Sakura felt the smile on her face grow wider as they approached the Tora Estate. The past two weeks had been silent agony for her. She had been unaware of the cold shoulder the guards had been giving her in the initial part of the journey. But after she saved all of their butts, they were only too happy to invite her to their social circle. In the past two weeks she had been avoiding Kakashi unsuccessfully, especially when they had to camp. She had to sit next to him when they listened to random guard stories. Even in the summertime Snow Country was chilly and as the caravan traveled deeper in Snow Country the circles became tighter.
Another part of the caravan had branched off as they had climbed up the mountain. There were only ten wagons left and Kakashi's presence became a weight on her spirit.
It was a bit ridiculous; it wasn't as if he had done anything wrong. But he managed to reawaken some of the pain she was so desperate to leave behind. She nearly sobbed with joy when they rounded the mountain and Norio pointed out the Tora Estate. It was located in the valley between a ring of mountains and for the past two days the vision had teased her as she crunched along the mountain path.
Life was easier on her when she was able to ignore Kakashi.
"Welcome, welcome!" A servant called out as opened the gates.
Sakura waved cheerily at the greeter as the caravan paused to let the Ehime men exit the wagons. She went to follow the caravan to the back of the estate but was blocked by Kakashi.
He looked down at her with amusement. "Where do you think you are going?"
"I have to get my bag," Sakura replied, irritated that she was still in his presence even as she was so close to her goal.
He shook his head. "Leave it."
"The servants will return your belongings, assuming they don't already have an entire wardrobe outfitted for you. You are a family guest after all."
Sakura scowled. Kakashi had used this tactic for the past few weeks. He would mention her betrothal and dance around the fact he wanted her for himself.
To the innocent bystander he was making a statement. Underneath he was mocking her. And underneath the underneath he was being an ass.
She turned away from him and jogged to catch up with Norio.
There was a one welcome benefit to the attack a couple of weeks back. Norio had become considerably bolder in his advances. Whatever ideological vision he had painted of her in his head had become a bit more realistic. His hands had not been content to stay in hers and conversations were no longer about the history of silk trade. They had been replaced by stories of his own travels as he helped run the family business.
Despite Norio's admission that he had never been attacked in his travels, it did not mean he had lived a sheltered life. There were some stories which would have caused Tomio to have a fit of madness. One in particular involved a troupe of cross-dressing merchants and shipment of feathers left Sakura with tears of laughter in her eyes.
Conversely, Norio had become very interested in her experience as a ninja. One of his favorite stories was when she forced Kakashi out of his hiding spot from underground. But Sakura found a depressing amount of them containing Sasuke in some form. She did not want to dwell on him more than necessary.
Following the servant's lead, Sakura was shown to her room. She took a few moments to look at her surroundings which included a comfortable bed and a large window. Sakura's jaw dropped when she saw all of the elegant robes they had left in the wardrobe. She hesitantly removed one and trailed her fingertips over the material. It wasn't as pricey as she had originally thought but the design was simple. And it was better than the same dirty clothes she had worn during most of the journey. It made her feel less guilty as she put it on.
There was a knock on the door as she was finishing. A servant came in, giving a short bow as she entered.
"Dinner will be served soon. May I escort you to the dining hall?"
"Umm… yes, please." Sakura glanced around the room as she wiggled her toes on the rug. "Uh…"
"Your sandals are located in the drawer," responded the servant.
Blushing, Sakura located the shoes and slipped them on her feet. She simply wasn't used to this sort of treatment.
Norio was waiting for her outside of the dining hall. "You look lovely."
"Thank you," replied Sakura, still a bit self-conscious in the clothes. She shuffled in her sandals, hoping that they would not fly off her feet. The last thing she needed to do was to bop her host on the head with an errant sandal.
Tomio arrived right after her, his room located in the other direction. "Are we all here?"
Norio nodded. "Father is already inside."
"What of Kakashi?" Sakura did her best not to flinch as Tomio asked of her former teacher. The last thing she wanted to do was spend another evening next to that man.
"Tsh, there is no use in waiting for Cousin. Our sister is already aware of that," Norio said as he opened the sliding door and ushered Sakura in.
She crossed the hall to the table, her feet making tiny clacks as she crossed the room. She wished she was as silent as Norio and Tomio. It made her feel like a herd of elephants.
The man stood up from the table, waving his hand in invitation. "Excellent timing! The servants are about to bring in the food."
Tomio and Norio stepped forward to greet their two hosts with delighted smiles on their faces. Sakura stood at the back, waiting to be introduced and to find out where she would sit. She was grateful when the woman turned to Norio and asked for her name.
"This is Lady Sakura, a kunoichi from Fire Country. Sakura, this is my sister, Mitsuko, and her husband, Hotaka."
"It is a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for allowing me in your home," Sakura murmured. Inside she cursed Norio's name; he had failed to mention their final destination would be a family visit. She took her seat at the table nervously.
Fortunately no one noticed her uncertainty as Lord Ehime spoke. "And where are the children? I have yet to see them."
Mitsuko frowned. "One of the maids let it slip that you were visiting. My eldest son recalled that Kakashi was one of your favorite hires. A few months ago he stayed for a few weeks as he waited for a storm to pass in the mountains. The children grew quite fond of Kakashi and were quite vocal this morning as they waited for him. I assume that they found him even before he fully rested. I thought you might be too tired from your journey, so I asked the maid to serve them dinner in the garden when I saw that the children were so excited."
Sakura listened to the story in surprise, remembering her own experiences with Kakashi as a genin. Most of them involved disinterest, porn reading, and chastising statements that were followed by condescending pats on the head. It was hard for her to believe that they would choose Kakashi over their own grandfather.
Lord Ehime frowned unhappily. "But they are my grandchildren, Mitsuko! You deny me the opportunity to see them?"
Sakura winced. Lord Ehime was normally easy going; she hadn't heard him complain during the entire journey. But she completely understood his annoyance; it had to be hard taking second place to Kakashi.
"My apologies, Father, I meant no disrespect. The children can be quite rambunctious but I can call them in if you wish."
Lord Ehime took a sip from his glass. "No, there is no need; the arrangements have already been made. I will greet them after the meal is finished."
Dinner was sedate, with the family speaking briefly on matters that Sakura did not understand. She spent most of her time trying not to fidget and became envious of the children outside. After dinner, the group made their way to the garden. Sakura took a position at the back of the group so they wouldn't notice her blatant ogling of the decor. She had worked for lords and businessmen before but had always observed their estates with mild disinterest. But as a guest of the home everything took on a new perspective. One of the servants caught her however, and she gave him a glare as he laughed silently.
The garden was a large patio before a lush field. The decoration of choice was evergreens planted in enormous pots placed on the stone floor. Most of them were cut out in different forms, save for the row that provided a boundary to the field. At the center was a large fountain; Sakura could see the spikes of Kakashi's grey hair poking up from a jet of water. As she rounded the fountain she was treated with a strange sight of Kakashi with four children at his feet. They were listening to Kakashi in complete silence, popping berries in their mouths as they stared up at him. Sakura took another step closer in order to hear the story better, bumping her arm on Tomio's.
"It was troubling," Kakashi said. "I did not want to participate. I am a peaceful man and I try to avoid confrontation when I can. And yet, a challenge had been issued and the consequences of refusing were gruesome."
"Then what did you do?" one of the girls asked, her lips stained purple with berry juice.
"What I had to. I stared directly into the hairy beast's eyes and accepted the challenge."
The small crowd gasped.
"Didja win?" Said the other girl.
The eldest, a boy of about twelve, waved his hands dramatically. "Don't be stupid, of course he won. The Green Beast of Konoha would have eaten him alive or something if he lost!"
Sakura unsuccessfully tried to contain her snigger and was forced to bury her laughter on the sleeve of her robe. Tomio turned to look at her with a frown.
"Don't call your sister stupid, Hitoshi." Kakashi said gently.
"All right, I won't," he said quickly in agreement. "So what happened next?"
Sakura saw Kakashi's eye cast a glance around the patio as he tried to figure out what to say; it was a gesture she recognized from his many excuses of his tardiness. However, the children thought it was a dramatic pause and tugged at Kakashi's trousers impatiently.
He leaned forward. "The beast was fast but so was I. I was strong, but so was the beast. It knew that I had to outwit the beast. I remembered the tiny bonsai tree I had on my windowsill. A little old lady who I had helped across the street gave it to me as a thank you gift. ' Beautiful things need attention ,' she told me. With this in mind I led the beast to the nearest evergreen tree and asked him to transform the tree into a work of art."
He waved his hand in the direction of one of the nearby garden trees.
"The beast went to work, using sword and strength to change the form of the tree. I climbed up the tree and began to trim some of the dead branches. For months we worked on our respective trees until it was time for the judge to decide. The beast had shaped his into the form of a man and when the judge saw the form he was impressed. He complemented the beast on his choice, for he believed that man was the greatest form of art.
"And then the judge saw my tree. When he saw it, he gasped with surprise and called his mother over. And when his mother saw the tree, she went to call her sister over. And so it went until the entire village was gathered at the tree that I had taken care of. ' You are the winner, ' the judge told me.
"For you see, I had taken care of the tree every day. I removed the dead leaves and branches. I trimmed and pruned and watered it when it was necessary, and left it alone to grow.
"I had kept the tree as a tree. A tree in the shape of a man is half man and half tree. It is interesting, but it is not nearly as beautiful as a tree left to its own devices. I had the best tree anyone had ever seen. It was one that provided lots of shade so that grandmothers could sit without getting burned by the sun and located by a stream so that children could play. It had stayed a tree, but it had also become a gathering place for the village.
"And so I bested the beast. For all of his strength and skill, he did not understand that one cannot change another's nature."
Sakura was so flabbergasted and taken by Kakashi's gentle tone that she failed to recognize the significance of his words.
The eldest child nodded knowingly. "That makes a lot of sense. Tell us another story, Uncle!"
"Mmm… perhaps another time. I believe that your grandfather would like you to say hello to him."
The children turned around in surprise; they had been so engrossed in Kakashi's words they failed to notice the adults' arrival. They stood up and trotted over, half bowing before giving their grandfather a warm hug.
"That is enough for the night, children. It is late enough as it is and your grandfather is tired from the journey." Mitsuko waved a hand at a servant standing in the shadows to usher the children inside. The children pouted as they were led away.
She went forward to tug on one of Kakashi's ears. "Cousin, I thought I asked you to stop telling the children stories of the Green Beast. Now they will be up all night pretending to fight him."
Kakashi wiggled out of her grasp and rubbed at his ear. "I'll have you know that the Green Beast of Konoha does exist. Isn't that right, Sakura?"
"Uh, yes." Sakura could only imagine the crushing disappointment in Gai's face if found out the reputation he was gaining in Snow.
Lord Ehime shook his head. "Hmph. It is somewhat disappointing that the children are more interested in your tales than saying hello to their grandfather. Perhaps I will stay here for an extended visit."
"Then I should notify you that I need to report back to Konoha by the end of July," said Kakashi.
"Ah, yes." Lord Ehime nodded. "Sakura as well, I suppose. I will have Yori arrange for security on the trip back. But that still leaves plenty of time to throw a celebration!"
Sakura was confused when the adults around her began to chuckle.
"I already sent out the invitations when I saw the caravan at the top of the mountain," said Mitsuko. "It is planned for the end of the week. With the entire family gathered in one place, we knew you would be unable to resist a large party."
Sakura groaned in annoyance when she caught a pointed look from Kakashi, the noise was lost amid the boisterous laughter of Lord Ehime. When she made the bet two weeks ago, she thought the odds were in her favor. Kakashi avoided social situations when he could and there was a possibility that he would forget at the time. But it looked like Kakashi had taken Lord Ehime's habits into consideration before he proposed it.
It looked like she would have to pay up on the bet.
Sakura sat under the afternoon shade reading a well worn book that Norio had let her borrow. It was a very good story and she was grateful that he had good taste. She wasn't out there long before she was approached by Mitsuko.
"So you are the one who is to marry my brother?"
Sakura shut the book and bowed her head. "It is an honor that I cannot place into words."
The woman laughed. 'Well, you have the act straight." She settled herself across the table and shook her head. "A kunoichi…"
"Er, yes?" Sakura replied.
Mitsuko looked at her with narrowed eyes before deciding to proceed.
"My family has always been a bit unconventional. Some lords clung too dearly to their ideals of honor and propriety and because of it they lost their power. My family has not avoided those connections and we are better off for it. I am not surprised that Norio would seek a strong woman; he was always audacious like that."
"Thank you," Sakura responded. She opened her mouth to ask a question, only to pause when she caught sight of a small parade led by the eldest son. Kakashi was next in line; his walking was hindered by a young boy clutching his leg. The two daughters trailed behind him, waving silk ribbons.
Sakura watched the procession in astonishment; Mitsuko laughed in delight. "They do love him."
Sakura took the opening to discover more on the family's elusive connection with Kakashi. "I noticed since they called him 'Uncle.' What is the story behind that?"
"The children took to calling him uncle of their own volition. They knew he was related but not how. He would come for a few days on his way back from a mission and often bring a gift for the children. He delighted the children a few months ago with his stories of the Green Beast of Konoha." She sighed. "I don't know where he comes up with these stories."
Sakura smiled wryly as she looked at Kakashi and the children. "You'd be surprised by how much practice he has in making things up."
Kakashi reached into his pocket and seconds later his nindogs appeared in a series of poofs. He pried the small child off of his leg and lifted him onto the back of the largest dog, Bull. The dog trotted off into the field with the child squealing in delight. The other three children began playing a strange game with the dogs, a combination of fetch and tag. The only sense Sakura could make of the game was that it involved a lot of running around.
"He's very good with children," said Mitsuko.
"That's not fair," groused Sakura. "When I was young, he wasn't ever close to personable. He was okay as a teacher, but he was so distant. Your kids actually like him!"
"Jealous?" asked Mitsuko dryly.
"No! It's just… really strange seeing him act so… nice ." That wasn't quite the word she wanted to use, but this version of Kakashi had her disconcerted.
Mitsuko hummed. "I think he is practicing for children of his own. I know he was considering fatherhood."
Sakura was grateful the woman was not looking in her direction. "Oh? I didn't know that," she lied. "I mean, not that he tells me anything. I didn't even realize that he was related to your family until a few weeks ago."
"I take it he is as tight-lipped as ever." Mitsuko clicked her tongue disapprovingly. "His grandfather and great-aunt came here from Cloud. His grandfather eventually moved to Konoha but his great-aunt married the Lord of Fire Country. However, he died before they gave birth to any children. The family line carried on to the second eldest, my grandfather."
The dogs began to bark loudly as the eldest boy emerged from the shrubs. He began to chase his sisters as he waved the branches enthusiastically in his hands. The two girls began to run towards Kakashi, their ribbons abandoned in their laughter.
"Oh. Thank you for clearing that up." Sakura tore her eyes away from the children. "I think I'll go inside now. It has been a pleasure speaking with you."
Sakura made a hasty exit, not daring to look back at the happy scene behind her.
The shrill laugh of the blonde behind Kakashi couldn't drown out his question. Sakura bit her tongue, keeping the dirty swears locked in her mouth. She silently prayed for a miracle, hoping that her husband-to-be would insist she remain by his side the entire night.
"Of course, I think it is only fitting that she has a dance with you. You were her sensei once and soon she will be my responsibility. One dance can't hurt," Norio said with an easy smile as he handed her off to Kakashi.
Sakura painted a smile onto her face. "Of course," she replied as Kakashi clasped her hands.
She tried not to think of the abrupt change of Norio's smooth hands versus Kakashi's battle-worn grasp. She tried not to think of how he had dominated her thoughts the entire night and the promise of a dance that left her anxious. Even catching Norio's elusive dimple had not eased her suffering because Kakashi had forgone the mask entirely for the celebration. Sakura had caught brief glimpses at his face throughout the week during meals. However, she was not able to take advantage of it because of her own stubborn resolution to give Kakashi minimal attention.
Sakura tried not to think of her desperate excuse that she had to memorize every angle of his face. That she needed to answer the question that had plagued her since she was twelve and not because her eyes were naturally drawn to him. She tried not to think of the crowd of giggling females who had followed him and their casual speculations of his single status. She tried not to think of how perfect the party had been, and how uncomfortable she felt amidst the lords. And how Kakashi had slid into the role effortlessly, displaying none of the discomfort she felt.
Sakura kept her eyes firmly on his shoulder as the music began to play. She was not going to look at his face; she wasn't going to look at his lips. She was going to be gracious even as he teased her and he would not fluster her.
She waited for the teasing and the dry comments to begin. Instead, all Sakura heard was the music from the orchestra. He gave her a spin. She huffed. This was almost… disappointing.
"You're not going to say anything?" she asked, impatiently.
"Why would I?"
"Because… you know!" Sakura did not dare to say the words out loud.
Kakashi spun her around another time. "Hmm… I could, but I think I've made my point."
"So you're giving up?" It came again, the mix of disappointment and hope that caused her insides to squirm.
"Giving up on you? No. But I can't force you to do anything, no matter how stupid I think your decision is. There is only so much I can do; now I have to wait for you to change your mind."
Sakura didn't know what to say to the change in Kakashi's attitude. He seemed more apologetic and disappointed than he had been the entire trip. She had liked the easy relationship they had before, of close acquaintances, the not-quite- friendship. The attack a few weeks ago only served to remind her of how she liked going on missions with him. He had given her an order but had been content to let her take the lead if it was appropriate. A part of her gave a churn as she realized Kakashi would probably disappear once she was married.
She was never very good with words; she favored the option of displaying her emotions physically. Right then Sakura wished she was a poet. She would have given a sincere and beautiful apology that it hadn't worked out and maybe salvaged what little relationship they had.
But she wasn't a poet, so she continued to dance.
Sakura couldn't help but feel a little bad for him when the song ended. "So this is goodbye," she whispered, hoping that he would pick up her weak joke.
He gave her hand a light squeeze. "It's not over yet. I still have another dance with you."
"The promise was only for once to dance," she retorted as she tore her eyes off of his shoulders to glare at him. All melancholy thoughts were wiped from her mind with Kakashi's challenge.
"I know," he replied, giving her a smile. Sakura's heart skipped a beat when she noticed the faint teeth marks under his lip. "If you'll excuse me, the night is young and there is plenty to drink. I have plenty of time to make a stupid decision of my own."
Sakura barely had time to mull on his bizarre statement before Norio was at her side, pulling her by her elbow so he could introduce her to yet another family member. Honestly, she didn't know how to keep any of their names straight. She foresaw her recent future would require going over names like jonin over a new Bingo book. It was getting mentally exhausting.
A short conversation and another dance later and Sakura was ready to leave the crowd.
"Can we take a small break? I'm getting a bit tired." It was a lie, but she was hoping to buy some time away from the dance floor. Her feet were beginning to hurt.
Norio nodded and took her away from the main room and into the hallway.
"I think I could use a bit of air, so could-" Sakura's words were cut off as Norio began to kiss her, his lips moving against hers with surprising passion. Just as she was beginning to get over her initial shock and enjoy it, he withdrew.
"I think a bit of air would be good," Norio said as he gave her a smile. The dimple she had once delighted over materialized, but the appeal had vanished. The kiss had inadvertently reminded her of the bite marks by Kakashi's lips. Sakura wondered who had kissed him so hard to leave a scar.
Kakashi hastily let go of Sakura's hand when he saw the blonde coming his direction. He had played polite for the beginning of the party because Sakura had owed him a dance. Now that the deal was finished he had no intention of hanging around. He ducked out of the room by using the entrance to the kitchen.
Familiar with the Tora estate, Kakashi made for one of his favorite places, a small hidden balcony that overlooked a courtyard adjacent to the hall. And when he opened the door, he was surprised to see Tomio already there.
Kakashi hesitated at the doorway, uncertain if he wanted to stay.
"I hope you don't mind," he said politely.
"For you? Never," replied Tomio as he moved to allow Kakashi some room.
Kakashi shrugged and placed his elbows on the edge of the railing. Down below, he could see Norio and Sakura swirling in the hall. He took another deep gulp of the alcohol in his glass.
"They are ill-fitting," said Tomio.
"What?" asked Kakashi as the burn faded from his throat.
"The girl. She is ill-suited for Norio."
Kakashi showed no reaction, but was surprised by Tomio's assessment. It appeared he had inherited Lord Ehime's skill of character judgment. Kakashi decided to dig a little deeper.
"What makes you say that? Most are under the impression that she is an excellent choice."
Tomio shrugged. "She is... beautiful. However, she is not fit for the position. I performed a test on her, and she did not pass."
"Oh?" Kakashi was not aware of this.
Tomio nodded. "I told Sakura that she was covered in dirt after we were attacked. She looked at me with indignation and replied that she would worry about it at another time. And yet, if that was another woman, a lady, she would have rushed over to compose herself. I understand why she chose to wait to clean herself up; that is not the issue at hand. The test was whether or not she was ready to clean herself or not." He swirled the drink in his hand. "I do not believe that she will be content in her future role."
Kakashi saw Sakura twirl around in another circle; her hands grazing over the elaborate kimono. He had been astonished by her appearance this evening. Whoever had been in charge of her wardrobe had done an exceptionally good job in finding something for her to wear. He had never had an occasion to see her beyond her everyday clothes. He avoided the festivals that presented the opportunity and he had also been gone for two years. When she appeared that night dressed in red, Kakashi found his breath taken away. Even amid the rich, Sakura stood out with her distinctive beauty. For a brief moment, Kakashi felt extraordinarily pleased with his good taste. His pleasure had turned sour when she turned to the side and allowed Norio to grasp her hand.
Sakura had not been free of him the entire night, tugging along to meet the guests. As the night wore on, it became increasingly apparent how well she played her role. She made an excellent companion to Norio; she was a perfect combination of adventure and beauty. Kakashi had been forced to swallow his pride and admit they looked good together. He modestly asked for a dance, but was also aware that he couldn't push her anymore. The only option left was to be present in her life and hope that she would change her mind.
Kakashi glanced at his companion. Of all people, Tomio could understand unrequited love.
"She was my choice." The words came softly, even before he had time to ponder the effects of his confession. "I had her picked as my wife far before Norio even knew her name."
He couldn't see Tomio's reaction, and for this Kakashi was grateful.
Kakashi sighed. "I was sent on that damned mission and I arrived too late. She had just announced her engagement the week before."
Tomio chuckled. "Ah time was always your undoing." They stood on the balcony; the music of the orchestra below drifted upwards. "Why her?"
"Because I wanted her. Because I deserve the best." The alcohol was affecting his head and the audacious words slipped from his lips too easily. Kakashi raised the crystal glass once more and downed the rest of the liquid.
"I knew she had the talent and the skill. I knew that she could be brave and wonderful. And I knew that she had the patience to humor my idiosyncrasies. It was what I wanted and she could provide it. But then something went wrong, even before Norio entered her life. I've almost lost her; she doesn't even look at me when she speaks to me now."
"Almost," said Tomio. "Almost is not the end."
Kakashi sighed. "Yes, I know. But there is more to this than I anticipated." He looked down at the hall once more. Sakura had vanished from his window view.
Tomio looked at Kakashi. "Do you love her?" he inquired delicately.
Kakashi hesitated. "I... don't know. Dedicated may be a more prudent word choice."
"Ah." Tomio set his own goblet down. "Do you mind terribly if I ask you for a favor?"
"Go ahead," said Kakashi.
"It so happens that I am here and as are you." Tomio's cheeks turned dark, although Kakashi could not tell if it was a trick of the light or of the alcohol. "Could you spare a kiss?"
Kakashi squirmed, vaguely recalling a similar situation when he was a teenager. At the time he had been a bit too trusting of Tomio, and it cost him a friendship that had decayed into awkwardness.
"Ah, why not? I could use the practice," he replied as he set his glass down on the ledge.
Tomio came forward and hesitantly pressed his lips on Kakashi's.
The first thing that Kakashi noticed was the uncomfortable realization that he had drank a little too much. It had been years since he had kissed another man; any missions that required seduction had vanished as he became well-known. He had forgotten how uncomfortable it made him. He could kiss strange women any day and feel only a mild disinterest. But the jaw was too square, the person too tall, and the sensation of stubble rubbing against his own chin made him wonder when the polite amount of time to withdraw was.
Last time he kissed Tomio was a disaster. He had been chasing after a tall woman, and in his drunken stupor he had made a wrong turn into the shadowy hallway. It had become apparent in the first seconds that the stranger was not the woman he thought, but had proceeded anyway. It wasn't until his shirt was halfway off that he realized it was a bad idea and had pried himself off with a very loud and tactless ' I should tell you I'm not gay.' Even the alcohol in his blood would not allow Kakashi to forget to look of crushing disappointment.
His musings were distracted as Tomio let out a groan.
Kakashi was mentally patting himself on the back when light flooded the balcony.
He tore his mouth off of Tomio's lips to look at the doorway to see Norio and Sakura. Her eyes were so wide Kakashi began to wonder how at what point they would fall out of her face. Norio was looking deeply annoyed.
"Well," said Tomio in disappointment, "so much for that."