AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm not dead! lol I deeply apologize for the long time between updates. I was rather busy with a few work related things and other life instances. Not only that but it took me some time to plan parts of this fic. I was also waiting to see how the current arch of the manga was going to end since I plan to conclude part 2 there.
One thing I need to establish here right now is that there are no such things as titan shifters in this fic. Just a few 'species' of intelligent titans.
But now here is the very first chapter of Rogue Part 2!
Synopsis: Two months after The Female's Titan's assault on Stohess, Rogue's life is steadily changing. He's become a celebrity among the public and thus well perceived. However, there is trouble in the shadows that the Scouts cannot ignore. The titan also begins to learn more about himself and his abilities.
STAY TUNED AFTER THIS CHAPTER FOR IMPORTANT INFO CONCERNING FUTURE CHAPTERS.
Particles of dust floated around in the air, appearing like flickering fireflies with the light coming through the windows of the large room. A long and extravagant looking table stood dignified in the center with a velvety table runner laying neatly across it. Shelves on the wall were lined with records while other areas were less than orderly. In the corner, a trash pail contained wrinkled pieces of paper that were poorly covering up several empty bottles of whiskey and beer – a sight that was a visual peek into what the Military Police indulged upon behind closed doors and away from the public eye. Overall, the room needed attention and it was likely that it wasn't used quite often. In all honesty, he would rather rise from his seat and clean as opposed to spending his time to wait seated in a chair. Icy blues trailed to a rather expensive looking grandfather clock in the corner, seeing that it was already a half hour past noon. The meeting or rather appointment was supposed to be at midday, giving the Corporal the indication that they were late.
In irritation and combined with his current lack of patience, Levi's eyes drifted to the window to observe the present cityscape of Stohess. In the past two months since The Female Titan breached the wall in a desperate attempt to tangle with Rogue, the district had been steadily rebuilding both physically and in a mental sense. The ruins of burned and obliterated structures destroyed by the titans' quarrel were gradually being rebuilt. The citizens themselves from aristocrats to young children were starting to get over what occurred that tragic and overwhelming day. Not only did they have to endure the horrible sight of two clashing titans, but also the losses of family members and friends – the people learning to accept and cope with both.
For the months passed, the Scouts had been adjusting as well. With the appearance of The Female Titan, the Legion had grown aware that something was looming just in the shadows. They had all heard her words and felt that their worries were for reason. They were on their toes, knowing that there were other threats coming, lurking, and waiting. Hange herself had been hard at work trying to decode the DNA of The Female through the revolting bile of the titan pellets passed by Rogue – a process that he himself didn't care to see until there were results. Then there was the titan himself. After he had awoken for the first time since battle, Rogue was given a short amount of time to get his bearings back in order. Besides Hange trying to extract DNA, she was actually beginning to study and experiment on Rogue in light of his new and incredibly frightening ability. Levi actually felt himself shutter in the slightest at the mere thought of such. At the time that Rogue had gone berserk, he felt as if he was seeing the devil himself ignited in hellfire with unbridled rage. A true monster at work and his slaughter was horrifying. Since then, Hange had been trying to study Rogue's blood to find out more about the titan's body and how such an ability could be triggered – and used efficiently. To the day, they knew little to nothing.
Suddenly the door to the room creaked open, the quiet and somewhat peaceful mood instantly shifting to a much tenser one. Levi instantly left his thoughts and forced his attention on the other end of the room, standing to salute at who entered. It was a collection of people who made him uncomfortable. There was two seasoned MP's along with Premier Zackley who wore an impassive face – an expression that he couldn't truly decipher. They were also in the company of what looked to be the district mayor of Stohess – a plump middle aged man that had a face that looked as if he had never let out so much as a chuckle in his life. Levi dreaded this particular official's presence. The man would mostly ramble on about damage costs and other things he didn't care to address or hear. It wasn't that they couldn't pay the substantial fee; after all they did have The Female Titan's diamond shard that would fetch them a pretty penny. If anything, the Scouts were more uneasy about sharing their suspicions.
Of course, the one person that had grabbed Levi's full attention was none other than Erwin. The Commander of the Scouts himself was guided into the room by the two MP's in handcuffs – the man having been in prison since he took the fall for the destruction that Rogue brought upon Stohess during the battle with The Female. In the dim light, Erwin looked worn thin – stretched to his limit with the shadows only emphasizing his features. The Commander looked as if he had aged five years in a two month's span of time. The man's cheeks had sunken in the slightest – making his strong cheekbones a bit sharper. Erwin's eyes looked to have dark circles residing beneath them and his normally well-groomed hair was rather unkempt – looking though as if his blonde hair had been through the mercy of a gale and needed a good washing. Stubble decorated his chin for the man was more than likely not allowed to have a good shave while being in the iron pen. The Commander's simple white shirt and brown pants fit him loosely, suggesting that the man had certainly lost quite a bit of weight. Erwin's wrists were bruised and scratched from the handcuffs clasped tightly around them. Levi felt a spark of frustration swell in his gullet. The Military police probably treated the man as if he were a beast instead of human, knowing very well that Erwin had made the sacrifice needed to keep the titan out of the MP's vile hands.
With stern frowns of dislike remaining upon their faces, the two MP's began to undo Erwin's cuffs, the blonde letting out a sigh of great liberation as he rubbed his battered wrists. The two soldiers then began to make their way out of the room but not without muttering that they 'couldn't believe that such a man stuck out his neck for a titan' before shutting the door. Zackley then cleared his throat and took a seat at the end of the table, taking a moment to get settled and pulling out a notebook and rolling up his sleeves before gesturing to the others with a simple wave of his hand.
"You three take your seats. We have some things to discuss."
The Corporal quickly followed the man's order, seating himself with the Mayor across from him and Erwin adjacent to him at the end of the table. For a few seconds, it was silent until Zackley let out a vexed sigh.
"Now, as you may know, we are here to discuss the incident two months ago at Stohess as well as the financial income needed to repair the damages. Mayor Ekhel, if you would, please inform and address the Scouts of the funds needed."
Levi felt himself bite the inside of his cheek as the man pulled out his own documents before looking up from beneath his fleshy brows to stare heavily at the Commander and Corporal. "Two months ago, the Stohess District was victim to a titan attack that involved The Rogue Titan as well as a titan that appeared to be female. There were a total of sixty-seven deaths and approximately seventy injured. The damages to the city include much of the southern side that sustained most of the damages from fire and total demolition. The city's downtown also received similar damages as well. After thorough research it was determined that Stohess received a total of three million gold pieces in damages. This amount has been verified by the council and the King. The payment is due at the end of the month with no exceptions and no extensions are allotted." The man paused, looking up from his notes to stare at them with utter loathing and seriousness. Levi was able to detect an inward smile worn by the man, obviously thinking he had them. If it was one thing that most political figures were in Sina, is that they firmly were against the Scouts as a whole – all due to money reasons. They wanted nothing more but to see the Scouting Legion disbanded. Of course, Levi was wearing an invisible smirk, knowing just how they were going to get the Mayor's goat.
"I'm very glad to inform you that we already have your payment ready Mr. Ekhel." Erwin educated, still keeping his solid tone and commanding façade. Much to Levi's amusement, the plump man's level exterior instantly switched to a state of befuddlement – brows raising so much that the Corporal could actually see the man's top eyelid.
"W…what? You have the payment for the damages in full?" He stuttered. "You couldn't possibly have that in cash on you!"
Erwin folded his arms. "You are correct. We don't have that in cash."
The mayor raised a brow. "Then what sort of currency are you talking about?" He demanded, giving Levi his cue.
"Rare gemstone." He spoke simply, obviously catching the man off guard as he pulled out the necessary documents that Erwin had requested of him.
Ekhel sat back in his seat, brows now narrowing in disbelief. "Gemstone? Really? What gem could possibly cover your costs!"
Levi sighed in irritation through his nose and pulled out more important documentation. "Diamond, sir. A rather different type to be exact that sets our gem at a different tier than the common diamond."
"A different type of diamond!" The man nearly laughed. "I've never heard of such a thing! What could you have possibly come into possession of? Diamonds are only available to harvest in Sina I'll have you know!"
The Corporal kept his composure. "The diamond the we have come into contact with is something that is highly dangerous and deadly to obtain and come by. I'm talking about something we have dubbed as Titan Diamond."
Ekhel crossed his arms to rest upon his rounded belly. "Titan Diamond?"
"Yes." Levi continued as he reached into his jacket's inner pocket and pulled out a small shard that they had managed to acquire and slid it across the table to the mayor. "Titan Diamond is the product of a rare species of titan and their ability to harden parts of their skin. It is created through a rapid sweating process that contains the particles of diamonds as well as a titan's flesh." The Corporal educated with the Mayor looking at the shard in awe, transfixed by its surprising elegance – the light from the window reflecting across every face of the bluish gem. "We have already verified the legitimacy from a jeweler right here in Sina." Levi passed the man the certificate of authenticity. "The nearly one-hundred-pound gem was valued at over six million." Levi nearly chuckled, as he proceeded to watch the man's greed coax him into their presentation. "I'm pretty sure this will cover the damages and provide extra funds. Hell, I'm pretty sure many of you pigs here in Sina would fancy wearing jewels that came from the might of a titan. It's the same luxury of wearing fine and exotic furs of animals – except you're wearing the skin of the king of beasts. What's more, is that currently the shard is the only one you'll be able to get." Levi pressed, knowing that the Survey Corps were keeping a large amount stored away for emergencies. "Right now, the funds are on their way to the district's deposit box as we speak. So, as we stated, the payment has already been fulfilled and taken care of Mayor Ekhel." Levi concluded, icy blues shifting to the Commander.
"Is there anything else you need to address with my Corporal and I, Mr. Ekhel?" Erwin queried, still keeping the same tone.
For a moment, the man was silent, eyes scanning the documents provided and glancing at the stone in hand before looking back to the Commander. "No sir, I have nothing else to ask of you." The man concluded with Zackley nodding, interlacing his fingers as he rested his arms upon the table.
"If that is the case Mayor Ekhel you are now dismissed from this meeting." The Premier requested with the man getting up from his seat and quickly exiting the room with Levi noticing the Mayor slipping the small shard into his pocket as he closed the door behind him. The mood in the room seemed to instantly change into a much darker one as Zackley then focused his attention upon them, brows slightly narrowed and mouth in a firm grim line. "Now for the real reason why I called the two of you to this meeting today." He began ominously, the room dimming a little more as a cloud passed over the sun. "Before I lead into this, I want the two of you to tell only the truth. No lies. Do I have your word?"
Knowing this was it and they would have to give up everything they knew, both Levi and Erwin gave in to a single dip of their head.
"Remember, if you lie, you are doing so straight to my face which would bring a heavy penalty." Zackley went on, no sense of nonsense laden within his voice.
"We will tell nothing but the truth, sir." Erwin assured. "That's all we want to tell you now that we have a chance to speak with you in private with no interruptions." The Commander pressed, Levi knowing good and well that the last sentence was directed toward Nile's absence – which they were thankful for. All the Commander of the Military Police would do was interrupt and threaten with treason while completely ignoring the seriousness of the matter at hand.
Zackley was quiet for a moment before he gave a nod in return and opened a file that contained what looked to be written statements and other documents. "Now, two months ago, Stohess was breached by a titan that Rogue Jaeger intercepted and eventually killed. You stated to me as well as the court that this titan was after Rogue over a territorial dispute. However, after careful observation including witness accounts, we believe this is false. Commander, the titan – the sex was female wasn't it?"
"Yes." Erwin answered, Levi knowing exactly where the Premier was heading.
"Alright then. So instead of a territory dispute, this was a mating thing wasn't it? According to a professor here in Stohess, some females of certain species travel great distances in order to find their preferred mate. Some females of the species also do serious harm or even kill the male in the mating process as well. Tell me, is this true? Was this instance due to The Female Titan's need for a mate?"
"No." Erwin responded quickly, catching the man off guard. "It's a much more serious reason than that."
Zackley rose a brow at the Commander's blunt statement. "And what would that be?"
For a moment it was silent in the room except for the clock's taunting ticking sounding from the room's corner. Levi braced himself for how the Premier would take what they had to dish out next. There was no telling how the man would react the news.
"As you know," Erwin began solidly. "The Female Titan holds a great deal of intelligence. She was able to plot against us as well as being able to communicate through speech – although much less developed than our ability to do so but being far better at communicating words than Rogue. The Female Titan referred to Rogue as 'Coordinate' and claimed that she 'failed a mission' upon her defeat." The Commander informed with Zackley sitting up in his seat at the news.
"This titan could speak as well?" The Premier suddenly paused, looking up at the ceiling in thought before turning his focus back onto them. "What do you think she meant by Coordinate?"
"Sir, we firmly believe that The Female Titan was referring to some sort of alpha status of Rogue. We have noticed that he seems to have the ability to actually be able to order other normal and common titans to back away or command them to attack."
At Erwin's words, Levi watched as Zackley nearly stood from his seat, brows arched and jaw slightly slack. "You mean Rogue Jaeger has the ability to –
"Yes." The Commander interrupted. "We believe that The Female Titan was trying to defeat Rogue to gain the authority he has." Erwin stopped, letting out a heavy sigh and losing his imposing stature for the first time the meeting started. Levi swallowed, likely knowing what was to be put onto the table next. "Sir, there is actually another thing that has developed with Rogue. As you know, he has some sort of amnesia and cannot remember anything before his time in Maria, his DNA even suggests that he is from some other region entirely. Recently however, Rogue has been starting to have brief flashbacks of his earlier life. Granted, it's just fragments, bits and pieces. But there was enough to give us an idea that Rogue had most likely encountered The Female Titan in his past and engaged in combat with her then." Erwin paused with Levi watching as Zackley absorbed every word. "This is what we know now."
Zackley remained unspoken, watching the cubes of ice in an undrunk glass of tea bob like boats in a river before letting out a long and prolonged sigh. "I see." The Premier paused, still staring off into thought.
Levi was discreetly in a state of bewilderment. He expected for Erwin to share his suspicions about The Female Titan's very possible relationship with the other two titans in question. It caught him off guard, but from his experience, Erwin was never someone to be doubted. The man had to know something.
"Well then, what of Rogue's ability that was reported during the battle?" Zackley suddenly began again – changing the topic. "Corporal, from what I understand, you witnessed it firsthand did you not?"
For a moment, Levi remained slightly stunned at the change before nodding. "Yes, Rogue's new ability is something that we've called 'Berserk Mode.' In this state, his body temperature rises substantially to the point where flames erupt from his pores. He changes a lot cosmetically. His skin gets darker and his veins glow red hot beneath it. His teeth and claws sharpen and his eyes practically glow a blinding blue. In this state – he is much more feral and much stronger. He fights like an absolute – monster." Levi paused, recalling the moment where he had felt chills the first time he had seen the display. "According to Hange Zoe, we believe that these 'deviant' type titans have abilities unique to their breed. This Berserk Mode is Rogue's while the Hardening of the skin ability is unique to The Female Titan."
"The Female Titan's hardening ability – that is where the Titan Diamond came from, correct?"
Levi nodded. "Yes."
"Tell me more about Rogue's ability." Zackley requested as he took the first sip of tea he had since the meeting began.
"Well," Levi dithered. "When Rogue himself is in this state, like I said, he's completely feral. He didn't seem to recognize anyone except Ackerman and Arlert. He completely succumbs to rage. He's a wild animal. He practically tortured The Female Titan before devouring most of her until his belly was fit to bursting. When he ran out of steam, he collapsed and was asleep for days. When he woke up, he had no memory of the event. We have not tried to bring about his ability again since the event of Stohess."
Zackley hummed to himself, tilting his head back to look up at the ceiling in thought yet again before focusing his gaze back to the two men. "Do you think this is something that you could train Rogue Jaeger to control?"
The query caught Levi off guard. "Well, it's something that we hope we can. It would be very effective in battle, but we are not sure."
"I see. I ask this because the government has heard of this display of Rogue's power and requested that you train Rogue to use this ability to the efficiency level of The Female Titan's ability – doing it by will rather than by accident." Zackley hesitated, folding his arms, obviously not fond of what he was being forced to say. "They have declared that Rogue needs to learn to control his ability before you take any further expeditions into Wall Maria."
Erwin sat up at this as Levi's brows narrowed. The Commander then rested his chin into his hands all the while his elbows lay upon the table, clearly not fond of the government's decision. The Corporal didn't blame him. At a time like this, the hold on any missions was catastrophic. It was certainly news that they didn't want to hear. For several tense and agonizing minutes, it was silent among the three. If he could, Levi would have stepped out of the room to let out a slew of curses.
"As far as the investigation goes on who assaulted Rogue on your land," Zackley spoke up, changing the subject. "We haven't been able to uncover anything of value. Any lead or tip we received turned out to be a dead end. We're still working on it though in the meantime."
Levi only nodded at the more unfortunate news, biting his tongue in irritation. "Shit." He muttered beneath his breath. He knew that the matter was not to be taken lightly nor was it something to be forgotten. The assailants knew what they were doing with the use of iron bamboo bullets. The Scouts had a bad feeling about the incident. Really bad.
"As far as positive news goes, I did approve for Rogue to travel into cities and other military facilities under supervision by either you two or another Section Commander. From what I understand, Rogue is quite the celebrity now." The Premier chuckled in the slightest, giving in to the first bit of humor Levi had ever seen from the stern and serious man. It was uncanny.
Indeed, during the past time since the brawl and victory, Rogue's popularity among much of humanity had spiked – most of the attention thankfully being positive. The people of Katness that was home to many refugees including those from Trost, practically worshiped him. There had been visitation requests and even proposals to have the titan as a mascot for a brand of vodka as well as sculptors wanting to erect statues of him – which the Scouts agreed to. Yes, Rogue was certainly a superstar. Of course, there was always those who thought Rogue to be a nuisance, but the good outweighed the bad which eased the Scouting Legion's nerves in the slightest.
"Yeah, he's quite popular."
"I'm sure your headquarters received the approval this morning." Zackley continued. "Well, I believe that concludes our meeting. I hope you have a safe journey back to Wall Rose Commander and Corporal. In the meantime, we'll stay vigilant and continue our investigation. Good day to the two of you."
With Zackley standing from his chair, Levi and Erwin instantly got to their feet and saluted, watching the Premier give them a final nod before exiting without another word. Not speaking to one another, Levi led Erwin from the room. Even as they passed soldiers in the hall that would glance at them, they remained in their own shells – simply staring forward. After walking painstakingly through the Military Police's headquarters, the two men finally exited the front of the building where a carriage was waiting for them. The Commander and Corporal only thanked the driver, a scrawny young man that the Scouts often hired to chauffeur them to meetings in Sina or into town, as he opened the door for them to enter the snug little cabin with leather lined seats and curtains over the windows. Once inside, the door was sealed and there was a gentle tug as the carriage started off down the brick street, signaling that they were truly alone and could talk without a soul eavesdropping.
Levi exhaled roughly, still irritated at the government's declaration, but there was something that was troubling him even more so. "Erwin?"
The blonde took his attention away from peeking out of the closed curtain at the Corporal's voice – the serious look replacing his expression of relief. It was highly likely Erwin knew what he was about to say. "Yes, Levi?"
"Why didn't you tell Zackley about our suspicions with the titan bitch possibly having relations to the other two skinless bastards? I'm not a genius, but that seemed pretty fucking important. Did you have some sort of suspicion or something?" He asked bluntly, observing as Erwin sat impossibly straight in his seat even as the carriage went over a rough spot in the road.
"The reason why is that I believe Zackley was already aware of the possibility and has been for some time. His body language during the conversation makes me think so even more than I did before."
"Really?" Levi folded a leg over his other one and crossed his arms – a stance that he often took when he was irritated or uneasy. He wasn't sure which of the two he was currently.
Erwin nodded. "Yes. I believe that Zackley has probably had the thought since The Female Titan's attack on Stohess two months ago. I believe he's been keeping that idea a secret and it is rather evident as to why."
"So why has he been keeping his mouth shut instead of informing Nile?"
The man's face only seemed to harden further at the question. "Obviously, Zackley doesn't want the government to know. It's Nile's job to report to the king, and knowing King Fritz, he'll figure that the best way of ridding the problem is disposing of Rogue. Zackley knows good and well as much as we do that Rogue is our strongest soldier and greatest weapon. He's humanity's spear and shield. If he's exterminated – we stand no chance in hell in winning this war let alone surviving. That's most likely why he's kept his mouth shut." Erwin paused, blue hues slowly adverting to his dirty and cheap shoes that he had to endure wearing. "There is a small chance The Female Titan's mission that she mentioned may have just been a self-appointed one. She claimed herself to be a 'Warrior' but since she knew the human language it's likely she could have just caught it in passage and decided that was what she was. Rogue's brief memories were triggered by The Female even though he has seen the other two titans before. As of now, since Rogue is showing no signs that he remembers the Armored or Colossal, we can't rule out this theory either. Still – the other seems more likely Levi. I don't think anything is a mere coincidence anymore." The Commander paused, blue eyes feeling as if they were searing into him. "What I do know, is that there is a storm coming and it's coming from perhaps more than one direction."
"Rogue! Could you stop wiggling your ears for one second!"
The titan purred at his little ones' chiding, teasingly fluttering his tapered ears again for his own amusement. The day was certainly a fine one. It was on the brink of autumn when the leafy greens were starting to change in tint. It was sunny without a cloud in the sky and the humidity was practically non-existent. Rogue always loved the particular time of year. It was perhaps the most comfortable for him and it was amusing to see all the small creatures hurry to fatten themselves up for the coming winter months. It was absolutely lovely.
Today however was a very special day for him. Rogue was boiling over in excitement. It was the first day he was allowed to go to the city. Granted, he had to wear his collar and there were quite a few rules, but he was going nonetheless! From what he understood, the Scouts had been working very hard for him to be able to go with them to Katness and other places and he was incredibly thankful that they did. He had always wanted to go to town with his little ones and look at the great deal of human things. The only times he had ever been through cities were for instances where the Scouts were just passing through with no time to stop. But now, he was finally able to get one of his wishes fulfilled. Armin had said that one of the reasons why they had been working hard for him to come to the city was the fact that he was what they called a 'celebrity' now; meaning that many people were very fond of him and practically worshiped him. He certainly wasn't used to such positive praise outside the Scouts. Two of the three reasons why they were going to town today was that something called a 'brewery' wanted him as a 'mascot' for a product and that someone wanted him to pose for them so they could erect a statue in his honor. The other reason why he was going out his family hadn't debriefed on with him yet, but they did say that it would be quite fun and he was really going to be helpful.
Hange had also said that his improvements and what she had lovingly dubbed as 'good boy' behavior also earned them permission to take him along. In the past two months, he had been working hard. Rogue was doing well in his intelligence courses. He was speaking a little bit better, using improved sentence structure which made him easier to understand. He could write his name with confidence now and he had even learned how to write his babies' names as well as a few of his favorite family members'. His reading was getting better, too. He had actually learned how to read a simple children's book. Granted, it was a book created for human infants with two to three words a page and only had about eight pages total, but it was still a book! His other more combat oriented skills were also improving. Levi had been teaching him new moves and how to perfect his current ones. He was also leaning techniques that he had never heard of as well. He was very proud of himself!
"Since we'll be there in a few minutes everyone, Armin and Mikasa – could you two go over the rules again with Rogue? You know how he is when he's excited!" Hange requested and teased from down below. Unlike his babies who were perched upon his shoulders, Hange rode on horseback a few meters before them. She led the way along with another veteran soldier, Nanaba. In the two months that had gone by, the titan had gotten to know Nanaba quite well. She was fair, soft-spoken, and was incredibly kind to him. When he was still living in the hells of titan infested Wall Maria, he had watched her often when she went up against his kin. Nanaba was swift on her invisible wings and very skilled and often showed interest when the Scouts had been observing him for the first time rather than having a sense of apprehension in her gut like many of the others did. Admittedly, he mistook her for a male when he first gazed upon her, tricked by her short blonde haircut, but of course he never told her about his confusion on the matter. He liked her company. Along with Hange, Levi, Mike, and Erwin – Nanaba was the other available superior that was required to accompany him to the cities and beyond. Today, for the particular excursion, it was just his little ones, Hange, Nanaba, and himself – the other members of the 104th stuck doing chores that the Corporal ordered them to do before his return from Sina. As much as he favored the company of his superiors, he did hope that one day he could go wherever he pleased with his babies. That included the outside world.
"Alright Rogue, here are the rules that you must follow okay?" Armin began with his blue eyes looking at him in what the titan was able to determine as sternness and reinforcement. "The first rule is to always stay with us. No wandering off. Keep vigilant and keep with the group." Armin began with Rogue giving an enthused nod in return. "No taking things that aren't yours. There are lots of shops that sell things where we are going. People pay money for things at shops so taking things without paying is stealing, Rogue. You cannot do that. We know very well that you like to take things for your collection, but it's different here. You will get in trouble if you steal." The blonde teen continued to explain with the beast giving a small dip of his head to assure that he was listening. "The third rule is that you can talk but no swearing." Armin put forth with the titan nodding, knowing very well that the vast majority of humans now knew that he could speak due to the event in Sina. "Rule number four is to watch where you step of course even though we are only going along the wide paths. Number five is try not to touch and sniff a lot of people. Unfortunately, there are still some that get the wrong idea about you. You can only observe a person if they approach and want to have a look at you. Overall Rogue, you just need to behave yourself." Armin smiled at him with Rogue giving an elated trill in reply.
"Oh yes!" Hange chuckled. "Rogue is a good boy so I don't think we'll need to worry about our own celebrity! My! He's got quite a full schedule today! We'll be meeting the two artists as well as a journalist who's looking to publish an article with an interview from Rogue himself!"
The titan tilted his head at the mention, not entirely sure what Hange meant. "INNTRREEIIW? AHHT IISS INNTRREIEWW HAANGE? AHHTT ISS AANN ARRRTIICLLE?" Bright greens looked at her awaiting an answer, but instead gaining the attention of Nanaba.
"An article Rogue, is a writing that's put in the thing that we call a newspaper. The newspaper is like many pages of a book without the cover and it contains news and stories that many copies go all over the walls so people can read it. Interviews are when one person asks another person a series of questions about their life, what they like, what's their favorite thing to do and so on. The interview is then published in the newspaper for all to read." The veteran beaned back to him. "You understand Rogue?"
As complex as it sounded, the behemoth dipped his head and let a quiet rumble slip through his teeth as confirmation. How interesting! He was going to be interviewed and many people would read his words! The mere fact made the titan walk with a bit more gusto, head held proudly and humming in rhythm from deep in his chest. His reaction enticed several giggles.
"Yeah, the interview was last minute, we sort of squeezed it into the schedule you could say!" Hange continued to humor them with Nanaba nodding and clearing her throat to start again.
"Afterwards we are heading to the Trainee Grounds over in Galhaut. The five of us Scouts are going to help out with a few exercises today. Rogue especially."
The beast blinked in surprise. Armin had told him once that he and Mikasa were trainees – those that were in training to be either a Scout, Garrison, or an MP. They were the soldiers with blades upon their backs and also called cadets on occasion. His little ones had only hinted around about the last place they were going on their excursion. But he had a pretty good idea what he was going to help with. He could only feel his excitement growing.
Today was going to be great, his heart fluttering in his chest as the city of Katness came upon the horizon.
After several minutes of him grunting in anticipation, did they finally make it to the western entrance of Katness. It wasn't as grand as the southern entrance that humans once used to come and go from Maria that was now only used by the Scouts when they left upon their expeditions. The architecture had gone from simple farm houses to stone and brick buildings bordered by cobblestone streets. To his left was what Armin told him was a 'fabric store' where humans bought cloth to make the things called 'clothes' to drape over their bodies. It was one thing that Rogue didn't fully understand as to why humans didn't just walk around bare like him. According to Mikasa, most males and females knew what one another looked like so it was a constant query at the back of his head questioning why they bothered. On his right was what looked to some sort of building that contained things that he often smelt like many of the things that came from the castle's kitchen and the nearby farms. In the front of it were baskets that contained objects like what his little ones called vegetables and fruits; items like beans and potatoes that he often saw growing in the Scouts' garden and what he was sure was apples by their smell. There looked to be other establishments as well that served different purposes, but the titan was more focused on the humans that were present. They had stopped tending to their usual activities upon hearing and feeling his thunderous steps to look up at him in surprise. Their faces were bewildered, stunned. Weren't they expecting him? Were these some of the few humans that didn't like him as much as the others?
"The Rogue Titan?" A woman questioned, with an apple she was still examining for purchase in hand as she stared at him. "I didn't know the Scouts were bringing him along today."
A child pointed excitedly, turning to look back at his mother with nothing but elation upon his face. "Look! It's the Rogue!"
"They brought The Rogue Titan today?"
"Look! He's here!"
The shopkeeper selling the apples laughed. "Well of course! Didn't you hear? Today is the day The Rogue Titan was approved to enter civilian territory. They plan to make a statue of him to honor humanity's first victory against the titans."
"I also heard that the new brewery wants to have him as the face of their company."
"The Rogue Titan is here?"
Feeling that the vibe was a welcoming one, the titan formed a lopsided and friendly smile upon his malformed face, letting a loud trill leave his chest. His beaming was instantly contagious no matter how unnaturally odd it was, everyone donning a grin of their own in return. Rogue then placed his attention upon Hange and Nanaba who were currently speaking with two Garrison soldiers who had come to meet their party. One of them was a young female whose hair tone confused him. It appeared nearly as silver as a blade like that of an elderly person, yet it looked to be a strange shade of blonde – platinum almost. Like Hange she wore glasses but like Levi she seemed rather serious but had a larger range of emotion, reserved was the best way to describe her. The other was a tall male who looked rather quirky, face formed into a laid back smile. He was an adult as opposed to the other that looked as if she were a teenager. Like his Armin, he had blonde hair but unlike the teen it was short. The man had a scruffy chin and the titan could smell the hint of alcohol upon his person. Overall, he did look a bit easier for one to speak to as opposed to the other soldier. He kept quiet and awaited any order as Hange and Nanaba dismounted their horses and shook the two Garrison's hands, smiling broadly in greeting.
"Greetings Section Commanders Hange and Nanaba, you're right on schedule." The silver haired woman gestured with her lips up in a small grin but with her body language still tight like a firm grip. The older male merely laughed with his hand gesturing up at the beast.
"Ah! The Rogue Titan himself!" He chuckled. "It's incredible to finally be able to see him up close! He's marvelous, fierce looking indeed!" He exclaimed in a relaxed tone that made a warmth grow in the megalith's chest. Hange nodded in obvious agreement.
"That's true! He's a handsome titan, but don't let that intimidating mug fool you for Rogue is actually quite the teddy bear and lovable lunk." The woman humored as she turned to the waiting titan. "Rogue my dear, lower yourself to join us! I want to introduce you to these two Garrison soldiers!" Hange practically sang in a merry tune.
Giving a quick nod to comply to the order that he had been given, Rogue made sure that his little ones were snug before beginning to carefully lower himself to his knees – being extra mindful of the nearby buildings. Once he was seated, Rogue leaned over with his ears fluttering before facing forward attentively, eager to listen as usual when he was being introduced to someone new.
"You three, this is Rico Berzenzka." The scientist gestured to the woman who simply dipped her head in greeting, looking almost proud it seemed. "I know that you've met Armin and Mikasa during the retaking of Trost briefly."
Rico nodded. "Yes, I met them when my squad was helping them clear the path for Rogue. I must say, they are great additions to the Scouts."
"Oh yes! We are definitely happy to have their talents! Not to mention, without them revealing their secret – we would never be in this wonderful position that we are now." Nanaba quickly agreed with Hange giggling in excitement as usual.
"Now this man here is Mr. Hannes, he's the one who enlightened us about the three of your connections to one another while we were still trying to capture Rogue in Maria."
Rogue's eyes instantly widened at the statement along with his passengers' as he understood what Hannes meant previously. The man had seen and remembered him during the breach? Upon hearing the hitch in his little one's breaths, Rogue registered that they seemed surprised at the confession as well.
"You mean – you saw us at the time of the breach?" Armin questioned, still sounding significantly flabbergasted. Hannes nodded charismatically.
"Yup! I was there to witness practically the whole thing! I saw The Rogue charge past us from his forest and past our soldiers – giving us the bird for firing upon him. In absolute awe by his abnormal actions, I trailed him through the chaos of Shiganshina to watch as he saved the two of you and tear apart a ten-meter titan like it was made of paper!" Hannes continued to explain excitedly, chuckling a bit with his body language and attitude suggesting he had a drink recently. However, even though he spoke of the titan's feat like it was a tale from the greatest adventure book, Rogue couldn't feel the same way. The soldier's words just brought back horrible memories – particularly of the very moment when his dear Carla and Grisha were eaten right in front of him. His heart dropped down to his stomach, ears wilting a bit. That was one memory that he would love to forget but couldn't for it was his drive and motivation to aid humanity in the war against his kin. Knowing her well and able to sense her change in aura, Rogue could tell that Mikasa's mind was being haunted as well.
"So – you saw everything?" Mikasa spoke quietly, her voice obviously more restrained. He could tell that she was dismayed like him, but judging by Hannes's façade he could easily determine that the man wasn't intending to make them upset. He was just so passionate that he had overlooked at just how they might feel. The others aside from Hannes seemed to notice the change as well.
"Ah yes!" He nodded. "I witnessed everything and –
However, the man suddenly stopped himself, scratching his head a bit and obviously backtracking. It was quiet for a few brief moment of unease until Hannes perked up again. "Anyway, so how about that introduction Miss Zoe?" He began on a different subject, clearly recognizing his error.
"Oh! Ah yes! I think we veered a bit off track! Allow me to formerly introduce Mikasa Ackerman, who graduated first in her class as well as Armin Arlert who had some of the highest written test scores in the trainees' history. And the titan himself is Rogue Jaeger – the infamous Rogue Titan!" Hange gestured to the three of them.
Sensing that was his cue, the creature smiled once again and let out a loud purr. "ELLO! NICCEEE TTOOO… NNEETTT YUUUU!" Rogue returned the greeting, his voiced words making the two Garrison soldiers take an impressed stance and shocking some of the nearby spectators who immediately began to giggle and whisper to one another. Hannes himself broke into a laugh while Rico simply nodded.
"So the papers and rumors were correct. He can speak." Rico assessed.
The tall blonde continued to chortle. "Pretty incredible! He speaks rather well too for a titan."
Rogue couldn't help but beam at the complement. If it was one thing, he was always self-conscious about it was his voice and the ability to form words. He remembered Dr. Jaeger examining him and saying that it was a wonder he could talk at all. Hange stated same thing upon one of her exams with him. Apparently, one of the 'cords' in his throat was malformed and thus rendered it completely useless. It didn't help much that he didn't have lips either. Compared to The Female titan who's tone and speech sounded almost like that of a human, his wasn't up to par. His voice was somewhat deep and raspy and it was impossible for him to pronounce some letters, but he was still very happy that he could convey words to those he loved no matter how strange they sounded. So hearing how well he was doing always made his heart flutter.
"Well anyways, Hannes and I are here to personally escort you to the square and help keep the walkway fairly clear for you. We are also there to handle anyone that may intrude on your business."
"Sounds good." Nanaba thanked the young woman with Hannes nodding and putting his hands together in a single clap with enthusiasm.
"Ah! Well it was nice to finally meet the infamous Rogue and the Titan Children in person and in such close proximity! It's an honor if I don't say so myself!" Hannes carried on his mirth before turning his back to them and waving them onward. "Now, shall we get going?"
"Look! It's him!"
"It's The Rogue Titan!"
"Oh goodness! Look who the Scouts brought with them today!"
"Well! What do you know! It's The Rogue!"
All around the traveling party were the more than curious spectators who watched the team make their way down one of the market districts. Almost like ducklings, they were following them close behind and would line up in clusters upon the side of the walk. Of course, Rogue wasn't paying too much attention to them. If he could use a phrase to describe himself at the moment, he would refer to 'a kid in a candy store' as Armin often said. Everything around him was a feast for the eyes! He could barely contain any excitement whatsoever. The titan's ears were constantly fluttering and rotating to listen to every sound and express his sheer fervor. A chorus of grunts and rumbles repeatedly left him as he observed his surroundings as they lumbered along. There was so many things to look at! So many different colors! So many scents to distinguish!
"Look!" Children pointed as he paraded by, nearly pulling their parents along. "Look at him!"
Rogue couldn't help his synch of childlike intrigue. Along with his ears, his head was often swiveling about, forcing his little ones to grip his collar rather than any strand of hair or the cartilage of his ears. The titan's nostrils flared as he continued to analyze the smells that were no doubt the scents of food – exotic delicacies that he never caught whiff of when the Scouts settled down for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was something that smelled spicy and fried, something insanely sweet, and something that smelled like a milky broth. Rogue exhaled, purring in pleasure as he proceeded to follow his superiors and look around eagerly. With each second that passed, his excitement only grew.
Turning his head again to look at a human flapping cloth out the window, his little ones struggled against his neck at the sharp and sudden movement, gripping the thick leather collar strongly and grunting in surprise. "Rogue – take it easy bud! Remember, don't get too excited. Follow the rules okay?" Armin chuckled in an anxious tone that Rogue continued to ignore. He couldn't help his demeanor. This was his first time in seeing the wondrous things before him!
"This is a sensory overload to him." Mikasa muttered, likely smiling beneath her scarf.
"Yeah, it is." The blonde returned with a soft chuckle.
"So how is he!"
Hearing the call of none other than Hange, Rogue directed an ear to her as his eyes continued to examine a container of flowers protruding upon a windowsill. Knowing the query was directed at his two passengers, he prolonged to look at the bright petals that butterflies danced upon.
"He's extremely thrilled Hange!" Armin called down to her. "Everything is catching his undivided attention!"
Her laughter rang through the street. "Well, we're not in any big hurry so he can look for a bit as long as he's a good boy!" Hange teased. "Just make sure he stays close and keeps following us!"
Rogue inhaled softly, savoring the smell of tulips and daffodils – flowers that didn't grow on the Scout's territory or where he lived in the forest. If it was one thing, he always caught himself doing was stopping to smell something that was new. He often smelled flowers and practically anything that produced an odor that he hadn't crossed before – thus was one of the reasons why he always wanted to go to the city. As he thought about it, he was doing the particular practice quite a lot as of late, even taking the time to smell earth and admittedly checking walls, low brambles, rocks, and patches of grass where other animals urinated – and he was pretty sure some of those scents were from some of the young male soldiers taking what they called 'a piss' during breaks between training sessions. He didn't really know why such a thing felt necessary for him to do, but perhaps it was just a simple need of wanting to know what was around him. Of course, Rogue had also taken notice that he was making even more of an effort to scent mark things as well; leaving concentrated traces around the border of the Scout's territory and even his nest in the barn he'd been given. He supposed that it just gave him peace of mind.
"Hey Rogue? We need to keep moving forward. Hange and Nanaba are getting pretty far ahead."
With the words snapping him away from his thoughts, Rogue quickly craned his neck to look upon the encouraging smiles of his babies, the beast able to sense their twinge of nerves beneath their facades. Facing the path again, Rogue took it into account that Hange, Nanaba, and the other Garrison soldiers were not too far ahead in his opinion. He could still see them, but he understood why his little ones were being so persistent. As much as he wanted to just stay and gander, he didn't want to get into trouble. With a sigh, the beast started forward again, feeling Armin and Mikasa pat his neck in reassurance.
"Good Rogue, as Hange said, you can look around but just as long as you keep in her sights."
The titan only crooned and nodded as he walked around a bend in the path, with his smile still upon his face. As long as he followed the rules he could look around.
But of course, as he rounded the bend as saw what was before him, childish intent and curiosity returned full blast and some of his desire to not get into mischief was forgotten.
"Look! It's the Rogue!"
"The Rogue Titan is here?"
"Huh? They brought him to town?"
Before the titan was what he could call the busiest and most abundant part of the market. There were many different shops lining the street, some temporary and others were permanent. The people had stalled in their shopping the second he appeared, looking up at the behemoth in the same matter as the others before them. As he had been, Rogue was only transfixed upon the vast assortment of human things around him. There were so many different articles he didn't know where to begin. Some things he recognized with clarity. There were books, bottles, and assortments of things that humans ate off of. Yet there were items he could find no name to. There was something that looked as if it turned meat into little pieces, a cylinder shape that children were beating upon, and many more objects that were nothing but perplexing. Rogue felt his heart lift and a trill left his maw, ears fluttering in elation. Oh how he wanted to look at everything! He wanted them, but taking things was out of the equation. However, his little ones and superiors said nothing about touching things.
"Rogue? Remember, be good –
The titan however, paid no heed to the soft warning and abruptly dropped down to be upon all fours, knowing he could get a better perspective on his hands and feet. The move nearly threw his little ones from his shoulders, but thankfully they had steadied themselves upon his bulk and collar.
"Rogue!" Armin hastily whispered. "Mikasa… he's getting out of hand!"
"Hold on Armin, he probably just got down to look at everything. Just let him. If he starts to upset anyone, we'll intervene. He's not going to be any trouble."
He continued to tone them out as he lowered further to quickly place himself onto his knees, his eyes set onto the first thing that had crossed his interest – an ornate flag with metallic threads. Rogue wasted no time watching the flag flap in the gentle breeze, quickly grasping the foreign fabric between his index fingers and thumbs. With a rumble reverberating in his breast, Rogue began his scrutinizing. Unlike the Scout's flag that boasted the wings of freedom, this one was long like a ribbon and contained ornate swirls and several letters – the word a bit too complicated for him to read. It was red as an afternoon sunset, gold tipped at the ends. The weaving was different, the threads looser and crossing in a different pattern. It was quite a feat! Rogue trilled as he continued to tilt the flag in his hand, lively green pools observing the reflective strands shimmer in the sunlight. The titan dipped his head, sniffing the cloth to further test it, but in doing so the beast took notice of another thing dangling from the side of the same building – something that looked even more interesting than the flag. Quickly, the titan took his attention away from his current object of amusement and took hold of a wooden circle that hung above a door.
"Rogue…you need to be –
All eyes were upon the towering giant as he took his time in observation. Rogue blinked in curiosity as he brought his mug even closer to the sign – eyes comically crossing in the slightest as he proceeded to fulfill his desire. The circle had an image painted upon it like those he had often seen in his picture books. Brushed upon the wood were three of the things his babies had informed him to be frogs. They were clustered together and holding what looked to be a string of sorts. There were gold letters as well, the titan able to distinguish a single word of the phrase. But of course, he couldn't care less what the depiction said. He was much more intrigued by the illustration's craftsmanship and artistry. The color was consistent, oils that had been glided smoothly over the wooden surface. Rogue was in awe, but he didn't know what exactly the significance of the object was. Why was the picture hanging on the side of a building of all things and not in one of his many books? Weren't pictures supposed to be in written stories upon parchment? Confused, Rogue rotated his head and produced a questioning grunt to his little ones, tapered ears facing fully forward and looking not unlike an eager child. Mikasa returned his query with a maternal smile as always.
"That's a sign Rogue. We use them to show where things are. Like what a road or path is called or what a certain building is. That sign goes to a restaurant and pub. It's where people gather to eat in the city and have a drink or two. There are many restaurants in Katness, Rogue. Each have different names as well. This one is called Die Drei Frosche or The Three Frogs." Mikasa smiled kindly with the titan grinning at the acquired fact.
"Yeah, Mikasa and I have eaten there before on several occasions. Now, let's keep going Rogue! We don't need to get too far behind!"
Although he still wanted to look upon what was in hand, Rogue gave a nod in compliance and rose onto his hands and feet once again to motion onward. Besides, there was so much more he had to look at!
"Ha! Look mom! He's walking on all fours!"
"He looks quite curious!"
Rogue's mind was pulling him in many different directions at once – completely spellbound and overwhelmed with everything. The titan's eyes immediately darted to a covered booth selling the shiny stones and beads. Rogue abruptly lowered his head to look in great detail, so much so that he practically startled the shopkeeper and his riders – the metal loop on his collar dragging upon the walk. The creature soaked up the sight before him. He remembered when he was escorted in Sina and seeing many of the esteemed women don the gems around their necks, wrists, and fingers. From the way he understood the custom, the female humans were the only ones to wear them. Perhaps they were for attracting a mate or something. He would never understand it. The titan tilted his head, watching the shimmering upon the surface of gems before feeling the shop owner's nervous atmosphere surrounding him. Knowing that the man would rather have him else ware, Rogue tore his attention away to follow a short scent among the brick walk, spelling something that had probably been spilt there once before quite a while ago – something that suspiciously was like the alcohol smell that radiated from Hannes.
"What is he doing?"
"You can tell he's intelligent. A normal titan would just walk aimlessly with a dead eyed gaze. He looks just like a child on holiday." A man chuckled.
"He's sniffing things like a dog. I never saw him do that the last time he was here. With his ears moving and everything he looks like he has a lot of animal traits!" A young male boasted with a chuckle. "I bet he's quite something to have around at headquarters!"
Rogue lifted his head with a grunt to continue his gandering, still walking upon all fours and twisting his neck to look upon anything that caught his eye. He rumbled deeply in his chest as he looked at things from chalices to simple satchels – the titan raising a finger to stroke upon the leather tenderly – comparing the material to his own skin that was a thousand more times tougher. The titan then turned again, nearly knocking his little ones loose, proving his movement was the last straw as Armin and Mikasa descended from his shoulder and onto the walk.
Armin chortled jokingly. "Since you are a bit overwrought Rogue, Mikasa and I are going to walk in front of you a bit alright?"
Rogue gave a lopsided grin and nodded as he proceeded to look about. The scent of perfume attracting his attention yet again, leading toward a table filled with fragrances in many small phials. However, his focus was snatched by a booth that contained the one thing that brought him the most joy. Toys. Simple children's toys. He loved them. They were the most colorful of things and each did something different. Toys came in many shapes and sizes and he could interact with them! His parents always brought him some sort of toy when they visited – and it was usually something that they made with their own two hands – a factor that always made their presents special. He missed them dearly. Curse his kin for taking them from him.
Thoroughly interested, Rogue lumbered to the booth where a plump man with a bushy mustache and a big grin upon his face stood and oversaw his products. The man was obviously friendly, smiling up at the titan with astonishment and looking welcoming overall. To return his kind look, Rogue beamed the best he could and wiggled his ears, gurgling deeply. "ELLOO!"
At his voice, as the others did before, there were many gasps. The man at the booth only let out a belly laugh.
"Well! What do you know! The papers were telling the truth! You can talk my friend!"
Rogue gave a small and almost bashful nod in return before proceeding to look down at what the man had available, completely unaware of his little ones walking further ahead and some of the surrounding conversations going on around him.
"So, The Rose Gazette was correct then. The Rogue really can speak."
"How did the titan learn such a feat?"
"Apparently the couple that used to live in Shiganshina taught him."
"His voice is a bit – odd, but I suppose that's the best a fifteen-meter titan lacking lips can do."
"Tsk, why did they even teach that thing to speak? It's a titan. It's a wild animal. The Scouts sure are milking that monster's stardom for all it's worth."
Emerald hues hungrily looked at the colorful toys out on display before him – the crude comment falling upon deaf ears. Upon the table were the usual things he had been shown or given before such as pull toys, simple puzzles that Hange often used in her intelligence tests with him – the titan usually having trouble doing them, a rocking horse that he admittedly wished he could fit on, and things like rattles for babies. However, there was one thing that easily caught his attention, an item that he clearly remembered. Laying in the corner of the table, was a stuffed bear; a teddy that was white as snow and had a pink ribbon around its neck. It was identical to the one that Carla had given him many years ago. The toy instantly made a sense of nostalgia wash over him. The bear was the first real toy she had ever given him. It was upon their third meeting when she came to educate him a bit about the world around him. The teddy was one of the things that Carla had planned to give to a daughter she wanted but then lost for she couldn't bear children. Thus, she had decided to give the stuffed toy to him as a gift for him to cherish. He loved that bear quite a lot, often sleeping with it so he would feel less lonely when his parents were not with him – the toy always holding their scent. It had been so comforting, helping him out a lot in his early days. Rogue could clearly remember how terrified he was when he first saw the trees and wall towering over his head. He was scared of nearly everything and only acted on instinct. But now, since he had been living with the Scouts and was having slight dreams about life outside the walls, he realized fully that he just had no memory of the time before Wall Maria and he had no idea how he lost it whatsoever. He had practically used the bear it until it fell apart into nothing but stuffing. The bear before him now was pulling him. Even though it wasn't the one he had, it held so many happy memories of his Carla and Grisha. He had to have it.
But of course, just taking the toy was out of the question. He couldn't steal. Sure, he could do it on the occasion around his family in a teasing manner, but here that was not tolerated. He had worked so hard to gain acceptance by the general public and he couldn't throw that all away. Suddenly, he remembered that Hange had gotten a ball for him once when they were passing through Katness. Quickly turning is head, he saw that Hange was entirely too far ahead and his little ones were beginning to desert him. Rogue hummed thoughtfully to himself. Perhaps his little ones had means to get it for him. Of course, when he wanted the ball, his little ones did try to deter him from it, saying that he didn't really need it at the present time. But this was something sentimental that he had to have before anyone else had the chance to take it.
With a plan in mind, Rogue let out several loud and deep grunts that morphed into a few 'barks' and several high pitched rumbles, not using words for a reason. His vocals easily gained their focus, the two turning back with surprised looks upon their faces. With their brows raised, his little ones jogged back to his still squatting form, an easy but suspicious look upon their faces. Rogue smiled, wiggling his ears and tilting his head – all part of his act that he had perfected over time, a means to get what he wanted.
"What is it bud?" Armin asked, placing his hands onto his hips and looking up at the beast who only tried to make his ugly mug as cute and innocent as possible.
Rogue only grunted and pointed at the bear, the shop keeper watching in a mixture of amazement and wonder with his little ones watching him fully. He titan beamed crookedly and continued to grumble and squeak as he pointed to the item while looking at the two teens with a hopeful gaze. Rogue himself called the very act 'playing titan'- which was his ace in the hole, Rogue hummed, keeping his shining green pools hooked upon the two, making sure to blink to appear as acquitted as possible. To his dismay however, Mikasa shook her head.
"Rogue, not right now okay? Besides, you don't really need that." She smiled in the slightest. "You have a stuffed deer remember?"
"Yeah Rogue, besides we need to get back to the group." Armin agreed. "Now come on. Mikasa and I know what you are pulling!" He laughed as he turned away to continue down the walk with Mikasa in tow, the titan surprised that his idea didn't work. He thought for sure his babies would get it for him. With his failure, he had to try a different approach. With a displeased grunt, Rogue gained their attention again and with their eyes meeting the titan, he slowly sat down onto his rump – making sure to keep his eyes glued to them before he let out a whine. His big body was like a boulder itself, once he settled there was no way of manually moving him.
"Rogue… really?" Armin sighed in slight irascibility. "You could just wait until we are done with your appointments. Besides, to get things from a booth like this or store it takes money to get –
"CANN EII AVVEE NONNEYS THENN?" Rogue interrupted, realizing where the teen was going in his statement, lowering his ears and his pupils dilating into the best form of 'puppy dog eyes' that a beast like him could manage.
The blonde exhaled, opening his mouth to likely retort, but was halted by Mikasa's hand upon his shoulder.
"Armin, I know he's done this quite often, but I just have a feeling he wants it for a reason." The dark haired-teen suggested, catching the titan by surprise and making him feel a little ignorant. With Mikasa's words, he could have probably just told them why he wanted such a thing rather than put on a display of theatrics. He felt completely injudicious.
The titan interlaced his fingers and craned his neck to look at the stuffed bear before setting his gaze back onto his little ones. "UHH… ORRY." He apologized before lifting a finger to the toy again. "ITT ISS JUSST… CUURLA GAVEE NEEE BEEAR." Rogue informed, remembering the moment well, the smile that was across his mother's face, suddenly feeling a bit better. Slowly, their faces fell the slightest in recognition before smiling in understanding.
"Oh, so Carla gave you a bear when they first adopted you." Armin spoke with many of the titan's spectators looking at the behemoth and take every word in.
"So that's why the Rogue was behaving like that." An older gentleman whispered to another. "The woman that took care of him gave him a stuffed bear just like that."
"Wait a woman took care of the titan?"
"Yes, it said it in the paper. A doctor and his wife that used to live in Shiganshina are the ones who found and raised him like a child they never had."
"He just wants the bear for sentimental reasons, Armin." Mikasa spoke tenderly, her lips curling slightly at the tips. The teen then reached into her pocket and pulled out a suede bag that was small enough to fit in her smooth palm. "How much for the bear sir?"
The man only laughed, his stomach practically bouncing. "I never thought I'd be this close in The Rogue Titan's presence, let alone speaking with him. I tell you what," The man continued as he picked up the bear. "Since you have done so much for us and this seems to be something that reminds you of someone that was and is still very dear to you – you can have it free of charge." The shopkeeper beamed up at the beast, Rogue's chest fluttering at the gesture. He didn't know quite what to say.
"TAANKS!" The titan finally replied after several minutes of shock. The man then nodded and put the stuffed toy in a brown sack and graciously handed it to Mikasa who acknowledged the man along with Armin before the three started off again down the road with the titan keeping himself in the odd position on all fours, remaining low so he could examine things much further. Sure, it probably looked quite odd that a hulking fifteen-meter giant wanted a small teddy bear, but it was one of the things where the symbolism ran very deep and he couldn't pass it up. His little ones had thankfully understood his need, but he still wanted to tell them more about it later when they could settle down for the evening.
"So Carla gave you a bear as her first gift to you Rogue?" Armin began, starting conversation as they moved along. "That's really interesting, a lot of families when they have a baby or adopt a child they usually give them a stuffed toy as their first gift. You'll have to tell us about that Rogue when we get a chance to settle down."
The megalith nodded. "YEEAH. EEII WILLL TEELLL YUU EVVERYTING AATTER." Rogue replied, keeping his attention away from his surroundings for the moment.
"So are you adding the bear to your collection?" Mikasa queried with the behemoth nodding.
"ESS! BUUT ETT SECIAL DOUGHHH. EII ANN NOTT PLAYYING WIIT ITT. EII ANNN GOOINNGG TOOO KEEPP ITT SAFFEE. EIII TOORR UU –
However, he was cut off and caught by absolute surprise when a series of aggressive barks met his ears – their sharpness nearly making him jump. Rogue looked up to see a man struggling to hold a strip of leather with a four legged creature resembling the wolves he loathed so much. He knew the creature instantly from seeing it so many times upon the flash cards often shone to him in his teaching sessions. It was a dog, more specifically a hound – the coat short and chocolate brown and ears floppy. Rogue had never seen a real dog in the flesh before. He had only seen them in books, on flash cards, and heard them though through the trees as their vocals carried through the wind. It was a chilling sound upon his ears and he always stayed far from it knowing good and well that a human was following the creature to a kill. He naturally tensed and felt his blood heating up. He did not like wolves and most certainly he didn't like dogs. If it was one thing he knew with certainty, he did not like the fact that his little ones were near it.
Not at all.
The dog continued to bare its teeth, flashing its fangs with saliva spraying from its mouth with each bark. The two teen's faces paled white as Rogue's pupils narrowed into slits, brows pinching together, and ears folding back. The titan's glare darkened, his nose wrinkling in disgust but he did not dare growl.
"Damn it! Stop it you!" The man scolded the furious hound, the dog refusing the order. Rogue produced a snort as a warning – steam jetting from his nostrils.
"Rogue!" Armin hastily muttered. "Come on! Just keep moving Rogue!"
The titan only responded as he shifted his body so he stood over his little ones, still keeping low and with his serious greens focused upon the dog. Even though it was leashed, he wasn't sure if the man would accidentally let the leather slip from his hands and allow the dog to get loose. He didn't care if he was attacked by the persistently annoying creature for only the blades and cannonballs forged by iron bamboo could pierce him. However, an antagonistic dog could seriously maim his babies or someone else in the crowd. Thinking quickly, the titan nudged his little ones on, still keeping watchful of the loud animal as his glare heated even further.
"He sure looks protective of those two." A woman trailed off as she continued to witness the spectacle with the many others.
"That man needs to control that dog."
"See? That titan is still very wild at heart. He looks set on killing that hound."
Armin suddenly laughed nervously, gathering the attention away from him. "Sorry, Rogue has never seen a dog before. I don't think he knows quite how to take it!"
The titan lifted his head a bit, relaxing his look in the slightest all the while he continued to stare owlishly. Just wanting to get his babies out of harm's way, Rogue urged his little ones onward again, but his slight move provoked the dog to lunge towards his direction and nearly pulling the short statured man with him and causing the human to lose his hat. That small jerk was enough though to put him more on edge than ever. Rogue turned to face the dog again, lowering himself to where his chin nearly touched the ground. The hair upon his head bristled and nearly stood all the way up as his ears folded over and pressed against his skull. Like the hound, the titan forced his face into a snarl – appearing beastly with his spine arching gradually in defiance. A growl threatened to escape his maw, but he held back – giving a low rumble instead. Why didn't the man just leave?
"Rogue?" Armin warned, prolonging the word. "Come on."
The titan of course was too lost in thought to hear the teen. The dog's move was the last straw, seeing it nearly get away from its master, he needed to step in. The hound needed to know its place – just who the alpha was in the very situation. But of course, he couldn't do something so drastic and violent or he would surely be awarded to the MP's on a silver platter. He certainly didn't want to scare anyone either. For a moment, the titan lingered among his thoughts before he decided to do the one thing that he could think of. Rogue allowed himself to relax to where his bulk was resting upon his knees and his facial expression changed to a more neutral one. The crowd and all was quiet as the titan slowly inched his face forward with the dog still struggling to get to him. He could practically feel the fear radiating from his little ones, but before they could react or protest, Rogue let his tongue slide out of his mouth to give the hound the sloppiest, slimiest, and wettest lick he could craft. The animal tumbled to the ground by the force of his tongue, tumbling over on the walk with saliva practically coating most of its body in a thick layer. Rogue smiled as he sat up further, watching as the dog scrambled to right itself and run in the opposite direction, dragging its master along with it. The scene provoked both relieved gasps and laughter. Feeling a sense of pride, Rogue held his head high with eyes shut tightly, letting out a trill in glee. Thankfully, the dog had not gotten out of the man's grasp and no one was harmed thanks to his quick action. Upon feeling a familiar touch upon his wrist, Rogue looked down at his little ones with the tip of his tongue peeking from his teeth to humor them. To his relief, his little ones let out a small amount of mirth.
"Rogue – really?" Armin slapped his wrist jokingly.
"I can't imagine how long it's going to take to get his saliva off –
However, the three halted their small exchange of words, finally becoming aware of a noise that had been sounding through the busy street. Rogue's eyes widened and his body stiffened. The titan tilted his head, ears facing forward as he took in the shrill noise, a sound that indicated fear and what he could tell as perhaps longing. Rogue blinked, he had heard the sound in Shiganshina on that day as well as sometimes in the far off distance. It was a cry of sorts. Wailing and choked sobs. Intrigued and troubled, Rogue looked in the general direction where the dog had been to see something astounding. The beast let out a perplexed grunt and angled himself to get a better look, his jaw hanging open in the slightest.
It was the smallest human he had ever seen. A baby.
Rogue's facial muscles only slackened in shock even further as he was naturally guided by curiosity to ease forward on his hands and knees.
The titan stalled, hovering near the mother and child nervously as he continued to examine. The miniscule human was a tiny pink thing. It was chubby – the arms and legs looking like the curled sticks of bread his little ones often ate. Every feature was small, the little human's nose was tiny, face compact in addition to little ears along with hands and feet with stubby and short digits. It barely had any hair, just fine strands that resembled the scalp of an old human. Rogue arched his neck further and carefully shifted closer to the crying infant and its mother. It amazed him so. This was infant human young. Rogue felt his heart bounce within his chest. If titans really had the ability to reproduce in some way as he often theorized, then perhaps they looked somewhat like a human baby – just a bit bigger. It was something he always thought about. He had to have some sort of beginning. He couldn't have appeared out of thin air or was created by unnatural means. He had to have come from some sort of womb or egg and was birthed or hatched. He had to have been nurtured in some way, right? All living things came to be in the world that way. Titans were living things too after all. They had to come from somewhere. Anywhere. He really wanted to know.
Rogue proceeded to gaze upon the crying infant who wasn't calming in the slightest even as its mother tried to comfort it. He felt himself cringe as it continued to shriek, projecting its fear. The titan swallowed, ears wilting. The thing was so shaken that no matter what the mother did it didn't seem to calm in the slightest. Suddenly, Rogue felt a twinge – a natural pull of sorts. It was the same feeling he felt on the night he first met his little ones as well as some ducklings and kittens he happened across. It was a need to nurture – something that still made him wonder why he had such instincts, but something that he was very glad to have. He wanted to help and comfort. With the thought in mind, Rogue slowly crawled forward again with the crowd of people holding their breaths. He heard his little ones whisper another warning, but still he proceeded. The titan lowered himself a bit as he came closer to the mother who looked up at him in distress as he came a mere few feet from the baby. Her entire body was tense, brown eyes wide and fixed upon him, her arms holding her baby closer. For a moment, it was quiet except for the infant's wailing until Rogue released a soft and resonating quaver, a sound meaning to comfort in his native language. It was a vocal that he often gave his little ones during his time with them in Maria after the attack happened. The titan's ears fluttered lightly as he let out the same sound again, ending in a quiet purr. His wondrous green hues, soft and loving, observed as the baby began to settle, sniffling until its whimpering stopped. Gradually, the infant opened its eyes that were as brown as its mother's. The infant stared up at him with its small face void of emotion, making Rogue grow leery. He knew well enough that he wasn't beautiful or kind looking. His mug was ugly and built to terrify. Hell, his efforts had probably been for nothing and the baby was just going to cry again at his presence. However, he didn't want that to happen. The titan then decided to go along with another tactic. Everyone seemed to think he was funny when he was just being himself, so perhaps he could make the baby like him that way. With his new plan, Rogue wiggled his ears like a happy young calf and moved his mouth to make the biggest smile he could manage all the while purring loudly for all to hear.
In that instant, relief fell over the titan as the baby smiled and let out a small chortle. To his surprise, the infant lifted its arms and reached for him. Rogue's face fell along with many of the members of the nearby audience, completely bewildered. The titan tilted his head as the infant continued to reach for him. He then found himself lifting a hand and extending a finger, a gesture that began to make the crowd uneasy again. Rogue then realized his risky move and his finger stopped just a foot away from the still mother. What was he doing? He was insanely strong. This human was so small and he could easily crush it with just a finger. Feeling a slight prang of sorrow, Rogue slowly began to retrieve his digit, but before he could coil it, the mother's hand abruptly cupped the tip of his index finger. Rogue let out a small wisp of steam from his teeth as he let out a slight gasp. He froze, seeing the mother beaming up at him tenderly – something he did not expect. Whispers ran through the audience as the woman gently guided his finger to hover just over her baby. The tiny thing let out a coo and reached upward, small hands pressing against his rough and toasty flesh with a feather light touch. Rogue instantly softened. His heart warmed within his chest. To be accepted this greatly by a total stranger was one of the greatest feelings. Being invited to interact with a mother's young made him feel like much less of a monster.
"Wow! That was amazing!" A man in the crowd began. "The Rogue Titan is incredible!"
"So protective and attentive!"
"It's hard to believe he's really a titan. His demeanor is the complete opposite of those other monsters."
Rogue purred at the comment, watching as the baby lowered its tubby arms and began to dose off. Seeing that his assistance was no longer needed, Rogue slowly lifted his finger away with the mother giving him a small nod of thanks.
"Hello you three!"
Upon hearing Hange, the titan and his little ones looked to see the Section Commander, Nanaba, and the other Garrison soldiers standing behind his own babies. Rogue felt his gaunt cheeks redden sheepishly. The leaders of their party had to turn around because he had probably been spending far too much time beholding all that was.
"Hi Hange." Armin rubbed the back of his neck. Sorry, we just let Rogue kind of look around and take everything in."
The woman chuckled. "Ah I see." The woman beamed from ear to ear. "Now Rogue, you know you can't adopt that baby right? That baby is hers, besides you've got two of them already!" She teased, with many others humored by her comment. Rogue huffed, his face only growing a darker shade of crimson.
"I think we need to add on a rule, Rogue isn't allowed to take anything living home!" Nanaba elbowed Hange who wholeheartedly agreed.
"Ah yes! I imagine he'll also be overwhelmed once we get to our destination here. Well now, we must make haste to the square! We can't be late for our appointments!"
"So he saw a dog for the first time?" Nanaba began somewhere below him, hearing his little ones chuckle.
"Yeah he did."
"I wish I had been there! I would have loved to document his reaction!" Hange exclaimed, the titan huffing at her enthusiasm. "So what did he do?"
"Well, he reacted similar to the way he did when he came across wolves in Maria. He thankfully didn't snarl or growl. Rogue kept low with his ears back and kept his gaze locked onto the dog. He was keeping himself over us the whole time and tried to get us to move on ahead. He was mostly just protective." Armin explained.
"And when the dog made a move, Rogue quieted it quickly by pretty much giving it a very unpleasant lick." Mikasa smiled, igniting laughter from the small party.
"Let me guess, he gave you two the innocent puppy dog eye look after he did it?" Hange giggled with his babies shrugging their shoulders and nodding.
"Oh yeah, he did something similar." The blonde responded, looking back up to the titan who naturally beamed in return, giving a nod in agreement.
"You should have seen him with the baby." Mikasa continued, the titan able to depict that she most likely had a small and cunning smile upon her face. "At first he didn't know what to think either –
Rogue continued to listen, feeling slightly embarrassed as his little ones told of his exploration – cheeks tinting slightly pink until his greens caught sight of the scene ahead. His elvish ears faced forward, alert and focused. His jaw slackened, the creature stalling on the path as he looked before him. Like the glades in the woods, this was a clearing in a brick and stony forest. Around the large circular clearing was bordered by more shops and many restaurants. His head angled even further in interest. It was flourishing with all sort of activity. There were horses, pulling wagons, carriages, men getting their shoes shined, peopled feeding birds, and women pulling excited children along. The stone glade smelt of many things from freshly made food to things he couldn't identify. In the center of the clearing was what looked to be something that Mikasa told him was a fountain – a concrete pond with water shooting out of it. The castle had an old fountain in the garden, but it was cracked and hadn't pumped water for years so it was lovely to see one in all its glory. Rogue smiled, letting out an intrigued rumble. He couldn't wait to explore this!
"Welcome to our destination Rogue!" Hange announced with gusto. "This is the square, it's the hub of Katness district! It's the busiest part of town! This is where most events go on, where the farmer's market is, and much more!"
Rogue only nodded and replied with a vocal that represented his understanding. The square was the equivalent to the rivers and lakes of his forest it seemed – it was where everything got together.
Of course, upon his appearance, it was almost as if time suddenly stopped before him. All activity slowed to a halt and all eyes were upon him. He couldn't help but feel a bit of shyness nip at him, seeing so many smiling faces at once. There were the few wearing scowls nonetheless, but there were enough humans that welcomed his presence so he felt easy.
"Ah! He's magnificent!"
At the foreign voice, the titan looked downward to see two different men approaching his family. Though they both wore grins, the two couldn't be any more different. One of the men was dressed similar to those in the upscale district of Sina. He had a pair of round rimmed glasses, a vest with nicely tailored pants, and a tall hat – each piece of apparel color coordinated. His hair was light brown laced with silver that tied in with a nearly cut beard and mustache. In his hand he held a briefcase. Compared to the other man, he was shorter and a bit plumper, having a slight stomach. The opposite man was certainly taller, hair messier, and his garbs were well worn with what looked to be old paint splattered across his trousers. Resting beneath his armpit was what looked to be a large pad of paper. These must have been the men that they were to meet today.
"Hello Mr. Greggory and Mr. Banter! Glad we could meet today." Nanaba began formerly. "The Scouts would personally like to thank the two of you for the opportunities you have presented us with."
The man with the hat nodded. "It is quite the honor! Quite the honor indeed! So this is the infamous Rogue Titan!"
Rogue watched in amusement as Hange stood straighter after excitedly dismounting her appaloosa – throwing a hand up in a flaunting gesture. "Yes indeed! This is Rogue Jaeger himself!" The woman introduced with the titan greeting them with a flummoxed grunt and a small wave. "And the two recruits there are the equally famous Titan Children, Armin Arlert and Mikasa Ackerman!"
"Ah, it's a pleasure to meet all of you! My name is Charles Greggory, I'm the younger brother of the man who owns the famous Sly Fox Brewery. I've started my own brewery now and I've decided to call it Behemoth, specializing in beers and a variety of vodkas and rum. Naturally, we wanted a titan to be our mascot, but it couldn't be any titan. It had to be Rogue of course!" The man spoke confidently, sounding very organized in his speech.
"And I'm Johan Banter." The other man smiled, sounding mellow and easygoing. "I'm the artist and head sculptor who is designing the statue of you."
Rogue nodded, ears fluttering, still in awe that he was being honored with such.
"Shall we go to the bistro over there to have a bit of tea and get to work?"
With a nod from both the Section Commanders, the titan and the group made their way to a little restaurant with tables outside. Guessing as of what he should do, Rogue vigilantly sat down onto his rump before the eatery as the others got settled around a few neighboring tables. Rogue watched quietly with raised brows as a woman wearing a green dress came up to meet them; his little ones telling her the names of the drinks they wanted along with the others – the titan perplexed by the practice. There were many other patrons at the restaurant as well, asking for things from the green clothed humans and looking at him in awe. For a moment, Rogue watched two girls, a little older than his baby Mikasa, giggle and point at his midsection before he caught the sound of Greggory clearing his throat.
"Since I just need to do a simple sketch, I'll go first." The man began as he opened his briefcase and retrieved a pencil and a piece of parchment. "When I saw an image of him in the paper I knew I wanted our logo to be of his face alone. His features are angular and flow quite nicely. His serrated mouth and darkness around his eyes along with the signature pointed ears just says that he's fierce. His appearance gives that sense that he's incredibly powerful and merciless. We want our brand to reflect that edgy and tough factor! We want the same stature of the famous Rogue Titan, imposing. For this, I would like Rogue to give me a frontal view, I would like his expression to be sort of a look of cunning in a way – kind of like giving off the feeling that he's going to gladly attack if that makes any sense to you my giant friend."
For a moment, Rogue pondered about what Greggory was trying to imply until matched the man's words to meaning and gave a nod. Without being asked further, Rogue changed his friendly expression to one that he often gave Jean when he was about to prank or mess with him – a devilish grin with his brows narrowed, eyes shining brightly with intent. Greggory chuckled.
"Ah! That's perfect! It's subtle but very effective! Alright Rogue, I need you to tilt your head down so you can look at me." The man guided with the titan following the order. "Perfect! Now just hold your pose until I tell you that you can move my friend!" The man concluded as he started to move his pencil back and forth across the parchment – working quickly and skillfully. Rogue wished to watch closely, but with the command to stay still, he would have to refrain from observing. Seeing humans draw always amazed him. The first time he witnessed the art was seeing his mother trying to draw him to the best of her ability. He remembered being so overwhelmingly curious and asking Carla to show him how to do the same. After he learned the basic shapes, he would often draw with her in a cave to decorate it –only for him to destroy those drawings through a fit of rage when his parents first told him that he wasn't human like he had thought. He had seen Hange's always nervous assistant drawing on numerous occasions during her sessions with him as well as when the man would just sit outside and sketch whatever he saw. Truthfully, Molbit was incredible with his technique and someday Rogue hoped the man would teach him as well.
"Alright!" Greggory suddenly began after several minutes, the titan too lost in thought to realize that ten minutes had passed. "I believe I got what I want! When I get back to Sina I'll refine this sketch and turn it into our logo!" The gentleman paused for a sip of tea. "So what do you think my friend?" He asked as he held the drawing to the titan to see. Abandoning his pose, Rogue leaned in to peer at the man's work that was rough but skilled as well. The creature nodded.
"EII LIKKE ETT!" The titan worded, catching the two men off guard as usual and bringing further attention to himself from the other bistro patrons.
"Well! You can speak!" Banter began. "You have quite a talent!"
"It's amazing isn't it?" Hannes laughed. "You would never think but he sure does prove you wrong!"
Rogue huffed to himself as the others temporarily shared their humor before things returned to business.
"Now it's time for me to begin my work Rogue!" Banter exclaimed as he opened up his large pad and pulled out what smelled like charcoal. "The city wants the sculpture to be the moment of you carrying the boulder to seal the hole. So I need you to get into the same position you did then so you could carry the boulder upon your shoulders. Now," Banter suddenly beamed at his little ones. "The city also made a last minute change. They understand that the Titan Children actually stood by Rogue and protected him as he carried the boulder through Trost. So they would like Armin and Mikasa to be included in the sculpture as well."
Rogue watched in amusement as his babies' faces lit up in shock. "Really?"
Banter nodded. "Yes! They want you running below him looking like you are about to go into battle! Now, since I know that you guys are on a tight schedule, could you get into your poses please?"
With the request, Rogue nodded and got to his feet. Recalling how he had to carry such great weight, the titan got into the position he remembered – arms up and his cheek resting into his shoulder. Knowing that he had to make himself look like he was carrying several tons, Rogue braced his body, muscles tightening and bulging – the girls giggling in the corner yet again. He didn't question their actions as his little ones followed Banter's instructions as well, getting into their pose as requested. It was something that he noticed on occasion with some of the female Scouts. His ears catching their comments that mostly contained the words: godly, ripped, and the strange word 'sexy' – which Rogue foolishly asked Hange what it meant; the woman going into far too much detail than he cared to know. Rogue himself, after knowing the definition, knew he didn't fit the description whatsoever. In fact, he was the furthest thing from that.
The man continued his sketch with the beast and the two teens remaining still. The titan kept his stance, eyes veering every once in a while to look at other things, having no idea how much time had passed until his arms started to feel numb and his muscles hurt. Looking down, he saw that his little ones were struggling to keep their pose all the while the artist circled around them, flipping through his sketchpad and drawing from different angles and close ups of certain parts like their faces. Finally, the man sat his things upon the table and gave the three a thumbs up, signaling that he was finished. With a heavy exhale, Rogue dropped his stance and shook his limbs a bit to rid of the stiffness, thankful that he was done.
"Ah! Stupendous!" Banter exclaimed. You're a lovely subject Rogue. I'm sure many aspiring artists would love to draw you in a figure drawing session! Your anatomy is absolutely flawless!"
Rogue smiled bashfully and lowered himself to view the man's drawings along with his little ones, Banter's sketches much more like completed drawings than Greggory's. The artist then closed the pad and put away his utensils.
"Well now, it was nice to meet you all in person and I'm very thankful for the chance that I have gotten here today! Now, since there is a lot of work to be done, I better head off so my team and I can begin!"
Greggory finished his tea and stood. "Ah yes, I need to get this design back to the art department of Behemoth! Miss Zoe," He proceeded to say as he tipped his hat. "Miss Nanaba, Ackerman, Arlert, and you of course Rogue – I thank you for this opportunity and your will to be our mascot! We'll send you a sample of our products once everything is complete! I must be off now! Again, it was nice meeting you all!"
At that, Rogue bid a small farewell to the men as the others did. Not knowing what to do next, the titan kept quiet and observed as the woman in green came back and seemed to take more requests from his family and new acquaintances. The beast watched as a few of them sipped their tea before Nanaba pulled out something his little ones told him was a pocket watch and began to read it.
"Well, I suppose it would be best to wait here until the journalist shows up. We have about forty minutes so we could just eat an early lunch."
Upon hearing that they would have some free time, he naturally felt excitement wash over him at the thought that he had the possible opportunity to explore yet again. However, just as he opened his mouth to ask if he could look about, a small and high-pitched voice came his way.
The titan's ears stood up as he heard the familiar voice, one that could only belong to a child – one that he had the pleasure of meeting before. The little girl named Ellie. His malformed maw formed into a grin as he turned to see her running excitedly to him. She was just as he remembered, golden hair in pigtails and a tooth missing. Beneath her arm she still held the plush of him – parts of the doll showing the amount of love it received. As she sprinted to him as fast as her legs could carry her, Ellie dragged a young boy who the titan recalled to be her slightly older brother who he never formally met behind her. If he remembered correctly, when he saw the kid at the beginning of the 57th expedition before they left Katness, the boy was just as enthusiastic as Hange. Now however, the boy seemed nervous, he could almost say shy as Ellie pulled her brother to him.
"Rogue!" The little girl giggled as she stooped just a few feet from him, with the creature letting out a huff as he lifted a finger to lightly ruffle her hair – the child practically squealing. "Hi Rogue! I'm so happy to see you!" Ellie greeted, her voice small and adorable just as she was.
"HIII ELLLEE!" Rogue purred pleasantly, the boy's body tensing as he nearly jumped at his speech.
The young child laughed and turned to introduce her brother. "This is my brother Samuel, Rogue!" Ellie continued with her eyes lit up brightly. "Samuel, this is Rogue Jaeger! The Rogue Titan! I told you dad and I met him!" The child pressed onward with the titan grinning at the pair with delight. He always loved watching children interact.
Samuel swallowed, brown eyes wide as they continued to stare up at Rogue in awe. After what seemed like ages, the boy fretfully held up an unsteady hand to wave it. "H…hi?"
At the shakiness of the boy's tone, Rogue and the others chuckled softly. "Hey Samuel?" Hange snickered. "He may look fierce, but he's a big sweetheart I assure you!"
Rogue nodded at Hange's statement, purring louder to gain the kid's trust. The titan wiggled his ears to ease the tension further, looking back at Hange to lift his finger to gesture to the clearing, hoping that she would agree to his proposal. Thankfully, the Section Commander nodded and waved a hand.
"Just stay right in front of us and don't go past the fountain Rogue!"
Grinning, the beast nodded and picked himself up with both Ellie and Samuel following him in wonder. All eyes continued to watch as Rogue sat himself down, careful to see if anyone was near before laying halfway on his side with his chin nearly touching the walk, but not before noticing that a small cluster of children had seen Ellie and her brother approaching him and decided to join them. Rogue blinked in surprise at the unexpected addition of boys and girls ranging from the ages of Ellie to the age when he first met his little ones, but then his heart lifted even higher with a bit more excitement filling him. The more the merrier. The titan smiled, green eyes watching as Ellie quickly approached him and tried to hug his face as best as she could with all eyes upon the current spectacle unfolding, many of the children gasping or making vocals to broadcast their awe. Rogue purred at her loving contact, tongue sliding from his lipless maw to gently gift the child with a lick, further implying that he was glad to see her again. The creature continued to purr, completely entertained as Ellie pulled her brother's arm forward to place his small hand onto the titan's nose. Rogue's ears flickered in the slightest as he watched Samuel rub his skin in amazement.
"Wow, it's like leather." He muttered. "So – warm."
Rogue smiled further, watching as the other children braved any inner fears and joined in, running their hands through his hair, over his flesh, trying to look at his ears, and even prodding along his teeth. The display was enough to make many of the square's occupants stop and stare. Rogue huffed, rumbling deeply as he lifted his head, watching as many of the children began to climb along one of his hands, rubbing his tough skin and comparing their own hands to his.
"Wow! He's so big!"
"He's so much bigger in person!"
"The skin is so tough!"
"Look how big his hands are compared to mine!"
Rogue continued to gurgle, enjoying the children's company. It wasn't everyday he got to do this. He always loved babies. Ellie then grabbed the other's attention with a series of claps.
"Everybody! This is Rogue Jaeger! He's The Rogue Titan that saved us!" The girl introduced with the titan holding his head proudly.
"He can talk! It's just like they said!"
"That's his real name?"
Ellie nodded enthusiastically, jumping up and down. "Uh huh! It is!" She giggled. "Come on Rogue! Let's play!"
At the invitation, Rogue then gave into his childish antics. He had been right; the day was shaping up to be a great one.
"Would you look at that! Children and a titan. Never thought I'd see them together and playing."
"Why can't all titans be like that one?"
Armin found himself giving in to a chuckle, watching with the others as Rogue completely gave in to them. The titan was currently sanding on all fours again – trying to find the children as they ran around his bulk – their laughter carrying throughout the square along with Rogue's loud trilling and grunting. "I swear; Rogue could literally run his own daycare by himself."
"Yeah," Mikasa smiled behind the rim of her teacup. "He has the credentials. He's like a big kid himself."
Hange laughed. "Sure thing! From what the two of you tell me and from observation, Rogue's just great with kids and young organisms in general!" She beamed broadly. "His breed is so fascinating! Nurturing is certainly in Rogue's blood!"
"Haven't you already made that clear, Hange?" Nanaba tittered, sipping her tea with Rico simply smiling.
"After so many years of watching all those bastards from atop the wall give us dead eyed stares, this is quite the view!" Hannes joshed.
"Yeah when Armin and I were around the two experimental titans we used to keep at headquarters, it took some time for us to get used to them. All they did was growl and snap at people whereas Rogue just purrs and pretty much is everything a normal titan isn't." The dark haired teen explained as Rogue sat down and proceeded to let the children climb all over him.
"Hi there! Sorry I'm late!"
The party of Scouts and Garrison soldiers turned to see a thin young woman with a big smile upon her face approaching them with a journal in hand. At first glance, she reminded Armin somewhat of Hange. The woman wore glasses that seemed almost too big for her face and her black hair was messily tied in a bun, a pencil perched behind her ear. Unlike the Section Commander, the young woman wore a dress that was maroon in color and plain brown shoes. Quirky was the best word Armin could use to describe her.
"Ah! You must be Miss Victoria!" Hange exclaimed as she stood up from her seat and shook hands with the woman, the two looking almost like cousins or even sisters together.
"Indeed I am!" The woman smiled, her eyes adverting to the two teens. "Ah, and you must be Armin and Mikasa! The Titan Children!" Victoria grasped their hands in a firm and enthusiastic handshake. "It's an honor!"
"It's nice to meet you as well." Armin replied with Mikasa nodding in agreement.
"Armin and Mikasa this is Victoria Fausta, she is the famous journalist of The Sina Times!" Hange informed with Victoria nodding and looking out into the square at the titan who was now beginning to play catch with the group of children – one having brought a ball over. The giant was practically squealing with each toss, pupils blown wide like an excited cat. "And that must be Rogue!" See tittered. "My! He's incredible!"
Nanaba dipped her head in compliance. "Oh yes, he's one of a kind indeed. Shall we call him over so you can interview him?" She asked, but to their surprise, Victoria shook her head.
"Oh not quite yet! We'll let him have some fun first. This is a bit last minute, but in addition to his interview, they also wanted me to ask the two Titan Children a series of questions as well! It will make my article even more juicy!" She announced, catching the two teens off guard.
"Interview us?" Mikasa faltered, suddenly becoming a bit backward. Victoria hummed.
"Oh yes! No paper has ever interviewed you either since this incredible story first broke headlines! So it seemed perfect to have the three of you speaking out for the first time. Shall we get started now?" Victoria explained as she took her seat at the table and quickly ordered a cup of tea, opening her notebook and pulling out her pen along with what appeared to be a sheet of notes. As Victoria prepared herself, the others got comfortable again, the waitress bringing the tea as well as several bowls of soup the party had ordered earlier – a smooth chicken and rice. Armin took the moment to satisfy his empty stomach before Victoria let out a sigh and pressed the tip of her pen to parchment. "Now, it doesn't matter who answers most of these questions since the two of you will more than likely have the same answer. But of course, I'll have one every once in a while for a certain someone!" The woman giggled. "Now, from what I was able to gather, you met Rogue for the first time through tragedy. What was your first impression of him?"
The blonde teen put down his spoon. "When we first met Rogue, it was a shock as you can imagine. As we watched him brutally defeat the men that were trying to traffic us, Mikasa and I were frozen in terror. We of course had never seen a titan in person and were naturally overwhelmed with the thought that we were about to die, but then once the men had been dealt with and Rogue approached us with the intent to help and keep us safe that stormy night – we realized that Rogue wasn't any regular titan. He was something special."
Mikasa nodded. "Yeah, when we were nestled against him that first night, we realized that no matter what he was or how horrifying he looked, Rogue wasn't a monster."
Victoria enthusiastically ran her pen across the page of her journal, repeating their words beneath her breath. "So, how did you keep him a secret for so long if he had made his home in Maria before the breech?"
"Well, when he first found us, we had no idea that the couple, the Jaegers, had made Rogue their son and thus had set several guidelines for him to follow such as not exiting the forest and stay away from other humans." Mikasa began. "In that first year, we visited Rogue in his cove in secret. When leaving Shiganshina, Armin and I always made sure no soul was following us by circling the city if we had any suspicions and always traveling off the main path in the forest. Even though I was adopted by the Jaegers themselves, Armin and I never told them either until one day we stumbled upon one another in the cove. It was then that the Jaegers told us how they met Rogue and the four of us continued to keep Rogue safe from any prying eyes. We never had to worry about wolves or anything since we often smelled like Rogue and the wolves always associated us with him."
"I see! What were some of the things you two and Rogue did when you were children? What did you do before the breech happened?"
"Mikasa and I mostly just played with Rogue. Even though he's essentially a giant man, Rogue has the mind of a child and his disposition is like a mixture of such plus the characteristics of a canine and feline if I had to describe him. Thus, as odd as it may seem, Rogue loves simple games like hide and seek and playing ball which we did all the time. We would have adventures sometimes with Rogue as well. We would go fishing with him, look for geodes, and we even once raised ducklings together."
Victoria laughed warmly. "Incredible! So did you ride Rogue around the forest and everything?" The woman continued, sounding a bit like Hange when she spoke of some scientific procedure.
"Oh yes." Mikasa smiled softly as she indulged upon her soup. "We did it all the time. Armin and I were always on his shoulders going somewhere."
The journalist nodded and continued to scribe briskly. "Since you spent a lot of time with Rogue, did he pick up any traits from you?"
Armin had to chuckle, knowing very well that Rogue certainly had developed a few things since they knew him as well as learned quite a bit. "Well, Mikasa and I always tutored Rogue by teaching him new words as well as how to do things. Rogue got much gentler the more he handled us and when he saw Mikasa and I get into a friendly spat and flip each other off he began mirroring the gesture and learning what it meant quickly much to our horror." He chuckled with the others joining in their laughter. "Rogue even did it to the Scouts and the Garrison during their missions to capture him and when the Garrison shot at him as well during the breech."
"So! Tell me more about his personality!"
"Where do we begin on this one?" Armin sighed. "Rogue is basically the best friend you could ask for pretty much. If I had to pick out a few things to say it would be that Rogue is all about fun and a bit of gratification. He tries his best to make you laugh and loves to be praised. He'll do anything to help or comfort you as well. He's protective as well of anyone that he considers family. If anything approaches us that he deems as a threat, he'll do his finest to scare it away and he won't let any other titan get its hands on us."
"As far as more inhuman traits about him, Rogue constantly purrs when he's happy or trying love on you. He likes to smell and examine anything and horde everything that he deems interesting. Rogue doesn't like to sleep without Armin and I and will whine and howl if we try to sleep in the castle. He scents marks things, makes friends with horses and deer, chases small animals, and he pretty much gets into anything. Rogue loves playing in feathers and he's a prankster even. If you make him mad, he isn't shy about letting you know!"
"What does he do?" Victoria looked at Mikasa, eyes glistening with intrigue.
"Rogue spits, which isn't pleasant – especially to one of our friends that constantly provokes Rogue to do so."
"Ha! I see! I bet you two could go on for days about Rogue's characteristics, but we'll just move on with the interview. Now, when the breech occurred, Rogue broke into Shiganshina and was able to rescue the two of you but was unable to save the Jaegers." Victoria spoke with much less excitement, obviously knowing that she was treading on a touchy subject, the woman even shifting in her seat uncomfortably. "Rogue took you back with him instead of putting you both on the boats retreating into the interior. From what I've read before, you stayed with the titan for several years until the Scouts found you with him. What were those years like?"
Armin soaked in the woman's query like a sponge. He knew all too well that the story she just gave him was one that the Scouts fabricated in order to keep them safe from any charges of treason for keeping information to themselves. What he was going to say was mostly the truth though. "It was emotional and rough." He admitted solemnly, the horrors of that day still branded into his head. "We were devastated, Rogue especially. The Jaegers were his parents and he was so upset knowing that he couldn't save them in time. Rogue would cry, howl, and throw a raging fit for the first several weeks we spent out there. He would kill titans at that time out of revenge and to satisfy him. The Jaegers were very dear to us as well and it was surreal that they were gone. Even though Rogue was – rueful and troubled, he did his best to care for us and make living with him the best he could make it in the middle of hell. He went out to extinguish titans as well as get us food and supplies while we stayed in the cove growing our own vegetables. Rogue always protected us by warding away titans to not wanting us to use knives in fear that we would cut ourselves. The summers and springs were easy. It was late fall and winter where things were a bit difficult. We had to properly store food and wrap ourselves in wolf pelts while Rogue kept us very warm with his body heat. Like I said, even though it was hard, he always tried to make us feel better and for things to be as normal as possible. Through all the turmoil, his loving personality stayed."
"Interesting. Now how about that day when the Scouts found you with Rogue. Could you tell me about what that was like?"
For a moment, Armin found himself trying to conjure words, knowing the Scouts had given he and Mikasa a firm scrip to stick to if any outsider asked. However, before he could answer, Mikasa cleared her throat.
"Well, while Armin and I were in the cove, Rogue was busy trying to evade the Scouts in fear that they would take him away and separate us. During that time, we had no idea that Rogue had any prior contact to the Scouts. We don't know all the details of how he managed to slip away and escape into the cove, but the Scouts still somehow managed to follow him to where we lived – discovering the three of us. As you can probably imagine, they were stunned and probably frightened as Rogue tried to threaten them. Finally, after much calming and coaxing did Rogue accept and the three of us went with the Scouts into wall Maria. We were sworn into the Scout Regiment the day after."
"Ah, so how did you two learn to use the gear if you didn't have to go through training?"
"Admittedly, Rogue took us some and we lightly practiced with it in the cove and when we were in the Scouts, we were taught by Corporal Levi even further."
"Intriguing!" Victoria paused from her frantic writing to sip her tea and take her first bite of soup – the dish likely cold. "Just a few more questions and then I'll move on to your friend over –
However, Victoria was interrupted by a loud thud and a vibration that swept beneath their feet. As a chorus of snorts and grunts quickly gained their undivided attention – Armin nearly burst into laughter as he saw the sight afore him. Rogue had suddenly abandoned the game of catch to flop down and lie upon his back looking not unlike a giant hairless dog. The titan was panting before his sounds of exhaustion turned to toying purrs, obviously playing like he had been defeated by several children who had decided to conquer the beast by scaling up his bulk, the girls immediately going to his hair to braid it. Rogue smiled, his feet curling a bit as he further relaxed in a submissive pose – obviously in absolute bliss. Many of them snickered at the ludicrous scene. Rogue was certainly full of himself. Victoria tittered, resting her cheek into her palm with an admiring look upon her face as she gazed at the titan and the group of children.
"You two were certainly right. He's the furthest thing from a monster."
A deep hum vibrated through his chest, the titan completely immobilized by his tiny new friends, many fingers scratching rigorously beneath his chin. Rogue tilted his head further, thoroughly enjoying the sensation, his eyelids fluttering. As his family spoke with a strange woman that was who he assumed was the one whom he would speak to later, Rogue gave in to the whimsy of the children. They were endearing to say the least and he liked their company. Rogue purred, tolerating the many girls who were braiding his locks and the others that were running along his stomach and trying to scale his arms and legs. The titan sighed, several of the children laughing as his chest rose up and down. It was incredible, the feeling of being recognized by others besides his family. He used to be so on edge when he would pass through a human city – burying the feeling beneath his eagerness and excitement. Now he felt absolutely welcome. He just loved being accepted and treated like something other than a beast.
Rogue let his frame relax even further, patiently waiting for his interview. He couldn't help but wonder what questions he was to be asked. Would they be about his time in Maria? Or would they be just general questions? He couldn't say and he hoped that when speaking he wouldn't mess up and blurt out something that should have been kept quiet. The great beast sighed again. He didn't need to worry. The Scouts wouldn't allow him to do such a thing if they thought it was risky or unsafe.
The titan continued to relax, aware that he had attracted quite the crowd that were spectating on the perimeter of the square, their whispers and words not going unheard by his ears.
"That is a sight I thought I'd never see."
"It's so incredible how docile he is. Do you think it's his breed?"
"I'm sure it is! He looks far different than any other titan!
"He's a gentle giant."
"I still think it's an act."
"Nonsense! He's completely the opposite of those bloodthirsty monsters!"
Rogue continued to evaluate the words spoken around him, taking in the praise and ridicule until he felt two small weights crawl up his skin to sit upon his Adam's Apple – the uncomfortable feeling making the titan lift his head in the slightest and sending Ellie and Samuel to rest in the dip of his collar bone. Naturally, the titan tilted his head, silently asking what they wanted and as usual they were all smiles.
"So how many titans have you killed Rogue?" Samuel grinned broadly, the query catching the beast off guard.
"Yeah! I heard you killed millions of titans!" A young boy exaggerated, throwing his hands in the air.
Hearing the children speaking, Rogue carefully lowered the small humans back down onto the brick walk and sat to face them. Next, he tried to count as much as he could on his fingers, but in truth he really didn't know the answer. He never thought to keep count. He was for certain that it was quite a lot though. Much more than the Scouts had probably slaughtered for sure. "ERRR…" Rogue scratched his scalp. "EIII CAANNT COUNTT DAAT HII." He admitted with several of the children laughing.
"Yeah, we were in Trost watching Rogue kill titans!" Ellie was quick to inform, Rogue tilting his head as he listened. "He was amazing!"
"How heavy was the boulder?"
Rogue smiled softly, amused by their innocent questions. "HEEVVY!"
"How big was it?"
"IIGG! EETT AHHS BIGGRRR DAAN NEE!"
Several of the children gasped. "Were you tired?"
He nodded. "VERRY." The titan replied, finding it funny that he was being interviewed by children before his real interview.
"What do you do when you are not fighting?" A young girl asked, the titan thinking for a moment and trying to narrow down what to say.
"EHH…. SPEND TIINE WITTH AMMIILLY. EII – EXXLORRE" The titan stumbled at the word, trying to figure how to pronounce it. "EII PLAYY TOOO."
"Do you have any talents?"
Rogue thought for a moment before huffing. There was one thing that he often did when he was alone as he waited for the Scouts when they performed and practiced the capture exercises. It was ridiculous and useless, but it would certainly amuse children. The titan gave a nod and took a deep breath and twisted his tongue as he needed it. He then parted his teeth and blew out a nearly perfect ring of steam, the children instantly intrigued and their hands coming together to clap. With another breath, Rogue blew out a second ring and then a third before moving his tongue again and shooting a straight jet of steam through the three rings. He then pressed his teeth together and blew again, steam forming into little individual puffs before he inhaled deeply and created a large ring of steam. Grinning widely, the titan then went for his finale of sorts and angled his head, holding a finger over a single nostril and exhaling – sending another stream through the large ring – the children practically roaring in laughter. Rogue hummed, wiggling his ears proudly. The silly act having gathered even more people and Hange's enthusiasm ringing across the square. His little ones were giggling, shaking their heads goodheartedly. Truthfully, Rogue had never truly showed the act to people. Connie was one of the only ones that had ever seen the exploit, the teen chuckling and calling it a great 'party trick' of all things.
"That was amazing!"
"How did you do that! You don't even have lips!" Samuel demanded excitedly with Rogue gurgling and letting his long tongue fall completely out of his mouth so he could playfully point to it – many of the children's eyes widening at the surprisingly long feature.
"His tongue! It's big!"
"It's like my dog's!"
Teasingly, Rogue twisted his tongue around, rolling and curling it before pulling it back into his maw. His odd tongue was strange to him; he had no idea why it was such a length and the other titans' tongues were never as long, Rogue knowing the fact after ripping them out so many times in the past. The titan let mischief wash over him, wanting to make the children laugh even harder, Rogue suddenly let his tongue slide out again but quickly stuck the tip of it up his nose – something he had done once when he felt he had something up his sinus cavity and he couldn't reach it through normal means. At his action, the group of small humans instantly ignited into fits of cackling, some even falling onto their rumps – a few of the adults in the nearby restaurants even choked on their drinks. Rogue then pulled his tongue back into his mouth, giving the children a lopsided grin and huffing as they carried on their laughter – some of the young boys and girls even trying their hardest to do the same.
"You're so funny, Rogue!"
"It's incredible as to how far The Rogue is going to entertain those kids."
"I can't touch my tongue to my nose like Rogue!"
The beast continued to express his mirth, pleased that he succeeded in making his small followers' day. Rogue huffed as he still observed their merriment and failures to mirror him, but suddenly he felt uneasy, his chest tightening and his sense of security fading. The creature held his breath as a cold chill swept along his spine like a river flowing in winter. The world around him began to seem almost distant, slow and quiet. Rogue's ears swiveled in search, his pupils shrinking in the slightest. The feeling was strange, like there was a blight imbedded in the landscape. Rogue blinked, his hairs bristling upon his head. It felt as if a wolf was in a herd of sheep. Slowly, questioning greens scanned the crowd of people. There were working men, people enjoying meals, women searching for a product to buy, and those watching he and the young humans. Movement suddenly was captured by his perusing greens, provoking the beast to look to his right just in time to see something slip into a far alleyway. Rogue's ears pricked fully forward in interest, eyes narrowing in the slightest. From what he saw, it looked like a figure cad in black, perhaps even baring a hat of the same shade. Rogue frowned, then again it could have just been another pesky dog sneaking away. His ears faltered, his body relaxing and instincts loosening. Whatever it was, it had left on its way.
"Rogue? Are you okay?"
Upon hearing the concerned tone of Ellie, Rogue snapped his attention back to the group of children who had long ceased their laughter, each looking worried. Getting his bearings and catching up to reality, Rogue nodded and put on a warm smile, ears fluttering. "EII ANN GOOOD!"
"Rogue! Honey!" Hange's voice carried through the dell, emerald greens locking onto his family and the woman seated with them and the Garrison. "It's time!"
With the beast understanding, he lowered a finger to Ellie and Samuel's head, ruffling their hair in a playful farewell before standing and waving to the others. Carefully, the titan navigated his way back to the bistro and settled back down into his rump before his allies and babies. The woman that sat between Hange and Armin looked overwhelmingly excited, eyes large behind her glasses and her hands barely able to get her things together. After a few gratifying seconds of shuffling did she finally look up and dipped her head in greeting.
"Ah! Finally, we meet! It's a pleasure Rogue! My name is Victoria and it's nice to meet you!"
"She's the woman from the paper Rogue." Hange informed. "She's the one that's going to be asking you questions!"
Rogue nodded and gave the woman the warmest smile he could, emitting a deep purr. "ELLO VVICCOORRIAA. NIICEE TOO NEET YUUU."
"Likewise! I'm very excited to finally speak with the one and only Rogue Titan! I've waited so long and this is an absolute treat! Might I say that from hearing about you and watching you with those small children that you are quite the sweetheart and charmer!" She laughed with Rogue's cheeks tinting slightly pink at the complement before letting out a small rumble in thanks. "Now! Let's begin shall we? I think I'll start with the general questions so I and future readers can get to know you a little bit more before I move on to the more informative questions. Sound good?"
"ESS!" Rogue practically chirped, eager to begin.
"Alright." Victoria clicked her pen and pressed it onto the parchment. "So! You came all the way from Scout Headquarters for our interview and you truly got to explore Katness district for the first time! What did you think?"
Rogue quickly cleared his throat. "ETT AHHS EXXCITING! LOOTTS OOF UMMMANNS! UHH… LOTTS TOOO LOOK ATT! LOTTS! EII SNEELLD NEWW TIINGGS! SAAWW LOOTSS!" The titan tried to word. "EII SAAWW AAHH DDOOGGG UNNG BAIIBEE FOORRR FIIRRSTT TINNE!" He illustrated with Victoria nodding and writing quickly, the titan marveling her speed.
"Ah! So you are having fun so far! That's great! Now, what do you like to do when you are not killing titans? What do you do in your free time, Rogue?"
The titan tilted his head, thinking for a moment, there was quite a lot and he would have to really narrow things down. "EIII LOOVEE TOO BEE WIITT NYY AMMILLE. LOOVEE TOOO PLAAYY… EXXLOOREE… COLLECCT TIINGGS… RAANKK RIIENNDS. EII LIIKKE EELLPPINNG TOOO. EII LOOVV ORRSEES UNDD TRAAINNING. OHH! ANND ANNGGEE TEECHEEES NEE."
"I see! You sound like a pretty busy bee! So what all does Hange teach you?"
"SHEE TEECHHESS NEE LOOTTS OFFF NEEW TIINGS. EEIII ANN ERRNIING APPHHAABET ANND BIGG NUNNBERRS. ARRNNINN ANNDD ANNGGE TECHHINNG NEE HOWW TOO REEADD!"
Victoria looked shocked. "Reading? You are learning how to read?"
He nodded. "YEAAH. THEYY ARRE ALLSOO TEECHHING NEE TOO SPEEK ETTTER." Rogue paused to point at his teeth for emphasis. "EEII ANN… NOOT ESST WITTH ORDDS. NOO IIPSS MAKKES ETT ARRD TOO SAYY TIINGS PLUSS MYY VOOCALL CORRDS ARRE NOOTT GOOD." The titan attempted to explain, suddenly feeling a bit bashful telling about his handicap, hand nervously scratching his thigh. Victoria simply smiled.
"Aw, well you can certainly speak very well though! I see that you do have to subsite letters to suit you like 'N' for 'M' and 'D' for 'T' on occasion, but your speech is still very clear to me! So, do you learn other things like shapes and colors?"
Rogue dipped his head. "YEAHH. NYY AVVORITTEE COLLOR IS GEEEN."
Victoria continued to write. "Alright! They say you are really close to the 104th members who just recently became members of the Scouts. You and them are actually part of the famed 'Levi Squad' now. What do you do with them when you are not training?"
The titan wiggled his ears. "SASSA ANND EII LIKKE TOO HUNNT TOGETHERR! WEE GETT MEAAT FORR SCOOUTTS. WEE HUNNT BOORS. KRRISSTA LIIKESS TOO BRAAIID NYY HAAIRR." He huffed with the occupants of the table giggling.
"I think everyone loves to braid his hair." Nanaba gestured to his locks that the young girls had toyed with earlier, Victoria laughing in agreement.
"Oh yes! It's just begging to be braided. Go on Rogue."
"CONNIEE UNND EII LIIKKEE TOO JOKKE AROUNND. WEE DRAAWW D –
"Rogue," Armin suddenly interrupted him. "Remember bud you have to keep things clean here." His little one warned, the titan's brows lifting at his lack of consideration, failing to remember that the shapes that he and Connie drew to tease others meant something lewd to humans. Quickly, the titan nodded in understanding.
"WEE DRAAWW TIINGGS." He corrected, skin at the corners of his mouth pulling upwards into a grin. "EIII PIICK ON JEEANN. HEE LOOK LIKKE AHH HOORRRSE." Rogue huffed with Victoria snickering, biting her lip. "ONNN TIINNE EIII PULLEED JEEANN OUUT OFF HISS ROONN WEEN HEE AHHS ASLLEEP UND SATT HIMM INN LAKKE!" Rogue described, recalling his greatest prank against Jean he had ever conceived. He had managed to pull the teen out of his bedroom while he was in repose on his mattress and carried him to the lake in their territory, and finally pushed the teen out into the water – Jean and his mattress floating in the center until the boy awoke both angry and confused. Needless to say, no one ever forgot it.
"I bet that was something to see!" Victoria spoke as she quickly took a few swigs of tea, the titan noticing her putting more sugar into it. "Now let's get into the other stuff! So you call Armin and Mikasa your little ones?"
Rogue purred proudly, curving a hand around the two teens' backs while being mindful of the other tables. "DEYY NYY BAIIBIES! EII ADDOPPT DENN." He emphasized, the two teens smiling warmly at him.
"Oh! Your babies?" Victoria queried as she took her notes, a brow raised in cunning. The creature nodded. "Tell me a little about when you first met them! I'd love to know what your thoughts were back then!"
"OKAYY." Rogue dithered in the slightest, knowing very well that the subject was quite a touchy one for the two, especially Mikasa. "EII WAASS OOKKINGG OORR TTINNGS INN NNYY OOREEST… ANND EII SNNELT BLOOOD. EII AHHS SCARRRED. SONNETING AHHS RRONNG. SOO EIII FOLLOWEED DAA SNELL… ANND FOUUNDD…" The titan stalled, looking deeply at Victoria and shifting his greens to Mikasa before looking back at the journalist – trying to drop a discreet hint that he wanted to skip the particular part where he found his little one's parents slaughtered in their own home. Thankfully, Victoria seemed to recognize his desperate message and nodded with understanding in her eyes and motioned for him to keep going. "INALLY.. EII FOUND THE MEENN THATT WERE TAKKING NNYY BABIESS. DEYY URRT DEEM ANNND EII HADD TOO SAVV DEMM. EII ANTEED TOO ELLP… SOO EII SAVVD DEMM ANND TOOOK DENN TOOO NYY HOMMME. EII KEEPP DEEM SAFFE FRROMM RAAAIINN ANNND WAARRM." He smiled. "EII ALLWAYYS NEEW EII HADD TOO ROOTECTT DENNN. EVVEN DOOUGH DEEY ARRE SNALL BUT STTRONGG… EIII ANN ALLWAAYS OTTECCTIING DENN."
"Aww, I see that they mean an awful lot to you! Now, could you tell me about how things were for you after the breech? I know it's touchy but I feel that most of the public would like to know your thoughts. You don't have to go into detail or anything. Just a simple statement will do." Victoria laughed nervously. "My – employer really wants it so I'm pressured to ask."
Rogue exhaled softly, chin dipping to his chest. "EIII AHHSS… SCARED. RIGGHTENED UNND SSADD. EII ASSS SOO ANNGRRY TOOO." The titan gritted his teeth, fingers twinging. He bit his tongue in the slightest, recalling the horrible image and the foul smell of spilt blood. After several seconds, he decided to keep going to get the question over with. "BUUUT EII STIILL HADD TOOO KEEPPP NYY AIIBEES SAFFE SOO EII TOOK DEEMM ACCK HONNE. EIII… AHHSS SOO NAAD ANND UTTSETT… SOOO EIII KILLEEDD IITTANS. He hesitated. "EIII KEEPPT GAARRDINNG DEMM AFTTERR DATT. EIIII RRRAISSED DEMM." The titan spoke, voice quieter.
"Ah, I see. Now, let's go back as far as you can remember. What was life like before you met your parents? How did you live in the forest?"
"Ellll… EIII UUSST WOOKKE UTTT ONNN DAYY DEERE. EIII… DONNT RENNENBERR HOOWW EII GOTT DERR. ETT AHHS SCAREE. EIIIII NEEWW NOTTING. EIII STAYYDD INN NYY COVVV FOOR LOONG TINNE… YERRRS. DEEN EIII GOOT BRAVVE ANND WEENT EXXLORING. EIII STAYYEED INN ORREST DOOUGH. EIII AHHHS ONNLEEEY." Rogue described before perking up. "DEEN EII SAVVE CUURRLA FRROM OOLVEES!"
"What did you think when you met Carla?"
Rogue smiled. "EIII AHHS ANNAZEED. SHEE LOOKKED LIKKE NEE. EII… TRIEED TOO OOK ATT HERR BETTERR, BUTT EII AHHS ARRAID EII AHHHS URRTINN ERR SOO… EII LEFFT. EII ENNT ACCK TOO FINND HERR AND NETT GRISSA TOO. EII AHHS… AFRRAID EII COODD URRT DENN TOO, BUUT DEEY LIKKED NEE ANND ADDOTTTEDD NEE!"
"Intriguing! So you learned a lot from your parents?"
"ESS! DEEY TEECH NEE LOTTS! IKKE HOWW TO TALLK!" Rogue swallowed, his throat straining in the slightest.
"Uh huh, now I can see that you are getting a little worn from answering things, so we'll move on to our final questions. The Female Titan – what did you think when you saw her?"
Rogue sat up a bit at the query. This was one that he had to be truly careful about. Levi and Erwin had both made it very clear to not tell anyone that she was familiar to him and it was quite possible that he had once known her before coming to the walls. Lest the Military Police would suspect him of sins he didn't commit. Even though a mating thing wasn't true, he couldn't say anything about that either not to upset the public. There was only one way to answer. "EIII HATTED HERR. SHEE ANNTED TOO KILLL NYYY AMILLE AND EVERYONNE ESSE, SOO EII HADD TOOO KIIIL HERR."
Victoria nodded with the titan reaching up to rub his throat to not only sooth it, but to ward her away from going into the subject further. "Oh yes! I think anyone would hate her upon seeing the anguish she brought upon you and your family. Now for our last two questions. There were many reports of you using a special ability that was dubbed as your 'Berserk Mode' what did that feel like? Do you remember anything from it?"
The titan tilted his head back in thought, recalling the time that he had to brawl with The Female Titan in Stohess. When he went mad, as most of the Scouts stated, he could barely recall feeling anything other than his most primal desires. He was consumed by rage that boiled within his blood and hunger for the flesh of beasts practically tore at his stomach. All he saw was red. He felt nothing else. No remorse. Nothing. No person around him seemed to exist at that time. It was just him and his prey. Even as he woke up much later, he remembered practically nothing, only the taste of The Female's meat as it stuffed his gut – something that was truly delectable. He knew that he would be practicing the technique soon to see if he could control it.
But he couldn't help but doubt the idea.
"EIII… DONNT RENNENBRR ANYYTING." Rogue finally replied, keeping his response simple and short. "GOOING TOO ORRK ONN DATT SOON DOUGH. DOO TRAINNING TOO USSE ITT."
"I understand." Victoria wrote before looking up with a big smile upon her face. "Now for my final question! Are you and the Scouts planning to go back to Shiganshina soon and seal the hole?"
Rogue blinked at that, not entirely sure what to say. There had been no talk about venturing back into Maria to fix the breech. "HOOPELY SSOON." The beast smiled, trying to hide how skeptical he was. To his relief, Victoria only wrote down his answer. To his surprise, she looked up and started again.
"As a sort of a closing Rogue, is there anything you would like the readers to know?" She beamed, the titan thinking for a brief moment before knowing exactly what to say.
"EIII WAANT EVERREONNE… TOOO BEELVVE INN NEE. EIII AN IGGHTING… FORRR HUNANNITY." Rogue's mouth formed a lopsided smile. "EII… ALLSO ANNT NOO ONNE TO DDEE SCARRED OFFF NEE. LEEASEE… DONNT TREET NEE LIIKE AAAH NONNSTER. EIII NOOO EII ANN A…. TIITANN… BUTTT DONNT… JUGGE OOOK BEEII ITTS COVVRR." The beast finished with the truth, trying to form something that his Armin would say. Victoria gave an approving nod and closed her journal and placed her pen behind her ear in conclusion.
"Awesome! This is great material!" She nearly squealed. "You were an absolute joy to interview Rogue! It was so nice to finally speak to the most unlikely and famous hero of our time!" Victoria complimented with Rogue's cheeks tinting crimson. "Now, I better get back to headquarters so we can begin to print this!" She giggled as she stood from her seat. "There will be lots of people wanting to read this! Again, it was lovely meeting you all and keep up with the great work you do for us Rogue!" Victoria bid farewell as she shook a few hands, gave him a pat on his knees, and dipped her head in a final thanks before walking off into the square and boarding a carriage. For a moment, the titan watched it roll across the square before the clearing of a throat drew his focus away.
"Now," Hange began with a stretch. "Shall we be off to the trainee grounds?"
With the Section Commander's words, the small party began to follow the two Garrison soldiers from the square with his little ones perched upon his shoulder as before. However, as he moved through the architecture and crowds of people, Rogue couldn't shake another unsettling feeling – the sensation of sensing a weed in the garden. A vulture circling over kill.
The feeling of someone lurking in the shadows.
Hours went by and the city with its noise, activity, and stone structures had long been left behind. The landscape had changed, one that was exposed with a severe lack of trees. It was simply a grassland with the only tall vegetation and mountains abundant upon the horizon. He wasn't used to the wide open spaces as big as this one. Sure, the Scout's headquarters had its desolate places, but there was always a forest nearby. Even to the day, he loved the security of the timbers, but the plain wasn't so bad. He could soak in the sun at least. Rogue smiled softly to himself, a bit excited about what lay ahead. It felt wonderful that he was asked to aid some potential future soldiers for the Scouts. He remembered his little ones had said they were once trainees and today was the day he was going to see what their life was like after he took them out of the hell that was and still is Wall Maria.
As the titan continued to walk however, his slight smile turned into a small frown – his mind beginning to drift among the fact that there had been someone following him in Katness. From the way he felt, this person didn't seem to have the best intentions. Even though he knew this, he didn't breathe a word about it to his little ones. After all, he wasn't very sure if it really was a threat or just a disgruntled individual being animal or human that didn't like him. Thus, he didn't want to say anything until he was for absolute certain.
"Rogue? Are you alright?"
With Mikasa's query silencing his thoughts and making him realize that he had been completely unaware that his little ones had been staring at him, Rogue turned his head. Quickly, he put on a smile and wiggled his ears to throw them off. "EII ANN OKAEE." He purred, nuzzling into them in the slightest. For a moment, the two looked a bit skeptical before Mikasa smiled warmly and stroked his jawline.
"Ah well, it's okay to be a little nervous if you are, Rogue." The teen began, the titan thankful that she seemed to overlook the truth. "The trainee grounds are quite a bit different from the Scouts' Headquarters."
Rogue angled his head, perplexed. The trainees' territory was not like his home? "DIFFRNNT?" He asked, needing an explanation.
Armin nodded. "Yeah. Since it's all about making soldiers strong enough to face titans, defend the wall, or work under the king it's quite a bit strict there. Our Sargent, Keith Shadis, is pretty over the top and it might take you a bit to get used to him Rogue. To give you an idea, he's sort of like Levi as far as swearing and insults go, but he yells a lot more – at the top of his lungs." Armin described. Rogue blinked in surprise, frowning a bit. He had never met a man like Shadis before. Sure, Levi did yell sometimes when he was really ticked off, but by Armin's description it seemed that Shadis yelled constantly. He wasn't sure how to feel about that. As usual, Armin noticed his stress as usual and patted his shoulder in reassurance. "Of course, you won't have to worry about him yelling at you Rogue! He's just going to be yelling at the cadets. It was really his idea for you to come here and help out. So really you are an honored guest you could say!" The blonde chuckled with the titan's unease fading a bit.
"ILLL HEE YELLL ATT YUU DOOUGGH?" Rogue questioned, worried that his little ones wouldn't get the same honorary treatment as him, his query making them laugh.
"Oh no Rogue! Mikasa and I aren't trainees anymore so he's not our Superior. We are helping too! In fact, the two of us along with Hange and Nanaba are acting as Squad leaders for the capture exercise." Armin explained further with the titan grinning and dipping his head in complete understanding.
"You will probably meet our class instructor too." Mikasa proceeded, twirling a string of his hair in her fingers. "His name is Mr. Alois. He's the one that teaches the trainees general knowledge of equipment as well as everything about titans that humanity knows of." Mikasa snickered in the slightest. "You can imagine Rogue, that when Armin and I were going through the titan class we sort of pretended to pay attention since we secretly already knew everything."
Rogue huffed, clearly visualizing the circumstance with his little ones. It must have been so awkward keeping such a big secret under wraps.
"By the way Rogue," Hange began over her shoulder. "When we do the capture exercise Shadis may want you to do that special move just to –
"Oh, looks like we are here." Nanaba interrupted, bringing the titan's attention to the land before him. The flat elevation suddenly dipped down into a slight knoll before coming to a cliff. At the bottom was a wide dirt area void of any green except for a forest bordering nearby. In the wide area was various wooden cabins that lay nestled against each other along with a wooden tower and several tall pieces with cables – the titan unable to name them. The place looked well used, paths made by footfalls worn into the dirt and the slight and very faint scent of sweat and tears hung in the air. Rogue blinked in interest, ears fully forward. This was where his little ones went after they left him. This was where they acquired their skills in slaughter and flight. The titan's ears naturally wiggled, suddenly feeling elation course through his body.
"Someone is excited." Armin chuckled as he patted his skin.
"Yup. Just remember to follow orders Rogue." Mikasa reminded as she surveyed what lay ahead with a keen eye. "Looks like everyone is in the mess hall for lunch so we are getting here right on time. I guess Shadis wants to go with a surprise approach."
Rogue continued to listen to his babies speak to one another about times that they had spent on the grounds ahead, his green eyes wide and innocuous as he watched a mule pulling a cart full of vegetables pass by them – the man steering it looking up at him with his mouth agape. The creature watched the man for a moment until he adverted his attention away. This 'Shadis' was certainly keeping his arrival and presence secret. He could imagine that the cadets were going to have quite a jolt.
"Also Rogue, the trainees that you are going to meet today have most likely never seen a titan."
Rogue's ears stood up in surprise. Oh yes, the trainees were certainly in for a shock.
"Well now, it's nice to finally see you here. You arrived just in time."
At the welcome, Rogue instantly halted and peered down to see an older gentleman approach them upon horseback and quickly dismount before Hange and Nanaba. He looked like a stern man, silver shoulder length hair slicked back behind him and posture as straight as a slice of pine. His uniform was amusing, the normally short jacket that each soldier wore was long and nearly down to his ankles. Rogue had never seen his little ones or any of the Scout's superiors wear such a thing, but perhaps this was a thing that only the superiors over the cadets did.
"That's great we arrived then!" Hange smiled as she shook his hand. "It's nice to see you again Alois."
The man nodded. "The same to you, Squad Leader. It's great that you are doing well. Nice to see you as well, Nanaba."
"And this must be Rogue Jaeger." The man looked to him, his lips pulled into an impressed smirk. "He's quite the titan. It's great to have you here to help us out." He chuckled. "The trainees are in for quite a surprise today. Shadis simply told them that they were doing something different and it would be a real test of courage." Alois continued. "It's nice to finally meet you and I thank you for your help."
Rogue nodded in return, keeping his own odd and crooked grin. "NIICEE TOO NEEET YUU! HAAPPEE TOOO EELLP!"
Mr. Alois simply responded with a quick and grateful nod and look of poise before adverting his attention to the two teens upon his shoulder. "Ackerman and Arlert. I assume that you two are the legendary Titan Children." He spoke further with the two suddenly tinting crimson before giving a gesture of confirmation. "It makes perfect sense how you two aced my class with your unusually vast knowledge of titans." The man pointed out with Armin scratching the back of his head, liking embarrassed.
"Well the cat's out of the bag now!" Hange said merrily with the man sharing her mirth before scaling up to the saddle on his horse again.
"Indeed it is! Well, lunch is half over and Shadis is expecting us to see him before the exercise to prompt us for the session. This is going to be quite a surprise so let us thread lightly."
With the weight of his marrow and muscle lessened, Rogue walked quietly as a several ton beast possibly could as he followed the group behind Alois – keeping well hidden in trees hugging the property. Under the orders of Shadis, they were taking what looked to be a detour.
"This is the path we have the wagons carrying goods to go on since it runs behind the kitchen and ends at the Sargent's quarters. The trail goes around the entire grounds. The mail carts as well as our uniform suppliers use this route." Alois continued to explain. "None of the trainees will see you here even if they venture out of the mess hall unexpectedly."
Rogue simply took everything in around him as the man continued informing the others. The ground was unusually dry, signifying that there hadn't been rain in a while and only the trees that withstood droughts thrived. The scents of wildlife such as deer were few and far between – perhaps due to the fact that there seemed to be a lot of action on the grounds. Still, from looking around the forest it seemed like there was plenty of places for him to hide. Even though the trainees had the advantage of knowing the area well, they lacked the experience of facing a real titan and trapping it. Rogue grinned to himself. This was going to be their first lesson and he was the teacher. His ears wiggled, this was bound to get interesting.
"So how many trainees signed up this year?" Nanaba questioned with the man looking up for a split second in thought.
"This year we had about a hundred sign up – that's about a ten percent increase from the amount that graduated in the 104th. We had only about five or six dropouts this year – three of those were due to injury instead of cowardice." The man beamed. "I think it's all due to you, Rogue."
The titan turned his head away from the landscape at the compliment, in awe. "RREALLE?"
"Yes, you've given a lot of people so much hope ever since you surfaced. There are more people willing to join the Scouts than ever. Of course, you still have those few who want to be MP's and doubt you, but I think after today when you show your true colors they will change their mind."
Rogue only nodded with an affirmative grunt, wondering what the man meant by showing true color. The titan decided not to dwell upon it, he supposed he would find out from Shadis upon their meeting. He continued to keep to himself and his observation as they walked, ears fidgeting every once in a while to listen to his little ones tell a story about their time on the very grounds. After several scenic minutes of drifting, the titan followed the superiors around a small corner to the rear of a medium sized cabin resting on the edge of the brush. This cabin was different than those he came across in Maria. Unlike the small ones that he found abandoned in his forest, this one was immaculate, orderly, and clean unlike the ones he knew that were covered in moss, possessions strung out, and a skull from wild game hung over some doorway. The cabin before them was well cared for. The wood was smooth and none was splintered. The roof was void of any vegetation or fungi and a metal mailbox hung next to the exit. Overall, it was well kempt. Hange, Nanaba, and Alois then dismounted their equines and steered them over to tether them to a designated area. The man then tied the knot on the reins even tighter to ensure the steed could not escape before facing the awaiting creature and the others.
"This is Shadis's quarters. If you please, you may take a seat Rogue and you all can wait here."
The titan placed himself to sit upon his buttocks, keeping quiet as he lowered his little ones into his lap – the two perching themselves onto his knee. All was practically silent between the four of them, Hange and Nanaba smiling up to them and giving a thumbs up for encouragement. Of course, the titan knew the gesture was really meant for him. He could hardly hide the fretful look upon his face. He wasn't sure how to greet Shadis who sounded like a much angrier and stern Levi. Rogue thought for a moment, he never truly gave Levi an individual greeting. He really only did one thing that actually won the Scouts over and that was simply be himself. Of course, there was a certain gesture that every man in uniform gave one another that would be the best thing he could use in his arsenal.
"Just relax bud. There is no need to be nervous." Armin whispered up at him. "This is going to fun."
Hange nodded. "Just enjoy yourself during the session and – do that one new move you learned. I think Shadis will appreciate it."
Rogue blinked, stunned. Hange wanted him to use that move? The titan felt himself biting is tongue in habit. His new move was one that Hange had surprisingly convinced Levi for him to learn, suggesting that it could actually be helpful in certain occasions. After explaining to him for a lengthy hour when they first told him about it did he finally see the Scouts' viewpoint. Ludicrous as it was absurd, it was actually safe if he did it without fail. It was certainly risky, but he himself had actually perfected it quite nicely, thankful for his keen instincts and agility that made it possible without harm. Rogue only answered with a grunt, giving a small smile. As much as he feared scaring a trainee half to death, he would do it.
Suddenly, the cabin door creaked open, making the titan sit straight in alarm, green eyes watching fully as Alois exited and stood aside, waving someone forward. The wooden planks of the cabin's back porch creaked, feet lifting heavy and rugged boots. Slowly, a man emerged from the overhead shadow. He was just as stern looking as his acquaintances described. His arms were poised behind his back and his posture was like a stony wall, firm and unable to be moved. The man's skin almost reminded him of his own, thick and tanned from the sun. The man's mouth was pulled downward at the edges in a sculpted frown, making it apparent that the male most likely had never smiled in his lifetime. His eyes were set deep, circled by wrinkles, brows sitting over them in a look he could not discern to be determination or annoyance. The man lacked any locks and he was dressed similar to Alois except for his jacket was a deep forest green. Rogue sat still for a moment, the man proceeding to stare heavily at him before the titan remembered to initiate his move. Rogue quickly positioned his arms in a soldier's salute, holding the pose. The creature expected the man to give some sort of response, but he stood there – simply giving him a hard stare. The titan swallowed, the aura growing more tense as a gentle breeze blew through the trees. Rogue's ears wilted in the slightest, completely unsure of what to do further. Perhaps the man didn't like the salute? Worried, Rogue slowly lowered his arms and placed them neatly into his lap. He dithered, the man's eyes traveling along his body, just making him feel more uncomfortable. The titan's ear twitched in thought. Perhaps he should just be himself. With the idea in mind, Rogue tilted his head in curiosity – ears wiggling before leveling out. "ELLO." He greeted, hoping for a response. But to his dismay, the man only remained still and unspoken. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the man shifted his gaze to Hange and Nanaba and cleared his throat.
"Rogue Jaeger." The man spoke, his voice deep, demanding, and gruff. "Well Section Commander, you were right. He's quite magnificent." His words making Hange take a proud stance.
"Why thank you! He's one of a kind!" She turned to him. "Rogue, this is Keith Shadis! He's the instructor of the cadet corps and he was formerly the 12th Commander of the Survey Corps – the Commander before Erwin."
Rogue's eyes widened at the intimidating man. So Shadis was once the Commander of the Scouts? The beast nodded with acknowledgement. "NNICCE TOOOO NEETT YUU… SSIRR." He beamed, bowing his head in the slightest before sitting straight again to listen.
"You as well." Shadis replied, his tone never truly changing, staying absolutely intimidating. Rogue could only wonder what the man was like when he was in charge of the Scouts. He was quite different from Erwin. Shadis then looked upon his little ones. "Ackerman and Arlert." He grunted, the only hint he gave to being humored. "So you two are the Titan Children. That explains quite a lot, especially how you excelled in your training and classes. The story of you three is incredible."
Armin's face tinted red. "Thank you, Sir." He said shyly with Mikasa only nodding.
"Our apologies for keeping everyone in the dark." The teen apologized, Shadis holding up a firm hand.
"No need for that. It was a smart move." The man paused before looking back up at Rogue. "The infamous Rogue Titan." Shadis trailed off. "In my years of being in charge of the Scouts, I've never seen a titan like him. He's like the perfect guard dog. A Doberman almost. Completely intimidating looking to scare the shit out of anyone at first glance yet underneath the tough exterior he's docile and friendly. Technically, he's the perfect soldier. Strong, fierce, all the while being tractable."
Rogue gave a small smile, not sure what to make of the man's speech and comparisons.
"Oh yes!" Hange began. "He's an absolutely perfect specimen! Studying his DNA, I found him to be a completely new yet ancient breed of titan! One with dramatically increased animal like characteristics and behavior and with the intelligence nearly like that of a human! His species has no taste for humans at all and hunger for the flesh of other titan species instead! He's truly a wonder! Rogue himself is incredibly curious and actually pretty playful. On a more military perspective, Rogue can speak rather well and understand verbal commands. He knows signals and formations. He follows orders very closely as well. He's also skilled in hand to hand combat, knowing some mixed martial arts moves even. As a titan, Rogue is much faster, stronger, and smarter! Overall, he's an absolute wonder!" Hange went on, her enthusiasm not even phasing Shadis who seemed to only absorb words and not her excitement. "There is also a new move he's learned during our capture sessions that certainly has the right amount of 'oomph' to scare the trainees!" He nodded, looking up at the beast again.
"So I see." He began with his arms behind his back yet again. "He's going to be perfect. Humph! Finally have someone besides myself who will scare the shit and piss out of the cadets. Hell, those on laundry duty are going to have one hell of time today. We'll need plenty of bleach for the lights." Shadis huffed, amused at the visual. "Alright Jaeger, I want you to do the capture exercise as we have agreed without going easy on them." The man continued, being straightforward as possible. "From what I've been told and from what I see you can be a bit of a marshmallow. Until I give the order to drop the charade, I want you to be terrifying. I want you to intimidate them. I want you to be stubborn, willful, and grumpy. Act like an animal, be vicious. What I'm saying is, I want you to behave a bit more like a titan, but still appear like you are under control. We need this to be realistic as hell. Do you understand?"
Rogue confidently nodded. Usually, he didn't want to do anything to make others scared of him since it was so difficult to earn acceptance. However, this was a helpful exercise to the trainees, preparing them for the rough life of a soldier. It was an act that he had to play, being monstrous. It was basically a game. He loved games.
This was going to be fun.
His lungs expanded and compressed, the teen trying to relax his body as he looked out into the wide dirt field before him. It was surreal to Armin, being back at the trainee grounds once again – specially to help out. He stood as imposing as he could possibly look with his arms behind his back and feet planted firmly into the soil, something that was admittedly difficult to pull off since he wasn't the most visually threatening person. Mikasa stood in the same fashion next to him, dark eyes staring forward at the landscape as well; only that she seemed more like the one to make another highly uncomfortable. Nanaba and Hange were on the other side of them in the same stance. Nanaba wore a noble look while Hange looked as if she could barely contain her excitement knowing that she was getting the chance to show off her favorite subject. Armin nearly let out a chuckle, thinking that if Levi were with them he would say that Hange was having a hard time holding back a shit. The lunch hour was about to conclude and the trainees would be exiting the mess hall at any minute. The four Scouts were waiting in position, counting down the seconds until Shadis joined them along with the chime of the bell. Rogue himself was remaining in the nearby woods just behind them, ready for the order to come out.
Armin sighed yet again. This was also the first time he was going to play the role of a squad leader. He had never done anything of the sort and he wanted to do well so Hange could have a good report to pass to the Corporal. His thoughts faded instantly as the front door to the Sargent's quarters opened. The man still kept his seemingly impenetrable façade as he stopped to stand between them, hardened gaze looking up at the tower where the iron bell was hung. The man inhaled deeply.
"Time to begin." The man muttered, a small smirk pulling at the corner of his mouth.
The large bell then rang, the sound echoing across the grounds and bringing back memories, mostly those of him getting up at the crack of dawn to run laps with a weighted pack. Without turning his head, the teen watched as the doors to the mess hall opened with many of the younger teens, some of those only appearing to have just turned twelve, spill out onto the field. Many of them stalled for a moment, eyes wide in question as they spied the Scouts and Shadis. Armin could tell they were both confused and startled. Shadis then cleared his throat.
"ALRIGHT MAGGOTS!" The man shouted over the scurrying and chaos, his voice rough and lurid. "GET YOUR SORRY ASSES LINED UP! NOW!" Shadis ordered with an iron fist, serious eyes watching as the teens quickly got into their rows; quickly saluting before standing straight with their hands down at their sides.
It was things like this that made Armin glad that he wasn't in the cadets anymore.
"The Scouts are here?" One of the teens uttered. "What are they doing here?"
"Is this part of that special exercise that Shadis mentioned the other day?"
"QUIET!" The man commanded. "LISTEN CLEAR AND FUCKING LISTEN WELL! YOU ARE NOW GOING TO TAKE PART IN A VERY SPECIAL EXCERSIZE ALONG WITH THE COMPANY OF THE SCOUTS! THIS EXCERSIZE IS GOING TO TEST YOUR SKILL, WITS, AND WEITHER OR NOT YOU CAN KEEP YOUR BRITCHES CLEAN!" Shadis began with several of the trainees looking at one another, beads of sweat forming upon their brows. "THAT'S RIGHT MAGGOTS! YOU ARE GOING TO BE DOING THE VERY SAME SESSION THAT THE SCOUTS PRACTICE DAY IN AND DAY OUT! YOU ARE GOING TO LEARN HOW TO EVADE AND CAPTURE TITANS!" Shadis informed, making a rustle of whispers run through the trainees.
"What! We just started maneuvering gear training a month ago! This is stuff that supposed to be taught in the advanced courses!"
"QUIET! ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE TO YOU HEAPS OF FODDER EACH SCOUT YOU SEE BEFORE YOU. FIRST IS SECTION COMMANDER NANABA, VETERAN SCOUT AND SURVIVOR OF THE BREECH. NEXT IS SECTION COMMANDER HANGE ZOE, THE SCOUT'S TITAN RESERCHER. FINALLY, YOU HAVE ARMIN ARLERT AND MIKASA ACKERMAN. ARLERT'S SCORES FOR THE WRITTEN EXAMS WERE THE HIGHEST WE HAVE HAD IN OVER FIFTY YEARS WHILE ACKERMAN WAS THE TOP OF THEIR CLASS – THE 104TH TRAINEE CORE!" Shadis paused to let the information sink in. "OF COURSE, THE TWO OF THEM ARE ACTUALLY KNOWN BY ANOTHER TITLE THAT'S BEEN THROWN AROUND A LOT IN RECENT MONTHS. ACKERMAN AND ARLERT ARE INDEED THE INFAMOUS TITAN CHILDREN!"
Armin watched and listened as many faces looked upon he and Mikasa and began to gasp and whisper further.
"They are the Titan Children!"
"Those are the two that were raised by The Rogue!"
"I suppose they are here to teach us survival skills and the thought process of titans, after all – they lived with one. They could only be here to share knowledge during the exercise right?"
"They have to be! Why else would they be here?"
"SILENCE!" Shadis demanded. "FOR THE CAPTURE EXCERSIZE, YOUR ASSES WILL BE DIVIDED INTO FOUR TEAMS LEAD BY A SINGLE SCOUT. YOUR JOB IS TO RANGLE A TITAN USING THE MEANS THAT YOU ARE GOING TO RAPIDLY LEARN! KEEP IN MIND, YOU WILL NOT BE USING BLADES – ONLY CABLES! IF ANY TEAM SUCCEEDS, YOU WILL BE EXEMPT FROM YOUR NEXT EXAM!" Shadis proceeded to shout with many of the trainees looking to one another in excitement; Armin knowing that their determination was going to fade in less than a minute. "OF COURSE…" The Sargent sounded amused. "YOU MAY BE THINKING THAT WE WILL BE USING THE WOODEN TITANS THAT WE UTALIZE FOR OUR EXERCISES, BUT THIS IS A TEST OF COURAGE FOR YOU WORTHLESS WORMS!"
Armin watched as the man's lips curled into a smile at the trainee's state of unsettlement. This was it.
"INSTEAD – YOU WILL BE UP AGAINST… A REAL TITAN."
The statement instantly made the blood drain from the teens' faces, eyes wide in panic.
Suddenly, a loud thump echoed across the yard, the vibration shaking the nearby structures – the sensation making all of the cadets drop and brace themselves. Leaves rattled and timber creaked as several of the pines behind them were being pushed by force. Armin nearly smirked, Rogue was going to make quite an entrance.
The earth shook again, footsteps growing louder and louder. Several of the trainees back peddled or remained too petrified to move. "OF COURSE, YOU MAGGOTS ARE NOT GOING TO BE UP AGAINST ANY REGULAR TITAN." The landscape quaked, a deep and guttural growl sounding across the grounds, making several of the young teens whimper. "ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE TO YOU THE ONE AND ONLY ROGUE TITAN!"
With Shadis's conclusion, Rogue's head slowly emerged from the branches. The titan's eyes were narrowed, brows lowered, and ears folded back – emerald greens glowing with a dangerous glint as the beast emerged fully from the brush, creeping slowly forward like a stalking predator. Rogue's breath was low and cavernous, like that of a true monster – rickety and laborious. As the titan walked, every muscle in his body bulged, rippling with raw power that would make anyone feel even more uneasy. With fluid movement, Rogue stepped over the cabin and came to rest just behind Hange – the titan standing tall to allow everyone to get an eyeful of him. It reminded Armin the first time he had ever seen Rogue in full, the titan looking like certain doom. Rogue then slowly lowered himself, gaze locked onto the trainees with his head unmoving as he seated himself upon his knees, back hunched in the slightest with several strands of hair cascading over Rogue's fearsome face. The titan's shoulders were hunched, arms straight and nails digging into the dirt. The creature's body swelled, Rogue puffing himself up to make him look even more fearsome and daunting, harsh breathing even louder and more threatening. Armin held back a smile. His best friend was certainly good at acting. Rogue could look like the most pitiful and helpless puppy one minute and appear as the very creation of hell the next. Many of the trainees could barely keep their composure.
Rogue continued to growl deep in his throat, steam leaking through the gaps of his teeth and nostrils with Shadis grunting in entertainment. "LET ME INTRODUCE YOU WORMS TO ROGUE JAEGER." Shadis gestured with Rogue parting his teeth to release a loud hiss that made many of the teens nearly trip over themselves in fear, Armin's keen eyes actually catching a few trainees piss themselves. "HE'S GOING TO BE YOUR TARGET! YOU MUST ATTEMPT TO RANGLE HIM. AS YOU CAN IMAGE, ROGUE JAEGER IS NOT LIKE YOUR REGULAR BLOODTHIRSTY TITAN! MISS ZOE, INFORM THESE HEAPS OF FODDER AS TO HOW DIFFERENT THE ROGUE TITAN IS!" Shadis handed the show over, the blonde catching a slight flash of concern going through Rogue's eyes at the use of Shadis's language, the titan obviously feeling a bit protective by nature, but seemingly accepting that the man's intimidation was for a good cause as he still kept his menacing gaze.
Hange nodded with a broad smile upon her face, her glasses practically glowing in the light. "Ah! Shadis is completely correct my Dears! Rogue is no normal titan! He is indeed a different breed entirely! The most notable difference is the fact that his intelligence level is indeed close to that of a human being! He understands what you are saying, signals, and what formation you will get in before you can make your move! All his senses are incredibly heightened and he can pick up your scent from more than a mile away! His ears are not for looks! He can hear you talking from at least half a mile! He's also nearly ten times faster and stronger than any other titan as well!" Hange spoke merrily with her audience stricken in panic. "And you need not worry about him eating or harming you, Rogue's breed only feasts on other titans – but do be aware of a new move we have taught him that might rattle your bones!" She laughed, reaching up to nonchalantly scratch Rogue's chin with the titan still keeping his eyes locked onto his new prey – giving them a snort. "He'll restrain you simply by grabbing your cables and throwing you into the trees or disabling your gear completely! You trainees will be working on the same level as us Scouts. One last thing – he's an expert tracker and loves to leave clues to throw the ones perusing him off! He favors the element of surprise!" Hange held her head proudly, grinning back at Shadis for him to continue.
"YOUR ASSES HAVE UNTIL FOUR O'CLOCK! THAT'S THREE HOURS! IF YOU ARE IMOBALIZED BY THE TIME IS UP, YOUR SUPERIORS WILL ASSIST YOUR SORRY CARCASS! IF YOU SHIT YOURSELVES, OR HAVE ALREADY DONE SO, PLEASE TAKE YOUR UNIFORM TO THE LAUNDRY FOR WASHING PROMPTLY. AFTER I GIVE THE SIGNAL, YOU WILL QUICKLY DISMISS TO YOUR QUARTERS AND HAVE FIVE MINUTES TO PUT ON YOUR GEAR, LEAVING BEHIND YOUR BLADES, AND RETURN HERE TO BE DIVIDED UP! TO PRESSUREE YOU MAGGOTS FURTHER, YOU WILL EACH BE ASSESSED BY YOUR TEMPORARY SQUAD LEADERS ON YOUR PERFORMANCE!" Shadis turned to the titan. "Jaeger – take your position."
All eyes watched spellbound as Rogue gave a small nod and rose to his feet, but not without tilting his head back and letting out an earthshattering roar that Armin felt even rattling his ribs. Many of the trainees covered their ears and some even got into a fetal position in the dirt, all the while Shadis looked absolutely amused. The titan's roar then leveled off into a deep rumble, green eyes flashing at them once more before Rogue smirked and bounded into the trees. For a moment, all Armin could hear was the hitched breaths of the trainees before Shadis cleared his throat.
"YOU ARE NOW DISMISSED!" The man's voice igniting the others to stand and dash off to their designated barracks, Armin making note that many of them would be stopping at the Laundry building afterwards. Rogue had put on quite the presentation.
He slowly inhaled the scent of pine into his lungs – a scent that was never not comforting. He leaned casually against a wide tree trunk, index finger toying with the metal loop upon his collar, batting it as he waited for the teams of trainees to come near him. Most likely they were still being sorted or close to being ready to begin. During the short time he had to himself he went ahead and artfully set up his false clues. He had broken several limbs and nearly uprooted several trees – one of the traps he had in mind was to specifically guide the teams into a gorge so he could disable some participants. His ears wiggled, he had quite the advantage. Mike nor Sasha was present – the two Scouts whom could track him down the best. Levi wasn't involved either. His biggest threat was certainly Mikasa for her skills were great. Of course, Armin and Hange would probably figure out his decoys. Still, with him facing mostly inexperienced trainees, he certainly had a big advantage.
The titan's ears pricked forward, hearing the echoing ring of the iron bell – the whirling of gears soon following. Rogue sniffed hungrily, the teams seemed to be heading south, the four quickly branching off into different directions. The beast inhaled again, two of which were near him. He then peeled away from the tree and began to lightly jog through the forest, keeping his frame light as possible to move through the wood as silently as he could. He was going to be relentless and pull every trick he could possibly pull. After all, Shadis wanted him to not go easy whatsoever. He wanted the simulation to be as realistic as he could possibly make it.
After several minutes of jogging, Rogue slowed his pace into a smooth gate; walking steadily with ears facing forward – twitching at the sounds of human activity. The titan stalled, lightly moving to take shelter behind a wall of dirt and rocks, allowing the forest as well as himself too calm so he didn't give any indication that he was onto anyone. He sniffed, a small group was not very far ahead – having stopped somewhere themselves to most likely organize and plan. Rogue inhaled deeply, recognizing Hange's scent from the others, meaning he had come across her party. The titan couldn't help but to distinguish the other scents as well. One of the teens smelled of fresh linen, another the smell of chicken broth, many holding the odor of sweat, and one still had a hint of urine lingering upon them from their earlier accident. Of course, there were other scents he was interested in as well. The natural musk given off by the forest was quite therapeutic. There was the usual breed of giant pines, but there were other trees that he didn't recognize from his forest and the Scouts territory; some had leaves shaped like small fans, others had branches that were limp and weeping, and others has greenery that reminded him of small ferns. Of course, the particular forest was populated by the usual birches, maples, and oaks – the canopy created by the vast assortment shrouding him in dappled light. The wood also had the common smells of berries, other fauna, and water. Like the Scout's territory, there was a good lack of animals near him, but more seemed to be plentiful further. Of course, the lack of life around him was a good thing for this particular exercise.
Rogue's ears flickered, catching Hange along with the voices of several trainees again – the woman describing tactics to them. The titan nodded to himself and slowly motioned forward again, knowing it was best to move while the party of trainees was busy. The Section Commander was currently informing them of basic maneuvers to wrap their cables around him. Rogue followed the words, hunching over in the slightest as he prowled, careful not to snap any overhead branches and alert them. The brush thinned, forcing the titan to stop, but the position was perfect – Rogue lowering himself to sit like a feline, hands pressed near his chin and elbows poised back behind his shoulders upon a high knoll overlooking a small patch of the forest. Green eyes peeked intensely through a small opening in the foliage, observing a cluster of trainees with Hange as they sat upon the branches of several tall oaks. Elvish ears rotated fully forward to listen to their plotting.
"So, what do we do if Jaeger grabs us?" A young male asked the veteran Scout who snorted at his witlessness and laughed.
"First off," Hange began, still holding her gut – the woman obviously excited. "Just call him Rogue. Now to answer your question – unfortunately you are pretty much screwed if Rogue snags your wires or gets you in his hands!" The messy-haired Scout continued to laugh with the trainees looking at one another – startled by her words. "Of course, if you were ever to be captured by a regular titan, you would immediately hack their fingers off with your blades. If one were to grab your wires, there isn't a whole lot to do other than move quickly and disengage. But since the Scouts acquired Rogue, us getting grabbed is a rare thing! Of course, one must be ready if it occurs so the practices are still taught!" Hange spoke almost blissfully as she watched several of the trainees look at one another again before scrutinizing their surroundings, a girl pointing at a set of trees that he purposely scratched and damaged.
"Miss Hange, it looks like Rogue went that way!" The teen announced with the titan smiling mischievously to himself. To his unfortunate luck, Hange shook her head.
"Ah! But he didn't!" She chuckled. "If we were facing a mindless titan then the answer would be yes, but this is The Rogue Titan. That is a trap. That is where he wants you to think he went. Now look at the limbs to your left, you see how those high twigs have been severed?" Hange pointed with the others following her finger. "There hasn't been any recent rain or strong winds go through here and a squirrel wouldn't be strong enough to snap those branches. Therefore, our target went in that direction!"
Rogue lifted his head in alarm. As he expected, Hange figured him out. His original plan was for a team to go through his trap so he could surprise them from behind. No matter. He always had another plan – a practice he always did after the first attempts of the Scouts trying to capture him in Maria. He would just move on ahead and pick them off. As the small party began to gather their bearings and take to the air, Rogue lifted himself out of his position and quickly sulked deeper into the forest – looking for the perfect place to hide. After several minutes of searching, the titan came to a broad tree that was neighbored by several tight knit trunks of other trees on one side – forbidding any trainee to sail through them. Knowing what to do, Rogue smoothly slipped behind the large trunk and waited, his body incredibly alert.
Tapered ears twitched, listening to the characteristic 'whoosh' the gears made as the humans flew through the forest. Rogue's eyes narrowed in determination. They were getting closer. Their invisible wings beat louder and louder, signaling that they were gaining ground. The titan nodded to himself and prepared, lifting a hand – poised to strike like a snake. Green eyes watched as Hange flew by, completely unaware of his position. A trainee trailed her close behind followed by another and another. From counting them earlier, Rogue knew that there were nine in total, just two more soldiers left. An eighth cadet passed him and Rogue got ready, eyes locked on the scene in front of him. Then, a cable cut through the air, the titan quickly reaching out and snagging it in his fingers. The trainee it was attached to yelped as he swung a teenage boy from his designated path before yanking the cable backwards – pulling the boy into his palm like the toy he had seen called a yo-yo. Rogue carefully wrapped his fingers around the petrified teen, green eyes shifting to look at the trainee with an incredibly menacing glare. The titan grumbled – the throaty sound only making the teen tremble further – the male nearly biting off his lip as beads of sweat rolled down his face. Rogue let out a strong jet of steam through his nose – the action nearly making the boy scream. With his plan initiated, Rogue slowly uncurled his fingers so the trainee could simply dangle from his grasp by cable alone. In a way, he almost felt bad for the teen, knowing he was the first to be caught by him and he probably felt beyond embarrassed. Yes, he most certainly was shamed, Rogue able to smell the hint of piss that still lingered upon the teen from earlier – one of the many that had wet themselves during his main entrance. Slowly, Rogue lifted a single finger to his mouth, telling the male that he had better stay silent without so much a word – the action itself spooking the teen further. After giving the teenage trainee one last look of terrorization, the titan quickly hurled the boy up into the canopy, resulting in the male hanging from the branches like a marionette. Rogue nearly smiled as he turned and lightly jogged in the opposite direction of Hange's squad. This was already shaping up to be quite fun.
"Hey! Where's Claude?" Rogue heard one of the cadets shout behind him, the titan not looking back at the group who was likely looking at one another and their surroundings in fear.
"He's not behind us!"
Rogue kept running, picturing Hange looking over her shoulder in alarm, but then a devious smile crossing her features.
"What a clever beast you are!" He heard her mutter. "It's Rogue, he's most likely already hung your friend in a tree somewhere along the way!"
The behemoth beamed, turning to go further south on his original intended path. To up the ante, Rogue parted his teeth and released an unworldly howl – an invitation to the perusing group. He could practically hear them abruptly change direction.
"He's heading deeper into the forest! Follow him!" Hange ordered with Rogue nearly huffing in amusement.
Going through a stretch of timbers that shaded the floor from the light, Rogue dipped behind a large tree once again – hand poised like a serpent as it was before. After he caught another trainee, he would proceed to allow them to let their guard down – just to give them a sense of false hope before he would make the punishing move. He would make quick work out of the trainees, all of them. Once only their leader was left, as Shadis told him beforehand, their squad would be out of the running – their temporary commanding officer tasked with helping free his or her party. After everyone was together again, he would drop the act and return to his warm and welcoming self. Oh how he couldn't wait to look upon the cadets' faces once that transpired.
As she shouted orders, Hange flew past him along with seven other trainees, still unaware that he was lurking just in the shadows. Sensing the eighth member of their posse, Rogue reached out to snag a teen's wire and quickly tossed her into the canopy before she could register what hit her. Unlike the boy that was too consumed by fear to scream, the teen currently tangled up in the branches of a pine shrieked – alerting Hange and the others right as he charged straight forward at full speed.
"What the hell! He's behind us!"
"Miss Hange! Rogue is charging at us!"
"He's coming at us at full –
The teen couldn't finish as Rogue forcefully pushed his way past the squad to run ahead of them, green eyes glancing back – taunting the team to take their shot.
"Shit! He's playing with us!"
Hange laughed. "Ah! He is isn't he! Well – we can certainly play that game as well!"
Rogue blinked in confusion at Hange's words. What did she mean by that? The titan glanced over his shoulder once more. What had she meant? Why were they suddenly hanging back? Then, it hit him. Knowing what they had planned, Rogue quickly turned his head to face forward just in time – seeing Armin's team heading straight toward him, four trainees in which were holding the cable of another to form a large 'x' that was considered a makeshift net. Acting on complete instinct, the titan stopped and bent over backward mere seconds before the cables could make contact with his face. Arching his spine, Rogue planted his palms into the ground and quickly began to pull his leg over his head with the other still following. Although he was surprised by his maneuver, the others were even more so, but the titan quickly got his bearings and saw an opportunity with his keen instincts blossoming in the moment. Spreading his toes of his right foot, Rogue managed to grasp the crossed cables of the four soldiers. As his left foot came in contact with the earth, Rogue began to correct himself again as he swung his right leg upwards and released the four trainees into the unforgiving trees. The titan roared in triumph at his accomplishment that shocked the two flocks of humans as he charged forward again but not without catching two more trainees in his fingers and sending them into the canopy as well before racing further ahead. Hange and Armin had most likely met up before he made contact with the messy-haired woman's squad. They had to have planned to work together for the sake of having an advantage. He could only assume that Mikasa and Nanaba had combined their teams as well or perhaps Armin's team had just decided to intervene because there was an opening. The titan looked over his shoulder, quickly counting that there were eleven soldiers including the two Scouts perusing him at the moment. Four including Armin for his group and Seven including Hange for her group.
Rogue couldn't help but grin. He would disable them swiftly.
"What! You didn't tell us he could do that!" A trainee accused, Armin fumbling over his words.
"I actually… didn't know he could do that either. I underestimated him." His little one continued to dither, his cheeks likely flushing.
"Hey he caught us by surprise as well!" Hange laughed. "Let's continue our efforts! We need to get him stationary before the other teams do!" Hange agreed, her words confirming that she and Armin's squad decided to team up – something that Shadis never made a rule about so it was fair game. Their move was certainly calculative, but his reflexes and luck had saved him.
Rogue sharply turned through the trees, watching as their trunks gradually began to shorten. Since they were together and most likely plotting their next execution for capture, he would head to the natural trap that he had in mind. It would suit him perfectly – plus he would be giving a small and very abrupt lesson to the trainees about combat in open spaces. He was positive that Shadis and his own superiors would appreciate his surprise lecture.
The titan thundered along, his rapid pace making every natural structure quiver like someone in winter's chill. He rotated his ears behind him, sensing that the two squads were still hot upon his heels – and there was still no sign of Nanaba or Mikasa's squads. Their scent was only faint, so they were in the opposite direction of the so called 'playing field' which gave him the chance to take down his current pursuers first. Rogue's massive bulk cut through the trees, the wide basin coming into view before him. As the trees peeled away, the titan leaped forward with a loud bellow, sailing down a sharp embankment before his large feet planted themselves into the dry earth. The ground seemed to ripple beneath him in mild seismic waves – upsetting the once quiet basin. Rogue slid to a halt, dust rising up around his toned legs. The circumference of the area was void of any usable trees, only small saplings and juvenile pines that could not bear the weight of a human. There were only patches of grass and a murky pond taking up residence in the basin. It was the perfect place for him to gain a huge advantage. It would be nearly impossible for a trainee to wrangle him successfully. The young and inexperienced teens had more of a chance in corralling an angry bull into its pen rather than defeating him.
Seeing the squads crest over the embankment and come to rest on the dry ground before him, Rogue took up a stance, feet spread apart, his one hand just below his breast and the other level with his face with fingers ready to grasp. His brows narrowed and the skin at the corners of his maw curling upwards, a silent dare. Emerald greens noticed Armin and Hange giving one another keen glances, knowing very well what he was planning. After his brawl with The Female Titan, the Scouts did have a few capture exercises in more barren settings to prepare for similar circumstances on future expeditions. Hange grinned, placing her hands upon her hips before elbowing Armin lightly – looking absolutely tickled and intrigued.
"Ah! Well trainees! You're in for a special treat! You are going to get a crash course on how to handle trapping a titan on flat terrain!" She cackled with the remaining teens looking positively fretful.
"Oh you heard right!" Hange practically sang. "You are going to learn how to entangle a titan without using trees or buildings as leverage!" Armin nodded.
"Hange's right. In this sort of circumstance, you have to be creative. Remember, your hooks are made of iron bamboo so they will penetrate and grip practically anything. Usually, a Scout always resorts to shooting their cables at the titan – the only tall thing on flat terrain so they can take the beast out. Of course, the basin is a bit forgiving in some spots." Armin hinted. True, they could utilize the basin's dirt walls, but their cables couldn't stretch as far to hook on the other side if needed.
Rogue growled deeply in his chest, giving the teens a sense that he was growing impatient. Hange nodded.
"Alright, Hans and Schmidt, we need to restrain his arms –
"Right!" The two older males replied strongly, obviously the type that tried to act tough to impress their peers, but seriously lacked in the talent department. The dark-haired male lifted a hand and shot a cable forth, the speed slow and the grapple off target – the metal barb heading for his face rather than the back wall, something that instantly startled the teen as soon as he pulled the trigger. Before metal could pierce flesh, Rogue's hand caught the cable and before the teen could even blink, the titan pulled the cadet from his feet and quickly tossed the male into the less than pleasant pond. His tapered ears flickered, sensing that the other soldier had somehow successfully latched onto the wall behind him. The click of the gear's trigger hit his eardrum, signaling that the second trainee had released his cable. Rogue nearly laughed at the attempt. With speed that one would not think possible for a giant, Rogue reached behind his shoulder and caught steel. Almost nonchalantly, the titan swung the cadet over his shoulder and back into his palm where he quickly lifted a cable to his mouth and bit through it – displaying the act slowly as a direct taunt before tossing the teen into a patch of trees just outside the basin. Rogue then let out a steamy sigh, looking back at the group with a completely unamused and somewhat irritated expression. If the two boys had listened to Hange's further explanation and orders, they would have known how to not approach him.
"If it's one thing you always do in the Scouts or in any other military branch, is that you always listen to your superiors and wait until they are finished!" Hange's voice echoed across the basin, a bit of her hidden madness escaping her façade in the slightest. If it was one thing Levi had told him, it was that Hange was terrifying when she was angry. Admittedly, he could see the truth in the Corporal's words.
Hange and Armin then quickly began to give orders, their hand signals at a minimum for it was likely that the cadets were not even familiar yet with some of the Scout's maneuvers which he was positive were things that the trainees were taught in the classes that his little ones mentioned. As best as they could, they tried to take to the air simultaneously, a few of the younger teens still obviously not used to the triggers and switches on the hilts. Rogue grew alert, tightened his stance as he prepared for them to make a move, keeping on his toes if he needed to suddenly turn or shift.
"Alright! As Hange said, go for his arms! Disable his hands! Don't make direct frontal attacks!" Armin commanded.
"Right!" Hange agreed. "Wilson and Frey, circle and bide! Use maneuver twenty-three!"
Rogue let out another daunting roar. He knew well what the maneuver was. The Scouts had used the code briefly when teaching themselves how to capture him during their own exercises. The titan wasn't sure why commands that he obviously knew were being shouted. As he was coming upon Hange just a few minutes earlier, he heard them go over several key moves. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the trainees were still just starting to get their feet wet. Although, the theory had definitely crossed his mind was that Shadis wished that his family could make the cadets fail the test on purpose just to give them quite an insight. He wasn't too sure on that yet, but it was starting to seem like this was just all Shadis's trick.
Two cadets began to circle him counter clockwise, cables imbedded into his flesh. Their faces were cad in nervousness, sweat beading upon their brows as they propelled themselves to loop around his triceps, biceps, and across his chest and back. They were slow and rather clumsy, their wires not wrapping tightly whatsoever. Usually, when the Scouts pulled the same trick to pin him, the cables were so tight that they sometimes cut into him. Rogue simply let the teens continue, realizing that they did not possess the high grade steel cables that the Scouts had but rather the standard that wasn't used for capturing large titans. Perhaps Shadis really did want them to fail on purpose with the idea that they were getting 'a taste of the real world' after all. With the teens' wires almost to their maximum length, and the cables dearly draping from his upper frame, Rogue made his move. The beast simply lifted his arms, muscles tightening – flesh bulging and undulating beneath the coils of steel that began to unravel like a frayed rope. His chest and back expanded as he angled his arms upward with a triumphant roar, snapping the lines completely and sending the two trainees skyward. Before they could fall to the unforgiving earth, Rogue incased their frantic bodies into his hands and sent them into the pond. Hange's cackling at the scene practically bounced off the walls of the basin.
"Remember! You must get your lines nice and snug so your target can't lift a finger!" The woman laughed. "Rogue is quite the hunk! Just a flex of his muscles snapped your cables with ease! And you allowed him to do so! Speed must also be kept in check! Not only do you have to be fast enough to avoid being a titan's victim, you have to go at a high enough velocity to get your lines good and tight!"
Armin then began to give more orders, many of the teens looking at him for direction, another thing that was never to be done – taking your eyes away from your opponent, especially when said target was a titan. Sure, it was fine to do so for a split second but only if one kept their ears peeled for them as well. The trainees were focused solely upon Armin, not even monitoring him. To show them the error of their ways, Rogue pivoted and snagged a cadet's cable as it was aimed for the limestone, roughly pulling the yelping teen through the air, Rogue swinging her over his shoulder before bringing her back down to the ground and releasing, the creature sending the cadet to roll upon the dirt with her cables pulled far beyond usage. The cadet sat up, looking absolutely dazed and decorated in scratches and scuffs, but otherwise fine. The poor thing had no idea what had hit her.
"Remember! You must keep your eyes upon a titan at all times when you are currently engaging with one! Be vigilant! Never let your guard down!"
Of course, even as Hange addressed them the warning, Rogue took advantage of another unsuspecting cadet, lifting a finger to a cable to throw the trainee off their route – the exhaust guiding them to his awaiting hand rather than the comfort of a rock. With no effort, Rogue tossed the male into the waiting branches of a tree before searching for another victim.
"There's two more of you that's been taken out because of your lack of awareness!" Hange scolded. "You've spent too much time attempting to pin his arms. Remember, your opponent is smart. Smarter than any other titan. Change up your tactics! Rogue knows what you are going for and he can predict your movements! You have to be a little dirty! Wiley!"
Rogue released another bone rattling roar of challenge, hoping to entice them to their own defeat. Knowing that the trainees would be going by Hange's words, he knew where they would aim for next. Rogue nearly smiled as he caught Armin making a particular movement with his hand – one that silently gave command. Ah yes, he would take them out here.
The sound of a cable cut through the air, the long string of steel having been shot straight in front of him to the adjacent wall – the cadet intending on cutting in front of him. The titan nearly huffed. It was a mere distraction. As the cadet pulled their secondary triggers to propel themselves to the other side, Rogue made his move. The titan slammed his hand down upon the cable, pulling the taught steel to the ground and launching the cadet high into the air in a great arch. With incredible skill, the titan reached out to catch the teen in his free palm and quickly tossed him underhandedly behind his back to deliver the cadet into the spongey bushes. Then, he felt what he had been waiting for – the sensation of a grapple imbedding itself in the flesh near the base of his spine. With great speed, the titan moved his arm to yank upon the chord just as he felt steel wrapping around his legs – two trainees circling his calves with one sailing just below his kneecap and the other running upon the dry and cracked earth. Rogue nearly huffed, knowing that the cadets were not expecting what was imminent. With another bellow erupting from his breast, the titan launched himself up into the air, bringing his knees to his chest. The world seemed to move in slow motion; the cadets' mugs were petrified with their mouths opening so wide they bore their throats as their coils began to fall from his skin, his fingers encasing them and pulling them away. Rogue's bulk then descended, his weight tremoring the earth and making the fauna shiver like frightened dogs. With the three humans in hand, Rogue stood up and gifted them to the pond before turning in search of any more foes only to find his little one and Hange standing a few meters before him with proud looks – the only survivors left.
Two down. Two to go.
Above the moans and groans of the defeated, the clap of Hange's hands echoed across the basin with Armin nodding in approval. The woman's lips then drew up into a devious smile before breaking out in laughter. "Ah! What an incredible display!"
A teen twisted in a nearby tree droned in aggravation. "This is fucking impossible. I think my gear is completely busted."
Hange only hummed in amusement. "Ah! But it was a wonderful learning experience for you! You have a little more know how than you did when you started. Of course, you have much work to do if you ever want to go up against a titan let alone one as skilled and as smart as The Rogue." She spoke rather proudly with Rogue nearly breaking character to smile in thanks at her compliment. Hange then turned to Rogue once again who continued to keep his determined and aloof façade, snorting and grumbling for good measure as he took one last look at the worn and disabled cadets who looked upon him with a mixture of respect and loathing. "Alright Rogue, Armin and I are going to take our battered and bruised teams back – so you know what to do." She beamed maliciously and in cunning.
Rogue nodded, affirming them with a rough grunt before standing straight and throwing his head back to sniff the air hungrily. He easily caught the scents of his next targets – Nanaba's squad the closest to him. Hearing more moans as the trainees tried to get to their feet, Rogue gave them another hard stare with the intention of proving and branding the message that he was the alpha in this setting. As Hange and Armin fired off their signal flares to announce their loss, Rogue released one final roar and quickly charged out of the basin to continue his hunt.
He continued to run, keeping his frame light and agile. Rogue sniffed every few seconds to monitor the squad's position. He was certainly gaining upon them for they were just up ahead and continuing on their own path – unaware that he was trailing them. Rogue hummed to himself in thought. It was certain now that this was all a trick by Shadis. Hange and Armin were commanding and giving orders to fresh cadets that were just getting the hang of things. If Shadis really wanted the trainees to succeed, he would have given them the right cables to bind him. It was a perfect execution on the man's part. Though they were set up to lose the battle, the cadets were learning skills they would need in the future through hands on experience. Shadis was also schooling them to face their fears as well as going through a lesson of humility. He was damn positive that his little ones and superiors were in on it as well. However, if this were truly the case, then why was he left out of such a heads up? Rogue's only answer was that Shadis was fully aware that he would win no matter what the situation was.
The forest had since changed since he left the basin. He was in a denser part of the territory. It could be described as strange and eerie. Although the sun was still present in the heavens, the wood was doused in a dark shade of green – the canopy so thick that barely any light pierced through. It was overpopulated with moss and ivy – fungi sprinkled here and there to decorate the fallen trees. Rogue's piercing greens practically glowed beneath the thick canopy, his legs pumping as he moved through with surprising grace. His nostrils flared and his pupils remained searching. He was a predator on the hunt, closing in on his catch. Nanaba's squad was nearly straight before him. To take them out quickly, the best way to go about it was a full on assault. After that, he would go for his little one's team.
Rogue hunkered down as moved, a tactic that the female titan had done to gain speed. The whirling of gears sounded among the deep green, the titan's lively emeralds catching glimpses of fleshy tones through the foliage. With his nostrils flaring, it was no doubt that it was Nanaba's entire squad. He then watched as the team veered in his direction – positioning right before him by several meters and having no idea that he was approaching. The titan's skin pulled upwards in a smirk, eyes igniting in determination. It was time to make his move.
With his heart pounding and thundering within his chest, blood circulating throughout his titanic frame, Rogue charged forward at an alarming rate. If it was always one thing that surprised him, it was just how fast he could go. Steam spilled from his mouth, pointed ears poised against his head while his legs pumped. Even though he had lightened both tissue and bone, his footfalls could still be heard, but only at the very last few seconds. The fact rang itself true as Rogue drew closer, the group of cadets going rigid. They could barely look over their shoulders in time.
"Shit! He's right –
Before the single warning could be finished, Rogue surged between two males and took hold of their cables, swinging them in a parallel loop before releasing them to the waiting branches of the trees. Without slowing, Rogue reached out to snag another cable, pulling another cadet into his hand and tossing them into the brambles. He could practically smell their panic now. If he had snuck up upon the Scouts, they would have instantly evaded him by expertly dodging and would judge his position as he judged theirs. In comparison, the cadets were like little fox pups coming out of the den and into the outside world for the first time. A fourth cadet who was almost too afraid to pull the triggers upon his hilts, completely frozen in his wake, quickly fell victim to his hunt – the titan abruptly grasping him and pulling his cables into his mouth to sever them before leaving the young teen to the pines and willows. Emerald hues focused ahead, seeing that only four remained, including Squad leader Nanaba who wore a look of complete surprise. Rogue roared, his cry shaking the trees and sending the young trainees into absolute terror. Catapulting them into a state of irrationality. The cadets shrieked, and caught in their heightened state, they fled off their designated path – ignoring an angry Nanaba who's orders fell on deaf ears. The titan didn't miss her glance at him however, he knew what she wanted and what she was going to do next. With a slight nod, Rogue then roared and charged after the featherless fowl with Nanaba following at a distance.
The three frightened trainees flew through the foliage, whimpering and sounding like frightened swine. Rogue charged after them, but soon realizing that the cadets could not have picked a more perfect place to gain an advantage and potentially lose him. The trees, although not the giant kind that grew in his forest, had trunks as thick as his fingers and were incredibly dense, seemingly growing just a few feet apart from one another. The many spruces and pines acted like a large cage with wooden bars, his frame easily becoming wedged between a cluster. The teens flew further ahead, looking over their shoulders nervously, speed slowing – not sure whether or not to take the opportunity and engage in trying to capture him. Rogue howled, his bellow jarring the shaky souls who had only paused to congregate on if they should act or not. If it was one thing his massive bulk and weight was good for – it was plowing down obstacles like this one. With another blood curdling bellow ripping from within his gut, Rogue threw his mass forward. The ground groaned at the roots and timber cracked and snapped as the creature lunged, trees breaking like toothpicks and splinters showering down to the forest floor like rain. At this, the cadets screamed a few decimals higher than he thought it would have possible for each of them as they scrambled to take off again. Rogue snarled, saliva spraying as he tore through the pines. Trees fell away, pelting the earth as he pushed through – bright green irises still locked upon his prey that he had to catch and defeat.
"Why couldn't have Shadis started us on a nice fake one!"
"This is insane! This is ridiculous!"
Rogue roared in pleasure as he continued his pursuit, plowing down timbers with the cadets scarcely avoiding them by the skin of their teeth. The titan pushed himself through the narrow passages and barreling through natural barricades, moving so quickly through the dense foliage that the cadets could practically feel his hot breath. The tightly knit trees then began to thin, giving Rogue the first opening to snatch his prey. With another beastly holler, the titan reached out between the pines and swiped at the cables of the trailing cadet – only to miss by a few inches and for his nails to dig into a neighboring evergreen, leaving large and deep gashes that would make anyone sick at the thought of the titan's sharp nails gouging flesh. Rogue snarled at his failure and with an extra thrust, the beast burst from the natural prison only to swipe at the same trainee yet again and succeed in wrapping his fingers around their traumatized body. Quickly, he pulled their cables to his teeth and cut steel before carefully dropping the trainee to the berry bushes. Rogue nearly smiled. Just two left in Nanaba's squad. The titan knew she was watching and he could practically feel her satisfaction with the job he was doing.
The titan motioned on, trying to make up lost ground. The cadets before him were fleeing at top speed, certainly using quite a lot of gas that was needed to propel them through the air. If they ran out, by default, he would automatically claim victory. He would make sure that would not happen. After all, where was the fun in that? Roaring once again for his own amusement and to intimidate the young teens further, Rogue mentally kicked himself into high gear. The titan's speed increased, nostrils flaring and absorbing scents that made him naturally want to stop and investigate. However, the scent and sight of his prey kept him poised and set in the art of his hunt.
"Damn! Nanaba is going to be so pissed we left her! We had one rule and we broke it Klaude!"
"Shut up! I know we fucked up, but… shit! Shit! SHIT!"
The titan continued on, the dark forest thundering around him. His legs flexed, muscles showing themselves off and pushing him further in his advance. Rogue growled deeply, the cadets only a few meters from him, but most definitely within striking distance. The titan then poised a hand, eyes hooked upon the unfortunate trainee nearest to him. Rogue then swung his arm in a wide but fast arch with the intent on capturing the trainee within his palm. However, before the young male could meet the folds of his tough skin, the cadet let off his triggers and allowed his body to freefall for a short distance before the teen pulled the triggers once again to speed ahead. The titan grumbled. A lucky dodge. A lucky dodge indeed.
The chase prolonged. The titan growing more and more eager to end the efforts of Nanaba's squad. The two remaining trainees were holding their own for the time being, running mostly on their own adrenaline. Neither were thinking rationally, minds only fogged with fear. It was something that would work to his advantage. From experience, Rogue knew that man didn't think well under extreme pressure. The more he thought about that fact though, the more that he realized that he was sometimes the same way. In this situation however, he was the hunter – mainly the hunter.
His footsteps echoed among the wood, the landscape opening up into a marsh – the forest floor suddenly being covered in shallow water that was home to many of the frog creatures that he knew of as well as other scaly creatures. Normally it would be serine, the dim sunlight peeking through the leaves to glitter upon the water in the dark forest – but with his weight and thundering steps causing the liquid to ripple and spooking all life around them, it was no longer that. Rogue growled deeply. The marsh presented a new and very difficult obstacle; that being the muddy bottom of the bog that would certainly slow him down only to give the cadets a huge opening. He knew instantly as the two teens flew into the marshland and water began to swarm around his feet that he would have to end it now. Otherwise, he could be in trouble.
Rogue roared as he sprinted as fast as he could through the water, kicking up damp earth and creating waves. He kept himself as light as possible, somehow avoiding to sink too deeply. Green eyes were set onto his opponents. He could get them. He HAD to get them. The cadets swooped low, obviously trying to conserve gas by trying to use what Armin described as either the thing called 'inertia' or 'gravity' to aid them. His nostrils flared, heart pounding as he examined his surroundings further, taking notice of what was before him. Dead ahead was a large and wide rock that hung over a sharp drop-off where the marsh continued. Rogue's eyes looked to the trainees, now knowing why they were flying low. The two teens must have figured that with them as low as they were, it would be hard for him to swipe at them upon leaping from the cliff. Rogue's eyes narrowed in determination. The trainees had no idea that they had just set him up to perform the one move that he knew would scare the hell out of them. It was something he had worked diligently on and he could perform it whenever a soldier was in the right position. Granted, he didn't like thinking about the move because it was quite vile and induced some polarizing thoughts, but in the right situation it would be necessary. In the very position, it was the perfect move to turn the tides of the particular battle at hand – and the best one he could use to damage even their soul.
He just hoped that he didn't miss – or worse.
Instinct took hold, the titan getting in touch with his hounding instincts as he watched the cadets sail over the rock. Rogue roared and dropped down to race after them on all fours knowing the angle that he needed to be. If it was one thing that Hange had said about him upon studying him during their expeditions and in Stohess, is that he could surprisingly run very well on both his hands and feet and was quite agile and fast. It was another thing that she suspected that his breed was adapt at doing as well if it was needed. Rogue pushed himself further, hands and feet bracing against anything firm to force him faster through the mud. Emerald eyes observed the trailing cadet, the world before him seemingly in slow motion and allowing him to focus and judge on the position of the trainee. Incredibly keen, Rogue prepared himself as his hands met stone.
"Yes! We're home free! There's no way he can –
The boy's words faded and fell silent as his eyes beheld what was transpiring. As he met the edge of the rock, Rogue thrust himself into the air with a powerful kick – looking not unlike a pouncing cat after a bird. The titan then opened his jaws as wide as possible, his teeth cresting over the cadet and the teen roughly tumbling onto his tongue. The beast's incisors and molars came down in a distinctive 'clack' over the trainee who was far too frightened to even screech a single plead. Rogue withered in distaste at the feeling of the human upon his tongue, simply because he knew the act was foul and reminded him all too much of his kin's diets. Sure, Hange, Levi, and Armin had climbed around in his mouth to either clean or experiment, but it always made him feel uneasy. To ensure, that he didn't accidentally swallow the teenager, Rogue moved his long tongue to the back of his throat before pushing the trainee up against the front of his maw – the boy protesting by punching and kicking everywhere he could inside his mouth. The titan then impacted the earth, the ground shuttering upon landing and throwing the murky water of the marsh onto the banks. Still standing upon his hands and feet, Rogue continued to try and restrain the panicked cadet with his tongue – trying not to gag or show discomfort as the human thrashed around the inside of his mouth. His ears fidgeted, nostrils flaring and making him aware that the other cadet that he had been perusing was stone still in the marsh. Remembering to keep up his act, Rogue breathed lowly, making sure to inhale and exhale raggedly. Ever so slowly, he lifted his head with a narrowed and fearsome stare at the other teen who had amazingly stopped upon a fallen log that arched over the cloudy water. Rogue growled deep in his chest, the boy's body was stiff with his face fixed in a mixture of shock and horror. The teen appeared as if he was looking at the incarnate of death itself.
The human only continued to cower, the odor of his perspiration sweeping through the creature's nostrils. The unmistakable smell of fear. He had the cadet right where he wanted, too calcified to move. Slowly, Rogue lifted a hand from the water and prowled forward, making sure to keep himself nearly at eye level with the boy. The titan's growls reverberated through the bog, the creature's eyes dark and intimidating with pupils as thin as paper. His shadow and form rose ominously over the teen, the other cadet's cables still dangling from his mouth – the sight menacing.
"Oh…oh… god… he… ate him. I'm… gonna…I'm dead." The trainee muttered as Rogue came to a stop over him, the titan watching as the cadet's pants grew wet. The beast satisfied at the response, but he was to take it one small step further.
Rogue let a deep rumble vibrate through his throat as he clenched his powerful jaw, severing the cables dangling from his maw, the move itself made the cadet drop to his rump and place his hands over his head, cowering and whimpering. The teen looked at him, pupils shrunk and trembling to the bone. Rogue then decided that the display had gone far enough, the titan gurgled and parted his teeth to spit out the other trainee who landed in the murky water covered in thick saliva – the teen too petrified as well to scream or move, the boy only staring up at him in shock. The two trainees continued to glower, completely speechless as Rogue kept his hard glare while he reached and pulled the able cadet's cable from the bark of the rotten log and brought it to his teeth. They did nothing but watch as Rogue clamped down on the tough steel to render it useless and thus defeat Nanaba's squad.
"What… the –
"Well now, it looks like we were bested." Rogue looked up to see the familiar blonde Section Commander sail down from the canopy and land upon the log. "Wonderful work, Rogue." Nanaba smiled up at the behemoth, the titan nearly wiggling his ears in thanks but settling for a rough grunt instead – making sure to keep in character. "You surprised us." She spoke kindly, but demeanor changing as soon as she looked upon the two trainees, Nanaba's eyes narrowing in utter irritation and distaste. "Now, I hope this serves as a prime example to the two of you. You must always listen to your Commander! If you had, you would have heard me devise and execute a plan to avoid a loss and gain a win. When out in the field, you can't let fear rule you! You must stay as level headed as possible and use your brain so to not make any rash decisions!" Nanaba practically scolded them, folding her arms against her chest. "You two have a lot of work to do."
Rogue only gave a brief nod in agreement with Nanaba, making sure to keep his façade serious. When he was alone in Maria, he had seen far too many fresh soldiers succumb to extreme terror and lose their life because they let panic corrode their poor souls. Of course, now that the Scouts had him on their team, every time it was envisioned that they were facing his kin upon an expedition, they seemed less shaken and alarmed. Dare he say, they looked as if they felt utterly safe with him. But of course, with the breech in recent years and the arrival and confrontation of The Female Titan, they were allowed to worry. They had to be on their toes and ready for anything.
"Well Rogue as far as –
The titan didn't bother to listen to her sentence as the whirling of gears could be heard echoing through the marsh. He lifted his head, ears rotating as he twisted around and began to survey like prey looking for a hunter, the roles within their very game suddenly reversed. It was the clear beating of translucent wings – Mikasa's squad was coming, most likely after having heard the commotion that he had brewed. Green eyes focused back on Nanaba who returned his knowing gaze with a nod.
"You know what to do."
At her words, the titan replied with a sharp grunt and got to his feet, quickly stepping over the log to race back into the deep forest and leaving several petrified and soiled cadets behind.
Looking over his shoulder, he watched and listened as a signal flare rose out of the canopy – having been fired by Nanaba to project their defeat. With his ears rotating, he could sense that Mikasa and her squad were right behind him. It was the last group and he wanted to take them out quickly. Any moment they would be showing their faces.
As if right on cue, leaves rustled as his little one and several trainees emerged from the green. Mikasa wore a look of fortitude while the cadets, as he predicted, looked mortified knowing what they were about to get into. Rogue faced forward yet again. There was a big difference besides genders between his Armin and Mikasa. Armin was an excellent organizer and planner. In battle, Armin plotted every movement he made. Mikasa on the other hand took a more straightforward approach when it came to combat. She nearly did everything head on. Needless to say, as far as commanding a squad, she wasn't well suited for such a thing. Mikasa and the cadets would more than likely come straight at him in an assault which was the worst thing they could do.
And he knew the perfect way to take them down.
With the skin at the corners of his maw pulling back into a smirk, Rogue bellowed – inviting the challenge as he suddenly sidestepped and veered to his left. There was one place he had noticed on his way into the grounds that would be perfect to execute a takedown.
"Quick! He's heading left! V formation!"
Rogue carried on, feet pelting the earth and gusts of steam pouring from his teeth which would utilize for later with what he had devised. Another key thing that gave him the upper hand was that he was going to do something that even his Mikasa had not seen. The only downfall was that he had one shot at it. He would lead them into a sense of false security and then strike. Suddenly, the trees parted in an abrupt manner and the ground fell out before him into a sharp hill. The titan could barely react in time, digging his heels into the rocky ground as he slid down the embankment toward a wide dirt path at the bottom that sliced through the wood. Sharp rocks threatened to cut into his feet as Rogue finally skidded onto the dirt road, surprising a wagon carrying food supplies at the bottom that he narrowly avoided crushing – completely spooking the horse and driver who's cart nearly overturned as they scrambled from his wake. Knowing they were fine, Rogue continued onward, looking over his shoulder to see Mikasa's squad sharply turning to trail him, several of the trainees struggling to keep their bearings. His little one though, still wore her fierce look of resolve.
"Harper and Hans! Sweep in from below and curve around to snare his ankles!"
"Yes, Section Commander!" The two teens acknowledged as they broke from their formation and attempted to gain on him, shakenly flying low. Mikasa was certainly clever with her particular approach, but her followers under her command were just getting their feet wet. With a devious smile coming to his malformed face, Rogue leaped sharply to his right yet again and began to quickly scale back up the steep and rocky embankment. Boulders flipped and overturned as he made his accent, the cadets swerving and swinging in all directs to avoid the debris. He then crested over the cliff and stood to charge again upright – heading right for the particular destination that he had in mind. His tapered ears twitched, monitoring as Mikasa and the cadets approached him again. As his little one had ordered before, the two cadets she had named angled themselves low, their shaky breaths not going undetected. Rogue's keen eyes watched as the pair of teens got on each side of him, just a few feet from the ground. They were certainly aiming to trip him. One of the trainees then failed to give his gear enough gas, forcing him to falter and run haphazardly upon the ground – the cadet soon tripping and rolling over and over until he was tangled in his own wires. The titan nearly tweeted at the result, one more future soldier was down and he didn't have to exert himself to aid in his defeat. Quickly deciding to narrow down the final posse a bit further, Rogue abruptly bent and swiped the other low flying cadet from the air and tossed him into the brambles. The titan could practically hear Mikasa growling at the blow to her team, but quieting as she most likely remembered the true plan at play.
He thundered along, trees growing less and less dense and the earth becoming harder and dryer, a sure sign that he was getting close and hopefully a sign that the exercise would soon be finished.
"He's headed for the canyon!"
"It's a dead end! We'll cut him off there!"
Rogue only grinned to himself. That was what they thought of course.
"Keep on him! We'll take him there!"
The landscape then opened up into a more barren and elevated one. Trees tore away to reveal reddened dirt and high cliffs that clearly displayed layer upon layer of sediment. Looking up, Rogue was able to determine that the canyon's walls were at least thirty meters, just high enough for him to utilize them in his plan. The titan charged through, paying no mind to the low and dried grass and the few supplies that sat about. It was likely that the trainees used this place for flying as well by learning how to do basic maneuvers. They knew this area well enough that it apparently led into an end where they were certain they could corner him – if he wasn't careful of course.
Dust flew around them, rocks quivering as he ran by and falling from their roosts. Rogue curved around a bend, following the only trail. It was then that he spied the dead end ahead. It was almost time to make his move.
"The intersect point is straight ahead! Keep formation! Speed up and gain ground!" Mikasa yelled as Rogue's eyes narrowed in determination. By the tone of her voice, he could tell that she was befuddled. She was utterly confused.
The behemoth charged forward, ears filling with the whirling of gears as he drew closer. Rogue glanced behind him, seeing that Mikasa's team was still in what the Scouts called V formation. Perfect. Green eyes narrowed. Twenty meters left.
"We're closing in!"
"Get ready to engage!"
"There's nowhere for him to run!" A cadet cheered. "We've got him! He can't do anything else!"
Rogue's feet thundered, the titan letting out a loud bellow. He was about to prove them wrong. Very, very wrong. The beast inhaled, letting his lungs fill to their maximum capacity before exhaling a vast and steamy cloud that shrouded them in a hot and opaque fog. The cadets behind him were instantly overwhelmed, breaths hitching and hearts surely pounding in their chests.
"Miss Mikasa –
"Keep flying! This is a defensive technique he uses! Be prepared! Rogue may turn and charge straight through us!"
"Wh – Section Commander –
Ten meters. It was time. Just as his temporary cover began to thin, vapors drifting away, Rogue put his plan into action. The creature launched himself to his left, placing his foot onto the steep rock surface before launching himself upwards toward the rock face to his right in one fluid motion, leaving the earth shaking more than ever.
"What the hell!"
Rocks slid as the titan arched his body, turning as he leaped once again to get airborne. Everything seemed slowed, the world almost still. His muscles flexed and loosened as he twisted his bulk, eyes locked onto his completely stunned prey. Rogue lifted his arm from his side and swung through the fading mist as he descended. In one solid swipe, his hand captured the cables of the trainees with Mikasa only ducking within a fraction of a second to curl around his outstretched limb. The titan's bulk then crashed down, the beast landing on his feet and a single hand. The earth quaked, cracks tearing through the clay and rock, upsetting the landscape around him. The world then grew silent and still. Rogue heaved a breath, blinking his third eyelids to clear any possible particles. Quiet and raspy whimpers like those of puppies met his ears, making the creature become aware of his catch. Rogue gradually lifted himself to sit upon his knees and raised his hand to his face, holding the lines of all the terrified cadets. Keeping in character as he was ordered, Rogue rumbled deeply in his chest, giving his shaken audience a rough growl – one to project his dominance. His vocal only made them shutter further and provoked a few tears and the odor of urine to resurface. The titan snorted and adapted a somewhat aloof look as he stood. The match was over and Shadis's demands were certainly met.
"Well, that's certainly a new one, Rogue."
Feeling a light weight land upon his shoulder, the titan turned his head to see his little one giving him a slight smile, stroking his neck as she began to catch her breath. He nearly nuzzled her, but only grunted at the compliment. Mikasa then set her eyes onto the dangling trainees in his hand, her face riddled with judgement as she bit down onto her lip.
"They definitely are rough around the edges, but I'm not too good of a Section Commander yet. Armin is certainly suited for the role. I bet he lasted longer than I did." Mikasa chuckled softly. "This is a new record for you, twenty-five minutes flat. I'm sure Shadis will be enthused." Mikasa patted his cheek with the other trainees watching in absolute confusion – baffled by the sight of a beast and a girl exchanging a form of communication. "You did a good job as usual, Rogue." She smiled. "Now how about we head back to the grounds? I'm sure that everyone is in route to it."
Rogue gave a sharp nod and got to his feet, casually slinging the cadets over his shoulder and behind his back like one would carry a sack of flour. Mikasa then took a seat and held a lock of his hair as they went along at an easy pace, Rogue making sure to keep his disgruntled mood. Secretly, he looked to Mikasa and smirked, giving her a cunning wink – a gesture that he knew humans did when they wanted to secretly convey something. His little one beamed tenderly at him, patting his cheek yet again and looking back at the helpless cadets.
"The laundry department is certainly going to be busy"
At her statement, Rogue couldn't help but to give a huff in agreement.
The grounds finally revealed themselves after his short trek. The yard was bathed in midday's light – making Rogue forget that he had been woken at dawn by an early sun and by the number of errands he had already run. The commanding officers were neatly standing with Shadis and Alois who were alerted at his arrival by the sound and vibration of his steps. Shadis crossed his arms behind his back and kept his stern and impassive gaze as he looked from the titan to Mikasa and to the titan again. Rogue grunted a rough greeting and pulled the cadets from behind him to hold up in display, Shadis giving him a curt nod in satisfaction.
"Good work, Jaeger. Twenty-five minutes flat. Incredible." The man complimented gruffly. Rogue acknowledged the praise and lowered the trainees to the ground, dropping them from at least three feet from the soil to further project his arrogant persona. "You may take a seat now as we wait for the other maggots to get here." Shadis continued with Rogue complying. The Sargent then turned to Mikasa. "So, what is your assessment Ackerman?"
"Well Sir, they certainly need to improve their skill in quick and complex maneuvers if they ever want to join the Scouts – or graduate for that matter." Mikasa replied darkly.
"I see." Shadis simply replied. "It looks like there is work to be done." The man continued, his gaze boring into the cadets, his eyes absolutely intimidating. Rogue simply breathed cavernously in agreement. He couldn't wait for Shadis to reveal everything.
After several minutes, one by one, the other teams emerged from the woods. The trainees looked beaten and worn. Several of them were covered in bruises, small cuts, and many of them had twigs tangled in their locks. Their uniforms were dirty, graced with grassy stains, dirt, mud, some were soaking wet, and of course there were the many that had pants stained with excrements. Numerous teens collapsed onto their rears and knees in upmost exhaustion. Rogue grunted at his handiwork, hunching his shoulders a bit to glower deeply at the trainees who looked up at him in incredible unease, some of their cheeks red in embarrassment.
"Looks like you got Mikasa's team as well, Rogue." Nanaba beamed artfully at him. "Nice work."
He snorted in response and looked to Hange and Armin who only glanced at him, the blonde exchanging a wink as Mikasa did before. Rogue couldn't help but feel excited at the twist that was about to be spilled, but the titan was sure to keep his grizzly demeanor, brows lowered and appearing irritated and all around like a true beast with his guttural breaths. Shadis then cleared his throat.
"ALRIGHT YOU WORTHLESS WORMS! LINE UP! IT'S TIME FOR YOUR ASSESMENT!" Shadis began, shaking up the trainees and forcing them to scramble as best as they could to get into their same lines that they had before. Like a hawk, the seasoned man watched as the trainees attempted to get their bearings, shaking like little leaves as they stood in their spots. For a long moment, Shadis continued his hard stare before heaving a heavy breath again. "Section Commander Nanaba, your team as well as the others have clearly failed this exercise, but what do you say about your squad?"
"They clearly need work. Some of them faired rather well since we were ambushed, but three of your cadets disobeyed my orders – one even freezing in fear at the sight of their comrade inside a titan's jaws. So my assessment is a poor one." Nanaba didn't hesitate.
Shadis dipped his head. "Section Commander Zoe and Arlert, from my understanding and from what I see, the two of your squads teamed up but still met defeat?"
"Yes." Hange answered, adapting the more serious side to her. "They need improvement in their skills as far as maneuvers that could be classified as complex go, but it's a start."
The Sargent only nodded and then turned back to the collection of teens, clearing his pipes once more. "WELL THEN! IT LOOKS LIKE YOU MAGGOTS NEED TO WORK YOUR ASSES OFF A BIT MORE! YOUR PERFORMANCES WERE PISS POOR AND THE LAUNDRY ROOMS ARE SURE TO BE BUSY THIS EVENING." Shadis paused, shoulders sinking in the slightest. "You lost, therefore there will be no exemplariness. However – this was the very plan from the beginning."
At their superior's words, rustles of whispers went through the upset trainees.
"What! You mean this was – it was deliberate?"
"He – wanted us to lose?"
"QUIET!" Shadis cut them off. "Yes. This was very advanced curriculum and your asses were set to fail from the beginning. As I said, this was a test of courage. It was to see how you would react when paired against a real titan – as well as for my own damn amusement. I expected nothing more. The Scouts were in on it as well as the rest of your superiors here."
"You've got to be kidding me." A cadet mumbled.
"Shadis – just wanted to see how we would react with a real titan?"
"He got us. He got us good."
Rogue watched as a slight smirk pulled at the Sargent's lips. The man then folded his arms, giving the behemoth a sideways glance. "You can drop the act now."
The titan's heart lifted into his chest, eager to see the cadets' responses to his previous display. Looking at them, they were very startled and rattled by the entire event. To coax them that he was not dangerous, violent, or vicious by any means he would simply go with his best display of welcome and warmth he could give. Gradually, to emphasize, Rogue relaxed every muscle in his face and then smiled his signature crooked grin with his eyes shut tightly in bliss – a rumbling purr escaping from his chest as he wiggled his ears. A few jaws dropped and many cadets were absolutely speechless.
"It's… it is –
Rogue peeled open his darkened lids and tilted his head this way and that with his ears erect and fluttering. "ELLO!" He gurgled, making the trainees nearly jump.
"He – talked!"
"Is he not –
"Oh my god! How… he's not –
The titan then began to grunt, trill, and chirp – speaking in an ape like language as he carefully brought his legs out from beneath him. Knowing that he wanted and needed to convey his trust and that he was truly upon their side, Rogue inherently took a submissive pose- flopping onto his side and curling to lay upon his back with his friendly and warm façade looking at his audience from the wrong way up. As ridiculous as it appeared, it was an instinctual need to Rogue. It was just a thing that came and felt natural to him. Although he expressed his dominance when the time came, he gave into the need of acquiescing quite a bit. In the past, he would bare his belly to his parents, his little ones when they were children, and to some of his family whenever he felt like it. Sometimes, even he himself found the practice rather odd, but he supposed, and Hange as well hypothesized, that the need was something native to his breed seeing that they showed far more animalistic traits than other titan species. If it was one thing he knew though – it was that he was giving into the act more often as of late, just like several other traits that were manifesting in recent time.
"I… I can't believe –
Rogue then rumbled as he rolled back over to his stomach and nuzzled his face into Mikasa, his loud purring felt through the feet of the trainees as his little one stroked the bridge of his nose to acknowledge the affectionate gesture. The creature then held up his head with a profound wiggling of his ears. At the show, Hange spiritedly came up to him and patted his neck, emitting her signature laugh.
"Ah yes! This is the true nature of The Rogue Titan that you see before you! He's fearsome and ferocious in battle but he's an angel around people if he finds a liking to you of course! Rogue is probably the most lovable individual that you'll ever meet!" The Section Commander described. "And probably the best actor as well." One by one, the teens' shoulders began to visibly relax and several smiles spread across their faces.
"The Rogue is friendly."
"Man, he has us fooled!"
"Of course." Alois began. "In order to give you a realistic but safe experience we had Rogue act a bit more monstrous. Now, after the necessary matters are taken care of, you will all be joining us again for a more in depth lesson on titan anatomy."
Shadis nodded. "I hope this exercise gave you maggots a proper view into the harsh reality of our enemy. In the field your asses do not get a second chance." The man stalled to let his words sink in. "NOW, RETURN TO YOUR BARRACKS AND CHANGE INTO MORE SUITABLE ATTIRE! ANYONE THAT HAS CLOTHES SOILED IN SHIT OR PISS REPORTS TO THE LAUNDRY FACCILITY AND THEN TO THE SHOWERS!" Shadis cleared his throat. "GOOD WORK TODAY CADETS, YOU LEARNED YOUR FIRST LESSON IN UNPRETENTIOUSNESS!"
The afternoon was crawling in and the courtyard was full of now clean and refreshed trainees. Benches had been placed in an orderly fashion with each cadet seated upon them with a pad of parchment in their laps, the majority taking notes with the few in the back doodling as Alois and Hange educated. Armin and Mikasa were sitting in as well but were more or less eating an early dinner. Rogue himself sat neatly with his legs folded in front of him. His purpose for attending was for Hange to use him to illustrate his unique features as well as the many that attributed to titans in general. During the past hour, Hange had of course been talking nearly non-stop. She would have him hold up his hands so the trainees could see his nails and compare their density and shape, blink to show them his third eyelids, show them the strands of his hair, demonstrate his ability to speak, and let the courageous feel his tough skin. The titan of course had grown bored as the minutes ticked by with Hange trailing off every so often to iterate a long lecture about one single aspect. Rogue let his attention drift to the rustle of the trees, letting his eyes follow the cracks in the ground, and what he was doing currently – picking the dirt and mud out of his toenails. In addition to his mix of daydreaming and fidgeting, there was another distraction that he looked at on occasion. In the time since 'class' began, a crowd of people from nearby towns and villages had come gaze and watch him, the spectators standing just behind a fence that bordered the grounds. Among them were farmers, parents and their overly excited children, and a few off duty soldiers who had come at the chance that they could see him up close. Rogue still found it strange and funny that humans were just utterly fascinated by him – children especially. When he looked over every once in a while, he would always catch a few boys and girls trying to imitate him as best as they could. It was truly amusing.
"And that explains why titans let out steam on occasion. It is to regulate their high body temperature." Hange worded. "Now Rogue, could you show the bottom of your foot to everyone?"
At his superior's avowal, Rogue snapped out of his current state and repositioned to sit loosely with Hange approaching the rather dirty appendage as he went back to plucking the dirt from him again.
"Compared to our own, a titan's skin on the bottoms of their feet is incredibly rough. In fact, the skin on the bottoms of their feet is the thickest anywhere on their body – thus serving as natural shoes if you will! A titan's feet are designed to withstand great amounts of weight and the many surfaces they step on – including sharp rocks. Even iron bamboo blades have a tough time cutting into them. Now, as for hearing and their sense of smell, titans are very acute in both senses – in Rogue's breed they are heightened even more so compared to the common titan. A titan's nose is much more effective than that of a bloodhound! They can smell a human from at least five miles and for Rogue that distance is at least ten! Titans can hear very well and can listen to a conversation from at least a mile or two away. Rogue's ears are an absolute marvel." Hange continued with Rogue feeling the need to look at the class and move his tapered features about. "As you can probably guess, Rogue's wonderful ears can hear things much better than a regular titan. They are truly that of a predator. They swivel and move to catch every sound, even the pitter patter of mice. Rogue's ears also are used as a form of expression. For example, wiggling them means that he's happy, folder over against his head means that he's angry, and when they are drooped it indicates that he's upset. Now, any questions before we move on?"
Amazingly, there were a few trainees that actually felt the need to raise their hands, the titan silently cringing knowing that he was going to be sitting even longer. Hange excitedly pointed to a blonde female.
The teen nodded and stood. "How old is Rogue exactly?"
"Ah! Going by results from a few blood tests, Rogue is a little over a hundred – close to the first recorded sightings of titans. As for an exact age, we're not sure. Now, you in the back there!"
"Are we getting quizzed on this?"
This time Alois cleared his throat. "Yes, the info will be included on the next exam, so be sure you are taking notes instead of drawing in your notepads." The man suggested, making the few that weren't listening freeze up at their error.
"Any more questions?" Hange asked again, pointing to another young female. "Ah yes! You then!"
The teen stood and cleared her throat, her body language giving away her shy demeanor. "I – was wondering this since I first saw it, but since he is wearing a collar does that mean you consider Rogue Jaeger as a pet of sorts?" The query nearly making the creature huff.
"Oh heavens no!" Hange laughed. "Indeed, Rogue does exhibit many animals like qualities, but the purpose of his collar is mainly for protection! It's sad to say, but there are still a select few people that would want to harm Rogue and could possibly get ahold of maneuver gear or any other effective weapon on the black market and attack Rogue. The collar shields his nape quite well since, as far as we know, he cannot harden his skin to protect said area. Back before Rogue became the celebrity that he is now, we used the collar when transporting him through Sina just to give everyone the idea that we had him fully under our control. But yes, we do not treat Rogue as if he were a dog. Like every member of the Scouts, he is a soldier and treated just as equally. He trains with us, does chores, and if he's ever disciplined, he is put on cleaning duty like anyone else." Hange smiled. "Yup, he's no pet!"
Hange proceeded to ask further questions before leading into one of her other complex theories that the titan couldn't possibly grasp. Instead, Rogue returned to picking the dirt out of his remaining nails, digging out clumps of moss and small pebbles – even grabbing organic material from them that he assumed he acquired from the marsh. For several minutes he continued his act of grooming, making sure that every piece of sediment that he could get to was free. However, as he attempted to dig out a sharp stone, the same feeling that he felt several hours before returned. The incredible feeling of unease that made his spine quiver. Rogue swallowed. Something – someone was watching them. Discreetly, as to not upset the class, the titan sniffed, discovering something that severely alarmed him. The scent was the very same one that he smelled before. It was the very same someone. Slowly, Rogue turned his attention to the civilians watching the undergoing lesson, his hair beginning to ruffle and stand as his heartrate heightened. Elfish ears pricked forward, worried eyes scanning every face. The creature assessed every aura, looking for anything that seemed as sinful as the one person he was looking for. Finally, time seemed to stop as his gaze fell onto a man that had immersed himself in the thickest part of the crowd. He was dressed completely in black; a trench coat covering equally dark pants, shirt, and boots. The man's hat was black as well and possessed a wide brim – one that covered the upper half of his face and only allowing Rogue to view his thin lips and short trimmed goatee. His blood chilled. Instinct was screaming at him to growl and ward him off now that he was in his view. But since he didn't want to startle everyone and provoke any negative outlook, Rogue held any threat he could possibly produce in.
Upon hearing Hange, Rogue abruptly pulled his attention away from the male and back to his superior and listening group who had paused the lesson at his lack of involvement. "ESS?"
"Are you alright Rogue?" Hange proceeded to quiz. "You were looking a bit distant."
Knowing that he needed to lead her and the others off, Rogue put on a lopsided smile. "EEII ANNN GOODD. JUUST OOKKINNG ATT KIIDS." He lied, wanting to bite his tongue. Hange only beamed at his reply, looking behind her to view the spectators.
"Oh yeah, it looks like a few kids are reenacting you aren't they Sweetheart?"
Rogue only nodded in agreement as they returned to the lecture. Once again, the titan looked into the crowd – only to see that the man was no longer there.
Steam leaked through the gaps of his teeth, soft glowing greens looking out over the grounds. Night had fallen over the trainees' territory. It was eerily quiet, only a few crickets chirping and a few illuminating insects sending their messages back and forth. In the cove. he was used to hearing all sorts of creatures in the evening that sometimes lulled him to sleep. In his new home, he was used to hearing the melody of the music box he once received as a welcome gift. Due to Hange going an hour over in her lesson, she and Nanaba thought it would be best if they stayed the night and departed in the morning. After trying to decide where he was to fall into repose, Rogue had finally settled to curl up next to the cabin that was used for guests and where Hange and Nanaba were currently sleeping. Feeling that it was a necessity, the titan had tried to craft some sort of a nesting area. Not wanting to make too much of a mess, he simply tilled the dirt a bit before curling up and waiting for his little ones who were currently still having a word with Shadis. The creature really wished to be home however. He was very uneasy.
Rogue sighed and lay his head upon his hands, eyes looking intensely at a dried weed, watching as a beetle struggled to climb it – the beast lost in thought. He could not pull his mind off the strange man that he saw just hours before and that morning. In his lifetime, as far as he could recall, he had never felt such a sense of apprehension when looking upon a person. Sure, he felt very nervous when watching Levi for the first time in the hunt, but this man was different. Like an animal, he could tell that this particular human had bad intentions. The man had some sort of negative interest in him, but the creature couldn't place as to what it was. Could it be someone who would have rather seen him dead? Was it someone that knew the three men he killed so long ago? He couldn't say. Rogue just knew that he did not mean well and it meant potential danger for him, his family, and his babies.
Rogue snorted quietly, watching as the gust of steam from his nostrils blew the beetle from a crinkled leaf and across the yard. He was struggling with the idea of telling his little ones about the mysterious man. Whenever he told them about something troubling, they would get very hyped up on their own nerves. Even when Hange had made a huge mistake in mistranslation, his little ones were struggling to function. So, telling them his suspicions about something that he knew nearly nothing about seemed like not the best idea at the present time. After all, since The Female Titan's appearance, the Scouts were already worrying of an attack by other intelligent titans looking to spill blood. Rogue blinked, biting his tongue as he continued to look for some sort of solution. Perhaps it would be best to tell Hange or better yet Levi about the man. He was certain that his superiors would know exactly how to handle the situation. Rogue was sure that they could understand if he chose not to let his little ones know about the man for personal reasons and that they would tell his babies if the time was ever right. It was the most logical thing he could think of in order not to plague his little ones with distress. Rogue nodded inwardly. Yes, that was what he was to do.
Upon hearing a voice that was undoubtfully Armin's, Rogue snapped his attention away from the dried weed and his thoughts to give his children a fatigued smile, realizing just how tired he was.
"Sorry we're late." The blonde continued on as the two teens positioned themselves to lay in the crook of his arm. "Shadis and Alois wanted to catch up with us. They are both pretty amazed with you, Rogue. For the first time ever, we saw Shadis actually expressing his softer side!"
The titan huffed at the compliment and leaned in to gift his little ones with a small lick upon their brows as an overdue greeting before nuzzling into them and purring softly. Being with them always helped his own nerves. Mikasa reached up to stroke his cheek.
"You did great today." He leaned into her touch further, ears still swiveling to see if he could pick up any indication that an unwanted pair of eyes was watching. Mikasa was silent for a moment before clearing her pipes. "So Rogue, what were you thinking about before Armin and I got here? You looked like you were deep in thought."
"Yeah Rogue, you looked quite reserved."
Rogue nearly froze at the query, but managing not to lose his composure. "JUUSTT…TIINKING ABBOUTT HOONE." He lied, thankful that it was dark for his ears were likely red.
Armin tittered softly and patted his arm. "Homesick huh?" The creature nodded, letting out a whine for emphasis. "Well, we'll be back just before lunch so no need to worry. Everyone is going to be glad to see you."
Rogue only nodded in agreement and nuzzled into their bodies once again, glad that they had overlooked the real reason for his intense pondering. For several minutes, it was quiet between the three of them – their eyes looking up at the stars of the clear night sky. As the creature tried to make out shapes and connect the glowing white dots, Armin opened his mouth the break the silence.
"So Rogue, what was the deal about the bear you wanted? Mikasa and I forgot to ask you." The teen smiled with Mikasa nodding.
At the question, Rogue lifted his head and allowed the happy memory to flood his mind. "WEENN CUURRLLA CAANNE TTOO VISSITT NEE FOORR FFIIRRTT TINNEE ENN NYY COVVE… SHEE BRIINGG NEE BEEARR ASSS GIIFF. DAA BEEARR LOOOKEDD DAA SAANNEE ASSS BEEARR EIII GOTT TOODAYY." He explained, beaming softly. His little ones smiled, laughing in the slightest.
"Ah, so the bear we found today in the market was identical to the one Carla gave you as your first present!" Armin clarified with Rogue dipping his head in confirmation. "You wanted it for sentimental reasons didn't you?"
Not really knowing what the term 'sentimental' meant, Rogue only nodded and yawned with his tongue curling before letting his head drop next to his little ones – eyelids fluttering as he was completely spent. Still, he looked at his little ones with a half lidded gaze, waiting to see if they had more to say. Mikasa rubbed his cheek again.
"Tired huh?" The beast grunted to ensure. "Well, I bet you are. It was a big day for you as well as for us." Mikasa dithered, her palm still stroking his gaunt cheek. "It's best that we get some rest. We are leaving at sunrise." The teen smiled as she leaned in to give him a small kiss. "Goodnight Rogue."
"See you in the morning, bud." Armin yawned. Stretching before getting comfortable.
Rogue blinked slowly, watching as his little ones gradually fell into a deep slumber, making him slightly jealous, knowing that he was going to have a light sleep due to his great concern.
The carriage continued onward, bouncing a bit as it went along the rough path. The interior was dim, the only light source peeking in from a slightly peeled curtain. The Commander and The Corporal sat in absolute silence. Erwin simply looked down in a notebook and Levi stared at every inch of the carriage's interior – silently reminding himself to have a recruit clean it later. Levi sank back into the plush leather backing of his seat, folding his arms to pair with his irritated scowl. The two-day trip back to Scouting Legion headquarters had been hell. Normally, it was rather smooth, but this time it pushed his buttons. The inn had lost their reservations, thus having them pay more for their rooms. They had been stopped by half the population it seemed that wanted to ask them questions about the titan, and they had gotten stuck behind a farmer that was moving his cattle to another field – the man having to endure the unpleasant odor of cow shit for over an hour. Now they were finally passing through the entrance of their grounds and Levi was incredibly relieved.
The cabin suddenly jolted, making Erwin firmly grab his seat and causing Levi to roughly hit his head against the wall.
"FUCK!" The Corporal hissed venomously, rubbing his scalp. "You would think our damn driver would have enough sense to avoid rocks in the road by now!"
Erwin let out a short sigh. "We'll be at headquarters in five minutes or so." The man assured, not sounding the least bit amused, unlike Hange who would have most likely been laughing.
"Good." The shorter male muttered as he turned his attention back to the window. For several minutes it was awkwardly quiet between the two. Levi finally sighed yet again. "How the hell do you plan to tell everyone about the government's decree on Rogue? I'm sure no one is going to take that well."
At his question, Erwin's face grew more serious but stress clearly showing with the slight wrinkling of his brow. "We'll hold a meeting in the mess hall at lunch. You and I will announce it there."
"What about telling the big brat?"
Erwin's frame slacked in the slightest. "We need to inform him during his trial run today when he tries to activate his 'Berserk Mode' before us."
Levi sighed, dithering a bit and feeling his nerves spark. "Erwin –
"You're were going to say that you are not sure about Rogue pulling it off?" The Commander intercepted, easily predicting his query. The man nodded.
"Yes. Erwin – Rogue literally has no memory of how he even triggered the ability. When we asked him about it after waking for the first time since then – Rogue was absolutely clueless."
Erwin's brows creased even further. "I know. I hate to say Levi, but there is a chance that Rogue will not be able to figure it out or it could be a defensive mechanism that could only be triggered when he's under extreme stress, undergoing tremendous rage, or it requires a great amount of focus and will. That's not the only thing though. If Rogue does manage to trigger it, who's to say that he won't be completely feral? From the information you gave me in Stohess, Rogue was absolutely wild, savage, and it appeared that he had no desire or ability to follow orders." Erwin frowned, exhaling a heavy breath. "Levi – if that happens, there is no guarantee that he can be brought back under control. Arlert and Ackerman did it once, but what if they aren't enough? What if he seriously hurts or unknowingly kills someone? You know what would happen if that were to ever occur Levi."
He tensed at The Commander's serious words. The man was right. If Rogue ever maimed one of their men, the creature would be put down like any rabid dog, exile would be the more generous option. Knowing this, Levi was on pins and needles. Rogue had to succeed. The titan had to master his ability. The man sank deeper into his thoughts. Was Rogue ever able to control his very ability before he lost his memories? Surely there had been a time where the titan used it to ensure his own survival or take down prey. Could there be? "I think," Levi stalled, trying to form some sort of response. "I hope Rogue was able to do such a thing in his time before he resided in Maria. Hange did say that the dumbass is starting to get traces of his memory back. Maybe the know how really is in his big head somewhere."
"That's the trump card that I'm hoping for." Erwin voiced as the carriage slowly came to a halt and signifying that they had arrived home. "I really do hope it's put into play soon. Very soon." The tall blonde suddenly beamed in the slightest as he leaned over to the carriage's door handle. "I do have high hopes for him though, Levi. From the time that I've been with him, Rogue is capable of great things and is full of surprises. He's smart and not to mention, he has a wonderful personality. Perhaps he can find success in this much more controlled environment." The man continued as he pushed the door open and allowed the light to fully spill in along with a series of chuckles and loud laughter. Levi blinked as he stepped from the carriage as his ears filled with roars of amusement. With his eyes finally adjusting to the change of light, the man looked up to see a sight that instantly counteracted half of Erwin's words.
"Big fucking idiot." Levi grumbled. "Erwin, when you said full of surprises, this is not what I assumed that you meant."
The Commander said nothing while the two men continued to stare heavily and with a lack of humor at the view before them. Levi's new squad was grouped just a few meters away, every one of them goofing off except for Mikasa who was only trying to hide a smile beneath her scarf as she wiped a piece of equipment. Even though they were tasked with cleaning weapons and supplies, the five were doing the complete opposite. Sasha, Connie, Armin, and amazingly Jean were practically rolling with laughter while Rogue himself had plopped himself in the middle of them all and gladly accepted Sasha and Connie's pairing blades that they passed to him – Rogue taking the time to stick as many of the swords that he could between the gaps of his teeth. It was ludicrous. From where he stood, Levi could easily count at least twenty blades nestled in between Rogue's incisors and counting. The titan easily wedged another blade in before huffing at everyone's as well at his own enjoyment, sounding purposely dimwitted. Levi's eyes narrowed even further. It was times such as this that really irritated him. Rogue would essentially reduce himself to a giant kid – an overgrown toddler. Like any child given chores to do, Rogue would eventually get bored and wander off, play with something meaningless around him, and get distracted from his work by smells that a normal human couldn't even detect. And sometimes, like what was afore him, Rogue would go off and fool around with the new recruits. Granted, most of the time, Rogue was well behaved and would listen to his superiors almost religiously, but the titan's natural demeanor would still get him into trouble.
Levi then decided that enough was enough.
At his harsh and booming scold, the titan nearly got airborne as he yelped in surprise. The beast's pupils quickly shrank in fear and blades still in hand flew from his palm and into the grass. If the titan were a cat and a tree was above him, Levi was certain he would have leaped straight up into it. Rogue froze, ears lowering and his back hunching over in shame, the creature knowing good and well that he was in trouble. Finally, green eyes then shifted to Levi, the titan suddenly changing his tactic and giving The Corporal a hopeful smile – looking absolutely ridiculous with the blades still stuck between his teeth. "ELLO EVVI!" Levi frowned.
"Rogue, get the damn swords out of your teeth." He ordered gruffly with the titan blinking in alarm and quickly lifting a hand to push the blades out and letting them fall to the earth. "Now, didn't I say before that I wanted you cleaning the wall on the south side of the castle upon my return?" He continued with Rogue hesitantly nodding. "So what the hell are you doing right now?"
He watched as the titan bit his tongue, eyes darting around before Rogue gradually stood and bowed his head in apology. "ORRY EVVVII. EEIII WIILL CEEENN NNOWW." The titan concluded with a weak and rushed salute before hurrying off to where he should have been. With an agitated breath, Levi looked back to the other members of his squad who had immediately abandoned their childish activity to clean their gear.
"Kirstein, when I get back from visiting Shitty Glasses, I want all of these blades picked up and sterilized. I don't want to see any drop of residue from titan drool on them." He ordered with the teen reluctantly saluting.
After knowing that the situation was resolved and things were going as they should, Levi turned on his heel to follow Erwin as the man walked away from the scene. "I swear, it's like I'm raising a big baby sometimes." Erwin only chuckled.
"Well, it's the first time he's seen the rest of them in over a day and a half and as you know, separation is a bit different for him. I'm willing to overlook it this once. He's still a hard worker you have to hand it to him."
Levi only sighed, knowing that The Commander had a valid point.
"Well, I will collect you later at lunch to deliver the news. I'm retreating to my quarters to file some paperwork and process this month's funds. Let me know if Hange has finally found out anything new with her research on the surviving remains of The Female Titan yet." Erwin finished as he departed and vanished into the castle.
Knowing what he was to do next, Levi then began to make his way for the courtyard where the titan's barn was located, knowing good and well that was where Hange had decided to take up her work. Unfortunately for him, this was a required matter and he wasn't overly fond of seeing Hange right after a trip to Sina – the woman always running her mouth for hours after his return. She would likely be spilling every detail of their excursion of about how Rogue did this and that before going off on long tangent about what she was trying to discover. He knew she meant well, but Hange was Hange. More often than not annoying and hardly ever serious.
With the large sliding door already cracked open, Levi easily slipped inside the structure and sealed it behind him. The interior of the barn was a slight relief from the small chill in the air, the Scouts having thinly insulated it even so those staying with the titan in the winter could be a bit more comfortable. The large barn smelled of fresh hay as usual and was surprisingly orderly. A new set of pillows had already been torn by the titan with the feathers mixing within his own nest. As he thought, Hange herself was seated at her workstation that wasn't as nicely kempt as the rest of the barn – the titan's junk collection more contained than her mess. Papers having countless notes were strewn out in teetering piles and there were beakers upon beakers – some even broken beneath Hange's chair. Several steel coolers were to the left of the long desk – each preserving the remains of The Female Titan within cuts taken from Rogue's leftover vomit from two months prior. Hange herself was seated in the center of her workspace looking intensely into a microscope and scribing notes at the same time. Levi watched as she retrieved a baster and dropped some sort of liquid into the sample she continued to look at – swapping it out every few seconds to gander at one other. For the duration of the months that had passed, Hange had been tasked to find out about The Female's origins by examining her preserved DNA that was allowed through new means of preservation. From the amount of time it was taking, he got the impression that doing such a thing was not an easy task.
"Hello Levi!" Hange addressed, still facing her work. The tone of her voice caught him a bit off guard. The woman sounded deep into her work, serious but in a good mood.
"How did you know it was me?" He questioned as he approached her. The Section Commander let out a laugh.
"Because Levi! You are the only one that never says anything upon entering! You simply walk right up to my workstation and hover over me!" Hange teased as she grabbed another piece of parchment. Levi only rolled his eyes. "So! Did Rogue say hello to you? He was so happy to get home this morning! Poor thing! He was so eager and antsy at sunup! He was practically trembling as we left the trainee grounds!" She laughed, yet again talking about the titan as if he was her child, any hint of seriousness fading. "He's so endearing my Little Angel!"
The Corporal's brows narrowed. "Well, your 'Little Angel' said hello to me this morning by goofing off with my squad." Levi emphasized. "I caught the brat sticking a quarter of the swords we own between his teeth like damned toothpicks." He informed with Hange breaking into a laugh.
"Well what do you expect Shorty! Rogue is full of personality!"
Levi frowned at the less than favorable nickname. "You know; I'm amazed that I still have patience with that giant idiot after all he's done. For example, the time when you decided to have that sex ed. course requested by Erwin outside. Do you remember that? When you began explaining the parts of the male reproductive system Rogue actually had the metaphorical balls to ask why boys had a third leg." The man went on, silently cursing himself as Hange cackled, making him realize his unintended pun. He decided to press onward to capitalize on is frustration. "Another example of his antics is when he brought a fucking bear back to keep as a pet, when Rogue learned how to make 'arm farts' from Springer and did them during training, he put Jean and his mattress in the middle of the fucking lake, not to mention we had to deal with the aftermath of what happens when a titan drinks about three tons of beer." Levi shuttered at the memory. "Dealing with a drunk titan after returning from a meeting with Pixis is one thing and dealing with a hungover titan is another thing. Cleaning titan puke from a uniform is next to impossible." Levi grumbled with the messy-haired scientist still laughing before trying to catch her breath.
"He's just a character and that's how his mind is, Levi. He just likes to make everyone laugh. He's a giant kid and teddy bear when you get down to it!" She beamed. "Of course, Rogue getting quite intoxicated wasn't really his fault. That was really our negligence when we left a bunch of teens and young Scouts with a delivery of beer for the senior officers; they get drunk and an innocent Rogue joined in because he didn't know any better." Hange tittered.
Realizing that he was getting off track, Levi cleared his throat to snap Hange out of her state of delight. "Whatever." He sighed, folding his arms and reluctantly leaning against her desk. "Before I tell you the news that is to be shared in the meeting that Erwin is calling, did you find out anything yet?"
The woman finally turned to face him, adjusting her glasses by pushing them upward from the tip of her nose. Hange cleared her throat as if to gather herself before she let out a long sigh and giving him a slight smile. "Well I finally made quite a bit of progress and found out nearly everything we wanted to know." She spoke, keeping tabs on her enthusiasm – actually sounding normal for once.
Levi's brows rose at the surprising good news. He was not expecting Hange's response. "You were - able to find something about the bitch?" Hange dipped her head confidently.
"Of course. Granted, it did take me a while to extract her DNA from Rogue's. My mistake I was always making was trying to pick chunks of her meat out of his pellets, that proved impossible because Rogue's stomach acid tainted her flesh and it was difficult to separate no matter what solution I used to delude the stomach contents. Finally, I was able to take a direct and pure sample! I remembered Rogue swallowed some of her organs and I found her liver perfectly preserved!"
"Disgusting." He scoffed. Hange only hummed with intrigue.
"I wouldn't call it disgusting myself, but rather a scientific breakthrough in titan DNA extraction! As I was saying, I was able to cut a clean sample from the lining of her liver and I thankfully only got The Female's genetic code. It was quite telling. I was able to also take a sample from inside a bone fragment as well – which answered the question of how titan's lighten themselves to move faster. Their bone marrow can instantly morph to be solid like that of ours to have hollow pockets like that of a bird! It's fascinating!" Hange went on, obviously losing track of herself and treading onto a different topic. For the umpteenth time, Levi let out an exasperated sigh.
"As nice as that is to know Shitty Glasses, I need to know about The Female Titan in general. The other stuff you may or may not have discovered about titans themselves can wait."
Hange snapped her fingers in realization, shrugging her shoulders at her error. "Ah yes. Silly me!" The woman's demeanor suddenly calmed, giving off a more level and serious impression. "Okay, as I said before – her DNA was quite telling. Like Rogue, she's from a different region than your common titans, but unlike Rogue she wasn't from the same region as him."
Hange nodded. "In comparison, there were factors that suggested that The Female came from somewhere far southeast while Rogue's breed originated from somewhere in the far west. Now, if you look at Rogue's characteristics, physique, and genetic makeup – he's adapted and perfectly suited for a region full of forest like vegetation and regularly changing seasons. As for The Female Titan, her genetics suggest that she's well suited for a habitat that is a bit drier and has a warmer climate. The fact that she was skinless tells me that the lack of skin is a perfect way to regulate body temperate in a hotter environment – the ability to expel a lot more steam at a time. There's also suggestions that the area she resides in has lots of changes in elevation – hence her athleticism. Now, this next bit is just a hypothesis, but I believe the Armored Titan and the Female Titan are actually the same species."
Levi shifted in his stance. "You think they are one in the same? They look quite different, Hange."
"It's possible. In some kinds of animals, the male and female are vastly different from one another. For example, the male elephant seal has a large proboscis that it uses to make a roaring sound to attract mates, some male birds have brighter and more colorful feathers, and a large cat that was known as a lion whereas the male had a glorious mane of hair." Hange described, referring to some of the animals that used to be on display at the long gone zoos within the walls. "Hypothetically, what if the male skinless titan is armor plated? Maybe the reason is the same as the bighorn rams. Perhaps the males duel each other by charging in to one another for dominance or maybe to attract a female. Again, that's just a wild theory. The Armored Titan could very well be a separate species. The way that he and The Female harden their skin is completely different. For the Colossal though, that definitely the case."
Levi only nodded absorbing the information and trying to dissect each piece. "If you say that the bitch was from the southeast and Rogue was from the west, then how in the hell did they know one another?"
This time Hange was quiet, her brow creasing clearly in the lighting. "Well – that's a good question." She spoke, sounding perplexed for the first time in their conversation. "To tell you the truth – I'm not completely sure. It could be anything from a possible migration of one species to a chance meeting. I don't really know how they could have made contact." Hange sighed in defeat. "We may never know or it could take an incredibly long time for Rogue's memory to recover that fact."
The Corporal bit his lip. "I see." He paused, thinking. "What do you think the likelihood is that Colossal and Armored titans were working with The Female?"
Hange rocked in her chair. "I'd say it's a fifty, fifty chance, but it's far too confusing to call because a lot of facts really don't add up when you compare them to the natural way of exerting dominance. Plus, they are highly intelligent creatures. I can't really call it yet." The scientist sighed, pulling off her glasses to wipe a lens before placing them back into the top of her nose. "That's everything I was able to find out about our adversary by examining her DNA and all the speculations I had. So – what was it that you were to tell me? What did you learn from your meeting with Zackley?"
With that, Levi felt his irritation returning, the man tightening his jaw and grinding his teeth. "It's not the best news. The fucking government has ordered for Rogue to gain control of his special ability. Until he does – there are to be no more expeditions beyond the walls." Hange sat up in alarm, her bows rising in shock.
"That's the decree?"
Hange frowned, turning back to her desk. "This is upsetting." She muttered, not sounding like herself whatsoever. Levi almost felt sympathy.
"It is. It's mainly because we have no idea how to activate or even control his Berserk Mode."
However, Hange shook her head. "I actually do know how his ability was triggered. When the recruits told me the details as well as Armin's words – Rogue obviously activates the form when he's emotionally charged. The flammable substance flowing through his blood ignites when it is exposed to overwhelming heat. Ever notice how Rogue's body would steam when he was extremely angry? Rage is the fuel to the fire here. Sadness is also a gasoline. Rogue's Berserk Mode was activated by the thought that Ackerman and Arlert had been slain. Now, that's rather inconvenient isn't it? We need him to be able to bring it on by sheer will if it's possible. Either way, he must control it. It's like an overwhelming high or sense of ecstasy – difficult to get a grip on and remain coherent. In conclusion, it takes a lot of fuel and restraint. It's going to be an uphill battle for sure and I do not expect us to generate positive results on the first try." Hange paused for a drink, taking several gulps before setting the cup down on an old wooden coaster that was already damaged by water. "And yet, we could yield no results. The test could be inconclusive." She vacillated. "I do not want to resort to making him angry. Hell, even when three kidnapers had Armin and Mikasa in their clutches and killed the girl's own parents the change wasn't initiated then. We would have to REALLY piss him off before we would get a spark. Even if he succeeds – there is absolutely no guarantee he'll be the Rogue that we know and love. For all we know – he could suddenly see us as prey or charge over the walls in order to initiate the dire need to hunt. As much as I hate to, we need the capture equipment on standby, just in case we need to restrain him. Levi – anything could happen."
Levi's gaze shifted to the hay covered floor, eyes following every line. Hange was absolutely right and it was clear that Erwin trying to hide his apprehension as well. This was going to be a battle, one that had to be won quickly with the potential threat upon the horizon.
The titan's throat rolled as he made a hard swallow. With tapered ears against his skull and in a sheltered stance, Rogue's nervous gaze looked around the wide recreational clearing. He did not like this. Every instinct told him to run but that was impossible. In nearly every tree that bordered the glade were the all too familiar barrel shots and barb cannons – the capture weapons that he did not have fond memories of. On the ground, circled around him several meters away were blade wielding Scouts. Rogue shuttered, their shivering and fretful faces coated in sweat made him all the more uncomfortable. The titan emitted an open mouthed whine to show his edginess. Was he really that dangerous when he activated his special ability? Was he really that terrifying when he fell into Berserk Mode? Looking at everyone, their faces were full of fear, tenseness, and a few like Levi and Erwin that looked expectant. Rogue had known that the day was coming that he was to undergo tests on his special ability – he just didn't imagine it to be like this.
Rogue whined again to project his unwillingness to participate. He didn't think he could even activate his ability. However, if he did, he didn't know how he could control it. If he didn't grasp it – he could unintentionally kill someone or his entire family.
"Rogue!" Armin began as the creature whined like a sick dog yet again, the titan turning to look upon the teen with worried greens. "It's okay – we are all here to make sure things go smoothly!" The blonde called to him, sounding like he was making up words as he went along and not really knowing how to put things delicately.
"EIII DOONTT AANTT TOOO DDOO DDISS." Rogue moderately begged, keeping his body language meek, hoping that they would decide to do things differently. To his dismay, Hange shook her head.
"No Rogue! We have to start testing this! It's essential that you start this training now!"
The titan shook his head, moaning again. Levi only scoffed, the man obviously in a bad mood since his return from his trip.
"Rogue. This is not something you can get out of. You have to learn how to use your ability. No if's, and's, or but's."
"UUTT EVVII –
"Before you say anything else Rogue, here is why we are doing this. I'll keep it simple. The King and the government ordered for you to learn how to activate your ability and control it. We cannot ignore that order. The MP's are already keeping closer tabs on us because of the many corners we cut to avoid them."
"You see Rogue," Erwin began – still looking like his usual stoic self. "They have decreed that the Scouts are not permitted or allowed to go on any expeditions into Maria until you have mastered your ability. As you probably know Rogue, that is incredibly inconvenient for us. I believe you are aware that there is a possibility that more intelligent titans could strike us again – some that may have even been working with The Female."
'THE ARMORED ONE…AND THE COLLOSAL ONE.' Rogue thought.
"We have no idea when we will have to act. And with us grounded – we can do nothing if anything happens. Do you understand how dire it is Rogue for you to learn your ability now?"
Rogue swallowed at Erwin's announcement. This was the reason why they wanted him to learn his ability? They were not allowed to go on the expeditions unless he did? Erwin was right. They could not do a thing unless he was able to control his newfound power. He had to succeed, especially since his brutal slaughter of The Female Titan could have woken a sleeping giant – or giants. He was unsure if he could even initiate a single spark, but he didn't have a choice in the matter. He had to do it.
He could do it. He could do it. He had to.
"EII UNNDRRRSTNND." Rogue sighed. "EII WIILL TRRYYY." The creature attempted to smile. Hange nodded in approval.
"Ah good! Now Rogue, do you have the slightest idea as to how you could trigger your ability?"
Rogue shook his head, knowing that the messy-haired woman had probably already asked him the question before but was doing so now in order to lead into something vital. It was true, he didn't exactly know how to replicate what he did in Stohess, but by the way Hange was speaking, it sounded as if she found out something.
The woman was practically beaming. "Ah well after some observations and some investigating I found out that your ability is triggered by high levels or certain hormones in your body – hormones that are elevated by anger. In other words, when you saw your little ones in Stohess and you thought they had been killed you succumbed to rage and thus became the rampant beast that devoured The Female titan. Ever noticed how you would steam when you were angry Rogue? You see, anger is a protective mechanism to cover up fear, hurt, or sadness. Anger becomes the predominant feeling behaviorally, cognitively, and physiologically when a person makes the conscious choice to take action to immediately stop the threatening behavior of another outside force." Hange continued with the titan a bit overwhelmed by her last sentence. "As I told Levi, anger is the fuel to the fire here. Your anger flares up hormones that heats your blood to ignite the flammable substance that flows throughout your body and detonates any primal need coated with extreme aggression. This is how you go Berserk in other words."
"SOO…. EII HAVVV TOOO GETT ANNGRREE?" Rogue muttered in disappointment. This had just gotten harder and more difficult. Sure, he had gotten angry many, many times in the past – but not once did he bring about any flames. Rogue swallowed a wad that was rapidly growing in his throat. He was dreading what the Scouts were planning. Were they to try and make him angry?
"No! Not exactly Rogue! At least not until we rule out that this doesn't work." Hange continued with the titan tilting his head. "We need you to try and bring about the transformation at will. We want to see if intense focus will trigger it. Like the Female Titan's will to harden her skin – we need that versatility with your ability, Rogue. So how about we try that?" Hange smiled sweetly. "Now let's start off easy here. Just loosen up as best as you can, take a deep breath and try to think about bringing on the transformation. Forget that we are here for the moment and try it out." Hange encouraged with a hand, waving for him to begin.
Rogue nodded slowly and inhaled, his lungs expanding to their fullest before the titan exhaled and shook his arms as if he was trying to wring the stress from them. Shadowed lids covered greens and he drifted into his mind. He needed to do it. The titan breathed, counting his every breath as most of the others held their own. He had to do it. Do it. Transform. Transform! TRANSFORM!
However, nothing happened. There was no temperate change. Nothing. Rogue opened his eyes to see the others slaking from their terrified stances and his little ones along with his superiors frowning.
"No change." Hange pointed to Molbit who recorded the attempt before looking back to the titan with a look of hope. "How about you try again, Sweetie! Try to focus a bit harder!"
The behemoth only nodded at the request and shut his eyes again. His mind began to progress into his thoughts once over. The titan tried to recall the feelings he could have felt during his heightened state in hopes that they would be of aid. First, there was the obvious anger that everyone described. The burning desire to kill was most likely there. Recalling his bloated stomach he woke up with after all was said and done – there had to be an overwhelming sense of hunger. Hunger. The titan continued to think. Did it feel like emptiness? Did it hurt? Rogue's eyelids tightened, skin between his brows bunching together. He needed to transform, feel what hunger against his kind felt like again. The only thing he remembered was what a full belly felt like – an odd sensation, abet uncomfortable at points, but it felt good. He continued to think more, but there was nothing. Rogue opened his eyes and hung his head in disappointment, afraid to look at his superiors that were certainly disappointed or irritated.
"Well," Hange began. "That was a good try Rogue, but how about you push yourself a bit more?"
Rogue meekly nodded and closed his eyes again and reverted back to his thoughts of focus. Yes, he needed to push himself more. The titan's face scrunched up as if had tasted something sour. The titan proceeded, actually physically pushing – face turning red until he stopped and let out a heavy breath, completely unsuccessful.
Levi groaned. "My god Hange, this is ridiculous. He literally looks like he's trying to pass a large shit hung crossways." Rogue frowned at the description, feeling like a complete idiot.
"Levi! Don't insult him!" Hange laughed nervously. "It's the first time he's trying to do this so encouragement is best!"
The man's face darkened. "He's not an infant. He needs – to do this." The Corporal concluded, his tone calming in the slightest, having a sudden change in heart. "Try again."
The sun had since peaked and began its decent back to the horizon. Over an hour had passed since he began, and he was only meeting failure. Nothing was working. Focusing was a joke. No matter how hard he tried to do so, he was just making his head hurt. His performance was so poor that now they were even trying to purposely irritate him to get a 'jumpstart' as they called it. They had shown him pictures of wolves and other things he didn't like, tried to pick aromas that he wasn't fond of, and now they were currently trying to trigger a transformation through name calling – which was otherwise an argument with Jean that was completely daft.
"You're a sorry piece of shit you know that! Making us resort to this crap just to make it so your ass will light on fire!" Jean yelled up to him, tone venomous.
"FFAAAKK YUUU. HOORSSAACCEE!" Rogue growled, growing agitated, the titan seated on his heels with his arms tight and eyes set in a dead serious gaze. Jean seemed to be stepping up his insults.
"Is that really the best you can do? Really? Is Horseface all you can call me!"
Rogue's face pulled back in a snarl. "HHORRSSASS. HHOORSSE…SHIEET." The titan replied confidently, a deep growl resonating from his chest. He was tired of this! He was tired of doing this! He wasn't making any headway at all! This wasn't working! This wasn't enough? He then realized that it wasn't Jean's chiding but rather his incompetence that was frustrating him more. Still, it wasn't bringing forth any heat or hunger.
"Damn, you're an idiot!"
The titan responded with a loud roar and reflexively spat a line of saliva at the rash teen; immediately coating Jean in a translucent slime that made the boy gag. Rogue snorted, looking away to show that he no longer wished to pursue a yelling match with Jean.
"That's enough of that." Erwin began solidly. "We need to return to the method of focusing only. We need to avoid trying to use anger as much as possible." Hange nodded.
"Yes, let's return to trying to focus only. How about it, Sweetheart?"
Rogue growled, grunting and speaking in an ape like tongue to get his point across. He was undergoing a flurry of thoughts – not really knowing which to go with. He wished to stop for a break. He was sick of not having any luck. His attempts were futile.
"Rogue," Mikasa began softly. "Please. We need to try again."
The titan looked down at his little one, instantaneously giving into a slight pinch of his softer side. "FIIIINNNEE." He worded, emphasizing his vowels as he was still peeved. Gradually, Rogue got back to his feet and everyone braced themselves as the creature shut his eyes to focus again. The titan searched the vast expanse of his mind, looking for any clues that could ultimately aid him. However, his brain was only jumping around to remember measly things like the smell of blossoms in the spring, the birds making their calls in the summer, and the vast white wintertime that swept everything in cold. Rogue's brow wrinkled, trying to get back on track- but there was nothing. However, as the titan desperately tried to bring about a transformation, the titan had foolishly stood with his knees locked and forgot to breathe. Dizziness hit him in a sudden wave, making the titan's eyes fly open right as his legs buckled and he came crashing down onto his rump and jolted everything around him. The creature swallowed and blinked several times, trying to get his bearings as the others picked themselves up.
"Damn it, brat! You have to remember to breathe you idiot!" Levi reprimanded, examining his garbs. "Shit. These grass stains are going to take forever to get out."
Rogue's cheeks flushed, the titan sitting up with his hands between his lap. It was then that his temper flared and he let out a roar and slammed fists into the ground. Damn! Damn it all!
Tired of everything and angry with himself, the behemoth scrambled to his feet and sat his sites onto the one thing that he could use to get away for a bit – the forest. With another howl of frustration, Rogue punted away a barb cannon – wood and steel scattering across the clearing as he stopped off to the woods, the creature ignoring the shouts in protest.
The forest had darkened in the slightest when the afternoon had dawned. The once rather tranquil setting was abruptly ended as Rogue briskly walked through the trees, arms straight to his side as he fumed. A snarl ripped through his teeth as he came to a small glade. To say that he was pissed was an understatement. Why wasn't he able to do it! Why!
Rogue's nostrils flared like a working horse and his eyebrow twitched. Finally, a gust of steam left his maw as he roared to the heavens as if to curse some sort of god that had blessed him with this misfortune. Rogue then turned and threw a first into the nearest tree – shaving off a large chunk of timber that in turn made the pine teeter and tip over.
'WHY!' His mind screamed, loathing the fact that he had been given what he now considered as useless. Rogue bent over to a large rock and picked it up – tossing it across the dell like an outraged gorilla.
'WHY… CAN'T… I…
The titan let out another scream and kneed another evergreen, continuing his tantrum. The beast shuttered and then charged at a towering oak, ramming it so hard that it upturned several of the tree's roots. Rogue pressed his forehead into the bark and wailed. He lifted his fist again and brought it down to the trunk – the crack of splintering wood cutting through the forest. Lifting his hand again, Rogue weakly pelted the tree – over and over until he let his arm fall limply to his side. The titan inhaled deeply, growling to himself through a clenched jaw. Why? Why did his ability have to be this one? One that was hard if not impossible to trigger let alone control? No matter how much he got angry, no matter how much he wished to change there was nothing! What was a power good for if he couldn't use it? His ability was a joke!
Rogue lifted himself from the tree and walked into the ruffled clearing, staring down at his feet, taking in the detail of his pointed nails and dirty skin. Why couldn't he have been given a gift that was more manageable? Why didn't he receive an ability like The Female Titan's gift of hardening her skin into the glorious diamond? Beautiful but deadly body armor? Whenever she wanted she could create her shields. He envied her for that. His shoulders sank, body relaxing. Maybe… maybe if he could focus enough on trying to harden… perhaps he could succeed. With stubborn determination, Rogue lifted his hand to his face. Unwavering and resolute greens glared at the appendage, studying every form from the slight flex of a small muscle to the movement of a tendon. The titan then began to envision what he wanted, translucent armor all over every digit, his palm, and his nails.
'HARDEN!' His mind ordered. 'HARDEN!'
Rogue stared intensely, still seeing that his tanned skin was void of anything he desired. The beast's teeth grinded against one another. His breath grew harsh and black dots danced before his eyes. The beast then let up, inwardly panicking at yet another disappointment. A small whimper sneaked from him. Again! He needed to try again!
"Rogue!" Mikasa's voice echoed in the clearing, the titan taking a brief moment to look down to see her, Armin, Hange, and Levi approaching him in caution. Deciding to ignore them and return to his attempts, Rogue looked at his hand yet again, his malformed face wrinkling in concentration, unaware that the group below him was scrutinizing him in both speculation and worry. "Rogue – what are you doing?" His little one queried again.
"TRRYINNG… TOOO… ARRRDDENN." Rogue put bluntly with a snort as he continued to look at every detail in his hand, trying to conjure an image of impenetrable crystal spreading over his flesh. At his answer however, his little ones' shoulders fell and Hange's face dropped while Levi merely folded his arms and sighed yet again.
"Rogue," Hange began softly. "We've been through this remember? You can't harden your skin like she could, Sweetheart."
Her words swept through the titan's ears. He felt a lump form in his throat, his chest growing heavy, and his shoulders tremble in the slightest. He was in denial. The titan didn't want to believe such a thing. No! He could do it! Couldn't he? Rogue began to think desperately, his mind clouding itself and becoming jumbled as he still tried to focus upon his hand. His brows narrowed, the ends arching up as his watering eyes still remained on his appendage. The creature continued to ignore any protest as he stared. His hand started to tremble, noticeably enough to where his family below could see it.
"Rogue? Rogue… please."
However, the willful beast kept on. 'HARDEN! PLEASE!' Rogue inwardly begged, repeating his words over and over as they rattled his skull. Harden! Harden! Harden! His face grew red and became feverish. Everything suddenly felt faint and his vision blurred, his hand suddenly seeming far away. Bright greens smoldered as the dizziness returned. Then, the titan felt something run through his nose, a stream of liquid crimson - blood, trail over his teeth and dripping from his chin only to decorate his hand. The titan appeared almost dazed as he just continued to watch the blood seep into every little wrinkle until the frantic shouts from below made the titan snap his attention away and look to them with an expression similar to what a human looked like when they had been caught zoning out.
"Rogue!" His Armin called up to him with the beast blinking. "Please stop what you're doing! You're just hurting yourself!"
"Yes Rogue! Please just calm down! You don't need to stress yourself further!" Mikasa added with Hange nodding.
"Rogue just relax. The testing is done for the day."
The creature remained stagnant for several brief seconds until he gave a tentative nod, ears drooping. He didn't manage to accomplish a single thing. The Corporal then cleared his throat.
"Well, I don't think I've ever seen anyone try that hard to actually get hard before." The man began with a straight face and only a hint of humor in his tone, his words immediately making Hange snicker and Armin bite his lip to keep himself from laughing at Levi's dry humor that admittedly managed to pull a slight smile in his face – the beast knowing good and well what he was playing on since Hange took the time to explain the reference to him before, one that he found disturbing but was seen as being particularly funny by humans. Levi remained unamused, mouth in a firm line and brows slightly pinched as usual – his signature constipated look. "Well, it's just about dinner." He paused, steel eyes looking to the creature's hand. "Your nose is bleeding by the way, brat. You need to clean the blood off before you even think about walking out of this forest."
At the news, Rogue let out a surprised grunt with green eyes returning to his hand to spy the drying blood. For a moment, he still remained a bit stupefied by it, a bit in shock that the result of the exertion was the same as it had been before when he attempted hardening for the first time. Yes, it had to be cleaned, especially if he planned to sit with his little ones at their supper shortly. Not only that, but any titan with blood around their mouth probably didn't sit too well with anyone. Solely focused on the need to cleanse, Rogue nodded and unexpectedly gave into a sudden and seeded instinct as he opened his maw and let his tongue slide out from between his teeth to meet the flesh of his hand and crimson. The muscle moved across the red, Rogue taking a moment to get over the metallic taste before continuing. With his eyes half lidded, the creature continued to erase the blood, this tongue gliding over the top of his hand and easily going between the dips. Rogue then moved onto his fingers, tongue wrapping around each digit before he proceeded to his palm as attentive as he could possibly be with the task. Next, his tongue glided over his teeth before the tip brushed his chin and did a bit of detailing beneath his nose, ignoring the strange and perplexed looks from the party below him; Levi appearing positively disturbed. Rogue then lifted his hand again and proceeded to lap at his fairly clean wrist. For a moment, the giant kept up with his cleaning before a sudden realization struck him and he stopped mid lick. The titan's tongue retreated back into his mouth as he stared at his now spotless hand in sheer perplexity.
He had never done that before.
Rogue's hair prickled as he remained stunned, unknowingly looking a bit comical to his audience who was surprisingly still silent. Never in his life did he ever feel compelled to lick himself before. Granted, he did lick his little ones and other chosen family members as a way to express affection or comfort, but never himself.
"Did he just –
"He was licking himself." Armin muttered. "He was cleaning away the blood… Rogue has… never done that before."
"Yeah," Mikasa pressed on, her questioning greys still upon him. "He's never done that before.
With his face reddening once again, Rogue placed his hand to the side. "UUUHH… EEII DOO NNOTT NOO…. EII HAAVVE NNEEVRR DOONNEE DAAT." The behemoth muttered, lost for words as he struggled to get over his embarrassment. Was this possibly another strange quirk his body was giving into?
Below him, Hange of course was wearing a look of absolute fascination and a big and nearly goofy smile painted across her face. "Oh my! How fascinating! I do believe that's a grooming instinct!" The woman squealed. "Oh! This is amazing!"
The Corporal looked at the woman as if she didn't have a head anymore. "What."
"GRROONNING?" Rogue queried with Hange nodded enthusiastically.
"Yes! A grooming instinct is the need to regularly clean oneself to keep their fur, feathers, or in your case skin in good order. It's a form of hygiene. This resembles something that some carnivores do which is removing all traces of blood and other matter so as to not alert prey with the scent. It's absolutely astounding to see a titan do this!" Hange beamed as she answered his internal question, turning to his little ones. "So – he's never done this before?"
Armin rubbed his chin. "No, he's never exhibited anything like this." The teen paused, his eyes suddenly growing wide. "Wait, now that this has happened – there has been a few other things Mikasa and I noticed he was doing as of late." Armin continued, suddenly sounding grim with his body language. Hange quieted as well at his tone.
"What are they?"
The teen scratched his chin. "He's been smelling around a lot more lately and not what he normally sniffs out. Mikasa and I caught him vigorously smelling the base of a tree where a cat sprayed it." The boy admitted with Rogue's face tenting red again.
Hange's eyes seemed to widen even further. "I see; this could be his way of finding established territory by other animals."
"He actually rubbed the very same tree after smelling it." Mikasa added with Hange dipping her head in extreme interest.
"Sounds like he felt the need to mark that particular area as well, just to remind any passerby that the particular object was his. We of course have seen him mark things already so it seems like a likely reason."
"Actually, I caught him rolling all over the middle of the path that leads to the castle once." Levi frowned. "He looked like he was too damn happy as if he was experiencing some sort of orgasm."
'WELL… IT SMELLED FUNNY.' Rogue thought sheepishly, taking a seat on the forest floor and interlacing his fingers within his toes – a small habit of his. Hange's brows only lifted even further.
"He's also doing that thing where he's rolling on his side or back in some circumstances a lot more as well."
"Now that is rather interesting. So, when did you guys notice this?"
"Just a few weeks ago."
Hange dipped her head again before smiling and placing her hands proudly to her hips. "Well now, so he's taking territory into account, scent marking more than usual, and now he's grooming himself! How wonderful! It sounds like he's also getting into a submissive pose when he feels it's needed which points to a possibility of Rogue's breed being very social instead of solitary – a way of communicating." She hypothesized. "I believe that perhaps since some of Rogue's memories are returning, maybe some once dormant traits are resurfacing as well! And it makes perfect since for him to have such characteristics! After all, his breed was built for hunting and is very animalistic compared to other titan species!" Hange paraded merrily, nearly jumping up and down. "Who knows, maybe activating his special ability brought forth these instincts as well since Rogue was reduced to his most primal state! This is quite a discovery!" The woman bounced, Levi letting out yet another harsh breath as he rolled his eyes in utter repulsion.
"Whatever Shitty Glasses. However, I hope to hell I never find him licking his groin like a damned dog or else I'm going to lob off his tongue as many times as I need to." The man put so darkly that Rogue's spine straightened and a whine left his maw. Hange of course broke into laughter.
"Oh Rogue! Don't be embarrassed about anything! It's just nature's way! Don't be afraid to give into anything! It just says more about you!"
The titan hesitantly nodded, knowing good and well that he wasn't going to do what Levi just spoke about. It just sounded downright repulsive.
The Section Commander let out another hoot in amusement before clearing her throat to get on a new subject. "Well, today was informative! Even though we didn't yield any positive result from testing it gave us a bit of insight of how to go about such in the future. Now, let's return back to base. I hear the chef is carving up a good ham this evening!" Hange announced with his little ones grinning at the fact.
Knowing that he needed to be polite, Rogue grunted and held out an open palm in offering with the intent on giving his babies and other family members a lift. Understanding, they soon climbed into his palm and the towering beast placed them onto his shoulder and began to make his way back to the castle. As they spoke to one another. Rogue sank into his thoughts once again. Mastering his ability was going to be a very rough and uphill road – one that he wasn't sure he could travel.
The sky tinted dark as ink once again with small clusters of stars that signified a clear day ahead. The inside of the barn was toasty, the small lanterns overhead still smoldering and the compact iron fireplace burned on the opposite side of the room. Hange had long since left to her quarters for the evening – the first she was spending in her own private room rather than in the spare room in the barn. The titan's breaths rumbled throughout the open space, making the interior oddly serine. Rogue lay on his side in his nest, one that he had freshly ruffled and added more plumage to before getting comfortable. The titan smiled softly as he looked down into his hands where his little ones lay in repose. After their dinner, the new Levi squad had another training session that consisted of mostly carrying weights – an activity that wore any human out.
Rogue gently lifted a thumb and lightly stroked their brows, ears flickering in the slightest. Unlike his little ones, he couldn't sleep. He was in truth, restless. The earlier supper was quite awkward at points for him. Normally, during outdoor dinners, everyone always spoke to him and there was always a good laugh or two. This time it was rather quiet. The thing he truly found unnerving was the amounts of whispers from one Scout to the other about him. Some of the statements he could remember with absolute clarity such as 'why wasn't he able to grasp how to use his ability' or 'we'll be in trouble if something happens because the damned government wouldn't allow the Scouts to do as needed.' Rogue recalled how guilty the words made him feel, like he was a screw up. Due to this, he kept so quiet that those seated near him kept questioning him what was wrong and if he felt alright – the titan of course assuring that he was fine and that there was no need to worry. Now that he was pretty much alone, Rogue had all the time he could want to think to himself. He desperately needed to learn his ability since it was pretty certain that he couldn't harden his skin. Why wasn't he able to do it? There were times that he had been plenty angry before in his lifetime and nothing. Rogue's eyes narrowed, beginning to think about his most painful memory of his parents being devoured by that grinning behemoth. Why had his ability remained sleeping within him even as that horrible event transpired? He swore that he was so angry and upset that he was seeing red. It hurt so much! Why hadn't it activated then? The titan sighed, realizing that even if he reverted to his most primal state, he would have still gotten to them too late. Seeing his little ones as they were being swatted like flies, why did his hidden power manifest? Was it because he was weak? Why had it activated when it did? He didn't understand it at all. And he hated that.
Rogue let himself relax even further, spreading his toes a bit as he prepared to lay his head down next to the two sleeping teens and wait until his final ounces of energy were squeezed from him. However, before he had the chance to try and settle into his nest, an incredibly unwelcome feeling washed over him. His pupils shrank as he quickly lifted his head, ears erect and listening. The creature's hair began to fluff in alarm. Something was amiss – the world suddenly feeling darker. Instinctively, he sniffed only to smell the highly concentrated scent of hay. Something was off, he had felt the very same the day before upon seeing the mysterious man clad in black. Rogue lifted his head higher, eyes hooked upon the door as his heart began to pound. Was it possible that the man had followed him? Inwardly, he began to panic. He really didn't want to wake his little ones knowing that they desperately needed rest – especially if he didn't know for sure what was making him uneasy. After all, with old instincts surfacing, it could just be a stray dog roaming the grounds for all he knew. Rogue glanced from his little ones to the door. He needed to at least check to see if someone was really outside before he woke up everyone around him. Levi had made it painfully clear that if he ever disturbed anyone for no good reason, he would be finding himself in a heap of trouble.
As he weighed his options, the beast knew what was the best action he could take. He had to make sure it was safe. After all, one of his jobs was to guard the Scouts and their territory from any trespassers. Making his decision, Rogue then set his focus on carefully sliding his little ones out of his hands, incredibly thankful that they had been extraordinarily fatigued and were deep in sleep as he placed them into his nest. Making sure that they would be warm enough in his absence, Rogue diligently scooted a thin layer of straw over their bodies – leaving only their heads to peek out. Assuring himself once more that they were snug, Rogue carefully sat up and placed himself onto his knees. The titan's emerald greens shifted to the opposite wall where his collar was stored upon the roof of the spare room that was cluttered with barrels and spare cables. Rogue blinked, tilting his head a bit as his fingers plucked the accessory from its resting place. As much as he really didn't want to wear it, placing it around his neck to guard his weak spot would be wise. If there was really any trouble, he would need both hands to be free. With his fingers trembling in the slightest and his breath growing quicker while the apprehension grew, Rogue lifted the collar around his neck and began the process of fastening it, the beast having trouble with the simple clasp. Finally, after several failed attempts, Rogue was able to get the collar somewhat secure. With a final look back at his babies in his nest, the titan lightened his frame and quietly snuck out of the barn and sealing the door behind him.
With the dreaded feeling coursing through his veins again, Rogue stood and aggressively sniffed with his pupils blown wide and wild. The air was coarse and it put him in even more unease. The courtyard smelled of only brittle greens, hay from his barn, and the equines in the nearby stables. For a mere moment, Rogue second guessed himself, fearing that he had made an error. However, the sensation of incredible alarm shot up his spine again and kicked the creature and his instincts into high gear.
Needing to further investigate, Rogue began to prowl past the castle – nearly tip toeing as he passed the structures until he was far from it to jog without stirring his family. With his lively greens glowing through the dark, the titan followed the path towards the entrance to the grounds. The beast suddenly slowed his pace to a halt and took the initiative to scan his surroundings. His eye looked to the nearby tree line, the night vision that he thankfully possessed allowing him to see far into the brambles. There was nothing but fluttering insects. No other pair of eyes looked back at him. Rogue then turned his attention to the sward that stretched over much of the eastern territory, but there was nothing, not even the snake in the grass that he was supposedly searching for. The titan lifted his head and sniffed again, grunting with every inhale as his ears searched for any suspicious sound. The creature looked like any animal beginning its hunt as it searched for traces. His breathing was ragged, chest heaving as he panted. Nostrils flared, detecting nothing but the smell of the forming dew.
Rogue lowered his head and blinked in confusion. Could he have been wrong? Was it possible that there was an intruder somewhere else in the territory? Fearing for the wellbeing of his family, Rogue started off again in the opposite direction in search of anything. The titan traveled to the recreational clearing to find no trace of anything except the smell of the past supper and the smoldering ashes in a dying bonfire. Sensing that the area was clear, Rogue moved on to the rear of the castle grounds where the supply shed was located as well as other amenities. The area turned up no result as well. The only stench being the barrels of waste and the shed full of manure that the Scouts used to fertilize their vegetable garden. Making another round, he ventured to the laundry mill to only find traces of linen in the air and a lone sheet hanging on the clothesline. Finally, Rogue made his way back to the west side, stopping once again to sniff and analyze.
There was nothing.
There was no unfamiliar human scent. There wasn't even the stench of his kin.
Rogue's face succumbed to skepticism. Why was he feeling almost threatened by something? The man he had come into contact with wasn't around whatsoever nor was any other strange being. Initially, his second thought was that titans were invading, but there was no odor related to his kin and he was the only titan that was able to embrace life at night. The megalith whined in confusion. The area was clear, so why? Why was he feeling no nervous?
The titan grunted, ears folding back against his head as he grew more irritated. Every fiber in his being was telling him to preserve his territory. He was sure that there was nothing lurking in the shadows of the night, but with every sense firing like a bullet from a gun – he felt that leaving a fair warning was enough just in case. His pupils turned into slits as a growl resonated through his ribs, the sound carrying itself across the field before the beast walked briskly to the tree line. The titan quickly selected a tall birch and without a second to lose, leaned to brush his shoulder among the bark. After making sure that it was good enough, Rogue then backed away in the slightest and dug his nails into the tree – carving jagged groves to complete his proper marking. But of course, one spot wasn't enough and didn't satisfy the beast. Grunting and growling, Rogue marched forward and proceeded to mark other trees with his scent. The beast rubbed, scraped, and spread his saliva over every surface he could that surrounded his family's lair. After circling his barn for the second time, Rogue knelt down to roll upon a large bolder that sat upon the open field. The creature snorted as he continued to rub his back into it before returning upright as to conclude his session. The titan looked around, sniffing one last time before concluding that he and his family were alone for the time being.
Rogue's face pulled back into a silent snarl as he began to backpedal to his barn. The land was hushed. He could sense nothing. His body settled in the slightest as he took one final look before slipping into the barn and returning to the safety of his nest. The creature sat, taking the time to catch his breath and remove his collar. Even if someone was or wasn't out there, he would deal with them if they crossed the line. Rogue finally turned and lowered himself into his next and curled his hands around and beneath his little ones to hold them closer against him – the titan curling himself around them even tighter. Yes, if someone was foolish enough to approach them with harmful intent – he would waste no time in killing them. He could not answer why he felt so rattled. With no evidence to support any suspicion, the creature thought it best that he only remained vigilant.
Looking down at his sleeping babies, Rogue lowered his head to nuzzle into them – letting the energy flow from his body and rest welcome him with open arms. He would protect everyone no matter what.
As the titan slept, a figure on a far cliffside nodded in verification before vanishing into the dark void of the night.
The light was muted, the world seemed enclosed. He blinked in confusion, head swiveling back and forth as he tried to establish his bearings. Where was he? This was certainly not his nest nor was it his cove. With his eyes adjusting to the subdued light, Rogue realized that he was in some sort of den – one that had clearly been occupied. Afternoon light came from a high hole overhead, outlining a rocky underground interior laced with ivy. There was a large rock on one side of the den and to his left there was what looked to be a nest – a huge nest. Rogue blinked, ears fluttering as he motioned cautiously to examine it. The leafy bedding was full of pine needles and leaves that he didn't recognize. The titan blinked again, he himself had never made a nest this large. Was it possible that there were multiple titans staying in here? He sniffed, nose twitching like a hound's. No, there was only two – himself and the scent of another titan with a similar musk. A stressed while left his maw. Where in the world was he? Why did this sheltered world seem so…
Everything was vast, Rogue suddenly noticed. Things were much larger than they should have been. The vines were thicker, what he would normally consider pebbles seemed more like small boulders, and some of the leaves in the nest were as big as his…
The creature's eyes widened as he caught sight of his hands. They were certainly NOT like his or at least what he was used to. They were podgier and much less masculine. Rogue's heart began to pound, startled greens looking down to see his front side that looked ampler than normal. The titan realized that he was only standing about three meters from the floor. Rogue let out another panicked vocal. What was this! He didn't understand! Where was he! Where was his family! Where were his little ones!
Rogue looked around frantically. He needed to escape! He needed to find his family! His babies! Gazing upward, he knew that the hole up above was much too high, but behind him was what looked to be a low wall of rocks that had been placed with expertise. Desperate, Rogue ran as fast as he could to the line of rocks and began to scale them. However, it was proving to be a challenge. He could barely reach as far as he needed to, causing him to slide down roughly back to the floor many times over. Desperation then seeped through his skin, forcing him to cry and whimper. He needed out! OUT! OUT!
Gathering himself again, he began to scale the wall, his nails digging in as much as he could to get a grip. His body trembled as he continued to try. Finally, he managed to drag himself up and over the barrier and tumbling down the other side.
However, he kept falling, deeper and deeper into a cavern. There was nothing to grasp to save himself. Nothing but blackness. Tears clouded his eyes. No! He needed to see his family! He needed to protect his babies! No! No! NO! It was over! He would never see them again!
Suddenly, his decent stopped and the world brightened. He was no longer falling into the abyss but rather sitting in a crumpled heap in the grass. The world was blurry, he could only make out shapes and colors. Everything hurt. He felt like he had been punched so hard that he had been knocked senseless. He panicked further, loud sobs forcing up his throat. He tried to blink back the tears, vision only improving to make out that he was surrounded by the shapes of towering titans. His blood ran cold. He was helpless! He couldn't fight! He was as good as dead!
His ears could hear muffled and coarse words, but he was too terrified to absorb them. Deciding that he needed to move before he was slaughtered, Rogue clumsily picked himself up and ran across a dell of sorts and diving beneath the first overhanging rock he could find. He wanted to go home! He wanted to go home!
Unexpectedly, everything was warm – welcoming. The terrifying atmosphere felt almost serine. Gradually he opened his still wet eyes to see that he was snuggling against a plump flesh surface that heat radiated from, seeping past his own skin and deep into his muscles. What felt like an open palm rubbed against his back and cradled his head; the touch was loving with the soul message given being that of comfort. For a moment, he debated on moving, but he was tired and the heat was far too soothing. He knew he was safe. Rogue then closed his eyes and gave in to the tranquility.
The smell of fresh hay wavered through his nostrils as he breathed, sunlight warmed his skin, sending energy through his bloodstream and signaling that night had passed. Rogue stirred, eyelids fluttering open to stare at the rooftop of the barn – taking notice of the clear sky that was displayed through the skylight. It looked to be another fine autumn morning.
Rogue rotated onto his side to face his little ones, seeing that they were already performing their morning chores – Armin shoveling fresh hay across the floor and Mikasa attempting to organize Hange's cluttered workstation. The titan smiled and bid them good morning in his own native tongue. He was secretly thankful. It didn't seem like they heard any of his antics from the night before even upon his return.
"Did you sleep okay Rogue?" Mikasa questioned, making the beast freeze in fear at the possibility that he had been wrong. "Armin and I got up about two hours ago and you seemed to be dreaming about something. We nearly got Hange because you were twitching and almost muttering things in your sleep."
The titan relaxed, thankful that his little ones didn't know what he really went off to do. "UUHH… EI HADD A DREEANN. UUTT EIII DONNTT UNNNDRRSTANND IT. EEETT DOEES NOOOT NAAKE NUUCH SENSSE." He tried to explain, being truthful. He really didn't know what to make of his dream.
Armin put his trowel down and seated himself onto a bale of hay. "Do you think it could have been some sort of memory, Rogue?"
The titan thought for a moment, but he was still unsure. Everything just felt like a horrible hallucination except for the very end of his vision. "INN BEGINNING… DAAA ORRLD WAASS BIIG. EIII WAASS… FALLINGGG. EIII FEELLTT SNAALLL." Rogue hesitated, trying to recall every detail. "EIII WASS SURROUNDED BEIII TIITTANNS…EIII RANN ANND HIIID. DEENN EETTT FELLT LIIKE… WASS AGGAINNSTT… SONNEONNE." The creature bit his tongue. "NAYYBEE… ETT AHHSS AA TIITTAN?" Rogue questioned allowed, looking from the ceiling and back to his little ones who had stopped what they were doing to stare at him with stunned faces. Armin's jaw hung open a bit – was it possible that his little ones had figured something out that he couldn't?
"Rogue," The blonde began slowly. "I think… I think you were dreaming about when you were a -
"Guys! Guys! Guys!" A sudden address cut off the conversation with the titan and his little ones looking to the entrance to witness an over enthused Hange approaching them – her arms waving around in excitement. "I had an epiphany!"
Reluctantly abandoning their exchange, Armin and Mikasa smiled in greeting. "What is it Hange?"
The woman giggled as she hurriedly approached her desk and haphazardly dropped more paperwork onto her workspace, messing up the hard work that Mikasa had done to ensure that it was orderly. Hange then turned to them, her grin as big as it could possibly be. "I've been toying with many ideas as what to name Rogue's breed for weeks and I've finally come up with one!"
Caught in the moment, Rogue found himself galvanized by Hange's words. "WHAAT?"
The woman nearly squealed, wiggling her index finger at him. "Glad you asked, Rogue! Originally, I was leaning toward calling your kind 'Advancing Titans' but last night I had a wonderful idea! I found a title that suits your kind even better as well as pays homage to your parents! The word in particular means 'hunter' in an old language called 'German' and your kind are certainly made to be hunters! Thus, I believe the perfect name for your kind is Jaeger Titans." Hange beamed. "How do you like it?"
Rogue smiled, giving her a nod in approval and looking to his little ones for their own opinion. Armin and Mikasa's faces had lit up as well.
"That's wonderful Hange! Not to mention it's quite catchy too!"
Mikasa nodded. "I like it. You're right, it's perfect."
Hange nodded confidently. "It's settled then! I'll be penning it in the history and titan biology books!" She practically sang, the titan thrilled about having something to call his breed if he was ever questioned. "So! What was it you three were talking about when I got here? Sorry I sort of interrupted you!" Hange laughed before placing her hands upon her hips in expectance. Armin dithered.
"Well, we think that Rogue just had another memory come to him." The teen informed with Hange quickly becoming greatly animated again. The titan smiling until a sudden sense of alarm washed over him, the very same that made his blood run cold.
"Oh! He remembered something! What was it!" She practically jumped. "Tell me!"
Armin scratched his chin. "From what Rogue told us, Mikasa and I think Rogue had a dream about when he was –
However, his little one's words were abruptly cut off as Levi quickly charged into the barn, urgency clearly present on his face.
"Levi what –
"Suit up and get ready for battle. The Armored Titan has been sighted approaching the wall bordering the nearby village of Ragako."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hope you enjoyed the first chapter of part 2! Now I'm going to take the time to establish a few things.
Firstly, and I've debated this time and time again, but I am going to wait until April when season two is released to start the second chapter of part 2. I say this because I feel I need a good grasp on the setting of things like the Clash of the Titans arch. I think it will help me produce something much better when I write things out. I do have everything important planned though. However, until April rolls around... I'm going to be writing the chapters for Rogue's past and I plan for it to take up about 4 to five chapters. After April rolls around, updates should come every one to two months :)
In the meantime, please check out the 'Attack on Titan: before the fall' manga. I'm going to be referencing a few things from it in Rogue. I also plan to end Part 2 of Rogue at the conclusion of the Shiganshina arch in the main series.
Also, feel free to follow my tumblr account: redcoaster. I post lots of WIP updates on this fic there. I also see lots of guest comments here and I always feel bad that I can't answer them, but feel free to ask me questions there!
But yes, I'm excited to finally be posting again! So stay tuned for updates!