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Chapter 19 – The Plan
From the bits of conversation she heard from the soldiers, Tetsuko had found out about the place where the bandits hid at the moment.
Even inside the Kingdom’s land, the Stone Hills was a strange place.
Surrounded by plains, swamp and the mountains, the land was a strange rock and earth formation that created many small hills here and there, forming a labyrinth made by nature.
Despite the earth being rich in that area, the difficulty of working on those hills had pushed away anyone who tried to claim ownership. The land became a burden to the humans and so the Stone Hills remained with the nature as its only owner.
Trees grew, grass covered the earth between the rocks, and the animals took over.
And the soul in the sword couldn’t believe what she saw when the army arrived at the Stone Hill.
The lord had ordered his soldiers to start marching before the sun rose.
By the time they arrived, the first sunrays shone on the Stone Hill Labyrinth.
Amazing… I never heard of such place back in my world…
The forest followed the hills, going up and down. It’s like waves… waves of leaves…
But Tetsuko had no time to observe the scene.
“They probably already know we’re here, my Lord,” Enrique said in a low voice.
“Yes… I think so too,” Alonso said, his eyes searching the dark threes for any signs of movement.
Then he glanced at the men and women around him.
Do you really think there’s a traitor here as well, my wielder?
The lord and the advisor discussed after lord Dale left. And they reached the conclusion that it wasn’t possible for one person, no matter how high in the military, could have all the information that the bandits had.
There’s no way anyone other than a soldier here could’ve known when you’d leave…
But in the end, neither men could find out the traitor. All they could do was give the orders without giving time for the information to get out.
Tetsuko tried to find something on her own.
But even with her heightened senses, she couldn’t find anything.
Even this body has limitation…
But I didn’t try stirring the energy inside me…
“Are the plants and the fire ready?” Alonso asked.
Despite his initial unwillingness to use the anything provided by the man known as Lucky Chaos, Enrique had help organizing the plan. With the more updates maps, they had managed to find the best point to set the plants.
Five places around the Stone Hill. If they set fire and fan the smoke at the right time, it foul smell would fill the Labyrinth and it would be impossible to breathe.
Tetsuko winced in her mind as she remembered the stench.
Even without a nose, I could smell that smoke… even before becoming a sword I had little sense of smell thanks to a life close to the forge…
If the bandits are forced to breathe that for long, they won’t last…
The problem is timing the smoke so they won’t run to the other side.
A woman came to the advisor and whispered something to him.
Despite her low voice, Tetsuko could sense her suppressed feelings.
She’s filled with rage, but above that, she’s afraid…
The former blacksmith looked around.
And she’s not the only one…
Unlike the last fight, when they were full of confidence and believed they were about to make justice…
Tetsuko smiled in her sheath that was too big.
That’s much better, the soul in the sword thought. If they were the same, then they would be fools.
“The plants are set, my Lord,” Enrique said in a low voice. Then the advisor bit his lips as he looked at his superior. “Are you sure we should use something provided by Lord Dale?”
Alonso didn’t turn to him. The lord kept staring one of the entrances of the Stone Hill Labyrinth.
It was not the first time the advisor had asked that. Even as he helped creating the plan, he couldn’t shake his fear.
The reputation of the Lucky Chaos sure goes deep.
And Tetsuko could not blame the advisor. Even she couldn’t help but wince as she remembered the Dale.
That man’s energy was too twisted… I can’t call it evil… but it’s like he warped the energy of those around him… if that’s the source of his Luck and the others downfall…
The soul in the sword had checked her wielder’s energy after the conversation between the lords.
But she had sensed nothing different in Alonso’s energy.
Nor in Enrique’s or the soldiers’.
Even the men that came with the other lord. There was nothing different with their energy.
Except with the man known as Lucky Chaos.
There’s a lot strange about that man… but I’d rather keep my distance from him… I feel like if I sensed it too much, my own energy would become twisted…
“Yes… set the fire at my command,” Alonso said at last, still looking for any sign of movement on the trees.
Even if he spoke in a low voice, the apprehension took over the soldiers.
They stared forward and didn’t look at their commander.
But Testuko could sense; everyone around there was listening to their conversation.
The advisor nodded and went to pass the Lord’s orders.
There was a tense silence as everyone waited.
Alonso raised his arm slowly.
With the attention of all his soldiers on him, he brought his hand down with a swift movement.
Against the pale light from the rising sun that broke through the clouds, the flames shone around the Stone Hill.
They were like pale stars on the ground.
But it only lasted a second.
The flames burned the plants and the smoke filled the air.
But it never rose to the sky.
It remained around the flames.
It’s as that man said… the smoke is heavy, Tetsuko thought.
The relief on her wielder’s face wasn’t missed by her.
The soldiers in charge of the plants used shields, sheets, capes and anything else that could be used to manipulate the wind.
They fanned the smoke, sending them to the heart of the Stone Hills Labyrinth.
Even save from the smell, the lord and the soldiers covered their faces with clothes.
Damn it… that stench’s gonna get impregnated on my crappy sheath, the soul in the sword thought.
In a few moments, the smoke entered the sea of leaves.
Everyone kept quiet, waiting for any change.
There was nothing.
The lord looked at his advisor and nodded.
Enrique gave the sign.
The soldiers controlling the flames made the fire grow and shine brighter.
More smoke came out and entered where the bandits hid.
And then they heard.
It was only one person coughing.
But soon many more joined.
As the plan worked, the anxiety once again ran through the ranks.
Tetsuko could feel it; they wanted to run inside and finish the fight.
But they didn’t move.
Not until their commander ordered.
Alonso observed, waiting for the right moment.
And then, when the flames died, and the smoke stopped, a few people came running from the Stone Hills Labyrinth.
Alonso urged his new horse forward.
“Charge!” he screamed, drawing Tetsuko from the sheath that was too big.
Even the sword was anxious to make her energy grow.
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