Scorched – Chapter 03
“That’s not how you peel an apple, Takao.”
“Hey, this isn’t the first time I’ve done it, and I’ve always done it this way! See? I still have all ten fingers.”
A sigh. “Just because you haven’t lost them yet doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.”
Another voice, higher, accented. “Come on, Rei, give Takao a chance. It was his idea to make apple bunnies, and I think it’s very considerate of him.”
“I’m not denying him anything! I’m just saying, if he keeps this up, he’s going to cut himself and I’m pretty sure Kai doesn’t like apples bloody, no matter how bloodthirsty he pretends to be.” A pause. “I never expected you to think up something like this, though.”
“Are you saying I’m inconsiderate?”
“No. Just … apple bunnies. It’s not something you’d usually think of.”
Humming. “Yeah, it’s not. Hiromi thought it would be a good idea and said that everyone liked apple bunnies, so I thought, why the hell not? It’s not like Kai can hold anything against apples. They’re tasty, they’re healthy … they’re just a pain to peel but hey, that’s not his problem.”
“You forgot ‘too crunchy.’”
This voice was tired, strained, and most definitely did not belong to any of the three rowdy occupants in the room. Instead, it belonged to fourth, who was blearily opening his eyes, blinking away the sleep.
It was light again, Kai noted. Had he slept the entire day?
Max smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you up.”
Kai shook his head. “No, it’s long past time I should be up.” He started to push himself up when Rei’s hands pushed himself and he found a blade brandished in his face.
“Uh, hello? Patient here!” Takao admonished Kai with a waving hand, which also happened to be holding the fruit knife. “You’re staying down until doctor says you’re fine.”
“Takao, put that away. It’s dangerous.”
“Huh?” At Rei’s words, Takao looked at his hand. “Oh. Whoops, sorry.” He sat back down and set back to work on sculpting the fruit.
Kai looked around at the three of them after Rei had let go, confident that his former captain wasn’t going anywhere. Rei was still standing, looking down on him with hardened eyes, as though daring him to try something again. Max was perched on a stool, a relaxed smile on his face that was aimed at him. Kai looked away quickly towards Takao who, true to the conversation, was indeed trying to make apple bunnies. It was the most ridiculous thing Kai had ever seen, and it wasn’t because Takao really did seem to be determined to lose all his fingers in the process.
So long as it gave the rambunctious blader something to do, though, it didn’t matter that apple wasn’t his favorite fruit.
“What are you all doing here?”
“Seeing you, of course!” Max chirped, as though it were the most obvious answer in the world. “Takao said you woke up yesterday, so we came and dropped by.”
“We also came to drop this off,” said Rei, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a familiar blue blade, whole and flawless in its perfect condition. “The Chief just finished it last night. Stayed up all night to improve the design while he was at it.”
Kai reached up to take the blade. He was glad to notice he was not obstructed by any needles poking into him this time around. He turned the beyblade around, examining it. It looked fine, though he wouldn’t know for sure until he tested it in a dish.
The top, though, where the bit was usually inserted, was surprisingly not empty. Then again, Chief has had to repair destroyed bits too. The spirits just returned to occupy them after he was done.
Misinterpreting Kai’s prolonged silence as he stared at his blade, Rei continued, “I don’t know the specifics, so you’ll have to ask Chief when you get the chance. Be sure to thank him.”
Max giggled at Kai’s raised eyebrows, accusing Rei of false charges. “He’s right, though. You don’t mean to, but you could do with a reminder or two sometimes. That’s what we’re here for, right?”
It was hard for the senior member of the team to take offense to the blonde’s words when they were said so good-naturedly. He turned his gaze back to the blade.
As Rei said, it was completely new, even unfamiliar, despite the coloring, general shape and style, and the phoenix imprint on top of the bit. It was Dranzer, yet it wasn’t. The thought filled Kai with an awkward loneliness and strangeness, like discovering he’d woken up in another dimension. Of course, he was careful to keep the feeling away from his face.
“Aagh, done! Finally!”
A plate full of strange misshapen fruit appeared on his lap. Kai glared at Takao for his obtrusiveness, but the brunet didn’t care. Never had, never would.
“Come on, eat up. It’s good for you.”
Kai stared down at the plate before finally heaving a sigh of defeat and brought one to his mouth. He tried not to think morbid thoughts about how he was biting off a rabbit’s head.
Was Takao actually fishing for compliments? Kai glanced up at the boy’s eager expression and decided that, yes, he was. Unbelievable. “You didn’t make this.” And since he didn’t make it, it didn’t matter if it were good or not. It’s an apple. All apples taste the same.
“I so totally did. Did you see that awesome knife-work? That was all me.”
“Any larger and your ego might explode, Takao.”
“Shut it, Rei.”
“Now, now, don’t fight, you two. We’re in a hospital, remember?”
Kai stared at his teammates contemplatively as he decapitated another bunny. After three years, it still felt strange that these … complete opposites managed to work together with him to win the world championships not once, not twice, but three times. It felt strange that they stuck by him, weren’t intimidated (too much), and even gathered the confidence to offer advice (sometimes) all this time. He wondered idly if he was worth the effort, but that was such a melancholy thought with no purpose whatsoever that he immediately shook it from his head.
Strange teammates or not, they called him their friend and he would have to live up to that responsibility.
It wasn’t like he disliked their company (too much) either.
“Hey, I know. After you’re better and all, we can have a practice match, Kai. You can test out your new blade and I can test out my new Dragoon.”
Kai looked up at that.
Takao seemed to understand his implied question. “Well, Garland kind of trashed my blade,” (not surprising, Kai thought, since every major match has ended in some sort of blade destruction or another. Such was the nature of the sport,) “so Chief made me a new one. It’s mostly the same, just a few tweaks here and there, but I can’t wait to try it out all the same.”
Rei, however, was not so eager. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Kai’s still recovering from his … ah … injuries, so he should be taking it a bit easier than usual.”
“Hey, how come you’re spoiling him?! Whenever I’m injured, you’re all like ‘Oh, Takao, training is good for your health. It’ll make you stronger in the long run’ and crap?!”
“I wouldn’t exactly call being sore from training ‘injured’…”
“The end result was the same! I couldn’t move for a week.”
“Muscle soreness is made better by more exercise. You do get stronger.”
“Horrible lies, all of it.”
Kai tuned out Takao and Rei’s venomless argument.
Apparently, so did Max, who was peering at Kai’s face, concerned. “Are you OK?”
His eyes flashed upwards to meet Max’s blue ones. “Yes. Why do you ask?”
“It’s just … you seem more down than normal, and you’re not talking as much.”
Kai smirked. “Don’t you hear them talking? I’m a patient. It’s only natural.”
Max’s lips settled into a half-frown-half-pout. “Oh don’t be that way. This is something other than your dislike for comfort and bed rest. Something’s bothering you.”
His smile turned more genuine. “You’ve gotten more aggressive lately.”
That brought a beam to Max’s face. “I try. …But don’t dodge—”
“So, how ‘bout it, Kai? Up for it? Not up for it?” Takao cut in, effectively taking out any chance of Max’s question being answered, thankfully.
Rei clicked his tongue disapprovingly.
Max frowned, annoyed at the interruption.
Kai leaned back into the pillows and stared at the pockmarked ceiling.
After a moment’s silence, he voiced his reply.
“I’m thinking I should quit beyblading.”