5 The Mysterious Man

    The villagers often said, once you entered the forest behind the haunted mansion, you would never find your way out ever again. They also said the mythical creatures from the folklore could be found deep in the forest. They called it The Forest of Wandering Soul as you would constantly wander around until you died out of exhaustion or depression.

    Lucia beg to differ.

    From the mansion's back gate, there was a small alley of bushes leading to the forest. The birds were chirping, taking a break on the branches under the sun. The rustling sound of the leaves when wind blew occasionally accompanied their little journey.

    Once they stepped inside the forest, Lucia was in awe. The forest looked serene, a stark contrast to the darkness one could see from the outside. Sunlight shone on the leaves, making them glimmered.

    "That's the pond." Keiran pointed out with a hand. Lucia landed her gaze to the direction. Her eyes widened.

    "Wow!" A huge smile broke on her face.

    "It's beautiful, right?" Keiran was overjoyed seeing Lucia's happy face. He knew that she was still sad with what happened to her last night so he brought her here to cheer her up.

    "The water is so clear!" Lucia ran towards the pond, earning a laugh from Keiran.

    White water lilies were floating on the surface. Lucia crouched down beside the banks, peering inside the crystal clear water. Little fishes were swimming leisurely, sometimes taking refuge under the pad of the water lilies.

    "I've never seen a pond like this! Even the ones at home were slightly murky." Lucia turned her head to Keiran who had already sat on the green grass.

    "Have you ever heard about The Enchanted Forest?" Keiran suddenly threw her a question. He leaned back while hooking his arms around his bent legs.

    "The Enchanted Forest?" Lucia tried to recall what she had heard before. Her eyes twinkled. "Do you mean the one where the faeries live?"

    Keiran nodded. "I have found some handwritten books about it in the library inside the house. It's said that..."

    "The Enchanted Forest is said located deep in The Forest of Wandering Soul, which is this very one. It's an another dimension compared to this realm. You could only count on your luck to find it. Or the purity of your heart."

    A voice cut Keiran off, startling both of them. He turned around, stretching out a hand to defend Lucia from whoever it was.

    "Who are you?" Keiran's eyes darkened, trying to find the source of the voice. "Show yourself!"

    "Sorry, sorry. I've startled you guys."

    A tall, lanky man appeared from behind a tree. He was wearing a battered traveling cloak. His hair was long, tied up into a ponytail. A lazy smile crossed his face.

    "I'm a traveler who only came back to my hometown. And I've grew accustomed with this land's rich folklore." He casually walked away from the tree. After a few steps, he plopped himself down on the soft grass.

    "How did you get in here? You know that this forest is said to be cursed, right?" Keiran assessed the man carefully. This was his first time seeing a human in this forest.

    "Obviously my feet brought me here. What are you trying to imply, boy?" The man yawned lazily. "I couldn't be a traveler if I could be scared away with some curses."

    "But you're the first traveler who dares to step inside this forest. And from what you've said, you're originally from this village, right?" Keiran refuted. He was still suspicious with the man's sudden appearance.

    "Too bad they didn't even have an ounce of my bravery. And the villagers are fools!" The man laughed.

    "Keiran..." Lucia called him out from his back. "I don't think that he's a bad person."

    "We should be careful, Lucia." Keiran whispered. His eyes didn't leave the man's body. "I've never seen another human boldly entered this place."

    Lucia looked at the man who was now lying on the grass. She couldn't explain but deep in her heart she knew that the man was harmless. He simply took a stroll in the forest.

    "You would keep hurting my heart if you'd continue going to be suspicious with me." The man said while staring to the clear blue sky. "Why don't you listen to the girl?"

    Keiran gritted his teeth. Suddenly he felt annoyed with the man's attitude when speaking to him.

    "And boy..." The man shot a look to him. "You're not a human, aren't you? Unlike the girl behind you."

    Keiran stiffened. His already pale face turned even paler. Lucia was also shocked. She stared at the man in disbelief.

    How did he know?

    "Don't look at me like that." The man frowned, as if he was the one being wronged. "In my journey, I've encountered different kinds of fae. It's not hard to define one when you have the experience. You're not an exception."

    Even though the man said that, but Keiran couldn't help but deepening his suspicions. Sensing the boy's angry stare, the man sighed.

    "You said you found out about The Enchanted Forest from books, right? It isn't a myth. The forest, I mean."
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