Episode 07 - Bittersweet Practices - is the seventh episode of Loveairaharune's first fanseries, Pretty Rhythm: Melodic Dream.
The Goddess Tiara Cup is right around the corner, but Amane, Yumeko, and Sayuri can't seem to find times for practicing together. And they need to perfect the Twirl Catch to win the competition! But with a fierce competitor and timing difficulties, this may be impossible.
"I'll need you to do something called the Twirl Catch," began Mion.
"What's that?" asked Sayuri.
"I'll show you," said Mion, pulling up a video on the screen.
"Firstly, label yourselves A, B, and C," began Mion.
"I'm not A!" said Yumeko.
"I'm not A either!" said Sayuri. "I'm gonna be B!"
"No, I'm B!"
Their joking around continued, until Mion suddenly said, "If you want to fail, fine by me."
"Amane, you be B. Yumeko, you be C. Sayuri, you be A.“
"So the Twirl Catch is based off MARs' Prism Jump, 'Cheerful Hip Hop Win!' Basically, here's how it goes: A skates across the stage diagonally towards the front, C does the same, but on the other side. After they do that, they leap up, backbend into the air, and twirl towards the original side they were on. In the middle of that, A and C clasp hands."
"W-What?" exclaimed Sayuri.
"As for B," continued Mion, acting as if she'd never heard, "Amane, you'll have to twirl straight upwards, also using the backbend technique. Like this!" Mion put on a video to demonstrate, with 3 shadows labelled "A" "B' and "C" doing the Twirl Catch.
"Whoa that's...." mumbled Amane.
"Omg that's impossible!" went Yumeko. How are you supposed to-"
"It's already easier. We altered the routine for you guys especially, so don't complain," said Mion. "Oh, and you'll have to think of a trio jump to perform after you do the Twirl Catch! Okay?"
Boom. Crash. Bang. That was all their few practice sessions really were.
"Get in time, guys!"
"Yumeko, slow down!"
"Amane, speed up!"
"Sayuri, your angle!"
The most frustrating thing was that Yumeko and Sayuri could barely master the backbend...
"You guys can do a backbend, right?" asked Mion.
"Well, I think so..." began Amane nervously.
Amane tried a few times, standing up. Since she had done gymnastics 4 years ago, she could get the hang of it pretty easily... but....
"Amane! How do you do it?" asked Yumeko frustratedly.
Amane demonstrated to her team several times, but they still couldn't get it. I can't get mad at them, it's not their fault. They didn't get mad at me for sucking at dancing, so I've gotta be patient! That was the thought which ran through Amane's head the whole time....
"Are you free on Tuesday, guys?" asked Amane.
"No, I'm sorry... " said Sayuri.
"I'm busy on that day..." said Yumeko.
"Thursday? Monday? Sunday?"
"I can't miss Miya's birthday party!"
"No, I scheduled a gaming session with Kin-kun!"
"I promised to hang out with my sister on that day!"
"I can't go..."
Trying her best to hide her frustration, Amane finally said, "Well, I guess we'll have to practice on our own then. Both of you, take this tape, and learn it. Make sure you get the angles right... because time is running out." Amane felt her heart fill with panic.
"Sure," they both said, and shoved the tapes into their pockets.
Amane was busily practicing at the rinks....
I've got to do this. There's no chance of winning the competition if I don't do the Twirl Catch. I've got to be perfect at it.
Amane felt the turns getting easier, but she couldn't quite twist her body the right way in the air.
"No... this isn't right."
"It's not like this either...."
At the end of the practice sessions, Amane was always sweaty and exhausted. All the homework which she had to do tired her out even further.
I can't sleep though, thought Amane. I can't stop thinking about the Twirl Catch and the competition. I need to get it perfect! I just NEED to! That's why I've come all this way....
"Ughh..." moaned Amane, slowly rolling out of bed. "I've got to do my english homework... I didn't have time to finish it last night. Well, thankfully mom comes home late a lot these days.... otherwise I wouldn't have any time to practice!" (Her grandfather had recently been hospitalized so her mother spent a lot of time at the hospital.)
As Amane silently worked through the night, she thought: Are Yumeko and Sayuri working hard too? Do they share my dream?....
I'm getting it! I really am! thought Amane with excitement. My hard work's paying off!
As Amane landed for the third time after success, she noticed a figure standing by the doorway.
"Inoue.... Kaori-san?" thought Amane with shock.
"Amane," began Kaori in her steely voice.
"Uh-um- y-eahh?" stammered Amane nervously.
"You're wasting your time."
"H-huh?" replied Amane in surprise. She couldn't understand why Kaori was suddenly saying such things to her....
"It's not worth it. No matter how hard you work, you can't get what you want."
"Are you saying?!..." Amane stared at her in shock, "-That I withdraw from the competition!"
Kaori looked down. "Yes."
"I can't do that..." began Amane. "I've been working so hard for this.... My dream... was... not only to do a Prism Show, but to win... To feel the glory... which I never got to experience. To finally get applause and smiles instead of insults-" Amane realized she'd said too much, and cut herself off. "I mean..."
"Amane, I-I'm sorry." For a second, Kaori looked sympathetic. But the coldness immediately crept back into her eyes as she continued. "You'll be in even greater pain if you enter the competition."
"What do you mean?..." Amane was starting to get a feeling in the pit of her stomach. A bad, bad, feeling....
"You know what I mean," replied Kaori. "You're only going to end up hurting if you try enter. That's why you should-"
"I can't," said Amane softly. "I've been working so hard all this time.... I can't just back down now!" Then Amane remembered - Kaori would be competing as well.
"Maybe I really don't have a chance against you, Kaori-san. But I want to... sing till the end. I want to be able to taste the fruit of my efforts. I want to feel that happiness. That... was my dream." For once, Amane looked Kaori straight in the eye.
Kaori stared for a second. Then she turned on her heel and left.
Competition day came much quicker than expected.
For the whole day, Amane kept quiet about the deep question inside her. She made herself shut up. Because she couldn't ruin it... yet. She couldn't bring herself to ask...
"And now, I declare the Goddess Tiara Cup OPEN!" shouted Meiji Ono, the MC.
The whole crowd roared as two girls took the stage. Both were quite short, and young looking. The shorter one had pink wavy hair which she tied up in pigtails, and the slightly taller one had blackish brown straight hair which reached slightly over her shoulders. As they waved, the crowd cheered more and more...
"You ready, Yumeko?" asked Amane shakily.
"It'll be fine, don't worry so much!" said Sayuri laughing as she patted Amane on the shoulder.
Amane watched as the contestants, team by team, performed and went off stage to allow the next team to enter. This feels so nerve-racking, thought Amane. They're all so good! And professional!
"And now we have our cool goddess.... INOUE KAORI! Kaori, take the stage!!"
Amane immediately focused on the screen.
Kaori was dressed in a sleevless bluish green outfit, with little dark blue bands around the tops of her arms. Her torso was pale green, but the part which covered her bust was a pale blue, with little ruffles on the edge, and ribbons running down the middle. It was all complete with a blue flower. As for her skirt, it was ruffly and soft, with the same blue-green colour scheme. Somehow, it all fit Kaori perfectly.
"She's so pretty..." whispered Yumeko.
Amane could only nod.
"Even though it is easy for me to cry
They do not flow of sadness
From those I held dear
Oh my gosh.... her voice... it's magical. It brings out the lyrics so perfectly. And the passion behind it all... it's incredible. Amane stared in total shock. So this is what it means to be an expert.... a professional...
"Like a bird that strays away from its flock
I do not know where my destination lies
But no matter if I get hurt
And scar till my blood flows
My heart will always remain
Even if happiness
Is close by
I shall fly
Towards the sky
And believe in my future
I will not forget you
But I cannot ever turn back to yesterday..."
Kaori skated forward, and suddenly spun and arched her back. White light was shining out of her, and she spun towards the sky.
The Twirl Catch.....
Angel wings sprouted out of Kaori's back, and she continued flying, higher and higher... Until she was surrounded with dark blue sparkles. The whole sky was a dark black colour. Glowing flowers appeared... and Kaori spun around and touched one with her fingers. She smiled, and shouted,
"Flowers of passion!"
The whole crowd was astounded as Kaori landed on the stage. And suddenly, they burst into applause.
"YOU'RE SO COOL, KAORI-SAN!"
"KAORI! YOU'RE GONNA WIN FOR SURE!"
Amane stared at her nervously.
"I'm not sure.... if we can beat such a perfect show..." mumbled Amane.
"Relax, it's okay! We practiced, right?" asked Sayuri.
"Yup! We'll be able to pull it off for sure!" said Yumeko.
"You- practiced?" Amane felt a wave of surprise hit her.
"Of course! We aren't as good as you though," said Sayuri laughing.
Amane wasn't sure how to feel. Did they... did they really practice properly on their own? Or...
There's no use worrying now though... we're on! Amane banished the thought from her mind, and skated on stage with her teammates.
"The dream everyone is looking for is surely out there somewhere
Until your wish comes true one day, you won't be alone.
Sometimes I feel like I'm going to lose, but my feelings are overflowing too much
I said "I can make it to the end!" but probably I was just pretending to be strong
I'm always pushing myself too hard and spinning and circles because of it
But you alone were at my side the whole time...
The dream everyone is looking for is surely out there somewhere
Until your wish comes true one day, you won't be alone..."
As their song finished, Amane knew what was going to happen. They were going to do it. The Twirl Catch.
"Go!" whispered Amane.
Yumeko skated across the rink, just like it was the tape.... and soon after, Sayuri did. Amane skated forward, and twirled. It seemed perfect.
For a moment, Amane was lost in the sparkles, her aura. For a moment, she felt happy. She felt like her hard work had finally paid off, and she was in paradise...
But just as Amane was spinning, she saw.
That's the wrong side, Yumeko! And your spins are so off...
Oh no. They're gonna miss. They're gonna miss they're gonna miss they're gonna miss they're gonna miss..."
It was way too high. For Sayuri, at least.
Your spin was off time!...
Yumeko, that's too fast!
Just as Yumeko began plummeting towards the ground, Sayuri came colliding towards Amane, knocking both of them, sending them crashing towards the ground.
N-no... why... why did it have to end like this?! Amane thought as she hit the ground.
The whole audience was watching them wide-eyed, including Aira, Mion, and the rest of the Prism Stars.
"Stand up, Petal Sparkle! Smile at the audience!" shouted Meiji Ono, trying to break the silence.
Amane gingerly stood up, and rubbed her head a little. She felt Sayuri and Yumeko take her hands.
Sayuri and Yumeko smiled.
The audience clapped.
But Amane knew that they were clapping out of sympathy.
Why.... All I ever wanted.... was to feel the audience clapping for me. All I wanted, was to win, to feel victory... just once. But even though I worked so hard... I couldn't. I couldn't even pull off a proper show. I'm such a failure. A disappointment. Not only for myself, but for other people too. It's all my fault.
Amane felt the tears rushing out of her eyes, and blinked twice. She widened her eyes to stop herself from sobbing, and made herself smile.
"I'm sorry... Yumeko.... Sayuri..." whispered Amane.
"No, it's not your fault," said Sayuri, trying to reassure her. "It was our fault. We didn't practice enough... I'm sorry, Amane."
"Me too," mumbled Yumeko.
Amane only stared at the audience with empty eyes.
"And now... our winner is...."
The whole crowd roared as Kaori skated towards the middle of the stage.
"The Goddess Tiara rare stone will be given to Kaori!"
The crowd cheered once more as Kaori held up her prize and smiled.
As Kaori was returning backstage, Amane was still trying to hold back tears.
I can't cry... not now. I can't cry in front of anyone, ever! Thought Amane.
Kaori stopped when she reached Amane, a strange look on her face.
"K-Kaori...san... you... did a good job... Well done! Your show was amazing!" said Amane shakily, trying to smile.
"Amane." There was no emotion in Kaori's reply.
"You could have done so much better. If only you performed alone," said Kaori coldly. And then she turned around and left.
Kaori's words rung in Amane's ears.
You could have done so much better. If only you performed alone.
Could I? Could I have done better if I was on my own? Could I have mastered the Twirl Catch? Could I have won?
Thoughts rushed through Amane's head as she struggled to hold back her tears.
I definitely could have. I could've done so much better...