Raising her eyes from the stairs beneath her feet, Alma sees Mayumi walking towards her as soon as she reaches the top of the stairs.
“Where have you been?” she asks the Bunny in whispered concern, placing both hands on the Bunny’s shoulders. “I have been looking everywhere for you.”
“I was looking for Corporal Aliyah and Constable Cala,” Mayumi replies with apparent innocence. She shrugs as if this were a logical and obvious answer.
“Their shift has ended some time ago and you know all too well that you are not supposed to come into the station,” Alma hisses.
Mayumi’s ears droop for a moment but immediately rise again. “I-I was doing nothing wrong,” she says with absolute conviction and a hint of resentment in her voice. “I merely wanted to be polite to the people who’ve been kind to us.”
Alma breathes deep, mentally cursing herself as the pain hits yet again, and tries to calm down. “There will be time for that,” she states after a moment, in a softer voice.
“So many years stuck in a bubble... Are we supposed to be confined again, now that you say we are free?” Mayumi asks, each of her words a dagger piercing the goddess’ heart.
“Mayumi...” Alma exhales, kneeling in front of the Bunny to be at eye-level with her. The goddess’ voice sounds strained and weak as she says, “Please, understand this. Although I am sure that all these humans already know of your existence, there is no telling how they will react to you. Some may find you fascinating and some may not even care but others... the world can be a dangerous place, little one, and in spite of my best efforts, I cannot split into seven different pieces and follow each of you around to make sure you stay safe.”
“You don’t have to do that. We can watch over ourselves.”
“I am asking you, Mayumi, do not fight me on this.”
As her headache grows ever stronger, Alma lowers her head, wincing and rubbing her eyes, going silent in her pain. Seeing her now evident suffering, Mayumi quits her rebellious tone and cradles the goddess’ head in her hands, kissing her forehead.
“Very well, I won’t,” the Bunny states. “You look even worse than before. You need to rest,” she adds with obvious concern.
“What I need is to get you back to the other building. Hopefully without running into any more colorful characters,” Alma replies as Mayumi helps her to get back on her feet.
They start walking, slowly, toward the passage that leads into the other building, Alma’s hand resting lightly of Mayumi’s shoulder, more to make sure that the Bunny follows her than to provide any kind of support to the goddess’ steps. Although she holds her head high, her posture and stance revealing nothing but the utmost composure, Alma’s eyes keep drifting down, to the floor.
“Where were you in the station that your feet are all dirty?” she asks after a while.
“Oh... all around the station, really. Got a little – lost after a while,” Mayumi half stutters in return. “It’s a bigger place than I imagined,” she says, shrugging.
“Yes... Dirtier too,” Alma whispers, attributing the Bunny’s stuttering to a true ignorance of the station’s layout. “Well, we will need to get you and the others some shoes. And I think I know just who to bother with such a request...”
As they enter the room, Alma pauses in surprise at the presence of her commanding officer. “Inspector?” the goddess enquires. Mayumi goes to stand with her siblings. Rosemary whispers, “Where’ve you been, May?”
“Sergeant...good,” he says. “I need to speak with you...in private. Shall we go to my office?”
“As you wish, sir,” Alma says, leadenly, and after a look of tired affection at the Bunnies, turns to go back into the other building.