A/N: Thank you to Jameyofthemegacosmos for his help with the chapter, I do apologize for the late update but life got in the way for both of us.
The next chapter is already underway, but before moving onto the chapter itself I need to take care of some reviews I cannot PM.
Charlemagne: Yes this fic has seen its one year anniversary, and it has gained quite the following compared to my other stories.
king daibo: Its being updated now and those questions and what his Knightmare Frames might be based on shall be seen in the coming chapters, once they obtain a place to build them and the right people to make them.
Jay: True, so it might complicate things a bit.
Without spoiling too much I am going say "maybe" leaning towards yes.
Not sure about that one, but that remains to be seen.
Well I have been trying to create a Code Geass and High School DxD, but my issue has been trying to create a pairing/harem line up I can feel confident in.
Not sure about Lloyd being a child of one of those two, but maybe related at most.
Blackving: No worries its cool.
As for the idea of a destroyed world I'll have to weigh in on which worlds hasn't been touched upon yet, and which ones can be a good setting for what you are suggesting.
That question about his ability to attract women will likely come up in coming chapters.
Sorry about your last question, let's see if I can get it. But I checked the last two chapters and I didn't see it I am afraid.
Now on with the chapter, I'll try and respond to the other reviews when I have time.
Suzaku approached the current hangar bay for the ASEEC unit. He had bandages on his face, which the medics put on to cover the bruises. Once cleared of all charges, she was given a pack with rations before being set off.
"I am free at last," the Honorary Britannian muttered. Despite having been cleared of his past charges, Suzaku was kept imprisoned for longer than he should've. Suzaku suspected his rescue by Zero was part of why he was detained for much longer than he should have. At least, that was the excuse the Purebloods used to keep him, allowing them to question him about events in Shinjuku.
Suzaku recalled what happened before his release when he was being interrogated again. How many times he had to endure one interrogation after another, he had lost count.
Suzaku remembered as he was inside a dark room near some empty jail cells. Jeremiah sat by a wooden table, surrounded by several Pureblood members, including Kewell, who stood by the right corner next to the door. Across from the table was Suzaku, who was still in a prisoner jacket. He's thankful that the latest unrest caused the Britannians to be wary of him, especially when he never committed any acts against the throne with Prince Clovis still alive. Nonetheless, with the Purebloods in power, it didn't make things easy for him.
"Tell us everything you know about the incident at Shinjuku," Jeremiah demanded during the conversation. "We know that you were the first person who encountered the plane when it crashed, which contained poison gas stolen by terrorists. So you must have a clue as to how they got it or where they took it."
"I knew that that plane contained poison gas, but it was already gone the moment I came across the scene."
What Suzaku said was a half-truth. He never bothered to tell them about what was really in there simply for his friend's sake, but the answers he gave didn't seem to be enough.
"How about the monster that rampaged across Shinjuku Ghetto during the moments you fought in the Lancelot or those strange individuals you encountered when you first confronted Zero?" Jeremiah pressed forward. "Information from the Special Corps states you were unconscious at the scene, but I'm no fool in settling with that. Knowing Earl Asplund very well, I bet you witness something more."
"What does that have to do with me going against the military?"
"Don't push your luck," Jeremiah threatened. "You're lucky that the whole mess prohibits us from doing any more harm to you, but that doesn't mean we can't try you for other crimes. Even if General Bartley used you as a scapegoat, the fact you're the son of Japan's last acting Prime Minister gives you more than enough suspicion. You're also a suspect in murdering members of the Royal Guard since you were the only survivor. Come clean now, and you'll be treated like you were born a Britannian, not some worthless Eleven."
"I had nothing to do with their deaths; something or someone attacked us. I was among the first attacked, but my armor and pocket watch protected me."
"And you got left for dead?" Jeremiah shook his head. "That is quite unbelievable, but even you must realize how that is not a good enough answer. It only makes you more suspicious that you are hiding something!"
Suddenly a knock at the door prompted Kewell to open the door where he spoke to a soldier. Suzaku couldn't hear much of the conversation. Still, he did pick up on Kewell being angry with the soldier for the interruption. Suzaku saw Kewell hand documents within an envelope before closing the door. Once he was done with the soldier, he reluctantly gave the envelope to Jeremiah. The latter drew the papers to examine them.
Whatever Jeremiah had received, the older man was not happy.
"Men," Jeremiah ordered Kewell and the others in the room. "Leave this room for now. I want to speak with Private Kururugi about this personally."
"L-Lord Jeremiah," Kewell wanted to step in, but his superior raised his hand.
"That is an order, Lord Kewell. I can take care of this myself."
One by one, Kewell and the others left the room. Once they were gone, Jeremiah glared down at Suzaku, who seemed confused before Jeremiah answered.
"It seems I have received direct orders from the Prime Minister to release you immediately," Jeremiah admitted. "As much as I believe you are still hiding something, I can only keep you for a few more questions while your release is being processed."
Suzaku said nothing, but Jeremiah merely stared at him.
"Now then," Jeremiah resumed. "Tell me what you were doing when you encountered these witnesses. I assume one of the terrorists, or at least a witness, was the lost prince Lelouch vi Britannia."
"How did you-"
"Don't mistake me; I'm not here to share secrets, but I've done homework on you and your family as well. They were responsible for watching over two members of the Royal Family who were sent here as political hostages more than seven years ago. I have a feeling you faced immediate execution by the Royal Guards, so you better have good reasons to believe protecting those terrorists was worth it to you."
Suzaku paled, but he kept his mouth shut, not wanting to reveal anything that could confirm Lelouch and Nunnally were alive.
"They were just civilians who made the mistake of being there at the wrong time," Suzaku admitted. "They weren't terrorists, but the commander of the Royal Guard wanted to kill all witnesses, it seems. I suspect there was something more to that poison gas capsule; otherwise, why go so far to cover it up?"
"So you do admit there were others at the crash site before you?" Jeremiah regarded him with annoyance and restrained anger.
"Yes, just some Britannians who were exploring the ghetto," Suzaku admitted while carefully tailoring his story to avoid revealing Lelouch's involvement. "I tried to advise those tourists to leave the area, but the Royal Guards showed up, and despite being Britannian, the commander was intent on killing them. I tried to reason with him, but he shot me in the back for disobeying orders."
"Then after that, they were killed?"
"I can only assume," Suzaku suggested. "Whoever killed them probably intervened to save the civilians since their bodies weren't at the scene."
"Or they could've been the ones who killed them," Jeremiah offered as a counter-argument.
"Forgive me if I find that doubtful given the number of men present and armed," Suzaku suggested in turn.
"True," Jeremiah offered in agreement. "It would've been impossible for anyone to take down such a large group of armed soldiers."
Suzaku felt an uneasy silence before Jeremiah spoke again.
"However, until that day, no one thought a giant monster could exist. That also counts for someone capable of defeating Knightmare Frames without using one in direct combat."
"I don't know what else I can offer," Suzaku said, which only angered Jeremiah more.
Unfortunately, and much to Jeremiah's anger, he couldn't hold Suzaku any longer.
"Fine, you're released from custody as of this moment," Jeremiah warned. "However, remember, if we find the truth, we'll be having this discussion again."
"Understood, sir," Suzaku acknowledged.
Just then, the doors opened, showing two Britannian soldiers not aligned with the Purebloods. They took the Honorary Britannian away from the table. However, Jeremiah continued to glare at the man, still unsatisfied with the answers given to him.
We'll just need to keep an eye on him, Jeremiah thought.
Some time later Suzaku entered the doors to the hanger where the Lancelot was kept. After walking inside he found Lloyd leaning on the doorway with Cecile standing beside him.
"You must be glad to be feeling the sun again," Lloyd commented as he approached Suzaku.
"Thank goodness that you are finally free," Cecile followed behind.
"Thanks for meeting me here," Suzaku said as he adjusted the bag hanging from his shoulder.
"Good news is you are finally freed, but you'll be working for me again since I did have to pull some big strings to get you out," Lloyd remarked with a sly smile.
"Lloyd went through the Prime Minister of the Empire, Prince Schneizel," Cecile explained. He is the one who established the ASEEC."
Suzaku remained stunned, which explained how the Prime Minister of the Empire was responsible for his release. He knew someone from the Homeland supported the ASEEC, but Lloyd never mentioned their benefactor. Not only was the benefactor in question the second most powerful man in the Holy Britannian Empire below the Emperor, but it seemed he had a keen interest in developing new weapons.
"So, I continue working for you as a pilot for Lancelot?" Suzaku said as he wasn't displeased about it. At least his time as the pilot of the Lancelot felt more productive compared to his time as a foot soldier.
"That's right, Lloyd replied. "Prince Schneizel has a vested interest in the Lancelot, especially given its performance against that monster we saw in Shinjuku."
Cecile knew there was another reason, but she kept quiet since there was no need for her to reveal Lloyd's competition against Colonel Madd.
"At the very least, we got a replacement for the Maser Vibration Sword you lost during the fight. So we should be up and running at full capacity again," Lloyd continued as he spun towards his pilot. "And now that you're on this base, you know well what that means."
Suzaku caught himself before nodding. He performed a solder stance as saluted.
"Private Suzaku Kururugi here, reporting for-"
"Suzaku," Cecile intervened by calling by his first name. "When you're with us, you can just say you're here."
"But," Suzaku's stance began to falter. "Military regulations state that-"
"It's okay. We are an Irregular unit, so we completely ignore military and aristocratic rank while we're working. Isn't that right, Lloyd?"
"Suit yourself," the Earl threw an arm, showing no care.
"Well then," Cecile turned to the Private. "Give it a try. Say it with feeling, like you're just coming home."
"Home?" The name brought some sudden feelings to the Honorary Britannian before complying. "I-I...I'm here."
For once, ever since he joined the military, Suzaku always acted professionally, never showing any of his emotions. That's how he usually saw things, following the logic of systems rather than individualist emotions. The feeling was awkward at worst, but for once, he finally found comfort.
Around the same time, in another corner of Japan, Colonel Madd oversaw an operation in progress. Clovis had tasked him with eliminating a group known as the Blood of the Samurai, a heavily armed organization with military weapons and training on par with the JLF.
Standing in front of a tactical display of the area, Colonel Madd smiled sinisterly.
"Are you ready, Lieutenant?" Madd asked over an open communications line.
"Yes, sir, we await your orders," Sancia replied.
"Good, you are to deploy and eliminate the enemy," Madd said with a grin. "Spare no one, but be sure to put on a good show for us."
Behind Madd was Diethard overseeing a particular console operated by three soldiers piloting drones to provide coverage. There were cameras on the machines Sancia and her fellow pilots used to record as much as possible. Later Diethard would edit the footage and prepare it for public display as part of Clovis's efforts to restore his reputation.
The battlefield was a mountain stronghold made from an old mining quarry. Dozens of gun turrets stuck out from the mine's old railway system openings, which opened fire on the tank columns. The Britannians had yet to launch any Knightmares. Still, the enemy revealed themselves as Sutherlands, painted dark green instead of the usual blue and purple color scheme. While not as large as the suspected headquarters of the Japan Liberation Front, it was undoubtedly more than enough for a standard military unit.
"All pilots launch when ready," Sancia announced before her GX-1 was launched.
Irregular Units were typically cast aside because they used Honorary Britannians and other people of dubious nature. The Special Honorary Foreign Legion was a mere exception and did not need special permission from high-ranking officers. Colonel Madd was known to be one of Clovis's direct subordinates, so he was allowed to do as he pleased. With Bartley out of the picture and no one else having a rank above him, all he had to do was show himself to take control.
Following Sancia into battle were three Knightmare Frames. They were the same model as her machine, but they each had some slight differences.
"Form up," Sancia commanded before addressing one of her comrades. "Lucretia, fall back with me while the others will advance."
"Understood," the white-haired and dark gray-eyed young girl steered her Knightmare Frame closer to her superior's machine. With a flick of a switch, wires attached to her head through a metal headband activated as a tactical map began appearing on her Knightmare Frame's primary monitor.
In her mind's eye and enhanced by magic, which Lucretia had, this mental map was projected onto the tactical screen. This information became shared with the other GX-01 units providing all enemy locations, even those lying in ambush.
"Here I go!" shouted another member of Sancia's squad.
Inside the cockpit of her machine, a young girl with mocha skin, blonde hair, and green eyes cheerfully charged into battle. Rushing past the Britannian tanks, Dalque attacked an enemy Sutherland. She quickly killed the enemy pilot by having her machine punch through the Sutherland's armor, killing the pilot.
"Wow, that was easy," Dalque said with a bright smile.
"I-Impossible!" One of the Sutherland pilots was startled by the seemingly impossible strength displayed by Dalque's GX-01. "How did they manage to do that?"
"It's just one unit!" Another pilot insisted. "Just fire until we get it!"
Using the Sutherland with a hole in its chest, Dalque hurled it into one of the turrets.
Suddenly Dalque's cheer turned into annoyance when she found herself the focus of a concentrated attack from a dozen artillery placements. She managed to evade any direct hits, but she had made the mistake of charging too far ahead in her eagerness for combat.
Luckily for Dalque, her teammates, having expected her to charge the enemy recklessly, were ready to bail her out. The first was Sancia using an anti-Knightmare Frame sniper rifle to begin systematically eliminating one by one. Their field commander was also aided by Lucretia's tactical foresight to pinpoint their locations with ease. The last member of the group Alice joined Dalque to wipe out the enemy Knightmare Frames.
Inside her personalized GX-01, Alice was armed with eight swords, four on each side of her machine's waist.
"I'll take care of the enemies near the base of the mountain," Alice said before engaging the enemy Sutherlands.
"Did you just see that!?" A resistance pilot shouted.
"There's no way a Knightmare can move so-"
The team got decapitated with their machines cut in two. Alice watched as the Knightmares collapsed and exploded. Her pause was interrupted as she got bombarded by the railway turrets just outside the mountain entrances. She then dashed as fast as possible, landing towards one of them. She impaled the turret before it could turn itself around.
Moving faster than what should've been possible and displaying seemingly equally impossible agility for a machine, the GX-01 Alpha cut down an enemy Sutherland. Another enemy machine was cut in half from the head down.
However, something else was at work against the resistance fighters. Alice, like her teammates, was using her own abilities to affect her foes.
"What's going on!?" A commander of the resistance force shouted as he clung onto a crate for balance.
"The force," a soldier kneeled, unable to withstand the pressure. "I...can't move."
Simultaneously, Dalque was smashing enemy Knightmare Frames with the bare hands of her GX-01. Some she even picked up and effortlessly hurled at another enemy Sutherland.
Watching from the G-1, Colonel Madd was pleased with the overall performance of the GX-01 units. They were exceeding expectations, which brightened his mood.
"It's already been over five minutes, and more than half of the enemy force has been eliminated," Diethard commented as he watched the number of enemies rapidly diminish.
"Yes, the performance of the GX-01 will prove the way for new Knightmare Frames to replace the Sutherland," Madd said before asking. "I do hope you have been collecting good footage?"
"Plenty and more," Diethard answered, but he was secretly curious about the new machines.
It wasn't long before the GX-01s took about the remaining resistance. Dalque threw another boulder at one of the railway turrets while Alice cut down the last two Sutherlands. The latter then aimed her swords that cast circles around some of the turrets. The gun emplacements were lifted from the rails, sending into the air while the operators plummeted to the ground. Several more were wiped out by Sanica's rifle, leaving only a few turrets and tank units left.
"Please standby," Sancia ordered. "Lucretia is about to transport you straight into the heart of the enemy base. Please link up at the designated point."
"Understood," Alice said as she did as instructed as Dalque was quick to join her.
"What about the rest of these guys?" Dalque asked.
"The enemy has lost their Knightmare Frames. Ground troops will handle the mop-up," Sancia answered.
Meanwhile, within the mountain base, inside an underground cavern transformed into their headquarters. The leaders of the Blood of the Samurai had gathered around an old tactical display. The situation was grim, but even worse was how fast their Sutherland Knightmare Frames had been wiped out.
"Sir, all of our Knightmare units have been destroyed! Even our new ones got wiped out in a few minutes."
"Damnit!" The officer cursed. "Even with the stolen weapons Kyoto got for us, and we still lost!? What kind of tricks are these Britannian playing?"
He was then blinded as a bright glow manifested in the center of the command center. As the light faded, they witnessed Alice and Dalque's machines appear right in front of them, completely unscathed.
"B-but, that's impossible," a soldier exclaimed.
"Britannia," the officer froze his legs and glared. "What have you done?"
"We have finished you," Alice said as she leveled her machine's swords. The gravity within the fortress lifted again, throwing all of the terrorists into the ceiling, severely injuring everyone at best. It wasn't long before the part of the ceiling collapsed as well, leaving the two GX-01 units unscathed.
"The enemy has neutralized," Alice said in a call to the G-1 base. "You can now proceed with the cleanup."
"Well done," Madd replied with a predatory grin. "I appreciate your efforts."
"Whew, that was a nice exercise," Dalque cheered. "Even that mission back in Area 5 wasn't that intense!"
"Don't celebrate yet," Sancia ordered. "We still have many other groups to deal with, but at least, we managed to take a large step."
"Of course, Lieutenant," Madd complied. "After all, this is only the start."
Lucania wandered the ancient ruins of Agartha following her return from Ashford Academy. Her day at the academy had been uneventful so far, but right now, she sought to keep up with her daily training and workout to keep herself in top shape. She knew Lelouch, Koyoi, and Wilmarina would be seeking out someone who could be very useful to Lelouch's growing rebellion, but she had her concerns.
Beyond the person in question willing to join them, Lucania was concerned the girl could end up another victim of Lelouch's charms.
Koyoi and Wilmarina are with him, so I shouldn't worry, Lucania thought assuringly to herself.
As Lucania passed through some collapsed ruins looking for an ideal place to train, she heard voices. Following the source and compelled by curiosity, Lucania approached the area where she heard them. Stepping around a partially collapsed wall, she found Olivie and Paula sitting together on an old stone bench in the middle of a small clearing amongst the ruins of the ancient city.
Lucania was able to leave to let the two speak privately. However, a saddened and worried expression on Olivie's face prompted her to stay behind the wall. A part of her argued how it wasn't right to listen in on someone's conversation, but it was more out of concern if she needed to be there to help Olivie.
Olivie looks upset somehow, Lucania thought as she listened in.
"You haven't been feeling well lately," Paula asked, worried for her friend.
"Thank you for your concern, but I am fine...physically," Olivie admitted.
"What do you mean? I don't understand," Paula asked, looking innocently at Olivie, seeking understanding.
Olivie regarded Paula for a moment contemplating how to answer her best. Her reasons were because this was something she wasn't too comfortable sharing. However, Olivie felt she had to because she had noticed how many young men were interested in Paula.
Some were friendly, and their interactions matched it, but others had Olivie concerned.
"Well, emotionally, I haven't been okay for a long time."
"Why," Paula asked.
Olivie hesitated before explaining.
"Before I met you and Alameria, there was a young man I was very close to," Olivie began. "I was young and foolish, you could say, but I was very much in love with a servant who was my age."
"That sounds like Wilmarina and Elt," Paula commented, which Olivie confirmed with a nod.
"It does sound like my story is similar to hers, but mine is different."
Paula said nothing else, allowing Olivie to continue.
"As I was saying," Olivie said before adopting a sad expression. "We were barely fifteen after knowing each other for a long time. We were close and in love...or so I thought."
"Huh," Paula said before resisting the urge to ask.
"I knew my father would never approve of our relationship, so we plotted to run away together," Olivie explained. "Our plan was just about perfect, but on the night we planned to run away, I was confronted by my father."
Luciana felt a cold shiver go down her spine because she knew what nobility members did to those involved with their children, not of the right social standing.
"I don't know how he found out, but he became aware of our plans to run away. Even worse, the boy I thought I loved stood with him," Olivie said as tears began forming. "Apparently, in exchange for being given a considerable amount of wealth and leaving for another country. All he had to do was denounce our relationship."
Paula was speechless at the horrible event Olivie endured that broke her heart. Even Luciana, who was listening, was left numb at what she has just heard.
"Since that day, I just followed what my father wanted, but I questioned if that boy even loved me or not," Olivie fought back her tears. Sadly, it was a futile effort. "I wonder if it was all some twisted plan of my father that he had been preparing for years."
Luciana could hear Olivie's crying, but she didn't know how to respond. Killing a Hero or Heroine's loved one simply because they were of lower social status, but this was viler than anything Luciana had heard.
Thankfully after a few minutes, Paula managed to ease Olivie's pain at having recalled such a terrible moment. The event left deep scars that wouldn't heal so quickly.
I remember when I saw Elt with his lovers, so I understand a little how Olivie feels, Luciana thought. I just wish I could've done something for her.
"I am so sorry that happened to you," Paula said, on the verge of tears herself at her friend's misfortune.
Olivie slowly regained her composure and embraced Paula as the latter gave her a tender hug.
"There was nothing you could've done," Olivie offered as she wiped her tears away. "Now that you know what happened, it's the reason why I urge you to be careful about who you decide to share your heart. I don't want you suffering betrayal and heartbreak the way I did."
"So, should I stay away from them?"
"No," Olivie replied. "Just be careful of those who you decide to be close to in your life. Love never should be taken lightly."
Luciana was silent as she reflected on Olivie's words.
At the Kingdom of Lescatie, the Royal Family, including the Kingdom's Queen, gathered in one of the large dining halls. Castor was younger with brown hair and violet eyes wearing a simplified version of his last royal grab compared to his previous appearance. Sitting beside the former king turned Incubus was former Queen Franchia, now a Youko. Like her husband, Franchia appeared younger and healthier than before, with the fur of her nine tails matching her purple hair.
Franchia's outfit fashioned from her former white jeweled gown, modified to accommodate her tails and reveal most of her legs and cleavage.
"I apologize for calling you away from your husband," Franchia apologized to Francisca. "Druella said you should attend this meeting."
"It's fine," Francisca replied sweetly. "The other girls have been eager to spend time with him."
Francisca's older siblings said nothing because their feelings towards her were understandably mixed.
For one thing, they did generally ignore her. Part of it was because there was nothing they could do for her. Even Swanson had spent previously spent weeks using whatever healing spells and blessing she knew to heal Francisca's frail body, probably why her transformation was less dramatic when compared to her other siblings. Another thing, however, was that there was nothing she offered for them in return. She had no skills, no ability to communicate with the gods, no magical talent, and no combat ability despite being part of her sickness. Even though their mother and father would be willing to do something before being overwhelmed with the corruption of the former Theocracy, like all the noble girls and maids, they saw her as a troublesome burden.
At least, that was the case until Francisca became Roper Queen and used her power to bite back. Whether it be the demonic mana or just from becoming monsters, things had changed considerably.
"So, you and father are going to Dragonia?"
"Yes, Lady Wilmarina suggested it," Castor said before explaining. "She believes an alliance between our two kingdoms would be beneficial. Not only is Dragonia rich in resources we can trade, but they have brilliant craftsmen and engineers who could help improve the kingdom."
In the past, the Theocracy didn't have an industrial sector beyond the usual trade for staple goods. Its sole export was Heroes and military might in exchange for offerings to the Chief God. However, if a country or remote village lacked anything of value to offer, the kingdom would ignore them.
That changed under Druella and her de jure ruler Francisca.
Instead of offerings like gold, the Demon Realm of Lescatie would not hesitate to aid any country or village in trouble. To compensate, they would open trade routes or arrange for an exchange of knowledge to advance its industrial capabilities, opening new trade possibilities and more.
Much of these diplomatic efforts were overseen by Castor, who had regained much of thefire he had lost. Now able to make a difference, Castor has dedicated himself to building Lescatie's diplomatic ties with other demonic realm kingdoms and Mamono-friendly states. He hoped not only could create new trade opportunities, but the exchange of knowledge could improve the realm and better overall living conditions.
"It will be a long trip, but I will have your elder sisters along with some knights for my protection detail," Castor said.
"I hope things go well so we can spend some time there."
"I almost want to go with you myself," Francisca remained disappointed at the lost opportunity. "Wilmarina has told me much about Dragonia. I wouldn't mind exploring myself."
"Even if Lady Druella is handing most of the day-to-day needs of the kingdom, you still have a responsibility as Queen," Franchia put a comforting hand on her daughter's shoulder. "Getting your husband to go with you alone might also be difficult."
"Which just makes it all the more disappointing," Francisca said. "Of course, maybe I'll find a place to take Elt for our private vacation that will top Dragonia."
Compared to her relationships with her older siblings, Francisca's relationship with her parents had greatly improved since their change into monsters. Druella had told Francisca that their neglect wasn't their fault but rather the emotional and physical toil fighting against the controlling corrupt elements of the kingdom brought upon them. Druella believed it likely contributed to why Francisca was born with a sicky body, given how much her mother's emotional and physical health had been when she was born. Had the kingdom been ruled by Castor, then she wouldn't have had any reason to conquer it.
Palatine, Swanson, and Isobella quietly observed their parents and sister. Yet, they spoke quietly amongst themselves.
"A trip to Dragonia," Palatine said.
"I've read about it once," Swanson added.
"It's quite impressive from what I've heard."
Isobella was quiet as she wanted to join the conversation, but she had little to offer. Instead, she focused on the book in front of her. It was an old book, one she had acquired before the invasion. It was a book regarding mythical races and figures, relatively easy for her to obtain due to her loss of interest in such subjects, especially the Church.
But this book held Isobella's interest because she found something no one else would've expected.
This is it, Isobella thought as she examined the page with interest.
The page had an illustration of the hammer Lelouch possessed, Mjölnir. The image of the weapon was the same as the hammer, and its capabilities were also a perfect match. Reading further, Isobella studied the details of the hammer.
According to the page, the hammer was one of the greatest weapons ever forged, owned by Thor, the God of Thunder. The passage didn't reveal Thor's fate or what became of the hammer other than it was a dangerous divine weapon channeling the power of a thousand storms.
This emblem is also a match, and the creators of the hammer were the Huldra Brothers.
Isobella searched the book for further information on the Huldra Brothers. Thankfully, she found a chapter about them and the Dwarves' race, the Dwarves of Niðavellir.
Among the Dwarves, none better craftsmen and miners than the Dwarves living in the realm of Niðavellir. The finest and legendary among them are the Huldra Brothers ego created the fine masterpieces like Mjölnir, the hammer of the Thunder God, and Gungnir, the weapon of Odin, the God of the Sky, War, Death, Wisdom, Poetry, and Magic. Isobella thought as she eagerly read the passage.
Isobella was surprised the book she held wasn't some collection of random children's tales but possibly actual stories.
That emblem on the hammer Zero has is the same I've noticed on all of his weapons and armor.
Unlike Druella and her sabbaths looking for Zero, Isobella had found a lead.
"Hey, Isobella," Palatine called her middle sister from behind.
"Huh," Isobella said before closing the book. "Sorry, I was lost in thought."
"Rereading that book of fictional myths?" Palatine recognized the one in Isobella's possession. "I remember being there when one of your teachers gave it to you as a gift. I remember how some of the priests encouraged you to get rid of it."
"Yes, but I guess I enjoyed its content, so I hid it," Isobella said.
"Everyone has their favorites," Swanson commented.
"True," Isobella said in agreement with her twin sister.
"Anyway, we should prepare for our journey to Dragonia," Palatine suggested. "Maybe some time away from the kingdom might be good for all three of us."
"Yes, I agree," Isobella said as she and her other sisters glanced at their youngest sister, the Roper Queen. "I think some time away would be good~."
Back on Earth, a young girl of fifteen with brown hair styled in pigtails and brown eyes returned to her home in the same neighborhood as Asuna. She had had a cold expression to her as she seemingly ignored everyone and everything around her. However, she was very cautious as she was always mindful of looking over her shoulder. Once inside, the girl closed and locked the door with four different locks. Leaving her school bag hanging from a coat rack near the door, Riri Yomari began inspecting the house. For that purpose, she removed a pistol she had hidden in the bookshelf near the door.
Upon completing the search of her house, minus the basement, Riri found no sign of entry and made her way to the kitchen for a drink. Riri had an angry expression on her face. Dealing with the Britannian students at the college had been a headache.
At least I am done with them for now.
Riri unlocked the door leading into the basement with a soda in hand before heading down the stairs. She kept her pistol on her as she descended the steps but was confident no one could've broken into the basement.
At the bottom of the stairs was a computer monitor with two desktops attached to it. Pulling the chair back, Riri sat down before a devious smile graced her lips, but a voice behind her startled her.
"You know, for a girl of your age, you sure know how to be cautious."
Riri turned around in her chair before discovering the famed masked man was in her basement. She had her pistol pointed at her, but Lelouch wasn't bothered by the weapon knowing the bullet would just bounce off his armor.
"You're…you're Zero," Riri jumped in his presence.
"Why are you here?" Riri demanded, but she didn't lower her gun.
Before she could do anything else, the girl felt a freezing chill in the air. Ice manifested around her hands and blocked the gun barrel. She couldn't even pull the trigger, and a few seconds later, she couldn't even move as the ice manifested around her feet as well.
"Calm yourself," Zero placed Riri's gun down when he got close. "I have no reason to go after you."
"You certainly have a way of showing it," Riri glared at the masked man. "Cheap tricks for you to use magic like that."
"I wouldn't call this trick cheap, but I'm always the one who takes precautions in the utmost care."
Riri said nothing as Zero passed her. The masked man observed the setup that she had, which had numerous computer monitors set up. Below was a small server with incredible power, which had a colliding system comparable to a freezer or air conditioner that also sucked out or lowered the humidity to protect the electronics. But that's what Zero expected from a computer genius like Riri.
"This setup is far more advanced than what I've seen, even for Britannia's standards," Zero commented. "It's no wonder you were able to make programs and software of your caliber."
"Don't you dare touch that!" Riri ordered.
"There's no need," Zero turned back to her. "I find this a stroke of luck, as well as yourself. Why would I make enemies of someone who's that capable of a skill the Japanese rarely have, especially in this day and age?"
"So why are you here?!"
"I am here to recruit you for my new organization. I have been told much about your skills, and I need someone as capable as you."
"And who told you that?"
"Some mutual friends who even told me about a program you made," Zero answered as he drew his sword.
One swing opened a portal, allowing Wilmarina and Koyoi to step through, followed by Asuna and Kei.
"It's alright, Riri," Asuna offered nervously, knowing how angry Riri could get due to having known her for a long time. "After all, we are all accomplices now."
"A-Asuna-chan," Riri remained startled as she saw a few others. She didn't recognize the other two, but next to Asuna was another person she knew well. "You, too, Kei-chan!?"
"Sorry we told Zero about you," Kei replied equally as nervous, knowing Riri was likely to bite their heads off later.
"You told the most dangerous man in Area 11 about me!?" Riri said as her face turned red with anger. "HOW!? How do you two even know him!?"
"Not at first, but let's just say one thing led to another," Kei replied before she added. "He told us he was looking for people to join his group, but he needed someone perfect for computers. So we suggested you as someone he should see."
"That is the last time I share anything personal with you two again!"
"What if I could make it worth your while?" Zero offered to intervene before tempers could flare. "We have Viceroy Clovis's credentials and knowledge of a backdoor into Area 11's government network."
Riri looked at Lelouch with surprise, almost doubting that was true, but she recalled Clovis had been his prisoner for days.
"You got something like that from him?" Riri inquired, clearly curious.
"Yes, and he doesn't know about it," Lelouch answered.
"And you want me to help you with my computer skills to liberate Japan?:
"That is right," Zero admitted before using a silent gesture to make the ice vanish. "Someone of your skillset is sorely needed in my soon-to-be organization. The Britannians have secret projects they have been working on that could threaten my plans, so the more I can learn about them, the better our chances."
Riri was still angry, to put it mildly, that her secrets got shared with a stranger. The opportunity Zero was offering, however, did have its own merits. Having access to the Area 11's government database using the credentials of a Viceroy was tempting, especially since their database might have the information Riri has been trying to find.
"My skills aren't cheap," Riri said. "I doubt you guys have money right now since your organization is barely formed, but I will be asking for some favors instead."
"Money won't be a problem," Lelouch answered. "As long as something you want is within my power, then consider it done."
"Okay, let's talk then," Riri folded her arms.
"Very well," Lelouch then turned back the corner.
"Are you sure about this, Zero?" Wilmarina insisted. "She drew a gun at you after all."
"There's so need," Zero assured while the girls behind him remained speechless. "We gave her an offer she couldn't refuse, and she took it. And I say that both literally and theoretically."
"If you say so," Koyoi out sheathed her katana, though before they could get a glimpse of her blade.
"And you must be Zero's accomplices," Riri insisted. "I guess the rumors are true. I was starting to question the functionality of my laptop screens."
"About what?" the Zipanguese monster slayer was tempted to reply.
"About you using magic spells to take down enemy Knightmares, and those videos about a giant monster rampaging in Shinjuku Ghetto," Riri then pointed to Koyoi's sword. "Not to mention that some of your weapons were something thought only to be a hoax in books, including an Imperial Regalia with a blade made of a crimson red metal."
"That is how it was made," Lelouch offered. "It's not the actual Imperial Regalia."
"I see," Riri said.
"In any case," Lelouch decided against giving his, Wilmarina, and Koyoi's real names for the time being. "These are my companions, Null and Rei."
"So they share the name Zero is what you are saying," Riri noticed the meanings behind the names.
"In a sense," Lelouch answered before presenting Riri with a disk. "These files here contain data on weapon projects that Clovis is secretly working on. However, the data is well-encrypted even for us. If you can translate the data for me, it will be a big start for our relationship together."
"Weapon projects?" Riri raised an eyebrow. Knowing Clovis, working on secret weapons was the last thing he'd expected from the current Viceroy. "Never thought the Prince would be interested in those."
"Then consider it lucky that we found something special. If you can do this for me, I'll pay twice your usual services and have it ready well in advance."
Lelouch went a little reckless with the offer there. For all he knows, Riri might take advantage of his offer that would make things go south. Then again, it was a way to help earn her trust."
"Fine," Riri sighed. "What else do you need?"
Just before things could progress, Lelouch felt a vibration in his pocket. Taking out his phone, he saw Ohgi's number on the screen.
"Who's that?" Riri narrowed on Lelouch's phone.
"Just a contact of mine," Zero answered as he put the phone away.
Lousy timing, Ohgi, Lelouch thought as the ringing eventually stopped. Nonetheless, I'll call him back later.
Later that same evening, Isobella was in her room, pouring through every page of the book she possessed. Even though she had discovered a clue, she needed additional leads since there didn't seem to be enough information to follow.
Isobella was successful in discovering the identity of those who created Zero's weapons and armor. Now she was hoping there could be something else in the book that could give her a trail to follow that could lead to Zero.
I need something to follow.
Reading the chapter about the Dwarves, Isobella did possibly find something that could help. According to their history, the Dwarves of Niðavellir had established colonies in mountain ranges, especially those rich with minerals. The most noteworthy of their settlements was Konunsgard, ruled by the Dwarven King Mótsognir. He was a fair and just king, having established a kingdom on their world surrounded by wall-like mountains collecting and hunting dragons for sport.
Wall-like mountains and dragons, but the only place that has that would be Dragonia?
It couldn't be a coincidence because she and her family would be traveling to Dragonia. But the legends described a place that only a few places in the world could match.
It's better than nothing, and at least I have something to follow.
Isobella had no plans to share this information with her family. She heard about how Lilith restricted Druella's actions after she invaded Lescatie since it seemingly angered Zero. Should she get involved, it could complicate things.
I'll find Zero on my own, Isobella thought. Only then will he be mine.
A few hours after their productive meeting with Riri, Lelouch was on the phone with Wilmarina, Koyoi, Asuna at his side in the Northern Lights pawn shop. Wilmarina was incredibly close, keeping an eye on Asuna while the others remained in Agartha. After they met with Riri, they decided to leave to get familiar with the base. It wasn't long before he got a call from Ohgi, who sounded like he had severe news.
"An entire resistance cell eliminated?" Lelouch repeated the news that the resistance leader sent to him.
"This one was the Blood of the Samurai," Ohgi answered. "It hasn't made the news yet, but Kyoto said they'd announce it soon, who confirmed this attack."
"The Blood of the Samurai," Kyoto overheard the conversation like the other girls.
"From what I understand, they're a major anti-Britannian organization in Area 11," Asuna shared. "They're not as big as the Japanese Liberation Front, but on a microscale, they're the largest group in Central Japan."
Wilmarina remained wary of Asuna as she stood back. However, she had other reasons that sickened her.
Why do I feel that we're so alike? Wilmarina thought. That Kei girl and the others...even Riri feels like someone I know.
"I see," Lelouch continued the conversation, ignoring the commotion beside him. "How did they know about this, and why didn't they report it to us?"
"One of the survivors escaped custody and managed to tell a Kyoto representative," Ohgi explained. "According to the guy, it was all done by four Knightmare Frames. Not even the Sutherlands we gave them did anything."
"So advanced new prototypes were involved, just like the white Knightmare?"
"And that's not all," Ohgi continued. "The man said that the machines weren't normal. He said it's like they possessed magic, just like you."
"Are you sure of that?"
"I know it sounds crazy, but those machines did things that shouldn't have been possible. Things like super strength, gravity control, and teleporting in the middle of battle shouldn't be possible. But different sources from Kyoto confirmed it."
"I knew Clovis would aggressively hunt resistance cells, but I didn't imagine he would go this far."
"Look, Zero. It looks like Britannia is stepping up. Even though we're no longer in Shinjuku, it won't be long before they start looking for us. If we don't do something soon..."
"Calm down," Lelouch assured. "I'll have everything ready soon. Just stay low and wait for my next call."
Once Lelouch hung up, he turned his attention back to the girls beside him.
"Is everything alright?" Wilmarina inquired.
"Not exactly," Lelouch answered. "Ohgi reported that four brand new Knightmare Frames seemingly capable of magic wiped out a heavily armed resistance group."
"Capable of magic?" Koyoi asked.
"That is what he said. These Knightmare Frames sound more dangerous than the white machine we faced back in Shinjuku, though maybe not as dangerous as the Zenkor."
"Could they be related to the files you stole from Clovis?" Asuna suggested.
"Possibly, but I think we need someone who could help produce something to stand against them."
"I thought the Brokkr, Eitri, and Sindri couldn't produce Knightmare Frames?" Wilmarina asked.
"They couldn't, but I think there is someone who could. Asking them won't be easy, but with these new machines, I don't think we have much choice."
"What do you mean?" Asuna asked.
"We are going to ask Havi if we can visit one of the worlds, hoping we can acquire their help," Lelouch replied. "They should have some insight in how to build machines capable of possessing magic."
"I thought the other worlds were destroyed from what you told me?"
"Not exactly," Lelouch corrected. "At worst, they're inhospitable for humans like they used to be. Even Havi isn't too sure of the state of affairs, but I'm certain there's something that can work for us."
"And what if it doesn't?" Wilmarina inquired.
"Then I guess we'll have to rely on Riri."
A/N: Thanks to Asuna and Kei, Lelouch has a teen genius capable of making the most of info he got from Clovis. Now able to break into the government's network and begin raiding it for information, for as long as Clovis's access and credentials are still good.
But these new Knightmare Frames, seemingly able to use magic through their machines presents a serious danger to Lelouch's young rebellion. So he's going to have to try and seek "outside" help to at least obtain a small handful of specialized machines to deal with them.
Hopefully he can find the right people to assist him.
I also want to try and explore and build up some of the characters introduced, especially for events later in the story. So next chapter expect to see a certain assassin start to appear again, so we can check on her.
Thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoyed the chapter.