FHD Remix Chapter 7
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 6: Life In The Moat
Chapter 7: The Annual Attack
It is Tatakai's first autumn in Glie. The Communicator walks with Tatakai in the garden. The Communicator's uniform includes faux wooden wings, and of course, the cyclops-like mask. Tatakai does not remember where she saw something so much like it before.
"I missed it," he laments.
"Missed what?" Tatakai asks, her white wings are smartly folded over her back, tips of the first couple primaries crossed. As a featherwing, she normally did this because featherwing wings are so much larger than haibane wings. On her as a haibane, it looks very unusual because haibane wings aren't large enough to be so inconvenient.
"My Day of Flight," the Communicator says.
Tatakai reads his tone, and asks him, "Do you wear that mask to hide your tears?"
He does not answer, and Tatakai decides that it is better not to press. Instead he talks about someone else, "You remind me of Rakka," he says, "she is unique in the history of the Haibane. The only Communicator that was not a Fallen. The longest lived haibane, at forty-seven years. She kept histories, kept the wall in repair, no match for you, obviously. She was something else."
Tatakai then asks, "How is the Communicator chosen?"
The Communicator says, "He ... or she ... really isn't chosen, but a willing person, almost always a Fallen, never a human, simply assumes the role. When the Communicator of Rakka's time died, no one knew his name, not even Rakka herself ... there were no Fallen willing to take the position."
Tatakai then says, "So why isn't anyone studying her work?"
The Communicator answers, "It is too hard for most. Rakka wrote it in Toganese."
Tatakai asks him, "Can you teach me?"
The Communicator nods, "Rakka taught me, but according to her histories ... she learned it on her own."
After a few weeks, Tatakai knows this new language, and this morning goes under the wall. She has become familiar with the robe. "Dang, these things are heavy," she gripes.
The Communicator answers, "Well anything beats that ... what did you call it?"
Tatakai answers, "Delta radiation. If this wall collapses, we're screwed. All of Glie would have a lethal dose within a few hours. This hikarinium," she points out the light leaves scattering the tablets, "is not where it is coming from." She pauses for a moment, then growls, "And somehow these little irritations," holds out her hands and zaps an invisible wraith with the Saviour's light, "are still getting in here."
The Communicator says, "From reading Rakka's histories, they have been getting in here since at least her time. You are the only haibane to even see them let alone actually be able to deal with them. That light of yours-"
"Not mine," Tatakai says, "The Saviour's. If I ever call it mine, it'll quit working. It's sure a lot handier than the weapons I was used to before I came here. I'm glad I don't have to use it as often." After a pause, she says, "Also, I don't see them, I hear them. From Rakka's records, they have been seen before our first sortie in the spring, I know that they have to become visible to attack."
The next morning, she's walking down the messy halls of the North Wing with her friend. The North Wing is slowly being demolished from the top down for materials to build more habitable houses just to its west. Its roof has been replaced by a series of sturdy tarps held up by a scaffold around the building. Tatakai is by to help move some materials it take two to lift.
"Shimoni," asks Tatakai, "if the humans see us as lesser beings, why the blazes don't they ever stare down their fears and ask about Rakka's histories, or the dangers of the walls? These are things we better under-"
"What?" Shimoni notices Tatakai's startlement.
"It came from this room," says Tatakai, wheeling around and swinging open a door. Seeing it, she asks, "Do they like, always appear in the coldest, messiest rooms?"
Shimoni admires the watermelon sized cocoon, "Wow."
Tatakai kneels beside it, as Shimoni warns, "Don't touch it."
"Silly," Tatakai says, "I had no such intention. Nobody touched mine."
Tatakai smiles at it, "See you in about," she ponders, "five months."
Shimoni laments, "The winter again? Maybe it's a colleague of yours."
Tatakai says, "Menmo might have been. She had my type of wings in her dream. But she showed up in spring. Rakka wrote that seven years before her appearance, Reki appeared in winter ... the day of her emergence went unobserved, and she was discovered by Nemu and Kuramori some time after her wings emerged. She emerged Sin-Bound and almost missed her Day of Flight. ... We're in no hurry this time."
Shimoni says, "I still can't wait to get back and tell everyone."
From this point, someone draws a sketch of the cocoon and its surroundings every Sunday. Starting 80 days after the autumn equinox, when the cocoon approaches full term, the Haibane make sure to check it for the color change three times per day. The cocoon heralds the waking of its occupant with a darkening of its white shell to a dull grey. At the bell nut festival, they still wait.
It is the year end festival, always held the Saturday after the winter solstice. Tatakai was "officially" the one to confirm the lowest zenith three days earlier. Tatakai is standing next to a Toga who decided to celebrate the festival inside the wall. They stand on the balcony of the central clock.
Tatakai, by now fluent in the Toganese sign language, taps him on the shoulder and signs, "We're not allowed to speak before the new year, but can we sign?"
"I don't care," signs the Toga, "I have to tell you what is happening outside the walls." He points, then spells out in the awkward phonetic system of Toganese, "hell is outside those walls, and our trade is with the creatures of evil."
Tatakai doesn't react, but the Toga paused. "You should be scared," he signs, "Do you have any idea what is outside the walls?"
Tatakai pulls out a scratchpad and flips it open. Drawings of the Hogosho, Cacoe (カコエ), Bushi no Shito, Tick (チーク) Imp (インプ), Wraith, Brat (ビラーチ) … Instead, The Toga is shocked.
Tatakai signs for him, "Why are they on the offensive?"
"Last winter there was an earthquake, one week into the new year," The Toga signs, "It leveled mountains and cities, and their biggest city was split in three, ten percent of the population was killed instantly and many more have died since."
Tatakai turns back to the railing. Her emergence and the earthquake must be related. <Keep your mouth shut,> she thinks, then smiles at the irony.
The Toga taps her on the shoulder and signs, "They believe an enemy, perhaps two, have emerged in this city. The war is urgent now. They have always wanted to wipe out Glie, and us Toga. As you might guess, we are not supposed to know, don't discuss this with anyone."
"Communicator?" Tatakai asks.
The Toga shakes his head, "I'm bringing it to you because of the timing of your appearance. What is your name?" he asks.
Tatakai thinks about it for a moment, then signs, "I can't say. Wouldn't you know, anyway?" She is suddenly grateful that her wings are covered for the cold, and he can't see their true color.
"Of the haibane, I can learn only what is on the tags. I know there is more to know of you, but the Communicator will not reveal anything that is not on the tags. It is a rule."
"I know the tags well," she signs, "They mention nothing of me, nothing at all. Should I be worried?" she sighs, feigning the uncertainty of the Sin-Bound. "I guess that means discussing anything about me breaks the rule." Tatakai looks at him ernestly, trying to assert herself as on the same level, "Forgive me for not trusting you. This conversation seems like something the enemy might put you up to to learn more about the defenses of Glie. Your life may be at stake if that's the case. Your blood would be on your master's hands. If I compromise Glie, the blood of the Glie-jin would be on mine, at least in part."
Silence. In a sense. The two look out towards the wall. The distant ringing of Kana's clock ends. The small groups around them start looking at each other. A few whipser. They are apprehensive about something. The Toga taps Tatakai's shoulder.
"I've always wondered what the scaling looks like from this side," he signs. He checks his pocket watch, then signs nervously, "The light is late."
"The light?" Tatakai asks.
"The light that knocks the enemy off the wall every winter," he signs.
<The light that you now command,> the Saviour whispers.
Tatakai closes her eyes, and says aloud, "You've got to be kidding me."
She turns to her Toga friend and signs, "Oops, my apologies. I am the bearer of the light for this year. I lost track of the time."
She holds her hands towards the sky and sighs, "Father, let's do this."
From the ground below her and into the sky above, the Saviour's light blossoms, startling the loose crowd. After a moment it is gone, and the walls begin to glow. She feels the enemy going down all over the wall, "My God," she gasps, concentrating. The sound coming off the wall sounds like the singing of little girls. It belies the carnage against the evil just on the other side.
Tatakai releases the light, which slowly fades on the wall, turns to the Toga and signs, "How big a force do they usually use?"
"I don't know, but usually about six thousand go missing in the new year," he answers.
Tatakai wraps her fingers around the railing, feeling what the number was this year: 37,144 were trying to climb over. They are really trying to step it up, she realizes. She asks her Saviour and God what she doesn't know: <Am I here because the enemy is stepping up their attacks on Glie? ... or are they stepping up their attacks because I'm here?>
There is no answer.
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