༺ Alice (2) ༻
Isaac returned a day after the black tower demon was slain. Didn’t the timing seem rather convenient?
This was what Chesire had told Alice; it was information it had acquired by chance after watching the school gates, lazing around on a tall building.
Last night, in the Student Council Room.
Alice Carroll quietly pondered as she fiddled with the black and white choker on her neck.
The Black Monster and the Nameless Hero.
That was what the mysterious being, who defeated any and all demons that appeared at Märchen Academy, was referred to as by the public.
As for Alice, she knew it as the disruptor; after all, it hindered the demons from killing Ian, who possessed the light element.
The disruptor was an enemy that needed to be eliminated, however…
By defeating the Floating Island, it had proved to everyone that it had reached the level of an Archwizard. At least within Märchen Academy, it was practically the strongest.
Archwizards possessed an abnormally high mana perception, thus being capable of sensing mana that wasn’t being actively emitted.
So, let’s consider the possibility of Isaac being the disruptor. Monitoring him using a familiar or minion would be no different than declaring, ‘Please look at me, I’m suspicious.’. It was simply a foolish move.
Now, thanks to that stupid Leafa, there was information circulating about an informant amongst the faculty. This information was also being shared with the remaining Imperial Knights within the faculty.
Thus, Alice was forced into a situation where she had to carefully consider how to deal with the disruptor.
Therefore, what she needed right now was information.
Information about Isaac had already been gathered and, although suspicious, there was nothing definitive with just that.
As such, what was needed was information that would confirm Isaac as the disruptor.
If there was certainty that Isaac was the Black Monster, then she needed to figure out a way to find his weaknesses and eliminate him at all costs.
Her throat throbbed. Alice gradually rubbed the choker with increasing intensity.
Alice calmed her breath and suppressed her emotions before reluctantly letting go of her choker and looking out the window.
Snowflakes continued to endlessly fall over Märchen Academy.
* * *
The Student Council President. The Shadow of Märchen Academy, as well as the final boss of Year 2 Semester 1.
Heart Queen – Alice.
The difficulty of 「Act 9, Alice Subjugation」 in ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱ was extremely high.
Alice, due to deploying an onslaught of Trump Soldiers, was highly dangerous, even if one was only caught off guard for a fleeting moment.
Paladins, the top tiers and middle bosses of the Trump Army, were especially difficult to break through.
When such a frightening boss, who manipulated all these forces like a master puppeteer, suddenly appeared in front of me. I couldn’t help but be surprised.
‘Why are you here…?’
Big snowflakes continued to fall.
Underneath the narrow umbrella, Alice and I locked eyes. Being in such close proximity with her had never happened, even in ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱.
Even during vacation, Alice was in her school uniform, probably because she was on duty as the Student Council President. After all, there was a conservative tradition of formal attire when visiting the Student Council Room in Bartos Hall.
Suddenly, the memory of Alice in her school uniform looking down at me with a smiling face as I died during the Trial of Frost came to mind, sending shivers down my spine.
However, there was a difference this time — a cape shawl draped over her shoulders. A Student Council President’s exclusive outerwear made from a harmony of black, gold, and crimson. It added an extra touch of sophistication.
Rather, is it a coincidence that our paths crossed while you were walking down the street, or did you…
Putting that aside, was it really a coincidence that our paths crossed? Or…
‘Did she approach me on purpose?’
As expected, [Psychological Insight] didn’t work. Alice’s unique trait [Red Queen’s Paradox] prevented me from even reading the tiniest bit of information about her.
Even if she was tailing me, there was no way she would know about the hidden cave where the Stone Turtle dwelled.
During the journey there, I summoned Hilde in the form of a will-o’-wisp to ensure no one was tailing me. Even if someone had secretly followed me, the heavy snowfall would have left their footprints in the snow. There was zero chance of either me or HiIlde not noticing.
Whether one used their own magic or had the aid of a familiar or minion, they couldn’t have followed me by flying in the sky either. If they did so, Hilde, with her high mana perception, would have detected them already.
In other words, even if I was discovered and secretly followed, it must have been after leaving the Stone Turtle’s cave and strolling through the academy grounds.
With that thought in mind, I quickly composed myself. I deliberately opened my mouth slightly and let out a small exclamation of ‘wow’.
If I kept on looking flustered, it might arouse suspicion.
“Why are you so surprised?”
“Ah… Because you’re so beautiful.”
I intentionally stumbled over my words and showed a shy demeanor.
Nice, this makes me look like a loser.
Could there be a more excellent lie than this to make up for that brief, awkward mistake?
Well, it’s true that she’s beautiful. The lie is that I’m surprised.
“I see your taste is sensible. It’s fortunate that you are a normal person.”
Alice replied calmly, propping her remaining hand on her chin.
She considered her beauty as a matter of common sense. At least in her eyes, it was a truth on the same pedestal as the rising and setting of the sun.
“Shall I help you up, baby?”
“You’re my junior. Moreover, you look like a baby. Wahhh, I’m a baby~.”
Alice tugged on my cape shawl that was attached with a red brooch and shook it near her cheek, displaying coquettish behavior in an unaffected manner. I couldn’t be bothered to change it to the blue brooch that symbolized the second year.
‘Why is she so excited?’
I swallowed dryly and looked directly at her.
…It’s not excitement. It must be a ploy to delve into a person’s heart.
If someone didn’t know Alice, they might think that she was a person who had no trouble dealing with people, but…
‘Not me though.’
As someone who has seen Alice countless times in ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱, her current behavior felt extremely awkward.
As mentioned previously, Alice was an enigmatic character with limited information, leading many players to fiercely debate about the topic of her secrets.
I was well aware of all that content.
I knew every flaw and feature that the light gold-haired villain in front of me had.
Firstly, Alice’s kind disposition was purely for the sake of her own image.
In an alley with no people due to winter vacation, it would be much more in line with her personality to simply ignore a person in trouble and pass by.
‘If my thoughts are correct…’
It was a situation where the information that there was an informant within the academy colluding with demons and that Alice’s enemy, the Black Monster, was an Archwizard was public.
Against an Archwizard, who could even perceive mana that wasn’t being emitted, choosing the foolish option of secretly monitoring them was something Alice couldn’t afford to do.
In that case, it would make sense for her to come and find me directly.
She would try to gain certainty of whether I was the Black Monster or not.
And if she was positive about her certainty, she would plan a scheme to assassinate me.
And to do so, she would try to find my weakness.
In other words, the possibility that she came to probe me directly was highly likely.
When I reached such a conclusion, I was now certain.
…Suspicious of me.
“Why are you so stiff? It’s like I’m going to eat you up.”
“I was slightly flustered just now… Did you just act cutesy to me?”
“Why are you bothered by such trivialities? Just think of it as a treat for your eyes.”
Alice gave her characteristic gentle smile.
“You look slightly uncomfortable. Should I help you get to where you are going?”
Let’s get out of here for now.
I was still considerably weaker than Alice. If things went south and my identity as the Black Monster was revealed, it would be the end.
“No, I’m fine…”
I tried to stand, but my legs didn’t have any strength and I lost my balance.
In the end, I stumbled backward and fell on my butt.
It was just snow, so it didn’t hurt… But after falling once, I completely lost my strength.
Alice conjured an ash-gray magic circle and used the neutral magic [Telekinesis] on me. An intangible force gently lifted my body.
Usually, living organisms had a strong resistance to [Telekinesis] used by others. It was due to the repelling force between mana, a mana field if you will.
However, in my current state, it seemed that I couldn’t properly resist [Telekinesis]. Probably due to the fact that I didn’t have much mana remaining.
By the way, the density of mana is terrifying. Isn’t this insane?
“You don’t seem to be in a position to refuse.”
‘Agh, my body…’
My body was in a terrible state.
In this condition, if I were to insist on rejecting Alice’s help because it was burdensome, it might look suspicious.
“Haha, you’re right…”
Whatever, let’s just not get flustered.
I calmed my emotions and thoughts. In order to survive at this academy, I couldn’t afford to act clumsily.
Well, this might be a good opportunity to find out what Alice thinks of me.
It would also be good to instill the certainty that I wasn’t the Black Monster.
‘The situation is in my favor.’
Looking at the state of my body, would it make sense for the indomitable Black Monster to be staggering like a weakling when nothing really happened?
So, I just needed to play the part of an ordinary Issac. While doing so, I’d note Alice’s words, her subtle change of expression, her tone, and her behavior to find a hint of what she thinks of me.
“It’s a bit shameless to ask, but… May I lean on you?”
I put on a polite smile similar to Alice’s, pretending to be troubled.
I decided to converse with this girl.
“Then, can you straighten your back?”
Alice used [Telekinesis] to comfortably fix my upper body in place.
Alice nodded slightly with a bright smile.
And so, we shared an umbrella and walked side by side in the snow.
I said I wanted to go to the dorms. After all, I planned to shower, change, and have lunch at the student cafeteria with Luce.
‘This image is quite peculiar…’
Walking under an umbrella like a couple with the final boss of Semester 1 Year 2… Could this be any more ironic?
“Your legs are uncomfortable, right?”
“Yes, I can’t seem to muster any strength.”
“How did you get hurt so badly?”
“I was training by fighting with a summoned familiar… It seems I got a little carried away.”
“Why aren’t you summoning it now? It’s hard to return, after all.”
“I used up almost all of my mana. And I also wanted to walk in the snow for a bit.”
“What a cute response, considering your body is a mess.”
Despite the pointless reply, Alice responded with a light laugh.
“Senior is the Student Council President, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. I’m also your direct senior since we’re both in the Magic Department.”
“Do you usually go out for walks?”
“I usually don’t. I just wanted to walk because it was snowing. Same as you.”
This feels like chatting with a pretty senior who is just kind and not that interesting.
“But why are you staying at the academy during vacation?”
“Well, it’s just that…”
I have nowhere else to go.
…I almost answered like that but stopped myself. Alice’s question felt cunning for a moment, thus a strong sense of discomfort suddenly overwhelmed me.
What made Alice suspect me?
What if she happened to witness me defeating Babel the Corrupted and returning?
Alice’s familiar, Chesire, enjoyed roaming around the academy grounds. So what if that guy had seen me by chance?
‘She might think my answers are a lie.’
I realized once again; a conversation was ultimately about sharing information. I needed to give appropriate responses without showing any gaps to Alice.
If she asked such difficult questions, I should naturally continue with my questions and change the topic.
“I have some family issues that are a bit of a headache. I never really planned on staying in my hometown for long, even during vacation. I thought it would be better to train here. Senior is staying here because you have a lot of work to do, right? You’re the Student Council President, after all.”
Alice slowly blinked and looked at me directly.
“That’s right. I, on the contrary, would like to go back to my hometown. Most people would feel the same, though. But aren’t you scared to stay here during vacation? Considering that there is a monster who could destroy the world here.”
“Monster… You mean the Nameless Hero?
Unfortunately, let alone destroying the world, the current me couldn’t even beat Kaya.
“Since it had protected us from demons, it feels… reassuring rather than scary. However, since Senior is the Student Council President, it certainly must be a pain to deal with.”
Because to you, I’m an obstacle that needs to be dealt with.
“I see Baby has a deep understanding.”
Alice maintained a calm expression without any change.
“However, I dare to say that the Black Monster is not yet a trustworthy entity. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”
“According to the information observed, it was very savage. So far, its actions have been protective, but that’s only in hindsight. It might just be attacking demons due to some unknown circumstances. It wouldn’t be strange to consider the Black Monster as a… potential risk factor, since we never know when it could go berserk.”
Alice gently stroked the black and white choker around her neck.
“As the Student Council President, I have to think and prepare conservatively for uncertainties as long as I’m in this position. There’s a lot to be concerned about. Such as demons and the Black Monster…”
“You’re stepping down from your position as President at the end of the next semester, right? It must be tough, especially at this time.”
“Thank you for your understanding. Speaking of which…”
Alice paused for a moment, as if something came to mind. It seemed like she was intentionally focusing on her words.
Sometimes, when having a conversation, one might feel suffocated, as well as experience a fishy and ominous sensation.
It was exactly like that now.
“You have been deeply involved before in a place where a demon appeared.”
During Semester 1 Year 1 when the demons appeared, many first years were involved, and it was mostly the same throughout the second semester as well.
But there was one gap.
‘The hunting evaluation…’
On the day of the hunting evaluation, I faced Kaya the Ravenous from within the stomach of the underground giant demon.
Externally, I became a victim who almost died from the demon along with Lisetta, Kaya, and Ian. As such, only a few people were involved.
The Student Council President was also included in the list of members of the Truth Investigation Committee, so it was only natural that Alice had heard about me.
“It was the day of the hunting evaluation in the second semester of the first year. The students’ locations were tracked in real time. Just before all magic was disabled when the demon appeared…”
Alice’s gaze turned towards me. She was smiling, but a ghastly aura could be felt from her cherry blossom-colored eyes.
“There were only four people who reached the center of Elt Island.”
Me, Kaya, Lisetta, and Ian.
Among them, only Kaya and I had the ice element.
Kaya awakened as a blood wizard and was unconscious after losing to me.
Meaning, the only suspect left was me.
“Weren’t you… very scared?”
Alice gently licked her bewitching lips.
It was an aggressive question. She overtly revealed her intention to scrutinize me.
Gosh darn it…
‘What a shame…’
She seemed to believe that she had the upper hand in information and tried to probe me, but unfortunately, she chose the wrong opponent.
“It was indeed terrifying. The Black Monster looked savage, just like Senior said. But… my memory seems a bit different.”
I looked into Alice’s light pink eyes and pretended to be calm, asking with a genuinely curious expression.
“Could there be some sort of mistake?”
My voice was low.
“Senior… has no reason to lie to me.”
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