Before she opened her eyes, Tetsuko felt as if her insides were being ripped apart.
If she still had a mouth, she would have screamed in pain.
But as soon as the sensation came unbearable, it was gone.
Panting, she tried to control her breathing.
Wait… breathing…? How can I, a sword breath…?
But slowly she breathed deeper, feeling the air filling her lungs.
She smiled and couldn’t help but laugh.
To her surprise, she heard a voice. Her own voice.
That made her laugh even louder, the sound too nostalgic to her ears.
I thought I could never hear my voice ever again, she thought, feeling the cold air in her nostrils.
It feels as if I haven’t done this in so long…
After she grew bored of that, Tetsuko tried to open her eyes.
Again, to her surprise, she had eyes. And they opened.
The last vision she remembered had changed.
The cart was gone, and the darkening and starry sky replaced by a dark wooden ceiling.
Where am I…?
Was I sold already while I was sleeping?
She tried looking around, but her head was too heavy to turn.
And then she noticed. She could feel.
She had her sense of touch.
Tetsuko could feel something hard and cold against the tip of her fingers, against her back.
With a strange feeling, she raised her left arm and realized she had a hand to raise.
She stared at it, feeling a cold punch in her gut as she turned the maned member around.
Without any reaction, she lowered the hand with only two fingers left.
That’s my hand from my body… this is my body… my old body, Tetsuko told herself, trying to believe it herself.
I’m back to my own world, she reached the conclusion.
Once her mind had accepted that, she again looked around, not recognizing the place.
If I’m not a sword anymore, then where am I?
That’s what I’d like to know, another voice echoed.
If Tetsuko could, she would have turned around to find that voice, but she had no strength left in the now strange and heavy body.
Calm down, there’s no need to panic, the other voice said again.
Then Tetsuko realized she couldn’t hear the voice with her old ears.
The voice was coming from inside her own mind.
Who are you? Tetsuko asked.
Lia is my name.
Lia…? Tetsuko couldn’t forget the name. You’re Fael’s soul pair.
The blacksmith felt the other woman stirring inside her head.
You know him? You know Fael?
Yes, Tetsuko spoke in her heart with proud. For a brief while, he was my wielder
Even without seeing the other woman, she could tell Lia was confused by her words.
Tetsuko then explained everything that had happened to her after she died and became a sword in a strange world.
I see, Lia said, her voice calming down.
You don’t sound too surprised by all this.
The strange voice in her head laughed.
After what happened to me, you wouldn’t be surprised either, Lia said after she stopped laughing.
As I fought for my people and the man I love, I was hit by arrows and stabbed in the gut, she said in a voice full of regret. I died there. I know that. But when I open my eyes, I wasn’t in the Great Eternal Forest. I was…
Here, in my world, Tetsuko finished the thought.
Yes. I woke up in this maimed body whose face looked so much like mine in a completely different world. So I don’t want you too surprised when I say I believe that you became a sword in my world.
I promise I won’t, Tetsuko thought, chuckling. So we changed worlds… do you have any idea how or why?
Not at all, Lia said, the voice echoing inside Tetsuko. Could it be that ‘cause we look alike, we have some sort of connection.
Could be… we also had the exact same wounds…
So you think our souls changed places because of that?
I don’t know… Maybe. I don’t remember the moment I died.
Tetsuko tried to remember, but her last moments in this world felt blurred.
All I remember is laughing and lying down on the ground while the rain fell, she told Lia.
So because of our connection, our souls changed places?
And since you had died…
Your soul ended up on the weapon that killed me, Lia finished the thought.
Both women fell silent.
After some time, Tetsuko tried to push herself up, but her body refused to obey.
She gave up, grunting in pain.
Lia, since your soul was in this body, can you move it? It was just for a short time, but it’s hard for me to move a human body now.
That thought made her pause for a moment and then laugh.
Guess I really was meant to become a sword.
I can, but with a great effort, Lia answered. Since it’s not my body, I’m not used to it. And it’s also greatly damaged.
I see, Tetsuko decided to stay still.
Not only each movement was hard to do, it also pained her.
What happened after you woke up here?
After I woke up, I was in pain. A lot of pain. I couldn’t move at all. Then strange people appeared. I lost consciousness and then woke up in a strange bedroom, Lia said.
The people from the village must’ve heard the shots and informed the Lord, Tetsuko thought to herself.
A man in particular kept visiting me every day, but since he spoke in a strange language, I couldn’t understand him at all. But I could tell he was worried about me… about you. I think he thought I was too weak to even understand him. The next time he came, he had brought a healer. But even the old man wasn’t able to make the pain go away. I believe… The voice went quiet, but Tetsuko understood.
There’s no reason to worry. I know very well that this body hasn’t got much time, the woman who became a sword said.
Less than you think, Lia’s low voice echoed inside the blacksmith.
There’s no need to pity me. I already died once. And besides…
Ignoring the searing pain, Tetsuko forced both her arms up.
One had lost the entire hand.
The other had only two fingers left.
With a grunt, the effort of holding them up became unbearable and she lowered them with a heavy thud.
There’s no reason for me to come back to my old life. Even if this body wasn’t dying, I’d rather be a sword.
Why would you choose that? Lia asked, not managing to hide her surprise.
Because if I have no hands, I can’t be a blacksmith. And if I can’t forge swords, I’d rather become one.
Even if she could not see, Tetsuko felt the other woman who shared the maned body smiling.
That’s an amazing determination, Lia said.
Tetsuko felt all the pity from the other woman vanishing.
But you’ll make that man too sad, Fael’s soul pair added.
The one with long black hair that came to visit me every day. The one who was worried about you. Despite not understanding a word, I could tell that he loved you.
Ah, you’re talking about Souichirou…
Tetsuko thought for a moment about one of the few men, one of the few people she truly cared about.
Even though he’s a noble, we’ve been friends since we were kids…
He loves you, Lia said.
I know… but I’m… I was just an adoptive daughter of the blacksmith. There’s no way the son of a samurai could marry a woman of my status. Even his concubine was too much.
Samurai? Lia repeated the strange and new word to her.
The warriors of this country. They’re like the nobles in your world, I guess, Tetsuko explained in the simplest way and Lia understood.
But Souichirou is a fool, the woman thought with a gentle smile on her lips. He dreams of stopping the war, despite being so weak. He dreams about a world of peace, of prosperity to everyone…
Still smiling, Tetsuko bent the two fingers she had left and felt her own palm slowly.
He used to say he liked feeling my rough hands… according to him, it was the proof of how much I worked hard…
Sounds like you loved him as well, Lia said after a moment of silence.
Tetsuko closed her eyes and breathed deep, opening her hands and dismissing the memories.
I think I did…no… I do love him… But there was no way we could’ve been together.
Not only he was a noble and me a blacksmith, he has a fiancée. A woman who he’ll marry in the future, Tetsuko added when she sensed Lia’s confusion.
That’s strange… From his worried expression, you’re his soul pair.
If I hadn’t been to obsess about making swords, maybe we could’ve been, the woman admitted, a pain stabbing her in the heart.
But that chance died even before it could begin…
To be apart from your soul pair is an unbearable pain, Lia said, more to herself than to Tetsuko.
Fael felt the same… I saw in his mind how much he loved you.
Thank you for saying me this, Lia said, her low cries echoing inside Tetsuko’s head.
The two woman who had died and lost their bodies, who could no longer be with the man they loved, who lost their entire world, tried to comfort each other.