“And the winner of the 100-meter butterfly is Miyubi!” The announcer cried out as the whistle shrieked, signaling the conclusion of the final race of the swim meet. Miyubi plopped herself over the edge of the pool, gasping for breath. “This would have killed me last year.” She thought to herself as she closed her eyes, resting her body after an intense swim.
After years of training, she had slowly gotten herself to the point where death was not certainly for every workout session. In fact, it had become rarer, allowing her to train even harder than before and making her proud with how much she had improved over time. And as Miyubi slowly climbed out of the pool, the reason for her great improvement bounded from the stands with a towel and shake for her.
“Are you alright? Are you dead? Please say something if you’re not dead. Or say something if you did die. Miyubi?” Yena spoke rapidly, worried about the condition of the sloth, even though she had died countless times in the past. While a bit tiresome to the others, Miyubi strangely did not mind her doting after each swim meet.
“I’m okay, just….a bit tired.” Miyubi replied faintly, smiling as she stood up and dried herself off with the towel Yena brought for her. Even in the warm spring days, the air still had some of its chilly moments, making her wrap the towel around herself tightly to stay warm. She suddenly leaned a bit on Yena, catching the hyena by surprise. “A-are you okay?” Yena stammered, embarrassed that Miyubi was so close to her.
The sloth smiled and gently nodded her head, rubbing slightly against the hyena’s side. “I am ok. Just….trying to stay warm.” She stopped and looked up into Yena’s face, her wide eyes gazing upon her friend. “Is it bothering….you?”
“A-no, not at all!” Yena replied, slightly flustered. The truth was that she did not mind these moments after Miyubi’s practice, but lately, she has been asking her all the time if she was bothering or otherwise being troublesome. “I told her many times that this is fine, but she keeps asking me if it’s okay. Why?” Yena thought as the pair wandered over to the gym.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
The swim team had rented one of the large rooms in the gymnasium for their post-meet celebration. While most of the food there was meat, since many of the swimmers were carnivorous, there was a nice selection of herbivore friendly options. And of course, being a college, some of the students brought along something for the party that all can enjoy.
“Who wants a can? You want 2? Here, take 3, you earned them today!” One of the students cheerfully exclaimed as he and a few other friends handed out beer to the other swimmers. While most of the others went and grabbed a few for themselves, Yena was content sipping her protein shake and relaxing. “Had it, not my kind of thing. Too bitter.” She said after Miyubi asked why she didn’t want to take a beer for herself. “I prefer sweet things like ya!” She laughed, nudging her a bit in the side. Miyubi’s face blushed a bright red as Yena sipped her drink.
“I want to say it, but I can’t.” Miyubi thought, desperately trying to sum up her courage. “If I don’t say it now, I will never know how she feels. I may never see her again after we graduate.” But try as she might, the meek sloth could not bring the words to her mouth.
“It also makes you say embarrassing things that you would normally not say, so I try to avoid that stuff.” Yena continued as they observed their teammates laughing and drinking. “You have embarrassing stuff you don’t want to say?” Miyubi asked curiously. “Like what?”
Yena laughed. “I’m not drunk so I can’t say it. Besides, there are a lot of guys around, so I won’t want to make it even more awkward.” She finished off her shake and left to wash it up. Miyubi sat alone, thinking about what could Yena possibly could say that would be embarrassing to her. “Probably a confession.” She thought sadly, looking at some of the male swimmers that Yena had gestured a moment ago. “Despite appearances, she is a girl, so of course she would go for them.”
Her teammate Kenna noticed Miyubi and bounded over to her. “Congrats on your races, you have gotten so much better since last year!” She said, offering her a can. Miyubi was about to say no, but in her mind, a small voice in her head stopped the sloth. “Take it, it can make you say anything you want without thinking about it. Anything at all.”
“Thanks, Kenna!” Miyubi said quietly, taking the can offered to her. Slightly cold to the touch, she gingerly lifted the beverage up and looked at it. She had heard about this drink but never drank anything stronger than decaf tea. Coffee was right out, as the caffeine would probably kill her.
Cracking it open, she took a deep breath and a light sip. Her face contorted, the bitter taste hitting her brain in an instant. “Not good. Not the worst thing, but not very good.” She persisted and continued to drink the can, determined to confess no matter what.
A few moments later, Yena finally returned. “Hey Miyubi, sorry for the long wai…”. She stopped momentarily as Miyubi slept in the seat, the empty can in her lap. The sloth snored gently, bringing relief to Yena. “OK, so she is not dead. But why is she sleeping?”
She went over to Miyubi and picked up the can, palming it and discovering it was empty. “Oh, she was probably curious after we talked about it and drank some.” Yena looked around as she noticed that some of the other swimmers were getting a bit too rowdy, fueled by more than a single can. “Probably should leave.” She thought as she dodged one of the wolves being thrown around, having volunteered to be used as a life-sized lawn dart.
She picked up her jacket from the seat, ready to leave the party before she would become involved. She looked down upon Miyubi’s sleeping face as she continued to snore. Her mouth slightly curled up into a smile, dreaming about things only sloths would find interesting. Yena smiled and gently patted the moss hat on her head. “Well I can’t leave you alone here, let’s go back home,” Yena said, and picked up the sloth, carrying on her back.