Take Me out to the Ball Game
Editor(s): Joker, Speedphoenix
“You’re going down, Lefi!” I shouted a taunt at the silver dragon as I stood atop a makeshift pitcher’s mound in the middle of the grasslands.
“Do not underestimate me, Yuki! Your challenge will only result in your defeat!”
She raised the wooden bat she had in her hands up around her shoulders and readied herself to deflect any incoming projectiles. Upon seeing that she was ready, I too took a stance. I raised my leg in an exaggerated manner and held the pose for a few moments, before roaring as I whipped my arm through the air with all the force my inhuman body could muster. Once the motion reached its end, I released my grasp on the baseball and allowed it to tear through the air like a laser.
For the briefest of moments, Lefi closed her eyes, only to open them wide again right as the ball was about to reach her.
“I see it! And I shall not miss!”
She twisted her hips and cleaved the bat through the air in a wide, arching swing. It was so fast that it blew away around her with what I assumed was most likely a sonic boom. The rush of air that accompanied the swing had me convinced that it was more than capable of deflecting literally anything coming her way.
But it wasn’t.
She had a fatal flaw—a lack of familiarity with her tool. The dragon had swung too early. And too quickly. The ball flew right past her as she finished her swing, landing perfectly in the strike zone and tilting the score in my favour.
“W-what!?” she exclaimed. “T-that is impossible! It was perfectly in my sights!”
“Good job,” I laughed mockingly. “Good job missing right after screaming about how you wouldn’t.” Again, I broke into a fit of laughter. “You didn’t even graze the damn thing.”
“T-that was simply a stroke of misfortune! It will not happen again!” A heavy blush spread across her cheeks as she humphed and turned away from me.
I didn’t doubt that she’d seen the ball perfectly, but that didn’t necessarily mean that she was actually going to be able to hit it. That was just the type of game baseball was.
“Well, you’ve got spunk, kid. I’ll at least give you that much.”
“I will be ridding you of that annoying smirk soon,” she huffed. “Do not make the mistake of assuming that you will have the upper hand for long.”
“Say what you want, you’re still going down.” I retrieved the red and white comet from Rir as I flung another taunt in my wife’s direction.
Like Lefi, the not-so-undersized pup seemed relatively annoyed. He’d complained about being given the role of ball boy, but his tail betrayed him. The way it wagged to and fro as he went about chasing the projectile proved that he wasn’t anywhere near as dissatisfied as he made himself out to be.
I wasn’t actually much of a baseball guy myself. I’d only asked Lefi to play it because I was bored, and it happened to be the first thing that came to mind. And frankly, I was more than getting my money’s worth from the experience. Leaving her so frustrated had made the event much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise.
“I have not lost yet,” she said. “That was only the first strike, and I know that baseball requires three!”
“Fair enough,” I said.
I was functioning as the umpire, but only because she knew even less about the sport than I did. My lack of exposure meant I wasn’t confident in my judgement by any stretch of the imagination, but my inability to throw anything other than fast balls simplified things, so I was relatively sure I could at least be fair. Plus, we can always just have a redo if it’s too hard to really tell.
“You can do it Lefi! I believe in you!” cheered Illuna.
“Me too!” shouted Shii.
The audience was a bit quieter than usual today. It was comprised of the vampire, the slime, and the wraiths, who were unable to contribute to the volume. They instead raised the arms of the dolls they were possessing and waved them around as if to go through all the motions that happened to accompany cheering. Normally, Enne would have been present to fill in the last of the six slots, but today, she was too busy to attend. Her schedule was filled with basically nothing but chess with Leila.
“Observe, young ones. It is only a matter of time before I wipe the grin off of his face and transform his expression into one adorned by tears!”
“Oh, please. Let’s see you try!”
I raised my leg again before lobbing a second high speed ball in her direction. Even I was impressed by the sheer velocity, which by far exceeded anything that any major leaguer was even remotely capable of.
This time, Lefi didn’t close her eyes. She kept them wide open and perfectly focused on the ball all the way through. And this time, she learned from her mistakes and timed her swing well instead of letting loose prematurely.
Alarm bells began blaring through my head.
The bat struck the ball dead center and sent it flying.
Straight towards my face. Crisis Detection was the only reason I managed to raise my mitt and intercept it. The weight of the impact was so absurd it led me to suspect that I was catching a cannonball. Even though it had landed right in the middle of the glove, I ended up having to brace myself so as to not get sent flying.
“It is a shame that a catch equates to a loss,” groaned Lefi, in discontent.
“Y-yeah…” I nodded along as I tried to hide the fact that I’d been on the verge of breaking into panic. “Looks like I win this time.”
“That victory shall be your one and only! I will not allow you to win again!” she cursed, clearly frustrated.
Ho Lee Phuc. That was scary. I thought I was going to die, all ‘cause I teased her a bit too much. Sweat began dripping down the back of my neck as I imagined how unpleasant a fate I would have suffered had I failed to catch the deadly projectile. I was confident that even the slightest slip up would have resulted in the lawn being decorated with my brains. It’d just been that heavy.
Evidence of the force with which she’d sent the ball flying back at me could be seen on the mitt, which now featured a circular burn mark at the point of impact. Another ten of those, and she’ll probably tear right through this thing.
“Now that’s one deadly comebacker… I thought I was going to die…” I muttered to myself, still stunned.
“What is this comebacker of which you speak?”
“That’s just what it’s called when you send the ball flying back at the pitcher.”
“Do not worry, Yuki. I shall restore you in short order even if you are to lose your head.”
“You’re not helping!” I complained.
Yeah, uhhh… I’m a pretty laid back guy, but my balls aren’t anywhere near massive enough for me to just nod along and move on. Walking the line between life and death is definitely not something I do for fun. How the hell did she send it flying straight back at me in the first place? This is literally her second time swinging a bat, goddammit! I’m calling hax. There just has to be some overpowered supreme dragon bullshit going on right there.
“Now let us begin another bout! I lost only because I have never once before played this game!”
“Y-yeah, sure, I don’t mind going for round two. Real men like me don’t sweat the small stuff,” I said. “But just keep in mind that nothing’s going to change. I’ll keep coming out on top, no matter how many times we play.”
“Hah! A bolder claim I’ve never heard,” she huffed. “I have adjusted to the use of a bat. I will not miss again.”
Despite all my boasting, I had little to no confidence in my own victory. Her second swing had been a fairly decent one, and it seemed fairly likely that she was going to knock it out of the park with her third. Thankfully, I had prepared a little something in advance for this exact scenario.
A wide grin spread across my face as I raised a leg, paused, and then finally moved to pitch. The ball shot towards the strike zone as would a bullet from a railgun. But because she’d grown accustomed to the wooden “weapon,” Lefi swung the bat at exactly the right time and nailed it head on.
Or at least she would have had the ball not made a sudden, unnatural dip.
“W-what!? Impossible!” she exclaimed.
“Mwahahaha!” I cackled. “That is what we call a miracle pitch! And with it up my sleeve, none shall stand in my way any longer! My might will be what conquers all of Brittania!”
“All of Brittania!?” She took a few steps back in shock before actually processing the combination of my lines and my pose. “I am not quite sure I follow.”
I love how she reacts to this kinda stuff sometimes. To reiterate, I was unable to throw any sort of pitch more complex than a fast ball. Curving the ball and changing its speed mid flight were both far outside the scope of my capabilities. So you might be wondering, how the hell did the ball suddenly drop? Well, you see, my dear friend, the answer is obvious. It ain’t no ordinary ball. Hell, it ain’t even the same ball I used the first two times. Betcha you didn’t see that one coming.
While getting ready to pitch, I’d actually taken a moment to quickly pop open a tiny entrance to my inventory in order to swap the ball I had been using with one that had a chunk of lead randomly shoved inside of it. As the metallic weight was off center, the ball was all but guaranteed to deviate off of its original course. Moreover, it’s trajectory was effectively impossible to read. Not even I, the pitcher, knew where it was going to end up.
In other words, I was cheating. I was cheating against someone that wasn’t even capable of recognizing that I was cheating given her lack of familiarity with the game. Now, I know you’re probably thinking I’m scum and whatnot, but this is, in fact, perfectly okay. You know what they say, right? Innocent until proven guilty. And if there’s no one to prove me guilty, then I’m clearly as innocent as an angel.
“Nice try, but there’s no way in hell you’ll be able to beat out my miracle pitch,” I taunted.
“I accept your challenge, Yuki. I shall demonstrate the power of the Supreme Dragon, the greatest of this world’s creatures, by thoroughly defeating you!”
“Heh, that’s my wifey for you,” I smirked. “Bring it the hell on! It doesn’t matter what you say or try. My technique’s always going to be two steps ahead of yours!”
I decided to continue ignoring the fact that I was just cheating in favour of boasting about my miracle pitch as I readied myself for our fourth face off.
“Take this!” I roared, as I launched the ball. Last time, it had stayed on course until it almost reached her, but this time, it began swaying left and right so quickly it started to create afterimages.
“I see right through you!” The dragon shouted as she stepped forward and hit the ball dead on, despite the inconsistent nature of its movement.
“W-what!?” I shouted in confusion as would a certain Italian vampire as the ball once again flew straight at my face.
I had managed to catch the last comebacker with the help of one of my skills. But the same events refused to repeat themselves. Because, though I’d caught the ball, I was unable to stop it. The lead that it contained added to its mass, which, when combined with its velocity, created a force too great for my mitt to handle.
The leather glove tore. And in doing so, allowed the glove to fly straight into the side of my head.
“Graarhhggghgh!?” I screamed as I was lifted off the ground and sent flying onto my back.
“Oops…” said Lefi.
“My secret technique… was… defeated…” My consciousness began to wane, but through sheer force of will, I managed to deliver one final line.
The last thing I saw as everything faded to black was Lefi, flustered and dashing in my direction. Damn it… I knew cheating was a bad idea!