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Shadow in the Kadoatery

by midnightfrost444


Late into the night one moonless autumn evening, long past when most Neopets had gone to bed, Crybaby sat awake. Of course Crybaby was no Neopet, but a Kadoatie, with fur so white it practically shone in the darkness, and large, observant eyes.

Around her, the Kadoatery was alive with noise. From a distance, it could be faintly heard as a strange keening wail. If one were to get closer, the sound would separate into dozens of separate screams.

Kadoaties were crying, each one trying its hardest to drown out the others in a desperate bid to gain the attention of employees who wouldn't even be here at this hour. They disgusted Crybaby.

She had been like them once, admittedly. She had cried long into the night, night after night, week after week, month after month.

Year after year...

Eventually, she had stopped crying. The name that the Kadoatery workers had given her when they'd found her abandoned on the step one night hadn't really been appropriate after that, but it had stuck. Crybaby couldn't remember who had abandoned her, or why, but she had grown hard and bitter from seeing these other Kadoaties crying each night, even though all of them had happy homes to go back to.

Bonbon, the Pink Kadoatie two cages to Crybaby's left was screaming the loudest. She was a regular visitor to the Kadoatery and should know by now that once a month her owner dropped her off for exactly one night, and returned to pick her up without fail before midday the next day. Still she cried. Crybaby despised her. Despised all of them.

Tonight, though, Crybaby ignored them. She had other businesses that needed seeing to. Her sinuous white tail snaked into the crude lock on her cage, and popped it open; a trick that had taken her years to learn, but that she could do with ease now.

She nudged the cage door ajar with her nose, and reached down to the cage right below her. Piddles, the Spotted Kadoatie who was there tonight, was a blubbering annoyance, but his taste in treats would serve Crybaby well. She hooked a claw around his Organic Bananas, and yanked them away through the bars of his cage before he could stop her. When he realized what had happened, Piddles screeched in protest, but Crybaby ignored him. She had bigger concerns.

For the past week someone had been trying to get into the Kadoatery in the middle of the night, after the staff went home. Whoever it was scared the other Kadoaties, and of course, they cried all the more when it happened.

Crybaby, on the other hand, actually did something about it. On the first night, a simple hiss of warning had driven the intruder away from the door. On the second, she'd had to leave her cage and move towards the window to confront the intruder. They had disappeared before she got there, but hadn't been deterred for long. Each night after that, they'd probed the defences of the Kadoatery more and more, and Crybaby's countermeasures had adapted to them.

To the other Kadoaties, this place was just lodging until their owners returned. To Crybaby, though, it was the only home she could still remember. In the absence of anywhere else to call her own, she would protect it!

Tonight, Crybaby had a feeling the intruder would be making their move. She was ready for them.

Casually, she tossed the Organic Bananas down from the cages to land below the highest window. Moments later, the window silently slid open, and a shadowy figure dropped soundlessly into the room, landing right on top of the organic fruit, which squished underfoot, and more importantly turned instantly into a slippery mess.

The intruder toppled, crashing to the floor onto their face, and the crying Kadoaties fell silent in surprise. The ones that had been here for a few days knew that something frightening had been poking around the Kadoatery recently, but this was the first time it had actually entered the Kadoatery, and they hadn't expected it to fall over.

Crybaby's eyes narrowed suspiciously. Her night vision was normally flawless, but perhaps because of the distance between her cage and the intruder, she could only see shadows beneath the window. She had heard a soft 'clink' when the intruder had fallen, though.

Softly, she leapt down from her cage and slipped into the next room. The intruder paused, steadying themselves and inspecting the smashed Organic Bananas, then moved slowly towards the manager's office.

It was the first time the intruder hadn't retreated from one of Crybaby's traps. She had worried that actually getting inside would embolden them, and it seemed she had been right.

She tensed, ready to spring, as the intruder moved through the doorway. She leapt at their feet as they did, and tripped them! The intruder tumbled forward into a roll, but dropped a small bag they'd been holding. Neopoints fell out onto the floor, along with a small note.

Crybaby couldn't read it, but she recognized one word. It was the one marked on her cage. 'Crybaby'.

She looked from the note to the intruder, old memories stirring in the back of her mind. All these years she thought she'd been thrown away, but now she was remembering why. She remembered the danger they'd once faced.

She was a brilliant White Kadoatie. So visible at night. Neopets had tried to come for them, and she had been so easy to spot. She'd put them both in danger. Her owner hadn't brought her here to abandon her, she'd brought her here to protect her!

The intruder... No, her owner, slowly approached, and carefully put one hand on Crybaby's head, patting her gently as she scooped up the fallen neopoints and placed them on the manager's desk along with the note. Crybaby understood what the note probably said, now. It said those Neopoints would pay for her continued stay in the Kadoatery.

Job done, her owner moved swiftly back into the main room, and leapt back up to the window. Her owner turned to glance back before disappearing, and paused, yellow eyes widening in the darkness.

Crybaby... Though that wasn't really her name, she now knew, had vanished from sight. She watched quietly as her owner looked slowly around the room, nodded thoughtfully, and then leapt away into the night.

Another name floated up from the depths of her memory: Midnight. Her old name.

Midnight padded quietly back to the cages, and leapt up to her cage on the top row. She pulled the door closed, letting it click shut behind her, and sat quietly as the Kadoaties around her, realizing that the disturbance was over, gradually resumed their nightly crying. She barely heard them. They didn't matter any more.

If a White Kadoatie was too visible in the night, then she would master the art of staying unseen.

Her owner had been impressed, Midnight knew, at how she had disappeared from sight. She would hone that skill until she was truly worthy. Until she wouldn't be a danger that would give away their position in the darkness.

Once she could do that, she'd be ready to go back home at last. Home... To the Shadow Usul.

     The End.

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