I realized I'd gotten myself in a bind. As I wondered what was next, the voice of Kuro's proprietress rang out loudly again. "Hey there, Nishikawa. It this Nishikawa? I need something from ya. Bring me a cut of beef. Not too tough, a tender cut." Her voice, as she ordered her cut of beef, rang out across the neighborhood. "Looky there. A once-a-year order for beef, and she broadcasts it far and wide. Incorrigible she-devil, lording it up over nothing." While heaping on his scorn, he rose to all fours. Having nothing to say in response, I watched him in silence. "Just one measly cut. I guess it'll have to do. Put up that cut then. I'll have it soon enough." He spoke as though the beef were already his. "Sounds like a real treat. Wonderful!" I hoped to encourage him on his way. "What would you know? I've had enough of you - shut your trap!" With that, his hind legs sent a shower of broken frost needles raining down on my head. Caught off guard, I reflexively shook myself clean. Before I knew it, Kuro had ducked through the fence and disappeared, no doubt off after Nishikawa's beef.
When I returned home, the mood was uncharacteristically festive, with the master's laughter echoing from the parlor. Wondering what was up, I slipped in through the veranda and made my way to the master's side. An unfamiliar guest had arrived. His hair was neatly parted, and he sported a crested cotton haori and hakama of Kokura weave. He looked to be a boarding student of exceptional industry. At the corner of the master's hand brazier, next to his lacquered cigarette case, was a calling card with "Allow me to introduce Ochi Tōfū - Mizushima Kangetsu." From this I learned both the name of the guest and his tie to Kangetsu. I caught the conversation between host and guest from the middle, so the context eluded me, but it seemed they were talking of Meitei, the aesthete, to whom I've referred earlier.