A hidden area no one had set foot in a long time.
Tetsuko can’t even imagine how much new blood is down there
When the first rat jumped and bared its teeth to tear off someone’s neck, Faela cut it with Tetsuko without much trouble. However, the soul in the sword had no time to devour the blood. Before she could, another rat jumped at them.
The sword was a metal blur as it sliced the air and the rat, blood spraying everywhere, raining on them like red rain.
I don’t think it’s poisonous, but better not drink that.
“Thanks for the advice. I’m a little thirsty and was about to do that,” Faela joked, stabbing three rats at once.
Anna and the other soldiers had killed a considerable number of rats. Even so, more kept coming at them, like a wall of flesh and blood and fur.
There are too many.
Thanks to the living metal blades, the soldiers weren’t in the defensive. Though they couldn’t kill the rats with one cut, they harmed the animals enough to stop their movements for a while and give time for the others to finish. The shields, even the broken and the pierced ones withstood the bites, the headbutts and the tail sweeps without any trouble.
However, it wouldn’t last forever. Even in the middle of the fight, Tetsuko realized. Some rats could dent, and even take a piece of the living metal with their teeth.
Those are stronger. Their Celeste feels different from the others, as if it’s part of them, the soul in the sword thought. Faela, kill that one. I want its blood.
“You’re the one who’s thirsty, demon sword?” Despite the middle of fighting, her wielder still found time to joke.
I’d laugh but even I can’t force myself to do something stupid. That one is different from most.
With her edge cutting so many rats, Tetsuko had time to devour their energy, even if only a little, and it was enough to confirm; they weren’t like the monsters attacking the city, but something else. They’re close. They’ve been transformed by Celeste. But they’re different. And I want the strongest one to find why.
Despite her complaints disguised as a joke, with the help of a few soldiers by her side, Faela cut her way to the rat her sword wanted.
When the animal realized, it screeched at her. It wasn’t like the others. It was closer to a shrill, as if trying to scare the swordswoman. It snapped the front teeth and tried to bite Tetsuko.
Even though it was stronger than most, it was still nothing to a pure living metal blade with a soul like her.
“Are you satisfied?” Faela muttered as she cut more rats.
Yeah. That was the price for using me as a tool.
Before Faela could let out a sarcastic comment, Anna cursed, and she turned at once.
The young swordswoman was in trouble. Not only her katana wasn’t appropriate for tight spaces, with so many allied around her, she couldn’t swing and use her full strength. When the sword got stuck on a rat, another one bit her side. She took one hand from the handle, drew the living metal dagger she had and stabbed the animal in the face. It squirmed and screeched until it stopped moving.
“There’s no end to it,” Faela murmured when she confirmed her disciple was safe.
They had slain dozens, perhaps over a hundred rats, but there were still more coming. Thanks to the soldiers’ formation, and their experience with the monsters, none had died. Yet. They were having trouble, and it was only a matter of time.
“Let’s fight like we did against the crows!” Faela shouted as she killed another rat that tried to bit her shin. “Create a tight wall of shields, kill them one by one and push forward!”
Despite the situation, the soldiers obeyed. The ones with shields stuck them on the ground and waited for the others to fall behind them. Then they closed their ranks, leaving small gaps on the metal wall. Though the rats tried to attack, they couldn’t get past.
Faela, Anna, and the soldiers took advantage and stabbed the animals through the gaps as the shield wall moved forward.
When the rats realized they couldn’t bite or push their way through the shields, they climbed on top of cadavers and tried to go over the wall.
Though the shield-bearing soldiers shouted in fear when they saw the rats’ enraged and fuming faces, Faela and the others took care of them.
“Don’t stop! We can’t retreat now!” she shouted.
“Yes!” the soldiers shouted, pushing their way.
“Was that all of them?” Faela asked, panting too much. Though she was covered with blood and sweat, she wasn’t hurt.
You wanted more? Tetsuko projected her thoughts to her wielder.
The swordswoman ignored her sword. “Is anyone hurt? Did anyone get in contact with their blood?”
There was only a heavy silence as the soldiers looked at her.
I can tell some got in contact with the infected blood, but with all the rats spread around, it’s impossible to sense, Tetsuko projected to her wielder. Then she thought to herself, they’re afraid to become monsters.
“Don’t hide it. If you swallowed blood or it touched your eyes or a wound, tell me,” Faela said, looking around. “I can help. I can save you.”
The soldiers exchanged looks among themselves. Just like Faela, they were exhausted and covered with rat blood. Then, slowly, a few hands raised in the air. Everyone got away at once, putting some distance between them and the infected ones. One of them was Camila.
“How did it happen?” Faela asked her friend.
“A rat bit me. I killed it, but think the blood fell on my wound,” Camila said, pulling the leather and showing the chain mail. Despite all that protection, which now had a big chunk missing, there was a bite mark on her shin. The leg looked paler than the rest and there was a dark purple stain slowly growing. She looked Faela in the eyes, the fear stamped on her face. “I don’t wanna become a monster,” she whispered.
“Don’t worry. You won’t. I can take care of it,” Faela said in a reassuring voice, her expression matching. However, she looked down at her sword with worry in her eyes.
I can devour it. Even with the Celeste in the smoke, I’m far from my limit.
The swordswoman drew Tetsuko and pressed the edge against the wound. Almost like a cloth soaking up wine on fur, the purple stain became smaller and smaller until it vanished as if sucked by the sword.
Camila, like the other soldiers, stared awestruck. No one could say anything.
“Living metal has purifying properties against Worshipers. Almost like they’re mortal enemies. The purer the metal, the better,” Faela explained quickly. “But it only works on high concentrations of the metal. The swords you carry can harm and kill the infected but aren’t enough to purify.”
What a bunch of bullshit, Tetsuko projected to her wielder. Once again, Faela ignored her, though she could tell the swordswoman was almost snorting.
As she helped the soldiers who were infected, the others rested. By the time she finished, everyone could march again. But can they fight?
“Let’s go. Those with shields will walk on the front. If more rats show up, we’ll use the same tactic,” Faela ordered.
With that formation, their progress was slower than before, but she preferred that way. Even if the soldiers had rested, it wasn’t enough. If they fought another wave of rats like the first, they would have more trouble.
Since no one had explored that part of the sewers in decades, perhaps centuries, they had to rely on Tetsuko for direction. However, down here, and after devouring so much energy, she was having trouble to navigate. She could only sense the general direction of the ancient and evil Celeste. However, when they reached a chamber leading into many different directions, Tetsuko had no idea which direction to go.
Before Faela could decide, they heard the same squeaky sound from earlier coming from all directions.
An instant later, the soldiers had made the wall of shields around everyone and prepared for the impact.
The rats showed up from every direction, and they were even bigger and more numerous than before. They charged against the shield, crashing their heads against the metal as if it didn’t hurt them.
The soldiers were pushed back but managed to withstand. The others took the chance to attack.
“Faela, you need to go,” Camila said after they had killed hundreds but there was no end to the rats.
“I can’t leave you.”
“You have to!” the soldier shouted. “I know we can’t fight the culprit. We’ll only get in the way.”
“I read the reports from the expedition. I don’t know how strong they are but fighting them with numbers is bad. If they infect us, you’ll have more enemies to fight!”
Faela grew quiet as she killed more rats.
“You’re the only one who can fight!” Camila shouted.
The swordswoman bit her lips and looked down at Tetsuko.
“Master,” Anna muttered, standing closer.
“Camila, you have the authority. After you kill them, go after me. I’ll leave a trail.”
With Anna by her side, Faela turned around and went to the only path that rats didn’t come from.
Thanks for reading.
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