Arisu knew he wasn’t entirely normal. Sure, he grew up in a loving family with his mother managing her own a café and his father also managing his own car repair shop. Even the town he lived in is surrounded by forests and had a beautiful lake as well, just like a start of a child novel. Sunnydale was their beautiful haven, and with the forest surrounding them, they were also a hotspot for faeries. Faeries like one called Lilia Vanrouge. He didn’t remember exactly how they met and only went off of stories his parents told; they met at the grocery store and the strange faerie appeared to help settle a fussy Arisu while his mother, Loraine, did the shopping. Since that encounter, Lilia would act as a nanny and come visit the family with his boys every time his parents would be gone for long hours at work – which ended with Arisu essentially being raised by both his human family and the faeries.
Despite how it sounded as though it was a pitiful situation for him to grow up without the presence of his parents, it actually wasn’t that bad of a situation; In fact, Arisu had a lot of fond memories of the four, and some of those fond memories transferred over to the now. Although, he had to admit that he does miss them since they stopped coming over the years. However, that all changed one day without warning.
He was on his bike one August morning, letting the cool summer breeze grace his lightly freckled face as he sped down the bike trail that was surrounded by the forest and the many lakes that would pop up every now and then. He loved riding his bike down the trails, when he’s there earlier in the day he didn’t have to worry about city tourists riding like daredevils and it was easy for him to stray from the main trail unto the many hidden trails that would lead to the various clearings that acted as a border between the mortal realm and the Fold. Now, Arisu knew the warnings of those trails from his faerie guardians who had often told him, "Go only to the clearing and never stray further, ‘less you wish to never be heard from again in the mortal realm."
And he took those warnings to heart, he only went to the clearing and announce himself so they could come to him.
Coming to a stop on the side of the trail for a water break, Arisu looked to the lake that was separated by a wooden fence and smiled as the rush of the cool breeze graced his warm face. With summer quickly coming to an end, the school season would be starting up again. While Arisu did have a basic education when he was in grade school, he did have the extensive work with Lilia growing up. He may as well had forgone middle school altogether, but the family had their doubts that the government would accept homeschooling from a faerie. Not to mention, Lilia didn't even bother arguing against them when his boys almost did. However, middle school and high school was too easy for him and even boring. There was only one good thing in the middle/high school setting, the bike racing club. If it weren’t for that, he’d probably say ‘to heck with it’ and just come out of school with a C at best out of laziness, but…he needed the B or higher grade to stay on the team. How troublesome, he thought with a slight huff.
Now that he thought about it, school was probably the only thing that was the key difference between him and the faeries. Lilia and Malleus had mentioned about a school that trained students to become the greatest of magicians. In all honesty, Arisu had thought about visiting there a few times in the past but there were tight restrictions for guests due to where the island was located – that and it was another realm, and he couldn’t really use magic, like Lilia's boys Silver and Sebek.
Well…no, that was a lie.
He had noticed that whenever he made eye contact with people, he would be in another ‘area’. Arisu laid a hand by his eyes as he thought of that weird power and wonder how long has it been since he accidentally gone there? He couldn’t really explain it, but every time he made eye contact with Silver for example; he would find himself in a forest with a little cabin in the center and seeing his friend in a hammock relaxing in the afternoon sun while being surrounded by wildflowers. The only thing odd about that is that they could be at the house just talking about this or that when this happens. It was a weird ability to be sure, but…he decided to keep that tidbit to himself. He was certain this school would help him keep it under control and it probably would. He was just scared of this ability.
The wind started to blow a bit more harshly as he raced down the trail on his bike now struggling to halt his bike to a stop when he felt the wind stinging against his cheeks. To a normal person it may seem that it was just a breezy day, but Arisu knew better and he was terrified!
Luckily, he came to a halt in time and quickly turned around with a sigh of relief and smiled excitedly. He recalled what Lilia had shown him once all those years ago. This tends to happens when there’s an air of magic around. His heart skipped thinking that one of his friends from the fold would be arriving. Luckily, he stopped before he ended up in their magical world. With a grin, Arisu started down the trail again until he would come upon a nearby trail that was hidden within the trees. It was then that he noticed a strange looking trail he hadn't recalled using before.
Curious, he got off his bike and began traversing deeper and deeper onto the strange trail before him. He had never seen this trail before and he had been on just about every trail growing up knowing them by heart, so where does this one lead to? Unfortunately, thanks to the tall trees the light from the sun was pretty limited so he was essentially in the dark. Arisu felt his heart starting to race from both excitement and fear as a million of ideas, fears, and other scenarios filled his head on where this path would take him. With bright eyes, he tightened his hold on the handlebars. The whole forest was quiet now, which was troublesome if he had to be honest. Usually there would be birds singing in the tree, cicadas screaming, or even the sound of something rustling in the grass. Nothing…just deafening silence echoing throughout the trail and made him uncomfortable by the dead silence…at least there was, at first. Then suddenly, he heard a small voice in the distance, too far to make out what was being said.
Magic or no, creepy voices in the forests were never a good sign. Lilia had warned him of such and told him to never follow such, always turn the other way and run. Run and never look back. “I can hear you, but I won’t.” Arisu was frozen in place; not all faeries were benevolent, there were those who were cruel and being caught by one of those would end poorly for him. “Some look for trouble, while others don’t. There’s a thousand reasons, I should go about my day and ignore your whispers which I wish would go away.” It was best to just turn around right now, he would meet up with the others another time.
As he turned around on the trail, the voice started to get even louder, making him freeze in place even more than he already was. It was coming straight for him! Oh no, this was really bad news. He needed to get out of there, and fast! Arisu turned his bike, frantically hopping on to get through the path behind him as quickly as he could. At least, that was the plan; the trail that should have been there behind him had vanished!
What on earth was happening? Where did the trail go?! Straining his ears, he heard the voice again but this time it was accompanied by the sound of a horse? As he strained his hearing; he was able to make out some of the words being said; “Ah…my dear beloved…” Beloved? He knew that was one of the names Malleus would bestow upon those he grew attached to, but…the voice wasn’t his! Whose voice did it belong to?!
“You’re not a voice, just a ringing in my ear; and if I hear you, which I don’t, I’ve spoken for I fear.” Arisu took some steps back and away from the approaching horse and voice, he extended an arm to where the trail used to be and back to where the town would be. “Everyone I’ve ever loved is here within this town, I’m sorry secret siren, but I’m blocking out your call!” He had his doubts that riding would get him away, but if there was one rule in horror that he would forever follow; Even if running won’t save you, it’s always best to try.
Unfortunately, it was as he called it; he had his doubts that riding away would get him from the strange horse and voice. Despite having turned around and riding back the way he came from, he found himself in the old clearing again and again where the sounds of hooves and the voice were growing louder and louder; he could hear more of what was being said. “A lovely and noble flower of evil. Truly, you are the most beautiful of all. Magic Mirror on the wall…Who is…” Well, that wasn’t ominous in the slightest!
With a sigh, Arisu straightened himself and turned to the source of the sound; there was just only one other thing he could do in a situation like this and that was to face the approaching figures head-on. He may as well put another teaching of Lilia’s to use; defense, and using Malleus’ status to his advantage. “What do you want? ‘Cause you’re keeping me in place, are you here to distract me so I make a big mistake?” Don’t let them see you at your weakest.
As he waited for a reply, he thought about everything else he remembered from growing up to Lilia’s stories and warnings. Technically, the fair folk were tricksters by nature, they would never cause intentional harm unless Arisu did something offensive to them. They were curious as well and want to see what their limits were when it came to curious humans like himself. “Or are you someone out there, who’s a little bit like me? Who knows deep down I’m not where I’m meant to be?”
And that’s when it came into view; a black carriage similar to an old funeral carriage from the 19th century; glass walls that showed an ornate coffin resting inside. The horses were light grey and were a Percheron and a Belgian horse; they had a black harness that attached them to the carriage in question, and stayed in place as Arisu cautiously approached them despite the warning bells going off in his head. Something about the haunting appearance just drew him to it; curiosity outweighed the caution side of things. Gently greeting them, he looked at their breast collar, he saw the words ‘Night Raven College’ embroidered in gold letting.
His mind clicked a little as he remembered that was the name of the school that Lilia, Malleus, Silver, and now Sebek attends. The carriage of the mysterious school entering Sunnydale. Arisu took a step back and laid a hand beside his eyes once again as he remembered his powers, the one he was nervous about and the one he wanted to get under control. They were getting stronger and since his main teachers were in another school, they wouldn’t be here to help him; was this the universe’s sick way of telling him to go?
“Every day’s a little harder as I feel my power grow.” He looked back at the carriage with the little longing look in his eyes. “Don’t you know there’s a part of me that longs to go into the unknown? Into the unknown…into the unknown!”
“O, thou who wert guided by the Dark Mirror.”
Arisu paused and looked around. The good news; the voice from earlier was clear, the bad news; he still had no idea where it was coming from. He knew the owner of it had to be nearby if he was able to hear them that clearly. As he looked around, he noticed a strange eerie light coming from the coffin the carriage held; he should leave, this was a recipe for disaster, is what the small rational voice inside was saying; but he was drawn to it like a moth to the flame. If this was the universe’s way of telling him to go to the prestigious school, he should go, he would see his friends again and to get his strange power under control.
“Are you out there?” He called. “Do you know me? Can you feel me? Can you show me?”
He got his answer when the coffin in the carriage opened up and showed a mirror on the inside; the green glass reflecting the interior of the carriage and the voice returned, now louder than before.
“Let thy heart’s desire reflected in the mirror, take thee by the hand.”
Throwing caution to the wind, Arisu climbed into the carriage and reached out to grab hold of the hand that had appeared before him in the mirror’s reflection. As he was pulled through the glass where he saw nothing but shadows, he had felt a tinge of uneasiness from the realm of darkness. He wasn’t afraid of the dark, and his heart was racing with the growing temptation of wanting to let go of the hand until the voice had returned.
“In me. In them. In you. We all have very little time left. No matter what, never let go of my hand.”