It was taking Lapis longer than he had anticipated to process and adapt to the power he had stolen from Alhama’at. He had always known the old man was powerful, but it was more than that. There were strange secrets, visions, truths beyond doors closed to everyone else. Things Lapis still couldn’t understand. He had resigned them to nothing more than remaining vestiges of the old man’s various madnesses, setting them aside in the hopes they would fade from his mind after a time.
That is not to say that all the knowledge he had stolen was useless nonsense about truths or the like. Lapis had known about the white dragonoid girl that Alhama’at had kept imprisoned and used it against him, but it seems there was another dragonoid that Alhama’at had let live. This one, it seemed, he had taken much more care in keeping safe, magically sealing her in a tower now buried underground and warded with ancient magic that kept anyone from even remembering it should they see it. But with Alhama’at gone, the place was now accessible to Lapis. He had slipped away after summoning Yggdrasil, to locate her. The tree was powerful enough to swallow the world, there was no need for him to burden himself with the effort now. Besides, this dragonoid was too valuable now that he knew of her existence.
Alone, he now paced down the winding subterranean spire. Descending into the earth and walking past various magical traps, now defunct. At last the old stone stairs gave way to a large open room. Adorned with countless talismans, a large altar on the far side of the room, and a row of torii gates that lead up to a large bed where the unmistakable shape of a small person was curled up.
“There you are...” Lapis’ lips curled into a sneer as he casually paced under the many torii gates towards the bed. Despite his presence, the small dragonoid girl’s sleep did not seem at all disturbed by his presence, and she continued to sleep peacefully.
“Wake up.” Lapis commanded. Still the girl did not stir.
Frustrated that the girl was wasting his time, Lapis quickly grew impatient. He would have preferred to eliminate her, or simple leave her be for all eternity, but he knew her far too important, to useful, to leave alone. Especially since her location was no longer hidden.
“I said...WAKE UP!” He shouted, and the power of this voice shook the walls of the old structure, it penetrated his own body and a sickly shock ran through him. This was Alhama’at’s power again. The power of words. He had not realized how dangerous it would be. He would need to be more careful, lest he end up truly injuring himself. Behind him, one of the many torii gates collapsed from the power of the words echoing throughout the chamber with a large crash.
“Nn? Who...are you?” Hazily, the small horned girl stirred from her sleep.
“I am Lapis.” The young man introduced himself with a confident smirk. “How are you feeling, Time Altering Priestess?”
“Don’t call me that.” The girl said, still yawning. “This is nothing more than an abominable power. *Yawn*. What did you say your name was? Lavish?”
“Lapis.” He reminded her, irritated. “You will do well to remember it.”
“Oh? You broke my stuff.” Flute said, hardly acknowledging Lapis’ comments. In the blink of an eye the torii gate that had collapsed reassembled. No, not reassembled, it was broken and then a moment later, it wasn’t.
This is her power. Lapis thought to himself. This girl is going to require a different approach.
“I came to find you because the world is in terrible danger.” Lapis began. “I’ve been trying to stop it, but I can’t do it on my own. That’s why I’ve come to you, priestess.”
“Flute.” The girl instructed. “Don’t forget it.” She wagged her finger in front of his face. “I already told you, my power only causes problems.”
“Your power can fix problems too.” Lapis paused for a moment as he carefully chose his words. “I want to help you realize that.”
“Ho~? You’re funny Laplace.”
“*Yawn*. Whatever. No one’s offered to help me before. Usually they’re afraid I’ll erase them or something.”
“I’m not afraid of you.” Lapis said. That much was true at least, he wasn’t afraid of anyone. Not with Alhama’at gone.
“Well...” Flute said, stretching. “It’s been awhile since I was awake, so give me a little while to get ready.”
“Alright.” Lapis said with the gentlest smile he could muster, though his fists were clenched. “Why don’t I tell you about things from the outside world while you get ready?”
After everyone had reconvened at the Light Palace, Millium and Pandora had left to check the progress on Refarth’s restoration, while the remaining sages, Grimm, Kaguya, Charlotte, and Ryula stayed behind to help assist the people of the Light Palace prepare for evacuation.
“You don’t have to come, mother. I know how to fight on my own.” Millium protested.
“I don’t doubt it. But isn’t it safer to travel as two rather than one? Plus your father is worried about Lumia and Red Riding Hood, so me going along will help him relax.” Millium didn’t respond, clearly still somewhat embarrassed his mother was accompanying with him.
“So...” Pandora said, as the two kept a swift pace towards the floating shape of Refarth in the near distance. “When were you going to tell me you started dating?”
Millium nearly tripped over his own feet from shock. “Wh-what? I’m not?”
“Oh~?” His mother asked, giggling. “But you and that yellow-eyed girl kept sneaking such cute glances at each other.”
“It’s...uh...complicated.” Millium said, scratching his cheek nervously.
“You didn’t do anything to upset her did you?”
“No! No...Maybe? Not on purpose anyway. I just...She feels a certain way about me, but I don’t know her at all. I don’t know, it’s confusing.” Millium looked up at his mother, who’s eyes were filled with tears.
“M-mother? Are you okay?”
“I’m just so happy to see my little Milly growing up!” She exclaimed, wiping away her tears. “But let’s talk about that later. For now...” Pandora pointed up to Refarth as the two drew close to the lake where it had crashed. “Let’s worry about this. Something’s not right here, the castle shouldn’t be frozen like that.”
An explosion shook the floating structure and send a plume of dust and smoke up into the air, startling Millium and Pandora.
“What’s going on?” Millium asked, turning to his mother who could only answer with an equally confused look.
“It’s red girl.” Lumia said, greeting the two while wringing the water from her hair. “There was...I don’t know, another one of the things that she is. Another one showed up to try and stop us. Red girl...she...tried to protect me.”
“Where are Melfee and Red Riding Hood?” Pandora asked.
“Still up there with her, fighting the monster.” Lumia pointed up to Refarth. “She couldn’t get them away in time.”
“Nyarlathotep is really strong.” Millium encouraged. “I’m sure that she’ll be alright.”
“Y-yeah, yeah, you’re right!” Lumia said, attempting to regain her composure. “There’s no way that nuisance would ever die that easily, right?”
“For now we’ll need to believe in our friends.” Pandora assured. “And focus on what we can do.”
Lost within the endless, stagnant world within the seal she had been trapped, Alice continued to put her mind to work trying to find a way out.
If I can’t move, there’s no way I’m going to physically break whatever this is. She thought. Magic doesn’t seem to work either.
However Alice did have a third option. One not available to most other people. She did not have access to the physical or the magical. But she still had her thoughts. Her mind, her soul, was still able to function in this sealed space. Why exactly Lapis allowed for such a thing, she didn’t know. Perhaps so that she could experience the pain of being trapped. But his attempted cruelty had unknowingly given her a possible method of escape.
This seal was likely designed to only hold one entity. But if there were suddenly two entities contained within it, it might weaken, allowing her to escape. She didn’t particularly like the idea, especially when there was no guarantee it’d even work. But it was the only plausible idea she’d had so far, and it was either try it or stay trapped forever.
Alice reached deep into the confines of her own being, down into her memories. There she found it, the painful hatred she had once so despised it had shed itself off into a different being. She and the other Alice had been reunited by the power of Yggdrasil back on Attoractia, but it seems now that the two would need to be separate again.
Alice pulled away at the power of Yggdrasil that had bonded the two, and Dark Alice was again freed.
Heehee. You really did it~. The Dark Alice’s thoughts spoke in Alice’s mind as she appeared.
Only because I thought I’d be trapped otherwise. Alice answered, noting the nothingness inside the sealed space beginning to shudder and dissolve, unable to handle two presences.
Once we’re out, what’s to stop me from killing you and your friends? Dark Alice sneered.
Because I don’t think that’s what you want. Alice argued. We both want the same thing, ultimately, don’t we? You’ve seen what happens when you try to do it on your own. If you really want to get back at Lapis...
At last the seal collapsed and faded, and the two appeared underneath the oozing gnarled roots of the corrupted Yggdrasil.
“...Then you’ll work together with everyone.” Alice finished.
“...Feh. Don’t think you can start telling me what to do. Schrödinger, let’s go!”
“Meow~” The shadowy cat appeared on Dark Alice’s shoulder as the girl flew off into the sky.
“Wait!” Alice cried as the thrashing roots of the malefic world tree detected the two’s presence. However, Dark Alice made quick work of the slimy tendril, cutting through it with her scythe.
Alice gave chase to her counterpart, flying after her. “Where are you going?” She called, but Dark Alice offered no answer. However, Alice quickly understood as Dark Alice set down in front of Millium, Lumia, and Pandora, who all seemed quite surprised at there now being two Alices standing in front of them.
“A-Alice?” Lumia started, baffled. “We thought you were...”
“These idiots are so dense” Dark Alice complained, interrupting Lumia. “How could you not want to kill them?”
“Meow~” Schrödinger cried in agreement.
“Ah, sorry everyone.” Alice bowed slightly. “This is...my other half, I suppose you’d call her.” I managed to escape Lapis’ prison by splitting up with her. “She’s going to help us defeat him.”
“Just remember that I’m the one who’s going to kill him.” Dark Alice said, a hungry look in her eyes. “None of you get in my way, and your blood won’t end up staining my scythe.”
“Are you sure we can...trust her?” Pandora inquired. “She does seem rather...violent.”
“She’s the one who led us here.” Alice admitted. She looked to Dark Alice for a moment, but her counterpart seemed in no mood to speak, so Alice continued. “Where are the others?”
“Most are back at the Light Palace, preparing to defend if Lapis comes after them.” Lumia explained. “A couple of us came to take back Refarth, but some monster showed up. Red Girl and the others are still fighting up there.” Lumia pointed to the castle, still suspended precariously in the air.
“Then that’s where we’ll go.” Alice answered. “You all had better regroup at the Light Palace for now.”
“We barely even helped!” Millium protested. “I beat Alhama’at, but all it did was make Lapis stronger. I can’t just go running back to the palace. I...wanted to help.”
“You did help.” Lumia patted her nephew’s head. “You came to help me. Now help me get back.”
“This is a war, Millium.” Pandora reminded. “It’s a lot of unpleasant back and forth. It’s not always as easy as hitting the bad guy really hard.”
“Euch. I’m so sick of you people.” Dark Alice floated off towards Refarth.
“I’d best make sure she doesn’t blow up the castle while we still need it.” Alice sighed, but stopped herself for a moment. “Lumia, do you still have the Earth?”
“It’s in a safe place back at the Palace, why?” Lumia cocked her head.
“I think we can restore it. Not perfectly, but it’s an asset we’re going to need, I think. The original Earth was a source of powerful energy. With Kaguya having regained her time abilities and your restoration talents...well I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” Alice smiled sweetly for a moment before taking off after Dark Alice.
“Mikage Seijuro...” said Grusbalesta, as his ancient vampire enemy paced forward slowly. “So you truly have returned.”
“Long have I walked the world of mortals, Grusbalesta. I have simply allowed you to become aware of it recently.”
Shortly after Pandora and Millium had left the Light Palace, the vampire and his three daughters had easily infiltrated the castle, their vampiric servants moving to terrorize the town now that the sun was beginning to set. Grimm, Kaguya, Charlotte, and most of the sages were busy in the town. Zero and Grusbalesta however had been herded off by the vampire lord into the large open throne room of the castle. The dark hall was illuminated only by the last vestiges of the evening sun, and the Mikage family’s eyes all glowed a sinister, hungry, red color.
“Zero, we need to move quickly, he’ll have the advantage when the sun sets completely.” Grusbalesta looked to his fellow sage, but the woman did not return his glance. Instead she was completely transfixed on the vampire lord. She had been since he first appeared. Her eyes were wide in fear. Fear that she might yet remember things buried from too many lifetimes ago.
“Perhaps...I should drain the life from this one first?” Mikage slowly motioned to Zero. “It would be most amusing to have you watch the life drain from one you care for again.”
“W-who...are you?” Zero said in a whispered voice. “You don’t know me...but...I...know you. Why do I...”
“Zero!!” Grusbalesta shouted as the vampire sped forward to strike the woman. “Damnit!” The sage clapped his hands together and a swirling purple barrier erected itself around Zero and himself, repelling the vampires, but only for a moment. “Zero you need to pull yourself together.”
“You don’t understand….he’s...I-I think he’s...”
“Oh? Are you having difficulties Grusbalesta?” A new voice called from somewhere unseen. “A thousand years and you still have not learned the skills necessary to survive in this world.” A strange sensation swept over the throne room. A horrible feeling that felt like a thousand hands clawing to pull one down into the grave with them. It sickened all within its radius, weakening them. Grusbalesta and Zero included, until the former again created a barrier to protect him and Zero from the cursed magic.
“Ngh, Lilias Petal. So I see that you have returned as well.” Mikage said through gritted, fanged teeth. “Your death magic could not destroy me a thousand years ago, and it cannot destroy me now.”
“Perhaps not...” The one called Lilias answered, emerging from some dark corner of the throne room, a thin smile adorning his alabaster face. “But it can hurt you, and I wonder if your spawn share your uncanny constitution.”
Mikage took a moment to look at his three daughters, who were struggling to stay on their feet as Lilias’ curse magic took greater and greater hold of them.