Chapter 37

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By the time Nelson had finished his pre-tournament rituals, the other competitors entered the locker room.

Just in time, the swimmer thought, glad no one would see him doing what he usually did. Then he flashed a tiny smile. Cris would've laughed if that happened. And then he'd want me to repeat my rituals.

As he entertained himself thinking about his boyfriend, out of habit, Nelson glanced at the other swimmers, checking face by face. I don't recognize anyone... Then he realized why he knew nothing about them.

What am I doing...? Checking the competition...? It's not like I have any data about them or anything... This isn't a major tournament or anything... it's just a local competition... even the coach had no idea about my competition...

The last newcomers that entered the locker room halted when they saw Nelson. Though a little hesitating, they grabbed a key and stored their belongings in the lockers. Then they stood in the corner, talking among themselves while changing and glancing at Nelson from time to time.

With a bitter smile, the athlete realized the reason.

I didn't want to think about it, but that's what I get for being the biggest name here... He chuckled in his head. Not that being the biggest name here will make me win or anything... Just like always, I have to earn my victory.

Nelson decided to ignore the extra attention he was getting, not sure if he disliked or not.

Now that I think about it, this kind of thing only happened when there was a new swimmer... he'd get amazed for being in the same place as the people he admired... wait... I did the same thing... guess it's like a ritual of passage for an athlete...

He was taking one of the towels from a plastic bag among the rest of the belongings Cris had forced him to bring when someone approached him.

"H-hello," the swimmer said stiffly. "You're Nelson, right?"

He seemed to be just a couple of years older than Nelson. Despite that, he looked too nervous as he talked to the athlete. The others he was whispering in the corner with remained a few steps behind.

It must be the pre-competition jitters, Nelson thought, smiling in his head. I can blame him... How long it's been since I felt that? Wait, better not remember that... The first time I felt this, I threw up in the pool...

"Hi," Nelson greeted his competitor in a friendly tone.

But that was a mistake; it only made the swimmer and the others in the back even more nervous.

"I-I just wanted to say that I saw you on TV today and... e-even though it's your c-comeback and all, I-I, I mean, we will won't make it e-easy for you," he managed to say, trying to come off as confident despite his stutter. "W-we'll make you work hard. Don't think it's gonna be easy!"

Despite the swimmer's voice, his eyes never faltered.

His eyes shine with a fire of a true swimmer.

Nelson stopped smiling. He showed a serious face and extended his hand.

"Let's give our best today then," he said in a determined voice, looking the man who was his competitors in the eyes

With a nervous chuckle, which he stopped almost right away, the swimmer grabbed the hand and shook it.

The others behind him came forward, pushing the first swimmer out of the way so that they could greet Nelson.

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