Disclaimer: We all know Gainax owns all things Evangelion and Yoshitoshi ABe is the God of Haibane Renmei. If they insist on this story disappearing from existence it will. Its not like I'm in this for the money.
Chapter Version 3.1
Conventions: 'thoughts' - unless they are within quotes - where they are for "emphasis." Within thoughts plain text is used for emphasis.
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Chapter 1: Arrival / New Feathers / Meeting
Ayanami felt she was dreaming.
She found herself floating in a sphere of water inside what appeared to her to be a grayish ball.
'I have heard of lucid dreaming,' she thought. 'But I do not think I have ever experienced anything like this before.'
She looked about her and noticed she was wearing something that reminded her of a white hospital gown. She then moved closer to the wall of her bubble.
'It is almost translucent… There seems to be a light on the other side.'
Then she thought she heard something. 'Voices?'
She felt compelled to grab at the wall of the bubble, pulling away a handful of what felt like warm wet sand. She then grabbed a few more.
'Yes… The light is getting brighter where I dig.'
She pressed her hands up against the indentation she had made and pushed… and found her self suddenly flung into the space beyond the sphere as the wall gave way with a great gush.
In the bright light her eyes now stung terribly from the salty water in them. She shut them tightly.
Feminine voices surrounded her.
"I'm gonna drown!"
"Shut up, Kana!"
'I am not dreaming!' she realized with alarm.
She felt someone or something catch hold of her.
"Have you got her, Rakka?"
"My God, look at her hair! It's blue!"
She suddenly felt very sleepy.
"She's passed out, Nemu."
She opened her eyes and found herself looking up at an unfamiliar ceiling. She realized she was lying in a bed, but felt too fatigued to even turn her head. She closed her eyes again.
After a while she thought she heard the sounds of people quietly entering the room she was in. Soon afterwards she heard hushed voices speaking in a group off to her right.
She managed to turn her head and again opened her eyes. Her vision was blurry, but as it cleared she could begin to make out four young women sitting at a table. Then she noticed…
'Wings! Halos! They're Angels!'
She felt a sudden jolt of adrenaline-charged fear course through her. Nearly in a panic she tried to get up from the bed but only managed to raise herself up onto her elbows before she sank back down.
"She's awake!" she heard one of the girls say.
"Get some pillows to help prop her up."
She felt herself being gently raised into a sitting position and the requested pillows being stuffed behind her.
"Careful of her back!"
She opened her eyes again and felt a second wave of fear sweep through her as she regarded the four figures that now stood around her bed. From left to right there were three younger-teenaged-looking girls. The first had long blonde hair and glasses. The second was a boyishly dressed girl with short black hair, and the third was a girl with short light-brown hair. To her far right was a somewhat older looking girl with shoulder-length dark-brown hair. All of them had small pairs of ashen gray wings coming out of their upper backs through their clothes, and softly-glowing golden halos floating about 10 centimeters above their heads.
"How do you feel?" the older looking one asked.
"I… I feel very tired," she said with a rasp.
"That's very understandable. Being born is a trying experience for anyone."
The girl nodded as she handed her a small glass of water.
She took a drink, which greatly soothed the rawness of her throat, and then handed the glass back.
"Are you Angels?"
They all seemed amused by the question.
"No," the oldest said with a chuckle. "We're called 'Haibane' or 'Charcoal Feathers' because of these," she explained with a flap of her wings.
"You're now a Haibane too," the blonde then said.
This sent a renewed chill through her. 'I cannot be like them.'
"But I do not have wings."
Again they all seemed amused.
"I am Nemu," the oldest then said as she pulled a chair up next to the bed and sat down. "Now, tell us about your dream."
"My… dream?" she asked.
"Yes, all Haibane have dreams in their cocoons."
"I suppose you don't remember being in your cocoon, do you? Most of us don't... Kana found yours in one of the rooms here a week ago. You hatched out yesterday and we carried you here to recuperate. You've been sleeping since then."
She shook her head. "I do not remember."
"That's alright. But let's get back to your dream... We are all named for something about our cocoon dreams. Mine was about sleeping, so that's why I'm called Nemu."
"I dreamt I was in shimmering light, so I'm called 'Hikari'," said the blonde.
"I was falling, so I'm 'Rakka'," said the younger brunette.
"And I'm Kana," said the tomboyish one. "I dreamt I was in water so I'm named 'River Fish'."
However, her mind was still a blank. "I do not remember any dream either."
Nemu and Rakka had exchanged worried glances at this.
"I know you're confused and frightened. We all were when we were in your place," Nemu reassured her. "Just relax and try to remember. You're among friends here."
She decided she should be willing to trust what Nemu was telling her. Though their appearance frightened her, these four 'Haibane' otherwise seemed to be normal teenaged girls who were all clearly concerned for her.
She closed her eyes and thought.
"I was floating," she found herself saying. "In air or water, I do not know. Around me it was featureless and cold, very cold. Then I was running, but everywhere I went was the same dull white nothingness. I tried calling out, but I could not make a sound."
She opened her eyes. "It was terrifying."
"Wow, what a big zero of a dream!" Kana exclaimed.
"Kana! That was uncalled for!" Nemu scolded her. "However, it does give me an idea. Your name… will be Rei."
"But my name is…"
She could not remember. Nor, she suddenly realized to her horror, could she recall anything else about who she was. She knew she had had a life before this, but it was all a blank. A visceral fright unlike anything she had ever felt gripped her.
"I... Who am I?"
Nemu saw that Rei was now trembling and took her hand to comfort her. "It's alright, Rei. There's no need to be scared."
"A-Am I really like you?"
Nemu nodded. "Maybe this will help you see that." She motioned to Rakka, who then stepped forward holding a mold of some sort. She opened it and used a pair of tongs to extract a glowing hot ring of what looked like metal.
"Sister Rei," she said solemnly as she held the ring over Rei's head. "I present to you your seal as a sign of your future as a Haibane."
To Rei's utter amazement the ring floated steadily above her when Rakka released it.
'I am like them.'
"Welcome to Old Home, Sister," said Nemu.
The rest of what turned out to be the morning and the first part of the afternoon then passed quietly. Hikari and Kana had left, apparently to go to their jobs, while Rakka and Nemu stayed to look after Rei.
"Are you sure you don't want something to eat?" Rakka asked for what Rei was convinced was the seventh or eighth time.
"No, but I would like some more juice."
Rakka went over to the far end of the room, which was set up as a kitchen, and dug into the small refrigerator.
Nemu then sat down on the edge of the bed. "How are you feeling?"
"I am still tired and I feel weak."
"That's perfectly normal. How does your back feel?"
"It is beginning to feel sore. I think I have been sitting up like this too long."
"Let me see," Nemu said as she leaned behind Rei and opened the back of her gown. Between her shoulder blades, on either side of her spine, she found two large bruised areas that showed signs they were about to start swelling.
"You're coming along fine," she concluded.
"Yes. Your wings - they should emerge by tonight." She turned to Rakka. "Maybe you should get some ice packs ready."
Rakka nodded as she handed Rei her juice. "I'll get right on it."
After Rei finished her drink, Nemu helped her roll over and lie down on her stomach. She opened the back of Rei's gown all the way and then took the two small bags of ice Rakka handed her and put them on the bruises.
Rei found them surprisingly comforting.
As the afternoon turned into evening Rei could no longer try to explain away the fact that something bizarre was happening to her body.
As she laid there, even with the ice the pain in her back grew
steadily worse and she often felt as if the muscles there were
'What is happening to me?'
'What is happening to me?'
Through it all Nemu and Rakka kept an ever-closer eye on her as they prepared for her wings to emerge.
Just after nine o'clock Rakka sat on the bed beside Rei and set a pair of spoons she had taped together on the nightstand.
"What is that for?" Rei asked.
"It's for you to bite on when your wings break through your skin, so that you don't bite your tongue by accident."
Rakka then brushed a few stray strands of hair out of Rei's eyes.
"Don't be frightened," she said sympathetically. "Nemu's got a lot of experience with this and so far everything's just as it should be."
Rei winced. "What are they like when they come out?"
"Pretty much like what we've got. They come out fully formed."
Rei gasped as a particularly sharp pain shot through her.
Rakka took hold of her hand. "It'll be over soon. Just hang in there."
Rei involuntarily squeezed Rakka's hand as the next wave of pain came a few minutes later.
"Nemu," Rakka said. "She's beginning to sweat."
Nemu came over and felt Rei's forehead. "The fever's starting. It shouldn't be long now." She smiled at Rei. "You're doing great."
As the next spasm hit her Rei gripped Rakka's hand so hard that she too winced.
Rakka noticed some blood begin to trickle out from under one of the ice packs.
"Nemu! It's started!"
She grabbed the taped spoons off the nightstand. "Bite on this! Quick!"
Rei could feel her wings tearing through the muscle and skin of her back. The pain grew exponentially as they pushed out, until, finally, Rei arched up, threw her head back and screamed as they broke free, spattering blood and bits of flesh everywhere.
Rei then fell back onto the bed, unconscious.
For the next few hours Rei would occasionally wake up for short periods.
The first time, she noted that she now had an ice pack on her head. She still felt very hot.
Nemu saw she was awake and stroked her face gently with the back of her hand. "Don't worry about the fever. It doesn't last long."
Another time Rei noticed that Nemu and Rakka were working on either side of her.
"What are you doing?" she managed to ask.
"Cleaning your wings," replied Nemu with a smile. "They're a beautiful grey, aren't they, Rakka?"
"Yes! They're pretty."
Rei wondered why the color of her wings would make the two of them seem so happy when it was the same as everyone else's.
Then she fell asleep again.
The next morning Rei awoke to bright sunshine streaming in through the windows of her room.
She felt much better.
'They said the fever would not last.'
After a while she sat up and a brief flare of white-hot agony shot from between her shoulder blades. She gasped but still managed to get out of bed.
After all, although she did not remember it, she was used to far worse and more sustained pain.
Her legs were still a somewhat wobbly, so she made her way slowly to the small adjoining bathroom. There her attention was drawn to her image in the mirror. Though clearly unusual, the blue hair and red eyes felt familiar to her. The softly glowing golden halo floating above her head and the ashen grey wings on her back were another matter entirely.
'I am an… Haibane,' she reminded herself.
There now came a soft knocking at the door to her room. When she did not answer it a voice called out, "Rei! It's Hikari! We brought you some food. Can we come in?"
This time when she didn't answer Rakka came barging into the room with the bespectacled Hikari right behind her.
"Rei! Are you alright?" Rakka asked.
"I am fine," she answered from the doorway to the bathroom. "My back is just slightly sore now," she added, downplaying how she actually felt.
"You scared us when you didn't answer," said Hikari.
When Rei again did not reply, but instead stared blankly at them, Hikari and Rakka simply looked at each other and shrugged.
"You're very quiet, aren't you?" Hikari asked rhetorically as she pulled out a chair for Rei at the dining table. "It's alright," she continued as Rei sat down. "We know how much of a shock this is for you. It was for each of us when we arrived here too."
Rei looked down at the plate Rakka had set in front of her. On it there were two slices of bread, a pear and something she didn't recognize.
"What is this?" she asked as she held up one of the crisp brown strips.
"That's some bacon one of the butchers in town gave us," Rakka answered. "A real treat!"
Rei took a small bite… and immediately spat it out. 'How vile.'
Hikari and Rakka were stunned. Haibane never wasted food or refused what was offered them.
"I do not think that I like meat," Rei explained.
"Um… That's okay," Hikari said. "There're plenty of other things for you to eat."
"And when you're done, we've brought you some clothes to try on," Rakka added.
"This is adequate," Rei said, gesturing to the plain white gown she had worn even in her cocoon.
"But Rei, you can't go into town like that!" said Hikari. "You don't even have anything on under it. It wouldn't be proper."
"Besides, the material is so rough and thin," said Rakka.
"So this is not satisfactory?"
"No!" Hikari answered emphatically.
"Then I will try on the clothes."
A short while later Rei stood in front of them wearing a long-but-lightweight skirt and a short sleeved shirt that were appropriate for the warm summer weather.
"Those should do you fine for now," Hikari concluded.
"Do these belong to someone else?" Rei asked.
"No, no," answered Rakka. "They're hand-me-downs that Reki grew out of years ago. But, since you're a little taller than Hikari, Kana or me, that was all we were able to find for you. They're yours now."
"Who is Reki?"
"Reki was a Haibane too… She left us a few months ago," said Rakka somewhat sadly.
"Where did she go?"
"Don't worry about that now," Hikari interjected. "You should go out on the balcony and get your wings some sun."
"They need sun?"
"Oh, yes! They soak up moisture so it's good to give them some occasional sun. Besides, yours need to finish drying out after yesterday."
Feeling much steadier on her feet since she had had something to eat, Rei stepped out onto the room's large terrace and walked over to one of the railings. She saw that the terrace looked out into a small rectangular courtyard surrounded by run down looking buildings all about 4 stories tall. Some clotheslines ran along one side of the courtyard, and in the center was an old-fashioned water pump. She could also see that a substantial wall surrounded the whole of the small complex.
'So this is what they call Old Home.'
She stood there silently for several minutes simply looking out into the distance, where she could see some green hills.
"It's a nice view from here, isn't it?" Hikari asked as she came up alongside Rei.
Rei said nothing.
Presently they heard a great deal of noise as the dozen younger Haibane who also lived at Old Home came running out into the courtyard to play. Rei estimated that if they had been human children they would range in age from about three to seven or eight.
"Those are the Little Feathers we told you about," Hikari said. "Two of the girls arrived at the beginning of last winter. They were our last new additions before you came."
Rei simply nodded.
Nemu then strode purposefully into the courtyard and vainly tried to instill some order on the chaos. She looked up at the balcony and waved.
Hikari waved back. Rei did not.
Hikari frowned. The newcomer's quiet emotionless voice and anti-social behavior were starting to annoy her.
"Rakka," she then called out, gesturing for the other girl to come out onto the terrace. "I have to go to work. Why don't we both walk Rei into town?"
"That's a great idea!" Rakka answered as she came out into the sunshine.
"Why do I need to go to town?" Rei asked.
"Well," Rakka replied. "It would be good to start showing you around if you feel up to it."
"And we could stop off and get you some things at the used clothing shop," Hikari added.
"But I have appropriate clothes now."
"Don't you want to pick out something yourself that fits you better?" Hikari asked.
"These are adequate."
With that Rei turned and went back to staring out over the courtyard.
The conversation was clearly over.
Hikari sighed. "Oh, well… Guess I'll just be on my way then."
"Yeah," said Rakka dejectedly. "I probably should go finish cleaning up the room Rei's cocoon was in."
The next morning the group again all gathered around the table in the 'guest' room for breakfast.
"I should to go to work at the Temple today," Rakka said.
"Don't forget to take the halo mold back," Hikari said with mock bitterness. She was still slightly unhappy that Rakka had supplanted her as the mold's keeper.
"That's what you get for using it to make donuts," Kana chided her.
Everyone but Rei laughed as Hikari faked a scowl.
"It was only the natural thing to do," Nemu reminded them. "After all, going to the Temple isn't a special trip for Rakka."
"You should take Rei with you so she can meet the Communicator," Kana added to Rakka.
"Yeah, I was thinking that too," she replied.
"Who is this Communicator?" Rei asked.
"He is the head of the Temple of the Haibane Renmei," Nemu explained.
"The Haibane Renmei?"
"The Charcoal Feather Union - they're the organization that looks after us," said Hikari. "It's important that you visit the Temple as soon as possible to introduce yourself."
Rei nodded in understanding.
A short while later Rakka led Rei through the archway of the south gate and out of Old Home for the first time. She expected to have to answer many questions about their surroundings but Rei simply walked alongside her quietly.
"Rei," she finally asked. "Aren't you curious about any of this? About being a Haibane?"
"No? Why not?"
"It is what I am now. That is sufficient for me."
They continued on in the silence the Haibane of Old Home had already come to associate with Rei.
As they passed the hills where the wind turbines were slowly turning in the light breeze they could just begin to make out two figures in the distance. They were coming down the road on the other side of the junction leading to the Temple. When Rakka and Rei reached the crossroad they could see that the pair were also Haibane, as the faint glow of their halos was now apparent.
"Let's wait here for them," Rakka suggested. "They must be going to the Temple too."
Moments later Rakka bristled. She recognized the approaching pigtailed Haibane as Midori, the girl from the Abandoned Factory who had been harsh with Reki on occasion.
"Hello, Rakka. Going to the Temple?" Midori asked as she arrived at the junction.
"Yes. I'm taking our new sister, Rei, there to meet the Communicator."
"Really? What a coincidence! I'm doing the same thing with our new brother here." She considered Rei. "So when were you born?"
"Two days ago."
"Same as our boy here. You two are practically twins!"
Rakka regarded the boy, whose head had been hanging dejectedly the entire time she had been watching. "What's your name?" she asked.
The boy looked up and Rei's breath caught in her throat. Just as when she had seen herself in the mirror this boy's black hair and dark blue eyes seemed familiar to her.
For those of you who didn't know, one meaning of Rei is "zero." Another is "cold."
Does Rei seem a little OOC at first? I think you would be too in her situation. She's basically in a state of shock. All her usual defenses and behavior patterns are out the window, so for a while she actually does feel.
I kept thinking about a woman in labor when I wrote about Rei's wings coming out.
And, yes, using the names Rei and Ikari is something of a cop out. However, I'm currently writing another fic where one of the main characters does go by a different name than usual and IT IS A PAIN. I also hope that the readers won't find it too confusing. I therefore decided to avoid doing that in this story. Fortunately, it works out in the storyline.
For those of you familiar with Haibane Renmei you'll see that this chapter greatly parallels Rakka's experience. I found that basically unavoidable. Haibane all come into their world the same way. You'll also know some of what's coming up – meeting the Communicator, finding work, etc. That's a Haibane's life. I suppose that only with that stuff out of the way will this story really begin.
For those of you unfamiliar with Haibane Renmei, I recommend these
www(dot)haibanerenmei(dot)com - the official site in English
www(dot)yatpay(dot)net/haibane/index(dot)html - Yatpay's Haibane Shrine
In particular you should read the first two doujins ABe
wrote. They're available for download here:
The first two of these doujins cover Rakka's arrival at Old Home and basically outline the Haibane's world. The third is a joke doujin and the last delves into Reki's past.
Also, sometimes Haibane are born who can't remember their dreams well and have black wings. These Haibane are called "sin-bound." As the name indicates, it is not a good thing to be - hence some of Nemu's and Rakka's reactions at the beginning.
For those of you unfamiliar with Evangelion: WTF is your problem? ZOMG! It's teh Rei!
Version 2.0: I made some changes based on some of the
feedback I've received.
Version 3.0: Major reworking. No more flashback.
Version 3.1: Minor additions and clean up.
"I'm searchin' for my mainline... but I couldn't hit it sideways... Just like Sister Rei said..."