"I just need answers."
That was the response Kuro had given Pit when he'd asked why his brother suddenly felt the need to visit the Underworld. It had been a few weeks since Remiel ascended the position of lord of the Underworld, and grief for Nemo still weighed down on them but had begun to settle. Now that peace had returned to the immortal world, save some internal worries on Pit's part, Kuro had found it increasingly difficult to temper the flames of calamity that coursed through his body. He hoped he would grow more accustomed to it over time, but in the meantime, he needed some way to cope with it. But the more he thought about it, the more a burning question ate at him regarding the power he'd acquired, and he wasn't entirely certain who to turn to for an answer. But he figured the Underworld would be a good place to start his search.
Pit had essentially granted Kuro unrestricted access to Skyworld's gate without question, and the black-haired god directed it to the City of Souls and leapt into the air. Having his own unlimited power of flight again was a blessing in itself, and with dark pink light enveloping his white wings, he flew through the Underworld with near blinding speed. It only took a few minutes for him to reach the shrine where Remiel and Henry made their home, and he landed on a platform in front of the entrance and made his way through the main corridor lit by blue torches.
"Oh, that's so strange," a voice suddenly spoke up in his head. "Hello, Commander!"
"Hey, Rem," Kuro replied. "What's the matter?"
"Your presence here went off like a bell in my head," Remiel said from wherever he was. "Sorry, I'm still getting used to all my new abilities and powers. Never mind apparently having reign over the Underworld means I know almost immediately when I have visitors."
"Guess we're both learning on the job," Kuro said. He arrived at the throne hall within the shrine, and Remiel appeared from a quick burst of light and darkness a short distance away.
"What brings you by, Commander?" He wondered as Kuro approached him.
"You don't have to keep calling me that," he said as he and Remiel shook hands. "I'm not saying I mind, but considering our positions, I think it's safe to say we're on a first name basis." Remiel shrugged with an aloof smile.
"Well, something tells me you didn't come here to discuss proper names," he said. "Is there something I can help you with?" Kuro frowned in thought for a moment as he crossed his arms.
"Actually, I came to see Thanatos," he replied somewhat flatly. "I know, I know, it's a weird request," he added as Remiel stared at him with a raised brow. "I have some questions for him."
"I see…" the Underworld ruler nodded, and his eyes lost focus for a moment. "I think he's sulking around the great chasm near the Underworld Fortress, as usual, probably trying to hide from my brother." Kuro smirked.
"Thank you. I'll head that way and try to find him."
"Glad to help," Remiel smiled. "I hope you find the answers you're looking for, Kuro." Kuro dipped his head and waved as he turned, and he departed from the throne room and quickly exited the shrine. Once outside, he took to the air again and flew through the Underworld toward the entrance from the Overworld where the Underworld Fortress lie. It didn't take long, thankfully, and soon the Fortress itself came into his line of sight.
It had certainly seen better days and hadn't been used as a line of defense in centuries, and as Kuro thought about it, he wondered if the last time had been when Pit had traversed it in search of the Three Sacred Treasures. Now, the Fortress was crumbling around the edges and a few scrappy-looking plants were growing up the sides, but despite the lack of upkeep, it looked surprisingly sturdy.
Kuro turned his attention to the chasm nearby, a great trench he had seen only a handful of times even in his long life. He opened up his senses as he dove into it, dodging spires of rock and other strange formations of materials native to this realm. Gusts of wind howled as they passed through the chasm, threatening to upset his flight path, but he continued on with little detour. And sure enough, he soon heard a familiar swelling voice yelping and another calling after.
"Would you PLEASE stop with the blasts?!" Thanatos demanded as he suddenly jumped up out of the chasm, and a ball of light and darkness- mostly darkness- shot after him.
"Told ya!" A jovial voice replied with a laugh. "Hand over your position and I'll leave you alone!"
"Prince or not, I'm not surrendering to you!" Thanatos called back. "Besides, I don't make that call! And I don't wanna die myself!"
"Aww, but I'd be a much better god of death. Besides," Henry piped, "You hate answering to my brother anyway!"
"Henry!" Kuro interrupted as he approached them. "Can I cut this off for one moment? I need to borrow Thanatos." Both of them gave him rather curious looks.
"Anything to get away from that monster!" Thanatos whined.
"Fine," Henry huffed with a bit of a pout. "Rem's probably gonna yell at me soon anyway." With a brief flick of his wrist, a rather eerie light sparked off of a wound Thanatos had picked up, and it sealed and disappeared. "You're welcome!"
"You did this to me in the first place!" Thanatos snapped, but Henry only grinned at him and vanished in a burst of mostly darkness.
"I suppose I should thank you for calling that beast off," Thanatos said as he turned to Kuro hovering nearby. "He's even scarier than Hades sometimes!"
"Yeah," Kuro grumbled, already tired of dealing with him. "Make it up to me by answering some questions." Thanatos hummed and hawed at him curiously, and he made a dramatic gesture for Kuro to follow him as he bounced up to the trench's upper cliff. With a flap of his wings, Kuro joined him and landed lightly on his feet, and the power in his wings faded.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?" The god of death inquired. "How may I be of service?" Kuro crossed his arms, fidgeting his foot slightly as his wings twitched.
"You may recall back when Medusa launched her attack on Skyworld for the second time, back when Lady Palutena reigned, that… well, I made sure Pandora's powers didn't go to waste."
"Yes, you sucked up her smoldering remains like a leech," Thanatos said, and Kuro's irritation threatened to ignite the fire in him again.
"The point is that I had use of her power," he went on. "So why did I only gain flight and a little bit of extra fighting ability then, but when I faced her for the final time…"
"You got promoted?" Thanatos said with a laugh. "What a curious question! I didn't take you for the type to care about the details."
"I just want to know," Kuro snapped. "I need to understand just what this all means for me."
"Why come to me?" Thanatos wondered as he bounced around. "I thought everyone hated little ol' me!" Kuro grumbled under his breath, but he forced himself to calm down.
"Because you're the only Underworld Commander from back then that's still around. Everyone else kicked the bucket one way or another. So I want to know what you know." Thanatos pondered this for some time.
"Exactly how would it benefit me to help you?" He asked. "You and your twin toasted all my friends!" Kuro gained a slightly dangerous smile.
"Either you answer my questions, or I catch you in a trap and call Henry back here."
"Ack! No! Please, no!" Thanatos pleaded as he leapt back. "Have mercy! Anything but that!"
"So you'll cooperate?" Kuro asked slyly.
"Yes, yes!" Thanatos nodded vigorously. "Anything you want! Just don't call the prince of pain!" He calmed down, or at least as much as we was capable of. "Right. So… Pandora. Power. Godship, and all that hoo-ha." Kuro wasn't sure he'd ever seen the clown look so serious. "So the first time you took her power, she was just a flamey ball of vapor. Willpower was pretty much the only thing keeping her even sort of alive. I would know! She and I had more than our share of disagreements, but Hades was quite fond of her. But the point is, she was weak when you and your twin fought her! Wasn't much left for you to steal."
Kuro lowered his head as he listened to all of this, even if Thanatos's voice drove him mad.
"So basically you got to pick what those leftovers did for you," he went on. "Then, when you and Palutena went on your oh-so-noble mission to keep that squaking angel out of my grasp, Pandora was able to jump back out of your wings and revive herself, as you no doubt recall." Kuro nodded curtly. "It's kinda like a small scale version of what happened with Hades and Nemo, or Vis and Viridi way back when. It's not exactly easy to just swipe away a god's power and position. Which is what I'm trying to get dear Prince Henry to understand! Why doesn't he get that? But no matter what I try, he just-"
"Hey, hey!" Kuro interrupted. "I don't care about your squabble with Henry. Get back to the point."
"So rude," Thanatos gave a heaving sigh. "Let's see… where was I?" He snapped his fingers. "Ah, yes! So as I was saying. Taking an unwilling immortal's strength and power is no small task. Willpower plays a big part- probably why Nemo managed to keep Hades down for so long. But it never lasts. A god's power and position has to be granted to a successor or whoever else is involved for whatever reason." He shrugged.
"So… Like Pit and Palutena," Kuro said.
"Bingo!" Thanatos laughed. "The permanent change only happens when the successor receives the god's power personally. Everything else, temporary. Poof."
"But why would I be considered Pandora's successor?" Kuro asked. "I know my body and soul changed. I felt that fire burn through my blood."
"You made a Bind! A deal! An agreement!" The god of death guffawed. "Duel to the death, winner take all! You pummeled poor Pandora into oblivion, so you satisfied the terms of the Bind. Her power and position were part of the 'winner take all' bargain. So after you beat her, you got to reap the rewards." Kuro uncrossed his arms and looked at his hand.
"I see," he said softly. Red and black flames ignited from his palm. "She was at full strength and me taking her power was legitimate. Not just leftovers, but the whole deal." He nodded and lowered his hand, allowing the flame to fade, then looked back up at the god of death with a smirk. "Never thought I'd say this, but… thank you, Thanatos. Glad I didn't have to beat answers out of you."
"If you really wanna thank me, tell the prince to stop using me for target practice!" Thanatos whined, and Kuro shook his head.
"I'll put in a good word for you, but can't promise anything. You behave, got it? Don't want to get on Remiel's bad side, or he may sic Henry on you for the fun of it." Thanatos looked absolutely horrified at the thought.
"Don't even joke about that! Staying on Lord Remiel's good side is the only chance I've got! At least he leaves me alone!" Kuro snorted humorously and spread his wings as his power of flight illuminated from them, and he leapt into the air.
"I'll give you a head start," he said. "But I doubt I'll distract Henry for long." Thanatos, with a whooping cry, half bounced and half flew back through the chasm and out of Kuro's sight. Kuro once again shook his head and turned back in the direction of the City of Souls, and on his flight back to make good on his offer, he thought, perhaps, the flames of calamity coursing through him had subsided ever so slightly.
"Maybe I should take up meditation," he thought to himself, and he picked up his speed as he traversed the Underworld.