"What did you say back there?"
"Back where?" she asked in return.
"Back there. When I was standing in front of the other Venice."
She revealed her white teeth again, but she made no move to reply.
"If it wasn't of importance then you don't have to tell me."
"It wasn't of importance."
Sanshirō still seemed unconvinced. The time, on this overcast autumn day, was already past four. The light in the room was fading. Few visitors were about, and in this gallery it was just the two of them. Mineko moved away from the painting to face Sanshirō directly.
"It was Nonomiya. You know."
"You know how it is."
Mineko's meaning hit Sanshirō all at once, like a big wave swamping his emotions. "You were teasing Nonomiya?"
"Why would I do that?"
Her tone was pure innocence. Sanshirō, suddenly unnerved, stepped away in silence. Mineko followed closely.
"I wasn't teasing you."
Sanshirō stopped again. He was tall enough to look down on Mineko.
"Let's drop it."
"Was it really so wrong?"
"Please, just drop it."
She diverted her gaze. They both walked toward the door. As they passed through, their shoulders brushed together. Sanshirō suddenly recalled the woman on the train. Brushing against Mineko evoked an acute sensation, as though from some dream.