Rebel Against the Night
Code Geass is owned by Sunrise, Inc. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is owned by Hasbro and created by Lauren Faust. This is a fan-based work not intended for commercial purposes.
All thoughts are in italics. Japanese names will be in the traditional order-surnames first and personal names behind it. Pardon me for any mistakes in the name order that I made in previous chapters.
Chapter 4: The Battle for Tokyo Part II-The Calm Before the Storm
“Just what the hell were you thinking!” Cornelia never heard such language coming out of the lips of her gentle sister. Euphemia paced back and forth. The echoes of hooves stomping the floor reverberated along the throne room walls. “Did you really think the Japanese would be submission after we lost our technology? It never occurred to you that might be better off having peace talks with them. We lost hundreds of lives. And after your little stunt, it’ll be even harder to convince the Japanese to make a truce.”
“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to? I’m viceroy of this domain, Sub-Viceroy, and you’re not to question my judgment!”
“Then act like a viceroy instead of some gung-ho Pureblood!”
“How dare you take that tone with me!”
Euphemia got in her sister’s face. “Someone has to before your foolish pride kill us all!”
Cornelia, on sheer reflex, slapped Euphemia, who staggered back. Blood dribbled down from Euphemia’s lips. Cornelia shook her head in disbelief. She had struck her little sister. Euphemia was in a state of shock as well. As far back and she could remember, Cornelia never once hit her. Euphemia could even remember, as a child, Cornelia accepting the blame for any misdeeds she perpetrated and taking the beatings that she deserved.
Cornelia said as she inched way and shook her head, “Euphie, I’m...I’m...” Cornelia then ran off.
“Ohgi, why you have to be a buzzkill?” Tamaki was sitting on the ground with his hind legs folded together pouting. It was the night after their first major victory since their transformation and about a block away, the majority of the new Black Knight was conversing about their experience in the battlefield under the light of thousands of twinkling stars; the waning crescent moon still hours away before rising. Tamaki was speaking to Ohgi in private. “We earned ourselves a victory party, and we got recruits that can throw a really awesome one for us.”
Ohgi sighed at the suggestion. “You remember the last time something like that happened; Zero blew his top. I don’t want that happening again”
“Oh come on, Ohgi; I promised the new guys that we’d have a celebration.”
“If you want it so badly,” said Ohgi, “ask Zero yourself.”
“But you’d do a better job of convincing him to go along with it.”
“I said ‘no’!”
Tamaki’s sigh sounded like a horse snorting. “Do you know how long it took to scrap up just three bottles of sake? There was run on the stores after the transformation and all that was left was the cheap stuff. And it’s not they’ll restock anytime soon.”
“So instead of learning how to perform telekinesis, you wasted your time looking for booze? For someone who complains so much about being left behind by the other horned Black Knights, you don’t put much effort in catching up.”
Tamaki struck the ground with his front hoof. “It’s not like I’m some robot that goes 24/7, non-stop. I gotta have my let loose time, man.” Tamaki studied Ohgi’s face. “You sorta down in the dumps, aren’t you? You okay?”
Ohgi turned away from Tamaki. “No, nothing’s wrong with me. Why should I be sad? We’re just convinced all of Tokyo that the Britannians can be beaten and now we’re getting more support than ever before.”
“Is it a woman problem?” Tamaki asked.
“No! It’s not that at all.” Just then, a Black Knight and another pony, a mare with lavender hair, red mane, and a tattered coat dragging along the ground came from the crowd of Black Knights.
“Excuse me Deputy Commander Kaname,” said the rank and file Black Knight, “but this woman claims to know you...”
Ohgi leaped and ran over to the mare. “Chigusa! Is that you?” When he realized Chigusa knows about his involvement with the Black Knights, Ohgi slinked away.
“Can we talk in private?” The mare asked
“Yeah, let’s talk in private, Chigusa,” Ohgi said with a bit of apprehension.
“I knew it was woman problems. That’s why you’ve been acting all emo.”
“I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to find you,” Ohgi said as the two were heading around the corner. When he was certain no one could hear, Ohgi asked, “Where have you been these last two weeks? I was worried sick about you. Why weren’t you at our apartment?”
“I didn’t have a choice,” said Chigusa. “They broke in and tried to hurt me, but I fought them off. When I went back, they were waiting for me, and there were more of them, and you were nowhere to be found.”
“Don’t worry Chigusa. You’re safe now.” Ohgi nuzzled up against Chigusa. “I won’t allow anyone else to harm you.” Chigusa backed away. “Look, I’m sorry I hid being a Black Knight from you. But everything I’m doing is for the sake of peace. If Zero succeeds in freeing Japan from Britannia, then we can finally be together.”
“Oh stop before I puke.” Chigusa reached down and pulled the blade that Ohgi kept in his leg band. She aimed for Ohgi’s ribs, but Ohgi shifted position fast enough that the knife only went through his shoulder muscles. The wound caused Ohgi to loose control of his foreleg causing him to fall over. “Me? Together with an Eleven like you?!?” Chigusa pinned Ohgi down. “What a horrible thought, no matter what form we’ve taken! My name is Villetta Nu, and I am a Knight of Honor of Britannia.”
“So Chigusa, you’ve gotten your memory back.” Since the night Ohgi found her after a battle near death from a gunshot wound, he and Chigusa were practically a newly-wed couple. Ohgi could smell the salty air as his mind drifted to the time they walked on the beach, far away from reminders of Britannian occupation; the time he tried to prepare dinner for her only to burn the homemade potpie and Chigusa laughing at his ineptitude at cooking. But now the dream has came crashing down on him and crushed under the weight of his worst nightmare; his Chigusa remembering who she really was-the enemy. So, this is what they mean when they say your life flashes before your eyes before dying, thought Ohgi.
“Now thanks to you and Zero, I can’t even return to the settlement!” Chigusa/Villetta Nu yanked the knife from Ohgi’s shoulder. Ohgi screamed out in pain. Villetta was about to stab Ohgi again but the echoes of hoof steps warned her that reinforcements were coming. She ran down the alley before the other Black Knights could capture her.
Ohgi awoke and saw Minami standing over him. “What happened?” Ohgi asked.
“Your lady friend stabbed you with your own knife,” said Minami. Ohgi was on a futon in the Black Knight’s makeshift base of operations. Medical bandages wrapped around his shoulder. Beside the futon were piles of bloodied rags.
“Ohgi? Who was that woman?” On the other side of Minami were Zero and Kallen. Ohgi was afraid that this would happen. Now that Zero knew about Chigusa and was asking questions, he would have to come up with a plausible lie or be forced to tell the truth-prior to falling in love with Chigusa, he planned to question her about Zero’s identity.
“She was...an amnesiac I picked up off the street,” said Ohgi. It wasn’t a complete lie.
“You’re too kind, and I mean it literally,” said Lelouch.
“Was she pretty, Ohgi?” Kallen asked mockingly. “Is that why you took a complete stranger in?”
“Since I’m getting the third degree, I’m probably going to live.”
“Barely, it would have gone through your heart if your lady friend’s aim wasn’t off by a few centimeters.”
“Kallen, I need to speak to you to private,” said Lelouch.
“What for?” Kallen asked.
“Just come with me.” Kallen and Lelouch stepped into another room. Lelouch closed the door behind them and lead Kallen to the far end. “Kallen, you are never to dissert your post, especially in the middle of a battle.”
“Desertion!” Kallen said in shock. “But I never left the battlefield.”
“Staying in a battle isn’t the same as staying at your post. Your place was to lead the airborne forces into battle. They were inexperienced and in need of your guidance. Instead, you left them without a leader.”
“But you were facing that Knightmare Frame alone. It was an emergency.”
“This wasn’t something that came up in the heat of battle. If you didn’t notice, I made the first move against the Britannians. That should have been a cue that I wasn’t caught off guard.”
“Lacks your leadership skills. We lost a sizable portion of our winged Black Knights in the early portion of the battle.”
“Are you saying it’s my fault they died!” Kallen said defensively.
“I can’t say for certain if your decisions cost the lives of our new recruits, but mine has.”
Kallen shook her head. “No, don’t...”
“...say such a thing. Being a commanding officer means you will eventually make a decision that will lead to someone’s death. I already told you that innocent blood will be spilled, and that includes subordinates. It’s an inevitability of war. You’re no longer fighting as an individual in the Gurren. You’re leading entire squads...no...platoons of soldiers in hand-to-hand combats, and you must adapt.”
“I don’t know if I want that responsibility.”
“Even not making a decision is making one. My point is that a leader’s responsibility is to complete the mission with a minimum loss of life. And as the leader of the Black Knights, my solution to minimizing our casualties *and* completing the mission is to make you commander of the Black Knight’s airborne division, Kozuki Kallen. Take that into consideration if you’re worried about leading men to their deaths. In the long run, they will be better off under your command...provided you fully accept your role.” Zero turned around and headed back to Ohgi’s room. “Unless I hear otherwise, I’ll expect to see you tomorrow at 0700 hours to train the winged recruits,” he said without looking back to face Kallen.
“Viceroy, please come out.” Euphemia was outside her sister room’s pleading for her to come out. Darlton and Guilford were with Euphemia as well.
“You’ve been in there for three days now,” said Guilford. “We’re worried about you, mi lady.”
Then Cornelia spoke up. “Darlton, Guilford,” Cornelia said in a weak, solemn voice from behind the door. “I wish to speak to the Sub-Viceroy alone.”
“Very well, mi lady,” said Guilford, who tapped Darlton on the shoulder. The two gave Cornelia and Euphemia their privacy.
“Come in, Euphie,” said Cornelia. Euphemia crept inside and saw her sister lying on a king-size bed. Her face was buried between her forelegs; only her puffy, bloodshot eyes could be seen. Her pillow had a pair wet spots on opposite sides of the indent made by Cornelia’s head.
“Viceroy, I beg your...”
“It’s okay Euphie, you don’t have to be so formal. We can speak to each other as sisters.” Cornelia moved to the edge of the bed and examined her sister’s swollen lip. She stroked it as gently with her hoof.
“Cornelia, I am sincerely sorry for saying those terrible things to you.”
Cornelia sat up in bed and shook her head. “You’re sorry?!? I was the one who hit you.”
“Only because I egged you on,” said Euphemia.
“It’s not your fault, Euphie. It’s mine. I took my anger over my own inadequacies on you.”
“But sis, I don’t know anyone more capable than you.”
“If that was even half-way true, we wouldn’t be teetering on the edge like we are now. I can’t save us, not without support from the homeland. I swore Guilford and Darlton to secrecy because you needed to hear this coming from me. I’ve been in contact with Pendragon on shortwave radio. And they say it would be years, if not decades, before they could ever come in full force to Area 11.”
“Are you sure that was Pendragon?” Euphemia asked. “There’s no way to confirm the source of the message.”
“It was Father himself, the Emperor, which spoke to me. They’ve been changed as we have, and the military forces in the homeland have been crippled, as well. This is why I made the decision to bluff the Elevens into thinking that we weren’t completely helpless.” Cornelia slowly climbed out of bed and laid a hoof on Euphemia’s shoulder. “You were right,” she said still speaking in her somber voice. “We’re in no position to offer resistance to the Elevens. However, I can’t negotiate with them. After what happened, our case wouldn’t sound very convincing coming from me, which is why I’m relinquishing my position...”
“No, sis, you don’t have to do this,” said Euphemia shaking her head.
“...and appointing you as Viceroy of Area 11.”
“Euphie, I can’t make peace with the Elevens, but you can. You’re the only chance the Britannians in the Tokyo Settlement have.”
Euphemia hung her head down. She came to comfort her sister after provoking her into that physical altercation, not to usurp her position. “Don’t worry sis, I’ll only keep power long enough to come up with a peace...”
“No! You can’t! Zero and his Black Knights won’t accept me in any position of authority. Besides, why should any Britannian follow a ruler who gave up? We’ll make the change formal tomorrow afternoon at 1400 hours.”
The cold running waters from the stream was ecstasy for Villetta Nu. The mundane mare greedily gulped from the brook quenching her dry, parched throat. The sun set behind the mountains an hour ago and now the residual glow of dusk was giving way to the freckled face night smiling down on her with a crescent grin. After she had her fill, Villetta Nu stared out into the stars. It was an activity that the busy knight of honor did not have the time to indulge in. The thousands of flickering candles magically floating in a sea of ebony traced secret patterns and messages for her, not the one of hunters, scorpions, or fish, but ones that only she could see; well, that’s what she thought when she was but a child-Scratches, the stray cat that she used to share her food with until it was ran over by a careless teenager in a sports car, and April, the little girl down the street that used to play with her until she got sick and went away never to return. Then, the bushes started shaking. All around Villetta were the crackling of dried leavings being crushed under hoof. She admonished herself for being so careless and not being mindful of her surroundings.
Ponies, both horned and mundane, came out of the foliage forming a semicircle around Villetta. Both ends of the formation connected with the stream. Hovering over the waters were winged ponies. All of Villetta’s possible escapes routes were cut off.
A mundane stallion took a few steps out of the encirclement. All Villetta could tell was that his coat and mane were lightly colored as both contrasted with the darker background.
“Are you a Britannian?” The stallion asked in perfect English. “Or are you native born?” The stallion asked, this time in flawless Japanese.
It was a test. It was a test to discern if a pony was Britannian or an Eleven. Villetta silently assessed the situation. This man, whoever he is, can impersonate accents, or at least one accent. The question spoken in Japanese was worded carefully. Asking if the person was an Eleven would shift suspicion towards this mob being Britannians. Asking if the person was Japanese would shift suspicious towards them being Elevens. Villetta could at least tell that the stallion was around Lord Jeremiah’s age, and there didn’t appear to be anyone who would too old or too young to be stationed in Area 11. Then again, a mob of deceitful Elevens...
The stallion spoke up, but more forcefully. “Are you a Britannian...or are you native born?” Again, he switched languages and accents in the middle of the question as before.
Villetta went back to analyzing the situation. Deceitful Elevens could have thought of this and anticipated the age range and carefully chose who would be in their scouting party. There was no getting around it. Villetta knew Japanese, but she could never pull off the accent. So, it would pointless to even consider pretending to be an Eleven.
“My name is Villetta Nu, and I am an honorary knight of Britannia.” Villetta decided if these were Elevens, then she would proclaim her status with pride before dying.
The colt grinned maliciously. “Kill this Britannian bitch,” he said in Japanese. The other ponies revealed their murderous intent, as well.
“Make her suffer!” One horned mare yelled in Japanese.
“Let my friends and I have some fun with her, first,” a lecherous stallion said as he licked his lips. “I haven’t had any since we were turned.”
Villetta backed away until she was knee deep in water when she felt something hard kicking her in the back of the neck. The winged Elevens glared at her with cruel, spiteful eyes. They kicked at Villetta-herding her back on land. Mud flew from their filthy hooves and splattering in Villetta’s mane and face.
Suddenly, a white blur shoved the winged Elevens out of the way and knocking them into the stream. It swooped down and took hold of Villetta and hoisted her into the air. The honorary knight tilted her head up and saw the face of a winged stallion. He had wrapped his front and back legs around Villetta’s front and hind shoulders. Behind them was the angry mob screaming obscenities at them. Then, out of nowhere, a mist came straight at them. It has hundreds of glistering specks. It was as though the night sky itself has come to life. Villetta and her newly christened champion flew through the mist. Villetta glanced back. The winged Elevens shook themselves dry and were taking off when the mist floated past them and then yanked them inside until they disappeared into the blackness. A few seconds of later, one of the winged Elevens was tossed into a tree trunk. The cracking of the winged Eleven’s skull could be heard even from a distance. Then dozens of screams emanated from the mist. A chill ran up Villetta’s spine.
“Please hurry. I beg of you,” Villetta said as she trembled in the stallion’s grip. “It could come after us at any moment.”
“Don’t worry,” said the winged stallion. “We’ll be long gone by then.”
“Are you saying that thing won’t follow us; whatever it is hiding in that cloud?”
The winged stallion nodded. “I told you not to be afraid,” the stallion spoke in a calm and soothing voice.
As they flew away, the shrieks of Eleven ponies was heard throughout the woods as they fled in all directions.
It was Inoue’s day to lead patrols of the Shinjuku Ghetto. She and three other winged Black Knights made their rounds from above flying above the streets just above the rooftops. Suddenly, a small winged foal buzzed Inoue’s patrol and was followed by an older winged stallion.
“Come back here!” The stallion yelled out to the smaller pony. “I said no flying, Aya.”
“But Daddy,” the female foal said in whining voice, “I won’t get hurt. I can even fly all the way to the clouds.”
“Aya! You mind your father, you hear!” The winged stallion fell behind as the female foal rendezvous with a flock of other winged foals, an approximately even mixed of male and female, and flew straight up into the stratos.
“Please honey! Come back!” The stallion glanced back and forth between her child with the flock of foals and the ground below. The stallion noticed Inoue’s patrol watching him. “Please,” he said to the Black Knights, “if any of you are good at flying, could you please bring my daughter back.”
“You want us to get your daughter?” Inoue said repeating the stallion’s request.
The stallion looked away in shame. “I’m deathly afraid of heights. I’m only flying at all because of my daughter.
Inoue flew forward. “I’ll go this time, but you need to learn how to fly so that you can tend to your own children.”
“Thank you so much, young lady. I promise I will.”
Inoue flew as fast as she could. She had almost caught up with the children when they disappeared into a thick, low-altitude cloud. “Little girl,” said Inoue. “Where are you? Your daddy’s worried about you.” Inoue waited about a minute for an answer. She folded her forelegs over her chest. When she got tired of waiting, she flew into the cloud. Inoue could hardly believe what she was seeing. The children were walking on the clouds. They weren’t flapping their wings. The clouds themselves kept them aloft.
“Hey!” One little male foal said. “You can’t come up here. This is our Cloud Club, and no adults are allowed.”
Inoue realized it wouldn’t be possible to force all these children to come back down, so she decided to use a little psychology. “But how can you have a club without a club house,” she said playfully. “If I show you a really cool place for a club house, will you let me join?”
“No way!” The colt pointed to the side. “We already have a club house.” Inoue pushed pass the foals. “Hey we said ‘no adults’.” Inoue was in awe of the clouds shaped like a house, or like one designed by children. The house had spirally stairways wrapping around the four-story ‘structure’. The club house also had a giant slide leading from a balcony, curved around the front, and ended on the club house cloud foundation. Inoue touched it. It felt fluffy, yet firm, and had a bit of a bounce to it. Inoue closed her eyes and braced herself. Her wings stopped flapping. Inoue flinched when she landed on the cloud half expecting to fall through.
“You big baby!” The boy said. “You weren’t going to fall.”
“Yeah,” said the female foal from earlier, “I told Daddy, and he didn’t believe me.”
“Aya!” The boy yelled. “It’s supposed to be a secret.”
“But I only told Daddy.” Inoue was trying to take all of this in as the children bickered amongst themselves. The cloud brought back memories of the time, before the invasion, when she was a child. She daydreamed about walking on the clouds. She imagined the clouds were made of snow, only warm, never wet, and never melted. No, it was actually better. The clouds were really like soft cotton, with just enough heft to hold her up but not so much as to feel hard like the ground. She batted around pieces of cloud like a cat batting string. Suddenly, a loud boom went off beside her. She flew up expecting to be attacked by Britannians. But the only ones in the clouds were the children.
“You scared too easy, lady,” another female foal said. She kicked a cloud, which shot out a small bolt of lightning.
“That’s not funny!” Inoue yelled. The children laughed. Inoue charged the girl who kicked the cloud and pinned her down. “You think that shit is funny! You wouldn’t think it’s funny if it was you who were getting shot at by Brit...” Inoue then noticed the other children shivering in terror; some of them on the verge of crying. Battle after battle had taken their toll and had made Inoue a bit shell-shocked. She had to pause for a moment and calm down. They were children and didn’t know better. The foal Inoue held down started weeping. “Hey, don’t cry. I’m not going to hurt you. Okay?” Inoue said mustering up the sweetest voice that she could. “Be a big girl and dry those tears.” The girl wiped her eyes and sniffled.
“I was only playing,” the girl said.
“I know sweetie,” said Inoue gently. “Hey could you do me a favor? Could you show me that thunder trick?”
The little foal nodded. “Okay lady.”
Villetta woke up as the noonday sun hovered overhead. She was lying on a mat laid out underneath a tree. Not far from Villetta was the winged stallion. He was floating a few inches off the ground. An opened canteen was nestled between his fetlocks. On the ground was a cup, which the winged stallion poured water into. The winged stallion had a light yellow coat, black mane, and was wearing what was left of a long-sleeve shirt with holes torn in the middle for his wings.
“Ah, you’re awake,” said the winged stallion. “I thought you were going to sleep a bit longer, after that rough night you had.” Judging by his voice, Villetta could tell her rescuer was a mere boy, about 18 or 19 in age.
“I couldn’t possibly sleep with the sun in my face,” said Villetta as she rubbed her eyes against her fetlocks.
“What’s your name? I didn’t have a chance to ask you last night. You insisted that we kept running even after I told you that we weren’t in danger. You ran yourself so ragged that you passed out from exhaustion.”
“It’s Villetta Nu, and thanks for watching over me.”
He noticed Villetta’s eyes were glued to the cup of water he just poured. “Oh I’m sorry. I would have poured you some had I known.”
“Go ahead and drink some first. It would be rude of me to deprive the man that rescued me of his rations.”
“I wouldn’t consider myself a man exactly. And...,” the winged stallion reached into a saddle bag on the ground and gently held, between his teeth, another tin cup by the handle. He set it beside the first cup and poured some water into it. “...I came prepared.” Then the winged stallion smiled warmly at Villetta. “And even if I didn’t, I would give my last drop to you.”
Villetta felt unnerved by the special attention the winged stallion was giving her; his bedroom eyes undressing her. “So, what’s your name?” Villetta asked in the hopes of shifting the winged stallion’s thoughts on something other than her.
“You can call me, Nathan...Nathan Ramirez.”
“Are you a Britannian soldier?”
“Was a Britannian soldier.” Nathan’s voice went from sickeningly-sweet to bitter rage seething beneath the surface on the verge of breaking out. “I was an MP stationed on Shikine Island when the changed happened. The few of us that could fly to Tokyo were disappointed to find out that the Viceroy wouldn’t provide Britannian soldiers from the other bases in Japan sanctuary.” The canteen dented inward under Nathan’s grip. “They barricaded the ground floor entrances and her air patrols kept any of us from landing. One of my best friends was stabbed to death by Princess Cornelia’s soldiers. So, I guess that means the Empire doesn’t want us anymore.”
“Don’t talk like that. Viceroy Cornelia would only do such a thing because of Zero’s treachery. He tried sneaking his terrorists into the Settlement by mixing them in with the surviving Britannian soldiers.”
Nathan closed his eyes and calmed down. His welcoming smile came back to him. “How sweet of you, but you don’t need to defend her. Viceroy Cornelia could have taken the time to sort out the few terrorists in our ranks, but she wouldn’t even bother to do that for us. We’re nothing but trash to be discarded.”
“You’re a hair-width away from being court-martialed for insubordination, soldier. I’m an honorary knight and am duty-bound to report this to my superior.”
Nathan laughed uproariously. He rolled around hugging his chest as though to keep his lungs from forcing its way out of his ribcage.
Villetta was fuming at the winged stallion’s tomfoolery. “Because of extenuating circumstances, I may keep this between you and I, but only if you...WILL YOU STOP LAUGHING!”
The laughter slowly down until the only thing that could be heard was Nathan catching his breath. “I meant no disrespect, ma’am. It’s just that I already have a death sentence placed on me by the Viceroy by being exiled into enemy territory. That’s why I can’t take that threat seriously. Besides, I hate to think of someone as beautiful as you driving around the ghettos in a Knightmare Frame.”
Villetta turned away from the winged stallion and huffed. “You call this hideous body ‘beautiful’? I hope this is a recently acquired taste.”
Nathan held back a chuckled. “It is, ma’am. I never saw a mare as lovely as you before.”
“Maybe you don’t pay any mind to military protocol, but I do. Going by your age, you’re obviously a private. Making sexual advances on a superior officer is something I frown upon even if it wasn’t against regs.”
Nathan hung his head down. “I’m actually not so bad if you only give me a chance.”
Villetta rolled her eyes. “Are there any other surviving Britannian soldiers?”
Nathan nodded his head enthusiastically. “I thought you’d never ask. We’re hiding in some caves. It’s a long journey on foot. We’ll probably be late at night getting there.”
Villetta sighed. “That far away, though I don’t blame you with that ‘thing’ from last night on the loose. Do you know what it is?”
Nathan shook his head. “It’s a complete mystery to me.”
“Do you think it’ll follow us back?”
“Doubt it. From our previous experiences, so long as our group stays out of the way, we’re not in any danger.”
“If our journey back is as long as you say it is, there should be plenty distance between us and that ‘thing’. At least my swollen ankles and I can take solace in that.”
The Britannian nobility gathered in the throne room as requested by Princess Cornelia. All of them sported the best clothes tailors with only their mouths could hastily put together. If they were humans, their attire would be considered rags too ragged to be worn in public, even by the standard set by homeless vagrants. However, their jewelry remained as radiant as before the transformation. As they waited for the two princesses, they gossiped amongst one another.
“I heard the Viceroy is having the Sub-Viceroy executed,” said Alexander Franklin to a slightly obese mundane stallion.
“But they’re sisters,” said the obese stallion.
“So what? From what I heard, the Viceroy broke the Sub-Viceroy’s jaw,” Franklin snickered. “The Sub-Viceroy called the Viceroy an incompetent moron.”
“Well, no wonder why she gave her a sound thrashing.”
“Oh be quiet! I heard the exact opposite,” she was a horned pony with a white coat, blonde hair, and three gold bars on her hind quarter. “The Sub-Viceroy locked the Viceroy in her room for a week and is only letting her out so that she can formally turn over control of Area 11 to her.”
“You have quite the sense of humor, Lady Stadtfeld. Princess Euphemia, the Emperor’s pacifist daughter?!? Seizing power?!? I almost want it to happen just for a good laugh. By the way, have they found your husband’s daughter?”
“No,” Lady Stadtfeld said condescendingly, “and good riddance. I hope his half-breed bastard daughter stays missing. At least her mother had the good graces of dying.” Lady Stadtfeld was speaking of Kōzuki Kallen who is the love child of her husband and his recently deceased Eleven maid. “Now hush up, the viceroy and sub-viceroy are about to make their announcement.”
Cornelia and Euphemia cut through the audience which was divided by the red carpet leading to the throne. They were accompanied by Darlton and Guilford. Cornelia held her head down as they made their way, which ‘confirmed’ Mrs. Stadtfeld’s suspicions. The cold-hearted, horned mare had a self-satisfying grin. She winked at the two stallions she was gossiping with.
“Looks like I was right all along,” Mrs. Stadtfeld gloated.
Cornelia took a deep breath and sighed. “Members of the noble houses, I summoned you here for a very important announcement.”
Suddenly, Lloyd pushed his way through the audience and ran up to the throne. “Don’t worry, Viceroy, I can take it from here.”
“Oh no,” Euphemia said softly, just low enough to be heard only by her own ears. “Please don’t let it be what I think it is.” Euphemia’s plan to find a peace resolution was going up in flames before her very eyes.
“Hello,” said Lloyd jovially, “for those that don’t know me, I’m Lloyd Asplund, earl of the House of Asplund.”
“What the hell are you doing!” Cornelia grumbled. “I don’t have time for you foolishness, Earl Asplund.”
“But I thought you were announcing our progress with the Knightmare refits.”
Cornelia’s mood completely changed. Her face seemed to glow. “You were...successful?”
Lloyd smiled slyly. “You had three of the most brilliant minds in all of the Settlement working on it. Was there any doubt?”
“Take me to it,” Cornelia demanded. “Let me see with my own eyes.”
“Well in that case,” said Lloyd. He looked over his shoulder and addressed the audience. “All you nobles follow us to the courtyard. We have quite the site for you to witness.” Everyone in the room appeared to be upbeat about the news except for one-Princess Euphemia. She hung her head down and moaned as the others piled outside.
“Oh Lloyd, you couldn’t have come at a worse time,” said Euphemia.
Euphemia scuffled to the courtyard where the nobles gathered. They, along with Cornelia, Darlton, Guilford, Lloyd, and two other horned mares watched, from a distance, the Lancelot Knightmare Frame weave around oversize traffic cones in a show of agility. However, it wasn’t quite as swift-footed as it used to be. Euphemia also noticed the Lancelot had a pair of fins sticking outward from its back.
“As you can see, the initial results from the Lancelot’s new uranium fission power plant are quite positive. The power plant is one of three that will be installed on the Lancelot. The extra nacelles are part of the cooling system. Because extracting power from uranium lacks the efficiency of the old Yggdrasil system, the waste heat must be exhausted into the...”
Euphemia lost track of Lloyd’s presentation when one of horned mares who was working on the alternative power source spoke to her. “Excuse me, your majesty.” The horned mare bowed to Euphemia. “It’s a privilege to serve you, your highness.”
“Your voice; it sounds familiar,” said Euphemia. “May I ask who are you?’
“My name is Nina Einstein. I was one of the hostages at the hoteljacking. You save me and my friends from those Eleven terrorists.”
“Me?!? Save you?!?” said Euphemia. She wondered why this girl credited her for rescuing the hostages when it was, in fact, Zero and Suzaku who saved her. “I didn’t really do that much.”
“Oh but you did, Princess,” said Nina, “more than you can imagine.” Nina then noticed Euphemia staring at the Lancelot. “Are you happy with our work?” Nina asked as she stared at Euphemia with puppy dog eyes; pleading with Euphemia to be pleased with her.
Euphemia looked away from Nina and sighed. “I don’t know.”
Nina frowned. “B...b...but why not your majesty? If you give us time, we can make the Lancelot run as well as it did before...that night.” Nina felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around. It was Lloyd and Cecile smiling at Nina.
“Nina, come on up. They want to meet the genius who invented the new Knightmare power plant.”
“But you and Cecile...”
“...wouldn’t know where to begin if it wasn’t for you.” Cecile nudged Nina from behind leading her to the front of the crowd. Lloyd said with his right front leg on Nina’s back. “This is the young genius from Ashford Academy that I told you about. Nina Einstein is the one who came up with the concept and perform the preliminary work.” Lloyd flew up and waved at Suzaku. “You too, Suzaku. You helped design the control schematics for the Lancelot. You made it possible for four hooves and a mouth to do what two hands used to be able to.” After lowering himself down from the cockpit, Suzaku took his place with Lloyd, Cecile, and Nina, much to the chagrin of the Britannian nobles. Most of them gave him dirty stares.
Baron Franklin whispered into Lady Stadtfeld’s ear. “I hope they omit that Number from the record.”
“You’re not the only one.”
Suzaku, not wanting to make a scene, pretended not to hear the nobles’ vindictive gossip. However, someone in the crowd showed their appreciation for Suzaku’s work. A pair of hooves clopped together. The audience looked around and saw Darlton balancing on his hind legs clapping. He flapped his wings a bit to assist in standing upright. Then Guilford followed suit and clapped/clopped as well. Then some of the other nobles joined in. It didn’t take long for the rest of the nobles went along, even if it was just to maintain appearance. Nina glanced at Euphemia hoping she would join in. Once again, the Britannian teenager looked at Euphemia with that same pleading puppy dog expression. Euphemia unenthusiastically clapped/clopped.
After an emotionally exhausting day, Euphemia was turning in early. She was about to go to bed when she was greeted in front of her bedroom door by her sister.
“Viceroy, is there anything I can do for you before I go to bed?”
“We don’t have to be formal here,” said Cornelia who was staring down and scraping the floor with her hoof in a circular pattern. “I wanted to talk to you about what happened this afternoon, or more specially, what didn’t happen.”
“‘What didn’t happen’? What do you mean?”
Cornelia looked up at Euphemia with eyes pleading for forgiveness. “I upstaged you. You, my own sister. I was supposed to step down and hand the office of viceroy over to you.”
“Is that what you’re so upset over? I’m not mad at you. Let’s put that behind us. We need to discuss our plans to negotiate a peace with the Japanese.”
Cornelia raised an eyebrow. “Why? The whole point of me staying on as viceroy was because we now have a working Knightmare. We don’t have to make peace with the Elevens. That’s the only reason why I didn’t hand control of Area 11 over to you.”
“Sis, please reconsider. The Knightmare gives us a position of strength to negotiate from. We don’t have to...”
“The only peace that I’ll accept is Zero’s unconditional surrender.”
“Cornelia, you can’t be serious? You can’t take over Japan...”
“It’s Area 11. It never stopped being Area 11.”
“Whatever you wish to call it, you can’t take it over with only one Frame.”
“It’s not just one Frame. Earl Asplund projected that we could have five fully-functional Gloucesters by the end of the year; twenty by the end of next year. The Lancelot alone is enough to sure up our forces and keep Zero at bay. Once the Lancelot’s refits are done, we only need to hold the Elevens off until our forces are built back up.”
“Earl Asplund’s new technology isn’t some cure all.”
“Weren’t you paying attention? Nuclear fission could match, if not succeed, sakuradite as a power source. He even said it could, theoretically be made into a bomb with yields a thousand times greater than its own mass in chemical explosives.”
“Is that why you want to continue fighting with the Elevens? Knightmares aren’t enough. Now the Empire needs doomsday weapons!”
“Don’t you raise your voice at me, Sub-Viceroy!”
“Oh now we’re being formal!”
“That’s enough, Sub-Viceroy!”
“Oh, so when I said something you don’t like hearing, you pull rank on me!”
“This conversation is over. Good night!” Cornelia stomped back to her room. Euphemia disappeared into her bedroom slamming the door behind her.
“So, you wanted to be a knight of honor?” Villetta asked. She and Nathan trotted up the rocky incline. The light from the waxing crescent moon was their guide as they made their way up the mountain.
The young winged stallion nodded his head. “It was my dream to fly fighter jets since my stepfather took me to my first air show. While most of my classmates were drooling over their model Knightmares, I was reading everything about flying that I could find in the library. But to my disappointment, I found out that only those with nobility could be pilots, whether it’s a Knightmare or a jet fighter. If you only knew how many times I dropped in unannounced at some nobleman’s house in the hopes of getting a sponsor for honorary knighthood. But what nobleman would stick their neck out for a kid from a dirt poor family?”
Villetta knew exactly how Nathan felt. She could have been just like Nathan, an enlisted foot soldier with no real future, had she not had the good fortunate of meeting her deadly departed Lord Jeremiah.
“You know, Private Ramirez, if I’m successful in completing my mission, you will be rewarded handsomely for your assistance. I have no doubt that you would be given the status of honorary knight. Even a true title of nobility isn’t out of the question. My mission is that important to the future of the Britannian Empire.”
“Thanks, but no thanks. And please, stop being so formal.”
Villetta’s lip curled up. “You think I’m lying to you?”
Nathan gave Villetta his warm and loving or, from Villetta’s perspective, creepy smile. “Oh no, you’re too honest to be a convincing liar, and I doubt you’d even try to deceive me with a false promise. I just don’t care about it anymore.”
“Oh that again! Princess Cornelia had no other choice, and as a soldier of Britannia, you swore to sacrifice your life protecting it. Stop your self pity.”
“But it’s not self pity, Villetta.” Nathan opened his wings. “Noble titles are meaningless to me since I’ve gotten these. All I cared about was flying. The title of knight was just a means to an end. In fact,” Nathan chuckled, “I pity the poor pilots who thought they felt the freedom of flight and never really experienced it with real wings of their own.”
“You’re out of your mind to turn down a title of nobility. And don’t call me ‘Villetta’. Just because you’ve given up being a Britannian soldier doesn’t mean you may speak to me in that familiar tone.” As Villetta was admonishing Nathan, two stallions trotted out from behind some rocks. They pointed their horns at Villetta and Nathan. Beams of light emanating from their horns shined on them.
“It’s okay, fellows. She’s with me.” The two sentries looked at each other and then back at Villetta and Nathan.
“Come this way,” one of them said. Villetta and Nathan followed them back behind the rocks to the mouth of a cave.
“Amazing! I didn’t know their horns could glow.”
“To a certain extent, the power varies between each individual.” Ten minutes later, the two horned guards, Villetta, and Nathan entered into a large cavity in the cave system that was being illuminated by numerous lanterns suspended on poles. Dozens of ponies were relaxing around the makeshift streetlamps. Much to Villetta's dismay, there weren’t so much as a stitch of clothing in the camp. Though what she had on didn’t leave much to the imagination, at least she was trying to be modest. An angry snort escaped her nostrils. The thought of Britannian soldiers losing their self-respect irritated her. They passed by some ponies who were fanning the entrance with their wings.
As Nathan and Villetta passed by, a winged mare called out of Nathan. “It’s your turn tomorrow to ventilate the cave, so get a good night’s sleep, Barnstormer.”
“Hey! Not when the lady’s around!”
Villetta had a confused look on her face, which Nathan took note of. “It’s a nickname the guys from Shikine Island gave me when they found out that I wanted to be a pilot. Though you should be flattered, they only tease me when I’m around a beautiful woman.” Villetta rolled her eyes at the awkward pick up line.
One of the ponies left his spot beneath the lantern post and trotted to meet Villetta and Nathan. The mundane stallion had a red coat and purple mane, but what set him apart from the others was the jagged scar running along from the base of his neck to his lower jaw.
“Nathan, it’s good to see you,” he said.
“It’s good to see you too, sir.”
“‘Sir’? Are you the highest ranking officer here?”
“I *was* Warrant Officer Greg Finney of the 118th Artillery Division.”
“And since this insubordinate disgrace calls you ‘sir’,” Villetta said while pointing to Nathan, “I take it you’re their leader.” The other ponies laughed and pointed at Nathan who had a sheepish grin on his face.
“Not quite,” said Finney, “but you’re close.”
“I see-no formal command structure. In any case, you will offer your assistance so that I may successfully complete my mission.”
Finney rolled his eyes. “You’re not even here for one minute, and you’re already nagging us to follow orders.”
“Well, unless you have a general or a noble around, I have the highest rank and that means I’m in charge.”
Laughter broke out amongst the crowd. Finney was on his back rolling on the cave floor snickering at Villetta. One horned mare was laughing so hard, she tripped over her own hooves and knocked over a lantern post. Fortunately, a horned stallion caught it with telekinesis before it could hit the ground.
“Another power,” Villetta whispered. She couldn’t help but to think she got the short end of the stick when it came to the transformation.
“You see what your silly little joke almost did. That could have burned our home down.”
“I wasn’t joking Warrant Officer! I’m taking command of this group of irregulars!”
“Irregulars? I will let you know that I have a bowel movement every morning at exactly 0700 hours.” The other ponies laughed even harder at Greg Finney’s joke.
“I know Zero’s true identity!” Villetta’s temper was wearing thin as it was buffeted by the waves of insults and jeers. “You think it’s a joke, now!”
“Who cares about Zero’s secret identity!” A mundane stallion heckled.
“I already know who Zero is-he’s a pony,” said a winged mare.
“DON’T YOU BRITANNIANS CARE ABOUT ANYTHING! WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO YOUR PRIDE!” Villetta screamed to the top of her lungs.
Greg Finney smirked at the enraged Villetta. “No one here cares about Zero and his stupid little war. He’s a silly pony who thinks he’s still a naked ape, and the same goes for his Black Knights and Viceroy Cornelia and her army of silly ponies.”
“I’m telling you one last time,” Villetta said with all the restraint she could muster, “you will acknowledge my status as an honorary knight and you will assist me in passing this vital information to Viceroy Cornelia!”
“Hey Cinnamon Delight,” Greg Finney called out to a mundane pony with a light brown coat with dark brown spots all over her, “come on over here.”
“You know not to call us by our true names when the wild ponies are around.” Villetta’s eyes were bulging out upon hearing the mare’s voice. She had a Japanese accent.
“Now wait just one second. Please someone tell me that Eleven is an honorary Britannian. Don’t tell me you allow their kind to run around here unchecked.”
Greg Finney gave Villetta a dirty look. “Do you mind, I’m talking to Cinnamon Delight.” Then he said to the Eleven pony, “Oh that’s not an issue. It’s okay to use our real names around this one because we’re giving her *The Choice*.” Villetta could feel her hairs standing up. There was a nauseous feeling in her stomach. Her mood had changed from anger to trepidation. What was this ‘choice’ they were planning on giving her? Did Nathan save her life so that she could be a toy in their sick game? “Now Cinnamon,” Greg Finney said in a coy voice, “you used to be an Eleven or Japanese or whatever our sad-excuse-for-a-princess Cornelia ordered us to call you. Tell me: do you care about Zero’s true identity.”
Cinnamon Delight shook her head. “I don’t care about Zero anymore. I used to when I was an ugly, bloodthirsty ape. I idolized him. He was my hero but not anymore; not after our princess gave us our new bodies.” She rubbed her flank seductively along Finney’s side. “You know I have eyes for you and our princess alone.”
Villetta’s legs were shaking. She was surrounded by lunatics. They sounded more like escapees from an insane asylum than Britannian soldiers.
“You see, Cinnamon Delight couldn’t care less about Zero’s true identity, and Zero used to be her hero. And my name is no longer ‘Greg Finney’, and I’m no longer Cornelia’s little tin soldier. My new name is Night Fire, and I’m the high priest for our true princess.”
Villetta Nu screamed in utter terror at the cloud that was flowing into the caverns. It was the same black smoke with points of light scattered in it that attacked the mob of Elevens from the night before. Villetta tried to run, but something held fast to her hooves. She fell over, but rather than a hard crash face first into the cavern floor, Villetta was set upright by the same force holding her hooves together. She looked down and saw an aura surrounding her fetlocks, which was being held together. She looked around and saw the same aura around the horns of some of the ponies, all of them were pointing their horns at her.
“Oh don’t be afraid, ma’am,” said Nathan with that same overly friendly, unsettling smile. “I told you last night, she won’t hurt you. In fact, she wants to help us.” Then Nathan, Greg Finney/Night Fire, Cinnamon, and all of the other ponies bowed to the mist, which was forming the shape of a ghostly, transparent apparition. It was twice as tall as a pony. In fact, apart from the horn and wings, it was more like a horse than a pony.
“Behold, a real princess-Nightmare Moon,” said Night Fire.
“Hello,” the apparition greeted Villetta. “Have you come to join our herd, my little pony?”
Inoue, Sugiyama, and a dozen winged Black Knights followed Kallen through the clouds in formation. They grazed the cloud tops in a zig-zag flight path. Some of the Black Knights galloped along as they flew and tested the vapors to see if they really could land on clouds. Kallen veered to the left with the others following her lead. The Black Knights landed next to a small bump in the clouds.
“Wait one second,” said Kallen. She dived through the clouds and carved out a tunnel. The landscape could be seen from the opening. When she came back up, Kallen landed on the edge and pointed to the bump. “All of you gather around this little hill. Space yourselves out evenly.”
“Could you tell us why we flew all the way to Toshima Island?” Sugiyama asked
Kallen rolled her eyes. “I thought I told you already. We can’t take a chance on the Britannians finding out about our weather control powers. Toshima Island is far enough away for that. We can’t take chances on the Britannians finding out what we’re up to and ruining Zero’s plans.” Around Kallen’s neck was a pair of binoculars. She flapped her wings and hovered just above the cloud tops freeing her fetlocks to hold the binoculars up to her face. “Okay, all of you, kick at the same time.” The recruits did as ordered. “I’m not seeing anything.”
“It shouldn’t take much. Those kids could make it spark,” said Inoue.
Sugiyama inspected the cloud by sticking his head under the bump. “It’s only rain,” he said.
“We can’t beat the Britannians with rain; not without flooding all of the Tokyo Settlement.”
“Flooding them is an option,” one Black Knight said spitefully.
“Black Knights don’t target the innocent,” said Kallen. “We’re going to make lightning strike, and we’re going to get it right.” In reality, Kallen still cared for her classmates as Ashford Academy and wouldn’t want the Black Knights to haphazardly target Britannians and kill innocent civilians needlessly. Some of them might be her classmates. “Try giving it a swift kick.”
“The last time we did, the cloud disintegrated,” said another winged recruited.
“That’s because you kicked it the wrong way.” Kallen flew to a smaller bump. “Here, watch me do it.” Kallen kicked the cloud causing it to spark. The others jumped back when they were startled by the thunderclap. “Aim your kicks at the center of mass. Some of you were kicking above or below it and dissipating the cloud. Take turns aiming for the center of the hump. The rest of you have to keep your distance. I don’t want any of you struck by a stray bolt.”
One by one, the Black Knights practiced making the cloud spark as the others stood off at a distance. Bolts lit up the clouds as the boom of thunder rattled the clouds. When the last one in the group finish his practice, Kallen flew over and said, “Gather around and make sure you’re evenly spaced. We’re seeing if we can hit the ground by combining our kicks.” Kallen, once again, took her position over the hole in the clouds. Her binoculars were between her fetlocks and against her face. In her sight several columns of red X’s in a clearing surrounded by dense forest at the foot of Mt. Miyatsuka. Nearby, there were some blue X’s. “On my mark, all of you kick. We have to hit the red targets without hitting the blue ones. Got it?”
“Got it,” the Black Knights said in unison.
“Get ready.” The Black Knights turned their back to the hump. They bent their legs a bit in preparation.
“Now,” said Kallen. The Black Knights kicked the clouds simultaneously. A massive thunderbolt shot out of the cloud.
“Did it hit?” Inoue asked.
Kallen shook her head. “Not even close. It’s three kilometers offshore. We gotta do better than that.” Kallen flew over to the right side of the bump and land. “You, on this side, lighten up on your kick. You on the other side, kick a bit harder. I think if we vary the kick, the lightning will come from the side with the stronger kicks.” She flew back to the hole. “Get ready...go.” Another lightning bolt shot out of the cloud. “It’s off by two kilometers and on the other side of the target.”
Sugiyama sighed. “This is going to be a long day.”
“But why can’t I help?” The blue winged stallion said pleading with Yamato. It was late that night and both he and Yamato, the Shinjuku elder, gathered around the candlelight inside Yamato’s living room, which was decorated in traditional Japanese-style home decorum.
Yamato closed his eyes and exhaled. “Look at you; you’ve bruised up all over.” The winged stallion was covered in wounds from the time he stood up for the Shinjuku Elders against the Britannians and paid the price. “If you went out in public, Zero would take advantage of your injuries. He’d used our setback on the road to peace as evidence that ending hostilities with the Britannians is impossible.”
“I don’t want my injuries to be used as a means of discouraging others from make peace, but you’re asking me to sit around and do nothing. You have to let me help.”
“Unless you can get an audience with Princess Euphemia le Britannia herself, I can’t see how you could be any help to us.”
“And do you know what Euphemia looks like?”
Yamato gasped at the realization that the young stallion had taken his jest seriously. “Now wait a minute. I never intended for you to attempt such a foolhardy gesture. If you were caught, the Viceroy would have you killed.”
That’s a big ‘if’ right there. These rookie flyers couldn’t catch a cold let alone yours truly.”
“You arrogant fool! You could jeopardize the peace by trying to break into the Tokyo Settlement. We didn’t go through the trouble of treating your wounds and popping your wing back into its joint just so that you can get yourself killed.”
“There is no peace to jeopardize. You said it yourself Zero is planning on raiding the Settlement. We don’t have anything to lose from trying.”
“I forbid it. There are other ways you can help. We can always use an extra pair of hands at my office.”
The blue winged stallion stood up and said, “I don’t have hands. I have hooves.” With his peace said, the stallion walked out.
Several squadrons of winged stallions bearing the familiar crest of the Britannian Empire flew around the perimeter of the Tokyo Settlement. They watched for any potential invaders to either try to sneak into the ground levels or to infiltrate the Settlement by air. Apart from the occasional winged pony claiming to be a Britannian soldier from the other bases, there hasn’t be any activity on the border, until now.
They didn’t see it as first. The intruder’s coat of fur blended so well with the background, the patrols didn’t see him until he was on top of them. Out of nowhere, a blue streak cut across their path.
“What the hell was that!” A gold-colored mare with a blue mane said.
“Over there,” a green stallion with a brown mane said. He pointed at the winged blue stallion rapidly disappearing.
“That’s not possible. Can winged ponies move that fast, Sir Kolm?”
“Worry about that later, Newman,” said the green stallion. He pointed at some of the Britannians. “Snow, Bowen, Newman, Shettler, help me capture that Eleven.”
“Yes my lord,” the four ponies said in unison before accompanying Sir Kolm in their pursuit of the blue stallion. The five Britannians flew faster than they ever flew before. Sir Kolm felt his lungs burning, and going by the strained breaths taken by his subordinates, their stamina was being pushed to the limit. Yet, they were falling behind; they might as well be flying backwards. The intruder showed no signs of fatigue or slowing down. Fortunately, some of the inner perimeter patrols spotted the chase and joined in. They headed off the intruder before he had a chance to advance further. The intruder made a hard 180 degree bank and flew towards Sir Kolm and his men.
“This is...our chance...to re...redeem ourselves,” Sir Kolm said between breaths. The intruder suddenly turned at a right angle and made a downward plunge. Sir Kolm and his men dived after him. The intruder’s wings worked in conjunction with the force of gravity to out accelerate his pursuers.
“Halt!” The outer perimeter guards complied with Sir Kolm’s command and slowed their descent. “That fool is moving too fast to pull out of that dive,” he assured his men. “I’ve seen it before in training accidents. He won’t pull...” Sir Kolm was stunned into silence when the intruder made a hard 90 degree turn just a few feet off the ground. “...out...of...that...dive?”
The intruder glided just above the surface along the street. Out of nowhere, a Britannian attempted to sideswipe the intruder. Some of the inner perimeter patrols, who witnessed the chase, joined in on the pursuit. The intruder pitched up at the last movement and narrowly dodged the Britannians. The other members of the inner perimeter patrols never could get as close as the first one. The intruder was only caught off guard. He maneuvered around the other Britannians coming at him from the intersecting streets with the grace and fleet footedness of a humming bird.
Sir Kolm shook his head to snap himself out of the shock of seeing the intruder fly circles around Darlton’s best airborne troops. “Well, what are you waiting for,” he said to his men. Sir Kolm shot upward and then towards a roof with a makeshift radio tower and shack as fast as his wings would carry him. They landed next to the shack. From a window, they could see a horned stallion inside the shack manning a cumbersome radio set. Sir Kolm barged in and said between breaths. “We have a breach of security. An intruder with blue fur flew pass our border patrol and is heading towards the Viceroy Palace. Contact General Darlton and inform him the threat could be there at any second.”
“Any second? Just how fast do you think this intruder is g...”
“Just do as I say, soldier!”
The horned stallion tensed up and saluted. “Yes, my lord.” His horned glowed with a light hue; the same light hue surrounding the tuning dial of the shortwave radio. The dials were adjusted telekinetically as the receiver sparked and crackled. The horned stallion used his telekinesis to tap the Morse code straight key wired to the shortwave radio.
Darlton was staring at a picture on his desk in a melancholy gaze. He had taken a break from relearning how to write. A pile of paper with illegible words printed on them was scattered around the overflowing trash bin. It was a picture of Darlton when he was human. The only indication it was ever him in that picture was the gaping scar running from the right side of his forehead, through the bridge of his nose, and ending between his nose and left cheek and his light brown hair. He was in the center of the picture with his rather large family consisting of adopted sons. Thoughts of them back in the homeland dogged him, among those thoughts were the fear that he would never see them again. Even if he could make it back home, how would he recognize them? Darlton laughed at himself for forgetting about his prominent facial scar. Maybe it was a blessing that he got the hideous thing.
Darlton was ripped from his introspection by hooves frantically pounding on his door. He opened the door to a young private. The horned stallion was in a panic.
“General Dalton, sir,” he said in a panicky voice, “an intruder broke through our perimeter and is heading straight for the palace.”
“How many of them,” asked Darlton.
“Just one, sir,” said the private.
“Run to the motor pool as fast as you can and track down Warrant Officer Kururugi. Tell him about the intruder and that the Viceroy and Sub-Viceroy are in the rooftop villa.”
The private saluted. “Right away, sir,” he said before galloping to the motor pool.
Euphemia and Cornelia were lying down on a picnic blanket together. Euphemia was grazing on the dew-drenched lawn while Cornelia watched apprehensively.
Euphemia stopped feeding for a moment and gave her sister a concerned look. “Sis,” Euphemia asked, “why aren’t you eating breakfast?”
“That’s the villa lawn, Euphie,” said Cornelia. “When you said don’t bother to bring food and that there was some already here, this wasn’t what I had in mind.”
“You said we should do what we can to conserve food and now that we’re ponies...”
“But that’s our villa lawn. Couldn’t you eat some vegetables?”
“The royal physicians said grazing is perfectly normal.”
“It’s *grass* Euphie.” Cornelia went stiff and began looking around. “You don’t hear that?”
“Here what, sis?”
“Someone else is here.” Cornelia got up and scanned the villa for trespassers.
“Hey there,” the voice from above called out. Cornelia jump back and diverted her eyes to the source: the blue winged stallion floating above them. “Which one of you is Euphemia?”
Cornelia gritted her teeth and snorted like horse. “You again! My men didn’t beat enough sense into you the last time.”
The intruder chuckled. “Well, my teacher always said I was hard-headed.”
“Viceroy, Sub-Viceroy” said a voice from above, “you must go back inside the palace, immediately. An intruder broke through the perimeter.” Darlton landed next to Cornelia.
“We’re already aware of it, Darlton,” said Cornelia staring at the blue stallion.
Darlton, upon seeing the blue stallion, launched himself into the air, pulled out his knife, and lunged at the intruder. Darlton tried to graze him at such an angle as to cut the intruder as he passed by. The intruder shifted position and kicked Darlton in the ribs. The blow knocked the knife out of Darlton’s mouth and forced him to make a crash landing on the villa lawn.
“Will you ponies please stop trying to kill me!” The blue stallion yelled. “As I was saying, I need to speak with Princess Euphemia.” The blue stallion looked straight at Euphemia. “Are you her?”
Euphemia nodded her head. “I am. What do you want from me?”
The blue stallion landed and bowed to her. “I’m sorry for barging in your highnesses, but this is of the utmost importance.” The blue stallion’s ears pointed towards the back. He looked over his shoulder and saw a mundane stallion with a gold coat, brown mane, and a shield on his hind quarter.
“Step away from the viceroy and sub-viceroy and lay down on the ground or else I’ll have to use force.”
The winged stallion took to the air and hovered twenty feet above them. “I know this looks bad and all, but I’m only here to talk to Princess Euphemia. Besides, you can’t reach me from up. You’ll only embarrass yourself if you...” Before the winged stallion could react, the mundane stallion sprinted across the villa, leaped in the air, spun around in mid-air like a top and kicked the winged stallion in the gut. The intruder fell tumbled along the ground and came to a stop at Euphemia’s front hooves.
“Oh man,” said the winged stallion, “Never saw an earth pony jump that high before.” The winged stallion yelled in pain as the mundane stallion stood on his wings and front legs.
“You’re under arrest,” said the mundane stallion.
“Excellent work, Warrant Officer Kururugi,” said Darlton who was struggling to get back on his four feet.
Euphemia ran to the side of the winged stallion. “Suzaku, I order you to release him at once.”
“Disregard that order, Warrant Officer,” said Cornelia.
“Viceroy, this man may be here on behalf of the Elevens to negotiate a peace settlement. We should at least here him out.”
“Tell me, Eleven, on whose behalf do you come for?” Cornelia asked in a voice dripping with derision.
“I already told you-I’m not an Eleven and you’re no longer a Britannian.”
Cornelia rolled her eyes. “That stupidity again. Quit wasting my time and just answer the question.”
“I come on behalf of the Tokyo Elders.”
“Heh, those nobodies,” said Cornelia disdainfully. “The Tokyo Elders have no authority worth mentioning. Warrant Officer, take this knave and toss him in a cell with the rest of the Elevens after he’s been branded.”
“Suzaku, don’t you dare do that to him.”
“But, the viceroy said...” Suzaku was conflicted over whose order to follow.
“Are you reprimanding my orders...right in front of me!”
“Viceroy, I mean no disrespect,” Euphemia said in a submissive voice. “All I’m asking for a show of good will to the Elevens and Honorary Britannian still loyal to the Empire. Obviously, they’re determined to find a peace resolution, and this young man’s desperate action is proof. I only ask that you do not dismiss them so easily.”
Cornelia silently contemplated Euphemia’s request. “I suppose we can use a messenger to relay our demands. Suzaku, take him to the palace holding cell. You can speak with him between iron bars, sub-viceroy.”
“What about letting him go?”
“I will, eventually, but for the time being, he can wait in his cell.”
Kallen looked through her binoculars at yet another lightning strike; this one landed in the center of the blue X’s.
“Did we hit?” Inoue asked.
“Yeah, we hit something,” Kallen nodded, “our own formation.”
The Black Knights let out a collective groan. “We’re been at this for two days now,” said Sugiyama, “and we’re still not making accurate hits.”
“I don’t we can,” said Kallen. “I’ll tell Zero that the lightning strikes will have to be made before any advancement. It’ll be no different than what they used to do back in those battles. Both sides would shell each other before sending in infantry. We’re just going to have to do the same.”
“Kallen,” said Sugiyama with a worried tone in his voice, “we have company.”
Kallen looked in the same direction as Sugiyama. There were hundreds of winged ponies heading in their direction. Kallen’s whole body tensed up; her wings opened up in preparation that she may have to use them to flee if this mob of ponies were Britannians. But upon closer inspection, they wore clothes with the Geass symbol and the sword through the center of the birdlike shape-the emblem of the Black Knights.
The flock of winged ponies stopped and hovered just above the clouds. One by one, they cautiously landed; many of them poked and inspected the clouds.
One of the winged Black Knights stepped forward. He had the wind-up alarm clock that Zero found tied around his neck. “Which one of you is the Airborne Division Commander Kozuki Kallen?”
Kallen spoke up. “I’m Kozuki Kallen. What do you need?”
“I have instructions from Zero,” he said as he pulled out a rolled up sheet of paper. “U iuys mide,” he said with his mouth full. Two of the winged Black Knights unrolled and held both ends of the paper.
Kallen silently read over the instructions. “He wants me to do what?!?” Kallen looked at the messenger. “I have to train *all* of them?!?”
The stallion nodded.
“Do we need that many Black Knights kicking clouds?”
Kallen shook her head. “The training isn’t for making lightning; it’s for moving clouds. Not only do we have to train the recruits, but also to gather up enough clouds to block the skies over Tokyo by sunset five days from now.”
“We’re taking back the Settlement already?” Sugiyama asked.
“Zero said specifically it’s for a separate mission.”
“Okay, you may leave now.” Euphemia ordered Suzaku. The princess and honorary Britannian were in the murky depths of the palace sub-basement where the holding cells were. Apart from the pair of candles Euphemia and Suzaku brought, there was no light in the prison. Behind iron bars was the blue winged stallion.
Suzaku glanced at the detainee and back at Euphemia. “But my lord...”
“It’s Euphie, remember,” Euphemia interrupted Suzaku.
“But, Euphie, the Viceroy might not approve of me leaving you alone with the prisoner.”
“I’ll be okay, Suzaku. He can’t possible do me any harm.”
“Just don’t get any ideas about letting him go.”
Euphemia raised an eyebrow. “What makes you think I’d go against my sister’s orders?”
“It’s not that; it’s just that we don’t know anything about this person.”
“I said I wasn’t going to hurt your princess,” the blue stallion said defensively.
Suzaku ignored the prisoner. “Just watch yourself and don’t do anything that might get you hurt.” Suzaku slowly climbed up the stairway.
“They didn’t provide any light for you?” Euphemia asked the prisoner.
He shook his head. “Not so much as a used up candle.”
“I’ll order the guards to provide you with illumination.”
“Thank you, your highness.”
“What is your name?”
The blue winged stallion laughed loudly. “Except for Yamato, you’re the only pony as of late that’s bothered to ask me that. Name’s Kumo Sorato, but you can call me ‘Sorato’.”
“Please to make your acquaintance, Sorato. I apologize for your rough treatment.”
“It’s no problem, your majesty. What’s important is that we stop the fighting.”
Euphemia gazed at the dirty prison floor. “I wish I knew how, but my sister has no intents of calling a truce.”
“But why not? You’re all ponies now. Maybe I’m wrong, but when you stopped being Britannians and Japanese and became part of the same herd, you lost your reason to fight. Even those old squabbles weren’t worth killing over.”
“I’m afraid it isn’t that simple, Mr. Kumo. We’re not in the same herd, as you put it. My sister, the Viceroy, thinks she can retake Japan.”
“But she can’t. The ponies in this settlement are outnumbered.”
“I know that, but the Viceroy sees things differently. But mostly, she’s terrified. She’s terrified that if she did surrender, the Japanese would overrun the Settlement and slaughter us. We Britannians have treated the Japanese badly and some of it is projecting our behavior and way of thinking on the Japanese, but some of it is also the knowledge that we hurt them badly enough that revenge isn’t out of the question.”
Sorato held his head down. “It wouldn’t the first time a pony got revenge on another pony.” Sorata picked his head up and forced himself to smile for the down-hearted princess. “If I can’t stop this war, then maybe I can do what I can to reduce casualties on your side. I’ll talk with Yamato and convince Zero to keep his ponies from going too far.”
A smile crept on Euphemia’s face. “Thank you, Sorato.”
Euphemia came back upstairs where Suzaku was waiting on her. “So,” Suzaku asked, “how did your peace talks go.”
Euphemia sighed. “Not well, I’m afraid. We weren’t smart enough to come up with a solution.”
“This may be a situation that doesn’t have an easy solution. We could have one, but that would expecting too much from someone like Zero.”
“Doesn’t the Ashford family run a boarding school in the Settlements?”
“Yes, they do. Why did you ask?”
“I was wondering, if you could arrange for me to obtain hard copies of the student records.”
Suzaku tensed up. “Why would you want that for?” He asked.
“Why would you want to know?”
Suzaku averted his eyes from Euphemia’s. “It’s just that getting a hold of those at a time like this would be difficult.”
“As sub-viceroy, they can make find the time for me.” Euphemia began to eye Suzaku suspiciously. “You look nervous. Are you hiding something from me, Kururugi Suzaku?” Euphemia circled around Suzaku and looked him in the eyes. Suzaku turned away from Euphemia and avert his gaze from hers. “Well?” Euphemia pouted.
Kallen landed on the roof of the Black Knight’s headquarters. The previous four days have taken their toll on Kallen. Her mornings started with the head-splitting sound of the wind-up alarm clock that Zero sent; the wind-up alarm clock she had to keep tied to her neck as she slept in the clouds; the wind-up alarm clock that woke her up at four in the morning as per Zero’s instructions. Three eighteen-hour days explaining to dull-witted recruits the same set of instructions on how to move clouds over and over again; another eighteen hour day yesterday and most of today directing traffic for those same dimwits. These last few days left her with bags under her eyes and a massive migraine. Just off the coast of Tokyo was the massive cloud formation waiting for Zero’s orders. Kallen went through the rooftop entrance and headed to the main office.
When she entered, she was greeted by Zero and four other ponies: three stallions and one mare. The stallions consisted of one rather old horned pony with a thin, receding white mane and iris colored coat. The horned stallion was also chubby around the waist. The second stallion was a mundane with a blue, spikey mane and a raspberry-colored coat. The one single mare in the group was also a mundane. She had a short brown mane and a fuchsia coat. The last stallion was a winged pony with a short green mane and majorelle blue coat. This winged pony wore a pair of glasses and had a vertical scar running from his right cheek to his forehead with his right eye bisecting the scar.
“Kallen, is that you?” Zero asked. He was, for some unknown reason, wearing a blindfold.
“Yeah it’s me,” Kallen replied. “Why are you wearing that thing for?”
“Never mind the blindfold; what is your progress so far?”
“On schedule, but barely. If you only knew half of the crap I went through training these rookies...” Kallen intently studied the new ponies. “So, who are these guys and why do they get a private audience with you?”
“I’m Ryōga Senba,” said the elderly horned stallion. “This is Kōsetsu Urabe, Nagisa Chiba, and Shōgo Asahina.” As he was calling out their names, Ryōga pointed to the mundane stallion and mare and the winged stallion, respectively.
“You’re The Four Holy Swords?” They gave a silent nod to Kallen’s question.
“They’ve requested our assistance,” said Zero, “in freeing Tohdoh Kyoshiro from his confinement inside the Settlement penitentiary. And with Tohdoh the Miracle Worker, the only officer in the Japanese Defense Force to defeat the Britannians in battle, on our side, our victory against Cornelia will be assured.”
Ryōga Senba, the elderly horned stallion, stepped forward. “Are you the Kozuki Kallen that Zero spoke of?”
“I am,” said Kallen.
Ryōga bowed to her. “We’re grateful to you for literally moving the heavens to rescue Tohdoh.”
“Zero, can we talk in private?”
“One moment, please,” said Zero. His horn started glowing, but nothing moved. However, Kallen did feel something bush against her. Then, the doorknob glowed and turned on its own. Zero was walking around his desk when Kallen spoke up.
“Shouldn’t you take off your blindfold before you hurt yourself?”
“No, I’ll be okay. Follow me, and we’ll talk in private.” Kallen did as Zero requested and followed him out of the room and to the opposite end of the hall. “So, what did you want to talk about?”
“Zero, I’m not downplaying Tohdoh’s abilities, but we’re risking a lot for one man.”
“The rescue party will only consist of you, me, Inoue, Sugiyama, Shōgo Asahina, and four other winged Knights.”
“But what about the Britannians finding out about the weather control powers?”
“They won’t. The cloud is large enough so that no one will see our winged troops moving them and we don’t begin operations until sunset.”
“But even so, we’re risking more people than rescuing.”
“Remember what I told you about making decisions that will accomplish the mission with minimum loss of life? This rescue is one example of such a decision. We don’t need Tohdoh to take the Settlement. We have more than enough manpower for that. But having Tohdoh on our side means the difference between a war of attrition in which we win only because we have troops left alive and a carefully orchestrated campaign where we take far fewer casualties to accomplish the same mission.”
“But we have you to lead us.”
“Thanks to the loss of sakuradite-based tech, real time communication during battle is almost impossible and I can’t be in more than one place at a time. Tohdoh’s military skills are comparable to my own. He’ll be able to act independently during battle. This’ll be important for attacking on multiple fronts.”
Kallen sighed. “I’ll do it, but it’s still asking a lot. And I don’t like the idea of you coming with us. You’re the last person that I want to risk on a rescue mission.”
“For you to succeed, I must come.”
Kallen, Inoue, Sugiyama, Asahina Shōgo and four other winged Black Knights were waiting on a street running straight towards the Settlement and standing side by side in two columns. They were bound together by rope tied to the makeshift harnesses around their necks. Rope leading from the four corners of a canvas was tied around the waist of the four winged recruits in the back of the team of ponies. The sun has set, and the recruits were moving the cloud as Zero instructed. As the cloud moved across the night sky, even the meager light from the stars and first quarter moon was blotted out. Sugiyama held his hoof in front of his face and couldn’t see it.
“I hope this is dark enough for him,” he said.
“How the hell are we going to rescue Tohdoh when we’re practically blind?” Inoue asked.
“Hey Asahina,” said Kallen, “why was Zero wearing a blind fold?”
“Don’t know,” Asahina answered. “When we first came, his eyes were okay, but the next day, he was wearing that blind fold. He also seemed rather prideful. We offered to help him around, but he refused.”
“We’ll talk about it later,” said Kallen, “I think I hear him coming.” A pony was trotting down the street, and his hoofsteps were growing louder until they stopped right behind them.
“I hope the tarp is secured,” said Zero.
“I made damn sure it was,” said Kallen. “No way am I taking a chance in losing our leader.”
“Good,” said Zero. “I’ll take the lead. Any tug on your harness would be me using telekinesis to point you in the right direction.”
“You four in the back; I’m kicking your asses if Zero falls. Got it?”
“Yes ma’am,” the recruits said in unison.
Lelouch tugged on the reigns with his telekinesis. The team slowly lifted off. The lack of visibility and fear that they may drop Zero caused them to creep at a snail’s pace. Zero pulled on the reigns at an angle. “Tilt a few degrees and climb until I let off the ropes.” They followed Zero’s command and made a low angle climb. “Okay, this is high enough for now.”
“How can he tell our height in the da...”
“Please be quiet Aki, before you get us killed.” Lelouch said to the recruit.
“Sorry,” said Aki.
After a drawn out fifteen-minute long flight, the team of winged ponies landed in the prison yard. It was still completely dark save from candles and torches. The prison spotlights had their bulbs replaced by a flame holder, which gave the spotlight beams a pulsating glow.
“Make sure to stay out of those spotlights,” Zero commanded, “but don’t stray too far.”
“Don’t you need our help?” Kallen asked.
“I have collaborators counted amongst the prison guards. They will be the ones to assist me.” In reality, Lelouch was planning on using his Geass on the guards and having them lead him to Tohdoh.
Tohdoh Kyoshiro was stirred from his sleep by a hoof nudging his shoulder. It was the guard that kicked him in the side awhile back. He had a kerosene lantern in his mouth.
“What’s the matter? Not enough hours in the day to be a pest?” He didn’t respond. Tohdoh huffed before lying back down on his prison bunk. “Whatever you plan on doing, hurry it up so I can get my sleep. Better yet, go ahead and finish me off? My life is worthless.”
“In that case, I’ll claim your life for myself.” It wasn’t the guard that spoke, but rather another person who was standing just outside of the cell; someone whose voice was electronically distorted.
“Zero?” Tohdoh climbed out of his bunk and peered into the darkness where he caught the outline of a horned pony. The figure stepped into the lantern light.
“Tohdoh Kyoshiro -the only Japanese, who seven years ago, brought the mighty Britannian forces to their knees in defeat.”
“You mean Itsukushima? You want me to perform a miracle for you as well.
“That was no miracle. It ended in victory because it was based on excellent intelligence work. That’s why I want you.”
“I pledged my loyalty to General Katase. Now that he is dead, I wish to die too.”
“Don’t be a coward!”
“Your loyalty is not to General Katase, but to all of Japan.”
“And what use am I to Japan when I am like this?” Tohdoh held out a hoof.
“Since the Night of the Transformation, the balance of power has shifted in our favor.”
“Are you planning on stampeding the Britannians, Zero?” Tohdoh asked mockingly.
“In the land of the blind, the man with one good eye is king. Though both sides have been diminished, the Britannians have bore the brunt of it. And without technology for the Empire to project its powers beyond its borders, the liberation of Japan is assured.”
“Then what do you need me for?”
“Even without technology, a drawn-out siege would cost the lives of many Japanese. Cornelia’s soldiers are highly trained and, more importantly, experienced as opposed to our forces of new recruits. However, with you in my corner, our odds of having a clean, decisive victory greatly improve. In short, if you join me, I won’t have to win by burying the Britannian under a mound of Japanese corpses.”
“And victory against Britannia is guaranteed...because of the loss of technology?”
“A good strategist makes use of the situation, and ours is not an exception to that rule.”
Tohdoh, impressed by Zero’s words, dropped his stoic demeanor and cracked a smile.
Tohdoh was greeted to a hero’s welcome, at least by his four closest compatriots. Ryōga Senba, Kōsetsu Urabe, and Nagisa Chiba waited on the road where they took off. When the team of winged Black Knights landed, they hastened to Tohdoh’s side and greeted him.
“It’s good to see you again, sir,” said Urabe.
Nagisa was staring at two vertical marks burned into Tohdoh’s hindquarter. “Did they do this to you?”
“Yes,” Tohdoh answered, “and they call us ‘barbarians’.”
“I swear they’ll pay for what they did, sir!” She swore.
“There’s no need to get upset,” said Tohdoh. “Save your anger for the battle ahead.”
“So, we’re helping Zero, sir?” Asahina asked as he was being unhitched from the team.
Tohdoh nodded. “We have a common cause. I see no reason why not.”
“That’s all I need to hear sir,” said Asahina. “My place is at your side.” The other Four Holy Swords nodded in agreement. Asahina then said to Kallen, “that Zero of yours is a clever man.”
Kallen had a puzzled look on her face. “What brought that on?”
“You didn’t notice. He used his telekinesis like a bat using sonar.”
“Oh, is that why Zero was wearing the blindfold? So he can practice seeing with his telekinesis?”
One of the rank and file Knights spoke up. “Just like how a dolphin uses echolocation, right?”
I’ve managed to obtain one of the two chess pieces I’ve been looking for, thought Lelouch as he watched the Black Knights conversing with Tohdoh and the Four Holy Swords. And since the pilot of the Lancelot is a virtual non-entity without his Frame, the only one left is Suzaku. He’ll be Nunnally’s protector, and Nunnally will give him a reason to live. Even since his encounter with Mao, Lelouch has known about Suzaku’s death wish, his desire to obtain absolution for murdering his father at the cost of his own life. Seven years ago, when Suzaku was ten, the Britannians invaded Japan. His father, the late Japanese prime minister Kururugi Genbo, called for do-or-die resistance. When Suzaku could not dissuade him from declaring all out war, he stabbed Genbo under the childish notion that his death would prevent the war. Since that terrible day, Suzaku sought a hero’s death that would wash the stain of that terrible sin from his soul, albeit with his own blood. However, if Suzaku became Nunnally’s protector, Lelouch reasoned, then his sister would be kept from harm’s way and Suzaku would be saved from his path of self-destruction.
Euphemia galloped at as fast as her four legs could take her through the Knightmare motor pool beneath the Asplund compound. In the center of the compound were Cornelia, Lloyd, Cecile, and Nina, who were gathered around the Lancelot.
“You can’t be serious, viceroy,” Lloyd complained. “Without the third power plant, the Lancelot...”
“Will still be more than adequate for our needs. I don’t like putting our eggs in one basket. The next two power plants will be placed inside my spare Gloucester. Having two Knightmares at fifth generation level capacity is better than counting on one seventh-level Knightmare as our primary defense. And see about training another pilot for the Lancelot.”
“Your majesty,” Cecile pleaded, “I can’t think of anyone more loyal to the Empire than Suzaku.”
“Not to mention piloting a Knightmare with only foot pedals and your mouth is even harder than it sounds,” said Lloyd. “Warrant Officer Kururugi is the only one I know of that could pull it off.”
“Fine,” said Cornelia grudgingly, “I’ll hold off replacing Kururugi for the time being.” Cornelia noticed her sister running towards them. “We’ll discuss this later. Now leave us.” Lloyd, Nina, and Cecile complied with Cornelia’s orders.
Euphemia was panting for air after her exhausting run. “Where’s Sorato? She spoke between breaths. “What did you do with him?”
“You mean that so-called messenger of peace sent by the Elevens? He’s taking Tohdoh’s place in prison.”
Euphemia’s eyes opened wide. “Tohdoh’s place?”
“Didn’t you hear? Zero broke him out of prison last night; right out from under our noses under the cover of darkness.”
“You can’t believe Sorato had anything to do with it?”
“Why shouldn’t I? Just because the guard that helped Zero kept tightlipped and denied everything right until he was executed? My theory is that, while he was tugging on your heart string, he was feeding information to Zero’s informants hiding within our ranks.”
“And you’re convicting him without so much as a trial?”
“Why not? We’re in the middle of a war, and I have that right, but I’m giving him one chance. If he survives having his wings amputated, I’ll let him live as a prison laborer.”
Euphemia shook her head in disbelief. “No, you can’t. None of the prisoners ever survived the procedures.”
“Only because the surgeons were using their mouths, but now that some of them have learned telekinesis, they need test subjects to regain their skills.”
“Please Viceroy I beg of...”
“Quiet! I’ve made my decision!” Cornelia turned her back on here sister. “There will be no more discussion on the matter. Now leave. I’m preoccupied at the moment.”
The sun just set and the world was once again drowning in darkness. A portion of the massive cloud that blotted out the moon and stars last night still lingered. The Settlement prison, this time, was illuminated more brilliantly than before as a precaution against another prison break. One of the various lights moved across the prison block. Princess Euphemia and a winged prison guard trotted through the halls. The guard held a kerosene lantern in his mouth while Euphemia kept a picnic basket in hers. The guard stopped and set the lantern he held in his mouth down. “I’m not getting in trouble for this, am I, your majesty?” The prison guard asked Euphemia.
“Not at all,” Euphemia reassured the guard who was, with some considerable trepidation, following her orders.
“I don’t mean to sound as though I am questioning your commands...”
“But you don’t wish to place your princess in danger by escorting her around a prison in the middle of the night,” Euphemia finished the rest of the guard’s sentence.
The guard nodded. “That’s correct.”
“I’m sorry to ask such a favor from you, but that Eleven betrayed our trust, and I wish to personally teach him a lesson.”
“Yes your majesty,” said the guard before picking up his lantern. At the end of the hall was Kumo Sorato. Because the electronic locking mechanism no longer functions, his cell doors were held shut by chains and lock. He was lying on his belly with a chain running from the wall to a collar around his neck. His face was partially concealed behind trembling fore limbs. All that was visible was bloodshot eyes staring through the iron bars. He moaned in agony. When the guard came close enough that the cell was fully illuminated, Euphemia then noticed a pair of vertical marks seared over his hindquarter symbol.
Euphemia closed her eyes so as to calm herself after seeing what happened. “Corporal,” she addressed the guard, “I was wondering if you would like to have the rest of my dinner? I had plans to finish it, but I don’t feel particularly hungry right now, and it would be a shame to let perfectly good food go to waste.”
“Your majesty, I couldn’t...”
“Are you refusing a gift from royalty?”
“No, your majesty, I would never.”
Euphemia nudged the picnic basket. “Then help yourself.”
The guard cautiously opened the basket flap and slowly stuck his muzzle inside. Suddenly, Euphemia leaped up and fell on his head. The guard struggled to free himself but in a matter of seconds, he became weak, sluggish. He eventually went limp and collapsed.
Sorato lifted his head to get a closer look through the bars. “What did you do to him?”
“The basket’s stuffed with rags I soaked in Chloroform,” said Euphemia. “He’s only unconscious.” Euphemia rolled the guard over and removed his keys from his saddlebag. Euphemia unlocked the chain and then the collar around Sorato’s neck. “Can you get up?”
“You shouldn’t be doing this,” Sorato pleaded. “If you get in trouble...”
“I’m already in trouble. I assaulted the guard while breaking you out. So, don’t let my efforts go in vain. Now, please try standing up.” Sorato gritted his teeth struggling to keep from screaming out in pain. “I should have brought some medical supplies. I didn’t know what I was thinking.”
“If you were thinking, you wouldn’t be doing this.”
Euphemia began undressing the guard. “Hold still,” said Euphemia. “If we go out a different route, the other guards might not notice the difference.” Euphemia helped Sorato get dressed in the guard’s tattered uniform. “You must hate us for we’ve done to you.”
“What do you mean by ‘us’?”
“I mean Britannians.”
“I hate those ponies that burned me, and I’m not exactly fond of your sister. I’ll admit to that. But why would I hate ponies that never did any harm to me?”
“You’re a better man than most.”
“Even though I hate your sister?”
“After what she did to you, I can’t blame you.” Euphemia then gave Sorato an envelope. “If you make it out alive, give this to Zero. It probably won’t stop the war, but we may be able to prevent a massacre.”
“I’ll do what I can.”
Sir Guilford had the sorrowful duty of escorting Euphemia into the throne room to answer for her crimes against the crown. The former sub-viceroy had ankle chains on her fore and hind legs. Standing on the other side of Euphemia was Darlton. Both men kept their eyes glued forward. They could not bear to witness how far the younger Britannian princess has fallen from grace. The three stop in front of the throne where Cornelia was waiting. The viceroy’s hair was in an upheaval, uncombed and tangled. Her head hung down. The only moment she made was her heavy breathing. An occasion snort escaped her nostrils.
“Why Euphie? Why did you?”
Euphemia had butterflies in her stomach. The much older sister, who was sometimes like an aunt to her, was demanding an explanation for the most blatant acts of disobedience she had ever committed. The young princess felt sick to her stomach and was afraid of vomiting if she tried to speak.
Cornelia tilted her head up and glared at her sister with the eyes of a wounded and enraged animal. “I asked you ‘why did you betray me’.”
“I wasn’t betraying you, sis. I was trying to make peace with the Japanese and to save as many Britannian lives as possible.”
Cornelia rushed across the room and struck her sister in the face. “NO ONE ASKED YOU TO!” Cornelia struck Euphemia again and again. “THAT’S YOUR EXCUSE FOR STABBING YOUR OWN SISTER IN THE BACK!” Euphemia tucked her head underneath her forearms trying to shield herself from the onslaught of hooves beating down on her.
Guilford grabbed hold of Cornelia. “Mi lady, please calm down!” He and Darlton piled on top of the viceroy. Then, Cornelia’s horn started glowing. An invisible force shoved Euphemia and knocked her on her back.
“IT WASN’T YOUR RESPONSIBILITY! IT WAS MINE!!! YOU HEAR ME! MINE!!!” Cornelia stopped struggling against the two stallions. “It was my burden to bear; not yours.” She said in a calmer voice. When they were certain the viceroy’s rage had subsided, Guildford and Darlton stopped pressing their weight against her. Cornelia took deep breaths to calm her nerves, and when she was finally at ease, she got back on all fours with her head tilted down. “Get her out of my sight!” Cornelia ordered still looking down. “Lock her in her room and don’t let her out!”
“Yes, mi lady,” said Dalton. They hurried Euphemia out of the room who had cuts and bruises all over her.
Once they left the room, Cornelia collapsed on all four knees and sobbed over her sister’s betrayal.
One month later
Rain clouds had upstaged the rising sun and draped the sky in dreary grays and the ground in millions of frigid droplets. Cornelia and thousands of Britannian troops, mostly winged ponies, stood on the top level. All of the levels were barricaded by a wall of junk and refuge and topped with sharpened sticks and poles as the first line of defense against the invaders, who surrounded the Settlement. They filled the streets from the base of the Settlement to halfway across town. With exception to the side of the Settlement facing the river, siege towers constructed from left over cars and timber were evenly placed around the perimeter.
Darlton landed next to Cornelia. “So, you decided to let Kururugi pilot the Lancelot?”
“I had no other choice. There wasn’t time to undo the modifications and train a horned soldier to pilot it telekinetically, and Kururugi is the only person who’s prolific with those foot pedals. I had trouble just steering that antique Frame with those damn things.”
“What about your Gloucester?”
“Earl Asplund needs three more days before it can be ready. Plan A is to keep them at bay until the refits are finished and then Warrant Officer Kururugi and I can lead the assault against Zero and drives those savages back to the slums.”
“What about Euphemia?”
“You may not like what I’m about to tell you, but your mission is to take the first opening presented to you and to get Euphie as far as away from here as possible. Tie her up. Gag her. Drug her if you have to, but get her to safety. I’ll send for you if we are successful.”
“But mi lady!”
“I don’t want to hear any objections from you.”
“But what about my men?”
“Guilford will take your command.”
“He can’t fly. You can. Your number one priority is to save my sister. Take as many men as you need to carry her. And Darlton?”
“Yes mi lady.”
“Don’t let anyone know what Euphie did. And make sure Euphie keeps her mouth shut. Father won’t be as forgiving as I am. If word gets out she help free a prisoner, she’ll be executed.”
“I understand, mi lady.”
“Viceroy! General Darlton!” Sir Guilford cried out as he ran at a full gallop towards Cornelia and Darlton. “We may already be under attack.”
“What are you talking about, Guilford?” Cornelia asked.
“Our intelligence managed to eavesdrop on two-way radio transmission from the Chinese Federation. According to the broadcasts, the winged ponies are able to walk on the clouds and even control weather. They claim that they moved clouds from one location to another and brought rain to desert land.”
“Are you that gullible? What you’re saying is impossible. It must be some sort of prank.” When Darlton finished berating Guilford for his ‘naiveté’, the rain ceased.
It was then a terrifying epiphany overcame Cornelia. She tensed up; her eyes opened wide. “Fall back to the lower levels!” She screamed at her troops, but it was too late. Dozens of lightning bolts came crashing down on them. Hundreds of Britannian ponies lay dead-electrocuted in the first volley.
I hope you enjoyed Rebel Against the Night-“Battle for Tokyo Part II The Calm Before the Storm”. What happened to Villetta Nu and what happened to Sorato and Euphemia’s message to Zero? Find out in Chapter 5 of Rebel Against the Night-“The Battle for Tokyo” Part III-The Birth of a Nation.”
I want to thank Lord Xaos and the other posters at fimfiction.net for their suggestions. I would also like to think a friend of mine from the anime club that I frequent. He knows more about military history than I do and he helped me considerably.