“We can kill the Kabane,” Dogen said, half to himself. Shook his head, and narrowed his eyes at Ayame. “But Aragane fell.”
“The first test design was completed the night the Fusojou rammed us,” Ayame said quietly. “We were fortunate. Despite everything, that steamsmith made it to the Koutetsujou.”
Despite everything, Kurusu thought. Including us.
Odd, to look back on that night now. To remember being sure – utterly sure – that shooting Ikoma off the Hayajiro was the right, the only, thing to do.
Knowing what I did then, I could not have made other choices. For all our sakes.
Now… now he had other options. Other weapons. And an ally, willing to defend Lady Ayame and the Koutetsujou to the last breath in his body.
And possibly more important, willing to stand with Kurusu against Kibito’s utterly ridiculous idea. Adopt a steamsmith? Ikoma hated combat training. He did it, yes; which had to be the strongest testament to his hatred of the Kabane, given Mumei’s idea of training was to beat Ikoma into the car floor – or the wall, or the pells – until he mimicked her and used that move right back.
Apparently effective, for a Kabaneri. But painful to watch. To the point that before that whole catastrophe with Biba, Kibito and Keisuke had finally taken pity on the steamsmith, made Mumei sit on her hands a few minutes, and broken down the basics of a few defensive techniques.
We should do more of that, Kurusu knew. For both of them. You teach the way you were trained; has Mumei ever had formal training?
Ikoma would train. Even in kenjutsu. Even if it made a steamsmith’s knees shake. But he’d rather be up to his ears in steam and metal. Who were they to take that from him, when Ikoma had lost so much already?
If it were necessary to protect him, or the Koutetsujou – then I would consider it. But without that need… no.