“We’ve got to get back to the game, right? Shinjo! Can you keep up with me?”
“N-no, I’ll go separate …….”
“Let’s race to the field!”
“O-oi, I’m talking——“
I had come to watch the girls play volleyball, thinking I wouldn’t be able to play baseball anyway.
Then, before I knew it, there was Yamada beside me …….
This guy seemed to have his eyes on Tanaka-san, and was cheering loudly.
Then, when our class’s volleyball game was over, he suddenly started talking to me.
I started to run to the ground, pushed by Yamada’s momentum.
Yamada is on the baseball team, so he is the key to our strength. …… Oi, aren’t you supposed to win the game and go on a date with Tanaka-san?
Apparently, from Yamada’s point of view, his love for Tanaka-san outweighed the baseball game.
…… For crying out loud it makes me smile to see it at all.
Yamada, running beside me, was in a good mood.
“Hey, Shinjo, you look like you’re having fun! Shinozuka-san was very active, wasn’t he! I mean, you’ve stopped laughing like that! It’s much cooler that way!”
I touched my face. I’m sure I was laughing.
…… Anri had been working really hard. I’m sure she will come to watch the baseball game after the volleyball is over.
I didn’t want to go to the ball game, but for some reason I felt an irresistible urge to go to the game.
“Oh, I see it. –A tie!? Oh well, I’ll turn it around from here! Shinjo, you’re batting for me next!”
Yamada hadn’t started the game yet. The other classmates fought hard and somehow managed to keep the game tied.
Just then, the enemy class was out and it was time for a change of offense and defense.
Yamada just said that to me and blended in with the rest of his classmates.
I could only watch from the outside.
I still can’t get used to this atmosphere.
I feel alienated, but it’s my fault that I haven’t been proactive in getting closer to my classmates.
……, but the feeling is different from the past. It’s not the same nasty feeling I had back then.
Yamada gets patted on the head by his classmates and chats with them. He is a great communicator. …… Yamada is amazing. I don’t know how to have a conversation like that.
This is the first step in bringing Haruka and I closer, but it’s only the first step.
Slowly, slowly, I’m getting a sense of distance from her as a family.
The biggest student in the class, Hirano from the judo club, sent a bat at me.
“…… Shinjo. Bat. Next. Substitute hit. I hate baseball. Please take my place.”
Hiratsuka, the most flirtatious guy in the class, was beside Hirano, who, unlike his appearance, had a mild face.
“We’re not a baseball team! You can just strike out! Yamada’s going to be so excited anyway. I was just trying to show Miyu-chan a nice side, you know~, Miyu-chan wasn’t here…… Well, I guess you’ll bat for Yamada, then.”
I see, so the batting order was Hirano and Hiratsuka.
I nodded vaguely.
I don’t know how to respond. The only time I’ve ever been talked to like this at once was when I was being …… blamed.
I don’t know how to be distant with boys.
The charlatan smirked and patted me on the back.
“Shinjo-kun will be fine! He’s got a real yankee angel watching over him! Hey, look, can you see her running from the gym? We’re playing, so let’s have fun!”
Hiratsuka, the charlatan, looked at Anri as she ran.
My heart raced. I had seen her in the gym a while ago, but somehow it seemed fresh.
Even though we were always together, the special environment seemed special.
I was now motivated to play baseball, which I didn’t care about.
“…… Hirano, give me the bat. I’ll go……”
With an unfamiliar cheer on my back, I headed for the batter’s box.
Baseball, like soccer, is played by teams.
I hadn’t played a team sport since I was a kid.
I’ve only thrown rocks at the wall by myself.
The …… mound, right? That’s a surprisingly long distance.
I’ve read a lot of baseball comics. I’ve also watched a few professional games.
When the ball comes flying at you, you hit it with the bat. Then, you run to the right side of first base. That much I understand.
A strange feeling of tension enveloped my body. It was similar to the feeling I had when I first posted my novel on a website.
Then it’s okay.
I stared at Anri from the batter’s box. Anri was about to enter the field.
Looking at Anri calmed me down. ……
My mind changed.
I need to show Anri how cool I am.
–I see, I was looking away and the ball came flying at me. I should swing the bat at it.
I swung the bat two or three times to test it.
It’s surprisingly light. However, I didn’t watch the ball closely, but in the animation, it reached the catcher in an instant. The pros are like that. I wondered if the ball was a test now.
I could hear my classmates’ voices.
“S-Shinjo, you’re too slow!”
“Look at the ball!”
“You may be worried about Shinozuka-san, but for now, watch the ball!
The next batter in the order, Tanaka, also called out to me.
“Just swing the bat with the ball. I don’t care if you are out, I’ll take care of the rest!”
The catcher yells as he returns the ball to the pitcher.
“Hey, hey, hey, this guy’s an amateur!”
As if in response, the opposing team yells at him.
“He’s scared of the batter!”
“Don’t underestimate him just because he’s good-looking!”
“Explode your rear!”
“You’re not good at this, so stay out of it!”
For some reason, when I receive …… negative emotions, my mind becomes calm. It’s like a game compared to the old cussing. In fact, it’s not that strong of a negative emotion. It’s just that I’m excited and letting the atmosphere get to me.
I was able to calm down rather than being cheered on.
Besides, Anri was watching me.
So I’m okay.
–The ball comes. This time, I look at it carefully.
But my bat swung away much too early.
Another shout from the opposing team.
My class cheers me on.
What the hell is this? Is this what sports are all about? I fell into a very strange feeling.
I’ve never felt this way before, and I’m in a whirlwind of emotions.
…… I kind of don’t want to lose.
The pitcher threw the ball to me–
Foul! Foul! “Foul!” “Foul!” “Foul!” “Foul!” “Foul!”
The referee’s voice of fouls rang out over the ground.
The cursing and cheering quieted down, and the students began to watch the persistent game between me and the pitcher.
“I’m getting the hang of it.”
I muttered to myself, and the catcher looked at me suspiciously.
The ball was too slow for me to get the timing right, but I could handle it now.
I glanced at Anri. She had her hands folded in a prayerful expression.
…… I still get a special feeling when I see Anri. Let’s get this over with and have lunch together.
I hit the flying ball with my bat at the right time. The crunching sound lingers in my ears.
The ball made a big arc and flew to the edge of the field, bouncing over the head of the position called center.
“Shaaaa! Shinjo, run! That’s right, go to the first base, no you can even go to the third base!”
“You’re so cool!”
“Go Go!! Oi, drop the bat!?”
“He’s fast! Is he on the track team?”
I didn’t know what was going on, but I ran like hell.
I couldn’t think about anything else while I was running.
I just ran like crazy. My hands were tingling. Where was I supposed to put the bat?
Before I knew it, the bat was out of my hands.
I was running while being cheered by my classmates. I thought that was never going to happen in my life.
I had always thought I was alone. As I run, I think of all the things I’ve done.
It was painful, and I was trapped in my shell. But Anri saved me.
I was able to see the past as the past.
Little by little, I’m growing up.
So I ran as fast as I could—–.
If I don’t step on the base, it’s a foul. That’s the rule the manga taught me.
As I rounded second base, I heard a loud voice.
“Shinjo! Run for home!!!!”
It was Yamada’s voice. Yamada’s voice came through loud and clear. You’re next, right? What if you get tired from shouting so vigorously? I ran as fast as I could without being told.
I rounded third base and aimed for home. I could see the ball coming back from the outfield in a heap.
I stepped on home base earlier than that. My classmates erupted in cheers.
I head back to my class, my breath catching a little.
I looked at Anri.
I could see Anri jumping up and down with joy.
I was happy just to see that. I felt a sense of fulfillment in my heart. I waved at Anri, and she waved back immediately.
“Ah, crap, I-it’s just them?”
“Yeah, it’s kind of hard to get into.”
“Haha, that’s okay, right?”
“He’s not even looking at me.”
“Shinjo did his best.”
“Seriously, Shinjo is amazing!”
I felt a shock on my body.
Yamada is hugging me! No, stop it! I-I don’t have that kind of taste–
“Awesome! Awesome! Shinjo, I knew you had it in you! I could see it in your eyes. I’m really fired up! I’m not going to lose either!”
Yamada was staring at Tanaka, who was standing next to Anri, as he went to bat.
I was in a difficult situation.
My classmates were getting excited and talking to me.
I was puzzled, but somehow managed to reply.
What the hell is this? I don’t know how to interact with them. I don’t know what to do, but my classmates keep talking to me.
Suddenly, I thought to myself.
I wish I could have spent my time like this in junior high school.
It’s a trivial thing, but I’m happy with trivial things and share my feelings.
…… It was difficult for me, who had built a wall around my heart.
But it’s different now. Thanks to Anri, the wall is gone.
For some reason, as I listened to the sound of Yamada’s bat hitting the ball, I felt an irresistible warmth in my heart.