Project: Phantasma

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III. Welcome to Le Blanc Bouquet

Bell boys in red orange uniforms with yellow trims escorted their luggage in a line inside the Le Blanc Bouquet Hotel & Restaurant.

“Welcome to Le Blanc Bouquet!” the slick-mustached receptionist in a tuxedo said, complete with a distinct accent and right eye monocle. It didn’t seem like a French place but they were acting that way. As far as Gab knew, Blanc is a French word for white.

He saw a smile from Vin. He suddenly sang faintly. “When I was a young boy, my father took me into the city, to see a marching band.”

Gab, Ken and a couple of Philippine Team members got the reference and laughed. Ken punched him in amusement. While the Philippine Team, Olive Badgers and the coaches claimed the room arrangements and keys, they took a look around in awe.

The carpet was reddish orange with weird old-looking designs. It seemed like moonwalking with socks there felt good. There were little tables of furniture with matching chairs, complete with ornamental wood design, on a corner that resembled a conference area. The lounge was large as seen from the lobby, with a piano that felt like it has been used solely for display. A fair distribution of elegant chandeliers that looked rather excessive adorned the ceiling of each major area.

There were various paintings of sceneries and people with a vintage touch. There was a man facing a dark corner painted in black and white. A red scenery of hands reaching towards a dark starless sky gave Gab unease. There’s an odd group picture of a little girl in a Victorian dress with her eyes closed, an old clown in crutches, a nurse holding a metal clipboard beside him, a cowboy in black coat and hat with his eyes hidden, a well-built man with an apron with his arms crossed and someone in a white suit apparently hugging himself.

Coach Evan Solt called the trio and said that they would be taking room 309. That number again. They ascended the stairs with carefully-designed handrails. The others followed. The wallpaper was red with a gold design. It was simple but extravagant for today’s standards. More chandeliers were along the halls. The elegance was so overdone that even someone who had no interest in designing would know it. The door had its fair share of delicate carving, and there was a door knocker that looked like an angel patting his bow towards his crotch.

They opened the door and discovered a large room with 4 beds, complete with desk lamps and a great view outside. There was a seemingly misplaced Roman numeral clock on top of the bed that Gab has chosen, the one on the left side of the door. Vincent and Ken took the left and right beds near the window, respectively. Coach Solt of course, had no choice but to take the one opposite of Gab’s. They were quite pissed off that their coach being on the same room meant that they won’t be having a Defense of the Ancients LAN marathon overnight. Nevertheless, the unnatural low temperature is relaxing enough. The clean white sheets and soft pillow quickly meant hello to the next day.

Ken broke the silence. “Sure is cold here.”

“We’re lucky that the host funded our stay and food here.” Coach Solt replied as he sat down, taking his sunglasses off and fixing his coat. “Undoubtedly 5-star.”

“Ever wondered why it’s called Le Blanc Bouquet?” Gab asked.

“I don’t see any white flower thingies,” Ken said.

Coach stood up and donned his Rayban. “Forget the name and get ready for a dinner at The Genesis.”

“Already?!” Vin complained as he played with his soft bed as if making a snow angel.

Gab addressed their coach. "Sir, why do you wear sunglasses at night?"

Coach looked at him. "It makes me feel cool."

The Philippine Team decided to walk towards the mall. Well, mainly because there weren’t any vehicles except unmanned horse-driven carriages and old-school bicycles. As they walked, they noticed that the roads were cobbled like those medieval towns as seen on TV. Somehow, the people here mixed up French and the old times. There were some occasional foliage seen, but it seemed like the plants didn’t look healthy at all. Gab’s two phones had no signal. The ones he asked didn’t know what time it was either and they seemed to not get any signal too.

“What kind of city doesn’t have a signal?” Ken asked.

“Intensity,” Gab said, making face towards Ken.

A couple of giggles were heard at the back.

"Joke master 420 over here," Ken said.

They realized that the townsfolk stop what they were currently doing when they pass by and stare at them for a moment, only to smile after 5 or so seconds of awkward air. Then they hold one hand up - but not waving - and freeze until the group completely passes, their eyes still following them. There’s something unnerving about the folks, but Gab assumed that they’re not used to visitors. Their smiles looked more like smirks and their eyes look dull and unhappy. Maybe Gab was just projecting.

“Ohhh that’s just completely normal. They take time giving creepy stares like maniacs, to every visitor they see.” Gab said aloud.

The host slapped him on the nape and exclaimed “Where are your manners, Mr. Sherwood?!”

Gab looked at the host with a poker face and answered with a noble accent. “You progeny of a lactating canine.”

“Excuse me?” the host replied, touching her chest in an offended manner, inching her face of intense make-up as her reddish hair dangled on the left side of her neck.

“My apologies madam,” still with an accent with a matching gentleman’s bow. “I was driven by my uncontrollable urge to exclaim my thoughts and was aggravated by the sole maneuver you had executed that had a significant amount of trauma applied on the upper omega of my vertebra, just below the vulnerable point prone to amnesia or worse, cease of life. I was forced to apply friction to the area of incidence to soothe the overwhelming sensation of negativity my nerves are sending to what people call gray matter. Putting all of these statements into consideration, I had involuntarily blurted out a discombobulating speech of circumlocutions purposely aimed to strike one’s dignity.”

The team fell silent. Vincent broke the silence with an apologetic face. “Madame, I think you shook his brain too hard.”

There was an awkward silence and they realized that they’ve already reached The Genesis. A gigantic glass tower that is actually a mall in the middle of an old town. Its misplacement was unnerving to Gab for some reason, but he prefers a mall than creepy townsfolk. His heartbeat intensifies and he gulps as the big glass double door opens, blasting them cold air from above.

Gab felt bad for his exaggerated exaggeration. Then again he felt elite belittling someone in retaliation.

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