K's stature seemed to diminish before me as I spoke. He was, as I've often noted, exceedingly set in his worldview. He was also, at the same time, a man of utmost integrity, and it upset him no end to be reproached for hypocrisy. As I watched him, I felt confident that my words had finally found their mark.
"Prepared?" he suddenly asked. "Prepared -- why would I not be prepared?" he added before I could answer. His words seemed meant for himself. He spoke as though in a daze.
We both fell silent and continued on toward the residence in Koishikawa. It was a comparatively calm and mild day, but it was winter nonetheless, and the park was deserted. When I looked back at the cedars, robbed of their verdure by harsh frosts, towering reddish-brown against the dusky sky, I felt an acute chill down my spine. We hurried on through the twilight, traversing Hongō Hill and descending into Koishikawa valley toward the next hill beyond. By this point, my body was finally warming itself under my overcoat.
Due in part to our rapid pace, we hardly spoke the whole way back. Once at home and gathered at the table for dinner, Okusan asked what had kept us. I told her that K had invited me out and we'd walked in Ueno. Okusan expressed her surprise that we'd walked in the cold. Her daughter wanted to know what had drawn us to Ueno. I answered her that nothing had drawn us. We'd simply gone walking. K, who was never talkative to begin with, was even less so than usual. He hardly reacted to Okusan's questions or the daughter's laughter. He gulped down his food and was gone, retreating to his room while I remained at the table.