Rise of Glie Chapter 46
Previous: Rise of Glie Chapter 45: You'll Get Used to It
FHD Remix: The Rise of Glie
Chapter 46: Flight of Sadness
"Where were you on Tuesday?" Washi asks as she hears Wally land in the high branches in the tree.
<How'd you know it was me?> thinks he. Wally knows the question is rhetorical, since he has no way of answering, and it's none of her business anyway. The truth was, and Washi probably knows this, that the traitor wasn't with the Toga that day. Also, Imps like chicken, so he had to find her a diversion.
Washi claps at him to show the smile hidden by her mask, then beckons him to come to the gazebo, where she has fashioned a much smaller shelf for her work writing the Haibane Renmei's official records on their own handmade paper. The laser printer and its associated fanciness are locked away in a store room so as not to mar the temple's quaint beauty; a beauty that hides so well its original purpose as Defense Tower Four.
As she sits down, she says, "How a hellspawn can pass as a Toga, I have no idea. Their form would revert if they betrayed us ... or they would simply die outright."
<Makes her easy to spot.> The crow squawks.
A second crow lands on the gazebo's railing, flitting its tail like a finch a couple of times after it lands.
"Oh, you again," Washi laughs, "Are you in on this little caper?"
It reaches over its left wing and awkwardly balances on its right foot for a couple of seconds. Its bill emerges with a small piece of paper.
Washi takes it and quietly reads, "I know where. He showed me." in Toganese, followed by a non-standard set of four scratches. Two long ones and two short ones.
The Communicator lets out a sigh of relief. "I'm glad it's not him," she says as she burns the tiny message in the flame of her candle.
Wally spreads his wings wide and bows for Washi. The other crow follows suit. Wally then utters a three tone overture. Washi has come to understand that this means, "We present you our play."
"Go ahead," she whispers.
The crows turn to face one another, awkwardly straddling the railing with both feet. The second crow tilts back its head and puffs up its chest while Wally bows to it like a knight swearing an oath.
"He's the king?" Washi guesses.
Wally points his beak at her and extends his right wing a little bit. It means, "Close."
Wally then flies to the same empty storage room with the pots on the window sill as before and lands on the handle. It is not locked, and he weighs enough to turn the lever. He wipes out into the snow in front of the now ajar door. After a bit of thrashing, he rights himself and takes flight, showing he's alright.
Washi lets them in, and they fly to the hanging lamp.
Wally hangs on as the take-off of the other crow sets the lamp swinging wildly. It dives upon the same empty pot and knocks it down.
"Oh," the Communicator realizes as she sets the pot back, "You're in charge of the operation to catch the traitor, is that it?"
Both birds fully extend their right wings.
"You know, this would be a lot easier if she'd ever notice we can sign with our feet," says the other crow to Wally in ravenfoot Toganese.
The gentle light flickers.
"I guess we got this done just in the nick of time," Fushoku says as he turns on the lab's main light.
"You have the optical masks for the current batch finished, I'm assuming?" Aware says from the prototype assembly bench.
Fushoku nods. Hane, beside him, looks almost stricken, but forces a smile anyway. The group's usual enthusiasm seems to have evaporated.
"Let's try it out!" Aware says as he opens the monitor lid of the new computer. While conceptually similar to the "notebook" computers of a lost golden age, this one is not meant to be mobile, being nearly the same size as the the previous Mark Three, but stuffed with more memory to drive the new screen. This is new microchip memory from Wire Factory itself, as opposed to the ancient core memory the Toga can make. The battery is sized to last it five minutes, tucked away in a corner near the back of the case, since all the interface jacks are at the front of this particular computer.
The computer starts up for the first time, showing a set of diagnostic parameters in Toganese. "Yes!" Teisei cheers with a deep, but quiet breath as the messages of perfect health scroll away.
It startles Aware into turning towards him momentarily, but the bittersweet look on his face makes him turn back to the machine.
"I can't wait to show the Communicator," Fushoku sighs.
Fushoku's words fade as though a wall has formed between them, and Aware's eyes widen as the machine is set in a red glow. Suddenly he sees to his right a large, star-shaped pad. On the screen is a different language, not Toganese. It startles him; more ancient than English even. He hears a rattling, malicious hiss, almost like a snake. A gnarled hand, not his own, reaches for the star-shaped pad and glows red.
Startled, he jumps up, realizing he was superimposed as a ghost over the computer's "real" operator. He hears the distant crash of a chair, as though in another room, but the operator is still seated in its chair.
A strange monster with nine eyes and no clothes responds to a high pitched beep, which Aware knows is the battery low warning. It presses its hand against the pad and the fire in its hand courses through the coils behind the pad. A bar graph he hadn't noticed before advances suddenly. His glance follows the cord between the power jack of the computer, but instead of leading to the wall at Old Home, it leads to the pad. He realizes that this monster just recharged the battery with fire from its hand. He looks around at the earthen walls of a cave lined with human bones.
"Oh, God!" he blurts, slamming his eyes shut and quivering.
"Aware, what's wrong?" Fushoku's voice, along with his hands around Aware's shoulders.
"The memory test is running perfectly so far," Teisei notes.
"It's not that," Hane says as she sets right Aware's chair, which he had sent flying when he jumped up. "Sir," she says slowly, "We're here for you. What's the matter?"
Aware opens his eyes and breathes a sigh of relief that he's back in the "normal" Wire Factory, and the strange pad and language are not really on the computer he just assembled.
"You are going to Fly, right?" Fushoku asks.
"Maybe we should get him out of the suit to check his feathers," Hane hastily suggests.
"I'm fine," Aware says, "Saviour finally answered a question I've been pestering him about since before you hatched."
All three of the younger haibane surround the elder, now physically in his forties, looking into his troubled eyes.
"Who is outside the wall?" Aware quivers, "Who are these computers for?" He takes his seat again, "I got a glimpse of one of them, must be who the Toga sell them to."
"Well?" Teisei asks.
"Terrible," he shakes his head, "I didn't hear its name. But I'm so glad of the wall now, knowing what it protects us from. And who."
"When is your Flight, Aware-san?" Fushoku asks, "If you may tell us."
"Oh?" Aware asks, as if he has no idea what Fushoku's asking about.
"Your halo is flickering," Hane explains, "you're Leaving the Nest, soon, aren't you?"
"Oh, darn, what time is it?" Aware asks, glancing at the clock. Nearly in a panic he leaps from his chair, not knocking it over this time, and rushes out, "Oh, guys. I'm so sorry, please forgive me."
Following him, they notice that his bento, but not his book bag, is missing from the lunch room. They see him running into the setting sun, still in his bunny suit. No one blinks until he is out of sight.
Fushoku starts to cry.
"I guess it's like that sometimes," Hane whispers, trying to comfort her stricken boss.
The three haibane are joined by the others who work at Wire Factory, standing there until the stars come out as the blue sky fades to black. While the glow of the sun still wanders over the distant wall, the light beam from the northwest shoots into the clear sky, impaling the one tiny cloud in it. Several minutes later, it fades, and the gathered haibane slowly disperse in twos and threes, comforting each other at the sudden loss of their leader: Aware, the first Haibane of Old Home.
Next: Rise of Glie Chapter 47: A Number of Stones