Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Angel Arms & Diablo Blades: A Trigun Story

A brief introductory note in which I'll sound like an asshole...

This is fan fiction and knowledge of the anime Trigun is mandatory. I do not own any of the characters from Trigun, but the character of Maxwell Snyder is my own creation. So don't steal him or I'll kill you in a story and make a wish before Shenron the eternal dragon to make my story come true. Enjoy the story, but don't complain to me if this isn't your vision of what should have happened. If you feel so strongly about it then write your own fan fiction. The only complaints I'll hear of is if I screwed up a town name, but I shouldn't hear any of those, either. I just got through religiously watching the series and I've Googled enough to make my head spin. Seriously, I know everything there is to know about this show. 

Your feedback is welcome and appreciated (especially if it is intelligent critiquing), but keep your snarky complaints to yourselves. Or, if you truly must complain, at least take the time to check your spelling; I don't want to feel like I need a translator in order to be insulted, damn it. 

Angel Arms & Diablo Blades: A Trigun Story by Jacob T. Long

The Good:

Vash the Stampede (The Humanoid Typhoon) – the hero
“Derringer” Meryl Stryfe – Bernardelli Insurance Agent, the hero’s love interest
“Stungun” Milly Thompson – Bernardelli Insurance Agent
Frank Marlon – gunsmith
Elizabeth – plant technician

The Bad:

Knives Millions – Vash’s brother, sadistic homicidal maniac
Brilliant Dynamites Neon – leader of the Bad Lads Gang

The Ugly:

Maxwell Snyder – sadistic homicidal maniac

I. Knives Wakes

“Is that him?”
            Vash knew there would be questions and perhaps this was the least important one; it was a painfully obvious question and that is why he had expected Milly to ask it. But he smiled in spite of himself because Meryl had surprised him.
            “Yes, it is.”
           A million words could have been said. Knives had much to atone for and he would probably be unwilling to do so, but Vash was determined like the red cloak he had worn for so long.
              Red was the color of determination, after all.
            “He looks so peaceful asleep. Almost like a…” Milly began, but she stopped. Vash knew that she was thinking about Wolfwood. Undoubtedly, she was wondering how someone who had done so much wrong and been responsible for the deaths of dear friends could look so peaceful asleep.
            “It’s okay, girls. He’s not going to hurt anyone ever again. I’m going to take care of him just like I promised Rem a long time ago.”
          Meryl nodded. She was not sure how this was going to work out, but she had learned to never mistrust Vash. Vash would make this work somehow and they would all be better for it. Especially Knives, she hoped, because there was no way that they could go through it all over again.
           No one looked at them. The water was still spewing into the sky from the well that had been dug. The townsfolk were celebrating.
Vash the Stampede
            This will work, Meryl Stryfe decided.
            But if it didn’t more people would die.
            This has to work.
            Vash the Stampede nodded as if he had read her thoughts.
“This is a new beginning,” he said, “a new Eden.”

He remembered the blast. He remembered screaming, “Are you going shoot me again? Are you seriously going to shoot me again, Vash?” But that wasn’t the last time. No, last time had been different. He still had his legs, he knew. He could feel them through the sheets.
“Too sentimental to even kill me, the bane of your existence, aren’t you, Vash?” He whispered to empty room. “Doesn’t he know he’ll regret this?”
The door opened and a woman he did not know walked through, but he saw the resemblance immediately and realized that this was Vash’s woman. It wouldn’t even surprise him if he found out that she was a descendent of Rem. He thought he’d gotten rid of all of her blood, but maybe one or two did escape his grasp. The black hair, the slim figure, and the shape of her jaw all suggested Rem’s blood. The skin was different, though. This woman was too pale.
He could see that she was a bit surprised to see him awake so soon.
Good. I like her surprised. I’m sure I’ll like her even better once she’s scared and dying.
Knives forced himself to sit up in bed. The pain was intense, but it was nothing like losing his legs to Vash’s angel arm so long ago. He could live with a little lead in his blood.
The woman tried to paint a smile on her face, but he saw it was strained.
“It’s good to see you awake, Mr. Knives. I’ve brought you some breakfast.”
Knives clenched his hands into fists. The movements brought another wave of pain, but he supposed he could still cross the room and slap that smile off her face without expending too much energy.
The woman looked around the room, unsure of what to do next. Then she remembered the tray she was holding. She gently set it down on a bedside table.
I could kill her with one hand and she knows that. I can see it on her face and yet she braved it out to be this close to me. She obviously has no idea just who I am or what I can do.
“Please eat all your food, Mr. Knives. Vash wants you to get better soon.”
Knives grabbed at the woman’s arm and squeezed hard. “Do you think I am some bitch’s suckling babe? Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know what I am, human?”
The woman stayed silent despite the pain and she returned his intense stare. Knives wasn’t sure which frustrated him more.
With an effort Knives tossed her across the room. The bedside table shook from the force and the door slammed shut as the woman hit it. She was out cold from the impact.
“Take that, you bitch.”
To his left he saw the window, it was barred. It was no more than three paces away, but as he stood up his vision swayed and the three paces looked more like three iles. One agonizing step at a time he reached the window. He smashed his fists through the glass and pulled at the bars on the other side.
“I am no prisoner,” he muttered. “This isn’t over, Vash. It’s far from over.”
The bars were bending inward, but not fast enough. He could hear footsteps rushing down the hall toward the room. If he had been at full strength he would have ripped the bars off and jumped down the three stories to the ground in an instant, but he was still exhausted from his battle with Vash.
“Vash didn’t do this to me. It was my fault. I should have realized the toll that using two angel arms at once would have taken on me. But next time I’ll be prepared.”
Someone was at the door and pounding on it. The doorknob wouldn’t turn because the force of the blow Knives had dealt had jammed it shut.
“Meryl, are you okay? Don’t you dare hurt her, Knives. Don’t you dare! Meryl, say something.”
It was Vash. Of course, it was. Only Vash could sound that whiny.
Knives pulled harder on the bars and they finally gave way, but as he dropped them on the floor Vash broke through the door using his false arm as a battering ram. Both of Vash’s guns were drawn and his eyes never turned away from Knives even as he slammed into the ground.
The pieces of wood from the door flew around the woman, but none of them seemed to cause her harm.
How unfortunate. It would have been great to have Vash be solely responsible for her death, too.
“It feels like we’ve been here before, right, Vash? It seems that every time I see you you’ve got a gun pointed at me. Are you going to finish things this time? I’m weak, Vash. Now is the time. Do it now or else it’ll be me who kills you.”
Vash shook his head and checked on Meryl’s condition with the blink of an eye. “Why did you hurt her? She’s just trying to help you.”
Knives grew enraged. He forgot all about the open window he had tried so hard to make or the open door. Escaping now would make him look like a coward in his brother’s eyes and he would not have that. He’d rather die.
Why does his opinion still matter to me? Why? He’s a worthless human-lover.
“Do you honestly think I’ll let a human be my caretaker? There have been many stupid things you have done, Vash, but this assumption you make is the worse.”
He wished he could use his angel arm again more than anything.
Vash stood up, wiped off his pants, and put his guns away. “Weren’t the Gung-Ho Guns your caretakers while you were wounded and re-growing your legs? Legato was your eyes and ears and ultimately your own hand. The funny thing is that he had my hand, didn’t he? Don’t you think that means something? You need me, Knives. You’ve always needed me and you need me now more than ever.”
The hands Vash gently placed on his shoulders surprised him.
“I’m sorry,” Vash said as he stared deep into the eyes of the man who had caused him so much grief and misery. “Truly sorry.”
Those green eyes that Knives had dreamed about so often no longer seemed to carry an infinite sadness.
Something is wrong. Why has he changed? How-
The knee Vash planted in his groin caught him off guard and drained him completely of any energy  he had managed to regain since waking up.
Knives fell to his knees and his vision became black at the edges. “Where’s Vash? What have you done with…VASH!!?
Then his face hit the floor and spittle dripped out of his mouth as unconsciousness reclaimed him.
Vash knelt over Meryl and picked her up gently. “You shouldn’t have been in this room alone. He’s still angry at the world and at me. He needs more time.”
“Is she okay?” Milly Thompson asked timidly. She was standing outside the door with Wolfwood’s punisher, the cross filled with mercy and enough lead to kill a small army.
Vash nodded. “She’ll be fine. It was a mistake to let her in that room alone, though.”
“But Meryl can take care of herself.” Milly nodded. She set down Wolfwood’s punisher and tapped it to shove the point home.
Meryl Stryfe always carried dozens of smaller guns under her white cape. Since Knives was still out of it Vash knew that Meryl could have easily overpowered him.
“You’ve been spending too much time with me,” Vash said, but he smiled as he said it. Ever so slightly he kissed her forehead as he carried her to the room they shared. “But we can’t have you being covered in scars like me. Then you wouldn’t look as good naked.” This time Vash’s smile was much different and the yellow glasses he wore steamed over.

II. The Second July

The town had no name that he could see. Large chunks of some strange satellite had been built around the city to make a wall long ago, but now only a small portion of that great wall remained. The section was about four acres long, just large enough to provide him with some cover. What few people he could see through cracks and crevices appeared to be walking around in a state of stupor. Clearly, the outside world did not exist to these wretched people even though their precious wall was long gone.
“Well, I hope they don’t mind me barging in like this.”
The hole he had made with his fist without as much as a sound.
“Lambs to slaughter,” he smiled.
A few more punches and he was through the opening.
He came to an alley in what seemed to be the poorest part of town. There were very few people. Buildings were broken here and there, but many seemed to be in a process of rebuild.
A dirty hobo sitting next to a dumpster looked up at him and frowned. The hobo was wearing a bathrobe but nothing else. 
Ah, my first encounter with a native of this filthy planet.
“Tell me, my odious friend, why is this town so pathetic-looking?”
The hobo laughed. “You mean you don’t know what happened here 23 years ago?”
He didn’t really care about the town’s history at all; he just wanted an excuse to do what needed to be done. But he frowned and said that he had no idea. “Please, I’d love for you to tell me.”
The hobo eyed him. “You must live under a rock! This here is the town of July. 23 years ago the Humanoid Typhoon blasted the town all to hell. Everyone survived, but many people went insane and killed themselves. Many people left, but a lot of other people came, too. Some are trying to help rebuild the place while others are trying to destroy what has been rebuilt, the filthy bandits.” The hobo nodded. “Yessir, this used to be a peaceful town. But it’s been hell since Vash the Stampede.” The hobo spat. “May the bastard rot in hell.”
“My, how tragic, how very tragic a tale you’ve told me.” He nodded, trying to look sympathetic to the filthy man’s plight, but inside he was gleaming. “Tell me, how did he manage to destroy an entire town without killing anyone? That’s quite a feat.”
The hobo shook his head. “The Humanoid Typhoon wants people to live to spread tales about him. He wants to see them suffer and folks can’t suffer if they’re dead. Death is too much of a mercy for that fiend. He’ll only kill when he grows bored and there’s nothing else for him to do.”
He shook his head, impatient. “What I meant was, was there some sort of brilliantly aimed blast that leveled the entire town without killing anyone? Or was there some sort of sorcery? Say, this Vash mumbled some words and blinked his eyes and the town fell to ruin with the people unharmed. That sort of thing?”
The hobo said, “Aye, there was a blast. Just like there was a blast in Augusta that put a hole in the Fifth Moon. The Humanoid Typhoon’s gun is tremendous. I certainly hope you’re not trying to go after the bounty on his head. Is that why you are so interested in him? ‘Cuz you’ll get yourself killed and only serve to rile him up further.”
Bounty, huh? This Vash sounds more like me by the telling…
“Well,” he said, “I must leave you now, but I’ll gladly relieve the pain that you and so many others have endured.”
With a snap of the fingers, the town dissolved in light before him. The hobo’s cry of pain and fear was never heard above the blast and the flesh ripping from his face could only be seen for a moment.
When it was over the town was still standing, completely untouched, but all of the people were gone.
“I must find this Vash,” he decided. “It sounds like we could make a good team.”
Maxwell Snyder inspected the town. He decided that it would be a perfect location for the new prison. It needed to be larger if it was going to hold all of the king’s enemies, but there were undoubtedly other towns that needed to be cleansed.
In front of what could only have been the sheriff’s office was a flyer posted on a bulletin board.
So this is the face of the infamous Humanoid Typhoon.
The face wasn’t particularly remarkable because the drawing was in black and white, but the price was what fascinated him.
“What an odd number. I wish I would have left someone alive who’d be able to read it to me.”
But there were eleven numbers before the decimal and Snyder knew that had to be quite a lot.

Vash could not believe what he was hearing from the townsfolk. July was gone again. Someone had single-handedly wiped away every trace of the human populace.
Only Knives or the Gung-Ho Guns could only be responsible for something like that, Vash knew. But the Gung-Ho Guns were all dead and Knives was in a bed down the hall, resting once again.
Who could have done that? Who?
A hand patted his chest. “Is something wrong?”
Vash didn’t want to tell Meryl what he had overheard in the saloon. Trouble had always followed Vash and when Vash met Milly and Meryl trouble had begun to follow them, too.
But the trouble was supposed to be over now. Knives had been defeated and no one in this town was after the price on Vash’s head because they had discovered him to be a truly peaceful man.
This was supposed to be the start of a new Eden.
But trouble was starting again and he didn’t want Meryl to know.
“Everything’s fine,” he patted her hand. “Go back to sleep. You’ve had a rough day.”
What am I going to do? I want to stay here. I don’t want to leave again.
Vash stared at the ceiling as Meryl lay beside him. He wasn’t seeing the ceiling, though. Or even the sky.
He was seeing Knives as he had been as a child and Rem as she had been the last time he had seen her. He was seeing the angel arm that had destroyed the cities of July and Augusta. He was seeing his brother’s obnoxious smile as he had stood over the bodies of the dead.
If I have to leave I’ll take Knives with me and leave the girls here. They can’t follow me again.
Of course, he had tried to make them stop following him before and it hadn’t worked.
But maybe the incident with Legato had changed things. Maybe they wouldn’t follow him this time.
Vash’s eyes scanned the two guns sitting on the counter on the wall to his left. The guns that he and Knives had used in their duel sat side by side. They were guns that had faced each other too many times, but maybe just this one time they would be used together and for something more important than trying to shoot a brother.

III. Frank Sees Horses in a Dead Town

Frank Marlon was a gunsmith that had at one time been a drunk, but Vash had saved him. Frank was eternally grateful to him and even though he had not seen him since that one time, he was not going to listen to the new rumors. The first July and the thing with Augusta and the Fifth Moon were undoubtedly something that Vash had been involved in, but the new attack on July? Frank Marlon didn’t buy it because he knew that the Humanoid Typhoon, the gunman with spiked blond hair and green eyes, did not kill people. He may leave a town in rumble, but he would not take a single life.
So who did it? Frank didn’t want to know, but he figured that Vash would do something about it. That’s just the type of thing the crazy gunman who didn’t like killing would do, he figured.
But he did not expect the man responsible for the second attack on July to waltz right through the door to his office.
“May I help you, sir?” he asked the gentlemen in the khaki pants and the black shirt. Who the hell wears black in this heat? Is this guy nuts?
The man had short black hair and deep brown eyes that seemed to dissect Frank from a distance. Why do I have the feeling that he just discovered everything about me with one glance, like he just stared into my soul or something? It was nonsense to feel that way, but he could not help it. This stranger gave him the creeps big time.
The picture the man was carrying sent the chills home; it was the ever-popular wanted poster for Vash the Stampede.
“Tell me, Mr. Marlon,” the man began, “have you ever met this man?”
“No, I haven’t,” Frank Marlon said at once. The stranger looked too soft to be a bounty hunter, but there was a certain steel in the man’s eyes that Frank did not like and that knowing feeling continued to haunt him.
“Are you sure? Rumor tells that you are quite the gunsmith and that the great Vash has even paid you a visit on occasion.” The man smiled and Frank liked that smile even less than the stare. Vash had smiled with a great sadness, but this guy smiled with a great glee.
No one should look that happy in this day and age, especially not after the second attack on July.
“I wouldn’t dare pay my services to no killer,” Frank said and slammed his fists on his desk to send the point home.
The man laughed. “Quite the queer statement coming from a gunsmith, isn’t it? Well, if you haven’t seen him or his gun, then maybe you can still be of use to me. I want you to fix this.”
The stranger reached into his pocket and pulled out a sharp knife, a red switchblade that had rusted to where it would not shut. He dropped it on the desk in front of Frank. “I’m no gunman,” the man said. “I find guns to be completely unnecessary and entirely too crass. I much prefer the feel of a simple knife, but my blade is quite old and fragile. The edge is dull and it cannot cut cleanly anymore. I want you to fix it for me, Mr. Marlon.”
Frank shook his head. “I’ve never fixed knives before, Mister. I wouldn’t know where to start.”
The man looked a bit crestfallen. “I see. Can you tell me the name of someone who can fix my knife?”
“Well, no one here has much use for knives. Bandits prefer to use guns and it is hard to defend yourself against one with nothing less than a gun.” Although Vash could make do with just a finger in a pocket and a knife tucked away in his shoe.
“How unfortunate. I guess I don’t have a purpose to be in this town any longer. Have a good day.”               The stranger turned to leave, put his hand on the doorknob, but stopped just short of twisting it. “Tell me, Mr. Marlon,” the man said with his back turned, “Have you ever met a traveling man of the cloth?”
            Wolfwood, Marlon thought. He knows about him, too. But how? “Never have been much in need of priests, but there are quite a few of them. A lot of people are dying these days.”
“Like your wife and child?”
Marlon could not believe it. No one in town would have volunteered that information to a complete stranger. Maybe once they would have, but not now. Not after Vash had saved him and he had redeemed himself.
“Who the hell are you? And how dare you talk about them, you little shit. On second thought I don’t care who you are. Just get the hell out of here before I throw you out!”
Without another word the stranger left, but Marlon did not like that either. Any ordinary scumbag would have stayed and fought after being told off like that, but this guy was something else. This guy was cold and calculating with a strong thirst for blood. After dealing with many gunmen in his life, he had learned to identify the crazies.
As he was about to sit back down, he realized that the stranger had forgotten his knife. He opened the door to toss it out when a bright light blinded him. It lasted only for a moment and then it was gone.
Was that some sort of solar flare?
The stranger was gone. Mumbling, he put the rusty knife back on his desk and went to the saloon to ask if anyone else had seen the stranger or that weird bright light. He did not drink much anymore, but he did enjoy the company and saloons were the best places to discover information about someone. 
As he pushed through the doors he realized that the place was deserted.
And it wasn’t just the saloon. The streets were without people. The cars, the horses, and every building that Frank investigated had been robbed of people.
This is just like the second attack on July, he realized.
That guy! He’s the one who did it. But why did he leave me alive and take everybody else?
He ran to his car and stared at the horses. The horses were unharmed, too. Scared as hell, but otherwise unharmed.
Never thought I’d have so much in common with a horse.
Frank Marlon decided that he had to find Vash. Vash would help him again, he just had to.
He climbed into his car, put the pedal to the floor, and sped out of the newly dead town.

Maxwell Snyder grinned as he watched Frank leave. The mouse had been set after the cheese. Frank would find Vash for him and then Snyder would see if the Humanoid Typhoon was really all he had cracked up to be. Judging from Marlon’s thoughts, the man in the red cloak appeared to be a witless peace-lover. But maybe there was something more. Certainly a man who had destroyed two towns had to have some sort of merit.
            Snyder ran after the frightened gunsmith and jumped into the backseat of his car.
            Foolish mortal can’t even see me now. He wanted to laugh so badly at that moment, but if he did it would give his position away. Take me to Vash, you fool. Take me to this Sixty Billion Double Dollar Man.

IV. Knives for Dinner (I)

            This time a different woman stood over him, trying to hand him breakfast. She was rather tall, with long flowing brown hair, and garbed in an ugly yellow dress that made her look pregnant. On second glance, he decided that she probably was pregnant. Human eyes probably would not have been able to discern that, but Knives was not human. 
            “Here’s your breakfast, Mr. Knives.”
            He could see the late preacher’s cross slung across her back. “So you were the wench of Chapel’s boy.” Knives smiled. “I suppose that makes you good for something. I could use another Gung-Ho Gun. I can only hope that the child inside you doesn’t grow to be as undependable as the father. Maybe I can provide a much better form of influence.”
Milly Thompson
            The pain was written on the stupid woman’s face, but she did not strike him even though he knew that she wanted to. “You’re nothing like Vash, Mr. Knives. And Mr. Wolfwood was nothing like you. He was kind and gentle and loving and everything you are not.”
            Knives shrugged. “Maybe if Wolfwood had been more like me he’d still be alive, don’t you think? At the very least he would have died with honor instead of dying on his knees, praying to an invisible goblin on a cross.”
            This time she did strike him and she did so with the cross that she carried, Wolfwood’s punisher.
            Knives laughed despite the stinging pain to both his face and his pride. “I promise you that I’ll rip that babe from your stomach for that and that will be the end of the Wolfwoods once and for all.”

            Milly Thompson ran from the room. It was either that or kill him and she had made a promise to Vash that no harm would come to his brother.
            But it was so hard, so hard to not just reach for the punisher on her back and blow him away.
            Doing that would make Wolfwood, Vash, and Meryl upset though so she had to be strong for them. She had to be strong.
            But the tears flowed like they had not since Wolfwood had died.
            Am I really pregnant? How could he know? And of all the people on the planet, why does he have to be the first one to tell me?
            When it came time for dinner Meryl knocked on her door, but Milly told her that she wasn’t hungry and that she was going to bed early. The real reason was that she did not want to be around Knives again any time in the near future.
            Ever since Vash had brought him back they made it a custom to eat dinner in the room where Knives laid. At all times the conversation was kept as pleasant as it could be and it never strayed from course no matter what Knives shouted at them. And Knives did like to shout. He shouted horrible things about Vash and Wolfwood, but what Knives had told her a moment ago was the worst. He had stolen a true blessing from her. Wolfwood had left her with child and Knives had seen it before she had.
            No, she did not want to see Knives ever again.
            But she had to be strong. Vash believed he could change so she would believe the same. She was not about to betray her trust in Vash.

V. Protective Posse

            “Come on, gang, someone is coming this way!”
            Brilliant Dynamites Neon waited impatiently as the lookout used the scaffold to climb his way down the building.
            The Bad Lads Gang had expected a big score in this town, but there was no one here. They made off with a lot of loot, but Neon took no pride in it. The score had not been earned. There was almost no point in taking anything because there was no honor in it. A man should be given the chance to fight for what is his, Neon believed. It shouldn’t just be taken while no one is there to defend it. Only cravens engage in that behavior.
            But Neon had little choice. Towns were disappearing at an alarming rate and Neon had a feeling that the people would never return. These goods had to be put to some use, he figured.
            Now that someone was coming it made things interesting, but one man in a car was scarcely a fight. As long as he didn’t do anything stupid, Neon figured he would let the guy pass through and wish him luck.
Brilliant Dynamites Neon
            “I want him left alone,” Neon called out. “Anyone who shoots at him will answer to me! So let’s have some class and shine, boys.”
            The car entered the town quickly, slowed to a crawl for whatever reasons, sped up again, and then came to a full stop at the center of town. The man jumped out of the car, cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Hello!” He waited for a response. When the only thing he heard was his echo he shouted “Is there anybody here left alive?”
            Neon decided to give the guy a break and make his presence known, if only because he was a little tired of seeing lifeless towns as much as this guy appeared to be.
            “The name is Brilliant Dynamites Neon,” he said as he stepped out of the entrance to the bank. “You’re the first person we’ve seen all day.”
            One by one the members of the Bad Lads Gang stepped forward and introduced themselves. There were at least a dozen of them present including Neon, but a few more were scattered throughout the town looking for loot and anybody chance had left alive.
            “You’re all bandits,” the man remarked. “You’re robbing this town.”
            Neon had to give the man credit because he was outnumbered and outgunned, but he showed no trace of fear.
            “We’re not going to hurt you,” Neon smiled. “Bandits we may be, but we shine. It wouldn’t be flashy to gang up on you so we are letting you go.”
            The man nodded. “I appreciate your courtesy, but I need to know something. Have you seen anybody alive at all? I just came from a dead town and I saw who did it. I saw him.”
            Neon frowned. “It wasn’t a guy with spiky blond hair and a red coat, was it?
            “You mean you know Vash the Stampede, too?”
            Well, this is interesting. Seems this guy is Vash’s friend.
            “I’ve had a run in with him, I guess you could say. He’s a real class act. Got a certain shine. Are you looking for Vash?”
            The man shook his head. “I know where to find him, but I’ve been driving by towns trying to warn people. So far I haven’t seen a soul until now.”
            Neon’s frown deepened. “You say you saw the guy who’s been doing all of this?”
            The man nodded. “He’s got slicked-back black hair, khaki pants, and a black shirt. He’s skinny and looks a bit frail, but he has steel in his eyes. And when he looks at you it’s like…” he broke off. Maybe he realized that he was in the presence of bandits again and didn’t want to start waxing poetic.
            But Neon knew what the man was talking about. In his life he had seen one man with a truly penetrating stare and that man had been Vash the Stampede. It would be interesting to see another.
            Perhaps he would follow this guy to Vash and maybe the black haired stranger that this friend of Vash’s was talking about would follow, too. After all, trouble always did follow the man in red.
            “What’s your name?” Neon asked him.
            “I’m Frank Marlon.”
            Well, I’ll be damned. “Frank Marlon the gunsmith?”
            “That’s right, buddy. Although a lot people knew me for a long time as Frank Marlon the drunk.”
            Neon nodded. “So I’ve heard. Well, listen up Mr. Marlon because I’ve got an offer for you. We’ll be more than glad to travel with you. We’ll be your protective posse. How do you like the sound of that, Mr. Marlon?”
            Frank Marlon scratched his head. He didn’t like the idea of being surrounded by a bunch of strange armed men. Especially bank robbers. His wife and child had been killed in a bank robbery, after all.
            But these were damn scary times and sometimes help had to come from the most unexpected of sources.
            The only thing that bothered him was…
            “What do want in return?”
            Neon smiled and tipped his hat. “A duel with Vash, of course. We never did have a proper one.”

VI. Knives for Dinner (II)

            Milly was absent again.
Guess I hit a real nerve.
Knives smiled at Vash and Meryl.
He dreamed about killing them by stuffing all that food down their throats until they choked on it.
            But he found himself growing hungry and he could not remember the last time he had eaten anything.
            He could not stand them chattering any more. That absurd polite conversation was going to kill him if nothing else did. Didn’t they fear him anymore? Didn’t they fear what he could do to them?
            “Shup up,” he screamed. “I’m sick of it! Just kill me or let me kill myself, but stop fucking talking my ears off!”
            Vash frowned. “I strongly disapprove of suicide and you know how I feel about-”
            “Oh, I know all of your jargon. You’ve bored me with it for a hundred and thirty years, now can’t I get a break from it for five fucking minutes?”
            “Do you really want me let you go?” his brother asked. “I can’t keep you in this room forever. I can’t even keep you around me forever. I just hope I can help you, Knives. I want to take care of you. If you don’t want my help you can get up and leave right now.”
            Meryl’s eyes shifted from Knives to Vash. Knives supposed that she was as surprised by the offer as he was.
            What does he want from me? Why does he say that he wants to help me?
            “I don’t need your help, Vash. I’ll never need your help.”
            “Then why did you keep me around for so long? I opposed your views and everything you did. I was your biggest threat and yet you never drew a gun on me until the very end. You sent others to do what you could not. Not until I showed you just how strong I was and even then I overpowered you. You have no one to cower behind. You need me, Knives.”
            Where is this coming from? This isn’t the craven I remember.
            “Please stay here with us, Mr. Knives,” Meryl said. “We’d love for you to stay.”
            After he had beaten the woman senseless, after he had made Vash kill at long last, and after he had done his damnedest to kill everything Vash loved and stood for… Knives was being embraced. He could not understand it.
Knives Millions
            “I’ll kill you both,” he said. “I will.”
            They smiled.
“It’s okay to be angry when you’ve been alone for so long,” Meryl said. “You don’t know how to be any different. You were hurt by people when you were younger and you hate them for it, but you have to deal with those feelings. We’re here for you.”
Was he going mad? Knives could not understand the logic of the human. “I would have killed every human being and I would have killed you, Vash. And one day I will do both.”
“Then start now.” Vash tossed the gun that Knives remembered so well onto his bed. “Point it at my head. Kill me. Isn’t that what you want?”
“Vash, no!” Meryl shouted, but he cut her off.
“This is the way it has to be. Now leave the room.”
“I said leave now!”
Knives stared at the gun. He grabbed for it, unable to believe that was holding it. He checked the ammo and discovered it to be loaded. While he doubted he could use his angel arm in his weakened condition, there was no doubt that he really could kill them.  
            Meryl walked out of the room slowly, but she didn’t go too far. Knives knew that she was armed and would step in if she thought Vash really was threatened.
            Too bad she wouldn’t stand a chance against him.
            Knives raised his gun and pointed it at Vash’s forehead.
            “What game are you playing, Vash?”
            Vash pushed his round yellow glasses up his nose as he always did when he was about to get serious and waited for Knives to make his move.
            “Are you really going to let me kill you?”
            Vash shook his head. “I’m going to let you try.”
            The metal prosthetic arm spat out the hidden gun and Vash pointed it at Knives.
            “I don’t want to kill you, but I will if I have to. I want to take care of you, but I can’t if you won’t let me.”
            Knives laughed. “You won’t kill anyone. You’re too soft."
            But as he said it, he began to wonder. Vash’s finger really was tightening up on the trigger while Knives had yet to exert any pressure on his own trigger.
            Since when does Vash ever make the first move?
            “What happened to you, Vash? You used to be so…”
            Vash nodded. “I used to be a lot of things. But you changed me. Maybe you actually changed me for the better.”
            “I’ve done nothing but torture you.”
            “And I’ll do nothing but help you until my last breath. If that comes by your gun then I guess I’ll just have to accept that and die.”
            Knives tightened his grip on the trigger and he saw Vash do the same. It was tough to tell who would take the first bullet. Vash’s prosthetic gun had more of a kick and the recoil might change the bullet’s trajectory and delay it just long enough for Knives’s bullet to make impact first. Either way they would both die.
            Sweat dripped down their foreheads and they breathed deeply. They stood on opposite sides of each other’s barrels, but their actions were still the same: breathe deep, try not to blink, and slowly exhale.
            “Is killing me worth your own life, Knives? I must know this. I must know what you think your life is worth!”
            Knives couldn’t think of anything to say other than, “I am a superior being.”
            “What does that mean? How are you superior?”
            “What are talking about, Vash? I’ve told you that I kill the spiders and save the butterflies. A human would not do that. I am better than they are.”
            Vash shook his head. “Actually many humans would do that. So maybe you have a lot more in common with them than you think.”
            Knives felt like he had been kneed in the gut again. “Shut up! You shut your damn mouth now! Humans are garbage and I’ll kill them all!” He pulled the trigger and the sound of bullets echoed throughout the night.
            He ran through the town, ducking at the sight of people. He dodged into alleys, hoping for a way out of town. Something had to be wrong with him. He had Vash dead to rights, but all of his bullets had missed the mark.
            And Vash hadn’t even fired a single shot, damn him.
            The woman named Meryl had bounded into the room reaching for her Derringer-style disposable pistols, but Knives had pulled the bars off his window once again and jumped the three stories to the ground.
            It was one thing to not kill Vash, but how could he have not killed that woman? If he had just managed to grab her then Vash would be reduced back to the blubbering idiot that Knives remembered so well.
            Somewhere in the dark alley a man’s hands reached out to Knives. “Please help a blind man, Mister! My dog ran off and I’m in a strange part of town.”
            Knives smiled. “I’ve got your dog right here.” He slammed the butt of his gun down on the man’s face once and listened as he cried out in pain. Then he did it again and again. Each time he heard him cry and each time his smile widened.
            “I’ll never change, Vash. Never.”
            One last time he brought the butt of his gun down and the man’s skull broke like a damn and brains spilled out onto the wall and sidewalk.
            “Never,” he said one last time and ran off into the darkness.

            Meryl was yelling at him. He supposed that he should have expected her to get upset, but it was the only way; Knives wasn’t going to change by himself. He was going to need a lot of help and lot of care.
            “He could have killed you!”
            Vash shook his head. “I’ve gotten to him. All his life he’s only known how to express his anger and hatred. He doesn’t know gratitude or love yet.”
            “So you mean that because he didn’t kill you it means that he is thankful to you for saving his life and that he loves you? That’s nuts!”
            “He could have killed me, Meryl.”
            She let out a frustrated sigh. “That’s why I’m so pissed, you dope.”
            “But he didn’t. The first step has been taken. Now it is time for the second.”
            “And just what the hell is the second?”
            Vash shrugged and put on a goofy smile, “To tell you the truth I’m really not too sure yet. Just kind of winging it, you know?”
            Meryl punched him in the face. “It’s a good thing Knives left this room unoccupied because you can sleep in here tonight.”
Meryl Stryfe
She slammed the door in his face before he could say anything else.
            That is when he heard the scream of pain from somewhere off in the distance.
            Knives, why is it that you always have to hurt people? You claim you are a superior being, but shouldn’t you show them how to make themselves better instead cutting them down.
            Vash prayed for the soul of whoever Knives had hurt and jumped out of the broken window.
            The landlord is going to be pissed to find out that we broke his window again. Hopefully, he won’t force the girls out onto the street. Then Meryl will really be pissed at me.
            He chased after Knives and decided that he was going to keep chasing because there were only two options left: Knives could change for the better or he could die.
            But what mattered is that Knives was given the chance.
            Rem might or might not have agreed with that, but Vash had decided not too long ago that it was time for him to live by his own standards and his own morals. Rem’s had served him well though and he still hoped that he would make her proud.

VII. A Convenient Meeting

            Brilliant Dynamites Neon looked over his shoulder again. He noticed Frank Marlon doing the same thing from time to time.
            Something’s out there following us.
            Neon was not superstitious, but he was not stupid. He hadn’t lived this long based solely on blind luck. Maybe Vash the Stampede could do that, but not Neon. That just wasn’t his style. No, something was definitely out there. Even the rest of the Bad Lads were looking back, too.
            They rode on bikes and cars, but Neon led the pack in his large armored money truck that been conveniently fitted with a large anti-tank gun that would have deterred any would-be bank robbers. Too bad no one had been around in the last town to use it to protect the money because that would have been a worthy effort indeed.
            But armed as he was, Neon still sat uneasy.
            A man who could wipe away entire towns in the blink of an eye could not be underestimated.
            It wasn’t until Neon eyed his mirror once again to check on Frank Marlon, who was driving further back in the pack surrounded on all sides by Bad Lads, that he saw something that turned his sense of unease into a sense of terror.
            Someone is there.
            All he could see was an white outline in the shape of a person. It could have been nothing more than a mirage, but this mirage was casting a shadow on the trunk of the car.
            He’s just sitting there in the backseat of Frank’s car. And Frank can feel him, but he doesn’t see him like I can. He doesn’t see the shadow, either.
            Neon immediately spun his truck around and gave the signal to his Bad Lads to disperse away from Frank Marlon’s car.
            His men were undoubtedly questioning his motives, but after so many heists and close calls they would not disobey him. They knew him and they knew he would have a good reason. They drove far enough away from the car and drew their guns.
            “Get the hell out of your car, you damn fool! He’s right behind you.” To the Bad Lads he shouted, “All of you hold your fire!”
            Between the seats of the truck was a knob with a red button; the knob would fix the gun’s location and the red button would make things go boom.
            Frank Marlon jumped out of his moving car when he saw the anti-tank gun pointed his way and fell hard on the ground. They weren’t on loose sand, either. The fall would bruise if not crack the man’s ribs.
            Better than being dead, though.
Neon followed the path of the renegade car as it slowed down.      
            There. The shadow was on the ground now, moving away from Neon. That vague outline of a person was there, too.
            He locked onto that outline and pushed the red button.
            The gun that sat atop the hood of the truck fired and Neon could see the bullet as it traveled almost as if it was in slow motion.
            The outline stopped and the shadow pivoted.
            He’s trying to dodge the bullet.
            The bullet sped onward and it was an instant before impact. This strange person was going to grow a hole in his head and Neon was curious to see if his blood would be invisible, too.
            But then the outline just vanished and the shadow followed.
            Neon could not believe it. The bullet flew unobstructed through the air and hit nothing.
            Who in the hell is this guy?
            “What the hell was that?” Frank Marlon shouted as he grabbed his right side. “I’d never seen anything like that before!”
            Neon nodded. “Neither have I. I just know that we are in trouble, seriously deep trouble.” After a moment he realized that he was smiling, “And today just got a whole lot more interesting.”
After he took a deep breath he shouted to his Bad Lads to help Frank Marlon back to his car so they could all get going again.
Vash the Stampede is waiting for us even if he doesn’t know it yet. And once we find Vash I have no doubt that our invisible friend will show his true colors. Then I’ll have a chance to get them both.

Maxwell Snyder could not believe it. He had been spotted by that big lumbering oaf in that ridiculous white suit with the shoulder pads covered in neon.
Well, there goes my ride.
People on this strange world named Gunsmoke appeared to be mostly idiots, but there were those like that fellow named Neon and this strange Humanoid Typhoon which made him wonder if he had chosen the wrong planet. Maybe he had even chosen the wrong dimension.
Of course, he was stronger than any of them and smarter, too. But people were a lot like cockroaches and just one could sneak up on you and catch you napping.
But this planet was perfect. He could picture all of the prisoners from the Kingdom of Mars sweating to death under the intense heat of the multiple suns of this world. Yes, this was the world. And once all of the scumbags were here, Maxwell would start transferring everybody else here, too. Then he would be king. Or better yet, he would become a god. He liked the sound of that a lot more.
Guess I better get moving. I can’t become a god if I stand around and do nothing.
He walked for hours. The suns set and then the suns rose and then they set again.
Snyder was not sure how many days he had been walking for, but he didn’t care. Time was nothing to him.
For him centuries passed in the blink of an eye and millenniums were nothing more than a long day.
Recalling a line from a movie that was either ancient or new depending on which dimension he traveled, he said, “Death has come to your town, Sheriff.”
            After a few more hours passed by he saw someone. The man was dressed in a peculiar blue and white suit. It reminded him of something out of a movie.
            It looked like one of those suits the Romulans might have worn on Star Trek.
            They were at least three miles apart from each other.
            Or, in the ridiculous terminology of the world, they were three “iles” away from each other.
            But there were no dunes or cities to obscure their vision.
            Maxwell Snyder pulled the picture of Vash the Stampede out of his pocket.
            The resemblance between them is uncanny.
            Then something else occurred to him: he was having trouble reading the man’s mind.
            All he could see were vague images that did not make much sense to him.
            But there were a few things he could see that made everything clear enough.
            He saw this man as a boy and this boy was staring up at the sky watching thousands of people burn alive as they fell through space.
            He saw this man as a boy looking down on a child named Vash and kicking him for being soft.
            He saw a word etched in blood on a stone in the center of a dead town: Knives.
“Hello, Knives,” Maxwell Snyder called out. “It’s quite convenient meeting you here in a place like this.”
Knives stared at him, but did not return the greeting. He took another step forward and then he collapsed onto the hard-packed sand.
Maxwell Snyder frowned. “I suppose we’ll save the proper introductions for later.”

“I can’t believe Mr. Vash left us in the middle of the night.”
Meryl could have screamed. In fact, she already had several times and her voice was hoarse. So maybe she could not have screamed, but she really wanted to. “I can’t believe we actually let him bring Knives here.”
“Well, Knives didn’t have anywhere else to stay and it would make Mr. Vash sad if we said no.”
Sometimes she wondered if they had all gone insane. Meryl found herself sleeping with the infamous Humanoid Typhoon and adopting his views on life, Milly was pregnant with the child of a late preacher who had been fond of guns and booze, and Vash was trying to show his homicidal semi-immortal brother how to be human.
Nope, nothing is wrong here. All is perfectly freaking normal.
“Hey, Meryl, do you hear that?”
It was pretty hard not to. Sound carried well in a desert and this sound was that of a caravan.
Milly ran to the window, the very same window that Knives had destroyed twice.
“Oh, you won’t believe who is here, Meryl!”
Great, what now?
She went to the window and her mouth would have fallen to the floor if it had not been connected to her face.
“Isn’t that…” Milly began.
Meryl gulped. “It’s Brilliant Dynamites Neon and the Bad Lads Gang!”
Can’t we ever get a break?
“Well, who is that with them?” Milly asked. “He looks very familiar and he doesn’t appear to be one of the Bad Lads.”
“It’s… that gunsmith. Remember, Milly? He used to be a drunk because he'd lost his family in a bank robbery.”
“Oh, that’s Mr. Mellon.”
“Marlon,” Meryl corrected. “But what is he doing with the Bad Lads?”
Meryl got an uneasy feeling in her chest. Something bad was about to happen very soon, she knew.
Where the hell are you, Vash? Please get back here. We need you.

“Oh, man, I’m so lost!” Vash shouted. “I must have taken a wrong turn.”
The trail had gone cold two days ago and the desert was only getting bigger the further he went away from town.
But he had to find Knives again. It had taken months to find him last time though and even then it had been Wolfwood who had told him of Knives’s exact location.
Thinking about him made Vash sad all over again and he wanted to cry.
Nicholas D. Wolfwood and his punisher
He wished Wolfwood would have told him about his past earlier.
I could have saved him. I could have. He didn’t have to die.
And, at that moment, a voice spoke to him. It was the voice of the late preacher, Nicholas D. Wolfwood. He hadn’t heard that voice since he had battled Knives a week ago.
“You’re doing it again, Needle Noggin.”
Vash nodded. He was trying to change and trying to be more accepting of his flaws, but it was difficult. His flaws had caused so many people to die.
“Dying is part of the mortal condition,” Wolfwood told him from wherever he was. “So is pain. Get used to it.”
Vash shrugged. “I don’t want to.”
            “Life is never about what anybody wants. It just is and it is up to each of us to make the best of it.”
            Why did you have to die, Wolfwood? Why?
            Step after step passed by and he saw no sign of Knives or that strange man that Brilliant Dynamites Neon and Frank Marlon had told him about.
            It had been so strange to see them out in the middle of the desert like that, but he supposed it was a blessing in disguise. Now Milly and Meryl had someone to protect them in case that invisible man came around.
            Of course, it had taken a bit of nudging to get Neon and his gang to go to town without him.
            “I’ll do that, but you still owe me, Vash.” Neon had said. “You do remember?”
            He remembered just fine and he kind of looked forward to it because if he found himself dueling Neon it would mean that he had survived all of this.
            “Be careful, Vash,” Frank had told him. “That guy is out there somewhere.”
            Vash nodded. “Is he a sniper?”
            The look Frank had given him was a strange one because he didn’t understand. Caine the Longshot had been a mute sniper for the Gung-Ho Guns and he had worn a cloak that would make him blend in to whatever his surroundings were. Of course, Vash had watched Caine kill himself so this could not be him.
            The answer Frank had given Vash was truly puzzling.
            “He said he likes to use knives and that he isn’t a gunman.”
            And Vash had a terrible thought as he remembered his conversation with Frank and Neon.
            “Knives,” he muttered. “What if this guy finds Knives?”
            Knives was not anywhere to be seen, but he was still very injured. Certainly he would have collapsed somewhere within the last few iles. Vash had been circling the city at a distance for hours.
            “He’s gone,” Vash frowned.
            Frank had said that he had made everyone in town disappear in a bright flash of light. That sounded like something Legato Bluesummers could have done, but even with Legato bodies would eventually be found in piles on the outskirts of town.
            It’s the exact same thing and yet it’s completely different. A stranger who is isn’t strange at all, but his motives are a mystery.
            After five more hours of walking around, Vash had made a complete circle around the town.
            Vash began the long walk back to the city and the girls that were probably worried sick about him.
            They’ll find me again. Knives knows where I am even if this man named Snyder does not.
            Maxwell Snyder had dug a cave in the side of a dune, heating the sand with his hands until it had turned into a substance resembling glass but with the texture of sandpaper. They were a hundred iles east of the town Vash had claimed to be home. Knives was tossing and turning in the bed of sand that Snyder had made.
            “This one is quite intriguing,” he nodded. “He’s not human, but he looks like one. No one would know from the look of him, but he has done more harm to this world than anyone could guess. Yes, I think I like him… and his name. A great name indeed.”
            Snyder pulled the old rusty knife out of his pocket. It was true that he had left it behind in the city of July, but the knife always found its way back to him. It was dependable in the way that only a knife could be.
            The poor thing just needed to be sharpened.
            “Maybe my new friend here can help me with that task.”
            He held the dull blade against Knives’s throat and began to slice. It was a foolish thing to do because not even the blood of every life he had taken since arriving on this filthy planet had reversed the damage done to the knife, but there was something about this man named Knives who was not really a man that Snyder believed to be special.
            After blood coated the knife, Maxwell Snyder sat and waited.
            And waited.
            After three hours something happened. The knife began to change. The blade was no longer a harsh brown, but instead it was a dull gray. It was supposed to be a bright silver, but this small improvement was much better than anything he would have dared to hope for.
            I must have more of this “plant” blood to heal my knife. But I won’t use any more of your blood, Knives. Your name is too precious to me to take anything more from you. Instead I’ll take the blood of your brother, the gunman in the red cloak.
            When you are better we shall go to him and I shall serve as your Gung-Ho Gun.
            “But, rest assured my dear Knives,” Maxwell Snyder whispered into Knives’s ear, “I’ll be your servant in name only. I aim to be a god, after all. And gods serve no one. So I pray that you curb your attitude. I’d hate to have to kill you.”        
            It was the next day that Knives woke.
            Where am I?
            It was a cave, he could tell clearly discern that, but how he had gotten there he could not remember.
            “It’s good to see you awake again, master.”
            That voice could only have belonged to one person, but she was long dead.
            “Do you want me to kneel at your feet, master?”
Rem Saverem
            And then she stepped out of the shadows.
            It was Rem Saverem. She had been dead for 130 years, Knives had watched her go down in the ship he had sabotaged, but here she was again.
            She knelt at his feet as she had said she would. “I am not worthy to be in your sight, but I hope you will let me repent for all of my crimes by letting me serve you.”
            “This is complete madness,” Knives said. “That bitch would never have bowed to me. So just who the hell are you?”
            The Rem look-a-like let out a laugh, but it was a man’s laugh.
            And the guise went with the voice. One moment there was Rem and then the next moment there was a man with black hair.
            “I would be honored if you would consider me your new Gung-Ho Gun, Master Knives.”
            Why did he feel like he had heard that voice somewhere before? He had never seen this man before, but the voice was definitely familiar.
            “Who the hell are you?” Knives kicked the man away from his feet. “The only thing my Gung-Ho Guns were good for was killing themselves.”
            The stranger stood up, dusted his khaki pants off, and smiled, “I’ve traveled a long way, Knives. Many galaxies and strange worlds have passed me by. And much like you, I have lived a very long life. If it gives you any indication of my age then I will tell you that I was around before the earth was devastated and Project SEEDS was created.”
            “That would make you older than me by far. Are you a plant?”
            The stranger smirked. “Unfortunately, I’m all too human. Garbage, you might say. But I was also given a god’s touch when I was young and it has made me strong.”
             Knives did not entirely trust the man. His smile was too furtive and he sensed there was an ulterior motive somewhere behind those brown eyes. He doubted how much of his story was truth, too.
            He’s human, after all. And nothing is quite as capable of treachery and deceit as a human. But I shall give him a test.
            “What makes you think that you are worthy enough to serve me?”
            “Would you like me to bring you the head of Vash the Stampede? Would that prove my worth?”
            How does he know all of this?
            “Because I’ve been reading your mind, Master Knives,” the stranger said. “I want you to understand that I can make quite the formidable enemy.”
            Knives did not like show-offs anymore than he liked liars, but this fellow certainly seemed to be more than an intense stare and a creepy voice.
            Still… it wouldn’t do to take his eyes of him.
            “I don’t want Vash’s head. I want the women that he travels around with. You know them?”
            The stranger nodded. “I’ve seen them in your head.”
            “Bring them to me and let Vash see where you’re bringing them, too.”
            Once I have the women he’ll become a blubbering idiot again and he will beg me for their lives. Of course, I’ll kill them anyway and then he will be permanently broken and just like putty in my hands.  
            “We can only hope,” the stranger agreed.
            “What is you name?”
            “My name is Maxwell Snyder.”
            “Well, Mr. Snyder,” Knives drew his gun and pointed it at Synder’s face. He popped the top of the gun off that signaled the transformation. “You’ve read my mind so I know that you know what this is.”
            Maxwell Snyder nodded, but did not say anything.
            Knives’s arm grew longer and plates of armor formed where skin had been. The gun narrowed and soon the line between hand and gun was gone. The arm grew longer and wider until it was the size of a small missile. A pair of wings grew from the shoulder.
            “This is my angel arm, Mr. Snyder. If you want to know what comes out of the barrel then I suggest you read my mind again. If you want to serve me then you will stay out of my thoughts. Are we in agreement?”
            “Of course, Master Knives, I shall obey.”
            And the tremendous cannon reverted back to a simple arm and gun as quick as it had formed.
            “I bid you welcome to my service, Mr. Snyder. I hope you have an eye for talent because you will be in charge of finding new members of the Gung-Ho Guns to serve under you.”
            “Why would you need more members when you have me?” And before Knives could say anything the number of Maxwell Snyders quadrupled. “Four of us are more than you need,” all of them said in unison, “but if you want we can make at least twenty more.”
            And then they were back to one Snyder in the blink of an eye. “As I said earlier, I am a man with a god’s touch.”
            “So it would appear,” Knives said and for once he was slightly impressed with a human. “You have your mission. Bring me those women.”
            “Right away,” Maxwell Snyder bowed and then vanished into the sand.
            Knives did not like how powerful this human was and he did not like that sense of deceit Snyder had given off.
            But at the moment he was still weakened. Forming the angel arm had been a foolish show of power because it left him feeling completely drained again, but it had also been a necessary show of power to send the point home that even at his weakest he would still be able to make Snyder suffer eternal pain.
            But he hadn’t so much as sweated as he had stared down the barrel of my angel arm.
            No, it would not do for Knives to take his eyes off this strange man named Snyder.

            Maxwell Snyder had no intention of kidnapping any women and bringing them to Knives. In fact, he had no intention kidnapping any human.
            The only thing he wanted was blood of the plants.
            Every town has plants, he had learned as he had diligently tried to crack the mysteries inside Knives’s mind. These plants were not like Vash or Knives, though. These particular plants were incapable of living outside of large light bulb-shaped prisons. These odd-looking prisons could be seen in every single town and the humans used the plants like slaves, diverting their life’s energy for things like electricity, transportation, and water-mining.
            But Vash and Knives were not like the others. They were independent plants and they had been around since Project SEEDS had dumped life onto this crummy planet. No one knew they were plants, though. Otherwise they would be ostracized by the public and treated like the monsters they were.
            Once Snyder got far enough away from the cave where he had left Knives he turned around to face the cave and placed a hand in the air. When he clenched his hand into a fist the opening to the cave collapsed.
            Now Knives was safely locked inside and he would be until Snyder decided to let him out.
            You can use that wretched cannon arm of yours all you want, but the only thing the beam will do is bounce back of the walls and cause you an immense amount of pain.
            Maxwell Snyder wanted all of the plants. He was going to kill them and use their blood to feed his knife.
            With the exception of Knives and one other…
            Stay alive, Knives. One day when I am a god it will be the blood of your children feeding my godhood and my knife. But you can’t begat children if you are foolish enough to use that arm to try to destroy the cave.
            After over a century of loneliness, Snyder decided that it was high time someone found a suitable mate for Knives.

VIII. Following the Trail of Dead Plants

            Vash stepped off the sand steamer that had taken him to Inepril City. The city hadn’t changed at all and the plant was still intact. That was the best news Vash had received in ages.
            Milly and Meryl quickly followed after him.
            “You could walk a little slower, you know,” Meryl said as she slapped the back of his head. “We’re the ones who have to carry all of the luggage!”
            Vash frowned, “You didn’t have to hit me so hard. Ouch, that really hurt.”
            The fiery stare that Meryl gave him was enough to make him shut his mouth
            She’s scary when she gets mad and when she gets really pissed she grows some sort of invisible ironclad chastity belt. It was enough to make him want to fall to the ground and give up living.
            In the crowd of people before them he saw the one face that he had come to see.
            “It’s been a long time, Spot,” she called to him.
            Vash waved to her tentatively and resisted the urge to bark because he still felt Meryl’s eyes boring a hole into the back of his skull.
            “Hi, Elizabeth!” he called to her.
Knives had been missing for four months and more towns had disappeared in that time, but something else had also started happening around the time that Knives had vanished: plants were being killed. At least a dozen had been killed in the last two weeks alone. But that wasn’t all: three plants had gone missing.
Inepril City was the only city within a hundred iles that still had a working plant.
The sand steamers were crowded with people trying to escape from starvation and the fiend responsible for wiping more and more innocent lives off the face of the earth.
Naturally, all of this was being blamed on the Humanoid Typhoon.
Vash grabbed at the suitcase that Milly was carrying and he was going to grab Wolfwood’s punisher, but she would not let him.
She can’t hold onto it forever.
Milly was noticeably pregnant now, but the child was still without a name. He knew that she had spent the past few weeks writing home, inquiring about child names, but none those suggested to her seemed to please her. She had asked Vash and Meryl, too. Meryl had suggested the name Seth and Milly appeared to like that one well enough to write it down.
Vash had not been able to think of a name, though. He had tried and tried, but there was only one name on his mind right now: Knives.
He wanted to know where he was.
Are you helping Maxwell Snyder destroy the lives of people and plants or has something else happened to you? 
“So what brings you back here after so long?” Elizabeth asked him.
It was hard to believe that she was the same woman. He had last seen her as a sobbing, vengeful mess. She had been a child from July, the city Vash had destroyed 23 years ago. Elizabeth had tried to kill him not too long ago by trapping him in an unstable plant. The attempt had failed and Vash had survived, but Elizabeth had also come to see the truth about who he really was.
And that’s good for me because I’m not sure how many more attempts on my life I can take.
 He could hear all of the people talking around him and gradually they began to quiet down. Their eyes were on him, he could feel it.
They all remembered him and that was no real surprise either. Everyone in town had been after the bounty on his head and it had been hell trying to escape them. If it wasn't for him capturing the Nebraska family and giving the money from their bounty to the good people of Inepril City than his life today would be very different, he knew.
To Vash’s delight the hesitant silences soon transformed into cries of joy and salutation.
“Hey, everybody, Vash is back!” he heard one man yell.
“It seems everyone remembers you well enough, Spot,” Elizabeth frowned. “We’re all glad you survived Augusta.”
Vash could not think of anything good to say. The destruction of two towns, regardless of the fact that no one had died, was something that he did not like talking about. And he knew that the last person on earth who wanted to hear about it was one of those that he had made homeless. “I need to see the plant.”
Elizabeth nodded, “I’ll take you immediately.”
The final few exited from the sand steamer when Vash heard the cries of what had become his new posse, the Bad Lads Gang.
It had all been at Neon’s suggestion, too. Well, at his rather forceful suggestion.
“If you think I’m just going to let you out of my sight after it took me so long to find you again, you’re crazy,” he had said once Vash had made it back to town after searching for Knives four months ago. “We’re going with you even if we have to follow you into the pits of Hell. And once all this crazy shit is through, we’re going to finish that duel.”
The Bad Lads had not been allowed to ride on the sand steamer because the last time they had been on a sand steamer they had tried to rob it and crash it down a cliff.
It had happened to this very same sand steamer as it was leaving this very same town, Vash remembered.
But the Bad Lads had been allowed to follow the sand steamer at a distance with a promise from Vash that they would not try another robbery. 
“Funny how we are all back together,” he whispered and grabbed for Meryl’s bag.
“It’s about time you lent a hand, Spot,” Meryl smirked.
He could only smile his goofy smile and say, “Ruff!”

Maxwell Snyder was refreshed. The plants had fed his knife well and certainly one of the plants he had captured would suit Knives well, too.
The cave was where he had left it although to anyone else’s eyes it looked just like another part of the dune.
“I’m back, Knives, and I bring gifts.”
The three tremendous light bulb-shaped containers that he pulled behind him did make him feel quite conspicuous. After all, these bizarre containers were the tallest structures on this pitiful planet. Many people had seen him, but they had not lived to tell the tale. Snyder did not understand the complexity of these creatures or the mechanics of how the plants worked exactly but he knew that he had to feed them a lot of his own energy to keep them alive.
He carried the plants behind him using rope made from his own energy. It was a truly long rope and it had to be kept taut or else the rope would break and the plants would die.
Maxwell Snyder raised his free hand in a fist and spread his fingers to reveal his palm. When he did so the opening to the cave re-formed and Snyder was shocked to see what was inside: nothing.
Did the fool use that arm of his and somehow obliterate himself?
There was no sign of damage on the wall of the cave and there was no sign of Knives. Snyder doubted that there would have been damage on the wall anyway, but it still made him uneasy.
With his free hand he touched the mouth of the cave.
The vision came to him.
He saw what the cave had seen the day that he had left Knives.
Only seconds after Snyder had left, Knives had bolted out of the cave and hidden behind the dune.
His need for the three plants temporarily forgotten, Maxwell Snyder raised both hands into the sky and screamed.
A brilliant flash of light emitted from his person and everything within three iles of his position was engulfed in white flames.
The plants were completely destroyed, but he no longer seemed to care.
He did not like being played for a fool and he would make Knives pay.
He’s been watching me from afar, he knew. For months I’ve been showing him everything I’ve been doing and he knows me to be his foe.
Maxwell Snyder reached for his switchblade. It was no longer rusty and the blade was once again retractable.
He flicked the button and the blade popped up. It was already orange from the heat that surrounded his body, but he knew that the heat would only make it stronger.
“I shall drain his blood with my Diablo blade,” he swore.  
With an immense effort that he had not put forth in centuries he transformed the knife into its true form.
Fire knows no master and it knows no treachery. I hope you are watching me, dear Knives. This is what I will use to cut off that precious angel arm of yours.

“Try not to lock me in this time,” Vash quipped as Elizabeth pointed to the door.
“I’ll try not to, but I can’t make any promises.”
“Aw, gee, you make feel so safe and secure."
The plant was still safe. Somewhere in the middle of the large bulb of light was a frail and lonely being who knew she was scared of something, but not quite what or why.
I have to protect her because he’ll come for this one next.
“I should tell you that you are the second person to inquire about our plant, Vash,” Elizabeth said as she stared up at the creature within the bulb. It did not come into sight very often and when it did it was often only for glimpses at a time.
But she could be clearly seen now.
Elizabeth could not help but admire her beauty each time she saw her. “She's an agent of spring and growth and strength. How could anyone do them harm? It’s bad enough that they are trapped in those cocoons, but do they have to be so defenseless against evil people?”
Vash did not want to remind her that she had threatened to kill him once by destroying a plant so he let slide by. Instead, he inquired about the person who asked about the plant. “Was he a greedy businessman looking to make a buck or did he really want to help?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “He’s actually been waiting down here for a while. He reminded me a lot of you so I let him down here… with a couple of guards to keep him company, of course.” She winked just in case Vash did not grasp the implication.
Further down the metal steps, at the very base of the bulb containing the plant, stood a man whose face he could not see, but whose posture he did recognize.
Everything seemed to fade away into darkness and there was only Vash and this man who had his back turned to him.
When at last he turned around, Vash was still shocked to see his face even though he knew exactly whose face it would be.
“Oh, hey, Vash,” Knives said and lifted a hand to wave at him. “I thought you might stop by.”

IX. Dinner with Knives (III)

For once they were the speechless ones, Knives was glad to see. They all sat around the table: Vash, Meryl, Milly, and Knives. Frank Marlon and a few of the Bad Lads were in the next room playing a game of poker and he could hear someone yelling, “You damn sonofabitch, there’s no way you had that ace three hands in a row!”
The sound of fisticuffs and rough-housing followed before the voice of Neon boomed down like thunder, “Put the gun away, Mark! You got beat fair and square. Let Mr. Marlon take your money or I’ll be the one doing the shooting.”
The rest of the Bad Lads were scattered throughout the hotel keeping an eye out for the oft-times invisible Maxwell Snyder.
            And, as coincidence would have it, the hotel they were staying in was the closest one to the plant.
            At last, Vash spoke up to break the silence, “Why are you here, Knives? Why have you shown up in Inepril City and why now of all times?”
            Knives was debating how much of the truth he should give. He ultimately decided on telling all of it.
            “I’m only here to use you as bait, Vash. Now that he knows that he never fooled me and that I am far cleverer than he is, he will come after you, Vash. When he does I intend to be there to make him suffer for insulting my intelligence. After that…” he shrugged. “I suppose we should finish our fight, don’t you agree?”
            “I’m not going to fight you anymore, Knives.”
            Still think I’ll change, don’t you? How pathetic.        
            “Well, we’ll see. Quite frankly, I will kill you whether you fight or whether you don’t, but I won’t just stand by and let some wretched human waste do it for me.”
            “So you were never going to let your Gung-Ho Guns kill me?”
            Knives’s jaw clenched. “The difference between my Gung-Ho Guns and this human is that my Gung-Ho Guns knew that they were expendable garbage. This human believes that he is a god, that he is even better and stronger than me, and I will not allow such a cretin to exist!”
            As he made his way to leave the room, he looked back at the woman named Meryl, “I hope you enjoy the taste of my brother’s seed while you still can. For soon you shall enjoy only the taste of pain and suffering.”

X. In the Name of God
            The resemblance between Millions Knives and the good King of Mars, James Ulrich, struck Maxwell Snyder as funny. He had not seen it at first, but then he did and now the likeness could not be unseen.
            Snyder stood on the outskirts of a town named Inepril City.
            The Humanoid Typhoon was here now and he had apparently brought along quite a few friends.
            Whether Knives was among them or not was difficult to say, but there was no doubt that he was near.
            He would love nothing more than introduce Knives to the unfortunate king. They would undoubtedly have a lot to talk about while they were being kept in some dark dungeon somewhere.
            “I want my kingdom cleansed of filth,” King James had told him. “Find me a world where I can dispose of all of my enemies. I want them to suffer for a very long time before they die. And you better make sure that this place is far away. These criminals aren’t worthy enough to even see Mars in the night sky from a vast distance.”
            Maxwell Snyder had bowed and said, “Yes, Your Grace,” for what was hopefully the last time in his life.
            He had taken a special ship that could travel through time as well as it could travel through space. Dimensions had been breached and chaos had erupted as a result, but there was truly no place that could still be deemed habitable so far away from the Mars of his realm with the exception of this planet named Gunsmoke.
            The long trip had been worth it, but for these strange beings called plants he would gladly make the trip a thousand times over.
            And now is the time of death.
            Raising his blade to the sky, Maxwell Snyder exclaimed, “In the name of your new god, Lord Maxwell Snyder, god of Mars, Gunsmoke and every other wretched planet boasting of life, I command you all to bend the knee and praise me or die!”
            Of course, he was going to kill them all even if they bowed before him in worship.
It just sounded godlier to his ears to give the weak false hope.
He brought the sword down and in just one stroke the town was set in flames.

XI. Angel Arms & Diablo Blades

Disoriented, Milly Thompson awoke to a room full of smoke. She scrambled to her feet, grabbing at her stomach to remind herself of just why she had to make haste, and ran for the door. But, halfway there, she stopped her frantic pace and realized that the smoke was not coming from the hotel, but from outside. She had left her window half-open because she had been feeling too hot and that was where the smoke was coming from.
The town was on fire. She did not know if the plant had been damaged because her window faced away from the plant, but she did know that she could hear gunfire and the voices of at least a dozen men. The only voices she recognized were those of Vash and Brilliant Dynamites Neon.
She could not remember falling asleep or the last moment she had been awake but it was night again.
I guess all this traveling we’ve been doing has been bad for the baby. 
As she moved to close the window, she saw a man walking in the fiery streets. He looked up at her and waved. The man wielded a large red sword that appeared to be coated in fire.
“You would do well to run, milady,” he shouted to her. And he raised the sword above his head and slashed at the ground beneath the hotel.
A large deep crevice formed and fire spread from the sword, slithering along the crevice, and quickly reaching the side of the hotel and engulfing it in flames.
The hotel pitched toward the crevice as the crevice grew wider and the flames on the hotel grew higher.
I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to get my baby out of here!
She ran to the door of her room, but she could barely grasp the doorknob before the hotel fell on its side.
Milly Thompson fell through her half-open window and into the crevice, narrowly missing being burned by the flames.
 “Oh, this is it. I’m going to die.” She cried as she fell into the darkness. “Where are you, Mr. Vash? Where are you? Where are-”
Her voice cut off as her body slammed into hard ground and she lost consciousness.

Elizabeth watched on from the safety of the sand steamer. She felt completely helpless watching another town she had loved burn, but she was not alone this time. The townsfolk had all been evacuated two days ago after the mayor had finally given in to Vash’s pleas, but the mayor had made Vash promise that no harm would come to the city.
“And if any harm does come to my city I’d hate to have to turn you in and use the money to pay for the damages, but I’m sure you wouldn’t find a jail cell too bad.”
“Gee, Mister,” Vash had said, “your willingness to protect these people is touching.”
Most of the townsfolk had managed to fit onto the sand steamer, but there were a few stragglers following closely behind in the sand steamer’s wake. They managed to keep up pace, though.
Their lives had been saved again by the Humanoid Typhoon, but the town was on fire now.
Their only hope now was that the plant survived. Everything else could be repaired or rebuilt, but it would all be a fruitless endeavor if the plant was destroyed.
It was all in Vash’s hands.
“Come on, Vash,” she whispered. “I know you can do it.”

Brilliant Dynamites Neon did not like running because it made him feel like a coward, but when the building began to lean on one side he dived out of his window and hit the ground running. He could hear some of his men yelling, but he could not quite make out the words.
The town was on fire, but the plant appeared to be untouched.
After he made enough distance he turned around to survey the damage.
He saw Markus quickly running after him. “What the hell is going on, boss? One minute it was all quiet and the next everything is on fire!”
Neon nodded. So the invisible man is here at last.
“We should be grateful that we have not ended up like the residents of July,” Neon barked at his subservient. “Damn, we really underestimated this guy.”
“Of course, you did,” Maxwell Snyder called from atop the burning hotel. “Men never have been able understand their gods or comprehend their power.” In his hand he held a large sword made of fire and he glanced down at it to make sure that they could see it. “This sword I hold will kill you, Mr. Neon. You should feel honored.”
Neon grabbed for his gun. “I’ve had enough of your gabbing. It’s time for you to die.”
He squeezed the trigger and this time Snyder did not dodge the bullet and a hole appeared between his eyes; he fell down, dead.
Surely, it can’t be that easy.
“Behind you,” he heard Markus scream, but Neon was too late.
An intense pain blossomed in Neon’s back, strong arms grabbed around him from behind, and he heard a voice whisper in his ear, “Watch me rise.”
“You can’t be-”
Maxwell Snyder stabbed him in the back once again and Neon stopped talking.
On the burning ruins of the hotel, the Snyder that Neon had shot did indeed rise. The hole in his forehead was quickly reducing in size.
There are two of them!
“What are we going to do now, boss?” Markus cried. That’s when Neon realized that there was a third Maxwell Snyder walking down the alley to their right side.
Neon could think of only one thing to say. All his life he had been loud and boisterous, but now he was reluctant to say anything at all because he knew just how much like a coward it would make him sound.
“Vash,” he said. “We need Vash.”
Markus, perhaps not hearing his answer, took matters into his own hands and reached for his guns. Perhaps he had gotten off as much as five shots before he died.
He died screaming.
Don’t let that happen to me. Not that way. I won’t scream. I’m going to go out with a shine, damn it.

Meryl was stuck between the bed and the floor. Intense pain shot up from her hip up to her shoulder and it was a struggle for her not to scream. The floor (what used to be the wall before the hotel fell) was getting hot and smoke began filling the room.
Vash was beside her, his head bloody from where a piece of furniture had fallen on him, but otherwise he appeared to be okay.
“It’s going to be okay,” he said as began to lift the bed off of her. “You’re… not bleeding.”
But she didn’t like the look on his face.
He tossed the bed aside and cradled her gently in his arms.
She could see the extent of the damage now.
A bone was sticking out of her left elbow and her ribs on the same side had an awful sunken look.
The position of the bed had cut off blood flow to the wound, but now that she was trying to move the blood began to spill.
“Please, don’t move,” he told her. “I’ve got to get you out of here to somewhere safe.”
Nowhere is safe with you, she thought. She did not think it with any malice, though. It had been her choice to follow Vash and she would still follow him to the ends of the earth, but trouble followed Vash with the same sense of devotion. It’s never going to end.
            The building began to shake again and sink further into the ground. The smoke rose higher and the wood beneath their feet began to bow downward.
            There was no window in their room and the only door out of their room was beneath their feet; if they wanted out then they would have to go down, where a collapse could kill them if the fire and smoke didn’t.
            Vash held Meryl tightly as she grunted in pain and kicked at the door as hard as he could without hurting her too much.
            The door did not open as much as it popped off its hinges and fell into the flames below.
            There’s no way out. Jumping down there would only roast them alive.
            She could see Vash crying. She was crying too, but it wasn’t right for him to be crying now. He was a hopelessly sentimental wuss, but he was also strong when he had to be. And if ever there was a time for him to be strong then that time was now.
            “What am I going to do?” Vash didn’t seem to be asking anyone in particular. “How can I save her?”
            And that is when they heard the voice from somewhere up above.
            It’s Knives!
            “You must use it, Vash,” Knives said, “if you want to save yourself and your wretched plaything.”
            At first Vash did not seem to understand, but then a look of recognition crossed over his face. Now if only Meryl could understand.
            “Personally, I think it’s a waste of such a precious power, but the choice is all yours, I suppose.”
            “Knives!” Vash shouted, but there was no answer. “I can’t use it. I can’t.”
            But as he said it he stared at the rising flames and the building smoke.
            At last he came to a decision. “I need to set you down now. I promise it won’t be for long.”
            What is he going to do?
            Then she remembered July, Augusta, and the hole in the Fifth Moon as she watched him draw his gun and aim it skyward.
His arm grew.

Elizabeth saw the streak of light shoot into the night sky. She remembered seeing this before when she was younger and her heart broke.
The entire town and the plant were going to be destroyed, she knew.
With so few plants left on the planet and the technology to make plants long lost how could they ever hope to survive?
It’s another July. Men will go mad and learn how to steal and kill. The townspeople here will all die even if they go living.
She couldn’t bear watching that bright light anymore because she knew what would happen. The light was going to spread into a large dome and the flames would destroy what little had not already been destroyed by that peculiar fire.
But that didn’t happen.
As soon as the beam of light shot into the air it was gone.

Vash grabbed Meryl quickly and jumped onto the ground. The force of the angel arm’s blast had crushed what was left of the building beneath their feet and blew apart what had been over their heads. The force of the blast had left Meryl breathless, but overall she did not seem to be in worse shape than she had been before.
That wasn’t all me, Vash thought. A large part of that was Knives.
That was only his forth time using the angel arm and he was far from practiced at its usage. Knives had the ability to manipulate Vash’s angel arm and had done so previously in Augusta and July, but this was the first time he had manipulated Vash’s arm in a way that had not destroyed an entire town.
The smoke outside was almost as bad as the smoke had been inside the hotel, but there was one place where the smoke did not reach: the plant.
He started to run toward the plant, but was cut off by the man that he had heard so much about but of whom he actually knew so little.
“Mr. Vash the Stampede,” he smiled, “we meet at last.”
The man named Maxwell Snyder carried a large red sword made of fire.
Is he a plant, too? Vash wondered, but he did not know how that could be. Knives and he were the only independent plants in existence.
“I thought you were a bit taller,” Snyder admitted, “and it’s a shame that I catch you in your pajamas and not your red cloak. Pajamas will not be as becoming of your corpse.”
Vash heard shouting and gunfire in the distance. He quickly turned to see what was going on, but he could not believe his eyes. Brilliant Dynamites Neon was shooting his guns at three Maxwell Snyders. The Snyders danced around him, dodging his bullets, and leaping in to slash at him before moving quickly away; it was a vicious circle.
He’s going to die if this doesn’t stop.
When Vash turned back to the Snyder that he had been talking to he saw two Snyders standing side by side.
“Please stop this,” he begged. “We’ve done nothing wrong. Leave us in peace. If you want me you can have me, but leave everyone else alone. I won’t fight.”
Snyder frowned. “But I want you to fight. This is one of the reasons I came here. I want to fight the Humanoid Typhoon!”
Two shots, sounding almost like one, rang out and the two Snyders standing before him collapsed to the dirt.
His brother sauntered out of an alley to Vash’s left and pointed the smoking gun at Vash.
“Get to safety if you have a brain,” Knives told him. “I’d hate for him to kill you because that is something I want to do myself. Now go before I decide to end your miserable life now.”
“Will you save him, too?” Vash nodded toward the overwhelmed Neon.
Knives rolled his eyes and shot the three Snyders surrounding Neon in the heads, too.
Neon glanced around, bewildered as to who saved him, but appeared not to see Vash and Knives through the smoke.
“If you have any brains you’ll head for the plant,” Knives yelled to Neon and then turned back to Vash. “Get going now before they regenerate. These are only copies that are not as strong as the original, but you are apparently too pathetic to fight even them.”
Rather than saying anything that might infuriate his brother, Vash ran to the plant.

Vash quickly descended down the metal steps while Meryl lay in his arms, on the verge of passing out.
He did not like the way that bone was jutting out. Of course, it was never good for a bone to be pointing out, but the bone bounced too much as he jogged down the steps. The likelihood was high that there was another break that he could not see. Trying to pop that bone back into place wasn’t an option if there was another break. Odds were high that such an action would only cause another severe rip in her flesh.
At the base of the plant he saw Frank Marlon cradling Milly Thompson in his arms. Frank saw Vash and tried to smile, “Man, am I glad to see you.”
“What happened to you two?”
There was a nasty gash on Frank’s forehead, but the one on Milly’s forehead was even worse. It almost looked like someone had tried to scalp her, but had stopped before getting to the hairline.
Frank shrugged and drank from a flask. “We fell through the hotel into a hole in the ground. I saw Milly and tried to wake her up, but there was a shard of glass in her head. I pulled it out as best as I could, but you can see what she looks like. Then I grabbed her once I saw that huge beam shoot into the sky and ran like hell. So here we are. How is she?” he nodded toward Meryl. “Is that a bone I see?”
“Yep,” Vash said as he set her down by Frank’s side. “She’s badly hurt. If she doesn’t get help soon she’ll lose that arm. She may lose it anyway though…” He began to hyperventilate. The thought of losing Meryl made him feel so peculiar. He had not felt anything like it since he had watched Rem die, but this feeling trumped even that. Even when Legato Bluesummers had threatened to kill Meryl and Milly he had not felt quite like this.
I feel like I’m dying, too. He grabbed his chest and felt his heart pounding too hard. He felt phantom pain in the left arm that was no longer truly there, the same arm that Meryl had injured. I’m dying.
“Vash!” Frank screamed and his voice echoed loudly off the walls. “What the hell is the matter with you?”
And just like that Vash snapped out of it. “I’m fine. You look after them. I’ll be back soon.”
He ran back up the metal stairs convinced that it was his love for Meryl that had threatened to kill him because he could not imagine living without her.
I’m coming for you, Snyder. Vash drew his gun and entered into the fiery streets.
As he left he saw Neon and three of the Bad Lads running toward the entrance of the plant.
“Don’t you die like an asshole,” he told Vash as he went inside the plant. “We’ve still got a score to settle.”

“Which one of you is the real one?” Knives asked them, knowing that none of the ones in his immediate vicinity were the original. “Show yourself before you make me angry.”      
Ten Snyder clones surrounded him, but he did not worry much about them. They had no thoughts in their brains and they were taking their orders from the original; once he found and killed him then these others would die, too.
“This is not the first time that I’ve dealt with clones. Leonof the Puppet-Master used them all the time, but they were weak just like yours.”
“These are not mere puppets,” one of them said. It did not matter which one had spoken up, but what mattered was that the original was actually talking to him now. “And they are not weak. They are as strong as I am when I want them to be. Right now I’m just having fun.”
There! The entire conversation Knives had been listening for Snyder’s thoughts, but it wasn’t until the original had actually chosen to speak to him did he receive a clear signal.
The original Maxwell Snyder was still on the outskirts of town, overlooking the battle from afar like a true coward.
Human garbage, I shall dispose of you.
Knives summoned his angel arm and pointed it at the clones. “You’re not worthy of this attack, but I’ll not exude precious energies on replicas so I will make this attack as weak as it can be.”
“Stop!” Vash called as he ran to Knives’s side. “Don’t destroy anymore of this town. We’ve got to lead them out of town or else there will be nothing for the people to come back to.”
             “Relax, brother,” Knives smirked. “I won’t bother destroying a town when a perfectly good fire seems to be doing the job for me.”
            Ten shots from the angel arm completely annihilated the clones, but no more damage was done and the waves of energy disappeared when the clones did.
            But twenty more clones appeared where the ten had been before.
            “This time the stakes shall be raised,” one of the Snyders said. “These clones shall be at three-fourths of my full strength. Now let’s see just how strong you really are with those cannons of yours.”
Vash's angel arm
            Knives’s ground his teeth together. “Vash.”
            “It’s time to use it again.”
            “It’s either that or die with those humans that you vowed to protect.”
            After a moment’s hesitation, Vash steeled himself and summoned his angel arm for the second time that day.
            “Let’s begin,” the Snyders yelled, their flaming swords growing larger and brighter. “We’ll kill you in one swipe.”
            The swords slashed fire and intense heat at Vash and Knives before they returned fire with their angel arms.
            The land shook for iles around and this time Elizabeth could see a large dome of fire forming over the town.
            She could not see the plant anymore.
            “No, not the plant! No!

            Vash could see nothing in the intense light, but he heard the tremendous crashing sound behind them and he knew what that meant: the plant was gone.
            “This is their hope you are destroying,” he screamed at the shadows, unsure if the Snyders could hear him. “This is their livelihoods and all they have! How can you do this?”
            “Well, are you going to just stand there and die or are you going to fight?” he heard Knives ask from somewhere off to his right. “You can’t reach with him and you can’t reason with him. So either avenge what your precious humans have lost or stay out of the way and let me fight him alone.”
            But Vash was not going to do that. Knives was only in this for himself, he knew, and that meant that someone had to stay and fight for the people.
            What a splendid lightshow, Snyder thought as he watched, feeling slightly disappointed. The loss of the plant was unfortunate, but the fact that Vash and Knives had both joined forces against him left a sour feeling in his gut. Apart they were formidable but capable of being overwhelmed, but together he was not quite sure how he would fare because he had not truly envisioned this scenario.
            I suppose this will make things interesting.
            With red sword in hand, he walked toward the town and called all of his clones back to him. Many were bruised and broken and burned, but they all obeyed his wishes. They could all die a million times, but they would rise each time when he commanded it.
One by one they vanished and Maxwell Snyder felt whole again.
            The great dome of light shattered as all the resistance the clones had been putting forth vanished and those cursed angel arms stopped firing as well.
The crater the blast had created was half the size of the town, but the subterranean level of the plant was most likely unharmed. The only things down there now were a few frightened humans.
And that gave Snyder and idea. He formed one new clone and whispered instructions in his ear.

Knives and Vash stood in the middle of the crater, side by side, their angel arms facing the approaching figure.
“So he’s finally finished playing and he’s ready to die,” Knives remarked. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for months now.”
“You shouldn’t be so overjoyed at the prospect of killing somebody.”
“Still the pacifist, Vash? I had thought that Legato had taught you a thing or two. Or what about Wolfwood? Do you think he would have died if he had killed Chapel? Enemies must die, Vash.”
Vash pointed his angel arm at Knives’s head and shouted, “Aren’t you my enemy? Shouldn’t you be the one to die?” Tears streamed down his face. “You should die for Rem and for Legato and everybody you hurt. Meryl and Milly could be dying right now and they need our help. This isn’t a game, Knives.”
Knives frowned. “Life is a game, Vash, and the rules never change.” He pointed his own angel arm at Vash’s head and smiled. “Enemies must die. But, before I kill you, I want to know why you didn’t kill me in Demitri when you had the chance.”
“I wanted to give you a chance to discover life and love and-”
“Peace,” Knives finished for him. “There will never be peace."
In the distance Maxwell Snyder clapped his hands together. “Oh, bravo, I love the drama. Do you want me to just wait over here until your little moment is done or would you mind if I cut in?” He grabbed his sword and made a sawing motion. “Don’t you just love a good pun?”
Staring in each other’s eyes as they had dozens of times before, searching for any hint of betrayal and finding none at the moment, Vash and Knives turned to face Snyder.
            The flames on Snyder’s sword grew higher and he ran at them when he felt satisfied with the level of growth.
“Fire your guns,” Snyder demanded, “and this time put your backbones into it!”
            The entire place was shaking as Meryl woke up. Holes had torn through the roof and the glass container that had held the plant was shattered all around them. At her feet lay the body of the dead plant. Sand was pouring into the large metal room and she could hear Frank Marlon singing an old drinking song.
            Meryl grabbed at her wounded arm and felt the bone sticking out; she had hoped that she had just dreamed getting wounded. Her chest ached and every movement caused the act of breathing to become painful, but it was nowhere near as painful as listening to Frank’s depressing song.
            “We’re not going to die,” Meryl said.
            Frank stopped singing and said, “I never said we were going to die, but the silence was giving me the creeps and that’s one of the few songs I know by heart.”
            “How’s Milly?”
            He did not say anything.
            Oh, no, Meryl thought. Milly’s dead!
            “She’s not in bad shape and in truth I think you are worse off than she is, but…”
            Thank goodness she’s alive. “So what’s wrong with her?”
            “Well, for one thing she is still unconscious and for another she’s bleeding out of her… Well, let’s just say that I think her baby is dead. Of course, I’m not a doctor.”
            Meryl knew that if they survived this Milly would never be the same again. She had looked forward so badly to raising a child of her own after coming from such a large family, but she had never really found the right person. Then Nicholas Wolfwood had entered the picture for an all too brief period of time.
            And now the baby is gone, Wolfwood’s baby. Oh, this is going to kill her.
            And that thought made her realized something. “Well, shouldn’t we… do something?” she asked Frank. “If that baby is dead inside her… should we do something to get it out? Couldn’t it harm her?”
            Frank looked at her like she was crazy. “Are you a fucking doctor? Because I sure as hell ain’t! I don’t know the first thing about this kind of thing.”
            Meryl felt movement at her feet and she heard the slightest hint of a cough.
            “It’s the plant!” Meryl shouted as she struggled to move to her. The peculiar creature looked like a large purple butterfly with a yellow flower on its back and its wings chopped off. But, despite the strange anatomy of the creature, it was easy to tell that there was a large gash in her throat.
              But the plant appeared to have some strength left and she was reaching out toward Milly.
            “I… can help,” the plant said as blood poured out of her mouth and wounded throat. “Bring her to… me.”
            Frank Marlon picked up Milly and set her beside the plant. “I’ve never heard of a plant surviving in the outside world for so long. I always thought they died instantly.”
            The plant placed a hand on Milly’s stomach and a strange purple glow surrounded her belly.
            The blood between Milly’s legs dried and even the gash on her forehead began to heal. But the gash did not quite heal completely before the plant’s strength gave out.
            “They’re safe, Vash,” the plant said before it faded away and not a single trace remained of her.
            Milly opened her eyes and frowned, “What’s wrong, Meryl? Why are you hurt?”
            “Oh, Milly, you’re awake,” she shouted as she tried to give her a hug, but she was quickly reminded that there was a bone sticking out of her arm and few ribs in her chest that were probably broken. “It was a miracle, Milly.”
            Milly looked confused, but she smiled. “I had a dream about Nicholas. We were walking down the street and he said that everything was going to be okay and that our son was going to grow up to be a strong man. Then I told him that he needed to stop smoking or else the baby never would be strong because of all the second hand smoke.”
            Frank Marlon’s flask was empty, but he did not particularly care; it had only been filled with soda because he did not drink anymore. He tossed the flask across the room and thought about the miracle they had witnessed.
            “It had called Vash’s name,” he said. “How on earth is that possible?”
            Meryl knew the answer to that question, but she would never tell.
            That’s when the flask Frank had tossed bounded through the air and hit him square in the forehead. Frank yipped and grabbed for his head, but he froze as he saw who came walking in through a hallway that rained sand.
            “I could tell you, Mr. Marlon,” Maxwell Snyder said. He held a very sharp switchblade in his hand. “Oh, yes, I could tell, but you wouldn’t help me fix my knife so why should I do anything for you?”
His eyes, like brown pits of hell, scanned over Milly and Meryl. “I’ve got plans for you two.” He smiled. “Have either of you ever been knife-fucked?”
Meryl closed her eyes and did something that she had not done in a long, long time: she prayed.

Vash dodged the wave of fire by running to his right and rolling on his side until he was dizzy. From his position on the ground he shot his angel arm, but Snyder was much too fast.
Knives shot at Snyder then, hoping to catch him off guard, but Snyder slashed his red sword at the wave of energy and the two immense powers cancelled each other out.
“Damn, I shot him at full power,” Knives exclaimed as he watched Maxwell Snyder jump from the ruins on one building and take cover behind another. “He’s too fast and he’s not even using a demon’s eye.”
Vash knew that the only way to beat him would be if one of them could distract him while the other snuck up behind him. But that would require them to trust each other and discard their angel arms. The arms were immensely strong, but incapable of keeping up with such a fast opponent. He doubted if he could convince Knives of that, but he would have to try.
A fresh wave of fire from Snyder’s sword arced through the air and came down on their heads. Vash made his arm change back to normal and jumped into the ruins of the hotel to dodge the blast.
Knives fired his angel arm at the fire and the wave dispersed.
“Throw me your gun, Vash!” Knives shouted toward the ruined hotel, but there was no answer. “Damn it, Vash.” He ran to the hotel and saw the gaping hole in the ground.
“It would appear that we are all alone,” Maxwell Snyder said. “Your brother ran off on you.”
Knives clenched his jaw tightly. “I don’t need him anyway.”

Vash fell through the darkness. “Scarrryyy!!!!! Why didn’t someone tell me there was a hole down here?”
His face slammed into a cold metal surface and his screaming stopped. Regaining his composure, he ran through the dark hallway before he tripped over a piece of debris and fell on his face again. The fall broke his yellow glasses and his nose, but he smiled when he saw what had caused him to trip: Wolfwood’s punisher.
He grabbed the heavy metal cross, slung it across his back, and ran toward the heart of the plant.
Then he heard the screams and gunfire and ran even faster.

Frank Marlon grabbed for his gun and aimed it at Snyder’s head. “You’re going to pay for what you did to July, JR, and every other town you ruined.” He pulled the trigger, but the sonofabitch was too quick. Snyder dodged the bullet, ran across the room, and slashed at Frank’s throat all in the blink of an eye.
The cut could have been much deeper, Frank knew. Asshole is just playing with me.
“You really should keep an eye on your enemy, gunsmith.” the bastard said as he grabbed Milly Thompson by the hair. Milly screamed and Meryl screamed along with her, but Snyder kicked Meryl in the face and that quieted them both down. “Miracles won’t save you or your baby this time, sweet Milly. Tell Wolfwood I said 'hi.'”
He raised his blade into the air and Frank Marlon raised his gun once again and aimed at the blade. He was not much of a gunman even though he was a gunsmith, but he had to get this shot right or else the woman would die.
He squeezed the trigger.
The bullet hit the blade, but the bullet ricocheted off and the blade did not even show any sign that it had been hit. Not so much as a wiggle. 
Frank saw his own bullet coming back at him.
I won’t be able to dodge that. I’m going to die.
Meryl grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him down to the ground and the bullet narrowly missed Frank’s head, passing harmlessly by.
Maxwell Snyder’s knife hand did stop mid-air, though. He frowned at Meryl. “That would have been a one in a million shot. Why did you have to meddle?”
That’s when they heard the gunshots. There were a lot of them this time and Snyder did not have time to dodge these.
Brilliant Dynamites Neon and three of his Bad Lads were running down a metal staircase, guns drawn and shooting.
“Okay, boys,” Neon shouted. “Let’s teach this guy a lesson, but don’t hit the others.”
Bullet holes riddled Snyder’s body, but he still stood on his feet. Each time a bullet ripped through his flesh the wound would instantly start healing.
There’s no way to kill this guy, Meryl thought as she watched the absurd smile on his face. He likes this. He knows that he is more powerful, but he loves watching us struggle. So he keeps us alive for his own amusement.
And then she realized that maybe Maxwell Snyder could be killed.
But it was a long shot and they would need Vash to make it work.

            Vash came to an opening at last.
            Meryl and Frank were huddled at the base of where the plant would have been if it had not been shattered. Neon and the Bad Lads were on a staircase to his left shooting at Maxwell Snyder. Snyder was standing in the middle of the room with Milly Thompson at his feet, practically kissing the floor to avoid the gunfire.
“Milly,” Vash shouted and kicked the punisher in her direction.
Maxwell Snyder turned toward Vash as he was still being ripped by the bullets from the Bad Lads. He seemed to pay no mind of Milly or the punisher.
            Then Vash saw Meryl and Frank stand up and aim their guns at Snyder’s back.
            “It would seem I am surrounded on three sides,” Snyder smiled. “Why don’t you join the fun, Vash? I’ve always wanted a four-way.”
            Vash did not draw his gun to fire it. Instead he summoned his angel arm and pointed it directly at him.
            At last, Snyder’s calm and cool demeanor appeared to crack. “You wouldn’t dare fire that thing with your friends so near!”
            Vash powered up his cannon and braced himself for the kick it would give.
            “Shit, he’s really going to do this!” Neon shouted, but he continued firing with the rest of the Bad Lads.
            Meryl made no effort to move and neither did Frank. They stood where they were and fired their guns into Snyder’s back.
            “You can’t kill me,” he shouted. “The beam is too slow!”
            But he had forgotten all about Milly and punisher. Milly had pulled the cover off the cross, grabbed the trigger where the lines of the cross intersected, and pointed the rocket launcher at the top of the cross directly at Snyder’s face.
            “Fire, Milly!” Vash shouted as he fired his angel arm, unsure of just how strong the beam would be.
            Help me, Knives. Please help me do this. Help me save them.
            Knives stared at the Maxwell Snyder he had been battling and felt like a fool.
            “You’re another clone,” Knives said. “All this time I thought you were the real one because I could read your thoughts, but the real one is just as close to me as you are and it threw my senses off. It’s quite a clever ruse, actually.”
            The Snyder clone smiled. “Did you really think I would enter this fight without an ace up my sleeve? You really are a fool, Knives.”
            Vash’s voice spoke up in Knives’s head. Help me, Knives. Please help me do this. Help me save them.
            Knives did not care one thing about whether the humans lived or died and he also did not care if Vash lived or died.
            Please, Knives! I need you. Together we can beat him. I just need you to guide my beam and limit its power like you did earlier!
            The only thing Knives cared about was getting off this rock named Gunsmoke now because he no longer wanted to be here.
            “Tell me where your spaceship is,” Knives muttered, feigning defeat, “I’ll go quietly.”
            The Snyder clone’s facial expression was a mixture of shock and outrage. “If I had known that you cared so much about your worthless brother I would have gone after him sooner.”
            “Just tell me!”
            “Fine,” the clone shrugged. “It’s two hundred iles to the east, next to the ruins of an old satellite. If we get going we can be there by nightfall.”
            Knives sent Vash a message via his thoughts: Very well, Vash. I hope you enjoy the rest of your life living with this trash.
            The clone, incapable of reading thoughts like the original Snyder, had no idea what was happening until it doubled over in screaming agony.
            “You traitor,” he screamed, “You traitor!”
            And this time when Snyder vanished in the sand Knives took some mild comfort in the knowledge that the wretch would not be returning anywhere ever again.
            With one last look at the deserted and ruined town, Knives began the long journey to Snyder’s spaceship.
            Goodbye, Vash.

            Vash’s angel arm emitted a small beam of light, a beam with roughly the same diameter as a baton, and with Knives’s power helping to drive it the speed increased dramatically. Maxwell Snyder did not have time to dodge it completely and the beam disintegrated half of his chest and his entire right arm.
            “You can’t kill me,” Snyder screamed in agony.
            “But I can,” Milly announced and pulled the trigger on the rocket launcher.
            Snyder’s head vanished in flames and the knife he had been wielding fell to the floor.
            Vash screamed for Meryl and Frank to get out of the way quick and they did as he said. Once they were safe, Vash turned up the power on his angel arm and, again with Knives’s help guiding the blast, Vash aimed at the remnants of Snyder’s body and fired.
            Intense light filled the room and for a moment no one could see anything.
            When it was over nothing remained of Maxwell Snyder except for one rusty knife that could no longer close.
            “It’s over,” Vash frowned. He thought about Knives and wasn’t sure how he felt about him leaving. “I guess it’s really over this time.”
XII. The New Gung-Ho Guns

            Seth Wolfwood ran up the steps of the Bernardelli Insurance Building to greet his mother. She and her good friend Meryl were walking out the door, chatting about Uncle Vash like they always did.
            Seth reached for his mother and gave her a hug. “Uncle Vash said he was taking me to the range, but I had to ask you first or else he won’t take me. Can I go? Huh? Can I go?”
            Milly looked into her son’s eyes and smiled, “Sure, but you got to make sure you do all the dishes first and then clean your room.”
            “Aw, mom, I already did them yesterday and I cleaned my room a month ago.”
            Meryl knew what was coming, but kept her mouth shut. Milly was sweet, but no one would ever mistake her for a genius.
            “Well, have fun with Mr. Vash then!”
            Seth jumped down the steps and ran to the end of the alley where Vash waited for him.
            “Look at him,” Milly said. “He’s only ten years old, but he sounds that much older. He sounds a lot like his father.”
            Meryl nodded. “And he looks like him, too. It’s amazing how time flies.”
            In the ten years since Knives had left and Maxwell Snyder had been killed life on Gunsmoke had truly become a new Eden. But there had been  many problems at first.
            Meryl had lost her left arm up to the elbow and life had been difficult to adjust to after that. With help from Vash and some of Vash's friends, she had been outfitted with a metal prosthetic arm much like Vash's, but it still felt strange not having her own arm. She supposed that Vash often felt the same way, too.
           Brilliant Dynamites Neon had never gotten the chance to duel with Vash because Neon had died from his wounds. Only one cut had been potentially harmful, but one was all it had taken to end the life of the leader of the Bad Lads. The Bad Lads themselves had disbanded after his death and most of them were in jail now, mostly for getting caught on petty jobs; Neon had always been the brains of the operation. 
            The sudden loss of a great many plants had put many towns in dire situations. Inepril City had not even been rebuilt because of the damage to the plant.
            Towns that had plants had become overcrowded and people began to get very violent. There were riots and beatings. The number of murders and rapes skyrocketed as well.
            Life in many places had turned into hell… at least until the new plants had arrived five years ago.
            There had been no crew on the ship that had brought plants. There was nothing that indicated that the ship should have even been operable let alone flying through space, either. Parts of the ship did not appear like it belonged together, giving the appearance that the entire ship had been made from scrap.
            There had been twenty plants on board, but these plants were much different than the ones on Gunsmoke; the designs were much smaller and the energy they put out was much greater. The plants used to be the tallest structures for iles around, but now they were no taller than a three story building.
            It was a mystery as to just who had built all of them because the knowledge to make plants was lost technology. So it truly seemed impossible that anyone could be capable of making better plants.
            When Meryl had asked Vash about the ship he always said the same thing without a shred of doubt, “It was Knives.”
            Meryl did not entirely disbelieve him, either. But she wondered often about how Knives could have known about everything that was going on down here.
            Does he have eyes on us? Is there someone here who knows where he is and who secretly communicates with him?
            Meryl watched as Vash and Seth walked into the horizon. Vash had a bag of donuts and both of them appeared to arguing over them. Eventually, Seth wrenched the bag from Vash’s hands and ran away.
            “Come back here,” Vash shouted. “Don’t you know that you should never come between a man and his donuts?”
            As Meryl watched a black cat with a large head and green eyes chase after Vash and Seth, she realized that she had known who Knives’s inside man was all along.
            The infamous Humanoid Typhoon was working with Knives, of course. They might not ever see each other again, but their bond was a special one and not even space could separate them now. And Seth would soon be joining them, she knew.
            They were the new Gung-Ho Guns now, but that was far from a bad thing.
            “Come on, Milly,” she said. “Let’s follow Vash and make sure he doesn’t get himself or Seth in trouble again.”
            Milly nodded. “Let’s go.”
            Knives exited the spaceship he had borrowed from Maxwell Snyder ten years ago and stared at the hole in the Fifth Moon.
            A woman climbed and a small boy climbed out of the ship and stood beside him, neither of them said anything because they did not want to disturb his reverie. 
            After a few moments Knives began walking, not knowing or caring about the exact direction he was going, but he was sure that he would eventually find Vash and have to help him get out of some sort of trouble.
           The woman and child quickly followed, not wanting to be left behind. 
           "Am I really going to meet him?" the boy asked. "Am I really going to meet him?"
          Knives looked at his son and nodded. "You really are."

            June 19, 2012 – June 27, 2012


  1. I want to read this but I have no knowledge of the series. Is there a synopsis somewhere I can read first like a wiki page or something? Maybe some cliff notes?

  2. Hmmm... there is a wiki page. It contains a lot of info about the anime, but also a bunch of info about the manga. And since the two have very little in common, it would be a lot to sift through.

    If you scroll down to where it says "Anime" about half way down on this page you'll get a kind of dense history about who Vash is and what he is. You'd also get a summary of the series. But, again, it's very dense because it kind of assumes that everyone has seen the show, I think.

    Next to that I'm not sure what else to do aside from watching the actual series. There are online sites that show the show for free but most of them are subtitled and not in English.

  3. But, if you want, I can write up my own summary that will actually pertain to this story. A lot of what was written there, while interesting, isn't all need-to-know info. Just some of it is.

  4. I'll read some of that stuff and then wing it. Actually, sometimes having no idea about what you are about to read or watch can be very interesting.

  5. Alright, well, I hope you enjoy the story. :)

  6. Well I had told ya before you wrote it that ive never seen or read this anime. I liked it.. it was right up your alley. Sorry it took me so long to read it, been busy and i share my dad's laptop until I have enough money to buy my own battery for my laptop. I miss my laptop :/ Anyway, I enjoyed it mr.penguin :] can't wait for your next post.

    1. Glad to hear ya liked it. I ain't rushing anybody to read it or anything. Hell, the story ain't going any anytime soon.

      Perhaps I was still in the wake of my anime fandom when I stressed the importance of seeing the series, but Colton had said that he was confused as crap when he tried to read it so I included that little note.

  7. I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to undertand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not tht good. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading, I had to go show it to my friend and he ejoyed it as well!

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