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Code Geass: Nunnally of the Rewind

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Stage 1: The False Angel

"Your Majesty, it is time for your speech."

Nunnally vi Britannia, the 100th Empress of the Holy Britannian Empire, sent a hollow smile towards the man kneeling in front of her, trying to mask her despair as she awaited her most hated duty. She almost hoped it would become easier with time, but of course it didn't. She'd been doing this for five years, and the pain had just become worse, like a festering wound that refused to heal.

Five years.

Five long, painful years since the so-called 'Demon Emperor' Lelouch vi Britannia had been stabbed through the chest by Zero, the man revered by the masses as the Hero of the Revolution. The man who, from that day onwards, became her knight and protector, and if she ever strayed from the path of righteousness, would quickly become her executioner; a leash, if you will. It was the same leash who knelt in front of her right now.

Nunnally nodded towards him, and he stepped behind her to wheel her towards the stage where she would once more perform this charade for the ungrateful sheep of the empire.

As he took her there, Nunnally reached up and held onto one of Zero's gloved hands, seeking whatever comfort she could from the man who'd killed her brother. After all, while Suzaku had killed Lelouch, he was still her best friend. Plus, from his trembling hands, she could see that he would enjoy the spectacle awaiting them about as much as she did.

"And now an address by Her Royal Majesty, the 100th Empress of the Holy Britannian Empire!" Nunnally plastered a fake smile onto her face, waving at the crowd as Zero directed her towards the podium where she would spit at her brother's memory to protect this peace, this Zero Requiem, which was her brother's final legacy.

When they reached the low podium, Zero let go of her wheelchair and stepped back, standing towards her right as a show of solidarity. She, on the other hand, looked at the people gathered in front of her and barely managed to hold back her impotent rage when she saw the celebratory atmosphere in the area. Even from there, she could see the happiness and relief radiating from the people gathered in front of her. Instead, she gave the crowd and the rolling cameras her most charming smile.

"Citizens of Britannia, and people all around the world! It is a great honor to be amongst you today, to celebrate this unprecedented and miraculous era of world peace and cooperation!" The crowd cheered once more, and Nunnally clenched her hands into tight fists, smiling as the world celebrated her dear brother's death. Carefully unclenching one of her fists, she raised a hand to silence the crowd, so she could get this over with.

"I am so happy, and so grateful, to see how we have moved past the tragedy and hatred that had plagued our species for millennia, and have created a peaceful world that all of us can be proud of." She carefully let go of a fraction of the cheerful mask she put on for the crowd, and let the world have a glimpse at a fraction of the crushing despair that had been her constant companion ever since her brother died.

"It took many deaths, and so many sacrifices to get us where we are, but the world we have today will stand as an eternal monument to the souls who made this peace a reality." Her eyes hardened in resolve. "I, along with my colleagues in the UFN, will keep working together with Zero and the Black Knights, and stand together as stalwart protectors of this world! We will ensure that the fires of war and hatred never ravage our world again!"

And now, the hard part.

"Lelouch vi Britannia was an unrepentant tyrant and a complete monster." Her heart clenched painfully. "In his unceasing hatred of all that is just, and greed for unlimited power, he committed countless atrocities that left us scarred and battered." She felt bile crawl up into her throat. "The pain he caused, the wounds he left on the world…it will take us a long time to heal from them." She knew that better than most; the wounds he'd left her with would never heal. "But from his tyranny, we learned a valuable lesson. Greed and hatred will not lead us to a brighter future; only through peace and cooperation can we destroy this vicious cycle! We will never let tyrants and monsters control our destiny ever again!"

Her eyes stung, she had a massive headache, and she felt horribly nauseous. The pain and stress was killing her heart, and it felt like her body could go into shock at any second. Still, she kept herself upright. If she really did end up dead because of this speech, then she could at least see her brother again.

"Lelouch vi Britannia is dead. Never again shall he walk this earth, and never again shall the world ever bear witness to another like him!" The world took these words as reassurance.

Only her and a few others knew she was laying a curse upon this world.

They'd all better hope this peace remained, because the messiah who'd saved them all was gone forever. There would be no salvation for the world if it fell into chaos again.

Mustering up the last vestiges of strength remaining in her body, Nunnally raised her fist in the traditional Britannian salute.

"To peace and prosperity! ALL HAIL BRITANNIA!"

"ALL HAIL BRITANNIA!"

"ALL HAIL NUNNALLY!"


As soon as they reached the privacy of Nunnally's residence, Suzaku watched as her carefully controlled mask fell apart. He watched as the strong leader of the world's greatest empire fell away, and a weak, sickly girl full of emotional distress took her place. Every year, she looked even worse than the last.

"Suzaku, I-" She covered her mouth, and he immediately rushed her to the bathroom. He held her hair back as watched helplessly as the girl puked her guts out. Just another thing he got used to after five years. She would give her speech, vomit, and collapse from the effort. Most likely, she'd suffer from a horrible fever and would remain under the weather for days.

As he'd predicted, Nunnally collapsed like a marionette without its strings as soon as she stopped dry heaving. He had to hold her up as she cleaned her mouth and washed her face, and he rushed her out of there as soon as she was done. She needed rest, and she needed it quick.

"Sayo-" Before he could even finish calling the maid, she appeared from the shadows and frowned at him. The maid still hadn't forgiven him for his part in Lelouch's death, and he doubted she ever would.

"I'll take it from here, Zero." The maid shoved him aside and took over. He followed the maid as she escorted Nunnally back to her room. One glance at the young empress was enough to fill him with shame, his eyes stinging with unshed tears.

Nunnally looked like she could die any second. Her face was worryingly pale, and she looked completely spent. Every breath sounded labored and heavy, and her body had sunk into the wheelchair as if she didn't even have enough strength left to hold herself up. Her eyes were shut, and rimmed with dark circles. From the exhaustion on her face, you'd think she'd run a marathon.

Seeing her like this was so painful. Suzaku could only imagine just how much it would've hurt Lelouch, to see his beloved sister like this.

Lelouch…

His once best friend, and now just another regret, another person he could count among the thousands he'd killed. He remembered back when killing Lelouch was the only thing driving him forward. He'd wanted revenge for Euphie, for the future his friend had taken away from him. And now…

He glanced at Nunnally once more, before Sayoko took her inside and locked the door. The 100th empress looked defeated. Empty.

He'd done this to her. He murdered her brother, destroyed her family, and had the gall to stick around in her life as a specter of the past and a gruesome reminder of the brother he'd stolen from her.

He didn't know how she'd found it within herself to forgive him, but she had. Not completely, but enough to tolerate his presence and still consider him a friend.

He'd never be able to forgive himself though. Killing Lelouch would forever be the biggest regret in his miserable life.


After Sayoko had helped her change, Nunnally sent her out with orders to let nobody into her room. She didn't want anyone to see the 100th Empress, the most powerful woman in the world, shatter like cheap glass.

She'd cried for hours. She wailed, screamed, threw a tantrum, and had begged for her brother to perform another miracle and come back to her. Why did he have to die? Why did he sacrifice himself for this so-called 'gentle' world? Why did this world, one where her brother was so hated, the world he'd died for, still exist?

"Why?!" she had already been screaming for hours, and her voice was beyond hoarse; it was actually starting to fade. "Why did you leave me? Why did you have to die for this so-called peace?" Her eyes were red, filled with grief and rage. "I HATE THIS PEACE! DO YOU HEAR ME?! I HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT IT!"

She'd lived in this world without pointless war and endless strife for five years, as the beloved empress of the Holy Britannian Empire. Everyone loved her. The masses spoke of her with devout adulation. Even the Japanese, who had suffered for years under the empire, and had even suffered under her own rule as Viceroy, revered her. All the men wanted her. All the women wanted to be her. It was like the entire world existed to please her, the beloved 'Angel of Britannia'.

She hated it. She hated all of it.

The masses loved a carefully crafted lie. The peaceful world they lived in was built entirely upon deception. The gentle, kind and beloved empress of the world was a sham, a front put on by a girl whose cold, dead heart could only feel grief and hatred.

She looked around at her room in desolation. The old imperial suite, the room that had once belonged to her brother, had been erased in the blast that consumed the Imperial Palace and the city of Pendragon. Along with it, all her brother's possessions, everything he'd owned and had considered valuable, had been completely destroyed. She didn't have anything he owned to remember him by. He'd left her unimaginable wealth, a whole empire, designs to a new capital city and an imperial palace, both designed solely for her…

She wanted none of it. All she wanted right now was something she could hold, something she knew he'd once owned and cherished. She wanted a connection to her big brother, some tangible reminder of his existence. However, all he'd owned since the blast were the clothes on his back, and back then, she wasn't desperate enough to rob his cooling corpse for some sort of keepsake.

All she had left were her memories, a few videos, and…

She pressed a discreet button on her nightstand, and let it scan her fingerprint.

Slowly, a secret panel on the wall in front of her slid upwards to reveal the most precious item in her entire room. It wasn't any gold, jewelry, or any items one would conventionally consider a 'treasure'. Rather, it hid an item so priceless, so valuable to her, that no riches in the entire world could ever replace it. After all, the work of art that lay within was the only one of its kind.

In front of her bed, hidden so that nobody else could ever lay their eyes on it, was the visage of the most hated man in the world.

He was dressed in full imperial finery, standing in front of a soft blue background and staring off in the distance with one hand outstretched gracefully, and the other holding his hat to his chest. His beautiful face was set in a peaceful expression, and his eyes shone with vitality and benevolence. He held himself with the grace and power of a true leader, one the world had never seen before and would never see again.

It was the visage of the greatest man to have ever walked the earth, untainted and unmarred in any way. And, as it always did, his sheer beauty and grace took her breath away. This was her brother, portrayed not as a demon, but as the wise and benevolent ruler he could've been if the world wasn't cruel and unfair.

It was, in Nunnally's humble opinion, the most beautiful thing in the entire world.

Due to its contents, this portrait's existence was a closely guarded secret. Owning anything which depicted the Demon Emperor in a positive light was frowned upon, and would invite both suspicion and scandal. It was common knowledge that nobody with any decency would ever own something that portrayed Lelouch as anything except a complete monster, because that's who he was to the world. If not for the thoughtfulness of one man, this portrait wouldn't even exist.

She'd tried more than a hundred times, but there was no way in the world to thank Jeremiah Gottwald for this beautiful gift. Her brother's 'Knight of Orange' had asked for this portrait as a final boon. He'd told her brother that he wanted just a single keepsake to remember his lord.

Of course, Jeremiah hadn't commissioned the portrait for himself. Even though she knew the man would love nothing more than a small memento from Lelouch, her brother's knight had the painting commissioned for her. Somehow, he'd known that she would either forgive her brother for his 'crimes', or would figure out the entire plan.

Either way, this small reminder was one of the few things in her life that kept her well-adjusted and grounded in reality.

"I'm back, onii-sama." She whispered lovingly.

…okay, maybe she wasn't all that well-adjusted, or grounded in reality. Still, she used to be worse. At least she wasn't engaging her brother's portrait in hours-long conversations; she'd moved past.

Exhausted from the vomiting spell after her speech, hours of constant wailing and screaming, and a budding fever, Nunnally leaned back into her bed and just admired her brother as she gave her mind and body a little respite. After all, as much as she hated this responsibility…she still had an empire to run.


'…this is a horrible idea.'

Suzaku didn't really know what he was doing here, standing in front of Nunnally's door without his Zero outfit on. Lelouch's death anniversary was always hard on her, and she was probably still mourning her brother. It was hard on him too, but he hadn't been forced to stand up on stage and spit on Lelouch's memory like she had.

Right now, the last thing she needed was to see her brother's killer in front of her.

'Then…why am I here?'

To comfort her? Give her company? Provide a shoulder to cry on?

No.

He, selfish as always, was here because he needed someone, anyone, to see him; not as Zero, but as the man who hid behind a dead man's mask. Hell, he'd even take Kallen over being alone right now, even though the girl would sooner stab him than give him any words of comfort. Plus, she wasn't in Pendragon right now.

As for Nunnally…well, her reaction could be a lot better, or a lot worse.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked.

"You may enter." Her voice sounded weak and listless.

'…well, there's no turning back now.'

Suzaku stepped inside the room and looked at the girl he'd sworn to protect, now that Lelouch could no longer be there for her. Nunnally had her thick emotional walls down for the first time in a long while, and the girl in front of him looked as broken as the brother he'd killed.

Her defeated posture, her dull, listless expression and her cold, empty eyes…all of it reminded him of what Lelouch had turned into as he slowly drove away everything he'd considered precious. A soulless husk, desperately waiting for death.

"Suzaku…" her voice was hoarse and faded, as if she'd been screaming for hours. Her eyes were red and puffy, and the dark circles under her eyes were more prominent than ever. "Thanks for not wearing that awful costume today." He didn't know how she could tell without having taken so much as a glance at him, but he wouldn't put anything past Nunnally. She could probably hear the difference in the fabric.

"I'd imagined that it was the last thing you'd want to see right now, Your Majesty." Suzaku said, looking around at the empress's room. It was a complete mess, with various valuable trinkets and priceless artifacts covering the entire floor. Some of them had even marked the walls around them. Sayoko would have her work cut out for her in the morning.

And without meaning to, his eyes landed on the portrait in front of the empress's bed. His heart clenched painfully as he looked at the beautiful visage of the best friend he'd murdered. Seeing him like this, so peaceful, so alive, tore at his mind and filled him with guilt. His eyes stung when he remembered that he was the reason Lelouch was dead.

Why had Nunnally forgiven him? Sure, she'd tried to kill him in a fit of hysteria the last time he'd seen her during Lelouch's death anniversary, but he could hardly blame her when he'd shown up in her room, dressed as her brother's killer, on the day he'd died no less. It was a stupid move, and he still wondered what he was thinking when he did that.

The fact that she'd stopped, and had apologized profusely for what she did, was more than anyone else would've done in her position.

He just couldn't understand her baffling display of forgiveness, especially since he knew just how much her brother had meant to her. Even Lelouch, when he actually thought about it, had forgiven him for stealing his sister away and using her as a tool to control Zero. He'd even managed to forgive him for the destruction of Tokyo and Nunnally's 'death', before they'd found out that Schniezel had managed to spirit her away for his own purposes.

Suzaku, on the other hand, had never even tried to forgive Lelouch for what he'd done to Euphie. Instead, he'd hunted his friend down and had sold him off to the emperor for the power to pursue a foolish and idealistic dream. He'd even used Nunnally against him, manipulating her into becoming Zero's shackles.

And in the end, despite all of that, Lelouch trusted Suzaku to protect his sister while he set out to create a gentle world where she could live a happy and safe life.

And what about Suzaku? What about the fool who thought the end never justified the means, who espoused his own brand of justice, one that led him to slaughter his own people?

Suzaku stood by as his broken friend deliberately muddied his own name, pushed away every single person he'd ever loved, even the sister he'd give his life for. He sacrificed his reputation, his friends, even Nunnally's love, to usher in an era of peace and cooperation. It cost Lelouch everything, but he paid the price anyway, with a smile on his face.

His dearest friend, one of the kindest and most selfless people in the entire world despite everything he suffered, died alone and unloved.

And it was his fault.

"Really? Tears, Suzaku?" her tired and bitter voice said, mockingly. Nunnally was finally looking at him, with a sad smile that reminded him far too much of Lelouch during those final days.

He reached up and wiped his eyes. Sure enough, he was crying. As if he still had the right to mourn Lelouch's death, after everything he'd done.

"I don't belong here." he whispered, trying to swallow the lump that was starting to choke him. "He should've been here, standing where I am. Lel-" Suzaku gritted his teeth. Saying his name aloud hurt way too much. "he should be here, protecting you."

"You're wrong."

Nunnally's face was twisted into a tired grimace, tears glistening at the edge of her eyes.

"You do belong there, Suzaku. Protecting the ruler of Britannia, the most powerful individual in the world, and the biggest target for Britannia's enemies…you're a great knight." The exhausted empress clenched her teeth. in anger. "The one who doesn't belong here…is me."

"Nunnally…"

"We both know it, Suzaku." She glared down at her hands. "My brother was a true leader of men; an emperor without equal. I'm just a liar, pretending to be an angel for the cameras, when all I am is a hateful and bitter woman with no aims, no goals, no skills…the only thing I can do is protect the legacy of a man far greater than I will ever be."

"You know that's not-" "WE BOTH KNOW IT'S TRUE!" She'd already lost most of her voice somewhere during the last few hours, so the scream didn't come out as loud as it would otherwise. "We both know that I've done absolutely nothing to bring the world where it is. My brother did all the work, made all the plans and sacrifices, while Schniezel is the one who actually runs the show now. I'm just…" she sniffled. "I'm a bloody mascot for the empire, a cute, non-threatening face for its new public image."

"Maybe that's what the empire needs right now, Nunnally." Her response was a dark, bitter laugh.

"The empire doesn't need me, Suzaku; it's been designed to run perfectly without me." She sniffed. "The only thing I'm supposed to do is sit on the throne, smile for the cameras, soak up all the positive attention, and live a life of undeserved luxury."

Suzaku didn't have a reply to that. It was, after all, completely true. The Zero Requiem wasn't designed with a still-living Nunnally in mind; Lelouch had believed her dead, and had always planned on Schniezel running the empire as Zero's puppet.

Then, after they found out that Nunnally was alive, Lelouch adjusted his plans to make his sister the empress, but left the 'mundane' task of governance to Prime Minister Schniezel. Nunnally would be the face of the empire, the kind and benevolent ruler who would be the antithesis of everything the Demon Emperor stood for.

Suzaku still remembered the meeting where they'd planned out her role in the new world. Lelouch had laughed like a madman when he'd put the whole thing together.

"It'll be the perfect bit of irony!" he'd declared, with a dramatic wave of his hand, and an evil smirk on his face. "Schniezel, the ideal representation of old Britannia's social darwinism, will run the empire as Zero's thrall, and Nunnally, someone Britannia had discarded like refuse, will rule the greatest superpower in the world!"

When Suzaku questioned Nunnally's ability to handle the backlash of being the demon's sister, he dismissed those concerns with a casual wave.

"The whole world will know that she wants nothing to do with me, I'll make sure of it. Besides, my sister's strong. There's nothing in the world she can't handle." The fond smile that had replaced Lelouch's evil smirk was mesmerizing. "And that's only if the entire world isn't charmed by the beauty of my sister's heart and pure intentions, which it will be." he'd said.

Suzaku believed him. And, as always, Lelouch had been right.

Nunnally slouched even further, her strength completely giving out.

"Your silence says enough." She smiled sadly. "How could he think that all of this, any of this, could ever replace him?" She looked up at Suzaku in desperation. "Suzaku, why did he leave me, even though he knew just how much I loved him? Did my feelings really mean so little to him?"

However, Lelouch, for all his genius, was unable to predict that Nunnally would completely reject a world without him.

"I-"

"Actually," Nunnally interrupted him before he could say another word. "Come here." Her tone left no space for any argument.

He dutifully walked towards the empress, wondering what she wanted from him now. Then, as soon as he reached her…she grabbed his hand. He stiffened.

'So you're going to play that card, Nunnally.' Suzaku sighed in irritation. He thought he could just tell her a sweet lie to make her happy, but he knew she'd be able to tell he was lying now. She was just making everything harder on herself. She was wasting Lelouch's sacrifice for her own self-satisfaction.

"You can answer my question now, Suzaku." she whispered.

Fine. If she wanted the truth, that's exactly what he'd give her.

"No, Your Majesty, Your feelings meant everything to him."

"Then why did he-"

"Because after the Damocles, he thought you didn't love him anymore. In fact, he probably died thinking you hated him more than anything else in the world." Nunnally's eyes widened as she felt the truth in his words. Clearly, she'd just wanted reassurance; she wanted his confirmation that despite everything that happened, all the hateful words and actions, Lelouch still believed in Nunnally's love for him.

She let go of his hand. In response, he caught it before she could move it away.

"Suzaku-"

"No, Your Majesty." the venom in his voice surprised both of them, his own eyes tearing up once again. "You wanted the truth, right? I'll give you the truth." He took a few deep breaths to calm himself down.

It didn't work, and that just made him even angrier.

"When you 'died', Lelouch completely lost his will to live. He's essentially been planning his own death ever since." Nunnally's face went pale. "While you were cozying up with Schniezel," he almost wished the Prime Minister was here, so he could punch him. "Lelouch was in mourning, carefully crafting his Zero Requiem because he couldn't imagine living in a world without you."

"Suzaku," her voice was quiet, and horrified. "Please, tell me you're not implying what I think you are." When he heard the pain in Nunnally's voice, the knight could almost imagine Lelouch's portrait glaring at him, its serene expression twisted into the eleventh prince's famous scowl.

'What the hell are you doing, Suzaku?' he could hear his friend's enraged growl. 'You're her knight, aren't you? Your job is to protect her!'

'I'm sorry, Lelouch,' he prayed his friend could forgive him for what he was about to do, 'but I won't let anyone misunderstand you ever again.'

"Your Majesty, while you were too busy listening to Schniezel's lies, your brother was crumbling on the inside." He could feel vindictive satisfaction at seeing Nunnally's face grow paler and her eyes get wider with each word. "The Zero Requiem was nothing more than him trying to use his suicide to create a peaceful world, while also making sure nobody would mourn his passing."

"But…I'm not dead" she whispered, her eyes wide and face twisted in horror. "He knew I was alive. Why didn't he just cancel the whole thing as soon as he knew I was alive?! It-"

He knew what she was going to say.

'It's not my fault!'

"I'm sorry, Your Majesty. However, the moment you sided with your half-brother and declared Lelouch your enemy, was also the moment you signed your own brother's death warrant." He knew he shouldn't be as harsh as he was being right now, but a part of him was still mad at the role Nunnally played in Lelouch's death. "And the moment you took the key to the Damocles, not only associating yourself with the death of millions, but also killing thousands with your own two hands, was the moment Lelouch realized that if he didn't take the blame for your actions, the entire world would hate you forever."

The horror on Nunnally's face currently reminded him of the moment when she realized that Lelouch didn't have a miraculous return planned out, that he really was gone forever.

Suzaku was destroying another rosy illusion she'd let herself believe, but he couldn't help but feel like she deserved it for prying into something he'd tried to keep buried for five years.

"This is the truth you were looking for, Your Majesty. After you declared him your enemy, nothing could've save him from the Requiem." He gave her another bitter glare. "This is the truth I've been trying to protect you from all this time."

"…lying." she whispered.

"Huh?"

"YOU'RE LYING!" The accusation was so shocking, so unbelievable, that he stumbled back, losing his grip on her in the process. "Stop lying, Suzaku! It-" She choked back a sob, tears flowing from eyes wide with horror. "It can't be my fault! I CAN'T BE THE REASON HE'S DEAD!"

His eyes were wide with disbelief. Nunnally could always figure out whether someone was lying or not just by holding their hands. Had she lost the ability?

'No,' he realized, his body stiffening with almost uncontrollable anger 'She's just indulging in mindless escapism, even after she forced me to reveal the truth!'

"My brother knew the true nature of humanity." she whispered to herself in a hollow voice. "He had no choice. His plan was the only way to create a peaceful world." Suzaku knew that Nunnally herself didn't believe any of what he was saying. "I didn't kill my brother…I'm not responsible for his death. I'm not-"

Suzaku's anger finally boiled over.

"Open your eyes and stop running from the truth, Nunnally!" He snarled in rage. "Your brother committed many crimes, but at least he always accepted responsibility for every single one of them! Unlike you, Lelouch would never run from his own mistakes!"

"You're wrong!" Nunnally's voice was desperate. "He died because he just couldn't give up on his selfless dream of world peace! Please, Suzaku!" She was sobbing. "It can't be my fault! It just…can't!"

"He could've done it without dying if you hadn't driven him into a corner, Nunnally."

"You're lying!" She screeched. "My brother was the smartest person in the world! If there was any other way, he would've found it! It was his kindness that killed him!" She was crying again. "He was just too selfless to put himself or his sister's feelings before the rest of the world!"

Suzaku gritted his teeth in anger.

His best friend's deep love for Nunnally was one of the few constants in this world. No matter what happened, she would be the one person Lelouch would love above all else. And now, to see her deny that…

"Lelouch loved you more than you could ever know, Nunnally. He died to make your wish come true."

"My wish?" Suzaku flinched when he saw the pure, unadulterated hatred Nunnally was directing towards him. "You think this was my wish? A world where the person I loved more than anything else is dead?!"

"What about the Damocles, Nunnally?"

She froze.

"You turned into his enemy. You fought against him, even tried to kill him, for the exact same world you're living in right now! If it wasn't for me-"

"…get out."

"Huh?"

"I said, GET! OUT!" And then, to his horror, Nunnally pulled a gun from under her pillow and aimed at him; her eyes full of insanity that reminded him of Lelouch at his worst.

'Live!'

He could hear Lelouch's voice desperately scream at him. The order Lelouch had engraved into his mind compelled him to survive, to save himself from the enraged empress who was pointing her gun at him. But why was it activating right now? It hadn't even activated in Kaminejima, back when both he and Lelouch had shot at each other. Sure, Lelouch wasn't actually trying to kill him, but…

'She's not bluffing!' The realization was sudden and horrifying. 'If I don't leave right now, she'll actually kill me!'

Sweet, innocent Nunnally was holding a gun with the intent to commit cold-blooded murder. The order Lelouch had cursed him with left no room for doubt; the girl in front of him was a danger to his life. This was the first time since knowing his identity that Nunnally had aimed a gun at him with the intent to take his life.

Obeying the wishes of both vi Britannia siblings, Suzaku carefully backed away from the crazed empress and, opening the door behind him, removed himself from her presence. The geass compelling him to live finally faded back into the deep recesses of his subconscious mind, and he collapsed right in front of the room he'd just come out of, his mind racing.

'What the hell was that?! Nunnally was actually about to kill me!'

The shock and adrenaline slowly cleared the fog of rage muddling his thoughts, and he finally realized what he'd done in that room, the reason Nunnally had threatened to kill him. The anger faded away to give room to another emotion he was extremely familiar with; shame.

'What the hell was I doing back in there?' The shame he felt was the same. 'Wasn't killing her brother enough? Why do I keep showing up to haunt her on Lelouch's death anniversary? I didn't even bother listening to anything she had to say!'

If he'd actually paid attention back then, it wouldn't have taken him this long to realize that she never said it wasn't her fault; instead, she kept on insisting that it couldn't be her fault. They both knew it would be a lie, but right there, in that room, that's what she had needed.

'She was just a girl who wanted reassurance that her brother's death wasn't her fault!' He glared at his own hands, stained down to the bone with her brother's blood. 'I've lied to her so many times, but the one time she begged for me to lie to her, to protect her from the truth…all I had for her was bitter cynicism. What kind of monster am I?'

The same kind who killed her brother. The same kind who'd killed so many others for the sake of a foolish dream, who'd drowned in his own ideals. Why was he a knight, when all he ever did was hurt or betray everyone he was supposed to protect? He'd never protected any of the people he'd sworn to protect, because he wasn't a protector; he was a killer. Hurting people is the only thing he was good at.

Euphie, Charles zi Britannia, Lelouch…will Nunnally end up like them? Will she end up dying in front of him, while he looks on helplessly? Will he stand by with cold indifference, as her existence was erased by the world's enraged consciousness?

'Or,' he thought bitterly, his vision blurring with unshed tears. 'will I end up putting a sword through her chest, staining my hands with the blood of another old friend? Will I murder her too, just like I murdered Lelouch?'

Lelouch would've done the right thing, known all the right answers. Hell, everything would've been better if Lelouch was still here. Even if the world was at peace right now, Nunnally wasn't, and neither was Suzaku. Hell, nobody who cared about Lelouch was happy living in a world where they couldn't even mourn him without being looked at with disgust and suspicion!

Crazed laughter pierced through his silent reverie; a symphony of insanity, despair and hopelessness. It was a sound he was intimately familiar with, since he used to hear it all the time from Lelouch's chambers when he thought nobody could hear him. Except now…it wasn't in his voice.

He could hear Nunnally's voice from behind her door, a laugh of insanity spilling out from the empress's room as she fell apart before she'd even begun rebuilding herself.

"Lelouch, please come back!" he prayed, choking back a sob. "We're falling apart without you!"

Suzaku didn't know what to do anymore, so he did the only thing he could.

He curled up on the floor, and wept.


Thousands of miles away, a woman was walking away from the local Pizza Hut, wearing baggy clothing and a hood to hide her features. Normally, nobody would give her more than a second glance. Unfortunately for her, the people tracking her were waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

As soon as she got out of the public eye, a sniper rifle's muzzle flashed in the distance, and the woman fell with a bullet in her head. The hood had fallen back, revealing long green hair that fanned out behind her. Three men in dark uniforms crept towards her, their rifle trained on the supposedly 'dead' woman. All of them were on edge; she'd given them the slip far too many times already for them to be careless.

Well…almost all of them.

"Are you sure we actually need all these precautions?" One of them whined. "Even she can't recover from something like that anytime soon." A voice on their radio sighed in irritation at his words.

"Will you just shut up for once, Tamaki?" Tamaki bristled in indignation. "Ugh, why did you guys bring this idiot?"

"Hey!"

"Well, you asked us to come with everyone we could!" Another voice responded. "Plus, if she actually wakes up, we can at least use him as a distraction." The other two laughed, but Tamaki didn't look amused.

"That's it, Sugiyama! You're no longer invited to the grand reopening of Café Zero!" The man named Sugiyama smirked.

"Minami's still invited, he'll let me in once he's inside." He shot back. The third guy, Minami, shook his head with an amused smile on his face.

"Let's finish this up first, alright? The Empress won't be happy if we fail again." He replied. Tamaki and Sugiyama stared at him, then at each other.

Then, they started laughing.

"Oh look, Minami's going all gaga for the 'Angel of Britannia' again!" Tamaki snarked, making the bespectacled man blush. "You gonna ask for her hand in exchange for the girl, stud?" Sugiyama snickered like an idiot.

"Don't forget to invite me to the wedding, man!" Both Tamaki and Sugiyama laughed at that.

Believe it or not, these people were all part of an elite task force that was hand-picked to carry out a secret mission assigned by the Empress of Britannia herself, for their capabilities and their loyalty to the one they'd sworn themselves to.

The voice on the radio growled in irritation.

"Can you idiots stop messing around for once? It's been almost five years, and this is the closest we've been so far! Don't mess it up!" That killed the jovial mood, and the men returned to the mission.

A moment later, the voice replied again, this time without the anger.

"I'm sorry, you three. It's just…she keeps leading us around by the nose and giving us the slip every damn time, and I don't want to keep failing for another year. Plus…" she hesitated before replying. "I wanted to mourn in peace today, but I'm out here doing this shit. It's not doing much for my mood."

"We get it." Tamaki replied, his tone serious for once as he checked the green-haired girl with his foot before picking her up. "None of us feels like doing this today, of all days, but we've got our orders." All three looked morose as they dragged the girl towards a truck. When they reached it, Tamaki knocked thrice.

"We're here, Kallen. Open 'er up."

The truck opened up, revealing a girl with spiky red hair and a familiar-looking canister. The red-haired girl pulled the girl in, and shot her in the head again. All three winced.

"Kallen, wasn't that a bit unnecessary?" Sugiyama asked, looking at the redhead warily. She shrugged in response.

"Just being safe. Now, leave; I've got to dress her up for the occasion." she replied, clear distaste in her voice as she shouldered the other girl and dragged her to a table, where a straitjacket was folded neatly. The men hopped out for a moment, waiting nervously as Kallen finished with their captive.

They took the next gunshot as their cue to climb back inside. Sure enough, the girl was all dressed up and ready for confinement. Sugiyama went to open the capsule, as Tamaki and Minami helped Kallen carry their prisoner. Once she was actually inside though, Sugiyama hesitated.

"This feels so wrong." He looked at the green-haired girl in sympathy. "This is the same thing Clovis did to her." Tamaki nodded, also looking uncomfortable.

"Without her, Japan would still be Area 11. You sure we should be doing this, Kallen? This ain't right!"

Kallen just sighed and pushed Sugiyama out of the way, closing the capsule herself.

"Hey, what the hell?" Sugiyama's voice was laced with irritation, but he quailed when Kallen sent a glare his way. Then, she looked at Tamaki, her glare intensifying.

"You tell me, Sugiyama, Tamaki; does it look like we're doing the right thing?" She waved at the capsule, as it closed around their captive.

"Then-"

"What do you want me to do, dumbass?" she snapped back at her colleague, her face twisted into a menacing scowl. "I don't like this either, but we have our orders. All we can do is obey them."

"Kal-"

"SHUT UP!" She screeched at her oblivious colleague, her face turning an unpleasant puce. "If you really feel like doing 'the right thing', then go back in time and stop yourself from betraying our leader, you goddamn traitors!"

After that, Kallen stormed back into the drivers' area of the truck, leaving the three men behind to stare at each other. Tamaki looked back at the capsule, one that looked so much like the canister they'd stolen from Clovis all those years ago. Except now, they were the ones confining the immortal on behalf of a Britannian royal. Tamaki sighed in frustration.

"Well…don't wanna waste all those years we spent chasing her down, do we?" He silently made his way to the canister and started pumping it full of a strong sedative that would keep the immortal woman contained.

"I don't like this at all…" Sugiyama grumbled, still not fully on-board with the idea. "Lel-Zero wouldn't want Lady C.C. to go through this again." Minami just gave him a flat look.

"You're just complaining because you think she's hot." Sugiyama was about to retort, but Tamaki interjected before he could.

"Sugiyama's right, my best bud would hate this." Tamaki smiled wistfully at the capsule, remembering Zero's first public appearance. "But we're the reason he's not around to command us anymore, so we don't got the right to complain."

Sugiyama and Minami looked down in shame as they digested Tamaki's words; they knew he was right. The redhead in question pulled out a radio.

"Hey Kallen, we're good to go." The truck's engine roared, and then Kallen responded.

"Tell the other idiots to buckle in, we're in for a long trip." The three men didn't even bother retorting; none of them were in a particularly great mood today. "Also…good work, it's been a long five years." Sugiyama, Minami and Tamaki smiled at each other, and nodded.

"No problem, Kallen; at least it's over." Minami chimed in from the back. Kallen sighed in relief.

"Yeah…and whatever the next mission is, it can't be more annoying than this one!" She joked. The others silently agreed. "Well, time to deliver this parcel to Her Majesty. All Hail Lelouch!"

You'd expect the three men to gasp in horror and revulsion, then report her to the authorities or even turn their guns on her. However, all they did was grin at each other like they were in on a secret joke, as they responded in kind:

"""ALL HAIL LELOUCH!"""

After all, they'd already sold their souls to the demon many years ago.