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Children of the Abyss

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Rain descended upon the darkened earth, and the halls of the Rainsworth mansion were as silent as death itself. A silence that was broken by the sound of soft footsteps wandering about, seemingly without purpose. They made their way down halls; up halls; down stairs; up stairs; opening and closing doors. For all intents and purpose, the footsteps were pacing.

The owner of the footsteps was a lithe man with short white hair that was brushed over the left side of his face. His single, wine-red eye was gleaming from underneath long eyelashes. The man was Xerxes Break, servant of the Rainsworth household and current personal valet to Sharon Rainsworth. He was currently in his pajamas, which at the moment consisted of a pale lavender nightshirt and a pair of grey pants that ended at his knees. He was wearing pair of brown slippers as well. He had recently bathed, so his hair was still slightly damp, but Xerxes paid no mind to it.

After so many years of hiding and making a new identity for himself; his secret had been dragged out, forcibly, and made to lay bare before everyone at the Opera House. Xerxes could have cared less about Oz, Alice, or Gilbert knowing. It was Reim he hadn’t wanted to know. But he knew now, and he had found out in the worst way possible.

If it wasn’t for Oz interfering, he was positive that he would be in one of Pandora’s many cells in the dungeon right now instead of back at the mansion; Alice too. Xerxes supposed he now owed Oz for that. How he hated owing people favors…

“Damn Barma…idiot Duke…damn it!” he cursed quietly, hitting his fist against the wall. He couldn’t sleep. Retelling his story had caused nothing but memories and random thoughts to fill his head, leaving him no rest. He focused his thoughts on that girl. The Will of the Abyss. The one that called herself Alice.

I don’t want to be the Will of the Abyss anymore!

He could not keep that phrase out of his mind. Why? Why did she not want to be the Will anymore? Did that mean that she wasn’t to begin with? If so, then how did she become the Will? If she did become the Will, then did that mean that there was something controlling the Abyss prior to her appearance? She seemed to be fairly comfortable and happy where she was. So why…?

Jack said he was coming for tea!

Could it be…? Xerxes gasped as he came to a stop, eye wide. Was she…lonely? Did she not want to be the Will because she was alone? Did she want to experience life up here like everyone else? Like her ‘sister’ at present is? Alice wanted to be like Alice?

“How confusing…troublesome. Why do they have to have the same name? It’s quite obvious that they are two completely different people. Shouldn’t they have different names? Hmm…” Alice, the brown haired one, was already using that name up here. If her sister, the white haired one, came up to join her, she couldn’t go by Alice. Her ‘sister’ had already laid claim to that name here. Alice…Abyss…Will….Alice of the Abyss…Alice of Abyss…Al..yss…?

Xerxes had to laugh as he finished that thought. Alyss! What a perfect name! If anyone asked, she could just say it was a nickname for ‘Alyssa’ to make her name sound like her twin sister’s. Alice and Alyss. Perfect!

That didn’t really solve anything though. At least, it didn’t solve anything important. If Alyss was lonely and didn’t want to be the Will because of that, the questions still stand as to ‘how’ and ‘why’ she became the Will in the first place. Also, ‘what’ was it that made her the Will? If he could just figure those out, then maybe…

“I could help grant that wish of yours.” Xerxes pondered. He had told Gil before that he actually did not hate Alyss. It wasn’t her fault. It was his and his alone. He still had to atone, and he fully believed that granting her wish was the way to do so. Thinking now that Alyss was just a lonely girl…it made his heart hurt. He hated seeing anyone cry, and he knew what it was like to be alone. To be ostracized. He was a Child of Misfortune, after all. His red eyes meant that he had no one to play with when he was growing up. No one wanted to be seen with him. He was grateful that his parents had been trying so long for a child that they didn’t get rid of him, and he was grateful to the Sinclair family for not kicking him out either.

That said, he knew that terrible feeling of loneliness. No one should have to suffer that. No one. Not even Alyss. Especially Alyss. It seemed as though she had no choice in being the Will. So that meant that she was a victim, and how could Xerxes blame the victim? He couldn’t, he wouldn’t. He was going to help her. Somehow…

“Tch! What am I supposed to do now?! It’s obvious I’m not going to get anything from Barma, and any documents from the time prior to the Tragedy are gone! I can’t help if I don’t have the answers, and I can’t get the answers without the proper information! Damn it!” he slammed his fist on the wall again, and sat down on the stairs he had been going down. Placing his elbows on his knees, he rested his head in his hands. “I don’t know what to do!” he sighed heavily. “I wish I had something to help clarify everything!”

He felt like he was encased in darkness. Was his prior despair rising up again? Or was this madness? Xerxes had long since lost the ability to distinguish the two. ‘Help…help…I need help…’ he muttered in his mind over and over. As he chanted that mantra, something strange occurred. It was like his very soul was being tugged at by something and his ears were beginning to ring. Gasping, Xerxes removed his hands from his head and covered his ears, bringing himself back to reality. Soon enough the ringing stopped.

‘What on Earth was that?’ he thought. He waited to see if it would happen again, but it didn’t. ‘Well. I suppose I should go back to my room. At least pretend to get some sleep.’ He sighed, standing up and turning around to begin walking upstairs and towards his room. He was stopped, however, when he stepped on something. Looking down, he saw a book. ‘That…wasn’t there before.’ he picked it up, looking it over. There was no title or author. It was black leather bound with silver trimmings. ‘What the hell? What is this?’ Curiosity peaked; Xerxes tucked the book under his arm and made his way back to his room.

Once safely inside, he locked the door and turned on the lamp by his bed. After getting comfortable, he opened the book and began to read. By the time he had finished, he was more than a bit confused. The book made little to no sense whatsoever. It was all over the place, like some sort of nonsensical writing. The only thing he truly got out of it was the term ‘Core,’ which seemed to be synonymous with ‘Abyss.’ Wait a minute…Core? Abyss? Core of the Abyss? He had heard that term before, though he couldn’t quite recall where.

‘Okay, let’s hypothesize for a minute.’ Xerxes closed his eye in thought. ‘I know that the term ‘Core of the Abyss’ predates ‘Will of the Abyss,’ if that is anything to consider. In that case, if I assume that the Core is actually the center of the Abyss, and thus its creator, then that would make the Will a means with which the Core can express itself through. The Core is using the Will to do its intentions, its “will” and hence the name. So that would mean that the Core is using Alyss. Like a puppet? Or perhaps the Core is using Alyss more like a….host?’

Taking a sharp breath, Xerxes laid down fully, looking up at the canopy top of his bed. ‘But if that is true, wouldn’t that mean that the only way for her to cease being the Will would be to convince the Core to let her go? That doesn’t sound so hard, but…she did not appear to know that the Core was there, much less existed. So assuming she can’t talk to the Core herself, I would have to. But how?’

Huffing in frustration, Xerxes opened the book again, only to find the contents had changed. “Wh-? What the…” the contents of the book were now about Children of Misfortune. Sitting up hurriedly, he read through the book again as fast as he could, getting progressively more shocked as he read on.

According to the book, Children of Misfortune, while being horribly disliked by society, were actually loved and preferred by the Abyss because the Core was the one that created them. A ‘child’ of its own that it can use to see the world it makes, and draw inspiration from. As such, each Child is born with innate powers involving the Abyss. Most importantly, a Child of Misfortune had the ability to see and communicate with the Core itself from wherever they were.

Xerxes’ heart was thumping wildly and loudly in his chest. He was a Child of Misfortune, so did that… did that mean that he could do that too? He stood, taking the book with him, and practically ran out of his room and down the many flights of stairs. His only thought was to get to the Rainsworth gate in the basement. While the book said he could potentially communicate with the Core from anywhere, he had no clue how to go about it, so he figured that being by the gate might help.

In record time he made it to the gate. It was just as he remembered it. Tall, imposing, elegant, majestic. Really, it was quite an impressive sight. Xerxes stood there, staring at the gate for a while, pondering what to do next. Eventually, he set the book down on the floor and walked up to the gate. Since the gate key was not there, the doors thankfully stayed shut. He hesitantly placed his hands flushed against the doors before closing his eye and placing his forehead against the door as well.

He made himself go into a sort of trance, clearing his mind and taking deep, slow breaths. Once he had succeeded in that, he began the think of one thing, and one thing only.

I wish to visit the Core.

Xerxes was unsure if this would do anything, but he kept it up. At first, he was certain that it wasn’t working, never noticing his own eye starting to glow. Just as he was about to give up, he suddenly fell, as if he had lost his footing. Xerxes was expecting to feel the hard tiled floor, and was surprised when he felt himself falling through what seemed like water instead. It was as if he was drifting further and further down in an endless sea. He was so certain that he wouldn’t be able to breathe, and yet it was as if he was truly breathing for the first time. It felt so strange, but it felt nice as well, comfortable even. He could get lost in the feeling. It was warm.

After what seemed like hours he stopped falling, instead he was floating. It was still so comfortingly warm. He sighed contentedly. He didn’t want to open his eye.

Heeheeh. My, aren’t you a silly one, my Child?

“?!” Xerxes jerked, opening his eye. He was floating in a dark space, and could barely see in front of him. “What? Who said that?”

Over here, my Child.

Xerxes turned around, and came face to face with a glowing white…blob of sorts. Its glow spread out around it like a halo, illuminating and warm. But it wasn’t blinding. Xerxes could only look on in awe, his jaw dropped slightly.

Heeheeh~ My dear, sweet Child, do close your mouth. You are not a fish. Ah, but it makes me so happy that you came here! You are the second of my many Children to have done so. Happy, so happy…

Closing his mouth as fast as he could, Xerxes listened on in shock. “H-huh? Wait, wait a minute…does that mean that I’m…that you’re…?”

Yes, my Child. I am the Core. I am the one that created this land you call the Abyss. It was I that created the world you live in, and it was I who created you, my sweet Child.

The Core moved, a long arm-like projection coming out of it. The arm moved toward Xerxes and caressed his cheek. In that instant, Xerxes felt like sleeping. His eye grew heavy and he had an overwhelming feeling of safety that he couldn’t comprehend. He was so caught up in the feeling that he didn’t notice the Core pulling him in and start cradling him lovingly.

Why, what happened to your eye, my Child? It’s…missing? Has someone up there hurt you for your beautiful eyes? I will punish them greatly! I refuse to have any more of my Children harmed due to misconceived notions. So many I have seen before me, wrapped in those horrid black chains by him, only to be torn apart piece by piece until nothing is left. I could not do anything to stop it. I had entrusted my Children to him under the notion that he would take care of them…he never did. All he ever did was murder them! I couldn’t stand it! So…I decided to make another Child that was not related to that blasted, horrid man! My Child would be safe then! No harm could come to them…they wouldn’t be killed…and…here you are, my Child. I remember you well. I remember every part of your soul, your being. I remember making you. I am so…proud. You have lived longer than any of my previous Children…I’m so happy…and now, you came to visit. I am happy, so very happy…I could cry…

Xerxes stayed quiet, listening to the Core and letting himself be cradled and rocked. He fought to keep his eye opened and pay attention. He was confused by who the Core meant by ‘he,’ but Xerxes supposed he could figure that out later. “No one actually harmed me in the upper world…” he began to answer, words slurring. “All things considered, I think I was treated fairly well. Ignored and left alone for the most part, but never abused. I lost my eye here in the Abyss…I was speaking with Aly- I mean, the Will. She said she liked my eyes and plucked one out to give to her cat, Cheshire. But it’s fine now. I’m not mad. Well…not angry, I don’t know if I can honestly say I’m not mad, considering…” The Core laughed, hugging him closer.

I see. In that case, I suppose I shall not smite anyone today! As for my Will, I apologize for her behavior. I do so love her, but she can be a bit out of line. I am certain she had meant no harm. She just didn’t know any better. I am glad that you do not hold it against her. Now then, I believe you came here because you wanted to ask me something?

“Ah, yes! Yes I did.” Xerxes paused a moment, wondering how he was going to phrase it. The Core…seemed to be just as lonely, if not more so, as Alyss was. He didn’t want to phrase his questions in a way that would upset the Core. “I actually have two questions. First, how did she come to be your Will? It seemed like she’s been here a while.”

Ah, curious are you? That’s good, you should always be curious. Remember how I said you were the second of my Children to come visit me? The first was a daughter of mine, who was murdered a little over a hundred years ago. When she died, she was pregnant with twins. Neither were truly my Children, as they didn’t have those lovely red eyes, but I loved my daughter so much. I couldn’t let her children die with her. So, I kept one twin and sent the other out. They could easily switch who was who, and take turns seeing the world their mother lived in. I…could have sent both of them back up, but I admittedly was lonely and they looked so much like their mother, my Child that I adored. I had to keep one with me. Not only did I gain a companion, someone I could nurture, I was also able to keep a fragment…a memory of my dearly departed daughter.

Well…that answered a lot of questions. Unfortunately, that also told Xerxes that the Core would not willingly give Alyss up. Oh dear… how was he going to ask that? “I see. That’s interesting. I’m…glad you found someone to keep you company down here, and I’m…sorry about your daughter. I suppose that would make her my sister? Oh nevermind! That’s a bit too hard to wrap my head around.” The Core laughed happily at him. “Ah! I almost forgot my last question! When I met with the Will, she asked me something. In short, she would like to come, ah…visit the upper world.” Okay, that wasn’t exactly what she said, but her wish would mean that she would be visiting the upper world so….

…She wishes to…visit…the upper world?

Uh oh… “Um…yes. I couldn’t tell if she was just curious about it; wanted to see her sister face to face; or if she just wanted a…change of pace? She looked a little down when I saw her, and dare I say she also looked a bit…lonely?” The Core was silent, as if thinking over the idea. However, the Core had also stopped moving, a bad sign in Xerxes’ eye. He swallowed. “Um…if it would make you feel better…” where was he going with this? “Ah… I- I can stay here with you while she goes to visit. That way, she gets to see the upper world and her sister, and you wouldn’t be alone. I don’t mind…” Why, oh why did he say that? He didn’t really want to stay here. He had Sharon and Reim and everyone else that would be worried about him. Yet, he did promise Alyss. He had to fulfill that wish and if this was the only way to do so, then so be it. The Core finally moved.

Ah…that would make it better. I suppose I am being rather mean in not letting her sate her curiosity, and I suppose she would want to actually see her sister in person, not just speak with her through their minds. Very well. If she wishes to visit the upper world, I will let her. Under the conditions that she return and that you stay here during that time. Sadly, I am unable to speak with her myself. Could I trouble you into talking to her for me, my Child?

“Certainly. I will gladly talk to her for you. Although, I am not quite sure how to go about that…”

That is fine. I will guide you to her room. However, let us do so another day. This is your first time using your powers, and I am afraid I may have kept you too long. Go back and get some proper sleep. I will be here for you when you are ready. I shall return you to your body in the upper world. Sleep well my sweet Child.

Before he could comprehend what was going on, Xerxes suddenly felt himself being shot upwards. There was painful flash of light, and he closed his eye and tried to blocke it out with his arms. When he opened his eye next, he was back in front of the Rainsworth gate, collapsed on the floor. Gasping, he shakily pushed himself up. It took a few minutes for him to collect himself, making sure he was really there in one piece.

Finally finding the energy to stand, he pick up the book and slowly made his way out of the gate room back towards his own. Looking at a nearby clock, Xerxes was shocked to see that the time had not changed at all. But what shocked him more was his reflection through the glass. His eye was glowing. “So that wasn’t a dream?” he wondered aloud, gently touching his eye. No. It wasn’t. The event was burned into his brain. He could actually go into the Abyss and back out without harm. He could see the very being that all of Pandora, all of the Baskervilles had wanted to see for so long! Take that Rufus Barma! What was better, he could grant Alyss’ wish, if albeit, only slightly. He felt giddy, he felt like laughing. His chain was already doing that for him though, laughing madly in the back of his mind. Xerxes smiled to match. Ah, but everything would have to wait, wouldn’t it?

“I’m exhausted.” He said, continuing his way. By the time he was back in his room he was dragging his feet, eye drooping. He had almost fallen asleep a couple times on the way up. He dropped the book on his nightstand and collapsed onto the bed. He was out before he even hit the pillow. The light from his lamp casted a golden haze on him. He smiled as he slept, dead to the world.

Xerxes was normally a very light sleeper, and often woke up before the sun even rose. However, the use of his power as a Child of Misfortune, coupled with the last remnants of strain he had from using Mad Hatter the previous day, had left him so exhausted that instead of his normal light sleep, he slept rather heavily instead. Due to this, he did not wake with the sun. When he finally did open his eyes, the sun was well above the horizon.

Blinking owlishly for a minute, Xerxes sat up and stretched. He was looking straight at the headboard of his bed, indicating he fell asleep on his stomach. Rubbing his eye, he looked over at the small clock on his nightstand. It was two in the afternoon. A burst of adrenalin at the shock woke him up completely. He cursed as he raced to get dressed. Once he was done, and making sure he had Emily, he opened his closet and climbed in.

He exited out of the cabinet underneath the china cabinet in the Common Tea Room. Seeing as it was not quite three o’clock, the room was empty. Hurriedly, Xerxes went about to set it up for tea time, wondering what he was going to say to Sharon. No doubt that she would have been wondering where he had been. He normally sits with her during breakfast. He could have said he was busy with something, and while that might work on Gilbert, it would not work on Sharon. She would be able to tell it was a lie. He had no choice but to tell the truth…he had actually overslept….and slept pretty hard. He was actually still a bit tired, but the embarrassment factor that came with it was enough to keep him awake.

Xerxes had only just placed the tray of tea cakes onto the table when Sharon walked in. She looked at him with surprise and relief. “Break! There you are. I was wondering where you had gone off to. I didn’t see you at breakfast.” She smiled, taking a seat in the chair he had pulled out for her.

“Ah ha ha…yes, well…” he paused a moment to pour her some tea. “I can’t believe I am saying this, but, ah…I overslept.” There. He said it. Sharon looked up at him stunned.

“Overslept? You? But you hardly ever sleep!” she exclaimed, before suddenly becoming serious. “You aren’t sick are you? Do you have a fever?”

“I know, I know. But I can assure you, ojou-sama, that I am not sick. I do not have a fever either. I was apparently more exhausted last night than I had thought. I also found myself on my stomach this morning. Perhaps that’s what happened. Reim tends to sleep oddly when he is on his stomach, if you recall. I might have the same issue.” He said, trying to lighten up the mood a bit and get her suspicions off of him.

“…Alright.” Sharon relented, taking a sip of tea. “But if it happens again, I want you to tell me right away, alright? Normally one should always have a good night’s sleep, but due to you being a chronic light sleeper that doesn’t include you. Sleeping longer could be a sign of illness. At least, that’s what Reim told me.”

“Now when did he tell you that? I don’t recall either of you ever being interested in sleep patterns.” Xerxes said, taking the other seat and pouring himself a cup of tea and grabbing one of the cakes.

“A few years ago. We were in the library looking for something and we got sidetracked by a psychology book on sleep.”

“Where was I? I don’t remember that.”

“I believe you were out on an errand for Grandmother.”

“Ah, well then.” He was about to take a bite out of his fourth cake when Oz walked in, Gilbert and Alice tailing behind him as always.

“Good afternoon!” Oz chirped, before noticing Xerxes. “Oh, Break! It’s actually good to see you! Sharon was worried about you this morning.” The three took their seats on the sofa and chair close to the table.

“Well, nice to see you too, brat.” He huffed out. “And I am well aware of my Lady’s worry.”

“So nothing’s wrong?” this time Gilbert was the one to speak. Xerxes looked at him, taking note of his facial expression. Gilbert was worried that whatever had caused Break to be absent that morning was due to yesterday’s events. A brief look at Oz and even Alice showed they were thinking the same thing. Well…they weren’t wrong, technically.

“Nope!” Xerxes said, smiling his usual smile. It was a mix between a fake and an amused grin. “I’m fine. Just had a rather odd start this morning, things to do. Ah, word of advice, don’t sleep on your stomach, yes?”

“What?” they were all confused by that last statement. He laughed as Sharon chuckled softly into her hand. “What does sleeping on your stomach have to do with…?”

“Don’t ask questions you may not want to know the answer to!” Xerxes cheerfully said, enjoying the looks he was receiving, especially Gilbert’s. Thankfully, the rest of the day went about normally like the past few days, including the daily Alice versus Gilbert argument regarding meat. No one else had tried to ask him about his absence that morning or whether he was okay with what happened with Barma. The only thing that he did get was Gilbert simply asking when he planned on giving Reim back his coat. He replied that he was currently having it laundered. Once it was cleaned and pressed, he would give it back.

By the time night fell and dinner was finished, Xerxes could not have been more eager to get to bed. He told the Core that he would talk to Alyss, and he was hoping to do so tonight. Hopefully, talking to the Will would not be as exhausting as talking to the Core.

As he laid down in bed, he took another look at the book. He wondered how it had ended up on the stairs right where he was…and when he needed it. Then again, he had been hoping for something to help him right before the book showed up. Could he have caused the book to show up with his power? Well, whatever it was, he was immensely glad for it. Taking a deep breath, he calmed his mind and closed his eye.

Core? If it is okay, I would like to speak with the Will…

He was hesitant, wondering if the Core would even hear or answer him. He nearly jumped off the bed as a voice echoed through his head.

Are you certain, my Child? It has only been one day since you used your powers. Would you not rather take some more time to sleep?

I’m fine. I just want to talk with her.

Hmm…very well then. But you will promise me that you will only send your consciousness here and not your soul like you did yesterday. I am worried doing so may strain you. I would rather not see you hurt in any way.

I…I can do that. I think…

The Core chuckled, laughing fondly at him. Here, my Child. Let me help you.

Xerxes felt as if his whole body was falling, but yet, his limbs seemed as heavy as lead. He felt light headed for a moment, before the feeling of being submerged in water came over his mind again. He opened his eye and found himself floating again, only this time, his body was not solid. It was mist-like, and sort of see through, much like a ghost. The only color that came from him was his glowing wine-red eye.

“Well.” He started, staring at his hands. “This is different.”

Heeheeh, I’m sure it is, my Child. Now then, hold on for a moment. I will send you to my Will’s door. Do be careful, alright? Once you are done, just focus on returning to your body. My dear, sweet Child…

The Core went silent. Xerxes was going to ask if it was still there, when he felt the sensation of wind blasting over him. He covered his face on reflex. Once it had stopped, he lowered his arms to find himself in front of an arched doorway, blocked by two red drapes. There were familiar sounds of dolls and other such toys laughing and the clinking of tea cups. He could sense the presence of Alyss as well.

Swallowing, he hesitantly made his way up to the doorway and knocked on the side of the arch. Everything went silent. If his body was with him, he would have started sweating. How eerie. Finally, he heard a voice.

“Yes…? Who is it?” The hauntingly familiar voice of the white Alice, of Alyss, spoke. Curiosity was clear in the tone.

“…You know me as my previous name, Kevin…” he said softly, but loud enough for her to hear. “I would like to speak with you briefly. It’s in regards to your wish.” No sooner as he had said that, the drapes drew apart, startling him. In front of him stood Alyss, looking no different than when he had seen her last.

“Ah, Kevin!” She said, happily. Her eyes seemed bright and her smile wide and innocent this time. “Come in! Come in! We’ll talk inside!” she said, somehow managing to grab onto his misty arm and dragging him inside toward her table. Looking around, Xerxes noticed that the room was also the same…although he was certain that some of the dolls and toys were either missing or were different than last time.

Once they reached the table, Alyss quickly sat down in her favorite seat. Xerxes sat down in the remaining seat. He decided to speak first. “It has certainly been a while, I apologize for that. You look well.” Alyss seemed to brighten more.

“I am doing well. Thank you for asking! I also forgive you for taking so long; at least you are here now! But oh! You look quite different.”

“Ah, yes.” He said, running a hand through his hair. “Last time I was here, my hair was longer. My personality was also quite different. I seemed to have gone through a…change of sorts when I left. I think the Abyss affected me more than I had thought. Normally, any human would have mutated or changed into a chain within the time I was here. But since I am a Child of Misfortune, a Child of the Abyss, instead of changing physically, I ended up having a mental change instead.”

“A mental change? Child of the Abyss?” she looked confused.

“A Child of Misfortune is a Child of the Abyss. I am one because I was born with red eyes, like all Children of the Abyss are. We…I was actually created by the Core.” He paused to let that information sink in. When Alyss nodded in understanding, he continued. “As such, the Abyss itself is actually nicer to me than other humans. Apparently the Abyss likes Children of Misfortune. Due to that, my body and soul, mostly, were unharmed. However, my mind was a different story.”

He took a deep breath before continuing. “I’m admittedly not that good at explaining things like this, but I will try. Madness took over and memories, thoughts, everything became torn and scattered. I was very much like an empty, walking doll for a while. I could not tell who or what I was, and everything was so jumbled. It was not until I got my new chain, Mad Hatter, that things started to settle. To make a very long story short, everything that was Kevin no longer was. There was nothing left of him other than a peppering of memories and a very important promise. Hatter was created from some part of Kevin that remained, mostly from the madness that had collected itself in the back of his mind and soul. But there had to be a person, a being, a persona to control the body, to be able to interact with society. Hatter could not do that. Therefore, the rest of Kevin came together, much like a patchwork quilt. Sticking pieces together here and there, until a working persona was made…that would be me.”

Alyss was silent for the moment, frowning in concentration and thought, as she took everything in. “So, you are not Kevin…but yet you are?”

“In a sense, yes. I was made from Kevin. Sadly, ‘Kevin’ no longer exists. I do now, and that promise he made to you was important enough to make it unharmed through the onslaught of madness. Therefore, that promise he made is a promise I made. I made that promise; I will grant it…to the best of my ability.”

“Alright, that makes sense.” She said, tilting her head slightly to the side. “But…if you aren’t Kevin, who are you?”

“I go by the name Xerxes Break.”

“Xerxes Break. Xerxes…” she said, as if testing the sound of it on her tongue. Finally, she smiled. “I like it! Xerxes!” He smiled at her.

“Ah, actually…I was wondering if I may call you by a different name as well.”

“Oh? Why?”

“From where I am in the upper world, as I’m certain you are aware, your sister sometimes resides with me at the Rainsworth manor. Referring to both of you as ‘Alice’ has gotten to be quite confusing. While it would make better sense to give your sister a different name, seeing as ‘I’ met you first, everyone else up there knows her and her alone as ‘Alice’. So, I was thinking that since you were Alice of the Abyss, that I might call you ‘Alyss’ instead. It sounds similar enough to Alice, but it’s different. Different names, though similar sounding, for a pair of twins that are different in personality, to give a sense of individuality.” He said, hoping he hadn’t insulted her.

It was quiet save for the soft murmurs of the dolls as she thought it over. Xerxes gripped at his pants, praying that he hadn’t upset her. Thankfully, it appeared as though luck was actually on his side, as she slowly pulled her lips into a huge grin. “Alyss…” she whispered. “Alyss…” she said louder. “Alyss…Alyss!” she started to laugh happily. “Alyss! I love it! I shall be Alyss! Xerxes can call me Alyss! He named me Alyss!” she started to dance and twirl around the room. The dolls joined in, happy that their Lady was happy. Xerxes relaxed a bit into his chair and watched her dance about, with a fond look in his eye. She truly was just a child, a little girl, who was simply lonely. He had felt a similar sense of parental feelings towards Sharon; even Oz and Alice beforehand, but it seemed now, looking at Alyss, that those feelings bloomed more than ever. Perhaps Sharon’s nickname for him, ‘Xerxs-nii’ was not too far off the mark after all.

Xerxes couldn’t help but chuckle as he watched, placing his hands in his lap and crossing his legs. “I’m glad you like it, Alyss.” She turned back to him, beaming. She suddenly ran over and hugged him. Shocked, Xerxes wrapped his misty arms around her and hugged her back.

“Thank you, Xerxes. No one has ever given me anything like that before, not even Jack. Thank you!”

“You are very welcome, Alyss.”

“I like hearing my new name coming from you.” She sighed, content.

“Haha. Well, shall we see if your good mood can get better? I will admit right now that I have not found a permanent solution to your wish, but I have found a temporary one.”

Alyss stood back, looking at him confused. “A temporary solution? What do you mean?”

“The only way that you can cease being the Will, is if the Core of the Abyss is persuaded to let you go. I was able to talk with the Core yesterday, but unfortunately…” Xerxes paused a moment to breath. “The Core is very, very lonely and is not willing to let you go completely. However, I was able to…bargain a deal with it.”

“…What kind of deal?” Alyss asked, suspicion and worry creeping into her voice. Xerxes looked up at her and smiled softly.

“You can go to the Upper World and meet with your sister and Oz and everyone else, on two conditions. The first is that you have to return at some point. The second condition…well that one doesn’t need to concern you.”

“Tell me. Please?”

“…Very well. The last condition is that while you are visiting the Upper World, someone has to stay behind here, to keep the Core company. The person who has to stay behind would be me.” Everything stilled as he finished, Alyss’ eyes became shadowed briefly.

“So what you are saying is…is that the price for my freedom is yours?”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yes.”

“…” Alyss remained silent. Xerxes began to worry, his brotherly and parental instincts screaming at him to console her.

“It’s alright though! I don’t mind, really. I had promised that I would find a way to let you see the Upper World, to set you free from here, didn’t I? If this is the only way to do so, than I am willing to pay the price. I’ll be fine, and I know that everyone up there will not blame you for it. In fact, I’m certain they will all love you. Sharon and Cheryl-sama are very nice, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that they will adore you. As for Oz and Gilbert, give them a little time to get to know you and they will love you too, just like they love your sister. And I doubt Alice could truly hate you. Sisters, and all siblings in general, tend to argue and fight, but they can never hate each other. You’ll be fine. Just promise me that you will avoid the Nightray house and Rufus Barma, especially Rufus Barma. He almost had me dragged to Pandora’s dungeons to get information out of me about you. I told him nothing past brief mentions. If he were to find you…I don’t know what he would do. He’s a dangerous man, Alyss, so please stay away. If you can, try to always have someone with you, just in case. Sharon ojou-sama, Cheryl-sama, Gilbert, Oz-kun, Alice-kun, and my best friend Reim are all good people to trust.” He would have continued on, but was interrupted.

“No! I-I…” Alyss started to shout, shaking. “I-I…I don’t want that! I don’t want my freedom to come at the cost of yours! I don’t want anyone to have to bear this same burden! I don’t want to be up there without you! Especially knowing you aren’t there because of me! You…you’re one of the only few people that are nice to me and you’re the only one that has managed to visit me, twice now! You gave me a name, and you went through so much pain and complications just to grant my wish! Even though I’ve hurt you and caused you problem after problem…I ruined your life and still you-!” she was crying now. Xerxes stood up and wrapped her in as tight a hug as his misty form would allow.

“Shh. Shh…please don’t cry. It’s okay! It’s okay. I don’t hate you for what happened, most of that was my fault to begin with. It’s okay, Alyss. I forgive you. So please…don’t cry.” God knows how he hated crying children; he never knew what to do about it. Alyss clung onto him and continued to sob into his chest. Looking around, Xerxes spied a small two-seater sofa nearby. It took a bit of expert maneuvering, but he managed to get them to the sofa. He sat down and twisted to lay out as much as he could on it, pulling Alyss with him so that she was now curled up on his lap, still clinging to him and crying.

He began to gently stroke her hair, humming a nameless tune, hoping to calm her down. After some time she finally calmed, her sobbing becoming hiccups here and there. Xerxes continued to stroke her hair and hum, knowing that if he moved now he risked the chance of Alyss starting to cry again. They stayed that way for a while, before Alyss finally spoke.

“I don’t want to go if it means I can’t be there with everyone, including you.” She said weakly. “I did want to go, to leave…but not if the cost is your freedom. I’ve been here my whole life, I was born here. You weren’t…you shouldn’t have to be here in my place. You don’t deserve that.”

“You don’t deserve it either, Alyss.” Xerxes retorted. “I have lived up there and experienced it. I will admit that the idea of not seeing everyone, whom I’ve come to care about so much, makes me sad. However, you never had a chance, or a choice, to be up there. You’ve been here ‘all your life’ as you said; you deserve to go see the Upper World, more than anyone. As I said before, I do not mind staying here, so long as you stay safe and have a good time.”

“No…nuh-huh.” Alyss shook her head, still buried in his chest. She sounded much like the young girl she was. Xerxes smiled sadly.

“I know, I know…” he continued to just hold her.

“How about something else instead?” She suddenly asked.

“Hmm? What is it?”

“How about you just come and visit me occasionally…frequently…” she started, sounding a little embarrassed. “That way, you won’t have to give up your freedom and I won’t be lonely because I get to see you.” There was an unspoken ‘I’ll get to have you all to myself’ in there somewhere, making Xerxes laugh softly.

“If that is what you want, then that is what I shall do.” She looked up for the first time and smiled widely, her lavender eyes rimmed in red and her cheeks puffed. She hugged him tightly.

“Thank you, Xerxes…”

“You’re welcome, Alyss.” He hugged her back. It was then that he began to feel a bit out of sorts, and figured it was probably time to head back. He sincerely hoped that he would wake up earlier than he had that afternoon. If he woke up late again he was certain that Sharon would inform Reim, and once she did that there would be no force on Earth that would be able to save him from being dragged off to the doctor and getting lecture after lecture about taking care of himself properly.

“Alyss? I’m afraid I need to head back now. I will come back and see you again as soon as I am able, which I am hoping will be either tonight or tomorrow night. Will you be alight?” She tightened her grip for a moment before letting go.

“I understand. Thank you again, Xerxes. I can’t wait for you to come back. We’ll have a tea party!”

“Haha! I look forward to it.” He said, before doing something he normally wouldn’t do to anyone but Sharon. He leaned forward and kissed Alyss on her head, a promise that he would return. Remembering what the Core had said, he focused on his body back inside the Rainsworth mansion. There was a pull at his being again, before the sudden weight of gravity and darkness enveloped him.

He blearily opened his eye to see his purple canopy. Blinking, he carefully sat up, rubbing his eye and head. He looked over at the clock and saw it was a little after nine thirty in the morning. “Well, at least I’m not late like yesterday. I’ll still be a little late for breakfast, but I can make it.” He said, stretching before getting up. Putting on his favorite outfit and making sure Emily was safely on his shoulder, he made his way down to the dining room.

Luckily, he had made it just as some of the other servants were bringing in the food. Luck continued to be on his side as Sharon did not mention anything about him being a bit late. She must have thought he was busy ‘organizing’ his candy stash, which he did do on a regular basis. Life continued on as normal, only now Xerxes would spend every other night with Alyss. She seemed incredibly happy to have him visit and he could sense the Core was just as happy, if not relieved that neither of them were ‘leaving’ it. He smiled warmly into his tea cup as he listened to Alyss tell him some fantastical tale she had just made up. He couldn’t help but wonder how long this tranquil routine would continue before something either interrupted or ruined it.

As it turned out? Not long at all.