FHD Remix Chapter 28
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 27: Everything You Need For a Garden
Chapter 28: The Threat Within Glie
Sun low in the eastern sky, Tatakai marches in her fancy robe and temple bells down the streets of the North District, purposeful, almost angry look on her face. She holds her hands in front of her, she keeps her eyes and head moving, alert, but doesn't acknowledge everyone as she has on previous trips. The rickshaw driver stops and sets down his cart, looks at her and scratches his head. Is it her cocky stride, or is it the two community watchmen at her flanks?
The previous night, Tatakai was under the wall, cleaning tags. "Being alone never felt so good," she mutters to herself, remembering the enemies that used to populate the interspace.
She stops, turns her head and pulls the hood of the heavy protective robe a little tighter over her head. She heard something. Shock still, she strains to hear a distant, distorted scream. There is a flash of yellow light from around the tunnel. She holds up her gloved hand, and her halo glows a little brighter where it hovers over the top of the hood.
<Not a spawning,> she thinks. <Thank God, they're still not allowed to teleport in here.>
She remembers what creature made the scream she heard, something incorporeal. Immediately, she throws her gear onto the round boat she uses to get around in the moat under the wall and starts pushing in the direction of the flash with her pole. She is very concerned, scratching hurriedly into her logbook.
Joe, from Tatakai's left, says to her, "Are you sure about this? This is going to freak out the whole town."
Tatakai responds, "Our responsibility is the security of the town, yours from threats inside, mine from threats outside," she turns to him and explains, "Now we have both, but this is bad enough that I'd do it myself if you refused."
Tatakai turns to the other man on her right and says, "Sid, be very careful, this is going to be the most violent day Glie has seen in decades."
She marches straight into Bubba's store, Tatakai ignoring the handle and pushing the door open by its pictographic "No wings or halos," sign. Once inside, she spreads her wings over her shoulders and walks straight up to the desk. The two community watchmen are nowhere to be seen as she barges up the main aisle.
"Haibane!" the chunky owner growls, apparently spoiling for a fight, especially as Tatakai tears a page off her logbook and puts it on the desk in front of him, "Get out! You are not allowed to shop here, and we don't take your scrip."
Tatakai looks him straight in the eye and says, "Like I ever would. This is not scrip, it's a warrant, and this is not a purchase, but an arrest." She points her finger at a gaunt man emerging from the backroom with a box of small items. He has short blonde hair, slightly sunken, grey eyes, and a look of surprise. "You, sir, are coming with me," Tatakai orders.
Tatakai, Haibane of Old Home, Defender of Glie 63 days past spring equinox, 55 years after Rakka's return
Started work 1 hour, 2min past sunset according to measurements, 1 hours, 3min according to Kana's tower clock.
I'm expecting a quiet day, since no contact from 48 days past solstice. I'm inspecting the North Sector, where there's a fresh bloom of Hikarinium. I did five tag copies. Soul Stealer...
What the shop owner understands here is not the words "Soul Stealer," but the sudden change in handwriting. Those words must have been written very quickly. His reflexes keyed up, his head starts to turn just before he hears the crash of his hireling's box.
The hireling runs back into the room, Tatakai twists her left wrist, then her left wing, and then her right wing, ringing bells of different pitches in a specific order.
Joe, hearing this through an open window, beside the shop bangs twice on the wall to acknowledge the message, then runs to the back and stops right next to a small door, his partner arriving from the other side.
Two seconds later, the door opens and the gaunt man runs right into the arms of the two community watchmen. He struggles mightily, clearly too much for the two watchmen to simply overpower, but after just a couple of seconds, his eyes flash, turn to a more natural looking green, and he collapses, panting furiously.
Tatakai is holding her right hand up, her wings glow softly, and she looks towards the backroom with concern for the watchmen.
The shop owner is scared out of his wits, shaking and pale. Tatakai is ignoring him completely. He turns again to the log page he was given.
Soul Stealer contact 4h38, moving. Wall violation is certain, North Sector (Toganese tag address). Saviour has given me a vision of a man: 173cm tall blonde hair and a very distinctive work uniform, that of Bubba's New and Used in the North District. There are two versions, one with green eyes, and one with grey eyes and paler skin. This man has been possessed of a evil spirit. At this time, he is 17m away from the wall. Saviour has allowed the spirit, carried through the wall by the Soul Stealer, to stay with the traitor so that I may arrest them both at the same time. The enemy is currently unaware that I have this information.
Tower suit lock 4h55 past sunset, security check clean Tower suit lock exit 5h2 past sunset
Shimoni and Menmo sit at a table in the guestroom, heads bowed, eyes closed. Menmo's grey wings suddenly transform. Down feathers turn white at the roots of her wings, then out along the leading edge, all the down fades to white, her coverts, secondaries, then finally her primaries, one by one as she prays with Shimoni.
A banging on the door. Shimoni looks up, tears in her eyes, and says, "Come in."
It is Gibson, very tired like he's been running, or rather, pedalling, as Shimoni notes the rusty bike on the ground behind him, all the way from his home in the North District, if not further. The morning rays of light grace Kana's clock behind him, as it chimes to herald the sixty-fourth day of summer.
"I saw something in the North Wood," he pants, "A light last night, is anyone missing?"
"No," Shimoni says, "It wasn't a Day of Flight."
"I didn't think so," Gibson pants, "It was yellow and it swirled, didn't look like one at all. It didn't look anything like Tatakai or Yaiba's light either. That's why I rushed to tell you ... I think someone violated the wall."
"The enemy," Shimoni nods. "It's a good thing Tatakai knows. She's making the arrest at this moment."
Menmo is weeping, "I love you too."
Shimoni turns in surprise at this seeming nonsense, and notices her wings, "Menmo, who are you talking to?"
"The Saviour," Menmo answers with a smile, "He's taken me back."
Shimoni smiles, "Your wings are white, too."
"This wasn't supposed to happen," the man protests as the watchmen tie him up, "You weren't supposed to know."
"The enemy wasn't supposed to recruit a spy. You weren't supposed to go anywhere within a hundred metres of the wall," Tatakai explains, holding her hand over the suspect.
The watchmen drag him off between Bubba's shop and the restaurant next door, an alley so small they have to march not only tandem, but sideways. Tatakai, taking up the rear, bows respectfully to the still shock-stricken Bubba, "Once again, sorry to bother you."
"I'm sorry," he says, "I- ... I didn't know ... I thought the Haibane were-" suddenly he is unable to bring himself to say it, especially realizing that the much smaller woman in front of him could strike him dead without even touching him. Tatakai still looks like a harmless haibane, but after watching her drain the strength from his employee, he knows better.
"Ornamental?" Tatakai offers.
"The Haibane were brought back from the dead either to serve a purpose in Glie, get another chance," she ponders thoughtfully, "or three to accept the love of the Saviour who never wants to see his Father's created children to suffer forever in the lake of fire ... or usually-" she pauses.
"Usually?" Bubba asks.
Tatakai grasps the corner of the shop building as she prepares to shuffle sideways down the tiny alley, "Both." After she disappears around the corner, "We've all had previous lives. I was a soldier, I could carry two handguns, two rifles, a shotgun, chaingun, energy rifle and super-cannon all at the same time. The Saviour has put at my command more firepower than a whole batallion so equipped, and such a harmless appearance that you'd never guess. I'm guessing you never did."
Glancing in tears at the logbook page, clutching it like his most prized possession, he answers, "Thank you very much, Defender of Glie. Keep up the good work."
Tatakai continues to shuffle down the alley.
Bubba calls after, her. "If one of you is trying to fix the wind farm ... I have something for her!"
As Tatakai emerges from the gap in the front, Joe pats her on the shoulder and points at the window. Bubba is making haste to scrape off his "No Haibane" sign. Tatakai bows and silently mouths, "Thank you." Bubba probably did not understand the accompanying Toganese hand signals.
Joe takes the prisoner to the station. As soon as they are inside, Sid closes the door, and the bound prisoner is seated by Joe.
"Leroy," Tatakai barks, "Names."
"Leroy," the terrified man blurts.
"I know that," Tatakai snorts, "By command of the Saviour: the enemy spirit."
The man's grey eyes return, "How did you know?" he snorts.
"It's what Bubba said when I arrested you. Your name," Tatakai orders.
"Lilith," he says, "We've met before, winter before last."
"What were you?' Tatakai asks.
"An All-Seeing Guardian," the man answers.
"Impossible," Sid gasps.
Tatakai holds up one finger, then asks the prisoner, "Who do you report to?"
"Erebus," he answers.
Tatakai continues the rapid-fire interrogation, "He reports to?"
"Maledict," he answers.
"Erebus' host?" Tatakai asks.
"A descendent of William Banks," he answers.
Tatakai isn't finished, obviously, "Maledict's host?"
"Malcolm Betruger." Tatakai flinches at the name. "Cast me out, I know that’s what you want," the man snarls.
"Lilith," Tatakai says softly, "only the Saviour can ever let you speak. You are bound into this host, but you will no longer have any power over him. By command of the Saviour, release your host to his own soul."
The man is restored to his normal, green-eyed form and color returns to his skin. Unlike his other, grey eyed form, Leroy is mortally petrified.
Tatakai sits down, looking almost exhausted. There is a soft tap on the door. Tatakai sighs, "Is it Yaiba?"
Joe goes to the door, opens a small window, then says, "Yes, it is."
Tatakai says, "Better let her in." She looks at Leroy and asks him softly, "Did you ever touch the wall."
"Yes," Leroy says, "Am I going to die?"
"I don't know," Tatakai says, "but I know who to ask," she finishes with a gesture to Yaiba.
Yaiba takes his hand and pricks his finger.
"Ouch," he says, "and why are your hands so warm?"
"Because yours are cold," Yaiba answers. "I can use natural remedies to treat your case, but it is odd that you felt the prick of the pin, like your nervous system has been enhanced, somehow." Yaiba then turns to Tatakai.
Tatakai nods, "Remote capture. Its name is Lilith, and it has to stay."
Yaiba says to the man, "It sucks to be you. I mean, it really sucks."
"Well," Tatakai says, "Here's what we know now: Leroy here went into the Forbidden Zone in the North Wood last night, and at four hours and thirty eight minutes past sunset, was visited by a Soul Stealer carrying the enemy spirit, Lilith whom I killed through the wall two winters ago. It said it inhabited an All-Seeing Guardian, which is probably a variant of Hogosho with built-in eyes, so that she does not require a portal or Sakigake creatures to see. She would be theoretically invincible."
"She? It?" Joe asks.
"She is the Hogosho beast, the spirit's previous host, I've never heard of a male one. It is the enemy spirit Lilith, which has no gender," Yaiba explains. Turning to Tatakai, she says, "I spent two years up close and personal with certain artifacts in my previous life while I was a prisoner. These were engraved by the ancients on Mars ... the red planet that wanders among the stars. There were things I could see that my captors couldn't. They told of these creatures from the perspective of the ancient winged ones. The Hogosho smelled like burning metal, and based on the ancients' reports, if the Sakigake didn't see you, they were nearly harmless, despite the fact they were so big the Haibane tower would seem cramped."
"Lilith probably made him some sort of offer," Tatakai explains, "lying through its teeth, of course, and somehow persuades him to go and touch the wall. Delta radiation settles in, and Lilith can counter the toxic effects, says there's no cure except to let this enemy spirit dwell in him and do whatever it says." Turning to Leroy, she asks, "Sound about right?"
"Pretty close," Leroy says, "I'd rather not er-"
"What have you got to lose?" Tatakai asks.
Leroy feels his bindings and his guilt, and begins his story. "To be honest, I thought that new hundred metre rule was a load of crap, and that there was no way I'd be caught, especially at that hour. So ... I went out into the North Wood until I knew I was close enough. Moment I turn back, the ground starts glowing with this yellow light, and this soft female voice starts saying, You've come to the right place. She said there was a wonderful mansion waiting outside the walls for me, a hundred beautiful girls, that I'd never see another moment of sickness or hunger, as long as I let her out of Glie and served her for seven years. She said she wanted to know about the Haibane, and about the town itself. I was planning to find a job downtown, away from the North District, perhaps even some of the second-hand stores that you guys normally go to."
He sighs, takes a sip of the putrid brew Yaiba offers him, "Ew, what is this, Bailey's and battery acid?"
"Medicine," Yaiba explains, "for your delta radiation sickness. Finish it within the next fifteen minutes please."
"Anyway," Leroy continues his story, "She tells me to go to the wall. All I need to release her from Glie is to touch the wall. So I did. She didn't leave though. She told me I had picked up the wall's evil spirit, and that she needed to protect me from it. She told me that if she left me during the next seven years, that I would shortly be dead, and that she would leave me if I ever said anything about her. Then she started showing me her powers, which felt great, I'm telling you. I could run faster, jump higher, go without sleep, see in the dark. She even told me I could beat you in a fight, and then I could do whatever I want with you, even-" he hesitates.
"I get the idea," Tatakai answers, "Don't ever try that, with anyone." Then she asks, "Why was it about me?"
"She asked about the town's defenses," he sighs, "So I told her someone I've seen fixes the walls, visualized you in my head. As soon as I mentioned the name Tatakai, she got all excited." He sighs for a moment, then asks, "So, why would she answer all your questions so easily like that? She never mentioned no Erebus or Maledict, William Banks or Malcolm Betruger before."
Yaiba then explains, "All spirits, good and evil, are subject to the Saviour's authority, whether they like it or not. He often allows them an awful lot of latitude, as you've experienced."
"So, when can I go?" the prisoner asks.
"When you die," Tatakai says softly, and quite sadly. "You will stay the night in this station, and in the morning, once your delta radiation sickness has mended, you will be taken to the Haibane temple, and confined there for the rest of your life. Lilith must remain in Glie for as long as possible. Everything I've just told you, everything you've just seen and heard, it has also experienced through you. I can't allow it to report that information back to its superiors because it could put Glie in danger."
Leroy starts crying, "Oh no ... please give me another chance."
"Glie is the town of second chances," Yaiba explains, "and it's not as bad as it sounds. Even free, you can't leave Glie."
"I haven't heard any complaints from the Toga," Tatakai explains, "The only six Toga known to be alive are also confined to the temple for their treachery. I'm pretty sure you'll learn Toganese pretty fast. I'll help you with that. It's big and green, open above so you can see the sun and stars. You get a private room, and within the confines of this one hundred metre diameter, you will be free. A smaller Glie, basically. All you need to do is keep the plants watered. I visit every day: Once on my day of rest, twice every other day of the week."
"Why is the penalty so harsh?" Leroy asks in tears.
"You betrayed Glie," Joe scowls, "I'd execute you myself if it were up to me, but Tatakai here," he indicates with a nod, "She knows this enemy probably ten times better than any of us ever will. I trust her judgment."
This fellow is huge and red, about three metres tall and two metres wide, with trunks as arms, and a mass measured in tonnes. He walks up to a strange creature with tattered bat wings who stands on a spire of rock, what used to be an inclusion from a volcano. What little vegetation remains is bred for the charred soil, Earth's most stubbornly defiant flora. Above, clover-like lighting occasionally crackles in the red clouds. The bat-creature has a huge, claw-like head, turns to greet the red fellow.
The super-bat opens his mouth and out of it emerges the head of Dr. Malcolm Betruger, who snorts, "Erebus, this had better be good, my Pinkies are having another epidemic. We control this entire planet but that one pathetic little town in was-it-ever-called Siberia and I can't put together a force to finally wipe them out except on one day of the year!"
Three ravens pick at a scrub bush about ten metres away.
"Master Maledict, I have some new and amazing details about the defenses of Glie," the big red guy explains in his gravelly voice.
"Do you know what really ticks me off, Erebus," Maledict growls, "Every Sabbath after the winter solstice, we try to scale that wretched wall. Pray that your flight not be in the winter or on the Sabbath, so we do both at the same time. And that wall flares up and fries us just as we are about to crest, every time!"
"Why not try something new?" Erebus asks.
"Because I still answer to him," he fumes like a boiling pot of oil about to burst into flames, "So, those details?"
"A report from one of the Cherubs has drawn me to the conclusion that Glie has only one defender, and that she wield's the light of the Saviour directly against our minions. I suspect it was her who slayed Guardian Lilith through the wall winter before last. I sent Lilith's spirit with a Soul Stealer to investigate. The Soul Stealer came back, reporting that it had delivered Lilith to a human host inside Glie. Lilith hasn't reported to any of our arranged contact points for any scheduled or unscheduled contact. I think she has been captured. This only serves to strengthen my conclusion about this defender's identity."
"Let me guess," Maledict/Betruger snorts, "some little haibane girl."
"Haibane woman, yes," Erebus confirms, "But I am absolutely certain who her precursor is, the life she had before, and please master, do not kill me for it." After a sigh, he says, "Her haibane name is Tatakai."
Maledict gasps, "You don't mean-?"
Erebus confirms, "As far as I can tell, she knows not her precursor's name, but I am quite certain we are dealing with Devon Campbell."
Maledict has just one word to answer that with: the harshest expletive known to humanity.
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 29: Life Outside the Wall