Team Samezuka and Team Iwatobi had split up after everyone decided that the buddy system would be more fun than moving together as a massive school group. School groups, as they had heard, were great for business but a nightmare for regular visitors at any amusement park. They would be in Florida for a week, and while it was probably a bad idea to take a vacation near the end of the school year, it was worth it since both teams did make it to Nationals. They deserved a reward.
Originally, Team Samezuka was going to stay together and all go to one of the water parks. Naturally the swimmers heard that there were more than just the one Disney water park in Orlando, including Blizzard Beach which attracted Momotarou and Nitori. Rin had suggested they go to Typhoon Lagoon first, but obviously, that didn’t happen.
“There’s no use in being upset about it,” Sousuke told his best friend on the bus.
“I’m not upset! I just thought it be good team building to spend the day together!” Rin snapped.
“When did you get so sentimental?”
It was their final year in high school, and Rin realized at some point that he hadn’t been exactly the nicest guy to his worshippers last year. He was hoping that he could at least spend the rest of his time with Nitori and Momotarou before moving to Australia for university and Olympic training. And considering that Sousuke was most likely going to stay local—the idea that a dream team was breaking up would make anyone sentimental.
The bus pulled up to the island-themed water park only moments before the gates opened, and Rin and Sousuke bought their tickets. Unfortunately, there was one charge for all tickets, but since they didn’t know when they would be back to visit the park again, it didn’t really matter. Looking around at the visitors, though, made them feel somewhat uncomfortable. There were mostly kids.
“It’s…It’s a kids’ water park…” Rin choked.
“It’s Disney,” Sousuke emphasized. “What were you expecting?”
“I expected to see at least teenagers!”
“You’re kind of being melodramatic, but anyway, let’s just go set our stuff in a locker and get started.”
After having done that and Sousuke taking off his shoulder brace, Rin and Sousuke looked around the rental area for a map. The nearest map had been exposed to everything the Florida weather entailed, so trying to establish a route was futile.
“Are you going to be okay with your shoulder?” Rin asked suddenly.
“It’s not like we’re swimming any heats here. If it starts acting up, we can just relax in the lazy river here.” Sousuke squinted at the map and pointed to where they were. He traced it to the nearest attraction being the Crush ‘n’ Gusher. “It’s pretty close, so let’s go here first.”
The Crush ‘n’ Gusher was a trio of tube slides named after different fruits. It was built to emulate a roller coaster, and it did a good job at it. When Rin and Sousuke arrived at the pool that it emptied into and the sectioned off beach-like wading pool, both were struck with a sense of adventure. They got in line to grab a raft, which looked like it would need to people to carry it. Fearing that the raft—while not necessarily heavy—would put a strain on Sousuke’s shoulder as they climbed the stairs to the top, Rin volunteered to take it.
“Are you sure? I can carry it,” Sousuke told him.
“It’s fine. The last thing we need is for the lifeguards to tell you that you can’t go on it because you’re technically injured,” Rin smiled at him.
“When you put it like that, it sounds like I’m not even supposed to be here…which I’m not, but—”
“It’s fine. You’ll be fine.”
Once they had reached the top of the slide on the Banana Blaster side, they allowed the lifeguard to position the raft before sitting in it. Rin sat in the front since he was a few inches shorter than Sousuke as well as being about eleven pounds lighter than him. Well, the lifeguard couldn’t tell their weights, but she was taken aback by their muscles. She pressed the button, sending them on their way down the slide.
The slide itself wound up and down and there were a couple of turns, but there wasn’t anything too drastic. In a way it was perfect for Sousuke. As they drifted to the raft pick up, Rin and Sousuke decided to go on another one of the Gusher slides. This time was the Pineapple Plunger.
“The slides might be different,” the dark-haired man said.
“Let’s try it,” Rin replied. They got to the end of the line and waited to pick up another raft. Rin carried it again, and Sousuke took one of the handles to offer a little help. They got into the line for the Pineapple Plunger, and the lifeguard who had helped them earlier was somewhat delighted to see them again. The preparation process was the same, and Rin and Sousuke were shipped out into the second slide. This one felt shorter and less intense; after they hit the bottom they had to agree it felt softer.
The two swimmers located a map for their next destination. Rin pointed at the Storm Slides and said, “Let’s do a body slide. But damn, it’s a pretty far walk.”
Sousuke became somewhat apprehensive. Raft rides were fine since they offered some cushion for his shoulder, but body slides meant that his shoulder would be right on the attraction, and any bump in the slide could spell out a massive surge of pain. If the lifeguards noticed that, they would probably advise him to go home. But then there was the usual stuff with body slides—water rushing up the nose and swimsuits being ripped through their bodies.
“Do we have to do a body slide?” he asked followed by a hard gulp.
“God, don’t tell me you’re scared.”
“I’m not scared. My shoulder?”
“You’ll be fine!”
“But it’s a slide, not a raft ride!”
“You’ll be fine!” Rin pushed Sousuke in the direction of the body slide. “Just give it a try! You might like it.”
“Okay, fine. But here’s an idea, why don’t we ride the river there?”
It was true that Typhoon Lagoon’s lazy river, Castaway Creek, circled the entire park. Using it as a mode of transportation would save their feet. Rin was on board for the idea, and so the two of them looked for the nearest entrance.
Typhoon Lagoon’s Castaway Creek was a tad warmer than Blizzard Beach’s river, which helped soothe any part of them that was already tensing up from the two runs on Crush ‘n’ Gusher. There was an abundance of tubes, and considering the depth was only about two-and-a-half feet, it was worth more to ride on them instead of even attempting to walk through it or crawl. Eventually Rin got tired of sitting in a tube as they drifted. He fell into the water, latching onto Sousuke’s tube to push him along.
Soon they banked near the exit that was closest to the Storm Slides. It was another multi-person ride in that three people slid down it at a time. Rin and Sousuke had taken two of the slides, and a single rider was tacked onto the end. Each slide had a different track, so to speak. Sousuke sat on the edge of his, becoming more and more worried about his shoulder. The lifeguard instructed him to cross his long legs and his arms over his chest. Rin told him from the adjacent slide to clamp his nose shut at the same time. Contrary to what Rin thought, Sousuke couldn’t do that, and switching his arms around would be just as uncomfortable.
The lifeguards pushed them down, and within seconds both swimmers were heading down into the pool that waited for them at the end of the slide. Just as Sousuke had predicted, his swimsuit was pulled up into his butt and water had surged into his respiratory tract. At least his shoulder was fine.
“How was it? Did your shoulder get hurt?” Rin nonchalantly asked.
“No, but my face hurts. Can we not do that one again?” Sousuke muffled.
“Ugh, you’re no fun; then again, you were always kind of a stick in the mud.” The red-haired swimmer let out a chuckle.
As Sousuke discreetly pulled his swimsuit out of him, he mentioned the three different “Falls” at the park. They were Mayday Falls, Keelhaul Falls, and Gangplank Falls. They looked at the names; all of them sounded rough, and with the maps around the park so faded, it was hard to tell what kind of rides they were. At least they could tell they were raft rides.
They went to Mayday Falls first. Being the longest single-rider tubing ride in the park, Rin and Sousuke were a little disappointed that they would have to go down at separate times. Rin went first to act as Sousuke’s injury reporter even though he knew would be fine. Sousuke went after him.
The ride was enjoyable; after riding on the Crush ‘n’ Gusher, both of them wanted something more intense to compensate. Mayday Falls fit the bill for what it was, but the ride still felt short. After Mayday Falls was Keelhaul Falls, and once again they had to go it alone. Keelhaul Falls, as the map had said at some point in time said that this was more of a scenic ride rather than a bump and rumble one. Had they have known, they wouldn’t have expected to be thrown around. Still, they couldn’t complain about the scenery.
The final Falls ride was the Gangplank Falls, and Sousuke was a little more comfortable. Riding alone wasn’t bad if you weren’t handicapped, but since he was becoming more and more afraid that his shoulder was going to become a problem, he felt more comfortable with his best friend, even if the latter didn’t think it was a big deal. This ride, however, gave the opportunity that four people could be in a raft. Rin personally wasn’t interested in riding with strangers, and it worked out since the lifeguards tended not to mix parties on the ride unless there was a single rider. And just like all group rides, this one was way more fun than riding alone; it even felt somewhat longer, but that was probably because the track had to be when considering that the raft would be holding more than a maximum of 200 pounds.
It was early afternoon when the shark and whale shark had finished riding every ride that they could do without so much as a whine from the taller of the two. “Oh, my God, they have a shark reef! Sousuke, we have to go!” Rin excitedly said.
“As much as I love sharks…I don’t think I can do it with my shoulder.”
“It’s fine! They stay towards the bottom! I can’t believe you’re scared of them!”
“I’m not scared!”
“Okay, so we’ll do it! Let’s grab something to eat then head over there.”
Sousuke wasn’t thrilled that Rin was making him go swimming with sharks. If he didn’t have a damaged shoulder, he would have been more enthusiastic. Rin bought a platter of chicken tenders and fries for them to share. He noticed that Sousuke had a grim expression, making him feel bad about forcing him to go into the shark tank.
“I think you’ll be fine, really. Try to focus it more on being a cool experience,” Rin told him. He wanted him to feel better about it. “How many water parks give you the opportunity to swim with them, right?” Sousuke still looked somber. “We can ask whoever is running it about how it works. Let’s just hurry up and finish eating and head over there.”
After lunch was finished, the two of them took Castaway Creek to the other side of the park where the Shark Reef attraction was. Rin asked the supervisor of the attraction about it, and she told them:
“You just float across. The fish and sharks stay closer to the bottom, so they won’t bother you. I would recommend that you try to kick as a little as possible and pull yourself across with just your arms. It’s not a very long swim, either; you’ll be on the other side before you know it!”
Rin looked back at Sousuke. “See? Even the employee here says it’s okay.”
“Yeah, we get a lot of people who get nervous, but it’s perfectly safe!”
“Um, what if you have a shoulder injury?” Sousuke asked her in the best English he could muster.
“Oh,” the employee said. “Well, like I said, you’ll just float across. If you require assistance mid-swim, we have lifeguards prepared to help you.” She offered him a reassuring smile.
“Fine,” Sousuke told Rin. “I’ll do it, but don’t let go of me.”
Rin and Sousuke got in line for Shark Reef, picking up a pair of goggles with a snorkeling tube attached and life-jackets to keep them afloat in the water. Despite being Japanese, they opted for the larger sizes since swimming and regular exercise had made their chest cavities too large for the smaller vests. As they stood in line, Sousuke watched as a plethora of people chatted nervously about swimming with the sharks; one child was crying and demanding his father to tell him why he had to do it.
“It’ll be fun, my boy!” his father replied in every effort to calm him down.
“Ignore it, Sousuke,” Rin ordered. “Don’t you want to tell Ai and Mikoshiba-kun about this? You’ll be their idol for the night!”
It was finally their turn. The lifeguard told them to make sure that their goggles were secure and that the life-jackets were snug on them. He warned them that it would be a little cold since the fish needed it to be a specific temperature for their survival. Rin and Sousuke stood on the ledge that was about four-and-a-half feet below the surface. On the other lifeguard’s mark, they lay forward on the surface of the water, but Sousuke shot back up after feeling how cold the water was and getting a surge of pain in his shoulder. He knew that if he showed there was any pain, they would tell him not to do it. Behind them a woman was terrified of getting in the water with her glasses on.
“Are you okay?” Rin asked her in English.
“The lifeguard said I can’t wear my glasses in the water, but…I can’t put them anywhere. I don’t want to lose them,” she worriedly said.
“I can hold them for you. We can meet at the other side.”
The woman agreed and thanked the red-haired swimmer. Rin forced Sousuke to go, whose shoulder hurt again with the cold water. He held onto Rin’s hand so he didn’t sink from the pain or cold or from the slight panic attack he was having. Rin, on the other hand, had his arm in the air with the woman’s glasses, and his other hand was occupied by Sousuke. He blankly just floated along as Sousuke frantically pulled him across. He couldn’t tell anymore if Sousuke was actually scared or if it was his shoulder that made him nervous.
When they reached the other side, Sousuke ran out of the water, stripped off the gear, showered, and stood off to the side. Rin was still waiting for the woman to return her glasses.
“Do you think she backed out?” Sousuke asked him.
“I don’t know…all I remember is that she was wearing a blue swimsuit.”
After Rin had returned his jacket and goggles, he asked if it was okay with his friend to hang around until they could find the woman. Ten minutes had past, and the park would be closing soon. Where was this woman?
“There you are!” her voice called out. “I thought you guys had left!”
“No, we were looking for you, too,” Rin replied. He handed her back her glasses, and the woman introduced herself as Lauren. They exchanged a little info with her since they thought it would be rude to just walk away. They wished her a fine rest of the day then headed back to Castaway Creek.
They floated along the river wondering what do to in the final hour of the park. They had gone on every interesting ride, but Crush ‘n’ Gusher still seemed like the best ride. They could always go on it again, and there wasn’t ever a really long line. The decision was unanimous, and they went to try out the Coconut Crusher slide in this attraction. It felt like this slide was the weakest, but it was also the only one that did single rider. When they reached the bottom, one of the lifeguards called out to them:
“Hurry! You’ve got plenty of time to do each slide 2 more times and then one slide as a single! Let’s go! Move, move, move!”
It was actually the first time they had seen any sort of enthusiasm from the lifeguards, and they took him up on the offer. But each time they rode, Rin got more and more tired of carrying the raft up the stairs. Sousuke carried it once, but his shoulder—reaching its limit for the day—prevented him from carrying it up again.
After riding the Crush ‘n’ Gusher a total of ten times, Rin and Sousuke went back to the lockers to get their stuff and wait for the bus. They bought a couple of small souvenirs, and on the ride back to the All-Star Sports Resort. It wasn’t a long ride back, and both had taken showers within the hour they returned. They turned on the television while munching on snacks. They silently waited together for the other members of Team Samezuka to return so they could arrange a time to eat dinner with the Iwatobi crew.