Previously: Sakura starts teaching her group how to use chakra, and the Survey Corps members are invited to Mitras.

Just as a heads up, this chapter is unedited. Please let me know if there are any mistakes.

Despite all of the odds against it, Haruto was waiting for her at the stables. Though she wouldn't be traveling on horseback to Mitras, she was still elated to see her dear horse waiting for her, healthy and with a shiny coat. Haruto cheered up immensely at her presence, but what surprised her the most was Eren, who was taking his time to groom him, seemingly content with the world.

With all the finesse of a ninja, she crept up on her brother and whispered, "Eren?"

"Sakura!" The teen dropped the brush and turned around. "You scared me! What are you doing here? I thought you left to Mitras early in the morning tomorrow."

"I haven't seen Haruto in a while, and he calms me down. I didn't picture you as someone who enjoyed stall duty."

He smirked. "Stall duty? When was anyone from Squad Levi ever on stall duty?"

She chuckled and punched him lightly on the shoulder. "All right, it seems you're still cocky as ever."

"Seriously, though, I'm here because I enjoy it. Horses are nice."

"Tell me about it. You can talk to them and they won't tell your secrets."

At that, Eren paused grooming Haruto. "I... uh, was actually thinking."

"About? Please tell me it wasn't about titans." Though she hadn't had high hopes that she would inspire her charges to find hobbies that were not completely involved with titans, she at least expected some willingness to try it out.

"It was about titans," he answered sheepishly. At her unimpressed look, he said, "Hey! It's not my fault my life revolves around them."

"You could make an effort to find something else," she said. "But fine. What is it about them?"

His expression suddenly became uncomfortable. "I'm not sure how much I can say."

"I'm a squad leader, Eren," Sakura said, trying to not feel offended by his hesitance. "Chances are I have access to whatever information-"

"No, not about clearance. I don't care about that."

"Then what is it?"

"You... you don't have your memories, right?"

Her eyebrows went up. "Are your memories gone?"

Eren gave a small nod. "Not nearly as much as yours, but there are pieces missing. Big pieces that come and go, and the implications scare me. I'm not sure if you've read this yet, but the titan power is transferred by eating a titan-shifter."

Sakura sighed. "Yes I heard about this but I haven't had the chance to truly digest the information."

"It's all I've been able to think about," Eren whispered. "Who did I eat to gain this power? Sometimes, I see this girl with black hair staring at me when I look into the mirror. Did I murder her to gain this titan? I've done it before, so why do I have this awful feeling in my gut? Why can't I remember? What is going on wi—"

She placed both her hands on his shoulders and squeezed him gently. "Eren, Eren, listen to me," she said softly. She didn't know how much time she could spend in the stables before a trip, but it certainly wasn't enough to fully calm down her brother. "I also have a lot of questions, but they won't be answered by losing your cool."

"I feel that these questions are going to get in the way of my titan training. I can barely focus as it is."

She thought about the offer Rod Reiss and the Cult of the True King had made. It seemed these questions were locked away and controlled in a similar way hers had been by Obito. Could there be a sort of connection? Could Rod Reiss then help her unlock her memories?

No, she needed to focus on Eren first. His knowledge of past events was more important than her life in another world, at the moment. Even if her memories had information about what a Vessel was—

Probably not, Son Goku boomed within her mind. Even I don't know what a Vessel is, and I'm a being older than these ninja villages you hail from. I would've told you by now if I knew.

You have been able read more of my thoughts than before, she replied in his mind, trying to sound accusing to the Ape King.

Our chakra has been mixing more and more with each passing day, but I can't say I have had this connection with any previous jinchuuriki, Son Goku noted. Whatever Seal Obito used to imprison me within you is probably allowing a stronger mental connection, and it definitely isn't one I've ever heard about. Our enemy seems to have a lot mysterious knowledge even I lack.


She snapped away from her thoughts. "I'm sorry, what were you saying?"

Eren frowned. "You seem to be doing that more often."

She hummed in agreement. "Funnily enough, that's exactly what Son Goku and I were talking about."

"I forget I'm not the only one going through weird stuff at the moment."

"You aren't, but your 'stuff' have very strong implications for our world. I might have an idea on how to deal with this whole memory issue, but just give me time to work out the kinks."

"Sakura, I don't really care about the kinks. We're on a limited timeframe."

"It involves Rod Reiss and Historia. We can't trust him to—"

"Still don't care. Rod Reiss lost. Historia is queen now; we won. I needed to know this yesterday, Sakura." Eren took her hands off his shoulders and paced around the stable. "Take me with you to Mitras. That's where Rod and Historia are. I should go to them."

"Eren. You know I can't do that."

"Why not? You and me can take on any threat that comes our way."

"Oh, like how stupendously we handled Kenny Ackerman? And before you say anything, your duty is to train your titan hardening powers to plug the wall, not to go on a merry chase for your past memories." She would know of that duty better than anyone.

"How can I concentrate on plugging the wall when I know there are other things I need to be doing?"

"Even if I wanted to take you with me, it's too short of a notice. Neither Hange nor Erwin will consent to you coming on this trip. Even Amina was apprehensive about bringing you to the capital." Or Historia and Rod Reiss outside of Mitras, but Sakura wasn't going to give Eren ammunition to use against him.

He stopped his pacing and looked at her with such fierce eyes that she forgot this was the little boy she had taught taijutsu to. "Sakura, I know when something is important, and this is one of those things. Annie, Reiner, and Bert have so much information over us. I think there's a bigger enemy than just them."

"Of course there's a bigger enemy than them, Eren. No one has ever doubted that." It was a terrifying thought knowing they weren't the last humans left on the planet, and even more terrifying that they wanted to kill them for an unknown reason. "But you must remember you are our only titan-shifter. If we were to lose you-"

Eren shook his head. "Then don't. Listen, one way or another I'm going to go to Mitras. So either I can do it with your help and succeed or without your help and we'll see how we lose."

"Eren Jaeger, are you blackmailing me?"

"Yes. Absolutely. And you'll do it because you know I'm right." He took out the key he carried underneath his shirt. "This key wasn't with me the day we left Shiganshina, Sakura. This key was given to me, and I don't remember when or why. Maybe we can save ourselves the grief of going to Shiganshina if we knew what this key is meant to open."

I don't remember your brother being so pushy, Son Goku noted with mirth. I can see some character traits transcend blood.

Sakura didn't deign them with a response.

Eren stared at her with those bright green eyes of his. He didn't betray any weakness or doubt. His will was set on finding the memories whose absence were plaguing him. She could relate to the feeling, but she couldn't relate to the knowledge that Eren had eaten someone to gain his power. She supposed if such secret was behind the acquisition of Son Goku she would go mad trying to find out who she had killed to gain the Ape King.

And if she had done it willingly or not.

She sighed and shook her head. "And just when I was cleared from being a traitor, you drag me back into treasonous territory."

Eren beamed. "Thank you! You're the best!"

Sakura glared at him. "Don't try to sweet-talk me after you just blackmailed me. Here, this is what we'll do..."

Levi wasn't ecstatic about heading to the capital so soon after finally settling in their new base. He supposed he needed to make an appearance as the Survey Corps second in command, but he had to oversee Eren's training. Erwin had convinced Zackley to let Hange stay, citing that she was crucial to Eren's training and that couldn't be delayed for even one day. Even though Hange tried to convince him she would do fine by herself, Levi knew he needed to help the boy. Hange didn't know when to stop, and Eren had this unfortunate trait of always pushing himself to please his superiors. It was not a good combination.

Sakura and Nanaba didn't share the same luck Hange had. There was no excuse to save them from the hours of debate and bureaucracy that lay in their future. Nanaba was used to the occasion, but Sakura looked uncomfortable in her formal military wear. This was the first time she donned the clothing, and though she normally was the definition of confidence, it was finally dawning on her that she was a leader now and couldn't afford to be reckless.

The carriage jumped when it hit a rather large stone. Levi tried not to let his displeasure show, since it was a small thing, but the ride was bumpier than usual.

"Are you looking forward to the meeting, Sakura?" Nanaba said. She had finished her book a while now, and she tired from the silence.

"Can't say I have. No one looks excited about it."

Though Erwin and he were still looking over the reports and plans they had written, Levi tried to concentrate on the conversation.

"On any normal occasion, you'd be right," Erwin piped up. "But from my conversation with Commander Talman yesterday, it seems our presence in Mitras is two-fold. Besides the obvious reason, Historia's coronation will be within the week. We're to do the finishing touches, attend the ceremony, then be back."

Even Levi hadn't heard the news until now. If it was going to be such a public event, why the need for secrecy? He would need to ask Erwin in the future what his plans were, or what he suspected everyone else's plans were.

"A week in Mitras," Sakura repeated. "That's... delightful."

Levi held back a smirk. "You don't sound delighted."

Instead of rising to his comment, Sakura remained strangely lost in thought.

"Wouldn't Historia like to have her friends with her?" Nanaba asked.

Erwin finally looked up from his papers and smiled at her. "They will be sent for soon enough. I wanted them to come with us to Mitras, but Hange was right: the quicker Eren can start his training the better."

"Shouldn't we leave him alone, then?" Sakura asked. "It wouldn't do him good to be interrupted."

"He hasn't had any rest for as long as he's been in the Survey Corps," Levi noted. How peculiar of her to not fight for some relaxation for her brother. "Two days of rest won't change the fate of humanity."

The carriage jumped again, and this time all four of them slid from their seats in the carriage.

Nanaba sighed in annoyance. "Sakura, if I had known the new soldier you requested to drive us was this horrid I would've denied you and would've drove us myself."

"I'm sorry," Sakura said sheepishly. "Kenny told me this man was good, but clearly he was mistaken."

At the sound of his uncle's name, Levi felt the hairs in the back of his neck stand up. "That's one of Kenny's men? Pink freak, what are you thinking? You want to kill us that bad?"

"My man, Levi, my man," she replied coldly. Levi tried to avoid dwelling on the weird feeling that phrase caused him. "He's a part of my squad now."

"You mean Kenny's squad," he grumbled. He avoided Sakura's offended gaze by shifting his attention to his papers. "Those men only follow you because for some reason that shit stain has taken a liking to you."

"Levi," Nanaba said in warning. "Your attitude isn't helping."

"It usually never does," Sakura muttered.

"Next time he screws up, I'm kicking him out and doing this myself," Levi said after the carriage hit another bump.

"No, I'm gonna do it. He's part of my team, I'll take responsibility for him."

He scoffed. He supposed he should be glad that she was willing to take responsibility for her soldiers, but he said before he could help himself, "I highly doubt you can do a better job."

Erwin finally seemed to grow tired of their quarreling, because he sighed and replied, "Levi, the road has always been less than ideal. Sakura, next time you make a last minute decision, run it by me first. I would at least like to vet the man."

"Yes, sir."

He had to hold in a snort at Sakura's reply. Still so deferential towards Eyebrows, even as a Squad Leader. Levi sneaked a glance at Erwin and noticed even the blond had trouble holding in a smile.

Though the rest of the trip still had their bumps, they became fewer and farther in between. Levi and Erwin continued reading over their paperwork while Sakura and Nanaba devoured another book. Or, at least, Nanaba was reading a new book. Every time Levi peeked at Sakura from his paperwork, he noticed she was deep in thought, not even bothering turning the pages to pretend she was still reading.

Her comments from the day before came back to him, unbidden. She was planning something, and though he wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, her plans usually didn't take him into account. Her world revolved around a select few people, and though he had noticed the strides she had made to include the Survey Corps, he highly doubted that she had a huge change of heart in the last couple of weeks.

What was interesting (and concerning) was her newfound appreciation of Kenny. For the life of him, Levi couldn't figure out what was it about Kenny that drew Sakura to him. The man had threatened to kill her not even two weeks ago, and now they were bonding over meditation and her magic. Levi knew he couldn't expect her to have the same grudge he had for his uncle, but Sakura wasn't exactly the forgiving type, so what was going on between her and Kenny? Did he have anything to do with this new plan of hers?

The next time he checked on Sakura, she appeared to be reading her book again, whatever had troubled her mind apparently forgotten.

As soon as the carriage arrived at its destination hours later, every Squad Leader quickly disappeared to do their own thing. Though Levi was curious as to why Sakura had left before even saying a peep, Levi had his own agenda.

Namely, to hide from anyone that could possibly interrupt him with stupid requests.

Though he could get away with finding secluded spots in the Survey Corps headquarters, he didn't have as much luck in the capital. He didn't know the layout as well as he should have, since most trips to Mitras consisted of going to report their budgets then heading back the next morning.

Besides, he hated the place. The stench of wealth was just a reminder that while everyone here dined in their fancy clothes and spoke in their stuck-up manner, hundreds of people were starving underneath them in the Underground. It would be so easy to allow people from the Underground back into the surface. They didn't even have to live in Mitras, they could just go wherever they wanted.

His hatred of the capital consumed him so that he almost walked into someone. He was about to growl at the idiot, but luckily stopped when he noticed the uniform. He looked up slightly and was surprised to see amused dark eyes staring back at him.

"Captain Levi," the Commander of the Royal Guard said. "What a surprise. What brings you to the shopping district of Mitras?"

Shopping district? Levi looked around and noticed the disgusting amount of stores displaying various dresses and accessories. His past self would be so disappointed to find out his skills had dulled. He would be killed in a second if he were randomly dropped back into the Underground.

"Browsing," he said automatically. No need to let her know he was an idiot. "What about you? Don't you have a queen to guard?"

Amina motioned him to follow, and for some reason he did. It's not like he had anything better to do. "Well, that is the problem. She isn't queen yet, even though people assume she already is. I'm here to find her something suitable to wear at a short time notice. I'm sure you know about her upcoming coronation already?"

He resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Yes. Would have been nice to know before coming that we were being drafted into some political nonsense."

She giggled, which he found rather strange since he hadn't meant to sound funny. To add to his bewilderment, she glanced at him fondly. "Unfortunately, the coronation has to be secret. Survey Corps soldiers are still mixed with Garrison and MPs after Eren's rescue attempt, yes? I couldn't take the risk in having anyone not meant to be there overhear."

"I thought a coronation had to be public. Isn't that the point?" To let the peasants know there's a new overlord?

"You just called Historia a queen a moment ago," Amina pointed out. "Most people think she's already in charge. At this point, the coronation is just a formality for the nobles, one that they insist in if Historia wants their cooperation."

"Why am I not surprised."

"Your hatred of the nobility is refreshing. I heard rumors that you were born in the Underground."

"Not sure why they're rumors. It's not like I hide my origins. Unlike some other people."

Amina gasped in delight. "Is that a barb aimed at me? Or! Better yet! Sakura?"

He shrugged, a bit unsure as to why his insult made her excited. "Take it as you will."

"I'm getting sidetracked. Anyway, I think that you and our new queen have more in common than you think."

"How so?" He wasn't very sure how their backgrounds were similar, unless she was about to tell him he was some sort of long-lost prince or something.

"What do you think is the biggest hurdle to getting everyone from the Underground out of there?"

Now that was surprising. "We didn't just casually meet just now did we?"

"No. There is no way I could've ever guessed you would wander to the Mitras shopping district. But just indulge me. What is the biggest hurdle to getting everyone out of the Underground?"

"We don't have citizenship papers," he recited, almost from memory. It was how he joined the Survey Corps to begin with. "Those born there are the children of the unwanted."

"Well, yes, that is the story you all have been told for a while. But if it's a matter of citizenship, then it should be easy to grant everyone a piece of paper that says you're subjects of the queen."

"If it's so easy, why hasn't it been done then?"

Amina hummed in agreement. "Now that is the question! The simple answer is that there are powerful people that benefit from the oppression those in the Underground face. Everyone there is forced to deal with the black market. The nobles depend on those Underground do to their dirty bidding."

Levi thought back on his own circumstances, on the noble who wanted to get dirt on Erwin. Had he never been in the Underground, he wouldn't have felt the need to join that crazy mission that ultimately cost the lives of Isabel and Farlan.

"Historia and I have a problem. Zackley and the nobility are currently warring with each other over who has the power over Historia. The Merchant Families aren't making it any better."

"I don't see how that's my problem exactly." If Amina was hoping to recruit him to do his bidding, she had another thing coming. Historia actually being in power didn't concern him.

Amina rolled her eyes at him. "If you would let me finish. There is something interesting about power. If it is a matter of strength, then you should be the one everyone hears around here. If it is a matter of cunning, then Erwin would be calling the shots. If it is about money, then the nobility by all means would be running the show instead of having their heads incarcerated for being traitors. Connections? Then Merchant Families."

"Zackley is calling the shots here," Levi said. "He may not be the strongest man, but he is the leader of the military. It seems strength is the best."

Amina shook her head. "See, that is what I thought too. Until a week ago. Here, read this."

She handed him a letter. Levi noticed that the lettering was delicate, and the envelope sealed with wax bearing the royal insignia.

Dear Historia,

I hope you haven't forgotten the offer I made you. This is more than just about you and me. This is about our people, and the world. You need to understand the truth of the world. I know I have kept you in the dark, both hidden away from people and ignorant of your destiny, but I understand this was a mistake. You must confront your destiny. You must inherit The Founding Titan. Bring Eren, and I'll show you the whole truth. He stole your birthright from you, and it is time to get it back.

Tonight, I will give you a chance to come to me. You will know when the time is right.

With love,


"This asshole is still going on with this?" Levi asked in disgust. "Just like a cockroach. I hope you're not considering doing this. It's obviously a trap." Especially since Eren had some power they couldn't risk losing to anyone.

"But I am intrigued, and so is Historia. We can't make any moves until we know that it is safe, though, and we can only guarantee that if the Cult changes allegiance to her. The Cult could even tell us what Rod wants, even."

"And you think getting the cult over to Historia's side will give her power?"

"The true power isn't in the cult, Levi. It's in the Founding Titan."

"You can't be serious."

"Getting that into Historia's hands might be the best way to even the odds right now."

Levi frowned. Though this was the first time he had ever heard about the Founder, having it in the hands of the fifteen-year-old girl didn't seem like the most sound idea at the moment. "Rod wants Historia to eat Eren," he pointed out. According to Sakura's report, royal blood was needed to make full use of the Founding Titan's power. That meant Eren was incompatible with it. "That's never going to happen."

"Who are the people who know that prerequisite?" Amina asked.

Levi blinked. The people who had been present at the Crystal Cave. Him. Amina. Erwin. Hange. Nanaba. The Wallists. Too many people, for his count. "Enough that your plan won't work."

"All the people you thought about, except Rod, are involved with the Survey Corps in one way or another, right? Once Rod is dead, the Wallists will inevitably put their weight behind Historia. They supported Rod even though Eren had the Founding Titan all along, after all. So, even if she can't use it, does that really matter if people believe it?"

Levi took a moment to look around the city of Mitras. Here he was, an Underground rat, discussing keeping the people ignorant with a noble woman. It seemed that as much as Amina had changed, her currency was still deceit and manipulation. He wanted to outright refuse such an offer, and he felt his skin crawl at even discussing this in broad daylight, but something kept him from leaving right there and then.

"You mentioned the Underground before. It's how we got here."

"I will free the Underground if you help me convince Erwin it is for the best that the people believe Historia holds the power of the Founding Titan. Eren can keep the power, that was never my intention. Sakura would skin me alive, after all. I just want Historia to have a seat at the table."

Levi growled. So that's where she was going. Was he so weak that she zeroed in on him to get him to help? "How are you going to get around Zackley knowing? He knows Eren is a titan, and that Historia isn't."

"Erwin owed me a favor. I simply asked him to refrain from submitting the report for a couple of weeks. Zackley doesn't know the intricacies behind the Founding Titan. To be honest, neither do we. Rod still knows too much. Look, you don't have to make a decision right now. I understand that you have your reservations about nobles, and rightfully so. However, I don't trust one person having too much power, and you shouldn't either."

"So I should put everything behind Historia, a girl you can easily manipulate?"

Amina giggled at that. "You really think Historia is easily manipulated? The girl doesn't trust me, and me giving her this gift might even worsen our working relationship. We may have not known each other very well while I was in the Survey Corps, but Hange was my mentor, and Sakura is my dearest friend. The only thing I truly serve is humanity. You can at least trust that."

Only idiots and people with savior complexes joined the Survey Corps. He couldn't deny that part of her heritage, at least. Though his logic told him that she was just showing him her true colors as a deceitful noble, his gut knew that one of his comrades wouldn't do something like that. Especially since she was well-acquainted with the enemies they had on the outside.

"Does Sakura know about your scheming?"

She shook her head. "Not at the moment, no. She's not the best at playing politics. All that raw power of hers makes her incapable of reaching compromises with others when she believes she can just force change herself. Besides, we must learn to rely less on her."

Levi tried not to show his surprise at that. Had something happened between the two? Not that it was any of his business; their friendship was a strange one.

"I'm not expecting a response right at this second, Levi. However, I don't have unlimited amount of time. How about you give me an answer before you leave back to headquarters?"

Though he wanted to outright say no right now, the memories of Isabel and Farlan gave him a pause. There were brats suffocating beneath his feet at the moment, and he would be remiss to dismiss the opportunity just because he didn't completely trust Amina.

"Fine, but don't get your hopes up."

Amina bowed her head slightly at him and took her leave. The crowds of Mitras had just witnessed something almost positively treasonous, and yet none were the wiser.

"Tsk," he muttered. To think that not even ten years ago he was fighting for his life, and now he was embroiled in politics and nobility. Just what would Farlan and Isabel think about him?

Sakura didn't even consider how suspicious she looked as she darted out of the carriage and went looking for her adopted brother. The carriage driver was as stiff as a stone, as if the simple act of breathing would draw the wrath of gods upon him.

It wasn't the wrath of gods he earned, but rather the wrath of a pink-haired ninja.

She jumped next to him and hissed, "What was that?"

Eren winced, but managed to adopt an annoyed expression. "It's not like you could've done a better job," he muttered. His wig had been itchy the entire trip, and he had been paranoid that Erwin was going to request to stop at every other town on their way to Mitras.

"I'm sorry, Eren. You're right. This was just the easiest way I could think of to sneak you into the capital."

"Were they suspicious?"

"No. They all chalked it up to my inexperience," Sakura said. "The concerning part is that Historia is going to be crowned this week."

"So it'll be hard to catch her by herself."

"And Erwin is thinking of inviting Historia's friends to the coronation. Which includes you."

"So I was going to be summoned anyway," Eren said, annoyed. "I suppose I could learn to be patient."

She shook her head. "You wouldn't have been here long enough to allow for any meaningful conversation with Historia. You probably wouldn't be able to even mutter the name Rod Reiss."

"Right," he agreed.

"The plan is still on. We must find Historia now so we can go tonight for Rod. I can't guarantee how long it'll take before Hange figures out the fake-Eren cannot titan-shift."

"So our deadline is tonight. Got it."

"Let's find a relatively empty room for you to hide in. I'll bring Historia there for you two to meet. Act normal and let me do all the talking if someone stops us."

Eren nodded and started following her, though a bit stiffly. It couldn't be helped. This was Eren's first infiltration mission.

However, finding Historia in the building would be difficult. Since Eren's request had been such short notice, she hadn't been able to do enough recon about the layout, security, or Historia's schedule. To start, she wasn't even sure in what building she was staying. They had parked in front of the military headquarters, but she was sure that she would be housed in her castle, which was nearby but had the same intelligence problems as the military headquarters.

The MPs left them relatively alone, steering clear from them whenever they saw them. Unbeknownst to Sakura, she had gained notoriety in the last month. Word of her exploits at Stohess, and her subsequent treason charge, had spread like wildfire in the interior. Though not nearly as famous as Eren, her origins were a topic of mystery and speculation which would follow her wherever she went.

Though Sakura was unaware of the reason behind the stares and avoidance, she knew that her pink hair was attracting too much attention and would make her infiltration harder than usual. As soon as they found a simple storeroom, Sakura cast a simple henge over her face, adopting the face of a nondescript soldier she saw earlier. It was a gamble, of course, because while she found her unmemorable, there were others out there who didn't, but she didn't want to run the risk of making an entirely new face from her imagination only for it to fail.

The area was small, with only one oil lamp that had little fuel left. It reassured Sakura that the state of the room meant that upkeep was a low priority, meaning less chances for Eren to be found out.

"How do I look?"

She had to enhance her eyesight with chakra to be able to catch Eren's perturbed look. "It still freaks me out how you do all of that. When are you going to teach us your technique?"

"Probably not anytime soon. I don't have enough time before our operation to teach you how to be ninjas. Only some fundamentals of fighting." She would be ecstatic if everyone was talented enough to enhance their movements and senses with chakra. That, combined with their 3DMG, might give them a chance to face off the titan-shifters in their human forms. She didn't think anyone would be able to attack them one-on-one, but they outnumbered the titan-shifters to begin with.

"All right, you stay here. If I'm not back in an hour, two hours top, you should go to my rooms. This means the mission would have failed, but at least I would be able to bring you back to the training area before Hange finds out about your fake."

"I rather not think about failure," Eren said, "but I understand. I'll meditate while you're gone."

Sakura's eyes lit up and she searched the storeroom for any pieces of blank paper. Though the area was used more for weapons storage, she found some old documents with old reports that no one would miss or look for.

She ripped a small piece and handed it to him. "If you want to try something other than meditating, try to stick this into your forehead and keep it there with chakra."

Eren took the paper and frowned. "How should I do that?"

Sakura shrugged. "How do you move a finger? It's just something you have to learn how to do. Now that you are aware of your chakra, you need to focus your chakra to your forehead to make sure it doesn't fall. Concentration is one of the fundamentals for any technique. If you can't learn that, then you won't be able to manipulate your chakra in the future."

You should demonstrate for him, Son Goku said.

She struggled to keep the frown from her face. Very funny, Son Goku. I wonder why it is that I lost my fine chakra control.

All in due time, foolish jinchuuriki. However, if you keep wasting your time with foolish requests, maybe that time won't come at all.

This time Sakura did roll her eyes. Her tailed beast disapproving of her attachment to this world and its inhabitants was nothing new.

"Fine. This should keep me occupied, at the very least."

Sakura glanced at him and felt a wave of affection wash over her. His frustrated look was still the same one he sported when he was ten-years old. Though he had grown up so much in the last five years, he was still her adopted little brother, one of the few people she could call family. She knew he had her wrapped around his little finger, and she didn't mind.

She planted a kiss on his forehead. "If you can't get it, it's okay. You'll be ahead regardless."

He stared at her, wide-eyed, and nodded dumbly. "Y-yeah."

The ninja left without a second glance. There weren't that many times she and Eren spent time alone, and though she would love to stay in that room coaching him through the exercise, she needed to find Historia before the sun set.

Luckily for Sakura, Historia had a particular chakra signature. It wasn't small like the Ackerman family's or Amina's, and not nearly as plentiful as Eren's. Maybe it had something to do with her royal blood? At any rate, when she "kidnapped" Historia, her chakra signature became ingrained in Sakura's memory. Locating her would mean she would just have to be within the same range as her.

That is how she knew Historia wasn't in the military headquarters. It wasn't too surprising. Historia had left the Survey Corps when she had stopped being Krista. That meant she would have to go to the castle.

She searched for secluded spots to body-flicker to and from. Though she had snuck around Mitras not too long ago when she left the Burgeis, she had only used her powers when she was in the outskirts of the capital, and only after she had been found out. Though she would like to do this mission on the safer side, she was on a limited time frame to not only find Historia, but also sneak out with the queen.

The queen's manor was surprisingly less opulent than what she expected. Oh, it was furnished with the finest wood, the walls adorned with beautiful artwork, and the floors had the most luxurious rugs, but there wasn't anything in the castle that she could think would be worth a fortune. But maybe her commoner background just made her incapable of appreciating the value of the things she was seeing.

The castle was more heavily guarded than Sakura anticipated. Though she entered easily because she was military, she noticed the guards eyed the civilians with either interest or distrust. It would make sense for the military to keep tabs on the comings and goings of the queen's guests. Sakura felt a pang of sadness for the blonde girl. She truly lived in a gilded cage. She also didn't know how to feel about Zackley being the true head of government. Sure, it was better than the nobles and Rod, but at least the power seemed more decentralized that way. Now...

Your old village was like that, Son piped up as Sakura walked around the castle. You had a Hokage that was both the leader of the ninjas and leader of the city. My past jinchuuriki's leader was the Tsuchikage. Every village has their own ninja leader.

She spotted a male servant walking around the hallways and changed her henge to match him once she found a secluded corner. Did we like that? Now that she wore a normal attire, she relaxed her shoulders and started walking around the castle hallways. Historia was near, however she had never trained to find people in buildings. It was hard to tell the minute differences of when her chakra signature was getting closer.

I'm honestly surprised you haven't asked for a military government here, they said. The ninja villages start indoctrinating their children before they are even old enough to count. And these children, even if they don't grow up to become ninjas themselves, are devout believers in the legitimacy of the system and its figurehead, the kage. It's truly a great system.

You sound bitter. She could understand, in a way. The only reason why jinchuuriki existed was because they were powerful tools of battle. Ever since Son Goku had awoken, she felt so much more chakra she was afraid it was all getting to her head. However, this power came at the cost of her companions freedom. It wasn't a fair deal.

It is a system that breeds war because it is sustained by it, Son Goku said, their deep voice particularly grave. I wouldn't be surprised if something similar happens within your walls, now that you have a kage of your own at the helm.


A palace servant gave her a confused look, and she sped up before she could be stopped.

I've said enough, they cut her, though there was no annoyance or frustration in their voice. We can talk about this at a later time. Focus on your mission for now.


Son Goku was quiet for a while. Sakura thought that they had gone back to slumber before they said, I'll summon you to your mental plane while you sleep. This is where we first met. I'll tell you what I think then.

Thank you. I look forward to it.

Sakura grew weary of trying to find Historia on her own. Plus it wouldn't take long before someone started asking questions. She approached another servant, a petite brunette that barely looked older than Mikasa. As soon as she was in her line of vision, she gave out a squeak and put her face down. Oh, great, so she knew the person she was pretending to be.

"H-Harold! I d-didn't think I would find you here."

"That's because I shouldn't be," Sakura responded. She was unsure if she pitched him correctly, since she had never heard Harold speak in her life. Henge wasn't good at copying vocal cords if she had never heard them. "I'm trying to find Queen Historia, but it seems the schedule I was given is wrong."

The girl gave "him" a quizzical stare. "Are you all r-right? You sound funny."

Sakura gave her an unimpressed look. She was hoping Harold was an intimidating man to cause her to stutter so much. It was either that or a crush.

"S-sorry!" she squeaked. "Queen Historia got called to an urgent meeting with Lady Heike. I think they're having tea in her private wing." Either the girl was new or the palace staff was atrocious at keeping such delicate information private. No wonder the Cult of the King was able to deliver letters personally to Historia.

"Right. Thanks. I'll see you around."

She left before the girl could even formulate a response. Sakura found a secluded spot and changed her henge to match the girl she had just met. Harold asking anyone where the private wing of the queen was would be too suspicious, but a girl as nervous (or new) as the one she had just met wouldn't.

As a finishing touch to her illusion, she grabbed a nearby vase and made it look like a tray with two tea cups. It was not the best henge she had made (the tea cups weren't even filled with liquid!), but it would be enough to get her into the chamber. Her control was poor, and she needed most of her attention on her appearance.

Sakura searched for a guard and was concerned it took her more than five minutes to find one. This palace should be better guarded! Where was the security? The soldier she found was a blonde woman standing by a corner at the end of a hallway. She carried a single rifle and the insignia on her jacket was a golden crown. Huh, so one of Amina's.

"Excuse me," she said in a perfect imitation of the girl. "I was a-asked to deliver tea to the Queen and Lady Heike in her private quarters, but I keep getting lost. Could you take me there?"

"Girl, the Queensguard has more pressing things to do than escort some maid. Ask your superiors."

"Like Commander Amina?" Sakura asked innocently. The soldier stiffened and her brown eyes narrowed. "She just asked me on my way here to deliver this and left before I could say anything. Please, I really don't want to make her mad."

The soldier blew a puff of air and grumbled something at her side. "Fine. I wouldn't wish her anger on you. You barely look like you can make it a month here."

"Thank you!" Sakura said with more cheer than she really felt. So Amina had a reputation already.

Sakura followed behind the soldier, trying to think of a way to get rid of her and this Heike so she and Historia could have a private talk. Her chakra signature was getting stronger, meaning she was getting close and didn't have much time to concoct such a plan. Maybe she could knock her out and apologize later?

Historia's private wing felt more homely than the rest of the castle. It was definitely staffed with more guards and less servants. Perhaps her earlier assessment had been wrong and they were protective over their queen?

They reached a door that had two tall guards stationed next to them. Now that would be more difficult than expected. She would have to give Amina a big apology in addition to the ones to the soldiers.

"We have some black tea for the Queen and her guest," the soldier said.

Immediately her escort and one of the soldiers drew their rifles at her. The other opened the door and yelled, "We found one, Queen Historia!"

The blonde growled at her, "What did they do to you, Lisa! Are you even her?"

Ah, crap. Well, it would've been a stroke of good luck if the mission went without a hitch without gathering any sort of background information.

Historia appeared at the door followed by a stone-faced elderly woman. Sakura didn't need to know Historia very well to know she was enraged.

"You and your comrades sure are-"

Sakura dropped the henge on both her body and the vase. "Hey! Queen Historia! It's me!"

"S-Sakura!" Historia exclaimed. The Queensguard and the noblewoman voiced their surprises, not expecting a pink-haired woman to appear from a poof of smoke. Still, they kept their rifles trained on her.


"What are you doing here?" she continued, her anger forgotten and replaced by pure confusion. "Val, Gatz, Fred, you can lower your weapons, please."

"But-" Val said, not following her command just yet. "She's a-"

"She's a friend."

The three didn't hide their doubt. Her short stint as traitor to humanity had not endeared her to everyone, it seems. Still, Val ended putting her rifle down, though not before shooting Sakura a cold look.

"What brings you here in such secrecy? Surely I could've granted you an audience if you had just asked," Historia said.

Sakura looked around her. There were four people too many in this conversation. "I came in secrecy because the less people know I'm here meeting with you, the better."

"If this is about the Cult," the elderly lady (Heike?) began, "then you need not worry. We are also searching for them."

"Close, but not exactly. Please, Queen Historia. We don't have much time."

The queen stared at her with earnest blue eyes. The air was charged with tension and wariness, but it seemed Historia truly wanted to believe. "This is the second time you come to me telling me to trust you."

"And what happened in the first time?" she prodded. "This time, I'll explain more."

"Right. Guards, please grant us some privacy."

The guards saluted their queen and filed away. Val turned back to give Historia a concerned glance and Sakura a heated glare.

"Lady Heike..."

Heike gave a curtsy, though it took some effort from her body. "Please keep me updated, Queen Historia. Lady Ella."

Sakura stiffened at the name. Ella had been what the Burgeis had called her since her name was too foreign. That Heike had made the connection already meant that she knew about her connection to the Burgeis, and was probably more aware of Sakura than just simply a "traitor."

Historia gave her a questioning glance, to which Sakura shook her head. "It's not important."

The ninja stepped inside the tea room and closed the door. A tall window allowed sunlight to completely illuminate a large room surrounded by bookcases. The centerpiece was a small, white table adorned with gold and two matching chairs. The drapes on the window were a deep blue, which contrasted nicely with the bright red rugs.

"I am going to guess we don't have time for a drink," Historia said.

"I'm afraid not. I think you need to meet Rod Reiss."

"I agree," she responded, much to her surprise. Amina had made it sound as if Historia would be disgusted to see him. "In fact, we initially thought you were going to be my escort to him. You see, I was invited for an event tonight, and I needed all the information I could get from one of the Wallists."

"Wait, tonight?" Could it be a coincidence, or had Rod planned it this way? No, there was no way he could've known Eren was going to request to come here on this particular day. She was becoming too paranoid.

"I suppose he's becoming desperate, since my coronation is approaching. However, I believe it is too early to meet with him. Perhaps in a year-"

"I'm afraid we can't wait that long. The reason why I'm here right now is because I brought Eren with me to Mitras to meet with you and Rod tonight."

"Eren is here?" Historia exclaimed. "Sakura, why!"

She winced. It was idiotic, but her adopted brother needed to know, it seems. "He begged me to come here, and I couldn't say no. He says he can't concentrate on plugging the wall until he regains memories he has lost." And makes sense of the memories he has gained.

"And he thinks that meeting my father will solve those issues? Whoever gave him the idea?" Historia eyed her suspiciously. Sakura only knew about this because Amina told her, and she wasn't sure that Amina had been at liberty to mention the letters the Queen had been receiving.

She opted for honesty. "I'm sorry, my Queen." She bowed on one knee, aware that this was how the nobility formally asked for forgiveness. "I gave him the idea because Amina previously asked me to infiltrate your father's group to find out what they were doing. It accidentally slipped my tongue when Eren was asking for ideas."

Historia sighed.

"I understand this plan is not the most thought-out and for that I apologize. I'm not asking to put you and Eren in danger. If anything, I'm against either of you touching Eren, since we have no idea what that could cause. I just want the three of you to meet properly."

"And without any of the military command knowing?"

Sakura frowned, unsure if this was a trap Historia was laying for her to walk in. Expressing such thoughts were treasonous. Not so long ago, Historia had made her charges disappear, but Sakura was unsure if this was because she truly believed in her innocence or because she had to do it. "Unfortunately, none of them would be in favor of this meeting." Even Amina, her closest ally, would balk at what she was doing. "It is understandable. You two are very important figures for us in our fight against the titan-shifters.

"But I trust my adopted brother's instincts. If he says gaining this information is important in our fight against the titan-shifters, then I believe him. And I would never let anything happen to either of you two, which means the meeting would take place in our turf."

Historia frowned, and Sakura's heart sank. "You know, Sakura, I've never truly thought about whose side you're on. Ever since I took this position, I've been aware that everyone is using me to further their agenda, but what truly angers and frightens me is that I am unaware of their agenda or end-goal. However, I think I have figured yours out: you would do anything for your family. All your actions start making sense with that frame in mind, especially this poorly-thought plan. You knew Eren would join the Survey Corps, so you joined in advance to pave the way. Titan-shifters are your enemy, but not because they threaten humanity, but because they threaten Eren and Mikasa.

"I know Eren will be safe if we meet my father. However, how can you guarantee mine? I am of no use for you or your family. Once Eren gets what he wants from our meeting, why would I think that you care about my safety?"

Sakura tried hard not to think about how derailed their conversation had gotten. At this point, Eren might be heading to her rooms soon, thinking the mission was a failure. However, convincing Historia to come willingly with her was not an option this time, and forcing her to come would just not work.

And, just because Eren had changed locations didn't mean that their meeting wouldn't go as planned. It would just take an extra step. Having Historia come of her own volition was more important than keeping a tight schedule.

"Maybe a year ago your assessment would have been right, Historia. I understand why my background would give you pause. I haven't been the most honest soldier, and I have been experiencing the consequences of those decisions these last few months. I've learned that I can't do everything by myself. The inside of the walls are the only home I've ever known, and you're their ruler. I will protect you because you're our queen, but also because you're a good kid.

"My brief time with the nobles taught me they're not the kindest nor most truthful of people. You also have to juggle the merchants and military, which I'm sure they're all ruthless. You accepted this position for a greater good, and I admire that selflessness of yours. I think you can teach me a couple of things about duty to our people."

Sakura panicked when she saw Historia's eyes tear up. Had she offended her?

"Can I trust Amina? I know you two are friends, and you are biased, but please tell me I can trust her? Tell me the truth, and I'll go with you."

"Uh, um," she began, unsure how to proceed. Sakura had entrusted Amina with all her secrets, but they were best friends. She wasn't sure what her relationship was to Historia. Sakura tried to remember the conversation they had two days ago. "She said that Zackley may be her superior, but you are her queen. You should trust her. I think she has a soft spot for you."

Historia nodded, as if she had confirmed something for her. "Oh, I hope she forgives me earlier harshness and my future indiscretion. Take me to Eren, please. We need to plan for our meeting tonight. But first I need to change. I cannot walk around the capital in this dress. Can you please call Val inside? I must tell her that I have been called to an urgent meeting."

Sakura agreed. It would be much easier for them to sneak around if Historia wasn't wearing such a well-tailored and beautiful pale green dress. "Can you also tell her not to mention my appearance to Amina? She'll figure out what we're planning if she knew I was here."

"Right. We can tell about this meeting after the fact."

Sakura only hoped that her friend would forgive her after she heard what a success it had been.

The fight had barely started and Zeke had already body-flickered behind her. He wrapped a long hairy arm around her titan, swept her legs beneath her, and took her down. Annie winced from the inside of her titan as she struggled and clawed at him, but Zeke was more powerful than her. What would Itachi-sensei say if she saw her like this?

She struggled against his hold, hoping to find a weak point against him, but Zeke simply tightened those long arms around her neck. Annie gritted her teeth and tapped the ground next to her.

The Beast Titan let her go and Annie rolled away from him. She removed her real body from the nape of her titan, the steam from her titan warming her skin. Zeke did the same, a blonde man appearing from the nape of the hairy titan.

"Give it up, Annie. You're not strong enough to go back in by yourself."

Annie grit her teeth and landed on the ground. Bertolt was immediately at her side, observing her for any injuries. "Annie, are you-"

"Warchief, that was unfair and you know it," she said. Unlike her and her fellow titan-shifters, Zeke was special and could use chakra in his titan-form. He couldn't use it very much, since his chakra reserves didn't multiply and a giant titan required more chakra than a human one to do the same feats, but he really only needed to use it once to gain the advantage over her.

He was still a rarity that had not been seen since the The One-Eyed Boy had graced Marley with his presence.

Zeke jumped out of his titan and body-flickered to her side. "Unfair? You think Sakura will play with you fairly? Or that she will come willingly?"

Reiner and Pieck also approached them from the sidelines. Reiner was being considerate and walking slower for the sake of Pieck, who was still not completely used to walking on two feet.

"The intel we received was wrong, Annie," Pieck said. "Your teachers' request could even be considered void, since it is borderline impossible to achieve."

"Annie, my friend has been lost. Please try be patient with her. She might be scared and maybe act wrong, but she's very kind. Tell her who you are, she will come. She will come back to us."

She always had trouble keeping the smile off her face when she heard her teacher speak in broken Marleyan. "If you say so, Itachi-sensei."

Reiner shook his head. "It's not honorable to go back on our word."

"Honor has nothing to do with it," Zeke said. "Our alliance with those three will surely pay off in the future, but we can't go about risking our true goals because we were impatient. Don't worry, you three will summon them again, but when the time is right."

"Maybe if I hadn't killed her squad..."

"Your primary objective was Eren Jaeger, remember that," Zeke said with a warning hidden in his voice. "Remember they're allies, but they're not our friends, and they certainly can't ever be more than that, Annie."

It seemed that perhaps her little crush on Itachi hadn't gone unnoticed, if Zeke's words and Bertolt's annoyed frown were anything to go by. Neither him nor Reiner had approved of her plan to get Sakura arrested after killing those titans the Survey Corps had been studying. Annie was about to sneak and speak with Sakura, explaining why she was there before taking her to a favorable location for retrieval, but Sakura's superiors had gotten her out and instead kept her hidden along with Eren. In hindsight, too many stars had to align for her to have a chance to explain herself.

And it would've failed, she now realized. The Sakura that Itachi had spoken so fondly about didn't exist. Her memories were gone, and she only saw them as enemies. But perhaps things would've gone differently had they spoken before their fight in the forest of giant trees.

Now the only way Sakura would go back was with a fight.

"We sent the Jaw Titan back to Marley, so that should buy us some more time in here," Zeke continued. "We wait here for the Survey Corps to come. I am sure your teachers won't mind if we take some more time than what was originally predicted."

"Time moves more slowly in their world than ours, so this should only be a minor setback," Bertolt noted. "I am more concerned about Eren. His hatred for us won't make it easy to kidnap. And if he dies, all our efforts would have been for nothing."

"He does sound like he'll be a problem," Pieck agreed. "However, we have the advantage of time and layout."

"And me," Zeke added with a chuckle. "I have increased my jutsu usage from one to two in my titan form. I surely hope for the sake of Eren's friends that he comes willingly with us."

Annie believed herself to be a monster unworthy of any affection, but the glint Zeke got in his eyes just then reminded her that there were always bigger fish in the ocean.

Thank you to everyone that has reviewed. Even though I can't respond to all the messages, your words of kindness fill me with a lot of motivation to finish this story. I'm also really grateful to everyone for being so patient with me.

This last year was the busiest year of my life. I am sure the pandemic has affected all of you, so I don't need to go into too much detail on how my life has changed. I will finish The Vessel, but unfortunately I have new responsibilities that take precedent.

The SnK manga got all weird too, and the implications from what I read stayed my hand. I know I mean to go into AU territory, but I want to go AU while keeping some powers canon compliant. Unfortunately, I don't think the manga will have a satisfying conclusion (not as bad as GOT, but it definitely won't end up the masterpiece I've felt hyped about), so changing the ending won't be too bad. At least SnK doesn't have a sequel that is destroying the legacy of the original...

I am starting rotations soon, meaning I barely will have enough time for myself and even less for a fanfic. Unfortunately I can't promise any updates until early 2022. However, I think I might be able to work something out if I have a beta. If you're interested in beta-ing for The Vessel, PM me to have a chat! I'm not looking for experience, more for time commitment. I'm also editing the story for AO3, so that would be helpful!

With much love,

White Ink Penpal