I put a lotta effort into this chapter so I hope you like it!
Asura hovered above the scene below, watching as the rear train cars detached and drifted away from the rest. At least Kid had made it to the front cars. Even if it did look a little ridiculous that they would make a chain so the enemy would drag them along, it did serve its purpose and Asura had to give them points for having amazing coordination.
He was supposed to wait with Sid and the rest of the recovery team as backup but something was nagging at the back of his mind with a vicious persistence. The air felt just a little heavy and for a brief moment he thought he'd felt the presence of madness. Fear welled up at the possibility of Vajra joining in the fight for the demon weapon. If he really appeared there, then Kid would be in danger. Ignoring Sid's orders to stay back, he had taken off towards the place he could sense Kid's soul.
It had been so long since he was able to fly he worried he might not be able to, but despite that it came to him as easily as breathing. Catching up to the Runaway express took no time at all but once he got there he couldn't bring himself to interfere with Kid's fight. He had already made it onto the train and was holding his own against Arachnephobia's agent as well as the witch who had gotten herself involved. Sure, maybe it would help, but he had a feeling Kid wouldn't appreciate his interference.
Vajra was nowhere to be seen nor sensed anyway, not even the strange off feeling that he gave off when hiding his soul from them could be felt. If Vajra wasn't here then he didn't need to step in yet. Instead he fell back a little bit, putting some distance between himself and the train so he wouldn't be a distraction for his brother. He would just follow along and keep watch for any more enemies that might appear while Kid took care of the ones fighting for the demon tool.
It wasn't long before the train was slowing to a stop and Asura was quick to land. He could feel that Kid was fine, but still hurried to the engine room to find him. The voices stopped him in his tracks. Kid's angry voice drifted out to him, "You're going to mock my father?!"
An unfamiliar voice answered, their shock evident. "What are you… Death's kid?!" The moment passed quickly and the voice spoke up again, "I'll show you something interesting. Open the box the Eternal Spring was stuck into." Curious, Asura inched closer and hung around just outside the room to hear them better.
"The box? Are you saying there's something in here?" At this point, it sounded like Kid's anger had mostly faded. Now there was a curious but cautious tone to his voice as he stepped closer.
"The demon tool is not just the spring… it's a set with the box with the keyhole in it." The unfamiliar voice spoke through raspy breaths, urging Kid to do what they said. "C'mon! C'mon! Look at what's written behind the front plate of that box!"
There was silence for a moment, save the metallic creaking as Kid opened the box. When Kid spoke again, Asura finally realized what they were talking about. "This is…! Eibon and…" The surprise in his brother's voice was expected but it still worried him.
Most likely Kid saw their father's name written behind the plate, and since Kid wasn't aware of the history behind Death and Eibon's relationship it made sense that he would be shocked. Asura had already understood that Death cut all ties with the sorcerer after his betrayal. Kid wouldn't know that. He would bet a lot of money that his brother planned to question him later since he was the one who was with Death eight hundred years ago.
"What is it Kid?" He heard Liz ask before the other voice broke into raucous laughter.
"Is there something written there beside the 'Great Sorcerer Eibon' you said was so wicked?! Who is it, huh?" The mocking tone to the questions snapped something in him and he decided he was finished listening.
"Kid." Asura called out to the younger boy, making sure to step on the wounded man with all his weight and cut his laughter short. He ignored the pained gasp and the disbelief on Liz's face as she watched him. "Are you alright?"
Kid looked at him briefly, some of the tension he had when Asura first walked in disappeared but he quickly turned his attention back to the man he fought. "What is this? What the hell does this mean?!" His voice started with a colder tone but escalated back to the anger he showed earlier as he pointed back to the box.
"Ask him!" The man laughed again as he pointed to Asura, "He's the missing warlord right? 'The Strongest Coward'. He was there! It must be so much fun having everyone hide things from you!"
Asura could feel their eyes on him as if waiting for an explanation, so he held up his hand and said, "Not here." This only prompted more laughter from the man.
"See? He won't even tell you!"
This was getting to be too much. The annoying laughter continued as Asura stepped forward, fully intent on shattering the man's ribs for trying to drive a wedge between him and Kid. Death might have told him not to tell Kid about Eibon but that was before it became relevant. Besides, he worked hard to be close with the younger god despite his own troubles. He wouldn't let some idiot in what looked like a rubber suit ruin that.
He hardly moved to follow through with the idea when something flashed by and struck the man in the head. His body crumpled, unable to make a sound before his death. They all looked up to the entrance to see Sid standing there. He glanced over them all, eyes landing on Asura with an unreadable expression.
It lasted only a moment before he went to retrieve the knife sticking out of the corpse on the ground. "Kid, this guy's soul is yours. The Africa Branch's recovery team and I will take care of everything from here so you three can head back to camp for a rest." Kid nodded, motioning for his weapons to follow him and snagging Asura's scarf as he passed to drag him along. Seeing this, Sid spoke up again. "I need to talk to him."
Asura waved them on, adding a reassuring, "I will catch up soon." to try and get them to leave. He got a worried look from Kid for a moment before the boy relented and left. Turning back to face Sid, he spoke much softer. "Is this about me disobeying orders and running off on my own?" Judging by Sid's astonishment, he was correct. It was something he was used to hearing. Death had lectured him often about his impulsiveness so it was nothing new.
"Yeah. I wanna know why."
Sid nodded, "Why you went after Kid instead of staying with us like you were supposed to. Kid can handle himself well, there wasn't any reason for you to interfere."
"I didn't interfere. I thought… I thought I sensed Vajra for a moment so I came to make sure he wasn't involved. Witches and Arachne's servants are one thing but Vajra is a different enemy entirely." Asura paused, trying to shake the unease he felt when speaking about his old partner. "I let Kid fight but I stayed close just to be sure Vajra didn't appear."
"You sensed the Kishin?" Asura nodded and Sid sighed. He read the report Asura had Kid give their father after he was attacked. Apparently he had a way to hide himself from the average person, but Asura's paranoid nature left him more alert than others. "I'll let this go then. Next time at least tell us first."
"I will." At the assurance, Sid waved his hand dismissively. Taking the queue to leave, Asura hurried after Kid, Liz and Patty. He wasn't looking forward to being questioned like he knew he would be, but he supposed it was better than the alternatives.
Kid had sat himself right beside Asura. He hadn't asked anything yet, so it was just them and the Thompson sisters sitting silently under the covered truck's canopy as they watched the recovery team secure the Eternal Spring. One part of him kept wanting to question Asura about Eibon and Death's relationship. The other wanted to laugh at the older god for the suspicious stare he kept throwing the helicopter that came with the recovery team.
"Uh.. Asura? About earlier, wha-" Kid started only to cut himself off when Asura held a hand up.
"We can talk about it at home. I don't want to say anything in front of them," The older god pointed at Sid and Nygus as he spoke, his discomfort clear in his voice.
Unsure of what else to say, Kid went back to quietly watching the team mill about the locomotive as they worked to remove the box from the train's engine. It was only after they loaded both pieces of the demon tool onto the helicopter that he felt Asura tense beside him. A spike in anxiety could be felt and Kid turned to comfort his brother despite his confusion.
"What's wrong? We won, everything will be fine." Kid smiled reassuringly and set a hand on Asura's shoulder. He ignored the way Asura jumped suddenly at the contact, hoping he would calm down faster if he didn't push.
Asura took a moment to answer him, opening and closing his mouth as if he couldn't quite get the words out. Finally he said, "Something feels wrong. I followed you earlier because I thought…" There was a pause as if he was considering whether or not to continue before he did. "I thought I sensed Vajra earlier. I was so sure, I hurried to find you and see if he was after the Eternal Spring too."
"Wait… He's here?"
"I… I'm not so sure anymore but something about this seems wrong. If that really was him I sensed, where is he?" The older god's quiet voice shook as he began to ramble and fidget with his scarves. "This is just like…"
The color drained from his face and he suddenly jumped to his feet as he recognized the feeling he was picking up at the edges of his soul perception. It was the same as the presence he felt the night he found Vajra in the city. So he hadn't imagined it earlier, but where was Vajra? He began to pace, looking around frantically for the source. Kid stopped him almost immediately, latching onto his arm and digging his heels in to stop Asura's pacing. Behind his brother, Asura could see Liz and Patty staring at him with worry. "What's wrong? Did you sense something?"
"Is everything alright?" Both gods turned to the new voice to see Nygus standing there with a hand on her hip and a curious look in her eyes. She waited a moment but when the only response she got was an exchange of uncertain looks between brothers, she added, "I suppose it isn't my business anyway. I just came over to let you know we're going soon. Once the helicopter takes off we'll follow them back on the ground. Might want to cover your eyes though, it'll kick up a lot of sand."
"Thanks Nygus," Kid said, letting go of his brother and standing straight. Asura only nodded before resuming his agitated pacing, prompting Kid to follow him again. After watching them for a minute, Nygus turned her attention to the Thompson sisters.
"Do either of you know what that was about."
Liz shrugged, "Sorry, not really. Asura told us why he followed us and I think he might've made himself paranoid." She said it so confidently that it was like she was stating it as a fact rather than a suggestion.
The whir of the helicopter's blades cut their conversation, and Asura's pacing, short. Asura shuffled to put Kid between himself and the vehicle, eyeing it warily as it took off. It sent a cool breeze their way, coating them in a thin layer of sand.
Kid immediately started brushing it off with a frustrated look, grumbling quietly to himself. Without Kid to stop him, Asura scanned the horizon. That strange presence felt stronger now and he began to walk again as if the movement would help him find what he was looking for. A few minutes passed before realization hit him that it was moving away from them and closer to the helicopter.
A beam of light shot out from the distance, tearing through the armored vehicle above before anyone could react. All around them people shouted out and rushed to grab their weapons while the helicopter plummeted from the air and landing miles out in a cloud of sand and smoke. Nygus rushed to the front of the truck, leaning halfway out the door as she fumbled with the radio to contact the pilots. Beside him he could see Kid with Liz and Patty held tight in hand, scanning the distance for the source of the blast.
Another beam of light flashed on the horizon, slicing through the air towards them. He barely had time to react, spinning around to grab Kid and barely managing to pull Nygus from the truck before it hit. The truck went up in flames with an ear-shattering boom. Metal exploded out in every direction and slammed against the barrier he'd barely thrown up in time with enough force to shake it.
Smoke filled the air around them and Asura strained to hear anything past the ringing in his ears as he sat up. His head hurt and vision swam. He could just barely make out Kid kneeling next to him. As his vision focused, he could see Kid's hands pressed over his ears and on his other side sat Nygus with a dazed expression that was slowly fading. He reached out for Kid, gently setting a hand on the boy's back.
Kid sat up immediately, snatching his weapons and spinning around to point them at Asura. Once he realized it was only his brother, he lowered them again and tried to speak. Whatever he was trying to say was too fast for him to keep up with. To Asura, his voice sounded muffled and distant and he couldn't make out any words. He must have looked confused because Kid frowned, brow furrowing in frustration.
This time he spoke slowly, clearly emphasizing his words. 'Can you hear me?' Asura shook his head immediately and pointed to his ear to emphasize his point. Kid's frown deepened and he spoke slowly again, 'Are you okay?' This time Asura nodded, then he pointed to Kid and received a nod from the younger boy. They stayed quiet after that, save for when Nygus checked on them, and waited for the ringing in their ears to stop.
When he could finally hear something over the ringing, it was someone yelling for them through the smoke. Realizing he still had the barrier up, he dropped it. Smoke flooded in and he couldn't stop himself from coughing. He shot Kid and Nygus an apologetic look when he heard them both start coughing.
"Sid! They're here!" Someone called out before they heard footsteps approaching them. Sid soon stood over them and breathed a sigh of relief when he could see them himself.
"Are you all alright?" He asked, earning a nod from Asura and a chorus of 'yes' from the rest.
"We were lucky. Asura was able to shield us from the explosion in time." Nygus started as she stood. "How many injured?"
Sid shrugged, "We're still trying to figure that out. It wasn't just this truck that was destroyed. Two more were hit and the helicopter is down. No one is answering us."
"I can go check!" Asura exclaimed, pausing when he realized he was too loud. The attack was definitely from Vajra and he wasn't sure he wanted to risk anyone else. If anyone beside him showed up, Vajra might just kill them on sight.
"Me too!" Kid chimed in, getting to his feet too. He had a determined look on his face as he brushed more sand off of his clothes.
As soon as the words left his brother's mouth, Asura spun around and grabbed his shoulders tightly. "No! You will stay here!" The tone of his voice was firm and commanding, something that shocked even himself, but he still kept speaking. "Help them with the injured. Sid will keep an eye on you, so don't try to sneak away. I will be right back, I am only checking for survivors."
Kid frowned, his expression twisting into something Asura could only describe a defiant. He opened his mouth to argue but the older god pushed him to Sid and Nygus before taking to the skies. He could hear Kid yelling after him and see Sid holding the boy back with a firm grip on his shoulder.
It didn't take long to reach the wreck and he landed lightly among the shattered pieces of metal shrapnel and fires. The vehicle's cockpit was mostly intact but he could see where the attack tore through the body and blades. A stench of burning flesh snapped him back to his mission and he followed it to see the lifeless body of the co-pilot hanging limply through the window, impaled on a glass shard almost half the size of their torso. Fire crept up the body, devouring it quick as a starving animal.
He stepped back for a moment, shocked by the scene before he remembered to find the other six people who had been on board. As he shuffled through the wreck he managed to find four more bodies, each one mangled or burned or crushed beyond recognition. Had he been someone else, then surely the gore would have made him sick. But he had seen his fair share of violence on both the enemies of Death he or the other warlords killed and his own body at the hands of Vajra. The thought of Vajra made him shudder and he swallowed back the bile that rose up in his throat.
Speaking of Vajra, he hadn't seen or heard him yet. He tried to sense the man but came up with nothing. Now that he thought about it, the man had to have been there. None of the bodies had souls around them.
Asura climbed out of the wreck, he'd searched thoroughly but there were no other bodies. Maybe they survived and managed to drag themselves away? He hadn't thought to check for anyone leaving when he flew over.
It was when he walked around the wreckage that the familiar voice greeted him. "Hey Asu~ are you looking for something?" He immediately tensed at the sound, unable to make himself move. "What's wrong? Not gonna say hello? Your manners have really taken a turn for the worst since you've been living with that little brother of yours."
At the mention of Kid, a wave of dread settled over him. Vajra spat out the words 'little brother' like they were poison in his mouth and took on an almost mocking tone for everything else. Hearing the weapon even speak of his brother made him fear for Kid's safety, the memories of night terrors where he'd woken up thinking Kid had been killed rushing back to the front of his mind.
Taking a deep, shaky breath, he turned to face Vajra. The man stood tall, arms folded across his chest and the key from the Eternal Spring held tightly in one hand. He wore a familiar, friendly smile that didn't match the unreadable look in his eyes. Behind him stood a massive stone soldier, at least three feet taller than it's creator, with the other half of the demon tool held in its arms.
Seeing this Asura shifted into a fighting stance. Though he feared Vajra, he wasn't willing to let the man capture him easily. He'd panicked the last time and even now he could feel the terror suffocating him, but he would not let the man win.
"Oh come now, I only want to talk. We're friends, surely we can have a civil conversation." This time his tone was reassuring. His smile widened as he approached, making a sweeping gesture with his arms. He only made it a few short steps before being forced back by a sudden blast.
Kid landed in front of him, weapons raised and face twisted into a hateful scowl. "YOU STAY BACK!" He stepped forward, fingers on the triggers when he was suddenly pulled back behind Asura.
"I thought I told you to stay behind." Asura stated, keeping one hand on Kid's shoulder to stop the boy from rushing to shield him again.
"I wasn't going to leave you alone with him!" Kid waved one on weapon in Vajra's direction. A part of Asura was glad to have Kid near but a larger part was both terrified for his safety and angry at him putting himself in danger like this. He opened his mouth to reprimand his brother when he saw Vajra move again.
He put himself between Kid and the Kishin, eyeing Vajra suspiciously as he smiled down at them. "How cute, but it's rude to interrupt people when they're talking you know. If you like, you can come with us. I'm sure Asura would appreciate the company, wouldn't you my friend?"
Terror coiled in his gut at the thought of Kid ending up in the same place he was. His hands began to shake and he knew Kid was watching him with concern, but he swallowed down the terror and spoke as clearly as he could, "I am not going with you."
For a terrifying moment, Vajra's smile faltered and was replaced by an all too familiar look of displeasure. He forgot how to breathe for that moment, but it passed quickly as an obviously false smile was plastered over it. "Ah, so you still want to play house with the little reaper and his friends? I suppose that's alright…" There was a pause when a thoughtful look crossed the Kishin's face. "Yes! If this is what you want then I can allow it for now. I will find you later and we can continue our talk in private. I have something to ask of you."
"LIKE HELL I'LL LET YOU NEAR HIM ALONE YOU-!" Kid shouted from behind him, forcing Asura to cover his mouth to stop him.
He shot a look back to Vajra, who had an amused look on his face now. "I like you. You amuse me. As a reward, why don't I leave these for you? You worked hard for them after all." As he said this, he dropped the spring and motioned for his soldiers to do the same with the box. "I look forward to seeing you again Asura! I do hope you will come to see things my way after we talk more." With that, he and his soldiers began to fade until even their presence was gone.
Asura let out a sigh, letting Kid go to wrap his arms around himself in an attempt to stop his shaking from getting worse. Vajra's parting words left a sinking feeling in his stomach, terror digging in deep as he wondered what exactly he planned to do the next time they met. He jumped at the sudden touch when Kid tried to comfort him, flinching away from the younger reaper before realizing it was only his brother.
"You should've let me shoot him." He said, pulling the older boy into an awkward hug.
"I don't know what you expect to achieve. You wouldn't be able to kill him so easily." Asura reprimanded him in a quiet, tired tone. There was no point trying to fight Kid off so he accepted the attempt to comfort him with a small smile.
"It would have made me feel better."
Liz chimed in then, a frown on her face as she said, "Well, we can hit him twice as hard next time. I didn't like that last thing he said. Sounds like he's got something planned that he couldn't do with us here so we can't let him near Asura again."
"Yeah! We'll protect you! Nobody gets away with hurting our family!" Patty added, throwing her arms around him with a bright smile on her face. "Anyone who tries gets the blast end of a gun!"
Asura shifted awkwardly, but still managed to smile for them. "Alright. We… we should find the last of the passengers on… that." He nodded towards the wreckage before adding, "There should be two more survivors. Then I suppose we wait for the recovery team survivors to catch up."
Kid and Patty pulled away from him, the girl bouncing back to Liz's side while Kid stuck close to him.