Tenacious Sky

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Chapter 22

The arena during competition day surpassed all of my expectations. The electricity of excitement in the air was buzzing restlessly. After finding our prep corner, the team went through warmups. Leo sat quietly on the bench next to Coach Race. Coach Race was so used to Leo being around for me, that he let him on the floor with us as my personal manager. Finally, the rounds began. I breezed through winning the first five rounds I had before I was let off for a break. Even though I was winning, my chest felt tighter and tighter with every match. As I finally made it back to our corner, I sighed and used the towel Leo offered to wipe the sweat from my forehead. My hair was practically matted to my head at this point. Leo offered me water which I gladly accepted before taking a seat.

"How are you feeling?" He asked. I sighed and leaned back to rest my upper back against the wall.

"I'm fine. After these last few matches conclude, we'll know the final two facing off in the last match. I think I have a good chance of making the final two," I explained.

"Do you need to loosen your...?" Leo trailed off, motioning to my chest. I shook my head. Getting all of my gear off just to loosen my strap would be a waste of time, and I wanted to watch the last matches to know my opponent's strategy if I was a finalist.

"It's not bothering me," I lied. It was most definitely bothering me. But for now, I could still blame my heavy breathing on the matches. I watched the remaining matches while keeping my body warmed up just in case. Finally, it was down to the last two: a student from Radiant Eagle and myself. I hopped in place a little to keep warm while the floor was adjusted to make a floor in the center of the arena. Once the staff was done moving everything, Coach Race walked me over to get ready.

"You watched him in the last match. You've seen how fast he is and where he favors hits. Use it. You're faster than him. Just get there first," Coach Race Gabe a little pep talk as I was getting ready. The sensors were plugged into the back of my suit as I bent my foil a few times to prepare. Looking back to our team corner, Leo watched anxiously. I knew he was worried about me, but I couldn't think about that right now. I wanted to win. I wanted to prove that I belonged at Preston Hills. I wanted to prove that I was a worthy student for Coach Race. I wanted to prove that I was just as good as the guys.

Once signaled, we took the mat. At 'go', we began our match. The student I was up against was pretty good, but I still got the first point. He got the second point. As we continued to spar, I could feel my chest feeling tighter and tighter. It was getting extremely hard to breath, but I pushed those worries back and focused solely on the opponent in front of me. We went back and forth up until the very end where I narrowly got the last point.

The crowd went wild. I took off my mask after bowing to my opponent. I couldn't help the huge smile that made its way to my face. I just won overall for my first match. Coach Race picked me up in celebration as the entire team ran over. I was ecstatic, but everything was also starting to go blurry as my chest heaved. I just had to make it through the medal ceremony now. I went back to our corner with the team as I put away the foil and my mask. I tried to make my breathing seem more normal, but of course, Leo noticed I was having a hard time. Leo sat me down and offered water.

"Nurse Jackie is back in the medical area. Do you want me to go get her?" Leo asked, worried as I drank the water. I shook my head. Going to the nurse station now would mean I would miss out on the best part of my first meet with Preston Hills. I'd worked so hard up until this point, I didn't want to miss out on the fruits of my labor.

"The medal... ceremony is starting. I just have... to make it through..." I said completely out of breath. Leo brought my hands over my head immediately. It only helped a little. Leo watched me worriedly as each player from tenth place up were slowly called up to the middle of the floor.

"...finally, in first place: Skyler Park from Preston Hills Academy," the announcer concluded. I smiled as I make my way to the podium and brought my head down as the medal was put around my neck. I smiled and waved through the pain until it was finally over. I hopped off of the podium and went back to our corner as things started getting blurry again. I stumbled as Leo caught me. Luckily, everyone else was too worried about packing up and getting on the bus.

"Sky," Leo called to me urgently. Black dots swam in my vision and I could form the words I wanted anymore. My body went limp as consciousness slipped away from me. Leo was here, I knew he would take care of me and make sure that no one finds out about me.
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