Dogen strode through the hatchway, determined to get this over with-
Stopped. He’d seen Ayame’s people working like frantic ants, stripping the railyard of tools, even armor plate. Some of it was distributed along the Koutetsujou, but most of the smaller items were concentrated here. The unsorted tangle of crates and salvage packed to the ceiling was no surprise.
The rifle brandished at him by a startled townswoman, firmly between him and the madman, was.
Dogen let out a slow breath. He’d expected a guard. Of course there would be a guard. His dear, clever niece would not leave even a madman’s confinement without at least one rifle inside to warn the hayajiro of any Kabane that managed to find purchase on steel. Though he hoped Ayame had ordered the woman to flee rather than waste her life, if that should happen.
But that a townswoman dared to aim at a bushi? At an Elder? Dogen let his face grow cold, gaze boring into terrified blue. That she dared stand so, even for a moment!
She flinched. As well she should. “Elder Dogen? This is an emergency stop. Why are you-?”
Which was all the time Naokata needed to slip in and pin her, rifle dropping to one side in a clatter.
“Keep her quiet,” Dogen directed, stepping as far as he could to the right without running into piled boxes. Or the shell of a man quivering on the floor. “This is not Aragane’s affair. Be still.”
“I am guarding this man-!”
Her cut-off breath told him as plainly as the flicker in the corner of his eye; one of his other bushi had leveled a rifle.
She’s quiet, but not limp. Too much spirit, for a townswoman. This could become… difficult.
Dogen gestured to Naokata to get her out, and keep her quiet. The man might not like Aragane’s folk, but he shouldn’t hurt her too badly.