The man whom he'd seen like a father, had taught him nothing. Nothing... except how to swing a sword. To fight, and to kill, was all he knew.
He found more comfort in fighting to keep his life, than he did in living it out.
He had left his comrades-in-arms. Not because he had disagreed with them, certainly. Far from it, they were his comrades... friends, even... and he was grateful for the time he had spent among them, and he was proud to have been one of their number.
But he had grown restless and discontent, because they had changed him.
He had always been a man without a dream, but until his time with the Hawks, it had never been a concern.
Surrounded by comrades, each one fighting for a dream, he had seen in them all a drive... a passion... that he himself did not have.
So, when the Hundred-Year War was over, and the Hawks had been victorious... when their dreams had come almost to fruition... he left them, without looking back.
A man ill at ease, who knew only how to fight. His place was no longer at their side. Until he found a goal of his own, he could not be their equal.
Could not be... the equal of that man.
Yes, to be that man's equal. That was the dream, of the man called Guts.
As the dust cleared from the massive explosion that had just taken place, some snotty, whiny-sounding kid asked, "Louise, just what were you thinking, hiring some common mercenary to masquerade as your Familiar?!"
The student had been addressing one Louise Francois le Blanc de la Vallierre, a pink-haired young lady of diminuitive size and fiery temper, nicknamed as 'The Zero' for her zero percent success rate in using magic.
Someone with a differing viewpoint might instead have opted to nickname Louise for her one-hundred percent success rate in blowing stuff up, but it's hard to come up with something catchy that reflects that.
Cute attempts at narration aside, Louise heatedly replied, "How dare you accuse me of such a thing? I-I simply made a slight miscalculation in the spell, that's all!"
Another student rolled their eyes in exasperation, before dryly saying, "Yes, you miscalculated that you could even cast 'Summon Familiar' to begin with!"
Yet a third student quipped, "Just another typical day for Louise the Zero, astounding us all with one magnificent failure after another!"
As the crowd of students - who, frankly, were kind of being assholes - burst into laughter at her expense, Louise could do nothing but seethe in anger, and make a concerted effort not to cry.
Her summoned Familiar, meanwhile, wasn't having the best of days either.
Guts cast his gaze about the courtyard, quickly taking stock of the situation.
He was surrounded on all sides by various kinds of monsters, as if he were in some kind of children's bedtime story. But the monsters seemed... docile. Docile and unthreatening, like the pet animals kept by noblemen. Nothing at all like -
YOU WILL MEET YOUR DEATH
A DEATH YOU CANNOT ESCAPE
-Guts shook his head, and cast the memories of Nosferatu Zodd from his mind. That monster's prophecy isn't important right now, I just need to get out of this...
On second look, most of the monsters had children or teenagers by their sides. ...very well-dressed youngsters, with innocent and carefree expressions. Noble brats, all of them. But did a bunch of kids... train all these monsters? The nobles in this country have all got bizarre taste in pets...
But then, just because the domesticated monsters appeared to docile, didn't mean that they were harmless.
Guts didn't consider himself to be gullible or superstitious, but the stark reality was right in front of him: unless he was having some wierd-as-hell dream, it seemed very likely that these... wizards, or whatever, had kidnapped him for some kind of ritual.
The swordsman also had the distinct impression that the pink-headed girl arguing with the others had blown him up, or had at least tried to. Really, it didn't take a mastermind like Griffith, to see that the Hundred-Man Slayer was in quite the sorry situation.
Prioritizing survival over explanations, Guts waited until the pint-sized pinkette seemed to have everyone's attention, before spotting the most likely exit and making a beeline for it, drawing as little attention to himself as possible.
"To hell with this," he muttered. "I'm out of here."
"But Mr. Colbert, can't I be permitted another attempt? A commoner, for Brimir's sake!"
Colbert, a man who had bravely sacrificed his hair for crown and country some years before, shook his head. "Miss Valliere, I can't allow that. The summoning of a Familiar is a sacred rite, and it determines your elemental affinity. Further, the springtime familiar summoning ritual is one of society's most important traditions, reverently upheld since the time of the Founder himself. As long as that mercenary was summoned by you, there is no choice but for you to accept him as -"
Surprised at being interrupted, Colbert turned to admonish Tabitha before realizing that the Familiar of Zero was indeed in the process of making good his escape.
Louise, upon catching sight of the retreating swordsman, went red with indignation. "Get back here, you dog! I summoned you, so return and obey me!"
The swordsman's only response, upon realizing that his actions had been noticed, was to immediately break into a sprint straight for the exit. Clearly, he either didn't comprehend his master's order, or he simply didn't give a damn. The truth, had Louise and or Colbert been privy to it, would've been quite a fair measure of both. But whatever his reasons, he certainly made good time getting from the center of the courtyard to the gates.
However, Louise had no reason offhand to suspect that the errant familiar couldn't understand her, and instead believed that it was being disobedient purely in spite. And, well, a Familiar exists to serve its master like a dog, right? And when a dog misbehaves, one should discipline it, in order to teach it right from wrong, correct? Louise believed herself a good mistress, and thus she resolved to discipline the familiar that dared run away from her.
With a graceful cast of her wand, Louise cast a paralysis spell at her Familiar with the intention of stopping him.
True to form, however, she instead hit him with a powerful explosion that blasted him through the gates and sent him flying some ways down the path. A few seconds after his landing, the swordsman stirred, got up, and promptly continued running like hell.
A few moments of silence followed the spectacle, before a nondescript student began to clap his hands in sarcastic applause. "Amazing. Simply amazing. Truly, the the Zero's ineptitude is boundless."
Louise wanted nothing more, right then, to wake up and learn that the day's events had been nothing more than a dream. Only her stubborn pride as a Valliere kept her from breaking down and crying right there.
How... why... why did everything have to be so wrong?
As she stood there, shellshocked, the other students and familiars began leaving to do their own thing, most likely getting more acquainted with their familiars. Louise began to go to the privacy of her room so she could cry, but found Colbert standing in her path.
"If you're going to your room that's fine, Louise, but I should make it clear that completing the ritual and binding your familiar should absolutely be your priority. That familiar heeded your summoning call. As a fine young woman of noble standing, you need to take responsibility for him."
With an exasperated sigh, Colbert shook his head. "And because the Familiar Summoning Ritual is an event of such gravitas, some of the other professors may choose to bar you from classes until you come back with your swordsman in tow. I can't even imagine how much missed work could pile up if the affair took too long."
On a major level, Louise didn't care right at that moment. She just wanted to sit down and cry. And then, a thought occurred to her, that made her blood freeze.
If I failed to bring my familiar to heel like a proper noble, how would Mother react?
Consumed with sheer terror, Louise dared not entertain that notion any further. She had to dominate that swordsman, and quickly, before word could possibly make its way back to the Valliere estate. There was no other choice. Her voice shaking, Louise asked, "M-Mr. Colbert, could you please help me? I-I don't know that I can do it alone."
Colbert popped his neck, and kindly smiled. "I would be happy to help you, if you like. Indeed, I must confess that its very curious for a human familiar. And I'm certain that some of the junior teachers would love to get some practical experience while we're out."
Louise attempted to gather herself for a moment. Countless emotions were roiling about inside her, and she eventually managed to settle on just one: cold, baleful fury. She had been mocked and humiliated more thoroughly today than ever in her life, which was saying something. And it was all because of that damned familiar. The familiar that had dared to be a common mercenary instead of something impressive like a dragon, or manticore, or gryphon, or, or, or, or a god or something. The familiar that had dared to run away instead of staying at her side and obeying her like a proper servant.
"Very well, Mr. Colbert," said Louise as she wiped at her eyes and schooled her face into a mask of stoicism, "I humbly accept your gracious offer of assistance."
Without thinking to pack anything, because certainly this could be resolved within the day, Louise then turned to leave the Academy in pursuit of her familiar. Her cape dramatically swishing in the wind that had suddenly picked up, she declared, "As a noble of the Valliere family, I will not allow this indignity to go unpunished!"
Reviews keep the world a-spinnin', folks.
There are two kinds of readers in the ffnet world, and I shall address them both.
To the kind of reader who cares to see Guts unintentionally stir up more chaos in Tristain and generally take his BFS to canon with a vengeance, please review.
To the kind of reader who doesn't care for eventual updates because this doesn't seem to be a fic that suits your interests... I respect your decision and your taste, and I send you off on your way with best wishes, but please go ahead and review anyway, as a favor to the other guys.