"Spring Flower of Days Long Passed (1)" is episode 329 of the Berserk manga.
A teenage Guts' arms are bound in stocks, and he is forced to walk along other similar prisoners by his escort guards, who ride horses and whip him. The prisoners are all mercenaries who fought on the losing side of a battle and have been captured. Guts stumbles on the ground, and one of his captors whips him until he stands back up. The prisoner behind Guts, called Martino, advises that Guts keep his footing, lest he die of either exhaustion or at the hands of his captors. Martino assumes that it is by God's grace that they've been taken alive, but Guts retorts that the prisoners will simply be made to work themselves to death.
Guts stumbles again, but Martino catches him before he can fall. Guts violently recoils at the man's touch, ordering the man not to touch him. Martino complies, and when Guts stumbles for the third time, he falls to the ground. An enraged guard attempts to whip Guts, but Martino throws himself over Guts, protecting him. He then grabs Guts and hooks the latter's locked arms around his neck, intending to drag Guts if it means the boy's survival.
Martino inquires about Guts' past; Guts reveals that he's a wandering mercenary who's been at it for many years. Martino voices his hopes that, one day, Guts will join a mercenary band in which he will make some friends for whom he'd be willing to risk his life. Guts is rendered speechless.
Martino then notices a castle under construction in the distance and deduces that the prisoner will be the new laborers. He then discreetly uses a lock pick to unfasten Guts' stocks and tells the boy to escape while he can. Unfortunately, Martino cannot unfasten his own stocks due to its lock being placed out of his reach. Moved, Guts asks Martino for his name, and offers his own in return. Promising to pay Martino back for his good deed, Guts slides down a steep cliff nearby, and the guards escorting the prisoners give chase.
Martino's true intentions are revealed: dislocating the fingers on his hands, he slides his arms out of his own stocks and climbs up the cliff opposite the one Guts slid down; Guts was bait for the guards. Guts is struck by a crossbow bolt and caught. As he is ordered to his feet by the guards, he catches a glimpse of Martino atop the nearby cliff. The latter salutes the boy before running off, and Guts loses consciousness.
Guts dreams of a battle he partook in while a part of Gambino's mercenary band. Gambino had ordered his mercenary band's new recruits to the front line, of which Guts was a part, and offered extra payment to the man who could draw first blood against the enemy. Gambino ordered the charge, and Guts and the other recruits stormed towards their opponents. Guts briefly looked back at Gambino before realizing that the recruits were being pelted by arrows - Guts was struck in the shoulder.
Gambino and the more experienced mercenaries charged towards the enemies. As he approached Guts, Gambino stopped and explained that the new recruits were used as bait, and that Guts was the only survivor. He then offered Guts fatherly advice: when it comes to ambition or survival, many people will do despicable things. Therefore, it is always better to look out for oneself than others. Guts' dream ends as he recalls that Gambino ran away to join his fellow mercenaries in combat.
Guts awakens in a prison cell, lying on a pile of hay and chained to the wall. His first thoughts are of Martino's wish that Guts would one day make friends. Guts chides himself for being affected by what he considers a "cliché"; Guts did not follow Gambino's advice and fell prey to an obvious trap. Guts attempts to convince himself that he is ready for death and will welcome it whenever it comes. However, despite already having lost much blood and being cold, he still makes the effort to catch a nearby rat and eat it before covering himself in hay to get warm. Guts chides himself a second time.
As Guts lays in the hay, he stares at a lone spring blossom flower that grows inside his cell. Suddenly, he perceives what appears to be a young, tiny girl hiding behind the flower's stem.
Characters in Order of Appearance Edit