Kasumi took pride in the fact that she, in her 15 years on this earth full of cute, had never seen a single crime. She never understood the people who wanted that kind of excitement in their lives. Surely, there were easier ways to get your 15 minutes of fame, especially when your name was Kasumi Nakasu, the cutest idol in the universe (give or take a few of her friends, she’d happily admit.)
Unfortunately for her, those carefree days would come to an end when she came into the clubroom one fine summer day and laid eyes on the state of her Kasubox.
“AUUUUGH?!” was the first word out of her mouth and the only one that could capture the sheer horror she had been forced to bear witness to. Sitting there, placed perfectly off to one corner of her precious Kasubox’s head, was the greatest fashion crime she could possibly imagine.
A baseball cap.
“Who?” Kasumi turned to Emma, the first girl she could spot in the clubroom. “Who did this to the Kasubox?” She spoke, with all the grief and anguish that she could muster in a moment’s notice.
“Um…” Emma, who had just been enjoying a nice, fresh butter roll from Yamabuki Bakery (ironically on Kasumi’s recommendation), was now trying to switch gears to her question between chews, when a voice peeped up from the back of the room.
“Oh, there’s my cap!” Mia sauntered over to the Kasubox, picking it up with a smile and twirling it off her finger onto her head. “Didn’t realize I left it lying ‘round like that! Silly me.”
“Silly…” Kasumi’s mouth puckered up at the girl. “Just why the heck are you leaving things on such a holy relic in the first place?”
Mia turned her head, as if she’d just realized Kasumi was in the room, raising an eyebrow at the question. “Holy?” She turned to the Kasubox, its smile eternal despite the heated debate erupting around it. “This thing??”
“THING???” Kasumi near screamed now. “That is the Kasubox, Miako! A legendary item! One of a kind!”
Mia, incredulous, wanted to fire back with a “That’s probably for the best”, but she had more pressing questions on her mind. “Well anyway, what’s the big hangup? I think it looked better with my cap on it anyway.”
Kasumi merely scoffed at the suggestion. “It did not, I can tell you that!”
That declaration triggered a change in the atmosphere. What was once surprise mixed with shades of amusement from Mia now started its turn to irritation.
“Uh, no?? I say that it does. Everything looks better in a Mets’ cap.” Mia didn’t have to be in college to tell her that.
“No it doesn’t!” Kasumi shot back, sticking her tongue out as she did. “There’s a lot of cute things in this world, but baseball sure ain’t one of them!”
Mia rolled her eyes. “Things don’t gotta be cute to make ‘em look better. Besides, how would you know? You ever seen some of these games?”
Kasumi put her hands on her hips. “I can proudly say that I haven’t!”
Silence. The only sounds in the room now were from Emma, now halfway through her bread and going, rather pleased that today was going as usual. Mia blinked a few times, trying to process what she had just heard.
“You’ve… never been to a baseball game? Like, ever?”
That drew a pout from Kasumi. “Well, yeah! Is that really so surprising? Not everyone is a sports fanatic like you, Miako!”
The girl stopped listening after the “yeah”. All other thoughts were replaced by a single question.
“Do you wanna go see one?”
Kasumi’s eyes opened wide, taken aback by the sudden invitation. “What?? After all I just said, do you really think I would want to go to a baseball game?”
“Yeah.” Mia replied simply. “‘Cause it’s fun.”
“Well too bad!” Kasumi put her foot down to emphasize the point. “No way, no how, is Kasumi Nakasu ever going to a baseball game!”
“Whoa, these seats are nice! Right behind home plate, just like I like ‘em.”
As Mia sang praises for her choice in tickets, Kasumi stared blankly ahead, not saying a word. How could she, when she was still eating her previous words? Somehow, Miako had dragged to the thing she least wanted to spend her Saturday doing; the dreaded ‘ball game’.
“Hey, don’t fall behind, Kasumi!” Mia shouted, having somehow navigated to the middle of the row in the time she had been thinking. “You want to get in before it starts to fill up. Old fangirl trick.” Kasumi could swear she saw the beginnings of finger guns, but clearly, thankfully Mia had enough common sense not to commit to it.
Kasumi could feel the rumblings of a groan form in her mouth as she plopped down next to Mia. A full game’s worth of not-cute? How was she ever to survive?
Mia shifted restlessly in her seat. She hadn’t told Kasumi, but this was the first game she had gone to since coming to Japan. Between moving, transferring her documents to Nijigasaki, composing music, and well, Lanzhu, she had hardly time for the simple pleasures in life. If she were being honest, she was a little thankful for Kasumi’s ignorance of said pleasures.
Just a little though, and to hell if she were ever gonna be that honest with her.
So, she silently waited as the stands filled in around them and if there was one thing Kasumi hated more than a lack of cute, it was silence. This really was torture she thought, of the highest order. Her curiosity had led her into her own end and she could do nothing but lay here until it came for her.
Meanwhile, Mia started munching on the hamburger she had bought for herself. “Ooh, it’s starting!”
As if on her cue, indeed, the opening fanfares of the ball game rang through the stadium loudspeakers, to a wave of cheers from the crowd. All save of course, for Kasumi, who sat, motionless, as if she really had expired in the stands. Nothing now could bring her back to life.
“And throwing out the first pitch, from the famous Seisho Music Academy, Nippon Ham Fighters SUPERfan! Mahiru Tsuyuzaki!”
Kasumi’s ears perked up at the familiar name. Her eyes came to fast enough to spot a familiar pair of blue antennae running out to home plate, clad in her home team’s signature jersey of blue, gold, and white, shining in the morning sun.
“Whoa, they got a special guest.” Mia leaned forward in her seat, curious. “Don’t know who she is though.”
“You don’t know?” Now it was Kasumi’s turn to be incredulous. “That’s only Mahiru Tsuyuzaki, up-and-coming actress and full-time cutie!”
“Ooh.” Mia was nonplussed. “Right, she goes to that uhhh… Say-show school right?”
“Seisho.” Kasumi corrected, as if reading it from a textbook. “It’s a school for musical theatre and a dang good one if I do say so myself.”
“Huh, didn’t know you were an expert.”
“Eh, Shizuko’s forced me to go see a few of their shows with her. Nothing special, honestly.” Kasumi bragged, letting her hair flip as much as its shoulder-length would allow.
Mia took a breath, in consideration. “You are the only person I know who would ever be proud of getting forced into something.” Kasumi just stuck her tongue out at that.
“Still, I gotta admit, you do know your stuff.” Mia said cooly, noticeably looking away from her as she did.
Kasumi locked her eyes straight on her and smirked. “Well of course! It’d be rude of me to not keep up to date on all the latest things girl cute!”
Mia grinned for a brief moment on hearing that. “You kinda sound like Vi’s girlfriend.”
“Hm, hm.” Kasumi was still proud as a pumpkin. “Well, if we’re talking about Moani-chan…”
By all accounts, Mia knew she had every right to stop Kasumi right there and to tell her to focus on the game. That’s what they were there for, right?
Somehow though, it just felt right to let her keep going. It wasn’t that annoying, right? And as much as she loved baseball, she had to admit that the first inning could be a little slow. She would let her go until then, at the very most.
One inning became two, then five before they knew it. Mia was having a heck of a time. Between baseball and Kasumi’s random, haphazard gossip, there was hardly a dull moment.
As for Kasumi herself, she had stopped paying much mind to the game around the top of the 3rd. Even if she were interested in baseball, she found something infinitely more interesting than that.
“Whoo-hoo!” Mia cheered, stars in her eyes. “Did you see that homer, Kasumi? Aw, dang, Japanese baseball is legit!”
Kasumi only chuckled back in reply. Who cared about the game when there was a cutie doing cute things right here for her to watch?
And as she watched, she noticed that Mia’s gaze drifted up and up, as if she were following something. She watched as her gaze drifted further and further left and took note of her look of surprise as she moved in front of her, sticking her hands up in the air.
The pieces were slowly coming together in Kasumi’s head and she turned her head up just in time to see a baseball, heading straight for her in freefall, much as she imagined that certain millions-year old meteor looked like to the dinosaurs.
“Eh?” Kasumi’s reaction was underplayed at first, but as the adrenalin reached her body, she was able to give a stronger shout. “EHHHHHH????” Looking left to right as she stood, she tried to see if she could duck, cover, roll, something to escape the ball headed straight for her cute little head. Sadly, every fan in the stands thought they had a shot of catching the home run and had formed a neat little fence around her. Much like destiny, there was no running from this ball.
Out of options and out of time, Kasumi did the only thing she could do. With tears in her eyes, she plucked the beret off her head, turned it upside down and stuck her hands high as she could reach. She closed her eyes and prepared for the worst.
With a small thud, she felt something small, but speedy send shockwaves through her hands. And that was all. She pried her eyes open at long last, first to confirm that yes, she was still in one piece, and yes, she was still cute. Then, she brought her hands down to find one more surprise waiting for her.
The home run that everyone had been clamoring for, nestled perfectly in the dip of her beret, like a mother bird’s first egg in her new nest.
“Yo, Kasumi!!” Mia threw her arm around the girl, still in shock. “I didn’t think you had it in ya! Catching a homer in your very first game! Man, you get all the luck, don't ya?”
Kasumi processed all of what her companion had said to her and a smile crept onto her face. “You didn’t expect that? Hm, you clearly underestimated Kasumin! Foolish, Miako, foolish.”
Mia’s smile turned in an instant to her rolling her eyes. “Alright, alright, you made your point. Now sit down already. I think the guys behind us are getting testy.
With the mood having gone silent between them, they both took their seats again as the game resumed. Taking note of the changed atmosphere, a feeling of regret started to well up around Kasumi, like thorns on a rose. This was hardly the worst thing she’d said to Miako even this week, she knew, but somehow, this was the first one she couldn’t get out of her head. She didn’t have to let this feeling sit with her to know she didn’t want it to sit with her.
“Hey, Miako?” She started, awkwardly.
“Hm?” Mia raised an eyebrow, as if nothing had gone on between them.
“Er, well… you seemed kinda excited about this ball earlier…”
“Well yeah.” Mia said as if everyone should know. “Every baseball fan hopes to catch a home run. You saw how everyone here was reaching up to grab it right? It’s a big deal back in America too.”
“Huh…” Kasumi had no idea. “Then uh…”
Mia sighed. “Look, Kasumi, it’s alright, you don’t gotta-”
“Here.” Kasumi stuck her arm out, her hand holding the very ball they had been talking about.
Mia looked down to the ball, only able to blink in response to the sight of it. “What?” she said, so shocked that it came out in her native English.
“I’m giving it to you.” Kasumi said simply. “I mean, I don’t really need it. You said it yourself; Every baseball fan wants one, so…”
Even after her explanation, Mia still had a hard time believing it. “I never took you for the type to give things away.”
Kasumi grimaced a little at that, a little feeling of shame tugging at her heart. “Just don’t get used to it, alright?”
Mia paused for a moment, swearing she could hear something behind those words of hers. She pursed her lips as she considered it and slowly reached to grab the ball her friend had offered her. “I don’t plan on it. Thanks.”
Kasumi said nothing in return. The weight around her shoulders lifting was enough for her to be at peace, enough to wait out the rest of the game.
Though she would have been fine with that being the end of it, the bottom of the eighth inning spelled different plans for them. Mia had gone back to watching the game and Kasumi had gone back to watching Mia, when a blonde girl with twintails came running up to them, not nearly out of breath as Kasumi would have assumed. Not because she was the type to assume, but because she knew exactly who this was.
“Oh, um, hi Kasumi-chan!” The blonde addressed them in accented, but otherwise perfect Japanese. “Say,you guys are the ones who caught the ball right? In the fifth inning?”
“Oh, actually.” Mia started as she turned to Kasumi. “That was all her.” She said with a smile.
“Oh cool, cool! Actually, about that…” The girl took a breath and steepled her fingers. “My boss told me you gotta give us the ball back. Stadium policy, he said.”
Kasumi looked over to see on her white jersey a nametag that helpfully informed them that her name was Jennifer (which she knew) and that she indeed worked here at the Meiji Jingu Baseball Stadium (which she hadn’t until now).
She scrunched her mouth, just enough to pout. “Well that seems a little unfair, right? I mean, she was all excited and everything and it’s her first game in Japan…”
No matter how long Kasumi went, Jennifer could only sadly shake her head. “Sorry, but rules are rules.”
“Aw!” Kasumi leaned over the edge of her seat. “But there’s gotta be…”
“Kasumi.” Mia reached her hand back to stop her. “It’s alright. I’m cool with giving it back.” Despite what she said, there was a lining of sadness to her words, traces of parting on each syllable. Those tones brought Kasumi’s own spirits lower with each beat.
Slowly, Mia took the ball out of her jacket pocket and, brushing her hand over it one last time, plopped it into Jennifer’s waiting hands.
Jennifer looked down at the ball, then back to the sadness on Mia’s face, then finally to Kasumi’s expression. Dejected disappointment masked the fire beneath that, a desire to do right by her friend, some way, somehow.
That fire lit the spark of an idea in her. “Oh, wait, I forgot!” She said in what she hoped passed for genuine surprise. “I forgot about your prize!”
Kasumi raised an eyebrow. “Prize?”
“That’s right!” She continued her jubilant tone. “To compensate your getting a home run, we’re supposed to give you a prize! So um…” Jennifer reached into the oversized bag slung over her shoulder and swiftly produced a miniature replica of a small brown bear, wearing the same jersey that Mahiru had on earlier. “Here you go! Enjoy!”
Mia wasn’t sure what to say, but on seeing the mascot, something inside compelled her to take it without missing a beat.
Her job complete, Jennifer gave a nod and sprinted up the stairs, hoping she didn’t draw too much attention to herself.
“Wait, Jennifer-senpai!” Kasumi called out, to which the girl in question briefly looked back.
“Thanks.” She was met with a smile from Kasumi, an uncommon sight from the girl in its honesty.
On receiving a smile like that, Jennifer had to return it in kind. The exchange stuck with her long after she had returned to the staff room, her head full of ideas of what else she could get for Yukari-chan instead of the plushie she just gave away.
The ninth inning passed without incident, with a victory for the Ham Fighters.
“I bet it was Mahiru that won them the game.” Kasumi said, affecting her usual cheer as they walked out of the stadium.
“Mm, mm.” A faint smile played at Mia’s lips.
“Hmmm?” Kasumi leaned in. “I thought you’d have more to say about them winning. Not your kinda team?”
“Nah, it ain’t that.” Mia said. “I was just thinking…”
“Oooh? Not about the next game I hope!” Kasumi protested, if only half jokingly. “I don’t know what I’d do if every one of my weekends were spent having-”
“Here.” Mia stuck her arm out to reveal the stuffed bear Jennifer had given her.
Kasumi tilted her head. “Miako?”
“Hey, I’m giving this to you. You gonna take it or not?”
“Huh?” Kasumi was puzzled. “Why me?”
“You’re the one who caught the home run.” Mia replied as simply as Kasumi had asked. “And besides, this thing’s too cute for me. It suits you better.” Mia looked away as she said that last part and Kasumi swore she could see a faint touch of pink brush her cheeks.
“Ok, ok, I getcha.” Kasumi chuckled as she took the plushie. “I already have a million plushies at home but… one more couldn’t hurt right?”
“Especially one as special as this” , she finished to herself.
Mia smiled, the corners of her mouth just tugging themselves upward. “Glad you like it. Now…” Mia looked around the parking lot, fully lit by the afternoon light. “We heading home?”
“Actually~” Kasumi sang playfully. “You did drag me over here.”
“Uh…” Mia blinked. “I still dispute that, but alright. So?”
“So!” Kasumi clapped her hands together. “I get to drag you out somewhere! We have plenty of time after all.”
Mia didn’t like the sound of that. “Drag me where exactly?”
With a smile, Kasumi laid one hand on her shoulder and said the one word that made Mia want to shrivel up in her room for the rest of her mortal life. “Shopping.”
“Nope.” Mia blurted out as she turned around. “Nooo thank you.”
“Wait, wait!” Kasumi raised her voice as she tailed her like a cat at playtime. “Hear me out here, Miako!”
“No way am I going clothes shopping, Kasumi!” Kasumi could swear that Mia slowed down as she turned back to say that. “Cute clothes and me just don’t go together!”
“Aw, and how would you know?” Kasumi questioned. “Have you ever seriously been clothes shopping?”
“I-” Mia paused as she realized that she, indeed, hadn’t seriously gone clothes shopping. At least, she figured, not by Kasumi’s standards of such.
“Didn’t think so.” Kasumi grabbed Mia by the hand and practically began dragging her to the station. “Come on, I’ve got some cute outfits I just KNOW will look perfect on you!”
Mia had plenty of objections to that statement, to the situation she was in, and likely to just about everything else brewing in Kasumi’s head at the moment. One thing she didn’t object to though, was Kasumi’s excitement as she talked on and on about all things fashion, cuteness, and Kasumin life.
She thought it might just be the best thing about today. Maybe even better than baseball.