AN: This is a tribute to what in this writer's opinion is the best Manga after FMA and Evangelion; most of all, however, it is a tribute to the character of Guts. Read at your own risk. Story takes place after Gut's New Party reaches Elfhelm, if you are not up to date with the manga, this story will not make sense to you. Also, spoiler alert in that case! Enjoy, and don't forget to review on your way out.
So, couple of changes made, maaaaaaaybe open for a sequel, got a few things scribbled down. Let's... for the sake of this story... and Miura-Sempai's uncanny publishing speed, that the events in this story happen right after Guts meets with Casca! How 'bout that? let's say she passes out right away and then we get to this! Yay!
Disclaimer: I do NOT own berserk, nor the picture!
The Vengeful One
Her screams, coming from the Elven King's domain, only worked to make him that much angrier; so he cleaved through the ranks of Griffith's Demon Army ten by ten, erasing their pompous grins with a swing of his sword. Perhaps he would be ultimately unable to crush the stupid city to the ground, but at the very least, he'd take away Falconia's greatest defense; the Demon army. Again and again he swung, blackish blood sprinkling and bathing everything, inciting the Beast from within to clamor for more bloodshed. In that aspect, at the very least, he and these monsters were alike. We all thirst for blood and battle, don't we? The Black Swordsman blocked a powerful arrow that made him rear back several yards; yet he turned in mid air and fell on his feet, taking the momentum to propel himself like a canon and impale the wolfish monster right in its eye, only to cleave through its body with a second slash.
The dragon appeared in full form, not bothering to hide under its shield or warhammer. Guts grinned and jumped from the hunter's corpse to avoid being squashed by its paw. Casca screamed.
The Elven King had warned him, Skull Knight had warned him; perhaps Casca did not wish to remember, perhaps it was better to leave things be as they were, but no. He would give her back her heart, even if it was now filled with contempt for him. She despised him, she distrusted him, she was afraid of him, and yet… And yet here I stand… He deflected the monster's paw with a vicious slice, taking two of its fingers. The sword was called Dragonslayer, after all, perhaps it was due time to make it live up to its name. Here I stand… human… against beast… human… beast… is there really a difference? Some bone in his right leg snapped when he jumped and brought the sword down around the dragon's snout. A small storm, the Elven King had prophesized, a small storm indeed. Apparently Griffith was still unsure of his hold around the world, and wished to exterminate all those who would oppose him, as he had done whilst attacking Flora. The dragon ducked, so he swung his sword once more.
The dragon slapped the blade away with difficulty and muttered some gibberish about its skin being impregnable and how he was unfit to damage it; no matter, he stood back up and allowed the armor to pierce the muscle and flesh around his broken leg and mend it with metal. He didn't feel pain anymore. Shierke was with the Elven King, trying to piece Casca's mind and heart together without her going insane. The witches were fighting and dying against the Apostles, able to stop their ships from reaching port but unable to stop their onslaught with their powerful magic.
Griffith… he thought, enraged. The hatred boiled, and from within, the chains rattled and started to break. The Beast of Darkness had awoken. Casca… She despised him. She would most likely revert back to her foolish state once the treatment was done, or moreover, run along to the Hawk and seek the warmth of his embrace. Guts would never again feel her hands, he realized, never again would she stare at him with kindness and trust, never again would she seek shelter in his arms. Yes, she despised him. And deep within, a part of him despised her just as much; said part fueled his third strike, and one of the dragon's horns was severed.
"Commendable! That you would survive three of my attacks! You, a mere human, cutting off my horns! Come, Black Swordsman! Let us duel to the death!" Grunbeld boomed, throwing about another ball of hellfire his way. The broken leg became one with the armor; he jumped and took the flame's blast head on, slicing through it. His skin blistered, but no matter. Nothing mattered, not anymore. "I-Impossibl-!" This time, he aimed with caution and sunk the blade's tip deep in the small face about the thing's snout. His vision was beginning to fade. He felt the Beast crawling into his senses, crawling from his back.
"Give in…" It whispered as he was thrown to a nearby tree with enough force to break the thick trunk. Had he not had the armor on, his bones would have been reduced to dust. Casca screamed again, and Guts… Guts refused to give in. Tired… he mused, vision blurring, hand shaking, tongue leathery as he cleaved two apostles in half. I'm so tired… Has my sword always been so heavy…? Swinging the Dragonslayer was becoming agony. Why am I in pain? The metal pierced the bones of his arm, pushing it back into place. Apparently, while deviating the fireball he had broken it.
"You cur!" The dragon bellowed. "You dare damage my skin not once, but twice?! You dare slice my hellfire in two!? I will not have it, Black Swordsman! I will crush your body like the sacrifice you are! Now fall under my wrath!"
Something exploded in his vicinity, yet he barely heard it. The aftermath of the Sea God's battle; he was beginning to lose his hearing as well. The blurry eye still available to him saw two figures of the dragon's size approach. Despite the hellish situation, Guts could only grin sadistically. "Heh…" he panted, blood dribbling off his mouth. "My good luck never seems to end, huh? Oi, you." He whispered to Puck, who appeared next to him. He couldn't see it, but felt the fairy's warmth around his shoulder. "Casca… How's Casca…?"
"Guts-kun!" The little flying thing screamed in his ear; it felt like a lover's whisper. "Shierke and the King are trying, but the memories… what happened during and after the Eclipse, they're breaking her mind! She doesn't want to come back! Isidro and Serpico are defending the castle, Farnese is protecting the King's room, but…" Puck stared dreadfully at the faces of the three gigantic apostles closing in on them. "But they need more time!"
"Keh…" he muttered, shakily rising to his feet. Give in… Give in… let your hatred consume you, and then we will chew on his light… on the Falcon… give in…did you not see? Did you not see her be happy for his presence, did you not see her accept Griffith's touch?! "No Shierke to help this time… never thought it'd be in a place like this… it's not so bad, I guess…"
Puck was immediately alerted; he felt the change coming, felt the chains begin to break off. "G-Guts-kun, you can't! Stop! If you do it… then you'll-"
"Puck." He interrupted. His eye slowly lost the ability to see color. He could only see the three shadows advance, black and white, mumbling some gibberish about Griffith's greatness, the power of the Band of the Hawk, and their duty to crush the Elven Kingdom. Not on his watch. Not while Farnese and Serpico and Isidro were fighting. Not while Casca was in danger. Not this time. Not again. "Go."
"No!" The fairy replied, trying to put his bones back in place with his magic. "Guts-kun, you can't! What if you don't stop afterwards?! What about all of them, what about Casca?!"
The shadows were close now, too close. He had already cleaved half their army of demons, while the witches fought and repelled the other half but these… these would not go down easy. No magic, no incantation would slice through them. His sword would, though. Keh… After all this… I didn't get my rematch with Zodd, nor a proper fight with Serpico. I could never... reach Griffith. The faint image of a great white city shining under a tree of light, with the Falcon sitting comfortably in his throne with those dead eyes of his, went through his fading vision. Maybe in another life… He would not use the Behelith, never. He was human, right down to the marrow of the bones currently held together by cold, unforgiving iron, but for her… for them he would let the Beast of Darkness consume him, and hope the battle cost him every last drop of blood instead of cursing anybody with the mark burning on the nape of his neck. Farnese… sorry to be such a lousy guide… brat… keep on swinging that dagger… Serpico… take care… take care of Farnese… she deserves… happiness… warmth… take care of Casca… for me.
"Puck." He smiled at the fairy, not the bestial snarl devoted to his enemies, but a true, honest smile. Probably the only one he had ever given anyone. "Thank you. For everything… protect… protect Casca… I'll save… your home…" Another scream. Funny. Ironic. He could barely hear anything anymore, but when she screamed, she did so right in his eardrum. Perhaps Skull Knight had been right all along, perhaps this was never what Casca had wanted. It mattered not, he could fight, he would give her back her heart, and then if she so desired she could travel to the Seat of the Hawk and live in the sheath of Griffith's sword. She'd do so by her own volition, however, broken-minded or not, heart mended or not. His shoulders shook from the heaviness of his sword. The ground quaked as the beasts advanced. "Go… be safe… Puck."
"Guts-kun, NO!" The fairy persisted, held tight onto his shoulder, tried to pry off the mask which slowly advanced over the back of his neck. "No, no, no! You'll die! Guts-kun, stop! There has to be another way!"
"No time…" he panted. More blood seeped from the armor as it stretched over his arms and engulfed both flesh and metal. "Need… to keep them… safe. G-Go… Puck… friend… pro…protect… Casca…"
"HAH! The great Black Swordsman on his knees after three feeble attacks, shame! You are unfit to battle with us!" The monsters closed in on him. "You are unfit to live by the sword!"
Puck's lips quivered when he noticed the mask cloud over Gut's face. Just before the jaws snapped shut, however, she saw him smile once more. "Guts-kun…" There was no other way, no other way. He would sacrifice himself for them, and it would be an insult to said sacrifice to not carry on with his last wish. "I…" it said, tears failing freely. "I will… just please… don't die!"
Once he flew away, the warmth dissolved. Farnese was so kind to me… she protected Casca better than I ever could… he mused as the mask closed and constricted his flesh. His vision, already damaged, began to disappear and shape itself into that of the Beast. So kind… She healed me… with her warmth… I guess… The faint image of the blonde girl's naked body washed over him when the teeth clamped shut around his face. I guess she really is cute… huh…
Give in… let us become one. Let your hatred be your guide, as it always has. Let it rip your enemies to shreds, let it guide your blade… let me OUT! Let us feast upon the blood of our enemies, let your friends die and fuel your hatred, let us feast on the flesh of the Hawk, let us bite the light and rip it off! Let us remember how he ravaged her, how she offered no resistance, how she despises you! How she REJECTED you, despised you from the first moment! Remember!
"Keh… you're so annoying," Guts ground out, standing on shaky feet. Pity, that Zodd was not with them. Pity, that he would not get to drive his blade across the Apostle's chest. Pity, that the love he had for Casca eclipsed all else, and slowly distorted into pure hatred while the images of the Eclipse washed over him. Some part of him, some shred of whatever intelligence he might have had before the Beast of Darkness overtook everything, it told him it was futile. Even after being ravaged by him, even after suffering under the God Hand, Casca was sort of like Rickert. She did not have it in herself to hate Griffith, which was the reason why her healing had taken seven days and seven nights, she… loved Griffith, had… been enamoured by his persona like him, like the Band.
Akin to a poison that slowly dribbled down one's throat, the dark memories of her rape, her experiences before and after the Eclipse, she refused them, refused to acknowledge them, refused to acknowledge him. So he would hate Griffith for them both, and finally, at last, become the Beast. "Have it… your way…" he whispered. The Apostles were mere feet away. The Behelith fell off his pouch. "Eat me up… chew on… my soul… for them… for her… let's slaughter them."
Suit yourself, The dog sneered, shutting the mask tight around his face; only a few inches more and every tooth would be sealed. Guts, who was Guts? Let us devour these puny insects… all of them. For your sacrifice, I will not devour those you hold dear… I will let you lose them on your own, so that when you suffer their loss once again and the sweet agony grows too strong, nothing will save you. You are I. We are One. Beast and Man. Love and Hate. Lust and Joy. Let us devour it all! Let us devour the Light!
The mask was sealed. Far away, in the Elven King's quarters, Shierke felt it, the sensation of Gut's ego being devoured, the feeling of the seal her mistress had placed on the armor being washed away by Gut's blood. Blood. Blood. He wanted… he didn't want to die… but... To protect them, to protect Casca, he would give his soul to the armor, yet before she could turn away from their ceremony, ignore Casca's screaming, Gut's Od became one with that of the steel, with that of the Beast of his hatred, it was as if he was sealing himself shut to keep her astral self safe and away from his Beast. Tears fell from her face, but with renewed vigor the young witch did not abandon the ceremony. Casca… Casca was the person he loved the most. To heal her was to make Guts happy even… even if he died. He was so tired, so tired. She cried, cried bitter tears like the ones she'd shed for her Mistress, cried while Casca slowly grew quieter and quieter, and the mending of her spiritual wounds became bearable. Guts… if you can hear me… she forced the voice deep within the mask, satisfied to find a shrivel of him, a shadow, still existent. It worked… we did it. I… Guts… if you die… I just want to say…
Guts smirked bestially under the mask while he felt awareness disappear and Shierke's words rumbled in his numb mind. Ah… warmth… one last time. The Beast of Darkness growled, licking its fangs in anticipation.
"Well then," Grumbeld boomed, standing before the Berserker. "Let us begin, Black Swordsman."
He screamed, with whatever humanity left to him, Guts ushered one human battle cry to the skies, loud enough to reverberate through time and space, loud enough to sever the apostle's connection with Griffith, loud enough to make the Hawk himself stop in mid-stride in his utopian kingdom, and stare in dread at the rising sun. The scream promised only one thing to his enemies, to the White Hawk, to all those monsters and demons who had crawled into the Elfhelm to try and conquer it, to his friends, to Casca. Vengeance. Vengeance. Revenge. Blood.
Yes, Guts screamed while he ran towards the army of enemies in front of him, he screamed even as his soul was corroded and mixed with the armor's infernal heat. He screamed, and for once, he was not fighting to satisfy his own need for violence and bloodshed; no, he would claim vengeance for them, for his fallen comrades, for the mountains of corpses Griffith had left in his wake, for the Band of the Hawk, for her. For her. Yes, Guts screamed. He cut clean through the first Apostle in his wake, cut through the second, the third, lost count until he reached the dragon. His skin felt on fire, yet he paid it no mind. He put the metal arm on the thing's snout and fired, only to sever a slice of its neck with his blade afterwards. He had until sunrise to kill them all… plenty of time to have his body mangled and have every drop of blood be spilled. So he screamed, cleaving the dragon's alleged unbreakable body in pieces. The image of Casca's flushed face while Griffith took her… it slowly drove him insane.
When the furnaces of the armor burned through him, Guts screamed one more time.
And with his scream, Casca finally awoke.
The world came back in droplets. Memories, images, sensations, they slowly crawled into her numb mind and forced her to remember, though she wanted nothing but to forget and remain hidden in the shell of numbness she had built. The memories would not be sated, though. They would be heard, they would be felt.
She refused to open her eyes, too afraid to find herself again in that dark place, surrounded by the corpses of her comrades. She refused to open her mouth, for in it was the feel of Griffith's cold lips, refused to hear the voices around her in fear they'd be the four horrible apparitions who had ravaged her and feasted on her demise; she refused to hear it again, Guts' voice. His scream. He had screamed like that before, during the Eclipse, and he had done so again. She did not wish to know why. She did not wish to remember.
However, the memories found the small crack inside her wall, the crack created by whatever ceremony she had been subjected to, and once they found a way inside they crashed the protection around her mind and heart. The Eclipse came first, all of it. She trashed about, not wanting to open her eyes or mouth with greater vigor, not wanting to feel Griffith's dark, sickening seed pour into her womb, a womb that belonged only to one man. It washed over her again and again, the memory she had so forcefully rejected for years, unrelenting, unyielding. She would reclaim her heart, a voice said, a tender, warm voice that sounded like the Trumpets of Heaven themselves, a voice she had only heard in her dreams, which vastly overcame Griffith's sweet tones. Her child… it was calling out to her. She would reclaim her heart, because he needed her now. For him, the voice whispered gently. Do it, for him… for father…
She refused at first. A warm hand was pressed against her forehead, though, and from it, in her mind the image of her child manifested, with his knowing gaze warmly glancing into her soul. It hurts, I know, the child, Moonlight Boy said, yet his lips never parted. Safe, you are safe. Open your mind, open your heart. It will hurt, but it will heal.
And so she let awareness climb back in her heart, and the mist dissipated completely. The memories from after the Eclipse crashed into her like a tidal wave. Cold, warmth, the soothing waters of a waterfall. Fear, distrust for the branded man, the bandaged man. Pain in her womb, sweet pain as her child was brought into the world, twisted and forever deformed due to Griffith's cruelty. Guts… Guts. Guts was missing something… he was missing… a hand. His eye, why was his right eye closed all the time? An arm. A part of his arm. Guts, leaving. Erica, Rickert, friends, safety. Then pain from her mark, spirits coming for her, for them all, and her, stupidly acting like a curios squirrel, running head first into danger.
For the first time in what felt like a lifetime, Casca felt shame, ever growing as she remembered how Griffith had taken her while Guts was forced to watch. Overwhelming, the shame only worsened when she saw her child-like self jump headfirst into the spirits and force Guts to constantly protect her. Then, distrust. Fear. Hate. Hate for Guts. He had… he had been tired, exhausted from protecting her against the evil spirits which would forever haunt her thanks to Griffith. He had been exhausted, at the end of his wits, and she had escaped and put herself yet again in a dangerous situation from which only her former battle reflexes had saved her from. And then he had lost control and kissed her forcefully, bitten her. Like Griffith had. She had hated him, distrusted the only man allowed to touch her, the only man she belonged to. She had treated him dreadfully, dishonorably after all his sacrifice, and stil…
New faces came into view. Vaguely, names jumped into the surface while she remembered how her demented mind had marveled at the sight of fire, or fallen leaves, or trees, or evil spirits. Farnese, a young woman, blonde hair. She inspired safety for whatever reason, comfort away from Guts, protection from Guts. Why would she ever need to feel protected from him, had she been that foolish? Serpico, a slender blond man, a man who in some form reminded her of a sly, clever fox. Serpico could fly; he wore a green vest and had a sword of feathers that could cut demons and monster with a wisp. A boy, a young child, overconfident and strong, Isidro. He admired Guts, followed him around and wished to learn from him. A small young woman, a powerful witch, a friend, warm and inviting, pure. Shierke; she had been there for seven days, helping an old figure keep her still while the broken pieces of her mind were carefully mended. She had… done things, called the river, the flames… many more. She had healed Guts.
Guts, fighting. Guts, bleeding. Guts, cleaving apart creatures of nightmare, creatures like the ones who had ravaged her. Guts, killing enemies for her, bleeding because of her, almost dying time and time again, for her. Guts, burning.
Then… the creatures, the apparitions. Her damaged mind had gazed at them with curious awe, her awareness recoiled at the sight of the endless horrors Guts and his new company had cleaved through, if only… if only… why? Why had they done all of this? Why had Guts not simply left her to die? Did he not believe the weak to be a burden to the strong? When had Guts changed? Why had they travelled so far… on a boat, a ship!? Why?! The same questions that had plagued her during the Eclipse… why? Why was it all happening? Why did she have to remember?
Another memory assaulted her. The ocean, stretching as far as she could see, a feeling of deep curiosity while she climbed the mast. Fear, mistrust and anger when Guts appeared. Then… drowning, water, cleansing and cool against her skin, not breathing, suffocating peacefully, and then he had appeared. He saved her, he bled for her. Suffered countless times and horrors to protect her and make her regain her heart, and she was refusing him.
Yes, she felt shame, endless and cruel; it was overshadowed only by the horror. The sight of that world… the God Hand, those monsters, endless nightmarish creatures chasing them without reprieve, an army of monsters standing before a city of tree-houses and then…
Casca opened her eyes in fright. It felt strange, to feel breath on her chest once more, to feel the warmth of garments and a blanket above. Feeling altogether, thinking, it had all been ripped from her for years, the task of forming thoughts was slow and sluggish at first.
"…Man, I sure hope Guts-bro wakes up soon, he sure kicked ass back there! I mean, three of those giant Apostles at once?! Wow!"
"Can you please be quiet, Isidro? We're trying to put his insides back together, you know."
"He sure is a tough bastard, this Commander of yours, milady Farnese."
"He is no Commander," Casca heard the familiar voice say with a stern undertone. "He is Guts. And he will wake up. He will."
"Of course he will!" The shrill loudness of the kid made her wince. "This is the Black Swordsman we're talking about!"
"Silence, my apprentice! You must learn to control your temper!"
"Hey! You're being louder than I am! Why not do as your friend over there and give Guts-bro some of your magic dust or whatever?!"
"I told you already, I'm all out!"
"Please, be quiet," That sound, ever patient and mysterious. Shierke, Casca recognized her. The witch who had healed Guts, repeatedly, duing their late travels. She insipred trust. "We're in luck so many of us survived… without all of us Guts… his body… his spirit…"
"Now, now, my child," grated an old voice, one she had heard whispering during the ceremony, whispering in aforeign language in her hear and piecing together the broken shards of her mind. "It is all not lost as of yet. My pupils, this will be our greatest test, but it shall bear fruition… now to the chant, we must needs bring him back from the abyss…"
The voices, the chanting faded away, and Casca fell asleep. She dreamed, dreamed of Farnese bathing her, dreamed of Isidro's clashes with Shierke, dreamed of Gut's quiet smile, the way his tired eye gazed at the group with something akin to fondness, and saw herself hide away from said gaze. Soon, however, the images of Griffith's red orbs above her assaulted the woman's mind, the feel of his coldness inside her, spilling it's sickening seed, the desperate screams of Guts, and his rage. Rage, endless, unyielding and powerful, it engulfed him completely. Rage and hatred so pure and dark, the milestone which had driven him all his life, and now…
Her eyes opened. It was mostly dark, except for a candle sitting in the middle of the gargantuan room she was at. Her bed was comfortable and warm, the whole area felt inviting, except for the strong smell of blood permeating it. She found the small candle rested to her right, where most of Gut's companions slept. The boy… Isidro was sprawled on all sides with the head of a girl… some new girl whose name escaped her, resting on his chest. Shierke was huddled up near Gut's bed which lay in the center of the room, with many women… witches… sleeping in the vicinity as well. The candle lit the area around Gut's bed, so she stood to take a closer look. She needed to see him, to touch him.
"Casca?" The voice made her jump and strangely, out of some dead instinct, forced her to reach for a sword that wasn't there. Farnese; the voice belonged to Farnese, the woman who had been caring for her. "Are you okay, here, come back to your bed."
"N…" she tried, and resisted the tug on her arm. Farnese had been beside his bed, she realized, watching her sleep from the dim light. Her lips felt heavy, her tongue unused to forming words. Still, she tried, she needed to see him. "N…N…No."
The arm fell off her in an instant. Farnese stared, wide-eyed at the woman whose eyes had now changed. They no longer held the aloof stare of her charge, the woman in front of her stared with a certain awareness that had been absent during the entire time they had known one another. With a strange dread and worry corroding in her stomach, Farnese asked. "Casca, are you… has the ceremony worked?"
For her part, the dark-skinned warrior forced her uncooperative mouth to function. "Y…Ye…yes. I'm… Cas… Casca d… de Leon… of the B…Band of t..the Hawk," she managed, licking her overtired lips. Her head hurt just from thinking. "A…At least, I w… I was." The more she spoke, however, the more familiar the ability of speaking became, the ability of understanding what was being said to her, what her memories meant.
The blonde's eyes widened, hands flying to her mouth in an attempt to stop a surprised shriek from escaping. "I… I can't believe it, it worked. Can you… can you understand me, do you remember me?"
Casca nodded. "F…Fa… Farese… Farnese. You are… Farnese de V..Vandi…Vandim…-"
"It is quite alright," said the younger woman, placing her hands o her shoulders and surprising Casca with a tearful gaze. "It's quite the mouthful, that name. Do not strain yourself so much, please. Oh my… I can't believe it." She felt a strong squeeze on her shoulders, and a second after she was drawn into an embrace. "Master will be so happy…!" Farnese whispered in her ear. "Guts… Guts will be so very happy…"
Faintly, Casca felt her body react on its own and return the hug. When had she been so familiar with another woman in her life? A second after, however, the cold feel of those tentacles came to mind, the sickening touch of what Griffith had become overcame her, and she pushed the warm body away. Farnese stumbled and almost fell, a shocked expression on her face.
"S… Sorry… I'm sorry," Casca mumbled. "Head… me…memories… hurt. My head still not… well…"
"O-Of course," Farnese said nodding in bewildered understanding. "I apologize; I assume we haven't properly introduced one another." The young woman bowed her head slightly in respect, surprising the dark-skinned female. "I am Farnese, apprentice of Shierke, our Magic user, I…" a slight blush appeared around the pale girl's skin. "I have been caring for you."
"I… know," Casca managed, moving around the muscles around her face to try and coax more words out of her mouth. "I… re…remember. I apo…apologize for my beha….behavior earlier. I was not… myself."
"Oh, it is quite alright," Farnese adorned and took a hold of her hand with caution. "I saw… some of those memories… I can only understand too well your wish… to forget." The pale woman averted her eyes and stared longingly at the figure resting by the candlelight. In a second, Casca remembered why she had awoken in the first place. "He will be so pleased…" Farnese said with a faraway voice that sounded somewhat disappointed.
Casca's body moved on its own, cornering the bed where whatever remained of Guts rested. There was a circle drawn all across the floor surrounding the bed, and she discovered witches strategically placed in every point of what looked to be a pentagram. In the bed, the man she loved was covered from head to toe in bloodied bandages, his face was covered as well with the exception of his good eye, over which now a jaded line crossed from his forehead all the way down to his cheekbone. He was breathing shallowly… he looked ten years older than the last time she had seen him with some semblance of sanity, when… when she had told him not to look as Griffith took her. He looked old, worn-out, tired. His hair, the wild black locks she had adored was a quarter white now, his face covered in what appeared to be healed burn marks and fresh, new scratches. Then she noticed the stump.
"G… Guts," Her knees weakened, and she collapsed next to his bed. Tears burned beneath her eyelids. "What… what happened to you?" She was about to grab his one remaining hand and press it against her lips, but Farnese stopped her.
"Please, Casca," said the noble quietly, almost too quietly or her to hear it. "He needs his rest, and… even if you touch him… he would not be able to feel it yet."
"W…What? Why?" She felt the strange demented side of her try to take hold, try to reverse her mind back to a common fool, yet Casca shook her head and put all her strength in concentrating on what was being said to her.
"The Berserker armor," Farnese elaborated, crouching next to her. She followed the other woman's gaze to the black mass of iron resting beside the Dragonslayer. "Master told me yesterday… it will slowly take away his vision, his strength, his ability… to feel…so he will depend on its power more and be consumed by his hatred…" She hesitated, remembering her place and promptly doubting her station. If Casca's mind was healed then… then there was no longer a place for her beside Guts.
Assimilating the new information, all of it, was painful on itself. Her mind had been numb and dormant for so long… she had been little more than a mewling whelp to them, to him. A strange memory assaulted her when Farnese stretched her arms around the warrior's body and closed her eyes. His hair had more white freckles around it, his face looked old, he looked so tired. "W…" she began, wondering what strange thing Farnese was doing. "Wh…What you do… t…to Guts?!" It was partly unintentional, or so she told herself, the way her voice gained volume and made not only Farnese, but Shierke flinch. Upon seeing her regretful expression, Farnese shook her head.
"It is quite alright," she repeated quietly. "Master told me the armor took much of him this time… thankfully we are in this magical place, and the Elven King helped us regress most of the damage, but…" He may yet to feel the warmth of another being again, nor see beyond black and white. We have done what we can… it is up to him now, to fight his hatred. "But perhaps Guts may never feel warmth again… so if this small thing can bring him some comfort, then I will do my best to heal him…"
"Y…You," Casca said, taking a hold of his hand. It was cold. "You… heal him?"
"I will do what I can," Farnese promised, smiling slightly. Casca noticed the dark lines beneath her eyes, the way her arms trembled as she applied whatever magic was being used to heal Guts. Little by little, some warmth climbed on his scarred fingers, but Casca was transfixed watching the other woman. Yet another memory slashed through her mind's eye; Farnese, holding her down against a wooden wall on… a ship, after she had poured a bucket of hot water over her. Casca's eyes widened.
"Why… Why are like that?!" Farnese stared at Guts with a familiar look, a look she only threw his way when he was not looking, full of fondness, and admiration. It was the way Casca had once looked upon Griffith, and then upon the battered man on the bed. It felt somewhat ironic… had Griffith not himself being reduced to a deplorable state? The memory went on; Farnese's eyes had been wild then, sad, and full of a strange thing. "He put his life on the line, that man! For your sake, time and time again he has been injured!" Casca's eyes drew over what was visible of Gut's skin, which was not very much. His neck, cheek, ears, all of it. "He's covered in scars! And yet… all you do is…! You don't understand a thing! And still he…" Tears leaked from her eyes for what felt was the first time. "…cunning bitch…"
She had little time to ponder on the memory, on the way Farnese had looked at her, with such great defeat in her own tearful eyes and held her; the blonde whispered something. "I think… that now that you have been healed… there is no longer a place for me here. Guts entrusted me with your protection, but I've heard you were once a great warrior yourself, so…" The same defeated look climbed over her, so engrossed was the young girl in her task that she failed to see the tears leak off Casca's eyes. "I assume there is no longer a place for me, beside him…"
The girl's shaking arms gave out, but before she could place her hands on her lap Guts' hand twitched, removing itself from Casca's hold and catching Farnese by the forearm.
"Oi…" he grated, eyes closed. "Don't… take away the warmth… so…cold…"
Casca's saddened eyes widened in surprise and shock, firstly due to the fact that Guts had awoken, or was at least half-conscious, and secondly because he had taken his hand off her. To touch her, that girl. For so long Farnese had represented nothing but safety, and now Casca felt… envious. By what right, though? She had rejected the very sight of him for years now, whist the woman next to her had all but abandoned her own life to travel with him.
"Y-Yes, Guts-dono," Farnese mumbled while she once again stretched her arms. "How… How do you feel?"
"Cold…" Guts whispered harshly, eye closed. "Tired… Oi… you… want to leave…?"
"I…" Farnese stuttered, trying to come up with something to say. Casca was frozen, somehow unable to process whatever was occurring before her. She felt an outsider. "I… I just thought…"
"Just heard… that last part…" Guts both interrupted and clarified. "If it worked… and you want to leave… that's fine…do… whatever… you want…" The strong hand fell off Farnese's arm. "You are our shield, though…" he said. "Need a shield in battle…"
Guts felt… he felt. Pain mostly; it was overwhelming, it felt as though his insides had been taken out and put back in, as though his very soul had been ripped to shreds and put back together. He remembered little of the fight, no true details, but he did recall… stopping that stupid dog for once. It rattled in its chains deep within him, raging, but it was muffled. Somehow… Shierke… Farnese… they had helped. Now it rested and bode its time, the clever Beast of Darkness, waiting for a next chance. So he had survived. It immediately crashed into his numb mind.
"Casca…!" He said, eye bursting open. Dark… but… he could see… colors.
His mind froze. His one eye moved in the direction where the warmth came from, the direction of that voice, that voice. No… No way…
There were tears falling off her face, he could see the dark tan of her skin, the shadow of her azure eyes shining under the candlelight. Her eyes… "Casca…" reacting on pure instinct, his hand clasped her face and rubbed around her jawline. He could feel it, the warmth of her skin, the hotness of her tears. "Do you… know me…?"
"Yes," she said, trapping his hand in both her own; her face contorted into a sorrowful frown while she gripped the fingers tightly. "You… You… idiot…!"
"Keh…" Guts muttered, smiling. "I guess… some things never change."
She wanted to keep his hand there, but a cutting memory of how he had held her down, how he had scared her immediately after the Eclipse, how she had… hated him, assaulted Casca, and she recoiled from his touch.
"Mhm…" his hand fell heavily on the mattress. "But others… do …still… hate me… huh… good…"
"G-Guts," she tried, approaching him. Too late, he was already drifting into unconsciousness.
"Farnese…" he rasped, alerting the shocked blonde. "Tell the old geezer I… said thanks… owe him one now… gotta thank Shierke again… for her help…"
"You should rest, Guts-dono," Farnese adorned, focusing even harder in healing his injuries. There were so many of them this time, so many, she could even faintly feel the ache of his numbness, the cold which stretched all over his body. "I… I will be your shield, so long as you are my guide…"
"Shitty guide… me…" he said, drifting off. "Casca…"
"Guts," whispered the dark-skinned woman, taking hold of his hand once more. "Guts… I…"
"Good sword… belongs… in its sheath…" he mumbled, more asleep than awake, surprising both young women. "You got… your heart now… go… to the Master of your… swo…"
"Guts?" she asked, clutching his hand and shaking it. What… what did he mean by that? "Guts?!"
"Casca, please," Farnese said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "He needs his rest, and I believe that so do you."
She felt it, saw it; the anger in Farnese's eyes. It was not without reason, she had yet again rejected him, crawled away from him when all Guts had ever wanted was to give her back her heart. But now… now things between them both felt alien, broken. Farnese slowly guided her back to her own bed, her hand stern and hard against Casca. "N…No," she demanded, tugging feebly at the blonde's hold. "Need to… be … with Guts…" She was beginning to tire, though, just how long had she slept?
"You will be with him on the morrow," said Farnese, gently covering her with the blanket. "For now… let him have his rest."
She slept, but Guts' words rang again and again in her numb brain. Go back to the master of your sword… the same words he had told her so long ago, when he had faced a hundred men to protect her. Farnese's cold gaze followed her in her dreams, mixed with the crimson eyes of whatever Griffith had become. In her dreams, it was revealed; the way not only the blonde, but also the way the young witch watched him, the way they worried for him, suffered for him as he was injured, the way they mended his wounds, as she had before. They had… taken her place. All she had ever offered Guts after the Eclipse was cold rejection, cold, so cold, so undeserving, and all he had done was little by little lose his humanity, so she could regain hers. Shierke, the young girl who accompanied them, Farnese, the woman who had tried to have her burned at the stake… they were more deserving of his affections, and he reserved them only for her. So stubborn he was, so diligent, even after so long…
In her sleep, Casca cried.
When the female warrior's eyes once again opened, she felt a sting on her chest that drove away the drowsiness. It felt like an open wound, gushing blood and demanding attention, so Casca once more rose from the comfort of her bed. It was night, again. How long had she slept this time? Less witches lay sprawled around Guts' bed. Once she rose, the sting of the brand making her flinch, she noticed the young witch, Shierke, with her head on Guts' bed, her hat beside her while her body ever so slowly rose and fell. The bed, though… it was empty.
A strange, naked panic washed over her. Her tongue felt so heavy, her mind so numb, but as nights went by and time passed, the ability to think properly returned. She knew she was to be quiet. Serpico had bandages around him as well, she noticed during her quiet walk around the spacious room; half his chest was covered in bloodied marks. Some of the witches that still slept around the pentagram were also injured, bandaged in one way or the other.
"Do you seek him, my child?" The old voice rasped from the darkness, alerting her. An old figure floated above the room's entrance, his back to her. She nodded, even when he could not see it. "Sleep never comes easy for those who are branded," he said, pointing to his left with a feeble hand. "He stands guard. Tonight the dark spirits roam my kingdom; they shall not enter, but still, you can feel it, can you not, child?"
Once she was standing beside the floating figure, Casca noticed the two fairies sleeping on his right hand. The brand pulsed with faint pain, making her clutch her chest. "H…Hurts," she ground out, looking to her left. A faint shadow sat by the window, next to it a large cloud of iron, too big to be a sword.
"Indeed, it will trouble you even with the seal," the old man said. His ears were too large for him to be a human, she realized. "The God Hand, those foul creatures, they tried to destroy my kingdom. We were in luck that my vision rang true. The spirits will never stop haunting you, I fear, but perhaps one day, when his sword takes off their heads, then perhaps… yes… perhaps there is still hope, in the end."
Casca remembered the four figures, laughing, enjoying as her comrades were devoured. Griffith had said the words, had offered them all in exchange for power and to seal his fate, had taken from the one man who had made him forget his ambition that which the man held dearest, his woman, the first person he had ever cared about.
"Ah, yes," the old man said, breaking out of her reverie. "A great evil was done to you both, a great evil to be sure," It was as though he could read her numbed mind. "Perhaps… we were wrong to perform the ceremony. Some things are better off forgotten, but such pain… such horror… one can never truly escape. My apologies, my child, if this was not what you desired."
"N…No," she managed, licking her lips. When had acting a fool become more normal than acting a woman, a warrior? "T…Thank… you. I needed to… remember."
"It may yet be too early to thank me," the old man said, turning to the two fairies. "The poor things, they've exhausted themselves."
"H…How long…?" she asked, referring to how long they had been here, how long she had slept. Something told her she needed not to elaborate, for this strange old man understood what she meant.
"You have slept for over a day, since last you awoke, you must be hungry. The battle was four days ago, you have remained in my kingdom for neigh two weeks, now. It is night; the sunrise is yet to be upon us. Though the Hawk's assault has failed, it will not deter him. All those foul spirits who haunt the night will pursue you and us alike, for he desires only to fulfill his foolish dream, and we who seek the truth in this world, we who follow the path of Magic, we are a threat. He will not suffer threats, but then again… He faces an enemy whose will cannot be bent. Now, you must be hungry, care for some fruit, my dear? You must regain your strength."
Casca shook her head, and noticed the large locks flying about. She had never liked long hair, it stood in the way during battle, it was a useless commodity. She wanted to cut it, cut all ties with the former fool she had once been. All… all because of Griffith. N…No… don't look…
"Guts," she whispered, clenching both hands into fists. "I… need…see Guts."
"As you will," the old man muttered quietly, and smiled at her. "Stubborn, as he is, the branded one."
She followed the path he had signaled with his bony finger, where the shadow lay crouched, looking out the window with one foot propped against the wooden wall and the other on the ground, naked but for a pair of tattered slacks and the bandages that ran all across his body. His left forearm was missing. To his right rested the large piece of iron, the… sword. He may yet to feel warmth again… Suddenly, she felt unfit to stand in his presence, not with the wild hairs falling off her back, not… not looking as the fool she had been for so long. Unfit, she was unfit to touch him, unfit, unclean. She wished to rinse the very reminder of Griffith's touch off her skin, rip it off until not a memory of it remained, but was unable. Somewhere deep down, she knew… she knew Guts was aware of it.
A part of her had had been overjoyed. Griffith, her saviour, the master of her sword had returned, healthy and whole to her; it was only after his cold, dead lips pressed against hers that the woman's mind started to break under the trauma's strain. The shame burned so deep and strong; the shame of knowing he had watched, she felt compelled to do something, anything before facing the man she loved. She returned to the spacious room, quiet as a cat she took Farnese's silver dagger from its sheath and cut the locks desperately, almost wishing to drive the blade across her own skin and peel off any trace of her former self. She did not know who she was anymore, but one thing was for certain, she loved Guts. For him, she would… she would bear it, the pain.
Once she was done, Casca put the blade back beside its owner's sleeping form and strangely felt the urge to… to hurt this woman, this woman who had protected her, sheltered her, bathed and fed her. The sensation made her brand burn. Guts had taken his hand off her hold and touched this woman, Farnese. Why? So many questions, and the man who could answer them patiently sat by the window, overlooking what had been a battlefield.
She walked back to said window, where the sun was ever so slowly starting to rise. There, bathed on the faint white light, covered in scars, his one eye glazed and staring to the outside, Guts looked a god. A god of death and vengeance, a human god. She understood now, why they followed him. A man, unyielding against his written fate, fighting against the tides of causality and demons, fighting, always fighting; he truly resembled something that did not belong in this world.
"Good thing Roderick's keeping the shoreline safe…" she heard him mutter to himself. "No reinforcements today either, huh…" He sniffed the air once, twice.
"I can smell you," he grated roughly from his place by the window. "Hearing's not that good anymore, but I sniff blood," He turned his eye to her, making Casca freeze in her stride to him, hands on her chest. "Casca," he said. Some unknown tension washed off his shoulders, making the lines around his face accentuate all the more. He stared at her with defeat in his eye, making her heart cringe. "You look like yourself."
"Guts," she tried, forcing her body to move forward. Tears, stupid, useless tears began to cascade from her eyes. He was so injured, even from a distance she could feel the pulsing pain which governed his mind, could feel the endless pit of rage and hatred deep within. "I… I am… myself." She said, taking a step forward. Her heart sank when instead of looking to her, the Black Swordsman let out a slow, long sigh and redirected his eye to the outside, where the hundreds of demonic corpses fizzled and vaporized under the sunlight. "I… I am… back." She touched his shoulder. It was cold again, cold all over. He did not even react to her touch.
"Good," was all he said.
"What… did… what did you mean?" she asked at last, staring at him, lightly shaking his shoulder. "What did you mean, go back to the mu…master of my… sword?"
"You're like Rickert," he rasped. Why? Why was she like Rickert? Why did he not react to her touch?! "You can never… hate him… can you?"
Look at me, her mind demanded, nails uncounsciusly digging into his skin. Look at me!
He did, he stared at her with that sorrowful, tired gaze of his, and her hand recoiled on its own, as if burned. "Guts… I…"
"You can hate me well enough though, I don't blame you," The stump where his left arm had once been jumped into her mind, she suddenly wished to kiss it, to kiss all of him and make him forget, even for a second, about all that hatred that drove him. "Me… I only hurt you…" What happened to your arm? She desperately wanted to ask, to demand of him. What happened to your eye?! Why are you not kissing me right now?! Is it… because of that time?! I forgive you! I do! Guts, just… please… touch me… Her mouth never moved, never formed the words she wished to tell him.
"He has his country now, Griffith," continued the injured swordsman. "Falconia, I heard he named it. Built it on top of hundreds of thousands of corpses, keh…" His tired orb addressed her once more. She felt naked, naked under his stare, naked under the shadow of spite she saw reflected there, in his eye. "You can go there, if you wish, or stay here, where you'll be safe from spirits. I wanted to have you at the reach of my sword, but seeing that you can now wield one yourself, well…" He frowned ever so slightly, making Casca's heart bleed. "Do whatever you want…"
"I…" she said. Move, she urged her body, but the shame had frozen her. Move! "I… I want… to stay…" she managed. Some unseen barrier separated them now; something she could not grasp yet kept her from reaching out and hugging him, kissing him. "With you."
A low rumble reverberated in his chest. His exhausted orb turned to the stump. "Even if you painstakingly piece back together something broken, it doesn't mean it will ever be the same…" The cryptic statement left her dumbfounded, same as his reluctance to approach her. "Do as you wish… Casca…"
At last, she defeated herself and forced the uncooperative limbs to move; too little too late.
"Guts-bro! You're up!" Isidro jumped out of nowhere, running over to them both. He stopped in mid-stride upon noticing her, and stared quizzically at her for a while. "What's up with Casca's hair, did the thingy work? Is she back to normal?"
"So it would seem," Guts grated, massaging his ear. "You're louder than the Sea God, Isidro."
"Woooow," The boy said as he walked in circles around her, staring with an unbelieving gaze. "So this is the real Casca now? Is this how you had your hair before? Do you remember me? Can I practice sword-fighting with you? Are you Guts' woman now?"
"Silence!" adorned the small creature which now floated around Isidro's head. "You'll give Casca-chan a headache with all your yammering, my foolish apprentice!"
"Hey!" Isidro responded, swatting Puck off the way. "Guts-bro is my teacher, not you! And how do we know this is the real Casca, anyway?!"
"Quiet," muttered Guts, surprising the three of them. "Shierke needs her rest, so does Farnese. Serpico is injured, too."
"But, Guts-kun, you…" Puck noticed the bandages around his midsection begin to bleed, so he applied some of his magic around it. "You should rest more than all of us, Guts-kun! These are not even half-way closed! You shouldn't be moving!"
"Can't sleep well under the moonlight," Guts offered as a cheap excuse. His weary eye drifted to Casca's frozen form before it fondly stared at the boy and fairy, who were now engrossed in a new discussion regarding Guts' need to rest and his superhuman "cool" strength. "Tch… they'll wake the entire village like this…"
"Too late," muttered Shierke, holding onto her staff to keep from falling. Casca turned to look; the young witch looked exhausted as well, and upon closer inspection she noticed a pair of white freckles in her greenish locks. "Can this monkey be any lo..(yawn)… louder?"
"Hey!" Isidro demanded, making them all cringe with the volume of his voice. "Don't call me monkey!"
"Then stop screeching like one, shit…!" Guts grated. The boy finally quieted down, eyes bulged wide. "Shierke, go back to sleep."
"Only if you do too," answered the Magic user, dragging her worn out limbs to where they stood. Once she laid eyes on Casca, she gave her a tired smile. "Hello, Casca. I am-"
"Shierke," the woman interrupted, blinking in surprise. "Y…You… are… Shierke. You are… a wu... a witch…?"
The tired smile widened. "I guess it worked, after all." Not a second afterwards, the tiny girl's body slumped forward, her eyes closing. She urged her body to move once more, but before she could do anything Guts had already jumped from his perch by the window and caught Shierke with his stump before she hit the ground.
"Stubborn girl, guess it can't be helped…" He painfully stood and carried the girl over to the large room, wounds bleeding anew. Everyone else followed but her. She stayed there, beside that unreasonably large blade and the place he had formerly occupied. She stupidly placed her hand in the stool, if only to feel the warmth his body had left in its wake and reassure her mind this was not a dream, a warped reality of a nightmare. Why did the stool feel warm, but his body felt cold to her touch? Why had he so easily jumped off his seat to catch Shierke, yet not moved an inch to touch her?
The memories held the answer. After the Eclipse, every single time he had tried to touch her, she had recoiled, same as she had done that morning. It was a ridiculous, insufferable instinct she desired to cut away like the long locks of hair which had branded her a fool. Stupid, stupid girl, why would Guts wish to touch her if she ever only moved away? The same question hammered against her brain again and again, almost driving her insane. Why?!
You're sly… Farnese's words came to mind, unbidden. Yes, yes she was. She had treated Guts like a dangerous outsider, with enough dishonor to make her want to vomit, when Griffith, their tormentor, had shielded her from the rocks she had not shied away from his touch, and yet whenever Guts had tried to get close she had growled, bitten, clawed and forced her way out of his reach. How could she blame him, now? How could she be envious of the way he acted towards his new companions, when all he had done he had done for her? How could she ever hope to deserve his touch after behaving with such disgusting dishonor toward him? He saw… her mind whispered, hands trembling, lip quivering. He saw… he knows… Indeed, he knew, he had seen it, seen her enjoy it, and it ate away at him with as much force as the endless horrors he had lived that day. He knows and still he protects me, shields me… he has travelled all this way to heal my mind… and now… now…he cannot…
Casca's legs gave out. She stared at her trembling hands in total impotence. She wished now, to be a fool once again, she wished now, to die, to disappear, to erase Guts' memory of her… being taken by that monster, by that beast. The armor would take what he loved, and take it had. He cannot feel me, anymore…
"You mustn't despair."
Her shocked gaze fell upon the old figure who calmly stared out the window in a similar way Guts had done only moments before. "That man's love for you is the purest thing in his corrupted heart, my child," He gave her a knowing smile. "If you so wish for, the effects of the ceremony can be reversed as well, but ask yourself, is this what you truly desire?"
Why would her hands not cease their useless trembling? She belonged at his side, mending his wounds, being his and his alone. This was a truth written on her heart, and yet there she sat, useless, tiny, wretched, while Guts slowly drifted away from her.
"Ah, yes," The old figure said. "Look upon these trees, child."
She shakily got back to her feet, staring out the window. The fields looked like the battlefields she knew too well, caked in blood and suffering the long scars of battle. The trees the old figure pointed at were burned, destroyed, many torn from the very root and reduced to cinder that still smoldered. What enlightenment could there possibly be found in such a field of death?
"Indeed, these trees appear deceased. They have been rooted out, poisoned by malice, and burned with hellfire. And yet as they slowly become one with the earth, new saplings rise beneath the bloodshed. The ashes of old become the nurturing mother of the new, such is the circle, nay, the spiral of causality, of existence."
The greenish, knowledgeable eyes blinked in her direction. "Like these ashes, let the wounds of old serve to strengthen your bleeding heart, let a new form of love rise from within, rather than deny that which your heart knows to be true." Those eyes… they seemed to hold the entirety of everything that was known in them. "Your fate is tied to his, and is not one you would desire to fight against. Your place is beside him. He has passed his test; he has protected instead of challenged, he fought and was ready to surrender his very soul and life for the sake of others, him, a man driven by endless hatred. The shackles of hate which like chains weighed down his sword have been broken by this warm light of new companionship, by this new life that sprouts from the ashes of that which was dead."
She could see it now; the small, green leaves ever so slowly making their way out of the reddened earth. His words, unlike the words of all others she had heard since waking from the ceremony, sunk deep into her soul and relaxed her mind, eased the memories and allowed them flow and not crash, to circle and not stifle.
"Yes, he has passed his test," The old man carried on, his voice like a sweet song. "You, my dear child, have yet to pass yours. Perhaps your fate is tied to that of the Behelith, perhaps you are destined to betray him for the false light the Hawk of Darkness offers, but I do not believe that to be the case," he smiled at her, touching Casca's shoulder lightly. Warmth, unlike anything she had felt before, coursed through her whole body. "It is but a momentary thing, but it will allow you to feel him now. As is dissipates, you must on your own build a bridge to his heart once again, and erase his fear. Oh, for he fears; even a man such as he, who has lost so much already, he fears the thought of losing you. This fear you can cure, my child, with time. Did the boy not tell you so?"
Casca stared shockingly at the figure, who smiled once again and pointed to the room. "Help his father, your man, in his journey. It is, after all, your destiny. Be not afraid of that which lies ahead, but then again, have you ever been afraid before? Does this man not love your fierceness? Go, child, be with your boy's father, with the Vengeful One. Be patient."
Without any need for more encouragement, Casca ran to the place where they were all gathered, most now awoken and speaking amiably with one another. Farnese attempted to simultaneously feed both Serpico and Guts at once, worriedly gazing at their injuries and continuously dragging Guts back to bed; Isidro spoke in loud tones to the strange girl… mermaid… who listened intently as he boasted of how many monster he had slain in the battle, and how many more would without doubt fall under his fiery dagger. Shierke slept with her head resting on Guts' thigh, while the man himself sat and insisted he was well enough to feed himself.
All chatting stopped, however, when Farnese took notice of her presence and froze, pushing the spoonful of broth on Serpico's vest rather than his mouth. "C-Casca!" she said, astonished. The dark-skinned warrior could only smile bitterly; she could see it now, quite clearly, the things she had been too aloof to notice during the last years. Farnese worshiped and loved Guts, a love that was pure like water and rain, Serpico loved Farnese as a brother and wished for nothing but her happiness and safety, Isidro idolized the swordsman and was loyal to the man. Shierke held something with Guts that existed only between them both and Guts… Guts loved Casca. He stared at the group with a fondness she had only seldom seen in his eye, a tenderness only reserved for the monster, for Griffith, now shined in his tired orb with more vibrancy than ever before. He had… grown so much in these years, changed so much, and somehow remained the same. He was… beautiful.
"May I…" she tried, licking her lips and fisting her hands. If whatever had existed before was dead, then something new and stronger would grow, she needed only tend it, nurture it, believe in it. "May I… be of assistance?"
No matter how uneasy Farnese made her now, Casca could only admire the girl's dedication. In that look, so full of both sadness and happiness, jealousy and tender love, the blonde apprentice of a witch affirmed what she knew to be true. Guts loved her, he would always love her. Always. "Of course," Farnese answered, making room for her beside the large warrior.
It was in Guts' eye though, in his expression of quiet happiness when he smiled at her, where she saw there was still hope.
"Aw, Lady Farnese, you burned my cheek," Serpico complained, signaling where the broth had fallen off his face and into his vest. "Please try not to burn my burns…"
"Ah… S-Sorry, Serpico, here, I'll clean your bandages." Farnese went about cleansing the tattered clothing; she let Gut's cup beside the bed, and the man made no motion to pick it, but he did move his head in her direction expectantly. For once, her body obeyed her command and moved to his bedside. The cup of steaming broth felt warm against her hands.
"So, as I was saying, we were surrounded! Fucking surrounded! But then I remembered the bag of bombs Guts-bro gave me before the fight, and I lit the bastards up! Yeah! Isidro, killer of Apostles!"
"Oooooh" the young mermaid marveled, and stared at Isidro with stricken eyes. "And then what happened?!"
"A…Ah! Well, of course more stupid monsters came crawling through, so I stood my ground like a man!"
"Wasn't it then that I had to save you because you were running from that demon on fire?" Serpico said in between bites, earning a quiet laugh from Farnese and a smirk from Guts. "My vest got burned because of you."
"Oh, shut up, that…" Isidro froze in mid-tale, panicking, and pointed at the wounded blonde warrior. "That wasn't how it happened at all! You were just lazing about in the other side of the village!"
"Liaaaar!" Both fairies sang at once.
"Oh, shut up you two! Shouldn't you be pouring some more pixy dust on Guts-bro?!"
Casca slowly picked the spoon, smiling tenderly for the first time since the last time she had seen her child. Her eyes wandered over to the bandaged warrior, and she offered a spoonful of hot broth to him, hand shaking a bit.
"Keh…" he muttered, smiling back wearily. "I can eat by myself, you know…"
"No… talk. In… injured." She said, pushing the spoon in his mouth and making him blink in surprise. Yes, there was still hope. It would take long, before he touched her again, but one day, they'd both be ready for it. "Just… eat… and rest… idiot."
They never mentioned it. Not a single member of their group would ever bring it up, not even Casca herself, not in their many adventures and struggles yet to come; yet they all saw it. A single, lonely tear made its way down Guts' eye when he accepted a second spoonful of soup from her.
Inspirational Music: The Vengeful One, Open Your Eyes - Disturbed. Built To Fall, In Waves, Caustic Are The Ties That Bind - Trivium. What If, Something Different, Love-Hate-Sex-Pain, Keep Away - Godsmack.
AN: So, yeah. Something that got puked out of me after I read the manga for the… seventeenth time? I've been a follower of Berserk since '97, always loved the brutality of the manga and the resilience in Guts' character, but I wanted to explore what would realistically happen if Casca was healed in the Elfhelm. So, yeah, there it is. Read and Review! Any grammar or plot mistakes feel free to point out.
Umm... so let's say D'nann was depleted from the fight and thus took the form of an old elf, savy? Savy.
Remember to review on your way out! Yay, reviews!