Chapter 19: Road to Cloud Hill (part 5)

When Miyo had followed Susumu from the teahouse to his motorcycle shop, Miyo had expected to arrive at a garage like Eimi’s auto shop. What greeted her instead was a huge structure human-like made of what seemed to be pieces of spare motorcycles. And it was waving at her.

 

Miyo had to pull her eyes away from it to focus on the road, but they stopped shortly after, the structure’s afternoon shadow nearly reaching the building. “Figured you might like coming up the back way,” Susumu said as he dismounted from his bike. “The front is pretty boring.”

 

“Anything compared to that would be boring, I’d say,” Miyo said with a laugh.

 

“You should have seen the one from last month,” Susumu said with a grin.

 

He led the way through the back door into the shop, the momentary darkness giving way to a wide, open space crammed with metal in all forms. Miyo followed open-mouthed, her head moving swiftly from side to side in a vain effort to catch all of the structures.

 

There was one looked like a bird caught in mid-flight, another a scene of an animal picnic. But Miyo stopped completely at the bottom of a plunging wave, the curl of its crest just about to fall. There was an energy that pulled at Miyo and even though it was made of metal, she felt as if she were to touch it, her fingers would feel the softness of water.

 

“My sister made that one,” Susumu said from beside Miyo. “She had to study with the Sirens for a couple years before she could get the magi-tech right. This was one of her later attempts.”

 

“It’s incredible.” Miyo’s voice was barely above a whisper.

 

Susumu nodded. “She’s one of the hardest working people I know.” He paused. “Well, besides our mom. Her work ethic is on a completely different level.”

 

“Is she an artist too?” Miyo asked as they continued through the space, forcing herself to keep walking despite her awe. Eventually, they made their way into a corridor, smaller structures placed along the walls.

 

“Aren’t we all artists?” Susumu’s tone was amused. “Mom’s art is more in the business side of things. She’s always trialing one thing or another. In fact, she’s the one who came up with the idea to make custom motorcycles.” Susumu gave a proud nod. “Ryou’s bike was one of the first ones we made, though Ryou had to help with the magi-tech. In fact, his workspace was right here.”

 

Susumu motioned to a sunlit room they had just passed. Miyo’s eyes widened when she peered inside. The room was empty save for a long table and a large cabinet on the far side of the room, its contents gleaming despite the shadow.

 

But it wasn’t the glow of the stones that had struck Miyo, but the deep longing that she could hear from them, their whispered calls for a song, any song, to fill them, to make them whole…

 

“These are Siren stones, aren’t they?” Her breath fogged up the glass. Miyo hadn’t realized she had even stepped into the room.

 

“Ryou’s family’s company started out mining these stones from the Northern coast. Our parents had grown up together and they used to exchange materials back and forth before Ryou’s parents launched their magi-tech company.” Susumu wandered over to the work table. “Turns out we were working the Siren stones wrong. Ryou taught us how to set them into metal without hurting their voice.”

 

“But why did Ryou become a tricycle driver?” Miyo asked. “It sounds like he could’ve just worked here.”

 

Susumu shrugged. “I think he just wanted to do something different. Sometimes you have to take some time to do something else or take everything apart before you can make something new again.”

 

There was a commotion in the hall, the sound echoing down the corridor and came closer.  They both stepped into the doorway, peering out into the corridor. From around the corner appeared a woman wheeling Ryou’s motorcycle on a cart.

 

“It’s a wonderful bike,” Miyo said as they watched it come towards them. “A part of me wishes I could keep it.”

 

“You wouldn’t have been able to.” Miyo’s brow lowered as she turned to Susumu, but he was already stepping forward into the hallway. “Take it to the main room. I’ll start dismantling it in a bit.”

 

“Dismantling it?” Miyo watched with wide eyes as it turned and disappeared down another bend.

 

“Eimi said you were having trouble with it already, right?”

 

“Yes, but it worked perfectly afterward.”

 

Susumu gave her a kind smile. “It only seemed that way. In a couple of days, it would likely fall apart. It would be dangerous if that happened out on the road.”

 

He gave Miyo a pat on the back. “It’s okay, there’s nothing you did to cause that. I’m sure Ryou was expecting it – he helped make it after all.

 

“Our custom bikes are all specially made to be in tune with their designated owner. Once that person leaves, it starts to break down. So we try to harvest the pieces we can and use those to make something new.”

 

“Like a new motorcycle?”

 

Susumu shrugged. “Sometimes. It depends on what’s the best way to present its character. That could be in a motorcycle, could be in a clock, one of our art pieces – we never know until we get a chance to listen to it.”

 

He eyed Miyo for a moment. “Actually, it might make more sense if you were to watch it. Would you like to?” The question was barely out of his mouth before Miyo was nodding her head. He smiled. “Let’s go then.”

 

*

The morning of the next day found the tea shop open at its usual time. But Miyo was filled with a nervous energy that came out in cleaning, arranging, blending – anything that kept her hands moving.

 

Perhaps it was from the energy of yesterday’s dismantling ceremony, as Susumu had called it while he had started an offering of tea. The whole ritual had reminded Miyo of a mixture of a human funeral service and a child’s birth. She had been moved by Susumu’s deep solemnity as he had taken apart the motorcycle piece by piece, cradling each one for a long stretch of time before placing it either on a pile to be discarded or laid out carefully on a white-clothed table to be reused.

 

But after everything had been taken apart, others had entered the room clothed in white, filling the room with song and laughter. For the next couple of hours, they gathered together and used the pieces to create all sorts of things – jewelry, models, and yes, even a clock at one point. At the end of the evening, all of the pieces had been used and given new life. And for Miyo, it felt like she had been as well.

 

If there was one thing Miyo had learned from going up to Cloud Hill, it was that there were so many things that she had yet to learn about Crescent Island. And she wasn’t going to learn any of it if she stayed at the tea shop all the time.  ‘I understand that,’ she thought as she wiped down the bar, ‘But will everyone else?’

 

Her breath caught when she saw Ishikawa stop at the sign placed in front of the store, reading the message. She watched him carefully, but saw no change in his expression as he turned from the sign to climb the steps into the shop.

 

Neither was there anything out of the ordinary as he sat down at his usual chair and ordered his usual cup of tea. A sense of disappointment started to creep into Miyo’s shoulders while she made the tea, but kept everything normal as she placed the cup in front of Ishikawa.

 

Ishikawa silently took up his tea like he usually did. But as Miyo started to back away, he fixed her with a look. “So you liked gallivanting, huh?”

 

Miyo froze, unsure if the rough tumble of Ishikawa’s words were fueled by disapproval or not. She couldn’t blame him if he did disapprove – after all, she was cutting down her hours.

 

But then she saw it, the slight upturn at the corner of his lips and a twinkle in his eye. Her shoulders dropped in relief and she nodded. “It was really fun,” she said, unable to hide the smile that began to spread over her face. “I didn’t realize there was so much to see.”

 

“That was only Cloud Hill. Wait until you go up north.”

 

Miyo straightened with curiosity. “Up north?”

 

Ishikawa took a sip from the teacup, his gaze growing distant as the smile became more prominent. “When I was your age, it was the place to be. There was this one time …”

 

Miyo grinned as Ishikawa began his tale, feeling an energy building in him as he spoke. She recognized it now as the energy of the island, and she was excited to have more time to connect with it herself.

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