Guts swung Godot’s sword onto his back.
He squinted his one remaining eye out the window, at the valley in front of him. He had a long way to go, and his journey was only just beginning. It was the first light of the day, and he had to get prepared quickly before he awoke anyone.
What he was going to do might kill him. In fact, it probably would kill him. But what the hell else was Guts going to do with his life? Griffith was all he could think about. Ever time he closed his eyes, he saw that fucking monster: him being reborn, coming out of that cocoon; his skin twisting into a black armor, his head into that avian helmet; him violating Casca…
Guts shook his head. He would never forgive Griffith, and he would never forgive the Apostles. It was inevitable--it was fate--that Guts set out on his own, finding as many as he could to kill them, in the hopes that he might become strong enough to challenge Griffitih.
Godot warned him that this journey would be self-destructive, that Guts needed to rest after the severe physical and mental trauma he’d undergone. Guts didn’t care much to hear that; he
Guts took the black, torn cape and wrapped it around his shoulders, before putting on the prosthetic arm Godot made for him. He couldn’t deny that he missed his original arm, but it mattered not; the prosthetic would serve him nicely, and it was another tool to add to his arsenal. On the topic of said arsenal, Guts examined a new set of weapons he’d stumbled across: throwing knives.
He ran his metal index finger over the blades of one of the knives, thinking of his comrades. Judeau was the one who taught him. Judeau was also the Apostle who carried Casca away to safety. He had him to thank, in a way, for bringing them together after all of the bloodshed they endured.
‘No, you can’t think of that now,’ he thought to himself. Now was not the time for mourning or remembrance. Now was the time for action.
Guts tucked the throwing knives away. Satisfied with his weapons, he turned around, only to be met with his lover.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Casca wore a dirty beige tunic, her hair messy and disheveled, her arms and upper legs covered in bandages from her injuries at the Eclipse. She had a scowl on her face, one that only deepened every passing day since the Eclipse.
“Leaving without telling me or Godot?”
He looked away, ashamed. He couldn’t even bear to look her in the eye. She sighed. “You didn’t even tell Rickert or Erica either, did you?” she asked.
“I knew you’d hate me for it,” he replied, voice hoarse and tired. “I knew it’d be harder if you were here.”
“Damn right I’d hate it, you idiot,” she snarled. “You can’t leave.”
Guts gave a low growl, clenching the fingers of his metal arm into a tight fist. “Casca, I have to do this.”
She walked over, taking his hand in hers, interlacing her fingers with his steel digits. “You don’t have to do anything. You need time to heal. You need time to mourn. We both do.”
“We don’t have time. You saw what Griffith became. I need to go. He’ll only become stronger.”
Casca pulled away from Guts and scoffed, the comforting edge to her voice replaced with a mirthless laugh. “Saw it? Guts I lived it.”
Guts averted his gaze once more, riddled with guilt. Of course, he thought to himself. He was being stupid. She knew firsthand the terror of Griffith; she felt it. She was as close as humanly possible to a Godhand member; as he noticed the branding mark on her chest, he couldn’t even begin to fathom how much pain she must have been in.
“I--” he began, but he was cut off by Casca slamming her hand on his mouth.
“Guts, this isn’t about Griffith, is it?”
He said nothing, only glaring slightly at his lover. She continued.
“I know you, Guts. I’ve known you for years. You aren’t some hero of justice, or some knight in shining armor who needs to kill Griffith because it’s the right thing to do. Hell, you can’t kill Griffith, none of us can!” She was shouting by this point, hurt and anger manifesting in her voice. “You saw what he did: how he commanded those...those things to his every command. He’s dangerous. Nothing in the world or the next can kill him.”
She backed away from Guts, disgusted. “You only want to go out there for yourself, for your own selfish catharsis. Is that it?”
By this point, Guts--already sleep-deprived, impossibly stressed and absurdly stir-crazy, in addition to having just seen his friends killed mere days ago--completely snapped. “YES! THAT’S IT!” he shouted at his lover.
He slammed his right hand onto the table. “I have to kill as many of those motherfuckers as I can possibly get my hands on! Is that what you want to hear?!”
Casca was a bit taken aback by the sudden outburst, but quickly shot him a lethal look. She covered his mouth with her hand, staring down his one remaining eye. “Guts, shut the hell up!” she hissed. “You’ll wake Rickert and Erica.”
Guts was visibly trembling with anger--not at his precious Casca, but at...well, everything. At having lost everyone he considered a friend. At Griffith turning his back on them. At his lover being assaulted less than a week prior, and that overwhelming, crushing feeling of helplessness at being able to watch and do nothing else. That crushing feeling has stuck with Guts every moment since the Eclipse.
Casca was right. This wasn’t about Griffith. It wasn’t even about her. It was about him, and his desire to kill as many Apostles as he could get his hands on, if only to prove he wasn’t still that helpless, crushed little boy that Gambino looked down on. Guts was still a warrior who still had strength.
“Guts, I’ll make this short and brief,” Casca told him. Her words were carefully chosen to enhance the vitriol in her tone. “If you walk out that door right now, you are never coming back.”
His eye widened in shock, and she continued. “If you leave this home, there will be no home for you to return to. You and I--everything that we’ve built together, everything that we are, everything that we were--will be finished.”
Guts finally couldn’t take any more of this. With his metal arm, he pulled Casca’s hand off his mouth.
“Are you being serious right now?” he grunted, knowing the answer already.
Casca nodded. “Dead serious.”
Guts gritted his teeth, an anger boiling inside of him...but it was useless. He couldn’t take it out on her. She was right, after all. The anger died inside of him instantly, replaced with shame. Who was he kidding?
Guts couldn’t bear the thought of losing Casca, the woman who’d been with him all these years, his rock, the person who kept him sane. He thought of all the good times they had together, of making love for the first time under that tree, those many months ago. It was a simpler time. A better time.
Guts fell to his knees, his prosthetic hand hitting the ground, steel fingers digging into the dirt floor. Tears stung his one remaining eye.
“I...I won’t go,” he finally told Casca, unable to look her in the eye, shame exploding in his brain. “I can’t.”
Casca kneeled down, pulling her lover into a hug, bringing him close to her. “You can’t do what?” she asked tenderly.
He hesitated for a moment. He tried to fight the tears, but ultimately, he allowed them to flow freely. With his good arm, he returned the hug. “I can’t lose you again.”
He didn’t know how long the two stayed like that. He hoped that the shouting didn’t wake Rickert and Erica. After a minute or two, of Casca resting her head against his chest, he heard something...the sound of footsteps, slow and heavy.
Upon recognizing this, he was overcome with a pain from his neck. In the exact moment the sting of the brand registered for him, Casca suddenly jumped away, fighting pain of her own, clinging to her tunic.
“G-Guts,” she exclaimed. The brand hurt her more than it did him, stopping her from even getting a coherent sentence out.
“I know,” he hissed, holding his cool metal hand to the burning mark. An Apostle was coming.
The footsteps grew louder, and he became aware of a malevolent presence at the door.
“I’ve been tracking you,” the Apostle said, through the other side of the wooden door. It swung open, revealing a short, stout man. Wiry scraps of hair clung to the top of his oddly-shaped head; he licked his lips, drawing attention to a pair of horrendous fangs, easily capable of ripping through human flesh; his eyes were a light gray, dull and lifeless.
He began to laugh, a sadistic chuckle that rang throughout the cabin. “I’m going to enjoy this,” he said with a smirk. Hearing the commotion, Rickert and Erica came downstairs, and were immediately met with the Apostle. He started to transform, and the searing pain intensified.
“What’s going on?!” Erica yelled, fear seeping into every word.
“Guts, are you okay?” Rickert called out to the Black Swordsman. Rickert took a half-step forward, but Casca held out a hand.
“Get back!” Casca tried to yell at the two, but the pain just above her breast intensified for a millisecond again, and she lost the strength to speak. Her diaphragm was growing tighter and tighter, and all at once, Casca found it hard to breathe. She thought her chest was going to explode.
“Everyone, get behind me!” Guts shouted, not taking his eye off the Apostle. He metamorphosed, growing several feet taller; he went from a little over half of Guts’ height, to so massive the top of his head scraped against the wooden floor of the cabin. Wrinkles began to line his now gargantuan head; the fings portrued, now taller and sharper than before; and the face transformed, becoming animalistic.
Any other occasion, Guts might have enjoyed this. He allowed himself a brief, sadistic smile. Casca was definitely right: there was no better distraction from Guts’ emotional pain than the thrill of tearing apart an Apostle with his blade.
But that smile turned to a scowl. He couldn’t allow himself to enjoy this fight, not with Casca in spitting distance from him. If she got hurt...he would never forgive himself.
As if reading his mind, Casca spoke up. “Guts!” she shouted. “Don’t worry about me! Distract him, I’ll find a weapon!”
Casca grabbed Rickert and Erica’s arms, running into the adjacent armory. Guts shot a quick glance behind him. Good, he thought, they should be safe as long as I keep him here. Now, I can go all-out without fear of hurting anyone.
Guts reached into his satchel and pulled out two throwing knives. He tossed them at the Apostle with his left hand, but missed by a few inches. Damn, he thought, I’m still getting used to this arm. It’s hard to aim accurately when you have no feeling in your fingers.
The Apostle shot a quick glance at the knives, missing completely and sinking into the wood of the open door.
Guts had just barely enough time to dodge the first strike from the Apostle. As he rolled away, his right hand flew up to the handle of Godot’s sword; and he swung it into the creature’s face with brilliant precision.
That’s better, Guts thought, a brief smile forming on his face. It’d been too long since he used a sword on a living foe and not just a practice dummy. It felt so...right.
Godot’s blade was a masterpiece, cutting through the monster’s rock-hard flesh like it was a leaf on the wind. The Apostle screamed in pain. As Guts experimented with the sword, it felt much lighter than the blades he was used to. Guts’ approach to fighting was delicate and precise, especially with the massive zweihander he used as a captain of the Band of the Hawks. That blade was too slow to be used willy-nilly; with each successful attack, Guts had to make sure he could jump back in time and avoid a counterattack, thus giving himself enough time and space to swing his sword and begin another attack.
But with this new weapon? Not a chance. It was light enough Guts didn’t have to wait; he could attack again, and again, and again…
As Guts kept swinging the blade, he stopped aiming for the face; this sword was sharp, but the Apostle was tougher. He needed to dismember it, and end the fight before it could pose a threat to Casca.
He swung in an arc, down to up, using the momentum from the last strike to adjust his footing and hack off the Apostle’s left hand in one fell swoop. Blood spattered on Guts’ face, hair and hands.
As the creature was briefly immobilized, Guts had just enough time to look behind him. Casca, Rickert and Erica were out of sight, still safe.
When Guts looked back, he was met with a swift punch to the gut, which sent him flying. He got back up quickly, but had to immediately dodge a right-hook aimed at his head. Guts attempted to use the same move he used on Nosferatu Zodd, slipping underneath the strike and aiming low, slashing at the Apostle’s side.
Unfortunately, this time, it didn’t work.
Barely an inch deep into the monster’s thick hide, Guts’ sword snapped, leaving him with nothing but the handle. As he looked down at his broken weapon, Guts realized that Godot’s blade might not have been compatible with his fighting style.
He barely got the word out before the Apostle punched him again. Guts held up his left hand to block it, but only some of the impact was absorbed by the steel limb. He was sent flying through the wall, and he heard two simultaneous screams.
Guts was knocked into the armory, and fell flat onto his back, with Rickert, Erica and Casca to his right, Casca using her body as a shield to protect the other two.
“Shame, I was hoping you’d put up more of a fight,” the Apostle said, voice cold and detached. His eyes were so focused on Guts, he didn’t even notice Casca move until it was too late.
She grabbed a short sword off the wall, one of Godot’s older projects. It was a small but elegant weapon, with a simple symbol branded onto the bottom of the blade, and a thin handle. Not Casca’s preferred weapon of choice, but it would do. Leaping from her position, she jumped at the Apostle and plunged the blade into its eye.
It howled in agony, attempting to knock her off. Casca hung onto the blade for a brief moment, before dropping in time to dodge one of its strikes. In its anguish, the Apostle lost its balance, falling backwards into a nearby wall.
“CASCA!” Guts shouted in concern, climbing to his feet. What was she thinking? Risking her own life like that?
“Guts!” Rickert screamed over the chaos. Guts briefly turned his attention to the boy, and found Rickert pointing behind him. Guts gave one last look at Casca, doding another of the Apostle’s attacks, before looking at what Rickert was pointing at…
Guts smiled. He liked the look of that sword.
Casca reached up and pulled the blade out of the Apostle’s eye. It’s depth perception was now fucked beyond repair, and the immense pain was only making it worse. She couldn’t do much to harm it, but she could avoid its attacks easier now.
“Casca, GET OUT OF THE WAY!”
She turned around just in time to see Guts racing towards here, a mammoth blade in his hands. Casca rolled out of the way, giving Guts enough room to swing the Dragon Slayer vertically down the Apostle, bisecting it.
Black blood now covering his face and sword, Guts looked over at Rickert, a crazed look on his face. “You should’ve told me we had something that suited my style better!” he roared triumphantly.
As the rush of battle started to wear off, he looked to Casca, her black hair covered in sweat and blood. She looked down at the short sword in her right hand, which seemed pitiful to what Guts was holding. She dropped it, and looked to the two halves of the Apostle’s corpse, and then up at Guts.
“Please, Guts,” she pleaded with him. “Don’t go.”
With how suddenly she resumed their conversation from earlier, it was as if that Apostle never arrived in the first place.
“You’re the strongest fighter I’ve ever met, Guts,” she continued. She looked over at Rickert and Erica, eyes still fixated on the two adults. They could barely do anything the entire fight, besides lure the Apostle away and point Guts in the direction of the weapon currently in his hand. “If that thing came by when you weren’t around...I don’t know if we would have made it,” she told him.
Guts looked down at the sword in his hands. His entire life, he’d been nothing but a fighter. He had to fight his way to life, born out of the corpse of a hanged woman. He had to fight throughout his childhood, the adopted son of a ruthless mercenary leader. He found nothing but war and battle and blood throughout his entire adult existence. It was tempting, to return to the battlefield, but not as a mere soldier, working for scraps of coin, fighting in useless squabbles between the kingdoms of men; but as a warrior--a survivor--in a grander war against Griffith and those Godhand bastards.
But for all his fighting, what did Guts get out of it? A pile of corpses that were once his friends, and the loss of his arm, his eye, and his best friend. After all that he’d lost, he couldn’t lose Casca too. And he knew that if he set off now, that’s exactly what would happen.
He gave one last look at the Dragon Slayer. He was made for this sword, to wield it in glorious battle; it deserved to bathe in the blood of his enemies. But he couldn’t do it. Not yet, at least. He dropped the black blade, and walked to Casca.
“Don’t worry,” he told her. “I’m not going to fight anymore.” He looked at the metal arm, and touched a finger to the area of his face next to his right eye...or, rather, where his right eye once was.
“You’re right. I need time to heal, and I don’t want to do that alone.”
Maybe in another life, Guts could be one who struggles, who hunts dragons. But for now, he has to be someone who heals.