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A sudden rush of awareness flooded his system. It crawled like rats across his insides and nibbled on his his ears and heals, but as soon as it had arrived, the slinking sticky feeling had one again dissipated. Kiku angled his neck to one side and then slowly back to the other side, feeling the seamless movements of muscle and bone, the shifting of veins and spine and air as it rushed in and out of his various tubes. In his own mind they creaked, groaned and protested, a great earthquake disrupted their regular business and all of the inhabitants stopped and steadied themselves, weeping in fear and horror as the world changed it's axis for seemingly no reason, but there was no audible sound to validate his mind's eye. His neck simply moved, seamlessly from one shoulder, to the other. Does the ant know it is simply an inconvenience to the leg it has wandered upon? Perhaps not.

For what seemed like the first time, Kiku's eyes opened and closed, and then opened again. The low lighting of his throne room greeted him, and it was still to bright. No sun, no moon, just the light of solitary flames, reaching haphazardly for one another in the vast expanses of his throne room. If you never witness the splendor of the sun or the moon, do they even exist? Certainly no such light would ever reach such a place, and perhaps they were simply constructs of normality, for what was a world without a sun? Simply a rock with things on it he supposed.

“There is an intruder in my castle. I want her found. Bring her to me.”

His word was law; an absolute drowning in abstraction and unpredictability. The game had begun.

The asylum never changed. It was a string of actions that were repeated over and over again until even the most insane patient could explain in detail the monotounous going ons of each day. Natalya was not the most insane patient, but she was one of the most violatile and least responsive. She spent days sitting in front of the window in the rec room, watching the sun make it's journey from east to west, and was known to attack anyone who tried to move her. If she ever spoke, it was slurs and insults towards the orderlies and doctors. The only thing Natalya did that was not sit catatonic or violently attack others, was when she was locked in her room at night, where she would draw and write in the various notebooks given to her. She had books and books of odd drawings, queens and knights, rabbits in hats and tea cups and roses and ghosts and horrifying beasts.

When she'd laid down that night to sleep, one of her notebooks pulled close to her chest, and the drug making her mind hazy and fuzzy, she dreamed about fire and blood, and falling. She fell for what felt like ages, the world falling by her and giving way from the sterile walls of her room to polished red marble floors, suits of armor. And most importantly, an odd catlike being that greeted her with a wide, sharp toothed grin and one word, "Run."

The sound of running feet on the floors drew her up to her own. She paid no mind to the change in her clothes, or odd clarity she'd not felt since she was young. She ran, darting through corridors and rooms, heart pounding in her chest, and the sound the ones chasing her for whatever reason always close by. The large double doors opened as she neared. Without another option, she hurried in, darting into the dark room, and finally coming to a stop as she was met with the image of a rather effeminate man on a throne. For just a moment a image flickered through her mind, the image of a face she knew well, but it slid away and she couldn't say if she knew this man or not. Breathing hard, she glared at him, and tilted her head to look back at the guards that stopped in the door, all eyes seemingly on her.

She was beautiful in her simplicity, and tragic in her stance, and poor little Alice had come to him of her own power. Misguided and misunderstood, her own two feet had brought her to the depths of his core; his prison and his sanctuary.

“You have intruded upon my domain. This place is not for you, Alice.”

It was not a request or a suggestion. His word was law, and he would not be opposed by even one such as her.

“I, the Queen of Hearts, sovereign of all wonderland, declare you unlawful and illegitimate. Go back from whence you came, and do not return.”

He sat without movement, his arms and hands resting on his throne's arm rests, his head leaned against the throne itself. The raised platform for his seat allowed him to look down on Alice, his chin high and his eyes angled downward, a board and superior tilt to his face.

If there was anything Natalya knew about this place, it was that she did not like this Queen of Hearts. No, not one little bit. He looked at her as if she were an annoyance to be brushed aside. Turning to fully face him, she took a few determined steps closer towards the throne. She could tell from here, that lashing out at him as she did the orderlies would not end in a manner suiting to her wishes. Though she greatly desired to bring harm to this man who aggravated her so.

"I do not know who you think I am," She stated, eyes flashing, "But I am not 'Alice', and I do not take well to be spoken down too."

She did not know where she was, or how she'd come to be there. Her last memory before here felt odd and disjointed. She couldn't decide if she'd been at the asylum or not, or where she'd been at all. And it did nothing but further her agitation. Natalya itched to reach up and pull this supposed queen from his throne and throw him to the ground, but she kept her vague distance, as the guards that had chanced her began to edge into the room.

“If you do not know who Alice is, how can you say that Alice is not yourself? You indeed, are Alice.” The bored, dull gleam in his eye didn't dissipate, but a small tilt of his neck angled his black hair as it shifted closer to his eyes, and a slight upward tilt of his chin set them backwards ever so slightly. The right side of his mouth creased, and with his head tilted it certainly must have made him look crooked.

“I would think you'd be used to being spoken down too. That is what people in power do to people who are not in power.”

The guards were filing into the room after her, their spears held at the ready to keep her from turning and escaping from his clutches. Perhaps he would keep young Alice for a while. Or perhaps he'd hang her head somewhere lacking in decoration. She would certainly color a bland background.

Her anger rose as the guards continued filing in. Her head whipped around to take in their positions, hair splaying out in the air to follow her motions. It was quickly becoming clear that she had very few options, and not many of them ended in a pleasant manner for her.

Shooting a glare back towards the Queen, Natalya took another step towards the throne, and the sound of the guards moving filled the room. She stopped and they did so as well. She knew in that instance that there would be no way she could get closer to the queen without being killed. For a split second she wondered if her blood would even show on this floor, of if it would simply meld with the red of the marble and the black of the shadows.

Not particularly disheartened by this idea, she let her gaze flicker about the throne room. Over the dim torches, and the high, arched ceiling, back towards the doors she'd blindly run through, and finally again, to the Queen. Though, her eyes only lingered on the annoying man for just a moment, before she spotted the cat again. But he wasn't really a cat, not like one she'd seen before, he too was familiar in an odd way she couldn't place, and he stood beside the throne, ears twitching and tail waving in a rather relaxed manner. In his hand, which was most unpawlike indeed, he held a blade. It was sleek and sharp, and stained already with blood.

Moving swiftly, Natalya ducked and swerved to avoid being struck by spears that jutted out in her direction. Her feet took her up the platform, but she twisted and leaned to the right towards the cat, who's grin never slid from his face though the rest of him faded away until only that grin and his hand, holding the blade stayed. She grabbed at the handle, and as her fingers wrapped around it, he disappeared completely.

It felt right, holding this weapon in her hand, as if it were made just for her. With this, she felt not nearly as weak or defenseless, and she turned and froze, the image of long dark vines hanging from the throne freezing her in place as she eyed them, not sure at first just what they were going too.

Kiku did not turn to look at her as young Alice moved, but he did sense the presence of the cat, the shifting of the air and the whirling of space around him. He didn't need to look to know where the cat was, didn't need to watch as Alice moved to meet him. He did look when the time and space returned to itself, but he did not move, his eyes simply shifted to take in the right side of the throne. And there was Alice, with the vorpal blade firmly held in her hand. She looked small in comparison to such a large blade, but she held it with no difficulties, and the gleam of the blade shone in her eyes and the deep blood contrasted magnificently with the snow white pallor of her skin.

Without realizing he'd thought it, Kiku thought that it suited her, that it had formed itself to fit her firm yet delicate hand. She was enamored by it as well. Young Alice had seethed with rage before, but her fire had been chilled. Now, with the blade in hand the flame buckled and clipped and drew in all around it. She was ready to smite the world with such a devastating tool in hand, she turned to him, and Kiku felt no worry. He was the Queen of Hearts; no child who could not face herself, could destroy him, even if she was the one perhaps destined to cleave the world to pieces. Composure was his ace, and Kiku would maintain it.

But Alice did not rip and tear with the blade she'd collected from the meddlesome cat, instead she stilled, and her eyes festered on the roots of his sustenance. They bulged in her head and the confusion that floated in her eyes was practically visceral. The force of her confusion was unnerving, though Kiku did not, and would not show it, and when a sudden bang exploded from the far end of the room grabbing her attention, Kiku was happy for the distraction. The only outward sign of aproval he gave, was a slight twitch of his mouth, and a tilt of his head, as his eyes turned forward.

“Husband. Your timing is impeccable.” Across the room stood the King of Hearts, his hair blond and cropped, his features hardened yet soft, and a smoking barrel in his hand as the guards folded around him, parting like cards in the presence of a strong wind. “We have some meddlesome guests that need tending to, husband.”

Natalya knew that sound, the bang was familiar enough for her to place it as that of a gun, she turned immediately to look and see it. Her gaze locked easily on the man holding the weapon, and she knew that escape was now most important. Though the blade felt right in her hand, she could not use it against a gun, not at such distance, and though she was faster here then she'd ever been before, she didn't know for sure she could dodge enough bullets to avoid being harmed. No, attacking now would be unwise.

At the Queen's words, this felt even more confusing. Most, she thought to herself, would take the Queen as a sort of hostage. Surely the blade in her hands could easily slice through him and be adequate weapon... but the vines that, as she looked at them and could tell, were quite attached to the queen... if she used him as a hostage, she wouldn't be able to actually move to escape. And surely none of the guards would be seen as anything but replaceable.

The only way out, Natalya realized, quite unwillingly, was through the very door the supposed King stood in. And he did not seem like one to easily get passed. For a moment, she wished desperately that the cat might appear again and help her. But he did appear, and she knew she was on her own.

"Tending too, as if I were a pesky weed." She muttered, stepping down off the platform, eyes flickering over the guards who moved to give the King a clear shot, "I don't think I like the way you think of me, much."

“Your concern is misplaced. You only think of the rose when it is in your sight. When it is not, it no longer exists, and all things in this world exist so that I may look upon, and then discard them. Once you have been discarded, it won't much matter what my opinion of you is.” Kiku answered in his customary monotone voice, his eyes angled towards the King of Hearts, and not towards Alice.

“Husband, do tend to this white rose. I prefer red, but sometimes I am in the mood for white.”

The king's face stayed hard as he eyed the young girl and her bloody blade. He cocked the gun and aimed. “That's enough moving. Stay still.” He stated plainly, in a much more spirited manner than the queen was capable.

Deciding that she quite simply did not like this Queen at all, Natalya cocked her head to the left. She shifted her hold on the blade, and her heels made soft tap-tap-tap sounds as she moved along the floor. "I am not a rose, and I won't be as easily discarded."

Narrowing her eyes on the King, Natalya shifted her stance ever so slightly as she moved. "If this must become bloody, then so be it."

She doubted she would get passed him without being hit at least once, and her body was steeled to take the pain. She readied the blade, intending to slash at his middle, and hopefully she could take a bit out of him as well.

When she darted, she pushed all her power into the move, immediately leaning forward and running forward, wavering from side to side to make herself a harder target to hit, and the vorpal blade held close to her stomach, ready for her to slash it out at as she moved passed.


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August 2017

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