She suddenly opened her eyes and choked so intensely that she began to cough. Upon sitting up, she froze. The dusk and the rolling crimson clouds remained in the sky, as if time had stopped moving. Bald trees criss-crossed with each other, their branches bare of leaves. Dense fog surrounded everywhere, and in the withered branches, there was a flock of deep black crows.
In the dense fog, there seemed to be a few moving shadows. The crows in the withered branches suddenly flew away in a loud flurry of wings, only leaving behind floating black feathers. She stilled for quite a while, and when the dark shadows slowly emerged, Luo Xinqing was completely stupefied.
The two monsters before her eyes were two meters tall and were as terrifying as wild beasts. They had the fierce face and sharp fangs of a wolf, yet they used two legs to walk. Their bloody red eyes emitted a harsh light. As if they had sighted food, a hissing sound was heard.
Luo Xinqing fearfully ran. Behind her, the monsters relentlessly chasing her weaved between the dead trees. She had no time to think about where she had gone to, and she had also forgotten exactly what happened to her.
“Help!” She yelled, constantly looking back to look at the monsters chasing her. Her foot suddenly slipped, and she fell and rolled to the bottom of the slope.
The fog dispersed, and the monsters chasing her disappeared just like that. She ignored the pain running throughout her body. When she hoisted herself from the ground, a breeze blew, making the leaves above her head rustle.
She raised her head; it was a strong and sturdy fig tree. What was different from the rest of the trees in the woods was, it seemed to be filled with life, its verdant leaves gleaming.
“Where did you come from? Why are you here?” An aged voice rang out, but she did not see anyone. Luo Xinqing looked around in bewilderment as she tried to find the source of the voice.
“You don’t have to search anymore, I am right before you.” The voice rang out again. Luo Xinqing raised her head in astonishment. That fig tree opened and closed its mouth and spoke again. “It’s me.”
Luo Xinqing was frozen in shock for a while again. The tree was actually speaking!
“Where is this place?”
“This place is not one that you should have come to.” The fig tree rustled and replied.
“But I can’t find the way back anymore, I also don’t know what happened. How can I go back?” Luo Xinqing’s face was full of worry. The fig tree was quiet for some time, leaving only the sound of branches and leaves rustling. In a flash, a bird which was partially blue emerged among the glossy green leaves. Its head was white, but its wings and body were blue. She had never seen such a beautiful bird before.
This kind of scene normally could only be seen in sci-fi shows.
“It will take you to a place; someone there will take you in.” The fig tree opened its mouth again. The blue-winged bird flapped its blue wings and flew. It was like it was leading her as it flew in circles before her eyes, its sparrow-like chirp pleasant and lively.
“Thank you, Grandpa Tree.” After Luo Xiqing said her thanks, she followed the blue-winged bird and left.
It was different from walking in the dead forest: here there were hills and rivers. The duckweed was a vibrant green, and the crystal surface of the lake was as clear as a mirror, reflecting all the scenery.
She took in the sights in wonder, forgetting for an instant the danger she faced when she woke up. She walked along the peacefully quiet forest. Both sides of the path were filled with the white stars of baby’s breath. From a distance, there was an ancient wooden house among the baby’s breath. It had green walls and a green roof. The house was covered in vines she did not know the name of.
The house was surrounded by a fence. The morning glory flowers creeping along the fence began to dance with the wind.
The blue-winged bird came to rest on the fence. When it stood with the morning glory, its beauty did not lose one bit. Luo Xinqing carefully pushed open the gate of the fence, her heart filled with anticipation.
“Sorry for the disturbance.” She stood outside the house, looked at the half-covered door and cried out to those inside. The door suddenly opened and she looked inside. The furniture inside was old but simple and elegant. It even had some western furniture from the nineteenth century. The potted plants by the windowsill connected with the scenery outside of the window. The flames on the stove still blazed merrily, while the large clock on the wall was from the twenties of the past century.
When she entered the house, a black cat suddenly leaped out and startled her.
“Heishao, you can’t be so rude to guests.” The old lady with a head of white hair who appeared at the counter had gold-rimmed glasses. Her smile was warm as she gave Luo Xinqing a once-over, “Little lady, how did you come by this place?”
“I… I got lost, and Grandpa Tree said… here, someone will take me in.” Luo Xinqing felt nervous all of a sudden. The old lady’s smile was still kind and gentle, “Really? That really is unfortunate.”
Unfortunate? Luo Xinqing could not understand what she said that moment. She saw the old woman slowly walk to the rocking chair, sit down and began knitting. “What accident befell you?” With that, she pushed the gold-rimmed glasses up her nose.
Luo Xinqing could not recall what happened to herself; she only knew that she had slipped and then lost consciousness. When she woke up, she was already in this fantastical place.
“Excuse me Granny, where is this place?”
“To you humans, this is a mysterious hidden world, and is also the world of death.” The old lady’s words sent a shock through Luo Xinqing. World of death? Could it be she was dead?
“But little lady, you don’t have to worry, you still can return.” It was as if the old lady had guessed her thoughts, her words striking right at the heart of the matter. She paused for a moment, stopping whatever she had in her hands, her eyes again calmly resting on Luo Xinqing, “It’s just that, it will be somewhat difficult for you to go back.”
This was a little wooden house erected in the middle of white dense fog. The green walls and roof was covered in vines, and the doorstep had green moss on it. While at first glance it made people feel uncomfortable, but the tall trees reaching for the sky and the ground filled with baby’s breath made her feel relaxed.
The old lady’s lifestyle seemed very carefree and devoid of worry. There was no one to be found around, only the people at this house. The mysterious black cat laid lazily by the stove with a sense of utter contentment.
Luo Xinqing had been here for a few days already. The old woman took good care of her, and she was very willing to help the old lady take care of the plants outside in the yard.
“Are you used to this place?” Came the old woman’s voice from behind her.
”This is called the Lost Woods. It’s a forest where the dead get lost in.” For some reason, the old woman suddenly began to talk to her about this. Hearing the old lady’s explanation, she somewhat understood that the Lost Woods was different from the woods she arrived at.
The Lost Woods was a place where souls who were unable to complete their wishes and thus unwilling to leave the cycle of life wandered. Sometimes, there would be people in black catching those who walked in the direction of rebirth for the dead. Whether it was dead souls or souls who had not died yet, it was difficult to escape the clutches of the black-clothed people.
“Child, you do not belong to this world. Perhaps it was an accident that you could come here. This accident may be very extraodinary, the chance of it happening in the human world is pretty much very small, but before you find a way to return, you have to stay here. It’s very dangerous outside. If you get caught by the people in black, you will never be able to go back.” This was the last warning the old woman had given her.
Luo Xinqing nodded her head in half-understanding. While she was afraid of being caught, she was even more afraid of not being able to return.
Night fell and the bright Milky Way streaked across the dark canopy overhead. This world was really peaceful and quiet, so quiet that you could not hear the chirp of insects or the croaking of frogs.
Luo Xinqing tossed and turned but was unable to sleep, constantly thinking of the old woman’s words, endlessly trying to search for her memories before her arrival in this world.
The curtains drifted in the wind, spots of starlight moving. She sat up, rose from her bed and walked to the window. Fireflies decorated the endless dark night, their beauty captivating.
She put on a thin coat and went to the yard, and was surrounded by a horde of fireflies. For a moment she forgot the words the old woman said to her, chasing the fireflies for an unknown distance. In the quiet dark forest, the fireflies rested among the trees and grass, lighting up the path like lamps.
However in a blink of an eye, the fireflies dispersed and the forest slowly lost its light. Luo Xinqing wanted to return, but realized she had lost her way. Lost… She froze, her memories flashing. She seemed to have come here before, and had been lost here before.
She had never seen any of the people in black before. The first time she saw a person clad in black, she was completely terrified. Said person in black was actually just a black shadow with no feet and no face. Their arms simply drooped to the ground, their bodies arched as they floated around the forest like ghosts.
She covered her mouth, but her feet felt like they were rooted to the ground, unable to move. The person in black seemed to have noticed her. Tears welled up in Luo Xinqing’s eyes; it was only then that she remembered the old woman’s words, “If you get caught, you will never be able to return.”
Suddenly, a powerful arm pulled her back. Before Luo Xinqing could react, she was taken by a white silhouette and running.
“Hurry, we need to shake them off before they find us.” That voice which sounded like a gentle spring breeze made her eyes rest dazedly upon his back.
The boy before her had a white shirt and long black pants. His messy ink-black hair shone under the moonlight, the light reflecting off it bright and dazzling.