This chapter was a bit confusing, but the quicker I get through it, the quicker I get to Arata! :-D
"I'm so lucky to be set against a child who only knows how to play quickly..."
Chihaya is frustrated with herself. Her main goal was to practice NOT to rely only on speed to take karuta cards, but thus far she hasn't been successful.
How did it get to this critical juncture?
The next string of cards are "empty cards" making not only Chihaya but all the other players edgy. (TN: understand that there are 100 poems in the hyakunin isshu but each player only gets 25 each, so there are 50 "active cards" in play. The reader, however, will choose from the entire collection and some of the poems read will not be the ones in play. If the player takes an incorrect card, I'd imagine that would be a point against him)
Six "empty cards" later the players start grumbling amongst themselves.
The next one has to be... The next one has to be...!!
I really want to move!!!
At the next card, Chihaya moves, but alas, it's another "empty card." She slumps over in embarrassment at her inability to restrain herself.
"You mean you can't differentiate between the 'empty cards' and the real ones? How lucky for me," says Ms. Kanai. She carefully selects Chihaya's "penalty" card. It turns out to be "chihayafuru." Chihaya stares at it in dismay.
It's finally come to this...
I want to take...! I want to take...! I want to take...! she thinks impatiently. Even though she was faster at moving, she still couldn't distinguish between the "ooke" and "ooe" cards until Ms. Kanai already took it from her.
I have to calm down. This is my first match of the A rank tournament. I can't lose here!
If I don't become the champion of this A rank competition, then I can never a contestant in the title for Queen....
Then I won't be able to oppose Shinobu....
"How uninteresting," comments Ms. Kanai. "Ayase-san, it's as if you're doing battle with the cards themselves." She hands Chihaya another "penalty" card.
What? She's keeping the "shi" card and giving me the "shira" card? Why is she only giving me the annoying cards?
At this rate, Chihaya notes it will be difficult to apply any strategy. But she realizes that Ms. Kanai is purposefully arranging the playing field to that effect. (TN: Duh...) At this point, Chihaya must take a card from within her opponent's defenses in order to change the rhythm of the game. But she cannot simply rely on speed alone to do it.
She recalls the words Ms. Kanai told her a short while ago: How boring....It's like you're battling with the cards themselves.
Chihaya excuses herself and gets up to arranged her hakama skirt and when she gets down again, Ms. Kanai notices she is now further back from the cards. She tries to measure the distance between her and the cards. She wonders if her hand will be able to reach that far, or if it would be a rather unsightly way of taking cards in karuta. But she decides it's best this way, since she's so reactive. The longer it takes for her to get to the cards, the more time she will have to decide which card to take.
Ms. Kanai thinks that Chihaya is thinking a lot, but that's the beauty of being young. O_o;
Another card is read and Chihaya's hand automatically lashes out, but it's an "empty card" and she is able to restrain herself. Ms. Kanai notices how incredibly long her arms are. Chihaya knows she can't keep making mistakes. She decides that in order to take all the cards from all directions, she needs lot's and lot's of space.
Ms. Kanai tries to mix up the cards again, putting the easier card "yo" out of her reach and the more difficult card "yomo" closer hoping this will confuse Chihaya. Ms. Kanai manages to take the next card, and Chihaya realizes she must see Ms. Kanai's cards as Ms. Kanai herself sees them (they are upside-down to Chihaya). She starts to breathe in synch with her opponent and this time, she reaches the card at the same time as Ms. Kanai. Since they reached it at the same time, but the card was on Ms. Kanai's side, it's Chihaya's loss.
Ms. Kanai comments that they were able to synchronize and connect to the card within three words. (TN: I'm not really sure what that means, and I'm not really sure who won by this picture alone, but I'm guessing Ms. Kanai?)
Later in the lobby, Chihaya calls out Ms. Kanai's name as she is meeting up with her family. (TN: They are all dressed alike...) Chihaya comments that her kids are so cute, and Ms. Kanai responds, "I know." But Chihaya thanks her opponent for the opportunity to learn from an experienced A rank. She professes that she wants to be a player who doesn't only rely on speed, but she wants to be the Queen.
Ms. Kanai tells her that this is her dream as well. She's 35 now, but she's been trying to be Queen since she was Chihaya's age. Twenty years prior, she was much cuter, O_o; but she only achieved minor competitions and never reached her goal because she would always be outdone by the younger players no matter how hard she tried. But she still loves karuta.
For a moment, Chihaya pictures Ms. Kanai's younger self, dressed in a hakama, her beauty in bloom. Ms. Kanai tells her that becoming Queen is still her dream.
As she walks away, her children comment that Chihaya wants to be Queen as well, and Ms. Kanai tells them it makes her an enemy of their mom. 0_0; Ms. Kanai turns around with a warm smile and tells Chihaya that they'll meet again at the Eastern Karuta Conference.
Chihaya stands in front of the window with her hands clasped together.
The dream we sought together is this-- (TN: There should be another word after "this," but I guess for dramatic effect the author/translator left it out to the reader's imagination)
Caption: At that time, the me who failed in her first A rank competition was unaware...that this day I would endure a kind of personal hardship!
Cut scene/caption: B rank player final --> Meat bun vs. Taichi!
D rank player final --> Desktomu-kun vs. Kana-chan!!
Who the heck am I supposed to root for??
Notes: Isn't if cute how every time Chihaya has an epiphany, or a moment of realization, she calls out Arata's name? hahahaha! Chiharata FTW!