Hey, guys! I know it's been a very long time, and I'm sorry for not being able to update. One word: school… But… I finally managed to snag the computer for a while, and bring this little chapter as a holiday gift for you all! Also, today's my birthday, so reviews will be welcome as birthday presents! (wink)


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Dried Tears III: Complicated Hearts

By Neko Phoenix Girl

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Act I: Beginning… of the End


"I'm here, Kai. What did you want to talk to me about?"

The Chinese boy walked toward his Russian lover, who stood on the park's grassy hilltop. The handsome Russian was admiring the awe-inspiring early evening sky. The sun was setting slowly, and the warm array of oranges, pinks and purples cast a charming glow on the young couple. A cool mid-autumn breeze blew at the pair, causing Ray's soft raven ponytail to flutter back and forth, as well as Kai's impeccable white scarf, before both falling gently back in place.

Kai then solemnly turned to face the young neko. Ray's breath suddenly hitched in his throat as he saw the serious look haunting his lover's usually passionate crimson eyes. He didn't like that tragic look, not one bit. Last time Kai had held that look, terrible things had happened… all during that last Tournament… the memorable tournament that had named them both World Champions…

"K-Kai? What's wrong?" the younger teenager asked in worry, glowing golden eyes full of concern. He didn't like this… he didn't want Kai to be this way… Anxious, he waited for a reply, but his phoenix did not respond… not immediately, that is.

"Wh…what is wrong with him? Why… do I have this feeling of dread? Oh God… please…"

"Ray… I…" Kai started. "We… we can't be together any longer." The Phoenix blader finally replied, his voice almost faltering. Ray's pretty eyes widened the size of dinner plates.

"Wh…what are you saying?" he took a hesitant step away from Kai, his eyes quivering. Kai's slate bangs fell in place, shadowing his crimson eyes from view.

"I'm sorry, Ray… but… but I…" Kai seemed to struggle agonizingly with is own words. "I'm breaking up with you."

A heart stopped… his world came crashing down…

Ray couldn't believe what he had just heard. This wasn't true. Kai… his Kai… he didn't mean all this… he couldn't really, could he?

"Quit joking around, Kai. It's not funny." Ray choked out, his normally smooth voice sounding almost broken. But Kai's demeanor did not change, and neither did it show any signs of softening.

"I'm not joking around." He said huskily, finally turning to face the horrified Driger blader. Gently placing a hand under the other boy's chin, he tilted it upwards, his pained scarlet eyes clashing with agonizing amber ones. "This is goodbye."

He finished, quickly capturing Ray's unexpecting lips in one last kiss. Then, as quickly as he started, he let go, giving his back to the flustered neko-jin before starting to walk away.

When the Phoenix let go of him, Ray slowly fell to his knees… the words seemed to be caught in his throat. His hands fell helplessly to his sides, as shimmering tears threatened to fall from feline golden eyes.

"Kai… please… no… don't do this to me…"

Flashback

That night… under the stars… confessions made, they shared their first kiss.

"Ray, I love you." The gorgeous Russian said, gazing tenderly into golden eyes, an unprecedented blush painted over his cheeks. A slight yelp escaped the unexpecting neko-jin when soft lips were on his own. But he didn't mind. This was all he wanted… all he needed. He let himself be drawn into the soft kiss, holding onto the other's neck for support.

"Kai…"

"Kai... please... stop!" he managed to beg between hysterical giggles. Kai slowed down on the tickling, but didn't completely stop.

"Why should I, kitten? I find it quite fun." He said. But Ray couldn't hold on much longer.

"Kai... please." The Chinese blader pleaded one more time, but then, to Kai's surprise, managed to quickly roll to the side and then pin his phoenix down. A bemused Kai looked up at his kitten surprised. "I said... stop!" Ray grinned down at his koi, who grinned back at him.

"Very good, kitten." Kai didn't say anything more because Ray had brought himself to look straight at him, their faces so close there was only a paper-thin margin between them. The White Tiger's eyes were burning with passion as he looked down on the mighty phoenix. He was about to close the distance between them, when he stopped.

"Call me kitten one more time, and die." He whispered huskily against Kai's lips before completely closing the gap between them. Kai smirked into the kiss, and turned the tables once more, pinning Ray down again.

"We'll see about that... kitten."

Lying down facing Rei, Kai opened his arms, inviting the kitten into his warm embrace. The neko complied, resting peacefully against his chest. Nuzzling into the other's hair, Kai suddenly asked something.

"Ray...?"

"Hmm?"

"Why WHERE you out there in the rain, if it scares you so much?"

"Because there is something that scares me even more than a storm."

"And that is...?"

"Being away from you."

"I promise you… I will never… ever leave you alone…"

End of Flashback

"Kai…" The stricken tiger choked. "Why?"

But Kai cruelly refused to send him one look. "I'm sorry, Ray. It's over. Goodbye."


"No, Kai!" I gasped out, quickly sitting up panting and sweating. I put my hand to my face, wiping away the beads of cold sweat that had formed. Looking around, I realized I wasn't up in the hill. I was in my room… in my bed, away from there. Why was this coming back to haunt me? I started to tremble and lost my self-control, bursting into tears. I hid my face in my plain sheets, crying what was left of my heart out. I was completely shattered.

"I'm not joking around… I'm sorry. This is goodbye."

He… he didn't even give me an explanation as to why… Did I ever do something wrong? I pondered for a moment, before shaking off the thought. I had given myself completely to him. He was my world… my everything. He… countless times he said he loved me. He promised me he would always be there. And… I believed him. I was too blinded to think otherwise. And even now, I still remain too blinded to understand, because I love him. I love him more than life itself. So… what am I supposed to do now? What do I have left?

"Kai…" I said softly. "I can't go on like this… I just can't."

This is too much for me to take anymore. There's nothing else left for me to do…

Slowly rising from my bed, stretching my aching muscles, I made up my mind. I had to do… what I had to do.


"Good morning, dad." A smiling blonde teen yawned as he entered his kitchen. His father was sitting at the kitchen table, with a mug of coffee and the daily paper in his hands.

"Morning, Max." the man greeted with a smile before taking another sip from his coffee. A sleepy but cheery grin graced the blond boy's lips before he headed towards the cupboards, ready to find the most sugary cereal they had. That's when his father spoke up again. "Hey… em… a letter came in for you."

That piqued Max's interest almost immediately. Cerulean eyes shining, he turned towards his dad.

"Really? Who's it from?" he cocked his head cutely in question.

With a chuckle, the good-natured shopkeeper produced a letter from his apron. "It's from your mother."

Max almost leapt up five feet into the air. "Really! A letter from mom!" he exclaimed eagerly as he rushed to grab the envelope from his dad. "Awesome!"

Taking the letter from his dad, he practically tore it open before producing a hand-written sheet of paper with elegant calligraphy. Yep, that was his mom, all right.

"Oh wow… I wonder what this is about… I haven't seen mom since that time last year when we visited her lab!" Enthusiastically, he started to read.

Meanwhile, Max's father held quite an uneasy look. He knew the contents of the letter… and he wasn't sure of how Max would take them.

His suspicions were confirmed when suddenly a gasp was heard in the room. He turned to look at his son, who seemed to have paled more than usual.

"Dad…" he choked somewhat, turning his quivery gaze at his father. "Mom… needs my help back at New York." He whispered, producing a plane ticket from the letter.

"I know, son. I know."


"Later, grampa!"

"Tyson! Shortie, get yer lil' tush back in here! You still have to practice!"

"I'm sorry, grampa, but I'm supposed to meet Kenny in five minutes! Can't we just let go of the crappy early morning drills for just one day?"

Tyson waved off to his kooky grandfather before running through the dojo gates, immediately heading toward Kenny's, leaving a flabbergasted old man behind.

The former World Champion was so excited; he hadn't been able to sleep the night before. But then again, how could he? The Worlds were just around the corner!

"This is gonna be so great! I can't wait to get into that stadium and Let it Rip!" he exclaimed to himself as Kenny's place came into view, together with a small figure with a mop of brown hair on top at the door. Heheh… that was Kenny.

"Hey, Chief! Good morning!" Tyson chirped as he waved at the bespectacled boy. The short one smiled brightly before waving, as he grabbed his laptop and closed the door.

"A very good morning to you too, Tyson. I'm amazed that you're up so early!" the resident genius greeted with a lopsided smile, causing Tyson to grin sheepishly.

"I could barely sleep… Gosh, Kenny, the excitement is so much! I just can't wait 'til the Prelims!"

At this, Kenny took a thoughtful look, holding his chin. "Tyson?"

"Yeah, Chief?"

"It's not like I want to bring you down or anything, but have you considered the possibility that… well… Kai and Ray are most probably gonna make the cut for the team?"

Tyson immediately skid to a halt, wide-eyed. That was right. Kai and Ray, being the current World Champions and extraordinary bladers in their own rights, had the best chance to make the Bladebreakers tag team. Heck, they were the tournament favorites!

Tyson well knew that he had once been in the same dueling level as Ray and Kai… heck, he had been World Champion too, and defeated formidable opponents like Kai himself, and Tala Ivanov. But since that first Championship, things had changed… a lot. Kai and Ray had gone through so much… it had strengthened them both physically and mentally, as individual bladders, and as partners. That much had been clear in the last match of last year's tournament. Those two had almost become one… And that's something Ty and Max just couldn't compete with. It was almost unfair. But Tyson wasn't about to let that simple truth bring him down.

"Kenny…"

"What?"

"Even if I don't make the team… I'll be glad to know that I did my best, and that whoever does make the team will make us proud. That much I am sure of."


Both Kenny and the Dragon blader found themselves at the local training facility, ready to start their practice early in the morning. Since it was six, the place was completely deserted.

"Looks like no one else is here, Chief." Tyson chirped as they crossed the building's heavy double doors. Indeed, not even the receptionist was there yet.

"Well, that's good. We can practice in peace." Kenny expressed his relief. But in reality, they weren't as alone as they thought…

"Ray? Max?"

When Ty and the Chief had entered the stadium area, they surprisingly noted that their two teammates were already there. Ray was quietly leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, and Max was sitting on the benches, a suitcase by him. Both looked extremely serious, if not gloomy. Although Tyson was more than glad to see his fair-haired lover early in the morning, he didn't like the atmosphere one bit.

"What is wrong with these two? Did something happen that I don't know about?" Tyson wondered, extremely worried as he walked over to his best friend and his boyfriend.

"Ray, what's wrong? Is something the matter?" he pointedly asked, looking at the tiger. But the Driger blader remained silent, as if collecting his thoughts. Tyson then turned to his koi. "Maxie?"

Max remained painfully silent too, refusing to look his lover in the eyes.

"O-k…" the bluenette muttered, turning to sit on the benches beside Max. Feeling uncomfortable, he started fidgeting with his Dragoon Galaxy, every once in a while stealing glances at his two best friends. Something was wrong.

They all remained in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, even Kenny shifting uncomfortably in his spot.

"Tyson." Someone finally broke the awkward silence. Said blader looked up at his addresser.

"Yeah, Ray?"

"I… I'm going back home to China."

A silence… then a shock.

"Excuse me?" Tyson gasped, jumping to his feet in the process.

"I'm leaving… for China." The neko-jin struggled to repeat.

Kenny became frantic, and Max looked up. So Ray was the first to make his move…

"But… but Ray! What about the tournament? What about us?" Tyson burst out frantically, not believing what his older teammate was saying. Ray couldn't just leave!

"I'll enter the tournament as a White Tiger… and you…" at this, Ray seemed to take some time to sort his ideas. "You guys… I'll miss you… But I'm sure you'll do fine."

"Oh Ray…" Tyson whispered, trying to hold back tears. Ray was his very best friend, next to Maxie. And it hurt him so much to see him go. But… what had brought up this sudden change in attitude? "But Ray… why…"

"Shh…" Ray shushed him gently, himself seeming about to submit to tears. "It's just something I have to do. Please… try to understand."

And with that, he gave the others his back as he walked to the exit. Tyson stood helplessly as he watched the tiger slip away.

"Tyson, do something! Don't let him go!" Kenny frantically urged him, but the Dragon wielder didn't move.

"Ray…"

A gentle but firm hand was placed on Ty's shoulder.

"You have to let him go, Ty-koi." Max whispered gravely, looking down. Tyson turned around and embraced him.

"Max…" he muttered sadly, before noticing the suitcase his boyfriend was holding. "Maxie? What's with the suitcase?" he asked, fear apparent in his voice.

At this, the blonde wrapped his arms around Tyson's neck, burying his face in the bluenette's shoulder. Tyson's heart was beating out of his chest.

"Please…" he begged. "Not Max."

"I-I'm so sorry, Ty-koi." Max sobbed into his shoulder. "I have to go too."

Tyson's heart stopped, as his whole world came crashing down as well. It couldn't be. He took several steps back, leaving Max standing there, small tears sliding down his lovely pale cheeks. The Dragon gaped at him as he slowly shook his head from side to side.

"No… no… please, Max. Not you too."

Max shook his head as well. "I'm sorry, Tyson. I just got a letter from my mom this morning. She needs me in New York as soon as possible."

Suddenly, Tyson hugged him close, wrapping his arms around his light frame. Max sniffed and held the other tightly.

"Tyson?"

"Yes, Max?" he choked, trying hard and succeeding in not spilling tears, for his Max. He hid his face in Max's soft hair.

"I love you."

"I love you too… Now and always."

"Then, please, you'll understand."

Max then slowly eased himself from Tyson's loving grasp. He was about to turn when Tyson grabbed his wrist and pulled him back, locking lips with him in a goodbye kiss. Neither wanted to let go, but they eventually broke apart, gazing into each other's eyes, before Max turned away. Grabbing his suitcase, he turned the knob and opened the door. He stood in the doorway for a split second, after which heartfelt words came.

"This is goodbye… but not forever, Ty-koi." His eyes were now shadowed by his bangs.

"I know." Tyson whispered.

"I'll see you at the Worlds."

And with that, Max also disappeared from this horrible chapter of the story called "life", leaving me just standing there, my face shrouded in shadows. It was the beginning… of the end.

The Bladebreakers… were done.

To be continued…


Phew! It took me all morning to write this! I hope you guys like it. Well, I'm leaving things here for a while. As you noticed, this happens before the prologue. And that last bit was said by Ty. Once more, thank you guys for all your reviews, and I hope you review this too. It would make my birthday so much brighter! Well, see ya!

XOXO

Rub Hiwatari aka Neko Phoenix Girl