My third return home was a year hence, at the start of the next summer. As soon as year-end exams were over, I immediately bolted Tōkyō. Such was the pull of my native place. You've probably felt this too. The air of one's birthplace is different, and the scents of its soil are special. Fond memories of one's parents permeate the place. To spend two months of the year, July and August, lying still in the midst of this, like a snake warm in its den, was for me the best feeling imaginable.
In my simple mind, there was no need for further worry over my cousin and the question of our marriage. If one doesn't agree to something, one turns it down, and the matter is thereupon settled. This was how I saw things. The fact that I'd defied my uncle's wishes, therefore, did not concern me. I'd hardly thought of it over the intervening year, and I rushed home with my usual enthusiasm.
On returning, however, I found my uncle a different man. He didn't seem happy to see me, and he didn't welcome me as before. I'd been raised in a household loosely bound to protocol, so it was only after four or five days that this fully sank in. Some occurrence triggered something, and I suddenly felt myself ill at ease. What struck me as strange was not just my uncle. It was my aunt too. And my cousin. Even my uncle's eldest son, who had just finished middle school and had written me to inquire about vocational schools in Tōkyō, seemed strange.
By my very nature, I couldn't help but dwell on this. Why did things feel so different? Or rather, why had these others changed so? My deceased parents, I suspected, had intervened to open my half-closed eyes, and suddenly I was seeing the world for what it was. Somewhere deep down I believed that my parents, while no longer of this world, continued to love me no less than before. I had at the time, of course, no deficiencies in faculty of reason. At the same time, though, the superstitions of my ancestors coursed within me and worked their will. They're in me still to this day.