Later Summer of 2005
Paragon City.City of Tomorrow. City of Heroes. The world's last best hope of freedom and justice. Home to Statesman and the greatest heroes on earth. What true hero could resist?
Perhaps, the only answer to this question, was the simplest… Those who didn't heed Paragon City alluring call were retried or never considered themselves heroes. Shadow was both, though the seventy-three year old man didn't appear a day over twenty-eight, looked nothing like most people thought as 'superheroish'. Actually the six foot dark haired, slightly tan with long fingers was quiet normal compared to many whom now sought to protect and provide 'justice' to Paragon City.
And that suited Shadow just fine, for he'd come to Paragon City to attempt to enjoy his retirement. Though, it had taken several doctor's orders to get him on the first plane out of New York, but it only a single letter to actually convince him. One signed as Dark, but the poor scrolled scrip was a dead give, whom really sent the letter. Her name was Kyoko Sovna and… and Shadow wasn't quiet sure how to classify her. An annoyance perhaps, though in this rare case, she had been a god send.
A smile flirted upon his tightly drawn lips for but a brief instant, then was gone as it had never been. Still clinging tightly to vertical steel support pole, Shadow causally glance about the train's interior with his living cobalt coals irises over the brim of his paper. There amongst civilians dressed to blend in or in 'costume' were the heroes Paragon City had drawn into her enormous ranks. Again the smile flirted across Shadow's lips, but like the first it was gone just as quickly. Rushing the paper, all Shadow could do for these heroes was to pity them. They didn't know evil like he did. No one would.
The only thing which drew his attention from the paper, was the computerized announce of the train's arrival at Steel Canyon's station. Carefully not to loose his grip upon the pole, Shadow folded the paper while scoping up his sole bag with his right hand. He proceeded to stick the folded paper beneath the very arm that now held the bag, as the train began to slow. Shadow was dimly aware of the girasol, pulsing softly, in a tarnish gold band ensnaring his left ring finger as the train jolt to a sudden and complete stop.
Only a hiss of compressed air proclaim his arrival, yet Shadow wouldn't have it any other way as civilians and heroes exchanged places at will. He exited at a leisure pace, knowing that Kyoko Sovna would not be there to greet him. She, however, had drawn a very detailed map to her apartment and told him when she'd expected to be home that day. A key of well use also arrived with the letter, and the only thing stamped upon it was #317. It's these Shadow had paused briefly for, fishing them out of the inner pocket of his oilskin trench coat. With catlike grace, he palmed both only glancing at the hand drawn map to get his bearings.
Then Shadow was off again, keeping his pace relaxed and unhurried. Down Steel Canyon's platforms stairs and a quick right lead him into the labyrinth of metal. A single glance at the towering sentinels would've told this unusual man where this part of town had gotten its name. But, like the New Yorker he was Shadow didn't even look up once, but keep his attention focused mostly on his new surrounds. A tenth of his keen mind was upon the map, for if the rumors Shadow had heard about Paragon City… this wasn't the place to be caught of guard… much like New York, in its hay day.
Again that rare smile found Shadow's face, only to have him realize that he found the apartment build with easy. The smile was gone as his climbed the stairs and was met by the front door. Fumbling the key for a bit, Shadow interested in the security key box under the third floor. A loud beep, indicated that it been expect, followed by a thunderous click. With bag, paper, map and key still in tow Shadow slipped into the narrow hallway with easy. He noted the sign asking those of the first four floors to use the stairs due the bad electrical system and even worse elevators. An arrow directed him to the stairs, and then it was up two flights to the third floor. As he reached the landing to his desired floor, Shadow exited the stairwell to find his destination the very first apartment off to his left.
How convince, was the only thing, which crossed the retiree's mind as once again he fumbled for the key. With the easy no other seventy-three old could have managed, Shadow inserted the key, turn it and the doorknob letting himself into the apartment. Awe greeted him as he crossed the threshold seeing the sprawling state of the living room. It looked like a tornado had lost its way and found this poor place to take it out upon. Somethings, he smirk inwardly, never chance. With a lean he closed the door finding the entryway sunken from the rest of the home. Two pair of slippers rested at the steps edge, one apparently larger then the other. Upon these rested another note, which Shadow scooped up while placing his bag and paper upon the raised floor.
Shadow, it read, your room is the smaller one in the corner. Hope you don't mind. There's food in the fridge, help yourself. Please excuse the mess ;;. Haven't had the time to clean due to the deadline I had to meet for the day. There are necessities laid out upon your bed. We'll go shopping later. I hope what I got you fits… Dark.
All he could to do from laughing was shack his head, then flop down upon the step and begin unlacing his shoes. With a few, he had his slippers on and was maundering about with bag in one hand and paper in the other. The only thing, beside the sheer disaster of the living room that caught his attention was a small plaque hung in the off-white hallway near the three door intersection. In plain black print upon gold plating it read thus: For The Shadow. 1938-1954. NEVER FORGET. Those last two words were bolded and capitalized.
A swell of pride filled him briefly, then was gone as suspension arose in to the forefront of his mind. Was it possible that this Kyoko Sovna knew whom he was, or just sheer luck that he received her letter. Shadow observed noting only one of the doors were close, while the others remained open; one, naturally, lead to the bathroom while the other led to his room. Dare he, invaded the privacy of another, simple to set his mind at ease? He was too old for surprises, so yes he would.
Shadow, like his name, creped without a sound with still bag and paper in hand he opened the close door. He was greeted by a miraculous mural pain stakinly rendered in all its unique beauty. The only wall left untouched was directly over the bed, were a very old and tattered lament poster of The Shadow hung sweeping his badly drawn cloak. As he remembered how to breath, Shadow took a breath before closing the door in silence.
There was purpose, he decided, purpose amongst all that chaos of color and line. A purpose, which words failed to describe or define. Quickly he released the doorknob, like a hot handle and stepped way. Shadow dimly understood why she had written the letter. It was a cry for help, but he couldn't begin to grasp why or even how Kyoko Sovna had gather the courage to send it. Let alone how such a letter had actually gotten into the right hands. Fate, no Shadow shook his head turning about and heading for his room, this was something more powerfully then Fate.
Perhaps, it was Destiny that had thrown them together, but for what purpose… Shadow considered carefully upon entering his room to find the walls also painted. Though, it was unlike the chaos within Kyoko Sovna's room, instead a simplistic landscape of snow capped mountains. He felt serene and peaceful, despite the cramped space, it was something he had felt in a very long time. Upon the made bed were some clothes and a towel, Shadow could only guess that vanity items were in the bathroom. With the utmost care, he slipped the bag beneath the bed's clearance making sure he could grab it at a moment notice. It seemed kind of pointless to be still carrying around those partially things, but having them there made him feel… feel comfortable in ways that couldn't be described.
It was then Shadow realized he was still wearing his coat, which gave him a good chuckle. It's been awhile since he had been forced to hang up his own coat, but that could wait. A hot shower was defiant demanded before anything else. With aged grace, Shadow slipped out of his coat, sweater, kakis, and socks. In his boxes, Shadow lifted up the towel heading towards the bathroom. It was sparse, if anything at all… as if Kyoko Sovna believed in true natural beauty, then illusions. Again Shadow smiled slightly, and proceeded to have a shower.
A hot shower never felt that good, he decided upon exiting his room dressed in slippers and midnight blue sweat pants, maybe this time, my retirement is for good. A sneaker escaped as Shadow with coat and paper in arm wondered through the hallway. Finding the coat hooks weren't difficult, and he couldn't believe he actually missed them. Upon hanging his coat, Shadow strolled into the kitchen for a cup of tea and something to eat. He found both, in a prepared sandwich and boxes upon boxes of green tea. Shadow set the kettle, already rest upon the range to boil, then snagged a barstool with paper and sandwich in tow.
Shadow casually browsed through Paragon Times till the water was ready. It was only then with steaming cup of green tea in a maple clay mug and sandwich set aside, that Shadow really began to reading the paper with fully interest. Hours could've passed and he could care less, for this was how one was suppose to enjoy life beyond retirement. Find some other way to keep themselves occupied, though Shadow doubted it was working. Yet, he wasn't aroused from his reading till Shadow heard the bolt being turned in the door's frame. A shack of his head indicted how foolhardy he'd been upon pull out the sandwich, at least, the green tea had gotten some attention.
Pretending to stretch in order to get a better view of the front door as it open, Shadow was curious about this one who called herself, Dark. His graze fell upon an five-three half Asian bent over while slipping out of her own shoes. Then she stood revealing haunted storm-ridden eyes, which widen with surprise and joy, slightly off sat by pallid-tan skin and shoulder length shadowy hair. Her slightly full lips crack a half smile, which bloomed into a full one.
"So," comes a voice louder then Shadow could've expected out such a stout woman, "you must be Mr. Shadow?" A chuckle must've escaped him, for she looked quiet embarrassed.
"No," came his firm, but gentle voice, "just Shadow… and that would make you Dark, would it not." At this she flushed…
"Ah man," she groans slapping her forehead, "I didn't really sign a letter with my artist name?'
"I'm afraid so," Shadow answered trying to humor her, "I still have the letter, if you like to see…"
"No, no, no," she stammered shifting out of her black knee-length leather coat, "that quiet all right. Sometimes I have a tendency to interchange my namesake with my name." Then she stepped up and into the apartment.
"Hi," she held out her right hand in greeting, "I'm Kyoko 'Dark' Sovna."
"Shadow," he took up her offered hand in old world charm, "and it's my pleasure." He kissed the back of Kyoko's hand then let it go.
"A charmer, I see…" There was playfulness in her tone, and then she caught a good glance of Shadow up close and personal. "and you're Seventy-three?!"
"I've aged well," was Shadow automatic reply for it was half true.
"Indeed," Kyoko says giving the once over again, "I hope I do as well, when I get that old." Her eyes darted towards the untouched sandwich, "you weren't really going to eat that?" Shadow saw what she was fingering, and sneaked at the question.
"No," he answered, which seemed to reveal Kyoko a lot, "I thought I was hungry and now I only realize I wasn't." She broke into snorting laughter…
"Yea," she said between laughing and catching her breath, "I know what you mean…" Then stopped only to clap her hands together, "Say, I've got an idea Shadow… how about I give you the official tour of Paragon City. I can show you my current show and important places. Then if we get hungry, we can grab a bit to eat. What do you say?" A hopeful smile found her lips, one that most people would find on a puppy dog.
"Of course," answers Shadow, "but not dressed like this…" Again laughter filled the apartment.
"Unless you want to…" Kyoko smirks mischievously.
"I'll go change." With that Shadow got up and made for his room, while Kyoko called after him.
"Take your time." Time, he thought sorely, it's something I have plenty of. On came the black kakis, grey sweater, and white socks. Shadow debated whether or not to open his bag, only then deciding that it wouldn't matter. So he pulled out the bag from under the bed, then opening it reveal his well-cared for leather shoulder holster with twin silver 45s. Shadow slipped into the holster hoping Kyoko wouldn't mind, he also snagged the crimson scarf.
Carefully, Shadow exited his room to find Kyoko had her back turned in her own room. With more speed thought possible for a man his age, Shadow was through the hall, and over to the entrance before Kyoko turn thinking she had hear him. It was with as shrug Kyoko sheathed a Japanese Nightmare. I know, she thought quietly to herself, I should tell him the truth. But he seems so, so, so tranquil now that he's here. Perhaps, I'll break the news to him… at a later date. With that Kyoko, still holding the Nightmare in hand headed towards the living room.
"What is that?" request Shadow, whom slipped into his coat.
"Shinrai," replies Kyoko, "it means…"
"Faith," interrupted Shadow, "I know. I'm just curious why you're bringing it."
"For my own safety, Shadow," Kyoko states, "properly the very same reason you still tot around your 45s…"
"Who are you?" Shadow demands almost slipping into his 'other' voice.
"A friend," Kyoko answers with a natural and frightening calm, "one who wishes to open your eyes, if you'll let her." Then strolls over, snags her coat and then slipping back into her shoes.
"That doesn't mean that I have to trust you." Shadow reminds Kyoko coldly.
"I never asked for your trust, Shadow," Kyoko response standing up, "just a chance to make a different." She turns looking him dead in the eye, "will you, of all people in this tiring world, grant me that?" A familiarity was hidden deep beneath those storm-ridden eyes, one that Shadow could almost place and yet couldn't.
"Granted," Shadow concedes, "But, I still don't trust you."
"Now would I, if I were you." With those words, Kyoko turned still carrying the sheathed sword and was opening the door. Again, Shadow showed the ability that no one his age could have by not only slipping into his shoes, and opened the door to allowing Kyoko to exit in a ladies fashion. If she'd seen anything, Kyoko didn't say awhile giving him a meanaful smile as she went by. Shadow waited for a split second before following while wrapping the crimson scarf about his neck, closing the door behind him.
"Don't forget to lock it," Kyoko calls from the stairwell. Shadow turns the knob, note that it was indeed locked.
"It's locked," he calls back, finding the stairwell door closed. Again the smile found him, only to leave as quickly. Impatient, would describe Kyoko the best at the moment, but at least she kept things lively. With a snort, Shadow headed for the stairwell following Kyoko's wake. He found her awaiting his arrival in the narrow hallway, a knowing smile upon her lips.
"What kept you?" Which Shadow answered with shrug, which earned him a shack of her head. "Come… the night is young and we have much to see."
"Then let's be off," Shadow says offering Kyoko an arm, which she takes without question.
"Yes, let's…" She responded directing them towards the Steel Canyon's station.
"And that's Paragon City in a nut shell," Kyoko finishes at they step off at Atlas Park's station. Shadow was surprised and impressed that she could explain such a complex and detail history of Paragon City in the time it had taken for the train to get from one part to the other.
"It's kind of like New York," comment Shadow as they descend the stairs of the platform.
"Yea, expect they were willing to except heroes help," then Kyoko paused, "as long as they are will to play by the rules." It wasn't the words them-self, but the tone they were spoken in which drew his curiosity.
"What you don't like playing by the rules?" Shadow inquired softly.
"Nope," came Kyoko's immediate reply, "I'm an artist, we have a tendency to go against the rules and grains of society." She turned grinning, "Like my intro to theater professor said 'Entertainment is suppose to reaffirm our values, while Art is suppose to challenge them'. I fully believe this with all my heart, body and soul."
"Indeed," Shadow sneakers, then just happens to look up, "who's that?" Kyoko turns her graze following Shadow's questing finger.
"That," she sighs, "that would be Atlas, who this park is named after. Died when the Nazis attacked the same day Pearl Harbor was torn a sundered… It was dedicated by Statesman soon after… There are many statues who line this park, for their ideal and beliefs." There was more to that statement, but Kyoko left it at that.
"Can we see your show?" Shadow requested it.
"Of course," Kyoko responded in a heartbeat, "that's actually why I invited you here, though it doesn't officially open till tomorrow. However, Regent the night security guard owes me a favor so he'll let us in before the opening." With a wink, and grin she lead Shadow on a wild walk.
"Please….." If this went on any longer, Shadow was going to have a side ache. It was just so cute and funny to see Kyoko begging Regent to let them in, when it was clearly after hours. Even more clearer that Regent was also getting a kick out of this as much as Shadow was.
"Alright, alright," Regent finally emits defeat as he causally winks at Shadow, "just this once…"
"Thanks Regent," says Kyoko perking up, "you're the greatest." Shadow saw Regent roll his eyes as he unlocks the metal gates. And before he could thank the man, Shadow found himself in tow once more.
"He really should be doing this," Shadow says trying to keep his voice down, "he could get fired…"
"I doubt that," whispers Kyoko amongst the darken hallways with semi-lighten displays, "besides, this was publicly funded, though not well supported. Even I made sure that I stated in the contact with Paragon City, that I had fully access to my works, especially after hours."
"Not much of a sleeper are, you?" Shadow inquires.
"Not really," Kyoko replies, "I've always been a bit of a night owl." Silence only lasted for but a moment. "Ah, here we are…" A rather enormous black valet curtain hung close with crimson ropes to draw them back. A bloody ribbon still stretched the span of the archway ready for the cutting of tomorrow. "This way," she beckoned, "but, you've must close your eyes first."
"Must I," Shadow sighs, and the look alone had been worth the comment, "alright, alright…" Shadow closed the space between them before closing his eyes. Kyoko waved her hand in front of his face to make sure.
"Kay," Kyoko takes up Shadow's left hand, "no peeking…"
"Now, what makes you think I'll do something like that?" He asks without answer. Instead a tug coxed him to follow Kyoko blindly feeling the weight of the curtains as they passed through. Only their footstep echoed in this room while Kyoko lead him to the center, still uncertain about many things… expect this, this was she was undeniably positive about. And if that meant being a fool, then she was indeed a fool.
"Shadow," she said shyly, "I'm going to let go of your hand and have you count to seven… Can you do this?" He, of course, nodded his head, then and only then Kyoko let go of Shadow's long hand. One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven. Upon seven, Shadow opened his eyes and was truly greeted by breathless awe.
It was there, all of it was there… His whole life, post Great war, captured by so many… Kyoko's hand was nowhere to seen amongst the drawings, sculptures, collages, paintings and many different forms Art came in. So much had been collected this small place seemed to be plaster wall to wall with items. Expect, much like the mural in her room, a large space had been left directly in front of him, which still bore a cloth covering it.
"So," asks Kyoko standing next to the covered piece, "what do you think, Shadow."
"I'm, I'm, I'm…" Words seemed to fail him, but only for a precious moment, "I'm speechless, Kyoko."
"Ah, but you haven't even seen my contribution to this," she looked about with a grin, "madness."
"This hero, whom all this has inspired, is unworthy of one more piece." Shadow protests.
"I beg to differ, my dearest of friends," Kyoko sighs, "It's one to you, Shadow, that I give this…" She tugged on the sheet, which was all it need, "my life work, my legacy to you…"
So she had known, Shadow thought briefly, but that was all forgotten when he'd looked upon the finally piece.
"The Shadow Anthology" opened without a hitch the very next day. Everyone who went to see the show agreed, it had been far too long to acknowledge a 'godfather' such as The Shadow. However, the main attraction of this collection was the very painting Kyoko had revealed to Shadow the night before. Though there was much arguments and uncertain exactly how to—to—to express, term or even begin putting words to a piece that seemed words could never begin to atone for.
There were so many titles, names or sayings this piece could've been entitled, but the artist had opted for something unexpected. Like the gold plaque Shadow found hang in Kyoko Sovna's home, its' twin hung beneath the painting with the first two lines omitted.