Author's Note: Ah! I wanted to get this done by August and I did! This is the longest chapter of this fic. This is also one of the chapters I've been wanting to write for quite some time. It introduces the other titans and drops loads of clues about Rogue's past. There is a slight Manga spoiler, but it's probably common knowledge by now. This chapter is also pretty full of gore.
This was a monster of a chapter to write and edit, so if I missed anything or if there are any typos, please PM them to me!
Enjoy the chapter! Also, if you are reading this on Ao3, there is a special illustration that goes along with this chapter!
Also, please read the notes at the end of the chapter as well. There is important info about future chapters.
His mind was swarming with confusion like bees in a hive, head almost pounding. Panic was all he felt flowing through his veins. His hands gripped the journal that he held even tighter, praying that his sweating palms didn't damage the pages. The first direction that his mind was pulling him in was the matter of his titanic friend. Rogue. What on earth had Rogue gone through? Why was his existence covered up when he was first discovered many decades ago? Armin felt his body tense up even further at this. It was incredibly clear now that the other deviant titans were after Rogue. It was likely that it was due to his status, but Armin was now having second thoughts about such being true. With the MP's and the church sweeping Rogue's existence under a rug, it was possible that there was something much more to his talent – the thing that The Female called the Coordinate. Was the ability of ordering titans something that only Rogue could do? Then again, maybe his Berserk Mode was part of the equation as well. After all, he had never seen a titan so relentless and powerful such as Rogue in the very state. Another query that had come out of the shadows and into the light was how Rogue had come to the walls and came into contact with Jorge. How on earth had he gotten there and inside Wall Maria? As he recalled, Hange discovered that he had come from a different region in the world – one that Armin couldn't even begin to guess where it was located. With Rogue's recent resurfacing memories, there was also evidence that Rogue's breed was social and not solitary – suggesting that they lived in groups. The other Jaeger Titan that Rogue described in his memories was possibly close to Rogue at one point in the titan's lifetime and could even be related by blood – a possible family member. If his friend even had a family – why were they not seeking him out? What on earth happened to the gentle titan? He wanted to know desperately. Everyone did.
Of course, the second direction his mind was going in was onto a more urgent matter that currently put the mystery of Rogue on the shelf. What he and the others were witnessing now made them tremble to the bone and chill all the way into their boots. The state of being petrified infected every male and female upon the tower. The full moon hung high overhead, illuminating the landscape before Utgaard and highlighting every needle on the pines. It also revealed a sight that both filled their hearts with dread and forced them into a state of shock. Below them, walking without an ounce of exhaustion, were at least a dozen titans.
Monsters that were still marching even after the sun had long since sat.
Armin swallowed, panic settling in even further. In his several years of being a cadet and going through countless lessons as well as reading Hange's research in addition to old surviving texts of titan biology – he had never heard of both normal and abnormal titans moving without the aid of sunlight. Sure, Rogue could operate and move until he would finally give into exhaustion around midnight at the latest. However, any of the common run of the mill variety always collapsed when the moon traded places with the sun. The titans below them looked just as hungry and agile as they would be beneath the sun's rays. Sweat traced down his brow. How! How could these titans move at night! What the hell was going on!
His eyes watched two small titans that were barely two meters tackle one another to the ground and seemingly squealing before one ripped the ear off the other in a sick form of what he could label as play. It was then that he realized that they had very little supplies – a fact that made his heart falter several times. He as well as most of the new recruits had exhausted all of their materials. Blades were dull, broken, or just plain gone while nearly all of them only have a few drops of gas within their canisters. Even the veterans didn't fare much better. Sure, they had found old and dated versions of their weapons, but there was no time to adapt and learn how to use them. They were in a very, very bad situation. With the rest of the regiment still in Ehrmich district, their chances of survival were alarmingly low.
As the newer recruits stood back in sheer silence with jaws slightly slacked and eyes wide, the veterans stood at the edge of the tower overlooking their enemy. Armin could easily tell that they were just as confused and fearful as they were. The same thoughts about a slim survival rate were likely passing through their heads as well.
"What… what the hell? How are they moving at night!" Henning stuttered. "They are supposed to be sleeping like infants!"
Armin watched Lynn's eyes practically grow to the size of grapefruits. "In the history of titans and mankind, I've never seen or heard that common titans could move at night!"
Gelgar growled, sounding almost animal like. "You stupid bastards!" The man yelled at the creatures as if they could comprehend his words. "I'd be drinking a decades old bottle of fine wine right now if it weren't for you!" Armin practically heard the man's teeth grind.
Connie swallowed. "How – how are we supposed to ward them off and kill them? None of us have hardly any fuel left and any pairing blades we have are dull!" The fearful teen questioned, receiving Nanaba's attention away from the advancing horde.
"Yes, we are aware of the shortage, you kids have the lowest amount of supplies of any of us. You have very little or none at all. We ourselves don't fare much better." Their superior spoke strongly. Indeed, our chances of leaving here period, are next to none with the others likely unable to show up in time. For now, you leave these titans to us. We will hold them off as long as possible. You stick to high ground and wait for further orders. If we manage to pick a decent amount off, the first opening you get, get to the bottom of the tower and take the horses and run. If you really found something of valuable that The Commander needs to see – you need to be the ones to survive out our squad."
Armin's brows lifted, eyes glancing down at the old journal in recognition before nodding in understanding. His superiors were mentally and physically prepared to sacrifice themselves.
Nanaba nodded with the others cresting over the tower's edge and descending down into the chaos. The blonde Section Commander looked back at their party, somehow still retaining her serious expression to mask any fear that she had. "If we don't make it, good luck to all of you." The woman concluded as she leaped from the tower and into the fray.
Naturally, the team of new recruits ran for the edge of the large structure to peer over the aged wall knowing it was all they could do at the very moment – keep an eye on both their squad mates and the currently advancing abnormals for both their superior's safety and for any opening to escape to come to them. Armin watched Gelgar swoop in a vicious dive, almost like a bird of prey as a titan with a very large and very rounded stomach reached for the man as it held its girth much like a pregnant woman would hold her swell. He had seen Gelgar on occasion in training and it was apparent his fighting style was of the aggressive type. It reminded him a bit of Oluo's full on assaults – straight and brutal. He knew of course that such a technique wasn't always a good one to have. Some titans, especially deviants and abnormals, required a soldier to be careful and calculative. Gelgar definitely wasn't.
"Oh no you don't!" The disgruntled man shouted, Armin swearing that he heard the man utter profanity about not being able to drink his wine before his superior swung his swords at the last possible second. Iron bamboo cut through thick flesh and bone like a knife to butter, the strings of tendons and blood from vessels decorated the wall of the tower and the man that separated them – the digits themselves falling to the earth below. The beast itself groaned in agony, seemingly holding itself further as another cable buried itself into the base of its skull. Powered by momentum alone, Nanaba cut through the air gracefully – true to her own style as she sliced through the monster's nape completely undetected. As the two Scouts attached themselves to the tower like bats to cave walls, the titan stumbled and fell just a few feet before the entrance to the tower – crushing several small two and three meter titans beneath its bulk. Armin gulped, the titan had come to rest so close to the tower, revealing another thing they would have to worry about – the slain titans' bodies toppling over their only fortress.
"Ha! Idiots!" Gelgar chuckled, making many of their party cringe at his cocky words. He didn't even need to second guess or squint to see that Nanaba rolled her eyes at the man's commentary.
"You need to watch your tongue and focus on your duty at hand. You never know which words will be your last."
Gelgar merely grumbled, eyes suddenly widening in alarm. Concerned, fretful blues and the other teens' eyes followed the man's gaze to see an unsettling sight that instantly got his superiors' attention. Below the large deceased titan, a small two meter was attempting to crawl its way out from beneath the fatty layer of flesh – its nails digging into and struggling to get a grip on the debilitated pathway.
"Oh shit!" Jean muttered. "There's little ones as well. Unlike the big ones – they can actually force their way in."
Upon hearing his friend's words, Armin's blood chilled. The smaller titans could most definitely get inside the tower if they really wanted to. If they did, the ones without supplies would be in for huge trouble. It was possible that they could get overwhelmed as well. If that happened – their chances of survival would rapidly decrease to almost nothing.
Seeing the struggling beast, Lynn quickly swooped and landed harshly upon the small titan's back. Almost pitifully, the creature tried to turn and snap at the young woman. Quick to eliminate, Lynn brought her blades to the beast's nape – cutting it away with the titan going limp like a rag doll.
Then, even on top of the tower, Armin watched as Lynn's body suddenly went rigged and the color drained from her skin. He knew. With the young woman's reaction, the blonde teen realized that the unfortunate had transpired.
Skin white as snow, Lynn turned to look upon Nanaba and Gelgar – face lit up in nothing but panic. "The door! It's smashed in! They've gotten inside!" She announced, several gasps running through the teens and he himself feeling a wave of wooziness run through him at the news. Both Nanaba and Gelgar's brows rose in shock. Seconds seemed to pass before the blonde Section Commander dawned a look of both anger and determination.
"Keep working! The four of us must keep the titans at bay! We can't let anymore inside! If too many get in, we are done!" Nanaba ordered as she suddenly launched herself up to the ledge of the tower to meet eyes with the group of teenagers. "Change of plans." She began sternly. "We need all of you to go down to the lower levels and create any sort of barricade that you can. If anything, you need to stall them long enough so we can take care of most of the others. Only retreat if there are too many for you to handle. Now hurry! You don't have much time!"
Armin swallowed as he turned to follow the others back down into the interior of the tower. His heart pounded harder, he prayed that the smaller titans hadn't reached the upper levels. If they had, it would be impossible to form a barricade as they had been ordered. Armin glanced over at Mikasa who wore just as much of a worried expression as he did as they made their way down into the third level of the tower. He could tell that she was masking a bit of inward panic as well as frustration. It didn't take an expert to tell that all Mikasa wished to do was get back to Rogue. He couldn't imagine how worried about the titan she was – the dark haired teen had always been sensitive about him. Especially now, with the new information that had come to light, Mikasa was more concerned than ever before. And so was he.
What in the absolute hell was going on?
The group of teens then set foot on the third floor that was lit by several torches that Lynn and Henning lit up some hours before for visibility. With the room illuminated by dull flames, it was clear that the room was an old armory with weapons that looked absolutely archaic. Several old and absolutely rusted out cannons sat against the wall, looking unquestionably useless by their dated design compared to those he was used to seeing atop the walls. There were swords that were dull from wear that were far from modern standards as well as several old gas canisters that looked far too big and heavy to fit their current gear – any bit of gas that was in them rusting holes in the bottom. On old workbenches there were a few sets of the old maneuver gear models similar to what the journal pictured. Overall, it was a room of useless scrap metal that couldn't begin to compete with their modern and standard issued equipment. Nearly stumbling on his own feet, Armin observed as Jean quickly hoisted one of the torches from its holster upon the wall – looking absolutely urgent and serious. The teen then flung open the door that led down to the previous area that they had been taking refuge in shortly before. Looking down to the floor, Armin nearly let out a sigh in relief. Any intruding titan had not made its way up to the second floor yet.
"Looks like the bastards haven't figured out how to get to this floor yet." Jean pondered aloud as he continued to motion quickly down the stairs. "They're either on the first floor or they somehow got turned around and ventured into the basement." The teen jogged, heading right for the door that sealed the first floor from the second. Armin could practically feel the hairs raise upon his neck in realization. The titans, there was no way that they could have gone into the basement. The only entrance was a wooden trapdoor on the center of the floor that required that it be pulled to open. With its location, the wood of the door had to be thick enough to withstand the weight of both people and equipment that had once stood upon it. It was likely that it was strong enough to withstand a small two-meter titan as well. Returning from his thoughts, Armin looked up just in time to see Jean lay his hand onto the handle.
"Jean!" Armin paused in the middle of the stairs, watching as the taller teen halted at his words. "Hold on! If a titan got in, it would be on the first floor! The basement is too well sealed for them to get in!" He announced with Mikasa blinking in consideration.
"Yeah, that's right. Even though the trapdoor to the basement showed age, the heavy iron hardware would prevent a small titan from falling through. Not to mention, the whole door is connected to a complex pulley system."
Jean dipped his head at the truth. "Yeah, you're right. There's no way they can get into the basement. Should – we formulate a plan as to how we're going to do this?" The male looked to him, obviously directing his query to him knowing that he was usually the one possessing an idea.
Armin found himself gulping yet again. His mind easily going to a solution just as Jean would expect, but an issue had to be addressed first. "I've got a plan. However, we need to know how much time we have. As scary as it sounds, we need to take a peek on the other side of the door to see both what we are dealing with and determine how much time we need to seal the door. Just a piece of wood isn't going to hold for long if we need to hold off a titan until we can firmly barricade the entrance." He answered nervously but sternly, trying to keep his voice from shaking as best as he could. Jean only nodded and turned back to face the knob.
"Alright. I'll take a quick look to see what's going on below us. Just be prepared to take action." Jean exhaled, his throat bobbing before he twisted his wrist, gradually turning the knob.
It became silent between all of them as the door slowly opened with a loud creak that made his skin crawl, revealing a black void that was eerily quiet. He, and several of his comrades held their breaths as they looked into the darkness – unable to see but mere inches past the doorway. With the teen gulping hard yet again, Jean lifted the torch and positioned it as needed – its light revealing winding stairs and a sight that made his pounding heart nearly leap from his chest and his hands nearly drop the journal.
There, just a few feet away on the stairs, was a small titan. Even from the dim light, it was unnerving. It was like most, built awkward with a rib cage too wide with the curved bones nearly poking through the flesh. Its face however, was the thing that made his skin prickle the most. Its eyes were a cold blue and its mouth was fixed in what he could classify as a gleeful grin – the thing's teeth stained yellow from blood. The creature was absolutely unsettling. For what seemed like seconds, time appeared frozen with no soul moving until the titan let out what sounded like a vague chuckle and opened its wide jaws, beaming even bigger as hunger flashed across its eyes. With not a second more to waste, the beast lunged forward, bringing Jean back from his state of bewilderment – the teen's adrenaline igniting through his veins and provoking him to slam the door shut and secure it with a piece of wood. "Shit!" He yelped, the door jolting as the titan made impact on the other side, nearly pushing the door from its hinges and making Jean abandon any idea of retreat as he motioned to brace himself against the heavy door. "They're in here!" He announced, the door bouncing and vibrating from the creature's attempts to break through on the other side.
The titan continued to grunt and snarl as it proceeded to pelt the door with serious aggressive advances. Armin could practically hear every scape the beast's nails made as it clawed at the door like a rabid dog. It reminded him of a hunter's hound going after a kill, the titan grunting repetitively, its breaths sweeping from underneath the door as it constantly switched from throwing itself forward and trying to dig its way through to them. The creature droned cavernously, stalling in its approach. It then became quiet again, allowing Jean to relax and wipe away beads of nervous sweat.
"Could it have given…
The teen however, was unable to finish his sentence as the titan threw itself against the door once again with a defiant shriek, hitting the wooden surface so hard that the door bounced and nearly threw Jean forward. His heart practically leapt from his chest in sheer alarm.
"Damn it! I can't hold –
Jean paused mid-sentence yet again as a splintering crack echoed throughout the room, the arm of the titan forcing its way through the sturdy wood to attempt in snatching any close body – the creature's nails digging deep into the hard surface in search of flesh. With the display snapping most from their state of bafflement, Connie charged forward to brace himself against the door with a panicked Jean. The titan shrieked again as it continued to relentlessly pound against the aged wood and swiped – its fingers barely touching strands of the taller teen's hair.
"Shit! Shit! It's strong!" Connie announced, voice like a terrified child's. "There's no way we can hold this forever!"
Suddenly, the beast began to push, pulling its arm in and poking its head through to make another attempt of getting them between its teeth. Saliva flew in all directions as the titan snapped its jaws like a ravenous wolf. Mikasa then left his side, practically leaping down several curved steps and hurriedly making her way across the room. Armin watched as she grasped one of their used blades in hand and made her way in a sprint towards the other two teens struggling to hold the creature back. The girl's face twisted into a snarl of both anger and determination as Mikasa held the weapon high with eyes burning with intent. With as much force as she could exert, his friend plunged the dull sword into the mucus membrane of the titan's eye – the creature screaming as the metal plunged deep into the beast's cornea and cut through the bridge of its nose. For a moment, the titan paused in its needs to satisfy its hunger to pitifully reach for its face, giving him both a window of opportunity and a plan. It was too late to effectively barricade the door before them so only one option remained.
"Mikasa! Krista! Come with me! I need your help!" Armin ordered as he started back up the stairs. "Connie! Jean! Hold the door as long as you can! Move out of the way when I tell you to!"
"What!" The shorter male struggled. "Armin!"
"Just keep doing what you're doing! I have an idea!" He retorted, leaving Connie and Jean perplexed and both Krista and Mikasa even more so as they joined him in scaling the steps back to the third floor.
"Armin?" Krista began, her breath ragged and tone urgent. "What are we doing? We need to barricade the –
"That door is done for!" He interrupted as he continued to carry himself up the steps.
"The titan has already broken it to the point where if another were to put its weight against it, the door would surely give way. We'll have to retreat to the third floor, but we need to take out that titan first. There is a slight chance that it could be the only one that was small enough to get in. If we leave it be it's going to be trouble. So we're going to need to take care of it as well as buy us some time to build a proper blockade on the third floor." Armin paused to catch his breath. "Those old cannons gathering dust up there should do the trick. If we can push it into position, we can roll it down the stairs and hopefully run over that titan. The older cannons, from what I've read, are quite heavier than the newer versions standing on top of the walls. It might be hard to move, but I'm sure its size and the momentum it gains when rolling will serve us well!"
"Alright." Mikasa began. "I hope this works."
The trio then crested the top of the stairs into the old armory. Thinking quickly, Armin reluctantly pulled the journal from underneath his arm and placed it safely on a neighboring crate before turning to a cannon that was positioned correctly. "There! We'll use that one! It's heavy by the looks of it, but these were designed to be mobile and moved around quickly. All we need to do is push it!" He projected as he hurriedly weaved around the other rusty weapons to the cannon's rear with Mikasa and Krista quickly joining him. "Push!" He ordered, putting as much force as he could against the old iron – feeling the rubber soles on his boots strain against the dusty floor. "Push!" He cried again, praying that Jean and Connie were still holding their own. With both teen girls aiding him, he finally felt the cannon roll forward, its old wooden wheels creaking in protest with each turn. With the cannon giving in to movement, the three threw themselves into high gear and pushed harder. After a decent amount of sweat, the cannon came to rest at the edge of the stairs. "Jean! Connie!" Armin called, watching the two look away from the still struggling titan to their position – faces falling with shock.
"A cannon! You can't be serious!" The taller male doubted, Armin's brows only narrowed in determination – remarkably not feeling an ounce of fear running through his body but rather focusing on a solution to the current situation. He was high on adrenaline.
"It's our only option! Move!" Armin projected desperately as he and the others braced their hands against the defunct weapon and pushed, the level floor suddenly dipping beneath the cannon and sloping into stairs with the heavy piece of artillery leaving their reach and beginning its wild and rapid decent. Seeing the cannon gain momentum down the flight, Connie and Jean bolted to leave the small titan to proceed in trying to pull the sword from its face. The large weapon rolled faster, iron banging against wood and stone seemingly rattling beneath it as it neared its destination. Armin held his breath as the canon practically flew forward from the stairs into its target, the sound of splintering wood and the titan screeching meeting their ears as it made impact – the creature's blood decorating the floor and doorway as its torso was smashed in. Armin held his breath along with the others as the dust gradually began to settle, revealing the devastation. The door was absolutely no more, simply laying in a mixture of debris and splintered wood. Beneath what was left of the heavy cannon and door, was the small titan. The sword was still sticking out from its face but the creature was no longer struggling and appeared to be knocked into a state of unconsciousness – the monster still breathing steadily.
"I don't think it's getting up from that. It's small so I don't think it will be able to get the cannon off of it when it wakes up." Jean sighed. "Damn thing."
Mikasa exhaled in relief, walking over to what was Gelgar's sleeping area to pick up a small knife the man had used to open the bottle of wine that he snuck sips from. "I should probably cut its nape."
Armin shook his head. "As much as that's needed Mikasa, that's too dangerous to try. If it suddenly wakes up, it can still turn its head and could tear a chunk right out of you. It's best if we just leave it for now and focus on barricading the third floor door."
For a moment they seemed to weigh their options before Krista nodded in agreement. "Yeah that's a good idea. It would give us time to gather the supplies needed." She turned to ascend up the steps. "After all, we don't know if another got in –
With Krista's unfinished sentence, Armin followed her drifting gaze to see a sight that made his blood run cold yet again. There, silently climbing over the rubble was another small titan.
The creature towering just an arms-length behind Connie.
Armin opened his mouth to yell a warning, but quickly found that his voice was caught in his throat – the others in the room paralyzed as well. The titan's breath grew rapid, the beast's nostrils flaring – the noise making Connie stall, face freezing in realization. With the world seemingly in slow motion yet again, Armin watched as Connie turned to face the beast with the teen's throat characteristically bobbing in fear. The titan's eyes opened to reveal clouded blues before the beast peeled open its maw and hungrily lunged for the unarmed recruit. He found himself unable to move again, every bit of fear returning at the realization that there was no way he could get to Connie in time. The boy would be unfortunately joining his parents. There was nothing he could do.
However, before Connie fell to the same fate, Jean's hand roughly impacted the titan's cheek – the tall teen pushing the titan's jaws away with every bit of force he had, Jean's face in an animalistic snarl as his other hand shoved a stunned Connie from harm's way. To everyone's horror, the titan pulled its head back and turned, clamping its teeth down onto Jean's forearm with the teen letting out a cry of sheer agony. Armin's stomach nearly turned over as the sickening crack of bone met his ears and terrified blues observed crimson seep out of flesh. Jean's teeth grinded together, but before he could open his mouth to request for aid, Mikasa rushed forth and slammed the old military knife into the beast's cheek with the titan's blood splashing against her own.
"M…Mikasa? He – ah!" Jean stammered. "What are –
"Hold still! I'm cutting the muscles in this thing's jaw!" The girl spoke fiercely as she carved the knife deeper into flesh, the titan seemingly not caring at all. Blood began to puddle upon the floor as the small blade separated skin. Finally, the titan let out a short screech as it's jaw fell open to release the teen. "Run!" Mikasa ordered, with Jean scrambling up the steps in a desperate bid to get to safety. "R –
The exotic teen paused, taking a step in retreat with eyes open wide. The titan had turned its attention to both her and Connie, the monster completely ignoring its wound. Armin swallowed. This wasn't good! The small giant was between his friends and their way of escape – and without their gear to defend themselves or to aid them in mobility, there was little chance that Mikasa and Connie could escape unharmed – or even at all. In horror, he viewed the titan start forward to the two Scouts, moving as a predator would do to stalk its prey. The creature growled, saliva falling from its maw as it held the two in its hungry gaze. Armin swallowed, they had to do something. He had to do something. If he could just distract the titan for a minute, Mikasa could still attack it with the knife. Still, with the small abnormal's unpredictable behavior, there was no telling what was to happen. He didn't have any other choice. At the moment, such an idea was the only available option.
Armin swallowed. "Hey! HEY!" He called, making himself as loud as possible. "Over here!"
To his luck, the beast slowly turned its head to look upon he and his two other companions, the titan's bloody mug absolutely unnerving. For a moment, it stood there before letting out a gurgling roar and rushing toward them. Armin braced himself, the creature surprisingly not running for the base of the stairs but rather for the wall the spiraling stairs rested upon, the move showing the creature's lack of intelligence. He didn't bother to watch Mikasa and Connie scuffle among their scattered belongings. His only focus was the titan directly below him and on what his next move could be. 'A sword! I could get one from up in the ar –
He couldn't finish the thought however as the titan suddenly shrieked again and jumped upward, making the blonde's heart jolt as its hands peeked over the edge of the step.
The titan landed back onto the floor, its weight rattling them, Armin practically feeling his kneecaps shake. The beast then leaped again in an attempt to satisfy its hunger. This time, luck was on the creature's side as its hand managed to reach far enough to grasp Krista's ankle and roughly pull her off her feet with the small blonde letting out a scream. Impulsively, Armin bent down to grab her hands, the male feeling Jean attempt to grasp his shirt.
"Armin! Jean!" Krista struggled. "Help me!"
"We're trying!" He yelled over the titan's sounds of aggression.
His heart practically threatened escape as he felt his friend slipping from his grip, the look on Krista's face only making him panic even further. He couldn't let her go! He couldn't! He didn't want anyone to die! They had to survive! They had to survive the night! They had to get back! To the Scouts! To Rogue!
Then, as if his prayers had been answered by some sort of god, a can of uneaten olives smacked the titan behind the head, catching the beast off guard and forcing it to release Krista. Pulling the girl back to safety, Armin looked to see both Mikasa and Connie holding opposite ends of a cable belonging to a set of maneuver gear. He felt his heart lift hopefully in his chest – knowing just what the two were setting out to accomplish.
"Why don't you come here and pick a fight with us!" Connie yelled bravely, knuckles turning white as he gripped the cable even tighter.
The titan growled at the challenge, all of its focus on the two Scouts that interrupted it, its jaw finally beginning to heal.
"Get ready, Connie." Mikasa prepared as she slid the knife behind one of her belts. "We are going to have to be quick."
The beast suddenly snarled through its bloody maw and surged forward with its arms outstretched and ready to snag its meal. With the move, Armin watched as Mikasa yelled a command and the two teens ran forward, parallel to one another with the cable stretched tight between them. The titan had no time to react as the strong threaded steel cut across its shins so forcefully that the beast fell forward – smashing its face against the stone floor. As quickly as she moved with her gear, Mikasa pulled the knife from her belt again and threw herself onto the titan's back – plunging the knife deep into its nape. Before the creature could cry out in anguish, Mikasa swiped the blade in a fluent motion, killing the creature instantly, he titan's body falling absolutely limp. Armin nearly fell to his knees in relief. For a moment, the group of teens reveled in their success until the reality of the situation returned to them.
"Let's hurry and barricade the third floor door before any more of them get in. We can't afford to deal with another one."
Armin let out a sigh as he shoved the journal in an old military messenger bag before proceeding in finding something that would serve as a suitable splint. His heart wavered as another vibration pulsed beneath his feet, telling him that another titan had been cut down by the veteran Scouts outside. Their party was now sealed inside the armory, their barricade of old weapons that they had made shortly before holding strong and providing much needed reassurance. Currently, the others were doing whatever they could to aid Jean who sat in the center of the room with Connie trying to hold the teen's wounded arm in a stable position. Krista was rummaging around in crates and chests trying to locate anything to sterilize the injury while Mikasa simply oversaw the scene. Opening another chest, his hand instantly selected a metal rod that was once used as a gun barrel – the remaining piece from a shortened weapon. It wasn't ideal, but it would work.
"I'm not a doctor by any means." Mikasa began quietly as she examined Jean's arm. "But I picked up a few tidbits from Dr. Jaeger. Jean's arm is definitely fractured, he's lucky the bone didn't break completely in two though. If an artery was punctured, he would have bled to death."
Jean grunted, still pitifully holding pressure on the gaping wound. "I hope this doesn't get infected."
Armin swallowed nervously at the male's statement. It was true, if it was one thing to be the most concerned about, it was the infectious bacteria from the titan's saliva doing some serious damage to Jean's health. He knew good and well from Hange's notes on various samples common mindless titan saliva, that the creatures' spit was full of harmful germs and who knew what else. Not to mention, with a diet consisting of humans, there was also the risk of contaminants from leftover carrion that sometimes resided between a titan's teeth as well. It wasn't often that solders walked away from a titan's bite, but when they did there was usually an infection that would settle into the wound due to the fact that most of the time it couldn't get sterilized straight away. Some poor soldiers often became very sick afterwards and had to undergo intense treatment. Sometimes an infected bite would actually kill a victim. For the very reason, a titan's bite was often considered more lethal than even a venomous snake's. Armin swallowed fretfully, a bead of sweat forming on his brow. They needed to treat Jean's wound quickly, not to mention sew it up as best as possible to control the bleeding. Armin let out a sigh as he approached the group, he really hoped things wouldn't get even worse. There were far too many concerns and far too much to deal with.
"Alright, I think I found something we could use for a temporary splint." He began with Krista giving slight celebration just behind them, pulling out an old and rusty metal chest and coming excitedly to them.
"I can't believe it! I found an old first aid kit! Finally, we got some luck on our side!" The small teen knelt down and opened the small box, revealing supplies that were old but definitely usable. Armin gave into another sigh in relief as he spied an unopened bottle of alcohol and other sterilizing astringents.
"Thank god." Jean muttered, his face showing his agony that was clearly distinguishable in the soft torchlight.
"Lucky indeed." Mikasa spoke as she pulled an aged brown bottle from the set. "This is hydrogen peroxide. It's even more effective than alcohol when it comes to getting germs out of an open wound. We need to pour this on first before we stitch it up and cast it. We can use the alcohol to sterilize the needles in the kit. The gauze can go on first before we attach the splint and wrap it with cloth to stabilize it. We can use one of the old flags over here in the corner to make a sling." She informed, sharing a bit of knowledge that she and him had learned from a text that Rogue had found in one of the Scout's depots back in Maria. Thankfully, they never had to use the knowledge when they lived in the titan's cove, but now it was being put to good use. Not to mention, their lessons on field dressing a wound they learned as trainees only aided them even more.
"Alright." Krista began. "Sounds good. Um – I actually sewed a lot before I became a soldier so I think I can stitch up the bite." She swallowed nervously, clearly trying to put her own fears behind her.
"Okay. I'll do the disinfecting." Mikasa opened the bottle. "We'll have to work quickly here. We can't miss an opening given to us to escape. Krista, go ahead and sterilize the needles." She spoke seriously, grey yes suddenly turning to Jean. "Brace yourself. When I pour this on, it's going to sting for a while."
Jean tilted his head and groaned, his opposite hand wiping away sweat that had accumulated upon his brow. "Just do it quickly. Get it over with." He mumbled, visibly clinching his jaw as he braced himself for the coming pain.
Mikasa only nodded and hovered the bottle over the male's arm before tilting the open container. As the translucent liquid met the open wound, Jean let lout a constrained scream, hissing and gritting his teeth even harder as the peroxide began to foam like the top of a beer – killing a lot of bacteria and washing away much of the smeared blood. For a moment, Mikasa watched the liquid do its work before tilting he bottle again to cleanse the bite.
"S…shit! Fuck that hurts!"
"It's killing off the bacteria. Hey Krista? Do you have everything ready?" Mikasa turned to the small blonde who nodded and held up a curved needle dangling from nylon thread.
"Yeah. I'm good."
"Alright. You can start sewing it up." Mikasa examined. "It honestly needs stapled, but stitches are the best we can do now. Are you ready Jean? We don't have anything to numb you, so this is going to hurt… a lot." His longtime friend winced with Jean pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Do it then. It can't be any worse than that fucker's actual bite."
Armin bit his lip, feeling a knot grow in his throat as Krista exhaled before lowering the thin piece of steel. As the metal pierced the skin, Armin quickly looked away knowing that seeing a needle sewing up flesh was going to make him ill. Connie did the same, forcing himself to look to the wall. Mikasa of course continued to supervise as Jean yelped and projected his discomfort, the girl completely used to viewing such a practice. Knowing that there wasn't much to do, Armin walked over to a lone window that was sealed by weathered shutters. After some slight difficulty, the teen opened the window to allow the moonlight to grace the armory. Ignoring Jean's cries of discomfort, Armin peered outside to see a reassuring sight. The steaming carcasses of several dead titans lay at the foot of the castle with few remaining – five to be exact. It was absolute proof that the veterans knew good and well what they were doing. Still, not a signal was given to them to make their escape. After all, the five titans were of the large variety and were still dangerous. If they rode out at the very moment, one would certainly spot them and they could be killed easily.
"Looks like the Scouts might have things under control."
Upon hearing Mikasa, Armin turned to see that she stood at his side peering out into the courtyard of Utgaard as well. "I don't think I've ever seen titans move around at night like that – it's almost dawn too." She paused, examining as a small titan tried to climb over the corpse of a larger titan in a pitiful attempt to get to them. "Do you think – that something is allowing them to stay awake?"
Armin bit his lip. "I'm sure there is a reason – I wonder if it's affecting Rogue as well. He does stay up late for a titan, some nights more than others." He trailed off, suddenly remembering a bit of text that he had read at a library. "Actually, if I had to guess – I'd say that it has something to do with the full moon."
Mikasa blinked, astonished. "The full moon?"
He nodded. "Yeah. Moonlight is reflected sunlight and the moon is full tonight so more light is reflected. Normally, there isn't enough light from the moon on a regular night – an amount that could be so small that it doesn't energize a titan so they just fall asleep. Even if I'm right about the full moon – it's not intense light so perhaps it's just enough to keep them going. The Scouts haven't really done much as far as night missions. Even Hange didn't do as many night experiments – simply because her subjects just fell into a state of repose. As for Rogue, I'm not so sure if he's ever stayed up during a full moon."
Mikasa bit her lip in consideration. "Maybe it is because Rogue is usually in his nest with us. Even when he was alone in the cove, he probably just retreated inside his tree where the moonlight couldn't get him. If what you saying is true Armin – it's terrifying."
Armin swallowed at her reply. Yes, indeed. If the full moon really allowed titans to move at night, it was an absolutely alarming discovery that would change how the Scouts went about things. Another alarming thought then came to mind, one that made the lump in his throat return. "I hope there are no titans near Ehrmich district. Even more so, I hope the Armored Titan hasn't gone there in search of Rogue."
Mikasa nearly froze at the revelation, his skin visibly paling. "I hope not." She uttered, her voice soft and restrained as she pulled her scarf over her mouth. Armin remained silent, not quite sure if it was possible to reassure her when he couldn't even reassure himself.
Oh how he hoped that he was wrong.
"Hey Armin and Mikasa? I think we're ready to put the cast on." Krista's voice returned them to the situation.
Walking back to the others, Armin kept quiet and to himself. He could only hope that The Armored was preoccupied with something other than breaking into Ehrmich district. That was the last thing that the Scouts needed to happen. Currently, there was no way of knowing if such a thing was occurring, and it bothered him greatly. At the moment however, he couldn't let fear of such keep him from functioning. He and the others had to focus on surviving so they could actually return to Rogue.
The two teens then stopped to crouch next to Jean with the supplies they had gathered to form the cast. Armin swallowed roughly as he spied the titan's bite. It was better than before, but it was still difficult to look at. The flesh was stitched in a way that a tailor would sew leather together. It wasn't perfect by any means or pretty whatsoever. The flesh was a sickly black and blue and the sutures were amateurish compared to Dr. Jaeger's past work. To Jean's misfortune, it would certainly have to be redone later by one of the Scout's medics, but their attempt at playing doctor forbid the wound from bleeding which would keep Jean stable until they met up with the rest of the Scouts for him to receive treatment.
"Alright." Mikasa gestured to the roll of gauze. "Wrap his arm in that first." The teen ordered with Krista quickly complying. "Make sure it's tight."
"Okay." Krista replied as she worked delicately, making sure to not wrap the tall male's wrist and elbow to still allow movement. Mikasa nodded at the girl's work.
"Alright. Armin? Put the old gun barrel beneath his arm and hold it there. Connie keep his limb steady." Mikasa ordered with Jean grunting in pain yet again – the teen somehow holding himself together without the help of pain medicine to ease his suffering.
"Okay, Mikasa." Armin complied with his friend's directions, keeping the makeshift splint in place as the dark-haired teen wrapped the male's arm with one of the two old flags before tying it up securely. Quickly, Mikasa, fashioned a splint with Connie helping Jean place his arm into the old cloth.
"Thanks." Jean muttered as Armin and Mikasa helped him to his feet. "It still hurts like hell, but it's better at least."
"No problem, but you're most likely not out of the woods yet. There's still a risk for infection and your arm is probably going to be stitched up again along with the application of a better cast." Mikasa sighed. "It works for now though."
Jean gave into a nod. "True. I would be bleeding out if we didn't find anything to sew this up."
"Yeah. Now perhaps we should check –
Armin however couldn't finish his sentence as a loud and bizarre sound silenced all around them. He could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand in alarm and his heart starting to pound once more at the piercing whistling sound that grew louder and louder.
"The hell is –
The question went unfinished as a loud crash met their ears and vibrated the floor beneath them. A commotion could be heard from their superiors just outside, provoking them to run to the window yet again.
The sight before them, made almost every shred of hope vanish. Below, a large boulder now sat upon what was once the debilitated stables. The horses, or what remained of them, lay strung out in their own blood across the courtyard with innards decorating the overgrown weeds like haphazardly thrown confetti. His jaw slackened. How! How were they going to get away now! How did a boulder get on top of the stables!
Suddenly, the whistling began again, but before their small party could brace themselves the tower rattled violently. The teens fell from their feet with weapons shaking and stone groaning from the impact. Dust clouded the room and swept into their lungs – leaving them in a coughing fit and in a state of pure confusion and terror. Armin blinked, trying to regain his visibility when he heard a series of screams up above. They said nothing, only getting to their feet in unison and racing up the stairs. He held his breath as he climbed each step, fearing what he was about to see. Moonlight met their skin as the group of teens exited onto the top of the tower.
Or rather the portion that was left of it.
The southern side of the tower had been obliterated, revealing the floor just below them. Armin's jaw fell again, the others gasping as both Nanaba and Gelgar carried both Lynn and Henning to place them down. Their bodies were broken and mangled, part of them crushed to the point where one wouldn't recognize them. Armin stiffened while Gelgar nearly gagged. What could have caused such a thing?
"A rock." Nanaba retorted, tone almost venomous. "We think one of them threw a rock." The woman growled. "Shit. The horses are gone and Gelgar and I are almost out of supplies. We're going to have to wait here for the rest of the night." His superior growled. "Damn it! It's clear who they're after. Shit, it's like we're just being played with –
The chaos around them was suddenly silenced by a great roar, but not of Rogue. Armin's heart stilled as the night suddenly seemed so much darker. He could feel a chill run up his spine as the bellow prolonged. Like his titanic friend's cry of dominance, the roar was deep and powerful, but the roar didn't have the same tone. It reminded him of water draining down a chute – a grumbling of a bull. It barely sounded like a common titan's cry. It was absolutely exotic. Armin blinked, his heart starting to thud against his rib cage again. He had heard The Armored Titan roar quite some time ago. This howl most certainly didn't belong to it. Thinking all the way back to the first breach, The Colossal Titan sounded nothing like the bellow either.
In both confusion and fear, Armin looked for the source. Blue pools instantly flashed with terror as he and the rest of the squad spotted a bizarre figure sitting atop the wall. Even at the several mile distance, Armin could make out some of the figure's faint features in the moonlight. He could see that it was almost fully covered in dark hair and its proportions were odd. Like an ape, its arms looked long an absolutely lanky. The torso of the strange looking beast was extended and weighty. The teen blinked in astonishment, feeling his body quake with a tremor as the creature roared again. Something about the beast make the blood run cold in his veins.
"What – what kind of titan is that?" Nanaba stuttered. "How did it get –
The tower suddenly vibrated again, putting them on full alert as they knew the only cause. Trees snapped and loose stones fell as at least two dozen titans emerged from the nearby thicket – all heading straight for them.
"Shit! We barely have any gas or blades and the horses are dead!"
Armin only remained petrified as he looked at what could possibly be their impending doom. How? Where had they come from? How on earth were they to survive until the morning! His eyes shifted to the where the mysterious creature sat atop the wall only to see the beast beginning its decent down to other side to retreat back into Maria.
If he was full of questions before, he was certainly overflowing with them now.
His hands held the wood in place, keeping things steady for the working men and women around him. Rogue exhaled a cloud of steam between his teeth, looking up to watch the Garrison soldiers perform their tasks. As they had scheduled, they began repairing the breach just before dawn. It was a risky procedure, but he found it to be fascinating all the same. Around the hole, the humans had stretched large tarps from the base of either side of the wall, to nearly the top of the gap – keeping the space clear for a long pipe to descend from the top of the wall and into the breach, making it so that the thing he heard the Garrison call 'concrete' could flow right in and fill the large gap. His job was one of the most important ones he had been told. So the concrete didn't push out the tarp from its weight and keep its shape as it did something called 'solidifying' he had uprooted several trees and shaped them as needed before replacing them vertically into the ground against the tarp. Rogue had done his job on both sides of the breach, scaling over the wall more than once to place the so called barricades. The outside patch was reinforced with extra trees while he stood on the other side for added support. It was quite the process, but it worked for the hole that was filling quickly.
Rogue winced as the sound of yet another cannon met his ears, his eyes watching the top of the wall yet again. The second task that both the Garrison and some of the Scouts shared was the responsibility of taking out incoming titans aiming to enter Wall Rose. The titan swallowed nervously. He was incredibly on edge and every loud noise and fast movement seemed to shake him from his stupor. In the previous evening, he never fell into a state of repose. His body never felt tired like it usually did during the late hours of the night that led into morning. In fact, he felt so active that he could have took a jog around the district. The fact worried Hange in the slightest when she had gotten up in the middle of the night to do her business, but the woman brushed it off as both his tolerance to move without the sun and any worries he had. And as worries went – he was absolutely full of them. What on earth had he done in his past? As hard as he thought, he didn't remember the Armored Titan at all but the beast seemed to know him like an old foe. He had no recollection of the monster whatsoever. Then there was Krista. Was she really part of what they called a royal family? Did she really know something about him and knew more than what she was letting on? More so, how could she help him remember what happened to him? It seemed so preposterous! She was just a child! A teenager! How on earth could she do such a thing if she could? It made little sense to him.
Of course, there was the matter of himself. Could Hange and Levi be right? Was he really some powerful entity – a king? A force that could dominate the titans? A titan king? How? It troubled him even more so. It seemed more ludicrous than anything, but it frightened him. Was it truly the reason why The Armored and the other titans were after him? Rogue shivered in the slightest. Was he really the reason why so many people were dying? He closed his eyes tightly, trying to rid the very thought from his mind – realizing how ineffective it was. He really hoped that Hange had come to the wrong conclusion. Perhaps the royal family just meant that they knew a titan with his description that had knowledge of a weapon that could be used to defeat the titans. However, the more he thought about it, the more that Hange seemed right. He could practically order titans around! The Female called him The Coordinate which his family said that it indeed meant to command. From all the descriptions in fairy tales both his mother and his little ones read to him, he knew kings ruled over their kingdoms and gave orders to their loyal subjects. Rogue nearly huffed. A king? Really? Him? He didn't want to believe it like he didn't want to believe all of what was currently transpiring.
The thing that haunted him most however, was what The Armored called him. Traitor. The word let him to wonder as to just what he had done to deserve such a title. Surely – surely in his past life he wasn't evil. The very idea made him queasy. As his mother had always said and everyone that was close to him knew that he had no mean bone in his body. All he wanted to do was interact, show his affection, and play. Rogue shook his head yet again. No. There was no way he could have been evil. After all, he had never eaten a single human or slayed one for the hell of it. Maybe The Armored Titan gifted him with the title for that very reason. He prayed that it was that reason.
The titan begged for none of the news and facts to be true, but deep down he knew that they likely could be.
"Rogue?" He heard Hange begin and felt a weight landing upon his shoulder. "Sweetheart? What's wrong? Are – are you thinking about what happened last night?"
Rogue winced yet again with the scientist likely feeling his twinge. Knowing that he needed to give her an answer as well as share his fears, the titan rotated his head to look at the woman that was perched upon him. "HANNGEE… EII DONNT ANNT TOO BEEE AHH KINNNG. EII – DUNNT… AHHNNT ANNY OFFF DISS."
At his statement, she bore a sympathetic look. "I know you don't my lovely titan, but – look at it this way." The woman hesitated. "The possibility of all of the news being true gives us more clues about what could have happened to you before you lost your memory. My hypothesis from last night about you being a king of sorts was just an educated guess. However, Rogue the more I think about it the more –
"Hange please. Don't tell him things to worry him further. He's already scared shitless. You're just going to make him even more on edge."
Rogue swallowed, glancing down at a grumpy looking Levi perched upon a supply wagon. "EVVI –
"Oh! But Levi, he's really shaken up and a little bit of comfort through conversation could really help Rogue!" Hange interrupted. The Corporal only shook his head in denial.
"Shitty Glasses, now is not the time. We need him to focus on the job at hand. Besides, you talking to him about all this is probably making him even more skittish." Levi turned to him. "We are almost done here Rogue, so the more you focus the faster we can finish up here and we can go find your little ones at one of the safe areas."
The titan gulped but nodded in understanding as he returned to his act of stabilizing. Yes, if he had to pick a thing that he was the most worried about – it was his babies' well-being. They did not return in Ehrmich district the previous evening or during the early morning hours. It could only mean that they were either stranded at one of the safe places without supplies or they had been killed in the line of duty. The thought made his bones quake yet again. He desperately wanted the repairs to be finished so he could go find them. Rogue found himself letting out a small whine between his teeth. The titan really wanted his little ones to be sitting on his shoulders the very minute – especially with his emotions and mind in a flurry. He really wanted to feel their touch upon his skin and listen to their soft reassuring words. Rogue's ears sank, god how he hoped that they were safe and at least out of harm's way. He didn't want them to die. He didn't want any member of his family to die.
He didn't want anyone to die because of him.
"Easy now big guy." Hange whispered into his ear. "We're almost done so we'll find your babies soon." The woman spoke tenderly. "I bet they're just fine! Armin and Mikasa are tough. They have learned how to survive thanks to you!"
The titan lifted his brows in consideration. Hange did have a point. His little ones had learned how to live and adapt in difficult times. Rogue was certain. They were somewhere waiting on him. To thank the messy-haired woman, he purred softly and blessed her with a small lick upon her hand; Hange giggling at his way of thanks before stroking his muscular neck. The titan's keen greens however, could tell that the scientist's eyes disguised her great worry as well. Looking around at every Scout including The Corporal and Commander, it was like each of them were wearing masks to hide their panic. He could do no such thing.
"HOW IS IT LOOKING DOWN THERE!" The titan heard one of the men atop the wall project, signaling Hange to scale upon his scalp to peer at their work.
"IT LOOKS EXCELLENT! ANOTHER HOUR AND WE'LL BE DONE!"
Rogue heaved another heavy breath, steam coming out in a large cloud. Another hour. To him it might as well been another year. The wait for him to reunite with his babies was absolutely agonizing. Oh how he hoped that they were alright. He hoped the Armored or any titan for that matter hadn't found them yet.
The titan sighed yet again, deciding to just focus on his surroundings. The weather itself was poised for another decent feeling day with no hint of rain for several hours which was good for the patch as he had been told. The birds were not singing however and it was not hard to figure out why. Several hours ago, he had heard a faint roar in the distance. It was an odd bellow but it ceased quickly. On occasion, sometimes his mindless kin roared for no reason whatsoever. Any titan's howl, including his own, would make all small life around silent for several hours afterward. It was truly a haunting experience and it was no wonder why soldiers spoke of titan roars this way during times when they shared happenings of their expeditions with soldiers of other regiments. He could only imagine how they described his own roar back in the days when his existence in Wall Maria after the breach was spoken as a rumor. Rogue blinked, pushing against the large tree to test the solidity of the concrete – finding that it had already hardened considerably.
Then, an alarming thought crossed his mind. The roar that he had heard – it was at night! Could it be that ALL of the titans never slept? Feeling alarm course through his frame. Rogue began to look around for Hange who had left her perch upon his head. But as he did, the direction of the wind shifted, blowing from the north.
His nostrils flared as he dissected the scent of the breeze. It was small, but he could smell it. It was the unmistakable scent of his babies and their fear. Rogue's irises shrank, turning his head away from his work to sniff aggressively in the direction in which the scent originated – ignoring the fact that his breaths had gathered quite a bit of attention. His eyes widened even further as he picked up a second scent that terrified him to the core. Titans. Lots of titans. His little ones! His babies were in serious trouble!
"Oi! Brat! What are doing?"
Without thinking of any consequence whatsoever, Rogue stepped away from his job and turned toward the source of the turmoil. Instinctively, the titan let out a desperate whine and grunted repetitively – plunging the surrounding Scouts and Garrison into confusion.
"Rogue!" Levi yelled furiously. "The hell are you doing! You're not done! Now is not the time to give into whatever animal instincts you have!"
The titan simply ignored the man and continued his whining, sounding a bit like a terrified dog as Hange quickly launched up to his shoulder. "Rogue! Rogue what is it!"
Instead of answering his superior, Rogue took several quick steps forward, preparing to break off in a sprint before he felt a rough tug on his collar.
"Rogue! What on earth!" Hange chided. "What are you doing!"
Rogue dithered, green eyes filled with sheer terror as he panted. "GOTT TOO…DEYY INN TODDLE! EIINEED TOOOGO." The titan rushed, his words running together for he was so panicked that he couldn't form a proper sentence. Hange's brows lifted, but he ignored her and started to step in advance yet again. His move however was met with resistance that came in the form of an angry Corporal that had lifted off the earth in the blink of an eye and wrapped his cables around his frame, slowing his movement. With his fear suddenly turning to anger, Rogue rotated his head to hiss loudly at the man and glare heatedly at him. He had to go rescue his little ones!
"What in the absolute fuck are you doing Rogue! Get your naked ass back there and hold the barricade! You can hunt titans later! The Scouts will take care of them!"
Rogue snarled at the man's lack of understanding, shaking his head strongly with his locks flying back and forth. "NOO! WEE NEEED… GO!"
"ROGUE! Obey your orders!"
"What's he doing!"
Hange roughly tugged his hair. "Rogue! What are you saying!"
Rogue heaved a breath, turning to look at the woman once again with a whine resonating through his vocal chords once more. "AIIBEES! ARNNINN! NIKKASA!" He spoke urgently – sounding like a startled child. "SASA! ONNIEE! JAAAN! NANA! KRISSA! GERRGAR! SQWWADD INN TODDLE! TITTANS! LOTTS OFFF ITTANS!" Rogue projected loudly as he took another step forward, pulling the wrapped cables and upsetting the surrounding soldiers even further.
"EII MAKINNNG JUGGENENT CALL –
Hearing the amount of venom in Levi's voice, Rogue stalled and turned to the man, ears lowered and looking like a desperate animal. The man's reddened face indicated that he was clearly furious at the fact that he was disobeying him and his other superiors. This however, was important. His babies were in serious peril! He needed them to listen! He had to go help them! They couldn't waste time!
Levi exhaled harshly. "Rogue. You cannot make a judgement call in this kind –
"Levi! This must be bad! The others might be stranded! Plus, something tells me this could be the very reason why we haven't encountered titans on this side of the wall yet!"
"Hange! It's too risky!"
"The concrete had almost completely solidified! Our job here is practically done!" Hange argued. "It was our next priority to aid in the search and rescue for those that couldn't make it to the district! Erwin!" Hange directed at the Commander who what watching and listening to the chaos. "Commander we must move out!"
"Hange! For fuck's -
Rogue's skin prickled, his nostrils flaring even more as he suddenly caught the scent of blood - human blood carried by the breeze. Every instinct he had was then thrown into overdrive. His mind snapped. Consequences be damned, he lunged forward into an all-out sprint much to the dismay of his superiors.
"ROGUE! ROGUE! ROGUE!"
"SCOUTS! FOLLOW JAEGER! PREPARE TO ENGAGE THE ENEMY!"
The titan paid no heed to any voice around him along with the sound of scrambling Scouts as they struggled to get to their mounts and follow. He was going to get to his little ones no matter what even if he would land himself into a heap of trouble. He just prayed that they were still alive.
Gradually, the beasts fell in their own steaming blood – cut down by ever dulling blades that were barely holding their own. Armin and the others watched as Nanaba and Gelgar struggled. A few hours had passed since the titan horde had come at them and it was clear that they were hanging by a thread. Out of the many titans that invaded Utgaard with a second wave, their superiors managed to take down eight. Just eight out of at least two dozen. Armin could tell that the two seasoned Scouts were relying mostly on elements of physics to move around and get their work done. It was very apparent to the fresh recruits that the veterans were practically running on fumes for every one kill they would return to the maimed tower – only selecting the titans they felt were a greater threat than the others. Armin gulped, eyes glancing up to the sky yet again, seeing that the sun was beginning to crest over the wall with its light bathing parts of the debilitated castle. He prayed that the breach was almost filled or successfully completed. The squad was desperate for aid and needed the second stage of their plan finished – the rest of the Scouts searching for any stranded soldiers.
They wouldn't last much longer. The very fact was agonizing.
The surviving spectators watched as the pair returned to rest upon the side of the tower, both their chests heaving as they observed their slain titans fall. Their superiors looked absolutely disheveled, just like their situation. Nanaba then looked back to them, her partner expertly watching the advancing titans for any sudden moves. "It's past dawn!" She called to them. "The main squad should be done repairing the wall by now so you need to fire off an emergency flair! That way they can check Utgaard first. If they don't respond to that one, do another!"
"But – what about The Armored Titan? Do you think he would recognize the flair or be drawn to it?" Armin pointed out, making Nanaba freeze, eyes widening.
"Even though we don't have any confirmation that he's left the walls or not," She paused, deep in thought. "He may not know what each signal means. It's likely that any surviving squads are firing them off at this time as well. It must be done for we can't wait much longer. We need them to come get us." Nanaba paused again, dipping her head to clench her teeth. "And you better pray that Rogue is with them. If the Armored is still here, then run as far as you can. However, considering he was reported to vanish back outside of Maria shortly after the first and second breach, it's possible that he could have left. Now, find a flair and fire it!" The woman ordered as she turned to choose her next target.
Armin and Mikasa observed as Connie dug around in one of their superior's bags that miraculously survived the assault on the tower. The teen quickly selected an emergency flair and pointed it skyward, pulling the trigger to release a yellow trail into the heavens. He gulped, trying to keep himself from trembling like a dog out in a cold rain. The very idea just didn't seem to be a smart one. They knew next to nothing about the monster. Hell, The Armored could have even been watching the Scouts with The Female. He gulped, begging for the likelihood that the beast had already snuck out of Wall Rose.
He prayed for Rogue to get to them quickly.
The teens then turned to watch Nanaba leap from the tower yet again, shooting her cable into the tough hide on a tall titan's chest. Letting gravity take her, Nanaba swooped downward in an almost graceful arc. The talented woman hovered just an arm's length above the ground before pulling her triggers just once to give her enough momentum to send her skyward. Nanaba then angled herself and plunged her blades into the beast's nape with the titan screaming before beginning its decent downward. Quickly, she cut another titan down before returning to perch on the side of the tower to watch her partner. Savagely, Gelgar dived and planted his own blades into the nape of a twelve-meter, riding the beast down as it crashed into the earth. In what Armin could say was careless, Gelgar fired a cable into a neighboring titan's hip and launched himself into a curve with the intent to throw himself upward. However, the man's sloppiness cost him as one titan stepped forward, catching the man's cable and sending Gelgar onto an out of control spin into a giant's shin.
Armin swallowed, not able to look away from the scene. In the time that had passed, Gelgar had grown practically dangerous and hadn't bothered to calculate a single move. Now, it looked as if the man's foolishness had finally bit him in the backside. The aura grew tense as the teens watched their superior tumble, but miraculously Gelgar steadied himself and managed to fire another cable into the side of the tower and propel himself upwards. The man swiped his blades across the nape of a ten-meter, shattering the specialty steel before landing next to Nanaba. The teens watched the two try to gather their breaths for a moment before Nanaba turned to the man – looking both exhausted and cross.
"You're getting reckless! You could have been killed!" The woman scolded, like the man was her spouse and the two were about to participate in a domestic argument. Surprisingly, Gelgar said nothing, the veteran's face looking completely exhausted. Armin then noticed a slick of red decorating the man's hair and running down the side of Gelgar's face. Looking at the man however, it was as if Gelgar was too fatigued or too oblivious to care.
"Nanaba?" The man questioned quietly, his voice barely audible from where the recruits stood upon the tower. "Please don't tell me that those are your only blades that you have left."
At his words, Nanaba dropped her transgressions and turned her attention to her blades, looking upon the chipped and dull metal that didn't even look as if it could cut a stick of butter. She swallowed. "I'm afraid so. I'm – nearly out of gas as well." She sighed. "How about you?"
Gelgar looked away, placing his eyes onto the bladeless swords. "I just used the last I had. I'm – fresh out of gas too." The man hesitated, Armin catching the male's muscles loosening. "I wish – I could have had one last drink before I go. I kind of wish I would have been a better soldier as well."
Armin's jaw slowly lowered as he realized just what was transpiring. Nanaba as well turned to look upon him in shock. Her face almost white with horror. "Gelgar!"
The man lowered his head. "I'm sorry Nanaba. It seems that I've hit my head." Blood flowed down the man's face. "I think I've got a serious concussion." The man swallowed, fighting unconsciousness. "But what does it matter? I can't fight any longer."
"I'm sorry – Nanaba. I… can't go on… anymore. Good… luck."
Armin and the others watched in horror as the man suddenly reeled in the cable that was keeping himself on the tower. The veteran soldier's body went limp and the male fell downwards, completely unconscious as he seemingly fell into a deep void – a titan's fingers snagging his flaccid form. The blonde and the others watched as things began to fall into chaos like dominoes. They continued to watch as Nanaba seemingly had no second thoughts as she dived down from the tower and circled around the hungry beast that was lifting their other superior to its mouth. The woman then landed upon the monster's nape and plunged her blades into the creature's spine – both blood and metal flying in all directions as Nanaba's pairing blades finally snapped. The titan began to fall forward with Gelgar's unconscious form still in hand. The teen's braced themselves as the titan's head hit the stone tower, making the structure tremble once again. Gelgar's body flew from the titan's grasp and by sheer luck, went through a hole in the tower. Concerned, Armin looked to see that his other superior had landed upon the side of the tower yet again, Nanaba's eyes glued to the hole.
"Shit!" He heard the veteran mutter, her fingers shakily ejecting the broken blades from their hilts. The woman then set her eyes onto her obvious destination – making it clear to the recruits that she was to try to rescue the unconscious man that had likely fallen into the tower's castle floor – which would be a hopeless endeavor if other small titans had gotten into the tower after they had completed their barricade. The recruits were silent as they watched Nanaba position herself and pull the trigger of her gear.
However, there was nothing. All that her gear was able to manage was a small puff of exhaust.
Mikasa, Armin, and the others watched as Nanaba's eyes widened at the startling realization. She was completely out of gas, a thought that made the woman's skin pale white. Armin swallowed as he viewed the woman continue to attempt to squeeze any amount of gas from her canisters, but as she continued her fruitless endeavors, the teens spotted something that made their hearts skip a beat and their still conscious superior freeze. Many of the titans had now directed their undivided attention towards Nanaba who was hanging far too low and lacked the essential supplies to reel herself back up to the tower's top.
It was then that all hell broke loose.
One of the towering beasts screeched, running forward and shoving its hand into the gaping hole in the tower, rummaging around like a child looking through a toy box in search of the fallen soldier. Nanaba was practically petrified as several dozen sets of eyes lay upon her. The woman's terrified gaze looked back to her partner to see that the fishing titan had successfully pulled the unconscious man's body from the interior of the fortress. Armin's stomach nearly turned completely over as Gelgar was practically shoved into the beast's gaping maw. The nauseating sound and sight of spurting blood and crushing bone as Gelgar was practically bit in two left the spectating recruits in a state of sheer horror.
The woman couldn't finish her plea as one of the beasts suddenly sprang forward and encased its fingers around the woman's frail form. Nothing else in the world seemed to move or exist as Armin watched the titan pull the well-respected Section Commander from the tower. The woman's haunting scream soon attracted the other titans who looked at the woman with eyes devoid of nothing but hunger. Much like ravenous wolves, the towering beasts began to fight over their victim – showing just how cruel nature was and the fact that there was now no way that the recruits could counterattack. Nanaba screamed again as teeth sunk into her frail leg. Blood poured onto the earth and a titan's chin as flesh and bone was torn away to depart onto a journey into the creature's gullet.
Another set of teeth sunk into the muscle of the woman's arm while one of the shorter titans attempted to tear away the Section Commander's coat. Bile rose in the teen's throat as he watched the woman's arm being torn from her shoulder with bits of sinew decorating the monster's face.
"Please! DADDY NO!" Nanaba screamed, her words beginning to paint a grim picture on a canvas that was all but hidden to the recruits. "DADDY PLEASE! I'LL BE GOOD! I WON'T DOW IT AGAIN!" She shouted, making several hearts fall down to the pits of the teenagers' stomach, knowing fully well that Nanaba was speaking of abuse that must have fallen upon her when she was a child. Armin grew sicker at the fact. Nanaba had probably joined the military to escape such torture – only to currently suffer an even worse fate. A fifteen-meter titan then plunged its hand into the starving horde, roughly pulling the woman out of another beast's grasp to take for itself. "NO! DADDY! STOP! DADDY!" Menacingly, the creature's maw opened, saliva coating the inside of its mouth as its teeth crested over Nanaba's trashing body. "STOP! DAD –
Words were cut short as their superior was severed, leaving the recruits speechless as they watched the large titan devour the rest of the female in what they could classify as an almost gleeful manner. Armin's breath hitched. They were now defenseless, stuck on top of an unstable tower with help that was most likely far from them. Looking at the voracious monsters below and watching as they fought over scraps, his mind struggled to think up a single plan.
"Shit!" Connie fell to his knees, doubling over into a fetal position, fists pounding against the dusty stone. "Shit!" The teen continued, the others too stunned to say a single word. "How! How are we going to get out of here now?"
Several minutes seemed to pass, before Krista exhaled shakily. "Well, Nanaba – she said we should fire off another flare. That way we could call for help again… lead them to us."
"Right." Jean dipped his head. "We should fire another flare." The teen spoke glumly as he searched Lynn and Henning's bags, pulling out both emergency flares and acoustic rounds. "If they start getting too close for comfort, I guess we could fires one of these to startle them for a bit." Jean waved the round over his head for the others to view before looking long and hard at the mangled bodies of his deceased superiors. "We – I hate to say this, but we need to do something with them. I don't like this idea, but perhaps we should use them. They're attracted to the scent of blood –
Armin tensed as he realized what Jean was trying to suggest. It was a horrifying move, but one that was probably in their best interest if they were to survive. Leaving their bodies where they were was asking for trouble.
"Wait – are you saying we should just dump them over the edge of the tower as food!" Connie muttered, Jean regretfully nodded.
"It would be the best for us." Armin began, trying not to bite through his tongue. "Titans are attracted to the scent of blood like moths to light. If we get rid of the bodies," The blonde swallowed, finding it hard to speak. "It could occupy them for a little more time – which is what we desperately need right now. If we leave them up here, it's just going to provoke them."
"Armin's right." Mikasa spoke up. "It's horrible, but it gives us a chance to survive long enough for a rescue squad to come. And right now, we need to stay alive – especially so we can tell the others about what we found in the journal."
For a moment, it was silent among the squad again before Connie regretfully nodded. "Yes. Let's get it over with."
In unison, the teens dipped their heads in shame as they collectively grabbed the older Scout's corpses and hoisted them over the ruined ledge of the tower and dropped them below, not wishing to watch as some of the titan immediately took interest at their irresistible scent. Resisting the urge to gag, Jean then readied the flare gun and fired off another emergency round.
"Well, all we can do is wait now, but we need to stay away from the ledge and be aware of our surroundings. We need to keep our voices down as well. It sounds silly, but we need to make the titans think we are no longer here." Armin addressed the shaken squad who quickly nodded and sat at the far side of the tower, each baring sweat upon their brows. For what seemed like an eternity, the group kept quiet – most likely only thinking to themselves. Connie then sighed yet again.
"I'm still wondering why all this is happening. How on earth could those things move when it was still dark out? It doesn't make sense."
"Mikasa and I were discussing that earlier." Armin began with the others directing their attention to the two of them.
"Why do you think – what's your opinion?" Krista asked softly, Armin rubbing his chin.
"I remember reading it in a book but moonlight is reflected sunlight. Just a few hours ago, there was a full moon. We believe that just enough ultraviolet light was radiated off of it to keep the titans awake and moving. Normally, I don't think enough light is given off to keep the titans moving on a regular night. It's a stretch, but I'm sure it's the reason why."
"So you're saying the full moon is what kept those things awake? But what about Rogue? I can't say much in the matter, but I've never seen him awake for the entire evening –
"It's because Rogue usually retires to his nest for the evening." Mikasa quickly intervened. "He sleeps out of the way of the skylight in the barn as well. I'm positive this affected Rogue last night too."
Armin dipped his head in agreement, preparing to bring up another subject that was alarming him even more and creating even more questions that he needed to get off his chest. "The think that's bugging me the most is the titan that roared on top of the wall earlier. It was clearly different."
"Yeah," Connie trailed off. "It kind of looked like a giant monkey – like a big gorilla."
"Gorilla? Monkey?" Krista questioned, clearly not knowing what Connie was referring to.
"They're animals." Jean answered. "Back when zoos were a thing, they were some of the exotic animals that they had on display. They kind of looked human, but they had hair all over them and walked on four legs most of the time. They were intelligent animals too from what I remember." The male finished with the blonde girl's eyes wide and unblinking. Armin then began to question, was it possible that Krista never heard or seen such things? He knew that she had grown up on a farm, but how much did she leave home? If it was one thing that was clear, Krista had really never revealed too much about her life before she enlisted. In reality, no one knew much at all about the girl. For some reason, the teen never revealed much when she was asked either.
"Oh. I see. Yeah – it didn't look like a normal titan." Krista speculated.
It was then that Krista's words made something click in his mind and a particular thought to form – one that was scary. "Not a normal titan –
"Armin?" Mikasa questioned, but not asking any further query, her eyes simply staring at him.
"The – Beast Titan," He paused, his mind thinking faster. "I wonder if it could be a deviant titan." The blonde alliterated, gaining the others' undivided attention.
"What are you saying Armin? You think this 'Beast Titan' could be intelligent like Rogue and The Female?" Jean spoke in alarm. "What makes you say that?"
"Well – it's clear that it's different. I think, when it roared, it did just what The Female Titan did to us before. I believe it herded all of these titans toward us with the goal to eliminate just like she did in order to have less of us to deal with to get to Rogue."
"So Armin? You're saying –
"I – think that there is more than just The Armored and Colossal that's after Rogue. I'm positive that there are other titans with intelligence that are looking for Rogue. I feel like they are playing some elaborate game with us."
It was then quiet amongst the teens yet again, most of their eyes wide in alarm as they followed the lines upon the stones beneath them.
"This is so messed up." Connie muttered. "We just lost Nanaba and Gelgar and we have no idea if Mike was able to get to Ehrmich district. If there are indeed more intelligent titans that aren't on our side, I bet there are more around here than just The Armored. Like Armin said, it's like they had every bit of this planned and this is all a game to them." The teen continued, his voice starting to fill with panic. "This – this is bad!"
"Connie! We don't need you to freak out right now!" Jean hastily whispered. "We can't alert the other titans! The last thing we need for them is to figure out we are still up here and for them to –
Vibrations that rocked the tower violently ceased all words and ignited the party into a state of full alert and panic. Armin's body stiffened – the tower was practically moving beneath their feet. His heart pounded harder, lifting into his chest as he recognized what was coming. A titan was obviously climbing the tower.
And it was climbing fast.
Out of sheer reflex, each of the recruits dropped to their knees and covered their heads as a looming figure crested the top of the tower roughly. Dust flew into the air and surrounded them in an intense fog that sent them coughing from the particles getting into their lungs, the entire tower quaking and threatening to fall out from beneath them. Armin gulped, blood rushing to his ears and the color drained from his flesh. Coarse and deep breaths that were completely inhuman met his eardrums. He went rigid.
This was it. A titan had somehow managed to scale the tower and they were all going to die – fall victim to the above beast's jaws. He would never see Mikasa or Rogue ever again. They were done for. All they could do was await their painful death – one that he hoped would be quick.
However, the sensation of his bones being grinded into dust never came. He wasn't knocking on death's door nor were his allies screaming and pleading for mercy. With confusion settling in, Armin gradually, shakily, and bravely lifted his head along with the others to peer upward. The sight that met his questioning blues left him absolutely dumbfounded.
Blinking again in attempts to see through the cloud of dust, Armin made out the muscular underbelly of a five-meter titan. Looking the way that it was positioned, he could tell it was the stocky type that moved about on all fours as opposed to on two limbs. With the dust settling, the blonde could see that the titan's head was large in ratio and covered in messy brown hair that went just past the length of its shoulders. The teens held their breaths as the creature above them suddenly growled, a threatening and irritated sound that sounded much higher in pitch in comparison to Rogue deep snarls. Then, slowly, the five-meter titan turned its head to per upon their squad. The beast's face reminded Armin of witches that were illustrated in fairy tales. The titan's hairline was rather far back on its head and its nose was nearly pointed and large for its face. The titan's mouth was fixed in a frown, lips peeled away to reveal the creature's gums and nothing but sharp canine teeth that lined the monster's mouth – a trait that Armin had not seen before. The most apparent thing about the small titan though were the monster's eyes. They were almost like a dog's – deep brown with a barely visible black pupil in the center with the whites of the titan's eyes unseen. They were nothing short of unsettling. As the titan continued to stare at them, Armin's heart nearly flat lined. 'This is it. It's going to kill us. It's going to kill us! I'm not going to see Rogue and Mikasa ever again!'
The blonde shut his eyes tightly, thinking about the life he had and just how good it actually was as he awaited his fate. However, the pain of death never came, sending he and the others into a state of even more confusion. Startled but questionable, Armin gradually lifted his head to look upon the titan yet again – only to see something he wasn't anticipating.
The titan's face was no longer fixed in a frown, but rather in a soft look – the creature's mouth in what looked to be a faint but easy smile with a touch of cunning. Granted – the creature's mug was less than beautiful, but the titan was trying to look as reassuring as possible. It was the kind of face a mother would give to reassure their child. Then, before he could think further, the titan turned its attention back to the hoard below with its expression changing to one of cunning – the beast wearing a devilish smirk. Armin's eyes widened as the realization came to him.
'It – changed expression! My god – it's… it's a deviant!'
Then, before he could even anticipate it, the new deviant leaned over the tower and released a piercing shriek of a roar – a sound like the descriptions of banshees from folk tales. Armin winced, holding his ears as he watched the titan suddenly leap off the tower – the structure swaying in the slightest at the force. For a split second, he remained utterly bewildered before scrambling upright to make his way close to the tower's edge to get a better look at what was transpiring with the others of his squad quickly coming to stand at his side.
"What the hell?" Jean stammered. "Is it – is it what I think it is?"
Armin nodded, the dip of his head slow. "Yes, it's a deviant titan. It has intelligence! It changed expression and it," The male paused, the thought finally settling into place. "And I think it could be on our side!"
As if to confirm the blonde's statement, the small titan then landed upon the back of a twelve-meter and aggressively sunk its teeth into the monster's nape, ripping it out with one fluid movement of its large head – indicating that the titan had an incredible bite force despite its small size. Before the others could blink in surprise, the titan shrieked again and leaped onto the head of another towering behemoth. In awe, Armin spectated as the titan sunk its fingers into the creature's skull and swung itself forward on its unusually long arms – planting its feet into a pair of eye sockets. Blood splattered and a cry of agony sounded as the small titan expertly twisted itself to rake its feet across the faces of other titans, leaving large open gashes across their faces that left them helplessly blind. The little beast then flipped over and dug its hands into the nape of the titan it had used for support, the sound of ripping meat sweeping across the courtyard before the small titan flipped backwards and landed upon the tower – the creature's dark eyes examining its work before beginning its selection for its next victim. It was then that Armin discovered that the new arrival had a feature similar to Rogue, being claws on both its hands and feet yet they were longer and practically crafted to dig into flesh.
"Whoa! That one has claws!" Connie began, sounding almost thrilled. "And it's fast!"
"No doubt about that, plus it's very agile." Mikasa examined with Armin nodding.
"Yes, and its actions tell me that this deviant is aiming to help us. We might actually have a chance."
The small titan then howled another threatening shriek and leaped from the tower to sink its needle sharp teeth into tough hide yet again. More crimson splattered and fell in a red rain as another beast was quickly slain – the small titan then leaping onto the head of another to dig its claws into another oily scalp. Just before the creature could bite into another naked nape, another abnormal closed in on the deviant who was forced to abandon its current work at the last possible second – the taller titan crashing straight into the tower in as it tripped over its own feet.
"Shit!" Jean hissed, hands gripping the stone as their party rode out the tremor. "Hopefully it can take out a number of them before this damn thing falls!"
Armin swallowed, knowing that Jean was right. The tower was highly unstable and they couldn't afford any more impacts. He prayed that the deviant could take care of such a matter before anything else happened.
The little titan roared once again as it leaped to the ground, sitting like a frog for a moment before launching itself up to swipe at another titan's face, blinding the beast as it reached around and remove the nape. With hands covered with steaming blood, the deviant lunged into a seven meter, digging its claws into its skin as it viciously bit into the monster's smiling face. Armin's stomach nearly turned over for the umpteenth time as the five-meter practically tore the thing's face off, uncovering a slew of muscle structure beneath and successfully spilling even more blood. With the now faceless abnormal screaming, the deviant rotated around to tear out the creature's nape – sharp teeth pulling the spine into view and ripping away chunks of bone. Growling, the little titan then turned to continue its assault on another giant, flipping with what one could call grace before sinking its teeth into its victim. Armin and the rest of the others just watched completely and utterly spellbound.
"So," Krista began. "Should we call it something?" Connie nodded.
"Hell yeah. This one's got bite!"
"It moves so quickly and flips like an acrobat." Krista continued to speculate, watching as another nape was torn away. "How about – The Dancing Titan?" Connie however nearly broke out in laughter.
"Dancing Titan? Come on! That's too girly! It clearly doesn't have boobs like The Female Titan did. How about –
"The Jaw Titan." Mikasa spoke, not even turning to the others as she still watched the brawl beneath them.
"That's fitting." Jean replied.
"Jaw Titan it is then."
Armin continued to watch the newly named titan as it spun and dug its nails into another titan's face. Sure, it was agile and quick, but the teen could easily see a downfall with the titan – mostly due to its size. Unlike Rogue, it couldn't exactly use brute force like the fifteen-meter behemoth could. At only five-meters, The Jaw Titan could easily get overwhelmed. Not to mention, its body wasn't capable of hand to hand combat. Its technique consisted of blinding its victims before going for the nape – which wouldn't be an effective battle strategy on a horde such as the one below for long. Armin swallowed, beginning to worry for the little beast.
The new deviant landed upon the blood splotched earth yet again before charging forth at full speed on all fours – reminding the recruits yet again of a dog before it leaped onto a thirteen-meter's mug. With its face painted with both cunning and determination, The Jaw Titan dug its hands forcefully into the other titan's eye sockets. As blood began to trickle down its hands like melting wax on a candle, the deviant shrieked in sheer pleasure, getting caught up in the thrill of the kill – reminding Armin a bit of Rogue himself when the titan was high off the same kind of adrenaline.
However, it was then that Armin's worries about the small deviant's well-being came to light.
Before The Jaw Titan could make a move to tear out the behemoth's nape, a greedy hand reached out and grasped a fistful of the five-meter's messy hair and pulled forcefully. At this, The Jaw Titan screeched and abandoned its task of ripping out the other's eyes to grip its own head as it was yanked to the ground. The watching party held their breaths as several titans turned their aggression upon the small but nimble giant. A pair of teeth sunk into The Jaw Titan's shoulder, but the deviant was clearly defiant as it quickly twisted around to sink its claws into the creature's face. Desperate to get out of harm's way, the minuscule titan forced its way through several legs and leaped to latch back onto the tower's surface. However, before it could attempt to climb higher, another set of fingers wrapped themselves around The Jaw Titan's ankle. The deviant yelped in surprise as the titan below began to pull, forcing the five-meter to dig its nails into the stone tower. Much to their horror, another megalith took ahold of The Jaw Titan's other ankle. The small titan snarled, shrieking yet again as it pulled its foot free to kick the beast in its face, but ultimately the defensive attempt was futile as another titan pushed its way through the other towering bodies to retake the deviant's foot. Armin swallowed, watching as the creatures tried to pull The Jaw Titan from the wall of the tower. The squad observed as the deviant turned to look up at them, a sliver of dread present in its dark eyes. Suddenly, with another tug by the beasts below, one of the large blocks of stone holding the tower up that The Jaw Titan was currently clinging to, began to dislodge. Seeing this, the deviant let out the equivalent of a gasp and turned to peer upwards at the new recruits yet again – face now baring an expression of fear.
"Shit. This isn't good."
Both Armin and Mikasa watched in stunned silence as their unexpected savior began to panic, turning to look at the horde before focusing its attention back to them. Suddenly, The Jaw Titan let out an exasperated hiss as it released its grip on the tower to fall back into the fray – planting its claws into another monster's scalp and shrieked angrily to invite the others to a further challenge. It was then that the realization hit Armin. It was clear to him.
"It didn't want to take the tower down." He began, gathering the others' attention. "It knows that this is the only safe place for us, so it's trying to avoid that catastrophe. It's clearly set on keeping us safe, but at this point I honestly don't know how long The Jaw Titan can keep this up."
The others said nothing, but clearly showing that they recognized his point. The group of teens then turned their attention back toward the five-meter deviant to continue to view its onslaught. Just as the small titan leaped again with its chops open wide to sink into flesh, its locks were grabbed once more. As it happened before, The Jaw Titan was pulled roughly to the earth. The small creature shrieked furiously as the others began to grab any limb they could get to with the deviant struggling to resist them. It was now crystal clear that The Jaw Titan would be ripped to shreds unless the other titans were dealt with.
A crazy idea then popped into his head. One that was absolutely stupid, but it would give them all a chance if The Jaw Titan could understand them.
"Hey guys." He initiated, the other teens looking upon him in alarm. "Just go with me on this alright? I have an idea. It's very risky though."
Jean gritted his teeth. "Any idea is better than no idea at this point. The Jaw Titan isn't going to last much longer!"
Armin dipped his head, inhaling and exhaling to get his nerves under control before placing his foot on the ledge of the tower and clearing his throat. "HEY! YOU!" He called loudly, watching as his voice instantly grabbed the five-meter's attention, the fact that it understood spoken word clear. "IF WE ARE TO GET OUT OF THIS TOGETHER ALIVE YOU NEED TO TEAR THE TOWER DOWN!" Armin yelled, the blonde hearing a collection of startled gasps behind him.
"Armin! What are you –
"IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HELP US, DESTROY THIS TOWER! LET IT FALL ON THESE TITANS! YOU'RE NOT GOING TO LAST MUCH LONGER!"
At the end of his statement, the deviant wasted no time in twisting out of the other titans' tight grasps and launching itself back onto the tower. Quickly, and with a fluent tug, The Jaw Titan pulled a block from the many making up the tower and flung it behind it with as much force as possible to snap the nose of another titan. With another defiant cry, the deviant grabbed another stone block and flung it at the enemy, followed by another and another until a good gash was torn into the tower's side. The floor beneath the teens jolted, causing many of them to topple off their feet as the tower began to dangerously tilt toward the chaos. A massive vibration radiated throughout his bones and the sound of crumbling rock met their ears – signaling that the tower had finally given way.
"Are we supposed to just –
Jean didn't finish his sentence as the wall of the crumbling tower rattled again and The Jaw Titan crested over the ledge to come face to face with them. For a moment, it took the opportunity to take a breather before peering at them with an expression that was nothing but serious.
"WANNA LIVE? THEN… YOU BETTER HOLD ON TIGHT!" It spoke, voice sounding exactly like the tone of a wicked witch, but giving away the fact the masculine titan was actually female. Even at the titan's order and what was transpiring around them, the squad found themselves spellbound at just how well the creature spoke, but their hesitation only made the female deviant impatient. "HURRY UP! I DON'T HAVE ALL DAY!"
"Er – right!" Armin snapped from his stupor, climbing into the small titan's hand with the creature quickly lifting the teens onto its head – telling them without a word to grab on its hair and hold tight. Used to riding upon Rogue, Armin wrapped the female beast's tangled hair around his arms several times before bracing himself with the others of their party following suit. Wind ripped by them as gravity began to take the falling tower. Carefully, the five-meter deviant rotated around to the opposite side of the turret, allowing it to see and ride the crumbling structure forward. Armin held his breath as the ground rushed towards them, a looming shadow casting over the titan horde below that stopped in their advance – not bothering to move as the tower began to crush them. With his knuckles turning white as he held the old bag containing the journal, Armin gripped his teeth as the earth rumbled violently and a dusty cloud flew up behind them with the tower's demise. Then, right before the ground could meet them, The Jaw Titan leaped, leaving the structure to crash in an echoing boom. Dust flew into his eyes, bringing fourth tears and provoking the teen to shut them. Suddenly, the titan's entire body jolted, throwing himself and several of the other teens off. For a second, he felt nothing until his frame met the tough surface of stone. The earth and sky flipped several times before he came to a stop – obviously having landed.
With a moan, Armin slowly sat up to quickly check for any broken extremities and if the journal was still in his possession. Seeing that he was still in one piece and had the messenger bag beneath his arm, the boy let out a sigh in relief.
"Looks like your crazy plan worked."
Returning to reality, Armin looked to see Jean holding out a hand to help him up with the others safely standing by. "Thanks." The blonde replied simply. "I'm surprised it did. You guys all right?"
"The landing was rough, we have a few bumps and bruises but we're fine." Mikasa replied, turning to peer in the direction they had come. "Utgaard Castle is in ruins, but at least the tower took out the other titans."
Following her gaze, Armin and the rest of his squad turned to look upon landscape, seeing that it was practically covered in large broken blocks and building materials – the area looking like the aftermath of a war zone which the very description wasn't far from the truth. He sighed yet again, seeing blood evidence that the hungry beasts had likely been buried beneath the rubble.
Of course, deep panting stole their attention away from the scene. Standing adjacent to them was The Jaw Titan, her dark eyes looking out at the devastation before directing her attention to them – the creature looking absolutely exhausted with breaths ragged. Suddenly, it became absolutely surreal to Armin. Despite the odds, they had come across another intelligent titan like Rogue – one that seemed to be on the side of humanity. However, with the encounter he then began to wonder. Where on earth had this deviant come from? How did it end up where they were now? What was its motive? Armin let out a breath, both the creature and the teens observing one another before Krista took a step forward.
"Um – thanks for –
The girl had no time to finish as the rubble suddenly shifted, rocks and wood tumbled as a steaming titan pushed it way to the surface – the monster quickly following their scent.
"Oh no! One of them –
Then, much to the teens' horror, several more titans forced their way out of the debris and making it very clear that his plan of total elimination didn't work. The beasts sniffed, nostrils flaring like famished wolves before turning their focus to them and beginning their advance. Armin felt his blood run cold again. They were in a deep hole now. The Jaw Titan was too worn and they had no way of running away quickly enough with no horses. They were practically done for. They needed a miracle to happen.
"Hey Ugly! Now might be a good time to –
The deviant didn't waste time to bother with Connie's crude commentary as it charged forward again, leaping into the air and towards its nearest target. With another screech, The Jaw Titan bit down into its victim's neck. Unexpectedly, as she swallowed the nape, another titan grasped her scalp. The female deviant let out a wail in protest as the abnormal horrifyingly swung the helpless creature in a high arch and slammed her down head first upon the edge of a stone block – the impact instantly cracking The Jaw Titan's skull.
Like a wounded creature caught in a hunter's trap, the five-meter whined and trembled – blood spilling out from a gash right at the beast's hairline. The Jaw Titan's head was horribly misshapen, revealing just how extensive the injury was and one that practically decided the female deviant's grizzly fate on the spot. The small titan droned again, trying to move its limbs to get up but ultimately only succeeding in shuttering – steam pouring out of the wound as it began to heal. However, The Jaw Titan had no time to focus mending itself as the other towering behemoths took notice of the weak individual. As if they were guided by an instinct, the larger titans rushed forward and began to make the deviant their next meal. Crimson misted and splattered against the rubble as teeth tore into flesh, the deviant titan's desperate and agonizing cries so haunting that another shiver traveled up Armin's spine. A pair of jowls began to rip through muscle and bone, blood splattering the beast's face as it tore the small titan's leg from its pelvis. A hand grabbed the deviant's jaw, pulling it out of its socket as another small titan began to snack into the female creature's arm – tearing off a chunk of meat and going in again to make its way to the bone. The group of teens watched, practically petrified like wood as the abnormal titans continued to brutalize their victim.
"They're eating her." Krista muttered.
"It's defense, they knew she was the only thing standing in the way so they dealt with her." Armin trailed off, more fear settling in him as he registered that The Jaw Titan was as good as dead, there was no way it could save them and there was no way that they could learn from it.
A fourteen-meter with a wicked smile lifted its head to sniff the air, sampling the available scents before turning its attention to their squad, completely forgetting about the deviant that had been nothing but a burden to it and its kin as it slowly and menacingly motioned towards them. The monster rumbled, saliva straying from its maw as it prowled like a prehistoric predator. The titan let out a low roar, the vocal making their hearts pound.
This was it. There was no one to help them now. They were truly done for this time. There was no escape.
The beast let out another growl, but suddenly some sort of god seemed to be smiling down upon the helpless group of recruits as a tremendous, earth-shattering, and incredibly angry roar sliced through the remains of the castle and practically stilled all life around them. Armin's heart skipped in rhythm before lifting up into his chest. That roar – oh how he knew that roar and the thundering beneath his feet.
The titan slowly turned to face the source of the bellow but was quickly met with a large fist, the vicious hit instantly smashing the giant's face in and making its dead eyes loose from their sockets. Blood sprayed the earth as the force of the powerful blow sent the massive creature several meters back to crash into the rubble. The ever familiar fifteen-meter titan then came to a halt before them, heat radiating from his body as he released another tremendous rage filled howl.
"Rogue!" Mikasa began, the girl sounding utterly relieved as both Hange and Levi swooped into the fray and began to cut several of the mindless beasts down.
"The Scouts are here!"
Armin nearly fell to his knees as he continued to watch his titanic friend before him. To say that Rogue was utterly pissed was an understatement. The titan snarled, the sound rattling his rib cage. The beast's elvish ears were folded over against his skull with his hair ruffling and his spine arching in the slightest – a completely dangerous pose that Rogue only displayed when he was enraged. The behemoth roared again and lunged forward, green eyes looking absolutely feral as he crushed the nape of the maimed fourteen-meter to end it. But of course, Rogue wasn't finished. With the normally gentle titan's face corroded and twisted up unto a ferocious snarl, the creature thrust himself into the horde of titans – looking for nothing but blood. Rogue swung at his nearest target, skin of his victim's face tearing off like frayed ribbons as his knuckles met the beast. The titan teetered, knocked even more senseless. Rogue however wasn't going to let the monster fall. Before gravity could even wrap the abnormal in its embrace, the fifteen-meter behemoth roughly grabbed his prey and plunged his teeth into its nape – quickly tearing the massive hunk of flesh as well as part of the beast's spine from its body. The entire wreckage then began to smell of rusty iron – the unmistakable scent of blood.
"Holy shit –
Rogue roared again, his threatening call seemingly challenging the very heavens as he wrapped his fingers around another titan's throat. The Scouts watched, completely silent as Rogue yanked, ripping out the monster's throat before pushing his face past flesh to sink his incisors into the nape. With every muscle in the creature's neck bulging – Rogue tore out the creature's weak spot before setting his wild greens upon another still standing titan. The behemoth roared, blood of his prey spraying from his maw before he leaped forward to encase his hand around the abnormal's face, smashing the giant into the ground – reminding Armin very much of the journal entry that he had read shortly before. With overwhelming strength, Rogue gripped beneath the creature's chin and tore the abnormal's head from its body. With a final punch, his large ally obliterated the nape completely.
Rogue's tapered ears flickered, rotating behind himself to catch the presence of an abnormal that was running straight for him. With a piercing snarl, the behemoth turned just in time to knee the other titan in the gut – the monster's teeth going through its wide and oversize lips. With another roar, Rogue hit the creature with a well-placed right hook – the abnormal staggering backwards and struggling to stay upright. Then, as he had been taught, Rogue leaned and planted his foot into the center of the titan's chest, the mean kick sending the beast roughly to the ground with its caved in chest on clear display. Rogue quickly finished his target off and immediately searched for his next – steaming blood decorating his frame.
"It's no wonder as to why he ran here." Armin heard a Scout mutter behind him, the blonde immediately growing concerned while Rogue removed another nape with a bellow. The words played out in the teen's head again, his mind trying to make sense of the soldier's statement. The man's tone made him question the words further, but before he could turn around and ask, Rogue's roar commanded him to keep his attention forward. The towering behemoth continued his slaughter, elbowing an abnormal in the face with the aim to disorient before grasping his current victim and hoisting it over his shoulder and into the air – throwing the creature into the tower's debris. Dust swarmed around the area once again as Rogue planted his foot upon the titan's skull, crushing it into an unrecognizable pulp before dealing the card of death. His furious friend then navigated his way over the rubble to throw his fist into another behemoth's facade, making Armin's eyes widen at the fact that Rogue was just feet away from the still healing Jaw Titan. The blonde gasped in alarm. Rogue didn't know about the deviant!
The titan could not hear the warning as he bellowed yet again, turning to what should be his final opponent. In full view of the Scouts, Rogue snarled and forced his hand into a fourteen-meter's maw and gripped the monster's tongue. With another defiant roar, the titan tore the muscle from gaping jaws, leaving the other choking on its own crimson juices as Rogue flung the tongue away like a discarded piece of trash. To finish, Rogue then forcefully pulled the creature to him and ripped the nape away with one smooth bite. It was then that the only two titans left in the circumference was the deviant and Rogue himself. The green-eyed beast then turned his attention to the five meter, nothing but malice laden in bright emeralds as Rogue's face pulled into a snarl yet again. The behemoth hissed, steam billowing from his jowls as he positioned to stand over The Jaw Titan – slowly as if to taunt his innocent prey. To the recruits' horror, Rogue slowly pulled back his fist – the nearly recovered five meter at his feet throwing her hands up before her face in both surrender and defense.
"Oh shit! He's going to kill her!"
Rogue then prepared to swing.
At Mikasa's desperate words, Rogue halted his assault – his look of sheer rage quickly replaced by serious confusion as his chest heaved. The titan continued to stare at the girl, his fist uncoiling and hand slowly lowering to be at his side. Rogue's gaze returned to the female beast before looking at Mikasa once again, appearing more perplexed than ever with a brow raised and a sharp but questioning grunt leaving him.
"Rogue!" Mikasa continued. "Don't kill the titan below you! She's a deviant like you! She's intelligent!"
With the news, Rogue's eyes comically widened in absolute surprise. The titan's gaze drifted downward once more, the giant looking nothing short of bewildered. Like a deer in torchlight, the beast watched the five-meter struggle to sit up – the little titan looking to the other in an almost mirrored expression.
"COORDINATE?" The Jaw Titan spoke, making several of the Scouts' faces drop in awe.
What the small titan did next however, left every soul speechless.
It keeled over and bowed.
All he could do was stare, finding himself in a state of complete perplexity. Though his superiors had protested as he charged forward across the landscape, he had ignored them for the better. He had expected titans which he met with sheer ferocity and saved his little ones from further harm just in the nick of time, but he wasn't expecting what was now before him. A small deviant titan – one that apparently shared his compassion for humans. Nonetheless, one that was female despite its looks. Any thoughts and along with his own doubts had completely drifted away with the wind just seconds before. The truth that he feared was now certainly a fact that he couldn't deny any longer. The female deviant's words were resolute and her presentation only supported facts further.
He was indeed, a king – or at least considered as such.
Rogue's breath shuttered, as he continued to look upon the small titan that was still showing its respects, appearing absolutely startled to the Scouts that only looked on at the scene with slacked jaws and blank faces. He swallowed, noticing the deviant's dark eyes glance up at him for a split second before traveling back to the dusty ground, obviously waiting on any reaction. A low and short whine sounded at the back of his throat, ears pinning to his skull in fear. He didn't want this. He just didn't want to believe it, but he couldn't deny anything any longer. Everything was real. The titan finally exhaled, the weight of things falling onto his shoulders. Everything was just happening too fast.
His mind was an absolute mixture of confusion, fear, and even inquisitiveness. It all just seemed like some sort of illusion. Slowly, Rogue sank down to his knees, the five-meter flinching in the slightest but otherwise remaining bowed. For a moment, a seeded instinct began to drive him. As if to ensure that he wasn't seeing things, Rogue carefully leaned towards the smaller titan and began to examine her scent – nostrils flaring and his breaths cavernous. The deviant indeed smelled foreign, exotic and clearly not from around the wall. Rogue leaned in further, bending awkwardly with the tip of his nose nearly touching the five-meter's scalp – the female's hair rustling and her dark eyes opening in annoyance but otherwise the beast remained as she was. Onlookers continued to look puzzled, but Rogue paid no heed to them as he continued his examination, his fretful greens catching the deviant's nose twitch as she attempted to secretly sample his scent as well. Rogue pulled back, sitting awkwardly and hunched over upon his hands and feet as he continued to scrutinize his babies' unexpected savior. Then, to take his odd form of questioning further, Rogue tentatively held a hand to the little beast and lightly pushed upon her brow before pulling his appendage back as if he had burned himself.
She was real after all. He wasn't dreaming.
Rogue tilted his head, green eyes watching as the small deviant steadied herself again, returning to her firm bow after his light push that nearly knocked the small titan off her feet. This titan before him saved his little ones and the other members of the new Levi squad. This titan also proved his superiors' suspicions true. Rogue faltered, sinking to his knees. Too much was coming at him at once. A muscle twitched in his face, his hand slowly reaching up to his chest as his brain began to pull in many different directions. He had no idea what emotion to latch onto.
Suddenly, the small titan shifted, catching Rogue's full attention again as she let out an aggravated grunt and rolled her dark eyes. The deviant then removed herself from her bowed position and quickly grasped his wrist, sending the Scouts into a state of high alert assuming that the titan had changed her tune. For the moment, he flinched at her grip, but every fiber in his body loosening when the deviant applied no force.
"LOOK. COORDINATE!" The five meter began to usher urgently, her tone still sounding like that of the grumpy Corporal and her voice almost raspy. "I… DO NOT HAVE TIME." The deviant continued, proceeding to push against him with her free hand – startling him even further and causing him to clumsily fall back onto his rump. The deviant blinked, obviously stunned by his actions before looking about and then focusing onto his again – the female looking frantic. "LISTEN! YOU NEED TO GET THE HUMANS AND RUN! GET… AWAY FROM HERE! GO!" The titan concluded as she quickly maneuvered around his bulk and bolted across the field to vanish into the trees – leaving both Rogue and the Scouts completely spooked.
"Did that – well I damn sure wasn't seeing things." Levi broke the silence between he and the Scouts, the man quickly reverting to his usual demeanor.
"That titan – it spoke perfectly!" Hange began, a grin coming to light, but then fading. "Her words, she called him a king, she showed respect – Nick's accounts are true. My guess was correct."
"Wait – what?"
Rogue pressed a hand to his brow, suddenly feeling dizzy with the facts hitting him. Beginning to feel the fatigue of his several hour sprint and realizing how hot and almost feverish he was, Rogue let out a low groan and made his way to a portion of a fallen tower and roughly seated himself upon the stone, snaking his fingers through his chocolate locks. He felt almost queasy, why was everything happening to him! He didn't want any of this!
Hearing Mikasa's familiar and always therapeutic voice, Rogue snapped himself from his inner turmoil and looked to the shaken teen, taking note of the slight bags beneath her eyes and her frazzled hair – suggesting that she and the others had likely gotten no sleep. He simply grunted in recognition, unable to form words at the moment. Mikasa bit her lip, lifting a hand to place upon his warm skin, giving it a soft pat.
"Are you alright? You look almost pale." His little one queried, the titan giving a barely detectable nod at her tone. He could easily tell that Mikasa was trying to ease into difficult questions, but her speech was still shaking to indicate that she was bewildered and scared. "Thank you for saving us." The girl paused, choosing her words carefully. "You got here just in time. Another second later and we would have been killed." Mikasa hesitated. "How did you find us so quickly? Was it the flares?"
"EII… SNELL YOU ANND ARRNIN." He quickly gestured to his nose before letting his hand fall into his lap. "EII… SNELLT URR FEEER. BLOOOOD TOOO." Rogue muttered, his shoulders hunching a bit as he recalled what he had done.
"And you followed our scent?" The beast looked up to see Armin approach he and Mikasa. "I guess our flares really just confirmed your suspicions, huh?" The teen continued – making the titan realize that he was easing into the more serious matters first.
Rogue only nodded, his green eyes catching Erwin approaching him with a face devoid of any emotion besides his usual stern glare. The titan's ears sank as he mentally prepared himself for a serious scolding. "Rogue Jaeger," The man began, his tone holding no hint of whimsy. "I never gave you the order to depart or abandon your current mission, that is an offense that must never happen again. However, seeing what was here to discover and the fact that work was practically complete, I'm willing to overlook your decision to bolt and disobey orders."
Rogue found himself blinking in surprise at the man's statement. The creature then exhaled. What he had done was something that was normally met with heavy punishment which would have been amplified due to the fact that he was a titan. Seeing that Erwin was intrigued enough to pull the strings and overlook his error, the beast expressed his thanks with a firm nod. "EII ANN SORRR –
With his apology interrupted by another familiar plea, Rogue turned to see someone that made his green pools widen in recognition. It was Krista, or rather the child of royal blood that had not shared her true name. The small teen looked just as fatigued as his babies, garments dirty and golden hair in the same state as Mikasa's. Rogue found himself straightening up as she struggled to climb over the debris. Knowing what she really was and what has just transpired – the teen had to be intending on telling him something gravely important. What else was 'Krista' hiding?
"Rogue!" The small blonde motioned to stand before him, the teen doubling over to catch her breath before slowly advancing again. With wide eyes, the titan looked on as Krista stood at his hip, her head lowered in what he could call shame with her sunshine locks draping around her face. Finally, after several brief moments of silence, Krista looked up to him with an expression that he read as a tender but sad smile. The teen inhaled and exhaled in preparation, raising a hand to place upon his thigh, indicating she was aiming to speak about a touchy subject that she hoped he would understand. "Rogue, this is hard to say, but I need to tell you the truth before anything else happens." Krista began, smiling sympathetically at the creature – the titan noting his little ones' wellbeing and confusion at the girl's sudden actions. Krista's cerulean blues drifted to his emerald greens, giving him her full and undivided attention. "Rogue, I want to tell you my real name. It's Historia Reiss."
His ears rotated forward in sheer interest. Historia Reiss. This was Krista's true identity – a name that meant royalty. "HII…HIISSORIA?" Rogue repeated, almost expecting something magical to happen after the teen had spoken it, a flood of memories from his past that he couldn't recall. To his misfortune, nothing of the sort happened. Was it still possible there was a different way Historia was supposed to make his past life resurface?
"So your real name is Historia Reiss?" The group turned to see both Hange and Levi approaching – the woman looking absolutely serious. Historia nodded.
"Yes." She spoke quietly with the scientist nodding in confirmation. His little ones turned their attention to the woman, faces appearing even more befuddled than before.
"Wait, what's going on?" Armin questioned, looking back at both the titan and the other blonde before placing his attention back onto Hange. "What does Krista – er Historia have to do with Rogue?"
The woman sighed, crossing her arms over her chest. "We learned about some incredibly valuable information that the church kept for years about our lovely titan. I can say it's quite complex and could be considered troubling, but it explains a good portion as to why our enemy has their eyes on Rogue."
The titan watched Armin's jaw slacken and Mikasa's brows lift with astonishment. The blonde teen suddenly tore into an old worn bag that hung around his shoulder and took out what he recognized as a book – a book that looked absolutely archaic and showed it to their superiors who looked on at it in surprise. Rogue sat up further. Was it possible that his little ones had come across information about him as well?
"What is that?" Levi asked, his expression almost growing darker.
Armin hesitated, taking a deep breath as he handed the book to Hange who looked upon the embossed leather cover with intrigue. "We came across the old journal in Utgaard that belonged to Jorge Pikale – an old Survey Corps Commander. It's – proof that Rogue was originally from outside the walls. Also, it – supports the claim that the church and the Military Police kept Rogue's existence a secret from the general public." The boy concluded, making an awkward silence grow between the listeners. Rogue could only stare at his little one as he once again retreated into his mind – recalling the day that he had first awoken beneath the trees and beneath the wall in Maria.
"This is significant information." Hange turned to face the titan. "This entire situation is more than what first meets the eye. Historia, Armin, Mikasa, and Rogue – there is quite a bit we need to talk about. And quickly."
"Well," Levi turned toward the rest of the awaiting regiment, peering over his shoulder with his frown still engraved on his face. "Let's do the talking on the way back to Ehrmich. As that deviant brat said, we need to get the fuck out of here before anything else goes to shit."
The sun beamed down upon his flesh, disappearing for a moment as a large cloud drifted over it, casting the landscape in shadow – the same reoccurring over and over in a pattern as they neared the wall bordering Ehrmich district. It was noon and their convoy had thankfully not run into any stray titans nor did he smell any around the area. The trek had been quiet, Erwin lead the others with horses and wagons along the lonely road while his babies, Historia, and Hange rode on his right shoulder with Levi sitting by himself on his left. Each had dawned new sets of invisible wings with their supplies replenished – the titan knowing very well that such was done by Erwin's orders. They were prepared for anything.
But of course, he, nor his little ones and the others were going to be fully prepared for the information they were about to ingest and make sense of. In particular, he himself was fearing what Historia had to share. He just had a feeling that it wasn't good. The royal child had a connected to the church – the very people that wanted him dead. With the haunting feeling making him uncomfortable, Rogue shut his eyes tightly before reopening them to focus on Hange with Mikasa's hand still softly stroking his flesh. The brunette had the old journal open in her lap, her eyes scanning each word and images with utmost interest – nodding to herself and folding pages back on the corners when needed. Hange flipped another page, at the end of the journal's contents. Rogue watched as her brows lifted at a sketch, her hand running along it in awe. For a long moment, the woman continued to examine the final pages before silently nodding to herself, brows narrowed in determination.
"Yes, Jorge Pikale was Commander of the Scouts many decades ago. I remember learning about him back in the Cadets. He was one of the best, and at the time when he was suddenly demoted everyone wondered why. This explains it. He was stripped of his position because he came across the one being that a higher power didn't want him to find." Hange lifted her head, her mouth in a slight frown as she rotated the journal for the beast to see. Rogue's breath hitched as he beheld what was on the parchment. On the page were various sketches of none other than himself, but his face was less than friendly. He was drawn positively vicious – a look that said he was determined to kill – the very same that he wore when defending humanity from his kin. Honest with himself, the image did scare him. "Looks like you were quite ferocious back then."
Rogue only swallowed, his ears sinking. Could he have been absolutely primal?
"Right." Hange began again, turning her attention back to his little ones. "I suppose it would be best to fill the two of you in on what we learned first before we get to what Krista has to share. Hours after our arrival in Ehrmich, Pastor Nick arrived at the Garrison headquarters where as you know, we were stationed. Turns out, after the events in Stohess, the priests relocated there. Naturally, we demanded why he was present at such a place and he told us some rather… interesting but damning news. Apparently, Fritz isn't the real royal family that rules the walls. They are just puppets to the real royal family. Reiss. They keep themselves hidden away and off grid for a very good reason. They have knowledge of a powerful weapon, an entity that could rule over both mankind and the titans themselves as the fact states. They have kept this secret from the public – only telling the church what I assume to be just the basics." Hange paused, looking at his little ones strongly – their faces revealing just how startled they were. "It is also certain now that it is indeed Rogue that is this entity who's spoken of." The woman paused to rub her chin before looking at them even more seriously than before. "The church obviously kept this from the public as well – which explains why the MP's were told to keep Jorge's mouth shut. As for the MPs' knowledge of this, I'd say they are aware of the fact as well due to the church using them as enforcement – not to mention the current puppets of the Reiss know this as well. The reason for all of this secrecy I believe is that they are aware that our titan enemy is after Rogue and will do anything to get him. They tried to keep Rogue's existence under wraps, but since his appearance – they just want to remove Rogue from the equation."
"So." Mikasa began, her voice almost trembling and making his heart drop down to his stomach. "The reason why every bit of this is happening from the first breach to this one is really because of Rogue?"
Hange hesitated. "Unfortunately, yes." She replied, the others going into a brief state of silence.
"There is one thing I don't get though." Levi suddenly grumbled. "If this giant brat could potentially be the most powerful titan – why is the royal family going through with their actions? Rogue is the most effective soldier the military has. He can dispatch titans like they are made of paper. Why take your best shot of defeating your enemy and just throw it away?"
The titan only grunted softly in agreement. That was one thing he didn't get at all.
"Will any of this be revealed to the public?" Armin suddenly asked. "We've tried so hard just for Rogue's relationship to reach where it is now with the people of the walls. If this is revealed to them, I'm sure we will lose everything we worked for."
Hange nodded in clear understanding. "Erwin and I discussed this as soon as we learned it the previous evening. We are aware of the uproar it could cause and how much it could put Rogue's life in danger. Pixis was aware of the very same. We decided together to keep this all classified. Every bit of this information – even from the government, MPs. They probably have figured that the deviants are just here for a meal and we have decided to keep it that way. Of course, Zackley is probably aware of the real situation, but for whatever reason he's kept quiet. But yes. This information is now classified and no one will be able to discuss it outside of Scouts or Garrison headquarters." Hange informed sternly with his little ones nodding in understanding.
Rogue simply breathed, eyes adverting to his feet again as he silently thought. The truth about what was really transpiring was being kept classified. However, he wasn't so sure how long it would take the public to connect the dots and put two and two together.
"Pastor Nick also informed us that there was a child born of both royal blood as well as from a servant to the Reiss family. The child was raised in secret until she was discovered and hidden by the church. Five years ago, from what I assume was an attempt to further conceal, the church enlisted the child into the Trainees. This child, as Nick indicated, is actually Krista, or as she is really named, Historia. He stated that she may have a very important connection to Rogue and from what I heard she might be able to discover his true power." Hange paused, with his little ones' eyes growing larger again. "Now. Before we dwell on this further and I express more on my theories – Historia," Hange turned to the quiet teen. "I would like for you to fill us in how much you know about this. Remember, now is not the time to withhold information. You could be charged with treason for withholding important material from the military if you don't tell us everything that we need to know right now."
Rogue swallowed nervously, his green pools traveling to the small female who looked absolutely fretful – the titan taking notice of her white knuckles. Historia bit her lip, rubbing her hands over one another as she struggled to conjure up the courage to reveal what she had most likely kept hidden all of her life.
"Well," The teen stuttered, her hand brushing a strand of her golden hair behind her ear out of habit. "I – I don't actually know a lot about this, but I'll say everything that I know. It's true though, my mom was a housemaid for the Reiss family. I never knew my father, but apparently he was a brother to the real king. I've never met him though, but he was married at the time I was conceived. Just to spare him the embarrassment, he sent me away to live at the church with several other orphans when I was five. Not long after that, I found out that my mother was murdered. Back then of course, I really didn't understand what was happening or why. When I was twelve, the priests at the time suddenly pulled me into a secluded room and began to tell me all they knew. I was a child born of royal blood – one that wasn't meat to happen from the family that truly ruled the walls, the Reiss. They told me that my family knew a secret about a very powerful entity that could dominate the titans and humanity itself. They told me that the weapon was a titan – one that looked like a demon. They told me about a titan that matched the description of the prophesized entity – one that surfaced decades before the first breach occurred that was dubbed "The Berserker" and then proceeded to tell me that "The Rogue Titan" that appeared shortly after The Colossal was likely the very same beast. They then proceeded to tell me that they received orders from the top that my name be changed and that I was to join the Trainees and enlist in the Scouts – in order to train to kill the titan." Historia paused, the others looking on in a stunned silence and he himself nearly faltering.
Historia, the sweet little girl that loved braiding his hair and weaving flowers into his locks – was trained to kill him. However, before he could succumb to any emotion, the small blonde suddenly broke into tears.
"But I couldn't do it! At first, I just wanted to prove myself worthy of being a Reiss – but then when I met Rogue and saw how good hearted he was… I knew that I couldn't go through with it. I just wanted to be Krista Lenz and aid in protecting Rogue!"
The titan swallowed roughly at Historia's tears, he could tell that she was certainly being sincere. A soft whine escaped his throat as he naturally nudged his nose into the teen who instantly tried to gather herself, sniffling and raising a hand to stroke the bridge of his nose. Rogue purred softly, successfully getting Historia to calm considerably.
"I see." Hange muttered, scratching her chin before looking at her kindly. "I believe all of us here are thankful that you have changed your mind, but there is something else I hope that you can elaborate on." Hange continued with the blonde girl nodding, ready for the incoming query. "Pastor Nick informed us that you may be the key in helping discover aspects about Rogue that we've been unable to retrieve. We believe it has something to do with you being able to dig deep into Rogue's lost memories. Is this true?"
She hesitated. "The priests said something about it, but they didn't really know much either. They just told me that I had the ability to connect and get in sync with Rogue's memories. But, I don't know how or even if such a thing is really possible. I've been around Rogue for months now and I've never been able to do such a thing – so I really don't believe what the priests told me was true."
Hange only nodded. "You do have a point. You've made physical contact with Rogue and yet you haven't been able to produce any results. Thank you for sharing what you know. I'll see to it that Erwin order to keep this under wraps as well." The scientist then sighed, folding her arms before looking at the group seriously once again. "Now, here is some theories I have. As the small deviant spoke earlier, Rogue is considered a king and I believe that our enemy aims to overthrow him. I believe that these titans could be working under a higher power – which leads me to believe that it must be The Colossal. In many social animal species, it is the biggest and strongest that leads over the others. I think that there also could be more to Rogue's ability to command titans. It's certain now that he's the only being able to do this. I think this could be something much more than an alpha like ability. Our enemy definitely knows more about this than we do – and we need to quickly try and figure out what. Even though we've survived this – who's to say that they won't try the very same again? There are so many loose ends here."
The titan only stiffened, watching as his little ones fell into a similar state. Rogue only swallowed nervously out of habit again. The information was just getting more damming by the minute. Suddenly, Armin's brows rose.
"Section Commander, when we were trapped on top of Utgaard castle – the titans surprised us by advancing at night." He spoke with Hange's brows lifting and her mouth opening in shock.
"Moving at night? My god – Rogue, he couldn't sleep all evening either. He was moving around just like it was daytime all night!"
Armin nodded. "Mikasa and I discussed it and I think I know why. It was a full moon last night and moonlight is reflected sunlight. I believe it was supplying the titans with just enough UV rays to keep them going." His little one expressed with Hange nodding vigorously.
"Of course! It explains Rogue's uneasiness and his lack of sleep. Interesting piece of information that is – I've never done much studying on titans at night nor has humanity done so in the past. It was mostly a grey area and we only relied on past facts that some of the first titan researches discovered and published. This is quite the game changer. I'm certain of it – The Armored and The Colossal were probably aware of the fact and chose the day before to make their move for that reason. They must have figured out that we were unaware of that fact."
Rogue's eyes widened at this. So during a full moon, titans could still walk the earth. Admittedly, he always wondered why he was sometimes a light sleeper on some of those nights back when he was in Maria – but he never truly took notice of it when he slept in the Scout's barn. The previous evening, he was fully exposed to the moonlight which forbid him from entering a state of repose. It wasn't just his nerves and overactive senses. Rogue's sharp eyes then noticed a bead of sweat drifting down Armin's brow, making his skin prickle again. Was it possible that his little one had discovered something else?
"Hange," The blonde male continued, his tone sterner than before. "Right before the horde of titans came at us, we heard a strange roar. We followed the source of it to see a titan unlike Rogue or any other deviant we came across sitting on top of the wall. I'm pretty sure this titan was a deviant as well and caused the horde to come straight at us."
"You mean," Levi groaned. "We've got another one of those bastard after us?"
Armin nodded with Rogue gradually feeling the strands of his hair ruffle in alarm. "I think so. I think it did what The Female accomplished back on the expedition. I think this one could have corralled the others before hand and provoked them to attack – like a dog with sheep."
"What did this titan look like?"
Armin bit his lip. "It sounds absurd, but this one looked a lot like a giant ape."
"So," Levi continued to grumble. "It looked like a beast?"
Mikasa nodded. "Yes. This titan looked to be almost seventeen meters and it was almost completely covered in hair. Its arms were unnaturally long too. It was absolutely bizarre."
Hange's gaze darkened. "Then I think we can assume that this 'Beast Titan' is another deviant – one of the ones part of the party that is aiming to overthrow the king. Rogue," Her eyes drifted to him. "Think hard, but do you remember any titan like this? Anything at all?"
The titan's spine stiffened at the query, a natural reflex he always had when he was asked to remember. Emerald greens pulled away from the woman to watch his stride again, each foot going in front of the other. His brow creased and his tapered ears pressed against his head. Black lids fell over his eyes for a brief moment as he attempted to concentrate. There was the bearded titan in his dreams and the horror inducing face of The Female, but beyond that was nothing but a black void. Not a single image was surfacing. Rogue peeled open his darkened lids to watch his feet yet again, letting out a gentle wisp of steam between his teeth. "EIII… DUNNOO. EII CANNT RENNENBRR." Rogue winced, starting to pity himself, Mikasa obviously feeling his stress and stroking his shoulder.
"Well," The Corporal exhaled. "Even if he can't remember, it's clear that we have another asshole to deal with."
The group said nothing at the statement, the awkward silence surrounding them as they continued to move. Rogue only stared at his feet and the convoy below him. He hated this. Now his little ones and his family was even further in harm's way. He didn't get it, why was he chosen to carry such a burden? Why! After several more agonizing minutes, Hange cleared her throat to speak with his little ones once again, her face still not showing any enthusiasm.
"Another thing I feel would be best to address is something that you two may find troubling as well." Hange gestured to his babies, their eyes filling with fear yet again. "Sasha arrived with a small party of survivors during the evening hours in Ehrmich. She informed us that The Armored was indeed looking for Rogue as we suspected. However, what she was told us that the titan said has us worried and admittedly on edge."
Mikasa lifted her head with the giant able to easily sense her growing concerns. "What did The Armored Titan say? What did he say about Rogue?" The teen stuttered, making him realize that Mikasa was almost on the verge of tears. Hange sighed.
"This is going to be tough to swallow for the both of you. The Armored called Rogue a traitor."
"A – traitor?"
The Section Commander nodded. "Yes. This statement itself brought up many questions as to why our enemy would use such a word to describe Rogue. After reading the journal, it certainly makes one wonder if Rogue had any sort of relationship with the other deviant titans. It's just a theory, but it could be possible that Rogue was on the very same side of our enemy in the past, but due to his nature or an occurrence that befell – he could have split from the others in order to forge his own path, losing his memories somewhere along the line."
"Wait – are you saying that Rogue… Rogue could have once been evil?" His little one stuttered, her eyes igniting with panic even more.
The woman sighed yet again, sounding both physically and mentally exhausted. "It's possible – yet our assumption could be wrong. The Armored could simply be referring to the fact that Rogue sympathizes with humanity, thus making him a traitor among titans. This seems likely because Rogue's breed doesn't consume humans. Still, it is something we should not just slide beneath the rug, if you understand what I mean."
If he was able the shed a bead of sweat, the titan certainly would be soaking. No, there was no way he could have been evil! He wasn't bad! He was good! He loved almost everyone and almost everything. There was no way he could have been with those monsters! No way! He couldn't have slaughtered humans or eaten them for pleasure! He couldn't have! The beast felt himself tremble, the slight shutter in his frame alerting the others to his inward struggle as he stopped in his path.
"NOO. NOO EII ANNN… IEE AHH GOODD TIITANN." The beast uttered, starting to feel himself slipping, the touch of his Mikasa halting him from descending into a complete panic attack.
"Settle down Rogue." She spoke softly, his wide greens capturing her reassuring smile. "It's alright. You're a good titan. Everyone knows you are a good titan. Carla and Grisha knew you were a good titan. Armin and I know you are a good titan. The Scouts know you're a good titan and the citizens of the walls know you're a good titan too." Mikasa encouraged – rubbing his jawline with his heart rate slowing at her words. "You are good. You are not a monster. You are not evil."
His breath leveled, becoming less erratic as his pupils returned to their normal size. Rogue blinked, letting out a soft whine as he nudged his chin into his baby with her hands continuing to coax him. Several more seconds passed before the titan felt his body calm completely. Yes. He was good. He wasn't bad at all. To express his thanks, Rogue gifted his little one with a lick. "TAANNK YUU."
"No problem. Just remember. You've never done one evil thing in your life. You do whatever you need to protect us all which is out of love." Armin chuckled. "You've haven't got a bad bone in your body!"
Rogue couldn't help but smile at the words, easily persuaded. Finally, he let out a sigh and dipped his head, rubbing his nose into the blonde before starting forwards again to trail the Scouts. He couldn't succumb to any of his own struggles. Right now they needed to return to the district and make sure that Wall Rose was secure and determine the state of the patch as well as the whereabouts of The Armored Titan. He swallowed, trying to hide his nerves from his riders. Truly, he did hope that his enemy had given up on trying to pursue him, but with no reports passed to the Scouts from the Garrison – it was likely the roach was still hiding out and perhaps tracking their every move. Rogue's brow wrinkled, going unnoticed by his company. If they were to kill the Armored, he wondered what strategy the Commander would use. His enemy was plated with hardened skin similar if not harder than The Female's. For a split second, he felt weak in his hips as he recalled the moment when The Female Titan broke his pelvis. He was practically powerless against her hardening ability. No doubt, if he had to face The Armored Titan, he would have a massive disadvantage. Not to mention – the Scouts would practically be useless. Most likely he would have to intervene. Perhaps the Scouts could trap the beast the same way that they did during their exercises? As Rogue continued to ponder, he had no idea that his little ones and the others were looking up at him once again.
"Rogue? Are you alright?"
The titan nearly let out a gasp in surprise at the sudden query, realizing that he nearly had stopped in his tracks again. "EII ANN GOOOD." He quickly reassured and motioned forward once again. "UUST TIINKKIN."
"What are you thinking about?" Armin asked, making the titan wish he would have not said anything further. Rogue dithered, feeling his ears heat up.
"ADOOUT GOOINN HONNE." He lied through his teeth, praying that the others wouldn't notice his ears as he discreetly pinned them against his head. Thankfully, his little ones seemed to overlook his little fib.
"Yeah, I think we could be back home this evening, Rogue. I'm – looking forward to a good sleep." Armin tittered, but otherwise not saying anything else.
The titan could certainly tell that his little one was lying too.
More minutes of silence passed and the vast wall grew larger as they neared it, stretching over them and nearly casting their entire brigade in shadow. Also it signaled that the district was just up ahead, he was just so uneasy to the point he was making himself sick to his stomach. Damn how he just wanted to get back to his nest – back to his territory where he and his family would be safe.
"By the way, Section Commander," Armin began again. "Did Mike return last night? He broke off from our Squad and left Nanaba and Gelgar in charge."
At the innocent enough question, the two higher ups went rigid, eyes looking to one another – showing alarm but their faces otherwise remaining blank. Rogue felt his heart skip a beat. Nanaba and Gelgar – they were not with his little ones when he and the Scouts arrived at the ruins to rescue them. Neither was Lynn nor Henning. The blood that he had smelled – could that have been… Mike. Mike wasn't with them? Erwin had said – Mike was the strongest. Was it possible? Rogue's heart started to beat faster. Nanaba, Mike – had they fallen victim to the jaws of his kin?
"No." Hange spoke, her tone low. "Mike didn't show up in Ehrmich last night or this morning. I think we can only assume the worst." She frowned. "I guess only the new recruits survived your ordeal?"
Rogue could only hold his breath as the teen nodded.
"I started to suspect the very thing happened to Mike when the Scouts Arrived at Utgaard. It could have been the horde of abnormals that attacked us early on. They were moving really erratically and he decided to ward them away from us. Nanaba, Gelgar as well as Lynn and Henning – they fought the titans with what little supplies they had at Utgaard before they ran out of gas and blades in battle. They died protecting us." Armin responded, his voice barely audible.
At the news, Rogue felt his heart plummet. Nanaba. He had lost her. Although he had just started to get to know her, she had quickly become someone he was extremely fond of. She was gone. She was –
Then he froze, all thoughts and brewing emotions ceasing. His pupils shrank and a crisp and cold chill shot up his spine. His hair bristled, rising like the fur on the back of a cat. His heart began to thunder and he stalled, ears rotating to catch the cryptic sound that he unfortunately knew all too well.
"That's unfortunate to hear."
The titan however, paid no attention to their words – their voices simply seeping into the background. His brows lifted as the wind changed its course, carrying his locks in different directions. His nose wrinkled with his nostrils flaring as the stench it him. Rogue, lifted his head in the slightest, sniffing like a mad dog to witness the revolting and exotic scent that was sweeping before his face and into his lungs. He had smelt the very odor once before and it was throwing his senses into pandemonium. His enemy – was right behind him.
"Rogue? Rogue what's wrong?"
He simply stood, feeling petrified and looking like he had just witnessed his mother's death all over again. He swallowed, lungs heaving. This wasn't good! He didn't want this to happen!
"LONGG TIME… NO SEEE – GREENN EYESS."
The titan completely ignored his rider's expressions and words of shock as he swallowed, trying to get rid of the burdensome lump in his throat without success. The brigade stopped in their tracks and the aura around all of them grew incredibly tense. Ever so slowly, Rogue rotated his head, his body following him as he beheld his adversary. There, standing just over thirty meters away, was The Armored Titan.
"He can speak as well!"
Still, Rogue only focused afore him, his eyes tracing every detail of The Armored's face and branding it into his mind. The titan was more horrifying than he remembered him. Now able to see him clearly without any obstruction keeping him hidden, Rogue made out every feature available to him. The Armored was exotic in appearance just as The Female was and like her he wasn't covered in smooth and thick tan flesh. Almost every exposed muscle was protected or framed by plates of gold. The Armored's face was bizarre to him. It was true, the way the plates were shaped reminded him of the thing that his Armin called a snapping turtle – the plates parting away to reveal the creature's jaws lined with yellowed teeth – likely stained from gallons upon gallons of blood from his prey. The titan's eyes were purely unsettling – practically glowing a solid gold with irises and pupils faint and difficult to see. The creature's hair was silver like that of precious metal and blades. Rogue felt his chest tighten, finding it harder to breathe. His enemy had found him. He had found all of them.
"Scouts! Ready your weapons! Prepare to –
"LET'SS MAKE THISS QUICKK – GREENN EYESS. YOU HAVEE… BEEN HIDINGG LONGG ENOUGHH." The Armored cut off the Commander, the man sitting in a stunned silence as The Armored contorted its plated jaw oddly – forming a smile that Rogue only found to be sinister. "YOUU WON'T… PUTT UPP MUCHH… OF A FIGHTT. YOUU WERE ALWAYSS… DUMBB AND WEAKK." The titan continued, voice low and gruff – reminding him of a swindling or untrustworthy man.
Even so – Rogue remained still, stunned like a spooked feline as he tried to tackle his fear and understand what The Armored was conveying. His ears twitched at the sounds of his little ones' distress.
"Oh god. There's no way – how are we going to make it out of this?"
"How are we going to be able to defeat him? We'll be lucky if anyone makes it out alive!"
"What are we going to do!"
"Mikasa – I don't know if Rogue can…
With his ears filling with worried words and the sounds of the Scouts scrambling to prepare to fight, Rogue watched as The Armored huffed a cloud of hot steam and took a single step forward – clearly ready to slaughter. It was apparent that not a single soul was going to get in his way. He was ready to paint the ground red to obtain his prize.
It was then, with his enemy's single step, that something fired off within Rogue. The blood in his veins began to boil, heat pooling in his stomach as fear was overcome with rage. This – this monster was the reason why he had lost so many people so dear to him. The Armored and Colossal laid waste to Shiganshina – destroying it and leaving it decorated in nothing but mutilated bodies. They had let his kin inside human territory to feast. The Armored and Colossal let that smiling demon in - the very creature ate his loving parents. This titan was the reason why he had lost those that were so dear to him and why humanity was suffering!
He then felt the familiar touch of his little ones, pressing their hands against his neck and gripping the locks dangling from his head. At this, Rogue felt his anger only intensify, his eyes taking on a dangerous and feral glint. His babies. The Armored wished to kill them! He wouldn't let that happen! For the monster's desire, he would slaughter the beast where he stood. Unbridled rage sparked instinct; Rogue's ears folded over, his nose wrinkled as his skin drew up in a snarl. With his eyes wild, the beast let loose a rippling growl that had been trapped in his chest for far too long. For a moment, he felt sheer satisfaction as The Armored halted in his tracks, seemingly surprised by his act of ferocity – his own fists coiling and his back arching with his breaths becoming savage. He would make his foe witness what hell was really like! He would make him his prey! He would sink his teeth into his meat and drink his blood!
His frame trembled, jolting his riders while another deep and furious growl resonated up from his breast. Upon him, his family grew incredibly alarmed.
"Rogue!" Armin tugged a strand of his ruffling hair. "Rogue! You need to wait for orders! He's bigger and stronger than you are! Listen to Commander Erwin's –
His baby's voice only fell deaf on his ears as he was consumed by the need to protect and the primal desire to kill – and eat. Rogue snarled again, the bone chilling sound cutting across the vast glade and making every soldier freeze in their boots. The Armored's eyes widened.
"SO… YOUU DO HAVEE… FIGHTT IN YOUU."
His foe's commentary only fanned the fire, dousing the blaze with gasoline. He parted his jaws and released a challenging roar that made the limbs of the nearby trees tremble like fall leaves in a thunderstorm. Every bone in his little ones' bodies rattled and The Armored stopped in his tracks – the monstrosity's face nearly blank. Rogue nearly grinned as a sense of fear swam in his prey's eyes, but kept his snarl as his opponent dawned what he could make out as a smirk.
"WELLL… THISS MAY BE INTERESTINGG."
The crude annotation of his foe only provoked Rogue to take one step forward and roar yet again, the howl dying down into a low hiss – his irises illuminating a dangerous green with pupils nothing but thin serpentine slits. Amped up on rage and adrenaline, he could barely feel his little ones and his superiors tugging both his collar and hair.
"Rogue! Rogue Please! You need to listen!"
"Oi! You stupid brat! Your ass needs to back up so we can work on weakening the bastard!"
"Rogue! Please! Stop this!"
The titan's muscles tightened and steam billowed out of his nose like a fearsome dragon in old stories. Like a wild animal, his chest heaved noticeably and he panted. He would make the bastard pay! He was going to bathe in his prey's blood! He was going punish the monster for his sins!
Then, The Armored let out another huff and took a step forward in advance, disregarding all of his warnings and of course any human life. The very move pushed him to the breaking point. Rogue inhaled deeply and bellowed loud enough for any saint in the heavens to hear.
He then charged forward, sprinting as fast as he possibly could with a fist raised, his riders quickly evacuating his shoulders while he aimed to rid the arrogant look off his prey's face. The Armored Titan had no time to retreat or move in any other direction as he met the beast's position. With another ear-splitting cry, Rogue swung – his fist hitting the titan in the cheek, but as his knuckles made impact, a searing pain shot up his fingers and to his elbow. Rogue's breath hitched and his teeth nearly bit through his tongue as he felt bone crack and shift unnaturally. He growled as he sidestepped, taking the moment to look down at his hand that was now horridly deformed. A sheet of skin hung grotesquely, exposing shreds of muscles. However, the sight of his own crimson leaking out and decorating the earth below only made him grow more stubborn and willful.
"Rogue! Please! You need to pull back! He's hardened from head to toe!"
Still, he only saw red and only lusted for more of it. Rogue roared yet again and swung his already shattered hand into his foe's face once more, his blow hitting its mark but his appendage flying off – leaving him with a useless stump. Rogue snarled, saliva dripping down his chin as he raised his other first. How dare he! He would make this monster pay! He would make him pay for everything! Every life he had ever cut short!
Before he could make his attempt however, The Armored Titan kicked, planting his foot into his gut and forcing him to tumble upon the earth. His massive frame slid across the grass and the dirt, flipping over until he came to an abrupt stop. Rogue growled as he scrambled to stand, faltering and embarrassingly landing back into the dirt as he tried to prop himself up on his steaming stump.
"WELLL… YOU AREE JUSTT AS… PITIFULLL AS YOU ALWAYSS WERE."
The comment sent another rippling growl through his chest. Like a mad dog, he launched himself to his feet with another roar and bolted forward with the intent to tear his foe apart. Though he was missing a hand, he would still give the beast hell. Pumping his legs, his feet carried him across the wide glade. With another howl, he curled his remaining fist and poised it to strike. If it was the last thing he would do, he would smash in the bastard's skull. Aiming to savagely hit his opponent from a low level, Rogue prepared to attack. To his dismay, as he rose up, The Armored Titan wrapped his hand around his head and pushed – forcefully slamming him down face first into the unforgiving ground. However, before he could get upright to continue his assault, the titan roared, his cry rough and deep with his foot meeting his side yet again. Rogue yelped like a frightened pup as he felt a rib snap, his body sent several meters away for the second time. His error didn't register with him as he peeled open his jaws to roar. He needed blood! He needed his blood all over his flesh! 'I'M GOING TO KILL… YOU!' His mind furiously thought as he forced himself to stand yet again, the discomfort in his side making him grip the area in a stronghold. Even so, he lay his burning greens onto The Armored Titan with nothing but resentment flowing through them. His enemy moved from his stance, walking slowly and in an almost casual manner – the sight itself making Rogue give another snarl, ears pinned against his head and teeth parted as they were ready to tear flesh from bone.
Suddenly, The Armored Titan's eyes drifted away from him, just in time to see Levi soar through the air and cut behind his opponent's ankle. Unfortunately, the attempt to divert ended in failure as The Corporal's blades shattered into fragments. "Shit! The guy is like the bitch! His armor renders our blades useless! This bastard's so strong that he's throwing the brat around like a rag doll!" Levi curved around the beast, purposely maneuvering in and out of the creature's limbs to distract. "Erwin! We need a -
Rogue however, wasn't willing to let the man finish his sentence as he charged forth again, his hand and rib now fully mended. Nothing was going to stop him from killing the very monster that had a hand in slaying his parents. The beast wasn't going to slaughter another soul!
Raising his hand yet again, he prepared to unleash a savage hit, but before he could do so, The Armored managed to grip his head and force him downward – exposing his nape to his enemy. Naturally he snarled, plenty of fight still left in him as he managed to reach up and pull his prey's head down. His adversary resisted, growling as he was taken off guard, but he would not let him free of his grasp. The Armored's hands gripped his shoulders in a stronghold, the feeling of his creaking bones beneath the force bringing him to act. Savagely, Rogue screeched and dug his nails into the scalp of his prey like a hawk, slashing several deep gashes into his opponent's head and taking pride of the feeling of blood clotting beneath his nails. The Armored Titan wailed and bit into his shoulder, but he was far too gone in the thrill of the hunt to take notice. Rogue snarled, determined to free himself so he could continue his art of killing, he slammed a fist into the back of the titan's impossibly hard head and brought his knee to the creature's chest so violently that his knee cap groaned in protest but nonetheless succeeding in making The Armored let go. Taking advantage of his opponent's disorientation, Rogue then slapped the opposite side of his prey's face like a powerful grizzly with as much force as he could exert – knocking the Armored onto his knees with the beast struggling to get up like a stumbling drunk. Rogue took a step back to regain himself and take a small bit of pride at his foe's folly, but as he moved, a crippling pain seared through his leg. He hissed in agony – unable to put his full weight upon his foot, Rogue looked down to see that his kneecap had practically been crushed. Damn! His foe's skin was so hard that he was taking most of the damage with each hit he delivered. Still, he wasn't going to let such a thing slow him down!
Rogue rumbled a threat, sidestepping with a limp and preparing to go in again to strike his enemy. He would get the bastard before he could get to his feet! To his misfortune, The Armored Titan turned and swiped, catching his legs and causing him to topple over onto his rear. Normally, he could have easily avoided the advance, but unable to obtain much mobility due to his injury, Rogue fell victim. Before he could even attempt to get upright and get his revenge, The Armored wrapped a hand around his ankle and pulled, hoisting him off the earth violently. Rogue naturally screeched in protest as he was swung helplessly before the beast threw him as far as he possibly could. His stomach rolled unsettlingly as he flipped once before his back met the unforgiving ground yet again, sending the sensation of pain through his spine and muscles. The snapping of trees echoed across the moor as he continued to roll, the sky and earth switching places over and over until his momentum could carry him no longer.
Discomfort was the first thing Rogue felt when he lifted his head, looking like a dog that had just been hit by a cart. The beast growled, turning his attention back to his opponent who was currently being bombarded by many Scouts – the flying humans desperately trying to trap the creature's arms and hands. The Armored struggled against them, his family skilled in dodging his swipes for their repeated lessons he had gifted them. Still, his opponent was incredibly strong – even their strongest cables weren't able to trap the beast for long. Then, his livid greens caught sight of his little one, his Mikasa, swooping like a bird to wrap her cables around The Armored Titan's limbs. His eyes narrowed further in distain. She should not be fighting! She needed to stay away from that monster! Let him kill it!
Rogue roared, but his cry was cut short as pain ran through his leg, making the creature stumble and fall back onto his chest like a rabbit with its foot caught in a trap. Furious emeralds turned to see that his limb was worse than he thought, thanks to landing roughly from the fall, the extremity was twisted. The titan snarled, trying to drag himself forward as he was overcome with the need to kill. No! Nothing would stand in his way of destroying his enemy!
He snarled, digging his nails into the earth as he tried to get to his feet.
His ears flickered, catching the sound of his Armin's voice. Irritated at the interruption, Rogue turned his head, growling lowly for his baby to retreat before attempting to get up once again.
"ROGUE! LISTEN!" His little one called, the titan feeling the touch upon him. Rogue quickly pushed the boy in the slightest, moving him out of his way as well as trying to deliver a message. Armin however, didn't wish to listen to his warnings. "Rogue! You need to hold on! You can't win in a slugfest! You need to let us restrain The Armored before you can try to kill him!" His little one paused, looking back at the chaos before them. "Rogue, I know you want to protect everyone, but you need to listen! The Armored –
At the sound of snapping cables, Rogue's attention was thrown back into the mists of battle, seeing that The Armored Titan had broken another set of cables yet again. A snarl tore through his lungs, his mind instantly straying from reason and back to bloodshed. Feeling that his leg was healed, Rogue released a cloud of steam and roared – quickly springing back onto his feet and going fourth in a charge. There was no time for stalling! He had to kill his adversary before any more of his family got slaughtered.
Rogue reached both hands forward in his approach, aiming to grip the beast's head and snap its neck – just the thought of listening to the breaking bones felt like absolute ecstasy. Upon hearing his thunderous footsteps and another one of his tremendous bellows, the flying humans scattered, desperate to get out of his wake. The Armored looked to him, but just as he was about to grip the monster's neck, his enemy reached and caught his hands – his fingers intertwining in a vice grip. Rogue snarled at the flailed attempt, with his mind clouded with nothing but the instinctual need to eliminate, he pushed forward with the intent to knock the beast off his feet. However, his prey was heavy and practically didn't budge – feeling as if he was just pushing against a massive wall. His feral greens faced forward – peering into The Armored's soulless golds. The vile creature before him wore an almost cocky look, a look of sheer arrogance. Rage boiled in his gut as he scrutinized his enemy's face further. All it reminded him of was that one horrible day that forever haunted him. It only made him recall his desire even more.
"EIII… ANN GOIINGG... TO KILLL YUUU!"
At his furious declaration, The Armored's expression changed – looking almost stunned. He however, took no time to enjoy such a delicacy. More determined to spill blood than ever, Rogue roared and slammed his foot into The Armored Titan's knee, offsetting the creature but not hearing his kneecap sliding out of place or the bone completely breaking like what occurred with his mindless kin. His prey then growled lowly, the sound rattling his own ribcage. For a moment, he felt fear once again – the will of the hunter fading away like melting ice. But then, when his eyes caught a twitch in the beast's calf – recalling the move that The Female pulled against him, he felt the need to obliterate once again – anger coursing through his veins. With another howl cutting through his esophagus, Rogue pulled his arm free and slammed his elbow as hard as he possibly could down on top of his prey's head. He could practically feel his elbow shatter upon impact, making another yelp leak from his lipless maw. It was as if this creature's plates and even his skeleton were made of impenetrable steel. Were any of his attacks even going to work?
Upon seeing his own discomfort, The Armored Titan shoved him violently into the ground once again, knocking the wind out of him. Glowing emeralds then watched the plated giant lift his foot, ready to bring it down upon his spine with the intent to totally cripple. With no time to plot his next move, Rogue rolled just in time to avoid the blow and abruptly got to his feet. He snarled, his back arching and hair standing on end. He would get the bastard! He had tried to break his spine! With his mind unable to process any logical thoughts, Rogue charged forward to plant his fist into The Armored's face yet again – only for his hand to be torn free with the force – his own blood and ribbon like tendons decorating his prey's face. Suddenly, he felt his stomach cave beneath his enemy's foot and the earth sweeping beneath his feet yet again and the back of his head hit roughly. The beast stood menacingly over him, simply watching in amusement as he tried to get back to his feet – his injured arm practically useless. The Armored Titan huffed.
"WORTHLESSS. HOWW DIDD YOUU… GETT SUCH POWERRR? HOWW ARRE… YOUU KINGG? HOWW… DIDD YOUU KILL… HER? YOUU… ARE A MISTAKKEE!" The vast beast roared, poising a fist and bringing it down upon him, he himself barely managing to miss the attack. The Armored Titan snarled.
"YOUU… AREEE WEAKK!"
Rogue roared at the insult, kicking upwards into his prey's chin. Too high on adrenaline to feel the newly shattered bones in his foot – he stood and raised his only viable fist. He would make his enemy eat his words! He would give him hell! He would make him pay! Make him sorry for ever breaching the wall and starting a war!
He would sink his teeth into his prey and swallow every bit of his flesh.
However, with his inability to think rationally through his white hot rage, he had made a crucial error.
His enemy had grown tired of him and his repeated attempts.
The world seemed to slow down to a crawl as The Armored Titan raised his fist just as his own planted into his opponent's cheek, his knuckles crumbling. Rogue had no time to react as his adversary brought his arm forward and planted his fist straight into his mouth and cheek. He could feel his skull crack and his skin tear off in sheets. Several of his teeth fell to the ground below like hail and his eye was practically ripped out of its socket. Blood sprayed in all directions while his remaining teeth bit clean through his tongue. His neck sapped back violently as his entire weight was lifted across the ground. The world then sped up again as his body was practically launched right into the air and across the glade. Rogue's vision blurred and black dots scattered. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, his body met the ground. Trees snapped and uprooted, several timbers piercing him like harpoons as he rolled. Unconsciousness began to pull him into the void as he slid across the glade, tilling the soil as his body finally came to rest in a crumpled heap in a shallow ravine.
He couldn't move. He couldn't lift his head or any other part of his broken and steaming body. Rogue exhaled, his breath shuttering as a quiet whine sounded through his throat. The titan gagged, his blood staining the dry soil. With the entire world tilting and darkening, the intense concussion he suffered forced him to vomit out another stream of crimson and acids. Laying in his own filth, he shivered. Rogue blinked tiredly, his eye searching for his babies as well as the whereabouts of his enemy. A faint scream met his ears, but he was far too weak to comprehend it and follow it to its source.
The world around him then went black.
He simply hung next to the wall in a daze. His face was fixed in a state of shock, paled a sickly white with his jaw half hanging open. Armin couldn't believe what had just passed his vision. As they thought, they met The Armored face to face, and at the worst time when most of the soldiers lacked their gear. More importantly, he had not expected Rogue to completely lose it. The titan had been taught time and time again to follow orders no matter the situation, thus seeing Rogue immediately turn savage without the Commander's orders was mind numbing. Much to their horror, the titan fought recklessly and didn't utilize any of his training – consumed by his own lust for revenge if Armin had to guess why. What Rogue had done proved to be foolish. The Armored Titan was stronger than what Armin could have ever imagined. The beast practically threw a several ton titan with absolute ease. Rogue's attacks as well did basically nothing, The Armored's thick plates preventing Rogue to inflict any serious damage. Finally, what Armin and the others greatly feared had happened. The giant had been knocked unconscious from an absolutely brutal blow that left Rogue seriously maimed. He could barely get a breath as he continued to look upon the titan's limp and battered body.
Below, Commander Erwin gave another order to execute a different maneuver. Since Rogue had fallen, the man had commanded the veterans of both the Scouts and Garrison to engage The Armored – the immense creature giving even the most elite trouble. Most of the 104th had been quickly escorted atop the wall to help aid any of the wounded. Mikasa, Levi, Hange, and himself clung to the side of the wall in wait for further instructions. Swallowing, Armin looked over at his childhood friend, witnessing her absolutely horrified face. Like him, Mikasa was almost white but her expression was much more framed by horror. Her lower lip quivered and her brows were raised drastically. Upon Rogue's defeat, he had heard her scream – something that Armin had only heard a few times in his life. The cry that escaped her was alarmingly similar to when the Jaegers were slaughtered and when her parents had been killed like worthless animals. He could clearly see what she was thinking – having determined that the worst had happed and she lost her adoptive brother.
"Rogue?" Mikasa choked out, voice small and restrained. "Rogue?" Mikasa spoke louder, suddenly preparing to leave her position. "Rogue –
Mikasa quieted as Hange abruptly grabbed her wrist, stopping the distraught teen from moving and descending further into a state of panic. "Don't do anything rash." Hange began strongly, peering down at the unconscious Rogue. "He's not dead. Rogue just suffered a chronic concussion and he's unconscious. Only his wounds are steaming and his body is starting to regenerate. Nonetheless, it could be a while before he's recuperated." Hange sighed. Levi growled.
"Still, I can't believe the brat fucking went for the bastard. The Armored Titan tossed him around like a damned toy." The Corporal paused, biting his lip. "Rogue completely disregarded orders and fought like a wild animal that had never been trained. Damn it. I just wonder if he succumbed to these new instincts of his."
Armin's eyes widened at the man's statement before looking back to the injured titan. "I – don't think Rogue's new instincts played a role here. He – was like this when he fought with the titan that ate Carla and Grisha. Rogue was just primal." The blonde muttered, his mind traveling back to the horrifying scene from five years prior.
For a moment, Levi nor the others said nothing. The Corporal lowered his head and blinked a few times, obviously deep in thought before lifting his gaze to look at nothing in particular. "Now that you mention it Arlert, I'm willing to bet that Rogue was the very same when that titanic bitch killed my squad. He was especially close to Petra so I wouldn't be surprised if that were the truth. The more I think about it, the more I think he let his anger cloud him and his judgement – especially by the way we found him." Levi paused, the teen watching his normally tough façade soften. "In a way, I sympathize. There was a moment in my life that I was put in the same position as him. I didn't use anything I learned in my brief training. I just did what felt natural."
Armin said nothing knowing that the man was speaking of something that had happened in his past that not many knew for he kept it under wraps. He remembered Petra only telling him parts of it, but even she knew next to nothing. Even though he himself wished to know, he would never ask the man. Levi then cleared his throat once again.
"Ackerman and Arlert, when I give you a signal, I want you to go down there and see if you can wake Rogue." He began. "If we lose him this situation will go from bad to worse."
Mikasa blinked, looking almost confused. "How is Rogue supposed to kill that thing? He's clearly the underdog here and The Armored Titan is so much stronger."
"Well," Hange began again, her eyes staring intensely at the fallen titan. "As you know, our original plan was to restrain The Armored Titan using barrel shots and give Rogue as well as ourselves the chance to expose and destroy the nape. However, with the situation like this, we can only hope for Rogue to be able to gain the upper hand somehow. If he wakes, we can only hope that Rogue is right in mind. He's not a heavyweight like the Armored so he's going to have to use some wits and his speed. Either that or," Hange paused, swallowing an apparent wad in her throat. "The other option."
"Other option?" Mikasa questioned with the Section Commander nodding.
"The other option would be for Rogue to trigger his Berserk Mode. However, with him having no such luck triggering it, it's unlikely Rogue could even accomplish such a feat. Now, if he did manage to – it's certain that he won't be in control of himself. But he could have the brute force needed to take The Armored Titan down. Still though. It's not guaranteed to happen and if it did – Rogue could do more harm than good."
Armin swallowed, looking down at his beaten friend. Yes, if Rogue triggered his ability there was no telling what would happen. The gentle titan could very well turn on them if possible. More blood could be shed than ever. Armin swallowed. He only hoped that Rogue would pull off a miracle without any sacrifice.
The air was crisp, fresh and clean. It was nothing short of calm and peaceful. Ever so slowly, he peeled open his eyes to see something perplexing. The scenery was a vast change from before. There was no wall and no human in sight. The landscape was beautiful. The heavens above were a soft and vibrant blue with not a single cloud in sight. Uninterrupted sunlight shone down onto a large and spacious glade – a field surrounded by luscious trees and green mountains rose in the distance. As far as his eyes beheld, the plain was covered in brilliant yellow flowers that he didn't recognize.
Rogue sat in the glade's center, peering at the buttery blooms in wonder. Where was he now? He clearly wasn't within the walls. A gentle breeze blew across the area, making the flowers dance and ripple like small but bright waves. He blinked, his chest tightening a bit as a thought crossed his mind. Wasn't he fighting the Armored Titan only moments ago before everything turned black as ink? Everything around him was so clear –
Was it possible that this was heaven? Had he expired and gone to the place that his parents talked about and gone to themselves after their death? No. It couldn't be could it?
Inwardly, he began to panic. No! His babies! His family! They needed him! He couldn't be dead! He had to find them! Deciding that he needed to search for a way back, Rogue attempted to get up, but he couldn't move an inch. None of his limbs seemed to listen. His ears pressed themselves against his skull in fear. Why –
However, before he could descend into a state of hysteria, a sent drifted across his nose and brought him to a pause. Rogue inhaled and unexpectedly felt his brewing nerves calm. The odor was a familiar one, exotic but comforting. His brows lifted as he sampled the scent even more. It had a musk like his own and it was becoming stronger. Tapered ears flickered, catching the sound of crunching grass beneath footsteps. Finally, Rogue lifted his head, alarmed emeralds looking into the gold irises of the bearded titan – the very same one that he had been seeing time and time again in his memories.
At the titan's presence, Rogue calmed knowing that he hadn't been slain but was rather experiencing something that had laid within the furthest reaches of his mind. The titan blinked in thought as the bearded titan approached him, his eyes scanning every detail of the creature's face. Unlike before, the beast didn't have his strong and serious look of determination but rather a calm and relaxed expression that made him appear friendly. Even the creature's ears were lowered in the slightest, telling him that the creature was at ease. However, one thing that was for certain was that the bearded titan was much clearer than before. In his recent resurfacing memories, the titan usually had a light but fuzzy outline, but this time Rogue could see the creature in extreme detail from every fold of skin to every hair upon his head. In fact, the entire memory was just as crystal as reality was. This was the purest that any of his 'dreams' had ever been.
Rogue remained stunned as the bearded titan closed in on his position – his puzzled emeralds watching as the beast smiled, mustache rising up in the slightest and eyes squinting. He felt himself blink in confusion yet again just as his body stood up to be on his feet. As if he were looking out a window, he simply watched as the bearded titan stopped right before him and chuffed. Unable to move, Rogue observed as the titan lifted his hand and sat it upon the top of his hairy head. His body seemed willing to submit as it leaned inward to pause in his stance, the bearded titan coming up to place his brow onto his own for several brief seconds – golden eyes staring into his green pools before the beast grunted and lowered himself to sit down neatly with his legs folded. He himself then lowered and sat in the same fashion that he had before. For a moment, it was quiet between them until the bearded titan cleared his throat.
"GOOD… MORNING. IT IS A NICE… DAY TO TRAIN… ISN'T IT?"
Rogue remained stunned even after he witnessed the titan's casual address. Naturally, he felt the need to reply, but his mouth only let out a warbled grunt in return – strangely finding that he couldn't formulate words again just like in his previous experiences in his memories. However, the bearded titan seemed to accept his response and understand it perfectly.
"TODAY… I AM TEACHING YOU… SOMETHING DIFFERENT." The bearded titan continued, his voice deep and gruff with the titan pausing every few words to gather himself.
Rogue felt his head tilt at this, giving away the fact that he was befuddled by the creature's information. The other titan nodded.
"NOT EVERY TITAN… IS THE SAME THAT YOU FIGHT. YOU… ARE NOT… THE BIGGEST. NOT… THE STRONGEST." The titan stared heavily at him, his determined demeanor suddenly returning. "SO… YOU MUST KNOW… HOW TO FACE… AN ENEMY THAT IS LARGER THAN YOU."
He felt his ears naturally prick forward at the news. Why was this memory coming to him now? Desperately, he wanted to open his mouth and ask, but his maw only released several grunts that didn't even sound like he was pleading. The bearded titan nodded in understanding nonetheless.
"WHEN… YOU TAKE PART… IN THE DUELS – YOU WILL NEED TO KNOW… THESE SKILLS."
Rogue found himself only growing more confused. Duels? What was this titan talking about? Could it be possible that he was referring to his fights with The Female and The Armored Titan?
"YOU… WILL NOT WIN IF YOU LACK… THE ABILITY." The titan continued, pausing and narrowing his eyes in deep thought – making it obvious that he was milling over what words to say and how to pronounce them. "NOW," The creature suddenly stood, taking a step back before stopping and placing himself into a fighting stance that was nearly identical as his own. "STAND. TRY TO… TAKE ME OUT." The beast dared, abruptly looking more serious than he recalled ever seeing in his visions.
Suddenly, Rogue felt himself obeying the other titan's orders, and his body rose to be upright yet again. He only remained a spectator to his memory as his body took the same offensive position. For a moment, the two titan's stood in the sunlight, the wind still blowing gently and the flowers dancing despite the tense standoff. Then, his nose furrowed and a snarl tore through his throat. Like lightning, he swung his leg, clearly intending to topple the beast over. For a moment, he thought the move would have been successful, but when his shin met the other titan's – the creature barely flinched. He felt himself quiver in frustration at the lack of victory, throwing his arm forward in a hellish punch.
To his amazement, the bearded titan caught his incoming fist, golden eyes staring dead into his own as if his intent was to drill his errors into his very soul. The bearded titan's hand clenched harder, making his own knuckles pop. Rogue winced, a whine escaping his chest until the beast released his grip and returned to his fighting stance.
"YOU CANNOT… ATTACK HEAD ON. WITH LARGE ENEMY… YOU MUST OVERWHELM. YOU MUST… USE WEIGHT… TO YOUR ATVANTAGE. THE BIGGER…THEY ARE – THE HARDER… THEY FALL. WATCH." He titan explained, but before Rogue could comprehend what was bound to happen, the bearded titan lunged forward with a fist raised. On reflex, he rose his own arm to block, but before he could even let his translucent lids slide over his eyes, the other titan wrapped an arm beneath his left and reached over his shoulder. He then felt his entire body being hoisted back, practically thrown roughly into the earth and leaving Rogue completely winded. The bearded titan still held him in his grip, muscular arms around his own neck as the creature squeezed. His throat compressed, instinctively making him reach to try and pull his opponent from him. He could feel every bone creak in his body, every straining muscle, and his lungs were barely able to expand. The force the bearded titan was exerting was incredible – making him almost rethink about the beast's intentions. As the seconds passed by, Rogue found it nearly impossible to get a single breath. His body then began to struggle – his nails reaching up to dig desperately into the titan's shoulders and several pained grunts seeping from his maw. Finally, the bearded titan released his hold and gradually stood up, observing with his arms folded over his chest as he was left gasping for air. The creature grunted.
"THAT… IS… A MOVE YOU SHOULD DO. IT… WORKS WELL." Rogue looked to the titan who got into the same position again. "TRY… ON ME."
The smaller titan felt his body gather itself and stagger back to his feet. His lungs heaved, stabilizing himself once again before he rushed forward. His fist poised itself, aiming straight for the creature's face before swooping down to curve under the titan's armpit. Rogue's other hand snaked just over the creature's shoulder before he gripped his opposite wrist. Recalling just where the bearded titan placed his limbs and just how he executed the move, the smaller titan lunged forward with all his strength and miraculously lifting the other of their feet. To lift the beast higher, Rogue curved his leg around the other's and lifted it in an arch – gaining the momentum to send the two crashing into the buttery flowers. Rogue felt his mouth pull into a smile. He had actually THROWN a seventeen-meter behemoth into the ground. However, he had no time to celebrate as he felt the sensation of jaws closing in lightly around his throat. Rogue felt himself grow startled and his frame immediately lifted away from the other titan. The bearded giant got to its feet again, pausing to examine a healing scrape upon his arm. For a moment, the creature took the time to lick at the stream of crimson before placing his attention on his pupil once again.
"A… GOOD TRY." The titan smiled, the expression almost tender. "BUT… WATCH THROAT." He gestured to his trachea, with he himself giving a grunt in understanding. "NOW… TRY AGAIN."
Again, his body prepared himself before he struck. This time, his body curved and arched smoothly and beautifully – able to easily throw his teacher into the earth once again. Just as the beast done to him, he squeezed as he had been shown. His heart practically bounced as he felt the titan quiver from the pressure before requesting that he release his hold. Rogue returned upright with a satisfied trill, his lively and exuberant greens watching the large titan get back to his feet and dawn a smirk. The bearded behemoth then approached him, huffing as he lightly touched his knuckles to the center of Rogue's chest – the smaller titan assuming that this was the way this titan expressed congratulations.
"GOOD. VERY… GOOD!" The beast huffed, golden eyes sparkling almost like a child's. Rogue felt himself give a lopsided grin in return at the titan's elation, even as the other's hand lifted to ruffle his locks atop his head. He could only beam at the beast's enthusiasm at his accomplishment. It seemed like so much gratification considering that he had only performed one task. He gave in to a purr, pulling his arms up a bit like a submissive pup. Truthfully, he wondered why the bearded titan was giving him so much praise for something that didn't seem too complex.
As quickly as the beast showed his softer side, the titan returned to his imposing demeanor. "THAT… IS ONE MOVE. BUT MORE… ARE NEEDED. DO WHAT… I DO. WHEN... IT IS YOUR… TURN – DON'T GO EASY. BREAK… MY BONES… IF YOU MUST. IT… IS BEST WAY TO LEARN."
His eyes continued to behold the scene playing out before him. Continuing to watch out the metaphorical window, Rogue observed the bearded titan instruct the next move – his inquisitive greens taking note of every curving limb and every flex of a muscle. Mentally, he jotted down everywhere the titan targeted upon him and he witnessed every discomfort the beast brought. When it came time for him to reenact what the titan had taught, Rogue executed the moves with force and sheer determination. At times, he performed perfectly, nearly getting things right on the first try much to his amazement. Other times, he had to redo his process over and over, feeling frustration swimming in his gut but nonetheless such failures motivated. For what seemed like hours, it was a constant exchange of blows, victories, and defeats. Bones were broken over and over and limbs were even torn only to regrow again and again. Meanwhile, as a spectator to his own memory, Rogue was receiving quality education.
Every joint in his body had likely been splintered, but he felt absolutely triumphant.
He unwrapped his legs from around the bearded titan's head at the larger titan's decree and sign of satisfaction. "GOOD! GOOD… WORK TODAY." The beast congratulated as he returned to his feet, breathing heavily in exertion. Like before, the beast pressed his knuckles into Rogue's heaving chest, patting his breast before ruffling his locks once again. "YOU… ARE ON YOUR… WAY TO BECOME AN… ADVANCING TITAN."
Rogue felt the corners of his lipless maw draw up into another dopey grin, ears fluttering. This must have been an accomplishment of some sort. The other titan grunted, letting out a satisfied grumble. The bearded behemoth then placed his hand onto his shoulder, letting his own smile show on his face. Rogue purred, ears fluttering once again as the titan huffed.
"DESPITE… ODDS AND FLAW – YOU ARE… A FEARSOME TITAN. YOU… WILL… DO WELL."
He chirruped, his body leaning in to present his head to the other, the bearded titan proudly returning the gesture as he placed his brow onto his own, Rogue's form only smiled – feeling upmost pride. Then, he noticed that the crisp forms of the landscape began to dull and the bright sunlight began to fade into a soft but comforting glow. He blinked in alarm, looking back to the bearded titan to discover that the creature hadn't noticed the obvious change in atmosphere. The other giant's form began to fade – growing indistinct, but still looking tender nonetheless. The creature then opened his mouth to make another address.
"WAKE UP ROGUE."
The beating of his own heart pounded in his ears as the world began to fade even further.
"YOU NEED TO WAKE UP ROGUE."
The titan's voice seemed to slow as everything around them became nothing but a blur.
"WAKE UP. COME ON ROGUE. WAKE UP."
The titan's nose twitched, one of his tapered ears flickering at the familiar voice. Rogue snorted, groaning as his body began to reanimate.
"Get up Rogue!"
He sniffed, nostrils flaring as he caught the scents of his surroundings and those near him. The fallen beast shifted, his muscles feeling stiff and his mind becoming less foggy. Gradually, Rogue peeled open his shadowed lids, blinking several times as he tried to get his vision to focus. It was clear that he was no longer beneath a sunny sky and laying in a field of golden flowers as he made out his little ones standing before his face and a grey sky overhead. Rogue blinked yet again, gradually coming back to the reality afore him. He was no longer watching an old memory.
"Thank god!" Mikasa expressed, pushing a lock of his hair from his face. "You're alright!"
"Rogue you need to get up!"
The titan gurgled in response, getting over what was left of his dizziness as he slowly and reluctantly lifted his head to look upon his babies. Their faces bore proof of their frantic but relieved state with their pupils dilated and brows raised in urgency. Rogue watched as his Armin quickly directed his attention in another direction before returning his gaze back onto him.
"Rogue, we have a plan and you need to listen –
A furious bellow rang loud and clear, carrying through the area and meeting his ears. Reminded of what was currently transpiring, the titan rotated his head to view the wide open expanse. In the nearly barren glade, The Armored Titan was displaying his aggressions against his swooping and diving family. Blood was sprinkled across the grassy earth and stained across his enemy's teeth. That was right, he had been fighting his Armored kin right before a vicious blow cost him his defeat. His ears folded back in distain, brows lowering to reflect his displeasure. The creature was still standing and he needed to knock him from his pedestal.
"The Garrison and The Scouts are currently attempting to –
Armin's speech however was drowned out by an all-consuming need to fight his opponent. Rogue's vibrant greens narrowed further and his teeth clenched. Even as his little ones noticed his lack of focus on their own speech, he continued to ignore them and access his well-being. He shifted, feeling that his body had mended its wounds with the exception of a tree trunk sticking out from his side. He possessed both of his eyes and his maw was ready to dig through meat once again. He was suitable for partaking in battle. Finally, after his thorough examination, Rogue gave in to a low growl and lifted his hand to remove the oversize thorn in his side. His little ones watched the trailing of his own blood and his nose wrinkling into a snarl, the titan missing their bodies freeze up and their stunned expressions.
"R…Rogue?" Mikasa stuttered. "Rogue – please you need to listen. The Armored is –
He let a low growl resonate from within his chest as he braced himself.
"Rogue! Listen to us!"
The titan continued to ignore the two teens as he sluggishly flipped himself over, awkwardly swinging his arm in a wide arch before he bared his back to the sky and placed his palms firmly into the soft earth. With a deep breath, Rogue pushed himself up, staggering with his knee nearly giving way and almost toppling over once before he was successfully sound. Rogue took a second to ensure his bearings before turning to face in the direction of his target – watching as his prey struck down another poor Garrison soldier. Suddenly, his ears flickered at the sounds of whirling gears and felt two small weights land upon his shoulder.
"Shit! What are you doing Rogue!" Mikasa scolded, reminding him of an angry Carla when she had disciplined him on several occasions.
The titan didn't respond to his little one, his eyes completely fixed upon The Armored Titan. Rogue's muscles compressed and flexed, another growl sounding through his incisors – the vocal making The Armored stop his rampage and direct his own attention onto him. For a moment, Rogue reveled at the monster's bewilderment before he snarled another invite.
"Crap! Mikasa he isn't right in the head! He's still hell bent on The Armored! He's acting on instinct! I don't think Rogue has any idea what he's doing!"
Oh but he did. His memory had been enlightening and gave him the education that he needed that no one had the capability to teach him. He was ready.
Slowly, the Armored Titan advanced toward him, stepping on barrel shots as if they were crumbs of dried bread scattered about the clearing. Though his plated face restricted expression, he could see that the beast was displeased. Rogue snarled, clenching his fists and taking a step forward with his little ones protesting in his nearly folded over ears.
"Rogue! Rogue Please!"
"Snap out of it Rogue! He'll kill you!"
Rogue snorted before he growled louder, his teeth nearly clacking as anger filled his gut and his mind formulated the best course of attack. As he wanted, The Armored kept on with his slow and steady advance.
"SURPRISEDD TO SEEE… YOUU STANDD."
Rogue said nothing, his pupils morphing into slits and his nictating membranes discreetly sliding over his eyes. He would punish the creature before him. The titan felt himself wanting to smile gleefully, knowing that the monster was about to walk into his trap as he took another step. 'I… WILL BREAK… EVERY BONE IN YOUR BODY.'Rogue thought heatedly, the words coming clearly and quickly to him. His shifting weight shook the earth as he planted another foot forward – the sound rivaling the distant thunder. 'I… WILL… MAKE THEM DUST.' Rogue's ribs vibrated from another growl, his hair bristling and every fiber of muscle bulging with each breath he took and every forward motion from his legs. "I… WISH YOU WOULDN'T… DISAPEAR… WHEN YOU ARE… KILLED. THAT WAY… I CAN SCOOP YOU… UP AND DUMP YOU… LIKE… THE PIECE OF SHIT THAT YOU ARE.' Rogue inwardly recited, the words dark and maddening. The earth shook again and again as the two towering behemoths drew closer, his eyes illuminating with rage and steam pushing through his teeth like a dragon lying in wait. 'YOU… ARE…A – PEST!' Rogue thought violently, halting his advance and inhaling The Armored's sickening scent. Another snarl rumbled in his breast, the tension building and his little ones pleading for his attention – unaware of what he had planned. He would kill the bastard. He would end him for good. The world was cruel enough and it would be a little brighter without The Armored in it. His tapered ears filled with another threat from his prey, the creature still stalking toward him – ready to carry out his mission. Again, Rogue snarled ferociously as he prepared to carry out his duty and fulfill his bloodlust. 'AND PESTS… NEED TO… BE… EXTERMINATED!'
Finally, he roared, the bellow piercing and promising his foe's slaughter. As he raised a fist and motioned forward yet again, a hushed silence fell over the men in uniform and his babies quickly abandoned his shoulder in a panic. His opponent raised his own hand – ready to finish him as he did before. The world became slow, steady, and rich to him. Emeralds fixed themselves on his prey's attack, judging the timing and every slight movement every tendon made. The Armored Titan's fist came closer, sending spectators of the impending duel screaming in warning and terror. But he knew what he was doing. His prey had fallen for his trick.
Just before The Armored could grin at any success and savor the sight of plated knuckles grazing through leathery hide, Rogue ducked just before the fist could smash in his skull. As he had been taught, he curved and snaked one arm beneath The Armored's shoulder and the other around the back of the beast's neck before his kin knew what had happened. The glade fell almost silent as Rogue pushed forward, kicking his leg up to heave the heavy monster from his feet and into the air. He howled triumphantly, feeling The Armored's throat press roughly into the crook of his elbow and the creature stifling a yelp of surprise. He wished he could see the titan's face at the very moment – no doubt his prey wore a look of mortification. Then, the two titans slid into the earth, the hard impact vibrating his frame. Trees uprooted and abandoned equipment was crushed beneath the two beasts. With his foe obviously winded beneath him, Rogue lifted in the slightest and dug his knee roughly into The Armored's hip and tightly wrapped his fingers around the creature's wrist. Green eyes beheld the creature's face, Rogue finding the monster's dazed expression absolutely priceless. Above the two creatures, he could hear his family's stunned vocals.
"He – threw the Armored Titan?"
"How on earth did he do that? I've never seen him do such a thing."
"Indeed… I never taught him that." Levi alliterated, nearly making him gleam. "In fact, we don't even teach that to recruits and they don't in The Cadets either."
"Maybe… could it be possible that Rogue remembered something?"
The titan grumbled at the truth in those words as he rose a fist with the intention to stun the recovering behemoth before proceeded to injure further. Just as he was about to act on his plan, The Armored gathered himself and pushed his free hand into his belly – knocking him off the creature and back onto the earth. The plated titan quickly stood and prepared to deliver another blow, the image upsetting the many eyes watching. But of course, Rogue wasn't finished. Recalling the bearded giant's teachings, he threw his legs around The Armored Titan's neck – trapping the beast's head between his thighs as he gripped the creature's wrist. Rogue then threw back his head into the soft soil, arching his spine and pulling his prey's elbow out of socket. With his hold secure, Rogue squeezed his legs, his thick thighs bulging against the head of his trapped victim. He roared, veins bulging in his neck as his eyes beheld his opponent's suffering. He had the beast right where he wanted him!
Then, much to Rogue's pleasure, the plates on the monster's face and shoulder began to crack, pieces chipping away like a frail eggshell. His heart pounded at the discovery. Physical attacks did practically nothing to The Armored, but under immense pressure - the very principle that applied to crushing rocks between his fingers, the protective plating buckled and cracked beneath the force. Rogue couldn't help his odd maw shaping into a grin at his discovery. If he was quick and thorough, he could actually win! Rogue snarled, saliva coating his teeth as he felt the creature's ribs strain. 'I… HAVE YOU...NOW!' The words echoed in his head, gleefully watching golden eyes bulge from the force.
However, before he could experience the thrill of crushing the skull of his prey and revel in the sight of brain matter decorating flesh, The Armored managed to reach up and attempt to pull away one of his legs. The plated beast struggled to get to his feet, but was successfully able to plow Rogue into the ground. He snarled as the earth was tilled beneath him, he would not let the beast gain any advantage. 'I… DON'T – THINK SO!' Rogue roared in defiance as he tightened his grip on his opponent's hand. With a quick twist, the monster's wrist shattered. Not even giving the beast time to moan in agony, Rogue quickly released and twisted his hips – swinging his legs around to grip The Armored's neck behind his knee along with his midsection. With another bellow, he heaved – rolling his body and forcing The Armored Titan face first into the ground. The impact itself was so powerful that the earth beneath them split and rippled – boulders were thrown like pebbles and trees were snapped like minuscule twigs. The ground tremored so greatly that he was certain that if any soul was in a nearby village they would have felt the earth quake. The aftermath looked as if two gods from both the heavens and hell itself were entangled in a heated quarrel.
With his foe subdued, Rogue growled and lifted himself to sit upon The Armored's cracked shoulder. He expertly placed his legs around the beast again to restrain as he made a grab for his prey's arm. 'YOU… AREN'T… GOING ANYWHERE!' The words furiously pounded in his head. With his anger fuming, Rogue threw back his head to release a tremendous screech – yanking The Armored's arm into an impossible position. His cry carried on, the vocal laced with rage and sprinkled with agony. He wanted every living organism to hear him and feel the pain that he had been forced to endure – every bit of his suffering. He wanted his parents to hear him above, receive his message that he was seeking justice for their deaths. He pulled the appendage harder, fragments of muscle snapping and ligaments tearing. He wanted his prey to know that he would show no mercy.
With a final tug, The Armored's arm was torn free at the elbow. Blood rained upon the earth and splattered across his face – the scent delectable and the thud of the appendage hitting the mutilated ground was music to his ears. His tongue slithered from his maw, licking his chops. The taste of his prey's blood made his spine quiver. He had almost forgotten what the crimson of titans tasted like. Heavenly as it was however, he needed to focus. Feeling the need to gather himself yet again, Rogue roughly slammed the beast's face into the earth to further disorient before he got to his feet and into another fighting stance.
"Did he just – rip the fucker's arm off?"
"Holy hell – he could actually win!"
"Rogue – he's aware of himself! He's knows what he's doing!"
His ears flickered at the voices of his little ones and his current spectators, but he kept his focus onto The Armored before him – the monster attempting to regain awareness and get back to his feet. Rogue's gaze narrowed as he scrutinized his foe. Like the rest of his body, the bastard's nape was plated as well. He couldn't repeatedly punch the area for it would be absolutely foolish. His hands would just be grounded into pulp. From where the titan lay, he couldn't get another grip on the beast that wouldn't allow him to effectively execute a move to aid him in a victory.
His planning was halted as his eyes caught movement at his feet. Looking down he saw a stunned Armin and Mikasa approach him warily, the two teens looking out of breath but absolutely astounded.
"Rogue! What you're doing is working! You're breaking The Armored Titan's plating!" His little one congratulated, nearly making him smirk triumphantly. "Listen, Hange came up with a plan of how you can defeat The Armored Titan!"
The behemoth blinked, opening his maw to question his little one but was cut off as Hange landed upon his broad shoulder. Knowing that he needed to be at least a safe distance from his adversary, Rogue backpedaled towards the wall until he decided that he was at a good enough range. He didn't need for The Armored to suddenly get to his feet and trample his babies. He then turned to the woman, studying her features that were now drawn up in a look of pure determination.
"Rogue," Hange began as the four of them glanced back at his enemy's position, seeing that the other behemoth had finally gotten to his feet and began to slowly stalk toward them once again – wearing a look akin to dissatisfaction. "Did you figure something out?"
He grunted. "NENOREE." He explained with a single meaningful word. Hange nodded.
"I thought so. Listen closely. If you look at where you tore away his arm – it's clear that he doesn't regenerate as quickly as you or any other titan does." The scientist informed with his green pools widening and looking back at his foe. Sure enough, the beast's arm had barely started to regrow – if at all. "I believe it a genetic adaptation. His armor protects every part of his body, it's incredibly thick and renders nearly every weapon or any punch practically useless. Thus, his regeneration speed has no need to be quick. This is his weakness. His ultimate downfall. I'm not sure what all you remembered, but do you think you can use whatever you learned to break one of his legs or put him into a good joint hold? I'm sure you've realized that you'll need to break off the plates surrounding his nape." She continued with Rogue dipping his head in understanding. "Of course, it would probably be wise if you wore him out first. He moves slowly, meaning he hasn't spent much of his energy. He's still got plenty of stamina to fight you off if you manage to get him into a tough position. Wear him thin – then take him down. If you need help we will offer support. Hopefully you won't have to resort to extreme measures." Hange concluded.
Rogue raised his head at Hange's last statement. Was she talking about sacrificing his humanity? He stilled at this, knowing that he was probably correct. But knowing that he was in the heat of battle, he couldn't dwell on the fact. He had to focus on the plan and his opponent. Rogue then turned to Hange and replied with a quick dip of his head and a deep chuff with the woman letting her determined grin return to her face before she vacated his shoulder. The titan then faced his temporarily crippled opponent again and raised his fists in preparation once more as his foe continued to motion for him. Rogue growled lowly, the sound vibrating his little ones' chests below – warning them to move as well as telling the other titan that he wasn't backing down just yet. His eyes grew even more calculating and feral as he watched his prey brave to come near him. Rogue's pupils then captured the sight of The Armored Titan's plating on the back of his calves breaking away like crumbling stone. He hummed a bit in satisfaction. The Armored had been more affected by his blows than he originally thought.
However, within the next second he was proven to be completely wrong.
Before he could even comprehend what was happening, the armor on the behemoth's calves complexly broke away and the giant rocketed forward in a dead sprint right at him. Rogue's eyes widened in terror, his determined demeanor vanishing as the titan came right for him. The creature's crumbling plates on his calves were not damaged by him. The Armored had shed them himself to allow him to move at a fast pace. He barely had the time to blink before the beast rammed into him like an angry bull being tormented by a human in a corral, his back hitting the unforgiving concrete that made up the wall. Pain swept across his spine as he slid down to be at The Armored's feet, but high on adrenaline Rogue ignored the agony. The Armored roared, rattling his own eardrums as he raised a fist to strike. Rogue nearly succumbed to a bit of panic knowing that he was not in a good position, but he remained stubborn. As the titan brought down his fist, Rogue shifted his head away just in time to avoid the devastating blow. The Armored hissed at this and brought his fist down yet again, but Rogue was quick. He shifted his head to avoid being kissed by plated knuckles and planted his foot into the creature's stomach and the other against his knee. With a quick and rough push, Rogue sent The Armored toppling back into the ground and abruptly scrambled to his feet.
"Shit! The son of a bitch shed his armor! Rogue's in for it now!"
The titan sidestepped away from his prey that was trying to pick himself up and back into the wide clearing. Hange had been right about The Armored Titan's stamina. Now that the beast wasn't restrained, it was going to run wild. He would have to work quickly and more efficiently. He couldn't make a single mistake. The monster finally stood back onto his feet and pivoted in his direction to run right for him. Rogue's brows narrowed as his muscles tensed. With the titan's arms outstretched, he knew exactly what the beast was to do. Just as his foe came near him, ready to tackle, Rogue leaped as high as possible into the air – leaving his adversary stunned as he landed upon the beast's shoulders, his legs wrapping around his prey's head. Before the other titan could struggle, Rogue expertly spun – rotating his body to hang off The Armored's back. He crossed his legs just above his opponent's chest and pulled the two of them back to the unforgiving earth. Rogue ignored the pain in his back once again as he tightened his hold – the best struggling on top of him. For a moment, he thought he had heard the monster curse before he took his move one step further and reached to grip just beneath The Armored Titan's jaw. Rogue roared as he pulled, teeth grinding together as he concentrated on pulling the fucker's head off. The move wouldn't destroy the nape – but it would give him a chance to.
To Rogue's misfortune, the odds of him having an advantage began to not weigh in his favor.
The Armored Titan suddenly jerked, his arm reaching to grip his leg in a stronghold. Rogue nearly yelped as he felt the strain against his shin – praying that it wouldn't snap as he kept his hold. He squeezed harder, but his efforts were for not as the trapped beast managed to pry his legs away from his head. The Armored then rolled, still keeping his grip onto him as the creature managed to flip his body. Rogue's heart pounded as the beast stood, digging his own nails into the earth on instinct as a sad attempt to flee away from the imminent torture that awaited him. He didn't have the chance to even gain traction as The Armored yanked with all his might, swinging Rogue over his head before the larger titan threw him to the ground. He felt his teeth go through his tongue again as he made impact, iron tasting crimson instantly pooling into his mouth. The world seemed to spin, Rogue finding himself completely disoriented before he attempted to lift his head. The Armored Titan was heavy and coated with muscle. His mass was different once the armor was factored in. Compared to the plated beast, he was a much lighter weight. There was no way he could restrain him for long. The Armored would just easily pry him off. The bearded titan's method perhaps only worked on some titans and not all of them. The only way that he saw himself succeeding was to do as Hange said: wear the monster out and then take him down.
However, he wasn't in the position to have that chance.
Fingers grabbed his leg again and wrapped around his arm. Once again, Rogue felt the ground leave him and the wind rush past his ears as The Armored spun – swinging his massive body around in a wide circle before the beast released. The world seemed to slow down again as his frame flew through the air. Everything spun and his stomach twisted as his body flipped. Pain then met his back as earth caught him again but seemingly without welcoming arms. His spine rattled and discomfort soared up his leg. Dirt flew, buildings were crushed, and trees folded beneath his weight as Rogue plowed through the glade. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, his body fell limp in the uprooted grass. For a moment, everything seemed still as he lay dazed until a rapid pounding met his ears, the sound snapping him away from welcoming any state of unconsciousness. Rogue groaned as he willed himself to sit up, eyes capturing the horrifying sight of The Armored Titan sprinting straight for him with the team of Scouts leaving their positions to trail after the beast. He gritted his bloodied teeth and began to stand, but a shooting pain that was so intense that it made him cry in agony shot up through his leg and all the way into his hip. Alarmed, Rogue hurriedly peered down to witness a nauseating sight. His left leg was bent completely the wrong way up to his kneecap with the bone nearly protruding through his flesh – a damaging injury that was nonetheless hair raising. Rogue whimpered, this wasn't good!
The Armored Titan bellowed, provoking Rogue to look away from his injury – but he was too late to react as the behemoth's foot came crashing down onto his wounded leg, tearing the limb completely off and sending sinew and bone in all directions. Rogue only screamed, anger filling his body. No! He couldn't lose! He had to live! He had to fight! Rogue rose a fist, doing the only thing he could do to defend himself, but his attack was quickly averted when The Armored plunged his fist into his shoulder. Rogue screeched like a deer caught in the jaws of a wolf as his shoulder blade was cracked and removed from his socket along with his collar bone that was now broken. Black dots littered across his field of vision yet again as he began to feel faint once more. The Armored Titan growled, golden eyes narrowed and gleaming with animosity.
"I…AMMM GROWINGG… TIRED OF YOUU!" The behemoth bellowed as he rose his fist and punched the now defenseless Rogue square in his abdomen. A torrent of blood instantly erupted from his esophagus, coating his chest as his stomach ruptured beneath the force.
To his and his spectator's horror, The Armored Titan wasn't done yet.
The beast raised his fist again and brought it upon his belly once more. Rogue screeched, choking on his own crimson as the other titan continued his assault. The Armored Titan's fist came down upon his ribs, the sound of snapping bone echoing across the glade – Rogue could feel his flesh rip open to give way to the sharp pieces of bone. The fist hit him again and again, blood soaked the earth and stained the landscape red. He couldn't scream, and he almost felt like begging for the monster to stop if he wasn't so willful. The skinned titan could barely breathe, his lungs collapsed and filling with red. Finally, he couldn't stand to hold himself no more and simply fell limp into the lake of crimson beneath him. Dull greens watched as his enemy roared yet again and raised his fist to hit him. Rogue cringed, preparing himself for the brutal blow.
However, before he could fall into unconsciousness, the sound of invisible wings met his ears – the gears having a melody like swarming bees. With his heart leaping in worry, Rogue forced himself to focus on the scene before him.
"GET AWAY FROM HIM YOU MONSTER!"
Rogue's eyes widened as much as they could as Mikasa and the rest of the Scouts began to unleash their own fury. The dark haired teen quickly wrapped her cables around The Armored's fist and dived, forcefully pulling the creature's appendage to his chest. His little one's face was pulled in a vicious snarl that rivaled even his own as she circled around the beast. The large titan roared, staggering backwards from where he lay as his family continued to wreak havoc. Levi spun, weaving his cable around one of the beast's legs as Hange plunged her swords into the creature's eye. The monster screamed, raising his nearly healed arm to swat wildly at the advancing soldiers. Below, the Garrison quickly wheeled a barrel shot into place and fired, sinking iron bamboo barbs into a gap in the creature's plates.
"Keep on him! Don't let him get to Rogue!" The Commander's voice shouted over the chaos.
Rogue whimpered as his eyes remained on the scene. His Armin cut across The Armored's flank to pin the monster's nearly healed arm to his chest while Levi continued to wrap the beast's legs. Mikasa was now on the behemoth's shoulder – fruitlessly jabbing her blade against the creature's iron like plating, only intending on serving as a distraction. Soldiers swooped and dove, cocooning the creature in steel. The Armored Titan howled in rage, the beast struggling not to tip over with both his legs now entwined. He could feel a slight bit of relief. All he needed to do was heal and he could take the creature out with no struggle whatsoever.
Unfortunately, as luck would have it, The Armored Titan wasn't through.
Without warning, the beast snarled. Much to Rogue's horror, The Armored's now completely healed arm pulled against his restraints. Woven steel began to unravel and fray like rope as the creature yanked. A sickening snap met his ears as the cables broke away, allowing the behemoth to move his arm in a wide arc. His heart pounded, the world seemed to freeze as plated fingers gripped the cables of several solders – the beast pulling them from their controlled flight and violently swinging them into the earth. A choked whine forced itself up his bloodied throat as he watched the men and women fall, becoming a bloody smear across the grass. His heart faltered, chest clenching as The Armored Titan turned and gripped the barbs that had managed to sink into his leg and yanked them free. The horror continued as the titan pulled the barrel shot free from the clutches of the Garrison soldiers and swung the barrel in a high arc over his head. The weapon hit bodies with so much force that some were knocked completely unconscious and fell helplessly to the earth below. The behemoth swung the barrel shot downwards, the weapon crashing into the ground and splintering into pieces. The monster bellowed, flexing his legs and with a single step forward – the cables that Levi had woven snapped to grant him mobility. Finally, The Armored Titan pulled at the remaining cables upon his chest, breaking them with ease and giving him his appendages back. Rogue only moaned in terror.
It was then that things only got worse. The creature swung his arm outwards, catching several more of his family members by surprise, the blow reducing them to forms akin to splattered insects.
More barbs from another barrel shot sliced through the air, but before cold steel could seek out flesh, The Armored turned with surprising speed and caught the metal grapples. Rogue watched as the beast let out a rumble of pleasure, plates parting to grin as the beast swung the wood and iron weapon around as if it were a toy. Blood, severed limbs, and bodies rained upon the earth like hail from a storm. Rogue only panicked further, his breath growing labored and shallow – the world tilting and blackness threatening to take over his vision.
"ALLL… THE… KINGSS… HORSESS. ALL THE KINGGS MENN HUH?" The titan teased, managing to snag a soldier from the air and place the poor soul between his teeth, tearing the body in half with little effort, organs like intestines dangling from the monster's chin that the creature seemed to wear proudly. "PATHETICC."
Rogue whimpered again, attempting to stand with no avail for his body had barely healed. He was growing weaker by the second and all he could do was watch The Armored Titan slaughter the devoted men and women. Lush green was painted red as the giant proceeded to swing the weapon. His family dipped and swooped, but many were not lucky. Wood splintered into another soldier's back and another was crushed beneath the beast's foot. Teeth caught humans flying through the air and greedy hands squashed soldiers like fruit.
There was nothing but blood and more blood. Everything was turning red.
Instinctively, with the carnage in progress, Rogue's eyes franticly searched for his little ones. Desperate emeralds caught sight of sunny hair flying through the chaos. His Armin. The teen was flying alone, but the determined look upon the boy's face told him that Armin was likely carrying out orders. Rogue's head spun, the beast fighting another wave of dizziness, but worried for his little one's well-being, he forced his eyes to remain upon him. Judging by his movements, he could see Armin preparing to dive in and attempt to restrain one of The Armored's legs for the second time no matter how useless it would be. Incapacitated, Rogue knew that the Scouts were now just trying to distract the creature long enough just so he could heal – which his body was in no hurry to finish. Rogue's eyes remained locked onto the small teen, but a flash of movement caught his eye. The world around him seemed to slow for the third time as the titan's golden eyes shifted to behold the blonde going in to make his move. Immediately, Rogue's heart pounded, green eyes growing in alarm as he attempted to roar out a warning – the only sound to emerge was a garbled mess of whining and a prolonged squeak. No! His baby!
Unable to budge, Rogue simply watched as the shadow of The Armored's hand fell over the teen's back. The blonde instantly noticed the creature's advancement and pulled the triggers desperately upon the hilts of his blades.
But he wasn't fast enough.
The Armored Titan made a single fluid swipe, catching the boy's cables in his hand. Armin let out a scream that his foe seemed to love and certainty wanted to hear more of as the beast abandoned any idea of eating his little one to throw the teen straight up into the air. The tug on the teen's cables was so powerful that they snapped instantly. Armin was rendered helpless and for the moment the teen's body continued to rise higher into the sky – and then he began to fall.
Upon seeing his baby's decent, Rogue screamed, the sound drowning in his own blood as he struggled to get up. He didn't care how much precious crimson he lost as he attempted to even drag himself forward to make the catch, having no success. Rogue's nails bent backwards as he continued to try and get to his feet, his little one falling closer and closer to the ruddy earth by the second. Then, as if his prayers had been answered, a red blur intercepted the blonde, catching his body and carrying him away from what would have been the teen's death. Rogue nearly let out a sigh in relief at his Mikasa's arrival, but whatever god that existed in the world didn't seem to be smiling upon him.
Their escape didn't go unnoticed by The Armored behemoth as the creature swung his arm, backhanding Mikasa and knocking her completely unconscious – the two teens now falling in a downward spiral to the hell below. Rogue's body froze, blood running cold before he reanimated and forced himself to squirm and scream, sounding like a beaten dog crying desperately for their pups. They were going to die! He couldn't get to them! They were done for!
Another blur intercepted the two teens, stopping their decent but only carrying them for a short distance before their savior's cables were pulled beyond use and the weight proved to be too much. The three members of his family began to topple and roll violently upon the dusty and crimson soaked earth like rag dolls before they came to a stop several meters away. Rogue couldn't breathe as he scrutinized the scene. Almost like dead cattle, his little ones lay in a heap. Their rescuer, who he identified as Levi, quickly rose to his feet, holding his head as he immediately checked upon his babies. Rogue whimpered again, beside himself as he desperately tried to crawl forward, but with his vision worsening and his limbs barely able to hold him, Rogue could only whine and watch. The Corporal's nudge was able to rouse his Armin, the teen lifting his head for the titan to make out a sliver of blood trailing down his cheek from a gash. The male looked dazed, but quickly snapped back to awareness as his frightened blues met Mikasa's limp body.
The girl was simply laying there lifeless. She wasn't moving. Levi and Armin quickly came to her side and completely ignored the battle transpiring close by. The teen desperately tried to wake her, rolling her over and pulling at her shoulders, but still Mikasa showed no sign of life. For the first time ever, Rogue saw panic swimming in the older man's eyes as he moved the blonde out of the way and began to do something that he had seen Grisha do only once in his lifetime to a carriage driver that had gotten caught in an accident. It was a process that involved giving the victim air and pushing on their chest – something Rogue only knew as something to be done to bring a human back to life. Rogue forced himself to raise his head, attempting to get his vision to focus as he kept watching. Levi continued with his attempts, but still his little one didn't move. Again and again The Corporal tried with no success and Armin looked almost white with his face only showing a startling realization.
She was dead.
It was the only thought that was swimming within Rogue's mind. His little one, his precious Mikasa – she was gone. Like his parents, she was taken from him. It felt like a rock had settled in his stomach as he continued to watch Levi's failed attempts to bring Mikasa back. Rogue felt a lump form in his throat, ears sinking as the truth settled deeper. She was dead. She was dead. SHE WAS DEAD! Rogue finally gave into a scream, blood coming up his throat but he didn't care an inkling. He had just lost his baby! She wasn't coming back! Rogue let his head fall into the red and muddy earth, screaming louder and tears rolling down his face. Why? Why was the world so cruel to him? He didn't deserve this. Mikasa deserved to live. Why was he so incompetent? He was even given the tools that he needed to defeat his foe and he still couldn't do it! He was useless! Fucking useless!
His nails gripped his scalp, points digging into his skin. If only he had been stronger! If only he had been faster! Rogue screamed again, more blood spilling from his wounds. For a long moment, he seemed like the only one in the world, The Armored Titan and the others seemed to not exist. It was then that he came to a realization.
He had lost another family member, his own baby, thanks to the very same titans that seemed set on destroying humanity.
Slowly, Rogue rose his head to look upon the Armored who now stood several meters away with the Scouts still struggling to bring the beast to a halt. The overwhelming sorrow that he felt suddenly turned into white hot rage. Heat pooled in his gut and his tear, mud, and blood soaked face twisted from a look of absolute despondency to a totally maddening gaze. His eyes turned wild, flaming green with his brows rose in a sharp arch. Rogue's nose was wrinkled and his lipless mouth was opened in the slightest and contorted into a bizarre frown. The titan's ears folded over and pressed themselves against his head as he continued to watch The Armored Titan strike the Scouts down from their domain, completely missing his little one beginning to stir.
'YOU… YOU… FUCKING PIECE… OF SHIT!' Rogue thought furiously, his blood beginning to boil. 'YOU… ARE… TAKING EVERYONE… FROM ME! YOU – YOU MAKE ME SICK!' His remaining limbs quivered in anger, the pores in his flesh billowing steam. 'YOU… MAKE ME WANT… TO PUKE!' Rogue growled, his chest shaking and his head starting to pound. 'YOU… KILLED MY SISTER! YOU… YOU KILLED… MY BABY! YOU KILLED MY… MOM AND DAD!' The words grew more disgusting, steam turning to smoke. 'I'M… GOING TO… KILL YOU! RIP… YOUR FLESH FROM YOUR BONES!' His mind drifted, his eyes starting to see everything in a shade of red and his breath growing heavy as he began to lose himself. 'I'M GOING… TO EAT YOU!'
Suddenly, a searing pain shot through his abdomen and his mind turned primal.
'IF… I AM A KING… I AM GOING… TO MAKE YOU BOW. I AM… GOING TO PUNISH YOU… FOR YOUR… SINS!'
As the last coherent thought went through his head, the agony spread from his torso into the rest of his body. Fire flowed through his blood and bones snapped and resituated. Rogue inhaled sharply, feeling his nerves scorch as his body rapidly began to repair itself. His arm mended, organs regrew, and his leg was replaced. But the agony didn't stop there. As if he was possessed by some inner demon within him, Rogue unnaturally and quickly sat up with a jagged inhale before collapsing onto his back. Pain ran through him in spasms, forcing his spine to bend backward and the tremoring titan to throw his head back into the earth. Rogue opened his mouth in a silent scream as every vein seemed to bulge in his body – decorating his face as they began to run red hot while his skin tone turned darker and rougher. His stomach rolled, abdomen rippling like water with his chest rising in a grotesque manner. Finally, Rogue managed to let out a howl of agony as every muscle in his body expanded – his cry finally gathering attention from those nearest to him, faces immediately going pale.
"Oh my god… he's –
The words fell deaf upon Rogue's ears as the transition continued. Rogue growled in defiance, his fingers and toes trembling as his nails grew into lethal and solid talons – the titan slamming his clawed hand into stone and cracking it with ease as another wave of pain coursed through him. His tongue flopped out of his maw, a deep ache infecting his jaws as his blunt teeth began to sharpen into fangs that put any beast to shame. Rogue's back arched again, the creature snarling as his temperature sharply rose. Smoke billowed from his skin before it turned into dancing flames, burning the leather collar around his neck into a crisp.
Finally, the pain subsided. Everything was still. Only those that witnessed the change, began their retreat.
His belly fluttered and groaned, a sense of discomfort settling within the organ – the familiar feeling of sheer hunger. Rogue's eyes flew open, his gentle summertime greens replaced by burning blues. Animosity radiated from deep in his core. Oh how he HATED being hungry. His nostrils flared precipitously, glowing like fire peeking through the iron door of a stove with his chest expanding considerably with every inhale. His spine quivered with pleasure as soon as the scent swept into his lungs. The aroma of exotic meat. Saliva coated his mouth and dripped from his jaws. Meat. Meat of a titan. Prey. His heart pounded. His prey was near. He was famished.
He was ready to hunt.
Rogue moaned in ecstasy, head rolling with bliss as his stomach complained.
He would eat it all!
Like a marionette, Rogue slowly lifted himself off the earth, arms hanging to his sides as if he was preaching to a god while every abdominal muscle was put on display for all those viewing his arise. Every man and woman remained stunned, eyes the size of grapefruits as they witnessed what appeared to be the devil walking the earth. His battered and bruised little ones that were evacuating to safer positions looked absolutely petrified. Rogue then rose to his full height and let his head fall forward, hair dangling around his horrifying features – the entire world silent as they watched without moving a single muscle. Then, Rogue tossed his head back and roared – the howl of rage unworldly and making even the earth tremble beneath his feet at his might. The bellow made The Scouts immediacy abandon what they were doing to head higher up the wall in desperation – abandoning bodies of fallen loved ones and friends as well as weapons with some pissing themselves as they made the raring retreat.
For the first time ever, The Armored Titan wore a look of absolute fear.
His roar continued to dominate, echoing far across Rose, but then to his audiences' shock his howl slowly transformed into something else. Something that scared them even more. Something that was absolutely haunting.
Indeed, the powerful rumble turned into the titan equivalent of joyful mirth. With his head still tilted backwards, Rogue huffed loudly and deeply. Spellbound, they watched as his deep chuckles morphed into hysterical laughter – projecting his insanity to all who was viewing him. It had been so, so long! An eternity since he had eaten! And here his prey was, food right in front of him on a silver platter!
A meal fit for a king.
"Holy shit – Rogue… he's gone crazy."
"My god –
Rogue continued to chortle at both the ignorance of his prey and the fact that luck was smiling upon him. With another roll from his empty gut, Rogue abruptly lifted his head to greet his food with a maddening look – his jaw contorted into a manic and crooked grin with a brow sharply raised in an expression of cunning. His breath was heavy, predatory with smoke and flame wavering from his jaws while his midsection expanded and compressed steadily – the sound bringing chills to dozens of spines. Rogue's ears pined themselves back and his face pulled into a threatening snarl, looking like a starved wolf. The power that was coursing through his veins was absolutely incredible.
Rogue's eyes narrowed, his shoulders raising and a stream of saliva leaked from the gaps of his fangs. His stomach rumbled again, feeling as if a beast was trying to claw its way out of it. However, as ravenous as he was, Rogue wished to relish in the hunt. He watched The Armored tense, getting into a defensive stance, but he wouldn't go straight for the beast. He would toy with his food first. Slowly, Rogue sidestepped, watching in amusement as his prey flinched – golden eyes studying him as he began to circle the plated beast. Like the predator that he was, he rounded The Armored, blazing eyes watching the creature's chest expand with each breath and every shift of his prey's eyes following him. Rogue growled, walking with a slight hunch as he continued his act of intimidation. How lucky was he! His chosen victim was a good size. Its caves were broad and there was plenty of muscle on bone – flesh right for the taking. Rogue snarled, dropping on all fours in an odd manner to continue his sulking. His chest heaved, inhaling the sweet perfume his prey provided – the smell absolutely intoxicating and nearly making a rumbling purr rise in his throat. His mouth salivated at the mere thought of sinking his teeth into the bounty of his prey. The predator continued his rotation, scrutinizing his victim. The beast was stiff and he could sense the amount of distress laden within its eyes of gold. Rogue clacked his teeth, watching as the creature nearly jumped. He had the beast right where he wanted him – his state of mind had surrendered to irrational fear.
With another roll in his gut he decided to make his move. Before The Armored could react, Rogue turned and charged forward, carrying himself on all fours as he bellowed. He lunged, succeeding in knocking the beast over onto the unforgiving earth. His fangs went for the creature's most venerable area on the plated titan – the throat. However, he was unable to rip apart muscle and let blood fountain as his prey threw up his arm in protection, his teeth only managing to encase around the forearm of his victim. A rippling snarl tore through his throat as he madly snapped like vicious hound, saliva spraying from his maw and teeth creating small punctures and messy groves in his prey's armor as he continued to bite. How dare his prey do such a thing! The ugly bastard should have just surrendered!
Thus, he would make the beast quit resisting. He would make him give up.
Determined to rip away his current obstacle, Rogue planted his feet and heels deeply into the ravaged earth and latched onto The Armored's arm. With his back arching, he pulled with his prey squirming beneath him. His eyes eagerly watched as threads of muscle began to fray and blood seeped out and puddled below, the color red absolutely stimulating. It was absolutely beautiful. He wanted more! He wanted to taste it! He wanted it to gush from his prey and he wanted to bathe in it! He wanted his skin painted crimson! He would fill himself with it! He would eat muscle, gnaw on bone, and feast on tissues! He would eat until his belly was bloated and then he would keep eating! He would leave not a scrap behind!
It had been far too long since he had gotten to experience such pleasures!
The Armored screeched in agony as his limb began to tear further. The plated beast suddenly found his will to defend and swung his free arm to plant his fist into the side of Rogue's face, breaking the predator's jaw before The Armored pushed himself from beneath the feral titan's body. Rogue growled in sheer annoyance, his nerves quickly mending and his wound righting itself to be functional once again. How dare his prey even touch him! Rogue quickly stood upright and howled his response, his meal preparing himself with another defensive stance. Of course, he would not give his prey time to think about executing any move in defense. Another roar rattled his frame as he sprang forward in advance. With his uninjured arm, The Armored rose his hand with the intent to shove him away – a completely foolish move. Rogue lunged again, his hand encasing around his prey's head. With a forceful push, he slammed the creature face first into the ground with the earth quaking in protest. A wicked grin spread across his facade as he picked The Armored's head up again to repeat his action once more. A hiss wavered between his teeth, his chest fluttering in glee as he pushed the beast's mug into the broken earth again – and again. With each slam he could hear the creature's plating groan and crackle at the stress. Rogue's eyes widened as sprays of blood misted from the creature's face. He purred in pleasure. He would bash his prey's skull in, let it become the source of a bloody stream that he would drink from. Pink brain matter would decorate the glade and he would feed on it all. Rogue huffed again, wheezing laughter making his audience more uncomfortable by the minute as he continued his assault.
Flesh, blood, and bone would all be his!
"Lord – he's a monster."
Rogue forced the Armored into the earth again, holding his head down into the rubble as he roared at the top of his lungs into his ears – a wordless declaration for the beast to surrender, his hot breath burning the creature's silver hair with the tips looking like fresh ashes. He had his prey!
Then, The Armored lifted his head abruptly, hitting Rogue in the mouth so hard that his neck snapped backwards. The hunter shook his head, remaining slightly stunned as his victim managed to elbow him in the side of his skull. His molten metal like saliva sprayed as he fell roughly to his flank. The plated beast stood and quickly gripped his arm and thigh, lifting his body up and throwing his frame as far as he could. Rogue snarled at his carelessness, but unwilling to let his prey gain any advantage, he began to right himself – turning his body midair like a cat. His hands and feet planted into the ground, his body sliding across the grass for a short distance before he found the traction to charge forward at his prey yet again. His foe's will to live sickened him! He would kill the bastard and savor his meat! FLESH! BLOOD! BONE!
Rogue sprung himself at the plated titan, knocking the beast back into the earth again. The two then rolled, going at one another like two feral canines. His teeth snapped wildly as he sunk his claws into the creature's scalp. The scent of liquid crimson was absolutely stimulating, it sprayed his face and decorated his heated skin. Oh how he loved it! He wanted more! He wanted to lap it up, he wanted to feast! Rogue roared as the two titans finally came to a stop. His teeth clamped against The Armored's skull, ripping out chunks of silver and skin – blood continuing to paint his face and chest. His enemy however was clearly not on board with his scalping and quickly spun around to grip his arm, the plated beast quickly twisting it and ripping it away before planting his foot into the hunter's stomach. Rogue snarled, the hostile vocal transforming into a screech as his appendage regenerated within seconds, his torso repairing itself with a rib mending. Rogue huffed madly at his prey's surprise at his gift. How incompetent his prey was! How stupid!
With a bloodcurdling bellow leaving his chest he leaped forward once again. His prey sidestepped, but accidentally exposed another part of him that was more venerable than the last. Rogue smiled, nearly purring at the sight of The Armored Titan's exposed calves. Saliva fell once again from his jaws and his tongue fell out to lick his chops. Wide blazing blues gazed at the red meat before him. It was thick, juicy, raw, and pulsing with blood. With another flutter and roll from his gut, Rogue lunged forward and wrapped his lethal incisors around The Armored's leg. His prey screamed as he pulled, ripping the creature off of his feet to hit the ground. He bit down harder, blood pouring into his mouth and coating his throat. A comforting warmth settled into his belly, making him rumble and his spine quiver. The blood of his prey was delicious! He wanted more! MUCH MORE! HE NEEDED FLESH! Rogue then gave in to his overwhelming hunger and sank his teeth completely into The Armored's calf – the beast wailing in agony as he ripped the large chunk completely free. Without even stopping to chew, he swallowed, gurgling in delight as he felt the piece of meat glide down his esophagus, journey into his chest, and then finish its trek into his belly. Rogue hummed gleefully, drunk on pleasure. He had to have more. HE HAD TO HAVE MORE!
But as he enjoyed the splendors of the hunt, his prey managed to think past his pain and raise a foot to kick him in jaw, bone cracking and prevent him from further allowing him to enjoy his meal. The Armored then managed to regain himself and grip Rogue's wrists – hoisting him into the air and slamming his body yet again into the earth. On his back, he watched as his prey lifted his legs and prepared to cave in his chest. But as the beast brought his foot down, Rogue threw up his hands to catch The Armored's foot and twist the beast's ankle – making the creature return to the earth yet again. The titan scrambled away as Rogue stood again to glare daggers at his prey. He nearly smiled as The Armored Titan stood back up, unable to put all of his weight upon his injured foot. Rogue couldn't help but release a black chuckle at his prey's state and stubbornness. As interesting as it was for him to have to work for his food, his hungry gut was convincing. He wanted to eat. He wanted to feed! He wanted the sweet tastes of his prey to grace his tongue! He wanted to stick his head past plating and devour every organ and gnaw on every bone! And he wished to do so now!
It was time for him to go in for the kill.
With his desire overpowering any reason, Rogue lunged straight at his target – maw open wide to tear his prey apart.
Armin simply stared at the scene before him, goosebumps littering his skin as he witnessed what he could call hell on earth. Rogue had taken on his Berserk Form, and like the last time he had seen it, he was absolutely terrified along with the others around him. He practically couldn't recognize his best friend. It was as if Rogue was no longer present and some devil had replaced his kind-hearted soul with something much more monstrous that anyone could fathom. If had caught him off guard when the titan had started to laugh – just like a madman in an asylum. The vocal alone was surely to give him and the others nightmares. There was no shred of humanity currently in the creature at all. At the very moment, he was absolutely terrified of Rogue.
The titan was an absolute monster.
"So this is what he looks and acts like when he is like this."
Upon hearing the Commander, the blonde shifted his gaze toward the man who was perched next to a battered looking Levi. The normally determined looking Erwin looked absolutely stunned.
"Yes. Yes it is." The Corporal muttered. "I told you it was unbelievable and something you should be careful about wishing to see." Levi spoke quietly with Erwin only nodding – still spellbound by it all.
Next to him, he heard another quivering breath that was all too familiar. Armin discreetly turned to face Mikasa. The teen was more battered and bruised than even he was. The hit to her spine had knocked the girl out cold instantly and Mikasa's pale skin was covered in bruises and scratches from the rough fall. She had scared him greatly shortly before when she failed to awake. Admittedly, he and Levi were far too panicked during the time when the accident happened to take the time to listen to her obvious sign of life. No doubt however, upon seeing Mikasa's lifeless body was the very thing that caused Rogue to transform. The titan had to have thought that The Armored Titan had killed Mikasa – thus every bit of rage the titan had was placed onto their enemy in the most magnified way possible. It was clear, by Mikasa's petrified look – that she was terrified of the fifteen-meter behemoth as well.
"Rogue." Mikasa uttered beneath her breath as she watched the flaming titan go after the plated one again. "Oh… Rogue. Please –
Armin kept quiet as he listened to the teen's mutterings before Hange lowered herself to join the four of them, the Section Commander staring intently at the bloody brawl below, watching as Rogue was thrown away yet again only to charge back into the fray.
"Although he's at his peak performance right now, Rogue isn't making any headway." Hange spoke, her tone utterly serious. Levi nodded in agreement.
"That's true. The bastard's armor is something that seems to be a lot more resilient than The Female's was. Fuck. The brat's just doing straightforward attacks that won't work on this guy again."
"Yes. Right now Rogue is just being fueled by nothing but primordial desire. He's unable to think clearly or logically. If he keeps this up – all The Armored would have to do is pull one hit and destroy Rogue's nape and we'll lose him."
A bead of sweat dripped from his brow at Hange's statement. "We," He stuttered, watching as Rogue attempted to slam The Armored's face into the earth again. "We need to get Rogue out of Berserk Mode." He began with Hange quickly turning to him.
"Unfortunately, as strong as he is in this state, you're probably right. We were foolish to wish Rogue to resort to such measures. Indeed, we could bring Rogue back to his normal but considerable weaker state. However, there could be a chance that he is far too gone to even revert. He could be like this forever until he is killed." Hange paused, the words feeling like a rock in Armin's stomach. "I think we'll have to go with the only true choice we have which is to snap Rogue out of it. Armin, you and Mikasa are the ones he knows best. He considers you his own and the two of you were successful of bringing him back in Stohess. As safely as you can, see if you can get his attention. But keep in mind – your attempts could be futile."
He picked himself up off the earth yet again from another rough landing, inhaling and exhaling heavily. Rogue watched his prey stand, growling from deep within his chest. He was furious! He couldn't sink his teeth into his victim's insides because of the bothersome plating surrounding The Armored. His fangs did nothing! His claws barely left a scratch! Rogue snarled, almost pacing back and forth. He wanted to kill the creature now! He was hungry! He was famished! He wanted the beast's nape in his jaws!
Blazing eyes looked upon The Armored Titan's golden plating that was unfortunately covering the very spot that he lusted after. Rogue's brows lowered, another growl tearing from his breast. If he couldn't chew through the plates – then he would rip them off.
The Armored then charged, intending to tackle but unfortunately exposing what he needed. Flexing his legs, Rogue leaped from the wake of his prey to land upon the other titan's back. With a roar, he dug his nails into the muscle bordering the plate protecting The Armored's nape and then pulled with every bit of strength he had. His shoulders hunched and his back arched. Every muscle in his body pulled and bulged grotesquely – his skin shifting to contain them. Rogue roared as he continued to pull, bending his knees as he tugged harder. Yet, with as much force as he exerted, The Armored Titan's plating remained right where it was. Not budging. He howled in anger, pushing himself to the limit. He was starving! He needed the nape! HE NEEDED IT! HE NEEDED IT NOW!
Then, too hooked on his current goal and wrapped in tremendous rage, Rogue failed to notice his body straining. The skin around his elbow and knee tore, the threads of muscle snapping, and bones popped out of place before the two limbs severed in a rain of his own blood. Rogue then tumbled back onto the earth, but before he could repair himself, The Armored tossed his broken body into the wall, jolting several of the humans hanging above. With his back against the concrete, Rogue slumped against the wall, blue eyes hooked on his prey as his arm and legs returned. Slowly he stood, nose wrinkled in a snarl as he sidestepped and contemplated. Damn! He couldn't get the nape! He hated his prey! He despised him! HE WANTED TO FEAST! Yet he could not! Why! Why was his prey gifted with such! He wanted to eat! HE WANTED TO EAT! HE WANTED TO EAT!
FLESH, BONE, BLOOD, FLESH! FLESH! FLESH! FLESH!
He froze, his mind instantly pulled away from his hellish thoughts. His eyes narrowed. What was that noise? It certainly wasn't from his prey.
"Rogue! Rogue please!"
His ear flickered at the vocal. There was something odd about it. Somehow, he knew it to be a voice. Not only that, but it was familiar. But who was calling to him at a time like this? He was busy.
"Rogue! Please snap out of it! Rogue please!"
He tilted his head in consideration. Yes, those voices – they were familiar. He had heard them from somewhere before. Many times. Rogue's nose and brow wrinkled as he tried to think past the need to eat. He had known those noises before. Known them so well. Rogue blinked as he thought desperately.
And then something came to him.
Two smiling faces. Locks like rays of sunshine and a nighttime sky. A boy and a girl. Who were they? Images then began to flash through his head. The two children running and making sounds of merriment through the forest and flying through the air on invisible wings. Then – then there was himself cuddled around the two in a hallowed out tree while rain poured from the heavens. He knew the two. He knew them!
Their names – they were his little ones. Armin. Mikasa. Rogue then lifted his head, gradually becoming aware of his situation. Yes. That was right – he had been in a duel with his foe, The Armored Titan. They were fighting when his Mikasa –
Rogue lifted his head in alarm. His little one. She – she had been killed hadn't she? She was gone wasn't she? Then – why could he hear her voice? It wasn't real was it? Unless –
His head swiveled to look up at the wall, seeing the two very children that he loved so dearly. She was there – Mikasa was alive! The Armored didn't kill her –
Rogue's brows narrowed as he turned to face his foe once again. The Armored Titan. The creature had nearly killed both of his little ones. He had hurt so many of his family. And he wanted him. Rogue growled, anger coursing through his body yet again. He then finally noticed - he was different. There was an overwhelming sense of power coursing through his veins and he felt as if he was going to snap at any given moment. Not to mention, he was overwhelmingly hot. Rogue blinked, every bit of him felt as if he was burning alive from his eyes all the way down to the tips of his toes. As The Armored prepared, Rogue glanced at himself – eyes widening as he saw the change. Fire practically danced from his skin and his boiling veins glowed from beneath his flesh. His fingers and toes almost reminded him of the talons on birds and his teeth felt much different. He gulped, was this his ability that he had displayed before? Was this what the Scouts called his Berserk Mode?
The growl of The Armored met his ears, the sound instantly provoking him to snarl. He was stronger and with the teachings of the bearded titan returning to him, Rogue knew what he was to do. He could still feel the pains of hunger in his gut, something he wasn't fond of. If he wanted to dig into The Armored Titan, he would have to kill him first. The most effective way would be to remove the head of his prey and crush the plates on the beast's neck.
And he knew just how to do it.
With a roar, The Armored charged, ready to tackle him to the earth. Rogue nearly smiled at his opponent's foolishness. He would let himself fall victim for once and then strike. In the next second, his adversary's arms wrapped around his midsection – giving him the signal to act. Quickly, he leaned forward and wrapped his own arms around the titan's back and chest while he bound his legs around The Armored's lower half – leaving the beast's head beneath the pit of his shoulder. The two titans then smashed into the earth and he began to pull backwards, locking his prey in place and leaving the creature at his mercy. 'YOU… ARE… MINE!'
"Holy shit! He's got The Armored in a tough spot!"
"Is he – in control now?"
"Humph! See how far you can get without a head asshole!"
"Rogue, my god –
A bellow reverberated through him as he arched his spine to pull back further. The Armored Titan attempted to squirm out from beneath him, but his attempts were for naught. The creature on top of him couldn't budge an inch. He snarled, his muscles bulging as he pulled harder, saliva dripping from his clenched teeth. Suddenly, he felt the jolt of cracking plates with The Armored whining at the agony. Rogue nearly beamed at his success. Hyped at his accomplishment, he squeezed even further like a serpent, feeling the sides of the beast compress. He exerted himself more, blood sprayed into the air as the hardened plates began to compress. At the smell of crimson his body quivered in pleasure, his mind almost becoming lost in his primal instincts. Rogue concentrated, trying to get over the intoxicating scent and the blood splattered beneath his chin. He needed to win! He needed to take out The Armored Titan! He had caused everything! He had taken nearly everything from him and wanted to take even more! He was the bearer of chaos! He would make him pay!
Rogue pulled sharply, the force making several of the plates shattering into crumbs. At this, The Armored Titan screamed for the first time in their heated combat. The sound was deep but echoing. Rogue could only describe it as the wail of an animal that had nothing to lose – a creature moments away from death – one that he would gladly deliver to the gates of hell.
Feeling another plate crack, Rogue attempted to squeeze harder, but he suddenly found his body cooling and unfortunately weaker. Black dots began to scatter across his vision and his muscles began to falter. Gradually, he began to feel faint and his arm threatened to fall away from his prey. No! He needed to hang on! He had to win! He had to win!
He wasn't going to let his parents die for nothing!
However, any chance he had in winning was quickly diminished by not only a wave of faintness that made his body go limp, but a massive vibration that swept the area and rattled everything around. He fell into a daze, riding along unconsciousness as his vision began to blur into nothing but muted colors. Dozens of screams then came to his ears and he could feel The Armored hold him down. A nearly unbearable heat invaded the atmosphere as the sound of crumbling rock carried across the area. Rogue only let his head fall back as debris fell all around him. His dulling eyes barely made out the giant red hand that reached for them, it was the very thing he last saw before everything went black.
"Medic! We need another medic here!"
"How badly was this one burnt?"
"This one is bad. They probably won't make it."
Armin stirred, his entire body feeling unbearably sore. The blonde inhaled, but as he did his lungs stung terribly – feeling as if someone had lit them ablaze like a wood burning stove. His eyes shot open, his lids feeling heavy as he began to cough intensely. The boy covered his mouth, trying to get ahold of his coughing fit, but each time he inhaled – his gags were only triggered further.
"Armin! Here! Drink this!"
The teen opened his eyes to see a tin cup filled with water that Hange offered him. With not a second to waste, the blonde grabbed it from the Section Commander's hands and immediately began to drink. The unbearable stinging of his throat cooled as he downed the cup in one go. Armin then sat the cup in his lap and attempted to breathe again, finding that the incredibly uncomfortable heat was replaced with just a sore throat that he could manage. Armin then looked to Hange to see that she was covered in patches, scrapes, and had a solemn look on her face. Now able to freely examine his surroundings, Armin noticed that he was in similar shape as Hange, covered in minor burns and bruises. Looking around, he discovered that they were surrounded in a light fog and there were many other Scouts that were in the same physical condition. However, there were some soldiers that were not so lucky. To his right were several soldiers from both the Scouts and the Garrison laid out in organized rows. Some were unconscious and covered with similar burns while there were few that were covered in a white sheet – obviously gone. There were several of the Garrison's medics tending to the wounded while Erwin, Levi, and many of the other higher ups talked amongst themselves on the left. His mind instantly flashed to his two best friends, making Armin release a choked gasp and twist to see Mikasa still lying unconscious next to him. The girl was like himself, her arms wrapped in bandages and covered in scrapes and bruises. Rogue however was nowhere to be seen. At his friend's absence, Armin turned back to Hange who held up a hand for him to calm.
"Easy, she's alright. Just out at the moment. She had it slightly worse than you did."
Before he could proceed to quiz the Section Commander, a series of coughs brought his attention back to Mikasa who suddenly sat up to choke and gag just as he did. Hurriedly, Hange handed the teen another cup filled with water that the girl drank instantly. The two observed as Mikasa took several breaths to steady herself before she quickly turned to scrutinize her surroundings. Armin watched as her eyes widened in panic, obviously focused on who was clearly missing.
"Hange! What happened! Where is," Mikasa paused, coughing again. "Where is Rogue?"
"Hange," he began. "What happened to us? Where is Rogue?"
The woman's face fell even further, allowing her chin to dip into her chest. Blue eyes watched as Hange bit her lip fretfully, the woman sighing before turning her attention to the two teens again. "Well. This is hard news to give, but The Colossal appeared and emitted an overwhelming amount of hot steam – which explains everyone's burns and the great amount of injuries. I'm sorry to tell the two of you this, but The Colossal leaned over the wall, greatly damaging the top of it as it reached down to grab both The Armored Titan and Rogue before heading off into Wall Maria. That – was five hours ago."
Armin's heart skipped a beat at the news. Rogue – he had been kidnapped? As a lump grew in his throat, Mikasa next to him inhaled sharply and her panic suddenly turned to anger.
"You mean, Rogue was kidnapped! We need to go after him! Why are we just sitting here!" Mikasa protested with Hange quickly laying a hand upon her shoulder with the intent to calm.
"I know. I want to go after him too but right now, neither the Scouts nor the Garrison are in any condition to start a rescue mission. Besides," Hange stalled to look at the horizon. "The fog is still thick so any signal flares wouldn't be of any use. Not to mention – there are other factors." Hange sighed, glancing back to the Commander and Corporal. "Right now, the commanding officers are going over plans of what to do."
For a moment it was silent between the three until Mikasa characteristically pulled her scarf over her mouth. From where Armin sat, he could see the teen's eyes watering, clearly shaken and distraught. He didn't blame her. The absolute worst scenario had happened.
"You two shouldn't worry too much."
The two teens looked up to see The Corporal approach them, the man's face looking fatigued but still remaining in his signature scowl. Armin beheld Mikasa's brows narrow at the comment, but Levi quickly shut her down with clearing his throat.
"What I mean is that the damn brat, as silly and childish as he can be, is stubborn as they come. Rogue is tough as nails I'll give you that. Those two as well as The Female were clearly aiming to capture him. Not kill him. Otherwise he would be long dead right now. If anyone knows how difficult the brat can be, it's me. I bet you anything that Rogue is giving them hell right now."
Armin's eyes widened at the man's statement. Levi did have a point.
"Anyways, before the two of you ask," Hange continued, interrupting the short male. "Your friends aside from Jean's bite earlier are all alive and well. They are battered, but otherwise alright as with us. We were hanging off the wall in an area that didn't feel the direct blast of heat nor had any of the falling debris. The wall itself was damaged pretty severely, but no mindless titans should be able to get in. Luckily, it can be efficiently repaired." Hange sighed yet anew until Levi rubbed his chin, turning to the scientist with a query obviously on his mind.
"By the way, was I just seeing things back then, or did Rogue manage to stop and actually think for a moment shortly before The Colossal took him?"
Armin's head lifted at the man's question. Rogue – the titan had stopped for a moment to look at them before managing to grapple The Armored into submission – all the while being in his hellish form. His cerulean blues lit up in realization. Had Rogue managed to regain consciousness?
His train of thought was cut off by a chuckle from Hange. "You're not crazy. I believe we all saw the same thing. For a short time, at the very end of their brawl, Rogue was actually able to control himself. He was able to recognize voices and faces as well as execute a move that he had learned rather than just pouncing and trying to rip The Armored Titan to pieces. However, with this occurrence – I was able to figure out almost to the furthest extent as to how Rogue's ability works."
Hange nodded. "Yes. Like Stohess, Rogue went Berserk when he witnessed the supposed passing of one of you. Now, during our testing to bring about this ability – Rogue was unable to produce a single spark of flame or take on the cosmetic changes we see in his Berserk Form. Both here and in Stohess, Rogue was weak at the time. I think I can safely determine that Rogue's ability is triggered by drastic injury and great emotional distress. When its triggered it is fueled by dopamine and adrenaline. These factors make Rogue's mindset return to its most primitive state. Not to mention, this form clearly makes him overwhelmingly hungry." Hange hesitated, tilting her head back in thought. "The second part of this requires more thinking and clearly more evidence. I have two theories. Both today and in Stohess, upon regaining his self-awareness, Rogue seemed to lose his energy to maintain his form and collapsed shortly after. My first idea is that upon regaining his sense of self, Rogue loses all of his energy and is unable to maintain his form. The second theory I have is that perhaps Rogue can only maintain his ability for a short while before passing out. But – I suppose his short time using his ability with his head on straight is progress nonetheless."
Armin and Mikasa simply nodded at the news, far too worried about the whereabouts and the wellbeing of their gigantic guardian. Levi sighed.
"Well, anyways, I came over here to call the three of you to a meeting. Erwin has a plan and something that he needs to share."
Carefully, the two teens got to their feet and began to follow Hange and Levi over to where the Commander stood. Armin and Mikasa took their places before the man, observing as many other soldiers from both regiments gathered around with Pixis's order. He swallowed, The Commander had regained his look of seriousness, but he could easily tell that Erwin was hiding some sort of painful truth with the slight wrinkle on his brow and the corners of his moth turned down in a barely detectable frown. Whatever the Commander had in mind – it was clearly risky.
Erwin took the brief moment to peer upon the two of them before looking at the crowd, making sure he had all of their undivided attention before characteristically placing his hands behind his back to speak. "Everyone. As you know, five hours ago, Rogue was taken by our enemy and into Wall Maria. Unlike us, he isn't expendable. Thus, the moment all of our horses are lowered on the other side of the wall, he will embark on a rescue mission in Maria. We will do this no matter the density of the fog at the time around us, making this mission even more of a dangerous one. But of course, this is a trek we must take or humanity will have lost its sword and shield. Speaking with Section Commander Hange, we have a rough idea as to where to look for Rogue. Night will fall in just a few hours and The Armored and The Colossal will need to rest in a safe spot – which we have determined as somewhere in a forest with giant trees. Sasha Blouse will aid us in tracking the monsters." Erwin paused, his eyes practically feeling as if they were burning into their souls. "However, I need to disclose some vital information to all of you. Previously, this fact was only known by myself, Corporal Levi, Hange Zoe, and Mike Zacharius. In light of what has happened, it's essential that I share it. During Levi and I's meeting with Zackley, he informed us that the government ruled that no more missions were to be taken into Wall Maria until Rogue gained control over his ability to an extent that he could do such with confidence."
Armin's eyes widened at the fact and a barrage of whispers ran through the crowd. Before he could question, Erwin cleared his throat yet again.
"Due to our circumstances, I have decided to break this rule for we cannot lose our greatest asset entirely. Which means that I as well as all of you could possibly be tried for committing treason. The Scouts as well could possibly be disbanded. Personally, I'll take any form of judgement as long as we succeed in retrieving the hope of humanity. Along with what occurred in Rogue and The Armored's exchange in heated combat, I'd say we have a good case if things were to go against us. Knowing this, will you still fight alongside of me and your fellow soldiers in order to retrieve our comrade?"
The answer that was given was completely unanimous. Despite the risks at hand, they were going after Rogue. They could not fail.
Everything was red, a deep shade of pink. He was so tired, everything felt hazy but it was serine and quiet. The world around him was small and he was coddled in a gentle pulsing heat. Rogue curled his body tighter, feeling just as miniscule as his surroundings. Gradually, he opened his eyes, his sight blurry and feeling as if there was some sort of translucent covering over him. Still, he was able to see a faint outline of his knees and fingers. Rogue blinked, looking beyond to see that he was seemingly floating. His ears lowered and his head sank. It was so warm. So quiet. So peaceful.
Suddenly, his surroundings were bright, dappled light shone down from a canopy that towered high above his head. The forest smelled of pines and maples and animals prowled in the shelter of the trees and foliage. Rogue's head swiveled around to take the wondrous sight in. Everything was just vast. Everything was beautiful.
Then, the forest vanished and Rogue found himself walking in the shadow of another titan, making it apparent that he wasn't his usual fifteen meters but rather stood at only three and a half. His head tilted backwards to scrutinize his company, seeing that it was the back of the mysterious bearded titan. He felt his heart lift with obvious excitement and his shorter legs propelled him to weave in and out of the other titan's legs, huffing to express his joy. A rumble met his ears, the larger titan chuffing at his antics. Rogue squealed, but just as he looked up to the bearded titan again, the landscape and setting changed.
His lungs heaved, legs pumping, his vision was focused. The woods flew by him as his feet carried him through the foliage. His nostrils flared and a roar slipped from his throat. Ahead of him, a ten-meter titan ran oddly away – its arms held above its head like a dancer. He was no longer three meters, but rather nine. There was no doubt that he was hunting and Rogue found himself relishing in the feeling. Again he roared, his legs moving faster and bringing him closer to his prey. Steam seeped from his lipless maw as he continued to gain ground. Finally, he lunged, mouth open wide and his bellow echoing through the thicket.
Suddenly, the landscape faded and everything seemed quiet and serine yet again. His body was reclined and his head was against a rotund surface – something warm and round. There was a gentle pulsing and a series of flutters. Rogue found himself smiling, a purr resonating in his chest. Something combed through his locks, the sensation making his body loosen further. His hands and feet kneaded – his own heart wavering in elation. It was so quiet and so peaceful.
Then everything drifted away into a haze.
Everything became red.
Tapered ears flickered and his nose twitched. The cloudy atmosphere had left him, the feeling replaced by a sense of clarity. His ears caught the pitter patter of light raindrops, the sound of scurrying mammals, and muffled voices. Darkened lids quivered and he suddenly became aware that he felt incredibly unwell. His stomach churned and contracted in the slightest. Feeling his muscles compress, Rogue gritted his teeth and rode the strong squeeze. Why was he ill? Naturally, he began to move his hands in order to rub and pacify his stomach, but as he did he felt that something was wrapped around his wrists – binding them and forbidding him to move them freely.
Although he was still riding a wave of nausea, Rogue forced his eyes to open, the lids feeling heavy with fatigue and dull from sickness. He blinked several times to get into focus before looking down. His eyes instantly widened and his heart stammered. Panic settled over malady, his chest rising and falling rapidly; the beast finding it difficult to breathe. Wrapped around his entire frame were cables. The very same that the Scouts used. The woven metal was tied tightly around him, knotted in various spots and binding both his hands and feet together. His breath hitched, hair bristling in fear with quiet sounds of distress leaving his maw. Where on earth was he! Where was his family! Where were his little ones! His babies! He needed to get back to them! He needed to escape! He needed to find them! Frightened, Rogue began to pull at his restraints as much as he could, jerking his limbs and tightening his muscles. However, the cables remained taught and didn't fray or sag. Rogue swallowed, the lump rising in his chest as he made a startling discovery upon further examination. The cables, they were the very same that the Scouts indeed used but they were those made to capture large and stronger titans like himself. There was no way out of them no matter how much he pulled. He was trapped.
A shiver ran through his spine, ears lowering and folding as he curled tighter for a sense of security. Rogue gulped, eyes looking around at his surroundings to find that he was in a somewhat familiar setting. His body was leaning against one of the many towering trees on the edge of the massive forest with oversize fauna. Outstretched before him was a fairly gloomy landscape. Everything seemed gray and rain fell from a clouded sky. On the horizon were ruined structures and the occasional titan roaming around. Rogue swallowed, knowing very well that he was back in Maria in prime titan territory.
His stomach twisted, forcing himself to tilt his head back against the bark of the tree and clench his teeth. The muscles in his body clenching again to deal with the discomfort. What on earth had happened to him? His memory was foggy at most. He could only recall his little ones and his family yelling at him and the fact that he had The Armored in a headlock. His brows knitted together as he tried to concentrate. There was crumbling stone and –
"SO – DIID HE SHHOW SIIGNS… OF BEEING ABLE TO USSE IT?"
Rogue froze, his eyes enlarging and his ears standing up and swiveling to listen. The voice was probably the deepest he had ever heard and it rattled the leaves above. He could practically feel his skin crawl. The voices that he faintly heard shortly before. This was one of them.
"NOO. HE DIDD NEARLY KILLL ME THOUGHH. HEE USEDD HIS ABILITYY. TOOKK A BITEE OUTT OF MY LEGG."
Rogue eyes widened even further as he recognized the voice, his nostrils flaring. Two startling scents met his nose, one clearly belonging to The Armored Titan and the other –
"MMM… WAAS HE – STTILL AN IDDIOT?"
He found himself barely able to breathe as he slowly rotated his head to see the two titans that had caused him so much trouble and grief. Seated beneath the protective canopy against the bases of trees was none other than The Armored and The Colossal Titans – the taller of the two's heads neatly touching the top of the forest trees. Rogue's heart nearly stopped as he quickly turned around before he could be seen prying. Normally, he would have fought tooth and nail against them, but being tied, he was helpless. Not to mention, he was still weak from before. Frightened greens traveled down at his bindings again, studying the woven strands of cable. Finally, it occurred to him. Many months prior on the 57th expedition, he and the Scouts were examining a fallen supply depot to find that the majority of the cables were missing. Now, they were completely wrapped around his body. The three titans that hated humanity so much had taken them clearly for the purpose of trapping him. They had planned his capture for quite some time. And now they had succeeded. They were in the middle of titan territory and much of his family had likely been injured. It was raining and a light fog was coating the landscape. They had no idea where he was and there was no sign of them coming.
With his heightened sense of panic doubled with feeling ill, Rogue's stomach flip flopped. Bile rushed up his throat so quickly that he didn't have the time to react. Mucus and reddish stomach acids leaked from his teeth and fell upon his chest, the titan accidentally vomiting upon himself. Feeling a mass dislodge from his stomach, Rogue turned his head as best as he could and began to gag. More fluids leaked from his mouth as the mass continued to move up his esophagus. Rogue gargled, producing several strange grunts before the mass peeked from his throat and fell out of his mouth unceremoniously in the grass. He whined, shivering as he tried to roll to his right to get away from the less than pleasant smell of his pellet. Wet with sick and his stomach uneasy, he just wanted to go home.
"HE IS AWAKEE." The Armored growled in annoyance, Rogue's heart skipping a beat at the fact that he had been noticed. "YOUU. GO WATCHH HIMM. KEEPP HIMM… QUIETT. I DON'TT CARE HOWW."
His heart began to pound in his chest even harder, the sound ringing through his ears. Another familiar scent met his nose and a series of footsteps approached him, but not those of The Colossal. Forcing himself to lift his head, Rogue looked up to see who he had not expected.
It was the small five-meter deviant from before.
His eyes widened as the titan paused before him. Her face was impassive, blank almost. Rogue's heart plummeted. The titan that had helped his little ones and the very same that he had spared was with his two greatest enemies. She had fooled him. Fooled everyone. His chest tightened in anguish at the truth, a low whine leaving his throat. His luck was so rotten.
The deviant let out a loud hiss, nose wrinkled in a snarl and lips pulled down in a frown. Rogue stiffened at the threat. Both absolutely mortified and terrified, he curled tighter and hung his head. He honestly wished that he could just melt into the tree. However, as he waited for the titan to yell at him or worse, get the attention of the other two behemoths – nothing happened. It was quiet. Confused, Rogue slowly lifted his head with a bit of courage to see that the deviant was still sitting before him. Her expression had changed, her face reflecting unease. Rogue watched as the five meter carefully turned to look in the forest where The Armored and Colossal sat before focusing back onto him. The small beast then prowled around him, moving about on all fours as she did before. With a forceful slap, she flung his pellet away into the rainy clearing before rounding his bulk yet again. Rogue remained stunned as the small titan planed her hands onto his arms and raised herself to be closer to him. He reeled backwards, but the tiny titan was persistent.
"YOU CAN… TRUST ME. I… MEAN NO HARM." The beast whispered, her tone making his body relax. Rogue blinked. By the way the deviant acted, was it possible that all was not as he thought it was? He remained still and unspoken as the little titan sat next to him, legs folded neatly beneath her as she leaned against the very tree he was against. For a long moment, she said nothing until she turned to look upon him, her shoulders slack as she relaxed. "SO, IS… ROGUE YOUR NAME? THAT'S… WHAT THE HUMANS… CALLED YOU."
Rogue finally exhaled at her question, his frame loosening even further. Realizing that the deviant wanted him to answer, he let out a soft chuff and uncurled himself in the slightest. "ESS. DAT ISS NYY NANNE." He answered, trying to keep his volume relatively low so not to arouse the other two titans that rested nearby, watching as the five meter's brows rose upward, seemingly stunned. Her lips parted in the slightest, but she didn't speak. Rogue swallowed, hesitating for the moment until he recalled something when he was being educated about manners. "WHAAT… URRR NANNE?" He asked politely, knowing it was the best thing he could do at the moment.
However, the tiny female didn't reply but instead reacted in a way that he thought she wouldn't. The deviant tilted her head, a single brow raised higher than the other. Her mouth contorted into an odd shape, her lower lip raised on one side – her façade reflecting what he could call confusion. Rogue watched as she shook her head in disbelief. He swallowed. Could he have said something wrong?
"ARE… YOU STUPID OR SOMETHING?"
Rogue sat back at her words, slightly offended. Did he really sound that much like an idiot? He knew he wasn't the smartest and he was aware that he had trouble in various areas, but he hated being reminded of the fact. Still, he found himself speechless at her observation. The deviant nodded to herself.
"I THOUGHT SO. BACK… AT THAT TOWER… WHEN I SPOKE TO YOU – YOU ACTED WEIRD. LIKE… LIKE A PUP." The deviant elaborated. "YOU TALK SLOW TOO."
Rogue's ears wilted at the small titan's crude commentary. He supposed that his incompetence was apparent after all. The deviant then let out a long sigh, leaning back against the tree and looking up at the falling rain. "WELL… MY NAME IS MEHR. THAT IS… WHAT I CALL MYSELF AT LEAST." The small female raised a hand pointing behind her. "THOSE… ASSHOLES," Mehr began, obviously referring to The Armored and Colossal and nearly making him snort at the insult. "THEY… ARE ANSGAR AND GOLIATH. ANSGAR IS… THE PLATED ONE. GOLIATH IS THE… THE BIG ONE." Mehr sighed, suddenly unfolding her legs and bringing them to her chest in a way that mirrored his. "I THINK YOU… HAVE LOTS OF QUESTIONS. BUT… I CAN'T ANSWER… FOR THEY WILL KILL ME."
His eyes widened at her words. He had been wrong. Mehr was working for his enemy, but it was against her will. Rogue whined softly, expressing a bit of sympathy. Her situation wasn't good and he wondered how she had fallen into it. Curious, Rogue opened his maw to question, but before he could say his query, Mehr spoke up again.
"I… DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT YOU. YOU… CAME AND LEFT… BEFORE I DID. THEY… WOULD NOT SAY MUCH... EITHER. YOU… ARE A KING. VERY POWERFUL. HE WANTS… SOMETHING FROM YOU – AND THEY CALLED… YOU A TRAITOR. I – THINK THEY LIED ABOUT SOME OF IT." Mehr paused, eyes shifting back to him. "TELL ME… ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU… WHO ARE THE HUMANS… YOU WERE WITH?"
Rogue lifted his head in surprise at her curiosity. "ERR… EII DONTT NOWW NUCCH. EII," Rogue dithered, probably making himself sound even stupider. "EII… DONTT RENENBER CONNING HEREE." He paused, trying to figure out where to start with his story and how to explain it. "EII JUST WOKKE UPP INN DAA ORREST. EII HID DEERE… DENN EII FOUNDD NYY NUNN AND DADD. CUURLA UND GRISSA." He beamed, the faces of his smiling parents making his spirits lift in the slightest. Mehr nodded.
"THEY… WERE YOUR PARENTS?" He nodded.
"ESS. DEY… WEERE HUUNNANN." Rogue confessed, Mehr's brows lifting at the news. For a moment, he thought she would question him about such, but to his surprise Mehr just waited for him to continue. "DEYY ADDOPT NEE." He spoke almost proudly through his fear of where he was. "DEYY RAISSED NEE. EII… LERRNN TOOO TALLK… ANDD THEEN EII METT NYY ITTLE ONEES. ARRNIN ANND NIIKASA."
Mehr nodded. "ARNIN AND NIKASA? ARE THEY… HUMAN? ARE THEY… WHO YOU CALL YOUR LITTLE ONES?"
Rogue lightly sighed at Mehr's mistake of his babies' names. She couldn't help the error however; he couldn't say his Armin or Mikasa's names any other way. Thus, Mehr determined the pronunciations to be as such. He didn't feel like correcting her either – deciding it was best for him just to continue. "ESS." Rogue nodded. "EII – ADOTTED DEMM AFTER," he trailed off, remembering the tragic day and the fact that the two culprits that were the cause were sitting right behind them. Rogue swallowed the lump in his throat but decided to just continue. "DEYY ATTACC WALLL. ARNINN UNDD NIKKASA AREE NYY BAIBIES." He smiled, Mehr dipping her head with understanding.
"THEY ARE YOUR… BABIES? YOU… MADE THEM YOUR OWN?" She questioned thoughtfully. He grunted, catching an emotion that he had not seen from the titan before. Was it a hint of – sadness?
"ESS. EII RAISSED DEM INN NYY HONNE."
"WERE… ARNIN AND NIKASA… ONE OF THE YOUNG HUMANS ON THE TOWER?"
"ESS. ARNINN HASS BLONND AIRR." Rogue pulled on his own locks for emphasis. "NIKKASA HASS BLACCC AIRR. SSHEE ISS… A GIRRRL." He educated with Mehr simply nodding, wrapping her hands around her knees. "SOOO… ANNWAYY. EII ASS AFFRAIDD FORR NYY AIIBIES SOO… I GAVVE THEMM TOOO THE SCOUTTS – THEE HUNNANS THATT FLIII AROUNDD ANDD… KILL TITTANS." Rogue explained with various movements, watching as Mehr's dark eyes grew larger upon his description.
"THOSE… WERE THE HUMANS THAT FLEW AROUND? THE… SCOUTS? YOU… GAVE THEM YOUR BABIES?"
Rogue nodded. "SO… DEYY COULDD BEE SAFEE. WHENN… ANSGARRR." He paused, the titans name leaving a bad taste in his mouth. "WHENN ANSSGARR… BROKKE WALLL – EII FOUNDD NY AIIBIES AGAIIN. EII SEALLED THE WALL WITTH A BIGG ROCCK. THEE SCOUTTS WANTTED NEE TO ELLP DENN SO EII JOINED THENN ANDD EII ANN WITTH NYY AIBBIES ANND ANNILLEEE TGGHT TITTANS TOGETHERR." Rogue concluded, keeping out the mass majority of the details that he didn't feel like going into at the moment. Mehr nodded yet again, rubbing her chin in thought as she turned back to stare at the rain.
"SO YOU… JUST WOKE UP ONE DAY IN A FOREST AND… HUMANS RAISED YOU." Mehr began, her tone solid – the titan sounding almost bored. "YOU ALSO… ADOPTED TWO YOUNG HUMANS TO BE YOUR OWN BABIES." She dithered, whips of steam leaving her mouth, obviously covering up emotions that she was keeping at bay for some reason. "YOU… CALL THESE SCOUTS YOUR FAMILY AND YOU LOVE YOUR BABIES." The small deviant continued with Rogue nodding in agreement, a rumble resonating in his chest. "AND THEY… NAMED YOU ROGUE?" Mehr pressed on with the trapped titan grunting in confirmation. Mehr then hummed, looking away from the rain and letting her eyes drift up into the dark canopy. "HMPH… WELL, I EXPECTED NOTHING MORE… FROM A HUNTER. YOUR KIND… LOVES TO BE WITH HUMANS. WE LEAPERS… ARE SIMILAR IN WAYS. WE – DON'T EAT THEM… WE JUST WATCH FROM UP IN THE TREES AND JUDGE. WE CARE… FOR PUPS BUT CARRY THEM ON OUR BACKS. WE… LEARN… HUMAN TONGUE FROM WATCHING THEM." The small titan continued, letting her mind drift. Rogue blinked, not truly understanding her statement, but deciding to take the opportunity to get to know his new ally.
"ERR… AHHT ABOUUT YUU? WEERRE YUUU CONNE FRONNN? WHYYY… ARREE YOUU HERRE? WITTH DEMM?"
Mehr instantly rotated her head to look upon him, eyes narrowed in the slightest. Rogue gulped, fearing that he offended her but when the small deviant let out a sigh he calmed. "SO BE IT." She grumbled, wrapping her arms around her knees and watching the light drizzle again. "I… JUST HAVE HORRIBLE LUCK. OUR KIND… LIVED JUST SOUTH OF YOURS… IN A FOREST WHERE IT RAINS A LOT. I… WAS EXILED FROM MY GROUP. SO… WE LIVED APART FROM THE OTHERS. ONE DAY… I WAS IN THE WRONG… PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME. THEY," Mehr gestured behind her. "FOUND ME. ALONG WITH A FEMALE… AND EZEKIEL. THEY… WANTED TO USE ME – BUT MY PUP WAS USELESS. SO… THEY KILLED HIM." Mehr suddenly paused, burring her face into her knees. Rogue leaned over further, looking like a child examining a picture book as he assessed the deviant. He frowned. The tough little titan almost looked to be holding back tears. Rogue blinked, secretly going over what Mehr had just shared with him. Pup? What could she have meant by that word? He knew 'Puppy' was a word referring to a young dog. What did pup mean to a titan? Whatever it was, Mehr seemed to be deeply troubled by it. Then there was the mentioning of The Female and what he could conclude to be another titan – Ezekiel. Rogue wanted to asked her what those things were or meant, but seeing the five meter's distress, he decided it was best to comfort. He let out a soft whine. Bending over to bump his head into hers, a notion that felt natural for him. At the touch, Mehr looked at him before letting out a shaky sigh and turning to watch the light rain again. Rogue waited, the little titan not saying a word until she raised her hand and roughly bumped her knuckles against his side. "EHH… YOU DON'T NEED TO FEEL… SORRY FOR ME. I… HAVE A FEELING THAT THE STORY… ABOUT YOU THAT YOU DON'T KNOW… IS MORE MESSED UP THAN MINE." Mehr lightly huffed, making Rogue sit back with a frown. "WELL… SINCE THAT TIME… I'VE BEEN WITH THESE ASSES. THEY MADE ME LOOK FOR YOU… WHEN WE CAME TO THE WALL… YESTERDAY." The small titan sighed. "ANYWAY… YOU CAN TRUST ME. I WILL TRY… TO FIND A WAY TO –
The two titans froze as they heard Ansgar's voice and creaking plates as he stood. Rogue held his breath as he heard the Colossal shift and get to his feet as well, an ominous shadow creeping across the landscape as he positioned himself upright. Rogue's eyes grew in panic as Mehr quickly stood and pretended as if nothing occurred between them. The ground shuttered, making him nearly lift off of it as both The Armored and Colossal crept from the trees to be before him. Paralyzed in terror, Rogue watched as Ansgar shoved Mehr roughly with his foot out of his wake before he knelt uncomfortably close before him. Goliath bent over as well, his movement looking sluggish and slow in comparison to the plated titan. Rogue swallowed as Ansgar continued to stare at him, watching as the creature's plated mouth parted and contorted into a sick grin. He just wanted to run. Run home.
The Armored Titan snorted in an arrogant manner, steam billowing from his nostrils before he let out a huff of amusement. "HARDD TO BELIEVEEE… AN IDIOTT LIKEE YOUU… NEARLYY KILLEDD ME… AND ATEE LUANA." Ansgar alliterated as he rose his hand and gripped the bottom of his jaw tightly, nails nearly digging into his skin. The titan's unwelcome touch, caused a spark of resilience to go off in Rogue, a primitive instinct pushing fully forward within him. He snarled, any ounce of fear gone as he quickly parted his jaws and snapped at The Armored's hand like an animal. Rogue managed to snag muscle, causing Ansgar to yelp in agony and jump back from his seated position. Rogue nearly purred at his foe's suffering, but soon found that his act was an error when The Armored roared and slammed his foot upon his ankle – the bone snapping with the impact and sending a wave of pain up his leg. Rogue wailed, the sound dying down into a moan. He looked back to the plated behemoth to see the creature lift his arm and slam it into his shoulder before smacking him across the face, causing Rogue to nearly bite off a piece of his tongue and send blood splattering onto the grass below. He felt The Armored grip his messy locks and pull, pressing his head into the tree and staring at him heatedly. "I… WOULDD LIKEE TO… SEE YOUU TRYY… THATT AGAINN."
Rogue heaved a breath, his chest shuttering as he struggled to get over the discomfort, feeling his nerve endings and bones resituate. As much as he wanted to challenge Ansgar's words, he decided that being in the current situation that doing such wasn't an intelligent move. Instead, he settled for just staring at the beast heatedly, ears pinned back to show his irritation. Still, The Armored seemed pleased with his reaction. Unexpectedly, the Armored slammed his foot into his still upset stomach, the blow causing him to gag yet again and bile spraying onto his own chest. Rogue heaved a breath, feeling utterly humiliated.
"WE STTILL… NEED HIIM IN ONNE PIIECE." Goliath uttered, tone low and unamused. The Armored snorted.
"I'MM JUSTT –
Ansgar was suddenly interrupted by a familiar pop that he knew so well. A shot from a Scout's signal flare. Quickly, Rogue turned his head to see a long tendril of green smoke in the distance – a sign to advance. His green eyes widened. The Scouts were coming to get him. He couldn't help but grin. Hange or his little one must have figured a likely place where he would be!
"THEE HUMANSS!" Ansgar grumbled. "THEYY FOUND… USS?"
"APPARENTLY SO." Mehr played along, sneaking him a sideways glance.
The earth rumbled and shifted as The Colossal got to his feet. "WEE ARE LEEAVING. I WIILL GO… AHEAD AND MAAKE COVVER."
Seeing that his enemy had no intention of killing him yet, Rogue seized the opportunity to turn and screech, not caring if he received more abuse. If he could lead his little ones to him, it would be worth it. As he expected, The Armored Titan roared at his misdeed and roughly gripped his head.
"GOTT TO MAKEE THISS… EASIERR."
The monster then raised his fist and swung.
Armin tugged his hood over his head, keeping the drizzling rain from his eyes as he rode upon his horse. The landscape was as gloomy as one could imagine. Everything seemed to be in a shade of grey. There was no patch of blue heavens in sight and there was a low fog that seemed to only get thicker up ahead. As soon as the horses were ready, the Scouts and many members of the Garrison had embarked on the emergency mission. Armin's gut swarmed with worry. It wasn't the fact that most Garrison soldiers were not as experienced with direct combat with titans, but it was rather Rogue's well-being. Just minutes before, a familiar screech alerted them all – a cry that was none other than Rogue's. The titan's call was absolutely pleading and there was no telling what Rogue had gone through. He could only hope that Rogue was unconscious so he didn't have to be aware to torture or whatever the enemy had planned for him. However, he also wished that Levi's words were true – that if Rogue was awake that the fifteen-meter behemoth would give them hell and be nothing but piss and vinegar.
"Shit. This is the worst weather for this. They could be hiding anywhere." The teen heard the Corporal grumble beneath his breath, the blonde noticing that the man wasn't taking his hand from the hilt of his blade. He could only guess Levi's heightened sense of awareness was from past experience.
"You've got that right." Hange replied. "Be on your toes. They are out here, and I'm not talking about The Armored or Colossal."
Armin swallowed, gripping the reins of his equine even tighter. Around him were the current members of the Levi squad with the exception of Jean who had to stay behind to be escorted to a local hospital for aggressive treatment upon his bite. He rode adjacent to the Corporal and Section Commander with Sasha and Connie near him. The Commander as well rode just ahead of him, hand holding a signal flare gun and eyes scanning the horizon for further signals or incoming trouble. Armin stared on to see that Mikasa was beginning to pull further and further away from their party. Ever since the teen had heard Rogue's cry it was like a cannon had gone off within Mikasa. The girl had become absolutely unstable and the closer they got to where Rogue was supposed to be, the more panicked that Mikasa became. He himself could understand her terror, but in a situation like the one that was currently transpiring, one had to keep a level head no matter what emotional battle they were struggling with. Of course, seeing Mikasa's careless advance did not please Levi.
"Ackerman!" He yelled with Armin watching as Mikasa's shoulders bunched together at the man's sharp words. "You are too far ahead. Fall back into our formation!"
He continued to observe as Mikasa seemingly continued to hesitate until her hands tugged slightly upon her horse's reins and a quiet curse slipped past her lips. The teen was still as her equine slowed to be with the rest of them. Upon seeing her face, Armin could instantly tell that the girl wasn't at all happy with the order.
"Sir! We need to move f-
"Ackerman." Levi interrupted Mikasa who looked almost shaken by the man's tone. "You stay here with us. Moving quickly in this kind of weather is incredibly dangerous. Trust me when I say I've seen titans ambush from within the fog and tear apart your closest friends and comrades. You know that Rogue is alive. He cannot lose you or Arlert because heaven knows he'll hate himself for not being able to save you. So stick with us and don't stray away. I don't want to have to put a leash upon you." The man spoke bluntly. At his statement, Mikasa's face faltered, but nonetheless the teen saw his reasoning and didn't retort – only positioning her horse next to him.
"Yes, Sir. I understand." Mikasa muttered solemnly.
"Good. Remember, keep your emotions in check. The conditions around us are bringing some bad memories back, but I'm keeping my shit together." Levi finished, not saying anything further but making his point very clear. As badly as he wanted to question the man about what had happened, he kept his focus ahead, spotting a looming shape run from the trees and into the old farmlands.
"There!" He announced, the others looking on at the odd shape. Scrutinizing further, Armin's heart fell into his stomach as he made out what exactly he was looking at. Just above was The Armored Titan fleeing the scene with a massive figure bound tightly to his back – one that was clearly Rogue. His friend was unconscious and tied into an uncomfortable fetal like position with both his hands and feet bound together. Half of Rogue's face was steaming, suggesting that he had been purposely knocked out for an easy transport. The Colossal was nowhere in sight, but Armin could clearly make out the presence of The Jaw Titan upon The Armored's shoulder. Immediately, the others around him grew alarmed at this – the fact that the small titan wasn't bound like Rogue meant that there was a terrifying truth.
"Rogue!" Sasha announced. "Wait, that's The Jaw Titan with The Armored!"
"Shit! She was working with them!" Hange came to the same conclusion. "Her arrival at the tower was to scout for Rogue and her respect was probably to gain trust!"
"Yeah," Armin trailed off, things falling into place. "Otherwise, how would The Armored know exactly where to head in search of us? Sure, he's got his nose, but how else would you explain how he found us so easily and quickly?"
"The brat's still out too, probably still worm from his transformation I bet."
The Commander then raised his sword. "Scouts! Prepare to –
Erwin's words were cut short as a vast hand suddenly burst from the dense fog, swinging just over Armin's head to snag an unlucky Garrison from his saddle. Startled, Armin kicked his horse to move faster. Much to their horror, the fog lifted in the slightest for their group to make out at least two dozen titans emerging from the nearby tree line and heading right for them. He gulped. This wasn't good! The trees were too far away for their grapples to latch on, leaving them in an even more difficult situation.
The Commander nor any of the higher ranking officials had the time to formulate any plan as one of the faster titans quickly motioned to them and slammed its hand down, barely missing Sasha and Connie with the two teens swerving around the titan's appendage just seconds before to avoid the catastrophic blow. Armin watched as Levi quickly stood on the back of his horse and propelled himself to the nape of the eight meter and quickly killed the beast, leaping from the collapsing titan and back onto the saddle of his stallion.
"They are slower, not moving erratically, or have a delay in reaction. These are normals!" The man quickly informed as he turned to Erwin. "Your orders?"
The Commander dithered, Armin noticing that man's teeth slightly bit at his lip before he turned to face the retreating deviants upon the horizon. "Levi, leave your squad with Hange. I'll leave them to free Rogue. The rest of us are going to slow down The Armored. Those normals won't eat him since he doesn't currently pose a threat, but they will be tough to avoid."
Levi's brows rose. "Are you saying we are going to play a damned game of cat and mouse?"
Erwin didn't reply, only responding by holding his blade forward again. "SOLDIERS! LET THE TITANS CHASE YOU! WE'LL USE THEM AS BARRICADES! FOLLOW MY LEAD!" The Commander demanded as he steered his horse in the direction that The Armored was heading. Armin watched as many of the soldiers branched off to trail him – most wearing skeptical looks while the majority of the titans from the horde began to hungrily follow.
"What the hell is Erwin doing! This is suicide!"
Armin swallowed at the words. Truth was laced all throughout them. Once the so called barricade of titans intercepted the Armored, there was no doubt that they would go after any nearby human. Sure, it would cause chaos, but it only gave them a limited time to free Rogue. Not to mention, if they got stranded upon him it would be catastrophic. As much as he hated the very plan, it was their only one and they would have to go with it. Besides, how were they supposed to slow down a massive titan that rendered their blades useless?
He certainly didn't have an idea as to how else they could go about it.
Upon hearing crashing footsteps and the earth vibrating beneath his horse, Armin turned just in time to see a seven meter charging right for him. His heart skipped a beat as he realized that he had but one option, one that he preferred not doing for it wasted precious seconds and they ran the risk of losing sight of Rogue. As he had done in countless exercises, Armin shot a cable into the titan's pelvis and propelled him to the side and off his horse. The titan's movements were delayed, the creature's hand seemingly swinging in slow motion compared to what he was used to. The blonde then shot another cable into the beast's shoulder and hoisted himself up onto the creature's nape. With as powerful of a swing as he could produce, Armin cut away the beast's nape. For a moment, he found himself proud of his accomplishment until the titan began to fall all too quickly. The teen turned and aimed his cable into the leg of another titan and jumped, only to react too late and only managing to get himself a few feet off the ground until the titan moved its leg – the jerk causing him to roll in the wet grass.
Beneath his breath, he cursed at his foolishness, but before he could find his equine or another moving target to latch onto, an ominous shadow cast over him. Armin nearly froze, the teen rotated his head to see a ten meter with a look that almost resembled the Corporal's sneer standing over him. As the monster's hand descended down, Armin reverted from a state of terror to basic survival skill that was taught to every single soldier. The teen drew his blades and gripped his hilts, however, before he could perform a single act, the titan's body went limp – blood falling like rain as the beast fell to the earth, slain by Mikasa's blades. There was no time to thank her however, so he just gave a simple nod that Mikasa hastily returned.
"ARMIN! MIKASA!" Hange's voice carried over the chaos. "THE TWO OF YOU STOP AND GO AFTER ROGUE! WE CAN'T FOOL AROUND AND LOSE SIGHT OF HIM! WE WILL TAKE THESE FIVE OUT AND THEN MEET UP WITH YOU!"
Hearing the words, the two teens responded with another quick nod and scrambled to retrieve their horses. After adjusting himself in his saddle, the teen quickly followed Mikasa who had returned to the desire to push her horse to its limits to catch up to Rogue and the other deviants. Fearing that he would lag behind, Armin dug his heels of his boots into the horse's hips – the equine giving a neigh in surprise but otherwise charged forward. Armin gritted his teeth, wiping his face to rid the bothersome rain. Looking to his side, Erwin and the others were nowhere to be seen, obviously keeping themselves hidden in the thicker parts of the fog not to alert the Armored. The fog was clearly the product of The Colossal who must have gone on ahead. With a creature that big, the beast had to move at a slow pace. It was no wonder why it didn't cause the second breach. The Armored had to obviously carry Rogue and the smaller deviant for most likely safety reasons, being blasted with hot steam didn't sound too favorable by any species.
Finally, his horse was able to catch up with Mikasa's. For a long moment, his friend continued to stare heatedly at the enemy before her until she turned to him, her face looking positively determined.
"He's tied with cables. They fucking planned this." Mikasa nearly hissed between her teeth. Armin nodded, deciding not to warn her to keep her cool again for the fact that the teen seemed willing to listen.
"And not just any cables either. Those are the thicker gage cables – likely the ones that were taken from the depot months ago when we were on the 57th expedition. You're right. They've been planning this for a while."
"So how should we get him free then? We can't let them get away with him!"
Again, he nodded. "Well, we don't have many options, not only that but The Jaw Titan is clearly against us so no doubt she'll defend The Armored Titan and fling us away. I'm not even sure if our blades can even cut that gage of cable. But – I think that's where we should start. Mikasa – see if you can deal with The Jaw Titan. I'll try to saw through the cables. If I'm unable to, I'll try to wake Rogue up. If we need help, I hope that Hange and the rest can get to us quickly." Armin swallowed nervously. "You ready for this?" He asked with the girl giving a quick dip of her head. He swallowed. This was not going to be easy. At all.
With not a second more to spare, Mikasa guided her horse even further with a whip of the reins. As her equine galloped closer, the small deviant turned to peer down at the two of them with her dark eyes. The titan's face was emotionless, nearly blank as it continued to watch Mikasa pull out her blades and prepare to execute her task. Armin watched, finding himself paralyzed as The Armored glanced over his shoulder but surprisingly didn't turn to squash him into pulp. The beast kept going in the very same direction that he had been. "MEHRR – DEALL… WITHH THEMM."
Armin's chin lifted at the titan's speech. The deviant's name was Mehr? He didn't care to know however, the beast's words just proved the tiny titan's association with their enemy even further. Mikasa then seized the opportunity and aimed a cable into the plated titan's scalp. However, as she left the saddle of her horse, Mehr's fingers wrapped around her cable and the titan pulled. In horror, Armin watched as Mikasa was helplessly swung into the air and then tossed back towards the earth. Thankfully, the teen was quickly able to regain herself and hurriedly planted another cable into her target to propel herself toward the small deviant with frightening speed. For a moment, he found himself slightly confused. The amount of force Mehr used wasn't as much as the titan was clearly capable of. Why had Mehr just tossed Mikasa rather than throw the girl as hard as she could into the earth to kill her instantly?
He shook his head, deciding not to waste any further time deliberating on details. He needed to free Rogue as soon as possible. There was no telling when Erwin was going to intercept with the horde. Watching as Mikasa adverted the deviant's attention away from him, Armin aimed his grapple for Rogue's shoulder and leaped from his horse, pushing his gear as fast as he was able to avoid detection. Quickly, he landed upon his titanic friend's right shoulder and swiftly hid himself away behind Rogue's neck and in the dip of the creature's collarbone. He watched as Mikasa swooped and sliced her swords across the deviant's eye, blood spurting with Mehr letting out a painful screech. Despite the injury, the little deviant hissed and swiped at Mikasa again only to miss. His brows bunched together as he lowered his blade to the thick cable that crested over Rogue's shoulder. Even as Mikasa inflicted damage, The Jaw Titan was still not performing as she had been before. Armin pushed his blade into the cable, moving the metal back and forth in a sawing motion. He didn't want to think about it anymore. He just needed to focus on freeing Rogue.
Armin pushed his blade forward yet again, sparks dancing from the piece of steel. Gritting his teeth, the teen lifted his sword to see that his work had been for naught. The cable practically looked untouched. His blade however looked like it had seen countless hours of battle with chipped, jagged, and dull edges. His skin prickled at the sight. He certainly wasn't going to be able to free Rogue this way and neither was Mikasa. Their incoming party of Hange and the others didn't have the gear to take care of the cable either. This was not good. The only thing that Armin knew that could cut cable of such a thick grade was a giant machine powered by a large amount of pressurized gas. Rogue himself had never been able to snap them in half. However, Rogue's strength was all that they had to go on. The titan would have to use everything he had to break through and in order for the beast to do such a thing, Rogue would have to be woken up.
He swallowed, eyes adverting to Rogue's face, part of it still steaming from previous injury, the titan's features loose and not wrinkled in any way from pain. Armin then pulled another blade from his holster. There was only one way to wake Rogue up quickly. As much as he hated it. It had to be done.
He felt at peace almost, the constant swaying motion was almost relaxing. The world just seemed to be moving in a rhythmic pattern. It only brought him deeper into repose, feeling almost like the small red place that he had seen in his dreams. He didn't like it though, it felt so empty. So lonely. He wanted to go back, back to where his family was – where his babies were.
Suddenly, a sharp pain dug into his shoulder, breaking the deeper layers of skin and burrowing into muscle. Rogue's eyes flew open instantly, the titan blinking in both confusion and to regain focus. The blurry world around him became clearer and his chest immediately tightened in alarm. He was still tied like he had been before and his feet were completely off the ground. Feeling the heat against his back and the hard plating, he could only register that The Armored Titan had somehow tied him to him. Hearing a shriek, Rogue turned to see that Mehr was riding next to him and Mikasa had just sliced off one of her fingers. The titan shuttered, recalling that he had been knocked out and now Ansgar was taking he and Mehr to wherever the deviants' destination was.
Quickly and regretfully, he took his eyes away from Mikasa and the small titan and turned to see Armin sitting upon his shoulder, the teen looking both relieved and terrified.
"Rogue! The Scouts are attempting a rescue! I can't cut your binds! You need to –
The teen's words were drowned out by another cry from Mehr, Rogue observing as his little one viciously cut out her eye. His heart pounded. His little ones didn't know!
"I'm going to make you pay for what you've done you bitch!" Mikasa cursed with Mehr lifting her hand to strike at her once again.
"Rogue! Listen! We don't have much time –
"STTOOP!" He yelled desperately. "PLLEESSE!" Rogue continued, his eyes watching as the three of them paused, the two teens and Mehr giving him a questioning look. "MMEERRR ISS NOOT BADD! SHEE ISS AHH FRIEENND! ANNSGARR… AND GOLIAHH… MAKKING MEERR WORRK WITTH DEMM! DEYY… WILLL… KILLL HERR!" He quickly informed, practically feeling the tension radiate between the four of them. It seemed like several minutes had passed before Mehr turned her attention to Mikasa, her back hunching in shame.
"HE IS RIGHT. I HAVE TO DO WHAT THEY SAY." Mehr spoke meekly, blinking in realization as her eyes looked from the blonde upon his shoulder and the dark haired teen that was still poised to attack anything that came at them. "YOU TWO… YOU ARE ARNIN AND NIKASA?"
Although they were still stunned, his babies nodded. "That's right. I'm Armin and she's Mikasa. We – need to free Rogue." His little one turned to him, gesturing at the cables. "Rogue, I know these are the higher grade ones, but Mikasa and I can't cut them. You're going to have to break free of them Rogue. You are going to have to try as hard as you can! Mikasa! You and Mehr continue to fight to make it so Ansgar doesn't suspect –
"ARMIN! MIKASA! ROGUE! LOOK OUT!"
His heart stalled at Hange's words, the hairs on his neck standing as The Armored's body hesitated. Rogue's nostrils flared, inhaling the powerful odor of his kin, his eyes widening in alarm. Quickly, he rotated his head to peer over Ansgar's shoulder. He gasped, the situation had just gotten worse. Emerging from the fog, were Erwin and the rest of the corps along with more titans than he could possibly count at the moment.
"PART!" The Commander ordered quickly, the fleet of Scouts splitting into two groups and curving around The Armored Titan at close proximity. The towering beasts however, lacked the reflexes or the logic to move. Seeing that Ansgar still hadn't slowed, Rogue only reverted to instinct. Rapidly, he turned to see that Mehr was obviously seeing what had to be done. Carefully but abruptly, the female deviant wrapped her hand around Mikasa and placed her with Armin on his shoulder. Needing to protect them, Rogue turned his head to guide them behind his neck – the only area that would be remotely safe. Sure, it left him exposed, but he would rather have that than any titan snatching his babies out in the open and putting them into their awaiting maws. Rogue braced himself as Ansgar suddenly sped up, shoulders lowered and an arm bent forward – the beast intending to tackle the incoming obstacles head on. The impact rattled his body and threw his little ones into his flesh. Opening his eyes, he watched as massive bodies toppled to the earth as Ansgar pushed the smaller monsters out of his wake with ease. Rogue tilted his head, covering his little ones even further as more of the beasts began to swarm The Armored.
It was then that things began to get worse.
The titans that swamped the plated titan then caught whiff of his babies' scent. In horror, Rogue watched as many of the creatures began to cling to Ansgar and greedily search for his precious cargo. Unable to move further, The Armored Titan slowed to a stop as the creatures began to climb him like hungry ants after a crumb of bread. Ansgar roared in defiance as he continued to try and advance. A set of hands wrapped around his ankle, forcing Rogue to peer down and view a seven meter attempting to climb up his knees – dead eyes locked onto his little ones. Immediately, he felt his instincts take over yet again. He needed to tear the monster apart! He needed to protect! He needed to be free! Determined to get away to get his little ones to safety, Rogue snarled and began to pull at his restraints. His muscles bulged as the titan below began to climb higher. He gritted his teeth, bone grinding against bone as Rogue proceeded to try and pry his arms apart. The smell of his blood hit his nose as the wire began to cut into his flesh, steam dancing up from his skin. Rogue's heart faltered. The wires weren't budging! Pain shot up his arm as he felt a set of teeth sink into the meat of his shoulder. He roared in agony, green eyes flashing angrily at his kin that now saw him as a threat forbidding their chance at a meal. Rogue growled, intimidating the advancing titans to go away until he stopped himself. He couldn't do such a thing. If he warded the beasts away, the lack of titans would only allow Ansgar to continue onward - taking both he and his little ones. If he tried to ward them off, he still couldn't free himself to continue to protect everyone. He was regretfully at a loss of what to do.
Too adrift in thought, he failed to notice that the titan latched onto his arm had inched closer to his sheltered little ones. Rogue spun his head at the realization only to see the ugly frowning mug of a titan right in his face. His nose wrinkled into a snarl yet again, preparing to snap. However, the titan suddenly collapsed into his chest and slid off his frame back to the earth – its nape cut free by a Mikasa who had come out of the cover that he provided and was now standing upon his forearm with her blades drawn and ready. No! His little one didn't need to be out in the open! She had to wait until he was able to find a way free! There were too many titans for her to go against!
His horrors were realized as the titan that had been busy climbing up his knees suddenly reached to swipe at Mikasa, giving the girl no time to react. Then, another clawed hand dug into the creature's nape, Mehr screeching as her fingers ripped out flesh and bone – the seven-meter falling to the abused earth. For a moment, the five-meter deviant and his little one stared at one another, each saying nothing until their situation seemingly came to mind again and the two turned to dispatch more titans. Rogue gulped, worried, but all he could do was continue in protecting Armin who was still perched behind his nape.
"Rogue! Since you can't get out, I'm going to try and untie this knot behind your neck!"
The titan couldn't truly acknowledge him, eyes still hooked upon the scene before him. Mehr screeched, digging her teeth into another naked nape while his little one circled the head of another titan to blind the creature before commencing with the slaughter. His breath hitched as he felt The Armored falter a bit further, body jolting as he nearly fell completely over. Ansgar screeched again as more titans emerged from the fog – drawn to his little ones' scents like they were a drug. Another set of teeth broke through his flesh, sinking so deep that he swore that the monster's incisors met bone. He wailed, reflexively thrashing in a pathetic attempt to shake the beast from him. Mikasa swooped low yet again to execute the titan before leaping to take out another, moving with incredible velocity and speed. Emeralds shifted, checking upon his new ally to see her nails graze the face of a grinning behemoth. Blood splattering upon every organism as the small titan held her own.
But even as it appeared that they were beginning to get a handle upon the situation, things descended even further into hell.
Like hornets having been roused from their nest, the titans swarmed around them. Rogue cried in agony yet again as a chunk of his hip was torn out and his skin was peeled away by greedy fingers. Blood poured to the earth as more teeth sunk into him and gaping jaws continued to snap at his little one. Mehr screeched yet again as she spun around and placed her hands into the mouth of a famished thirteen-meter. Tendons snapped and tissues gave way as the little titan pried the creature's head apart. Quickly, Mehr turned yet again to slice into another giant's face, detaching half of its façade off like the skin of a potato. Just as the deviant went for another one of the beasts, a set of large teeth wrapped around her arm and began to violently pull. Mehr screamed, a sickening pop ringing throughout his ears as her shoulder was torn from its socket. In an attempt to free herself, the small titan swung her other arm and planted her claws into the monster's eye sockets. The titan however, didn't seem to care an inkling as it continued to clench its jaw. Mehr screeched again as her forearm was practically crushed. Rogue gritted his teeth through more discomfort as his toes were bitten off. The way the deviant was positioned, her nape was fully exposed, all it would take was one hit and Mehr would be no more. In the next second however, an abnormal turned its attention to the distressed creature and forcefully sunk its teeth into the small of her back, leaving Mehr wailing and his own heart beating wildly in a panic.
However, before the titan could make its way to her nape, Mikasa cut through greedy hands and easily cut at the creature's nape. With skill, the teen aimed another cable and began to maneuver herself around the deviant, her pairing blades crossed and ready to carve away meat. Then, before metal could run through red, a titan lunged at his little one, successfully gripping her so tightly in its hand that Mikasa screamed, several of her ribs breaking instantly. His blood ran cold and his pupils shrunk. He wailed. No! His baby had been caught! He couldn't escape! She was going to be eaten! He couldn't do anything!
Miraculously, as if his cry was answered by some sort of angel, Mehr ripped herself loose and lunged forward, sinking her teeth into the monster's scalp. With a powerful jerk of her head, the little titan ripped away a large chunk of meat and brain tissue, causing the beast to release both a cry of agony and an injured Mikasa who Mehr quickly caught in her remaining hand and shoved the teen behind his neck.
"YOU HIDE." The little titan spoke bluntly. "I'LL TAKE CARE… OF THIS."
Rogue only found himself capable of nodding. Beneath him, he could feel Ansgar struggle to hold the weight of both he himself, Mehr, and the other hungry titans. Honest with himself, he really didn't know how on earth the beast was still standing. However, if Ansgar caved beneath the weight, the titans would easily be able to get to his little ones. Rogue swallowed, he wasn't sure of what to do.
"Shit! Mikasa! I can't get this knot undone either!"
"Armin, let me –
"No Mikasa! Your ribs are broken!"
Rogue clenched his teeth, feeling another chuck of his skin being torn. He turned his head again to cover his defenseless babies. Inwardly he struggled. He needed to ward the titans off to keep he and every unwilling passenger safe, but the minute he did it, the Armored would bolt away with him and his babies – one of which was greatly injured. His enemy would surely kill them. He just didn't see any way out. With him bound and Mehr only able to do so much, their fate wasn't bright.
Suddenly, a small titan quickly scaled another and bit into his jaw. Rogue screeched angrily – opening his maw to try and grip the creature with no luck. Again, he wailed – looking for Mehr only to see that she was struggling to pull her leg from the jaws of another titan who was trying to shake the small beast like chew toy for a dog. He would have to resort to the option he had dreaded. He had no other choice. If he moved his head even in the slightest, he risked the loss of his little ones.
However, as a rumble began to form in his chest, a voice carried over the chaos – an oh so familiar commanding tone. At such, the majority of the titans stopped their desperate grab for food to turn and face none other than the reassuring sight of uniformed men and women on horseback. Ahead of the pack was Erwin, his furious face even evident from where he was. Valiantly, The Commander held his blade forward with his men following. For a moment, Rogue could see the looks upon all of their faces. For the first time, not one person looked fearful in a suicidal charge. Each face bore nothing but the look of wrath.
"DEDICATE YOUR HEART AND SOUL TO THE CAUSE!" Erwin shouted. "DO WHAT IS NEEDED TO RETRIEVE OUR TARGET!"
Unfortunately, with the titans distracted by the large quantity of humans heading their way, Ansgar decided that he had enough of what was transpiring. The world around him spun as The Armored Titan forcefully stood all the way up and grabbed an arm of an eight-meter behemoth. Then, with tremendous power, Ansgar threw the several ton creature straight at the incoming Scouts. Time seemed to tick by slowly for the umpteenth time as the body of the titan impacted the earth shortly before them. Rubble and dust flew in all directions as the creature rolled, its fat bouncing and shifting as it scrambled to get to its feet. Forcing himself to watch the horror at hand, Rogue's eyes grew as the eight-meter lifted itself on all fours and charged forward – straight for Erwin.
The Commander couldn't steer his horse away quick enough.
Massive incisors snagged the man's outstretched arm and forcefully pulled him from his horse. Blood decorated the man's body as his followers let their fear return. Like prey caught in the jaws of a cat, the titan bounded away upon all fours with the Commander hanging loosely from the creature's maw. Rogue felt himself grow numb. The titan had taken away the most important man in the Scouts. The leader of the pack stood no chance. Still, the man didn't cry aloud in agony. To his astonishment, Erwin only forced himself to turn, eyes lit ablaze as he still managed to raise his sword to guide the advance.
"I SAID ONWARD!"
Even as the beast carried the man away, Erwin still shouted with determination. At the man's display, the fire was fanned beneath the Scouts again as they charged forward. Ansgar roared, selecting another titan and tossing it like a limp doll into the fray. Horses were flattened and men darted into whatever direction they could safely travel. Things then began to fall further into absolute chaos. Many of the titans began to make a run for the pack of flying humans. Instantaneously, soldiers left their steeds and rocketed toward any towering beast. More crimson was spilt as metal dug into flesh and teeth tore apart bone. Heads rolled and equines were smashed beneath giant feet. The titans that chose to stay and continue for his little ones, either were tugged away by The Armored's grip or they continued to go for his precious and irreplaceable cargo. Another set of teeth sunk into his chest. Red painted across his hide, another wail forcing past his throat as more of his skin was torn away as his kin proceeded to attempt in digging their way past him. He could feel himself grow slightly woozy from the constant loss of blood and his body struggling to keep up in healing – his body still worn from his transformation. Rogue pressed himself into his babies further, eyes still upon the slaughter taking place before him. More bodies fell, soldiers were swung and bitten in half as the titans started to gain the upper hand yet again. Mehr struggled with taking out another beast that had its teeth inches away from his neck, the little titan pulling out the creature's nape and discarding it like garbage. However, seen as both a threat and an obstacle, Mehr attracted the unwanted attention of a large titan. Too busy with ripping the nape out of a ten meter, she didn't see the creature raise its fist and bring it down upon her back. Mehr screeched as she was forced into him, the titan continuing to deal with the deviant by sinking its teeth into her side. Mehr growled, trying to maneuver herself to claw at the beast's eyes to no avail. Rogue swallowed. This wasn't good! Without Mehr he and his little ones were done for. They would either become titan fodder or victims to whatever horrors his enemy had in mind.
Then, unexpectedly, Ansgar reached around to pry off the large titan, throwing the tremendous beast into the sea of chaos with a loud roar. Mehr didn't continue however, the five meter finally collapsing in exhaustion on his shoulder. The little beast breathed heavily, her dark eyes slowly lifting to view him and his little ones – Mehr looked absolutely spent. Another piercing scream of a human victim directed her attention to the massacre before them, the earth redder than ever. Rogue watched as the little titan then focused on him once again, her form shaking.
"YOU… ARE A LOT OF TROUBLE… YOU KNOW THAT?" Mehr groaned, trying to lift herself up, but falling again.
"MEHRR!" Ansgar roared, glancing at her before returning to his task of tossing titans. "GO ANDD… TAKEE OUTT THE… HUMANSS!"
The Armored's order made him and Mehr freeze. The small deviant's eyes widened in panic at the command. She was silent, looking at the slaughter again before letting her head fall. Rogue blinked, watching Mehr's hands shake. Slowly, the little beast lifted her head – eyes half lidded. "WELL… I HAVE SINNED ENOUGH." The titan spoke softly to herself, lifting her head higher to look upon him and his little ones. "I… LOST EVERYTHING." Mehr smirked weakly. "I DON'T SEE… WHY YOU SHOULD." The creature narrowed her eyes in determination. "IT… WAS NICE TO… HAVED SERVED YOU MY KING."
Before he could even comprehend what Mehr was saying, the little titan quickly lunged and bit down onto the cable bounding him. With her jaw tightening, the metal frayed and snapped, freeing his arms while Mehr quickly freed his legs – her bite force incredible. Then, with a finale bite to the part of cable that held him against The Armored, the steel snapped and the ground quickly rushed to meet him. His knees hit the earth, the impact jolting his little ones. At his sudden absence, The Armored bellowed in rage, igniting him to scramble to his feet and run.
However, a wave of dizziness fell over him, his legs suddenly buckling and his entire body toppling over onto the earth. Mud flew and his little ones were flung just a few feet away. Rogue struggled to lift himself, suddenly aware at just how weak and injured he truly was. Part of his hand was missing as well as several of his toes. There was a huge gash in his side that leaked blood with every inch he moved and one of his calves has been almost completely devoured to the bone. Part of his shoulder was gone and a sheet of skin was hanging from his throat. Rogue whined, quickly reaching for his babies who were dazed from the impact and placing them near him – offering the only protection he could give them until the Scouts at least could rescue.
An earsplitting wail hit his ears, the now familiar banshee like cry instantly made him place his attention back to The Armored Titan and Mehr. His heart nearly leaped out of the confides of his chest at the alarming sight. The small deviant had begun to claw at the plated beast's scalp with Ansgar roaring in protest. Suddenly, as Mehr reached to take the monster's golden eyes, The Armored stretched his arm up to wrap his hand around the tiny titan's body and violently pried her off his head. Rogue only watched in horror as Ansgar squeezed, Mehr shrieking in agony as her insides were reduced to nothing but pulp – her screech drowned out by the massive amount of internal bleeding. Still, Mehr tried to snarl and break free.
However, Ansgar was finished with her.
His jaw went slack as he watched The Armored Titan bellow and throw Mehr straight down to the earth beneath their feet. Mehr, whined – trying to move but the forceful blow had been far too great and clearly paralyzed her. Emeralds grew in size as Ansgar lifted his leg, the world seeming to stall as the beast brought his large foot down – completely destroying Mehr's nape.
And much to his horror, Ansgar continued slam his foot into what had been his new ally – ensuring that her death was concrete.
Rogue paled, unable to look away from what was transpiring before him, his babies doing the very same. Mehr – the little deviant titan that had lost everything and was forced to be a slave of the enemy, had just sacrificed herself so he could have something – so he wouldn't have to suffer the very same. His body stiffened, paralyzed. Why was the world so cruel? Why did the devil seem to always have a grip on him?
However, Rogue had no time to wallow in self-loathing as Ansgar suddenly stopped taking out his frustrations on Mehr's steaming corpse and ran straight for him. Panic spread throughout his body and he quickly scooped up his little ones and held them against his chest. Again, he tried to stand and make a break for it but to no avail. This was it. The Armored was sure to kill him and his babies now. Still, he couldn't help but recognize the anger still boiling in his gut. He hated him! He despised Ansgar! He had killed Mehr, members of his family, and most of all had a hand in murdering his parents! He was nothing but an animal! Scum! A fucking pest that needed exterminated! He wanted nothing more than for Ansgar to rot in hell!
'I… HATE YOU.' The words circulated in his head as The Armored behemoth came closer, steam billowing from his muscles and a hand coiled into a raised fist. 'YOU… TOOK EVERYTHING… FROM ME!' Rogue thought irately, his breath growing heavy. 'YOU… KILLED… EVERYONE!' His ears pinned against his head, his nose wrinkling into a snarl. 'I… HATE YOU!'
The Armored Titan came to a halt before him and prepared to swing as he had reached his boiling point.
'I… WANT YOU TO DIE!'
It was then that a seeded instinct that resided deep within Rogue awakened. A spark had gone off inside him, his eyes illuminating a dangerous green with his mind resorting to the one thing it was ordering him to do. Rogue then inhaled.
With every fiber of his being, he shrieked – the sound high pitched and deafening. The vocal ran over the stained plain like a pulse, his eyes glowing brighter and pupils shrinking to pinpricks. The world seemed to stop, The Armored's body went rigid and his plated face contorting into a look of fear as his scream continued to carry. His little ones and every Scout and Garrison covered their ears, men and women cowering on their horses that shook their heads in disorientation. Finally, his scream died down into a low growl with his eyes still ignited with a dangerous green glint.
The world was quiet, the remains of the scream echoing off in the distance. Rogue's brow wrinkled further, hair bristling upon his scalp. 'I WANT YOU TO DIE! DIE! DIE!'
Suddenly, to his surprise, Ansgar took a step back in retreat, nothing but sheer terror wiped across his façade. For a moment, Rogue found himself spellbound. What had he just done?
A bellow drew both he, the Scouts, and The Armored's attention away from one another and to the horde of titans that had all but stopped. Rogue's brows lifted. Each of the creatures had stopped their feeding frenzy and had turned their heads to look straight at Ansgar – their eyes glowing red. Feeling his little ones squirming at the visual, Rogue held them tighter to his chest.
"What the hell is –
Without warning, the many remaining titans suddenly twisted around, their arms and limbs moving more unnaturally than usual as they then ran full tilt right for Armored Titan. Insanely, they screeched, suddenly carrying themselves with perfect posture that rivaled even an athletic individual. At this, Ansgar let out a wail and ran in the opposite direction from him as fast as he was able to carry himself. However, the beast wasn't quick enough as he was tackled to the ground by the horde. Like a pack of feral dogs, the beasts snapped and snarled. Ansgar bellowed pleadingly, somehow managing to get to his feet and running again with the other titans easily catching up and trying to sink their teeth into his flesh again. Rogue could only sit in shock as he proceeded to observe Ansgar struggle to his feet only to get thrown to the ground again by the ravenous giants. The Armored screamed as his hair was torn away and his jaw was pulled on as he dragged himself to his feet get again. More titans came out of the nearby thickets and ran right past his family to join the others on their quest to annihilate. Rogue blinked, the plated behemoth disappearing beneath a mound of flesh – titans coming from seemingly everywhere to have a piece of The Armored's meat.
"Oh my god," His Mikasa trailed off. "It's just like what happened with The Female Titan."
"Wait… did Rogue just –
However, before Armin could finish, Rogue felt his body give in to his frail state. Another wave of dizziness fell over him and the wounded titan shuttered and collapsed onto his side.
"Rogue!" Mikasa cried as she got to her feet and ran to meet him despite her injury, Armin doing the same as his breaths grew heavy and shallow.
"Crap! He's not healing fast enough Mikasa! He's still worn out from going into Berserk Mode earlier and from the blood loss caused by the titans. He's too weak to heal himself quickly! Rogue's healing is slowed!"
"We need to get him out of here!"
"Mikasa I don't think he's going to be able to walk right now! He might be able to sit up, but even if he stood there's no way he could stay upright for more than a few seconds!"
His ears flickered, catching the sound of clattering wagon wheels and the many hooves of horses, his little ones turning their attention away from him to none other than Erwin. The man looked worse for wear, his arm missing and his skin pale but with the look of determination still carved onto his face.
"We are falling back now." He informed quickly. "We are here with a transport cart so get Rogue to stand and get on. We'll save the words for later. There's no telling if The Armored or those titans will be back or not so we are getting the hell out of here."
The roll of the wagon had lulled him into a peaceful state of mind, his eyes barely able to stay open as the fatigue settled in further with the moon now high over their heads. Rogue breathed steadily, his smoldering greens tiredly looking over to scrutinize his babies leaning against his chest. Both of them looked worn, and had fallen into a light sate of repose. Both of their faces reflected exhaustion and Mikasa's in discomfort with her fractured ribs. Erwin was leaning against his stomach with Hange field dressing his nasty would – the man sweating and suffering from a fever. There were other injured solders as well in the comfort of his presence, each saying nothing to one another or had simply gave in to the night.
Rogue let himself succumb to his fatigue, but taking the time to curl his limbs protectively around his precious cargo like he did every evening. Today, he was incredibly thankful that he knew humans that cared so much about him. His mind drifted lightly among his thoughts. He didn't know what had occurred. He didn't understand anything and he didn't truly know the fate of The Armored Titan, Ansgar. However, as much as he needed to go over the events that had transpired, he was spent. His mind felt too fatigued to process a single thought or analyze anything important. Rogue finally let his dark lids drift over his eyes. All he wished to do at the moment was sleep.
So he let darkness take him in its embrace.
Levi sat in Erwin's quarters, his legs folded with the pen in his hand running across a piece of parchment, having been tasked to complete what was left of the needed paperwork. Sunlight shone into the room, highlighting the fact that it was now the Commander's private medical ward of sorts. The room smelled sterile with the hint of freshly washed linens. Tools and medicine sat on the table beside the man's bed while an IV hung above the man's head – the doctor's way of getting fluids back into the man's system. Amazingly, Erwin himself was awake, the man sitting up in bed. Still, the man's face was pale and worn – brows creased with discomfort still radiating from his severe injury. Levi's eyes discreetly examined what was left of the Commander's arm. Upon yesterday's arrival back at Katness, Erwin was immediately taken into surgery to remove any of the mangled bone and dead tissues to make a clean amputation before suturing his arm and sending him back to headquarters with a doctor in tow to keep an eye on the man. The stump was wrapped tightly and nearly to prevent infection. Levi sighed as he recalled the doctor's words the previous evening. Without his arm, there was no way that Erwin would be able to use the maneuver gear ever again – let alone do anything normally. It was likely that Erwin could possibly resign from his position of Commander if he chose to do so or at least demote to a different position in the corps that didn't involve combat with titans. Still, there were Commanders in the past that had continued to hold their position of power even with missing eyes, limbs, or other disabilities – but they never lasted long afterwards. Either way, Levi was not truly fond of taking command if he had to. The heavy burdens that came with the position always tugged at Erwin's mental state and he wasn't sure if he could live with it.
Besides the Commander, several other soldiers were in the medical ward recovering from the chaos of the day before. Kirstein was continuing treatment for the titan bite that he had managed to survive and Ackerman was enduring bedrest to help her fractured ribs. Rogue himself was still sleeping in his barn, slowly recovering from his wounds and whatever emotional scars he obtained during his ordeal. Levi paused in his writing, his thoughts going over the events of the day before. Rogue was some sort of powerful titan king that was clearly more than what met one's eye. The scream that Rogue had produced was the very same that he had done when The Female Titan had struck him down. He was sure of it now. Rogue was clearly capable of ordering titans to do his bidding. It was not related to any alpha like status. Rogue was the only one able to do such.
Just like a king and his loyal subjects.
Of course, he wasn't thinking of not only this ability but also the new questions that the events over the last forty-eight hours formed. What had Rogue possibly done in his past and what intentions did the enemy have? Not to mention, what was this 'Beast Titan' that had been reported by the titan's two teenagers as well as the rest of his squad? Levi bit his lip. He had such a headache from all of this.
"So." Erwin began, his voice quiet. "Did you learn anything from Ackerman and Arlert yesterday? Did they tell you anything after their experience with our mission?" The man sighed, reaching over to grip his arm out of habit only to find that he was falling for phantom limb syndrome.
Levi sat down his pen and paperwork before grabbing his cup of fresh tea from the table adjacent to him. For a moment, he took his time to savor the taste before he let out a long sigh. "Well, not much before they were taken in for medical evaluation. But they found out the names of The Jaw, The Armored, and The Colossal Titans." He informed with Erwin quickly looking to him at the news, the man trying to sit up further.
"Their names? They were able to find them out?" Erwin queried, suddenly reminding the man of an exuberant child.
"If you move too much you'll start bleeding again and I just cleaned the damn floor and sheets." Levi began dryly with the Commander smirking at his horrible brand of humor. "Anyways, the one that the recruits called 'The Jaw Titan' that we met at the tower was named Mehr. The Armored bastard was Ansgar, who we will have to watch out for, and Goliath is fittingly the Colossal. We don't know The Female or this Beast Titan's names yet. However, I suppose that Rogue may know of them and will tell us once he's recovered."
Erwin nodded. "I see. There's no telling what all Rogue was able to learn when he was alone with them. And Pastor Nick was right, we most likely have no idea the magnitude as to just what is going on here. Rogue is right at the center of it all. It's clear to me, but we are in for more turmoil later whether we like it or not."
Levi didn't reply, only letting out a sigh knowing that the man was right. With Rogue being in his position that he was in as well as possessing the kind of power that he had – there was no doubt that he and the Scouts would soon face more trouble again. Perhaps even bigger trouble now that Rogue had slipped out of the enemy's clutches for a second time.
"Not to mention, we might still have to worry about –
However, Erwin's statement was interrupted by a knock upon the door that Levi regretfully knew all too well. It was certainly Hange who he would normally ignore or send away, but after the previous day's events, he was willing to put up with her and hear her out. Besides, she could have found out more if she had spoken with Rogue or one of the titan's adopted teens. "Come in." He sighed, grabbing his tea again and watching as Hange and Arlert entered the Commander's quarters. Surprisingly, the woman wasn't wild whatsoever. Instead, Hange just appeared stunned. The blonde boy next to her seemed to be in a similar state of bewilderment. Quickly, Hange and Armin saluted before the woman cleared her throat to make her address.
"Commander Erwin, Levi – I was able to talk with Armin and he told me of a conclusion that he had come to regarding our latest mission rescuing Rogue and the events that transpired. At first when he suggested it to me I couldn't believe it, but the more Armin spoke about it – the more I think it's true. I felt that it would be best to inform you."
Erwin sat up at this, thick brows rising ever so slightly through his fatigue. He too, found himself leaning forward from the back of his chair in interest. "You have my permission to speak Hange." Erwin replied. "What did you find out?"
"Well, this is hard to say, but I think we made a misinterpretation about Rogue's ability to order titans."
Levi sat up further. "How so?"
Hange dithered. "When Rogue screamed, all of the titans went straight for Ansgar. However, did you notice how weirdly they were moving?"
"What's the big deal? Those bastards move weirdly all the time." Levi sighed, but Hange quickly shook her head.
"That's not what I'm trying to illustrate here, Levi. Just after Rogue's scream, those titans were moving in ways that were absolutely unnatural for them. Their joints were bending in ways they shouldn't be as they turned to face our enemy – not to mention all of their eyes were glowing."
The Commander raised a brow. "Glowing?"
Armin nodded. "Yes, Sir. They were glowing red."
"It's true." Hange continued. "After that they sprinted toward The Armored Titan with the same poise as the most athletic of us. Those creatures had intent in their heads – a single thought in their brain. To kill. Sir, I think it's clear. Rogue didn't order them to do so. No – Rogue was controlling them."
Levi nearly dropped his tea. Had he heard her right?
"Controlling titans. Hange – please explain further how that could be possible?" Erwin began, nearly stuttering.
"Rogue was physically and mentally controlling them I'm certain of it. Those unnatural movements were Rogue controlling every strand of muscle and every nerve in their bodies. He somehow put his will into their heads that he wanted to kill Ansgar. And then he made those monsters go after The Armored."
"Not to mention, Rogue's eyes were glowing the very same way the entire time everything was happening." Armin added.
"Yes, I'm sure that this is the truth about Rogue's so called Coordinate Ability. It certainly would explain as to why the other deviant titans are after him and why the Reiss family call Rogue an entity and a weapon that can rule over both the titans and humanity." Hange paused folding her arms. "It's no wonder why the titans consider him a king."
It was a long moment, before Erwin's sigh carried across the room. "That – is one terrifying power to have if this is true. It's clearly the reason why the other titans are after him, but why exactly are they? What would they have to gain? I have a feeling we still don't know everything about this. We are most likely still missing a piece of the puzzle here."
"Yeah, not to mention, why would the royal family go into hiding and force the MP's and church to be quiet about this? What the fuck were they scared of?" Levi questioned to no one in particular. "If this power is true, then Rogue could use it to possibly make the titans kill each other. Why would they be against such?"
Hange dipped her head in consideration. "I see your point Levi, but I think there is an extent with how much Rogue can control titans. I think only titans close enough to hear his scream fall under his control and for some reason it doesn't affect the other deviants. I think there is many different conditions to Rogue's ability. When he grows at selected titans with intent in his mind I think he could be controlling them as well, not just ordering them to back off." The woman sighed. "It's like a king and his army. When the king summons them, they tend to his will and they fight for his cause."
"Yeah, this is troubling. Perhaps the Reiss think Rogue is on the titan's side – since Ansgar called the brat a traitor."
Silence coated the room again before Hange let out a prolonged sigh. "I guess we'll be in the dark until we know more about Rogue's past. That in itself would probably answer all of our questions we have."
He nearly laughed at the probability of such happening. "Hange, Rogue has barely been able to recall anything from his past at this point. I hate to say it, but I highly doubt that the brat will remember absolutely everything by the next time our enemy makes another move."
The four of them said nothing afterwards, knowing that his statement was certain to be true. Then, before anyone could speak further there was another knock upon the door. The Commander's brows lifted in curiosity. "Come in."
At the invitation, Commander Pixis calmly stepped into the room and shut the door behind him. Levi quickly put down his tea. He wasn't suspecting the man to visit so early. Something was amiss.
"I wasn't expecting you Commander." Erwin tried to smile, Pixis only nodding his head, not joking in return like his usual demeanor.
"I wasn't expecting I would have to come here so early either." The elderly man chuckled lightly, Levi surprisingly not smelling booze wavering from the man for the first time. "Let alone I wasn't picturing you sitting up and functioning yet."
"I wasn't either truthfully. Do you have something you need to tell me as well?"
Slowly, Pixis nodded. "Regretfully so. The government caught wind of the mission we had to undertake to rescue Rogue. Despite the needed cause, both you Commander Erwin and Rogue will have to stand trial once again."
At the news, the Corporal's face tinted red in anger. "What! Why would they put Rogue on trial yet again? He was the victim! He didn't do anything!"
"Levi." Erwin spoke calmly, not acting the least bit surprised. "Perhaps they are using Rogue as a key witness. Who would be better to inform the court of what happened than him? He was with the enemy firsthand."
He instantly calmed, feeling mortified. The man had a point. Erwin was the one to call the shots. Rogue was just the innocent one in the situation. "Right. Continue. I apologize for my outburst."
Erwin nodded. "So when is this trial scheduled?"
Pixis exhaled. "It takes place in a month– giving you time to heal."
Out of habit, Levi retrieved his tea once again and lifted the cup to his lips. He had a bad felling about what was ahead.
The moon was high overhead, casting pale light and shadows over the rubble and bones that was once the city of Shiganshina. It was a ghost of its former glory, currently a safe haven for the three beast residing there.
Ansgar walked slowly, shoulders slightly hunched. He was beyond exhausted and in no mood to speak to anyone. As he moved, he could practically feel Goliath's eyes burning into his back, The Colossal Titan's face likely screwed up in disgust like it usually was. Still, as much as he hated making contact, he would have to report what happened to Ezekiel and deep down he prayed that the titan didn't tear him to pieces.
He couldn't believe that idiot had bested him once again.
At the base of the wall, Ansgar angled his head to see bright yellow eyes glaring down at him. Even from a distance, he could see the anger swimming within them. Upon seeing him, the titan was saying nothing – which wasn't good. Bracing himself, Ansgar forcefully planted his fingers into the wall and gradually began to scale up it, becoming fully aware of just how spent he was. Every joint burned and struggled to flex as he continued to climb. The moonlight became brighter as he continued to ascend the human's wall. Even as he proceeded upward, the silver hairs upon his head bristled. He was not looking forward to whatever Ezekiel decided to do as punishment.
Finally, Ansgar climbed over the edge of the wall and forced himself to stand, the beast breathing heavily as he attempted to regain his bearings. Golden eyes then looked to where the beastly titan had been sitting only to see that Ezekiel still remained in the very position. The sight before him was truly unsettling. The titan was seated overlooking the city but his eyes were trained to him – face looking almost bored. Pools of gold didn't overlook Ezekiel's slightly crooked lips, the bottom lifting upwards quite noticeably to display his disgust. Ansgar said nothing, suddenly finding himself submitting to a bit of pusillanimity.
"WELL." Ezekiel began with a rough sigh. "I TAKE IT YOU WERE UNSUCESSFUL IN THE TASK I GAVE YOU. YOU FAILED TO RETRIEVE HIM DIDN'T YOU?" The beast titan addressed, his tone growing darker.
Ansgar swallowed. "YESS. WE… FAILED." He admitted. "I… WAS UNPREPAIREDD."
Ezekiel's brows lifted, the titan appearing astonished. "OH? ENLIGHTEN ME AS TO WHAT HAPPENED ANSGAR."
The Armored Titan dipped his head slightly in shame. "THEREE… IS A LOTT TO SAYY. SO I'LL… JUST GIVEE THE DETAILSS. HE… CALLSS HIMSELFF… ROGUE NOW. STILL… AN IDIOTT… BUT HE HASSS LEARNED… TO SPEAKK FROM THEE FLYINGG HUMANSS. THEY… TAUGHTT HIMM…. MORE WAYSS TO FIGHTT. MEHR… BETRAYEDD USS. I HADD ROGUEE AND SHEE FREEDD HIMM. I… KILLED HER FOR ITT. ROGUE USEDD… ANN ABILITTY THATT HIS KINDD HAD. HE EASILYY OVERPOWEREDD ME."
Ezekiel's eyes narrowed, making him flinch. "HMM… AND DID ROGUE DISPLAY ANY USE OF THE COORDINATE ABILITY?"
Ansgar growled in irritation, recalling the hell that he had to deal with before arriving in the deserted human city. "HE DIDD. HE TOLDD… THE TTITANSS TO ATTACK MEE. I HADD TO RUNN HERE AND ABANDONN MY TASKK. BUT… EZEKIELL… I DON'T BELIEVEEE… HE KNEW WHATT HE WAS DOING. ROGUEE… WAS TERRIFIEDD. HE PANICKEDD."
At his conclusion, Ezekiel's spine straightened, eyes burning into his. "ANSGAR, IF YOU WEREN'T SO USEFUL WITH YOUR ARMOR I WOULD KILL YOU RIGHT NOW." The Beast Titan responded, sounding nearly sinister, but still alarmingly level headed. Ansgar watched as Ezekiel slowly turned his head to gaze out at the ruined district – the titan's expression difficult to read until his lips turned up into a slight smile. "WELL THEN. I SUPPOSE WE WILL HAVE TO GO ON WITH THE OTHER PLAN I COMPOSED. INSTEAD OF GOING TO ROGUE, WE'LL JUST LET HIM AND THE FLYING HUNANS COME TO US."
Ansgar tilted his head, surprised at the titan's plan. "LETT HIMM… COME TO USS?"
Ezekiel nodded. "YES." He spoke almost casually. "THOSE HUMANS HAVE TO PLUG UP THIS LOVELY HOLE WE MADE HERE TO KEEP THE TITANS FROM INVADING THEIR TERRITORY DON'T THEY? SO WHEN THEY DO, WE WILL BE WAITING. THIS RUINED CITY WILL BE DEMOLISHED AND REPAINTED RED. BUT OF COURSE, WE FIRST NEED AN ARMY OF OUR OWN NOW DON'T WE? SO A LITTLE RECRUITING WILL BE IN ORDER. YOU WILL GO GET WHAT WE NEED AND I WILL NEED TO PRACTICE MY PITCHING OF COURSE." Ezekiel huffed, his mouth twisting up into an even more devious grin – his finger snaking upwards to scratch at his ear in habit. "WHEN THE TIME COMES, WE WILL MAKE SURE THAT ALL THE KINGS HORSES AND ALL THE KINGS MEN ARE NO MORE AND HUMPTY DUMPTY WILL NEVER BE PUT BACK TOGETHER AGAIN."
Hope you enjoyed chapter 23!
I know, some of you may want to kill me for killing Mehr. But after thinking long and hard with her character, her sacrifice suited the plot. As a manga spoiler, the "Dancing Titan" wasn't the official name given to her titan. Dancing Titan was a fan given name. In reality, "Jaw Titan" is actually the official name Isayama gave it. Mehr is pronounced "Meer"
Of course, with Mehr's death I do get to bring in the other titans from the manga into this au :)
As far as how long it will be until chapter 24, I'm not sure when as of yet. I have planned things out completely, but I am going to take the time to read the "uprising" arc in the Manga to see what ideas and scenes I can keep and what I can get rid of. As far as Rogue's past goes, you might see it in chapter 26 or 27 :)
I am also going to get a small job somewhere soon, but do keep in mind that this fic won't EVER be abandoned. LOL I have several chapters already fully written for the future!