“Terrible form!” Three of the kids chorused.
Oh, kami. Could he just sink through the hull now? Ikoma knew Takumi had been telling the tale of their encounter with the idiot bushi in Shitori Station, how could he not, but he’d somehow hoped that Kurusu hadn’t heard it….
The samurai actually looked amused. “So you were paying attention. Good. In a few days, you start training again.”
From the look on Mumei’s face, Kurusu had just handed her the best guns ever.
“What?” Ikoma blurted out. “I mean, kenjutsu is bushi-”
“From what I’ve seen, one day you’ll end up in a swarm with an empty pressure canister.” Kurusu looked completely unruffled, as if he hadn’t just suggested upending all bushi custom without Mumei pushing him into it kicking and screaming. “Also, Mumei says it took you several shots to hit the charge in Yashiro Station. Your aim needs work.”
Kajika’s hand flew to her mouth. “Kurusu!”
“No, he’s right,” Ikoma admitted. “I maintain rifles. I ought to know how to shoot them better.” Though Mumei being here reminded him of something important. Something he almost remembered about the fight with Biba, like trying to grasp shreds of a dream. Or maybe it was just the prayer fire, reminding him of the Shitori temple where Mumei had remembered her real name; the one her mother had given her before the Kabane had come and Biba had lied to sway a child into believing only the strong survived. “Did – did you still want us to call you Mumei? Or Hozumi?”
Brown eyes went very wide. She blinked, and looked away.
“It’s okay,” Ikoma started, “I shouldn’t have-”
“You could try Hozumi.” She looked a challenge at everyone else on deck. “Only with us. To everyone else, I’m the Koutetsujou’s bodyguard!”