Alice in the Massacre - Chapter 81
“I guess… we both have the same understanding that we can’t die yet.”
Iberis, who was gasping for air, raised her upper body with Philrain supporting her. She coughed violently as she struggled to speak. After Philrain rubbed her back and settled her down a bit, she looked up at Alice with a pale face.
“Thank you… I feel much better now.”
“Your Bandersnatch is quite depleted, Iberis. Direct combat may be demanding, but I’ve performed first aid on you.” Alice said nonchalantly and wiped the sweat from her forehead. Iberis shifted her gaze away from the White Knight who was facing her. When she did that, Jack called out to her in a quiet voice.
“… I’m so glad you’re alive.”
Those plain words seemed to have caused an emotional pain in Iberis’ heart. After biting her lip, tears began to flow from her eyes as if they were a dam.
“Jack, is that you…?”
“Yes. But there are a lot of questions about whether it’s the original ‘me’…” Jack said and repositioned the Dáinsleif in the middle position with his armored arm. “It seems we don’t have time to dwell on that right now.”
“The enemy is on the move. They’re searching for us. It won’t be long before they find us.”
Alice looked around, the pale flame in her right eye wavering. In the narrow underground passage, it was difficult to distinguish how the paths were intertwined due to the darkness at the back.
“You’re sure there are three Nightmares out there?” Raffi spoke up.
Alice glanced upwards for a while as if concentrating on the subject, but then she nodded and answered.
“That’s right. Maybe… Jabberwock is with them.”
“The magical beast… what the heck…?”
Alice replied to Raffi, whose voice was constricted with dark eyes. “He’s alive… I’ve engaged him in battle once. I won’t lose next time.”
Her machine-like tone made Raffi want to address something, but instead he held his tongue. Then he suppressed his emotions and uttered the words.
“… Listen to me. I’ll tell you briefly what I found out after battling the doppelganger called Stelcis and the Original Nightmare called Mock Turtle.” Raffi said, glancing around.
“Stelcis… is the one who controls the Bandersnatch, right? She’s still alive.”
With a nod to Alice who answered, he carried on.
“Perhaps, however, the Archi-Alice doppelganger named ‘Stelcis’ is already ‘dead’. It is another Original Nightmare that is in there, controlling the Bandersnatch.”
Iberis exhaled roughly and grunted. “The Seventh who can control the Bandersnatch is us, the doppelgangers… I suppose the Seventh of the Original Nightmare that is taking over Stelcis is to utilize the abilities of the target that has been taken over…”
“Maybe. And it seems that they don’t merely use their abilities. The Bandersnatch was exceptionally fast and solid. I’d say it’s on the verge of mutating into other ‘things’.”
Raffi let out a breath and went on.
“The most immediate assumption may be that the Bandersnatch has evolved as a result of being used by the Original Nightmare. That’s why Iberis lost the race with her power.”
Raffi’s expression darkened after he shot a glance at the muttering Alice.
“And just before fleeing, I confirmed that Stelcis seemed to repair herself when touched by the Mock Turtle… though I have no idea what the logic behind this is. If you don’t defeat the Mock Turtle, you won’t be able to defeat Stelcis.”
“Mock Turtle’s ability…” Iberis said in a faint voice. “I wonder if her Seventh isn’t meant for concealment…?”
“What do you mean?”
“We thought that the Mock Turtle was only capable of ‘hiding’ from certain things. But that was a big mistake from the start.”
She gripped her remaining left hand and continued.
“That is probably the ability to manipulate ‘perceptions’. And maybe it’s also the ability to erase ‘phenomenon’.”
“So… she can heal Stelcis because of this…!”
Raffi raised his voice, and the White Knight looked at him in a puzzled manner and spoke up.
“What do you mean…? I don’t get it.”
“Stelcis is likely to have been damaged by Alice’s attack to the point where she can no longer move. The fact that she is still alive means that the Mock Turtle is erasing the ‘phenomenon’ that she is ‘dying’. The same goes for concealing in space. It’s interfering with what we ‘perceive’ so that we can’t perceive it.”
“How is that possible…?”
Iberis nodded to Jack, who sounded muffled.
“The Seventh is basically a ‘do anything’ ability. If you think about it, it’s a lie that this place is hidden from the Original Nightmare. Even more so if there’s another one up there now. They may have formed an alliance…”
“… I got the gist of it now. We can’t win like this.” Alice said calmly as if muttering. Upon witnessing her quiet demeanor, Iberis said a few words in a faint voice.
“Are you okay…?”
Alice seemed to have been surprised by her words, so she looked at Iberis and answered with no change in her expression.
“I’m fine. I feel lighter and my head feels clearer. Something unnecessary has left my body.”
Iberis was about to say something, but she forced herself to change her mind and continued. “Now, what kind of Seventh is the enemy, the ‘Jabberwock’ that has just entered the fray?”
“I’d like to explain, but I don’t think there’s time. They have found us.” Alice stated, standing back to back with Jack. “I have an idea. Iberis, I know this is painful for you, but stand up and fight with me.”
“It reeks of blood. Maybe they’re hiding in the underpass around here.”
In a city where emergency alarms were blaring and red warning lights were flashing, the Jabberwock stood, stepping over the collapsed rubble.
“If it’s the underground passage… I’ll use my Bandersnatch to…”
Stelcis focused her attention, her eyes glowing an odd color. When he saw her hair begin to glow and rustle in rainbow colors, the Jabberwock extended his right hand to the side to halt her.
“Stop. The simple force is ‘Gryphon’… your Bandersnatch and your opponent’s Bandersnatch makes it a close match. Besides…”
The Jabberwock’s mind flashed back to the image of Alice who had sent him crashing off the train. After licking his tongue like a ravenous beast in front of a feast, he proceeded.
“Don’t underestimate her. That girl’s awakening speed is insane.”
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