Shadowflame was looking from the rooftop. He knew they would come here eventually. He had been sitting there for half an hour now but he knew they were on their way here.
Suddenly he heard footsteps. Two pairs of feet. Small pets. He activated his goggles to see them better. He saw the two brown Meercas, Hermeedjet and Meerouladen, running towards one of the buildings near his lookout.
Shadowflame knew what they had done. They had stolen a very valuable painting in the haunted woods. Now they were going to their boss, Malkus Vile. He would sell it and it would never be seen again except by it new owner. The defenders were after the three, so they would have to move fast. And so would Shadowflame.
He checked his equipment once more before making his move. His stealthy clothes were strapped on tight. His steam goggles had been enhanced with magical lenses that would notice anything. Even an invisible pet would be spotted with these things. His sword was in his scabbard, ready to be used if needed. He hoped it would not come to that.
This was one of the moments he was born to do. He had trained with the best. Niten Hiroru, Kanrik, Hanso. They had trained him in the arts of stealth, combat and picking pockets. He had done this a hundred times but still the adrenaline flowed through his veins. He took a deep breath, grabbed an arrow from his quiver and aimed it.
He saw his target and focused on it. One more deep breath, followed by the release of the string, followed by his jump of the roof. The arrow flew at top speed to its destination while Shadowflame dove to his. Half a second later the arrow flew right through the only light bulb in the area. Half a second later Shadowflame landed ten feet away from the Meerca twins.
Hermeedjet and Meerouladen were for a moment confused by the loss of light. Enough time for Shadowflame to run between them and grab the painting. Hermeedjet did not want to let go, however, and soon there was a struggle between Shadowflame and the Meercas.
Shadowflame simply used his martial arts but the Meercas did not give up and kept hold of the painting. They even went so far as to jump on each other's head and threw the painting through the air. One last grasp from Shadowflame towards Meerouladen's belt and he retreated in the shadows.
Alerted by the noise outside, Malkus Vile ran outside his shelter just in time to catch the painting. At that moment, however, dozens of spotlights flashed on and suddenly Malkus and his henchmen noticed they were surrounded by the Chia police. From behind them Judge Hog from the defenders stepped forward. Malkus knew he was caught red handed but in a desperate attempt he threw the painting in the air and dove right in the sewer system followed by his henchmen.
Judge Hog caught the painting. He was disappointed the crooks got away but relieved that this valuable piece of Neopian History was safe. He looked up and saw a shadow in the alley. He knew who it was. Shadowflame was known by the defenders. He was not a member of them and his actions were like walking on a rope, just on the edge of justice.
The official stand of the Defenders was that they would arrest him as soon as they saw him. In real life, however, they would leave him alone. He was not a hero, but also not a villain. A bit too dark and rough for their liking but sometimes it takes a deep darkness to conceal the brightest of lights.
Judge Hog looked at him and judged him. He nodded and Shadowflame jump towards the walls, climbing up as fast as he could.
A young Cybunny was crying in her home in the haunted woods. Suddenly she heard a knock on the door. She ran towards it and looked around.
There was nobody to be seen. Before closing the door she looked down and saw a blue Kacheek plushie lying on the ground. It was not just any plushie. No, it was her plushie. It had been stolen by those mean Meercas. It did not have any monetary value. They just took it because they could. She looked around, still seeing nothing. She knew what had happened, and was thankful that it had happened.
"Thank you," she whispered in the wind before closing the door.
Shadowflame had watched the scene from a safe distance and smiled. His job had never been taking the painting. That was too high profile for him. But to give a little girl her stolen plushie back was right up his alley. He did not do this for fame, but to simply do good things. He took off over the rooftops, unseen and unheard.
He stopped in front of his home. He expected a big fight with his sister. If anyone hated what he did at night more than Kiyahli, he had not met them yet.
He walked in and found his brother and sister asleep in their beds. He walked towards his trunk and knelt before it. He put in his sword, mask, goggles, bow and quiver before locking it up once again.
Cirocco looked up and remembered the day. He had seen the theft of the plushie because he was there. Whether you noticed him or not, Cirocco was always there in the background, watching, listening. He had seen the theft and knew what he had to do. A hundred times he had done it before. A hundred times he had opened his chest, grabbed his sword, bow, quiver, mask and goggles and had become Shadowflame.
Cirocco thought back about that night. He had tricked those Meercas good. Grabbing the painting was just a distraction. A distraction that made them forget about the small plushie. They might not have considered it important, but it was important for that little girl and that was enough for him.
He sat down at the table and saw a can of neocola and a cold slice of pizza. He smiled at his sleeping sister. If there was a bigger softie than Kiyahli, he had not met them yet.
Cirocco walked towards his bed. He looked at his brother Cuttar. He had promised the small Cybunny that he could go grocery shopping the next day with him. Cirocco knew what tomorrow would be like. He never kept his identity a secret. A lot of people knew who he really was. There were not that many stealthy Kyrii out there.
People knew. They just didn't talk about it to him. Most times after one of his missions he would just end up with a few free clawmatoes in his grocery bags from the spooky foods shop or maybe a scratchcard from that big softy Sid at the haunted fairground. He placed Cuttar's favourite plushie back between his paws and moved on.
He passed Kiyahli's bed and tucked her in again. The ghost Xweetok was a bit like the voice of reason of the family. She loved singing and would always worry about him whenever he went out at night. Suddenly Cirocco noticed she looked at him through her half-open eyes.
"How long will the shadowflame burn?" she asked.
Cirocco lay down on his bed and smiled.
"At least one more night," he answered before falling asleep.