Tao can sometimes be found in the Castle, but just as often he’s living in his house. It’s an enormous place, so large one could get lost in it.

The castle has a collection of tigers. They are permitted to roam freely in a penned-off secure area. In that isolated corner, they have even established a rudimentary democracy of sorts.

The first two tigers arrived thirty years ago. They were brothers, and now have a reputation as the elder statesmen of the clan. They are supported by the larger and stronger first-comers, and managed to keep the peace when a new breed of tiger entered the scene. Many times have they looked danger in the face, and many times they have been thrown out of the metaphorical ring by their opponents. Often they would retreat to the hinterlands and grow strong in the wilds there, only to return for a second and far more successful encounter. Their bodies are marked with old war-wounds, but they are as healthy and energetic as ever.

Today the tigers are by and large retired from combat. They do not quarrel with themselves. They enjoy the long peace they fought so hard to achieve.

I met Shinobu in the snow outside the warehouse, as she mingled with the rest of the packed crowd waiting to get inside. She wore a green hoodie, anonymous among the throng. I smiled at her, and wondered if she remembered me. But I wouldn’t know until we were finally admitted.