Scorched – Chapter 04



Chapter 04

This statement caused an outrage that Kai completely predicted but had no energy to counter.  He only closed his eyes and let the words wash over him.

“What?  Why?”  Takao shouted.

Max frowned.  “I was right, wasn’t I?  Something really is bothering you…”

“Well no duh, Max!  Kai just died for god’s sake!”

“He wasn’t even conscious during that!  Just because it bothers us doesn’t mean it’ll bother him!”

Takao seemed taken aback that the usually even-tempered blonde was actually arguing back.  Kai wondered if this was a sign of just how stressed Max really was.

The two continued trading words while Rei voiced his own opinion.  “That was a victory, your last battle, but it cost you a lot.  You’re not afraid that something like this will happen again, are you?”

Tired as he was, Kai mentally sneered at those words.  Trust it to the unobtrusive ones to come up with the most offensive, purposely misleading questions.

“You almost died – yes, Takao, I know his heart stopped on the way to the hospital, but he’s with us now – and Dranzer was shattered to pieces.  Anyone would be scared of that happening again…”

At this, Rei leaned forward onto the bed and stared Kai straight in the eyes.  Not one to be intimidated, he stared straight back.

“…but you’re not anyone, Kai.  Something else is going on.  Did someone threaten you again?  Is it Balkov?  Or is it your—”

“Enough, Rei,” Kai interrupted, pushing Rei away as well as he could while still balancing the plate.  “It has nothing to do with those two scum.  They’re out of my life, and they’re staying out.”

“Then why, Kai?  I know better than anyone, you love beyblading more than anything in the world!  How can you just … quit?!  Just like that?  Don’t you remember when we fought in the finals?  How can you experience that again if you quit?”

Takao was right, for once.  But without Dranzer by his side, could he even find the will to battle?  Did he even want to?

True, the others have had their spirits stolen at one point or another.  Even he had, during their first World Championship battle, against Sergei.  However, that time there was always the chance that she would return.

Nothing returns from death, though.

Maybe he just needed to give this more time.  Think it through slowly, without outside intrusions.  It is possible to battle without a spirit; it’d just put him at a disadvantage, and when had he ever been one to back down from a challenge?

“It’s nothing.  Forget I said anything.”

“Oh, no you don’t.”  This time it was Takao who stepped forward to take Kai’s arm.  Kai glared at the unwanted contact.  “We let you get off with something like that, then you’ll go make some weird decision on your own, and then you’ll disappear again.  We’re talking this over whether you like it or not, and we’re not leaving until you do!”  With a huff, Takao plopped himself down on the edge of the hospital bed.

Kai toyed with the idea of shoving the blue-haired boy off the bed, and was just about to put the plan into action when Max sat down on his other side.

“We’re your friends,” Max cajoled in his own brand of naivety and determination, “and friends tell each other what they’re thinking before they make a big decision.  Especially if it’s going to affect said friends.”

Rei grinned gleefully at Kai as he hung his head in exasperation.  “Give it up, Kai.  You’ve got Max on one side, and Takao on the other.  You’re not going anywhere.”

The hospitalized boy buried his hand in his face.  This was more trouble than it was worth.  “The one time I’m loose-lipped about my thoughts, you all jump on it.  I’m serious.  Forget what I just said.  I spoke too hastily.”

The Chinese blader crossed his arms.  “But something must have put the idea in your head.  If you explain to us what you’re thinking, then maybe we can sort it through.”

The problem was that Kai didn’t know how to put the sensation into words.  He knew the others must have bonds with their own beasts, but he also knew that they weren’t as deep as his and Dranzer’s.  After all, theirs never materialized for them outside of battle.  Theirs never warmed in their hands, reassuring them in cold bitter nights alone in the snow-beaten mountains of Russia.

How do you explain sight to someone who’s been blind all their life?

“Give me three days.”

“Huh?  But—”

“Now, out.”

The three glanced at each other.

“Out, I said.”

Perhaps they finally realized that Kai had said all he wanted on the topic.  Instead of arguing anymore, Rei put a hand on Takao and Max’s shoulders and guided them out.  The look he sent back, though, clearly said that they weren’t done yet.

Kai sat back with a heavy sigh once the door was shut.  Two gasps for air, and two exhales.

Yes, it was far too soon to decide.  He could still fight.  In fact, if he fought without a beast and won, then that would make him even stronger than the others because he was handicapped, right?  There wasn’t anything bad about the situation.  He would adapt.  He would be stronger than before.  It would all be for the best.

After all, that’s what he fought for, right?  Self-improvement.  Pushing yourself further than you’ve ever gone before.  Breaking your own boundaries.  And then putting all of his hard work to the test against another of equal strength, and the thrill of seeing your own effort reflected back at you.

That would all be the same, whether he bladed with Suzaku or whether he bladed alone.

He should be strong enough to stand on his own two feet now.  He’d always been strong enough, and even if she were … gone … then he’d miss her, but it wouldn’t cripple him.

Right?

But as he set the plate down, half-eaten apple slices still standing  haphazardly across the plate and some lying on their side like rabbits laying down for their final rest, and he reached over to the blade Rei had left behind and closed his fingers around it, he couldn’t help but curl around it, bringing it tight to his chest and knees drawn in close.  He screwed his eyes shut and instead withdrew into the dark behind his eyelids where he didn’t have to think about how he looked stupidly vulnerable.

The blade didn’t warm.  It didn’t respond to his touch, and it didn’t embrace him with comfort when he held it close.  It was empty, like a shell.  A carapace.

A corpse.

And if the blue blade that was Dranzer that once held Suzaku’s spirit was a tad wet the next morning … well, then that was because his fingers were still sticky from Takao’s stupid apples.





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