FHD Remix Chapter 1
To the tune of "Free Bird" by Kou Ootani, the Haibane Renmei opening theme song.
(I deleted the lyrics in favor of the new Youtube Video)
Here's the Story:
9 Days after the Winter Solstice, 54 years after the emergence of Rakka, city of Glie.
"Did you enjoy the Bell Nut Festival, Tsunami?" Menmo asks. She stands just over a metre and a half tall and sounds mature in her tone and words, but not in her voice and looks, apparently about fourteen years old. The small grey wings over her shoulders and the halo fixed over her head as though part of an invisible top hat makes her look like the caricature of an angel, a haibane, a mere memory of the powerful featherwing she inhabits in her dreams. She is stooped over, for her charge is half a metre shorter.
"Yeah, it was so great to see the wall glow!" the little girl squeals from her winter coat, bouncing up and down on her feet. She, too, has grey wing and a halo.
Glie is an enormous fortified area, within which live just under six thousand people, human and haibane, in a curiously isolated world. No one is allowed to leave and come back, except for the mysterious Toga, who cover their faces and never speak. They alone moderate trade with the outside. This is why nobody in Glie knows the word earthquake.
The tremor would be no big deal at all in a city used to earthquakes. The only damage it caused to the community of Old Home was to cause a glass to slide off the kitchen counter and break (although one might wonder how the rickety North Wing could stand at all, let alone the shaking of the ground.) Menmo efficiently gathers up the children and takes a count. The new year begins the Saturday after the winter solstice, always, and the wall glows with a mysterious bright light at midnight every year, echoing the happy unspoken thoughts of all Glie-jin over the Bell Nut Festival, or so they say. The presence of the monolithic stone wall and its strange properties don't bother the Glie-jin. It has always been there.
No person or record remembers an earthquake happening in Glie ... ever.
She wakes up, and quickly realizes that she is in a tank of fluid, large enough that if she curled up, none of her extremities would touch the sides. Well ... perhaps her long flowing blonde hair. Feeling the walls, she wonders if it is a natural construct. Coming back to her senses, she realizes that she is probably in the sensory deprivation chamber of her enemies, and that they are trying to get information out of her. Instinct, however, tells her she can break out of it. While she scrapes away the soft inner layer, she realizes that she is breathing the fluid, not air through a mask; the only thing she's wearing is a plain white gown with a tie closure at her back. She is confused out of her wits, it's like nothing in her mind matches up with her surroundings. The hard shell of the cocoon seems cold. Planting her feet in the soft layer behind her, she starts pounding on the shell with her fist, cracking it, she can feel the pressure dropping around her ears. I have to finish now or I'll die. Die? Didn't she die? She's thinking ... she remembered dying ... or at least suffering life-threatening injuries. Nonetheless, she keeps pounding on the leaking cocoon shell.
It shatters, and the rush of fluid carries her out into the room, which is dark. She holds her breath until the fluid level gets low enough that she can keep her mouth and nostrils above it by resting her head on the edge of the hole she broke in the cocoon. Leaning over the edge of the cocoon facing back into it, she exhales the fluid from her lungs and draws in air, then starts coughing the rest of it up. She passes out on the cocoon's edge.
Waking up, sensing that several hours had passed, she feels very cold, alone in the room. She listens, looks around. Notices the grey sunlight rays poking between the slats on the room's window. <Can I still hear well enough?> she thinks, as she approaches the window in the strange, messy room. Peeking between the slats, she can see that it is snowing outside, the harbingers of a blizzard that is throttling down sun's light. Shivering, she lifts up the still damp gown until the hem is at her ribcage, then concentrates. Sharp pains stab out of her shoulders up her arms and down her back. Impossible, she gasps, dropping it. Examining herself, she appears to be totally uninjured. She dusts off the top half of the body mirror leaning against the wall, the bottom half having been washed by the cocoon fluid. She opens the back of the strange gown and sees two large bruises on her shoulder blades. "Yeah, whatever," she mutters aloud and ties the robe back up. <Did I lose my wings?> she thinks, <I'm freezing ... if I can't deploy, I have to find help or insulation.> Italic text She's not surprised to find the room's one door locked. She was surprised to be able to knock it down with a single kick. Obviously the building she was in wasn't well maintained ... probably totally abandoned. She isn't a prisoner after all. She calls out, "Help!" before she starts wandering down the hall in her search of insulation, clothing, blankets, anything. She's about seventeen-ish, she thinks, but can't remember (what's the point without a calendar and any idea how long she had been in the cocoon anyway?), about 165 centimetres, blonde hair extending past the welts on her back. "Help!" she cries again.
"Coming!" is the answer she hears. Another girl, younger perhaps. The lady is getting weak from the cold and a bizarre fever, so she is happy to hear an answer. The girl emerges from the stairwell door, stunned at her new guest's appearance. She's just 152 centimetres tall with dark hair. The shivering blonde lady gasps at her host's playful cherub features. Wings splay from her back and a glowing halo hovers over her head.
"What are you?" the guest gasps.
"Haibane," she answers simply, "Ashfeather," with an indication to her wings.
"Haibane?" the taller guest gasps, "Where am I? Where are my wings?"
"North Wing, 3rd Floor, the Old Home in the district of Glie," the shorter hosts answers, taking her hand, she instructs, "we have to get you to the guest room before you freeze. Come on!"
Following her host, the young lady runs to the end of a long corridor, then briefly outside into the blizzard, across the snow into the East Wing in her wet bare feet. Her host shows her into a bed, then wraps her up in its blankets.
"'Where are my wings?' she says" the diminutive host teases, "They will grow soon, be patient. I've never heard of a haibane so eager to get her wings."
"I'm not a haibane, I'm a-" she gasps, <What am I called? Why can't I remember??> Switching threads, the guest says. "My wings are secret, but I'll show them to you anyway," she says, she jolts forward, cries in pain. "I can't deploy them!" she cries.
"My name is Menmo," the host says as two more haibane enter the room. "This is Shimoni," she says, then pointing out the taller red head with long hair, "and here is Kurai."
Kurai sighs, "I'm going to get her halo." She quickly retreats.
"So, tell us about your cocoon dream," Menmo says, "Haibane are named after their cocoon dreams. I dreamed about flying in the fluffy clouds like a bird, I had fluffy invisible down over my body to keep me warm ... so my name Menmo means fluffy."
The guest answers, "Perhaps you were once like me."
"You can't steal her name," Shimoni laughs.
"I'm not," the guest sighs, "I just wonder if we were the same kind before we came here. Secret wings."
Shimoni explains, "I dreamed that I was climbing down a deep shaft, climbing what seemed like an endless ladder to get down to the bottom. So I am called Shimoni, for downward."
"I'd tell you my name first, but I can't remember it. I remember such detail about my life," she cries, "it's awful, don't make me describe it now. Let me get my bearings first."
"So," Menmo asks, "what do we call you until then?"
The guest cries, "Tatakai! Tatakai (闘) will be my name in this world," she starts crying. The two haibane gasp.
Menmo sighs, "If that fits your dream, it must be very painful."
The sounds of battle fill her thoughts, she flies over a red battlefield over her enemies, on her Featherwing wings, wielding a large silver weapon with a trapezoidal muzzle. She takes aim at a group of her enemies holding down the firing stud, who look up and see her. The weapon fires a huge green fireball, lightning like emissions come from it, one for each enemy in the group. She banks left to get clear. Her weapon's discharge creates a massive explosion. Drawing enormous amounts of firepower from other enemies below her, she gets ready for another shot as she turns back to friendly territory for more ammunition. She pops a large empty bottle out of the left side of the gun, and from her pouch puts the last of the full green bottles into it. She holds down the weapon's trigger, charging it.
She is hit. Her left wing is blown to pieces. She furls, making her right wing and the shredded root of her left wing disappear. Her left arm gnarls up, her thumb and first finger literally vanish; the remaining three curl around the cannon's lanyard release, the tether between her and the weapon pops loose. Right hand still on the handle, she locks the firing stud and removes the safety interlock while falling out of the sky. She knows she can't make it. She tosses the weapon aside and lets it fall into a dense group of creatures. They throw fireballs from their hands, which burn when they hit. After taking several hits from those, her gun, still close to her in the air, explodes. All she sees is white, and all sound disappears.
"The battle at the end of the world!" she cries.
Menmo suddenly realizes, "your wings are about to come out," she opens the back of Tatakai's robe.
"Get away, get clear!" Tatakai cries. Shimoni and Menmo back away. Tatakai says, "Farther ... I can't control them, I don't know if I can keep them folded ... I don't want to hurt you."
Her wings emerge from her back in a bloody eruption. Tatakai screams, elbows pulled down in front of her, clutching the robe over her breasts. The wings are only slightly larger than the wings of a normal haibane.
Tatakai looks around herself, spreading one of the wings with a groan. "That's it?" she gasps.
Menmo, standing there timidly, mutters, "What we're you expecting? If you had wings before, you don't have the same wings in this world. May we approach now?"
Tatakai nods, "I feel awful. These wings don't feel like my own, and they hurt. Will they ever furl?" she asks.
"Furl?" Menmo asks as she starts to use a cloth to wipe the blood and bits of fat from Tatakai's feathers. "What a mess!" she exclaims.
"My old wings could ... I could deploy and furl them at will, make them appear and disappear. I could use them to fly," Tatakai explains. "Oh," she realizes, "stroke the other way along the feathers, the barbs lean towards the-" she suddenly remembers these are different wings. "Uh, Menmo, which way do the barbules lean on the quills of the feathers? Do they lean towards the feather's root or away."
Menmo answers quickly, "Away, silly, like any feather..."
Tatakai lowers herself to rest on the bed. Shimoni goes around to the other side and starts washing her right wing. Menmo then says, "...except in my cocoon dream."
Tatakai gasps, "Your cocoon dream? Describe your wings, please."
Menmo remembers, "They were big, I can't remember how much they spanned, but I could not reach the tips. They didn't come out of my back like these ... they came out lower, on my sides."
Tatakai sighs, "Menmo, I think we were the same kind before we came here."
"Tatakai," Shimoni asks, "with such a high fever and the pain of your new wings breaking out, you were still able to talk to us."
Tatakai responds, "I named myself Battle, Shimoni. I was a warrior, used to pain and blood," she sighs and plonks her head on the pillow. "Is it safe to sleep?" she asks.
"Of course, Tatakai," Memno says, "We're not at war, and Shimoni and I will be right here for at least an hour to wash your wings." With that, Tatakai closes her eyes and is snoring within a few breaths.
She stirs. <My wings?> she thinks. She props herself up on her arms. <They hurt.> She moans.
"Tatakai?" Kurai starts to ask.
"Remembering," she says, "that I'm a haibane now, not what I was before. What does your name mean?"
"Gloomy," her host says, "I was in a forest at night in my dream, crying. I don't remember what I was crying over." She turns to her, "Tatakai, you are one weird haibane. No haibane has ever slept exactly eight hours, to the second on her first night. And ... you snore like a sawmill! How would you hide from your enemies with a racket like that?"
"I don't remember if I ever slept in my enemy's presence," she sighs, "I guess they told you about me, huh?" Kurai was off getting Tatakai's halo while she named herself.
"Of course," Menmo says.
"You didn't sleep?" Tatakai asks.
"How could we," says Shimoni, "through all that racket? I didn't think a haibane could be that loud, even on purpose."
Kurai chuckles, "You are one strange haibane, Tatakai."
"Really?" she says, sitting up and looking around.
"Really!", Kurai says, "For starters, your wings are pure white, which is the first time ever. Haibane means ashfeather, our wings have alway been gray, always. And, they've never been so big. Your first task will have to be to make your own wing covers, we don't have any that fit you. Anyway, down to business."
Kurai opens the smoking mould with Tatakai's new halo. She places it over her head with tongs. "Feather Tatakai," she says warmly, "To be a guide to your future as a Haibane, I give you this halo."
Tatakai nervously asks, "Are you sure about this?"
"Of course," Kurai says, letting go of the halo. It falls like any ordinary object right on Tatakai's head.
"Ow!" she cries, throwing it away with her fingers, which she then sucks on because of the burn.
Other things drop: Kurai's lower jaw, her arms, and her tongs, in that order. The halo on the floor still glows, adding its own ring shaped burn to the others in the wood on the floor. "Another first," she gasps, "Halos fall from the the heads of new Haibane often, but around, at the least ... I've heard of one that did not even try."
"Let it cool a bit, then we try again," says Tatakai. "Any other firsts?"
Menmo says, "Until you, cocoons never hatched in winter," waving her hands for emphasis, "not even once, and also ... you hatched on a Saturday, Tatakai. That is the first time such things have ever happened."
"What? Oh, no," Tatakai gasps, "That's never supposed to happen, is it?"
Shimoni answers, "Well, I'm not sure about supposed to, only that it has never happened before."
"Tell me, where am I? You said town of Glie when we first met in the North Wing?" Tatakai begs.
"Yes," answers Menmo, "Haibane are not allowed to leave the town, or even approach its walls, only the Toga are free to come and go, and while in town, they never speak or show their faces. Only the Communicator is allowed to talk to them, and usually they sign in a secret language with their hands."
"Walls? Not allowed to leave?" Tatakai gasps, "is this a prison camp?"
Kurai answers this time. "No," she sighs. "It may seem so at times, but really it is a haven. There is evil outside the walls," she explains, "even to touch the walls could mean death, and only herbs from the Haibane Temple can cure the resulting sickness."
"Sickness?" Tatakai asks, "what kind of sickness?"
Shimoni explains, "Nobody knows for sure. You'd feel cold, numb, unable to feel your wings, toes or fingers. You feel fine otherwise, but freezing cold to someone who touches or comes near you ... then you run a high fever you die from without treatment."
Tatakai gasps, "Delta radiation? Oh no!"
Kurai scoffs, "Radiation! Never heard of it."
"Tell me, Menmo," Tatakai asks expectantly, "Who rules Glie?"
Menmo looks at the other two, all three haibane just shrug, "We answer to the Communicator in the temple. He leads the Haibane Renmei, the Ashfeather Council."
Tatakai, increasingly distraught, begs, "Is there a man ... a man with holes in his hands and in his feet, white hair, fiery eyes, a voice that sounds like a waterfall, a glowing face, words that cut like a dagger, feet that glow like bronze? Is there anyone like that, anywhere?"
Again, the haibane shrug.
"Such flights of fancy," Kurai mutters, "You remember that much from before your past?"
Tatakai cries, "I read about him in a sacred text, he's supposed to be here. He saved the world! Saviour!" she wails, "Why are you taking so long?"
Menmo asks hopefully, "You can't remember his name, can you?"
Tatakai shakes her head, "But ... I knew him, where did he go? Saviour!" she puts her head in her hands and cries. "Glie is all that's left, isn't it? The rest of the world is a wasteland because the war I died in before coming here was lost."
Menmo's eyes fade away into her own dream of the future: hoping that a mystical Saviour really does exist.
She notices what she's wearing, the plain white robe that she emerged from the cocoon in. "I know now," she sighs, staunches her tears, and sniffles, "I just have to be patient, don't I?"
At those words Kurai again picks up the fallen halo with the tongs and places it over Tatakai's head. When she lets go, it stays there.
"How many haibane are there?" she asks.
Shimoni answers, "Well, there are more in the Abandoned Factory, but here, there is just us four Elder Feathers plus ... what is it, thirteen?" she turns to Menmo.
"Fourteen Young Feathers," Menmo answers.
"A total of eighteen Haibane in Old Home?" Tatakai asks.
"Good!" Tatakai nearly cheers, "We can tear down that North Wing and use its pieces to build houses that will actually last and be comfortable."
Shimoni says with a smile, "I'm glad you agree, I need help getting the generator out of the basement," she sighs, "I wish the humans would be willing to help, they need the power more than we do, what with their workshops and stores."
"What do you mean?" Tatakai asks, "You're giving the generator to them?"
"She's worried about the old windmills on the Hill of Winds," Kurai says, looking out the window at them, "I can't see what the coughing old generator could have in common with them. They're noisy, but they sound nothing like that smelly old clunker."
"I need to figure out how it works," Shimoni says, "I'm having trouble finding books in the library, but one I saw said something about magnetic induction or something like that. All it did was put some names to what I could just remember."
"So you remember things too?" Tatakai asks, "Like me..." she holds up her fingers about nineteen millimetres apart. "It was red plastic, this wide," she describes, "and I'd put it into the lower opening of this grey stick I hold against my shoulder, a plastic tube under the metal tube would store up to eight of them. I'd pull the forward grip wrapped around the plastic tube in my left hand, that would move the red thing from the plastic tube up into the metal tube and seal it in nice and tight. I squeeze the little lever under my right index finger, so a spring-loaded pin would hit a tiny brass cup in the bottom of the red thing to light this powder, and bang. The plastic cup full of lead pellets would emerge from the red thing, travel out the end of the metal tube and-" She shakes her head in dismay, "Now, I remember what it was for."
"Well, that's not the generator, obviously," Shimoni says, "What I know is that the wind blows the turbine, that set of three wings that glide through the wind, makes it go around. It turns a shaft that goes into the magnetic part that makes the electricity. The generator in the North Wing, and one like it in Kana's tower that I don't want to mess with yet, both use this smelly fluid the Toga bring in called fuel." She tries to use a gesture, "The burning part of the generator mixes the air with the stuff and ... oh , it doesn't matter how, but it turns a shaft in the magnetic part. I think the magnetic part that makes the electricity is the same on the windmill and the generator and that it doesn't matter how we turn it, as long as it get's turned."
"Her normal work is to build and fix houses," Menmo says, "Nobody knows how to build something," she gestures to the North Wing, "That big anymore. I look after the kids."
"I look after the garden in the temple," Kurai says, "The Communicator tried to get me to go under the wall in one of those big robes, but it's scary down there, dark and creepy. He said nothing would ever harm me as long as I never took off the robe, but I couldn't stand feeling like I was being watched. I quit when I felt something invisible slip past me into the suit room on the second day. The Communicator told me to wait for it to go away, but I just opened the outer door and let it back out. He didn't want me to go down there after that."
"She helps Shimoni with the batteries too," Menmo says, "She taught Shimoni how the ring forge works, so Shimoni could build her own to forge the plates. I admire her. It's so arcane working with an exotic metal that gives off bubbles that burn when you put it in water, and that acid is scary stuff."
"Kids are scarier than battery acid," Shimoni protests, "They're so unpredictable and never quit running around."
"Oh, I know," Menmo says, "that kids eventually will get hungry and tired, but that stuff..." She points towards North Wing's western corner, "It can sit in a bottle for years and still burn your hand off."
"As long as you don't get both kids and battery acid together at the same time," Tatakai says.
Both of them put up their hands, "Let's not."