Round One

Stage 08 - The Wager


Kōzuki Resistance HQ

Shinjuku Ghetto, Area 11

November 16, 2015 a.t.b.


“Naoto, I’ve been here for an entire week now. When…” The irked voice of Kallen trailed off for a crestfallen version to replace it. “Do you not want to see me?”

“It’s not that, Kallen,” Naoto replied, wishing he could reach through his phone to reassure his little sister in person.

“Then what is it?” Kallen demanded. “I'm starting to wonder. You never let me help you. You’re always busy. You won’t even let me claim you as a half-brother.”

Firmly, Naoto said, “We’re not soiling Dad’s memory with an invented love affair or publicly exposing you as a half-blood.”

“Is it my knighting? I only answer to Lelouch, if you didn't know. You like Lelouch.”

“Kallen, I'm not ashamed of you.”

“Then help me understand!” Kallen said, coming dangerously close to begging. “Please.”

“I can't leave the ghetto right now. That's all. Really.”

“Then–”

Naoto cut Kallen off, resolutely stating, “And you are not coming here. Alone would be dangerous for you. In force would attract attention neither of us wants.”

A rather bitter, “I need to go. Later,” was the only reply Naoto received before the call ended. He stared at his phone with a heavy weight in his chest feeling like more of an arse than at any other time in his life.

“Oi, Naoto!” The man in question turned to find Kaname approaching. “We have another report of ‘investigators’ coming.”

Naoto heaved a heavy sigh. This was the fifth incident in as many days, each more brutal than the last. Whoever was in charge of the operation in the Britannian military was obviously trying to provoke a fight. It was a disgusting tactic, but one he could admit had a certain pragmatic appeal. It’d worked terrible wonders against the neighbouring and now deceased resistance cell in Shibuya.

“Gather the usual team. We’ll observe and handle the aftermath.” Hopefully they could discover who was behind this, too.

“Alright.”

“Wait. Have Tamaki-san act as our rearguard. I’m not confident his temper will hold this time, and we really can’t afford to spring the trap without knowing what’s waiting for us. Not unless we absolutely must.”

Today was going to be another long day.


Ashford Academy

Tokyo Settlement, Area 11

November 16, 2015 a.t.b.


Kallen’s fingers curled tightly around her phone as her knuckles turned white. “Baka,” she muttered to herself.

Rather than spend the day trying to snap her phone in half with one hand, Kallen put it away into her pocket and left her bedroom. Now that she and Lelouch were officially in town, Milly had decided to throw yet another welcoming party for them. This one would consist only of Ashford students, but there would be delicious treats and dancing all the same, so it was not a total loss.

Of course, Milly had demanded both Kallen and Lelouch help set up. So bloody typical…

In the foyer of the student council building, an area large and open enough to hold a ball, Kallen found exactly the person she needed to talk to slaving away under Milly’s direction. All protests from Milly ignored, she pulled him aside for a private word.

“Lelouch, can you think of a reason why Naoto wouldn’t want to see me other than that he just doesn’t want to?”

“Hundreds,” Lelouch replied with an offhanded ease and vagueness that made Kallen acutely aware of him attempting misdirection. She narrowed her eyebrows.

“Let me rephrase my question. Do you know why Naoto doesn’t want to see me?”

“No.”

“But you have a good guess.”

“I do.” No longer resisting, Lelouch finally volunteered information. “But only because after he first refused your assistance years ago, I requested the Shinozaki to quietly check on him once in a while just in case.”

Kallen’s expression softened slightly. “Well, thank you for that. Now why won’t he come see me?”

“It would be best if you found out from him,” Lelouch said. “Both for your relationship with him and because I doubt he would appreciate learning that he has ninja spying on him, if only rarely.”

“Hmph. Very well. I was planning on doing so anyway.”

As they returned to work, Kallen made a mental note to find out what office in the Government Borough she had to visit to uncover Naoto’s residential address.


Shinjuku Ghetto, Area 11

November 16, 2015 a.t.b.


“I t-told you I don’t – don’t know anything!”

Naoto winced as the sobbing woman received yet another heavy blow, this time to her face. A tooth flew loose, and there was so much blood. The Britannian officer interrogating her was holding nothing back today in this very public demonstration.

Worse was the thought that this exact same scene was playing out in several other places nearby.

Worst was that its entire purpose was to bait Naoto’s resistance into openly revealing themselves from among the crowd.

Not that these monsters would be incapable of finding another excuse to overly subjugate his people. The local resistance was merely today's reason. Naoto knew how Britannia operated, he suspected, even more so than his sister. The numbers needed to be kept in line until they died out, interbred out of existence, or no longer knew anything but their masters.

Kaname shifted beside Naoto. He placed a gentle but firm hand on Kaname's shoulder. They locked eyes for a second. He silently shook his head.

Kaname settled down but looked away from the scene. Naoto sent him an understanding look before turning back to observe.

The brutality disguised as an interrogation continued on for nearly another twenty minutes before the Britannians finally packed up and left. The onlooking denizens of the ghetto were at last allowed to approach the woman and help her receive a tiny fraction of the medical attention she desperately needed.

Naoto signalled for the doctor of his group to go help and the rest to disperse and return to their hideout before departing with Kaname. The pair took the long way back to check on another group that had yet to head home. They turned out to be fine, if shaken; a family of four with the two kids not even teenagers had been their victims to watch over.

Back at their base, Naoto overheard some very worrying chatter.

“We can't keep standing by and not helping. If they want a fight, we should give it to them.” That was Yoshida, a usually level-headed man whose even temperament made him particularly reliable in the field.

“If this gets any worse, the whole ghetto is going to rise up and be destroyed. We need to find a way to put a stop to this immediately.” Inoue was an engineer in charge of logistics and rarely fought. She saw the seriousness of the situation, but her tone suggested a very bad solution.

“Naoto.”

“Not here,” Naoto said. He brought Kaname into the only room in the building with a working lock on the door. It functioned as both his office and a prison when necessary.

“We need to do more,” Kaname immediately said.

Naoto collapsed onto his ragged but still soft chair. “We don't have the ability to launch an offensive and win.”

“I know,” Kaname said. “But staying hidden isn't working. We're just deflecting the damage onto civilians.”

“Even if we gave ourselves up,” Naoto said, “it wouldn't help. Between policing the ghetto, sabotaging the usual military ‘fun’, and disposing of troublesome Brits, we still do more good than harm.”

“I’m not suggesting that.” Kaname hesitated before he said, “We do know someone with connections.”

“Absolutely not,” Naoto immediately replied.

“But–”

“No,” Naoto interrupted. “It’s not as easy as having Kallen ask Lelouch to ask Prince Clovis to forbid the military from entering Shinjuku. People would ask why. Reasons would have to be given. Favours would be owed. Someone would have to actually enforce the decree. The homeland might get involved. Kami forbid the emperor take an interest. Kallen and Lelouch are friendly with several of the Knights of the Round who might mention the matter to him. She would have to get so involved. No, Kaname. Just no.”

“She wouldn’t have to go that far…”

Naoto shook his head. Someday he should probably instruct everyone on some of the finer points of Britannian politics. It’d proved useful before, and it would prove useful again. If something happened to him, his people would need to know. Besides, when it really came down to it, he simply refused to put Kallen into a compromising position.

“When I said people would ask why, that included Kallen. She’d investigate, too, and she would find her way here.”

“She still doesn’t know?” Kaname asked, surprised.

“Of course not. Beyond her own reaction” – which would probably be very poor – “how do you think the ghetto will take to a beautiful, wealthy, fifteen-year-old royal knight and countess wandering around?”

“We could explain,” Kaname offered, but even he looked unconvinced.

“Please,” Naoto scoffed. “Even if she’d stayed in Japan with me and Mum, I’d rather she grow up in a Britannian orphanage than set foot in here.”

The look Kaname sent in return was one of reluctant agreement. “We still need to figure out–”

The background noise of their base rose to a loud chorus of worried and outraged voices. From the sound of it, someone was at death’s door. Naoto and Kaname looked to each other.

“Our options may have just grown severely limited,” Naoto commented, rising from his seat. He needed to find out what had happened immediately.


Viceroy’s Palace

Government Borough, Area 11

November 16, 2015 a.t.b.


Marrybell tossed the latest report on the purists actions onto her desk in disgust. She spun her chair to let her look through a window out into the settlement. To say nothing else of their tactics, they’d just outright tortured and murdered a civilian and maybe killed a terrorist.

The purists are worse than the bloody terrorists. Marrybell cursed her younger self for her foolishness. Were her reclaimed royalty not so tenuously held, she would simply execute the purists and be done with it. Regardless of her personal feelings, so openly and repeatedly provoking the Japanese threatened to destabilise the area.

On the nominally good side, however, if Lelouch’s assumption that the purists would eventually attempt to ‘inconvenience him’ was correct, she would take great pleasure in gambling her fate using their lives as chips. It seemed fitting that they be treated so casually by a French prince and an ‘Eleven lover’.

Speaking of, Marrybell picked up her phone and called Suzaku. The line connected.

“Marrybell?”

“Suzaku, I need you to stay in town.”

“Ah… That might be hard. I'm supposed to be returning home.”

“Throw your guardians the promise of possible research secrets,” Marrybell said. Then because she knew Suzaku was an awful liar, she added, “And I will get some to you.”

Rather hesitantly, Suzaku asked, “Nothing too dangerous, I hope?”

“Best you not know in advance. Tell them I mentioned a new knightmare project being started.”

“Well, you did just mention one…”

Marrybell chuckled. “I'll leave it up to your imagination whether it really exists or not, then.”

“Very well. So do you need me for that bet with your brother you were telling me about last week?”

“Possibly. We haven't decided yet on how we'll proceed with it, but if it comes down to a knightmare duel, I'll need you available if I'm to have any chance against him with the countess around.”

“I met her, actually,” Suzaku said.

Marrybell quirked an eyebrow, not that it did any good. “Oh? What was she like?”

“I'm not sure. She mostly asked about you. She's definitely not helpless outside a knightmare, though. I thought I was rushing to save a regular girl from a few thugs at first. I didn't realise until after I knocked out the remaining two that she'd already dealt with the first.”

That was unsurprising, and Marrybell said as such.

“There was something else she mentioned. Something about preferring easy wins in real life.”

That could mean many things. She could just be pragmatic, or she might actually care about the lives of the people she fights with. She could just be afraid for her own life, too. It could be a hundred other things as well.

Suzaku spoke and drew Marrybell’s attention back to him. “I still don't like the idea of you going through with this bet.”

“You don't need to worry. It's obvious Lelouch wants me to accept him as my better. A cheap trick won't satisfy him. Or me. Our competition will have to result in a true, resounding defeat for him and I to ever be anything more than tentative allies of convenience.”

“But he hasn't even explicitly told you his plans!”

“Do you have so little faith in my ability to win?” Marrybell asked in a cute, pouting way she knew would make Suzaku cringe. “When I do, it won’t matter.”

Marrybell heard some inaudible grumbling from the other end of the line.

“Relax, Suzaku. I’ve been researching Lelouch since my chess game with him.” Marrybell glanced at her computer, tabbing through her Internet browser until she came to her rather extensive notes on her brother. She’d particularly been focused on his unusual relationship with their father – unusual in the sense that the emperor seemed to acknowledge on occasion that he existed. “I’m not entirely sure what his ultimate plan is for the areas, but he seems like a good person at heart.”

Marrybell switched to the next tab, detailing some of the newer and more unusual charitable work Stadtfeld Industries engaged in, not to mention its hiring policies outside the homeland. It took guts to hire more qualified numbers over Britannians for positions requiring a degree, even if they worked for less. Euphemia and Nunnally were rather outspoken on behalf of humanitarian efforts on the rare occasions they were found in public, too.

“Or if not him, then at least one of his morality chains are. Regardless, I doubt he would be an intolerable ruler for a time in the worst case.” Marrybell added, And he’d be much less difficult to place on the throne than me, in the privacy of her own mind, once more cursing her younger self for being so foolhardy. High treason was not easy to come back from.

Suzaku sighed. “Alright. I trust you.”

And Marrybell would do everything in her power to ensure that trust was not misplaced. “Good. I'll call you back when I've set up a simulator for you to use to practice. I can't emphasise enough that the countess turned down an invitation to the Rounds. If you end up fighting her, do not hold back or she will rip you to shreds.”

Suzaku hesitantly said, “I thought that was just a rumour.”

“It's not confirmed, but even if it's not true, the rank and file must repeat it for a reason.”

“Fair enough. Can I stay at your place again, or is this one of those cloak and dagger things?”

Marrybell considered that for a moment. “Best stay at my place,” she said. “You’d raise too many questions if discovered elsewhere. As far as Lelouch knows, you’re just a friend.”

“Alright. I’ll see you tonight, then.”

Marrybell bade Suzaku goodbye and ended the call. She then turned her attention back to the reports she’d been reading and frowned.

I hope this wager comes to an end soon. I can’t keep Suzaku away too long without harming his cover. Not that it’d be the worst eventuality if he simply came to live with me.

A thought occurred.

If I do lose the bet, I should just go ahead and knight him. Suzaku gets a proper home and job. I get my friend back full-time and a knight. Britannia unwillingly gains a precedent for numbers rising to high position. The Japanese might calm down seeing one of their own succeeding in the face of intense adversity. Lelouch gets two powerful allies instead of one, which gives Suzaku and me more weight in policy decisions.

There were worse outcomes than losing, Marrybell decided. Not that she would, of course.


Government Borough, Area 11

November 18, 2015 a.t.b.


Enough was entirely enough. Kallen had tried being patient. She had tried being respectful. She had tried being understanding. But now she had been ignored for too long, and she had all day free. It was time to take matters into her own hands.


Emily hated her job. It was boring, to be sure, but the pointlessness of it was what got to her. Not only did no one care where the Elevens lived – not even herself – but the vast majority of Elevens never notified her office when they changed residencies. Indeed, most of her records were pulled from the old Japanese government, some of which listed places that no longer existed.

And so Emily spent each day idly maintaining her database with the occasional honourary Britannian updating their address and the rare Eleven doing the same. It was dull, dreary, drab work, but it paid well enough and let her play games and chat on her computer most of the work day, so life was not so bad.

And then something finally happened.

The door to Emily’s office flew open, and in came a redhead who dressed and walked like a noble heiress but for the sword dangling at her hip. As the woman came to a stop before her desk, Emily finally recognised her. It was Countess Stadtfeld! The newest royal knight!

Nervous – and wasn’t that embarrassing when speaking to a someone barely half her age – Emily asked, “Can I help you?”

“I need any addresses you have for Naoto Kōzuki. If it helps, he lived in Shinjuku before the war.”

“Of course!” Emily turned to her computer and hesitated a moment. “I, uh, I can look, but the Elevens often move without filing the appropriate paperwork, and we lose track of them.”

“I’m aware. Just check, please.”

Emily nodded and set to work. She managed to find an address at the former Tokyo University and one in Shinjuku. Nothing newer was on file.

Lady Stadtfeld clicked her tongue at the search results. “Try Kaname Ohgi.”

Emily did as asked and received the same two residencies as well as an older one which the man presumably shared with his parents.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful,” Emily said.

“It’s fine,” Lady Stadtfeld said as Emily handed her a copy of the Shinjuku address. “I’ll start looking here. Thank you for your time.”

And then Lady Stadtfeld departed. The office was as dull and empty as ever once more, but Emily bubbled with excitement nonetheless.

I just met the Countess of New York, a royal knight! Amy is never going to believe this! I have to tell everyone!


Tokyo Settlement, Area 11

November 18, 2015 a.t.b.


“Are you sure you want to do this?” Emma asked. “You have such lovely red hair. It would be a shame to hide it from the world.”

“Thank you,” Emma’s current customer said, “but please dye it black. I only need it to last for today, though, if you have something that washes out easily.”

Emma smiled. “I can do that, but you’ll have to excuse me a moment while I run to our storeroom. Few people come here to ask for so temporary a change.”


Charlie eyed the obviously rich, sword-bearing Britannian woman who’d walked in through the doors to his charity shop. It was common enough for the upper class to buy something cheap to wear on the rare occasions they expected to get dirty, but that usually meant mass-produced clothes, not used clothes.

Odder still was that she immediately headed toward the section of the shop that held the older, rattier clothing that Elevens tended to buy. Curious, Charlie took a picture of the woman and posted it online to see if any of his friends knew who she was. He rather doubted she would give him an honest answer – plausible deniability and all that. The papers would probably run some ridiculous story about her family running out of money or some other such prattle.


Ashford Academy

Tokyo Settlement, Area 11

November 18, 2015 a.t.b.


Kallen observed herself in her mirror back in her guest bedroom at the student council building. Even without the worn hood concealing her features and baggy clothes hiding her curves, she hardly recognised herself. Regrettably, she’d discarded her sword, but she kept her parrying dagger on hand and added a pistol concealed beneath her hoodie. Lastly, she tucked her phone away into her pocket.

What else do I need… Oh, my eyes. That’s a dead giveaway. She set about searching her room for sunglasses. She knew she had a pair somewhere. Nothing I can do about my facial structure, but that should be fine. Might need some hard cash, but not enough to be worth robbing.

“Ah! There you are.” Kallen placed her fortunately old and slightly damaged sunglasses atop her nose.

“And the Karen-chan illusion is complete,” Kallen said. This should keep anyone from noticing I’m Britannian.

Satisfied with her appearance, Kallen left her bedroom to track down Lelouch.


Lelouch had known he would regret acquiescing to Milly’s demand to help her student council balance their budget. He'd known that Ashford was a school for rich kids. One only had to look at the massive, elegant campus to realise that. He'd expected big numbers and frivolous expenses.

But the level of control Milly personally had over the school outside regular classes still baffled Lelouch. The only things that didn't have her fingerprints all over them were the faculty choices and lesson plans.

What does Ruben do with his time if not run the school?

Without warning, Milly groaned in frustration and let her head drop to bang onto the table.

“And Prez is the first to fall,” Rivalz commented.

“If you wouldn’t keep changing and adding things, we wouldn’t constantly have to revisit this, you know,” Shirley scolded.

“Boring,” Milly mumbled into the table.

Across the way, Lelouch heard Euphemia whisper something to Nina, who then fidgeted awkwardly before quietly saying, “True.”

“Enough of this!” Milly suddenly declared as she leapt to her feet. “Worse come to worst, we’ll charge our students a hundred quid each to kiss Lelouch or Kallen.”

Lelouch quirked an eyebrow. “For the record, Kallen and I are not students here or members of this council and are guests.”

“Fine,” Milly said. She pouted for a moment before an evil smirk overtook her. “We have our own heavy hitters, anyway. There’s Euphie here, and Shirley, and we can draft Nuuna for the younger crowd.”

“Absolutely not,” Lelouch said flatly. He would have said more, but they had an audience who were unaware that the Linettes were his sisters.

Shirley nodded her agreement.

The door to the meeting room burst open. “Ohayou, minna!”

That would be Kallen, then. Lelouch returned to his work, glad for the distraction to keep Milly busy. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed she’d gone to some effort to disguise herself. He took it to mean she planned to venture into the ghetto today.

“Excuse me, Miss,” Milly said, and Lelouch suppressed a shiver. That was her ‘innocent’ mischief voice. “Ashford Academy is not open to the public. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave. Unless you wish to help me with a little project of–”

Kallen rather bluntly said, “I’ll pass,” in English.

“Oh, it’s Kallen,” Rivalz said.

“I take it my disguise passes muster?”

“I barely recognised you,” Shirley admitted.

Milly added, “But it won’t fool old friends as soon as you open your mouth.”

Lelouch pushed aside one piece of paper in favour of another. “Heading to the ghetto?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

The cries of protest from those council members not acquainted with her brother went ignored.

“I’m sure I’m a little behind the vernacular, but I should be fine.”

“I’d not dare to imagine otherwise,” Lelouch said. He used their signal for ‘being followed’, which counted as a question in context.

Kallen nodded back. Rather unsurprising, that. It was easier to count the times when they didn’t have someone shadowing them lately. Of course, it served their purposes well enough to let themselves be followed. They were doing nothing worth hiding, and it let them choose where the inevitable confrontation would take place.

“Keep your phone on and send me and Jeremiah the address on your way.” Neither Kallen nor Lelouch needed to explicitly say what address he meant.

“Hai, Lulu-kun. Ittekimasu!”

Lelouch snorted, amused. Cute really didn’t work for Kallen. “Itterasshai, Karen-chan.”

“Will she be alright?” Rivalz asked.

“She’ll be fine,” Euphie assured him.

Milly promptly added, “Nothing can stop our Kallen. Even I had difficulty catching her when we were children.”

Such high standards.


With Lelouch informed of what she would be doing, Kallen took her leave. This time she did not want to be followed, so she opted to take Ashford Academy’s underground tunnels off campus. From there she took the train to the edge of the settlement and found her way down into the Shinjuku ghetto. Finding Naoto’s old flat from there proved easy enough. Naoto, on the other hand, remained elusive.

“Where is he?” Kallen grumbled. The door was unlocked – assuming the lock still worked – so she’d assumed Naoto was home. The flat certainly looked lived-in when she explored, and she found a picture of her family inside, so it surely had to be him who lived there.

Giving up waiting as a bad job, Kallen decided to take a more aggressive approach to finding her brother. She would ask around the ghetto. Outside, she approached a relatively smartly dressed man.

“Excuse me,” Kallen said. “Do you know Kōzuki Naoto?”

Recognition showed in the man’s eyes, and Kallen frowned. She was either incredibly lucky or Naoto held a position of significance in the ghetto. Most such positions were the kind that put one’s face on wanted posters.

“I do,” the man said. “He hasn’t been home in a few days. May I know who’s asking?”

“The very angry sister he’s been ignoring.”

“Kōzuki-sama has a sister?” the man asked, shocked.

Kallen noted the honorific used, confirming that Naoto had indeed somehow managed to become important to the ghetto. “I’m Kōzuki Karen.” She offered a shallow bow in respect. She pointed back to the building she’d just left. “I’m actually in a few of his photos upstairs, if you need proof.”

“No, that’s okay,” the man replied. “I assume you’re looking for him?”

Nodding, Kallen said, “I would be grateful if you could give me directions.”

And the man did so.


Kōzuki Resistance HQ

Shinjuku Ghetto, Area 11

November 18, 2015 a.t.b.


Any other day, Tamaki Shinichirō would have barely noticed the approaching girl, but everyone was on high alert. A major Britannian offensive was expected any day now. The surrounding buildings were evacuated, and even were they not, the girl was not someone he recognised. She could be a spy or a trap as easily as a civilian or a new recruit.

“Hey!” Shinichirō called out. He pointed his gun at the girl, ready to fire if needed. “Stay where you are, or I’ll shoot.”

The girl stayed put, but she somehow gave off an aura of indifference. Shinichirō had the distinct impression that she was gazing at him sceptically behind her sunglasses.

“Who are you?”

“Kōzuki Karen,” the girl said, much to Shinichirō’s surprise. “I need to…speak…with Nii-san.”

“Huh? Kōzuki-sama never mentioned having a little sister.”

“Unsurprising,” the purported second Kōzuki replied. “He’s never mentioned being a rebel to me.”

Shinichirō frowned. If there really were a hereto unknown sister, he would be in serious trouble if he did anything to her. On the other hand, she could also be an assassin. Although on second thought, the Brits hardly needed to stoop to assassination against a group as small as their resistance.

Decided, Shinichirō said, “Hands where I can see them. I’ll take you to Kōzuki-sama, but if you make one wrong move…” He thought it was a good threat, but he got no more response from the girl than raised eyebrows. Annoyed, he gestured inside with his gun. “Come on. Move it!”

The girl complied, advancing slowly. Shinichirō stepped aside so she could go in first with him following behind. As she walked past him, she flowed into action. One of her hands flew to his gun, and he heard a faint click. Her other moved to disarm him. He pulled the trigger before she managed the feat, but nothing happened. He tried to raise the alarm, but she landed a heavy blow to his gut with the butt of his own gun and knocked the wind out of him.

Instead of the messy end Shinichirō expected, the girl began to casually disassemble his gun into pieces. She looked down on him with what he could feel was a cold stare.

“Your incompetence will get my brother killed. You should have called for backup. You should have had me searched. You should never have even thought to leave your post without a replacement. And most of all, you shouldn’t have let me within arm’s reach.” The girl paused a moment. “That is assuming you can aim at a human-sized target one metre away. Learn how to do your job or request a different one.”

“Who the hell do you think you are!” Shinichirō said.

“If I hadn’t already given you my name, I certainly wouldn’t now.” The girl turned to head inside. “I sincerely hope you know how to put that back together.”

Shinichirō looked at his gun abandoned in pieces on the ground. Having no other outlet, he pounded the ground with his fist and cried his humiliation to the heavens.


No, if the Brits come at us this way, we still have the smaller entrance to the tunnels. We can all fit through it quickly enough, and if we close it up, no one will even realise it’s there. That won’t be a problem.

Naoto laid aside his map of the ghetto after double checking his plans for perhaps the dozenth time. There was no way they could win the upcoming fight, but their opponents needed to believe they had lost. They would put on a good show and then disappear into the abandoned metro tunnels. With any luck, the Brits would leave Shinjuku in peace for a time afterwards.

And then the sudden voice of an angry goddess broke the relative silence.

“Naoto! Come here this instant!”

Kallen! Naoto paled even as he rushed to the stairs.


Despite the shocked and wary looks around her, Kallen waited in place with her arms folded whilst tapping her index finger impatiently. The reward for her patience came in the form of an absolutely terrified older brother she’d not seen in person for far too long.

“Kallen! What are you doing here? No, this isn’t the time. You need to leave immediately!”

“Oh, no,” Kallen deadpanned. “You and I are going to have a long talk.”

Naoto visibly flinched but carried on. “Fine. But it can’t be now. You really need to leave.”

For the moment, Kallen leashed her anger. “Explain.”

“We expect to be under attack soon. Maybe even today.”

“And who is attacking?” Kallen pressed.

Naoto let out an exasperated sigh as he tried and failed to usher Kallen outside. “We’re confident it’s the purists in the Britannian military behind the plan.”

“Perfect.” Kallen pulled out her phone. She glared at Naoto when he moved to interfere. One ring was all it took before the call connected.

“Your situation?” were the first words Lelouch uttered.

Kallen briefly glanced at the onlooking crowd. Choosing her words carefully – she was sure most of her audience spoke English to some degree, but perhaps not French – she said, “You’re about to make up to me what you know you need to and win your bet all at once. The purists are preparing to attack Naoto’s group, although I don’t know when other than ‘soon’.”

Lelouch hummed in interest. “And nothing can go wrong, I imagine.”

A snort escaped Kallen. “From what admittedly little I’ve seen, it all looks very hopeless for the rebels.”

“Do you have a knightmare available?”

“One sec.” Kallen turned to Naoto. “Do you have a knightmare?” Before he could say anything, she added, “Yes or no, and don’t you dare lie.”

“A Glasgow,” Naoto hesitantly admitted, and Kallen passed the word on.

“Excellent. Commandeer it. You’ll need to keep the purists busy while I prepare once the fighting starts.”

“Gladly.” Kallen had always imagined her first real battle would be against people who had the moral high ground over Britannia, but this would be much easier and far more satisfying. “Anything else?”

“Make sure Naoto understands I’ll be taking command with him translating and giving the orders.”

That went without saying, really. An English-speaking commander would not be well-received here, and French would be even less useful.

“And do try not to win on your own,” Lelouch added. “Marrybell would never acknowledge that as my victory.”

Kallen smiled, but Lelouch remained unaware of that fact as she said, “Your flattery does not quell my displeasure.”

“Understood, Milady. Don’t die.”

“Never.” Kallen ended the call and turned her attention back to Naoto. “Congratulations, Naoto-nii. I'll be fighting on your behalf this one time.”

“No way.”

“Your only choice,” Kallen said, “is whether you work with me or against me. One way or another, I won't be left out. I have stakes in this…quaint little skirmish of yours beyond your continued existence. Unless you expect to win alone, I highly recommend you accept my assistance.”

“It's not about winning, Kallen. It's about keeping my people safe.”

Kallen bit back the sarcastic remark she wanted to make. Now was not the time to argue politics, especially not in anger. Instead, she said, “Your people are here to fight. Unless I’m mistaken, you’ve evacuated everyone else within a large radius.”

Another rebel chose that moment to burst into the building. “Kōzuki-sama! Shinjuku is being encircled!”

With a Herculean effort, Kallen stopped herself from smirking. No doubt Naoto had an escape route he could try to send her through, but his options grew more limited as time passed and more pressing matters needed attention. His face ran through a gamut of emotions as he struggled to come to a decision.

“Argh! Fine! You can stay. But you have to do everything I tell you.”

“No,” Kallen flatly said. “My job is to cause enough chaos to keep the purists busy until Lelouch arrives to take command through you. He and I have much more experience and talent at this than you. Now where is your Glasgow?”


Ashford Academy

Tokyo Settlement, Area 11

November 18, 2015 a.t.b.


“Never,” Kallen said just before ending their call.

This is too perfect, Lelouch thought to himself with triumphant glee. He started another call. Once it connected, he said, “Jeremiah, meet me at the main gate with the car.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

Lelouch hung up the call and then turned to address the obviously worried crowd gathered around him. “Sorry, Milly,” he said, “but I must take my leave. Kallen has been invited to a party, and I’m her default plus-one.”

Euphemia and Milly both glared at Lelouch for the blatant lie. They both understood French and had heard his half of his conversation with Kallen. He fended off further enquiries from the other student council members expressing their concern over the party possibly being held in the ghetto and departed for his bedroom immediately after.

Rifling through piles of paper detailing the inner workings of Area Eleven’s military, Lelouch eventually found what he wanted: the supply routes that ran through the Shinjuku area. If he wanted to win a full scale battle, he would need his forces well equipped, and who better to provide the weapons than his opponents themselves?

Grinning in anticipation, Lelouch departed the student council building to make his way off campus. When he reached the main gate, he found Jeremiah waiting for him, but he was not alone. Piled and bound at the kerb were four unconscious men in uniform, one of whom was clearly an officer. Also present were several of the guards discreetly protecting Ashford Academy.

Lelouch quirked an eyebrow at Jeremiah in question.

“These men came to ‘take you into custody until the truth is uncovered’ and had to be persuaded otherwise,” Jeremiah answered. “They claimed their sources found Lady Stadtfeld in contact with terrorists at their base of operations.”

“Ah.” This was an unexpected move against him, if one ultimately doomed to failure. Lelouch was more than a little surprised they’d managed to ID or follow Kallen, but it hardly mattered. A cover story, in the very unlikely event one proved necessary, could be easily invented. “Well,” he admitted, “they are technically right.”

“Your Highness?”

“Later, Jeremiah.” Lelouch turned to address the guards. “Ensure these men do not enter campus, but they are otherwise unimportant. Please keep up the good work.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” the guards chorused.

That done, Lelouch boarded the car with Jeremiah and they departed. A quick text to Naoto gave them directions to a safe entrance into the surrounded Shinjuku ghetto. Only one thing remained to be done. Lelouch picked up his phone.

“Marrybell?”

“Oh, Lelouch. What is it?”

“Have you heard of the latest military operation in Shinjuku?”

“Do you mean the purists’ disgusting investigation or their mobilisation?”

“The latter,” Lelouch said, which he assumed meant yes. “I’m unsure whether it’s by design or good fortune, but Kallen has been caught in their net.”

“Oh!” Marrybell said, genuine concern in her voice. “I can take care of that for you.”

Interrupting before Marrybell could suggest anything further, Lelouch said, “You misunderstand. Kallen can escape on her own should she wish, but that would be a waste of such a wonderful opportunity. I challenge you to our promised duel.”

“What!”

“We will both attempt to seize control of our side using whatever means available to us: me, the terrorists, and you, the purists. Then to the victor go the spoils.”

“You cannot be serious!” Marrybell said, clearly shocked. “You would attempt to lead terrorists to victory?”

“Why not?” Lelouch asked. “The purists are a problem for both of us, if for different reasons, that needs to be, at minimum, diminished. This seems convenient.”

No response came. Lelouch could almost sense the racing thoughts on the other end of the phone. And then finally, the decision was made.

“I accept your challenge. To the victor go the spoils.”

Lelouch let out an exultant grin. Perfect. All the conditions are met for my victory.


Viceroy’s Palace

Government Borough, Area 11

November 18, 2015 a.t.b.


Marrybell could hardly believe what she’d just heard Lelouch suggest. Of all the battles he might possibly arrange between them, the last one she’d expected was an actual battle. And he planned to side with terrorists no less! It was madness! Absolute madness!

“You cannot be serious!” Marrybell said. “You would attempt to lead terrorists to victory?” If they won, what would happen afterwards? Would they march on the settlement? What resources would they have leftover? Did he know something about the Shinjuku terrorists that she did not?

“Why not?” Lelouch asked so offhandedly casually that Marrybell feared he genuinely didn’t see the fundamental problem with his plan. Or maybe he did and had some solution to implement in the aftermath. Regardless, he continued, “The purists are a problem for both of us, if for different reasons, that needs to be, at minimum, diminished. This seems convenient.”

And there was that same ruthless pragmatism which Marrybell so tried to hide in herself. Suzaku hated it. He loathed it entirely. But more importantly, it reminded her that she was undeniably her father’s daughter.

And yet it was a convenient solution to the purist problem. Marrybell could pit them against Lelouch and watch them die fighting terrorists with a smile on her face while knowing that it would be one step closer to a stable, peaceful Japan. Everyone won, barring one of her and Lelouch. Or at least everyone thought they did.

But the truly important question was why Lelouch believed he would win. What hidden advantage did he possess? He obviously had some means of arming the terrorists if they weren’t already. Lady Stadtfeld, while powerful, was a known quantity. She alone would not be enough to turn the tide, and moreover, Marrybell had Suzaku available to pit against her, not that Lelouch knew that.

But then perhaps Lady Stadtfeld was the secret after all. Lelouch said she’d been caught in the purists’ encirclement, which meant she’d been in Shinjuku before then.

Is that it, then? Does Lelouch have some preexisting connection with one of the terrorists? If so, he might have an easier time taking and maintaining control of them than I would with the purists. Begging a favour of Clovis will only get me so much obedience.

So that’s the question, then. Do I believe the advantages of commanding a professional military and the surprise Suzaku offers outweigh the potential difficulties of obtaining and retaining that command?

Marrybell ruminated on that single question carefully. In truth, she believed she held the advantage, but her investigations into Lelouch revealed that he had actual experience commanding men, if not in real battle. She might be underestimating the task set before her.

Even so, Marrybell made the decision she knew she wanted.

“I accept your challenge. To the victor go the spoils.”

Now she just needed to obtain command of the operation. With any luck, letting Lelouch play with the purists for a while would give her the opening she needed to insert herself into the chain of command on her own. If she truly wanted to put Lelouch in his place, it was what she had to do. But if that proved untenable, she needed to speak with Clovis in advance and ask him to officially grant her control.