Omake - A Knight at Heart
Part Two of I Knew All Along
Part Two of I Knew All Along
Sea of Japan
October 23, 2017 a.t.b.
The mask of Zero was a heavy burden. Whosoever wore it bore more than just the hope of the Japan on their shoulders. In truth, the revolution had never been about Japan at all. Fighting for independence had been a mere stepping stone. The Black Knights fought for justice, and Zero had never once explicitly stated what was to be their end game.
But Zero was only one aspect of Lelouch. In the privacy of his flat in the student council building, he’d revealed so much. Kallen knew the direction he’d intended to take the Black Knights and the plans he’d laid past the Black Rebellion. He’d spoken of toppling the Chinese Federation and poaching allies from the EU. He’d envisioned of a world united against Britannia. He’d dreamt of a world ultimately at peace once the dust had settled, a place where Nunnally could live freely without fear or discrimination.
And Lelouch had entrusted it all to Kallen.
A knock came at the door. Tohdoh’s voice soon followed. “Kōzuki-san, we’ve picked up the Gawain on our sonar.”
“Is the cockpit still in it?”
Kallen sighed. “I’ll be there in a few minutes. Continue searching the ocean surface for it until then.”
“As you wish.”
When Tohdoh’s footsteps had faded, Kallen turned her attention back to Zero’s mask. It was a silly idea, really, even if it kept coming back to her. Lelouch was a hand taller than her and even though he’d looked damn good at Milly’s cross-dressing ball, she was far too womanly to match his figure. There was no way she could impersonate him. Even if she could match his appearance physically, he had a charisma and gift for speaking that far surpassed her own. No one would buy the act.
“I’m sorry, Lelouch. I couldn’t do it. Morale fell too low without you and your miracles, and Ohgi got himself shot like an idiot. The chain of command wasn’t robust enough to handle all three of us being missing at the same time. It shouldn’t have needed to be. I managed to save everyone we can’t replace, though, so there’s that.”
Kallen laughed without any joy in the act. “I sound so callous. Here I am calling so many of my oldest friends replaceable. No wonder I was the only person you really talked to in the Black Knights. I was the only one you could count on to not die and stick around to the very end.” She snorted as she recalled the revelations on Kaminejima. “Even in the face of potential mind control.”
Or perhaps because of it, if she decided to believe in geass. Not that it really mattered. Brainwashed or not, as Kallen had said to Lelouch, the world looked the same to her either way. The damage would already be done. There was no point worrying over it; she was who she was, she liked who she was, and that was that.
Kallen did, however, intend to have it out with him if he’d left additional commands in place as levers over her very being. That would be unacceptable. Lelouch had implied that he hadn’t, but one never knew for sure with him.
With one last look at the mask of Zero, Kallen turned to leave Lelouch’s quarters.
Sea of Japan
October 24, 2017 a.t.b.
“Welcome back, C.C..”
Without much interest, C.C. simply replied, “Where’s Zero?”
“Let’s not talk here,” Kallen said, eyeing their audience warily. What they had to discuss needed to be kept secret. She led C.C. back to Lelouch’s quarters on the Black Knights’ submarine and then, only once the door was firmly closed, said, “I was hoping you could tell me where Lelouch is.”
C.C. frowned. “What happened to him?”
“Suzaku took him. He brought a knightmare to a gunfight, and that went about as well as you’d expect for me and Lelouch.” After a second of awkward silence, Kallen added, “We need to get Lelouch back before the emperor executes him. He left me in charge of the Black Knights, so we have all the resources we need.”
“We’re in no rush,” C.C. said. “Dear old Charles will probably use Lelouch as bait to lure me out. Besides, the boy isn’t as unloved as he believes.
She really didn’t want to know the answer, but Kallen had to ask. “You know the emperor?”
C.C. merely nodded and declined to elaborate further.
“So geass…” Kallen said.
“He told you about that?” If that surprised C.C., she showed it only through the slight raising of her eyebrows.
“Well…Suzaku made the claim, and Lelouch confirmed it.”
“Oh? And you’re not doubting him?”
With a shrug, Kallen said, “Maybe a little, but not significantly. More importantly, Lelouch said you’d be able to find Nunnally, so I was hoping you’d be able to find him.”
C.C. shook her head. “I’d just be taking the bait. We’ll have to find him through mundane means.”
“Is there really no magic you can do? Nothing?”
For a moment, C.C. stared at Kallen with a blank expression on her face. Then, of all things, she asked, “What is it you want most?”
“Huh?” Where did that come from?
“What is it you want most? It’s a simple question?”
“Uh… Like, right now? From life? In my dreams?”
C.C. returned the enquiries with a no nonsense demand to answer the question.
“Er, right, well, I guess I’d like to redo the Black Rebellion?”
“Why?” C.C. pressed.
“Why?” Kallen echoed. She blinked. Was it not obvious? “Because I let Lelouch be captured. I failed to free Japan. I wasn’t able to save all of my friends. Are you really going to make me go on?”
“Which one of those matters to you the most?”
Kallen stopped herself with the reflexive correct answer on the tip of her tongue, unable to give voice to it. She then briefly considered giving the answer that made her look like a good person, but those words, too, refused to form.
From the hesitation, C.C. no doubt deduced the answer and smirked. “I’m only interested in protecting Lelouch until he fulfils my wish. I don’t care about anything else. Besides, what is a knight without her prince?”
“I’m not his knight,” Kallen said, although she only denied it half-heartedly.
“Then what is a queen without her king?”
Kallen rolled her eyes. “Ha ha. You’re a riot. Let’s all pick on Q1.”
“Indeed. Now that we’ve concluded that what you want most is to find and save Lelouch, hold on to that feeling.”
C.C. cut Kallen off by dragging her into a kiss. The world fell away, and four little words hung heavily in the air.
“I propose a deal.”
Pendragon Countryside, Britannia
December 3, 2017 a.t.b.
Aries Villa had come straight out of a fairy tale. No other description would do it justice. Kallen had always considered Stadtfeld Manor a place of peace and beauty even as she’d come to loathe all that it represented, but it paled in comparison to the sight before her eyes. The palace itself was a work of art, and even from a hilltop kilometres away, she could tell that the nearby lake boasted crystal clear water rivalling any other in the homeland.
A somber feeling of regret seeped into Kallen’s thoughts. If she had only met Lelouch when they were younger, life would have been very different for the two of them. Even if nothing else had changed, she certainly could have used a real friend her own age.
Kallen sighed and turned her focus back onto the mission. “I’m at the hill you described. Where do I go from here?”
In her ear, C.C.’s voice spoke. “There’s a tree with a large burr on it.”
After a quick scan of the area, Kallen said, “Found it.”
Kallen quirked an eyebrow. For all that C.C. acted aloof and uninterested in the world, the woman did seem to enjoy getting a rise out of her and never missed an opportunity to prank her. She moved to gently press the burr instead but hesitated. This was a hole in security that Lelouch’s mother had designed. If he and his paranoia took the slightest bit after Marianne, a gentle tap might set off an alarm.
Right then. I suppose I’ll kick it. Won’t hurt nearly as bad that way if this is a joke.
So decided, Kallen carefully positioned herself and swung a leg up. She grunted when her foot met solid wood, but it was C.C.’s laughter that really hurt.
Of course. So predictable. “Are you quite done?”
“Ten paces behind the tree, you should find a trapdoor. The tunnel will take you all the way into the villa.”
Following instructions, Kallen found a patch of grass that didn’t grow exactly right. She picked up a stick and rammed it into the ground, using it as a lever to pry open a metal hatch. When that was done, she hopped into the unlit tunnel. Using her phone as a torch, she began the long walk.
“Are you sure this won’t be a trap?” Kallen asked sometime later.
“Positive,” C.C. replied. “Marianne would never have told V.V. about this entrance. Charles, maybe, but he knows Nunnally is of no interest to me and won’t bother so long as he has Lelouch under his control.”
Kallen hummed, not sure if she completely believed that argument, but this was worth the risk nonetheless.
“At the end of the tunnel, you’ll find a wardrobe with a few uniforms in it. You’re about my size, so they should all fit you. Maybe a little tight in the chest.”
Despite herself, Kallen smirked at that.
“I recommend the maid outfit. You’ll draw less attention pushing Nunnally’s wheelchair that way, but be careful. I doubt Aries Villa has changed much over the years, so everyone will know everyone. Also, the wireless password is probably still ‘!!!Lulu<3Nunnally!!!’.”
Kallen nearly tripped as her image of her childhood hero took a major blow.
In a rather flat tone as though to distance herself from her old friend, C.C. added, “Marianne refused to ever change it.”
“Just play some mind-numbing Internet game on your phone, keep your head down, and try to look like you know where you’re going. Your disguise is good, but there’s always the chance someone might recognise you anyway if you draw attention.”
When Kallen arrived at the end of the tunnel, she found the wardrobe C.C. had spoken of. She was mildly surprised to find the clothing within remained in good condition and quickly put on the maid uniform as suggested.
“Where in the villa will this exit put me?” Kallen asked.
“Seven years ago, Marianne’s bedroom.”
After carefully listening for anyone on the other side of the exit, Kallen left the tunnel behind and stepped into Aries Villa proper. She was indeed in a bedroom, and she quickly memorised the layout so that she’d be able to find the right one again on her way out without C.C.’s assistance.
Kallen activated her geass. It poured into her mind far more information than she needed, but the storm calmed as she focused on her target.
“Nunnally is above me. Where are the stairs?”
“Avoid the main staircase at the front of the villa. There are two others on the far east and west side of the building. There should also be a central lift. The servants used to use it for laundry and such, but it’s probably been retrofitted for Nunnally’s usage.”
It was almost laughable how easily Kallen managed to get through the villa without question. One or two people clearly noticed her as a new face, but she moved with confidence and didn’t look out of place. No one demanded to know who she was in the halls nor as she climbed the stairs. On the second floor, she followed the pull of her geass directing her to Lelouch’s stray sister. Eventually, she came upon a pair of doors behind which she knew she would find Nunnally.
Kallen knocked, and a quiet voice she’d not heard in months returned, “Come in!” She quickly stomped down on the warm feelings bubbling up her chest and pushed open the door. There would be time for heartfelt reunions later.
And there she was. Right across the room sat Nunnally. She looked a little taller and a little more mature, but no one could mistake the adorable girl for anyone else. Even here in the heart of Britannia without her brother, she exuded an aura of serenity. “Good afternoon,” she said.
Kallen kept quiet and quickly crossed the space between them to slip a piece of paper into Nunnally’s hand. The girl recognised it for what it was immediately and slid a finger over the braille text that read, ‘Don’t react. Walls have ears.’
Once Nunnally nodded, Kallen spoke. “Ah. Yes.” From the expression on her face, Nunnally recognised Kallen’s voice immediately. “Good evening, Your Highness. Forgive me. My mind was elsewhere.”
“It’s–” Nunnally’s voice hitched, but she recovered quickly. “It’s okay. Everyone experiences such moments on occasion.”
“I just came here to fetch a few things, but is there anything you need of me while I’m here?” Kallen slipped another piece of paper into Nunnally’s hands.
Nunnally hummed in thought as she read the note. Then as requested, she asked, “There is, now that you mention it. Would you please take me to my mother’s old bedroom?”
“Of course, Your Highness.”
With that, the pair made their way through the villa while chatting quietly about nothing and C.C. gave Kallen directions. Several people said hello to Nunnally as they passed, and she would politely return the greeting. Clearly, the girl had charmed everyone here as easily as she had at Ashford. The emperor should fear the day she developed a taste for power, for the throne would be hers within days.
Kallen quietly chuckled to herself at the thought of sweet, gentle Nunnally on the Britannian throne. What a strange world that would be, but certainly not an unwelcome one.
The pair soon reached their destination. Inside, Kallen asked, “Would you like me to help you onto the bed, perhaps?”
Nunnally quickly took the cue and said, “If you would be so kind.”
Kallen then scooped Nunnally up into her arms and carried her into the secret passage leaving the villa. The wheelchair no doubt had a dozen means of being tracked, so they would have to abandon it. Kallen gently set Nunnally down and turned to seal the exit behind them as it’d been upon her arrival.
Almost done. Kallen moved back to Nunnally and began searching her clothing for any untoward additions. “Excuse me, Your Highness,” she said. Ultimately finding nothing, she let out a relieved sigh. “Nunnally, it’s so good to see you.”
“It’s been so long,” Nunnally said. She stretched her arms out for a hug, and Kallen happily reciprocated. “How is everyone?”
“I…don’t know,” Kallen admitted. “I haven’t been back to Ashford since the Black Rebellion.” But I probably could return. I don’t think Suzaku had any interest in outing me as a Black Knight, and I doubt the student council would either.
Nunnally let out a dispirited, “Oh.”
“Don’t worry. I’m sure they’re fine,” Kallen said. She grasped Nunnally’s hand so that the girl could work her strange magic and know that the words were the truth. And it could very well be magic; after learning about geass, Kallen would not discount the possibility. “Nina’s…um…episode was as dangerous as the situation at Ashford ever became.”
Nunnally let out a sigh of relief. “That’s good to hear. I have so little access to the outside world here.”
“I’d imagine.” To the quizzical look Kallen received, she added, “You’re in a gilded cage, Nunnally. As far as I can tell, you’re the emperor’s final leverage over Lelouch if he breaks his chains.”
“What! But – but I’ve been asking after Lelouch since I got here. Is–” Nunnally hesitated as fear crept into her voice. “Is he okay?”
Kallen debated the merits of honesty for a few seconds before deciding to simply offer Nunnally as much of the truth as she could. The poor girl had been left in the dark too much already. “I know he’s alive, I know he’s in the emperor’s custody, and I know how to find him, but that’s all. I’m sorry, Nunnally.”
“It’s okay.” Nunnally forced an optimistic smile onto her face. “It’s enough to know that he’s alive.”
A small smile slipped onto Kallen’s face. “He’ll be more than that soon enough. I’m going to rescue him. I just needed to get you first so he doesn’t stubbornly refuse to leave with me and put your safety at risk.”
Nunnally giggled. “That does sound like something he would do.”
“Do I have your permission to abduct you, then, Your Highness?”
Nunnally giggled again. “Hmm, I don’t know. What would my brother say if I were kidnapped a third time in less than a year?”
“Oh, I think I want to see his reaction to that. I’m sorry, Princess, but you no longer have any choice in the matter.”
“You brute,” Nunnally teased.
Kallen rolled her eyes and quickly changed back into her own clothes. She then cradled Nunnally in her arms again and, with a grunt as she stood upright, began the trek to freedom. A few minutes later, Nunnally spoke up again.
“How long have you known Lelouch and I are royalty?”
“There wasn’t a time when I didn’t know,” Kallen admitted.
“Oh.” Nunnally adopted a thoughtful expression. “Why are you doing this? You’re a Black Knight, aren’t you?”
“Ah…” How to explain this without telling her that Lelouch is Zero? “It’s not that simple. I’m…” Kallen sighed. “I more or less do whatever Lelouch needs me to, whether that be looking after you or earning the favour of a group he considers able to pose a legitimate challenge to Britannian rule.”
Nunnally fell silent for a few seconds as she processed that. “Did my brother knight you?”
And of course that question resulted in C.C. laughing uproariously in Kallen’s ear. She felt her eye twitch but did her best to ignore the witch.
“He has not.”
“Well, he should have with all you’ve done for him. Us.”
“Nunnally, it’s really not something I want.”
“But–” Nunnally’s brows furrowed in thought. “Unless…” She gasped. “Is Lelouch courting you!”
At a loss, all Kallen got out was a simple, “Wait, what?”
Again the witch laughed.
Before Kallen could properly deny her supposed relationship with Lelouch, Nunnally said, “Oh, this is wonderful! I’ve always worried he would never find someone because of me. I thought maybe Miss C.C. would be that person, but I should have known when he started inviting you to dinner. He never does that with anyone. I can’t believe I believed him when he told me you were just friends.”
Kallen sighed and silently vowed to keep C.C. and Nunnally as far apart as possible.
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
March 27, 2018 a.t.b.
Following her geass, Kallen had found Lelouch easily enough. Honestly, she would have stumbled upon him by accident at some point even without it. This was almost embarrassing.
“They put him at Ashford?” Kallen said, incredulous.
“He is meant to be bait for me,” C.C. replied flatly. “He should be easy to locate.”
“Yes, but still.”
Kallen shook her head and walked toward campus, but C.C. grasped her arm and stopped her. Curious, she looked back at the witch, who wore an intense frown upon her face.
“What is it?”
“There’s a geass user on campus. Even if they’re not aware that you’re a Black Knight, approaching Lelouch would be unwise. Especially if…”
Kallen quirked an eyebrow. “If what?”
After a few seconds of hesitation, C.C. finally said, “The emperor’s geass can alter memories. I can overwhelm the effect by forcing Lelouch to relive his true memories, but if you go in there and he doesn’t have them–”
“I’d get nowhere with him. Bollocks. You got any better ideas than ‘smash and grab’?”
Kallen glanced at C.C. to see her smirking.
“Whatever you’re thinking, no.”
Deaf to Kallen’s refusal, C.C. said, “I would bet anything that if Lelouch is allowed to leave campus, he still gambles.”
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
May 1, 2018 a.t.b.
Lelouch stared at the bunny girl he’d just bumped into. He barely noticed the wine soaking into his uniform, heard her apologies, or noticed her attempting to dry his clothes. There was something about the redhead that screamed at him to remember her. He racked his brain for the faintest memory of her, but nothing came to mind. He really had no idea where he’d have seen a Britannian bunny girl before, either. Usually only Elevens took jobs like that.
Although now that Lelouch thought about it, the woman’s features did betray the slightest hint of Japanese ancestry. He had to squint at her in just the right way to see it, but the clues were there to see for those who knew exactly what to look for.
And there’s that sense of familiarity again. How do I know what to look for?
Lelouch only snapped out of his thoughts when a complete cad grasped the redhead by her hair. The man pulled her upright and forced her to look at him, saying, “Let me take a look at your face.”
Stunned at the brazen display, Lelouch remained silent and watched on without a word.
“Hmm… Nice merchandise.”
Another man who Lelouch recognised as the owner of the casino replied, “Yes, Mr King. I’m glad that your bunny hunting today resulted in many prizes.” Two obvious goons in shades stood behind him with three other bunny girls. The women had their hands bound together, collars about their necks, and were led by chains.
Are these people serious? Even as regards Elevens, slavery isn’t legal.
Lelouch looked back at the redhead before him. Something told him that she could fend for herself just fine, but that same mysterious source of knowledge told him more than that. It whispered that the seemingly meek bunny girl would absolutely loathe it if he played along with the scenario to the point where she might try to beat him to death with her bare hands. And for some reason beyond all logic, that thought amused him.
“I’m not merchandise,” the redhead said.
Mr King, if that was really the man’s name, replied, “You are. You should know by now. Losers don’t have any rights.”
“Indeed, she is,” Lelouch said. The redhead’s eyes snapped to him in surprise and not a little betrayal. So we do know each other. Interesting. “And I think I would like to outbid you for her.”
Ah, there it is. A smirk grew on Lelouch’s face as the redhead’s eyes snapped into a fierce glare with a fire so at odds with her performance so far. And indeed, he knew now more than ever that her submissiveness was an act. Anyone who got too close without permission would be burnt, but he had every intention of braving the flames.
In the chaos that was the Black Knights’ attack on the casino, Kallen had finally found a moment to be alone with Lelouch. They only had a few minutes, but it would do for now.
Or it would if Kallen chose not to murder Lelouch in the next five seconds.
“Not. One. Word,” Kallen said.
Of course, Lelouch paid no heed to the warning. “You know, I distinctly recall mentioning that you would make a smashing bunny girl. It would appear I was right.”
Kallen grit her teeth and just barely restrained herself from punching Lelouch in the face.
“I wonder what I should do with my new pet. It would be a shame to release her into the wild.”
“I swear, Lelouch, that when we get out of here, you are going to regret this.”
Lelouch met the claim with laughter, completely unfazed. Turning serious, he then said, “I’m very out of the loop. Brief me quickly.”
“Bah! Fine. I’m leading a handful of Black Knights on a raid to acquire a person of interest. No one particularly important is involved, but they’re all competent.”
“How much did you tell them?”
“The bare essentials,” Kallen replied. “In the plan, C.C. and I were the ones who would make contact with you. Everyone else merely knows that we won’t be able to get you away from your keepers without a fight.”
“I see. Excellent work.”
Despite herself, Kallen smiled at the praise.
“What about the rest of the Black Knights and–” Lelouch faltered but quickly regained his bearing. “–Nunnally.”
Kallen adopted a grim expression. “You’re going to be in for a hard time.”
“What happened?” Lelouch demanded. His voice and gaze were icy.
“I’m afraid,” Kallen began, “Nunnally is convinced we’re courting.”
Lelouch blinked. “Huh?”
“Indeed. Nothing I’ve said has been able to dissuade her of the belief, and C.C. encourages the fiction, often with lurid tales of our experimental threesomes with her.” Kallen plastered the most fake smile of her life onto her face and added, “I hope you’re prepared for her to insist you not make me wait too long for your proposal. She seems to be of the mind that if it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly.”
A pregnant silence grew. It took all of Kallen’s will not to break it as all manner of hilarious emotions worked their way across Lelouch’s face. All good things must come to an end, however, when he uttered a simple, “I see.” He then asked, “What have you told the others about me? Or more specifically Zero?”
“As little as I could get away with,” Kallen answered. “They know I know who you are and that we have a preexisting friendship outside of the Order. Other than that, I’ve kept your secrets for you as promised.”
“Including my geass?”
With a roll of her eyes, Kallen said, “Yes, that, too.”
“Oh? You know what it does, and you’re not going to warn the Black Knights?”
Kallen scoffed. “Please. They might accept the whole enemy prince thing if I told them I’d seduced you, but they’d not overlook that and the ability to mind control them. I’m honest enough with myself to know it’s my Britannian half that’s daft enough to keep my promises to a man who admitted to using his evil magic eye on me.”
“That, and the fact that I own you now.”
As he so rightly deserved, Kallen punched Lelouch on the arm. He winced, but the look on his face clearly said he felt it was worth it.
“Git.” Must not have hit him hard enough. “What did you do to me with your geass, anyway?”
“Nothing significant.” Lelouch shrugged in a display of indifference, but an annoyed frown poked at the corners of his lips. “I asked you a few questions and then, to my horror, discovered that my geass works but once per person.”
Kallen laughed, unable to control herself. It seemed there was some justice in this world after all. “Oh, man,” she said, recovering. “That’s just too good.”
“Yes, very amusing,” Lelouch flatly commented. He turned his attention back to the plans he’d been making for them to escape the casino. “You should get back to the Guren.”
“Yes, yes. As you command, Zero.”
When Kallen was halfway out the door, Lelouch called for her to wait a moment. He wore a serious expression lacking any of his usual dry humour. Although he looked distinctly uncomfortable – and how strange it was for him to bear such an expression – he said, “Kallen, you’ve gone above the call of duty and far beyond what I could ask of a friend. Thank you for your loyalty and dedication. If there’s anything you ever need of me in return, ask and it’s yours.”
A deep, scarlet flush erupted on Kallen’s face as she scrambled for words. This was out of character for Lelouch, and she had no idea how to deal with it. “I… I, uh, well, you’re welcome. Just, um…” Her mind refused to instruct her on how to proceed, so she deflected. “Just keep that geass of yours secret. We don’t want to test the Black Knights’ loyalty and dedication.” The last thing they needed was a mutiny splitting the already fractured rebellion and removing the one person who could make it a success.
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11
June 22, 2018 a.t.b.
Kallen knew a bad situation when she saw one. Lelouch was gone, cast out from the Black Knights in an act of betrayal so unthinkingly foolish she would have slapped her hand to her forehead and groaned were the state of affairs not so serious. Schneizel would roll over the UFN and the Black Knights without Lelouch’s leadership. Perhaps it would not be today nor tomorrow, but it would happen one day. She knew exactly how much begrudging respect Lelouch held for his older brother.
And that was merely the big picture. Kallen’s own personal prospects were equally grim. With Lelouch gone, she was ostensibly the leader of the Order again. It was no secret, however, that her comrades suspected that Lelouch had enthralled her with more than mere honeyed words. She did not want to find out what they intended to do with her. They'd already threatened to kill her merely for standing between him and them. Jeremiah had disappeared to who knew where, as had C.C.. That bloody yandere, Rolo, had died to save Lelouch, but he’d murdered Shirley, so fuck him. Still, she could very well be next.
Would Ohgi even stick up for me…
Kallen shook the thought from her head. She knew better than to trust someone who had stabbed his leader, the founder of the UFN, and the hero of half the entire bloody world in the back. Her own personal trust in him was broken as well, and it was a constant struggle not to beat him half to death expressing her wrath when in the same room. If she stayed, she was on her own. She’d need to organise a counter coup, and that could easily tear the Black Knights and the UFN apart.
Then there was the matter of her own loyalties to consider. All other concerns stripped away, deep down in her heart, Kallen knew what she was. She’d denied it over and over again, but she had to face the truth to make a fully informed decision. It was ironic, really. In a sense, she’d come full circle. As a child before the war, she’d been so fascinated with the romance of swords and honour, noble princes and oaths of undying loyalty. Then Britannia invaded Japan, and she’d never once given it another thought, yet here she was. She lacked only a ceremonial sword to make it official. She was a knight of honour.
When Kallen reflected on the past few months, she could find no better term to describe her relationship with Lelouch. They’d so easily fallen into the role of prince and knight without a word of discussion. Perhaps he had intentionally treated her as such for his own purposes. She would not put it past him. Nonetheless, she’d responded in kind for a reason. Between her principles and her prince, it seemed her loyalty to the latter won out.
And her prince was missing. Kallen would not abandon him to his fate this time. Not again. Never again. She’d done that at his insistence during the Black Rebellion, and it hadn’t worked out. She’d not suffer that once more. If he was going to die, she would die with him.
Kallen breathed deeply and rejected that thought. We’re not going to die. I’m alive. He’s alive. I know he’s alive. My geass can still sense his location. The emperor is missing, too. Lelouch has to have been behind that. She paused a moment. But what then? Nunnally is safe, he’ll have his revenge, Japan is…in limbo but on the cusp of freedom, so what next? Where will he go? What will he do? Do I follow him even if it’s just to retire to some backwater farm where no one will ever find us?
As much it galled her to admit it, even just to herself, Kallen knew she would be perfectly fine with that or anything else if Lelouch would just say three little magical words to her. Even if they were a lie, she would follow him to the ends of the Earth and beyond.
Kallen snorted. Those who did not learn from history were doomed to repeat it. Mao’s words from so long ago came back to her, but for the life of her, she couldn’t muster the energy to care if she ruined her life chasing after Lelouch. Not that she had a surplus of available alternatives to begin with.
Okay, Kallen. It won’t be hard to find Lelouch with your geass, but the last thing you and he need is to lead the Black Knights or Schneizel straight to him. You need to get ahead of him instead. Assuming he doesn’t just vanish into the background, what’s his next play?
And just like that, it was obvious. Without the Black Knights to crush Britannia from without, Lelouch would seek to destroy his father’s empire from within. He’d not settle for merely killing the man when the emperor’s legacy would remain.
I need to get to the homeland. I need to get into the Imperial Palace. I need…
Kallen hated that it’d come to this. Her mind almost refused to form the words. They dredged up long buried feelings just considering thinking them, ones which she'd be perfectly happy to continue to repress. But there was nothing for it.
I need Dad.
New York, Britannia
July 6, 2018 a.t.b.
After taking part in countless raids and black ops missions where stealth was critical and leading over half of them herself, sneaking past security into Stadtfeld Manor in the New York countryside almost left Kallen relaxed in the ease and familiarity of it all. Smuggling herself into the homeland as a Britannian refugee from Area Eleven had been significantly harder, mostly because she’d needed to avoid tipping her hand to the Black Knights before she was outside their sphere of influence.
Navigating the manor with hazy, eight-year-old memories, Kallen avoided the staff and peeked into the likely rooms in which she might find her father. She checked his study, the library, the dining room, and his bedroom each in turn before hesitantly turning her attention toward those chambers she’d rather avoid.
Kallen lingered outside the next door. Did she really want to look inside? Being here again was bad enough without dredging up even more memories of her shattered family.
Just look, Kallen told herself. She breathed deeply. Just one little peek, and then we move on.
The doorknob felt frigid to the touch. It turned with unjust ease. By all rights, it should be locked, or rusted over, or something to symbolise the permanent loss.
Heh heh. I’m so dramatic. I’ve been spending too much time with Lelouch.
Still, Kallen hesitated. After another moment, she turned away from the door and pressed on with her search. It wasn’t really Naoto’s room, anyway. He’d only been here two or three times when Kallen was almost too young to remember. This place had never been his home, not like it once had been for her.
The next room was not what Kallen had expected. All of her things from the smaller manor in Japan had been brought across the Pacific and mixed in with a precious childhood that had been darkened and ripped away from her. Long buried memories pressed to the forefront of her mind and demanded attention. Despite herself, she let them.
Is that… Oh, wow. Is that really Hopper? Kallen pushed the door open all the way. She crossed her room and picked up the plush bunny leaning against the headboard of her bed. As soft as I remember. She looked the toy up and down. Some small, childish part of herself quickly grew disappointed. Not as big, though. You used to be taller than me.
With Hopper still wrapped against her chest, Kallen lowered herself to her knees and stuck a hand under her bed. She lightly banged her fist blindly against the floor, cursing the whole ‘being grown-up’ thing. She used to be able to slide underneath the bedstead, but now her bloody hips and breasts got in the way. Eventually, however, she met with success and managed to pop up a loose floorboard.
Ah ha! My diary! I always regretted leaving this behind. Now I can destroy it properly before anyone else finds it.
Mildly curious, Kallen dusted off her diary and cracked it open. She winced immediately at the tone of it.
Urgh. I was such a Brit and so in denial about it. Not that grown up Kallen was one to talk. She had, after all, just abandoned her leadership of the Black Knights and smuggled herself into the homeland chasing after her unofficial liege lord and soon-to-be emperor. The joke was on her, it seemed.
Kallen flipped a page.
Hmm, this was back when I actually cared that I got perfects on exams. Oh, young me. Try doing that while spending ninety percent of your time as an impotent resistance fighter and then as a leader of the rebellion. Yeah, you grow up to be utterly brilliant. Kallen sighed. Not that there’s much call for calculus in battle.
Dresses? A party? What? When did I… Oh, yes. That was when I met Lelouch’s mother. A warm smile crept onto Kallen’s face. I wonder what would have happened if I’d met Lelouch or Nunnally back then instead.
Kallen turned another page.
Ah, now this is more like it. Video games, sports – oh, I remember getting into that fight. Good times.
The sound of shattering glass caught Kallen’s attention, and her gaze snapped toward its source. There in the doorway stood Reese Stadtfeld, the very man she had come to see. He looked so much older than the last time she’d seen him less than a year ago. He had hints of wrinkles now, and his red hair was interspersed with threads of grey. Even so, she still looked so much more like him than her mother. At his feet lay the broken remains of a cuppa slowly seeping into the carpeting of the hallway.
“Kallen?” Reese’s voice came out as a ghost of a whisper.
Frozen in place, Kallen had absolutely no idea what to say. She had so many issues to vent on her father. She’d planned exactly how she’d relieve that stress, too. The first thing she’d intended to do was slap him. Then she'd berate him for leaving her and her mother alone with the harpy he’d ultimately been forced to marry regardless of his self-imposed inability to produce more children.
But Kallen had been caught flat-footed and off guard. Grasping for words, she managed, “Hi, Dad. I won. Sorta.”
“You damn foolish girl.” Despite the words, they didn’t stop Reese from closing the distance between them and wrapping Kallen in a bone-crushing hug. “I thought I’d lost you, too.”
“I’m still pissed off at you.”
“I know,” Reese said, brushing the words away.
“You have a lot to make up to me.”
“Well…as long as that’s clear.” Kallen finally returned the hug.
Reese gave a weak laugh. “I can start now. I have…good, I suppose, news and…more news that I suppose is good.”
“Like what?” Kallen asked, rolling her eyes. “You didn’t disinherit me?”
“Of course I didn’t.” Reese, clearly reluctantly, released Kallen from his embrace. “That particular variety of nonsense is what left me trapped with Matilda.”
Kallen wrinkled her nose at the mention of her stepmother. What a way to ruin the moment.
“Speaking of whom, she was caught in the FLEIJA blast.”
Never before in her life had Kallen ever experienced such pure, blissful catharsis in knowing that someone had died. Even Clovis’s and – before C.C. had explained the SAZ massacre to her after Lelouch attempted to take the blame – Euphemia’s deaths paled in comparison to this gift from the heavens themselves. Indeed, she felt even more wonderful than she’d ever imagined. The only possible way this could be better was if she’d gotten to kill the witch herself, but this would do. She could settle for the irony of a Japanese traitor fighting for Britannia killing her bitch of a stepmother. Suzaku had finally done something right for once.
With a bright smile, Kallen sung the first words that came to mind. “Ding-dong! The witch is dead.”
“The which witch? The wicked witch.”
“Are you quite done?” Reese asked, though Kallen could tell he was not unamused.
“For now. I make no promises against future musical numbers, however.”
“Well, do try to keep the energy levels to a minimum. Minami will want to see you, but she’s still struggling to recover from the Refrain overdose.”
Kallen immediately froze upon hearing that name. “I – I believe you misspoke. Could you repeat that?”
“Your mother will want to see you. She’s in the lady’s chambers. Do you want me to show you there?”
Mum… Kallen gulped and shook her head. She’d come here intending to guilt her father into helping her. She’d not expected to have to confront the biggest mistake of her life in return. In a whisper, she said, “I remember where it is.”
New York, Britannia
July 7, 2018 a.t.b.
The next day, Kallen sat down for lunch with her father for the first time in three years. That she instinctively remembered every fine detail of the etiquette expected of her and naturally fell into the routine irked part of her, but she knew she should be grateful. She would need the skills if she planned to stay with Lelouch through the rest of his revenge. Besides, there were more pressing concerns at hand.
At some point, Reese must have noticed Kallen’s eyes nervously flicking toward the footmen waiting upon them, as he said, “It’s so good to have you back in the homeland, Kallen. I worried about you constantly when you were in Area Eleven. Especially with that Kōzuki Karen girl causing trouble. It would have been most unpleasant for anyone who mistook her for you.”
As unsubtle as that was, Kallen needed no further hints. “That would be very troublesome. I believe she’s officially recognised as a foreign citizen now, though, so the worst that could happen is deportation without a war being actively prosecuted.”
“Unless we wished to start another war, of course,” Reese said. “Miss Kōzuki is very highly placed in the Black Knights. The rumours say she’s practically Zero’s shadow. I also hear that he’s very…attached to her.”
Kallen blushed and refused to meet her father’s enquiring eyes.
“However, while I would normally expect us to pursue war to reclaim the colony slipping from our grasp,” Reese continued, “with the emperor missing, I have no doubt it would not come to that were Miss Kōzuki to be discovered visiting the country. Possibly on diplomatic business?”
‘Diplomatic’ is one way to put it. “That’s good. But if she were, her business would hardly be subject matter to carelessly bandy about over lunch.”
Hesitantly changing the topic, Kallen asked, “When – when did Mum get here?”
“As soon as I wouldn't have to stand vigil at her bedside all day every day and personally taste test everything she ate.”
“So only a few days before me?”
Reese nodded. “In her vulnerable state, I didn't trust Matilda not to have her killed. Rather unfortunately, prison was the safest place for her until recently. Now please tell me, is there a nice young man in your life these days?”
Despite her fierce blush, Kallen knew that enough was enough. There would be no more avoiding the question or making excuses. Lelouch was too emotionally scarred at this point to be expected to make the first move as per tradition. Disregarding everything else, Shirley had died in his arms declaring her love for him. The only thing that could possibly traumatise him more completely would be Nunnally’s death. Kallen knew that if she hoped to get so much as a rejection out of him, she would need to own her attraction and be prepared to push her way back onto the right side of his walls.
“Maybe,” Kallen said. Much to Reese's surprise, she added, “He's actually only a few months older than me.”
‘Unexpected,’ he says. Ha! That's not even half of it. “There's something between us, but there was never time to explore it, and whenever we got close, someone would always interrupt us. Worse, Kaguya insists on forming a harem centred around him. And don't even get me started on the witch. She does a bloody good sell on the mistress story, but I know boys. I've seen how he reacts to that. He's never touched her. He just doesn't have control of her.”
“Sounds frustrating. Who is this ‘witch’?”
Kallen let out an exasperated sigh. “She goes by C.C.. I shared a flat with her for most of the past year. She's frustrating, and knows exactly how to push my buttons, and infuriates me in every conceivable way. She even tricked me into wearing a bunny girl costume! It would have made so much more sense for her to wear it, but no! Of course it had to be me, and now Le – Lulu is going to hold that over my head for the rest of my life. I’m always the one put into compromising situations. Damn that woman! I despise her!”
Kallen slammed her fist on the table. She huffed, feeling just a little bit better, and then took a dainty bite from her lunch.
“She’s also – and I absolutely hate to admit it – one of my closest friends. She's fun in her own way, unfairly competent in just about everything, and she always knows all the right questions to ask to help when she’s not being difficult. No, especially when she’s being difficult. I completely understand why Lulu puts up with her” besides the whole geass thing. “I wouldn’t want to banish her from my life either.”
Reese hummed understandingly as he nodded. “I hope you realise that romance is hard enough to navigate in pairs. I know I have no right to tell you not to, but considering the complicating factors in your lives, be sure to take things slowly and communicate with each other. Trios are notoriously difficult to make work but supposedly very rewarding when they do.”
It took three whole seconds for Kallen to parse her father’s words. When she had, she nearly choked on her sandwich. After fighting it down with the aid of a glass of water, she stammered out, “W-w-what! What on Earth are you talking about?”
“I apologise if I misread the situation, but it sounded like–”
“It sounded like nothing!” Kallen interrupted. “Honestly! Why am I even talking about this with you? You bollocksed up your own family life so hard I’m surprised I can speak to you without retching.”
“And like father, like daughter, I suppose.”
Wincing at the gentle rebuke, Kallen let her head fall in shame. She had her own not insignificant part to play in the disaster that was their family. “Communicate, you say?”
“It does seem to be our common failing.”
With a sigh, Kallen said, “I’ll give what you said some thought, but I honestly don’t believe I’m into women.”
Reese shrugged and offered, “There does exist the concept of single-target sexuality. Or duo-target in this case. I don’t believe I’ve heard of you giving anyone else so much as the time of day.”
“I suppose that’s true,” Kallen reluctantly admitted. “I didn’t come here to discuss the drama of my love life, though.”
“True enough. Shall we retire to my study?”
Kallen stuffed the remainder of her lunch into her mouth and swallowed. “Let’s.”
Ten minutes later, Kallen and Reese had sequestered themselves in his study. There they enjoyed the warmth of the fireplace and the simple comfort of luxury chairs with an utterly decadent and divine cup of Britannian tea, an addiction Kallen had never fully been able to break.
“So?” Reese asked as he took his seat across from Kallen with his own tea in hand. “What brings you back ho…”
Kallen offered Reese a thin yet still genuinely apologetic smile. Now that she’d been here for a day, she found that she did, in fact, wish to mend fences. “You can call it home. I’m not going to start another screaming match with you, Dad. Zero gave me perspective and forced me to think about my beliefs. I'm…less prone to lashing out at convenient targets than I used to be.”
“Thank you for telling me,” Reese said with his own bright smile. “That means a lot to me.”
Kallen chuckled. “Isn’t communication wonderful?”
Reese shared in her self-deprecating laughter. “Indeed it is. So what brings you home?”
After hesitating a moment, Kallen said, “In hindsight, I realise you never reported me or Naoto and let us follow our own path.”
“I did a little more than that,” Reese interjected. “Your brother was absolutely hopeless when he first started his little resistance.”
Kallen blinked in stunned silence at the revelation. Some part of her wondered if Naoto or Ohgi knew that. It would help explain why they had both endlessly insisted she go home and enjoy the good life. She ultimately pushed the thought aside with a simple, “Thank you,” and then pressed on. “But I need to know how willing you are to keep my secrets.”
“I swear on my honour and what little thread of trust I’m blessed enough for you to still have in me that I’ll not repeat a word you say without your permission.”
“Thank you.” If there was one thing Kallen truly respected about Britannian culture, it was how seriously they took their vows. Oath breakers were the scum of the Earth, worse than even the French. “Um… This is a little awkward. I’ve never been through the official ceremony, but, well, let me properly name myself. That’ll work. Uh, I guess this is a Britannian thing, so…I’m Dame Kallen Stadtfeld, Knight of Honour to Prince Lelouch vi Britannia.”
It was Reese’s turn to choke on his tea. He pounded his chest to get it down properly. “The Flash’s son?”
Ignoring her blush, Kallen nodded again. In her own defence, she said, “I don’t actually call him that. That was Shirley’s ridiculous pet name for him.”
A brief flash of recognition passed over Reese’s face a second later.
So he kept up with my life enough to know who my Britannian friends were. Kallen sighed to herself. Dad… We really screwed up this whole family thing, didn’t we?
“You’re telling me that Zero is the eleventh prince?”
“Yeah. It’s not exactly a secret anymore, but it’s not public knowledge either.”
A tumult of emotions played over Reese’s face before he settled into affected laughter. In a rather weak attempt at humour, he said, “Well, at least I can tell everyone my heiress is marrying up.”
Kallen let the jest pass without comment. Clearly, her father needed it. Then, suddenly, his mood darkened.
“Did your prince send you here for something?”
Huh? Oh, I understand what's wrong. “No, I’m here of my own volition.” That settled Reese’s gloomy face. “That’s actually the problem. I don’t know where he is.”
“The Black Knights betrayed him a fortnight ago when Schneizel told them who he is. Without consulting me, I might add.”
“Personally,” Reese said, “I wouldn’t expect them to ask for your support in a coup considering how close you are to Zero.”
“True, except their mutiny left me as the only legitimate choice for the next leader of the Order.”
Reese’s eyes widened in surprise. Kallen said nothing to the revelation and merely shrugged it away before continuing.
“I don’t know what their plan is with Zero gone, but those personally loyal to Lelouch started disappearing, so I got the hell out of Dodge, so to speak. I, well, I didn’t really have anywhere else to go, and I need help getting back into contact with him.”
“I’ll do what I can,” Reese said without hesitation. “You’re welcome here for as long as you want, of course, but I don’t know how I can help you find His Highness other than with funding.”
“I actually know where he’ll be. If not now, then soon.” This was the real test of trust between Kallen and her father. “Are you aware that the emperor is missing? Wait, you mentioned that earlier.”
“Indeed. You’d have to be living under a rock to…” The truth visibly struck Reese. “He’s dead?”
“Yes.” Kallen had checked, and her geass could no longer find the man. “With the Black Knights’ betrayal and…other things, Lelouch went on a roaring rampage of revenge and succeeded.”
Not missing a beat, Reese said, “And you believe he’s going to make a play for the throne?”
“I have no doubt. He loathes his father. He won’t let the man’s legacy endure.”
“There’s no way–”
Kallen interrupted immediately before the wrong opinion could anchor in Reese's head. “He can. I’m not going to explain why – you’re going to have to trust me on this – but I know he can take the throne. I need to get into the Imperial Palace. More specifically, I need to become a courtier so I can be there when it happens.”
With a furrowing of his brow, Reese sunk into thought. He mumbled a few indistinct words to himself. Kallen clenched her hands as she waited for his response. She’d not been lying earlier. She really did have nowhere and no one else to go to. If he refused to help her, she was out of luck.
“Getting you to court won’t be a problem.”
“You’ll help?” Kallen asked, almost afraid to believe it.
“I will. If this is what you want, then so be it. Regardless, I’d not want to otherwise start off my relationship with my new emperor and son-in-law so poorly by keeping you from him.” Reese's eyes widened as he realised something. Then mostly to himself, he mumbled, “Oh, Minami, our daughter is going to be an empress. How did that come about?”
Kallen mentally swore to herself but said nothing. She’d actually not thought through what it would mean if she and Lelouch got together. Becoming the Empress Consort of Britannia was not where she’d expected life to take her. The idea physically sickened her somewhat.
Although, that said, there was some appeal in the irony and the thought of being able to tear apart Britannian oppression from above. And now that Kallen considered the matter, she could laugh at Suzaku and gloat over this for years – decades, even – as he rotted away in a cell if the bastard unfortunately lived through his eventual capture. If she did end up as empress, then she would have brought his own plan to greater fruition than he could have ever hoped to primarily through the ‘wrong way’. She could picture his face now; his reaction would be sublime.
“Okay,” Reese said, “getting you to court won’t be a problem. I can simply escort you there. You could even go yourself. But someone will recognise you as Kōzuki Karen. Getting around that won’t be easy.”
If only Sayoko were here. “I’ve done infiltration work before,” Kallen offered. “Nothing as high profile as the Imperial Palace, but I have slipped past the OSI’s watchful eye.”
“Truly?” Reese asked in surprise. “You’ve certainly grown into a woman of many talents. Maybe we can make this work after all…”
July 20, 2018 a.t.b.
“You’re a knight of honour?” the sceptical guard asked.
Kallen nodded with an easy smile. “I understand your confusion. I’m not officially on duty tonight,” she explained, gesturing at her relatively impractical dress, although the guard's confusion likely stemmed from her deceptively delicate features. She did have a concealed pistol, just in case, as was her right to protect her prince. She’d been tempted to bring a sword as well to complete the image, but her father had strongly insisted that it clashed too much with her dress.
“Well, your credentials check out. Enjoy your evening, Madam.”
“Thank you, and you as well. I’m sure tonight will be wonderful for us all.”
And with that, Kallen stepped inside on her father’s arm. With the recent death of Reese’s publicly known wife, most would probably assume he was courting her as a young replacement. Despite the extreme squick the thought brought on, it was probably for the best. At the very least, no one would believe they were father and daughter. Kallen had learnt enough from Sayoko to craft a solid disguise. With waist length brunette hair, green eyes, some carefully applied makeup, and a significant difference in height, she looked almost nothing like her father.
Together, Kallen and Reese made their way through the halls toward court. There she knew she would finally be reunited with Lelouch. Her geass had told her of his arrival here days ago, and now after a month of absence from the public eye, the emperor had an announcement to make, much to the gathered courtiers’ tentative relief. Too bad for them that they were expecting the wrong emperor.
As they walked, the gossip Kallen overheard only fuelled her eager anticipation.
“Didn’t they say that the emperor went missing?”
“Bismarck is the one who reported it, and he isn’t here himself…”
That was all the confirmation Kallen didn’t need to know Lelouch was about to make his move. After a brief aside with her father, however, the tension in the muscles of his arm noticeably diminished as he relaxed slightly.
“As for Schneizel and the others, where are they?”
“No one knows. There’s been no word from him or Marrybell yet.”
So Schneizel isn’t here. Figures. That would be a problem later if Lelouch had yet to geass him, but it was not an immediate concern.
“His Majesty the emperor has arrived!”
Kallen perked up and turned her attention toward the throne. Trumpets blared. The audience stood just a little straighter. And then with slow, measured steps came exactly the man she’d expected.
Lelouch… Kallen then noticed his clothes. With Herculean strength, she resisted pinching the bridge of her nose. Lelouch, why are you in your school uniform? You’re claiming the throne, not displacing Milly from hers!
With a shake of her head, Kallen pushed that thought aside. As the crowd murmured and whispered in confusion, she set about scanning the area for threats and guards. This was not going to end well. From what she gathered, Lelouch probably had not geassed everyone here yet. Or if he had, then he intended to put on a show as a power move.
And there above the throne in the rafters lay in wait Kururugi Suzaku. Stunned, Kallen had no idea what to make of that. Had Lelouch brought him here? Why? Even Lelouch had to realise by this point that Suzaku simply could not be trusted. If not, then Suzaku needed to die before he could get to Lelouch. And even if Lelouch had somehow allied with Suzaku, well, Kallen was not about to let herself be replaced with someone who would stab Lelouch in the back sooner or later.
“Lord Stadtfeld,” Kallen whispered. “Close your eyes, and do not open them until I tell you otherwise. If you must, do not look at His Majesty.”
“Now is not the time or place to explain.”
Once Reese had hesitantly nodded – and Kallen hoped no one had overheard her – she turned her attention back to the ongoing proceedings.
“I killed the ninety-eighth Emperor of Britannia, Charles zi Britannia,” Lelouch proclaimed.
Over the surprise and subdued objections of the crowd, Lelouch continued, “Thus, I will become the next emperor.”
“What are you talking about? That’s absurd!” Kallen recognised that voice. That sounded like that sadist of a princess, Carine.
The first princess, Guinevere, spoke next. “Take care of that fool!”
Four guards rushed into action, advancing toward the throne from across the room with the absolute strangest bayonets Kallen had ever seen in hand. They looked like the eldritch offspring between a spear and a rifle with functionality to match.
Regardless, this was the time to act. Kallen pushed her way out of the crowd into a clear firing range with pistol drawn.
And then Suzaku leapt from above as the guards closed in on Lelouch. This was a moment Kallen had dreamt of for nearly a year. This was her chance to finally kill the traitor. In context, he even looked as though he were about to assault Lelouch, although she was now certain her prince had brought him here to put on this little show. Indeed, there would never be a better time. He could try all he wanted, but he would never be able to dodge gunshots completely in free fall. Only one question remained: did she have enough time to kill him and put the guards down?
Lelouch, of course, would have no trouble defending himself with his geass. It might even be to his benefit to simply command the guards to stand down. Everyone would realise then that he was the one in control here. But that was apparently not his plan, or he would have done it by now. And without knowing exactly what his plan actually was, Kallen wanted to disrupt its course as little as possible, so she should at least try her best to kill all of the guards.
All these were thoughts Kallen could have had and would have in the seconds that followed. In the heat of the moment, however, it was justice for millions that cried out to her. It was the lost freedom of nations Suzaku had helped conquer that called for her to fire. It was revenge for stealing her prince from her that demanded his blood. It was retribution for everything he had put Lelouch through that required his life.
Kallen fired her first shot and hit. Suzaku flumped to the ground in an ungraceful mess that certainly broke several bones and probably cracked his skull. If he somehow yet lived, he would be in no position to prevent a coup de grâce after this was all over. As this happened, the four guards broke from their charge to turn in place to meet the potential new threat. Kallen quickly put down all four in their neat little row without effort.
Thus satisfied with a job well done, Kallen holstered her pistol and made her own approach to the throne at a dignified pace. The crowd looked on in silence, and even Lelouch, for one single moment, wore an expression of utter confusion before he schooled his features. His piercing violet eyes bore into her currently green pair, calculating, trying to understand what had just happened and how to salvage a situation in which he’d lost control.
As Kallen stepped over Suzaku, she gave him a good kick in the gut. As he made no significant noise, she supposed – but did not assume and would be watching him – that he had finally, finally died, and good riddance to bad rubbish. She took a knee and placed a fist over her heart.
“If there’s one single solitary thing for which one can count on Sir Kururugi, Your Majesty, it’s his betrayal of those closest to him.”
Lelouch’s eyes widened momentarily as he recognised Kallen's voice.
For good measure, Kallen spat, “Oath breaker,” loud enough for the whole audience to hear. She then rose and took her place beside her prince. Hmm, I suppose it’s my emperor, now. I can work with that.
Despite the dramatic change in circumstances, Lelouch spoke with confidence and a casual tone that testified to how perfectly everything had just gone according to plan. Privately, in her newfound spirit of complete honesty with herself, Kallen admitted she found him terribly attractive in that moment.
“Allow me to introduce my knight, Lady Kallen Stadtfeld. Those among you who recognise her know her to be a warrior without peer. As such, I grant her the title ‘Knight of Zero’.”
Kallen snorted, amused. Why not just tell the world you’re Zero?
A man Kallen recognised as the former crown prince Odysseus stepped forward. For being a so-called ‘useless prince’, she had to give him credit for being the only one brave enough – or perhaps foolish enough – to speak. “You can’t do this, Lelouch, Lady Kallen. Pulling a joke like this on an international broadcast…”
Lelouch chuckled, Kallen smirked, and the former deigned to respond. “Do you think so? Let me make this easy for you all to understand.” Lelouch stood with a dramatic flourish that left his geass free to do its work. “Acknowledge me as emperor!”
Whatever Odysseus had been about to say in response went unheard as Lelouch’s command went to work on the crowd. Within moments, the tide had turned. From the audience came one voice, then two, and then by the dozen until well over one-thousand joined in the chorus.
“All hail Lelouch! All hail Lelouch! All hail Lelouch!”
Out of the corner of her eye, Kallen noticed a patch of lime green. She turned her head just slightly to spot C.C. watching the ceremony backstage with a smirk on her face that looked, Kallen dared to think, both approving and actually happy.
So she wasn’t on board with the whole Suzaku thing either. Good to know it’ll be two against one when Lelouch confronts me after this.
For the moment, however, Kallen brushed all concerns aside and basked in the feeling of having simply won.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done!”
Kallen had stood impassive as Lelouch yelled at her. Now that he’d actually asked a question for her to respond to, though, she deadpanned, “Saved your life?”
“That was entirely the point!”
Kallen quirked an eyebrow.
“Suzaku was supposed to kill me!” Lelouch said only slightly less hysterically.
Kallen turned her questioning look onto C.C..
“Their brilliant plan was for Lelouch to become the universally reviled ruler of the world and have Suzaku, as Zero, slay him, thus ending the cycle of hatred and granting the world a little peace for a time while dooming Suzaku to a job he’ll despise. Thus they atone for both their sins.”
“I see,” Kallen said plainly. “And you went along with this plan?”
C.C. shrugged. “It wasn't my place to object.” Just before Kallen unleashed her temper on the woman, C.C. winked without Lelouch noticing, and that brought her up short.
Okay, so she knows something that Lelouch doesn’t. Interesting.
Lelouch interrupted the aside, saying, “What am I supposed to do now? I can’t make you be Zero for the rest of your life.”
“And why not?” Knowing that C.C. had something up her sleeve, Kallen decided to have a little fun with Lelouch. With any luck, she could knock him so off balance that he might actually listen to her. “Do you think I can’t do the job? Suzaku’s only idea of strategy is attack, attack, attack, he never thinks ahead, and his ethical system is revolting. I mean seriously. His plan was to become the Knight of One to protect Japan. What happens to it when he dies? When the emperor finally kicks the bucket? Did he ever care to find out how little time Bismarck spent playing king? What about every other area who wouldn’t have a benevolent despot? What incentive would it give Britannia to change and adopt his model of colonialism? Did he really think his plan would work long term?”
“You’re ranting, Your Majesty,” C.C. said.
So she was. “Indeed, I am. Thank you, Witch. So then, Lelouch. When you know I’m perfectly capable, when you know I’ve actually led the Order longer than you, if not as well, why, then, would you leave it in Suzaku’s hands and not mine?”
With much reluctance, Lelouch begrudgingly admitted, “Because I want you to be happy. The role of Zero is a curse.”
That…isn't the answer I expected. But it was certainly the answer Kallen had wanted. “Alright. My dad recently explicitly spelt out to me that I need to work on my communication–”
“Your dad?” Lelouch mumbled in surprise.
“–so let me be clear. Part of my happiness is predicated on you being happy. If that’s with me, wonderful. If not, I’m a big girl and can get over romantic rejection.”
“My my, so forward.”
Kallen pounced immediately and said, “Shut it, C.C.. You’re next.” She turned her attention back onto Lelouch. “Either way, I want you to live. And we’re getting you to a therapist. If needed, we’ll look into antidepressants. Your suicide will make me very unhappy and would devastate Nunnally, so you will not commit such an act. Understood?”
Without a word and completely at a loss, Lelouch slowly nodded.
“Good. And you.” Kallen turned on C.C.. “I despise you, and you’re the worst flatmate to ever exist.” She them immediately pulled C.C. by the collar into a kiss. For perhaps the first time ever, she’d managed to surprise the witch. That only lasted for a moment, however, before C.C. chuckled and returned the gesture with more passion than Kallen was prepared for.
Once the kiss ended, a dazed Kallen mumbled, “I hate my dad.” He’d not been entirely wrong, it seemed. “I could get used to that.”
Smirking, C.C. returned, “You’re not half bad yourself. It’s been awhile since I last embraced a woman, but I certainly remember how. I’d ask if you have experience, but we both know you’ve been holding out for your prince.”
With a scoff, Kallen said, “Who else would I hold out for? Tamaki? Gino? You? Please.”
C.C. chuckled, and her eyes turned toward the only other person in the room. “Oh, look,” she stated rather blandly. “I think we broke him.”
It was true. Lelouch’s mouth hung open, probably from shock more than anything else, but Kallen could run with it nonetheless.
“Well, it’s good to know he’s a healthy, virile male after all. I’d been getting a little worried, to be honest.”
“I know, right?” C.C. said, affecting the speech of a normal teenager to poor – but hilarious – effect. “I stole his bed every night, and he never had the guts to reclaim even half for himself.”
“Oh? While that greatly assures me of his potential for fidelity, unlike his father, that worries me in other ways.”
“Quite. Hmm… We’re going to need to find another code bearer. The prat refuses to let me die in peace, so I demand that you share the curse of immortality with us.”
Us? Kallen looked at Lelouch who appeared to be processing the very same thing. She reached the right conclusion a little faster, though, as she said, “Well, that explains why you didn’t object to his plan.”
“Indeed. I believe I can tolerate this endless series of experiences called life with the right company.”
“Wait. Stop,” Lelouch said, finally finding his voice again. “There are more code bearers?”
“One for each Thought Elevator,” C.C. said, for once volunteering information. Not that Kallen knew what a Thought Elevator was. “My code is connected to the one in Antarctica. Yours is connected to the one in the UK.”
“But I thought we destroyed the entire Directorate. Why didn’t you tell me about this before?”
“We did,” C.C. replied. “The other code bearers I’ve met are recluses who rarely make contracts.”
“That’s…acceptable,” Lelouch bit out. “For now. And the others?”
C.C. shrugged. “Kallen needs a code, so target one of them first. And you need to die before you grow old and wrinkled. I don’t care how useful your geass is. I’m not into that, and I doubt your queen feels differently.”
Choosing her words carefully because much of what had been said she could only guess at the meaning of, Kallen replied, “Under the assumption that his death…activates…his immortality” – and wasn’t that a contradiction in terms – “then I agree. I wouldn’t mind a little more muscle on him before then, though, if he can’t gain it after?”
“Oh, good point,” C.C. admitted. “You’re wise beyond your years, Kallen. The real question, though, is do we want to minimise or maximise the scar tissue? However he dies, some of that damage will linger forever.”
“Hmm… Tough call. I’m inclined toward minimisation, just in case, but imagine if he had a long scar over one eye from his hairline down to his jaw.”
C.C. stared at Lelouch, who was absolutely out of his depth, with a contemplative expression. “It does add a hint of danger and mystery. I like.”
And at this point, Lelouch was clearly done with the whole affair. He spun on a foot toward the door with nothing more than a muttered, “Women.”
As he left, C.C. called out, “I’ll just make a contract with Kallen, then, or will you?”
Lelouch said, “You do it!” and slammed the door behind him.
“Well, congratulations are in order,” C.C. said. “I do believe that was a marriage proposal.”
Kallen rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t dispute that Lelouch would have shot the very idea down long ago if he objected. “I’m surprised he still doesn’t know I already have a geass. I guess I don’t use it that much and it’s not obvious when I do, but still. Regardless, are we bad people for doing that to him?”
“No. He needed that kick in the arse. He should be fine now. If nothing else, he has a purpose hunting the other code bearers to strive for. It’s not much of a replacement for his sister and his revenge, but it’ll do until we sink our claws into him.”
“If you say so. So that was the wish you wanted him to grant, then? To kill you?”
C.C. nodded. “For a code bearer to die, someone else has to take their code. For you to take a code and become immortal, you’ll need a fully matured geass.”
“Ah. And how do I make that happen?”
“Just keep using it,” C.C. said. “Eventually, it’ll activate permanently and then spread to your other eye. You’ll be ready then.”
“Sounds easy enough.” Kallen knew she would be busy in the coming months and using it often to hunt down Lelouch’s enemies in the empire, so no extra effort would likely need to be made. Too bad I can’t locate code bearers with my geass. That would make everything much easier.
October 15, 2018 a.t.b.
Mildly curious, Kallen idly scanned the space behind her for Lelouch as she walked. She'd thought he was busy preparing a horrifying week long lecture for her on negotiation for the coming UFN summit, not wandering about the Imperial Palace's halls.
“Your Majesty,” the voice came again, closer now. This time, though, Kallen understood just who it addressed and paused a few seconds to allow the woman hurriedly pacing toward her to catch up.
“My apologies,” Kallen said. “I'm still adjusting to being empress. It took me a moment to realise you were addressing me and not my husband.”
“No apologies necessary. I understand. It took me some time to readjust to being referred to as ‘Your Highness’ as well when I returned to the imperial family.”
And that left only one possible choice for who this woman was. Kallen had never met her, but she had heard of her. “You must be Princess Marrybell, then.”
“Just Marrybell is fine. We're sisters now, after all.”
Kallen snorted, recalling how enthusiastic Nunnally had been about that, and resisted the urge to snark. “That's true. Kallen, then.”
“As you wish. Is it true? Did Lelouch really kill the emperor?”
That question immediately put Kallen on her guard. Marrybell had not been at court the day Lelouch had claimed the throne and was thus not compelled to acknowledge his rule. They’d not gone out of their way to correct that since she’d been cooperative and her background suggested they’d done her a favour in offing the emperor, but she behaved far too much like a female Lelouch to be sure of her loyalties.
“He did,” Kallen neutrally replied. “Why do you ask?”
Marrybell swore under her breath. “I wanted to do it. I'd hoped… Oh, nevermind. I suppose he's dead and that's all that really matters.”
“I…see…” That was more or less the answer Kallen had expected but far more bluntly put than she’d imagined. “I would apologise on Lelouch's behalf, but I doubt he would have let anyone else do the deed.”
“I certainly understand that. I'll have to ask him to share the details with me sometime. I want to hear everything.”
“It is an intriguing tale. I'd have not believed it myself if anyone else had told me.” Well, maybe except for C.C. if she were in one of her rare serious moods.
“I can believe more than you might expect. There are strange things in the world.”
“Oh? Such as?”
Before Marrybell could answer, C.C. came out of nowhere and clamped a hand around Marrybell’s neck. The princess’s eyes shot open as she let out a blood-curdling scream. She passed out a second later and collapsed into C.C.’s arms.
Stunned, Kallen weakly asked, “What was that for?”
“She has a geass.” C.C. locked her arms underneath Marrybell’s. “Grab her legs.”
Quickly and silently, the pair disappeared into the less travelled sections of the Imperial Palace with Marrybell in tow. Once they found a quiet room to themselves, Kallen called Lelouch to come join them as soon as possible. She then bound Marrybell to a chair using whatever was on hand. Once all that was done, she relaxed and started sending out emails cancelling her appointments for the day while C.C. observed their prisoner.
Sometime later, Lelouch finally entered the room. He took in the scene for a moment. Then, at last, he deadpanned, “Kinky.”
Kallen rolled her eyes.
“You know, I accept that you two sometimes have fun with without me, but Kallen, you can't tie up other women just because C.C. won't let you top.”
“Lelouch,” Kallen deadpanned, “have I reminded you yet today that you're insufferable?”
Without even hesitating, Lelouch continued, “And my sister, too. I'm sorry, but I'm not interested in incest.”
Marrybell chose this moment to groan and awaken.
Tokyo Settlement, Area 11 (Disputed)
November 22, 2018 a.t.b.
“Lastly, you just need to keep in mind that the goal isn’t to integrate Britannia into the UFN. The only terms it’s likely to accept naturally are not in the best interests of our country. We don’t want to have to quell an endless series of revolts – putting down most of the Rounds was quite enough already – and I won’t be able to change the representatives’ minds for you.”
Kallen chuckled. “It is rather obvious when you’ve used your geass.” Absolute Submission left the victim a mindless husk suited only for obeying orders. Even when commanded to behave normally, the victim acted noticeably off to casual observers. The only indisputable and absolutely necessary target Lelouch had in mind to subject to it was Schneizel. The man was too dangerous for liberty but too useful and well known to simply kill.
Kallen briefly activated her geass to confirm once more that Schneizel was, in fact, still waiting for them at the summit. He’d yet to show himself in public, but he was definitely there.
“If you can obtain favourable terms to join the UFN, then seize them with both hands. Ultimately, though, your goal should only be to establish that we want an end to this endless war and that we intend to continue and expand Lelouch’s progressive policies. The matter of Japan is likely to be at the top of their agenda, but it's not on ours.”
It felt more than a little weird to have to represent Britannian interests first, but Kallen idly nodded at the reminder. She’d accepted what being empress meant when she’d married Lelouch and put an end to his theatrical plans to redeem their empire.
“Are you ready?”
Kallen took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Yeah, I think so. Thanks, Marrybell. You’re the best.”
The woman in question snapped her notebook shut and placed it aside. “I don’t know about that, but you’re welcome.”
“Hmm?” Kallen turned a questioning eyebrow onto Marrybell at her melancholic tone. “Is something wrong?”
“No, just…” Marrybell sighed. “I miss Oldrin. I drove her away acting like my bloody father, and now who knows where she is.”
Comforting others was not something Kallen had much experience in, but she placed a gentle hand on Marrybell’s arm and said, “She’ll come back. You work directly for the ‘Emperor of Justice’ under the ‘White Queen’ now. How could she say no to that?”
“I suppose,” Marrybell said. She managed a wistful smile. “Stranger things have happened. I certainly never imagined the Red Death would be my empress.”
Kallen snorted. “You and me both, sister.” After a moment, she added, “Bloody cool moniker, though. I wish I’d known you Brits called me that before.”
“Says the aristocratic, half-blooded Empress of Britannia,” came Marrybell’s wry retort.
“Yeah, yeah.” Kallen waved the rebuke off. “I’ll keep such comments private. I know how to behave myself in public.”
At long last, their ride from the airport came to a stop at the main gates of Ashford Academy where Lelouch had insisted the UFN summit with Britannia take place. According to him, he owed the Ashfords the positive publicity.
As their chauffeur opened the door for them, Kallen said, “Let’s do this.”
The gathered crowd was truly massive. There had to be tens of thousands of people present, Japanese and Britannian in equal number with a few other stray ethnicities sprinkled throughout. Kallen waved politely to her audience as she walked onto campus.
Surprised, Kallen turned in the direction of the voice calling her name. There atop the barricade preventing the crowd from entering campus with one leg straddling each side sat Rivalz of all people.
How on Earth did he even get that far? The Black Knights must be slacking without Lelouch and I to crack the whip.
“Do you know him?” Marrybell asked.
“Yeah, we served on the student council here together.” Before Rivalz could get himself into serious trouble by fully passing the cordon, Kallen mimed a phone with her hand, silently promising to call him later. She did have an important meeting to get to, after all. Hopefully, he got the message. If not, she was the Empress of Britannia with a geass specifically for finding people. She could get him out of whatever trouble he got into when she had some free time. “He’s a good guy, if a bit of a pushover.”
“Good friends are hard for us to come by. Keep in contact with him.”
“I’m well aware,” Kallen bitterly said. One of her ‘friends’ was waiting to escort her and Marrybell not a hundred paces further down the way.
Ohgi’s frown slowly intensified as Kallen approached. When they were finally within speaking distance of each other, he said, “Kallen, what–” only for Marrybell to immediately cut him off.
“You will address Her Majesty as Empress Kallen. Or with the appropriate honorifics in Japanese which I leave to Her Majesty’s discretion.” Despite Kallen’s and Lelouch’s valiant attempt, the nuances of the language remained beyond Marrybell’s grasp.
Aghast, Ohgi asked, “Is she serious, Kallen?”
“General Secretary Ohgi,” Kallen began, barely restraining her anger, “or whatever your title is now, your Britannian envoy is already furious with you and your organisation. I would highly suggest you not drag your personal relationship with her into your work unless you wish to start this summit with the new Britannian regime publicly and physically demonstrating its displeasure with the Black Knights rather than the unity stemming from one of your own marrying Britannia's emperor.”
Ohgi looked about to try once more, but a combined glare from both Kallen and Marrybell got him to rethink his decision. After a brief staring contest, he relented. “Very well, Your Majesty. Perhaps there will be time to speak tonight. Please follow me to the auditorium.”
“Hmm… So this is where Lelouch lived when he was in hiding?” Marrybell asked as she poked around in the Lamperouge flat within the student council building.
“I did notice the modifications for wheelchairs to the building’s structure. Do you know her well?”
“Almost as well as I do Lelouch. Why do you ask?”
Marrybell pursed her lips and mulled over her answer. “The last time I spoke with her, her vocabulary contained at most a few hundred words.”
Kallen put a hand to her mouth and laughed lightly. “I’d be glad to share stories with you sometime.”
“I’d appreciate it. Which room is mine?”
“Hmm… You can take Sayoko’s room tonight,” Kallen said. “I’ll take Lelouch’s. Remind me tomorrow morning that he asked me to grab a few things while we’re here.”
“Thanks. Do you know how to cook?”
Marrybell slowly turned to look at Kallen and quirked an eyebrow. “I imagine I could boil water and follow directions if there’s something in the kitchen that hasn’t expired.”
“Okay, princess,” Kallen said sarcastically. She pulled out her phone and sent a text to Marrybell. “That’s the delivery address for this building if you need it. Most takeaway nearby will know exactly what you mean if you simply say ‘Ashford’.”
“Good to know.”
A knock came at the door.
“I bet we both know who that is,” Marrybell said in obvious distaste. “Do you want me to make myself scarce or stick around?”
Kallen breathed deeply to rein in her anger and let it all out in an exasperated sigh. “I’d better do this myself. I don’t need them accusing you of being my handler in my supposed thralldom. I know the Black Knights don’t properly understand how unfair and broken Lelouch’s geass is, or they wouldn’t have turned on him. They’re lucky he buys into his own lies about justice and ethics so much.”
Rolling her eyes, Marrybell said, “I’m quite sure you've just said something logically inconsistent.”
“Yes, but everything Lelouch says and does is a lie, only sometimes it falls in line with his long-term behaviour.”
Marrybell laughed. As a parting comment, she offered, “I’m so glad it’s not me who’s married to him.”
Indeed, it can be frustrating to understand Lelouch at times, but he’s still mine. Regardless, now that she was alone, Kallen turned her attention to her ‘guest’ who knocked again but more insistently this time.
As soon as the door was open, Ohgi said, “We need to talk.”
Kallen replied, “No, you want to talk. My life would continue along just fine if I punched you in the face and then slammed the door.”
“Must you be so difficult?”
“Yes!” Kallen bit out. Nearly growling now, she continued, “You threatened to kill me if I didn’t stand aside and let you execute one of my closest friends, someone to whom, may I remind you, I’m now married. I believe I'm understandably a little upset. Also, if you’ll recall, it just so happens to be that very same man who tempered my directionless thirst for vengeance and reforged it into a principled determination to see justice done. Oh, and guess who’s not here right now to see me regress.”
Somehow genuinely shocked – whether he believed Kallen enslaved or not, he should have seen this coming – Ohgi said, “Wha – what? You wouldn’t. You couldn’t.”
“Couldn’t? I’ve killed a lot of people better than you. Wouldn’t? No, I wouldn’t. The Empress of Britannia executing summary justice on one of the leaders of the Black Knights wouldn’t go over well no matter how deserved. Then again, if I find my brother-in-law, I bet he could convince you to do it yourself.”
Noticing one of Ohgi’s nervous tics, Kallen activated her geass and started searching for the location of the Black Knights who would probably know about Lelouch’s geass. “I’m not going to sit before an inquisition, Ohgi. Who is ‘we’?”
“Just the usual brass plus Schneizel and Cornelia.”
And so opportunity knocks. From what Kallen could tell, Ohgi was being honest as well. “I see. And what exactly do you intend to do with me after this…talk.”
“We don’t know, Kallen. We have a lot of suspicions and guesswork, but we haven’t decided anything yet.”
“Honestly. We were expecting Lelouch to come and attempt to use his geass,” Ohgi said. “We only found out a week ago you were coming instead. That has us even more worried.”
Kallen shook her head. Not interested in debating with Ohgi, she said, “I was the obvious choice of representative. For many reasons. Has Schneizel requested political asylum?”
“No? But naturally, he’s declared Lelouch a usurper. I’m sure he will if you demand he return to Britannia with you.”
With a Herculean effort, Kallen buried her smirk and deactivated her geass. “No, no, that’s fine. I just needed to know what I’m walking into. What about Cornelia?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Alright. One moment, please.”
Kallen stepped further into Lelouch’s flat and quickly found Marrybell.
“Done already?” Marrybell asked.
Kallen shook her head. “Change of plans. Schneizel and Cornelia are part of the group asking for me, and neither has requested asylum yet.”
“Thus anything we do to Schneizel is no one’s business but Britannia’s,” Marrybell concluded. “Very well. Do you and Lelouch want me to geass Cornelia as well?”
“Well…” Kallen was aware that Cornelia had once, long ago, been one of Lelouch’s favourite sisters. Perhaps not. But then again, “Jeremiah has a geass canceller, so you might as well grab her. We can decide what to do with her later.”
“Does he really?” After Kallen nodded, Marrybell said, “Then I have far fewer reservations about using my geass in the future. Please lead the way, Kallen, and let’s bring an end to our domestic disputes.”
Over Ohgi’s objections and protest that they really wanted to speak to Kallen alone, the pair made their way back to the auditorium with a reluctant Ohgi escorting them. Once inside, they found there had been no last minute additions that Ohgi hadn’t known about. About one round table sat Tohdoh, Diethard, Rakshata, Xingke, Tamaki for some reason, a few others, and the expected prince and princess with three available chairs, one for Ohgi and another for Kallen. The last should be for–
Said woman grunted as Kaguya crashed into her.
“My fellow court lady, you have to tell me everything! Is he everything we always dreamt of?”
Kallen rolled her eyes. Apparently she still had one friend of some variety left here. “Good evening, Kaguya. It’s good to see you, too.”
Before anyone else could say anything, Marrybell spoke. “Well, well. If it isn’t my dear older brother and sister. I’d say I’m surprised to see you here, but I’m really not. I’ll kindly ask you not to speak unless spoken to.”
“Of course,” Schneizel immediately conceded as Cornelia said, “Understood.”
Well, that was easy. Imagine if Lelouch had come here instead and they’d stayed hidden. Man, would that have cost a lot of lives! They almost certainly have all of our missing FLEIJA warheads in their possession. After a moment of reflection, Kallen added, But I suppose we’ll have to see what contingency plans Schneizel left in place before celebrating. Still, this was probably all according to plan for Lelouch.
“Shall we get started, then?” Kallen asked. She took her seat to a general chorus of agreement. Marrybell refused a chair herself, instead opting to stand beside Kallen where she could more easily use her geass if necessary or take martial action. Kallen was the obvious danger, but Marrybell was just as deadly.
“Schneizel,” Marrybell began, “will this conversation be recorded?”
A smirk grew on Kallen’s face. She’d hoped that would be the case. She’d spent no small amount of time preparing for this encounter, and she intended to enjoy it. She ditched the posture expected of an empress in favour of a villainous slouch upon her makeshift throne.
“Alright,” Kallen said, “this is where I gloat over the success of my evil plan to become the ruler of Britannia while setting Lelouch up for the fall with no one ever believing any of you.”
In a very satisfying moment, the single response Kallen received was stunned looks and half-formed words expressing surprise.
“You see,” Kallen continued, “ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always wanted to be the empress regnant. It was my dream. Alas, but I was merely the heiress to an earl and nowhere near the imperial line of succession. I knew that to take my rightful place, I would need a prince to pass the throne to me the way Elizabeth the Third did for Ricardo von Britannia.
“Enter Lelouch. I first met him at this very academy when he and I were twelve. I knew right away, of course, who he was. His mother, Marianne the Flash, was the emperor’s favourite consort. Before her unexpected death, Lelouch was to be my primary target for a husband. Of everyone who might inherit the throne, I knew it would be him. And I was right, just not in the manner I expected, but that comes later in this story.
“For five years, I subtly stoked Lelouch’s obsession with revenge against his father and his mother’s killer while I honed my own skills. Ruling through conquest felt so much more satisfying than simply inheriting the throne. It's in my blood, after all, and Lelouch, to my delight, was truly gifted in both war and politics. Everything was going according to plan.
“Then came Shinjuku. I met C.C. and discovered the wonderful power geass held. Unfortunately, mine was of only minor use for warfare, but Lelouch’s – oh, Lelouch’s was wonderful. It opened so many doors and sped up so many plans, and he knew just how, when, and more importantly, when not to use it without any prompting required. To be honest, I’m seriously considering settling for being merely empress consort, because I would miss my husband dearly.
“Regardless, the Black Rebellion was where I made my first true mistake. I didn’t keep a watchful enough eye on Nunnally, and of course that siscon husband of mine gave chase when his uncle abducted her. The failure of that revolution was entirely my fault.
“However, the then emperor’s hubris knew no bounds. He used Lelouch as bait to lure C.C. out and gave me a second chance, one which I firmly grasped and refused to let go. I admit that there were a few bumps along the way, but everything worked out for me in the end thanks to a few contingency plans I’d set in place and my success at worming my way into Lelouch’s heart.
“The Black Knights’ betrayal almost ruined everything, but Lelouch and I had one last gambit to execute, and we succeeded while inadvertently saving the world from Ragnarök in the process. He took the throne, I married him, and that brings our story to a close for now.”
Kallen gave her stunned audience a bright, innocent smile with just the slightest hint of pride and condescension peeking through. She played with her expression until she felt she perfectly displayed how she was humouring the pathetic plebs before her underneath her outwardly pleasant demeanour.
I really wish I could take a picture of this and not break the spell.
After the silence had stretched on long enough that Kallen had almost lost the fight against her laughter, Tohdoh was the first to speak. “No offence, Field Marshall, but I don’t believe a word of that.”
Kallen slowly raised an eyebrow. “If we’re using titles, General, it’s Empress Kallen. And why not? It’s an equally valid hypothesis that I’m the evil puppetmaster behind the Black Knights as my husband. After all, it’s not like Lelouch used magic to command any of you to follow or otherwise obey him. You could never have turned on him if so.”
No one’s opinion seemed particularly swayed by that argument. Kaguya glared at her coworkers – which was neither new nor unexpected – and Rakshata remained aloof, but the others merely looked annoyed. It hardly mattered, though. Kallen had not come here expecting to convince anyone of anything, and she’d already gained more than she’d imagined with the acquisition of the two royals across the table.
“That’s hardly his only crime!” Ohgi said, slamming his fist on the table.
“But the girl does have a point,” Rakshata idly commented. “We actually know very little about either Zero's or Kallen's off-the-books missions. All we have are suppositions from observing the results and a few testimonies without context that sound bad.”
Thank you, Rakshata, for being a critical thinker.
“So what?” Ohgi said. “Lelouch already confessed to everything. He even admitted he was just using us. Explain that, Kallen.”
“No.” Kallen had no intention of revealing Lelouch’s secrets to anyone, especially not to those who had betrayed him and her when they had needed him most. “I don’t have to explain anything to you. Let me be clear. You are not Lelouch’s judge. You are not his jury. If you want to subject my husband to an international tribunal, go ahead and try. If you can get your case past ‘magical powers’ without being laughed out on your collective arses, we’ll be there. If you can get whatever hearsay you have entered into evidence, we’ll consider giving an explanation. If you want to publicly admit that Lelouch is Zero, the man who brought the world peace and reformed Britannia through whatever means were available to him, and then try to convict him anyway–” Kallen scoffed. “Good luck with that.
“If anyone who took part in the mutiny wants to offer an apology for considering murdering me just for standing in the way of a summary execution, I’ll be around.” Kallen stood up. “Kaguya, Rakshata, you’re welcome to visit me anytime. Now if you don’t mind, I think I’m going to go rest so I can get on with fixing the world tomorrow.”
As Kallen turned to leave, Marrybell added, “Schneizel, Cornelia, please come with. We can have a little family reunion and discuss what your plans are.”
A knock came at the door to the Lamperouge flat. Groaning and just not wanting to get up from where she’d collapsed on Lelouch’s bed, Kallen called out, “Marrybell, could you get that!”
A minute later, Kaguya came into the room. “Hello again,” she said with her usual boundless energy.
“Hello, Kaguya. Please tell me you aren’t here to continue the inquisition.”
“Well, I have a few questions that I’d personally like answered strictly off the record, but mostly I’m here to gossip.”
“I see. Ask your questions, I suppose, but if I don’t answer, please don’t ask again.”
“Can do. First question, then. What do you plan to do with C.C. when you become empress regnant? And is there room for me?”
Kallen couldn’t help herself. After politicking all day and the confrontation an hour ago, she burst into laughter. Between breaths, she managed, “I’m going to keep her shackled in my bedchamber, of course, and hope the chains can hold her.”
“Naturally,” Kaguya said with a nod.
“Oh, wow. I needed that. Thank you, Kaguya.”
The girl merely smiled serenely in reply.
“As to your other question, were you serious?”
“I certainly wouldn’t mind,” Kaguya said. “I also realise that dismantling the Britannian empire isn’t as easy as simply declaring all the areas free. Japan would make a lovely wedding gift.”
“That it would. It would make things a lot simpler, too. I can’t believe I’m making this argument, but Japan is the Jewel of the Empire. Letting it go not even three months into Lelouch’s reign when we really have no reason to would present…complications.”
“You’re avoiding my question,” Kaguya observed, “which I suppose is an answer in and of itself.”
“Don’t be. I understand, and I saw my loss coming long ago, although I was surprised that you and C.C. officially married each other as well.”
Kallen shrugged. “I didn’t see that coming either. Both the relationship and the marriage. Legal same-sex marriage in Britannia was long overdue, though. That was trivial legislation to push through.”
With a giggle, Kaguya said, “Remind me again what the record number of wives and husbands for a single person was.”
“Heh. Both are over four-thousand, I think. But abusing Britannia’s polygamy laws, while hilarious, were logistical nightmares. It’s better this way.”
“I’d imagine your divorce rates have gone rather pear-shaped recently.”
“I’m confident we decided not to care this year or the next.”
“A wise decision,” Kaguya said with a sage nod.
A moment passed in comfortable silence.
“Kallen, I apologise in advance if this upsets you, but what will you tell me in confidence about…anything?”
With a protesting grunt, Kallen pushed herself upright. She scooted to lean back against the headboard and gestured for Kaguya to take the other end of the bed.
“In complete confidence?” Kallen asked.
Kaguya nodded. “I swear I won’t say a word to anyone.”
“What do you want to know?”
After a moment, Kaguya admitted, “I think the only question that I should ask as the UFN chairwoman but don’t need to as a woman is if Lelouch is sincere in the direction he’s taking Britannia.”
“He is. He had far more radical plans before, some of which involved taking over the world, but I forced his hand down this route.”
“Hmm… I’m not sure if I should thank you for that or not given the confidence I have in him.”
“Thank me,” Kallen plainly stated. “His first choice would have culminated in his death.”
“Ah. Thank you indeed, then. The world would be a far less interesting place without Lelouch.”
“And far less…satisfying.” Kaguya giggled as Kallen smirked. “Anything else you want to know?”
“What really caused the SAZ Massacre?”
With a shrug, Kallen said, “Depends on who you believe. Personally, I trust C.C. on this more than Lelouch. From what she tells me, Lelouch made a bad joke and his uncle had a hate-boner for the vi Britannias.”
Kaguya quirked an eyebrow. Of all the points she could object to, she said, “You mentioned him before. I wasn’t aware that Lelouch has an uncle.”
“Had,” Kallen corrected. “He had one. The emper – er, the previous emperor, that is, killed the bastard months ago, and the world is far better off for it.”
“Good. I think that’s all the boring questions I had.”
“Now time for the important ones. How good was your first time!”
Kallen chuckled. “It was the best disappointing experience of my life. I had no idea what I was doing. Lelouch had no idea what he was doing. But I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Then C.C. stopped teasing us and joined in, and she knew exactly what she was doing.”
“Ha! She always knew how to get Lelouch to do exactly what she wanted. Should I assume the same here?”
“She played him like a fiddle.”
Kaguya snickered and asked, “And you too?”
“No comment,” Kallen said, blushing.
“Oh, come on! You simply must tell me about it.”
French Refugee Hostel
May 6, 2016 a.t.b.
Lelouch awoke to find Kallen squirming in place next to him on their bed and letting out very suggestive moans. Part of him wanted to keep watching the performance, but the larger part of him promptly decided to preserve her dignity and wake her.
“Hmm… What is it?” Kallen mumbled.
With a smirk, Lelouch said, “I believe you were dreaming of me.”
It took Kallen’s sleep addled mind a few seconds to process that. Once it had, her face erupted into a blush. She promptly elbowed him in the gut and said, “In your dreams.”
“Oh, be quiet. It wasn’t anything like that. It was…weird.”
“I’m not sure I want to know what kinks you’re into,” Lelouch said.
Kallen rolled her eyes. “Will you be mature already? I told you it wasn’t that kind of dream. ”
“I didn't even understand half of what was going on. Argh, I wish I could remember my dreams better. What's…Ragnarök?”
“Twilight of the Gods.” Lelouch yawned and settled back into bed. He’d had his fun and done his duty. It was time to get back to sleep. “Norse. Unpopular back home.”
“Thanks. That's really unhelpful. We were…rebels, I think? There were black knights… I think I killed Suzaku? I remember Marrybell was my assistant for…something.”
“We were married.”
“Sounds nice,” Lelouch mumbled sleepily.
Kallen giggled quietly. “To C.C..”
Another giggle. Then more solemnly, Kallen said, “Euphie and Naoto were dead.”
“Just a dream.”
“Was it, though?” Kallen whispered more insistently and barely audibly. “I’m a prophetess. I keep having weird dreams. Two and two makes four.”
“Just a dream.”
“I predict deaths!” Kallen hissed.
“Are you right now?”
A moment passed in which Kallen surely activated her geass. “No. But what if my foresight is longer in my sleep?”
“Unlikely. But if so, then we have all the more time to change it. Years, probably.”
“Oh.” Kallen fell silent for a second. “I… I think I’m being silly.”
“Quite. Sleep now?”
Kallen easily nodded, although she did snuggle closer in the process. Not that Lelouch was complaining. “Goodnight.”
The next morning, the worries of the night before would slip away and lie forgotten as nothing more than an ephemeral dream.
Three beds down in the same room as Kallen and Lelouch, C.C. frowned. It was far too much fun using her code to mess with those two, but Kallen speaking of Ragnarök raised more than a few warning flags in her mind. If she had to guess, some of her own memories must have been mixed into her latest prank. If she did this again, she’d have to be more careful.