The second day’s combined training was far from peaceful, as expected.
The members looked proud as Kinoshita gave out drinks in the break. Cute and lovely, she stood out sharply among the fierce-looking karate members.
The M Uni members looked jealous while our members were triumphant. Even though it was supposed to be practice, they were pointlessly riled up.
The members gulped down their drinks loudly, as if in a competition.
「Even if Kinoshita made a drink with cheap sports drink powder, it’d turn into the finest champagne in her hands!」
The drinks immediately ran out, and Kinoshita made more.
Being considerate, she made some for the M Uni students as well, and our members fell to the ground in grief. The M Uni members humbly sat straight, holding out their paper cups to Kinoshita.
They got that riled up over sports drinks.
「Ah, just what is this useless rivalry…」
「M Uni and K Uni are at the same level academically, so isn’t it normal for them to feel a little rivalry?」
M Uni’s karate club didn’t have a manager, but they had three female members. It seemed they’d only joined to learn self-defense, so they were amateurs when it came to actual karate. I taught them some forms, and we were practicing together.
「This happened before I joined the club so I don’t know if it’s true, but I think they were talking about their type of girl, and one of them said, ‘There’s no way you could get a girl like that,’ and the other went, ‘Look who’s talking!’ and it just got worse.」
「That’s so stupid…」 One of the girls – a first-year who’d just joined the club – showing her disapproval. I had the same reaction when I heard it for the first time.
At first I thought there had to be some other reason, but then I heard them talking:
「When you are old, you will still be girlfriend-less even in your deathbed!!」
「Hah, don’t make me laugh! You’re the one who’ll reach your 60th birthday, girlfriend-less, saying, ‘I’ll get a girl by the time I’m 70!’ Then in your last moments you’ll go, ‘I’ll get one in my next life…’ and flop down dead.」
It was honestly so stupid, it might actually have been the only reason behind their rivalry.
「Well whatever, I think they’re just messing around most of the time. But it’s just your captain and Arioka who are actually on bad terms.」
When they first met, Arioka was friendly to Katagiri, but Katagiri just gave him the bare minimum in return. He didn’t even give him the basic level of communication he gave the other members.
「They’re evenly matched in karate, aren’t they? Speaking of which, where is Arioka-san?」
「Arioka’s graduated, now he’s an actual working adult. He’ll visit on the day of our practice match.」
「Our captain’s now one of the university representatives.」
Arioka’s rival, M Uni’s captain Katagiri, actually had no problems when Arioka wasn’t around. He’d also scold the members who got too heated up.
Although Katagiri was silent, he was a calm and straightforward person with common sense. I wondered if Arioka had actually done something, and asked him about it once.
「I just wanted things to go well with him, but it just backfired,」 he’d said, vaguely and suspiciously. I decided he definitely had done something. But Arioka’s face turned unusually disturbed as he frowned, so I stopped probing further.
The next day, we hurriedly practiced and then quickly went to the beach after having lunch.
「Sagiri, it’s too shallow here and actually more dangerous, so how about we go a little further?」
As promised, Michel was teaching me how to swim.
The other members were cutting up watermelon on the shore. It was our club’s thing to just break watermelon apart with a single hand strike instead of using a rod.
Kinoshita said she wasn’t very good at swimming either so we invited her to learn along with me, but she refused since she was wearing contacts.
She had very fair skin, so it seemed she couldn’t tan very well.
The members put up a parasol for her since she’d get sunburned. I waved to them and to the members who were bringing drinks and ice for her, and went to the sea.
Michel held my hands, helping me practice floating.
Unfortunately, I failed.
I sank down, except for my hands. I looked rather like a windsock without any wind.
When I came back up, Michel tilted his head, 「Hmmm… It’s more difficult to sink than to float in seawater, so maybe you’re unconsciously nervous and straining yourself. 」
Michel told me to breathe in as much as I could and then hold my knees, and I did. Apparently this was a ‘daruma float’.
I dived underwater with a splash, slowly pulling my knees towards myself and holding them.
The end result was my perfect athletic stability at the bottom of the ocean.
I didn’t float. Even though my posture was perfect, I kept sinking.
Michel peered underwater, putting his hands on my sides and pulling me up. 「…..Aren’t you getting a little too riled up? Are you scared of the water, or have you had any bad experiences with water?」
「Now that you mention it, I do.」
Though it wasn’t bad enough to leave me with a phobia of water, I did almost drown in a pool when I was an elementary schooler.
I call it a pool, but it was actually one of the central attractions at a water park – a water slide. With its enclosed tube, it was incredibly thrilling since you couldn’t see the outside at all.
I loved roller coasters and was enjoying myself a lot, but for some reason – maybe my posture was bad – my body floated up halfway through the tube, and I turned round.
I ended up with my face to the ground.
When you’re face-down in a gigantic slide, getting back up is practically impossible. Water poured down on my face like a waterfall, and I couldn’t breathe.
Face down, I exited the slide struggling to breathe, shocking my dad who was at the entrance.
「That’s the only thing close to a near-drowning experience I’ve had, though.」 It wasn’t bad enough to be traumatic. I couldn’t recall any other experiences, so I guessed I was just incompatible with water.
「I’m glad you haven’t had any worse incidents or a phobia.」 Michel pushed aside his wet bangs from his forehead, smiling sweetly. The weather was good that day, the sun shining brightly. And Michel shone even brighter, undefeated by the sun.
「Sagiri, you should tie that string better.」
「Huh? Ah, the string, yeah.」 The simple butterfly knot on my swimsuit had gotten unfastened, and Michel frowned.
The swimsuit Chii-chan had chosen for me was a dotted bikini with a string that was tied behind my neck. I thought it was kind of embarrassing, but both Chii-chan and the assistant said it suited me, so I bought it. I liked it too, since it was dark blue and felt like camouflage in the sea.
Even if the string behind my neck got untied, the bikini was held together by a holder on my back so it wasn’t a problem. I halfheartedly tied the string back up. The butterfly ended up vertical, its left and right parts unbalanced, but I didn’t mind.
「That’s no good. I’ll fix it.」 Before I could make any response, Michel had turned me around, pulling the strings at my neck. 「I’ll make it a square knot.」
「Not a what?」 I couldn’t hear him properly thanks to the sound of the waves.
「A square knot. It’s a knot used in survival situations and outdoors.」
「Thanks for tying such a useful knot for me…」 I was getting worried that the string would come undone again.
I reached out to my neck, testing the square knot. It was tied firmly, and Michel had tied another firm butterfly knot after it.
It was the first time I’d heard of a square knot, but I could tell it was a firm, strong knot used in survival situations.
Even though he’d finished tying the knot, his hands stayed by my neck. When I turned around to see, giggling since it felt ticklish, I met Michel’s surprisingly serious eyes.
「Sagiri. Um, I…」
「Noda!」 someone called out, interrupting Michel’s voice. At the sound of an unfamiliar voice calling my name, I instinctively turned to see who it was.
「So this is where you’ve been. I was searching for you.」 Behind Michel stood M Uni’s captain, Katagiri, looking slightly displeased as he watched us. Expressionless, taciturn Katagiri only talked when it was absolutely necessary.
The fact that he’d been searching for me had to mean there was something important to do. I and clueless Michel exchanged glances.