Battle of Haibi Chapter 3

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Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 2: Old Hat

Chapter 3: Growing Pains

"Sadist," Shinzoo grunts.

Hagane actually laughs. After a few seconds and a sigh, he says, "I guess I deserve that remark now."

Shinzoo smiles.

"To tell you the truth," Hagane says, running a hand over his own black hair, under his halo, "I find it harder to watch someone else's wings come out than it was to feel my own." He sincerely sighs, sitting backwards on the chair next to Shinzoo's bed, "It drives me up the wall that I can do nothing for your pain."

Shinzoo winces as one of his bloody wings twitch almost imperceptively. Kammy wipes the sweat from his brow as he asks, "The worst of it's over, right?"

"Yes," Hagane says, "Now, I'll wash them for you, using a mild soap that won't sting your root wounds. After which, I'll comb the barbs back together with some of my own preening oil. The gland is right between the wings, but it would be uh ... inadvisable to try reaching it right now."

"Unh," Shinzoo grunts as he pulls his fruit smoothie close enough to get the straw into his mouth. After a sip, he says, "It hurts when I move my arms." He curls the other fingers besides his index finger around the straw to adjust it.

"Rest." It is Hagane's soft, but insistent order, "You can learn how to sort them out tomorrow, after your emergence fever has run its course. How's the smoothie?"

"Uh," Shinzoo thinks about it ... and thinks about it. Finally he sighs, and takes a sip with an appreciative smile, "It has no competition."

"Better than the last one you had?" Hagane chuckles rhetorically.

Not sleepy, having had a long night's rest just before his wings emerged, Shinzoo instead studies an anatomy poster, connecting the names to his memories of how the heart works. Without it, rest would be a grating bore.

Roku brushes her red hair out of her eyes and then reaches down to tap on the console. The stoneleaf book's page turns under its own power, new Toganese glyphs reforming into Japanese ones. After a few seconds, she taps it again to flip another page. The book's pages turn from right to left, the reverse of Japanese convention. She flips another page, and another, obviously without enough time on each to read everything. "Samurai, I know the enemy's tactical doctrine," she insists, "I know this stuff as well as if I wrote it myself."

"Maybe you did," Samurai says with slap on her shoulder. He turns and looks seriously at her, "Let's try some training, then."

They move from the top floor of Haibi's seven storey central tower down to the fourth, via one of the four long flights of stairs that climb up each of the four walls outside the tapered tower, shaped almost like the cross between a pyramid and an obelisk, or a solid stone version of the Eiffel Tower, an ancient relic that few in Haibi know of. Entering through an opening, they close the door, and in the darkened room, Samurai introduces her to the simulation training.

As the sun sets, she emerges from the training deck, with Samurai looking exhausted beside her. Roku, in good cheer, turns to him and asks, "So where's the obstacle course?"

Samurai turns to her and puts her hands on her shoulder and says, "In the morning, Roku, you will lead us."

"What?" she gasps. In her surprise, her red hair jumps from her head and several dozen strands cling stubbornly to her halo.

"In a simulation, Roku," Samurai assures her, "I was going to lead it, but Kabocha, my opposing force commander wants to be on active duty. I want to grant his wish."

Roku now seems overwhelmed, "I've only been in Haibi three weeks," she says.

"I want to be the opposing force commander against you in this simulation," Samurai says, then he winces, "The prospect of taking you on in battle scares me ... You're so good at it ... You might even have been Devon Campbell."

Roku can hardly get any sleep with that thought in her head, and so, arrives at the morning simulation almost exhausted. Samurai clobbers her. His simulated Guardians easily smash through the gates, flooding her simulated Haibi with simulated delta vector, and eating its hundred and sixty-five thousand simulated inhabitants alive while Roku bawls helplessly, paralyzed and chewing on her fingernails, the real-life sector commanders doing their best without her.

"Okay," Samurai says, "Obviously you weren't a general."

"Obviously," she weeps.

Samurai checks the time. Roku's ignominous defeat was so swift that they have time for at least a significant run at another simulation. Calling Kabocha from his boring watch on the wall, Samurai runs the opposing force attack while Roku runs a simulated plasma turret in the west sector, from the Central Tower's fourth floor. (As such an obvious target for the enemy, Central Tower is used only for training and meetings.) She wipes out over half of his aerial forces as he attacks her sector like it is the weak point in Haibi's defenses.

"Kabocha," Samurai says in exasperation, "How did you get all those Guardians in Sector Five with the mortars? The mortars can't lay fire that accurately no matter how hard we try. You were scoring too many hits on their portals. You cheated."

Kabocha bows his head apologetically, as though guilty. Finally, he sighs, "Your new girl was timing when she shot down the Seekers to coordinate with our fire ... You should be able to tell in the replays," he sighs. "It took me an hour to figure it out myself, but she was shooting Seekers just as our mortars started to fire a salvo, and your Guardian portals opened just in time for the bombs to land on them."

Samurai blinks, then replays the simulation, watching her fire patterns, and within minutes of the attack starting, she had figured to shoot Seekers in response to the mortar crews on the ground behind the walls reporting that they were ready to fire, momentarily ignoring all other targets. "Who is she?" Samurai gasps.

"Very good," Kabocha says, "Consider this: The Campbells never led an army. They were guerilla. Never had more than twenty people under their command."

"So she could still be," Samurai considers the implications.

"The Last Warrior," Kabocha says, "I've read the prophecy in the tags. The Final Warrior of the Final War returns to prepare the way for the Saviour's return, leading to the salvation of many and the return of the white wings." Kabocha quietly prays, his white haibane wings twitching, "If it's true we will see flying wings again in her lifetime, and actually get to meet the Saviour."

"But the return of the flying wings, that's what gets me," Samurai reflects, "Wouldn't she be a featherwing? She was so awkward with her wings her first week here, not at all like the Praeleanthor featherwings. Anyone who went into Praeleanthor with flying featherwings knew how to use their ash featherwings after Deployment."

Kabocha stares as Samurai continues, "I just have doubts that the Saviour would be so predictable. Older prophecy says <<No one will know the day or hour.>> [Matthew 24:36] The last warrior's prophecy also says white wings, not flying wings. And you have white wings, and so does she ... We've always had white wings among us." Samurai says, "I'd say, let's just do what's right in front of us, and all will be made plain in time." Samurai suddenly regards Kabocha's surprised expression, "What's the matter with you?"

"Take a look at your wings," Kabocha gasps.

Samurai spreads one and looks at its white feathers. "Huh," he smiles, "I just started taking this Saviour seriously and my wings turn white. I wonder if that's what really matters, knowing the Saviour?"

[Footnote: Kabocha has no kanji, is Japanese for pumpkin]

Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 4: Birth Without Violence

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