Chapter 4: The Phantom Dynasty

 Not long after passing through the tax collector, our chariots pulled over before the ones called the Guardians. It just seemed that they were acquainted with my Uncle Ramsey and, hence, wasted no time on him.

  “For years,” Dorothy explained, “the Guardians have guarded our home from invaders who somehow managed to pass through the tax collector and wished to cross over to the other realms. At such, our world has know peace for as long as we existed, ourselves. Although there were plenty of enemies here, it had, literally, nothing to do with making a coalition with humans. Those of us who decided to live with humans, such as your parents, do so without letting their gifts get discovered.”

  I nodded my head. It was no wonder I could not, myself, tell if my parents had mystical gifts, and how they could not tell if I'd too. It was just transitive.

  We seemed to be entering a portal, or something of the kind. The wall on both sides were as water and clouds at the same time. Dorothy did confirm my suspicion and explained that their home — our home — was called the Phantom Dynasty. It consisted of ancient kingdoms of the gifted, each ruled by a dynast in their respective denominations.

  I heard some shifty movements on the top of the chariot and I could sense Roy's discomfort. It was probably by the unfolding sight. The sight inside the portal was quite bizarre and obscure, improbable of being described by common words.

  All of a sudden, as we advanced farther, strong rays of light gushed into our faces and overwhelmed us with its strong spirit aura. I noticed my arerat symbol began glowing brightly, rainbow-like.

  The brightness finally died down, replaced by a great announcement, as though from the heavens.

  “Welcome to the Phantom Dynasty!”

  It was perplexing. So many questions ran through my head. Okay, I understand I've been dreaming, but wasn't this dream getting too long? Somebody, punch me!

  Our chariot stopped moving and I could tell that we'd finally arrived. I was so excited to be finally here, after a tiring two-day journey. And I was tired of eating those canned junkies — I needed a real meal!

  Cousin Dorothy descended first, before me. Finally down, gigantic question marks appeared in my face. What sort of place was this? My mouth fell ajar as I took in the sight before me.

  The air were filled with savage beasts, instead of birds. This place where we landed could be compared to an airport from back home... on earth. As far as I'm concerned, this is nowhere like earth. It was so... beautiful! Extravagantly!

  As the centre, this place was full with lots of people going to and fro. There were different sections, just like any airport, with their specific destinations. However, this was nothing like a high-tech world. It was, in fact, very ancient looking. Their dressings and groomings were so... archaic.

  My thoughts got interrupted by my cousin's familiar voice.


  She pulled down her bra (don't worry, it was covered by that scale stuff) and let her wings stretch out behind her. It was like just trying to fit in as human was so stressful. To think of it, it indeed was. Just look how long I'd hidden my “gift” just so as not to be tagged a freak, despised, or be unacceptable.

  “I'm scared, mademoiselle,” I heard Roy's cry behind my ears. I turned around to meet his wandering eyes. The sight before him was something he couldn't have imagined in his wildest dreams, so I quickly understand why he felt so intimidated by the environment. I, slowly, placed my hand on his lowered head.

  “That's not the Roy I know.” I shook my head firmly, as though disappointed, just to motivate him to feel better. It always worked — it in fact did.

  My buddy raised himself to his full height then said, “I am the great Roy who fears nothing!”

  I chuckled as my vision became blurry. There was a certain nostalgia I felt which I could not understand. As I looked down on my hand, I noticed it was still glowing, then it stopped, alongside the feeling I'd just experienced.

  “We are waiting for our ride, he'd be here soon,” Dorothy said to me, noticing my confused expression as I looked around. Uncle Ramsey was making one or two preparations, here and there.

  A trader who was half human, half horse raced by with some saddles. I was shocked to see a real life centaur! He had dreadlocks and a bottle of wine in one hand.

  “Saddles, saddles! Buy a saddle for your savage beast!”

  He was looking straight in my face, there was no way I could avoid him. Besides, I'd never even spoken to a centaur before. I quickly averted my eyes to Roy's. Roy seemed to understand why I looked at him, so he made a cry that used to be a whistle, “A little ride wouldn't hurt.”

  I smiled at him then asked how much.

  “It's the cheapest, and the most quality you'd be get around. It's just for 35 P.D.”

  My ears rang to the currency. I'd never heard of it before. My cousin noticed my confusion, so she quickly retrieved out some funny-looking coins from her handbag, counted them, then dropped it in the centaur's outstretched hand.

  “I owe you one,” I said.

  She waved it off and made a funny look that made me giggle, before flying into the air.

  I collected the saddle from the centaur and begged him to show me how to fix it, of which he did, freely. Done and dusted, I then began to think of how to actually ride on a savage beast as I climbed on to Roy's lowered wings. Just as I'd balanced myself, Dorothy descended from nowhere with a head collar rope.

  “You'd be needing this, as well.”

  “Thank you,” I said, very grateful. “Would you mind showing me how to connect the ropes?”

  She only grabbed it from me and fastened it quickly, saying, “It'd be a pleasure, but this busy environment is not the best place for learning.”

  Just then, Uncle Ramsey came with a large savage beast. Even if I haven't seen a savage beast before, I could tell immediately what this was. Unlike my Roy here, this one looked like a real beast. It had four legs and a very large wing that could contain four people.

  “Ah, Stephanie, I see you're getting your beast girdled.” He nodded as he watched me seated on Roy. At the moment, Dorothy was already done.

  He continued, “This is the savage beast we'd be using to cross over to Acorn Valley. All you have to do is ride on your savage beast and follow behind, closely. Okay?”

  My eyes widened. I didn't even know how to fasten a lead on a savage beast, yet to speak of riding it? I nodded slowly, without even knowing, and my uncle immediately turned around and hopped into the rented beast with his butler.

  “Don't bother, I can fly,” said Dorothy, chuckling away.

  Come on, not you too!

  “You just might want to speak with him,” I could hear her saying amidst the laughter.

  My eyes brightened. Good idea, cousin!

  I lowered my self and placed my hand right hand on Roy. Suddenly, the tattoo of the butterfly and paws began to glow again. At that moment, there was a sudden connection between Roy and I that I'd never felt before. It was as if I could feel his thoughts as much as I could mine. It was as if I could read exactly what was going through his head. With my eyes and mouth shot, I seemed to have sent a telepathic message to Roy. He suddenly soared into the air with a friendly, yet powerful aura, following my uncle's savage beast from behind. Dorothy saw this and was amazed, nodding at me in satisfaction.

* * *

The Phantom Dynasty consisted of three great kingdoms: Magnificent Spirits, Dwindling Mountains, and Acorn Valley.

  The Magnificent Spirits was said to be the strongest among the others, and most revered. It was said that spirit beasts and some highly ranked Gifted resided there. They were said to posses Pinnacle leveled strength, in comparison to the other gifted. The strength of that kingdom was so feared that even other dynasties could not dare waging wars against the Phantom Dynasty because of this powerful kingdom within it.

  To understand this particular dynasty was like comparing Europe and Africa. The difference was so great. It was true that Africa had fearsome warfare. However, when placed beside the well-equipped Britain, there was a fearsome gap.

  The Dwindling Mountains, on the other hand, was fearsome too, but not as fearsome as the former. This was where Intermediate leveled Gifted resided. The requirements for living here was difficult, but it was way meagre in comparison to the Magnificent Spirits.

  Then, there was the Acorn Valley. This was the most insignificant of the aforementioned. It was in this part of the Phantom Dynasty that the natural-born Primary leveled Gifted habited.

  Despite how strong Uncle Ramsey seemed, he still could not live in the other top-notch kingdoms of the Phantom Dynasty. This clearly explains how powerful they were.

  On the way to the Acorn Valley, Cousin Dorothy explained all these to me. The whole thing I've been listening to (and seeing before my very eyes) were all too unbelievable. They changed my perspective of life from the angle I've always looked at it. Who'd ever believe such a thing existed, back home. Not to mention that I had never even known that my own parents possessed fearsome powers themselves; though what, I couldn't tell.

  My father was a known genius in psychology, while my mother was what the Music Hall, back home, had termed “Music Queen”. She could manipulate just any instrument and produce a finesse of unimaginable grandeur. Yet, none of these looked like powers to me, they were just... gifts.

  I've been trying not to use that word, but it just seems to be so... appropriate.

  The city centre was so wide and grand that it took us half a day more before we finally began to notice the kingdom of the Acorn Valley. Unlike I'd imagined, it was more beautiful than any place I'd seen in my entire life, despite how well I loved to travel. Not even the Queen's home could attract such a beauty... in fact it could not be termed as beauty beside this kingdom, it paled far in comparison. The Acorn Valley was a paradise; if not, what was?

  Following the lead of my uncle's savage beast, Roy lowered his wings and swooped down like the four-legged wing beast before him did. Before even reaching land, one could feel the sweet, nourishing aura of this kingdom... to think it was the least among the others.

  We landed before the massive entrance to the kingdom, gradually. There was a man clothed in a gray robe, emitting an imposing aura that could make invaders shudder in fear. He had two horns that stood like a ram's. In his eyes, a red light shone brightly. His beards were as white as snow.

  Catching glimpse of Uncle Ramsey, the light emitting from his eyes died down and the aura around him changed into a friendly one, accompanied by a smile.

  “Ramsey! Welcome back! How was it?”

  My uncle slyly walked up to him where they gathered friendly spirit forces in their hands and shook one another with it.

  “Acorn Master, thank you for welcoming me in here, personally. You know you didn't actually have to bother—”

  “Nonsense, Ramsey. We're buddies. What are buddies for?”

  Gratitude lit up in the Acorn Master's eyes. It was clear that there was a bond between those two, one that came out of — probably — a great favour from my Uncle Ramsey.

  The Acorn Master smiled at him before finally asking, “So... how was it, where you able to get your niece over?”

  “Yes, there she is—”

  Before I could heave a sigh, the man's eyes were already locked with mine. As he stared at me, his eyes began to shine again, however it was not red lights this time. It was white. A more friendly disposition.

  Before I could nod him a greeting, something seemed to go wrong with this man.

  His smile suddenly began to drop into confusion and disbelief. Even worse, shock! His mouth fell ajar as his forefinger slowly raised and pointed at me.


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