FHD Remix Chapter 2
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 1: Precious Child; A Shaky Start; The End of the World
Chapter 2: Forgotten Beasts; Familiar Mask; Silent Towers
She flies over the nameless battlefield, Tatakai dreams, still unable to remember her old name, nor those of any of her colleagues. She took off that evening to tackle an enormous monster that was threatening a village, had cut off its evacuation route. The enemy she fights against has no qualms about wiping out whole camps of refugees. She flies. She is supporting a squad on the ground who are armed with rifles. She is armed to the claws for this one. She has a rocket launcher on each of her grey wings and in her hands is the super-cannon she remembered dying with in her cocoon dream. In this memory, she does not remember the name of the beast, but somehow winds up refering to it as Hogosho in her later recollections (Japanese for Guardian.)
This monster is the size of a dump truck, walks on all fours and on her back is glowing veins as though her blood were liquid steel. As she trots along, her eyeless, earless head doesn't turn, but looking out for her are three glowing worms flying about ahead of her, with flashlight-like heads, each of these smaller creatures is about the size of a trash can, a bit more than a metre long.
There are several types of monsters on the ground, but the most dangerous to her squad, as well as being the easiest to take on the wing, are the enormous Bushi no Shito (Hellknight or Baron of Hell), which throw green fireballs capable of blowing a marine armored car to pieces. <There's only eight of them>, she thinks. Smaller, but far more dangerous to her, are the commandos with the chain guns. Watching their tracers trying to find her, she cuts loose a pair of her rockets and goes into a harsh right roll. Her team's sniper concentrates on them from a distance, switching ammo types with a big straight pull handle. In one mode it will launch high speed projectiles just under thirteen millimetres in diameter. In the other, it emits straight blue streams of plasma, almost like lightning. She hears over the device she forgets is called a "radio" that his position has been compromised, and that he is in range of the Bushi fireballs. She comes in low over the field, able to line up four of the beasts, who are too busy dealing with her sniper friend to notice her. She empties her eight remaining rockets into the beasts, and lets loose a broadside single charge from her large cannon.
She lands in the midst of her squad, two of her colleagues nursing wounds that burn instead of bleed. She pops the bottle out of her super-cannon while slashing one of the small orange-fireball throwers, or Inpu (Imp) with her left alula claw. A colleague reloads her rocket launchers for her, anxious to see her back in the sky. Two others cap the Hogosho's glowing Sakigake (Seeker). She taps a rifleman with a primary, telling him to spare the little creature for a few seconds while she slams home a replacement bottle in the left side of her super-cannon.
"Tora! Tora! Tora!" she screams as she runs several paces in the direction of the Hogosho. (After she wakes, she'll realize that she was speaking a different language, and these weren't her actual words.) Her rifle colleague shoots the Sakigake creature, which goes dim and drops. The Hogosho calls for more as Tatakai lifts off, getting her alula claws back into her rocket launcher trigger loops. Flapping to gain altitude, she clears over sheets of fireballs emanating from the beast. The Hogosho's portal opens up as she charges her super-cannon. The Hogosho sees her way too late, rising high over her own horizon in the angriest shade of flourescent green. Too late to change her mind over the portal she has opened above herself, the almost blind creature is almost totally unaware of anything other than Tatakai without her seekers. The green fireball separates from Tatakai's super-cannon, which she then lets go of because it is too hot for her hands, letting it dangle from a lanyard she doesn't release in this flight. Six rockets pass the fireball on their way to the glowing blue portal above the Hogosho. She screams the name of a fallen friend, so silent is her voice in the dream. Tatakai the Haibane can feel the loss and rage of Tatakai the Featherwing in her mysterious dream.
The Hogosho screams as her portal is destroyed. She falls down and comes apart into flaming bits. Tatakai lands next to her sniper colleague, now deceased, his body torn apart by one of the smaller creatures. "Saviour!, we need you now!!" she cries as she surveys the human smithereens that used to be her marine squad. Without time enough to rest, hardly mourn, she raises the sniper's rifle to her shoulder and starts using it immediately, her super-cannon still too hot from the Hogosho. Now that the route is clear, she must get the village evacuated before it is overrun.
Tatakai wakes from her dream in her room in the town of Glie, lying on her face, her small white wings spread from her shoulders. She has cut into her simple white gown, openings for the wings she had in her previous life. In gratitude, in mourning, or perhaps, just in case. Even she isn't so sure. Her recently completed wing covers are on the end table beside her, needle still on the thread, dangling over the edge.
"Eight hours exactly," Kurai remarks dryly, "four nights in a row. I'll use you to calibrate my clocks," she giggles.
Tatakai, folds her new wings over her back, then sighs with a tear, <Now I have time to mourn, to rest after the battle, under the altar with my friends, waiting for the Saviour's return.>
"How do your wings feel?" The shorter red-haired girl asks.
"Like they belong there," Tatakai sighs, rolling her eyes up at her halo, "I don't like unknown things. And this life is so much different. It still feels like I could get deployment orders any moment."
"Well, the Communicator gave you four days before summoning you to the temple, so he probably won't let you speak. You'll need to know how to use your wings." Kurai takes Tatakai's hands one in each. "It's usually a bit of effort to get your wings and arms to respond separately."
Without so much as a twitch in her arms, Tatakai flaps her wings and does several twists and turns, as she says, "Take off, bank left, bank right, turn, climb, dive," and as her feathers flatten against her back, the first couple of primaries hugging her sides, "land," and a couple more flaps. "But there's not much point is there? They're too small to fly with."
Kurai lets go of her hands and sighs, "I keep forgetting, sorry. Let's just skip to the signals." Kurai tells her about the ornamental bells, greeting is a slight bow and wringing the bells on your wrists. Yes is ringing the bells on your right wing, No is ringing the bells on your left wing. [Haibane Renmei Episode 3]
She gets up, accepts Kurai's offer of hot water, which she then uses to clean her new body. As she cleans her wings, she misses a husband she can't remember, who cleaned her large grey wings for her. She misses cleaning his mottled red wings as well.
She goes up to the temple to visit the Communicator in a green dress, with unused ports for her featherwings. The green pattern has some "patches" that are lighter a bit closer to yellow, and others that are darker, closer to blue.
She stands there, with her bells on her wings and wrists. The old voice asks her, "You named yourself Tatakai (Battle) based on your cocoon dream? Is that correct."
Tatakai shrugs both wings. She wants to talk, ask a few questions of her own, she's really not in the mood for this silent formality that is being imposed on her.
The Communicator appears. Tatakai starts enough that her bells jingle. The strange one-eyed mask that he wears. She has seen it before, but she can't remember where.
"Really," says the old voice of the Communicator, "You need to learn to use your wings as part of your body."
Tatakai gives him a wry smile, one that says, "I'm not going to take this insult seriously." She flaps her wings once, and the bells disappear under her ventral coverts, silenced by her alula claws. Then she flaps vigorously several times, blowing a few of last year's leaves all around behind her. Extending both her arms, she twirls around on her feet one way, then the other, her wings making the proper movements to maneuver her if she were airborne on the wings of her previous life, a beautiful smile shines on her face, and the bells on her wrists still jingle. She pauses, facing the Communicator, flaps several times as she returns to the greeting position. With her wings fully spread, she releases the bells from her claws, bows slightly, then folds them neatly over her back in a way no other haibane has done before, first primaries crossed behind the small of her back.
"Impressive display," the Communicator says. Tatakai quickly extends her left wing, jiggling the bells vigorously. An emphatic "NO!" according to temple procedures.
"Explain!" he barks.
Tatakai pulls from a breast pocket a drawing of herself in her previous life, featherwings properly deployed, in actual flight.
"You may speak," the Communicator says.
"I could really fly. I was a warrior in the last battle; killed in action. The battle must have been lost. A question please?"
The Communicator (more casual than in the Haibane Renmei series), responds, "What is your question, Feather Tatakai?"
"Do you know the Saviour?" she asks, "He is why my wings are white."
"You made him nervous mentioning the Saviour," Kurai explains.
Tatakai unfolds her right wing, then chuckles at herself, "Oh, we're not in there any more. Yeah, I could smell some adrenaline there." She seems to be remembering something. "That mask, that mask," Tatakai sighs, "I must have seen something like it in, dang ... somewhere the ground never stopped shaking."
Kurai stops, "Say what?"
"That's all I remember about it," Tatakai says, "Why does it matter?"
"Because he feels the same way about you, Tatakai," Kurai says, resuming her pace, "The night before you arrived, the ground shook. So far as we can tell, it has never happened before in this town's entire history!"
"Then the first haibane with white wings shows up and names herself Battle and says it's because of the Saviour," Tatakai affirms, "Not stuff you're used to, I take it."
"What are you here for?" Kurai asks as though Tatakai was sent by Glie's original architect, complete with marching orders.
"I have no idea," Tatakai says, "only this feeling that whatever it is, is just beginning." She walks a few more paces and says, "...and..."
Kurai, after a couple more of the slow paces back to Old Home from the temple, "And?"
"That," Tatakai sighs, "something else is coming to its end."
The next day, as they walk down the grassy, rutted road to the town of Glie, in the middle of the circular area enclosed by the mighty wall, with a section nestled over towards the eastern limit, Tatakai and Shimoni chat with each other. The hay field next to them is cut and shut down for the winter, stiff stubborn blades of its perennial grass poke through the snow.
"You look familiar," Tatakai says to Shimoni.
"Something from your dreams? Perhaps we met in our previous lives," she offers.
"I don't think so," Tatakai says, "I'm remembering you as though I've seen a picture of you." She stops and closes her eyes, "Please let me see, Sa-" her eyes pop open. Suddenly she turns to Shimoni and asks, "What was your cocoon dream again?"
"I don't remember it completely but I was on a tall ladder," Shimoni tells. "Below me something was rotating and the wind changed direction around me. That wind change felt very very wrong. Only time in real life I've ever felt anything like that was that ground tremor, but it wasn't as bad. That's all I can remember."
"I saw your picture at the bottom of a ladder, in a small," Tatakai is frustrated that she can't find the words, "device with a glowing window into it. That's not right, but it's the best I can do right now. I used the device to-"
"To what?" Shimoni asks.
"We'll talk about it later," Tatakai says with tears on her cheeks, "I can only process so much at once, and I just, for the first time since I emerged from the cocoon," Tatakai sobs, chews on her knuckles. "Just now, I heard him."
"Heard who?" Shimoni asks.
"It was just a whisper, but after, who knows how long I've been asleep," Tatakai rambles, "It's incredible to hear his voice and feel his love, even if I can't remember his name. To be able to know that his blood still works in this world, and- and- just to know-"
"Tatakai," Shimoni turns to her crying friend, Tatakai's eyes and tears are just as complex and bewildered as her words, as she, among other things, compares the Shimoni in front of her with the image of the lady on her handheld device in the vision. "Who are you talking about?" Shimoni finally asks.
"The Saviour!" Tatakai cries.
"I still have no clue who you're talking about," Shimoni says, "You're the only person I've ever met who's used the word like that."
"He says, All authority has been given to me. Go and make disciples of all the nations," Tatakai bawls, "baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything I have taught you. I will always be with you until the end of the world, he says." Tatakai raises her arms in bewilderment, "What does that mean? I mean, the world has ended. Shimoni, I have no idea who I'm talking about. What does baptize mean? All I know, is that it works."
Works on what?
After several minutes of silently walking along, they start talking about the more practical problems of of the windmills and North Wing housing project.
Shimoni isn't brave enough to take the erratic "newborn" to the clock tower, so it falls to Menmo a few days later. Tatakai stands nearly chin to forehead on the diminutive elder as they look over the railing.
"It's a circle?" Tatakai asks.
"Yes," Menmo says, "The wall around Glie is a big circle, and we're in the middle of it. This is the tallest structure in town, and still it can't see anything over the wall. It helps that the tower is in the bottom of the shallow bowl that Glie is in."
"Nobody knows this world's context," Tatakai says, "It is being hidden from us. Glie could be in the middle of a forest, the middle of the sea, or even floating in the air, and there's no way we'd be able to tell. When the Toga open their gates, there is an inner and an outer gate." She sighs, "And whenever the inner gate is open, the outer gate is closed. Nobody outside can see what is inside. Nobody inside can see what is outside, and the only clue we have is delta radiation sickness."
"Isn't it wonderful in Glie?" Menmo asks, "From what I've seen, it's better than I deserve. Could this be heaven, Tatakai?"
"No," Tatakai says flatly, "I know its not because there are too many things to cry about. Do people still die?"
"Haibane usually don't," Menmo answers cheerfully. Tatakai snaps her head at her so hard she wondered if it might twist off her friend's neck. "If a haibane escapes her circle of sin, she is called and guided to the forest shrine, and disappears in a brilliant flare of light. It is our Day of Flight." Menmo stoops over the railing, tears in her eyes.
"What's the matter?" Tatakai asks.
"Rakka," Menmo sobs, "I still miss her, even after eight years. I knew her for only eight months. She was sweet, and her kindness never ended. Her name means meddling nut, and she could meddle, I tell you. As soon as I felt like I needed to talk to somebody about anything, especially my cocoon dream, she would visit and casually bring up the topic. No pressure at all, but somehow she knew what was weighing on my mind." Menmo reflects on the old lady, who was about sixty years old physically when she left. "She was the Communicator too, always wore the mask in the Temple and when the Toga were around, said they were uncomfortable without it." Menmo sighs, "She warned me that she was the only Communicator she knew of who was comfortable showing her face, and that her successor would probably never be seen without his mask."
"She was right, there," Tatakai affirms casually, then reflects. "Rakka." Tatakai tries the name on her tongue, "Seems like an odd name if it's meddling nut. That doesn't sound like a cocoon dream; just hearing it I'd sooner guess that it meant falling."
"I don't know," Menmo says, "apparently I was the last person she talked to. I was a young feather back then, but I was grown up in my cocoon dream. At first, I needed to lean on her for affirmation. My identity couldn't stand on its own. I had never grown up in my previous life even as my body matured, and leaned on my mother, then later my husband. Rakka was the first person in two lives to let me grow up. Her Day of Flight was part of that process. It forced me to look after myself: cry on my own shoulder, seek my own praise, pick up the pieces when my heart was broken."
"How did you remember so much?" Tatakai asks, "That's more than I remember and everybody tells me my dreams are unusually detailed."
"I don't," Menmo says, "Rakka said she read the story from the tags inside the wall and was trying to find out whose story it was. She was surprised that it was me ... I was smaller than Tsunami at the time, like five or six apparent years. The story is about a wife struggling to develop her identity in an oppressive marriage, with no one to lean on."
"How did you die?" Tatakai asks, "That's what most cocoon dreams are about."
"I don't know," Menmo confesses, "the only thing that my dream tells me is that I had wings that I could fly with. Rakka never even acknowledged them. You are the first person ever to tell me they were real."
Tatakai squints off towards the horizon, "There are very few birds," she comments. "Are they all crows? The ones that fly, I mean?"
"As far as I can tell, the ravens are the only creatures that can fly over the wall." Menmo chuckles, "Actually, I'm not too sure if they're ravens or crows. There was once a difference, but ravens were better respected, so we call them ravens out of respect."
Tatakai closes her eyes, listening to the distant, soothing chime of Kana's clock. She remembers something about the building she's standing on and quickly reaches up and plugs her ears.
"What are you doing, silly?" Menmo asks with a nudge.
Tatakai turns around and looks up at the dial face on the central clock tower, on which balcony she stands. It reads fourteen-past-three when it should read five o'clock. It does not tick. Tatakai pulls her hands out of her ears.
Menmo gasps, "Almost four months in Glie, and you didn't realize the central clock didn't work?"
Tatakai is surprised at herself. "Oops," she says. "Say, why do they call it Kana's clock anyway?"
Menmo explains, "Kana ... that's River Fish, by the way, got the clock operational fifty five years ago. Rakka remembered her, but her Day of Flight was long before I emerged. She also maintained the windmills. Her mechanical ability was legendary. She helped the radio station stay on the air, and that was the first thing that crapped out after she flew." Menmo points to a skinny lattice tower nearby, below the horizon. "Now we've lost the technology. Nobody has a working radio anymore."
Tatakai just stands there, pondering the world she has entered into. She remembers the device she identified Shimoni's bones with at the bottom of the ladder that the Saviour showed her on the way into town.
"Perhaps," she wonders allowed, "technology and heaven don't mix."
Was she imagining, or actually hearing the guffaws of her God?
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 3: Doom