Opening scene: Chihaya retrieves the card she just took from Megumu after a sudden counter-attack.
The single-syllable card that I wasn't able to get before... I've finally broken through her defenses! triumphs Chihaya.
Her teammates watching the match, as well as those sitting beside her are aware of her breakthrough and sit in astonishment.
Sudo-kun, who has given up holding the Hokuo banner to their school principal (visibly irritated as he stands next to Sudo) analyzes Chihaya's match. The enemy's speed for single syllable cards, compared to any other player, is definitely special; she typically takes them while rejecting her opponent's attempts as if slapping them in the face.... That is so awesome! The flow of the game is finally moving in Ayase's favor.
Even Mioka's club captain is in the audience watching in awe. That sort of speed is really flawless! Bellatrix's nerve synapses must directly connect her ear to her fingertips! (He's already decided this nickname for her) (TN: OMG, Chihaya has a growing male fan club of her own...LOLOLOL....)
If it wasn't for her speed she wouldn't have been able to take that card. Also... her opponent's lower left quadrant harbors all her "s" syllable cards where the "se" card was, but she distinctly attacked the "su" card.
How much courage was needed for that move?
That feeling just now... beautifully striding forward... to that far corner! Her manner of hurtling forward towards the cards she was previously unable to take....
As Chihaya retrieves yet another card she took from Megumu, Kana-chan looks at her and smiles. "Chihaya... NICE..."
In response, Chihaya gives her a glowing thumbs up sign. Kana-chan foresees the outcome of Chihaya not looking down at her cards. (TN: Then don't distract her, Kana!!)
Right as she's smiling as though she's saying, "I did it!"... in that moment... she will lose her concentration!
True to Kana's prediction, in the midst of her newfound triumph, Chihaya loses another card to Megumu. (-_-;)
What a waste... think Sudo-kun and Mioka's captain at the same time.
Meanwhile, Megumu's teammates are thinking positively that she will pull through it. One member of the team notices Megumu's paparazzi waiting silently on the sidelines.
Even though she lost her own single syllable "namesake" card, she didn't let the flow of the game turn against her.... as expected of the Western Conference representative! concludes the chief overseer.
Akashi's wild card is also their cheering squad... thinks Murao-san.
Osaka Megumu's situation is all or nothing, thinks Sudo-kun.
"All right," Megumu rallies. "One card after another!"
"Right!" her teammates answer in unison.
Chihaya studies her opponent's expression after she rallied her team. What a calm demeanor for a player to have...it's the first time I've seen it. What can I do, to grasp it...
Just as she's pondering this, both she and Megumu take the next card at the same time.
(TN: this next part is so lame, I'm mentally face palming as I type it, so I will just summarize....) Chihaya recalls the words that Meat-bun said to her before this match started, that she needed to be more aggressive when contesting cards (Yumi-san style). The other party only needs to find her annoying, and then will relinquish cards to her this way. She then timidly asserts to Megumu that it was her card because she touched it first. But this method goes against every fiber of Chihaya's being and she mentally apologizes to her opponent. (Because in truth, she really thinks it's Megumu's card).
When Megumu relinquishes the card without a fight, Chihaya is so shocked that her concentration is all messed up and she forgets to send a card to Megumu. Meanwhile, Megumu takes the next card while Chihaya sits frozen.
(TN: All of her teammates are mentally face-palming with me. Moving on...)
Team Mizusawa's Meat bun, Taichi and Kana think suddenly in unison, "I've gotta step it up." They all realize they must win to take the pressure off of Chihaya.
Desktomu-kun is a bit conflicted. I...
This atmosphere... this crowd of onlookers... my body just can't move arbitrarily.
As the next card is read, Desktomu is relieved that it's just a "blank" card verse. He looks over and notices Sumire watching him intently. Desktomu recalls the notes she took for him.
Hanano-san...I'll follow Hanano-san's notes.... His photographic memory recalls that his opponent has last year's popular limited edition Ryuji (a pop singer) handkerchief. He notices it on the floor beside his opponent.
That girl, she really described it exactly...
So this means my opponent is a nostalgic girl who doesn't let go of her feelings. Then it would be these cards.... Automatically Desktomu concludes there are four cards of sentimental poetry (written by guys) she would particularly be attuned to.
...that I need to break through and take! (TN: In order to break her confidence)
When the next card is read, his logic proves infallible and true enough, his opponent is extremely annoyed that he takes one of her favorite cards. It's difficult to display my abilities when competing with this guy, even though I heard he was a C rank... It's so hard... she thinks.
Desktomu thinks hard on what he can do for his team. Let me be the first then... the me who began competing today just with this match...
"Defend!" he shouts out to his team. "We need to take the next one too, Mizusawa!"
"Right!" his teammates shout in unison.
Sumire watches him, quietly impressed as she realizes he must be using her notes as reference. She remembers what he told her earlier.
"Hanano-san you really wrote it down to the last detail. Thank you!"
Megumu and the others are silent. As the next card is read, every Mizusawa player is able to take it, because it is the "Oe" card.
They did it! Sumire beams excitedly.
Everyone was able to take the "Oe Mountain" card, the flow of the game is in Mizusawa's favor. You can't mistake it!
The flow of the game.... thinks Chihaya quietely.
The flow of the game is something....
.....we must continuously grab hold of!
But even as Chihaya makes this revelation, Megumu takes the next card. As her opponent is retrieving it, Chihaya silently praises her opponent, Such a sense of stability...
Then, the quiet is interrupted by Meat bun loudly contesting a card. His opponent is speechless.
"That's all right," calls out Megumu. "One card after another--" But she gets a disjointed response.
"R-right," says the girl. "Sorry, Megumu."
The Akashi team captain observes Megumu and marvels that Megumu can remain so calm in a big competition like this. Despite the fact that they've been together in a team this long, she still can't figure her out. Even though "letting Megumu be Queen" is their team's mantra, but she wonders what Megumu's real heart's desire is.
Does she even want to be Queen?
Meanwhile, the Mizusawa president, Taichi, notices that Chihaya is unable to continuously take cards from Megumu. When he looks at the number of cards they both have left, she and Megumu are almost evenly matched. He thinks back to when he told Chihaya to just win fair and square before the match started, and starts to regret the words he said so carelessly. But still, he concludes that Chihaya isn't the same girl she was last year when she took Taichi's orders to win to heart and became nervous to the point where she couldn't play.
It's already been a year.
One year! he thinks nostalgically at everything that's happened so far to their club.
As the next card is read, Megumu strikes first, but as soon as they realize it's another "empty" card verse, Megumu retracts just as quickly. The audience members notice how fast Megumu is, but she is equally fast at controlling her movements. One Akashi classmate in the audience notes, Her speed isn't hindered at all.
Chihaya stares silently at Megumu's right hand, curled up in a fist in front of her. Suddenly, Megumu's head band falls to the tatami mat.
"Sorry," says Megumu as she picks it up again. She looks down fondly at the words, "Ganbatte, Megumu."
Her teacher fondly how Megumu came to have that headband, and how it's become her trademark item. (He mentally shouts, "Oh, the springtime of youth!") But for this competition, Megumu also made headbands for her teammates and he marvels at how beautiful friendship is. (TN: Sorry for the summary, but this guy's so long-winded...)
The reason why we admire Megumu, her stalkerrazzi club thinks unanimously, is because there's such a huge gap between her and other players. Our camera lenses tell all.
It's so cool! It would be too cold for her to wear a headband alone... It's good that she was able to pull everyone into the depths of her world. (TN: literally, in the Chinese translation the guys were saying it was too "cold" for her to be the only one wearing the bands, thus it was good that she was able to pull everyone "under the water" with her... *shrugs*)
But just as the next card is about to be read, Chihaya waits, listens and takes the next card -- even though she wasn't the first to strike.
She attacked from below... and took the card, Megumu marvels as she sits dumbfounded.
From the very beginning she was able to take the "A" level cards, but it wasn't until now that she was able to execute it beautifully, watches Sudo-kun quietly.
Is she already able to grab hold of that something she was missing--?
Meanwhile, Megumu is still in shock. Just now... that was.... Her teammates are dumbfounded by her reaction. Suddenly Megumu remembers she is the team's rally member.
"OK...continue," she says. "Keep on taking just one more card."
"Yes ma'am!" her teammates cry.
This is supposed to be a team competition... thinks Megumu. Why am I the only one rallying?
Queen? she thinks. That sort of title isn't even important!
Just then, Chihaya raises her hand to hold the reading. "I'm..."she begins solemnly.
"I'm sending over a card."
Curiously, she sends over the 'asaborake' card, nicknamed the "big mountain" card. this makes her teammates and the audience members buzz with speculation as to why she would pass over such a difficult card as it is usually kept and guarded by most players.
It comes to be that the next card read is the 'asaborake' card. But surprisingly, and in an amazing way, Chihaya moves right after Megumu guards it, breaks the defense and takes the card at an angle from underneath Megumu's hand. Both the chief overseer and Sudo-kun are amazed.
She... broke through the defense!
There are many people who have the speed to quickly take a good card... Sudo assesses. But really, what separates the wheat from the chaff, is the ability to take a card regardless of how difficult it is.
Cut scene: a flashback to pre-nationals practice days at Mizusawa High
"That's why I said your defenses aren't worth squat!" Meat bun chides a dejected Chihaya. "You guard like this!" he emphasizes as Kana holds the card. "How many times do you need me to say it? If you can't even overcome a difficult situation, how can you even hope to be Queen!?"
"Actually, the method of attacking the card after you hear it is more suitable for you, Ayase," Desktomu chimed in with Taichi standing by.
"We'll help you practice."
End scene: back to the game
How much time did she spend practicing that move? Sudo-kun ponders. That rascal...
Megumu is at a loss for words. Her heard is beating loudly in her chest.
"Megumu?" her teammates ask in concern. There is no rally cry now.
Becoming Queen was never important!
But... this Queen...
I must defeat her here! she concludes solemnly. With that look, her stalkerrazzi fan club goes wild and starts snapping shots, one after another.
TN: What an odd chapter. It's exciting, certainly, as it leads us by the nose into the conclusion. (It's not going to end with this volume...) But really, my favorite parts are still when the team moves, thinks and feels as a solid unit. That camaraderie is really something.
How long can the mangaka stretch this out? How many secret weapons does Chihaya have at this point? Is it me or does Sudo and that Mioka captain have front row tickets to the Chihaya fan club? When will the the chief overseer and everyone else recognize Mizusawa's worth? Is there something going on between Sumire and Desktomu? WHERE in the world is Arata Wataya? (Oh, right, he's been banned for now... -_-;)
So many questions... not enough answers.