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Tree ([personal profile] sunnyskies) wrote2013-08-21 09:33 am

High Speed! Chapter Five

Hey, everyone! I would have had this up sooner, but then sleeping....happened, and it got delayed a little. ^^; But hey, at least I made it before the new episode! (I think?)

I hope you all enjoy it.



Chapter 5: Stroke

The water's surface rippled with a small splash. A stroke, a kick. The rings spread out, and after them, Nagisa's head rose to the surface. He relaxedly pushed his way through the water, made the turn, and came back. His style of swimming was a bit different than it had been on the day of the time trials.

Rin was on the starting block, watching Nagisa swim with a sense of unease. Nagisa touched the wall with both hands and raised his face from the water. Rin, who should have jumped in over Nagisa's head already, was still standing on the starting block.

"What's the matter, Rin-chan?" Nagisa asked, between ragged breaths.

"Were you swimming at full speed just now?"

"Yeah." Nagisa was peering earnestly through his goggles at Rin, his eyes big and round. There were no worries, doubts, or untruths to be found in those eyes. Even so, Rin tried to peer into their depths, but he quickly realized that there was no need to do so, and looked away. Nagisa's eyes weren't the slightest bit murky; they were as clear as anything. So much so that Rin could tell even through the goggles.

Nagisa wouldn't try to hide what he was thinking. And anyway, Nagisa wasn't the type to feel ashamed in front of people. He was able to believe things earnestly, and so his expressions were earnest. That was how Nagisa was. For Rin, that was the most difficult personality type to deal with. If Nagisa had been the deceitful, evasive type, his heart would have been vulnerable due to the things he was hiding. Even Rin himself had weaknesses in his heart from where he was hiding the truth.

But Nagisa had no such weaknesses.

"Hasn't your swimming style changed since the day of the time trial?"

"It's still the same."

It looked like the person in question hadn't realized it himself yet. Is this what is meant by 'often, people don't understand themselves'? Perhaps things like assumptions and ideals get in the way, and it can be hard to see clearly.

"Your time's slipping."

"Really?" Nagisa pulled off his goggles and peered up at Rin from below, right into his eyes, and then deeper into them. Rin stood up, fleeing from Nagisa's gaze.

"You were faster before."

That race wasn't a fluke. This was Rin's fervent hope. Once someone improved their time, it didn't just slip like that. Especially for kids in their growth spurts, like they were. It wasn't just the body or muscle strength that grew; things like technical skill and strength of heart were included in growth spurts, too.

"That's weird, I wonder why? I really haven't changed the way I'm swimming."

"Hey, during the race, were you watching your opponent?"

"Yeah, I definitely was."

"Well, that's it, then. You were probably feeling like you had to swim faster than your opponent. Without realizing it, feeling like that made you go faster, Nagisa."

"Feelings can make you swim faster?"

"Yeah, they can." Strength of feeling can make people grow. Sometimes it can even change them so dramatically that it could be called an evolution. That was the reason that Nagisa had shown swimming skills that surpassed his normal strength during the time trial. Raising Nagisa's skills to the level of a limit he had already passed once shouldn't be that difficult. That was the special privilege of those in their growth spurts.

"Want to try swimming with me?"

"With you, Rin-chan? I think I'll lose, but…"

"I'll go easy on you." But he wasn't going to swim at the pace Nagisa had been going. "If you pass me, you'll be beating your old record, right?"

"Yeah!"

The two of them lined up on the starting blocks, their breaths matching rhythm. Then Rin quietly said, "Let's go. Ready, start!"

They landed about the same distance out on the water, rings spreading around them. A stroke, a kick. Nagisa's head broke the water just slightly after Rin's. Nagisa was slowing down after all. Closing the gap left over from their starts was no easy thing. In Nagisa's case, there was a problem with his angle of entry. To put it another way, if he could correct that, his time would improve again. But that wouldn't be easy, either.

Rin could feel Nagisa's fingertips break the surface of the water. They felt like they were about level with Rin's hips. The gap between them didn't grow or shrink when they made the twenty-five meter turn. With fifteen meters remaining, Rin could feel Nagisa's fingers reaching forward. The gap didn't close. Just as Rin was wondering whether it had been his imagination, Nagisa's arms suddenly stretched out. It hadn't been Rin's imagination, or Nagisa's fingertips, but Nagisa's whole arm that had been reaching forward. He was rushing on with great force, as if to stab through Rin's shoulders. Suddenly, something was running after Rin's back.

During the time trials, the swimmer who had nearly overtaken Nagisa had been thrown out of rhythm somehow, and now Rin finally understood why.

Every stroke closed the gap. Nagisa's arms were taking Rin's chin, stealing the space before his eyes. With five meters left, Nagisa was neck-and-neck with Rin. In Rin's eyes, Nagisa wasn't Nagisa anymore; he couldn't see him as anything but an unknown quantity.

He's passing me! The moment he thought that, Rin put his power into his shoulders. With just a scant head-length of distance between them, Rin reached the goal and climbed straight up onto the poolside. He was so out of breath that he could barely believe that he had only swum fifty meters.

Rin hadn't been lying when he said he'd hold back. He was confident that he'd been within half a second of Nagisa's best time. So why had he pushed himself at the end? The short answer was "fear".

It wasn't that Rin's fighting instincts had been roused, or that he'd become serious. It was that Rin had been afraid of Nagisa, who was gaining on him, and so he had run. And because he couldn't even stand to be in the same water as Nagisa, he had jumped out of the pool.

Nagisa looked up at Rin, who was lingering and dripping on the poolside. "What's wrong, Rin-chan?"

Rin couldn't look Nagisa in the face. Why was I afraid of someone like Nagisa? he tried to ask himself, but no answer came. If their eyes met, Rin would once again feel like Nagisa was peering through his heart, so he spoke with his face still turned to the side. "See? you can do it if you try."

"I can't do it! I didn't catch up, did I?"

No, you did catch up. Nagisa had definitely caught up to his personal best. Rin had been forced to run. "Your reach is--" Rin's voice was strained as he spoke up.

"Yeah?"

It was Nagisa's usual voice. Rin's teammate, the little-brother type Nagisa. He certainly wasn't any kind of "unknown quantity." Rin breathed out the tense feeling he'd been holding in his chest, and was finally able to look at Nagisa. "Your reach is getting longer."

"Mine is?" Nagisa asked, looking at his right arm.

"Yeah. During the second half, you were gaining on me. That's when your reach was getting longer."

"Really? I couldn't tell at all, though…"

"Hey, while you were swimming, what were you thinking about?"

"About catching up completely, and nothing else," Nagisa answered readily. Did he not think about his form or his rhythm at all?

Each person had their own form and rhythm that suited them. It wasn't an easy thing to discover; someone might think they had found it and be wrong, or pass right by it without knowing. Rin was still in the process of searching for his through repeated trial and error. That was why he was always thinking while he swam; he never swam recklessly. He hadn't thought that just swimming with all his might would help his times.

But Rin had also known that concentrating with all your might could, from time to time, miraculously bring out your best form. In other words, concentration could be called strength of feeling. It was true that Rin had told Nagisa that feelings could make you swim faster, but he hadn't thought it would be shown this clearly.

"Hey, the way you swam just now, do you think you could do it again?"

"Um, I'm not really sure…"

It was an expected answer, since Nagisa had been swimming without much consideration. It looked like Nagisa was the type who memorized things with his muscles.

"Want to try swimming with me again?"

"Sure." Nagisa climbed up onto the poolside. How could he give that kind of chase with that tiny, delicate body? Maybe there was a hint to Rin's sought-after best form there. Thinking about this and that, Rin climbed up onto the starting block.

"Let's go!" One breath. "Ready, start!" Rin's and Nagisa's legs danced in midair and their bodies were pulled in by the water.

The goal Rin was aiming for was fifty meters away - or was it farther? Without knowing exactly where he was going, for now, he just kept repeating his stroke. Stronger, faster, thinking about nothing else.



Swimmers who were competing in the same events had been split into groups, and the various groups were each doing their own practice. This was so that, with the meet so close, each group could focus on the events they specialized in. Usually, at this point Makoto would be in the breaststroke group, but this time he was in the backstroke group.

Since Haruka specialized in freestyle, Rin in butterfly, and Nagisa in breaststroke, inevitably, Makoto had to become the backstroke swimmer.

It wasn't as if Makoto had never swum backstroke before, or even as if he was bad at it. But he had never swum it at a meet before. Because of this, he had never been timed, so in a way, you could say it was an event he had never properly swum before. This was because he had never tried the s-curve pull.

Up until now, Makoto had always swum with the standard straight pull. This meant stretching your arms straight out like a ship's oars, but with that style, there was too much loss, and you couldn't get much speed. With a ship's oars, you could compensate by pulling both the left and right oars at the same time, but because you had to alternate arms in backstroke, if you tried to pull too hard without moving straight forward, you would end up wiggling like a goldfish. Because of this, in order to distribute your power evenly between the start of your stroke and the finish, you couldn't put all your strength into it.

On the other hand, the movement of the s-curve pull had no waste in it, and in theory it was faster than a straight pull, but because the motion was complex, if you weren't used to it, you could end up struggling with water resistance.

Makoto gripped the wall hard with both hands, and from his stance with both legs braced against the wall, he drew his body in tightly for a moment, then kicked off at an upward angle. His body only hung in the air for a moment, and then the world around him turned to water. He made his landing in the water, and began to flutter kick. While rising to the surface, he started his stroke. And then, the s-curve pull.

Ah, he thought. That's it, he thought. It was different. It was different from how he usually felt. Usually, when he jumped into the pool, he felt as though he was being roughly licked by the evil something, and his body locked up, but now he didn't feel like that at all. He could still feel the licking sensation, but his body didn't freeze up.

His arms were stretching out. His body was stretching out. This is my swimming, he thought. I'm not running from the water. Maybe this is the real me. Maybe this is my true swimming style.

When his arms entered the water, he scooped deep into the water on his catch. He sketched an arc close to his body, and pulled as if he was throwing a ball. He scooped deep once more and pushed. At the same time, he stretched out his recovery hand with a jerk to make his entry.

He could see the sky. He looked right through the ceiling of the club, and he could see the sky. Though he could still feel the presence of the evil thing, as long as he was looking at the sky, his body didn't lock up. As though he was shaking free, he didn't feel any need to run away. Though he was still swimming powerfully, he wasn't straining himself.

He made the turn and began his stroke again. It's really different. Was it because he was swimming without looking at the bottom of the water, where the evil thing was hiding? Or was it because he was looking at the sky? That could be it, too, he thought. But the biggest, most important factor was the swimming style. He felt streamlined. Even when he didn't focus on the correct posture, his body naturally found itself in that form. Before he even thought about it, his arms stretched out, and he was able to ride on the water. He could feel the water.

Like a marine mammal, maybe.

Perhaps he had originally been a monstrous sea creature. That's ridiculous, he thought. But he couldn't think of anything else. If he hadn't been, then what was this sense of completion? Where was this satisfied feeling welling up from? This feeling that Makoto had never felt before set him free in the water.

Even when he climbed up onto the poolside, Makoto was still exultant. He turned and walked toward the bench, trying to hold the feeling back somehow. Aki had parked herself on the bench.

"Oh, are you doing backstroke, too, Zaki-chan?" Makoto tried to talk to her a bit.

"Ah, Tachibana-kun! No, I'm doing free."

"Taking a break?"

"Yeah…. I was just thinking a bit."

"About the medley relay?"

"….No."

"Ah, I've got it. About the garden planting tomorrow, right?" Since the bricks had finally been fired, Makoto's class was going to be building with them tomorrow. Duties had been allotted to each class: putting flowers into the soil, carrying water, and so forth. The problem was, in order to build with the bricks, they had to use cement. Even though they had planned out how to do it, there had still been people who were worried that it wouldn't go well.

"No, that's not it. A plasterer is coming, so it'll be fine. They even said that they'd lay the cement for us."

"We should have just asked Haru."

"What, Nanase-san? But wouldn't that be too difficult?"

"It would be fine. Haru laid the bricks in the garden at home by himself."

"In his garden?"

"Yeah. When he walked in his garden, he'd get mud on his feet, right? And on rainy days, the front hall would get dirty, so he made a path with cement and bricks. He did a good job, too. It's only about one meter long, though."

"Wow, really? He's pretty skilled after all, huh?"

Even though Aki was smiling, Makoto could sense shadows in her face. "But that's not what you were thinking about, is it?"

"No. …It's about Nanase-kun."

"About Haru?"

"I'm doing nothing but practicing freestyle right now, and I was wondering, why won't Nanase-kun swim anything but free?"

Why are you worrying about that? It's not like it's something that just started happening. As Makoto's eyes drifted over to Haruka's freestyle practice group, he asked Aki, "Why were you wondering about that?"

"Nanase-kun's freestyle is really fast, isn't it? So I was thinking about what kind of feelings he has when he swims. If I can understand his feelings even a little bit, then maybe my freestyle will get faster, too."

Makoto's eyes found Haruka. Even though he was far away, Makoto recognized him immediately. He was relaxedly swimming with all the elegance of a dolphin. Makoto wondered if Haruka could feel the water, too.

"About Haru, it's not really so much that he likes swimming."

"What?"

"It's not really that he likes freestyle."

"But, then, why…?"

Makoto turned his gaze back to Aki, looking away from the freestyle group. "I haven't asked him about it, but swimming means something different to Haru than it does to the rest of us."

"What does that mean?" Aki blinked, still looking at Makoto. It was almost as if Makoto was some kind of animal she'd never seen before.

"It's natural for Haru to be in the water."

"Huh?"

"And, you know, the most natural stroke is probably freestyle."

"So you're saying it's like a skill he was born with?"

"Yeah. To put it simply, it's instinct. It's sort of like asking why a dolphin or a whale is in the ocean, I think." Makoto himself had felt something close to that just a little while ago. He couldn't confirm that it was precisely the same, but he didn't think it was that greatly different, either.

"If that's really true, then it's not something I can learn to understand, is it?"

"I think it's not really something anyone can understand. Haru's feelings, I mean…"

Aki turned her eyes toward the freestyle group. Towards Haruka, who was swimming among them.

"Well, I'm going back to practice, then." As Makoto said this, he turned away from Aki.

"Yeah." Aki's gaze was still on Haruka. Makoto returned to the backstroke group, noticing how faint her answer had been.



They had piled the fired bricks under the cherry tree. The once-brown lumps of earth had oxidized and were now tinged with red, and were stacked neatly, almost glowing in the sunlight of the approaching spring.

Next to them were bags of cement and metal buckets, along with various tools. It was the boys' job to mix the cement with water. When the bags were cut open, grey dust would swirl up, but quickly settle again. When a shovel was dug into it, dust would fly up; when it was transferred into the buckets, dust would fly up; and when the water was poured in, the dust would fly up yet again, but settle quickly.

Around the cherry tree, a shallow rectangle had been dug out. This was where the flower bed had been planned. Stakes had been pounded into the four corners; a string had been run between them, and, using that string to check that they were level, bricks were being laid step by step. Cement was spread on the bricks, they were lined up, and once the first level was complete, cement was spread on top of them and a second layer of bricks was lined up. This was the process by which the job progressed.

The job of laying cement was a troublesome obstacle. Because they had to line the bricks up evenly while making the height uniform, care and skill were needed.

The tools were brought over to Haruka, as planned. Without confusion or hesitation, Haruka picked up the tools and headed over to the base of the cherry tree.

Carrying bricks was the girls' job. Haruka would spread cement on the bricks they brought over, and then line the bricks up properly.

"Sorry, Nanase-kun. We asked you to do something pretty tough," Aki said, handing over her bricks.

"Not really. I've done it before, and now I'll have the plasterer's explanation." Haruka answered without looking at Aki. He had to concentrate hard right down to his fingertips. If he was even a little careless, the cement would ripple and the bricks would be tilted. There were various messages written on the bricks, but if he let them catch his attention, he felt like the point of his trowel would slip.

Haruka concentrated only on spreading cement. He had even forced his objections to the flower bed under the cherry tree off into the corner of his heart.

"It's looking good!" Rin called from behind Haruka. There was no way he could expect an answer, so Haruka gave no sign of responding. He scooped some more cement onto the bricks and kept working.

"Maybe I'll give it a try, too."

You don't have to go to the trouble of telling me. If you want to, then just go ahead and do it. After the sound of Rin's footsteps faded in the distance, Haruka suddenly noticed that the cement had rippled a little bit. Had he really been thrown out of whack just by Rin calling out to him? Haruka felt a bit of irritation in his heart.

After a short time, Rin came back, and sat down on Haruka's opposite side. Using the plaster trowel he held in his right hand, Rin started smoothing out the cement with surprising delicacy. There wasn't even two meters of distance between Haruka and Rin. Haruka found this distance uncomfortable. If Rin had been closer, Haruka could have blatantly moved away from him, and if Rin had been a little farther away, they would have been too far apart to converse.

"Haru, I think we should start timing ourselves tomorrow." Just as Haruka had expected, Rin spoke up. "I was thinking we could do race-format practice, but…" His words trailed off meaningfully. He wasn't going to go ahead and decide by himself like he aways did. For Rin, this seemed rather timid.

"Sure, whatever." Haruka answered as expressionlessly as always, without letting his eyes leave the bricks. Though honestly, he thought he didn't really need to pick up the conversation.

Rin nodded a bit, as though he was satisfied. "Nagisa's gotten faster."

Haruka knew. Even if it was just for a little while, they were on the same team.

"His reach is getting longer."

"……"

"It's on his up-kick. It looks like he doesn't realize it himself, but when he draws his legs in, he tips upwards. But it looks like he can only do it during times he thinks are really important."

"……"

"After that, if he can just get his start down properly, he'll get even faster."

That might be true, but it wasn't like they needed to talk about it right now. Couldn't Rin be quiet?

"But I think it's more important to teach Nagisa about stuff like timing and concentration, rather than about what a race feels like."

And what do you know about it that's worth teaching? Shaking off his slight irritation, Haruka focused on the movement of his trowel. He took great care so that the cement wouldn't ripple. He didn't want to pay attention to Rin's speech anymore.

When the first layer was finally finished, Haruka stood up to take a break. In all, he'd have to build three layers. The sun was still high, and it looked like he could finish before evening. If possible, he'd like to finish a bit earlier and go to the swim club. As long as he'd done enough, he didn't care; he was only thinking that he wanted to swim.

Haruka looked over at Rin and saw that Rin was nearly done with his first layer. The surface was laid evenly, and it had been carefully finished off. Haruka had to admire Rin's ability to complete the project so skillfully while talking Haruka's ear off.

"Haru, I brought some more." Makoto was carrying a metal bucket of cement over, holding it with both hands as if it was heavy. He placed the bucket in front of Haru and then took a breather. The bucket was brimming with cement, and it was easy to guess how heavy it was. Average grade-schoolers would have brought it over with two people carrying it between them.

Lately, it seemed like Makoto had gotten a size bigger again. It wasn't that he had gotten especially taller; it felt more like he was wearing a suit of armor.

"I wonder if we'll be able to go to practice today." Makoto's carefree tone was like the blue sky that governed the spring.

Rin finished his first layer and stood up. "I was just talking to Haru about it, but I was thinking we could start race-style practice tomorrow. And time ourselves, too."

"That's a good point. The meet is getting closer."

Leaving Makoto to be Rin's conversation partner, Haruka started working on the second layer. He wanted to work quietly. He wanted to finish this as if it were any old job, without thinking about anything, forgetting that this was a graduation project, driving off even the knowledge that he was under the cherry tree.

I want to hurry up and get in the water. He tried to think only about that.

The wind that brushed against Haruka's cheeks felt gentle, like spring. He wanted to get into the water quickly to shake off that lukewarm feeling.



In the spring, Mt. Kotsuzumi grows a little bit. Since it's about one head-length shorter than Mt. Myoujin, they have been likened to a pair of brothers since long ago. Around the time that trees begin to sprout buds, Mt. Kotsuzumi grows just a little bit, like a younger brother trying to catch up to his elder brother.

In reality, there's no way that a mountain could change its height. Due to things like the spread of vegetation, the increase of foliage, and the color of the sky, it only seemed that way.

Haruka wiped off the sweat that had gathered on his cheeks as he approached the Mutsuki Bridge. Not only was his pace faster than normal, but the temperature outside was higher, too.

It looked like Makoto and Rin weren't coming today. Nagisa had already left some time ago. It had been a while since Haruka had crossed the bridge alone. The wind was blowing over the bridge again today. It seemed like it had been a long time since he had run while feeling the wind, too. Originally, he had planned to run alone like this. Running with Rin and Nagisa hadn't been anywhere in Haruka's plans at all. It was the same way with swimming in a team.

Swimming was fundamentally an individual contest, and Haruka thought relays were an extension of that. That was why it seemed logical to him to practice individually, and he saw no need to fixate on being in a team.

If this were something like baseball or soccer, where things like formation and cooperative play mattered, then it would certainly be necessary to focus on teamwork. They would have to understand each other's abilities, compensate for their various weaknesses, and adjust their power and balance as a whole. Things like breathing and eye contact couldn't possibly be done without practice.

But there was no need for eye contact or formations in swimming. Once you jumped into the water, you were alone. All each swimmer had to do was show their respective power and swim as fast as they could. There was no other way that Haruka could think about it.

Rin had spoken about it so excitedly, Makoto had exclaimed that it was no good without Haruka, Nagisa had wanted to be a team member, and Aki had told Haruka that it would be better if he swam in the relay.

What was so special about a race called a relay? If there was something there that he didn't understand, then Haruka thought that maybe it was worth trying, even if he had to pay the price. Even if the price was having others interfere, being forced to cooperate with them, and being coerced into doing things against his will.

Once Haruka had prepared himself, he decided. He had no intention of being overruled so easily. He didn't intend to refuse to swim or to run as a foursome; if that was necessary for the relay, then he had no reason to refuse. It was just that Haruka still didn't see anything special about calling a race a relay. It just meant continuing to swim while you had chains wrapped around you.



When Haruka left the locker room and went out to the poolside, Nagisa came over and attached himself to Haruka. "Haru-chan, what are you doing? You're really late! Where are Rin-chan and Mako-chan?"

It threw Haruka off. Even compared to himself from a year ago, Nagisa was too childish. It seemed cruel to think of pushing Nagisa away, or distancing himself. Even now, Haruka still wasn't sure how to deal with Nagisa. On the other hand, though, it wasn't like he could just become someone who could return Nagisa's sociability.

Haruka decided to just act as close to his normal self as he could, though he already felt the contradiction between trying to be his usual self and doing things that weren't like his usual self at all. "Graduation project. Those two might not be coming today."

"Oh, is that it? Well, I guess that's fine, then. Let's hurry up and go practice!" The practice that Nagisa was talking about was for the relay. Right now, the meaning of swimming was completely relay-focused for Nagisa. Swim fast, and then win. It was a goal that was almost too clear in its simplicity. Even if it was only a little bit, Nagisa could see more significance in the relay than Haruka could.

Did they have to have the same goals just because they were teammates? Was that what teamwork meant? Was that what cooperation meant? If that was the case, then Haruka was going to lose the meaning of his swimming.

Nagisa was standing on the starting block. "Ready, go!" he said, and jumped in at his own signal. Haruka had no intention of saying practical things like Rin did. To begin with, he didn't worry about things like that when he swam. On top of that, Haruka had never been interested in anyone else's form. He could feel it, though. There was dissonance somewhere in Nagisa's swimming. It wasn't something that Haruka could put into words; he just felt it. It was an uncomfortable feeling, like a metronome with a worn-out spring. It was jarring, like a bicycle with rusted gears.

Nagisa made the fifty-meter turn and came back. Right as Nagisa was passing seventy meters, it looked to Haruka as if his arms were growing. They seemed so long that they were out of balance with his height. In that instant, the uncomfortable feeling disappeared. Nagisa was keeping rhythm with a relaxed stroke, just like always. There was no indication that he was putting more power into it, or increasing the rotation of his stroke at all. Even so, with fifteen meters remaining, he accelerated yet again. And then, with five meters left, he sped up once more and touched the wall.

Haruka's feet kicked off the starting block, and his body danced through the air.

He had heard from Rin that Nagisa had begun to swim that way, but even having seen it right in front of him in reality, it seemed hard to understand. Without Haruka's conscious knowledge, Nagisa and Mt. Kotsuzumi had overlapped in his mind. He knew that it was an illusion that Mt. Kotsuzumi looked like it was growing in the spring. He wondered if Nagisa's growth was an illusion, too, but quickly rejected the idea. Rejecting the whole idea that Nagisa and the mountain were similar, Haruka slipped forward through the opening in the water just like he always did.



Serious practice for the meet began around the time that soil was being spread on the graduation flower garden, when various seeds were being planted. The practice schedule for each day was split roughly into halves: in the first half, everyone who was swimming an individual event was gathered together to have their times taken, and the second half was devoted to things like relay and long distance practice.

During the first half, Haruka swam freestyle and Makoto swam backstroke and breaststroke, and during the second half, they participated in relay practice; this had become their training schedule lately. Rin and Nagisa's training schedule was relay practice during both halves.

Today, Aki and Yuuki had joined Rin and Nagisa's practice. Aki and Yuuki sometimes practiced with them like this. In order to calm the worry and impatience that people who weren't swimming relays couldn't understand, they practiced with Rin and Nagisa.

Both of Nagisa's hands touched the wall, and Rin dove into the water. Nagisa pushed up his goggles and continued to follow the far-off Rin with his eyes. A sigh mixed in with his labored breaths.

Aki hadn't thought that Nagisa would work himself this hard. He had kept going so many times that she'd lost count, and he hadn't complained even once. He must be extremely tired. His diving form was falling apart, and the speed of his breaststroke was dropping.

Aki wondered if the level of Haruka's team was too high for Nagisa. Nagisa himself was probably feeling something similar. But maybe that was exactly why he was trying so hard. He was probably earnestly thinking that he didn't want to be the one holding his team back.

Nagisa tried to climb up onto the poolside, but he couldn't get enough power, and it looked like he was going to fall back into the water, so Aki grabbed his arm and pulled him out.

"Thanks…huff…Zaki-chan…huff…"

"Let's take a quick break, okay?"

"Yeah." Nagisa nodded between gasps. He didn't pretend to be tough or put up fronts. If he was told to work hard, then he worked hard, and if he was told to rest, then he rested. Nagisa was always nothing more or less than himself.

Nagisa sank to the floor and pulled off his cap. Aki sat down next to him. "You've gotten fast, haven't you, Nagisa-kun?"

"Yeah, but if I don't swim faster, I'll lose."

"Lose? To who?"

"I don't know. Rin-chan said so."

"Oh, really?" Aki turned her eyes toward Rin, who was getting out of the water. She wondered who Rin was competing with. He always seemed to be in a hurry. He was always looking for something, running towards somewhere. Aki wondered how Nagisa felt, chasing after someone like Rin.

"Zaki-chan, who taught you how to dive?"

Aki was confused by the sudden question. "Well, I'm not sure. But why…?"

"I can't get it right. I've tried a bunch of different things, but it seems like they were wrong. I asked Rin-chan, but he won't teach me."

"Ah, really? I wonder why he wouldn't teach you." It was surprising. She had thought that Rin was pretty concerned about Nagisa.

"Hey, what do you think I need to do to get better?"

Being asked so frankly made it hard to answer. Diving form wasn't something that Aki had given a lot of thought.

In her mind, Aki tried to picture herself when she dove. Standing on the starting block, moving her feet slightly apart, placing her thumbs on the edge. Folding her body, taking up a bent-forward stance and resting both hands on the edge of the starting block. Drawing her body in tightly, then releasing and springing out, her eyes on the goal.

When Aki got to that point, she realized that Nagisa had been staring at the place where he had landed on the water. It might not have mattered where he was looking, but somehow, Aki didn't feel that way. It wasn't easy to explain in words, but if she had to venture an explanation, maybe she would say that it looked like he was trying to find the goal he was aiming for. It wasn't a particularly logical answer, but she couldn't find any other suitable reply.

"Hey, what if you tried looking a little farther ahead when you dive?"

"How far ahead should I look?"

"Maybe pretend like you're trying to jump all the way to the far wall?"

"Hmm…" Nagisa gazed at Aki with his big, round eyes. Being looked at with those eyes made a strange kind of regret spread through her chest. Giving him such a vague answer felt like cheating him, and she began to scold herself. Maybe it would have been better to honestly tell him that she didn't know.

While Aki was distracted thinking this, Nagisa had turned his eyes away. "I get it. I'll give it a try," he said with a smile.

From the opposite side, Rin gave the signal to resume practice. Then he dove straight into the pool with a splash, and Nagisa headed over to the starting blocks.

Aki felt somehow relieved to be free of Nagisa. It wasn't that she disliked Nagisa. On the contrary, he gave off a sort of little-brotherly feeling, and it was impossible to let him be neglected. Even so, when she was being looked at with those direct eyes, she suddenly lost her confidence, and began to want to run away. It felt like little-brother Nagisa had turned into something that she didn't want to touch. It was as if her true self within herself was being laid bare before his eyes...

And Aki hated that self a little bit, for thinking about being free of Nagisa.

Nagisa jumped. Was he focusing his gaze on the goal? Was he going to be able to properly make a start that he'd be able to accept? As Aki was thinking about these things, she took a step toward the starting blocks, but then Rin called out to stop her as he got out of the pool.

"Yazaki-san, did you say something to Nagisa?" Though he had been swimming the whole time, Rin wasn't even a bit out of breath. His tone wasn't accusatory, but Aki still felt a little awkward.

"Yeah, about diving."

Rin looked over his shoulder at Nagisa. "I thought so. I was thinking that his start just now seemed a little different."

"It was where he was looking."

"Huh?"

"I told him it would be better to look at the goal while he's diving."

"Ah, so that was it."

"Matsuoka-kun, why didn't you teach him?"

Nagisa passed the twenty-five meter mark and accelerated.

"Nagisa isn't the type who gets faster by being shoved into a pattern. Stuff like logic and theories - even if his head understands them, he can't express them very well with his body. But if he feels something with his heart, it comes out clearly in his swimming. He doesn't seem to realize it himself, though."

Aki pulled on her goggles. "I wonder if I said something unhelpful, then…"

"No, it should be fine. I think that what you told him is more about feelings, Yazaki-san. I think that telling Nagisa to swim with a certain feeling gets through to him much better than half-baked theories. Honestly."

"Yeah." Aki nodded, and then went to stand on the starting block. She moved her feet slightly apart and placed her thumbs on the edge. She folded her body, taking up a bent-over stance. She placed both her hands on the starting block and waited for Yuuki. She drew her body in tightly, then released and sprang out, her eyes on the goal.

As she hung in the air, Aki tried to look honestly into her heart. Can I face swimming with my honest feelings, the way Nagisa does? She hated herself a little bit for not being able to give anything but an uncertain answer when she asked. Hating the fact that she was even now avoiding the subject as well, Aki splashed into the surface of the water.


--------------


Back to Chapter 4 | Forward to Chapter 6

As always, please point out any mistakes/typos/just plain weird stuff :)

Translated from raws downloaded at this post.
asterisk0228: (Default)

[personal profile] asterisk0228 2013-08-21 02:32 pm (UTC)(link)
First!

Wow, I'm just so lucky I get to read until chapter five and I've just started reading your light novel translation today! Really great timing~ :D
asterisk0228: (Default)

[personal profile] asterisk0228 2013-08-21 03:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks for your hard work on these translations!

I really like the parts where they're swimming and competing with the other kids. I actually took swimming lessons when I was in elementary as well and reading this stuff makes me reminisce back on those times... :)
cpup: (Default)

[personal profile] cpup 2013-08-21 06:28 pm (UTC)(link)
It's Ok I Almost KEYWORD Almost Over Slept for my school Physical Sadly I Didn't Man I hate Those Thing. :( XD
cpup: (Default)

[personal profile] cpup 2013-08-22 10:38 pm (UTC)(link)
It Did ^_^ Thanks
cpup: (Default)

[personal profile] cpup 2013-08-25 12:34 pm (UTC)(link)
yeah mostly read this in spare time but school is starting back up and i wont have much time to read it.
cpup: (Default)

[personal profile] cpup 2013-08-25 12:35 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh yeah bye the way can u plz do a gun gale online translation :I
cenedra: (Default)

[personal profile] cenedra 2013-08-21 07:14 pm (UTC)(link)
Another interesting, and very well translated, chapter :) This book is very good for understanding the characters (especially Haruka) as we get to see how they see the world in so much detail. Thank you, looking forward to more and dreading the end~
summerbutterfly: (ehvul)

[personal profile] summerbutterfly 2013-08-21 07:41 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you, again, for your hard work. I am probably far more invested in these boys and their story than I should be, but I can't seem to help myself. Backstroke!Makoto! (200y/200m backstroke was *so* my jam back in the day.)

Thank you!

cpup: (Default)

[personal profile] cpup 2013-08-28 12:29 am (UTC)(link)
it's ok i found this other site but its not as organized. :(
arashinoookami: Made by LJ user kiokushitakaa (Default)

[personal profile] arashinoookami 2014-02-01 09:24 am (UTC)(link)
Thankyou!