Part II


Part II

                Fame has its consequences.  Despite the fact that Kai had retired from Beyblading after the Worlds, it seemed that there just wasn’t a good enough reason for everyone else.  Strange things started happening,  a mysterious blader popping up out of nowhere to challenge him…  Things that always annoyed Kai to no end.  Especially when it involved innocent bystanders – at least that’s what Kai considered Wyatt Smyth-Wright, a classmate of his who was more than a tad obsessed with Kai.  It wasn’t his fault the kid was too obsessed to understand that Kai wasn’t interested, and that taking on Kai’s battles for him was just not helping the situation.  But a conversation he’d had with Wyatt had brought back some of the things that Kai had thought he’d put aside in retiring, including his desire to battle Tyson again.

 *** ***

                “I don’t mean to be a pest…but is it true that you retired because there’s nobody out there good enough to fight against?”  Wyatt asked, still gawking at Kai’s blade through the glass of the display case.  “At least, that’s what I heard…”

                “Listen, I hear a new rumour every day.”  Kai retorted, frowning.

                “But there’s one name that keeps coming up.  Who you’d like to take on…  You know…Tyson!  Your buddy from the Bladebreakers?”

                “Yeah, I guess I would like face Tyson one last time.  That battle would be…interesting.”  Kai agreed, thinking about it as he turned and slowly walked toward a small practice dish.

                “Huh?”  Wyatt turned.  He’d never heard that tone from Kai – a sort of soft, affectionate tone laced with a hint of excitement.

                “Now that would be a real fight.  But it would never happen.”  Kai said, almost to himself, and stopped at the small beydish and stared at the picture on the wall.

  *** ***

                Unfortunately, the new guy, Dunga, had come along.  And it looked like Kai had finally found a reason to come back to the blading world.  A worthy opponent, who was not Tyson, and therefore someone he wouldn’t feel guilty about fighting and defeating.  That was the true reason that he’d retired, something he hadn’t told anyone.  He felt that guilty about what he’d done to Tyson and the rest of the team in order to get revenge for his initial defeat, that he decided to retire in order to never be tempted to go against Tyson ever again, to never betray him ever again.

                Then Wyatt had taken Kai’s launcher and blade – and Dranzer – and gone to meet Dunga himself, since Kai had refused to.  When Kai found out, he immediately went after the kid, cursing him for being so stupid – and cursing himself for not knowing that it would happen.  He’d found them on the roof, just as the battle was about to be engaged.  To teach Wyatt a lesson, and to find out whether Dunga was worth any of Kai’s time, the crimson-eyed teen stood back and let Wyatt try his hand at blading.  Kai ended up having to save Wyatt from flying off the side of the building, and taking over the battle.

                Dunga was worth more than Kai’s time.  He was worth watching out for – and battling again.

                Kai hadn’t wanted to go back to the Beyblading world unless someone came along who was enough of a challenge and was not Tyson, and now he’d found someone.  The moment he held Dranzer in his hand again, the moment he launched his blade and once more felt the incredible force that his phoenix spirit possessed…he was back.  Hiwatari Kai returned to the blading world.

                As soon as he could, he gathered his belongings from the dorms at school, changed from his school uniform into something that reflected not only his sense of fashion (which earned a few strange looks from his peers who were not aware of his blading fame), but his ability and his strength.  And without saying a word to anyone else – not his teachers, not his peers, and not even Wyatt – Kai turned his back on the private school and headed for Bey City.  He had teammates to track down and find out if they had been confronted as he had by any strange new bladers.

                He wouldn’t admit it, but he was more than a little curious about how Tyson was doing and how much his skills had improved – or gone down the drain, which was always a possibility.

                Kai was walking through the park, one that he remembered quite clearly from his past adventures in Tyson’s neighbourhood.  He hadn’t been expecting to come across a beybattle, and certainly not one involving Tyson himself – with Kenny and some girl watching and looking decidedly worried.  The dual-haired teen held back, not letting his presence be known yet, and observed from a slight distance.

  *** ***

                “No!  Dragoon can’t lose this!”  Tyson could not believe this was happening to him.

                “He won’t.”  Kai spoke up, finally making his presence known.  Tyson, Kenny, and the new girl Kai didn’t know, looked up at him.  The Chief and Tyson were shocked to see him – and at the same time, vastly relieved.  “It’s time for Dragoon to go on the attack.”

                Tyson stared at him for a moment, then nodded, turning back to the battle.  He did exactly what Kai said and attacked, releasing Dragoon and going after the other blade with all his might.

                Kai watched.  Tyson can win this if he can control the power of Dragoon.  He thought.  Come on, Tyson.  You can do this!

                A few moments later, Dragoon unleashed a devastating attack, destroying the other kid’s blade, and winning the battle.

  *** ***

                After the strange kid disappeared, the four friends made their way to the lookout, where the Chief and his computer gave the results of their analysis of Tyson’s battle.  A magnetic core?  This was new.  Kai ignored the spat that erupted between his old teammate and the girl, Hilary.

                Of course, Tyson and Hilary were even more argumentative than Kai and Tyson were – and that was saying something.

                Kai leaned against the railing some distance away, staring out at the sea.  It appeared that he wasn’t the only one getting attacked at random by strange bladers, and with new technologically advanced blades.  Maybe it was a good idea to come out of retirement after all.

                He followed the other three teens as they made their way home on the path alongside the river.  Then suddenly they stopped, and Kai found himself being introduced – formally – to the new girl.  He wasn’t particularly interested in her, though she seemed nice enough.  He merely walked right on by, not saying a word nor acknowledging her greeting – typical Kai response.  Tyson snickered and Kenny told her not to worry about it, since that’s how Kai always was.

                Suddenly Tyson was at his side, bubbling over with enthusiasm, and saying something about Kai needing a place to stay while in town so hey!  Stay at the dojo with Tyson!  Kai blinked, and tried pulling loose from the bluenette’s insistent grip, but in the end allowed him to quite literally pull Kai along to his home, chattering the entire way.

                Despite how he acted outwardly, inwardly he was relieved that Tyson had no qualms about opening his home to Kai, and neither was he that upset about Tyson’s treatment of him.  Of course, he had a reputation to maintain, so he pretended to be put out with the bluenette – though he had a feeling Tyson saw right through it, as he always did.

                The next morning he went down to the beach – early – to get in some practice.  If he was going to be fighting bladers that were as tough as Dunga, and with advanced Beyblade technology like the kid Tyson faced yesterday, then he was going to need to get back into shape.

                The others found him several hours later, no doubt due to the fact that Tyson had been snoring loudly when Kai had left and he knew from experience how hard it was to wake the bluenette up in the morning.  Kai related his run-in with Dunga, and Kenny confirmed that it was not just him, it was all the Bladebreakers having similar battles.  He had no idea what was going on yet, though.

                Then Kenny inadvertently made the mistake of suggesting Kai had lost his battle with Dunga.  When Kai corrected him – it was a tie, damn it! – Tyson laughed and told him to chill out.  Even the best, he said, sometimes lost.  Of course Kai couldn’t keep his mouth shut and said something about how Tyson didn’t still think he was the best, did he?  After that it was all down hill.  Their first argument since Kai returned.

                It felt really good to have it out with Tyson again.  And it made him feel even better after Tyson’s closing argument, even if Kai himself had no such intentions of reforming the team – not yet, at least.

  *** ***

                “Look, fighting like this is getting us nowhere.  The important thing is you’re here now.  We were a team before, and we can be a team once again.  Working together, Kai!  That’s how we’ll beat those invisible bit-beasts.”  Tyson smiled.

                Kai shook his head in the negative.  “I know we were a team once, but once was enough for me.”  He replied, walking away and leaving a frowning Tyson and an upset Kenny behind – with a suspicious Hilary looking on.

  *** ***

                He’d soon change his mind.  Kai stopped by the BBA headquarters to see Mr. Dickenson, only to come across Tyson arguing with Mr. Dickenson about the Bladebreakers being split up and not fighting as a team anymore – not without Kai.  Tyson made one of his ridiculously over-confident statements about how he’d take on the entirety of Team Psykick himself, with Kenny and Hilary protesting that he couldn’t take on a whole team alone, and it was at this point that Kai stepped in.

                He spoke before he even realized just what he was committing himself to – again.  A team.  The Bladebreakers were back…or would be as soon as Max and Rei could be found and brought back to Japan.

                Tyson was ecstatic.  And the training began.

~~~~~~~~~~

                Their first order of business was to deal with Team Psykick.  Thanks to Max’s mom, they had the technology to combat the technology of the Psykicks.  But before they could deal with them, the Bladebreakers were going to have to master that technology, starting from scratch.

                Unfortunately, they wouldn’t even make it to the scheduled battle.  They’d be kidnapped instead, and taken to some weird island where they would be forced to battle in order to leave.

                Fighting their way out of life-or-death battles was beginning to grate on Kai’s nerves.

                Was it his imagination, or was Tyson a little bit jealous when they split up (Kenny and Hilary going with Kai to check out the lighthouse they spotted in the distance)?  He hadn’t been very happy about Kai declaring he was going with the two brunettes for ‘protection.’  But in the end, he didn’t say anything more about it, going off with Max and Rei in a huff – limping.

                They each had their own battles to fight.  Max’s had gone well enough.  Rei managed to figure out his own, too, coming out victorious.  As for Kai, he held back, deliberately allowing Kenny the time he needed to hack the island’s security and create havoc for their adversaries.  They managed to send out a distress call, hoping it would reach Mr. Dickenson somehow and they’d be rescued.  Then he unleashed Dranzer on his opponent and squashed him like a bug.

                After running around a while longer, they finally found their teammates, and the last of their opponents.

                The final battle was Tyson’s – as those sort usually were.  He absolutely insisted on it, despite the injury to his leg that made it difficult for him to stand, let alone walk.  And while the others were objecting and trying to convince the dragon that he didn’t have to blade, that he shouldn’t blade, Kai said nothing.  He understood exactly what was going on in Tyson’s mind.  He felt exactly as Tyson felt.  And he had no qualms about telling the others so either.  They shut up about it after that.

  *** ***

                “And you call yourself a friend!  Or don’t you care that Tyson’s ankle is really hurt bad?”  Hilary shouted at Max and Rei.  Max’s face fell.

                Kenny ran up, panting for breath.  “It’s no use, Hilary.  When it comes to Beyblading there’s no way you’re going to change Tyson’s mind.  He’s so stubborn he won’t listen to anyone!”

                “Are you serious?!  But he could get hurt for life if we don’t talk some sense into him right now!”

                “You don’t understand.”  Kai finally stepped in.  He had taken one look at Tyson and the battle, and known exactly what the World Champion was doing.  He understood, and he’d make the others understand, too.  “Turn around and look at how weak his Dragoon is.”

                They all turned, trying to see whatever it was Kai saw.

                “There’s a good chance Tyson might lose this one, but he knows exactly what he’s doing.”

                Hilary scowled.  “Then explain to me why in the world would he want to do this to himself?!”

                “It’s the only way to protect his bit-beast.”

                “What do you mean by that Kai?”  Max asked, not sure he understood.

                “Tyson and his Dragoon have a connection that’s nearly impossible to explain.  When one is hurt, so is the other.  And now they must battle to regain their strength again.”  Kai raised his eyes to watch the continuing battle.

                “So…you’re saying this is more than a game to him?”  Max reasoned out, frowning in concern.  The others all looked over at Tyson, seeing him in a light they hadn’t before.

                “It’s not a game to him.”  Kai stated firmly.  “It’s his life.”

                Hilary stared at her classmate, shocked.  She had never claimed to understand the sport of Beyblading, and now she knew the reason she could never understand Tyson and what she’d viewed as his obsession and huge ego.  “I didn’t know…”  Tears pricked at her eyes as she watched Tyson getting weaker.

  *** ***

                Kai discovered he could be prouder of Tyson than he had at the last World Championships.  He also began to have inklings of emotions that he hadn’t believed he would ever have for another person, let alone someone like Kinomiya Tyson.

                Tyson was a true blader, with a spirit that matched Kai’s own.

                Tyson was a true friend, someone Kai needed badly in his life.

                Before Kai could think about it any further, however, Mr. Dickenson and Gramps had arrived in a helicopter to rescue them.  Back on the mainland, Tyson spent the night in the hospital for observation, thanks to his injured ankle and the exhaustion from the battle.  Kai had a run in with Dunga – yet again – though their match was foiled by Ozuma, who had stuck his blade in to prevent the creeps from Team Psykick from spying on the match.

                Mr. Dickenson found out that Dunga and Ozuma were part of a team called the Saint Shields, but that was it.  The BBA knew nothing else yet.

                After that, things were fairly quiet for a time.  But Kai knew.  It was the calm before the storm.  Neither group of adversaries had disappeared, and they’d be back.

~~~~~~~~~~

                Max and Rei had a run in with Mariam and her little brother, Joseph, and once again they’d lost.  Kai hadn’t been present for that, but he knew they’d tried their best.  The Saint Shields intrigued him.

                Kenny and Hilary had found him and told him what was happening.  Kai immediately went with them, and they found Tyson battling Ozuma once again in an abandoned building in the forest not far from the dojo.  Kai watched in silence, beginning to get a little worried as Ozuma and his Flash Leopard were all over Tyson and Dragoon like a bad heat rash.

                But Tyson wasn’t the World Champ for nothing.  He came back from behind with a vengeance, and he won – though Ozuma nor his teammates seemed particularly worried about it.  They just walked off, Ozuma’s parting comment ringing in all four bladers’ minds.

                “…I think you’ve still got a long way to improve your bit-beast technique.”

                Kai couldn’t help but think maybe the Saint Shields knew something the Bladebreakers didn’t.  Still…he didn’t trust them for a second.  Not a bit.

                It didn’t take long to get a glimpse of what was going on with Team Psykick.  Kai and his team saw the new Cyber Bit-beast for themselves.  Not only did they have the Saint Shields to deal with, now they had some weird, mutant, digital copies of their own bit-beasts and some crazy scientists controlling them to worry about, too.

                One thing was for sure, they needed training.  But they quickly found out that Kenny’s regime was worse than anything Hilary could come up with.  And he’d thought she was a drill sergeant.  Yeesh.

                And even in training, when Kai battled Tyson, he couldn’t begin to describe the curious thrill that washed through him every single time.

~~~~~~~~~~

                Out of nowhere one day, Wyatt appeared.  Kai noticed the others had strange looks on their faces at Wyatt’s appearance, but he had no intention of explaining.  He didn’t need to – Wyatt took care of that on his own.  It was getting on Kai’s nerves, just a little, how the kid just couldn’t understand that when Kai said “No.” he meant it.  And yet Wyatt was still begging for Kai to train him.

                Kai was a very good judge of skill level, and Wyatt was not up to their level.  There were other reasons, too, though.  Unsurprisingly, Rei got it.  He understood that Kai didn’t trust Wyatt, not after that stunt the kid had pulled before (stealing Dranzer guaranteed Kai would never trust Wyatt again, no matter how much he begged).

                Things never seemed to turn out well for Kai.  He’d been entirely correct in turning Wyatt down.  How could he have known that those creepy scientists would use Wyatt like they did to further their plans?

                It would be one of the greatest regrets of his life.

                Kai wasn’t particularly fond of Wyatt, didn’t consider him a friend – not like his teammates and especially not like Tyson.  They had earned his trust and respect.  That took some doing with Kai.  Wyatt didn’t seem to understand that.  But even if he didn’t like the kid, he wouldn’t wish Wyatt’s fate on his worst enemy.  So when Wyatt suffered under the control of the Cyber Dranzer bit beast, it hurt Kai to witness it, even if Kai didn’t personally battle Wyatt (Dunga had stepped in before Kai could).  There had been one moment near the end of the battle where Wyatt glanced at Kai and their eyes had met for a brief second, and in that second it seemed like time stopped long enough for Kai to ask Wyatt: Why?

  *** ***

                “Can’t you see…that Team Psykick is just using you?”

                “I just wanted to be accepted as a real blader…like you, Kai.”

  *** ***

                That would haunt Kai for the rest of his life, he knew.  Wyatt lost control and he won the battle, but in the end, he lost his life.  Kai held him in his final moments, and had never been so angry and upset in his life.

                Kai promised revenge on Team Psykick.  And he knew his teammates were right behind him and in total agreement.  This would never happen again to anyone else.

                He remembered how Tyson had stayed with him that same evening, when all the others had gone home for the night.  Rei went over to stay with Max that night, seeming to sense that Kai needed space – and then there was a whispered conversation between Rei and Tyson that Kai noticed before he’d left.

                He promptly forgot about it though.  He had more immediate concerns to deal with.

                Sort of out of it after the whole ordeal, Kai didn’t even notice, really, when Tyson led him home to the dojo, and even made sure Kai ate something before they went to bed.

                It was the middle of the night when Kai woke up in a cold sweat, dreams chasing him out of any restful slumber he may have gotten.  Dreams mixed with old nightmares and new ones.

  *** ***

                Kai drew his knees up to his chest and buried his head in his arms, wresting across his knees.  He shivered, despite the fact that it wasn’t cold in the dojo at all.

                “Uhn…huh?  Kai?”  Tyson rolled over onto his side from his previously sprawled state and yawned sleepily, drooping eyes searching for his friend.  “Oh.  You’re up?”

                “Sorry.  Didn’t mean to wake you.”  Kai murmured, looking over at him briefly.  Then he stared out across the room at the far wall.  “Go back to sleep.”

                Tyson frowned and sat up, hiding a yawn.  “It’s okay.  Something wrong, Kai?  Well…other than the obvious?”

                “Bad dreams.”  Kai hedged, looking away from the wall and Tyson.  “I’m fine.  You should sleep, Tyson.”

                “Yeah, well, so should you.  Kai…you know I’m here for you, right?  I mean…if you need to talk or anything at all…”

                “I know.”  Kai whispered, shuddering.  It didn’t mean he would allow himself to take advantage of that knowledge though.  He didn’t want to burden Tyson with his issues.  Tyson was a happy soul who didn’t need Kai’s depressing thoughts and nightmares weighing him down – at least in Kai’s mind.

                Suddenly a pair of arms slid around him from the side and a face burrowed into his shoulder.  Kai stiffened at first, unused to human contact, but it was Tyson…  He went limp and leaned into Tyson in return, shuddering again with the force of his emotions.  The bluenette didn’t say anything, just moved closer and shifted, drawing Kai into the welcoming warmth of his body and holding Kai to his chest, arms curling around him.  Kai sucked in a shuddering breath and buried his face into Tyson’s shirt-clad stomach, tears spilling out and arms clinging almost desperately to Tyson.

                “God I hate this!”  He cried angrily, voice muffled by Tyson’s shirt.  “I thought we’d made the world a safe place for bladers and bit-beasts, and now this!  He was a pest but he didn’t deserve this!”

                Tyson’s arm tightened, and the other hand began to rub at Kai’s back and shoulders, occasionally running fingers through Kai’s hair soothingly.  “No he didn’t.  And you know we’re all going to do whatever it takes to make sure it never happens again to anyone else.  But please don’t let it eat at you like this, Kai.  You don’t deserve that.”

                “It’s my fault!  If I’d just given him a lesson or two, he wouldn’t have gone to Team Psykick…”

                “No.”  Tyson hauled him up to face him, eye to eye.  Those unreal blue eyes glinted in the moonlight, and his face was fierce as he spoke.  “No, Kai.  I didn’t see it at the time, but after Rei explained, it made perfect sense to me.  You did what you had to do to protect the team – like the captain and leader you are.  If you were any less than that, do you think we would follow you?  Do you think we would listen when you gave us advice or told us what to do if we want to improve ourselves?  Of course not.  Wyatt wanted to battle you and be trained by you a little too badly.  He was obsessed with you, and that’s not your fault.  He made his own choices, and as harsh as it is to say it, he died by those choices.  You had every right to refuse him, and it isn’t your fault that he couldn’t handle that.  Do you hear what I’m saying, Kai?”  He gave Kai a little shake.

                Tears still trickled down his cheeks, but Kai’s expression turned just as fierce as Tyson’s.  “I hear.  Let me go, Tyson.”  Sure, he appreciated what Tyson was trying to get at, but it didn’t change his mind much.  He still felt he was to blame for Wyatt’s death.

                “Nope.  Not tonight.”  Tyson grinned, apparently seeing something in Kai’s eyes that told him his captain would be just fine.  “Tonight just pretend you’re not tough and a loner and let me take some of the weight off your shoulders, okay?”  He lay down next to Kai on their futons on the floor, and kept Kai within easy reach, holding his hand grasped firmly within his own, lying between their heads.

                He really wanted to resist on principle, but he was exhausted, emotionally drained, and…comfortable.  He couldn’t believe how relaxed and comfortable he was with Tyson like this.  So he gave in and let his body sink into slumber once more.  His eyes closed, and he missed the fond, concerned smile that crossed his friend’s face with eyes filled with sadness.

  *** ***

                He was gone the next morning when Tyson woke up.  Kai had no wish to hang around for the embarrassment of waking up as he had – snuggled up to Tyson with legs pressed together and Tyson’s free hand in his hair, their other hands still joined.  Kai had gently extricated himself and made a hasty retreat.

                Team Psykick didn’t waste time.  They found some new bladers, a whole team of them this time, to take up the Cyber-enhanced blades and attempt to go up against the Bladebreakers.  It was already intensely personal for Kai, but now they’d gotten to Tyson, too, as the new team of Kane, Salima, Goki, and Jim did something that Tyson already had too much experience with: betrayal.

                There were a few hitches along the way with their training, but they made it through – oddly enough with a little, uh, help from the Saint Shields of all people.  Now it was time to battle Team Psykick, to avenge Wyatt and show Kane and his team what true blading was about.

~~~~~~~~~~

                The battle tower.

                This was a whole new ballgame.  They’d never seen or experienced anything like it.

                Four battles.  Four members of Team Psykick.  Sudden death matches.  Mr. Dickenson warned against it and tried to talk them out of it, but they insisted.  Tyson outright refused anything but a sudden death match – and Kai was right behind him.

                Of course, they didn’t expect these goons to play nice.  They should have known, though, that the Saint Shields would be shadowing them.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend…or something like that.  In this case, another enemy team became their back-up, leveling the playing field and allowing the Bladebreakers to move on to the real battles instead of getting worn down too early.

                The first match belonged to Max.  His opponent was Jim, who looked really out of it.  And while Max was out in the stadium of the second floor, the rest of the team was trapped in a glass cage, unable to do anything but watch the battle, unable to help.  Not to mention it was vastly unfair that the Cyber Draciel could be repaired!  It was a completely unfair advantage.

                Max gave it his best.  They’d never see him fight as hard and as skillful as this…but it wasn’t going to be enough.  All his stubborn will and defense couldn’t stand up to the Cyber version of his very own Draciel being constantly repaired.  The blonde was devastated, but vowed to get his beloved Sacred Spirit back, no matter what.

                The second match belonged to Rei.  It was a typical battle for him in many ways, including being highly emotional.  And of course Team Psykick was cheating with their little wind makers.  But he won.

                Now it was Kai’s turn.  Finally he’d have his chance to get vengeance for Wyatt.  But part way through his battle with Goki, Kai began to wonder if he was losing his mind.  Where Goki stood, he kept seeing Wyatt – lost to the control of the Cyber Dranzer.  The one person in the world who Kai could not fight no matter what.  Goki unleashed a very dirty trick by using the techniques and attack patterns of Kai’s teammates against Kai.  Coupled with the ghostly images of Wyatt superimposed over Goki it was no wonder that even Kai hesitated and lost focus.  Luckily, both blades exited the stadium at the same time, and it was a draw.  But it wasn’t the end.  The match was sudden death, after all, and required a victor.  And gee wasn’t Gideon generous giving them a whole minute to prepare.

                Kai tried to explain what was happening to him to his teammates, who were shocked and very concerned about him.  But…leave it to Tyson to know exactly what Kai needed to hear to kick him back into the game and bring the phoenix back to himself.

  *** ***

                “I wasn’t caught off guard just because they were using Driger and Draciel’s attack patterns.  There’s something else…” Kai stared across the stadium at Goki, who was smirking evilly and tossing his blade up in the air and catching it, over and over and over.  It was the unnerving expression on his face, one that threw Kai off balance.  He hated it.

                Tyson and Hilary stared at him in inquiry.  “What was it?”  Hilary asked.

                “It must be something pretty big to make you lose focus.”  Max stated.  It was the truth, after all.  One of the things that made Kai so good was his ridiculously rigid focus.

                “Yes.”  Kai agreed.  “It’s Goki.  He looks like…just like Wyatt.”

                “Huh?”  his team chorused, confused.

                “Wyatt?”  Tyson frowned and looked over at their opponent, not sure he saw what Kai did.

                “Can’t you see it?  His expression…it’s the same as Wyatt’s was on that day…”  Kai remembered very, very clearly what that expression had looked like.  He doubted he’d ever forget.

                “So…what you’re saying is, you can’t fight back as hard as you want because it feels like you’re fighting Wyatt.”  Tyson reasoned.  Kai nodded.  The dragon got it.

                “Yes.”  Kai confirmed.

                “Dude, they look nothing alike!”  Tyson exclaimed.  He didn’t like how this was messing with Kai’s head.  And he really didn’t like how Kai was back in that guilt-ridden frame of mind that he’d thought they’d taken care of that past night.

                “What?  Can’t you see it?!”  Kai’s hands turned into fists at his sides, clenching around his blade.

                “Huh.  Yeah, sure…if he loses like a hundred pounds, right?”  Tyson’s comment did what it was intended to – it made Kai mad.

                “Tyson!”

                “Open your eyes!  That’s not Wyatt!  It’s Goki!  What happened to Wyatt, Kai, was not your fault!”

                “But…he was counting on me and I couldn’t help him…”

                “Oh Kai…” that came from Kenny and Hilary.  He especially hated that pitying tone.  Tyson shoved past them.

                “Kai!  Stop dwelling on the past, okay!?  It’s some kind of Psykick whammy!  You’re not fighting against Wyatt, you’re fighting for him!”

                Kai stepped forward as Gideon reappeared on screen to start the next round.  The others watched worriedly, wondering if their captain could shake off this funk and take control again.

                As far as Tyson was concerned, he would make sure of it.  No one pulled this shit on his teammates.  No one.  Especially not Kai, who had enough to deal with as it was.

  *** ***

                Both bladers came out fiercely.  But Kai was still off-balance and unsure.  And would you believe that Tyson came up with such a deep thought as the fact that they were battling themselves as much as their opponents.

                No matter how hard Kai was trying, he couldn’t seem to shake Wyatt’s ghost.  It haunted him.

                Just when it looked like he might give in, Tyson’s voice rang out, breaking through the fog and the illusion.

                “You’ve lost Wyatt, Kai!  Don’t lose yourself!”

                Wyatt…  Kai struggled to fight back.  I wanted to protect you, but I failed.  I can’t fight you…not youNo.  I won’t give up.  I won’t let them manipulate me!  Got to fight…  This is for you, Wyatt!  Memories of all the times he’d spent with Wyatt – invited or not – flashed through his mind as he battled with an intensity the others had never seen.

                Still, it wasn’t looking good.  That Cyber Dranzer was extremely powerful.  Then Goki made a fatal mistake: he insulted Wyatt to Kai’s face, calling him a wimpy blader.  Like the fire-wielder Kai was, he just exploded, rage fueling the flames and his beloved Dranzer.

                Goki was toast.

                Kai won, and he could finally put Wyatt’s memory to rest.  The weight of that match fell off his shoulders, and he could almost hear Wyatt saying “Thank you…my friend.”

                His team was ecstatic, and he got a momentary flying tackle hug out of Tyson for it – though the bluenette was quick enough to scramble away before he could have his head taken off for the audacity.  He couldn’t have known, though, that Kai really didn’t mind that much (this time…).

                The last battle fittingly belonged to Tyson.  It never, ever ceased to amaze Kai how much Tyson improved every single time he bladed.  Kai was tired from his own battle, but every second of Tyson’s battle with Kane seemed just like it was Kai in that battle.  He felt it just as Tyson did, and somewhere in the back of his mind he wondered just what that signified.  What was this strange relationship/bond-thing that was developing between them?

                Tyson’s battles are always spectacular and this one was no different.  Dragoon was so powerful, but the Cyber version of him was scary powerful.  All the Cyber versions were equally scary, and the Bladebreakers had good reason to worry about Tyson.

                Then again, he had enough conviction and belief in his abilities to win a thousand times over.  That, too, never ceased to amaze Kai.

                Things continued to get hairy, with the Cyber Dragoon proceeding to demolish the building with the energy waves it emitted.  The only way to stop it was for Tyson to win.  Kai…stood by helplessly, not knowing how he could help or do anything at all to stop this insanity.

                Kenny finally came to the conclusion it was forfeit or be seriously hurt, maybe killed.  At first, though Tyson hated it intensely, he agreed.  He tried to stop, but Dragoon’s will was enough to spur Tyson on.  They were one, after all, and Tyson was just too stubborn to willingly quit.

                It was a whole new battle now.  Kai watched with more than a little awe as Tyson went after that Cyber bit-beast with pure strength of will.

                The battle was over and Tyson had finally won.  He even saved Kane from the control of the Cyber Dragoon.  Now of course, they had another problem…a collapsing building.

                Kai was sure they’d make it out in time.  But Max turned around and went back for Draciel (understandably, but still!) and Tyson, being Tyson, went after him.

                Kai, Rei, Hilary and Kenny, along with Mr. Dickenson, Kane and his teammates all made it out in time…to watch the building collapse behind them.  Horror filled Kai through to his very soul, his body frozen in place as he watched with the knowledge that Tyson was in there somewhere, as was Max.  He couldn’t move, couldn’t breath, couldn’t scream no matter how much he wanted to.  If Tyson didn’t make it out…

                As the smoke cleared, two figures came running toward them.  Relief flooded Kai and all the others as Max and Tyson – with the forgotten Saint Shields right behind them – appeared.  Had he not been in front of all the others, Kai wouldn’t have hesitated to hug Tyson and not let go for a while.  He’d never been so scared in all his life.

                And why, pray tell, was he feeling like he wanted to strangle Kane for shaking Tyson’s hand?

~~~~~~~~~~

                Next stop, New York.  Max’s mother flew the team to America where she would fix up their blades and repair the damages done in their battles with Team Psykick.  She also had something to show them.

                Tyson snored most of the flight.  Hilary actually put up with it, reasoning that he deserved it for being a hero at the battle tower.  Kenny objected that Kai was as much of a hero as Tyson – which Tyson agreed to.

                “Kai’s my hero!”

                Sure, he said it in a tone that sounded highly sarcastic, but at the same time, Kai heard a note of sincerity and fondness.  Of course, he’d never admit to being awake for that conversation.

                Judy met them at the airport and took them straight to the BBA labs.  What she had to show them was a little disappointing, considering how much she built up the suspense.  It was a rock.  Kai didn’t much care about a rock but when Judy explained why it was significant, he changed his mind.

                It contained bit-beasts sealed within.

                This was the beginning of the connection between their bit-beasts, the Saint Shields, and the weird scientists behind Team Psykick.

                Returning to Japan, that connection was made much clearer.  The Saint Shields were of the tribe that created that rock.  Their goal was to seal the four most powerful of the Sacred Spirits – Dragoon, Dranzer, Driger, and Draciel, ostensibly for their protection.

                It didn’t go well at first.  Rei battled Dunga and lost.  Ozuma and his team sealed away Driger.  Max battled Mariam next, and he won – barely.

                Dunga came along not long after that, looking to defeat Kai and seal Dranzer.  And he had some help with Joseph.  Two on one was so not fair, and Rei joined in, hoping to somehow find a way to win Driger back.

                In the end, they won and Rei was reunited with Driger – an evolved, stronger Driger.

                Tyson’s battle with Ozuma was intense.  They were both good, and both true bladers.  They fought like there was nothing else in the world.  One very damaged blade later, Tyson and Ozuma had tied the match.  Thanks to that, Tyson had proved to Ozuma that they were worthy of their Sacred Spirits, and worthy to protect them.

~~~~~~~~~~

                The approach of the World Championships was next on their agenda.  And in between their training and matches, they had a new group of weird bladers with unreal bit-beasts to deal with.  It soon became clear where Judy’s rock had gone to when it had been stolen, as well as what it was being used for.  It was the same scientists that had been behind Team Psykick!  They were using the sealed spirits from the rock to create blades for their minion bladers to use in the attempt to defeat the Bladebreakers and capture their bit-beasts – for what purpose they still didn’t know.

                Mr. Dickenson had revealed his past as a researcher of a rock just like the one Judy had been studying.  Coincidence?  Kai didn’t think so.  Not with the way their luck seemed to always go.

                Then there was that new kid, Zeo.  He was young, he was strange, and he was extremely enthusiastic around Tyson.

                There it was again!  That ridiculous feeling of possession that Kai wasn’t sure he liked or understood.  Still, he swallowed it back, considering there wasn’t anything wrong with Zeo.  He was a good kid, and a nice guy.  So he was obsessed with Tyson…Kai knew what that felt like, and it wasn’t like Tyson encouraged it.

                Okay he did.  Zeo was an ego boost and a half for the bluenette.  Something Tyson definitely didn’t need.

                Kai shook himself out of that green jealousy and concentrated on the Worlds and the new freaky bladers instead.  They were far more important at the moment.

                Blader after blader, the Bladebreakers fought and won against mysterious spirits from the stolen rock and those that wielded them.  And then one day…Zeo seemed to disappear, just before the Worlds.  It was really odd – and super suspicious, in Kai’s book.  Okay, yes.  He didn’t trust anyone.  Well, except Tyson and his teammates.  Of course, it wouldn’t take long for them to find out why Zeo disappeared.

                The World Championships started off as normally as usual…  The team kept training in preparation, though they were a tad distracted by the no-show Zeo.  They investigated a little, and found that he quit at the training centre, abandoning the kid Zeo was to be partnered with for the Worlds.

                Then…they spotted him briefly at the bridge.  But…he just ran away, seeming to be freaked out and afraid of them!  More, he called them enemies!  Kai was shocked, and more, he was concerned about Tyson.  He didn’t want to accept something like that.  Though Tyson would have run after Zeo, Kai kept him back, telling Tyson that maybe someday Zeo would tell him why and that he’d made his choice – and it didn’t include the Bladebreakers.

                Tyson was rather distracted after that.  Kai didn’t blame him, but he did manage to keep in the game.  They had other things to worry about – like picking their partners for the tournament, what with the new tag-team rules.  Hilary attempted to help; she brought all her fortune-telling books to the dojo in order to determine who should go together.  Tyson didn’t think so, though.

                Kai ran into someone new, too.  A twin brother/sister team of blade hunters, King and Queen.  They ambushed Kai on the beach when he was off doing his solitary training one day, and they damaged Kai’s blade.  Thankfully, the blade was damaged to the point where nothing on it was useful to them.  When he went to the dojo to get Kenny to try repairing it, he was rather embarrassed and really, really mad.  Apparently both Rei and Max had heard of the duo before.  And while Kai appreciated that the team wanted to go after King and Queen, he told them to butt out – and that went double for Tyson.  The last thing he wanted was to see Tyson lose to them and have Dragoon destroyed, especially so close to the tournament.

                There were all kinds of bladers in the tournament.  Even a few old enemies – turned friends.  Kane and Jim entered as a team, too.  They were glad to see it.  Kenny repaired Dranzer for Kai, with a few new improvements.  Dranzer…  Kai thought, moving to take up a position in order to test out his new blade.  I hope Kenny knows what he’s doing.  I can’t go through all of that again…

                “Whoa.”  Was the consensus of his team, eyes bugging out at the wild skill Kai and Dranzer displayed.  Then Kenny added a new attack ring.  Kai was sure that it would be all he needed to take care of those parts hunters, and get revenge.

                Ahem.  Never mind that Kai had once run a gang that did business the same way…  He didn’t do that anymore.  The Blade Sharks were long since retired.

                The next day he got his chance.  Whatever made the guy think he could take on Dranzer in the air, no one knew.  Still, when it was obvious Kai was winning, King pulled a fast one and knocked a tree over.  Kai just managed to dodge the falling timber.  Tyson and the others were at his side in moments, and Tyson was kneeling down checking over the phoenix in concern for injury.  Kai shrugged him off, though it wasn’t much of an effort.  King and Queen were gone anyway.

                The next day, after Tyson and Max’s first battle, Kenny discovered that the parts hunters had entered the tournament.  It looked like they’d get a second chance at revenge after all.

~~~~~~~~~~

                This was not the Bladebreakers’ year.

                Dr. Zaggart, their arch-nemesis, showed up at Mr. Dickenson’s office, demanding that Zeo – who turned out to be his son – be entered in the finals of the tournament.  And Zaggart admitted that he’d extracted the most powerful of the rock’s bit-beasts (thereby also admitting to having stole it and that it was in his possession) and that he’d bestowed it on Zeo.  Its name was Cerberus, and he warned Tyson to beware, because he would lose Dragoon, as would the other Bladebreakers.

                Confused, Tyson and the others had no idea what to make of the new developments.  The only thing they could do was to train, prepare, and be as ready as possible for the upcoming matches.

                Going down to where the tournaments were being held, they discovered that the matches Zeo and Gordo (his teammate) had been entered in were already over – in record time.  There were unbelievable rumours flying around about the newcomers, and it sent Tyson in to a daze.  He seemed to space out, lost in thought and memory.  Kai, however, wouldn’t let him be distracted for long.           

  *** ***

                “How long are you going to zone out, Tyson?  The final rounds of the World Championships are almost here.  We don’t have time to be worrying about Zeo.”  Kai raised an eyebrow at the bluenette in challenge.

                “You’re wrong.”  Tyson replied firmly.

  *** ***

                Well, Kai didn’t think he could be convincing, not on his own.  Tyson was stubborn as a mule, after all.  After the others joined in, recommending that they forget Zeo and concentrate on what they knew best – blading – then things would come together on their own, in time.  Tyson reluctantly agreed, and they moved on.

                At least one pleasant surprise popped up at the press conference before the finals.  Ozuma and the Saint Shields returned, having also entered the tournament.  They had done so in order to help protect the four Sacred Spirits, unsurprisingly.  Really, though, all four bladers of the Bladebreakers were relieved to know they had that back-up…though at the same time they were apprehensive because if they lost, then the Saint Shields would have every excuse to come after their bit-beasts again and this time seal them for good.  That was not something Kai even wanted to contemplate.

                It also made Kai glad he wasn’t the only team captain that had trouble reigning in a hot-tempered teammate.  King and Queen provoked a fight at that conference, and Dunga pounced on it with his considerable zeal and rage.  Ozuma tried to get him to back down, but Dunga wouldn’t listen.  Thankfully, the situation was calmed down, and the tournament was on.

~~~~~~~~~~

                Finally.  Kai had been waiting for this.  The Worlds for the second time around.

                He was teamed with Rei, while Tyson and Max were teamed together.  One way or another, the Bladebreakers would get to the finals.

                Beginning with the quarter finals, Zeo and Gordo were up against Ozuma and Dunga.  Kai let Tyson go, when the bluenette decided he had to talk to Zeo, no matter what.  If there was anyone who could get through to Zeo and have even a chance of convincing him to give up whatever mad scheme his father had roped him into, it was Tyson.  After all, if Tyson could change Kai’s life for the better, then he could help Zeo.

                Kai wasn’t sure exactly what happened, but when Tyson returned to sit with his team in the audience to watch the match, he was subdued and quiet.  Obviously things hadn’t turned out well and Tyson was hiding behind a false cheer that didn’t fool anyone.  But…the others couldn’t say or do anything to help, not really, so they left him alone.  Kai, in his own way, still kept his eye on Tyson however.  It was the only thing he could do at this point.

                Watching the match with a keen set of crimson eyes, Kai took stock of their enemy.  It was over quickly.  Dunga just couldn’t do it.  He lost to Gordo in short order, and now it was Ozuma’s turn – against Zeo.  This was going to be tough.

                Ozuma was doing well.  He was pushing Zeo and Cerberus hard.  And then…suddenly…Zeo snapped, and there was a ridiculously huge power surge from Zeo, overwhelming Ozuma and Flash Leopard.  Tyson’s eyes were glued to the battle, as were everyone else’s in the stadium.  But it seemed the harder Ozuma pushed, the more Zeo fought back and the more powerful he became, until a huge whirlwind of pure power erupted from his blade and took the stadium by storm.  Cerberus was released, and Ozuma had no idea how to deal with it.

                The Bladebreakers watched in horror as Flash Leopard’s attack was swatted aside as if it were no more than a fly.  The following assault was just too much for Ozuma.  Even if he lost, no one would ever say Ozuma hadn’t fought to the bitter end, hadn’t given his all.

                When it was over, there was no more to say.  Shocked, awed, and vowing to defeat Zeo and Gordo at all costs, the Bladebreakers tried their best to figure out what the hell had just happened.  Kenny had detected something weird with Zeo during that match, and now he and his considerable computer techniques had a job to do – find out what that weird something was, before the team found themselves at the mercy of a worse fate than Ozuma and Dunga: the loss of their bit-beasts.

                This time, the fight was not about saving the world or winning a second World Championship title.  This time…it was about protecting and keeping Dragoon, Dranzer, Draciel, and Driger.

~~~~~~~~~~

                Kai found Tyson brooding by the koi pond just outside his bedroom.

                “Hey, Tyson.  Is everything alright?” he inquired.  Tyson blinked out of his daze and stood, looking over at his friend.

                “Huh?  Kai!  I’m fine.”  Tyson sighed and looked back down at the pool.

                “I guess you’re up against Kane and Jim next, huh?”  Kai watched him closely.  He was concerned that Tyson was so caught up in the Zeo situation that he’d neglect his other battles.

                “I know, Kai.  I saw the schedule.”

                “Take my advice, Tyson, and forget about Zeo and concentrate on your next fight.  Otherwise, you won’t be focused and you’ll lose for sure.”  With that, Kai walked off in typical Kai-fashion, after delivering his advice and the closest thing that came to a pep-talk he was capable of.  He only hoped Tyson would take it to heart.

  *** ***

                The next day when they arrived for the match, they found out that Kane and Jim had been attacked by King and Queen, and they had lost.  Their blades were unfit for battle, and had pulled out because of it.  Kane and Jim, as good as they were, couldn’t compete with King and Queen – bit-beast-less as they were.  It was going to be up to Mariam and Joseph, who had replaced Kane and Jim as King and Queen’s opponents, to take out the parts hunters and teach them a lesson.

                When it looked like Mariam had the upper hand, King jumped in, an illegal move – until Tyson and Ozuma both called for Mr. Dickenson to allow it when Joseph jumped into the fray, too.  It was a true tag-team battle.  Unfortunately, the Saint Shields’ sister/brother combo were overwhelmed by the parts hunters’ moves.  Joseph and Mariam’s blades were destroyed completely but for the bit-pieces.  Horrified, the crowd was silent as King and Queen left the stadium.  And next…would be Tyson and Max against King and Queen.

                Kai and Rei had their first battle against a pair of Mexicans who were actually not half bad bladers.  Of course, they still weren’t a match for either Bladebreaker.

                After their battle was done, it was up to Tyson and Max to take down the parts hunters.  Kai gave his usual blunt, somewhat caustic advice in that Max shouldn’t second-guess himself, not now with the experience that he had under his belt.  A surprise was in store: Judy appeared with a new blade for Max, Draciel V2.  But…Kenny came through with an upgrade for Dragoon, also.

                The battle was as expected: fierce.  However, it turned out there was some outside interference happening.  Some weird scientist chick was trying to sabotage the match by attacking Dragoon directly when her sponsored minions (King and Queen) didn’t want to cooperate.  In a rather shocking move, Tyson and King teamed up to get her out of the way long enough for them to continue the battle – a fair fight, this time.  Tyson won, and Kai had to smile at the result.  Tyson and Max made it to the finals.

                Now Kai and Rei had their opportunity to make it there also.  They just had to get through Zeo and Gordo first…  But Kai was determined.  He wanted to face Tyson again, and this was his chance.  He said as much to Tyson on the way to the stadium, and Tyson grinned back, agreeing perfectly.

~~~~~~~~~~

                Rei was up first against Gordo.  And no matter how hard he tried, his usual speed wasn’t enough to catch Gordo.  It was clear to Kai that their opponents had been prepared for their battle, taking Rei’s attacks into account.  Someone had to speak up, and it was up to Kai (considering they were partners in this tournament…).  Kai reminded Rei of how he’d lost Driger to the Saint Shields, and how it had felt.

                “Do you want to feel that way again?”  Kai demanded harshly.

                “No way!”  Rei ground out.  “Never again!”

                Their final attack resulted in an exhausted Rei and a huge tie.  To end this, it would be up to Kai.

                He was not really fond of high pressure, not like this.  But he lived for a good battle like this.

                Kai had no idea what hit him.  Zeo was insanely powerful, and Dranzer was having a really hard time keeping up with Cerberus.  It was looking grim until a voice called out from the audience.

                “Kai!  I thought you were going to face me in the finals!”

                Tyson…  Kai felt a wave of calm wash over him and there was a surge of determination that flooded his mind once again.

                He threw his all into a huge attack, and the explosion rocked the entire stadium.  The dish was history, and both blades came out alive and spinning.  They attacked each other again, and now they were using the entire stadium as a dish.  Forgetting everything but the fervent desire to win this battle, the two bladers went at it.  But…

                Kai lost.  Dranzer stopped spinning.  And Kai had to watch in horror as Dranzer was taken from him

                A single, ghostly, burning red feather drifted down from the air to land in Kai’s palm, and disappeared.  It tore Kai’s heart in pieces.  Rage and mind-numbing sorrow crashed through him and his cry silenced the stadium.

                …and it nearly broke Tyson’s heart to hear it.

~~~~~~~~~~

                He was sure he’d never seen the bluenette this upset and enraged.  Though…Kai wasn’t really paying attention at the time.  He was just too absorbed in grief over the loss of Dranzer to really pay attention.

                Later, Hilary would inform him that Tyson went nuts with training and a single-minded focus none of them had ever seen him display for anything else.

                It would also be Hilary that would come along and remind Kai of his place on the team, and that Tyson needed reigning in.  The only person he’d listen to, especially right now, was Kai.  At first, Kai told her to go away and leave him alone.  He preferred wallowing in misery, thanks.

  *** ***

                Kai stood on at the railing at the lookout point near the dojo, staring out at the sea and going over that dreadful match over and over again in his mind.  There must have been something he could have done…

                What difference does it make now?  I’m sorry, Dranzer.  I let you down.  I couldn’t protect you…  You’ve always been there for me.  Even in the worst of times.  There’s nothing left for me to do but quit Beyblading.  I’m not enough to spin Dranzer or any other blade ever again.  Goodbye, Dranzer…

                Tears silently poured out, but he ignored them.

                Hilary found him there, no longer crying, but still moody.  She tried cheering him up, in her own way, but made the mistake of telling him the others would get Dranzer back for him.  Kai turned and walked away at that.

                “Leave me alone.  I’ve decided to quit Beyblading for good today.”  He nearly choked on the words, but said them anyway.  They came out sad and defeated – totally unlike the blader that said them.

                “You quit!?  But…wait a minute!”  Hilary cried.  Kai stopped, but didn’t turn around.  “Hey!  You can’t quit!  I’m sorry that you lost your match, but the Bladebreakers are still in the competition and they need your support.  It would be selfish of you to walk away just because you’re feeling down.  Max and Rei are training really hard right now to get Dranzer back for you.  How do you think they’ll feel?  Kai, it’s not like you to give up!  Remember how hard you battled when Driger was taken from Rei?  Kai!”

                He heard her words, heard exactly what she was trying to tell him under those words – his team needed him, bit-beast or not.  Still, in typical Kai fashion, he didn’t respond except to continue to walk away while she kept shouting at him.

                “Huh.  I never knew that you were such a cold-hearted person.”  She stated.  “Go on then.  But remember the Bladebreakers aren’t a team if you’re not there when they need you the most!”  She stormed off.

                Kai winced at that.  But kept walking.

  *** ***

                Kai walked around for a while, thinking about the entire situation and what his next step should be.  Somehow, he ended up in the place where he’d least wanted to be ever again at the moment, as if there was something calling him there.

                The now empty bey-stadium where he’d lost Dranzer and let down his team.

                More…where he’d let Tyson down.

                It wasn’t completely empty, though.  Tyson was there, and he seemed to be spaced out completely.  He didn’t even notice when Kai launched his blade to meet the still spinning Dragoon in the new dish.  But he sure noticed when his blade got punched out of the dish.

                Kai leapt down to join him, and he initiated an impromptu battle.  At first, Tyson wasn’t doing very well.  The first battle sent his blade shooting out of the dish without much effort.

                “What’s the matter?  You know you’ll never beat Zeo if you play like that.”  Kai taunted on the next round.  Good…Tyson was at least fighting back now, though still weak and without determination.

                “Oh yeah!?”  Tyson snarled back.  Kai always did know the buttons to push when he wanted a rise out of the dragon.

                Neither noticed their teammates appear at the stadium’s players’ entrance in search of Tyson, or heard their collective gasps at the sight of their friends and teammates battling.

                I’m doing this for you Tyson.  I want you to know how it felt; how it felt to lose to Zeo and have Dranzer taken away from me.  He attacked with a vengeance, and Tyson responded in kind.  Their teammates began to cheer them both on, and it seemed to be the medicine for Tyson’s funk.  Still, Kai held his own, even without his beloved Phoenix spirit.

                Win Tyson.  I want you to win!

~~~~~~~~~~

                The result of their training was two very exhausted bladers.  The team split up for the night.  Kenny and Hilary went to their own homes, Rei went over to Max’s for the night, and Kai stayed at the dojo with Tyson.  They bunked out in Tyson’s room instead of in the dojo training room, as they usually did, because Gramps decided it was time to clean the place from top to bottom, including the futons and spare blankets.  So Kai was going to have to sleep with Tyson.  It wouldn’t be the first time they had to share a bed, but it was still not the most comfortable idea in the world – for all kinds of reasons (from Kai’s perspective, at least).

                Words were not needed at this point between them.  They went about their nightly routines in companionable silence.  Finally though, they were both just too tired to stay awake any longer and climbed into bed.

                “If you snore, I swear I’m going to hurt you.”  Kai warned, turning over on his side to face the wall.  Tyson scowled at his back for a moment then laughed.

                “I know.  Good night, Kai.”

                “Hn.”

                Halfway through the night, however, dreams plagued Kai’s sleep.  Unable to stay asleep, he pushed back the covers and carefully climbed off the end of the bed to avoid waking up his teammate – who was snoring softly.  Kai watched him sleep for a few minutes, a fond little smile on his face that he was unaware of wearing.  Then he slipped outside, silently closing the sliding door behind him.

                He walked out to the koi pond and sat on the rocks, watching the fish swim around lazily under the soft glow of the moon above.  He had only been there for a few minutes when Tyson showed up, rubbing his eyes and yawning widely.  Kai smiled to himself.  The bluenette was cute, though Kai would never in a million years admit it aloud.

  *** ***

                “Kai?  Hey, man…what are you doing up?”

                “Couldn’t sleep.”  Kai went back to watching fish.  “You need your sleep, Kinomiya.  Go back to bed.”

                “We aren’t going to go through all that again are we?”  Tyson sighed and sat down next to him on another rock.  “Dude, if you’re awake and brooding, I won’t be able to sleep, so you may as well tell me what’s wrong so I can fix it and we can go back to sleep.”

                “I’m fine, Kinomiya.  Honest.”

                “Look, Kai…” Tyson sidled over and slid an arm around Kai’s shoulders.  “I know today has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions and you’re still reeling from the battle today with Zeo, but…you know I’ll get Dranzer back, right?  You know I won’t let him get away with this.”

                Kai sighed, nodding once in acknowledgment.  “Thanks, Tyson.  You don’t know how frustrated I am.  I couldn’t protect Dranzer.  After all we went through with Ozuma and the Saint Shields, after all our big talk and promises…I failed Dranzer.”

                Tyson stared down at his grandfather’s prized koi fish and squeezed Kai’s shoulders.  “You didn’t fail her, Kai.  You bladed your absolute best, you didn’t back down from Zeo, and you are doing everything you can to get her back.  By helping set me straight this afternoon…you’re going to get her back and you’ll see that she’ll be just as glad to be back with you as you will be to have her back.  You and Dranzer are one, just as I am with Dragoon.”

                Feeling strangely vulnerable, Kai glanced at the bluenette uncertainly.  “You really think so?”

                “I know so.  From everything that we’ve learned about our Sacred Spirits, from past adventures and from the Saint Shields, bit-beasts choose their partners for a reason, and if they aren’t with their chosen partners, then there’s trouble.  Max and I…we’ll fix it.  I swear on Dragoon.”

                Kai stayed silent for a moment, then stood up, feeling much better about things.  Tyson had a point, after all.  Dranzer was probably very unhappy to be forced to reside in Zeo’s blade.  And he knew he could count on Tyson to set the situation straight.

                “Come on, Kinomiya.”

                Tyson smiled and got up, following the older blader back into his room.

  *** ***

                Kai’s sleep was strangely peaceful after that.  He wondered, as he drifted off, if it was because he trusted Tyson enough that he could actually fully relax, and be fully confident that he would see Dranzer again.  Even though he’d briefly toyed with the idea of never blading again, his heart just ached at that idea and he couldn’t see himself doing anything else.  The loss of Dranzer hadn’t brought on a serious breakdown as Wyatt’s death had, but he realized that with Tyson reassuring him that he could rectify the situation, then he could contain his emotions and simply let Tyson do his thing.

                He fell into a dreamless slumber with a soft smile on his face.

~~~~~~~~~~

                The first battle was between Tyson and Gordo.  Kai watched as Tyson attacked way too aggressively from the get-go, making a mistake that was similar to what Rei had done.  Gordo summoned Orthorus, not leaving Tyson the chance to summon Dragoon.  Then he got his opportunity and took it – he refused to lose.  Gordo let loose a devastating ice attack, but he obviously hadn’t paid attention to the last worlds.

                Ice?  Please.  He didn’t face Tala and come out still alive for nothing.

                Tyson and Dragoon slammed Orthorus out of the dish, destroying the blade and knocking Gordo out of the competition.

                Next it was Max’s turn.  But his opponent was Zeo, and that alone was daunting enough.

                Max and Draciel went on the attack, but Zeo was able to avoid it consistently and easily.  His calm was eerie, and when he finally did call out Cerberus, Max had difficulty defending himself.  But he refused to quit, refused to lose, and refused to lose Draciel.

                Unaware of what was going on outside the stadium, Max continued to battle in top form.  Rei said he’d never seen the blonde blade like this before, and Kai had to agree with him.  He took note, telling himself to never underestimate Max, should they ever blade against each other in competition.

                One huge slam sent Cerberus spinning out of the dish, but Zeo somehow managed to regain control and send his blade right back at Draciel…and summoning DRANZER!  Kai could only stare in shock and sorrow as his beloved phoenix spirit somehow merged with Cerberus and the combined power was a real threat to Draciel.

                Max’s loss meant so much more.  He watched as Kai had as Draciel was taken away from him.  Again, the stadium went dead silent in horror.

                The blonde’s loss was heartbreaking.  It also meant a tiebreaker between Tyson and Zeo.

                Exactly how they wanted it.

                It started off in the extreme, each blader sending vicious attacks against the other.  Up in the stands, however, Kenny seemed to be freaking out over something.  But when he blurted out that Zeo wasn’t human…  Kai felt all kinds of puzzle pieces fall into place – especially when he saw Zeo’s arm suddenly suffer some sort of mechanical failure.  They all stared in shock at the…robot?!  It was just too weird for words.

                The new information seemed to chock Tyson at first…but hey, fighting an android?  Didn’t phase him as much as it probably should have.  He’d battled too many weird people in too many weird conditions to be thrown by this.  The battle continued, and the attacks remained vicious and intense.

                At that point, Zeo revealed the truth behind his desire for their bit-beasts.  Dr. Zaggart had created him in the image of his dead son, and intended to use the power of Dragoon, Dranzer, Draciel, and Driger in order to make him human.  It was some sort of twisted, Pinocchio-type fairytale.  And though it seemed that something like that was just impossible, Ozuma reminded them that because they were the four most powerful, anything was possible.  It was a scary concept, and Kai could only watch Tyson do his thing with typical Tyson style: pure strength of spirit and love of the game.

                None of them know how Tyson was going to be able to handle fighting a pumped up Cerberus with Dranzer and Draciel’s powers added to the mix.  Explosions rocked the stadium, the dish was a complete write off…but the battle raged on.  It was looking more and more like Tyson was going to lose this match, and lose Dragoon.

                But he was stubborn until the end.  He never, ever gave up.  Even if his own body was at risk.  Beyblading was his life, after all, and he and Dragoon were one.  This was not just a battle for the world title.  This was a life or death battle.

                Gale-force winds battered the stadium and everyone in it, and suddenly…Dragoon knocked Cerberus into oblivion.  It was over, and Dranzer and Draciel were freed.  Kai and the others made a mad dash for the stadium floor.  Draciel and Dranzer were home where they belonged, and Kai was never so happy in his life as he was in that moment.

                Tyson had won, becoming the World Champ for the second time in a row.  And more, he’d won back the Sacred Spirits of his teammates.

                Kai was indebted to him, and he always paid his debts.

~~~~~~~~~~

                The victory party Gramps held at the dojo was an event to remember.  Kai was positive the wily old man spiked the punch, and stayed away from it.

                While all their friends crashed in the newly spic-and-span dojo, Tyson disappeared someplace.  No one seemed to notice, though – except Kai.  He slipped out and shadowed his teammate, curious and concerned.

                He finally found the dragon in a place that didn’t surprise him much.  It was the path near the bridge, where they’d first run into each other.

                The bluenette was laying on his back in the grass, staring up at the array of stars.  His hat lay on the ground beside him, with his launcher and Dragoon inside.  Kai silently dropped down beside him and lay back, tucking his hands behind his head.

  *** ***

                “Why’d you follow me out here?”  Tyson asked, glancing at Kai from the corner of his eye.

                “Just curious where you could be going when you’re the centre of attention and everyone’s stoking that over-inflated ego of yours.”  Kai replied, smirking.  Tyson frowned.

                “I can’t want some space?  And I do not have an over-inflated ego.”  He denied flatly.

                “Yes, you do.”  Kai returned easily, sticking a piece of grass between his lips and gazing up at the stars in contentment.  Everything was right in his world now, and he was looking forward to some peace and quiet…at least until the next tournament season came around.  “I never pegged you as the type to need ‘space’ away from people.”

                “Even I need some alone time, you know.  How’s Dranzer doing?”  Tyson asked, changing the subject.  The last thing he wanted to do was fight with Kai.  Not that night, at least.

                “She’s fine.  I’m…really glad to have her back.”

                Tyson smiled.  “You’re welcome.”

                Kai blushed and scowled up at the sky.  “Anyway, what are you going to do now?”

                “Me?  Oh, probably go back to school and try to catch up with all that I’ve missed lately.  Kenny and Hilary, too.  I don’t know what Max and Rei are going to do, though.  Maybe they’ll stay and come to school, too.”  Tyson grinned at the thought.  “Actually, that would be way cool!”

                “Just don’t expect me to do your homework for you.”  Kai warned.

                “Hey…”  Tyson rolled over onto his stomach and studied his teammate fondly.  “So what about you, Kai?  What are you going to do?”

                “I don’t know.  Home schooling, probably.  My parents…are wary of me and they don’t try to restrict me in any way.  I think they fear driving me away if they tried being real parents.”  Kai shrugged.  “The private school I was at doesn’t want me back.  After Wyatt…well.”  Kai sat up and tossed the blade of grass away, watching it float away in the night breeze.  “It’s understandable.”

                Tyson sat up too, facing Kai with a great deal of sadness evident on his face.  “I’m so sorry, Kai.  I wish there was something I could do for you…”

                “Don’t, Tyson.”  The rare use of his name shut Tyson up effectively.  “You did plenty enough for me already.”  Kai looked away, embarrassed.  “I can’t claim to have gotten through this without your support.”

                Shocked, Tyson stared at him, speechless.  “Ah…of course, Kai.  You know I’d do anything for you.  But…I hardly did anything.  I…really helped you?”

                There was a note of uncertainty in his voice that told Kai the bluenette wasn’t as confident in himself as he often pretended.  “I’ll say it once more, then drop it, okay?  Yes, Tyson.  You helped me, and I’m grateful.”

                Glomp.  Kai fell over with a sniffling bluenette pinning him down in a tight hug.  “Kinomiya!  Get off!”

                “Nuh uhn.  You finally did something friend-like!  For that, you get a hug.”  Tyson’s arms tightened and he snuggled in happily, much to Kai’s consternation.

                “Get off or die.”  Kai tried again, though somewhat weakly trying to pry those arms from around his waist.

                “Suffer.  Your reputation’s safe with me.”

                Kai, for the one and only time in his life, gave up and simply let his arms rest on Tyson’s shoulders, giving them a squeeze.  Sensing Kai’s capitulation, Tyson released him and flipped over onto his back so that he was reclining against Kai’s chest and staring back at the river and the starry night sky.  The older teen draped his arms over Tyson’s shoulders, resting his chin on the top of Tyson’s head, and they stayed there together for quite some time before they made their way back to the dojo in mutual, silent agreement.

                No further words, after all, needed to be said.

~~~~~~~~~~

Part III:  https://kalichaos.wordpress.com/beyblade/between-the-lines/part-iii/

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