Actions

Work Header

Casca Comes Home

Chapter Text

She hadn't recognized him at first. When she first woke up she didn't really recognize anyone, but when she realized who he was she was angry and sad and so many other thing. Guts couldn't be anything other than happy. Happy she spoke with him. Even if the rest of the day Casca kept her distance. It was still fear it seemed, but not the same one from before. This one was more of an awkwardness mixed with guilt. He couldn't blame her for that reaction, who knows how he would react if under the same circumstances.

Some optimistic, stupid part of him had hoped things would go back to the way they had been before, but Guts knew that would never happen. Fate or casualty or whatever hated him too much. If she still hated him at least he could go and kill Griffith without any regrets. He could get his revenge and Casca would be here on Elfhelm safe and with her wits. Guts could live with that, well he could make peace with that, as his plan would probably end with him dying. Besides, after all the stuff he's done, even before all of the times he attacked her, he was never good enough or her. Everyone he'd ever been close to has come out worse for it; the smart rational thing to do would be to stay away.

Then, on the second night of her return she sought him out, having questions that only Guts had answers to. Casca had quickly found that no one really knew anything about what had happened. Schierke and Farnese had seen some of it, but of course didn't have enough of the context or overall knowledge to know. Puck had figured it out, but he was still on work duty and also an elf who she didn't really know. So she came to Guts.

Guts wasn't too keen on reliving the past, especially now that the woman who he'd been missing for years had returned, but in truth he had never fully processed it either, just pushed it deep down. That was how he dealt with most of his emotional problems, probably not the most healthy thing to do, but…

The party was still going after the full day before, this one was much more joyous and even more crazy if that was possible. He was seated some distance away, having already had his fill. Guts wasn't much for parties, at least, not ones like this. With the Hawks… he knew everyone, he was young, he cared about everyone, but now… Guts cared for his traveling companions, more than he could put into words and it scared him. Although none of that held a candle for what he felt for Casca. If he lost her again, Guts would lose himself for good probably. She was his tether, his sheath, and while he never wanted to be owned by another, Casca held some power over him that he didn't bother him.

She had approached him cautiously, almost like one would a wild animal. It was the same thing he had done to her ever since she lost her mind. He was surprised, although he probably shouldn't have been, when the first thing she asked about was her- their child.

She would've been a great mom.

"What happened to my- our child?" She asked, "I mean, there was a child right? I asked the others and all they talked about was some waif I took a liking to."

"How much do you remember?" He responded, perhaps too far away for this to be considered a private conversation. She was the one to come to him, Guts wasn't pushing any boundaries.

Even if he really wanted to.

"It's complicated," Casca explained, "Everything before…" She avoided saying it, but Guts knew what she meant. The Eclipse. "I remember fine, but after it becomes like remembering a dream, things don't make sense."

"More like a nightmare." He grumbled.

Casca nodded grimly, "I think I ignored a lot of the bad parts, but weird things mix in- and I just don't know."

The fear in her eyes made him wonder if she remembered what he had almost done to her. Of course she did, but there would be time for talk of that later. Guts pushed that thought away and asked one of the questions that had weighed on him since that night.

"Did you know?" He asked quietly.

"Know what?"

"That you were with child."

She became sad. Maybe he shouldn't have asked that.

"So I was pregnant." Casca said. "I was late, but I'd been late before, and I had never done that before and-"

"So you didn't know."

"I wouldn't say that." She looked away, "I was pretty sure, but- I was scared, and then after everything." She took a breath and answered his first question, "I remember giving birth and you ripping him away from me. I hated you." Her voice became quiet. "He disappeared and I could feel him sometimes, but then you were back and he was grown and looked like Griffith. And then he was a light spirit."

"What do you mean he looked like Griffith?" Guts asked.

"Just that." Casca said, "He looked as Griffith did before… almost more though." She dismissed it with, "It was probably just one of the dreams any way. Don't worry."

"Griffith is back though. I don't know how exactly, but right before he came back I saw the demon infant for the last time."

"Demon infa- oh, the baby."

"You seemed to be drawn toward Griffith for some reason." Guts tried to stay calm, but everything was falling into place. "I thought- I don't know what I thought." Guts didn't want to admit that he had briefly thought of the idea that Casca had still loved Griffith, or that what he did to her wasn't totally one sided. From how she went mad, it didn't even cross Guts' mind, but after they encountered him and she was drawn to him, well, it was strange. There was also to factor in that maybe she just couldn't remember what Griffith did to her, or his inhuman charisma worked especially well on her because of her lack of lucidity. "He saved you from some rocks when I couldn't, despite saying he didn't have a heart anymore. But maybe it wasn't him, it was our son."

Casca's eyes widened. Guts continued, "Somehow he must've been absorbed or something. And so this whole time he's been watching out for us and I've given him nothing but hate."

A smile begin to pull at his features, of course that was what happened.

"Guts." Casca said taking a step closer.

"To think, now that it seems Griffith and him share a body I'll have to kill him too. And the problem is I would've done it. I wouldn't have even known, and now- and now I'm becoming Gambino."

"Guts." Casca protested again, but he still ignored her.

"No, I'm worse than him. I wasn't even his child, just some orphan. This is my flesh and blood!"

"Guts." Casca was more forceful, but he still ignored her.

"Because that's all I can do, kill. There's some part of me that wants to kill everyone!"

"Guts!" Casca called a third time, now an arms length away. It broke him out of his spiral down into despaired. "What happened to you?" Something broke inside of him.

What happened to him?

"Hell."

She did say anything, waiting for him to elaborate. Guts fought with himself whether to tell her or not. But she deserved answers, she deserved anything he could provide for her.

"My eye." He said finally.

"Your eye?" She questioned, moving to touch the one still intact.

"No, the other one."

Her perfect lips formed an 'o' and this really wasn't the time for those kind of thoughts. Even if this was the first time Casca had willinging touched him in a year. And even longer since she'd done it while lucid.

Her hand moved over to lightly feel the missing eye. "You lost this during… and your arm?"

He nodded slightly saying, "The last thing this eye saw was the man I thought was my friend sacrificing the band of the hawk to hoards of demons, and," His voice broke. Guts realized he'd never said this before, not out loud at least. Somehow saying it outloud made it more real, made it worse, "Raping the woman I love."

Casca's eyes widened and she withdrew her hand as if his face had burned him. Good. Drive her away. It's better for both of you if you just don't go there.

"Is that true?" She asked, voice shaking, no her whole body was trembling. He wanted to reach out and hold her, to tell her everything would be okay, but he couldn't.

So all he said was, "Yeah."

"No no," Casca said, "You loved me."

That's what she was focused on? Something she should already know? Guts couldn't blame her if she didn't want to think about the eclipse; he didn't either.

"No," He clarified, "I love you."

Casca's face started to scrunch up the way it did before she started crying, tears welling up. Her voice was thick with emotion as she implored, "Why? How could you love someone like me?"

"What do you mean?" Guts asked, confused. Sure she was kind of violent, and a handful, but she was also smart and beautiful and amazing.

"After what happened, after what they did to me." She said, gasping a little as the sobs started. "After what I did to you."

Guts wanted to consul her, but he was still afraid of touching her and words were never his strong suit. Still he tried. "None of this is your fault. None of it." He sounded angry, but it wasn't directed at her, no it was more directed at the mere idea. His mind whirled on the right words to fix this, settling on, "You should be blaming me, like you always did. I'm the one who caused all of this."

"What?"

"Because of me, Griffith-"

"No." Casca cut him off, "You didn't make Griffith do anything. He certainly knew the risks when he slept with the princess, and he made the decision to kill everyone, and he was the one who chose to- chose to-"

"-No, you're right." Guts interrupted, stopping her from saying it. He had almost forgotten. With Casca back he'd almost forgotten the rage and revenge that had fueled him for those years. "It's his fault. It's his fault and I'm gonna kill him."

Casca smiled through the crying at this. "You're so angry now. So much hatred." She said with fragility.

"I'm sorry." He said lamely.

She tried wiping her eyes and nose, but tears kept falling. "And everyone thought I was the one who lost my mind." She hiccuped into a small laugh, "You went mad too."

Guts didn't say anything, he just stared into her eyes. They were so dark. In the dim light of the waning moon and lanterns the brown he knew was there was lost. Casca was so beautiful.

"I have an idea." She said, "Close your eyes. It's a spell to help heal you."

"You know magic?" He said skeptically.

"Of course." Casca spoke somberly, "All moms do." Noticing his lack of response she demanded, "So close your eyes."

"Eye." Guts muttered, correcting her, but she took it as an 'Aye'. He closed his eye anyway.

"Lean down a bit."

Guts did as he was told and felt her hands cup the side of his face as she pulled him down to her. He panicked slightly, but let her do whatever it was she was going to do.

A kiss, a kiss to the eyelid of his ruined eye. Much less than ever touch him willingly, Guts thought he would die before she kissed him again.

"There." Casca said quietly, "Not all better, but a little, I hope."

He was speechless. So with his voice not working Guts pressed his lips to the top of her head. Her hair was soft.

Casca wrapped her arms around him and started to cry again. He gently held her with his good arm. Guts felt something wet on his face and realized tears were coming from his eye too.

Somehow they ended up lying on the mossy ground, staring up at the stars. The crying had finally stopped. Her head was resting on his chest, his arm around her waist.

"Jeaudo always did think I cried too much." Casca said breaking the silence. She had stopped crying finally, as had Guts.

"That doesn't sound like Jeaudo; he thought very highly of you."

"True." she hummed, "But even Jeaudo had secrets."

"Well if he thought you were a cry baby, what did he think I was?"

"Anytime someone had a problem with you they would usually say it to your face."

Guts hmmed in acent. "Do ya think I'm better at throwing knives than he was?"

"I haven't seen you in action yet, but probably not."

"...You're probably right, but I bet I could throw one farther."

"Are you trying to one up a dead man?"

As if realizing what she said, Casca said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean- I know you don't-"

Casca didn't mean to make it so sad; it was obviously meant as a joke. He'd almost forgotten they were all gone, that he and Casca couldn't just walk into camp and see with Casca made Guts feel almost normal right now. It felt as if…

"Naw, you're fine. I just, for a moment forgot." He laughed rather harshly, "I can't remember the last time I felt so, so young."

"How old are we?" Casca asked, changing the topic. "I mean I know you were never great at keeping track, but,"

"Ah, I don't actually know." He admitted, "We were what, 19 when I came back?"

"About, yeah, and then how long was I like that?"

"I think Rickert said something about two years when you went missing, and then the journey here took at least a year… so… 23, 24?"

"24." Casca said sentimentally, "So we've known eachother for what? 9 Years?"

"Never thought I'd live this long." Guts admitted.

"Neither did I,"

He held her a little tighter; one thing he would make sure of, Casa wasn't dying before he did. No chance in hell.

"I'm sorry." Casca said again.

"Stop that. I already said you don't have anything to be sorry about."

"No. I know how that feels, bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders, and I made you do it alone."

"There was nothing you could've done. I lost myself, no one could help me. If you were still there I probably would've just hurt you more."

"I still left you."

"I've left you twice now, so it still doesn't matter. Besides you're back, you're back now." Guts' voice was sincere and final when he said, "I won't let anything hurt you again.

With that promise in the air it was silent except for the festivities going on in the distance. They were somewhere between waking and sleeping when Casca said, "I can't wait until I'm strong again. I haven't been this weak since I was like 12."

"You're plenty strong." Guts mumbled sleepily. Part of him wanted to talk with Casca for as long as possible, but his body really wanted to sleep. Guts realized he couldn't think of the last time he slept; it had probably been days. Not unusual for him, but he was crashing hard now.

"Physically I'm the weakest you've ever known me." She argued.

He didn't answer her verbally, instead squeezing her middle slightly. "Yeah," He responded finally, "Skin and bones. Figures from how you ate." Guts grumbled worriedly, "I think it was worse two years ago, but I couldn't get very close then."

"I wonder if I can get a fairy sword like Serpico and Isidro," Casca mused, "I'm so out of practice."

Guts lightened up a little saying, "You should teach Isidro then."

"What? So he can stop bothering you?"

So she had seen through him? "Well, yes." He admitted, "But you could actually teach him stuff, you're the people person out of the two of us." Casca didn't seem convinced, so Guts added, "Plus you're the best woman fighter I know."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"Just that you're amazing."

She was blushing despite herself but answered, "Teaching is the best way to review…" She was quiet for a moment before saying, "We'll talk about it with him. Normally I wouldn't pass up a chance to make you interact with people, but I really need to get back into shape."

"It will be nice to have another person who can hold their own."

"What's your plan after all this is done?" She asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Well," Casca was tracing her finger in a lazy circle on his ribs. She seemed nervous, "I have my mind back, Griffith is in a body we might be able to kill, after that what are you going to do?"

She thought he was going to leave her. Again.

"Do you think the brands would still work after he's dead?" Guts asked.

"I wouldn't think so. There's no one for the sacrifice to go to, so wouldn't we be free?"

"But what if it just means we go to some lower apostle?"

She sighed, "Then I guess that would be our next quest."

"Maybe." Was all he said.

Casca seemed a little disappointed.

"But after," He started, "After all this is finished- If we could find a place like this one, or the mine, we could build a home." Guts proposed.

"How would we live?"

"I could kill apostles and monsters, but for reward this time, or I could be a mercenary again."

"I won't let you use that Berserker armor after." Casca commanded, "I get that you need it now that you're fighting gods or demons or whatever, but when that's done, no more."

"Sure thing boss."

"Still calling me that?"

"Yup."

"And what would I be doing while you're off monster hunting?" So she noticed that detail, great. "Sitting at home twiddling my thumbs?"

"Well, after a while I'd assume your hands would be pretty full with the kids." Did he really just say that? Casca froze.

"Children?"

"I just figured- ah- with how you acted around- You'd be a good mom."

"It's not that I don't want them, I do, I really do. It's strange how much I do." Casca paused before asking, "Do you think that's normal?"

"I wouldn't know."

"I really want my first child." She said dreamily, "More than anything I want him back."

Guts frowned, "I don't know how possible that is."

"Anyways, you seem to have an idea of the future." She changed the subject again. Obviously talk of her son would bring her down. It brought Guts down as well to be honest. She continued with, "That's unlike you."

"You mean having a plan?" Guts laughed, "Honestly that wasn't really a plan, more of a far off dream. For the longest time I've been trying not to think about it."

"You've finally found your dream." It wasn't a question, it was a statement.

"It was right in front of me that whole time, wasn't it?"

Casca didn't respond verbally, stopping her fidgeting and hugging him closer. After a short while, they drifted off into a deep dreamless sleep, far away from any nightmares. It was good.

Chapter Text

Farnese was looking for Casca. It was something she had done before, but with a sense of panic instead of the annoyance she felt now. When Casca was still in her regressed state Farnese did everything with her (or for her, depending on how one looked at it), If she didn’t there was a good chance Casca would wander off, which wouldn’t be good for anyone.

 

Now Casca was sane and they still did most things together, now more out of habit than necessity. They had become friends, or at least Farnese thought of her as a friend. Before joining Guts’ group, Farnese hadn’t had really any friends (besides Serpico) much less women her own age. From the way Casca talked it was a similar case, having woman friends, not just friends in general.

 

So even though they didn’t need to, Farnese and Casca still bathed together, Schierke and Isma too if they felt like it. With the dangers that always found them and the rate at which they traveled it just made sense to bathe at the same time. The boys had another set up, Farnese wasn’t completely sure what it was, beside Isidro still being immature enough to try and avoid baths for as long as possible.

 

So now Farnese was going to take her bath; hopefully Casca was already at the spot and had just forgotten to tell her. Or maybe she just wanted to be alone. Casca would sometimes do that, just go off to be by herself. It had given Guts a near heart attack, Farnese as well the first time she did it, not realizing nobody was used to that yet. Now she always told somebody where she was, despite thinking it was a little silly. Another possibility tugged at Farnese’s mind, that Guts was with her. Involuntarily, her heart twinged.

 

Farnese had seen what Guts and Casca’s relationship had been before the eclipse, and it was obvious Casca was the dearest thing to Guts’ heart, but… her feelings now weren’t so clear. Farnese was sure they loved each other, no doubt about that, but did they love each other in that way? Because while they did spend a great deal of time with one another, there was never any indication they did anything other than whatever they said they were doing (which was often just talking), and when they were with the rest of the group they never acted like how a couple would act. They would argue about so many things, often inconsequential things like a misplaced whetstone or stuff that the group had never really questioned, like Guts’ recklessness in battle. It was always off to the side, out of the way. They would both raise their voices and afterwards pout, but despite that they never stayed angry and always made up. Most of the time the fighting seemed to make Guts almost happy, perhaps reminding him of a simpler, or at least more pleasant time (if Casca’s memories were anything to base off of).

 

Although whenever children were brought up they acted strangely, but that was because of their child. It was strange to think of Guts as someone who had a child, but at the same time it wasn’t. It was the same with Casca; now that she was back she was probably the most responsible (outside of Serpico, that it), but Farnese still sometimes thought of her as her regressed state. They had been, may still be parents, and they weren’t much older than Farnese was. It was a sobering thought.

 

It bothered Farnese. Partially their relationship, partially her jealousy. She had feelings for Guts, an admiration mixed with gratitude mixed with something amorous. She sometimes wished she didn’t, but she couldn’t help it. And Casca was her friend, which made the jealousy even worse. Whatever Guts and Casca’s relationship be, they needed each other and Farnese didn’t want to cause any unnecessary hurt. So ultimately she hated her jealousy.

 

Farnese stepped over a fallen tree that was on the path to the stream where the baths were being taken. It was a short walk from their current camp, a little out of ear range unless one shouted which was a little worrisome, but not enough to move camp closer where the ground was more muddy. She was taken out of her thoughts by a dark figure approaching her.

 

It was Guts with a strangely content expression on his face. He wasn’t wearing any armor, just what looked like fresh bandages on his torso, pants, and a belt with a knife on it.

 

Once Casca had come back he had become an almost completely different person, no, that wasn’t right, he just became less sullen and more open. He actually laughed and smiled, something that had startled everyone at first, Sure he had done those things before, but now it was without the underlying bitterness and sorrow.

 

It was nice to see him so happy.

 

“Good afternoon.” Farnese greeted once they were close enough. She noticed his hair was wet.

 

“Oh.” Guts said, “Hey.”

 

“Have you seen Casca around?” She asked, “We were going to wash up, but I haven’t been able to find her.”

 

“Yeah she’s there right now.” He answered, a dazed happy look briefly passing over his eyes, “We were doing laundry.”

 

“Oh, Thank you.”

 

He nodded before continuing back to camp. Farnese walked forward, muddying her boots up in the process and she arrived at the shore of the stream. It was a medium sized river, coming up to Farnese’s waist at the deepest. Casca was already in the water, her clothes drying on some rocks on the bank along with what looked like some of Guts’ clothes. She was about to call out to Casca when she noticed something strange.

 

Peculiar dark spot were on Casca’s neck and shoulders, barely visible because of her dark skin. They looked like bruises or some sort of rash. Farnese took a step closer and the crunch from her foot alerted Casca to her presence. Casca turned around to reveal her front which also had the marks.

 

“Farnese-”

 

“Casca! Are you okay?” Farnese interrupted, fearing the worst.

 

Casca blushed as she asked, “What are you talking about?”

 

“Those bruises, or spots are they some kind of disease? I heard about some pox that gave you spots that was deadly! How long have they been there? I can try and heal it, although I’ve had more practice with injuries… but I’ll try my best.” Farnese finished with, “I understand you not wanting us to worry, but I don’t want you to die!” They were a little fragmented, her thoughts that it, but Farnese was so worried.

 

Casca looked down at her body and muttered something before answering, “These aren’t, I mean, ah-”

 

Casca was walking toward her and then Farnese could see the spots on her inner thigh. Bruise like marks, collected in certain areas, Guts having been there, Casca being so flustered… oh. That would mean…

 

“I’m sorry!” Farnese said and promptly turned around. She went to take a step when-

 

“You don’t have to leave.” Casca said, “I’ve actually been meaning to talk to you.” She rinsed off the remaining soap before walking to the shore.

 

Farnese didn’t leave, in fact her feet felt stuck to the ground. There were a few moments of silence before Casca started, “I know you have feelings for Guts,” Farnese blushed out of embarrassment, “and I also know he is incredibly dense about most things. And I know what it’s like to love somebody who will never see you that way, and while Guts would never intentionally hurt you, to keep pursuing it would leave you feeling, empty, hollow, a shell. Don’t blindly follow someone, figure out what you want, and-” Casca said the next part quieter, “Don’t miss what right in front of you. Live your life.”

 

Farnese turned to look at Casca directly to see she had donned a tunic, her other clothes probably needing longer to dry.

 

“I’m sorry.” Farnese said again.

 

“No, don’t apologise for your feelings. And I’m not saying go jump into Rodericks, or even Serpico’s arms, but look beyond him. Look to where you want to be.” After pausing a moment Casca sighed, “I’m sorry, that was pretty heavy, I didn’t mean- I just, I just wish someone had told me that when I was your age. It may have changed things.”

 

That man, the one Guts hated, the one that branded him and Casca, the one that did that to Casa, that was who she was talking about. The Hawk of Darkness. Her enemy as a friend of Guts and Casca and as a magic user.

 

After thinking a moment, Farnese responded with, “I want to be helpful, to become better at magic. I want to be strong.”

 

Casca smiled and Farnese blushed for what felt like the millionth time, but this time it wasn’t out of shame. There was a warmth and pride in Casca’s smile that made Farnese feel like she accomplished something, like someone was proud to know her. After so long of being an unwanted, unliked person… well it was nice.

 

“What do you want now?” Farnese asked, “If you don’t mind my asking.”

 

“Honestly,” Casca said, “I don’t know exactly. I want to find my son, which may not even be possible now, I want to be free of this brand, I want to kill that SOB that made all of this happen, and I want Guts to stop almost dying every other week. They all seem impossible right now. But before I can do any of those things I have to get stronger.” She smiled again, “So I guess we have a few things in common.”

 

Farnese smiled along this time. It was nice having a friend.

 

Chapter Text

Ever since Casca came back, Guts had been taking a lot naps. At first it hadn’t been noticeable, as he was still recovering from the Berserker armor and needed rest to heal, but now that Elfhelm had done most of that Guts had lost that excuse. Now that Casca was sane again and regaining her strength, the seals and spells Schierke and Farnese cast, and Roderick’s competence at protecting them at sea, Guts was finally at ease enough to take a break. No one blamed him, knowing how he hadn’t really slept for two years and how once they got off the boat their enemies would multiply.

Guts would just disappear, often below deck in some place he would argue wasn’t a hiding spot. Casca would sometimes join him, although they were fairly easy to find, since his more hidden ones weren’t built for two people. They also were often talking so they could be heard. Although right now neither could be found and Serpico and Isidro had already checked all of the usual spots.

Farnese had asked Serpico to find Guts so Schierke and her could check the seal on his brand. It wouldn’t do any good if it came undone for some reason. They had already checked Casca’s, but Guts had eluded them.

Farnese was growing into quite the witch, Serpico thought, still a strange turn of events in his mind. She was so proud to be able to check the seals, although she couldn’t write them yet. Serpico was proud of the person she had become, so different from the one he had grown up with. For that he was immensely grateful, grateful for this change. By extension he was thankful to Guts for helping to bring this change.

So here Serpico was, searching all of the closets and storage areas for the large swordsman. Isidro tagged along, running around the lower deck throwing open doors. Serpico was chastising him to close the doors, but often ended up doing it himself.

Eventually they came across a room filled with crates of candles and other spare supplies. In the corner, barely visible in the dim lighting was Guts, sleeping shrouded in a dark blanket. His sword was within an arm's reach and his cloak was serving as some sort of bedding. Serpico was thinking over the best way to wake him when Isidro ran up and ripped the blankets off. Serpico was about to admonition him until he saw what was revealed.

Casca was there, naked, laying on an also very naked Guts. Neither of them had stirred yet and Serpico was hoping he could just put the blanket back and pretend nothing happened. That was until Isidro started screaming.

At the sound of that, Casca was up with a shot and Guts was grabbing the dragon slayer. Both were ready for a fight within less than a second despite their state of dress and rather compromising position. Serpico was impressed with their reaction time, wondering if he would be able to do the same thing. Probably, he concluded and then felt slightly sorry for interrupting them, and while Serpico had seen both of them naked before, now under these circumstances he couldn’t help but feel slightly embarrassed.

“Huh? What?” Isidro exclaimed as Serpico sighed and covered the boy's eyes, leading him to face away.

Recognizing the Isidro’s voice, Guts set the sword down and sighed. Casca still hadn’t moved from her ready stance and Serpico was having trouble not staring, something he really shouldn’t be doing with Guts right there.

While Serpico didn’t try to leer, it was difficult not to now. Csaca had always been rather pretty, but she had had the mind of a child so it would have been wrong to view her in such light. Now that she was back however… Serpico could appreciate her assets a little more. Of course he would never do anything about it, out of respect for Casca and of Guts. But, to put it in perspective, out of wind spirits, Merrows, and Fairies, she was the only human woman around who wasn’t related to him.

“So sorry.” Serpico said, averting his eyes from the couple, “Schierke wanted to check the seals again, to make sure they are staying.”

Guts muttered something before tossing the blanket to Casca. She was startled by the impact but covered herself with it.

“I’ll be up soon.” Guts grumbled, sitting up.

Serpico nodded and grabbed Isidro by the shoulders to guide him out of the room. Before they reached the door, Guts called out, “Can you not…”

“We won’t tell anyone.” Serpico promised, grabbing Isidro’s ear, the unspoken prompt of ‘Right Isidro?’ caused Isidro to protest, “I wasn’t going to tell anyone!”

Sure you weren’t, Serpico thought. Finally exiting the room he shut the door behind them. Serpico wouldn’t have told anybody without asking. Perhaps before when he had still held some resentment towards Guts… well…

Isidro on the other hand would probably tell everyone, whether he meant to or not. Speaking of Isidro, the boy was still oddly quiet. Serpico sighed, really? He was the one to have to have the talk with Isidro? Oh well, better get it over with.

“You understand there are somethings that take place between a man and a woman that-”

“Yeah, I know, I’m not a baby, geez.” Isidro said, “It’s just, I don’t know, it’s weird to think Guts and Casca…”

So that’s what it was. Isidro had some idea of a woman’s mystique, but it was obvious he was still immature. Somehow Guts, at least how it seemed to Serpico, had taken an almost parental role whether Isidro knew it or not, and on some level they all still thought of Casca as her regressed state. For her to comeback and be the more mature one out of Guts and her was surprising. So probably on some deeper part of thinking Isidro thought of Casca as childlike, and Guts as, well, someone above that sort of thing.

Serpico could sort of see where he was coming from. It was still jarring sometimes for Serpico to see Casca on her own; he would have to stop himself from corralling her back to the group or getting Farnese. But that was fading as her composure came back. Now Casca stood, dressed, and frankly looked very different from her regressed state. She was a totally different person and Serpico could see why Guts had been so driven to get her back.

That being said, On Guts’ side it was less of a stretch to think of this as the outcome. Isidro was still too young or perhaps naive to understand. The way Guts was always watching her, yes most of it was out of worry, but sometimes, it was out of something else. It was out of longing. Serpico would’ve dismissed it as something else if it weren’t for the way Guts became so guilty afterwards. His love for her was obvious, sweet in a way, but lust was also there. So really it came as no surprise that that was the nature of Guts and Casca’s relationship. The circumstances were still shocking.

So all Serpico said to Isidro was, “Yeah. Adults are weird.”

They went up the stairs to the upper decks where Farnese and Schierke were to pass along the news. Puck soon found them and decided he wanted a fish, commanding Isidro to catch one, which Isidro protested strongly. After arguing they went to find Isma since she could get a fish way faster. Hope fully he would remember his promise and not be so impulsive in the future, well, Serpico could dream.

“He’s so annoying.” Schierke one Isidro had left. She looked up from her book, searching in all probability for the large swordsman, “Where’s Guts?”

“Could you not find him?” Farnese asked, “I could go into my astral form and-”

“There’s no need for that, Lady Farnese,” Serpico said quickly, “I found him.” He didn’t know how much Farnese knew, but he knew she didn’t need to know that much. “He was napping, said he’ll be up soon.”

Schierke nodded, “Well if he’s comfortable enough to sleep, the seal must still be holding up well.”

Serpico had to make a conscious effort to act nonchalant. Guts must be real comfortable…

“Thank you Serpico,” Farnese said and Serpico made his leave.

As he made his way to the top deck, Serpico let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. He and Guts were going to have to have a chat, and Serpico was not looking forward to that awkward event. Not at all.

Chapter Text

“I think we just mentally scarred that kid.” Casca observed once Serpico and Isidro had shut the door.

“Sure, we scarred him, not the demon orgy he fought, or the pseudo apostles, or the trolls, or the-”

“Hey, I get it,” Casca laughed, “Kid’s seen some messed up stuff, but this was different.”

“It was different,” Guts was grinning now, “This makes 991 times to go.”

Casca blushed despite herself, “You’re really keeping count? And what's with that number, we’ve only-”

“Would you count today as as just one?”

“Well, I mean, I don’t know, if by encounters…”

“Definitely more than one.”

“Okay then. It’s your count.” Casca said, and then curiosity getting the better of her asked, “What are you going to do when we’ve been together 1000 times?”

“I dunno, reevaluate maybe,” He said it with a nonchalance that she figured must be fake, “We’ll probably be really good, since we’d have so much practice, so I’d probably want another 1000 or maybe 2000,” He grinned, “But that’s just an estimate.

“It might get old.” She argued. It was still strange, this much devotion to her as a woman. Guts was the first one to love her, as, well, a lover, she wasn’t sure how any of this was supposed to work.

“I don’t see that happening.”

“We could get sick of eachother.”

“Mmmhmm...”

“It might get worse rather than better.”

He laughed, “Unless I lose a certain body part I find that highly unlikely.”

“Good.”

She crouched and gave him a kiss before going to gather up her clothes. “We should probably get dressed, they’ll start to worry.”

“Yeah…” He turned to search for his shirt.

“You need to get some new clothes,” Casca commented holding up his tank top and poking her finger through one of the many holes in the worn material. “The elves could’ve got you loaded.”

“I already got everything I could ever ask for from them.” He said sincerely, “I couldn’t ask for more.”

She smiled, handing him the shirt. “Maybe we can mend it later.” He nodded and accepted it. Casca found her pants and tunic, pulling them on. “Uhg, I’ll need to take a bath later thanks to you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Shut up.”

“I’ll need to take a bath too, we could save water by-”

“You are insatiable.”

“Is that a no?”

“It's a maybe we shouldn't be so rude to our hosts, this is big boat, but it's not like we have much privacy.”

Guts grumbled in defeat and stood pulling on his pants. “Once we’re on the road we’ll have even less.”

Changing notes, Casca asked, “How much do they- did they know?”

“I dunno, didn't really talk about that stuff. They know you’re precious to me.” She wasn’t surprised by that. Guts had always kept to himself; why would now be any different?

“So they don't know that-”

“Yes, I didn't advertise we were lovers.”

“I'm not mad about that, I just don't want to surprise them too bad.”

“You don't want to hurt Farnese’s feelings.”

“Did you just try to avoid hurting someone's feelings?”

“I'm right, right?”

Casca sighed, “I know you don't care, but Farnese has been nothing but good to me, I don't want to ruin that.”

“I don't think she thinks I'm worth that, but okay.”

“You’re a fool, even Schierke has a crush on you, it's kind of cute.”

“She does? Poor kid.”

“Yeah, for her first love to be such a fool, are you going to do anything about that?”

“What can I do?”

“Talk to her about it.”

Guts grumbled again.

Casca laughed, “Or not, I can see why you wouldn't.”

“I mean it isn't causing any problems and she'll probably grow out of it.”

“Like I grew out of my first love?”

“It’s not like that, I’m not-”

“Nevermind.” Casca found she didn’t want to rehash that again and asked about their most pressing issue, “What are you going to tell Serpico?”

“The truth.”

“Which is?” She pressed.

“It was exactly what it looked like and how I would appreciate it if he didn't tell anyone.”

“And Isidro?”

“He's your student.”

“So I get the emotionally scarred kid and you get the grown adult?”

“Yep.”

“Sometimes I despise you.” But she smiled and accepted the kiss on the cheek he gave. “You owe me one.”

He smiled in response.

“When should we tell them?”

“Do we have to tell them at all? I mean people seemed to know you and I would be good together before even we did.”

“You're not wrong. Maybe we could wait for it to come up.” Casca suggested, she wasn’t eager to have that conversation either.

“You should have words with Isidro, if you do think we scarred him, because two people who love each other having sex is sooo traumatic.”

“Oh shut up.” Casca said.

“Make me.” Guts challenged.

Casca thought about for a few seconds before deciding, “I would love to, but now we are fully dressed and have friends who are looking for us.” She winked at him, “Maybe later.” She sauntered out of the door, looking behind to to ask, “Coming?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Guts followed her, leaving the cloak as it needed a wash, and hefted up his sword.

“You go see what Farnese wants and I’ll go try and find Isidro, give him a surprise test.”

“Yes ma'am.” Why did he insist on calling her that? She was only his boss for one operation. Was it his idea of a term of endearment? Actually, knowing him, it might be.

“Guts?” Casca asked, holding back a smile.

“Yeah?”

“You’re an idiot.” They shared one more kiss in their last moments of privacy, “but I love you.”

Chapter Text

“Why I remember my first love.” Roderick was saying, “I was just 14, she was the daughter of one of my father’s leagues men. She was a bit older than me and oh my was she something.”
He laughed, “Quite the opposite of Farnese, which is probably for the best considering how that ended. Lady Farnese is a much more- agreeable woman, less likely to try and blackmail someone out of greed.” He turned to look at Serpico, “What about you Serpico? Any great conquests?”

Serpico lifted his head and answered, “When I was with the Holy Chain Knights there were a few, but I-” He drifted off into thought, “I never got very attached.”

Roderick seemed satisfied with this response and looked to Guts who was brooding over his drink. “And you Guts? I’m sure you have stories to spare.”

Guts thought it over. He’d known these men for a while, fought beside them, but did he trust them? Well it wasn’t about trust exactly, more just he didn’t want to talk about it. Before he’d been with Casca it had been embarrassing to talk about his love life, or rather lack of one, and now it was just painful. But they saved him and they saved Casca so maybe he should tell them. “First loves?” He clarified.

Roderick nodded.

“Casca. She was the…” He drifted off, unsure of how to finish.

“Oh.” Roderick said, subdued slightly, “She was the only one to…”

“Yeah.”

There was a sullen silence until Serpico asked, “How did you two meet anyways?”

“She tried to kill me.” A sparkle lit his eye from memories of a better time.

The other men started to snicker before full out laughing.

“Of course that’s what happened.” Roderick said, “Was it love at first stab?” He jested.

“Not exactly.” It was painful, but also strangely relieving to tell someone. Like when He’d told Casca about Gambino, this obviously wasn’t the same, but the feeling was similar, “A group from her mercenary band attacked me and she was ordered to bail them out… Their leader eventually got involved and I ended up with a wound and fever that put me out for a few days. She was ordered to keep me warm and boy, she wasn’t happy about that.” Guts smiled slightly. “We hated each other.”

“Well that’s a story.” Roderick said, taking a sip out of his cup, “And yet you grew to love her?”

“Somehow, yeah.” Guts answered, “She didn’t make it easy either. Always nagging me, glaring at me, She truly despised me.” He felt warm all over, “and it just kept happening, we kept saving each other and eventually there was no denying it. She’s amazing.”

Roderick nodded knowingly, smiling, “She must’ve been to capture your heart.”

Guts grunted, neither affirmation nor denial, as he spiraled down into more memories; the bad ones, “She was going to be a mother before this.” He said, catching his comrades off guard, “Before the eclipse, she was pregnant, and nothing is certain in this world and she may have lost the baby anyway, but Griffith took that away from us. He took everything away from me.” Guts was gripping his cup tighter and tighter.

“You were going to be father?” Serpico asked, wondering if he heard right.

“Doesn’t really matter at this point.” Guts grumbled.

“Wait, how old are you?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know? 24?” Guts barked. Really? After he’s been honest about all this personal stuff Serpico goes and asks him about his age?

“You’re younger than me?!” Roderick exclaimed.

“Yeah, so?”

“Nothing just that…” Roderick drifted off, but Guts knew what he was thinking. Guts knew he looked horrible, how at this point he was more scar tissue than man. He wasn’t vain enough to care. When your mother dies before you’re born, looks are put at the bottom of your priorities. Before the eclipse when he was still whole, Guts knew he wasn’t ugly. He was scarred, but not grotestly so as he was now and if they weren’t scared of him, women seemed to find him attractive, or at least Casca did. But now he was ugly, on the inside and the outside, and old beyond his years. It was the brand that started this.

The brand was slowly killing him, not directly, but in the monsters it attracted, how they hunted him night and day. And then when the brand wasn’t an issue the Berserker armor came into play, and that was truly killing him. Killing the human in him, it was addictive, the power it gave. Everytime he used it it he was being eaten alive. Eventually it would consume him. He just hoped it would never come to that, or it it did he could take out as many apostles as possible and none of his friends, and Casca would be okay.

How would Casa react to how he was now? This group had softened him from his black swordsman days, but he was different. Would she even recognize him?

“I really meant no offence.” Roderick apologised and Guts realized he’d spaced off.

“What? No it’s not…” He drifted off again. Casca was going to hate him. She was going to come back and hate him for what he did to her, what he tried to do-

Serpico and Roderick grew concerned, “You’re worried.” Roderick supplied, “About Casca?” Guts didn’t respond, but his silence was telling, “Don’t be, have faith in Farnese and Schierke. They’ll find her.”

When Guts still didn’t respond, Roderick laughed suddenly. “Oh I know what this is. You’re afraid she’ll think you’re ugly. Well don’t worry about that either, women are strange creatures. You see I may seem just like a pretty face, but wooing women takes more then that. For me I try to charm and compliment, nothing false though.” He said when he noticed the look Serpico was giving him, “My compliments of the lady Farnese are sincere, she is a magnificent woman. You see I have to go through all of these processes, and I’m sure Serpico has a similar game plan.”

“When you save their life it goes a long way.”

“Anyways… Guts you don’t need to do that, you have a,” He thought for a moment, “An aura that, lets people know you’ll protect them. Women find that attractive, no matter what your outside looks like.”

Guts scoffed at that. He was a sh*t protector, he was a mad dog, just as likely to bite the ones he was trying to protect as whatever he was defending them from. Perhaps protector was what he seemed like to his group, but Casca knew him better, she would know.

“No it’s true.” Roderick insisted, “So don’t worry. She’ll appreciate all of the trouble you’ve gone through for her. The woman you described wouldn’t turn you away because you’ve got a few scars.”

After a few moments, Guts finally said, “Maybe.” He was done talking about this, about maybes and assumptions. They didn’t know, and they wouldn’t know until the morning, there was no use in discussing it more.

Roderick seemed to understand as he turned to Serpico and started telling him about one of his voyages on the seas. It was easy to tune them out, all that was left to do was wait. He had been waiting for so long, why now that there were only a few hours more to go did he feel so impatient?

Chapter Text

Tonight was the first full moon Casca had been fully conscious for since her return and she found herself restless for seemingly no reason. It had started in the morning, just a tingling feeling that turned into full blown excitement come sunset. She was waiting for something, but for what, she had no idea.

She was bringing firewood back to the camp, though perhaps she had been away for too long as the twilight was quickly slipping into night. It was then that she caught sight of something strange. A boy, barely more than a toddler and naked, was standing in the moonlight staring at her. He didn’t appear to be scared or hurt, and her brand, however dampened, didn’t so much as twinge in his presence. It took all of her will power not to rush forward and embrace the boy. Just the sight of him stirred something in her chest, and deeper too, the pit of her gut. Her womb? Impossible...

“Who are you?” She asked, walking closer to the boy, still trying to be cautious in case this was some sort of trap. “Are you okay?”

At the sound of her voice the boy ran forward with a smile on his face, hugging her knees tightly. This surprised Casca who took off her cloak to wrap around the boy. “It’s chilly.” She reasoned and hugged the boy back. “Why’re you out here? Do you have any parents nearby?”

The boy simply hugged her tighter, still not saying a word. He may not be old enough to speak, she thought, or traumatized beyond it. She glanced around. Even with the moonlight it was pretty dark and no one should be in the woods for miles. Casca couldn’t stay and look for this kid’s parents, it was simply too dangerous, at least for how she was now. Not to mention how Guts and the others worried so much as it was. Yes, best to get back to the group, perhaps Farnese and Schierke could find where he came from with magic.

She stood up from her crouch and said, “I’m gonna take you back to my group, okay? They’re not that far away.”

The boy motionsed for her to pick him up and she obliged. It was colder than she realized, probably because they were so far into the mountains. She’d have to make Guts share his cloak with her tonight, Casca mused, holding the boys a little closer. Oddly, he wasn’t shivering and Casca hoped it was because he was warm and not because of some other issue.

The trip back to camp was quick and the fire was a welcome sight. Serpico was cooking something, while Farnese practiced small charms with Schierke critiquing her. Isidro waited impatiently for dinner with Puck and Isma who were throwing small rocks trying to get them stuck in Guts’ cloak. Guts sat against a tree, eyes- eye closed in what seemed to be sleep, but Casca knew better. Sleeping was easier for him now, but he was still awfully paranoid, something that had saved their lives on more than one occasion. All eyes turned to her when they realized she wasn’t alone.

“Casca.” Farnese asked, “Who’s that?”

Casca looked at the boy, who was staring at them with big brown eyes. “I don’t know.” She replied honestly. “I found him while I was… I forgot the the fire wood!” She slapped her forehead.

“You just, found him?” Isidro asked skeptically.

“Yes.”

“Just naked in the middle of the woods?” Farnese questioned further.

“I know it’s weird. I don’t think he’s a monster or anything, just a little boy.”

“Casca do you remember that boy we told you about, the one we thought was perhaps sent by the flowerstorm king?”

“You don’t mean this-” Casca looked at the boy in her arms again. He didn’t look like a fairy. He had dark eyes and dark hair that looked at if it had never been cut. He had seemed quite pale when she first saw him, but now that they had more than just moonlight he seemed a shade darker. He seemed very human, and yet-

“He seems older now.” Isidro said, “Maybe three years really did pass.”

“But if he isn’t connected to the Dannan who is he?” Schierke asked.

“A light.” A gruff voice said.

Casca turned to look at Guts. He still hadn’t moved, but now was more obviously awake. “I never said anything about it before because I didn’t quite understand it, but a few times when I lost control of the Berserker Armor this- this light showed up. And both times this boy was with us.”

“But he was with Casca the entire time, and he doesn’t seem to be a fairy.”

“A fairy wouldn’t have that kind of power.” Puck said, “We certainly don’t.”

“And illusion or trick, but not that kind of power. That’s a witch channeling a god or elven royalty level.” Ivalera added.

“Never said I got what was going on, just that it must be connected somehow.”

Schierke nodded thoughtfully, “They must be. If only we’d brought it up to Dannan.”

“It wasn’t like there was much time. They kicked us out pretty quick.” Isidro commented. “It was pretty rude on their part. Even the Merrows dropped us at the first chance they got.”

“Don’t you bad talk my ma!” Isma exclaimed, “Besides, with three years to gain power, Griffith could almost locate Guts and Casca, and through them, Elfhelm, which is one of the few threats to his power.”

“No I get that, it just…” Isidro drifted off. He looked at the boy. On a different note he said, “If he is older now, maybe he can talk.”

Casca shrugged and addressed the boy again, “Who are you?”

The boy stared back. There was something in his face that seemed familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it. “Don’t be afraid, we won’t hurt you.” She then found him looking at Guts against his tree. “Not even him. I promise.” But the boy did seem afraid, no, if anything he seemed happy.

Serpico’s cry of, “The soup’s burning!” Pulled everyone away from the odd child. With that dinner was on. Luckily the soup wasn’t all that burned, just on the bottom. Casca set down the boy to go through her bag to find a shirt to clothe him. She held the shirt out to him, but when all he did was stare at it, she tugged it over his head. Casca tried to be gentle, but she never had had to dress someone else, so she could tell there was a little discomfort when she pulled his hair from out of the shirt.

Then picking up two bowls she filled them and walked over to Guts, the boy following her. She handed Guts his bowl and sat next to him, trying to glean some of his warmth, however much that damned armor sapped it. The boy sat on her lap which surprised her, but since she figured she’d be the one to feed him she didn’t mind. Guts gripped the bowl in his metal hand and ate quickly while watching her.

“What?” She asked after a few minutes of eating and feeding the boy in silence.

“Hmm?”

“You keep looking at me weird.” Casca paused, “Well, weirder than normal.”

“Oh.” He seemed to be processing something. He set down the bowl. “It’s just weird. I don’t know.”

“What is it Guts?” She pressed.

“That boy, I never noticed before, but now that he’s older- I don’t know, he just, he looks strangely familiar.”

“I thought that too!” Casca said.

“And he must have some sort of magic, but right now he seems just like some human brat, except none of this scares him. It’s weird.”

“Because he must know how much you like kids.” Casca teased, laying her head on Guts’ shoulder. His armor did it’s best at deterring her. “Ugh, I’m taking off your paldron.”

“What’s your deal?”

“I’m cold.”

“And? Go closer to the fire.”

“You’re a jerk.” But Casca laughed, “You like cuddling more than I do.”

“Casca.”

“Hey, if I’m not warm, how will I keep this kid warm?”

Guts didn’t respond and let Casca remove the armor. The boy found the armor very interesting and clamored onto Guts.

“What are you doing kid?” He said in surprise. The kid reached out to grab one of the knives on his belt, which lead to Guts grabbing the boy’s hand. “Don’t touch that.” He scolded. The boy blinked once and then became fascinated by Guts hand. Casca watched from her spot beside them, ready to intervene if needed.

Some sort of silent communication passed between Guts and the boy, as the boy touched Guts’ much larger hand with his. It was so normal, so peaceful, Casca could almost imagine nothing had changed. That she and Guts had had their child and the past few years hadn’t happened.

“Why don’t you just talk?” Guts asked the boy, drawing Casca out of her daydream. “They think you’re old enough.” When he didn’t respond, Guts continued, “Maybe you’re dumb.” He thought for a moment, “No. You’re not. I don’t remember when I started talking, not that I do that much. Talk that is. At least according to others, and to Casca. I just don’t have much to say. Do you just have nothing to say?”

The boy looked up from where he was playing with Guts’ hand.

“Guts,” Casca asked, “When did you last see the baby.”

Drawn out of his revely, Guts grew somber, “What’s this about?”

“Just tell me.”

Guts sighed and took his hand away from the boy, who decided to play with his coak. “I don’t know, a while ago? I think I already told you.”

“Tell me again.”

“Around the time of Griffith’s rebirth, I think. Casca you have to understand I don’t exactly know what-”

“And you haven’t seen him since presumably because he was absorbed by Griffith’s physical form somehow. And then this boy started showing up?”

“Casca-”

“And him seeming so familiar, the way I’m drawn to him-”

“-It doesn’t make sense. None of it.”

Casca patted the boys soft hair, “Nothing makes sense anymore.”

“You’re right about that. Just how is this possible. Should we ask the others?”

“Do you want to?”

“Schierke may know something, maybe even Puck or Ivalera, but this seems out of their expertise. And what would that even make him, human?”

“I don’t know Guts. Griffith isn’t human anymore and he was absorbed, but he isn’t Griffith.”

“If he is somehow connected to Griffith, why would he allow this?”

“He could be spying on us.” A scary look passed over Guts’ eye.

“No.” Casca said firmly, “He’s not. Besides, you said he cut ties with us, that he doesn’t care.”

“And he has a great track record of being honest about that.”

“You think he was lying.”

“The sacrifice wasn’t complete. We’re still here, maybe some small part of him is still human.”

“Could we really make that much of a difference?”

“I don’t know.” Guts deflated, “Me underestimating my worth to him started this whole mess, I may be overestimating now.”

“He loved you. I told you back then and it still stands; you are the closest Griffith ever let someone get. If he still had attachments it’s most definitely to you.”

“Geez, woman, is this your way of comforting me?”

Casca laughed quietly, “Because you are so good at comforting. Do you need me to kiss it better?”

Shifting his eye up to the rest of the group. “Maybe later.”

Casca had forgotten they weren’t exactly alone. While her and Guts weren’t exactly shy with their affection, kissing was generally saved for what little private time they had, mostly because it would inevitably lead to other things. “Look at the boy.” She noted hushly. The boy had finally conked out, rolled up in Guts’ cloak.

“Ah, why’d he do that?” Guts said.

“Be gentle.” Casca said, carefully lifting the boy to lay on her. “He’s real cute.”

Guts didn’t respond, just looked at the the two of them. He leaned over to kiss her forehead before settling in for the night.

“Will he be gone in the morning?”

“Most likely.”

“Guts, do you really think he could be-”

“It was your idea. I don’t know.”

“We’ll talk about this later.”

He remained silent, which Casca took as a yes. She held the boy close and cuddled closer to Guts. For the first time in a long time, Casca felt complete.

Chapter Text

“No no no no.”

“Casca-”

She screamed, scrambling away. It was a blood curdling cry, animalistic, just like before when she-

“Casca it’s okay- you’re-”

She cut him off with another scream, dissolving into sobbing. “Stay away.” She choked out, backing closer to the wall of the cave. Her eyes were wide, staring in horror, well, not quite at him, more like through him. Like she could see things no one else could.

At this point everyone was awake. Guts backed off, surveying the area to make sure there was nothing she could hurt herself on. Someone was up and asking what was wrong, was everyone okay? Were they under attack? Casca’s screams and sobs echoed through the cave that was their makeshift camp. Guts was tugged away, he complied after he saw Farnese attending to Casca, trying to comfort her.

He was outside before he knew it, Isidro asking him questions while Isma and Serpico stood outside the cave as well, letting the mages and fairies try to calm their friend.

“Guts, what happened? Did-”

“I don’t know.” Guts finally said. “I didn’t- I-”

A hand touched his arm, Isma. “Mr.Guts. It’s okay.” He was fine. Could they not see that? Casca was the one- She was the one-

He stood up abruptly, mumbling, “I’ll be back soon.” and lumbered off into the surrounding woods, deaf to everyone’s protest.

He needed to get out.

A night terror, she must have been having a night terror, his brain supplied after walking a ways. He’d had those before and they were a pain. Of Course she would. But it was so similar to how she’d been before. Yes, this time she’d been speaking, clearly a good sign, but she was so frightened. Frightened of him. He didn’t want to scare her, but he also knew he probably should. He scared himself sometimes.

They were pretending right now, that everything was okay, her especially. She wanted desperately to go back to before, where he hadn’t done those things and she hadn’t lost herself. He did too. But this was just proof everything wasn’t hunky dory yet. Honestly it probably never would be, but it could get better.

Casca had forgiven him for what he’d tried to do to her, somehow. She was stronger than him in that aspect, he still hadn’t really forgiven himself for it, for his lapse in control. If he couldn’t get better control of himself he really wasn’t any better than a beast. She had so much faith in him, and unfounded amount. But it was times like these where it was clear even if she forgave him, she still remembered, and part of her resented him for making her remember. She’d never admit it, but he could tell.

Guts kept walking until his inner monologue died down a bit. He stopped and took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He had overreacted and left his group, and Casca, undefended. Sh*t.

He hurried back, following his trail of destruction back to the camp. Everyone was eating breakfast, everyone except Casca.

Puck was the first to notice him and was about to greet him when Guts cut him off.

“Where’s-”

“She’s sleeping.” Farnese said, “In the cave. We cast a sleeping spell on her to calm her down.”

The tension left his body. “That’s- good.” He decided, setting his sword down to sit.

There was an awkward silence over the group until Farnese asked, “Do you- that is,” Farnese took a breath, “You were the first one with her, did you see anything we didn’t?”

Guts ran his hand down his face, “I don’t know, I just, felt her start to cry and fight in her sleep and then she started screaming.” He looked at his group, he was still rather emotional it seemed, “It was just a nightmare.”

“She used to never have nightmares.” Farnese said wistfully. She didn’t seem to know what she was implying, that Casca was happier when she didn’t remember. It was the truth, even Casca admitted as much, although she was thankful to them for bring her back. Guts dropped his eye again.

“Hey,” Isidro broke the rather tense mood, “How do you make someone go back to sleep when they never woke up in the first place? And how does that stop nightmares?”

“Honestly boy.” Ivallerra scoffed, and let Schierke explain.

“There are different levels of sleep and you only dream when you’re in the upper levels, when you go deeper the dreams can’t reach you.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” Isidro argued.

“It makes total sense!” Schierke said.

“I think you made it up.”

“And that’s why it worked?” She gestured to the cave where Casca still slumbered.

“Maybe she did it on her own.”

“My pa made tea for me when I had a nightmare.” Isma contributed.

They continued bickering for a while until the morning chatter returned. Guts collected his breakfast, finally awake enough to be hungry.

When breakfast was almost over Casca emerged from the cave sleepy eyed murmuring good mornings. She grabbed her food and sat near Guts as she normally did. It was a little farther than normal, but she was acting as if nothing happened.

“Why’d you let me oversleep?” She asked, “You want me to miss breakfast?”

All eyes were on her.

“What?” She asked.

“Do you not remember what happened?” Guts asked.

Beyond a flicker of fear in her eyes, her face was honest, “What happened? I don’t…”

“No dream?”

“I mean, not really.” she cast her eyes around the group nervously, “I think had a nightmare, but I don’t remember anything about it beside I was scared.”

Serpico muttered something that sounded like, “To put it lightly.”

“You mean you don’t remember screaming bloody murder for like ten minutes?” Isidro asked.

“I- What?”

“You were having some sort of night terror. You looked awake and was screaming and crying.” Guts explained.

“I don’t remember that at all. Weird.”

“Maybe that’s for the best.” Guts said quietly.

She nodded and chowed down. At least she had her appetite back. It had been steadily growing since they left elfhelm which Guts counted as a comfort. When breakfest was done and everything had been packed up Casca pulled Guts aside.

“What did I do?” She asked.

“We already told you.”

“No,” She hissed, “I did something.”

Guts couldn’t look at her. “It was me you were afraid of.”

“You? No, it was from the nightmare-”

“-Which I was probably apart of. Casca you were screaming at me to get away.”

“It probably wasn’t what you think.”

“I- I could tell.”

“How?”

“You, the look in your eyes, they were the same as when I-” He stopped himself. They hadn’t really talked about it, just enough for Casca to decide she didn’t want to talk about it. She grew unconsciously smaller, uncomfortable. “When I almost lost control.”

“But you didn’t.” She said. “You haven’t. So why would I have that kind of nightmare about you of all people?”

He deflated, “I don’t know. I just, never want to cause you pain. I worry.”

She patted his arm affectionately, “To put it lightly.”

He let out a sharp laugh, “How come you’re an optimist these days?”

“I’m not an optimist, just not a total negative nellie.” She held back a poorly contained smile.

He cradled her face with his hand to make direct eye contact, and the mood took a shift back to serious. “Can you just promise to be honest with me. I’ve never been all that delicate with feelings so don’t feel any need to do so for me.”

“Guts, I promise.” She grabbed his hand, pulling it down to hold it loosely, “Now come on, we have to get moving, Rickert’s not going to find himself.”

A fond smile grew on his face despite himself and Guts followed her. Yes, off to find Rickert, and reunite what’s left of the band of the hawk. One step at a time.

Chapter Text

It was nice to be able to take a bath without worrying something was going to try to kill you the moment the armor was off. Privacy was also something often sacrificed. Indeed, Guts hadn’t had bathes like those in a while.

He unlatched his metal arm and set it on the towel he brought.

“I probably need to clean that too.” He muttered to himself, noting the accumulation of grime on its surface. That would be for later he decided; something to keep him busy so his mind didn’t wander to Ca-

Guts shutdown that train of thought.

He finished undressing and started to wade into the spring. It was surprisingly warm and soothing on his muscles and still healing wounds. Guts sighed contentedly when he was up to his chest, the water making his tired limbs feel lighter. A little farther into the spring and he realized he’s not alone.

Casca, newly returned Casca was staring at him, a mixture of surprise, fear, and maybe guilt? They made eye contact and Guts forced himself to look away when she made to cover herself. He’d seen her naked, bathed her enough times while she was in her regressed state, hell, he’d made love to her, so why was she bothered by him seeing her? He wouldn’t hurt her, not intentionally, she must know that. But he had already hurt her, and so had others, she had every right to act this way. It still bothered him.

She hadn’t spoken yet, which also botherd Guts; if she wanted him to leave why hadn’t she yelled at him to do so? It was one of the biggest changes, her lack of decisiveness. Her take charge attitude was muted and Guts wasn’t sure if it was a temporary thing or something more permanent. If only his past self could see him, missing her bossy-ness. His commander…

“I’m sorry.” He said finally, breaking the silence like a plate thrown to the ground. “I didn’t know anyone was here, I can come back-”

“Wait.” He was already moving toward the shore when he heard it. Her voice, barely more than a whisper he thought he imagined it, “Wait.” She said again, louder. He could feel the ripples from her movements as Casca drew closer.

He stopped in his tracks, but didn’t dare turn around; as much for his sake as for hers. He stood very still as he felt how close she was, close enough for the heat radiating off her to reach him.

In the time following her awakening she had lost most of her fear of him, combining the version she remembered well and knew, to this new one she didn’t. Where her regressed self had seen a scary monster, Casca could see the broken man who loved her.

They had touched before, but it had always been warm, comforting, not at all heated, even the kisses they had shared were chaste, to the forehead or cheek. All of it fully clothed. Now they were in magic spring, bare as the day they were born and Casca was touching him. With her fingers she softly traced the scars on his back. His skin tingled when her hands left and burned where she touched.

“You’ve bled so much.” She said, hands still moving. Guts was frozen in place, unable to move, much less talk. “Why?” She asked.

Then she hugged him from behind, her body flush against his. He could feel her breasts pressed to him in exquisite detail which didn’t at all help stop the blood rushing to his lower regions. Did she know what she was doing to him? How her actions were affecting him?

She kissed one of the many scars on his back, shocking him back into focus.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” He asked, voice thick. Guts hesitantly touched her hands that were wrapped around his middle.

“You didn’t answer my question.” There were hot splotched on his back and he realized she was crying. She seemed to cry a lot more now, although it may be she did it in the open instead of trying to hide it. “Why would you do all of this?” She continued, “For me, a mad woman.” She choked out a sob, “I’m not even yours anymore.”

What was she talking about? Why wouldn’t he do this? She was all he had left beside Rickert, she was his leader, his commander Casca, his lover, the mother of his child. His heart, his sanity belonged with her, to protect her.

Her bosom heaved with each sob, compelling Guts to remember when they had heaved with exertion and pleasure, from that night so long ago beneath a waterfall.

He tried to put his feelings into words, “I told you before, I love you.” Guts responded shakily, trying to chase away the longing he fault for her. When thing were kept more innocent the beast was better contained, or not present at all. He hadn’t felt it in a while, but now more than ever he dreaded its appearance. Lust for a woman seem to draw it out as good as any blood lust.

“Do you even know what love is?” She asked. “The Guts I knew would never say he loved me, even if he did. How do you know you don’t just desire me?”

“Do you love me?” He desired her, oh did he desire her, but it was beyond that. It had always been beyond that.

Casca didn’t answer. He could still feel the tears flowing from her eyes. “You’re all I have left Guts.” She said finally, “I know Rickert is still out there and him to some extent, but we’re different. You’re so different I hardly recognize you half the time.” She took a shaky breath, “Before, I thought maybe we could take on the world together, carve out a sliver of happiness, but now that you actually have I realized I’ve been holding you back this whole time. If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t be this way, things would have-”

What was she saying? It was ridiculous! He turned around and told her rather aggressively, “If it weren’t for you I might as well be dead. If it weren’t for you I’d still be wandering around doing nothing but survive. Hell,” He laughed harshly, “If it weren’t for you I would’ve died my first night with the band of the Hawk.”

Now that the moment was over Guts could register the shock on Casca’s face and remembered the reason he had been trying to not turn around, because while feeling her was one thing, seeing her was another story.

Her hair was wet, not washed yet, and still long. She didn’t want to cut it it seemed, which he didn’t understand. They hadn’t really talked about it yet, but there had been more...pressing matters than hair cuts. And if he were honest, her with long hair was, it was enchanting. Her short hair had its own charm, but it wasn’t as if he imagined what it would be like to run his fingers through it. Which he did at a surprisingly high rate especially now that she took care of it. Brushed and braided it shone like silk. He wanted her. Now more than ever, and it scared him. He didn’t want to hurt her, but his self control could only go so far and right about now he was at his limit. She must know what she was doing to him.

“You fool.” She breathed and he recognized the blush on her face. It wasn’t out of shame or guilt, not exactly at least, but of desire. Was she even ready? Would she ever be?

Guts pressed closer almost unconsciously, “I know.” He smiled, one of his special smiles reserved only for her and said, “But I’m your fool.” before dipping his head down to kiss her.

It was hesitant and light, far from what he really wanted to do, but baby steps. He somehow got himself to pull away before Casca pulled him back to her. This kiss had more fire and the next one even more so. As the kisses became more daring, so did their hands, roaming each other’s bodies.

She kept surprising him; for the longest time Guts thought he’d never see another lucid smile from her, and now he was holding her in his arms kissing the daylights out of her. Maybe they would get a chance at a hundred times.

As it was Guts wanted to take her right there and then, but she had yet to address his erection. It's not as if it wasn’t there, if she wanted him wouldn’t she-

As if reading his thoughts she grabbed him, breaking the kiss to whisper hotly into his ear, “I’m impressed at your willpower, this is what you were wanting, right?”

He let out a groan at the feel of her hand. The last time something like this had happened… years, definitely years ago, during a time when dreams and nightmares blurred into reality, and he hadn’t even finished properly. He might finished right there, but something bothered him about her words, “Is this what you want?” He some managed to articulate.

She let go of him, a relief and worry for him, “I- Yes.”

He met her eyes before asking, “Yes?”

Casca took a breath, “Yes.” She affirmed.

How was this real, Guts thought, How this happening? The beast had yet to show up, his own issues seemed to be resolved, and Casca, didn’t seem to have the same problem. In fact she seemed to be enjoying as much if not more then he did. This was unreal, and yet…

Totally real, this was actually happening. His brain stopped working, much like with battle. Focusing only on the task at hand, which as making love with Casca.

Yes, baths in Elfhelm were something else.

“Wow.” Casca sighed as they lay on the shore in the afterglow.

Guts didn’t respond with words, just a contented groan that reverberated throughout both of their bodies. After a few more moments he asked, “Are you… How are you…” Okay was what he was trying to ask, but Casca seemed to understand.

“I’m not sure.” She responded, “I should have trauma, well I did, but… I just don’t think about it.”

“You don’t think about it?”

She nodded, “When I start to, I think about happier times.”

“And that doesn’t make it worse?” In his experience, all happy memories did was make the bad ones worse. It made the fall all the longer.

“I’ve only been back a week, I don’t know how this’ll work in the long run.”

“But this was good. For you.”

“Yes. and it makes you happy.”

He scoffed, “You don’t have to worry about my feelings. I-I’ve grown used to-” Not having what he wanted in life, was what he was going to say, but that wasn’t fair to her. He didn’t want to guilt her, because none of this was her fault. “Restraint.” He finished weakly.

Casca looked at him sadly, “Since I’ve been back you’ve been very kind. Even from before… you were trying your best. You don’t have much experience as a caretaker.”

He didn’t respond at first, mind running. “I’m sorry for what I am. I’m selfish, but I wanted to bring you back even if you hated me. I think part of me wanted you to hate me, because that would make my options easier.”

“I’m a reminder aren’t I?”

“The best kind.” He kissed her for emphasis. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

She paused, thinking, before answering, “When I said earlier I wanted children… I meant it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I- I really want children, and to have children I would needs to lie with a man.”

“So you’re using me?” He chuckled although he didn’t find the thought very funny. Was she that heartless?

“Yes, but Guts I don’t want anyone else’s children. I want yours.”

“...Mine?” He didn’t really want kids, at least not right now, it was too dangerous. But the way she said it, it made him feel almost proud. It also scared him to think about such things. Sure he’d thought about it, but only in an abstract way, not in the ‘you just did the things that makes babies with the with the woman you love’ way.

“I love you.” Casca said as if it explained everything. In a way it did. “I don’t think I’ve ever said that out loud.” She admitted.

Guts smiled, “I hope you can have your children. I’ll do everything in my power to help with that.”

She seemed to be blushing, “Thank you.”

“However, we need to solve somethings before it’s safe enough.”

“I don’t think it will ever be safe enough.” She muttered, “And there is only one way to guarantee no babies. I don’t want to take that option.”

Neither did Guts, but it really wasn’t the best time to deal with a baby. “We’ll be traveling with others, so maybe that will make it easier.”

“Are you going to tell them about us?”

“I- Do you want to?”

“No.”

“Me neither.” Good, they were on the same page. He was just a private person, didn’t need other people to know everything about him. Casca was similar, and it must’ve already been weird to have other people she knew, but also didn’t, know her so well.

“We should probably actually bath soon, we’ve been here a while.”

He nodded, but didn’t make an attempt to get up. Neither did Casca.

He was glad they were on the same page.

Chapter Text

The Seahorse was approaching Ith, Roderick’s home, and their next destination.

On the deck, Roderick stood with Farnese, Serpico third wheeling a respectful distance away.

“Come here,” Roderick handed her his telescope. Making a hand sweeping motion he said in a rather grandiose way, “Behold, Ith.”

Farnese blushed, accepting the telescope she peered through it. After a few moments she said, “Oh- I, um, can’t quite see anything yet. Is it often so foggy?”

“I wanna see! I wanna see!” Isidro exclaimed, who had been chasing seagulls.

“She just said she couldn’t see anything!” Schierke admonished. She had been making fun of Isidro’s attempts to catch seagulls.

Largely ignoring the younger traveling members, Roderick answered his fiance’s question, “It can be, can you not see anything?”

“No-” She gasped, pulling the telescope away from her eye, looking mighty frightened.

“What is it?” Roderick asked.

Serpico, who had been there silently the entire time, took the telescope from Farnese’s grasp. After a short look into it, his arm fell limply to his side, eyes widening.

Isidro grabbed it from Serpico's loose hand. “I don’t see-” Isidro started to say before the lightness of his demeanor dropped, “Oh no.”

Isma, who had wandered over with Casca to see what the hubbub was about, wrestled the telescope from him, reacting similarly to Serpico after gazing upon Ith before handing it to Schierke who handed it to Casca after whispering, “It’s worse than I thought.”

After her turn to peer through the telescope, a grim look settled on Casca’s face. She rested a hand on Isma’s shoulder.

Guts walked out from below deck, freshly cleaned, armor and weapons well taken care of. He yawned. “When’ll we be docking?” He asked.

Casca mutely handed him the telescope. After looking through it with his good eye, Guts didn’t react much, just “hmmed” and let the relatively relaxed demeanor slip away. Mumbling something like “Figures.”

Rodericks optimism was failing fast. Nervously he asked, “Am I missing something?”

Grimly, Guts held the telescope out for him to take. Roderick swallowed before looking through.

At first all he could see was fog, or what he assumed was fog, until it darkened to clearly be smoke. A fire? And then he saw- them- the horrid creatures. Had it been a few months ago (or years depending on how one thought of it) Roderick would have assumed they were carrion birds, or a stray flag… but now… now he knew better.

With wings like vultures and humanoid bodies. That was all he could see from the distance, and that was more than enough. Roderick had faced all sort of danger and monsters, but for his home to be the place ravaged, it felt personal. It was personal. And as the smoke cleared, He could finally see the ruin that was his. The docks and harbor, all untouched, the ships were another story, smashed and burned, and what looked like human remains strewn about. A truly grotesque sight.

The mood aboard the Seahorse dropped dramatically. Elfhelm had been a much needed reprieve, but this was reality. And reality was biting. Hard.

Docking was tricky business. As far as they could tell the harbor was safe, no sea monsters afoot, or that’s what the merrows had told them before they left back to their territory. The loss of the merrows was another morale crusher, they had guarded the Seahorse’s journey through the sea, now to be without their protection…

It would be difficult, but they could do difficult. There was talk of not docking there, to try and find somewhere better, but Ith’s fortifications proved to be to their detriment; there were jagged rocks and cliffs, Ith the only place the boat wouldn’t be destroyed by the elements, but if they docked there was a large chance the boat would be destroyed by monsters. In the end, even the loyalist of Roderick’s crew were wanting to return to sea, find an island and wait it all out.

“Are they stupid!” Schierke exclaimed uncharacteristically. “There isn’t anywhere safe!”

“They think they may find another Elfhelm.” Roderick said. He was a free spirit, but this was his home, and what use was rebelling if there was nothing to rebel against? But even someone as noble as Roderick couldn't feel anything else other than dread when he thought of docking in Ith. So his mind knew what was necessary, but his heart was pitifully human.

Guts didn’t seem visibly shaken, his only real concern as it ever had been was Casca’s safety. Sure they’d be going back into hell, but it was one he understood, and Casca could now look after herself. By no means was he happy, but not nearly as big of a deal as it was for the natives of Ith.

“There are no other Elfhelms! And even if there were we’d never find them.”

“I… I figured as much. Roderick sighed, “I know this is what needs to happen, but I don’t know if I have it in me to force my men into that. Besides, an intact ship could be invaluable.”

“You plan to-” Schierke started.

“I’m letting most of the men stay on the ship out here. We’ll take a small boat and sneak into the city.” Roderick turned to Farnese. “I- I would be most thankful if you would stay with the ship and cast your protection charm.”

Farnese looked startled, “Roderick, I- I.”

“Farnese wishes to stay with us.” Casca said.

“Casca.”

“No, you don’t want to be married to him, do you-”

“-Casca.”

“Look, I’m saying it, not you, you don’t have to-”

“Casca!” Farnese raised her voice. “I can settle my own affairs.”

Casca looked surprised, but slightly cowed. Around Roderick, Farnese seemed like a different person, much more submissive and quiet, It dawned on Guts that perhaps Casca didn’t know the circumstance of Farnese and Roderick’s engagement.

Farnese took a deep breath. Addressing Roderick she said, “I can’t leave them. If you’re going, then I’m going as well.”

“I didn’t expect you would let yourself be left behind.” Roderick smiled, “Then it’s settled, all who wish to brave Ith will take the small boats at dawn.”

“I will scout the area, Farnese?” Schierke announced, “Would you help me?”

Farnese nodded, glancing between Casca and Roderick. Once the two of them left, Isidro let out a sigh.

“So we’re finally going to get off this boat,” Isidro said, “It will be nice to not be in such close corners with the love birds.”

“Love birds?” Isma asked.

Puck flew in sprinkling sparkles onto Casca and Guts, singing, “Guts and Casca sitting in a tree, K I S S I N-” Guts who had admittedly been spacing out almost slapped Puck out of the air when he thought it was just a fast moving object. “Love always did bloom on Elfhelm,” Puck said after dodging Guts slap, “Part of the reason I had to leave, always too mushy.”

“You’re the biggest sap.” Guts grumbled.

“Oh.” Isma said. “Congratulations!”

This girl really lacked some social skills, that wasn’t something you congratulate a couple on. Not like that at least.

“Isidro,” Casca started, “You realize once we’re off the boat that just means there won’t be anymore walls.”

The color drained from his face. Sure, Casca, claim to have traumatized the kid and then threaten to do it again. Makes perfect sense.

“You- you wouldn’t.” Isidro said.

“Guts~” Casca crooned, pulling his head down so she could kiss his cheek. What was she playing at. Guts played along, not super comfortable with this sort of thing. ‘This sort of thing’ meaning displaying affection in front of people.

“Ugh.” Isidro looked pointedly away.

“I don’t get it.” Isma, “Why are you freaking out? It’s just kissing.” And with that she kissed Isidro on the cheek.

“Whaaaa?!?!” It seemed this turn of events fried Isidro’s brain. His face turned bright red, “You- She- Tactical retreat!” He yelled and threw something at the ground before running away.

“Isidro! Where are you going?” Isma called, “Was it something I said?” And took after him.

“He realizes just yelling tactical retreat doesn’t make it one, right?” Guts said. “What are you teaching him Casca?”

“What, it all goes in one ear, out the other, unless it’s about swords or the Hawks.” She sighed, “Why did I agree to this? And do you think we should watch those two any closer? They seem to be getting… close.”

Guts shrugged, he’d gone through almost all of his life without adult supervision, and he turned out… on second thought maybe some discipline would prove beneficial.

Roderick cleared his throat, as it was Serpico and Roderick were still present. This made quite the awkward situation.

“I’m happy the plan was so easy to agree on.” Roderick said. “I’m gonna go um, talk to the crew.” He also left.

“Farnese agreed to marry Roderick in exchange for him taking us to Elfhelm, she is duty bound to follow through.” Serpico said.

“I- I didn’t know.” Casca said. “I thought, I have to admit my memories of Roderick… are spotty at best. I shouldn’t have-”

“No, you were just looking out for Farnese. I can’t fault you.”

“He really is a good man.” Guts added.

“I just wish I’d known that, now things are weird.”

“It’ll blow over.” Guts encouraged. “Well, I’m getting my last night of sleep before stepping into that hell, see you in the morning.” with that, Guts left.

“It’s barely past noon.” Serpico commented.

“Don’t even try to reason with him, He’s been able to fall asleep at any time, anywhere since about a week after my return.”

“Does your relationship have anything to do with it?” Serpico asked, and it took Cacsa second to figure out what he was referring to.

“Serpico! Really?!” She just about slapped him.

He played dumb, but Casca figured this was only the start of learning new things about other people.

Chapter Text

They snuck into Ith undetected as far as they could tell. The cloaking spell Schierke had concocted seemed to be working well enough, as they had yet to have a violent encounter with any of the demonic sort of beings. They also had yet to encounter any living humans. Living being the key word because the rotting corpses of ones were everywhere.

It was truly a wretched sight, the freshest bodies being weeks old at the very least. The smell was also beyond horrible. Guts was almost surprised by it all, but honestly at this point in his life these sort of things were almost expected. His name was ‘Guts’ after all.

Roderick had been sick shortly after landing. He had been embarrassed by it, but no one could really blame him. This was just another city to Guts and the others, but this was home to Roderick. The closest thing Guts had to home had been the Band of the Hawk, and he’d reacted in a similar way when this had happened to them. If anything Roderick took it slightly better, because he held out hope.

“There could be others still alive, this is a big port city.” Roderick whispered to the group.

Another thing about the city was its near silence. Save the waves knocking broken ships against the docks, and Harpies flapping their ragged wings occasionally. The Harpies, as Schierke had identified, were gruesome creatures with the bodies of women, talons for feet, and large wings for arms. They had yet to truly see them up close, and thanks to the concealment spells the group was yet to be seen yet. Or at least that’s what they assumed due to having yet to be attacked.

Nobody responded to Roderick’s hope. They had seen this before, the eclipse, the Tower of Conviction and Albion, Flora’s Tree, Vrittanis, Isma’s island… Guts wondered how many other places would be so utterly destroyed. What else would Griffith destroy in the path of his dream? What would be left.

Guts resisted the urge to hold Casca closer. He didn’t like to think of himself as clingy, but he always felt better if he had contact with her. He didn’t need to worry about her wandering off anymore, but sometimes it felt if he couldn’t physically touch her she would just disappear. A silly thought, but one that persisted. And now in this more than ominous city he just wanted to get her out alive.

Doubly unfortunately she was standing with Farnese and Schierke at the moment, so it wasn’t like he could even really talk to her because of social convention; he was on the perimeter of their group, of his own volition of course. That and the constant threat of death.

Their goal in the city was to find any living people and make it to the rest of the continent, or at least that was Guts’ goal. Everyone was still following his lead for some reason; all he wanted to do was find Rickert, well, Casca wanted that too. The only one who Guts wasn’t sure about was Farnese and Serpico. Her betrothal to Roderick was still in action as far as they could tell, although a wedding still seemed a ways off as they weren’t close yet, and also they were walking through the corpse strewn streets of the capital city. Roderick was reasonable, there wasn’t any point in a political marriage if there was no kingdom, at least as far as Guts could tell, and things were looking hairy back at Farnese’s parents’ place, so that dynasty may have fallen as well. Guts didn’t have a mind for this political stuff, never had, so it just frustrated him.

Sure they owed Roderick for the boat ride, but wasn’t a magic elf world payment enough? That was a once in a lifetime experience.

“We should keep moving.” Serpico murmured, the rest all nodding in agreement.

Continuing the trek they wandered for another hour before hearing a buzzing sound. Slowly they approached the sound, drawing weapons and wondering if they should turn around, that was before they heard the very human scream.

Roderick was off like a shot, sword drawn. The fool. Guts closely followed, not wanting the prince to get himself killed. What he saw as he turned the corner was odd to say the least.

The buzzing turned out to be from the hundreds of teeth gnashing together from the hundreds of heads of a many headed rat. Or perhaps it was a bunch of monstrous rats with their tails entangled. It reminded Guts of a story he had heard a long time ago, about a discovery of a nest of rats that were all tangled together at the tail. It was similar, but He imagined that that Rat-king probably didn’t have hundreds swarming, or demonic glowing eyes. Didn’t much matter as it was now barring down on a young man.

The man screamed again as the Rat-king was about to lunge, but Roderick intercepted, stabbing into the creature. It bled, but the sword was swallowed up by the mass and it bared down on the both of them. That’s when Guts got there.

He swung the Dragon Slayer right threw the thing, cutting it in half. It writhed and squirmed, but after a moment the two halves got ahold of themselves and continued their attack.

No Harpies showed up at the noise, as the creature had started to emit harsh screeching cries. Perhaps they were too far from the sea, or the concealment spell, either way, Guts was grateful to deal with only one- er- two problems at a time.

The rest of the group arrived on the scene. Casca wielded Chrysaor for the first time, slicing one of the Rat-kings apart. Besides the demonstration back on Elfhelm, they had yet to see it in action as it was so lethal. It’s ability to cuts through anything was something truly impressive, and Guts was happy that Casca possessed such a competent weapon. The same thing happened, it just multiplied, leaving there to be three, although smaller Rat-kings.

“What?” Casca exclaimed.

The man screamed yet again, causing them all to look at him. He was unarmed, either by purpose, or the rat monster had consumed his sword like Roderick’s sword.

Guts wanted to slice and dice as he does, but if it’s just going to create more there needed to be a different strategy.

Suddenly one was cut and didn’t multiply. Burned slashes showed on the swarm, Isidro kept at it, not killing it, but actually hurting it.

“Umm...” Isidro said, holding his knife still, “I think fire hurts them.”

“Schierke!” Casca said, “Cast a fire spell!”

“There’s only water spirits nearby, and I’m not good at fire elemental spells!”

Farnese got a strange look in her eyes. The larger one of the the three Rat-kings lunged at Guts and on impulse he met the attack with his sword, creating another monster.

“Guts!” Casca yelled. God damn woman, he knew, but if it were between

Then the Rat-kings erupted into flames, all of them. They turned to see Farnese in deep concentration. She was physically shaking from the effort, her eyes reflecting the flames.

“Farnese-” Serpico said before being interrupted by Isma.

“Farnese that’s awesome!”

Farnese didn’t seem to hear any of it and Guts had a feeling that something was wrong.

The creatures were dead, turned to piles of ash, but Farnese was still in her trance.

“Farnese!” Schierke exclaimed, trying to approach Farnese. Serpico went to put a hand on her shoulder, but pulled it back as if burnt. No he was actually burnt. Farnese was starting to smoke.

“We need to anchor her!” Schierke said, “She’s lost her herself in the spell!”

“How do we do that?” Isidro asked.

“I can try, but I’ll need someone’s help, someone close to her.”

“I will help.” Serpico said, still looking rather frantic. “What do I need to do?”

“Just touch her and me, I will channel the energy.”

So Serpico took Schierke’s hand and they both hesitantly grabbed Farnese’s hands. Both entered a kind of trance as well, and Guts looked on with worry. He knew all too well what it was like to be caught inside one’s mind. He walked up behind Casca, who glanced back at him, before leaning back against him slightly. She still had her sword out.

“I don’t think this sort of thing has happened before.” Casca murmured.

“No, not to her.” Guts confirmed.

“I wish I could help.”

“Yeah, me too.”

They stayed in silence, vigilant to their friends and any other dangers that may arise. The man who they had saved was talking with Roderick. Roderick had been worried about Farnese, but whatever the man was saying must have been very important.

The minutes were tense as they waited for Farnese to return, until with a gasp, all three of them were back.

“Serpico you’re-?” Was the first thing Schierke asked.

Serpico cut her off with a look. That was odd. Farnese had a bloody nose and nearly collapsed, if it weren’t for Serpcio and Schierke to quickly catch her. The three of them seemed tired, but Farnese had it the worst, her eyes unfocused and her inability to stand.

Guts and Roderick stepped forward at the same time to offer support.

“Here, let me-

“I can-”

They said at the same time. Guts gestured for Roderick to go ahead.

Seeing how unsteady Serpico and Schierke were, Guts was going to offer to carry one of them,but Serpico beat him to speaking, “I’m fine, just need some food.” Something wasn’t right with him, but Guts wasn’t going to pry.

Schierke looked like she was going to make the same excuse, but Ivalerra interrupted, “Schierke you are a delicate young flower, you’re more drained than Serpico is!”

The person who really made the decision was Casca, who scooped up the young witch and placed her on his back. “I would just carry you myself, but I’m not stupidly strong like he is.”

“Did you just call me stupid?” Guts asked.

Casca narrowed her eyes at him. “Oh, don’t start that with me again.”

He just smiled and used his good arm to hold Schieke up better. Luckily he had already slung the Dragon Slayer on his back, his cloak protecting the girl from the sharp edges.

“Thank you.” She said quietly.

“Take a nap if you can.” Guts said. “Rest is gonna be hard to come by.”

She murmured a quiet, “Mmhmm.”

Roderick introduced the man as Wemba, and what came next was everything they were searching for.

“There’s not many of us left, and even less in good health and able age. We’re hiding in the sewers under the city.” Wemba explained, “Supplies are… never enough, and I was sent to try and find anything, but was attacked.”

“How are you able to stay hidden?” Casca asked.

“The sewers, they were repurposed tunnels from a time long ago. They say elves carved them.”

“Yup!” Puck said, “Elves are the best at like everything.”

“Can you take us there?” Roderick asked, still carrying Farnese’s limp form.

“I think I can show the prince of Ith our hiding hole.” The man said.

“Good man.” Roderick smiled, the first genuine one since entering the city.

So they followed the man further into the city.

Chapter Text

At the sight of Guts, the old woman who must’ve been holding watch screamed.

“Wemba, behind you-” She shouted, “One of those monsters!”

Wemba looked behind him at Guts in his Berserker armor, still carrying Schierke.

“No, he’s-” Wemba tried to explain, but the woman took no heed, running further into the tunnels. “-with us.” He finished lamely. To Guts’ confused face he explained, “We haven’t seen new people in…” He drifted off as if trying to keep track of time. “... a while.”

Guts just nodded in understanding and let Isidro and Puck take point, falling into step with Casca. Isidro ran ahead with Puck flying after.

“Did she actually fall asleep?” Csaca asked quietly.

“I think so.” Guts answered, carefully shifting his grip on Schierke. “She must have been more tired than she let on.”

“I didn’t even think of the concealment spell and protection charms, she’s very strong.”

“Yeah.”

They continued to walk further into the cave, Wemba trying to keep up with Isidro. Guts wondered how much farther they had to go, the sewers had rather low ceilings, so for most of it he’d been ducking. Casca was having none of the trouble he was having, but she did have an upset expression on her face.

“You okay?” Guts asked.

“What?” She asked, coming back to the present, “No, I’m fine.” Then a moment later admitted, “I was just remembering the last time I was in a sewer.”

The rescue of Griffith. Guts should’ve guessed, but he could never tell what was going to trigger a memory for her.

“Well… at least there are no assassins after us this time.” He was not used to being the optimistic one, not that Casca ever was. Rickert always looked on the bright side; Guts hoped that flame of hope still live within him.

She smiled, although not with her eyes. Guts didn’t know how to deal with this; he wasn’t good at the whole touchy feely stuff, so he stayed quiet but offered her the arm not holding up Schierke, “Do you wanna hold hands?”

It took her a moment, but then she remembered and a true smile erupted on her face, she accepted his hand even if it was the metal one. Guts was disappointed that it wasn’t his real hand, although even if it had been they wouldn’t have felt much between the armor and bandages and gloves and calluses. Still, it was frustrating being around people even more that the boat, absolutely no alone time. Guts wasn’t going to complain though. He would never.

“We’ll be there soon.” Wemba said, “Try to, um,” He nervously glanced at Guts, “No chance you could be less…?”

“Scary?” Puck finished. “Sorry no can do, that’s just his face.”

“Oookay.” Wemba said, visibly uncomfortable, avoiding looking at Guts.

They arrived at stone doors, solid and decidedly closed.

“Heyyy! Ith people!” Isidro yelled, “Let us in!”

“Isidro.” Casca scolded.

“Uhh, Granny?” Wemba said, rapping softly on the door. “I found some, well-” Roderick stepped forward, placing a hand on Wemba’s shoulder.

“Roderick, Prince of Ith has returned.” Roderick announced, his voice becoming more regal. A funny thought when he carried the still unconscious form of Farnese. “I’m sorry it took me so long.”

There was silence and then a voice came from a grate at the top of the doors, “...How do we know you’re not lying.”

“Open the door and you will see.”

More silence.

“How many of you are there?”

“Ten.” Roderick said, and then reconsidered, “Wait, just humans? Or-”

“Hah! So there are inhumans among you. Can’t fool, Bagweatha the wise.”

“For the last time Granny,” Wemba said, “You can’t just call yourself the wise, you have to actually be wise.”

“I am wise.” The woman argued back, “I’ve outlived at least three kings, would you not call that wise?”

“That’s lucky.” Serpico muttered, much to Guts’ surprise; he hadn’t noticed how close he’d gotten. Serpico needed a rest probably the most out of them, well beside the two that were already getting theirs.

“There are three men.” Roderick started.

“Hey, I’m not a kid, count me with you.” Isidro argued.

“Er, three and a half.” He amended, “two women, two girls, and two fairies. Now would you please let us in.”

“Two fairies you say…” The woman said, “They’re good? Not evil like-”

“Yes! They are good. They can heal. We have other healers in our groups, and able fighters.”

“And you claim to be the Sailing Prince of Ith?”

“He is the Sailing Prince of Ith.” Wemba interrupted. “Granny I nearly died. I would be if it were for them, so royalty or not, let the people who saved my life in.”

More silence and then the doors started to swing inwards. Cautiously, they entered.

Once inside the doors shut behind. Inside wasn’t much different than outside, still musty and, well, a sewer. There were beds and tables set up, chests and weapons, the necessities of living. A few sheets hanging up acting as walls. And everything was dirty.

There weren’t many people about in this section, but the ones that could be seen were pathetic looking. All greasy hair, and almost emaciated bodies, tired eyes and weakness in their muscles. It was almost, if not as bad as, the slum in the shadow of the Tower of Conviction.

The people turned their eyes from where they rested, seemingly unmoved by the older woman’s frantic arrival, as if they had no more drive for life. They looked wearily upon Guts and the others, but mostly Guts. It made sense, He was over 6ft. carrying a young girl, and dressed in pitch black armor. Casca drew in slightly closer.

If he was remembering Albion, she must be too, and Guts had no idea what she had been subjugated to there. He trusted that the woman who had watched over her and named her Elaine did her best to protect her, but even she was just one woman. If he could’ve given Casca a reassuring squeeze on her hand he would’ve, but it was the prosthetic.

And unfortunately since he was Guts, he was still on alert. Rest time was over.

As they went along, the people started to notice Roderick. Whispers began to rise up.

“Could it be?” “He disappeared,” “The sailing Prince of Ith.” “But wouldn’t that make him-”

At the end of the tunnel there was a room. “This is our… office.” Wemba explained, “It's where we make decisions.” He held the door open for Roderick and Farnese to enter, and then Isidro and Puck followed to Wemba’s surprise. Serpico trudged in, dead on his feet, and Isma watched him closely ready to help him should fall. Wemba seemed to be waiting for Guts to enter, as he seemed confused that the rest of group entered. When he finally did, Casca letting go of his hand to go in first, Wemba tried to say something but stopped himself.

The room was a little crowded with all of them in it, but the only annoying part was when Guts’ head kept bumping the ceiling.

Roderick had placed Farnese down, taking off his outer coat to serve as a pillow. Casca lifted Schierke from Guts’ back and lay her down next to Farnese.

“They must’ve really used some power to warrant this.” Roderick said. “It’s a wonder you’ve stayed on your feet as much as you have.” He said to Serpico.

“I’m tired, but,” Serpico replied, “But I wasn’t much more than a conduit, an emotional anchor. Not much of my own power was actually used.”

“I see.” Roderick said, his eyes lingering on the two sleeping mages.

Wemba and his grandma also entered the room, closing the door behind them. The only light came from the lantern hanging in the center over a table and Puck. Ivalera was sleeping under Schierke’s hat.

“You do look like the prince.” Bagweatha, taking a closer look at Roderick. She then reached out and pinched his cheek. “Strong constitution too. Good.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, but where is everyone?” Roderick asked.

“Everyone?”

“Everyone else?” He clarified. “Did they escape? Are there more hideouts like this one?”

The old woman grew rather morose. “I think you misunderstand the situation; the only reason we survived is because I have been prepping since I was younger than you. I only wish it had happened when I was younger so I could be more help. Luckily I have my daft grandson to help me.”

“Granny.” Wemba complained.

“But surely my father and brothers would’ve tried to- people must’ve escaped.”

“Prince, They could’ve, we don’t know. You’ve seen the bodies. Perhaps they escaped, but, we know that your oldest brother is dead.”

“What? How?”

“Somehow his mistress came to be hidden here. She saw everything.”

“And there is no doubt that she is lying!?”

“Shh.” Casca hushed him as his voice had been increasing steadily. “Roderick, let her answer your questions.”

“Glad one of you has sense in you.” Bagweatha muttered. “She’s sleeping at the moment, so you’ll have to wait to ask her questions; she’s our other runner for supplies beyond Wemba.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, but how many of you are there?” Casca asked. Roderick was getting too emotionally compromised, not that anyone could blame him.

“I can tell, as long as you’re sure we’re all aligned with humanity here.” the woman said, narrowing her eyes on Guts and Puck.

Casca must’ve assumed she was just referring to Puck and replied, “Puck is on our side, he helped us find a healer for me. If it weren't for him I’d still be insane.”

“That’s all fine and good, but what about him.” The old woman pointed at Guts, who had just bumped his head on the ceiling again. Anger at the ceiling must’ve been expressed on his face, enhancing his normal grim expression.

“Guts?” Casca asked, surprised. “What about him?” It took her a moment, “What? You think he’s a- That’s ridiculous!”

“Casca, it’s-” Guts tried to placate.

“No, it’s not fine!” she was about to say more when Wemba interrupted.

“Be him human or not, He saved my life. So did those two.” He pointed at Farnese, “I think.”

“Still, he doesn’t look-”

“Who gives a damn how he looks!” Casa interrupted.

“Mind your tounge, Miss-”

“Casca!” Casca exclaimed angrily. The two women who before had been communicating the best were now at each other's throats.

“Perhaps some introductions are in order.” Roderick said, composed enough to try and facilitate the talk. “As you all know I’m Prince Roderick. For the past year we’ve been on a quest to heal Casca’s mind, which we’ve completed.” He added. “After that we continued our original journey to Ith.”

He looked at Isidro next, who’d been uncharacteristically quiet this whole time. For good measure, since Isma was leaning rather heavily on him, she must’ve been tired. Leaning in a way that her chest on him, obviously putting him into a tizzy. “Umm, I’m Isidro, and this is Isma. She’s a merrow.”

“A merrow?” Wemba asked, “But don’t they have, ya’know,” He made a motion with his hands, “Tails?”

“She does.” Isidro said, “But only in water.”

Moving on to Serpico who was leaning on a wall near Farnese and Schierke. “I’m Serpico. Attendant to Lady Farnese de Vandimion.”

“Lady Farnese?”

Roderick took over introductions for Farnese and Schierke as Serpico’s talking had taken what energy he had left.

“This is Lady Farnese, my betrothed and apprentice sorceress. And this is her teacher and witch, Schierke. They performed some very taxing magic to get us here safe.”

“A witch?”

“It was incredible granny, she summoned fire and burnt one of those rat-kings to ash.” Wemba said.

“And this, as you already know, is Casca, former commander of the Band of the Hawk.”

Casca just glared.

“And this is-”

“I’m Guts.” Guts said, finding no use in someone else speaking to him. “I fight the inhumans and I protect Casca.”

Bagweatha eyed them all suspiciously, but before she could respond the door opened.

“Why didn’t you wake me!” the new comer exclaimed, “The first new faces in years and nobody thinks it’s important enough to wake me?”

“Pika,” Wemba started.

“Oh, don’t start with me. And the Sailing Prince of Ith?” She said, going pale at the sight of Roderick.

“This is Pika, the former mistress of the crown prince of Ith.” Bagweatha explained. She turned to her, “You just missed introductions.”

“Is my brother-” Roderick said, “Did he really-”

“Yes.” She said sadly.

“Then how are you still alive?” Guts asked.

“I- I honestly don’t know. I just started running. I kept running until I fell down into a pit of filth and they must’ve lost me. Then Wemba found me.”

“What of my father, and mother?” Roderick asked, “Or-”

“I don’t know, but if you’ve seen the palace…” From his expression she could tell, “You haven’t. Don’t.”

Roderick’s normal bravado was gone, a lost expression on his face.

“So, if his brother is dead, and the rest of his family missing…” Isidro pieced together, “Then he would be king.”

“Isidro.” Casca admonished softly.

Realizing what he’d said, Isidro said, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean-”

“It’s fine.” Roderick said, his voice weak, “There are bigger fish to fry than my feelings, we must plan for the future.”

“What future?” Bagweatha asked, “This is the end times.”

“Now surely you don’t believe that.” Puck said, “Why survive all this time if you think it’s pointless?”

“Because I’ve been a struggle all my life. I’m gonna die kicking and screaming.”

“She would, the crazy witch.” Wemba muttered, “No offence to present company.”

“Boy.” his grandma smacked him upside the head.

For obvious reasons Bagweatha’s statement about struggling resonated with Guts.

“But if you had the chance to get out of here, would you?” Roderick persisted.

The three people of Ith all shared a look, nodding slowly in agreement.

“Then what would you say if I said we have a boat.”

“I’d say,” Bagweatha said, “Long live the King.”

Chapter Text

When the head count was finished there were 26 people in all living in the sewers. Besides the three they had already met, there were only 3 or four other able bodied adults, the rest were cripples or old or children.

Farnese and Schierke woke up around the time almost everyone else fell asleep. Roderick filled them in on everything discussed. Schierke went to rest some more, quoting Guts of all people on how precious sleep was, but Farnese couldn’t sleep.

What she had done before, she’d never felt anything like it. She had simply willed the fire into existence and it burned with the might of hellfire. She really was a witch now, not that she wasn’t before, but causing something, even if it was a horrible rat monster, to spontaneously combust was a very witch-y move. And she was so out of control, so powerful in that moment she would have gladly burnt up to truly be one with the magic. It was terrifying, and she couldn’t go to sleep yet, not when the dream world was so close to the magic one. She may fall back in.

Farnese spotted Roderick sitting next to the wall, his head in his hands. Almost unconsciously she made her way over. Minding Casca had given her some sense of how to comfort someone, but Roderick’s situation was totally different. Still, he was kind to her and as his fiancee it was her duty. That was strange to think of… Herself as a fiance, a future wife. And along with future wife came the thoughts of future kids.

Woah.

Where did that come from?

She was standing in front of him now and decided to sit next to him. He didn’t look up; perhaps he was asleep? But she could see his eyes were open.

“Roderick?” She asked gently.

“Hmm?” He tried, lifting his head and trying for a winning grin, but it fell flat.

“Do you, do you want to talk about it?”

Roderick shook his head but said, “I- I feel like I should be crying, or feeling worse, but I just feel hollow inside, like nothing matters.” Farnese could relate, while admittedly not losing her entire family and home, when her entire life had turned out to be a lie she knew the loss. “I just keep replaying my last moments with them, and- I wonder if I could’ve done anything. I know I probably couldn’t, but, just…”

Farnese placed a hand on his shoulder, “You’re saving the last of Ith, aren’t you. This must be what you’re meant to do. How it was all meant to be.”

“Fate, then?” A small smile came to his face, “Do you suppose fate brought us together too?”

Farnese didn’t know how to respond. She had never been asked her opinion on these sorts of things before. “...Perhaps.” She replied at least partially earnestly. Fate wasn’t something she thought of now that day by day was as hard as it was.

“I’m also, if completely honest, thankful that you took me on your journey, which just makes me feel like a coward you know?” He sighed, “I ran away when my kingdom, my family needed me most.”

“We’re all cowards or we’re crazy.” She said. “The will to survive is a strong one.”

“Farnese.” Roderick said suddenly, “How do you feel about our betrothal?”

“... well… I…” She started.

“You can be honest. I’ve tried my best to be good to you, but women’s hearts have a way of staying a mystery. I won’t have any hurt feelings, especially with all that’s,” He exhaled, “With all that’s happened.”

“I feel… it is a very good match. But…” She closed her eyes, “I don’t love you.”

“I figured as much.” She was surprised at his non-reaction. Were men normally so understanding?

“I don’t hate you by any means.” She said, “I’m rather fond of you, and I’m sure I could-” Why was she talking? To make him feel better? Well, he had lost everything, now possibly a fiance as well.

“I had hoped we could’ve grown fond of eachother, and maybe we still can, but right now…” his eyes focused on something across the room, “You only have eyes for a certain swordsman.”

Farnese blushed, she couldn’t deny that. Even if Guts and Casca were- were close, that didn’t mean- She was a horrible person wasn’t she.

“Serpico.” Roderick said.

“What?” She asked, surprised, “No- He’s-” Farnese loved Serpico, yes, but being in love with Serpico? She could only cringe at the wrongness of it. Not that he was ugly or anything, he was quite handsome, but just, they weren’t like that. It was then she saw the teasing glint in Roderick’s eyes.

He let out a small laugh, “You’re cute when you’re flustered.” Her face turned more red, “But seriously, I know that they don’t want to go back on the boat, that there’s some place further in land they need to get to, and I know you want to go with them.” Was he saying what she thought he was saying? “No.” He corrected, “You need to go with them, just as I need to stay with my people. So what I’m trying to say is, our betrothal doesn’t have to stand.”

An out? He was giving her an out? What was she feeling? Relief? Sadness? “I-” She started.

“Even though, at this point you’d be a queen if you did marry me.” He said bittersweetly.

“Roderick.” Farnese started, “I can’t pretend I was excited to get married, but there was a deal, you let us on your boat, so it’s only right I marry you.”

“This adventure was payment enough, and you’ve saved my life.” Roderick said, “I- I won’t hold you to anything, it hardly matters at this point.”

“I, I still don’t like going back on a deal, so maybe… maybe we compromise?”

“Compromise how?”

“Well, we’re leaving each other and the world is rather chaotic right now, what if, our betrothal is on pause until we meet again, but only if we haven’t met anyone else yet.”

“Farnese that sounds like a marvelous plan.” His normal personality shown through, “Goddess of Luck? More like Goddess of Diplomacy. You sure you don’t want to be queen yet?”

Farnese blushed at that, but rested her head on his shoulder. It seemed she still wasn’t fully recovered yet either. “Maybe someday.” She replied as she nodded off, finally tired enough and secure enough to fall asleep.

Roderick didn't seem to mind, and whispered, “Thank you, my lady.”

Chapter Text

With everyone rested up, they set out for the day, ready to leave this cursed city behind. It was decided to travel together a ways until they had to part.

It was slow moving with those from Ith who were too weak to move, but they were carted along by the one who could move. Isidro was near the back of the group with Schierke and Isma, the fairies fluttering around almost carelessly. For once Isidro wasn’t as jubial as normal, the atmosphere of Ith really bringing him down, and the fight in had been easy, much too easy. He just knew the way out wasn’t going to go the same way. Their group, the original one he didn’t worry too much about, they had made it through some hairy stuff, but these people… The only reason most of them survived as long as they did was because they hid.

Not that tricks didn’t work, or weren’t useful, but for your entire strategy to be bluffing? It was risky to say the least.

Schierke cast another concealment spell, and Isidro hoped she didn’t pass out like last time; magic was weird like that. He was lucky his knife didn’t draw power the same way, no with his knife it was more about becoming in tune with the little salamander fire spirit things.

Making their way towards the docks, there would be a gate near there where Guts’ group could separate and continue inland. It was risky to split up, as most of Roderick’s group weren’t able to fight or move around very easily, and it would be harder for the charms to work without a skilled magic user among them. So far there was one boy who had some aptitude for magic. There was a little battle over such a large responsibility being given to one so young, but he was the only one really able. Although all he really could do was maintain the spell, he couldn’t cast or fortify anything.

Isidro thought it was sort of dumb there was even a conversation about it, but then he guessed these people didn’t know much about magic. Not that he knew much more admittedly, but enough to know Schierke despite her age knew her stuff.

They mosyed through the streets, everyone starting at the slightest movement.

“So who exactly is this Rickert guy?” Isma asked him, quietly so as not to put a strain on the concealment spell.

“He was in the Band of the Hawk.” Isidro explained, “I think he was like, a commander or something, I don’t know.” Everybody knew the Band of the Hawk, the White Hawk Griffith, the Lady Commander, and of course the Captain of the Raiders, the Hundred Man Slayer, everyone else… Well it wasn’t Isidro’s fault there weren’t more stories about them.

“So he must be really strong.” Isma concluded.

“I mean, I guess, he must've survived whatever Guts and Casca did.”

Before Isma could say anything more, one of the people on the carts was snatched into the talons of one of the harpies. Spears were stabbed, but the only thing that caused it to let go of the woman was the shot fired from Guts’ cannon arm. The boom from the cannon echoed throughout the street, causing everything to become very quiet, very still in the moment that followed. And then all hell broke loose.

Harpies dive bombed the traveling party, letting out terrible screeches.

“What happened?!” Isidro asked Schieke, drawing his knife and sword.

“I don’t- I don’t-” She tried, but a harpy dove at her, the golem she had summoned just moments before punching the thing out of the air. Isidro finished it off quickly, keeping an eye on Schierke and Isma. They didn’t really need his help, but out of water Isma’s abilities were not as applicable and Schierke generally needed time for her truly powerful spells. It was the people around them that really needed help, but Isidro didn’t know what more he could do for them. They were fighting as well as they could, but they weren’t fighters, most of them at least.

From across the way, Isidro could see the old lady, Bagweatha, fending off two with her spear, and her grandson wasn’t too far away, protecting a younger looking child.

“We need to keep moving!” Casca yelled over the chaos, “the boats aren’t that far-” She had been fighting a harpy when something new entered the stage of battle, charging right into her. Isidro couldn’t see exactly what happened, but when she went down everything went from bad to worse.

A strange creature, it looked almost like a whale, but with feet and monstrous teeth charged through smashing into the buildings on the narrow street. Casca must have been flung to the side, not trampled completely, as she seemed to be in one piece, but she still wasn’t moving.

Guts, who up until this point was swatting the harpies out of the sky like flies, let out an almost animalistic yell.

“Casca!” Farnese yelled. Serpico's cloak and sword seemed the perfect weapon against the harpies, as quick and agile as they were, he was protecting a group of them including Farnese who seemed to be trying to erect another barrier. Although it was Roderick who held her back from rushing to Casca’s side. Puck was already there, although Isidro couldn’t tell what the exact situation was.

“Guts!” Schierke shouted, trying to get his attention. Slicing another harpy, Isidro turned to look at Guts whose movements were becoming even more erratic. Oh no, he was going full Berserker again, and without Schierke to keep him sane. The helm kept creeping up his neck, but then Isma let out a scream.

A harpy had grazed her, letting loose a ribbon of blood on her shoulder. Her eyes caught his and widened, “Isidro! Behind-”

Before she could finish her warning, Isidro was already dodging the talons of the nasty bird monster woman. However all he could return were some singed feathers.

The whale monster was still rampaging, so Isidro and his group did as much as they could to avoid it and get to the larger group with Farnese. They were moving at this point, getting close to the docks and to possible freedom from all these attacks. But Casca- they couldn’t have-

Guts surpassed all of them in running, it shouldn’t be surprising, but he was wearing full armor and had Casca slung over his shoulder.

“He didn’t lose himself.” Isidro noted.

“I wonder…” Schierke started, but there was little time for talk as they had reached a small overpass, hiding under it they had lost the monsters, temporarily.

“This is the point we would have separated, that intersection up there.” Wemba said, pointing forward. “Take the right, you should get to a gate out of the city.”

Guts was still panting, and nodded, the wild look not having left his eye. He started to walk that way.

“The docks are straight.” Wemba continued. “Wait where are you- surely you’re not going to brave the wilderness…” He trailed off after having met Guts’ gaze.

“We really wouldn’t be opposed to you joining us.” Roderick said. And as much as he was talking to Guts, Isidro could tell he was talking to Farnese as well, almost pleading with her. She shook her head slightly.

Guts still hadn’t responded, looking off into the distance, adjusting his hold on Casca to something less like a sack of potatoes, more bridal style. Then the whale monster rumbled form around the corner, making their decision for them.

“We get out of here.” Guts said roughly, and left. He was single minded and it showed. Nothing could lay a hand on him, or nothing would’ve in a normal human battle, that's for sure.

Isidro was pulling Isma along with him, Schierke close behind. Farnese and Serpico were right on their tails, granted pulling ahead because of their adult bodies.

The arch way was smashed casing rubble to fly everywhere, and the monster to crash into more buildings in it’s blind rage. It seemed like a whole wall was coming down. Their group separated from the natives of ith and took the left path. And they just kept running. Guts was tireless, soon out pacing the rest of them.

They kept running until they were out of the gate. Miraculously the seals must’ve held on Casca’s and Guts’ brands. Once he’d had time to think about it, Isidro realized the reason for their uninterrupted escape, the people of Ith were weaker, were easier to pick off. And there were more of them. They had abandoned them essentially to die. Isidro didn’t know how he felt about that. Bad, obviously, but also what could he really have done; he could barely watch out for himself, much less all of those people, but maybe he could’ve-

It was moment like these that Isidro realized how hard it must be to be a truly good person. To be a hero who always thought of others first.

Eventually they came to a stop in the middle of an abandoned field, crops and weeds growing together in the unkemptness of the past years.

“How is Casca- is she-” Farnese asked, rushing to Guts’ side. He was cradling Casca in his arms, trying to be delicate. He looked scared and tired.

“She’s still breathing.” Puck answered, hovering near her neck, a hand on her pulse. “Her heartbeat is strong too. I’ve already used some dust, but I’m no doctor.”

“It only you paid attention in elf school.” Ivalera huffed.

“There’s no such thing as Elf school.”

“Well if there was you’d be a dropout.” She declared.

“Enough.” Farnese said. “Guts, could you put her down?”

At the sound of his name, Guts looked up finally, as if just realizing where he was. Silently he place her on the stepped down grass.

Schierke made her way over and held her staff over Casca, closing her eyes. After a few moments she said, “She should be fine soon, her odd is still strong, however…” Schierke trailed off.

“However what?!” Isidro asked.

Schierke opened her eyes and blinked, “Uh, nothing, she just has a broken rib and minor head trauma.”

They all let out a collective sigh of relief.

“That’s… good.” Serpico said, glancing at Guts who was still obviously freaking out. “I don’t think anything in the city will follow us out of it, at least that was my impression.”

Farnese nodded, although her face was sad. “I- I didn’t see what happened to the others, do you-” The grim look on their faces seemed to confirm her fears.

“I just, all I could think to do was run.” Isma admitted. “And then it was only because Isidro reminded me.” she turned to him, “Thank you for that.”

“They were close to the docks, and the boats had more charms on them.” Farnese said, perhaps trying to convince herself. “They must’ve…”

“... I hope the boat stuck around.” Isma murmured, “They seemed nervous.”

“But the oceans seemed safer.” Schierke argued, “Perhaps the Falcon of Light’s influence hasn’t reached that far.”

“Griffith never did have any ocean battle experience.” Guts said, surprising them all. His eye was still fixed on Casca, an odd smiled fixed on his face. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he planned to conquer the land first before even thinking of the sea.”

They all were quiet for a moment, letting everything catch up. Isidro’s mind was still running wild, as fast as his feet had. “Hey, Guts?” Isidro asked, “Uhh… how come you, like didn’t go all berserk?”

“What?” Guts asked, gently he moved a piece of Casca’s hair out of her face. “Oh, I don’t know exactly.” He said gruffly. “I just, saw her and remembered a promise. I’m tired of being weak.”

No one was sure how to respond to that. Weak was not a word any of them would use to describe Guts, not that they would really argue with him. It was then that they noticed the blood seeping from his arm, well his partial arm.

“You’re injured.” Schierke said, rushing from Casca’s side to his.

He looked down to his arm as if just noticing it. “Must’ve been from the cannon… but I think Casca should-”

“Farnese can continue that, it’s really not that bad.”

“Oh wait,” Isidro said to Isma, “Your shoulder.”

He noticed while her shirt was still torn, the skin under seemed almost fully healed.

“Oh, Ivalerra took care of it.”

“That’s good.”

The sun was getting low in the sky and the night chill was already creeping in.

“We need to find some shelter soon.” Farnese said.

“There’s a well nearby.” Isma said.

“How do you know?” Isidro asked.

“I don’t know.” She said, “I just did. Like the water could call out to me.”

“And where there’s a well, there should be some sort of human settlement nearby.” Farnese finished.

And so they set off into the coming twilight, leaving the ruins of Ith behind. Isidro couldn't help but look back, and glancing at Isma, he had a feeling this wasn’t the only time he would see the ocean.

Chapter Text

“Wait, Schierke,” Isidro asked, “Why did the spell break; it worked up until that point.”

“I’m not entirely sure… It wasn’t very strong, but the first time we went through, nothing gave us the slightest notice so I thought it would be fine the second time.”

“Do you, do you think they could have been planning it.” He asked grimly.

“What do you mean?”

“Could the harpies and stuff, could they have known that there were more people in the city, and then could they have known we were trying to find people, and then could they have waited because they knew we would bring them back?”

“They didn’t see us land. I know that.” She pulled her legs to her chest hugging them. “I think, I think they were watching Wemba, waiting for him to slip up.”

“If they knew where it was, why didn’t they just attack?”

“Harpies are wind spirits, rather perverted ones, but wind spirits all the same, they probably couldn’t sense them because they were underground and because of the elf magic, but knew they were there because of Wemba.”

Isidro glanced over at Farnese who was finally asleep. The whole time they could tell she was worried, probably about Roderick. Which confused Isidro just a bit, because while of course everyone worried about Roderick, Farnese had it the worst. Isidro thought she liked Guts. Ah well, Girls were weird.

Guts hadn’t slept yet, he couldn’t. Casca still hadn’t woken up yet, not to mention this was the first night out in the open, in the hell that he had in lived for four years. His body did need rest, maybe. With the Berserker armor he couldn’t really tell, not the pain or hunger, or anything really. The only serious injury he’d gained from the battle was a dislocated and broken arm from his own cannon and then continuing to use the arm, and he wasn’t aware it was there until Schierke had pointed it out.

Remembering that battle was strange for a number of reasons, the biggest one: his grip on his sanity. When he thought he lost her, he could feel the beast breaking loose. He was going to hack and kill anything he could get his swords through, purge the whole city if he had to, but then there was a light and a voice that at first he thought was Schierke, but it wasn’t.

It was a light he’d felt before and through it he knew Casca was alive. Killing everything wouldn’t save her, but if he could get her out of there, get her to safety where the witches and fairies could work their magic. The light seemed to encourage this line of thought, causing the beast to cower slightly, become defensive. And if Casca was still alive, he had to stay alive because she wanted him to.

Casca suddenly inhaled, fluttering her eyes as she woke. Guts sat up slightly ready to help her in any way.

“...Guts?” She asked drowsily. “What… Where are we?”

“Some abandoned farm, west of Ith.”

She brought a hand to her head and looked confused, “Why am I not…”

“Magic, remember?”

“Right. Magic.” She smiled, “Where is everyone?”

“Sleeping.” Guts thought a moment, “Maybe we should be a little quieter.”

“No I meant everyone, did they-” The look on Guts face told her everything she needed to know. “...I see. Did you see it happen?”

“No.” He admitted, “But I wouldn’t get my hopes up.”

“I don’t think I ever apologised to him about what I said.” Casca said.

“What did you have to say sorry to him for?”

“You were there! Were you not paying attention?”

Guts shrugged. Even if he was paying attention he might’ve just thought it wasn’t important so didn’t care to remember, “I mean, I don’t think he cared or else it would’ve been a bigger deal, right?”

Casca worried at her lip, averting her eyes from his. “Why does everyone who helps us ends up dead?” She asked in a quiet voice.

That took Guts aback. After thinking a few moments Guts responded, “I don’t think it’s just us. This world isn’t kind to those who are kind.”

Serpico was having trouble sleeping.

In the morning he was going to blame it on Guts and Casca talking, which while they were talking it wasn’t especially loud, and Serpico had certainly slept through worse, what it really was was his experiences in Ith. He hadn’t told anyone, because he couldn’t explain it, and didn’t want the worry, because surely it didn’t mean anything.

Just because the he could understand what the harpies were saying didn’t mean anything bad, right? Like it was just because of his connection to the wind spirits, and harpies were bird-like and birds flew in the air which was where the wind was, and that was why. He didn’t need to tell Farnese and have her worry more, she was already beating herself up about Roderick and the fire incident. Both of which really weren’t her fault.

Schierke explained later how easy it was for magic users to lose themselves in the flow of magic, like getting swept into a swift flowing river, and from Serpico’s brief stint as a conduit he could see what she meant. Basically it was a mistake any beginner could make even if it scared the life out of Serpico. And with regards to Roderick that was just a nasty situation.

The Harpies didn’t even say anything interesting… just everyone's deepest fears and secrets, so stuff he already knew or could figure out. Well, that and “Kill kill kill,” and “Rip, tear,” Really monstrous stuff.

Maybe if he heard it again he’d do something, but for right now there were enough stressors in everyone’s life; he didn’t need to add any more.

Isma fell asleep almost immediately, dreaming of an ocean that felt very far away.

Puck, exhausted from his duties as main healer, protector, and leader of the group, slept in Guts’ bag as it lay on the ground to the side. He was happy to be out of Elfhelm, because as horrible as the outside world was, at least things were happening. Unlike elfhelm where everything was exactly the same idyllic forest day in and day out.

He hugged Betchi closer and fell asleep.

Chapter Text

The nausea hit her again like a punch to the gut. Casca hunched over, waiting for it to pass or for her to throw up. After waiting for what felt like hours, but in all probability was just a few minutes, she stood up, thankfully not having thrown up her lunch.

Casca hoped whatever this illness was it would pass soon; it was hindering their travels and causing the others to worry about her. Well, worry about her more than they normally would. She didn’t have a fever, so it hopefully wasn’t a disease, but maybe something she ate? But the entire group had been eating the same things for the past week and none of them were sick. And besides the nausea, bloating, and fatigue, Casca was fine.

Fixing herself, Casca walked back through the brush and leaves back to the group where they waited. Before she was within sight of them she heard Isidro loudly complain, “How many pee breaks does she need to take? What’s she trying to do, flood the forest?”

Casca felt herself flush slightly, out of annoyance more than anything else and as she joined them, gave him a thwack on the head, reprimanding, “As many times as I need to, besides is that anyway to speak about your teacher?”

After losing a glaring match between the two of them, Isidro looked away, kicking the dirt and muttered, “No, sorry.”

Not totally satisfied with his response, but willing to accept it, Casca nodded and joined Farnese as the group continued their journey.

That boy… while on the Seahorse, Casca had become his teacher, as much for her benefit as his. She was used to dealing with cocky young men, but no one in the hawks was as vexing as Isidro. He kept trying to find shortcuts and ways around training, quoting something Guts had said about trying to find his own style. Having your own style of fighting was important, but having basics would also make learning everything else much easier.

He should count himself luck he had someone willing to train him. Casca certainly did as it gave her a chance to survive and rise in the ranks. Almost everything Casca knew she had learned from… Griffith. And with that she felt sick to her stomach, but for different reasons entirely.

Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Her inner mantra continued.

Because with as much progress she had made, it was much easier to just not think about it. Although even that wasn’t very easy. Because if she thought about him, that meant she also thought about Pippin and Jeaudo, and-

“Casca,” Farnese asked, braking her out of her thoughts, “Are you feeling well?”

“I’m fine.” Casca said, collecting herself, “Just- I’m fine.”

That answer didn’t placate Farnese as she still looked worried. Casca ignored this and put more concentration into walking. Her frustrations were mounting, which did nothing to ease her symptoms or her thoughts. Why couldn’t things just go back to the way they were before, in that golden age where things were hard, but so much more simpler. Why did she have to deal with all of this?

No, bad Casca, she scolded herself, its that mentality that started this whole mess. Still it was tempting to back to her regressed state, because as nightmarish as it was, there was a strange sense of peace. Like she knew she was in a dream and nothing could actually hurt her. But she would never go back. Never.

“Could I examine you when we make camp for the night?” Farnese asked. Before Caca could respond with another unconvincing ‘I’m fine’ Farnese said, “It's more for my sake, training and all.”

Reluctantly Casca agreed. If anything was actually wrong with her, which there probably wasn’t anything major, magic could surely fix it, right?

They stopped for the night in an abandoned building, the least damaged structure in the deserted mountain town. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time they had come across such a town.

After the merging of the worlds, small towns (well pretty much all human settlements, but they had only seen small towns besides Ith) were wiped out. The people from as far as they could tell had either fled or been killed by what must’ve been roving hordes of demons. Possibly roaming because there had only been a few weak monsters in the ones they stayed in. The partial skeletons in the streets on this town left little to the imagination as to what happened to its citizens.

“Are you sure this place is safe?” Asked Isma, pulling a cobweb from her hair.

“For now at least.” Guts said. The house was split into two main rooms, one with a hearth that they used to cook dinner and another that must’ve been a bedroom or something.

They all lay out their bed rolls in the hearth room, preparing for the night. Protective charms were cast on the building, although with the two mages going to sleep they wouldn’t be as strong. Casca wanted nothing more but to fall asleep, but she had promised Farnese that examination.

“Just lie down, it should be quick.” Farnese told her. Casca obliged and lay on her bed roll in the bedroom room. Farnese hovered her hands above Casca’s abdomen, a warm glow emanating from them. It wasn’t quite healing, more like probing. Farnese’s calm, but focused looked grew more confused as the minutes went by.

“I don’t understand.” She muttered, probably to herself.

“What’s wrong?” Casca asked.

“That’s just it, as far as I can tell, nothing.” Schierke, having noticed Farnese’s magic, had wandered over. “Teacher, could you?” Farnese asked.

“Of course.” Schierke moved to the opposite side of Casca and repeated Farnese’s motions. After a few more moments of her own probing, Schierke moved her hands to Casca’s forehead and brand.

“There’s nothing.” She said, “Well except…” She moved her hands back to Casca’s abdomen, but slightly lower. “There seems to be two ods coming from your body.”

“Two? Is that possible?” Farnese asked. “Could it be another animal underground or something?”

“No, it’s definitely human, actually remarkably similar to Casca’s own signature, but mixed with something else…”

“You’ve seen this before, Schierke.” Ivalerra said, fluttering down to sit on Casca’s chest. At Schierke’s confusion, Ivalera sighed, “It was a while ago, but surely you remember all of Mistress Flora’s lessons.”

“Of course I do!” Schierke said.

“Then you must remember that fox with two ods.”

“Fox…” Schierke’s face steadily became blushed, “Oh, so it’s- ah.”

“What is it?” Farnese asked, “Casca will be okay, right?”

But by this point Casca wasn’t listening all that closely because a crazy, insane thought had occurred to her. Two ods, the one that wasn’t hers being very similar. Her lack of period, which wasn’t something she had thought of much, there were always more pressing matters, but oh it should have been obvious. Her activities with Guts- was she stupid? This had all happened before. She was-

“I’m pregnant.” Casca said. Loudly, maybe too loudly because a quiet had descend upon the camp.

“What?” Someone said. But everything was going out of focus again, so Casca didn’t even try to place the voice. A child, her child, she placed a hand on her still flat stomach, unsure of the feelings bursting from her. Her heart felt like it would rend from her chest, like some had it in a stranglehold and refused to let go. She took a breath after realizing she forgot to breathe. Let it out. Inhaled, tried to get a hold of the wild emotions running through her.

Protectiveness, of this life within her. Love for her child. And fear, fear of the world.

Dampness flowed into her ear from her eyes; she was crying. Why? She wasn’t sure. Happiness? Sadness? Fear? Some combination of all three? Her other hand draped itself across her eyes.

“Yes.” Schierke confirmed. “I believe so.”

Slowly the world came back into focus, the group having gathered around her. Farnese was holding her in a sitting position, hugging her gently. Her hand fell from her face. Through her tear blurred vision she made eye contact with Guts who had an unreadable expression.

Once she had calmed down enough to speak, she said, “See I told you I’m fine, I’m just- just pregnant.” A smile made its way to her face. A hesitant smile came to his as well, and Casca found his hand.

She wasn’t just pregnant and they all knew it; no one ever was ‘just pregnant.’ Even Guts knew that. Admittedly he was still in state of shock. How could he not be.

It was true he had imagined a life with Casca, one that included children, but that was always a distant dream, something for when all of this was over. If he could fight to protect that dream, there was no way he could let the rage and hate take over. He couldn’t tell how Casca felt about it either. She seemed happy enough, but if he was this confused, she must be as well. After he heard those words all other thoughts left his brain.

First he was flooded with joy. He loved Casca and he would love this kid. He‘d be the best father in his capacity, no, better. He’d do everything he didn’t for their first child, not that he exactly had the chance. But then the fear creeped in and held him like the tightest snare.

He wasn’t fit to be a father. He’d taken far too much life to be able to give a life properly. And this damned world, how could anything grow up right? There was no way, just keeping Casca alive was hard enough and now he’d have two of them. And if he died, who could protect his family? And Casca? There were a million things that could go wrong. And with his luck they would.

He met her eyes. They were dark, a deep brown almost black, with tears in them. He couldn’t really process what she said, but then she smiled and he couldn’t help but smile back. Everything would turn out okay.

“Casca’s gonna have a baby!” Isma exclaimed. “Can I be the godmother?”

“Aren’t you too young to be a godmother?” Isidro argued.

“I’m older than you.”

Isidro couldn’t argue back without admitting how young he was. Turning his attention back to Casca he snarked, “Well this was kind of inevitable wasn’t it.”

“I looove babies!” Ivalera said. “Mistress Flora sometimes took me with her when she was midwifing. Babies are kind of potato-y at first but they are so lively.”

“I guess we’re lucky to have fairies with us for many reasons.” Serpico murmured.

Farnese was supporting Casca’s weight, helping her sit up as she has been for the past few minutes. She just gave Casca’s shoulders a gentle squeeze. The adults seemed to realize how serious this was, how risky it was. Not that the younger ones weren’t, but they were still somehow innocent enough to think of the baby and how it pertained to themselves.

“Um, Schierke,” Casa asked, “Is there any way to tell how far along I am? Magic wise, that is?”

“I- I don’t know.” Schierke admitted, “Mistress Flora taught me a lot about child birth, but I don’t remember as much as I should.” tears brimmed in her eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“Oh, it’s fine.” Casca reassured, “You already know so much, and we can just rely on the old fashion way.”

“Old fashion way?” Schierke asked.

Isidro, who was already tired, left when the excitement wore off, or when he deemed it officially uncool to still be excited. Isma left too, although it was interesting because the farther from a body of water the less stamina she had. Serpico seemed to guess this was veering into women’s talk and took his leave. The fairies had also crashed, even though from the sounds of it Ivalera could have provided some needed information. The thought of leaving didn’t even cross Guts’ mind.

“The old fashion way, which is counting all of the periods I’ve missed and the first possible conception date.” Casca explained. Sure Schierke was young, young enough to not have a period yet, but if she was going to be a healer it was probably good to know this stuff. Casca had learned from her mother and aunts and older sister before she had left home. After that it was harder to come by as she lived and interacted with primarily men.

“Oh, that makes sense.” Schierke said, still flushed slightly.

“And I don’t think I’ve had one in at least two months, maybe three.”

Blushing as well, Farnese spoke up, “It should be three.”

“Three?” But that would mean-

A small laugh escaped Guts. They all looked at him.

“Casca,” He said, “We did it again.”

“What?” but then she did the math. Three months ago they were on Elfhelm… so Guts and her had only done it once or twice at that point meaning- “On the first try?”

“Again?” Farnese asked.

“Well, um-” Casca stumbled on her words. “Before all of this, we-”

“We were together once or twice and she became with child.” Guts finished for her. “I didn't’ know until, until after everything.” He became quieter with each word.

“So either we’re just really lucky, or just very fertile.” Casca added.

“I would say you are lucky to be so fertile.” Farnese said, “I know some noble families who would kill to rid themselves of infertility. Well,” She thought a moment, “If they aren’t dead now already.”

“I do know that at three months is normally when you start showing.” Schierke supplied.

“And just when I got back into shape.” Casca sighed.

“You’ll still be a shape.” Guts said, preparing himself to get hit, “Round is a shape you know.”

“Guts, if you weren’t the father of my child, I would strangle you.” Casca said, although more tired than normal.

“You should rest.” Farnese said.

“Yes, that’s the most important thing right now.” Schierke affirmed.

The two witches stood up almost awkwardly, as they both realized that Casca and Guts wanted to be alone now. Neither really wanted to leave, but the atmosphere was growing heavy with something and they realized it had nothing to do with the two of them. They joined the rest of the group where they slept, around the hearth of the house.

Guts moved so he could hold her. She let him, as she normally did. He didn’t trust his mouth not to say something stupid so he kept it shut.

“I’m scared.” Casca said. Now he should reassure her, tell her everything would be fine, but Guts was a horrible liar, so he held her closer and kissed the crown of her head. It was all still too new, they could deal with the consequences in the morning. For now they just needed to rest and face the unsure tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Somehow on their meandering journey they found their destination; truly a miracle in that Guts had no real strategy on finding the place other than vague land marks, and intuition. Puck was of some help, but even with him it wasn’t much more than guess work.

“You’re walking faster, does that mean we’re closer?” Casca asked.

“What?” Guts asked obviously broken out of thoughts, “Sorry.” He slowed down.

“Well, thanks, but this is familiar land, right?”

“Yeah. I’m pretty sure.”

“We’re almost there?!” Isidro exclaimed, obviously eavesdropping.

“I didn’t-” Guts started to say, but Isidro was already off. “Whatever.”

“Are we almost there?” Farnese asked hesitantly.

“Maybe.”

Soon enough though Isidro was running back full sprint.

“What is it now.” Cacsa said under her breath.

“WE GOt SOme COmPany.” Isidro shouted while running.

Behind him were a gang of trolls with their grotesque faces and scraggly hair. In a flash all of their weapons were drawn and ready, Guts taking point. Casca adjusted her grip on Chrysaor.

“Duck.” Guts warned, and cut the troll that was leaping at Isidro in half. Isidro heeded the warning, dodging low. The other three continued their charge forward, mouths agape at the sight of women. With another swing of the Dragon Slayer, two more of the monster were dead or dying and the last one tried to swipe at Casca. Casca prepared a stab, but was pulled out the way by Guts who fired his arm cannon. The blast exploded the things head, sending troll chunks flying.

“Why’d you do that?” Casca asked angrily, pushing his arm from around her. “I had that.” She addressed her clothes, “And now we have to do more landry.”

Guts didn’t even try to be sorry, already looking for more threats. Realizing how tight he was holding her, he loosened his grip slightly but still didn’t let her go.

“Guts.” She warned, and slipped out of his hold.

“Were those all of them?” Schierke asked Isidro.

“I- Probably.” He said, catching his breath. “They were all sleeping in a pile and I just ran into them, I-”

“I’ll go check.” Guts said and walked purposely forward.

“Casca are you okay.” Farnese asked.

“I’m fine.” Casca said, brushing her off. They had always been protective, but now that she was with child Casca was especially sensitive to it. It was partially irrational and she knew it, she more than anyone wanted to keep her child safe, but in her friends (and Guts) protection of her they treated her like a child.

A short while later Guts came back covered in blood.

“There were more.” Serpico confirmed.

“Yeah.” Guts said, “A couple more.”

The group continued their journey forward. The woods were starting to thin out, hopefully the promise of civilization.

“I think this is a trail.” Casca said, observing the overgrown, but becoming more clear path between the trees. “I- this all feels familiar for some reason.”

“Maybe this is the way you ran away.” Puck said thoughtlessly. “Although it seems weird you would stick to a trail when you were like that.”

The thought of her regressed state yet again filled Casca with some mix of negative emotions, the one in forefront being shame. Even though she knew it wasn’t her fault, she couldn’t help but blame herself. It also made her think of Guts and the pain they both endured at the hands of the other.

Guts seemingly absent mindedly swatted at a Puck.

“I think we’re close.” Guts said.

They came upon the remence of a fence, stone, and broken. And beyond that the frame of a house, burnt almost beyond recognition.

“This couldn’t be-“ Farnese started, but it was soon obvious it was.

“There could still be weapons and armor in the rubble.” Guts said, “I don’t think we need any but-“ he stopped as his eye fell on a lone grave mark.

There was a hammer near it, placed purposefully. It was old, a couple years at least.

“Godo.” Schierke read aloud, “Was he the one who-“

“That’s where.” Casca said suddenly, eyes locked on the mountain of rocks behind the property, “That’s where I- you-“ it suddenly became almost too much for her to take. She hated that place. She hated the cold iron bars and dank walls. She hated-

“It was destroyed.” Guts said stoically.

Regaining control, Casca took a breath. It didn’t exist anymore. And it was safe. It didn’t hurt her.

“Wait so where’s Rickert?” Isidro asked, “He can’t still be here?”

“I don’t sense the spirit of a battle taking place here.” Schierke supplied. “Well, not recently. So this probably happened after he left.”

“They left.” Guts said, “There was a little girl too.”

“It’s going to be dark soon.” Serpico observed. While in the forest it was hard to tell the time of day sometimes because of how the trees obscured the sun; in the clearing they could the see the sun becoming low in the sky. “We should set up fortifications before night.”

Everyone agreed and set to their tasks, leaving the non magic users and cooks (and cook’s assistant) to explore the former forge.

After sitting and watching the forest for awhile, Guts found himself wandering over to Godo’s grave. It had caught him off guard, since in his mind Godo was still alive and the forge and mountain still existed, but here in reality…

Casca made her way to stand beside him, not saying anything in quiet contemplation.

“I’m sorry.” Guts finally said.

“What for?”

“For Rickert not being here.”

“That’s not your fault.”

“I know.”

They were quiet for a moment.

“Before it gets dark,” Casca started, “Could you show me the memorial Rickert made?”

“Are you sure?” He asked.

“Yes. I’m sure.”

Guts glanced backwards at Isidro carrying kindling back to where Serpico was starting a fire. Casca followed his gaze.

“I’m sure the other will want to see it too, but- I just need some time.”

“I understand.” Guts said, “I just- it was hard for me and-”

“What are you trying to say?” Casca cut him off.

He met her eyes and said simply, “It’s gonna be hard.”

After briefly informing the group where they were going, Guts and Casca headed to the Hill of Swords. Casca trembled. Guts was walking in front of her, seemingly lost in his own thoughts. There were things pushing to the surface, things she hadn’t wanted to think about. She needed more time, she needed-

Too soon they were at the hill. The swords were weathered now, rusty and a few were overturned, but it was still a sight. The dying sun caught the metal despite that, lighting up the hill.

Casca walked a few steps into the memorial, eyes wide. She swallowed and felt her eyes grew warm as tears gathered. She knew it would be bad, but this- She almost couldn’t-

She fell to her knees on the hill, Guts rushing to her side.

“Casca!” He exclaimed in worry, holding her arm gently, “Are you…” One look at her face told him everything he needed to know. Physically she was fine, but mentally… It was hard. He averted his eye, “You can cry if you need to.”

Those words awakened a memory buried deep. A memory of a jack of all trades near to her heart. And it broke the dam on her tears. Silently tears started to fall down her cheeks, and it was all she could do to keep her eyes fixed on the swords, on the Band of the Hawk, that was the least she could do, she owed them that much to honor them. And then the real crying started, small whimpers at first, then chest heaving sobs that shook her whole frame. It hurt, it hurt so badly.

The gravity was hitting her with a realness it never had before. The Band of the Hawk was dead. Rickert was possibly dead. There was a good chance everyone she knew in that life so long ago, save Guts and Griffith, were dead. What was the point?

Suddenly a she felt something, something deep in her gut, not much, just a flutter. It reminded her of the point of her life now. A baby, her child, it needed her.

But what kind of life could she give it, in this world that was so cruel?

After calming down a little, she managed, “Guts- I- I need you to promise me something.”

“Hmm?”

“You need to protect this baby with everything you have.”

“Of course.”

“No.” Casca insisted, “You need to protect it, from everything.”

“I- I will.” Guts said. “I will protect you both.”

Satisfied with his answer, Casca found her mind falling back to the Band of the Hawk.

“I thought I might be able to lead them out of that.” She said quietly. “But when the- when those things showed up I knew- I knew we’d wandered straight into hell. I tried- I tried so hard.” She dissolved back into sobs. Guts drew her closer.

“I was so focused on getting to Griffith I didn’t-” Guts murmured, “I didn’t think of anyone else, or what was going on. I didn’t protect you or anyone.”

“I tried to fight- but I wasn’t strong enough. They just kept saving me, even though I was worthless, Pippin, Jeaudo-”

“I found Gaston. He was alive, but- not for long he- and that was right before- right before I saw Pippin, and then-”

“How could he. How dare he.” Casca started in a low growl, “How do you sacrifice those who love you, why would you-” She was talking about Griffith now. “He’s going to die. For the Band of the Hawk.” She hissed, “God, I miss them.”

“I tried- I tried, but it’s never enough.”

“I failed them as their commander.” Casca let out a sob, “Why?”

And that ‘why’ summed up the woes of Casca. Why didn’t she do more? Why did they try to protect her? Why did Griffith sacrifice them? Why did he rape her? Why was the world so cruel? Why did they have to keep struggling? Why was Guts so- so- the way he was? Why? Why? Why?!

Eventually Guts helped her up as the sun was skimming the horizon. There were traces of tears on his face that he roughly wiped away. This was hard for him too. Casca was still a blubbering mess, but tried to pull herself together. She sniffed and wiped her eyes, too tired to be embarrassed of her emotional state. Standing up was harder than she thought it would be and was thankful for Guts’ support.

“You should eat something.” Guts told her gently.

She nodded, sending one look back at the Hill of Swords. Fixing her resolve, Casca turned forward and they started the walk back to the camp. Silent tears still rolled down her cheeks, until eventually they stopped too. Her eyes were probably still bloodshot, and her voice thick, but nobody mentioned anything. They ate dinner and went to bed.

That night Casca dreamed of a simpler time, where she was the second in command of the Hawks, and Rickert was just a kid, and Corkus was a pain in the neck, and Pippin was quiet and kind, and Jeaudo was there when she needed him, and Guts was her rival, and Griffith, well, Griffith had this impossible dream that they were all going to be apart of.

Chapter Text

The sun rose and dispelled some of the weaker creatures trying to claw at the fortifications put in place. Guts felt numb. Visiting the Hill of Swords was more difficult that he thought it would be. He had tried to be strong for Casca, but his own darkness had consumed him.

The beast had wormed its way forward. He didn’t think Casca had noticed, so wrapped up in her own grief, but that didn’t matter. Guts was still weak. He was still a danger to everyone he cared about. He still had a long way to go.

It was decided after a quick breakfast that they would go to the Hill of Swords as the rest of the group wanted to see it.

As the Hill came into view, there was something, or rather someone there. Flashbacks to his encounter with Griffith jumped to Guts’mind. But while this chance meeting was with someone who was a part of the band of the hawk, he wasn’t the leader.

“Rickert?” Casca asked as both she and Guts stared at the boy- no, he was a man now. How much time had passed?

“...Casca?” RIckert seemed confused, “How are you- Guts?”

All three were overcome by emotion, but Rickert, always quick to adapt, spoke again.

“Is this- Is this really happening?”

A smile formed on Casca’s face, tears pooling in her eyes. “Rickert. You’re so-” She placed her hands on his shoulders, “Grown.”

This broke Rickert, who rushed in to hug Casca, tears also staining his face.

Rickert did look older than the youth all those years ago, granted it had been more for him than for Guts and his group. His frame had broadened, although he still nowhere near Guts’ scale. His hair was still long, probably a bit past his shoulders if let loose. He was a grown man now.

“Hey, forget about me?” Guts asked.

“Guts!” Rickert pulled Guts into the hug, surprising the branded swordsman. But he wasn’t surprised enough to not hug back.

“How are you guys here?” Rickert finally asked.

“We could ask you the same thing.” Casca said. “The forge was destroyed, you can’t have been staying there.”

“I wasn’t.” And then Rickert launched into his story of his and Erica’s escape from the mountains and their time in Falconia. The rest of the group had joined the three and listened to Rickert’s tale.

“Falconia is massive, and growing probably as well.” He explained, “I can’t even describe the scale everything, but it has enough room to house people and armies and hordes of the war demons. And Griffith-“

“You saw Griffith?” Guts asked urgently.

“Yes.” Rickert answered slowly, “I did. He… wanted me to join him.” The topic of Griffith put everyone on edge, Guts and Casca even more so. “I didn’t. To say the least.” Rickert let out an awkward chuckle. “And I escaped with Erica, a Kushan sorcerer, and the Bakiraka. We’ve been living with them ever since.”

“The Bakiraka?” Serpico said, “Kushan assassins?”

“Yeah. They-“ Rickert looked around. “Actually, it’s top secret.” He turned to Guts. “Is everyone here trustworthy.”

“Probably.” Guts shrugged.

“Probably?!” Isidro exclaimed, “I saved your life!”

“He’s always been like that.” Puck scoffed, pointing to Guts, “Un-grateful.”

“You haven’t met everyone yet, have you?” Casca asked, still shaken.

“Can’t say I have.”

They went through introductions and explained how Casca had gotten her mind back.

“Well I should be getting back.” Rickert finally said.

“Getting back?” Farnese asked.

“To the secret I was talking about. Although I guess if you are all trust worthy I could bring you with me.”

“I am very trustworthy.” Isidro assured.

“How?” Isma asked. “There isn’t any where near here and you don’t have any horses.”

“Well…” Rickert whistled and a flying demon circled down from the sky.

Everyone took a step back, hands going to weapons.

“Woah woah, it’s okay-“ Rickert said, either to the monster or to his friends.

“What is that?” Isidro asked.

“Its how we get around now. Really convenient.” He scratched the back of his neck, “I’m not the best at flying, but after living with them for three years you kind of just pick things up. I can try to summon more.”

Guts cast a glance at Casca and met her eyes. After a moment of hesitation, she nodded.

“Okay.” Guts said, still skeptical, “Summon away.”

“This is insane.” Casca said. She was sitting behind Rickert, holding onto his arms with a vice like grip.

“Yeah, I guess you get used to it.” Rickert said other nonchalantly.

“I don’t know about that.” She muttered.

“So I didn’t want to embarrass you earlier, and honestly it’s probably a good thing, but, did you put on some weight?”

This surprised Casca who glanced down to her stomach. It was still relatively flat, no longer as skinny and frail as it was when she first came back. And the there was her small baby bump. That was strange to see. With her clothes and chainmail on, it did just look like she gained some weight.

“Well being pregnant does that to you.”

This caught Rickert off guard. “What?” He looked behind him at her again as if checking to see if she had another head. “Really? You’re- And Guts-“

“Yes really, and Guts is the father.”

“I mean, I didn’t really think it could be anyone else, but is this good. Are you okay with it?”

“Okay with it?” Casca laughed, “I am very okay with it. I think it’s saving my life.”

“How do you mean?” Rickert asked skeptically, “The pregnant women I’ve seen never seemed super pleased with it.”

“It’s just, given my life purpose. I’m not just living for myself, I can’t afford not to take care of myself or not ask for help because it’s not just my life at stake anymore.”

Rickert was quiet for a moment, “It was never just your life at stake, Casca.” He said, “When we were on the run from midland, if you had died so would have many more, and then after everything… If you hadn’t survived neither would’ve Guts. He would’ve just kept throwing himself into battles until he broke.”

“He still does that.”

“Well, yes.” Rickert admitted. “But he has to survive so he can protect you.”

Casca didn’t reply.

“WEll. Either way,” Rickert said, “I believe congratulations are in order.” He laughed nervously, “This just reminded me of something. Corkus told me if I ever had a kid I should name it after him.”

“Are you any closer in that aspect?”

“What? No- I just… How would you think he’d react if you named your kid Corkus?”

“Honored.”

“No.” Rickert corrected, “Guts’ kid.”

The laughter started as a snort, and then grew to all out guffaws.

“I think he’d rather die.”

And that careless word sobered them both quite quickly.

Gently Rickert replied, “You’re not wrong.”

“I do this to Guts too, forget they’re all… You know?” Casca tensed slightly, “I think- I think it bothers him more than he lets on.”

“Guts is strong, if he had a problem-“

“He shouldn’t have to be!” She exclaimed, growing emotional again. “Not with me at least.”

Rickert, remembering his time with the hawks, and not wanting to deal with an upset Casca, especially not about a pregnant upset Casca, tried to lighten the mood. “I’m sure Erica has plethora of names to help you choose.”

“Does she?”

“She was the type of girl who really cares about all of that, marriage and babies and stuff.” He explained, “I had forgotten girls could be like that, what with you being the only real feminine force in my life, so it was kind of… different.”

Casca found a smile forming on her lips. She didn’t remember much, but Erica was her main care taker when she was in her regressed form and has always treated her well. It was a lot of respocibilty to place on such a young girl, but she was strong if nothing else.

“So Erica is well?”

“Better than well, I’d say.” Rickert responded, “She really adapted fast, she was even young enough they could train her.”

“To be a Kushan assassin? Isn’t it related to the clan, I thought they didn’t take well to outsiders.”

“Well they don’t, but we were special circumstances. She’s an orphan, and we weren’t going any where. She wasn’t going to be a smith, and she couldn’t just sit and watch me work. They had lessons for children.” Rickert shrugged, “Those lessons just happened to also involve the basics of assassination. She can handle herself well now.”

“That’s… Good.”

“You can talk to her when we get there.” Rickert pointed to a far off mountain peak, “The base is around that way, we’re still a ways off, you should try to rest, I’ll make sure you don’t fall.”

Casca smiled. “Thank you Rickert.”

She wasn’t quite ready to relax when she was this high up, but appreciated the sentiment. Rickert had been such a sweet boy, and it seemed he’d grown into a thoughtful young man. Setting her sight on the peak, Casca steeled herself. She had a feeling the game would change once they arrived, she wasn’t sure for the better or worse. Or if there was a really a difference between the two anymore.

Chapter Text

They landed sooner than Guts would’ve thought. He didn’t care much for heights, but after having fallen from considerable ones… and flying through a lightning storm on the back of one Zodd the immortal he certainly wasn’t afraid anymore. The landing deck was on what looked like a mountain, but there were doors to a tunnel, so Guts figured the mountain was the fortress.

There were a group of people at the landing deck, all looking like Kushans. Guts supposed they probably were Kushans. Rickert’s steed landed first, the group on deck rushing to him. The rest landed soon after. Guts was going to go to Casca’s side, but Farnese was already there.

A girl ran to Rickert and leapt into a hug.

“Rickert! You’re okay!” She exclaimed, perhaps crying a little bit.

“Of course I am, why wouldn’t I be?” Rickert said, hugging her back.

“When the other flying demons left we thought you might be in trouble, but they weren’t letting me come after you!”

“Everything’s fine Erica,” Rickert soothed, “I didn’t find enemies for once.”

Oh, she was Erica. That made sense, all things considered. Still, Guts wouldn’t have guessed this was what Erica would be like when she was older. There was some thing different…

Erica opened her eyes to see Casca, along with the others.

“Is that…?” She let go of Rickert and cautiously walked toward Casca. Casca seemed to be in a similar state, trying to remember what had happened in her regressed time. “Casca?” Erica asked, as if she were trying the name out.

“Erica?” Casca smiled.

“You’re back!” A grin made its way to Erica’s face, and she ran to hug Casca. “I knew it was possible!” Casca hugged the girl back. “You remember me?” Erica asked.

“I do.” Casca answered, “I don’t remember everything, but most of it.”

“I’m so happy.” Erica was crying happy tears now. “Guts was so sad after everything, Rickert too, but now they don’t have to be!”

Erica looked up again from the shoulder she was crying on to see Guts. “Guts!”

“Long time no see.” Guts said.

“Do you still have the…”

Guts anticipating her question, drew the Dragon Slayer. “I’m trying to keep better care of it.”

“Well you’re doing a poor job of it.” Rickert jested, “But I suppose it’s the thought that counts.”

“This is the longest I’ve kept the same sword.” Guts muttered.

“Is it really?” Isidro asked.

“He kept breaking them.” Casca answered, “He’s a bit thick that way.”

“Well, take good care of that,” Erica told Guts, “It was the last thing my dad forged.”

“I will.” He said with conviction.

Rickert spoke with some of the Kushans, probably explaining who his friends were when a familiar face presented itself.

“You?” Casca asked. It was Silat, the assassin who had almost killed her all those years ago.

“Swordsman.” Silat greeted Guts. “We seem to meet again.”

“Wait, how does Casca know him?” Isidro asked, “We ran into him just that one time.”

Guts looked at Isidro, “What are you talking about?”

“You know, when we first met, there were those soldiers who got killed by Kushan soldiers, and then you killed the Kushan soldiers!” Isidro seemed to realize where he was again, surrounded by Kushans.

“Is that when you started following me?” Guts asked.

“Geez you can’t even remember that?” Puck exclaimed, “And we say Casca is the one with memory issues.”

“I tried to kill her when she was still the commander of the Hawks.” Silat answered. “You are her, right?”

“She is still our commander.” Rickert said. “I mean there’s still the three of us.”

“Three and a half if you count this.” Casca placed a hand on her abdomen.

Erica blinked. “What?! Are you-!?” Erica squealed. “Can I be the god mother!?”

“I already called that.” Isma said.

“And you are?” Erica asked skeptically.

“Isma.” Isma said with a smile, “I’m a merrow.”

“Like a mermaid?” Erica asked, growing excited again.

“Well I guess.” Isma turned to Schierke, “Is there a difference?”

“Maybe a bit in region…” Schierke thought for a second, “But I think merrows and mermaids are essentially the same thing.” She turned to Erica, “I’m Schierke, by the way.”

“And I’m Ivalera!” Ivalera announced.

“Another fairy!” Erica said, “And you’re pink!”

“I don’t see why that matters…” Puck pouted. “Blue is a good color.”

Ivalera fawned over herself in the praise, “YEs, pink is such a good color, I agree. Much better than blue.”

Erica was already moving on to the other companions.

“But, but little girls are supposed to like fairies.” Ivalera whined to Schierke who would’ve rolled her eyes if she had less manners.

The former members of the band of the hawk watched on as the younger girl became sidetracked.

“She’s different than I remember.” Guts murmured. “But also the same.”

“She’s older.” Casca observed. “We all are.”

“I will join you tomorrow to talk strategy.” Silat told them, “I have other duties to attend to.”

Rickert grabbed Casca and Guts' arms and tugged them inside. “Come on, it’s probably around lunch time, I bet you all are hungry.”

 

The group all sounded their ascent and followed Rickert into the fortress.

There were quite a few Kushan inside, which made sense considering, but there weren’t as many as one would’ve thought. And more women and children than Guts would’ve guessed in an assassins fortress. As they made their way through the tunnel-hallways, Rickert explained in a hushed tone.

“The entire Bakiraka clan is in this mountain…” He said, when he caught the confusion on Casca’s face, “What’s left of them at least.”

Erica greeted a couple of the girls, still looking odd. Guts tried to put his finger on it, because it wasn’t just the fact that she was older. She was dressed like the other Kushan women he’d seen, which is to say a mix of Kushan and Midland. There were a few Midland woman among them, Guts couldn’t tell if by their own will or someone else’s. It was when Erica moved her arms while talking that he noticed it.

A hidden knife, a small thing, tucked into her sleeve.

That was it, she knew how to kill now, had killed. Under that cheery exterior was an assassin in training. Guts couldn’t help but find it funny in a bitter sweet way. On one hand he wished kids could grow up like kids ought to, without death as a constant companion, how he hoped his kid would grow up. On the other hand in the current world he was glad she could defend herself.

They stopped at an entrance that opened to a larger room with a long low table.

Rickert was talking to an older Kushan woman and then introduced her, “This is Esha, Silat’s cousin, right?” He looked to her for confirmation.

“Basically.” She answered. “We don’t have much, but I think I can spare a bowl for enemies of Falconia.”

They all served up, a spicy stew of some sort on top of rice. Guts was just happy for some warm food and chowed down. Isidro followed Guts’ example, but stopped quickly as his eyes and nose stared to water.

“Ahh, it burns.” Isidro exclaimed, trying to sooth his mouth with water.

“No no,” Serpico conciled, “Eat more of the rice or bread, it works better than water.”

Isidro paid him no mind and kept eating.

“You idiot, if it keeps burning you, why keep eating?” Schierke asked.

Tears were practically flowing down the boy’s cheeks as he said, “But it tastes soo good.”

Schierke shook her head and went back to carefully eating her dinner. She had made the stew more mild by adding more rice.

In fact pretty much everyone, save Guts, was having a little difficultly eating their dinner.

Rickert and Erica were holding back smiles, Esha too seemed to find their reactions funny.

“Wow Guts, a stomach of steel as well.” Rickert noted.

Guts looked up, and realized hadn’t noticed the spice, until Isidro caused the commotion.

“I, uh,” Guts didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want to admit that he just couldn’t taste the spices, couldn’t really taste anything. He also wasn’t fan of over hyping himself. “Didn’t notice.”

A worried look struck Casca, and then Farnese.

“Yes, well, the baby seems to likes it, I doubt my taste buds before would’ve liked it before.” She turned to Esha, “Thank you.”

“Yes,” Farnese agreed, “This is a welcome reprise to our usual fare.”

Serpico seemed to take offense to that, and muttered about ‘a lack of spices in the wild’ and ‘where to find rice in the mountains.’

“Hey, I like your stew.” Guts told him quietly.

Serpico saw through to the joke and just glared while picking at his own spicy bowl.

Casca elbowed Guts, and Farnese realized she’d unintentionally hurt Serpico.

Isma broke through the awkward situation with a very loud laugh. They turned to see her, Erica, and Schierke looking quite caught. Schierke was blushing, Isma guffawing, and Erica smiling smugly.

Rickert frowned and called over, “Erica, what have you done now?”

“Oh nothing.”

This sent Isma into another fit of giggles. She banged a fist on the table. And then the laughter turned to coughing, and Isma hacked up a half chewed carrot.

At this, Schierke of all people burst out laughing. Isma regarded the spit up food with a little embarrassment. Schierke soon realized she was the only one making any noise. All eyes were on her.

She sobered up quickly, and Guts asked, “What’s so funny?”

Schierke blushed and muttered, “Uh- nothing.”

At the same time, Ivalera answered, “Oh, it’s actually really funny because-“

Schierke quickly trapped the elf in her hat, and smiled sheepishly.

Gradually they settled back into the lunch. When they were done, Rickert spoke with someone, and told Casca and Guts,”We’ll figure out where you guys can stay. Fortunately we’re not exactly tight on space.”

The arrangements were made and they all were in rooms next to each other. Guts and Casca to one, Farnese, Isma, and Schierke to another, and Serpico and Isidro to the third. While there may have been room for individuals, none were right next to each other. After not sleeping alone for so long, they all agreed it would be strange to do such again.

“Rickert, I can’t thank you enough.” Casa said, holding his hand both of hers.

“It’s me who should be thanking you for getting better.”Rickert grinned, “It’s all looking up now, isn’t it.”

“Perhaps.” Casca said skeptically before bidding them all a good night. She and Guts were retiring rather early, the others still wanting to explore or talk. Guts was tired as he was apt to, and Casca seemed to have less energy in general because of the baby.

“I feel like we’re about to go over some edge.” Casca confessed to Guts once they were alone. “That’s what always happened before. We gain some sense of stability before its ripped from under us.”

“Well, we’ll just have to be ready.” Guts answered. “That’s all we can do.”

“Wise words.” Casca said. “I thought I was the wise one, and you were the reckless one.”

“I can be both wise and reckless.”

“Which were you being when you got me pregnant?” Her voice slipped into something sultry, and she took a few steps closer.

“Reckless.” Guts said, they were just a few inches apart now, “But if I remember right, you were too.”

They kissed then. And then started to gear up to more than just kissing.

“Is it okay to?” Guts found himself asking, “With the baby and all?”

“I don’t see why not?” Casca said, leaning up to kiss him again.

And then they did more than just kissing.

Chapter Text

The group spent a couple of days to get accustomed to the new environment before diving into work. They were all helping in their own way, Schierke and Farnese working with the other sorcerers on defenses and other magic related things. Serpico, Isma, and Isidro helped out where ever an extra hand was needed, Guts too when it was asked of him. For the most part Guts and Casca helped Rickert and Silat with strategies. Admittedly Guts didn’t exactly have a mind for strategy, but he did know a bit about killing things, and had a lot of… practical experience. And Casca, despite her protests, did rest when she wasn’t working.

Now, after a long day of work, the group was relaxing after dinner.

“Hey Guts?” Rickert asked, walking into the room. He looked nervous. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

Guts nodded, waiting for Rickert to speak.

“In, um, private?”

Guts couldn’t help but roll his eye and reluctantly take his arm from around Casca. She looked at him questioningly, and he shrugged. With that, the two somehow communicated everything that needed to be said.

Guts got up and followed Rickert to his workshop. Well, it wasn’t his his, but he used it probably the most. No one was there at such a late hour. With the door closed behind him Rickert finally spoke.

“I need to tell you something.” Rickert announced with the utmost seriousness.

“Okay.”

“About Erica.” Rickert continued, like that would explain everything. He was blushing.

“Okay.” Guts said, still not getting it.

“She has a crush on me, I think, and I don’t know what to do.”

“You think?” Guts asked, “So what?”

“I’m not sure what I should do about it.”

“No, I heard you, just, why are you asking me?”

“I-“ Rickert’s voice cracked, he seemed a bit too old for it to be doing that, but then again, Guts wasn’t very knowledgeable on the subject outside of his own experience. “I don’t know, you’re a guy, I’m a guy. When we were with the Hawks, Corkus said-“

“I wouldn’t put much water to much of what Corkus said.” Guts said glumly, “And why haven’t you asked one of the Kushan?”

“I may have been living with them or the past three years, but it’s not like I’m super close with anyone. Besides, there are… cultural differences. I’ve tried to ask but most of the time they don't understand exactly.”

“I don’t think I understand either.”

“Erica thinks she’s in love with me and I don’t know what to do!” Rickert exclaimed.

“Do you love her?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then there.” Guts said triumphantly, “Done deal.”

“It’s not like that! I love her, but I don’t know how, and I don’t think like that.”

“You don’t know how you love her.” Guts repeated back.

“Yeah, like I’m pretty sure I don’t feel the same way, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”

“Pretty sure?”

“I mean, I don’t know; that’s why I’m asking you! How did you know you liked Casca?”

“What?” Guts asked, seemingly a little bashful, “I mean, I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? She’s pregnant with your kid!”

“I know that I love her, just not how I came to love her.” Guts thought for a moment, “Although, if you think of Erica bearing your children… that could be a sign.”

“You don’t get it! And I’m sure you weren’t trying to get Casca pregnant!”

“That.” Guts admitted, “Is true.”

“But how did you know you loved Casca as a woman and not a comrade?”

“Okay. Right now, you sound like a woman.”

“Guts.”

“With all of this mushy stuff? You probably should’ve asked Casca, she’s better at this sort of thing.”

“Can you please answer my question.”

Guts sighed. “Fine, what ever. I guess I suspected something when we survived that cliff fall and I saved her butt. She was naked for a lot of it. And by the time I left the hawks I was pretty sure I liked her.

“Just like that?”

“Um, yeah. She’s pretty hot.”

“Guts.”

“Hey, there we go, do you think she’s hot?”

“Who, Casca?”

“No, Erica.”

Rickert blushed, “I don’t-“

“You asked me a bunch of stupid questions and I answered.”

“Of course she’s pretty, but-“

“What’s wrong with admitting that?”

I just- I remember when she was still a child, I watched her grow up.”

“I didn’t even think of that.” Guts said, looking over Rickert again. “I guess I still think of you both as kids.”

“I’m 21.”

“What?” Guts said, “You caught up with me.”

“Wait you’re still-“

“Like 24.”

Rickert frowned, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t look it.”

“Ha Ha.” Guts said monotonously.

“Erica is 15.”

“Wait, are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

“So you’re almost the same age as me, and Erica is almost the same age as you when I last saw you.”

“Yes.”

“Whoo.” Guts said, chuckling again, “I am old. Things just keep changing without me noticing.”

Rickert sighed, “Things do keep changing.” Rickert didn’t look anymore decided than when the conversation started. As a last ditch effort to get a clear answer, Rickert asked, “So if I did decide to directly turn her down, what should I do?”

“Why do you think I would know these things?” Okay, there was Schierke, but she was a smart girl and would undoubtedly grown out of it. Right? Farnese grew out of her infatuation with him, didn’t she? True Guts wasn’t the best at reading people, and it wasn’t him who figured it out, but Casca had mentioned something, and she would have no reason to lie. But that was exactly what Rickert was already doing, waiting it out, and he had gotten impatient. “Ugh, fine, uh- why don’t you find a woman of your own. It’s a win win, she knows you’re not interested and you get, well-”

Rickert just looked disappointed, “I don’t know what I was expecting. You never had any advice. Corkus always had advice, just most of it was bad. Judeau always knew what to say, and Pippin, he was just always there, always steady.”

“And you’re stuck with me.” Guts offered a small smile, “I mean I told you as much, but let me just say, I don’t know much about things that don’t involve swords, but I do know you and Erica care about each other. That’s dangerous at the best of times, but just- don’t,” Guts thought his words through, “Just be more sensitive than I would be, whatever you do.”

“That’s very… profound of you.” Rickert said, “I think.”

“Eh.” Guts said noncomitly.

“And thank you for trying to help. I think I might try and talk to Casca too.”

“What?” Casca asked.

“Erica likes me and I don’t know what to do and I asked Guts and he didn’t know either so he told me to ask you.” He said it all in one breath.

That man, Casca cursed internally, “Why did he think I would know.”

“Because, well, you’re a woman.”

“That fool.” Casca muttered, but then to Rickert said, “She has grown into a fine young woman.”

“Yeah…”

He looked so insecure; Casca took pity on him. “Well if it’s advice, just, try and be honest. And If you do want to start a relationship, don’t pressure her into anything.”

“That’s… pretty solid advice.”

“It’s common sense! The only reason Guts didn’t tell you any of that is because he doesn’t have any.” After she said the heated words, Casca deflated, “Okay, that’s not totally fair.” She placed a hand over her womb. “This baby, it’s making me very irritated, always deciding night time is the best time to practice its kicks. I can already tell who it takes after.”

“You say that as if it kicking wouldn’t be taking after you.”

Casca couldn’t help but laugh. “You’re a good kid.”

Rickert hmmed, warmed by her praise. Out of curiosity he asked, “I asked Guts something, and it’s kind of personal, but I was wondering your perspective too.”

“Shoot.”

“Well, uh, when did you know you loved him?”

“When he tore out my heart.” Casca answered immediately.

“Oh-“

Casca laughed again, “I’m being dramatic, but it after he left that I realized how much I would miss him.”

Rickert seemed to be trying to relate that to his situation. “I’ve never been away from Erica for, well, any extended amount of time. I made a promise to Godo to always watch out for her. She’s my family.”

Casca narrowed her eyes. “Have you ever liked anybody like that? Like more than family?”

“What?” Rickert was blushing, “No!”

“So if you’re unsure, just wait for her to make the first move, and if it makes you uncomfortable you have your answer. And if she doesn’t,” Casca shrugged, “Maybe you’ll both grow out of it.”

“So you’re saying wait it out?”

Casca nodded.

“I’ve already waited a long time.”

“Rickert I’m not going to tell you how to feel, that’s not how this works.”

“You’re right.” He conceded, “Although, Guts was right. You are better at this sort of thing.”

“What?” Casca asked defensively, “Because I’m emotional?”

“No, well, yes? I mean- You’re really smart Casca.”

“I don’t know about that…”

“I mean it! I’m really thankful you answered my questions… even though some of them were kind of dumb…” He added sheepishly.

“Anytime kiddo.”

Chapter Text

Guts was caught easily. Really? Sneak all the way to the inner-gate (somehow) just to launch a full frontal assault once he caught sight of Griffith? Griffith wasn’t sure how Guts of all people had made it in secret so far; he wasn’t exactly know for his stealth or ability to blend into a crowd. He seem to have some sort of weak enchantment on the brand (weak to Griffith at least) but that was no explanation for how he had gotten into the city without Griffith having an inkling. But he supposed Guts could’ve picked up some skills in subtlety.

The only thing Griffith truly couldn’t figure out was if Guts was alone in this. He’d like to think all of his citizens loved him and wouldn’t think to rebel, but he wasn’t naive. However, Guts was a bit of a lone wolf, while he’d traveled with people before, they were nowhere to be found. Not even Casca, to whom Guts had grown so attached to. Perhaps they were all dead…

Well, be it one man, be it one hundred, it didn’t matter. Griffith’s power, while limited in his physical form was still beyond anything of this world. The elves and magic users stood the best chance, but those would all be dead, or close to it save a few hermits and secret places, But Griffith was flushing those out with every passing year.

Guts was still glaring at him. It had taken the combined effort of his generals to subdue Guts, even then the only way they got him to stop was but removing the cursed armor. The Berserker armor allowed the wearer to not feel any pain, useful when Griffith’s very presence caused a great deal of pain via the brand, and for everything else.

Now Guts was bloody pile on the floor, held down by an apostle while glaring at him with that one eye. It made Griffith nostalgic, if he could feel such things. So much tenacity, struggle for life, it was admirable if not misguided.

Still, Griffith didn’t want him dead, not yet at least. They had much to discuss, things to catch up on. It had been nine years since he left. How the time flew, although it looked like nine years had passed for Guts, he looked horrible.

Why hadn’t he spoken yet? Normally he was so vocal around Griffith, wouldn’t shut up, now he- oh, was he in that much pain? Why not just pass out already?

Griffith walked closer to inspect his old friend, with each step, Guts became even more in pain. Until finally, “Why won’t you die, you bastard.” Guts spit out before his face slouched to the floor.

Griffith turned to two guards, human ones. As much as his apostles were better suited to deal with Guts’ strength, Griffith didn’t want to have to deal with them wanting to eat Guts. As it was all of the demons were in a tussle with the discovery of one of the sacrifices. It took more concentration than normal to keep them in check with Guts at the heart of the city. So far there had been no incidents, but Griffith figured it was only a matter of time before one of them was stupid enough to disobey their king. Then he’d just make an example of their disobedience.

Once the Guards had a handle on Guts, Griffith went back to his many Kingly duties. What a start to the day, he thought.

The two guards tasked with bringing Guts to receive medical treatment didn’t know what to make of the man.

“Think he’s a giant?” One asked.

“No, too short, not hairy enough.”

“Short? He has to be at least seven feet tall!”

“Over six feet at the most. You only think he’s taller because you’re so short.”

“Still, he had inhuman strength, did you see how fast he swung that giant sword? It must’ve weighed over 300 pounds!”

“Maybe he’s an apostle.”

“But His Majesty's powers didn’t affect him.”

“Yes they did, did you not see how he was cowering?”

“No you idiot, that not what that was, you could see his mind was fighting his body, that’s not how an apostle would react.”

“WEll then genius, what do you think he is?”

The man paused, glancing over the wounded swordsman. “There was that rumor, right before all of this craziness started, of a traveling swordsman who was a harbinger of death. They called him the Black Swordsman.”

“Now you’re just telling stories to scare kids. The Black Swordsman isn’t real.”

“You think you’re in a place to tell me what’s real or not? I can tell you he’s real because I met him.”

“You met him?”

He nodded. “I was still more boy than man, but I’ll never forget it. He was tall and grim, always muttering to himself. And carried a sword taller than himself.” He motioned with his head, “It looked like that sword.”

“The Holy See spoke of the Hawk of Darkness. That was him, right?”

“Yeah, he was at the Tower of Conviction, that massacre, and that port city, I forget the name. Everywhere disaster struck, he was seen.”

“Does that mean disaster will strike here?”

“Of course not,” He assured, “Our King will protect us.”

“Then why is he being kept alive?”

“I don’t know.”

Both of the guards glanced at the unconscious man they carried. Even in this state they felt as if he could kill them with little effort.

“Will people in the Medic Hall be safe? I know there are jails, but…”

“He looks like he could rip the doors off the hinges.” He finished.

The wounded man let out a groan that caused both of them to jump and almost drop him.

“There’s no way he’s human. Tossed around like a rag doll, still alive, and coming back to consciousness not ten minutes later.”

“Some sort of beast.” The other agreed.

They deposited him in a jail cell in the Medic Hall. Said medics looked very surprised. And concerned.

“His grace the king has requested this man retrieve medical treatment.”

“Man?” One of the medics said, “He looks more like ground beef.”

“He’s very dangerous. Keep him contained.”

The medics did as they were told, and the guards escaped as soon as they could. At least, they thought, the inhuman sect of the army would be responsible for getting the beast of a man under control should he become… out of control.

Now the medics were faced with a thousand questions. How had this man survived? His injuries were bad, but he had seemingly survived worse in the past. His arm removed, cuts and wounds that should have been lethal. They worked diligently for a while until everything recent was cleaned, stitched, and bandaged up.

And that was when the screaming started.

Outside the window they could see a large winged demon carrying away a woman, her body nearly ripped in half. She wasn’t the one screaming, no it was the ones who had witnessed it.

In a flash, the demon was shot down by an arrow. King Griffith was there as well and slew the demon once and for all, stabbing it through the head. He then removed his cloak and placed it on the woman’s mangled body.

The man they were patching up began to stir, pulling their attention back to him. Thankfully they were done, and quickly put the restraints on him before closing the cell door.

He didn’t wake up, but kept seemed to be having nightmares. What did a man like that have nightmares about, they wondered, what could he have to fear?

Guts woke up in pain. He was used to that, especially now after so long in Falconia surrounded by all sorts of nasties. Even with the seal, it was a lot to deal with, what with all of the monsters, demons, apostles, and a member of the God Hand. So yeah, Guts was used to it.

What he wasn’t used to was not being able to move, they hadn’t removed the rest of his limbs had they? No, it hurt too much, all over for that. He looked down at his body to see the bandages and restraints wrapped around. Then he remembered his his fight with Griffith, if one could call it that. Even Guts had to admit it was rather pathetic. Still, Guts was just a man, and he had been able to take out a few apostles before the generals had intervened.

A girl’s voice broke him out of his thoughts.

“So,” She said, “You’re him.”

Guts turned his head as far as he could to see the girl staring at him, She had crazy eyes and long straight hair, around Isma’s age maybe. Well, at least how old Isma was…

“I saw you a long time ago, but I didn’t think you’d survive this long. In fact, what little I could see of your future was just blood and death.” She smiled, “You had a companion, a little owl from the forest?”

Guts didn’t respond, not understanding any of it.

The girl giggled, “I mean a witch, I gave her that nickname. We were almost friends, to be honest I’d rather it’d be her here instead of you. Where is she?”

“Schierke?” He asked flatly, “She’s dead.”

The girl’s smiled faltered. “She died? How-”

“Does it matter?”

Readjusting her face, the girl changed the subject.

“I never introduced myself, how rude of me. I’m Sonia, the Seer of Falconia, Official Medium of the Reborn Band of the Falcon.”

Guts ignored her; he was tired and hungry, and sleep seemed the most inreach at the moment. He closed his eye. This annoyed Sonia.

“It’s rude not to-”

“Sonia!” A voice called. A man, young by the sound of him. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you! You can’t just run off…” The man finally saw whom she was talking to. “You… You’re the one…”

Guts cracked open his eye to see just who was talking. He was probably a guard of some sort, judging by the sword on his hip.

“This is the Black Swordsman, Mule. We met his traveling companion all those years ago.”

“Did we?”

“Well, we did. The girl, she died.” Addressing Guts she asked, “What about the boy.”

“Dead.”

“Sonia why-?”

“Griffith told me to invite him to dinner.”

“Sonia! Don’t speak of the king so casually.”

Guts let out a sharp laugh.

“And you! I don’t know why his grace is allowing you to live, but you should count yourself lucky!” Mule(?) said with some forced bravado.

Lucky? Lucky?! Guts would certainly count himself lucky, if it was in the sense that unlikely things were likely to happen to him. He didn’t want to deal with this now, so he closed his eye again since he couldn’t turn over.

“Mr~ You can’t go to sleep until you answer my question.”

“No.”

“Then I guess you won’t eat.” She smiled brighter and waltzed out the door, “Come on Mule, I think there’s going to be cake for dessert.”

Mule followed her quickly, obviously wanting to be away from Guts.

Guts let out a sigh. Finally some peace and quiet. And pain. In sleep he probably wouldn’t feel it, which would be nice. But for some reason the growing feeling above all the others was the hollow one of loneliness.

Chapter Text

He was fed some gruel in the morning. Bland, but filling considering it was all he had had to eat in a few days. By some miracle none of his limbs were broken, but he still had some lacerations and he guessed a broken rib or two.

More time passed and Guts found himself being manhandled from his cell down the impressive halls of Griffith’s palace. He was restrained as well, but the guards seemed scared of him all the same. Everyone seemed scared of him.

It was nice to be able to move around and see more than the walls and bars of his cell, but it still hurt to walk. And his stupid brand hurt as well. By another miracle the seal was still holding, Guts didn’t even want to imagine what it would be like without it.

Finally they reached some ornate double doors. They opened to reveal a long table, with Griffith at the head of it. Guts immediately lunged forward, but was held back almost easily in his weakened state.

“Ah, Guts, glad you could finally join us.” Griffith said. His aura, even through the pain it caused him, was incredible. It made Guts want to follow him again, to only remember the time when they were allies- friends even, to- AH!

A pulse of pain racked Guts as he was dragged closer to the King of Falconia. The hate started to block all of those other feelings, gnawing on him, on the chains. Remember what he did to you- to the ones you loved. Remember and hate. It howled and struggled and made Guts want to do the same.

But he was with people now. He didn’t have is sword or armor, or even his arm. Guts was completely unprepared to attack, and while that had never stopped him before, he was finding it harder to throw his life away like that, something seemed to be holding him back. He had to survive.

So he told the beast to wait. And for once it did, like it could sense the amount of blood it could gorge on in the future. Guts glared the deadliest of glares, oh if looks could kill.

“Sir Guts.” The princess of Midland, now he supposed the Queen of Falconia, greet him. She looked older, changed.

“Hello Mr. Swordsman.” Sonia said. Guts could spy Mule among the guards.

A few other people sat around the table, he didn’t recognize most of them, except-

A woman, with long brown hair and wise eyes. She looked incredibly familiar, and her expression differed from the fear in the others. As it was, all eyes were on him and his horrid appearance.

“Guts is an old friend.” Griffith explained to the company, “I owe a great deal to him, in fact, all I have achieved you could a credit to him.”

What was that bastard playing at? How much did these people know? And why hadn’t Griffith just killed him yet!?

“Those of you who didn’t know me in my mercenary days should know he was my Raider’s Captain, in fact, he is the one who killed General Boscogn during the battle of Doldrey.” There were a few numbers of recognition, either at the battle or himself. “He left to find himself, and I found myself out of the King’s favor. He and some others rescued me, after which I did a very bad thing to him. That’s why he’s like this now, it’s all my fault.” Well that was one way of saying it.

There wasn’t so much as a murmur this time. Addressing Guts directly, Griffith asked, “Do you have anything to add?”

Guts’ throat felt sticky, the screams of rage stuck there, along with what might’ve been sobs. How could he be so casual? With the deaths of his comrades- the defiling of Casca- It filled Guts with a feeling he couldn’t express in words, but he tried. Because maybe he could get these people disillusioned, however unlikely that was.

“That lake of blood.” Guts finally said, “You people said it was the sign of the coming darkness. It was. It was also the Band of the Hawk, what was left of them after that F*cker sacrificed them to those apostles you are all so cozy with.” There was so much more he wanted to say, but it was too painful. It started to open a door that just shouldn’t open. “When I put a Dragon Slayer sized hole through you, you’ll regret not killing me when you had the chance.”

Quiet flowed over the room once he finished talking. Nobody seemed especially phased by what he had said. Griffith smiled good naturedly and gestured, “Well, let’s start our first course now that all of the guests are here.”

And so the first course started, no one even batting an eye at Guts’ words, save the woman who seemed familiar. Dinner was uneventful from that point onward, Guts too full of rage, pain, and hunger to think properly, so he ate all that was put in front of him.

He couldn’t taste any of it.

His brand was causing problems for him, certainly, but what about Griffith, it’s must’ve made life harder for him too. Why hadn’t he been killed yet? And sure Guts was, well, ‘thankful’ was a bit of a stretch, but he’d had a few more chances than most would’ve assumed.

Guts let the guards lead him back to his cell when the dinner was done. He had spent the whole event staring down the table at Griffith. He didn’t know what he was trying to do, maybe trying to will the monster to die. It didn’t work.

So now he was back to his cell, actually full for once, but hungry for something else entirely. Hungry for the same thing that had drove him all these years.

He had a visitor at some point in the night, the familiar woman with the long hair. She would’ve woken him up had he been able to sleep. As it was, nightmares had been plaguing him every sleeping moment.

“Guts? That is you, isn’t it?” She asked, carrying a lantern.

“Yeah.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s me, Luca. I took care of Elain- Casca for a while.”

So he did know her. Guts nodded.

“You’re probably wondering how I came to be sitting at the table of the king, and no, I’m not a mistress for once. I’m the governor of one of the districts,” She could tell he didn’t really care, “But I didn’t come to talk politics. I- I was wondering where Casca is. You seemed so adamant about never leaving her, so now that you’re alone… Is she in the city somewhere? I could-”

“She’s dead.”

“She’s-” Luca choked up a bit. “How- when?”

“I- I-” Guts didn’t know how to put it to words. It was a memory that he had shut away.

“No.” Luca changed her mind, “You don’t need to tell me. I’m sorry.” She had a pained expression on her face, but it morphed to one of confliction. “Is everything said at dinner true?”

“Yes.”

“So he’s the reason you’re as you are, is he also that reason-”

“He’s the reason she was like that.” Guts said, “He raped her.”

“He- He raped her? But he- I couldn’t see him-” the color drained from her face. “No. I could. I can tell from the way Queen Charlotte is now. He’s truly a monster, isn’t he.”

Guts didn’t need to respond.

“I don’t think I can align myself with someone like that. Guts, do you have any plans.”

“Plans?”

“To usurp the King?”

Guts was about to tell her to just go away, that he didn’t need her pity, but the he remembered.

“Sort of. I need you to put a glyph somewhere in the city.”

“A glyph, somewhere in the city? Why?”

“Just, just do it. I was going to, but then I got, uh- preoccupied. I’m not quite sure what it will do when the circle is finished, but I do know it will help destroy the war demons.”

“In that case.” Luca said, “Leave it to me. Where and what do I need to do.”

Guts explained the glyph’s shape and where it needed to go.

“This probably goes without saying, but you have to keep this a secret.”

“Of course.” She smiled, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I never pictured you as a wizard.”

“I’m not, I just, I have to finish these glyphs.”

“Well, I suppose the less I know the better if it’s top secret.” Luca looked him in the eye, “Guts, just know… I’m glad to see you again.”

“Thank you.” He said, quietly, “For taking care of Casca, and for doing this for me.”

She winked, “I’m only being decent. Well, I probably should be on my way. Good luck.” Luca was almost out the door when she stopped and looked back, “And, I’m sorry for your loss.”

She left and the room was dark once more. Guts closed his eye and let the nightmares take over.

Chapter Text

Luca looked at the metal sewer cover where she was supposed to carve a glyph into. She had been surprised at first where Guts wanted the glyph, it being so specific and well, rather dirty. That being said, Falconia’s plumbing system was incredible and was rather uniform, made in circles around the city. It was fantastic, much like everything else in this gilded city. Yes gilded, she could see that now. Perhaps not in a literal sense, but she saw it more now, the stains that covered this miracle city. Something was horribly wrong, she just couldn’t put her finger on it.

But now she had her task and was at a puzzlement as to how to do it. She supposed she could use a knife maybe, but she wasn’t sure if she had anything heavy duty enough. Luckily the glyph she had to write wasn’t that complicated and mostly straight lines.

Luca glanced around; nobody was really around. She hoped it stayed that way, it looked like she would need some help to lift and carve the thing. She hurried home.

As governor Luca had a pretty nice house. Not as nice as her house when she was a mistress, but it was more fair this way, and it was all hers. Yes, Luca was quite the self made woman. Her fellow former prostitutes were also helpers, secretaries of sorts. But she needed one of the blacksmiths probably, or just a handyman. Someone she trusted, scratch that, someone she trusted to not tell anyone if she asked him to…

Algar! Of course, he would be perfect!

Luca checked in to her office on the bottom floor of her house to see if there was any immediate work that needed to be done. The Queen was coming by later, but the day was still young, and besides that there wasn’t much. Nothing at least that couldn’t be done tomorrow. She then went in search of Algar.

Algar was a barrel maker and conveniently crushing pretty hard on Luca. He was a sweet man, but he obviously wanted a wife that could help him with his business, and unfortunately for him Luca was quite happy with her current job. Or She had been. Luca was seriously rethinking it all. Could she continue to live and serve a man who had done such a thing to Casca? Her heart told her no, not much longer.

And if there was going to be some sort of battle in Falconia, she wanted to be far away, and she wanted all of her tennents away from it too. Maybe she should start writing up evacuation plans, whatever goes down, that wouldn’t be a bad idea.

She was at Algar’s place before she knew it.

“Miss Luca!” He greeted once he saw her outside his window, “What can I do you for?”

She smiled, “Good to see you too. I was actually needing your help etching something.”

“Etching something?”

“Can I come in?” She asked.

“Oh, of course!” He got up from his work table to open the door. “Feel free to let yourself in whenever, I trust you not to try and steal anything.” He laughed somewhat awkwardly.

Luca entered and sat where he pulled out a chair for her. He sat down at what was obviously his usual spot.

“Now, what’s this business with etching? I will warn you, I’m no great artist.”

She laughed, “No, don’t worry. I was planning to do it myself and I’m anything but artistically inclined, but I’m not even strong enough to lift the cover.”

“Cover?”

“It would be eaier to show you, do you have the time?.” She asked.

“Uh, yes?” He answered.

“Oh, wonderful, come with me then.” She grabbed his hand to lead the way. He paused to grabbed the tools necessary and then followed (very much enjoying holding hands with Luca.)
Luca didn’t want to lead him on, but he was a very kind man. Maybe later something might work out, but now she had a job to get done.

The manhole wasn’t far away, just a short walk really. Soon enough they were there.

“I need you to mark this,” Luca drew the glyph in the dirt, “Onto the cover, think it’s possible?”

“Oh sure, just give me a little help lifting it.”

So they did.

“Soo, what exactly is this for? Public art?” Algar asked while he copied the glyph.

“Uhh, not exactly.” Luca said, trying to figure out how much to reveal. “It’s a bit more personal, sort of a lucky charm. It means a lot that you’re helping me.” She added, “And by personal, I mean the less people who know about it the better it works, so if you could keep it quiet…”

“Of course,” He looked up from his work with a smile, “My lips are sealed.”

Once he was done, Luca thanked him a kiss on the cheek, and they went their separate ways. Luca went back to prepare for the Queen’s visit.

She finished up her duties and then made sure the table was fit for a queen as best she could. The Queen was incredibly kind, her and the King were as good a rulers as one could hope (at least for now.) Time passed quickly and soon enough the royal and her guards were at the door. Luca’s district was a rising star in the city, thanks in part to Luca’s management.

They ate and exchanged pleasantries and then it was time for the actual work. Luca couldn’t help but yet again notice the change in her demeanor since the Queen had lost her baby. She was more mature than she had been before, like someone had opened the door to the real world. Gone were the extravagant dresses and jewelry. It was almost as if she had gone into mourning, which while not unusual at the loss of a child, but for it to last this long… that was unusual. While in Luca’s office, the Queen dismissed her guards, telling them to wait outside. Luca’s assistants were more than happy to entertain them, who, while no longer prostitutes, still enjoyed the attention, finding it more fun when there was no obligation.

With the door shut, the Queen, asked, “And this is secure. No one will hear us?”

“As secure as you can, Your Majesty.” Luca replied. “Why, is there something the matter? I can lock the door.”

“Please do.”

So Luca did, placing the key on her desk when she was done. She gestured for the Queen to sit on a couch while grabbing some after dinner drinks.

“Would you care for one, Your Majesty?” Luca asked, not at all prepared for what came next.

“Have you spoken with the Black Swordsman?”

What? How did she know? What was going on? Had she been found out? Had she told the King yet? Deciding lying to a queen wasn’t the best idea, Luca said, “I did. I had met him a few years back. I was wondering what had happened in that time, and what had happened to Casca.”

“Casca…” The Queen said rather sadly, “She had a hard life. I wonder where she is.”

“You knew her?” The Queen knew who Casca was? It wasn’t impossible, but was if so it a smaller world that Luca would’ve thought.

“Not well, but she was the second in command of the Band of the Hawk. She was King Griffith’s right hand man. Did you find out where she is?”

“She’s dead.” Luca said, “And according to Guts, Griffith raped her.”

This information didn’t seem to shock the Queen, who’s only reaction was the somber look in her eyes growing.

“I figured as much, the poor girl.” She then fixed her eyes with Luca’s, “I assumed you’ve grown to hate the King for that.”

She’d been found out- what now? Death? Torture?

The Queen actually laughed at her distress, was it going to be that bad?

“I also hate my husband,” She continued, “Do not worry.”

“I-” Luca was at a loss for words, “What?”

“Yes, I’m planning to overthrow him.”

“But-”

“I seemed to be in love with him?” The sorrow turned to anger.

Luca nodded cautiously.

“He’s been trying to kill me for a few years now, I thought I might return the favor.”

“We are together on this?” Luca asked.

“It would seem so.”

Luca took a sip of her drink. “So, you spoke with Guts?”

“Not yet, but I’ve been working with others who goals align with ours. If he’s asked for your help, then we must all be trying for the same goal.”

“How do you know he’s asked for my help?”

The Queen looked caught, “I had my most loyal servant watch over him to make sure no one killed him while he was weak.”

“He asked me to finish a glyph circle. Said it could kill a bunch of the War Demons.” Luca said, “I finished it today.”

“So a circle is finished. Do you think it’s the same circle I need to report on? It wouldn’t specifically kill demons, I mean, but that would be the end result.”

“How were you to know?”

“I would check where it should be.”

“On 5th and Hooper?”

Her eyes lit up. “Maybe Guts is working for them after all.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Luca said, “He seemed… lost.”

“Lost?”

“I don’t know how to say it any better.” Luca admitted, “But, even if he is an instrument of this group, I doubt he knows it.”

“Either way I will send the message.” The Queen looked at the clock. “Well that didn’t take up much time at all. Do you have any other matters of concern?”

“Evacuation plans.” Luca answered, “If all hell breaks loose we don’t need people who can’t fight here.”

“I hadn’t even thought of that. Do you have any ideas?”

“A few, your grace, but I’ll need someone else to look at them to see if they’re feasible.”

“Done.”

They talked a while longer about more mundane things before Queen Charlotte decided it was time to retire for the night.

Guts was being interrogated, again. Well maybe not technically interrogated, but it certainly felt that way. By that albino bird bastard no less.

“Guts, I know you still hate me, but I need you to do this for me.”

Guts hated how he looked now. At dinner he’d been blinded by all of his emotions, making him observe things in a haze. Now that he was well rested Griffith’s charisma was almost too much. It made Guts want to forget, for everything to go back to the way it was- NO, this wasn’t Griffith, this was Femto playing at Griffith! Femto had- Griffith had-

Argh! The pain from the brand pulsed.

“I can’t make that pain go away, but if you answer my questions truthfully I can put you in much nicer rooms.”

“I don’t give a sh*t.”

“Very well, but you should still answer them. I will be able to tell if you’re lying.” Griffith looked down at the piece of paper in his hand.

“Why do you care?” Guts spit out.

“I just do.” Griffith took a step closer.

Guts gritted his teeth to stop from crying out. Why was Griffith asking these questions? It was all pretty straight forward what Guts had been doing this entire time.

“So please?” Griffith took a step back.

It wasn’t much, but it was a bit of breathing room. Guts decided that if the ‘brilliant tactician’ Griffith couldn’t figure out that Guts was gunning for revenge than he might as well indulge him. It wasn’t a secret or anything.

“I’ve been everywhere.” Guts said, “Killing everything that swore allegiance to you.”

“But after you found Casca you seemed to be trying to find ways to heal her and-”

“Don’t you speak her name.” Guts growled.

Griffith put up a placating hand. “Fine fine, I was just curious. You seemed determined to help her.”

“I failed her.”

“Failed her?”

“She’s dead!” He spelled it out. Maybe Griffith was an idiot.

“How did she die?”

“Why does everyone want to know?” Guts muttered.

Griffith persisted, “How did she die?”

“I killed her.”

Griffith blinked before laughing.

Guts didn’t have a response, still reeling with his confession. Yes, he killed the one person he cared about more than anything in this world. He was truly a monster. But what better to kill a monster than another monster. That was all he had left. He didn’t deserve to live, if his body would him die, he would’ve already.

“I’m sorry,” Griffith apologised, “That was insensitive of me. But why would you do such a thing?”

When Guts didn’t respond, Griffith pieced it together, “The Berserker Armor. I should have guessed sooner, that’s pretty wicked stuff. They say the old King Gaiseric wore armor like that. He was unstoppable on the battlefield, but that didn’t stop his kingdom from crumbling.” Griffith smiled, “You see, he must’ve been like you, able to leap out of the flow of causality, how else would he create such an empire without divine intervention? Without nothing going wrong until the end. Maybe that armor is cursed in more than one way.”

There were rebuttals to what Griffith was saying, sure, but Guts was too far away to react. He had spiraled down down down… With nobody to fight it turned to sorrow. A sorrow that threatened to drown him. If he was someone who could die it would’ve swallowed him already, but he kept afloat some how.

“Guts?” It was like he was under water everything was distorted. “Guts? Was it too much? Guts-?”

He couldn’t feel his heartbeat or his breath. Was he dead? Dying?! Would he go into that vortex, into another hell?

No, he was just going to sleep.

And as the world blacked out he it felt as if arms were wrapped around him. Comforting him as he drifted off.

Chapter Text

Charlotte went to send the signal that the circle was finished as soon as she could sneak away. Finally, she thought, an end to this nightmare.

Oh it had seemed like a dream at first, she had half thought it was; Griffith was like a hero from a story, so beautiful and good from the very start. She now knew while not a lie, that persona was for her benefit, not his true self. How foolish was she, he loved her crown, not her. She may have even known that at the time and not cared, so starved for something as exciting as a heroic lover. Somewhere in her heart she did still love him, but not the him that still existed. No, that Griffith that she had loved must have died during that year of torture, leaving this cruel, unfeeling version.

That Griffith would’ve kept up the facade for her sake, and would’ve loved their children, as they would be his legacy. Now she knew he wouldn’t die, he didn’t need an heir, and now he didn’t need her.

It had taken a long time for her to figure that out. That he no longer cared for anyone else, save perhaps Guts. That he wasn’t human anymore. The child of their union was proof enough of that.

That misshapen, grotesque thing. Her baby girl. Charlotte had tears in her eyes just thinking about it. She didn’t know if it was actually a girl or not, it being too deformed to tell one way or another, but in her heart she felt it was a girl. Her daughter. Had she been born by any other father she would’ve been beautiful, but no, it was Griffith.

Her baby had been in so much pain. Charlotte had been in pain too, but the physical pain went away when she saw it. It had been replaced with an emotional wrenching that she thought might break her heart.

The whole pregnancy had been hard, and Charlotte had been nervous. Her own mother had died in childbirth, and while Falconia was being technically advanced in every field including medical that didn’t do much to alieve her worries. Her husband had been no help, and Charlotte attributed that to him being a man and simply not understanding. That wasn’t unheard of; men often didn’t show an interest. But after the birth it became clear what was going on. Oh, she wouldn’t forget what he said to her.

They were alone for the first time after her subsequent birth and loss of her baby, a baby that had been born with wings and a tail, and he said to her, “I thought you might die in childbirth, your mother did.” Before adding, “Well, there’s always next time.”

She thought she might’ve missed the part where he said, ‘I was scared you might die.’ but no, he didn’t. He didn’t need her anymore, and as much as people loved her, he was trying to find a way to kill her without anyone suspecting a thing. It made her blood run cold.

Unlike before, when the man who she used to regard as her father betrayed her trust, Charlotte kept it to herself. She kept acting the fool because she knew that was what everyone expected of her, because Griffith was smarter than the previous king, he would know she knew what he was. A monster.

It was a year after the loss of her child that she came in contact with the revolutionaries. She didn’t know much about them, and they didn’t know much about her, it was better that way. All she knew was they wanted to get rid of the world tree and demons, and that was good enough for her.

So now she was on her toilet and taking out the amulet that she was told would signal that the circle had been made. She wasn’t sure how it would actually do such a thing, but she figured it had something to do with magic. All she had to do was speak the code.

“Ester, the circle is finished.” She whispered into it.

As far as the Queen could tell nothing had happened. The amulet looked the same as ever, it didn’t glow, or get warm, or anything. Well, she did what she was told to do, now all there was to do was wait. She had been promised a sign before the siege started, and with that she would use Governor Luca’s evacuation plan to get as many humans out as possible.

She flushed the toilet, not having actually used it, but needing to keep up the cover, and went to go to bed.

She was strangely calm, having possibly just released the instruments of her husband’s death.

In that good night Guts found himself in the company of the bright spirit that had saved him before.

“You again.” He said, angry, “Where were you when I needed you?! I lost control- I-”

Slowly the light melted away from the figure leaving a boy in its place. The moonlight boy.

“You’re- What?”

The boy didn’t say anything, just smiled and faded away. He felt a calm over himself.

“Guts! Guts-” He heard a calling. So he wasn’t dead. “Come over here!” It called.

He realized his eye wasn’t open, so he opened it to be met with Schierke and Farnese. Ghosts? He really didn’t have time for this.

“Guts can you hear me?” Schierke asked.

He nodded skeptically, already preparing for the moment when these two… apparitions would undoubtedly twist into something horrible.

“Is something wrong with him?” Farnese asked her mentor.

“The memory suppressant, remember?” Schierke reminded her. “Although this is much stronger than I thought. Whatever his mind made up was something he must’ve already half believed.”

“Can you just stop pretending. I already know how this is going to go.” Guts said.

“Guts, it’s really us.” Schierke insisted. “We just need to take your memory block off now so we can continue with the plan.”

“Memory block?” What the hell was going on?! “No, there’s nothing wrong with my memory.”

“What do you think happened?” Farnses asked, seemingly confused. That was cruel.

“I killed all of you.” Guts confessed, trying to not let the words sting.

“Well you didn’t, just let us-”

“I don’t know what’s going on but-”

“Guts!” Schierke commanded, “Look behind you.”

So he did and was surprised to see a door.

“That’s where your memories are locked away, we have the key since we made the lock.”

Schierke looked to Farnese who grimaced.

“I’m sorry about this next part.” Farnese apologised, walking closer to him.

Without warning she shoved her hand into his chest, pulling out his heart. He didn’t even have time to register what she had done before she stuck the hand with the heart through the door. The door rippled and started to dissolve into smoke, the heart gone. Guts looked down to his chest to see it was fine. No hole or anything.

Schierke shrugged when he looked at her, “We’re in a dream world.”

Farnese looked proud of her work and gestured for him to go through the door.

“Once you go through there this will all make sense.” She said. “We can’t go because well… it’s a bit beyond what we’re capable of, but we’ll be here once you get back to catch you up.”

Guts, thoroughly freaked out, but deciding to roll with the punches because who wouldn’t trust a door that’s key was your own heart. He didn’t acknowledge the supposed Schierke and Farnese, walking past them into the smoke.

His vision was obscured for a moment before he saw a tall figure. It took a moment to realize it was himself.

“Future me.” The other him greeted. “I figured the only one to convince me that what I would think happened didn’t actually happen was me. Because if I was dropped in the middle of nowhere with no memory of what happened to everyone there’s only one option.” He took a breath, “That isn’t what happened. How can I prove it to you? I can’t. But just don’t be an idiot.”

The other him diapperated into smoke again and Guts walked to where he’d been standing, suddenly he was somewhere else, somewhere familiar.

The Kushan Base! But how did he know about the Kushan Base? He’d never…

“We ran it over and there’s only one strategy that we can see working in any capacity.”

That was-

“And it falls to you, Guts.”

He looked across the table to see Casca. Around him were the others in his party, Rickert, Erica, Silat, and the other Bakiraka.

“So what do I need to do?” Guts found himself asking. He wasn’t in control of his body it seemed.

“You’ll have to infiltrate Falconia and make some magic circles so the mages can counter the war demons.” She bit her lip, “But it’s not that easy.”

“I was made for stealth.” He quipped.

Casca seemed overwhelmed for a moment, and couldn’t keep speaking. Schierke took over the explanation.

“We’re going to have to wipe your memory if you do go.”

“Oh.” Guts felt what he had felt at the time; confliction. “So I can’t compromise the plan… I would get the memory back once it was over, right?”

“Yes. You should.”

Casca still didn’t seem happy.

“Then it’s fine. What do I need to do?”

Silat took over the briefing. “It’s two prong plan, but you must do your part for either to really work. We need to destroy the World Tree to sever the astral plane’s connection to ours. That should stop more monstrosities from spawning. We also need to take care of the war demons Rickert informed us about, including Griffith and his generals.” He made eye contact. “When you finish the first part, that part will be yours, Schierke’s, and Master Daiba, as you stand the greatest chance of actually doing harm. Rickert has created some war machines that will help us, which is where the majority of the force will be. On the tree front will be less fighters, more people dedicated to it’s destruction. Farnese and some of our mages will try and fell it. Serpico has insisted to accompany her, and Isido will too.”

“Wait, what about me?” Isma asked.

“There’s a sewer system that we have mapped out-”

“Okay, I get the picture.” Isma wrinkled her nose.

Silat turned to Guts, “The mages will program the spell tonight, and when you wake up in the morning it will begin.”

“Wait, he’s going tonight?” Isidro asked.

Silat sighed, “Yes, this will take time.”

“How much time?”

“Months, possibly years.”

Casca tightened her grip on the paper she was holding.

Years? How long has it been… Months for sure, Guts was pretty sure it hadn’t been years yet.

His past self had mentally checked out at this point, only really paying attention to Casca, which if anything cemented the idea this was an actual memory not some fabrication. They rest of the meeting passed and Guts caught Casca before she could slip away.

“What’s wrong.” He asked. “I mean, besides me leaving.”

She refused to look at him.

“Hey,” He grabbed her upper arm gently, “If you have something to say say it.”

After a moment she answered him, “You promised you’d never leave me.”

“You made up this plan.”

“I know, I just- I don’t want to lose you.” She looked him in the eye, “If you’re gone months you could miss the birth of our child, you don’t want that, right?”

“I-” His past self hadn’t even thought of that, and it left present Guts in a confusion. If Casca wasn’t dead, then had she had their child yet?

“Of course you didn’t think about that.” Casca face palmed.

“I know this isn’t ideal, but you yourself made up this plan. Why did you do this if you wanted me to say no?”

“I didn’t want you to say no- I just-” She started tearing up, “You can’t leave me alone.”

“I won’t die.” Guts promised, “I won’t.”

“You can’t control that.” Casca said, and cursed under her breath.

He pulled her into a hug. No, he couldn’t control it, but he would see her again. The rest of the memories were a blur of him receiving directions and then going to sleep. He woke up to see Farnese and Schierke again.

“You remember everything now?” Farnese asked.

“Has Casca had the baby yet?” Guts asked in return, urgently.

Farnese and Schierke shared a smile.

“She has.” Farnese told him.

“And they’re both okay?”

“Yes.”

Well that was a weight off of Guts’ back. Wait, he was a father now. Like to a living breathing kid. Okay, he was kind of freaking out now.

Both of the witches could see the conflicted emotion on his face, and when he didn’t say anything else Farnese prompted, “Well don’t you want to know if it’s a boy or a girl?”

“Don’t care much, I’ll find out when I get back.” He blinked, “I’m getting back soon, right?”

“Yes, as soon as you can, go to the rendezvous point.”

“Wait, there’s a problem I’m a bit, restrained at the moment.”

“You got captured?!” Schierke exclaimed.

“Maybe, a bit.” Guts said, “Don’t worry, I haven’t tried to escape yet, probably can. See you all soon.”

“Good luck, Guts.” Farnese said.

“We will be waiting for you.” Schierke said.

Guts turned to leave, but remembered one more thing, “And could you tell Casca that, I’m keeping my promises.”

“Of course.”

He can’t tell who answered him because of a rush take him out of the dream world, causing it all to fade to white. He woke up in the cell with a start.

Okay, he thought to himself. Time to get out of here.