TN: ...mmmm, mm mm.......melon pan, melon pan, pocky and Earl Grey.... yummy. ^_^
Opening scene: before the final match of the Tokyo High School Regional Championship
"All we have to do is see through the Mizusawa High playing roster and our victory will be smooth sailing!"
Hiro is shuffling his deck of cards (special "Hiro" cards he uses to predict the playing roster of the opposing teams) and contemplates his team captain's (Nayuta Amakasu) words. He tosses them up in the air and does his lovely pirouettes before they land back gently in his palm. (TN: One card short of a full deck, if you ask me...) He then places the cards in that order down on a sheet of paper where he's written the names of Chihaya and her teammates.
Next to him a girl says, "I can't believe they would leave this kind of important task to the sole responsibility of a single person. Are they stupid or what? Hey, have you properly rested?"
"Mm," says Hiro, still concentrating. He lays the cards down and turns them over. The number shown are 5 (Mashima), 1 (Meat-bun), 3 (Chihaya) and 4. Hiro stares at the numbers silently.
Cut scene: the Mizusawa High team members in a briefing before the game.
"What are we going to do about the playing order?"
"It's difficult to say!" says Meat bun. "If only there was a way to get a hint to Hokuo's intentions, that would be great...." says Desktomu.
"But..." interjects Meat bun cheerfully, "even if we lose we can still go to the nationals, so it's OK right?"
"What are you saying?" says Chihaya with dead seriousness. "Our goal is to be Japan's best! To become Japan's best means that we cannot lose to a single team!"
Everyone looks at her in horror.
Hokuo will also attack in full force, she thinks. Hiro once swore to them last year that he'd take the trophy back. This will be the match that puts forth 100%, pulling out all stops in one complete effort!
Kana and Meat bun are still staring at one another in shock. "I...guess it's good to have high standards..." says Kana trying to be supportive.
"Ahahaha..." Meat bun laughs weakly in response.
"But what Hiro said about having the strongest weapon up their sleeve makes me stop and wonder...." adds Meat bun. He looks over in Hiro's direction and receives the biggest shock of his life.
His sister (TN: the one who makes their team T-shirts and the one who looks like a cross-dressing Nishida -- because they are so similar looking) is giving a boxed juice to Hiro.
"Here, drink this," she says, fussing over him. "Really, what would you do without me--"
Meat bun thinks back and recalls his older sister did tell him that she has recently been dating someone but never in his wildest dreams would he have thought it was Hiro-kun.
Is...is this the 'strongest weapon' Hiro was talking about? thinks Meat bun, still unable to mentally recover.
"Excuse me--" says Sumire, raising her hand to interrupt. "During the last match, I snuck over to Hokuo's section to do some investigating. "Their captain wasn't competing in a match at the time and I overheard him say it was really too easy to topple Mizusawa. All they had to do was defeat Mashima and win 3 games. He said that any one of their players could easily defeat the 'four eyes' and the 'busty' girl."
The team members are in shock at the statement. Chihaya and Nishida are indignant that they weren't even considered in Hokuo's strategy.
"How could they be so stupid--" fumes Chihaya. "In such a rare and important match, how can they simply use such an underhanded--"
"No, Chihaya," interrupts Taichi. "This is a strong team's way of thinking. Whether it's a sneaky way of obtaining a victory is another matter. If they can see through our playing roster then they would absolutely do this."
With all their might-- thinks Chihaya incredulously. That's how it is with a strong team... that's Hokuo at it's strongest--
"But if those are the plans of our opponent," says Taichi, "then so be it!" Taichi, Desktomu and Kana are all worked up now and shout out their declaration of war.
"All we have to do is defeat one or two players stronger than we are..."
"That's right!" shouts Kana and Desktomu in unison.
The vibe the three are giving off makes Chihaya and Nishida step back a bit.
Pisses me off! thinks Taichi as he remembers Amakusa's words.
"All we have to do is take down Mashima!"
To have people think of us that way... think Desktomu and Kana simultaneously.
"Any one of our team mates can defeat the other's sides' Four Eyes and Busty Girl."
(Busty girl? fumes Kana to herself.)
The Captain said we had to be Japan's Number One! (even though at the time, she was the only one who said it) the three think in unison, burning with dark vengeance now.
Finally, the roster is decided (Nishida, Oe, Ayase, Tsutomu, Mashima) and Taichi gives it to Tsubuka to hand in to the overseers. At the last minute, Meat bun catches Tsubuka by the collar.
"Wait! Hey!" Meat bun looks at the roster and sees that Tsubuka has (again) scratched out Kana's name and put his own name down.
"You bastard--" starts Meat bun angrily.
"Because Oe-senpai looks kinda tired...." Tsubuka explains lamely.
"Even if that's the case, you are not permitted to randomly change it!" orders Nishida.
"But I feel like I'm gradually getting better at discerning the flow of the game... Next time I'm gonna win for sure!"
"Geez man, I'm just saying your methods are really wrong..."
"But! But!" whines Tsubuka.
"FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, ALL MALE CLUB MEMBERS...ARE PROHIBITED FROM SAYING "BUT" OR "BECAUSE!" declares Taichi suddenly.
"This match is for sophomores only, Tsubuka-kohai observe!"
("The President is angry," says Kana on the side.)
("Thank goodness I'm a girl," whispers Sumire.)
"Taichi," asks Chihaya, "Why are they prohibited from saying 'but' or 'because'..."
"From the 3rd grade forward, these were my mother's rules."
(In the background, Taichi's scary mom is scolding him that these words are not words that men should say.)
"Even though a lot of the time I think my mother's way of thinking is suspect, but I feel these words are associated with giving excuses, so she's not wrong in this regard!" Taichi says while giving an annoyed look.
Chihaya pats him on the shoulder. "I'm...I'm really scared of Taichi's mom, sometimes I wonder what I can do to get along with her, but I can't believe it! Taichi's strength is a result of your mother's discipline." Taichi takes a moment to contemplate her words.
"This year Hokuo Academy..." contemplates Tsutomu, "have two 3rd year A ranked players and one freshman A ranked player."
"Since it's a national escalator school, so the students can keep practicing from junior high and up." (TN: an "escalator" school is an elite school that has grades from elementary to high school, or from middle to high school, and you need only take one entrance exam and/or interview to get in, and you're set until college.)
"The rest are B ranked players."
Cut scene: before the match
In the corner of the room, Oe-san and Miyauchi-sensei are working on a project together (TN: won't bother translating since you will soon figure out what it is). Chihaya is practicing her moves over the tatami.
Announcer: "Well then, we'll start off by pairing the Hokuo Academy playing roster with that of Mizusawa High's list. Hokuo's Naruyama vs. Mizusawa's Nishida...."
The Hokuo Academy players pause as they are startled at the pairings (TN: A rank vs. A rank, B rank vs. B rank, etc.). Destomu and Kana are paired against the weaker players, while Taichi and Chihaya are evenly matched and Hiro and Amakasu.
Both team captains are thinking in shock, It's a real match, fair and square!
What the hell is this? thinks Amakasu. He goes over and pushes Hiro angrily.
"Hey!" he demands. "Hiro--"
"What are you thinking? The actual playing order and your roster are completely different! What the hell is going on?" His teacher tries to calm him, saying that predictions are not always accurate.
"This goes beyond the ordinary mistake, right? Explain yourself!" he yells.
Hiro trembles like a leaf and is speechless at first, before finally asking, "What is 'the easy way out'? Pit the strong against the strong, the weaker against the weaker; if you don't play like that then what's the use (of competing)?" Hiro looks like he's about to cry.
"Hokuo Academy is Tokyo's strongest team!" he declares. "More importantly...I want to see this kind of competition!"
Everyone is shocked by his words. Except his girlfriend who does a damsel pose as she blushes and thinks, How cool!
"You want to use your sense of absolute honor to lose a match that we could have won?" demands the captain angrily as he grips Hiro's shirt in a fist and pushes him. "Being strong doesn't always mean to play with your utmost!"
Hiro stumbles back but the person behind him steadies him with a firm hand on his shoulder.
"Hokuo Academy is the strongest?" asks Sudo-kun with his evil grin. "Why bother saying such words that are already taken for granted?"
Everyone is chilled by Sudo's sudden appearance.
"Ca-Captain Sudo, you're so slow!" insists Hiro.
"I'm never slow," explains Sudo. "In fact I got here early! But...if you guys aren't prepared to compete, then I guess I'll just go home."
Everyone on Hokuo's team, including Amakasu, is trembling as they speak.
"Ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-captain Sudo, why...if you were going to participate...you didn't say a word?" stutters Amakasu.
"I'm not here to participate," smiles Sudo. "Today I've been summoned by sensei to be a karuta reader!"
Chihaya and the others are shocked.
A karuta reader??
"Hurry up and line up!" Sudo orders. "Hokuo Academy can't be so timid." Amakasu and the others wilt under his direction.
Damn! Why did Hiro know about this and I didn't? I didn't know that Captain Sudo would come, Sensei... Amakasu thinks angrily.
His teacher observes him quietly. Amakasu-kun, you really do have competitive strength. But you've already given up playing in that monster's (Meijin's) A ranked world to become number one...
It's hard to compare... thinks Amakasu, trying to compare himself with the former captain, Sudo. It's hard to compare....
If I don't compete, he's gonna kill me! the Hokuo Academy members think simultaneously.
Their expressions have changed, thinks Chihaya. They're not just competing against Mizusawa...it seems the pressure has increased...
Chihaya suddenly realizes that Captain Sudo is their team's "strongest weapon." Just then, someone taps her lightly on the shoulder. She looks behind her to see Miyauchi-sensei leave someone behind.
"Sensei, what's up?" she asks.
"Sorry, I guess I'm getting too senile since I didn't realize it sooner. This is something I thought of yesterday and just finished making. This way, isn't it more convenient for you all to play?" The gang puts on their white "tasuki" straps to hold their kimono sleeves back.
It's not only much cooler, but it's become easier to move, thinks Nishida.
"They wore them!" smiles Oe-san.
Sensei...I don't care if it's last minute...and I don't care if it's against playing protocol...and I don't care that it has nothing to do with karuta, even....
Chihaya turns to Miyauchi-sensei, puts her hands together and bows deeply, forehead to the tatami mat. The others follow suit.
Miyaushi-sensei and others watching (Harada and the audience) are touched by the gesture.
Now they are ready to play.
Taichi and Hiro bow to one another and exchange greetings. Taichi notices the smirk on Hiro's face.
"Certainly you do look cool. But today, the one who will win is me! It will absolutely be me!"
Taichi thinks back at Hiro's taunting speech before the tournament when he called him "forever B rank." At every competition in the Kanto region he saw Hiro compete alongside him, and also come out empty handed.
Even though it was annoying...my conscience just told me it was a waste of breath. That idiot also refuses to give up on himself!
He remembers the brief comment Chihaya said about his mother and his upbringing.
Chihaya...my character has been shaped by many things...
And you're the same, right?
Meanwhile, as Amakasu sits in front of Chihaya he is thinking to himself that he really doesn't want to compete. Doing the hot-blooded, all-out, no holds barred type of competition is really tiresome and it would have been better his way.
Though Captain Sudo is here, and it's easy for him to say things like that, he isn't with us... anymore. But even though he's not here, the pressure is still so alarmingly intense. Amakasu takes a deep breath and takes his match seriously.
The audience is wondering about the aura the two teams are giving off. Even though they both now qualify to enter the national tournament, they are both seriously competing even now.
Sudo recites the opening Naniwa Bay poem.
Caption: Even more so than I anticipated, a deep resounding voice began the opening verse! This match would be an event that would play a large part in shaping who I am.
---End Chapter, End Volume 10---
TN: My goodness, that last caption was killer to translate, full of phrases I don't recognize. Talk about brain strain.... I think it's Chihaya that is narrating the manga at the end of the chapters, like she's telling the story as if the manga were a giant flashback from her memory. In the Chinese version, she says "這場比賽也裝會成為構成我的一部分" at the end, which essentially means the competition would become a part of who she is.
Oh, and for those who are interested, this is how you tie a "tasuki." Enjoy! ^_^v