Chapter XIII :Thank You For Defending Me
Part I : Heal for the Crash
The Red King widened his eyes.
But so does the Humpty Dumpty and the Knave.
While the Bandersnatch remained silent.
And seemed to give a somewhat sigh of relief.
The Queen of Hearts got up slowly.
As she rubbed her eyes with one hand.
Before shifting her sight towards the Red King.
Only to notice the scar that's adorning his chest by the moment.
Almost in an instant, she made her way towards him.
Widening her eyes in fear and confusion.
As she asked, "Red-Nii… are you alright?"
The Red King himself widened his eyes in surprise.
Before giving a small sigh as a faint smile formed upon his lips.
"I'm just fine, Airia."
But the Queen of Hearts shook her head.
Before pushing the Red King back a little bit.
Causing the later to widen his eyes in surprise.
As the Queen of Hearts turned around, facing the Humpty Dumpty.
Puffing her cheeks, she then muttered, "You're being mean to Red-Nii too."
And the Humpty Dumpty widened his eyes.
That very moment, the gown of the Queen of Hearts spread to the side.
Before forming what seemed to be a pair of wings.
Connected to her lower back and causing her to float in mid air.
"I'm going to make you apologize for being mean to Red-Nii."
The Humpty Dumpty's eyes narrowed.
As he raised his blade and holding it ready in front of him.
A wicked smile already adorning his lips, "Why don't you give it a try then?"
The Queen of Hearts puffed her cheeks again.
Before hovering herself forward in an almost incredible speed.
Causing the Humpty Dumpty to widen his eyes in surprise.
And jumping to the side just in time to avoid her attack.
She's faster than what I originally expected, the Humpty Dumpty noted.
Taking no time as he took his stances again.
And preparing himself for the next attack.
The Queen of Hearts herself took a moment.
Before hovering herself forward once again.
Ready to attack the Humpty Dumpty.
But widened her eyes, as the Knave already moved forward.
And blocked her attack with her gunlance.
The Queen of Hearts however didn't stop.
As she gazed at the Knave.
And asked, "Are you going to be mean to Red-Nii as well?"
The Knave remained silent for a moment.
Before shaking her head.
As she replied, "Before I answer that, tell me… why did you choose to stay by his side?"
"Are you stupid?" the Humpty Dumpty replied, "This isn't the time for-"
"I owe Red-Nii a lot of things. If it's not for him, I wouldn't be able to stand here, where I am right now. Red-Nii is my warm ray of light. If I'm with him, I wouldn't need to be afraid of anything. But despite his kindness and all, all of you are being mean to him. That's why… I'm going to protect Red-Nii!"
The Humpty Dumpty and the Knave couldn't reply.
As the Bandersnatch already moved from his spot and charged towards them.
Breaking the wall of ice that was formed by the Humpty Dumpty earlier.
Throwing both of them to the side.
As the Queen of Hearts prepared herself and launched an attack.
Managing to regain her composure just in time, the Knave narrowed her eyes.
Before closing it almost instantly.
Bracing herself for the impact.
There was an explosion.
But nothing happened.
Wondering of what actually happened, the Knave opened one of her eyes.
Before eventually widening the both of it.
As a very familiar figure already standing in front of her.
Forming a magic barrier so the previous attack won't reach her.
A well-endowed figure with short blue hair.
Dressed in clothes that's almost similar to the Knave's.
"I'm sorry that I'm late, Knave…"
Part II : You Don't Hurt Anymore
The Queen of Hearts tilted her head.
Seemed to be a little confused regarding the newcomer.
And eventually, she asked, "Who are you?"
"My name is Rina Atherina," the one being asked replied, "Otherwise, I'm known as the Duchess."
The Queen of Hearts tilted her head again.
Before tapping her cheek with a finger.
Seemed to be thinking very hard for a moment.
Before giving a really obvious confused look towards the Duchess.
"I think this is the first time we meet each other."
"But I suppose I could say I've met the Red King several times-"
"My name is Airia, Airia Fortineri!"
"Airia-chan, is it?"
"I'm… I'm Red-Nii's wife!"
There was an awkward silence.
Coming from both the Knave and the Humpty Dumpty.
The Bandersnatch gazed to the other direction.
While the Red King covered his face with a hand.
"Is that so? That's wonderful, Airia-chan."
"It's been my dream to be Red-Nii's wife!"
"You must have been cherishing that dream for a really long time, aren't you?"
"But why were you in a fight with the Knave and the Humpty Dumpty?"
"You see, they're being really mean to Red-Nii!"
"They're being mean to the Red King?"
"Yeah, they were bullying Red-Nii while I was sleeping and all!"
"Ah, so you think they were bullying him…"
"That's why I'm getting them back! I'm not going to let anyone be mean to Red-Nii! As his wife, I'm going to protect Red-Nii!"
The Knave gazed to the side.
The Humpty Dumpty gazed down, trying to contain his laughter.
The Bandersnatch shrugged and gazed to the side as well.
While the Red King gritted his teeth and gazed down in embarrassment.
But the Duchess simply gave a small sigh.
Before giving a small giggle along the way.
As she made her way towards the Queen of Hearts.
And pulled the later into a gentle embrace.
"You see, Airia-chan, it's not like they were actually fighting."
"They're not fighting?"
"No, they're not."
"Then why are they attacking each other?"
"You see, all of them are the kind of people who's quite awkward when it comes to expressing themselves. They find it hard expressing what they want through words, unlike the two of us," the Duchess replied as she rubbed the top of the Queen of Heart's head gently with one hand, "That's why the find no other way other than doing something like that to express how they feel."
"So they're not bullying Red-Nii?"
"They're just awkward with words?"
"Yes, they are."
"If we ask them to make up, will they do it?"
"That's something that you have to ask to them directly."
"Red-Nii, will you make up with the Knave and the Humpty Dumpty?"
The Red King remained silent.
In turn, the Queen of Hearts puffed her cheeks, "Red-Nii?"
Giving a somewhat annoyed sigh, the Red King replied, "Fine."
Gazing at the Bandersnatch, the Queen of Hearts tilted her head, "Pus?"
The Bandersnatch didn't reply.
As it simply nodded.
"Both Pus and Red-Nii agreed to make up!" the Queen of Hearts said.
And the Duchess simply smiled.
Before eventually gazing at the Knave.
And asked, "Knave?"
The Knave said nothing.
As she closed her eyes and replied, "If that's what you wish, Duchess."
The Duchess smiled before switching her gaze to the other figure.
Gazing at the Humpty Dumpty, the Duchess then asked, "Are you fine with this?"
The Humpty Dumpty remained silent for a moment.
Before giving a somewhat sigh of relief.
Taking a moment to sheathe his blade back.
And replied, "I have no interest in this anymore."
Gazing at the Queen of Hearts, the Duchess then smiled.
As she spoke, "The Knave and the Humpty Dumpty agreed to make up as well."
"So they're not going to fight with Red-Nii and Pus again, right?"
"Yes, they're not going to do something like that again."
"That's great! Now all of us could play together and have fun!"
"It's a great thing, isn't it, Airia-chan?"
"Yes, it is! Now both Red-Nii and I have a lot of friends as well!"
"That's why we should also be careful so we wouldn't fight anymore, alright?"
Part III : Curse Named Love
The Queen of Hearts remained silent for a moment.
Before eventually giving a nod.
As she rubbed her cheek into the Duchess' cheek.
As she replied, "Alright~"
"Now, now, now~ isn't that sweet?"
Almost instantly, both the Knave and the Red King straightened themselves.
As a figure could be seen making his way from the forest at the side.
"These footsteps…" the Red King muttered, "Could it be?"
The figure emerged.
A figure of a young man.
Seemed to be no older than twenty years old or so.
One of his eyes covered in bandage.
Dressed in a messy formal suit.
Along with a tie.
And matching black pants.
Both the suit and pants could be seen covered in torn bandages at some parts.
In fact, several parts of his bodies could be seen wrapped in torn bandages as well.
Upon his lower back, a blade could be seen hanging.
As if ready to be unsheathed at any time.
Upon one of his hands are several dolls.
Several of them are heavily damaged.
While some others are torn here and there.
"Now, now, now, it's been a while since the last time I saw something like that," the figure said, "Isn't it sweet? Doesn't that want you to put a hand to your chest, give such a sassy look and cry in joy?"
"The Dollmaker…" the Red King muttered.
"Yow, hasn't it been a while?"
"What are you doing here, of all places?"
"Ah, have you forgotten? You're the one who gave me the right to go as I please," the Dollmaker shrugged, "So I'm just doing what I'm allowed to. You see, I'm not interested in invoking conflicts here and there… at least for now."
"What do you mean by that?" the Humpty Dumpty said.
"As you can see, that guy over there," the Dollmaker replied as he pointed at the Red King with one of his dolls, "Has been pretty much useless, you know. I thought I was right provoking him here and there, stuffing him up with lies about you guys wanting to hurt the Queen of Hearts and all that stuff… but it turned out that he failed to even wage a serious war between the two kingdoms!"
"How horrible…" the Duchess replied.
"Indeed, horrible isn't it? Isn't it horrible?" the Dollmaker continued, "Don't you find it thrilling just how much someone willing to wage a war just for the simple sake of protecting the one he loves? Putting himself in such a danger and cursing himself with such a thing just for something simple and sad like that? ISN'T THAT HILARIOUS?"
"He's crazy," the Humpty Dumpty said as he unsheathed his blade.
"All of you, what do you think this is? Do you think this is a kind of entertainment or a love story? Zero points!!" the Dollmaker suddenly shouted as he pointed at all the audiences, one by one, "You! Zero points! You too, zero points! All of you, zero points!"
There was a collected silence among all of them.
But the Dollmaker doesn't seem to care.
As he simply laughed.
Before gazing at the Red King and grinned.
"Now what would you do? If I say that I'm going to take your beloved Queen and use her all I want?" the Dollmaker continued, before eventually turning towards the Knave and added, "And what are you going to do if I say that I'm going to take your beloved Duchess and use her to aid me in my conquest?"
"I won't remain silent," the Red King replied with narrowed eyes.
"So do I, " the Knave added as she prepared her gunlance.
"Excellent! Excellent! EXCELLENT!!!" the Dollmaker replied with a laugh, shaking his head for a moment as if trying to contain himself before giving a sigh; taking a moment before adding, "But you see, this isn't an offer. This is a declaration. I only want to see if you can prevent me from taking both the Queen of Hearts and the Duchess…"
"You… against all of us?" the Knave said.
"Do you really think you stand a chance?" the Humpty Dumpty added.
"Now, now, now. Let's not be too hasty, shall we?" the Dollmaker replied, "Just like what I said, this isn't an offer. This is not a negotiation. This is a declaration. I declare that I'm going to abduct both the Queen of Hearts and the Duchess and I could pretty much say that I'm sure the lots of you wouldn't be able to do anything about it."
The Humpty Dumpty narrowed his eyes.
The Knave prepared her gunlance.
The Bandersnatch took a step forward.
While the Duchess held the seemingly-confused Queen of Hearts close to her.
"That's it! That's it! THAT'S IT!! I DECLARE TO ALL OF YOU, THIS IS WAR!!"