Akasaki agreed to stay late, but only because he thought that Gino had actually caught on to something new. A different strategy. A move that required work, and, for once, mutual participation in the development.
He used the front of his practice jersey to wipe the sweat from his eyes and mopped his brow. If he was breathing harder, so was the ETU Prince. The new combination came so close to their goal the last time.
"What happened, Zakki?" Gino's voice slipped up a few registers. An observer might have thought the tone was an expression of endearment. Akasaki knew Gino was tired and annoyed that the formation was taking so long. Ultimately number 10 shouldered most of the responsibility on himself.
"I don't know what happened," Akasaki snapped back. He was short on patience, and Gino could take a complaint. "Maybe if you had made an allowance for where I was going to be on the field?"
"But I trust my dogs to be where I need them." Gino set his foot on the ball and crossed his arms. By this point, resting would make them sloppy. They needed to push through. Or go home. Most wistfully, Gino added, "Perhaps I should have asked Bakki."
"Ask him if he's who you want." Akasaki straightened his back and made to jog back to his starting position. He no longer had to squint his eyes against the sun. It had already set behind the edge of the sakura trees. Their blossoms were silver and the rest of the landscape a dark purple.
"No," the Prince called after. "This depends on reliability."
As Akasaki turned back, he could barely make out Gino from the lengthening shadows.
But the ball continued to shine like the moon. He could barely take his eyes from it. And that's why he played. Long into the night and chasing the stars.