K kept on with questions about Okusan and her daughter. In the end, he probed beyond my capacity to answer. Rather than bother me, his probing struck me as curious. Thinking back on the times I'd tried to engage him on the topic of the ladies, I couldn't help but notice the shift in his manner. I finally asked him why suddenly, on this day, he was so interested. He immediately fell silent. However, I could see the flesh around his closed lips quivering. He was reticent by nature. When he was thinking to say something, he would always chew his words over first. When his lips defied his will and refused to open, it meant he was pondering weighty words. Then, when his voice finally broke free, it would roar forth with twofold force.
As I watched his mouth, I could tell that something was coming, but I had no idea what. Hence I was blindsided. Imagine my surprise when he opened his mouth and solemnly professed a heartrending love for the young lady of the house. I instantly froze, as though he'd cast a spell and turned me to stone. I emitted not a murmur. My mouth lost all faculty for speech.
You could say that my being was reduced to pure dread, or perhaps it was pure anguish. At any rate, I was reduced to a single emotion. Like stone or like steel, I went rigid from head to toe. I was too rigid to even draw a breath. Fortunately, I wasn't long in this state. A moment later, I'd regained my human sensibilities. The first thing I did was kick myself. I realized I'd been beaten.