Chapter 9 - Once again, another world

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Tetsuko stared the wooden ceiling when she heard a commotion outside the prison.

Voices... Someone's coming, Tetsuko realized, concentrating. I recognize that voice...

It must be the man who kept crying whenever he visited me, Lia said into the woman's mind.

Souichirou is still loud as ever, Tetsuko thought, smiling. Even though it hadn't been long since she had left this world, it had been too long since she saw the face of the man she loved.

As the voices grew, Tetsuko gathered all her strength. She didn't want to meet him while lying on the floor just waiting for her death.

"Tetsuko!" the man screamed the moment he entered the prison.

With a great and painful effort, the blacksmith managed to drag her body near the door and sat up. Then she leaned against the bars as she waited.

"Tetsuko," Souichirou said her name again when he was closer.

There was a smile on his lips when he saw her, but there were tears in his eyes. He crouched and grabbed the bars with both hands.

"The guard said you were moving your arms... and laughing," he said, his voice filled with hope and anxiety. "Can you speak? Do you... recognize me...?"

Testuko raised her head to look Souichirou in the eyes. There was a moment of silence and then the woman smiled weakly.

"You wouldn't let me forget even if I wanted," she said, chuckling.

But soon she stopped; even laughing hurt her.

"Don't push yourself," he said, concerned. Despite his words, even he was smiling after hearing that voice. "Your wounds might reopen if..."

He grew silent and his tiny smile was gone as fast as it had appeared.

"It won't make a difference, will it?"

She looked him in the eyes, but he avoided meeting hers.

"Don't make that face. I know I don't have much time left in this world. I'd like to talk to you like in the old days."

Souichirou bit his lips and closed his fist, holding back his tears. Then he forced himself to swallow his sadness before looking at the blacksmith.

"I captured the one who did this. The last one alive, I mean. I killed him with my own hands," he said in a dark and cold voice.

Tetsuko showed a sad smile. Ignoring her pain, she reached out to touch his hands with the fingers she had left.

"I wished you didn't. These hands are meant to write, to hold a book. Not a sword." Tetsuko took a deep breath to keep talking. "You're meant to create a better world, a better future, not bring more deaths."

The man let out a hollow and short laugh.

"You never believe I had it in me." Souichirou's eyes blurred with memories of a distant past. "But even if you think don't have what it takes, I'm a samurai."

"You're right. You're a samurai. And a noble samurai shouldn't be here with a maimed and useless blacksmith."

The man widened his eyes and shook his head.

"You're not just a maimed and useless blacksmith!" he shouted. "You're the woman I—"

Before he finished speaking, Tetsuko brought her remaining finger to his lips. She was on the verge of tears, but managed to hold them in.

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