FHD Remix Chapter 21
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 20: The Haunted, Gloomy Haibane
Chapter 21: Forshadows of Forgiveness; Noble?
Tatakai walks down the tiled streets of the North District with Shimoni, dressed in her finest. She made herself an ornamented robe, and grasps little silver bells in her alula claws. They ring when they wave her wings at everyone who passes by. A rickshaw passes her.
"Wow," somebody says, "they are fancy Haibane ... I've never seen them dressed like that before."
Tatakai waves a wing at them and smiles. "Say," she asks her, "We're looking for the couple whose daughter died three years ago. Could you give us directions?"
"Sukoi!" she cries, "Haibane care for them." The older lady smiles, then says, "Okay, but can I uh, touch?" Tatakai nods, spreading her left wing and dropping the bell, catching it in her hand. She easily shuffles out the alula feather. The lady gently pets her wing, "Wow, it's so warm and fluffy."
Tatakai smiles, "I wish I could show you my other wings," indicating the featherwing ports on her robe, "but now they exist only in my dreams."
Tatakai pulls off the third secondary from each wing for her, handing the lady the matching distal feathers, "You can keep them."
"Thank you very much," the lady says, "To find who you're looking for," she points, "ring the bell at that building over there, and when the guy answers, ask for Bob and Victoria. If he's reluctant to let you in, which he probably will be, tell him Nancy sent you. I gotta go."
The lady shakes her hand and rushes away, leaving Tatakai remembering the directions. Tatakai proceeds slowly down the street after putting the bell back on her wing. She's trying to look as non-threatening as possible, but it doesn't always work. Some cower, some look at her curiously, then retreat when she smiles and waves. One man saw her as he stepped out of his two storey home next to the apartment building pointed out by Nancy, dropped his bags and ran back inside.
Shimoni sighs, "Kurai's right, this community really does hate us."
The man who dropped his bags rushes back out of his house to her with a linen wrapped package. Tatakai, for a moment, is concerned he is going to attack her. He stops about four feet away.
"Are you called," the man then sounds out very slowly, "Ta - ta - ka - i?"
The haibane nod, Ashfeather Battle steps forward.
"God showed me in a dream, a lady who looked just like you, but older ... she looked exactly like you," he says humbly, "In the dream, I was a small child in a village that was being overrun by strange creatures. There were brown ones with nine eyes who threw fireballs from their hands, the most terrifying one was a huge walking skeleton who laughed at me ... it fired rockets at my parents in the dream and blew my parents away.
"The Saviour says to me, behold my chosen warrior, whom I've brought back to defend Glie. 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 device that spits small pieces of metal at high speed."
Tatakai nods, "I know. We don't see them around here anymore."
"I was so scared of you, remembering, as my character in the dream, that I was warned your kind was the most dangerous on Earth. She gets me behind a burning building and lets me down, asks in exactly the same voice that you have, Are you alright?" he has a couple of tears, "Before I can answer she turns around and detaches a huge ... something from her chest, aims it past the edge of the building and launches an huge green fireball from it. I still remember that shrill hum. 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."
Tatakai looks over her shoulder towards the Great Gate. Way off in the distance, she can see the cart still sitting there abandoned, a couple of ravens guard it.
The man finishes his story, "The Saviour whispers, behold Tatakai, the defender of Glie."
Tatakai turns around to face him as he offers her the package, "The Saviour has confirmed in my heart that I have found you ... please take this token of our family's appreciation. This town exists because of you."
"I-I don't know what to say," Tatakai gasps, "but I can't turn it down." She accepts the gift with deep bow and finally answers, "Thank you."
"Thank you," he says before he turns away.
"Wait," Shimoni says, "You ... have a garden?" she asks sheepishly.
The man looks around cautiously, noting everyone who is standing about the street. He comes up to her and nods, "It is our livelihood. That anyone would try to steal from it ... it drives me up the wall."
"Not literally, I hope," Tatakai smiles.
That gets a smile out of the man, "Drought is another problem," he sighs, "It hasn't rained enough recently, and someone stole our barrel."
"Perhaps, then, we'll be seeing a lot of each other," Shimoni says. She sticks out her hand, and says, "I'm Shimoni."
"Gibson," he says as he takes it. A fountain gushes from between their hands. He recoils in surprise and asks, "What the-?"
"It's from the Saviour," she explains, "water out of nothing. He asks me to water your garden with it."
Just then the two people they was looking for emerge from the building she was directed to earlier.
"You?" the lady gasps, "Accepting a gift from someone in this community?"
"Seems, I've been defending Glie longer than I thought," Tatakai smiles sheepishly. "Victoria, it's nice to see you again."
"How did you learn my name?" she asks.
"From Nancy," Tatakai answers, "Listen, I'd like you to come to Old Home for a visit," She pulls out her logbook and waves for a rickshaw.
"Since you're dressed so nice, I'll stop to tell you," the man pulling the cart gruffly snorts, "I don't take Haibane scrip."
"Oh, please," Victoria says, "Take these," handing him some coins.
"You're buying her a ride?" the driver huffs.
"Oh, please, Victoria says, "she's all dressed up and carrying a heavy load, and you treat her like this."
"You ride, I'll walk," Tatakai says softly, "I need to stay in shape and," she tears two pages from her logbook, "I want you to have these two pages, anyway. It's not just scrip, it's a log of my activities day-to-day. Since I sign my own, that's how they have value. Read them on the way."
Shimoni says to Tatakai, "I'll catch up with you, later."
Bob and Victoria get into the cart, start with a page each. Victoria has the one from yesterday, she reads:
Tatakai, Haibane of Old Home, Defender of Glie 12 days past spring equinox, 55 years after Rakka's return
Started work 3 hours, 45min past solar zenith according to measurements, 3 hours, 39min according to Kana's tower clock.
Today was a frustrating day: I found two Brats in the water, still have not identified how they are getting in. I let them live, but they detected me, and refused to cooperate with my plan to follow them to the exit. One of them was different from yesterday, so I know they still have current access to the moat. The Wraith that was in here yesterday has left, but I'm expecting to hear her again. I found and sealed a break in the North sector which was able to let Ticks into the interspace. Killed 13, possibly 14 Ticks in the area. I very carefully inspected the inner wall for damage, and took the opportunity to recover some hikarinium from three tags there. I exposed a yellow dose meter in the North sector and found that it saturated in less than thirty seconds. Any momentary contact with the wall in this sector would almost certainly result in an untreatable delta radiation exposure. It has come down slightly since I took a similar measurement last summer, but the winter measurements still remain far higher, at about eighteen seconds to saturation. This is also the sector where I would expect the enemy to attempt remote capture of anyone approaching the wall.
Ended work 11 hours, 23 minutes past solar zenith according to measurement and my watch. Kana's tower clock has malfunctioned again.
"Remote capture?" Victoria gasps.
Tatakai says from beside the rickshaw cart, "You probably don't want to know what that entails, but it is the reason for the hundred-metre rule and the evacuation of Shrine Block near the Great Gate."
The former parents exchange pages.
Tatakai, Haibane of Old Home, Defender of Glie 13 days past spring equinox, 55 years after Rakka's return
Started work 3 hours, 31min past solar zenith according to measurements, Kana's tower clock unavailable.
Today, I was a bit rattled by an interview with one of my Elder Haibane, so I want to avoid any fights. So much for that, a Wraith was waiting for me at the outer door of the suit lock, probably hoping I'd let him in. Flash one Wraith. There were three Brats in the water this time, and I finally managed to find their entrance and seal it, but I had to let them escape. As I suspected, it was in the West sector, [Toganese tag addresses], and I also removed the hikarinium from four tags in the sector. I extended the mast and gave the upper section a good cleaning and prayer, this was where the two Cacoes got in last year.
Incidentally, there are still several types from my dreams that I've never seen in the moat. The Cacoe is by far the largest that I've seen so far.
Ended work 11 hours, 41 minutes past solar zenith according to measurement and my watch. Kana's clock is working again, but has not been properly set.
"Please don't discuss these with the other haibane, I don't want them to find out how much fighting really goes on down there. The log is available to them, but still," she shakes her head, "I don't think they want to know."
Anyway, the haibane I want you to meet works in the watchmaker's store. The clock tower is called "Kana's clock" after the haibane who first got it operational fifty-five years ago. Today it is maintained by Kurai. "I'm sure it wasn't the very first time it ran, but no record exists of any operation prior to Kana."
They enter the clock store's lobby. Kurai is wiping down shelves and rewinding clocks, as well as dusting them off. Victoria sees first her back, with the covered wings. Sensing Tatakai by her jingling robe, she turns and says, "Hey, Tatakai, thanks for helping me with the zenith measurement, I got some cookies for you."
Tatakai sets her gift package down on the counter.
Victoria and Bob regard Kurai with great curiosity as Tatakai walks to her side. "Remember I told you yesterday," she says quietly, "I think I found some people in the North District who could help you. The Saviour pulled out all the stops it seems," she gestures to the parents of Patricia.
Victoria looks her in the eye, then looks at Tatakai, "This isn't Patricia."
Tatakai snaps her fingers, "Oh yes, that was her name."
"Uh, Patricia who?" Kurai wonders.
Tatakai flips through a journal, "No one said she was, and it doesn't seem likely since Patricia died three or four months after Kurai's cocoon would have appeared. That would have been in the-" Tatakai pauses thoughtfully, <the winter>
"Kurai," Tatakai asks, "your cocoon dream, was it set in the winter time? Was there any snow?"
"In front of them?" Kurai gasps.
"Oh, never mind," Tatakai says.
Bob decides to answer, "It was a horrible storm that morning, so there was about fifty centimetres of fresh snow, plus about thirty centimetres of that emerald-shaped granular stuff underneath. Patricia's tracks went through the upper layer, but not the first. We found her about twenty metres from the wall, it was obvious that she had gone up to touch it from the tracks," he sighs. "We scolded her and carried her home, called the community watch to face the music. They took one look at her and walked away, they said, the wall will punish her enough. She just kept repeating, I'm disappearing ... I'm disappearing. An hour before sunrise, she had a raging fever. Our thermometer tops out at forty-seven. I mean, not natural ... we could have cooked breakfast on her back. A few minutes after the sun came up, she sighed, goodbye and that was it."
Victoria is a wreck, clutching her husband and bawling.
"Where is her body?" Tatakai asks.
At this question, Victoria screams, and Bob takes her to a chair offered by the clockmaster. Bob, with tears in his eyes, just shakes his head.
"That bad, huh," Tatakai sighs softly. She comes up and strokes Victoria gently, "I've figured out the rest, you don't need to say any more. I am quite knowledgeable about the effects of delta radiation." Shortly after she died, Patricia's body shattered into cinders and burned away, nothing recognizable would be left.
Tatakai then slowly walks over to Kurai, who is curled up at her bench. "I'm scared," she cries. "I remember the snow ... I don't remember the wall ... I can't remember anything else, but their details ... they match ... I just don't know."
"It's not her," Victoria sighs at last, "the hair and the eyes are right, but Patricia had a distinct mole under her right eye and a scar on her left arm from when she wiped out on her bike ... and obviously, she wasn't a haibane."
"Haibane emerge at a high physical age," Tatakai explains. "I was about seventeen, she was about fourteen. Shimoni was the oldest, at about nineteen. Even young feathers ... none have emerged below the age of two. We grow in cocoons, takes about ten months. If I find out more, can I come see you?"
Bob nods, "I'd be delighted, and thanks for your scrip, er, log pages ... if you need anything you can't buy as a haibane, we'll gladly get it for you."
"Sorry about the red herring," Tatakai says to Kurai. "I'll start going through the Washi's logs tomorrow, no promises."
Shimoni holds up her hands and sprays water from her bare palms onto Gibson's garden. She's careful to make sure that the drops are the right size. One of Gibson's small daughters holds an umbrella over the area she's watering, to shade it from the sunlight.
"Feather," she asks politely, "Don't the plants need sunlight?"
"Yes they do," Shimoni explains,"but it hasn't rained, so they've been getting plenty of sunlight, but not enough water. You know rain clouds block the sun," she explains.
The little girl nods.
"So you see, it is natural for them to be in the shade while it's raining," Shimoni says.
"Where is the water coming from?" the girl asks.
"It comes from God," Shimoni explains.
"Cool!" the daughter cheers, "That's what Daddy says about the rain." Then she asks in a low voice, "Can you get our barrel back?"
"No," Shimoni smiles, "but I can fill it for you."
At that answer, a voice calls from over the fence at the side of the house, "Gibson, it's Sid from the community watch ... we found your barrel."
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 22: Big Featherwing Gun