But here's another chapter, to celebrate the end of Monday, and to celebrate the return of Arata!! :-D
My goodness, this was a looooooooooong chapter... had to break it up in a couple of nights to complete!
Caption: Fukui Prefecture, Ashihara (?) (TN: 芦原)
Arata is praying quietly in front of his grandfather's grave tablet in a cemetery with his parents and other associates of his grandfather.
"How quickly time flies, it's already been 3 years, has it?"
"I think, even now, I can hear Wataya-sensei's voice (in my head)!"
"Arata," says his dad, munching on the tribute food. (TN: ^_^; an extremely rude thing to do, since the food is left there for the spirits until you're done) "Don't just keep praying (for such a long time). The weather's getting hotter, let's just go home early!"
Arata's mother is in shock at her husband's attitude.
"D-dear!" She complains that he's eating the food they had just laid out in tribute to the dead, and it was Arata's grandfather's favorite food.
"It's OK--" her husband responds nonchalantly. "We were going to take it back with us anyway."
Arata is quiet throughout this exchange until he finally says, "I can now understand why Grandfather and Dad's relationship wasn't that great...."
"Your grandfather was annoyed that I had absolutely no interest in karuta," retorts his dad.
"After the two of you got into an argument you ran off to Tokyo to look for work, which caused Arata to have to transfer schools...." protests his mom.
"(That was so long ago) But, but...," his dad sulks. "That wasn't a bad experience for him." He turns to his son, "And you also made friends in Tokyo."
Arata has a quick flashback of when Chihaya jumped out of a tree and tackled him and Taichi to the floor. A smile spreads across his lips.
"Now that you mention it," continues his mother. "The High School Chapionship in Tokyo is taking place today, isn't it? Your friends must also be doing their best, right? Did they text you?"
Arata opens his (pink) phone to check. "No.... Lately, I haven't been inundated (with mail) like last time. (The amount of mail I got this time last year was really shocking!)" (TN: see Chihaya's OCD-ness in Chapter 18 - 19, vol 4.1)
"If you don't seriously make the effort to communicate with them, won't your friends in Tokyo forget about you?" asks his dad.
"Really? I don't think so...." responds Arata.
"Now you're just flaunting it--" retorts his dad.
"It's so rare that you actually bought a cell phone!" comments his mom, interrupting the two.
Arata smiles as he looks at the blank screen of his phone and thinks back on the (brief) conversation he had with Chihaya on Christmas Eve.
"Cell phones are really cool...really just like magpies!"
His mother walks to one side and notices the ocean view beyond the cemetery shrubbery.
"You can see the ocean from here!"
"Dad, you don't know, do you? The phrase "和田之原" refers to the ocean! (TN: literally, "peaceful field of wilderness." The caption above the panel indicates "In waka poetry, the ocean is always referred to as "和田之原")
"First tell me what the phrase "和田之原" means again?" asks his dad, still munching on the tributary food for the deceased.
"...." Arata gives up lecturing his dad. Instead he thinks back to the two cards that refer back to the Ox Herder/Star Maiden folklore, as the poets describe their longing to see the ones most dear to them. (TN: see Chapter 45)
Chihaya! It isn't cell phones.... To me, the 'magpies' are really....
"Dad, Mom.... If... if I win the high school championship title...at that time I hope you will grant me my one wish."
Cut scene: Semi-finals at the National High School Regional Championship
The semi-finals pairing on the board shows that Mizusawa is facing Houmei while Hokuo Academy is facing a fourth semi-finalist.
I didn't hear anyone say anything about it! Who'd have thought our opponent in the Tokyo National High School Championship would be... last year's Mejiin tournament qualifying winner and Eastern Conference's representing champion...the superior A ranked contestant... Tsuboguchi-san... who became a high school mentor--
"Chihaya! Did you know that Tsuboguchi-san was Houmei High School's karuta--" begins Taichi, but he stops short when he sees her expression. She is blushing furiously with sparkles all around her, as if she's watching a movie star she adores.
I...just don't get it...that something like this would make her heart pound and beat so quickly....
"Everyone!" announces Hiroshi-san. "Up to now, you all have done really well! 14 wins, 1 loss, Sensei is really amazed.... These two months past, you guys really put forward your competitive strength and a lot of other things."
"Sensei what you've said is true--" says the team captain, Takei Eita-kun (sophomore). "All we have to do is change posture and we can straighten out our arms!"
"Me too, me too!"
"Since you gave me tips on which cards to send out, my opponent made 4 mistakes after that...sensei!"
"I...." says another voice, belonging to an extremely spooky girl who mumbles like she's cursing people. "I can take it! I can take it! I can take it!" mumbles sophomore, Sasaki Suzuka (?). "Miyo and Kono, Tachi and Arashi, Natsu and Wasura, Akika and Yuu...."
"Sasaki, you're really too dedicated!" (TN: and creepy...)
"Mizusawa's really strong," continues Hiroshi-san. "But from this spring onward we've been continuously practicing. Perseverance...will not forsake you. Take Sensei to Omi Jingu!"
"YES SIR!" they all respond in unison.
The Mizusawa team watches in astonishment.
Spring... the springtime of youth.... they all think collectively.
"Too passionate," says Sumire in a small voice.
Chihaya's heart is about to beat out of her chest.
Taichi goes over to the front table to ask to see Houmei's playing rosters. He notices that each of the names have been strategically placed for each match. His eyes meet with Hiroshi-san's and Hiroshi smiles at him.
"You can borrow our chests to cry on, when Mizusawa loses its last year's title."
Taichi says nothing.
Ever since I was little, Tsuboguchi san has been at the Shiranami Society... I'm quite familiar with everything about him....
Above anyone else, he received Harada-sensei's strongest attack techniques. He plays to win!
What's his roster going to be this time? Which one is the strongest? Taichi thinks as he flips through the pages of Houmei's past rosters. So we don't waste our 3 consecutive wins, how should we arrange our roster? We can't be careless!
Then, Harada's assistant and one other female member of the Shiranami Society come over to give Taichi lucky charms (from a shrine) that they bought especially for him.
"Don't worry! The only thing you're lacking is luck!" says the assistant with tears in her eyes.
"You have strength!" cries out the other.
"? ?" Taichi doesn't really know how to respond to that. "Sorry! I have to redo the team's roster right now..." In the background, Harada is also eyeing him.
Chihaya has been in complete competition mode since the very beginning... No matter how you look at it, our strength is Chihaya. Nishida shouldn't have a problem either... The issue is whether to use Oe or Tsutomu? thinks Taichi.
Announcer: "All participating teams, please turn in your player rosters to the front!"
Shoot! I don't have any more time....
Just then, Harada-sensei places a hand on his shoulder. "Eyebrows-kun! Individual competition is the same as team competition! Team competition...is just like individual competition!" He walks away.
Announcer: "Mizusawa High please assemble!"
What is that supposed to mean?
The announcer then begins pairing the competitors in the next match. Nishida vs. Minami (?); Oe vs. Nakamori (?); Ayase vs. Takei; Tsutomu vs. Toda; Mashima v. Sasaki.
Chihaya watches Tsuboguchi san and marvels at how he's turned C ranked players into such a strong team. She wonders if they became strong only after his tutelage.
"If you want to be a school with a strong karuta team, you need to have an equally strong mentor to lead it."
While she is deep in thought, her opponent tries to catch her attention.
"It's no good. I really like you.... After the competition is over, give me you cell phone number!
HAH? HAH? Chihaya panics. In the background Hiroshi-san smiles victoriously (TN: the mind game is all a part of his sneaky plan)
I've known Chihaya since she was young. I know she is completely clueless when it comes to male-female relationships... and so I attack this way. But I also know that as soon as the competition starts she will turn into an obsessive karuta nut--
"OK, I've said it. Promise!" says her opponent.
All I have to do is look at Chihaya to know.... (Her head is actually filling with useless thoughts, like "What if I never hear those words again in my life?" and "What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?")
Taichi sends a murderous look in Tsuboguchi-san's direction.
That's low! To the point of using Chihaya's personality to your advantage, I know this is your tactic, Tsuboguchi-san! he thinks angrily.
Tsuboguchi is smirking at Taichi. ...that the real person who will be affected is Eyebrows-kun. (TN: SOOOO sneaky...Chihaya isn't the target)
Tsuboguchi knows that even though Chihaya is the team's trump card, Taichi is the team's strength.
You're too easy to read.... Is this OK, Eyebrows-kun! Is that the direction you should be looking at?
In front of Taichi, his opponent (the creepy one) is giving off an murderous air of her own while he is busy fussing over Chihaya's situation.
Cut scene: The mentor for the Hokuo Academy kartua club rushes over to Harada sensei
"Ah! Machida-kun," (?) (TN: 持田) "This year Hokuo's also coming out on top!"
"Harada-sensei, you noticed? With the lessons of training learned last year, this year's team has continuously been victorious in every match. But, finding five people for the competition who could read waka poetry clearly was very difficult!" (TN: Not really sure what he means by this...is he one of the coordinators of the competition?...)
"Well isn't that awesome?" says Harada rhetorically.
"It is awesome, isn't it!" exclaims Machida.
The next reader reads the Nanimono Bay opening poem, and pauses nervously before continuing. But as he continues, his rhythm is totally off.
"Stop...the stopping point between phrases is so awkward, isn't it?" comments Harada-sensei. "Machida-kun, this reader is not from Kanto?"
"No!" says Machida in horror. "This reader has the experience...."
The next card is read, but the second verse stumbles behind the first a little too quickly. Apparently, this reader just graduated from reading at B ranked competitions and is probably nervous. He hasn't been able to grasp the rhythm of the poetry, dividing the verses by 4 - 3 - 1 - 5 counted syllables.
The two members of the Shiranami Society watching in the audience lament that only experienced competitors would notice the irregularity of a reader's mistakes, and it would definitely affect the Mizusawa players more than the Houmei players. They lament that Taichi's luck is really awful.... -_-;
Kana-chan is about to have an aneurysm because of the way the reader is blundering the flow of the poetry. The poem should flow like an Odori dance (TN: a dance of the Edo Period that stems from Noh drama) If it isn't properly read, the poem doesn't dance beautifully.
"Oe-san!" calls out Taichi to Kana. She suddenly breaks out of her lapse of concentration when he tells her to snap out of it and focus. She takes a deep breath and regains her composure.
"Yes!" she replies.
They all continue to play and Taichi continues to observe them. Chihaya and Nishida are fine. And Tsutomu? Have his cards been taken continuously?
"Tsutomu, you have to attack next!" he rallies.
"Got it!" Desktomu responds.
Chihaya focuses on her game. Because it's Tsuboguchi-san's--
So looking at the actual configuration (of the cards), it's really just like the Shiranami Society style's attack formation.
Her opponent tries to distract her by saying, "Having a girlfriend who loves karuta isn't bad. You're really my ideal...."
But Chihaya is entirely focused now. It's the same as my attack style. So I am well aware of the enemy's vulnerabilities in the lower right segment! She takes the next card exactly in that quadrant. (TN: She says, "意識在敵陣右下段" which means literally means she is aware of the enemy's position in the lower right segment -- so I'm guessing she knows exactly where the vulnerabilities of the defenses are)
Harada and Hiroshi-san observe her silently. Chihaya...you've gotten stronger--
Even though it's me, there's no way I can defeat Mizusawa's two A ranked players. But...
At that moment, Chihaya and Meat bun simultaneously lose a card to the opposing team.
"I broke the opponent's momentum!" says Takei-kun.
"So did I!" chimes in Minami.
"Good, really awesome!" cheers Toda-kun.
Takei proceeds to give Chihaya a penalty card. Chihaya, Meat bun and Taichi notice that their opponents have taken cards that they were not focusing on and are actually giving them a card they want to take. Tsuboguchi has taught them even these little annoying nuances.
Taichi then loses another card to his opponent. He realizes he was too slow to react and he should focus on his own problem at hand. His opponent is making an extremely creepy face as she waves her arms over the cards and repeatedly chants, "Come to me, come to me, come to me...." Taichi feels a bit nauseous. (TN: hypnotic effect?)
She successfully takes the next card and cries out "I KNEW IT WOULD COME--"
What is up with this girl? Taichi thinks, puzzled. Not only are her actions completely different from Tsuboguchi's style, so is her card formation.
Cut scene: flashback to creepy girl's past
Apparently, she's always had aspirations to be the Queen, but she never had the courage to join a karuta society and so she was predominantly self-taught. When she reached high school, she finally thought she would be strong if she joined a karuta club. But it predominately became a social, tea-drinking club. Then Tsuboguchi-san joined the school faculty. He taught everyone that karuta was actually very interesting, or rather, "challenge" is very interesting. (TN: The Chinese version uses the phrase"拚命" which means "difficult" or "desperate." Not sure what Hiroshi-san was trying to get at here, but maybe what was interesting about karuta is the challenge?)
It was really shocking for me to hear....that the person who really wanted a challenge was me.... That really surprised me!
Cut scene: back at the competition
Creepy girl is able to take the next card from Taichi as well, crying out, "YOU'VE COME AT LAST--!"
She's able to continuously take the cards she's focusing on!
The ladies from the Shiranami society are weeping at Taichi's bad luck. One of them is stating the obvious, that he's continuously having cards taken from him. The other knows that Taichi wants to start his attack, but the momentum of the game is against him, and she is cursing his bad luck.
"GOOD, COME--!" calls out the creepy girl to the cards.
There she goes again...
Eyebrows-kun, thinks Harada, doesn't believe that what he lacks is good fortune. But instead, what he thinks he lacks is strength!
Why.... thinks Taichi. Tsuboguchi-san has only taught them for two months, and they've already become this adept at taking cards? So well that they can discern the flow of the game right away? I've been working so hard all this time....
Harada quietly observes Taichi. But once you start thinking that you lack the strength, you lose the will to take command. Then you laugh off all your hard work and conclude with thoughts like, "I have no talent"--
Taichi has fallen into a dark place. (TN: poor Taichi...)
TN: Geez, I hate it when we are left guessing. Couldn't you at least finish the thought, Arata? Do I really have to buy up through volume 16 to figure out what he meant? Let's help him complete the sentence:
Chihaya! It's not cellphones. To me, the "magpies" are really ___________.
(a) stupid. What kind of girl makes a "magpie" reference to a guy?
(c) not the best (or safest) method of building bridges.
(d) all of the above.
Ok, I've been thinking this for a really long time. So, what do you think Arata will ask his parents for?
(a) a new cell phone that isn't pink;
(b) to give their blessing and let him marry Chihaya;
(c) that his Dad stops eating the tributes to the deceased;
(d) that his parents let him attend university in Tokyo.
Yeah, if what Sudo-kun said was true at the last competition, then I'm guessing it's (d). OK, I'm done having fun.
(v^_^v Go Arata!)