On another front, I perceived a subtle shift in the young lady's manner. In returning home from a long journey and resuming normal routine, there were many things that required a woman's care. Okusan and her daughter both helped us out, but the young lady seemed to be treating me preferentially over K. Had she done this overtly, I might have been uncomfortable. I think it likely, in that case, I'd have found occasion to object. In this regard, though, I was happy to note how she carried it off with perfection. That is to say, she apportioned her grace in my favor, but in subtle ways that only I would notice. As a result, K was none the wiser, and he showed no signs of resentment. I'd gained the upper hand, and a song of triumph rang through my mind.
Summer finally passed, and in mid-September we resumed our studies. K and I once again came and went according to our respective schedules. Three days a week I returned home later than he did, but not once did I see any further instance of the young lady visiting his room. He would glance my direction as always, and ask if I'd just now come home. I would give in return a simple, mechanical nod, fully devoid of meaning.
One morning, I think around mid October, I overslept and rushed off to school in Japanese dress. I didn't have time for my high-lace shoes, so I jumped into my straw sandals and darted out. According to our schedules, my return home should have preceeded K's. That being the case, I pushed opened the latticework entry door with a clatter. As I did so, I was surprised by the sound of K's voice. At the same time, the young lady's laughter reached my ears. I didn't have to deal with my usual shoes, so I immediately entered the house and slid aside the partition. The young lady, however, was already gone.