Anya walked in to see him pacing in front of the windows. Speaking to someone over the phone – Schneizel, perhaps? Or was it Kanon Maldini? – he looked up before reaching for the slip that she held out for him. Glancing it over, he gestured for two more minutes before turning his back on her. Crumpling up the note and tossing it into the empty bin, she left the airy office.
He seemed well enough. He had gone home early the other day because there had been something that had been affecting him. Though most, if not all, couldn’t tell, she had known. She had picked up on what everyone else would have been blind and deaf to, all thanks to her four years as his observer. Thanks to her experience and her forced familiarity with him, she had been able to tell that something had slipped into the chink in his armor and turned it into a crack that splintered across his mask.
She could only attribute this to the poison. Or was it the affair? It could very well be the affair. If it really did amount to something more than lust – which was possible though not encouraged – then she supposed it was more the affair’s fault than the poison’s, though the way she saw it, it didn’t really make much of a difference which it was. The end result was the same for both after all: incompetence.
She had no reservations about replacing Lelouch. She had worked underneath various people in the Weiss Ritter, and though he was politer and more ‘considerate’ (if that’s what you could even call it) than most, Anya would be lying if she said that his…resignation was something that would sway her in any way. Their relationship was strictly that of a business kind. To grow attached to people both in the same line of work and out of was a mistake. Even fatal in some cases, and Lelouch knew this as well as she did. In fact, it was understood among everyone, even among the stupidest of their ‘family.’ Not that it meant that everyone prescribed it as obviously shown by Lelouch Lamperouge’s poisoning, but Anya made a point of doing so. Though she wasn’t very superstitious, she believed that it was the only reason why she had managed to escape 10 years of indenture unscathed.
It was just easier that way. She had to eat and sleep somehow after all – or so she told herself.
. . .
Cornelia opened her eyes, the black and white pixels still flashing before her. Grimacing she crossed her legs, determined not to let it get the best of her; Suzaku Kururugi was neither the first good man to die nor the last. He was just one more weight on an already heavily tipping scale; to mourn for him would be a waste of what precious few resources she had left in her arsenal. It didn’t make sense to blame herself for his death. While it was true that she had been the one to override his reluctance and force him onto the task that had eventually brought his demise, she hadn’t been the one that had gone as far as bombing the Etna District. She hadn’t been the one that had wired the penthouse to send a signal so that precisely 3 minutes after crossing the threshold, Lelouch Lamperouge (for that was who the explosion had been meant for) would be blown off the face of the known universe. Not her men, but Lelouch Lamperouge. Not the charred remains of some of the last of the good and honest men in the city, but a man who was walking, talking, breathing, and living to this very day because he had been fortunate – cunning – enough to send in a proxy to Death’s waiting arms.
Cornelia looked through her office window and at the staggered horizon of the city below. She had been elected to guard this civilization. She had been chosen by the people to return their home – their world – to a state where they would be able to return to the utopia that they had once known. One mistake, and their already unraveling society would disintegrate into a savagery that was unlike their own now. One mistake, and all that they had worked for – all that Suzaku had died for – would be swallowed by the corruption encroaching upon her home.
Her eyes drawn to the crown jewel – the Estates Tower – she stared hard at its glimmering brilliance in the rising sun.
She had been elected to deliver her brethren. She had been upraised by the trust of the dying and the dead. It had been to her that they had given their lives, and by God was she going to remain true to her promise. She would tear that tower down if it was the last thing she ever did. Whether it be brick by brick or with an eruption akin to the one that took Suzaku Kururugi, she would make it so that it was no more than dust indistinguishable with the ashes of those it had burned.
The Weiss Ritter would fall. Cornelia would make sure of it. No matter the price, no matter the sacrifice, she would tear them down and bring them to justice, so help her God, if only so they may finally be held accountable for their sin.
. . .
C.C. watched her bustle around the kitchen. Seated at the table, she watched as the young woman first prepared some tea, then washed and dried the dishes, before preparing a snack for the children and then starting on making lunch. Her hands never once coming to a rest, Euphemia cheerfully chattered all throughout the busyness, offering her soft smiles that hid the shadows under her eyes and the redness of. And while C.C. chose to make no remark on her strange reaction – but was it truly strange? Would it not be more dangerous should she break down and be honest with her feelings? Especially for the sake of their children who knew no better – she couldn’t help but wonder who she was putting the act on for: was it for her or was it for herself? Was it to shield others from her private vulnerability, or was it protect herself from the inevitable dolor?
“Thank you,” she murmured. Accepting the small plate, she set aside the pastries so that she may continue observing her. Euphemia didn’t quite notice she was being studied as she flitted away and began pulling out all sorts of vegetables and sauces and meats from the fridge.
“I was thinking about crab-stuffed lobster tails, a salmon niçoise, and pizza pouches for Sakiko and Leopold. Or would you prefer a soup instead? I can make soup if you’d prefer to avoid seafood. I remember when I had Sakiko I didn’t very much like seafood. The only seafood I could keep down was miso soup. Even though it has seaweed in it, Suzaku would pre…”
She wavered as if a curtain had been pulled away to briefly reveal the audience watching her from behind the darkness. Eyes wide, she stood silently with a pale face, as if a ghost had just appeared before her eyes. Perhaps one had.
Euphemia looked up with daze and confusion. C.C. touched her shoulder gently to tether her down. Gently stealing the kitchen knife from her hands, she placed it on the cutting board as she softly said, “It’s okay to grieve.”
“…Suzaku…” She paused for a moment, wavering, as her eyes glimmered in the bright morning light. It was a particularly hot spring this year even in consideration to their surroundings. “Suzaku wouldn’t want me to be upset. He gave his life to something that he believed was the right thing. There are plenty of men who couldn’t say the same. I know he wouldn’t regret his decision.”
She stared as she brightly smiled. Sniffling, she wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. “It’s alright. We’ll be okay. Don’t worry about us. We’ll be fine. It’s fine.”
There was a long pause as the young woman smiled before there was an earth-shattering “Euphie.”
She broke down immediately.
. . .
“Would you like to see something interesting?”
Kanon tore his eyes off the man returning to the depths of the Estates Tower. He had rushed out to receive them with a whispered secret for his superior that even he hadn’t been privy to, which concerned him. There was very, very little that was kept from him; he knew everything about Schneizel, every single seemingly insignificant detail, both in his personal life and otherwise, and the fact that he was unaware of what had been brought to Schneizel’s attention was more than just slightly unnerving. It was alarming.
Tucking his hair behind his ear, he followed his superior off the helipad and away from the strong winds of the blades, and together they stood silently at the edge of the roof. Kanon ignored the view and stared at the being besides him; what was he up to now? Though he wasn’t excessively partial to theatrics, now and then, there were times when the urge would resurface and bare its teeth to the world, and apparently, this was one of those times.
“What time is it in Greenwich?”
Brows furled together, Kanon glanced down at his watch, ‘1:03PM’ forming on his lips, when he heard a muffled explosion before a brilliant burst of light blinded him. Unable to help gasping, he covered his eyes as a wave of heat rushed towards him. What had just…?
. . .
Lloyd hummed lightly to himself as he slid the needle out of his patient’s arm. Placing it on a nearby tray, he ripped a piece of white tape from a small roll and taped a patch of cotton to his arm. The owner of said arm glared at him.
“What is it?”
“Oh, nothing,” he replied airily. “Just that… I must confess, I’m rather surprised his Majesty would allow you to leave his side for three hours in the midst of this Godforsaken war.”
When he caught his expression, the scientist shrugged. “You know how I feel about you engaging in this war. It may be your body, Mr. Lamperouge, but I am the one who worked night and day and dedicated my life to saving it. It is just my own as it is yours, and quite frankly, I strongly disagree with what you choose to do with it.”
Lelouch ignored him and slipped on his shirt. Paying more attention to the buttons of than to his self-proclaimed savior, he straightened his collar and shrugged on his jacket. He knew incredibly well how much Lloyd hated him for not only choosing the path that he had but staying on said path, and he understood what it was that he was trying to hint at. And while he may just be right in that there was no better time than now for him to finally extricate himself from the Weiss Ritter, he hadn’t yet forgotten of Shirley and her question of whether he had ever considered leaving. Even if it left a bad taste in his mouth, he still thought back on that moment in time and asked himself time and time again the same question that she had so innocently asked him.
At the time he hadn’t really thought of leaving. Not because of the money but simply because he had had nowhere else to go and no one else to go to. There was no one that was vulnerable to his connections, so there was no need to so much as consider it. When Shirley had asked him, the Weiss Ritter was all that he had known at the time – or chose to know – and it had been all that his life had amounted to. But things had changed since then as had he, and if he were to be asked that same question, he would have to say that he had and on multiple occasions – especially when he was home playing with Leopold or lay awake in the early morning hours as C.C. lay curled up beside him. Those were the times when his mind was drawn to those kinds of thoughts.
Those were the times when he would lie there and think of walking Leopold to school and helping him with his homework after. Those were the times when he would sit there and think of being woken up in the ungodly hours of infancy to soothe the twins that were to be born, of the irritation and happiness and exhaustion and pride that he had always wanted since he had been younger. He imagined a world where he wouldn’t have to keep a gun close – or even keep one at all – where he wouldn’t have to live under the looming fear that he would come home one day to find his family razed to their graves. Though Lelouch slept little, he dreamt of a world where normalcy to him would be less of a holy grail and more of a reality.
Lelouch didn’t answer Lloyd. Though he owed his life to the man on more than one count, it was none of his business what he did with his life. As far as he was concerned, it was between him and C.C. only. There was but one opinion that mattered more to him than hers, and the one was that of their son, and it would be for them, by them, that he would make any such reckless decision.
. . .
“Sakiko, where’s your papa?”
It had been question that had been asked without much thought, just a passing observation. It hadn’t been the first time he had asked her the same question, nor was it one that he exclusively asked. There were times when she would ask him the same too; it was one of their favorite games. Comparing their papa’s, that was, and it always made Sakiko smile. She would always put her hands on her hips as she proudly crowed that he was off saving the world amid much applause from him, and she would always laugh, which always made him laugh. One time she had laughed so hard she had begun hiccuping, which had driven him to giggling until his sides had ached. It had been hilarious watching her laugh until a hiccup interrupted her every so often and bewildered her before she started laughing again. But this time, nothing like that happened. Instead of standing up and putting her hands on her hips, she only stared at him with a blank expression before bursting not into laughter but into tears. Leopold paled.
Panicking, he looked around, unsure of what to do. Scared, he blindly grabbed for the nearest thing in hopes that it would stop her crying. Squeezing Charlotte into his friend’s lap, he timidly waited for a change. When none happened, Leopold desperately began to push everything towards her that he thought would help her: his caramels, his star-shaped sunglasses, his red train that he liked so much better than his blue one, even the bag of marbles that Papa had given him for Christmas. As much as he loved them and as much as they were precious to him, Sakiko was precious to him too, and if letting her borrow them meant that she’d stop crying and start laughing, he would be more than happy to. He was sure Papa would understand. But when she didn’t stop, and Leopold was left with nothing but empty hands and an empty heart, his lip began to tremble before soon enough he too was in tears over his helplessness.
. . .
Kanon would go to the ends of the earth for Schneizel. Since their first meeting, he had always given him such devotion. During the past ten years he had never once betrayed him in any way, shape, or form. His behavior and treatment had been the very antithesis to that of someone like Lelouch Lamperouge, and he had been rewarded accordingly with the deepest and most personal secrets of Schneizel el Britannia, all of which he relished and was grateful for. Even now his feelings remained resolute as he listened to the somber inauguration of the gift Schneizel had bestowed upon humanity.
“Have they settled on a verdict?”
He looked up to see the benevolent smile of his leader. He shook his head. “If they continue on the route that they’re on now, the possibility of a world war isn’t too far off. They’re drawing away from the truth. Was that your intention?”
“To start a world war?” Schneizel chuckled. “Of course not. War may be a necessary evil, but it is not yet time for a third world war. The world is not yet ready for the third one. Do you truly not understand what my intentions are with this creation?”
His silence answered for him. Schneizel took a seat. Leaning back and crossing his legs, he said with a smile, “Surely you’ve not forgotten the cause for this campaign.”
“No, I’ve not.”
“Good. Very good. Then I need not say any more.”
Kanon would go to the ends of the earth for Schneizel. Though the depth of the connection may not be mutual, that was how Kanon honestly felt for his superior, but as he watched the world puzzle over the destruction they had just witnessed and the culprit of, he felt his loyalty flag. It was ever so slight, but as he watched the never-ending stream of lost identities, he started to question whether or not Schneizel’s cause was worth going this far for and if perhaps he had made a mistake a decade in the making in selecting who to empower, who to condemn, and who to dedicate his life to.
. . .
He looked up from his plate as she sat adjacent to him. “Pendragon Day just released their application.”
“Are you going to apply?”
“I’m not sure yet.” She sighed. “There’s so much going on right now, but… It would be nice for him to go. And I know Leopold wants to.”
He nodded, but she knew that he wasn’t really listening. There was something bothering him; there had been for some time, but after today, it seemed like he wasn’t here at all with her. She wondered if it had to do with the Black Knights; they had betrayed the Weiss Ritter, leaving them very, very alone with no more connections to help supplement for their glaring vulnerabilities. Before all of this the Weiss Ritter might have been able to handle all their enemies. Then they might have been able to silence the state and obliterate all those who rebelled against them, but now… They never really discussed what he did during the day. There were times when he needed to tell her both for his sake and hers, but for the most part, they didn’t really talk about it. Lelouch didn’t like bringing it home with him, and C.C. had never had any sort of interest in the affairs of her husband. She listened when Lelouch spoke of it, but that happened so rarely that it was mostly a foreign conversation to her, which had been more than fine with her until now.
“What is he having you do?”
“Buy time until we can no longer hold off total collapse.”
“The most valuable commodity available on the market.”
She grimaced. No doubt he was having a difficult time. She could scarcely imagine the pain he suffered through as he chipped away at his humanity little by little with each life he took. But C.C. knew that a ceasefire would be no better for him; while she and Leopold would most likely be safe, Lelouch would undoubtedly be incarcerated and thereafter put on death row for all of the corruption he had directed – if the Hóng Hè didn’t get to him first, that was. Though it was only by a little, the current situation was better for him. In the very least right now he had a gun raised between him and his enemies and wasn’t victim to the whims of the aggrieved.
“We need to leave Pendragon.”
“Where’s Schneizel sending us to?”
“He’s not sending us anywhere.”
She knew it wasn’t impossible. Lelouch had his money and she had her investments, her self-made fortune. She had Leopold to think of, who had already been touched by the darkness encroaching the city. How much longer would it be before it swallowed him whole? Not to mention the twins; did she truly feel comfortable with bringing them into a world like the one they were in now? But leaving would require so much precision and coordination. If they made even a single mistake, they would very well be handing themselves on a silver platter to the Weiss Ritter. They would have to design some kind of strategy to ensure their deliverance, and that required time and careful consideration and…
“I need some time. I know we don’t have much, but…”
C.C. watched him as he promised to give her the time that she needed; while she was grateful that he understood, she was too afraid to ask what he would have to do to himself to keep his promise and fulfill her request. As she held his hand, she wondered how many lives he would have to trade in for her minutes and hours of consideration, and how much of himself would be left after and if he could ever recover or if he was willingly walking beyond the point of no return just for her and their child – their children.
She felt herself on the verge of tears.
. . .
Anya’s eyes flickered up when she heard the quiet chime. Staring, she watched her charge as he slipped his phone out from the inside pocket of his jacket and stonily read the message. She turned away, pretending not to pay attention. Glancing at his faint reflection in the glass, she found the slightest inflection in his expression; it was barely there, but she knew it was there, and she knew who the cause was for such vulnerability. Not that she would tell anyone that the Weiss König’s wife – who had already been having an affair with her superior – was texting the capobastone during the daytime while he was at “work,” but as she sat there in the passenger seat, she couldn’t help but wonder just how badly the poison was affecting him to make such reckless decisions. Before he had at least made a point in putting on the farce of indifference towards her, but now? Did he even care if he was caught or not?
She turned to the quiet streets of their city. She supposed he didn’t particularly care, or if he did, there was just something else that was taking precedence. What was so important she had no idea, but it must be of incalculable value if he was taking the risk of so much as hinting towards betrayal. She herself didn’t quite understand why he chose to be so stupid, but then again…
Lelouch Lamperouge had always been like that, hadn’t he? Even long before he had joined the Weiss Ritter, he had always been far too sensitive and wanting, and even now, even after everything that he had done and said, that humanness still remained with him, didn’t it? That greed and recklessness and desire all still lay within him, was still embedded under layers and layers of corruption, and protected him from ever becoming the Weiss König’s successor, didn’t it?
She didn’t understand, but maybe she didn’t need to. Her role was, after all, to merely observe and note. The analysis, the planning, the commandeering was all someone else’s pleasure, was it not? So Anya simply sat and did her job as had been asked of her and did no more and no less.