This book depicts a little more than six months in the relationships among Lui, the narrator; Ama, the man she lives with; and Shiba, a sculptor who has been friends with Ama for many years. The punkish Ama, whose head is shaved into a bright-red Mohawk, wears a dragon tattoo on his arm and prominent piercings in his eyebrows and lower lip. Lui was originally drawn to him out of fascination with his split tongue, achieved through surgery to make it look like a snake's; she slept with him and wound up living with him. When Lui states she also wants to split her tongue, Ama introduces her to Shiba, the owner of a piercing parlor. Lui begins by piercing her tongue and orders a tattoo for her arm: a design including a dragon and the two kirin, legendary Chinese animals, that decorate Shiba's arm. She then sleeps with Shiba, keeping it a secret from Ama.
The pure-hearted Ama is smitten with Lui. One day he confronts a young gangster who is bothering her and ends up beating the man to death. Five months later, Lui completes a grand tattoo on her back, at which point she loses her appetite and her energy to live. She begins to feel Ama's affections as a heavy burden. Soon afterward, Ama disappears after going to work and is later found as a bloodied corpse. Shiba is asking Lui to marry him, and while she begins to suspect that he was Ama's murderer, she moves in with him. In its sum, the tale is a vivid portrait of Lui and Ama, two youths who loved one another without knowing their partner's true name or age.