Kurusu was digging in his heels stubborn; determined to look only at her own welfare, and not what those fighting at his side might need for their own hearts to stay strong. Kibito was the eldest of Daisen, but worried first about his friends. If she wanted a sober reflection on if her plan was truly insane, Ayame needed to ask the Iizuna clan. “Keisuke. May we speak?”
Tan cloak laid aside to avoid the grease, the dark-haired bushi was squinting down a barrel to check its alignment. He breathed out, sighting, then nodded. “We heard what you decided on yielding way, my lady. Did you wish to discuss tactics, in case a swallowed train tries to stop and swarm us?”
The very thought gave her chills. If the Koutetsujou was in a pull-off when that happened, they should have room to evade forward or back. But at a wye, if they were unlucky, if the enemy was smart – things could go very badly.
We have the guardian cannon. If it can blast a hole in a Fused Colony… I wonder. Could we make jet bullets for the cannon?
“Tactics would be wise,” Ayame allowed. “But first, I need to ask Iizuna’s advice on the wisdom of a possible adoption.”
That drew every listening ear. As she’d meant it to. The sooner her bushi knew the full story, the sooner she would know if this would work.
Still, propriety demanded that no one eavesdrop too obviously. Keisuke put the rifle down, wiped his hands on a rag, and courteously fell in with Kibito to follow her to a wall behind an unused pell, a good yard from all those curious ears. Met her gaze, focused and intent as he’d been considering the problem of a half-raised tower across the tracks at Yashiro Station. “Ikoma or Mumei?”
She would not jump, Ayame told herself firmly. “How did you-?”
Kibito had the grace to shrug. “Your uncle has reasons to be worried, Lady Ayame. All of your bushi need to know how dangerous stations might be for some of us. If there’s another panic.”
“Best way to avoid that is to look like any other Hayajiro,” Keisuke agreed. “Two people who can fight the Kabane hand to hand, who aren’t bushi? It’ll draw eyes.” He paused. “Now, three young bushi insane enough to clear a Hayajiro’s top with no harness – well, everyone knows clan Katsuragi’s a touch crazy.”
“No one knows that,” Ayame protested. She’d heard there were bushi clans with that reputation, yes, but her father hadn’t had any under his command. He certainly wouldn’t have picked one for her bodyguard.
“They will,” Keisuke promised.