Part 72: Flames
Ohgi's certainly keeping his terrorist activities away from "Chigusa" (you gave her a name?), and she's decided to repay his hospitality with a home cooked meal. Unfortunately, her memories haven't come back, but Ohgi doesn't seem to bothered about it. At first, he took her in because she seemed to know who Zero is, but now... "I could never say it," he thinks, "but if your memories came back, it would be too painful for this to end."
Suzaku's been diagnosed with stress-induced sleep deprivation. Well, okay, we'll go with that.
Lloyd wants to know why he didn't see him at the school fair. What was Lloyd doing at the fair any - wait, is he Millay's suitor? Suzaku seems most surprised at the corollary that Lloyd's actually a count of Britannia. It seems even Lloyd doesn't remember that most of the time. The engagement wasn't the highlight of Lloyd's visit either; whatever Nina had to discuss with him was some absolutely fascinating development, interesting enough to share with the Prince himself.
Anyway, Suzaku avoids talking about what happened at the fair, and Lloyd seems satisfied to assume that the event just triggered Suzaku's condition. He really is concerned after Suzaku - if he breaks down, who's going to work the Lancelot?
Euphemia's also come to pay Suzaku a visit; Cecille drags Lloyd out of the room to give the two some privacy. Suzaku sobs that he has no right to be Euphemia's knight. He killed his father, but rather than being punished, he alone in Japan is shielded from harm while others die and suffer.
I command you to love me!
I will love you in return.
I... I had occasion to speak with your friend from school.
She was a lovely girl, but she was pained because she had no confidence.
(Is she talking about Nina?)
She showed me how people hate themselves so much they think themselves worthless.
You may hate yourself now, but I will still love you.
Whether you are being stubborn or kind, or looking sad, or acting strange, and even when you are being attacked by a cat.
Please stop hating yourself.
I'm sorry. I was trying not to worry you, but...
You're always full of surprises. The first time we met, and when you revealed you were a princess, and when you appointed me your Knight.
I am surprising, aren't I? It's always because I've been surprised myself.
Well, you've surprised me out of my shell.
When you were with GOONZ... I thought...
I don't have any particular care for changing this nation or ideals or anything so complicated. I only want people to smile.
People I love, and people I once loved.
I feel the same way.
Then will you help me?
Of course, Your Highness.
Lelouche comes home as Suzaku is telling Nunnally about the whole thing. She's happy for them, and Lelouch is kind of surprised to see he's recovered so quickly. Pleasantly surprised, though - he will need Suzaku to achieve his dreams for himself and Nunnally. More than anything, he's glad Suzaku is posted to Nunnally's defense - he would rather Suzaku not have to fight his Elevens, both for Suzaku's sake and his own.
Lelouche is about to actually say something to Suzaku, something important. Nunnally tries to stop him spoiling their farewell, but Suzaku says nothing can break his resolve now and takes his leave.
Lelouche wonders what's got Suzaku's spirits up, but he's not unhappy about it. Until Nunnally tells him that Suzaku and Euphemia got together...
In a much darker section of Japan, Chirico's brought the Phantom Lady back to their base. He tells her that the Enforcers won't make it here - she's free, at long last. Then he asks her to tell him her story.
The first memory the Lady has in her entire life, the first time she ever looked out of the darkness, is of his face. Chirico explains that he was there to siege that asteroid, an enemy base, but he wasn't told anything else about the operation. He was following orders and not thinking another thought - "as a soldier does." The Lady remembers being the same way, but she had to go against her orders - because she couldn't bring herself to kill him.
Chirico asks her just what she is. She says she's a prototype, codenamed Proto One, of Gilgamesh experiments in creating an augmented human bred for war, a PS - short for "Perfect Soldier"...
These clowns' superior can't believe they couldn't even take out Chirico Cuvie with a PS on their side. Iskui protests that their PS is acting abnormal. "Abnormal" is an interesting turn of phrase to the Mystery Man, but that's none of Iskui's and Boro's concern. All he wants from them is to end Chirico as quickly as possible and send the prototype back to HQ. Chirico's backed by the Black Knights, but the Enforcers have been sent reinforcements of their own; they cannot afford another failure. Boro wonders just how high up the Chirico problem goes - what if "His Excellency" himself has an interest in his fate?
GOONZ is wonder what's gotten into Chirico - the man's a stone, and now he's being gallant for a lady? Duo chuckles that he wouldn't be the first one to let a girl get under his skin, but Heero refuses to give him a response. Ohgi's also lost in his own thoughts, and too vigorously denies that he's got the same problem they have.
No one can deny that the Phantom Lady was no ordinary Enforcer, in personality or in skill. We know the Human Reformation League has been working on artificially enhanced soldiers (Allelujah and Soma among the results), so it could be related to that.
The Lady's gone back to sleep, so Chirico has deigned to join us. Roger, ever sharp-eyed, has noticed that the Enforcers seem to be gunning for Chirico - he's not just some mercenary employed by the Black Knights, is he? Not, of course, that Roger is accusing him of anything - but this could well be important if they're to continue operations in Area 11.
Zero agrees. Where's he been all this time? As always cagy, Zero says he was dealing with some important business which is now "settled." Of course, he doesn't say it ended with the decisive loss of Suzaku.
But back to Chirico; as the Black Knights' Negotiator, Roger promises to mediate whatever Chirico has to say impartially. Finally, Chirico agrees to spill, if only to get everyone off his back. He explains that before he joined us, before he came to Shinjuku, he saw a woman he wasn't supposed to see - a PS, a human crafted in body and mind to be a warrior. He had been ordered to attack an asteroid which turned out to be a secret PS lab. Having seen the PS, his squad then lost track of it, but the rest of them turned on him and shot him down. Then he was captured by the Gilgamesh, interrogated (to no avail), then escaped, eventually coming to Shinjuku.
Zero supplies the background on the Astragius war between the Valarant and the Gilgamesh, which was laid over this world in the big quake; having PSes would be a tactical boon to the Gilgamesh, and even now, they could sell that kind of military capability to whoever they wished. GOONZ, of course, is mad as hell that they're doing this kind of playing with human lives. Zero and C. C. are reminded of something different - being doomed to a fixed destiny, and struggling to escape it...
As for Chirico, it's increasingly clear to the Knights that the Enforcers' strings are being pulled by whoever wanted him silenced back on Rid; that also explains why Chirico was so eager to fight the Enforcers to begin with. Chirico himself intends to take the Lady and run away from Shinjuku with her; Zero doesn't see the point trying to stop him. He offers his buddies the chance to come with, but they're all terrified that the Enforcers will follow him.
Zero does have one thing he'd like Chirico to wait for before he leaves - he orders Goto to repair the Brutish Dog, and even offers to pay himself. The Battling pit crew wasn't prepared to go into fire for him, but this is something they can definitely do, and while they're messing with the Dogs, Chirico has some more customization ideas he'd like implemented. In fact, all of GOONZ is prepared to pitch in to the effort, even Zero with the calculations - if they're trying to escape Shinjuku, the earlier they can hit the road, the better...
Chapter 35: Flames
(Area 11 route)
Chirico lets the Lady know his teammates fixed up their Scopedogs, though he doesn't suppose he'll ever see them again anyway.
(Meetings and partings. The story of my life.)
(This design, the type 20 - the Turbo Custom - used to be his style. Another teammate I'll never see again...)
Enforcers, Dogs, vehicles, you know how it goes. There aren't that many of us, but there aren't many of them, either.
And our goal isn't to wipe them out, only to get through them, from the north side of the map to the south. The Lady has no fear by Chirico's side.
Chirico's new Turbo Custom is not as heavily armed as the RSC, with a lower overall range, but it is much faster and has better range on its Assault Combat. Personally, I like the RSC, but the advanced movement of the lighter TC is welcome for this stage and other Area 11 stages where mobility is choked. It's a strict upgrade over the basic Scopedog, though.
The Brutish Dog, meanwhile, is basically just a Dog. It joins just for this chapter and has all the upgrades Chirico's Scopedog does, which is nice of them.
So what we're mainly going to do is rush Chirico to the goal square.
Two Enforcers down. Yawn.
Forget it. Let's ditch these suckers.
An AT steps out from behind a building - Chirico yells "Fiana!" and puts a hole in it.
Before he explains, he wants to make sure they're safe...
Only to find his path suddenly blocked by the Red Shoulders.
The well-oiled Red Shoulders machine grabs the Lady easily; Riemann reveals this was his plan all along. A PS needs to be fueled with Gigilium to operate at its potential - that explains all the Gigilium Chips we've seen Proto One with - but since forty-eight hours have passed, her supply should have run out. As they drag her away, her crying for Chirico and him still calling "Fiana!", Riemann drones on that it was Chirico's level of power that Gilgamesh aimed to reproduce with their PS. He recognizes Chirico's type 20 configuration, too, the favorite of one Gregoru Garossu. That may be fair, but he won't allow Chirico to wear the red shoulder. "Die, Chirico. Your existence is an abomination!"
Luckily, GOONZ is on the scene, with a plan and a helicopter piloted by Vanilla and the crew. Riemann laughs - what are we going to do from all the way across the map! Zero invites him to take a look around him. All Riemann sees is some fools who came to look at the spectacle. So what?
The heck you doing, Vanilla? Step on it!
Look, are you sure about this?
Zero gave us 300,000 G. We could take it, ditch the ghetto, and live easy wherever we want.
But it's Chirico's money! He said, keep whatever's left over after we fix up the ATs!
Yeah, that means it's ours...
That doesn't mean we forget about him!
It's low! It's inhuman! It's spineless, that's what it is! Chirico helped us find our dream!
That man hasn't got a single hateful bone in his body!
You don't just let a friend like that die! It's as low as it gets!
Guess that is low...
Well, when she says it like that... go on, Vanilla.
Fine, fine, let's do it! I wish I was a low kinda man!
You know, let's turn around.
Y-yeah, we don't know this'll work anyway...
Come on, you two! You're not gonna waste Roger's idea, are you?
This is right where all those ghetto rats are! It's gonna work, I know it!
I don't know what you're up to, but you're beginning to annoy me.
You guys ready? There's no turning back!
Fine, might as well!
It's about to rain 300,000 G!
It does - coins rain all over the Red Shoulder ATs.
Elevens crawl out of the sprawl to grab them, and they're not about to let anything like an AT get in their way.
And of course, our own money-hungry stray can't stay out of the confusion.
Money! Money, money! Wheeeeeeee!
Thanks to Roger's backup plan, Chirico had an opportunity to get out of the fire - but he still lost the Phantom Lady to the Red Shoulders. Of course, the Red Shoulders want our blood, and since they were behind the Enforcers anyway, it's fair to say we want theirs.
(The Red Shoulders... the thread connecting my terrible past to Fiana.)
(All I can do to cut that thread is to fight.)
Four turns to mop up everything on the map - Enforcers, Shoulders, and all.
It doesn't take long at all for that task to get harder. Sir Dalton is here not only to handle the situation personally, but to make sure Iskui hangs for calling on mercenaries to deal with his dirty work. That said, his Glaston Knights aren't to make a move against the Red Shoulders themselves, not unless they raise their hand against Britannia first. "My sons, today is the grand opening of the Clovis Memorial Museum. Do not sully this proud day with defeat."
The Black Knights are perfectly happy for the chance to stomp Britannia along with their lapdogs, and Zero gives the order to engage both fronts.
In summary, the Enforcers are beneath notice, the Shoulders are struggling through terrain, and the non-Glaston knights, who manage to get in range of the Radiation Emitter, meet exactly the fate you'd expect.
So ends turn 1 of the timer - with a lot of approaching around buildings.
Like I said, we're now fighting on two fronts: the Glaston Knights to the north and the Red Shoulders to the south.
Just to keep things relatively neat, I'll pull everyone up to engage Britannia first and let the Red Shoulders move in - and it's worth noting that the Glaston Knights' Gloucesters are actually competent compared to the entry-level Sutherlands.
It's fairly easy for Chirico to get outranged with his light Turbo Custom loadout.
Riemann might even have a chance to land a shot on him, though.
Chirico! I should have ended you long ago!
(The Red Shoulders and Fiana... he's behind it all.)
The Gloucesters, meanwhile... eh.
Meanwhile, Dalton himself has honored us with a duel - with Zero!
There you are, Zero! You cease troubling Her Highness today!
Your loyalty is commendable, General Dalton! Your defeat will be a reaffirmation of my declaration of war against Cornelia!
And that's turn 2.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Dalton's not going to survive one strike from GOONZ, let alone the five he has coming, so let's go through this drill.
Todo! Let us settle the score we could not seven years ago at the Battle of the East!
I accept, Dalton! We duel as warriors!
Andreas Dalton, winner of a whole pile of deeds of arms in service as Princess Cornelia's right hand...
I see you've done your research.
Well, I don't fight like a knight in shining armor. I do my business in the shadows.
I've got nothing against you personally, but I'm not exactly a fan of the Britannian Union.
Gundam! As long as you side with the Black Knights, you are an enemy of the Princess!
And all who stand against the Princess die at Sir Dalton's lancepoint!
When did the Black Knights gain the service of such a giant?
I'm supposed to be a Negotiator, not a mercenary.
But you didn't even try to talk. You resorted first to oppressing innocents in the name of justice. So I will wield this power against you!
Well said, master of the giant! You have the heart of a warrior!
I'm afraid I don't quite consider that a compliment.
Time for the one shot as promised (supporting totally counts).
The Black Knights' ace! Then I don't need to pull any punches!
We've never needed your mercy! You think we're lesser than you?
This is the wrath of the Japanese! This is our country, not yours!
Karen rightfully earns an Yggdrasil Drive for herself. Dalton realizes that (as Karen said) he can't underestimate the Black Knights any longer and pulls his Knightmare out. But Dalton's presence on the battlefield shows that Cornelia has finally taken a personal interest, and that suits Zero just fine.
Without their lord, the Glaston Knights don't last long, of course.
Karen, as usual, needs a refuel.
By the time the Red Shoulders have taken their turn, there's just one and a half of them left.
This time, Chirico has a much better shot against Riemann, though I thought both of their attacks were pretty impressive.
Anyway, it's the last turn, and once again, Riemann's mouth runs more than his mech.
The enemy will be much less capable if we shoot down their commander. C. C., focus on him!
A textbook maneuver. Not even thinking you could be shot down yourself is a sure sign of an armchair tactician.
The commander of the Red Shoulders? I haven't got a shot at that kind of prize data for a while.
Enough of your posturing. You stand against a platoon of the finest soldiers at His Excellency's command.
It may be a Gundam, but it cannot stand against a targeted onslaught.
You will see why the Red Shoulders are known as the finest...
That's all of them.
You should be dead! A human would...
Again, Crowe lands the support, winning Chirico a Quent Sensor. Riemann pulls out, groaning that at least he fulfilled the basic mission parameters.
Moving along to the end...
Or is it? Diethard has an urgent report to Zero - Euphemia's appeared at that Clovis Memorial opening...
to officially declare as Sub-Viceroy that she's establishing the "Special Administrative Region of Japan," a state within Area 11 where the Elevens can call themselves Japanese once more and stand side by side with Britannians.
"Are you listening, Zero? I have no intention to pry into your past or beneath your mask. I want you to help me establish this region. Zero, join me in forming a bright new future for the Britannian Union!"
The rebels can't figure out if this is supposed to be a surrender or a compromise; Zero insists that a victory Britannia handed them is no victory at all. The SAR is honorary Britannian citizenship by another name, nothing more. Beneath his mask, though, he's struggling to figure out what he can do. Intentional or not, this was a masterstroke on Euphemia's part. If the Japanese who want independence have an nonviolent outlet to carry it out, support for violent rebellion will dry up; even Tamaki, gung-ho nationalist he is, was sold on the idea at first. Whether he supports or opposes the movement as Zero, the Black Knights are done for; opposing it would only dry up his own support as well. What has Euphemia done to him?
Zero's sudden flustering has not gone unnoticed. The non-knight GOONZ has come to the same conclusions he has with respect to the rebellion. That's not going to stop the Wing team from continuing their own war on Britannia, of course; they were never in this for Japan.
Meanwhile, all's well that ends well for the Shinjuku Ghetto. Or is it? Goto points out that Euphemia set up an option for the Japanese, but failed to mention Astragius. Goto's crew is likely to be left behind in the Ghetto when the locals leave for New Japan. Without that money, they have nowhere to go, and only Coconut doesn't regret sacrificing it for Chirico's life; she's still willing to put her neck out to watch his back.
And Chirico, just this once, looks up and says he's thankful she did. Of course, after his single (if welcome) word of thanks, he falls into his own thoughts once more...
"Fiana. Why did I call her that? And then she vanished again into the flames. If I want to save her, I'll have to confront my tortured past. The Red Shoulders... and their founder, Johann Persein. Will I have to keep fighting my way to them?"
Of course, we know how the Special Administrative Region pans out - but next week, we'll get to see it happen up close.