CHAPTER 6 – VALENTINE’S KNIGHT-SAMA
Ai-chan didn’t attend school the next day.
Leon informed everyone during homeroom period that Ai-chan had injured herself and wouldn’t be partic.i.p.ating in any physical activities for the time being. However, she would be expected back at school in a couple of day’s time.
After school, Momo-chan and I went to see Nagao-sensei to ask about the incident. I then sent out a message to Hazuki-chan and Onpu-chan, and we arranged to meet up that evening to go visit Ai-chan.
Momo-chan and I quickly finished up at the MAHO-do and headed out, meeting Hazuki-chan along the way to Ai-chan’s place.
Hazuki-chan had taken her practical test today. I was just wondering if anxiety for Ai-chan had affected her mood and performance when she spoke up,
“Congrats on Pop-chan pa.s.sing her exams. She really worked hard for it.”
In fact, the results of Pop’s entrance exams were released yesterday, but we were all so fl.u.s.tered over Ai-chan that I forgot to break the news to everyone.
“Huh, so she got in? Congrats! She really did it!” Momo-chan exclaimed happily.
“Yep, thanks. Pop told me to thank all of you. Mum wants me to thank you too, Hazuki-chan, for putting in the effort to teach Pop.”
“Pop-chan pa.s.sed the exams due to her own hard work,” Hazuki-chan immediately waved her hands before her face, dismissing my words. “I’m sorry. I was so shocked about what happened to Ai-chan that I’d forgotten to get her a congratulatory gift.”
“No, we should be the ones thanking you. Oh, Momo-chan. Mum wants me to let you know that she’ll be ordering some cakes, but I totally forgot…” I said guiltily, turning to Momo-chan.
“No problem, I’ll bake you some really cute cakes soon. Do apologize to Pop-chan since I won’t be able to get them ready until this incident with Ai-chan is over,” Momo-chan replied.
Momo-chan doesn’t like to bake when she’s feeling worried or down, because she said it makes her baking less delicious. Besides, Majorika and Lala had hustled us out of the MAHO-do to go visit Ai-chan, telling us not to worry about the store. I think our best course of action would be to make sure that Ai-chan was alright, so we can feel more relieved and not bake with heavy hearts.
As we chatted about Pop’s success, we also asked after Hazuki-chan’s practical test.
“Did you play well? Sorry I didn’t send you a good luck message,” I apologized.
“It’s alright. I’m lucky because the set piece is a favorite of mine, and I think I played it well in my own way. The results will only be out next week, but I feel really satisfied with my performance,” Hazuki-chan said with a smile.
Mukai Riko-chan, Hazuki-chan’s cla.s.smate who used to spread rumors about her on the school’s Ura Site, had now become a worthy rival. Due to the fact that Hazuki-chan had practiced much more for this test, she was bound to do better than Riko-chan, but Hazuki-chan remained humble.
“Riko-chan sometimes gives me really good pointers and critiques. She does have a good ear for music,” Hazuki-chan shared.
As the two got better at playing their instruments, Riko-chan was now providing Hazuki-chan with plenty of support. I’ve not heard Hazuki-chan on the violin for quite a while, but I’ll definitely attend the upcoming concert. I’m sure Hazuki-chan would be chosen to play.
“If you get chosen to play, I’ll make you a violin-shaped cake, so look forward to that!” Momo-chan laughed.
Chatting excitedly , we reached Ai-chan’s apartment block.
The previous day, Nagao-sensei had brought Ai-chan to the hospital in his car. As she’d told us in her message, she had been diagnosed with Achilles tendonitis, a common injury among athletes. However, Ai-chan was suffering from a more serious variant, which Nagao-sensei thought might be the result of a prolonged period of stress.
Ai-chan shared that she would be taking a break from training next week. Once the pain subsided, she would start with tendon training exercises that wouldn’t strain her leg too much. The doctor had also told her to be more aware of her own body, since she was growing taller every year, and that would throw off her balance.
As an athlete training for the track season and holder of the high school track record, Ai-chan seemed disappointed and upset at herself for not knowing enough to prevent this injury.
I didn’t know much about track, but Kotake had sounded really calm and composed when he told me about Ai-chan’s injury. I recalled how he had been knocked to the ground by an opponent’s foul move during that game I watched, and realized that injuries were probably part and parcel of an athlete’s life. I would be taking over as manager of the soccer team in April, but I knew I still had lots more to learn. The thought left me slightly frightened.
When we arrived, Ai-chan was sitting on the sofa in the living room, reading.
“Ai-chan, are you alright? Does it hurt?” we asked worriedly as we dashed up to Ai-chan, after handing Momo-chan’s handmade sweets to her mum.
“I won’t lie and say I’m fine, but the pain isn’t that bad now… I’m an idiot. I knew something was wrong when I started running, and the timing just didn’t feel right. And Nagao-sensei even told me to warm-up properly first,” Ai-chan sighed.
“Yuuna-chan is really worried. She thinks that your injury was caused by that collision in the corridor,” Momo-chan said.
“Well, my ankle was hurting a little after the collision, but it felt fine when I was doing my warm-ups yesterday, even when I started running,” Ai-chan replied with a remorseful look on her face.
The strain on Ai-chan’s tendon must have been so slight that not even the teacher could detect it. It was only after some time when he noticed that Ai-chan was trying to cover up her discomfort.
“This has nothing to do with Yuuna-chan, it’s all my fault. Please let her know tomorrow that there’s nothing to worry about,” Ai-chan insisted.
“Yeah, I’ll let her know,” I a.s.sured her.
Hazuki-chan decided to change the topic, “There’s really so many books here. Are they all about athletics?”
There was a pile of library books on the living room table, most of them books on athletics and nursing.
Ai-chan shared that she’d never really thought to learn about injuries until now, so she would take the break to read up on it. In order to heal soon and be at her prime for the spring track meet, she had also learnt how to perform procedures such as taping her joints and medical care while at the hospital.
However, Ai-chan didn’t feel like her usual self, in spite of all the optimism in her voice and expression.
“I can actually go to school, but I just couldn’t sleep last night. In the end, I didn’t get enough sleep, probably because I was so caught up with reading all these books…”
“Ai-chan, please don’t push yourself like that…” I protested. Before I knew it, I was crying.
“Ai-chan, don’t blame yourself for what has happened,” Hazuki-chan added.
“Ai-chan, you won’t heal if you don’t rest!” Momo-chan added.
In the end, the three of us huddled close around Ai-chan, crying our eyes out.
“What’s wrong…? Hey, it’s not such a serious matter…” Ai-chan said apprehensively.
“You must be suffering, but you’re still trying your best to ease our anxiety.”
“We’re crying for you, Ai-chan.”
I tried to stop my tears, but they just kept coming. I’m sorry, Ai-chan.
“What…? Hey, if this carries on, I’m going to cry too!”
A single tear rolled down Ai-chan’s cheek. The injury probably didn’t hurt her as much as the feeling of helplessness did. She must be angry at herself for her own carelessness and inexperience, which was going to cause her much disappointment in the upcoming track meet.
“Don’t push yourself too hard, there will be other chances to prove your skill,” Hazuki-chan said in an encouraging voice, while wiping her tears away.
“There’s still time before the track meet. Just rest well now, and eat lots of things to make you heal faster!” Momo-chan added.
“Nagao-sensei has also apologized for his lack of supervision. I’ll do anything I can to help you out, so you just focus on getting better,” I concluded.
Ai-chan nodded, though her expression still appeared slightly sad.
“Hazuki-chan, Momo-chan, Doremi-chan… Thank you. I mean it. I’ll do my best to heal before the track meet. Everyone, please watch over me.”
She still sounded tired and upset, but it had only been a day since her injury, so I guess she just needed time. We said goodbye to Ai-chan and her mother, then left the apartment.
“Ai-chan’s eyes were so red. I hope she gets some sleep tonight,” Hazuki-chan whispered with a sigh.
Even if Ai-chan managed to heal before the track meet, she wouldn’t have enough time to train. I was sure this problem had crossed Ai-chan’s mind as well.
“I use aromatherapy in my bedroom to help calm myself down before bed. I’ll bring some for Ai-chan the next time we visit,” Hazuki-chan said.
“She did look exhausted, so unlike the usual Ai-chan. I’ll bake her some herbal madeleine cakes,” Momo-chan added.
I decided to decorate one of the gateau chocolat cakes specially for Ai-chan, in line with our Valentine’s theme, to help cheer her up. Sweet things always make people happy, and I hoped it was true for Ai-chan too.
I mean, I feel great whenever I see steak.
In the end, we didn’t manage to contact Onpu-chan. Our calls couldn’t get through to her mobile phone, which might mean that she was off somewhere on a location shooting.
I wondered if our messages had gotten through, at least. But no matter how many times I checked my phone, there were no incoming messages or calls from her. No matter how busy she was with filming, she would have contacted us once she knew that Ai-chan had gotten injured. Even if she couldn’t come to visit, I just wanted to keep her updated on the situation.
Just as I was pondering this, Hazuki-chan called.
“I just received a message from Onpu-chan,” Hazuki-chan’s voice sounded over the phone.
“Huh? But I didn’t receive anything,” I complained.
“That’s because she sent me an e-mail,” Hazuki-chan explained. “Doremi-chan, you should turn on your computer and check your inbox too. Onpu-chan is in London now, and I think she should be returning to j.a.pan very soon.”
So that was why we couldn’t reach her. Unable to contact her through mobile phone, Hazuki-chan had taken the initiative to send Onpu-chan an e-mail to update her on Ai-chan’s situation.
“She apologized for not being here to help,” Hazuki-chan continued.
“Not that we’re of much help, even though we’re right here,” I sighed.
Onpu-chan must be worried sick, not knowing anything and not able to visit Ai-chan. E-mailing Hazuki-chan was the only way she could keep in contact now.
“I’ll pa.s.s Onpu-chan’s message on to Ai-chan,” Hazuki-chan offered.
In her e-mail, Onpu-chan also shared about her sudden short trip to London. It seemed that she had only spent two days there, and most of that time was spent searching for a suitable apartment to stay in for her next visit, when they would be staging the musical. She had returned to the hotel late each night, too exhausted to do anything. To make matters worse, she’d forgotten to bring along her mobile phone charger, which rendered her phone useless.
When she reached London, she had in fact sent all of us, including Majorika and Lala, an e-mail, but because we were all so busy, none of us had had the time to check our inboxes.
It was a great relief to know that Onpu-chan wasn’t purposefully ignoring us.
Similar to Hazuki-chan, all of us were preparing for our semestral examinations as well. I hope Ai-chan would not stress herself out during this period with her track training, and focus on her studies instead.
Which means… Oh dear!
Without training taking up her time, Ai-chan would have all the time she needed to study hard. As a sprinter, her concentration and focus must be amazing when she sets her mind on doing something.
That means I’m the only one lagging far behind everyone again. I hope things will turn out alright.
“Big sis, time for dinner!”
That was Pop. Since Dad was finally back from his business, we had planned to celebrate Pop’s successful entrance into Karen Girls’ Academy today. Although he knew that Pop would be getting her results yesterday, the business trip had already been scheduled way beforehand, so he could not opt out of it. I wondered if Dad had worried about Pop even while he was away.
No, he said himself that he would work hard and save money for Pop’s tuition fees. Sorry, Dad, guess you really had no choice.
Mum had requested me to place an order with Momo-chan for a celebratory cake, but what was placed on the dining table tonight was my own creation.