TW: violence, death, mentions of mutilation, attempted suicide, other violent things
Also pretty major spoilers for Trigun and Trigun Maximum.
WRATH & PATIENCE
It starts as shock first. A vague feeling of hollowness as his external senses processed what he was seeing, but, internally, there was nothing.
(Knives, of course, was the opposite, shutting down externally, nearly catatonic, while his mind whirled internally. Leaving Vash, as always, to deal with the cold, hard reality.)
Over the next several decades he would see that look from the outside. On the faces of people hit with the most unspeakable tragedies imaginable - and he'll know it. He can empathize explicitly with that hollowness in their eyes, that slowly gives way to despair, and then, anger.
No one would ever guess this about him, but he knows exactly how it feels to hate humanity. To find people entirely irredeemable and dangerous and… frightening.
Hate, he learned, is a byproduct of fear and love turned sour. He’d loved Rem – but when he’d looked at her then, it was that love that made his insides hurt even more.
He wanted to die.
She sat with him every day as he tried his best to fade back out of existence. Prayed for whatever strange occurrence that brought him and his siblings into this world, surrounded by humans, to unmake him. Rem sat with him, and brought him food he refused to eat, endured his distrust and anger, and waited, patiently.
She doesn’t make a move until the day he lashes out – takes the peeling knife from her and tries to bury it in his own throat. Her hand is there, faster than he thought possible, the blade buried in her hand, and in the next second, her gut... And, for a moment he almost feels elated – yes, this was exactly what he wanted to do. What his emotions were trying to tell him to do.
But then he looks at the blood, and Rem, bleeding, on the floor, and suddenly he’s hit with that grief all over again. He has to help her – he loves her – and he doesn’t want to lose someone he loves again.
He’s eating again when she wakes up in the ship’s infirmary, and she smiles at him in that sad way she always smiled. She tells him a story then, about her life back on Earth and someone who she loved very dearly who also died. She retells his own feelings with such accuracy it shocks him – it hadn’t occurred to him, up until that point, that others – everyone – had the very same feelings he had. And she tells him of a dream she had during that time – a story with a “storm” and a “train” and a ticket with no destination. A ticket that was blank.
“You can go anywhere, Vash. Even if where you are right now is filled with darkness, there’s still a ticket in your hand that’s waiting to be filled in. Therefore…” There’s a strangled note to her voice, and Vash looks at Rem, like he’s seeing her for the first time. “Don’t throw it all away! And never say you’ll die! Let’s go and see the world together! Let’s walk together! The world down there… isn’t just full of idiots and worthless people!”
She really makes the most ridiculous face when she cries.
It’s the first time he’s ever felt what it was to forgive someone.
SLOTH & DILIGENCE
When his brother woke up and claimed to not remember anything, it was too easy to just let it go. To pretend they’d never wandered into that abandoned laboratory with the single, fresh lily placed at the door like a shrine.
After all, who would want to remember something like that?
(A little girl, dissected, isolated, rotting…)
Vash had to, of course, but why should Knives? His older twin was always the more sensitive one. At the time, he thought it was better that the other forgot. They spend the time they’re not with Rem peering down at the millions upon millions of cryo-pods – and the millions upon millions of humans sleeping soundly within them.
It’s almost half a century after The Big Fall (20 million people dead in their sleep, he’ll never get to meet them) that he comes to realize that he should have brought it back up. That it was that day – the day they learned of Tessla - that Vash lost his elder brother, and if there had ever been a time in which he could have called him back, it was in those days following.
But he hadn’t done that, had he? And now, floating miles above the desert wasteland where humans were fighting and dying to stay alive, in the last floating SEEDs ship, staring down at the space where his left arm used to be, where his brother mutilated him, he realizes it was because he was afraid. He hadn’t wanted to talk about his own feelings – in a way he was ashamed of them – and so he told himself that not talking to his brother was the best course of action. He sold himself on the idea that everything was okay between them.
That’s why… all of this was his fault too. He was just as responsible for his own inaction.
He can see his brother smiling, the anxiousness he’d felt over meeting new people bleeding away into a bright, hopeful expression. “We can work through a few little differences if we just talk to each other enough,” The phantom of Knives says to him, “We can come to understand each other, because there’s no difference between other people’s hearts and ours. Right, Vash?”
Vash buries his face in his remaining hand. How could he have let this happen?
He made up his mind then. He couldn’t afford to be afraid like that again. He couldn’t afford not to act.
ENVY & KINDNESS
It was an unusual experience, growing up alongside the newest development of mankind. Vash is only just over a year old when the ships crashed down – when Rem died to give all the millions of people now residing on this desert planet another chance at life.
He’s three and a half by the time he notices babies had started popping up in the sun-beaten shanty-towns that clustered around the remains of the SEEDs ships – what passed for human civilization then.
By then Vash more closely resembles the young men in these ‘towns’ than the infants, despite being closer to them in age, but he can’t help but be drawn to them, sneaking peeks at the squirming little bundles whenever he and Knives passed these places by.
He doesn’t think his brother even notices them – he’s focused on the Plants the newly-awoken humans crowded around for the sake of survival. He was oddly thankful that Knives found humans to be so below his notice – it gave him a chance to watch them himself. The only people he’d met in the flesh were Rem and Dr. Conrad… and he was fascinated at the living, expressive faces he saw, which were once frozen and motionless within the cryo-pods.
He thinks, on a different world, it would have been wonderful. But here, on this too-hot planet with it’s lack of water and resources, those faces where most commonly contorted into expressions of pain and despair. From the distance he kept, he couldn’t see the warmth he remembered coming from Rem – or the happiness she often spoke of. Over the years, as he watched them struggle, helpless to do anything about it, Vash couldn’t help but wonder: why? Why did they keep trying to survive on this unforgiving planet? What possible motivation could they have for getting up again and again, every single day?
For some reason, his attention keeps coming back to the infants (and why did humans have children, really?), who within the decade became adolescents, and after just over another decade became adults, then parents themselves, until a few were even grandparents, holding another generation of squirming baby humans in hands that were that small just five decades before.
He doesn’t really understand them, but, somehow, he thinks he loves them. These people who Rem gave her life to save. From far away he watches the children and thinks: if Rem hadn’t done what she did, they would never have been born. They would have never had the chance to be alive.
It makes him feel a little better.
It’s in understanding this that he isn’t angry when he’s captured by humans and threatened.
It’s why he thinks he can talk to them. That, maybe, just maybe, he could help them. After all, not too long ago, all these men were once small like that…
It’s also why, when Knives kills them all without hesitation, he is angry. How could he?! After all this time, walking around this planet, seeing these people struggle because of the Big Fall, and his brother hadn’t changed at all.
It’s why he shoots his brother; a moment that shocks even Vash. He hurt his brother; and then, his brother hurt him.
The stump below his shoulder, where his left, dominant arm used to be, stops bleeding a few hours later, but the flesh is still skinless and raw. He’d run as far and as fast as he could for hours and hours, and then, when that energy ran out, he walked for even longer, feeling more and more exhausted as the suns changed position and, eventually, gave way to the rare desert night.
Everything seems to catch up to him then – all those humans dying, shooting his own brother – and now he was well and truly alone. As he lays down in the sand and his vision blurs, he asks God – if there even was one for this world – why did things have to be this way? If this was the end… why had he been born? And why so differently?
His dreams are visited by all the children he’d seen grow up on this desert world. In his dream he’s sitting on a bench, watching them play. He knows how tough life is going to be for them on this planet – but somehow, he also feels a pang of envy for their lives – their childhoods, their families. In comparison, his year with Rem seemed so… fleeting.
When he wakes up he’s in the medical bay of a SEEDs ship that looks so much like the one he’d grown up on that, for a moment, he thinks he must have dreamt the last 50 years. Like he could sit up and he would find Rem sitting at his bedside-
Instead, an elderly woman greets him. “Good morning. I hope you slept well – it looks like you’ve been through a lot.” She smiles kindly at him, “You don’t have to worry, you’re safe now.”
He learns, then, about the SEEDs ship that never finished falling – hovering instead in the planets atmosphere. He’d never been around this many people before (dozens), but the dull roar of anxiety fades within a day or so. The elders of the ship are almost all scientists or engineers and almost all of them remind him of Rem… It’s weird to think, but she would have been around that age now. He tries to imagine Rem with gray hair and wrinkles - and can’t. It just doesn’t seem right.
Still, these people heal his body, replace his arm with a mechanical one that works almost as well, and, somehow, they also manage to heal his mind and heart.
He’s sitting on a bench in one of the geo-domes, watching some of the younger children kick a ball around, and he thinks back on his question to God. He never did get an answer – but then a small boy kicks a ball squarely into Vash’s face and his half-thought melancholy evaporates. He spends the rest of the afternoon chasing the kids around and playing every single one of their games.
The smiles on their faces remind him of that happiness Rem used to talk about, and very quickly, Vash knows he wants to protect that happiness.
GREED & GENEROSITY
The floating ship is just the thing he needed to rest his soul. After a time, it also becomes the only place with people who remember where they all came from – a time-capsule preserving humanity’s fading history. Over the next 80 years it’s the place he returns to the most – almost always with some sort of horrible damage done to his body after he inserted himself into some nasty situation in order to preserve as many human lives as possible. The repairs done treaded a fine line between biological and mechanical (at the very least he is able to keep most of his original body) which only the scientists and engineers on the floating ship had the skills to complete.
But the place had also, in a sense, become ‘home’. And proof, to Vash, that human nature was not the violent, vicious struggle he saw down on the planet.
Even so, Vash could never find it in himself to stay. He had made the decision that he would never again sit idly by when there was still something he could do to preserve humanity’s happiness. It was only through this that he felt he could truly honor Rem – that he could fulfill his promise to walk with her on this planet.
So he walks, and he meets the people that Rem gave her life for, face to face. He sees some of the most terrible things… if he didn’t already know how vicious humanity could be – if Rem hadn’t taught him forgiveness – he didn’t think he would have been able to handle it. Humankind was pressed to the extreme on this desert planet – and people did the most horrible things to one another.
But he also saw the most profound acts of kindness, the deep way some people could care for one another, and their seemingly endless determination to live. And just like that, he could see her – in every human who existed on this planet because of her actions.
It’s been over 100 years, but his memories of her haven’t deteriorated in the slightest. And neither has the hurt.
He’d just been thinking of her again when he learns of a man named Count Revnant Vaszues – a brilliant man credited for much of this world’s technological progress due to his intimate understanding of Plant power structure. There’s a picture of him in the paper and Vash recognizes him as Dr. Conrad – a man he’d only seen once before. A man who knew Rem – who she’d trusted.
He heads to July City, a huge, bustling metropolis of over 200,000 people – a testament to their progress, but by the time he goes to meet Dr. Conrad… Knives is already waiting for him.
When he wakes up he’s surrounded by the barest traces of rubble, vaguely giving shape to what might once have been a city. July.
He looks around at that barren landscape – it’s image searing itself into his memory.
Everything was gone.
Everyone was dead.
It doesn’t take long before the people find him, wandering the destruction, trying to find survivors, and even less time before they settle the blame for their lost city squarely on his shoulders. The blame didn’t matter to him – even if he couldn’t remember the incident, he certainly felt responsible. But, the price they place on his head is exorbitant: $$60,000,000,000.
Vash learns, in very short order, that the prospect of that kind of money made People. Lose. Their. Minds. The sheer number of bounty hunters who harassed him every day (if not far, far more often) made every one of his previous harsh encounters with people seem harmless.
And that would have been alright… if it was just his own body that suffered – but the people who came for him seemed to have little qualms about harming anyone who stood between them and their prize, even innocent bystanders. He refuses to let that happen – doing everything in his power to protect people, even the bounty hunters themselves. In his mind, he just keeps thinking: these are all the descendants, the great-grandchildren of the very people Rem gave her life to save. And it didn’t matter how murderous or sadistic the people he met became – they were all still people and their tickets to the future were still blank… He couldn’t… he could never take that away from them.
If he was going to protect one, he had to protect them all. Who deserved to live and who deserved to die was not his decision to make.
He wasn’t like his brother.
(His scars grow in number exponentially.)
The ruckus caused by his being hunted causes millions in property damage – though, fortunately, he manages to keep all the people alive. Still, he starts to be called a walking disaster – The Humanoid Typhoon. Like that was his fault! Really it was -
“So exhausting! Can’t you guys give it a rest already?” His words are met with several more rounds of bullets. He sighs. “Haaah… I guess not.”
He’s been talking more to himself lately – a habit he picked up from spending too many decades in these deserts alone. The voice that comes out of him is cheerful, a little sarcastic, and more than a little childish. It’s been so long now, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than his own voice, his own words - but it doesn’t sound anything like his inner voice at all. He thinks... at some point, that innocent, happy-go-lucky voice... might have belonged to his brother.
GLUTTONY & TEMPERANCE
It’s been six years with hundreds of incidents attributed to the Legendary Gunman Vash the Stampede (no mention, of course, of all those bounty hunters after his head day in and day out), and it seemed, humanity had finally given up on taking him down. He’s not sure if he should be offended or just relieved when his bounty is cancelled (wanted posters now replaced with warnings) due to the fact that he was no longer acknowledged by the government as a person.
Humanity’s first ‘living natural disaster’. On the books, incidents involving Vash the Stampede were now classified as an ‘Act of God’.
So, he loses (most) of the bounty hunters trailing his every move – only to gain two new clingers-on. A couple of insurance girls who make themselves a bit of a nuisance trying to keep the collateral damage to a minimum by getting on his case all the time.
It wasn’t like he let these things happen on purpose!!
But, he had to admit, he kind of enjoyed their company every once in a while – and, for the moment, it seemed, the situations they found themselves in weren’t too much to handle. In a way, he was almost beginning to feel… content.
So, of course, just when it seemed like life could go on like this, in this almost-bearable way – the universe had to kick him down once again.
This time, that kick came in the form of Legato Bluesummers. The complete antipathy he sensed from the man was bone-chilling – a killer-intent he’d never experienced before in a human – there was really only one person this individual could be an emissary for.
He’s given a mission: to collect the coins of the Gun-Ho Guns – assassins who would be sent to kill him.
The first of them comes that night – and he’s a single-minded killer, vicious and passionate. Vash is caught off guard and is forced to use his left arm, the machine gun imbedded in the prosthetic, but soon after it starts to become dead-weight. With his hands still cuffed with the thick manacles the jail had (so courteously) provided to him, he couldn’t shoot either of his guns to their full potential.
His first solution is to find someplace to make his stand – and meanwhile see if he could get as many people in the town to evacuate as possible – but Monev the Gale is relentless, and he shows no hesitation in killing.
All those people.
It’s an easy choice – Vash rips off his left arm to free up the right, shooting his opponent to keep him as distracted as possible. He uses the town’s large bank vault as a decoy and launches his assault, finally disarming and checkmating his opponent – his gun to this monster’s head.
“D-don’t kill me!”
It’s what Monev the Gale says, even surrounded by the corpses of those he’d just finished mowing down without a thought.
After all these years, you’d think it’d get easier – but it only gets harder. Choosing life, choosing mercy – again, and again, and again, even in the face of all these tragedies – all this pain. Vash feels every death – viscerally – he mourns every person who died that day, whether he knew them or not, and he’s furious, vengeful – and here he had the man solely responsible for their deaths pressed to the barrel of his gun, but…
If he shot him, that would be just one more person dead, right?
He sees Rem then, like an angel looking down on him. Her memory is still so fresh in his mind, even all these decades later.
If he killed this man, he’s be abandoning everything she taught him. He’d be spitting in the face of her sacrifice – the very one that gave even this man’s ancestors the chance to live again on this planet.
If he killed him now, she really would die… wouldn’t she? It would be wrong to kill him, right?
Monev the Gale tells him that he was bought as a child – trained for 20 years just for this moment, to kill Vash the Stampede. It’s sad, but Vash doesn’t have any pity left in him at the moment. Not now.
He doesn’t have any humor left either – even though he thinks he might have found it funny that a human just over 20 years old thinks he can lecture him about turning his back on an enemy. About not being so trusting. As if Vash didn’t have hundreds of scars on his back from the last 150 years that had taught him that very lesson again and again and again.
“I’m not that trusting. I’ve still got my finger on the trigger.”
He doesn’t kill Monev, but the man ends up dead anyway. Failure means death for the Gun-Ho Guns… and what exactly is he supposed to do about that?!
He wakes up in a cold sweat several nights later, because he feels HIM awakening. He’s back – he’s back, and Vash is terrified. But he still gets up, he tells those insurance girls – Meryl, Millie – to get out of there. The whole town needed to evacuate immediately.
Knives was here.
Seeing his brother again – his body unblemished, perfect and pristine, especially compared to Vash’s own.. - just brought bitter memories and a deep sense of regret. He really did have to take responsibility now. He had to settle this.
He points his gun at his brother-
“Again?! Are you going to shoot me again?!” The memories begin to fragment a bit there, again.
“You’ve gotten even more of them, haven’t you? Scars…” And his brother looks almost sad there. “Why can’t you take a hint?!”
Somehow, his thoughts are beginning to fog – and why did that seem so familiar?
“Is that why you tried to erase me? With that arm?” What? “Oh, you blocked it from your memory. That’s unsurprising.”
That’s right. This was just like back then. Is this what happened…?
For a moment, he’s flashed back to that fateful day in July City – seeing his brother waving so calmly at him – followed abruptly by nothing but destruction.
And suddenly, in this time, Knives’ hands are on him, and his arm… is changing. Sprouting feathers, flesh, eyes…
“How does that feel, Vash?” His brother says in his ear, one hand covering his eyes while the other directs his arm… “This is our true power! This is the power that destroyed July!”
Vash can feel the tears streaming down his face as a memory he does not want threatens to flood to the surface. He can’t let this happen! Not again!! “I’ll make you change your mind – destroy them! Destroy the worthless human species with this gun!”
Then, Vash rips his arm out of that Thing, and he shoots himself through the kneecap. His leg gives, his body pivots upward…
PRIDE & HUMILITY
It never ceased to amaze him, how powerful human kindness can be – how gracefully they seem to be able to give it. He doesn’t have the chance to admire it, right at that moment, when a small girl, no more than 10 years old, asks a filthy, disfigured, and haunted man huddling in the alley if he needed help, and then, with clumsy arms and legs, helped him to her grandmother’s house. He was, at the time, too busy being that filthy, disfigured, and haunted man – but that doesn’t stop him from admiring it in the years that followed, as Lina and her Granny took him into their home, like he was family.
He’s ‘Eriks’ for two years – an ordinary human man with a kindly old grandmother and a too-rambunctious little-sister. For two years, he doesn’t even think of himself as Vash the Stampede – and he doesn’t look at the crater in the Fifth Moon, that he knows – knows – he put there.
Like this, he can almost convince himself that this was real, and the universe would really let him live out an ordinary human life on this planet.
But then the town is taken over by bandits (under the command of ‘Vash the Stampede’ no less), and a certain priest he’d met only once before suddenly comes back into his life with his gun and a message: Knives was back. Again.
And so, he takes up his gun, he saves the town with the help of the priest, and then… he must bid his family farewell.
(It wasn’t enough time.)
Lina takes it the hardest.
“I thought I could protect you,” She cries into his chest, right after she cuts his hair – the golden spikes once again standing straight up and revealing the underlying black hair. “But it was the other way around. I don’t have your kind of power…”
“Come on, don’t be silly.” He says, “I only protected you once. But you, Lina, you protected me for so long. The fact that I can stand proud once again, is all thanks to the two of you.”
Wolfwood is an interesting travelling companion to have. He’s stronger, faster, than any human Vash has known before (he thinks he’d even have some trouble if he ever had to seriously fight the guy). He’s a priest, supposedly, but his cross is full of guns and he seems to need to be reminded of the whole ‘thou shalt not kill’ thing a bit too often.
But Vash has seen the man’s kindness first-hand, and when he looks into the man’s eyes, he sees something there – a bit damaged, but not broken. Something Vash greatly admires.
It’s why he thinks it’s good – they’ve sort-of become friends.
Though that didn’t mean he understood how Wolfwood could talk so casually about tragedies like what was befalling the town they found themselves in. “We’ve talked about this before. It’s not an uncommon thing; even a guy who would normally balk at a fight will surely grab a gun if someone kills his family.” Wolfwood tells him.
He understands that, of course – those are always the hardest cases to try to resolve without bloodshed.
“These days, people’s lives are nothing but a series of problems! Choices are complicated and inevitably cruel, but you only have so much time to make them! The worst thing someone can do, is choose to do nothing while it all goes to hell! You don’t get to choose!” The preacher scolds him, trying to keep him back from storming into the sand-steamer to stop what appeared to be an inevitable bloodbath. “Do you really think a guy who can’t kill, can save someone else?! We’re different from gods! We’re not all-powerful, in the end, we can only become demons!”
Vash wonders who taught him those words. But, “Wolfwood, those are just words. Right now, people may be dying over there. That matters a hell of a lot to me.”
His arm had just been replaced – courtesy of a house-call from citizens of the flying ship – and with it came a new red coat.
(“Red geraniums are my favorite. On Earth, red symbolizes passion and love. In the language of flowers, red geraniums have another meaning… ‘determination’.”)
Maybe it was as Wolfwood said – maybe he was being arrogant to think he could always choose the path he wanted – but, for now, he would remember Rem’s words – again and again, as long as he needed them. As long as the world needed them. The ticket to the future… is always blank!
LUST & PRUDENCE
Not long after that, the Gun-Ho Guns renew their assault against him and everything he held dear. It seems like they were trying to lead him to something – push him to something… They damage his home, the floating ship – they even take Meryl…
It’s during that time – when he’s fighting Hopper the Gauntlet, that he’s finally given at least one straight statement of intent – Hopper was going to make him remember what he did in July.
Hopper was… a survivor.
Something in his memory… stirs.
(He arrives in July City and asks around for the Count – he’s out of town at the moment, but he’s bound to be back in a couple of weeks. He decides to wait it out.
Of course, he can’t exactly eat and sleep for free – but a plucky restaurant owner takes him on as a busboy. It’s not even the end of his first day before she’s treating him like a second son – her actual son, who’d just turned nine, ambushed him after his shift to officially recruit him as his lackey. Their gang was a rough-and-tumble bunch, dedicated to eating sweets and helping the elderly.
And it wasn’t just them. Everyone, from the vendors, to the customers, to the shop-owners were all so kind. They treated him like family.
Outside of the floating city, he’d never met a group of humans so overflowing with love and life.)
Vash coughs up blood, stumbling through the back alleys of the town, tears flowing freely from his eyes. No, no, no, no. He doesn’t want to see this. He doesn’t want to remember this!!
(He goes to meet Dr. Conrad, only to come face to face with his brother once again. He’s incapacitated… then strapped to an operating table so Dr. Conrad – brilliant Plant technician, Rem's friend – could ‘awaken’ his body.)
Fighting Gauntlet is one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do – he struggles between the Gun-Ho Gun's immense speed and strength, the power of his conviction, and his own tumultuous memories. In an instant, he finds him self pinned down – crushed under the Gauntlet's immense weight…
(His arm… changes. What did Knives do to him?! “I have to ask your opinion on something, Vash. Having lived with these things for nearly 100 years, don’t you feel immense hatred for the human race?”)
In the present, his arm changes as well, feathers erupting to protect his body from the impact. He screams.
(He glares up at his brother, holding his twisting, morphing arm. He doesn’t... want to answer that question. “Shut up.”
“No. This is important. When I saw all those scars on your body, I felt sick. How many times have they betrayed you? How many times have they hurt you?!”)
He loses sense of time in the real world, his mind reeling with memories. He thinks Legato has shown up, and his holding him back somehow.
(“How many times have they lied to you? Distrusted you? Humiliated you? Took something important away from you? Dragged you through the dirt?!”)
A stand off between the Gun-Ho Guns, Wolfwood and Legato, and there's nothing he can do but struggle to regain control. But as the situation becomes tenser, he can feel the power in his arm building. A familiar, horrifying power…
(“Face reality. You’re a walking hypocrite.” His brother snarls at him. “Your idiotic idealism and pride – they’re eating away at your heart. Am I right?!” No! He wants to deny it, but… somehow… he thinks… his brother might be right. He does feel it - and it does hurt. It hurts so much!! He really is just a hypocrite, isn’t he?)
The gun forms…
(“… I hate you, Rem.” The memory of Knives says darkly, just before the gun goes off and vaporizes all of July, and all of the people with it… “You were the one who tainted him like this.”)
Here and now, in the present, Vash opens his eyes. He can no longer be afforded the luxury of keeping them closed. It hurt, yes – it hurt more than anything – but he could not afford to just let things happen and forget all over again. This time, he needed to take control back. He could no longer seal it all away. He had to… move on.
I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…!!
And so, with eyes open, Vash deliberately calms the raging energy rumbling under his flesh, and slowly, the gun and those feathers (arms, legs, eyes) flow back into his body.
The situation is resolved without him – several (too many) dead, while others retreated. Hopper the Gauntlet lies just a few feet away from him.
“You dead, lady killer?” He tries calling out to the disfigured man and is rewarded with a snort.
“Pfft. …The hell you doin’? Don’t you know how to handle a dying bad guy?” Hopper scolds, but his voice is weak. “...Sorry, but, this is it for me.”
Vash tries to get up – to crawl the few inches over to his fallen enemy, though he can tell, just by looking, it’s too late to save him.
“At least I will finally have some peace, at long last. But you…” Hopper's voice is suddenly filled with all the malice he’d fought with just minutes ago. “You shall live and suffer. I didn’t want to kill you. I wanted to force you to stay in this shitty world… coughing up blood and suffering immense pain for the rest of your life!!”
Vash reaches out... and holds Hopper’s hand. He keeps a firm hold all the way ‘til the end, when, finally, his would-be assassin goes still.
And Vash prays, with all his heart, that the man really did find peace.
As for himself…
He still has a long road ahead of him.