Translator's Notes:SOOOO... here we are (finally) at the end of the semi-final match between Akashi Girl's High School and Mizusawa High School. The Author finally gets this slow torture over with -- although it doesn't quite end the way I thought it would.... :-[
BUT, we finally see what Arata and Shinobu are doing (together?) while Chihaya and the others are battling to the last, with their all. Don't forget, there's also the Final Round for the Omi Jingu Championship Title to go.... I'm getting tired just thinking about it. ^_^;
Now that I've finally cracked open Volume 14, I think you guys will like it too. So here's another post. By popular demand, you can find the Chinese Raws onine here. Unfortunately you have to plug the Chinese title into your web engine search to find it....
P.s. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: Shinobu is just REALLY CREEPY...
Volume 14, Chapter 74(Opening page, Arata and Taichi Art <3)
Scene: After sundown at the Omi Jingu facilities dorm
The sound of a soft voice uttering the recognized syllables of each of the Hyakunin Isshu cards drones on continuously in a dorm room like a eerie incantation. One of the members of Fukui's team shudders as he watches, unwillingly, unable to peel his eyes off her. Her hands continuously and fluidly shuffle the cards with inhuman speed.
"Ai. Sa. Nageki. Wasura. Koi. Harusu. Tsuku. Me. Ogu. Mikaki. Wasure. Tatsu. Akika. Asabo. A. Mu. Tsuki. Konu. Haruno. Yasu. Taka. Mikano. Taki. Ooe. Chigiriki. Wata Ko. Tachi. Wabi. Asabo U. Shino. Momo. Kazaso. Hitomo. Ooke. Se. Nagara. Oku. Kore. Kono. Ho. Kasa. Tama. Kaku. Awaji. Su. Tago. Miyo. Yae...."
[Author's Note: Looking through all 100 cards and reading out the named syllables as a type of practice. The purpose is to familiarize oneself with card sight recognition matched with speed, but in this case, the entire run-through must be completed within 1 minute as a first level standard]
The Fukui team member who has been watching her trembles as he timidly whispers to his team mate, "Sho-chan, she hasn't taken a breath...not a single breath!" (TN: he's likening her to a ghost or a ghoul as they don't need air and are identified among the living as not having breath)
Meanwhile, Sho is being emotional on the other side of the room, tears streaming from his face as he stifles his tears and clutches a manuscript in his hand. "Arata... the piece you wrote isn't a penalty essay, it's pure literature!"
"Geez...don't read it," Arata says as he continues writing in his corner.
"You could surpass even Kawabata Yasunari and Soeseki Natsume!" (TN: Soeseki (1867 - 1916) and Kawabata (1899-1972) are among Japan's modern classic (post Meiji - era) authors who penned beautiful intellectual novels with traditional beauty and modern day angst. Among my favorites are Kawabata's Snow Country and Soeseki's Kokoro.)
"You're exaggerating," mutters Arata.
"Arata," says Shinobu as an afterthought. "Are you not going back?
"I'm going to wait here as part of my punishment, and so here I'll stay until the team competition concludes," says Arata stiffly.
"Ah, ha ha ha," Shinobu laughs. "Such a responsible effort could really make people weep bitterly and drip snot for you.... But, I'm just waiting for my clothes to dry and then I will be going back."
Suddenly, hurried footsteps outside their dorm room are heard outside. The sliding door whips open with a crack and Fukui's team advisor and missing player rush in.
"Oh my goodness, we've come too late! Too late!" they exclaim.
"Teach, what took you guys so long?" demands one of their team members.
"We're so sorry! So sorry!" Their teacher apologizes. "Just as the competition was starting we came upon a collision site that needed an ambulance and fire rescue crews. Then, there was road construction after that...."
"But since we already lost our game, we headed out for beef teppan yaki before getting here," declares the other late team member.
"WHAT?" demands Sho.
"Oh, Queen Wakamiya!" says the newcomer, suddenly realizing her presence.
"Haah," says Shinobu disdainfully.
"Wah!" says the newcomer, unaffected. "It's really you! How did you become so thin? What dieting method did you use?"
His teacher clears his throat and calls his name in censure.
He changes the topic. "I was downstairs watching the conclusion of the first semi-final round. Kyoto's representatives were really pitiful... They lost to Tokyo's Mizusawa."
At that, Arata looks up with a start. Shinobu merely smiles.
"Aah," she says cooly. "Is that so? That is truly pitiful... If only I had gone to cheer them on--"
"Mizusawa!" Arata exclaims, interrupting her. "Mizusawa won the pre-semifinal round? What about now?"
"Tch," snorts Shinobu. Arata sits and talks quietly, almost to himself.
"That means afterwards, the four strongest teams go head-to-head. Hokuo Academy and Akashi First Girl's High School entered the semi-final round. Even though they're a no-name school in karuta circles, that's certainly really impressive!"
Win! Fight on... Taichi! Chihaya! Arata hopes in silence.
Shinobu's expression fades as she notices Arata's thoughts are drawn away to his friends.
She puts on her smile and says, "Oh, the team competitions are so delightful! It is such a happy diversion." Her smile turns pointedly frightful as she adds, "The thought of such a thing as karuta, to be 'enjoyed by the masses' is even more amusing.... To see it makes one's heart feel so at peace." (TN: Image. I added emphasis because I can just imagine her biting at every word slowly and making fun of team competitive karuta in her smile. >_< ┌∩┐)
The Fukui team members shudder at her words and feel chills down their spines.
Oh my god, I don't feel at peace AT ALL!!
Arata watches her shuffle the cards again, looking silently and a bit remorseful as he thinks back on what he said to Chihaya during their last phone conversation.
Team competition is only for people who don't really love karuta.
Shinobu retreats to her own little world as she recites the cards again. But as she goes through them she suddenly stops at the cards "wata" and "ya". (TN: his last name)
"Arata!" she announces. "Even though I am deficient and cannot even compare... but right now, right here, let us play a match!" She smiles darkly at him. "Certainly we can at least kill a little time."
Again, the Fukui team members shudder and clutch at each other at her expression. With that look... it isn't TIME that she wants to KILL...
Arata looks at her without expression. "I decline," he says flatly.
"Why not?" she asks.
"Because today is the day of team competition," he answers. She looks at him blankly.
Arata continues, "And that... would be disrespectful!"
With that, Shinobu turns away from him and back to her cards wordlessly.
You've got guts, Arata! Sho whispers to him.
To Shinobu, even a practice match is simply a means to kill time for her. She's really too strong, he concludes.
Shinobu sits silently with her cards stacked in front of her, a single hand gently touching the top card, as if retreating to the company of her only friends.
***Meanwhile, back in the competition hall, the Mizusawa and Akashi teams are still in play, with no wins and no losses yet on either side.
Sumire looks at everyone in the room. Why is everyone still looking here? Is the other match such a one-sided game? Hokuo already has 3 defeats --
Sudo, who was focusing so intently on Chihaya's game suddenly turns to Hokuo and notices their shameful state.
WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!
So strong, observes the chief referee as he gives Fujisaki a once over. This years Fujisaki compared to the rest is really in a league of their own. But... I never thought that in comparing the Hokuo - Fujisaki match... that the Akashi - Mizusawa match would be even more intriguing... This is Mizusawa's first entry into national competition... And they don't even have a teaching advisor who is versed in karuta. Even so, those kids could compete to this stage--
.... What to do? He thinks back on Arata's explanation that he had come to cheer on his friends from Tokyo. If the team Wataya Arata came to see... was Mizusawa High... It's already too late! The competition is nearly over...
Meanwhile, Meat bun comes to some realizations (albeit too late). He can't decide if his opponent is simply incredible or just really strong. He admittedly shrinks back whenever she gives him a serious look (because he finds it very un-feminine) (TN: Holy cow, dude, come out of the Stone Age with your chauvinism). Truth be told, he doesn't like to fight with girls, but once he catches a glimpse of her strange little guy phone charm he finally decides what he must do.
Enough! In my eyes, you are simply a guy!
He loses a card to her.
You are weaker than Megumu.
He loses another card to her.
I will not lose to the likes of you!
"All right!" she shouts triumphantly. "I won! First win for Akashi!" Everyone looks up in surprise.
Not...not again... thinks Meat bun in defeat as he falls over. (TN: WEAK!!)
What they heck are you doing, Nishida-senpai? thinks Sumire in a panic. Really... I should start calling you Meat bun-senpai instead!
The other members of Akashi start grinning and feeling hopeful but Megumu remains silent and stoic. (TN: Megumu says something here that was difficult to translate, "率先獲勝的殊榮被小夕搶走了" but she seems upset that the glory of being the first victor was stolen by her teammate.)
Her stalkerazzi notice her perturbed expression and become enchanted with cameras ready.
As the next card is read, Chihaya takes it. The Akashi team members are shocked because the "Mu" card is a namesake card of Megumu. The chief referee is shocked to the core.
That girl playing the Western Japan representative...just what is she?
--Megumu's flashback--"Osaka Megumu," said her friend. "It's as if your name is just meant to play karuta!"
"What are you talking about, Yuu-chan?" Megumu had asked.
"It doesn't matter if it's Osaka, or Megumu, there are so many single syllable cards that match... Me, Mu, Su included. Suminoe would be considered one as well? Speaking of the Suminoe card, that's just like your dream, isn't it, Megumu?"
"Ah, ha, ha," Megumu laughed. "Since you put it that way... Even if my opponent is the Queen, I can't let her take away my namesake cards!"
Megumu watches painfully as Chihaya retrieves the Mu card, the poem's characters visible in the grip of her opponent's hand.
Just then, Kana-chan shouts out with all her might, "YUISAWA, ONE WIN!"
HUH? her teammates puzzle over her faux pas. She clasps her mouth in embarrassment at not getting her school's name correct.
Tsubuka ignores it and in admiration focuses on the fact that Kana just won a hard-fought battle.
An audience member rooting for Akashi realizes that the teams are tied and Yuu's first victory is no longer important. The audience seems to agree and even Murao is surprised at Mizusawa's ability. The chief referee observes that there are only 6 cards left to play. He wouldn't be surprised if the tides turned in either direction. At this point, he wouldn't be surprised if the Western Japan representative Osaka lost. He hadn't realized that there was still such a strong player outside the immediate karuta circles.
Six cards left, ponders Taichi. Even though it took us until the very end, but that's not the issue. Does she realize it as well? He looks up at his opponent. He goes over each of the cards that has already been read in his mind, and he counts that there are this 18 empty cards yet to be read.
Apparently, she does not. As the next card is read his opponent strikes first but realizes too late that the card is an "empty" verse card.
Good, thinks Taichi.
Meanwhile, Megumu is still angry at the fact that both the "Su" and "Mu" cards have been taken by her opponent.
You.... Ayase Chihaya.... (TN: She actually remembers her name.) She looks up at Chihaya in challenge and Chihaya equally meets her gaze.
Immediately as the card is read, Megumu strikes first.
Desktomu and Taichi both claim this card.
"MIZUSAWA, SECOND WIN!" calls out Taichi. Kana is just about to cheer her team until she notices Megumu and not Chihaya is the one getting up to retrieve this card.
She didn't take it?? her team members puzzle over Megumu's triumphant strut. Megumu holds the card up to her face, flashing the letters of the Chihayafuru card for her opponent to see.
This is for the "Su" and "Mu" cards, Megumu retaliates.
Chihaya watches silently and the stalkerazzi flash away their cameras in ecstasy. (Image.)
The Mioka captain realizes that the "Chigiriki and Chigirio cards have yet to be read, and so even his Bellatrix (Chihaya) showed some restraint. But this time, it was the four-eyed Queen's challenger that showed a little more guts.
This is a match between two Queen's challengers!
The stalkerrazzi puzzle over their camera shots and realize that the movements were too quick and none of them got a clear shot of that last move. They realize that this is the fastest Megumu has ever been, and that reason is because of the opponent she faces now.
Another pair of the Hokuo-Fujisaki match bow in conclusion and Sudo realizes in irritation that the match ended as 1 win and 4 losses for his home team. The Hokuo team looks extremely embarrassed.
Everyone watches the Mizusawa-Akashi match in anticipation.
I want to see... what happens with strong allies by your side... while facing strong opponents... the real you at the end of it all!
Chihaya and Megumu face each other once again.
We must do our best! We must!
We can't... let Shinobu be alone up there forever without a challenger....
Back at the dorms Shinobu turns around and looks out the window.
"What is it?" asks Arata as he notices her sudden reaction.
Is it the "Ai" card? she thinks. Back at the match, that same card flies off into the air after being struck.
"I thought I heard someone calling me," answers Shinobu, looking out the window into the darkness.