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1. in which the nishiura baseball team summons a demon

 

It started innocently enough, with nine boys wanting to join the baseball club at Nishiura High School, and simply lacking a pitcher.

"What if we summoned one?" asked Tajima. The young tanuki boy was the first to voice this thought aloud due to his complete lack of a brain-to-mouth filter. 

The other boys shifted around and looked at the floor. "No way," said Suyama. With a witch for a mother and a human for a father, he was a little bit more cautious around forbidden magic than most people. "None of us have even summoned a friendly spirit before! What will we do if we get a malicious or dangerous one?"

Abe, a boy of vampire descent and catcher for the team, sighed. Fighting his natural sleep schedule for school often took its toll, and he was tired both physically and emotionally. "Well... we do need a pitcher. And it'd be much better to have an extra person, in case something ever goes wrong." 

"Absolutely not!" Hanai blustered. With dragon blood running through his veins, Hanai was a powerful athlete and a responsible member of the team, though he'd initially been reluctant to join. "We shouldn't even consider this! Anyway, how are we going to summon a being that can pitch? It's not like any random forest spirit we can pick up will know how to play baseball. It won't work, and that's final!"

The boys dropped the subject and went back to practicing, contemplating a way to find a new pitcher for the team. 

**

They tried recruiting amongst other first-year students who hadn't yet committed to clubs, but there were few baseball players. Most serious baseball players had chosen high schools other than Nishiura, given its lack of a regulation ball club. Tajima and Abe even asked acquaintances at other high schools if they'd consider transferring to Nishiura, but couldn't find anyone with any amount of interest in changing schools. 

A few days later, Abe showed up to practice with a large, ornately decorated book in his hands. Though its pages were yellowing and curling from age, the leather cover was supple and tough, with the words “Ars Goetica” embossed in gold on the front. When Mizutani looked at him questioningly, he put a finger to his lips and set the book aside, behind his gear bag, for later. 

After practice, when Momokan had left for the evening, Abe and Tajima collected the others, and brought up the matter again. "So, about our pitcher," Abe began, pulling the book out again. "Hanai, I know what you said about finding a spirit who knows how to play baseball, and I think this is the answer."

"The Ars Goetica?" Hanai asked skeptically. "Wouldn't summoning a demon be kinda risky? And I'm pretty sure you can't specifically summon a demon to play baseball, anyway." 

"But look at this one," Abe said, pointing at a picture in the book. "Marchosias. He's described as a skilled and powerful fighter, so he'd probably make for a good baseball player..." 

"You're forgetting that we need a high schooler!" Hanai shouted. "This is ridiculous, and I'm leaving! Go home , Abe!" 

"Too late!" Tajima said cheerfully, appearing from behind Hanai. "Look! I drew the summoning circle over here, and adjusted some of the signs so we hopefully get a younger demon. If it doesn't work, we'll just send him back!" 

Hanai hid his face in his hands as Tajima walked over to the circle scrawled in chalk on the ground in the corner of their club room. "To activate it, I think I just have to finish drawing in this bit here..."

The whole team shouted as a sudden puff of smoke appeared from the center of the magic circle, gradually clearing to reveal a young boy.

"W- Where am I?" the boy said nervously, looking at the ground. 

"Nishiura High School!" Tajima said cheerfully, holding out his hand for the boy to shake. "I'm Tajima, it's nice to meet you!" 

The boy apprehensively stuck out his hand to shake Tajima's, still refusing to make eye contact with anyone. "I'm Mihashi Ren... did you summon me? N-no one's ever summoned me before..."

Hanai sighed, and said to the group, "Well, at least he doesn't seem to be dangerous." He turned to Mihashi and added, "These idiots decided to summon you to play baseball with us. We need a pitcher, but rather than one of us learning to pitch properly or recruiting a new pitcher, they thought they'd summon you. I'm sorry to bother you, you can go home now." With this, he turned again to glare at Tajima and Abe. "What were you two thinking?!"

Abe glared back at Hanai. "We need a pitcher, and here's someone who might be able to do it! Shouldn't we at least give him a chance?" 

Tajima turned to Mihashi, whose mouth was flapping open and shut, but with no sound actually coming out. Mihashi raised one hand slightly, as if asking permission to speak. "How about it, Mihashi?" Tajima asked. "D'ya wanna try pitching for us? You do, right??"

Mihashi nodded enthusiastically, barely squeaking out a quiet "Yes, please!" 

Sighing heavily, Hanai led the little group over to the bullpen and waited quietly while Abe put on his catcher’s gear. 

"Here, you can borrow my glove for now," Izumi said to Mihashi quietly. Quiet and serious Izumi was the only one on the team with some demon heritage, though he didn't have any specific powers to show for it. 

Mihashi put on the glove and caught the ball that Hanai impatiently tossed his way. "Alright, give it a shot," Hanai said, "and then we can figure out how to send you home." 

Mihashi wound up slowly to pitch, and released a ball that flew straight into Abe's mitt. 

"Your control's not bad, but that was pretty slow," Hanai said. 

But Abe's eyebrows were raised, and he tossed the ball back to Mihashi. "Throw me a few more?" Abe asked. 

The others watched quietly as Mihashi threw a few more balls into Abe's mitt, Abe's expression growing more excited with each ball. 

"What pitches can you throw?" Abe asked urgently. 

"Umm...I can throw a curveball, a slider, and a screwball..." Mihashi muttered. 

"All with that kind of control?" Abe asked, a little louder. 

"I think so?" Mihashi said. "I'll...I'll do my best!

**

After a long day of work, and then a few hours of baseball practice, Momoe Maria had just finished showering and organizing her notes on practice that day when she saw her students back on the field. 

"Go home and rest!" she shouted, walking quickly towards the bullpen. 

Her eyes widened when she noticed the unfamiliar boy standing on the pitcher's mound. Then she noticed the tiny horns poking out from his fluffy orange hair. 

"Boys...what did you do," she said. Her voice was quiet, but they were frightened anyway.

Mihashi let out a tiny peep, and then attempted to hide behind Tajima, who was snickering like he'd just heard the world's best joke. 

** 

Mihashi was allowed to stay, but the whole team regretted their actions the next day, when their whole practice was just running and fielding drills until they couldn't walk anymore.

 


 

2. in which tajima plays a prank

 

"Hey, Nishihiro, c'mere a minute," Tajima whispered. His tanuki tail waggled mischievously, though that wasn't unusual. 

"What is it?" Nishihiro asked. As Nishiura's reserve man, he typically didn't play in real games. He was ready to go at any time, but really wasn't planning on playing in today's practice match. In fact, he was pretty nervous about even the prospect of playing in a match - baseball was much harder than his favorite manga made it seem, and as hard as he worked, he was still the least experienced and least skilled of Nishiura's small baseball team. At least for now, he was content to cheer on the team while sharpening his skills, readying himself to fight on the field with his friends. 

"Take my spot for a bit, okay?" Tajima said in a rush, disappearing into the locker room.

Nishihiro's heart jumped a little bit. Replace Tajima? The backbone of the team's offense, and a reliable fielder? But Tajima hadn't left him much of a choice, so he jogged out onto the field and began warming up with the rest of the team. 

"Where's Tajima?" asked Sakaeguchi. 

"He ran off to the bathroom, I think he's not feeling well?" said Nishihiro. "I hope he gets back soon, but he told me to play without him for now." 

"Momokan's running late too," called Hanai from across the field. "We might have to start this match without her, for now." 

Just then, Momokan appeared inside the dugout, baseball uniform quite a bit tighter than usual. "Oh, there she is," Sakaeguchi said. "Good morning, Momokan!"

"Is it just me, or is her uniform...a little small?" Suyama asked Nishihiro quietly. Nishihiro squinted at Momokan from across the field. Surely it wasn't...it couldn't be...

But just then, the whistle blew to start the game. "Line up!" called the umpire, and both teams hurried into place. "Bow!" he called. Formalities finished, the Nishiura team returned to the dugout, while their opponents took the field. Izumi stepped up to bat, and glanced at Momokan for her signal.

Izumi had to do a double take. Surely that wasn't her sign to bunt. Why would she be calling for a bunt right off the bat? He was the leadoff for a reason - he could hit, and a bunt with no one already on base wouldn't serve much of a purpose anyway. 

Ignoring Momokan's sign, Izumi readied his bat normally, planning to watch carefully for the first pitch or two, and then to swing for a base hit. The first pitch came in low and away, just outside the strike zone. The second was a curveball, coming in neatly in the bottom of the strike zone. 

Izumi glanced over at Momokan one more time, just to double check her signs, but was surprised once again. That didn't even look like a sign anymore, he thought. In fact, it looked kind of like a lewd gesture?

Izumi shrugged. He'd seen weirder in his time on the field, so he turned again to face the pitcher, and prepared his swing. The ball came flying again, to the lower inside this time, and Izumi stepped forward and smacked the ball into left field. With his teammates' voices hooting and hollering behind him, he threw his bat aside and dashed towards first base. 

The ball passed over the left fielder's head - Mizutani, playing base coach, waved Izumi on, so Izumi slid neatly into second, and Sakaeguchi came up to bat. 

Sakaeguchi, too, checked with Momokan for a sign - and was puzzled to find that she was signaling to go after the first pitch. Why, when it would be safer to watch a pitch or two and bunt, bringing Izumi to third? Maybe she was playing a little riskier since it was so early in the game? But wouldn't it be better to score a run safely to give them some breathing room? These thoughts ran around Sakaeguchi's head as he stood ready in the batter's box, watching the pitcher carefully. 

One pitch went by - a high pitch that was called a ball, and then another ball to the outside. Sakaeguchi chanced another look at Momokan, wondering if her directions would change now that he was ahead in the count. 

He squinted. From here, it looked like she was making a circle with her index finger and thumb of one hand, and putting her index finger of the other hand through the circle... wait, what?

Now was not the time to be distracted, so Sakaeguchi refocused, looking forward at the pitcher. A fastball came in, right down the middle as the pitcher vied desperately for a strike. Sakaeguchi shifted his feet and laid down a perfect push bunt, right between the first and second basemen. 

Sakaeguchi took off, sliding right into first moments after Izumi ran through third, placing them in a great position for Suyama to score. 

Suyama came up to the plate, and that's when all hell broke loose.

"Where's Tajima?" Mihashi asked suddenly. The batter's circle was empty, and Tajima, who was supposed to be batting fourth after Suyama, wasn't anywhere to be seen in the dugout. 

Momokan began to snigger wildly, clutching her stomach as she tried not to fill the entire stadium with her laughter. 

Sakaeguchi and Izumi simultaneously hid their faces as they realized exactly what was going on - first Momokan's weird signals from the dugout, and now Tajima was missing, and that could only mean one thing.

"Sorry I'm late!!" the real Momokan said as she stepped into the dugout. "I can't believe the game already started - I'm so sorry-" 

Momokan's apology cut off mid sentence when she noticed her doppelgänger in a too-small uniform laughing wildly while the rest of the team watched, bemused, and slowly put the pieces together.

Tajima continued laughing as he shifted back to his normal body, picked up his bat, and headed out to the field. 

Momokan sighed, sinking down to sit on the bench, determined to have a few words with Tajima after the game. “TAJIMAAAAAA,” she called after him, voice heavy with exasperation. “You’d better hit a good one, you hear me?” 

**

The team was changing out of their dirt-stained uniforms in the locker room after their match when Tajima finally made his expected lewd comment. 

"Y'know, I felt the desire to masturbate even in Momokan's body, but I just wasn't sure how I'd do it in a woman's body!" 

"Tajima, shut up!" the team exclaimed as one. Abe punched him in the arm, Sakaeguchi shook his head mournfully, and Mihashi just looked mortified at his wildest teammate's actions. 

 


 

3. in which abe gets a taste of his own medicine

 

"Mihashi, did you weigh yourself today?" Abe's gruff voice came from behind Mihashi, who jumped in his surprise. 

"Y-yes," Mihashi squeaked, characteristic bird mouth making its appearance as he seemed to shrink in response to Abe's approach. 

"Well? How heavy are you?" Abe asked impatiently. 

"About 52 kilograms..." Mihashi muttered quietly, avoiding Abe's gaze. Abe was always taking care of him, and while it was a nice change of pace from the demon realm, where he had no one to play baseball with, Abe scared him half to death! Why did Abe have to look so gruff and grumpy all the time, and why did he never use his words for anything kind?

"Hmm, a little light." Abe looked frustrated, kicking at the ground a little with his foot. "You should try to eat a little more tonight, Mihashi. What are ya gonna eat for dinner?"

Mihashi had been staying with his cousin's family, who lived nearby. The whole team, collectively, had decided not to ask how or why they were currently living there, outside of the demon realm. 

"I think ... we're having katsudon for dinner?" Mihashi's voice was tentative, quiet. Abe sighed. Mihashi was his pitcher, and Mihashi being constantly afraid of him wasn't helping their play on the field. 

"Why don't you come over for dinner? We're having a big dinner as usual, and then we can throw a few pitches?"

Mihashi squeaked, and hid his face in his hands. He peeked out with one big eye, and asked, "Wouldn't dinner for you be ... blood?"

Abe sighed. What an old stereotype, and one that he didn't particularly enjoy. "I'm only part vampire, you idiot." Catching sight of the way Mihashi shrunk in on himself even further at the insult, he sighed deeper. "We eat normal meat, you dummy. We just have to eat in slightly larger quantities than other people. And luckily for you, that would help you put some weight back on."

That night, Mihashi went to Abe's house, ate heartily, and enjoyed getting to pitch a little before he went home, and Abe managed to not make Mihashi squeak the whole evening, which he counted as a win.

**

"Mihashi!!" Abe's shout echoed from inside the bullpen, where he was beginning to remove his catcher's gear after a long practice session. "Wait up a moment!" 

Mihashi stared at the ground for a minute while he waited for his quick-tempered catcher to finish up. He glanced up only when an object was unceremoniously shoved in front of his face.

"Water," Abe almost growled. "Hurry up, it's hot outside. You're gonna get heat exhaustion if you keep practicing without drinking." 

Before he even entirely realized what was happening, Mihashi was led over to the dugout, and an icepack placed carefully over his shoulder. 

"Now stay here while you ice, drink some more water, and for god's sake stretch a little!" Abe said, face a little flushed. 

It had been a few months, and Abe still made Mihashi nervous, but Abe's actions were always a little kinder than his words, and Mihashi trusted him, at least for anything baseball related. 

**

"Where's Mihashi?" Abe's voice echoed among the tiled surfaces of the locker room, clearly audible to every member of the Nishiura baseball team. 

"Here!" Mihashi squeaked, popping out from where he had been standing behind Tajima and Mizutani. 

"It's hot outside today," Abe said, brow furrowed. "Don't forget to put on sunscreen, your skin isn't used to being outside the demon realm yet, and we have two practice games to get through today." He threw a small bottle over the heads of their teammates, who barely batted an eye. 

Mihashi caught the bottle and dutifully began covering every bit of exposed skin, meticulously reaching behind his neck and ears and rubbing the sunscreen into his hands too. 

"Hurry up, Momokan's waiting for us," Hanai called out, already halfway out the door. 

Mihashi squeaked, then followed the rest of the team out to the fields, anxiously patting in the last bits of sunscreen as he went. 

**

Mihashi and Abe were just stepping into the bullpen to begin warming up when Mihashi noticed something out of the ordinary. The tips of Abe's ears were beginning to flush red, as if he were blushing, and Mihashi began to panic. Why was Abe blushing? What was going on? Wasn't this just a normal warm up? Was Abe's reddened face not a blush, but instead anger? 

Mihashi's scrambled thoughts immediately snapped back into place when Abe's skin began to hiss and smoke, tiny popping noises like oil in a pan filling the air. 

"Abe, s-s-sun-sunscreen!" Mihashi screeched, hastily digging the little bottle out of his pocket and throwing it back to his catcher. "If only I was more reliable," he thought. "If Abe didn't have to take care of me all the time, he would have remembered to put on the sunscreen himself." But he couldn't do anything about that now, so he dropped those thoughts and hurried to help his catcher. 

**

"You boys alright over here?" Momokan asked, poking her head into the bullpen. A little bit of commotion wasn't unusual with these two, but she might as well check in on them anyway - they were meant to start pretty soon, and Mihashi and Abe often needed a bit of a guiding hand to understand each other properly. 

What she wasn't expecting to see was Abe, bright red and with Mihashi desperately rubbing sunscreen into his flushed face and hands, sitting in the only corner of shade provided by the bullpen to avoid the sun's rays. 

"What's going on?" she exclaimed, hurrying over to the boys. 

Abe sighed. "I forgot to put on my sunscreen, so the sun started burning away at me pretty quickly. Vampire genes." 

Mihashi nodded frantically in agreement. Momokan just sighed. Mishaps like this weren't unusual with her unruly ragtag boy squad, but this one hadn't come at a great time. 

Under Momokan's directions, Suyama came running with an umbrella to create enough shade to get Abe safely into the dugout, where Mizutani and the water nymph powers from his mom's side were waiting to soothe the burns. "What a mess," Momokan thought. She'd have to send Tajima out to play catcher, and Nishihiro would have to play too... 

Oh well. Knowing her team, it could have been much worse. And she had to suppress a giggle at the usually-reserved Abe being fussed over by the tag team of Mizutani and Mihashi, who clearly thought this whole situation was his fault somehow. "Oh, my boys," Momokan thought fondly. 

 


 

4. in which nishiura clears the benches

 

Izumi's hearing was far better than the average human's. He couldn't trace it back to a specific origin point in his family - maybe it was from all the time his shapeshifting father had spent as an owl in his youth, or maybe it was the werewolf and demon on his mom's side. Either way, he had it, and it proved to be a nuisance more often than not. His teammates, who were often loud and obnoxious to a normal person's standards, were occasionally unbearable to him. 

But on this day, it was particularly annoying, because he had to put up with all the things that were being whispered about his teammates. 

"Hey, I've heard that pitcher is a demon," a soft voice hissed from the opposing dugout.

"No way, that's not fair! He's not supposed to be here," another voice said.

"All his pitching skill is probably just artificial, some kind of devil's bargain," the first voice added. 

"And it's not like his balls are even that fast," someone scoffed. 

Izumi gritted his teeth and continued on his way back to the dugout to begin their side of the inning. They'd just have to shut them up with skill, and prove that the Nishiura team wasn't just Mihashi and that they had a solid offense to back up their defensive skills. 

But this inning brought back the bottom of their lineup, and despite Abe's nice base hit, the inning ended scoreless, and they were trotting back out onto the field soon enough. 

Perhaps the other team was a bit emboldened by their defensive success, because their comments were louder this time.

"The cheating pitcher is back again," Izumi heard. "Go back home already," another voice called. "I'll bet he's enchanted to pitch decently, but his speed is still garbage anyway! How useless is he?"

Unfortunately, Izumi wasn't the only one who heard it this time. 

"What did you say?" Tajima growled, his one ungloved hand beginning to flicker threateningly between human and bear forms as he followed the other team to their dugout. "Mihashi's earned his place on this team, fair and square!" 

**

Izumi thought back to when they'd summoned Mihashi from the demon realm. Momokan had been pretty angry with them - demon summoning wasn't exactly illegal, but it wasn't exactly safe either, and especially not for a bunch of students who didn't know much about what they were doing. And Mihashi's nervousness - jumping and squeaking at every little thing that startled him - only set the rest of them on edge too. 

Momokan had bound Mihashi to a gentle truth circle, which would flash bright white if Mihashi were to tell a lie, and went down the standard list of questions.

"What demonic powers do you have?" she'd asked.

"I can light small fires," Mihashi whispered, looking extremely nervous. 

"Do you intend harm to anyone in this room?" 

"Not at all!!" Mihashi said, gesturing wildly. "I don't want to hurt anyone, honest! I just want to play baseball!" 

"What kind of demon wants to play baseball?" Suyama asked suspiciously. 

"There-there aren't that many demons my age," Mihashi muttered, looking at his feet. "And people don't like me that much anyway...I've always wanted to pitch! I spend hours a day practicing pitching to a strike zone that I put up on a wall...I don't have anyone to play with, so that's all I can do..."

"Wait," Abe interrupted. "Your pitching accuracy is just from practicing? It has nothing to do with being a demon?"

"Th-that's right!" Mihashi squeaked, looking for something to hide behind. 

"Momokan, please!" Abe said emphatically. "He'd be such an asset to the team! We need a pitcher, and he has both incredible control and pitch variety! With me leading him, we could shut down batters, no problem!" 

Momokan sighed and released Mihashi from the truth circle, scuffing out the glyphs in the dirt with her shoe. "I'll decide on your punishment later," she said, "but for now we should make sure Mihashi has somewhere to stay, and figure out if he can register at school this late into the school year."

"Thank you!" Abe and Mihashi said together, glancing at each other and blushing immediately afterward. 

**

Since Mihashi had joined Nishiura's baseball team, he'd steadily grown on the rest of the team. He was quiet, and skittish, and his fastballs really weren't that fast, but his speed was increasing and his work ethic was clear to the entire team. His love of baseball shone through every pitch, clear in how greedily Mihashi occupied the mound. That was his space, and Mihashi'd be damned ("Ha, ha" the team grumbled when Tajima made this joke) if he'd give it up. 

Mihashi was their pitcher, their ace, and the whole of Nishiura would fight to protect him.

In this case, fighting for Mihashi got a bit too literal.

The opposing team's pitcher, who'd been making most of the snide comments, turned to face Tajima, and growled, "I said your pitcher's a demon and a cheater! We all know you summoned him to play baseball, and he's probably got special demon powers! How's that fair?"

Tajima's usually cheerful face contorted into a glare in defense of his friend. "Mihashi's pitching has nothing to do with him being a demon! He's enrolled as a student in Nishiura, fair and square! YOU'RE just jealous of his pitching!" 

"Jealous of those slow balls?" the pitcher laughed. "Yeah, right. It's only a matter of time before we get used to how slow he is and start knocking his pitches out of the park. It'd be better for him to go back where he came from now. Dirty, cheating demo-" 

His taunts were cut off when Tajima tackled his legs, knocking him to the ground. 

The rest of Nishiura surged after Tajima. It was unclear whether they wanted to help him in his goal of rubbing the opposing pitcher's face in the dirt or to break up the fight, and the onlookers would never know the real answer, because the rest of the other team rushed out too, and it became a full-on brawl. 

Hanai's dragon claws slipped out, leaving big tears in their opponents' uniforms, until he ended up locked into combat with a tall werewolf boy. Mizutani successfully summoned a tiny underground aquifer, pulling up jets of water to smack the other players in the face, and Tajima kept shifting forms, weaving between players to inflict heavy blows as a big dog, or quick, sharp strikes as a bird. An opposing player spread a sticky potion on the ground, trying to trap Tajima into one place and one form, but he was quickly caught by Abe, who held him in a headlock and bared his fangs, not biting down but clearly threatening to do so. Suyama's brightly colored spells were sticking to several opposing players, unknown effects threatening to emerge at any second. Even Izumi sighed and threw himself into the fray. His teammates were hotheaded idiots who went off at such a small provocation, but they were his idiots, and the other team had been pissing him off the whole afternoon. If not for Izumi’s quick shields, Nishiura’s players would have been hit by quite a few more of the spells flying wildly through the air. Only Mihashi squeaked and held back, calling for the fighting to stop, unwilling to let any of his friends get hurt on his behalf.

The full magical might of Nishiura stood against these bullies and judgmental idiots, and though the fight was quickly broken up by the coaches and umpires, it was pretty clear who had come out the victors.

**

That evening was the worst scolding they'd ever received from Momokan. They were lectured for almost an hour, culminating in suspension from the team for a full week. That really hurt, with the next tournament just around the corner, but Momokan had never been as seriously angry as she was now.

Even so, when she finally let them go for the night, her face softened a little bit, and she told them, "I'm proud of you for protecting your own and for standing up for each other. That just doesn't excuse fighting, alright? Prove yourselves on the field next time."

They wouldn't get in a fight again, but the Nishiura team didn't regret it. 

 


 

5. in which nishiura at least kind of makes it up to momokan

 

Nishiura had learned their lesson about fighting at games. Nothing was worth Momokan's wrath, and despite being competitive, hot-blooded athletes, none of them were particularly keen on physical altercations. Defending Mihashi had been a one-time thing, they promised. No more fighting, they swore. 

But that didn't mean they wouldn't protect their own, and this time it was Momokan being targeted. 

This was a real tournament, and Izumi caught their first-round opponents whispering about how weak the Nishiura team must be because they had a woman for a coach, and how ridiculous was that, and the whole team must play like sissies, but she was pretty cute, wasn't she. But this time, he told his teammates, and they were all quietly incensed at this dismissal of their beloved coach. She'd proven her skill to them time and time again, both as a coach guiding them to make the most of their abilities against the particular opponents they were facing, and also as a player herself. Other teams had no right to be dismissive of her without seeing her skill first. 

They'd promised Momokan to prove themselves on the field if they had an issue with another team, and so they did, pulling out a comfortable 5-2 win. But the grumbled comments of "Ugh, a fluke" and "That coach probably doesn't do anything, anyway" continued even after the game, which they couldn't let slide. Not entirely. 

**

"So," said Momokan, "nice play today, everyone. Make sure you get some rest tonight, okay? We've got a tougher game tomorrow, and the games will only get tougher after that. Eat well, sleep well, and I'll see you tomorrow."

As she turned to leave, she paused, and asked the whole team, "Hey, I heard the other team had some troubles after the game today. Bird poop all over their spare equipment, a sprinkler broke and caused some flooding in their dugout, the lights went out while they were changing clothes...you wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?" 

"Nope," the boys responded together. 

"I sure hope they made it home okay," added Tajima, a perfectly angelic smile on his face. 

Momokan smiled slightly as she left, hiding her face from her boys. "Alright then, see you bright and early tomorrow!"

She had to chuckle a little as she walked to her car. The Nishiura team was sometimes hotheaded, a little ridiculous, required a lot of management, and generally caused her a lot of grief. But she'd heard some of the comments made by the other team about her that day, and had a sneaking suspicion about why that team had so many misfortunes after the game. 

The boys were absolutely wild, and a lot of work, but Momokan wouldn't trade them for anything.