Chapter 1: In the Eye of the Tiger
"Flight 3120 to Beijing will now be boarding. Passengers please begin boarding through the flight terminal at this time. Again, Flight 3120 to Beijing will now begin boarding."
Rei took his time gathering his carryon bags together as he heard his flight being called over the intercom. The championships were over and the BEGA league had been stopped. The fight was now over. After a few days of rest, it was time to get back to the normal routine of life. They had fought their battle and won. Max would be staying in Japan with his father and his mother would be joining them there. Tyson would be going back to the dojo with his grandpa and Kenny would go back home. Not long after they had returned to Tyson's home after the final battle between Tyson and Brooklyn, they had discovered Kai already gone. He had been no where to be found and Tala had left the hospital. There had been a flight to Moscow the day before and they could only guess that Kai had returned to Russia with Tala. The two had become very close during the last tournament. Being teammates again had bonded them together once again. It was visible to everyone.
Rei, however, would be going back to the village in China. He had become close to his old teammates once again, but not as close as they had been. He just didn't feel like he belonged there anymore. However, he really didn't have anywhere else to go. So here he was in the airport waiting for the flight back to China. Maybe things would calm down and he could figure out what he wanted to do with his life. Drigger would always be near and dear to him, but it was time to move on in life, move past a life full of beyblade tournaments and travel. It was time to do something with his life. Unfortunately, Rei had absolutely no clue what that something was. Kai had his own life left to him by his grandfather, Voltaire. He had a life in Russia to clean up and organize, and a house to make his own. All through the pressures and troubles he would have Tala, Bryan, Ian, and Spencer to support him. Tyson would begin training to take over the Dojo with his grandfather and most likely Hiro. Kenny would begin concentrating on school. The chief was a genius and now he could make something of it. Max would probably work with his dad in the part shop and have a happy life at home with both his parents now.
What did Rei have to go home to? He couldn't really think of much. He had Lee, Kevin, Mariah, and Gary, sure. But things would never be like they were before. He lived alone and even in the village, the others had their own lives to live. Rei really didn't have anything. He wasn't really happy in the village anymore. He couldn't even really life a quiet peaceful life there. The people of the village saw him and the others as celebrities now. While Rei was trying to move on from beyblading, the kids of the village would be consistently chasing after him for lessons. They would then begin asking about things outside the village. They would want to hear all the stories he could tell about his travels around the world. Then Rei would begin to think about everyone and remember how alone he was now. He hadn't even told the others when his flight would be leaving. He didn't want to actually say goodbye to anyone. He thought it would be too painful. They would have wanted to see him off and then they would have asked questions about him going home. He wasn't ready to talk to them about all that yet. He wasn't ready to admit to them that he was lonely, that he wasn't happy.
"This is the final boarding call for flight 3120 to Beijing. This is the final boarding call for flight 3120 to Beijing. Passengers please finalize check in and board the flight."
'Well, I guess this is it. It's time to head back to an empty house. Am I destined to be surrounded by people and yet still be lonely? How many people will still truly be friends?' Rei sighed to himself as he walked through the terminal and boarded the plane. Thankfully he had a window seat and was able to keep to himself throughout the flight. Lee and Mariah would be meeting him at the airport and he had to brace himself for the reunion. It was going to be a very long flight.
"Lee, how much longer do we have to wait?" Mariah moaned as they waited for the arrival of Rei's flight.
Lee sighed as he heard the same question for the fifteenth time. He wrapped his arms around Mariah and pulled her closer to him. "It should be here soon Mariah. You'll just have to hold your horses. Rei's probably going to be tired when he gets in too, so don't hover and crowd around him playing mother hen. Give him a little space, alright?"
Mariah nodded and rolled her eyes at her teammate and boyfriend. They had gotten together after they had returned from the tournament. Mariah couldn't wait to share the news with Rei. Rei was like a brother to her and she told him everything. She was looking forward to him coming home again. She hoped they would all be able to settle down into the regular routine now. They had all spent so much time traveling and running around the world, they barely knew up from down anymore. She smiled as she saw a familiar form exit the gate. She nudged Lee in the shoulder and pointed as she stood to go welcome their friend home.
"Rei, it's good to see you again, welcome home." Lee smiled as he clasped Rei's hand in his.
Rei forced a smile to his lips. "Yeah, home, good to be back."
Lee raised an eyebrow at his friend as Mariah watched curiously from behind.
"Rei, are you ok? You don't seem so happy to be home." Mariah hugged Rei in welcome.
Rei forced another smile to his lips as he looked at Mariah. "Yeah, everything's fine. I guess I'm just tired. I'm ready to go home and get some peace and quiet, that's all."
"Ok, then. Let's get your bags and head out of here, everyone will be happy to see you Rei." Lee grabbed Rei's carryon as he guided him out of the airport.
Mariah hung back behind the two as she watched Rei shuffle along in front of her. 'What's wrong with you Rei? The attitude you have now isn't the Rei I remember. Something is bugging you and I'm going to find out what.'
When they arrived back at the village, it seemed like a festival had been called in order to celebrate. Even though he simply wanted to go home and crawl into bed, he couldn't just walk away from so many people who had looked forward to welcoming him home. So Rei slid through the crowd, greeting as many people as he could. He felt like he was passed back and forth from person to person as conversations and questions flew at him from all directions. Soon, he was found by a group of kids who wanted him to blade with them. He excused himself from the group he was currently with and followed the kids over to the dish they always used. Mariah watched him carefully as he walked away. She could tell that something was definitely unusual with Rei and she quickly found Lee to question him about it. She found him with the village elders discussing the possibility of the White Tigers competing the following year.
"Excuse me elder, but may I borrow Lee for a few minutes? I'd like to speak to him about something."
The village elder simply smiled at her and nodded his approval. Lee then held Mariah's hand in his as they found a quiet corner where they could speak privately for a few moments. "Lee, have you noticed anything wrong with Rei since we picked him up at the airport? He seems a little down to me."
"He seems a bit quiet yeah, but it's probably all the traveling. We thought we traveled a lot for the tournament but he's been traveling even longer. I'm sure he's just exhausted from the trips running everywhere around the world. He just needs some quiet time. I'll give those kids just a little while longer and I'll steal Rei and take him home to get some rest. You'll see, tomorrow he'll be just fine."
Mariah frowned as she watched her boyfriend wander back into the crowd. "I don't know Lee. I hope you're right, but it seems like more than that. He's distant."
An hour later, Lee found Rei and the children. He sent the children home for dinner and walked Rei back home. He decided that he may as well voice Mariah's concern. "Rei, is everything alright? Are you sure you're just tired?"
Rei hesitated only a moment before responding. "Yeah, everything's fine Lee. I told you, I'm just tired from all the globe trotting. I'll be fine, don't worry about me."
Lee shook his head. "I just thought I'd make sure. Mariah was worried. She thinks you've been kind of quiet and distant since you came back. You've been giving attention to everyone, sure, but you haven't been yourself."
Rei glared at his friend. "I'm fine Lee, just drop it, ok?"
Lee simply stared at his angered friend. "Alright Rei, I'm sorry if I'm being pushy. We just want you to be happy."
Rei sighed and rested a hand on Lee's shoulder as they reached the door to his house. "No, I'm sorry for snapping at you. I'll be fine, I promise. I think I just need some sleep ok? Tell Mariah thanks for worrying, but I'll be fine. Look, I'll see you guys sometime tomorrow ok?"
"Alright Rei, get some sleep and we'll see you tomorrow."
Rei nodded and walked in the door. Inside he was surrounded by dead silence. "Honey, I'm home, if it mattered to anyone." Rei sighed once again and set his bags down in a corner of the bedroom before changing and crawling under the covers. "I never noticed how quiet it was here. Now it seems almost too quiet." He continued to toss and turn for awhile before he finally fell into a restless sleep. Shortly after, tears began slipping from beneath the long lashes of the closed lids.