Early April 2026
He doesn't care.
As Shoma steps into the rink, he feels a hush. Everyone is thinking: the reigning Olympic Champion has one more chance for a World title before he retires. But he doesn't care. Nathan can have Worlds.
Stéphane says a few words of encouragement and Shoma nods at his coach dully.
Then there's the ice, lace-patterned and ribboned with blade marks. The music begins and Shoma moves automatically. Javi and Yuzu are watching, and it's for them he whips around, that he vaults into the air, that his footwork is neat as hand sewn silk. They aren't in the building -- they wouldn't want to take the attention off the athletes competing -- but he knows they're watching. From the hotel, probably, with some crappy jittering stream.
Shoma coasts into his triple axel and he hopes all his love is there, transparent for them to see. He is afraid to retire, to move to Madrid in a few months, but also excited. His life will begin anew, just as it had when he changed coaches.
He camel spins and he can feel it: all that love in return. Not just Yuzu and Javi's, but the love of the crowds. Thousands of beating hearts yearning for him to win.
The Olympics had been a surprise to Shoma -- winning them -- and some people had booed the fact he won over Nathan. But now, they just want for him to win.
Shoma tastes blood, a desire. And he wants this.
He's been so much in his head that when the program ends it's a shock, and he totters off to Stéphane.
The eternal wait for scores. He's cursing himself for not enjoying the skate more, when the scores ring out and the people in the stands cheer.
Somehow, he won.
On the podium, the medal is heavy. Nathan, silver flashing on his chest, congratulates him. Shoma thanks him.
He knows Javi and Yuzu are still watching.
He leads the victory lap, laughing.