At lunch break as usual.
“What, so you took the trouble of buying those clothes, but you, and Hatsushiro-san also haven’t worn them since then?”
“Well, me and Hatsushiro can’t calm down when wearing them after all. So we decided to wear them on special occasion, like when we’re going out together”
“I didn’t think I chose something that big of a deal, though… Well, I guess that’s just like you guys”
Yuuki was reading his reference book and Ootani was reading a shounen manga “Capt◯ Tsubasa”. Even Yuuki fully knew that it was a timeless masterpiece, but when he asked her why she was reading it now, it apparently was a “hot thing in BL community”… and he decided to leave it alone.
And then, “SHOUKO-CHUAAAN!!”
The classroom’s door was opened with great force and Fujii came flying in. Today too, as usual, he was a handsome man with a refreshing face.
His calm normie-like attitude when he was driving away the college students trying picking up on Hatsushiro the other day vanished into the void, and he headed and jumped towards Ootani with a force that’d make even Lup◯ the Third run away barefooted.
Totally a pervert.
“Today you look wonderful, too!! For our honeymoon, should we go to Hawaii or perhaps Europ”
The sole of Ootani’s indoor shoe sank into the school’s best handsome face.
“…Hey, that just now just made a really nice dull sound, but are you okay?”
Yuuki was worried about him. However, “…Yeah, I’m okay. If anything, I think this kind of thing is surprisingly nice,” said Fujii as he got up, slightly ecstatic, with his face beautifully marked with the shape of the indoor shoe’s sole. A pervert.
“And so, Shouko-chan, can you kick me one more time?”
Ootani then spoke with eyes as if she was seeing someone else’s po◯p sticking in the toilet bowl.
“Don’t want to. I don’t even want to touch you, you damned pervert”
“Aaah… Being abused like this also makes hot feelings gradually rise inside me…”
He’s a pervert.
Ootani let out a big sigh and returned her gaze back to the manga, as if she couldn’t deal with him anymore.
Yuuki then spoke to Fujii.
“You’re really quite something, huh. You even went to our class on a different floor just to mess with Ootani”
“Nuh-uh, this time I have a message for Yuuki, you see”
“Yeah. Your homeroom teacher is probably will tell it to you again, but I was told to tell you to come to the principal’s office after school”
And now after school.
“But what does the principal want by personally summoning me, I wonder?,” thought Yuuki as he arrived in front of the principal’s office door.
Yuuki had more interaction with the principal than ordinary students. It was because he was an SA scholarship student, so there was an interview once every semester where he would be told to please continue working hard in his studies.
However, Yuuki, who never had any particular problems, had never been summoned for anything but that reason. Last time and the time before my grades were at the top of the school year, so it can’t be for that reason, he thought.
With that in mind, Yuuki opened the door and entered the principal’s office.
“Hello, Yuuki-kun. How have you been?,” said the principal in a gentle voice, sitting at a large wooden desk in front of him.
The principal was a man in his late fifties with swept back grizzled hair and wearing a black suit. Looking at his attire and hairstyle alone, he could come off as quite intimidating, but his slanted eyebrows, gentle face, and his gentle without-haste way of talking gave the impression that he was just a good-natured old man.
For that reason, there was no end to the amount of people dragged into the dreamland by the principal’s talk at school assemblies.
“I’m sorry for calling you here. You always use the time after school to self-study, yet I made you use that time to come here”
“If it’s only for just a little bit then, it’s all right. And so, what kind of business do you have with me?”
“Aah, about that. He’ll tell you more about the details,” said the principal, sending his gaze to the sofa for receiving guests.
Sitting there were two people wearing a baseball uniform.
One of them was Fujii. When his eyes met with Yuuki’s, he moved his mouth to make a small “hey” and raised his hand.
And finally, the other one was an unfamiliar man younger than the principal, about in his late thirties.
“Hey, nice to meet you, Yuuki Yuusuke-kun. I’m Shimizu Kouji, coach of the baseball club starting this year,” said Shimizu, standing up from the sofa. He wasn’t as tall as Fujii, but he was pretty tall. His face was masculine and brimming with vitality, the exact opposite of the principal.
Yuuki took the offered right hand and did a handshake.
“Nice to meet you”
“…Yeah, despite having been away from baseball for more than three years, you’ve really got a splendid hand. As expected, you’re worthy of being the ace of our baseball club, Yuuki kun!!,” said Shimizu in a powerful voice as if cheering squad members and theatrical company members had come out of his stomach.
“Oh, no need to worry. Even I had a period in my high school days where I couldn’t make a throw for almost a year because of injury, but that much of a blank period you have can be regained with careful work in less than six months. Of course I will also assist you!!”
The voice itself could be heard loud and clear, but the meaning of his words was unclear to Yuuki.
Yuuki looked at Fujii, trying to ask “The hell is this?,” with his eyes.
Fujii shook his head, conveying “That’s just how it is.” There was a hint of exasperation in his expression.
Actually, somehow this person… I feel like I’ve seen him somewhere…
“Umm, have we met somewhere by any chance?”
Shimizu then knitted his brows a little, and then he laughed.
“HAHAHA, even so I had thought it’s quite a reasonably well known name, though”
Fujii then spoke to Shimizu.
“Haven’t I told you already, coach, that that Yuuki guy is completely away from baseball right now. Yuuki, coach Shimizu is a former professional baseball player”
“…Aah, that Shimizu!!”
Yuuki finally remembered.
Shimizu Kouji. He was a former baseball player who had been active as a first string pitcher since his first year as a high school graduate, who had also won titles such as the strikeout leader1. Due to injuries and such, he retired at a young age nine years ago, but he was an existence whose name was at least somewhat familiar to young baseball players of that time.
It was quite surprising that he became the baseball club coach of our high school.
Well, leaving that aside for a moment.
“And so, what kind of business do you have with me, player Shimizu?”
“Like I said, as the ace of our club”
And then the principal’s gentle voice interrupted the intense speech that was about to flow out of Shimizu’s mouth again.
“Now now, wait a moment, Shimizu-kun. As usual, when you get heated up it becomes hard to have a conversation”
“Eh? Aah, please excuse me, senpai. When a young talent is in front of me I just… Please forgive me, Yuuki-kun,” said Shimizu, bowing his head.
From their exchange, it seemed that they had a senior junior relationship in high school or university’s baseball club.
“In other words, Shimizu-kun is inviting you to join the baseball club. I also know that you were quite active in baseball during your middle school years. And starting this year our school is going to put more effort in our baseball club, you see. And that’s part of the reason why we hired him. If a child like Yuuki-kun could enter and play an active role, our school too would be grateful… Nonetheless, I also thought that it’d be hard to keep up your grades for the scholarship at the same time, but Shimizu-kun insisted, you see. And so I’m letting him talk to you about it, at least”
….I see, so that’s what it was about, huh.
“I’m sorry, but I would like to decline it. And if you would excuse me”
Yuuki turned on his heel and opened the door he had entered from.
“Ah, wait, Yuuki-kun!?”
“Coach, didn’t I tell you that it would be pointless~”
Yuuki walked out of the principal’s office while listening to the exchange between Shimizu and Fujii.
After leaving the principal’s office, Yuuki was attentively studying in the study room for the first time in a while.
Seeing that the sun had begun to set, Yuuki packed up his belongings and left the study room.
And by chance, he came across Fujii at the school gate.
“Hey, are you about to go home?”
“Yeah, and it’s unusual for you to be done at this hour, Fujii”
“It seems that the coach has something to take care of, and lately we also often finish things early. Let’s go home together until partway”
And then Yuuki and Fujii walked side by side.
“But it’s been quite a while, isn’t it? Going home together like this,” muttered Yuuki.
Before meeting Hatushiro, Yuuki would stay and do self-studying in the study room like today on the day he didn’t have a part-time job, which often ended just at the same time when the baseball club’s practice ended. Thus, Yuuki and Fujii, who were going in the same direction on their way home until partway through, naturally began to talk to each other as they walked home.
Well, ever since Hatsushiro’s arrival, he started to dash home at full speed on the day he didn’t have a part-time job, and so they hadn’t had the chance to talk like this lately.
“…Is this that, that one where you stop hanging out with your friends from student days after you got married?”
“Hmm? What are you muttering about?”
“Aah, it’s nothing. It’s nothing at all, don’t mind it,” said Yuuki, vigorously shaking his head horizontally.
“…In the first place, it’s not like we’re married yet, no, what do I even mean by ‘yet’… Well, of course, eventually…”
“You’re still making a lot of quite-hard-to-understand soliloquies, huh, Yuuki,” said Fujii, smiling wryly.
“I’m sorry about today, Yuuki”
“Hmm? Aah, don’t worry about it. Even player Shimizu is probably also trying hard to make the club he got entrusted with to become stronger. That aside, thanks for helping Hatsushiro the other day”
“Well, of course, since she’s a friend’s girlfriend, it’s normal to give a helping hand,” said Fujii with a face as if saying it truly was something obvious.
He’s indeed a handsome man down to his personality. It was said that girls, who talked to Fujii directly, would often become more ardent fans of his than those who were just watching him from a distance. And then there was the usual sequence of events where they’d see his pervertedness towards Ootani, up until he would be treated as an ornamental disappointing handsome man.
Truly, it truly is a mystery how he became like that in front of Ootani…
“And Hatsushiro also said she wanted to thank you next time… Ah, I’m going to stop by this supermarket”
He recalled that daily necessities such as toilet paper and toothpaste were running low at home. And since he started living with Hatsushiro, those simply have been decreasing twice as fast.
“Aah, then I guess I’m going to get myself an ice cream. I somehow feel like eating Super C◯p2”
And then Fujii also walked into the supermarket on the way home with Yuuki.
Fujii then spoke to Yuuki who picked up a shopping basket.
“You know, your girlfriend, I just talked to her for a bit but she was a nice girl, wasn’t she”
“YEAH!! Hatsushiro is the nicest girl ever. No doubt about that”
“And you also seemed to have good chemistry with her, Yuuki”
“D-do you think so? Come on~, even to that extent~. Ah, by the way, let me treat you to an ice cream. I’m not going to be cheap and get you something like Super C◯p. I’ll treat you to a Hagen,” Yuuki suggested with a really slackened face.
“How easy to understand you are, my best bud…,” said Fujii, making a wry smile.
That’s when, “Hmm? Yuuki. Isn’t that Hatsushiro-chan?”
What Fujii pointed ahead at was a somewhat troubled Hatsushiro carrying a shopping basket in front of a cabbage rack.
“Aah, hold on a sec”
Yuuki stopped Fuuji who tried to call out to Hatsushiro.
He himself then called out to Hatsushiro as he approached her.
Hatsushiro bowed her head while still holding the shopping basket.
Yuuki asked Hatsushiro in a slightly small voice.
“Uuh… Hey, Hatsushiro, are you fine being here?”
In fact, Yuuki didn’t know that Hatsushiro went out like this to do some shopping. Although it was quite close to his home, he was slightly surprised that she went out alone.
“Yes. We’re running low on ingredients inside the fridge, so I decided to come here to give it a test. I think I’m fine if it’s just for a little bit”
She certainly didn’t look particularly scared, even from Yuuki’s eyes.
“…Ooh, is that so”
“Yes. With this, now I can go shopping by myself without relying on Yuuki-san”
Hatsushiro clutched her right hand, which wasn’t holding the shopping basket, with a triumphant face.
It was kind of charming, so he decided to stroke her head.
“Yu-Yuuki-san. What is it, all of sudden…”
“Well, I just thought you were cute so I couldn’t help myself”
“…I-is that so. Fuaa”
Hatushiro blushed, looking happy, as she let herself be stroked by Yuuki.
“…With this, Yuuki-san can enjoy it more”
“Hmm? Enjoy it more?”
“Yes. It’s because until now, I had Yuuki-san buying the ingredients, so I think you would end up knowing what I’m going to make”
“Well, I suppose so”
Yuuki had no knowledge about cooking, but as expected, if he were asked to buy fish, he would guess it’s grilled fish either today or tomorrow. He at least knew this much.
“That’s why, I think it’s going to be exciting to be looking forward what’s for dinner”
“Well yeah, I guess so”
Certainly, it was a delight to return home to find that it’s one’s favorite food for dinner.
“Do you remember the first time you ate my cooking, Yuuki-san?,” Hatsushiro asked.
“Of course,” Yuuki nodded enthusiastically. If he were to say it, he would never forget the taste of the stewed noodles he ate at that time.
“At that time, you were surprised and incredibly happy with the food I cooked for you, right? Even now, I still remember how happy I felt at that time… That’s why, if I could make you happy like that again, then”
Yuuki was so happy knowing that Hatsushiro was so happy about that time, that he was troubled on how to react and scratched his own cheek.
He then felt a warm sensation on his head. It was Hatsushiro, who was stretching her body and stroking Yuuki’s head.
“Wha-what is it now”
“You were so cute, so I just… Umm, did you dislike it?”
“…Not at all, not in the slightest,” replied Yuuki, and then Hatsushiro made a happy face.
Uh-huh. This is embarrassing. My face is getting hot, too.
But yeah, it really feels nice having my head stroked by Hatsushiro. It’s kind of comforting…
“Hey, the love birds over there. Could you just stop scattering that sickly-sweet mood in public, and include me in the conversation, too?,” said Fujii, making a wry smile similar to the one Ootani had once made.
For now, they decided to do dome shopping together.
“Hatsushiro, let me hold the basket”
“Thank you very much”
“Hmm? Not getting eggs?”
“Yes. There’s a special sale on monday, so I think of buying it then”
“I see. Ah, last time you said the noodle soup base is running low, didn’t you. Should we buy it?”
“Indeed. One of the larger size ones, please”
“What’s wrong, Fujii?”
“Is something wrong, Fujii-san?”
Looking at Yuuki and Hatsushiro putting items into their shopping basket, Fujii made a somewhat complicated look.
“No, I just think rather than a boyfriend girlfriend, you look more like a married couple. I mean, Yuuki, you also understand the state of Hatsushiro-chan’s fridge and kitchen”
“Eh, aah, well yeah, I often come by to eat after all”
It’s not like he didn’t trust Fujii, but the fact they lived together was probably not something he could say much about.
“Hmmm, oh well. That aside, do you want to stop by the family restaurant over there if you have time after this? I’d also like to have a little chat with Hatsushiro-chan, you see”
Hearing what Fujii had said, Yuuki looked at Hatsushiro.
Hatsushiro then gave a small nod.
“…Indeed. I also want to properly thank you for what you did the other day”
Those three arrived at a nearby family restaurant.
They opened the menu, and then chose a dish.
“All right, I think I’ll get napolitan spaghetti. How about you two?”
“Hmm, I’ll have this grilled fish set meal”
“I’ve never seen someone order that in a family restaurant before…”
“Really? Hmm, guess that’s just how it is”
Certainly, the previous Yuuki probably would’ve chosen something different. It’s just, the current Yuuki had got used to Hatsushiro’s cooking so now he’s a completely Japanese food person.
“What’ll you get, Hatsushiro?”
Hatsushiro’s slender finger pointed at the last page of the menu.
“Pancake? Are you sure? It’s a menu for small children, so it doesn’t have that much quantity, though. If you want to have a proper meal, the one on the previous page is better”
Hatsushiro slightly shook her head.
“No, this is good”
“Okay, then I’ll call the the waiter”
Fujii called a passing-by waitress, and then gave her their orders.
The young female waitress seemed a little nervous at the sight of Fujii’s handsome face.
After giving their orders, Yuuki saw the waitress had retreated to the kitchen, “But you’re really amazing, huh,” and said to Fujii.
“Hmm? About what?”
“Well, about how liked you are. I mean, even the waitress earlier was blushing when she saw you”
“Hmm, but you know, I don’t think that was something that amazing. It’s nothing much, really”
That modesty is coming off as obnoxious, you know, Yuuki thought. As far as Yuuki knew, there’s no one who could do anything as well as Fujii.
“I also think that Fujii-san is an amazing person. The other day, too, you very quickly settled down the situation without causing any conflict. Thank you very much for helping me at that time,” said Hatushiro, bowing her head.
Fujii then spoke with a grin.
“You’re the girlfriend of my benefactor and best bud after all. It’s only natural to help”
“Benefactor… is it?”
Hatsushiro tilted her head. She knew that they’re close friends, but it’s the first time she heard that Yuuki’s his benefactor.
“I’ve also been curious about that for a while. I don’t think I’ve ever done you any favor either, and you also didn’t talk when I asked”
“It’s because I think it wasn’t really something to talk about either. Hmm, but yeah… do you want to hear it, Hatsushiro-chan?”
“Eh, I-I think so…”
Hatsushiro then spoke, looking slightly embarrassed.
“If it’s about Yuuki-san then, I want to know…”
“Is that so? You’re really loved, huh, Yuuki. I envy you, you bastard. Well, I guess I’ll talk then”
Fujii took a sip of water from his glass and began to talk.
“The first time I met Yuuki was at a spring tournament in the second year of middle school. At the time, I was an ace and a fourth batter3, well, it’s been that way since the first year, though”
“Since the first year, is it? As expected, you’re amazing”
“Well, I guess you’re right… I don’t mean to sound obnoxious, but for a long time, I’ve always been able to do anything even without making any effort”
“That’s a really obnoxious thing you said there,” Yuuki said with an astonished face.
But certainly, even though Fujii’s grades always placed within single digit rank in their school year, he never saw Fujii studying his butt off.
“That’s why, you know, it’s kind of boring. Even becoming the ace and fourth batter, it wasn’t because I wanted to be special, I was just normally doing club practice, and before I knew it, I became that. I wasn’t being happy or proud or anything like that. Anyway, I was like… feeling indifferent”
However, in the first round of the regional tournament, a pitcher Fujii had never seen before appeared in front of him.
“…And that was Yuuki-san?”
“That’s right. And I’m pretty sure he wasn’t around when I was in the first year either”
“…It’s because I had been doing it only as some kind of hobby. I had never joined to go seriously with the club either. It was only for a period of time in my second year that the baseball club advisor, who was my homeroom teacher, wanted to add a little color to my grades, so I just sat back and only helped out at games”
With a slightly awkward expression, Yuuki rested his chin in his hands and looked towards the window.
“Adding a little color to your grades?”
“I practically did nothing but baseball until my second year after all. My grades were only a few digits from the bottom, you know”
Hatsushiro blinked her eyes in surprise as it was too different from the current Yuuki.
Fujii let out a chuckle at the sight.
“And so, well, we played a game…”
＊ ＊ ＊
Even now Fujii still remembered how he had a bad feeling when Yuuki took the pitcher’s mound in the first inning’s first half.
The looks in his eyes were unusual. Of course, everyone was also serious. However, Yuuki’s seriousness wasn’t at the level of a middle school student at all.
And then, the result was… not different from Fujii’s bad feeling. It’s his team’s complete defeat.
Fujii and his teammates couldn’t even hit the ball thrown by Yuuki at all, the starting pitcher, and were completely shut down. Fujii, who was already over 180cm tall at the time, had a faster ball speed. However, either it was the technique or accuracy, Yuuki’s pitching was just on a different level.
On the other hand, when Fujii thoroughly persisted in bunting and fouling to reach first base, he gave up three runs to Yuuki, who hit three three-base hit.
The player called Yuuki showed how he was completely in a different league.
After the game, Fujii and his friends went to a family restaurant to eat on their way back, and he happened to pass by a vacant lot where he spotted Yuuki.
To his surprise, Yuuki was practicing with someone who was probably Yuuki’s father. Even after having pitched that flawlessly, he was throwing the ball with a desperate look while his father pointed out today’s reflection points. Moreover, the ball he threw was clearly stronger and faster than the one in the game.
So for Yuuki, the game a short while ago was probably a kind of practice to hold back the lower ranks without wearing his strength and shoulders as much as possible.
How should I say it, the fundamentals are different, he thought. Compared to Yuuki, he was just an amateur with slightly better motor skills.
The ball Yuuki failed to catch rolled down to Fujii’s feet, as he was watching Yuuki in mute amazement. Fujii picked up the ball.
As he handed over the ball to Yuuki who came over to collect it, “You’re really amazing, Yuuki-kun,” he told Yuuki.
And to his comment, ‘Who, are you again?,’ Yuuki replied.
It seemed that Fujii was nothing more than a trivial object to the person in front of him. That was the first for him. It was because up until now, people in Fujii’s surroundings would worship him, and praise how a genius and prince-like he seemed, even if the person in question didn’t wish for it.
Yuuki folded his arms and thought for a moment, then he spoke.
‘Aah, you’re that guy who was throwing those dull, boring pitches, huh. You better start throwing a little more. When you’re tired, it’s obvious from your arm swings you’re about to throw a curve after all. And thanks for pick up the ball’
Without any shred of ill will, Yuuki left behind these words and returned to his own practice.
As Fujii was stunned for a while, all he could do was gazing at Yuuki’s practice.
＊ ＊ ＊
“The middle school Yuuki-san did talk pretty harshly, didn’t he”
Hatsushiro looked surprised.
“…It sure does give me a terribly mixed feelings when you talked about me when I was cocky”
With an indescribable face, Yuuki stuffed the grilled fish set meal, which had been brought to him while Fujii was talking, into his mouth.
“Well, Yuuki at that time really gave the feeling of being a baseball demon after all. Besides, what he had told me was true”
“And so, since then Fujii-san became motivated, and then started to work hard on baseball… Is that correct?”
For that reason, Yuuki then was a benefactor who had saved Fujii from his lack of passion, fin.
However, Fujii shook his head.
“Nuh-uh. The next day, I tried to do hard self-training like Yuuki, you see. But I couldn’t even last three days”
Fujii chuckled and shrugged his shoulders.
“Even now you’re not staying behind until that late to practice and such, right, Fujii”
“Yes? So the reason for becoming a benefactor is…”
“He made me realize it. I realized that… that ‘I’m not a big shot’,” said Fujii as he skillfully twirled his Napolitan around his fork.
“And you know, until that time my surroundings kept saying how I was a genius, like I was the greatest thing ever. That’s why I was also kind of thinking that maybe I was one. And that’s why I felt like I would have to do something truly awesome to be happy about it, you see. I was arbitrarily convinced so. I thought I’d have to live like a protagonist, who shines brighter than anyone else on the best stage, where I could be the most passionate like in a manga. But then, I understood that the real me is just a loser nobody who is only dexterous”
“But I don’t think that you’re a nobody, Fujii-san”
“For example, in the regular exams I always place within the top ten… but the first place goes to Yuuki. I don’t think I can study as hard as Yuuki at all. Well, that’s why he’s just that boring of a guy. When I saw it that way, it became so much easier. It’s like I realized, that I don’t have to live so dramatically like that, and I can just be dexterous and have fun to the extent that I can”
Fujii took a bite of his Napolitan.
“Yeah, this is tasty. There’s nothing I can get passionate about after all, but since then, my daily life has become dramatically enjoyable. I’ve come to be able to enjoy my daily life, like now when eating a delicious family restaurant’s Napolitan. And that’s why Yuuki is my benefactor”
Yuuki who had stayed silent for a while then spoke.
“How about trying hard on baseball now?”
“Don’t want to, that’s really be a pain,” said Fujii as he sprinkled cheese on his Napolitan.
After parting ways with Fujii at the family restaurant, Yuuki and Hatsushiro returned home.
“Phew. For now I’ll place the stuffs we bought in front of the fridge, okay”
“Yes, I’ll take care of the rest, so please take your time, Yuuki-san”
Yuuki took up on her words, and headed to the living room first.
Since Hatsushiro was in charge of the kitchen, it’d probably be an inconvenience were Yuuki to meddle poorly.
Yuuki put down his things, and caught a breath as he sat down in the chair.
I don’t have a part-time job today, so on the way home I made a side trip with Fujii, but the time is still early. Exam is also drawing close, so let’s take my time to study.
The moment Yuuki opened his reference book on the desk, ‘Don’t run away just because you feel like you can’t do something!! Yuusuke!!,’ a very nostalgic voice resounded inside his head.
Focus focus, he thought, looking down at his reference book trying to concentrate.
However, “…Aa,” he kept getting distracted. Yuuki scratched his head.
“…Focus, me, focus,” he muttered as he began to solve the problems.
“…Phew, I guess it’s almost time”
After about five hours of studying, with a break time for a bath, it became the usual time for sleep.
“Good work, Yuuki-san”
Hatsushiro brought him a cup of warm tea.
Yuuki tidied up the reference books on the desk, and made preparations for school tomorrow, as he drank the tea Hatsushiro made.
After that was all done and he finished his tea, it was time for the usual.
Yuuki sat down in front of the bed. And then Hatushiro sat down to his right.
Hatsushiro leaned against Yuuki’s body, and Yuuki’s right hand and Hatsushiro’s left hand overlapped over each other.
That was their routine before going to sleep that had been going since the night they played game together for the second time.
Hatsushiro’s warm body temperature pleasantly calmed down Yuuki’s head, which was heated from studying.
Hatsushiro placed Yuuki’s hand she was holding on her own lap.
“The reason why the skin is hard in places like this is because you used to play baseball, isn’t it,” said Hatsushiro, touching the tip of Yuuki’s right hand middle finger and the base of pinky finger. That area was where it used to form blisters when he was playing baseball. It was an indescribable feeling, where he knew it was being touched by Hatsushiro but he didn’t feel ticklish because some part of the skin hardened, making it a less sensitive place.
“Even so, it’s starting to become like a pretty normal hand, you know. Back when I was doing it, I would always have my skin tore somewhere on my hand”
While playing around and stroking the hardened part Hatsushiro spoke.
“…Fufu, it’s hard”
…Ah, that just now, got me into a bit of a weird mood.
He’s truly in adolescence.
Yuuki shook his head and sent the worldly thoughts away, and this time, he took Hatsushiro’s hand and stared at it.
“Hatsushiro’s hand is really beautiful, it’s not rugged like mine”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah, but I think it’s wonderful hand that’s not just beautiful, but one that is also seriously working hard”
Hatsushiro’s hand was rough in places. It’s probably because she’s usually doing cooking and laundry. He had heard that men rarely got dry skin after working with a bit of water, but women’s skin would often get rough immediately. That was why the rough parts on Hatsushiro’s hand were proof that Hatsushiro usually worked hard for Yuuki.
“Thank you for everything,” said Yuuki as he stroked the rough parts on Hatsushiro’s hand as gentle as possible.
And then Hatsushiro pressed her head on Yuuki’s shoulder and rubbed it.
“Wha-what is it”
“It’s Yuuki-san’s fault… What was that really, geez…”
And so the two of them were enjoying a peaceful and quiet time, but then, “…Hey, Yuuki-san. Can I ask you the reason why you stopped playing baseball?,” Hatsushiro suddenly asked.
“Hmm? Are you curious?”
“Eh, ye-yes. You seemed to have taken it quite seriously, so I’m curious. But… more importantly…”
Hatsushiro hung her head down a little, and fiddled her hair with her free right hand.
Aah, looks like she’s a little unsure whether to say it or not.
Yuuki squeezed her hand he was holding, “It’s fine, go ahead and say it,” and conveying such a feeling.
It seemed that Hatsushiro properly received that feeling.
“…You couldn’t concentrate on studying all that much today, right?”
“Aah, so you noticed”
He certainly couldn’t concentrate all that much today. Especially at the beginning where his mind wasn’t in the right place, and he was not able to finish even a third of the problems he usually did.
“Yes, it’s because I’m always watching. I love gazing at your profile when you’re studying… Yuuki-san”
Her words made his face hot all over.
“And so, I thought that maybe the reason why you couldn’t concentrate today, was because of the talk with Fujii-san about the time you used to play baseball. Umm… and I wonder if it had anything to do with why you stopped playing baseball”
Hatsushiro stared into Yuuki’s eyes and spoke.
“If talking to me could make you feel any better… I would be happy to listen”
“…Yeah, you got me there”
Everything has been seen through, hasn’t it. I don’t think I’ll be able to lie to my girlfriend from now on, he thought.
“Let’s see… Well, it’s not like it’s that kind of story either, though. I think it’s a relatively mundane story, you know”
Yuuki then asked Hatsushiro.
“Say, Hatsushiro. Do you know ‘Hoshi Ittetsu’?”
“Eh? Ye-yes. He’s the father of the protagonist in ‘Star of the Giants’, isn’t he?”
He had been thinking that Hatsushiro wouldn’t know since she was not well-versed about many things in the world, but surprisingly, it seemed like she knew.
“Yeah, I’ve told you before that my old man died when I was in middle school, right?”
“My old man was, you know, he was like that ‘Hoshi Ittetsu’ guy”
＊ ＊ ＊
“Don’t run away just because you feel like you can’t do something!! Yuusuke!!”
That was Yuuki Yuusuke’s father, Yuuki Yuujirou’s favorite phrase.
It seemed that this man, who ran a farm in the countryside, had been boasting “I’m going to make this guy a professional baseball player” ever since Yuuki was in his mother’s belly, and once Yuuki grew bigger, he immediately drilled Yuuki with outdated spartan training. Although there was no excessive physical punishment, the thorough no compromise and no complaint training made the people in the surrounding say that he was just like the father of the protagonist in the baseball manga “Star of the Giants,” “Hoshi Ittetsu.”
Looking at this alone, Yuuki would look like a poor boy who had a painful childhood due to his father’s ego. However, “Shut up you shitty old man!! Go try throwing it yourself then!!,” as a son, Yuuki possessed the competitive spirit to throw the ball while yelling back to his stubborn father.
Yuuki spent his days being colored in the color of baseball under the strict guidance of his father, but Yuuki didn’t remember much of it being hard. After all, it was something he had been doing ever since he could understand what was going on around him, and he didn’t dislike simply getting better at baseball. He would wake up early in the morning and practice with his father, then after school he would practice with the baseball club, after that he would practice with his father again. On day offs, they’d practice while yelling at each other all day long. He continued such days without getting tired of it.
That was the norm for Yuuki Yuusuke.
However, such daily life suddenly met its end.
It happened in his second year of middle school. His father, Yuuki Yuujirou, passed away.
The cause of death was explained to him, but he didn’t remember much of it. He was sure it was a heart condition or something.
＊ ＊ ＊
“…What I remember well is that I didn’t cry at my old man’s funeral. My younger sister and mother were crying, and I remember it well because I thought I was also supposed to cry”
Hatsushiro was listening to him without saying anything.
Yuuki then looked at the clock.
“Yeah, looks like it’s already past the usual time. Hatsushiro, are you tired?”
Hatsushiro shook her head slowly.
“…Please let me hear a bit more about it. In other words, you stopped playing baseball because of the shock, is that what happened, Yuuki-san?”
“Hmm, I wonder. Rather than a shock, how should I say it”
Yuuki turned his gaze upwards as if he was gazing at the old scenery in the far distance.
“When my old man died, I don’t have to do that strict practice in the morning and night like an idiot anymore, and when I laze around doing nothing, I don’t get yelled at with something like ‘Do another practice swing!!’ anymore. And the baseball club also just got into a problem and was suspended for a long time. In the period of time until my old man’s funeral was over, my old man and baseball just completely disappeared from my daily life”
Perhaps also not understanding it well himself, Yuuki then spoke with an usual lack of confidence.
“And then, so… I wonder how I should say it. I guess I could say the heat has cooled off. And I was wondering about why I was playing baseball. I never thought about why I played baseball before, but I just couldn’t find the reason. Before I realized it, months passed without me touching a ball, a glove, nor a bat… But it’s not that I dislike it either. Which then brings me here, I guess. Aah come to think of it, I guess haven’t touched baseball equipment even once since my old man died”
Yuuki stared intently at his left hand, which was not holding Hatsushiro’s, while opening and closing it.
That hand was a hand that used to wear a glove all day long on day offs and such, but he couldn’t recall the feel of it.
“Really… I don’t understand it myself, the reason why I stopped baseball. But I wonder why I recalled my old man’s favorite phrase, now of all time. He’s probably telling me to play baseball until I die, that stubborn bastard”
Then he laughed a little.
“I guess that’s about it. Sorry, Hatsushiro, I can’t tell it to you that well”
Hatsushiro stared intently at Yuuki’s face, but before long, she leaned forward and spoke,
To Yuuki, who was a little shaken that her lovely face suddenly came close at the distance where their noses seemed to be able to touch, Hatsushiro spoke.
“Would you like to play catch with me?”
On the next day, Saturday.
After the monthly Saturday class ended in the morning, Yuuki went to the baseball club’s clubroom and borrowed two gloves and a ball from Fujii, who had just finished club activities.
And then Yuuki and Hatsushiro had lunch together, which was made by Hatsushiro, and headed to a nearby riverbank.
Smack, smack, it’s been a while since he smacked on his left hand, which was wearing a glove, with his right hand. Oh yeah, it felt like this.
“But what happened? Suddenly wanting to play catch”
“After listening to Yuuki-san’s story, I just felt like trying baseball”
Hatushiro was in jersey, holding a ball in her hand with a slightly oversized glove.
“Have you ever played baseball before?”
“I haven’t. I’ve watched it before, though. Then I’ll throw now, Yuuki-san… Here!!,” said jersey form Hatsushiro while throwing the ball.
Though their distance was close, the ball veered away into a completely unexpected direction. Yuuki jumped to it, and somehow managed to catch it with his glove.
“Aah, it’s fine, it’s fine. That’s just how it is at first”
Obviously not a throwing technique of an experienced person, nevertheless, it’s a pretty good one for a beginner.
Yuuki rotated his arm lightly, and lightly threw the ball.
The ball Yuuki threw fit right into Hatsushiro’s glove, and made a dry smack sound.
“…Amazing. Different from my throw, it went straight to the target”
“Yeah, it’s been too long that my arm and body don’t match up well. The rotation is weak, and the axis is off, too”
“Huh, is that how it is… Here!!”
Once again, Hatsushiro threw the ball back to him. This time it veered upward, not left nor right.
Yuuki also lightly threw back the ball while remembering the old feeling.
It once again fit right into Hatsushiro’s glove. His control was accurate, but as expected, Yuuki couldn’t throw like how he used to in the past at all.
“…Actually, your catching really is good, Hatsushiro. Beginners can’t even get it when it’s coming directly in front of them, you know?”
“Is that so?,” said Hatsushiro while throwing back the ball.
This time, Yuuki was only slightly off from the set up position.
I’m getting more accurate with my return, I guess my perception is fine? In that case it might be okay to increase the distance.
“Is it okay if I throw it from a little farther away?”
“Ye-yes, go ahead”
Yuuki took one step back, and then threw the ball.
It was a stronger throw than the previous one, but Hatsushiro caught it properly.
She’s really good at this. Even though that one just now was slightly off.
“Is it fine if from farther away?”
Yuuki caught the ball thrown by Hatsushiro, and took another step back.
Nevertheless, since earlier, his own throwing was terrible. Hatsushiro praised him, but in Yuuki’s sense, it was a very poor job.
“…If that old man saw this, I’d definitely get yelled at,” he muttered while throwing the ball.
The return ball from Hatsushiro came to him.
Little by little, Yuuki increased the distance between them.
And in the meantime, Yuuki also tried to remember the old feeling, but he couldn’t get to move his body consistently in any way, and he couldn’t transfer the power to the ball well. Blank period was a really frightening thing.
He felt like he could hear his father’s angry voice.
‘Don’t throw with your arm!! Throw it with your lower body!!’
Shut up. You’re holding it in your hand so you throw it with your arm. Call it making a stride with your lower body and making a big move with your upper body. What you said is just hard to understand.
Yuuki threw the ball.
‘Keep the sense in your fingertips!! In the end you must cut the ball with your fingertips!!’
That just depends on the person. In my case, I have to think of pushing it out to get it to spin.
Yuuki threw the ball.
‘Look properly where you’re going and throw it in the middle!! Put your mind into it!! Your mind!!’
I’m trying, you idiot. I wouldn’t be struggling if I could get a strike with my mind… geez, honestly.
Yuuki’s mouth slackened as he made a swing.
What a noisy idiot old man he was… Damned bastard
Swoosh, Yuuki’s fingertips made a sharp sound of a ball being pushed.
Crap. I threw it without any adjustment.
The ball thrown with perfect use of the body cut through the air with a strong and pretty backspin as it made a straight line trajectory into Hatsushiro’s glove as if it was being sucked in.
It made a loud sound and pierced in.
Hatsushiro’s body flinched back and she fell on her backside on the spot.
“Ar-are you okay?”
No matter how soft a soft ball was in comparison to a hard ball used in a regular game, it’s not all right to throw as hard as one could at a beginner. If someone like Yuuki were to throw the ball, even an experienced player would feel pain when they caught it.
“Sorry, that one’s my bad”
However, Hatsushiro spoke happily.
“I’m all right. I can catch it properly, too… and also”
When Hatsushiro put her left hand on her chest after taking off the glove, she spoke while blushing slightly.
“When I caught the ball, there was a tingle in my left hand and… I think, it might feel a bit good”
“That’s indeed terrible. It’s possible that Fujii’s perversion has infected you”
At that moment, Hatsushiro looked at Yuuki with a wondering look.
“What’s wrong, Hatsushiro?”
“Yuuki-san… Are you crying?”
Yuuki touched the area under his own eyes.
“…Aah, you’re right”
It’s certainly a little wet.
“Well yeah… I just remembered something a bit”
Yuuki spoke while wiping the tears with his sleeve.
“I just remembered about my old man, while we were playing catch. His voice was as loud as ever, and he’d give advice that wasn’t wrong, but wasn’t very easy to understand… And then, he looked happy”
Yeah, that’s right. When that old man played baseball with me, even though he always yelled at me, he always seemed happy.
I didn’t hate that old man when he was like that. Even though the practice was hard, it’s not like I hated playing baseball. Instead, that was what spending time with my father was like for me.
“…I think that perhaps, I played baseball to make my old man happy. And that’s why I don’t do it anymore after his death. Haha, I’m not one to talk about Fujii either”
And he caught a breath.
“Hatsushiro. Will you play catch with me for a little longer?,” said Yuuki with a smile. Seeing his smile, Hatsushiro also replied with a smile.
“Of course. And please make my hand tingle tingle more!!,” said Hatsushiro, smacking her glove.
“No, as expected I’m not going to throw as hard as I can anymore. It’ll be dangerous if I make a mistake in my control against a beginner after all”
Hatsushiro dropped her shoulders, looking slightly disappointed.
I mean, if a girl with bruises under her clothes tells me that, I’d have a hard time responding.
After that, the two of them were throwing a ball at each other at the riverbank for a while.
Hatsushiro spoke as she threw the ball.
“Hnn, what’s up”
“After you stopped playing baseball, why did you start to work hard at studying, something you were not good at?”
Yuuki caught the ball, and then made it spin in his right hand.
“I used to live in a pretty rural place, you see. When my old man collapsed, apparently the only hospital in the neighborhood was full. And so, they brought him to a far away hospital, but it seems that he died on the way. That’s why…”
Yuuki spoke, looking slightly embarrassed, while throwing the ball.
“I want to be a doctor. A doctor who works in areas with a shortage of doctors”
It was a dream he hadn’t told many people about. The reason he aimed for it was too simple that he felt a little embarrassed.
However, Hatsushio, who caught the ball Yuuki threw, smiled sweetly.
“I do think it’s a wonderful, Yuuki-san-like dream”
That carefree smile lightened Yuuki’s heart.
Really, when it comes to my girlfriend… just how much she’s going to make me happy.
“What is it?”
“I love you. Thank you for everything”
Hatsushiro’s body jumped with a twitch as she was about to throw the ball, and the ball was flying in the wrong direction.
“Hey, where are you throwing”
“It-it’s because you suddenly said something like that, Yuuki-san…”
Behind Yuuki, as he went to pick up the ball, Hatsushiro turned bright and pouted.
And then Yuuki also turned bright red, embarrassed after saying it.
Yeah, it’s nice, he thought honestly.
The kind of baseball like this, that’s different from when I was doing it with my old man.
“…Did you see, old man? The son you tried to turn into a professional baseball player is now happily chatting with his girlfriend while playing catch. Serves you right,” muttered Yuuki.
[Crap, we’ve been throwing balls for hours before I knew it]
“Let’s wrap it up now. Sorry, I made you accompany me for this long”
“Why are you apologizing?”
“I had a lot of fun, you know. Let’s do this again”
^1. a strikeout (or strike-out) occurs when a batter racks up three strikes during a time at bat. It usually means the batter is out.
^2. Super Cup. A brand of ice cream cup
^3. The fourth player in the batting order is known as the cleanup hitter, and in modern baseball is almost always one of the best hitters on the team, often the one with the most power and ability to drive in runs with extra-base hits (double, triple, or home run). His main goal is to drive in runs, although he is expected to score runs as well. Hitting cleanup requires an exceptional level of talent, and the ability to deliver big hits in important situations (such as the bases loaded with two out).
- Yes. the illustration showing Kotori sitting on Yuusuke’s left. And yes, it doesn’t match up the text, I know.