FHD Remix Chapter 26

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Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 25: Sortie To Hell

Chapter 26: Wings for the Wingless; Tatakai's Terror

"Every couple of weeks, she switches around her schedule," Shimoni explains to Joe of the community watch, as they walk down the cracked streets of the run down South District, near the Abandoned Factory.

"Why?" Joe asks, "If all she's doing is keeping the walls in repair and cleaning the tags like Rakka used to, she can keep a consistent schedule like her predecessor."

"She's a soldier, Joe ... it must be an old habit of hers used to confuse the enemy," Shimoni explains.

"Riiiiiight," Joe moans, "Now that she doesn't have an enemy, she's doing it, like so many other things she does, to stay in shape, as she puts it."

Shimoni nods. On her other side, Ahmed, who works at Furugia, the used clothing store, knows better. Tatakai pays for her purchases using log pages detailing the war inside the wall, the near-daily battles out of sight, and out of mind of the majority of Glie's inhabitants. Ahmed tries to hide his discomfort at realizing that Tatakai is waging this war as he listens to this quiet chat.

"So, we have a few logistics problems since we lost contact with the Toga outside the wall," Shimoni explains, "We need to figure out-"

A haibane rushes up to them on a bike, his arm covered in blood, he frantically says as he pants, "We have a problem ... newborn ... he just went totally nuts after he emerged ... fell off a scaffold and broke his leg ... you gotta help us!" he cries.

As Joe, Shimoni and Ahmed run to help, the boy explains, "He's so terrified, he won't let anyone near ... He found a rusty metal tube ... slashes at anyone who gets close." Looking at the fresh gash on his own arm, he gripes, "I hope this doesn't get infected."

They arrive at the Abandoned Factory. The boy sits on the ground, battle ready with his rusty staff, blood on the jagged break on its end. Shimoni crouches, sees that he means business. Terrified eyes, angry and hurt. His right calf has a noticeable bend where it isn't supposed to, and is swelling. He wears a white robe made of coarse fabric, and has no wings.

Shimoni stands and turns to Ahmed, pulling out her logbook and tearing off two pages, "Get him something to wear, please."

Joe asks, "Should I arrest him?"

"God, no!" Shimoni cries, "Just treat these wounds," she gestures around to the four injured haibane.

Shimoni crouches again, about ten metres away from the brown haired caucasian boy, intent on communicating with him.

"I'll kill you all!" he cries, "all your winged kind!"

"Not all, I hope," Shimoni says.

The haibane boy is sitting beside her, with Joe washing his wound. He says, "We totally missed him. His cocoon is up there on the third floor," he winces as Joe removes some grit from his gash, "We don't know how long he's been out, we only found him a few minutes ago."

The boy screams, clutching his weapon tightly, "What have you done to me?" he demands.

"Nothing!" Shimoni answers, "You were just born! How long have you been in our world?"

"One sunset, one sunrise!" the boy cries, "Why does it hurt, damn you?" Then he screams, unable to hold his weapon anymore, it lands with a clank.

Shimoni grabs Joe's hand to keep him from running to the boy, "Stay away from him." She demands loudly, "Everyone, stay away from him!"

Turning her attention again to the boy, who rolls onto his front, obviously in great pain, huge lumps on his shoulder blades look almost like horns. He bleeds profusely, producing the image of an evil creature. Joe is utterly terrified.

"You are one of us now," Shimoni explains, "Those are your wings."

"No! No!" he cries as looks over his shoulder. He screams as they erupt from his back. "God! God, I hate you!" he sobs as he sees the bloody feathers of his new wings. Then he passes out.

Shimoni says, "Let me handle it."

Staying in her crouch, she cautiously approaches the fallen boy, reaching for his weapon and pulling it away from him. Rather than the tube the haibane who sought her described, it is actually a solid piece of rebar, the metal reinforcement used in concrete structures.

"Oh, my God," she pants, not knowing what to do. Another haibane boy comes up to her and says, "Give me that, please," indicating the weapon.

He sits down and starts cutting a length of it off the clean end with a hacksaw, explaining, "It'll make the perfect splint for his leg."

"Uh, someone get me uh ... water," Shimoni stammers, "Something to wash his wings."

A young haibane lady has it already, and sets it down next to her, then standing over Shimoni, who's sitting beside the newborn boy, whose physical age is about twelve years. Shimoni wrings the cloth in the bubbly water, reaches for the boy's wings. The blackness of the Sin-bound is visible even through all that blood, four or five inches on his distal feathers.

"You've never seen a boy emerge before, have you?" the lady asks.

"No," Shimoni answers.

"You have it so lucky over there in Old Home," she snorts, "All you sheltered little girls," then walks away.

Shimoni starts to wash the boy's bloody wings, she cries for Joe, "Joe! Tatakai will be off work in a few minutes. You remember where my scooter is at the bakery? Ride it to the Renmei tower if you know how. Get her to come here as fast as she can!" As he gets up, she cries after him, "Walk it around that catwalk!"

Tatakai emerges from the suit lock early, in the pyjama-like part of her uniform, "What a boring day," she mutters, "I think I finally got this wall fixed."

One of the Toga comes up to greet her. Toga men and women dress exactly the same way, and are reluctant to reveal their gender. It was four weeks after their capture that Tatakai confirmed this one was a lady. She signs to Tatakai, "Merciful One: Joey, Community Watch waits for you. Newborn Haibane, Evacuated Factory."

Tatakai signs back, "A celebration?"

"He appears scared," the Toga signs, "an emergency?"

Tatakai dons a "civilian" robe, "Probably an emergency," she says out loud. Once dressed, and her wings pop out of the ports, she quietly signs, "Thank you very much."

After a brief prayer, Tatakai takes the ring mould and fills it with flakes of hikarinium, takes a brief glance at her watch and plunges it, still open, into tower's always glowing furnace. It uses just one log each day. One extra log, which she tosses in, when a Haibane ring needs to be forged. Tatakai pulls the mould from the furnace an hour later.

"Some emergency, Merciful One," the Toga lady signs.

Tatakai sighs, then signals with her fingers, "If he can't last an extra hour, I probably can't save him anyway." Tatakai closes the mould over the glowing hikarinium flakes, then lifts the weight of a pile driver over the anvil. Once at its stops at the top of the guides, Tatakai puts the ring mould under it. She lets go of the weight and holds her ears.

BANG! The way it has always been done, the instructions handed down by the Saviour untold ages past, the boy's new halo is forged with a single blow, slamming the halo mould the rest of the way closed.

Tatakai lifts the mass, just enough to get the mould out, then gently lowers it to rest on the anvil.

"Merciful One, Only God knows why you don't just drop it after, like the other Communicators," one of the Toga signs.

Tatakai smiles, then says aloud "Maybe I'm a softie."

With the mould hanging from her wings in a smoking leather bag, Tatakai uses a key to unlock a ladder that extends down from the second level above the entrance, climbs it, pulls it back up, then goes through a tiny stone door to exit the garden, the prison of what are probably the only six Toga still alive anywhere. She returns to the ground on a similar arrangement outside the tower, pushes the ladder back up until it locks again. Joe waits for her to face him before explaining.

"They have a newborn boy in the Abandoned Factory, looks like he's about twelve ... light-skinned, like those in the Northern District, brown hair, really violent. He passed out after his wings..." he cringes. Then he smells, notices the smoking package Tatakai is carrying. "What's that?" he asks.

"His new halo," Tatakai answers.

"Wait, how did you know?" Joe gasps, "I don't know how to speak to the Toga."

"They can't speak," Tatakai answers, "but they can listen."

"What are the Toga?" Joe asks.

"I can't say," Tatakai answers.

"Nobody knows, huh?" Joe laments, "Not even you."

"I know," Tatakai answers, "Like all the other Communicators, I know exactly what the Toga are, I just can't say." Lowering her head, she sighs sadly, "If it was widely known, Glie would never have opened trade with them ... this town would have died away over two hundred years ago." She puts the halo bag in the scooter's saddle trunk, "That," she winces, "is more than any Communicator has ever explained about them." She swings a leg around the scooter's driver seat, "Thanks for bringing the scooter," she says as she starts it up.

"We're going to ride that thing!?" he cries in alarm, "Around that skinny ledge and over the rickety bridge!?"

"We?" she asks as she cocks her head over her shoulder at him.

"I'm coming with you," he states like there's no negotiating.

"Then you're going to need wings," Tatakai says as she turns off the engine.

"Oh no!" Joe gripes, "Not after seeing that little boy-"

Tatakai laughs so hard she almost falls over, "Oh, not like that, Joe." She walks to a locked chest sitting just outside the door, opens it. "I kept these here just in case."

Out of the chest, she lifts the old Renmei robe with its fake wings. "Put this on," she says to Joe, "tighten up those straps real good, and when they lift from your back, hang on tight, lean with the bike, and try to be still."

Minutes later, he's rigged up, and they take off down the path. Going around the catwalk, with the ground effect holding them towards the wall, he screams the whole way.

As they straighten out approach the narrow bridge, she folds her wings and remembers, <Oh, shat ... those wings don't fold.>

"Crap!!" Joe tightens his grip on Tatakai and the bike.

Tatakai knows she can make it, but exactly centered on the bridge is not a very good line into the next turn left, but at least the catwalk past it is wider.

Joe can hear his wings whistle as the tips get within a centimetre of the ropes on either side. Around the next catwalk, Joe's squashed against Tatakai's back screams, unaware of how much the bike is leaned over. Suddenly it feels to him like the bike has fallen onto its left side, then he feels they've gone airborne, and the engine stops, it's fuel saving coast mode. Joe opens his eyes, sees Tatakai's wings flapping furiously right in front of him, feathers brushing his nose.

The drop into the cul-de-sac at the end of the road has a groove in it from previous landings. Tatakai thought for half a terrifying second, that they would fall short of it. "Hang on!" she says superflously. Joe's grip on her will probably leave bruises already. The usual landing fishtail slides the rear wheel over one more cobble than usual, but Tatakai recovers quickly. Joe's screaming is interrupted by a sneeze, after which he realizes they are back on normal road, and he relaxes a bit.

They arrive at the Abandoned Factory a couple minutes later. Shimoni frowns a bit as the guy in the Communicator robe steps off the bike, shaking. That trick shouldn't have taken two hours. The Abandoned Factory haibane approach him quietly, hands raised almost to their chins. They formally bow at the trembling community watchman, who's jarred at the extreme change of pace, among other things.

Tatakai laughs, "It's Joe, you guys."

"Yeah, we know," the playful boys laugh, "he just looks real weird in that outfit."

Joey hastens to get out of it as the haibane lead Tatakai to the Abandoned Factory's modest guest room. The newborn lies on his side, his wings clean except where they still bleed at the roots. They carry the black of the sin-bound, and above the tips of his feathers, the grey is unusually dark, like the wings of a pigeon. All of his coverts are tipped in black, creating a lined, rugged appearance.

"Your Shimoni looked after him," the lady huffs, "He promised to kill us all ... all Haibane."

Tatakai crouches down to look at his face, brushes back the bangs of his hair, and freezes.

She slowly backs away, stands, looking pale and frightened. "Uh ... Joe," she quietly gasps, "Tie him up ... Hurry!"

"What's wrong?" Shimoni asks, rushing to Tatakai's side.

"First, it's not the Haibane he hates ... it's my kind, our kind, like me and Menmo from before," she explains breathlessly. Very, very quietly, she explains, "When he wakes up, he will probably recognize me ... In one of my dreams, I-"

Tatakai takes Shimoni by the arm and pulls her out of the room into the hallway. "I dropped him, Shimoni."

"Thank you so much for the wing covers," Tatakai warmly greets the man in her ornamented robe, wearing those beautiful matching covers over her wings. This is the same man who gave them to her before, when she was looking for Patricia's parents. She is visiting him at his house in the North District. His family has gone out to tend the garden he keeps in his back yard.

"I'm glad you like them," he says, "My name's Gibson, by the way."

"I want to share with you a dream I had that night," Tatakai says, "I was defending a village from what I now call a Hogosho type creature. I probably called it something else at the time. The village was surrounded by the enemy, and the forces at my command had already been wiped out. I had the fully operational super-cannon. It's difficult to describe, but when the round detonates, it sends a blast pulse against each of the targets it has selected ... I don't remember what it's called, but it was the best version of that weapon."

Tatakai continues. "I tried to rescue a boy from that village, probably about twelve years old, brown hair, determined eyes. I was trying to organize the villagers into a defense with all the weapons I could carry, but it was completely useless. A skeleton-type creature had blown up this house, and this little boy was kneeling in the street, crying, Mommy Daddy." Tatakai pauses to wipe a tear, then continues, "I landed next to him and grabbed him with my right wing. I was dual wielding these little rifles, one in each hand. I saw an old book in the library that had something called an FN Herstal P90. Not that, but similar. I knew there was a huge group of enemies approaching from the south, so I carried him around to the north side of this burning house to get out of their view, and used the super-cannon to catch most of them before they came around."

Tatakai pauses for a moment to cry. "He was terrified of me, but I was the only hope he had ... and he knew it," she sighs. "I grabbed him up in my arms and flew, carrying him, with some difficulty, to safety further north. But an enemy with some sort of rotating-barrel rifle survived my blast. He fired at us and hit me in my right flight claw. I didn't have enough lift to carry the boy ... I was faced with the choice of either dropping him, or dying with him as we crashed. I said, Please forgive me, then let go of him."

Tatakai sighs, "That must have haunted my precursor for the rest of her life ... what little was left of it. I think this happened only a few days before she was killed ... I remember how that happened as well."

The man wipes a tear from his eye.

"If that was you," Tatakai sighs, "I'm really sorry."

"No, it wasn't me," the man explains, "The Saviour told me that Tatakai needs this other perspective, he would not say why," he pours them both a fresh cup of tea. "I've told you part of the dream already. I think you know that."

"I'll tell it from the first person perspective, because that's how the Saviour made me experience it," he explains, "Forgive me for repeating what you've heard before."

"That's fine," Tatakai smiles.

"I was in the house when the attack started, my dad ran in," he chuckles, "The boy's dad didn't look anything like mine." He continues, "Anyway, my dad ran into the house and says, the demons are coming, the demons are coming, we have to run! And we go outside, and I see them ... in every direction. There was no escape, they're just indiscriminately slashing everyone. My parents run back to the house, call my name to tell me to follow, I don't remember-"

Tatakai smiles, "Everyone has trouble with names around here."

"Four rockets came out of nowhere and blew my parents away, right in front of me, set the house on fire. I collapse to my hands and knees and start bawling. I'm just terrified, I have no idea what to do. I hear this laughing and turn around to see the demon who did it, a huge skeleton monster with little glowing sparks in its eyes ... eye sockets, really. It had the rocket launchers built into its shoulders. It's laughing at me. Just a few little bullets hit it, and it starts screaming. I realized it has almost invisible flesh around its bones, and it's burning up. Each of the little rounds creates a huge burning pustule that starts flaming and dribbling what looks like burning grease. And that's when you ... she got there."

Gibson offers Tatakai some more tea, which she accepts. He gets up to start it, then returns to continue his story.

"So, this lady with huge feathered wings lands right in front of me, picks me up in one of her wings, and while carrying me and running, fires a rifle in each of her hands. It's a strange one, where most of its body rested on her upper arms. I was so scared of her, remembering that I was warned the feathered kind was the most dangerous and sadistic on Earth. The Saviour told me, Gibson, that it was all lies, but my character took them seriously. She gets me behind a burning building and lets me down, asks, Are you alright? Before I can answer, she turns around and detaches a huge cannon from her chest, aims it past the edge of the house and launches an huge green fireball from it. I'm watching past her as a cover pops open on the left side of her weapon, a green bottle flies out. Just before the one she fired explodes, she has another bottle loaded into the weapon and closes the cover. The explosion ... I get the impression that it didn't hit anything, but sent a sheet of fire around the side of the burning house."

The kettle on the stove starts whistling, and Gibson gets up to answer it. A minute later, he returns with a steaming pot of tea, pours both Tatakai and himself a glass.

"She picks me up in her arms from behind, orders, keep your legs up, and takes off into the air. I'm terrified, imagining all the nasty things she might do to me once she has me in her secret lair. But then, just as I start to trust her, feeling the rapid beat of her heart through her feathers, she was talking on the radio in some tactical gibberish that I couldn't understand. I remember she said to an answer, because I give a flap!

"I, Gibson that is, realize that her commander objected to her rescuing the boy," he sighs.

Gibson continues his story, "He ... I felt like I was finally going to a better place, when suddenly she screamed. I couldn't tell what happened, but she was oscillating wildly back and forth, groaning." He pauses for a sip of his tea and sighs, "My wing! she cried. I'm sorry, I can't carry you any further, and I can't safely land ... Please forgive me. And she lets me go," he sighs softly. "This part of the dream, I hate," he recalls, "I ... the boy, absolutely hated her ... he wanted her to drop dead and burn in hell ... in the dream, I said ... no I can't bear to repeat it here."

Shimoni gasps, "Are you sure this boy ... are you sure it's him?"

Tatakai leans against the wall outside the guest room at the Abandoned Factory, "I am absolutely certain ... yes, this is the same boy."

They start hearing a ruckus inside the room, "Why have you tied me up, you monsters!?"

"He has exactly the same voice, too," Tatakai squeaks.

Shimoni puts a hand on her friend's shoulder, "Let me talk to him first," then she reaches for the bag with the halo mould's handle still sticking out of it.

"No," Tatakai says, "I'll do that."

Shimoni goes back into the room, while Tatakai waits outside patiently. "You!" she hears from within the room, "I'll kill you first!" Tatakai takes the halo mould out of its bag as the ruckus continues. She pops open the cover and takes a look. Inside is the freshly made halo, still hot from the forge ... a dull unglowing grey.

"This doesn't look good," she says as she closes it and continues to wait.

Inside the room Shimoni struggles to calm the boy, "You keep saying you're going to kill us," she explains, "Of course we tied you up. Look at the wounds you've caused, your own broken leg. Calm down, you're in a better place than you were before ... your future is with us, now."

"Hi, my name is Shijima," the lady from the Abandoned Factory says.

"My name is-" the haibane boy who found Joe and Shimoni in the first place sighs as he sees the red soaking through the bandage around his right arm, "My name is Chishio."

"My name is-" the brown-haired boy pauses, finally letting his arms relax on his back, "I can't remember my name. What the [beep] have you done to me?" He pulls on his ropes again, and his grey and black wings flap. "These things [beep]ing hurt, damn you," he moans.

Shimoni says, "All of us," coralling every one in the room, "with the wings," she says with a nod to Joe. "We're all from somewhere else. None of us remember where we're from or who we were, at least at first. None of us will ever be able to pinpoint exactly when and where we lived before."

"Then what are you?" the boy asks.

"We're the Haibane, Ashfeathers," Shimoni explains, "and none of us can fly. Tell us about the dream you had in the cocoon."

The boy sighs, "an interrogation, huh?"

"Name, rank, serial number?" Joe offers with half a smile.

The boy chuckles, "Damn, I didn't think I could laugh anymore. Anyway, why should I tell you about my dream?"

"That's what we're named after," Shimoni says happily, "There are some bright dreams, like Menmo's back in Old Home, that means fluffy, but there are dark ones as well ... usually dark ones lately," she sighs. "My name is Shimoni. It means downwards because I was climbing down from a high place on a ladder." Turning to the other Haibane, she says, "His name is Chishio, because he was in a bloody place," and the lady, "her name is Shijima because she was in a place where no sound could be heard, even if you tried to make one."

"Battle," the boy says flatly.

"Tatakai is taken," Shimoni says softly.

"Tatakai?" the boy echoes, barely above a whisper. Shimoni can tell he's remembering something. "What does she look like?" the boy asks.

The room is dead silent.

Next: FHD Remix Chapter 27: Everything You Need For a Garden

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