No one said anything. All the words had been said already. Now those gathered here only cried as Alonso’s son, Afonso, threw his father’s ashes on the cliff. As it was carried by the wind and scattered around, the newest Lord did his best to hold his tears.
After the ceremony was over, many nobles went to talk to Afonso. They gave their condolences and complimented Alonso, saying how great he was, how they would always miss him and how the kingdom had lost one of his greatest and loyal Lords.
However, though most of those words were sincere, the nobles’ true objective was gaining favor with the young Lord. Even with Enrique by Afonso’s side, they couldn’t hide their greed.
“They’re like vultures,” Faela muttered under her breath, watching from a distance. “I do not even the boy.”
Yes. He’ll have to fight his father’s battle now. Both on the field and outside, Tetsuko projected her thoughts to her new wielder. Just like Celia…
“That’s the duty a noble’s child must bear. So will their children.” Faela turned to the cliff, where you could see the whole area from here. “And the fight is far from over… Despite what those idiots want to believe…”
The swordswoman clenched her first. The instant she did, her face winced. The wound from the fight against Alonso had healed, but her arm was far from back to what it used to. She took a deep breath to calm her anger and opened her hand.
Tetsuko couldn’t blame her wielder. After Alonso’s death, she told Celia everything that had happened after the noble was carried out of the room. Despite her tears, the Lord of Iron heard everything and sent a messenger to the Royal Court at once, explaining the threat from the worshipers wasn’t over.
The Royal court sent their condolences, thanked her for all her efforts, gave her a title for protecting the kingdom, and promised to send compensation for her all financial loses. However, they dismissed her request for reinforcements, saying the threat was over and that they should focus on the bandits raging terror inside the boarders and the invaders outside.
They want to believe the threat of the Worshipers is over, that the healer who poisoned Alonso was just a lone survivor who wanted revenge, Tetsuko thought. They’re fools. Just like in my old country, those on top rather pretend bad stuff aren’t happening until it’s too late, just to keep their comfortable lives going…
“Yes… Most nobles are like that,” Faela agreed. “Peace has made them like this… Turned them blind to the threats lurking around the dark until it’s too late…”
What do you plan to do?
“I’ll fight, if that’s what you’re worried. I’m a warrior to the end.”
It wasn’t worried about that, but it’s good to know.
“It wasn’t?” Faela snorted softly. “I could swear you cared more about fighting strong opponents than to the fate of this country.”
You’re right. What I want is to become the strongest sword in this world. But a sword without a wielder is just a decoration… I’d rather die than to rust hanging on a wall like a prize… I need someone strong to wield me. I need you. So I’ll help you save this country if that what it takes to become stronger, the soul projected her thoughts to her new wielder.
Faela flashed a cocky smile. “So I’m just a tool for you? A means to make you stronger? Normally is the other way around, you know?”
Tetsuko grew quiet for a moment. No. You’re my wielder, not a tool. To me, a wielder is… a partner… That’s the other reason why I’ll help you. My previous wielders left me with their last wishes. Just because I’m not human anymore doesn’t mean I’m so cold-hearted as to turn my back to them just because they died.
“Your previous wielders… Lord Alonso… and my brother…”
Faela’s smile vanished and her eyes became distant as she turned to the cliff again.
Tetsuko kept quiet, giving space to her wielder. It’s not easy for her…
After the fight with Alonso and what came next, on the march back to Alonso’s castle, Tetsuko finally spoke about Faela’s older brother, Fael, and his last moments.
At the time, the swordswoman’s eyes watered, though she didn’t cry. After a long time in silence riding in silence, she thanked Tetsuko and hadn’t mentioned her older brother since then.
After some time, Faela turned to Afonso and Enrique, still busy with the vulture nobles.
It looks like it’ll take long, Tetsuko projected her thoughts to her wielder.
“Yeah, it does,” she said, her mind somewhere else. “Let’s get back… We can talk to Enrique later….”
Faela went to her horse and rode back to Afonso’s castle, where she was staying for the past two weeks. However, unlike usual, she let the animal dictate the pace, making the short distance take twice as long.
“My brother… ho was… you know…” Faela spoke after a while.
Even if she tried to hide, Tetsuko could tell her wielder was holding once again back the tears. Despite not seeing him for years, she still cares about him.
He was not a traitor, was the first thing the soul in the sword said. What he did was to protect his people, your people. When he was branded a traitor, he was ready to sacrifice himself to save everyone else. He died fighting until the end. A brave man I was proud to have as my first wielder and someone who I’ll never forget…
“I see…” A sad smile appeared on the swordswoman’s lips. “Was he strong?”
“So he changed…” Faela wanted to cry and smile at the same time. “He was a complete crybaby when we were kids… He always talked about getting his name on the stone… That’s—”
I know what it means, Tetsuko said. That ritual seemed interesting.
“You do? He told you? Even in that situation?”
“I saw his memories. He wanted me to know the real story and pass on. I also know he was in love with Lua. And that he missed you a lot to the end…”
“I…see… So brother found his Soul Pair…” Now Faela couldn’t hold her tears. Tetsuko said nothing else as her wielder face forwards, crying in silence.
By the time they reached the castle, the swordswoman no longer cried. Afonso and Enrique only arrived after she had a warm bath and shared a meal with the soldiers at the barracks.
“I’m sorry for taking so long, Faela, but the Lord needs to rest now,” the adviser said as they entered his meeting room.
“It’s okay, Enrique. I get it. Besides, I know he has too many problems right now,” Faela said with a heavy expression.
Enrique closed his eyes and bowed his eyes a little to show his gratitude. Afonso wasn’t the only one who looked exhausted. Just like his lord, the advisor had dark shadows under his eyes all the time since Faela brought back Alonso’s body for the funeral.
“Regarding the sword, you can keep it. If you say my Lord ask you to keep it, I believe.” Enrique eyed Tetsuko. His expression said it all; he was glad to get rid of that blade. “However, about what you asked… I’ll see what I can do. But I don’t believe I can get a meeting with the King. It’s been too long since he met anyone other than his son. Some say he’s ill, other say he’s already dead…”
“I know, but if you can, I’d appreciate.” The soldier bowed to him. “You’re one of the few who do believe in the truth about the worshipers.”
“Sorry I can’t help you with more. Especially after everything you did for Alonso…”
“Don’t worry. I know how busy you two will be. And without the Royal Court’s help, my hands are tied…”
“Then what will you do? Are you going to hunt the remaining Worshipers?”
“Yes. I won’t let them do as they please,” Faela said, clutching Tetsuko’s handle.
Even if she didn’t mean to, the swordswoman’s determination was making her energy flow faster.
“Even if you’re alone?”
“I’m not alone.” Faela eyed Tetsuko with the corner of her lips quivering into a smile. “If I find evidence there are still worshipers alive, the Court will have to move.”
“Where you’ll go first?”
Faela turned to the man Enrique had on his table. She had already pondered about that for a while. She touched the closest large city from the mining mountains they were three weeks ago.
“Itajubá. If they want to increase their numbers to become a threat again, at least one of them will be there…”
Enrique looked at where she was pointing, thinking. “I’ve heard strange rumors coming from there lately.”
“What kind of rumors?” Faela urged him.
“It’s mostly from the trade caravans. Some of them are saying the animals are going crazy and attacking people.”
Faela grew quiet for a moment. “I think it’s related…”
“I’ll help any way I can,” Enrique promised.
“Thank you. I’ll take you up on that right now. I’ll travel tomorrow morning. I’ll take a week to get there.”
“But your wounds…”
“If there’s a worshiper involved, they won’t wait for me to be completely healed.”