“I’ll look after her,” Ayako said sharply, over the sound of Fumiyo’s muffled sobs. “She’s my niece.”
In the corner of Raidou’s vision, Ryouma’s broad shoulders stiffened. “Then we’ll protect you both.” His mask turned to Raidou. “Should we leave someone here for Fumiyo-san?”
Are you volunteering? Raidou almost said, but he didn’t want to spend more time playing people-shuffle under this grief-soaked roof than he truly had to.
“We’ll be quick,” he said. “Ayako-san, if you’d lead the way?”
The door creaked as Katsuko made her escape followed by Kakashi and, after a hesitation, Ryouma. Genma stepped aside, waiting. Ayako squeezed her sister’s shoulder, then held out a hand to her niece. Miki hurried to take it, stopping for the briefest of moments to brush a kiss over her mother’s wet cheek. At the touch, Fumiyo straightened up, eyes red and wrecked, but her tears slowed.
“I’ll have dinner ready when you get back,” she said firmly, scrubbing the handkerchief over her face.
“There’s rice in the cooker,” Miki said, and tugged Ayako out the door.
Genma nodded to the widow and followed them on silent feet. Raidou took an extra half-second to bow. “Thank you for your help,” he said.
“Hiroshi believes in Konoha,” Fumiyo said. She rose to her feet in a sweep of skirts and turned away to the kitchen.
Believed, Raidou thought, and followed his team outside.
The town was still quiet and deserted, but there were flickers of movement behind more than one set of shutters. The hairs on the back of Raidou’s neck prickled with the weight of watching eyes.
Miki slipped free of Ayako’s hold and grabbed Ryouma’s hand, to the obvious disapproval of her aunt, pulling him north. “It’s this way.”
Ryouma curled his fingers carefully around the girl’s, dwarfing her hand. It took only one of his long strides for every three of hers. “There were four people who lived there?”
“Fujiyama Yuna-san and her family,” Miki said.
“Wife, husband, and twin girls,” Ayako said, walking uncomfortably between Raidou and Katsuko. Genma had dropped back, as was his norm. Kakashi had swung slightly ahead, mask tilted into the breeze again.
“How old were the girls?” Raidou asked.
“That’s the youngest yet,” Genma said quietly, behind him.
Three pattern-breaks in one attack. A woman slain, a man taken from his own home within the village, and youngsters stolen with him. What the hell was going on?