The principal asked if all were present, and the secretary, a man named Kawamura, tallied up the headcount. One was missing. I could have told him as much, since Uranari had not arrived. Uranari and I must be connected somehow through karma. Since the time of our first meeting, I couldn't forget his face. Whenever I entered the staff room he immediately drew my notice. When walking on the street I called up his image in my mind. Sometimes at the onsen I saw his pale and swollen face floating in the bath. When I greeted him he lowered his head with such deference that he cut a pitiable figure. At the school there was no one more mild-mannered. He seldom smiled, and he only ever spoke when necessary. I'd learned the word 'gentleman' in texts, but I'd considered it merely a dictionary term, not something one encounters in the real world. After meeting Uranari it struck me for the first time that this term has a corresponding embodiment.
Due to this deep connection, I'd noticed immediately on entering that Uranari was not in the room. To be honest, I'd intended to sit next to this man and had secretly sought him out. The principal remarked that Uranari should arrive shortly. He then proceeded to loosen a purple, silk-wrapped package and peruse what looked like a hectograph copy. Red Shirt began polishing an amber pipe with a silk handkerchief. This was his pastime and seemed an appropriate match to his demeanor. Others of the group conversed privately with their neighbors. Those trapped in awkward idleness traced out lines on the table with the eraser end of their pencils. Noda tried several times, to no avail, to engage Yama Arashi in conversation. Yama Arashi muttered only curtly in response. Sometimes he would put a fierce look in his eyes and cast it in my direction. I glared back in defiance.