It was odd, being on the prow of the Koutetsujou when it wasn’t moving. Ikoma looked across the wye’s tracks to the last car, noting the gap in their defensive curve around the water-tower. On the one hand, the extra space would make turning the Koutetsujou faster if they did have to bolt. On the other – no caboose meant that much less space to jam everyone in, and he’d heard quarters outside the locomotive were tight.
The reasons why space was so tight were down praying at the fire near the third car of the Hayajiro, mixed in with those folk of the Koutetsujou who’d lost kin to the Kabane at Kongokaku.
Why so far from the locomotive- oh. Right. All they’ve known is walls. Being able to see the tracks, to see outside with nothing between them and the Kabane but our steam rifles… it must be terrifying.
That, or Ayame had put the Hunters’ funeral fire by the locomotive so their bushi could watch them.
Or both. Or maybe some other reason he hadn’t thought of. His arm didn’t hurt, exactly, but it twinged and ached. Distracting. Especially when eating meant falling asleep.
Sleep later. Praying now– “Oof!”
“Ikoma!” A horde of grabbing hands; small and warm, the way Kabane never could be. “Ikoma’s okay!”
“He won’t be if you knock him over.” Kibito waded into Kajika’s throng of orphans, plucking up one of the smaller ones to sit on his armored shoulder. “He’s still on the injured list. And what did your big sister Kajika tell you about the injured?”
One of the taller youngsters, part of his dark hair caught aside, straightened and nodded. “Let ‘em rest, even if they look bored!”
“Ah!” Kibito winked at Kajika. “She’s so smart.”