Chapter Eleven: Training Is a Bitch
“_____. Time to wake up.”
_____’s eyes blinked open, then shut again when Ludwig turned on the light. She moaned in irritation and covered her head with the bedsheets.
Ludwig raised an eyebrow and stepped over to the foot of the bed. Grabbing hold of the sheets, he yanked them off of _____ and onto the floor. This did little to wake her up, only making her moan louder and curl into a ball to stay warm. Her eyes peeked open for a moment, but she immediately closed them again as the light got to her. She pulled the pillow over her head.
“Come on, Fräu,” said Ludwig. “We have to go train.”
Very slowly, _____ pushed herself into a sitting position, glaring at the German through half-open eyes. “Why?” she mumbled.
Ludwig sighed in exasperation. “Because I said so.”
“That’s not a good reason.” _____ slipped out of bed, finally more awake, and started to wander around the room. “Where the hell am I?” she said, and Ludwig could have sworn she sounded like she was on drugs.
“You’re in mein room. You came in here last night.”
_____’s eyes widened as she looked at Ludwig. “Oh, God. We didn’t––did we. . . ?”
The German looked confused for a moment, then his face turned completely red. “Was?! Nein! We didn't––I mean, nothing happened! Wait. . .don’t you remember why you came in here last night?”
She furrowed her brows in absolute confusion. “What? No. Why would I come in here––and in middle of the night, of all times?” She groaned and walked out into the hallway.
Ludwig stared at the doorway, a bit dumbfounded. He shook his head and lay the sheets back on the bed. When he finished making his bed, he left his room for the kitchen. Before he went down the stairs he knocked on _____’s closed door. “You better be getting dressed in there!”
“I am!” she shouted back. Ludwig could hear a small cough after she spoke. He rolled his eyes and started down the stairs.
_____ finished getting dressed and went downstairs to the kitchen. “So, what’s for breakfast?”
Ludwig, who was standing at the stove, looked at her. “_____, are you seriously going to train in that?”
_____ looked down at her outfit. She wore a black t-shirt and thick denim shorts that went down to her knees. “What? This is the closest to workout clothes that I have. Besides, I fare pretty well in this get-up when I’m out in the heat.”
Ludwig sighed. “Very well.”
_____ smirked and stepped beside him. “Whatcha’ makin’?”
She scrunched up her nose. “Ugh.”
Ludwig raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Oh, right. I don’t like sausage. . .”
The German stared at her, appalled. “You don’t like wurst. . . ?”
“What? I can’t not like something just because you do?”
Ludwig opened his mouth, but he didn’t say anything. He sighed heavily. “If you don’t want that, there is some of mein bruder’s cereal in the pantry.”
“Well!” said _____ in a mock German accent. She went to the pantry and grabbed a box of Cocoa Puffs. A smile crossed her lips as she examined the box. “I haven’t had these in ages.”
Ludwig glanced at her. “Since you were a child, I assume?”
She got a bowl and milk and proceeded to make herself a bowlful of the chocolatey cereal. “I still am a child, Lud.” She put the milk back in the refrigerator and sat down at the bar counter.
“You’re sixteen, _____.”
“Well, so what?”
“You are not a child anymore. You are a teenager. One step from being an adult.”
“What’s your point? You’re what––nineteen? When you were thirteen, did you still consider yourself a child?”
“Well, yes. But––”
“But nothing.” _____ took a bite of her cereal. “You’re still a kid until you turn twenty-one. Then it’s pretty much over.” She held up her spoon vertically and stared at it. “You have to wake up and realize that you have to fend for yourself from now on. And there’s no one you can fall back on, nothing that makes you feel any better.” She laughed humorlessly. “Life sucks and then you die. . .”
A dead silence passed over the room, and Ludwig had stopped fixing the sausages to look at _____. She was still staring blankly at her spoon. She suddenly leaned back in her chair and took another spoonful of cereal. “Oh well!”
“Alright,” said Ludwig as he put on his cap. “First on the agenda is running.”
“Whoo,” said _____ sarcastically, half-heartedly raising her arm in the air.
Ludwig glared at her, then turned to look at all of them. “We will run around the campus.”
_____ nodded. “Okay, that doesn’t sound so ba––”
“Damn you!” she said under her breath.
“It is not as bad as you think it is, _____-san,” said Kiku.
She sighed. “It better not be. I’m out of shape.” She rubbed her head, an ache beginning to manifest. “And I don’t really feel good, either.”
Ludwig began running, Kiku soon following, and then Feliciano. _____ sighed and took off behind them, eventually passing Feliciano. She was panting by the time she reached the other side of the campus, and she stopped for a brief moment and looked at Ludwig, who was already several hundred yards past her. She looked up and said, “Lord, have mercy on me,” and continued running.
With every heavy stride she took, her legs felt weaker and weaker. She finally reached where they had started, marking her first time around the campus, then pushed herself to go on. Her head began to pound, and she was surprised when she realized she had goosebumps spreading across her arms. Her eyes began to water, and she blinked repeatedly to fix her vision. She slowed down and came to a stop, hunching over with her hands on her knees. She made herself breathe deeply, a cough interrupting every now and then.
_____ looked up to see Ludwig slowing and stopping beside her. He did not look happy. “Stop resting! Get back to running!”
_____ glared at him, straightening back up and saying snidely, “Yes, ma’am.” Before he could respond, she took off with a new burst of energy. But it was no match, however, against Ludwig; he caught up with her just moments after.
The rush did not last long, and _____ began panting again. Her lungs began to burn, and she clutched her chest a few times. She had just made it to the other side of the campus on her second time around when she stopped again. Ludwig, who had decided to run beside her, halted as well. He rolled his eyes and put his hands on his hips. “Fräu, you need to put more effort into this! Even Feliciano is trying harder than you!”
_____ didn’t respond. She stumbled over to the brick wall of the building near her and leaned against it, still panting heavily. Without warning, she slumped over and vomited onto the ground. When she was done, her eyes fluttered as she panted again. Her legs gave out and she fell onto the ground, fortunately missing her vomit.
Ludwig blinked. “Fräu?” He knelt down beside her. “_____?” He turned her on her back and noticed that she was still conscious. Her eyes were shut tightly and she was panting heavily, almost wheezing. He gently placed his hand on her forehead. “Scheiße. You’re burning up.” He looked around him, then pulled her upper body up. “Come on, Fräu.” He managed to pull her onto his back and began carrying her back to the dorm house.
A cough racked _____’s body, waking her in the process. She opened her eyes, which watered immediately after they were opened, and blinked. She noticed that she was lying in her bed, tucked securely under the covers. She began to sit up, but stopped herself when pain rushed through her body.
She heard the door open and a voice say, “Sorella! You’re awake!” She was then tackled by Feliciano. “Are you okay, sorella? Ludwig said you passed out while we were running. I didn’t see you, because. . .I’m too slow. . .”
_____ smiled, lifting her arm to pat the Italian on the head. “It’s okay, Feli. I’m fine.”
Feliciano beamed. “Va bene.” He stood up. “Now, I should go tell the others that you’re awake. They were all really worried about you, sorella! And Ludwig hasn’t been talking to anybody since he carried you back here.”
She blinked as he left the room. “What’s got Mr. Tight Ass so upset?” she said to herself. She sighed, but started coughing. She settled back into the bed when the door opened again.
“Fräu, I see you’re awake.” Ludwig walked into the room with a small tray in his hands.
_____ sat up, her lower back and legs screaming in pain, and pulled the covers tighter around her.
“I brought you some water und soup,” he said, putting the tray on the nightstand.
_____ looked at the soup and smiled. “That’s the soup I made with Tino,” she remarked.
“Ja. Feliciano told Tino about you und he brought some of it over for you.” He picked up a small object from the tray and held it in front of _____’s mouth. “Open.”
She opened her mouth enough for Ludwig to put the thermometer in, sliding it under her tongue and keeping it there. “I’m fine, Lud. I just––”
“Don’t talk with that in your mouth,” he retorted.
She grunted and sat back against the headboard. She began humming to a random tune until Ludwig told her to stop. Ludwig pulled the thermometer out of her mouth and looked at the temperature, furrowing his brows. “Verdammt,” he muttered. “39.56.”
“You’re temperature is 103.2 degrees Fahrenheit,” he said gruffly.
_____ groaned. “Damn. I knew I was sick. And it’s probably the flu, too.”
Ludwig blinked at her. “What do you mean you knew you were sick?”
She coughed a bit. “Well, I woke up not feeling up to snuff, and it never really got better.”
“Why didn’t you tell me––” He cut himself off when he realized the answer. He would not have considered it a good excuse. Heck, he wouldn’t have let her stay home if she had two broken legs. The German sighed, pulling up a chair and sitting in it. “Listen, Fräu. . .About making you run, und yelling at you. . .I’m sorry.”
_____ smiled apologetically. “Hey. It’s okay. Hakuna matata.” She looked down and noticed her fingers fiddling with the bedsheets. “And, about today. . .thanks for carrying me back.”
“You remember that?”
She chuckled. “Yeah. I remember everything. I was awake the whole time. . .Oh yeah, sorry for calling you ma’am. I was just pissed at you.”
Ludwig nodded slowly. “So, you remember collapsing during the run?”
_____ sighed, leaning her head back. “Mm-hm. Wasn’t fun.”
Ludwig stood up. “Well, I think I should go now. Just stay here und get some rest.” He turned to go, rolling his eyes when he heard _____ reply, “Yes, ma’am.”
When Ludwig was gone, _____ reached for the glass of water on the tray. She grabbed it and gulped down the water greedily. She sighed in relief when it was gone. “I needed that.” She replaced the empty glass with the bowl full of soup. She took a spoonful and held it up to her lips and smiled. “Thanks, Tino.” She consumed the warm contents from the spoon and swallowed slowly. “And thanks, Luddy.”