TN: And so, the tearful conclusion to this story arc... I guess the mangaka is going to drag out this manga for as long as it will go because I've read through vol 9 and I really think vol 1 -7 were much more interesting! But there are sweet tidbits of Chihaya, Arata and Taichi here, so it's still worth the read in terms of character development. By now, if you're still reading this, you've emotionally invested in this manga anyhow, and you (like me) will read until the end.
Opening panel: Chihaya breathes heavily, but Yumi seems composed
Chihaya is down by 3 cards as she has 9 and Yumi only has 6 left. Taichi watches them duel and thinks how scary it is.
This type of battling technique....Chihaya, who was at the onset bright and bold ...suddenly became a wilted, stiff mess who lost to her own mistake...I had no idea willpower made such a difference in the game! (TN: the Chinese translation uses words like 气勢, which could mean number of things. Literally, the words are "air" and "influence" which could mean in English, "aura" or "momentum" or in this case, "willpower." Like many Chinese words, it could also mean all of the above. Such a complicated language.... -_-; When describing Chihaya, Taichi uses the phrase "气勢如虹" whereas he's likening her to a rainbow, literally. Using those words combined, 气勢 could mean "willful" and 如虹 could mean "bold" and "brightly colored" to describe how Chihaya was when she thought she could win)
Willpower...however strong or weak....
Yumi contests another card that Chihaya and she apparently took together, saying her hand was quicker in touching a certain part of the card. The peanut gallery is commenting how strange her battling type is.
"So you can actually duel like this...?"
"Isn't she the prior Queen of karuta? She fights like this?" (TN: That's what I said! A true proficient wouldn't even give these arguments the time of day b/c there wouldn't even be room to argue!)
Don't mind them Yumi, thinks Meat-bun (TN: who's side are you on??) It's natural to contest cards that are taken simultaneously. No matter what, fighting through debating may seem unsightly, but Yumi's way of karuta is even more careful and more just than others.
Caption: To be able to get to this point, must have been very difficult. Everyone here can understand...
The match is over. Harada gives a look of surprise. Kitano smiles victoriously. Yumi bows and thanks her opponent. Chihaya is unable to do the same as she is still in shock over her loss. Yumi repeats the gesture and Chihaya simply stares at her blankly. Yumi leaves to report her victory by 4 cards to the registration desk.
Her mentor rushes over to her and exclaims that she has finally obtained the will to reclaim her title of Queen. The heavy burden of expectation falls on her shoulders once again.
"Shiranami Society's bright prodigy is nothing compared to you!" he exalts. "Did you see that, Harada??" he jabs. He tells her to rest, as she still has 4 more competitions to go. Kitano's hand falls on her shoulder. She thinks, If I didn't have this kind of expectation (to support me), I would have run away long ago. (TN: uh, no...you'd probably live a happier, less stressful life...)
Yumi notices Chihaya coming out of the room, looking as though she is about to cry. As soon as she is out, Chihaya makes a mad dash elsewhere to not embarrass herself in public, ignoring Taichi calling after her.
I can't run away, Yumi thinks as she watches. I can't run away! (TN: *muttering* Now that you've crushed another hopeful's dreams in your half-assed desire to be Queen again, you'd better not back down...)
Chihaya makes it into a broom closet in the prep hall before Taichi can catch her. Taichi and her other teammates call out to her to come out. Desktomu-kun makes her an offering of chocolate. Suddenly, Sudo comes along to gloat.
"Is it really so depressing to be one who fails?" he smirks. "I think a bald head is quite becoming on a beautiful girl!" Everyone is shocked by his words (TN: they forgot about the bet).
"Which one is Ayase's cell phone? I'll use the infrared exchange to send my email to her mailbox, so she can send me a pic. Kana remarks on his callousness. Taichi hesitates for just a moment but then offers his, Desktomu and Meat bun-kun's shaved heads in exchange for Chihaya's. (TN: quite a gallant effort, but you didn't ask the others if they consent...?) In solidarity Kana offers her head as well, and Meat bun tells her that's unnecessary.
Harada-sensei interrupts. "What are you all talking about?" When he learns of the bet, Harada then tells Sudo if he (Harada) beats him, the promise is forfeit. Sudo remarks that his next duel isn't against Harada.
"Does it really matter? You don't intend to lose, right? Sooner or later, we'll meet," Harada smiles menacingly.
Sudo snickers at him. "Then, please don't lose so easily before then."
"Same to you," Harada responds.
Harada-sensei! You're so COOL! Kana-chan thinks as she falls in love with him (briefly). Meat bun and Desktomu make a weird face at her.
Meanwhile, Taichi is staring at the broom closet doors.
Chihaya goes over the duel in her head over and over, holding her head in her hands.
"Do you think she fell asleep in there?" asks Meat bun after a while. "It's just like that idiot. It's already been an hour and she hasn't come out yet." Kana has no comment.
"It's...possible..." says Desktomu.
Taichi tells Meat bun to go cheer on Yumi and the others to go downstairs and watch the competition. He says he'll watch Chihaya alone. Kana wants to stay, but seeing his expression, she takes her queue and leaves with the others.
She's not sleeping.
He remembers the time she lost to the Queen. She's crying and trying to understand where she went wrong. Taichi then gets a message on his phone.
"Chihaya..." he groans. "Arata passed the 3rd round competition." Silence...followed by shock from inside the broom closet.
"We've become correspondents recently. When this competition is over I was planning to give you his contact information." More shock.
"He's amazing isn't he? That bastard..."
Like water...like flowing water... she thinks. In her mind's eye, she pictures Arata's straight, broad back as he duels a stranger.
Taichi looks at Arata's message. He is also inquiring after Chihaya. Taichi thinks back to what Arata said about not knowing whether they were dating or not.
Suddenly Kana returns saying that Harada is matched against Sudo. Taichi tells her to come out so they can root for Harada-sensei.
I know... I understand how it feels to invest everything into a competition, only to fail miserably...and that feeling of not wanting to see anyone after that...
I know...and yet I feel as though none of my words could reach her right now. If it were Arata, then maybe...
Chihaya suddenly bursts out of the broom closet and Taichi falls in.
"What are you doing?" Chihaya asks. She is sclearly crying and her tears splash down on Taichi's face. "You have to go Taichi! You have to go watch the match between Harada-sensei and Sudo-kun! In next year's competitions, everyone in the A rank will be your competition. It's not to go cheer anyone on, but it's to watch (their techniques)!"
"Chihaya, the team president was worried about you, that's why he stayed here," Kana explains.
"Oh, about that, I'm so sorry. Sorry!" she apologizes to Kana. "Let's go, Taichi," Chihaya says staring straight ahead as she crouches down and drags him out behind her.
It's no use...I... Taichi thinks. I'm in love with Chihaya!
Cut scene: Harada cries out as he makes his killing move (he's a very loud karuta player)
Kitano, who is watching from outside, mumbles "How loud!"
Harada has to shift position, and Sudo wonders if it's his body is giving out on him because of old age. (he also brings his own pillow). He can understand it, but it's not something he dares say to an opponent like Harada.
Cut scene: Chihaya watches Yumi compete in the next round
Because I was annoyed with her verbal contesting of the cards, I used speed that I shouldn't have to beat her at taking cards, which resulted in my own mistake that I couldn't undo. I didn't know there was a power like that.
Taichi looks down at her and asks if she's cold. He lends her his jacket. Chihaya asks her teammates had been standing here all along cheering her on while she competed. She asks if Kana is cold to which Kana responds it's still fairly warm in the middle of the day. Meat bun-kun comments how scary it is in the competition room that people inside will react to any little noise.
Always standing outside...Chihaya thinks as she watches her team.
"Thank you, everyone!" she says. "And, I'm sorry!"
Even if it's one card, I won't let them take it!
She remembers what she thought inside the room while competing and realizes for a moment she could only see herself when she lost, though others were also concerned.
Harada-sensei makes his final killing move and saves the day. Harada walks away with his kneeling mat clutched to his chest and self-satisfying smirk on his face. Sudo's mentor runs up to him and says "How dissatisfying! How really disappointing! To only lose to Harada by 3 cards!" Sudo grimaces and calls his mentor a bear for really knowing how to rub it in.
In the background, Harada's assistant hands him a cup of water. Everyone cheers because Harada has saved their heads from being shaved.
"What? What are you talking about?" he asks, apparently he forgetting entirely. They go silent. He was only thinking of his victory at this time...that's so him!
Announcer: "10 minutes until the next match!"
Harada looks at Chihaya.
"Chihaya!" he says sternly. "At the end of your last game you did not give thanks and bow...That is unacceptable. No matter how dissatisfied you are with the outcome." Chihaya realizes her mistake.
"Yes sir!" she responds earnestly. The announcer comes to claim Harada as it is time to start.
"2 more matches, eh?" Harada sighs. Clearly, his age is catching up with him.
Caption: Regretfully, that would be Harada-sensei's deciding match. The champions of this year's Eastern Conference would be Yumi and Shiranami Society's Hiroshi. One month after the prize ceremony, they will compete against the winners of the Western Conference in 3 matches. The winners of that decisive match will go on to play the Meijin and the Queen.
While watching the ceremony, Chihaya notices Sakura-san, who bows her head in acknowledgement and tells her, "See you next year!"
Caption: And so the long journey ends in a day, the defeated to start again in one year.