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2 The Encounter

    The wind suddenly turned harsh, making the tree branches clashing against each other. The rain started pouring without warning. Her thin dress couldn't help further warming her body. She tip toed on her feet, grabbing the metal handle of the large doors.

    "Argh!"

    The doors didn't budge, almost made her slipped on the floor. She heaved a sigh and tried again. The warm blue lights kept her company while she reattempted to open the doors. Alas, she succeeded. The doors creaked due to their rusted hinges.

    There was only darkness welcoming her inside. The moonlight was blocked by thick curtains. Lucia squinted her eyes, trying to see anything but she failed. When she looked around the huge hall, the corner of her eyes caught something. She could see a bright light!

    The Will-o'-the-wisps flew to the light source. However Lucia took cautious steps, afraid that something sinister would appear suddenly.

    After some time, Lucia let out a breath. She gathered her courage and ran to the light. Once she stepped into it, she realised that it was actually a drawing room.

    The blue lights of Will-o'-the-wisps faded gradually before vanished completely from her sight. It was as if their job was to guide her inside the room and left without a trace after it was accomplished.

    Lucia looked up. A chandelier was hanging on the ceiling. A movement from her right side startled her. She quickly turned to her right side. A figure of a boy stood in front of her. He looked almost her age, might be older by a year or two.

    "Who... who are you?" Lucia asked.

    "Are you being left here?" Her question was returned with another question.

    "How do you know?" Lucia knitted her eyebrows. Did he see what happened to her earlier?

    The boy smiled. "I just knew."

    Lucia kept quiet as she didn't know what else to say. This boy was unfamiliar to her. From what she remembered, there was no boy in her village that looked like him. It was like he had an inexplicable aura around him.

    Seeing the boy's calm face, Lucia felt like her heart got warmer in the midst of winter. He won't bring her any harm, she believed that even though this was their first encounter. Unlike the village boys who loved to bully her whenever they saw her. As expected, the adults didn't step in to defend her.

    "My name is Keiran Blake. Sorry for the late introduction." The boy offered her his name. A smile faintly ghosted on his face.

    Lucia returned him a smile of her own. She sized up the boy from head to toe. His hair, eyes and eyebrows were jet black, befitting his name. His pale skin was a stark contrast against his black clothes. He looked like a boy born in a noble family, much more noble than Mason family's sons.

    "You must be cold." Keiran walked to the couch and took a throw blanket. He wrapped it around Lucia's petite frame. "Warm up yourself. I'll go and get you a drink."

    Before Lucia could say anything, Keiran left the room. She noticed that the hall outside the drawing room was lit up, the darkness from earlier had long gone. She breathed in relief.

    "Keiran looks nice. The rumours of the haunted house must be false after all," she mumbled to herself.

    Lucia tightened the blanket around her body. She had already stopped shivering due to the cold air. She wandered around, taking in her surroundings.

    Even though the exterior of the mansion looked battered by the wind and rain, the interior exuded luxury and cleanliness. The maids must be working diligently in order to achieve this state.

    Maybe I should ask for a job here.

    After finished looking at the decorations, Lucia stood in a corner near the fireplace. Keiran arrived sometime later with a mug of warm water in his hands. He frowned when he saw her standing.

    "Why you didn't get a seat?" He placed the mug on the coffee table before he walked to where Lucia was standing. "Your feet have bruises. Sit down."

    "I don't want to dirty your couch." Lucia looked down at her mud stained dress. It got dirty when she was pushed to the ground.

    "I can't let my guest remained standing."

    Keiran took Lucia's hands and led her to a couch. After she properly sat, he handed her the mug.

    "Thank you." Lucia took a sip. She smiled as the warmth of the mug transferred to her cold fingers.

    "Sorry. I just have plain water. I added mint leaves in it."

    "This is more than enough for me." Lucia smiled in appreciation. She looked at Keiran beside her. "If not for you, I'm afraid I might be dying in the cold."

    "Don't say that." He didn't like how she could easily say something about her dying. "You could live here if you want. Or do you have some other place you want to go?"

    Lucia looked into the mug, seeing her own dejected face reflected on the surface. She didn't have any where else to call home. Mason Manor wasn't even her home to begin with. She never felt a sense of belonging when she thought of the manor.

    "This could be your new home." Keiran said gently, he kind of knew what had crossed her mind. "Besides, I live alone here."

    "What?" Lucia looked up, staring at Keiran with knitted brows. "Where are your parents? You must have a guardian or a servant with you, right?"

    "I have neither." Keiran's face was a calm as ever.

    "I don't believe you..."

    "I'm telling you the truth. Only I live here."

    Keiran looked down to the floor. Lucia followed his gaze. Her eyes widened in disbelief. He didn't have feet! From where there should be a pair of feet, there was a mass of a shadow.

    His feet was drowned in his shadow!

    "I don't have parents, Lucia." Keiran smiled sadly. He didn't dare to look at her in the eyes. "Because... I'm a Shadow."
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