Rise of Glie Chapter 13
Previous: Rise of Glie Chapter 12: Our Peace
FHD Remix: The Rise of Glie
Chapter 13: Finished
"Bahitsu (馬匹 - Horses), the fit doesn't have to be perfect," he says with a hand on the far younger haibane's shoulder, "but good eye. Thanks for getting me for a final check." Aware's performing the final inspection of the dyke. He's been at it for seven years, and it shows on his face. He knows he is now far more as he was at the end of his previous life than he was at the beginning of this one. He extends his wings and gives them a good flap, "Dang I wish these would make the climb out of the river valley easier."
He looks up and down the irregularly tiled, sloped stoneforge surface of the dyke, the side designed to face the river for a thousand years. "Everyone out!" he bellows, "We are finished!" He looks up at the big earthen dam almost blocking the view of Glie's encircling wall beyond, and spots the humans gathered around a collection of glowing blue cylinders, one of which used to keep the water at Old Home hot. "Master Jabez!" he calls out like a drill sargeant, "Start wiring up!"
Once he has climbed out of the river valley, he marches up and down the entire length of the dyke to make sure he was the last. Once it is fused, no one will be able to climb the slippery wall.
"So the general idea," Stanley grunts after the sun has gone down, "is to fuse the stoneforge glacis facing the river into a smooth surface with one great flash?"
Aware nods, as does Jabez beside him. "To Flash," Aware raises his metal mug.
"To Flash?" Jabez wonders, his question not having anything to do with the fact that their mugs contain only water.
"To Ashfeather Flash," Stanley clarifies, "his seven plasma cells and one hundred, forty-seven tonnes of stoneforge shards."
"To the Haibane," Jabez says.
Stanley surveys the group of eight haibane, most of which hold a tool which they wield with skill.
Mugs clink, water is consumed. Stanley sets his mug down, then reaches behind his neck, lifting a chain, and on it the key that hangs from it. He puts the key into the ignition of the glowing high-tech gadgetry. Stanley grasps the key to turn it, but somehow does not seem strong enough.
"Aware," Stanley squeaks. "Master Haibane Aware ... I can't do it ... This is your dyke."
"But, sir, we had agreed..."
"I try, but I can't," Stanley rasps, "My hand won't turn the key ... to end all that was of our city's creation that yet remains in our control ... to commit every last bit of stoneforge that can be arranged into architecture and ... perhaps never to see a lightbulb or transistor come to life again within this wall." After several breaths, Stanley confirms, "I can't" and takes his hand from the key. After turning to Aware, he says, "I know none of you have ever seen the old city ... never will ... but I guess, there are some things even in Glie where those without wings rule ... that only the Haibane can ever do."
"Jabez?" Aware asks deferently.
"Hey, brother," Jabez says with a smile, "I might outrank you, but I'm not one to argue with Master Stanley. Besides-" Jabez smacks the haibane on the shoulder, noting the skill with which the haibane slips his wing out of the way, "you've earned it."
Finally, after having nine hundred eyes stare at him for several minutes, Aware reaches for the key Stanley left in the control box. Then he pauses, turns over to Stanley and says, "Uh ... Master Stanley?"
"Not you too," he groans.
"Sorry, I just er ... how long is the delay?" Aware asks nervously, knowing about the huge amount of charged plasma he is about to unleash on the structure of his design.
"Jabez?" Stanley nods respectfully to his human subordinate.
"Oh, twenty seconds," Jabez says.
"Then, we better hustle," Aware says, snapping the key into position. The pale blue glow of the circuitry brightens, and a high pitched electronic whine starts. Everyone bolts back to the rope bridge strung between the top of the Temple and the hill at the head of the dyke.
With a buzz and a blue flash, the entire water-facing glacis of the dyke lights up, reflecting off the wall stretching eighty metres above their heads, and the far bank of barren soil. After several seconds, it starts to dim, then the plasma controller bursts in a shower of sparks, and the blue glow ceases from it all.
"It'll be enough," Aware assures Stanley, "Heck it might even be watertight. I didn't think the wiring was that good."
"It still blew," Jabez sighs.
"No one's handled three mega-amps at a crack in twenty-three years, brother," Aware answers, "You did well. It only needed two seconds, and you gave it twelve."
"That's it?" Jabez gasps, "Why didn't you say so?"
"I wanted to see how well you'd do without knowing, brother," Aware says with a smile, "I wanted to see your best."
"I'm impressed," Stanley says to Jabez, "he did tell me. Left it up to me whether I should tell you. I wanted to see what you could do, and I'm impressed. I just wish we could use your skill at handling it on another project."
"Teacher Aware," the youngest haibane, about twelve years old sounds dejected, "I thought it would be brighter than Hagane's Flight."
Aware hides his face for a moment's pain, then kneels, plunking his seat onto the dirt, his coveralls pretty much as dirty as they'll ever be already.
"Fushoku (腐蝕 - Corrode), I'd be disappointed if it was brighter," he says reverently, "A haibane's Day of Flight is special. It means he made it. It means he'll be waiting in the next world for us. His big goodbye, and we won't see him again until we go ourselves."
"What about Shiden?" the boy asks, "I didn't see the light of his Flight, but he's been gone for twelve days."
Fushoku couldn't possibly have missed the pain in Aware's expression.
Jabez obviously didn't. He kneels beside Aware, takes his hand and asks, "Aware, what happened to Shiden?"
Aware shakes his head, avoiding their eyes.
"He doesn't know," Stanley sighs, "Jabez, I've asked him before."
Jabez pulls the haibane's head upright by his halo.
"Jabez, I-" Aware weeps, but says no more, even as Jabez forces the haibane to face him, and looks into eyes of deep sorrow.
Sorrow gazes into Sorrow, and the human says, "You know, Aware. I can tell."
"I can't say," Aware sobs, "Please don't ask me again."
The next morning, Aware can't be found anywhere in the camp.
Next: Rise of Glie Chapter 14: The First Communicator