-->>Cutest inset comic: "Oops! It's a blank card. I'm sorry! Sorry!"
Kana-chan taking a "blank" card. Caption reads: when playing karuta and a blank card is read, when only one person reaches for that card, it's extremely embarrassing...
***AGAIN, I APOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE RE: THE JAPANESE NAMES. THEY ARE SO DIFFICULT TO TRANSLATE FROM A CHINESE STANDPOINT, SO I'M IMPROVISING. WHEN I CATCH WIND OF THE CORRECT PRONUNCIATION, I WILL EDIT THE POST.***
Hah, more squinting at the letters...I'm going to be held back in releasing the rest of this volume...since the chapters are long and I'm squinting through most of it... -_-; Oh, shipment! Ship faster!
Caption box: Last day of finals. Three days before the Eastern Conference.
Scene: Chihaya and her classmates are scribbling away at their test answer sheets. Some might be checking their answers. Ms. Miyauchi calls time.
Cut scene: Meat bun-kun, Taichi and Kana-chan are walking down the hall towards the club room.
"This time, I really got a handle on the English long articles," says Meat bun-kun.
"Um, were you by chance fooled by the word traps?" asked Taichi.
"Traps?" asks Meat bun.
"It looked like it was asking you about the time, but really, it was asking you the speed," responds Kana-chan.
They hear a recorded voice singing out a verse of the Hyakunin Isshu and notice that Chihaya and they see Desktomu-kun have already started playing without them. They wait outside as to not disturb the two of them.
"Ayase is being really impatient," whispers Meat bun-kun while they watch from outside the club room doors. "Poor Tsutomu-kun, to be in the same class as her..."
"Could it be she hasn't eaten lunch?" asks Kana.
"You can hardly blame her," comments Taichi. "While she was preparing for the exams she didn't even speak of karuta. She's been holding it in all this time."
Desktomu-kun is breathless as he tries to keep up with her. While playing Chihaya recalls the feeling of watching Arata play--as if she were submerged in water.
Take that movement...like water...like true flowing movement...and take it into myself.
Chihaya then gets lost in her thoughts and Desktomu-kun is able to take the next card. She barely notices. He looks at her and thinks that if this was the usual Chihaya, she'd be a bit more energetic about losing a card to him; such as making wierd faces and looking up, or looking to the side and cursing silently.
Her eyes haven't left the cards at all...
When they finally finish, Meat bun-kun throws the doors open and berates them for being so slow and not waiting for the others before going into a match. Chihaya does her usual collapse onto the tatami mat but Meat bun-kun orders her to get up and demands that she play against him.
In return, Chihaya wakes up again and shouts she wants to play. Desktomu-kun comments that Kana is out on a break having lunch. Taichi comments that it's his turn to read the cards.
As they position the cards for the next game, Chihaya's thoughts wander again.
I really love karuta... Arata's image appears amid the cards lying on the tatami.
Once again...I've brought Arata back with me...
A smile spreads across her face.
Taichi notices the change in her. Since the (Natsuri) nation-wide competition and forward, when she practices karuta she has this kind of anxious feeling about her...Is it because she saw Arata again? Taichi shuffles the cards roughly, berating himself for thinking those types of things.
I can change too...!
Taichi announces that they begin. He starts reciting the cards, one after another. Chihaya is the only one who doesn't notice but the others suddenly look aghast.
When the match is over, Meat bun-kun pulls Taichi aside, crying, "It doesn't need to come to that! As a person, you don't need to be that perfect! Though, it was really perfect!" Taichi asks if he recited them incorrectly (missing the point). When Chihaya wakes up (after collapsing again) she asks what the uproar is about. Kana-chan explains that Taichi recited all of the cards (50 - 100?), randomly, by memory without actually reading the cards.
Chihaya is shocked. Taichi says he read in a book once that he should commit the cards to memory as a form of training.
Meat bun-kun asserts that Taichi's brain is full of the Hyakunin Isshu, which is both a blessing and a curse. Though it is important to know the cards, when one is competing on the tatami mat, one cannot rely on memory alone, but must use his/her eyes to depict them. Playing karuta is to harmonize the mind with the body.
Taichi recalls the time he lost where he willed his hand to move faster, but it wouldn't listen. He has a revelation.
Meat bun-kun recalls the words of his teacher, reminding him that he would not have gotten so far without the help of his friends. Now it's my turn to help Taichi.
I want to help you become strong. I want to compete with you at the Eastern Conference.
Cut scene: The group on their way home
So in the end, Meat bun explains, it's best if you don't memorize all of them when you play. Of all the cards, he perhaps has only committed 50% to memory. When Taichi asks how to win without memorizing the cards, Meat bun continues to explain his tactic to him. Chihaya watches them from behind the group and smiles (at their unity).
Then, from a classroom window, Ms. Miyauchi calls out to her. She tells her that she's just made an inquiry with the test grader, and this time around, Chihaya passed her tests. Kana comments that the Empress is being too loud, but Ms. Miyauchi continues and wishes her good luck during the competition to become Queen. She waves goodbye.
Chihaya turns around and clasps Desktomu-kun's hands in gratitude.
I....really love karuta!
All of her team members gather round to pat her head and ruffle her hair in congratulations.
I really love it!
Cut scene: The Eastern Conference
Caption: October xx, 20xx. The finalists who will move on to challenge the current Meijin and Queen will be selected through the ranks of the Eastern Conference.
(TN: I didn't know this before, but the Meijin and the Queen don't duel one another. The Queen only duels women, and the Meijin only duels men. Their opponents are chosen from the strongest male and female players of the Eastern and Western Conferences. The current Queen actually attends the lower competitions and dominates her opponents. The current Meijin likes to keep a low profile and only duels once a year when his seat is being challenged)
Cut scene: in the waiting rooms for the Eastern Conference (TN: only A ranked players need apply...)
Kana and the others have come to support her and Kana hands her a hakama in a wrapped package. In commemoration of today's event, Kana had prepared a special outfit for her. Unfortunately, Harada-sensei stops her right there (calling her "pretty forehead" girl) and indicates that hakama and other stifling clothing are not permitted. This is a casual event only. Other competitions are in open forums, but these competitions are held in stifling rooms and windows are not open for ventilation in order to support optimum sound quality. Combined with the fact that it's (still) October, it's just really hot.
Kana asks where Meat bun is and Desktomu responds that he's with the (Midorikita) karuta group. Taichi asks if Kana and Tsutomu are also her on behalf of the Midorikita group and they say they are, since they received their training there.
Just as the two groups converge, their leaders stand like gang bosses, sizing one another up, and turn up their noses at one another without a single greeting. (TN: they are apparently rival Tokyo karuta groups) Both Taichi and Kana have an awkward moment watching their mentors and think, There's definitely a history there...
Meanwhile, Taichi notices Chihaya staring out the window, conserving her energy.
Caption: She seems like she's OK. Just like this, she'll go into the first round of the competition...
"Well, well. If it isn't the one who lost by 20 cards to the Queen," Sudo says when he spots her. The second she sees him, she turns to run, but he grabs hold of her ponytail and tells her not to run. Chihaya asks what he's doing here, since he's a high school senior he should be prepping for college entrance exams. He says he is, which is why he's aiming to be champion of the Eastern Conference. Otherwise, he wouldn't have worked so hard to be second in the high school individual competition last time.
Chihaya asks what that has to do with college, and he calls her an idiot. Apparently she doesn't know that if you win the individual high school competition or place 2nd, you get special privileges to enter one of 2 prestigious universities in Japan. Chihaya is shocked. Needless to say, if she becomes Queen, she can obviously choose from any number of prestigious universities.
Oh crap... her teammates think simultaneously, her brain is now full of yet another extraneous idea.... That guy's personality is the worst! Chihaya's brain is currently sparkling with aspirations to go to college using this route. (TN: apparently Sudo intended to distract her so her mind would be too preoccupied to otherwise win)
"But," Sudo continues, "it's impossible for you, no? The current Queen Shinobu Wakamiya is probably stronger than the current Meijin. You've seen it in your dreams, haven't you? The Queen's smile.... You don't even know how you're supposed to beat her." (TN: Now he's just messing with her! Jerk!)
"Let's have a bet," Sudo announces. "During today's competition, the first one to lose will have to SHAVE THEIR HEAD BALD!"
"I accept!" Chihaya shouts hastily.
"YOU IDIOT!" her teammates shout out as they pounce on her.
"That bastard's bald head and your bald head are absolutely two different things!" Taichi says. "That bastard's not the type to let you just say, 'Oh, just kidding!' and let you off the hook so easily!"
"I...wasn't...careful," Chihaya laments.
"And because you weren't careful, you carelessly wagered a woman's pride," scolds Kana.
Her teammates send worried looks after her as she holds her head in her hands and walks into the main hall for the opening ceremony.
And in that mindset she goes into the fray....
Eastern Conference chairman's speech: "Well, today's event is a very auspicious day in competitive karuta. Simultaneously, the Western Conference is being held at Omijingu. In November, the champions of the Eastern and Western Conferences will compete..."
Cut scene: The players getting ready for the tournament at Omijingu, Arata is among them.
Inset: Chihaya and Arata when they were young. "To be first in Japan, is to be the best in the world!"
-->>Main panel: Chihaya and Arata, present day
"Let us begin!"
Caption: It's starting!
Announcer: "Once you've checked your placement cards, please move to your assigned seating."
Apparently, Sudo's first opponent is Meat bun-kun. Sudo gives him the evil eye and says, "I'll skewer you." Meat bun-kun gets nervous.
"A-Ayase!" he says nervously. "Let me be the one to protect your hair. Do your best! Even though your first opponent is challenging." When Chihaya asks what he means by that, she finds out that her opponent is a young prodigy, (Tachikawa Lilia).
"Lilia-chan? Can we take a picture?" asks a member of the press corps. Apparently, she is quite popular. A lot of people are fussing over her.
"Are you thirsty?"
"It doesn't matter if this is a grown-up competition; at last summer's competition in Chiba you took an award."
Meat bun-kun continues, "Lilia became A rank when she was in the 4th grade. She is (Wakamiya Shinobu's) successor, and the youngest competitive karuta player today...People have quite different expectations of 'Genius Lilia,' compared with a nobody like you."
She's the shooting star 6th grader!
TN: Ok, that's it. This chapter was a horrible scan! I'm going blind! Need to rest my eyes....