Disclaimer: As I think about all the things I own, I come to realise that Beyblade isn't one of them. So leave me alone with my mortgage.
A/N: My English has completely taken a hike somewhere. I can't remember the simplest of words and it's hindering my writing. Grr.
Okay, last time I asked about how you think this will end/continue, although none of you indulged me. (pout) Now I have another problem for you to solve: Your favourite character is royalty, but the King and Queen are complete idiots and you want to save your character from them. So, who is your favourite character, what you would offer in exchange for the royal descendant, and why?
"It is a wise father who knows his own child."
Chapter eleven: Fathers and Sons
There was a moment of stunned silence. Then Yuriy commented, "Is everyone gay these days?"
It took a moment for Rei to realise what Yuriy was implying but before he could (or needed to) comment on it, Lai said; "I'm not."
"Fine, ok. You're the exception of the rule, then," the redhead corrected, feigning indignation. They all laughed good-naturally, but Rei quickly diverted to safer topics before anyone would notice that he had been included in the remark. As had been Kai, too. Interesting.
"But you really are a man of many talents, Rei," Yuriy murmured after a while as he watched the game proceed to territory-counting. Rei won, of course, but Boris needed the practice so they went through the game meticulously.
The neko-jin looked at the Russian boy with raised eyebrows at the odd comment.
"You know this complicated game and are even teaching it to this block-head," (Boris gave him a shove) "and you performed some wild moves out there. What are you, the Kung Fu master?"
Rei sweatdropped a little and not just to what Yuriy said. He refrained from mentioning how wrong the Russian boy was using the term as it in itself already had the word 'master'. To his ears, it sounded like Yuriy had said Merit Master master. But he skipped this small little detail and ploughed on to the real question. Or tried to, but Boris was faster.
"Yeah, Rei is really good with martial arts. He practices everyday to stay in shape." Yuriy gave a long look at his boyfriend with a raised eyebrow. "What? I've seen him training, that's all. And he told me himself."
This time it was Rei's turn to look at Boris. "You have? When?" he asked, incredulous.
"Well, it was before… well, you know. I just woke up a bit early and took a walk. It was by pure accident that I happened to find you training."
"So that's why Takao always says that Rei is his only true competition," Max wondered aloud. "But why won't you fight for real then?"
Rei's cheeks tinted a little red at this praise, and he coughed a bit before answering. "How would it look like if we, two sons of ambassadors, would fight with weapons? Not too good, I can tell you. Besides, it's been forbidden for decades for ambassadors to fight without a reason. We're stretching the rules as it is; I don't want people to think that there's a war brewing on the horizon."
"A valid point," Max nodded in understanding. "But too bad for Takao. He's too good for his own good," he said and gave his boyfriend a pat. Said boyfriend gave a huge sigh.
"Yeah… I like sword-fighting, I really do," Takao started, "but I just can't help the feeling that there's something missing. Some challenge, a connection, a purpose. You know?" he asked from his audience, but they just mostly shook their heads.
"I'm sure there's a purpose just waiting for you somewhere. Or maybe you were just born in the wrong era?" suggested Rei.
Takao sighed again. "Maybe. Doesn't help much, though," he said with a defeated slump against his boyfriend who started petting him soothingly. Kai rolled his eyes and mumbled something that suspiciously sounded like "drama-queen."
As they continued their light conversation with occasional jabs from Kai to Takao and then from Max to Kai, Rei noticed that Mao and Lai kept mostly to themselves. He could relate to that as they probably didn't know any of them, save for Rei. He was actually surprised that the female Chen was even staying with them as the protocol probably didn't approve a single woman being in a company of so many unfamiliar men. But Lai was probably the alleviating factor in this matter, so he didn't dwell further on it.
Thankfully, they got a bit of a light snack during their conversation, after which Rei had to excuse himself to get changed. The travelling had left his clothes a bit dusty and his 'light exercise' had almost glued them to his skin. And it seemed like he wasn't the only one wanting to part from the group for a while as first Mao and Lai announced that they could use some lying down for a bit and then Takao and Max said to need a moment on their own. Soon they all agreed to meet later in the same room before dinner and then parted on their own ways.
Rei headed straight for the shower and was in his tower in no time, feeling fresh again. There he changed to clean clothes and thought a bit what the day had brought with it. He could never be grateful enough to Kai for forcing him out of his home, he realized. If he had stayed there, his mother would've never had the heart to leave and everything would've stayed exactly the same as they had been, probably until his mother would've died from the illness.
Rei buried his face in his hands. It was just so much to take in. Just yesterday he had been thinking what kind of a mess he was in for just cross-dressing once, but now… The fate obviously had some kind of a bigger plan for him; that was for sure.
His musing was interrupted by a soft knock on the door.
Rei raised his face to look on the door as if it had knocked on itself before tentatively saying, "Come in."
The door opened to reveal the Hiwatari heir, who closed it quietly behind him. If Rei wasn't seeing completely double, he was guessing that the man was trying to be stealthy. Kai looked around to make sure they were really alone and sighed deeply. He seemed to slump a bit as he made way to sit beside his companion. Rei just gave him a raised eyebrow.
Kai ruffled his hair, not knowing what to say. Finally he asked, "How do you know Kinomiya Takao?"
"He spent the summer here a few years ago when his father and brother were having some negotiations going on," Rei told him obediently, wondering where all this was coming from.
"Right. He's the Japan's ambassador. Of course you would know him," Kai muttered to himself.
"Is this about our fight earlier?" Rei sighed. "Look, I've always had a weak body - it's a birth-defect - so I was taught some martial arts to keep my health up. I wasn't allowed to be away from home that much, so it was nice to have someone close to my age around. Who I wasn't related to, I mean. Takao has been learning kendou and other martial arts since he was a child, so we hit it off really well. So well, actually, that we got a little lecture about fighting," Rei smiled a little sheepishly. "That's when I learned it the hard way that we cannot fight, no matter how much Takao wants to."
"And those two?" Rei frowned. He could tell the man wasn't here to talk pleasantries, so what's with all the questions?
"Chen Lai and Mao are family-friends from the palace. I've known them my whole life and I see them at least once every year," he answered curtly, hoping to make a point. The next time the Hiwatari heir opened his mouth, the Chinese boy had had enough.
"Kai," Rei finally interrupted. "Is there something wrong?" he asked.
Kai sighed in frustration and raked his hand through his hair. He took another deep breath, but this was obviously to brace himself for what he had to say. Rei waited in growing trepidation; he didn't know what to expect and he was worried for his companion.
"There's been…" Kai stopped to brace himself. "…a loss in the family. My aunt and her husband have been in an accident. The funeral is in three days."
Rei was horrified, and concerned. "Are you okay? Do you know what happened?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. We were pretty close, but… yeah. There was a fire at their estate. Their only son was having a walk with the nanny so he survived, but they and a couple of maids along with the mansion was burned to the ground."
"To think that can happen…" he said, lost for words.
"Yeah," Kai agreed. "But the thing is, I was wondering if you could come too, as my companion?" he asked with a little haunted look in his eyes. Rei guessed this was a lot harder to the man than he let on.
"Do you really have to go? I can see that you're not very comfortable with this… Isn't your father enough?"
"Of course I'm not comfortable with this!" Kai suddenly bust out as he stood up and went to stand by the balcony door. "But my father is leaving for the inspection round regardless, so it'll be my duty to make an appearance at the funeral." He sounded composed enough, but there was resignation in his voice; he really didn't want to face this alone, not so abruptly.
Rei stood up and walked to the slate-haired man. He coaxed him to turn around and then enveloped him in a comforting hug. After a while, Kai returned the hug with vigour.
"Of course I'll come," Rei said quietly. "I'm your companion after all, okay?" Kai just nodded in Rei's hair, but didn't answer verbally. They stayed like that for a while until the Hiwatari heir could pull himself together again, and they parted.
"Thanks. I needed that, I think," Kai admitted. Rei gave him a smile.
"Yeah, I think you needed it too," he grinned. Kai gave a small smile in return, which was enough for Rei to know that he would be fine.
"I actually wanted to talk to you about something, Kai," Rei continued, partly to distract him from the gloomy prospect of a funeral. He led the man to sit on the bed and turned to him.
"About this whole companion affair," he started. "I really am your companion now, right?" he wanted to confirm.
Kai shook his head and smiled humourlessly. "You're not the only one asking that lately."
Rei ignored this comment for now and ploughed on. "But I don't want us to be just companions; I want us to have something like Yuriy and Boris." This made Kai freeze and his eyebrows ascended slowly up to his hairline, disaster completely forgotten for the moment.
"You see, I want us to be friends, allies, nakama, not just master and servant. I want our relationship to be loyal, honest, strong, something we can both rely on. Do you think we could have that?"
Kai looked at Rei and stopped to really think; could he do that? Was he ready to let go of his reserves and just give it all he could? Did he want to?
The answer was ridiculously simple.
"I honestly don't know if we can have that," he told Rei frankly. "But I do want to try."
Rei's face melted into a joyful expression. "Thank you, Kai."
This honest gratitude was something the slate-haired man had rarely met and it baffled him. With a new, fluttery sensation in his chest, the Russian man felt his face warm up a little as he tried to dismiss this situation he didn't know how to handle. "Yeah, sure," he just mumbled and rose from the bed.
"I think I need to… do some stuff," Kai said vaguely and walked to the door. Rei just grinned, feeling happy that the man wasn't so depressed anymore.
"Okay. I'll be down in a minute. Maybe I can help you with your 'stuff' then," the Chinese boy said, trying very hard to contain his laughter. Strangely enough, Kai blushed even harder and with a stiff 'good-bye' he was out the door in a flash. Rei blinked a couple of times, confused, then just shrugged it off. Who was he to decipher the mood-swings of an aristocrat?
Rei touched his hair and frowned at the still-moist locks. He took a brush and resignedly started pulling it trough the long strands, advancing from the bottom up. When the raven tresses were finally sorted through and gleaming, he braided them while still a bit damp to get a neat plait. Then he checked his appearance once more from the large mirror standing in a corner of the room, and after finding himself acceptable, he headed downstairs. As he descended the stairs, Becky was there to tell him that his father had asked him for a visit before dinner.
The maid showed him the way to the right room and knocked softly for Rei, before the Chinese boy entered the chambers.
"Ah, Rei," his father said upon realizing who had entered. "Glad you could make it; I was worried we wouldn't have time to talk at all today."
"Of course, father. Is there anything particular that you wanted to talk to me about?"
"Can't a father just want to see his son?" Tai-Hua asked, feigning wounded. Rei grinned.
"No, he can't," he answered playfully but truthfully. His father sighed.
"Honestly, that woman… What did Lin teach you kids to make you so perceptive? Kuai said the same thing when I wanted to talk with him."
This piqued Rei's interest. "How is Kuai doing? And Qian? He went to China with mother, right?"
"They're doing fine. Qian is having the time of his life with all those Chinese girls. I'm just dreading the time when you start to get interested in girls," at this the man shook his head and sighed. "Tell me you'll be a bit more sensible about relationships than your brothers?"
"I'll try my best," Rei grinned. Tai-Hua gestured his son to sit down while he moved around the room collecting his belonging to his suit-case.
"Kuai stayed in China with your mother and Qian. Initially he was supposed to come with us for the inspection round, but I thought it best for him to stay and learn something about the Chinese way of politics. It'll be useful for him, and besides, with the Kinomiyas and Lord Hiwatari, there're plenty of us checking the borders already. I might even cut the inspection short to get back to Lin…" Tai-Hua mused. "Ah, here is it." He found something from his belongings and offered it to his son.
"Here. You're mother sent this for you. She said you didn't take anything with you when you came here, and thought you might need this." His father was holding a white hair-band in his hand that Rei recognised as his own. The Chinese boy took it with pleased gratitude.
"Thank you! I have been in such trouble without this, you have no idea," he exclaimed with relief, and immediately put it in his hair, extending it to cover the whole braid, the red-rimmed ends holding tight. He swished his hair to-and-fro for a bit and found that he felt his hair being comfortably secured. No more ribbons that fell of as soon as he turned up-side-down!
Tai-Hua looked at his son for a while, and then came to sit with him, the serious air about him stopping Rei from his testing. He looked at his son's eyes. "I think this is good for you, Rei. I know your mother is worried of your well-being, but you've rarely been out of the house; I was worried that you couldn't make any friends. I'm glad to be proven wrong, son."
Rei sweatdropped inwardly, and thought it best not to dwell on the past; parents didn't need to know everything. At least not the exact how he had become friends with Yuriy and Boris. Or Kai. Or Takao. But then Rei remembered again.
"Father… Why wasn't I told that mother could be cured?"
"Oh, Rei…" Tai-Hua sighed. "We couldn't. We really just couldn't tell you."
"But why?!" he asked desperately. "If I had known, I wouldn't have kept her here! I could've even gone with her to—"
"You weren't – and probably still aren't – fit to travel such a strenuous journey. If you'd known, you would've insisted on going, and that would have put more stress on your mother than anything. You know you're a precious son to her, and she couldn't have lived with herself if something should happen to you. No, it was best just not to tell. That way we also avoided placing the burden on your shoulders or on hers. Everyone stayed content that way."
Rei felt trapped as his feelings of betrayal clashed with the pure logic. It was distressful to know that his father was absolutely right: He was still blaming himself for being in her way of recovery, so to know that he was an obstacle… everyday being reminded of it and not being able to do anything about it… Yes, it would have probably driven him insane eventually. Shit, he really was in a debt of gratitude for the strict Hiwatari heir for not letting him get away with his crime. He would really need to work his ass off to repay the man.
Finally Rei took a deep breath and released it in one go, as if to rid himself of any further morbid thoughts.
"I understand, father. I may not be happy about it, but I can see the reason and I agree with it. It would have been intolerable to know that she could get treatment but wouldn't, because of me."
"I knew you were a bright child Rei. You've always been like the thunder you are, fast as light slashing through the darkness and illuminating us all."
"Thanks, dad," Rei said, dropping all the formality for this once and giving his father a quick hug. Then he composed himself again and stood up. "I guess I should leave you with your packing so you will be done before dinner. I also have a prior engagement, so I must take my leave now."
"Speaking of engagements, Rei, what are your thoughts about Mao?" his father said, interrupting his departure. The boy stopped to think this one through.
"I don't know. She's nice enough and very pretty, but I would like to have more time to think about our engagement," he said truthfully. His father smiled a bit sadly.
"It would feel nice to have all my sons married off before I retire, but I guess you really aren't that interested of making your old man feel secure."
"It's not about that, father. I assure you, if I don't find a suitable partner till I turn eighteen, I will marry Chen Mao, but for now, I would like to just concentrate on my new position and the experience of having some fun. Would you allow me to do that?"
Tai-Hua smiled warmly to his son. "Of course. I don't know what I was thinking; marrying my son off before he's even out of the crib. But I take that as a promise: If you don't have someone on your mind by your eighteenth birthday, I shall expect some grand dowry from the Chens."
"Consider it done, father. Although, I'm not in the crib anymore," he reminded, sounding pseudo-serious as he opened the door.
"Yes, yes. My all-grown-up son, that you are," his father answered good-naturally.
"Well, maybe not grown-up, but I'm better than a baby," Rei grinned playfully and disappeared through the door, leaving his father shaking his head to his antics.
He had gotten as far as two doors down the corridor when a deep voice stopped him. When he turned around, he realized it to belong to the elder Hiwatari – High Lord Hiwatari Mikhail. The man beckoned him inside, and won by curiosity, Rei followed him. Upon closing the door, the impressive man turned to regard him.
"I thought we might clear a few things out before I leave matters on Kai's hands again," the man started. This time there was no invitation to sit down or even to enter the room properly, so Rei was left standing by the door, feeling vaguely uncomfortable in a company of such stature.
"I wanted to let you know that I do not find Kai lacking a companion," the High Lord started sternly. "I think he has fared well until now without one and this act of indulge is somewhat out of character for him."
Rei gulped. Was this the part where the man would tell him to get the hell out of his mansion? It wouldn't surprise him; Rei had just appeared in the castle and taken over a position that hadn't been fulfilled for nineteen years, and all this without the man of the house knowing.
But then the gray-haired man sighed and the imposing character seemed to almost drain from him. "But I can't say to know my son very well, so I would be pleased if you could keep him company while his father and mother are away. I am aware that Kai might be lonely but it cannot be helped. We simply have no time to indulge in such sentiments, which may or may not have left him lonely. I would be honoured to have one of the Kons as my son's companion, if it would be alright?"
Rei released the breath he had been holding, relieved. "Of course. I have already accepted this position and it is not in my intention to back down on my word, tonou."
"Well said, son. I like your attitude. Keep it up and don't let Kai intimidate you," the man encouraged him. "He needs to get used to not always get his way with things, so if there is anything unreasonable he might do, do not hesitate to punish him as you might see fit. Kai might be schooled in politics, but he still has a hard time understanding that he is but one man. Should the need arise, show him his place. You have my permission."
"But let's keep this between us, okay? Can't let him think that you have a backbone just because I ordered you to," the man said with a wink. Rei blinked, stunned at first at this sudden display of humour, but then smiled brightly.
"I will leave my son to you, Rei-kun. Now, if you would excuse me I have to get ready for dinner," the High Lord said, clearly giving Rei permission to leave. The neko-jin had placed his hand on the doorhandle before he remembered something and turned back.
"Tonou…" he started. As the Hiwatari Lord looked up at him again, Rei continued, "I heard about the funeral; I'm sorry for your loss." The man's features softened and gained a sad tinge.
"Thank you, Rei. I'm starting to see why my son was so intent upon having you here. Take care of him, won't you?"
The Chinese boy said nothing, only bowed respectfully to the man, and exited the room in solemn silence.
nakama – lit. company; fellow; colleague; associate; comrade; mate; group; circle of friends; partner. Basically close friends who walk the same path in life or have the same goal. Equivocal, which is why I used the Japanese word.
Rei and thunder – Now, Rei's name literally means 'plum' but when pronounced it could mean 'thunder' as well. (Which I believe is the original 'pun' in Beyblade.)
Ha haa! I used 'out of character'! Score!
I apologize for any mistakes or errors. I am but a human with a normal IQ. (I think.)