Disclaimer: Doesn't that mean something on it's own? Go figure.
The end of the series did not resolve everything from the last story. Inspiration hit me like the floor from the bed. Might update if I refresh my memory with this particular universe.
Chapter 1: King and Sword
I was a fool.
"Ten thousand gold pieces for your service!"
The man whom I had respected. Whom I adored, worshipped. To the depths of hell I would have followed him, yet he bade me to remain here, on this mortal plane.
"A costly sum, but I expect no less from the one who holds the title of 'Crimson Blade'."
By his command, I was to betray. With my own hands I killed his son and left his wife and daughter to despair.
"Guard my treasures with your life."
"…As you wish."
The talking crow surprised no one in this awkward world, caught between both reality and fantasy. However, few could guess what meaning his life had beyond a jabbering shoulder ornament for his human companion.
A boy clad in a tattered orange overcoat stopped in his tracks to let the crow catch up. His unkempt, spiked hair, grimy clothes, and slightly pale skin befitted the appearance of some street urchin, but his manner proved more eloquent than for such a simple role. If few can guess what the talking crow could do (aside from womanizing), then none truly knew this boy's talents.
"Energetic, Kir?" the boy teased his companion, grinning.
"What do you think?"
It was not a time for anyone to be awake: not even the moon or stars have come out this midnight.
"I could be in my bed having a pleasant dream," as if to illustrate this point, a nightcap appeared on Kir's head as he snuggled into a foetal position (in mid-flight), "rather than be involved in this."
"You're my trusted partner, aren't you?" Jing replied, resuming his walk as Kir landed on his shoulder.
"Sure, sure. Without me you'd be running in circles crying like a baby."
What was the boy's destination? In the city they were in, at it's heart, stood the mayor's grand estate. As with all corrupted and greedy officials, this one had laid claim to a rare treasure indeed: a platter of golden apples.
"Those apples must be delicious," Kir drooled.
"We'll have to try them to find out, won't we?"
Not even the mayor himself had dared take a bite from his sacred treasure, so how could this boy speak so freely of something not even in his possession… yet.
He was a king of his realm, and his profession was as a bandit.
"Still, even if we've already sent a warning, security is pretty lax," Kir commented. No guards, hounds, or assassins were in sight. Even as they approached the gates leading to the mayor's estate, a pair of half drunk sentries were what greeted them.
"Maybe they've decided to be considerate this time?" Jing replied light-heartedly, searching and finding a secluded section of the walls which enclosed the estate like a prison. He cleared it with one leap.
It didn't take long for the duo to find their goal. A single beam of moonlight shone on the silver platter, it's glitter paled only by it's more worthy companion of gold.
"Ripe for the taking," a wordplay on Kir's part, his excitement barely contained. Jing walked up to the pedestal which displayed the apples in al their glory, reached out a hand, and paused.
"Isn't it about time you showed yourself?" Jing called out, smiling slightly, "Or else this precious treasure will be ours."
In a split-second a blade extended from Jing's arm and he spun round. To the untrained eye there was only a grey blur as he slashed through… nothing.
"So you did sense my presence."
Jing tensed, well aware that the tip of a sword was poking almost dolefully at the back of his neck.
"Though your accuracy could use a little work."
"Kyaaaaa!" Kir had nearly been knocked off his perch on Jing's shoulder from his partner's sudden movements, but really did fall off when he realized that the Bandit King had missed his target. Flapping himself airborne, he gave the assailant the eye, "Who are you?"
"A common sword-for-hire."
"Oh?" Jing turned his head slightly, "Were you lured here by this treasure as well?"
"Half a gold piece to buy a dozen apples, and the other half to coat them with."
Jing was surprised, but smiled moments later, "Practical. I suppose this means you live up to your namesake, Crimson Blade."
It wasn't because he was garbed in red clothes or wielded a blood-soaked sword. Nothing of that sort, as such things would've made him as easily distinguishable as Lady Luck's fickleness. Like any orthodox mercenary, he dressed simply and ready for battle, weapon well used but just as well kept. What did set him aside from the archetype was his eyes.
Demonic crimson irises that bore through one's soul like hellfire. Even the King of bandits found the gaze hard to match.
There was a laugh, almost bordering on a pig's squeal. The mayor himself stepped forth. A Duke Bor, well over fifty years tucked under his belt and a lifetime of Turkish delights stuffed into his potbelly.
"A child! Really!" The mayor sneered, clothes close to ripping with each step he took, "I have heard the rumors, yes… but to think that lords and even legends have succumbed to your thieving fingers!"
"I'm flattered," Jing replied coolly, serving only to increase the mayor's ire.
"It is tempting to lock you in a cage and parade you around town, but I won't take any chances. Your head is as good a trophy for me."
"I like it where it is now though," with those words a green aura surrounded Jing, surprising the Crimson Blade long enough for him to draw his trump card.
Kir's backbone burst out and clamped onto his partner's arm. Opening his beak, a sphere of raw energy gathered. Jing leapt back and took aim.
The Crimson Blade easily dodged the shot, but it had another target aside from him.
Solid marble turned to dust, and the silver platter was tipped, the shining fruits it held spilling. Jing was there to catch one before it hit the ground.
A cold bite of steel was his reward.
"Determined or stubborn?" the Crimson Blade once again had his sword against the Bandit King's neck, save now it was the front and a hair deep, drawing blood, "I favor the latter."
"What are you doing!?" the mayor screamed, horrified that his treasures were rolling across the floor, "Do you consider this guarding? Your pay has been halved and only redeemable if you kill him right this moment!"
There was a pause.
Jing raised the apple in his hand up to the Crimson Blade, it's golden surface shining under lunar's grace, "Well?"
"A bribe?" the arched eyebrow on the Crimson Blade's face proved his amusement, "Twenty four of them make only one gold piece."
Jing chuckled. He was smiling even in the face of death.
"Consider it a taste of greater things to come."
There was another pause.
With a flick of his wrist, the Crimson Blade deftly cut the golden apple in two and lobbed a half to his free hand. With a crunch he consumed it. In this world, now there were three persons able to match his hellish eyes.
"I would prefer the normal reds," he murmured, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. As an afterthought, he added, "Or greens."
"Less of a hassle to get, aren't they?" Jing commented as he straightened.
"I am a practical person."
By then the mayor had run off squealing, raising the alarm. A score or armed guards appeared.
"Let me guess," Kir smirked, looking up to their new ally and companion, "We leave by the front door?"
"It is there for a reason."
Lost? So am I.