The Hungering Shadow

Episode 17

Alice, Faria, and Pricia had engaged Blazer. “Man, this guy is always such a pain!” ”Alice, I’m going to draw his attention. His attacks are strong, but straightforward and predictable. Alice, take the left, Pricia, on my right. When I give the signal, we’re going to attack from all sides, okay?

“I understand.” Alice gave Faria a knowing nod. “You got it, Faira!” Even in battle Pricia was beaming. Faria made a point of lowering her guard, she even did a taunting dance to garner the creature’s attention. In the time since his last battle, something strange had happened to Blazer. He still fought, but his movements were odd, as though he lost all reason, as if his movements were not his own. 

Faria realized someone must be controlling the creature, and that was making Blazer’s actions sloppy. Confident in her friends and herself, she maintained a calm composure. “Heyyyyyy!!! Fariaaaa! Are you okaaayyy?” “Haha, don’t worry Pricia. This guy can’t even hit me!” Despite Pricia’s concerns, Faria’s intuition proved to be a resource she could count on. 

She parried and dodged Blazer’s attacks nearly effortlessly. 

She continued to taunt him, waiting for him to attempt a big enough attack that he would leave himself open. Soon enough Blazer fell for the ruse, and the puppet like monster gathered his strength and magic, racing to attack Faria head on. “Now!” Faria called out to Alice and Pricia. All at once, everyone lunged at Blazer. 

Using the power of her regalia, Alice took on the shape of a knight with powerful lance in hand. Pricia, with the Four Sacred Beasts, ran at Blazer, fangs and claws bared. With the combined power of all three, Blazer’s body was sent flying, he tumbled on the ground before coming to rest behind Alice in a cloud of dust. His body lied limp and lifeless.

“Faria, that really was a bit dangerous, don’t you think?” Alice waved a hand in the air to clear the dust in her face. “I trusted you two would be able to do it.” “Don’t you guys feel like something is wrong here?” Pricia was visibly concerned. “You’re right, Pricia. I think someone was controlling him, I’m worried he’s still alive.”

Faria motioned with Excalibur to where Blazer’s body landed. “Pricia, why don’t we check to be sure. I’ll...” 

Alice turned to see where Blazer had landed, but as the dust settled it became clear that Blazer was gone. “Alice! Watch out!” Blazer was a creature that had abandoned everything for power. His clan, his world, all was sacrificed when he sought power from the Primogenitor. 

It seems in the intervening time between his last encounter with Alice, the Primogenitor had taken from Blazer, the only thing he had left. His own mind. His will had be erased, his memories gone. He no longer felt pain, his only thought was to kill, so long as he drew breath, he desired the death of the Primogenitor’s enemies. 

Despite a near fatal blow, Blazer had jumped high into the air, and was set to land on Alice with every remaining bit of his strength. Alice, completely caught off guard, looked up at what she believed to be her last moments. A powerful magic was gathering in Blazer’s arms. Powerful enough that it might even destroy the poor creature itself should it connect with its target. 

The creature’s face had no expression, his mouth hung open and his eyes were blank. 

Alice thought of her mission, how she failed Scheherazade and Kaguya by allowing herself to die here. However, it seems destiny had something else in mind today. Before Blazer’s attack could reach Alice, strange black globules formed in the sky, shaped themselves into dozens of spears and sped towards Blazer. 

Effortlessly puncturing him over and over. His body fell to the ground, whatever remained of his mind fading from his body. And then the assailant appeared. Clad in black garbs that seemed to draw in the surrounding light. “I don’t know why you had so much trouble with him. Are [you] sure you’re really [me]?” Alice looked up at the girl floating in the air. 

The sky had become strange, it looked as though storm clouds had gathered, but the change was far too quick to be something that simple. Something was spitting out strange black globules that were blotting out the light. “Eat up, Schrödinger.” “Meeeooowww”

The strange black cat called Schrödinger floated down to Blazer’s body, but as soon as it did, it seemed to lose interest in Blazer and returned to the girl floating in the sky.

“So there’s nothing left of him then? Pathetic. All that was left is an empty shell. Looks like someone erased everything so there’d be nothing for us to use. Oh well. Hello there everyone, would you please be good and feed yourselves to my cute little Schrödinger?” The girl in twilight garb motioned to Alice and the Seven Kings as she spoke.

”If the Alice you know is a champion of light, then I am the Alice you shall know as the champion of dark. Everyone, I bid you hello...and goodbye.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ To call it anything but a massacre would be improper. The girl in twilight garb, the Dark Alice, had set a perfect trap. Dark Alice had managed to envelop Yggdrasil and the surrounding area in a barrier of shadow. 

It’s unusual otherworldly power sapped the strength of the regalia. It even seemed to prevent the Seven Kings from utilizing their own natural abilities to some degree. As though there was something blocking the flow of their magics. Dark Alice had summoned an entire army of shadowy knights and cornered the kings and Alice.

“Don’t worry Alice, I’m only here to grant your wish. We want the same thing. We’re practically the same person after all, hahaha!” “You’re a survivor from Earth?  Why do you...who are you?” “I’m you, I’m you! Can’t you see? I’m here to kill him in your place!” “You’re, it can’t be…”

“Oh ho! You remember! Well done, well done! You saw it too, you saw it! When Earth died, you saw what happened! Ah but let's focus on the here and now, shall we? Please die so my cat can eat you up!” All of the shadowy soldiers were produced by Schrödinger. Each time the cat vomited out a shadow globule, it shrunk.

Having produced so many soldiers, the cat had become small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand. Rezzard and Melgis were the first to fall, Melgis being weakened from his battles with Faria and Rezzard terrified at the loss of his mastery over death. The two were consumed and absorbed by Schrödinger. The cat added their power to its own, growing larger as it did so.

“I wonder what kind of thing Schrödinger will make of you two. Doesn’t look like you were very healthy food though…” “That thing has got to be some kind of regalia...but the real trouble isn’t that regalia or those weird's this shadow barrier. Something this large and powerful would have required a lot of preparation. She would've had to have known we were meeting here...which means…” 

Faria’s mind raced in fear as she desperately tried to get a handle on the situation. During the fight there was one person who seemed to be acting a little unusual, and that someone was... “Valentina! You did this didn’t you?” “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m trying to concentrate on the fight, you know.”

“You really think that can fool me? This is all your fault, isn’t it! If this world dies, so do you! Are you insane?” “For once you’re right, little queen. That’s why I decided to take steps necessary to protect this world.” It was becoming increasingly obvious the Dark Alice’s soldiers had no interest in fighting Valentina.

Faira searched for a way to escape the barrier as she fought for her life. Arla, Machina, and Pricia seemed to be just barely holding their own. Alice, dumbfounded that something that appeared to be her shadow had appeared and caused such calamity, stood as if paralyzed.

“Arla, Pricia, Machina! We’ve got no chance while we’re trapped in this barrier! We’ve got to get out of here! I’ll hold them off for now. Everyone, please run away!!” Faria pleaded with the remaining kings. “You can’t possibly stand against those monsters on your own! Armalla has ever owed much to Gloria, I stand with you Faria. To the bitter end.”

“Faria, don’t count me out either! The Four Sacred Beasts are here too! We’ll all fight and escape together!” Arla and Pricia immediately rushed to Faria’s side. “Master. My body is not operating at optimal capacity. Leave me and escape...please.”

“Marybell. Logically our probability of escape increases if we work together. Let’s focus on this scenario, I’ll hear no other situation analyses, that’s an order.” Machina joined Faria shortly after the other two. “I won’t leave Marybell behind. I don’t really care about you all, but she is my masterpiece.”

“Haha, well whatever it takes. I can’t say I’m very confident, but we’ve got no choice.” Faria was glad to have companions in such a dark hour, but even together she knew they stood little chance. And then there was Alice... “Faria, I...I’ll fight too. I don’t know what’s going on...but...we can’t let her win.” “No, Alice, listen to me. You’re the only one that can save our world from him. 

You know more about the true danger than anyone else. If you die, our world dies too. Anyway, you promised didn’t you? You said you’d tell my sister about Wonderland, didn’t you? Sorry Alice, I can’t allow you to die here.” “But Faria, you’ll--!” Alice was interrupted by Faria, a forced smile on her face.

“Excalibur, I’m entrusting the last of my power to you. Please, take Alice to the lake where you first came to me. Alice...take good care of my sister.” “Faria! Stop, please!” A powerful light burst forth from Excalibur, enveloping Alice. It just barely managed to cut through the shadow covering the sky, carrying Alice to safety.

“Aw that’s no fun. I guess sometimes its better to run away and fight another day, hahaha! Now then, it’s lunch time and my poor kitty is starving~.” A wide thin smile spread across Dark Alice’s face. Her eyes wide and strained. “You think it’s going to be that easy? We are the rulers of this world, its protectors. We will not hand it over so lightly! Prepare yourself!” 

Faria, Pricia, Machina, Arla, the Four Sacred Beats, and Marybell made a charge for Dark Alice and Valentina. “I wonder if he’d be proud of me...haha, what am I thinking about at a time like this…” Faria did her best to hold back her tears as she and her companions raced towards their deaths.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- After the fight, Valentina stood alone on the top of the hill where the conference was held. “You were right, Faria. If this world should fall, that’d be trouble for me too. 

But don’t worry, I have no intention of allowing such a thing. Because from now on…I am this world.”