Chapter 4:

Part 4: Up close and personal with the Rising Star

A match made with the Rising Star

At first, I tried to struggle my way out, but it was all in vain. Hoshino was stronger than she looked. Bookmark here

Then I stopped and looked at her face. There were no signs of trembling or nervousness from her side. She was serious about this.Bookmark here

“Hoshino-san… Is this really what you want?”Bookmark here

She got off me then sat nearby on the mattress. “Ever since I decided to go along with you, you’ve only done your best to help me and make sure I was never feeling uneasy, right? You were always the one in a vulnerable position while I had the advantage in case I felt like having second thoughts. But in the end, you respected my personal space up to this point while also holding yourself back. I have to admit, that was very noble.”Bookmark here

“I was just doing what I thought was right as your fan,” I said.Bookmark here

Hoshino inched forward and placed her hand on top of mine. “And for that, you’ve earned my trust,” she said. “So how about it? Do you accept my challenge?”Bookmark here

I was still hesitant. “Will I be alright? I’m sure it’s obvious that I have no experience.”Bookmark here

“Don’t worry. Pro-Wrestling is like sharing a dance. I’ll lead you.” The bits of white in her smile told me everything about her confidence. “This is nothing new for me. I’ve wrestled men before.”Bookmark here

“And lost to all of them,” I said without much thought for the consequences. “Unless I missed out.”Bookmark here

I realized my slip of the tongue when the sounds of knuckles cracking reverberated within our quiet room. Bookmark here

“Oh, is that right?” Hoshino’s smile turned devilish as the rest of her looked more than ready to make me eat my words. “Now, I really want you to get in the ring with me.”Bookmark here

“Uh, we don’t have a ring,” I said.Bookmark here

Hoshino pointed a thumb down to the white mattress under us. “We’re already on it. This bed might be around half the size of an actual ring, but it will do.”Bookmark here

With all those assertions Hoshino gave, I felt like there was no longer a point in me trying to suppress the excitement building within me.Bookmark here

“Okay,” I said, no longer resisting. “I’ll be in your hands.”Bookmark here

“Good.” Hoshino stepped off the bed and went for her gym bag. “Do you have anything appropriate to wear?”Bookmark here

I didn’t want to know what she would’ve given me, so I went to my bag and took out two articles of clothing I thought would be appropriate – A pair of black cargo shorts and the black tank top I was initially going to wear to bed last night.Bookmark here

“That’s good enough.” Hoshino reached into her gym bag and tossed me a roll of thick, white tape. “Tie these around your wrists. It’ll help you look the part.”Bookmark here

Hoshino then went to hang our room’s complimentary “Do not disturb” sign outside our door. Bookmark here

“Now, no one will interfere,” She slyly chuckled as her hand closed our door and allowed its automatic lock function to kick in. “Igarashi-san, you’re not going to sleep on that bed until we’re done using it as our ring.” She walked toward our bathroom, her gym bag in tow. “Get yourself warmed up. I’ll do the same in there.” Bookmark here

✯ ✯ ✯ ✯ ✯Bookmark here

After changing to the clothes I decided to wear, I looked at my reflection in a full-body mirror in the room. From the documentaries I’ve seen, the extravagant outfits pro-wrestlers wear are usually reserved for the shows they performed in. While training, they’re free to wear more casual attire so long as it doesn’t restrict their movement. Thus, I felt that the combination of my tank top, cargo shorts, and wrist tape didn’t make me look too out of place.Bookmark here

While I wasn’t as muscular as any of the male pro-wrestlers I’ve seen, I wasn’t out of shape either. Part of what happened ever since I started to enjoy Pro-Wrestling again was that it inspired me to eat healthier and work out. Bookmark here

I sat in the center of the king-sized bed, waiting in anticipation while doing some last-minute arm and leg stretches. With the amount I’ve done so far, I was not worried about accidentally straining myself.Bookmark here

Almost.Bookmark here

Then after wiping some sweat off my face with a hand towel, I jolted a little when Hoshino’s entrance theme played the first part of its tune, much to my surprise.Bookmark here

From behind the bathroom door, it started off muffled. But then the door swung open, and out of the hot steam walked Mirai Hoshino, geared up in her wrestling attire! She must’ve used hot water from the shower to create that steam effect, and her entrance theme played from the smartphone I barely noticed in her hand.Bookmark here

She came out looking almost exactly the same as she did when I first saw her at last night’s event. Both her mask and robe bared her signature color scheme of midnight-blue, silver, and gold. The only exception that prevented her attire from being complete was that she wasn’t wearing boots. Instead, she wore long white socks with kneepads as a substitute. Since we were going to be standing on a bed, dirtying its mattress with our footwear wasn’t what we had in mind.Bookmark here

Hoshino climbed to the bed and stood a few feet away from me. The differences between our heights weren’t vast at all. I was just slightly taller. She then stopped her phone from playing her theme and pulled off her mask, just like she always did in her entrances. Bookmark here

For the second time, I watched her platinum blond hair tumble down to her shoulders as soon as they were freed from her mask’s conservative hold. Her face was lightly decorated with glossy blue eyeshadow and eyeliner to give it a celestial appearance. Hoshino then slowly opened her eyes, and the beauty of her cyan contact lenses up close almost left me mesmerized despite the neutral expression on her face.Bookmark here

Finally, she untied the sash around her waist and disrobed, revealing the signature two-piece wrestling outfit she wore on her slender, but toned figure. Let me tell you this, I’ve seen her do this countless times in every one of her matches, but for her to do it right in front of me? It took a lot of my willpower not to turn myself into a mess.Bookmark here

“We’ll have a Singles Match for ten minutes.” Hoshino fiddled with her touchphone. “Victory can only be done through pinfall or submission. Once we know ten minutes have passed, I’ll finish you off.”Bookmark here

I snickered. “So, you’ve decided yourself to win, huh?” Bookmark here

“As if I’d let a rookie like you beat me." Hoshino beamed me a friendly smile as she threw her robe and mask away to an armchair sitting around the corner of our room. "Now then, are you ready, Igarashi-san?”Bookmark here

I nodded, feeling a tremble within my neck. Bookmark here

“Well then…”Bookmark here

Hoshino extended a hand to me. I knew what she was up to all too well. And so, I took her hand with both of mine. Unlike Kannagi, I didn’t want to face Hoshino as a heel. I’m a fan who was given a lucky chance to share the ring with his idol, and I wanted Hoshino to know all of that with just my actions alone.Bookmark here

Pleased with my response, Hoshino brought her other hand forward and gently clasped mine before clapping on them once again. She could tell I was nervous, just like our meet-and-greet, and she wanted to help me get rid of that. Like last time, it worked to some extent.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about looking bad.” She assured me. “I’ll guide you all the way, so just try to have fun when we wrestle, okay?”Bookmark here

Her words really got to me. I probably blushed when I replied with a simple “Yeah.”Bookmark here

“Let’s have a clean and friendly match.” Hoshino and I broke our handshake on amicable terms. We began to circle around each other, studying our opponent’s movements.Bookmark here

I was surprised at how I seemed to know what to do next based on the tells I got from observing Hoshino. It was like she and I already had good chemistry and could read each other’s moves.Bookmark here

Taking the initiative, Hoshino bent her knees and elbows slightly while also raising her hands to form a grappling stance. I did the same the best way I could as she edged closer to me.Bookmark here

“Shall we begin with a lock-up?” Hoshino asked. I responded by following her lead.Bookmark here

We clinched, grabbing each other’s elbows and collars in what should have been Hoshino’s intended start for her match against Kannagi. This is how a match usually starts when the wrestlers facing each other have no storyline hatred for each other. In cases like this, the story being told would be about merely trying to outdo the other in fair competition.Bookmark here

Let me just say this. As soon as my hands grabbed hold of Hoshino, my insides began to warn me of danger. Underneath her soft layer of skin were dense muscles; hidden levels of immense strength I could never know when just watching her perform from a distance. Bookmark here

The grip Hoshino had on me was gentle but firm. “Try to control me,” she said, her friendly face just barely away from mine. “I’ll play along.”Bookmark here

For about fifteen seconds or so, we grappled standing up. Hoshino did an excellent job of making me feel like I was stronger than I thought. Whenever I exerted some effort, she would purposely take a few steps back, clench her teeth, and grunt like she was struggling against me. Then whenever it looked like I was on the verge of winning the contest of strength, she began to push me back, and I did my best to make her retaliations look and feel real.Bookmark here

Then when we were back on the center of the bed, still locked up as the first traces of sweat trailed down our faces, Hoshino and I shared a competitive smile. Bookmark here

“How’s that? Does it feel like we’re equally matched?”Bookmark here

“That’s what I’m feeling,” I replied. Bookmark here

“Really? It makes me happy to hear that.” Hoshino said, right before her smile turned into a smirk. “But it’s about time you remembered our huge differences in experience!” Bookmark here

She shifted her hold, and I found myself getting forced to the ground against my will. It didn’t hurt because Hoshino was careful with the way she wrestled me down, but I felt her strength at full force. It probably wouldn’t have mattered if I tried to fight back.Bookmark here

Now forced flat on my stomach, I barely had the time to push myself back up when Hoshino straddled my lower back and held one of my arms behind my back for a hammerlock. Having immobilized me, she lowered herself and whispered to my ear. Bookmark here

“When I first learned to wrestle, I didn’t start with the risky, high-flying moves I’m known for today. Like anyone entering the industry, I had to start with the basics. Straightforward mat control!”Bookmark here

I realized what she meant when she held me down while giving my locked arm a slight twist. That forced a hiss out of me. Bookmark here

“Does it hurt? Do you want to give up?” Hoshino asked in a playful tone.Bookmark here

Clenching my teeth, I adamantly said, “And stop the match so soon? Not a chance!”Bookmark here

“Good.” She twisted my arm again. I yelped. The pain surging through my shoulder blade was real, but at least it didn’t hurt enough to make me want to tap out. She could’ve made me do so if she wanted to, but since this was a Pro-Wrestling match and not a real fight, she was more focused on keeping me down with steady pressure. Bookmark here

Then my free arm helped me roll out of her hold, only for her to catch me in another – a headlock from behind. Like her last hold, Hoshino eased up on the pressure so that I’d only feel something without any worry of injury.Bookmark here

“Fufufu, I’ve almost forgotten how much fun it was to chain grapple!” Hoshino giggled and subjected me to a physical rollercoaster ride.Bookmark here

For the next few minutes, she toyed with me like a ragdoll. I was helpless and clueless on what to do as she rolled me around the bed while subjecting me to many quick submission holds and joint locks, none of which she did at full force. Otherwise, I would’ve tapped out a long time ago.Bookmark here

*5 minutes have passed… 5 minutes have passed!*Bookmark here

That announcement came from Hoshino’s phone. My mind was so immersed in the experience I was going through that I only realized then that our match was already half-way done.Bookmark here

“Push my legs off your neck, then use your feet to turn yourself clockwise.”Bookmark here

After she had her fun, Hoshino began to whisper instructions to me, like when she had me clutched for an armbar setup. She was teaching me how to reverse or counter her next submission hold attempt so that our match could feel less one-sided.Bookmark here

I followed her word-for-word, and before I knew it, I surprised even myself when I not only escaped her hold but also gained control and forced Hoshino’s back to the mattress.Bookmark here

“What are you waiting for? Hoshino teased me for delaying what I should’ve done next. “You just pinned me. So start counting.” Bookmark here

Coming back to my senses, I played the other role of the non-existent referee and slammed my hand to the bed’s mattress for a pinfall count. Bookmark here

“…1! …2! …--”Bookmark here

Hoshino raised a shoulder, and her arm stretched toward the ceiling before my hand could count “3.”Bookmark here

“My turn.” Bookmark here

A quick sequence of technical skill allowed Hoshino to reverse my hold on her into a pin of her own. Now it was her turn to slam her hand on the mattress.Bookmark here

“…1! …2! …--”Bookmark here

And like what she did before me, I also raised a shoulder up. Hoshino then distanced herself away and allowed me to recover. Both of us heard each other’s heavy breathing. After all the constant physical activity we put ourselves through, we needed some sort of break.Bookmark here

Not moving for a few seconds was enough. During that time of rest, Hoshino and I looked into each other. I saw a fire in her eyes.Bookmark here

The atmosphere was quiet, but I found it easy to imagine that there was a lot of noise going on. Forget the fact that a woman and I were in continually touching each other’s bodies. I started to feel like this was a duel, as what a Pro-Wrestling match should be. I actually wanted to resist Hoshino and not let her win so easily. In fact, I wanted to win and show her how much I desired to be acknowledged as her opponent for this match. Bookmark here

Hoshino slowly climbed back to her feet. I followed her lead. At this point in the match, we made it look like we were both close to exhaustion. At least I was definitely feeling that way. Bookmark here

We both stood up and found ourselves back in a neutral position. Rather than grapple again, Hoshino rushed in and landed a left forearm strike toward my face while uttering a mild kiai.Bookmark here

I flinched, but not because I was simply selling the move. She hit me for real, and although the impact was stiff, it hurt less than I expected. It turned out Hoshino actually struck the area between my neck and shoulders, which I learned first-hand could take way more punishment than my face. Bookmark here

“Hit me back.” Hoshino taunted me with a tap to her neck, so I did. I gave her a right forearm strike of my own and aimed for her neck, and she sold it as if I hit her with more force than I intended. Bookmark here

She recovered from my strike, smirking, and hit me with another left. I responded with another right. We traded blows like this for a while, and soon enough, we were doing it so fluidly that it probably looked like we were really beating the crap out of each other. Bookmark here

*10 minutes have passed… 10 minutes have passed!*Bookmark here

Our exchange went on until we heard that announcement from Hoshino’s phone.Bookmark here

“Okay, this match is over!” Hoshino swung her entire arm at me, a lariat. “Duck this one!” she ordered.Bookmark here

It was abrupt, but I was able to catch on and lower myself in time to watch her arm fly above my head. Let me tell you this, the force she put into it looked as if my head would be chopped off if it connected.Bookmark here

“Your turn to do the same!” I said, rushing toward her before lashing out a horizontal kick, which she dodged.Bookmark here

I’ll admit I went a little too far with that move. My kick came out so strong that I ended up pivoting until my back was turned entirely on my opponent. Before I could turn around again, a pair of arms wrapped themselves around my waist and squeezed.Bookmark here

“That almost looked like a Shining Wizard.” Hoshino recognized the Pro-Wrestling move I attempted on her. “Thanks for the warning. Now, let me show you what a Dusk to Dawn Suplex feels like!”Bookmark here

The mattress disappeared beneath my feet as Hoshino leaned backward with me still held in her arms. There was no mistake about it. She was strong enough to elevate me off the ground! Bookmark here

“Wait, wait, wait!” I pleaded. “Is this going to be safe?” Bookmark here

“If you tuck your chin into your chest, yes.”Bookmark here

I heeded her warning and complied. After a moment’s delay, Hoshino allowed herself to fall backward while bridging her back and legs. I landed hard on my upper back. That was my second experience of getting slammed from a throw, and it got me harder than my first. Even though the bed’s mattress cushioned my fall, the force knocked some wind off my lungs.Bookmark here

The throw might’ve been over, Hoshino refused to let go of my waist. She continued to hold me while keeping herself in a bridge position. That was because the move she used on me was also a pin, and my back and shoulders were now flat on the ground.Bookmark here

“Kick out at two and a half, okay?” Hoshino instructed me.Bookmark here

That colored me surprised. “What!? No one has ever escaped from a Dusk to Dawn Suplex before. I know you no longer use this move as your finisher but is that really okay?”Bookmark here

“Hey, I’m the one telling you to escape. Besides, only you and I will know about this.”Bookmark here

She began to count for a pinfall, only this time there was no hand slamming.Bookmark here

“…1! …2! …”Bookmark here

I kicked out of her pin on what I estimated to be half a second before “3.” Hoshino assisted as well, letting go of my waist the moment she felt my opposition. We weren’t separated for long, though, because Hoshino caught me again. Bookmark here

“Let me make things clear,” she said. “I allowed you to escape one of my old finishers, so I could let you experience both of them!”Bookmark here

Hoshino helped me up, then, while standing in front of me, tucked the back of my head under her armpit while forcing me to bend over. Her arms then hooked mine under my shoulders before grasping each other’s wrists to secure the hold. Bookmark here

“Back when my career just started, I had two finishers I no longer use these days. One was a pinning throw, the Dusk to Dawn Suplex. The other was a submission hold. I wonder if you know its name?”Bookmark here

“I do,” I told her. “The Star-Crossed Lock.”Bookmark here

Hoshino giggled. “Well, what do you know? I guess you really are a fan of mine. This time, I won’t let you escape. On the count of three, I will start the hold. Endure it as long as you can, then tap out when it becomes too painful.”Bookmark here

After her last instructions were made clear, Hoshino counted to three. Then, she pounced and wrapped her legs around my waist, latching herself and forcing me to carry her weight.Bookmark here

I nearly fell forward, but I was able to plant one leg ahead to stop myself.Bookmark here

The finale of our match, a test of endurance against The Star-Crossed Lock submission hold, began. Bookmark here

Hoshino’s thin, but toned legs coiled and squeezed my waist while she arched herself backward, and pulled my arms in a direction they weren’t meant to go. As a side-effect, my neck was forced to bend toward my chest. Bookmark here

I did my best to keep myself standing as Hoshino slowly wore me down. The pain in my shoulder blades, waist, and spine grew worse by the second. Bookmark here

She really intended to finish me off this time, so to give my last effort of dramatic flair, I fought to keep my balance and carry her until the burden became too much and pulled me down. Bookmark here

Bookmark here

My knees fell to the mattress before the rest of me, and Hoshino followed with a slight bounce. Bookmark here

Even when grounded, the submission hold continued. Hoshino grunted as she clutched harder and injected higher levels of pain into my bones. Bookmark here

I did my best to endure it all, but I couldn't take it forever. Bookmark here

When my breathing grew haggard, and when my arms and spine felt close to getting dislocated, I willed myself to rasp out a few words before I could blackout.Bookmark here

“I… give up…”Bookmark here

Hoshino released me from her submission hold and cradled me in her arms right after she heard my voice. Now taking a gentle approach, she turned me over and laid my head to rest on her lap.Bookmark here

*DING! DING! DING!*Bookmark here

Her phone made a noise like a ringside bell, right after Hoshino grabbed it and pressed an icon on its touchscreen. Bookmark here

And that was the end of our match. It was fun while it lasted. Bookmark here

Throughout it all, Hoshino gave me some first-hand experience on the basics of Pro-Wrestling. And while she was at it, she had her own fun in physically dominating a man. Those previous losses to male wrestlers must’ve been a personal blight to her. Bookmark here

I’m just glad I was able to give her some kind of compromise.Bookmark here

✯ ✯ ✯ ✯ ✯Bookmark here

“Finally!” Hoshino raised her arms in victory. “I’ve finally out-wrestled a man and made him submit!”Bookmark here

I continued to lie down, a little exhausted and worn from what I went through in ten minutes. Save for a few minor aches on my shoulders, upper-back, and waist, I was just fine. Listening to Hoshino gloat over something as trivial as beating a male rookie in a wrestling match was a little funny, but also kind of adorable. Bookmark here

Also, her lap was soft and creamy.Bookmark here

“Igarashi-san, are you okay?”Bookmark here

Hoshino threw away her fierce demeanor and reverted to the bubbly and compassionate attitude I fondly remembered whenever her matches ended.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” I said, relieved that it was finally over. “Thanks for taking care of me.”Bookmark here

“Of course.” She helped me sit up. “I wouldn’t be a good pro-wrestler if I injured my opponents, right?” Bookmark here

“That’s true.”Bookmark here

“Oh, and since this was a friendly match…”Bookmark here

My eyes widened, and my heart began to race. Bookmark here

I was mentally unprepared for Hoshino when she suddenly wrapped her arms above my shoulders and pulled me in for an embrace.Bookmark here

“Uh…”Bookmark here

“C’mon,” she said, squeezing me tighter. I almost tapped out again. “We didn’t fight like enemies, so let’s show each other there are no hard feelings by hugging it out. It’ll awkward if I’m the only one doing it.”Bookmark here

It was only after I heard her consent did my arms move and hugged her back, lightly caressing the taut muscles under her soft skin. My chin rested on Hoshino’s dense shoulder as the scent of lilacs from her hair soothed me. Bookmark here

She whispered into my ear.Bookmark here

“Good match, Igarashi-San. You resisted me and went down like a warrior. I like that in my opponents.” Bookmark here

Bookmark here

I’m not going to lie. I really wanted her to whisper more endearments to me while our mutual embrace continued, but she had nothing more to say. Knowing my place, I was the first to break away.Bookmark here

Not wanting to let these racing emotions get the best of me, I volunteered to get us some refreshments. Less than a minute later, Hoshino and I cleaned ourselves with towels I got from the bathroom and cooled down with water bottles I bought from the convenience store. We sat next to each other on the edge of the bed, but I made sure there was a noticeable gap between us. Bookmark here

“For someone with no training at all, you were pretty good for a rookie opponent,” Hoshino said.Bookmark here

I was flattered but did my best to stay modest. “Not really. It was only because I faced a real pro like you. You carried the match all the way. I was just doing my best to follow your lead.”Bookmark here

“Improvising is an important skill in the business, and you seem to have a knack for it.” Hoshino took another sip from her water bottle. “Since there were no ring ropes or corners, I had to take a break from using my usual moveset, you know. Plus, I had to limit my moves even further since I’d need an experienced opponent if I wanted to perform something more advanced. The Hoshino you faced was just me at the beginning of my career. Imagine how it would’ve been if you faced me in a real ring.”Bookmark here

“That’s a pipe dream,” I said.Bookmark here

“It doesn’t have to be.” Hoshino leaned sideways, closing in on me. Anticipation shined in her eyes. “Say, Igarashi-san. Have you ever considered starting a Pro-Wrestling career?”Bookmark here

I almost backed away with how close she’d gotten. “Are you serious? You think I have the potential?”Bookmark here

“It’s worth a shot. The industry is always looking for its next big star, and I can help you take the first step toward it. With your current level of talent and the passion I’ve felt from you during our match, imagine how much better you’d be if you went through the proper training! And in my opinion, ‘Ryūsei Igarashi’ sounds pretty powerful. Of course, you could always use a different name if you want to…” Bookmark here

I tried my best to fight it, but in the end, a giddy smile forced itself into my face. Hearing the Rising Star herself say such things with so much enthusiasm truly moved my heart, but…Bookmark here

“Thanks, Hoshino-san.” I gently raised a hand and gestured Hoshino to stop talking before she could say too much. “I really want to take it, but I’ll have to say ‘no.’ I was already set on my own path long before all of this.”Bookmark here

I looked toward the empty pot of curry on the table. She followed. Bookmark here

“Like how you’ve been training and developing yourself throughout your career, I’ve been making plans to open a curry restaurant while refining my secret recipe around the same amount of time. And it’s almost time for me to put those plans into action. Next week, I’ll be meeting with all sorts of people to get my restaurant set up. If I succeed, I’ll become the busiest I’ve ever been in my life. That’s why I wanted to enjoy what might be my last vacation when I bought tickets for all three nights of Heaven’s Arena: San-paku Dynasty.”Bookmark here

Hoshino sighed, seemingly disappointed.Bookmark here

But I wasn’t done talking yet. Bookmark here

“And what a vacation it’s already been! I got to finally watch you perform live, shake your hand, and get your autograph, but that wasn’t the end of it! I never expected to go on a road trip and play a videogame with you, heck, I even got to face you in a match! I’m not even half-way done with my vacation, and I already consider it to be perfect! It’s thanks to you that all of this happened. As your fan who always cheered whether you’d hear it or not, I couldn’t be happier!”Bookmark here

With all the praise I showered her with, this time, it was Hoshino’s turn to blush. “I’m pleased to know I helped you too. So, should we call it a day?”Bookmark here

“Not yet.”Bookmark here

I just remembered something and went to my backpack to search for it. Once I found it, I showed Hoshino what I meant.Bookmark here

It was the picture stub I never got to use.Bookmark here

“I was supposed to use this last night, but I overstayed my welcome. Since you’re dressed for the part right now, can I take a picture with you?”Bookmark here

Hoshino was more than happy to accept. “Of course!”Bookmark here

With all the time in the world before the next day, I took plenty of selfie pictures with Hoshino. Although I didn’t need to, I decided to delete all the images except for one. I only had one picture stub after all.Bookmark here

What I chose to keep was a selfie depicting Hoshino and me with one arm on each other’s shoulders while our other hands joined together to form her signature five-pointed hand star gesture.Bookmark here

✯ ✯ ✯ ✯ ✯Bookmark here

I woke up early the next day. There was no need to rush. The event at Kiyodera Hall wasn’t until the evening, and I wanted Hoshino to get a full rest in preparation. Bookmark here

To pass the time, I tidied up the room and put my stuff back into order while avoiding anything that belonged to Hoshino. I’ve been doing a good so far, you know, resisting the temptation to invade her personal space and belongings. I didn’t want to flunk it after coming this far.Bookmark here

Making breakfast was something I didn’t have to worry about. There was still a good number of bento boxes I purchased from the convenience store, and their quality was decent enough to fill the role of a proper meal.Bookmark here

Once Hoshino and I were back on the road, we made conversation again while the radio played, and the countryside scenery blurred past our windows. I was no longer nervous whenever I wanted to talk to her about anything. Still, I kept myself in check and only asked her questions involving her career as a pro-wrestler. Questions like the current state of the industry, her goals for the future, and what other wrestlers does she think deserve more attention, among others. It was like I was hosting a podcast interview with her as my guest, and it was best just to let her talk away while I gave occasional responses that told her I was listening.Bookmark here

It was the most fun I’ve ever had with someone sitting next to me in my car.Bookmark here

Unfortunately, all that fun had to come to an end sooner or later. Bookmark here

Sometime past 3:00 pm, We eventually arrived outside Kiyodera Hall, the venue for night two of Heaven’s Arena: San-paku Dynasty. I was able to drive past the guards and gain access to a restricted area outside the venue, thanks to Hoshino vouching for me. Bookmark here

When I saw a bus, the same one that drove away on the night Hoshino bumped into me outside the convenience store, I braced myself for the end as I found a good space to make a temporary stop.Bookmark here

“Well, this is it.” I pressed a switch to unlock the doors of my car. “I don’t think something like this will happen between us again, so let me just say it was fun while it lasted.”Bookmark here

“Yes.” Hoshino beamed at me before grabbing her gym bag from the back seat and bringing a hand over to her door. “And thanks for helping get here, Igarashi-san. Tonight’s event will go as planned, all thanks to you.”Bookmark here

It was right as she opened the door that I noticed someone walking toward my car, most likely to pick Hoshino up.Bookmark here

“Hang on…” I squinted through to get a better look at the woman who became more recognizable with every step she took. “Is that—"Bookmark here

“Kanna-chan!” Bookmark here

Hoshino opened my car door and ran into the arms of that approaching woman, whom I now recognized as her heelish opponent from two nights ago – The Underworld’s Swallowtail, Saya Kannagi!Bookmark here

I know it’s not unusual for a face and heel wrestler to have no hatred for each other in real life, but still… seeing Hoshino and Kannagi act like besties so soon just felt weird.Bookmark here

As I reached out to close the door Hoshino left open, I got a glimpse of her gratitude when she waved me goodbye. Kannagi did the same, and it was quite refreshing to see her without her usual evil makeup and mannerisms. I guessed Hoshino gave her the short version of what transpired between us.Bookmark here

Having finished my task of driving Hoshino over in time for her next event, I was no longer needed in the area. Now a trespasser, I drove out of the restricted area’s exit and chose to explore what was around Kiyodera Hall before returning to the venue itself as another fan in the audience.Bookmark here

With no one sitting next to me on the passenger’s seat anymore, the atmosphere turned lonely again. I switched on the radio, wondering if Hoshino would still remember me after some time had passed.Bookmark here

Gerry Hines
You can resume reading from this paragraph.