The End

Yggdrasil’s miasma continued to creep across the skies of the world. Without the light from the moon or the Earth, Alice and the others would find themselves significantly weakened, and Lapis knew it. The light would give birth to a great shadow.

”This is the end of all hope.” Lapis said, decisively.

”That’s not something you can decide on your own!” ALice argued, refusing to give Lapis an inch.

”Have you actually thought of a plan?” Dark Alice questioned as though Alice was the only one who could hear her.

No, there’s nothing to do but wait for Yggdrasil to stop so we can get closer. You’ll help, right?” Alice looked to Dark Alice expectantly.

”...Tch. Are you really asking that after all this? I have no choice.”

”Well, thanks anyway.” Alice gave a tired smile.

”Meow~” Schrödinger mewed again as though participating in the conversation.

Down below with Pandora’s group, the battle at the roots of Yggdrasil was intensifying.
The now masterless Viola and Luna, the last remaining Luminary that had not died or fled, now fought for Lapis, fearing retribution if they did otherwise. Lumia, Charlotte, Pandora, and Millium were engaged with them, while Grimm and Zero attempted to push closer towards Yggdrasil’s roots to strike at the deformed tree. However, as they did so, a new foe appeared before them. 

“You will die for the sake of Master Lapis. I will replace your soul with mine.” It was Sylvia. Moving swiftly past Grimm and Zero she moved to strike Pandora. However, Zero was just barely able to match her pace and catch her before the servant of Lapis could strike the queen of the Light Palace.

“You’ll never get the chance.” Zero spat.

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Zero had things she wanted to protect. However, she’d already lost so much in this fight because she’d been too weak. The pain from those losses had carved a deep resolution in her mind. She would not be forced to feel it again. That horrible, empty feeling. She wasn’t going to let anyone feel it again. Even if it took every bit of her power, she was going to save everyone.
Sylvia and Zero’s blades swung like lightning and struck against each other like thunder. Though a mindless servant, Sylvia still held the power of the dragon she once was, in addition to whatever dark power Lapis ahd used to resurrect her in his service. She was a fearsome enemy to behold in battle. Zero, however, refused to be outmatched, and her unparallelled skill in swordsmanship afforded her the ability to defend against Sylvia’s wild strikes. Unfortunately that was all Zero was able to do, she was stuck on the defense, with no counterattack opportunity to create an opening for her to go on the offensive.

”Millium, can you hear me?” Zero asked.

”Yes, teacher.” The prince answered.

”I want you all to push further on to Yggdrasil.”

”But teacher, what about yo-”

”I’m fine. Rather, it’s better if you separate from me. I don’t want to give this one the chance to go after you or the others.” Millium could feel the resolution in Zero’s words.

”I understand.” Millium said after a short moment.

”When we meet again, call me ‘Zero’. You’re the future king. I’m not your teacher anymore.” Through the clashing of swords, Zero flashed a smile to her longtime pupil.

”...Alright.” Millium and the others separated from Zero, and moved towards Yggdrasil. As he took a last look at her, Millium swore he saw something strange about Zero’s eyes he’d never seen before. Perhaps her expression was betraying her anger.

”You can’t escape.” Sylvia again tried to make for Pandora.

”I already told you I won’t let you do that.” Zero again locked blades with Sylvia, preventing her from giving chase. Zero conjured a protective circle around the two, hoping to isolate Sylvia from her targets.

”Sorry, but you’re not getting away anymore.” Zero said.
 
”An admirable effort, to protect them from me.” Sylvia observed, to which Zero laughed.

”Well...almost. This circle isn’t to protect them from you, it’s to protect them from me.” Long had Zero denied a half of herself, the part that tapped into dark magic. However, she could no longer afford to deny it’s power. If she, if any of them, were going to survive this, she was going to have to use all of her strength. Pulling at the threats of both light and dark magic within her, Zero felt the strange sensations from when she confronted Alhama’at and Mikage returning, though she ignored them as best she could. Together her light and darkness magics formed an explosive force. It was for this reason Zero had set the protective circle. She doubted the powerful mixture of the two energies was something she could control for very long.

“Come on then, servant of Lapis” Zero invited Sylvia, one of the sage’s eyes now a deep crimson.

There was an unusual coldness in Zero’s voice, an almost unlife to her words. A helix of light and dark erupted from her feet and spiraled around her body. It was enough force to terrify a lesser opponent into concession, but Sylvia was a slave to Lapis’ commands and she had been ordered to kill these interlopers. Step by step, the dragoness readied her sword to end Zero in a single lethal blow.

”Is this truly all you can do?” Zero asked, mocking Sylvia.

There was no need for Zero to dodge the attack, it would never connect. Zero’s gravity magic intensified the closer one got to Zero herself, to the point that Sylvia found herself unable to move once within striking distance of her target.

”This is over, be free now.” Clad in swirling light and darkness Zero struck a single blow straight through Sylvia. The once proud dragoness collapsed in a pool of fresh blood, as her body began to dissolve, perhaps finally finding freedom and peace. Zero too however, seemed wounded from her own attack, falling to her knees.

”Looks like...I still can’t quite match you...Fieth...” Zero panted, having exhausted her own body maintaining her magic. If she continued to fight at that level, there was a good chance her own sorcery could consume her.

”Heh...You haven’t...won yet.” Sylvia gasped as blood seeped from her ever disappearing form. Even dying, Sylvia was bound to Lapis’ commands and had devised a final attempt to attack. Using her own bound spirit as the catalyst she turned herself into an explosion of flames. Her crumbling form gave way to searing fire. The fire shaped itself into a bird and sped towards Pandora. Zero’s circle had dropped as the woman exhausted her own energies and the attack formed from Sylvia’s soul was able to pass through.

“Damnit! Millium!” Zero tried to warn the others with her last bits of strength before she collapsed on the hard earth, unconscious.

……

Pandora, who was in the middle of her ritual spell to constrict Yggdrasil, was defenseless as the fiery bird formed of Sylvia’s last remaining bits of power flew towards her. The birds form changed into a long spear, to pierce the woman.

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“Dad!”

But Grimm had protected his wife. He had hoped to parry the attack with his sword, but the attack had passed by his blade, piercing his side.

“Looks like I...made it in time. Heh...still got it. Millium...go...stop Lapis.”

”But Dad...you’re hurt...”
”I’ve had worse.” Grimm smiled as blood dribbled from his mouth. “I’ll keep your mom safe, with any luck she’ll finish her spell by the time you reach Lapis.” Grimm paused for a moment, and looked to his son with tears in his eyes.

“Be a kind King, son. We love you.”

“Dad...no...please.” Millium began to weep.

”Milly you have to go now!” Pandora echoed her husband. “Being the king means making the hard choices, go!”

As his parents had said, Millium continued forward, tears trailing behind him. He thought to look back for a moment, but could not bring himself to do so. He was too afraid of what he might see.

The searing spear that had pierced Grimm grew brighter, signaling the beginning of a powerful explosion.

”Pandora, you finished the ritual” Grimm said, attempting to contain Sylvia’s flames, knowing the futility of his actions.

”Just now.” The queen answered.

”I see. Looks like we were able to do our part after all.”

“Yes. You know… I was just thinking back to the first day we met. We’ve had a good life together, Grimm.”

”Yes...I reckon we have.”

Somewhere behind him, Millium could hear the sound of an enormous explosion as he ran.

……

Quickly, Yggdrasil’s miasma dissipated, and the sky cleared.

”Pandora did it!” Alice exclaimed, feeling her power returning under the light of the moon and the Earth. With Pandora severing the connection between Lapis and Yggdrasil, they actually stood a chance.

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”We don’t know how much time we have, so let’s make it count!” Alice clapped her hands together and gathered her strength. “Azure Bonds!”

Alice’s technique aimed to confine Lapis’ Heteroclite Excalibur. Rather than a defensive spell, it was magic designed to make its target unuseable, and inert. Unfortunately the spell’s length depended on the power of the target, and against Excalibur Alice had no delusions that her skill would last particularly long.

”How long have we got?” Dark Alice said, suddenly very focused with the renewed prospect of defeating Lapis.

”I don’t know, but against Lapis I wouldn’t give us more than five minutes. So we’ve got to do everything we can to take back Excalibur!”

”Oh, is this what you’re after?” Lapis brandished the currently inert Excalibur in his hand. “You think if you have this you can win?”

“Whether we can or can’t, we’re still going to try!” Alice answered.

“That’s just another way of affirming that you don’t know.” Lapis sneered.

Alice and Dark Alice attacked in tandem. All the while aiming for Excalibur. While the hand holding the sword was useless for now, Lapis used his free hand for magic to ward of the attacks from the girls.

Lapis conjured Alhama’at’s signature black lightning, exercising some of the power he’d stolen from his father.

”This is bad!” Alice exclaimed.

”It’s a chance. I’ve been watching him. I don’t think he can use that power as well as he likes to think just yet. It’s an opportunity for an opening.” Dark Alice cast a knowing smile.

”Dark?”

“I can take the attack, and you grab Excalibur.” Dark Alice said, suddenly looking rather grim.

”But...you.” Alice started.

“I’ll be fine. I can move most of my power to Schrödinger before it hits. Remember, Schrödinger is where I store my power. Keep Schrödinger safe, and I’ll be alright. Though it might take me some time to come back.”

”Are you sure? There’s no guarantee that...”

“Ugh, just shut up already! This is the least I deserve for...all I did before.” For a moment, Dark Alice looked uncharacteristically remorseful. “Just be sure to kill him for me!”

A streak of black, crackling energy shot forth from Lapis’ raised hand. Dark Alice darted in front of the bolt and used her own magic to pull the attack towards herself.

”That’s right, come here!” The crackling energy struck Dark Alice and a painful, wicked smile spread across the girl’s face as she let out an anguished cry.

”Dark!” Alice said, terrified for her counterpart.

”Go! Kill La-” Before Dark Alice could finish her sentence, her body turned to shadow and was quickly absorbed by Schrödinger, the cat crying as it gathered up the shadowy energy of its master. 

Alice turned her eyes forward again, towards Lapis. Though the monster showed no expression that suggested it, there was indeed a slowness to his movements after using the spell, a...hesitation that almost seemed to suggest a remorse for harm upon a life, something no one had ever seen in Lapis. Perhaps there was something else influencing him.

However, to Alice’s horror, Lapis raised his right arm, Excalibur had been freed of Alice’s Azure Bonds spell.

“We should have still had time...how?!” The girl exclaimed in disbelief.

”You little worms crawl around gathering the little things you call strength, but I have come to acquire true power. You have been an interesting adversary, based purely on your ability to survive. But it is time for the cockroaches to die. Farewell.”

Lapis struck at Alice with the Heteroclite Excalibur and Alice, out of options, truly thought that this time she would finally meet her demise.

Quite suddenly, the dark Excalibur Lapis had created had returned to its original shape from when it was once held by a proper champion.

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”Time magic!” Lapis cursed. “The dragonoid was supposed to be in my employ, who else could have...”

”Kaguya!” Alice said, relieved.

From behind Lapis, Kaguya had appeared, using her magic to rewind time around Excalibur such that it returned to its proper form.

In a burst of light, the restored Excalibur repulsed itself from the unworthy hand of Lapis, returning the the hands of a worthy owner, Alice.

”Go, Alice! Now!” Kaguya cried out to Alice.

”Got it!” Alice answered, gripping the familiar hilt of Excalibur. This might be the only chance they were going to get. She couldn’t afford to miss now.

”Everyone, lend me your strength!” The will of everyone’s hope gathered within the Earth above, and shone down on Alice. With tremendous a blast of air following Excalibur, Alice slashed at Lapis with the force of all those who held hope in the world. The explosive force of the attack shook Lapis, injuring him in a way he never had been before, and he gripped his side. Though wounded, he was still alive.

“Impossible...” Alice said, having exhausted all of her power in that single strike.

“How is he...” Kaguya too, having spent much of her magic to restore Excalibur was in disbelief.

“Hahahaha!” Lapis laughed, still clutching his side. “I’ll admit it, earthling, you are the best challenge I’ve ever had. But even the combined strength of all your allies cannot defeat me.”

As if in response to Lapis’ proclamation, a great gale surged from high above. The shadow of a great dragon grew larger against the light from the Earth as Millium, having fused with Ryula again, swooped down to attack Lapis. Caught off guard Lapis attempted to raise a defense against the ancient dragonoid power he now found himself facing. As he raised his hands though, something held him back. Another’s force, another’s will. 

“No! You are dead! I made your power mine!” Lapis exclaimed. As he attempted to resist, but it was no no avail. The wounded Lapis, having lost both Yggdrasil and Excalibur could not construct a defense against the full might of a Millium and Ryula’s fusion. With an explosion of the mysterious ancient dragonoid magic. At long last, it was finally over.

……

Somewhere far off Valentina was struck low in a powerful combination strike from Faria and Pricia, ending the demon’s madness for good. In a shimmering burst of dark smoke, Yggdrasil seemed to shake off the corrupted form it had been summoned as, reassuming its true form as a great and benevolent tree as it once had been on Attoractia. The auspiciously clear skies shone with the blue light of the Earth, and a peaceful silence fell over the world

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Part 12 Echoes of the New World