We were almost halfway across the field; even though only a minute had passed, we could already see the goal up ahead. Even though team two had many defenders, they were small and light and didn’t have the strength to stop the pusher from continuing forward. Victory was within our grasp.
In that moment, the ball stopped jerkily as if held back by a tether. Shun looked startled. When he tried pushing the ball harder, something happened.
A defender came flying in from the side, slipped past the ball and rammed straight into the pusher.
With a high, clear sound like a struck bell, pieces of ceramic went flying through the air.
Everyone gasped. The defender flew off the field, and we saw that our pusher’s left arm was broken.
Even though the match hadn’t been stopped, all of us, and the members of team two, were frozen in shock. All except one person.
Another defender came in from the same direction and pushed the ball. It slowly rolled off the field.
Who did that? I looked over team two’s dumbfounded faces and glimpsed Manabu grinning broadly. Instinctively, I turned away, feeling like I had seen something I wasn’t supposed to.
“Hey! The hell are you doing?” Satoru shouted furiously. “You just…you just,” he couldn’t even bring himself to say the rest.
“Sorry, it was an accident,” Manabu said.
“An accident? That’s just an excuse,” Maria yelled.
“Okay, stop the time,” the Sun Prince stepped between us.
The timing of his appearance was impeccable; he had probably been watching us from somewhere.
“It’s unfortunate, but because of the accident, the final match is a draw.”
“What! But the other side violated the rules, right?” Shun said forcefully in a rare show of protest.