Shi Mei's original gambit, almost three years ago, to lure Mo Ran away, was a plausible one. The forest is large and full of interesting things.
People have been more cautious about the forest since the village head's nephew died at the claws of a wild beast. But all that means is that Xue Meng lets people know exactly where he's going before he leaves.
Xue Meng has lived near this forest his whole life. He's been exploring it since he was a small child. He knows it, and what's more, he knows to what extent he knows it. He shouldn't be able to get lost without deliberately straying.
He's lost now.
The trees are thicker and darker than they should be.
Eventually he comes out of the trees and into a clearing surrounding what appears to be an old palace.
Xue Meng knows that there used to be a noble family living in the area, before the whole family died or disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and that nobody could find their residence afterwards. They never had much contact with the village, but you hear about these kinds of things.
The hair on the back of his neck rises.
Going inside is probably a bad idea.
Xue Meng goes back into the creepy trees.
The creepy trees spit him back out in the clearing again.
He slowly makes his way in through the front gates, and knocks on the door. There is no answer. He opens it cautiously and peers inside.