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1 The Ghost Lights

    The air was cool as night had fallen. Moonlight shone on the surface of the pond and grasses, creating ethereal glow. The Land of Ayla was beautiful at night, looking like a fantasy as what the travelers had always said whenever they reached the country.

    But, the tranquility didn't being enjoyed by Lucia. She looked outside the wooden carriage through a small window. Fear clawed her heart, suffocating her. She clenched her fists against her chest, muttering desperate prayers.

    The sound of hooves clopping on the uneven road sent additional tension to her heart. She was desperate to be saved but she knew she didn't have any way to escape.

    When the horse inevitably slowed down, she could hear a man barking to the poor animal before being followed by the sound of a whip. Lucia crawled and hid between the wooden boxes. She crouched down, trying not to cry.

    After some time, the horse finally stopped. Heavy footsteps was heard rounding the carriage. The door was yanked open. A familiar man was staring furiously at her, as if he wanted to choke her to death.

    "Come out! Hurry!"

    "No... I don't want to..." Lucia wailed. She knew what was waiting for her outside the carriage.

    "I don't have time to entertain your whine!"

    The man grabbed her small arms and pushed her out of the carriage. Lucia was almost fall to the ground due to his aggressive action. She looked up, her eyes widening in fear.

    An old mansion could be seen towering her little body. There was no light around the huge mansion, except for the moonlight. Vines climbed up the house, grabbing foothold on every space they could find. With the moon on the back of the mansion, the mansion looked like it was the entrance to the Underworld. Her mouth felt dry.

    "Come!"

    The man pulled her towards the huge gate. She tried to struggle against him but the man tightened his grip around her bony hands. In the end, he pushed her to the ground. She fall head first on the cobbled pathway, a groan escaped her lips.

    "Go! Don't you ever show your face in front of us again!"

    Without waiting any longer, the man ran to get to the carriage. He jumped and sat in the box. He didn't even turn back to look at the helpless little girl. Lucia started to beg but he didn't care, instead he whipped the horse to move from the place.

    "No! Don't leave me here!"

    Lucia stood and ran, she wanted to prevent the carriage from leaving but her small body couldn't catch up with an adult's' act. Before long, the carriage left the mansion. Lucia stopped in her tracks, her eyes staring at the carriage which gradually faded in the darkness.

    "Don't go!"

    Her wail echoed in the air. The night birds were chirping, as if to reassure her that she wasn't alone. As she knew there was no use of her wailing continuously, Lucia clenched her firsts. Her thought drifted back to the Mason Manor.

    She knew the hatred the Mason family had on her. Even though she was a small child but she could see the difference in how they treated her with the other maidservants.

    They would give her heavy works, usually done by the adults. They turned a blind eye whenever she was injured. When the other servants could get decent meals, their leftovers were her meal. While they slept in the comfort, she would spend the night in the dark stable, alongside their horses. She didn't know why, but the family really hate her.

    Not just them. Even the servants and villagers showed their obvious disgust to her. They said, she was a bringer of misfortunes. Everyone who dared to get close to her would fall into ruins.

    Lucia shivered as the temperature continued to drop. She only wore a thin dress. As she didn't want to stay rooted on the road, she turned around. The haunted mansion was right before her.

    This was the infamous haunted mansion which was located at the outskirts of the village. Nobody dared to come close to it. There were rumours that a witch used to live here and sometimes you could see ghost lights appeared in the forest behind the mansion.

    Nothing would happen... nothing would happen...

    As Lucia walked, she kept on praying. She wasn't afraid of the dark like most children as she used to sleep in the stable. The stable was located far from the main buildings and it was surrounded by tall bushes. However, she wasn't immune to the rumours.

    Lucia pushed the tall wrought iron gate. Once she stepped on the cobbled pavements inside, small blue lights suddenly appeared around her. She was taken aback but somehow she knew the lights won't harm her. They looked like fireflies in the summer. She laughed when one of the lights came in contact with her cheek, warming her body. Her fear dissipated.

    Then, the lights divided into two small groups. One group was heading to the mansion while the other went to her back, dancing around and bouncing on her, as if urging her to follow the first group.

    "Will-o'-the-wisps?" Lucia whispered in awe.

    She once heard about Will-o'-the-wisps when the older servants were storytelling the folklore to the children before they went to bed. She would hide between the boxes in order to avoid being caught. She was lucky she had grew accustomed with the secret passages of the manor.

    The ghost lights were rumoured to appear in front of the travelers in the forest, luring them to their doom.

    But she won't listen to the rumours. She would trust in her feelings. Somehow she always got benefits whenever she listened to her heart. Mustering up her courage, she followed the blue lights. Her walked turned to a run.

    Lucia didn't know that her fate changed once she decided to enter the mansion.
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