Masumi’s free night had passed and he was back to school, then back to streaming. He’d sat down in his freshly-washed new dress, which was just the thing to put a smile back on his dreading face. If somebody else was going to show up, then they were going to see him at his most adorable, and perhaps then they’d stick around.
He started the stream with his signature salute and was joined by the too-familiar zero as he darted around a screen filled with other people from across the country and some lands beyond. He found himself getting invested, weaving his cart between a sea of shells and other reckless drivers. He was closing in on the leader, getting closer and closer to being in just the right spot to knock them ou-
Masumi jumped in his seat, the controller slipped from his grip and he lashed his hand out in an attempt to grab it. He ended up just batting it to the floor, while his head flailed around in search of the sound, and he bumped his forehead on his desk. He let out a little squeal and put a hand to his hand, giving himself a chance to catch his breath until he retrieved the errant device and leaned back up to see the last-place marker flash across his screen.
Another boop drew his attention away from the ache in his forehead and he looked to his monitors.
Jellybeaner: You’ve got this guy.
Jellybeaner: Oh no. Are you okay?
“Wh-Huh?” Masumi blinked at the name in the chat box and felt his heart flutter. “I...let me see!” He squeaked, glanced around for a mirror, then just leaned into the camera so that he could see his forehead in the monitor. “Umm, I don’t know, it looks okay?”
Jellybeaner: No damage. Cuteness intact.
It was like the last few days melted away. Masumi blushed bright pink and laughed softly. “Oh...you!” He beamed at the camera and came to a dilemma. There was the elephant in his room. He wanted to ask them where they’d been. But that would have been creepy, obsessive. And he definitely wasn’t obsessed about the only person to take interest in the thing he was most passionate about. “I, um, the message beep surprised me!”
Jellybeaner: My bad. I didn’t know that was a thing.
“That’s okay! Really, that’s, that’s fine!” Masumi bit his bottom lip and wiggled the controls for a couple of moments. The option for a new race was highlighted, his thumb hovered over it for a moment, and then he went to adjust the options screen. “Do you like my new outfit?” He blurted out.
Jellybeaner: It’s pretty. Where did you get it?
“Umm. I...ordered...it.” Masumi nodded vigorously. “Let me show you the rest, hang on!” He pushed his chair out from under himself and adjusted the camera controls, so that more of himself was visible in the camera, right down to the stockings. Their garters were just hidden by the bottom of the pleated skirt, and he twirled in the spot to show off the back of the dress and finished with a well-practiced bent-over salute.
Jellybeaner: Haha wow that suits you well. There should be a category for fashionable streamers.
“I couldn’t do it without help!” Masumi took one more moment to pander to the camera with a smoothing-out of his dress, then set it back to normal and slid into his seat. “There’s this, um, people who help me choose! Get that distinctive Low-Life style for all my viewers!” He grinned. “But I don’t know if I could fit in that category necessarily...”
Jellybeaner: Girl are you serious? You could be a streamer idol.
Masumi giggled and glanced away from the camera. “Oh...that would be nice, wouldn’t it? That’s kind of what I plan on doing, eventually...I mean, I like streaming anyway, so I’d do it no matter what! But if I can start doing this as a full-time job like some people do...that’s the Low-Life dream! The Low-Life Dream for the Low-Life Stream! Yeah!” He pumped his fist, nudged his controller, and realized that the screen was still lingering on options.
Jellybeaner: That would be cool. You’d get to work on your own terms. I hear that a lot of idols don’t get to do that.
“Oh, um, really?” Masumi reluctantly clicked on the next match. “I haven’t looked into that a lot. I just think that it’s really fun to be able to entertain people no matter where they are! And talk with them! And play all these games and learn what they’ve been doing and...you know, all the things that make this whole thing great!”
Jellybeaner: Why did you decide to start streaming?
“Um, aside from those,” Masumi found the race starting on screen and his focus shifting. “I was...shy. And I didn’t like to talk to people. But it was easy to do it online whenever, y’know? And I found that fun instead of really awkward, like it is in real life! You have to remember so many things and keep in mind who everyone is and how they relate and what you can and can’t say, and it’s tough! But I don’t have to here, because I can be me and people can stay or go and it’s up to them!”
Jellybeaner: Like there’s no obligation on either side, so it’s easier to relax.
“Right, that!” Masumi nodded as vigorously as he dared with his headphones on. “And it means I can practice talking to people, even when there’s nobody here, because that can be hard, too. It was embarrassing when I started, but now I can do it for hours if I want.”
Jellybeaner: Has it helped with talking to people?
“Umm. Some, but, not a lot of the time.” Masumi admitted. “It’s, I’m getting there! And I’m having fun doing it, so it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work really well yet, because I know it will!”
Jellybeaner: Good for you. It’s nice to know where you want to be.
“Isn’t it?” Masumi said, as he helped his character along to where they wanted to be: At the head of the race. “Where do you want to be, Jellybeaner?” He asked, with a wait that was growing familiar between him asking questions of his guest.
Jellybeaner; I want to be an investigative journalist.
“Wow, that’s a big job!” Masumi’s eyes went wide. “Didn’t you say you were still a student?”
Jellybeaner; Haha. I am. I’m interested in making sure everyone else has to do as they’re told, no matter how old.
Masumi giggled at the idea. “You want to get revenge on teachers?”
Jellybeaner: You could say that. Teachers, businessmen, politicians. Somebody has to make sure they’re behaving.
“Why do you want to do that?” Masumi asked. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who wants to do something like that! I mean, my school has a newsletter, but I don’t think that’s the same thing, is it?”
Jellybeaner: It’s not, but it’s good practice for when they can. I hope to do it because there are a lot of problems with Japan as it is now. The idols I mentioned has problems, how education is run has problems, and it’s frustrating that all of it is done behind closed doors where nobody else can see them. We’re meant to trust these people with running everything in our lives. And most of us do. But they know everything and we only know some things and that makes it an unfair deal.
“Hang on, I’ve got to finish this race before I can read all that!” Masumi said, as he turned a tight corner on the race and bit his tongue in concentration.
Jellybeaner: Haha. No problem. Show ‘em how it’s done.
Masumi finished the race in second place and gently put his controller down. “Whew! That was a close one! Let’s see what you’ve said...” He hummed as he read Jellybeaner’s message, an old trick he’d read about to make sure the viewer’s knew he was still paying attention. “That makes a lot of sense! It sounds like I could use you if I ever get a sponsorship or something!”
Jellybeaner: No shady dealings with Low-Life or they will face the wrath of Jellybeaner.
Masumi laughed and bobbed his head. “That’s what I’m talking about! And a fun topic, why did you choose the name Jellybeaner? There are all kinds of screen names out there and it’s so interesting to find out why. It’s like a name you get to choose for yourself. And, I mean, sometimes people just choose whatever, but I bet your story is cool.”
Jellybeaner: Jellybeans are tasty and is sounds cute. Sorry to disappoint haha.
“No, that’s okay! It works!” Masumi put a thumbs-up to the camera. “And I’m the same! It sounds cool in English, and it’s easy to remember, and...okay, it doesn’t quite fit after I looked up what it means, but that doesn’t matter.”
Jellybeaner: What does it mean?
“It means somebody who’s a delinquent! And I’m not! One of those, I mean.” Masumi hastily added. “I’m a good girl.”
Jellybeaner: Haha I believe you.
“Well, good! It also can mean life, like, a life in a videogame? So it kind of works for videogame streaming too! If you squint.” Masumi laughed shakily. “Anyway! Would you like to join me in Mario Kart? Monday is Community Day, all about multiplayer games, so any of my viewers can join!” He waited patiently for a reply, with only some errant fidgeting.
Jellybeaner: I’d love to, but I’m studying right now. I had to take extra shifts over the weekend and I’m on catch-up.
“O-Oh.” Masumi did his best to hide his disappointment behind a smile. “Well, studying is important and I’m happy you can make it here anyway! If you ever get the chance to, you’re welcome to join in! Just ask!” He invited, as her started up the next race. “Just, I’m curious, what do your parents think about the job you want?” He asked, and got a good couple of laps into the race before an answer popped up. Some small, irrational part of him wondered whether this would be another disappearance.
Jellybeaner: They don’t know. What about your parents and streaming?”
“They’re really supportive!” Masumi answered. “They didn’t get it at first, when I talked about it, but then I explained it like being a host on TV and they want me to do it. They bought me all the equipment and as long as I do my homework first, it’s smooth sailing!” He paused. “I, uh, don’t know what would happen if I didn’t do my homework, but it’s fine. I don’t mind doing it if I get to do this, y’know?”
Jellybeaner: I get it. Were they worried about you doing things on the internet?
“Yeah, actually! They bought me this book about online security, so that I’ll know what’s safe to do and what’s not, before they gave me permission.” Masumi smiled. “My mother even wrote up a little test on it for me to do, so they’d know that I read it. But they’ve been pretty hands-off since then? I’m allowed to do my own thing and they ask me how it’s going and that’s all fine, so! Yeah!”
Jellybeaner: They sound like wise people. What do they think of you spending all your money on games?
“Oh, it’s not all my money! It’s a lot, because I play so much, but I think most of it goes towards buying clothes and makeup and things like that. Umm, I’m actually going to run out of space soon.” He shot a surreptitious glance off-screen. “My current space is overflowing, so, um, yeah.”
Jellybeaner: You have to throw some away? I can’t think of anything I’ve seen you in that wouldn’t be a crime to throw away.
“Making me blush day isn’t on the schedule, you know!”