Opening scene: The Omi Jingu Championship roster board is marked to indicate Mizusawa proceeding into the semi-final round, along with 3 other teams
Chihaya's heart is beating loudly as she watches.
The National Team Championship... is about to go into its semi-final round...
"The decisive semi-final round will pit us against Akashi First Girl's High School. I'm thinking everyone here knows..." explains Desktomu, "our most formidable opponent will be the third year, Megumu Osaka." (TN: did I do that right?)
"Who's that now?" asks Chihaya innocently.
Suddenly, Desktomu, Taichi and Meat bun all yell, "Moron!"
"Is that your head sitting on top of your neck?" demands Meat bun. "Is it working?"
"She's last year's Queen Competition challenger from the Western Conference!" reminds Kana and Taichi.
"Didn't we watch that competition together when Yumi-san was competing?" asks Meat bun.
Ah! Chihaya suddenly recalls the match and Yumi-san's opponent at the time; the female representative of the Western Conference (aside from Shinobu). (TN: I knew she looked familiar)
Waaaah.... I want to challenge her... says the karuta nut within as Chihaya blushes.
"Since the playing hall was completely different from the one I was in, I had Hanano-kouhai attend their match," explains Desktomu.
"So that's why this mumbo jumbo is about hand phones and designer bags?" asks Meat bun as he reads over the notes. "This is completely useless ---"
"Well," insists Sumire, "Well, what was I supposed to do? From where I was sitting I couldn't even see the cards, and...and I can't really read the flow of a karuta game yet."
"It doesn't matter!" defends Desktomu-kun. "Hanano-san was keen on details. From this we can glean the personality traits of the players." Sumire looks grateful for his support.
Kana-chan joins in, "Aside from Osaka Megumu, the others are ordinary girls who started their karuta training only after they entered high school----" she begins as she studies the notes.
"We should pay attention to the significance of that type of player, who are most likely very good at the cards involving love poetry. Sekibu-san is very boyish and prefers to keep things simple... or maybe she's the same as Osaka Megumu, and she is the listening type who relies heavily on sound."
The others are rather in awe of Kana-chan's analysis at this point.
"Let's not forget their names!" she adds. "Everyone should pay attention to their counter-part's last names. Because she's Osaka Megumu, we can be sure her strong cards are 'ooko', 'omae', 'oke' and 'me'!
"Also! Concerning the playing roster for this round," begins Desktomu. "The two A-ranked players on their team have always been arranged in this fashion, in the 1st and 3rd seat, so there is a high probability that they will maintain this formation in the semi-finals as well. If we take all of this into consideration, then concerning our own playing roster... it would be... to not allow Osaka Megumu face Ayase, Mashima or Meat bun-kun---"
But... we all know... they all think in unison, that this goes against the very existence of our own wild card... who will most likely insist that in all fairness she go head-to-head with the strongest player of the opposing team---
They watch quietly (with sweat drops) how Chihaya visibly struggles in anguished poses with Desktomu-kun's proposition.
"Then..."she struggles to utter the words as she clutches her face in her hands, "I...."
"...will be positioned...."
Everyone is astonished at her words.
Chihaya desperately clutches the wall for support as she mutters, "Since I have only been assigned 1st, 3rd and 5th position in the past, if I am assigned 2nd position there is a higher likelihood of me being up against a B-ranked player... Just do it that way...."
Chihaya.... Taichi concludes as he sees Chihaya is tearing up, is planning to take the victory....
We're only 2 games away....
The title of Japan's Number One is within sight!
Meat bun thinks about it and pulls her aside as he speaks to her privately. "Ayase! If you really want to win that badly, then I'll just go ahead and say it outright... I've thought this over for a while... During the Hokuo Academy match you said at the very end, 'since we reached the card at the same time, the victory is yours' and you backed off. But even if it's just the difference of a fraction of a millisecond you cannot back down... If you want to win, you must contest everything!"
Taichi listens to this quietly as he considers the blank roster in his hand. Suddenly he is accosted by Hiro-kun of the Hokuo team.
"Mashima!" he shouts at him. "You have to win! After that, Tokyo's two representative teams will have a re-match for one final showdown!" (TN: Yeah, like I don't see that coming...)
Taichi listens quietly while an organizer calls the teams to go into the competition hall.
Cut scene: People gather into the competition hall for the next round
Caption: The semi-final round...
Caption: Mizusawa High School versus Akashi First Girl's High School... Fujisaki High versus Hokuo Academy.
People are holding up banners for Fujisaki and Hokuo (ala Meat bun's sister and Sudo). The one for Hokuo has pretty decorative hearts. Their coach notes that other supporters for Hokuo includes not only Sudo but other graduates of the team.
The Hokuo Academy players start feeling a bit faint from all that pressure.
As they enter, Chihaya passes the area where the New Year's competition takes place. Next year... the challengers will come meet the Meijin and the Queen in that space. Last year... that time I faced Shinobu...
Chihaya hasn't forgotten Sumire's words. "The Queen was here! She was here with some guy from Fukui."
Ba-bump! Her heart beats in her chest as her expression pulls tight. She stands motionless as Taichi observes, until he brings everyone together in a huddle on the tatami.
"What, are we doing this already?" asks Kana.
"Everyone listen up!" commands Taichi. "Chihaya, you go into 3rd position." Chihaya's eyes widen while everyone else is shocked by his declaration.
"Hokuo strategically places its players based on the superior or inferior capability of its opponents. But...are we trying to run away? Chihaya, all you have to do is win. (TN: easier said than done, buddy...) Go for the victory!"
"MIZUSAWA, WIN!" he rallies.
"YEAAAH!" they respond in unison.
Sumire and the others watch in wonder.
Cut scene: the Akashi team enters the hall
?! People watch curiously as Megumu's stalkers position themselves and their cameras on the floor....
-_-; (TN: the only reason why anyone would do that is to get a shot facing upwards, and those are only pursued by panty and leg fetish guys... REALLY?? WTH?)
..... Meanwhile, Taichi and Desktomu are pondering the roster along the same lines.
However...Akashi may not keep the same playing roster in this round.... even though I didn't say that to everyone before... thinks Destomu.
...even though I didn't say it... thinks Taichi.
But, thus far for the last three rounds they haven't changed their playing roster... Is it because they haven't faced any strong teams, so it was their long-term arrangement....
If they face a strong team... that should change. But I'm not sure if in Akashi's eyes....if we're considered....
As Taichi and Desktomu meditate on the outcome, the announcer, Murai-san, steps forward to call out the respective rosters.
As the names are called, Meat bun and Kana are pitted against opponents they were expecting. And, as Chihaya expected, she is pitted against Megumu. But Taichi and Desktomu are conflicted about Akashi not actually changing their roster.
What are they really trying to say... is this according to plan or do they really think so very little of Mizusawa...? thinks Desktomu.
Do they really trust the outcome to their wild-card (Megumu) that much?
His train of thought is interrupted by a member of the Akashi team going over to collect Megumu from the wrong side of the room where the Fujisaki - Hokuo match is about to take place.
"Good grief! Megumu!" she says. "We aren't playing Fujisaki! This side! This side!" (TN: She's positioned herself in the 2nd seat here, which suggests she would change seats if she were playing a reputed stronger team...)
"Ah? Sorry!" she says embarrassed. Her (stalkers + paparazzi = stalkerazzi) are moved by the expression she makes. (TN: Give me a break....) "Ah, that's right. We're still in the semi-finals."
"Megumu," chides her teammate. "They've clearly already read the playing roster, how can you still get it wrong?"
"Well, we're already a shoe-in for the finals!" she says with cheerful innocence. Both the Hokuo and Mizusawa teams give blank stares at the apparent offense she just doled in their faces.
Her stalkerrazzi are dazzled by her sweet and cruel nature. Sumire is only justified in her conclusion that Megumu is a dunce with a poisonous tongue. She then is astonished that the author would add their past dealings with Megumu on a manga panel. (TN: (-_-;) <-- as am I.)
(TN: I'm going to go through it as quickly as possible b/c I'm not going to summarize the fantasies of perverted audience members... seriously....) Apparently they stalked waitresses and maids in cafes before they came across Megumu. She chided them for going too far, but invited them to photograph their competitions (--what?) And that's how they came across her warmth... cuteness.... and....
After they stalked her team during the competition, and she erased all the photographs. (?!)
They apparently have some sort of sado-masochistic, symbiotic relationship with Megumu, who allows them to shoot her during matches, but subsequently strong arms them into erasing the photos. One of them is blushing while looking at a photo (...or doing something else....? *eeeeeew*) and is subsequently discovered by his fellow stalkerazzi members for having kept a photo of Megumu from last year's match. They order him to erase it as it goes against the "pact" they have with Megumu-sama. But one of them looks up and notes that her expression has changed.
Megumu has a serene look of determination on her face.
The audience whisper amongst themselves in speculation about her, commenting that she was last year's competitor for the Queen's Challenger and the representative of the Western Conference. Even though she went up against Yumi last time, perhaps she would be the one to challenge Wakamiya Shinobu this time around.
"How good is she?"
"She wouldn't lose to just anyone," comments another.
"But just how strong is she?"
"Ah, but she's going up against that pretty girl," says someone up front.
The Osaka I saw last autumn.... thinks Chihaya as she sits down, was the type of player who didn't place speed as the most important, but softly observed her rival's karuta. I also must focus, and be precise!
This semi-final... is an opportunity that is a gift from everyone. She looks to her left and right. That's right... alone, no matter how diligent and hard working, one would never be able to get here!
She looks up and takes a glance at everyone in the whole room.
Five individuals sitting side by side... on the tatami mats of Omi Jingu. She looks at her opponent, Megumu, and recalls those callous words.
"We're already a shoe-in for the finals!"
Chihaya looks her straight in the eye.
Don't say words you'll come to regret.
"Begin!" the announcer shouts. As the opening poem is read, we catch a glimpse of Hiro and the Hokuo team pitted against the Fujisaki team, with Hiro and his opponent making faces at one another. (TN: <--intimidation effect?)
But, just as the first card is read, Megumu takes it before Chihaya can react. She and the audience are all astonished as they barely saw the card fly.
"Megumu has become faster," comments one of her stalkerrazzi in awe.
"Much faster than when she played the Queen's Challenger competition last year!" comments another.