11 years old and so much responsibility. She wasn’t supposed to be doing this, thought Juniper Lee. Poring over tome after tome, each seemingly older and dustier than the last while her dog gave her lectures like a third grade teacher from Hell. Sure, being the Te Xuan Ze, the magical protector of the border between the normal world and the world of magical creatures, was supposed to be some great honor. And she saw things that no others humans would dream could possibly be real outside of fantasy and fiction.
On the other hand… look at these books! They were older than her grandmother’s great grandmother, and that was probably an understatement. And they were about as boring as her grandmother’s great grandmother, if not more so. She could only hear about so many different minute variations of dragons and potato-growing potions before they began to run together, and she could feel her eyes beginning to close.
“June!” A hefty bark roused her from a light doze, her back straightening and her eyes opening wide.
“Cottontail Dragons spit fairy dust! Guh… wha?” June reached up to put a hand to her head woozily. The sudden motion had sent the room into a violent spin. “Sorry, spell overload I think. Can I leave my room yet?”
Monroe sighed and reached up to run one stubby paw over his eyes. “You know ye need t’know this stuff.” He said with his usual Scottish accent, looking into her eyes seriously. “As the Te Xuan Ze it’s-“
“My responsibility to police the world of magic to make sure they don’t start affecting the world of humanity, or hurting each other. Yeah, I get it; I’m an unpaid magical police officer. I should so file a lawsuit for underage enslavement.” She smirked and leaned back against her headboard, resting her hands behind her head and looking down at the book in front of her, really noticing what chapter they were on for the first time in thirty minutes. “Ghosts?”
“As I was saying, lass. Part of the Xe Xuan Ze’s responsibility is to keep the worlds of humanity and magic in balance, and that includes dispelling any remnants of either one.” Monroe stated.
“Remnants? Now this is something I haven’t heard before.” Juniper leaned forward, really interested in this sudden turn of events. “Are you saying ghosts are real?”
“Not only are they real, they’re becoming a problem.” Monroe said. “More and more across the world they’re cropping up, sometimes harmless, other times less harmless. And I think it’s time we did something about it. Now are you going to start paying attention? You have to be off tomorrow.”
“Me?” Juniper asked in surprise. “You’re not going to come with me?”
“Well I have… books to read and lessons to prepare. Besides, it’ll be a simple matter for you to find the center of the ghost phenomena with this.” Monroe climbed to his stubby legs and trotted over to June’s bookshelf, grabbing a green sphere the size of Juniper’s fist and bringing it back to her. June took it from him, looking into its swirling green depths curiously.
“What’s this?” She asked.
“A Spirit Orb.” Monroe replied intelligently. “It’s the main tool a Te Xuan Ze has against rogue spirits. It has the power to dispel them and send them on to the great beyond, where they can rest in piece.”
“So, what is the great beyond anyway? I’ve always been curious about that.” June asked.
“How should I know? It’s not like anyone’s ever gone and come back.” Monroe replied, though his tone was somewhat defensive. He interrupted her before she could ask any more questions. “I’ve already pinpointed a general location in the vicinity of a town on the West Coast.”
“I’m going halfway across the country alone?” Juniper asked, startled. “But what about my mom? She has to notice I’m gone. Not to mention my friends and teachers, I can’t just take off like that.” In truth, she didn’t really want to take off alone. Sure she liked being independent, but without even Monroe there how was she supposed to keep a cool head? She wasn’t that experienced as the Te Xuan Ze yet.
“Oh! Oh! I’ll chaperone!” A small black-haired form darted out from under her bed, latching onto her like a leech and clinging for dear life, staring up into her eyes. “Pleasepleasepleaseplease! I’ve always wanted to go there!”
“You don’t even know where we’re going yet.” Juniper pointed out drolly as her little brother, Ray-Ray, gave her the best puppy-dog eyes he could muster. Which weren’t bad she had to admit.
“Come on June, it’ll get me out of school with a GOOD excuse, what more reason do I need?” Ray-Ray pointed out.
“Aye, it’s difficult to argue with that logic.” Monroe quipped.
“Fine, but you have to come too Monroe.” Juniper stated. The little dog did a double-take, staring up at her incredulously. “Come on, I can’t be doing my Te Xuan Ze duties AND watching Ray-Ray at the same time. I need you to babysit when I get busy. I have my responsibilities and you have yours, which include protecting Ray-Ray.”
“I’m your teacher, not your babysitter.” Monroe pointed out.
“You’re also my dog, and dogs take care of their owners.” Juniper countered.
“Agh, I hate bein’ a pet. Why couldn’t I have been a lemur or something nobody relies on?” Monroe smirked slyly. June ignored that comment. “Fine, I’ll come along and watch yer brother.” Ray-Ray yipped happily and leapt on him, tackling him to the floor and squeezing his chubby body tightly. “Agh! Alright, lad, calm down! My bones aren’t as strong as yours, or as young. Eugh…” He pushed himself up to his feet and stretched with an audible cracking of several bones. “We leave in the mornin’, so both of you get a good night’s rest.”
“Yes sir.” Juniper saluted mockingly and quickly shoved Ray-Ray out of her room before he could complain, locking the door behind him. Now that she wouldn’t be alone, she was kind of excited about this. Orchid Bay was a nice place to live, but she’d always wanted to see more of the world. Now she had a chance without abandoning her responsibilities. This really could be fun.
Juniper Lee clung to the side of the carpet as it sailed through the air, its folds flapping in the wind as the ground passed by so far below them it looked like it was flat and featureless. “This is great!” Juniper exclaimed. “Monroe! Why didn’t you ever tell me we had a real flying carpet lying around the house?” She demanded. Ray-Ray leaned over the side of the carpet, staring at the ground until he began to tip a little too far.
“YAA-” Ray-Ray began to scream, but one of June’s arms shot out like a ship, grabbing the back of his pants to leave him dangling upside down over a thousand feet in the air. “Cooool! This is the best magical artifact ever!” He screamed. June yanked him back up and plopped him back down on the carpet. Behind him she could see Monroe giving her a droll smirk.
“Okay, point taken.” June huffed and turned to face forward again. She looked down curiously when a soft green light began to emanate from her pocket. “Huh?” She reached into it and pulled out the palm sized Spirit Orb Monroe had given her. Its green shine had grown brighter, glowing serenely from the palm of her hand. “What’s with this thing?”
“It must be detectin’ ghost energy.” Monroe replied, walking across the carpet to examine the orb closely. “We’re getting’ close to the center of the phenomena. I must say, it’s strange that so much ghost energy could suddenly appear without warnin’. We’ve always been lookin’ out for more ghosts, but none have been found since the great battle a thousand years ago.”
“Great battle?” Juniper asked curiously.
“The last time a ghost was seen was over a thousand years ago, when the Te Xuan Ze tried to strike at the last of them and wipe them out for good.” Monroe informed her.
“Wipe them out? That doesn’t make it sound like a very worthy cause.” June commented.
“Understand lass, that ghosts are manifestations of unfulfilled dreams. They wander forever futilely trying to accomplish what they couldn’t in life. The Te Xuan Ze gives them rest after this long journey.” Monroe told her wisely. “Which is what he was tryin’ to do, when one of the more powerful ghosts got hold of some very powerful magical artifacts, the Ring of Rage and the Crown of Fire.”
“They fought for days on end, but the power of the ghost, augmented by the two artifacts, was a match for the Te Xuan Ze’s most powerful magics. Finally one day the ghost retreated when the Te Xuan Ze was tryin’ to recover from the long battle. After that, no real ghosts have been seen until today. How there can be so many cropping up in a matter of weeks is a mystery we have to solve.”
“Yeah well, leave it to a couple of pesky kids and their talking dog to solve this mystery.” June quipped.
“There will never again be a talking dog that isn’t compared to that one.” Monroe grumped. “You know I’m older than him, by several hundred years.”
“Sure Scoob, sure.” June patted his head comfortingly with a mock-sad smile on her face. She covered her eyes when suddenly the orb between them flashed like a strobe light, its green energy pulsing outward in a strong wave before vanishing back into the dim glow it had before. “What was that?”
“So much ghost energy.” Monroe walked to the front of the carpet and looked across the field. They were coming up fast on a city with a large sign beside the quiet road going toward it that read ‘Welcome to Amity Park’. He looked back at the orb, which was now steadily glowing brighter and brighter the closer they got. “This place is teeming with it. How could we possibly miss this much buildup?”
“Hey, this is pretty cool.” Ray-Ray grabbed the glowing Spirit Orb and held it up. “It’s like a nuclear nightlight. Can I keep it?” June irritably snatched it away from him and stuffed it in her pocket again to drown out the blinding light.
The flying carpet arched downward toward the small city, landing on the outskirts so June, Monroe and Ray-Ray could climb off of it. Juniper approached the street and looked into the city for a moment before looking back at her companions. “Come on, we should try not to get separated. Wouldn’t want Ray-Ray to get lost… I think.” She smirked. Monroe cackled while Ray-Ray rolled his eyes and they both followed her further into the city.
It didn’t take long before she noticed the glow from her pocket turn deep crimson, shining right through the cloth of her blue jeans. “What does that mean?”
“There’s a ghost in close proximity.” Monroe stated. “I think it’s time to get to work.”
“Right. You two stay here. I’ll go have a look around.” June glanced around to make sure nobody would see, then pulled the orb out of her pocket and moved it around. It glowed brightest crimson when it was pointed toward a nearby alley, so she made her way over to it, moving inside slowly with one hand sliding across the wall. She moved back into a small opening between the buildings, looking around. “Hello?” She moved into the center of the alley, where the orb stopped glowing brighter.
She looked around suspiciously, then slowly raised the orb over her head. Power seeped from her arms into the orb, and a massive green flash lit the alley. Surprised screams split the air as four forms materialized around her, each looking like something escaped from the circus, where green-skinned freaks were the norm. June lowered the orb and turned to face the one in the red cloak.
“I don’t want to hurt you, I just want to help you.” June raised the orb cupped in both hands. “Don’t worry, I’ll put an end to your pain.” The freak opened her eyes, which glowed blood red underneath the shadow of her hood. “Just don’t inflict any pain on ME, alright? WHOA!” June yelped in surprise as an arm stretched across the alley from another direction, slamming into her face and knocking her to the side while the orb flew from her hands.
She stumbled back, but her foot was knocked out from under her by a small midget rolling underneath her, sending her tumbling to her back. She yelled in surprise as a massive hulking ghost leapt over the serpent-like one, flying through the air with its fist held high over its head. It came down with all of its weight and strength, its fist driving downward and slamming into her cupped hands, halting against them.
“This is supposed to be a mission of mercy…” June grunted as she slowly climbed to her feet, pushing the massive fist back even as the strong ghost struggled to carry the punch through. “But it can be a hunt if you want it to be!” June shoved the fist aside and leapt forward in a rapid whirl. Her foot slammed into his chest, sending him hurtling back into a nearby building with the impact of a wrecking ball.
Instantly the others sprang into action, the one with the serpentine movements lurching at her with an enraged howl. June whirled and caught one whip-like arm, flinging her to the side to send her sailing into the strongman, but the midget slammed into her back like a bowling ball and bounced off, sailing over her head while she fell to her knees. The red-cloaked ghost pulled its cloak back, revealing a body heavily covered with various mystical tattoos.
June rose to her feet quickly as the tattoos split from the ghost’s body, swarming toward her like a hive of bees. They slammed into her from every direction, knocking her around the back alley and up against a wall. She tried to fight back, but they were way too fast to pin down, and there were a dozen more attacking her from all sides at any given time. June shoved off of the wall and looked around for the Spirit Orb, which was lying against the wall where it’d been knocked out of her hands.
She dove for them, but couldn’t keep an eye on all of the ghosts. One massive fist slammed into her side, slamming her into one of the brick alley walls hard enough to put a solid indent in it the shape of her body. June groaned, but another fist slammed into her face, knocking her through the wall in a shower of rubble. She fell into what looked like an empty hotel room, falling to the floor in a shower of bricks and rubble.
“Gugh… okay…” June panted and pulled herself up to a sitting position as the ghost freaks began to converge on her, each looking pissed off. “One against four… not good odds… no matter what powers you have…” She scooted back away from them as they converged. The strong man cracked his knuckles threateningly. “This is all a misunderstanding really… I’m not here to hurt you… I’m here to release you from your eternal wandering…” June pleaded.
“How sweet.” The red-hooded freak said in a dark hiss. “Then maybe we should return the favor by freeing you from the pain of your flesh.” She opened her cloak, as the Strong Man stepped forward, the midget riding on his shoulders while the serpent-lady pulled her hands into a pair of razor sharp blades.
“Get back!” A voice shouted suddenly as another form streaked out from behind her, a black and white streak that slammed into the four ghosts, taking them by surprise and knocking them back out into the alley. Juniper blinked in surprise and climbed to her feet, watching him land on the floor. He looked like a boy barely older than her, but there was something strangely unnatural about him, though she couldn’t see his face.
Juniper watched the boy curiously. She couldn’t hear what they were saying in the alley, but she could heart he red-cloaked ghost speaking in a violently harsh tone. Juniper hesitated a moment, then decided she didn’t want him to have to fight her battle for her. She moved toward the hole in the wall, sliding up beside him to see the red-cloaked ghost ready to attack.
It stopped when it saw June emerge from the hole in the wall, looking once again ready for battle. The ghost’s stance relaxed and she let the cloak fall about her shoulders again, obscuring her body from view. “Very well ghost-child, we’ll leave her to you. But we will not stand for another of these insults.”
Juniper watched them go suspiciously to make sure they really left. Suddenly she heard the boy beside her speak. “Okay, do you want to explain your side of what happened here?” He demanded with his arms crossed over his chest.
June looked at him incredulously. “What are you, my father?” She rolled her eyes and pushed past him to find her Spirit Orb. It was still in the corner where she’d dropped it, curiously still glowing bright crimson even though those other ghosts had left. She approached it and knelt in front of it, scooping it up in her palm. The only other person here was the boy, and the other ghost had called him ‘ghost-boy.’ After considering this a moment she stuffed the Spirit Orb into one pocket and stood up, turning back to him. “Look, I didn’t mean to be rude, but you don’t have to be so mean about this.” She told him.
“Hey, I don’t really like it when people pick fights with ghosts. It makes me have to fight and I’m not a violent person.” The boy replied. “What did you think you were doing?” His strangely glowing green eyes stared into hers, his hands resting on his hips like he would haul her off to jail if she gave him the wrong answer. June decided that being forthright might be best in this situation.
“You’re a ghost, aren’t you?” June asked.
The boy looked puzzled by the question. “Huh? Yeah, are you gonna pick a fight with me now?” He asked.
“No no.” Juniper said quickly. “I don’t want to fight… but what is it like?” She asked. The boy stared at her cluelessly. “Being a ghost, with nothing but hope for a future that will never come, an endless futile search. That can’t be a pleasant thing to go through.” The boy stared at her searchingly, his eyes narrowing. She refused to look away, staring back. “That’s why I’m here. I don’t want ghosts to have to search anymore. I want them to rest.”
The boy hesitated a moment, then turned away from her. “You don’t know anything about ghosts.” He said in a quick growl. “They’re a lot more than you think, a ghost isn’t mindless, they have lives, personalities. They’re people…”
“They’re people whose time has passed.” June told him softly, trying to get him to help her without being mean about it. He was just a ghost after all, he deserved her sympathy, not her anger. “They need to move on. Please, will you help me?”
“Forget it.” Suddenly the boy vanished from sight, and June looked down to see that the crimson glow was fading fast into the bright green that meant there were no longer any ghosts around. She sighed deeply, looking around the empty alley. This was going to be harder than she’d thought, these ghosts were pretty strong in numbers, and from what Monroe was saying, there had to be quite a few of them. She had to find a way to get them all at once.
Juniper turned to leave the alley, making her way back out to the sidewalk she entered from where Monroe and Ray-Ray were waiting. “That sounded like such a cool fight, why couldn’t you let go of my shorts so I could go see it?” Ray-Ray demanded, yelling down at the pudgy little dog.
“What, you think I like the taste of your behind? I would’ve rather leapt right into a dragon’s belly.” Monroe retorted before turning to his pupil. “Did ye find anythin’ important back there June?”
“I don’t really know. A couple of ghosts, about what I expected. And one that kind of gave me the creeps.” June shuddered.
“Well, come on, we have to keep lookin’.” Monroe stated. “If we can find the exact source of this outbreak, we can stop it all at once.”
“Okay, but next time I get to watch the big fight.” Ray-Ray pouted. “I didn’t come along on this stupid trip just to get bit on the butt.” He rubbed his behind and moved to follow June and Monroe as they made their way through the city. June got a few more glowing red signals on her Spirit Orb, but they disappeared as quickly as she found them. Apparently word was spreading to avoid her, and she couldn’t actually catch something that was invisible and on the lookout for her.
They spent move of the day wandering aimlessly until they were all moving like zombies down the sidewalk, occasionally catching a flash of red only to have it vanish a moment later. “This is booooring!” Ray-Ray complained loudly. “I thought this was a mission to find and defeat a bunch of evil people, not walk around all day! My feet are getting sore!”
“They’re not evil, they’re just lost.” June corrected him. “But yeah, I have to agree with you for once. And if we don’t wrap this up soon mom and dad will notice we’re gone and we’re going to get in so much trouble.” She looked around as the sky began to darken. “And now it’s almost nighttime, that’ll make looking for invisible people even easier.”
“We may have to spend the night here and face the music from your parents when we get this over with.” Monroe said. “We can’t just leave things the way they are now.”
June sighed. “Oh well, I’ll just tell them I spent the night at Ophelia’s or something.” She looked down at her brother. “And I can tell her we used you as a football.”
“Ha ha.” Ray-Ray rolled his eyes and turned to follow her as she made her way toward the nearest hotel. “If the hotel room doesn’t have cable I’m going to scream.”
They made their way into the hotel, where June paid for a single room and they found it up on the fourth floor. It was fairly roomy and had two beds, so they didn’t have to fight over it, though Monroe didn’t look too happy with the accommodations. June flew back onto the bed and put her hands behind her head while Monroe curled up on the pillow beside her head and Ray-Ray flipped on the TV, indeed letting out an ear-splitting screech when it got only local channels.
“Will you knock it off?” June threw a pillow at his head and he shut up, though he continued to grumble as he sat back to watch old Loony Tunes reruns. June leaned back again, staring at the ceiling.
“You alright, June?” Monroe asked softly.
“Monroe…” Juniper said softly, turning to look out the window above her head at the dimming evening sky as the last remnants of the sun began to vanish beyond the horizon. “Are you sure ghosts are just mindless memories? One of the ones I ran into earlier seemed so… alive. Are you sure they’re everything you say they are?”
“Aye. Ghosts are the ethereal manifestations of what they were when they were alive.” Monroe replied knowledgeably. “They seem alive because they act like they did at death, but they no longer grow or feel anything but unending sorrow. That’s why they become ghosts.”
“It doesn’t feel right though…” June trailed off for a moment, looking down at her shoes as she kicked her legs a bit. “The ones I ran into seemed pretty conscious, and that boy… talking to him was just like talking to a normal person. If he wasn’t glowing and flying around and vanishing, I never would’ve known he was a ghost. What if we’re wrong about them?” She looked over at her canine mentor. “What if they’re no different from us?”
“June, regardless of whatever reservations you may have, it is the sworn duty of the Te Xuan Ze to send the spirits on to the great beyond.” Monroe reminded her. “And when the time comes, you have to be ready to do it. No matter how lifelike the ghosts may seem. It is your duty, and it is what’s best.” Juniper looked down at him, then pursed her lips and nodded before looking back up at the moon now surrounded by gently glittering stars.
Soon she drifted off into a light sleep, the sound of the TV droning in on the background lost as her brother undoubtedly drifted off without bothering to turn it off, as he typically did when he could find an excuse to stay up past his curfew. She lay silent and still on the comfortable bed, her chest gently rising and falling with her every breath until she felt a light wind brush over her cheeks.
“Huh…?” Juniper opened one of her eyes groggily, looking up at the now-open window. She could see the boy from before perched comfortably on the windowsill, staring down at her with his eerie green eyes glowing in the dark night around him, his snow-white hair weaving in front of his face in the gentle breeze from the window. June sat up quickly in surprise, her eyes going wide. “You? What are you doing here?” She demanded.
“How do you know about the ghosts here?” The boy asked. His tone wasn’t demanding or pretentious, rather it sounded like a curious question. “What do you know about them?”
June looked down at Monroe, still sleeping beside her on the bed. She wished he would wake up and tell her how to handle this, but she decided that there was nothing wrong with honesty here. He seemed like a reasonable guy. She turned to look back up at him. “I know about them because it’s part of my mission here. I want to lay them to rest after their long journeys… I told you this before.”
“And who are you?” The boy asked. June stared up at him a moment, then steeled herself again.
“Juniper Lee… my friends call me June.” She told him. “And you are…?”
“Phantom.” The boy replied. “Danny Phantom.” Suddenly he held out his white-gloved hand to her. She recoiled a bit, looking down at his hand in surprise. “Come with me, and I can take you to where the ghosts hide.” June looked up at his face.
“You want to help me now? Why the change?” June asked.
“Because I think you may be right… they… we… need to rest.” He told her. His voice wavered uncomfortably as June stared at his preferred hand. She glanced down at Monroe again, knowing he would kill her if she just took off like this, especially with a boy she barely knew. But she would never be a good Te Xuan Ze if she always played it safe and stuck by him. So she took the kid’s hand and suddenly she felt herself yanked forward, phasing straight through the wall.
“Yaaargh!” June flailed with her free limbs, convinced for a moment that she was falling, but she stopped when she realized her body was now weightless, being pulled through the sky by the kid in the black and white suit, Danny Phantom. She settled down and looked down upon the town of Amity Park, seeing it pass by quickly underneath her. It looked beautiful in the pale moonlight, but she didn’t have time to enjoy the view. Danny was all business, yanking her suddenly down toward a peculiar building, but she didn’t have time to see exactly what it was.
They went straight through the ceiling without touching it, phasing several floors down until they reached a steel-coated basement, where the boy landed and set her down on the floor beside him.
“What is this place?” June asked breathily, looking around the lab. For some reason the very impersonal nature of it made her uncomfortable, and a small shiver ran down her spine. “It’s so… cold and metal.”
“Yeah well, it’s the best place to make something like this.” June watched as Danny approached a set of large steel doors set against one wall. As he approached the doors began to slide open, revealing a swirling vortex of pure green energy that shone from behind Danny’s body like an eclipse. June’s eyes went wide as she stared at the energy and moved to stand beside him.
She blinked in surprise when she realized there was another glow, this one coming from her pocket. She reached into it and pulled out the Spirit Orb, which flared to brilliant crimson life, easily drowning out the portal and forcing her to close her eyes and turn away lest she be blinded. “What is that?” Danny asked.
“It’s my Spirit Orb.” Juniper explained. “It detects ghosts and puts them to rest, but I didn’t know it could get like this. There has to be hundreds, maybe thousands of ghosts in there.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me.” Danny replied. “The Ghost Zone is where ghosts go. They used to all be trapped in there until my d… I mean… an inventor decided to build this portal and accidentally let them out.”
“Is that a fact…” June said softly, noting the strange shift mid-sentence. He must have been hiding something from her… but she wasn’t going to pry when he was in the middle of helping her. In a moment she stuffed the Spirit Orb in her pocket to dull the intense glow, finally allowing her to open her eyes fully without burning them. She recalled what Monroe told her yesterday about stopping this. “I think I have to get to the center of this Ghost Zone. From there I should be able to neutralize it and let all of the poor souls rest.”
The boy remained strangely silent, glancing at her, and then turning to stare into the swirling green vortex. “You okay?” June asked.
“I’m fine.” She gasped softly when Danny gripped her wrist tightly in one of his gloved hands. “Center of the Ghost Zone… where else would a king put his throne?” June didn’t have time to ask what he meant before he plunged forward into the vortex, yanking her in as well. She would have scolded him about yanking her along, but she found herself rendered speechless by the infinite void that opened before her, every sight shimmering with a ghostly haze among the multitude of doors that floated through the emptiness.
June barely had time to take it all in, looking about in awe as the strange empty universe passed by them. Danny seemed to know precisely where he wanted to go, weaving through the doors and the shimmering green clouds with practiced ease until she spied a land mass appearing in the distance, upon which stood a massive castle that must have dated back to the feudal era, if not well before.
Danny landed outside of the castle, setting June down beside him and releasing her hand, looking up at the castle. June stared up at it, then glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “You coming in?” She asked.
“No…” Danny said softly. “I don’t think I can. I need to go… do something.” With that Danny left her behind and turned to float away through the empty green space. June stared after him, wanting to call out. He’d seemed so distraught, like he was in utter turmoil over all of this. Well, she could release him from his pain once she reached the center of this castle.
She turned to head inside, shoving open the massive double-doors and entering like she owned the place. Up a set of winding stairs that almost seemed to shift among themselves, glowing with ethereal energy, tricking her eyes into thinking they were vanishing and reappearing. She steeled her resolved and continued up them, reaching a long corridor that seemed to stretch longer even than the castle was wide.
She began to walk, but no matter how far she went, the corridor seemed to stretch on and on. She glanced back, and saw that the corridor behind her stretched equally as far. “Hey now…” She took a few steps the way she came, and found that the illusion held. She broke into a sprint, but nothing changed. In both directions she could see the hallway continuing on and on forever.
“Okay, no big deal.” June reached into one of her pocket and pulled out a small ring, slipping it onto her finger. She closed her eyes, then opened them again, her vision blurring before flaring to life again, this time seeing a thick black void surrounding her. “What is with this place? It’s like somebody doesn’t want me to get in.” She said irritably.
“Such a quick mind you have.” A strong-sounding voice said out of the darkness. June whirled in the darkness, her fists clenched and at the ready. “But I suppose that’s why you’re the newest Te Xuan Ze.”
“You can’t stop me.” June said forcefully. “I’m going to get in there and put all of these poor souls to rest.”
“I don’t want to stop you.” The voice said without a trace of doubt or worry. “Merely stall so that you’re in the right place at the right time.”
“Show yourself or let me go!” Juniper demanded.
“Very well my dear, since you asked so very nicely.” Suddenly June blinked and found herself standing right in front of a pair of massive double doors. In fact, she was back outside the castle, with the swirling green vortex of the Ghost Zone at her back. She whirled and looked around, alert for the source of the voice from before, but there was nobody there.
“Weird… maybe I hit my head.” June rubbed her forehead confusedly and turned on the large double doors, shoving them open and walking through. It was just a small corridor through the castle before she reached another pair of double doors, behind which she saw a magnificent throne room. Behind the throne was perched a gigantic sarcophagus, leaning against the far wall behind a small pile of rubble.
June approached the center of the throne room, pulling the Spirit Orb out of her jeans pocket. It was glowing so brightly it was like a miniature sun burning with red-hot flames. “Guess this’ll do.” She raised the orb over her head, the light flashing even brighter. “Let these poor, wandering souls rest for-“