Chapter 2 "Snakes" 7

After a night of little sleep, Sky had gone into the station around the start of day watch, only to be told by Sgt. Machado of an incident at a local café involving gods. Glad to have a chance to avoid paperwork as well as to learn the neighborhood better, he immediately took the case for himself. Machado seemed mildly disapproving, though whether it was at the idea of an inspector taking on such a minor case, or the fact that the inspector was dressed in a far less formal manner than the day before – jacket open to reveal a colorful aloha shirt, soft khaki field cap restored to his head – Sky was not sure. Probably both.

Now approaching the Copper Pot, Sky takes note of the smashed windows momentarily before noticing two figures arguing quietly outside the café. One of them is a tall, powerfully built woman, her hair a huge mass of curls blowing everywhere in the morning wind. Looking up at her is a slightly built woman, almost a girl in stature...and then he sees the ears. The bunny ears. He stops dead. It’s the Bunny who had shown such fascination with his badge the day before. She’s dressed in a tunic of Guardia Popula blue, lighter than his own Dei indigo, and a knee-length pleated skirt of nearly the same shade. Her feet are bare. The larger woman...he suddenly recognizes her as well: Corporal Kaur, her hair released from its plait. She is also wearing her uniform, but with no jacket.

Sky strides up to them. The Bunny sees him first, and blanches, seems to shrink in guilt. Kaur looks around and silently mouths, Oh crap.

Sky looks from on to the other, then says in a hard voice, “Corporal...explain.”

“Uhhh, sir –”

The Bunny steps forward, standing at attention, and says, “It’s my fault, sir!”

Sky turns his gaze on her, his face going from stern to shocked. He simply stares at her for a long moment. She can talk? He opens his mouth to say that out loud, then reconsiders, realizing how stupid that would sound, blinks, then asks in a gentle voice, “Could you tell me your name, please?”

Still standing at attention, she replies, “Mayumi, sir.” Her voice is of a lower pitch than he would have expected for her size.

Aliyah breaks in, “Me and Cala call her May, sir. It’s easier to say. And that’s what the others call her.”

Sky shoots Aliyah a glance that clearly says hush, then focuses on the Bunny again. “Mayumi? That sounds Japanese.”

She nods.

“You...know what ‘Japanese’ means.” Sky blinks again. “Nihongo wakarimasuka?

She replies, still standing stiffly, “Hai, Keibu.” Aliyah looks from Mayumi to Sky, looking half confused as they speak in a language she’s never even heard of before.

Sky’s dark face pales slightly. She knows Japanese well enough to call me by my rank. Do we even have any large Japanese communities in the City? And she’s been in stasis for...how many years? All her life. After a moment, still speaking Japanese, he asks, “How?”

Mayumi looks up at him, her stance relaxing slightly, nervous expression fading as she seems to gather her thoughts. Sky is struck once again at her presence, her emotional affect. He realizes that if he had simply met her on the street, he would have assumed she was just some variant on the standard human form. He never would have thought she was an artificial creature.

“I dreamed,” she says, finally. “While I slept in the bubble, I was dreaming. I lived a life, among people who spoke Japanese.”

Sky swallows. Her Japanese is perfect, as far as he can tell. Quite formal as well. Probably better than his. He asks, “How do you write your name?”

Mayumi pulls out a small notebook – a standard Guardia cop notebook that she could have easily picked up off a table in the main office, Sky thinks – and with a pencil quickly writes two characters, then hands it to Sky. He reads, “真弓”. Mayumi...True Bow. Her calligraphy, even with a pencil, is confident and balanced. He nods and hands it back to her, hardly looking at her now, looking inwardly instead, reviewing the previous day’s events, particularly the release of the Bunnies. And how he had acted.

“Corporal,” he says after a time, reverting to Urbia, the common language of the City. Aliyah straightens and leaves off trying to tie back her hair with a leopard-pattern scrunchie. “You said the others call her May. Did you mean the other Bunnies? They can speak as well?”

“Yes, sir. Well, Rosemary and Cherry can...that’s the redhead and the black girl. I’m not sure you can get them to stop speaking, really...kinda like me when I’m nervous, hahahaha! Um, sorry...and the cute guy, Sage? He seemed to be having some trouble, but he could speak. The other three...it sounded like they need a little time. But maybe they’re talking today. I don’t know.”

Sky nods, still looking at nothing. He closes his eyes, lowering his head, takes a deep breath, and lets it out slowly. Then looks at Mayumi again, still speaking Urbia.

“I am sorry I didn’t make your acquaintance properly yesterday, Mayumi. Please forgive my rudeness. My name is Tuma-Sukai.” He bows slightly from the waist.

“I am pleased to meet you. Dōzo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu,” she says, bowing more deeply than he and using just the right level of politeness to say Please give me your favor, a phrase that does not translate well. She smiles at him as she straightens.

He smiles in return, but his smile quickly fades. “But I must ask...What is going on? Why are you here?”

Mayumi’s worried look returns. “I overheard something, back at the station.” One of her bunny ears twitches. “I was concerned. I thought I should follow.”

“Does Alma know you’re out here?”

Mayumi looks at him with guilt. “There was no time to ask. Please...don’t tell her.”

Sky looks at nothing again. Can I keep this from Alma? Should I? He looks back at her. And what does it mean that she is willing to deceive her creator?

“Mayumi,” Sky says, “will you promise me something?” She looks at him steadily, not nodding. “Will you promise me not to do this again? These streets are dangerous, and you’ve just come into this world...” He trails off at the look of resentment that steals over her face. “What?” he asks.

“I overheard something that indicated a crime, sir. Evidence of corruption. Police corruption.”

Though her voice is quiet, Sky is taken aback by the anger in it. “Mayumi...did you have a job in this dream-time, when you were in stasis?”

Formally, she says, “Constable, Guardia Popula. Two years at Oyafukōdōri Station, Third Ring.”

Sky looks at Aliyah, who just shrugs and looks confused. Sky looks back at Mayumi. “All right...I can see we have a lot to talk about, and I truly want to hear all about it. In the meantime, however, you don’t have a badge in this world, and Sgt. Alma is going to be furious if she learns that you left the station. Shall we strike a deal? You promise not to go out without permission – for the moment, until you know this world, and this neighborhood, better – and I won’t tell Sgt. Alma about this. If she’s not already frantic with worry, that is.”

Mayumi still looks resentful, but she nods. Sky looks at Aliyah. “I need to take this report,” he says, cocking his head to indicate the café. “Afterward, I’ll escort her back and...explain things to Alma, if necessary. Now...what are you doing here, Corporal?”

“Well, sir, I was just on my way home from out celebrating with my watch-mates.”

“Oh...your promotion. Of course.”

“Yeah...and I spotted May here! She was listening at the window. So I tried to get her to come back to the station with me. But actually, sir, if it’s OK with you, I’d like to head on home now. I’ve had a few and I’m still feeling the effects, y’know. And my hair...fine for a party, but...I don’t want the guys at the station to see me –”

“It’s all right Corporal. Thank you...for trying to take care of Mayumi. You’ve been awake a full day now. Go home, sleep. I’ll see you when you report in this evening.”

She grins and snaps a salute. “Thanks, sir!” Then she spins on her heel, goes a bit too far around, corrects course, and starts walking down an alley.

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