Hello again after being seriously MIA for so long! ^^ Thank you for all the reviews ( I know I haven't been replying to them and I think I've lost track of who I have and have not mailed to, gomen! "'OTL) I've been away from the fandom all these while since I'm now caught up with my work (and hoping I don't screw up and get myself fired by a very screwed up management... ah ha... ha ha...) So I can't be sure when I'll write again. The reviews really do encourage me to complete this story (or at least, take you guys off the cliff hanger lol! XD) So to the readers who are still waiting for my stories and those who have also pmed me, thanks so much for your support, you know I'll always appreciate it 3 This chap is for you :)
PS: If you haven't read my M version of The Wandering Heart and you're a AcexAlice fan, *ahem* you know what to do! X'D
Disclaimer: I do not own anything H/J/C/AnKnA except for my imagination and words. Btw, the game and manga events inspired some of my chapters :)
Chapter 13: The Dead Gives No Answers
"Hey Alice… I don't think I'm able to see your way after all."
The crimson knight spoke with a self-depreciating smile and a resigned tone that crumbled her heart. A pair of hard, bleak, ruby orbs stared at her wearily as the young, pale-looking Outsider stood with the blood-clad Roleholder amidst motionless bodies of the castle's maids and guards, their faceless features frozen like eyeless death masks. A bloodied, brown sack rested against the rose hedge of the maze, the unmistakable property of the knight.
"Ace..." Formless words of solace wedged between her dry throat and sinking gut as Alice murmured his name in a hesitant, stammering breath. Her queasy stomach found it hard to resist the gagging reflex upon the bloody stench and sight that splayed before her. Yet in the middle of the bloodshed, she couldn't deny the part of her that wanted to pull Ace away from it all, to prevent him from doing any more destruction be it to others or himself. But her hands stayed by her side, clammy and trembling as her fingers clenched deep into her blue dress.
"Ha ha ha! Isn't this funny?" Ace chortled suddenly, gesturing as he swung his longsword about effortlessly and carelessly, as if they were merely discussing about the weather. But Alice knew better than be deceived by his many layered smile; his laughter no more than a mean to relieve the tension in his adrenaline-high body and his confused mind.
"The queen turns a blind eye to my offense even when I do it right under her nose," the russet haired youth continued as he raised a hand languidly, combing back his smooth locks of brown from his vision and he pressed his palm against the side of his throbbing head. His heavy feet, as if on their own accord, moved steadily towards the girl, his drawn sword still dripping blood greedily on the garden grounds as he proceeded. "Despite the numbers I keep killing for Julius, I'm right back at square one. I still get lost once in a while too."
That's quite an understatement— she bit her tongue to stop herself from speaking her mind. Ironically, it was the first comprehensible thought that broke the silence in her rather stunned state.
What to do... What to do? The sing-song litany inundated his mind, the boundaries of his existence blurring into one big hell of a mess as he studied Alice's small form. He could tell she was quite shaken by their encounter this time, yet her body language was sturdy, in a stubborn way, despite her tell-tale trembling hands. She wasn't even trying to move away from him even when he knew she abhorred the fact that he was covered in the blood of others. Knowing that, a small frown threatened to destroy his cool mask and composure.
...What was he looking for when he looked at her like that...?
His clock did a strange flip at the question. Ace shook his auburn head, deciding it was best to ignore the awkward but warm feeling. Something told him he would not be able to bear the consequences if he knew exactly what the brief sensation meant. So this... is what it feels like. I've gotten clingy—he realised and his feet stopped closing the distance between them. He didn't like it; the more he aware of the situation he was, the more unsure he became of the things he had lived for all these while. There had never been anyone on his side before. The ones who held the knowledge of the game always kept their lips sealed and the ones who didn't were as useless as being dead. So for what reason at all should he seek answers from a weak and powerless being like Alice in the first place? Why is every- damn- one inexorably drawn to her? Why... does his clock incessantly seek for her pure, accepting gaze?
Why... He repeatedly asked himself but his own question gave him no reprieve, slamming into his sanity instead like a persistent torrential rain that added to his already murky perception. Ace just wanted to quietly end it all... And end it all he shall.
"Nothing seems to be working out, don't you think so? Ha ha ha... Well, when I put it that way, it doesn't sound as funny as I thought it would be," his light-hearted voice sounded forced as he gave in to his grim admittance. Ace stood still, leaning on one side of his hips, his expression unreadable and shielded behind his long fringes. Alice could only read his lips as he let out a small, quiet sigh... before the corners of his mouth curved up again to form that goofy but uncanny grin of his. Suddenly, with a flex of his sinewy arm, his sword jerked to life and within seconds of blinking, Alice found herself face to face with the sharp, pointed end of the large, glimmering blade. Her audible, little gasp was like sweet music to his ears.
"And then there's you... Alice."
The Outsider's ocean-blue eyes jumped to meet his cold and eerily smiling red ones. She felt the guttural timbre of his low and husky voice all the way to her toes when he drawled her name; an icy seduction that harboured on the brink of pain. Her feet firmly rooted to the ground as she stared back at the freshly blood-coated tip.
What a joke... Ace chuckled to himself, relishing the familiar weight of his heavy weapon in his hands and the scent of fear that his prey was emitting even as she stood her ground. The game had lead him by his nose once again in a nonsensical roundabout. In fact, his whole life and character had been a humorous mistake from the start; a knight who didn't want to be a knight, and yet is given no other choice then to be one despite his not so ideal, knightly qualities. It was laughable and pathetic. After all, there was even lesser to be gained from being a Roleholder rather than the normal faceless. But ever since Alice was thrown into the game, he's been expecting— hoping— for more he should have…
And that, itself, was never a good idea if you are one of Wonderland's infamous Roleholders. Vivaldi had generously proven that pretty clearly the last time he did.
"Whether you exist or not... Do you actually make a difference at all?"
His indifferent tone was pure madness that froze the rushing blood in her veins the moment those words left his handsome lips. What is... he saying? Her slightly opened lips quivered while the rest of her body seemed to have lost the will to move in that very instant. Alice should have seen the signs, should have known where this was leading when she decided to get involved with Ace and his crazy antics. But it hurts...
It hurts to hear it coming from him of all people. And it surprised her how this one man who had recently come into her life could affect her this much.
Already, he could feel his energy pooling, waiting for the right moment. His attention solely focused on the blonde girl before him as he contemplated aloud with an anticipating grin...
"Wouldn't it be easier and clearer to see if I just... kill you right now?"
A deathly silence ensued as if time had stopped for them just then. There they stood, a sword's length away as they looked at each other, gauging each others' responses to the indefinable and deadly question that lingered in the stale air between them. His grin widened with satisfaction when her wide, sapphire eyes looked away first as she bit her full, bottom lip. The unconsciously feminine action always seemed to stir a certain sweet excitement in him.
"What makes you say that?" she suddenly said with her gaze hardening as she glanced at the ground; another small but firm gesture which intrigued and aroused him all the more. He cupped his chin, amused, as he gave it a thought.
"Hmm... you'll never know unless you try?"
"...You haven't decided to kill me yet."
It was a statement. Ace couldn't deny that he was thrown off by the sureness of her voice despite the precocious situation she's in, even though the matter of her death was old news by now. It made him want to laugh, which he did.
"Ha, you got me again, Alice. But I assure you, I'm fast considering that option —"
"Don't be lazy, Ace!" Alice screamed, anger and disappointment flashing in her stern, teal eyes even as a thin film of tears clouded her sight.
Did she just... scold me? He thought blankly, thoroughly astonished. Her steady voice, strangely, had managed to snap the suffocating strain within him. Ace's crimson orbs widened as he blinked at her, feeling a little dazed at her abrupt outburst. For a moment, her words baffled him so much that it cleared his chaotic mind like nothing could.
"You're mad at me?" The Knight of Hearts asked with child-like perplexity painted on his face. Endearing as it was, it almost made Alice cry out in frustration and worry for him. He was looking even more confused than before.
I have to make him see... I have too... Alice gritted her teeth and straightened her posture, the tip of her nose almost coming in contact with the sword as she did so. I have to make him see that that this clueless idiot is lost in his own mess that he created, not the game, not anyone else!
"Of course I am, you idiot! The problem has never been the game! It's you! Don't always take the shortest cut out of your problems, Ace. You're just pushing it to one side or cutting it down with your sword instead of facing it! I think that's the reason why you always keep yourself on the move… yet you're going nowhere," she struggled with the words that kept pouring from her lips in her fit of anger and fear. She took a deep calming breath that did little to soothe her nerves. But her shoulders finally slumped in exhaustion, her eyes unable to hide her unease. "Sometimes I wonder if you are really lost... Or are you just running away by not wanting to see things as they are…"
All of a sudden, she could sense that everything in him paused when she said that. His gaze darkened, his wine-red eyes no longer holding its fake laughter. Even the usual, mischievous twinkle in them was lost. His jaw stiffened and his shapely lips pulled in a tight, thin line. For Alice, it was even harder to see Ace like this; like a man who has lost all options, including his will to carry on.
Please don't look at me like that...
"...If I don't make a move now, then nothing's going to change too... Alice," he stated softly and slowly, as if he was trying to convince himself more than convincing her, and his terse, harsh tone finally betrayed his vexation with himself.
"Even if that's true, you can't just recklessly and blindly move. What you have now and what you do makes who you are. Is there really a reason to not accept what you have in the first place?" she asked. It was hard to even try and grasp the logic of his world, but she hadn't expected it to be this... crippling. It always left her feeling alienated, different and helpless. Alice knew full well that she could never come to accept it no matter how hard she tried. But Ace had always been part of Wonderland.
And Ace is... to me... Alice gulped, lost to her own unfinished answer.
"You're not making any sense, Alice. A Foreigner isn't like a Roleholder. I don't have anything to begin with," saying unsympathetically, Ace's gloved fingers coiled around the handle of his sword even tighter. He could tell she was trying to knock some of her Outsider's 'common sense' into him again. In other circumstances, he would have found it cute, but it was beginning to gnaw at his patience.
She should know her place in Wonderland by now... Just like how I should know mine.
"Everything belongs to the game. My role, my name... even you." Strange, how it was a pain to even look at her now. The Forienger was always a tease; always getting too close, always at his fingertips yet never quite, and never meant to be, within his reach. For he knew that even if she had a choice, the girl would never come to terms in accepting someone as soiled and dark in nature like him.
It was more than a fact. It was the truth; that someone like her didn't belong in his upside-down world.
"I-I don't belong to the game," Alice stammered out uncertainly, a light blush finding its way to her cheeks. In contrast to the atmosphere and his uncaring appearance, stark desire and desperation washed over his dangerously, sensuous voice and fervent eyes. In other words, did he want me to belong to him? But then, she quickly shook all notion of that from her mind. He and all Roleholders alike... I'm just a prize to a twisted game that I shouldn't be part of in the first place. But still... His words tarried in her mind, seducing her heart when it shouldn't, because it sounded too much like the beginnings of a huge love confession.
"No." She heard him agree as he shook his head, contorting his answer with a small, sadistic snigger. "But you don't belong to anyone in particular either, and yet you belong to everyone at the same time. That's why everyone wants more than what they have now."
He heard her ask curiously. Her solemn and expecting expression made him grin as he tipped his head back and replied, "What do you think?"
It was a sly response. Alice peered at him with the edge of his sword still right in front of her, pondering hard. "If it's like this, then I think you do want to kill me... but you won't do it."
"Hm? Is that so?" The young soldier tilted his head at her, truly intrigued as he placed a finger to his chin thoughtfully. The blue-eyed Foriegner was getting more and more interesting. Beside the other Roleholders, it was rare to see his opponent so undaunted in the face of his sword. Perhaps I'm not doing it right? He grinned to himself as he skilfully manoeuvred his sword directly under her chin, the flat side tipping her head up promptly and putting her claim to the test. "How is it that Alice can still say these sorts of careless remarks?"
Blood on the sword smudged against her skin, the blade slightly scrapping her neck. Being threatened by Ace like this, it was like déjà vu all over again… except with the addition of the sickeningly coppery scent and the cold, wetness of the kill on her that nearly undid her confidence. Ace was toying with her like he would with his victims; his merciless, predatory side was already on the verge of being unrestrained. One wrong word and she would be more than likely to lose her head. He was serious, but so was she. He was clearly underestimating her and Alice had no intention of backing down like a scared little girl after going this far and this deep into his blood-filled world...
"Because you're just scared," she managed those words out of her lips with whatever bravado remained, forcing herself to retain her eye-contact with Ace… before he finally erupted in laughter, a hand slapping his forehead.
"Scared? Ha ha ha! You're saying some pretty amusing things, Alice," he told her. Was this some half-baked, desperate, last resort to stop him from killing her? If it was so, Ace thought it was certainly entertaining enough. But to his surprise, Alice glared back defiantly as she tipped her own elegant chin further in protest.
"It's true. I realized it's because you are afraid that your start doing things thoughtlessly. Just like this."
Right then, all amusement disappeared, leaving behind a humourless smile while his voice dipped an octave lower, like bitter honey entrapping her senses in a deadly addiction. "The game will still go on whether or not Alice is here, you know that right?"
Of course I do...The insignificance of her own presence was something she had come to terms with a long time ago, even before she had entered Wonderland. She was not good enough a daughter to make her heartbroken father happy after the death of their mother, she was not good enough a sister to have driven Edith away from her, she was not good enough a woman to even be compared to Lorina and most of all, she was not good enough a lover to have been unable to keep the man she loved by her side. Her inadequacy seemed to have increased even more so when she came to this new and unknown place. To even make a change at all with her existence was a miracle too farfetched to hope for... and yet, she just wanted those important to her to be happy. But no matter what she did, they all kept slipping away from her life. And now, so was Ace.
Faded visions of Lorina and her beloved flickered painfully across her mind; their beautiful smiles stung her heart like maiming shards of timeless glass...
Because she was nowhere in the picture... and she knew she never will be.
"Would it be better for everyone if I was really gone? I've asked myself that question many times before so you can just go ahead and kill me if you think that's the answer to all your problems!"Alice exclaimed unenthusiastically, too tired of revisiting her same old story to even cry now. She could feel Ace's sword move deeper, agitated, and puncturing the skin of her neck till a tiny trickle of blood flowed in a thin red line down and over her collar bone, staining the neckline of her white blouse.
"Don't test me, Alice…" He murmured her name roughly in the warning, red gleaming orbs tapering warily as he frowned at the Foreigner. Ace knew she was not the type to give up or reveal her insecurities, and yet he could see she was slowly giving in to her emotions in front of him. And she had the guts to say he was scared! It was a foolish move, mad even, to be provoking him like this. His smirk felt strained as he analyzed her behaviour. What was wrong with her?
"At least tell me this before you do me in, Ace…" Despite feeling puny in front of Ace's imposing figure, Alice kept her unyielding, cerulean orbs on his sharp, crimson ones as she asked, "Will it make you happier if I was gone?
For a moment, the question rendered him stunned, and Ace almost thought he had forgotten how to breathe. Even his weapon hand felt numb and heavy. His slightly parted mouth gaped at her and his eyes grew in sheer surprise and puzzlement. He repeated her question over and over in his head, blinking once, twice, but still found himself speechless and unable to comprehend.
"Happier? I… don't know…" he whispered undecidedly, his frown deepening the creases in between his brows as he cast his gaze away from hers. What does his happiness have anything to do with her? It was hilarious, he realised, how he actually understood her no more than he could understand himself. Yet he was willing to follow her, his ticking, metallic heart already clinging to her every word even though it made no sense to him.
Noticing that his sword had lowered a little, a sign that Ace was finally unguarded, Alice made a dodge and ran past him, frantically sprinting and snatching up the heavy-looking brown bag on the grassy floor. The broken clocks jangled noisily from the sudden movement and the knight spun around a mere seconds after but it was too late. The action had left Alice heaving deeply as she bent over with the sack in her arms, trying to catch her breath. Ace grimaced, realizing that his speed have unwittingly decreased in his befuddled stated. He lowered his sword now, admitting that she had bested him and he approached her cautiously but she quickly backed away from him, shaking her head.
"If you won't kill me then I'll set it straight for you!" she said, beads of perspiration dotted her face as she hugged the sack tighter to her chest. The blood rubbed into her arms and clothes but she was far from caring. Alice hadn't been sure if she could pull it off such a spontaneous stunt in the first place. Hell, even her voice sounded screechy and hysterical to her. She certainly hadn't intended to show this shameful side of her! The Outsider's mind was beginning to spin from the embarrassment while her vision was blurring from tears of temporary relief at her timely success.
"What do you think you're doing, Alice? I can't have you touch that or Julius will get mad at me," He called out to her pleasantly like he normally would, "Come on, put that down, or it'll get you really dirty," he beckoned with his fingers, sincerely dumbfounded and amazed by her ability to do the unthinkable. Alice, on the other hand, flustered and moved away from him a step more. The way he said it made her feel like a little girl being cooed at.
"I-it doesn't matter! I never mean to be the cause of your confusion, Ace. So if you can't move forward, then I'll make the move for you."
Suddenly, something caught both of their ears and their heads turned to the source. In the distance, they detected the sounds of heavy military boots trampling on the garden grounds dully. The march was approaching their location.
The palace guards… Mr. Peter must have sent them to investigate the disturbance here. I'll also need to take care of the Afterimages later. Tsk, tsk... it's becoming a tad messy... Ace hid his furrows again as he turned back to her patiently, "As you can see, I don't have time Alice. So be obedient for me, will you? Give me back the clocks and go straight back to the Clock Tower." He took another step towards her but she scurried even further away from him, never once releasing her hold on the bag.
"No. Right now, without your disguise, you are still the one and only Ace, Knight of Hearts," she protested firmly. Alice's throat felt dry at the thought of what she would be suggesting next. "That is why I will bear your other duty for you. I'll deliver the clocks to Julius in your stead for now."
For a few seconds, Ace gawked at her in disbelief until a bemused look painted across his face and he stifled a chuckle into his fist. "Ah... I get it now. You think to relieve me of my other role? Ha ha ha! What are you talking about? I can't let you do that," he laughed hard. He had underestimated her before but what she was thinking of doing was surely unthinkable. If she was jesting, it was definitely done in bad taste!
Don't laugh you moron! Isn't it obvious that I'm serious here?! Alice puffed her reddened cheeks and glared at him with little effect. "You're in no position to even say that right now! You don't have your mask and you can't be seen delivering clocks like this too, right?"
"That's real sweet of you to worry, Alice. But I'll find a way."
"No you won't! You can't even find the way out of this maze!" She pointed out exasperatedly.
"Ha ha ha! That's a little harsh," He exaggeratedly gripped his dark tunic, right over where his clock was. "I was about to get my bearings when you arrived you know!"
Alice looked at him plainly.
"It's true! And besides..." Ace cocked his head at her nonchalantly, his grin carved with a subtle sinister edge as he placed a hand at his hip. "Don't you think you're taking all these too lightly? It's dangerous even for a Foreigner like yourself."
"It's a little too late to talk to me about danger when I'm already used to hanging around bloody knights, gun-wielding cats and the mafia family, don't you think?" she retorted, arching an eyebrow at him.
Naïve… too naïve… Don't think of trying to do the impossible, Alice. It will only bring you further down the road of self-loath… Ace's sharp, observing eyes searched the girl for signs of hesitance and false hope but all he found was determination. A fool's determination to be precise, but somehow he couldn't find it in him to dislike that part of her. Perhaps some lessons can only be learnt by the tiresomely, hard way...he told himself as he sheathed his sword before walking towards Alice one more time. Though she looked as jittery as a frightened little lamb, she allowed the unarmed him to approach her this time, just as he had expected.
"Fine. If Alice thinks it'll do any good then you may try," He chuckled with a cool, teasing note but it made Alice even more wary, now that he has given in to her request. K-keep calm, Alice! Keep calm... She kept telling herself. Ace's choice of action has never been easy to understand and she wasn't entirely sure why she wasn't running away from him by now. Her fingers clasped around the bag, the blood smudging on her arms, making it a little harder to concentrate then she would have liked as the knight came close enough to bend over her, invading her breathing space.
"Break a leg and don't lose your head over it. It's a simple task for a Foreigner, right?"
Alice could feel his heated gaze on her, so much so that she dared not look at him even though she was the one who initiated the idea. Being this close, she was suddenly more conscious of how large he was, compared to her rather petite self. She was suddenly reminded of how dangerous he was, not just as a wayward knight but as a man. The small, feminine part of her wanted to shy away from his close and overwhelmingly powerful and arresting presence but just then, Ace took hold of her chin gently and lifted her head up, forcing her to meet his eyes. Even with unsightly blood splatters, his face was cool and handsome to look at and she blushed at her own straying thoughts and his touch. His eyes searched her face and she saw his lips parted, as if he was about to say something but no words came out. Instead, she absentmindedly fixed her attention on his fingers propping her chin as he wiped away the crimson stains left by his sword with the pad of his thumb. As he did so, he took his time to trace her delicate jaw line; the gesture almost too... loving... to be true. Alice couldn't help but frown at his conflicted nature; his surprisingly affectionate stroke in contrast to his bitter and unmoved attitude towards himself. No matter how long a time she had spent with this man, she was nowhere near understanding the full extent of his feelings.
Don't... treat me like this if you don't mean it, Ace... Or I'll keep misunderstanding...
"If you succeed, then I'll listen to whatever Alice has to say," he told her once he was satisfied that her small, bewildered face was clean from blood. But all of a sudden, his fingers increased pressure on her chin and he reeled her in till their lips were millimetres apart, causing her to hitch her breath. His warm breath fanned her lips enticingly as he hovered over her, yet never letting them touch, as he whispered with a smirk. "But if you don't, then don't come back crying or complaining… I don't think I can be gentle with Alice this time."
His words insinuated with a hypnotically deep and low tune that she could hardly ignore. However, it was her pride that kept her from being reduced to a squealing adolescent girl that had just hit puberty. He's doing this on purpose again...This is Ace we're talking about... She cautioned herself to maintain her self-control, reining her runaway emotions in expertly and ignoring the blossoming sense of disappointment. What exactly was she to him? A friend, a foe... or something more? Or was she just being made used of because she was a Foreigner? Instead of the actual and present danger in front of her, it was probably ridiculous that she would be more afraid of trusting her own thoughts. But she was. And she mustered her strength to steel herself away from that bundle of contagious negativity till she could look at Ace squarely in his eyes.
"I can handle it. I'll bear what you bear. You don't have to feel like you've got nowhere else to go, no one to turn to. If you can't kill me then please, rely on me more."
His molten gaze turned to stone as he scrutinized at her, not sure of what to say. He shook his head, grimacing at her with a smirk as he let out a sardonic chuckle. It was, perhaps, the silliest thing he had heard today! Was she even aware of what she was asking for when she said that? His fingers pulled her in some more. "Alice, you —"
She instinctively and worriedly closed her eyes tightly as his face neared. She struggled to pull back from him but his large fingers held her face in place. Ace was not the type to reprimand her openly like Julius would. However, his expression looked... disturbed. Was he angry with her? He had never vented his anger on her before but... well, why shouldn't he since she had been pushing a lot of his buttons? For her to still be alive was probably a miracle on its own, considering that he could have just killed her to get the clocks back!
…And then, without a single word, she felt sweet velvet brush across her lips.
The rhythm of her heart ran amok and she closed her eyes even harder for fear that he would stop whatever he was doing to her. He had kissed her before but this had something deeper that surpassed their physical level. She wanted more… but his roaming lips kept fluttering across hers in light, careful and fleeting caresses. He was barely kissing her, only skimming the surface of her lips but she felt him reach for her in a way quite unlike the strong willed and impulsive Ace that she was used to. Still, he managed to pull her into his ever-changing pace like she expected him— no, wanted him to.
Ace kept stealing her breaths as he savoured their short, sweet contacts. It was pure ecstasy the way her soft, plush lips surrendered and felt beneath his. Even the urgent marching sound of the palace guards was of no concern to him when he was with her like this. Ace had the urge to kiss her fully, to crush her closer to his body but every time their lips met, he'd withdraw, only to come back for more. So fragile, yet so strong... I... don't get it...He angled his head more, feathering a kiss from one corner of her mouth to the other, chastely tasting her, his mouth drowning out her cute, little moans of both satisfaction and frustration.
Finally, she sighed his name along his trailing lips and he backed away from her with mixed feelings. Slowly, Alice opened her laden eyes and looked at him questioningly, to which he gave a light-hearted chuckle as he casually shrugged his shoulders. "What? You looked like you wanted it."
Oh, now she's glaring furiously at him like she was going to kill him herself! Alice slapped his hand away. Grumbling under her breath an entertaining variety of words that made him wonder how she had acquired them, she stomped past him but just as she was about to leave with the broken clocks, his hand reached out, fingers encircling her arm and she paused in her steps and shot him a nasty look that did little to intimidate him when her face was so adorably flushed.
"You shouldn't close your eyes when you're with me, Alice. I would have done more if I wasn't a knight," Ace teased with his accustomed, roguish grin that got Alice pouting angrily.
"Humph. Then don't tease me so much," she curtly replied and shrugged his hand off, putting on her best poker face. Hastily, she turned and stroded in the direction of the maze's exit once more. This time, he let her go. Resting his hand on the tall, rose hedge wall, Ace crushed the thorny flower's vines with his fingers till the nasty, little spikes tore through his glove and skin as he turned her words over and over in his mind...
"If you can't kill me then please, rely on me more."
"Ha ha ha! This is rather pathetic. I must look so lame right now!" he laughed to himself. Alice... you're wrong... She was wrong. It wasn't that he didn't want to rely on her but he was already relying too much in this peculiar girl. Even if it wasn't his intention, his cold, pitiless clock awaited for her soothing touch, her soft gaze, her genuine smile, and her one-of-a-kind warm, beating heart. She was the very epitome and opposite of his own impure image; the darkness in him was always more clearer when he's with her, scoffing and mocking him for never finding the way out of his own obscurity.
That stupid knight... Alice silently cursed as she pressed the clean back of her hand to her lips, still feeling those wonderfully tantalising lips on hers and his following, burning crimson gaze on her back as she left hurriedly. He must never know how affected she was by a kiss that he could so easily dismiss without a second though.
[No... that wasn't it... It didn't feel like he was teasing me...]
[No... that wasn't it... I wasn't teasing her...]
Ace continued to stare at the empty space where Alice had been. He brought his knuckled to his lips, trying to etch the intimate memory of the kiss in his mind while trying to understand what meanings it held. The bodies had started disappearing and the formless shadowy figures of the Afterimages began to surround him, standing over the many clocks that lay on the ground with their unmoving hands just as the baffled palace guards arrived. Without saying another word, the Knight resumed his royal role and waved his hand, directing the Afterimages to begin the clean up, not bothering to explain to his subordinates who also seemed too afraid to ask when he was smiling as if nothing bloody happened.
[I knew it... It wasn't that simple...]
[I think... it wasn't that simple...]
Her brisk steps turned to a running break when she finally saw the exit in front of her. She kept running; into the forest clearing and unto the familiar path back home, never looking back to prevent her from thinking about Ace again but to no avail. The clocks clanged about and she clutched the sack even tighter to her chest to quieten them as she ran past endless rows of trees and thick vegetation; still sentinels that guarded the passage to the ClockTower.
"W-what do we do with this one Master Ace?" a guard's timid voice enquired as he pointed the long nozzle of his gun to one of the remaining dead bodies. Ace tilted his head and his eyes narrowed gravely as he assessed the man on the ground. The corpse had a missing arm and multiple slash wounds across his trachea and abdomen. But what struck him out of place wasn't the vicious bodily damage but the commoner's plain clothing he was wearing… along with a tiny and almost indiscernible communication device tapped to the back of his ear.
[There was... something special there.]
[It was... something special.]
A rustling of leaves to the side startled her. But distracted by her thoughts, she wasn't quick enough to stop herself from colliding into a big bodied chest that stood in her way out of the blues. She rubbed her flattened nose before scampering away from the man when she realised she didn't recognise the bald faceless leering evilly down at her. Alice didn't need to see the stranger's gun to be told that she was with bad company in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Where do you think ya goin', little missy?" the big, bald guy taunted and two other sneering faceless jumped out of the low-lying bushes to join him.
"Hey, the intel was right after all. Looky what we 'ave here!"
It wasn't very far from the palace grounds and she tried to retreat, only to have ten more eyeless ruffians blocking her way as they jeered and pulled out their guns and knives. The men swiftly made a circle around her so there was no chance of escape.
"Ha! Them Roleholders sure know how ta make a lady do a men's work."
"I ain't complainin'. I'm sure we'll have more fun with the girlie than that hooded and masked bas****!"
Crap! Why on Earth do I ALWAYS have to get into trouble like this! Alice bit her bottom lip nervously as she huddled in the centre of the circle. Even when she tried to side-step, they would mirror her actions.
Finally, the bald and burly leader sauntered forward.
"You have no need for them, so I'm gonna ask real nicely," he stated coldly, nodding his head towards the sack of clocks that sat snugly and protected in her arms. The man then raised his gun to her head in a dead set aim and Alice gaped back in cold sweat. There was only one person she could think of then, and she whispered his name like a prayer, her legs threatening to give way as the assailant demanded whilst he released the safety device on his gun with a small but lethal click...
"Hand over the bag… or else."
...Ok, pls dun kill be for not ending the episode here! X'D The more I write and plot, the more the story got out of my hands and I just can't continue with 7000 plus words already lol! And man, my writing's become pretty rusty T.T And it had been hell plotting this cos I left alot of loopholes when I started this episode. I had wanted to finish it over the weekends but with work and all, I kinda dragged it over a course of one and half months lol! X'D Nevertheless, it was fun doing this chapter, though I suddenly realised that I kinda used the "I think I want to kill Alice" theme a little too much, so I promise no more of that in the next chapter! Dunno when that will be out though ^^; Plus ima gonna bring the goofy Ace back the next time I write cos I miss his smexy personality so much! LOL! X'D
I had initially planned for another one last episode but with the way things are, I'm considering of rounding up this story by the next chappie, but we'll see how it goes :) Before I leave, DO REVIEW XD As long as there are people who want to read, I'd gladly continue writing though it might take quite some time for the update ^^; I also love getting to know my readers as well as receiving comments on anything I can improve on :) And thanks again for waiting for SOOOOO LONG! Lol! X'D
So to tease all of you again... (fufufu~!)
Alice gave a light punch in his arm, "That's not funny, Ace!"
"Ha ha ha! You're right, Alice."
"Then stop laughing!"
The small, serene room was filled with his carefree laughter again, and the sound delightfully filled her heart as she laid on the bed with a teasing frown, just… listening… and appreciating the light heartedness in Ace's voice as he sat on the side of the bed with his legs crossed. After what they had gone through, she had been afraid that she would never see Ace like this again. It was a huge relieve as he gazed at her playfully; soft moonlight glittered off his honey-brown locks as it gently swayed and framed his refreshing, youthful face.
"Oh just shut up, Ace," Alice said with an affectionate tone and a tired sigh, though she kept her stern face on. She had been asleep for too long on now and her body was beginning to ache. "I don't think I have the strength to argue with you right now."
She tugged the blanket up with her right hand and was about to turn over to rest on her side but instead, she felt pressure on her wrist and before she knew what was happening, her hand was pushed back onto the bed, pulling the blanket away from her body instead. Sea-green eyes widened as Ace's arresting and shapely face filled her vision as he swiftly propped his muscular body over and covered hers in an instant. Only in her nightgown, the evening air from her opened window felt cool on her exposed skin, but it was quickly replaced by his masculine heat and his musky, earthy and wild scent...
And oh it was doing so much more then relaxing her.
The bed sinfully creaked beneath their weight as he glanced down at her with a wolfish grin. "If that's the case…" Ace leaned down further and Alice held her breath when his whispering lips brushed against her earlobe. Then, she felt his fingers on her; shaping her waist and slowly moving up to her chest. It was more than her heart could take when all that prevented him from touching her skin was a flimsy piece of clothing, yet his embrace was already scorching her with feverish flames of his bold desire.
H-hang on! She heard herself plead and automatically, she raised her free hand to try and stop his roaming caress. It did little to hold his exploration back but Ace's fingers merely changed course and gave the end of her gown's ribbon strap a small pull. Alice couldn't find the courage then, to resist the rising, wanton excitement and fear as Ace smile back pleasantly, the ribbon gradually undoing itself the more he moved. His sly and ever-observing, crimson eyes gleamed in pleasure as he watched his present unfold.
"Then you won't have the strength to fight me if I take Alice now… Right?"