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September 2027


That low arc of the body, like the bend of a willow branch, the squared knees spread perpendicular, ankles crooked, outside edges slicing into the ice. Shoma sails past Javi. Javi, preparing for his next student, stops to marvel. Shoma will be thirty in December, and he looks pliant and strong as he did during his competitive career. Now he is showing his student how to do a cantilever. He rolls to his feet, then goes to her, bending back, explaining the physics in that blunt way of his. His student nods vigorously throughout, though Javi can tell she doesn't understand a whit. 

Shoma is an unnaturally gifted coach, however. His lack of pretension makes his students trust him, and also makes his explanations straightforward and easy to understand.

Shoma seems unaffected by her inability to comprehend as he cantilevers once more, swishing by Javi before returning to his student. She practices, the first times flailing all over the ice. Shoma calls corrections and she eventually makes a wobbly, slow cantilever.

"Good," Shoma says. 

He tells her what she did right before telling her what could use some work. The girl beams the whole time.

Once Shoma's student departs, Javi skates up to Shoma.

"Nice job," he says.

"With what?"

"Teaching Adora cantilevers."

Shoma waves as if to say it was nothing.

"We both know that if it was Yuzu or I, it would take longer for her to learn what she did."

Shoma shakes his head. "I just know cantilevers. It would be different with a Salchow or hydroblading."

"If you say so," Javi teases. 

Later, with Yuzu on the ice, Shoma and his new student weave through the controlled chaos of the rink, hydroblading. Yuzu finishes practice with his student and stands next to Javi, watching Shoma coach.

Yuzu sniffs.

"It's a decent hydroblade on a novice," Javi offers. 

"Ugh," Yuzu says, clearly annoyed.

He too is a good coach. He is particularly gifted with children. But even the great Yuzuru Hanyu has his limits, and sometimes he struggles to express ideas. Javi tells him it's because he's too much in his own mind.

"How does he do that?" Yuzu finally asks, watching the swooping hydrobladers. 

He then shrugs and glides onto the ice, gaining speed before hydroblading himself, a chain of three with Shoma, his student, and Yuzu. 

Javi laughs.