Kurusu closed his ears and hurried toward the bunks, side-stepping a few of his fellow bushi by inches. Kami, no wonder everyone wanted the Kongokaku mob off their Hayajiro. The sooner they were gone, the sooner there would be room to breathe again-
And he was not thinking about whatever mad plan had made their best bargainer yelp like that. It was Kibito’s plan, and he trusted Kibito.
As Ikoma and Kajika trusted Takumi. Kurusu hid his grimace, approaching the pair of wary Kabaneri. If I lost Kibito, I’d be adrift as well. “I need your assistance.”
Get him thinking. Get him moving. Make him realize there’s something he can do.
“What is it?” Mumei’s stare wasn’t distrustful, but it was definitely wary. “Kajika was being silly-”
Kurusu saw Ikoma huddle in on himself, and cut her off. “Kajika is tired and grieving. Even the best of samurai might overreact, after the week we’ve been through.”
Ikoma uncurled a hair, indignant. “Overreact-!”
“You are Kabaneri. Truth cannot be changed.” Kurusu sat on the edge of Ikoma’s bunk, watching both sets of eyes widen in disbelief. As well they might. Bushi did not make a habit of coming so close to others.
We’ll be training together. We’ll have to be closer than that. “You are Kabaneri,” Kurusu repeated, more calmly. “And Lady Ayame needs your help. Though I doubt she has fully realized it yet.”
Maybe. His lady had a keen mind, behind that gentle, deadly smile. He wouldn’t be surprised if Ayame had anticipated exactly what he was about to ask of them.
“We cleared the Kabane.” Ikoma frowned. “Is something wrong with the Koutetsujou?”
“In a sense.” Kurusu kept his voice just above the rattle of tracks, though there should be no one but Aragane bushi and steamsmiths anywhere close enough to overhear. “Counting Lady Ayame and her attendant, we have twenty Aragane bushi on the Koutetsujou.” Though technically Ayame was a noble, not just a bushi… he’d have to teach them about that later. In detail. “Twenty are not enough to keep her safe.”
Mumei clicked her tongue. “That’s why you’re training people with rifles.” Duh, her rolled eyes added.
“The rifles are to keep the Koutetsujou safe,” Kurusu said bluntly. “We need to keep Lady Ayame safe. Or it’s over. For all of us.”