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Excerpt for Never Wonder Land by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Never Wonder Land.

Chapter 1

            There was a rabbit on the pavement. A big, fluffy, white rabbit with pretty clothes.

            As I stood wondering how on earth did the rabbit happen to be here on the dirty and throng footpath in the middle of one of the busiest city in the world like Bangkok where Easter meant nothing, it turned its head looking at me with those pair of ruby eyes. This is crazy, somebody has clearly forgotten their pet, I concluded.

            Or maybe, work drives me mad.

            My iPhone rang. I saw the number and sighed. It was the customer who wanted to cancel their booked order by putting the blame on us. They were complaining that the documents which we submitted half a year ago were enough to their satisfaction then but not now. And thanks to that, it’s our fault. I apologized (for what I don’t know but I have to) for the hundredth times and promised to deliver whatever more documents they wanted if they could take the product when two other calls came in.

            No one had ever told me working in a family corporation is a tough job, nor that business is such a trickily unfaithful world. Responsibility weighted like mountains on my shoulders. I tried so hard to endure it putting so much effort in making improvement for the company. It was stressful but I couldn’t give up. I had to do it for my family.

            Did not bother to get under the shade, I got the call and listened to what else another customer had to say, made the most reasonable and polite explanation I could while glimpsing at those cotton fur. It ended with another ring from Note4—the con for having too many phones. This one was another customer requesting for product’s sample.

            “Yes, of course.” I said timidly to the phone. “I’ll prepare one for you and deliver it as soon as I can. Thank you very much for thinking of us.”

            The stream of calls finally halted and I saw that there were almost sixteen new mails in my inbox. I sighed again. Not just the customers, the suppliers had been a pain in my ass too demanding sale rise every other month, if not week. Usually I would check them right away but now I wanted to look at the rabbit.

            It was still here, in front of me, just looking at it made all the worries in the world morph into a small dimple. I thought back during my high school year when we had lots and lots of fun with the stray cats in front of our house. They were so adorable. But time had moved on, our ages grew old, our feelings grew apart. That’s what the harsh reality of the world do to you, it drained our liveliness away. Now the old frail cats only looked at me as their kitchen—or maybe slave.

            This rabbit looks clean enough, maybe I could pat it.

            I bent down patting the cute creature, a strand of chestnut-color dyed hair fell across my eyes which were twitching in amazement at the work of the embroidered cloth it had on. Looking along the gold-trimmed red velvet, I wondered if the adorable animal was not at all hot in this climate and in that thick piece of cloth. I was sweating a bit in the sun but, anyway, this was a delightful walk from singing class. I took singing class about three months ago to relax and get a glimpse of my old unachievable dream. It was also a mean of escape when I couldn’t cope with the ugly truths of the world, having been brought up a much too sheltered life.

            The rabbit shook itself and hopped away to the bushes nearby. I followed it just to see where it went. A blond hair girl was standing over there playing with her phone. At first glance, I thought it was a foreigner, but her eyes and face told me she was half. She was very pretty though. She stepped aside and walked away as I edged over to see.

The rabbit was behind the bush nudging its pale pink nose at the leaves and its pink paw. Probably safer from the stamping feet and stray dogs over here, I have to go now.

            As I turned away, a small voice rose from somewhere. “Princess.”

            Huh?

            “Princess, I’ve found you.”

            I looked around. The voice was very close, very squeezy and funny.

            “Princess, come with me.”

            It came again and made me looked down at the rabbit. It was crazy. It couldn’t possibly be the rabbit. I was looking at it just in case there was some sort of device nearby.

            But then the rabbit stood up on its hind legs and offered its hand. “Come.” It said.

            I stared at the creature, bewildered. A talking rabbit! I clearly had gone from stress-out to insane.

            The rabbit hopped and touched my hand and a swirl of darkness appeared behind the creature. The darkness was growing and expanding as I was swallowed deeper in. I looked back at the people walking busily on the street. No one seemed to notice anything as the picture of Bangkok I know dwindled into nothingness.

            Am I just fainting? Or really going to Wonderland?

 





Chapter 2

            I felt the fall.

            Blackness rushed past me upward, followed by a wide band of blurred blue, giddy green, then—

            My vision had a terrible wrench but there was no pain that should have come with the hit. Something not-so-hard was on the ground to pillow my drop. I was not sure if it was a net or a haystack, but one thing I was sure, it stopped the fall.

            A man was groaning next to my ear. I looked around and down as he opened one of his golden eyeballs fixing an accusing stare at me. His jaws were smartly carved in an angle that made him looked tough and strong, but still very handsome

“S—sorry.” I said and realized he was the one taking all the pain by staying underneath and quickly got up.

            He stood up towering me—wow, he must be almost two meters tall, no taller than two meters—brushing the invisible dust off his queer vintage garments similar to those in historical or fantasy movies. I looked open-mouthed up from under his shoulder feeling kind of weird. (Maybe it’s the height or the clothes or both.) He shouldn’t hurt that much with such sturdily built muscular body, I thought resting my eyes at the tip of his straw blonde hair which went white in the sun as he said quietly with a very pressing calm tone. “You dropped from the sky.”

            “D—did I?”

            “I cannot believe I couldn’t even get a peaceful sleep here.” He was more of talking to himself, so I shut my mouth not to anger him anymore.      

            “Princess!”

            I looked behind the guy and saw a white hair boy with long white rabbit ears running toward me. On a brief glance, I thought it was very amusing for a boy to put on a rabbit-ear hair band, but when he came closer, I realized it was not a hair band, those ears naturally grew out of his head as a part of his body and I went back confusing. I was still rooted to the ground, too befuddled to move or do anything when the rabbit-eared boy arrived, panting, smiling, giving me sparkling red eyes, “You’re safe! Prince Leonhard! You’re here too!”

            “So you’re the Princess.” said the guy boringly. He made a most bored face and walked away.

            “Thank you so much Prince Leonhard!” The rabbit boy called after him and turned to me. His grin stretched from ear to ear—oh, er, not the ears on his head, that would need special acrobatic ability of the mouth. He seemed really happy. “There’s a bit mistake, but I’m so happy that your Highness arrived here safely,” then he bowed down.

            “Umm…rabbit?” I said pointing at him with uncertainty.

            “Yes,” The rabbit boy beamed. “I’m the rabbit you saw in the Dry World. My name’s Shaph. It is such an honor to meet you Princess. When you left Coronale, I still haven’t started working at the palace. So this is our first time.”

            Rabbit?.... Boy?...

            “Co…rona..le?” I voiced my last confusion out loud.

            “Allow me to escort you properly to the palace this time.” The rabbit boy said flourishing his gloved hand toward the big magnificent Disney’s fairytales castle not so far from us, whereupon I had just noticed the surrounding of a huge green lawn trimming with dark green forest on the other side, and my light pink handbag, surviving through the black hole as well, laying at my foot, all belongings clattering out. Squatting down confusingly, I slowly picked things up piece by piece. I did not know why I did that, maybe doing some sensible action like picking up falling things would help bringing back sensible situation to me.

            “Let me help Princess.” said the rabbit boy and joined me on the ground. I did not resist because my head was still working hard. Okay, there is a boy who said he is that rabbit, the green lawn, the Cinderella’s castle,…crap! nothing is useful! Every single thing does not make any sense!

I placed my hands on a pen hiding among taller grasses, inhaled the cool air in deep to organize feelings and thoughts while the rabbit boy put the last tissue paper pack into my bag and stood up beckoning me once more. “Princess,” he said moving his arm horizontally toward the fancy building. ‘Princess’ does not make sense too, I thought while my legs made a move following the rabbit without my intention to.

“I’m your personal steward. I took over the palace after Master Derek. I believe you remember him? He was Queen Nara’s―your mother―steward.” The rabbit boy did not stop speaking when his mood suddenly went gloomy. “They were sad and disastrous years without you. Welcome home.”

Mood changing again, rabbit boy jumped livelily as we passed two soldiers entering the so-called palace. The entrance hall’s rich and grand smell smacked at my nose but could not completely get me out of my confusion trance. Only a quarter of my conscious was still aware of the surrounding.

Sunlight streaming in through a row of tall and wide mullioned windows touched the inside illuminating the expensive space. Red carpets clashed with white marble walls supported by gilt massive pillars, and golden glitters from the ornaments stabbed into my eyes. Every corner of this place was delicately carved and built so beautifully. It was a lot grander than any five stars hotels I had ever visited.

We proceeded into another room and the room behind that which were equally exquisitely decorated, until we came upon a room with two gold spiral staircases majestically rose from the red ground. The rabbit took me up on the right one and we went into a door where a long hidden marble hallway lay ahead of me and turned the corner at the far end.

The steward led me on this way. We took turn after turn—I was literally lost by now. And as we walked along the narrow sunsoaked passage which had no solid walls and that the ceiling was solely supported by thick glass on one side, a man with shoulder-length red hair came from the opposite. He widened his eyes when he saw us. Oh, god! there are two colors in each of his eyes, mostly light orange with thin streaks of blue shooting from the center.

“Prince Valentine! Princess is safe, thank you so much for your help.” The rabbit boy jumped.

The red hair guy ignored him and strode right to me. He took my hand and knelt down. “Welcome back to our world Princess. I am Valentine, Prince of Keon, the Kingdom of Magic.” Then he kissed at the back of my hand.

I gawked at him, shock joined the confusion and my thinking just stopped.

“Prince Valentine helps with finding you Princess.” Rabbit boy said. And when I did not response but only looked horrifyingly at my hand, he said. “Excuse us, Prince Valentine. Princess may need some rest.”

“Certainly.” Prince Whatever stood up and stepped aside to give way but his orange-blue eyes followed until I was out of his sight. They were scarily haunted. I shuddered a little, tried a lot to contain myself. If I decided to freak out now, the only way out was jumping out of this palace window. I regretted my stupid legs leading me into here heartily.

The rabbit boy led me further on into the extravagant maze, treading along many similar corridors to make sure I would not be able to find the way back. We entered one of the heavy wooden doors and came into a mauve carpet section. The thumps of our feet sunk into the thick velvety floor as we trotted on and the rabbit butler whispered, “This is the royal’s private area,” Finally, we arrived at a very grand roses-carved door at the end of one of one of the passageways which opened off to the most sumptuous suite I had ever seen.

There was a set of sofa and chairs, all were entwined with pink-painted rose sculpts, for recess and guests. Beyond them was a dark and cold fireplace, and placed in the middle before them was a small table studded with white and pink rose-shape crystals. Carmine wallpapers of roses turned the room into a rose garden. Rabbit boy took me to the room to the left, and even though I was neither a fan of pink nor roses, I thought it was even more beautiful here.

The large bed at the end of the room was European style with canopy and roses climbing on its four legs. The mattress looked so soft that if I was not so shock, I would surely jump into that fluffy roseate quilt and let myself submerge into the rose-scented cotton sea. The furniture in the room was decorated with—I’m bored to say—roses with soft pink rose-patterned cushions and rosy ornaments everywhere. The pastel pink wallpapers were some sort of artwork that I could not really pin down to what it was, but it was very rose-liked. The peach carpet on the floor was dyed white in the light that shone through two big rose-stained-glass windows. About the only thing missing here was the rose aroma, instead, the room smelled empty and neglect.

The click from the closing door reworked my brain. “Coronale,” I said realizing through the walk that this was not a dream. I was very positive about my analysis which alarmed me exceedingly. “Coronale,” I said again and turned to the rabbit boy. “Coronale?”

“Yes, your Highness.” He smiled.

            “Princess?” I pointed at myself.

            “Yes, your Highness. Do you not remember?” The rabbit boy tilted his head.

“Rabbit?” I steered my index at him.

“Yes.” The rabbit boy now was puzzled. “Is there anything wrong Princess?”

Is there anything wrong? Is there anything wrong? Of course, EVERYTHING is wrong!—“I’m not the Princess!” I started to become panic. “I don’t’ know this place! I—I—I’m not princess! Not princess!”

“C—calm down—” The rabbit boy panicked too. “Princess Carla—”

“I’m not Carla!” I rejected the new information. “I’m not Princess Carla! My mother’s not queen!”

“Okay, okay—” The rabbit boy took my shoulder and pushed me down on a sofa. He put my handbag away on a red rose engraved dressing table. “Please breathe, breathe. In. Out. One. Two.”

I did as told and my organized brain started to come back, so did the feelings on my skin which was now stinging with cold. It couldn’t have been fainting, it’s the Wonderland, or Coronale as he called. I did not know how to feel. When I was young, I admitted I had this fantasizing desire of going onto adventures at other worlds, other dimensions, but that was just a silly daydream which I gave up as soon as I drew the conclusion about non-existence of other worlds. Then it just happened to me? Right now? Like this? When I had already lost all the beliefs, dreams, and adventurous heart?

Moreover, I felt scared and out of place, unlike how I used to imagine myselfbravely waving a sword, slaying a dragon, unveiling the holy secret, saving the make-believed world, and becoming a hero.

I wondered what I should do or feel. Anyhow this was a rare chance. Do I just be happy? Or should I want to go back? Maybe I should explain to the rabbit boy first.

“I’m sorry,” I said to him in a calmer tone. “but listen, I really am not Princess Carla.”

“It has to be you.” Rabbit boy raised his brows. “We checked and we followed your power. We certainly got the right location.”

“But I am not, I can assure you,” I said with slight firmness and pleading in the voice. “I know my biological mother and father. I was born in Thailand and live forever in Bangkok. I have full memories of my childhood and my whole life until now. I’ve never ever lived here. I’ve never known or heard of this place. Co—coronelle? Coronale!”

The rabbit seemed taken aback. “If you’re not Princess Carla—who are you?”

Right, who am I? “I—I’m—” This is hard to explain. “I’m—I’m just an ordinary human!” There you go!

“But the magic…” He trailed off. “It couldn’t have been wrong!”

“Tell me, err—”

“Shaph.”

“Shaph, why do you think I’m the Princess?”

“Because,” Shaph began. “We traced your power and when I went to the Dry World, I met you.”

“And?”

“And you saw me—”

“Everybody can see you Shaph. I saw a lot of people looking,” I said thinking back, and added hoping it would make him feel better. “You’re very cute.”

“And you have the Princess’ look!” Shaph said slightly blushed.

“Huh? Me?” Now, this is weird.

“Yes,” Shaph nodded. “The brown hair and brown eyes!”

“Shaph!” I got up, desperately wrung my hair and dilated my eyes, moving closer to him. “My hair’s black! My eyes are almost black. They’re dark dark dark brown!” And I picked out the contact lens putting my face closed to him to see.

“What?” Shaph looked astonished. He picked up a lock of my hair that was actually brown. “But these—”

“That’s the dye.” I said and pull forward more hair to show him. People in my world, we change our hair color everyday!” Okay, that was exaggerating.

Now, Shaph was totally desperate. “But—but—”

“Look at me,” I said making a gesture at my body. “I don’t have a princess body. My legs are short. My back’s not that straight. My face…is not pretty. I am VERY average. And my eye-sight isn’t well, usually I would wear glasses,” I dashed to my handbag and pulled out my everyday glasses. “Princesses,” I pressed on hysterically. “Do not wear glasses.”

“Isn’t that just a facial decoration?” Shaph said innocently. “Fashion of some sort.”

“It’s for my eyes Shaph.” I said heavily. “I can’t see very well without it. It was a mistake that I decided to put on a contact lens today.” The latter one was more of to myself.

Shaph was out of words.

“Shaph, do you have a picture of the Princess?” I had the idea and the butler nodded enthusiastically and ran back into the living room, pointing at the small oil-painting picture hanging near a fireplace. It was a picture of a pretty little girl with brown hair, brown eyes, and westerner’s face which I hadn’t noticed before.

I walked to that picture and put my Asian face next to that girl’s. “I’m nothing like her, Shaph.”

“But!—”

“Besides, she’s just a child.”

“No, no, no,” Shaph protested. “The picture is years ago. The Princess should be eighteen or nineteen by now!” He looked like he had won our argument at last.

“I’m twenty nine.”

Shaph was in absolute despair.



















Chapter 3

Shaph plunged into the chair, merged with it if he could, both hands supporting his stone-loaded head, rabbit ears wilting sadly, mumbling. “Impossible…”

“Er…Shaph?” I slowly approached and laid my hand on his shoulder.

“I am so sorry for causing the trouble milady.” said Shaph politely looking at me with earnest eyes. “I did not mean to—”

I could not stand being hard with him at that tone and face (plus rabbit ears). “I—it’s okay.” I said and sat next to him.

“I thought….I thought…” Shaph trailed off as tears began to drown his red eyes.

It startled me. “It’s okay! It’s alright Shaph! It really is alright! I don’t mind. I—I had fun.” I made a wide grin and tried hard to look fun walking around admiring fake roses in the room.

“But Coronale…” He broke off, looking sad again.

“What happened?” Maybe I shouldn’t ask, or I would have to be involved with some more problems. I thought but my mouth made a faster work.

“Our world’s falling apart,” Shaph started explaining and it was too late to climb out of the problem pit. “Decaying, because there was no one with the power to defeat Magic. Queen Nara who possessed the holy power passed away for too long. It has to be the Coronale bloodline, you see, it has to be Princess Carla. But only Queen Nara knew where the Princess is, she sent her away on a vacation to her old hometown.”

“Yes, yes,” I tried to understand and to be understanding. “Yes.”

“But it took almost twelve years for Princess’s power to be activated and us to figure out the location!” Shaph wailed a lot of things which made no sense to me. “I even had to go all the way to Keon to ask Prince Valentine to help with opening the gate because Magic is in such turmoil that the only sorcerers who could control it would be the Keons! All has been for naught!” He threw up his hands and seriously cried.

“We can open the gate again, Shaph.” I tried to console him. But at the thought of having to go back on such a short adventure, I—uh—alright, since I’m not the one they need and I seem to be more of a hindrance here.

Shaph shook his head. “I can’t just go and tell Prince Valentine to help me open the gate again. It’s a shame to Coronale! I’ll have to find somebody else, but who could be good enough to open the gate in such chaos!”

“Is there—” Oh, I shouldn’t interfere! I don’t need to be nice, I’m not selling anything to him, I thought but as always, the habit got ahead of me. “Anything I can help?”

Shaph shook his head, then, as if an invisible blow struck at his weeping face, he stopped crying and looked at me. “During—this time—” Shaph carefully and slowly said. “Milady—you,” he paused a little, “Until I find a way to open the gate again, you have to be the Princess!”

“What?!”

“I cannot go and tell everyone that I got the wrong person. They will lose hope and not just Magic, the people, the world will be in turmoil as well. Angry citizens might capture you and kill you for not being the Princess. Coronale might be invaded from the angry Kings and Queens, especially Keons.” His tear stained eyes looked entreatingly at me. “You have to help us, please!”

Well, that is serious. But—

“Please—” his red eyes seemed somewhat dilated radiating cuteness out of them. “Please help me so we can all survive and I promise I will find a way back for you.”

“Okay, all—all right.” I reluctantly submitted myself to the threat-liked request. Imposing a princess with magical power was not an easy job, especially, when you had no magic at all. But I hoped it would be only for a few days.

“Thank you so much!” Shaph beamed and rest a hand on his chin thinking. “But there’s the Welcome Party. And so many princes and princesses are waiting to meet you. What should I do?”

“What are you talking about?” I asked dreading the answer.

“Umm,” Shaph set his face straight about to seriously talk about serious matter and turned me serious too. “Prin—I mean, milady, Coronale is the most powerful Kingdom in this world, renowned for its rare ability of the Kings or Queens to control Magic. Therefore, every Kingdom is pouring every pinch of their sweets in on us just to be noticed. And when the news that I asked Prince of Keon’s help spread, everybody gathers here.”

I could see where he is going. This is not going to be a fun fun adventure. I held my sigh.

“It was a chaos,” Shaph shook his head. “but I couldn’t turn any of them back, they’re all royalties, you see, and I needed to bring you—I mean, Princess back as soon as possible. So I leave them be, our castle is so crowded now.”

The sigh gained weight and it was hovering right beyond my nostrils as Shaph went on. “Just before Prince Valentine and I prepared to open the gate, somebody talked about a welcome party for Princess. I thought it was alright at the time, because Princess Carla could fix every Magic problem with just a flick of her fingers, but now—”

Okay, and me, I could mess every Magic and other matters with a mere existence of mine. I wanted to kill that ‘somebody.’ “And you still want me to pretend to be Princess Carla?”

“I—I had no choice,” Shaph flicked his long fluffy ear. “Furthermore, both Prince Leonhard and Prince Valentine have seen you. It is purely luck that no one is aware of Princess Carla’s features. All portraits of her are painted before she turned five.”

I sat in a hump gazing at the rosy floor for a long while until I gave up and the sigh finally made its escape.

“Alright,” I said.

“Hmm?”

“The party,” I said. “let it proceed. Everybody will go back to their home after that right?”

“Very likely,” Shaph’s drooped ears were half-way perking up.

“We can sort out things after the party.” I said and sighed again.

“Great!” Shaph made a rabbit jump. “There’s no other way anyway. I will prepare this at once!” He sprinted toward the door, stopped with a sudden jerk swiveling his head, “Milady, one more thing, some Kingdom might request you to stabilize Magic in their countries, could you please also—?”

“Bu—but I don’t know how to stabilize these Magic!”

“A mere act would do,” said Shaph. “I will try to reject most of them as much as I can, but some would be unavoidable. It would also buy me times to find a way to open the gate again. So, pleaseeee…”

“Al—alright.” Since I said I would help.

Shaph hopped up with glee. I could see some resemblance of rabbits now. “I’ll get someone to fix you right away. You need more princess look!” He said running toward the door and suddenly halted turning to me again. “Oh, milady?”

“Yes?” The way he kept calling me milady made me embarrassed.

“May I ask what your name is?”

“I—” I held my tongue. A thought that I should not expose my real name occurred for some reason. Maybe it was because I was not the person from this world and I was going to stay here only for a short time, so there was no need to leave any trace of me behind. I would just go with a false name, “Kara,” since I’m going to be Princess Carla, then—“just call me Kara.”

“Kara? Right!” Shaph smiled. “It’s a perfect name! I’ll call you Princess Kara then. It’s easier and sounds almost the same! Everyone will call you by your real name without any doubt. Isn’t it great?” he said and left the room finally.

It would be, if only Kara was my REAL name. I shrugged.













































Chapter 4

I had been waiting for twenty minutes. Exactly. I checked on my iPhone.

There was nothing to do. So in those twenty minutes before I fetched out the entertaining device, I just sat shivering at the grand rose wall in front of me, re-analyzed my decision and felt gloomy for agreeing to help too fast without taking more time to think carefully. If this was to be a business deal, I was already making a loss. I thought downheartedly and submitted to my own action returning the stare on the rosy wall. I dared not look around or touch a thing. It was not my room. It was Princess Carla’s room.

I tried calling from my phone making up my mind to do my best and deal with the immediate situations, but obviously there was no signal, no internet. I was forced to shut all the phones I had off. They had become quite useless in this land where Magic mattered more than Wi-Fi.

I searched through my belongings, not sure what else I hoped to find. The blue purse which contained my ID card and a silver name card box could bring disaster upon me since my real name was all over there and a spare sanitary napkin surely could not attribute anything in the party. I shuffled everything in, zipped the bag, found a piece of pillowcase and wrapped around it tight before hurriedly stowing it in one of the drawers in the wardrobe. I locked the drawer and threaded the key with my holy thread that I always had around my neck.

Feeling safe, I sat in the same spot and waited for more. I started to wonder how long must I wait and became a bit restless. The air seemed to get colder with every second passed. Having lived in a tropical country all my life and with thin clothes on, it was not a wonder if I caught a cold within next hour. I got up to warm myself, went to the door, opened and peeked outside.

The corridor was silent like a desert. The air was giving off loneliness and abandonment sort of ambience as if no one had been in this place for ages. But with the sun heating the mauve hallway through tall windows, it was warmer out here that I did not hesitate to step out. I stood before the nearest window in the sunlight pool enjoying the warmth and the view of a small square garden which appeared to be in the middle of the building when I heard a voice.

“Princess Carla?”

I turned and saw a guy, who—like Shaph, had animal ears, but his was not rabbit’s, they were cat’s—no, those weren’t cat’s. They had more fur and bigger and thicker, probably dog’s. He was probably Shaph’s colleague, maybe a guard or a soldier or even a general because his black military-like coat was gleaming with big round shiny gold buttons that set off his silver fur—I mean, hair.

I reminded myself that I was the Princess now. “Yes?”

The dog-eared man sweetly smiled. His face seemed to shine then. He was actually very good-looking.

“How—how may I help you?” I asked feeling a little uneasy at my first encounter as a fake Princess.

“Oh, no!” said the man. “It is my prestigious pleasure to have met you my Princess, my name’s Fayn.”

“Nice to meet you Fayn.” I arched my lips a little imagining a princess smile and hoped it did not turn out too bad. “Please call me Kara.”

Fayn raised his brows which quickly came down, his grin spread out at the same time. “What are you looking at?” he asked and looked out the window with me.

“Nothing really.” I said and looked up trying to make a small talk. “The sky here is very beautiful.” After saying it, I saw that it was indeed very beautiful and blue. And I felt like my free spirit started to awake by the mighty endless heaven. Now that I was in a magical land, all the responsibilities I used to have seemed to dissolve away by the magic here.

I glanced at him and saw his dark blue eyes lightened in the light fixing at me, as if they wanted to bore a hole into my head and see what my brain was like. I felt a little uneasy and staggered.

Fayn caught my shoulder.

“Tha—thank you.” I stuttered a little bit and tried to calm down. There’s something off about this person, I thought.

“Princess Kara. What are you doing out—”

Shaph’s call surprised me. He came with a line of uniformed maids. “King Fayn!” He looked at the guy beside me astonishingly.

KING!

Damn it! He’s the Princess’s father? But he’s very young! Maybe younger than me! He probably knows I’m the imposter, I’m DEAD!

I gaped at the King wide-eyed with shock. I managed to stutter again a few seconds later. “I—I am very very sorry—” I don’t know how to speak polite! Okay, let’s just add, “Sir.” And I curtsied the way my tenth grade sociology teacher used to teach me. I did not how to do it correctly and was sure the King was going to have me killed!

King Fayn chuckled and bowed down as well. “Pardon me Princess, for not introducing myself clearly.”

“No no it’s my—”

“This is King Fayn from Azmera,” Shaph explained in haste to hint me. “One of our neighbor Kingdoms.”

Oh—oh—so he’s not the Princess’s father? I thought and sighed inwardly. I was still undercover then?

“Please pardon my rudeness King Fayn,” Shaph continued, “But this is Princess’s private quarter—”

“Sorry Shaph,” said King Fayn to Shaph. “I was just attracted by this beautiful view.” He made a gesture out of the window but casted his eyes at me.

“Please excuse us,” Shaph gave a polite grin and bowed. “These ladies need to get Princess in a proper dress.”

“Of course.” said King Fayn as the maids behind Shaph advanced toward me. They gestured at the door and led me in. We moved on further to the bedroom where one of the ladies closed the curtains and the oldest lady did a curtsy.

“I am Sharon, your Highness,” she said. “Head of the palace maids.”

I did not know how to respond to that kind of greeting, especially with Sharon’s number of creases on her face showing she was much older than me, so I raised two hands and placed both palms together bobbing my head, making a formal salute ‘Wai’ that is usually done in Thailand. Sharon was a little surprise but she smiled when I said. “Nice to meet you Sharon. Thank you for taking care of me.”

“The bath is ready, ma’am.” A maid popped out of another door hidden behind the bed.

“Yes.” Sharon said to the maid and turned to me. “Pardon me your Highness.” Then she reached out her hand and unbuttoned my shirt. I hastily receded from her grasp and said. “It’s ok. I can do this.”

“No trouble,” said Sharon advancing on me again. “It’s our job to clean you Princess.”

I was reluctant, never been naked in front of any other people in my whole life. Ok, I know, I’m old, but is it wrong that I got so wrap up in work that I’m still single? “Erm…no need to trouble you and everyone Miss Sharon. I can take a bath by myself.”

“Nonsense.” said Sharon and reached her hands further. Other maids also started hemming in to undress me.

I got panicked and ran out of the bedroom. “It really is ok!” I kept saying as they kept pursuing me along the living room until I got nowhere to run and had to thrust the big front door open. Shaph and King Fayn were still where I had left them.

I went up to Shaph holding the loosened shirt together. “Shaph, please tell these ladies I can take a bath myself.” I said with a rush and a flush.

“What is the matter?” Shaph asked. His face seemed to turn a bit pink.

“They are going to take a bath for me!” I gasped.

“Of course, they are.” said Shaph cutting his red eyes between me and the maids headed by Sharon.

“But, but—” I casted the steward a pleading look hoping that he would understand without any more embarrassing explanation. But heavens, no! he doesn’t understand! “I…I’ve…” I said avoiding Shaph’s red eyes. “I’ve never been naked in front of anybody else…”

“Oh, don’t be shy Princess.” said a maid. “We are all girls. Here, let’s take this old rope off your neck.”

I was in a total shock now and leant away so far back. “No.” I said in horror. “Please, this is the most important thing in my life.” I clutched at the group of pendants and the drawer key on my chest tightly.

“But,” The lady was about to protest when King Fayn stepped in between me and her.

“I think if the Princess isn’t comfortable with it, we should let her pass this time.” King Fayn stood guarding me protectively. I found myself nodding at his word and took his back as a hiding place. Fayn’s long bushy tail brushed against my leg and I stared at it, shocked and amazed.

“Princess.” Shaph took me out of my safe ground. “You need help from Sharon and these ladies, believe me.”

I did not believe him and clung onto King Fayn’s sleeve without knowing.

“It’s alright Princess.” said Sharon at last. “How about I do it alone? If there’s only me, you wouldn’t have to be so shy. And you don’t have to take that rope off for now.”

I looked at Sharon, not sure what to response while all the eyes were staring right at me. Shaph said, “Princess,” again and I had to surrender.

“Okay.” I said meekly.

Sharon led me back into the suite past the living room, the bedroom, and at last, the bathroom where a masterwork of mosaic tiles showing the pattern of, of course, roses dominated the area. The water that was filled in the ivory tub had this very flourishing scent. I was sort of glad it was not rose. Sharon helped me take off the clothes and as I stood shivering backing against her shyly lowering myself into the warm water, she rubbed my body with something soft. When we finished the first bath, Sharon gave me towels, applying some strange cream all over me, and called the maids in. They drained the tub, refilled the water, and put in some colored powder that gave the water new floral fragrance. This tedious process went on almost two hours and I went into six or seven—I lost count—different baths ranging from floral to soda-like to sweet vanilla smell. By the time it was over, I could really feel my skin radiated. It was softer and silkier and seemed to glitter.

My hair that was washed a number of times was as sleek as finest silk. Sharon dried my hair, trimmed it a little bit, and cut me a side-swept bang saying I looked cute with it, while I dried my body. She prepared antiqued laced lingerie and a vintage cream color dress for me to put on. It felt weirdly loose inside as I put my feet in pair of comfortable shoes made from cloth and Sharon said.

“I heard from Shaph about you Princess Kara.”

I looked at her perplexed as she smiled. “That he got the wrong person.”

“O…oh.” I drawled. “So…you know?”

Sharon nodded. “I thank you for helping Shaph.”

“Oh, no, no,” I said feeling rather guilty for being the wrong one. “I am very sorry for not able to do anything.”

Sharon shook her head lightly and smiled. “Being a princess is already a big help for us. Here.”

She brought out a crystal box a size of a ring box. It was clear and beautifully cut and something bright seemed to be in there. “Look in here.” She said briefly and opened it. The bright strong shimmers poured out and whitewashed my vision. When all the light disappeared, I found it hard to look through the lens. Everything was blurred.

I pulled off the contact lens and gasped in surprise. My vision was as clear as crystal. I could see every detail around me without any aid, perfectly!

“Sharon!” I called her name almost in delight.

“The light of Bila, healer from the biggest star.” She said proudly. “I hope you find it okay Princess.”

“Oh, it’s perfect!” I said. “I have to thank you a thousand times! And please, since you know, you don’t have to call me princess.”

Sharon giggled. “No, you are a princess.” She said. “Look at you now.”

I looked at myself again in the mirror and saw an entirely different person. A girl at the other side shined lustrously, despite the simple dress and no make-up. I had never seen myself this beautiful in my life having always been average. “What a magic!” I exclaimed.

“Only good bathing ingredients,” Sharon said. “You are already beautiful.”

“Thank you so much Sharon.” I said again, face red with her compliment.

Sharon smiled. “Thank you my Princess.” she said and looked at the contact lens I threw onto the dressing table. “Why don’t you put those on, I would like to show off the new Princess to Shaph.”

“I cannot.” I told her. “These are one-day use, besides my eyes are already cured, if I put that on, I won’t be able to see anything.”

Sharon’s smiled turned into shock. “But what about your eyes?” she said. “It’s supposed to be brown!”

I had no answer to that.

“Oh! I guessed it can’t be helped, I’ll have to try that.” Sharon talked to herself and wiped her hands in the air from side to side murmuring weird incantations. A current of glittering air appeared with her waves, flowed toward my eyes and went straight in. I was startled at the sudden glittering blindness, but when it faded I saw Sharon’s smile reasserted its earlier place.

“It works!” She clapped her hands. “Oh, I’m not a magician or anything Princess. I’m just an amateur. It’s a miracle that it works even in this Magic disorder environment.”

I did not understand what she meant, but when I looked into the mirror again, my eyes were hazel brown. I widened it to get a good look.

“It wouldn’t stay very long.” Sharon rested hands on my shoulders leveling her head with mine. “Although I had the talent, but my magic ability only goes as far as changing colors of stuff temporarily. I’d never thought it could be of use today.”

“It’s wonderful!” I was able to bring out my awe at last. “You could open a beauty center and be a millionaire in my world, you know.”











Chapter 5

King Fayn and Shaph were waiting in my living room when we went out. And I thought this was a private area and that I had used up almost four hours to remake myself.

“Princess!” Shaph beamed. “Look at you!” He bowed down so low acting as if I really was a princess.

King Fayn took my hand and raised it to his lips. I jolted and instinctively pulled my hand away. King Fayn looked puzzle.

“Err—” I glanced at Shaph and Sharon nervously, afraid that I had assaulted the King of the neighboring country. “I am very sorry—I mean, please excuse my rudeness, King Fayn, I was not used to err….” I tried my hardest to be polite. Oh, life is hard!

King Fayn smiled and seized my hand into his clasp again. I twitched a bit. “Just call me Fayn. Let me do it properly again, so you can get used to it.”

I watched Fayn kissing the back of my hand with reddened face. I thought I had to endure this the whole time I was here since it was their way of greeting.

“I was worried.” Fayn said. “But it seemed you turned out amazingly stunning after a tremendous bath.”

“Thank you.” I could speak without much shyness this time. Guys would not praise bland girls without expecting returns, I had better beware.

“Then, I’d better get going.” Fayn gave me another bow and left the room.

“We’ll go too.” said Sharon winking at me as she went away with the maids who were lining neatly in front of my room.

“So—” I started. There were only Shaph and me now. “Thank you so much Shaph for sending Sharon.”

“She did indeed a very good job with you, Princess.” said Shaph.

“I hope you could talk to me normally.” I said. “You know that I’m not—”

“Yes, you are.” Shaph cut in. “You have to be one for me, for us now. By the way,” Shaph professionally poured a cup of tea from a cart which I was sure I hadn’t seen earlier. He gave it to me and advised me to sit down. The white wisps floated and brought with it the chamomile aroma as I sniffed and took a tiny sip. “I have consulted with Sharon. We will arrange the ‘Welcome Party’ tomorrow.”

I choked on the chamomile tea. The smell went into the windpipe and down to the lung. It was not nice. “W—why so fast?!”

“You see, your Highness,” Shaph remained polite and calm and I wished he would just stop that, because his calm face could not dampen the seriousness of the mess he pulled me in. He probably prepared a chamomile tea to relax me before bringing on another matter. “I want every royals to go back to their countries. It’s been quite hard to control them, particularly when they heard you are back. King Fayn even barged into this private unit. I like King Fayn. He’s nice and brave and kind. But I had to put your Highness before him.”

Sounded very nice, I almost snorted.

“Okay, then, shall we begin?” Shaph extended his arms. “I’d like to teach you Princess’s manners, and how to talk and act during the party.”

Even though I was a bit tired after a whole day at my world and after so many things that happened in such a short time, I jumped happily into Shaph’s princess lesson. In order to improved my Princess disguise and not get killed, I paid a lot of attention to what he taught me. Shaph showed me how to curtsy properly, how to walk, how to talk. He tried to get my back straight reminding me with a tap on my hunch. He told me where to rest my hands and so many other things. I was usually a good learner, but my head spun so fast now.

At length Shaph said, “This should be alright. It should be enough for tomorrow’s party. The sun has set. I will brought you some dinner.”

I slumped down into a chair when Shaph left, the twilight made orange stripes on my body and glinted off the rose chandelier. I did not know when Shaph brought the dinner, I was deep into the soft slumber the second my head touched an oak hand rest of the chair.



















Chapter 6

“Good morning Princess Kara.”

I squinted my eyes at the light streaming in as the heavy curtains were drawn apart. I had a vague thought that I was in a dream because there was a boy with rabbit ears in a movie-liked room. It was a very weird and elaborated dream though, with me going into a kind of magical kingdom and I was a Princess—a fake Princess. I had maids taking a bath for me and I had Princess class. I wore beautiful dress, my eyes color changed, and my eyesight was good as new. When I got up and slowly adjusted my consciousness, readied myself for another full-of-problems (no, they says to call it challenges!) day at work, I first was stunned by the clarity of the elegance shrouded me. Still wearing a half-asleep face, my head ran at full speed to the strangeness of my surrounding realizing only a moment later that everything that happened yesterday was not a dream at all.

‘Oh’ was all I could think of as Shaph, the rabbit boy, smiled at my half-asleep face.

“Are you awake, Princess?” Shaph said.

“Um.” I nodded trying to calm off the panic started to bloom in my chest and scrambled off the bed.

“Oh, wait,” Shaph stopped me and put a tray with nice light foods on my lap. “You must be hungry. When I deliver the dinner last night, you were sleeping so sound, so I put you to bed, did not want to disturb you.”

I blinked at the breakfast tray without appetite, still trying to hold down the panic. I told Shaph, “Please let me wash first, I’ll have it later.”

Shaph looked surprise, but he lifted the tray off and I went into the bathroom. Filling the rose-shape basin with cold clear water, I splashed it on my face a few times. When it did not work, I just submerged my whole face under it until short of breaths. I emerged again only to see the extravagance bathroom clearer than ever, now that I did not need glasses to sharpen the view. ‘Okay,’ I told myself receding back and sat on a toilet bowl. Or at least, it’s what used in the same purpose of the toilet bowl in spite of a king’s throne appearance. I took in deep breathes counting them to make sure my mind was fully function and focus. “Okay, it’s real.” I said again and rearranged my head—I mean thoughts in my head, breathing and counting breaths all the while doing so. At the fiftieth breath, totally calm, I suddenly remembered about the Welcome Party today but was neither nervous nor panic. “Okay, let’s get this through!” I told myself for the last time, inhaling the last counted breath, and was ready for whatever that was going to happen because of my decision to help Shaph. With lighter mood, I went over to the washbasin again and drained all the water which spiraling away with my panic. I went on with daily routine, washing my face properly.

It felt a bit strange having no glasses on but (now that there was no worries and I accepted my situation) I was so happy that I could not stop looking at myself in the mirror while brushing my teeth with spare toothbrush and toothpaste I had brought out of my bag. I came out with freshened face and had the most delicious breakfast ever, or maybe it was because I felt like I had not eaten my whole life. Shaph kept pouring cups of wonderful ginger tea which went really well with spiced egg and tomato porridge.

“Thank you so much for the lovely breakfast Shaph.” I said at last with full stomach.

Shaph lifted off the tray. “Sharon will come preparing you for the party.”

“Not again!” I exclaimed, feeling like I had just had a bath with her a minute ago. “I will wilt!”

Shaph giggled.

Sharon swept into the room as Shaph pulled a white rope hanging on the wall among many other colored ropes. They might be some kind of servant bells. “Good morning Princess.” The head maid said and guided a sighing me into the bath. My average shower time was ten minutes. These two days had already taken almost a month worth of shower, and I take shower twice a day I tell you.

There was no corset, or difficult undergarments to put on in Coronale, only a couple of light and thin but warm layers to wear underneath the dress. Shaph chose a light pink gown with laces and small crystals tracing along the body line. It trailed off about a meter behind me. The only problem seemed to be the low cut because first, my rope necklace which did not go with any dresses showed, second, my chest was flat.

“Oh my!” Sharon said observing the flatness of my front.

My face turned pink.

“That’s no problem!” Sharon tried to cheer me up. She fetched another dress from the wardrobe, not as low cut this time, and put me in there instead. It was a champagne tafetta gown with small train. It suited my size and height perfectly well.

“See?” Sharon took a stepped back. “You look very pretty.”

“Thank you.”

“But I’m afraid,” said Sharon as she produced a small flower stitched bag out of her dress pocket. “That the rope on your neck must go in here. I will tie it to your dress, don’t worry.”

I understood but had to clutch the necklace of Buddha amulets so tight before I took it off and put it in the stitched bag. Sharon then tied the bag to the inside of my dress. Even though she put another gold flowers necklace around my neck, it still felt very vacant there.

Sharon fixed my hair and put slight make up on my face while Shaph briefed me histories of the honorable guests. I was so hungry having to skip lunch and so not ready when the time came. It was impossible to remember almost a hundred names, numerous towns and cities, and twenty kingdoms within two hours.

“These light snacks will appease your hunger Princess.” Shaph prepared small square chicken sandwiches. As I ate, he asked, “Do you remember what I taught you yesterday?”

I nodded.

Shaph waited for me to finish and Sharon gave me the last touch. As I carefully stood up straightening my back, my steward lowered his head and led me out of the room. There were two lines of guardsmen in white and gold outfit waiting to escort me as the wood door grated outward. I had spent most of my time in this room since I arrived, so as the first step landed on the purple carpet, I felt like passing into another dimension all over again. I kind of lost some confidence that I had gained on the toilet bowl.

It was another long walk before we progressed into the red carpet part—I called it red sector, and no matter how good I was at mapping, I could not remember the way because all the walls were almost the same. A hissing flew past the side of my head at one point, it was a ball of red light, and I staggered out of the line, hair rose. Shaph caught me and the guardsmen unsheathed their swords spearing it at the direction the light came from. “Protect the Princess!” Shaph shouted as Prince Valentine appeared around the corner with his neon pink hair butler.

“Prince Valentine!” Shaph gasped with surprise, but his tone turned threatening next. “Why did you attack Princess?”

“Don’t panic, Rabbit. It was only a greeting.” Prince Valentine gave a sinister sort of smile. “I’ve heard,” he paid no attention to the menacing group of men and advanced forward stopping right at the tip of the swords. “that the Coronales, in comparison to us, are equally gifted with Magic. But it seems rumor is rumors. The Princess could not avoid such simple attack.”

What is this guy! Do I have to deal with people like this?!—was all I could think. Shaph was silent with a sour expression and I realized it was a time for Princess to act her role. Taking a deep breath, I waved off the sword and offered Prince Valentine a polite smile. “That was an interesting way of greeting.” I said calmly, salesman mode taking place, it was always useful to make friends. “I’m sorry that I am not of your expectation Prince Valentine,” smiled again, “I reckon the years I spent at the other world account for it.”

“I see,” A small smile played at the corner of his mouth. “Well, see you at the party Princess Carla.” And he took another corridor disappearing into the palace maze.

“Princess.” Shaph called worriedly as I exhaled the breath holding, salesman mode went away with it. My hands slightly quivered but I held it with a fist and nodded at Shaph to move on. My butler signaled at the men and we were once again in a stately procession.

We walked some more—I took in the air to clean nervousness out of me and was almost in the same stage-fright manner again at a passageway where chatters grew louder indicating that the party was not so far off. My muscles tensed along the level of decibel. By the time the parade reached a large luxurious gilt door, I had turned into a ceramic doll.

“Raise up Princess.” Shaph whispered and motioned for the door to be opened.

Giggles and chitchats died as if someone turned off the talking tap as soon as the giant paneled doors swung outward. Expensive and high-class smell hit my face and my confidence dwindled further. The lords and ladies all turned into my direction as I walked onto the platform connecting with two marble staircases, trying hard to look royal. I had never got this much attention in my life, and I knew now, I would prefer living without it and a corset would really help.

“Princess Carla of Coronale!” Shaph announced.

Cheers resonated the marble hall. The noise was so tremendous that it shook the building—wait, or is it me shaking?—people shouted Princess Carla name and, as Shaph had coached me, I waved and smiled like a Miss Universe.


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