Phoenix Feathers: Curator of the Dragon Gate

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Red Dirt Road

There’s no place like Kansas…?

It was quiet in Uncle Smith’s car. Louis slept in the front seat, while Tyrone slept with head laying in my lap. The Jinmenju sat on the floors behind Louis seat. They tossed and turned in their sleep, but mostly because of the car turning left, right, going up, or down the many hills within the transition of the “city” section to the “rural” sections of Golnar.

"So Jade… This might sound like an odd question,” Uncle Smith broke the long silence of our drive, but what he asked next made me tense, ”but how do you feel about Inukami?"

“You’re right,” after I loosened up a bit, “that is an odd question.”

"I’m thinking of adopting one."

“That’s not like you…”

"Well, Benny’s been kind of pushing me towards it,” he shrugged, ”And well, I can’t have kids, you know, so it’s got me thinking that maybe…"

“So living alone all these years has finally gotten to you?”

"I didn’t say that,” he looked back at the road.

“And you’ve known her for what? Two days, maybe?”

"Jade, I’ve known her for much longer than that, believe me."

“Okay, you have to turn at the bottom of this hill,” I pointed to the driveway. Uncle Smith stopped talking only long enough to turn into the Bondell’s driveway.

"Where are we going,” Uncle Smith crouched down as he drove up the drive, ”It’s like some weird backwards land where life is beautiful all the time and there’s a happy home. With trees and flowers and chirping birds!"

“And that’s a bad thing?”

"And basket weavers who sit and smile and twiddle their thumbs and toes and they’re coming to take me away Ha-haaa,” Uncle Smith stopped singing, ”Oh wait… were you saying something?"

“Never mind…,” I groaned.

"So how did you find this place, Jade?"

“It wasn’t easy the first time,” I laughed, still stroking Tyrone’s hair, “But I’ll keep it as my own secret.”

"And you wanted to take him here because…?"

“He’s a little distraught right now, this place is familiar to him. It’s safe.”

"If you say so,” he turned it into the last bit of the Bondell’s driveway, ”Okay, everybody out."

“Where are we,” Lou yawned as he woke up.

“(We’re here! We’re here!),” Jinmenju cheered as they bounced ready to get out of the car and into the sun.

“Lou carry the Jinmenju, keep them away from Uncle Smith,” I pointed at everyone, “Uncle Smith, you carry Tyrone and don’t you dare drop him.”

"Wouldn’t dream of it,” Uncle Smith did the whole scout’s honor salute, but don’t let it fool you. He was never really a Scout.

Tenma Smith opened the door to the backseat but allowed Lou grab hold of the Jinmenju.
Tenma had no intention of harming one of the Jinmenju . Tarsa was quite harmless now.
Even if there was some part of the real Tarsa still alive, he couldn’t possibly be any harm.

Jade got out on the other side, while her dear uncle reached inside the car for Tyrone’s body.
Tarsa may be harmless, but there was more than one way to ruin the master plan.
And Tyrone was one of those ways. He couldn’t alow Jade to fall in love with a human.
He wouldn’t allow it. He had to break whatever bond the two shared between them.

Tenma’s finger lit itself with a small violet flame and simply tapped Tyrone on the forehead.
Tyrone twitched. His eyes closed tighter as the nightmare was placed into his sub-conscience.
Tenma grinned a little but felt a little light headed himself. He simply shook off the sensation.
Not knowing completely what he had just done, not knowing everything placed in Tyrone’s mind.

“Now let me do the talking,” I told Uncle Smith as I knocked on the door.

“Hello, who’s there,” Granma Bondell slowly opened the door, “We don’t get many… visit… tors.”

“Hello, Mrs. Bondell? I-,” I tried to say more but her eyes widened and she pointed at Uncle Smith.

"You! Go away,” she screamed and slammed the door shut. I stood there for another few seconds staring at the shut door before speaking up again.

“Old girlfriend of yours?”

"Maybe, I’ve had so many,” Uncle Smith blinked, ”But she’s grown too old for me to recognize her. She even has that old people’s smell now."

“Well, let’s hope that you didn’t scar her too badly,” I knocked on the door again, “Mr. Bondell, Mr. Bondell. It’s me, Jade.”

The wooden door opened again. This time Bonny was at the door.

“Ah, Jade so nice to see you,” the cripple laughed, “Come on in.”

“Thanks,” I smiled, coming in I pointed at nothing, “Is she going to be okay?”

“I’m sorry about Sarah,” Bonny smiled before he saw Uncle Smith as well, “Wow, you really do look like Derrick.”

"Derrick? Oh yes, he was my grandfather, bless his soul,” Uncle Smith smiled, and reached his hand out for a handshake, “but my name is Tenma Smith. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?"

“Sorry, I don’t watch tv often or wherever it is you think I might have seen you before,” Bonny laughed as he shook my uncle’s hand, “But you look like a decent man. Well, to me at least.”

"I’m sorry for scaring your wife. I’m sure that my looking like my grandfather must have given her quite a shock,” Tenma laughed nervously, ”He was quite a player back in his day. Mister Bondell, was it?"

"My word! Tyrone,” Bonny finally noticed just who Uncle Smith was carrying piggyback, “Quick get him on the couch.”

Uncle Smith didn’t waste any time to take Tyrone into the living room. He was gentle yet swift to set Tyrone down. I already knew that Tyrone was fine so I took a quick look around the room. It was strange.

The strangest thing about this house was that it was so small and yet in the space that I’d call a single room could serve as a living room, a small dining room, and a small kitchen. Each “room” was only separated by invisible lines made by unmarked wooden tiles in the floor. Compared to that mansion with hundreds of closed doors and huge rooms, this house made me feel like I was in a hole in the ground. Mind you, I don’t mean that as an insult. It made me feel, more at home really. Mainly because my old home was a hole in the ground.

“What happened to him,” Bonny said as he examined Tyrone, “he doesn’t look well.”

“I don’t know,” Uncle Smith pointed an accusing finger at me, “Jade found him like this.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I wasn’t asking you Mr. Smith.”

“Truthfully, it is my fault,” I confessed, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize, he’s not in harm's way. Just worn down a bit is all,” Uncle Smith laid back in his wheelchair, “A good night’s rest, some of Sarah’s cooking and he’ll be back a full strength in no time.”

“That’s good,” I sighed, “um, would it be too much trouble, if I stay the night too?”

“No problem. Any friend of Tyrone is a grandchild of mine.”

"In that case, I’ll be going now."

“But you’ve just gotten here,” Bonny laughed, “Wouldn’t you want to clear things up with Sarah first?”

"And get myself killed? No, I have some business elsewhere,” Uncle Smith stopped at the door, ”Oh, and Jade… I have something for you."

“For me,” I asked as he tossed an old bell towards me, I caught it, “what’s this?”

"Just in case you get yourself into trouble,” Uncle Smith grinned as he left the house.

“Wait a minute,” I followed him, (outside where no one could hear us), “I don’t need your Yokai to protect me.”

"Jade,” he placed both of his hands on my shoulders, ”I know how you feel about being treated like a little kit, but don’t think of this as me not thinking that you can’t take care of yourself. In fact, I’m giving you this Yokai because I think that you can handle him."

“Uncle Smith, this is your bell. I can’t take it.”

"Yes, you can…," he smiled trying to reassure me.

I hugged Uncle Smith. He was shocked at first, but then quickly accepted it.

"See you soon, Jade," Uncle Smith got back into his car and drove off. I turned around and smiled as I made my way back inside.

Tenma Smith didn’t go too far.
Just a few driveways down from the Bondell’s.
(Which would be the equivalent of a half a mile or so.)
He parked the car and called someone on his cellphone.

"Bonjour, Benny!"

“Tenma? Did everything go according to plan?”

"Exactly as I planned it,” Tenma laughed, ”She now has a decent Yokai with her."

“It’s not one of your is it?”

"Yes, but it’s not one of my more powerful Yokai,” Tenma lied, ”By the way, I might die in a few minutes, but don’t fret. I have another ego ready for when I do."

“So, who will your ‘body’ be identified as Tenma Smith or one of your other persona?”

"Hold on, let me check my new wallet…," Tenma’s hand slipped into his pocket, but found something else, ”Why that little pickpocket! Benny, you’re not going to like this."

“What? Did she steal your wallet?”

"No, it’s far worse than that,” Tenma frowned as he pulled out the item he found, ”She slipped the Bell back into my pocket."

“What happened to your leg, Mister,” Louis asked as I made it back inside.

"Lou! You can’t just ask someth-”

“Oh goodness it's ran off on me again,” Bonny laughed, “If you happen to find it laying around somewhere, I wouldn’t mind having it back.”

“Okay, come on Otõtos,” Lou and the Jinmenju got up to explore the house, as Mrs. Sarah came back into the room.

“Is he gon- dear lord! Tyrone,” she shouted and ran to his side.

“Calm yourself, Sarah,” Bonny rolled out of the way of his wife, “He’s just fine.”

“Our grandchild had gone missing for almost three days and he just happens to show up on our doorstep exhausted and you expect me to believe that he’s ‘just fine’?”

“Yes,” Bonny smiled, “By the way, we have guests.”

“Oh, where are my manors,” Sarah bowed, “I am Sarah Bondell.”

“This is Jade Dolly, Tyrone’s friend,” he turned to Lou when he came back from searching the other half of the house, “and her friend Lou.”

“(What about us?)”

“Oh yeah, can’t forget my Jinmenju ,” Lou cheered, “Tar, Crack, Shelly, and Sue.”

“It’s so nice to have children in the house again.”

“They’re the ones that brought Tyrone home,” Mr. Bondell explained.

“Oh thank you! Thank you! I don’t know how to ever thank you,” Sarah jumped back to her feet, ”I know! I’ll cook you anything that you want. Pie, cookies, cake? Anything just to pay you back.”

“What are those things?”

“What things?”

“Pie, cookies, cake?”

“You’ve never had sweets before?”

“I’ve had candy and ice cream. They were sweet too?”

“Alright then, I’ll make you a whole batch of sugar cookies.”

“You don’t have to do that,” I felt the pain in my stomach, “That is unless you don’t have any apple pie just lying around, would you? Or maybe Apple Cinnamon Cookies?”

“Apples! Of course,” Sarah laughed, going into the kitchen’s pantry, “You’re that Jade. I should have known.”

“That Jade?”

“Tyrone always spoke so highly of you and that other boy…,” Sarah thought for a minute, “What was his name again?”

“Oh yes,” Bonny remembered for his wife, “Jonathan Lawrence.”

"Aghuh huh huh,” Tyrone stirred in his sleep and began breathing heavily, ”John… I fail…Aghuh… must… protect…"

“Oh no…,” Bonny groaned, his smile had faded, “This is worse than I thought…”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“Jade, I need you to tell me honestly,” Bonny rolled his chair near me, “Is John hurt? Is he okay? Did he go missing when Tyrone did?”

“John? But why are you asking about him? Tyrone’s the one that’s-”

“Tyrone’s just fine,” Bonny was so worried, “Jade, tell me where is John?"

“Let the dead worry about the dead,” I used one of my mother’s old sayings.

“He’s… dead,” Bonny slipped lower into his wheelchair as the room fell silent, “how could this have happened?”

He committed suicide on Thursday… I would have told him that, but Bonny didn’t want an answer.

“Bonny, what’s wrong,” Mrs. Bondell took a few steps out of the kitchen.

“No, nothing’s wrong…,” Bonny’s hands shook, “But your grandson has lost his…”

“Lost his what,” I asked over and over again, but I received no answer.

Bonny only looked at his wife. She nodded as if she understood what he meant, but the rest of us were to be kept out of the family issue.

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