The master says nothing, but flips the page, and after a pause, finally reads out the first work.
Delights of fragrant aroma, your
Soul perchance, lingering wisps of requited affection
Oh, the agony! Ah, the torment! This bitter existence
The sweetly-won warmth of your kiss
"I'm afraid I don't get it." The master, with a sigh, hands the text to Meitei. "It's a bit overblown." Meitei hands it to Kangetsu. "What to make of it?" Kangetsu gives it back to Tōfū.
"I'm not surprised it failed to resonate. The poetry scene is ever-evolving, and the pace of change is faster now than ever. Poetry today is nothing like your poetry of a decade ago. Today's poems are not for bedtime reading or for killing a moment at the station. Even the poet himself, when pressed for explanation, will struggle for an answer. The sole obligation of today's poet is fidelity to his own inspiration. Annotations and assists are for academics, not for us modern writers. The other day, a friend of mine named Souseki penned a short story titled 'Ichiya.' None of us could make heads or tails of it, so I went to him and asked what it was about. He said he couldn't tell me and offered nothing further. That, I believe, is what it means to be a poet." "He may be a poet, but he's also an oddball," the master offers. "He's an idiot." Meitei cuts Souseki down in no uncertain terms. Tōfū is unwilling to let it rest. "Granted Souseki's an anomaly, even among us poets, but it's best if you approach my work with a touch of that same spirit. In particular, notice how I've gone to great length to juxtapose 'bitter existence' with 'sweetly-won warmth.'" "Your efforts have not gone unnoticed." "I love your contrast of bitter and sweet. No less intriguing than eleven secret herbs and spices. Your creativity speaks for itself, and I'm more than a little impressed." Meitei, the lord of banter, has Tōfū, the sincere artist, firmly in his clutches.