emerge from Exotic Foods, slightly poorer but bearing a large basket containing steaming dumplings. After you depart from Shenkuu, you head south, searching for a nice place to take in the scenery and enjoy your meal. A few minutes pass and you begin to get the feeling that you're being followed. You turn around just in time to see a Kazeriu dart behind some rocks. Smiling, you walk toward where the petpet had disappeared, intending to offer it a bit of your food. But as you round the corner, the Kazeriu is nowhere to be seen. Instead, to your astonishment, you see the entrance to a cave. Your curiosity gets the better of you and you venture inside.
The cave is dimly lit with flickering oil lamps, the wavering flames causing shadows to dance on the walls. The cave is also well furnished, and it is clear that someone has been living here.
"What have we here, a guest?" A voice echoes throughout the cavern. You look around frantically, trying to identify who had spoken. A shadowy Shoyru drops down in front of you.
"And you brought food!" The Shoyru is wearing all black, except for the bright pink scarf around his neck. His eyes are shielded by a pair of amethyst goggles. Your gaze settles on the sword at his side and fear claws at your stomach.
"Ah, don't worry, friend," the Shoyru says reassuringly. "If I was of the mind to attack you, I'd have done it already." While this statement alone does nothing to calm your nerves, his tone has a sort of gentleness to it, and you know he means you no harm. The Kazeriu appears over his shoulder.
"I know what brought you here. But I'm sure you're wondering why I'm hiding out in this place, correct?"
You want to say no, to turn around and leave. But you stay rooted to the spot. Curiosity wins again. You nod slowly, intrigued by this winged stranger.
"Come, sit." He gestures to a table in the center of the room.
As you settle into a padded wooden chair, the Shoyru hits you with a proposition.
"Tell you what; if you share your food with me, I'll share my story with you. Deal?"
Without hesitation, you lift your basket and place it on the table. The Shoyru grins as you extract a bowl of hot dumplings and place it before him. He takes a bite as you serve some to yourself and gives a contented sigh. Then without a hitch, he begins.
"I was royalty once. In a small mountain kingdom to the west of Shenkuu. My father was king, and I, heir to the throne. It was a peaceful time. The land and people prospered under my father's rule. The crops thrived, the economy flourished. Everyone who had a job to do did it and did it well out of respect for their great king. But as time went on, my wise and once puissant father grew weak with age. Soon I would have to take my place on the throne. But I never got the chance. My younger brother, Thezyr, had been plotting against my father and me for some time. Power-hungry and conniving, he built an army in secret, promising his followers immense riches for their troubles."
The Shoyru pauses for a moment and stares at the table. He then pushes his bowl aside, finished, and raises his head. His expression is somber. You listen intently for him to pick up his story. There's a hint of sadness in his voice as he continues.
"One day, without warning, my brother's troops storm the palace. We are completely caught off guard and are forced to surrender. My father was imprisoned, and here I am in exile. Ever since Thezyr took the throne, the kingdom has been in ruins. He is a cruel despot who mistreats his people and takes all profit for himself. But I shall not stand idly by while he single-handedly destroys my homeland. While I have been banished, I have travelled around Neopia in search of support, forming alliances and gathering forces of my own. And now, my preparations are complete. I am ready to lead the charge to Thezyr's stronghold. His usurpation shall not go unpunished!"
Towards the end, the Shoyru's voice intensifies for a climactic conclusion. You are overwhelmed by his story, having experienced many emotions throughout. Surprise at hearing about the cave-dwelling Shoyru's royal upbringing. Sympathy for him in his current situation. Righteous anger at the cold-hearted Thezyr. The shadowy Shoyru stands and stretches his wings.
"Thank you, friend. You've been a great help," he says. You look at him, puzzled. Seeing your expression, he adds: "Well, I can't very well go into battle on an empty stomach! Your timing was impeccable."
He laughs and you think he gives you a wink, though it's hard to be sure on account of his eyewear. He draws his sword and strides to the mouth of the cave, ready to take off.
"Well, time to go rally the troops!" He waves and is about to take flight when you remember something. His name! What was his name? You pass this inquiry on to him and he turns.
"Zukazei. The name is Zukazei." Then he spreads his wings and is gone.