The toad began to shiver slightly, and the crosses in its dark red eyes blazed angrily at Kissy as if it knew it was all her fault. The sex merchant, his head bent over the little cage, watched anxiously and then rubbed his hands with satisfaction as heavy beads of sweat broke out all over the toad's warty skin. He reached for an iron teaspoon and a small phial, gently raised the wire cage and very carefully scraped the sweat-beads off the toad's body and dripped the result into the phial. When he had finished, the phial contained about half a teaspoon of clear liquid. He corked it up and handed it to Kissy, who held it with reverence and great care as if it had been a fabulous jewel. Then the sex merchant disconnected the wires and put the toad, which seemed none the worse for its experience, back in its hutch and closed the top.
He turned to Kissy and bowed. 'When this valuable product is desired by a sincere customer I always ask them to witness the process of distillation. Otherwise they might harbour the unworthy thought that the phial contained only water from the tap. But you have now seen that this preparation is the authentic sweat of a toad. It is produced by giving a toad a mild electric shock. The toad suffered only temporary discomfort and it will be rewarded this evening with an extra portion of flies or crickets. And now,' he went to a cupboard and took out a small pill-box, 'here is powder of dried lizard. A combination of the two, inserted in your lover's food at the evening meal, should prove infallible. However, to excite his mind as well as his senses, for an extra thousand yen I can provide you with a most excellent pillow-book.'
'What is a pillow-book?'
The sex merchant went back to his cupboard and produced a cheaply bound and printed paper book with a plain cover. Kissy opened it. Her hand went to her mouth and she blushed furiously. But then, being a careful girl who didn't want to be cheated, she turned some more of the pages. They all contained outrageously pornographic close-up pictures, most faithfully engraved, of the love-act portrayed from every possible aspect. 'Very well,' she whispered. She handed back the book. 'Please wrap up everything carefully.' She took out her purse and began counting out the notes.
Out in the shop, the wicked-faced old man handed her the parcel and, bowing deeply, unlocked the door. Kissy gave a perfunctory bob in return and darted out of the shop down the street as if she had just made a pact with the devil.
But by the time she went to catch the mailboat back to Kuro, she was hugging herself with excitement and pleasure and making up a story to explain away her acquisition of the book.
Bond was waiting for her on the jetty. It was the first day she had been away from him and he had missed her painfully. They talked happily as they walked hand-in-hand along the foreshore among the nets and boats, and the people smiled to see them, but looked through them instead of greeting them for had not the priest decreed that their gaijin here did not officially exist? And the priest's edict was final.
Back at the house, Kissy went happily about preparing a highly spiced dish of sukiyaki, the national dish of beef stew. This was not only a great treat, for they seldom ate meat, but Kissy didn't know if her love-potions had any taste and it would be wise not to take any chances. When it was ready, with a trembling hand, she poured the brown powder and the liquid into Bond's portion and stirred it well. Then she brought the dishes in to where the family awaited, squatting on the tatami before the low table.
She watched surreptitiously as Bond devoured every scrap of his portion and wiped his plate clean with a pinch of rice and then, after warm compliments on her cooking, drank his tea and retired to their room. In the evenings, he usually sat mending nets or fishing lines before going to bed. As she helped her mother wash up she wondered if he were doing so now!
Kissy spent a long time doing her hair and making herself pretty before, her heart beating like a captured bird, she joined him.
He looked up from the pillow-book and laughed. 'Kissy, where in God's name did you get this?'
She giggled. 'Oh that! I forgot to tell you. Some dreadful man tried to make up to me in one of the shops. He pressed that into my hand and made an assignation for this evening. I agreed just to get rid of him. It is what we call a pillow-book. Lovers use them. Aren't the pictures exciting?'
Bond threw off his kimono. He pointed to the soft futon on the floor. He said fiercely, 'Kissy, take off your clothes and lie down there. We'll start at page one.'
Winter slid into spring and fishing began again, but now Kissy dived naked like the other girls and Bond and the bird dived with her and there were good days and bad days. But the sun shone steadily and the sea was blue and wild irises covered the mountain-side and everyone made a great fuss as the sprinkling of cherry trees burst into bloom, and Kissy wondered what moment to choose to tell Bond that she was going to have a baby and whether he would then propose marriage to her.
But one day, on the way down to the cove Bond looked pre-occupied and, when he asked her to wait before they put the boat out as he had something serious to talk to her about, her heart leaped and she sat down beside him on a flat rock and put her arms round him and waited.
Bond took a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket and held it out to her, and she shivered with fear and knew what was coming. She took her arms from round him and looked at the paper. It was one of the rough squares of newspaper from the spike in the little lavatory. She always tore these squares herself and discarded any that contained words in English - just in case.
Bond pointed. 'Kissy, what is this word “Vladivostok”? What does it mean? It has some kind of a message for me. I connect it with a very big country. I believe the country is called Russia. Am I right?'
Kissy remembered her promise to the priest. She put her face in her hands. 'Yes, Taro-san. That is so.'
Bond pressed his fists to his eyes and squeezed. 'I have a feeling that I have had much to do with this Russia, that a lot of my past life was concerned with it. Could that be possible? I long so terribly to know where I came from before I came to Kuro. Will you help me, Kissy?'
Kissy took her hands from her face and looked at him. She said quietly, 'Yes, I will he]p you, my beloved.'
'Then I must go to this place Vladivostok, and perhaps it will awaken more memories and I can work my way back from there.'
'If you say so, my love. The mailboat goes to Fukuoka tomorrow. I will put you on a train there and give you money and full directions. It is advertised that one can go from the northern island, Hokkaido, to Sakhalin which is on the Russian mainland. Then you can no doubt make your way to Vladivostok. It is a great port to the south of Sakhalin. But you must take care, for the Russians are not friendly people.'
'Surely they would do no harm to a fisherman from Kuro?'
Kissy's heart choked her. She got up and walked slowly down to the boat. She pushed the boat down the pebbles into the water and waited, at her usual place in the stern, for him to get in and for his knees to clasp hers as they always did.
James Bond took his place and unshipped the oars, and the cormorant scrambled on board and perched imperiously in the bows. Bond measured where the rest of the fleet lay on the horizon and began to row.
Kissy smiled into his eyes and the sun shone on his back and, so far as James Bond was concerned, it was a beautiful day just like all the other days had been - without a cloud in the sky.
But then, of course, he didn't know that his name was James Bond. And, compared with the blazing significance to him of that single Russian word on the scrap of paper, his life on Kuro, his love for Kissy Suzuki, were, in Tiger's phrase, of as little account as sparrows' tears.