Rise of Glie Chapter 23
Previous: Rise of Glie Chapter 22: A Troubled Youngster
FHD Remix: The Rise of Glie
Chapter 23: Reestablished
Bahitsu seems incredibly embarrassed at having to explain such things. Aware's already holding a pink dress and a somewhat smaller yellow dress; Janice wasn't sure of her size. "These are called panties," the rosy-cheeked teenager explains, handing Aware a small bag he seems ashamed of holding, "She was asking me which size would fit. I think she gave us three sizes."
"Thank you," Aware says gratefully, then re-enters the room.
"Oh!" she whimpers, sweating, "What's happening to my back?"
Aware sets the dresses and bag so hastily on the meal cart that one of the forbidden garmets dribbles out of the bag onto the floor. Bahitsu ducks behind the door.
"Bahitsu!" Aware yells desperately, "bag up some snow in a couple of towels. Hurry, please."
As the boy hastily vanishes, Aware turns his attention to the hatchling girl, "Lay on your front please. It's your wings growing, getting ready to come out. It's normal."
"Owee!" she bawls as he helps her back down onto the bed. "Mirror," she winces.
"Bad idea," he warns softly, "I saw my own like that and-"
"I mean my dream," she says, "I saw myself in the mirror in my dream ... I was bigger ... no clothes, longer hair and on my chest, these-"
"It's alright, Kagami-san," Aware says hastily, "Mirror will do."
Bahitsu returns with the snow compresses, refusing to cross the door's threshold. Aware takes them and puts them on her shoulder blades.
"This hurts!" she bawls, then starts stuffing a corner of the pillow case in her mouth.
The snow filled towels turn red with her blood. With a stoic grunt, she pushes her wings through the skin of her back and sprays blood all over Aware and the room, casting about the pink snow with one of them. A final scream, and the first spreading of her wings is done. They droop limply around her shoulders as she loses consciousness in a final moan.
Her wings are unusually large, spanning over two thirds of a metre. She wakes to feel Aware gently wiping the blood from her feathers. She announces her consciousness with an involuntary flap of one of them, followed by an agonized cry.
"Try not to move," Aware cautions, "They hurt at first, that's normal. The fever will pass by morning."
She notes the room is dark, lit only by their halos. "You're washing my wings?" she asks.
"Yes," Aware says, "It is hard to wash them yourself. I know. I did." He puts the cloth away after finishing her left wing, then starts preening the drier feathers of her right.wing.
"I feel it," she says. "These wings are really a part of me?"
"Yes," Aware confirms. "They take some getting used to."
Her right wing moves against the resistance of Aware's hands. "Ah!" she cries, "I was just trying to scratch the itch on my nose," she complains as though Aware had punished her for making the slight movement.
"Don't be in such a hurry," Aware softly cautions, "Your nerves take a few days to sort out your wings from your arms. In any case the worst is behind you."
She turns to look at the cart, "Oh, you brought me some nice clothes. Thank you."
"Maybe," Aware suggests, "try to sleep for a little while."
"That's okay," Kagami replies, "I'm not tired enough. I slept most of a whole day, right?"
"Why not?" Aware asks.
"I get the bad dreams when I'm not tired enough," she says.
Seeking not to overwhelm her, Aware does not press.
Shiden clings to the mast of the boat, his Washi mask hanging over his right shoulder. By the light of his halo, he strikes a match, sticks into the end of his flashlight, and closes the glass cover. The match brilliantly flares in Bahitsu's astounding little mantle, and Shiden blinks because he was caught in the beam. It'll last about five minutes.
The moat inside the wall has melted again, making his rounds easier. Shiden is happy that his wooden Communicator wings are enough to let him use the armor robe, from which he removed the armor plating, knowing that the desired delta radiation protection was in the fabric. The wine flowers that give the best indications of low level delta radiation are clear except for the last few centimetres to the outer surface. That means that the hikarinium conversion systems that shut down for most of the last year are back in operation.
He scans the beam of his flashlight along a line of little hikarinium flakes past where they end a few metres above the catwalk, following the hairline fracture of the stoneforge up into the dark upper space. This is the only one he's found. The light of the Bell Nut Festival fixed the rest, though still marked by trails of glowing flakes.
Patiently, Shiden, for now and secretly, the old Defender, lowers the mast of the boat back into its hull. Once the six nested sections are back in their places, he puts away the glowing red hot lever into its slot under the mast hatch, pulling out its complement and setting it on the deck before closing the hatch and covering it with tatami mats that are comfortable to sit on. After cranking up the drop keel, he plunks his bottom down on the deck, casually lights another match for his flashlight, and scans the tags.
"This is the story of a troubled woman named Kagami," he reads aloud, then continues to read the changed tag in silence. Suddenly he leaps to his feet, extending his flashlight to read the tag again. "Oh, no," he sobs, letting the flashlight slip from his fingers. As it plops into the water, its light goes out, and it bobs softly, its hollow handle filled with small wooden matches instead of the usual batteries.
<One of the reasons I allowed the battle to go so badly,> the Saviour whispers softly in his thoughts, <is because a smaller community is better at handling the really tough cases.>
"Hi, Kagami-san," Haoto says as the little girl in the pink dress arrives with Aware, Atsui, and Keepsie flanking her, "Welcome to Stone Mill."
She blushes, shyly seeming to hide in plain sight rather than try to take cover behind one of her guards, "Kagami-chan?"
"Nothing less than Kagami-kun," Aware says smartly, "You have a real name, now, remember?"
While she might seem nervous of Haoto, the sight of Stanley terrifies her. All he does is say, "Hello," as he passes by, on his way back to the human camp, no closer to her than ten metres.
"Not everyone has wings," she whispers once he is what she considers a safe distance.
"What scares you about him, Kagami-san?" Aware asks her calmly.
"I don't know," she squeaks, "But even you scared me before I saw you were an angel."
"Haoto, she's been in Glie four days," Aware says happily, "Washi's called for her, says he has something special for her."
"Stanley knows," Haoto says, and said he was going to announce it when she got here, "I don't know why he didn't."
"I'll tell you later," Aware says.
Haoto knows the eyes of his senior well enough, and aborts his complaint just before he starts to utter it. "Oh, Aware, the new spinner is working great, we're well into winding our first wind turbine generator, come see," he offers.
"Maybe later," Aware says, "We have a long climb ahead of us."
Scared of climbing the path herself, Aware offers to let her ride on his back. She seems nervous at first, but accepts. She's giggling most of the way as her face rests between his wings, and she keeps asking him to flap them. She doesn't move her own much, since she's still getting used to them. At the top, the Communicator is waiting for them, quietly on the cliff above the open roof of the Temple. They've just crossed the rope bridge over the trickling stream that now powers Stone Mill, and far below hammers in human hands chip at the stone, carving a new, much easier and safer path to the Temple.
Kagami's cheer instantly dissipates when she sees the masked man with the wooden wings.
Washi is shocked. Shiden is beside himself with surprise that the person he read about would cheerfully ride a man's back up the hill to the Temple.
The standoff ends when Aware lets Kagami down and says, "Washi, this is Kagami, hatchling of Old Home."
"Ah, yes," the old man says warmly, "I'm the Communicator. I'm here for haibane when they get in trouble. Please, the entrance to the Temple is this way, and there is a beautiful garden inside."
Washi walks carefully down the steep path beside the Temple, and finally to the entrance. There is not much parking left after the terrain around its entrance fell away in a spectacular mudslide near the beginning of the dyke project. This forced the camp's second of four moves so far on its convoluted journey to its permanent site, hopefully in the central and eastern regions within the wall. Some have gotten as good at taking adobe structures apart as putting them back together. Many of these bricks are going to the new community of Stone Mill.
Aware leads Kagami down the path, several metres behind the Communicator, always in a position so he can catch her should the little girl tumble. They arrive at the shelf in front of the Temple without incident, and another is waiting. He has the same robe and wooden wings as the Communicator, but a different, square mask.
"This is my assistant Tiindare," Washi introduces, "from the Toga."
Tiindare bows in greeting.
"Pleased to meet you, Tiindare," Kagami says politely.
The assistant seems uncomfortable.
"Oh," Washi says, signing something to Tiindare with his hands, before turning back to Kagami. "The Toga don't speak, so they don't like being spoken to. Do not say anything until we get to my desk on the other side of the garden."
Aware taps Washi on the shoulder and whispers, "What's going on?"
"Didn't Stanley make the announcement?" the Communicator asks with a tone of surprise.
Aware shakes his head and gently pats the head of the girl beside him.
Washi announces with a full voice, "The Haibane Renmei has been reestablished."
Next: Rise of Glie Chapter 24: Growth