"You'll be together soon," I said to Crystal and smiled at her but didn't quite meet her eye. Damien had nearly been at Shadow's mercy because of me.
"I know," Crystal sighed. Middy linked her arm through Crystal's.
"I miss him, too. After all, he is my brother," Middy said, "And I... I miss Mazany; so I know how you feel." Benjeman and I glanced at one another but said nothing. We continued to walk through the streets. We passed a herb shop. I stopped and gestured to it.
"Do you mind?" I asked the others. They shook their heads and followed me in. I bought everything I needed for my 'remedies' and felt much more assured. I'd need a lot of my vials. We stepped out laughing at some joke Benjeman had made when I felt eyes on us. I scanned the street and saw someone lurking on a dark corner.
"Benjeman, take the rear, I'll head up front. The rest of you stick together and stay behind me," I whispered. They did as I said. I walked normally through the streets with my eyes fixed firmly on the corner where I knew Mazany was. I saw him dart across the street and dash off.
I relaxed. Orlando took the lead to guide us to the woods. We would cut through them to the hotel again. We reached the edge of the woods and then I fell back to match Benjeman's pace. He didn't look at me, his eyes were focused on the trees.
"He's in there," Benjeman said. It wasn't a question.
"I don't know," I answered anyway. Orlando was casually walking into the dark shadows.
"Stop!" Benjeman and I shouted. Orlando turned to look at us. Benjeman gestured for him to come back to us as I scanned the darkness. I took the lead again.
"Follow me and be on your guard," I commanded, "The slightest movement you tell me. Nature I need you, please come to me. Protect and hide us from watching eyes."
It went OK until we were nearly out of the woods. An uncomfortably familiar pain ripped through me and I screamed. I fell to my knees. My body convulsed and I began sobbing. I heard the alarmed shouts of my friends but my screams drowned them out. I felt someone pick me up and begin to carry me. I lashed out but they ignored me.
"STOP IT!" I pleaded. I twisted and cried out and punched and kicked. It was unbearable. Shadow had momentarily taken over and was hurting Nature to torture me. Suddenly it stopped and I swear my heart stopped beating. I came to my senses and saw it was Benjeman holding me. His face was grim. We were in my room. How had we gotten here?
"I have to tell them now," I whispered brokenly, "Put me down." He set me carefully on my feet and I staggered to a chair. Middy had my bag.
"Middy, in my bag there are two boxes filled with vials. Open the white box and pull out the bottle with 'L3' on the top, please." She did as I asked. I held out a hand and she gave it to me. I was too weak to open it so Benjeman did it for me. I drank it quickly. When I finally looked up, everyone was seated and staring at me... waiting.
"A Kistune's purpose it to defeat 'the one you may not know'," I began and laughed dryly, "Lucky for me, I know him pretty damn well. But no one knows him better than the Kistune Mazany.
"Shadow. That's what he calls himself. 'The one you may not know' is a bit long plus 'Shadow' is more... I don't know, appropriate, I guess." I gestured to Benjeman. His eyes fixed on me he took up the story.
"Shadow is the ultimate evil. He is pure evil. He's sadistic, without mercy and powerful beyond belief. He's never been properly defeated before because he's too strong. It was nearly done though... once."
"Shadow lives inside Maz," I croaked, "He's too strong for Mazany and Shadow takes control. Shadow and... and... and Ice together destroyed Maz and destroyed me. We overcame Ice but Shadow was much more difficult. You see, Shadow was stripped of his body and was a mere essence. Essences do not last long without a body."
"So this Shadow shares Mazany's body," Crystal guessed. I nodded and a tear trickled out.
"It took a lot to banish him but Mazany and I managed. However, I always knew he'd come back," I explained, "Shadow won't make the same mistake twice. He'll tie himself to Maz's body much more securely than before so they'll be inseperable." Orlando shrugged.
"Mazany is strong. He'll keep control and we'll get rid of Shadow easily," Orlando said and rolled his eyes. I became invisible and moved so quickly that everyone jumped when I reappeared behind Orlando.
"Don't underestimate Shadow," I breathed, "If we hadn't banished him, Mazany almost dying in the process, then the world would be in eternal darkness right now. You'd either be dead, be tortured, trapped in your own mind or a slave. Just because of Shadow. He's the not just the ultimate evil, Orlando, he's the ultimate power. Unfortunately, I'm going to need all my Elements again and I'm going to need all of you. Especially Middy and Damien."
"Why us especially?" Middy stammered. I smiled sadly at her.
"Emotions is an Element as is Time," I explained, "I'm so sorry, Middy, sorry you've been dragged into this when Shadow has already tainted your family."
"What?" Middy asked confused. I moved towards her and took her hands.
"Now is not the time," I spoke quietly and apologetically, "I swear that I will tell you my story, and with, it your own." I turned to the others. Crystal moved over to Middy and wrapped an arm around her. I went to stand behind Benjeman. Crystal stared at me.
"What's the plan? And what the heck was up with the screaming earlier?"
That was Crystal: simple and direct.