This was co-written with Ankhutenshi (check out her stuff! She is made of awesome!). Also, we own neither Yuugiou, nor King of Bandits: Jing.
by Ankhutenshi & Halys
It was a sunny day. Not one of those very sunny days that forced everyone to wear sunglasses and revealing clothing. Just a sunny day.
Ryou Bakura had taken the opportunity to enjoy the sunny day by sitting under a tree, enjoying the cool shade, as he read a book. (It was a rather good book too. One of those ones about the guy saving the pretty damsel in distress and then taking her off to his home to... well, you know.) As far as Ryou knew, the tree was like any other. Tall, green, with a large trunk. Rather normal in all appearance, and after the whole Egyptian... thing (Ryou wasn't sure what else to call it) had gotten over with, Ryou had gained a liking for normal things.
Above him, Jing was dozing lightly, a small smile on his face, perhaps dreaming of the next treasure he would steal. But Kir was already awake and impatient... but he knew it was impossible to wake the Bandit King before he'd gotten a good rest. Instead, he turned his attention to the lovely head of hair that had just settled down at the base of the tree.
I love the exotic ones, Kir preened; only a woman could have hair that soft and luxurious. "Hello there, pretty one!" He called down to the ground. "What are you doing all alone?"
Ryou blinked, and looked up from his reading. Being hit on by others was something he had grown used to, so he was preparing to politely tell the guy off, but could not find the source of the voice. He glanced around him but saw nobody near-by. "Hello?" he asked. "Who said that?"
"Ooh, such a nice voice you have!" Kir said dreamily. "So quiet and melodic! Will you sing for me, beautiful?"
Biting his lip in frustration, Ryou set down his book. He continued to look around for whoever was speaking. "Where are you?" Standing, Ryou placed his hands on his hips, and frowned. "I do wish you would come out to talk to me, rather than this... silliness."
"Sooo polite!" Kir crooned, already lost in a fantasy involving ribbons and a maid outfit. "Someone raised you proper, sweetie!"
"Uh, sir... Whoever you are... Um, if you don't come out of hiding, I'm just going to leave. I don't care for being hit on by someone who either is very confused, won't show his face, or both. I don't bite, you know," Ryou huffed lightly, tossing a strand of hair behind his shoulder.
"You could bite me if you wanted to!" The black albatross sighed happily. He spread his wings and flew down off the branch, intent on wooing the pale one further, when he did a double take and dropped to the ground in shock. "H-Hey! You're a guy!"
"And you're a bird." Ryou retorted. "But you don't see me holding it against you, now do you. Yes, I am a guy, and wish to be seen as such. Though, I guess I should thank you for the lovely compliments, regardless if they were mistakenly aimed." The pale haired young man grabbed a stick from the ground and attempted to poke the bird with it. "How did you learn how to speak anyway?"
"Oy! What's with the stick!" Kir snapped. "How can you be so polite with your words and so mean with your actions, huh?"
"Practice," Ryou replied. "Now, how did a smooth talking bird such as you learn how to speak? Are you someone's pet? If so, then we should probably get you back to your owner."
"I'm no one's pet," Kir answered haughtily. "And I've always talked, thank you very much. And my partner is snoozing, although it's about time he wakes up. OY!" He raised his voice. "JING! You awake yet? This pretty boy here is poking at me!"
"Well," answered a sleepy voice from the tree, "then you probably did something to deserve it."
Ryou's gaze lifted to the braches above him, and caught a glimpse of yellow fabric. "H-how long have you been up there?" he asked, surprised.
"A couple hours," came a male voice. "You're pretty desperate, eh Kir? He doesn't really seem like your type..."
"Ugh." Ryou folded his arms over his chest, and frowned. "How can a bird have a type?"
"Kir's special," was the wry response. The word 'special' was emphasized in a way that suggested 'irritating'. There was a rustle in the branches above, and then a grey-eyed young man with tousled black hair dropped to the ground lightly. "Sorry if he was bothering you."
Ryou fought the urge to blush. "I... see. He wasn't bothering me too much. He isn't the first to make that mistake." His attempts at fighting the blush failed. "What did you say your name was?"
"I didn't," the other answered. "Kir did, though. I'm Jing. Is this your tree? We should be moving on, if it is."
"Oh, 'fer crying..." The albatross huffed and flapped his way to settle onto his partner's shoulder. "Nothing here to swipe anyway, as far as I can tell!"
"It's not really my tree, seeing how this is a public park... wait, did you say swipe?"
The bird coughed. "Uhh..."
Ryou cocked his head to the side. "You're not planning on stealing anything... are you?" The question came out, stresses on certain words perfectly planned. It was almost as if he was used to asking the question.
A faint smirk crossed Jing's face and he tilted his head. "Why would you ask something like that of a complete stranger? Speaking of which... we've given you our names, but we don't know yours..."
"Bakura Ryou." Ryou flushed again. The smirk on Jing's face was way too familiar. "Are you?" he asked. "Because, if you are, public interest suggests that I should prevent you from doing so."
"Public interest is better served when the public keeps their nose out of it," Jing chuckled, shrugging his shoulders. His yellow coat fluttered with the slight motion. "Come on, Kir, I think we might be offending the civil servant here..."
"I merely asked, because I'd prefer if you didn't steal from someone I know. Hey... Wait, are you listening to me?" Ryou hurried to catch up with the two odd beings. "Just... whatever you do, please don't steal anything from the museum?"
Jing whistled a simple tune as he walked down the street, seemingly oblivious to Ryou's nagging as he followed the pair. Kir flew from Jing's shoulder and angled up above the buildings, then called down cheerfully. "We're almost there, Jing! Museum's just up ahead."
Ryou didn't have too difficult of a time keeping up with the two. Years of practice, in a sense. He almost laughed at the idea. Almost, but not quite. "Please, please, please don't take anything from the museum! Father will be very angry if something is stolen again!" he cried out to Jing.
"What are you so worried about?" Jing asked, casting a skeptical glance over his shoulder without stopped. "Maybe I just like museums."
The pale haired young man was floored. "You're not going to steal something?" A short prayer was delivered to whichever deity would answer it. Ryou continued to follow him.
Kir laughed from above them. "That's funny, eh Jing? He's pretty good at jokes."
"So, you are! Ha! Whatever is it you're after then? The Items? Because they're gone. And the tablets aren't there anymore either."
Jing continued to walk, seemingly without a care in the world. They were approaching the wide steps that led to the museum. "The term 'item' is pretty vague, and I don't know much about the value of tablets," he commented. "Do you accuse innocent people all the time? You're going to attract a lot of bad attention like that, you know."
Ryou huffed again, but soon frowned as the museum loomed into view. "That's nothing new to me... Wait, um, maybe I could interest you in a cup of coffee? How about some food? I know a great restaurant near by... Then we could go to the museum together. How does that sound?" He never was very good at stalling.
"I'm not going to be in town that long," Jing answered, stepping onto the stairs. "I'm actually just here to clear up a misunderstanding." At that, Kir chortled mirthfully.
"Misunderstanding? About what?"
"Reputation," the black haired one answered.
"Aha," Ryou said, a knowing smile gracing his lips. "Well, Yuugi-kun's shop is in the other direction, and as far as I know, he's not taking challengers for the next King of Games at the moment. Sorry to burst your bubble."
"King of Games?" Jing echoed, raising an eyebrow. "Huh. Can't say I've heard of that one. But it is a challenge for sovereignty, since you guessed correctly."
"Uh... there isn't any other type of sovereignty here." Pain flickered through Ryou's eyes for a brief moment, and then was gone. "At least, not anymore."
"No?" Jing replied slyly. "Turned tail and ran, did this other one?"
"Not so much." Ryou crossed his arms again, and stopped. A soft sigh escaped him. "More like... his destiny had been fulfilled."
Before Ryou could protest, Jing's hand shot out and grabbed Ryou but the shirt collar, hauling him around the corner to a small recess where the wall blocked the view of the security cameras. Suddenly his grey eyes didn't seem playful and bemused; instead they were hard as steel. "You know talking about yourself in third person is a sign of mental instability?"
Kir's eyes widened and he dropped to perch on the edge of a railing which led down to the service entrance. "Jing!"
Ryou cried out in surprise as he was pressed against the side of the museum. "What are you talking about?" He struggled against the hold Jing had him in. Then, with one hand on the grip Jing had on his shirt, and the other reaching out to Jing's side, Ryou wrenched out of Jing's grasp. His eyes widened.
"Oh dear..." he murmured, backing away from Jing. It seemed, he remembered a few things more than he thought. "I..." Unconsciously, he gripped the front of his shirt, as memories of searing pain flooded him.
Jing's gaze seemed almost predatory, an open challenge full of anticipation. "I told you, Kir... this is the one going around calling himself the 'King of Thieves'." He smirked at Ryou. "You can't carry a title like that around, you know... it's already taken."
If possible, Ryou's eyes widened further. He shook. "I would never claim to hold that title. No... Not me..." The grip he had on his shirt tightened. "Not... not me..."
"Make this easy for yourself, kid," Kir advised, in the perfect imitation of a 'good cop, bad cop' situation. "Jing's kind of... possessive. I'd let him have the rep."
"He can have it... I never wanted it."
"Not good enough," Jing answered. "You've built yourself up quite a reputation in this area, haven't you? They say all the local gangs won't go near you now, your highness. So prove you're up to the task."
"I... what? No! That wasn't me!" Ryou continued to back up, until his back hit the museum wall again. "That wasn't me..." He shook his head, and tried to hold back the tears that threatened to fall. "Take your stupid title. I never wanted it. It wasn't mine to have. That title belonged to someone else, and he's not here anymore..."
"If that's true, then you won't mind if I help myself," Jing said carelessly, heading down the stairs to the service entrance. A sound of metal sliding, and a long curved blade locked into place after emerging from his sleeve. A swift cut, and the lock fell to the ground, cleft cleanly in two. The door gaped invitingly.
With speed that Ryou didn't know he had, he stepped between Jing and the door. "I'm afraid I cannot let you do that..." he said softly, his eyes on the ground. "I would never want that title, nor would I fight for it. But that doesn't mean I'd just let you steal from my Father's museum. Besides, I can assure you, nothing is left of his... reign. Except me."
"You don't get to just skip out on it!" Jing said angrily, silvery eyes flashing. "You brought this on yourself!"
Kir fluttered his wings worriedly. "Jing, calm down... someone'll hear us!"
Ryou stood firm, though he was frightened. "Please don't..." he pleaded, as tears began to slip down his cheeks. "Please, there's nothing here worth taking. It's all gone. Ask Yuugi-kun. Or Kaiba-kun. It's all gone, and he's gone. Just... go away..."
"Oy, Jing," Kir said softly, watching as his partner didn't relax from the angry stance he'd taken, steel blade still poised and dangerous. "I think you've made your point. He's not much into the challenge, ne?" The albatross suddenly felt quite sorry for the white-haired young man, and alighted on the yellow jacketed shoulder of his companion. "Jing?"
"It's mine," was the forced response. "It's my title, because I'm the best. That's the way it has to be! Otherwise she'd..."
"Oh, my... You're... You're him, aren't you? M-my other spoke of you... He said that someday you would come." Ryou suddenly shook his head violently. "But you're too late! He's gone, and he's not coming back! Yuugi-kun defeated him once and for all... and he's gone..." His tone was one of despair, with the barest trace of longing.
"I think... I think he would have been proud to accept your challenge, were he still here..."
A flash of movement; the singing of a steel blade through the air, and the railing was sliced almost to the ground before the blade slid back into its hidden sheath. "Too late!" Jing repeated angrily, whirling so fast he almost dislodged the bird on his shoulder. "That's what I get to accept? Too late!"
Kir murmured something, too low for Ryou to hear, and after a tense moment, some of the fury dissipated from Jing's form. He turned back to face Ryou and although the blatant hostility was gone, there was still resentment there. "Ore wa O-Dorobou Jing." (1)
Suppressing a shudder, Ryou swallowed thickly. "Are you done?" he asked, quietly. Fear still laced his words, as he tried to push down wisps of memories that weren't his. "Because if you are, I'm going home. I've had enough with thief kings."
"Then go home," Jing answered. "And have nothing more to do with them." He rolled his shoulders to settle his coat back into place and climbed the cement stairs to the sidewalk level again.
"Where are we going, Jing?" Kir asked after a moment, with somewhat less than his usual abrasive tone.
"I don't care, Kir."
Surprised by the sudden change of heart, Ryou shook himself. He swallowed again, and glanced at Jing before hurrying off the steps and in the direction of his home. That's quite enough to be going on with... he told himself.
Since Jing didn't seem to be in a talkative mood, Kir was silent as he rode on his partner's shoulder. They appeared to be cutting a more or less diagonal path through the unfamiliar city, and occasionally stares followed them; they seemed to stand out unusually brightly in this town.
"Maybe we should find an inn for the night?" The black albatross suggested as the streetlamps began to flicker on. "We can leave first thing in the morning..."
Jing glanced at the bird, then nodded once. "Fine. Find us one, Kir." He shrugged the bird into the air to get a better look at the area.
"There's one a few blocks away," Kir called down, and wheeled in the air to show the direction. The inn was merely a small hotel, not quite seedy but at least low-profile enough to suit their needs. His small knapsack carried a variety of currency, as well as some food and water.
"I'd like a room for the night," Jing said as he approached the man standing behind the counter, who peered at the black-haired boy with suspicion.
"We don't rent rooms to minors," was all he said.
Jing was slightly surprised. He'd been turned away from inns for any number of reasons -- not the least being because they didn't want two scared Por Vora in their stables -- and other ridiculous reasons such as, of all things, his eye color. But he'd never been turned away for his age.
"Are you sure?" The Bandit King asked, producing a small emerald the size of a golf ball. "Won't this more than cover the cost of a room in this little place?"
"Are you nuts?" The innkeeper returned shortly, gesturing impatiently. "Put that thing away, I've got enough trouble around here already. If it's not the police, it's the yakuza! Now scram... and here's some free advice! Don't wave stuff like that around in this city... we've got more than our fair share of thieves and cutthroats, and people like you end up in the hospital ward they've set up for all those unexplained comas. Now get going!"
"What happened?" Kir asked, surprised as Jing came stalking out of the office.
"Nothing," was the short answer. "Let's go, Kir."
The park was much emptier, now that it was dark, but Jing had no trouble finding the tree which he'd slept in earlier. It was a very good tree, with a wide branch bent almost into a cradle shape, and if he'd slept there earlier in the day, it was certainly comfortable enough for another few hours.
Kir had been quiet for the last while, but as Jing climbed into the tree and settled down with a sigh, the bird asked, "You ok, Jing?"
The albatross wisely dropped the subject and tucked his beak under a wing.
Meanwhile, Ryou was at home in his apartment, trying to shake off the shock over what had happened earlier that afternoon. Water was beginning to boil on the stove, and it took a moment for Ryou to register the shrill whistling of the kettle. Sighing, he got up from the seat at the kitchen table and turned off the stove. As he poured the hot water into a mug with his tea bags, he wondered about the young man that had nearly attacked him.
When the natural light in Ryou's apartment began to diminish, he didn't bother to turn on any lights except a small desk lamp for him to work at. Paint brushes and lead figurines littered the small desk in the corner of his kitchen, and every once in a while, Ryou would pick one up and use it on his latest project. On the stove, a kettle of water was simmering, with water just hot enough for another cup of tea, when Ryou was ready for it.
Eventually, Ryou set his brush down with a sigh. He picked out a clean spot of his sleeve and used it to wipe the sweat from his brow, unknowingly leaving a green smudge on his cheek. Then, he stood, removed himself from the desk, and stepped out into his living room. Twilight reigned, making everything in the room a dark grey color. Ryou could still see.
A quick sidestep left him adjacent to the couch where a deck of well used cards sat. Ryou paused, and then leaned forward to flip up the top card. He considered it a moment before setting it back down. "Figures..." he muttered, and headed towards the door.
The evening air was welcoming after the slight stuffiness of his apartment, especially in close proximity to the paints he was using. Ryou breathed in deep and then began the ten minute walk to the park. Lights were beginning to flicker on at street corners, and they gave Ryou sufficient light, though he really didn't need it.
As the park approached, Ryou could catch a glimpse of tattered yellow fabric flapping slightly in the branches of a tree as the evening breeze blew by. The pale haired young man rolled his eyes slightly. "What is it with thieves and outlandish get ups?" he muttered to no one.
Jing heard the sound of approaching footsteps and opened one eye. He hadn't really been sleeping, although his feathered companion was soundly unconscious, drooling slightly -- how one drooled from a beak was unknown.
"I thought you were going home," he said.
"Do you normally sleep in trees?" Ryou countered softly, looking up at the thief.
"Sometimes. When the inns in town refuse me a room. It happens more often than you'd think."
"Actually, I'm not surprised. But please, don't ask me why. I'd rather not get into another fist fight." Beckoning to Jing, Ryou gave a half-grin. "You can kip on my couch, if you want. It'll be more comfortable than the tree branches."
"Yeah, sure," Jing scoffed.
The half-grin donning Ryou's lips shifted into a half-frown. He shrugged. "Well, I'm sorry if I offended you. The offer still stands, though. In case you get a cramp or something... Wouldn't want your senses to be dulled by lack of sleep and all..." And with that, Ryou turned on his heel and headed back towards his home.
Although no glimpse of that distinct yellow coat was seen the whole walk home, Jing was waiting for Ryou at the pale one's door. Kir, still asleep, was held in the crook of one arm. "Kir doesn't like the cold," was all that was muttered.
Holding back a smile, Ryou merely unlocked the door, and with a sweep of his hand, invited the thief inside. "It's not much, but..." The room was sparsely furnished, with only what Ryou needed. On one wall was a book case lined with both novels on Egyptian history and dictionaries on topics such as Tarot. A single, plain couch sat against the opposite wall. Through a doorway to the right was the kitchen that also doubled as Ryou's work space. "Would Kir like some blankets? Or some pillows?"
"Nah... Anywhere inside'll be fine. He just nags when it rains, and it's going to rain tonight." Jing looked around the room with mild interest, his sharp mind already cataloguing everything within. Spartan was hard to steal from, more so than cluttered.
There was a silence as Ryou pondered what to say next. "Um... well, I'll be working for a little bit longer." As he spoke he moved to the couch to pick up the cards he had left earlier. He picked them up, and slipped them into a pocket. "If you want anything, feel free to let me know. There's hot water on the stove for tea."
Jing wandered into the kitchen area simply for something to do, not yet putting the sleeping bird down. If anything, the hold seemed protective, bordering on tender.
Ryou followed the thief, but then moved to the stove to prepare himself another cup of tea. Then, ignoring Jing, he slipped around to his work table, and sat himself. He blew on the mug slightly, as the steam curled in the air in front of him.
"When did he go?" Jing asked.
It took a moment to register what Jing said. "I'm sorry? What was that?"
"I said," Jing emphasized slowly, "when did he go? Leave?"
"Oh..." Ryou slowly set down the paint brush he had picked up, but he didn't turn to face Jing. "Three years ago."
"So long?" Jing said, surprised. "It's strange... you think I would have heard..."
"I'm surprised you had. My other didn't... eh... advertise."
"Why do you call him that? That's kind of a weird name, or a title?"
"Because that's what he was." Ryou turned now, a dark look, mingled with sorrow, covering his normally fair features. "I was merely his... host. A landlord, and nothing more. But he was my other. My other self. And my spirit was bound to his, whether we had liked it or not."
"You mean I've been chasing a ghost this whole time?" Jing said skeptically.
A hollow laugh slipped past Ryou's lips. "Oh, he was so much more than a ghost. He was his own self. Or half of it, so to speak." Ryou stood again, and made another cup of tea. He pushed it into Jing's hands, despite any protest. "Are you interested in long stories?"
The grey-eyed young man shrugged a bit. "I've got nowhere to be. I can't get out of town until noon anyway."
Giving the thief an appraising look, Ryou nodded. He began his tale, speaking of ancient kingdoms under threat, cursed items created by atrocities, and two young men who were the center of the epic battle that nearly destroyed the earth. He spoke of one of the young men, a thief, whose soul was split by no choice of his own. He also spoke of another young man, a Pharaoh, who sacrificed himself, and the life of the other, to seal away the danger that threatened to destroy mankind. Finally, he spoke of the seven items that eventually fell into the hands of several young teens.
The early hours of the morning where approaching as Ryou continued his story to the near past.
"Of course," Ryou said softly, his voice becoming slightly hoarse, "Yuugi-kun was able to piece the Puzzle together, when no one else could, and he released the spirit of the Pharaoh. My father, while on a trip to Egypt, stumbled upon the Ring, and gave it to me as a gift. The moment I put on the Ring, I became the innocent host of the King of Thieves. It wasn't until I actually met Yuugi-kun did I learn that about my other."
Ryou's story went on from there, weaving a thread about how a group of teenagers saved the world from the same force that threatened to destroy it 3000 years ago. He mentioned the fall of the thief, as he was defeated, and of the fall of the Pharaoh, and how he was granted entry into the peace of the afterlife.
"So..." Ryou said finally, "That is the story of the King of Thieves, how he came to be, and why he no longer walks this plane. To the best of my knowledge."
Jing had remained silent throughout the whole tale, pausing only to settle Kir onto his backpack. The bird flopped over, muttered a woman's name, and went back to sleep.
When the story was finished, the Bandit King said contemplatively, "He sounds less like a thief, and more like a fighter."
"Sure, he was a fighter. But you must remember: he was the only man to steal a corpse from a Pharaoh's tomb, challenge that Pharaoh's son in his own thrown room, and eventually steal the Pharaoh's source of power from him. In a sense, he stole the sun from the sky, for the Pharaoh was the sun, and the Thief stole away the Pharaoh's power. That was then. And I'm sure you're aware of the rumors of him, even today. Otherwise, you wouldn't have shown up to challenge him." A weary sigh escaped Ryou.
"Stole the sun," Jing said musingly, a private smile crossing his face fleetingly. "Daytime thief."
Ryou couldn't help but grin as well. "Tell me, Jing-san. How many stars have you got hidden away?"
Jing's gaze turned calculating. "Why do you ask?"
The pale one's grin widened. "You must have five at least. No? More? Hmmm... Let me guess, ten... No, must be more than that." Suddenly, Ryou's features became serious. "Don't worry about comparing yourself to him, Jing-san. You are a King of Thieves in your own right. The King of Star Thieves. For while the sun sets, the stars reign. And it has been night for some time now."
Jing made a wry sound, but did not comment to that. Instead, he rose from the couch and went to the window. "I guess. It's not what I'd wanted, though. Maybe I'm too much of a fair sport, but..."
"I'm sorry, Jing-san. There's not much I can do. I was merely a pawn in that game. And now it's over. You, however, are playing the new game, and you're the King. Use your pieces wisely." Ryou shot a glance at the sleeping albatross. "And you will continue to win as you have been. Fairly, at that."
"Who knows," Jing shrugged. "Maybe he'll come back one day."
Ryou's features darkened again. "No... No, he's gone. Gone for good." Then, as quickly as the mood had come, Ryou's features lightened again. He yawned. "I'm sorry, Jing-san, but I fear I might need to be getting to bed. I have some classes tomorrow, and I need to sleep. Are there any other questions or queries I can answer?"
"Goodnight," Jing said with a tip of his head. He settled down on the couch next to Kir, although not to sleep, merely to doze lightly.
Ryou nodded at the thief and stood, slowly making his way to his bedroom. There, he collapsed on his bed and tried to hold back tears that threatened to appear. Eventually, he fell into a restless sleep, much like every other night.
Only a few scant hours later, Ryou's alarm rang, announcing the morning. He groaned, and shifted out of his bed to stand, still slightly delirious from sleep. Slow steps brought him to his kitchen as he began to prepare some tea for himself. When it was done, and the first few sips of hot beverage had broken through his haziness, Ryou remembered that he had a guest still sleeping on his couch. He whirled around and hurried to the living room, only to find an empty room. Light from the open windows glinted on something lying on the couch. Ryou wandered over to it, and picked it up. The green gem, which hung on a chain, was the only thing that suggested that anyone other than Ryou had occupied the apartment the night before.
Ryou looked into the emerald depths of the gem. It was beautiful, with many large facets. One hard look into one of the facets, and Ryou gasped. The delicate features of a young girl smiled back at him.
Kir stretched his wings widely, and gave his partner an avian grin. "You're in a better mood this morning, Jing."
The Bandit King produced a small painted figurine -- a game piece, to be exact. It was a tiny young woman, highly detailed, with white hair and expressive eyes. Kir whistled. "Who's that?"
"A friend of a friend."
"And way out of your league, Kir." He grinned roguishly. "Let's go home."
(1) Essentially, I am Jing, the king of bandits.
Comments are greatly appreciated!