Sparks flew every time the woman struck the sword with the hammer, illuminating her hard and empty face.
She barely breathed as she brought the tool down again and again, too focused to care about anything else besides the sword before her.
With the right eye closed, the woman showed no emotion as she worked on the blade. But that was for those who didn’t know her.
Behind the pale open eye, there was a burning passion. A passion so strong she lost track of time whenever she worked.
There was no hunger. There was no exhaustion. There was no sleep.
There was only the sword she was creating.
The rhythmic sound of metal against metal filled her soul. That was enough for her.
It didn’t matter how the sword would be used. Either to kill or to protect.
A blacksmith should make the weapon, not tell how it should be used, her father used to say when he was alive.
As long as she could breathe, as long as she could move, she would make a sword.
As long as she could make a sword, she had a reason to live.
Because that whom she was. A blacksmith.
Her hands never stopped, always striking the lump of metal, which in a few hours would be a sword, in the same rhythm.
Her hands only stopped when she heard a sound. It was faint and should not be enough make her stop. But she hated that sound too much to keep going.
Without taking her eye from the crude blade, she listened.
A gun, she knew when she recognized the second gunshot followed by a scream.
She squeezed the tool and the yet to be weapon hard, her hands trembling. She closed her left eye, breathing slowly to calm her rage.
When the trembling stopped, she stood up and opened her right eye. With the still hot and glowing metal in one hand and the tool in another, she left her forge towards the sound of the hated gunshots.
“Tetsuko!” a voice echoed throughout her property. “Come out!”
“Take responsibility for what you’ve done!” another person shouted.
Tetsuko closed her eye and snorted. With those words, she knew whom it was and what they wanted. Without hesitating, the woman went down the small hill where her forge was towards the main house, towards the angry voices.
Three men she didn’t recognize stood side by side in the backyard. But she barely paid any attention to them. All her focus was on the weapons they all carried.
“Guns,” she let out a low whisper full of rage.
A barbarian and uncivilized tool, she thought before turning her attention to the one in the middle. His clothes were covered in blood. They must’ve killed my guards… with those damn guns… Without noticing, she clutched the hammer with more strength.
“I’m Tetsuko,” she said, coming out of her hiding place.
They turned already pointing the guns at her. But they didn’t shoot the woman at sight.
She gave a long and hard silent stared at those weapons, feeling the rage boiling inside her. Those barbaric tools won’t replace swords… Even if the naked blade had no handled, she clutched the almost finish katana so hard her fingers hurt and the knuckles lost its color.
“What’s your business with me?”
“To make you pay!” the one covered in blood screamed, raising his weapon at eye level. The wick of his gun was already lit.
The blacksmith stared at the muzzles pointed at her. Even at gunpoint, Tetsuko didn’t change her behavior. “Pay for what?”
The one on her right looked at her as if he could not believe her words. But even if his voice faltered, Tetsuko could tell there was rage almost as strong as her inside him.
He grabbed the gun with so much force his hands trembled, but even so, he still kept the aim in her direction.
“For destroying our village! For destroying our lives!”
She looked at each man with her good eye. They had lost everything and were ready to kill her, even if they hesitated.
“I may be guilty of many things, but destroying a village isn’t one of them,” she said in the same low and unfazed tone.
“How… can you say that after… after selling those swords… to them?” He could barely speak due to his hatred of the woman.
Tetsuko let out a heavy sigh as she closed her eye. As I thought. They were attacked by people who had my weapons and now blame me… Pathetic.
“I’ll say it again. I have not destroyed any village,” she said in a now harsh voice. There was no regret or sorrow in the woman. “I’m a blacksmith. I only make swords. If you want one, tell me. I’ll forge a blade for you. But if you’ve come for revenge, you came to the wrong place.”
“If you hadn’t… sold those swords… my daughter… she… she’d still be alive!” the one in the left shouted. He closed his eyes and turned his head, the tears falling. But even in that state, he still held the gun in Tetsuko direction.
“I don’t remember swinging that sword,” Tetsuko said, not bothering to hide her indifference. “I won’t apologize, for I have done you no harm. You just want someone to blame and put your anger and sorrow ‘cause you can’t take revenge on the real people who’ve hurt you. Pathetic.”
It was too much for the man on the right. He raised his gun, aimed at her and pulled the trigger. But he trembled so much he missed the shot by far.
The smell of gunpowder filled the air. The sound of the gunshot echoed and died, scaring some birds from a tree.
She tried to keep her anger under her control, but the smell of gunpowder was too strong. The sound was still ringing in her ears. I really hate guns.
With an empty face, the blacksmith tapped her chest right on top of her heart with the now warm hammer. The metal burned her a slightly through the leather, but she showed no sign of pain. Instead, her good eye shone with rage.
“Next time, aim it right here. ‘Cause if you miss, you’ll be the one with a hole in your chest,” she said in the same cold and indifferent voice.
Even if she didn’t notice herself, she smiled. Not a happy or a superior one. A simple smile, with her mouth closed. But that seemed to terrify those men before her.
For an instant, no one moved. There was only silence filling the backyard of the blacksmith’s house.
The men stared at her, paralyzed by fear or rage. But even so, they never lowered their guns, the barrel of the weapons pointing at her all the time.
Tetsuko stood still, waiting for an opening to strike.
A light rain began to fall.
The hot blade in her hand hissed and smoked as the drops of water touched it, but she didn’t take her eyes off her enemies.
It was only for a brief instant, but the men took their eyes from her to look at the sword.
In that moment as fast as a blink of the eye, the blacksmith wasn’t under their aim.
Tetsuko didn’t waste the chance. She lowered her body and ran as fast as she could towards them.
The man in the middle was the first to react. He raised the gun and aimed at her head. But before he could pull the trigger, Tetsuko threw her hammer with all her strength.
It was enough to make him missed the shot. When the tool smashed at the gun, the weapon flew from his hands and hit him in the face. The peasant fell backward, holding his bleeding nose and mouth.
Before he too could pull the trigger, Tetsuko swung her unfinished blade at the man on her left.
Out of reflex, he blocked the attack with his gun. Sparks flew when metal hit metal.
Tetsuko pressed on. He couldn’t win against a blacksmith’s raw strength and took a step back.
The woman slid her blade on the weapon so the hot metal touched his fingers.
The man tried to withstand, clenching his teeth to hold his scream. But soon he let go of the gun, his voice of pain filling the backyard.
The blacksmith kicked him between the legs. As he fell, she slashed at his neck. Damn it… this blade is too blunt, she thought, clicking her tongue when she realized the attack was too shallow to kill him right away.
But Tetsuko had no time to finish the job him with a blunt blade.
The last man standing had missed the first shot, but he was already preparing the next.
She ran towards him, but before he was within her blade’s reach, he turned the gun on her without taking aim and closed his eyes.
With a scream, he pulled the trigger.
This time he didn’t miss.
Shit! Tetsuko clenched her teeth to stop her scream. She didn’t need to look to know; the hot pain was enough. The small metal ball had taken some fingers off her right hand.
Fuck! The pressed her maimed hand against her chest, the blood spreading on her clothes. Fuck… Despite the pain, there was something else in her mind. Even like this, I can still make swords with my other hand!
Even during a fight for her life, she was a blacksmith above all.
Ignoring her pain, Tetsuko thrust the end of the unfinished sword down the man’s open mouth. He finally stopped screaming as the blade pierced the back of his head.
The unfinished blade broke when she tried to pull it. Damn it. She turned the weapon to see both sides to see the damages. Even I can’t fix this anymore, Tetsuko thought.
Then she felt something behind her, but it was too late to react.
By the time she turned around, the first man she had taken down was already standing up, the muzzle of that hated gun aimed at her.
Tetsuko ran and swung what was left of her sword, but before the broken blade could reach him, he pulled the trigger. The small metal ball hit the blacksmith right in the stomach.
The pain small at first, but soon it spread, along with a strange coldness. She took a step back, touching the wound with her still whole hand. Blood soaked her clothes, fingers and the sword. She stared at her red hand.
The man didn’t waste the chance. As she used the broken blade to keep standing, he prepared the next shot.
Tetsuko looked as he poured the gunpowder into the barrel. She felt the hatred filling her. It was enough to ignore her pain
She lurched at him with her arm stretched. She fell on top of him, the broken end of the blade piercing him in the throat.
But the blow was too shallow, so the blacksmith attacked again, stabbing him in the throat over and over.
Only when the pain was too much, only when she could no longer move her arm, she stopped.
She sat on top of the man who shot her, out of air. She tried to breathe, but each time it hurt.
Tetsuko had no strength left, but even so, she refused to let go of her broken weapon.
If she did, she would die. Because there was an enemy still alive.
As she thought of him, the last man stood up. He touched his bleeding neck with his burned fingers. He was in pain, but even so, he still raised his gun.
Tetsuko didn’t know why, but she smiled. Not the normal one she had when she was happy. A faint one.
But that smile brought fear to the man’s heart. She could tell by his eyes.
Without ever taking his eyes from her, he pulled the trigger. But nothing happened. Terror filled his face as he realized he hadn’t prepared the next shot.
She forced herself to stand up. With the rest of her strength, she dragged herself towards him as fast as she could.
The man looked between the gun and the woman he hated and blamed for everything. He threw the gin at Tetsuko.
Out of reflex, she raised her hand to block it, but it was her right hand, her mutilated hand.
She screamed in pain and closed what was left of her fingers.
In that time, the man ran past her.
Tetsuko turned around to see him cutting himself as he pulled the broken sword out of his friend’s mouth.
With the broken piece, he faced her.
With tears in his eyes, he screamed and jumped at her.
Tetsuko raised the rest of the broken blade to block it, but it slipped through her bloodied fingers. Shit!
She raised her hand out of reflex.
Even blunt, the blade cut through bone and flesh.
First, she saw her fingers falling slowly before her eyes. Then she felt the pain.
The next instant, the man drove the end of broken blade on her chest again and again.
The blacksmith fell to the ground, her blood tainting the grass.
Out of breath, the man stood up and stared at her.
He didn’t smile in triumph. He didn’t show any joy. His expression was empty as he looked at the woman he blamed for destroying his village.
Tetsuko stared back at him, and they both knew she wouldn’t make it.
Even if he didn’t finish the job, it was only a matter of time until her life ended.
But for some reason, instead of hate or rage, she laughed. It was low at first, but soon her voice grew and fill the yard.
“Those guns…” She coughed blood and then showed a wild smile. “Those guns… didn’t kill me…” She stared at the man with triumph in her eyes.
He opened his mouth, but no words came out of him. He just stood there, with an expression of shock, shaking his head.
“You should… be happy… This is what… you wanted… your pointless and… empty revenge…” She tried to breathe, but the pain was spreading across her body was too much. But even so, she still laughed and smiled. “But… I’m the… one who… won…”
“You’re a monster…” He finally found his voice, taking a step back, afraid of the dying woman. “There’s something wrong with you… you have no remorse for the deaths you cause and—”
“All I do is… make the swords…” She interrupted him, coughing more blood, but her smile never faded. “A sword that… beat those… damn guns…”
She laughed louder than ever.
“Monster… You’re a monster…” The man took another step back, tripping over his dead friend.
“Tell them. Tell the entire world those guns didn’t kill me!” she shouted with all the strength she had left. “Tell the world I met my death by my own sword. Only a Muramasa blade, only my blade could kill me!”
As the rain became stronger, the dying blacksmith laughter echoed louder.