Disclaimer: No copyright is mine, thus no copyrighted character is. If you recognize them from something that's not written by 'Pale Wolf', I have no legal claim to them.Code Geass: The War Of Kings
By Pale Wolf
Chapter TwoTo Be A Master
"What do you know about the Holy Grail War?" Zouken began, leading the way deeper into the Matou home.
Lelouch followed carefully, shaking his head. "Now? Its name."
"Bit of a surprise." The old... magus... turned to look at Lelouch, with what was probably meant to be a smile but came out more leer-like. "The strength of your circuits nearly rolls off you. I felt you coming from a kilometer out."
Kokoro, eyes downcast at Lelouch's side, glanced at him in surprise. "Wha..."
The cane rose to point at her. "No delays, girl. The Britannian military is planning to level the city, and we need things that are only available here."
Lelouch's eyes widened. "Wait, they're planning to what
?! How do you even-?"
"Magus, boy. I have many eyes in many places." His cane tapped the floor once more. "If you will listen
to me, within the hour you will hold a power that will render their army irrelevant. You may escape, or save the city, as suits your whim. Settle."
Lelouch slowly nodded, gritting his teeth. "Speak quickly."
"The Holy Grail War is a competition between magi, a ritual to manifest a magical artifact with enough power within it to grant essentially any wish. It is held every sixty years here in Fuyuki, though the current one is somewhat of an anomaly - the Third was only twenty-five years ago." The man's head bobbed. "I do not know why the speed, nor is it relevant. Moving on."
Lelouch nodded, following the withered old magus. "I would presume this is the 'game that will grant my heart's desire'."
"I'm not awarding you any points, that was obvious."
"So why does this come to me? Where do I come in? Why the offer?"
"Does this ravaged old body look suited to a war?" He nodded to Kokoro. "And the girl is useless. She only has four circuits, she can do parlour tricks like reinforcement, but simply lacks the power to handle a Servant."
Kokoro cringed, but said nothing.
Lelouch very much did not like this man, but at the same time, he couldn't afford not to listen to what he was offering, so he gestured.
"Yes, which brings us to the topic of what one fights the War with. The weapon is called a Servant. It is a figure summoned from myth and history, the finest weapons born to the human race. Think of it as a ghost, but the ghost of one of the greatest warriors ever to have lived, and with the power to affect the physical world. It would not be understating the matter to say that one Servant could crush the army surrounding this city."
Lelouch raised an eyebrow. "I find it hard to believe that a swordsman could do much against armour plate and guns."
"A swordsman, no. A swordsman fast as a bullet with the strength to lift a car overhead? Somewhat different matter. The heroes of old had access to powers beyond those of mere mortals - magecraft at the very least - and Servants are the greatest among them."
"I'm still suspecting you're underestimating modern technology, but I will admit I don't know the limitations of your abilities," Lelouch noted. "Consider me skeptical, but willing to hear more." Whether or not this 'Servant' was any use against the Britannian Forces, the wish
was not to be ignored. The Matous had demonstrated enough strange powers that he was, at the least, not willing to throw out the idea immediately.
Frankly, while he'd been working on his plans for seven years, they came down to 'Step One, Step Two, ?????, Destroy Britannia'. As a high school student, he was distinctly lacking in resources. No matter how little he believed in something, he couldn't afford to throw it out. All his old angles were failures or decades in the future - new angles bore investigating.
Zouken nodded. "The Servant is the marker - destroy the enemy Servants, through any means at your disposal, and victory is yours. The magus does not summon the Servant. The Grail does. The Grail selects seven Masters, and marks them with a Command Seal. Then they can summon their Servant."
Lelouch blinked. "... I don't have any kind of marking. Unless you have a way to get me selected, I don't see how this discussion is going to be anything other than theoretical."
Zouken turned back, pointing his cane at Kokoro. "You can have my granddaughter."
"What." Lelouch blankly stared at the old man.
Kokoro looked up at Zouken, then at Lelouch, and then silently looked away, red-faced.
"Don't look at me like that, boy." He nodded to Kokoro. "Girl, go get your collection of initiation tools, meet in the basement."
Kokoro meekly nodded, slipping away down a nearby hall.
Zouken turned back to Lelouch. "The Matou family is one of the three founding families of the Holy Grail War. We automatically have an entry." The ancient man shrugged. "I was going to let this one pass us by, the girl is useless but for what might spring from her womb. But, if one were to marry into the family, then they would become eligible for the Matou slot. The Einzbern have done the same for their mercenary Master."
Lelouch pursed his lips, glancing down the hallway - Kokoro was still well within earshot. "So... what, a sham marriage so the system accepts it?" Which wasn't really... too different from an arranged marriage. He'd never been much of a romantic, so this wasn't shattering any dreams for him - to be honest, an arranged marriage that gave him an angle at getting what he did
dream of was pretty much the closest thing to a romantic fantasy he'd ever had.
"If you want. While she's useless, she has learned the lore of an old magus family. She knows it, even if she can't do it, and can provide you with whatever instruction you require. And whatever else you require - I wouldn't mind getting a useful heir out of her."
Lelouch gritted his teeth. "You're talking about your own granddaughter like she's a horse on auction."
Zouken barked a laugh. "Want to check her teeth? I'm too old for pretensions, boy. Do what you will with her - learn, have your fun, take her far away from this bad, bad man. Whichever suits your taste."
It was around this point where Lelouch realized - this man was going to have to die. Not immediately. Lelouch still needed him. But in the end, this man would want the power he'd spoken of - it was likely that he intended to take it if Lelouch were able to win it, and if Lelouch weren't, nothing lost. And a man like this could not be permitted to have it.
None of this showed on his face, but he was sure Zouken knew the battle lines had been drawn. Which meant Zouken was going to be assembling his own plan for the endgame - but then, it wouldn't matter if they didn't make it that far. Zouken was going to win as it stood - the old man knew far more about how all this magical jiggery worked. So Lelouch was going to have to learn fast - but even a low probability of success was enough for his taste, as long as he was at least on the battlefield. He was still getting ahead of his old position with every step he took. "... Very well. Do we need a priest?"
Zouken smirked. "I will suffice." Zouken reached a door. "We will perform the ceremony, then we will open up your magic circuits. I highly doubt you will have enough control by the time the Command Seals show themselves, so I will handle the magical side of the summon, you will handle the administrative. From the moment of the summon, however, you and Kokoro are on your own. You will have to fuel your Servant with prana however you see fit."
The old man pulled open the door, and Lelouch slapped a hand over his nose. "It reeks! You can't seriously be thinking of holding a wedding there." Even his thoroughly unromantic soul rebelled at the damp, rotting stench.
"It's the workshop, and you'll need to be summoning from down there."
"Fine, but not a wedding. Seriously."
Zouken's lips curled into a hideous rictus grin. "So you do have limits. How cute." His small, bent hand pushed the door shut - cutting off that godawful smell. "Very well. Girl!"
Lelouch followed his gaze, to see Kokoro, hefting a small bag - it looked medical in nature, mostly bottles of pills and a syringe - walking back towards them through the darkened hall, gaze lowered to her feet. "Yes, Grandfather?"
"Do you take this man," he gestured to Lelouch. "to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold and all that rot?"
Kokoro swallowed, looking up at Lelouch red-faced, lips working slightly. "I..." Behind her glasses - she must have needed to read labels on the medicine bottles, she'd put them back on - her lavender eyes closed. "... do."
Lelouch closed his own eyes, whispering a mute apology. At least he'd be able to get her out of here. Hopefully that was enough.
"And boy, do you, whatever your name was, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, etcetera etcetera, sickness and health and who cares?"
Lelouch opened his eyes, taking a deep breath and focusing on Kokoro. She was looking up at him, eyes wide and lips shaking. "I do." He hated that look on her face - on anyone's. But this was the only way that had ever opened up towards his goals - towards no one ever
having to have such an expression again.
Zouken clapped his hands together. "You may now kiss the bride."
Lelouch stared at him. Was he unable to read the mood at all, or was he just toying with them? Lelouch couldn't honestly tell.
"Well? She's not going to kiss herself. Come on, boy, this's the last step, then you and the girl are on your way out of here."
"At least look away. Do you have any conception of 'human dignity' at all?"
"Pointless little..." Zouken mumbled under his breath, shuffling around. Doubtful he actually cared, more likely he just realized Lelouch would argue it and the whole thing would be done quicker if he let it lie.
Lelouch turned to Kokoro, hand resting against his forehead. "... This... probably doesn't match up to your dreams, and I doubt I do either. I am
Kokoro shook her head, swallowing. "Not to the dreams, but... better than I expected... I owe you my life. I didn't plan to give it to you like this, but..."
Lelouch was about to say 'don't worry', then realized how pointless it would be (how exactly would she reasonably stop?), and skipped to the next line. "This is only as serious as you want it to be."
She smiled faintly. "... I guess that'll do..."
"Enough of the sweet nothings and finish the ceremony already, we're on a schedule!" Zouken barked. Still turned away - Lelouch had checked - but... well, there went what little mood they'd managed.
Kokoro tilted up, rising on her toes - she wasn't a short girl, but Lelouch was quite tall. Before leaning in, she whispered "... What was your wish?"
Lelouch considered for a moment keeping it secret. It was big, and if he told all the background, he and his sister might well be in danger again.
Only for a moment, though. She was opening the way to
it. She deserved to know what it was. "... I'll tell you later. Away from..." He nodded to Zouken.
His head lowered as hers rose, eyes closing.
No sparks. No burning fire of desire. She was a limp fish, and honestly he was too. It didn't feel even halfway to as interesting as all the thousands upon thousands of songs, ballads, and poems on the topic seemed to imply. What was the big deal? It was just an embarrassing physical contact.
Of mutual accord, they pulled back, opening their eyes. Yes, going by her expression, it had been about as good for her as for him.
"Not doing that again?"
"Not doing that again."
"Finally! I was about to go light some candles and put on mood music." Zouken opened the door to the cellar, and the stench immediately swamped out. And down he went.
Lelouch and Kokoro traded looks, and then followed him down the stairs.
It would have been romantic to say they were holding hands after that, but untrue. Her hands were wrapped around the medical bag, his were slipped into his pockets specifically to avoid the ingrained-over-a-thousand-stories reflex that had almost overcome him. Seriously, while she was attractive enough, he'd only known her for half an hour. He was hardly going to drop his focus and his life's mission for a relationship with anyone, let alone someone he barely knew.
Couldn't afford the distraction, didn't want it that much. And he needed to avoid prolonging this awkwardness. She was his partner now, for the Holy Grail War at least. They needed to work together, not make doe eyes at each other.
Ohgi Kaname buried his face in his hands. "How bad is it, Kallen?"
The girl on the other end of the radio line sounded extremely annoyed. "Bad. We went the wrong way. Ran into - literally - a Britannian general, who recognized the capsule."
The man with her, Nagata, added, "We got away, but he got pursuit after us. They forced us further north, and eventually trashed the truck. There was no way we were getting the capsule out, so we ran. We've been trying to call our train station contact, but no word on where he bugged off to. Any odds on getting the boys up here soon enough to retake it?"
Kaname shook his head, glancing around the truck's cargo compartment - refitted into a makeshift APC - at the other members of the resistance cell. "Not for a couple of hours yet. I'll call around and see if I can find some of the local groups to fill in, but..."
"Oh come on, Ohgi!" Tamaki yelled from across the compartment. "You can't be serious! This's our job, you can't let everyone and their monkey in."
Kaname held up his hands. "I'd rather we did it alone too, but before that I'd rather it got done at all. I just can't guarantee we'll be there in time, Fuyuki resistance groups will be."
Tamaki fell back in his seat, grumbling.
"... Why'd you go the wrong way?" Kaname had to ask.
Nagata made a sort of strangled whining noise in the back of his throat.
"... I'm not going to go into it," Kallen stated, flatly. "We don't really have the time to discuss right now, I'll tell you the details later."
Kaname nodded. "All right, I'll take your word on it. What about you
? How are you doing up there?" It was obviously Nagata's miss, but Kallen was right, they had more important things to do than chastising the man for a mistake he already regretted. They could do it later - and if they actually could and everyone was alive, he'd consider that a victory.
"Could be better," Nagata noted. "Could be a lot
"Could also be a lot worse. No bullet wounds, and the knightmare's just a little dinged up," Kallen added. "We finally managed to find a hiding spot, and the Britannians don't seem to have caught us yet."
"Only a matter of time."
"Oh, time! Ohgi, while you're talking to your contacts, see if they can scrounge up an energy filler for the knightmare? We're down to about ten minutes full power left."
With that admission of Kallen's, Kaname was starting to lean towards Nagata's somewhat less-optimistic viewpoint. "... I'll see what I can do. And? The cargo?"
"Looks like our information was right and it is poison gas," Kallen stated.
"Or at least something they really
don't want us to have," Nagata added. "They had knightmares and VTOLs after us within minutes
"And the city's surrounded," Kaname pointed out. "It's not going to be easy to get in or out. I think they put half the national garrison on this one."
"... Ohgi, get us that support. The way the Britannians are moving... I don't like it." Kallen's voice sounded... Kaname did not like hearing that from his best friend's little sister.
Kaname frowned. "What do you mean? We can't get a whole lot out here, they're blacking out information sources fast."
Nagata swallowed. "It's... hard to describe. It's like they're only looking for us on a cursory basis. They got another priority. And I don't know what it is."
"... I'll get you that support. Hang tight, and save your power."
"We'll do our best," Kallen agreed, shutting off the channel.
Kaname took a deep breath. Nobody
in the resistance community was gonna be happy with him, but someone needed to be up there, and fast, before the last communication lines were cut off. He lowered the radio. "Minami, step on the pedal. Get us there yesterday."
The bespectacled man up in the driver's seat simply nodded, and there was a pull of acceleration
"Inoue, Yoshida, Sugiyama, Tamaki, call up everyone you can think of. Find us whoever you can in Fuyuki, and get them informed. When the Britannians drop the hammer, I want someone to catch it." He set to that task himself.
Hopefully he was overreacting, but he had no idea what Britannia was going to pull, and they had rarely done anything that benefited the Japanese.
Matou Kokoro kept an eye on her... husband... as she knelt in the damp darkness of the worm storage room, noting several blank storage spaces - Zouken must have hidden the various 'familiars' of the Matou clan so as not to drive off his new tool. She shook her head and returned to working on the summon circle. She wouldn't mind changing her family name now, if it were actually an option. But she didn't know what to change it to...
But then, no matter what she hid it behind, she was still a Matou woman. Her legacy, body, and 'grandfather' weren't going to go away, whatever label you put on it. Just the same, it'd be nice to be away from this house
for a few weeks. She was always going to be Matou Zouken's tool, but for the Holy Grail War at least, she wouldn't be constantly reminded of it.
Lelouch shuddered, panting for breath - or more accurately, panting to cool off his overheated body. Kokoro had put some ice packs around him and warned him (he'd seemed to believe her, but shrugged it off... whatever it was he wanted, he wanted it badly
), but forcing his circuits active - the necessary first step in giving him the qualifications to be a Master - was very painful, pushing a part of the body that was relatively underused to constant use. Somewhat like going from crawling to running a marathon.
Still lucky, though. There wasn't enough time for his body to be... adjusted for the Matou style of spellcraft. Even a three-month program would inevitably kill him, a two-week program wouldn't even leave him alive long enough for Zouken to... use. He'd have to learn the normal way. Whatever he could
learn in a few weeks, at least - most likely all he'd be able to do in that time would be provide his surplus of power to his Servant, and maybe reinforcement.
Kokoro hoped he survived. It wouldn't be easy - first the Holy Grail War, and then hope Zouken found him more useful alive and unhurt.
"Das Material ist..." Lelouch proceeded to rattle off the entire incantation, and then, apparently just to point out that he'd memorized it, repeated it in Britannian and Japanese.
Kokoro stared. "... You can talk already?" He was acclimating to the circuit unusually fast. He really did have it... an affinity for magecraft... Even a boy off the street was better than the scion of the Matou these days.
Lelouch gave a pained nod. "Y... yes."
Zouken smiled. "Perfect. You have the incantations, and the signs of the Command Seal are starting to appear. Girl, hurry it up!"
Kokoro yelped, backing out of the circle. "I'm done, Grandfather..."
Lelouch forced himself to his feet, staggering towards the circle. "Should I begin, Matou?"
"I would advise it. The schedule of your countrymen is moving rapidly."
"That is not my nation," Lelouch snapped.
"I do not especially care. Call your Servant before bombs drop on this house, and do with him what you will."
"As you will it..." Lelouch smirked, suddenly standing tall, arms widespread. "Das Material ist aus Silber und Eisen!"
A shiver ran down Kokoro's body as she watched, eyes widening.
"Der Grundstein ist aus Stein und dem Grossherzog des Vertrag," he continued.
His voice had completely changed.
"Der Ahn ist mein grosser Meister, Schweinorg."
No longer the diffident, apathetic behaviour of before.
"Schutz gegen einen heftigen Wind."
His voice was powerful. Passionate. He spoke from his very deepest core.
"Schliess alle Tore, geh aus der Krone, zirkulier die Gabelung nach dem Konig!"This
was the true Lelouch.
"Full, full, full, full, full."
The man willing to put his life on the line for his wish.
"Es wird funfmal wiederholt."
The circle built up a dark, powerful light. That was a complete contradiction in terms, and yet the blackness rolling off the circle made it easier to see. Pushing back the darkness of Zouken's workshop.
"Nur ist es die volle Zeit gebrochen!"
For a moment...
"... Satz." Lelouch paused here, catching his breath.
Just a moment...
"Du uberlasst alles mir, mein Schicksal uberlasst alles deinem Schwert."
Kokoro dared to believe this man could win the War.
"Das basiert auf dem Gral, antwort wenn du diesem Willen und diesem Vernunftgrund folgst." The key words of the ritual came out calm. Stately.
And even beyond... not depend on the mercy of Matou Zouken.
"Liegt das Gelubde hier!"
It was impossible.
"Ich bin die Gute der ganzen Welt!"
But just for a moment, her rationality couldn't shut out that wild thought.
"Ich bin das Bose der ganzen Welt!"
'I am the one who will become all the evil of the world'. This oath, he meant. He had to. No one could lie with such determination. And he knew the meaning behind his words. He would do whatever it took.
"Du bist der Himmel mit dreien Wortseelen,"
The shadows at the back of the workshop moved
, drawing Kokoro's jerky stare. There was nothing there. Zouken had moved the worms - the better to keep his new tool placid.
"Komm, aus dem Kreis der Unterdruckung, der Schutzgeist der Balkenwaage...!" Lelouch finished the incantation with the same flair he had begun it, breathing slowly.
But nothing formed in the circle.
Kokoro's lips parted. "No way..." She... wasn't going to be able to...?
Lelouch took a deep breath, and added one more, magically irrelevant, phrase. "The King must lead."
"Or who would follow?" the woman in the circle answered, a twisted smile crossing her face.
Kokoro jolted, staring.
The Servant - she had to be a Servant - stood calmly in the circle, body standing lightly, set with an absolute confidence. Afraid of nothing - the blades of an enemy or the disapproval of a friend. She actually looked a little younger than Kokoro, but that meant nothing - the bodies of Servants were the bodies of a hero in the prime of their life. Dark hair, around shoulder length, hanging over just slightly pointed ears. Blood red eyes. Slender, short, with a long black trident hanging from her hands, just barely scraping the magical circle. Her clothing was simple - a short black short-sleeved dress decorated only with a red bow at the collar, black stockings up to her thighs, red heeled shoes. Kokoro thought
she looked Britannian, like Lelouch, but then that would only be if she were human. Heroic Spirits threw everything off, and the ears suggested something other than human in the girl's ancestry.
The trident's blades swirled around the circle, the Servant moving with a perfect grace that turned even idle gestures into the moves of a dance. "And thus I ask: Are you the one who has called me back into this world?"
Lelouch took another, steadying breath. "I am. You may call me Lelouch. I will give you the rest of my name at a better opportunity."
The Servant smirked. "Then I will do the same. For now, I am the Servant Lancer. What is the situation, Lelouch?"
Lelouch glanced at Kokoro. "How much has the ritual provided?"
Kokoro blinked. "Ah... she should know about the Holy Grail War." Lancer nodded. "Basic information on the modern world is provided. But I think you have to look it up. Specifics of the situation are not."
Lelouch turned his gaze to Zouken. "Anything else, Matou?"
Zouken shook his head, a hideous smile lighting his face. "Have fun in the War, Lelouch, Master of Lancer. Fight for your wish with everything."
"So that you can take it, I know," Lelouch waved the Matou patriarch off.
Kokoro stared. He knew
? ... No, of course he knew, it would take a madman to trust Zouken, he was just... insane enough to believe he could handle it...
Zouken's head reared back, and he laughed. "Oh, this War will be quite
the show! Yes, Lelouch! Fight for me with all you have!"
"He's loud," Lancer noted. "Want me to kill him now and be done with it?" Her trident rose.
"No! Don't!" Kokoro yelled, jumping between the Servant and magus - there was no way she could stop either, but hopefully her presence would deter. Not to protect Zouken - there was no way he could die - but to protect Lancer and Lelouch. The Matous had developed the Command Seal system in the first place. She knew a dozen exploits on her own, there was no telling
what Zouken could do to an uppity Servant, and there was no limit to what he would
do. She turned her eyes to Lelouch, trying to communicate the danger.
... She didn't know if he'd seen what she was trying to get across, but he saw something, and shook his head. "Later, Lancer. He'll keep."
The trident rose further and up into the air, the girl leaning it against her shoulder. "As you will it, Lelouch."
The newly minted Master took a breath. "I will keep your granddaughter alive, Matou Zouken."
Zouken shrugged. "I don't really care. My heir doesn't need to be a relative. If you provide a grandchild I'll use them, if she dies I'll pick some orphan off the street."
Kokoro didn't wince, or really react to the statement at all - she'd known it as far back as she could remember, after all. Lelouch seemed to twitch at it, though... as did Lancer.
"Really looking forward to 'later', Lelouch," Lancer stated. The shadows seemed to stretch out towards Zouken. "I was adopted myself."
"It will come." Lelouch started towards the stairs. Probably eager to escape the smell. Kokoro was used to it, but for someone who wasn't...
The Servant laughed, following behind him and vanishing into her spiritual form.
Kokoro blinked, grabbing the medicine bag and quick-stepping to catch up.
"Kokoro, can you head up to your room to pack anything you want to bring? We'll wait for you outside with Rivalz. Then we'll see what we can do about that 'level the city' plan the military's got in play, with one spearwoman and three teenagers." Lelouch sounded rather doubtful. But less so than before.
Kokoro nodded vigorously, speeding up towards her room. "I'll be out soon!" She was going to pay for the exertion, her physical condition was pretty bad, but it was worth it.
She wasn't going to take much, and then she'd be out of here.
Takara paged through the book, frowning. "I'm thinking pre Iron Age... but the weapons are weird, they come from all over, you had a katana
lodged in you..."
Berserker nodded, invisibly. "It would seem to be a... hero, if that is an appropriate word, who owned... much. Each of those weapons held the presence of a Noble Phantasm."
Takara nodded, gnawing on her thumb. She and Berserker had, after confirming the disappearance of the golden Servant, ducked into the nearest library. Using a compulsion to keep it empty - she wanted to be careful and keep any bystanders away in case he came back - and settling into the library's mythology section. While she had the opportunity, she wanted to see if she couldn't mark out who she was up against and what they could do.
Even with Berserker's power, she didn't exactly feel comfortable just carelessly throwing him up against someone who was carelessly throwing around Noble Phantasms.
"In that context, it's a bit of a pity that they disappeared when he did. Must've been a Command Seal, he looked just as surprised."
Berserker gave a low-voiced chuckle. "Planning to start a collection, Master?"
"Next time, definitely. I hope they stick around under normal circumstances." Takara ran a hand through her hair. "... It's not coming together. That collection is impossible. The styles are millennia off, and from every separate corner of the world."
"... Perhaps it is a Servant who ruled the world? Or rather, the world as it was known then? The mythical association could have updated. If everything in the world as it was then belonged to him, then perhaps the legend would add everything in the world since?"
Takara hummed, paging through the book a bit more. "That'd narrow it down, we can at least tentatively go with that. Rulers of the known world..."
"Alexander the Great?"
Takara shook her head. "He called his military 'Companions'. I... did not get a feeling like that off Goldie." She paused, glancing at her Servant. He actually looked a little hilarious, with his huge hands carefully holding a book. "... Roman?"
"No. Their metalworking was garbage, that armour would be impossible for them unless they stole it from the Celts."
"Well..." Takara trailed off as Berserker's head jerked to the left, staring through the wall. "... Berserker?"
A shrill scream tore through the air. Focus shattering, Takara's compulsion dropped as she jerked up to her feet, books flying through the air. "Did he come back?! I thought we-"
"There is no Servant," Berserker growled, striding out to the library wall.
Takara followed, as more screams, and a pounding sound of gunfire penetrated the library's soundproofing. "Well whatever it is..."
Berserker apparently wasn't waiting for orders anymore, as he punched through the library's outer wall and stalked out.
"Hey wait, Berserker!" Takara yelped. "Are you crazy?! I can't modify memory! The Association'll kill anyone who sees you!" She darted out after him.
And then stopped, brain freezing. The sounds were no longer muffled by the soundproofing.
Screams. Gunfire. Cannons, crumbling buildings.
On the street in front of them stood a roughly four-meter tall metal humanoid figure, painted in purples and grays - a Britannian knightmare frame.
A submachine gun sized for it clutched in its hands. Pointed at-
Firing upon a woman in a housedress as she ran.
There was little left of her.
Takara's jaw shook as she looked around. The road was... fast approaching ruined already, cracks in the cement, blood everywhere
, holes in buildings, arms and legs and exposed bone and
While she was frozen, Berserker charged the knightmare with a roar.
It turned, surprise in its stance, gun raising to fire upon the large man - still dwarfed by the machine.
Hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and-
Berserker did not care about such pitiful things. He arrived in front of the knightmare, left fist arcing out to the center of the knightmare's torso - such an enemy was not worthy of his sword.
The knightmare's chest caved in, and it flew back, slamming into a nearby grocery store, the impact crushing the cockpit compartment on its back. Blood spilled from the rents in the metal.
Berserker turned down the street, and charged again.
Takara stumbled after him. She had to stop hi... no. No she didn't.
Right now, she didn't give one whit about the Association's secrecy rules.This
had to stop.
"... Master," Lancer began, fading back into existence in the face of the massacre. "I am going to kill them all. If you wish me to stop, I will demand a Command Seal in exchange for their lives."
Lelouch looked out over the bloody scene, and found it in himself to smile. "I see we're going to get along just fine, Lancer." Apparently, now it was time to see just how a Servant compared to modern warfare. He was damned well hoping Zouken wasn't overestimating it, because Lancer was the only tool he had to stop this... absolute insanity. What in hell was going on
? Had Clovis just snapped, between the incident in Osaka yesterday and whatever had started up here?
The Servant offered her own smile, and then with a spring of her legs, arrowed forward, trident outstretched.
The first Sutherland - facing away from them, too busy gunning down an elderly couple to the chorus of screams - died instantly, the three points of Lancer's weapon sinking in one side of the cockpit armour and coming out the opposite end.
Its partner turned - likely alerted by the sudden scream over the radio - and probably more by reflex than any conscious decision, raised its weapon to fire on Lancer as her heeled shoes touched back to the ground.
She, for her part, raised her
weapon - with the first Sutherland still impaled on it like a roast pig - and shifted it between her and the knightmare, using her first victim as a shield for the bullets, and then slamming it forward into the second. Whether it was the points of the lance or the crushing from being hit with another knightmare frame, the gunfire died off quickly.
With a smooth, beautiful gesture, Lancer's trident slipped out of the two knightmares, and she turned northward, arms outstretched, her shadow rising to brush at her thighs...
Then she frowned, and with a bare tap of her foot against the ground, between one blink and the next, returned to stand in front of him. "Lelouch, my prana supply is irregular. I can't deploy my primary Noble Phantasm." Her shadow was still moving, though it was quieting down... "I can kill them all, but not in a practical timeframe." She gestured around the shattered street, taking in both the torn and mangled bodies, and the few survivors staring at them in awe. "A lot of people will die in the time it takes. If you've got a plan, now's the time, or I'll work on one."
Lelouch frowned, looking around. Half the terms she'd just used meant nothing to him, but she was right - people were dying now, another dozen with every moment he took to ask for a definition.
... He wanted to stop this, but what in hell was he supposed to do
? Even with the power to destroy any enemy in front of him, as Lancer had demonstrated, what was he supposed to do about the enemies across the city? He didn't have an... army.
Yes he did.
Right now it was an army of four people, but it was a start. His smirk returned. He had all the tools. He just needed to put them in place. He could do
this. And far more beyond.
"Kokoro, thank you. Because of you... I can finally start."
The purple-haired girl blinked slowly, hand on Rivalz's shoulder - the boy was still
out of it and apparently unable to really process what he was seeing, though Lelouch wasn't sure how much of that was shell shock from what they were seeing and how much was Zouken. So Kokoro had needed to... well, keep him from running into gunfire that his mind was failing to register. "What do you...?"
"Lancer, find another few targets," Lelouch commanded, voice serious. "Minimize the damage to them. I don't care what you do with the pilots, but I want the knightmares to remain intact. Cockpits at the very least, the rest is optional but preferred."
"Two coming around the corner now," Lancer reported, springing away to the next side street - a distance of nearly a hundred meters, Lelouch didn't fail to notice.
Probably coming to investigate the loss of these two, Lelouch decided.
The two purple-painted knightmares skidded around the corner on landspinners, and instantly - possibly even before they'd actually arrived - Lancer pounced, trident lowered away, right hand extended.
An instant before she hit the lead knightmare, she vanished. Like a puppet losing strings, the knightmare collapsed, and she reappeared, springing off its back to the second and vanishing again.
What was she...? Ahhhhh. Lelouch's smirk widened. Zouken had said it. She was a ghost
. She'd simply rematerialized inside
the cockpits. Leaving a shocked pilot to face off unarmed against someone with the strength to throw Sutherlands.
With a gesture to Kokoro, Lelouch trotted up the street towards Lancer's new position, holding up his hands to hide his face from the survivors he passed. He doubted they were paying much attention given the circumstances, but just the same, having his identity spoiled now that he was finally starting would be just too cruel.
Kokoro followed, apparently realizing what he had in mind and using the medical bag to hide Rivalz's identity as best she could. Her own was probably a lost cause, her long flowing lavender hair was not going to be hard to recognize, especially given that she lived
While they walked, Lelouch examined the back of his right hand. He was going to have to take to wearing gloves - he now boasted a red, glowing tattoo, three parts melding together in a shape not entirely dissimilar to a sword. Presumably, the Command Seals. Whose function he could somewhat guess at, but really needed to ask Kokoro about the details when they had the time.
Soon enough, they reached the knightmares, and Lancer looked at him. "Hijacking the enemy's communications?" For someone whose sole exposure to modern warfare had been the last five minutes, she was quick.
Lelouch waved a hand. "More 'any communications', right now, though the enemy's are good to have." He pointed back at the first set of knightmares she'd trashed. "The pilots should be wearing a metal earpiece. See if one survived your thrashing and clip it on. Set it to," he provided a radio frequency that wasn't one of the common military bands. "If the knowledge the summon gave you teaches you how - if you have any trouble, come back and I'll show you. If there's a second, bring it for Kokoro."
Lancer flashed away with the same blazing speed as before, leaving the impression of a grin.
Lelouch stepped up the rest of the way to the knightmares. "Kokoro, I don't suppose you ever learned how to use one of these?"
Kokoro stared at him. "... Um... no... you did
? What do they teach Britannians...?"
Lelouch smiled. "Not usually that. I only know the basics, and I'm a bit of an anomaly." It was pretty complicated to operate, and his own training was more or less limited to using his mother's Ganymede to make pizza since he'd come to Japan - the Ashford family couldn't afford to actually run the knightmare any more than that, so he'd really had very little opportunity to get experience. Besides, however good he became - and despite his mother's incredible skills, he hadn't inherited them - he'd only be able to defeat the enemy in front of him. His own goals were far, far too ambitious to be satisfied with that.
He climbed up to the cockpit, fiddling with the hatch. In active use, Britannian knightmares were much less securely locked than when in storage - Britannian doctrine had been cavalry-focused for centuries, and they considered the risk from infantry being able to break in to be outweighed by the advantage of the pilot being able to more easily escape a trashed knightmare. Not a surprise, the pilots were always at least minimal-level nobility and damned expensive to train.
He was rewarded with the metallic smell of blood as it opened, reaching in to pull out the pilot's corpse. Woman, he idly noted, though given that her skull had been crushed like a melon, he didn't feel like evaluating much more.
Guh. She wasn't heavy, but he was hardly strong. Kokoro arrived up with him before long, and helped him heft the pilot out with a short burst of that superhuman strength. She was made of sterner stuff than he'd expected. He knew he
was an anomaly, since not many people had seen their own mother's bullet-riddled corpse and then the next year been at ground-zero of an invasion, featuring ten-year-olds (him) helping haul people onto funeral pyres. He was sort of used to corpses by now. Then again, who knew what she'd dealt with from Zouken?
Before tossing the pilot's corpse out onto the street, he grabbed her earpiece, and wiped his hands off on her uniform - his piloting was going to be unspectacular enough as it was, adding in hands either sticky or slick with blood on the controls would hardly help. Ideally he wouldn't be banking much on his piloting skills, but then in an ideal world, he wouldn't really have much to do at all
He slid into the cockpit, clipping the earpiece to his ear.
He was instantly rewarded with Lancer's light voice. "Can you hear me?"
"I can. Got it working, then?"
She flickered into view in front of the knightmare, looking up at it and tapping at the earpiece hanging on her right ear. It was somewhat awkward, having obviously been designed for a normal-shaped ear, rather than her gently pointed pair, but it stayed on. "Got another for your friend."
"Perfect, toss it in here."
The Sutherland's factsphere sensors could only detect her movement as a series of flash frames as she arced around to the still-open cockpit on the back, a perfect throw slipping it in over the cockpit seat and into Lelouch's hands - though he fumbled the catch and ended up having to duck down and get it.
While he set it to his desired channel, he idly spared a hand to flick the factsphere sensors to other modes. Lancer was... odd on thermal, the heat distribution was far too even, rather than concentrated in core points, but she definitely showed up.
"Lancer, can you go spiritual?"
He presumed she could, because the thermal picture dimmed a bit. Still evenly distributed heat, and still visible - which was unfortunate - but dimmer than in normal form. At least now he knew.
And a glance at Kokoro in the eyes of the factsphere revealed that she was running distinctly hotter than humans tended to. Probably the... 'circuits', his own body felt like he'd had boiling water poured inside
it with the things on. It was far better than at first, and he was getting used to it - at this point the pain was only sharpening his mind - but clearly spellworking generated a significant amount of heat. Which was good to know for any future battles against magi, but not an issue for this one.
Lelouch tapped one of the cockpit controls, extending the seat out towards the open hatch, where Kokoro still hung on. He held out the earpiece. "Put this on, and keep Rivalz safe. I'll direct you around any troop movements - find survivors and get them to safety if you can - and ask you any 'magic' questions that come up." His voice softened. "All right?"
Kokoro nodded sharply, taking the earpiece and clipping it to her ear. "Do you have a plan? Are you going to try and make an escape route?"
Lelouch smiled. "As long as we're dreaming, let's dream big. I'm going to save us. I'm going to save this city. Then I'm going to save this country. And then I'm going to destroy Britannia." The question marks in his long-range plans were already filling in. The first goal led to the second, the second to the third, the third to the last. He had a direction; time to run.
She stared at him, wide-eyed. "... The story about your wish is going to be a long one." At his nod, she dropped from the hatch, stepping back from the knightmare and nudging Rivalz away - he was still placid and somewhat listless.
Lelouch truly hoped he recovered, because it was disturbing seeing the normally-active boy like that. If he found out the cause, he would extract the price in blood.
He tapped the controls again, drawing the seat back into the Sutherland and sealing it up, turning his gaze to the knightmare's tactical map. The city was surrounded, with dots of light representing Britannian units - knightmares, VTOLs, IFVs - moving evenly through the city on their mission of murder.
And his search was rewarded with an indicator of the G-1 mobile base from which this massacre was all being commanded, to the southeast - right on the opposite side of the river, at the very southernmost end of the city. Later target, though, he needed an army first. It was quite well-defended at the moment.
He tapped the earpiece. "Lancer, I'll be directing you to targets. Try to avoid being seen - I'd like to keep you secret. And as before, minimize the damage to the knightmares." He brought his back up to its feet, and kicked off the landspinners, skating down the streets - flipping his IFF off with an idle motion.
"Got it. Assembling weapons for your grand army?"
"Naturally." Now he just needed the army. There were
rebel cells in Fuyuki, he knew that for certain - at the least there was the owner of that red Glasgow, if they were still alive. He just needed to find where the fights were - fortunately, he was listening in on the Britannian communication network, so that wasn't too hard. Win some early trust, get them equipped, get them listening to him, and he'd have an army. Still going to be smaller than what the Britannian Forces had here, but he wasn't in a position to be picky. As long as he had something to work with, he'd be satisfied.
With that, he could stop the massacre. Lancer's weakness in this battle was that she was only one - unimaginably powerful - person. Unless she had a trick she hadn't revealed, she could only be in one place at once, could only stop one enemy at once. The local rebels, though, could be in many.
He steered his used Sutherland northward, charting a course towards the nearest Britannian unit - a lone IFV. He believed in leading from the front, but he'd have to get a much better feel for his frame than he had now or he'd just die in the attempt. And this knightmare's neural network was acting sluggishly - didn't seem to like him. He was going to use the fact that he knew where it was and it didn't know where he was to backstab it, of course, and killing off the infantry-carrying units was a priority - as with Lancer, knightmares could only kill a couple people at once, an infantry squad could kill a dozen.
End goal of this push was the coastline up at the north - the units surrounding the city up there were comprised of aquatic knightmares, and if he could grab a Portman, he had an angle at the G-1, once he could reduce its guard at least.
He'd need to call up a source and see how the Britannian administration was spinning the events going on here, too. Even Britannians didn't have a taste for massacre, he couldn't imagine them telling the truth about it, but he needed details on what they were releasing. Probably best to call Shirley, or Sayoko? When he had a hand free, anyway. He wanted someone to tell Nunnally he'd be a little late back, too...
Lelouch raised the Sutherland's SMG as he approached the squat gray hybrid of a tank and an armoured personnel carrier. They spotted him coming up, but assumed he was a friendly, continuing with their business of pumping cannon shells into a Pizza Hut.
He tapped the earpiece again, speaking to Kokoro. "Let me show you how a Britannian who hates Britannia must act."
There is no problem that cannot be solved through the proper application of immense levels of firepower.
- Finally promoted to Spammaster Indeterminate Rank as of June 18, by Stratagemini
<Stratagemini> My Titanium Anus Armour will repel all challengers!
Would you believe this is one of the more tame bits of dirt I've got for him?