Omake - I Knew All Along
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
August 12, 2012 a.t.b.
“I don’t want to go back!” Kallen protested. She clung to the front gate, but it was no use. Her brother pried her fingers off the bars and flung her over his shoulder like baggage. She squirmed and struggled, but he pressed on without hesitation. “Please, Naoto-nii. Please let me live with you. I hate it here.”
“So you’ve told me,” Naoto said. “You’re starting at Ashford tomorrow. If it’s really that bad, why don’t you ask Dad to let you board there.”
Giving escape up as a bad job, Kallen crossed her arms and adopted a sullen pout. With a huff, she said, “I have.” She’d much prefer to live free with Naoto than share a bedroom with a Britannian girl her age, but anything was better than ‘home’.
“Did he say no?”
“No? Then what’s the problem?”
“Matilda objected. She said people would ask questions when I could easily commute.”
Naoto sighed. “So will calling your mother by her name.”
“Stepmother,” Kallen corrected with every ounce of hate in her put into the word.
“I know, I know! I don’t need another lecture. I know how to behave myself in public.”
Naoto’s hold loosened for a moment to open the manor’s front door. Kallen used the opportunity to try to free herself once more, but she failed in the attempt. It seemed her brother was determined to deliver her with as little dignity left to her as possible. He ignored the onlooking maids and climbed the stairs to the first floor. There, he knocked on the door to their father’s study.
“Enter!” came the muted reply.
A few seconds later, Kallen found herself transferred to her father’s arms. Naoto said, “I believe this belongs to you.”
“Thank you for bringing her back,” Reese said. Glancing at Kallen, he added, “Again.”
Kallen looked away. She could still feel her father’s eyes on her, but she remained resolute. After a few seconds, the pressure abated.
Reese then asked, “Would you care to stay for supper?”
Naoto shook his head. “I should be getting home.”
“I understand. Do come visit from time to time. If you don’t, I suspect Kallen will continue to fabricate excuses to bring you here.”
Kallen huffed and squirmed out of her father’s grasp. In mute protest, she all but stomped her way to her chair by the fireplace. She knew perfectly well she wasn’t going to get out of here without at least a lecture. She curled her legs up under her and rested her head on the palms of her hands, stubbornly ignoring the other two in the room.
Eventually, Naoto left. Reese stepped out for just long enough to return with tea for them both. He sat down on the chair opposite Kallen and poured her a cup in silence. The cream came next, and then two lumps of sugar found their way into the mix.
Almost automatically, Kallen reached for the cup with a muttered, “Thank you.”
Without a word, Reese simply nodded and set about preparing his own cup. When he was done, he merely leaned back and enjoyed his creation.
Soon enough, the silence went to work. Kallen knew perfectly well how to remain quiet and ignore others. She even knew how to be insufferably polite about it; she might not particularly enjoy being aristocracy, but she certainly possessed all the necessary skills for it. But the tension in the air, the anticipation gnawing at her determination, that was a new tactic, one agonisingly effective. She would remember and learn from it.
But for now, worn down from dread and the suspense, Kallen conceded the battle. “Are you not going to lecture me?” she demanded.
Reese calmly replaced his teacup upon its saucer. He quirked an eyebrow. “I don’t see the point. It hasn’t worked before, and I’m well aware that you fully understand the consequences of your actions. You will make a brilliant countess someday if I ever find the right argument to bring you around to the idea.”
“Bah! Good luck.”
“I’m sure I’ll figure something out. Who knows. Perhaps you’ll fall in love with a prince.”
Kallen rolled her eyes.
“Perhaps not. Regardless, are you ready for school?”
Kallen regarded her father sceptically. “Am I ready to be fed propaganda and suffer the inane prattle of spoilt, sheltered, selfish ojou-sama’s?”
“You can remain homeschooled if you wish.”
“No! That’s what she wants. Hide the half-breed. I’d rather suffer at Ashford.”
Reese breathed out a long-suffering sigh. “If that’s what you want,” he said wearily, “then so be it.”
“It is. I’ll not let her win.“
That said, Kallen had another reason for wanting to get out of the house. No one in the family was happy with their current arrangements. If the situation remained unchanged, someone was going to kill someone else sooner or later, and Kallen had a bad feeling the first to fall would be the softest target: her mother. She really had no idea why Minami lowered herself to working as a maid in the house, but Kallen needed to alter the status quo before the explosion came. Hopefully not being at home most of the day would be enough of a bandage.
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
August 13, 2012 a.t.b.
Kallen stared at the boy who’d just introduced himself to the rest of the class.
No fucking way!
There were no better words to put to the sheer absurdity of situation. Kallen took in the lithe figure, the violet eyes, the black hair, everything about the boy.
That’s Prince Lelouch. But he’s supposed to be dead.
The vi Britannia siblings were probably the only royalty for whom Kallen ever had or ever would feel sympathy. She’d met their mother at a party once three years ago before the Second Pacific War and had, at the time, developed a small case of hero worship. Aside from being married to the absolute worst man in the world, the woman was absolutely brilliant. It was, in part, the utter lack of interest in her assassination and disregard for her children that had convinced Kallen that Britannia needed to burn.
I’m sure that’s him.
Kallen unobtrusively observed the room. From the professor to her classmates, no one else appeared to recognise ‘Lelouch Lamperouge’ as the Eleventh Prince of the Realm.
Well, I’m not saying anything.
And that went double with respect to her father. If she told him, he’d just laugh and tell Kallen to befriend the handsome boy.
Kallen’s train of thought derailed at that last bit.
Handsome? Dammit, Dad!
Shinjuku Ghetto, Area 11
August 17, 2017 a.t.b.
“The west entrance.”
Kallen momentarily froze when she heard the voice. She could be mistaken. The radio in her cockpit was a piece of junk full of static.
“Use the tracks to move to the west entrance.”
There was no mistake this time. That voice matched Lelouch’s perfectly.
“Woman in the Glasgow, do you hear me?”
Kallen’s eyes narrowed. How does he know my gender? Someone would have had to have told him. There was no chance he had known before today that she served as the Kōzuki Resistance’s Ace devicer. Unless… Did he enter the lorry after we crashed? Why? And if so, that means he saw me. Maybe even recognised me.
“Can anyone hear me?”
Kallen snapped out of her thoughts and shook her head. There would be time to debate what to do with the prince tomorrow. For now, she picked up her radio and said, “Who is this! How do you know this code?”
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
August 18, 2017 a.t.b.
Today had been an exercise in patience. Kallen hated school with a passion. History this morning had been especially trying. If it were possible, she had no doubt her maths professor would find a way to make calculus prove Britannian superiority, too. Even her classmates and so called friends were obnoxious.
But perhaps the biggest crime of all was how boring it all was. She knew she was not the brightest kid on campus. From the rumours, that honour probably went to the Einstein girl. Was it too much to ask for even a mild academic challenge? She would give just about anything for it to keep her mind occupied. If she had to come to Ashford, the school could at least have the common decency to require her to think.
A chorus of shrieks drew Kallen’s attention from her thoughts and lunch to the girls around her.
“A bee! It’s a bee!”
Kallen finally noticed the buzzing sound near her ear. Feigning lethargy as usual to maintain her sick girl act, she slowly tracked the source with her eyes as the other girls ran away. Rising with a sigh, she did the same at a more sedate pace.
“Bees in a place like this, eh? Is there a hive near here?”
Years had gone since Kallen had last seen a bee in Japan. They might still thrive in the countryside, but in the Tokyo Settlement and the surrounding ghettos, this was the first. A buzzing sound approached, and her eyes shot toward it.
A giant hornet? Kallen carefully followed the hornet’s movements. I suppose I can’t blame anyone for panicking about one this big.
Kallen’s eyes narrowed. The moment had come. She struck out and hit the bee with flat of her hand. It fell to the ground, dead, and she stood proud in glorious victory.
Another oppressor dead at my hands! That the bee had only been oppressing insipid teenage girls, Kallen tried not to think about. It felt good all the same.
Kallen’s smirk fell off her face as she remembered where she was. She’d broken character.
“This pisses me off!” Kallen muttered. “The sickly heiress act isn’t worth it.” If Fenette were to be believed, no one cared when Lelouch cut class and slept through those he attended. She wanted to scream to the heavens from atop Mount Fuji at the unfairness of it all. She bit into her sandwich with a fury. I really want to punch something right–
Out of the corner of her eye, Kallen spotted another Ashford Academy student standing right next to her. Her hand fell away from her sandwich, which dangled awkwardly in the grip of her teeth.
A moment passed as they stared at each other.
Kallen faked a cough. “Well, well. If it isn’t the prince of Ashford Academy. What can I do for you, Your Highness?”
The next moment, Kallen shook her head. She felt a little…off. She then noticed Lelouch standing in front of her. “Um… Did you want something, Lamperouge?”
“No, I got what I wanted here.” Lelouch moved to leave but then stopped and turned back. “Oh, wait. Just to be sure. Don’t tell anyone about Shinjuku.”
Kallen blinked. Shinjuku? Did he already – “er… I’m sorry, but did I space out for an entire conversation?”
“Go back to class.”
In response, Kallen merely quirked an eyebrow. To this terrifying display, Lelouch turned tail and fled when presented with the flimsiest of excuses.
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
August 21, 2017 a.t.b.
Kallen pulled a wet lock of her hair underneath her nose.
Ugh. Still smells like wine even in the shower.
With a sigh, Kallen grabbed the bottle of shampoo and began a second lather.
Alright, Kallen, you need to figure out what you want to do about Lelouch. He clearly knows about your double life and doesn’t want you to know about his. More than that, though, he knows how to command. It’s safe to say he’s after revenge, but is that enough to trust him with not only your life but also your friends’ lives?
Kallen hummed to herself as she mulled over the idea of asking Lelouch to join the Kōzuki Resistance. They honestly needed someone with his skill set, but he would be a hard sell to the others even if she trusted him completely. His age and ethnicity worked against him even more so than her own did for her, and no one listened to her – not when it came to important matters, at least.
A knock came at the bathroom door.
“It’s Lelouch. I’ve brought you a change of clothes.”
Kallen pulled the shower curtain more fully closed than it had been. “You can come in!”
The door opened, and Lelouch entered. “Sorry about those two,” he said. “Shirley and Rivalz can get a little excitable at times.”
That was putting it nicely, but Kallen stomped down on the urge to vent. “It’s fine. I’m just glad I managed to slap the cork away before it hit my eye. Lucky.”
In the brief silence that followed, Kallen got the sense that Lelouch was laughing at such a weak deflection. Chronically ill girls didn’t have such perfect reflexes, nor did they unconsciously slip into defensive stances. That had been a mistake, although perhaps one she could easily explain away to the other student council members if they brought it up. Perhaps she had not been sickly as a child?
“I’ll have a talk with them,” Lelouch said. “To be fair, Shirley is from a shire in the homeland where the legal drinking age is eighteen. She can be very strict about such things.”
“Ah. Well, maybe if you wouldn’t engage in so much gambling, she'd let you get away with a few other things.”
“You heard about that, eh?”
“It seems to be common knowledge on campus. From how many nobles I hear you’ve driven to bankruptcy, I’m surprised the OSI hasn’t come to spirit you away yet.”
“Er, yes, well…”
Kallen allowed herself a quiet chuckle that her shower drowned out. She probably shouldn’t tease the boy so, but she’d not been able to resist.
“I mean, Nunnally’s medical expenses are…expensive.”
How eloquent. Still, rather surprised, Kallen said, “I thought the Ashfords were looking after you two. Didn’t you mention that earlier?”
Seconds passed in silence before Lelouch eventually replied. “It’s complicated,” he said. “I prefer being self-sufficient as much as possible.”
The phone rang. Why is there a phone in the bath – ah, Nunnally. In case she needs to call for help, I imagine.
After making his apologies, Lelouch picked up the phone. “Hello? Ashford Academy Student Council. No, this is… Oh, it’s for you. He says he knows you.”
Kallen quirked an eyebrow but extended a hand out past the shower curtain. “How would they even know I’m around? Does gossip spread that fast here?” she mumbled.
Apparently having heard her, Lelouch said, “You’d be surprised.”
Ignoring that, Kallen said, “Hello?”
“Glad you’re still alive, Q1.” It was the voice from Shinjuku, and just like that, the few doubts Kallen had had about Lelouch being said voice vanished. While it was possible the voice had made a series of phone calls before tracking her down here in the student council building, the overwhelmingly more likely probability was much simpler.
So Lelouch is trying the old being in two places at once trick. He’s trying to ease any suspicions I might have, obviously, but the question is why.
“16:00, the day after tomorrow,” the voice continued. “The observation deck at Tokyo Tower. Come alone.” The line hung up immediately after that, but Kallen kept hold of the phone and pretended otherwise to buy herself some more time to think.
Well, that answers that. He wants to keep his identity hidden. That’s fair enough, all things considered. Now how to handle this… Is it my doctor calling? No, too boring. My stepmother? No, fuck her. Hmm… Do I flirt? No, I’ll wait to enjoy that until after Lelouch knows it’s just an act and not me fangirling.
Oh, I know! The anti-flirt! Who’s on the other end, then…
An evil grin slowly crept onto Kallen’s face. She really shouldn’t tease Lelouch like this, but the idea was just too good not to pursue.
“I’m sorry, Your Highness,” Kallen began, “but my decision is final. I must refuse your overtures. Good day.”
Peeking out from behind the shower curtain, Kallen saw Lelouch with the kind of look that just screamed he had no idea what to do with what she had just said. Glorious. Smiling, she poked him with the phone.
“Please hang this up for me. Angrily, yet politely, if you would, with just a hint of feeling flattered.”
That snapped Lelouch out of his daze enough to function. His face said, “What on Earth does that even mean?” but he eventually capitulated as best as he could. He then asked, “What was that about?”
“Oh, one of the lesser known members of the imperial family has taken an interest in me. A good match, I’m sure, but I have enough problems with my health as is without being pregnant as well. I can’t even recall how many immediate members of the imperial family there are, you know.”
“Far too many,” Kallen heard Lelouch grumble under his breath.
“Honestly, I’ve told that boy so many times I’m not interested. He just won’t take no for an answer. I might as well get into an old knightmare held together by duct tape and dreams and try to take on the entire Britannian army. I’d have a better chance of survival in battle than in labour.”
Kallen heaved a dramatic sigh. “If you wouldn’t mind, though, I’d like to get back to my shower. Thank you for bringing me a change of clothes.”
“Ah, yes. Sure. Yes. Sorry about that. I’ll wait for you outside to show you around after.”
Once Lelouch was good and gone and the door had closed in the wake of his hasty retreat, Kallen broke down into snickers until she eventually succumbed to a full blown chortle. That had been entirely too much fun. She had a feeling that teasing the poor boy was going to become a bad habit of hers. She would make it up to him, though, by keeping his secrets safe – even from him. That was a fair trade, she thought.
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
August 23, 2017 a.t.b.
Dressed as Zero, Lelouch watched in satisfaction as his fledgling band of revolutionaries departed from the train. Oh, he expected no more than one or two to show up for his plan to save Suzaku, but in the worst case, he would just use his geass to requisition the aid of a few Britannian soldiers instead.
Come to think of it, they might be even more impressed if I succeed without their involvement. Hmm… Perhaps I should have simply told them to stand back and watch as I saved Suzaku on my own. After a second to ponder the matter further, Lelouch shrugged to himself. Something to think about in the future.
“Might I have a word?”
Lelouch turned his attention to the number one reason he was going through all this effort. Kallen Stadtfeld – or Kōzuki, as she preferred – had potential. She had managed to score a blow, if only a glancing one, on that overpowered white knightmare from Shinjuku. Moreover, she did it in a hunk of junk and escaped uninjured afterwards. She was easily Knight of the Round material, and he thanked his lucky stars that she loathed the entire Britannian system as much as he did.
Not to mention her intelligence, Lelouch idly commented. He’d looked up her transcript when performing his initial background check, and it proved impeccable despite her chosen lifestyle involving almost zero studying. Yes, we’ll make something great of you yet, Q1. We just need to find the right motivation to turn you into a proper queen.
Of course, beyond Kallen herself, the rest of her comrades responded well to orders and were demonstrably competent devicers. With the right training and access to a few knightmare simulators, they could go far under proper leadership.
“I suppose,” Lelouch finally said to Kallen. I hope she’s not about to waste my time prattling on about nothing.
After a moment in which she scanned the carriage, presumably to ensure no one was around, Kallen stated in no unclear terms, “You’re Britannian.”
Lelouch froze. Did she know? Had he not thrown her off his trail? A second passed as he composed himself. “What makes you think that?”
“The phone call you made to me,” Kallen said, switching away from Japanese. “You speak English far too well. It’s possible you’re Japanese, maybe European, but it’s far more likely you’re not. Then considering that you were an unknown factor in Shinjuku and we knew of everyone who lived in the ghetto…”
Lelouch silently cursed himself for overlooking those little details. On the other hand, his soon-to-be Ace was observant. However much more difficult that made his own life, that was good for his plans long term. Perhaps he could even use her skills outside of a knightmare sooner than expected.
Still speaking in Japanese, Lelouch said, “I see. A reasonable guess, no doubt. If I were, would that be a problem?”
Continuing in English, Kallen said, “Let me rephrase that. Your diction is the same as mine, My Lord.”
“Ah.” That was a tell not easily hidden. Given that no one else was around to overhear them, Lelouch conceded this minor defeat and switched to English himself. “And what do you intend to do with this information?”
It did seem strange that Kallen had decided to confront him with it rather than tell her friends instead. Or maybe she has and was the one chosen to sound me out on the matter.
“Nothing,” Kallen said, much to Lelouch’s surprise. “I just wanted to warn you to be careful for now. As you said, our enemy is Britannia itself, not Britannians. I’m not so conceited as to believe that I’m unique, but some people do, and many more assume I’m not in the worst way possible even though I’m a little young to be an obvious spy.”
“Hmph. Whatever its faults, Britannia wouldn’t waste time trying to insert a very Britannian half-blood such as yourself into the ghettos. They have no need of such complex deceptions.” Interesting, though. Does she believe I’m a half-blood? Well, best not correct her, if so.
“I know, right? You wouldn’t believe how many years it took to earn a measure of half-trust even with dozens of people vouching for me,” Kallen grumbled. “I don’t think anyone not Britannian will notice, but be careful nonetheless. I’ll do my best to misdirect anyone who gets curious.”
“Your efforts are appreciated, and it’s good you understand. While our movement will naturally be most attractive to the Japanese, there are many disenfranchised and disillusioned Britannians as well. They, too, will wish to fight for justice and a better future, and only a great fool makes an enemy of their allies.”
Although he already knew from having used his geass on Kallen, Lelouch decided to gain the knowledge legitimately while he waited for the train to arrive at its next stop. “If I might ask, why does the future Countess of New York consort with terrorists? Despite the impossibility of effecting lasting, positive change, you could do far more good from within the system.”
Surprise showed on Kallen’s face, apparently not having expected him to ask. She pursed her lips. After a few seconds of thought, she finally answered. “It’s… Being a half-blooded Britannian is complicated no matter where I live, but life is less painful away from what passes for home. To make a long story short, Britannia tore my family apart. Mum is pathetic. Dad is miserable whenever he comes home, so he’s all but abandoned us to the bitch who calls herself my stepmother. I also had an older brother. He should have been the Stadtfeld heir, but unlike me, he got most of his looks from our mother.”
After sighing, Kallen continued, “Not that he’d have done anything differently if he were the heir. He wanted a peaceful world, but Britannia is…well, you know.”
Lelouch nodded. He knew exactly what Britannia was like.
“He decided that if he couldn’t change Britannia, he could at least try to make life better in his other homeland. Not that that worked out.” Feeling her anger rising, Kallen breathed deeply to calm the growing signs of a tirade. “Nevermind. Thank you for saving what you could of Shinjuku, by the way. I don’t know if anyone bothered to say that yet.”
“You're the first.” Lelouch paused a moment there to consider how he wanted to proceed. On the one hand, he could play the hero of justice shtick straight and create a stronger image for Zero. On the other hand, however, he could open up a little to start cultivating personal loyalty from an essential piece on the board.
With his decision made, Lelouch said, “And you’re welcome. However, to be perfectly honest, my presence there was entirely a coincidence. I’d not intended to start my crusade against Britannia yet, but opportunities arose, such as they were, and fortune favours the bold. Still, it’s nice to be appreciated.” It’s not like Milly ever says thank you for all the work I do for her.
“You’re welcome,” Kallen said with a rather cheeky grin. “Just don’t get us all killed, and I’ll be sure to remember to say thank you after every mission.”
Lelouch snorted, chuckling. “I’ll be sure to hold you to that. Recall that you’re currently the only Britannian female we have available.”
It took a few seconds before Kallen understood the implication. Her demeanour warped in an instant. “I’ll kill you!”
“Area Eleven is awfully corrupt and unprofessional. Lips are very loose with the right…assets.”
“I swear I will beat you to death with my bare hands!”
“You would make a smashing bunny girl.”
“Not even in your dreams, you dead man!”
Having had his fun, Lelouch said, “I suppose I do have other ways of gathering information. Though the cause shall suffer for it, it seems I must avail myself of them instead.”
“Git,” Lelouch heard Kallen grumble. As the train slowed to a halt, she said, “Whatever. This is my stop, I guess. I’ll see you at the meeting point tomorrow. I’m sure Ohgi will come. I don’t know about the others, though.”
“That’s fine,” Lelouch said. As she slipped away out the door, he added, “Two will suffice.”
Kōzuki Resistance HQ
Shinjuku Ghetto, Area 11
August 25, 2017 a.t.b.
Conversation was happening around Kallen, but she only caught every other word. Her adrenaline high from escaping with Kururugi Suzaku alive and uninjured had yet to fade, and she chose to revel in it. Lelouch had taken Kururugi off alone to the other room to – presumably – recruit him, and that was none of her business. If she remembered her history correctly, they were old friends.
“Karen-chan, what do you think?”
Kallen could still remember standing right in front of a half-dozen Sutherlands unarmed with all of their weapons trained on her. Her legs had trembled and threatened to give out on her, but she’d managed to press on. Somehow, she’d managed to act cool and composed from the beginning of their escape to the end. And Lelouch’s own poise and confidence–
“Huh?” Looking around, everyone had their eyes on her. “What is it?”
Ohgi sighed. “I asked you what your impression of Zero is. You spoke to him before after the rest of us left, and you were in the thick of it both today and in Shinjuku.”
Thinking back on everything, Kallen said, “He’s a brilliant commander, probably on par with Britannia’s finest, and he has the kind of charisma necessary for both a revolutionary and a statesman. In every way, he’d be our answer to Schneizel or Cornelia if Britannia started taking us seriously.”
That drew more than a few widened eyes from the group.
“Zero was right,” Kallen added. “We’re whiny children. Today’s operation – how many people would we have lost trying it ourselves? How many innocent civilians would’ve gotten caught up in it?”
“A lot,” Ohgi begrudgingly admitted.
“Zero came up with this plan in a matter of hours, I imagine, and executed it perfectly. Not to mention that in Shinjuku we took no losses after he took control until that white knightmare appeared. And Zero demonstrated he knows when force is needed and when other measures should be pursued. I don’t doubt he could have gotten us proper knightmares for today if we’d actually needed them.”
I swear, Lelouch, someday you’re going to pay me back for this. I sound like a bloody fangirl. After a moment, Kallen added, Even if it’s all true.
With a solemn nod, Ohgi turned his attention back to the rest of the group. “Well, we’ve heard everyone’s opinion, then. Let’s put it to a vote. Raise your hand if you agree to elect Zero as our new leader.”
Kallen put her hand up together with Ohgi, and one hand after another slowly joined them. Lastly, everyone looked to Tamaki.
“Oh, alright, dammit!” Tamaki said. He put his hand up.
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
August 28, 2017 a.t.b.
“Lelouch,” Kallen said. She stood just in front of the boy in question outside in the very heart of Ashford Academy’s campus. He was busy at work on his laptop but looked up after a second. “May I have a moment?”
“Sure,” Lelouch said as he set his laptop aside. “What do you need?”
While not something she actually needed to do, Kallen knew Lelouch would expect the ignorant Kōzuki Karen to ask after the phone call he had ‘overheard’ if she could come up with a decent excuse. Kallen mentally sighed to herself. Keeping in character with two layers to the act was hard. Sometimes she thought about just telling him that she knew everything. Life would be so much simpler if she did but also so much less enjoyable.
For the moment, Kallen pushed that option aside. Instead, she began, “About that phone call the other day.”
“Phone call?” Kallen had to admit, Lelouch was good actor – possible better than she was an actress. She almost believed that he’d forgotten. “Oh, in the bathroom. What about it?”
“Do you know what the number was?”
“No. I don’t believe the academy keeps a log, either. Why? Did you decide you want to be a princess after all?”
Kallen turned aside with a huff, rolling her eyes. It was a bit out of character but perfectly acceptable, she thought, if Kallen Stadtfeld were to let her walls down and be friends with Lelouch. “Hardly,” she said. “Whenever I get a call from him, I can never catch the number.”
“Ah. You want to block him?”
“No,” Kallen said. “He’d just get a new number. I want to release it to the public and let him deal with the resulting spam. And I’d do it over and over again until he got the message.”
“Vicious.” Lelouch had an appreciative smirk on his face as he said the word. “I’m sorry to say I can’t help–”
Following the glare Lelouch had suddenly directed behind Kallen, she turned to glance the same way. She noticed a girl with lime green hair in what appeared to be the same clothes she herself had borrowed not too long ago. She only had a split second to observe, however, as Lelouch jumped up from his seat to grasp her face with both hands and turned her back toward him.
They stood there as still as statues as the seconds ticked by. Lelouch’s eyes, Kallen noticed, tracked something behind her until whatever it was – probably that green haired girl, she supposed – had left. Even knowing that this was not what it looked like, however, a blush erupted on her face.
“Oi,” Kallen eventually said when she found her voice again. It got Lelouch’s attention back onto her. “I know I’m beautiful, but please try to restrain yourself. Such fits of passion are unbecoming of a man.”
Lelouch’s mouth opened. A moment passed. Then he finally said, “I apologise…”
This is super awkward. Now that Lelouch’s grip on her face had loosened, Kallen took a step back. “What were you working on?” Not exactly the most graceful way to change the topic, but better than fleeing, if only marginally.
“Just reading the news.” Lelouch plopped back down on the bench behind him and opened his laptop. Kallen moved forward beside him to get a look.
“That Zero character?” Kallen said. “I didn’t take you for the type to be interested in him.”
“Oh, he’s completely mad. Absolutely barmy,” Lelouch said. “And he makes for one hell of a news story.”
As she sat down beside Lelouch, Kallen said, “Well, that’s certainly true. He had some redhead with him, too. I nearly had a heart attack imagining myself in her place. I still can’t believe Margrave Gottwald didn’t just have them both shot before they could confront him.”
Lelouch grunted in disapproval. “The good margrave obviously likes to hear himself talk too much. He wanted to make a show of the entire debacle, and Zero took advantage of that.”
Although unlikely to get anything out of him, Kallen asked, “Hey, Lelouch? What do you suppose that ‘orange’ thing was?”
After a brief pause to ruminate over the question, Lelouch said, “I’ve heard rumours that Prince Clovis was involved in human experimentation.”
Kallen let out a real gasp. “That’s quite a skeleton in his cupboard.” I didn’t imagine that fop would stoop so low.
“Yes, well, that’s assuming the margrave cared about his prince’s memory,” Lelouch said. “More likely than not, he just took a bribe.”
“No, that can’t be,” Kallen said. Lelouch turned to look at her, his eyes holding actual interest in the conversation now. “If Zero really is the one who shot Prince Clovis, then the purists must have arrested Kururugi while still investigating to push their own agenda, right? What sum would be worth the loss of momentum?
“On the other hand, if Margrave Gottwald were a traitor acting on Zero’s order, he’d be more useful to Zero in charge with an unblemished record. There’s no way Zero or the margrave wouldn’t have expected the man’s reputation to be in shambles after how he acted. They would have put a fall guy in his place. There had to be something more to it than betrayal or money.”
“You have the right of it,” Lelouch said, clearly impressed. “I don’t imagine there’s much we can divine from staring at the news, however, no doubt censored as it is. I’d like to believe in the competence of our government and say the initial arrest of Kururugi was a trap to identify and perhaps even draw out the real murderer, but regardless, you’re correct. Margrave Gottwald’s actions make no sense with the information we have. In the end, they were probably trying to execute an innocent man just to push legislation through. However loyal to the crown the purists are, corruption remains.”
Now that’s not news, Kallen said to herself. She weakly offered, “It’s not so bad in the homeland,” in defence of a position she held no interest in professing. It possessed the benefit of actually being true.
Lelouch just snorted dismissively and let the time flow past them.
Sometime later, Kallen idly remarked, “It’s unfortunate what Britannia has become since we left Europe. I confess to a certain admiration of our culture from before the Humiliation and its remnants.”
Kallen nodded. “When I was a young girl, I wanted to be a knight.”
“A knight? You?” Lelouch was understandably sceptical of both her personas.
“Hey, I was a child. I thought they were cool. Fighting for justice. Protecting the innocent. Swearing vows of undying loyalty to a worthy liege. Swords! And then when I was ten, my every dream was validated when suddenly the knight’s weapon of choice became giant robots. I grew up on stories of noble warriors and anime.”
From the corner of her eye, Kallen noticed Lelouch quirk an eyebrow at her with a smile poking at the ends of his lips.
“What?” Kallen said defensively. “Believe it or not, I used to be rather boyish.”
Lelouch did not lower that eyebrow of his. Kallen took it to mean, “What happened?”
“I fell ill. I’m still an excellent devicer, you know. I played with knightmare simulators while other girls would have tea parties. I’m still a decent fencer, too, even if I tire too quickly to be competitive.”
“You fence?” It seemed that little fact genuinely took Lelouch by surprise.
Kallen waved her hand back and forth. “I’m alright. Not great.” And now for the best part. “I wanted to be just like Empress Marianne when I first started.”
Peeking out of the corner of her eye, Kallen saw Lelouch’s expression grow tight before relaxing back into an uneasy and so very fake smile. She kept her own smirk to herself. It should probably be illegal to have so much fun at his expense. In fact, as he was a prince, it probably was; that made it all the more enjoyable.
“She was my favourite Knight of the Round. Bold, brilliant, unbeatable, and female and beautiful, of course. And she came from nowhere! Anyone could be her. Then she died, and no one cared. It’s hard not to see everything wrong with this country after your idol is assassinated and forgotten at the drop of a hat.”
Lelouch said nothing, but Kallen noticed his hands curling into fists tight enough to turn his knuckles white.
“Then the army killed my brother. He was in the ghetto when they caught him. They dragged him in for ‘questioning’. He was just trying to help, but of course no one listens to the half-breed. Officially, he committed suicide while imprisoned. We never even got his body back.”
A hand fell on Kallen’s shoulder, and she felt her rising temper cool. She turned to give Lelouch a grateful smile and tried to relax back into her seat. She’d not meant to share that much. She was supposed to be having fun at Lelouch’s expense, not confessing her life story, but there it was.
“Britannia sucks.” Elegant, Kallen. Really elegant. You could rival Lelouch’s speeches with that masterpiece.
“Maybe you should reconsider becoming a princess,” Lelouch said. “Make your way up to empress and then off your husband. Take over as regent for your firstborn, and who knows.”
Kallen let out a bark of laughter at the jest. The thought was certainly amusing. “Empress Kallen does have a nice ring to it. I think not, though. Too unlikely to work, and I don’t believe I have the patience to tolerate a prince for that long.”
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
September 12, 2017 a.t.b.
“In some ways, Area Eleven is better off now than the old Japan ever was. Being made a colony of the empire has stabilised its military and economic position in the world.”
There was some truth to those words. Japan had not played the wisest of games with its sakuradite before the Second Pacific War, and it had remained staunchly independent in a world of superpowers. Still, it made the already sour taste of Kallen’s free California hot dog even worse.
“Elevens can even obtain full citizenship through the legal process,” Lelouch continued. “It’s easy to become an honorary Britannian. Just a question of pride, really. Though I can certainly understand why they’d resist.”
Not that it does much good to move from less than dirt to a second-class citizen. Kallen swallowed. “And?”
Lelouch hummed in question.
“Knowing all that,” Kallen said, “what does Lelouch Lamperouge think about it all? What do you want to do?”
Sounds about right. Kallen was awfully tempted to bait Lelouch into saying something she could hold over him later. Still, this was an opportunity to get a real answer out of him for once as well as a few laughs. “You don’t bother to hide how brilliant you are, you know. It’s all Shirley talks about. Why let all your potential go to waste?”
Lelouch shrugged. “That Eleven we saw back there could tell you. He could lead a better life as long as he bows his head to Britannia.”
“And yet you’re a gambler. Shirley complains about that, too.”
A smirk crept onto Lelouch’s face. “Kallen, the wagers I take are no gamble.”
“I prefer to call it self-confidence.”
“Uh-huh.” Kallen took another bite of her all but stolen snack. “You should join the Black Knights.”
“What?” The shock was plain in Lelouch’s voice, and Kallen had to force a giggle down when she glanced at his face. The mask had not just cracked but shattered.
“Join the Black Knights. We could use more highly intelligent members with their wits about them.”
“I’ll…consider it,” Lelouch said weakly. It was actually rather adorable just how unprepared he looked for the direction this conversation had taken. “Should you be telling me you’re a Black Knight?”
Kallen shrugged. “You’re not going to turn me in.”
“You sound very confident in that.”
“Is this a test of some sort? Do the Black Knights jump out of the bushes if I do or the OSI if I don’t?”
Kallen chuckled. “Quite the conundrum, isn’t it?”
A moment passed before Lelouch said, “I have been a little suspicious of you. I don’t know what business an OSI agent would have at Ashford, though.”
That deserved the scoff Kallen gave it. “Please. If you ever suspected for even a moment that I was an OSI agent, I’d be long dead. If you’re going to lie to me, at least do a better job of it, Your Highness.”
Lelouch shot to his feet in either sheer terror or outright panic.
“Oh, sit down,” Kallen said, unconcerned. “You’re making a scene. I have no intention of outing a fellow victim.”
“How did you find out?” Lelouch demanded.
Rather flatly, Kallen replied, “I’m not a commoner, Lelouch, nor minor nobility. I know of everyone important in Britannia. I’ve even met your mother. Did you not realise that, or did you honestly believe I wouldn’t make the connection? You and Nunnally even kept your names. Seriously, you could at least dye your hair or something.”
“I see…” were the only words Lelouch said for the longest time. Although he still appeared uneasy and reluctant, he did sit down.
“To be honest, your eyes were what first made me pay attention. You might not realise given your childhood, but violet eyes are actually very rare.”
“You're the first to notice. I haven't exactly hidden from the nobility with my chess matches.”
“Well, I would hesitate to call you lucky, but…”
Lelouch grunted unhappily. “I'll have to buy coloured contacts.”
“It wouldn't hurt,” Kallen said.
“How long have you known?”
“Since you first introduced yourself to me.”
Lelouch’s brow narrowed. “Back then? I’d thought you were referring to my reputation at Ashford with that snark of yours.”
“Hmm? Oh, I was. And you’re a little off. We were in the same class in year eight, if you’ll recall.”
“You’ve known for that long?” Lelouch asked in shock. “Who have you told?”
“No one. As I said before, I have no intention of outing a fellow victim. But now I'll ask again, and this time I’ll ask the right person. Knowing the state of his empire, what does Lelouch vi Britannia want to do?”
“Protect my sister,” was Lelouch’s immediate response. He levelled a glare at Kallen, although not one too threatening. “Whatever it takes.”
Kallen smiled just a little as memories flooded her. “My older brother was just like you.” She chuckled, albeit somewhat weakly. “If I suffered so much as a paper cut, the world was ending…”
Black Knight HQ
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
September 12, 2017 a.t.b.
Lelouch, as Zero, tapped his fingers along his desk in contemplation. Kallen was more knowledgeable and intelligent than he’d given her credit. In hindsight, he probably should have realised that. She’d constantly surprised him over the short time he’d known her. Now she was a liability – a frustratingly indispensable and likable liability he’d already used his geass on. Her skills as a knightmare pilot were nothing short of game breaking, and her company was actually pleasant when she shed the Stadtfeld and Kōzuki masks to just be herself.
An idea occurred. Lelouch went to find Tamaki. He would do well as a stooge.
“Hey, Karen-san!” Tamaki called out.
Kallen broke off her conversation with Ohgi and Zero about tonight’s refrain raid. “What?”
“You’re a blue blood, right?”
“I suppose,” Kallen hesitantly replied.
“Have you heard anything about tonight’s raid?”
“My Dad is an earl,” Kallen said, anger simmering just beneath the surface. As dysfunctional as her family was, she loved them all the same. “He’s not a knight, and he’s certainly not a drug dealer. Why on Earth would you think I’d know anything?”
Tamaki shrugged. “It’s not like it hurts to ask. You never know.”
“As shocked as I am to say it,” Ohgi said, “Tamaki-san has a fair point.” He turned his gaze suggestively onto Kallen. “We’ve been ignoring a valuable source of information.”
Zero spoke next before Kallen could nix that idea. “I agree. I have my own contacts within the government, but Karen-san could provide a unique glimpse into Britannian politics. She and I have discussed this before.”
Kallen sent a death glare at Zero, but he continued on unaffected.
“Can you think of any actionable intelligence you might possess? About tonight’s raid or anything else. Perhaps knowledge of persons of interest?”
Oh, so that’s what this is really about. I wonder how he got Tamaki to play along. Kallen lowered her voice to a whisper. She would turn this test right back around onto Lelouch. “I do happen to know a prince.”
“Oh?” The strain in Zero’s voice was well hidden but audible to those anticipating it.
Folding her arms, Kallen nodded. “Indeed.”
“Which one?” Zero pressed.
“The prince of Ashford Academy, a man whose irresistible allure is said to send women into the throes of passion with his mere glance.”
Tamaki rolled his eyes as the mood broke. “Man, I thought you were serious.”
“I am completely serious,” Kallen said, drawing herself up to her full height. “Prez would throw me off the student council if I referred to him as anything less. I cannot let that happen. I would lose so many privileges that make my life easier.”
“Perhaps we should move on,” Ohgi suggested.
“Is there nothing else you can think of?” Zero pressed.
“Unless you want to hear the latest gossip my stepmother won’t shut up about, then I’m afraid not. Sorry. I’ll keep an ear out, though. Maybe even attend a few parties.”
“Very well, then,” Zero said. “We’ll have to discuss this more in depth later on, and you’ll need to find an appropriate and trustworthy escort.”
Kallen offered Zero a wide, innocent smile as she said, “Oh, I know just the one.”
“Er, right. Good. Yes, good.” Zero faked a cough. “Now as we were discussing before Tamaki interrupted…”
Kaminejima, Area 11
September 17, 2017 a.t.b.
Under the roaring falls, Kallen whispered her gratitude for the warm weather. Being stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere was troubling, to say the least, but she had running water of sorts for a shower. That was something. Now if only she had some soap. She still felt filthy from the accumulated sweat and grime of the past day.
Across the small pool between the waterfall and land, Kallen noticed a figure appear from the tree line. Of all people, it was Suzaku.
Oh you have to be fucking kidding me.
Thinking quickly, Kallen considered her situation. Lelouch would be furious if she killed one of his oldest friends. Counting on Suzaku not to recognise her was far more optimism than she could stomach. She wanted to continue attending Ashford if she could; she actually had friends at school now.
Right. Time to bullshit out my arse.
“Suzaku,” Kallen called out over the roar of the waterfall, “if you don’t turn around this instant, I will kill you!”
The boy who had frozen staring at a fully naked woman immediately apologised and spun in place to face the forest. Sighing, Kallen climbed atop a nearby rock and set about drying herself off as best as she could. She wrung her hair, used her jacket as a substitute towel, and then slipped into as few layers of clothes as was decent. She then hopped from rock to rock back to land to stand behind Suzaku. After a gentle tap on his shoulders, he turned around with a blush lingering on his face.
“I’m not going to slap you this time,” Kallen said with a warning tone underlying her voice, “but in the exceedingly unlikely chance I’m starkers in front of you again and you stare, be prepared to suffer.”
Suzaku gulped. “Right. Sorry. I didn’t mean…” He finally noticed the black jacket she had draped over her shoulder. “That’s the Black Knight’s uniform!”
“Thank you, Sir Obvious. I never would have guessed. Now let’s head out. I need to get you back to your princess before you do something stupid again. Honestly! I can’t believe you were willing to die in the bombardment. It’s good you got your chain of command straight in the end. You’re a knight of honour. Your princess’s word is law.” Kallen continued muttering about foolish men as she sauntered off down the forest trail she and Suzaku had taken up here.
A very befuddled Suzaku said, “What? I… You were there…and are a Black Knight? What? Just…what?”
No hesitation, Kallen. Keep him off balance and trample over his objections. Lie like Lelouch.
Kallen took a deep breath and then glanced back over her shoulder. She quirked an eyebrow and said, “You can’t honestly expect me to believe Euphemia of all people ordered you to sit there and die. She’s as harmless as a puppy. Besides, the Black Knights were in a no-win situation. You had Zero captured and reinforcements were coming. Whoever ordered that air strike really bollocksed everything up in a way utterly uncharacteristic of her. Urgh! Dammit! I could be back at Ashford by now, but no, of course not.”
“What are you talking about?” By now Suzaku had caught up with Kallen and grasped her arm by the wrist. She glared at him, but he did not release her. Underneath the confusion, his eyes returned her glare with accusation.
“Let go,” Kallen stonily demanded.
“I cannot let a terrorist escape.”
“I’m an OSI agent, you fool.” Kallen snapped her arm free while Suzaku stood flummoxed.
After a few failures at forming words, Suzaku eventually managed, “The OSI? But you’re…”
“Sickly? Young?” Kallen scoffed. “I’m clearly not ill, and that bastard we call our emperor doesn’t give a damn about age. Not that I can really complain. I like my primary assignment.”
Suzaku narrowed his eyes. “And that’s the Black Knights?”
“No. I operate solely at the emperor’s discretion, and he’s grown concerned with Zero. My primary task is to look after Lelouch.”
“The emperor knows he’s alive?” Suzaku asked, proving he would never make it as a secret agent. A more appropriate question to fish for information would have been to ask why Lelouch was important.
“Yes,” Kallen easily lied. “For years now. I used to protect him from a distance, but then Milly dragged me onto the student council, and I haven’t looked back. Lelouch is the single most intriguing person I’ve ever met.”
Kallen placed herself right in front of Suzaku. He was taller, but she could feel his unease with the closeness nonetheless. “Speaking of,” she sternly began, “in case you’re both blind and deaf, Lelouch isn’t exactly happy with father dearest, so he’s not to know the emperor possesses the tiniest sliver of decency necessary to see to his son’s wellbeing. No one is. You will not blow my cover and ruin my friendship with Lelouch.” She would have added a threat, but from the look on Suzaku’s face, the message had already gotten across perfectly well.
“Good.” And then Kallen had a wonderfully terrible idea. She kept the smile off her face, but the thought of how much chaos she might unleash within the colonial government delighted her. “By the way, I’m not positive, but I don’t believe the emperor has shared this with anyone, so you didn’t hear this from me. Zero is a member of the aristocracy.”
“What? Are you serious?”
“Yes. Or at least he once was or was so raised. I’m not sure which. Do with this information as you will so long as my name stays out of it.”
Black Knight HQ
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
September 18, 2017 a.t.b.
Bah! What a mess this has become. Euphemia knows I’m Zero. Kallen knows I’m royalty. Suzaku knows Kallen is a Black Knight. What next? Will Nunnally discover my geass?
A knock came at the door to Lelouch’s office. He put his mask back on and called out, “Enter!” A familiar redhead walked in through the door a moment later. “Good evening, Kallen. What do you need?”
“Um… I may have convinced Suzaku that I’m a personal servant of the emperor attached to the OSI and assigned to infiltrate the Black Knights. And I may have shared some misleading but technically true information to sell the story.”
“Can you help me obtain the necessary documentation to maintain the ruse?”
Lelouch brought up his hand to pinch the bridge of his nose only to then recall the mask over his head. He was almost tempted to remove it just to complete the action.
“Kururugi bought that?”
“It’s possible he more didn’t want to disbelieve than actually believed,” Kallen said with a shrug. “If I don’t act nervous or dither in proving my claim, I don’t think he’ll investigate further.”
No, he won’t. He probably wouldn’t want to sell out a friend regardless. Lelouch sighed. “Very well. I’ll have what you need before you return to Ashford tomorrow. What did you tell Kururugi?”
“That you’re Britannian aristocracy. I know they won’t be able to uncover your identity with that information since I couldn’t, so I didn’t think it would hurt.”
“Oh?” Kallen was right, of course, but Lelouch could not let that go so easily lest she later truly give out dangerous information. “Do you think so highly of your investigative skills?”
“A little,” Kallen said with a grin, “as well as my piles and piles of dosh. It took several more clues for me to figure out who’s under that mask of yours, none of which anyone else will have access to.”
Lelouch paused for a moment to ruminate on all of his recent interactions with Kallen without the mask. Did she know? But after a few seconds of reflection, he knew she did not. Her behaviour at Ashford simply didn’t fit – not unless she was purposefully making her life as difficult as possible for some reason infinitely beyond the male gender’s understanding.
So reassured, Lelouch said, “Did you not tell me you had no need to see my face?”
“I did, and I still don’t. Sometimes a girl just gets curious. I stumbled upon a clue, and one thing led to another. But who knows? I could be wrong. It doesn’t really matter, anyway. Your private life is just that: private.”
“Hmph. I thank you for the courtesy. I trust you don’t mind if I leave you in suspense as to the validity of your guess.”
Kallen returned that with a mischievous grin. “I trust you don’t mind if I leave you in suspense as to if my guess is right.”
I highly doubt it is. If only the mask were not in the way, Lelouch could return Kallen’s grin with a smug smirk. Such a tragic quandary he found himself in.
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
September 22, 2017 a.t.b.
Startled and with his nerves already frayed from Mao’s mind games, Lelouch dropped the photo of his sister held hostage in his hand. Suzaku finished climbing the stairs before he could retrieve it and saw the image.
“That’s – so something did happen to Nunnally.”
“Yes,” Lelouch hesitantly admitted. There was no putting off someone as stubborn as Suzaku. He could only hope Mao didn’t execute his sister in retaliation. Technically, the only stipulation the madman had put on his actions was not to call the police, so Nunnally should be fine for now. He also doubted Mao would want to spoil the fun just because Suzaku inserted himself into the situation. And so, reluctantly, Lelouch explained what had happened.
Suzaku frowned and pursed his lips in thought. After a moment he said, “Wait here. I know someone who will help.”
Kallen was minding her own business playing with Arthur when Suzaku stormed into the room. Without so much as a by your leave, he pulled her to her feet and dragged her out into the hallway.
“Suzaku, where are you taking me?”
“To Lelouch. Nunnally has been abducted–”
“–and he needs our help.”
Before she could demand more information, Suzaku deposited Kallen in front of Lelouch halfway up a flight of stairs. She could see the unease working through Lelouch’s face as well as the impatience to deal with what both he and she knew was about to happen.
“Lelouch,” Suzaku began, “Kallen is an OSI agent watching over you.”
Both of the boys ignored Kallen’s, “Suzaku!” She could see the anger emerge on Lelouch’s expression at the additional complexity added to both their friendship and whatever the situation was.
With a fiery – if feigned – glare levelled at Kallen, Lelouch said, “We don’t have time for me to threaten or interrogate you. If you’re an OSI agent, then how was Nunnally abducted on your watch?”
Restraining the urge to deck Suzaku over this, Kallen searched her mind for whatever lie would get this over with as quickly as possible. “I’m only responsible for your safety. Besides, I thought you had a shinobi looking after her. What happened to Sayoko?”
“She serves as our maid, too. Mao probably waited for her to go to the grocer’s or something.”
And so Lelouch explained the situation to Kallen.
After waiting for ten minutes as Lelouch had directed, Kallen crept toward the church the Ashfords had built on campus for anyone who might want to use it. Of course that was where Nunnally’s abductor would lay in wait, the pretentious prick. When she got her hands on him, she was going to cut off his cock and shove it down his throat.
And so Kallen laid in wait no more than ten metres from the stained glass window at the back of the building. She and Lelouch had left Suzaku behind to free Nunnally with his frankly inhuman levels of dexterity and physical prowess. As soon as Lelouch gave the signal, she would burst through the window and deal with the man foul enough to put the life of someone as sweet, harmless, and adorable as Nunnally in danger.
Lelouch screamed, and there was the signal. Kallen burst into action.
A handful of rocks thrown through the window opened the way. Right behind them, Kallen leapt through the now open window. Immediately, her eyes locked onto Mao. He looked young, possibly younger than her. His arms were heavily bandaged. From the awkward way he stood, she assumed the rest of his body was in no better condition.
With ease, Kallen dodged a pair of hasty gunshots from the injured man. She unsheathed her concealed knife and moved in close. A quick, non-fatal stab to the gut put him down on the ground. From there, she stomped on the hand holding the pistol and then kicked the gun away.
“Oh, I am going to enjoy killing a snivelling little bastard like you.”
“You disarmed the bomb? Impossible!”
Kallen reached down and pulled Mao up by the collar. “On that we are certainly in agreement. Suzaku is a freak of nature. But you don’t need to worry about that anymore. Now, it’s just you, and me, and the overprotective brother whose sister you threatened.”
For whatever reason, Mao apparently ignored Kallen in favour of staring at Lelouch behind her in shock. Then out of nowhere, he said, “That’s ridiculous! You bet everything on a pair of friends? What if they’d failed you?” Kallen slapped him to get his attention back.
Meanwhile, Lelouch made a phone call. “Suzaku, everything is fine now. Go ahead and untie Nunnally and bring her back to my flat.”
“You think you’ve won?” Mao blurted out.
“Hmm… Looks like it to me,” Kallen snarked. She punched Mao in the gut for good measure, forgetting that she’d stabbed him nearby but moments ago. Oh great, now my hand is covered in blood. I’m going to ruin all of my clothes. I just know it.
Through the pain, Mao muttered, “Get your hands off me, you whore.”
Kallen obliged and dropped Mao to the ground. She stood tall over him with a dangerous smile. “Oh, ho, ho, ho.” She cracked her knuckles. “I must have misheard you. Want to say that again?”
“You heard me. The parallels in your life are obvious. Your mother ruined hers being with a Britannian.”
Kallen grounded herself in preparation to deliver a good solid kick to the groin.
Heedless to the approaching danger, Mao continued, “And the more time you spend with the prince, the more willing you become to reenact the Emblem of Blood’s finale on his word alone.”
What? Kallen paused halfway to ensuring Mao would never be a father. “What the bloody hell are you on about?”
“You know he’s just using you, but more and more you’re no longer just using him in return.”
That might very well be true, but Kallen did hope that Lelouch actually considered her a friend as she did him.
“Soon enough, he’ll ask you to assassinate his family and call him your emperor. If you’re lucky, maybe he’ll fuck your brains out while he’s at it.”
“After all, you’re just like his mother, and he’s just like his fath – oh shit!”
Lelouch roared, “Mao!” His face warped into a terrifying visage of rage. He’d picked up Mao’s pistol in the middle of the man’s monologue and held it ready to fire. “Never speak again!” The instant after he said the words, Lelouch fired a bullet straight into Mao’s head.
For good measure, Lelouch shot Mao again, this time in the heart. Then he fired a third time into one of the man’s knees. When he moved to fire a fourth time in the other one, Kallen placed a hand on the pistol and gently pushed it toward the ground.
“Enough. He’s already dead.”
Lelouch growled – actually growled. “I thought that last time, and yet here he is again.”
Kallen turned her gaze upon Mao for a moment. That certainly explained where all the bandages had come from. Although she was curious about the story behind that comment, she didn’t press Lelouch to explain himself further – not now, at least.
A moment passed in silence between the two, neither quite sure what to say.
“Lelouch,” Kallen hazarded, “you’re not like your–”
“You can borrow the shower in my flat again to get cleaned up,” Lelouch interrupted. “I’ll bring you a change of clothes without blood all over them.”
Kallen sighed at her words being brushed off, but she smiled nonetheless and said, “Thank you.”
“When Sayoko gets back, I’ll ask her to draw up a room for you. I think we need to have a long talk.”
“Probably,” Kallen allowed. Narrowing her eyes, she gestured toward Mao with her head. “What about him?”
“I’ll take care of it. I’m not having you call the Black Knights here.”
Later that night after a pleasant supper with Nunnally, Sayoko, Lelouch, and Suzaku, Kallen found herself with Lelouch in the sitting room of the Lamperouge flat after everyone else had left or gone to bed.
“So, an OSI agent?”
Kallen looked away from Lelouch. “Suzaku caught me in a compromising position. I had to tell him something.”
“Fair enough. Thank you for your assistance today regardless.”
“You’re welcome.” A moment passed. “Are we really going to just pretend Mao didn’t say anything?”
“About what? About how you’re apparently in denial over an unspoken attraction to me?”
“No, you git,” Kallen said with a good barefooted kick to Lelouch’s leg. “I know you’re at least as capable of picking up on subtext as I am, Zero.”
“So you do know. Since when?”
“Do you remember the last time you asked me that question?”
Lelouch let out a frustrated huff. “So since the very beginning. Of course.”
“Personally, Lelouch, I’m fine with the way things are. We can continue to keep our public and private lives…well, not separate. They never were. But I enjoy our friendship outside of the Black Knights.”
“Despite all of the trouble you cause me and against my better judgement” – Kallen rolled her eyes – “I agree. I am, however, sceptical of your suitability as a royal assassin.”
“Uh-huh. Then might I just say that although I don’t see how you could possibly be a worse emperor than your father, I’m sceptical of your capability to match his…stamina.”
After a moment, Lelouch cracked a grin, and that was all Kallen needed to start snickering. Finally, they both abandoned all pretences and simply laughed together. They both desperately needed the release after the stress of the day.
“Lelouch, you don’t have to answer, but if you do, I’d appreciate it if you told me the truth. What is it that you actually want from this rebellion? Do you want to become the emperor? Do you want to free Japan? Are you after revenge?”
After a momentary pause, Lelouch said, “Two things. I want to create a place where Nunnally can live freely and safely. I don’t particularly care where that happens, although I confess to some fondness for Japan. Beyond that, I do want revenge for both myself and my sister as well as my mother. I intend to personally put a bullet through the emperor’s head and anyone responsible for my mother’s assassination.”
“I can drink to that. I don’t suppose you keep pints of frothing ale around, do you?”
“Sorry to disappoint.”
“Oh. Well, in that case, I’m going to have to turn you in for a better deal.”
Lelouch deadpanned, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal,” and Kallen smirked.
“I didn’t take you for a sci-fi fan.”
“There are many things about me which you either do not know or will reveal you’ve known for years to my eternal frustration.”
Kallen giggled, and such a weird feeling that was. It’d been years since the last time she’d genuinely giggled.
“What about you?” Lelouch asked. “What do you actually want from the rebellion?”
“Hmm…” Kallen stopped to give the question serious thought for some time before she replied. “Before you sank your claws into me, I don’t think I really had any purpose other than hurting everyone who had hurt me. Now, though, I think I just want to be the hero because I can and no one else will.”
“Is that so?”
Kallen nodded. “If opportunity allows, however, I would greatly appreciate it if we could kill my stepmother.”
Lelouch let out a bark of laughter. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Thank you for the consideration,” Kallen said with a bright smile. She doubted Matilda would ever put herself in a position the Black Knights could justifiably execute her for, but it was nice to have the option available. The fantasy alone probably brought her as much satisfaction as Lelouch got from imagining killing his father.
“As we no longer have anything to hide from one another,” Lelouch began, “there is something that I’ve been meaning to do. I suppose I can be far more forthright about it now.”
“Please tell me you’re not about to kiss me.” To be honest, Kallen had no idea how she would respond if he did, and that worried her somewhat.
“Hardly,” Lelouch said. “I’ve been subtly pushing you to learn how to lead and command. You have a lot of raw potential that you’ve clearly either never had the opportunity or the inclination to explore that I want to bring out.”
Kallen thought back on everything she had done as a Black Knight. Lelouch had kept her closer than a simple bodyguard needed to be, ordering her to attend meetings with him that she really didn’t need to be at, ostensibly for his protection. Now that she gave the matter some thought, her opinion did seem to hold an inordinate amount of weight within the order. No one had listened to her when they were simply the Kōzuki Resistance, but most people would defer to her now whenever Lelouch and Ohgi weren’t around.
“Huh. And what did you have in mind now, then?”
“I thought I’d save you the trouble of ordering takeaway everyday to avoid going home and invite you to eat with Nunnally and me. Afterwards, I can teach you directly before we leave to rendezvous with the Black Knights.”
“Oh, how romantic! Candlelit dinners, politics, and battle plans.” Kallen feigned a swoon. “You do realise that’s only going to confirm the rumours about us in everyone’s mind, right?”
Lelouch scoffed. “You drag me to every party you’re invited to as your plus one. It’s far too late to be worried about that.”
“Hey, that’s your fault,” Kallen protested. “I know you somehow got Tamaki to start that conversation. If I must suffer, you must suffer with me.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Lelouch said with a wave of his hand. “Regardless, are you up for the lessons?”
“I suppose so,” Kallen said with a shrug. “Knowing you, you’ll just figure out how to work them into my regular duties anyway.”
“How astute of you.”
Kaminejima, Area 11
October 20, 2017 a.t.b.
The girl in question started and gave away her presence, much to her chagrin. She had focused too hard on lining up a headshot on Suzaku, and now it had cost her.
“Do you not want to know Zero’s true identity?” Suzaku asked.
“What are you talking about?” Kallen replied. She was tempted to just shoot Suzaku, but he had a damnable tendency to dodge, and that would put Lelouch in danger.
“You have a right to see it, too.”
What is he going to– When the sound of a gunshot exploded in Kallen’s ears, she immediately pulled her own trigger. Fortunately, Suzaku did not dodge, but in her haste, her aim was off. She only managed to wound his shoulder. She fired again, but this time he moved like a man possessed with that inhuman reaction time of his to avoid any further damage until she ran out of bullets.
A cracking sound came from across the cave as Lelouch’s mask slowly split in half. It fell off soon after, leaving his face and stunned expression clear for Kallen and Suzaku to see. A flash of pain lit up Suzaku’s face at the sight.
“I knew it. Kallen, Lelouch has used you most terribly.”
“You’re speaking like I didn’t know it was him under the mask all along,” Kallen said. “My job is to protect him, not to babysit him.”
Although the shock showed on Suzaku’s face, it didn’t last long. “I see. Kallen, you’re not an OSI agent, you only think you are.”
Kallen opened her mouth to retort, but then her brain caught up with what Suzaku had said. “You wanna run that by me again?”
“Lelouch has a despicable power called geass. It lets him twist the mind to suit his whim. Don’t you find it strange how suddenly Euphemia turned on the Japanese?”
“I’m not buying it,” Kallen said. She quietly reached into a pocket of her pilot suit for another ammo clip while Suzaku’s attention was on Lelouch. Then seeing as her prince wasn’t responding for whatever reason, she took charge of the situation. “You have two options, Suzaku. Leave and survive, or stay and bleed out in this standoff.” She would rather not open fire again and risk Suzaku actively trying to kill Lelouch.
“After what he did to Euphemia, do you think I’d just leave!”
“Your options are what they are. Pick one.”
An even deeper fury found its way onto Suzaku’s face when presented with the choice. Before long, though, the blood loss caught up to him. “Fine,” he said. Slowly with his pistol still trained on Lelouch, he backed his way out of the weird cave they’d fallen into before on Kaminejima. Only once he was long gone did Kallen relax. She then turned her attention onto Lelouch.
“Hey,” Kallen said gently. “Suzaku is the world’s biggest hypocrite. Don’t let him get to you.”
“He wasn’t wrong, though,” Lelouch said almost in defeat.
Kallen quirked an eyebrow. “I’m reasonably confident I don’t believe I’m an OSI agent.”
“Not about that,” Lelouch said. A slight hint of his usual dry humour and confidence underlaid the words. “If I wanted a slave, I would have a slave. I wouldn’t faff about with some convoluted plot.”
“I should think not. So what, then? You have some supernatural ability to twist the minds of others?”
“I can’t. It only works once per person.”
Kallen narrowed her eyes. “Then use it on yourself.”
“I already have. Mao had a geass that let him read minds. I erased my own memory of our plan to outplay him.”
Kallen rubbed her temples in exasperation. “Fine, whatever. I don’t care. I’m either magically compelled to be loyal or choose to be. The world looks no different to me either way right now. But if you’re going to stand there and tell me you commanded your sister to start a massacre, though, I’m going to have you committed.”
“I gave the order,” Lelouch confessed.
“Look, I’m really not interested in whatever third act plot twist led to the SAZ Massacre at the moment. Right now, I have friends and comrades fighting a full scale revolution who need their leader. What are we doing here?”
Lelouch’s eyes widened. “Nunnally! She’s been abducted.”
Wisely, Kallen resisted asking, “Again?”
“These ruins are connected to the power of geass. She’s here. Somewhere.”
After a moment of hesitation, Kallen decided to give Lelouch the benefit of the doubt. She’d never known him to take Nunnally’s safety lightly. “Alright. Then how do we get to her?”
A frown overtook Lelouch’s face. “I don’t know.”
Asking the obvious question, Kallen said, “Well, who would?”
“Where is she?”
The silence said everything for Lelouch.
“She’s not dead,” Lelouch said. “She’s immortal. But retrieving her won’t be easy. Or fast.”
Kallen breathed deeply and let that immortality claim pass by unremarked.
“Okay,” Kallen said. “Is there any way for Nunnally to be spirited away without passing through here?”
After a moment of hesitation, Lelouch said, “Not that I know of. But I don’t know how any of this works.”
“So either a guard here will keep Nunnally in place or she’s already long gone. And we probably need C.C. to get to her.” After staring Lelouch in the eye for a few seconds, Kallen said, “I’ll go order a squad to come here. We need to return to the battle with the Guren and the Gawain. We’ll win, set a team to retrieving C.C. from wherever she is, and then get Nunnally back. Okay?”
Interrupting, Kallen said, “You’re not doing her any good standing here fiddling with a wall. I’ll order a squad here. You have that long to figure out how to save her. If you can’t do it in that time, you’re not going to get it anytime soon.”
When Lelouch finally accepted the obvious, his shoulders fell, and a broken look overtook his face. The latter passed soon enough, but Kallen had been tempted to hug him all the same.
Then suddenly and without warning, Lelouch’s eyes widened. He threw Kallen to the ground behind a boulder and said, “I leave you in command. Lead the Black Knights well.”
At that moment, the Lancelot burst into the cave. Right before her eyes, unable to prevent it, she saw everything fall to pieces all because she didn’t fucking kill the traitor.
Somewhere in Siberia
May 1, 2016 a.t.b.
“No!” Kallen bolted upright and scanned the area for her prince while taking ragged breaths. She found him on the floor next to her tangled in a blanket and looking very put out with her but otherwise unharmed. Next, she took in her surroundings more fully. There were people everywhere – refugees, by their appearance. A few around her were awake and looked irritated, although they said nothing. And she was in a train carriage? How did that make sense?
“Rose, calm down,” Lelouch said in French.
“You had a nightmare is all.”
“Whatever happened, it was just a dream.”
Just a dream? “But it felt so real. I…” Now that she’d had some time to process everything, Kallen felt her racing heart slow and her panic settle. She remembered where she was now. And she remembered that horrible name Lelouch had foisted upon her for his own amusement while they were undercover. She now had no sympathy for knocking him off the bench they were sharing as a bed.
“I’m sorry for waking you, Rollie,” Kallen said. ‘Roland’ may have gotten to chose his own false identity, but his beloved Rose had a fiancée’s privilege of referring to him however she wanted. “My apologies to anyone awake to hear them as well.”
And that was that. A few moments later, Lelouch lay down beside Kallen and wrapped their blankets back around them both. In a quiet voice, he asked, “Do you want to talk about your nightmare?”
“No,” Kallen said slowly. “It wasn’t even a nightmare. Most of it was rather amusing, I think. It’s already fading. It was just the ending that got to me. I think you were about to die. I woke up before I could find out.”
“Well, it’s good that it was just a dream, then.”
Was it, though? Kallen activated her geass to reassure herself. When it failed to inform her of either her or Lelouch’s imminent demise, she felt herself relax into her bedmate. And now that she was in a right state of mind to think, both of her parents had been alive in the dream. There was no way it could be real. “Just a dream,” she murmured.
Together, Kallen and Lelouch went back to sleep.
Less than a metre away, C.C. silently chuckled. Now that those two knew about geass – and she admitted that their discovery was her fault – she had the freedom to mess with them for her own amusement in whatever way she chose. Her code might be a curse, but it had its perks from time to time.