"The other day, at a certain gathering of literary folk, talk turned to Harrison's historical novel Theophano, so I lauded it as a standout example of historical fiction. The horrific death of the female protagonist, I noted, had moved me most deeply. The man of letters opposite me, a notorious know-it-all, was quick to second my sentiment, adding his own praise for the quality of the writing. He had, I Thus confirmed, no more read it than I had." My master, he of weak nerves and poor digestion, was wide-eyed with amazement. "How can you venture such shenanigans? What if he'd read it and called you out?" The master's concern, it seemed, lay not in deceipt of others, but rather the risk of being exposed. The aesthete was thoroughly unperturbed. "In that case, I just make up an excuse, like I must have confused it with a different work," he replied with a shrill laugh. This aesthete may sport gold-rimmed spectacles, but when it comes down to it, he and Kurumaya no Kuro are two of a kind. The master held his silence, blew out a ring of smoke, and watched it rise. His expression all but acknowledged he could never have such nerve. The aesthete, in turn, had a look in his eyes all but replying, 'that's why you can't paint.' "Jokes are one thing, but painting is another. It's really not easy. They say Leonardo da Vinci once instructed his disciples to sketch the stains on the cathedral walls. If you go into the lavatory, or some such place, and study the walls where the rain's leaked in, you'll find some impressive motifs, and within them nature's hand. Give it a try. Observe and sketch. The results may surprise you." "You're pulling my leg again." "I mean it this time. At least it's original, don't you think. Like something da Vinci might well have said." "Original it is, I'll grant you that." The master had half given in. Then again, he's yet to go sketch in the john.