Can You Feel It, Too?
A Brewing Storm
So many people!
He was accustomed to crowds. They had been an integral part of every game. There had always been crowds – yelling, cheering, booing… whatever they did, they were always there, a white noise to his mind as he played a match.
Yet, as he stood at the top of the stairs, staring at the corridor, Kai Hiwatari absently thought that he had never seen so many people at one place in his life.
Before he could register anything properly, slim fingers caught his arms, tugging him to move in the opposite direction.
"Come on, Kai! Or do you want to be bogged down by the reporters? You should have known that there would be reporters here – why did you come?" hissed Hiromi, who seemed to be in one of her exceptionally bad tempers.
Kai nodded, although he didn't quite get her meaning, and followed her downstairs. She took a detour through the next floor and they came to a less crowded part of the hospital. Technically, it wasn't 'less' crowded for a normal day, but one certainly need not fear death by a stampede here.
"Where did you park that rental car?"
"The parking lot in front… what's going on? Why were all those people there, Hiromi?"
"Like you don't know! Just shut up, right now, Kai! There's a car parked this side, which we can use, so come with me. If they see you here, now… God knows what's going to happen! Just come with me!"
Kai decided to trust Hiromi on this one – she seemed to know more about what was going on, anyway.
She knew that he didn't think about her that way. She sensed that he had always loved someone else but she could never guess who. She doubted if he even thought about her as a 'girl'. She fought with him, yelled at him, had fun with him and was always there for him. More than once she had tried to confess his feelings to him… but… something had stopped her. Maybe it was her women's intuition. She sensed that he was in love – and that he was not in love with her, she knew equally well.
She had never tried to find out who it was that he did love. As long as her mysterious rival was anonymous, she could always hope to win his love. He already thought of her as one of her close friends after all. Love was only a step away, wasn't it?
But now… now, this person, sitting in her car, beside her, had shattered all her hopes.
Kai Hiwatari was the person Takao Kinomiya loved. Kai Hiwatari…
Why him, Takao?
"So, what's going on?"
"Why do you keep asking me that when you can probably guess what's going on?"
"Hiromi, I am not stupid. Obviously, if I am asking you, it means that I don't know anything about it."
Kai was startled by the ice in her voice. Tachibana Hiromi in all her anger did not scare him even a bit. However, it wasn't her usual volatile-mood sort of anger which couldn't have bothered him if his life depended on it. No, it was the bitter hate that spewed forth that shocked him. Maybe he had grown too used to their… friendship?
Kai pressed down the accelerator.
"Its better you get away from this place – you never know who's watching you. Do you want to go to your apartment? Yuriy warded off all the reporters who were gathering in front of your place earlier. That man can get very intimidating when he wants, can't he? Anyway, at least you won't be troubled."
"What?" she yelled out suddenly. "What do you want to know? That everyone knows about your secret relationship now? That you are in news? Obviously, if you had to kiss him, then you could have done it some place else, you know – if you didn't want to be bothered. If you were risking kissing him in a public place, then obviously, you must have expected to make open your relationship."
She stopped for a moment to gather her breath.
"What are you talking about?"
Kai's mouth was forming its own words. His mind was working in quite another way… he had a horrible feeling that he knew the answer to his own question.
"It was all over in midday news on that channel. Pictures of you kissing him…"
Kai had never heard Hiromi sound so bitter and full of… hate? While the opinion of others had hardly ever bothered him, that certainly didn't seem to be the case now… he couldn't tell why but he felt numbed by her cold behaviour. He had never seen Hiromi this way – she was one of the kindest persons around him, even he realized that. It seemed surreal that she should behave that way to him.
He had almost forgotten that people – people who love and care for you – such people could turn their back on you. He had lived too long among people who constantly cared for him. He couldn't name one person around him at this point as his archenemy… things had so changed since… since… since everything that his memory had decided to lock up in the darkest, least opened recesses of his mind. He had forgotten that people could hate.
He was always silent and generally morose – putting on the appearance of not giving a damn for anyone… except Takao, maybe. He had begun this way because he was scared of losing love again. He was scared of being hurt. Hence, he had decided that the easiest way around it was to hurt others even before they hurt you.
So people had mostly stayed away from him… but these people… these people who hadn't left him alone, who cared for him with admirable persistence… Kai Hiwatari could honestly admit (at least to himself) that he had come to care for them, too.
Would they hate him if they knew that he loved Takao – another guy? It had irked him when he had heard 'homo-jokes'. He wasn't a supporter of homosexuality, per se. He just… loved Takao. It was as natural for him as breathing – or just existing. He never stopped to wonder why he loved Takao – if that was because he was a homosexual. There were women who he thought were beautiful. There were men who he thought looked attractive. But only Takao had inspired any sort of sexual desire in him. That indefinable feeling welled up in him only when he thought of Takao. There was… no reason for it. Takao had probably been the first person who had broken through his cold shell but Kai knew that was not reason why Kai loved him. In his opinion, if Takao hadn't been the first person to do so, he would have loved him still.
Defining love was impossibility. Defining Kai Hiwatari's love for Kinomiya Takao was even greater than this impossibility.
He didn't understand why people would hate him for loving Takao. It was as if they hated him for existing. All he recognized now was that people hated him. He knew that… For starters, he had never expected that even if she knew about his feelings towards Takao, Hiromi would…
Why the hell am I thinking this way? I don't care… I don't care… I don't care what this girl thinks about me… I don't care…
A horrible voice in his head told him that he did care – and cared a lot. He cared to the point of reviving the dormant violent hatred and fear in him.
Later, he would attribute his impulsive denial to his newfound insecurity.
"What the hell are you talking about? I never kissed Takao. There's got to be some mistake!"
Aren't you a better liar than you thought, Hiwatari? He tried to push back the voice in his head, but failed.
"Huh? But there were pictures…" Hiromi's anger abated a little.
"Fabricated, obviously. We aren't in Stone Age that anybody would take pictures at their face-value."
"Why would they do that?" Hiromi wasn't fully convinced.
"Hiwatari Corp. and Suzubishi Group are developing a Beyblading International Alliance. It is only natural that they would want to sabotage the reputation of Kai Hiwatari."
Sabotage the reputation of Kai Hiwatari, huh? Kissing Takao would mean sabotaging your reputation… yeah; you've always known that, haven't you? Was that why you never kissed him outright? You aren't just a liar – you are a bloody coward. What a fucking great combination!
Shut up! Shut up!
"WHAT? Like BBA?"
"We plan to make it much bigger than BBA in the long run."
He didn't even look at Hiromi but kept his eyes firmly fixed on the road. Oh, she was glancing at him frequently enough. Would she realize that he was lying? His mouth had gone so dry that it was a wonder, even to him, that he could speak so… naturally.
"What's Hiwatari Corp.?"
"Bio-Volt's been re-Christianized. You're the first one outside the management to know that," he added.
She didn't ask any more questions. Kai knew that he'd convinced her. He had never felt worse in his life. He knew he wasn't a very nice guy but had never imagined that he would have to fall this low.
Ever since he had gotten back to his apartment, Kai had been able to do little besides sit at the kitchen table and stare at the wall opposite. His mind was… blank. How did he normally occupy his mind? What did he always kept thinking about? It was ridiculous the way he couldn't recall anything now. He remembered that he thought of Takao more than about anything else. He thought about his project in Russia. But beyond that, he drew a blank. Was that all? Was there nothing more he would think about in those twenty-four hours?
He couldn't find any safe topic to divert himself with. No matter what he thought, it led back to one thing – he was back to a point he had been standing at almost ten years ago. Had it really been that long since he had first met Takao? Wow! Talk about time flying in happiness.
His lips curved in a derisive smile. And how long were the next ten years going to be? He didn't even want to guess.
He was grateful when the ringing of the doorbell broke through his melancholy. He hurried to open the door, but once he reached it, a sudden thought popped up in his mind and he arrested his hand from opening turning the knob.
What if there are reporters?
It made him sick. He had never had Takao or Daichi's enthusiasm when it came to publicity. His reluctance was only augmented by the fact that they would ask him questions about Takao. He could already hear them in his head… What relationship do you share with him? Would you…?
"HEY, KAI! ARE YOU DEAD? I KNOW YOU ARE IN THERE!"
Daichi. He had never imagined that his mind would be set at peace by knowing it was that boy who had come to his apartment.
"What the hell? I've been standing here so long!"
"Don't lie, brat," said Kai as he closed the door behind him.
"Huh? He's not here." Kai frowned. "He wasn't here when I got back."
"Where's he?" demanded the little monkey, glaring at him.
"How should I know? Last time I checked, he was an adult, perfectly capable of taking care of himself. As such, I shouldn't bother keeping tabs on his every move, should I?"
"Fuck you! You know where he is. You just don't want to let me meet him."
"I don't and if that was all, get out of the house," said Kai, now thoroughly irritated. He didn't need to take shit from Daichi on top of everything. Why the hell would he care whether Daichi met Yuriy or not?
"No. I am going to stay here until Yuriy returns. I want to talk to him and I won't leave until I do that. You cannot stop me," said the boy stubbornly.
Kai felt irrationally infuriated. "GET OUT. NOW."
"Shan't! And a loser like you can't do anything about it!" yelled Daichi.
Kai's hands balled into fists and before he even realized what he was doing, he had punched the boy hard in his face. He put all the day's worth of fear and frustration in the punch and Daichi, unprepared for the assault, stumbled back and fell down, his head hitting against the wall.
The cloud of fury which had blurred out all thoughts in that instant cleared in a nanosecond as Daichi let out a painful scream and clutched his bleeding jaw and nose.
Oh my God!
He stood helpless as Daichi angrily brushed away the reflexive tears and glared up at him. He didn't hit him back though. He was probably in too much pain to even try to move his head… even his eyes seemed sort of unfocused.
"Gomen…" he whispered, not quite knowing what he could do.
Daichi only tried to glare harder – if such a feat could be accomplished with rather hazy eyes. He'd probably have displayed his finesse in foul language but refrained as moving his jaw sent unpleasant tingles of pain through the side of his face and neck.
"Hey. Where've you been? Don't tell me that reporters caught you. You were supposed to rescue Kai."
Hiromi flung down her bag on a chair but did not sit down. "I don't know what he has been doing since the morning but he had no idea about what's going on."
Kyouju's fingers stopped their frantic work over the keyboard.
"What did he say when you told him?"
Hiromi repeated Kai's words as exactly as she could recall them. It was more for her satisfaction than imparting the news to Kyouju. She needed to convince herself that it wasn't Kai that Takao loved. 'Whoever it is,' she thought, 'it isn't Kai. Kai said so himself.'
Kyouju got up and went to the kitchen to get something to drink for the two of them. He returned to find that Hiromi has switched on the television and tuned it to the culprit channel.
"They're apologizing for the news already. Thanks."
Kyouju sat down next to her. "After an inquiry." He read the caption flashing at the bottom of the screen. "Someone already set up an inquiry into the whole matter?"
"And bullied the channel into apologizing. I wonder if someone powerful has taken a special interest in this whole matter," said Hiromi as she turned off the television.
Kyouju didn't make a reply. He had a little idea of his own about who could have wrapped up the whole matter so easily and neatly but he thought it futile to share it with Hiromi. He could very possibly be wrong, in which case he did not want to tarnish any reputations.
"Oh, I was just wondering why I didn't notice it before. After all, the pictures were way too hazy and only their hair was fuzzily visible. I feel like such a fool for falling for such crap."
Hiromi laughed. "Quite a bit of gossip, though. Even though everything is hushed up, Takao and Kai aren't going to have an easy time of it at school."
"We'll be there for them, well, at least for Takao. I doubt anyone would try to say anything to Kai about the whole thing."
"He graduates soon, anyway." Hiromi remembered what he had said about the Alliance. "I can't believe that Kai's been involved in something that important all along. He didn't even give a hint about it."
"There have been rumours of Suzubishi being involved in the formation of some Beyblade association," said Kyouju. "But I didn't really count on them being true. Anyway, let's finish with the History Project – there are still a lot of topics I've got to read through."
Hiromi rolled her eyes but followed him to the study.
"Everything's set right now. The channel has apologized and all. But you can still sue them if you want."
Takao looked up at the newcomer. The sun had disappeared quite some time ago. The room was unlit and had almost an ethereal and eerie atmosphere in the twilight. Takao sat up. "Arigatoo."
"No problem, little bro. although…" Hiro looked thoughtfully at Takao. "Well, you can't blame me for wondering if there's some fire which caused the smoke."
Takao smiled wearily. "That's such an awfully overused simile. But, no, there isn't. As far as I know, Kai's never kissed me."
"And you aren't very happy about that?" shot Hiro immediately.
Takao blushed and looked away. He didn't want to discuss this with Hiro of all people. Although he was his older brother, but Takao felt excessively embarrassed admitting to him that he loved another guy.
Hiro went to stand by the window, looking out at the city. "I am not judging you, Takao. Whatever happens, I'll still be your 'onii-chan' and no matter what, you can always turn to me for help."
Takao looked down at his plaster-clad forearm. Daichi had drawn grotesque faces on it before leaving. Takao smiled. Baka Daichi.
"Kai and Takao kissed? So what? Those reporters won't interview me – the best Beyblader in this world but go on about some thing like this? Geez! How stupid!" He remembered Kyouju's startled look as Daichi questioned his explanation on why the reporters were gathered outside. Kyouju had been explaining things in a very low voice – he probably knew that Takao was only pretending to be asleep. Although the little redhead got on his nerves and usually Takao would be glad to be rid of his whines, at that moment, Takao was glad of Daichi's presence. The boy had an unusual way of making out everything to be simple – yeah, Kai kissed me, so what? Why is it anyone's business but mine and Kai's?
But Kai hadn't kissed him, had he?
Takao unconsciously touched his lips. He hadn't kissed anyone yet. Hell, he had had no time for a girlfriend and with Kai… he didn't even feel as if he wanted a girlfriend.
That means Kai's like my girlfriend.
He sniggered at the thought.
Hiro turned towards him. "Nani?"
"Huh? Oh, nothing…"
What would Kai say if I tell him that I think he's like my girlfriend? What did Kai think when he heard that he had supposedly kissed me? Hiro… has Hiro seen Kai? Should I ask him? Takao shook his head. No! No! No! I'll bury myself alive before asking Hiro something like this. Kami-sama! Why can't this be less embarrassing?
"Do you want to go home now? You will be more at ease there to think over whatever's on your mind."
"Yeah, I guess. I feel kind of sick of this place anyway."
Hiro's face had been strangely impassive all the while he had been in the room. His mind though was not as blank as his face. For the greater part of the time, he had been wondering how to approach this whole issue of Kai with Takao. He had realized that Kai was more than Takao's friend once he had taken over as his coach. The very mention of Kai then would bring about a subtle change in Takao's demeanour. Kai was a very special person for Takao and Hiro knew that he won't be very eager to let go of him.
"Before we leave, Takao, I want to talk to you about something. Actually, it's someone – Kai."
Takao felt uncomfortable. Hadn't Hiro said he wasn't going to judge him on that?
Hiro sat down on the chair near Takao's bed. "I would ask you to be wary of him – very wary of him."
Takao blanched. He knows… he knows about…
"Why… why'd you say that?"
"During the Championship last year, Kai was with the Blitzkrieg Boys not just to independently improve his skills but also because the management committee of Bio-Volt had approached him. He had become the legal CEO of Bio-Volt once he turned eighteen. Technically, he should have taken enrolled into a college and taken the basic Bachelor's degree, which is the minimum requirement for holding any sort of position in Bio-Volt.
"But he'd been busy Beyblading and won't quit till he had won the Championship. So Bio-Volt should have theoretically been without a chairman but since his grandfather had long ago made a stipulation that Kai Hiwatari would take over Bio-Volt regardless of his attainments, and had not amended it, Kai took over as the chairman."
"Wait a sec!" interrupted Takao. "Kai hates Bio-Volt – why'd he want to go back to it? Plus, I thought they'd shut down the Bio-Volt or something."
Hiro frowned. "I would say that Kai is the sort of person who would keep his personal opinions away when it came down to business. And that's exactly what he did here. At any rate, he is still the chairman. Bio-Volt has been renamed Hiwatari Corp. Everything has been kept pretty low-key – no publicity, strictly business sort of thing, you know.
"As for Bio-Volt being shut down… well, there was some legal action taken but I should say that it evaded all in the end. Bio-Volt is a very powerful enterprise – it isn't easy to just 'shut it down'. It has very influential connections in the Russian government, too."
"So you're telling me that Kai is the CEO of Bio-Volt?" asked Takao weakly.
"Hiwatari Corp." corrected Hiro. "Yeah, but he doesn't actually do much work there right now. He's going to Russia after he graduates, isn't he?"
Takao could only nod.
"He would need to have his basic college degree from some college in Russia itself, so I guess he'd be leaving then."
"I thought… it was for some training centre…"
Hiro gave him a sharp look. "Training centre? That's… you've heard about it?"
"The project that is being developed under the guise of 'training centre'," said Hiro with a sardonic smile.
"Hiwatari Corp. and Suzubishi Group International Beyblading Alliance – the venture set out to overtake BBA in the next five years at most."
"That's where I come in. If this project is realized to its full potential, it will be a great setback for BBA, which will then have to either close down or merge with them."
"Kai won't do that!" said Takao defensively.
"The training centre is a sort of nom de plume for the project. The term is mostly being used to keep the actual details a secret from most of the minor employees. What I've told you would be the 'classified information' for the venture. But you need to know. They are keeping most details very hush-hush but its implications are rather obvious."
Takao leaned back against the pillows, his head reeling with all the new information.
"Moreover, Hiwatari Corp. is opening a mega training centre – mostly on Kai's insistence, from what I've gathered. As long as he is in college, he would be involved only with it, I suppose. But there's more to what I have to tell you about Kai. And this," Hiro's voice grew firmer, "concerns more than some companies. In fact, we've already gone over this."
Here it comes…
"Do you still have Dragoon, Takao?"
Takao clutched the sheets and bit down his lip. You know I failed. Then why are you bothering me?
"I told you to be careful around Kai, didn't I? Especially if you guys were Blading…"
"SHUT UP! STOP BLAIMING EVERYTHING ON KAI! IT WASN'T KAI! KAI WON'T HURT ME LIKE THAT!"
Hiro got up. "I can only warn you, Takao. I am not sure what the guy is up to but he is definitely involved in the robbery of the Sacred Beast Scriptures. YOU know Dragoon's power – and the havoc it can wreck if leashed out with no constraints. Multiply that by five and the concept of "world domination" won't be a laughable dream anymore.
"I told you Kai would start with the easiest – you. You trust him way too much. He's already captured the power of two of the five of the bit-beasts. Kai might be well-guarded by all those who are secretly supporting him. However, the Intelligence won't let him succeed. I know I can't promise you Dragoon back at this time – I don't know what's become of him. But I will repeat – don't get close to Kai. You'll only get hurt."
"IT WASN'T KAI!" yelled Takao. "YOU AND YOUR TEAM HAVE TOTALLY FUCKED UP WHATEVER YOU'RE DOING! IT WASN'T KAI!"
"No? Then who attacked you? Surely, you've fought Dranzer way too many times to not know her when she attacks you."
Yuriy hurried up the stairs, not bothering to wait for the elevator. He had fallen behind the schedule and if he didn't rush up, he was surely going to miss his plane.
"Damn!" he cursed under his breath as he searched and searched his pockets for the key to the apartment. He wasn't sure where Kai was or when he was going to return. Hence, he'd taken one of the spares with him. But with his luck, he'd now seemed to have misplaced it.
A few more curses later, he found it inside his bag.
He dashed inside and had almost entered his room when he registered that Daichi had been sitting on the floor near the bookshelves.
Oh shit! I totally forgot about him!
The boy sat with his legs drawn up to his chest and his head resting on his knees. Since he made no motion as Yuriy approached him, he suspected he'd fallen asleep.
Yuriy dumped his bag on the floor and sat down in front of Daichi.
"Hey, kid, wake up!"
"I am not asleep. Just dying."
"So when's the funeral?"
"YOU are NOT invited."
"Gomen nasai… I was totally caught up…"
Daichi hid the still visible part of his face. " 's 'kay,' he mumbled.
The boy murmured something incoherently. Yuriy reached out to pull his arms away from his face, but was pushed away.
"My plane arrives in an hour and half. I've still got to pack up, get a cab, reach the airport and not miss the plane."
"And I don't want to leave you snivelling and grumpy."
More indistinct mumbling.
"At least look at me when I'm talking, kid. I am sure my face isn't very bad to look at. In fact, I think I look darn good, né?"
"Mine isn't very good."
"Won't argue with you on that one – but I would rather see it than not."
Daichi shook his head and tried to draw further away from him. "You'll miss the plane – bye."
Yuriy frowned. "Come on, kid! I know I promised last time to hang out with you when I'd be here. But you know what sort of a day it has been. You know I'd have kept my word if Kai and Takao hadn't messed up."
"Fuck Kai!" said Daichi vehemently, finally looking up.
"Holy shit, kid! Who the hell did that to you?" Yuriy tentatively touched the bruised cheek and jaw but hastily pulled back as Daichi winced.
"If Kai was angry at the reporters, he shouldn't have hit me," said Daichi, putting down his head again.
"Kai did that? Impossible!"
"Okay, I'm lying. I hit myself because I'm nuts."
"That's not what I meant… I suppose he was angry… but why are you just sitting this way. Come on, there's a first-aid box somewhere…"
Daichi looked up with a malicious grin. "Kai brought that – but I hit him right on the head with it. Like I'd want that fu…"
"What? He shouldn't have hit me!"
Yuriy glanced at his watch. "Shit. I've really got to rush now. The box is still lying there. Or better still, come down with me. There is a hospital on the way to the airport. I will drop you off there. Get those cuts checked. Have you hurt your head, too?"
"I'll be okay. You go on."
Yuriy looked at him in disbelief.
"You'll miss the plane. Just go. I'll be fine, really. It doesn't hurt so bad anymore."
"Oh yeah? That's why you've been sitting here since God-knows-when."
"I just wanted to see you before you left," shrugged Daichi. "It did hurt when I tried to move but now it doesn't hurt so badly."
Yuriy got up. "Well then… I'll leave."
"Get me something the next time you come – you said there were a lot of cool new Beyblade stuff your company or whatever was developing and you'd get me to try some."
"Well…" Yuriy wondered if he ought to do this. After all, he'd never parted from it before. But he admitted he was worried about Daichi. Takao had lost Dragoon. From the rumours that had reached him, this kid…
"You got me something?" The green eyes shone brightly. Pure green was a creepy eye-colour in Yuriy's opinion, more so than Kai's crimson. However, it was also so… alluring. He absently wondered how those eyes would be ten years' hence.
"Honestly, I hadn't. But there's something I want to give you, anyway."
Daichi followed the slim white hand as it pulled out Wolborg from a pocket and put it in his own.
"WHAT? What do you want me to do with this? Are you like… giving it to me?"
"Yes," said Yuriy. "I want you to get used to manipulating it – it's one of the most technologically advanced Beyblades and I want you to do your best in controlling it."
"B-But… Wolborg's yours…" Daichi held Yuriy's Beyblade cautiously, as if it would break with the least motion.
"Wolborg will always be mine. Right now, you need him more than I do. No one has really realized its potentials as closely as you have while fighting me so I am not scared to leave him with you. Take care of it."
"And if you ever feel like you need to use it in a fight, do that without a second thought. Wolborg's duty right now would be to protect Daichi Sumeragi for me, okay? So he should listen to you. So long, then, kid! Take care."
Daichi nodded, his eyes fixed on Wolborg.
That's the most I can do right now. Wolborg, I'm leaving him to you. Take care of the kid – he's way too reckless.
1. Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed the story.
2. Sorry for the long wait. I've re-written this chapter so many times that I almost know it by heart now.
3. Just in case the fact struck you and you're wondering about it – I do remember that I mentioned in the first chapter that Kyouju and Hiromi are dating and this has caused Takao to distance himself from them. And yes, I did write this chapter in full awareness of the fact. I'm saying no more here or I will end up giving some big spoilers.
4. About Suzubishi Group... I just borrowed it from Gakuen Heaven because I wasn't able to think up any impressive names here. Gakuen Heaven is a really cool BL (Boys Love or Shounen-ai) game and anime – check it out, if haven't already.
5. I don't know if Takao addresses Hiro as aniki or onii-chan in the manga as I haven't read it. But I'll go with the supposition that he called him onii-chan when he was a small kid and Hiro remembers that.
6. I hope the "business" part of the chapter didn't seem too ridiculous or boring. I just feel that practical things are a necessity to give the story a realistic touch. Then again, I am a nerdish Science student with no real knowledge of how business matters work so I might have made it weird.
7. The lack of Kai-Takao interaction will be totally amended in the next chapter. Right now, the guys needed some time apart and the writer needed to develop the details of the plot and create some cliffies – or many cliffies, depending on how many you feel are cliffies.