Mineko and Sanshirō both turned to look. Near a door marked 'office' stood Haraguchi. Partially visible behind Haraguchi was Nonomiya. Rather than toward Haraguchi, who had called her, Mineko's gaze was fixed on Nonomiya, who stood further back. As soon as she saw him, she returned a few paces to Sanshirō's side. With a subtle movement, she drew her mouth close to Sanshirō's ear and whispered something. Sanshirō could not make out what she said. Before he could inquire, she was off again toward the other two, giving them her greeting.
Nonomiya turned toward Sanshirō. "Keeping curious company," he stated.
Before Sanshirō could say anything, Mineko responded. "A smart couple, don't you think?"
Nonomiya made no reply. He turned around. Behind him was a large painting, the size of a tatami mat. It was a portrait, dark across its surface. The clothing and hat were indistinguishable from the dimly lit background. Only the face was white. It was a gaunt face with sunken cheeks.
"A copy, isn't it?" Nonomiya inquired of Haraguchi.
Haraguchi was eagerly conversing with Mineko. -- The exhibition was nearing its end. There were few visitors anymore. In the early days, he'd come regularly to the office, but recently he seldom bothered. He'd had some business to attend to today, for the first time in a while, and had dragged Nonomiya here with him. It was lucky they'd seen each other. Once this exhibition ended, he'd have to prepare for the next year's. He was exceedingly busy. Most years, the opening date coincided with cherry blossom season, but this year they were moving it up in accordance with several members' wishes. It was just like running two of them back to back. He'd have to work frantically. And he wanted to complete Mineko's portrait in time. He realized it was an imposition, but he had to paint her, even if they worked through New Year's.
"In return, you'll be displayed right here."