Authoress: Ladya C. Maxine
Summary: see chapter one
Warnings: see chapter one
Disclaimer: I do not own Beyblade or any of its characters. Any and all unrecognizable characters belong solely to me and are not to be touched. I am not making any money off of this and I write with the sole intention to entertain.
A/N: Final chapter!
The cold air now frosted the still wet grounds, covering grass and stone in a light blanket of iciness. The skies were soft grey, sparse clouds non-threatening to the collected crowd garbed in black who stood in silence before flower-adorned casket balanced before the six-foot deep opening in the ground. Everyone listen to the robed priest as he bid the departed a final good-bye, his accented words carried on the wind along with the withering leaves.
It was strange really, to see everyone there. All the teams who were present at the championships now stood around him, faces sullen, mourning the death of a blader they barely knew, affected mainly because they saw how badly it affected the deceased's team. Even the Majestics, who had flown home a week after it had all began, had returned to pay their respects, dressed in expensive and formal attire, standing to his right with all the posture their wealthy upbringing had taught them.
The White Tigers and the All Starz, two teams who had all rights to not attend due to their personal encounters with the Russian bladers, stood solemnly, eyes on the closed coffin. Mariah and Emily stood together, dabbing their eyes constantly with tissue. Ray stood with his former team though the tiger's eyes kept straying past Tyson, Kenny and Max to where his captain stood with the remaining Demolition Boys.
They were believed to be incapable of tears or emotions. Everyone had been proven totally wrong. Upon hearing the news of Ian's passing Spencer had gone in a temporary fit of rage, screaming for his small friend as the medics had to restrain him to the bed. The safe return of Tala had given the large blond some peace of mind yet inevitably the blue eyes were watered as he stood next to Bryan who had fallen into grieving silence since the news had been broken to him. He had welcomed Kai and Tala back with deep embraces but not a word had left the lilac-haired boy's lips. Now supported by crutches, he stared at the sky beyond the cemetery, twin streams of tears streaking his pale face.
The hand he held tightened when the priest finished his speech, bringing Kai's immediate attention to the teen next to him, returning the gesture gently. Blue eyes shifted to meet his and he nodded slightly, leading the way as he stepped forward, bringing Tala along. Spencer and Bryan appeared on either side of them as they now stood lined before the dark wood coffin. At the priest's go-ahead they each placed the rose held in their hands on the lid.
"Your place as team mate and friend will never be replaced," Kai said softly, "Rest in peace, Ian."
And it was over. Closing the Holy Bible, the priest gave the crowd a single nod, ending the service. For many minutes they remained, rethinking the past month's events, evaluating the true value of life which they had recklessly taken advantage of up until now. No one would leave the cemetery the same; this had been a first-hand lesson in the harshness of life. They now understood just how grateful they should be, of themselves and each other.
Finally, the crowd started to break up as they began to file towards the awaiting cars in small groups, talking softly amongst each other though not before offering their condolences once more to the four Russians who accepted it all with simple nods of the heads.
"So what are you going to do now?" Ray asked the bluenette where Kai stood alone, having released Tala so the red-head could be with his remaining team members. "Everyone is going their own ways for a while; Max is going back to America with his mom and the All Starz; Tyson and Kenny are going back to Japan; I told Mariah I would go back with her and the others for a while to China. Maybe you should go with Tyson; I'm sure there's room for one more at his place."
Shaking his head, Kai's eyes drifted over to where the three Russians stood before Ian's coffin once more, Tala and Spencer reciting a Russian prayer while Bryan silently studied the flowers on the dark wood lid.
"They need me," the bluenette spoke up. "Tala needs me as much as I need him."
"So you're staying in Russia?"
Again he shook his head, eyes now straying to where the adults were speaking to the priest nearby. Mr. Dickenson, Bruce and Mr. Granger were discussing matters while Judy and Margaret stood by listening, Margaret saying something softly to another, older woman who was dressed a long, black robe-like dress, her face partially covered by a black beaded veil in respect.
A grandmother. A relative he had never met. Their reunion hadn't come until after he had returned with Tala to the hospital. After making sure his friend was in capable hands and was placed in a bed himself for treatment in the room next to the red-head's he had fallen into blissful sleep only to wake up to find the stranger sitting next to his bed. It had been hard to believe at first but Margaret, treated and able to walk on her own, had entered the room and instantly recognized who he now knew was his grandmother; his truly only living relative.
"We will return," he said, answering Ray's question, "but for now it's too hard to be here. There are too many memories. Bryan had long planned to leave and the doctors say it's best if Tala spends some time away from this country." He finally turned to face his Chinese team mate. "We're going with my grandmother to South America. She invited us all and the guys agreed; she had more than enough space for us all. Margaret is coming too."
"That's a good idea," Ray agreed. "It also gives you a chance to get to know your grandmother better. She's a wonderful person and I know she'll give all of you the support you need." He noted the White Tigers were patiently waiting for him by their ride; their plane was leaving that very night. Smiling softly, the tiger turned back to the bluenette and held out a hand.
"I'll be seeing you around then, buddy."
Kai returned the shake before pulling the other boy into a hug, placing something in the tiger's hand. Ray blinked to find himself staring at the black casing, the golden phoenix as vibrant as ever. Understanding the sentimental value behind the gift, he raised shimmering eyes to the phoenix before him who offered him a faint smile.
"You will, my friend. Thank you."
Releasing the bluenette, Ray turned away with a smile, placing the casing in his coat pocket as his long hair swayed in the cool wind as he walked down the path towards his friends. Tears ran down his face but he smiled; Kai will be fine and he knew they would all be together once more in the not so distant future.
Kai watched until the car carrying the White Tigers pulled away, turning down the corner and out of view. The other teams had already left, going back to their hotel where they would remain until their own respective flights. The adults too began for their cars though two stayed behind, walking towards him instead.
"How are you and your friends holding up, Kai?" Margaret asked, brushing loose strands of brown-grey hair behind her ears.
"Are you sure you want to come?" he asked instead. "What about your earlier job? Your life here in Russia?"
She waved it away.
"There is nothing for me here. Madame Anne-Marie has offered me employment in her home and it is a task I will gladly take up once more. Besides," she ran a hand down his face gently, "I can't find it in me to let you out of my sight just yet."
He smiled before wrapping an arm around the slender body of his grandmother as she pulled him into a loose embrace. Something about being held by her made him feel as if he was in his mother's arms once more even though he was taller than the elderly woman by an inch or two. The three stood in comfortable silence as the Russian words stopped as the prayer had ended. Tala, holding Spencer by the arm though the blond's sight had been moderately repaired, led them slowly back. Once reaching them, the red-head released Spencer to step into Kai's arms as the bluenette pulled him into a tight hug.
"Do you think you are ready to let go?" Kai whispered softly.
"Let go, but not forget," Tala responded, his head remaining on a black-clothed shoulder.
"Never forget," he affirmed, raising his eyes to the rest. Margaret had taken Tala's place next to Spencer; she had immediately taken the Russian team in, looking over them during their stay at the hospital. Anne-Marie was speaking to Bryan in soft words Kai couldn't hear though the lilac-haired blader nodded as she spoke; the two had formed a strong bond as, like the team, Anne-Marie had easily seen past the Falborg blader's false coldness upon first glance.
It was over. They had won the grueling battle with fate, though with great sacrifices. Five had entered the fight, only four walked away, and not unscathed. A group of friends who had gone through more than a decade of darkness only to have one of them answer the beckoning light at the end of the tunnel while the others still wandered about in shadows; they were still lost, but they were together. Nothing could ever erase their pasts and memories, but hopefully, as they kept on winning back lost ground, their futures could be brightened.
Stepping back, he motioned to the others and they followed as he led the way down the path towards the metal entrance. He didn't look back. None of them did. They didn't have to see it to believe it. Ian may be gone, but he was still with them.
"Which star do you think he's with?" Tala asked softly where he leaned against his best friend's side.
"I don't know," Kai admitted, "but they say it's going to be a clear sky tonight. We can look for him from the hotel's roof if you want."
The red-head nodded, smiling sadly. "Do you think he's happy there?"
Before he could answer a soft voice spoke up from behind them.
"At least he's finally able to be the one looking down on any of us."
They all turned surprised eyes on Bryan who was studying the sky above him, a ghost of his trademark smile/smirk on his face. He returned their stares calmly.
"He always wondered what it would be like to be taller than us."
The observation brought a smile to all their faces.
The healing had already begun…
Oh. My. God.
It's done. It took me more than a year, but I have finally felt that satisfaction of writing the last sentence of this fic. Many thanks to all those who reviewed and encouraged me. The one thing that drives a writer to keep going is the support she receives from her readers.
Onto Crimson's Child!
Ladya C. Maxine