[Part 3 of 4 in an ongoing translation of a Japanese children's story first published in 1919 by Yoshio Toyoshima. You can read an intro and part one here, and part two here.]
So the prince continued to go to the garden on moon-lit nights to wait for the wood elf. But the wood elf never came for him. The prince gazed sadly at the castle back gates. Those iron gates were shut so tight, there was no way the prince could open them in the evenings.
After turning it over in his mind many times, the prince discussed with his nanny, an old woman, on how she could help him go to the Bamboo Oak forest. The old woman pitied the prince, and then they came up with a good idea.
One day, while the king was strolling in the gardens, the prince and the old woman went out to meet him, and the old woman said to the king:
"This garden is beautiful on moonlit nights, but it is much too lonesome by oneself. Just once we should open the castle gates and let the townspeople come in, to dance and have fun while we do some moon gazing."
And the prince piped in and added:
"That would be so much fun. Father, can't we do it please?"
And because the two encouraged it so much, the king finally acquiesced. Immediately, he told his retainers to begin the preparations.
It was a big commotion that night. The king took to his stage, and held a banquet with a huge number of his servants. From front to back the castle gates were opened, and almost all the townspeople came. Everyone dressed up, and danced in the castle gardens, and played many songs. The moon shone in the clear night sky. Not even torches were allowed to to be lit. It was like the people of the castle surged with moonlight and music and dance and delicious smells.
The prince, with his nanny, quietly escaped from the back gates. Then, the old woman waited at the entrance to the Bamboo Oak forest, and the prince entered the forest alone.
However, when he reached the same clearing as always, there was no one there.
Along the sides of the clearing, moonlight silently trickled through the top of the tall trees. The bustling commotion from the castle resounded weakly from far away.
The prince waited a long time. Tears accumulating in his eyes, he called out "Princess Chigusa, it's me!" But he did not catch a glimpse of either the princess or the wood elves.
Finally, wiping away his tears, the prince gave up and returned to the castle. Even though the old woman who waited for him at the entrance asked him many questions, the prince, looking sad, completely ignored her.
The prince thought to himself: Why didn't Princess Chigusa come out for him? What did she mean when she said that something sad was going to happen? He felt like the princess was his dead mother, but was that really so? Why didn't she tell him anything?
Eventually, something sad did happen. The rich people of the castle wanted to chop down the Bamboo Oak Forest trees to turn them into lumber, and in the remains of the forest start new fields for crops. The people around the castle were multiplying, and they needed lots of wood for new houses, and more land to grow wheat, rice, and other grains. There was no one to oppose them, and the king granted the rich peoples' requests to cut down the forest.
When the prince heard this he was shocked, and begged the king to stop, but he had already permitted it, and he would not grant the prince's wishes.
The prince was devastated, and locked himself in his room everyday. But while he did that, little by little, day by day, the bamboo oak forest was disappearing.
The only strange thing was, every time one of the large trees of the forest was cut down, many voices could be heard from all around. ———bird, bird, red ———bird, bird, blue ——— bird, bird, violet ——— bird, bird, green ———bird, bird, white———And each time, one by one, white and blue and violet and white and black and yellow and many other colored birds flew from the trees. The prince stood at the edge of the forest, gazing sadly at the birds flying away.
However, the lumberjacks could not hear those voices at all, and didn't suspect much of anything when they saw the many birds fly away. The trees of the forest were rapidly disappearing.
When the trees started disappearing closer and closer to the clearing inside the forest, the prince could no longer just stare at what was going on. That night, the light from the full moon shined beautifully.
The prince, all alone, creeped away to the back gates of the castle, but the gates were shut tight. The prince, with tears of frustration flowing down his cheeks, resolved to spend the whole night there, until someone opened the gate for him.
But then, strangely, the gate opened all by itself. The prince, feeling like he was in a dream, escaped from the castle and ran off.