Disclaimer: I do not own Code Geass or any of its Canon Characters
Consciousness returned, very slowly, but it did return. The darkness all around had not faded away though, and it took a few moments to realize why.
Kallen Kouzuki opened her eyes, and immediately regretted it. Her eyelids almost instantly slammed shut once again, a reaction to the unbearably bright light in the room. Was it even a room? She had not seen anything other than half a second of blinding radiance. A moment later, she tried again, much slower than last time. Her eyes had been dormant for a long time, and she could feel the burn of every new photon. Over the course of a minute, her eyes adjusted to being a part of a world of light once more. On the third try, it was enough to keep her blue orbs open.
She glanced around, avoiding the right side where the punishingly bright light of a clear day came through an open window. Kallen first saw a hospital bed, her own, and a second empty one beside her. The room itself was otherwise an average, if quiet vision of what she expected a Britannian hospital to be.
But why was she here? Her mind asked the question, her body tried to move, and Kallen immediately had an answer. Muscles, bones, tendons, and plenty of other things that had no business hurting, did so in concert. She forced back a pained groan, her eyes blurred with tears, and she went back to lying as still as if she had lost a staring contest to Medusa. It was a terrible, dreadful feeling.
As the pain finally began to make a retreat a few minutes later, it all came back to her at once. The battle for Tokyo, Lancelot in the academy courtyard, and her dreamlike conversation with CC. Was the last one even real? A quick check told her that her Geass was still there, even though she had no reason to activate it, it was still comforting to feel its presence in the back of her mind. At least, it was comforting until she remembered what CC had told her about it.
Cautiously, she tried to move again. One arm, one leg at a time, the pain was bearable so long as she did so slowly and carefully. Kallen managed to move the blanket from just under her chin down to just below her waist.
She stared at herself in silence, not moving anything more than her eyes, for what felt like minutes. Aside from some white panties, hospital issue no doubt, she did not remember having them before, she was naked in the bed, the only exception being four electrodes attached to an adjacent monitoring system. It gave her eyes an unfiltered view of the dozens of scars running along her torso and arms. Most were small, thin lines, but there were a few noticeably larger scars mixed in. There were so many, she could not tell how many had been from the battle that put her here, and which were the result of the surgeries necessary to keep her alive.
Kallen's first thought was that she had been reduced to some kind of meat puzzle. Had they brought her in piece by piece and reassembled her physical form in some operating room? Reverse operating room? Had she really come as close to death as CC had explained in the dream? That was a terrifying thought that she forced away.
It did not matter. This may have been the worst the world had ever hit her with, but she was still alive and mostly in one piece. She let out a faint chuckle. No, she was going to get out of this bed, and get back to the Black Knights, her friends, Lelouch. Kallen's mind froze on that last entry. It was just then, as her eyes continued to follow the scar lines across her chest, they also decided that she was utterly hideous. For a moment, a cold shot of fear joined the more familiar, mundane suffering. Would he even want her after this? How was she supposed to compete with that damned witch now?
Before all of this, her skin had been a shade off from CC's and her body had the strength and definition to match her spirit. Now, she was thin, weak, traced over with horrific scars, not to mention deathly pale. Just thinking about the limette's perfectly smooth creamy skin, and that she had Lelouch all to herself for a while was enough to ignite some rage in Kallen's soul. She would just have to find a way to fight; to win him back.
Her energy picked up, a bit of adrenaline forced the pain back, and she felt the sudden urge to reacquaint herself with verticality. Roleplaying a weak, sickly girl for a couple years at Ashford Academy was more than enough. She didn't want to live it for real any longer than she could help.
Kallen got the rest of the blanket off of her, which confirmed that her legs had been just as devastated as the rest of her body. Slowly, she sat up and waited a few moments, before moving her left leg off the side of the bed. The bed itself was not raised very high, and so she had no trouble reaching the ground. Her right leg followed close behind, and soon she attempted to put weight on them.
She got up, grunting from the strain as her bones tried to hold up her mass, even as diminished as it was. Although wobbly and painful, she stood and gently let go of the bed. Her legs wavered, but did not fail. One small step, one small victory.
Right beside her bed, less than a meter away, hung an open back hospital gown on a hook beneath a monitor screen. Thankful that it was something she could enter without having to twist around too much, she disconnected the four electrodes attached to her chest and got into the gown.
She didn't even have time to make an attempt at securing the back strings before an alarm went off. Kallen froze, her head painfully snapping toward the door. It was only a second after the fact that she realized the monitors had flatlined when she took the electrodes off. Of course that would trigger a response, she realized much too late to do anything about it.
Barely a moment later, the door burst open. Two heavily armed men and a Britannian woman, a doctor by the look of her white coat and general appearance, entered the room with zeal. The soldier in the back of Kallen's mind yelped that their response time was unreal. They were probably stationed just outside the room. Either that, or she really had gotten imperceptibly slow in her unconscious state. To her visible relief, the soldiers were wearing Black Knights uniforms, not imperial blue. A bit more subconscious confirmation that CC's appearance in her dreams had been a real event, not simply imagined in her damaged state.
It took about a second for the soldiers to realize that nothing happening in the room required their specific skill sets, and deferred to the woman in the white coat who was already closing the distance.
"Easy there, you're not supposed to be up yet." The woman's voice had a gentle, calming effect. Kallen relaxed slightly as the reality that there was no immediate threat set in. Besides, it was not as if she could have done anything about it if she were wrong, when just staying upright was pushing the limits of her physical capabilities.
"Who...are you?" Kallen asked, her voice weak enough to surprise herself.
"I'm Doctor Hallison. Please, lay down." She said. Kallen stared back at her, and the Britannian woman could read the defiance in her eyes. "At least sit on the bed. We did not expect you to wake for at least another two weeks. Your body needs more time to recover. As I'm sure you can see, you're in no shape to be going anywhere right now."
Reluctantly, Kallen obeyed. The doctor was right, of course. While she had enough willpower to soldier through it, everything hurt. Even places she had never felt pain before were screaming at her. For a moment, she imagined it as if her body was a knightmare frame giving locational damage readouts. In a sense, that helped her. She understood damage to machines more intimately than damage to flesh and bone. Kallen laughed at the thought, which turned into a cough, which in the next second felt like a knife in the lungs.
"How long have you been awake?" She asked.
"Only a...few minutes." She told truthfully. The doctor turned to the troops and asked them to bring a bottle of water. "Two weeks? How long have I been out?"
"It's...the third week of February, Kallen." Kallen's already pale face seemed to turn snow white for a second.
"Two...months?" She asked with a soft shock. "What happened? Where am I?" She vaguely remembered CC mentioning something about an artificial coma, but it felt like a dream. Even so, she was now completely certain that CC had come to visit her at some point.
"We're at Tokyo University Hospital. As for what happened…" She paused for a moment, mulling over just how much information to give at once. "You were injured in the battle. I'm not sure how much of that you remember."
Kallen remembered enough. Bits and pieces of the fight in the school courtyard came back to her, as did CC's explanation of what happened. So far, it seemed to line up.
"Suzaku...Kururugi." She said after a moment. "He must have got me good." She looked down at herself, tracing her finger shakily across a long scar on her left arm. "Did I at least come with assembly instructions?" Kallen managed to get a wide smile on Hallison's face, as she struggled to contain a laugh.
"If you're feeling well enough to joke about it, that's a very good sign." Hallison replied as she accepted a chilled water bottle and helped Kallen drink a bit of it. "It wasn't quite that bad. You were still in one piece when Princess Euphemia brought you in. Although, as I'm sure you can tell, quite a bit of surgery was necessary."
"I guess I owe you one...more than one."
"Maybe. I would say it's Princess Euphemia you should thank. Without her, you would not have made it here in time. She landed on the rooftop pad with your cockpit unit, threatening fire and brimstone unless we saved your life right that very instant." Hallison recalled. "It was...stressful."
"Was I really that close?" Kallen asked, finding something alarming about the woman's obvious understatement.
"Kallen, you are, without question, the luckiest woman in the world. The toughest too. I've been doing this a long time; I've seen good healthy people die from much less than you endured. I can honestly say that I don't know how you made it."
"Well, that makes two of us. The last thing I remember was being in combat. I was doing everything I could to just break even." Kallen recalled.
"Then it seems to me that you just couldn't give up until you knew it was over." The doctor suggested with a smile.
"Do you know what happened to Suzaku?"
"I'm not sure what became of the man himself. I do know that his Lancelot knightmare ran out of power and was captured. He may have technically beaten you, but from what I heard he never actually made it into the city." She explained. Kallen thought, or rather tried to think, about it for a few moments. A grin found its way onto her face.
"If that's true, then I completed my mission." Kallen realized aloud. Suddenly, the state she was in had a sense of worth to it. "The Black Knights won without me, but the Empire couldn't hold without him." Kallen grunted as a jolt of abdominal pain reminded her of the cost. "Not exactly what I wanted to happen, but I'll take it as a win."
"A better way to look at it, I suppose. The battle for Tokyo went on throughout the night. A sizable Imperial holdout surrendered, but Princess Carine and the troops with her fought to the end. Most of them were killed in the battle, although the princess herself was captured by the Black Knights after her knightmare was destroyed." Hallison continued as she pulled some equipment out of a nearby cabinet.
"Serves that bitch right." Kallen muttered, neither knowing nor caring if the doctor had heard her.
"Wishing you could have been there?" She asked, as a few tears began to form in Kallen's eyes. "Kallen?"
"I'm just imagining what it must have looked like to see that sunrise. I would have given anything to be there, at the moment of victory."
"Well, if some of the rumors I've heard are true, this war is far from over. You'll get your chance."
"Pendragon." Kallen said.
"I missed the liberation of Tokyo; the return of Japan. Almost half of my life was spent fighting for that moment, and Suzaku Kururugi stole it from me. When the Black Knights invade the Empire, and I lead the charge into Pendragon, I'll find him there, and return the favor." Kallen promised.
"Well, Kallen, if you plan on fighting for the fate of the world on St. Darwin street, you will need a body that can keep up. So please lay back down and let me get a good look at you." The doctor spun her patient's sentiment to her own advantage. Kallen just sighed, since she knew that it was all true.
Although it took a few more minutes than she would have liked, Hallison finally convinced Kallen to lay back down on the bed. At least, she wanted to think it was her words that did it and not the injured woman's constant state of physical pain. Conscious or not, her body was still a wreck that had a lot of healing to do.
Over almost an hour, she performed a very detailed inspection of Kallen's physical state. Overall, it was obvious that her early awakening was not a beneficial event. If anything, it would only delay her time until full recovery. However, at the same time, she just couldn't find the will to plead a case for going back under to Kallen. After all, she wasn't in any extra danger by remaining awake, provided that she actually followed instructions and spent the next few weeks resting.
That hour also proved to be one of the strangest in her life, as it was as if she was meeting her patient for the first time. It had not occurred to her before, but Hallison had never actually spoken to Kallen before today. She had always just been an important patient, and it was easy to make medical decisions that were technically in the patient's best interest when you did not truly know them.
The doctor rationally knew that this woman needed a lot of rest and medical supervision for at least another two or three weeks. Then, she would need physical therapy for a few more months to complete her exercise of well and truly giving death a good slap in the face. They would just have to make the best of it...Oh.
"Shit." Hallison muttered, realizing that her still quite fragile patient was going to get exactly none of the peace and quiet she needed now.
"What's wrong?" Kallen asked, not fully turning to face her as she avoided the agony of turning her neck.
Suddenly, they both heard the door to the room open. This time Kallen did turn, albeit in a slow and controlled manner, unlike the last time. There, standing in the doorway, were two familiar faces. Very unexpected, but welcome familiar faces. Could they be real? Was all of this just some hyper detailed hallucination? They rushed toward her.
Kallen's mind had yet to recover before the pair reached her. She stood, almost motionless, as they both reached forward to hug her in the same moment, and after a second, turned it into a group affair. Her damaged body hurt as they did, but she cared so little for the pain that it barely registered, producing not even a peep.
Her parents, both of them, together in the same room after all this time. How in the hell did that happen? She wondered about this for a bit before discarding the thought entirely. It didn't matter, and she didn't care. They were both here, clearly for her, and the mechanics behind that were quite irrelevant to her.
When Kallen opened her bright eyes, looking over her mother's shoulder, she found the answer. There in the doorway stood Lelouch and CC, both pointing happy, relieved smiles in her direction. Kallen herself smiled, although none could see it with her face from the nose down buried in her father's shoulder.
The Red Dragon of the Black Knights closed her eyes as tears began to flow. After so much blood and death, she finally felt a profound sense of peace fill her. Kallen Kouzuki had devoted herself to war in the search for a future worth living. Now she had found herself immersed in a fragment of it.
Kallen opened her teary eyes once more, taking in the view of the prince and the witch that were every bit as much her family as the pair hugging her. The life she wanted, the life she dreamed of, was made of small moments like this. It was what she fought so hard for, and she would undoubtedly do so again.
So here we are, the end of the line.
While I'm sure plenty of people are going to be disappointed that I'm killing this story, reality always wins. This was a project started at a time when the longest coherent piece of writing I had ever created was a 12 page Blood+ story that ran out of steam half way through the second chapter. There really was no plan behind Oath of Blood, just a beginning, an idea for an ending, and a desire to do something with it without knowing how to do it right.
The majority of this story was written one hot draft at a time, with a quick pass or two for proofreading. Major story elements often changed as I went along, mostly due to a "this idea sounds awesome, let's add it!" mentality. The problem is, that is a terrible way to write anything of respectable length. The result after the first three years was that I had a story that while fun, was loaded with so many holes and dead end plot lines that it should have bled out long ago.
The quality difference between the earlier chapters and the later ones is simply painful to read. So much so that I would not be surprised if most of those that have ever opened it dropped it before chapter 10. Perhaps that's just my personal bias and tendency to be very critical of my own work, but that feeling has only intensified with time.
I have reached a point where I can no longer find any will to even attempt to continue to work on this story. Every idea I've come up with to get it moving again takes the easy way out with huge time skips, or requires an extensive rewrite. While I know there are plenty of readers that would be happy with that, I hate the idea of investing time and effort into releasing crap, even well written crap, just to keep the life support running.
In hindsight Oath of Blood was never going to be the awesome epic length story I wanted it to be, and in all fairness that is mostly a result of my own inexperience at the time and lack of planning. That is not to say this adventure has been a waste or a failure though. The lessons learned and experience gained from having done this have proven very valuable, and I've seen a lot of improvement since I started this story in a spare hour waiting for class to start. I'm certainly not going to stop writing, but I really needed to close this chapter and move on.