Sorry this has taken so long to go up. I've had a bit of trouble wrapping everything up and to be honest I'm not entirely sure about the pacing in some places, but I'll leave the (constructive) criticism to you. The good thing is that this is the longest chapter yet!
It has been about a year since I finally decided to get back into this story and (almost) completely rewrite it. I have to say this is the first multi-chapter story I'm really proud of writing. Don't get me wrong, there are probably quite a few things I'd change if I went back, but I'm not left with a profound disappointment in my ending the way I have with my other multi-chapter stories (one reason I still haven't looked at finishing Those Who Dream to Hope). So here it is, the final chapter. I doubt it answers all your questions, and it is leaving itself open for a stupidly epic (in size) sequel that I'll most-likely never get around to writing; but I hope it still satisfies.
To anyone who might get a bit confused and hasn't seen the series in a while, the first scene is set in V Force when the Bladebreakers are attempting to master the MG core before their match with Team Psychic. Please enjoy!
The Final Battle Part II: The Spirit of Dranzer
Kai looked down at his beyblade fondly, in a way she had never seen before. Hilary saw a flash of black attempting to condense in the centre of Dranzer's bit and a maniacal grin slowly spread across Kai's face.
"Does Kai just hate me or something?"
Hilary stood with her arms protectively wrapped around her stomach, staring out at Grandpa Granger's pond. A fish jumped up and back in with a plop as the silence continued.
Max sat up from where he was lying against the wooden decking, propping himself up with his hands flat behind his back. He tilted his head to look at Hilary, confusion evident from his expression and in his voice.
"Why would you say that?"
Hilary hunched her shoulders in embarrassment. It was hardly a secret that she was harbouring a small crush on the captain of the Bladebreakers. Tyson had already teased her mercilessly for it (fortunately, when Kai was still at school). As she looked to the side away from Max she could hear the rustling of clothing that most-likely indicated Tyson and Ray's apparent interest as well as they sat up to look at her.
"Does he," Hilary asked, not particularly wanting to point out any specific times as they flashed briefly through her mind. She had barely been included in their little group a week and yet she could already count the times she had been in awkward situations with Kai on both hands.
Hilary glanced over at Tyson and instantly regretted it. He had a grin on his face that promised more teasing, but a light elbow in the chest from Ray put him in his place. Hilary's mouth twitched into a tiny smile at their actions, though her nervousness caused it to quickly slip away again. It seemed Tyson was in a good mood with her today because his expression finally sobered.
"Kai was the first one to accept you after Kenny, so I'd say he doesn't hate you," the World Champion reasoned, looking straight at her.
"Plus," Ray added, "he lets you train with us. Believe me, if Kai thought you were useless or if he didn't like you, you'd know about it."
Hilary slowly nodded, but was still unconvinced. She ran through what they had just said to her and her head snapped up to frown at Tyson.
"Wait, what do you mean he was the first after Kenny," she practically shouted in question.
"Well, Ray and I didn't mind you being here, but to be honest we didn't know why you were hanging around with us when you obviously didn't know anything about beyblades," Max reasoned with a nervous chuckle and a slight cringe. "Please don't be offended."
"After you and Tyson accidentally tore up the practice sheet we kept on training, but nothing was working," Kenny piped up while still typing on his laptop, showing that he had been listening on the conversation the whole time. "Kai stayed up at night and must have resorted to the advice on your sheet, because the next morning he was controlling Dranzer with ease."
Ray nodded towards Kenny. "It's funny. I don't know if the old Kai would have given your idea the time of day, but then again when it comes to training he tends to take things pretty seriously."
While Hilary was appreciative of their support, she did not understand what this had to do with Kai not hating her. "Fine, but that isn't good evidence for you to say he doesn't hate me."
Tyson sighed. "Just trust us on this, Hilary. Kai does not hate you."
Hilary puffed up her cheeks in frustration, already sensing the circular argument. "But how do you know that?"
There was a pause that quickly became a tense silence. Each of the boys was pointedly not looking at her or at each other. Hilary frowned at the sudden change in atmosphere, but said nothing, figuring that they would tell her eventually. Finally, Tyson let out a long sigh (Hilary suspected he was trying to delay the conversation further).
"Kai didn't want anything to do with us last year. This year he does." He took a breath, but quickly continued when he seemed to sense she was about to interrupt. "When he's not at school, Kai's with us. He takes part in our training and even takes part in our jokes. That's how we know he likes us."
Hilary looked at each of the boys in turn, who were still not making eye contact with each other or her, finishing with Tyson. "And if he didn't…" she trailed off, not sure she wanted to know the answer.
Tyson met her gaze with his own serious one. "Then he would never have come back."
"That isn't very reassuring."
Max smiled at her. "That's Kai for you."
Ray looked at Max and nodded in agreement. "Kai doesn't do things out of politeness. If you're in his way he'd tell you."
Hilary put her hands on her hips in annoyance, not understanding any of it. "And you just let him?"
"He's better that he used to be," Kenny piped up.
"That's no excuse," she shouted back, suddenly wondering why they let Kai walk all over them, especially Tyson, who seemed to rebel at anyone else telling him what to do.
"No, but we know Kai. He has a hard time with people, but he knows we're always there for him and he appreciates us. We don't need any more than that."
"And you trust him," Hilary asked.
Tyson grinned cheekily. "You're not going to accuse him of being a spy again, are you?"
Hilary blushed and was about to shout at him when the boys all sat up straight. Turning her head, she was met with none other than the topic of their prior conversation.
Kai stood with his arms crossed in front of his chest and a scowl on his face. "Is there a reason you're not practicing?"
The boys – minus Kenny – all stood to attention so fast Hilary would have laughed if she wasn't still suspicious of their so-called team captain.
"Oh hey Kai," Tyson stuttered out nervously. "How long have you been there?"
If anything Kai's glare intensified. "Long enough to wonder why you're not practicing."
For the most part the boys looked sheepish as Kai stalked over to Kenny and asked how far along they were.
"We should be ready for tomorrow, though it would probably be best to go over a few more drills today before showing how far we've progressed to Mr Dickenson," Kenny replied while typing into his laptop.
Kai nodded before he glanced to the other three. "Max you're with me. We'll work more on defence. Ray and Tyson, you two practice your evasive manoeuvres. I still noticed you were both a bit shaky on a couple of the turns."
Hilary watched in fascination as the others followed his orders without question. Even Tyson refrained from making any snappy comments. Hilary had a feeling it was not just the impending match against those weird beybladers from Team Psychic that had made them so organised.
She sat down next to Kenny with a frown, watching Kai as he explained to Max what the exercise was. Ray and Tyson had already started, dodging small obstacles as well as evading each other's beyblades, or sometimes deliberately getting in the other beyblader's way.
Suddenly Kai turned towards the two spectators. "Kenny, I'd like you to record our beyblades' movements."
Kenny nodded, setting up his laptop in a prime position to offer any constructive criticism to Kai and Max. Hilary stayed where she was, feeling a little left out, but not knowing what she could do to help. Later, she would insist she was just plucking up the courage to ask when Kai's gaze turned to her.
"Hilary, keep an eye on Tyson and Ray. Their movements should be sharp, so make them explain to you anything you think looks a bit sloppy."
Hilary looked up at Kai in shock. His expression hadn't changed from seemingly cool indifference, but the small smile on Max's face from behind Kai as he watched her reaction told her everything she needed to know. Giving Kai a nod and smile to confirm she heard, Hilary walked over to Ray and Tyson's battle. Both were smiling when she arrived and she found she could interpret their silent response.
"That's how you know."
Hilary just stared numbly as Ren walked up to Kai's side. She was still unable to see his eyes under his hair, but from the way Ren amicably placed a hand on his shoulder Hilary knew everything was going straight from bad to worse.
A click to the side caused her to turn her attention towards Kevin and Mystel, who had both brought up their launchers ready to fight. Her thoughts attempted to push past the fog in her mind, telling her to yell or something that might be considered the least bit useful. She thought back to the few attempts she had made to practice beyblading and how, even if she did have a beyblade, the skills she had only learnt from observing the sport would be useless against a mostly amateur beyblader like Ren, not to mention a World Champion like Kai!
Just before the beyblades launched, Susumu stepped in between the two parties, his attention surprisingly on Kevin and Mystel rather than the possessed beybladers.
"Don't do anything to provoke them. We can't afford to lose your bit beasts so easily."
Ren laughed, removing his hand from Kai's shoulder, who was still looking towards the ground with no sign of acknowledging anyone around him. "We might as well get the battle started. How about it? Would a two-on-two match be a reasonable request?"
"How about three-on-one?"
Ren's arrogant smirk slipped from his face and, no sooner had he turned to face Kai, he was sent flying as Kai suddenly backhanded him to the ground. Kai lifted up his head so that Hilary could finally see the smirk across his lips and the way his eyes looked down on everyone present. A chuckle escaped his lips that sent a shiver down her spine.
"And why exactly would I partner myself with you," Kai asked in an obviously mocking tone.
Ren sat up and glared at Kai, confusion and growing anger on his face evident. "I'm the one that created you!"
Kai's eyebrows pulled together in question. "Created me?"
"I gave you Black Dranzer. You should be obeying my every order!"
That horrible smile from before slowly spread across Kai's face. "Sorry, but I don't take orders, especially from people weaker than me."
Kai turned with a flourish and looked as if he was about to walk away completely when he suddenly stopped and looked down at his beyblade with a frown.
Eyes flicked towards Ren. "Give me Black Dranzer's bit."
Ren pushed himself up with a growl. "Make me," he challenged, bringing his launcher in front of him.
Kai raised one eyebrow, all arrogance. "Are you sure?"
Somehow Hilary gained her voice back just as Kai was securing his beyblade in his launcher. "Kai, stop this!"
Both Kai and Ren ignored her plead completely as they launched their beyblades. Sparks flew as the beyblades continued to grind against each other. Kai looked up with a smirk.
"If I win, then all of your bit beasts are mine."
Hilary watched Ren tense as Black Driger smashed into Dranzer, causing it to hop back before attacking again. "Just because you have one bit beast doesn't mean this match will end in your favour. Black Driger, attack!"
Kai folded is arms over his chest and closed his eyes in apparent disinterest. "Black Dranzer!"
Before Ren could even call out his bit beasts in defence, Kai had unleashed Black Dranzer. The bit beast let out a terrible screech, sending out a shockwave which threw Hilary to the ground.
Hilary slowly rolled onto her side, coughing up dust that had entered her lungs when she had fallen over. Opening her eyes, she saw that everyone else, including Ren, was also on the ground. Slowly she stood up on uncertain legs and tried to rub some of the dust off her face so that she might be able to see properly.
Kai threw back his head and laughed in a way Hilary had never heard before. "Come on, I thought you would at least prove a challenge for me."
With an animalistic roar, Ren rushed at Kai. This time, rather than taking the hits and using Ren's energy against him, Kai merely dodged the attack before ramming Dranzer into Black Driger from behind. High above, Black Dranzer let out a terrifying screech before diving at Ren's beyblade.
Ren let out a scream and Hilary's hands flew to her mouth as three long, thin gashes appeared on Ren's body, starting from his face and finishing near his stomach. The front of his shirt was torn to pieces and one hand flew to his face in front of the marks.
Tears welled up in Hilary's eyes, unable to look any more. "Stop it," she wanted to shout, but it only came out as a whisper that reached no one.
Ren stood up, clutching his face in a feeble attempt to reduce the sting. "You'll pay for that. Bit beasts, attack!"
Through his fingers, Ren watched as all of his bit beasts emerged from his beyblade, Black Driger leading the pack. Kai merely stared at the beasts with disinterest as they converged on him. A giant explosion kicked up a huge cloud of dust and Ren grinned, wondering why Kai had made himself out to be so strong when he could not even survive a strike from Ren's army of bit beasts.
However, as the dust began to clear Ren's grin slipped into a frown. Not only was Black Dranzer missing, but Kai was as well. Realising Kai must have used the dust to cover his movements, Ren began frantically searching around for any sign of the other beyblader.
Suddenly Ren felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. "Behind you," a soft voice whispered.
Ren jumped back just in time to miss the main strike, but still found himself being thrown to the ground by the edge of Kai's surprise attack. Ren rolled to the side out of instinct, barely missing the next of Kai's strikes and allowing him to send Black Driger to counter-attack at point blank range.
Dranzer was knocked to the side and blood began to well up on the side of Kai's cheek, where Black Driger's attack had sliced past. However, instead of anger or fear, Kai merely smirked as a thin trail of blood ran down his face. Growling in rage (and a hint of fear he would never admit to), Ren sent wave after wave of bit beast attacks, relying on Galux and Metal Driger's speed, Galzzly and Black Dragoon's attack power and using the four Saint Shields' bit beasts for a combination of effective attacks to drive Kai and Black Dranzer further and further back.
Ren knew he could not afford to stop attacking as he continued his assault. With a final cry, Ren set all of his bit beasts on the attack. Black Dranzer fell back with a screech, kicking up another thick cloud of dust. Kai fell back even further, emerging from the other side of the dust cloud as he continued to roll along the ground. He finally came to a stop a few metres away, lying on his stomach, his face covered by an outstretched arm. Dranzer also fell back and spun slower and slower, wobbling more and more as the attacks on Kai's beyblade continued.
Kai was lying still, with the only sign of life being the subtle rise and fall of his back. Ren called his bit beasts to return, and he walked decisively towards Kai. Slowly, and with apparent difficulty, Kai began to push himself up off the ground while his arms shook with the strain. Ren stopped only a few paces away and looked down with a triumphant smirk spread across his face.
"What happened to all that trash talk, Kai?" Ren laughed. "I thought you were going to defeat me."
Pushing himself onto one arm, Kai spat bloody saliva into the dirt and wiped any excess blood from his mouth.
Most of Kai's face was obscured by his hair, but Ren could just about see the smile appear on Kai's face as he brought his hand down to push himself back onto his feet. Suddenly, Dranzer began to pick up speed, righted itself and charged straight for Black Driger. Ren jumped back in surprise in an attempt to avoid the attack, but Black Driger was not so fortunate and the clash between the two beyblades sent shockwaves that caused some of the nearby buildings to shudder in protest.
Hilary grit her teeth as the battle continued. Both boys were taking a lot of damage, but despite the torn clothes and shallow cuts, they continued to exchange blow after blow. Black Driger and Dranzer barely separated; sending dust and sparks flying as the two beyblades fought for dominance.
In her head, Hilary had to stop herself from automatically cheering for Kai by reminding herself that he would just take the bit beasts for himself if he won. Hilary squeezed her eyes shut, wishing that the other Bladebreakers were here to do something. Why had Mr Dickenson asked her to come when there was nothing she could do to stop Kai from being overwhelmed by Black Dranzer?
Hilary's hands clenched into tight fists at her sides and she gritted her teeth to stop herself from doing anything. She repeated the mantra over and over that there was nothing she could do, but as she opened her eyes all thoughts of standing still disappeared. In front of her Kai was standing over Ren, ready to deal a blow similar to Brooklyn's attacks against him. Hilary sucked in a breath, knowing she could no longer stand by and watch. Without thinking, she ran towards the fight with as much speed as possible.
"Stop it," she shouted, grabbing Kai's hand and yanking him around to face her.
She looked up into Kai's face as he whirled around and saw the confusion morph into rage when he realised that she had stepped in his way. He rose his free hand up to strike her down. Hilary lowered her head, ready to take the blow, but stopped when she noticed Ren calling Black Driger once more out of the corner of her eye.
It felt like the world had been slowed down as the black lightning streaked towards her and Kai, who had not even noticed the attack. Hilary's limbs felt like lead as she tried to move as quickly as possible – to protect Kai. There was a scream from somewhere – maybe her own – and then mind-numbing pain.
Kai hit back against the ground with a thud. Only reflexes born from intense training saved him from a concussion as well. As he slowly regained his breath, Kai replayed the last few seconds as the girl – Hilary – collapsed in a heap in front of him. The last residues of electricity flickered around her body, petering out as she lay painfully still.
Kai just stared at her as she continued to lie before him, taking tiny, painful breaths. The clear, sharp thoughts that had been there only seconds ago felt slower and foggier than before, making it difficult to process what had just happened. A great roar from his side cut through the fog and Kai focused his attention towards Black Driger, who was preparing for a second attack.
Reflex called out Black Dranzer in time to deflect Black Driger's attack, sending the dark tiger flying. Kai slowly pulled himself to his feet and watched as Black Driger crashed into one of the already-ruined buildings. He could feel exhaustion pulling at his muscles, coaxing him back to the ground. He shook his head sharply to clear his thoughts. Nothing else mattered but defeating this pathetic excuse of a beyblader and taking what was rightfully his.
Kai, having almost forgotten about the girl who was now behind him, turned to see the former owner of Black Dragoon wrapping her arms around the still-unconscious girl. As if sensing his attention on her, Li Mei looked up to meet his glare with a less intimidating one of her own. However, before he could say anything, she turned back to the other girl, pulling Hilary close to her chest.
The pained whisper barely reached Kai's ears, but it was still loud enough to startle him. Even more startling was when he realised that the sound had come from his own lips. His chest felt tight and his lungs felt like they were on fire. The feeling spread through him as he watched Li Mei attempt to wake Hilary. A roaring noise filled his ears, which was not coming from Black Driger and sounded like it was closing in from all sides. Kai brought his hands over his ears in a vain attempt to block it out, but it didn't work, and the noise kept getting louder until suddenly the screech of a bird at his back cut through and the roaring stopped, leaving only silence.
Kai looked up at Black Dranzer and suddenly his recent thoughts and ambitions for the match, which had only moments ago seemed so reasonable, were exposed. Kai grit his teeth in disgust at Black Dranzer for taking him over and at himself for falling into the trap and endangering his friends again. He released the white hot anger with a ferocious shout. His vision was momentarily blinded and he looked up just as a blaze of white fire headed straight for Black Dranzer with a scream.
Hiro watched on as clinically as possible as Kai collapsed to his knees in apparent pain, hands placed over his ears as if he was trying to block something out. His eyes narrowed, attempting to resist the urge to yell at Susumu for trusting Kai not to fall under Black Dranzer's control again. However, his cynical thoughts were suddenly cut short as a fiery white light surrounded Kai, morphing into what looked like wings.
The scream that emerged from Kai was one filled with both pain and determination and seemed to pull him to his feet. Hiro watched the sky as Black Dranzer tried to hold off the fiery white plumed form of Dranzer as it emerged from Kai himself. The two bit beasts let out twin screeches, but Black Dranzer was no match for the larger and stronger form of Dranzer, who opened its beak and swallowed the Black Bit Beast whole.
There was a blinding light emitted as Dranzer closed its beak, forcing the spectators to shield their eyes. Li Mei, with her arms still around Hilary, looked up to Kai, who just stared up at Dranzer without any apparent regard for the light that was blinding to everyone else.
"Li Mei," Kai started without taking his eyes off Dranzer, "get Hilary to a safe place."
Li Mei looked over at Ren, who seemed to be recovering from his shock, and hesitated.
"I'll cover for you."
Li Mei's head snapped back to look at Kai, who was staring down at her with a quietly calm expression. The small smile of reassurance was all Li Mei needed to take her cue and haul the still unconscious Hilary towards the others.
Kai kept his face carefully blank as Ren walked towards him, anger evident. "A weakling like you should never have been able to overcome the dark power on your own."
"You're right." At Ren's confusion, Kai continued. "However, you put one of my friends in danger. I can't forgive that."
Ren smiled nastily at him. "Who, your little fangirl?"
Kai narrowed his eyes. "Dranzer."
The great bird plummeted from the sky, right into Kai's beyblade. Ren barely had any time to call out Black Draceil in defence as a shockwave laced with white fire shot out from all sides of the beyblade. As the flames came towards him, Kai stretched his arms out on either side of his body. The flames dissipated as soon as they touched him, protecting the people behind him from harm.
Ren was not so lucky, the flames cutting through Black Draceil and causing it to evaporate with a horrible cry. Kai watched the dawning horror spread across Ren's face as the other beyblader realised that Dranzer was even stronger that Black Dranzer had been.
"You still don't have enough power," Ren shouted defiantly before all his captured bit beasts emerged for the attack.
Dranzer re-emerged from Kai's beyblade with a much more corporeal form than before. Kai felt Dranzer's passion pulsing through his veins as he launched into a seemingly head-on attack, dodging at the last moment and leaving Ren furious.
"Stop running away!"
The last of the shout came out as a roar and Kai was reminded of Brooklyn's transformation towards the end of their battle. He knew he had to end this quickly, but Ren still had more power, even if it was falling fast as he used more and more on failed attacks. Kai tensed, ready to stand his ground when he heard a shout.
Mystel stood with his beyblade in front of him. The bit glowed and Poseidon emerged from the beyblade and headed straight for Dranzer. Barely a beat later Kevin and Lee stepped forward and released Galmon and Galeon to Kai. Dranzer let out a powerful cry and its flames expanded, causing it to grow even larger.
Kai glanced back at the people behind him, taking note of their determination with a smile. Turning back to face Ren, he watched as all the captured bit beasts poured into Black Driger, causing it to also increase in size. The black electricity became more pronounced and coated the bit beasts' body as it bared its fangs.
When they first collided, the two bit beasts appeared to be evenly matched, each barely giving any ground to the other. However, only a second went by and suddenly Dranzer was overwhelming the dark bit beast, pushing it back with greater ease. Kai pushed forward.
"Dranzer, Berserk Flame!"
White fire consumed Ren's beyblade, forcing it into the ground and sending up a cloud of dust. Even in the low visibility, Kai heard a pained roar and the tell-tale clinking of a beyblade bouncing along the ground before finally coming to a halt. With a flick of his hand, Dranzer span faster, clearing the dust away to see Ren on his knees and staring at his beyblade in shock.
Kai barely paid attention to the cheers behind him as the light from various bit beasts shot into the air and back into their masters' bits. He felt Dranzer's spirit leave the beyblade and rest on his shoulders before reducing itself down to a small presence of heat in his chest. Almost idly, Kai bent down and picked up his beyblade, before walking over to the defeated beyblader in front of him.
Ren refused to look at him, keeping his head towards the ground. "I guess I should have listened to you after all. You must love that you've been proven right."
"I almost turned on my friends for power, so you'd be surprised," Kai replied with a straight face as he held out his hand.
Ren looked up in surprise and a smile slowly made its way across his face as he grabbed Kai's hand. Kai pulled him up and they exchanged a half-smile before turning to the others.
Li Mei and Meng were the first to join them, checking their friend was fine while Ren stumbled out an apology. The White Tiger team members followed close behind and Lee stepped forward to have words. The brief exchange ended in a handshake between the two and Kai let a small smile creep onto his face for a moment while he glanced at the scene.
The smile turned into a look of trepidation as he walked towards Hiro, who had taken Hilary from Li Mei at some point during the battle. Hearing Kai's footsteps, Tyson's older brother looked up.
"Don't worry, she will probably need to rest for a day or two, but she'll be fine."
Kai nodded, but the reassuring words were of little comfort. He crouched down on the opposite side of Hilary to Hiro and slowly pulled her towards him, being careful to make sure her head was resting on his shoulder.
"Is there somewhere…" Kai found he could not finish what he wanted to ask.
"There's a spare room that the White Tiger villagers built for us," Hiro explained as he stood up and towered over Kai with a smile. "You should take her there."
Kai nodded absently and carried Hilary towards the building, leaving the others to celebrate.
Hilary woke up in a comfortable bed and for a moment thought her room had been swapped around. As her brain slowly caught up with her senses, Hilary remembered the events from Mr Dickenson's proposition to Kai gaining Black Dranzer…
The last thought made Hilary sit bolt upright, and then fold in on herself as she attempted to stop her vision from swimming. Slowly her eyes took in her surroundings: a room only lit by the sunlight forcing its way through small cracks in the walls, a simple table by her bedside and a figure hunched by the door with one arm providing a probably uncomfortable pillow between his knees and his forehead. Hilary slowly and carefully eased herself out of bed. Her legs threatened to give out, but continued to hold her up as she stumbled towards him.
Kai's face was as severe in sleep as it was normally, which came as little surprise to Hilary. She was almost surprised he had not woken yet, considering she hadn't been the quietest when walking over. However, as she crouched in front of him, Hilary noticed the dark circles under his eyes and began to wonder how long she had been asleep.
Deciding he was probably not in the most comfortable position and could probably use a proper bed, Hilary grabbed his shoulder and gently shook him. Hilary was glad for her improved reflexes from training with the Bladebreakers, but it still hadn't prepared her for the lightning fast hand that grabbed her wrist. She fell back in surprise and watched as Kai lifted his head from his previously trapped arm with a dangerous glare in her general direction.
"Maybe you should work on your facial expressions if your default is to glare at people," Hilary commented mildly, trying to diffuse the sudden tension.
Kai blinked at her, apparently using the time to finally focus on her face. The pressure around her wrist increased momentarily, then eased completely and Kai's free hand dropped back to his side.
Hilary was never quite sure whether he was merely stating her name or whether he was asking if it was her, but nevertheless she nodded and attempted a smile of reassurance.
The next thing Hilary knew, she was being awkwardly crushed against Kai's chest. Due to her surprise, Hilary's arms had been trapped between their chests with her legs splayed out behind her. Part of her expected Kai to realise what he was doing and push her away, but when she attempted to reposition herself, he merely squeezed harder.
The dawning realisation that Kai had been seriously worried for her made Hilary relax a little, allowing her head to rest between his shoulder and his neck. With the little free movement she had been given, Hilary attempted to hug Kai back, only getting as far as his sides.
Slowly, Kai's grip on her loosened and Hilary readjusted herself so that she was kneeling in front of him. She gave him a brilliant smile, which he returned with a weary one of his own.
"You look like death," she commented with concern.
"You don't look much better," he retorted tonelessly.
Hilary huffed, puffing up her cheeks and turning her nose up at him. "Hmph." However, she couldn't stay seemingly mad at him and turned back with a grin.
"So, uh, how long was I asleep?"
Kai unfolded himself and stretched his legs out on one side of her. "A few days." He shrugged. "You woke up enough times for us to get food and drink into you."
Hilary nodded, not entirely sure whether he was downplaying or exaggerating how bad her condition had been.
The two walked outside to find the sun shining above them. Hilary had her arm around Kai's, not quite sure whether he was helping her to stand or if it was the other way around. They stepped gingerly towards the main tent where she hoped Mr Granger or Hiro would be; however, as the tent flap opened she was surprised instead to see Ren step out.
Ren froze when he met Hilary's eyes, tensing up in such a way that made Hilary want to tighten her grip on Kai for reassurance. Slowly he walked towards the two and Kai pulled his arm away from Hilary. She silently cursed him for abandoning her even if he was only standing a step away. Despite her feelings, Hilary forced a smile onto her face.
Ren's face broke into a smile. "I'm so glad you're okay, Hilary."
He walked over and pulled her into a hug that was much more comfortable than Kai's crushing one had been, and yet it was somehow less reassuring. Nevertheless, Hilary pulled back slowly with a smile.
"So, no more Black Driger?"
Ren's smile became wider and what seemed to be a small blush brought some colour to his cheeks. "The Black Bit Beasts have been returned to their original resting place, minus Black Dranzer, who has been returned to Mr. Hiwatari. It's all thanks to you and Kai."
Much to her embarrassment, Hilary felt a similar blush threaten its way to her cheeks and she attempted to stammer out a reply that included downplaying her role in getting him back to normal.
Ren stepped forward so that she was looking up at the other boy. "You must be hungry after being asleep for so long. Why don't we go and get some food together?"
Hilary smiled politely and looked back towards Kai to see if he was going to join them. He was leaning against one of the nearby posts, and gave her a small shrug before pushing himself off in a casual manner to follow them.
As they made their way to one of the other tents, Ren talked animatedly next to her while Kai hung back a little with his hands in his pockets as if they just happened to be walking to the same destination.
They found some tables laid out in a large tent with a small cafeteria at one end. Hilary recognised several members of the White Tiger village sitting down, talking and eating. In the far corner, Hilary spotted Meng and Li Mei sitting at a large table alone.
Hilary filled her plate, politely acknowledging the two before digging into her food with fervour. Ren sat next to her and Kai silently placed his tray and tucked into his meal with some of the most impeccable table manners Hilary had ever seen. She blushed, looking down at her own half-devoured plate and began to slow down. After all, they were no longer in a rush.
"So what are your plans now," Li Mei asked, directing her question towards Hilary.
Hilary looked at Kai, who was still concentrating only on his food. She refrained from sending him a nasty look and smiled at Li Mei instead.
"To be honest, I'm not very sure."
Ren looked up from his plate with a smile. "You're more than welcome to stay at the site for a while longer and see a bit of archaeology in action."
"Thanks," Hilary laughed, knowing he was asking her to stay for more than just archaeology. "But I think I've seen enough up close archaeology to last me for a while. Besides," she continued, "I need to get back to Japan before school starts again."
Ren nodded, understanding the hidden meaning behind her reply for what it was. A few moments later a smile broke onto his face and the conversation continued on to what had been found at the site and the possible implications.
Content to listen to the other three talk amongst themselves, Hilary stole a glance at Kai. Obviously sensing someone's eyes on him, Kai looked up to meet her eyes long enough to give her a nod of acknowledgement before continuing with the rest of his meal. Although she would never be completely sure, Hilary could have sworn she saw Kai's expression soften into an almost-smile.
Kai, Hilary and Ren walked back towards the main site, stopping when they noticed the White Tiger team and Mystel standing in front of them. Suddenly the tension that had slowly eased away came back ten-fold. Hilary's eyes locked on Lee, who was keeping his focus on Ren.
"Lee." Ren nodded his head in greeting.
Lee nodded back in acknowledgement and then turned his attention towards Kai.
"It seems I owe you for saving my village," he began, holding out a hand towards Kai.
Kai, whose arms were crossed over his chest, looked down at the outstretched hand. Letting out a sigh, he let one arm fall to the side as his right hand went forward to meet Lee's.
"Give me a good challenge at the next tournament and we'll call it even."
Lee laughed, firmly shaking Kai's hand. "It's a deal."
The Saint Shields watched the exchange from a hidden vantage point. Ozuma tightly clutched his Flash Leopard beyblade with his bit beast now returned.
Joseph turned his head towards Ozuma. "It looks as if everything's turned out ok after all."
Dunga looked between the two of them. "So what're we doing now, Ozuma?"
Ozuma narrowed his eyes as Kai and Lee shook hands. Without any acknowledgement of Dunga's question, he pulled his hood over his head and turned away, cloak billowing out behind him. The three remaining Saint Shields took one last look at the group below them before following suit. The Saint Shields disappeared into the mountain mist without a word.
Master Tao and Susumu watched the exchange from a distance and continued to follow their movements as Kai and Hilary turned to walk away. Tao's smile slowly dropped from his face, knowing that no one else was hearing or witnessing their conversation.
"You didn't tell him, did you?"
Susumu, who had been smiling happily, became serious, crossing his arms over his chest. "No."
Tao let out a sigh, but Susumu would not be swayed.
"They have come up against the odds time and time again. I think we owe it to them to trust they will see through the next threat just as well as they did the last."
Tao shifted his gaze towards his own team. "Perhaps." A pause. "What will you do now?"
At this question, Susumu began to relax again, letting his arms fall back to his sides. "Kai reminded me what I was fighting for." His expression became wistful. "I think it is time I took a page from his book and stopped running away."
A smile spread across Tao's face. Nothing else needed to be said.
"Flight JA438 for Tokyo is now boarding at gate 5," a voice echoed out from the speakers.
"Come on, Kai, the plane's already boarding," Hilary exclaimed while half-dragging Kai through the terminal.
Kai feebly attempted to pull himself out of her grip, looking annoyed or even angry to the casual passer-by. However, despite his protests, Kai was just as excited at the idea of being back in Japan as Hilary – he would just never show it.
Instead, he grumbled. "The plane isn't leaving for another half an hour and we have assigned seats. Do you want to sit even longer in a metal box that circulates other people's air around you?"
Hilary screeched to a halt and turned around to face him, forcing herself into his personal space in such a way that meant he had to look down his nose at her. He pulled his chin up in an attempt to increase the gap with little effect.
"I know," she conceded. "But I miss my family and the others. I know it's illogical, but I feel that the sooner we get on the plane, the sooner I can see everyone again," she finished with a smile.
Seeing that she wasn't going to move, Kai took a step back to widen the gap between them to a more comfortable distance. He shrugged to acknowledge her point and caught her rolling her eyes at him.
"Come on," she reasoned. "There must be something you're looking forward to when you get back."
Kai could not help a smile appearing at the memory of Tyson's challenge after his match with Brooklyn. In truth, he would be glad to spend time with everyone, but that battle in particular was something he had been yearning ever since Dranzer had returned.
Kai pulled out his beyblade and automatically looked to the centre, where Dranzer no longer resided. He felt the burning inside him become more intense as her spirit responded to his emotions. She wanted that fight as well.
Kai looked back to Hilary, who had forced him to keep going even when he was ready to forget everything and give up. His smile spread wider and he walked forward, passing a now-confused Hilary. He doubted he could ever repay his debt to her, but for now he could slowly attempt to chip away at it.
"How about making sure you improve your terrible launching technique?"
Kai glanced back to see Hilary go bright red. "Hey," she shouted, "who was the one that stopped that weird Hong Kong 'blader?"
"I seem to recall you losing that match."
Hilary huffed. "Yeah well…" his words seem to finally catch up with her. "You'd actually train me?"
Kai snorted, as if the very idea was preposterous. "I don't train amateurs." He turned to face her. "However, if you are looking for an opponent, then I would be willing to battle you."
Hilary seemed to get the hidden message and rolled her eyes with a smile.
"Last call for flight JA438. Could passengers intending to board please make their way as quickly as possible to gate 5," the voice interrupted their conversation.
"Ah! Now we are going to be late! This is all your fault, Kai," Hilary exclaimed, while dragging Kai to the gate.
The two made it in plenty of time and sat down together on the nearly-full flight. Kai looked out the window, towards Japan, and smiled. Yes, it was good to be going home.
To those who might have questions on Kai and Hilary's relationship at the end: I have left it ambiguous in some ways to fit with the characters (or more specifically Kai, who would have issues with public displays of affection at the best of times), but also because I didn't want to force anything to big over such a short period of time. This is not to say they won't start dating soon as they've certainly come a long way in a short period of time, but that is up for you to decide.
A huge thank you to my reviewers from last chapter: .beyblade, Moonlight Serenity, syzygy101 (I always love new reviewers), 09sasha and cOOlzanimeaDDict. A special thank you also has to go to kaihil lover, who inspired me to get back to this story. Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who has read and reviewed at some point and those that review in the future, whether you have picked this up from the beginning or are reading it all in one sitting.
Since this is the final chapter, I would love it very much for everyone to leave a review. Maybe say something you liked, or something that could be improved? Regardless, thank you for at least taking the time to read and I've hoped you've enjoyed it.