Chapter 20

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"Okay, talk."

They were in a small café a few blocks away from the club, and two cups of chamomile tea sat on their table, the two of them tense in their cushy armchairs.

Em exhaled through her nose.

It was going to be tough, trying to convince Nam.

"I need a chance to talk to him."

Nam's expression didn't change, and he was still, his arms crossed, his tea untouched.

"I.." She looked down, her palms sweaty, her fingers nervously trembling. "I was confused, okay?" Em let out in one breath.

Nam's eyes hardened, only giving her a cold look that held no traces of the friendship they shared. He looked nothing like the goofy boy she knew.

"Do you have any idea how much you hurt him?" The words left his lips, and in a normal situation, he would have felt guilty, but not at all today.

"After you just left him like that, he didn't utter a single word for the rest of the day. He didn't eat a single bite of the food I ordered. He hasn't landed any of his quads today. You really hurt him bad, y'know." Nam said, a steely expression directed at Em.

"You hurt him more than anyone else. He's a wonderful boy with a pure heart and a strong soul, and all he wanted to do was to win your heart, but you didn't even reject him straightforwardly, you ran. You didn't even give him an answer. He didn't even know what he did wrong. Emerson Cole, as Yuzuru's friend, I implore you not to go near him again."

A sudden surge of fury ripped through her as Em hit the mahogany coffee table with her palm.

"Don't you think I know that? I'm human, too. I have emotions too. Don't you think I would've been confused as to why the hell he was flying all over the ice even though he claimed to be a first-timer? Don't you think I would be frustrated by a guy who repeatedly hides himself away from me? I ran on instinct, and I regretted running away from him. Don't you think I deserve the benefit of doubt? I'm not perfect, you know." Em relaxed as her feelings poured out, and she hoped that Nam would understand her situation.

"Can't you just listen to what I have in mind?" Em said, not looking up. She didn't want to look up to face another one of his cold gazes. Uncomfortable was an understatement. It felt like being poked under a microscope and dissected with a steak knife.

The silence from Nam didn't give her any prompt, but she continued anyway.

"I just want you to help me get a chance to meet him. For me to explain. For me to have another chance."

"Please." Em's eyes were burning, and she felt so guilty, but this was the only way to solve it.

"How do you want to do it?" Nam finally relented, his shoulders relaxing from their tense posture.

"You'll help me?"

"I just want my best friend to stop sulking and find happiness. For now, you represent his happiness. That's all." Nam sipped his chamomile tea, still comfortably warm between his palms.

"Okay. So let's plan this."

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"Who are you?" He said, confused. His blade guards were in his hands, his skates still on.

They were at the rink.

Nam had arranged for Yuzuru to practice late at night, and Em would be there at the end of his practice, with the surprise that she'd prepared.

But this was the sight that greeted her.

Him, gaunt and skinny, exhausted after an unfruitful training session, wiping ice off his pants, panting hard.

Him, getting off the ice in a graceful manner only he could pull off, his blades still coated with tiny ice bits.

Him, turning around as he grabbed Pooh, and a blank expression clouding over his face as he faced her.

"Who are you?" He repeated again, and this time, she knew it was intentional, because Yuzuru wouldn't ever speak to anyone, not even a stranger, with a cold look in his eyes.

His eyes always held warmth.

And this time, it didn't.

"I... Don't you know me? I'm Em." Her voice quivered, disbelief overwhelming her.

Did he really forget me?

"Sorry, I don't know anybody named Emerson." He coldly replied, putting on his blade guards, fumbling unnaturally as he did so.

"If you don't know me, how would you know that Em was short for Emerson?" She seemed to find the courage buried in her, and her voice was firm, unrelenting like the waves of the ocean crashing on the shore. She would crash on the shore repeatedly, until she got her answer.

He froze, his other guard still in his hand. For a moment, his eyes softened, but they quickly returned to their cold and steely state, and he turned, taking large strides to the changing room.

Em gave chase, her arm reaching for him,
locking onto his skinny shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Yuzu. I swear, I'm sorry. I was confused, I didn't know how to react - you have to believe me," she pleaded, her voice hoarse and desperate.

A firm yank from him shook her feeble grip away, as he faced her again, but his gaze was lowered, his black hair obscuring his eyes.

"Look," he let out a breath, and looked at her, his gaze firm. "I've invested way too much in this, and I can't let you hurt me. I can't let you hurt my skating, or my life, or my friends."

She was left, her body stiff, as he left, slamming and locking the door behind him.

The emotions didn't hit her until a moment later, when they all came over her all at once. She felt frustration, rage, agony, regret sweeping all over her, consuming her like an uncontrolled wave, and she drowned in them, her sobs resounding against the walls of the empty rink.

There. She felt it. The familiar tightening of her chest, and her breaths hitching, like she couldn't catch her breath.

Her inhaler was in her right pocket, but she didn't reach for it.

Just let me go.

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