Papyrus

The Dryad of Xyleen (Chapter 7)

In a New World

Lia woke up next to Laetitia and found her sleeping soundly. Her lips curled up to a smile. “She is still such a cute pixie”, Lia thought. She yawned and stretched, started to get down to find water to wash her face. After watching the sunrise, they came back to the villa as fast as they could and slipped into the attic.There they found an old wardrobe full of clothes. After trying out the dresses, both of them felt tired and fell asleep.

Lia straightened up her dress and got ready to go out. She had stepped out through the small window that they entered in the morning, just then Laetitia came in front of her.

  • ‘What are you doing?’ she looked concerned.
  • ‘Looking for a stream or a river to wash my face’, Lia said.
  • ‘Did you forget that it is still daylight?’
  • ‘Um… so?’ Lia tried to avoid looking into her eyes.
  • ‘So… you just can’t go out at the moment. Someone may see you.’
  • ‘Okay, Mom!’

The little pixie seemed satisfied with her answer. ‘So’, she seemed proud to be in charge of Lia, ‘you should avoid being seen by the humans for now.’

‘Yes, I know. Besides, I am wearing human clothes, remember? … So even if they see me, technically I should be fine.’ Lia said confidently.

‘Ah – huh. Of course you would be pretending as if you were a human, but I was just wondering – do you even know how to interact with them? I mean having a proper conversation?’

Lia nodded her head vigorously in reply.

‘Oh yeah! I forgot. Never mind that because that was a really long time ago.’

‘I believe I can.’ Her confidence surprised Laetitia, and she seemed to agree with her at this point because she dropped that topic.

‘Okay, I believe you. But first let’s get cleaned up and something to eat. I’m starving.’

Lia agreed and both got down from the attic with the help of a tree branch and got the other side of the wall. They went up to a nearby stream very cautiously, trying not to be seen by anyone. After washing up, they enjoyed the rest of the food sent by Lady Balanis. When their stomach got full,they realised that they slept the entire day, and it was nearly nightfall. They sneaked into the attic again and once they were all settled, Lia brought out the letter that Chief Yan wrote to her.

‘Laetitia, I know that a lot had happened since you came to Protos. You know a lot about this new world than I do. But I want to help out everyone. I don’t know how I am going to do that, but you can trust me.’ Lia said.

Laetitia nodded, and Lia continued, ‘Father has given me this letter and there is a seed inside the letter. I haven’t got the time to read it. I want you to read this as well.’

‘Thank you. Let’s read it together’, and they started reading the letter with the help of Lia’s illuminant.

“Dear Lia,

I hope that your journey was safe and you have reached to Laetitia safely. There are certain things that you need to know. However, I must warn you that the knowledge of the past is very dangerous. It may hurt you quite literally. The answers you seek will lead you towards a very dangerous path. You will come across to many faces; now some of them you need to trust, some will hurt you and stab you in the back, and some of them may seem unworthy of your trust but try to understand and put yourself in their shoes.

I apologize for not being able to be with you and helping out to your quest but my prayers will be with you all the time. You can only see the light with the help of the four elements. Try to send out messages now and then.

Be safe, my dear. You are the only daughter I have got left.

 

Love you, always.

Father”

 

‘What kind of vague letter is this?’ Lia got angry after reading it. ‘It was supposed to guide me. What kind of vague guidance is that?’ Her face got so red that even in the dim light it was clearly visible.

‘Lia, calm down! Not so loud! We are hiding, remember?’ Laetitia took the letter from her and read it again. ‘Maybe it is a coded message. He might have used some sort of code as a precaution.’

This seemed to calm Lia a bit down. She joined Laetitia in finding out that codes.

‘Wait… I don’t understand this one line though, because it doesn’t fit’, Lia said. ‘What does he mean by I would see light with the help of four elements?’

‘I guess that is the code’, Laetitia seemed satisfied and curious at the same time. ‘You are right though, what could it really mean?’

‘I honestly don’t know. You don’t think that he meant my illuminant, do you?’

“Honestly, I don’t know. Hopefully, we will figure it out. Right now we need to sleep and rest as you are going down to meet the human first thing tomorrow.’

‘How can I sleep now?’ Lia seemed quite agitated.

‘All right. I will help you to send a message to your parents. You can explain your concerns there.’

Laetitia took a petal that was falling right outside the window and asked Lia to summon her illuminant in the size of a firefly. While she was summoning her magic, Laetitia asked her to picture her message in her mind.

‘Now place the petal on your palm and ask it politely to carry your message to your parents.’

Lia did as she was instructed. She watched the petal rise up to join a bunch of petals in the air. Suddenly they rose higher in the air as if a gust of wind is pushing them upwards. Then they took off. It was a splendid thing to watch.

‘Now, let’s revise our plans one more time’, said Laetitia.

‘Okay. So, I will come in through the road as soon as we finish our breakfast. I will ask Sukie whether he remembers me. If anyone but him opens the door,I will ask for him. If he remembers me then I will explain the current situation and ask for his past memories, and exactly what had happened on that day when he visited Xyleen. Also I will ask for his assistance if it’s required. I am not supposed to reveal that I am a dryad in front of anyone but Sukie, and that includes you as well. Under any circumstances, I am not supposed to reveal you to the humans.’ She took a deep breath. ‘That was quite a long speech in one breath.’

‘I am completely satisfied. You are good to go. Just a reminder, I will be in these trees. But when you enter inside of the house, I will be watching you from the bonsai trees inside the house.’

‘Okay. I am really tired now. Can we please sleep?’

‘Yes, yes!’

While they were preparing to go to sleep, suddenly they heard excited voices coming from the house. Lia and Laetitia were so busy that they had not noticed a car had parked outside the villa and a young man in his mid-20s got out. When he entered the house, the ruckus began.

‘What is it? What happened?’ Lia said upon hearing the noise.

‘I don’t know. Seems like someone’s home. I will go down to see what is going on.’ Laetitia said. Lia nodded, then waited impatiently until her return.

After a while Laetitia came back excitedly.

‘Looks like the owner has come home, I mean Sukie. I could not get a better look though, but I heard what the butler said to the gardener. She said that master is back.’

‘That’s good news. But why they are acting in this way? Why is everybody on alert?’ asked Lia.

‘Maybe because he is the owner of this state. I heard that he is quite rich as well, that’s why they stay on high alert whenever he visits here. But you are right, I have never seen them acting in this way before. Something is not right. I thought he was already here. When did he leave?’ she replied but certainly looked perplexed.

‘He probably went out when we were sleeping and came back suddenly that’s why they were shouting because they were not prepared.’

‘Hmm… maybe. Well, let’s not waste our sleep. We shall sort out everything in the morning.’

‘Okay’.

Both went to sleep as they plan to wake up before the dawn breaks. They went up in the stream as they planned, finished their breakfast with the leftovers from Lady Balanis, and started to get ready. Laetitia helped Lia to get dressed in human clothes that she got from the wardrobe in the attic. After getting dressed both of them head off to the path which leads to the estate. Lia helped Laetitia to climb up the wall. She disappeared behind the wall of mosses. Lia started walking down the path, alone. While walking she noticed that the weather had drastically changed and started to become rough. Strong winds started to blow. She realized that a storm was coming. She tried to walk faster, but in her the long dress, it was quite difficult to pick up the pace. When she reached at the main gate of the villa, it had already began raining heavily. She rang the bell and the door opened automatically. By this time she was already drenched. The butler came out and looked at her as if she was amazed to see her.

‘What are you doing in this dreadful weather, dear?’ she shouted.

Lia almost ran towards her but to her utter astonishment the butler let her inside without questioning. Once they were inside, she locked the door behind her. She took a good look at her. Lia shivered.

‘Are you feeling alright, dear?’ The butler seemed genuinely concerned.

‘Oh, good afternoon. Yes, I am fine. It’s just the rain’, she shivered in cold.

‘Oh dear. First let’s get you warm up. Come now, this way.’

Lia followed her thinking that she was very kind to offer her comfort even though she was a complete stranger. The old lady led to her into a large living room and placed a stool in front of the fireplace and lit the fire.

‘Sit and warm up. Stay here, I’ll be right back’, she smiled at her gently and left.

Lia started to look around. The room was packed with modern furniture. Her eyes got fixed on one corner as they meet one nice looking bonsai on a side table, just beside the window. She noticed that the window was slightly open. Her heart leapt up with excitement the moment she saw the little pixie posing on the tree. The little one looked like a fancy little doll decoration beside the bonsai. ‘She really looks so cute’, thought Lia.

‘Psst’, Laetitia called her across the room. ‘Are you okay?’

‘Yeah, but bit nervous’, Lia whispered back.

‘You’ll be fine’.

‘I really hope so’, she murmured to herself.

‘Who are you talking to?’ The voice startled Lia. She looked back at the door and saw that a tall, dark haired handsome guy in his pyjamas was standing there looking at her with utter confusion in his eyes. Before she could answer, he spoke again.

‘No, forget that question. Who are you? What are you doing here? How did you get in?’

Lia opened her mouth to answer but got interrupted by the old lady.

‘Here you go, dear. A nice cup of herbal tea to get you all settled down.’

She handed her a hot cup of tea and then she turned to the young man who was giving her some serious look.

‘Oh, young master! I did not notice you were here.’

‘So, you know her then?’ he asked her.

‘No, of course!’

‘Then how did she get inside?’

‘Well, I let her in, young master’, she answered calmly.

‘Why?’ his face turned almost scarlet, showing obvious sign of anger.

‘Oh, it is an awful weather outside. The poor dear was drenched. So I offered her to come inside’, she said in a more soothing tone, not at all acknowledging his anger.

‘So? You would just let anybody in the house? What’s the matter with you, Halmoni?’ he burst out.

‘Young master, I understand your anger,but your grandfather told me that anyone is welcome at this house.’ His anger did not affect her at all.

‘Harabeoji said that? Huh! Are we opening a free service station? Or a free hotel? I can’t believe it! Everyone in this house is just mad!’

The old butler kept on ignoring his outburst. However he kept going on, letting his anger go.

‘Do you guys not care about my safety? Wait a minute. We still don’t know who she is. Are you a fan who has tracked me down?’

Lia was completely clueless on what he was blabbering about. She got really angry as the lady was really nice to her but he was treating her badly.

‘If you just SHUT UP for a MOMENT and let me explain myself before making up all of these assumptions! This old lady is really nice to me. So shut up and listen to what I have to say!’ She finished in one breath.

Her sudden outburst made him shut up and the old lady chuckle. Lia took a long breath and started talking.

‘I am Lia, and I have come a long way to meet with Sukie. I promised him that if I ever come to human… I mean here, I would come and see him. There’s an urgency, and I need to speak with him as soon as possible. I was going to wait for him outside until came out to meet but got all caught up with the weather. So I had no other option but to come in. And this lady was really nice to offer me to warm up and have a hot beverage. You are really mean!’

It seemed like the young man took her words into his ears because he did not utter one word. On the other hand, the old lady seemed very satisfied with her explanation.

‘I am just guessing here so help me out, dear. You see, master will not be here today. He went out earlier in the morning yesterday. He was supposed to return today but because of the weather his flight got cancelled. He will come tomorrow night. So…’, she paused trying to read the mood of the room. ‘So, I am guessing by the looks of you, you do not have a place to sleep for the night, is that correct?’

‘Uh – wha…?’ the young master seemed speechless.

‘Oh, thank you so much for asking. You are right. I don’t really have a place to stay’, Lia said with a big smile.

‘Then I will prepare a room for you. Please, wait here.’

She attempted to leave bit got interrupted by the young man.

‘Are you serious? You don’t even know her or her full name. And you’ve just offered her a room because Harabeoji said so? What are we? A charitable hotel?’ He seemed furious.

‘Now, now, young master. Check your temper. She is a guest in this house. Don’t be rude.’

She left the room without paying the slightest attention to the young master. He watched her leave the room with utter disbelief in his eyes. Then he turned towards Lia and said, ‘You may have fooled Halmoni, but I’m not fooled by your looks. You…’

‘So, you think I’m pretty’, Lia interrupted him.

‘No!’ He strongly protested.

‘Oh, thank you’, she gave him a breath-taking smile.

That made him speechless. He looked as if he was struck by a thunder, seemed to be struggling to find his words.

‘You… you…’

‘I’m w-ha-t?’

‘I’ll keep an eye on you. You seemed to be a fake!’ he moved closer to her.

‘I’m not fake! You can touch me, see!’

She reached out and grabbed his hand. He shook off her hands in such a way as if he had accidently touched by a disgusting insect.

‘Don’t touch me! I know you are lying.’

‘I’m really not’.

‘See, I know your type’.

‘My type? What’s a type?’

‘Your type is to act all innocent and smart, getting close to my family and friends to getting close to me. And then BAM! Before you know it you try to have a go on me!’

‘Honestly, I really have no idea what you are talking about’.

“Oh really! So you are not my fan’, he said sarcastically.

‘I don’t know what a fan is, but I’m pretty sure that I am not’.

‘So you didn’t come to meet me?’ he raised an eyebrow.

‘No’, she answered bluntly.

‘Uh-huh. So, you didn’t want to see me?’

‘Of course not. I don’t even know who you are!’

‘Hmm. See, that’s funny because I clearly remember you mentioning my name’, he chuckled sarcastically.

‘Honestly, what is wrong with you? I told you that I don’t know who you are. I came here to see Sukie, and you are definitely not him.’

“Funny thing is, you are saying my name but pretending not to know me. Brilliant!’

‘You are not Sukie. I can recognise him anytime, anywhere, and any age. I know him. We share a bond, a promise. So I can recognise him straight away. You are certainly not him.’

‘Wow! Are you playing dumb now? Because if you do…’ he got interrupted by the old butler as she returned in the living room.

‘Young lady, your room is ready. Follow me.’

‘Halmoni! You are just ignoring my concern!’ he crossed his hand and went to sit in the sofa across the room angrily.

‘I will let you know when the lunch is ready, young master.’ She bowed to him slightly and nodded her head indicating Lia to follow her.

Lia followed the lady with a big winning smile on her face. The young man seemed frustrated. ‘What is the matter with him?’ she thought. She followed her quietly to upstairs to the right wing. They walked until the very end of the corridor. She stopped in front of the last door and opened it. Both entered the room. The room was quite big with a lovely double bed, a bedside table, a nice lamp, and a bonsai beside it. At the other side of the room, there was a big sliding door which seemed like a wall-wardrobe. In summary, the room was cosy. While Lia was busy looking around, the old lady opened the wardrobe and said, ‘there are some clothes inside it for you to wear. Freshen up and I will call you when the lunch is ready. Oh, and the bathroom is just the opposite door in the corridor.’

‘Thank you so much for your kindness’.

‘I will leave you be.’ She smiled and closed the door behind her.

Lia opened the wardrobe excited to try new clothes.

‘Well, someone looks very excited’, said a small sweet voice.

‘How did you get in?’ Lia asked Laetitia.

“Well, I have my ways around in this house.’ She chuckled. ‘Try out, those looks nice’, she pointed towards some of the clothes.

The girls enjoyed chatting and trying out outfits and Lia promised Laetitia that she would try to make some outfits for her. Lia changed into some comfortable pyjamas and went to wash her face. She put the wet clothes in the bathroom to dry. Time flew, and she was called to have lunch downstairs. She came down to find that the young master would not join her. Apparently he refused to have lunch with a stranger. Lia was hurt after hearing that from the old lady. When the food was served, she forgot everything. She had never had human-made cooked meals before, and had no idea how to use chopsticks. To be honest, she was looking forward to have some fresh fruits so that she could smuggle some of them to her room to Laetitia. Now looking at the food made her both excited and sad at the same time. As if the old lady understood what was on her mind, she showed her how to use chopsticks. Lia got frustrated with the chopsticks but liked the spoon. She shed tears as this was her first time trying spicy food. However she enjoyed the food. She returned to her room with a full stomach. Laetitia was lying on the tree branch from the bonsai.

‘Did you enjoy the food?’ she asked.

‘Yes, I did. It was delicious and spicy. I cried too. But I’m sorry, I couldn’t find any fruit to carry it with me for you.’

‘It’s alright. I will find something to eat. You don’t have to worry about me.’ She assured her.

They started to talk and giggle most of the times. All of a sudden the door swung open and the young man came inside.

‘I know that you were planning something. Who are you talking to? I heard you giggling and talking to somebody. Where is your phone?’ he started looking around without her permission. He missed looking at Laetitia who almost froze in the branch.

‘What are you doing in my room? Did you eavesdrop? Hey!’ she caught him tightly.

‘What were you planning? And who was that you were talking with?’ His eyes were still searching for someone or something hidden in the room. Ironically he missed the pixie hidden as a decorated doll in the room.

‘That is none of your business. Do you always behave like this with women? Don’t you know how to knock? And why were you listening to our conversation?’

‘Aha! So there is someone you talked with. Who is he? Or is it a she? Where is she? What’s your plan?’

‘SHUT UP! I was talking to a friend and what I said to you was the truth. I am really waiting here to meet Sukie. Why is it so hard for you to believe?’ she started to get angry.

‘Believe you? Are you crazy or something? A woman came out of nowhere, no real name, and in those clothes, hanbok! Who are you trying to fool? I’m not buying that!’

‘And I’m not selling! Wait… what’s wrong with my clothes?’

‘It is weird to wear a hanbok unless it is a special occasion. Your ones looked pretty old-fashioned. Why am I explaining to you?’

‘For me it is indeed a special occasion. Why, do I not look alright with that?’

The question definitely had him taken aback.

‘I guess you looked okay’, he blushed. ‘But something just not right.’ He tried to hide his embarrassment.

‘Why is your face changing colour like a chameleon?’ she asked.

‘It’s too hot in this room’, he starting fanning himself with his hands.

‘But honestly, I was not lying about anything’.

She sat down on the bed, already gave up the argument.

‘Then tell me the truth’, he asked softly, but strongly.

‘I told you already. I’m Lia and I’m here to meet Sukie.’

‘Lia what?’

‘Just Lia.’

‘No surname?’

‘What’s that?’ she looked confused.

He opened his mouth but got interrupted by the old lady. She was standing at the door with a tray of fruit bowl and tea on her hands.

‘Young master, I believe that it is pretty rude to be staying here inside of our guest’s room. She needs to rest. You can talk to her over dinner.’ She put down the tray on the bedside table and glanced over the bonsai where Laetitia was pretending to be a statue. Lia noticed her glancing over the bonsai. She quickly turned everyone’s attention towards her.

‘Yum…! Thank you for bringing me fruits and tea, Halmoni.’ Lia smiled. ‘And yes, I will talk more once I have some rest. See you at dinner. Thank you all for coming.’ She almost pushed him out of the room.

‘This isn’t over!’ he left, fuming.

‘Don’t mind the young master. He has been spoiled. Have some rest, dear. I will call you once the dinner is ready.’ She bowed and left.

‘Ah! My heart just came up to my throat’, Lia said right after she closed the door. ‘I thought she would pick you up.’ She threw her body on the bed. She sank in to the softness of the bed.

‘I thought I was a goner!’ said Laetitia with a sigh of relief. ‘Anyway, food!’ she dived to the fruit bowl and started to eat.

In the meantime, Lia went through with the plans with her once again. Lia dozed off while chitchatting with her. She also curled up on the extra pillow beside Lia and used a handkerchief as a blanket and fell asleep immediately.

Both of them suddenly jumped up wide awake at the sound of the knocking on the door. It was the old lady.

‘Dear, it’s dinner time. Come downstairs’.

Both yawned, Lia had a nice rest. Lia looked over to the little pixie who was really annoyed as she was having nice dreams. She smiled and greeted her. Laetitia could not stop yawning. Lia climbed out of the bed and said, ‘I am going to wash up first and then head downstairs. Will you be ok?’

She nodded in return and said, ‘leftover fruits.’ She was too lazy to speak.

Lia went to the bathroom and freshened up. When she went downstairs, she found the young master was already at the table having dinner. He noticed her entering the room but chose to ignore her. Lia greeted him in a polite voice and sat down on the opposite chair facing him. She decided to ignore him as well and focused on eating her food. She picked up the spoon and started eating. As soon as she started eating tears rolled down from her eyes. The young master looked at her hearing her crying.

‘Are you ok?’ a genuine concern in his voice.

‘A-huh!’ she said while trying to wipe her tears. ‘It’s too spicy. I never had anything like this before. It’s delicious but … spicy.’

The young man was taken aback. He paid a close attention to her. Her face is quite different. ‘She is certainly not Asian. Is she Western? No… she is really different’, he thought. ‘Why haven’t I noticed it earlier? She speaks fluently but definitely she is not Korean. But the dress she was wearing… everything about her is really weird. She is not using chopsticks as well. Who is she?’ he wondered.

‘What?’ Lia noticed that he was staring at her for quite a long time. ‘Is there something on my face?’ she asked.

‘Nothing… I was just wondering why you are using spoon instead of chopsticks.’

‘Oh, uh… I can’t use these. Halmoni showed me how to use them, but it’s too hard. But it’s really easy to use this one.’

‘You mean – spoon?’

‘Spoon. So that’s how you call it’.

Her remark left him perplexed. He had no idea how to react to her comment. He just stared at her.

‘Well, thank you so much for the food’, she thanked the old lady who had just entered into the dining room with a tray full of fruits and herbal tea.

‘Did you enjoy the food?’ she asked her.

‘Oh, yes. The food was delicious. Can I please take the fruit bowl to the room?’

‘Why, of course.’

‘Thank you.’ She got up excitedly and took the bowl up to her room.

‘What a lovely girl!’ she said looking at her leaving the room.

‘What a weirdo!’ he got up and went upstairs.

The old lady smiled in return.

Lia took the bowl and gave it to Laetitia who looked quite alert and happy to see more food. They chat up the rest of the night and went to sleep. Next morning both of them got up early as they had quite a nice rest. Lia washed herself before heading downstairs for breakfast.

The young man had already finished his breakfast and ignored her.

‘Well, someone’s not is chatty mood today’, she murmured.

‘What did you say?’ he snapped.

‘Nothing, just enjoying my food.’ She smiled.

He just glared at her and went upstairs.

‘Clearly someone just got out the wrong side of the bed.’ She concentrated on her food.

The old butler joined her and had a nice refreshing chat with her. After breakfast she took her to the garden and served her refreshing lemon tea. She enjoyed and chatted away. The young master had kept his eyes on her the whole time but kept his distance from her. As the day went by he got a slight assurance that she was not a crazy fan of his. It seemed like he really accepted the fact that she was a foreigner who wanted to meet his grandfather.

In the evening the old lady informed her that Sukie would arrive soon. The news definitely got both Lia and Laetitia excited. Lia changed her clothes to Hanbok that is now dry. She dressed up and came down waiting in the living room impatiently. Laetitia even had come with her, hiding in the bonsai tree. After a while, they saw the old lady went to open the door. Lia could hear a car engine stopped and some people had arrived. She saw from the window the three people got out of the car and entered the house, one old man accompanied by two young men. While passing the living room’s door, the old man glanced at Lia’s direction and their eyes met. There was a spark of happiness in both their eyes.

‘You have grown so much. You look beautiful’. He came near her and took her hands.

‘You’ve grown too’. Lia said with a gorgeous smile.

‘Yes’, he smiled. ‘I’ve got grey hair but… you look lovely.’

‘So, you do know her?’ nobody noticed when the young master had entered the room.

‘Yes, her name is Lia. We have met a very long time ago, at the fountain.’ He did not even once look away from her.

‘Wait… are you talking about the fountain lady? The one you always talkedabout when I was little?’ Grandpa Sukie nodded.

‘No way! She would have been an old lady by now! She looks so young, like my age maybe.’

‘I am old but you don’t need to know that. Sukie, can we talk in private, please?’ she asked.

‘Yes, of course. But first l want to fresh up and we can eat together and talk?’

‘Sounds good.’

‘Alright then. Yeon-Seo, please set up the dinner in her room.’ Sukie told the old lady.

‘I will do that, sir’, she gently bowed and left the room.

‘See you then’, he smiled at her and then left with the young men.

‘I guess someone owes me an apology’, Lia turned towards the young master.

‘I am not apologising to you.’ He sounded arrogant.

‘Why not?’

‘Because you were saying my name. So, not my fault.’

‘I said Sukie, not your name.’

‘Well, my name’s Sukie, Jang Geun-Suk. Everyone calls me Sukie. I mean my fans do.’

‘Funny thing is I just got your name now. I have no clue what you were talking about. I am here to see your grandfather and it is pretty important. So, I will leave now’, she went to her room leaving him completely baffled.

She almost rushed to her room, too excited to talk to Laetitia. Laetitia was already waiting impatiently at the room. She had left the living room as soon as Sukie had left. Both started to wait for him excitedly. After ten minutes, they heard a knock on the door. Lia answered the door and opened up to find that the old lady brought food and a small table to set up at her room. She set up the small table and put down the food trays on to it. The moment she left, Sukie entered. They both sat down to have dinner. Laetitia hesitated to join them but when she saw that he was looking at her and he smiled, she came down to join the dinner table. They started eating and Lia told everything after he left Xyleen. He eagerly listened to every word.

‘Hmm… sounds really critical and complicated. Well I can certainly tell you what happened on that day. As you see, this entire area is my property which I inherited from my father. We used to come and spend summer vacation in this villa every year. On that year, I decided to look around the property with my father. While I was with him, I got lost. I was wondering and looking for a way to go back when I saw a man was lurking behind the shadows. And I ended up following him. He led me to the fountain and did something in front of it.’

‘What did he do?’ Lia asked.

‘I don’t know. All I could see was a bright green light and then he vanished.’

Laetitia and Lia exchanged a look.

‘So out of obvious curiosity, I went in front of the fountain and leaned. The next thing I know I was inside of that cave.’ Sukie continued.

‘What happened after you came back?’ Lia asked.

‘Well, when I came back I was so baffled and excited that I had forgotten about that man completely. I was escorted by her to my house safely’, he pointed at Laetitia. ‘My parents were really worried that they called the local police and were ready to launch a search party. But before that I reached home safely. However I was shocked to see her stay behind. I thought she would go back but instead she stayed.’

‘So, you knew about me?’ Laetitia asked.

But he could not hear her words except the ringing tone, as if she was ringing a bell instead of talking.

‘What did she say?’ he asked Lia.

‘I forgot that you can’t hear her. She asked that you knew about her all this time’, said Lia.

‘Yes. It’s really strange though. I swear that I have understood her words before but not anymore.’ He looked at her.

‘Pixie dust’, Laetitia sighed as she sat down on the table.

‘It’s the pixie dust. Because of it you could understand her. But now, she is out of it.’ Lia explained.

‘Can’t she get anymore? Can I help to get you some?’

‘Thank you, but you won’t find it here.’ Laetitia said with a heavy tone.

‘Yes, thanks for the offer but you won’t find it in Protos, I mean in here. It only grows on a very special tree in Xyleen’, said Lia.

‘Sorry to hear that. Then I believe that I have done a great job in instructing everyone in the household to take care of every living being. Beside me, Yeon-Seo and Chang-Min know about you’, he said calmly.

‘Who’s that?’ Lia asked.

‘No, scratch that. What does he mean by they knew?’ Laetitia looked alarmed.

Before Lia could explain, he started to talk, ‘Oh, Yeon-Seo is the old lady, the butler, who brings you food. Chang-Min is my gardener. They are really nice people.’

‘But if they knew about me then why did they pretend not to know or even notice me?’ asked Laetitia and Lia passed the question on to him.

‘Because I have said so.’

‘Makes sense.’

‘So what should we do now?’ asked Laetitia.

‘It seems like Gus sent his minion to lead you to our world to make a ruckus. If I am not wrong, he tried to claim it was the doing of the royal family but failed. So far he only managed to kill my sister. And he had been plotting ever since. Nobody goes near that portal anymore, I even have not dared to look at that way, even though I went close enough, because of her tomb. I guess he had been patiently waiting for something to happen. When I went near the portal that day, he jumped out to that opportunity but failed again. Interestingly enough he did leave my birthday celebration party in a rush. I don’t know why though. What I can do is update my parents and seek advice from them. Until then I believe that it’s safe for us to stay here,’ Lia explained.

‘I am happy to provide you food and shelter. I would very much like you to live here too. But you need to act as a human. You have done pretty well so far I have seen.I can teach you other stuff as well’, he said excitedly.

‘Great.’

They all went out in the garden and Lia used her illuminant to send a message to her parents. When they returned in the living room they found the young master waiting with a weird look on his face. Laetitia quickly dived and jumped from Lia’s shoulder and cautiously went to the bonsai to hide and listen to their conversation.

‘Harabeoji, what’s going on?’ Geun-Suk asked.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Who is this weird woman? And what’s with the strange light in the garden?’ he asked strongly.

‘Well, I said to him that she was lighting a candle,’ Yeon-Seo interrupted him while entering in the living room with a tray of herbal tea.

‘Oh yeah, a candle? Then where is the candle? Why the petals flying in the air? What’s going on?’

‘Please, don’t! He wouldn’t understand!’ Lia stopped Sukie from telling as she saw that he was about to tell him something.

‘Are you seriously going to listen to her instead of your own grandson?’ He looked surprised.

Sukie sighed and said, ‘I have my reasons just like you have yours for being an actor.’

‘What’s it has to do with this one?’

‘Nothing. Just mind your own business’, he sounded annoyed.

‘Harabeoji, I can’t because it involves you.’

‘Right!  You refused to do anything with the family business and became an actor. And now all of a sudden you are concerned? You came here to get away from your hectic life. Just do that! You don’t need to worry about your old grandfather!’ he snapped.

‘You know that I hate arguing with you. This is what mother would have wanted.’

‘And your father would have wanted to take over the business and relive this old man from his duties!’ He was angry and frustrated.

‘You can’t just use that every time we argue’, his voice shook.

‘Just go and mind your own business. Leave me alone. I have work to do.’ He turned his back on him.

Geun-Suk seemed hurt but did not utter another word and left the room. Sukie sat down on the sofa. Lia sat beside him and said, ‘What happened to his parents?’

‘They died in an accident. I was meant to be there but I had to go away because of an important meeting. Both of them died!’ he broke off, tears build up in both the corners.

‘I’m sorry’, that’s all she could bring herself to say to him. She felt his pain and knew no words could console this pain. They sat in silence for minutes until Laetitia climbed up on Lia’s lap.

‘I’m so sorry but I have to interrupt. Chief Yan had sent a reply. You need to see this’, she said.

Lia explained to Sukie what she said to her. He wiped his tears and nodded to let them know that he was alright.

‘Okay, here is the message’, she handed Lia a flower petal.

She took the petal and produced her illuminant. The petal flew in the air and formed a shape joining with other petals that came from the open window. The shape transformed into Chief Yan’s shape. Once it finished forming the shape it began to speak in Chief Yan’s voice.

‘Lia, I am really happy that you are safe and sound. If what you have said is true then we are really facing a great danger in the future. I have found out why he left your birthday party so early. He went to the mortal realm. He is still there as per my informant. He is spewing something with the humans. Another bad news is his followers are growing in number as we speak. I believe that he is trying to gain control of both realms. If he does, he will only bring destruction and will be unstoppable. He needs to be stopped. Grow the plant and find the Witch of the West. Our past is not what it seems. Everyone has secrets and I am sorry. I need to go. Remember four important elements, you will be needing their help. Look for two clever spirits that guards the seed of night. You will be tested and tempted. So be careful. And remember that we love you no matter what.’

‘Another coded message! What do you think he meant by these?’ Lia asked.

‘Hmm… situation seems critical.’ Laetitia looked worried.

‘Will you please tell me what that figure said because I did not understand a word? It seemed like a different language’, he said.

‘Oh sorry, I forgot that humans can’t understand us.’ She explained what Chief Yan’s message was about. ‘I get the four elements. It may have something to do with the four spirits as well. However, I don’t get the two clever ones’, she added.

‘I can’t think of any ones that I know. Most of the clever ones have two sides, mischievous and clever. All of those clever ones are both known as good and evil. They only work for their own benefit. So, can’t really think of a certain one’, Sukie said with a frown on his forehead.

‘It could be Gumiho and Dokkhaebi.’

No one noticed how long Geun-Suk had been in the room standing right behind the sofa, hearing their entire conversation. He had come back to apologise when he saw something strange going on. He remained silent and watched with an open mouth. It was a lot for him to take in when he saw his grandfather was in ease with the surprising nature of this young woman. His grandfather did not even flinch with the flowing formation of a shape talking in some unknown language. Then he remembered the story his grandfather used to tell him when he was a child, an enchanted forest he had seen. Somehow it all makes sense now. ‘That story was actually true’, he thought. Thus he remained quiet but with all the excitement he opened his mouth forgetting that he did not announce his presence in the room. As soon as they heard him, everyone panicked. Laetitia tried to jump off from Lia’s shoulder to the ground to hide.

‘Little fairy, you don’t need to do that. I have seen you already’, he said calmly.

‘I am not a fairy, I am a Pixie!’ Laetitia shouted at him, but all he could hear was the angry sounds of a ringing bell.

‘What did she say?’ He asked Lia.

‘She’s a pixie, not a fairy.’

‘Oh’, he nodded.

‘Look, you…’, Lia sighed ‘please just don’t tell anyone about us’. She looked concerned.

‘Relax! Thank God that I am rich. Otherwise I would have been famous by showing you to the world’. He chuckled.

‘Jang Geun-Suk!’ Sukie roared.

‘Relax, Harabeoji! I’m just joking. But I am curious about everything. So, what are you?’ He asked.

‘I’m a … dryad’, she hesitated in answering his question.

‘So, the tree people, who can turn yourselves into trees!’ Lia nodded in reply. ‘Cool! Okay, I have decided to help you.’

‘No, thank you. I don’t really trust you’, Lia was very quick in letting her opinion known to him straight to his face.

‘Ouch, that hurt’ he mocked of getting hurt by her remark.

‘Actually, I think it would be a great idea! He can accompany you to your journey, and I hope he learns a lesson or two.’ Sukie told her with great hope in his eyes. The young master was shocked to hear that coming from his grandfather who refused to be in his side for a long time.

‘I don’t know…’ she seemed confused.

‘Lia’, he took her hands, ‘I am old now. I don’t really have the strength to go on an adventure with you even though I really wished that I could. You’re too late I’m afraid. But he is young and can help you out in this human world. He will protect you and if he fails I will disown him.’

‘Harabeoji!’ he shouted in protest. No one paid attention to his resistance.

‘So… what do you say?’ he asked.

Lia and Laetitia exchanged a long look and at last she gave in.

‘Alright, deal.’

‘Deal’, Geun-Suk held out his hand for a handshake. Lia was surprised as she had no idea what to do with this and looked at Sukie for help.

‘You need to shake his hand. This is how humans seal a deal’. Sukie explained. Lia nodded and shook the young master’s hand.

‘Good. Now ask him what did he mean by those two spirits?’ Laetitia said to her.

‘Oh, yes! Why did you think that those two spirits would be perfect?’ She asked him. ‘There are like thousands of spirits in the world. Why those two?’

“Because that message said two clever spirits’, he answered.

‘So what? There are tons of clever ones out there who might be those two as well.’

“But they are tricksters. I don’t see them as guardian spirits’, said Sukie.

‘Yes, but then again the message said she will be tested. Also I believe that the reason why she was here has something to do with the spirits that resides in this region, don’t you think?’ Nobody said anything so he continued, ‘Yes, they are tricksters but they kind of fit the category of testing her rather than the others’. He explained.

‘Okay, then. Where can we find them?’ Lia asked.

‘I don’t think you can find one. Usually they find people’, Sukie looked quite troubled.

‘Well, I know a water spirit. I can ask for his assistance’, said Laetitia.

“Good, that’s settled then. She knows a water spirit in this area. We will leave in the morning to look for him.’

‘I will go with you then’, Geun-Suk said to Lia.

‘Are you sure? Will you be able to survive with just bare minimum?’ she asked.

‘You have no idea! I am heading to bed early. Goodnight, Harabeoji.’ He did not wait for any reply and rushed to his room in upstairs.

‘I haven’t seen him excited like this for a while. Thank you so much for taking him. You should rest as well. I will arrange transportation in the morning to assist you.’

They said goodnight to each other. Lia sent another message to her parents explaining everything and her future journey. Both of them packed their belongings and dozed off as soon as their body hit the bed. They woke up early in the morning. When they came downstairs, Yeon-Seo was already waiting with breakfast and packed food for the journey. Laetitia was feeling a bit uneasy as too many humans had seen her. To her relief, the old lady did not even stare at her. She had even set up a mini doll’s cutleries for her to use. She was really pleased. When they sat down to eat, Sukie and Geun-Suk joined. The old lady asked them to take the food boxes with them for their journey. On the table they talked about possible routes to go and find the water spirit. Even though he was an actor, Geun-Suk seemed to know a lot about mythical creatures. Everyone looked impressed with his knowledge. Sukie requested Lia to send him messages every day. He felt really sorry that he could not join the adventurous journey. Geun-Suk assured him that he will take good care of the team, but Lia seemed hardly convinced with his words. They finished breakfast and got up, ready to hit the road. Both Lia and Laetitia thanked Yeon-Seo for her trouble and Sukie for being such a nice friend. The old man seemed so sad. He handed a small purse to Lia and said, ‘All I could do is to give you this’. She opened the purse and saw money inside it.

‘What’s this?’ she asked.

‘This is money. You might need it in our world. We use this to buy stuff’, explained Sukie.

‘Isn’t it all free?’ she asked.

‘No.’ Geun-Suk cut in. ‘Harabeoji, I’m really hurt. You gave her money, not me?’

‘I have given you enough. I’m not giving you any money!’

Geun-Suk made a pouty face with puppy dog eyes but Sukie remained strong with his opinion.

‘You are not twelve anymore. So your puppy dog eyes won’t work on me. Now’, he faced towards Lia, ‘I’m sending my chauffeur with you. He will be able to show you around in this area because he grew up in here. He knows every nook and cranny in here and will be able to act as your guide. He already knows about you lot so don’t need to be alarmed.’ He told that to Laetitia who had a very worried face.

When he finished his sentence, a man approached to them. He had a medium height but strong built body. Lia remembered seeing him with Sukie when he arrived. The chauffeur seemed to be in his mid-30s, had sparkly eyes – almost like mischievous, had a warm and gentle smile on his face. He introduced himself with a bow.

‘I am Kim Min-Jun. I will be your guide.’ Lia had a weird feeling when he came closer to them.

‘I like his hair’, said Laetitia.

He smiled at her as if he understood what she said. And gestured that they all should get inside the car now. So the small party said farewell to Sukie and Yeon-Seo with polite bow. They got inside of the car. The thrill of adventure gave Lia goosebumps as the car headed towards the misty forest.

Written by – Kazi Nabila