asked.

"Yes, that scientist was the right choice after all."

Using the information he extracted from Clovis, Lelouch used the internet to research some of the names Clovis had mentioned. Not only did he successfully find the right member of the Code-R team to put under his Geass. He found the man whose questionable background would make him a plausible traitor. Even if they discovered all of their research data had been stolen, it would be almost too easy to blame the man.

"If someone did trace the stolen data, it will be a dead end. If anything, we may see some justice served."

"I hope you will not use your Geass in such a fashion again," Koyoi addressed her concerns about Lelouch's Geass.

"Given the lifestyle you had," Lelouch regarded Koyoi with sympathy. "I understand your issue with its usage."

"I have no issue with you using it as a tool of interrogation and self-defense when needed, but," Koyoi allowed her sentence to trail off.

"Fair enough, but time was of the essence," Lelouch caused Koyoi to recognize something.

"Wait, information on Code-R and their new machines wasn't all you got, wasn't it?"

"That's right," Lelouch said; he browsed through the contents of the package until he found a disc with a handwritten label upon it. "This disc has everything related to Suzaku's upcoming parade through the city that will happen in a few days. I had my unknowing accomplice use Clovis's access codes to obtain information about their exact routes and security detail, along with everything else I needed."

"I see," Koyoi began. "Then you plan to rescue your friend during his transport?"

"Yes, but we need one thing to make it work. But, for that, we're going to need extra help."

"You also want to win them over as follows, too?" Koyoi realized who Lelouch had in mind.

"That's right, but instead of convincing them with words alone, I show them our power," Lelouch declared. "Not just to Ohgi, Kallen, and their group, but all of Area 11."

Somewhere in Midgard, as the sun was setting as Elody landed next to the shore of a lake. According to the map she had used as a reference, Oath Lake was located within the grassy plains deep within Dragonia territory. Her destination should be located somewhere along its shore.

She pulled out the map from her bag, located around her waist on her belt Elody examined it.

"I guess this is it," Elody said before putting away the map.

Elody approached a small house built along the shore of the lake. It looked old, but it was still livable.

Taking a deep breath, Elody knocked on the door. Within moments the door opened, and Marietta appeared at the door.

"Yes," Marietta calmly asked, wondering why she would get a visitor.

"Hello, I have a letter to deliver to you from Lady Asura of Queen Diana," Elody said before presenting the letter to the dragon girl.

Marietta looked at the letter curiously before accepting it.

After opening the letter and reading its contents, a small smile appeared on her face before she disappeared into her house. Moments later, much to Elody's confusion Marietta exited the house with a bag carrying supplies and personal belongings.

"Uh," Elody began as Marietta walked away from her house.

Before the harpy could say anything, Marietta let out a roar as she transformed into an enormous black dragon with curved horns and gold eyes. She was eighty-five feet long with black and red wings. Marietta took off like a rocket with one nightly flap of her wings, making a beeline for Court Alf.

Elody was nearly sent flying by the sudden gust, but she held on.

"You could've said thank you!?" The annoyed harpy cried out.

Around the same time within Dragonia itself, Alto-Eris was happily providing a tour for a married couple that had come to Dragonia for a long-overdue honeymoon.

"So what is this place?" Elt asked as the Succubus clone of Wilmarina accompanied him.

"This is a special place called the Dragon Fire Candy Store," Alto-Eris answered eagerly. "This shop sells special candies called Dragon Breath Candy. With it, you can experience breathing fire like a dragon while enjoying the candy's taste and how refreshed your breath will be."

"Oh," Succubus Wilmarina said as she inspected the jars filled with different dragon breath types. "There are a lot of different types, quite a selection."

"Well, beyond different dragon breath types, some stories have experimented with creating new variations."

"I see," Succubus Wilmarina said, eager to try out the candy inside. "How much would it be for any of these?"

"If you want, the first one would be for free!" Alto-Eris happily announced to their surprise, introducing a random candy dispenser. "However, there's only one catch; you'll be given a random picking of which we'll pop straight into our mouth."

"That's doesn't seem too dangerous," Elt tried to get into the conversation with his new wife.

"Well, there are a few candies that are simply unbearable. Not because they don't taste good, but because they're like trying several of them at once. Even a dragon such as myself can't handle the taste of corrupting breath, though only one person surprisingly managed to do it."

"Oh?" the succubus licked her mouth, intrigued by her statement. "And who would that be."

"A knight who goes by the name Zero."

"Zero," the succubus raised an eyebrow. "What an interesting name."

For a moment, Alto-Eris stuttered for the moment. Knowing of Zero's exploits even after his speech against Druella back in Lescatie, she was confident that almost everyone knew Zero's name. Under other circumstances, noticing that someone as famous as Wilmarina, mostly when he spent years under her as her adviser, would be a shock to him. However, she was given orders by the Queen through Lilith about the situation to act as nothing happened.

"What's more interesting is how no one knows his true identity," Alto-Eris explained. "Despite that, he has a reputation as big as his secrets, and even the Order states take interest him."

"It's a shame I already found my true love," Wilmarina admitted as she held both of Elt's hands. "But if anything, I'd be interested in meeting myself.

While being embraced by his childhood friend, he hid his feeling with a warm embrace. However, the back of his mind was telling otherwise.

Do you really not remember him, Mary?

Elt and Succubus Wilmarina had traveled alone to Dragonia for their honeymoon leaving everyone else behind. However, while Elt was glad his wife was enjoying herself, something bugged him. His wife lacked any memory of Zero was concerning, but he couldn't explain it. Elt wanted to shove the matter aside, but the thought kept returning to nag him at the back of his mind.

Suddenly the windows of the store shook, and Marietta in dragon form flew overhead.

"What was that!?" The Succubus Wilmarina asked, noticing the black dragon flying over the shop.

That was Marietta, Alto-Eris said to herself, surprised to see Marietta assume her dragon form, something most dragons rarely did. But why is she in dragon form?

Meanwhile, having noticed Marietta fly by in her dragon form, the Queen of Dragonia, Dionola observed her flying towards the sea.

"I guess that means Marietta must've gotten Lady Asura's letter," Dionola sighed. "Oh, how much I wanted to see Earth myself."

Dionola wasn't surprised by Marietta's transformation into her dragon form to travel to Court Alf as fast as possible. Lilith's changes might've altered their species as a whole, but Dragons still possessed great pride as "Lords of the Earth,"even with their new forms. They were among the few Monster Girl species to transform into what they once were before Lilith's rise to power. A few dragons rarely transformed into these forms, but Wyverns often used this, especially those living in the wild who sought a mate.

Due to their pride, most dragons looked down on humans, but not to the same extent as the elves or vampires. Many could take a fancy to a man they liked and seek for them to become their mate, though when defeated in combat against a man, that man is undeniably their ideal mate. In the case of Marietta, she was already fond of Zero for helping her when they met, but since he bested her in combat, she has regarded him as her mate-to-be.

Oh, how I envy her…

"Feeling restless big sister?"

Joining the Ruler of Dragonia on the balcony was a red dragon monster girl. She possessed short silver hair, gold eyes, and a fair skin complexion. Her attire was quite revealing, but compared to Dionola, she was much younger, appearing in her early twenties or late teens.

"Oh, Dracolinde, you know me better than anyone," Dionola replied. "Watching everyone get married around me has been difficult. Yet I am more curious about this Zero than ever before now that we have found a way to visit him."

"Yes, but would Zero take kindly to our arrival on his world?"

Dionola was quiet for a moment as she considered that.

"Hard to say, but it's all the more reason we should send those who know him best to ease any tensions. I truly wish I could go," Dionola said, clearly disappointed. "The more I hear about Zero and who he is under that mask."

Dracolinde began laughing.

"Sister, do you fancy Zero to become your mate?"

"Don't tease me like that!" Dionola blushed brightly. "I-I find him very fascinating, is all."

"Of course," Dracolinde continued to tease her older sister. "Be careful, though; I might fancy him too."

"Oh, I would be careful, Sister," Dionola turned the tables on her sister with a playful gesture. "Zero has the eye of many monster girls besides me, plus many Order Heroines on his side."

"Yes, it's remarkable how none of them managed to claim him as their husband. Once again, you have competition, sister."

Despite her position, Dionola remained unmarried due to prioritizing her duties as ruler above everything else. What made it even more difficult was seeing everyone else around her get married, and the Queen was such a workaholic she hadn't done much in searching for a man.

"Please don't remind me," Dionola sighed before clapping her hands. "Anyway, I want you to summon Alto-Eris to meet me later. For now, we need to send someone after Marietta to ensure she causes no trouble."

Joining the two red dragons on the balcony was Litia.

"You summoned me, Your Majesty?"

"Yes, my dear," Dionola replied. "I know this might be sudden, but I would like you to follow Marietta to Court Alf. Please make sure she doesn't do anything rash, but rest assured, Alto-Eris will join you in good time."

"I have already packed," Litia pointed to the backpack on her back.

"Very good, we'll leave the rest in your hands."

After giving a bow in respect, the young girl jumped off the balcony. Within seconds Litia transformed into a large wyvern dragon close in size to Marietta. However, unlike Dragons, who were known for their strength, Wyverns were better at flying. Soaring through the air, Litia hurried to catch up and follow Marietta while Dionola watched.

"I hope everything will go well."

Following the sun's setting, Kallen accompanied Ohgi and the rest of their friends. The group traversed through the few remaining subway stations nearby. They stopped at the old Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building's upper floors, where the meeting was said to be taking place.

"Oh, come on, why are we meeting with these guys?" One of their own unexpectedly complained.

"Get a clue Tamaki," someone behind him muttered.


"He's right," Ohgi said. "Zero and his allies saved a lot of people and us!"

"Not to mention we got some Sutherlands," Kallen added.

"Yeah, so give it a rest Tamaki," another member of the group snapped.

The group reached the ruined subway station. As they neared the boarding platform, the lights that remained functional turned on.

"Thank you for coming," Zero said, greeting the group.

"So you're Zero," Kallen asked, surprised by the black armor he wore.

"I am, and judging by your voice, you must be the pilot of the Glasgow," Lelouch asked, although he knew the answer.

"Yes, that was me."

"That was impressive piloting despite the condition of your machine," Lelouch offered a compliment. "I am glad we could meet in person."

"T-Thank you," Kallen answered.

"Now, let's get down to business," Lelouch began before asking. "I was curious if any of you would like to join me in toppling Britannia and liberating Japan."


"I think you asked too much too quickly," Wilmarina said, stepping out of the shadows to join Lelouch.

"Maybe you're right," Lelouch admitted. "However, in fairness, I can't imagine a better way to break the ice."

"You're crazy!" Tamaki commented. "Destroy Britannia?"

"For Japan to stay liberated, Britannia will need to fall. Otherwise, they'll make attempts to recapture Japan," Zero explained, but he radiated confidence like no other.

"You're serious then!?"

"Tell us then," Koyoi stepped in. "Do you believe that saving only your land will bring it prosperity?"

"Well," Ohgi remained silent.

"Think about what's around you," Zero tested them. "What's the difference between your land and theirs?"

"A very big difference if you ask us."

The other members of Ohgi's group had the same idea. In their land, or the ghettos, everyone was forced to scratch out a living and given excess sentences upon opposition to the system. Whereas in their conquerors acted entitled to their power, using it to trample anyone they pleased without repercussions, including stealing everything once theirs and claiming it as their own.

"Do you really believe that the Japanese are the only ones who say that? You can travel all over the world, and even in to the Britannian Homeland itself, and you will see the truth that you're not alone."

"You're saying that there's more than just Japan we must save," the other female member of the group stated. She possessed long blue hair, black shorts, a blue jacket, a green shirt, and a red headband. The woman had a fair skin complexion with gray eyes.

"That's correct," Zero offered. "If just destroying Britannia is what your goal is, then what point is there? There are many ways to complete that goal, even the road to reach it will be a long one."

"Are you saying there are other ways to fight?" Ohgi inquired.

"No," Zero addressed. "I am saying that mere fighting won't be enough to destroy Britannia. That's how it thrives as a nation."

"Then what the hell should we do!?" Tamaki snapped.

"Know your enemy. It's not people but the institution, not Britannians but the concept and foundations that form Britannia. The strong and powerful are entitled to reign over the weak and step on them as they please. That is the belief of Britannia. It's a war that must be waged, not one where the innocent should be involved, but simply against those with power."

"Like that's easy for you to say!" Kallen exclaimed.

"I'm not ignorant," Lelouch agreed. "Achieving this will be a daunting task even with my allies and our powers. However, I do believe I can accomplish this. To do so, I will need many more allies and resources, which is why I was wondering if you would like to join forces."

"I don't know if he could liberate Japan," Naomi Inoue commented to another member. "The JLF has been trying for seven years, and they got more resources and military trained members."

"Yeah, but he did a lot more damage to the Britannia army in one day," Kento Sugiyama replied. "Not to mention he got allies who challenge Knightmare Frames head-on and freaking magic, too."

"You're serious about this?" Ohgi asked as he and the rest of his companions continued talking among themselves.

"If you still have doubts about my ability to bring about Japan's liberation, then I shall provide a demonstration before Area 11. But first, there was a favor I would like to ask of you," Lelouch offered.

"What do you have in mind?"

Lelouch merely smiled under his mask before explaining his plan.

The following evening Levin Dil and Lilynanna were seated before Asura in her meeting room. Her crystal ball before the pair as Lilynanna had told Levin of Asura's discovery. Thankfully breaking the news to Levin had gone better than Lilynanna had thought. Still, maybe the prospect of finally seeing Zero's face beneath the mask was a big enticement for the Thunderbird.

"I can't believe you made me the last one to find out about this," Levin said with a mixture of embarrassment and anger.

"Well, there were concerns about how we would break it to you," Asura replied as she held her hands over her crystal ball. "The fact you two found the door to Earth on your own made it a lot easier to explain."

"What are you up to?" Levin glared at the Diva.


"You tell everyone except me that you knew about Zero's world. Now, you're saying that you knew about the doors we've been trying to keep a secret. What are you trying to fucking do!?"

"To create the best conditions possible to avoid conflict when you travel to Earth," Asura smiled. "You must remember Zero didn't flee back to Earth alone. His allies aren't just comrades, but some have grown close to him. Not to mention they all lost their homes, friends, and for one their families to Druella and her followers, meaning they may not take kindly to any monster girls showing up."

"Stop beating around the fucking bush already! That isn't the only reason, is it!?"

"Well, we did not want Druella finding out about this," Asura answered, but that response wasn't quite enough. "Secrecy was paramount."

"Good reason, but what else?!"

"I beg your pardon?"

"There has to be another reason why you waited until now to tell me."

"Because the monsters aren't the only aren't the only ones interested in Zero."

Entering the room to join everyone at the table was a young woman being eighteen or nineteen. She possessed a mocha-skin tone with pink eyes and heart shapes within them. Her hair was bright pink, which hung midway down her back while a heart-shaped halo hovered over her head. She had transparent-heart-shaped wings, but unlike the traditional two, she had four.

"A-A Houri!?" Lilynanna exclaimed.

"What the fuck is an elite being of Eros doing here!?"

A Houri is a low-ranked angel who known to be servants of the Goddess of Love Eros. They were not Monster Girls but actual divine beings of a low-rank. Yet, they are beings overflowing with love and of unquestioned purity. Monsterized versions exist, but no one can tell if they are one due to how they do not change at all. Generally, a Houri will monitor humans from the heavens. In the case of discovering a human performing good deeds or heroes in need of love, they will watch them closely, falling in love.

Upon descending from the heavens at the command of their Goddess, the Houri will seek out the man they had been watching to become his wife. As their wife, a Houri can be considered the ideal spouse who will take care of all of their husband's needs with absolute love, devotion, and consideration for them.

"My name is Ridwana, and the Goddess has tasked me to observe Zero more closely and assist those in love with him to achieve it."

"You're a little late," Asura remarked as Ridwana took her seat by Lilynanna.

"Forgive me. I was delayed, but I am here now as the Goddess willed it."

"Is this what you mean by more than just monsters?" Levin said, glaring at the Houri.

"Please, there is no need for hostility," Ridwana said, raising a hand. "My task is to help you find love with the man you seek."

"Poseidon herself decided to request a Houri from Eros to assist me in planning, especially as I noticed two members of Zero's group who have their own eyes set on claiming his heart," Asura explained. "Another reason why we waited until now to tell you."

"That's no excuse!"

"Right, and I do apologize, but I promise if all goes according to plan, you'll be reunited with Zero," Asura offered, but Levin wasn't amused. "Then you can focus on building a relationship with him, despite the competition."

Deciding to intervene before things turned hostile, Lilynanna noticed something on Asura's crystal ball.

"Uh, what's with all of the people gathered on the sides of the road like that?"

"Oh right," Asura said, noticing the people, "I guess it's about to begin."

"What's about to begin?" Levin demanded.

"Right, we need to bring you up to speed on a few things that have happened recently," Asura said before explaining to Levin the events that led up to tonight.

It was late, but hundreds of people had gathered alongside the highway leading from the Viceroy's Palace to the Courthouse. It was where Suzaku's trial was to be held for his murder of Prince Clovis, which was all but certain to find him guilty despite evidence proving otherwise. But as per General Bartley's intentions, the entire transfer and following court case would be a media spectacle, which he hoped would distract the people of Area 11.

After all, they have been fighting to suppress the existence of Zenkor, and it was an ongoing struggle.

A man in a black coat, pants, and a purple turtle neck oversaw everything in a news van set up along the highway. He had sandy blonde hair tied into a ponytail with blue eyes being in his early thirties.

"Camera 5 is a little slow. Talk to me, Charles; your team been deployed yet?" Diethard Reid asked within the van talking to Charles through a headset he wore on his head to communicate with them. "What? The studio? Let them wait. Nothing has been pushed back! Everything is going according to plan."

Diethard smiled as he saw the prison transport beginning to approach them through a live camera feed from one of the camera crews.

"Here we go, like clockwork," Diethard said, feeling satisfied before he turned off his headset. "What a circus this is, and I'm as corrupt as any of them."

Being broadcast across all of Area 11 was Suzaku's transport to the Courthouse. He was left kneeling between two armed soldiers wearing a white prisoner's jumpsuit. His arms and legs were bound while an electronic collar around his neck kept him from speaking without an electric shock. The transport was without a roof, allowing everyone to see him, but traveling alongside the vehicle were five Sutherlands. Two followed it along each side while Bartley himself was out of his cockpit so the cameras could see him.

As the crowds condemned Suzaku for murdering Clovis while Bartley confidently rode in his Sutherland, he soon received a call. Tapping the earpiece in his right ear, Bartley answered to find out what was happening.

"This is Bartley."

"General Bartley, we have found a vehicle approaching the high from 3rd Street. We let it through as you instructed, sir," a soldier on the other line replied.

Anticipating someone would attempt a rescue of Kururugi. The General had given orders to allow an unauthorized vehicle or two to pass. The plan was to put on what would be a show to strengthen confidence in both the government. One way would be with the successful elimination of the terrorists before the people.

"But," Bartley asked, sensing there was more to it.

"Well, it's Prince Clovis's personal transport," the soldier replied; clearly, he was having a hard time seeing what he saw.

"His majesty's personal transport?" Bartley said. In seconds his shock was replaced with anger. "How dare they do such a thing. Don't stop them; just let them come to us. I'll deal with them for their disrespect."

Raising his hand, Bartley ordered the convoy to stop.

The crowds and those watching the broadcast were confused, but soon enough, the reason the convoy had stopped appeared on the highway. Camera crews noticed Prince Clovis's car, a long white limo with a big, large cab in the back. The white and gold-trimmed vehicle was driving straight for the convoy. Much to the surprise of those reporting on events as they unfolded.

Eventually, the limo came to a stop a safe distance away from the convoy.

"I don't know who you, but I demand that you show yourselves," Bartley demanded, clearly furious. "You'll pay for the theft of his highness's transport!"

Suddenly the Britannian flag draped over the front of the cab burned away, revealing Zero, Wilmarina, and Koyoi with someone kneeling before her with a black cloak draped over them.

"I am Zero!"

A tense few moments passed, especially for Kallen, who was driving the limo was quite nervous. No one knew, but upon closer inspection of the vehicle's interior, the limo was a hasty replica made from junk. It was impressively convincing from a distance despite the short time allowed for its construction.

"You'll pay dearly for your disrespect!" Bartley shouted before shooting a bullet from his pistol to signal four Sutherlands to be deployed from overhead aerial transports to surround the limo. "Now take off that mask!"

Lelouch reached towards his face, seemingly ready to comply, but instead raised his hand to snap his fingers.

Upon his signal, the rest of the rear of the limo fell away. Revealing the device C.C. had been imprisoned in, or rather a replica of it.

"Wait, impossible that should've been destroyed!"

Lelouch signaled to Koyoi to force the person on the ground before her to his feet before removing the cloak revealing Prince Clovis.

"Y-YOUR HIGHNESS! You're still alive!?"

"That's right," Lelouch began with a smug smile on his face. "Your Prince has been alive and well all this time. Even the poison gas capsule you lost in Shinjuku. After all, you never found a body, didn't you?"

Along with all of those watching, the crowd was stunned by the revelation that Clovis was alive. Lelouch's last comment merely poured salt into the wound.

Confusion and anger began arising from the crowd. Bartley was on the verge of a panic attack, but Lelouch turned to Clovis.

"Now, I suggest you convince Bartley that you are really you and get him to agree to my exchange," Lelouch threatened away from the speaker. "Or I'll start talking about your experiments before all of these people."

"Bartley, you damn fool, it's me. Just agree to what he says, or he'll expose everything!"

In the mists of the tension Diethard, with a camera in hand, moved in closer, seeking to capture the exchange closely. It was due to none of his cameramen not being brave enough to get up close and personal to capture what was happening.

Expose everything, Diethard wondered. What could he mean by that?

"First, let me make your position very clear," Lelouch said as he drew Mjölnir from his cape.

A surge of lightning radiated from Lelouch as a thunderstorm quickly formed overhead. Employing a simple spell, bolts of lightning rained down around the limo striking the Sutherlands. The lightning bolts weren't powerful enough to outright destroy the Knightmare Frames due to Lelouch wanting to avoid civilian casualties. Still, they were strong enough to cause a devastating power surge that caused the cockpit blocks to be ejected.

"Now that I have made my position clear," Lelouch said, feeling very satisfied with himself. "I offer an exchange. Prince Clovis for Suzaku Kururugi along with this capsule, which I think you'll find to be a very generous bargain."

General Bartley was silent as his mind was in panic mode.

As I expected, your loyalty to Clovis is so sincere you can't bring yourself to denounce him as an imposter to save your skin. It's impressive, but you are the most incompetent General I have ever seen, making all of this so easy.

"I…I…I agree," Bartley declared.

"A wise choice," Lelouch mocked. "Granted, Prince Clovis deserved to be executed for all of those unarmed Japanese civilians he ordered murdered in cold blood. All because the resistance cell operating in Shinjuku unknowingly stole something he didn't want the public to know. The only reason he still lives is that killing him would be too merciful."

"Why!" Clovis demanded.

"A true military commander would recognize that answer, especially since I wonder what your replacement would've been like."

As the crowd grew angrier and confused by the display, Diethard seemed to enjoy witnessing Zero's performance.

Suzaku's bindings were removed. He was allowed to walk towards the limo while Lelouch and his group released Clovis. In contrast, Kallen stood with Lelouch and the others. Kallen wore a white suit with a hat and heavy sunglasses to mask her identity. She wasn't happy Clovis was still alive, but she relented once Zero explained why he spared the Prince.

"If we kill him now, he'll only be replaced with one of the Empire's more effective generals, making liberating Japan far more challenging. For now, Clovis needs to remain Viceroy for as long as possible."

That I can understand, Kallen concluded internally. That doesn't mean I have to like it.

Suzaku and Clovis passed one another before the former was standing before Lelouch.

"So, who the hell are you?" Suzaku began, but the collar around his neck electrocuted him to remain silent.

"I am not surprised you weren't allowed to speak," Lelouch said, noticing the burses on Suzaku's face.

"It's time to go, Zero," Wilmarina remarked.

"Right, until next time then," Lelouch said, drawing a remote while Wilmarina readied her sword.

Upon pushing the button, the poison gas capsule activated, releasing a blanketing cloud of purple smoke. Simultaneously, Wilmarina drove her sword into the ground creating a thick dome of ice. After pushing the remote, Lelouch put it away to draw his sword to make an escape route for everyone.

"GET THEM," Clovis roared upon being safely inside the cockpit of Bartley's Sutherland.

The remaining Sutherlands quickly converged upon the dome of ice, using their weapons to shatter it apart. However, once they were through the solid ice, they found no one inside the dome.

As he watched everything unfold, a bitterly angry Jeremiah was already calling Villetta to gather the rest of the Purebloods.

I knew Bartley was incompetent, but this…

Upon giving orders to Villetta, he suddenly got another call, but this one came from his desk. Picking up the phone, Jeremiah listened to the other line, causing his face to change from anger to one of total surprise.

"My lord, Sir Waldstein," Jeremiah said in surprise, recognizing the voice of the famous Knight of One.

The man on the phone was Bismarck Waldstein, known by his titles as the Knight of One and the Strongest Knight of the Empire. He was the Knights of One and the personal bodyguard to the Emperor and his emissary at times.

"At ease, Lord Jeremiah," Bismarck offered assumingly. "I remember your service at the Ares Villa when you served as one of Lady Marianne's guards. That is one of the reasons I am calling you with orders from his Imperial Majesty himself."

"I am listening."

Elsewhere, within the government Bureau, Colonel Madd sat within his office. Outside of the quarters was a hanger capable of holding several Knightmares. The Colonel remained in his office the entire time as he witnessed the events unfold. He caught himself almost laughing at the matter if it weren't for the latest developments.

I knew that the Prince and his lackey had trouble back in Shinjuku Ghetto. Still, to think this is what they were up against, the Colonel grinned amusingly. It's all the more reason to bring my creations to this set of islands.

Sitting in his chair before reclining in his seat, the Colonel was already drawing up plans. Still, he knew the homeland was likely to respond to Bartley's incompetence.

Well, at least it looks like Lord Jeremiah heeded my warning quite well, he also admitted. But I'm afraid that won't help him. Once he does attempt to take power, he may then realize how trapped he is.

Having watched enough of the embarrassing chain of events, Madd grinned before searching for the remote in one of the drawers of his desk. Just when he shut off his T.V., the door to his office opened up. A woman with long black hair and brown eyes entered. She wore a Britannian officer uniform with the ribbon representing her rank as Lieutenant.

"Ah, you're just in time, Lieutenant," Madd welcomed his Lieutenant. "Is the rest of the unit ready?"

"Everyone but Alice is accounted for, sir," the woman replied with a crisp salute. "Their machines are undergoing inspection and preparation for upcoming missions."

"And where's Alice exactly?"

"She is completing a simulation the technicians requested to complete the tunning for her machine."

"I see, very good. I want everything ready," Madd replied, clearly pleased with himself. "It appears that we identified the culprits behind the attack in Shinjuku Ghetto, the same one who dealt with that monster shortly after defeating Clovis and his forces."

"I recognized them, too. Do you believe Zero and allies come from the same program as we did?"

"No, but they may have come from something similar," Madd deducted. "Our resources and progress are not enough for that. Even if we did, it would be too conspicuous."

"I understand, but they will be a dangerous threat if left unchecked."

"Which makes our team arrival all the more convenient," Madd stood from his seat. "Make sure Lucretia and Dalque are fully ready, and Alice the same when she gets back. We have the perfect kind of opponent to test our power to the fullest."

"Yes, Colonel," the Lieutenant saluted. "I shall see to it."

As the Colonel dismissed her, Lieutenant Sancia was back in her thoughts. As a survivor of the grueling regimen that Madd's sub-program put her in, her loyalty was more about her teammates first. While the previous missions were easy, to call her newest assignment in Area 11 was an understatement. As another witness of what happened during Suzaku's rescue, she knew the missions would get a lot harder, making her further wary of Madd's ambitions.

Know that we weren't here by choice, Sancia thought in her head. But at least Dalque would have an interest in future confrontations.

Simultaneously, at Ashford Academy, Olivie, Paula, Alameria, Luciana, Nunnally, and Mimil were in the Student Council meeting room. They had just witnessed Suzaku's daring rescue conducted by Zero. Aside from the original Student Council members, everyone in the room knew well who pulled it off. Naturally, they played being ignorant to throw off suspicion.

"Uh," Rivalz left his mouth open, confused by what they had witnessed on television. "What just happened there?"

"I think we just saw General Bartley cement himself as Britannia's most incompetent general," Milly sighed. "I am willing to bet money the Homeland is going to be pissed, to put it mildly."

"How could you lose a Prince of Britannia and not notice!?" Shirley asked.

"I don't know," Mimil commented before going back to her comic book. "But clearly, the people in charge of this place must suck."

"It's a huge mess certainty," Luciana added.

"I am certain this is just the start of problems for the government," Olivie remarked.

"Thank heaven," Nunally said. She caught herself too late the moment she sensed others attracted to her.

"What is it, Nunnally?" Milly was first to ask that something was up, only for Nunally to shake her head.

"It's nothing; I'm just glad that no one ended up hurt."

The news reported inspection of the scene, which had no one dying from the incident. The Student Council President suspected that there was more to it but decided to let it all go, at least for the time being.

In Shinjuku Ghetto, Kallen spoke to Ohgi and the others in the lobby of a ruined movie theater. Everyone had witnessed what had happened on television, and they had made a clean getaway, having pulled off what should've been impossible.

But Zero had proven himself again, meaning his success wasn't a one-time fluke.

"I knew the guy could pull off some unbelievable stuff, but this," one member of Ohgi's group commented. "I was only doubtful because I had a hard time believing what I saw the first time."

"Just who is that guy? Who is he really under that mask?"

"That's crap!" Tamaki snapped, being the lone voice unconvinced. "How many times can a bluff like that work, anyway?"

"I don't think he needed that bluff, but it just proves he's not limited to one set of tactics," Ohgi began. "You got to admit it, though. No one else could've pulled it off, not the Japanese Liberation Front, and certainly not me. But he made the impossible possible. We've always thought that a full-on war with Britannian wasn't a possibility at all. But maybe with him and that group of his, it is."

As Kallen stood silently, she glanced at the doors leading to one of the collapsed screening rooms.

Inside, Lelouch stood on a pile of rubble flanked by Wilmarina and Koyoi as Suzaku removed the collar that had been around his neck.

"It looks like they treated you rather roughly. Now you know what Britannia is really like, Private Kururugi. Britannia is rotten. If you wish to bring change to this world, then join me," Lelouch said, offering his hand to Suzaku.

"So, you had never killed Prince Clovis?"

"No, I merely abducted him. I did question him about his reasons for attacking the Shinjuku Ghetto," Lelouch answered. "He murdered all of those people just to save face. I should've killed him, but I knew I could inflict greater damage if I held him while his so-called followers were quick to declare him dead after they couldn't find him. I was only surprised they went as far as to use someone like you as a scapegoat for his so-called murder."

"And the gas? Those were innocent people!"

"A bluff, the gas was nothing more than harmless purple smoke to help cover our escape," Lelouch admitted with pride. "Everything went as I wanted, not one single casualty."

Of course, the after-effects will work in my favor.

Effectively Lelouch left blood in the water in a figurative sense. Killing a Prince of Britannia was one thing since it wasn't too unusual for a member of royalty to end up dead by assassination or otherwise. However, a terrorist kidnapping, holding a member of royalty hostage for days, and the other leaders being quick to declare him dead was a different story. Not only did it look bad for Britannia as a whole, but it also made those in control of the military and government look incompetent and disloyal.

As far as people of Area 11 might be concerned, they would question if those Prince Clovis surrounded himself with were that loyal to him. Or perhaps they seized this opportunity to take control of Area 11 while seemingly eager to abandon a Prince of Britannia to terrorists. Those thoughts will be on everyone's minds in Area 11 as they question their faith in their government and leaders. Clovis would likely have to sacrifice Bartley to keep his position.

Clovis alone will be spending weeks doing damage control. But seeing the government as incompetent will drive other resistance groups to follow the pace I have set.

Lelouch was certain the military would aggressively pursue him and other terrorists to restore the people's faith in them. But as Lelouch much suspected, based on his interactions with the nobility and military families who visited Ashford Academy, there was rampant corruption throughout Area 11.

If I am right, then most of those in high positions in the military and government most likely bought their jobs using bribes and blood connections. How they handle the other resistance groups will provide the proof I need and how much of a threat they could be to me once I amass enough followers.

"So, all that matters are results?"

"Would you have preferred if there were casualties?" Koyoi asked.

"No, of course not," Suzaku snapped back. "I…"

"You have seen what they are really like, so why don't you join me, Suzaku!" Lelouch said, offering his hand to his best friend once more.

"A tempting offer, but," Suzaku struggled to say before hardening his resolve. "But this nation, it can be changed for the better, and from within."

"Changed," Wilmarina muttered in surprise.

"And any ends gained through contemptible means aren't worth anything," Suzaku said before proceeding to walk away.

"Wait, where are you going," Lelouch asked with growing concern.

"My court-martial begins in an hour."

Lelouch lost his temper momentarily when he shouted. "Damn, are you mad? The only reason they're giving you a trial is to find you guilty! The judge, the prosecution, and defense!"

"Even so, if I don't go, they'll use it as an excuse to crack down on Honorary Britannians and the Japanese," Suzaku offered as a counter-argument.

"But you'll die!"

"I don't mind," Suzaku replied, clearly nothing would shake him from this course.

"Don't be an idiot," Lelouch snapped.

"An old friend of mine always used to tell me that. He'd say I was a fool. It's my weakness, I guess," Suzaku said with an amused smile. He turned to Zero and addressed the masked man. "I'd try to bring you in, but you'd just end up killing me. I am doubtful I could handle all three of you anyway. And If I'm going to die, it'll be in the service of the people."

Suzaku began to walk away, heading for the hole in the wall to leave.

"Even so, I thank you for saving me."

Lelouch was left in stunned silence as his fist tightened in represented anger at what he saw as sheer stupidity. But he found himself unable of wanting to stop Suzaku, even knowing that he could do so if he wanted to. Minutes passed as Suzaku vanished from sight as Lelouch stood in seething silence, trying to comprehend Suzaku's reasoning for his actions.

However, a calming hand on his shoulder from Koyoi gave pause to Lelouch's thoughts.

"Even if his actions are foolish, I believe you should respect his wishes."

"I have to agree even if his actions are stupid," Wilmarina offered harshly, but not unkind.

"If this had been any other country, he might've had a better, if a very slim chance, of changing the nation from within," Lelouch remarked.

"I am doubtful of that idea after growing up in Lescatie," Wilmarina commented. "You'll forgive me if I have a shallow opinion of his wish to change Britannia from within?"

"No, it's fine, and you bring up an excellent point."

"So, what do we do now?" Koyoi asked.

"Our primary objective was successful, and now that Clovis is freed, Suzaku's charges may have a fair chance of being dropped," Lelouch answered. "Let's finish our business with Ohgi and the others, and then we'll retreat to the island for now."

An hour passed when Cecile, sitting in front of a television, worried for Suzaku's well being after Zero abducted him.

Then finally, an emergency news report appeared on the screen.

"We have just received an important update from our contacts within the Viceroy's Palace. Minutes ago, General Bartley Asprius has been arrested for gross ineptitude and abandoning a member of the Royal Family. The order came from the Emperor of Britannia himself given to Margrave Jeremiah Gottwald of the Pureblood Faction to carry out," the female newscaster reported before being told something on her earpiece.

Shuffling her papers, the newscaster readied herself as an image of Suzaku's face appeared.

"This just in we have learned that authorities have recovered Suzaku Kururugi following his unexpected abduction from custody. According to our source, Private Kururugi contacted the authorities, turning himself in. It would seem that Zero has released him."

Cecile breathed a sigh of relief that Suzaku was safe, but the question of his charges remained.

"However, now that the original charges against him have been thrown into question, our legal analysis believe Kururugi may be found innocent and acquitted."

Turning off the television, Cecile was thankful that Zero had allowed Suzaku's name to be cleared.

"Well, that is good news for us," Lloyd said from the door to her office.

"Are you certain they'll release him?"

"They have no choice," Lloyd said with certainty. "Besides His Highness being alive, his men have no evidence that he was involved."

"I suppose, so we just have to wait until Suzaku is cleared of his charges then."

"Yes, but," Lloyd began adjusting his glasses. "I expect the next few weeks are going to be a mess for everyone."

The Britannians were not the only high society reacting to Zero's appearance and Clovis's survival. Elsewhere, at a gorgeous mountain covered in metal and snow, an emergency meeting had been called by another group.

Meeting within an old-fashioned Japanese room surrounded by sliding doors and a small fire in a pit burning to provide light for the four men present seated in a circle. A majority of them were in their late forties and older, but three out of four were dressed in traditional Japanese attire while one wore a black suit.

"So Zero not only rescued Kururugi, but he returned Clovis to the Britannians, revealing he had the Prince captive all of this time," the oldest among the group commented.

"How foolish," another man snapped. "Releasing a Prince of Britannia back into their hands!"

"No, it wasn't."

"Huh," the men said, turning to a young woman sitting behind a set of binds.

She wore a pink and white kimono while possessing long black hair, light green eyes, and a fair skin complexion. Despite what her youth might imply, her mind was more intelligent and mature than anyone could suspect.

"Did you not pay attention to Zero's words? He kept Clovis for a particular reason," Kaguya Sumeragi said before proceeding to explain. "Killing Clovis would just bring a new Viceroy more competent and dangerous, so say after killing a Prince of Britannia who would the Emperor send as a replacement?"

"Just another member of the Royal Family," one member answered.

"Yes, but clearly, someone more competent and capable than Clovis was," The girl pointed out, which led to the oldest among the gathering to suggest. "Someone who could bring order to Area 11 and more under the Empire's Heel?"

"The most likely candidate would Princess Cornelia, their Goddess of Victory. The Empire's most dangerous Generals and one of its key leaders in the military?"

"Most likely," Kaguya offered in agreement. "Zero likely realized the risk of such a dangerous replacement for Clovis. How well do you suppose the resistance groups would fare with someone with such a frighteningly impressive military record sent to replace Clovis?"

"Well, even if the others cannot win, the JLF would," another member of the gathering said, trying to argue before Kaguya shut him down.

"They would be the last to fall, but you forget that the JLF has failed to make any meaningful progress towards liberating Japan after seven years despite all we have given them. And compared to Clovis, officers like Cornelia have troops who are all veterans, and even she isn't even the most dangerous replacement the Emperor could send."

"Lady Sumeragi makes a compelling point, and we are also overlooking something else we must consider," the oldest among the gathering said. "Zero had Clovis prisoner for days, so it marks an opportunity to know what information he extracted from him."

"Thank you, Lord Kirihara I was just getting to that," Kaguya replied with a smile. "If I were Zero, I would've taken the time to extract as much useful information as possible. Given how pathetic Clovis is, I can't imagine he didn't have much trouble."

"Perhaps we should reach out to him and find out what he has learned," Kirihara cautioned. "The white Knightmare Frame that appeared at Shinjuku could be a threat to us unless we can create machines to match it."

"Isn't that why we hired that scientist to create one for us?"

"It's only a combat-ready prototype," the youngest of the gathered men warned. "We're not at the stage to mass-produce it yet."

"Prototype or not, we have found a perfect unit to bring its capabilities to use," Kaguya advised. "Isn't that right, Lord Kirihara."

"As the leader of Kyoto, I believe so."

As Kirihara complied with Kaguya's recommendation, she felt a pulse coursing through her body. A breeze through her hair gave any hint that she sensed something happening. Kirihara and the other elders were too busy talking to each other about their next move, allowing the priestess to slip away.

What she was attracted to the most was a photo of the Sumeragi Shrine, her family's primary home. Specifically, the image showed when she was a little girl with Suzaku and the others, including the two Britannian royals sent as political hostages. While it was a memory where a lot passed since then, that wasn't the real source of her attraction.

Kaguya wasn't just a priestess for political purposes. It also had a religious sense, just like the old Shinto shrines established much like hers. Religion's value declined in this day and age, yet the traditions and customs remained, or at least Japan's was hidden under the eyes of Britannia. Nevertheless, it was something that Kaguya could not ignore.

Is this what they call a divine wind? The priestess wondered as she eyed the shrine gate and statues of kitsunes before it. There were also those reports about the crimson red metal.

Kaguya and the others were more than familiar with the sacred red metal, said to belong only to Japan's Emperors as part of their main regalia. The book where it came from was naturally denounced as a hoax; that was something both Kyoto and the Britannians agreed upon as a minor note since it was only written a few decades ago. Yet, the idea of the metal remained something inspirational to the group, which must be why the group at Shinjuku bothered to say such details.

She chuckled mischievously like the mythological foxes as she thought.

If some legends are indeed true, perhaps this Zero is a far bigger blessing than any of us could imagine.

Returning to the island of Agartha, Lelouch, Koyoi, and Wilmarina removed their helmets after the portal behind them closed. Other than Suzaku not joining them, the evening has been both productive and successful for them. Not only did Lelouch achieve what he sought to do. However, as an unexpected bonus, Ohgi, Kallen, and the rest of their group have pledged to follow Zero as their new leader.

Lelouch had hoped for such an outcome, but he didn't think it would happen this quickly.

"What's the next step?" Wilmarina inquired, holding her helmet.

"We need to expand our ranks, but we're going to need some specialists that will be critical to further growth," Lelouch answered. "We'll need Knightmare Frames of our own."

"Something tells me Brokkr, Eitri, and Sindri are not able to handle that."

"They are very good at making weapons and armor, but none of them are engineers. Besides, to create machines like a Knightmare Frame for them would be too much of a task to do alone, not to mention we'll need the proper facilities and resources," Lelouch said, recognizing their immediate needs. "We have designs for Britannia's latest-generation machines, so we must seize on this moment to build our own as soon as possible. Of course, we'll still need good pilots to make proper use of them."

"That sounds like we need a lot more than what we have," Wilmarina confessed.

"Plus, we need a skilled computer hacker to take advantage of the access codes I got from Clovis," Lelouch added with a hint of caution. "It's too risky for me to use any computers at Ashford Academy."

"Where would you even find someone with the kind of skills you seek?" Koyoi inquired.

"That's a problem I'm still trying to figure out. Either way, it's time we used this opportunity to expand."

Meanwhile, Levin was gazing upon Lelouch's face as her cheeks turned a bright shade of red. Monster Girls never judged a potential husband on their looks and are more than willing regardless of their appearance. However, the fact that Lelouch was remarkably handsome was undoubtedly a bonus for Levin. Even Lilynanna was surprised by Lelouch's face under the mask of Zero, causing her cheeks to turn red as well.

"That's Zero, I mean Lelouch," Levin said, imprinting the image of Lelouch's face to her mind.

"Yes, he's quite handsome, isn't he?" Asura said with a sly smile. "And this boy has such a history to him."

"What kind of history?" Lilynanna inquired.

"Would believe me if I said he is a Prince?"

"A Prince!?" Lilynanna and Levin said together in shock.

Asura nodded, "Listen well, girls, because I'll tell you the history of Lelouch vi Britannia, also known as Zero. That why you must best understand him and find the pathway to establishing a relationship with a young man who has endured so much."

"It sounds like it's going to be quite the tale," Ridwana commented.

"Yes, and it's just the beginning."

A/N: well, Lelouch has saved Suzaku and utterly humiliated Bartley before the Empire and everyone. Clovis will be Viceroy for a little longer, but for how long and how good will the response be from the military.

Levin has finally been let in on Lelouch being Zero, but so has Marietta, so she is heading for Court Alf.

Now Lelouch needs to step up his game and begin building the Black Knight as soon as he can, or rather while he can make the most of Clovis running things.

See you all next chapter.