Behind the Mask
James and the others readied themselves for their final battle. Shadow Kahn, however, was doing nothing more than staring at the group.
“This is it, you devil!” exclaimed James. “It ends right here, right now!”
“How right you are,” said Shadow Kahn. “This is where it will end. For this is where I will finally purge the worst of my sins. This is where my confession will be made.”
“What are you talking about?” asked James.
“You already know that a secret is being kept from you. One that surely would have destroyed you had I told you earlier.”
The expected feelings of curiosity swelled within the others, but along with those feelings came a cautious skepticism. No one wanted to be caught off guard and surprised with another of Shadow Kahn’s many tricks.
“The man who stands before you does not exist,” said Shadow Kahn.
“What kind of trick are you planning?” asked James.
“I assure you, James, this is no trick. The truth is, like the coward that I am, I have been hiding my face behind the mask that you see before you.”
“Then you’re . . .” said Jaycee.
“Yes,” said Shadow Kahn. “What you see is not my true form.”
“Not his true form?” whispered Sage. He had spent more time with Shadow Kahn than anyone but never once saw him take on another form.
“What do you mean?” asked James, who was growing more apprehensive with each word his enemy spoke. The fear from Shadow Kahn’s warning had finally hit him. He had been told that the truth could very well destroy him, and that had James hoping that the secret that was being kept from him remained a secret.
“You know exactly what I mean,” said Shadow Kahn. “How else could I have known so much about you unless there was more than what the eye could see?”
“Don’t listen to him,” said Archer. “This has to be a trick.”
“He’s just trying to confuse you,” said Aiko.
“No,” said James. “He’s telling us the truth.” James then gazed into Shadow Kahn’s eyes, which were growing more familiar with each passing moment. “Tell me, are you someone that I know?”
“You used to,” said Shadow Kahn. “But we grew very far apart.”
Though he was frightened to demand the truth, James knew it had to be done. “Then let’s stop playing these games,” he said. “Show me who you really are. Do something to finally put my mind at ease.”
“How unfortunate,” said Shadow Kahn. “The last thing revealing the truth will do is put you at ease.” And with that, Shadow Kahn was engulfed by a white light so intense that the others were forced to look away. When the light faded, the horrible truth was revealed, and it was a truth no one could have expected.
So aghast was James that he dropped the Sword of Heaven.
Jaycee’s eyes immediately filled with tears after seeing the transformation. “No,” she gasped, shaking her head. “It can’t be.”
Sage was far too dumbfounded to come up with anything to say. All he could do was gaze with wide eyes in disbelief of what he was seeing.
“This is just another trick,” said Aiko. “It has to be.”
“This can’t be real,” whispered Archer, turning his attention to James.
With a trembling body and quivering mouth, James attempted to deliver some kind of a response. “You’re . . .” he gasped.
Only a few short yards from the group stood a perfect replica of James. Every feature was identical to the original, down to the most minute of details. The only difference between he and the original was the look of pure disdain upon his face. “Yes, James,” said Shadow Kahn. “This whole time . . . you were fighting yourself.”