Imani the tiger!” A massive cheer erupted from the crowd as the tiger plopped herself over the edge of the pool, gasping for breath.
Yena sighed as she dropped down to her seat. Usually, a friend not winning isn't that big of a deal to her, since her sport-minded friends would simply use that loss as a motivation to work harder and do better next time. But in this case, this friend was different. “She will think that she has failed us. She wanted so hard to win for us today. Poor Miyubi, she was training so much for today.”
Yena decided that she might as well comfort the sloth and leaped off the benches to the pool area. As she did, she looked around to find her in the crowd of other animals that had come down to congratulate their teammates. Yena spotted Miyubi, but despite all their friends had left to find Jin and Ranka, she was not alone. Nor was she upset as Yena had expected. In fact, she was actually smiling as she shook the hands of the tiger that she had just raced against.
Miyubi saw Yena and smiled as the hyena approached, a little bit confused at what she was seeing. “Yena! I am….so glad you…. came. Imani here…...taught me how…...to swim better…..when I….was a kid!” Imani smiled a bit embarrassingly as Miyubi praised her. “You were already pretty decent, I only taught you how to be better back then.” She explained humbly.
“Ah, and you must be Yena!” Imani said, eagerly shaking Yena’s hand. “Miyubi has told me so much about you and how you helped her out yesterday. Good thinking with the narrow vision goggles, I never would have thought of that!” Imani was interrupted when the rest of her group came along and swept her away, to celebrate her victory. “Good job today Miyuibi! Talk to you later!” She faintly cried out as the crowd made a mad dash to the tent they had set up.
Yena turned to look at Miyubi, who was still smiling as she returned the wave for her friend. “Well, it looks like my googles did work pretty well since you got second place,” Yena said awkwardly, trying to find the right words to say. She had expected her to be more let down after her defeat, but there was no sign of sadness on the sloth’s face.
Miyubi turned to reply, but Yena smelled something. A faint iron smell, with a hint of sweetness to it. It smelled like blood, not surprising given that hyenas have an excellent sense of smell to track down their food. In fact, it smelled a bit like it came from a person like it came from…… “Jin!” Yena cried out, grabbing Miyubi's hand as she started sprinting across the campus.
“I was going to dry myself off with a towel, but this also works.” Miyubi thought as she flew behind Yena. With the pair’s hands together, she almost resembled a kite that the hyena was trying to get as high as possible. “This is not a bad way to go.” She thought as she died yet again, due to the stress of being dragged along.
Yena turned around a corner and saw Hitomi with the rest of the group, sprinting to the same general direction that her nose was leading her. “I know where Jin is!” Hitomi yelled out as Yena caught up with the group. “One of the wolves told us that they are this way and to be careful, he is getting the first responders that are nearby!”
“They are apparently there.” She continued, short of breath as she pointed to the shack. MeiMei had taken the opportunity to sprint as fast as she could, hoping that she would be able to catch Ranka caring for Jin. For once, her hopes were realized, as she had blurted out that what Jin meant was that he also liked Ranka.
The others were within earshot when she said this, and all gathered at the door frame as Jin passed out. Barely a second had passed before the first responders appeared, forcing their way into to help Jin. It was then that Yena realized that Miyubi had died once again.
Despite it being a regular occurrence, she felt a twinge of guilt for it happening again. She placed the sloth on her back and began to walk with the others to the hospital.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Meimei continued to rant about Rana and Jin as Yena and Hitomi dragged the love crazed Panda out of the hospital room. They couldn't blame her since this was a ship that she had been obsessed with for years and it had finally come true. “I knew it, they were kissing! I knew that Jin only acted like he hated us; he really is a softie!” As Hitomi managed to calm down MeiMei a little bit, Yena turned her attention to a more mellow animal.
Miyubi had finally woken up after sleeping off her death once again, yawning a little bit and stretching. Sitting up on the coach that Yena had laid her down, she looked around and saw the rest of the club gathered around the door to Jin’s room. Yena noticed her awakening and rushed over. “Miyubi, are you okay? I know dying is no big deal, but you just swam for so long that I thought you would be more dead!” This was only the start of a long panicky rant from Yena, as, try as she might deny, came from someone that cared about her and was worried.
Miyubi wanted to thank her for caring, but didn't want to interrupt, she was enjoying seeing Yena talking passionately. After Yena finally grew tired of speaking, she stopped and caught her breath. Miyubi walked over and hugged her before she could start speaking again, Yena’s face turning a bright red.
“Thank you, for….all this help,” Miyubi spoke softly, turning Yena’s face even redder. “I was worried about…...disappointing all of you.” She continued, looking at the others as she continued to hug Yena. “But after the…..practice yesterday…..I knew that….as long as I try...my best, you would…..be happy, no….matter what happened.”
“Miyubi,” Kurumi said, walking over to the pair. “We would never be disappointed in you even if you got last place! You always tried your best and had fun, we couldn't ask more from you.” She then embraced the pair in a group hug. The others followed suit, all coming together to hug the now even more oxygen-deprived hyena.
“Can’t…..breath.” She thought before she realized she was being hugged by Hitomi along with the others. “Nevermind, I can still breath for a bit.” She strangely changed her mind for no obvious reason.
“Hey, maybe you should talk to Ranka as well!” MeiMei pipped up. “She will be so happy to hear how you did! Let’s get back in there!” She immediately made a run for it and tried to break into Jin’s room, barely being held back by everyone else. Yena finally breathed, free from the restraints of the many arms that had hugged the pair.
Miyubi smiled and gently placed her hand on Yena’s shoulder. “I think that’s a good idea from MeiMei,...... but I can’t talk about how good I did ……..without you being there, …...it would not be very fair.” Yena returned the smile, glad that Miyubi was happy after her race. “Well, if you insist. After all, I cannot say no to a woman’s request!”
“But you are…. also one.”
“Ah...”. Yena wanted to say no and insist on her manhood, but for once, she decided to drop the matter. “Regardless, I’ll come along. And when we are done, we will start making plans for next year on how you will race for first place! You will also train on focusing without the googles.”
“Yena,” Miyubi spoke, gently squeezing her hand that was on Yena’s shoulder. “I’m happy with whatever ……. plans you make, but only one…….. thing cannot change.”
“Hmmm?” Yena asked, slightly confused.
“You must be my coach for the swimming sessions, if you can that is.” Miyubi rapidly stated her request, a little nervous blush coming across her cheeks. “The others are also good at teaching, but when I was being coached, I felt like no matter what I did, even when I felt tired and felt like giving up, I would always find the energy to keep on working. So, will you please make me your student for swimming?” She gasped, the effort it took to speak at normal speed threatened to make her die once again.
Yena had the biggest grin on her face that she had ever felt in years. “Of course!” She exclaimed enthusiastically. “We will be training every day for hours at a time and swimming like our lives depend on it!”
“If we did that kind….. of training, I wouldn't have….. any more life to depend on.” Miyubi reminded Yena of her condition. “Ah, right. No point in dying at practice!” Yena replied, still smiling. “But you will be working hard for first place, that I can guarantee for my student!”
“Understood. I’m ready Yena!” Miyubi responded, determination and happiness beaming from her face. “I will not ……let you down.”
Yena laughed. “As long as you try, you will never let any of us down. Ever.” Yena’s stomach growled, rudely interrupting the pair. “Ah, you must be hungry after the race! Let's go down to the stands and get us something to eat, you can't build muscle without eating.” The pair continued to chat as they walked down the hallway towards the stands, the day feeling a lot lighter. The sun shined brightly upon the pair as they exited the hospital and into a new future, one where both will find unexpected happiness in themselves, each other, and the other members of the Seton University cooking club.