|Episode B0 (Manga)|
|Volume||1 The Black Swordsman|
|Date Released||December 1, 1990 (tankōbon format)|
|Arc||Black Swordsman Arc|
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Guardians of Desire 1 →
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The Brand (烙印 Rakuin?) is the 2nd nonnumerical chapter of the Berserk manga series, written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura. This chapter is also the second of sixteen chapters that do not go by conventional chapter labeling.
At night, an injured Guts walks through a forest, hearing malicious voices. Looking up into the trees, he sees spirits watching him. He draws his sword as they swoop in to attack. The next morning, Puck rides into the forest on a bird's back, and he is deposited on a tree branch. He searches the surrounding area futilely for Guts, whom he hasn't seen since the battle with the Snake Baron. As Puck begins to relax, accepting that the Black Swordsman is gone, the branch breaks, and he falls to the ground. Coincidentally, he lands only a few paces away from Guts, who is so injured that he can barely stand.
As Puck inspects Guts' wounds, he reveals that he's been following him around because of the new curiosity he feels towards Guts' monster-killing lifestyle. He is swatted away by Guts, who refuses to make the elf his companion on the grounds that Puck is small and weak. Guts leaves Puck alone in the forest.
Later, Guts has found a road to walk on. He pulls his hood on as rain begins to fall. A priest driving a covered wagon rolls up and offers Guts a ride - Guts refuses twice, warning the priest that he is being pursued by spirits. The priest replies that no spirits can harm him because God prevents it, so Guts ultimately decides that the man's ultimate fate is of no concern and accepts the offer to ride in the wagon. As Guts enters, he feels a sharp pain as the Brand of Sacrifice reacts to the presence of spirits and, looking into the trees of the nearby forest, sees the eyes of the spirits watching him.
Inside the wagon, Guts is reunited with Puck, who has already accepted a ride from the man. Guts also meets the priest's daughter, Collette, who offers Guts wine. Upon her questioning, Guts answers that his wounds were inflicted by spirits, and Collette's father guesses that Guts is a mercenary based on his arsenal. Guts does not correct him. The priest then tells the story of his nephew, who went off to become a mercenary in his youth but died five years prior to the present. Guts replies that, while the priest's nephew probably died happy, he is still dead and can never be brought back. Accepting a blanket from Collette, Guts decides to sleep.
Guts suffers a nightmare. He is naked and trapped in a narrow hallway created by two high stone walls. The hallway has no ceiling, and a single giant eye watches him from above. Guts is running from some creature behind him. As he does so, his Brand begins to bleed and he hears malicious voices like those of the spirits the previous night. Suddenly, Guts impales his foot on a spike in the ground, and he cannot free himself before the creature behind him catches up; a giant version of the fetus-like creature he saw in the prison cell. Just as the creature closes in, Guts awakens.Instinctively drawing his dagger, Guts stabs a small one-eyed creature that is latched to his face in the head. The sudden noise awakens Collette and Puck, and Guts explains that the creature is called an incubus, which feed off people's fear by inducing nightmares. The priest begins to believe that Guts truly is being pursued by spirits. Puck asks why the incubus was drawn to the wagon, and Guts cryptically responds that it is due to his Brand of Sacrifice. He touches it and, seeing that it is bleeding, jumps out of the wagon and draws his sword. Night has fallen. He warns the priest, the elf, and the girl of an impending spirit attack.Suddenly, the priest's horses become agitated, and Collette jumps out of the wagon to calm them. Before Guts can approach her, a spear emerges from the ground and impales the girl in the stomach, killing her. While the priest screams for his daughter, Guts turns his attention to the skeletons that rise from the land around him, possessed by spirits. Guts orders the priest and Puck to run away as he is overcome with rage and begins to massacre the skeletons, using his massive sword to hack their bodies apart.
The priest has not yet left, and his screams draw Guts and Puck's attention; Collette's body has been possessed by a spirit, entered the wagon, and beheaded her father with an old sword. Guts can only watch in shock as she descends from the wagon, approaches him, and drives the point of her sword into his stomach. Looking away from her, Guts gives a one-armed swing of his sword, sending the girl's torso flying away. He then resumes his fierce battle against the skeletons until morning comes, by which time his wounds are so bad that he is spitting up blood.
As the spirits dissipate, leaving the skeletons behind, Puck flutters over to Guts to say that Collette and her father's deaths were not his fault. Guts begins to laugh, saying that they are proof of his philosophy: they were weak and could not survive becoming involved in other people's affairs. Suddenly, the voices of the spirits come down from the trees, taunting Guts. He becomes increasingly agitated as he unsuccessfully tries to order the voices to cease until he aims his arm cannon into the canopy and fires it out of frustration. The voices cease. Guts turns and walks away, followed closely by Puck.
Characters in Order of Appearance
|Black Swordsman Arc|