Hajime now spent his afternoons in a library carrel, watching the video take from Prefecturals, making notes, assembling his observations like a hand of cards. He was starting to think that it wasn’t his facts that had been wrong, exactly. They just hadn’t been enough, and he’d been missing some pieces.
Especially some of those strange pieces that changed every time he looked at them.
Akazawa stopped by now and then, bringing him a bottle of water or offering a handful of chips from his bag, leaning on the back of Hajime’s chair to watch the best clips.
“There.” Hajime tapped the end of his pen against the screen, freezing it on a moment of Fuji Shuusuke pushing off sideways. “I thought so, when I had time to actually think again. He wasn’t telling the truth about that being his strongest side. He is consistently slower to respond on that side; I had the pattern right.”
“He was playing head games with you?” Akazawa bit down on another chip, thoughtfully. “I suppose that does seem like him.”
“Psychological games, definitely.” Hajime leaned back, crossing his arms. “He wasn’t entirely lying, though, either. That side got stronger, as he needed it to.” He frowned, twining a lock of hair around his finger while he turned over his handful of facts, trying to fit them together. “I think…” He gritted his teeth and finished. “I think no one has ever truly pushed him. The close games he’s had… they were close the way the one with me was. Because he let them be.” And he was going to turn that result around if it was the last thing he ever did. If Fuji thought it was safe to toy with him like that, Hajime would show him differently. Surely Fuji’s penchant for holding back and his arrogant assurance could be a weakness in and of themselves.
They had to be.
Akazawa grunted. “That’s a hard kind of player to predict.”
Hajime sniffed. “The only thing about that entire team that’s predictable, so far, is that they will all pull out something no one has ever seen before when they are pushed.” Which was an odd kind of variable, but once he saw it he could work with it. “My new team will have to focus very intensely on strength and endurance training in order to keep up.”
“Well, I guess we’ll have to hope St. Christopher has people willing to work.”
Hajime paused in reaching for the next tape, not looking around. “You’ve decided?”
Akazawa chuckled. “If I didn’t approve of what a ruthless bastard you are, I wouldn’t have run the team for you this year. Let’s do it.”
Kisarazu was going back to Chiba; Yanagisawa wasn’t sure he was going to go on in tennis; but that was all right. Two of them would be enough to start it. Hajime smiled. “We have three years.”
And in that time he would find what he had missed, and they would win.