The Beginning of the Shadow: Part Four
”Strange. Shadow Bandit didn’t show up last night. I was sure she would appear.” Zee commented as she read the Neopian Times.
Kamia gave an incomprehensible noise as an answer. Zee turned to look at her friend concernedly.
“Kamia? Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I just couldn’t sleep much yesterday. Why?” Kamia gave her friend a small smile.
“Not much. Just that you’re always excited when it comes to something related to the Defenders.”
“Really?” Kamia asked quietly.
“Yep! Maybe you just like superheroes.”
“Nah, I think I like their powers more.” Kamia corrected softly.
“Enough to start writing again?” Zee attempted, but received no answer. She turned to look at her companion, only to find Kamia staring at the book she held in her hands.
“Kamia, what’s wrong?” Zee prodded her friend gently.
“N-Nothing.” Kamia mumbled.
“You look like you saw a ghost. You have the look of a haunted Shoyru.” Zee commented.
“You can tell me, after all, I’m your best friend, right?” Zee pressed on.
“I have the look of a haunted Shoyru because I AM haunted.” Kamia tightened her grip on the accursed notebook.
“Huh?” Zee tilted her head to the side. Kamia said no more. She got up and left.
“Kamia? Kamia!” Zee called after her best friend, but she didn’t get a response. Zee could only stare at her friend’s retreating figure. She slumped back down on the bench, her shoulder sagging.
“Hurts doesn’t it? Having your best friend abandon you without a word.” Zee heard a quiet but clear voice sound from behind her.
“What do you want, Shadow Bandit?” Zee spat through gritted teeth, not even bothering to turn around.
“Just telling you the truth.” Shadow Bandit sang out.
“You’re part of the reason she’s like this, aren’t you.” Zee accused.
“No. Not really. Well, maybe indirectly.” Came the answer.
“What did you do to her?”
“It’s not a question of what I did to her. It’s more of what she did to me.” This time, Shadow Bandit’s tone was dead serious. Zee spun around, only to be met with thin air.
“What do you mean?” Zee asked cautiously, scanning the area.
“You’d be better off not knowing. And did you know? Being able to control darkness has a useful side effect. Who knew I could reflect back some of the light waves to make me invisible? At least when no one is watching carefully, that is.” That light, joking tone was back. Zee stared at the seemingly empty space in front of her, her guard still up.
“Does she know…?” Zee left the last part of her question unspoken.
“You told her, didn’t you?”
“Nope. She figured it out on her own. Smart little thing. If it weren’t for the current circumstance, she might make a great partner-in-crime.”
“Don’t you dare drag her into this world.” Zee growled.
“Hmph.” Zee was sure Shadow Bandit was smirking.
“What.” Zee was seething now.
“Nothing. See you next time, Miss Teleporting Zweetok.”
“Hey! Wait!” Zee shouted, and received curious stares from several other passers-by.
“If only you knew.” Zee heard Shadow Bandit mutter, and the Lady of Darkness was gone.
Zee felt chilled. What did that statement refer to? Did that mean Kamia was more involved in the hero and villain drama than she originally thought? Or did it mean something else? If Kamia had already figured it out, then when did she find out? Did she know from the start, or was it just a recent discovery?
Zee hated it when her mind was plagued with questions. Right now, she felt extremely irritated. But she let those questions run through her mind. She doubted they would go away, not until she found out the truth.
“What do you want?”
“My, my, can’t I talk to my creator without getting a snappy response?”
“Lumina. Shut up. You told her, didn’t you?” Kamia snapped.
“Geez, both of you are angry at me. But I didn’t tell her.” Lumina smirked.
“Then did Shadow Bandit?” Kamia frowned.
“Indirectly.” Lumina smiled gently.
“If she finds out, she’ll hate me.” Kamia put both her paws to her forehead and slumped down in her seat.
“If she’s a real friend, she won’t.”
“How do you know?” Kamia shot back.
Lumina was silent. She wouldn’t know. She didn’t know. She was just a character, a figure made of imagination and a touch of magic. Technically she didn’t exist. She wasn’t supposed to exist. She wasn’t supposed to know these things. She wasn’t supposed to know anything about her creator, much less advise her.
“I don’t. Call it a gut feeling.” Lumina offered silently. Kamia let out a sigh.
“Sometimes. Sometimes, I swear, you make me feel so stressed.”
Lumina only grinned cheekily in reply.
Her meeting with Lumina was tiring and stressful enough. You could just think of what Kamia felt when Zee asked her about her book, ‘The Shadow’ the next morning.
Kamia had told no one of her book. The moment she found out that Shadow Bandit had appeared and the arrival of her new powers, she stopped the printing immediately and set out to collect the copies that were still out there.
‘The Shadow’ was the first book Kamia had ever published. It was some sort of a prologue to the book she was writing when her powers surfaced, ‘Tales of the Shadow Bandit’. And she still didn’t know if her powers appeared in the form of her writing itself, her writing pen, or her notepad.
That book had been a dead giveaway, hinting almost subtly at the events that were to happen in her next book of that very same series.
Kamia regretted not collecting all of those books. But she didn’t have a choice. She had run out of money, and it just so happened that that last book was in the hands of a billionaire. She would never be able to get that last book back, even in her next life.
Not to mention that the only other way was to borrow that large amount of money, or to write another book. Kamia would never do either of them. She knew of no one who would be willing to loan her more than a million, or didn’t have enough to. And she had sworn to herself, mostly out of fear, to not write another book yet again.
Kamia sighed. Things were only getting harder. She didn’t like her powers at all. Perhaps she could erase Lumina out of existence? As soon as that thought came up, she banished it. No. As a writer, her characters were her pride and joy. She refused to erase them or change their personality. She loved Lumina the way she was. Even though she was a bother. Kamia would just have to find the solutions to her problems herself.
“What’s this?” The Defenders crowded around Lightning Lenny.
“A book.” He replied in mild irritation at being squeezed in by the crowd.
“What does this have to do with Shadow Bandit?” Someone asked. Zee was sure that was Blackwing.
“To summarise it, this book is about the rise of an age, called the Dark Age. During the Dark Age, there was a certain object that could let a neopian control shadows, called The Shadow. Apparently, it is a kind of orb, and once that neopian eats it, they would have the ability to control all shadows. Not just that, this ability can be passed down from person to person. In this story, one Shoyru managed to find The Shadow. Nothing else is mentioned except how the Shoyru got there.” Lightning Lenny explained.
“Shoyru… Shadow Bandit might be a Shoyru.” Zee voiced. The listening Defenders nodded.
“I know. That’s why I brought this up. The powers given by The Shadow are eerily similar to the Shadow Bandit’s.”
“Maybe it’s a coincidence?” Zee suggested.
“Perhaps. But the stranger thing is that there is only one copy of this book, ‘The Shadow’, available. I only managed to get my hands on it since it was a book that belonged to the grandfather of an uncle of a friend of mine, who happened to be a book collector and was willing to lend it to me.”
“That doesn’t prove anything.” Torchio counter-argued.
“Maybe, but it is highly suspicious, isn’t it? I can’t find the writer or whoever printed it either. The only clue I have is this author’s pseudonym, ‘Mika Nightshade’. I searched everywhere, but no one had such a name. But what if, just what if, this author had something to do with Shadow Bandit, or knows about her? We would have an advantage against her.” Lightning Lenny told him.
“Maybe we could ask around? There is a slim chance that that book has something to do with Shadow Bandit after all.” Zee tilted her head and pondered out loud.
The Defenders agreed.
“But if someone suddenly asks about a book that nearly ceases to exist, and a group of people at that, wouldn’t that be even more suspicious?” Lightning Lenny pointed out.
“Don’t know. But my bestie’s a writer. Or at least used to be. Maybe she knows something. She used to like to keep up with other, what she calls ‘lesser’, writers like herself. And I know she wouldn’t spill. Even if she knows something’s up.” Zee remembered her conversation with Shadow Bandit the other day as she said that last sentence. How much did Kamia know?
To be continued…