Chapter 1:

Part 1: A chance meeting with the Rising Star

A match made with the Rising Star


So, there I was in the audience, shaking in my seat in anticipation for the final match at the Korakuen Hall arena. The venue itself may be small and humble in terms of interior design, but its history made it known as the sacred place for every combat sport held in all of Japan.Bookmark here

Many matches had taken place there. Some of them were considered legendary. While I can’t name those off the top of my head, I’ll just say for now there was at least one when it came to boxing, kickboxing, MMA, or the reason why I was in the arena that day, professional wrestling. Bookmark here

I can’t remember exactly when, but I’ve been a huge Pro-Wrestling fan for as long as I could remember. At first, I thought of it as fancy fighting with people just striking and slamming each other in a squared ring in the most extravagant way possible. Bookmark here

Then as I entered highschool, I learned, for the most part, that the fighting was actually fake and that the wrestlers weren’t really hurting each other. I’ll admit that kind of bummed me out and made me lose interest in Pro-Wrestling for a few years. Bookmark here

But after university, my interest was reignited when I learned more aspects of the combat sport meant to entertain.Bookmark here

If done right, a Pro-Wrestling match can tell a compelling story through action. The background behind the match, the moves wrestlers use in certain moments, and their behavior toward each other are just a few of the many ways to convey a message without words. Bookmark here

I’ll probably take too much time if I elaborated on the hints I knew. Bookmark here

The point is that I realized Pro-Wrestling matches were so much more than simply fight, fight, fight. Their style of storytelling was a breath of fresh air compared to most of the anime I’ve been watching lately. I’m kind of sick and tired of characters spoon-feeding me information, especially in ways that can make the story lose their impact. But hey, if trying to understand Pro-Wrestling’s style of storytelling is too hard to comprehend, you could always fall back to being entertained by the thrill of the action on a surface-level.Bookmark here

“ON TO THE MAIN EVENT OF HEAVEN’S ARENA PURORESU: SAN-PAKU DYNASTY, NIGHT 1! 30-MINUTE SINGLE-ROUND MATCH!”Bookmark here

The ring announcer had finally returned. He stood in the middle of the ring alongside a middle-aged man in a striped black and white shirt, the referee for the match. Since this was the announcer’s last call for the night, he gave it his all to hype up the crowd of about 2,000 people one more time. Bookmark here

It was easy to get my blood pumping. The other matches before this were entertaining and all, but the main event was enough reason for me to attend this show live.Bookmark here

A musical theme started to play. It signaled the entrance of one of the wrestlers. This one had dark and moody undertones, but it was balanced out by the mad riffs of an electric guitar. After a short delay, a woman with red lines of makeup and long, raven hair emerged, striking an antagonistic pose from a small tunnel that everyone could see.Bookmark here

“FIGHTING OUT OF THE BLUE CORNER! SHE IS THE UNDERWORLD SWALLOWTAIL! SAYAAAAA KANNAAAAAGIIII!!!”Bookmark here

I watched with a fair amount of enthusiasm as Saya Kannagi, who wore a flashy crimson and black robe accented with wing patterns from different species of butterflies, made her entrance down an aisle to the ring. Along the way, many hands from the fans closest to the aisle reached out to her. Apparently, they were trying to goad her for high-fives as she passed them.Bookmark here

Not to my surprise, she either ignored them or, in the case of one guy, stuck out her tongue (which had been colored black). Bookmark here

See, Kannagi is a heel wrestler or a villain in the match she’s a part of. As the heel, she’s supposed to be the one the fans hate, so she does whatever she can to make them want to boo her. This is all for entertainment purposes, just so you know. I’m sure most fans, including me, don’t personally hate her. It’s all for fun.Bookmark here

The boos really shot up in volume when Kannagi ignored everyone that tried to interact with her. That meant she was doing some excellent heel work so far. As for the guy whom she stuck her tongue at, he didn’t react violently. On the contrary, he was quite amused and probably considered it to be a medal of dishonor that he was the lucky one to be degraded by her. Bookmark here

See? We’re all here to have fun and treat the wrestlers the way they should be treated -- as performers who risk their bodies and health to give us a good show.Bookmark here

As soon as Kannagi entered the four-sided ring, she took off her robe and revealed the wrestler outfit she wore underneath it – a long-sleeved, backless top, pants riddled with butterfly-shaped holes, and boots, all of which shared the same colors and motifs as her robe. Bookmark here

Her entrance music stopped. Bookmark here

Then another one began to play. Its familiar intro made my heart race while enticing the rest of the audience to cheer.Bookmark here

This was what I’ve been waiting for. Sorry Kannagi, but I came to this event because of your opponent.Bookmark here

“NEXT! FIGHTING OUT OF THE RED CORNER! SHE IS THE RISING STAR! MIRAIIIIIIII HOSHINOOOOOO!!!”Bookmark here

The ring announcer strained his voice once more as another woman came out the same tunnel as Kannagi. I stood up, cheering out the top of my lungs as I finally saw Mirai Hoshino for the first time in person. Bookmark here

Just like her opponent, Mirai Hoshino appeared with a robe covering her body. Her robe shined bright with midnight-blue, silver, and gold. In addition to that, a tight blue mask covered every part of her head, except her mouth. Its most prominent feature had to be the protruding pointed ends of the five-pointed golden star ornament embedded on the mask’s forehead.Bookmark here

Hands from the audience closest to the aisle stretched out once more. They got what they wanted as Hoshino spent about a second with every fan on her way to the ring by high-fiving every hand she passed by while smiling along the way. I wished I was one of those fans, but all their seats had to be taken before I even bought my tickets!Bookmark here

Unlike Kannagi, Hoshino played the role of a face wrestler or the heroine in whatever storyline she was a part of. It was her job to get the fans to cheer for her through her actions. A good start to that was interacting with them in a friendly manner. It was like she was wordlessly telling them that she was thankful they came to watch her match and would do her best to win it for them. Bookmark here

After climbing a few steel steps and entering the ring through its ropes, Hoshino pulled off her mask, and I was mesmerized when the locks of her short and sideswept platinum-blond hair descended and nearly touched her shoulders. Bookmark here

Her face looked like the cute type you wouldn’t want to punch. Makeup enhanced its femininity, especially the blue eyeshadow that complemented her eyeliner. Bookmark here

She opened her eyes, and I was lucky to be among those who received their cyan gaze. Hoshino looked like a Japanese girl with a few western characteristics, namely her dyed hair and eyes, which I assume were colored something unusual as cyan thanks to contact lenses.Bookmark here

My heart skipped a beat. It was always so majestic how Hoshino revealed her pretty face to the crowd like that. I’ve never gotten tired of it even though I’ve seen it countless times on TV or the internet, and seeing it in real-life brought in a whole new level of wow!Bookmark here

Then Hoshino disrobed, revealing her two-piece wrestling outfit. Just like her robe, her outfit also had a midnight blue, silver, and gold scheme with the three colors, each covering various parts. It consisted of a shoulderless crop top that showed off her toned midriff, long arm warmers, a gartered mini-skirt around tight shorts that barely covered her upper thighs, and laced wrestling boots that went up to her knees and ended with pads. There were some missing gaps on her clothes, an intentional part of their design as it allowed Hoshino to show off some more traces of her pale skin while just barely straying off the line of making her overall appearance look too erotic.Bookmark here

She looked like a pop idol, which was kind of the standard appearance for the Joshi, or Japanese female pro-wrestlers of today. They were supposed to have the looks to catch people’s eyes, but also show that they were more than capable of fighting on a level that would leave the audience surprised. A mixture of beauty and skill is what makes a Joshi, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.Bookmark here

When both wrestlers were ready at their corners and facing each other in the ring, a ringside bell dinged three times. The referee threw one of his arms down to signal the start of the match. The whole audience, including me, went wild for a moment, but we settled down soon enough to give the wrestlers their time.Bookmark here

The match started quiet as Hoshino and Kannagi took strides around the ring, circling and sizing each other up.Bookmark here

Then Hoshino stopped and offered a hand. Bookmark here

I saw what she was going for. She wanted to offer a handshake to Kannagi, a friendly gesture that they should have a fair and clean match with the winner determined by who was the better woman that night.Bookmark here

I then focused on Kannagi, who kept her distance and hesitated. She averted her gaze between different crowds of people that made the audience and shrugged. It was like she was asking them if she should accept the handshake or not.Bookmark here

A few random people shouted, “do it!” Soon enough, more people joined in, and eventually, almost everyone was chanting for Kannagi to for once, wrestle a match with just her skills and no dirty tactics. Bookmark here

I kept myself silent. I was fine with whatever she picked, so long as she could make Hoshino look stronger than ever by the time this match was over. Bookmark here

Not wanting to be left unanswered, I watched Hoshino gesture one more time for a handshake and urge Kannagi to either take it or leave it.Bookmark here

Then after a tightening in my chest, we got the result as Kannagi took Hoshino’s hand and shook it.Bookmark here

Other than my eyes going wider, I continued to stay silent. As for the majority of the crowds, they started to cheer and chant, “KAN-NAGI! KAN-NAGI!”Bookmark here

Seeing that her opponent had decided to face her as an equal rather than a dirty player this time, Hoshino prepared to peacefully end the handshake before backing away to give Kannagi some breathing room.Bookmark here

But when Hoshino took a step back and tried to pull her hand away, I saw the shock in her body language when she realized that Kannagi had tightened her grip, not willing to let her opponent go. Bookmark here

Instead, Kannagi yanked her in and, when Hoshino was within distance, floored her with a backhand chop aimed at her throat. We all winced from a resounding snap noise when the strike “connected.”Bookmark here

In an instant, the cheers for Kannagi turned back into furious boos as Kannagi herself took the time to mock the gullible audience by bowing with a smug demeanor. Meanwhile, Hoshino laid on the floor, apparently rolling with a face twisted in pain and making gagging noises as her hands held on to her throat. Bookmark here

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her, even though I knew she wasn’t really hurt.Bookmark here

Like I said earlier, the action in Pro-Wrestling is generally composed of fake fighting where the wrestlers make their attacks on each other look as real as possible without actually trying to hurt each other. Bookmark here

I was able to notice that Kannagi had quickly slapped a hand to her shoulder at the same time she did her backhand chop to Hoshino’s throat. That was how she made that snap noise, which added a greater sense of impact to her strike. I’m pretty sure she actually hit it close but missed on purpose, or she at least grazed Hoshino’s throat. The point was, Hoshino was selling her pain to add more drama to the match.Bookmark here

Hoshino was still acting like she was hurt and struggling to get up when Kannagi shifted her attention back and attacked her downed opponent with exaggerated stomps to her back, all while throwing in a few verbal taunts. Stuff like “Bitch!” “Idiot!” “Goodie-Two-Shoes!” “Did you forget who I am already?” and the like.Bookmark here

As expected, the boos from the audience grew louder. Bookmark here

Then when Kannagi raised a foot for one last crushing stomp to the head, Hoshino made her move and rolled to her back. Bookmark here

The audience gasped, then began to cheer. Bookmark here

Hoshino had intercepted her opponent’s incoming boot by catching it with both hands! Once held in her clutches, she gave the foot a hard twist while and in tandem, clapped her elbows hard to her sides. That allowed Hoshino to improvise a crack noise like she broke the ankle of Kannagi, who lost her balance and tumbled down. Bookmark here

Now freed from her opponent’s onslaught, Hoshino, still selling out her pain, dragged herself to the nearest wall of ring ropes, which she then used to pull herself up. Bookmark here

I and the other fans cheered her because we wanted to. Bookmark here

When you think about it, being a proper face wrestler is much more complicated than being a heel. You must have the charisma that makes the fans in the audience want to cheer and sympathize with you, such as when you act like you’re struggling in the ring. Bookmark here

Once Hoshino was back on her feet, she checked on the state of her opponent.Bookmark here

Kannagi was doing her own selling of pain as she clutched on to the foot Hoshino twisted. From the looks of it, she was pretending that her ankle had really suffered an injury and, as such, acted it out by slowly and awkwardly climbing back to her feet. Once she was also standing, Kannagi took a step forward but also included a slight limp in her movement. Bookmark here

The match’s growing tension seeped deeper into my very being. I’m sure the other fans in the audience felt the same. Kannagi may have started the match with a cheap shot and mounted offense to pummel Hoshino down and weaken her early, but Hoshino’s counterattack to cripple her opponent’s mobility seemed to have evened the odds between them. There was no doubt in my mind that either of them could win the match now. Suspense factors like this are what can make Pro-Wrestling matches so engaging and great.Bookmark here

It was a matter of which set of skills would overpower the other, and both Hoshino and Kannagi had their own distinguishable styles.Bookmark here

With incredible feats of strength that I’ve seen in her past matches, Saya Kannagi is considered one of the best power wrestlers in the division. She was definitely trained well in martial arts before Pro-Wrestling, and her extensive knowledge in both throws and holds were a thing of beauty that I’d put her over for. If her alleged stats of 5ft 6in and 132 lb. were to be believed, then she had both the size and weight advantage over Hoshino, who appeared to be around the same build at a glance, but actually stood only 5ft 4in and weighed in at 120 lb.Bookmark here

Mirai Hoshino, on the other hand, was a high-flyer, which I learned came from her background in gymnastics. She primarily liked to use the ring ropes or corners to propel herself into the air for acrobatic aerial attacks that more than made up for her alleged lack of strength and weight. Her arsenal included the Shooting Star Press and the Moonsault, among many others (Look up videos of those two moves if you’re curious about how they’re performed!) Bookmark here

Her aerial techniques portrayed her like a comet striking the earth from above. In my opinion, it’s an understatement to call them “breathtaking.”Bookmark here

I loved their chemistry. Kannagi was dangerous if she could catch her opponent, but Hoshino’s daredevil style and unstable movements made her a tricky one to handle.Bookmark here

The match lasted around twenty minutes. That was a good amount of time for the two wrestlers to tell a great story while also showcasing their skills and characteristics to those who were probably unfamiliar with them. Bookmark here

In the end, though, Kannagi’s frustration made her change her strategy, and that gave Hoshino an opening to knock her down with a Springboard Missile Dropkick from the ropes.Bookmark here

With Kannagi in a vulnerable position, Hoshino hopped up to the closest ring corner and faced the crowd within her sight. I happened to be in that crowd, the southern crowd in the arena, and I couldn’t help but feel lucky as my hands prepared to act. Bookmark here

Both a fired-up Hoshino and the cheering southern crowd I was a part of signaled each other with a five-pointed hand star gesture. This was what she always did as a way to tell us that she was about to end the match with her most complex move and finisher, a Corkscrew 630° Senton she called the “Nova Crash.”Bookmark here

She bent her knees, then took to the air and twisted her body to perform the move. I honestly forgot to breathe until I heard the echoes of an impact as she landed hard on the ring and just barely on Kannagi. Hoshino then scrambled and covered her opponent for a pin. The referee dropped to his stomach near them and slammed his hand to the mat in tandem with a countdown.Bookmark here

“1… 2… 3!!!”Bookmark here

Most, if not everyone, filled the arena with applause. What a match!Bookmark here

“WINNER! MIRAAAIIIII HOSHIIIII~NOOOOO!!!”Bookmark here

As the announcement blared, a worn-out Hoshino staggered herself up, a weak smile barely showing itself. Only when the referee raised her arm high in victory did she stand tall once more to the ongoing cheers of the audience.Bookmark here

As for Kannagi, I saw her slowly roll herself out of the ring. A pair of staff officials then acted as her crutches and helped her to another pathway that would lead out of the arena.Bookmark here

It wasn’t long before Hoshino was the only one left standing in the ring. The referee had also exited, but not before handing her a microphone.Bookmark here

I stopped cheering alongside the audience, knowing that Hoshino was now preparing to cut a promo or an in-character monologue she wanted us to hear. I focused on nothing else but her. I didn’t want even one of her words of wisdom to go past my ears.Bookmark here

“It’s just my first match out of three, but I already feel like I’ve crashed and burned,” Hoshino began, her heavy breathing audible thanks to the microphone. “Kannagi-san, I should’ve realized sooner that you wouldn’t play fair. That’s not the kind of person you are, but seriously, wouldn’t it have been amazing for you and everyone if you fought me on even grounds? Bookmark here

Kannagi stopped walking, and so did the men who were helping her. She looked over her shoulder into the distance, at Hoshino, and shot her a look of disdain.Bookmark here

“Honestly, I don’t think I would’ve won so easily even if you took me on with just your skills alone,” Hoshino continued. “Maybe you should try it next time. You might actually win for once.” Bookmark here

Hearing enough, Kannagi appeared to scoff before continuing her exit out of the arena. Bookmark here

Hoshino then shifted to the audience; her gaze panning her surroundings quickly to let us know that what she was going to say next was meant for everyone. Bookmark here

“Tell me, did you guys enjoy the matches we brought in tonight?”Bookmark here

The wild cheers that followed told her everything.Bookmark here

“I see, I see... That’s definitely wonderful to hear! Well, good news, everyone! We’re just getting started on this three-night tour, so imagine how much fun the next two nights will be!”Bookmark here

The cheers went louder. I could almost feel myself going deaf even though I was a part of it.Bookmark here

“But I wonder if I’ll be able to do as good as the other wrestlers,” Hoshino expressed a moment of doubt. “Because like I said, I already feel like I’ve crashed and burned.”Bookmark here

“YOU CAN DO IT, HOSHINO-SAN!!!” Bookmark here

A random fan in the western crowd cried out. I gotta hand it to the guy who had the guts to do that. I’d die of being the center of attention if that was me.Bookmark here

An alerted Hoshino then walked to the western edge of the ring. Leaning on the ropes, she pointed a hand to the fan she believed the words of encouragement came from.Bookmark here

“You there… thank you! Really! I can feel the energy of the cosmos coming back to me now, but I want you to have some of it!”Bookmark here

Then before my very eyes, Hoshino gave a deep kiss to her hand then blew across it to the western crowd. I watched in horror as one guy, an unkempt guy who looked like he never left his room until now, stood from the crowd and raised his arms high as he celebrated in victory. The people sitting near him gave their congratulatory applause. Bookmark here

I would’ve clapped as well, but well, my hands couldn’t do that while they were balled into fists and shaking.Bookmark here

What… the… hell! I should’ve risked my dignity and said that line! I know I’m not worthy of getting a blown kiss from Hoshino-san, but dammit that would’ve been the closest I’d get to the real thing!Bookmark here

“Anyway, the show may be over, but we’re not leaving yet!” Hoshino continued her promo. “We also want to thank those who came to show their support tonight personally. See you guys later! Good night to everyone else!”Bookmark here

She laid the microphone down on the center of the ring and performed her signature five-pointed hand star gesture one more time to close the show. Many others in the crowd did the same. Bookmark here

I was one of them, or should I say, tried to be one of them. Bookmark here

I was so frustrated that my hands weren’t able to coordinate themselves in time before Hoshino exited the ring and made her way back to the tunnel she came from. A few members of the promotion’s staff were there to pick up the props she and Kannagi left behind, such as their robes and Hoshino’s mask.Bookmark here

I told myself to calm down after it was all over. I haven’t missed my chance yet. There’s still the meet-and-greet, and I’m not gonna waste it.Bookmark here

Oh man, that self-declaration just made me even more nervous than a few minutes ago.Bookmark here

✯ ✯ ✯ ✯ ✯Bookmark here

Around twenty minutes later, my knees buckled as I struggled to stand still. Behind and in front of me were far too many fans to count. I was in one of the many columns of lines that formed in a big room outside the arena, and I was just one out of many fans waiting for their turn to meet one of the pro-wrestlers who made an appearance tonight for the event’s post-show-meet-and-greet.Bookmark here

The name says it all. This is a post-show feature where any fan can sort of have a one-on-one interaction with any wrestler of their choice. I’m saying “sort of” because the next fan will be waiting from a short distance behind me once it’s my turn. I’ll only have thirty seconds to interact. Thirty seconds sounds too short, but it’s only fair that all fans are given the same time limit. It’s also good in a way since that means it’ll be my turn sooner.Bookmark here

There are many options you can do in these meet-and-greets. For starters, you could shake hands with the wrestler you’ve chosen and even chat with them until the 30-second time limit expired. It was a courtesy that we are accountable for what we ask. Try not to go for something personal. Any question involving the wrestler’s career is a good start.Bookmark here

But just those two activities weren’t enough for me. This was my first time to attend a live event and experience a meet-and-greet, so I wanted my first to be special.Bookmark here

Before getting in line, I bought a couple of bonus opportunities at the merchandise section: an autograph print depicting a specific wrestler, and a picture stub for one selfie with them. That’ll definitely become my phone’s new background.Bookmark here

My choice was a no-brainer. I’ve been talking mostly about Mirai Hoshino this whole time, so who else would I pick? Bookmark here

Well, I’d line up for Kannagi as well if I were allowed to meet more than one wrestler on the same night, but that wasn’t going to be the case here. Compare about two-thousand fans to about fifteen wrestlers. You do the math.Bookmark here

Taking a peek at the line of people up ahead, I saw that there was still a long way to go before my turn. To try and make time flow faster and save myself from a headache due to boredom, I let visions of the past fill my mind without completely shutting my eyes.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

It was around that time I graduated from university and had to embark on my own ambitions, now that I’d stepped out of school and into the real world. I wanted to enjoy my new freedom for a while, so I lived as a 21-year-old NEET and did whatever I wanted to do without concern for time.Bookmark here

Then one day, the thought of Pro-Wrestling occurred to me for the first time in years. Bookmark here

I looked up the latest news and learned of the recent rise of Women’s Pro-Wrestling in Japan. Curious, I checked out a random video and was amazed by this one rookie who made her matches look so real, I actually had a slew of reactions from how she and her opponent fought. Her skills were unpolished, but for the first time, I felt like a kid again and it was all thanks to her.Bookmark here

That was when I first saw Mirai Hoshino in action. My interest in Pro-Wrestling burned with a new flame. Bookmark here

I researched what little data she had at the time. It turned out Hoshino and I were of the same age and that she began her training in Pro-Wrestling around the same time I had graduated from university. My curiosity for her only continued to grow. I watched more of her matches and followed every social media account she created, from Twitter to YouTube, to Instagram and Facebook. Bookmark here

Hoshino was a nobody back then, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was growing alongside her as I watched her slowly evolve until she became the wrestler she was today. As she developed a style and gimmick she could call her own, my plans for the future grew closer and closer to fruition. Bookmark here

I know I’m just another one of her fans and that I have no place in her personal life. Still, I couldn’t help but feel like she and I shared a special connection. I really wanted to meet her in person, and I wanted that to happen soon.Bookmark here

And there was this one time…Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“Are you okay?”Bookmark here

A voice I’ve always wanted to hear up-close startled me out of my thoughts. My eyes fluttered awake, and the first thing they saw was a concerned pair of cyan eyes on an oval face framed with platinum blond hair. Bookmark here

In an instant, my feet went cold.Bookmark here

The Rising Star herself, Mirai Hoshino, was talking to me. If she was doing that, then… it was already my turn!? How much time had already passed!? Bookmark here

A hand tapped me lightly on my shoulder. I averted my nervous gaze to my left and saw a tough-looking man wearing a San-Paku Dynasty shirt. He was one of the event’s staff, standing nearby to make sure none of the fans lining for Hoshino went too far and caused her trouble. Bookmark here

“You have 30 seconds,” he said to me.Bookmark here

I was relieved. So it turned out my time with Hoshino was just getting started! With so many things I wanted to tell her, I shifted back to her and opened my mouth to speak.Bookmark here

…But not a single word came out. Bookmark here

Her face was so pretty, even with all that glossiness from sweat… no, that made her look even better. Bookmark here

My mind was still comprehending the fact that it was already my turn, and it left me mentally disorganized. Instead of reminiscing about why I admired Hoshino so much, I should’ve rehearsed what I would’ve said to her during the 30-second time limit!Bookmark here

“What’s wrong? Are you nervous?”Bookmark here

Hoshino was talking to me again. I wanted to answer her with a “yes,” but I didn’t dare to do that… not with all the snickering going on behind me. Bookmark here

It seemed that the other fans in line knew what was going on, and were mocking me for it. I really didn’t want to look back at their faces and suffer an anxiety attack.Bookmark here

“Don’t mind them,” Hoshino’s voice took a soothing turn and called me back. “Here, let me help you.”Bookmark here

She presented both of her hands to me. They were joined together, but also open. Like my body was on autopilot, my hands reached out, and Hoshino clasped them in her’s.Bookmark here

Her touch was so warm and gentle. It made me almost forget that I was shaking hands with a woman who could beat me up if she wanted to and not some love interest from a romance story.Bookmark here

Then Hoshino clapped her hands hard and directly on mine. Bookmark here

I almost winced. Maybe I spoke too soon. A shock jolted through me, and when it was over, my trembling stopped. Bookmark here

I looked at Hoshino again. Her lips had curled into a gentle smile. It was probably the kind she’d give to any fan, but to me, it felt like more than that. Bookmark here

“Uh, Hoshino-san,” I finally said as our hands broke apart. “C-congratulations on your win. Your match was definitely my match of the night!”Bookmark here

She joined her hands together like she was surprised and tilted her head to the side. “Do you really think so? Thank you! I’ll keep doing my best, so I hope you’ll enjoy my next match too!”Bookmark here

I know this was my first meet-and-greet for anything, but boy did her response sound generic. I wouldn’t be surprised if she said the same thing to any of the fans before and after me. Still, it came from Mirai Hoshino herself, and she made it sound cute, so that was always something, I guess. Bookmark here

It was then that I remembered my one-on-one time with her was limited to half a minute! How much time had already passed!?Bookmark here

I rushed to take off my backpack then buried an arm deep into it. Not a second later, my hand came out holding a big autograph print. It depicted Hoshino in the same wrestling attire she was wearing before me while doing a flirty pose.Bookmark here

“C-can I have your autograph, please?” I asked, almost like I was panicking. Bookmark here

Even my pose looked desperate – without realizing it, I had bowed without looking straight ahead while my arms were stretched to their limits. In my hands was the autograph print. Bookmark here

What the hell was I doing!? I made myself look like I was making a nervous confession to a highschool crush even though I’m already beyond that age! This was the price I paid for focusing more on my future line of work, rather than practicing my social skills!Bookmark here

More snickering came about from behind me. Everything I’m doing was supposed to be simple, but it turned out I’ve underestimated the pressure of meeting a celebrity I admired for years!Bookmark here

“Of course!” Hoshino took the autograph print off my hands and began to write a message on it with a golden marker. “What’s your name?”Bookmark here

“Ah!” I almost squealed that she’d ask that, but then I remembered what else goes in an autograph. Bookmark here

“M-my name is Ryūsei Igarashi!” I pulled my phone out of my right pocket and typed on them as fast as I could. “It’s written like this, see?”Bookmark here

Hoshino looked at my phone. Her eyes widened.Bookmark here

“Wow… the last Kanji in your name is the same as the first in mine! That’s so cool!” She remarked.Bookmark here

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot about that. If you compare Hoshino’s name with mine, you will get this.Bookmark here

五十嵐流星 (Ryūsei Igarashi)
星乃未来 (Mirai Hoshino) Bookmark here

We both shared the 星 Kanji, which means “star.” Bookmark here

Being reminded of that brought back my one-sided belief that Hoshino and I shared a special connection.Bookmark here

“D-do you really think so?” I asked her.Bookmark here

“Yes, definitely! She chirped and capped her marker. “Here you go.” Bookmark here

She handed back my autograph print. I wanted to read her message right away, but there was still one more thing I had to do.Bookmark here

I dug a hand into my pocket and fished for the picture stub, eligible for one selfie opportunity with Hoshino.Bookmark here

“C-can we have a—”Bookmark here

“Your time’s up.”Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

I was stopped mid-speech when a heavy hand landed on my shoulder, a little more forceful this time.Bookmark here

When I didn’t move due to this unfortunate revelation, the staff member from earlier resorted to dragging me away toward the exit.Bookmark here

“W-wait!” My pleas came out by reflex. “I’m not finished yet!”Bookmark here

“There’s always next time,” he said, apparently not caring about my emotions.Bookmark here

“But I paid ¥1000 for a photo opportunity!”Bookmark here

“Too bad. You’ll have to buy another one for next time.”Bookmark here

The staff member was stronger than me, and I didn’t want to cause a scene, especially in front of Hoshino. So I decided to stop giving the staff member a hard time and started walking alongside him toward the exit while trying my best to ignore the mocking laughter of the other fans who saw everything.Bookmark here

Before she could disappear from my sight, I looked back at Hoshino one more time. Bookmark here

She had already moved on to the next fan in line. Even the cheerful expressions she made toward me were used precisely the same way on them.Bookmark here

After escorting me outside, the staff member walked back into the event’s venue. With nothing much I could do other than go back to my car, I finally looked at my autograph print of Hoshino and the message she wrote for me.Bookmark here

It made me smile. A little.Bookmark here

Thank you so much for cheering me on, Ryūsei Igarashi-san! Please continue to support me!

-Mirai 
Hoshino  Bookmark here

With the exception of my name, she probably wrote this exact message for every other fan both before and after me. I was kind of expecting it, and I understood why, but it sure felt crushing that the relationship between a celebrity and their fans must be one of casual professionalism. They may ask for your name, but it shouldn’t be a surprise if they forget it sooner or later. Bookmark here

And the sooner I accepted that reality, the better.Bookmark here

✯ ✯ ✯ ✯ ✯Bookmark here

I was on my way to a hotel with a room already booked in advance.Bookmark here

Driving my second-hand Mazda3 down the open road and with no structures but the natural countryside on my windows, my mind wasn’t fully focused. It was so late; the actual time was probably close to midnight, but I didn’t want to check and dull myself even more.Bookmark here

Well, that, and because I still haven’t gotten over how my first meet-and-greet didn’t go the way I hoped. Bookmark here

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I wanted Hoshino to see me as this particular fan that deserved her attention more than the rest. I was just hoping to have the satisfaction of spending 30-seconds with her the way I wanted. Getting her autograph and a picture, have a quick chat while letting her know how much she’ll always have my support; that kind of stuff. Even if she were to forget me after a day or two, at least I’d still have our moment burned into my memory.Bookmark here

Whatever. I’ll still get to see her in action two more times within this week. She, along with the other wrestlers was on a 3-day tour with the next event taking place at Kiyodera Hall two days from now, this Friday, and the event after that was going to be on Sunday in the Michizoe Stadium. Unfortunately, none of those two events were set to have meet-and-greets because their venues could seat way more fans than over at Korakuen Hall. Bookmark here

Even with all those thoughts going through my head, I continued to drive without any worry of ending up in an accident. I just had to keep my hand steady on the wheel. It was also late at night, so there were hardly any other vehicles besides my own. Bookmark here

Just when I was on the verge of falling asleep at the wrong time, I spotted some LED lights illuminating off the structures up ahead. Bookmark here

Perfect timing! A gas station with a Family Mart convenience store was just what I needed! Bookmark here

A little bit of my energy returned when my eye caught an empty parking spot. It was unnecessary, but I stepped on the gas pedal and parked as soon as I could.Bookmark here

It was only after I left my car, did I realize that I missed out on something else. Bookmark here

The backlights of a white bus went on as the vehicle hummed its engine and left the premises. A bus is nothing unusual, sure, but the fact that it was themed after Heaven’s Arena Puroresu? The same promotion that hosted the event I attended a few hours ago? The same promotion that Mirai Hoshino was a part of?Bookmark here

I just stood there while the bus drove off into the open road until its massive size vanished into the distance.Bookmark here

If only I spent less time moping over my failure, and just drove immediately the moment I first got into my car after the event... There was a possible chance that I could’ve bumped into Hoshino or any of her fellow wrestlers at the convenience store.Bookmark here

It took me longer than I’d like to admit, but I eventually moved on and went to the Family Mart, where I stocked a day’s worth on food, snacks, and some energy drinks.Bookmark here

Leaving the store with a pair of filled plastic bags in my hands, I surveyed my surroundings. Bookmark here

My car’s gas tank still had more than half of its contents filled, so refueling was out of the question for now. I then looked to my left and saw a hanging sign around a corner, depicting two silhouettes, one blue male and one pink female.Bookmark here

While I wasn’t urging to go to the bathroom, I also didn’t know when another chance like this would show up again.Bookmark here

With that consideration, I decided to at least take a cautionary leak before going on my way.Bookmark here

After doing my business, I left the bathroom and turned toward my car – only for someone to bump me from behind and groan after they fell on their rear. Bookmark here

I stumbled forward but managed to regain my balance right before I could topple over and make a mess of what I bought from the convenience store. Whoever bumped me was pretty strong even though they felt slightly shorter than me.Bookmark here

“Whoa, please be careful next time,” I said, turning to face them. I placed one of the plastic bags containing my snacks on the ground so my free hand could help them up.Bookmark here

My eyes widened. This couldn’t be happening, but it was.Bookmark here

“I will,” she said, accepting my hand. “Sorry, and thank you.”Bookmark here

As I helped her up, the lights from above shined and revealed her appearance in full. She may have been dressed in different clothes than what I’ve usually seen, her makeup had been washed away, and her cyan contact lenses may have been swapped out for glasses, but the rest of her face and her platinum blond hair made it clear who she was. Bookmark here

Shock and awe were the reasons why I muttered her name without realizing it until it already happened.Bookmark here

“Hoshino…san?”Bookmark here

I was sure her bus had already left some time ago. Bookmark here

So why was Mirai Hoshino right in front of me!? 


Bookmark here

TO BE CONTINUED...Bookmark here

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