A Baseball Player's Soul

Author's Note (Update. /APRIL 1, 2013):I'm lazy. Forgive me. xD This is the revised and edited chapter. That is all :)

Summary: He wanted nothing but to hold a baseball within the grasp of his hands, but fear and trepidation would always hold him back, until she came along.

Chapter 2

Gawking at the scoreboard looming over my head, a full-scale smile suddenly kissed my lips. Evidently, Class I-A managed a very extensive breach against the opposing teams of the upperclassmen, having been leading in roughly all events. I felt the sudden surge of delight and exhilaration just by knowing how formidable our class could be, despite being freshmen. From a distance, a group of upperclassmen huddled at the corner of the track and field, whispering their thoughts. I made a mental note to myself that they might be plotting our class' downfall—jokingly, I suppose.

The speakers boomed with a stabbing reverberation, much to me and my ears' dismay, as the head of the sports committee announced the schedule of the events for the afternoon. "Participants for the 400 meter dash, men division, please proceed to the starting line." He said after a brief moment, enthusiasm and exhilaration are somehow evident in his tone of voice. I jogged across the school buildings towards the track and field course, determined to root for our class' participant, but I found myself staring at a familiar crown of cobalt hair standing amidst the crowd gathering at the starting point.

Shiba Katsumi.

I pursed my lips as i contemplate my last encounter with him. It was embarrassing enough that I had, someway, crossed a boundary that no one should step on. I walked up to him thoughtfully, while I attempted to hide my mortification with the help of my baseball cap. My gaze was unwavering as I approached him. I felt the inevitable surge of anxiety through my veins, but I completely shook it off. It was not long after when our eyes met and a smile was fashioned on my lips. Shiba-kun, by some means, reached for my cap, but his hand stopped midway.

"Hey, Shiba-kun." I said as I held up my hand and challenged myself to act normally. "I see you're running." I was thankful enough for the baseball cap on my head, because I was certain that my face is absolutely scarlet with timidity.

"Ah, Souma." He murmured closely. I craned my head slightly so as to see his face, and that rare ghost of a smile came upon his lips, but quickly ebbed as soon as it appeared. He abruptly turned his head sideways, the moment he found me staring at him, as his hand reached for the nape of his neck. It immediately dawned to me that the imaginary boundaries that he has built for himself was as tall as him, or probably higher, and somehow, I threatened to break those walls apart. I gulped back my unvoiced thoughts and stepped back. Shiba-kun heaved a sigh. "The guy from my class who's supposedly running was injured from his last race. I'm just running in his stead." Then, he shrugged.

I tried for a chuckle, but, somehow, a nervous laugh came out of my lips. "Best of luck, then, Shiba-kun! I would definitely cheer for you." I chirped, as I place a hand on his shoulder, which was difficult enough in my short stature, and mercifully, he did not shake it off. I gave his shoulder a gentl squeeze, but I realized I should take it back. Our class' participant is running alongside him. I unexpectedly jerked my hand from him, but he gave me a full knowing smile. "Um—well, that is. Our class' representative—he's from the track and field club—uhm, he's a really fast runner."

"Heh." He lowered his head, leveling it with mine and a bit too close on my face. He gently tugged the baseball cap from my head and, unknowingly, a broad, rare grin was shaped on his lips. "Don't hide your face. Still, I'll be expecting. I'll see you later, then." I felt my face burned in embarrassment, and he chuckled amusingly. My heart was breaking loose against my ribcage.

The blow of the whistle startled me, indicating the five minutes left before the race. I pulled myself from his face and nodded my head. He waved at me before I disappeared into the crowd of spectators. I quickly rejoined the Class I-A's cheering crew at the edge of the track and field as they cheered on for our participant. I placed my baseball cap on my head once again and I sighed as I held my shirt, just above my heart. It's still crazily beating, unfortunately. I glued my gaze at the starting point, still unsure of who to root for. I was certain that the rational part of my being says I should cheer for our class' participant, except…

When my eyes met the tall stature of the Shiba-kun, my confusion, furtively, floats away, like a bubble. The shot of a gun snapped me back from my reverie and simultaneously, hurdled the participants forward. With Shiba-kun's long strides, our class' partaker only managed to get as far as mere steps behind him. I find myself shooting my hands up, bellowing cheers not for Class I-A's representative, but for Shiba-kun. He was just beyond amazing. Breathtaking, even.

My heart leaped as Shiba-kun passed the finish line. A whistle blew piercingly and sonorous cheering and applause burst throughout the crowd. My smiled broadened; it was Shiba-kun's victory, clearly.

"400 meter dash: Shiba Katsumi, first year, Class I-B!" The announcer proclaimed all through the school's sound system. My feet, though moved on its own accord, took a step forward towards the spot where Shiba-kun is standing, however, it immediately dawned to me that my class was only second to him. In an instant, my smile faded and was replaced by a horrified frown. Shiba-kun strolled towards me, one hand slid through his cobalt hair, and the other inside his pocket. He met me at the middle of the grassy fields at the far end of the track and field course.

From the corner of my eye, he narrowed his eyes at my face and chuckled. "Your class lost, Souma." He mumbled coherently and I nodded my head in silent conformity.

"It appears so." I answered, still awe-stricken and guilty. My breathing hitched slightly, when I angled my view at his face. My heart was thrashing witlessly, threatening to break out of my poor ribcage. "Uhm—congratulations, by the way. I have no idea that you were such a fast runner, Shiba-kun. You ought to join the track and field club." His face grew pensive for a moment, and I was afraid that I night have knocked another notch against the wall he built. I opened my mouth for an apology, but he cut me short.

"I heard your voice…" He said, and a pleased grin came upon his lips. "For me, probably."

My eyes immediately widened, and so did his smile. His smile, indisputably, became even wider, compared to his smile before the race started. "So that was probably the reason why your class lost." He bantered. He smiled as if he was completely pleased with what had happened. I grabbed the rim of my baseball cap and hurriedly covered my face with it and I felt the intense heat of mortification from my face. I heard the rumbling of his chest, beckoning his low laughter. Shiba-kun unhurriedly took the cap away from my face and pocketed it. He leveled his face again with mine and he silently chuckled, a smirk working its way on his lips. He pulled back and finally sauntered away, his back at me. "Kidding." He said with a wave of a hand and disappeared into the crowd.

"Participants for the 200 meter dash, women division, please proceed to the starting line." The head of the sports committee announced. Class I-A's cheering crew beckoned at the starting line, calling my name from a distance. I stride past the crowd swarming around the field, when my best friend, Nishimoto Haruhi, met me at the perimeter of the course, with a wide-toothed grin.

"Yuna!" She chirped all-too happily as she threw her arms around me. "You're going next!" I nodded shakily and my heart still thrashed riotously, probably out of apprehension for the race or… never mind—I quickly shook out the absurd notion. Haruhi released me and placed her hands on my stiff shoulder. I gulped back any load of anxiety when I saw the dangerous glint of Haruhi's eyes, and the five-minute whistle came off.

"I heard from the cheering crew of the class…" She whispered lowly, enough for the both of us to hear. "You've been rooting for Class I-B's Shiba Katsumi." Haruhi mildly nudged my arm, and I found my mouth hanging open.

"What?" I answered, stuttering in between words. "I certainly did not!" No matter how much I deny such claim, I was sure that my body was betraying me. I felt the sense of mortification creeping through my being with my face hot with embarrassment. Haruhi just giggled at me, no matter what effect my face is giving off. "Don't worry. They're not mad. More like delighted." She said between her giggling fit. "We're still leading, no big deal, really." I smiled weakly and she gently pushed me towards the field. She waved at me and rejoined the cheering crew of the class.

"Do well in your race, Yuna!" She bellowed eagerly.

A man beckoned us at the starting point and after a few heartbeats, the sound of the blowing gun immediately hurdled me forward, my feet pounding hard on the course pavement. I frowned at the sight of the other runners managing to run past me, and everything just came into a blur. I cannot hear the resonant cheers around me nor see them. All I am capable of thinking is the sound of my own breathing and the sound of my feet pulsating on the ground. Sometimes, it made me think on what was the stinging I felt on my face, tears brimming in my eyes or the sweat sliding across my cheeks.

Oddly, there was a single voice I manage to hear amidst the cheering crowd. His voice managed to propel me forward and faster, passing through the competitors who managed to run against me at the beginning of the race. My eyes glinted in delight and I flashed a megawatt smile at the sight of the white band of the finish line. My thoughts flew away and the only contemplation that remains was the fact that I am so, so close. Just a few more steps, a little more.

Damn it! A basketball rolled from the edge of the field into my path and in the fraction of a second that I managed to cross the finish line; I lurched over the basketball in terror and toppled forward on the pavement, landing on my legs and knuckles with my weight resting mostly on my right leg. I flinched at every sudden attempt of movement when I realized that my right ankle was somewhat twisted under my weight. "200 meter dash: Souma Yuna, first year, Class I-A!" The announcer proclaimed and a triumphant roar from the mass erupted.

A small crowd of baseball players and the cheering crew of my class huddled around me, with slight panic and trepidation in their faces. "Call for the first aid!" Someone exclaimed behind me. "Who in the right mind would shove a basketball in the middle of a race?!" I stifled an edgy laugh. I stood up from the pavement and the moment I stood on my own feet, pain exploded throughout my right ankle that I winced and a hushed gasp escaped my lips.

"It must have been an accident." I said, attempting to hide the evident pain on my legs. "I can go to the infirmary by myself. Please do not worry about me." I pasted an outward and reassuring grin on my lips. I stood as steadily as I can, and before long, the people around me scattered throughout the crowd, waiting for the next set of races, after a load of necessary arguments and pleas. Haruhi insisted to bring me to the infirmary, but she was called as a substitute for another injured runner. The pain has already doubled—maybe tripled, when I reached for the water fountains. It was certainly a relief to find no one in there. Leaning one of the water fountains, I sighed in relief as some of the weight and pressure has been lifted from my right ankle. I closed my eyes, as I delight in the cool wind blowing.

The cool wind has already ceased when I opened my eyes and I stared at the proverbial crown of cobalt hair standing a few steps away from me. Shiba-kun was leaning on one of the posts, his arms crossed in front of his chest, and a chilly glare that made me cower in fright. He sauntered quickly before me and a sudden shiver ran down my spine. He took my baseball cap from his pocket and placed it in the grasp of my hands. Shiba-kun narrowed his eyes at me and he heaved a sigh.

"You're hurt." He said, his voice chilly. Oh, perfect. He saw. Of course, his voice was the solitary sound I managed to hear amidst the cheering crowd.

"I'm not." I lied, but my face must have betrayed my words. Pain pulsated like fire through my ankle and the scrapes on my legs and knuckles tingled glaringly. "It's nothing, really. I'll be going to the infirmary on my own. Don't worry about it." I held up my hand in reassurance and he quickly brushed it off. He grimaced at me, and his brows furrowed. With his tall, looming stature, he leveled his face at me, his defiant stare unwavering. Involuntarily, I shot my hands unto my face and abruptly looked away.

"Don't hide your face." He mumbled. "Don't make me worry. You should have asked someone to take you there."

"I found it unnecessary, by all means." I answered tiredly.

"Heh." A sarcastic sneer on his face. "Really, now?" Shiba-kun kneeled before me, as his cool hands travelled across the scrapes marring my knees. I had to hold my breath just to avoid any impulsive outbursts of twinge from the wounds. His cool fingers have reached my ankle, but I unwillingly flinched away from his grasp out of pain. He slowly turned around, his back facing me. His thumb pointed at his back and a soft, but please chuckle escaped his lips.

"Hop on." He said. I reluctantly reached for him, and slowly wrapped my arms around his neck when he lightly tugged my arms and my head was leaning on the crook of his neck. He stood up, securing his hold on me and strolled almost leisurely into the infirmary. My heart was crazily thrashing inside my ribcage as my nose was filled with Shiba-kun's smell: a mix of sweat with a hint of fresh pine and men cologne. Somehow, I found it… pleasant, mingling nicely with my senses. I tightened my arms around him and leaned closely against his neck.

He craned his head at the side, his cheek touching my hair. "Souma, congratulations. For winning." He whispered against the crown of my messy hair. "Though it would have been better if you didn't fall." I laughed quietly and I tightened my arms around him and leaned closely against his neck.

"Hm. Thanks." I managed to say as a short whisper. I saw the edge of his frown, turned smile, when the nurse was not around in the infirmary. Without putting me down on my feet, he managed to grab a chair and place me down lightly on it. For a moment, as he gently dabbed the cotton on my wounded knees, he was suddenly lost in thought. The infirmary was silent, apart from the resonant shuffling of the materials in the first aid kit. I trembled as he fell deeper and deeper in thought and my mind suddenly brought me down memory lane: his dazed expression on the day I asked him to join the baseball club.

"Shiba-kun," I said quietly. I felt his hands on my right ankle. "I'm sorry. For carrying me here. I must have been heavy for you." I laughed softly, and he quickly joined in, his lips cracking a smile.

"What do you want me to say?" He replied. "It isn't true, somehow or the other."

I pursed my lips in a slim line, and I quickly looked away. "I'm sorry, too, for the other day. I suppose I asked something out of line. I must have stepped on some boundary you refuse to talk about." I paused momentarily and I closed my eyes, and the despondent look on Shiba-kun's face was the first thing I saw. "I just hate seeing you making that kind of face, you know? Please do not make that face again, ever."

"Hm." Then he grew pensive. "Is that so?" The silence was prickly as time ticks. Nevertheless, the sound of the folk dance music erupted from the sound system throughout the school, breaching the growing stillness, and my heart jumped. I remorsefully peeked at the open window, and saw the crowd has gathered at the center of the field, merrily dancing with the music.

"Aw." I said ruefully, twiddling with my fingers without attempting to look at his face. "I'm sorry, Shiba-kun. You've missed the dance, because of me."

He positioned himself upward from the floor, and dropped the first aid kid on the nearby table. "Souma," Shiba-kun called, offering his hand. "If it's really a big deal for you and if you don't mind." I blushed an unimaginable tinge of red and I shook my head in coyness.

"We're inside." I protested weakly. He took my hands in the grasp of his own and tugged me from the chair gently. I leaned closely on his chest, and I felt the oddest sensation of his heart beating as fast as mine. His hands were cool yet a tiny bit warm. Calloused but soft, with all respects. "Who care where we are?" He retorted. "I don't mind, and so should you." He gently led me through the dance, cautious with every step in the small space in the infirmary.

As the music faded, our steps slowed and almost ceased… when I unknowingly placed my weight on my right feet, which was, of course, one of the prevalent errors I have ever done in the whole span of my life. I toppled forward, but as I was about to fall, Shiba-kun caught hold of my shoulders, and fell with me on the tiled floor of the infirmary. I covered my face with my hands, since, by all means, it was burning with every inconceivable shades of red and humiliation. I felt his heavy breathing on the surface of my hands and his arms loosened his hold around my body. I felt him stand, and abruptly sauntered out of the infirmary.

Because the moment I was knocked down on the cold, hard floor, something warm and soft brushed against my lips and I was certain of what it was.

Shiba-kun's lips.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Long chapter! :D Yay~ We had a three day off from school, and I have been working on this chapter since school started so I did finish it. I had the frissons when I wrote this chapter. Kyaaaaa~ Shiba-kun! I tried my very best for Shiba-kun to remain in character. Proofreading has only been done once, I'm in a hurry to post this. Sorry! BLAME THE HOMEWORKS, IF YOU MAY :

I thank the readers out there for reading. Thank you for reading, for the favorites and follows and the review. Still, reviews are highly welcome. Follows and favorites are also appreciated :))

UPDATE /APRIL 02, 2013: I removed the first part of this chapter. I couldn't think about how to replace that chapter. Forgive me~~ I am currently writing chapter 3, and I assure you, it shall be posted soon. Thank you for reading the revised and edited chapter 2.