Battle of Haibi Chapter 29

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Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 28: Tailoring the Defense

Chapter 29: Light of Peace

[Features two songs from Tarja Turunen's My Winter Storm: Die Alive (Track 15), and Sing for Me (Track 9), United Music Publishing 2007.]

The sun is near setting when she rouses. It rattles. She reaches for it and feels the familiar shape of the bell nut, then reaches past it to the handle of her rifle.

"They get more active at night," Samurai says, "assuming they're consistent with how they were before they attacked. We can probably expect a major wave."

Janice notices immediately that he has a collection of about a dozen bell nuts, "I thought you said it wasn't a good time?"

"I don't know," he admits, "except that for some reason, Roku has named tonight's operation the Bell Nut Festival."

"What for?" Janice asks.

Samurai shrugs.

"You're kidding, right?" Kabocha gasps in disbelief as he sits watch over what little is left of the aqueduct, the water six metres down on either side of him.

<The order is certain,> the Speaker intones, <No one, anywhere in Haibi, is to utter a word for any purpose from sunset until midnight.>

"Why?" Kabocha asks again.

<Classified,> same answer as before.

He rattles one of the little brown nuts in his hand, then pockets it to bring down two more Hellknights apparently curious about Shiden's activities. This is going to be a tough evening.

Big pieces of stone fly out of the third floor window of Defense Tower Four, splashing into the muck. Somehow it seems to Shiden that he is being far too noisy, now that the sun has set. He hands out his collection of bell nuts to the survivors along with handwritten notes about the Bell Nut Festival. The mud has failed to penetrate the tower structure, but the water has, and slowly drains into the suit room passage. Not all of the humans are following the order for quiet, but those who do wish those who weren't were. Everybody's sick of hearing crying and pain.

Shiden finally makes it down to the first level, and, curious about the herb garden seed stocks, cracks open the door against a fallen floor beam, and stops instantly.

Two crows are huddled together on a light fixture with a telltale flood ring around it. One with a splint on his wing, another with a splint on his foot.

He wraps a towel over his hand and offers it to them as a perch. They take it, and cling to his arm as he wades out into the slowly draining dirty water.

The humans stare in disbelief at the sight. One of the birds shakes off his tail, then tucks his head around and starts preening it. The other guards warily against the curious humans. Kabocha offers them a leaning joist as a perch, which they take, crawling foot over foot up to the highest end of it (quite the task for the one with the cast on his leg) still leaning against its break from the wall.

The crow with the broken wing stares pensively at the amazed humans while the other looks about a few times, then starts preening his left wing.

Shiden considers how to get the survivors out, and decides that the tower can't be evacuated until the mud starts to dry. The water level inside the tower continues to drop, and he wonders how the tower survived. He pulls the barrel out of the turret, and considers for a moment, that tossing it out of the tower might not be a good idea. He sets it into the water, leaning it against the wall. It crackles a couple of times as the hot parts short out. The turret structure is in horrible shape, and he's mystified that the operator's body isn't still in it. He thinks it must have been unmanned, but finds little suit pieces, black feathers, and a few grey feathers. There are also the telltale marks in the ceiling from somebody's halo banging around.

Bang! He looks out into the narrow sector of sky through the open roof, and can see that Kabocha is giving him good cover. He must go to the Flight Well to get fresh water, since he can't get these people out of the tower. Kabocha had raided Western University Hospital for medical supplies and tossed them in while flying around on his flyer.

The suit is getting itchy. He hasn't been out of it in over twenty-four hours. He writes a note explaining why he's flying away, and that the tower is defensively covered.

Roku, her halo too dim, relies instead on the crimson light of the kiosk to write her plan for the Saviour's Light. No enemy will be able to fly to anywhere the point one hundred metres higher than the Central Tower will be visible. After the wall is repaired, the enemy will not be able to see in. Reconnaissance overflight will be impossible. She sighs at the downside, it could be completely forgotten that Haibi even has an enemy since they will never be visible from within the wall either.

It can't be helped. The citizens of Haibi, herself included, neglected to cry out to the Saviour for help before the battle, but only did so after it began. The verse saying to pray that this sort of thing wouldn't happen in the winter, or on a Saturday was quite clear. That day would be horrible for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Poor Kabocha, Deborah, and Jabez. The distress of this time will never be equalled again. [See Matthew 24:19-21]

The time approaches. She taps on the kiosk screen, putting it into the Latin mode. When will anyone even see it again? She knows that the Central Tower has been completely buried. Her trick to seal the door blew the transmitting spire off, along with a piece of the roof. The seventh floor had been isolated, so the wall around it had been cracked at its base by the disturbance. She could hear it rattling in the river's redirected current. She realizes that the entire farming district has been swept away, and that its soil now surrounds her, pressing against the Central Tower.

She bows her head, and hears a metalic clunk. She sees a dim metal disk with a hole in the middle rolling away from her, turning a corner, and slips between the panel edges at the corner of the kiosk. She grabs for it, but it's lost inside the terminal. She can't reach it underneath either. She feels the air over her head, realizing that indeed, that was her halo.

This is going to be quite the Day of Flight!

Roku stands, feeling the Saviour's Light gather into her. Her suit starts glowing like it works again. She holds up her hands.

Nick stands proudly on the kiosk, and signs, "I'm glad I'm going with you."

Roku smiles. She hears the chiming of a xylophone in her head: pin-pon-pan ... pan-pon-pin ... pin-pan-pan. The overture just keeps repeating.

<Sing> her Saviour quietly orders, giving her words.

Open up the night Led by just a feeling All around is light Everything is healing

No more fate and no more mystery Even as time falls away, I live my days Every moment and its memory Not only to survive, to die alive

It sounds beautiful, and so accurate, as the first Bell Nut Festival begins. She hears voices return the call. They seem to be coming from the foundation of Haibi.

Sing for me, my love Sing the right from wrong Here inside my mind Truth is hard to find

They ask her to sing her own.

Overwhelming love Heaven's just a feeling Singing in my blood Keeping me from kneeling

No more fate and no more mystery Even as time falls away, I live my days Every moment and its memory Not only to survive, to die alive

Roku cries, knowing that the song describes her life ... both lives ... as a living sacrifice for the Saviour.

Kabocha, standing at his post, stares in disbelief at the enormous spire of light that has just struck out of the middle of town. Roku's Day of Flight? It illuminates hundreds of enemies, both in the air, and on the ground. Despite their brightness, Kabocha's rifle can't lock onto them. He aims manually, and pulls the trigger, no effect.

Suddenly a wave of light gently pushes him away from the town. He hears singing coming from the wall perimeter, feels rumbling.

Sono mihi Sono mihi

What the heck is that? He has fallen over somehow. Looking up, he can't see.

Janice, standing guard at the ruins of Tower Five, squeaks as an enormous chunk of stoneforge next to her comes aglow. The high-power circuitry in her rifle pops with a flash that startles her into dropping it. The sixty metre slab of stoneforge is lifted from beside her, apparently by the will of this light. It feels so much like the one that protects her.

Now it is protecting everyone. The enemy creatures vaporize around her just as their onslaught begins in earnest to wipe out the few survivors. Many were cloaked wraiths. This light has no trouble finding them.

The huge pieces of fallen wall return to the places they fell from, and the light forges them back together. Janice falls to her knees as she watches in amazement. The light of the Saviour is rebuilding the wall in front of her eyes.

The sound of angels and children singing surrounds her. She looks about, now seeing no sign of the enemy at all, but the wall rising back into place all around Haibi.

Beside her, Samurai struggles to get his mask off. He looks at her momentarily, then around him, just as flabberghasted.

The glow slowly fades from the wall, along with the singing.

When Samurai returns his gaze to Janice, she's stunned. Samurai really is the most recognizable Defender, after all.

She reaches for his shoulder, and instantly on touching it, recoils and yelps, trying to contain her cries for the rule of silence. Her hand is stratched up pretty badly from the damaged suit.

"I-" Samurai whispers, "guess the battle's over."

Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 30: Snow Flies

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