Pink eyes opened again, blinking as the blurriness in her vision ever so slowly began fading. She steadily started to recall what had happened seemingly moments ago, with the Queen of Hearts, the thorny vines, the poisonous roses... her untimely demise well in sight. That is, until those claws slashed through the air, destroyed the vines, and a silhouetted figure carried off the tanuki girl as she passed out again. Now that Izayuki thought of it, the less she could smell of the intoxicating fragrance of the roses, and the more she could scent... a feline? A cat? Surely her keen senses still were a thing even when she was in spirit form, right?
Blinking a few more times, Izayuki lifted her upper body with her arms partway up, in order to steadily gaze at and attempt to make out the figure sitting right before her. Dark hair, with a slight crimson tint to it, and arms that were not quite human- the majority of the arm leading to giant claws replacing basic hands. From his hair protruded felid ears, and flicking to and fro behind him was a long, black-furred, thin cat tail with a white tail tip. He wore a bell on a collar around his neck, and wore an outfit that was almost impossible to describe without spending too much time observing it. The most distinct and obvious thing to note, mostly, was that it was prominently dark red and black in color. His two blood-red eyes were staring innocently and curiously at the tanuki girl, his gaze boring into her. "Er.... hello?"
The feline-like boy did not reply right away. Instead, he moved forward a bit and sniffed lightly, before sitting back to his original position. "Cheshire wants to inquire as to why a canine opposed her Majesty, the Queen of Hearts, nya,"
he said, his voice almost emotionless. So, he spoke in third person? What an interesting kitty."Before I answer any questions, just who are you?"
Izayuki asked suspiciously, yet in a polite, neutral, and slightly friendly manner, as to not sully first impressions of herself as she had done with the Queen moments ago.
The one before her appeared to take no offense, and answered her question simply and casually, yet still without much expression to his voice. "Cheshire is Cheshire Cat, nya,"
he replied, as if it was the most easiest and obvious thing in the world. His gaze appeared to be expectant- as if he felt the stranger before him was now obligated to introduce herself. "I'm Izayuki... and I did not intend to piss her off that badly... really, it's all just a blur to me,"
the yokai responded, before suddenly realizing that the pain she felt before had completely ebbed away. Her wounds were gone, and she was nearly perfect again, as if nothing had happened to her in the first place. "Cheshire understands. Queen of Hearts used to rule and own Wonderland, but when she failed, she lost control of it and became part of this world. Cheshire was the first owner of Wonderland, nya."
Wait... that child really was the previous possessor of the magic of Wonderland? Then what did that make Alice? And Cheshire was the first... gah! It made her brain hurt to try to think of it all! Sighing, Izayuki gave a helpless reply. "I see... but I can't say I completely understand. Wonderland is confusing. Alice gave me the 'power', but it really seems to be no such thing."
The cat-like boy only tilted his head again at her words, and appeared to be thinking before continuing on. "Wonderland is a magical power, not just a world made up of the spirits it consists of, Cheshire knows. Each soul represents a 'spell'. The Mad Hatter spell will allow you to lock power. Queen of Hearts will let you create vines from the earth that then can grow roses to increase the oxygen in the air, and poison people from it. Cheshire can 'evaporate' and show up someplace else without moving, nya,"
the feline explained rather humbly. "In order to receive the power, however, the spell must be used on you by the spirit itself for you to gain the magic, nya. The others do not know this, though, and want to just take your being for themselves. Cheshire knows. Cheshire was the first, nya.""So... that means I have three new spells so far? Or four, if you count Alice. I just have to find the other four and discover their magic, without them killing me first?"
Izayuki asked, blinking, yet slightly relieved that the cat did not react at all to the mention of Alice's name. The task did not sound too hard, but not too pleasant, either. The Cheshire Cat nodded before licking the top of a gargantuan paw in a very feline-like manner. "You do not need to meet the White Rabbit or the Jabberwocky to gain their abilities, but if you wish to unlock Wonderland's purest, concentrated, and strongest power, you will need to have interacted with them, nya.""What would that power be?"
Izayuki asked, agog, yet beginning to get slightly tired of all of this. She just wanted to get the power she needed to escape her former mentor, Yukionna, and go home to Black Rose. "That is secret. But you will know, Cheshire promises.""If I've met almost everybody I need to meet... then who is missing?"
the tanuki girl asked, as the Cheshire Cat finished cleaning his paw. He blinked once, twice, then moved the focus of his red gaze away from Izayuki and off to the side. There, unsurprisingly, was another figure. Unlike the others, this one was dressed in a more modern style, with dirty blonde, almost brown, spiky hair, a leopard-print hat with cat ears, and casual clothing. His arms were crossed, and he stared down at the feline almost disapprovingly. "Bandersnatch.""That would be me,"
he said glumly, still staring down at the two and taking a step forward. As the Cheshire Cat met his eyes, the feline boy instantly was turned into a literal cat- with black fur, white paws, a white tail tip, and his bell collar. "Now beat it, cat!"
he demanded as Cheshire instantly began sprinting away, eventually fading into the blackness. Turning his hazel gaze towards Izayuki, a small smile crept to his mouth. "Apologies for the intrusion, but that damn cat is not the sort you should be associating with. He saved you not because it was the right thing to do, but because he wanted something. He's the weakest of the Wonderland spirits, but if he can get his claws on you... well, I'll leave it to your imagination.""Bandersnatch, huh? Who the hell are you, and what is your power? I assume that Cheshire did not turn into a cat on his own..."
Izayuki asked, narrowing her eyes and beginning to stand up, slowly. She could not bring herself to completely believe the stranger's words, even if in a place like this, they could prove true. The cat seemed so innocent... but then again, he had managed to free her from the Queen of Hearts. Just what did the feline really want? "Well sheesh, aren't you the observant one?"
Bandersnatch went on sarcastically with a sneer curving at his lips. "That cat isn't the only one who knows what happens when we use our powers on you. I do too, so what makes you think I am in such a hurry to use it on you?"
Izayuki was taken a bit aback... had this guy overheard her conversation with the Cheshire Cat, or did he really know? Either way, she had to figure out some way to get him to cooperate, and hopefully without killing her. "Now, you know Wonderland is a magic steeped and based in madness, right? What do you think happens to those who finally cave into the madness?"
he asked with a small chuckle, taking a step towards her. Hearing no answer from her after a few seconds, Bandersnatch continued. "Well, those who fall into the madness fall from their throne- and others step up to become the new rulers. Cheshire was the first king, and what happened after he failed? I came in... and after I could no longer handle the madness, who took the power? None other than the Queen of Hearts. The Mad Hatter was a king once himself... but he screwed up the timelines too much for it to be worth looking into. As far as Jabberwocky and White Rabbit go, nobody ever sees them. Those two are as mysterious as it gets... but what about you? I wonder- who will be the one to take your place after you finally, truly, enter the world of Wonderland? Who will dethrone you?"
The yokai took a number of steps backward as he spoke, yet he continued moving towards her, eventually beginning to close the space between them. "Ha, are you scared now? And let me guess- you traded your soul for this too. You wanted power, and believe me, you will get power. The insane power of madness. All you need to finally accept it all is for me to use my spell on you, and trust me, I will have quite a bit of my fun with you as I do it."
Izayuki continued trying to back up, but eventually stopped- feeling a pressure behind her. Nothing was there, yet it felt as if she had literally backed up into a wall. Bandersnatch soon was inches in front of her, not giving much thought about personal space. "I'm not evil like the rest, though. I will give you one last chance. You still have time to leave Wonderland- to run away and forget this, dismissing it all as a bad dream and insane nightmare. Or... well, you know. The choice is yours- what will it be?"
This was nothing that she had ever thought of before. To give up, for once, and to run away. It might do her some decent good, and get her away from these tortured souls. Here was her one-way ticket out of this dark hell, yet, in the end, Izayuki knew that it was no use. She was already a prisoner inside of her own mind. If she left Wonderland, she would just end up in the same state as before, with no hope of ever waking up again. Perhaps it would not be too bad... a gentle, silent, soft sleep without dying? One could only dream of such things. But in the end, what free-spirited being and creature like herself could tolerate such an idea for too long? "Yes, you realize it now. You have no choice. Give into the madness, and claim the throne of Wonderland. Then receive the power to find the freedom you desire, and the abilities to achieve your goals. Or forever be trapped and bound by your own mind, without a soul, and with nothing but your empty thoughts. You have once chance- that is what you traded your soul for. A chance. Nothing more. Nothing less.""Do it,"
Izayuki demanded softly, closing her eyes and looking away and she breathed out a hopeless sigh. Despair was a heavy thing- she had felt it earlier in the presence of Yukionna... but this feeling? What was it? She had never felt more hopeless. Exhaling a sigh and then grinning again, Bandersnatch replied. "Right then. Your choice. Look me in the eyes,"
he stated in a straightforward manner. The yokai hesitantly and unwillingly turned her face back towards the boy, and focused her pink eyes on his own hazel ones, which suddenly flickered to a bright, neon, sulfur, yellow shade, glinting in the darkness. In that instant, a sudden pain was shot through her body, starting from the eyes and flowing throughout. It felt as if lightning was coursing throughout her veins, and never tiring or ceasing. She cried out from the fury of whatever had been cast upon her, failing to clench her teeth to avoid showing her utter weakness. "Idiot. Stop resisting it. This is what you wanted. It's too late to go back."
It then dawned on the yokai that she was indeed resisting... it was only natural. She hated this. She hated it so much, more than anything. It did not matter if she escaped or not- in the end, a dark fate awaited her. She would be unable to handle the madness, be dethroned, and then be forced to become one with Wonderland, just like the others before her. Just like the boy standing in front of her. What had his life been like before he had accepted such an outrageous contract of power? Only now, she was beginning to realize... this was madness.
Knowing it was too late, she began to heed his words. Relaxing her body, Izayuki allowed the fury coursing throughout her to engulf her. A strange white light covered her body for a few heartbeats, before her human shape began to transform, and not of her own will. Her form grew much smaller, until it took on a familiar shape. The light suddenly shattering away and dispersing, what was left was not the pink-haired girl so many could recognize, but a small tanuki, or raccoon dog, with beautiful, silver fur. Her true form. So this was Bandersnatch's spell- the ability to change the appearance and physique of others. It was a simple power, but indeed the last one she needed to feel. With the pain gone for the most part, she opened a pink eye halfway and gazed up at Bandersnatch, still on her back and panting. His soul was already beginning to fade, in a similar manner as Mad Hatter had gone. "I know... this is madness. Good luck to you, Izayuki. Welcome to Wonderland."
Location;; Inner Soul- With the Cheshire Cat and Bandersnatch.
Word Count;; 2515