Battle of Haibi Chapter 34

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Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 33: The Beginning of a New World

Chapter 34: A Knight Saved

The sun has already set as the haibane return their little camp. The kids (whose labors were more symbolic than useful, except for the enthusiastic Keepsie.) There is a red light on at Hagane's tent.

"Oh, no!" Keepsie moans, forcing her sore legs into a run.

Hagane and Kabocha look at each other in confusion. Keepsie will explain her signal agreement with Kenny later, after the haibane have it figured out. They notice a set of tracks leading towards Defense Tower Five from Samurai's log.

Kenny has the evening batch of bradford tisane ready for the eleven other patients. "Samurai's gone," Kenny sniffles, "He said no one is to follow, and left behind only these." Kenny indicates a small, freshly bound book tied tight with strings. The bookmark sticking out of it is scrawled with "This is how he told me the attack was starting the evening before." The script on the cover is much neater: "The Beginning of the World". Also there is the still nearly fully charged hot plate and a normal looking sword, carefully laid on a cloth.

Janice recognizes it instantly, "It's lost its glow, too," she sobs, then carefully reaches under the cloth, folds it over. "Kenny I'm the only one in the camp allowed to handle this; the only human who's old enough. I'm going to turn it into Kasei in the morning."

As she notices the sharp edge at the tip cut easily through the cloth as she emerges from the tent. Kenny, emerging behind her says, "He was very formal about presenting it to me, and warned that he had just sharpened it. The light of the sword went out the moment the light emerged from the tower."

"I guessed," Kabocha says, taking the dangerous weapon quite illegally by the handle, letting Janice back away, and then placing it back inside its scabbard. With a bow, he returns it, with both hands, back to Janice. "Defender," he says, "Your sword."

Stuck between the once respected warrior and Kasei's new rules, Janice feels very awkward, but takes the sword back with all the grace she can muster.

"This goes with it, ma'am," Kenny says, presenting a small metal rod.

"It locks the hilt to the scabbard," Kabocha says as she takes it.

Janice notices that the key is actually quite sophisticated, as must be the tiny lock in the scabbard. It fits neatly through a hole in the hilt into the scabbard's lock, and when she turns it a quarter turn, a cam engages into the hilt beside the blade. She feels safer already. She withdraws the key back out and offers it to Kabocha.

"It's yours now, Defender," he says with a tear in his eye.

"I can't use it," Janice admits.

"I can't either," Kabocha says, "I never could. The one time he had me hold it, I almost cut my wing off. I think he's the only person who could ever wield it in battle. I think we should just leave it in the scabbard, and remember its glow.

<Now follow,> the voice says, <To the new place of Flight.>

"How could you possibly love me?" Samurai sobs as he trods through the deep snow over the crest of the Hill of Winds, leaving a cracked groove through the wind-forged firn. It is shallower than at the camp, shallow enough that tufts of grass the color of Janice's hair can still peek through in a few places.

<You see your own sin, and you hate it,> the voice sighs, <He who recognizes his own sin has no sin. Keep walking.>

"How can I be forgiven?" he weeps.

< I paid for your sin, precious child. I love you that much.>

"I love Haibi," Samurai whispers, "but I let her die."

< I let my son die,> the voice says, <Not only did I let him die, I asked him to die.>

"But why?" he asks.

<Out of death, can spring new life,> the voice answers, <It wasn't like that at the beginning, but through sin, both man and featherwing introduced death into this universe. That death had to be fulfilled to bring life anew.>

"Your son?" he whispers.

<Yes, my precious child.>

As he takes a swig from his canteen, he feels better. He finds the shattered steps that lead to the observatory just west of Defense Tower Five, although little is left of either the defense tower or the observatory. Little pieces of glass glint in the light of the moon. He shoves the shattered stone and sweeps the pieces of delicate telescope. He holds in his hand a tiny, but still intact ocular lens. He holds it up to see the moon shrunken and upside down, then tosses it into the grass.

"Now what?" he grunts.

<Samurai, my precious child. I still...> Samurai's still glowing halo lands in front of him with a ringing clunk, then rolls off the edge of the platform onto the pile of debris he just shoved off the top. It falls over flat, and as it dims to plain metal, Samurai sees for the first time, dozens of halos in the pile. He must have shoveled them all off the altar-like telescope mount without even realizing it. < you.>

Samurai had not noticed that during the trip, the feathers under his wing covers went from raven black to dove white.

As the haibane mourn, the camp suddenly lights up. Even inside their hollowed out piles of snow, the children, sleeping in twos and threes, are started to wakefulness.

"Whoa!" Janice squeals, "That's-"

"Oh, thank God," Kabocha gasps, "Samurai's Flying away."

Keepsie sits on his log, her shelter on its other side. She sits in silent rapture, tracking the crow circling in the beams of light. In her lap she holds his book. As she looks down at it, she can hear his voice whisper, "I love you, Kikotsu no Haibi. God's precious children." [Note: This is 1129 years before the events of Haibane Renmei Episode 5: Sekai no Hajimari: The Beginning of the World]

Next: Battle of Haibi Epilogue

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