Chapter 4: Diamond Mound
It took quite some time for me to forget about the incident. Still, I did not allow the incident to mess up my practice after school. After the great incident, no one could be found in the washroom except the princess. Until then, the atmosphere of the washroom embraced me with warmth and power as if the washroom was my palace and the toilets were soldiers. I was having a telepathic conversation with one of my soldiers about how I was supposed to face everyone tomorrow after the rumours spread. As the soldier and I conducted the important conversation in the finest anteroom, I have to admit that the soldier was the best listener that I have ever met.
“I command you to use your finest knowledge and tell me if your ruler will face trials tomorrow.”
“Prshhhhh, shhhhh, whiz,” replied my loyal soldier.
“I’ll take that as a yes. How would you feel...if one day… maybe… one day… your princess might become your emperor?” I questioned, hoping to receive a pleasant response.
“Prshhhhh, shhhhh, whiz.”
“Oh really? Thank you, I’m that not great of what you just described,” I thanked my lovely soldier.
An awkward silence followed our conversation off for a while.
I figured out that my soldier wouldn’t speak to me unless I asked for a reply, therefore, I continued, “You know, you can speak to me anytime my dear. I would appreciate it if you open-up your emotions to your princess. Isn’t it the ruler’s job to take care of their underlings?”
“Prshhhhh, shhhhh, whiz,” my s0ldier replied in a monotone voice.
“Oh I get it. Fine then. It’s okay. We all have stories that we don’t want others to know. Even your princess hides things from you. I totally get you. But aren’t you lonely? I mean, you can’t leave the palace because of your occupation. Quite sad huh?” I wondered.
“Prshhhhh, shhhhh, whiz.”
“Sorry, I was rude. When I get a chance to take pictures of the world outside the palace I’ll show them to you right away. But, let me tell you this first, the perplexing world beyond our palace is filled with unkind ugly goblins, like the ones that you just saw.” I frowned.
“Prshhhhh, shhhhh, whiz,” my brave soldier worried.
“No worries, you princess will protect you no matter what. By the way, thank you for protecting me a few moments ago, you were so courageous. The way you stood up for me was cool!”
“Prshhhhh, shhhhh, whiz,”
“Awwww. Why would you want to live your wonderful life with someone like me? But, thank you, I appreciate it,” I added. The mesmerizing words from my dear soldier were the sweetener of my coffee during the day. Even so, I had not yet forgotten the practice later, the Time had come for me to part with my dear soldier today.
“My brave soldier, the Time has arrived that we shall walk our different pathways. I hope that one day your vision will bring you to my glorious practice, until then, may the fortune be with you. Farewell, my brave one.”
“Prshhhhh, shhhhh, whiz,” thanked my soldier.
I quickly grabbed my rubber band and tied my hair into a ponytail, gave the soldier a nod, and dashed out of the palace. I was okay with receiving all sorts of punishments including being tormented by the sorcerers, but the only thing I could not afford to lose is my practice. I was skipping on the hallway with that unlovely smirk on my face, it was almost Time. Whew. May luck be with me. Just one step, and I’ll be on the mound, joining the practice. I was grabbing my equipment as I smiled like a big fool. The Time had arrived. It was Time!
Jack slapped my back behind once he saw me. “Don’t strike everything out like last Time okay? Bro, take it easy,” he joked.
“Yeah, yeah, okay, sure,” I was too busy preparing myself, especially my nerves, for the practice.
“Hey, you know you can talk to me. How did it go with Mr. Miller? Is everything alright?”
’You dumb-dumb, of course nothing’s okay’ was my honest thought. Yet, to be polite and to not ruin my excitement for the practice, I answered, “I’m fine.”
“You sure?” I was sure, very sure that Jack could not read atmospheres. I decided to ignore his questions so I kept my mouth shut. I know that he cares about me, his fellow teammate, but, it just wasn’t the time to ruin my mood.
I took a deep breath and sent a prayer to my beloved mound. Thank you for having me. The mound was glowing with glory and our pride. The 90-feet wide artificial grass was stained by the colour of our hard work and tears and the diamond shaped base line was proof that the field was meant for us. There, the configurations on the wall were decorated with memorable pictures of our past championship. The Four gorgeous diamonds reflected in the sandlot were worth a lot, so much that made all the billionaires in this world feel ashamed. There, the center of the infield, the bump of a raised mound, shined the brightest as if God designated the place just for me. The place was my little cozy home. The family was pleased to have me, even the sandlot was smiling at me enthusiastically.
I was about to step on the mound when a senior’s gorgeous silhouette caught my eye. He was exiting the parking lot and approaching the most important position of the mound. Before he stepped on the delicate sand of the mound, he turned his back and we made eye contact. The rays from the sun lighted his daring almond brown eyes as he looked my way. His pitch-dark hair cancelled a million mysteries that made me wonder. For some reason, he was frowning like a thunderstorm. I wonder what happened to him? Still, he was so gorgeous.
I realized that I was staring at him when Jack slapped my back again. My cheeks instantly turned bright red as I turned to face the other direction. Gosh, what is wrong with me today?
“Jack, ya know that guy?”
“You mean that guy? The guy with that fat big frown?” Jack gave me that weird skeptical face as he spoke.
“You would never want to mess with Arata. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but he has anger management issues. Why though?” Jack still had that suspicious look on his face.
I gave Jack a back-slap and added, “Nothing! Let’s go! Practice, Practice!”
Time himself was in a hurry. I could feel the pressure of Time pushing me forward on the mound, I guess he was just excited for practice too? The Time had arrived. Yes, he’s here, grabbing my hand and tying all the red strings of destiny. Time was right beside me. I could feel his cold breath whispering beside me. Time was here. I took a long deep breath and placed my feet on the enthusiastic sandlot. The cosy family was welcoming me with a slightly warm kiss on my forehead. The dusty nanoparticles that I inhaled did not stop me from enjoying the reunion of my family. Even Time understood the importance of this practice.
The raised hill on the sandlot, illuminated by the brightest rays of the sunshine and my pride, was calling me. I failed to resist being cocky or deciding my position without others’ permission. Gradually, I lost resistance and my body dragged me towards the pitchers’ mound. That day was my day to shine. The exquisite mound was decorated with sparks of hot tears, not crybabies’ weak tears, but the true tears of men.
I was about to ask Jack if he wanted to be my catcher for the day but I figured out that he was busy playing catch with the seniors, excluding Arata and his small gang. Instead, Charlie, Jack’s brother, volunteered to be the catcher. Unexpectedly, before he volunteered to partner up with me, he said that he needed to talk to me. Well, that was weird but okay?
Charlie lowered his body stance into a crouch, even though it seemed like he was uncomfortable with the stance and his incredible height, I still wished I was 180 like him. Similar to Jack, his cloudy dark eyes were totally incomprehensible, whatever they were hiding, no one will ever find out about it. Charlie adjusted his posture one last Time and gave me a small nod, signalling me that he was ready. I took a deep breath and stretched my overweight arm. Then, I pulled my arms backwards and turned my legs sideways, here comes a fork. I was about to fling the baseball towards Charlie’s pretty little face when he suddenly stood up and shouted, “Mitsuki Wait! Did Jack tell you yet?”
“Tell me what?” I was annoyed since I had my pitching form perfectly set up.
“Stop pretending that you don’t know. I know that you know,” Charlie answered my question with a perplexing riddle.
“Look, whatever you are talking about right now, I have no idea at all. You still gonna play catch?” I raised my voice this Time.
He started walking towards me with those dead serious looking eyes staring at me. “Mitsuki, I ain’t joking.”
“Well, I’m serious too. You still gonna play catch,” I repeated my words.
Instead of continuing nagging me about ‘something that I know’, Charlie stood up and started approaching me. This was the first Time when I realized that Charlie’s silhouette and posture were totally different from Jack’s. Unlike Jack, Charlie rarely smiles, and even if he did, his smiles were never genuine. Charlie’s presence never gave me positive vibes, especially those Times when he was standing beside me; I hated it when his gigantic silhouette always overlapped mine, I felt as if he had stolen my spotlight. On the other hand, Jack was the one who pushed me forward and held me up high. I could never forget the times he offered to be my partner for the practice when others refused. He had my back.
“Charlie, cut it out! You know you shouldn’t be scaring people off,” said one of Arata’s friends. Thanks to Charlie’s intimidating presence, I didn’t notice Arata’s gang approaching the pitcher’s mound. I still hope that I could peel off Arata’s mysterious mask someday.
“C’on Ren, don’t misunderstand me, I wasn’t doing anything,” Charlie frowned as Ren, Arata’s friend with slightly long hair and creamy skin placed his hand on Charlie’s shoulder. Ren had that pretty baby face that I was jealous of.
“You’re Mitsuki, right? I’m Ren and the guys standing beside me are Arata, Liam, and Oliver. If someone ever treats you badly, you tell me, alright?” Ren affectionate words warmed my heart from the cold shoulders that I received today. Still, I could not avoid my eyes from searching for Arata’s presence. He was still wearing that uncanny mask of his. The uninvited gloomy expression that he wore on his face made me wonder what types of events he had been through. Because unlike him, the tougher the events are, the wider my smiles become. Once again, Arate caught me peeking at him. Instead of quickly turning his face away to face the other direction, he gave me a small nod. In return, I nodded back.
“Mitsuki, you were playing catch right, mind if we join?” Ren was still smiling brightly. I knew that taking advantage of his kindness would not do me any good. Still, I managed to restrain myself.
“Sure. But, don’t you mind?” I asked skeptically.
“Mind what?” Ren and the other guys questioned my question.
“You know, this and that…because...I….”
“I think it’s your own personal problem, Mitsuki,” Charlie interrupted the conversation.
“I don’t get it,” Ren burst out laughing.
“I...um...You know,” I continued, hoping that some of them actually understood what I meant.
“Haha. Mitsuki, you’re just too cute!” Ren laughed as he patted my head.
“I don’t give an iota of what others think. Of course it’s okay,” Arata’s husky voice served as a small miracle that lightened my mood. But still, the expression that he was wearing was unfathomable. If only I could wipe out the darkness on his face.
“Cuz you’re you,” he added.
His husky voice walked down the high road of my neural circuits. Without a second thought, the first true smile of the day escaped from my lips. Me, joining the practice was already an unexpected surprise. My teammates being a part of my family was the best present I had ever received. Arata understanding my thoughts was a miracle.
“Mi-Tsu-Kiiiiii,” Ren patted my head again as if I was his dog. At the same Time, Liam and Oliver were staring at me with those disturbing eyes.
Arata handed me the dusty baseball from his pocket, still, his unfriendly eyes were inimical. I stood there with my doltish little brain, speechless. “It’s okay,” he added.
“Heyyy, Coach will be here soon!” Jack announced as he and his friends started walking towards us.
“Equipment gets go! Slack off no, Lucas!” John, the tan left fielder shouted.
“Ye sir, ” Lucas, the white Chinese right fielder with thick glasses yelled back.