|Episode 97 (Manga)|
|Volume||14 The Black Swordsman, Once More|
|Date Released||September 30, 1997 (tankōbon format)|
← The Elves of Misty Valley
|List of Volumes|
The young girl, Jill, leads Guts and Puck to her village, cloaked in Guts' cape to preserve her modesty after having her dress cut open. Guts makes insensitive, but accurate remarks about the run down settlement, which is largely devoid of energy, almost seeming deserted. The residents are all hidden inside their homes, watching Guts and Jill walk through the streets.
After looking around, Guts catches sight of Jill, who has moved away from him and is peeking through the crack of a door into a house. A woman inside calls her name, but Jill turns from the entrance as though to leave. She appears visibly uncomfortable. The door opens, and Jill's mother exits. She tearfully tells her daughter that she'd been worried about Jill, not having seen her all night, and unaware that she was presumably abducted by the bandits. Jill tries to quieten her mother, but soon, Jill's father hears everything and exits to greet her.
Her father, Zepek, is holding a bottle of alcohol, and is drunk. Despite his words of worry, his attitude reveals that he did not care for his daughter's disappearance. He is wearing a soldier's helmet, and Jill scolds him for having it on despite it looking ridiculous as he is no longer a soldier. Zepek explains that he had been reminiscing with his war buddies. His friends wave to her and have nice expressions, but Jill is rendered uncomfortable by them all the same. Guts stands nearby awkwardly, unsure of what to do.
Jill's father orders her to fetch more drink for him and his friends, which elicits a fierce retort from her, saying that he needs to stop living in the past. This earns her a strike across the cheek from her Zepek's cane, which he uses to compensate for a leg injury from the One Hundred Year War, which he participated in. Jill's mother bends down to tend to Jill while Zepek begins to well up as memories of the war resurface. Jill's mother urges Jill to apologize to Zepek for offending him, but she only gives him a reproachful look. Her father angrily strikes her mother to remove her from his path so he can beat Jill while she's helpless on the ground. He screams and rages as he strikes her, and nobody moves to intervene.
That is, until a chestnut shell flies from out of nowhere and onto Jill's father's forehead. He walks towards Guts, from whose direction the shell came, but Guts denies responsibility and instead holds up the culpable Puck. The elf's presence sends a wave of terror through everyone present but for Guts and Jill, and their screams attract the other villagers, who emerge from their own homes armed with farming equipment.
They demand Guts hand Puck over to them, but Guts refuses to move until they explain their hatred of elves. Jill's insistence that Puck is nice is ignored by everyone. Guts senses movement behind him, and he reflexively moves over and sticks his leg out, tripping his assailant. It's an old woman, who demands the return of her grandchild.
The villagers perceive Guts' self-defense as aggression, and they move in to attack. Guts sticks Puck into his satchel and draws his Dragonslayer high over his head, a sight which freezes the villagers in their tracks. Guts' plan is to kill a couple of villagers to pacify the rest, but Puck urges him not to harm them.
Instead, Guts destroys a cart full of water barrels, using the distraction to run past the stunned villagers, leap over the defensive wall that surrounds the village, and hide from the villagers. They peer out over the edge of the wall in search of Puck, but they soon give up. Puck begins a long rant directed at Guts, telling him that elves are harmless and are generally well-regarded. Guts is apathetic to Puck's situation and instead demands to know when Puck made his home in Guts' satchel.
Their banter is overheard by Jill, who is passing by above them along the wall. She apologizes to them for not having forewarned them of the situation and directs them to a nearby abandoned windmill in which they can take shelter for the night. She promises to bring food for them, but Guts insists that she wait until morning to do so. He doesn't tell her that spirits appear to attack him at night.
That night, Jill watches through her bedroom door as her mother is beaten by her father, urging her to discipline Jill. His old war buddy gets up, claiming he is going to urinate. He instead makes his way to Jill's room, but she bars the door with a slab of wood. She keeps it in place as the door shakes violently for a few moments, Zepek's friend trying to get in. She does so until she hears his footsteps move away from her room. She takes Guts' cloak, which she never returned, from her bed. She wraps it around herself, sits next to her bed, and trembles in the moonlight coming in through the window.
At dawn, Jill runs to the windmill to return Guts' cloak and bring him food. She pushes its large doors open and catches sight of some spirits as they are dissolved by the sunlight. Apprehensively, she approaches a sleeping Guts, but a voice from above, Puck's, instructs her to let Guts sleep, as he has been awake all night. She wraps Guts' cloak around his shoulders and sits next to him, contemplating the mysterious, black-clad man.