It was said that to the truly disciplined mind, the methods of the world and its functioning were so perfectly situated within their particular cerebral grooves that the slightest change in routine—such as a half-hour late courier, for instance, or a crest in cerulean rather than azure—could cause discomfort and unease lasting up through suppertime.
Two hours past suppertime, Azai Nagamasa was standing in front of a tavern, gibbering. He would not have described it as gibbering. His extremities were jittering, but this could well have been taken for battle rage. At the time the only feeling he would have openly conceded was indignance.
He was of further mixed feelings about the indignance itself. If he found something to be indignant about after suppertime it generally indicated that he was doing his part to keep Omi the civil, well-governed paradise that it was, which was positive, but it also indicated the existence of something preventing Omi from fully embracing the status of the civil, well-governed paradise that it was, which was negative. It was a paradox, and paradoxes tended to make him upset. Because of their paradoxical nature, it was unclear whether they provided due cause for indignance or not. Ultimately he would circumnavigate his train of thought and return to the conclusion that it was best to cultivate a state of indignance at all times, so as to err on the side of justice.
He put a (jittering) hand to his forehead and palpitated the bridge of worry there, which was very well-developed. He was fifteen, so it was the only part of him that was.
“Forgive my intrusion!” he said, because Azai Nagamasa had been brought up well, and part of this process had entailed apologizing in any situation upon which he was intruding. He was still quite young, so the quandary that an apology for breaking up an unrighteous situation may not have been strictly appropriate in said unrighteous situation had not yet occurred to him (when it would, he would spend several sleepless nights mulling over the conundrum and eventually come to the same conclusion he had now: that it was best to err on the side of justice).
He couldn’t see his opponent, but he could make out a sort of vague batlike figure situated against the moonlit tavern roof, bedecked in standards from head to toe in a way that would have been highly intimidating if not for the unfortunate fact that the professional shade of Azai standards was a usually some variation on a delicate, rather fetching shade of pink. The visitor seemed to realize this and promptly threw one of the standards off, exposing a long loincloth which seemed to be made of yet another standard.
Nagamasa could have forgiven a cloak, if with difficulty and the necessity for years of skillful post-traumatic counseling. A loincloth may have warranted drawn swords; it was best to err on the side of justice.
“Forgive me, but I shall never forgive you!” he proclaimed.
Fortunately he was in one of the only contexts where this phrasing would not have appeared bizarre: a tavern two hours after suppertime, full of the possibly unrighteous and almost certainly inebriated. It also fit right in that he then plunged his sword into the ground, used it to vault rather impressively onto the roof, and promptly found himself blocked by the largest nodachi he had ever seen.
He tried to draw his sword. This was ineffectual as it remained drawn and stuck, point quivering, twenty feet below him between the paving stones. As he watched, a tavern-goer strolled up to it, considered it briefly for a moment, and then, to his horror, sat down against it and seemingly nodded off.
“Excuse me,” he began, “but—“
“Come on, now,” said the owner of the nodachi, slurring a little. “You didn’t really want to fight anyway, did you?”
The way the question was phrased distressed Nagamasa. There was simply no way to answer it. He didn’t want to, because to want to in the strictest sense of the word was boorish and would situate him in the category of questionable personages like that Oshu freak, but in a less-strict sense of the word he did want to, because this visitor was using Azai standards as fancy dress and among other things, it was unforgivable.
“It is unforgivable,” he tried, attempting to get back into the proper spirit of things.
He flailed ineffectually against the nodachi with his gauntlet. It didn’t budge.
“You’re actually really going to do this?” asked the other boy sadly. “Okay, well—you’d better take this,” and with a huge heave he dislodged the nodachi from the roof, dislodging Nagamasa as well. It was undignified, also painful.
“I cannot fight an unarmed opponent!’
“I’m not unarmed. I’ve got this.”
“That is a scabbard!” said Nagamasa. The exclamation point came out weaker than he would have liked; it was admittedly a gargantuan scabbard.
“You can sock people with a scabbard,” the visitor assured him.
“That is tr—I do not want to sock you, nor for you to sock me. I want to exact justice upon your person.”
The visitor scratched at his fledgling beard. It made Nagamasa anxious, since he had no beard, fledgling or otherwise. He told himself it was because the action was uncouth.
“I’ve heard a lot of pickup lines,” the boy said eventually, “but that one might actually work. Got any more?”
Nagamasa lacked the desire or capacity to directly engage with this question, so he shouted, “Prepare yourself!”
“That’s not bad either! Alpha-male stuff, plain and simple. Say, you must be a hit with the ladies. I’m Maeda Keiji, who are you?”
“I am Azai Bizen-no-Kami—I am not telling you my name! We are dueling!”
Keiji thought for a moment, then said brightly, “Right. It’s customary to tell me your name, isn’t it? Just an act of, you know, graciousness, so I can curse you with my last breath and all.”
This seemed reasonable.
“I am Azai Bizen-no-Kami Nagamasa!”
“What a mouthful. I like it, though! Can I buy you a drink?”
The jittering started again. Almost certainly battle rage this time. “No! I am about to rend you limb from limb!”
“Right. So don’t I get a last request? Where I come from, you know, it’s criminal to let a man die without fulfilling his last request. Why, once Matsu-neechan actually cooked this guy a full ten-course meal because it was his last request, and here I am just asking for a drink. One drink.”
Nagamasa narrowed his eyes. “Is that…true?”
“My friend, it’s not just true. It’s protocol.”
There was nothing to be done about that. Nagamasa put the scabbard away, sat down, and rested his boots on the gutter. It was an Omi gutter; it was rigorously cleaned three days a fortnight and four during festival moons.
“One drink,” he said. “Then justice.”
He had never actually had a drink before. It turned out to be very nice, somewhere between the level of polishing his helmet and vanquishing a nefarious foe. He reasoned that this was what protocol tasted like.
The area of about three hours after suppertime was generally his favorite in Omi; it was late enough for food to be well-digested so that citizens could engage in a little productive menial labor before bedtime, and it was early enough for an up-and-coming young gentleman concerned with proper resting habits. On the roof of the tavern the barroom brawl below was translated to a pleasant thrumming of the shingles under their feet, and had the moon gotten any bigger it would have been in quite bad taste. He saw a hand holding out a sake bowl. This was not surprising, except that it was his hand, and his sake bowl. Keiji refilled it with a panache that was entirely suspect given his age, but Nagamasa was mollified for the moment and allowed it to pass.
“This is a fine protocol,” he admitted.
“’s liquid protocol” said Keiji, and downed his. “Have another.”
This scene logically progressed into one wherein he seemed to be pacing up and down the ridgepole of the roof, wearing one of the Azai standards as a de facto cloak and chanting I am Dokuganryu Masamune to the accompaniment of Keiji’s scabbard thumping on the shingles. There was something wrong with the scenario. He realized what it was and added a sort of complicated box step to the routine, to give it some gravitas. The roof tiles were still humming, sloshing together in a peculiar way, or perhaps that was his mind. It was difficult to tell if it was going to be a big problem or not without getting all philosophical about it, and anyway this was what you got for putting off your ceremonial appointments with the shrine down the way. He made a note to give a generous donation next time. A few peasants, some…rice.
“—swear he’s been acting weird lately,” Keiji was ranting. “Nene thinks so too, and she’s never wrong. All he ever wants to do is go to the practice fields. I keep telling him, you know, let’s go to the teahouse, Hideyoshi, or maybe the theater, even, but he’s all, no, the practice fields. It’s been like that since that guy, you know, Matsunaga Hisahide—“
“You should ask him what the matter is,” blurted Nagamasa. “Not that you will be able to! Because, I. I am rending you limb from limb, after, in the name of jonor…I mean hustice.”
Keiji stared at him. Nagamasa noted that he was wearing feathers in his hair. It was quite odd; he couldn’t understand whether he was supposed to feel positively about it or not. The notion of a judgment call that didn’t involve morality put him at the threshold of extreme mental pain, so he went for the protocol jug.
“Well yeah,” said Keiji, “but I should know without having to do that. That’s more what I’m complaining about! You should always know what’s going on with your best friend. Don’t you feel that way about, you know, your best friend?”
“I do not have a best friend,” said Nagamasa.
Keiji dropped his sake bowl and cried “What?” Nagamasa picked up the sake bowl and filled it, because that was the natural progression, then realized he was holding two full sake bowls. He tipped Keiji’s into his own and drank it, because that was also a natural progression. The moon suddenly went peculiarly lopsided, but not in a bad way.
“I am going to sing I am Dokuganryu Masamune again,” he said, because he was.
“No, no, wait,” said Keiji, and scuttled over across the tiles with surprising agility, like a monkey. “What do you mean, you don’t have a best friend? Who do you drink with? Who do you run around with?”
“I do not run around,” said Nagamasa. “I have…jobs.”
This seemed grievously insulting. “I do lots of things,” he pointed out, “I have to defend Omi. I have to get married. I make sure the gutters get cleaned and that the poor are protected…we have happy peasants in Omi, do you know why.”
“BECAUSE OF JUSTICE,” yelled Nagamasa, and wavered a little from side to side. Keiji caught him by the shoulder when he fell over and eased him onto his back.
For whatever reason the stars looked blurry, leaving incandescent trails so it looked like a dome of meteors closing over the city. If this were actually happening, he would have no idea what to do. The thought made his vision go even blurrier, which made no sense. There shouldn’t have been a correlation.
“Hey now, don’t cry,” said Keiji. “Aww, come on…you totally have a best friend. I’m your best friend! We have a history, man. It doesn’t need to be a long history, right?”
“I do not even know you. What is Maeda, where do you—“
“Kaga. Kaga, it’s this beautiful green place, tons of castles and stuff everywhere, best daikon this side of Kyushu and more rice in a day than you can eat in twenty years. Hey, you can come visit sometime! Matsu-neechan will love you, and hey, we’ll find you a girl! Someone who’s used to head cases, though, because man.”
“No! I am married.”
Keiji laughed. Somehow his arm had gotten around Nagamasa’s shoulders; he eyed it, considered the amount of effort it would take to rend it from its socket, and then gave up and allowed it to stay there. It was not unduly terrible. Somewhere between the level of vanquishing a nefarious foe and turning a highwayman in to the magistrate.
“Well, then you’ll have another best friend,” said Keiji. “It’s good! Life is short. People should fall in love!”
“Is that true?”
“Oh. Well, that is all right then.”
“You’ll come to Kaga? Promise?”
“I suppose I could stage a grand liberation campaign,” mused Nagamasa. “That seems fair.”
Keiji slapped him on the shoulder. As far as he recalled, no one had ever slapped him on the shoulder; it was always bows or palpitations of fear, but no happy medium.
“Sure,” said Keiji. “You do that.”
Somewhere in between this and the next afternoon he was woken up by the sun performing the visual equivalent of screaming, the light levering open his eyes.
A retainer in Azai livery was standing on a ladder next to the roof with a wet cloth and a concerned expression. He had the careful look of a man who is forced by professional duty to ask an extraordinarily important person an extraordinarily stupid question.
“Azai-dono,” he said, grave and perfectly deadpan. “Shall I remove the feathers from your hair?”
“Kenshin-sama,” said Kasuga, “he’s not from around these parts.”
“A problematic visitor is regrettable, but hardly unusual, my dear,” said Kenshin. “You are new yourself, so I will remind you once more: we offer asylum until the sun is high the next morning, and then he may be escorted out by whatever means you find appropriate.”
He finished his downstroke, took a hand fan from his kosode, and agitated the air over the parchment to dry the ink. Kasuga watched the movement diligently keeping her eyes from his characters. He had done it specifically to see if she would look.
When the rains came to Echigo it was on the heels of a terrible humidity that curdled men’s blood, set parchments bubbling in their vellum cases, condensed beads of moisture on all the shoji doors, soaked the land in a brothy stupor until the men and women were slow and sluggish. Fields went unplowed, logs unsplit, grain uncovered. In almost debilitating contrast the rains were graceful, weaving skeins of silver water into the stagnant air so that outside all he could see was the sheet of glass made by the downpour. Its sound like falling rice, its fractured beauty. In a corner of the courtyard the deer-catcher ricocheted in a hot-oil rhythm.
“He’s been there since past that, Kenshin-sama,” said Kasuga, “and he isn’t leaving.”
“Ask the men to take action.”
“That is…part of the problem, Kenshin-sama.” She paused. “The men—they think you should come and take a look.”
The boy was Maeda but recognizable only by the wide, genial facial structure particular to that clan. Kenshin had never seen him in battle ranks, but by this fact alone he realized who it was.
As he watched a man approached and without warning the scabbard of a nodachi was in his gut, steering him away and depositing him against the wall without aggression or force, simply an absentminded precision. It was repeated with the next man—the sweeping swings of the sword scooping them away from the counter where the boy sat drinking, pushing clear a clean radius without a single extraneous movement in the carriage of the shoulders or chest.
It was fine bladework. He would commend Maeda Matsu when he next saw her.
“Wanderer of Maeda,” he said, “I welcome you to Echigo.”
The boy slumped facedown into his drink without turning around. Kenshin held up a hand to one of his men and moved towards the bar. The nodachi swung out; he unsheathed, made a movement exactly opposing the trajectory of the swing, and sliced off about a fourth of the scabbard. When the blade was exposed he tapped it sharply with his grip to deflect and stepped into the child’s immediate space.
Keiji’s eyes, making contact with his, were bloodshot through the whites and covered with a grey film. He sheathed his blade and got the boy up in a one-shoulder carry.
“Your family needn’t frequent village taverns,” he said. “Any son of Maeda is always welcome at Kawagoe keep. Come with me.”
“—‘m drinking,” mumbled Keiji, “jiisan.”
“You’ve had enough,” replied Kenshin, and twisted his arm behind his back, locking the wrist in place.
While the boy slept he drafted a letter to Maeda Toshiie and sent it by jerfalcon, one of the half-tamed raptors that could still cut through the rain. The bird struggled but caught a downdraft and rose eventually. A bell on its jesses jangled until it was lost in the trees but the sound remained spreading afterwards, ripples fracturing the closeness of the wet, humid night and drawing time out slower, more languid between echoes. Kenshin turned; he saw the boy behind him, bleary-eyed but aware. The nodachi unsheathed.
He continued winding catgut around his length of parchment for storage. “That’s quite a weapon you have,” he said eventually, taking his time. “And you’re proficient.”
“I’ve heard I’m pretty good for my age.”
The comment was absent and unselfconscious, exactly like his swordsmanship. He was dressed in mourning. Kenshin hadn’t heard of any deaths in the family; he thought he would ask Kasuga.
“Not just for your age. Keiji-kun.”
Kenshin didn’t offer him a seat, and so was not surprised when he sat. He had been a teenager once as well.
He knotted the catgut twice, bit it off, and put the rolled parchment into a scroll case. The case had dozens of small, flying herons lacquered on it in every shade of gold that perhaps existed, the variations so rare a casual observer would never have noticed the slow gradient as the metal grew more precious. In contrast the nodachi laid against the wall was brash. All one hammered metal, its blade too bright and undimmed with its inexperience.
“How do you know who I am?”
“My name is Uesugi Kenshin. I am a friend of your family’s.”
“No one in this country is a friend of anyone’s,” said Keiji, so bitterly Kenshin’s hands halted momentarily. It had been too forceful.
“Do you believe that?”
“I might as well. It doesn’t look like there’s any point believing anything else, is there?”
Kenshin said, “I’ve asked Kasuga to bring us tea.”
It was hundred-note tea from the Aki archipelago, the piecemeal country rich in many variations from the many oceans that watered down the land. Outside the rain swept Echigo clean and clean again, the country threshed in arrows of water and the very ground raked in furrows as if being plowed. The seasons made his land a battlefield. It was one of the reasons he sought to avoid them when he could.
They held their tea like old men and watched the stormclouds change places, turn, and unveil one another like kabuki scenery. Eventually Keiji took a sip. Kenshin glanced at him sideways and said, “Who was it that died?”
“My—Nene. Her name was Nene.”
It didn’t sound like the entire story. “Who killed her?”
There it was. His face closed and he put the tea down harder than necessary.
“I’m going to—“
“You’re going to stay until morning. Your family is working on the Nobunaga campaign, and I’m sure they’ll appreciate the strength of your arm. You should recover it.”
Kenshin had met his share of Keiji’s contemporaries. Sanada in the south, his firebrand courtesy, the Date boy to the west with his unreliable rages, the earnest Azai incumbent, others all over the country of whom Kasuga brought word every now and then. Obtaining intelligence was difficult. Most of them were watched so closely there was no opportunity to conduct proper reconnaissance, but the fact that they were watched was itself telling. Children grew up differently when they were mentored. A child who had raised himself—well, that was more interesting.
“I don’t want to argue with you,” said Kenshin. “You seem like a peace-loving young man.”
“Don’t say that,” burst out Keiji. “You know, I can’t figure out what’s wrong with that sentence, but since I left Owari that’s all anyone’s been saying to me, and I don’t know how to apologize for it, or why I should. And Hideyoshi said the same thing before he kic—before I left. I’ve been thinking about it all the way here, and I haven’t gone back to Kaga because I know I’m going to hear it there too, and—I just don’t know! I don’t want to work for Maeda! I don’t want to help with the Nobunaga campaign! What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with being a peace-loving man?”
“Yes!” Keiji got to his knees. “Yes, I am, and I don’t see how a man can be any other way!”
Kenshin was suddenly cleanly aware that he was at a moment where a great deal could change, the stage set with the tea, the rain, the night unfurled before them like a blank canvas that could be all of it rolled away and situated within the lacquered scroll case in his lap. He waited for a moment for his fingers to stop thrumming with electric excitement. Then he picked up the scroll case and held it up to the thin light from the great lanterns. He examined it, observing Keiji only peripherally.
“That’s very interesting,” he said, in a tone which implied exactly the opposite.
“You can say you think it’s childish,” cried Keiji. “Everyone else does, I don’t care if you think so!”
“I don’t think anything of the sort,” said Kenshin, and waited for the indignance. There was nothing of the kind, only a bright, agonized, flickering curiosity that flung itself wide over Keiji’s features like a banner, telegraphing as cloth banners did his position, defiance, longing.
What a remarkable boy, thought Kenshin. Absolutely remarkable.
“The Nobunaga campaign is already underway,” he said, and set the scroll case down, still taking care not to look directly at him. “I haven’t heard what he’s like.”
“I don’t care what ‘s like,” said Keiji. “No one’s taking over this country.”
"Why ever not? Isn’t that what it’s there for?”
The nodachi came up, and down, and then there was a tremendous crash and Kenshin’s floor was in splinters around his feet and his ears were singing, singing: look, here is how the country will change, here, in front of you, look.
“It isn’t there for a person,” shouted Keiji, “it’s there for people. I’m not going to Kaga, and I’m not going to the Nobunaga campaign.”
“Then where will you go?”
“Weren’t you listening? I don’t care what he’s like, or if he’s someone’s—someone’s best friend, or anything. This country belongs to people. I’m going to make sure the people take care of it.”
The scroll case clicked shut under Kenshin’s fingers.
He felt the smooth, smooth lacquer—someone’s work, a craftsman who was probably out there somewhere under the unrolled night, feeling the tea steam bead on his skin, feeling old fingers shake, finding an apprentice to carry his art home.
“Well?” demanded Keiji. He was breathing hard, his eyes terribly wide. “I’m sorry about your floor, but—you have to believe me, Uesugi-dono! What do you say?”
He picked up his tea. By now it was cool, but he smiled into the rim anyway, and took a sip.
In the morning, when Kasuga asked him who his guest had been, he said, “That, my dear, was the most ambitious man in the country.”
Contrary to popular expectation Motochika’s actual cabins aboard Fugaku were under the engineers’ loft, where he kept his parchments and broad maps but also his personal favorites of the treasures of Setochi: a box that was bigger on the inside than the outside, a flask riddled with garnets that to his knowledge had never run dry of its sweet, fermented apricot juice, a collection of sea-smoothened agates that when thrown on the deck at high tide could foretell the direction of the inland breezes come morning. It was a closed, private place where the steam pipes laid into the ceiling dripped symphonically onto his clothes and papers, the steam sweet-smelling and layered with the wild salt of the ocean. Overhead the call and clang of men working the hydraulics long into the night as he listened below, lulled by the clinks and hums that signaled men at work, productivity and loyalty juxtaposed absolutely.
The cabin he told everyone was his was a lavish, vulgar lantern of a room above the minor mast at the ship’s starboard side. There were treasures there too, mostly of the alcoholic variety. Popular bets regarding the eventual demise of the Fugaku involved distress flares and rum.
“Awww, Motochika, your ship’s not gonna blow up,” said Keiji with touching earnestness.
He was drunk. A few of his feathers were wilting and his kosode had somehow turned from yellow to an eye-searing fuschia, probably something to do with the women he continued to insist at checkpoints they did not have aboard. It was good. Motochika threw him a cushion and they burrowed down, watching a few men play a game of…something. It was difficult to tell what the rules or indeed, objective was but it was certainly lively. Motochika cheered for one, then the other. He was a pretty egalitarian employer; he was also an engineer, and understood the importance of keeping his wheels greased.
“Wouldn’t be a bad way to go, though, eh?” said Motochika. “Have another whiskey!”
"You’re great, Motochika,” beamed Keiji, and Yumekichi chirruped agreement. He held out his tankard. They both pretended Motochika had aimed right the first time. Through some combination of the ship’s pitching and what might have been hand-eye coordination they eventually got it sloshed half empty (“half full!” said Keiji) and sat back, pleased with themselves.
“I love whiskey,” gargled Keiji. “Say, what’s whiskey anyway? Where’s it come from?”
“The West. Further out than Setochi, over past China up through Mongolia n’ the Silk Route. Lots of stuff out there. I’m gonna go all the way out some day, you’re gonna come with me.”
Keiji sipped his whiskey, which was to say he put most of it down the fuschia shirt. Yumekichi hopped down and squeezed some of it out of his collar. At his neck the trinket bobbed; Motochika looked, but didn’t stare. Keiji was awkward about it. It was the only thing, to his knowledge, he was awkward about.
“Someday,” repeated Keiji. The ship lurched, the lantern light splashed the walls a dull tangerine.
“You don’ wanna go?”
“No! No, it’s just—“ Keiji flushed, looked out to the ocean. Setochi was spread under the low-rolling clouds, the blue of its salts and tides flashing, receding like Fugaku’s endless mirrors under the night. Motochika remembered installing them climbing to the highest turrets of the fortress looking down at the reflective glass and seeing his ocean in miniature, harnessed to him at last as he was harnessed to it.
“Do you ever feel like there’s so much to do here that you can’t possibly leave?” said Keiji. “That this land—this ocean, you know, these people—that you could walk all over and under every inch and still not see everything there is to see here, or do everything there is to do?”
Motochika looked out. There were only a few stars in the night, the smell of alcohol—the ship containing the air of the ocean making it close and private like his small room under the chaotic cosmos of the engineering chambers. It wasn’t Maeda Keiji’s ocean but it was now; Setochi knew her heroes, had anointed him with those silver mirrors the moment he sprang from the water with the ropes restraining him.
For a moment he wondered if it were this way all over the land of the rising sun, and if he couldn’t see them but they were there—an army of men with invisible and powerful banners arrayed behind Maeda Keiji from Kawanakajima’s snowcapped turrets to Itsukushima’s lacquered pillars to the cherry blossoms of Ueda Castle. Men who had fought alongside Maeda Keiji in the Date army, or helped him hoist his Maeda standard on the road to Honnoji, or teetotal shinobi who had become utterly degraded in his lamentably unrefined company. There must have been women of the same quality who had slept with or against or near him in the wide pathwork swathe of towns he cut across the apron of the country, where the fields of the Japanese flatlands cinched their waists tight to grow grain for the recalcitrant fringes of their borderlands. Men who had hewn torches and women who had extinguished them—all for him—children who would remember in their twilight years bowls of rice drizzled with pungently alcoholic vinegar, cherry blossoms, the wooden scabbard of a nodachi thrumming with power, resonating point down in the dust of endless villages. The landless vagabonds of his own Setochi, the broken peasants of the Aki archipelago—so that all these people and pinpricks of a history could be seen as part of a wide scattering of dots that stretched over the land in a thousand twinkling points of light, here a conquest, there a bar brawl, elsewhere a dimmer star where the fate of a country had been changed but was eclipsed by the brilliance of a place where Maeda Keiji had enjoyed a meal he loved—the paths of the man and the legend constellated by his memories, and by those who would—like him—remember him.
He swallowed his whiskey, and in the burning was slowly dazzled by the realization of what Keiji had brought him into—had made him part of, bound him into like a gear clicking into place. The great mirrors and steam winches of his fortress rolling with clangs like temple bells into their proper, right arrangement, and himself not an agent on this land but a component part of it—as this man in front of him had, possibly, always and irrevocably known.
“Yeah, I—“ he cleared his throat.
“Yeah,” he said, more loudly. “I know what you mean" and Keiji held up his liquor, grinning, and toasted.