Scorched – Chapter 05

Chapter 05

Kai fit the new Dranzer to the launcher.  It clicked, a perfect fit.  But that was ordinary.  After all, the launcher Kai used was pretty standard.  He had no use for such fancy equipment that other bladers seemed to constantly rely on.

Two days had passed and he’d been deemed fit for outside activities.  Nothing strenuous, but Kai had always been one to draw his own limitations.  They said it was a miracle for him to recover from his injuries so quickly, but he didn’t find anything abnormal.  He’d always had something of a quick recovery rate.  Perhaps it was one good thing his genetics was for.

On that distasteful note, he pulled his cord as hard as he could.  He winced when the cord caught his loose hospital clothes, but he put the discomfort out of his mind.  He focused on the blade, which was spinning on the ground, kicking up a circular ring of dust.

The sight was familiar, yet there was a sense of disconnect.  As he’d thought, without Suzaku, he had no way of communicating as deeply with the blade as before.  It was like controlling something through a remote control rather than having it be a natural extension.

He practiced some simple maneuvers, turns and swerves.  Dranzer responded perfectly to his every command.  He told it to run through 8-curves, and it did.  He told it to spin up a tree and flip off the branch, and it did, even landing with precision and without a hitch in its speed at all.

The speed was superior than before, and its balance was slightly more maintained.  Kai was satisfied with the Chief’s work.

There was nothing wrong with the physical.  Just … the spirit wasn’t there.

Kai couldn’t stop mulling over how strange the sensation was.

He shook his head.  Perhaps it was because this was just a simple warm-up.  There were no other bladers in the hospital (and if there were, it was doubtful that they would be allowed to blade.  He’d only been given the green light because of his “miraculous” recovery) and beyblading was, in the end, a competitive sport.  There was nothing here that he could base his decision on, the decision the rest of his career depended on.

He called Dranzer back and it flew back into his palm with a semi-satisfying thwack.  He examined it, turning it this way and back.  Superficially, it looked about the same.  The Chief had emphasized some of the blades over the top and the attack ring looked a little different, but overall, it was something he was very familiar with, visually.  Despite having run through a rather grueling run for its first trial, it didn’t have any harmful scratches.  Perhaps the boy had used a different material too?  Impressive.

A nurse called his name.  Apparently it wasn’t the first time she’d said it because she was looking slightly worried and was starting to walk his way.  Deciding that postponing his release was something he wanted to avoid at all costs (he hated hospitals, but he couldn’t remember why.  It was perhaps from something long ago that had long since faded and scattered in his memories), he gave an acknowledging nod to the woman before pocketing his blade.

“I’ve called you five times now!  You shouldn’t be out here, let alone beyblading – of all things! – so soon into your recovery.”

Kai largely let the words flow in one ear and out the other and instead struggled to restrain his automatic reaction to the hand on his arm, dragging him back into the dark building.  He gave in when his concentration was broken by a sudden shiver that overtook him when he stepped into the hospital and shook the hand off with a quick jerk.

The nurse looked at him questioningly, but he just shook his head.  He’d been standing in the sun.  It was only natural for the shade to be cooler.  Still, he stuck to the windows, where the sunlight streamed through the windows and brightened the fluorescent-lit hallways, as he followed the nurse back to his room.

There, he found a surprise in the form of his teammates.  Except he wasn’t surprised.

“What are you doing here?”  The question was directed at any one of them and all of them at once.

Max at least had the grace to look sheepish.  “Um … welcome back present?”

Kai stared down at the offered magazines – latest editions, probably straight from the Mizuhara store – and took them with a simple nod.  Max breathed a sigh of relief.

“You’re obviously feeling better now, if you’re going out and testing out the new blade already.  Do you like it?” asked Rei.

Kai nodded again, taking the Dranzer out of his pocket.  “It’s good work.  A good beyblade.”

This compliment earned a full-toothed grin from the Chinese.  “The Chief put a lot of heart and soul into it.  You should thank him directly next time you see him.”

Kai slipped past the two to sit on his bed.  He put the magazines and blade down on the side table.  “Where’s Takao?”

Max chuckled and leaned forward, as though sharing a secret joke.  “He got held up by his grandfather.  Gramps finally got tired of him skipping all his lessons so Takao’s probably sweating up a river practicing kendo.”

“It won’t be completely useless at least,” said Rei.  “Physical toning is essential for blading as well.  We’ll have one more year before the next World Championship Series, and we can’t allow ourselves to slip in our training if we want to stay on top.”

This was one thing Kai liked about Rei.  The other understood what was needed and what competition was about.  All of them had followed a regime Hiromi and Kai had developed in the past, but ever since they’d split up, Kai suspected that certain people had started slacking.

Their conversation fell into a lull that would’ve been impossible had the blue-haired blader been present.  Personally, Kai didn’t mind the quiet.  It was comfortable.

It was Max who first broke the silence.  “So … I know we were interrupted last time, but I can’t help but think something’s different.”

This again?  “There’s still one day left, Max.”

“I’m not talking about that.  This is something else … but I can’t quite put my finger on it.”  Max fell silent, probably trying to pinpoint exactly what he perceived was wrong.  Kai carefully kept his face blank.  “Mm, it’s pretty hard to put into words.  But anyways, I know even if I ask and nag, you’ll never give me a straight answer, so I just wanted to let you know that if you need anything – any help, any support whatsoever – we’re your friends and we’re here for you.”

“He’s right.  I know we say this again and again, but it never seems to sink into your mind, so we’re going to play the broken record for as long as we need to, until…”

“Until what?” Kai challenged.

“…Until you know you can come to us for favors and not feel the obligation that you owe us something.  Or until you realize that we’re not going to abandon you without a second glance.”

The world doesn’t work like that, Kai wanted to say, but he refrained.  After all, even he knew that if the world were made of things like daggers and porcupines, his teammates would remain unrealistically oblivious and impervious to it all, spreading sunshine and rainbows every step they took (they’d probably even find the porcupines adorable).  It really was nothing short of incredible, their faith in each other and, somehow, inexplicably, in him.

After a moment’s consideration, Kai took a deep breath, waiting for the full exhale to finish before voicing his request.  After all, they did say ‘anything,’ right?  “There is one thing…”  He stopped when he saw the two of them staring at him eagerly with budding smiles.  Did he say something strange?

His pause must have continued for too long because Max prompted him, “Go on.”

“…I want to test Dranzer in battle.  I can hardly get a feel for it just going through simple maneuvers.”

“Does that mean you’re planning to stay?”  This was said with such cheer and optimism that Kai had to calm Max down with a sardonic glance.

“It’s just a test.  Nothing more.  The Chief is owed that much.”

This did nothing to dampen Rei’s grin, though.  The extra upturn in his lips seemed like he was in on a special joke that Kai was not privy to.  “That’s no problem.  What do you say, Max?  Want to give our esteemed captain a refresher on the wonders of beyblading?”

“That sounds just about right to me!  So, who’ll it be?”

Kai cut in before this went out of hand.  “I just want to test the blade out…”

“I’m all rested up, and Driger could do with a warm-up.”

“Same.  Plus, Kai’s still recovering!  It might be better if we pit his attacks against my defense.”

“Oh?  Then wouldn’t it be even better to see how he does against my speed?  It’ll be the perfect battle.”

…except they didn’t listen to him.  Sometimes, he wondered about the merits of toning down on the acerbic portion of his personality.

“Stop,” he commanded sternly.  The two finally stopped their quibbling.  “I don’t care if you pull out a coin and flip it.  I just want to fight someone.  Make a decision before I come back.  I have to go somewhere.”

With that, and despite the fact that he didn’t have an exact destination in mind, Kai stood and left the room with an air of purpose.  He didn’t give them time to question him.  After he clicked the door shut, he heard the two resume their argument.

He was lucky to have a single room, granted to a “celebrity” of his stature.  It’d be a real bother to have to deal with complaints from neighbors, on top of everything else.

Now that he was outside, though, he had to find something to occupy him.  After a bit of pondering, his feet walked him down the corridor and into another wing.

That’s right.  He’d forgotten.  There was another patient beside him here.  Now was as good a time as any to check up on him

Onto Chapter 6 >>

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