Alma looks up at the sign over the little shop’s door. “The Copper Pot? This was the place that was busted up by that god who...busted you up?”
“You should’ve seen the other guy,” says Sky. As he opens the door for her, his smile is still a bit lopsided, his face healing slowly despite multiple rounds of healing by himself, a minor demigod of healing at the Little Falls Guardia Station, and even Alma. The poison injected by Eater of Frogs had not affected him nearly as badly as it would most gods, but it has made magical healing much less effective. He would be bearing the signs of the beating he’d taken for several days more.
“Inspector!” Kyri sings out. “How are – oh my goodness!” she gasps. “Your face! Oh my dear dear Inspector, please sit down! Can I get you something? An ice pack, perhaps?”
Sky laughs. “Dona Kyri, thank you, but it’s not that bad. Just a black eye, a cut on the cheek...”
“And a split lip,” says Kyri, looking at his face like it’s a curious anomaly. “Forgive me, Inspector, but it’s not often I see a god with visible injuries. Was this from that horrid snake god?”
“I’m afraid so, Miss Kyri. By the way, may I please introduce Sergeant Alma? Sergeant, this is Kyri.”
They exchange greetings, Alma cordial but formal, Kyri warmly effusive, winning a smile from the reserved sergeant.
“Well, Inspector Tuma-Sukai, please order whatever you want! Breakfast is on the house for my poor, wounded hero!”
Though his skin is too dark for a blush to be noticeable, Sky feels his face burning. “Dona Kyri, I was just doing my job...”
“Oh pish-posh! And enough with that ‘dona’ business! Are we not friends? You must call me Kyri!”
“In that case, you must call me Sky.”
“Sky! Oh what a delightful dimunation! Oh, and how is sweet little Mayumi?”
Sky feels his blood freeze. He glances at Alma, who looks confused, and about to ask a question. He knows what that question must be: How in the world do you know Mayumi? The Bunny had asked him not to tell Alma that she had slipped out of Three Rats Station to shadow a corrupt cop on her first morning in this world. Sky had agreed to keep her secret, as had Cpl Kaur, who had also been there, but with all the things that had happened, Sky had completely forgotten that Kyri didn’t even know it was supposed to be a secret.
Before Alma can ask the fatal question, Sky interjects, “Oh, she’s fine! You know, it’s funny –” here he laughs nervously “– she wasn’t even supposed to be in the station that morning you met her. In the station. Where you met her.” He tries to keep his smile normal, but he worries that Alma can tell how false and nervous it is.
Alma turns to Kyri, who is looking confused. “You met Mayumi in the station?” she asks.
Kyri glances at Sky, who, unseen by Alma for the moment, nods furiously and tries to mouth Don’t tell her about the dancing! He freezes in mid-nod as Alma looks at him suspiciously.
Kyri suddenly speaks up. “Oh yes! Hahahaha! Yes, of course, yes, it was when I went in the early morning to the station to complain about that snakey fellow. And there was darling little Mayumi! Standing in the corner! For a moment I thought she was a child wearing false bunny ears! I thought to myself, Why is there a girl wearing false bunny ears in the Guardia Station? Could they be giving a tour to a school or something?”
As Alma turns to look at Sky, Kyri suddenly looks furious and mouths silently at Sky, Why are you making me lie? Sky tries to ignore her.
Alma, looking at Sky, is on the verge of asking him a pointed question when Kyri blurts out, with a slightly hysterical edge to her voice, “But it turned out those ears weren’t false at all! They moved! Imagine my surprise! By the way! Would you like to try the apple pie? I’ll go get some!” Kyri immediately bustles off while Alma watches her go.
Alma turns to Sky again, starting to look really annoyed. Casting about for a way to distract her from further questions, he turns and pulls out a chair from the nearest table.
“Here, dear Sergeant, please have a seat!
This really is a lovely place to eat!”
Alma looks shocked as Sky’s words are sung, not spoken. His voice is a pleasant baritone. And there is a musical accompaniment, as if a small orchestra were hiding in a pit nearby, as if the café were a stage of some kind.
“Oh did I fail to mention? Miss Kyri
Has such powers! It really is quite eerie
But you mustn’t let it worry you
Just let the music flow right through
And you will find it strangely liberatiiiiiing!”
Just then two blue birds – no, living cartoons of bluebirds, on second glance, somehow carrying a plate with a large slice of pie on it between then – come flitting through the air, nearly colliding with Alma’s head, causing her to spin out of their way, lose her balance, and land quite artfully in the chair Sky is holding for her.
She opens her mouth to object to all this, but she can feel the words forming into song, and with great effort she clamps her mouth shut and holds on to her seat with a tight grip, refusing to join in this bizarre tableaux.
Then Kyri’s voice, a lovely soprano, rings out, as she dances out of the kitchen with a tray bearing two plates heaped with omelets and pastries, and two coffees. She spins, the coffee very nearly spilling, but as if they had been practicing for weeks, Sky effortlessly takes the tray from her hands and slides it onto the table, not a drop lost. Then proprietress and Guardia inspector are dancing together, quickstepping around the café. Kyri sings,
“Oh dear Sergeant Alma, please don’t be cross
To have you annoyed would be such a loss
I fear I’m making such a bad impressioooooon!
But I hope that I may win your approval
So I must attempt a removal
Of this strange reality distortiooooon!”
Sky spins her so that she is suddenly standing alone, spotlights from nowhere blazing out, illuminating her in the suddenly dark shop. A piano plays a sultry introduction and Kyri begins her sequinned lament.
“Maybe once, in my life, I won’t have to change myself.
Maybe once, I will be free from art’s tyranny.
To be loved, to be me, not a muse, not a dream
Been so long, called by thoughts, men, music, fate.
Nothing is mine, not my name, not the music, not the fame,
He made me his Queen of the night, another Valkyrie in flight.
They tried to keep me, lock me in, be their wife, serve their whim.
But what of me? Of my life, turned to immortality?
Maybe once, in my life, I won’t have to pay the price,
I’ll be loved, but still free, still me...”
As she sings, the music is carried on the mist to the home of the Bunnies. Hearing the music, a sleeping Bunny stirs.
Meanwhile, Sky, released from the musical scene, cautiously sits at the table next to Alma, nodding at her in distracted apology as he listens to Kyri’s sad torch song. As the song finishes and the lights come up, Sky applauds slowly, thoughtfully.
“So,” he says, beginning to eat, “what do you think? Nice place, eh?”
Alma watches her Inspector eat and holds her silence for a moment. “Yes. Quite...” she takes a small bite of her piece of pie. “...quaint.”