From her command center, Xianglin gets reports of what’s going on inside the palace and realizes that their plan is being used by Zero. Toudou meanwhile bursts onto the scene onboard his new Knightmare Frame Zangetsu, but before he can attack Schneizel, Suzaku arrives on the Lancelot. This allows Schneizel to get away safely with Odysseus, and Zero makes his own escape with Kallen and Kaguya via a container carried by Nagisa’s new Knightmare Frame Akatsuki. Suzaku notices Zero leaving, but this takes his attention off Toudou long enough for Toudou to cut off part of the Lancelot’s Float System. Without it, Suzaku isn’t able to chase after the Black Knights, and Zero recalls Toudou from the battlefield. They regroup at a moving truck that’s being driven by C.C., and Toudou and Kallen take care of their immediate pursuers. Once on the truck, the young Empress realizes that she’s outside the palace now and learns that Kaguya had remembered her dream to leave. Zero then informs her that he wants the United States of Japan to be part of a larger United States alliance, and he needs her for the United States of China. Zero intends to have this alliance oppose Britannia, and they’ve already been in contact with the Indian Army and have also gotten confirmation from Mongolia and Burma.
When Kaguya changes the subject to Xingke, the young Empress reveals the promise he made to her six years ago, and this causes Kaguya to call him the young Empress’s destined one. At this point, Zero leaves the conversation and joins Tamaki and C.C. in the truck’s cabin. Tamaki ends up asking him about becoming the minister of finance, but C.C. thinks that Tamaki should just be the Grand Minister of Banquets. The truck then arrives at a destroyed bridge, but instead of being a dead end, it’s actually a Black Knights trap for the Chinese forces still chasing them. The Chinese forces thus get annihilated, and when the Eunuchs get word of this, they have no choice but to turn to Xingke. Sometime later, the truck rendezvous with the Ikaruga, and Diethard reports that the reinforcements from India have already arrived at Hourai Island. The Ikaruga’s return path is not clear though because its Knightmare escorts suddenly come under attack by a new enemy: the Knightmare Frame Shenhu piloted by Xingke. He demands the return of the young Empress, and when Kallen flies out in the Guren to challenge him, he matches the Guren’s radiation wave cannon with the Shenhu’s charged particle cannon.
Recognizing the unit, Rakshata reveals to Zero that it was her team that created it, but at the time, no one could handle it. She now suspects that the Maharaja handed it over to the Chinese. On the battlefield, Xingke uses the Shenhu’s slash harkens to grab the Guren’s leg, but Kallen sees this as an opportunity to strike directly at her opponent without him being able to get away. Unfortunately for her, the Guren runs out of energy right before she can use her radiation wave arm, and Xingke successfully captures her. He holds her hostage and once again demands the return of the Empress, but he then starts coughing up blood again. Luckily for him, Chinese Federation reinforcements arrive before anyone else can challenge him, and he’s able to bring Kallen to the Chinese warship without incident. Since they still have radio contact with her, Zero tells Kallen not to give up and vows to save her. Diethard, however, advises that they retreat because he sees Kallen as just a single soldier. He proposes that they preserve their forces and join up with the Indian army, and he thinks that doing anything more than what Zero had already said to Kallen would be favoritism that would destroy their organization. Faced with a hard decision because Diethard is pressing him to separate compassion and judgment, Zero eventually decided to go after Kallen, citing the possibility that the Indian army would betray them too.
Meanwhile, back at the palace, Schneizel has decided not to do anything until the Chinese Federation requests it. Suzaku thus gets some free time to sit down with Anya and Milly, and Anya shows him some of the pictures from the Ashford welcome party that she has on her cell phone. One of them is of Lelouch and C.C., and when Suzaku identifies Lelouch, Anya recognizes it to be the same person she as a younger picture of. Back on the battlefield, both Xingke and Zero lay out strategies against each other for their forces to follow – Xingke has his Knightmares push forward through the middle while Zero tries to trap them with flank attacks. However, Xingke is doing this merely to see what moves Zero takes, and he then floods the area they’re fighting on with water from a nearby canal. This causes the Knightmares caught in it to start sinking into the ground, and Zero realizes that Xingke had figured out what he would be doing and had set this all up. With the Black Knights forces stuck and Toudou still in his own way, Xingke sends the rest of the Chinese Federation forces forward at the Ikaruga. Faced with the impending defeat, Zero finally decides to take Diethard’s advice and orders a retreat to a place he had scouted out beforehand. He now recognizes that Xingke has his level of resourcefulness and Suzaku’s level of heroism, and he wonders if the heavens gave Xingke both.
As a parting gift, Zero has the Ikaruga fire its two Hadron cannons at the Chinese forces and manages to destroy a good number of the Knightmares. By nightfall, the Black Knights regroup at the mountain tomb where all the past Chinese emperors are enshrined, and since the place only has one entrance, they face the Ikaruga with Hadron cannons out in that direction. While the Black Knights wait for potential reinforcements from the Indian army, the Chinese Eunuchs meanwhile turn against Xingke for rebelling against them in the first place. They keep him in check and don’t need him anymore because they’ve asked for powerful reinforcements from Britannia. Xingke, however, feels that the Eunuchs don’t understand the person they’re dealing with in Schneizel – the man who took half of the E.U. With all this in play, Zero decides to order Diethard to make some preparations, and he vows to win under this seemingly hopeless situation. Back in Japan, Shirley, Rivalz, and Rollo watch a news report detailing what’s going on in the Chinese Federation, and Lelouch – who is there as well – takes a phone call from Milly saying that she’s safe and sound.
Alright, things got to the point this episode that I didn’t know who to root for anymore. The battle was interesting because it pitted two masterminds against each other (kinda like watching Light and L trying to outwit each other), but the sides kept changing. Based on the way his character has been developed, I just couldn’t see Xingke as an antagonist – but nor could I see Zero/Lelouch as such (even though some of the things Zero does can seem pretty bastardly). Fortunately it looks like they might end up on the same side again after all. I think all Zero needs to do at this point is to convince the young Empress that he’s on her side and then use her to win Xingke over. If she’s truly all that Xingke cares about, then it should be an easy decision for him since he already doesn’t like the Eunuchs.
The other interesting development this week was how Lelouch appears to have a doppelganger now. Either that, or he’s somehow traveling back and forth from a siege situation in no time flat and without anyone noticing. This could also be someone’s Geass power, but what’s curious to me is the purpose it serves for the story. It feels too major for it to be just someone in disguise or someone covering for him – especially since they made it the end-of-episode cliffhanger – and I would guess this is the introduction of a new power or an introduction of a new character. I didn’t see any obvious clues in the preview for next week indicating anything like that though, so who knows. The preview does manage to have plenty of other juicy images for the upcoming battle, including more Jeremiah, and it also reveals that the new OP/ED will start airing on July 6th.