We Are ☆ Star Club!
The air was hot and stuffy, making it hard to breathe. But the weather wasn't the only reason I had trouble breathing, as I was running, trying to keep up with my classmates as sweat ran down my face.
"Go! Go! Go!"
I glared at Arisu, though I might just look miserable. It was easy for her to scream words of encouragement, as she didn't have to run yet. I was on my third lap and close to dying. Why do I have to participate in this? It's not like my grades would make me an ideal candidate for the sports festival. I guess I just wasn't fast enough to outrun the organizers.
If I had a breath left, I would have sighed. I blinked, seeing Maria appear next to Arisu, leaning against her with a slight smile on her face. She was done with her running, but didn't look like she even broke a sweat. Even her outfit looked cute, while mine probably just showed my need for a shower. I hate this.
I was so lost in my thoughts that I slowed down even more, earning me a shrill shriek from the coach's whistle.
"You just have to go forward! Faster, now!"
I huffed, but tried to focus on the last lap. This is hell. I've died somewhere on this track and didn't notice, and now, I'm running lap after lap in purgatory... I can feel the hellfire, even. It's too hot. It's just too hot.
I couldn't say if it was the heat or my own sweat that made my vision blur, but during the last few meters the air was as thick and blurry as looking around in saltwater. I desperately gasped for air, and finally stopped. Someone gave me a water bottle, which I downed in one big gulp. It didn't help with any of the things I was experiencing, though, and I gasped for air.
"...let her sit..."
Someone took me by the arm, and I all but folded against them. I didn't care anymore that I was sticky, disgusting, smelly. I just wanted to sleep. It was hot, too hot, and my throat was still dry as the desert. That someone gently lowered together with me, and I felt cool, thick grass under me. Suddenly, I lost all balance and blacked out.
When I blinked, Maria sighed with relief.
I didn't remember anything. The noise of the sports festival still blared, and people were cheering each other on. Thankfully. Maria had sat me down under the shade of a big tree, a bit away from it all.
"Here. Don't rush it."
She gave me a water bottle, and though I wanted to drink it all as fast as I could, I tried to control myself, taking sip after sip.
"So, what did I miss?" I asked her.
"Not much, really." She shook her head. "Ah! Arisu finished first in her group, though."
She should be exhausted, too, then. I looked around. Why wasn't she here? But before I could say that question out loud, Maria answered it already.
"She wanted to do more. I guess our coach was more than happy to let her participate in the other disciplines, as well."
"Then what are we doing here?"
I couldn't see Arisu, or any of the athletes, from here. Shakily, I got up.
"Let's watch her."
"Are you sure you're alright?"
Maria hesitated for a second, then nodded.
"Okay. Just take my hat, please."
From behind her, she pulled out a massive, but very cute sun hat, putting it on my head.
"You really shouldn't get any more sun."
I still wasn't feeling good, but thanks to her, I felt better. Together, we managed to get closer to the festival again, just in time to see Arisu attempt the high jump. She started running, gaining more speed than I could ever possibly achieve, before leaping high up in the air. It almost looked like she was flying, and she passed the bar with lots of room to spare. She landed with a grin and after sitting up, did a small bow towards the applause of the crowd.
"That was awesome," I yelled through the noise around me.
Arisu jumped, again and again, the judges scribbling down the heights furiously. That was when I remembered that maybe, with her extraterrestrial talents, she should keep it down.
"She's gonna get a lot of attention if she keeps this up," I whispered to Maria.
"Ah? What do you mean?"
Then it dawned on her.
We pushed forward towards the front of the crowd, desperately trying to get her attention. She saw us wave, and waved back. My mind raced.
"You're doing great! Just don't forget you're human!" I yelled at her.
Some people in the crowd gave me weird looks, and others shook their heads. They probably thought I was discouraging her. But I didn't care about that, at all. Already, I saw the judges whispering to each other, glaring at Arisu once in a while. Hopefully, she got the message. Maybe PURIRIN could display her the average height she should be able to achieve? Or were we long past that point?
She got ready for the next jump, but I could see doubt in her mind. I wish it was different, that the world could truly see how awesome she was - but that was probably a dangerous idea. She stood at the starting line again, waiting for the signal. My heart raced.
She started running, gaining speed - just as much as she had before - and her gaze was fixed on the bar before her.
Then, she fell forward, her head hitting the mattress.
Slowly she got up, rubbing her head.
Her face showed real pain.
"Arisu!" I yelled at her, but she didn't seem to hear me.
The crowd came closer, with Maria and me at the front. Had she hurt herself? She wasn't bleeding, but the way she held her head looked bad... I looked around. Wasn't someone going to help her with that?
"Ah, are you alright?" Maria asked her, lightly touching her arm.
She smiled, the expression was laced with pain. She tried to walk, but it seemed like it was too much. Instead, she was limping, but at least the ankle didn't seem swollen.
"You're out. Get that looked at and then rest," the coach said, flicking her pen.
Even though her words were harsh, there was a trace of worry in her voice. At once, Maria and supported Arisu, and brought her to the on-site medics. Thankfully, they weren't worried about the injury, and sent us away with a few bottles of water and ice packs to keep her ankle cool. Together, we hobbled back to the tree again, and plopped down in its shade. It was there that Arisu giggled.
"That was awesome," she said with a big grin.
She leaned back against the tree, and it seemed like the injury didn't even hurt anymore.
"Do you need more ice? Anything else?" I asked her, worry in my voice.
But the girl shook her head, and instead, put the ice pack on her forehead.
"It's all good. I'm sorry, I didn't want to worry you two." A small laugh escaped her. "I guess I wanted to impress you so bad that my mind wasn't focused at all."
"Aw, don't say that."
I patted her leg, and she didn't flinch. She seemed thoroughly relaxed, watching the festival from here. While we didn't have the best view, but could watch a bit and listen to the noise. As the day went on, the crowds thinned out, and we could see even better. We watched all of the remaining disciplines until the sky above us turned orange and the sun started to set, which was when the festival finally ended and a few volunteers started to clean everything up. The light breeze got cooler, and so, we stood up, ready to go home. Arisu had no problems standing up by herself, and even did a small jump to test out her legs. By now, her leg looked perfectly fine again. Maybe she had some self-healing powers? She stretched, before she turned to me.
"By the way, what did you try to say to me before my last jump?"
She yawned, and linked our arms together. I glanced at Maria, who looked surprised for a second, before she smiled.
"Hm? Oh, it was nothing," I answered.