|Episode 95 (Manga)|
|The Black Swordsman, Once More|
|Romaji||Kuroi kenshi, futatabi|
|Volume||14 The Black Swordsman, Once More|
|Date Released||September 30, 1997 (tankōbon format)|
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The Elves of Misty Valley →
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A large, very regal-looking force of soldiers known as the Holy Iron Chain Knights patrol Midland's border. The pilgrims they pass by kneel in prayer, signifying the Holy Iron Chain Knights' religious significance - they are associated with the Holy See. One knight, Serpico, turns to another, Azan, and teases him about having noticed the pilgrims, one of whom is an attractive woman. Serpico is a young man with a sprightly disposition; the older, bigger, mustachioed Azan is much more serious.
They begin to playfully bicker but are interrupted by the Holy Iron Chain Knights' leader, who orders them to behave. Soon after, a messenger on horseback intercepts their march, bearing a message for the leader. The messenger has discovered the "red lake" that the Holy Iron Chain Knights have been searching for.
The Holy Iron Chain Knights arrive at the lake, which is really a shallow stream that has been dyed red with blood and has countless bodies of men and horses in the water that have been torn apart. Apparently, a prophecy has foretold of the appearance of the red lake, wherein the sun will "die five times", heralding the creation of a new angel.
The Iron Chain Knights' leader removes their helmet. It is a woman, and she is only about Serpico's age. She dubs the angel the "Hawk of Darkness", claiming it will bring an age of darkness down upon the world.
Two years later, a small group of bandits shields themselves from a moderate rainfall beneath a dead tree, warming themselves by a fire. They all have disheveled appearances, having been unable to find anything valuable to steal or acquire in a long while. In their presence is a small girl, barely out of childhood, bound and gagged, who keeps herself as far away from the bandits as possible. They found her in the woods and intend to sell her as a sex slave.
One of the bandits, a rat-faced man named Deg, attempts to violate her, only to receives a knee to his privates to the amusement of his compatriots. Another man, apparently the bandits' leader, tells them all of the story of the tree behind them. The story goes that heretics would ritualistically sacrifice themselves to forest spirits by cutting open their stomachs and then nail their intestines to the tree, walking around its trunk until they finally died. To prove the story's validity, the group's leader points out dozens of nails hammered into the bark and what appear to be faces etched into the bark, the spirits of those that were sacrificed. Deg takes a special interest in the story, and decides to act it out using the young girl's intestines. He drags her to her feet and moves her around the side of the tree, cuts her simple dress open with his knife and is ready to gut her when he is startled and injured by the shell of a chestnut that lands on his hand.
Deg looks around the tree and finds, sitting at its base just opposite his group of bandits, is a cloaked Guts who rips Deg's tongue open when he threaten to rip out his intestines. Guts threatens to kill the other bandits if they do not leave, only for them to take him up on his challenge with their leader goes to then strike first with his flail. However, rather than draw his sword, Guts punches the bandit leader with his prosthetic fist and knocked his teeth out as he hit the ground hard. While the remaining bandits decide to take on Guts after a moment of bewilderment, he tells them to leave now as he feels his Brand of Sacrifice acting up.
Guts looks up behind the men and notices the faces in the sacrificial tree have become much more pronounced as it comes to life. It quivers and, in one fell swoop, kills a few of the bandits by swinging its mass of heavy branches down on them with the remaining bandits fleeing. The tree then focuses its attention on the girl before Guts swings the Dragonslayer horizontally over her head, striking the tree so heavily that it is nearly blown apart with blood raining from its new "wounds".