Keep calm, Kajika told herself, bouncing on her feet almost as much as Hozumi as she walked alongside their wagon. Keep calm, it’s just like the last market trip, only we’ll be selling as well as buying.
Right. Just like that.
From the way everyone was either smirking or starting at every flash of noise or color, nobody believed it. Sukari in particular kept glancing toward the height where Shitori’s manor lurked; more toward the center of the station than Aragane’s, and not tall enough to look over the walls.
Kajika blinked, and shook off that flicker of worry. Not that long ago she wouldn’t have wanted to see past the walls. The hordes were out there. Nothing could change that. Why torture yourself with the fear of a death you couldn’t stop?
Only now we can.
…If we can make enough bullets.
Though if a crowd like this turned – Kurusu and the Kabaneri could fight their way out, but the rest of them would never have enough bullets to get free of it.
No clear lines of sight. Kajika forced herself not to slow down, even as the crowd pressed too close. If Sukari had to shoot, there’d be too many people in the way. And there’s no armor, and we’re on foot – Hozumi’s fast but she can’t protect all of us, we can’t run as fast as Kabane-!
Heart and breathing too fast, too fast-
Hold your breath! Count. Release. Hold….
She was a steamsmith. She’d been trained better than this. Trained to glove right, and wash right, to deal with the risk of fresh Kabane blood on an incoming hayajiro. Trained to keep her head if she made a mistake, long enough to use her charge.
Two more repeats, and she could feel separate heartbeats again. Good.