Chapter 2: Part 3
Sorata had been anxiously awaiting Golden Week (1), but he didn’t go anywhere fun. Nor did he go to visit his family in Fukuoka. Rather, he helped Misaki with her sound recording, helped take care of Mashiro, and before he knew it the last day of the break had come.
May fifth. Children’s Day. (2)
The time was already ten in the evening.
Sorata was sunk in a hot bath, pondering the pointlessness of human existence. And when he got up out of the tub, he saw a cabbage farm in front of him.
Like the guiding lights on a runway, both sides of the hallway were lined with juicy-looking green spheres.
“I must be tired.”
Sorata shut his eyes tight and shook his head.
It was still way too early to be hallucinating.
But, his prayers weren’t answered, and when Sorata opened his eyes again, the cabbages were still there.
“Are we being invaded by aliens? The Earth is done for.”
Yes, and apparently, these aliens chose to start their invasion in a surprisingly boring way, by harassing the Earth like this.
Maybe the aliens were the cabbage people from planet cabbage.
But no, being serious, Sorata knew that no matter how wide the universe was, there was only one person who could do something as absurd as this.
It was obvious that the one to blame was Sakurasou’s resident weirdo, Kamiigusa Misaki.
She had done similar things last year.
Halloween. Sorata had no idea where Misaki had gotten them, but she had decorated Sakurasou all over with orange pumpkins, and was living day by day fully in costume. She even went to school dressed as a witch, and argued with her guidance counselor like she always did.
Christmas. Misaki placed a huge fir tree in the front garden and covered it with decorative lighting. The senior citizens in the neighborhood complained, but it was a huge hit with the children. On Christmas Day, she dressed up as Santa Claus (the miniskirt version) and went traipsing out into the town in high spirits, giving out gifts to friends and strangers alike.
Plenty of unpleasant memories started to surface in Sorata’s mind.
Whether it was New Years or Hinamatsuri (3), the culture festival or the sports festival, she didn’t pay any mind to the trouble she was causing and just raised a ruckus by herself, leaving Sorata to clean up the mess.
“But… why cabbage?”
As far as Sorata knew, you didn’t celebrate Children’s Day with cabbage.
The trail of cabbages led to Jin’s room.
Sorata knocked, but there was no response.
“I’m coming in~~.”
The door wasn’t locked.
Sorata opened the door.
He found himself in the cabbage kingdom. There were even more cabbages piled in the room than in the hallway, and the smell of fresh vegetables attacked Sorata’s senses.
On the bed, the desk, the bookshelf… Sorata couldn’t see even a shadow of the chic black theme that he was used to seeing in Jin’s room. The entire space had fallen to the cabbage invasion, and the Kingdom of Jin had fallen.
“This is quite something.”
And the culprit who had constructed this green paradise was nowhere to be found.
All that was there was a huge wooden box on the bed.
As Sorata approached the box, he heard the sounds of someone breathing.
He didn’t need to even check who it was.
“Misaki-senpai… what in the world are you doing in someone else’s room…?”
“I should ask you the same question. What are you doing in my room?”
Stifling a scream and turning around hurriedly, Sorata saw Jin standing in the entranceway with a bewildered expression on his face.
“This wasn’t me.”
“I know… it was Misaki, right?”
Jin slapped his palm to his face, and gave out a deep sigh.
“I was afraid this was going to happen. I was wondering whether she was going to do this again this year… and it turns out I was right.”
“Was there some part of Children’s Day we were supposed to celebrate with cabbages…?”
“The universe is huge. Maybe on some other planet.”
Giving Sorata a casual response, Jin entered the room.
“You said she did this last year too?”
“Yeah… When I came back, Misaki was waiting for me in my room, covered in fresh cream.”
He seemed in pain just from recalling that episode.
“… My deepest condolences.”
Jin came up next to Sorata, and looked down at the box on top of the bed.
“Is today Jin’s birthday or something?”
“Yeah, I feel for ya. But, why cabbages?”
“Maybe she just thought that having all this green was pretty. Hell if I know, as if I ever know what that girl is thinking.”
“But you’ve known her since you were kids.”
Jin seemed like he was about to say something, but he restrained himself with a bitter smile.
Both Sorata and Jin’s gaze naturally fell on the box.
“Umm… I think I’ll take my leave then.”
Sorata started to leave the room, but Jin put a hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t you think you should help the senpai out who’s always helping you?”
“She doesn’t help me that much!”
“No no, she does. She bought you lunch, didn’t she?”
“That was only once! Let me go!”
Jin’s grip tightened almost painfully on Sorata’s shoulder.
“What kind of person are you, if you’re going to leave someone to deal with these dangers by himself?!”
“Look who’s talking! What kind of person drags other people into things like this?! And also, it’s probably not going to explode or anything, so it’s fine!”
“Probably, though! You said ‘probably’!”
“Okay then. You’ll definitely be fine! At least physically, you’ll definitely be fine!”
“What the hell do you mean by that?! You mean I’m going to not be fine psychologically then?!”
They could both more or less imagine what was inside the box. Both Sorata and Jin. And that’s exactly why neither of them wanted to open it.
“It’s a birthday present, so you should accept it gratefully. No, rather, you should accept it bravely!”
“So Sorata is like that. He saves all the cats and takes care of Mashiro, but when it comes to me he just leaves me to rot. Makes me sad. I believed in you too.”
“Warning bells are going off in my head! My instincts are screaming at me that there’s something in that box that I just must not see! My heart is screaming out at me!”
“I understand. In that case, there’s no other choice then. Let’s do it like this.”
“What are you planning to do?”
Jin loosened his grip on Sorata’s shoulder, so Sorata stopped trying to run away. Right after that, with great force, Jin opened the box wide open.
“Uwaah!! What the hell are you doing?!”
“Haha, the blame rests with the one who fell into the trap.”
“What are you, some Bond villain or something?!” (4)
Even if he didn’t want to look, Sorata unconsciously turned his gaze to the contents of the box. It was just human nature to do so.
Misaki was inside the box. For a moment, Sorata’s focus was completely rooted to her, and just as he started to panic, Jin covered Misaki with a towel, and she disappeared from view.
“Sorata, don’t look.”
Even though it had only been for a short while, the image Sorata had seen was already burned into his retinas.
Misaki was lying there, sleeping snugly with a head of cabbage in her arms, covered with nothing but a bunch of red ribbon that had been twirled around her body. You could see her almost-overflowing chest… Her almost-bursting buttocks… Her quaint, somewhat miraculous proportions. What’s more, her lips were covered in glossy lipstick, and made her seem all the more sexy.
“Nnnn~~… ah, did we win the space war…?”
Muttering something incoherent, Misaki finally opened her eyes.
Sorata took a peek at what she was doing from a corner of the towel, and he saw that she had caught sight of Jin and had a suspicious glint in her eyes.
“Jin, happy birthday~~!!”
Like a predator who had just found her prey, Misaki leapt out of the box. And Jin managed to evade Misaki’s leaping hug by just a hair.
The force of her jump caused Misaki to dive headfirst into the giant mountain of cabbage.
But, like a phoenix, she soon came back to life.
“Jin, happy birthday~~!!”
Jin tore off the sheets from his bed and wrapped Misaki’s body with them as she came flying out again.
“That’s completely inappropriate! Cut it out!!”
“Awwww, Jin is so shy. I went to the ends of the earth to wish you happy birthday like this, so why aren’t you happy about it?!”
“I’m begging you, just wish me happy birthday like a normal person!”
“Umm… well then, I’ll show myself out.”
Sorata found a gap in the conversation to butt in.
He really should be getting back to Earth.
If he stayed any longer in cabbage world, he would probably go insane.
“Hey, hold on! Don’t run away, Sorata!”
“You’ve got it handled!”
“We still have all this cabbage here, and so there’s no choice but for the staff to eat all of these delicious veggies. So stay and help!”
“I’m not on the staff. See ya!”
At that point, Mashiro came by.
“Ah, what’s up?”
Mashiro had taken a bath before Sorata, and her still-wet hair was giving off a sweet smell. She was in her pajamas, but this time she was properly wearing her pants, a sign that Sorata’s daily training was paying off.
“Do me a favor?”
“Sure. Got it. Let’s go!”
Shaking Jin off, Sorata quickly left the room.
“Ah, wait! That’s really not cool!”
“I hope you two long-time friends will play nice with each other. I wish you the best of luck!”
“Uwah, Misaki, don’t pull on that! Change into something first, dammit! What are you going to do if that falls off?!”
“It’s a present for Jin, so it would make me sad if Jin doesn’t accept it~~!”
Jin said something in response, but Sorata was already outside and shut the door.
He offered a light prayer on their behalf.
Ecstatic that he had gotten out of that dangerous situation, Sorata lightly followed Mashiro up the stairs.
Thinking that he had been saved, Sorata went into Mashiro’s room, when…
“Take your clothes off.”
Mashiro said that with a straight face to Sorata, and Sorata froze for a moment.
For now, he just blinked a few times.
“Take your clothes off.”
Unfortunately, Sorata wasn’t just hearing things.
Trying to calm himself, Sorata let his gaze wander around the room. As usual, Mashiro’s clothes, underwear, and manuscripts were scattered on the floor.
Whether he stayed on the first floor or came to the second, it seemed that nothing but hell awaited him.
“Alright, can I ask why?”
“I want to see you naked.”
“And I want to know why you want to see me naked!”
“That’s a long story.”
“Is that how you treat someone you’re asking a favor of?!”
“… Wait just a second.”
Mashiro went over to her desk brought back a memo she had written.
“Advice from Ayano.”
“Who’s Ayano? Also, don’t say that as if the advice is for me!”
“Ah, you have an editor already?”
“I entered a manga competition last year.”
“And did you win?”
Granted, that should have been obvious. After all, Mashiro still hadn’t published anything.
“Ayano saw my entry and thought the art was good. So she contacted me.”
“Hmmm, so stuff like that can actually happen? So, where does that leave you now?”
“Making an entry for this year’s competition.”
“You have an editor, but you still have to go through the competition?”
“Seems like it.”
Granted, it was true that publishing a prize-winning work was more attractive than publishing something that had won nothing. To a publishing company, there was nothing better than producing popular works and making sure those works sold well, so it was natural that they would try to mentor the people they thought had potential.
“So? What about that editor?”
“… What do you mean?”
“I mean the advice! The advice!”
“You still want to keep talking about that?”
“We still haven’t begun talking about it! Don’t lose track of the conversation!”
Mashiro looked down at the memo.
“Advice from Ayano.”
“You’re going to seriously go from the beginning?!”
“If there are more subtle emotions…”
“That I find difficult to express…”
“I should go try…”
“To describe something more extreme.”
“Is what she said to me.”
“I see, and that’s why you want to see a boy naked. I guess that in many cases, shoujo manga is more extreme… Also, that wasn’t a long story at all.”
“So today, I’m aiming for Sorata’s body.”
“That was a pointlessly pervy way to put it, you know.”
“Take off your clothes.”
Mashiro grabbed the hem of Sorata’s shirt.
Sorata shook her off.
“I gave you my reasons though.”
“Knowing those reasons makes me realize all the more how dangerous this is!! You’re telling me to be your model, right?”
“Also, I have to be completely nude?! That’s so embarrassing!”
“I’m not embarrassed.”
“But I’m embarrassed!”
“I won’t laugh.”
“What the hell were you planning to laugh at?!”
“You won’t do it, no matter what?”
“No matter what.”
“I see. It’s no use then…”
For a brief second, Sorata felt relieved, when he saw that Mashiro had put a hand on her pajamas.
“Shiina-san, what exactly may you be doing right now?”
“If I take off my clothes too, it’s fine, right?”
“No, not at all!”
“You could have just told me that to begin with.”
“Don’t act as if I was just being shy or something! Also, how the hell can you just start stripping without any hesitation at all?! Girls your age shouldn’t be so eager to expose themselves in front of other people!”
“Sorata is special.”
“I don’t even care how I’m special! Don’t even tell me! It’s probably just because I’m the person who gives you baumkuchen or something!”
“I told you not to tell me! You’re going to make me doubt the value of my existence! Also, stop stripping!”
Mashiro stopped her motions.
“So, you’ll help me then?”
To strip or to see someone else strip. Never before in human history had this choice presented itself.
“Am I seriously being extorted this way…? Fine. I’ll strip. It’ll be fine if I strip, right?! However! I’m not taking off my underwear! That’s my one condition!”
“I’ll take mine off.”
“What kind of freaky sense of balance are you trying to go for?! You crazy?! It’s fine, alright?! Don’t take that off!”
“Why do you still seem unsatisfied?”
“That was an important part though.”
“But you’re not going to draw that in a manga, right?!”
“No confidence in what?!”
Trying to get this over with as fast as possible, Sorata took off his casual t-shirt and jersey trousers, leaving himself in just one flimsy pair of trunks.
“Hey… if all you needed was to see a boy naked, couldn’t you just have gotten a photo?”
“Can’t touch those.”
“I can’t feel all around the body.”
“Well, nice knowing you, I’ll be heading back to the countryside.”
Sorata hurriedly tried to put on his shirt. However, Mashiro had a hold on his shirt cuff and wouldn’t let him.
“Knowing how things feel is important. Makes a painting come alive.”
Being looked up straight-on like that, Sorata felt his mind go strangely still. To the very end, this was for the sake of her work. It’s not like she was joking around, or trying to tease him. She was absolutely serious.
“Fine, fine, I’ll do it. So, what should I do?”
Mashiro pointed at the bed. Sorata was a bit reluctant at first, but he became a bit more cooperative when remembered that Mashiro slept under the desk, so the bed was basically unused.
He lay on his back on the bed, awaiting his next instructions.
And then, with no warning whatsoever, Mashiro straddled Sorata’s body, with her knees bent.
“What the hell are you doing?!”
Her soft, nimble fingers traced out the ups and downs of Sorata’s abs. A chill went down Sorata’s spine. Shivering at this not unpleasant sensation, Sorata stiffened out of nervousness, even while his insides loosened up.
“It’s hard, and feels heavy.”
Mashiro was soft. Sorata could feel her buttocks through her pajamas. The parts of his body in contact with hers gradually heated up. Those parts began to sweat, filling Sorata with a comfortable feeling.
He wanted to touch more. He wanted to reach out and touch her elsewhere too. These wicked desires began to rear their ugly heads within Sorata, but his eyes met Mashiro’s, and his desires were quickly extinguished.
He lost his ability to speak at her serious gaze.
Mashiro’s fingers traced a line between Sorata’s neck and his chin. Sorata let her do as she pleased.
Mashiro moved and covered Sorata even more with her body.
She rest her chin in Sorata’s chest, and looked at him through upturned eyes.
“Your heart is beating.”
“Well, I’m alive, after all.”
“It’s beating faster and faster.”
“Who’s fault do you think that is?! Who’s fault?!”
“Wait, I can’t do that!!”
“Sorata’s a wimp.”
“Ugh, dammit! Fine, fine!”
Sorata wrapped both his arms around Mashiro’s back.
At first, his arms were barely touching Mashiro.
Sorata tightened the embrace by a bit. His arms began to shake out of nervousness.
He could tell how thin her waist was from his arms.
A sense of unease attacked him; if he hugged her any tighter, would she break?
Sorata released his arms.
Mashiro took her head off Sorata’s chest, and peered at Sorata’s face.
Sorata could catch glimpses of her breast tips from her open collar.
Panicking, Sorata quickly averted his gaze.
“You, seriously, be a bit more self-conscious. Your defenses are way too low.”
Mashiro took a look at her own breasts.
“You like these, don’t you?”
“If I could get aroused just from Shiina’s breasts, I would sleep with a slab of kamaboko. (5)
Mashiro didn’t seem to get the joke, and didn’t respond.
“Sorata, have you had sex?”
“Don’t surprise me like that! I haven’t! I haven’t even kissed a girl, or held hands with a girl! There was this time though when I got sat on by a girl!”
“What a shame. You have a nice body.”
“Where did you get that from?! I might’ve played soccer in elementary and middle school, but that’s nothing special at all.”
“I’m not playing anymore. That should be pretty obvious.”
In fact, Sorata wasn’t doing anything. Ever since he had started high school, he had not joined any afterschool club.
“Were you hurt?”
“No, not exactly.”
Mashiro fell into silence, and thought for a bit.
“Then, you should play.”
“… There are reasons why I stopped playing outside of injuries.”
“I don’t understand.”
Being looked down upon by Mashiro’s pure, sincere eyes, Sorata felt himself growing restless and let his gaze wander around the room. He looked for something else to focus on in the room. But he could find nothing. In her puzzled gaze, there was no awareness of the awkwardness in the air, or of the fact that Sorata wanted to change the topic.
Finding no other choice, Sorata began to speak.
“… It wasn’t going anywhere.”
Sorata had played soccer for nine years straight, but he just wasn’t getting anywhere with it. In middle school, he was on a team that would have been thankful just to qualify for the prefectural tournament, and he wasn’t even a particularly good player on that team. So, he couldn’t really dream about doing anything greater than that.
In elementary school, at regular intervals, (6) he would dream about playing on a big green field under stadium lights, but those dreams stopped coming once he began middle school.
“Maybe I just saw the glass ceiling. And I just lost interest.”
Even when their team lost a match, Sorata stopped caring, and even during practices, he started unconsciously slacking off. Even though when he was younger, he would often cry when he lost a soccer match…
The athletics program at Suikou wasn’t particularly strong, but even then, the soccer club aimed for going to the nationals, while the baseball team aimed for Koushien. (7) Believing in yourself, working hard, facing challenges… there was meaning in doing all of that, but Sorata was too unmotivated to put his all into a sport anymore.
Something with no glass ceiling. Sorata had wanted to find something he could be confident in, something he would want to challenge himself with. Something that he could be passionate about just like his sweat-drenched classmates on the field.
And so, he made the heavy decision to not join any club. And yet, one year had passed, and he had accomplished nothing.
“Forget it. I said something silly.”
It was pointless to say all this to Mashiro anyways. To someone like Mashiro who had already reached the peak of her field, the problems of the commoners who crawled around in the muck were probably nonsensical.
With that curt response, Mashiro opened her sketchbook. Still straddling Sorata, Mashiro focused her attention on the white pages of the sketchbook and began to work at it with her pencil.
“Do I have to stay like this?”
“Hey, what am I, chopped liver?!“
It’s almost as if she didn’t hear him.
Her facial expression was different. It was like she had completely immersed herself in her work.
“Shiina… have you had a boyfriend?”
“Yeah, I thought so.”
“This is cruel. This is cruel. Way too cruel! My life… what kind of horrible punishment is this supposed to be?! Crap… I’m seriously going to cry…”
After a while, Mashiro stood up and booted up her computer, taking a seat in front of her desk.
She began to draw on the screen with a tablet.
“This must be how it feels like to get violated… what did I do to deserve all this…?”
As Sorata sighed and put his clothes back on, he came up behind Mashiro and took a peek at the screen. Every time she moved her hands, the figure of a man began to form on screen with surprising accuracy. She almost never needed to erase. It was as if she knew exactly what lines she needed to draw from the beginning. From Sorata’s perspective, Mashiro’s technique almost seemed like magic.
Suddenly, Mashiro’s back seemed to recede off into the distance.
She was right in front of Sorata. If Sorata reached out, he would be able to touch her. Yet, at the same time, that distance seemed infinite.
Wanting to escape from that sensation, Sorata turned away and began to collect the manuscript papers scattered on the floor.
It was a different manuscript than the one Sorata had seen before. But, the mood of the work was pretty much the same. A completely nondescript girl in high school falls in love with a completely nondescript guy from the same class, and through completely nondescript exchanges, they decide to start dating.
“Seriously, who cares…?”
None of the parts of her manga style that made Sorata want to say that had improved.
Maybe it was her personality doing the damage, but having such bland characters was a fatal flaw when it came to manga.
She really should be more daring and dramatic in her depictions, and actually draw her characters showing some emotions.
The low-energy feeling running through the entire work made that entire work quite uninteresting. The drawings just didn’t feel alive. They made Sorata feel nothing. Reading it made no feelings well up within him. As it was, this wasn’t a manga, but rather was just a normal collection of drawings. It’s not like people read the manga just to see nice artwork. At least, Sorata was like that. So, if the story was boring, then Sorata just didn’t feel like continuing to read.
With something like this, it would be quite difficult to win a prize or to debut as a manga artist.
As he thought those thoughts and looked up from the manuscript, Sorata saw that Mashiro was looking at him.
“Yeah, to be honest.”
Sorata debated whether he should have been a bit more indirect, but he decided to answer honestly. He had already directly told her his honest opinion once before. It would be pointless to try to be indirect now.
“Ayano said that too.”
Deciding to restrain himself from saying anything further, Sorata just held out the manuscript to Mashiro.
“You can just dispose of those.”
“Is that really okay? They’re manuscripts, right?”
“I have the data stored. That’s just a storyboard.”
A storyboard… so she means this was just a rough draft. Something that you would bring to a meeting with your editor so you could talk out the details of your manga.
“It really doesn’t seem too efficient for you to draw a rough so nicely like this…”
“I’m still not used to computers. Need the practice.”
“Actually, why aren’t you using paper in the first place?”
“Kirino told that to me. She said that I draw too many lines on paper and the drawings become too heavy.”
“Don’t tell me… you mean that your paper drawings are just too good?”
“No. I’m still weak with people.”
Sorata had no idea what she meant when she said she was “weak.” The character on screen were less complex in design when compared with what Sorata had seen before, and were drawn in a convincing manga style. Even from a professional perspective, Mashiro’s artistic ability was top class. Sorata had seen many, many manga in which the art was worse.
Sorata couldn’t help but think Mashiro was crazy for believing that she was weak in that area.
The sensation that had caused Sorata to avert his gaze before once again came back in full force.
Mashiro had turned back to her work, and her back seemed to recede into the distance at an astonishing speed.
It wasn’t a hallucination. Mashiro had a goal, and was headed for it straight on. To someone who was standing still like Sorata, she might as well be travelling at the speed of light.
Sorata would never be able to catch up with her.
Even though they were in the same room right then, Mashiro was in an entirely different place.
Misaki and Jin, even Ryuunosuke… they were all like that. They were all running towards their goals.
Sorata was the only one standing still.
Sorata felt a sharp pain in his chest. It really hurt. Unconsciously, Sorata separated himself from Mashiro, and sat down on the bed.
At some point, loneliness and unease began to swirl around in Sorata’s gut. Needing a distraction, Sorata called out to Mashiro.
“Hey… so, why manga?”
As he thought, there was no response.
When she concentrated like this, Sorata’s voice… no, his very existence… didn’t seem to register in her mind.
For a little while, silence filled the room. Only the sounds of Mashiro nimbly working on her tablet echoed comfortably in Sorata’s head and robbed him of the ability to think. Without a thought in the world, Sorata blankly looked at Mashiro’s back.
A good amount of time passed.
“Because it’s interesting.”
At her incredibly belated response, Sorata let out a sound of surprise.
Mashiro turned her head and looked over her shoulder.
“Because it’s interesting.”
“So painting isn’t good enough?”
“Just drawing isn’t interesting.”
“You really shouldn’t say something like that.”
“It’s the truth.”
“… In that case… if you say you don’t need it, hand your artistic talents over to me.”
“How would that even be possible?!”
“Sorata was the one who said it.”
Sorata was aware of that.
“Sorata is the one who is asking for something he doesn’t even want.”
She hit a sore spot.
Sorata didn’t even know what he wanted to do with his life. Even if he got Mashiro’s talent, it would just be a waste.
Mashiro soon turned back to her work. Almost as if she hadn’t been in the middle of a conversation, Mashiro immersed herself into her task again.
To Sorata, her turned back seemed incredibly cold at that moment.
He almost felt like he had just been rejected.
But, that probably wasn’t the right way to look at it. That feeling was probably just Sorata’s nerves. His guilty conscience. Mashiro didn’t think anything of it. She didn’t feel anything. Sorata was just regretting ever asking Mashiro to hand her talent over to him.
He was the worst.
He mumbled that softly to himself.
He felt sick at how arrogant he was being.
“Don’t put on your clothes.”
“Hey, wait a second. What the hell are you still planning to do to me?!”
“Definitely not something I can say.”
“Don’t do something like that to me!!”
“I won’t let you sleep tonight.”
“If you want to say something like that, say it a bit more seductively!”
“I will not let you sleep tonight.”
“That wasn’t any different at all!”
(1) A national Holiday in Japan. Students have off from school, of course.
(2) A day to “respect children’s personalities and to celebrate their happiness,” according to wiki.
(3) A holiday on March 3rd. Often called “Doll’s Festival” or “Girl’s Day,” and celebrated by arranging ornamental dolls on red-carpeted platforms.
(4) Okay, he didn’t say “Bond villain,” but I thought it fit. Or maybe I’m drunk. Or both. Who knows. Certainly not me.
(5) A type of fish paste, with a soft texture. Food analogies for breasts… my innocence is forever lost.
(6) More literally, he dreamed this “as frequently as he would catch a cold.”
(7) I believe I already made a note about this, but Koushien is the most prestigious high school baseball competition in Japan. It’s a big deal.