Victor pushed himself up, panting, and spit the cat hair out of his mouth.
His pointed pink ears were flat against the top of his head. Under his claws was the nearly bald Midnight, ears bitten ragged and entire body wounded.
Victor stared at Midnight and spoke in a low voice, enunciating every word, “Back then, when you turned me like this, did you ever think this day would come?”
Midnight screamed angrily. He wanted to continue struggling but Victor held him down and smacked a paw into his head, dizzying him and stunning him motionless.
Victor didn’t plan to talk anymore nonsense. Sharp claws shot out from the pads of his paw, the curved nails glinting with a cold light, as he swung it down on Midnight’s throat!
The moment his claw sank into Midnight’s throat, a scarlet blood brand flashed on Midnight’s neck and an unprecedented energy burst out, abruptly throwing Victor backward!
It was the brand the Queen had left on her heirs.
Midnight let out a pained howl as his cat body quickly expanded under the influence of that power. He looked as if he was blowing up like a balloon, his flesh and blood squirming and swelling under the outer layer of his skin. A spike protruded out of thin air at the end of this tail. Within a few breaths, he’d become a five-meter-high beast!
Midnight no longer seemed like he’d ever been a cat. These kinds of changes were probably extremely painful. His whole body was an indescribable gray-black, and his original blue eyes were now a bloodshot scarlet. He flicked his spiky tail frantically, lifted his claws, and swatted at Victor.
The white cat rolled away and shifted back into Victor’s human body upon landing. When facing such a terrifying monster, the very tall Victor appeared petite. This final power was probably something gifted to Midnight by the Queen, but Victor wasn’t afraid. With the power of body on his side, he wouldn’t die, which meant it was impossible to lose.
With violet eyes gazing at the deformed monster, Victor clenched his fists and rushed forward to attack!
He was no longer the Victor back then!
Cui Zuojing, Dong Zheng, and Allen wandered in the maze for nearly half an hour. Finally, they had to rely on Cui Zuojing’s prior experience and the simulation conducted by Dong Zheng’s kernel in order to successfully find the right path out.
From the moment they walked out, Cui Zuojing saw the person waiting for them on the opposite side. She was sitting on a gorgeous throne, looking so young with blue eyes like a lake reflecting the sky. Her dazzling golden hair was coiled high atop her head, adorned with an exquisite crown. Her white dress was gleaming silver, every detail of it elegant and noble.
There was a gentle smile on her face, as if she was facing not the pilgrims who wanted to take her life but invited guests.
The moment he saw her, Cui Zuojing’s expression abruptly sank.
This was the hypocrite who’d destroyed his hopes, who was his unshakeable enemy, and the object of his vengeance and why he returned to the Pure White Realm.
Dong Zheng and Allen stood next to Cui Zuojing. This was the first time they’d seen the Queen that was the supreme ruler of the Pure White Realm. Between them, Cui Zuojing had been the only pilgrim who’d seen her with his own two eyes.
“We meet again, my dear little black goat.” The Queen’s red lips curled up, and her tone was light, as if she was addressing a dear friend that she hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about you all a lot over the years,” Cui Zuojing said with a sneer. Gritting his teeth, he enunciated every word, “Thinking about killing you!”
“So many years have passed, but you’re still so rude.” The Queen didn’t care. She shifted her gaze to look at Dong Zheng and Allen calmly. With a smile, she said, “But it’s okay. Let’s play a game.”
There was a round table in front of the Queen with three chairs beside it. It was as if she’d long known that only three people would come before her. The special playing cards were placed at the center of the table, so similar to how it had been before.
Back then, when Cui Zuojing first saw the Queen, he didn’t know that the so-called pilgrimage was but an illusory hoax. It was just a lie the Queen had told the pilgrims to ensure that they continue to enter boxes.
So he’d agreed to the Queen’s game.
“I’m past the age of playing games.” Cui Zuojing raised his hand and a poker card flew out from between his fingers. Empowered by the force of slayer, it directly cut one of the chairs in half. “It’s time to end it.”
“That is beyond your control.” The Queen wasn’t angry. She raised her white gloved hand, displaying a delicate ring on her slender finger. The broken chair was instantly restored to its original condition. Meanwhile, a strange force engulfed Dong Zheng and Allen, forcing them to walk to the table despite their resistance.
Cui Zuojing stretched out his hand to grab them, but they threw off his grip, and so he could only watch helplessly as they sat down at the table.
The space between them was left empty, waiting for him.
Dong Zheng tried his utmost to use the power of his kernel to break free from the force controlling him, but the moment he tried to use his mental power, he felt as if his body would explode, so much so that his vision turned black and his already withered kernel became even more damaged. Add on to this was the fact that, earlier, instead of resting, he’d used his ability to construct a blueprint of the maze, which had already worsened his situation.
Only Cui Zuojing was unaffected. He was the Master of Time and possessed the original power of the realm. Even the Queen would not be able to control him.
“You can protect yourself, but what about your companions?” The Queen signaled to the empty chair and said, “Come on. If you win the game, I’ll give you everything you wanted.”
“Even your heirs had betrayed you. Do you think I would believe that?”
Thinking of Chang Hui, the queen’s eyes flashed with a sharp look. At first, due to the never-ending rain around Chang Hui, she could not brand her like she did the other heirs. What’s more, Chang Hui had always performed well, lowering her vigilance. But unexpectedly…unexpectedly, she was so evil.
“Once everything is over, I will personally punish her.” She still had a gentle smile on her face, but it was no longer as evident. She threatened, “If you don’t want your friends to die, please come over.”
Cui Zuojing stared at him, his gaze hard, as if wanting to give this false Queen a lingering death. The Queen smiled and met his gaze. Finally, Cui Zuojing stepped forward and sat in the empty seat.
“Everyone, draw a card. The content of that card will be your destiny.”
Allen took the lead in drawing the first card. In fact, he really didn’t want to, but he couldn’t control his own body. The card in his hand was that of a god and a priest holding a baby facing each other, and it was marked Rebirth.
On Dong Zheng’s card, the king sat high on a throne, and under the throne were a pile of innumerable corpses.
Cui Zuojing drew a card, but he didn’t even bother to look at the content of the card, because all of this was just like the dream Luo Yan had given him back then. He knew what the Queen would do next. She would draw out the card that belonged exclusively to her.
That was the Queen’s ability, an ability she’d had when she was still a pilgrim.
Reverse hope, reverse the endgame, reverse life.
“It’s my turn now.” The Queen smiled and drew out her card. As she was turning the card over, Cui Zuojing moved!
He abruptly jumped onto the round table, a dagger appearing in his hand. His eyes were blazing with an orange light, an invisible clock reflecting in his pupils. At this moment, time froze.
The Queen’s movement stopped. The card that was flipped midway was painted with the sign of circulation. Allen and Dong Zheng were behind him, motionless. Only Cui Zuojing was like a fish in river, and in this frozen world, he was the only one still able to move.
Over the years, he’d searched for countless ways to kill the Queen. But it wasn’t until the time seals were completely lifted did he finally have enough confidence. As long as he freezes time, everything would be frozen. Even if the Queen could reverse everything again, he could also take advantage of his ability to kill her.
A dagger slammed into the Queen’s heart.
Cui Zuojing stabbed so hard that the hilt of the knife nearly completely entered the wound, causing the red tip of the dagger emerged from her back.
But no blood came out.
The Queen’s body was still trapped in time, and she was motionless. But her blue eyes blinked.
A mocking smile lifted her mouth. Her lips opened and closed, and facing the incredulous Cui Zuojing, she said, “Do you really think the ruler of the Pure White Realm would be so easy to kill?”
Wang Que ran hard. The forest seemed never-ending, and although the castle seemed near, it felt as if she couldn’t get closer no matter how hard she ran.
The forest was eerily silent all around her. She didn’t know whether Dong Linhai had escaped the chase of the brother guards, what the situation was between the clown and the Assassination Corps, and she didn’t know where the rest of the team were.
She seemed to be the only person left in the whole world.
The path zigzagged and stretched out far into the distance. Wang Que stopped for a moment, hands propped on her knees, breathing hard. And then, she began again.
In the never-ending forest, she didn’t know where she was going. If it weren’t for the clown telling her to take the path until she arrived at the castle, she would have wondered if she’d taken the wrong path.
She ran past tree after tree, but the castle wasn’t any closer. She took a deep breath. Just as she was cheering herself on, wanting to keep going, her chest suddenly glowed with a faint light.
Wang Que was startled. She pulled the pendant out of the neckline of her shirt. The chess horse piece was shining brightly, so bright that the light enveloped her, warm and cozy.
[The seventh square is full of forests, but the horse will guide Alice.]
Wang Que didn’t know why this fantastical change happened, but this was a gift from Luo Yan so she didn’t think it would harm her. She continued walking for a while, when she suddenly found that the castle was now closer.
It was because of the horse…Wang Que suddenly gained confidence. At least, at this moment, she didn’t feel so alone.
Wang Que ran swiftly along the path. When she rushed out of the forest, the blue sky was stretched out over her, white clouds drifting lazily. The castle was majestic and gorgeous, making the settling look even more like something out of a fairy tale. But Wang Que knew full well what kind of rot hid underneath.
There was no one in the garden. She ran cautiously toward the castle, and although she noticed some guards patrolling, they didn’t seem to see her. Even when she accidentally exposed a foot around the corner of a wall, they simply walked past her, as if she was completely invisible.
Wang Que’s eyes widened. She tentatively leaned half of her body out, but no one saw her.
Indeed, she seemed to have become invisible. Wang Que took courage, no longer hid anymore, and ran openly around the side of the castle.
When she reached the front of the castle, with a glance, she saw the maze that had trapped them as well as a round table not far from its mouth.
Cui Zuojing, Dong Zheng, and Allen, whom she hadn’t seen in a long time, were sitting at the table. Opposite them was the Queen dressed in white. From Wang Que’s perspective, only the Queen’s beautifully contoured figure could be seen, as well as the solemn expressions- on the face of her three teammates.
They were playing cards.
Obviously the situation wasn’t good. Gripping the axe the clown had given her, Wang Que rushed toward the round table without hesitation. The Queen was stretching out her hand and was now flipping a card. But then, something unexpected happened.
All of a sudden, Cui Zuojing violently jumped onto the round table and plunged a dagger into the Queen’s chest!
But the death they expected did not come.
“Do you really think the ruler of the Pure White Realm would be so easy to kill?” The Queen was full of contempt and mockery. “From the beginning to the end, the current Queen can only be killed by the next Queen.”
At that moment, even though time was frozen, Wang Que continued to move. She rushed toward the Queen with all her strength. Unaware, the Queen continued to sneer, and with the dagger still in her chest, she completely flipped the card. When the card became fully visible, Wang Que reached her. Coming up behind the Queen, she raised the axe and swung it hard.
[Upon entering the eight square, Alice will become Queen.]
Author’s Note: The words in brackets in this chapter and in the previous two chapters were taken from Alice Through the Looking Glass. The original sentences were:
The Red Queen said to Alice, “You can act as a pawn in front of the White Queen. Walk two squares in one step. Then quickly pass through the third square–possibly by train. When you reach the fourth square, you will meet the twin brother Tweedledee and Tweedledun. The fifth square is mostly water, and the sixth square is the land of the humpty. The seventh square is full of forests–the horse will be your guide.” Upon entering the eight square, Alice will become Queen.
Xixi: I’m not sure if the author is quoting from the movie or the book, because the movie is titled Alice Through the Looking Glass and the book is titled Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.