Chapter 5 of Volume 2, Kiki and New Magic, by Kadono Eiko.
“Here, a souvenir.”
Kiki held out the package she brought back from her trip home to Tombo.
“A souvenir? Wow.” As soon as Tombo took it, he pulled open the ribbon and looked in excitedly. “Oh hey, is this one of those bells? The ones up in the trees from when you were a kid? It’s so shiny and silver…”
“It was up there for ages so it got pretty dirty, but I polished it up nice.”
Tombo took off the wrapping and rang the bell. “So what were these for again, anyways?”
“My mom tied them to the tops of some of the tallest trees around my village. Y’know how I decided to be a witch when I was ten, right? I started learning to fly right away, but I could see so much from way up in the air, I’d get distracted looking and lose focus. That’s what the bells were for. If my foot hit one, it’d ring and remind me to fly back up high again. I mean, sometimes I wouldn’t hit any bells, I’d just run into someone’s roof and scare them, or get all scraped up and go home in tears… And then sometimes I’d mess around and ring them on purpose just for fun.” Kiki looked up at Tombo a little shyly, eyes glittering. “Say, Tombo, you seem kinda different. Did you get taller?”
“Hm, dunno… I don’t think so. You’re the one who seems different, come to think of it. Like a mature lady,” Tombo said, smiling gently.
“Huh? R-really?” Kiki raised a hand to her chest as her heart skipped a beat, then kicked at the ground to try and hide it.
Tombo rang the bell once more. “Putting bells up, what a good idea.”
“It’s an old tradition, apparently.”
“I’d love to try it. Y’know, tie bells on the trees all over town and make it a performance when I fly, that sort of thing. Ring, ring, ding, dong, chime chime chiiiime, like that. Fun, right? But of course the problem is I can’t fly, that’s always the problem. Lucky you…” Tombo sighed, pouting jealously at Kiki.
“I feel like I should be apologizing for flying…” Kiki said with a shrug.
. . . . .
“Did Tombo like the bell?” Jiji asked as soon as Kiki got home.
“Yup, he sure did. Still, it was kinda…” Kiki said, flopping down in a chair. “I really don’t get boys…” she muttered to herself. “I wish he’d said a bit more about how I was a mature lady… Whatever.”
“Who’s a mature lady now?” Jiji said, looking up.
“No one,” Kiki said, waving a hand.
“Kiki, are you there?” Osono said, opening the door and peeking in. “There’s a letter for you, here.”
“I wonder if it’s Kokiri…” Jiji said.
Kiki took the letter and tore it open.
“I’ve heard rumors that you fly like the wind. I’m a bit far away, but there’s something I’d like you to deliver for me. My cabin is on Yamamata Mountain, and I’ll have a kite flying so that you can find it. Thank you, Mizuna.”
“Hmm, Yamamata Mountain… Where’s that?” Kiki mumbled under her breath as she studied the map of Koriko City pinned to the wall.
Jiji climbed up on her shoulder to look. “The mountains should be on the opposite side from the sea, right?”
“Right, yeah… Oh! Here we go, right on the edge in the corner… C’mon, Jiji, let’s go!”
“…we don’t have to go right now, do we?”
“Of course we do! This is more fun than just sitting around, and Kiki here can’t let everyone who’s relying on her down, you know~”
“Yeah, but… What about lunch?”
“When we get back.”
“Well, aren’t you important all of a sudden. So cruel, trying to starve me…”
“I’ve got three candies here in my pocket, and I’ll give you two. Alright?” Kiki said, giving her pocket a pat before picking up her broom and Jiji.
“You’re really going all out, what’s up?”
“Nothing’s up! Isn’t this normal?”
“I wonder…” Jiji said, looking up at Kiki.
Kiki opened the glass door to the bakery and looked in. The words “Osono, I’m heading out!” had barely left her mouth before she was up in the air.
“What, already?” Osono called after her in amazement.
“I’m with her, it wouldn’t kill you to slow down a little. You hadn’t even finished talking,” Jiji said with a hmph.
. . . . .
Spring was in full bloom in Koriko, and every once in a while lovely scents would drift past.
“Ah, it smells like apple blossoms! Oh, and this one’s apricot!” Kiki stretched her arms out to one side, then the other as she flew, as through trying to catch the smells. A lively tune flowed from the radio hanging on her broom’s handle. The town, bathed in the brilliant sunlight, gleamed like it was brand new.
Eventually, the houses grew fewer, the green of fields and forests grew deeper, and the mountains appeared from out of the mist. Kiki flew and flew over them all.
“Oh hey, look! There’s a big butterfly there, see?” Jiji said, pointing over Kiki’s shoulder.
“A butterfly? Ah, right, that must be the kite that Mizuna mentioned!”
Finally, over mountains hidden in their soft green, the yellow kite was clearly visible, fluttering in the wind. Kiki followed the kite’s string with her eyes, landing where the string disappeared into the trees.
There was a house there, with a thick grass roof that looked like a little girl’s bowlcut, white smoke gently drifting from the chimney in the center. Next to the door was a sign reading “Tree Songs for Sale.” Kiki couldn’t help but smile; it was just like Kokiri’s “Cold Medicine for Sale” sign.
“I wonder what tree songs are supposed to be, though…”
The door was open. When Kiki looked up, a young man was standing there in white coveralls and a pale green apron.
“Hello, this is Kiki’s Delivery Service. I received the letter you sent,” Kiki said, hurriedly bowing.
“Thanks for coming. I’m Mizuna,” the man said, looking down just a little. The inside of the cabin was one big room, with the bed and the kitchen all visible from the door. There was a kettle whistling on the stovetop. Across from the door, a window looked out on the lawn, letting light pour into the room.
“Wow, it’s so pretty…!” Kiki exclaimed, looking in. Mizuna smiled and opened the window as wide as it would go. “So, what would you like me to deliver for you?” she asked, looking around. There was wood of all shapes and sizes covering the floor, and the soft smell of trees hung in the air. “Could it be one of those tree songs from the sign out front?”
“Yes, that’s right,” Mizuna said a little shyly, picking up a piece of wood about the size of his arm from next to him and holding it out to Kiki. “See the mouth here?”
Sure enough, there was a round hole in one of the knots.
“The tree sings from here?” Kiki asked in surprise, peering into the hole.
“Yes, I give them mouths so that they can sing. I know that trees have to be cut down, of course, but still… I get branches and cut scraps from the woodcutters, so at least I can let them sing like before.”
“Oh, so trees really sing?” Kiki said, leaning forward.
“Oh, you didn’t know? Haven’t you heard them?” Mizuna asked, looking just as surprised as Kiki. “I mean… You’re a witch, aren’t you? I thought witches could understand all kinds of songs and languages, like scarecrows’ conversations and stones’ choruses… I only just learned to understand trees, after living here up in the mountains and listening day after day…”
“Sorry, but I can’t do anything like that, really.” Kiki looked down, suddenly feeling apologetic. “So… When do trees sing?”
“Always. Songs for rain, songs for humid weather, songs for growth, songs for motion. You see those three beech trees lined up out there, all blowing to the left?” Mizuna said, pointing out the window. “They love to harmonize, and they’re singing very cheerfully right now. The weather’s so nice, after all.”
Kiki listened as hard as she could. It did look like they were singing, the way their branches were all swaying together. But all she could hear was the soft sound of the wind and the distant chirping of birds. “I wish I could hear them too…” Kiki murmured absently.
“In that case…” Mizuna said, lifting up the piece of wood he was holding. “This is a chestnut tree,” he said, placing his mouth to the hole he’d called the tree’s mouth and gently blowing.
Tuttutturi, tuuuri, rirriiiiii—
The noise sounded as though it was getting caught somewhere.
“This one is a pagoda tree,” Mizuna said, picking up another piece of wood and blowing into it.
Hehehe heh hehhe—
This time, it sounded like laughter.
“See?” Mizuna said, eyes gleaming with pride.
So these were tree songs? Without meaning to, Kiki tilted her head to the side.
“Is it strange?” Mizuna said nervously as he saw.
“Not at all! It’s just that I’d never heard it before, so… Trees have interesting voices, huh? I kinda assumed they’d have high voices, since they’re so tall and all,” Kiki said, hurrying to laugh it off.
“Oh, sorry, I got all caught up and forgot, but…” Mizuna began, picking up the most odd piece of wood in the cabin from off of a shelf. “I’d like you to deliver this. I really ought to go myself, but I don’t think she’d he happy to see me…” It was a mix of dark and light and greyish wood all combined together into a mysterious shape. “I gathered together all sorts of trees and gave them mouths, so they’d sing a different sort of song together… I call it The Window to the Woods.”
“What a nice name… And the delivery address is…?”
“Do you know Sulck Street?”
Kiki jolted a little.
Everyone knew Sulck Street as somewhere no one would want to be caught walking. Kiki had never been there, but seeing it from the air, it was always sunk gloomily in the shadows of the tall buildings along the shoreline.
“Is that a problem?”
“No, no, of course I’ll deliver it,” Kiki said, accepting the flute from Mizuna.
“It’s for the girl in #3 Seashell Apartments, 39 Sulck Street. Her name is Nashina.”
“Got it.” Kiki turned towards the door. “C’mon, let’s go,” she called to Jiji, letting him jump up onto her shoulder.
“Oh, one last thing…” Mizuna said. “I’d like you to have one of the tree voices, whichever one you want. As a thank-you.”
“Really? Then, how about that one that looks like a little island?”
“That’s red pine.”
“Do you like this one too?” Kiki asked Jiji as she accepted the red pine from Mizuna.
“Mewmeooow,” Jiji replied.
“You can talk to cats?” Mizuna said, eyes wide. “Witches really are amazing… The language of cats must be a lot more complicated than the language of trees.”
“It’s nothing, really…” Kiki said, feeling a little pleased with herself even as she waved it off. “Now then, I’ll be going.” She went outside, sat astride her broom, and took off.
“Oh, and please tell this to Nashina!” Mizuna called, running out after her. “It’s wonderfully lively here, so won’t you come visit? Tell her that!” It sounded as though he put all of his strength behind the words.
Kiki waved to show she understood and flew off, skimming between the mountain slopes.
. . . . .
Sulck Street was just as dark, cramped, and chaotic as Kiki had heard. Dirty water was pooled in the narrow streets, filled with scraps of trash paper. The walls were covered with graffiti. But even so, Seashell Apartments looked the worst by a long shot, with mold growing from damp spots here and there. And to make things worse, it looked like #3 was even half underground. Kiki was shaking a little as she knocked on the door.
“It’s open!” a female voice responded, accompanied by the blare of radio music.
“Excuse me, are you Ms. Nashina?” Kiki said as she opened the door, before stopping dead in her tracks. The only window in the room was a very narrow little one right up against the ceiling, and even though it was the middle of the day, it was as dark inside as though it was evening. It couldn’t be more different from Mizuna’s brightly lit cabin.
A woman who looked a fair bit older than Kiki slipped out in time with the music.
“I have a delivery for you from Mr. Mizuna,” Kiki said, holding the piece of wood out to her.
“Oh? What is it this time?” Nashina said, switching off the radio and turning to Kiki.
“He called it the trees’ songs.”
“Not this again…” Nashina pouted. “He can call them presents, but it’s nothing but pressed wildflowers and maple leaf bookmarks, you know. I mean, what do you think? There are other things a girl’d want, right? He’s a good guy and all, but he’s always kinda, y’know, a little off the mark,” she said, accepting the delivery reluctantly. “There’s always a little something missing.”
“Actually, there was something Mr. Mizuna wanted me to tell you, too. He said ‘It’s wonderfully lively here, so won’t you come visit?’”
“Again, really? I do love him, you know. And I do think sometimes that it’d be nice to be together. I’m always telling him to come here, too. The thing is, I just can’t get used to living like a tree the way he does. Winds and leaves and trees, day in, day out. People might badmouth this place, and you definitely couldn’t ever call it wonderful, but it always feels like something exciting’s about to happen any day now. Sure, it hasn’t happened yet, but… There are new hits on the radio, and if you dress up all nice people turn to look, you know? Trees don’t do anything like that. That’s why me and Mizuna have been apart all this time, both of us asking the other to come see us.” Mizuna shook her head as she laughed, raising the piece of wood to her face. “Hm, this actually smells kinda nice, doesn’t it.”
“Right?” Kiki said, taking a step forwards. “It’s called The Window to the Woods. See all those holes? If you blow into them, it sings.”
“I’d never heard of trees singing until today either. Apparently Mr. Mizuna can hear them, and sometimes they even harmonize. This one’s made of all different branches and cut scraps.” For some reason, Kiki found herself wanting to lend Mizuna a hand. But she couldn’t help but be a little worried that Nashina wouldn’t like that sort of fuuu fuuu— song. “Don’t you think it’s unusual? A tree’s song?” she said, taking another step forward.
“So this is ‘The Window to the Woods?’” Nashina said, looking closely at the piece of wood in her hands. “A little ironic, since the window here’s so small. You blow into these holes, right?”
“Yeah, you should give it a try! I’d like to hear too…”
Nashina blew softly into one of the holes.
“Huh, interesting!” Nashina laughed, blowing into the next hole.
Lilulila lilulila lilulila—
The two sounds overlapped, echoing like voices. Nashina’s eyes widened, brightening, as she blew into another hole.
The sounds kept combining and echoing, filling the room.
It felt as though a big, bright window had opened inside the dark, half-underground room, letting a gentle breeze in.
So these were the trees’ songs.
Was this how trees sang?
It was so different from the ones Kiki heard on the mountain…
The mysterious air had surrounded her completely.
Nashina, too, was absorbed in playing, eyes growing misty.
Finally she stopped, standing absolutely still. “It felt like someone pressing their cheek to mine,” she murmured. “…I’d completely forgotten what that felt like.” When Nashina looked up, some of the sharp light was gone from her eyes, replaced by a faint green, like the reflection of a forest. “Maybe I’ll go see him, just this once.”
“Do you know the way?” Kiki asked hurriedly. “Do you need me to tell you?”
“Yamamata Mountain, right? I know,” Nashina said with a smile. “I can’t fly like you, so I’ll pack a backpack and hike, slow and steady.”
. . . . .
When Kiki got home, she tried blowing into the red pine she’d gotten from Mizuna.
Kiki couldn’t help but laugh.
It was such a funny sound.
She tilted her head to the side thoughtfully.
Anyone would laugh if they heard me play this.
Why is it only The Window to the Woods that sounded so beautiful… There must be something special inside of that wood.
Something sent from one special person to another special person, some kind of special feeling… Maybe that was it.