Chapter 15: Road to Cloud Hill (part 1)

It wasn’t the motorcycle engine that brought Miyo from behind the counter but the combination of that familiar whine with the rumble from the long black limousine that followed closely behind it. She stood at the doorway as both limo and bike stopped in front of the tea shop.


The driver of the motorcycle gave an open handed motion to the limousine, which cut its engine with a reluctant sigh. It wasn’t until the driver came up the stairs and took off his helmet that Miyo realized who it was.


“Ryou! I didn’t recognize you.”


Ryou chuckled. “I’m not surprised. Usually I’m wearing shorts, right?” He turned around as if to model his attire. It was a drastic change from the usual t-shirt and shorts that Miyo had always seen him wearing when he gave her a ride. Though she had questioned its safety, it seemed that all jeepney drivers held to that standard as a sort of uniform.


But standing as he was now, clothed in a dark suit and tie with his wild hair cut close and combed back, it was like looking at a completely different person. The only thing that seemed to be the same was the quiet air that surrounded him, lightening his grim look.


“This is a sudden question, but I’m afraid I’m short on time. I was wondering if you had any interest in my bike. I’d like to give it to someone who enjoys riding as much I have.”


Miyo blinked in surprise. ‘Enjoys riding?’ “I’m not really sure … May I ask why you’re giving it away?”


Ryou began to take a step further into the shop but the limo’s engine rumbled back to life. He grit his teeth and cast a dark glance at the limo before clearing his face and turning back to Miyo. “Sorry, they’re in a rush, as you can see,” he said, nodding to the limo behind him.


“You see, I’ve been here on extended leave, so to speak. But I’ve just been called to go back to the capital to help my family’s company.” He paused and smiled. “I doubt they’ll recognize me though. Things change when you ride that bike,” he said softly, gazing at the motorcycle.


The limo honked and Ryou sighed heavily. “I’m sorry, but could I leave it here? It’s okay if you don’t want it. There’s someone called Susumu in Cloud Hill who can look after it.”


“Of course, I’ll make sure it gets to him,” Miyo promised with a slight bow.


“Thank you,” he said. His voice cut off and his mouth clamped shut, as if restraining his words. The smile Ryou gave was too mixed with emotion for Miyo to read before he was quickly going down the steps.


He stopped for just a moment, resting the helmet on the seat and patting the it once before heading into the limo. As soon as the door shut behind him, the limo was on its way, leaving just Miyo at the doorway and the motorcycle at the foot of the steps.


“And that’s why I’m here,” Miyo said, handing over a cooled cup of tea to the young lady looking over the motorcycle. She hadn’t been riding very long, had just reached the hills of the western shore when an odd grinding sound had brought her to the side of the road.


Mari wiped her hands on the towel sticking out from her pocket before accepting the cup and joining Miyo sitting on the curb. Mari’s truck was just ahead of them, shining in the morning sunlight.


“Well that guy sure liked this bike,” Mari said, her eyes tracing over the motorcycle standing regally in front of them. “It’s very well-maintained. I’d say the brake pad going awry like that was really just a fluke.” She paused and studied the tea in the cup. “This is really good tea.”


Miyo smiled. “It’s one of my personal blends. Feel free to stop by the tea shop and I’ll be happy to share some with you.”


“Sure, when I come back next week. Anyway,” she said, taking another sip, “Eimi should be able to fix you up in no time. She’s just in the next town so you should be fine to drive it up there. Just make sure to go slow and it’ll be okay.”


With that, Mari excused herself so she could get to the docks in time. Miyo settled the helmet on her head and eased herself over the bike once more.


Riding the motorcycle was still a strange experience. Shinya had offered to take the bike up for her when she had asked Shinya for lessons, but something had compelled Miyo to take it up herself.


This early, there was considerable traffic on the main road, but Mari’s directions quickly turned her off onto a quieter side street. She soon spotted the shop, noting the tires outside that Mari had particularly described.


As she slowed to a stop, an elderly lady stepped out of the wide, full garage. “Ah, thought you were someone else,” Eimi said after introducing herself to Miyo.


“As in Ryou?” Miyo asked slowly.


Eimi brightened. “Yes! Thought my ears were playing tricks on me, good to know they’re still good. Sounds like there might be a brake pad amiss, hm?”


As a shophand rolled the bike away, Eimi let out a chuckle. “Been a while since I’ve seen that bike. Was a time I saw Ryou riding in on it almost everyday.”


“Was the bike in bad shape when Ryou got it?” Miyo asked.


Eimi crossed her arms and shook her head. “Don’t remember how he got it, but it wasn’t brand new. Was like a father with a newborn.” She sighed. “Too bad he had to go.”


“He mentioned that he was here on extended leave.” Miyo frowned. “I’m still not quite sure what that means though.”


Eimi perched herself on a stack of crates. “From what he said back then, his family runs one of the biggest magi-tech companies out of the capital. Company as big as that of course has some politics and drama.” She shrugged. “Don’t know if it was his own choice or some trouble that led him here to Crescent Island, but all I know is that about a year ago, he rode in and asked to have that bike fitted with a cart.”


A thought crossed Miyo’s brow. “But why be a jeepney driver?” she wondered aloud as another shophand entered the room and handed Eimi and Miyo cups of hot tea.


“Not sure but if I had to guess, I’d bet it was that bike,” Eimi said with a nod to herself.


Miyo pondered the shopkeeper’s words as she took a sip of the tea. Then paused. She took another sip and straightened. “Auntie, where did you get this tea?”


Eimi raised an eyebrow. “Tomo up the road shared it with me a while back. She should be open by now. Bet she’d tell you if you ask her nicely.”


Miyo sat back sheepishly, realizing how sharp her tone had been. “Sorry, it’s just – I know this taste …”


Eimi’s severe look softened. “Her house is out of the way from where you want to go though. If you want to go to Cloud Hill, you’ll have to turn right onto Old Shell Road at the four-way up the hill here. If you go straight instead, you’ll see Tomo’s house with the mango trees out front. But if you keep going, you’ll eventually join up with Old Shell Road again.”


The words echoed in Miyo’s mind as she faced the four-way. The motorcycle’s engine idled patiently underneath her as she thought. Each road was equally quiet with nothing differentiating them to Miyo’s eyes.


She glanced at the sun’s position, still high in the sky. She shrugged. There was plenty of time. So Miyo aimed the motorcycle straight ahead, the curious taste still on her tongue as she let the motorcycle lead her forward.

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