Chapter 2 “Snakes” 11

On their way back to the station, Sky notices the Bunny is limping. “Mayumi-san, daijōbu?” Are you all right?

She looks annoyed with herself. In Urbia, she says, “While we were dancing, I…I stepped on a sliver of glass. I took it out, but…”

He looks back along their path and sees tiny spots of blood. Scuttling scavenger bugs that look like cockroaches with too many legs scurry out to taste the droplets. “You’re bleeding. Come, sit down over here.” He takes her arm to support her and leads her to an old fountain decorated with cherubs, helping her to sit on the edge. Around them, the morning bustle continues as shops begin to open.

“May I?” he asks. She extends her leg, holding out her foot for inspection. It is long, about as long as his own, even though the top of her head only comes up to his ribs, and it is much narrower than his feet. It looks delicate, and rather springy, highly arched. The toes are also a little longer than usual for humans, and curved. It looks like a foot designed for speed, for running, leaping, sudden changes of direction.

He takes her ankle, noticing how soft the short black fur is there. The fur runs from the top of her foot to just below her knee, above which is smooth, pale-tan skin, but on the back of her calf it hardly goes above her ankle. He thinks, They aren’t human, these Bunnies. Remember that. Physically different…they will be different mentally as well. But they are people. People. How could I have been so blind?

Inspecting the bottom of her foot, he sees the dried blood across the ball of her foot, and fresh blood barely welling from the small cut. “Your feet are filthy from these streets,” he says in Japanese, enjoying the chance to use a language he hasn’t spoken in decades. “You need shoes…but we will need a genius to design shoes for you, that won’t restrict your movement.”

“You will let me go outside the station, then?” she asks softly, in Japanese.

He looks up, into her brown eyes. Once again he feels that penetrating gaze of hers, as if she is peeling back all the masks he wears. Or as if she knows me. He blinks, looks back at her foot. He resumes breathing.

“Patience,” he replies in the same language. “First, I need to know you are ready. Then we must convince Alma. And you won’t go out alone, in any case. Not until you know the neighborhood much better.”

He sighs, switching back to Urbia. “It’s only a little cut, but you shouldn’t walk on it. I’m terrible at healing spells. I only know one, and it’s very basic and doesn’t always work. I’ve never been able to get the better ones to work at all. I suppose healing is just not in my nature.”

He takes a handkerchief out of his pocket and holds it under the flow of the fountain. He sees a small face form in the water, and he smiles at the god of the fountain, bowing his head in thanks, receiving a smile in return. Then he focuses on Mayumi’s foot again, cleaning the wound while whispering a little poem in a language called Blood, a language forgotten by all except in certain spells of healing and harm.

He uses his own mana, easier than trying to draw the mana from the environment. A phantom breeze rises, bringing the smell of an ocean on another world, the sound of waves…Sky’s eyes turn from brown to a deep-ocean blue-green that spreads to devour sclera and pupils. He feels the spell working, but suddenly Mayumi gasps and yanks her foot back, and Sky looks up at her, blinking as his eyes return to normal. Her eyes are wide, her face flushed.

“I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”

“No,” she says. “I…a feeling came over me. And a vision.”

“Oh…sometimes, when a god uses his power, aspects of that god’s power are carried along. I hope what you saw and felt wasn’t…disturbing.”

She shakes her head. But she doesn’t say anything about what it was she saw or felt, and continues looking at him a little curiously, her blush fading. Hell, he thinks, now what have I done? What nightmare images of war and rebellion have I put in her head? As if she weren’t already rebellious enough. But after a moment she extends her foot to him again, to show him that the little wound is gone except for a slightly red mark.

As they get up, she pauses to bow and say a quick prayer of thanks to the little fountain-god. She looks at Sky, a questioning expression on her face.

“No,” he says. “Please don’t. Not to me.”

“But you used your mana to heal me. I should help restore it.”

“You’re part of our station. You may be a civilian, but you’re under my command, and I don’t want anyone under my command praying to me. It wouldn’t be appropriate. Anyway, I get all the mana I need from the Guardia each month.”

She nods, and they continue toward the station.

“Now,” he says, “tell me more about Zeffretti.”

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