FHD Remix Chapter 42
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Chapter 42: Tears For The Toga
The door at the top of the stairs thunks as Tatakai unlocks it. It opens, but only just enough for her to squeeze through, clad in her jumpsuit of thermal underwear. She crosses her arms and signs, "We have company. Twenty-two newborns have appeared."
The six Toga gasp. Tatakai pushes the door open and gives them a wave. The new Toga emerge, quite shy and embarrassed, even if much better dressed than Tatakai.
One of the six elder Toga's wooden wings twitch inexplicably. He puts a hand on Tatakai's shoulder, then signs, "You are haibane, not Toga. The redressing of the newborn Toga is for Toganese eyes only. I'm sorry."
"I understand," Tatakai signs, "Do you need anything?"
"No," he signs, gesturing to the halo forge and hammer before continuing, "As it is for your kind, this tower is well equipped to receive ours." There is a row of lockers behind the door. In front of it is a pedal powered bandsaw that Tatakai could never identify the purpose of. For the first time she realizes that the piece of steel next to it is a jig for it to follow as it cuts out the wooden wings of the Temple Toga, the uniform of the Haibane Renmei.
Turning to her twenty-two new friends with tears, she signs, "I admire your bravery. You might be uncomfortable with this. I admire your smiles and your tears. Your faces are beautiful, all of you." She can't keep her voice out of it as she cries, leaning on the elder Toga. "Even if I never see any of them again, nor can find any of you tomorrow-," she pauses to cry, then starts a new sentence, "My promise: I will not forget any of them."
The elder Toga taps her shoulder, and gestures towards the suit room stairwell. She follows him, unlocks it for him. He opens it and steps inside. Tatakai is a bit nervous. The Toga elder reaches for his hood, touches it reluctantly, then suddenly pulls it back, reaches behind his head and unties the knot of his mask, pulling the bandages away from his cheeks and mouth. Even in the dim light, his face looks awful, shrivelled and bruised, not matching his eyes at all. It results only from the bandages, Tatakai realizes. They probably don't even take them off when they sleep. His expression is neutral, almost somber.
"Tatakai," he croaks, quite possibly with a voice he has never used before. He signs, "Battle. I've never seen you cry before." He wipes a tear from her cheek, then signs, "You are Battle. Fights the enemy. Thirty-seven invisibles," he snaps his fingers. Slowly, he forms his own tear, even though his expression has not changed at all, "I did not think you capable of tears," a long pause, "nor did I ever-" He stops.
Tatakai notes no change in any of the muscles of his face, she can barely tell if he's breathing. She holds his hands and realizes they are trembling with an incredible gratitude and humility.
He takes them back, then slowly in the dim light of her halo, his fingers move at half their usual pace, "Nor did I ever believe that anyone would cry," his hands tremble so much that he can't use them for several seconds, then he finishes, "for Toga."
They embrace, resting their heads on each other's shoulders for several minutes.
He wraps himself up again, but as Tatakai reaches for the handle of the door, he takes it gently, then signs for her, "Remove the human until tonight, please," he bangs his arms together for emphasis.
Tatakai signs, "My promise," then fully extends her right wing for several seconds.
"Thank you," he signs.
"I will return in six hours," she signs, "The newborn will not be able to leave until then."
"They are free," the Toga prisoner signs in realization, "as they should be."
When Tatakai emerges from the stairwell, Leroy is waiting.
"Who the heck are all these?" he asks.
"None of your business," she says quietly, "as it's none of mine. We need to give them some time alone. I'll take you for a walk."
Tatakai unsecures her newly built catwalk and lowers it, as far as getting the crawl-through door open, she designed it so that, in order to get it open without an excessive amount of force, you need to turn two knobs (which are keys that Tatakai takes with her) at the bottom and unlock the top hatch's two hinges at the top. Everything is spring loaded, so all four have to be opened and held at the same time.
Tatakai does this very easily by turning the keys with her hands and lifting the hinge locks with the alula claws on her wings, then pushing through the door with her head.
Leroy realizes that it is designed so that only a haibane can get it open. Inside him, the dark voice says, <How predictable. She always taunts us with her wings.>
On hearing the dark power that still resides inside him, he asks, "You aren't going to tie me up?"
"You know already, there is no need. Stay within three metres," Tatakai says as she drops the chain ladder outside and climbs down it, "Come on," he follows. As soon as his weight leaves the catwalk, everything slams shut behind him with springs and counterweights. Startled, he falls off the ladder and wipes out in the grass at its base. Tatakai give him a hand up, then closes a lever back into the wall, the ladder climbs up and disappears.
As one would expect, the main gate has been modified so that the securing bar, now a steel I-beam that once decorated Abandoned Factory's backyard, is on the outside of the temple. Looking at it, Tatakai sighs, "My how times have changed."
Leroy looks at it and says, "Seems pretty normal to me."
"Two months ago, the bar was on the inside, solid square wrought iron. It took six practiced Toga to lift it," Tatakai explains, "Two on the windlass, four pushing from underneath. It was there for ten years, only ever locked twice, and unlocked once. The first time was as a test after Rakka had it installed."
"Rakka?" Leroy asks, "Oh? You mean Rakka-sensei, Communicator when I was a child?"
"The same," Tatakai says, "She must have realized, at some level, the threat that was outside the walls, planned the defense of the tower as a last resort if the wall was penetrated."
"Unlocked once?" Leroy asks.
"From the second time it was, as you might say, unlocked, the pieces are still where they landed," Tatakai quietly reflects, "rusting among stubborn flowers that refuse to let them mar the garden's beauty."
Leroy winces, remembering how much they hurt when you stub your toes on them, "What the heck did that?"
"I had to come in through the gate from outside because the enemy had penetrated into the temple. The same light that quieted Lilith when I arrested you," she says.
"The Saviour," he says.
Tatakai grabs his shoulders either to hold him up or ease him to the ground should he faint. "Are you alright?" she gasps.
"I'll be alright," he says, quickly regaining his color and balance. "Everytime she hears that word she tries to kill me. It, I mean. It's getting weaker every day." He crosses his arms and starts waving his fingers.
"Did the Toga teach you that?" she asks.
"Yes," Leroy says, "Sort of. Every now and then, one would walk up to another, make these signs, and always when he did, one or two of them would put a hand on his shoulder, and ... they'd just stand there still for several minutes. What does it mean?"
"Yesu," she says, "The name of the Saviour."
<No! Leroy, don't ever make that sign again, do you hear me?> the dark voice inside Leroy demands, <Never again!!>
"Those are his hands, demon, and his mouth," Tatakai says softly, "You have no authority to say what he can and cannot do with them."
"You heard it?" Leroy gasps.
"Oh, yes," Tatakai smiles, "She's as astonished at my calm and patience as I am. It must be only a tiny sample of our Father's patience. As for the Saviour, the Father's Son, vengeance is not his duty."
"You know a lot," Leroy says as they make their way around the catwalk in the stone mountain."
"I know nothing," she says. "As you learn more and more, that's what you realize. There is so much to learn and know, and each lot of knowledge you conquer reveals seven more larger than itself. Long ago, I realized that the only way you can feel large is to imagine yourself in a small space. It's called narcissism," she sighs, looking up at the skies. She pauses at the centre of the bridge to feel the mist of trickling river and listen to the sound of the water rolling down the rocks. "Leroy, imagine a fly in your bedroom. It wanders about smelling for food, only able to comprehend the space just a couple of centimetres around itself. It is mentally incapable of understanding that it is your room, and you sleep and live in it. You don't mind it seeing you naked because it is incapable of forming any sort of mental image of what a naked human is, or what a clothed human is, or the difference, even as laps up the spilled butter on your sleeve as you shower."
"Why are you bringing up that kind of image?" Leroy asks, disgusted at the concept of a fly living in his bedroom. Such creatures have short life expectancies in Leroy's bedroom.
"If the universe is God's bedroom, we are like those flies," Tatakai says. "Oh, and check this out," she points up at the top of the cliff, where four ravens, too distant to be identified, perch on the rocks, "Each of those crows knows at least ten times as much about the world as I do." Turning to him, he says, "That should piss off your demon almost as much as the name of the Saviour."
Tatakai walks ahead a few paces. Leroy rushes to catch up after a few seconds. "Yeah, it did. She keeps going on and on about how they must be conniving double agents."
"Easy to see why you're stuck with it isn't there?" she says, "The general population, heck even the leadership knows even less about what's inside these walls as we do about what's outside these walls."
"Perhaps you should peg her ... it," he mutters something at himself, "for information about what's outside."
Tatakai giggles, "Oh, the basics are enough for me. The oceans have dried up, and the rivers are drying up, a really wierd quantum virus is to blame. It's the mechanism behind, as my precursor called it, the second and third motions of the plagues of the trumpets and bowls, comes from some exotic ancient text from at least two thousand years before her time. And it's one of the most disgusting things I know of."
Leroy listens in awe. Lilith, inside him, is absolutely shocked that she knows so much about the world outside of Glie.
"By the time my precursor had died, a something Campbell, I'm sure your demon knows her name," she explains, "She knew that the oceans had turned to blood, the mechanism that did it was a tiny mechanical virus equipped with a quantum particle transformer, produced and released at the direct command of the Father, who specified its design, atom by atom. Hellspawn, the creatures that now inhabit the rest of the world, were just tickled pink and flourished. Blood is their favorite meal. Their population must have skyrocketed into the two figure billions and then they would die at some point. They produce delta vector, and so when they die, their bodies would release it into the atmosphere, where it would sink, filling the oceanic basins and coating the ground to a depth of at least several metres. They would also liberate much of the water in the blood that they consumed. Eventually the virus would find that water and transform it into blood. In this way, all of the planet's water gets converted into delta vector, poisoning and dessicating the entire planet except for one protected area ten kilometres in diameter."
"How can you stand to know this?" Leroy asks, "It offers no hope, no future for humanity. I would never want to bring a child into such a world."
"I know the love of the Saviour," Tatakai spreads her arms and wings, "and that even this Glie is more than humanity deserves to have." Quietly she sighs, "In her first year, Rakka struggled with the fact that Glie is such grace. She struggled with the guilt from her previous life. That halo, wings, many friends, a roof over her head, health and three square meals ... was so much more than she deserved."
"How much did she know about what was outside the walls?" Leroy asks.
"At that time, precisely nothing," Tatakai says.
As they walk along the Hill of Winds, about twenty minutes along, he asks, "Where did all those Toga come from?"
"I can't say," Tatakai answers, "I haven't told you anything that Lilith doesn't already know. I'll discuss anything that it already knows, but as for what you two do not already know, you will never find an answer. That's part of the price of betraying Glie."
"How many people know?" he asks.
"Very few outside the Toga themselves," she says.
Shimoni, at this hour early in the morning, is working on a windmill generator. Beside it is a tracked diesel-electric crane. Leroy gasps in recognition.
"Hi, Shimoni," Tatakai says.
"Oh, morning, Tatakai," she waves with a glance up from her work, then she drops her wrench and groans, "What's he doing here?"
"The Toga needed some privacy," Tatakai explains, "and I have big news related to that. Get Menmo and Yaiba, we'll meet in the guestroom."
She crouches after finding the playful little Tsunami by her side, "Can you do me a big favor, Tsumani?"
The dark haired girl flaps her white wings excitedly, "Sure, Tatakai!"
"Go to the community watch station at the end of town and get somebody. Joe, if he's there," Tatakai says.
The girl turns, then looks back at her and squeals, "What do you say?"
"Onegai shimasu," Tatakai recites softly the most formal way of saying pretty please.
Tsunami squeals, runs and jumps on her nearby bike, flipping her nametag and speeding off almost like a scooter.
Leroy gawks at the bizarre combination of adult and child qualities.
"Bubba now takes Haibane work log pages," Shimoni says to Leroy. "He really surprised us. This is the most any haibane has ever received for one page," she gestures to the crane.
"Impossible. There's no way one day's work could be worth that much," Leroy gasps.
"Well, there's two things," Tatakai explains, "First, this crane is the only way Shimoni can dismantle the windmills for maintenance and save Glie's power grid. Bubba has a big interest in that because almost everything he sells is electric. Of course, you knew that."
"What was the other thing?" Leroy asks.
Tatakai answers, "That log page was your indictment."
"All things work out for good for those who serve Father and Saviour according to his purposes," Tatakai says, "Oddly enough, your treachery might have saved us from freezing to death this winter."
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 43: Homes for the Toga; Growing in the Garden