Not really bothering to wonder if he is going in search of clothes for the Bunnies, Alma watches Tuma-Sukai leave, glad that he can no longer rob her of the intimate nature of this moment, and then goes back to tending to the three remaining orbs. These are just a little smaller than the previous four and the two male Bunnies and the one female that come out of them look slightly younger, no older than children in their mid-teens, and more confused, as if still struggling to master such basic things as hearing and sight. They don’t stand up, sitting instead with a puzzled expression on their faces. Alma kneels by them and begins to speak softly, trying to get them to stand up on their own. After a couple of failed attempts, she decides to give them some more time and leaves them to rub their eyes that only now are getting accustomed to the low light of the room.
Corporal Kaur suddenly enters the room, and after a moment standing stunned at what she is seeing, she bursts into laughter. “Whoa! I see why you want the clothes!” She looks at the two gods as if they might explain what they are doing, cavorting with naked rabbit-eared people, but when no explanation is offered, she shrugs and walks to the piles of boxes. As she walks past, her eyes linger on the dark male Bunny, who smiles at her, causing her to laugh nervously. Alma makes a small, slightly growling sound with her throat. “Oh sorry ma’am,” she says. “But you gotta admit, he’s really...sorry, never mind.”
She busies herself with moving boxes, and Alma helps her. The corporal keeps chatting brightly, saying, “Man, if my dad knew what I was doing right now, he’d probably try to make me leave the Guardia!” and laughing loudly. Then she says, “There we go!” She drags out a box and opens it. “Ta-daa!” The box is full of blue button-down tunics, the mass-produced, lighter-colored ones worn by the Guardia Popula. “I’m sure we have some trousers around here, but they’ll never fit. These guys are too short and slender for what we have. The large shirts should be big enough to cover ‘em up.”
“These will do. We can’t have naked Bunnies walking around,” Alma replies. “Cherry, Rosemary, Mayumi, Sage, please come over here.”
Rosemary, the red-haired Bunny, comes over and bends down to get a look. “Ooo! Clothes!” she squeals. “Look, Cherry, real clothes! We’ve only ever dreamed of these!”
Shocked into silence, Gwydion watches as the dark Bunny, now known as Cherry, bounds over, her tail shivering in delight. “Oh, good – we were getting filthy with all this dust. Hey,” she says, turning to Cpl. Kaur, “you have any aprons? And we’re gonna need sponges, buckets...this place is gonna take a lot of work, if you want us to stay here!”
Kaur gapes at them and finally finds her voice. “You can talk!”
Rosemary says, “Of course we can talk! Why wouldn’t we be able to talk?” She holds the tunic in front of her and looks at it critically. “Not exactly fashionable, is it? We’re going t’need somethin’ a bit more flash for the customers...” she mutters to herself.
“Here you go, Sage,” Alma says to the young, dark male while she slips a tunic on him. She looks at him, appreciatively. “Yes, these are a bit too big for you, but we will fix that in time.”
“Thank... you...” Sage replies, apparently still struggling with speech.
“Ma’am?” the human woman queries. Alma turns to her. “I could go get some of those things they want...aprons and such. Well, we already have buckets and sponges and all that but I could find them some more clothes that’ll fit them better and look better and I have a sewing kit at home and that’s just right around the corner and I make clothes for my sisters so I think I could modify some pants for their tails –”
“Corporal,” Alma interrupts. “Thank you, that is a kind offer. But don’t you have other duties?”
“Oh no, ma’am! I’m only here for the ceremony – I don’t come on duty until this evening but you know I really don’t have anything to do until then so –”
“Thank you!” Alma interrupts her again. The cheerful woman’s rapid chatter was exhausting her. “Well in that case, yes, please, I would appreciate it. I am afraid I don’t have money with me but if you give me some time to go and...”
Gwydion speaks up. “Not a problem. I’ll take care of it. In fact,” he smiles at Aliyah, “I would be honored to go with Corporal Kaur and help carry her bags. It’ll be a good chance to get to know the neighborhood.”
Aliyah looks surprised and pleased, her face flushing slightly as she looks at the handsome god. “Great! Um, let me think what we need...oh, and you’ll need to talk to Sgt. Machado...”
Alma tunes out their words and turns to all four Bunnies, looking at them with the care of a mother hen gazing at her chicks. The looks they give her in return are full of love, devotion and gratitude, as if the Bunnies could understand how long they have been held imprisoned and what their release means to the goddess. “Now, listen, little ones,” she says to them. “Your three younger siblings are not quite as advanced as you are, so I will need all four of you to help me tend to them until they are whole.”
“Until they are what?” Gwydion asks in a low voice, forcing Alma to acknowledge him. She looks at him, wondering how it is possible that such a gaudy-looking character can just disappear in the center of a room. Aliyah stands nervously quiet, her small Guardia notebook and pen in her hands.
“These Bunnies have spent years in their bubbles, away from the world. It has really stunted their growth, to the point where the younger ones are still not yet fully formed,” she explains.
“They look very anatomically correct to me,” the god responds with a smile at the image of Rosemary and Cherry modelling their oversized tunics.
“On the outside, yes. On the inside... They may still take some time to learn to perform the simplest of functions.”
“We will help,” Mayumi says as she turns to take three tunics to her younger brothers and sister.
“Yeah,” Cherry says, putting her arms around one of the younger, still-nameless Bunnies. “We’ll be with them every step of the way.”
Alma quietly follows the four Bunnies as they race to take care of their younger siblings, leaving Gwydion and Aliyah to make their way out.