Battle of Haibi Chapter 30
Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 29: Light of Peace
Chapter 30: Snow Flies
The sad nut rattles softly in his hand as Deborah turns him over against his shoulder. Jabez softly beats her mother over the head with it, then lets out an equally sad little squeak. The two hide in Defense Tower Four with other refugees under a fallen floor leaning against the wall of the tower, listening to the rain fall on it.
It is the day after the winter solstice, and the rain that falls is warm enough to drink. She tastes it, thanking God for his mercy. It is incredibly pure and clean, at least when she catches it in her hand before it has washed off any of the mud covered debris above her.
A Defender plunks down beside her, holding his mask in his hands. It is fried. Nothing glows except his halo. The Defender struggles out of his mud covered armor and sets it aside. Finally he speaks, "I'm sorry."
"Oh!" she gasps, holding her son upon her shoulder with one hand while reaching for him with the other.
"Deborah, I'm sorry," he says as he looks into her eyes.
"Kabocha!" she squeaks, embracing him, "You're alive!"
Jabez doesn't seem too enamored with the idea of being squashed between his parents, and starts wailing about it, much as he wails about everything that bothers him. He finds himself warmly cuddled in the big hands of his father, and sees the smiling eyes and gentle comforting hiss of his teeth. He feels safer already.
"You're safe, now, Jabez," Kabocha says, suddenly feeling the ache of war in all his bones and with every twitch of his tired wings.
"How bad?" his wife asks.
Kabocha just shakes his head. "The main thing is, that we really are safe. Thanks to the Saviour. I feel though, that winter will return soon."
"So, haibane," the young man on the other side of him asks, "We're safe from the enemy but not safe from the cold?"
"What about food, haibane?" another asks.
"Please," Kabocha begs, "It's been a tough week. Please let me rest until sunrise. Gather some rain for yourselves, get some sleep."
"Do you care for us at all any more?" one sobs.
The human doesn't realize that outside, the Defender's semi-deployed flyer wing hangs from the wall of the tower, gathering the rain. Enough for days.
Samurai and Janice walk into the Western University, and head over to the west wing, peeking into the emergency room, finding the fallen Soul Cube replica.
Janice picks it up and looks at it, caressing an edge. "We've lost everything, haven't we?"
"Not everything," Samurai says, "but far too much." He sees his wings in a mirror. They are again grey. He hangs his head. He was responsible for the defense of Haibi. He failed.
Streaks of blood on the floor are fresh, and there are several burn marks punctuating them. Samurai stoops and touches, checking the temperuature. Ice cold.
"Kids, where are you?" Janice calls out, "The monsters are gone." She puts a bandaid on her finger from the cupboard. She gathers up a bunch of supplies to take back to Flight Well.
The girl emerges. "Haibane," she grunts, "You were supposed to protect our families. Where were you?"
"I was protecting you and your families," Samurai weeps, "I wasn't successful. I'm so sorry."
"I hate you!" she screams, "Why couldn't you protect us from the monsters after you got here?"
The girl steps aside as Samurai pushes the door open to the hallway.
Only a few of the children are still alive. Many have been slashed by wraiths.
"Janice, get that stuff in here!" Samurai gasps, choking on his words.
He stoops to staunch the bleeding of a wound, but the victim is hopelessly cold, obviously with a fatal dose of delta radiation. Memories of how Taka died flood his mind. He weeps, "I'm so sorry."
Janice, stooped beside the accusing girl, says, "Blame the enemy for his part as well. The Haibane Renmei never meant for all this harm to come to us. And they suffered worse than we. Only six haibane are left in all of Haibi."
Janice notices that black spots are spreading among the barbs of Samurai's feathers. "I'm so sorry," he bawls, "Please forgive me."
"There's another haibane!" a human voice cries out in the wreck of the Defense Tower as the sun rises.
"Honey," Deborah prods her husband, "Kabocha, they're saying they've found another haibane.
"Alive?" he wonders.
"How did he get a cast for his wing so soon?" the human complains.
"Yuki," Kabocha realizes, struggling to his feet and staggering over to the site of the commotion. "He was injured on Tuesday, when the Toga were attacked," he explains.
Only Yuki's upper torso is visible. A pile of flooring, planters and a computer desk rests on his pelvis. He clutches his rifle. His halo is bent at a crazy angle, and flickers as it slowly rotates over is head.
Kabocha reaches the shivering Defender, "Yuki, you're alive."
"I'm dying," he trembles, "with a weapon in my hands."
"Did you get any?" Kabocha asks as lightly as he can.
"Didn't even get a shot off," Yuki chuckles, "Is Haibi safe yet?"
"Yes," Kabocha says, "Haibi is safe."
"I wish I could have done more," he weeps, "I bet Samurai does too. Now, you might want to back away."
"Oh, Yuki," Kabocha says, "Whatever for?"
As he says that, Yuki's tattered halo blinks out and slides from the top of his head onto the floor with a ringing tap. "You don't want to wind up like Roku."
Kabocha embraces him, "Yuki, it's not snowing right now. It's a warm rain, Sunday."
"I know, boss," he gasps, "Roku."
"She's missing, probably buried in Central Tower," Kabocha weeps.
"Wrong," Yuki says, "She's left the nest. Her Flight released this light that now guards us." He points the rifle up and pulls the trigger, eliciting only the slightest click from the fried rifle, "and now we have nothing else to rely on."
"Roku's light?" Kabocha asks.
"No!" Yuki grunts, "Is this my rifle?"
Kabocha understands: The rifle belongs to Haibi and was issued to its Defender as a tool for carrying out his duties.
"The light was issued to her by a higher power," he smiles, "And now, it's my turn for a taste. Back away now."
Kabocha tightens his hug on his friend and subordinate.
"Now, boss!" Yuki urges, weakly pushing at him.
"Farewell, Yuki," he cries, "I love you."
Immediately he backs away, grabbing a man's arm, "Everyone turn away," he orders.
Yuki's beam shoots into the sky above, through the open roof of the tower. Several gasp.
"Farewell, Haibi," Yuki says in a strong voice, "I love you, too."
Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 31: Triage