Chapter 19

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When Nam rushed back to the rink, he could only look on helplessly as he saw his best friend, usually all cheery and bubbling with Japanese phrases, curled up in a corner, head buried in his folded arms, muffled sobs racking his body.

At least, well, he cleaned his skates, Nam thought, noting the shiny black boots in fluffy blade covers sitting in his open suitcase.

"Hey, Roo," Nam said softly, mentally slapping himself for coming up with such a cringe-worthy nickname.

Yuzuru? Ru? Roo?

Kangaroo?

He looked up, choking on his sobs, and let out a dry chuckle.

"So now I'm Roo?"

Nam grinned sheepishly.

"You deserve someone better, y'know."

Yuzu's expression hardened, and Nam thought he saw a flicker of frustration in his dark pupils for a second.

"You don't understand, Nam." His eyes softened. "It was my fault," his voice cracked a little at the end, and he wiped his nose with a tissue from Pooh. "I should've told her when I first met her," Yuzu pinched Pooh's cheeks.

"But I didn't." He let out a sniffle, wiping his tears with his sleeve.

"Hey, don't do that, you're going to dirty your costume. Our reservation for two at Macy's is still valid, y'know. Let's get some nice dinner, everything will be fine, okay?" Nam patted his back, passing himthe neatly folded plainclothes in his luggage.

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Em crouched in the shadows of the dark alley, blinking back tears.

She was about two blocks away from home, but she couldn't possibly show up teary-eyed, the butler would definitely tell her parents.

Stupid, stupid, so stupid.

Her tears wouldn't hold, despite her strongest efforts to refuse the urge, and she let down her walls, her emotions tumbling through in the form of salty tears.

It had been her first instinct to run away, but the more she reflected on Nam's words, recalling the look on Yuzu's face, she felt even worse for abandoning him.

He didn't do anything wrong, but he was the one paying the price.

Everything suddenly made sense, why he requested her not to google his name, why he didn't reply to her messages for hours, why he was flying all over the world.

Em whipped out her phone, swiping around, typing his name into the search engine.

Thousands of images, news articles instantly popped out.

How popular is he?

She clicked on his Wikipedia page.

It held all his personal details, even those that she didn't know.

When she scrolled down, she couldn't help but feel awed at his achievements.

Junior World Champion at 15.

Olympic Champion at 19.

And at 20, she was nothing but a sobbing mess.

She read a few articles, about how he crashed into another skater in China.

So that's how he ended up with a concussion. 

And his recent surgery.

Thousands of fans had left messages for him, mostly in Japanese, but the couple of English ones were things like "I love you, please get well soon."

Yuzuru Hanyu is a well-liked athlete from Japan, she concludes, as she skims through yet another article.

Hanyu back training one week after surgery

She read on, as the writer reported how he had suffered a stomachache overseas, and was diagnosed with a problem with his urachus, requiring emergency surgery.

And instead of the month of rest he was supposed to get, he only took one.

She bit down on her lips, her tongue tasting sour as though she'd bitten a whole lemon, but she knew very well that it wasn't a lemon, it was guilt.

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"No."

Ten minutes earlier, Em stood outside the rink, running the small envelope between her long fingers.

When she stepped in, her stomach churning with nervous butterflies, the cool air brushed against her skin, the huge fan rotating from the high ceiling.

The swoosh of a black figure distracted her.

It was him, among many other skaters, launching themselves in the air on the smooth surface of the ice.

He jumped, but crashed against the hard surface, sliding towards the boards. His soft curses could be heard across the rink.

She was about to approach, her steps bringing her closer to the rink side when a strong grip latched onto her arm.

"What- What are you doing here?" His voice was a hushed whisper, his body blocking her from the rink.

"I need to talk to him, I need--" Em started, trying to squirm out of his grip, but Nam only tightened his grip on her arm, earning a wince from her.

"No, not now, not here," his arms steered her away by her shoulders, quickly making it out of the rink.

"What do you want?" Nam Nguyen crossed his arms, his face a blank slate.

His wary eyes followed Em as she took a step forward. Silent determination filled her eyes, and she pursed her lips.

"Just listen to me."

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