Chapter 16 - After the Battle

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"Damn it!" the lord shouted when he received the news.

He closed and opened his fist, his breathing getting heavier. Alonso looked around, trying to find something to vent his anger. His eyes ended on the rack where his dented armor was. Without thinking twice, he pushed the whole thing on the ground as hard as he could.

The pain crossed his face as the sound of metal rattling filled the noble's tent.

Alonso groaned, but refused to scream. Closing his eyes, he placed a hand on his back and took deep breaths to withstand the pain.

"My lord, please, don't move too much," Enrique said, coming to his lord's side with the worry stamped on his face. "You're lucky that you didn't break anything more than a few ribs fighting those bandits all by yourself..."

The moment he spoke, the advisor's expression changed. The worry gave room to guilt as he looked at Alonso's bandages.

"Stop that, Enrique. It wasn't your fault," Alonso said in an angry voice, waving a hand to his advisor, wincing in pain with the effort.

Enrique opened his mouth, but then closed it, looking at the ground.

Yes, Tetsuko thought. Who could've seen that snake? If not for that, Alonso would've led the troops and killed the rest of the bandits...

The soul in the sword had been watching her wielder ever since the lord had awakened. She couldn't know his state, so the only thing she did was listen to their conversation while resting uncomfortably on her sheath that was too big for her metal body.

But you shouldn't push yourself too much, my wielder. It's already amazing that you woke in less than a day with those wounds. Your resilience is incredible, but you should rest for the next battle...

Besides, you did the right call at the time, the soul inside the sword thought. It was the best choice... or the losses would've been too many...

After the lord and the sword had barely managed to join the main army again, Alonso realized the situation of the battle right away.

Despite their overwhelming numerical advantage, the bandits stopped using that. Instead, they were retreating to the heart of the forest.

The army was pressing on under Enrique's order.

But they never realized that was part of the bandits' plan.

The criminals were indeed retreating. But that wasn't all they did. At the same time, they were luring the army.

The closer they got to the center of the forest, to the heart of the bandits' lair, the traps they had laid out became deadlier.

As the army advanced, more and more soldiers fell into their traps. But they still pursued the criminals.

The lord realized; his soldiers were taken by bloodlust. Their initial noble goal of ridding the kingdom of the criminals was gone. If the battle continued that way, if they kept chasing the bandits to the heart of the forest, they wouldn't defeat the group.

Instead, the army would only lose more men and women.

When he rejoined Enrique, the commander was surer of that fate.

It pained Alonso to do so, both his body and his soul, but he shouted the command to retreat to his men and women.

The soldiers had trouble obeying that command. They were too overtaken by their bloodlust to hear right away.

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