The foul smell of rotten food and feces mixed in the air flooded Tetsuko’s senses. Even as Nicolas picked the torch and headed to the last door in the prison, it was too much. It smells like death…
But the soul in the sword knew that wasn’t the case. She could still sense her former wielder’s soul in that prison. It’s been a week… he’s still alive… if barely…
Alonso was sitting at the corner when Nicolas opened the door of the dark and lightless cell.
Despite the sudden weak light from the torch piercing the darkness, it shone like a sun to the lord. Even so, he didn’t flinch nor tremble. All he did was close his eyes and raised his shackled hands to cover his face.
“We can’t have this, milord,” Nicolas said to the prisoner when he saw the untouched food on the other side of the prison. He picked the tray up and shook his head when he smelled it. “It’s been a few days now. You must be starving.”
“I am,” Alonso said in a weak but dignified whisper.
Nicolas snorted but said nothing.
“Then you should eat,” he said, throwing something at the imprisoned lord. “If you don’t, you’ll die, and it’ll be a problem for me.”
Alonso raised a hand and tried to catch it, but he was too weak to react in time. The fruit hit him across the face and it fell on the ground, rolling almost outside arm’s reach, inches away from the lord’s feces.
He picked the apple and his gaze shone with hunger, the droll rolling down the corner of his lips. Even so, he didn’t eat the fruit.
When Alonso grew accustomed to the light, he stared at the former Sword of the King. Despite the hunger, the defiance in his eyes was just as strong.
“Then I’ll die… satisfied that… I didn’t help you at all,” Alonso whispered, throwing the apple back. The fruit rolled slowly until it stopped at Nicolas’ feet.
Tetsuko smiled in her head. As expected of my former wielder. I’ve met many samurais who put out a front of strong but showed his cowardliness the moment they lost the high ground.
But Alonso wasn’t one of those nobles. Despite not receiving any food or drink for five days, the lord hadn’t lost his dignity or pride.
It’s amazing he has the strength to refuse food after so long, the soul in the sword thought, glancing at the untouched meal. Your plan failed, my wielder.
Nicolas plan was simple. Instead of torturing Alonso, he let his prisoner starve for five days. On the six, he offered food. But the lord refused to eat.
Despite his determination, the lack of nutrients had its toll on Alonso’s features.
The once young noble who looked as if he could be the next Yasuhiro-sama as he led his troops looked terrible. His cheeks were sunken and his lips thin and cracked. The hair was falling in some places and there was a constant pain across his face.
But the eyes remained the same. They still shone with the fire of determination.
He has accepted his death, Tetsuko realized.
To her surprise, that brought some sorrow to her.
Guess I was more attached to him than I realized… unlike the only fight with Fael, I was growing stronger by his side…
If she were a samurai, she would approve Alonso’s resolve of ending his life to preserve his name and pride.
But she wasn’t. Before she became a sword, she was a blacksmith, a sword maker.
Back in my world, people hated me and called me a traitor. But if I could still make swords with that body, I’d have chosen to live…
But it doesn’t make any difference now… I can’t do anything to help Alonso.
The soul in the sword focused on her new wielder.
I belong to him now…
Tetsuko could tell even without sensing his energy that Nicolas was much stronger than Alonso.
She also knew that, by his side, she might be able to control her energy and get much stronger.
Despite that, she felt no thrilled.
He might be much stronger, but he’s a puppet of that twisted energy… How strong can a puppet’s sword get?
Nicolas picked up the fruit and stared at Alonso.
“Guess you’re a better lord than I ever was,” he said in an angry whisper, crushing the apple, the juice running through his fingers.
Like many times, the strong energy appeared inside the twisted one, just like ripples from a rock thrown in a bucket.
But soon it was overwhelmed by the twisted energy and there was nothing left.
He’s been controlled, Tetsuko closed the eyes she didn’t have.
After a week at his waist, she realized. In a few occasions, Nicolas became someone else. He became his old self, the former Sword of the King.
The trigger for that awakening was either his anger or his past, especially when the topic of how he lost everything came up.
When that happened, the former noble was alive.
But it only lasted a few moments. Soon the twisted energy took over, and his eyes lost the sparkle of life and became as listless as the dead.
It has to be Lucky Chaos… And if I’m right, then everything, since the time when he gave the foul plants to Alonso, was planned by him… but what would he gain from Alonso’s imprisonment?
Nicolas threw the crushed fruit at the lord.
“You give me no choice, Alonso,” he said before closing the door, leaving the prisoner in complete darkness once again.
“Still nothing from him?” Otto asked the moment Nicolas returned to the main room of the lair.
The former Sword of the King shook his head as he sat on the chair.
“He’s more determined than I thought… every lord I met so far could resist some torture… most used the same excuse about honor… but I’ve never held a noble who could resist hunger…”
“‘Make them starve and then give food’… They’ve never been used to have nothing to eat for days,” Otto said in a low and angry voice.
The leader of the bandits of the forest closed his fist so hard it lost some of its color. But it didn’t stop the trembling.
It’s coming, the soul in the sword could sense.
A blink of an eye later, the twisted energy that had taken over his soul lessened.
His former energy grew stronger, trying to push the other away.
Nicolas watched him with narrowed eyes, almost as if sensing the same thing as Tetsuko.
“You’re right, my friend,” he said in a soothing tone, picking up the bottle of wine on the table.
He poured two cups and offered one to his new companion.
When Otto took it, Nicolas drank his in one gulp.
Otto watched his wine, one eye bright, the other pale. As the light and darkness fought, he drank it too.
At the same time, his original energy grew weak until it was consumed by the twisted energy.
The wine has something to do with it…
Tetsuko could figure that much.
What the soul in the sword couldn’t find out was why not just shove the wine down Alonso’s throat.
That would make the twisted energy take over him, wouldn’t? At least that what happened to the bandit…
“Then what we’re gonna do?” Otto asked in a calmer voice, almost devoiced of a soul.
“Let’s see if he can resist a couple more days without food. If he can, then I’ll have to resort to other means…”
Tetsuko wanted to hear what other means meant, but Nicolas said nothing more.
As Otto left to talk with his bandits, the former Sword of the King drew his sword and stared at the blade.
She hated that.
He had been doing from time to time, whenever he became quiet and alone.
The soul inside that sword knew her new wielder wasn’t just thinking.
He’s trying to sense if there’s something inside this weapon.
It wasn’t the first time Nicolas stared intently at her.
And those eyes made her feel uneasy.
It’s like there’s someone far away looking at me. Those pale and dead eyes are creepy…
“You.” After a long time, Nicolas sheathed the sword and called a nearby bandit. “Take this sword to the blacksmith. Tell him to polish and make a scabbard from this wood.”
He handed Tetsuko and a strange reddish log that was next to the bottle of wine.
The young bandit with short brown hair and a scar across his cheek nodded and raced away without a word, almost trembling.
When he knocked on the door of the forge, an angry voice told him to go away. The boy bandit gulped and knocked again.
“What?” the blacksmith asked savagely when the boy entered.
“T-the boss asked… ordered polish and make a sheath for this s-sword,” the bandit managed to say through the stutter.
The blacksmith almost ripped the blade and the wood off the boy’s hand.
“Everyone’s drinking and celebrating, and I’m here working my ass off…” he muttered, not paying attention to the boy bandit anymore.
Finally, a new scabbard!
But that wasn’t the reason Tetsuko felt her soul boiling with excitement.
It was the first time she was in a forge ever since becoming a sword.
I wonder how it feels to be polished… I bet it’s gonna feel great!
As the blacksmith placed her on the sword stand, she looked at the boy bandit. Thanks!
Then she finally noticed.
I know him! He’s the same lad from Alonso’s army!
She widened the eyes she no longer had.
If he’s here, then it means he was the traitor inside Alonso’s men…
Was that how Nicolas got the information about the plan?
But what about Lucky Chaos’ twisted energy? The kid doesn’t have that… he’s normal, as far as I can sense…
The soul in the sword could only speculate as felt the warmth cloth running over her body, cleaning every bit of dust on her.