“The ear plugs were supposed to work. Why didn’t they work?”
Ray sat in a daze against the wall of Tyson’s room while Kenny typed away fervently at Tyson’s cluttered desk. Kai sat at the end of Tyson’s bed, looking upon the chaos he had once found disgusting, but now found oddly calming. Somehow, through all the lazy mess, Tyson’s bed had managed to remain clean, made, and freshly laundered. He wondered what kind of habitual insanity would move Tyson to make his bed but leave his clothes and miles of…whatever crushed up against his walls and furniture. He occasionally dabbed alcohol soaked cotton balls across the shallow gashes on his face. Freaking woman must have had a manicure of steel.
“Why didn’t they work?” said Ray, more of a plea now than a question. He had taken on a pallor Kai wasn’t all that comfortable with.
“Her blade,” murmured Kenny. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It makes Max’s defense look like tin foil. No wonder Tyson wasn’t able to move it!”
“Not much left for attacking, though,” said Dizzy.
“She doesn’t need it.” Kai put aside the cotton ball to lie back on Tyson’s bed and wait for the round of sting to dissipate. His bed smelled of lavender laundry detergent. Did Tyson even sleep in his bed?
“Yeah, all she needs is to stall us long enough for that…thing to start singing,” said Ray, who closed his eyes. “But the ear plugs, did he still hear it? Sometimes you hear past ear plugs. But those were rubber tipped, it should have blocked out everything!”
“That’s because it isn’t about what you hear. It’s about what you feel—the vibrations.”
Kenny’s typing hitched. “Oh my gosh…”
Ray hurried to Kenny’s side, nearly tripping over a pair of old trousers. Kai shot back up and jumped over to his side, displacing a small cloud of red stained cotton balls in the process.
The screen displayed something like a blank, black and white space that rippled with gray waves. Two black, seemingly shivering blobs kept crashing, setting loose a divulge of ripples across the screen, then repeating the action.
“What are we looking at?” asked Ray.
“When I couldn’t use the infrared to find her, Dizzy pulled up the microphone just in time to catch this. Right now it’s on display in a visual format, much like what a music player does to make those pretty visuals on the screen while a song plays.”
“Yes, we can have the lesson later,” grumbled Kai. “What does it mean?”
“See those two spots?” He pointed at the two black blobs that kept crashing into each other and disrupting the entire screen. “That’s Max’s and that woman’s blade. When they hit they sent off a pattern of vibrations—or rather, their blades hitting each other made the other vibrate like a tuning fork.” He typed something, clicked in the corner, and pulled up a taller graph running from red to green to yellow. “This is the length of the sound waves that person was singing. They offset Max’s blade’s vibrations perfectly, and are hyperbolized as well. When they did that…” He typed, and clicked back to the ripple screen, except this time the half of the screen where one of the black blobs sat went completely black. “Dead. No vibrations whatsoever.”
“So why did that force Draciel out?” asked Ray impatiently. “And why along with Max’s soul?”
“Unfortunately, I’m no acousticologist, but I do know one thing,” he clicked play and watched as Max’s blob sent the screen rippling with gray, and then when completely black. “Everything in this world is vibrating. You know that myth about an opera singer hitting a high note and shattering glass? That isn’t so farfetched. If you can hit just the right frequency to increase the natural vibrations of an object, you could shatter anything. But they didn’t shatter Max’s blade, or Tyson’s, for that matter.” Kenny clicked back to the sound graph, highlighting a section of yellow, waving lines and pulling them over to another sound graph, where the peaks of one line offset the lows of another. “They diminished the vibrations to an almost imperceptible level.”
“They killed it,” said an uncharacteristically grim Dizzy. “A beyblade is the heart and body of a bit beast, kids. Without the ‘beating’ I guess you could say, Draciel and most likely Dragoon was squeezed out, just like anyone’s spirit would leave once their body died.”
That left a rather stunned silence. Ray’s hand on the back of the chair Kenny sat in had gone knuckle-white.
“Oh, they can return once their avatar instills life into the blade once more,” she said, all warm comfort. “But in the condition they’re in now, they aren’t going to be launching any blades, let alone with ‘life’.”
“But why did their souls get taken?” asked Ray. “What does the vibration of blades have to do with their souls? Max’s body didn’t get…get killed.”
A familiar and old coldness had fallen over Kai. It numbed him from his chest to his fingers till it flipped to a warm fire. He couldn’t call it rage, no. It was far more powerful than that. But he was never the one to waste time on labeling emotions.
“So it was hitting her blade with his own that set off the vibrations for them to hear?”
Kenny and Ray looked at him. Their surprised annoyed him. What, did they think him stupid?
“I can’t believe I didn’t think of that,” said Kenny. “It really was just like a tuning fork. But—but how on earth would anyone be able to hear that? The only reason Dizzy was able to pick it up on the after-market microphone we have is because she’s a bit beast and she can enhance my computer like your bitbeasts enhance your blades—but no human could have done that.”
“She’s singing out souls, Kenny,” said Kai, voice as dry as arctic ice. “I would hardly call that human.”
Another stunned silence. In it, the visual recordings of the waves played over and over; the black blobs crashing into one another on repeat.
Ray’s hand slipped off from the back of the chair.
“Then…that’s it. How do you defeat someone you can’t hit?”
“Simple,” said Kai, going back to sit on Tyson’s bed again and grabbing a fresh cotton ball and the rubbing alcohol. Moving has face had started up the bleeding again, and he could feel the tickle of another drip down his cheek. “You play dirty.”
Kenny and Ray looked at him like he was insane, and this time he let his irritation show.
“What, our opponents can play as dirty as they like and we can’t? Face it, the moment Tyson ended up in the hospital this stopped being a game. This is survival, short and dirty.” And, he thought wryly as he pressed the refilled cotton ball to the bleeding and clenched his teeth, my real forte.
“What are you saying, Kai?” squeaked Kenny. “We can’t—we can’t just attack her like a bunch of savages with our blades or…or…Kai, that’s just wrong!”
He snorted. “I beg to differ.”
“Kai’s right, Kenny,” said Ray, almost in a whisper, his gaze hidden beneath his bangs. “This stopped being just a duel of blades. If we don’t do something, we’ll end up like vegetables along with our bitbeasts.”
“And you’re in luck. All that defense means that tank of a beyblade is slow!” buzzed Dizzy.
“You-you-you’re not g-g-going to ki-kill her, are you?” squeaked Kenny at an all time high.
Ray gave a short bark of laughter, but Kai didn’t laugh.
“Don’t be crazy, we’re not out for blood. We just need to get her to let go of those orb thingies. If we get those back, we can figure out how to get Dragoon and Draciel back into their blades, right? Oh, let me help with that.” He grabbed the gauze Kai had unpeeled and set it over his eyebrow and brow with practiced fingers.
“It’s not that simple,” said Dizzy.
“What do you mean?” asked Ray, while Kai just raised the eyebrow not being bandaged.
Kenny squeezed his knees, heels bouncing against a pile of snack wrappers beneath Tyson’s desk. “Didn’t you hear us the first time when we said the blader themselves have to return life to the blade? Forget about getting whatever is in those marble-rock thing of theirs out, if Tyson and Max aren’t the ones to launch their blades, the right vibrations won’t be set off in the blade.” He paused. “Maybe…maybe that has something to do with why their souls were taken as well. There’s a bond between your spirits and that of your bitbeasts. Maybe that’s how that certain life-like quality—that mixture of vibrations—is given to the blade in the first place. Maybe the vibrations are even just a trademark of something much deeper, like a mark of your souls.”
“We’ll figure that all out once we get them back from those morons,” said Ray. “Right Kai? Hold this for a minute.”
He shrugged as he obeyed Ray and held the gauze in place. “We’ll just have to kidnap that girl too.”
That was the last straw. Kenny crinkled up in the chair like a juice packet getting every last ounce of air and liquid sucked out.
“Assault is one thing, but kidnapping! Holly crap, guys, we are not criminals! Shouldn’t we call the police or something?”
Kai snorted. “That would go over well.”
“Yeah,” said Ray, setting in place the last strand of medical tape. He had to wedge a bit into Kai’s hair. “‘Hey, our friends’ souls got stolen by this girl’s singing, can you make her sing just the right song that will get their souls back? Please and thank you.'”
“Ugh, you know what I mean!” Kenny dug his hands through his hair and back down his face furiously, jostling his glasses. “Oh, I’m going insane, now I’m wishing Tyson were here! He’d get what I’m saying.”
“Oh yes, oh so noble Tyson.” Kai pushed himself off the bed once more and moved passed Ray to the door. “If that’s all, I’m going to train. Ray, I suggest you come along too.”
“Train? What’s the point of training at a time like this?”
“Isn’t it obvious, Chief?” Ray moved to follow Kai, who waited for him in the doorway. “All this time we’ve trained to battle other beyblades, never to directly attack anyone. If we’re not careful, we could seriously hurt someone.”
“Or kill them,” said Kai.
Kenny twisted up, if possible, even tighter, squawking the word “Kill?!”
Ray frowned at him. “That seems a little extreme.”
But the sad thing about it, Kai thought, as he remembered the dark halls of the Abbey and the sharp tang of his own blood, was that it wasn’t. Not in the least. Because what better weapon was there than one where your enemy least expected it?