Kurusu kept his face set, bodyguard neutral, and hoped Kibito was right. Smoke, flying bees, the ever-present reality of being outside the walls – all it would take was one dropped comb to set off a panic. And if the Kabane showed up….
He blinked away a stray skirl of smoke, updating his mental map of exactly who was where and how many people he’d have to knock down to drag Ayame into the locomotive. His lady would hate that – but of everyone on this Hayajiro, the Yomogawa heir was the one soul they could not lose.
I need to go over that with Ikoma and Mumei. They’re not bushi. They don’t understand. Yet.
And speaking of the Kabaneri… Kurusu glanced up at that still-visible blue sling, and decided. “Kibito. Start loading everyone.”
His old friend’s brows rose, but the burly samurai didn’t argue. “Better let Uryuu know we’re not leaving them,” Kibito said casually, moving off. “The Hunters are twitchy.”
“Of course we’re not leaving them!” Ayame kept her voice down, glancing between the lowering comb and the locomotive. “What’s wrong?”
“Possibly nothing.” Kurusu inclined his head, falling in as escort as Ayame headed for the Hunter leader.
“Down, a little more….” Uryuu waved a hand their way. “Don’t get too close. Not until the lid’s on. What?”
“We’re loading,” Ayame informed him. “Please don’t worry. It just takes time to load people who aren’t used to Hayajiro. So we have to start sooner than you would have.”
Uryuu let a breath pass as most of the mass of angry bees finally vanished into bamboo confines. “Lid on, don’t squash any if you can avoid it.” Lower, “I’m going to guess I should be worried.”
“We’ve been stopped a long time,” Kurusu said bluntly. “Ikoma’s wounded. His friends should make him rest. But he’s still up on watch.”
Now Uryuu did glance at them. And past, checking what ears were listening. “If he sensed any Kabane, he wouldn’t just be watching. You’re being twitchy.”
He would not grit his teeth. “Twitchy,” Kurusu said flatly.
Uryuu shrugged. “We’ll speed it up.”