Chapter 1 "The First Day" 14

Alma enters the basement room with the Bunnies following close behind.

It is just an old storage room, not very big but at least with a good height to the ceiling and some solid stone flooring. The dust lines and dirt voids on the floor indicate that it was, until not long ago, a rather full storage room, probably with bags and boxes stacked up to the ceiling.

“Are we supposed to sleep here? It’s filthy!” Rosemary complains.

“Yeah, there ain’t even any beds for us!” Cherry points out.

“We will be sleeping here, yes, after I make some minor adjustments,” Alma says in a pleasant tone. “And I will need you all to remain silent and let me focus on what I have to do.”

“Oh... Sure thing! We’ll just be real qui –”

“Cherry, shh!” Mayumi hushes her.

Alma waits for a minute or two as the bunnies become silent and then breathes deep. Reaching into a hidden pocket, she produces a small, brilliant orb, apparently made of glass and containing a golden liquid punctuated by golden specks, that catch the light as they move freely within the liquid. The orb is only three quarters full. She looks at her monthly allowance of Guardia-supplied mana with slight dismay. It will take all of it to make this room habitable and after that is gone, she will have to tap into her own, personal reserve. Things never go smoothly when that happens...

Alma dismisses these worries. It cannot be helped, after all. The bunnies just cannot sleep in this wreck of an empty room and that is that. She holds out the orb in the palm of her open hand, stretched  in front of her, and closes her eyes to concentrate on what she is trying to achieve. “Visualization!” she can almost hear her old master speaking to her in thought. “If you can see the magic happening in your mind, it will soon unfold before your eyes.”

She focuses on the layout she wants, every detail vivid in her mind, and whispers a command word, slowly releasing a minute fraction of her power into the orb, just enough to get it to release the mana it contains. Under her tight and constant mental grip, the mana begins to flow out of the orb and spread across the room, like a golden mist, the tiny specks of sheer power hovering like fine dust, much to the bunnies’ amazement and delight. Their mouths gape with mute fascination as the sparkling specks of dust begin to move and dance around the room, gathering in small motes, merging into larger bodies. Delicate, bright, winged bodies, flying in all directions. One of  them lands on Mayumi’s nose, making her cross her eyes, flapping its wings once or twice only to disappear almost immediately in a shower of golden dust when Rosemary tries to touch it.
As the shimmering butterflies gather in swarms that begin to hover around specific places in the room, reality begins to bend. The stone floor, suddenly rid of the dust of ages, begins to reshape itself as a large gap opens in it near the wall opposite to the door. The gap stretches and widens, spreading out in a rounded shape, like a tear falling horizontally to the left of the room. Alma opens her eyes and walks over to the edge of the gap, where it is wider, as it sinks to create a tiered bottom, shallower on the sides and deeper near the center. She looks down at the round, wide platform that is rising toward her to fill most of the gaping hole on the floor. It comes to stand just a couple of fingers’ breadth from the rest of the floor, serving as a small peninsula, in the center of which a shallow crater is already forming. A small swarm of golden butterflies swoops in, hitting the bottom at full speed and breaking into a fine mist that blurs sight for a moment and then disappears, leaving behind a small mountain of fluffy throw-pillows in several different shades of blue.

Alma looks at the pillows and then around her at the rest of the room. To the right of the door, a large wardrobe is just appearing, its shorter end facing the right wall against which a large, comfortable bed, clearly not a single person’s bed, is leaning. To the left of the door, a long and wide wooden desk or workbench stretches up to the corner of the room, following the left wall for a bit after that. Not very far away, a low platform is forming to hold a small table for her brushes and scents. The mirror above it offers Alma her own curious glance in return.

The goddess again turns to the stone platform and begins to walk around its edge. She takes one step into the hole and her foot lands on a small stone platform. She takes one more step and another platform greets her foot. And another one and another one, until she finally reaches the wall. Here, she places one hand on the stone wall, causing a section of it to move away from her so that the once rectangular room gains two extra sides. Two bookshelves immediately form to line them. The far wall, now standing a couple of steps away from Alma, begins to sprout what looks like a small boulder. As the stone slowly stops stretching and comes to rest at arms reach, slightly to Alma’s right side, something else begins to grow from within. A pair of hands, poised to make a cup, come out of the stone, closely followed by delicate arms attached to a beautiful stone statue of a young woman. Alma sends the now empty orb hovering into the exquisite hands of the statue and the last of the butterfly swarms immediately flies into it. The orb suddenly bursts with light, filling the room with a soft brilliance far easier on the eye than torches and lamps. Water begins to pour from the lovely stone hands, soon filling the great hole on the floor up to its edges. As Alma turns to return to the side of the bunnies, the fountain wall begins to sprout silvery shoots of metal. A cage begins to form, its frame fit to hold an animal as large as the bunnies but too loose to keep a small, unwilling inhabitant within. Vines and branches begin to fill its interior and fragrant flowers, some edible, some deadly, some just pretty, cover the ground.

“What is that?” Rosemary asks.

“That, dear, is a cage,” Alma replies.

“A... cage?” Rosemary inquires, searching her mismatched memories for the meaning of the word. “For us, bunnies?”

“No, dear. It is not for bunnies.”

“So...” the bunny finally grabs a hold of the concept of a cage. “To keep some other animal in?”

“No, Rosemary, to keep people out,” the goddess explains. “Now, come. Time for you to take a proper bath before you eat.”

Alma once again approaches what is now a small pool, testing the water with her hand. It is just the right temperature for a pleasant bath and she soon calls the bunnies to her side. The four older bunnies approach the water with care, gazing at their own reflections as they look at the undisturbed surface of the newly-created pool. Rosemary and Cherry are the first to touch the water, with a mix of care and fear, and then to thrust their hands in it. They quickly remove their clothes and dive in, thrusting their heads out of the water in search for air soon afterwards. They giggle and splash around, getting poor Sage all wet even before he even gets a chance to dip his fingers in the water. The two females share a meaningful look and a mischievous thought before reaching out and pulling him in by the legs of his trousers. He yelps as he falls in with a splash.

“Be careful, little ones,” Alma warns them in concerned but sincere delight. “Stay close to the margins of the pool, where it is shallow and safe.”

“We will!” Cherry replies, keeping Sage’s head out of the water so he can breathe.

“Aren’t you going in, Mayumi?” the goddess asks in a soft voice.

The bunny looks at the door, where her younger siblings still stand, too confused and overwhelmed to move. Alma follows her gaze and sighs. Well, at least now they can stand and walk, she thinks. Even if they still stumble a little bit. I guess all I can do is wait.

“You will need help with them,” Mayumi says in a matter-of-fact voice.

“Yes, I will,” the goddess concedes.

“I will help,” the bunny states before helping Alma guide the other bunnies to their very first bath.

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