Kabaneri. Corpse-person, Dogen thought. Yes, townsfolk can be superstitious, but how can they think that’s even possible?
And why had it seemed as though the two steamsmiths flinched?
Red fluttered as Mumei huffed. “That’s completely different….”
Not his imagination, Dogen realized, horrified. Ikoma had definitely flinched, the lady steamsmith had shifted so she was between Dogen and her companion, and everyone else was giving Mumei a look of mingled worry and utter exasperation.
Mumei shrugged, and gave him a brilliant, young smile. “Oops?”
“Ayame.” Dogen couldn’t ask. He had to ask. His people’s lives depended on it. “What is a Kabaneri?”
Ayame braced herself, and any hope he’d had it was just a rumor died.
“They’re the Koutetsujou’s protectors,” his niece said steadily. “They’re part of our crew. If it weren’t for them, no one would have survived Aragane’s fall. They’re not dangerous, Uncle.”
From Kibito’s mostly-hidden smile, Dogen doubted that.
“We’re keeping it quiet so your people don’t panic,” Ayame went on. “I don’t want them being shot at!” Her voice caught. “They’ve been hurt enough already.”
Dogen drew himself up, determined. “Ayame, I need to know-”
“We are existences between human and Kabane.” Mumei stood, dark eyes watching him as intently as a samurai gauging her first strike. “We can strike with their strength. We can sense them coming. But our minds are human.”
Impossible. It couldn’t be true.
But – Ayame had said Mumei was one of Biba’s warriors, and she’d helped fight through an entire infested city…. “Biba was researching the Kabane,” Dogen said, shocked. “Ways to defeat them, to fight them on their own ground… did he create you?”
Mumei stared a moment more, then nodded. “I survived the operation. Ikoma, too. We are Kabaneri. We exist to destroy the Kabane.”
“He was insane,” Dogen breathed.
The brunette steamsmith’s fingers clenched on her uniform. “Don’t say that!”
“Kajika,” Ikoma murmured.
“Well, he shouldn’t!” the female steamsmith said fiercely. “It’s not your fault, or Mumei’s! There’s nothing wrong with living when everyone else thinks you should have died!”
Fierce young woman. Though Dogen was rather more concerned about the two bushi carefully not eyeing him as if they wanted to cut him up for stew. Whatever these Kabaneri were or weren’t, they’d apparently convinced the leaders of Ayame’s bodyguards that they were loyal.
They went with Kurusu to face a monster that would have doomed us all. They may well be loyal.
A/N: No way are the Koutetsujou crew letting on what the Nue actually was. Nope.