Note: I know this is getting posted so much later than I intended to. I really have no excuse - it's more of a plot movement/filler chapter and it was kind of a drag to write some parts of this, sorry! Plot movement is needed! This chapter bounces around a lot and brings a lot of characters into the mix, some old and some new. Thanks for everyone who favorited/followed/reviewed since my last update, you're appreciated!
- IV -
In Texas, the air starts to change in May. It gets hotter earlier, and stays hotter later. The wind is nothing but blasts of dry heat, and you're lucky if your lungs don't deplete after being outside for too long. And yet somehow, Kayleigh Hendricks found herself underneath the merciless sun, talking frantically into her cell phone as beads of sweat clung to her forehead.
"Yes, yes, absolutely," she said breathlessly into the phone through her heavy southern accent. "We're in."
"Great!" the voice on the other line chirped. "Thank you for being so cooperative so last minute. We'll be sure to have someone send over any definitive information you'll need within the next few days."
"Thank you, thank y'all so much," Kayleigh replied, feeling a sense of pure euphoria well up in her chest. She hung up the phone and went running back into the gym.
"Point those damn toes, Toni Ann!" Madison Royce snapped at the younger girl, precariously perched on a balance beam with one leg high in the air. On the other side of the gym, Peyton Stone swung from a pair of uneven bars, sending chalk from her hands splaying in all directions.
"Guys, guys!" Kayleigh came barreling into the gym, nearly tripping over the vault track on her way to the center of the floor. "Y'all are not going to believe who I just got off the phone with!"
Kayleigh paused, catching her breath and her teammates gathered around her.
"Well?" Madison quipped. "Who was it?"
"A representative from the BBA," Kayleigh replied, barely able to contain her excitement. "A team withdrew last minute. We're the 5th and final team in the American conference!"
The two younger girls went wide-eyed, fists balled up shaking with adrenaline at their sides. They glanced at each other and squealed with glee.
However, Madison did not share Kayleigh's or the rest of the team's enthusiasm. "Hold on." The brunette held her hand up in protest.. "I thought you said we weren't doing this anymore. We're supposed to be competing for Nationals next week. There's colleges coming to scout me. To scout us. Now you want us to bow out of that to beyblade against teams that are probably way better than us?"
"Why do you have to be such a Debbie downer, Madison?" Peyton rolled her eyes in Madison's direction.
"I'm being realistic," Madison spat back. "I didn't move my life down here all the way from Michigan to play spinning tops. We're gymnasts, not beybladers. And up until 10 minutes ago, I thought we were all on the same page." She turned to face Kayleigh. "Am I right?"
Madison was met with silence. Finally, Kayleigh sighed and looked back up at her teammate, her green eyes glinting with excitement, and just a bit of mischief. "Why can't we do both?"
Los Angeles, California
Summers, Jones, and York to all redshirt freshman seasons to compete in tournament.
Saturday, May 27th - While it's no surprise that the PPB All Stars top players were set to play Division I athletics in their respective sports, Steve Jones, Emily York, and team captain Michael Summers have all elected to forego their first year of eligibility to compete in the upcoming beyblade season. On the contrary, Eddy Wheeler has instead elected to play basketball for Syracuse University, bowing out of beyblading entirely.
Summers, a heavily recruited pitcher who committed to the University of Southern California, said in an interview with BBA National: "It just wouldn't have felt right, not competing with the All Stars. Baseball is my first love, but I know how good I am at baseball. I feel like I still have something to prove to the world of beyblading. We all do." Steve Jones is a four-star linebacker committed to Florida State University, and Emily York is a nationally ranked tennis player committed to UCLA. We look forward to seeing the original All Stars team in the mix, with of course last year's explosive addition, Rick Anderson.
Emily sighed as she closed her laptop. She had gotten into a bad habit of reading beyblade updates on various sports media, and despite the generally promising statistics in favor of the All-Stars, an uneasy feeling made itself home in the pit of her stomach. As much as he got on her nerves sometimes, not having Max on the team was a big-time loss. To make matters worse, Eddy's loyalty had ultimately landed in Syracuse to further his basketball career, leaving Emily to nurse injury-prone Steve, hold the reigns of a complete hothead and keep an egomaniac in check…even if she didn't want to.
When did I decide that beyblading was more important than everything else? More important than tennis? My college education?
Emily shook her head, desperately trying to dispel any negative thoughts. She was a team player, and even though Michael was the captain, she had just as much responsibility to the All-Stars, being their lead strategist and data analyst. If she showed hesitation now, it would spread to the rest of the team. And if there was one thing Emily was sure of, it was that she hated losing.
A knock at her door brought her out of her thoughts.
"Hey, Em, it's me," a gruff voice called from the other side of the door.
Emily quietly groaned and hung her head. This was the last thing she needed to deal with right now.
"Come in," she called bleakly.
Michael stepped into her apartment, still in his baseball uniform. His blonde hair stuck out in all directions from underneath his cap, and his practice shirt clung to his figure in exactly the right places. The pit in Emily's stomach grew.
"Did I miss anything at practice today?" Michael asked, kicking his cleats off at the door.
"I know why you're here, Michael, so spare me the niceties, please." Emily didn't move from her chair. "I can read you like a book, ya know."
Michael scratched the back of his head. "Look Emily, about last night-"
She held her hand up before he could finish. "It was crazy and we shouldn't have done it." She felt her face get hot, but she continued. "None of us can afford any distractions going into the season."
"Yeah…exactly," Michael replied, trying to mask the hesitation in his voice. "I totally agree. We should just forget it happened."
"To think we could have done that without it compromising anything was a lapse in judgment on my part," Emily continued.
"And mine," Michael interjected.
"Right," Emily nodded. "So let's just forget it happened."
Palma De Mallorca, Spain
"I wanna go to Ibiza. Can we go to Ibiza?"
Enrique Giancarlo laid curled up on a plush grey couch, nearly swallowed by his large red hoodie. His sentence was practically slurred into one long word.
Johnny McGregor was sprawled out on the other side of the room, his legs dangling lazily over the arm of the couch. He turned to face his teammate, his bloodshot eyes glazed over with exhaustion and whatever drugs he had yet to expel from his system. "Why Ibiza?" Johnny finally huffed out.
Enrique tried to pull himself into a sitting up position, but immediately felt a surge of dizziness bring him back down to the couch.
"It's like…right over there," he gestured into the air. "Just take the yacht across to the other island."
Johnny huffed again and crossed his arms over his chest. "Do what you want. I'm not moving from this spot."
Enrique rolled his eyes. "You're no fun," he pouted.
The two sat in silence while the room spun around them, until finally Johnny's phone rang loudly in his pocket. Enrique groaned and turned around to face the wall.
"What?" Johnny barked into the receiver.
"Oh, well good morning to you too, Sunshine." An airy voice came from the other end, and with that much snootiness it could only belong to one particular Frenchman.
"What do you want Oliver?" Johnny hissed. Even the sound of his own voice made his head pound.
"Hey, maybe he'll go to Ibiza with me," Enrique interjected, but he was promptly ignored.
"You had quite a time at Yacht Week, I see," Oliver continued to prod, knowing it was agitating his teammate.
Johnny raised an eyebrow, knowing Oliver didn't have any social media to check in on what he and Enrique had been doing over the past few nights. "What are you talking about?"
"Your snapchats," Oliver replied. "Oh, they're all over the internet. Buzzfeed and Daily Mail have taken quite a liking to your inebriated antics."
"And? What's your point?" Johnny sounded bored, unfazed by Oliver's condescending undertone. He heard Oliver sigh through the phone.
"Johnny, do you even know what day it is?" He asked.
Johnny turned to Enrique, who still had his back to him. He covered the phone with his hand. "Hey, hey!" He hissed at the blonde, trying to get his attention without Oliver hearing. Enrique finally looked over his shoulder.
"What?" he moaned.
"What day is it?"
"I dunno….Thursday?" He turned away from Johnny again.
"Nice try," Oliver chimed in. "It's Saturday. And our schedules came out yesterday, not that you seem to care."
Johnny paused and raked his hand through his auburn hair.
"Schedules?"He mouthed silently to Enrique, since Oliver could clearly hear them if they spoke. Enrique just responded with a shrug.
"I take it your silence means you have no idea what I'm talking about," Oliver sighed again. "We're a team. We beyblade. Or have you forgotten already?"
Johnny rubbed his temples. "God damn it…"
Enrique was finally sitting upright, sharing the same look of half-disbelief, half-annoyance on his face as Johnny did.
"Just…be at Robert's by tomorrow," a hint of desperation came through Oliver's voice. "You can nurse your hangovers on the plane. We have a lot of work to do."
Johnny hung up and threw his phone to the ground. He groaned and fell back into the curves of the couch.
"So…does this mean we're not going to Ibiza?"
Hong Kong, China
Mariah's pink hair stuck to her forehead in sweaty chunks as she tried to tie it up before another wave of nausea came over her. She hung her head over the toilet, feeling her stomach churn before vomiting again. Her throat was on fire and her chest felt like someone dropped a sandbag on her.
"Are you sure you'll be up for this?"
Mariah turned and saw Lee in the doorframe of the bathroom, with a more than concerned look on his face.
"Yes, Lee," she exhaled heavily. "It's just a stomach bug, it'll go away."
His golden eyes glazed over her. She was pale, and hadn't eaten in days. She could barely get herself into normal clothes, still wearing the same baggy t-shirt she wore to bed the night before.
"I'm worried about you," he pressed.
"Don't be," Mariah replied. "I'm a big girl, I can take care of myself." She felt her stomach rumble again, but didn't want to be sick in front of Lee. "Seriously. Go. I'm fine," she insisted.
Lee turned and shut the door behind him, just as Mariah heaved again, only this time nothing came out. She sat up and felt her head pound. She felt bad about lying to Lee, but there was no way she could tell him the truth. She couldn't tell anyone the truth. She grabbed her phone off the sink to check the time. 8:03 AM. She groaned as she realized she had been up all night.
A picture of her and Ray stared back at her from her phone screen. She couldn't even bring herself to change it yet, even though she knew it would be for the better. She clutched her phone to her chest and felt a tear form in the corner of her eye.
Oh Ray…how did this happen to us?
Kai was known for being up by dawn. It was usually the only time he had peace and quiet to himself. He stood tall in front of the large open windows, watching the sun slowly rise above the snow-covered tree tops, mixing warm yellow rays with the harsh dark that still lingered from the night. He reached his hands above his head, then slowly brought them down to his chest in a prayer position, exhaling as he did so. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, pulling himself away from reality and into his thoughts.
You do not know strength and you do not know light, until you understand weakness and understand darkness. Know the difference. React, and adapt.
Kai's meditation was interrupted by the sound of the door opening behind him.
"So you do yoga now?" Tala quipped.
"The door was shut for a reason," Kai replied sharply, still with his back to his captain. Kai moved with ease and grace into a Warrior II pose, legs wide and arms outstretched. When he turned his head, Tala was next to him, mirroring his moves.
"You're all enlightened now, huh?" Tala said, raising his eyebrow.
"Yeah. Dying will do that to you." Kai replied bluntly. He moved again into a tree pose, with his arms up and one foot up, resting against the inside of his opposite leg. Tala moved to the same position, but could not keep his balance like Kai, and fell over sideways. He saw Kai smirk out of the corner of his eye.
"So, what was it like?" Tala asked, now sitting cross-legged on the floor.
"What, dying?" Kai brought his hands down and placed them flat on the floor, still with his legs straight.
"No, your breakfast," Tala shot back sarcastically.
Kai rolled his eyes and finally sat down cross-legged just as Tala did. He placed his hands on his knees.
"It was…nothing." Kai closed his eyes. "Some people say they feel like they're drowning. Other people say they fly. But I just sat in the dark, cold."
The only noise in the room was Tala's breathing, heavy but rhythmic.
Kai opened his eyes. "And then I woke up." He turned to face Tala. He felt the blood drain from his face as Kai's gaze came over him.
"Was that the answer you were looking for?" Kai asked him.
Tala shook his head and sneered. "Not really, no."
They looked out the windows, where the sun was now high in the sky, bathing them both in a warm glow.
"Well, you came back for a reason," Tala said as he stood up. He offered Kai his hand, which Kai ignored.
"Fine," Tala narrowed his eyes. "Don't be late for practice."
He turned and left, slamming the door behind him. Kai laid back onto the cold wood floor and stared at the ceiling for what felt like an eternity. Morning shrinks space but leaves no message.
"Did you guys see this?"
Tyson laid on the couch with his phone held up above his face. Max stood over him.
"See what?" he asked. Tyson flipped his phone to show Max the headline on the screen.
WATCH: Majestics Teammates Johnny McGregor and Enrique Giancarlo Get Wild During Spain's Famous 'Yacht Week'
The video was taken from Johnny's snapchat, where he's seen with Enrique chugging liquor surrounded by girls. Johnny is sweaty and shirtless under his ripped up jean vest, and he mumbles something completely inaudible to whoever is filming the video.
"It's a $400 bottle of tequila," he says, brandishing the bottle. "And I'm gonna finish it in one night."
Enrique and some other half-naked party goers surround him, all jarring and cheering as the music blares in the background.
"He's wild," Max said as Tyson continued to scroll through his phone.
"Good, let him be," Tyson chirps. "If he's too wild and drunk to beyblade, that's one less person standing in our way."
"Forget about that Tyson," Kenny chimed in, who had been sitting on the floor, typing away at his laptop. "You'll want to see this."
Kenny pulled up a secondhand branch of the beyblade news website, BBA Europe. There was a video on the front page of an intimidating, dark-haired kid lifting huge weights.
"Do you know who that is?" Kenny asked.
"No," Tyson replied. "Should I?"
"That's Adi Rush," Hilary interjected. Tyson looked across the room at her and narrowed his eyes. Why did she always have to know everything?
"He's the team captain of the Crimson Tide," she continued. "They're the top rookie team in Europe. They annihilated every opponent in the unranked preliminary tournament." She paused. "And he can deadlift 450 pounds. He's a beast."
Tyson rolled his eyes. "Oh please. I could do that if I really wanted to."
His comment earned a hearty laugh from Max. "Okay Tyson, sure."
"Get serious here guys," Kenny pleaded. "The Crimson Tide is our other out of conference match. And if they're anything like the reports I'm reading on them, they're dangerous. They play rough, and they play dirty. We have to be prepared for anything."
"And we are!" Tyson insisted as he stood up. "We're ready, right Max?"
"Hell yeah we are!" Max pumped a fist in the air.
Tyson looked around. "Wait, where's Ray?"
"I think he's outside," Hilary replied. "Said he needed some fresh air."
Sure enough, Tyson found Ray sitting on the porch outside, looking off into the distance, almost as if he was waiting for someone.
"You okay, bud?" Tyson put a hand on his shoulder, which startled Ray.
"What? Yeah, I'm fine," he answered, but Tyson wasn't buying it. After years together, it became pretty difficult to lie and keep secrets from one another. Ray knew this, and spoke again before Tyson could protest. "I just want to be alone right now, if that's okay."
Tyson shrugged. "Sure. You know where to find us." Tyson turned to walk away but paused. "We're here for you. Ya know, if you need to talk or something."
Ray felt a smile tug at his lips. "Thanks Tyson. I know you are."
Tyson left Ray to his thoughts, where he stood in the warm of the setting sun, but still felt a chill tear up his spine. Things were about to get serious, and Ray wasn't sure how prepared he truly was.
Note: Okay I know that was A LOT of junk crammed into a short episode. I really just wanted to get this out of the way so we can start the first weekend of the tournament! Just some clarification/housekeeping things:
-For those of you who don't live in America or who are unfamiliar with college athletics, here's a few minor explanations: First, Division I is the highest level of most sports that you can play before playing professionally, and it is extremely difficult to be recruited to play Division I sports at any college or university. You are considered the best of the best at the amateur level. Obviously I saw it fitting that the All-Stars would also play at the highest level of their respective sports they practiced other than beyblading. Second, the term "redshirt" is the term used when an athlete defers from playing their sport for that year, without losing a year of eligibility (college athletes are only given 4 years of eligibility). Most of the time athletes redshirt due to injury, but there are exceptions made for other reasons as well. I selected schools that were well known for each character's sport. Feel free to Google any additional info you want, or just ask me.
-Yacht Week is totally a real thing, although I'm pretty sure it's usually in Croatia. I just felt Spain would be a better location for this scene. I have friends that have gone and it's literally just one wild party on everyone's yachts for a week straight.
-I know there's a lot of stuff I'm alluding to that clearly happened in the timeframe before the fic started, but don't worry I won't leave y'all hanging! Obviously you just have to keep reading...and don't forget to follow & review!