A/N: Okay, I am definitely crazy...This chapter came out in less than an hour with no revisions! It's like my hands were moving on their own or something; I didn't even have to think what came next! O.o
Mei: Did you have any candy in the past few days?
Me: You know I don't eat candy on a regular basis, Mei. I don't even need coffee! Well, I can't take coffee 'cause it makes me sleepy instead of perking me up...wierd, huh?
Aki: You're rambling again...
Me: Oh. Oops... ; Wait...weren't you guys supposed to be on the 'Muse Cruise' I sent you on? Oh, and for those who don't know, I use the original (Japanese) character names, so that means Tyson is Takao; Kenny is Kyouju; Lee is Rai; and so on…
Disclaimer: Do I need to say it?
Epilogue: Once is Enough
Hiromi collapsed over Aika's prone figure, sobbing loudly, any words she might have said muffled by her cries of anguish and pain. Finally, unable to hold herself back any longer, she lifted her face towards the heavens, tears streaking down her now-pale cheeks, her eyes almost shut tight with the intensity of emotion welling inside her, and cried out, one long, last shout of pain that only a mother was capable of feeling at that moment.
Hiwatari Kai shot up in bed, eyes wide with alarm, a cold sweat pouring off his limbs. Gradually, his breathing slowed down and returned to normal, and he found himself glancing at his surroundings. He noted the blankets twisted around his legs and lower torso, and Hiromi's sleeping form beside him on the bed.
A nightmare... he thought, heaving a sigh of relief and running a hand through his slate-gray locks. Only a horrible dream... He was about to swing his legs over the side of the bed - after disentangling himself from the sheets - when the full force of the dream's implications hit him. He whipped his head around to glance at Hiromi's peaceful face.
What if... he thought slowly, hardly daring to acknowledge the thought. What if the dream was true? The full consequence of what he feared was about to happen weighed heavily on his mind. If the dream was really what he thought it was - a bleak premonition of the future, a warning - then he had to act.
He stood up and walked towards the door of Hiromi's room, frowning as he fought to recall the exact point in time things began to go wrong. Perhaps if he could figure out when fate began to work against him, he could devise a plan to counter it, and change his intended future.
Around thirty minutes later, Kai emerged from the bathroom in his sleeping chamber, fully dressed now and ready to face the challenges so terribly presented in his dream. He revisited Hiromi's room first. He rolled up the sheet of paper he clutched in his hand, and then inserted it into the protective circle of his silver ring, similar to Hiromi's on her left hand. He then left in on the table, fixing the blankets covering the auburn-haired teen before leaving her room.
"Where's Kai?" Takao asked, glancing about the room. He and his companions were gathered in the team room inside the BEGA battle dome. As mentioned, all they were waiting for now was the slate-haired blader. "Did he suddenly leave without telling us again?"
"He's been training, Takao," Hiromi replied, looking a bit put off that the stormy-eyed teen would think so little of his friend and teammate's morals. "He came here earlier this morning. Also, whatever it was, he had a lot to think about." She sighed, leaning back in her seat. "Anyway, he'll be along in a few moments."
"But we can't be sure of that, Hiromi. Maybe he lost track of the time, or-"
"You know very well I don't lose track of time, Kinomiya," the familiar cold voice cut through the conversation like a steel blade; there in the doorway stood Kai, looking as stoic and determined as ever.
"Glad to see you showed up, Kai," Rei said, smiling.
"You arrived just in time, too!" Max added, glancing at the wall clock. "They'll be calling us out any moment now."
"Then let's get going!" Takao urged. One by one, they headed for the door. Kai and Hiromi were the last ones through. Well behind their friends, they shared a secret smile, holding hands as they traversed the length of the hallway leading to the stadium.
"How is it that you keep getting up?" Brooklyn, thoroughly frustrated now, asked, his face contorted in fury.
Kai smirked, slightly pleased that he had infuriated his opponent. If the enemy were angered past the point of logic, they would no longer think rationally - a definite advantage for him. At the same time, he noted that it would not be long now before the crucial point in this battle would show itself. He glanced up.
"Kai. That's my name; and I'm a blader. You may think you are, too, but you're not! You learned from the best, but you forgot a lifetime's worth of lessons: Beyblading isn't only about overpowering your opponent with fancy moves; that's only part of it. There's more to it. Much more.
learned from every battle I've ever fought. Every friend, enemy,
and spectator always had something to offer me. I'm a student of
this game and I always will be. Through the hardships of training,
competitions, the wins and the losses, I learned something. And now
I'm taking this knowledge and using it to my advantage.
That's why I can say I'm a true blader! That, and the fact that
my friends are here to support me, keeps me going; that's my
strength!""You can cut the crap!" Brooklyn exclaimed; at the
same time, Zeus seemed to be preparing itself for another attack.
"'Cause I'm not listening to any of it!" The aqua orbs
contracted, and then the flame-haired teen yelled, "Zeus! King of
"Oh, no!" Kyouju was practically frantic now. "That's the same attack Brooklyn used on Kai in their previous battle! The one Kai nearly died from!"
"Say what?" Takao whirled around to face the bespectacled teen. He'd seen Rei rushed to the hospital after a very bloody battle with Boris from Team Neoborg, back when Team BBA was still new; and he'd watched Yuri being carted off after his battle against Garland, in critical - but stable - condition. But he'd never, ever heard of anyone almost dying from an attack.
The stormy-eyed blader searched his friend's eyes; whatever he was looking for, he never found it. He bit his lip, and then turned back to the match. What he saw made him gasp loudly.
From out of Brooklyn's blade, a very tangible darkness swirled around in a deadly vortex, reaching out in an ever-widening spiral towards the amethyst-eyed teen; Kai stood, unmoving, his hair blowing backwards in the gale-force wind as he stared into the deadly eye of this storm of darkness. He knew...the moment was near. This was where he'd have to act decisively enough to save his life.
Aside from the howling of the wind, which had picked up in speed and ferocity, there was an almost inaudible howling and moaning of what seemed to be spirits, entwined within the fatal absence of light. And then, in the twinkling of an eye, this implausible, near-living 'creature' seemed to have had engulfed the slate-haired teen, and then dissipated, returning to whatever horrific dimension from which its deadly form had been summoned. Kai's body was nowhere in sight.
In the stadium, Brooklyn smirked. He knew it: he'd won.
"Not so fast, Kingston!"
The aqua-eyed teen glanced up towards the source of the voice...and gasped.
Wide smiles of relief spread on the faces of the members of Team BBA when they saw what had happened.
"Oh, yes!" An overjoyed Hiromi exclaimed, latching onto Max's neck. "He's all right!"
"Uh, yeah, Hiromi...he's okay..." Max said, half-choking, as he gently pried the auburn-haired teen's arms away.
At the last moment, Kai had jumped, the dark vortex missing him by mere centimeters. Closer scrutiny revealed that fiery wings, although quite faint in form, had somehow sprouted from his back, indicating that the slate-haired teen had asked Dranzer for help in a more tangible form, and the loyal phoenix had given it.
Within seconds, he landed back on the platform, and the wings disappeared. Kai lost no time. "Dranzer! Volcanic Explosion Storm!"
Brooklyn had no time to react, nor did he know how to react. The dark blue blade that was Dranzer shot forward with blinding speed, clashing into its opponent over and over, seemingly from several angles at once. The flame-haired blader recovered quickly enough, however, and fought back, landing blow after blow on the Dranzer blade.
Kai fought the urge to cry out in pain - he could feel his faithful bit beast's agony as the blows connected. He knew she could not last much longer - neither could he, being as injured as he was - and so resolved to put everything he had into this one last attack.
"Dranzer! Go! Ultimate Destruction!"
As in his dream the night before, Dranzer flew up into the air, instantly becoming engulfed in roiling flame. The gigantic fireball suspended above the stadium quickly dissolved into hundreds of smaller ones. These rained down onto the dish with such speed that the dark blade could not hope to elude them all. Finally, when there were no more balls of flame to expend, the blade itself shrieked downwards towards its opponent. There was a thwack! as the two blades connected, and then, to everyone's surprise, Zeus came whirling out of the dish, landing with a dull clink at its master's feet, utterly defeated.
Silence descended upon the stands, and then, slowly, the applause built until it was wave upon undulating wave of ecstatic onlookers, simply swept away by the spectacular finish.
Kai retrieved his blade and gave Brooklyn one last, satisfied smirk before turning to meet his friends and teammates. He quickly made his way down the platform steps, counting down the seconds to when he knew he was supposed to collapse.
But the dizzying feeling, the weakness in his knees he was supposed to have felt, never came. Instead, he managed the entire six feet - the distance at which he was supposed to have collapsed - without the slightest trace of a fainting spell.
The first person he came in contact with was Hiromi, who nearly knocked him to the floor in her excitedly relieved state.
"Way to go!" Max said by way of congratulating the amethyst-eyed teen.
"You sure showed him!" Takao said, punching his captain on his arm.
"Whatever, Kinomiya." Kai said, offering a small smile in return. "You just worry about your upcoming battle, all right?"
"No problem!" The stormy-eyed teen grinned cheekily, taking a few poses before Hiromi whacked him upside his head. The ruby-eyed girl quickly turned her attention back to Kai after doing so.
"Kai, you face looks a little pale," she said worriedly, recalling his words from last night. "Are you sure you'll be okay?"
Kai nodded slowly. "I...I guess I'll go sit down at the team bench. Takao," he added, throwing the dragon wielder a stern glance. "You get ready for your match with Garland."
Takao gave a smart mock salute. "You got it, sir."
"And knock off the acting; you need to get serious," Kai admonished, shaking his head good-naturedly. Turning on his heel, he walked towards the bench where everyone else had been earlier, and sank onto it. A moment later, he felt someone sit down next to him and glanced up. It was Hiromi, and she still looked somewhat worried.
"Are you absolutely sure you're all right, Kai?" she asked once more. "I could call the medic team to have a look at you; I know that there's one in one of the bigger back rooms."
Kai shook his head. I don't think there's any need to do that, Hiromi, but perhaps I could use some bandages to bind the worst of these injuries. We might need them also later for Takao when he gets out of his battle." he added as an afterthought.
Hiromi smiled as she got up. "Sure. I'll go get some."
Kai leaned back against the refreshing coolness of the metal wall behind the bench and watched as the ruby-eyed teen disappeared into the passageway leading to the medic room. I've done what I could... he thought, closing his eyes tiredly. Now...all I can do is wait...
"A toast," Takao was saying, "to Team BBA's triumph over Team BEGA, and the successful return of the Beyblade Battle Association!"
It was around two weeks and several days after the BEGA Justice Five Tournament (Takao and his team had won, of course) and they, along with the PPB All Starz, Team Neoborg, F-Sangre, and Baifuzu X had all gathered at the Kinomiya dojo for a proper celebratory dinner.
There was a soft clink as everyone lightly banged their glasses of punch together, and then drank from them. Takao finished his in one gulp, and then he set the glass on the table. "Where'd Kai go?" he asked, looking around the room. "And for that matter, where's Hiromi?"
Everyone shrugged, looking just as puzzled as the dark blue-haired teen.
"I haven't seen them for the past ten minutes," Kyouju noted, glancing at the open door that led to the wraparound porch. "Maybe they stepped outside or something..."
"You know, you could be right..." Takao made his way over to the door, poked his head out, and glanced up and down the porch. "Nope, they're not out here," he said after a while, returning to the group.
"So where could they-" Max began, only to be interrupted by a loud shriek coming from the inner room.
"What was that?" Rei set his glass down, glancing at the door leading to the room from where the shriek - of fright or delight, he knew not which - had come.
"I don't know, but it sounded like Hiromi is in there!" It went without saying that Takao was concerned for his friend. Setting down his now-empty glass, he hurried towards the shouji, followed closely by the others. Upon reaching the door, the steel blue-eyed teen slid it open with as much force as he could - an effective tactic, he thought, in surprising intruders, should there be any within the room - and called out.
"Hiromi! What's the-"
Takao stopped short of entering the room, eyes wide. Everyone else who had been following subsequently crashed into each other, some falling over onto the floor.
"Hey! What's the big idea?" Rai – who became team captain of Baifuzu X during the BEGA incident - asked, pushing himself up off of the floor. "Kinomiya, why on earth did you stop?"
"Yeah!" pink-haired Mao added, dusting herself off. "There are a lot of us behind you who could have gotten hurt, you know…"
Takao seemed incapable of verbal reply; he merely pointed towards the center of the room, and everyone - at least, everyone who could see where he was looking - followed his gaze.
There, looking shocked and overjoyed at the same time, was Hiromi. It was indeed she who had shrieked, but out of happiness, they could see that now. What shocked them was who was in the room with her, looking every bit as happy - an understatement, to be sure - as the girl in front of him felt.
It was Kai. And he was smiling - no, laughing, as he laid a hand gently on the auburn-haired teen's back, as though to reassure her of something. "Hiromi," he admonished gently, still smiling, his amethyst orbs shining with emotion so rarely seen on his face, "I think you're getting over-excited here. If this room had glass windows, all that would have been left of them would have been shards, thanks to your shriek back there..."
"But, Kai, it's just so...so shockingly wonderful!" Hiromi encircled Kai's neck, bringing the two closer together. "I'm...I'm so happy that...that...oh." She stopped, noticing the group standing in the doorway for the first time.
Takao cleared his throat. "Are we...interrupting anything?"
Hiromi shook her head, wiping away a few tears of happening. "No, nothing, Takao...Kai and I, we were...well..."
Max stepped forward, his mischievous grin lighting up his face. "C'mon, guys, out with it!" he urged. "What's going on?"
Hiromi blushed a bright pink, and even Kai looked slightly embarrassed. "Err..."
And then, unexpectedly, Rei caught sight of something sparkling on Hiromi's and Kai's left ring fingers (Kai had taken his gloves off for the occasion, saying that he only wore them when training or battling). He, too, came closer to the pair.
"Guys..." he began hesitantly, his gaze locked on the twinkling pair of tiny stars. "What are those?"
The slate-haired teen stiffened, knowing the neko-jin had seen them. He looked away, cheeks coloring a little more now.
Rei frowned as though he were studying a specimen of some unknown specie of animal or plant. "Funny that both of you should have the same type of ring, and where them on the same finger of the same hand..." he observed, a grin slowly growing on his face. "Are those...wedding rings?"
For a while, it was only the crickets and other nocturnal animals that could be heard, creating melodies of their own outside the dojo. And then, the silence erupted into one raucous chorale of voices, some surprised, all delighted.
"Did you say WEDDING rings?"
"You guys actually went and got married!"
Now both Kai and Hiromi were blushing deeply, but they got over the initial embarrassment quickly. Kai opened his mouth to speak, and everyone fell silent.
"I guess there's no hiding it now." he began, still smiling as he had when he and Hiromi had the room to themselves. "Yes, Hiromi and I did get married, before the BEGA incident."
Once more, the room erupted into cheers, the members of Team BBA - especially Takao - being a bit louder than anyone else.
"Way to go, Kai!"
"Never thought you had it in you!"
"And here I thought you were the very epitome of a human statue..."
Hiromi cleared her throat, and the cheers stopped. All eyes were on the ruby-eyed teen, who looked ready to burst. "Um...to start, I'd like to apologize if I scared anyone when I screamed earlier, and I know you're all wondering why I screamed, as well as why Kai and I are in the same room, alone..."
Kai gulped and blushed deeply when he realized what Hiromi was about to say. "Hiromi, I-"
Hiromi chuckled softly. "I know, Kai, but they have a right to know, too. They are our friends, after all..."
"Well?" Takao urged, looking as excited as a child who got lost in a toy store.
"C'mon! Tell us!" Rei added, amber eyes shining.
"Please?" Max finished, putting on his best puppy-dog (or should that be kitty-cat) face.
"Yeah, c'mon..." everyone chimed in. What was this secret that even Kai was reluctant to reveal?
Kai and Hiromi burst out laughing - everyone looked so ridiculous at that point - looked at each other, sending messages in through each other's gaze. Finally, Kai smiled and slowly nodded his head. Hiromi took a deep breath and turned back to face their friends.
"Well...the thing is, guys...I'm..." here she trailed off and glanced down at the floor, blushing again. However, she blurted out the last word in a rather quiet voice; it didn't matter, because it seemed that everyone heard her.
"Kinomiya, quit pacing," Kai said sternly, glancing up from the (boring) magazine he was reading - rather, trying to read. He flipped it back on the tabletop. "At this rate, you'd think you're the one who was about to become a father..." Max, Rei, and Kyouju chuckled at that remark.
Takao stopped pacing and faced the amethyst-eyed teen. "Well, I can't help it! She's probably been in there for over three hours now! What if there are complications? You know that anyone in their right mind would feel nervous, don't you?"
Kai nodded. "Yes, I know. Besides, this is Hiromi's first time, Takao. She's bound to-" Suddenly, loud crying resounded from somewhere down the hall. Takao was the first one to take off down the hall, with Rei and Max close behind, and Kyouju struggling to keep up. The slate-haired teen sighed and stood up, shaking his head at his teammates' overexcitement.
Soon, the five teens were standing in front of the huge, white, swinging doors they all knew led to the maternity ward. They were waiting for the doctor to come out with news on both mother and child.
"How are they?" Kai blurted out as soon as a white-clad doctor stepped through, causing the poor man to nearly drop the clipboard he was holding. The older man glanced from face to face, smiled, and then adjusted his horn-rimmed glasses so they were settled comfortably on the bridge of his nose.
"You're here with..." - he consulted the clipboard, then glanced up again - "Hiwatari Hiromi?" Kai nodded, and he grinned happily. "Hiwatari-san, this way please."
"Hey, what about us?" Takao asked. The doctor stopped and glanced over his shoulder. "The four of you can see her tomorrow. Right after birth is what we at Tokyo General like to call 'family time' - only immediate relatives may see the mother and child. We believe it's the best possible way, because the mother won't be overwhelmed by so many visitors."
"But-" the stormy-eyed teen started, but Rei cut him off, laying a restraining hand on the younger teen's shoulder.
"It's all right, sir. We understand." To Takao and the others, he said, "Come on, guys..."
"Oh, all right..." Takao acquiesced sullenly, following the neko-jin back to the waiting room, where they all sat down.
"Hey," Hiromi said, her voice faint. She was tired - giving birth was hard! - but she was happy to see Kai come in. The slate-haired teen smiled back, pulling one of the hard-backed chairs closer to the bed.
"So...you okay?" he asked, clutching her slim hand in his. Hiromi nodded.
"Yeah, I'm fine. They'll be bringing the baby in any minute now..."
"I see..." Kai glanced towards the door. "So, what is it?"
"'It', Kai, is female."
Kai said nothing in reply. This was the one thing he'd been sure wouldn't have changed. "Have you thought of a name yet?"
"Not yet; I was hoping you'd name her..."
The door creaked, and the young couple looked up. A nurse stood there, holding a small pink bundle of blankets. Smiling, she walked up to the pair, leaned over and set the bundle into Hiromi's arms. "Here you go,"
The two smiled up at the young nurse, who then left the room immediately. Kai and Hiromi then turned to the tiny pink bundle, which wriggled from time to time. Gently, Kai reached over and pulled the soft fabric down a little, to get a better look at the child.
"She's beautiful..." he breathed, admiring the tiny button nose; the wide inquisitive ruby eyes and wispy strands of light slate-gray hair; the round cheeks; and equally tiny, curled fists. "How does the name 'Aika' sound?"
Hiromi looked slightly startled, and then smiled a moment later. "It sounds like a very nice name, Kai...Aika it is..."
The tiny girl blinked, waving both hands weakly. "Where'd you get that name, anyway?" Hiromi asked suddenly, using a finger to caress one of the baby's hands. Kai reached over; Aika clutched at his finger with her small fist.
"Let's just say it came to me in a dream, and I never forgot it..." Kai replied, smiling mysteriously. Absentmindedly playing with the baby's hand, he glanced at the night sky outside, then back at the child, who was now trying to suck on his finger. He smiled. I'll do everything I can to protect the both of you, he vowed silently, because seeing such a horrible thing happen once is enough for me...
A/N: Haha! Finally! It is finished! Bet you didn't see that coming! XD Oh, and there's been a slight edit in one of the scenes. I had to sort of describe Rai properly 'cause someone confused him with Rei O.o Also, I gave Mao a very small speaking part, mainly because I thought she'd be great at complaining…XD
Anyway, you guys know what to do next, right? Dewa mata! Peace out!