When the door opened, I saw a woman unlike any I’ve ever seen in my life.
She was tall—around six feet or so, with long, fluffy green hair that almost reached the floor. Her outfit barely covered anything on her, so I couldn’t help that my eyes immediately went to her chest. They were almost just...out there!
She had an airy, distant air about her as she took a long drag from her equally long pipe, then spoke in the most languid, lazy tone.
“Zuria, dear……..I came as fast as I could…….ah, where are you, darling?”
Zuria, who had opened the door for her, was standing right in front of this woman, but even with her hat on she barely reached the other’s chest.
“Down here, Ambrosia.”
The tall lady slowly looked down to where Zuria’s voice came from, then smiled fondly.
“Oh, my. What are you doing all the way down there?”
“I…I’m simply smaller than you.” Zuria adjusted her glasses, embarrassed.
“Oh? Why are you so small?” Ambrosia asked in a genuine tone.
Zuria stammered for a moment, at a loss for words. She decided to clear her throat and step back to let the tall woman inside her home and changed the subject instead.
“This,” she said, pointing at me with her palm, “is the Alice Spade.”
I felt like a deer in headlights.
I kept still, sitting on my chair, looking at her, wondering how she would react when she saw someone who was clearly a guy be referred to as ‘Alice’.
Ambrosia blinked her droopy eyes at me.
“...Oh………..I see. Nice to meet you, new Alice.”
Zuria closed the door behind Ambrosia and I could see a slight smile on her face, most likely at my expense, even though she’s usually very polite.
“Despite the name Alice, the Alice Spade does not necessarily have to be female. 'Spade' is merely a title. The same goes for all the Spades, really. I chose from a pool of people named Alice in your world to make it easier on myself. There are simply too many of you to go through otherwise.”
Zuria explained the wacky elimination process she used to pick my sister out of everyone on Earth as she poured her visitor a cup of tea.
“...Yes, that’s right.”
Ambrosia agreed with her and took the seat where Zuria was sitting a moment ago. Everything about her was floaty, and I started to doubt if there even was a sensible brain in there.
But my doubts dissipated the next moment she opened her mouth.
“But……..where is the real Alice?”
She asked this with her eyes locked on me, burning through me.
I hadn’t said a word since this woman came in, and now I felt like anything I said would incriminate me in so many different ways.
Thankfully, Zuria stepped in.
“...Ambrosia… I need to tell you something.”
Ambrosia looked at her for a second, then she looked at me again.
“..........He’s not the real Alice Spade, is he.”
S-She figured it out so fast!
I looked at Zuria wondering if now was a good time to open my mouth or not. To my surprise, Zuria didn’t look too bothered by it. She shook her head.
“His name is Allen. He’s the twin brother of the chosen Alice Spade. He came here looking for his sister.”
“We have reason to believe Alice is here in Wonderland, but we can’t cause a panic amongst the residents by letting them know she’s missing. We need our hero to begin recruiting valuable Spades for our cause, fast. That’s why…”
“That’s why…?” I found myself asking, too.
Zuria looked away and played with her floppy white ear.
“That’s why I need your help to turn him into a convincing Alice Spade.”
I jumped out of my seat, ready to run.
“I’m not getting turned into a girl! No way!”
Ambrosia tilted her head to the side and brought a finger to her lips.
“.........Would that be so terrible?”
“Um, yes!? Yes it would be!”
She stood up as well, towering over me. It honestly scared me a little. It only took her a couple of steps before she was standing right in front of me.
“I think it would be an improvement. You’d make such a lovely girl.”
I opened my mouth wide and took a deep breath to yell something at her, but before I knew it, my jaw was tightly gripped in her hand, and she had lowered herself slowly to look at me at eye level.
She smelled sweet and dangerous. I was terrified.
“...But that’s not how I do things, darling. So kindly refrain from forming your own assumptions about my methods before you see what it is that I do.”
Gently, she let go of my face and straightened up.
I felt sore. My forehead was sweating.
“Ugh...Fine…” I growled and rubbed my chin, pretending I hadn’t just been thoroughly humiliated. “What are you guys talking about, then?”
“Oh, goodness. I forgot to introduce myself to you, didn’t I? My name is Ambrosia, and I’m the current Caterpillar Spade.”
Zuria had mentioned her to me before. Ambrosia smiled and nodded at me.
“My Spade power is Divination. I use my pipe to read the smoke and help Alice find other Spades.”
“Ah, so that’s why Zuria wanted me to meet you so quickly.”
“Fufu. I imagine so. But after hearing what happened to the original Alice, I can only assume there’s more to it than that, yes, darling?”
She glanced at a guilty-looking Zuria.
“Like I said, I need your help convincing anyone that meets Allen that he’s the real Alice Spade. At least until we find out what happened to the original one.”
“Hm. So you’re asking me to grant this fake Alice the official Spade Recruiter uniform, yes?”
“Ambrosia, I...I know this is an unusual request, but if you refuse to help just because he’s not the real Alice—”
“Oh, no. Dear Zuria, there’s no need to explain in so much detail. I’ll keep your secret.”
Zuria’s face lit up with hope, until Ambrosia continued.
“—On one condition.”
Ambrosia turned to look at me with that empty stare of hers.
I frowned at her, waiting for what felt like forever for her next slow words.
She smiled, pointing her pipe at me.
“He has to find his ten Spades……...before Dorothy finds hers.”