“How did you learn to do this?” Ayame wondered. Caught Kurusu’s own subtle twitch of curiosity, and pressed on. “We never knew much about the Hunters, but… none of what we heard said anything about bees.”
“I’ll just bet they didn’t,” Uryuu said darkly. “Your stations were glad to see us fight the Kabane, Princess. Oh, they cheered a lot. Even gave us ammo, sometimes. Why not? Meant they didn’t have to use it. But feed a bunch of scruffy ruffians that staggered in off a train? Well… I’ll just bet you know something about that, by now.”
That… hurt. Because it was true. Feeding her people was a constant worry; and if it gnawed at her after only a few weeks, how had it been for the Hunters? If it hadn’t been for Ikoma’s jet bullets, who knew how negotiations might have gone at Shitori Station.
“So we learned a few things,” Uryuu shrugged. “Kept us going. Kept us fed.”
“Especially bees.” Eishun’s voice drifted out from under one of the extra boxes of honeycomb, as the Hunter’s steamsmith helped a Koutetsujou cook make sure every nook and cranny was bee-proofed with glue. “Should have seen Biba’s face the mornings he couldn’t get his sweet tea. Scary as a Kabane!”
“Worse,” Uryuu smirked. “Kabane don’t get sarcastic.” The half-smile faded. “I should have known something was wrong when they had us sell the hive a few stations before Shitori.”
“I should have known,” Uryuu said harshly. “He never meant to get out of Kongokaku.”
Ayame tried not to let relief wash over her face. We can trust them. At least until the next station.
Because that was honesty. Painful, but real.
He’s still blaming himself, not Biba. But Mumei… Hozumi needs time to believe that, too.
One step at a time. First, she should give Uryuu a moment to recover. Something all the Hunters could take pride in, and step away from Biba’s shadow. “You must have found more to live off of than honey,” Ayame reflected. “What else did you do?”
That won her looks of surprise from the other Hunters in the car. Asao and Choki, Ayame thought they were called; from the distance in their gazes, she wouldn’t have put them up on watch with rifles, either. She just hoped Masahide would be careful to strap on if they had to move. She knew well herself, the top of a Hayajiro was no place to be with an injured arm.
Hazel-gold gave her a narrowed look, as if Uryuu thought the question had to be a trick. “We’re Hunters. We don’t just hunt Kabane.”