Hi guys! It's been a while but here is chapter 24! The longest chapter yet! It does take a lot from the Uprising arc in the manga but I've warped it quite a bit to suit this au. A LOT of stuff is going to be revealed this chapter! So pay close attention!
As far as an excuse for the time it took to upload this... I have two very valid reasons. One is that the entire month of October was taken from me due to JURY Duty! I got put on a medical malpractice case that took all of my time away. And if you've ever done jury duty... you'll know you can't get out of it. My other excuse was put into detail on tumblr but I'll shorten it here. I went to the doctor about a problem I've been having and the CT scan revealed something on my liver that they thought could be a tumor. But after many tests and blood draws they found it to be absolutely nothing and just what was essentially a birthmark. (Thank goodness) But yes, those are my reasons for the delays!
This chapter took a while to edit so if I missed anything please PM ME THE ERROR.
Summary: As the Scouts try to put the pieces back together, Rogue begins to struggle with his role in the world. However, another enemy makes their move and Rogue's life is thrown for a loop.
Please note, there is some content that could be sensitive in this chapter. Particularly with a few torture scenes.
Enjoy the chapter!
The air had a slight chill, feeling good to his toasty skin. The leaves around him were beginning to tint a shade of yellow and there were few that were already an orange hue. Fall was on the horizon – a time of the year that he found both relaxing and fascinating. It was a time of transition that would soon transform to the white of winter. Of course, his mind was far too lost in thought about the previous day's happenings to even admire his changing surroundings.
Rogue sighed, steam wavering from his jaws as his vibrant greens scrutinized a flowering plant that his Armin said was something called a 'tulip' that he held between his forefinger and thumb. Inwardly, he hoped that no one had seen him pull the plant from the castle's landscaping, but he knew he was right in mind for the purpose of the tulip that he had planned. Rogue's ears twitched in the slightest as his head tilted, his fingers turning the tulip in hand. The last two days had been nothing short of jarring to everyone around him including himself. Even though their overall mission to seal the breach and retrieve him was successful, the losses were great. During the time, there was no moment that he could take to morn – but since things had calmed for the time being, Rogue finally had the chance to wander the different directions of his mind. The current direction he was going in was the fact that he wanted to pay his respects before returning to personal matters. Nanaba was the first person he was choosing to honor. She had been a very kind person to him and who he could find comfort in talking to when he had no one else around to listen to him. Rogue winced, his mind darkening for the moment. Nanaba was another victim that had fallen to protect him. His chest still felt heavy with the amount of guilt knowing that he was the reason that everything was happening and why so much blood was being spilt.
Just as his mind threatened to cloud over with anguish, Rogue shook his head to shove away the damning thought. That was one thing that he truly didn't want to think about. Again, he exhaled, eyes following the path he was to take to the memorial garden, trailing the stream. The morning was certainly an odd one to say the least – to the point where he could almost say it was uncomfortable. As soon as the sun made its appearance upon the horizon, he had awoken to find that his little ones were absent from his palm. Looking around both Hange and Levi were missing as well and their scent didn't seem to be in the direction of the Scouts' memorial garden either. Perhaps they had retreated to their beds sometime during the evening or they were eating an early breakfast of sausage and pancakes which he knew that no Scout wanted to miss when they were served – after all, the very scents had wavered through his nostrils when he had risen. Rogue groaned softly, the sound barely heard by any living creature around. He honestly wished his little ones were with him. After he had almost lost them on numerous occasions the previous days, he wanted to do nothing more than to have them by his side.
Of course, the other event that transpired that his mind was gravitating towards was Mehr's death and the fact that the little deviant had gone through so much and had given up even her life to save him and his babies. At the thought, Rogue stilled in his path and silently cursed himself. How could he have forgotten? Mehr deserved to be honored just as Nanaba did. She died protecting him as well. Quickly, his eyes searched below on the forest floor for more flowers – he didn't want to return to the castle for more tulips in fear he would get caught digging into the flower beds, after all he had unintentionally tore them up when he spotted a small vole running around in the landscape that he unexpectedly felt the need to catch. To his luck, his eyes spotted an iris plant sporting two purple and white blooms nestled between two boulders. Deciding that it fit and suit Mehr, Rogue bent over to retrieve the iris, finding himself transfixed at the detail in the flowers' petals before getting up to continue on his trek to the memorial garden. The other, and most troubling thing that he was musing over was just what happened when he was freed from Ansgar's clutches. What on earth was that scream that had rose from his chest? What had it done? Vaguely, he remembered a foggy image of the same happening back in the forest with the Female Titan. Like that time, the titans came from almost everywhere – stopping what they were doing to charge at his enemy. Was he really giving all of the titans orders to charge? The beasts were moving more unnaturally than he had ever witnessed them, some were twisting around so sharply that he wondered why their spines had simply not snapped with the force. Stranger yet, they began to run normally much like he himself did. To Rogue, the scene was frightening and he was struggling with the fact that such a thing happened the way that it did. Was it possible that there was something more to his talent that he and the Scouts were unaware of?
Rogue whined quietly at his misfortune. His mind was a mess.
Seeing the border to the memorial garden, Rogue thought it best to put away his worries and focus on paying his respects and being courteous and quiet to those who were aiming to honor the fallen as well upon his entry. Holding his breath, Rogue carefully and gently parted the tree branches from his face and entered the memorial garden. The behemoth halted in his steps, confused at what was before him. Like always, the clearing was peaceful looking and laced with roses in a variety of colors and the stream that cut through the garden sparkled in the sunlight. However, what he had stumbled across was quite unexpected. The memorial garden was nearly void of life. The Scouts that he had been expecting to be paying their respects were absent – all except for one. On the left near the area that had been set aside to create new memorials, was Connie. Rogue's brow lifted, completely puzzled. The short teen was seated upon his knees and slouched over as he looked at two fresh markers. Even from where he stood, Rogue could smell and sense that Connie was deeply upset and was the exact opposite of his usual dim-witted but fun-loving self. He swallowed. Why was Connie in the garden? Had the boy lost someone dear to him too?
Rogue gulped yet again as he motioned toward one of the rock faces that surrounded most of the area with the intention of selecting two good stones he planned to use to honor Nanaba and Mehr, his green eyes still glancing behind him to stare at the teen. His ears sank, Rogue growing more uneasy as the seconds passed. As heavy as his footfalls were that always signaled his arrival on scene, Connie had not turned to acknowledge his presence. The fact made Rogue shutter. Like the other Scouts that may have come to honor others, their losses had ultimately been because of him. Was Connie aware of this? Could Connie be mad at him? Slowly, Rogue turned to continue his long stare at the male, nearly dropping the rocks that he had chosen onto his foot. He found himself biting his tongue, something that would have looked ridiculous if anyone was watching him. The need to nurture flowed once again through his veins as he continued to stare. Knowing that he was the cause of whatever had occurred, Rogue knew it best to go and console the teen. After all, he would probably feel horrible later if he chose to ignore the boy. Besides, where he needed to make his own memorials was right next to Connie.
Again, the titan found himself swallowing back more of his apprehension as he brought up the courage to finally take one step forward. As if he was tip toeing across headquarters at night, Rogue motioned toward Connie as light on his feet as he possibly could. The behemoth held his breath as he came to stand next to the teen, his massive shadow blocking the sun's rays from hitting the boy. At this, Rogue watched and listened, his chest tightening as he realized that Connie had frozen and his breath hitched, any sound of him sniffling had ceased. The titan's ears sank, knowing that what he feared was likely true. Still, he needed to keep Connie calm. The last thing he wanted was for the teen to hate him.
Deciding to casually carry on in an attempt to ease the nerves of the recruit, Rogue slowly bent down to seat himself upon his knees, Connie still remaining petrified. For a moment, green eyes observed the teen until Rogue proceeded to place the two stones that he had chosen into the ground, making sure he placed them correctly as he kept one ear turned toward his lone company – still unable to hear the slightest greeting. Quietly, the titan then proceeded to plant his index finger into the dirt, doing his best to dig smaller holes fit for the flowers he had chosen. As he dug and tilled the dirt, he could practically feel Connie's eyes watch him, but still the teen did not utter a word. Next, the titan placed the tulip into the still slightly messy hole he had dug before attempting to cover the roots with dirt. Of course, even though he was using a single fingertip, he could barely be gentle enough to the delicate flower – the tulip sitting crookedly into the ground. Even so, he was satisfied with his work and moved on to place the iris into the earth, the plant still slightly offset in the opposite direction but nonetheless buried. His inability to perfectly plant things often led to his Armin and Mikasa redoing his attempts at planting the things they called vegetables back when they had made a small garden in his cove during their time of living alone with him. With what he was able to do finished, Rogue relaxed further upon his knees, but he didn't find himself morning at the moment – the titan was far too concerned about Connie's well being.
Rogue secretly watched the teen, observing as the short human still kept his stiff stance. Unknowingly, the titan had leaned a little lower as he scrutinized, not realizing just how much he was hovering over Connie. The boy's face was definitely puffy – a sign that he knew all too well that meant that Connie had previously been sobbing considerably. Rogue swallowed, a horrible feeling settling into the pit of his stomach. Who could have Connie lost? The teen's closest friends were Sasha, his little ones, Jean, and Historia – of which had survived the ordeal. He didn't really know any other adults that Connie was in close contact with other than Hange and Levi who were still alive and kicking. Rogue tilted his head in thought. Who could Connie be honoring?
Then, the titan noticed that the stones that the teen had placed had writing upon them. Fully aware of how things worked in the garden, Rogue knew that the words that Connie had scribed were names. The names of those that the Scouts honored were always put onto the rocks. Months ago, his babies had written his parents' names on the memorials he had given them. Rogue leaned in further, eyes squinting as he observed the letters – unaware that Connie was looking at him once again. The titan blinked, studying the curves of the written human language. Part of his curriculum in his intelligence classes with Hange was reading simple words and learning the alphabet. In the recent months, he was starting to get a slight grip on the difficult subject. He could read his little ones' names and his own with utmost confidence along with several three letter words. Still, he was nowhere near the level of skill he needed to be to read one of his many children's books. Thus, the words in front of him left him stumped. He didn't know all of the alphabet yet, but he was able to recognize two letters. An "M" and a "E" but the words and the arrangement of letters had no meaning that he could figure. Rogue tilted his head, trying to get a better angle, his long locks suddenly draping right onto Connie. At the realization, the titan sat up in surprise, his cheeks reddening in embarrassment as he sheepishly faced Connie. The teen looked up at him with his brows slightly raised, almost as if he was startled or surprised at his actions. For what seemed like an eternity, the two stared at one another in stunned silence. Finally, Rogue blinked and quickly turned his attention back onto the memorials he had made, his questioning greens watching as Connie had done the same – looking almost like a child caught in a lie. The titan exhaled, rotating his head to look upon the teen again. Deciding that he needed to start his comforting then and there, Rogue opened his mouth to ask his query, but only choked squeaks leaked from his maw – the titan suddenly unable to figure out how to ask the question he had in mind in a way that wouldn't upset the teen. Rogue dithered, his fingers nervously interlacing between his toes out of habit before he decided to go with his best and most primitive option. Gradually, Rogue hunched over and edged his index finger into Connie's space, pointing at the stones and grunting innocently. The titan's worried greens lifted to the teen's face and his ears wilted, hoping that his actions were the right ones.
He watched as Connie's spine straightened as he understood what the titan asked. Rogue lowered his finger, keeping quiet but attentive as he waited for the boy to respond. Finally, Connie let out a long sigh, slouching again and a hand lifting to rub his cheek abruptly. The teen's frame quivered in the slightest, the titan noticing the somber look that Connie wore before had returned to his face. Just as Rogue though that the boy was not going to speak, the young Scout cleared his throat. "They're – my parents. My village… they were the first in Rose to fall victim to the titans that came through the breach. My mom and dad… they didn't make it. They were eaten. We found them – in a titan's pellet."
Rogue's pupils shrank at the statement, a chill running down his spine. It was now clear to him why Connie was in the garden and why he was so upset. The teen had lost his parents. His mother and father that fed and clothed him. Loved him. Instantly, he felt sick to his stomach. The idea that he had ultimately caused Connie's great and traumatic loss made him absolutely queasy. If there was something in his stomach, he would have instantly puked. He couldn't imagine how traumatizing the moment was when the teen saw his parents' likely mutilated, burned, and partially digested bodies.
Why he was chosen as King he didn't know.
"EII… EII ORRY." Rogue managed to stutter, surprised at his quick ability to form words for an apology. Connie exhaled softly, his eyes looking upon the memorials of his parents with his shoulders visibly slacking.
"My brother and sister, Sunny and Martin, they were able to escape with several of the other women and children. Right now, they are living with my aunt and uncle in Sina. So, I haven't lost everyone." Connie lowered his head to rest in his palm, his gaze still hooked upon his parents' names. "At the least, I'm glad I didn't see them getting eaten. I can't imagine how horrible that would have been to witness."
Rogue sat up, growing stiff at the teen's words. The titan's brows lifted and his facial muscles went slack, completely stupefied. Suddenly, his mind began to process the very image of that day so many years ago. His Grisha's innards between that smiling behemoth's teeth and his precious and poor Carla's body being snapped like a twig and the blood - the blood that decorated everything. Rogue shuttered, a whine threatening to escape the confines of his chest. Knowing everything that he knew now, it was one thing that he didn't wish to think about let alone have the images in his head. Suddenly, Connie let out a sharp gasp and quickly turned to him with his face as red as a beet – obviously having realized his error.
"Oh! I'm so sorry Rogue!" The teen suddenly himself again. "I didn't realize it. I kind of forgot." Connie's cheeks tinted crimson.
Rogue lifted his head at the teen's sudden apology, but nonetheless he nodded in acceptance. "ITT OKAEE. NISTAKEES APPEN."
He watched as a bead of sweat formed on Connie's brow, the boy's eyes darting to the ground in shame. The teen swallowed, throat bobbing as he was bound to deliver something that was difficult to express. "Um – Rogue I… I don't want you to feel like you were responsible for what happened." Connie began again, making the titan's ears prick higher in interest. "I don't think you can help that you were maybe 'born' in the position you're in. So, I don't think you need to believe that it was your fault. Titans did everything. A titan ate my parents and titans breached the wall." Connie paused in his speech, clearly thinking how to put his message into words. "I mean, you are a titan and all, but you're not evil like they are. You're innocent. You didn't do anything wrong."
Rogue considered Connie's words, his shoulders hunching in the slightest. The titan weakly beamed, but deep down, even with the encouragement, he didn't really know how to feel. Again, it was quiet between the two of them until the teen suddenly got to his feet and directed his attention toward his crooked tulips and irises.
"Let me help you with these." Connie began quietly as he knelt down to one of the plants and removed it from its hole only to begin to plant it correctly. "I helped mom plant some flowers before – you have to be careful not to plant them too deep or they won't grow right." Connie continued softly, tone kind with a easy smile pulling at his lips. "You got close to getting them right though." The boy suddenly chuckled. "Armin and Mikasa told me that you tried to help them plant things back when you all lived in Maria. They told me that the first thing you tried to plant was a small peach sapling and you planted it upside down." Connie's smile grew bigger, likely picturing his error that he had made.
Although he could still sense pain within Connie, the teen was coping well with his loss. Still, he was concerned for the teenager, but nonetheless he smiled. "YEEAH… EII NOTT GOOD GARRDNNER." Rogue admitted. Connie chortled.
"I'm not an expert myself though. My parents were dairy farmers. Before everything happened we had lots of cows that we would milk. When I was little I was taught how to milk the cows and for many years that was how I worked with my parents. But of course, no one wants to milk cows for the rest of their lives so I went to join the Scouts to make my parents proud. I wanted to be the soldier in the family that everyone would be delighted of. I'm sure – that right now," Connie paused to direct his attention toward the heavens. "They are probably looking down at me and are beaming with pride. I know my mom and dad wouldn't want me to be sad and upset the rest of my life – so I'm only going to celebrate the good memories I have of them." The teen alliterated with a smile, looking down at his work with the tulip to make sure it was placed perfectly before turning his attention to he and the lopsided iris. "So Rogue, what were your parents like? Carla and Grisha?"
The titan lifted his head with slight surprise at Connie's speech. Rogue's inquisitive greens glanced to the open sky with wonder. The young male had spoken something that his little ones expressed many years ago – about lost loved ones always watching over someone. Rogue found himself wanting to smile at the thought of his parents looking down upon him now before looking back to Connie that was awaiting his answer. The teen was well guided. The titan finally let his smile grow. "CURLA ANND GRISSA WEREEE NICCEE. DEYYY… LOVVED NEE. DEYY CAME TOOO NYY NESST TO KEEP NEEE… CONPANYY." Rogue stumbled at the word, but kept going as he realized that Connie understood. "CUURLA CANNE TOOO REED TO NEE. SHEEE TEECH NE. GRISSA… DID AS WELLL. THEYYY TAUGHTT NEE TO SPEEK. EII… LOVVED DEM. VERRY NUCCH." Rogue concluded as he dipped his head, suddenly thinking about the days when he had first met them. Back then, he was clueless of everything not to mention very frightened. His parents metaphorically came to his rescue. Because of them, he grew confident and learned about the world around him. He loved being their son. They loved being his parents. They had been taken from him far too soon, but he was certain that they were still smiling at him.
"I wish I could have met the Jaegers. I bet they had quite a large number of stories to tell about you." Connie chuckled as he finished his work and suddenly rotating his head to look off in the distance, obviously in deep thought. "You know," the teenager began quietly, as if he was to touch a delicate matter. "I do wonder at times, and I'm sure everyone else here does too, what your real parents were like. Your titan mom and titan dad." Connie started with Rogue's ears rotating forward in interest. He wasn't expecting the boy to dive even deeper so to say. "I bet you look just like them Rogue! Pointed ears, no lips, and all! I'm certain that they are as caring and as friendly as you are as well! Of course, I'm saying this assuming that titans do indeed reproduce – which I think is pretty likely." Connie tilted his head in thought. "If it's true, I do wonder where your family is."
Rogue's ear flickered in interest, his gaze lifting away from the teen to look over the trees at the ominous wall in the far off distance. If he had really been born of a womb or egg he did wonder about his roots and his possible titan parents. If he really had a family where were they? Did they miss him? Were they looking for him? Rogue exhaled through his nostrils, a gentle breeze blowing away the wisps of steam. He had to have come from somewhere. A small smile suddenly spread across Rogue's face. Even so, he couldn't help but feel incredibly fortunate. Whatever happened to him allowed him to be adopted by the Jaegers and adopt his own little ones to love and care for. Circumstances also allowed him to join the Scouts – an even bigger family. At this thought, Rogue turned towards Connie with a determined look upon his face that left the teen bewildered. He knew just what he had to do to make Connie feel a bit better. "ONNIE." Rogue began strongly with the teen completely focused onto the titan. Slowly, as if to ensure that the boy's mind wouldn't stray, Rogue lifted his arm to gesture in the direction of the castle. "SCCOUUTS… FANNILY." The titan began as he lowered his arm. "EVVI, HANGGE, SASA, HOORRSSEFACEE… ANDD HISORIAA FANNLY. ARRNNIN ANND NIKKASA FANNLY." Rogue expressed, lifting his hand for his knuckles to press into his chest, emerald greens staring deep into wide amber pools. "EIII…. FANNLY." Rogue beamed, watching as Connie surrendered to a smile. "WEE ARRR FANNLY." The titan continued to gesture, taking a bit of pride in himself as he saw the boy's shoulders relax. Seeing the teen perk up fully made a stupidly broad grin stretch across his face.
"Yeah Rogue, you're family and the Scouts has been a second home to me. I'm very thankful for what I have here." Connie smiled with Rogue letting a pleased rumble slip from his throat.
"Ah! There you are your majesty! I've been looking all over for you!"
Hearing the unexpected address, Rogue turned to see Hange stepping out of the woods. His head tilted in the slightest before he grew slightly sheepish. The Section Commander used a title that he recognized as one that was used to refer to a king in fairy tales. He felt a frown wanting to come to his face, not willing to be reminded of his apparent position, but nonetheless he greeted Hange with a gentle rumble and smile. "ELLO! EIII… JUSST ROOGUE DOUGHHHH." The titan joshed, aiming to get his point across. Thankfully, Hange gave a feeble grin in understanding.
"Alright Rogue, as you wish my dear." She chuckled as she placed her hands characteristically onto her hips, her eyes dancing from himself over to Connie. "I do hate to steal you away from your quality time together, but Rogue – myself as well as the others need to have a word with you. There are some important details about the recent events we need to share with you as well as other matters that need to be addressed or taken care of."
At the request, the titan bid farewell to the teen and placed Hange onto his shoulder before leaving the memorial garden. He could feel something weigh in his gut yet again – a feeling of unease. He couldn't help but feel that the Scouts had realized something that he did not.
The titan found himself solely focusing on his footsteps as he moved rather than Hange's constant giggles or little squeals that she kept making in his ear. Every so often, his eyes would check his changing surroundings, noticing that some of the soldiers were following newly appointed superiors to training sessions while others were tending to repairs to wagons and the like. Deep down, he couldn't help but feel incredibly nervous to the point where he was making his stomach upset once again. The Scouts had figured out something, which from experience meant that it was likely an unsettling fact. It had to be something related to his abilities or his position as the so called 'Titan King' – in which held nothing that could be deemed good. Rogue's ear flicked as he heard Hange cackle once again, his green eyes observing as she excitedly kicked her legs like an amused child. Perhaps he could possibly be assuming the worst of the situation, but then again Hange was always excited about everything to do with him.
He hated not being able to predict what could possibly transpire.
Rogue then looked up again from his feet to discover that he had entered the courtyard. To his right, he spied the short statured Levi with his back turned to him ordering Sasha and Historia to sweep the walk with directions that seemed far too structured and complex to even apply for such a simple task. The titan felt his head tilt in the slightest. His Mikasa could still be in the Scouts 'infirmary' with the damage that was done to her ribs, but where was his Armin if he wasn't with Levi? After the events, he hadn't truly gotten the chance to be with them too much. Could his Armin possibly be waiting for him to arrive to hear the news as well?
"Levi!" Hange called down to the Corporal whose shoulders bunched together at her sudden intrusion. "I got our big boy so we can have the talk!"
Rogue watched and listened as the man grumbled and turned to face them, even from the height he stood, Rogue could see the scowl was darker than usual upon the man's facade. The visual only made him surrender to a fretful swallow. "I'm aware of that Hange! You can hear the brat coming before you see him. And you could have phrased your statement better. You just made it sound like we were about to give Rogue the sex talk – which I'm thankful we managed to avoid the first time when you were educating the new recruits."
For a moment, the titan found himself momentarily confused at Levi's words until Hange let out another laugh that was nearly hysterical. "Oh yes, you're right on that one Levi! You know me, sometimes the words just fall out of my mouth!"
The Corporal rolled his eyes in response. "Unfortunately." The man grumbled again. "I also don't understand why the hell you're so enthusiastic about this. What we are getting ready to discuss is serious and could land us into some deep shit in the future. Now you two get down here. We are doing this behind closed doors for this is all classified."
Rogue found himself frozen as he comprehended what Levi was conveying. It was going to be as he feared… nothing good. Recalling what he was supposed to do, the behemoth snapped out of his daze to kneel down in the courtyard and safely let his passenger off. The titan remained quiet, his stomach wanting to turn sour as he leaned forward to follow the Section Commander and Corporal into the barn. However, the titan couldn't wallow in his thoughts for long as he was met with an unexpected sight. Seated upon a bale of unused hay to his left was an Erwin that looked a lot worse for wear. The man appeared absolutely fatigued – dark beneath his eyes and Rogue swore that there was a bead of sweat upon the Commander's brow and that he looked slightly thinner. Green eyes traveled to where Erwin's arm had once been, noting how the limb was nothing but a stump and wrapped in white cloth. The man honestly looked as if he was going against some sort of doctor's orders to be in the impending meeting. However, what attracted his full attention and generated a bit of surprise was the sight of his little ones sitting near Hange's workspace. Knowing that his Armin was certainly alright, Rogue looked to his other little one, Mikasa. The teen was seated in Hange's chair and sitting in a way that looked as if she was uncomfortable. Mikasa's waist and chest was wrapped in some sort of brace over a series of bandages. At his arrival, he watched as her pursed lips relaxed and drew up into a smile. Suddenly, the girl began to stand from the chair – using the back of it as support. Instantly feeling the need to nurture and pacify, Rogue carefully lowered himself and shuffled toward Mikasa. Naturally, he let a relieved purr rise from his chest as he edged his face forward with the intent to press his nose lovingly into her, but recalling her delicate state, Rogue stopped short and simply let his snout hover just a few inches away.
Mikasa smiled softly, lifting a hand to stroke the bridge of his nose. "It's good to see you, Rogue. My ribs were fractured but I'm okay." The teen answered his silent query of her well being. The titan crooned and let his tongue slide from between his teeth to gift her with a dry lick, glad to hear the news. Slowly, as if she was a doll made of porcelain, the titan sat up and held out his index finger to guide and give her support as she made her way to a hay bale that rested next to him. Rogue then took his own seat next to his injured little one, folding his legs. He wished that Mikasa could sit in his lap, but if he had to shift his weight he knew that he could jolt her healing ribs so the idea was an off limits one. Armin then took his seat adjacent from the teen while Hange quickly motioned over to her workspace to grasp a notebook and pen – making it clear that she was to take notes. Levi then closed the barn door, locking it before turning to the occupants of the spacious room – his nose instantly bunching into a displeased snarl as he spied Erwin.
"The hell are you doing here? You know the doctor issued you bed rest for at least three weeks. I don't want to have to call the doctor back here again if you suddenly start to bleed out you bastard." Levi stated bluntly, but whose words only caused the Commander to give a lightly humored sigh.
"Levi, my wound is fine right now. It's covered in clotting aliments and the doctor ensured that the maggots ate away all the dead and infected tissue so I have less of a risk for infection. I may look under the weather and a bit winded but I'm fine for the moment to come here and take part in this meeting. After its conclusion, I will return to my quarters to recover." The Commander expressed with Levi merely blinking and saying nothing in reply, only leaning against the barn's door. Rogue found himself swallowing back a lump in his throat once again as Erwin turned to look upon him. "Now that all of us have arrived, Rogue – this private meeting amongst the six of us to discuss the conclusions we have come to know about the recent events with the enemy as well as to find out what exactly happened to you during your capture."
Hange nodded in agreement. "Yes Rogue, before we tell you what we know or may know, we need to know every detail you can possibly remember such as everything they did to you and especially every word that was spoken. I know what we are asking for could be difficult to spit out since this is a sensitive subject, but it is absolutely dire that we know what happened." The woman added, suddenly serious.
"Hange is right." Erwin stressed further. "The reason is that maybe some of the things that transpired could either support, contradict, or add to our theories. Please – tell us everything."
Rogue's spine straightened and if he could possibly sweat he would. Again, he swallowed the lump in his throat and exhaled a lazy cloud of steam as he prepared to deliver what his superiors wanted. The titan's eyes drifted to his feet not knowing where to begin. Several seconds passed before a gentle hand from his Mikasa urged him on. "OKEE… UNNN… AFFTER EIII FAINTEDD… EIII WOKKE UTT ON ORREST EDGEE."
"You woke up on the edge of the forest?"
He nodded. "ESS. EII WASS TIEED WITTH DA CADDLES FRONN DEPOTT. THEE ARRNORED WAS ANNSGARR. THE COLOSSALLL WASS GOLIAHHH. DEYY WEREE TALLKING BUTT ATTCHING NEE."
"So?" Levi began. "The Armored and Colossal Titans, Ansgar and Goliath, were close by watching you? Nonetheless, they used the cables that were missing from the wrecked depot to tie your ass up?" The man assessed with the titan nodding in confirmation.
"The fact that they stole the higher grade cables means that they clearly planned to go after Rogue for a long time." Armin added. "It was premeditated in advance."
"Incredible. It's clear that these two titans are highly intelligent – sorry Rogue. Please continue." Hange urged him on, her pen brushing among yellowed parchment.
"ALRRIGT. EII WASS SIICC AND HADD TOO PASS PELLET. EII – GOT SICCC ONN NYSELF." Rogue began again, his gaunt cheeks flushing crimson with Hange and his little ones' faces showing a bit of sympathy. "EII GOTT ODDERS ATTENTIION… EYY SENNT AHH TITTANN TOO ATTCH NEE. TIITAN WASS NEEHRR."
"Mehr? They had Mehr watch over you? The titan that rescued the new recruits at Utgaard?" Erwin questioned with Rogue nodding.
"What all did Mehr share with you? She had to give you some information."
"NEHHR TOLLD NEE LOTTS. SHEE SAIID THEY WANNTED NEE FORR SONNE REASONN… BUTT DEYY WOUULDNT TELLL ERR. SHEE SAYY EII WASS AHH KINNG. SHEEE DIDD NOTT THINK EII WASS TRAIITOR." The behemoth paused to swallow. "SHEEE ANNTED TOO KNOO ABOUTT… NEE. EII TOLLD HERR NY STORIEE. HOWW EIII HAVVE NYY AIBBIES ANND IVVE WITTH SCOUUTS. EII TOLDD NEHHR ABOUUT CURLAA UND GRISSA TOO. DENN… EII ASSK HERR ABOUUT SELF."
"Did Mehr tell you why she was working with them? You did state that she was doing so against her will. Could you further elaborate on that Rogue?" Hange asked, continuing to take notes.
"ESS. NEHHR SAIID SHEE LIVED FARR AWAYY… INNN A LACCE WHERR ITT RAINNS AH LOTT." Rogue narrowed his eyes – trying to concentrate on the words and meanings that Mehr had spoken. "NEEHRR… SAYY SHEE WASS AHH LEEPER." The titan concentrated hard on making the 'L' sound as it should be. He could practically hear Hange write even faster.
"Leapers. I'm guessing that is what they called their kind. Her kind seems to be from a region with lots of precipitation. Leaper Titans – I'll classify that as the name of her breed for now on. It's very fitting. Please, go on Rogue."
"OKAEE. NEHHR… SAYY HERRR KIN ATTCHED HUNNANS… OBSERVVED." Rogue focused, trying to figure out how to pronounce the complex word.
"So the Leapers must have just observed humans from a distance – thus that is how she knew how to speak our language. Go on."
"NEHHR SAID NYY KIND LOVDD HUNNANS. SHEE… SAIID SHEE LIVVED ALONNE FRONN HERR GROUPP. ONN DAYY… ANSSGAR, GOLIATH, LOUANNA…"
"Luana?" Armin spoke in consideration. "Isn't that a feminine name?" Hange quickly nodded and wrote faster.
"Oh yes! Luana means female warrior – I believe this Luana was our Female Titan! Oh! Please continue Rogue!"
The behemoth nodded. "KAYY. ANND EZEKEEL CANNE AND ANNTED NEHHR. NEHHR DIDD NOT ANNT TOO… BUTT DEYY KILLEED HERR PUPP ANND NADE HERR… WORRK FORR DEM." Rogue paused to rest his pipes but soon noticing that nearly everyone in the room looked absolutely spellbound, Hange was completely standing from her chair with a slacked jaw, his little ones looked stunned, the Commander's back straightened with his thick brows high, and even the usually emotionless Levi looked surprised. Rogue raised a brow in question. Had he said something odd?
"Her – pup?" Levi uttered. "Hange –
"Pup – my god," Hange beamed broadly, looking positively elated again. "Pup is a title given to some species offspring. Oh my! I think one of the biggest questions about titans themselves may have just been answered! Titan… pups! Titans! They CAN reproduce!" The woman nearly screamed, dropping her notebook and pen onto the floor.
"Hange," Erwin began, not sounding quite like himself. "Are you sure this is what Mehr meant?"
"I'm sure! It has to be right!"
Levi grumbled. "This is ridiculous. In case you haven't noticed, Rogue doesn't have a dick between his thighs nor does any other titan. Hell Luana didn't even have –
"Actually," Armin began softly. "Before we set out on the mission to seal the wall, Rogue was telling us about a memory he had when he woke up. We were interrupted before we could talk about it further but it sounded like Rogue was having a vision in his earliest years – when he was an infant. Rogue said that the world seemed far too big around him and he was basically a smaller version of himself." Armin explained with Mikasa nodding. Hange let out a soft squeal, her face comically lighting up.
"Is that true Rogue!" Hange asked excitedly, nearly jumping up and down.
At her query, Rogue nodded, suddenly recalling the dream he had before he woke up in the presence of his enemy. It was a clearer memory and he was definitely a baby! "YESS. EII… WHENN EIII WOKEE UP… EII DIDD HAVE ANOTHER DREAN. A… CLEERR DREAN. EII AHHS AHH BABEE EII THINKK. EII… WASS ITTLE INN AHH REED SPPACCE. EIII WASS ITTLE IN A BIGG ORREST. EIII… WASS ITTLE WITTH DAA TIITAN DAT… LOOKKED IKKE NEE. DENN… EII WASS IGGER ANND HUNNTING." Rogue's brows scrunched together, trying to remember the last part of his dream that was much more opaque, not noticing while he stared at his feet that the others looked upon him with eyes as wide as grapefruits. "EII… AHHS… LEENING AGAINSTT… SONETING AT DAA ENDD. DONN'T RENENBERR DOUGHH." He concluded.
At his statement, Hange could no longer hold in a scream, one so shrill that it made him wince and pin his ears back. For a moment he thought the woman was going to faint, but Hange quickly snapped from her state as she spied Levi's deepening scowl. "My apologies! However, I do think Rogue's words prove that the fact that titans reproduce is true! The thing you described first sounds alarmingly like a fetus in a womb! If that's right – it would mean that titans are for the most part – mammals! Of course, that could also be like the interior of an egg of some sort. It's so fascinating! The other images that Rogue describes are definitely when he's in his infancy!" Hange smiled as she picked up the notebook and began to write faster than what Rogue thought to be possible. "Ah! If titans are really mammals I do wonder what their mating habits are and how their bodies handle the pregnancy! What is their gestation period like and how long does it last – I do think it would be quite a bit shorter than a human's." Hange speculated. "With population sizes, maybe they are capable of producing litters of pups and it could vary on the species depending on the size of individuals of the species - such as Mehr's case where her body would only be able to carry one pup or two to term. With a Jaeger Titan – they might be able to have a few, or I could be off and they carry one baby at a time. I do wonder however, since we don't see too many female titans – if the species is hermaphroditic. With mindless titans… I think this would be true."
Levi sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "At this point I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case with those mindless idiots. Hell, two thirds of them look like a grown man with a baby bump."
The titan's ear flickered as he heard his Armin let out a light chuckle at the Corporal's commentary. "Since you mention it – there was one titan that we saw at Utgaard that looked like a heavily pregnant woman. It was hugging its stomach constantly too now that I remember."
"Ah! That's so interesting!" Hange laughed, grinning broadly.
"Please don't tell me you think Rogue is fully capable of popping out little brats." Levi continued bluntly with Rogue's cheeks suddenly flushing red with embarrassment. The messy-haired Section Commander only laughed.
"As much as I would love some little Rogues – it's still a question if he has the capability or not. At least – it would need more looking into. Since there are some female titans like Luana – maybe some species do have females to bare young – it would make sense for a more intelligent species which are more evolved than a mindless titan. Of course, this makes me wonder as to just how titans mate."
"Oh yes!" Hange continued with Rogue beginning to not feel nervous but awkward. "I do wonder where titan genitalia is located. Perhaps, if we are talking male and female here, that it is just beneath the layers of skin – residing in the pelvic area until its needed or when the titan is aroused. Or maybe they mate via cloaca which is something often seen in birds and is only visible for the mating. It would be very similar, but the mounting would be different and the path to the female's eggs would be shorter. Either way it would also mean that the babies are birthed from a titan's loins rather than they would just vomit them. Of course, perhaps they mate and birth a different way entirely. Any way a titan mates results in the birth of pups! This is thrilling to know! Not to mention 'pup' is an adorable title for a baby titan!"
"Disgusting." Levi growled with Hange paying no mind to the man's repulsion.
"That is really interesting Hange." Mikasa spoke quietly. "I wonder what you looked like as a pup Rogue." His little one smiled at him. "I bet you were cute."
"Ackerman – he was probably as ugly then as he is now." The Corporal sighed – not caring that the teen was eyeballing him. Hange only laughed.
"Nonsense! Rogue was probably adorable! I bet he was like a little human baby! Lots of chub and baby fat!" The woman teasingly patted his thigh, making his face tint redder. "I bet he was all ears too!"
"As much as I would love to hear your continued theories on this Hange, I believe it would be wise to continue our conversation. We should keep this fact about titan reproduction between ourselves for the moment for Rogue's safety." Erwin sighed, with Hange frowning in the slightest but nodding in understanding.
"Ah, understood. However – that's not going to stop me from taking a good look at you later Rogue! I want to see if I can find anything!"
Rogue felt his spine quiver at the statement knowing good and well what Hange intended - his face red as a beet. Levi's sudden sigh then became his salvation.
"Hange, we're not here for you to talk about looking for Rogue's dick or whatever. We are here to talk about the shit that happened in the last two days. Rogue… continue."
The behemoth sighed, finally letting his tense body relax. His hand reached to scratch his scalp, trying to recall where he had left off and where to start again. "OKEE. NEHHR… SAIDD EII SOUNNDED DUNNB TOO. SAIID EII… AHHS SLOWW." Rogue admitted, his chest suddenly growing heavy and his throat swelling in upset at the thought. His shoulders sank, not sure why he had chosen to say what Mehr had called him. At this, his little ones and Hange wore completely worried looks. "EII NEANN… NEHHR IS KINND OFFF RIIGHT." He muttered, green eyes darkening and adverting to his toes again. Immediately, he felt the sympathetic touches of his little ones. Levi sighed for the umpteenth time.
"Well, you are a bit of an idiot at points." The man spoke without missing a beat – the words stinging him. Mikasa's eyes narrowed.
"Rogue isn't an idiot. He's smart." His baby began sternly. "Rogue knows strategy better than mostly everyone –
"I wasn't done Ackerman." Levi interrupted. "Sure, he's not the sharpest tool in the shed on some things, but as you said – he knows the art of battle well and he fights with skill – something that only a strong and intelligent person possesses. Now, let's continue with the important stuff." The man concluded as he placed his eyes onto him again with expectancy. Although he was shocked at Levi's answer, Rogue decided he should proceed.
"AFFTERR NEHRR TOLLD NEE ABOUT ERR… DEYY HEARDD NEHHR ANND NEE TALLKING AND ANNSGARR GOTT NADD ATT NEE. ANNSGARR… HITT NEE… AND Kiickk nee." Rogue paused to massage his throat, his esophagus beginning to strain with both the previous usage as the troubling image of the abuse in his head. "AFFTRR DATT… YUU APPEREDD… AND EII CALLEDD YUU. Deen ANSgarr… knoOOck neee OUTT. WOKKE upp onn ANNSgars acck and yuu know Resst."
"Hmm… so ultimately there isn't much new info to digest or go off of besides the fact that titans do reproduce and The Female Titan was called Luana." Erwin began thoughtfully. "Your experience also further confirms our theories about the fact that our enemy is after you even more. However – Ezekiel. I'm assuming that's another name of a fourth titan in this group."
Rogue blinked, suddenly scouring his foggy mind trying to match a name to the face, but ultimately came up with nothing. Before he could announce that he had not a single clue, his little one, Armin, stood from his seat on the hay. The blonde's face showed curiosity and recognition.
"I wonder," Armin began. "I wonder if this Ezekiel – is that Beast Titan that we spotted on the wall back in Utgaard. He's the only other deviant in play here, so it's highly likely that Ezekiel is The Beast Titan." Armin put forth with Hange's brows lifting.
"Yes… it has to be him. Mehr only mentioned four names. There were four deviants after Rogue and this Beast Titan displayed intelligence according to Armin's intel. Ansgar The Armored. Goliath The Colossal. Luana The Female. So this Ezekiel is The Beast. Humph – Ezekiel. What an unfitting name for a titan. In several now dead religions, he was a prophet and a saint. Who knows, perhaps this is what that titan believes he is so he gifted himself the name."
"So Ezekiel is the big fucking monkey?" Levi thought dryly with Hange nodding.
"Yes. As far as his place among our enemy, his ranking at this time is unclear. Hell, it's even possible that this titan is our enemy's leader."
The room fell silent at the news. Rogue kept to himself, processing the name in his head once again in a desperate bid to see if he could find something, however his attempts were halted as Erwin released a long sigh.
"I'll secretly pass this information along to Pixis for both security reasons and for him to tell the Garrison to keep a lookout for The Beast Titan and the others. The information about titan reproduction stays classified for now until we see fit to reveal it to the public. Doing so now would possibly cause some citizens to panic and could land Rogue into trouble with the government again. Now for the last part of this meeting – Rogue, we need to disclose some facts to you that we were able to gather and put together. Some of this information – you may find upsetting and disturbing."
Green eyes widened at the warning, the giant's heart lifting higher into his chest, nerves flaring again. What did they find? It clearly upset them enough to where Erwin spoke the words that he did. Rogue felt his stomach twist at the very thought.
"However, before we begin with the most difficult subject of this meeting, there is a matter that needs to be addressed first. Rogue – near the end of your transformed state, you gained control of yourself didn't you?"
The titan's eyes widened, suddenly recalling the feat he had pulled that he had all but pushed away into the far corners of his mind due to the chaos he and the others endured. Quickly, he nodded in response. Was it possible… that his little ones snapped him out of his feral state?
"We thought so. Hange has figured out some things about your ability that she would like to share with you. Hange, if you please."
"Ah!" The woman started again as she suddenly flipped to other pages in her notebook. "First thing's first Rogue, I believe I may have figured out how your ability is triggered." Hange continued with the titan's ears rotating forward in interest. "I have reason to completely believe that your Berserk Mode is brought on or activated when you are severely weakened and when you are emotionally distressed at a great level. In Wall Rose as well as Stohess, you transformed per say when you witnessed the supposed deaths of your little ones and when you were nearly beaten to a pulp. When your ability is triggered, it is then fueled by dopamine and adrenaline – dopamine being a chemical made by neurons in the brain that's usually associated with award- motivated behavior and can release various hormones. It's like an absolute drug to the brain – and I believe the fact that you are alarmingly hungry in this state is tied to the great amount of dopamine firing off in your brain. Now, I have two theories about your berserk mode and how it functions. In both scenarios where you displayed this ability, when you regained your sense of self, you lost all energy you needed to maintain your Berserk Mode. Your change of mind, immediately stops the chemicals and hormones flowing through your head that's needed to maintain this form – thus you return to normal and collapse from exhaustion. Truthfully, I hope this scenario is not true for it would mean that in order for your Berserk Mode to be effective you would have to be out of control constantly. This way would be a double edged sword – especially when you are fighting deviant titans like Ansgar." Hange paused for a breather with the titan swallowing fretfully. "My second theory is this – and in all honesty an idea that I like a little better. The idea is that you can only hold this ability for a limited amount of time whether or not you are right in mind. As of now, only further research and tests would have to be done in order to learn more about your ability now that we know what triggers it."
Rogue swallowed. "TESSTSS?" He queried, looking spooked. Surely the Scouts wouldn't resort to ripping him apart and putting him and his little ones in danger would they?
"Tests," Hange proceeded. "That we would not feel comfortable in doing since they would be considered both inhumane and impossible for it would be utterly disgusting to torture you, Rogue."
"However," Erwin suddenly began. "The question of whether or not that there is another way you can bring about this ability is still up in the air – one that doesn't require you to get heavily injured or emotionally damaged. That's something that we do feel we should test in a safe environment. You don't seem to show interest in harming humans in this state – so I feel like it is something that can possibly be worked on in the time being. Now, in this difficult time and for the upcoming trial, I can use your short bit of control in your ability as support in our defense as to why we broke our orders of not being allowed to venture into Maria on any expeditions until you gained control of your Berserk Mode. Of course, we want to keep any theories about other ways of triggering this ability to ourselves. If the government thinks we need more time in discovering this, even if an emergency were to arise, I don't think they would allow us to even attempt to address it if it occurred in Maria. Do you understand what we are telling you Rogue?"
The titan's brows lifted. Inwardly, he went over the information that his family just shared with him before nodding in reply. His ability was triggered by massive injury and overwhelming emotions, but was there really another way he could trigger it? Rogue let a steamy sigh seep from between his teeth. A deep part of him felt as if it would be a fruitless endeavor.
"Ah, since you understand, let's move on to the difficult part of this meeting. Rogue – what is your impression of your Coordinate ability? Tell us what you think you know about it."
Rogue blinked, mildly surprised at The Commander's question. "ERR… EII ORRDERR TITTANS." He replied after a moment of thinking. That was the Coordinate wasn't it? Why did Erwin ask him such a question? Was it possible that it was something else entirely?
Erwin sighed at his answer, breath wavering through his nostrils and his mouth fixed in a straight grim line, making Rogue's heartbeat pick up its pace. "That was what we believed as well – until we witnessed you display the ability during your capturing in Wall Maria. Rogue, were you able to notice the odd way that the titans were moving after your scream?"
Again, Rogue blinked at the question, tilting his head back in consideration. Recalling the moment, the titans' movements were pretty erratic – even more so than he had ever witnessed. "ESS."
The Commander nodded, shifting his gaze to Hange to obviously signal her to give some sort of explanation. The Section Commander nodded.
"Well, Rogue – you're not actually ordering the titans. What you're really doing – is controlling them."
Rogue's eyes widened, his heart skipping several beats. He sat back in disbelief, reaching up to stick a finger in his ear, ensuring it was clear. Did Hange say what he thought she said?
"You heard me correctly Rogue. You are literally controlling titans with your ability. Your will was completely over them. You were both controlling their thoughts and every muscle in their body. You could move their arms and legs and focus their hunger onto Ansgar rather than humans. You wanted them to kill, so you made them do so. Every muscle strand and every nerve is controlled by you. It certainly explains exactly why the other titans are after you. Your power Rogue – is incredible. It's certainly the reason you are referred to as an entity. The Coordinate is just like a king summoning his army. Rogue – you could potentially be… the most powerful living thing to walk the earth."
Rogue froze at Hange's soft conclusion. He could control titans, move every fiber in their body and plant his will into their heads like an aggressive parasite. The titan's breath shuttered. Was it really possible that he was the most powerful living creature on earth? Him? A silly titan that had trouble learning the alphabet and never did things correctly the first time? No… it couldn't be could it? Yet it had to be true, after all he had already demonstrated what he could do! Slowly, Rogue's hand snaked back to his head to grip his scalp. He did not want this. He did not want to be king. He didn't want any of this.
All he wanted was a quiet life with his family. That was all he ever wished for. Why was life so fucking cruel to him?
"Rogue? Rogue – are you alright?"
At the innocent query, Rogue spun his head to see Mikasa and Armin's worried gaze, making him realize that he had been slipping into a panicked state and his breathing had grown slightly erratic. For a long moment, Rogue found himself speechless before he exhaled heavily and surrendered to a nod. "EII… EII OKAEE. JUSST… EIII DOONNT ANNT DIS."
"We know Rogue. We know. But," Hange paused, looking to him sincerely. "You are honestly the best being to have this power." The scientist hesitated before speaking again. "However, as much of a blessing this power could be to humanity, it's drawing our enemy here like moths to firelight. Armin and I have been thinking about things even further and enlightened both Levi and Erwin another concern we share. As beneficial your ability is, the royal family, fractions of the government, and the church are trying their best to hide it. They may even be aware that we know you can control titans. They seem to have feared your existence from the beginning. Either they are afraid that you side with the enemy – or your power terrifies them to the bone."
Rogue swallowed, feeling himself become even more ill.
"Well," Erwin continued. "Like your Berserk Mode there really isn't much we can do to help you practice your power due to the current restrictions. As far as this information goes, it is considered classified as well so keep the facts to yourselves. Truth is, your lost memories Rogue, may be the key to figuring out your abilities – which time will only tell if that occurs or not." Erwin paused, his remaining arm naturally reaching over to grasp the missing limb, only to find no flesh. "I believe that is all that can be addressed for now. Remember, nothing that we talked about leaves Scouting headquarters. Nothing. This meeting is over. You are all dismissed."
At The Commander's conclusion, all Rogue could do was gulp with uncertainty. He felt as if he could vomit.
Emerald eyes watched, completely transfixed by the dancing flame upon the wick of a half melted candle upon Hange's workstation. The sun had long since sat, the skylight of the barn dark above them, leaving the room with a dim but warm atmosphere. Naturally, his ears flickered at the white noise of mice scurrying around beneath the hay, nesting birds up in the rafters, and the words of the barn's occupants. The Section Commander hovered over her workstation, grabbing books to mark their pages, a few utensils he had no name for, and scribing down something in her notebook periodically with a silly grin upon her face. Mikasa was seated relatively close to him on another bale of hay with a bowl of piping hot soup in her hands – the aroma of the dish sweeping through his nostrils, the scent of chicken informing the titan that it was the common bowl of 'chicken noodle' that his little one and most of the Scouts seemed to love. Upon his scalp, he felt the metal teeth of a rake coming through his drying locks to rid the tangles – his Armin volunteering to perform the grooming he needed. After the meeting had ended, the day went on as it usually did. Soldiers worked, cleaned, and helped tend to repairs and those injured. He himself had simply been tasked to scrub the roof again, the Corporal far too busy with paperwork to train his squad – two of their members being injured. Even though there were other soldiers, as well as the unscratched members of his squad, Rogue found that he had hardly a word to speak. Sasha had asked him if he was alright, in which he only replied with a sharp nod before returning to the tedious work of scrubbing shingles. Afterwards, it had been decided that he should get a good bath to rid himself of the accumulated filth. Knowing just how much his skin was tinted from dirt and the fact that he had gotten sick on himself on more than one occasion, Rogue welcomed the bath. Still, even though the scrubbing was done by Levi, Hange, and Armin – witnesses to their previous meeting, Rogue said barely a word. His mind was in a flurry and his emotions were mixed. The titan didn't know what to think or how to handle the news.
Everything was just collapsing down upon him it seemed. There was the biological bombshell that had been dropped on him that he felt ignorant for not understanding at first. Mehr was a mother at one time in her life and her protectiveness over his own little ones and squad made sense to him now. Titans could truly reproduce – even his adoptive mother Carla had theorized the idea. Titan offspring were pups, and his mind was recalling fragments of himself being a pup – apparently even before his birth. Combined with Connie's words, he truly began to wonder about his real family. Where were they? What were they doing? Did they miss him? Why had they not come for him? Were they fighting the enemy just as he was? Rogue's brow wrinkled at the many questions that kept repeating in his head. What was his beginning? What was his story? The Commander said that his past likely held the answers that they so desperately needed. How on earth had he acquired his position as king? Was he born this way or did he acquire everything?
The other fact stated in the meeting was that he momentarily had control of his own will in his transformed state. Not to mention, the Scouts knew ways that it was triggered and theorized that there was more. Knowing that they wanted to do tests chilled his very blood. In his Berserk Mode, it felt as if someone had poured barrels of acid into his brain. His body was powered by nothing but the instinct to hunt and the need to feed. In his transformed state, Rogue felt that he possibly couldn't remember his name if he tried – or even if he could try. Even though he had gained control for a moment, he couldn't guarantee that he could do the same again. His will was twisted and buried in hunger and rage. It was almost as if he was just a rider on an unbroken horse along for the ride. The last thing he wanted was for someone to get killed.
Finally, there was the thing that left him the most uneasy. The truths of the Coordinate ability. He could control titans. He could command them just like an army – all the king's horses and all the king's men. This was the reason why the enemy was after them and had the desire to do anything to obtain him. He was the reason why many streets and the earth had been painted in blood. Oh how he despised such a thing! He didn't want things to be this way at all! All he wanted was a quiet and leisurely life, one that was quite possibly always out of his reach.
Thus, with these thoughts constantly churning in his brain, Rogue had just kept to himself. However, just beneath his thick hide, he could feel his frustrations brewing and nearly boiling over at points. Rogue could fell himself slipping and at any time he was either going to snap or have a breakdown. And of course, luck was not upon his side.
The titan gave in to a long exhale, steam wavering from his nostrils and between his teeth, the small cloud spreading out in front of him like a fog close to the forest floor in the early morning hours. Mikasa paused in her quiet eating to look up to him, the titan quickly adverting his gaze away so his little one couldn't detect the stress swimming in his irises. Of course, his long sigh had not only roused concern within his Mikasa, but Armin and Hange paused in their work to look upon him. Knowing what was coming, Rogue felt his throat swell and his ears heat up. As the tense seconds began to pass, he could feel his eyes watering and his emotional dam getting ready to burst. Finally, Hange cleared her throat, looking at him with a small smile upon her face that reflected that of a concerned mother.
"Rogue, are you alright honey? You've been rather quiet today." Hange paused, the corners of her mouth falling a bit as her eyes continued to study his stressed façade. "Is there something wrong, Sweetheart? Is it – about what we talked about earlier?"
"Are you alright Rogue?" His Mikasa began softly. "Please tell us what's bothering you."
Armin stalled in his combing. "What's wrong bud?"
Rogue quivered – his mind finally collapsing. Slowly, the titan's hand came up to cover one side of his face, fat tears falling from his eyes and his teeth chattering in the slightest. Finally, the titan released a choked whimper, putting those present on high alert as he succumbed to his inner turmoil. "EII… EII… EI DONNT WANNAA BE KINGG. EII… URG! EII DONN WANNT TOO BEE ORRDINATE! EIII… EII DON'T AHHNT ANNY OF DIS! EVVRYTINNG…. APPEN CUZZZ OFF NEEE! EII… EIII… USST AHHNT TOO DEE NORRNAL!" Rogue inhaled sharply, tears now coating his flushed face and the beast nearly choking on his own saliva. "EII… JUST ANNT TO… LIVV WITTH ANNLY. BEE WITTH BAAAIBEES! EII… WANT NO ONNE TO DIEEE CUZ NEE! EIII… USST ANNNT TO BEE RROGUEE! NO KINGG!" Rogue bawled, completely broken as he finally let his head fall into the hay covered floor with a soft thump. The beast continued to whine and drone face first into the floor, far too consumed in his own despair to notice Armin pick himself up from the hay and join Mikasa and Hange to trade both sympathetic and concerned looks. For several brief seconds, the only sounds and activity present in the barn were his increasingly louder wails. "WHYYY NEE! WHYY NEE!"
"Rogue." He felt a gentle hand press against his scalp, obviously the touch of Mikasa that he knew so well. "Rogue?" The titan heard her say once again, the giant sensing the agony and discomfort in her tone. Realizing that his baby had forcefully gotten up to comfort him and ignored her injuries, Rogue warily lifted his head to look upon her with his green eyes now red and irritated. He moaned softly, quivering in the slightest as her hand began to rub the tip of his nose. Guilt came over him as he observed the girl's mouth draw into a weak smile through her agony. "It's okay big brother." Mikasa paused, her eyes adverting to the floor, clearly displaying that she was trying to figure out words to say. "We understand that you don't want any of this. A king is a powerful role to fill – but in all honesty Rogue, I couldn't think of anyone better to fit the role." Mikasa stated with the behemoth lifting his head a bit higher at her comment, blinking in consideration.
"Yeah Rogue," Armin spoke as he took his place next to the dark haired teen. "The Jaegers, especially Dr. Jaeger – didn't they believe that you were put on earth for a reason?" His little one informed, Rogue's eyes widening. "Carla always thought you were special, Rogue. The Jaegers believed that you were destined for a purpose that they didn't know in their time. Now, with the recent revelations, I believe it's clear now. I think your destiny is to indeed be the King of Titans. Perhaps with your stature and power, maybe you are the one that will bring about peace." The boy smiled with Hange giving in to a giggle and folding her arms in triumph.
"Ah! I do believe your babies are right Rogue! You were made for this! You were BORN to be king! Perhaps some higher power chose you to take upon the role!" The woman smiled, the titan turning his attention to the dark sky beyond the translucent section of the barn's ceiling, irises peering into the heavens where his parents spoke that higher powers may be. His family had a point. His parents did often say that he was meant for something, not just to exterminate the troublesome mindless titans from the world. Maybe this truly was his destiny after all. Perhaps he was birthed to bring about balance and peace. The more he considered it, the more he came to realize. Perhaps he was indeed right for the role he was currently playing. All he wanted was for everything to be peaceable and just. That was constantly his mindset. He wanted justice and judgement.
He just wanted things to be good again.
His parents, they would have been thrilled.
They probably would have been so happy for him knowing their son was a major player – a king like one would read about from fairy tales.
Rogue lifted his head a bit higher, green eyes looking down at his family. Yes, he was meant to be a king. The titan swallowed warily, his mind suddenly going over his accomplishments. He had defeated The Female Titan. He took care of his babies in titan territory. He saved his little ones from becoming a meal for his kin along with many other family members. He helped train the Scouts. He could talk to a degree that he could be understood. He knew lots of common human knowledge and he was learning the alphabet and even how to read. He had done a lot in his lifetime that he cherished – many of the things making him boil over with pride. He could handle being a king couldn't he? If it was his destiny, then Rogue was certain he could succeed.
At the thoughts, it seemed as if a new fire had been lit beneath him. He could do it. He was sure he could. Swallowing hard, Rogue blinked away his tears and looked at his little ones with a little bit of determination. Sure, he was still fretful, but if he had already accomplished so much he was sure he could succeed in living up to his set role. "OKEE." Rogue spoke softly, his tone quiet as he let out a small purr, leaning closer to invite contact from his little ones which he received. "EIII… CANN DO ITT. EII BEE KINGG." Rogue implied, not considering how easily he had been persuaded and his mind suddenly overlooking the magnitude of the situation.
"Ah! That's the spirt Rogue!" Hange beamed broadly. "And who knows? Perhaps you will have some more memories return to you in the time being. You seem to be having them more frequently as of late and I think we'll get some more answers!" Hange paused, suddenly rubbing her chin in thought. "By the way, and we didn't cover this during our meeting, but during your fight with Ansgar, you were able to perform techniques that we never taught you in order to gain the upper hand in your duel. By chance, when you were knocked out, did you have a memory return to you – one that gave you the information you needed in order to overtake your enemy?"
Rogue lifted his head in slight surprise, realizing that he forgot to share the important piece of information. Quickly, he nodded. "ESS. DEE OTHERR TITTAN IKKE NEE WASSS INN ITT." The beast announced with his small audience perking up in excitement at his news.
"Really Rogue?" Armin questioned, his brows comically rising. "It was the same bearded titan that you told us about before?" The male asked, receiving a prompt nod from the giant.
"YEEAH. WEEE… WERR INN AH BIGG EILD OF LOWWERS." Rogue described, recalling the previous vision. "BERRDED TITTAN WASS TECCHING NEE HOW TO IGGHT BIGG TITTANS. HEE WASS… TRAIININNG NEE FOR DUULS. BEARDEED TIITANN AHHS VERRY PROOUD OFFF NEE… HE TAUUGHT NEE WAYYS TO TAKKE HINN DOWWN. THEE DREEAN AHHS VERRY CLLEEARR. EII – FELLT VERRY HAPPYYY." Rogue trailed off, recalling his emotions that flowed through his body during the time, suddenly recalling how comfortable he felt with the nearly identical beast. "DENN THEE DREAAN ENDD."
"That's interesting," Hange began, leaning back onto her workstation and tilting her head back up to stare at the dark skylight above. "Rogue, didn't you say at our meeting earlier that you had another vision shorty before waking up in the woods with Ansgar and Goliath?" The scientist queried, receiving another nod with Armin's eyes growing bigger with sudden realization.
"Yeah, come to think of it, Rogue did say that he was with this titan when he was supposedly a – pup in his dream. Hange," His little one hesitated, looking from a stunned Mikasa back to the Section Commander that was now looking at the blond with a similar expression, hinting that the two had come to the same conclusion. "Do you think that this titan –
"Yes." Hange cut the boy off, her eyes adverting to Rogue. "Armin, I think we're on the same page here. The titan that Rogue keeps seeing in his memories… may indeed be his father."
At the suggestion, Rogue's brows rose and his eyes lit up in pure astonishment. Was it possible? Could the titan that he had been seeing over and over in his dreams in fact be his own dad? The titan opened his maw, intending to speak but quickly found that he was only capable of emitting squeaks. Was it true?
"It does make sense." Mikasa began softly. "Rogue sees this titan quite a lot in his dreams. It – has to be his real father. Who else could he possibly be to Rogue?"
Armin then snapped his focus onto him again, eyes wide in what the behemoth could almost label as excitement. "Rogue? In your memories, has this titan ever said his name? If titans like Mehr, Ansgar, and Goliath have names then surely this one does to."
Rogue blinked, but soon found himself lowering his head in slight disappointment when he realized that the titan had shared no such thing with him. "NOO." Rogue replied, biting his tongue as he tried to figure out if he had ever heard it in passing ever in his memories, but couldn't find a title no matter how hard he thought. Suddenly, his ears caught the sound of Hange's familiar gasp, capturing both he and his little ones' attention once again.
"With the talk of names, I just thought of something! Rogue – could he have had a different name that was given to him in his past?" Hange brought up, making all life in the room grow silent. The titan nearly sat up at this.
Could it really be that he had a name in his previous life? He wasn't always Rogue? His brow wrinkled in the slightest. He couldn't imagine himself with any other name that wasn't the one that Carla had given him.
"You're right Hange – I did hear Ansgar call Rogue "Green Eyes" a few times, but surely that wasn't the name he had before. It honestly sounds like a nickname."
The woman sighed at this, a small smile spreading across her face. "Well, as was stated before, I'm sure more memories will give us the responses to these simple questions that need complex answers for as well." Hange paused, her smile suddenly fading yet again. "Of course, this talk of the bearded titan possibly being Rogue's father brings up the query as to why Rogue hasn't had any recollection of a mother figure in his memories."
Rogue found himself propping up higher onto his elbows as he thought and absorbed the new question, his eyes looking deeply at the strands of hay beneath him. A mother. He felt a lump form in his throat, finding incredibly difficult picturing that he could have possibly had a mother before his Carla became the one to love and cherish him. A titan mother and father. Rogue nearly found himself shaking his head in disbelief, but he couldn't deny the fact that he had a life before his current one. It was entirely true that titans did indeed reproduce, but why couldn't he remember his mother? During his life in the forest he often watched mothers take care of their young – his deer birthed their babies and the mothers nursed them with their milk. Did his real mother raise him in the same way? Did she birth him and feed him milk? If that was how titans reared their young, then why had he not had any recollection of her face? Rogue's brow wrinkled as he thought harder. There was a fragment that he recalled – a scene where his head was pressed against something warm. Thinking about it…. he had the same vision twice, once where he was a pup and then older – but something was off. Deep down, it seemed as if a tiny voice was telling him that the toasty flesh wasn't his mother's. Rogue exhaled quietly, he supposed that it was another thing that he would get the answer he needed with more resurfacing memories.
Still, even if he was birthed from a titan – he would always think of Carla as his mother.
The titan's ear flickered at the sound of Hange's clearing throat, signaling to him that see was to start again. Knowing the nature of their current conversation, Rogue looked to the woman again to absorb what he was able to, he could think about things later.
"It truly makes me wonder. Rogue has never spoken of any such figure in his memories. Yet, going by what the bearded titan states in the memory where he trained Rogue in combat – it suggests that Jaeger Titans do not live solitary lives but rather in groups that seem to have structure. Why Rogue has not remembered any mother of sorts concerns me. Granted, it's not the bad type of concern but more like intrigue. The answer as to why could be a simple one – which would be needing more time to get more information. However, at this rate, I'm not seeing a high probability of such. Mothers are usually the most prominent person in one's mind due to the fact that they have the strongest bonds with an individual from birth. In Rogue's memories, we are only seeing the bearded titan who is present from Rogue's infancy to adulthood. This leaves me with two theories. The first, which would be sad and unfortunate, is that Rogue somehow lost his mother shortly after his birth and was raised by who appears to be his father. It's either that – or my other idea that I'd love to explore." Hange smiled as she turned back to her workstation and began to search among her things.
Rogue watched as his Mikasa carefully rotated toward Hange, concern lining her features of her face. "Another idea?" His little one questioned as Hange nodded, directing her attention back to the three of them once again and away from her belongings.
"Yes! Even though we spoke briefly about it at the meeting, I still think there is a slight possibility that one of my titan reproduction theories could still have a slight chance at being fact." The Section Commander beamed broadly, her devious grin instantly making him feel uncomfortable.
"Hange," Armin trailed off. "You don't mean –
"I do Armin! The fact that Rogue seemed to be extremely close to this titan suggests that my theory that some species of titans may be hermaphroditic could be correct." The woman hummed merrily as she turned to her desk and selected a pair of plastic gloves from her belongings. From watching both Grisha and experiencing Hange's occasional exams… Rogue instantly tensed. He did not like where this was going.
"Hange, this again –
"Please hear me out! Rogue remembers this bearded titan very clearly and he himself has some incredible paternal instincts as we see when he cares for you two – even considering the both of you as his own offspring! The trait of adoption is seen in lots of animals, particularly in females. Felines will adopt kittens from another litter and dogs will sometimes even take in other animals to care for along with their own broods. Rogue places the two of you next to him at night just like many animal mothers would, right against him on his chest or belly. Not to mention, he is incredibly protective of the two of you!" Hange laughed as she began to slip on the disposable gloves, the sound of latex slapping her wrists nearly making him jump.
"I – would love to perform an exploratory surgery on you Rogue to see if I can find any reproductive organs that would resemble ovaries, a uterus, testicles, and well I'm sure the two of you can guess what else! But of course – Levi and Erwin most likely wouldn't allow such a procedure not to mention Rogue would be rather unhappy with me! However, I would like to feel around a bit on you Rogue to see if I can find any indications of such organs! Still, this has only a very small chance at being fact, even I myself don't want to put all of my eggs in one basket here! There is a high probability that Rogue is a hundred percent male and he just lost his mother before he could remember her, but I still have probable cause to examine our lovely titan to rule out any suspicions!"
"Hange, this really isn't necessary."
"Oh! But humanity needs to know about titan biology, for future generations and –
Rogue felt himself growing even more fretful as Hange and his little ones continued to argue amongst themselves. He was rooting for his babies to win the transpiring argument for he was absolutely sure that he didn't want Hange to do what Levi had said was 'molesting him or violating his space' – which was something he wanted no part of. Rogue's ears flattened against his head as he contemplated what to do in the case that his little ones had lost. If need be, he felt that his best option was bolting from the barn to hide in the woods. Sure, it would cause a disturbance, but it was a sacrifice he was willing to –
He stopped, abandoning his current train of thought when an overwhelming feeling of unease washed over him. The titan's small hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and his pupils shrunk. Knowing all too well that something was dangerously off, Rogue suddenly sniffed aggressively, searching for any unfamiliar scent – his action bringing his little ones and Hange out of their argument and into a stunned silence.
"Is something wrong, bud?"
The titan paid no attention to their spoken words as he propped himself onto the palms of his hands and feet, looking like an alert cat as he swiveled his head and continued to sniff while angling his ears about to detect anything out of the ordinary. Rogue's breaths grew cavernous and ragged as he continued to survey. Then, an unfamiliar odor swept into his nostrils, one that was thankfully human but was new and didn't belong to a Scout. The titan paused, looking at the door of the barn with his ears pinned against his head and a low growl resonating from his chest. Someone had ventured onto their property, and at the very time of night – the beast knew that such wasn't normal.
"Rogue? What's happening?"
The creature sniffed again, a startling thought crossing his mind. What if the intruder knew the men that tried to harm he and his babies? What if this human was here to do the same thing? The very idea produced a rippling snarl from the titan's throat and ignited protective instincts.
"Rogue what are you –
His Armin couldn't finish his sentence as Rogue suddenly navigated himself to stand awkwardly over them, back arched and his side pressed against the wall of the barn. The beast continued to growl, eyes heatedly looking at the entrance to the barn, ignoring his family beneath him.
"What is he doing!"
"Do you think Ansgar or the other titans are here?"
"I don't know –
The titan only grew more distressed as his instincts suddenly kicked into overdrive. The beast chuffed, steam coming from is maw in large puffs as he looked from his little ones and back to the door repeatedly. Guided by an animalistic need, Rogue rotated forward and hunkered down even lower to where his underbelly almost touched his family's heads. Then, not fully understanding what he was doing, Rogue lifted himself from the ground and haphazardly but gently guided his group of humans into his nest.
"Rogue! What's going on why are you doing this?"
"I wonder if his new instincts are telling him to –
Rogue immediately cut Hange off as he scooped a handful of hay over she and his little ones in a desperate bid to hide them. Feeling the incredibly strong need to deal with the problem and protect his family, Rogue surged forward to quickly open the door to the barn and exit into the courtyard, completely ignoring Hange, Armin, and Mikasa as they scrambled from the nest in alarm. The titan stood, looking off towards the entrance to the grounds and inhaled deeply. The human scent was coming from the very direction and said human had just entered the grounds. There was the smell of equine as well and the human scent was steadily growing stronger, meaning that the man or woman was heading for the castle on horseback. His eyes narrowed and his nose wrinkled into a look that reflected his boiling irritation. Without another second to waste, Rogue lightened his body and charged forward into the darkness, leaving the others behind in a state of fear and confusion.
"Armin! Get a horse! You and I need to trail him!"
The titan continued to run, his chest heaving and legs pumping as he accelerated at an alarming rate, the sunlight he absorbed during the daytime hours being put to use. He was against killing humans no matter how evil they were – even his slaughter of those that sought to harm his babies that one faithful night of their initial meeting haunted him in his sleep. Whoever this human entering the Scout's territory unannounced was, he wouldn't reduce them to blood and bone but would rather hand them over to Levi and Erwin on a silver platter – but not without scaring the piss out of them first.
Green eyes cut through the darkness and took everything in with crisp detail. He soon passed the thin ticket of trees and into the barren grassy fields, following the dirt path that led to the entrance of the grounds. A deep part of him couldn't believe his behavior, but he had a right to do so. During his time at Scouting Headquarters – no one visited them at night. Ever. At the meeting, the Commander had not mentioned any guest that was coming so the titan could only assume that this human was an intruder – one that needed dealt with. Still, at the present time, the titan considered the trespasser could possibly be someone with an important message. Times however were indeed dangerous, and that idea was unlikely. Thus, he kept his charge.
Finally, the titan's eyes caught sight of an approaching figure upon the horizon, the clear shape of a horse and a man. Rogue pushed himself further, his footfalls rattling the earth beneath him and causing the intruder to hesitate. The titan watched as the man's horse wisely stalled, nickering and becoming skittish at his approach. He watched as the mare's rider looked around frantically, unable to see in the dark of night and detect the direction that he was approaching from – a satisfying sight to the titan. Seizing the moment, Rogue released a loud and tearing snarl that jolted both the horse and its rider. The titan then leaped, pouncing only to land on all fours over the intruder, the ground thundering beneath his weight. Illuminating greens beheld the horse rear in terror before bucking its rider onto the unforgiving path, the mammal beyond itself as it frantically galloped the way which it came. Next, Rogue stared heatedly at the cowering man beneath him, his growl still rumbling in his ribcage. The man was tall, wearing a panicked look that he took mild pride in seeing upon features that almost looked too small for the male's face. Even in the dark, he could tell that the man had short hair and a well cut beard, hair the color of dry dirt. The male's eyes were swimming with terror but here filled with a kind of fear that one would not have upon seeing a titan for the first time. Rogue growled lowly, leaning in to scrutinize the man closer, stream jetting out of his nostrils to further intimidate. The man gradually began to calm much to his surprise, even taking a moment to check to see if his satchel was still attached to him. Confused, Rogue peered closer, suddenly seeing an important detail that made him cease his growls and sit up in surprise. Any once of aggression left him at his alarming discovery, the titan almost looking comically dumbfounded.
The man was in a Garrison uniform, the roses clearly present. Cautiously, Rogue leaned down to sniff the man again, the soldier not even flinching as his nose came just a few inches from his face. Determining that the man didn't smell of deceit, Rogue sat up and relaxed. This Garrison soldier must be a messenger of some sort hence the man seemed to care so much about the bag beneath his arm. Rogue watched as the man slowly gathered his courage and began to stand, beginning to feel foolish that he overreacted. Of course, he couldn't help but continue to feel uneasy. Garrison messengers only came during the day with news from usually Pixis. Whatever this Garrison soldier was here for – it had to be important enough to bother the Commander this late at night.
Finally, the male got to his feet and brushed the dirt from his pants, pausing to catch his breath before looking to the still spellbound titan. "So – you must be Rogue Jaeger." The man uttered.
Nearly jumping at the voice, Rogue spun his head to see Armin and Hange approaching him and his new company on horseback. Quickly, the two Scouts dismounted and rounded his form, the titan hunching his shoulders sheepishly knowing that he was quite possibly going to get an earful.
"Rogue? What on earth are you doing? Is there someone –
Hange stopped mid-sentence as she and Armin rounded his knee to see the soldier afore him. At their presence, the soldier quickly saluted the Section Commander, ignoring the several sprigs of hay sticking out of her and Armin's hair as the two Scouts returned the favor. His little one's brows rose in astonishment, eyes full of recognition.
Hange's eyes widened. "You're Mitabi Jarnach from the Garrison elite squad? What's your business here this late at night?"
"Yes." The man began as he quickly opened his bag and retrieved an envelope, handing it over to the frazzled looking woman. "My apologies for the late intrusion, but I have an urgent message from Commander Pixis for Commander Erwin."
Hange hurried up the stone steps to the floor of the Commander's quarters in a flurry. After receiving the urgent letter, in the middle of the night no less, she ushered both the titan and his little one back to the barn like two children told to return to bed. Urgent messages were rare and if the letter was from the Garrison, then it was certainly terror inducing. When they had just returned from a difficult mission in which they faced both The Armored and Colossal titans as well as a new adversary, then she had a right to be concerned about the possibility that their enemy was going for round four. Oh how she feared the contents of the letter!
At this point, she desperately wished that it was just another invoice from the government.
Cresting the top of the stairs, the woman desperately tried to catch her breath before making her way towards her destination. Hopefully Levi had finished with his paperwork that he had been working on and was with The Commander who would have to read and approve it. With a letter like the very one in her hand, every second she spent trying to deliver it to its recipient was time wasted. Seconds later, after nearly toppling over another senior officer on their way to the restroom, Hange stood outside Erwin's door. Without bothering to knock, Hange laid a hand onto the knob and turned, incredibly thankful that it had been unlocked – meaning that the short statured Corporal was most definitely visiting the man to deliver his work for approval. Entering the man's quarters, Hange noted that the first room that Erwin used as his study was dark and vacant – the man's desk having not been touched in days and the hearth at the rear bore no flame. However, beneath the closed door that led to the man's bedroom, a warm light radiated from it – meaning that whoever was inside was awake and willing to talk. Briskly, Hange strolled across the Commander's study and up to the bedroom door. Again, without knocking, Hange flung the entrance open to witness what she had hoped to find.
Erwin's bedroom was lit by only a few candles and still smelt sterile with a hint of peroxide in the strangely inviting atmosphere. The Commander himself was seated in his bed with documents in hand, having been going over them with a scrutinizing Levi next to his bed hovering over him in wait for the man's go ahead. Upon her hurried and sudden entry, both of the stoic men quickly snapped their undivided attention to her. Erwin wore a look of mild surprise while Levi's scowl only deepened in annoyance, clearly used to her many sudden ingresses. Within no time at all however, Hange knew that their expressions would change once the letter's contents were revealed.
"Shitty Glasses, what is the meaning of your sudden intrusion this time?" Levi's brows narrowed. "Please don't tell me you examined the big brat and found that he has a secret dick and balls plus everything in between."
At the man's crude statement, Hange nearly wanted to laugh and josh, but the envelope in her hand reminded her why she was there and had no time for humor. Recalling just who was in the room, Hange quickly and somewhat messily saluted the Commander. "Pardon my intrusion, but I'm here on the behalf of Commander Pixis. I have an urgent message from him!" Hange spoke quickly as she handed the letter to the man who looked at the innocent enough envelope with what she could call a mixture of confusion and distress. Erwin then placed the message into his lap to steady the letter after a moment to realize that he lacked an extra hand to open it as it should have been. Carefully, Erwin broke the wax seal and unfolded the parchment. Hange watched, her heart pounding as the man's eyes shifted back and forth as he read each line of text. The two other Scouts remained still as Erwin read, Hange able to note the look of concern laden in Levi's cold blues. Suddenly, the man stopped, his thick brows rising and eyes widening – mouth turning into a pulled frown. Observing Erwin's throat bob at a hard swallow, Hange's nerves only spiked as across from her Levi's arms unfolded as he became worried. For a long moment it was silent, only the dripping of a nearby IV could be heard - something that was much softer than a ragged breath. She could tell, that even though he looked bewildered, Erwin's mind was comprehending, considering, and planning. Finally, the man lifted his head from the letter to look upon the two of him.
"According to the information that Pixis has provided me with, Pastor Nick was found dead at his residence early this morning. Due to evidence, it was clear that he was murdered."
Collectively, both the Section Commander and Corporal's eyes widened in shock.
"The bastard was killed?"
Erwin nodded. "Yes. He was found with his fingernails ripped off, severed toes, and finally his throat was slit."
"Sounds like the man was tortured." Levi muttered as he folded his arms again. Erwin nodded.
"Yes. Now, according to this, there so happened to be Garrison soldiers in the area doing volunteer work and they intercepted a man that was fleeing the scene. The man's name is Sannes. Del Sannes. Currently, he's being held in Katness at Garrison headquarters under the watch of several guards. When morning comes, the MP's will be arriving to question Sannes and relocate him into the interior. The Garrison have questioned him but the suspect is saying nothing." Erwin paused, lowering the letter into his lap, brow furrowing as he fell further into deep thought. "Pixis. Pixis knows that Nick disclosed to us what could be called classified information about Rogue that was strictly kept under wraps. I believe Pixis theorizes that somehow the church or someone else trying to cover the truth about Rogue discovered that Nick leaked what was supposed to be kept secret – and probably sent this Sannes to have him killed. I'm certain that Pixis thinks that this Sannes likely knows more than perhaps Nick did."
"That's why he sent us this urgent message then." Hange processed. "Pixis wants us to interrogate Sannes to see how much knowledge he has on Rogue before the MP's show up to relocate him."
The Corporal heaved a sigh, abandoning the wall that he had been leaning against. "So, it looks as if we aren't getting any sleep tonight. I take it you want us to go to Katness immediately?" Levi queried, almost sounding bored. Erwin nodded.
"Yes. Take the carriage so you are not seen or look suspicious. Make sure you leave before the MP's arrive." Erwin paused, his eyes narrowing with utter seriousness. "And… prepare to use any means necessary to get what you need."
His fingers were folded beneath his chin, teeth nearly grinding against one another while the carriage rhythmically rattled and vibrated from the brick path beneath them. Amazingly, although it was close to the midnight hour, his body wasn't feeling the least bit fatigued – on the contrary he was wide awake and admittedly nervous. Eyes cold as steel glanced up to observe Hange who was seated quietly across from him – an abnormality in itself. Admittedly though, he was happy she was quiet for the time being. Late in the afternoon, just before the coming night, Levi had been hoping for a fairly pleasant evening that would have just composed of him doing paperwork, getting it reviewed, and finally sinking into a plush mattress to fall into a state of deep repose. Now however, his evening had been interrupted by some idiot with a knife and what was most likely an order to kill. Although he felt completely annoyed, he was troubled greatly. What else was possibly being kept secret about the giant brat?
Levi sighed, leaning back in his seat to stare at the ceiling before turning his attention to the curtained window. Slowly, he lifted a finger and pulled the drape back in the slightest, letting only a sliver of moonlight into the lantern lit cabin. Outside, he saw only the activity that the night provided. There were stray cats looking for scraps, drunkards drinking outside bars, and the occasional run of the mill citizen moving through town after working late to likely provide for their family. Levi sighed, quickly tiring at his attempt of distracting himself as he closed the curtain and relaxed in his seat – eyes peering upward to watch the lantern above their heads sway with each movement of the carriage. It wouldn't be much longer until they got to headquarters. The man discreetly bit his lip. Pixis had described Sannes as an individual that was difficult to crack and the Garrison themselves had made no progress in getting any answers from him. Deep down, Levi was fully aware that he may have to resort to extreme measures – retaking a profession that he had back during his despicable life in the Underground.
Honestly, he wished that it wouldn't come to that.
Hearing Hange's unexpected serious tone, Levi drew his attention away from the lantern and placed his gaze onto the Section Commander whose mouth was in a firm line. "Yes?"
"I've been thinking. I'm sure that the royal family and the church was well aware that we knew that Rogue could control and manipulate titans to some degree. However, I'm starting to think that there is something else that they are trying to hide from us."
The Corporal lifted a brow at this. Surely there wasn't more to the brat's abilities. Controlling titans was already imposing and frightening enough. "What do you mean?" He questioned. Hange sighed, looking down at her shoes.
"Well, hypothetically, I think there could be more to the coordinate than we or Rogue know. I think – the fact that Rogue can control titans may not be their main concern. I believe that there is something more to Rogue's power that is putting the Reiss and the church on edge and it's something that they are terrified of. They are so scared in fact, that they are using any means necessary to keep anyone's mouth shut. Not to mention, they enlisted Historia into the trainees to learn how to slay a titan like Rogue."
Levi simply stared at the woman. There couldn't possibly be a more terrifying ability to fear other than Rogue's power over the titans could there? The man only exhaled, letting his attention drift to the lantern again. "I suppose that we will perhaps find out if what you believe is true tonight or not when we interrogate Sannes."
Hange quietly nodded, her eyes drifting over to the wall adjacent from her, studying the intricate patterns upon the silk lining. "I hope so. I just hope the man cracks. It's certainly not going to be easy." Hange paused, suddenly crossing her arms and letting out a prolonged sigh. "This is happening so fast. Little did we know that Rogue was much more special than we originally thought. Poor Rogue, he hasn't quite accepted all of this yet. Levi, I'm not sure we should tell him anything even if we are able to get some facts out of Sannes."
Levi settled further in his seat. Hange had a clear point. It didn't take an expert to figure out that Rogue was struggling deep down to accept his role that he had been burdened with. Such clearly showed during their meeting. However, he didn't like keeping things from the brat. "It depends on what we can find out, Hange. Some things might have to be addressed to him. Then again, knowing how things have been lately, Rogue may find out the hard way somewhere soon down the line. I'm fully aware that the brat is delicate and has the mentality and mannerisms of a child, but keeping him in the dark about anything pertaining to him is questionable." The man replied, his tone low but nearly sounding lost in thought.
Across from him, Hange dipped her head in understanding, eyes half lidded and looking solemn. "True. At this day and age… it's difficult to keep things under wraps."
The man's nose wrinkled at the Section Commander's commentary. "I hope whatever this man had to hide will be easily drawn out by guilt. Otherwise, I'll have to put a bit of effort into it."
For a moment, Hange blinked, complexly perplexed, until she realized the real meaning behind his words. She only nodded in return and settled in her seat. Not very many people would have understood his statement, but with Hange now knowing his past, she understood him perfectly. If it was one thing that he appreciated her doing, it was that she never questioned him about his past. It was certainly something that he did not like to talk about. Living in the Underground was rough – full of prostitution, thievery, and senseless murder. Sometimes one would have to stoop down to the lowest level and perform tasks that any god above would frown upon just to survive.
Sometimes, memories of what he had to do haunted him in his sleep.
Before Levi could retreat deeper into his thoughts, the carriage stopped. For a moment, the air between the two Scouts was tense until the door to cabin opened with their cabbie politely standing aside to grant them passage and guidance. Without a word, Levi lifted himself from his seat and exited the carriage to stand before two familiar faces. As Hange left the carriage to stand next to him, Levi beheld an amazingly sober looking Pixis who's face looked nothing like its usual mellow appearance but rather a stern one with his mouth pinched and brows drawn together. Next to the high ranking man was the Garrison soldier that he had met on a previous occasion and the same that had enlightened the Scouts about Rogue's true nature and connection to Ackerman and Arlert. Hannes was the man's name if he remembered correctly and the soldier helped them fight off the Armored Titan – although he was clearly what one would call a chicken. Routinely, Levi and Hange saluted to the Commander who only responded with the same gesture and a curt nod.
"I must thank you two for coming on such short notice. Normally, I would have passed this off as a hate crime against the church, but the timing of such an event and the fact that Nick told you classified information just before he was murdered, was too much of a suspicion. The fact that this Sannes isn't talking leads me to believe that he's also hiding something. I'd enlighten you further, but I'm sure Erwin has probably already figured out my ideas and worries and already has shared them with you." Pixis informed with Levi nodding.
"Yes, as you say, Erwin gave us the details right before we promptly left."
"Ah. That's good. Now, I have to prepare for the MP's arrival in the morning so Hannes here will take you to Sannes and give you further details. I wish the two of you luck."
"Thank you, Sir."
He then watched as the Commander then walked away and Hannes motioned for them to follow him. "Won't the two of you accompany me? We have Sannes on the south end of headquarters in a holding cell. Don't worry about trying not to look suspicious here, every Garrison stationed here knows what's going on."
"Understood." Hange spoke quietly as they began to trail Hannes into the interior of the Garrison headquarters.
Levi remained emotionless and quiet as they passed through the building. Like nearly all of The Garrison headquarters, it was bland and had a similar structure like the others stationed in every major town in the walls. In his years of being a Corporal, he had frequented many of them. Normally, they were littered with many drunk, tipsy, or nearly hungover soldiers. Now however, the Garrison headquarters of Katness was more like a temporary hospital with the many wounded soldiers still recovering from their injuries. Some of the freshly recruited soldiers looked absolutely traumatized as they walked about the halls, some stopping to take notice of the two Scouts as they passed by – even whispering amongst themselves before returning to what they had been assigned to do in a hurry. Levi quickly adverted his gaze back to both Hannes and Hange. He desperately wanted to make this quick.
"You'll have to excuse the state of the place. We were left in pretty rough shape after the second breach and the mission to retrieve Rogue – not to mention that Armored Titan left us with fewer numbers and even more injuries. The damn bastard."
"It's not a problem. We're in a similar state." Hange replied, keeping the conversation going. Hannes nodded.
"I see. So how is your Commander? I heard he lost his arm to a titan."
"You heard right. Erwin is pretty exhausted, but he's stubborn and insisting that he kept working even from bed." Hange laughed lightly.
"Ah, well he's got some spirit! So, how about Rogue? I imagine he's exhausted from everything that happened."
For a second, Hange was quiet until she let out a drawn out sigh. "He's – stressed out from the situation and Rogue's having trouble accepting some changes and truths. Overall, he's just very tired. He expelled quite a bit of energy during his encounter with The Armored Titan as well as during the escape from our enemy." The woman put simply, clear to Levi that she didn't wish to continue with their conversation. He wasn't particularly sure however, if Hange just didn't feel like disclosing any further information, or was just not wanting to slip up and say things that shouldn't be said. Luckily, Hannes seemed to get the message.
"Ah, I bet the boy is. I do hope he starts to feel better as well." The soldier spoke as he led them into a courtyard that was located in the very center of Garrison headquarters. It was basically a copy of the one in Ehrmich district, completely surrounded on all sides and secluded from the public and any prying eyes that would want to see what they were doing. One side of the courtyard served as a stable for horses, leading back into a small barn where the odor of manure and the familiar smell of hay radiated from. On his right was a station set aside for equipment repair which was practically full with the engineers having gone home for the evening. Directly across from them on the far side of the courtyard, was a large wooden door that was blocked off by two guards that looked as if they were on the verge of falling asleep. The trio then paused before the door with Hannes exchanging a few words with the guards before the two men allowed them passage.
Levi kept his signature scowl as he passed them, appearing completely unamused as the moonlight vanished, the party entering a darkened corridor only lit by torches and lamplight. As they descended down a set of stairs, it became clear that this part of headquarters was a much earlier build. The stone floor was more worn and the walls showed a brick pattern that had not been used in ages. Finally, after descending at least twelve feet, their party hit the bottom and only floor. Hannes then began to lead Hange and Levi down a long and narrow corridor. On one side of the wall, it was lined with torches and the other was lined with wooden doors with tiny windows sealed by iron bars. It was a dungeon, reminding him a bit of the one back in Stohess that Erwin was held in – without the stench. It was a known fact that in districts without MP posts such as Katness, the Garrison would be in charge of arresting suspects and placing them in holding cells until they saw fit and for more serious crimes such as murder, the culprit would be held until taken by the MP's – which was the case with Sannes. Levi scrutinized the cells further as they passed, taking note that most of them were really being utilized as storage spaces being full of spare gas canisters and even feed for the horses. It was something to be expected though, Katness was relatively a crime free district with the only troublemakers an occasional drunkard. Thus, the dungeons in Garrison headquarters were much cleaner than those of the Military Police. It made Levi truly thank the heavens.
Hannes guided them to a door that resided nearly in the center of the corridor that had two guards posted right outside – clearly displaying that they had reached their destination. Inwardly, Levi prepared himself while Hannes nodded to the two guards before turning to them and clearing his throat.
"Alright. Sannes is just inside. He's bound currently so he's not going anywhere. As you can image, he's not been too friendly with us. These two guards will be just outside for your convenience as well. Remember, the MP's come in the morning to take this guy away so you only have until dawn to try and get what you need. I wish the two of you luck." Hannes saluted before walking back the way which they came with the two guards stepping aside for them to enter.
"Alright." He began, his hand hovering near the knob of the door and eyes looking to a serious looking Hange. "How about you start with the questioning. I'll just jump in when I need to." He proposed with the woman suddenly wearing a smirk.
"Oh I see!" Hange lightly chuckled. "A 'good cop bad cop' routine?"
He frowned. "If you wish to classify it as such. It's more like 'fucking crazy cop and the 'asshole' with you being the crazy one."
To his dismay, Hange only smiled. "Ah, I see how it is. Hopefully my insanity makes him snap." The Section Commander teased but with her grin suddenly morphing back into a serious frown. "I'll just do my best to get the truth out of him."
His scowl deepened. "Whatever. Just do what you need to do and I'll do the same." He concluded with Hange nodding, most likely catching his underlining meaning once again.
Next, Levi then took a deep breath, a sharp inhale, before he turned the iron knob and opened the door. The room itself was no bigger than a ten by ten space. It was cold and only lit by lanterns set aside for their visit. In the center of the room were two empty chairs facing a third one where a man was seated with his gaze upon them. Levi's brows lifted in the slightest, mildly surprised at Sannes's appearance which was what he did not expect. The man was older than what he thought, at least in his late forties or early fifties. Sannes had short black hair with strands of grey, a long face with high cheekbones, and sunken eyes surrounded by slight wrinkles. The man peered back at them with a gaze that was nothing short of irritated as Hange trailed Levi into the room and sealed the door shut behind them. Even as Hange took a seat afore the man, he said nothing – simply staring as Levi stood intimidatingly with his arms folded and famous scowl deeper than usual. The Corporal simply remained observant as Hange cleared her throat and put a smile on her face – one of the fakest that Levi had ever seen. To some it would have been genuine, but to him as someone who could read emotions well, it was severely forced.
"So you must be Del Sannes!" Hange began, displaying a friendly act. "I am Section Commander Hange Zoe and my friend here is Corporal Levi! We are here on the behalf of Commander Erwin of the Survey Corps." The woman continued with Levi ignoring her title that she had given him. "We are here to ask you a few questions." Hange informed with Levi observing as her cheerful expression morphed into one of absolute seriousness – eyes promising punishment if what she seeked didn't come. Levi raised a brow at this, wondering who was really playing the bad cop in the situation. "Now, did you kill Pastor Nick?"
The Corporal observed as the man's brows pinched together and a look of defiance painted itself across his features. "Well, you certainly have a sudden change in demeanor don't you Miss Zoe?" Sannes began, his voice low and scratchy – reminding Levi of the tones of the many men in the Underground who smoked like there was no tomorrow. "Of course, I think you already know the answer to your question."
The woman's mouth turned down at the corners in the slightest. "So you did kill Nick. Why?"
Levi remained silent as the culprit continued. "I think you know that answer too, Section Commander. But this is one query I'll be glad to answer verbally. Nick just wouldn't keep his damn mouth shut."
Hange only nodded and pulled out a pen and pad, ready to jot down notes. "Alright. You are completely aware that Nick told us some classified details about Rogue. Now, I suspect that there is more about Rogue that the man didn't tell us. Right now, you need to tell us everything you know about the titan. Starting right now."
For a moment it was silent between the three until Sannes unexpectedly grinned – close to looking mad. "You two are absolute fools as with every other Scout! His Majesty and his kin are the ones that sealed us in these walls. His Majesty is right in mind and peace only comes with imprisonment not with war!" Sannes beamed, suddenly gaining a smug look upon his face and any hope that Levi had about the man giving in and telling the truth was diminished. "Humanity's Strongest huh? I'm sure you are a smart man Levi. I'm certain that you can guess what the monster hides."
Glancing at Hange, he could see that the woman was both perplexed and growing cross. "You can speak in a way that could be understood you know. For now, we'll come back to that question. Now, who sent you to kill Nick? It's clear that you didn't act alone."
Again, the man smiled. "I thought this was a clear enough answer Miss Hange that you could have figured out. I do the bidding of the first squad."
Hange quickly scribed the words before looking back up at Sannes. "The first squad. What is that?"
Sannes still wore his grin, leaning back confidently in his seat. "The first squad does the devil's work. We are the king's horses and the king's men. We are the shadows you can't see in the dark. We are the loyal subjects who spill sinner's blood. We are one of man's nearly forgotten secrets."
Levi's brows narrowed even further. They certainly weren't gaining any headway at all and it was clear that the Garrison was telling the truth about Sannes not willing to talk.
Hange exhaled, breath sharp. "Hmm, well then. How many of you are in this first squad?"
"You seem to be getting impatient with me Miss Zoe."
Hange's eyes narrowed. "Let me return to my previous question. What more do you know about Rogue Jaeger?"
Sannes chuckled, the vocal dry. "You are persistent. Quite pushy too." The man paused, eyes adverting to the wall to stare at nothing in particular in an aloof expression. "Rogue is a fucking fifteen-meter titan. Does that answer your question Miss Hange?" The man spoke sarcastically.
"No. It doesn't Mr. Sannes." Hange replied, coldness laced in her voice. "Let me elaborate. What else do you know about Rogue's power? Why would the true royal family and the church want to keep the truth silent? Am I clear enough with my question?" The woman continued, diving deeper into the information that the Scouts knew to try and proceed further.
The culprit however said nothing, simply looking at Hange with an almost bored look. Sannes let out an exasperated sigh. "Because the Ugly Duckling is a swan. But I guess you already knew that." The man smirked. "Any more questions you want to ask Miss Zoe?"
Hange's eyes narrowed. "I'm not going to repeat myself. Answer my question. We don't have all evening." The Section Commander informed with Sannes suddenly letting out a laugh.
"That's true that you don't have all evening. The MP's will come in the morning and take me away – likely to be tried in court with the verdict of guilty. I'll then be executed for murder and that will be the end of it. I'll go to hell where I belong like you people probably want."
At the man's words Hange said nothing, tapping her pin on her notepad – the ink making a messy splotch. From where he stood, Levi could already see that the woman's face was tinting a shade of red. It was then that Levi decided that he needed to intervene. The classic interrogation wasn't going to work. Slowly, Levi approached the man, his bored look still upon his face as he took a step before Hange who looked away from her notebook and up to him in question. Sannes met his scowl with his own, but amazingly said nothing as the two men continued to stand their own ground. Finally, Levi cleared his throat and casually rolled up his sleeves – his expression not changing in the slightest.
"How about I ask the questions now? Since you've been nothing but a dick I figured I would have a turn to see if I can make you crack." The Corporal began as he lowered his arms, trying to appear as collected as possible. "Now. I'll start with the same question, but I'll just reword it. What more is there to Rogue's power that you feel the need to keep under wraps at all costs? What was so important that provoked someone to send you to kill a rat? Start talking. I'm not a patient person. Nor do I like dealing with complete shitheads. So you better give me a coherent answer"
Sannes blinked, brows pinching together and his forehead wrinkling. "Why don't you piss off? All of you are fools an –
However, the man didn't get the chance to finish his sentence as Levi's balled fist heavily impacted the man's jaw. Sannes's head snapped roughly to the side and blood decorated the adjacent wall – the sound of a tooth hitting the floor eerily echoed in the small cell. The chair shuttered and the man's breath was caught in his throat. The reverberation of Hange's falling seat sounded throughout the room as the woman stood in shock. However, Levi paid no attention. He was a hunter too transfixed upon his prey. Dazed from the hit, Sannes hung his head, blood running from his lips in a steady trickle to pool between his legs. Levi's gaze grew dangerous as Sannes finally tilted his head back to look at the man – his eyes showing absolute fear for the first time. The look was the very same that the old Levi would crave back in the Underground. He was a skilled thief and dangerous gang member. Even when he was very young he killed and tortured. Levi hated the person he once was, although he was cold and stern from his experience, he despised the fact that he had been reduced from slaughtering titans to beating a man for the truth. The only thing that didn't make him ill was the fact that Sannes was a murderer.
"That was the wrong answer. Let me repeat the question. Why is Rogue's power being kept under wraps?" He spoke gruffly, his fist clenched and ready to strike again.
Amazingly, Sannes didn't utter a single word, he just kept his frustrated gaze. The lack of response provoked the beast to come out of Levi again as he swung his fist, knuckles meeting flesh and crimson spraying. Before Sannes could whimper like a wounded animal, the Corporal swung his left fist, knocking Sannes's opposite side of his face. Levi nearly reveled at the sensation of snapping bone, his target's nose breaking with blood now decorating the man's face. Levi then quickly caught the tipping chair and sat the man straight again. It was then that the man gave a low drone – his head swaying and blood now decorating his chest. Levi however wasn't finished as he slammed his heel down on top of the man's foot with Sannes yowling like a dying cat. Gripping the arms of the chair, the Corporal leaned closer, his steel gaze burning into his victim like a judgmental god.
"Levi," Hange cut in, her speech seemingly higher than before. "We can't beat the crap out of him! The Military Police –
"Don't worry." Levi replied, his eyes still locked upon his prey like a cat to a mouse. "I have nothing to pull his fingernails off or to clip his balls with. All my doings will only appear as if the Garrison roughed this idiot up a bit in a scuffle while he attempted to flee. Nothing more. We'll leave before those bastards can get close." Levi paused, bending even lower where their faces were merely inches apart, ignoring Hange's lack of response. "Now, where were we… oh yes. Since you seem to be having trouble answering my question, let me move on to another one. I only have two questions and I'll ask them repeatedly until you answer. So, did the real royal family, the Reiss, send you to do their bidding? Or did they hire another party to not get blood upon their hands? And did such a party hire the first squad who sent you to do their dirty work?"
Sannes grunted, blood dripping in clumps from his nose. Levi observed as the man's head swayed. As much as he didn't want to get his hands physically dirty, he needed the man to be alert enough for his questioning. Without wasting any more time, Levi quickly pinched the mangled bridge of Sannes's broken nose that was now horridly disfigured. The culprit let out a screech as he tightened his grip – blood oozing into the wrinkles of his knuckles. Levi nearly scoffed at the unwanted crimson, but kept his nerve. He would just rid his hands of filth later. "I apologize, but I need you awake. How about your answer? Ready to give it to me?"
Sannes's now reddened eyes looked to the Corporal in terror. The man's face barely twitched however even as Levi tightened his hold – Sannes only grinding his teeth. His own temper flared as the man's eyes suddenly narrowed, irises changing to a look of rebellion once again. Before Levi could react, Sannes pursed his lips and spat, blood splattering over his bleached shirt and spots landing upon his jaw. Like a beast, he could feel his irritation turn to fury. The fucker before him was incredibly stupid and he would now drill the fact into the suspect's head. With his mouth formed in a snarl, Levi growled and planted his fist into the man's stomach – forcing Sannes to awkwardly bend over with a pained inhale. Levi wasn't finished however as he quickly brought his knee into the man's chin, forcing a second tooth to fly towards the ceiling.
"FUCK!" Sannes choked, his blood distorting his speech.
"God… Levi –
He ignored all pleas and continued his work. Smoothly, skilled from practice, Levi placed a boot beneath the chair's edge and lifted upward – Sannes and his chair falling backward onto the floor with the man's head bouncing from the impact like a child's ball. Placing his foot onto the edge of the chair again, Levi shoved both the man and the piece of cheap furniture across the room so forcefully that the man's head hit the far wall. "Of all the stupid moves you could have made – you pulled that one." The Corporal growled as he motioned briskly to the man – grabbing his shirt and pulling both Sannes and the chair upright again. "Just for that, how about every time you don't answer or reply with bullshit I hit you harder until you squeal like the pig you are and lay it all out for me." He spoke with venom practically dripping from his tone. Sannes coughed, a sneer returning to his face – a false display of confidence.
"You're - a monster." The man growled out with Levi merely blinking at the meaning of the insult.
"I'm no more of a monster than you are Mr. Sannes. You however are a cowardly beast." Levi retorted without missing a single beat. "Now, again. Did the Reiss put you up to this or did someone they hire did?"
"I… already answered that!"
The Corporal's eyes flashed with a dangerous glint as he instinctively advanced with a brutal uppercut to Sannes's chin. Again, blood decorated the wall at the quick but brutal blow, droplets touching his cheeks and lips. It was well known that Rogue craved such a sensation at the sight and feeling of being coated with his foe's blood. Levi however would be lying if he said that he favored the sensation. At the moment however, he was far too lustful for the truth to care. "You reiterate that answer in a tongue that I and Shitty Glasses over here can understand."
Without a hint of regrets or remorse, Levi threw his fist forward again into Sannes's jaw. The horrific sound of splitting bone met their ears as the man's jaw was fractured. Once more, the culprit screamed like a bound to be slaughtered hog. At the hit, the man and his chair toppled over again with Sannes's head hitting the floor for a second time. To his luck, the man was still conscious enough for him to proceed with his rough interrogation. "Again, wrong answer. I can keep this up all night Sannes. You've got a broken nose, enough blood loss to make you dizzy, a broken jaw, and likely a concussion. I don't think you'll last much longer before you pass out. So I'll be sure to get the truth from you beforehand." Levi spoke as he repositioned himself to stand imposingly afore the man. "Let's switch to the other question. What more is there to Rogue's power? Why would the true king want to keep the fact secret? Why would he order someone to kill Nick? Why would he wish to remove Rogue Jaeger from the equation?"
However, his prey only lay upon the floor, staring up at him with a mixture of fear and willfulness. The lack of an answer fueled his frustration even further and provoked the Corporal to give a swift kick to the man's stomach yet again. Sannes reflexively curled in as best as he could upon himself and coughed up more crimson to stain the damp floor. "You might want to start talking."
A bloody and beaten face rotated to peer up at him once again, but Sannes did nothing.
And so Levi kicked once more.
A rib snapped, but Sannes remained silent, muffling his scream of agony.
Thus, the Corporal repeated his action.
Blood left the man's lips once again but no words were muttered.
He brought his heel upon the man's shoulder, his patience wearing thinner by the second.
Again, blood sprayed the bricked floor but Sannes somehow held his ground.
Once more, Levi repeated the question and received the same response, kicking the pathetic soul again in the stomach. Asking the query again, Sannes only remained defiant. Levi however had enough. He wanted his answer. He didn't want to get dirty for nothing. So he kicked again.
The floor painted itself red and the Corporal stood back, staring down at the man in disgust as he tried to catch his breath. Slowly, Levi reached up and attempted to fix his ruffled locks as his ice like eyes watched his victim struggle to breathe through the pain. Sannes's eyes were half lidded and stubbornly hanging on to consciousness. At this, Levi exhaled; fatigue was settling into him and with Sannes's lack of cooperation – it was clear that their attempts were fruitless and the man was fully committed to keeping his lips sealed no matter what. "Worthless piece of shit." He muttered, his tone laced with exasperation. "You must be on a very tight leash if you'd rather be beaten to death than say the one thing that can save you – the one thing that may lighten your prison sentence." Levi lied, heaving another breath. "Boy the Garrison has a lot to clean up after you –
The Corporal however didn't get the chance to finish his sentence as a foot that wasn't his own hit Sannes square in the chest with the man releasing a cry of agony. Stunned, Levi turned to see a furious looking Hange standing adjacent to him and over their subject of interrogation. To Levi's further surprise, the woman's face contorted into a maddened look with a sick smile. He said nothing, he couldn't remember when he had seen the very look upon the Section Commander's face.
"Oh Sannes! You're the silent type aren't you!" Hange playfully taunted. "You've been beaten like a dirty rug and not one word! Incredible. You are an intriguing specimen!" Hange chuckled darkly as she suddenly kicked the man's chin again, staining her pant leg with splotches of crimson. "Too bad I can't take skin samples and fingernail samples hell even a blood sample from you to figure out why humans are a delicacy to titans! Ah! I bet they would fancy the taste of a man like you!" Hange cackled as her foot made contact with Sannes's face yet again – bending his broken nose in a completely different direction. The man only whimpered like a dying dog.
Before the woman could act further, the door to the cell opened with Hannes waiting within the frame. He himself looked disturbed at the scene that looked as if it came straight out of a horror novel. "Er – I came to warn the two of you that the MP's are coming earlier than expected. You two only have an hour left to get him to talk." Hannes could barely speak, too transfixed by the grueling sight. Levi sighed.
"Shit. We have to hurry this up."
"Right! You hear that Sannes!" Hange smiled. "We're going to have to work a little harder to get the truth out of –
"W…wait. P…lease." Sannes unexpectedly uttered, catching the two Scouts off guard. "I'll… answer."
Levi's brows lifted at the man's words. "So you're finally going to talk huh?"
Sannes nodded. "Y…es. But… please… don't hit… me again."
"Well, we're listening. I believe you know by now what we asked."
Sannes quickly cleared his throat. "I… don't know the name… of the one… who hired us. I'm a low… ranked and new member. This… was my… initiation. But I know… why your titan… is a target."
Sannes swallowed, and turned to look up at them in absolute fear. "Your titan… Rogue… is the King of All Earth." The man spoke before darkness clearly claimed him.
Both Hange and Levi were speechless as they simply stared down at the unconscious man. For what seemed like minutes, all was silent until Levi snapped back to reality.
"As much as I would like to ask this bastard what the hell he means, we don't have the time to revive him. We got valid information, but now we need to leave."
As Hannes ushered the two Scouts out of the Garrison headquarters, Levi couldn't help but be in a daze. Sannes, although stubborn and difficult to crack, had given he and Hange revealing news. There was this first squad that he had never heard of that seemed to be a group that wasn't associated with the Mp's but rather a force that was hired to do the dirty work. Of course, the thing that Levi was having trouble wrapping his head around was the information Sannes spoke about Rogue – a fact that he was willing to get beaten to death over. Rogue – was 'The King of All Earth' – what in the hell did the bastard mean by that? Was that giant idiot –
"Your ride is here!"
At the Garrison soldier's words, Levi drifted from his train of thought to see the Scouts' carriage coming from around the corner and quickly approaching them – the horse's nostrils flaring as it galloped in a hasty advance. It wouldn't be much longer before the Military Police showed up and Levi was thankful of the carriage's prompt arrival. They needed to hurry and get the news to their Commander.
"Good. It's about time we should be going." Hange responded. "Please tell Pixis that we thank him for the opportunity."
"No problem. The Commander is just glad that you could come on such short notice."
Levi only nodded in reply as the cabbie steered the carriage before them, the horse coming to an abrupt halt. The driver of the carriage barely acknowledged them as he messily climbed down from his seat. "We need to get this information to Erwin quickly." He began sternly, eyes watching the man rounded the cab. "Although it's nearly three in the morning, I don't care if his ass is asleep I'm waking him. I fear that what we were just told is incredibly serious."
Hange dipped her head in agreement, saying nothing in response as the cabbie opened the door to the carriage. Worrying that anyone could be close by watching, the two Scouts quickly bid farewell to Hannes and climbed into the small cab, sealing the door behind them. However, as they sat, they were met with an unexpected surprise.
Seated across from the two was none other than Erwin himself. The man looked exhausted and frankly unkempt. Erwin was dark beneath his eyes and had not bothered to tend to his blonde locks. The man was still in his evening clothes, but his face wore the same serious look as always. Levi's lip curled in the slightest. The Commander was wise, but he clearly didn't know what bedrest meant.
"Erwin? What the hell are you doing? You're not even supposed to be riding in a horse carriage let alone be out of bed period. If you bleed out that's your own fault."
"Levi," The man retorted, his address sharp. "This is more important. Besides, I'm on pain medication currently and I have emergency clot powder of my wound opens." Erwin paused, lifting a finger to gesture at the two of them. "You both look worse for wear so I take it that Sannes was difficult to crack. What were you able to get out of him?" The Commander questioned as the carriage lurched forward and began to ride off into Katness at what felt like a brisk pace.
Hange quickly pulled out her notepad, flipping the cover before clearing her throat. "It was difficult – Levi and I had to rough Sannes up a bit and force the truth out of him. Sannes spoke mostly in analogies and metaphors so he wasn't straightforward at all. But he did tell us he was sent to kill Nick by a group called the first squad." Hange paused, glancing from her notes to Erwin. "Sannes described the first squad as, and I quote: 'The first squad does the devil's work. We are the king's horses and the king's men. We are the shadows you can't see in the dark. We are the loyal subjects who spill sinner's blood. We are one of man's nearly forgotten secrets.' At first I was skeptical, but I'm guessing they are hired assassins of some kind. Does 'first squad' mean anything to you Erwin? Have you heard of them?" Hange alliterated as the carriage turned another corner.
Erwin sat back in his seat, eyes suddenly adverting to the floor. "No, I can't say that I've heard of them. By the description you gave me it does sound as if they are hired assassins or mercenaries. It's interesting that Sannes used the phrase 'king's men' which makes me think that The real king of the walls hired these men or had someone else hire them for him. Either the Reiss themselves, the church, or some other party."
"Exactly." The Corporal began. "We suspected the same thing."
"Yes." Hange continued. "Especially when he said: 'His Majesty is right in mind and peace only comes with imprisonment not with war' – which definitely reefers to the Reiss or more specifically Historia's father. Still, we don't have definite proof if he indeed hired the first squad himself."
"True." Erwin spoke. "Historia doesn't even know the name of her own father either due to the fact that she was predominantly raised by someone else." The man looked to them again. "That's more key information that we need to dig up. What else did you find out?"
For a moment the two were silent, the Corporal making note that Hange was making no move to reply as she kept staring at her messy handwriting at the most incriminating fact that she had written hastily as they had made their way out of Garrison headquarters. The woman appeared as if she was still too stunned by the fact to speak it. Levi finally exhaled.
"Erwin, it took us beating Sannes within an inch of his life to get this out of him. Sannes said that the big brat was 'The King of All Earth' – which I admittedly find unsettling."
"The – King of Earth?" Erwin acknowledged with Hange finally nodding.
"Yes. Erwin – I think our previous assumption that Rogue was the King of Titans could be severely off. Nick said that Rogue was an entity that ruled over titans and men. I believe, going by this new information, that Rogue may indeed be the true ruler of the world."
It was silent as the carriage continued to roll over the cobblestone streets of Katness, the dark sky starting to lighten as the wagon passed over the district's border. Each of the three Scouts bore looks that hid their stress at the truth. The Corporal shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"I'm having trouble swallowing the fact that our bumbling idiot of a titan is this King of All Earth. But I can't deny that Mehr and the other shit deviants obviously were aware of this."
Hange sighed. "It is difficult to take in. I don't blame you. It's hard seeing our gentle giant as such. Don't get me wrong, it's incredible but it's just so troublesome to think about. Rogue just wants to live normally and I've seen just how stressed he is knowing how much an important role he's in."
"Indeed." Erwin sighed, sounding almost tired for the first time since he had met the two of them shortly before. "I do wonder if Rogue knew this in his past at all." The man dithered, reaching once again to scratch at his other arm that was absent. "I think it's painfully clear that Rogue is considered as such do to his power. I am starting to wonder if this was the fact that the Reiss and the church was trying to hide rather than the possibility that there was more to Rogue's uncanny ability. Then again, Sannes could not have told you both everything and there really is more to what Rogue can do that puts him in this position. I'm still leaning towards my second theory myself."
Levi only dipped his head at the meaning of Erwin's statement, his nod in understanding barely detectable. Damn how he hated this. He wished that Sannes would have spoken much more.
"Erwin – should we, you know, tell Rogue this?"
For a brief second the man looked up at the swaying lantern before placing his hardened blues back to them. "For now, I wouldn't. At least until we know more. As far as sharing what you learned with Ackerman and Arlert, that is it up to the two of you. You may let your new squad know as well Levi, but keep it from Rogue for now. As far as when you can tell them, that's your decision as well."
"Of course, when we arrive back at headquarters – I assume the first you'll do is wash up before turning in. You can postpone any of your training sessions to catch up on sleep."
At the statement, Levi was then aware of his blood splattered clothes and skin. Knowing that there was nothing to cleanse it from him in the carriage, the Corporal only released a vexed breath. "That's the first thing I'm doing. My squad is asleep anyway. By the way," He continued as he turned to face Hange who possessed the same marks of blood spatter. "I wasn't expecting you to get in on the action. You looked like you had gone mad and I'd go as far as saying that you appeared to enjoy it."
Hange shrugged her shoulders, chuckling lightly. "I'm always prepared to do anything for Rogue, including getting the truth pertaining to him. Besides – Sannes was piece of crap."
Levi sat back at the woman's answer but otherwise nodded. Minutes passed by as the carriage continued to roll gently across the scarce countryside, leaving Katness in the distance. No one spoke a single word, only looking out the curtained window, twiddling their thumbs, or watching the swaying lantern. Finally, the awkward and tense aura was broken by the clearing of the Commander's throat.
"In light of this recent event, I believe necessary precautions need to be made for our trip to Sina next month for the trial." Erwin started, sounding even more grave than before.
"Rogue is being summoned as a witness for my trial the day after I take the stand and give my testimony. If you two can recall the incident with the hunters stumbling upon Rogue and the iron bamboo bullet that he was shot with – I believe those men could have been part of the first squad as well. Which means –
"Rogue is at risk."
"Precisely." Erwin confirmed. "Not only is he a target, but Miss Reiss is also. Thus, I believe it would be wise if during our stay in Sina, if both Rogue and Historia were taken to an undisclosed and remote location near Olvid district until court calls for Rogue. The location I have in mind is the farm owned by Dita Ness's parents. At one time they used to breed our horses for us until we took on the task. On occasion they supply us with home grown food goods and natural ingredients. No one knows we have any relation to them. The farm is located in a wooded area with wide stretches of farmland that's far from civilization. When the time comes, we'll take Rogue and Historia there. Molbit as well."
"Alright. What about my Squad along with Ackerman and Arlert? Knowing Rogue, he won't be too pleased with the separation. Does Arlert and Ackerman have to be witnesses for this case as well?"
Erwin nodded. "Upon reading into the court summons, all of you are. Levi, you and your squad will remain in Olvid district, with your gear close by as well as other personal protection on hand. After you finish your testimonies, you'll return to the farm in an unmarked carriage that will pick you up on the outskirts of Olvid. Hange will remain with me in case I need to pass on messages. The next day, all of you will escort Rogue to the court. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Sir." Hange and himself spoke in unison.
"Right. I'll go ahead and say this as well. Be cautious of the Military Police. We can't deny the connection of the bullet to the old guns the MP's once used. Not only that but the fact that the man that previously attacked Rogue was a former MP soldier. It may be bizarre to say, but Nile himself may be the only truthful MP we know of. Sure, he is arrogant, but he mostly just follows orders from the false king. Still, keep him in the dark of what's going on here. And of course, if you see any persons that appear suspicious. Deal with them any way you see fit. If a man like Sannes can kill a middle aged priest, these first squad members have no problem with killing anyone. Do I make myself clear?"
"Understood, Sir." Levi replied as he settled back into his seat. The truth was absolutely one that he did not wish to hear. Deep down, he was fully aware that they were most certainly not out of the woods. It was likely that Pastor Nick's confession was going to snowball future events.
The day was a beautiful one. The wide countryside fertile with wheat and other crops he couldn't find a name to seemed to dance in the gentle breeze. Water from a distant mill glittered in the sunlight and the trees appeared to whisper about the coming fall. If he could have Rogue would have stopped to lie and roll about upon his back in the fields to soak in the sun. However, he, his little ones, squad, and several of the higher ups had a schedule to keep as they made their way towards Sina.
Discreetly, Rogue looked down to see the leading carriage that both Erwin and Levi rode in as well as an open wagon much like the ones that the Scouts brought on missions that the young recruits were seated in as well as a Hange that was riding her own horse between the two of them. Rogue could feel himself tilt his head in the slightest – still puzzled at what he was looking at. For some reason, his little ones had dismounted from his shoulders and moved to sit among his young squad mates in the wagon with no real explanation as to why they were doing so. The titan blinked, studying further. The plain wagon seemed to carry several supplies that were purposely covered by a tarp and held several items that really had no place in the wagon – such as several crates of grapes and what he had heard someone describe as bottles of wine. His family's lack of uniforms perplexed him as well – all of which were simply wearing casual clothes with the addition of an unmarked cloak. His Armin and Mikasa seemed unnatural still, almost as if they were forcing themselves to look at nothing in particular. Admittedly, he was worried.
A month had quickly gone by since their clash with the other deviant titans. Things had gone about like usual along with the new session that Levi and Hange had added in to his routine. On some days they would practice trying to bring about his Berserk Mode in different ways in the safety of a deep cavern in the Scouts' territory. They had attempted to make him angry and to get him to bring the ability forth with a bizarre process that they had called meditation. As he had expected, he wasn't showing any positive results. The most he had done was just steam and cloud the area to where they would have to cancel the experimental session. Soldiers were adjusting to new roles and leaving to love and remember a lost comrade. Thankfully, despite his position, he was treated the same and everyone was friendly to him as usual. However, the only thing that Rogue seemed to notice was off was what he wanted to title as the 'secretive behavior' of his babies.
The things he has noticed were subtle and small, but still clear enough for him to make note of them. Armin and Mikasa seemed to know of something that he did not. And the very something seemed to be a fact that they didn't wish to disclose. On occasion, he had found them staring at him during training and during his education with Hange. When they had their eyes upon him they always looked distressed beneath their skin. Concerned about their actions, he had taken it upon himself to question the two of them one day, during the evening right before bed. When he had done so, there was a slight hesitation before they replied saying that he either 'had a more mature look about him' or 'he had lost weight.' At the time, Rogue had simply gone with their answers, but deep down he knew that their statements were false and just excuses. He looked the same as always with the same child-like demeanor and it was impossible for him to lose weight when he hadn't eaten a thing to throw up. Rogue knew that whatever they were hiding, it was something not good and his babies didn't want to spit it out.
It was absolutely bizarre.
Even as he walked next to the rolling wagon, he didn't understand them at all. In truth, it upset him to the point where it hurt his feelings. Why were they being so strange? Why was everyone before him doing something so odd at a time like this?
Rogue slowed his pace ever so slightly, a scratchy sigh barely escaping his throat as he continued to observe. He was quickly growing irritated with not being included as to what was going on. Sure, he knew they were going to Sina for a trial, but why were they going like this? From what he remembered, Sina was a place where the rich and extravagant lived and the Scouts were always in uniform for everything. Even for a trial. Not only that, but he wasn't wearing his shackles. He wore a new collar that Hange had ordered for him that looked nearly identical to his old one with the leather and plates along with his name, but not his shackles. Rogue knew well that his shackles were to be worn in Sina so why wasn't he wearing them? True, it was one thing he wasn't complaining about because he hated them, but the lack of them upon his wrists confused him greatly.
Again, the titan glanced down at his family, feeling himself grow a bit more agitated. He needed to get them to speak. He needed to know what was going on and he needed to know now. Rogue's brows narrowed as he contemplated how to go about addressing the situation when they were moving. It was then that the titan recalled his ace in the hole. He would plop down upon his rump to gain their attention from the impact and then proceed to pout to ignite their concern before asking them what the hell their secret was. Rogue's eyes ignited with a devious streak as he prepared to carry out his plan.
"Alright, here's the fork in the road."
Rogue abandoned his idea for the time being as he watched their party stop in their tracks. Confused once again, the titan observed Levi remove himself from the carriage and Hange dismount from her horse. The behemoth's ears naturally pinned backwards as he became more befuddled and cross at the lack of communication with him. He scrutinized as Molbit abandoned his seat where he sat to steer the wagon to take up Hange's horse with Historia leaving the wagon to follow him. Levi and Hange stood, quietly exchanging words with Hange – the woman glancing up at him from the corner of her eye. His greens caught his little ones as well staring up at him – a slight nervous quiver in their jaws as they lifted themselves from their seats. Rogue's nose wrinkled as his babies dismounted and motioned to speak with their superiors, keeping their voices purposely hushed. The titan snorted, he had enough.
Quickly, before anyone could notice what he was doing, Rogue bent his legs and promptly seated himself on his rear, jolting all life around. His move startled the horses and brought all eyes to him. Pissed, Rogue folded his arms and stared heatedly at the crowd below him – paying no heed to the fact that he looked like a giant toddler with his legs sprawled out before him. Rogue released a vocal similar to a bark and proceeded to pout, waiting on the obvious question.
"Rogue?" Hange began, turning away from her previous engagement. "What's wrong? Are you upset about something?"
Aloof, the titan blew a jet of steam from his nostrils before folding his ears over in aggravation. "WHHATT GOIIN ONN! WHHII… ARRE YUUU NOTT ALLKING TOO NEE!" Rogue heaved a frustrated breath. "WHAAT YUU KEEPINGGG SECRRET!" The titan nearly yelled at them. At his outburst, his little ones looked completely startled and Hange released a sad sigh.
"Rogue, I'm sorry sweetheart that we've been keeping rather hush about things." Hange chuckled nervously. "But right now things are a bit risky with some of the events that happened recently. Right now, you and Historia are going to go with Molbit to a secret location so you two can be safe. We are doing this because at this present time, we don't feel that you would be safe in Olvid district. Rogue – not long ago Pastor Nick was killed because he leaked some information he should not have. Erwin as well as all of us here do not want anything bad to happen to you or Historia so that's why we want to relocate the two of you somewhere safe until you are needed. Do you understand?"
The titan sat back at the news, shoulders sinking in the slightest. They were moving him and Historia somewhere no one could find them? Pastor Nick had been killed for saying something important? Rogue's ears lowered. He supposed that the decision made sense. However, the titan's ears lifted in alert yet again as the realization hit him. What of his little ones? Where were they to go? Why were they being separated from him? Would he ever see them again? At the very thought, Rogue gestured to his little ones in both desperation and in anger. "ARRNINN! NIKKASA! DEYY NEED TO BEE WITT NEE! ETT NOTT SAFF!"
"Rogue, now is not the time to start this shit." Levi muttered, receiving a sharp growl from the beast.
"We're sorry Rogue, but Armin and Mikasa will be needed for the trial tomorrow. The same goes for the other members in your squad. You don't need to worry. No one knows who they are remember? They are going to be well hidden. Not to mention, they will be in the care of none other than Levi!"
The titan's gaze softened at the Section Commander's information. Although he wanted nothing more than to protect his babies, Levi was a very capable person to put his trust in. "EVVI – WILL BEE WITT DENN?"
Hange nodded enthusiastically. "Yes Rogue! Levi will be with your babies and everyone else. Plus, they have their own protection if they need it." She smiled. "Not to mention Rogue, it's only for a short while. You'll see Armin and Mikasa again tomorrow night. It's just over a day of separation. You can handle that right Rogue? You're a big boy remember? You can do it." The woman beamed tenderly with Rogue loosening even further, now feeling utterly foolish for his childish fit.
"Hange's right Rogue." Armin beamed tenderly at him. "It won't be long. We'll get to Olvid district this evening while you and the others scale the southwest side with the help of the Garrison providing cover."
"Also Rogue." Mikasa approached him and patted his foot. "You get to stay at a farm. You've always wanted to see one right? There are all sorts of animals like the ones we show you on flash cards like cows, goats, and chickens. You'll finally get to see those and there are plenty of horses. You'll have some fun with them, Historia, and Molbit. We'll be okay Rogue. You don't need to worry about us. We're in good hands and we'll be back together soon." His little one smiled softly at him, her look easily breaking him and making the titan see to reason.
Rogue let out a prolonged sigh, steam wavering over his audience. Yes, his little ones would be completely fine with someone like Levi. The man had survived taking on the Armored Titan, the Female Titan, and countless others. If there really were other predators out there – he was certain that the Corporal would show no mercy. His babies were in good hands, hands that always smelled like bleach, but good hands nonetheless. His squad members would be fine as well. No one would find he and Historia either on a lonely farm – something he always wanted to get a closer look at. Finally, the titan gave in to a weak but supportive smile. "OKEE. EII UNDRRSTANND." The titan spoke as softly as he could manage as he bent over to press his face into his two babies, a purr resonating from deep in his chest. He watched as Armin and Mikasa's grins grew broader as they reached to stroke his cheek and nose.
"Glad you understand, bud." Armin began again as he motioned to scratch just beneath his gaunt cheek. "Just remember that it's not going to be years that we're apart." The teen chuckled with Rogue giving in to a slight huff. Yes, it wouldn't be like his time in Maria when he sent them to live with the humans. It was just a day and a half as opposed to three long years and he had Historia and Molbit to keep him company while they were gone.
"You'll be okay big brother. We'll be back before you even have the chance to miss us." Mikasa alliterated as she pressed her brow into his, the titan feeling his heart flutter at her gesture. "We love you."
The titan couldn't help the affectionate warble that seeped through his lipless maw. Gently, he parted his teeth and blessed the two teens with a lick before nuzzling into them. Rogue purred louder as he continued to express his farewell and wish his little one's safe travels. Finally, after several more minutes of reassuring and farewells to his family, Rogue stood and began to follow Molbit and Historia as they rode upon their horse. The beast couldn't help but wave as the wagons went in the opposite direction. Again, they began their trek with Rogue following the two Scouts closely, eyes wondering about the landscape as a natural need to scope things out settled in. Deep down, the titan couldn't help but feel anxious.
"Well now! I'd say that he's certainly having fun!" The farmer chuckled, his wife laughing next to him as the titan before them continued his antics.
"He's just like a little kid in a candy store!" The woman smiled, the sound of her mirth warm and displaying her bubbly personality. "I never thought a titan could actually be cute!"
Historia smiled at the older couple's commentary. She couldn't help but feel the same amount of elation. In the previous evening, she, Molbit, and Rogue had arrived at the Ness's farm when the moon was starting to descend from the sky. Being nearly midnight, their party couldn't perform a proper visit, Mr. Ness promptly guiding the three of them to a vacant barn as soon as he spied that the titan's body was nearly given out. That night, as cramped as the barn was, Rogue easily fell asleep, curled around them just like a protective mother wolf and her pups. As soon as the morning dawned, Rogue awoke with both boundless energy and curiosity. Somehow, Historia and Molbit had convinced Rogue to keep from roaming and to meet with the owners of the farm. Mr. Ness was a plump but still fairy muscular man with short greying locks and a pair of circular glasses that seemed to fit his easy- going personality. Mrs. Ness looked like the typical jolly grandmother and if the term was listed in a dictionary, it was likely that Mrs. Ness would have been an illustration next to it. She was a chubby and cheerful woman and Historia couldn't help but notice that she seemed to constantly smell like pumpkin pie. At first, like many, they seemed a bit reserved and unsure upon Rogue's greeting. However, with one purr from the beast, any insecurities melted away and suddenly they were in the care of what they could appropriately consider as an overgrown toddler.
Or – perhaps an overgrown puppy was a better term.
Currently, Rogue ran on all fours with his emerald greens lit with nothing more than child-like excitement as he interacted with several goats and ducks that roamed around freely on the ranch. A variety of squeaks and grunts left Rogue as he hopped back and forth upon his hands and feet, his mouth contorted into a lively smile. For the past ten minutes, Rogue had been giving playful chase to the small animals and attempting to play with them in the only way that he seemed to know how. Again, the four chuckled as Rogue dropped down with a high pitched grunt, resting oddly on his elbows and chest with his rump in the air as he produced a variety of playful vocals at a group of small goats that had taken an interest in him. The two Scouts and the couple were seated on a lone picnic table watching the show play out before them.
"He's amazing." Mr. Ness began again as they continued to watch the giant. "Rogue's quite the goofball. Is he always like this?" The man snickered as Rogue's hips wiggled like an excited cat before he gave a loud tweet from his maw and then proceeding to run awkwardly on his hands and feet around the large red barn adjacent to him before stopping at its corner, hiding behind it with just his face peering around the bend, watching the animals with fully dilated pupils. Molbit chortled, putting down his pencil for the moment to break from his current sketch and join in on the conversation.
"Most of the time Rogue is in excellent spirits. Despite everything he's gone through, he's a very happy titan all around. Rogue can best be described as a mixture of a young human child with the deposition and behavior much like a dog or cat. Besides having human like intelligence, he obviously has many animalistic characteristics. Rogue is a friend to everyone and almost everything. He's a friendly fellow with a mischievous side, but even though he loves to play around he takes following orders pretty seriously. Rogue loves the company of people – in fact he doesn't like being alone at all. He just – loves humans in general and he'd never harm a fly. Rogue is good natured and good hearted." Molbit explained with a smile as their group watched Rogue slowly edge out from behind the barn, the young goats that had been interested in him bounding to the titan once again like hopping bunnies. Comically, Rogue tucked his head for a few seconds behind the barn once again before edging out with a squeal. "The only time you ever see him behave like a bloodthirsty beast is when he fights other titans. Otherwise, he's a Sweetheart. Everyone at headquarters loves him."
"He's such a gentle giant!" Mrs. Ness spoke as Rogue tilted as if he was nervous, lifting his hand like it was too heavy for him before letting it hover over the baby goats with the intent to touch before the titan brought his hand back to the ground and hopped to his side, the impact of his weight sending a vibration that made even her ribs rattle. "Aw! He's so excited. So this is his first time on a farm and seeing these animals?"
Historia nodded. "Oh yes! Rogue knows forest animals and our horses really well, but as you can probably guess he didn't get to go close to farms. Even still, he isn't allowed to go beyond the Scout's grounds. So every bit of this is a sight to behold to him." She educated, watching as Rogue crouched down again to be at the goats' level. She couldn't help but giggle at the giant's crooked and lopsided grin. All eyes watched as the baby goats approached the titan again and began to scream in play, sounding like a bizarre mix of a toddler and sheep. Rogue's ears fluttered and his mouth somehow contorted into an even bigger grin. Suddenly, the titan inhaled and released a booming sound in return, the vocal was a nonthreatening vocal – sounding like some prehistoric beast before it quieted into a deep purr. At first, the goats were still and appearing as if they had been frightened before bouncing around the titan again with the beast following them.
"So Historia, you said that Rogue is part of the Levi squad along with you correct? What's he like during training?" Mr. Ness questioned, sticking a toothpick that he had been chewing on back in his mouth.
"Well," Krista rubbed her chin as Rogue took a sudden interest in a white chicken that had darted across his wake, the beast abandoning his current game to follow it to a hen house. "He's wonderful to train with. He helps by teaching us how to evade a titan attack as well as practice complex maneuvers. When we are on lunch break we usually eat with him and he lets us do anything to him." Historia paused as she watched the titan circle the hen house like a dog looking for its toy beneath a piece of furniture. "He would even let me sit on his head and braid his hair."
"Wow really?" Mrs. Ness laughed yet again. "It sounds like Rogue is like the perfect sibling and –
However, the woman was interrupted by a strange noise that she herself had not heard before. It was a very fast series of deep squeaks. At first, Historia and the others looked equally confused until they turned their attention to the only possible source. There was Rogue, crouched down to where he almost sat on his belly as he tried to look into one of the windows of the small red hen house. Suddenly, Rogue parted his teeth and began to produce the same sound again – the titan's jaws parting and closing rapidly with his ears wiggling in unison while his eyes were locked onto his target. Again, Rogue shifted his weight and repeated the same action, the squeaking becoming higher in pitch. Historia could feel her own jaw slack in the slightest. This was something that she had never witnessed from the beast and she was certain that Mikasa and Armin had not seen such either for they never spoke of it. The blonde teen couldn't help but smile. Back when she lived on a farm she had seen cats do the same at birds when they couldn't reach them. Rogue looked like a giant all too eager feline.
"I – didn't know he could do that." Molbit trailed off with the older couple giving in to more giggles.
"It's clear to see why you say he's animal like. Dare I say this, but he's almost like a giant hairless cat." Mrs. Ness illustrated, giggling again along with her husband who promptly agreed.
"I wish all the titans were like him." Mr. Ness began again as Rogue circled the hen house before placing himself over it and trying to look inside. "He's just a big kid. The Jaegers were very lucky people to have him."
Historia could only nod at the comment as she turned to watch Rogue get distracted by the goats once again before guiding the little animals back to the hen house as if to ask them what chickens were. The teen then began to retreat into her own mind. It was difficult for her to believe that she was once going to train to kill the very titan that she was now very good friends with and could trust immensely. Rogue was such a good-natured soul and didn't give up or get angry at her when she revealed her secret to him. It was absolutely stunning that Rogue was so forgiving. How? How could she even have considered killing Rogue? How could anyone else for that matter? Rogue was the nicest being she had ever met – and he wasn't even human. The fact that there was still people in the world that hated him and wanted him slain like a monster was beyond her. Historia brought her knees to her chest, hugging herself. All her life, the church had only drilled the fact that Rogue was some sort of devil into her head. Her grandparents as well mentioned a demon every once in a while. Upon first seeing the titan in Trost, she could feel the hatred boiling in her belly, but seeing Rogue's true nature when the Scouts managed to make contact she couldn't help but let her previous perceptions melt away and fall for the creature. Past the grizzly exterior of the beast, Rogue was indeed just a misunderstood soul that wanted to do his best to care for everyone and other times he was like a frightened child struggling to understand the cruelty of the world. Rogue was not a monster at all.
Rogue was her friend.
"Well," Mrs. Ness began again, breaking the silence. "I am going to go back inside and work on making us all lunch. I feel like making peach cobbler today as well so that all of you can have it for desert." She beamed with her husband nodding.
"Oh yes, the two of you will certainly love the cobbler!" He laughed before turning to Historia. "I was just getting ready to milk the cows if you'd like to join me. We could use it to get some cheese ready for this evening when everyone comes back. We can get the milk while the misses makes lunch." He suggested with the teen giving a nod in compliance.
"Sure, I don't mind."
"I can help in some way, Sir." Molbit volunteered with the man returning the offer with a determined nod.
"You can help us by getting some chicken eggs, Molbit. After that you can give us a hand with the milking. As for Rogue – I don't have any chores big enough for him to do currently and I think he should have some fun." Mr. Ness stopped to clear his throat. "Rogue!" The man called, the titan immediately sitting up and looking to the man with his large ears facing fully forward. "While everyone is working feel free to look around the farm alright? Just don't go outside the perimeter a don't let any of the animals out. We'll call you when lunch is ready so you can be with us. Sound good?"
Historia watched as the titan gave an excited nod and proceeded to start playing with the goats once again.
"Alright, let's get to w –
A loud boom that rattled nearly every object around them drew their attention back to the titan once again who had stopped to flop over on his back. Historia gave into a laugh. Rogue's feet were drawn inward and his head was tilted backwards to stare at the small mammals from the wrong way up. The titan's arms were outstretched, kept tight and straight as he playfully and gently reached for them – gurgling in enjoyment. Mr. Ness laughed once again.
"Ah yes, a gentle giant indeed."
The titan gurgled, the vocal morphing into a squeal as he continued to toy with the little creatures before him, paying no mind how silly he possibly appeared to any onlooker. They had arrived at the Ness's farm late in the evening when everything seemed to be covered in a shade as dark as ink. Thus, without much aid from the moon, Rogue wanted nothing more than to sleep despite his eagerness to see what a farm had in store for him. At dawn, he quickly awoke to meet an alluring sight. The farm was composed of several big barns much like his own, all of them nearly red in color as they dotted the Ness's territory. There were also stables and sheds among fenced fields. Besides all of the new things that graced his vision, there were plenty of new smells every time he took a sniff. There was the usual scent of horses, hay, and the odor of manure that he could easily overlook. However, there was a sea of other animal scents that he had never witnessed before or so long ago during his time with his parents that he couldn't remember them – even though he lacked the knowledge to match an animal with a certain scent. The first animal that he came across that was completely foreign to him was what Historia told him were goats. They were intriguing little creatures – reminding him of young deer except they were much smaller, had dog like ears, and their horns were much different. Unlike his deer that he had always enjoyed watching, the goats seemed to want to play with him – which he quickly obliged to and the small animals seemed to enjoy his company very much.
Rogue chirruped as one of the little goats rammed his outstretched hand, the impact nothing more than a soft thump to the massive titan. Yes, the farm was an amazing place that he was excited to explore. Sure, he did wish he had his babies along to show them things and for them to educate him, but he supposed that he could do so later upon their arrival. Besides, the two of them were doing what was important and were following orders. It was still disenchanting, but the titan was glad that he still had a bit of human company. Mr. and Mrs. Ness were a kind and sweet elderly couple. Mr. Ness seemed to be an easy going man and smelled like the farm itself whereas Mrs. Ness was a very cheerful individual and smelled of sweetness like the candy stores of Sina. As he had expected, they seemed a bit fretful of him at first, as if they were just stunned and speechless until they warmed up to his presence. The couple liked him very much as he did to them. The farm seemed to ease the stress on everyone. Molbit was a bit more open and Historia seemed less reserved as well. For the first time since the incident a month before, Rogue felt himself finally unwind and forget about his troubles.
Maybe he could convince his babies, Hange, and Levi if he could bring a goat or two home.
Rogue found himself purring at the thought as he watched the little goats approach to sniff his fingers. However, the titan's attention was quickly redirected as the bizarre clucking came to his ears again. Knowing the animal that produced the sound had eluded him earlier, Rogue quickly but carefully rolled back over onto his belly and rose back up on all fours to face the small tiny barn once again – just in time to see one of the birds retreat inside. The titan rumbled as he quickly dropped down to rest upon his elbows in a fruitless attempt to peer inside. Rogue's ears rotated and fluttered as he tilted his head this way and that as he tried to spy into the interior. Unfortunately, his eyes only caught the uninteresting view of the floorboards. The towering beast grumbled and lifted himself to reposition, trying to see through one of the barn's tiny windows. He simply had to know what these things were! Obviously, they were birds, but didn't seem to be able to fly. They had feathers as white as snow and something red on the top of their heads. Going by the limited view of what he had seen, the birds walked oddly, heads bobbing and their tails straight up. He had never seen anything like them. What on earth could they possibly be?
The titan continued to think to himself as he rotated around the miniscule barn on all fours, trying to figure a way to draw the creatures out without having to remove the roof – which he was sure that the couple didn't want him to do. The closest bird he could compare the flightless birds to were birds that he often saw back in his forest – a type called pheasants that would scurry across the forest floor with their young in tow. Still, the birds before him were still far different. Rogue found himself growing impatient, slowly lowering to lay awkwardly upon his side. The behemoth then let out a loud wine that made the tiny structure tremble. The call of longing did not go unheard as the birds inside the barn clucked and shifted, Rogue's ears filling with the sounds of their fretful movements. However, they still refused to rouse from their nests and exit to greet him. At his failed attempt, Rogue tried once again, moaning even louder as he lifted a finger to scratch at the side of the small barn. Again, the life inside stirred, but ultimately no birds ventured into the open. Again, the curious titan whined, upset at his lack of luck. Rogue then turned to sit up once more before lifting himself onto all fours to prowl back to the front of the tiny barn. The titan lowered himself to his rump and stared long and hard at the front of the structure. Like all barns, it had a door but the small building was made more like a cozy cottage one would come across in the woods. The door to it looked just like any door that humans went through except for what appeared to be another door carved into it on the bottom – the tiny opening guarded by a flap that opened and closed when the birds exited and entered. The titan's face wrinkled up as he found himself lowering once again with his face mere inches away. With instinct suddenly flaring, Rogue let out another needy grumble and forced his face to the door – pressing his nose right against it. The beast's nostrils flared wildly as he sniffed, his breath rustling the flap and only managing to startle the birds more. Rogue's ears flickered in consideration, the birds smelled far different from any that he previously seen as well. Taking his self-appointed mission even further, Rogue backed away from the door and pushed the tip of his index finger through the flap in a pitiful attempt to touch one of the feathered foul.
"Rogue? What on earth are you doing?"
At the sudden query, the giant immediately pulled his finger free from the tiny barn and turned to see Molbit behind him. The man wore a slightly humored look upon his face and held a large wicker basket in his hands. At the man's expression and lack of movement and words, Rogue realized that Molbit was expecting an answer.
"ERR… TRYYING TOO SEEE BIRRB." Rogue admitted somewhat bashfully, the tips of his ears turning a light shade of red. Molbit chuckled as he made his way to the tiny barn.
"Oh, so you are bothering the chickens?"
Rogue sat up at the male's response. Was that what the birds were called?
"CIIKKENSS?" The titan asked innocently. Molbit nodded as he lay a hand onto the knob of the door, turning to look at the massive but curious creature again.
"Yes. The white birds are chickens and almost every farm has some." He smiled, looking nothing like the normally nervous person that he usually was. "I'd bring one out here for you to see Rogue, but I'm afraid that chickens aren't really the nicest of birds and can be difficult to handle. Not to mention, they are quite the pain to catch if they get loose. However, I can show you what the chickens give us Rogue if you'd like to see that."
Although he was disappointed that he couldn't see what these chickens looked like, he was curious as to what Molbit spoke of so the titan dipped his head, trying to not look too disenchanted. "OKEE."
The man laughed, his mirth reminding him of the way Connie chuckled. "Well alright then. Give me a minute and I'll be back." Molbit spoke as he quickly ventured inside the small barn, leaving the titan outside alone yet again.
For several minutes, Rogue remained seated with his lively emeralds locked onto the small barn, waiting like a dog whishing his master would return home. Just as he began to grow impatient yet again, Molbit exited the barn and sealed the door shut behind him. Feeling himself quiver in excitement, Rogue's ears wiggled as he bent lower to see what Molbit had to show him. Several excited chirps left him as Molbit held the basket he carried up for Rogue to see its contents. The titan's green eyes widened. In the basket were dozens of eggs, a smooth and solid tan color donning each one. Instantly, the titan became a mix of awe and confusion. Like all birds, chickens seemed to make eggs that would hatch into babies, but why was Molbit taking them? Wouldn't they not hatch without the warmth of their mother?
"EGGSS?" Rogue finally asked with Molbit nodding.
"Yes, chickens lay eggs Rogue that farmers collect to use for baking and selling to other people in order for them to make certain foods." Molbit described as he held one for the titan to see, but Rogue was close to being horrified.
"YOUU… EATTT DAA BABIESS?" The titan asked, a slight rattle to his voice. How could humans eat little chickens that hadn't even hatched yet? At Rogue's innocent question, Molbit quickly shook his head.
"Oh Rogue! Don't worry! These are unfertilized eggs. That means that there are no babies inside them. There's just the yolk. Fertilized eggs are the ones that have the babies inside them. So you don't have to worry." The man quickly reassured with the titan feeling a wave of relief wash over him.
"DATT GOOOD." Rogue sighed, continuing to observe the cluster of eggs. A thought then crossed his mind. Thinking back on the meeting that he had attended in the barn a month ago and the fact that titans could reproduce, Rogue formulated his next question. "MOBITT?" The titan asked, sounding just like any wondering child as he grabbed the man's attention.
Rogue hesitated. "TIITANNS NAKKE BABIES RIGHHT? SOO… DOO YUUU TIINKK DAYY LAYY EGGSS?" The titan questioned, watching as Molbit's face went slack, seemingly stunned until the man tittered.
"Well, I suppose it could be possible for titans to lay eggs. If you asked Hange she would likely say something along the lines of perhaps titans warm their eggs by lying them out in the open and letting sunlight incubate them as opposed to titans sitting on them since the weight would just crack them. Then again the babies could grow in a womb just like mammals. It's a big question that I think everyone looks forward to getting the answer to." Molbit laughed again as he gipped the basket more securely. "Why don't you run along Rogue and explore other areas for a bit? It's a big farm with sheep, cows, and other animals that I'm sure you'd like to look at."
The titan's brows lifted and he gave a nod. If the chickens wouldn't come out of the tiny barn, then he could certainly go find other animals that would take an interest in him. Molbit then turned in the opposite direction and held his hand up in a wave. "Well, I best be getting back to Mrs. Ness to give her the eggs she needs. You go have fun." The man bid farewell, leaving the beast alone once again.
For a moment, Rogue watched as Molbit ventured into the farmhouse before turning to face the expanse of the farm. The titan's ears wiggled in interest and excitement. What should he try to find first? The titan tilted his head, naturally sniffing with his nose picking up the scent of a new animal that was close by. With his decision made, Rogue stood up to his full height and began to head forward. At fifty feet, the titan could see almost the entire farmland. There were several fields, some dedicated to crops and other to livestock. Beyond them was the tree line of a forest that circled them and through breaks in the branches he could only see barren land with no inhabitants. The Scouts were right to bring him here. Rogue smiled, he finally found another place to explore freely without supervision, plus he was safe. Again, the titan started forward, walking steadily towards another one of the brown fences, his eyes taking note of the white animals grazing there. But of course, on his way to the enclosure, Rogue was easily sidetracked by a tool leaning against one of the water troths. Abandoning his task momentarily, the titan bent over to rest on the balls of his feet as he looked at the thing before him. The front of the device looked like that of a carriage that would hook onto a horse while the rear of it looked like the contraptions that Levi would make the recruits use to cut the grass – metal things with blades that had to be pushed to work. There was a seat on the thing before him as well, making the object all the weirder yet more intriguing. Curious, Rogue pushed the object gently with his finger, watching as the blades on the thing twirled and dug into the earth – stunning the titan for a moment. Although it looked as if it was meant to cut grass, the contraption was clearly made to till the earth. Recalling it now, Rogue remembered that the Scouts also used to have a tool much like this one only smaller. Of course, after he came to live with his new family, there was no need to use the device for with a simple tug of his arm, he could plow up the earth with his fingers to aid his family with the vegetable garden. Rogue huffed to himself, if titans were a friendly breed he was sure many would want to live with farmers to help tend to their fields and guard their wondrous animals.
Before Rogue could examine further, a bizarre sound met his ears, one that was very similar to the vocals produced by the goats. Realizing the direction the call came from, the titan twisted around to see one of the white animals had come to the edge of the fence. Rogue blinked, brows raised in astonishment as lowered to the creature's level afore him. Although the creature seemed more concerned with grazing than with him, Rogue began his examination. The white animal looked alarmingly similar to the goats except for one clear detail. The animal's body was covered in a thick layer of fluffy fur – reminding the titan of a cloud. With child-like curiosity creeping over him again and taking the reins, Rogue gently and warily lifted a single finger – letting it hover in the air for a brief second before lowering it onto the fur of the animal. Rogue's eyes widened at the plush feeling, it was the thickest fur he had ever felt. Rogue smiled, it reminded him of the same material that his little one's scarf was made of. The titan continued to stroke the back of the animal before looking up into the field to see more of the fluffy white creatures. As excitement for possible new playmates hit him again, Rogue cheerfully cantered forward, moving on all fours again so to not startle them at his full standing height. The titan's eyes practically lit up at the view of the small grazing herd before him. Seeing that he needed to submit himself and invite the creatures closer to engage in a bit of fun, Rogue flopped over onto his side with a deep loud squeal. Completely beside himself and carefree, Rogue grunted, gurgled, and chirruped as he rolled about on his back in the grass. The titan flayed around a bit, throwing out his legs to kick at the sky and arms tucked tight against him as he simply escaped into his own state of pure bliss. Rogue was sure that if his little ones were watching him they would be laughing as he tried to gain the creatures' attention. The beast purred, rolling over to see if he had captured the curiosity of the others only to find that the animals were still grazing without a care that he was there. His heart faltered at the result. Disappointed, Rogue rolled back over onto his stomach and sat up with his ears lowering in upset. Perhaps these creatures just didn't fancy company at all.
Rogue sighed, but fleetingly catching another scent that swept through his nostrils in the breeze. The titan quickly twisted his neck in the direction of origin and sniffed, nostrils flaring and sounding like a hunting hound. The smile returned to his grotesque mouth. It was the scent of another new animal that he had to quickly investigate. The titan scrambled to his feet yet again to follow the new scent, leaving the other animals behind within a few steps. Within no time, Rogue had left the field to be on the gravel paths that ran all over the farm to connect barns, paddocks, and sheds. Lowering himself to be ground level again, Rogue passed by a small stable with the Scout's horse and several mares and foals inside. Many of the horses were asleep so the titan decided not to bug them and to rather follow the scent of the new animal. Rogue passed by a friendly orange farm cat as well as a small duck pond with several new hatchlings, but he took no notice, even as he was being trailed by several of the cat's kittens that seemed all too curious about him. His vibrant greens were locked onto a smaller barn that sat nearly behind the farmhouse. Surrounding it was a low fence that barricaded the creatures that called the barn home. Rogue's ears faced fully forward as he lowered his body in a crouch with his head low to examine the enclosure and its residents. Unlike the nearly perfect grass that blanketed the territory, the enclosure only had a few patches of healthy grass while the rest was dirt and mud. Moving around the paddock were several large plump animals with strange curly tails and somewhat floppy ears and beady eyes. They were pink in color and either wallowing in the mud or rooting in the buckets and troths in search of food. Rogue's ears fluttered, leaning closer as he sniffed, nose flaring in the slightest with the pungent smell, but otherwise the titan stayed put. What were these animals?
Several of the cats that has gathered around him began to purr and rub against his heated flesh, making him emit the same sound in return but otherwise Rogue kept his attention glued to that in front of him. The beast grunted, trying to gain the creatures' attention, but like the white creatures, the pink ones continued on with their activities. Rogue's ears lowered until they stood straight up again at the sounds the animals made – a snorting and grunting noise that the titan realized was similar to the vocals he often made. With a lopsided grin, Rogue put his plan into action and began to grunt, gurgle, and squeal rapidly with his tapered ears fluttering at each sound. To the titan's surprise, each and every one of the animals stopped what they were doing to peer up at him. Rogue beamed broadly, leaning closer to look upon the creatures. The beast began to study the detail on one of the animal's faces. Like its body, the pink creature's face was plump and had several rolls of fat surrounding its cheeks and brow. The nose was a shape that Rogue had not seen before. It was wide, flat, and the nostrils were large round holes. The titan watched the subject of his study smack its lips as it continued to chew nothing in particular. His grin grew even bigger as he decided to take his examination up a notch. As the animal turned its head to root through the mud once again, Rogue carefully lifted his finger and reached to poke the curly tailed creature. However, just as his fingertip touched the spine of the animal, the creature released a terrified and startled squeal.
Unexpectedly, as the cry of the distressed animal hit his eardrums, a sharp stab of agony flared up and radiated behind his skull – his hand flying to his brow to encase his head in a stronghold.
The beast squealed in his hand, moving and thrashing as it tried to get free. His eyes marveled at the softness upon its skin. A sense of absolute pride flowed through him, making his frame quiver. The breeze was gentle and sunlight was dappled. Trees whispered in the easy wind, seemingly congratulating him for his catch.
There were voices suddenly, real voices that came from excited souls. They shouted three clear words that made him feel absolutely great. He could feel himself smile and coo at the attention.
Then his hand held his prize in offering, pleased to share. Suddenly, there was pain, his catch flying from his hand and he quickly found himself pinned. The pain came again and again – then there was blood and his eyes filled with tears.
Rogue held his head, slowly opening his eyes once again to stare at the animals who had obviously sensed his distress and paused to peer up at him once again. The titan blinked, his hand shaking in the slightest as he slowly lowered it from his brow. For a moment, he tried to catch his breath, eyes swimming with confusion. What – had just happened? Could he have just had another memory hit him? When he wasn't asleep?
Feeling a wave of dizziness, Rogue gritted his teeth and braced himself, a trickle of blood dripping from his nose and falling to the earth. Startled, Rogue quickly reached to brush away the small amount of crimson, still trying to get a grip on what he had just witnessed. All was quiet as the titan slowly went over the details in his head. It was a memory and no dream that much was clear to him. There was a forest and –
One of the pink creatures grunted, producing the sounds that the animal had been making shortly before as it returned to rooting in the grass. Rogue's brows narrowed, eyes squinting in question as he scrutinized the plump beast. The animal that he held in his hand in the memory – it was a boar if he recalled correctly, just like the ones that he and Sasha hunted and similar to the animals before him currently. However, in the memory the voices called the creature something else. Something that he oddly felt was used to describe the pinkish creatures.
"P… PIGG?" The titan muttered to himself, his bewilderment growing as all of the animals in the enclosure looked back at him before approaching. Rogue's eyes widened at this, his jaw slackening. Were these beasts before him called pigs – a word that Levi often used to describe the residents in the high class societies in Sina? Rogue continued to sit in silence, why was he remembering this now? Why did he not recall a thing when he hunted with Sasha?
The titan continued to go over the vision in his head. There was another name that the voices called him, one that he had heard from Ansgar. "GREEEN… EYYESS?" Rogue said aloud to himself. The words feeling salty on his tongue. Green Eyes. The way it was spoken to him seemed almost as if it was spoken like a name, but something about the title felt almost like an insult. Rogue sat back, ignoring all life around him as he contemplated further. The memory, he was happy and then there was agony. What had happened? Rogue found himself wishing that his babies were around for they could help him make sense of it. Suddenly, the titan had an idea. It was said that Historia was supposed to help him remember so perhaps she could aid him. Slowly, Rogue stood with plan in mind, but he couldn't help but feel incredibly uneasy.
He was almost sick to his stomach again.
Rogue walked briskly across the barn's grounds, his fingers scratching his scalp. He hadn't been called back for lunch yet but the titan figured that it would be best if he headed to the last place that he had seen his family and new friends gather. The beast kept milling over the scene that had played in his brain. Unlike his visions that he had as of late, the very one that he just experienced was so cloudy that he could hardly make anything out except for shapes and voices. Rogue's gaze dropped down to his hand, contemplating. The boar or pig that he held in his hand – it seemed rather large in comparison so perhaps he had been young in the memory. His eyes narrowed, studying the folds and creases of his skin. Did something attack him at the end of his vision? There was blood and he had been crying – so what could it have been? Was it possible that it was one of the titans that he had unfortunately come to know? Could it have been Ansgar or Luana? It certainly Wasn't Mehr who he was sure wouldn't have even done such a thing. Was it possible that it was a titan that he hadn't met yet? One that could have known him well in his past? The titan clicked his teeth in aggravation, ears flattening until he exhaled a heavy cloud of steam. He was already stressed enough and he didn't need to worry himself sick and trigger a headache trying to figure out his memory himself. He needed to get to Historia quickly.
The towering behemoth rounded another corner to see that Molbit, Historia, and the Nesses were doing what his little ones described as 'sitting the table' which the titan found to be an interesting human act. Mrs. Ness and Molbit continued to place full dishes of food upon the picnic table, the scents wavering into his nostrils and the meals themselves looking much better than what the Scouts served most of the time. There was a large plate of ham and other foods that he hadn't seen made before – even by his own parents. One of the dishes in particular smelled very sweet and like peaches and seemed to excite both Historia and Molbit. Not wanting to look like he hadn't been enjoying himself, Rogue let his body loosen and put on a broad smile. He didn't want to frighten anyone or ruin what looked to be a special occasion.
As he arrived, Rogue chirruped in greeting while his advancing footsteps attracted the party's attention. Instantly, his smile, although forced, was infectious as each displayed their own.
"Hey Rogue!" Mr. Ness chuckled as he handed out plates and silverware. "It's funny you came we were just about to call you to join us. Feel free to take a seat next to us." The man beamed up at the titan with the beast accepting his invitation with a nod, lowering to sit neatly with his legs crossed at the end of the table. "So did you have fun exploring?"
Still grinning despite his inner confusion, Rogue nodded. "YESS!"
The creature's cheerful reply provoked Mrs. Ness to let out a warm chuckle. "Aw! I bet you did! So did you see the sheep and the pigs, Rogue? We have a family of tabby cats that live here too that are quite friendly."
The titan disguised his state of shock with another eager nod. The pink creatures were indeed pigs as he thought. "EII DIDD."
"Good! Perhaps you can see the cows or something after we eat." Mr. Ness began as he retrieved himself a few slices of ham. "I kept the cows in today to feed them a special grain while we milk them. I'll release them into the pasture again so you can take a gander at them. Have you ever seen cows before, Rogue?" The man continued as the four sat down and began to eat.
The titan shook his head. "NOOTT CLOSS UPP."
"I see. So could you only see farms at a distance back in Maria?"
Again, Rogue nodded, trying to figure out how to ask his question. Mrs. Ness laughed.
"Well, no doubt it will be an interesting experience. Some of the cows birthed their calves just a few weeks ago and I have no doubt that you'll like them Rogue." She smiled, the titan tilted his head at the term.
"CAVVS?" He asked innocently, not knowing the title.
"That's what baby cows are called Rogue." Molbit explained. "He's still learning some nouns." The man continued to inform the couple. "Rogue takes several courses from Hange and I geared to educate him. He's been learning the alphabet and how to read as of late. We decided to teach him nouns like what baby animals are called when quite a mix up happened with Hange not understanding something that Rogue was trying to convey – which led to chaos where Hange thought Rogue was telling her he was pregnant rather than he really meant that he found some kittens that he was caring for. "Molbit laughed with the others chuckling, the titan's face quickly tinting red at the reminder of his massive mistake he had made some time ago – one that he was constantly teased about.
"NOO." Rogue groaned, with the others giggling goodheartedly.
"It's alright, Rogue. We've all done something that was lost in translation some way or another." Mr. Ness beamed. "I have too many of those moments than I care to admit!" The man chortled with the giant calming and smiling in amusement before he recalled the query that he needed to ask. "This peach cobbler is as delectable as always, Sweetheart."
"Thank you honey! Mr. Molbit here is quite the cook as well! He's a helpful hand in the kitchen. A little lady would be lucky to have you Molbit!"
At Mrs. Ness's commentary, the young man's face suddenly turned a bright shade of crimson, clearly embarrassed but otherwise he smiled and simply nodded in thanks. Rogue nearly found himself wanting to huff in amusement, but decided to ask his query before the group could move on to another subject.
"HISSTORIA?" The titan inquired, sounding similar to a shy child asking their parents a sensitive question. At his address, the blonde looked up from her plate, swallowing her mouthful before putting on a small smile.
"What is it Rogue? Do you – have something you want to ask me?" Historia began, setting down her fork and giving him every bit of her undivided attention.
For a second, Rogue found himself biting his tongue before he cleared his throat. "EII… HAD ANNOTTER NENNORY. WILLE… EXLLORING." The beast explained, watching as the party's brows rose and Historia's mouth hung open.
"You had a memory come to you while you were looking around the farm?" She asked with the giant nodding. "What was it about?"
Rogue bit his tongue as he tried to figure where he should begin. "EIII – TIINKK EII WASS SNALL." The titan tried to illustrate with his hands, the others watching intently. "EII… WAAS HOLLDING AHH PIGG. BOORR. EII THINK – EII CAUGHT IT. DERR WEERR VVVOISSES. EII WASS APPY BUTT DENN EII ASSS ATTAKKD." Rogue concluded, reaching up to scratch at his ear, feeling almost shy to admit that he probably sounded silly. "NYY HEADD URRT AFTER NENORY. BUT ITT FINNE NOWW." Molbit and Historia exchanged glances before Hange's assistant turned to him.
"So you are saying that you had another memory when you could have been a pup? That's great Rogue, of course it's not a lot to go on. The fact that you were attacked is worrying. Be sure to tell Hange and your little ones. They are usually better at figuring out your memories than I am." Molbit responded with Rogue's ears lowering in slight disappointment. He quickly turned to the young blonde.
"HISSORIA? THEEYY SAIID YOU… COUULLD HELLP NEE RENNENBRR." He spoke hopefully, green eyes wide as they bore into her cerulean blues. At his query, Historia's smile faltered, her face suddenly painted with worry.
"I'm sorry, Rogue. I mentioned it before but I don't know how to get your memories back. I really wish I could help you. But maybe in time we can figure it out!" The girl concluded with a weak smile, trying to hide her shame that she was unable to accomplish such a feat.
Rogue let out a small and scratchy whine, lowering his head before nodding with understanding, feeling mortified. Damn! He had been ignorant. He had forgotten that Historia had shared with him the news that she lacked the knowledge of drawing out such memories. As many had stated, it was something that he would have to figure out in time. For what seemed like several minutes, it was awkward silence before Mrs. Ness smiled again.
"I wouldn't worry too much Rogue!" She began as she reached over and patted his knee. "You'll get the answers you and the others need in time! Patience is key." The woman spoke sweetly before returning to her meal. He could only nod.
Yes, he had to be patient. Unfortunately.
Time ticked by again as the group continued to eat lunch before him and talk about their everyday doings. Rogue had resorted to laying on his side, curled around part of the table like a large dog as he soaked up the sun. The titan's head was still lifted, trying to show that he was still interested in their conversation and to hide the fact that he was deeply bothered. He hated how unfair things seemed to be, but he didn't want to worry right now. He didn't feel like worrying after all. The last thing he wanted to do was make himself feel sick on what could be considered a mini vacation for him and he didn't need to drag down the others – especially Historia. It was highly likely that she was feeling just as frustrated as he was. She didn't need the stress either.
"So how is Corporal Levi? We haven't heard much from him since he sent us the news of Dita. I hear he lost nearly his entire squad to the Female Titan."
"He's being doing fine now that he's got his new one composed of the elite recruits. He's still grumpy and stern as usual, but otherwise he's handling the loss well."
"Ah, well that's good that he has people to turn to…
Rogue continued to sit quietly, listening to the conversation and how it transitioned into talk about how the new foals would be ready to start training for military work the coming spring. The titan shifted in the slightest, glancing to the sky to see how the day was officially crawling into noon. Just a few more hours until he would see his babies and family. At a time like this, he really needed them. Rogue then lowered his head and returned to listening to the conversation at hand.
The wind had shifted, carrying a new scent to his nose, one that immediately grabbed his attention. Rogue turned his head to the south, in the direction of the thickest part of the surrounding forest and sniffed aggressively, nostrils flaring as he sampled the scents further while catching his company's attention.
He ignored them, quickly sitting up in alert as he continued. Attempting to get a better read upon the odor, Rogue inhaled deeply – eyes blowing wide in shock and his brow wrinkling in confusion. The musk wavering from the woods – it smelled like a scent that he smelled before. The very same one that he had sampled around headquarters many nights ago as well as the one that he had smelled in Katness and on the Trainees' grounds.
Instinct descended over the titan, one that practically shouted that he needed to protect his own. Naturally, his ears folded over and a deep growl vibrated his frame as he slowly stood upright, hands balled into fists, his teeth clenching, and his hair ruffling like an aggressive hound. Every fiber in his body demanded him to take action. Territory had been breached and he needed to do what was necessary to protect himself and those around him. There was no time for him to spread concentrated scent deposits to announce his dominance. He needed to address the situation head on and deal with the threat. At a dangerous time like this, he couldn't take such a thing lightly.
With the primal need in mind, Rogue took a step forward.
"Rogue? What is he doing! You're not supposed to leave!" Molbit yelled, standing from the table with Historia doing the same. "Stop!"
The titan however paid no attention as he took off in a jog, nostrils flaring and his eyes set onto the tree line. The beast was unaware that his actions ignited the small party into a frenzy.'
"Shit! He must be doing something on instinct again! Historia! Grab a horse! We need to follow him! Mr. and Mrs. Ness – please wait here!"
The creature continued to ignore them as he charged past the arched entrance to the farm and across the lonely dirt road before entering the forest. Rogue snorted, his ears pinning backwards and his face fixing into a suspicious snarl. The bright sunlight above transformed into dappled light as he slowed his pace, weaving through the trees and off the designated path. The beast altered his pace even further, reducing his speed into a slow walk – the style of a stalking predator. The woods were quiet, no birds chirped and nothing pitter pattered across the earth. Rogue could practically feel his skin crawl. Something was seriously amiss. What he assumed was the enemy clad in black was here among the brambles and foliage. The titan's brow wrinkled. He would let his enemy know what was his and that he was a beast to be reckoned with. He would roar so loud that he would blow the bastard's ears out and make the pest charge right back to the hellhole from which he came.
Rogue continued his slow waltz, green eyes narrowed – dark and dangerous. His tapered ears shifted, trying to pick up any foreign sound or the slightest hint of a whisper, but there was nothing. Not even the rattle of a yellowed leaf. The titan stalled, eyes scanning the surrounding forest. There wasn't a single ounce of life running freely. Rogue's ears folded over once again, a low growl leaving his throat. Something was here. Something had to be. He was never wrong –
Startled, Rogue quickly turned, eyes nearly feral as he spotted both Molbit and Historia approaching him upon horseback. The titan's look of aggravation was replaced by unease. He didn't want his family here! There was trouble!
"Rogue! What on earth are you doing?" Molbit began. "You are not allowed to leave the farm grounds! The Corporal will have to be told about this!"
The giant only looked on at the two in fear, quickly rotating his head to check for any unwanted pairs of eyes. This was the last thing he needed!
"Rogue?" Historia began, gaining his attention again. "What is going on? Is – something here? Or someone?"
The titan hesitated at the small blonde's question. He didn't quite know how to answer. He never told anyone about the man in black. Not even his little ones and he admittedly just passed the individual off as a creep – someone with the same intentions the three men that kidnapped his babies years ago possessed. He had thought the man had simply disappeared since he had not smelled him in quite some time. Rogue had even considered the man not even being a man at all but some sort of parading monster. "EII… TIINKK SOMMEONE HERRE." He finally admitted, looking around again. The two's faces deepened in worry.
"You think someone is here, Rogue?"
"I don't know Rogue. We're in a pretty rural area so I doubt that anyone besides us would be around for miles. Not to mention, no one except the Scouts know that we are here."
Rogue hesitated. Molbit was right, they were in a lonely area – but there was someone else besides them. He was never wrong. Not to mention, the scent was close. It was strong. Whoever had their eyes upon them was less than a mile away. Not wanting to waste any more time, Rogue simply turned and continued onward – keeping his steps light like a fawn venturing into an open field.
"Rogue! Wait!" Historia continued, whipping her mare's reins to catch up with the titan, Molbit however quickly steered his horse beside her, making the girl pause.
"Rogue believes that something is up." Molbit began sternly. "Either that or his instincts are in overdrive again. It could be someone or something. Let's keep an eye on him. If something is wrong – then we'll retreat straight for the city. Otherwise, we'll just see if it is a bear or something he's smelling."
The girl seemed to hesitate before sighing. "Okay. I don't think anyone is out here either. If it's a bear it might be good for Rogue to take care of it. Mr. Ness did say that they do have trouble with them quite often."
"Alright. Let's see what he does."
Rogue paid no attention to his allies' comments as he continued to walk and examine the scenery. He could practically feel the hairs on the back of his neck rise. The aura of his surroundings was undoubtfully dangerous. His enemy was not a titan, but it sure seemed as imposing as one. The towering behemoth continued to walk, taking the time to sample the scents around him once again. There was the smell of the pines, the sugar maples, birds hiding away in their nests, and persimmons. However, there was another scent that he found rather odd. Normally, it was a common thing to smell in the woods, but Rogue couldn't help but feel even more uneasy. It was deer urine – a lot of it. But there was not a single one of the animals in sight. Rogue heaved an irritated breath, his ears pinning back again as his eyes shifted. Yes, there were no deer around and the urine seemed fairly fresh. But of course, the strongest smell was the one that belonged to the man clad in black. Both of the strange scents were radiating from just up ahead. He would get there and deal with whatever was going on and leave his own scent to proclaim his dominance and rule over the area. No one would be touching his friends or the farm.
For several minutes, he and his entourage proceeded onward. Rogue didn't speak to either Historia or Molbit as he continued to examine, the trees breaking in the slightest and allowing a small amount of sun to shine through the canopy. The scents grew stronger with every cautious step he took. Suddenly, a twig snapped, the titan twisting his head to stare off into the distant green. He stilled along with his party. Rogue's ears were forward and fully erect, eyes shifting as he searched for life among the foliage – only spotting a crow that left its hiding spot. A small growl forced past his teeth, the creature following instinct before deciding that there was no adversary lying in wait. With another snort, Rogue started forward again, deaf to the conversation that Historia and Molbit had started.
"We've been walking for ten minutes at least." Molbit whispered. "We're getting pretty deep. Strange though, usually you would see more wildlife by now."
"Yeah, you're right. Surely there would be a deer or something. Sasha said when you can't find wildlife nearby it usually means there is a predator around. Animals love Rogue, so perhaps it is a bear."
"Well, I guess we shall see in a bit. We are getting pretty far from the farm."
Rogue's breath deepened, another tactic to ward off any threats as he walked. His ears shifted, but captured nothing foreign to worry about. Still however, the scent of the being in black was almost closer than ever. The titan heaved another breath, shifting his gaze all around him before looking ahead.
Unfortunately, he never saw the man and the weapon in the brush.
Neither Historia or Molbit noticed the lurking danger either.
Hidden away in the leaves was a long, slender, but lightweight cannon in the control of a male dressed in garments that perfectly blended in with the surrounding forest – the two purposely covered by branches and leaves. Silently, the man lay upon his belly with his finger on the trigger of the weapon, the barrel following the titan.
Rogue proceeded onward, still looking about him. The smell was stronger than ever so the man clad in black had to be just up ahead! The scent was fresh. Somewhere the man was watching them. He had to be. The titan's ears flattened against his head in distain. He was going to find out why the man was following him. Once he did, he was going to –
Suddenly, a loud bang echoed through the forest and shook it to its roots. Crows and birds left their roosts frantically as all hidden life was disturbed. Before Rogue could even think or turn to the source of the clamor, a searing pain shot through his side, making the titan stumble into a tree with a piercing and sharp yelp. As Molbit and Historia's horses reared and bucked, Rogue immediately gripped his flank, feeling something that was very out of the ordinary along with a bizarre lack of blood. Green eyes flashed to the area just beneath his ribs to see a strange looking device sticking out from his hide. It looked alarmingly similar to the syringes that Dr. Jaeger once used – except it was the length of his thumb and lacked the plunger at the top which was replaced by cloth fashioned in a style that looked like the ends of Sasha's arrows. In its translucent glass center, there was a clear liquid – one that was almost completely injected into him.
Historia's scream brought the beast from his stupor, igniting him to pull the strange syringe from his flesh and throwing it to the earth, giving his family a clear view of the object. Molbit's face lit up in absolute horror.
"My god – that's a tranquilizer dart! I've never seen one so - Rogue! We need to get back to –
The command forced him to direct his attention away from whatever injury he had to where sudden movement caught his eye, beholding something that seemed to make time slow and his chest tighten in fear. Out of the canopy leaped several men, their forms darkened from the lack of abundant sunlight above. Green eyes widened in horror, briefly catching sight of what hung from their bodies. It was almost as if they wore the Scout's gear, but in all the wrong places. Swords were not held by their hands but were replaced with what appeared to be –
"Rogue! M –
The warning was not finished as triggers were abruptly pulled, the men and women yelling with both triumph and in intimidation as bullets were brought forth. Instinctively, Rogue threw his arm up to cover his face, but his protection proved useless as the bullets pierced flesh – feeling like the stings of a thousand insects. Again, he screeched and threw up his other arm – realizing that the one type of bullet that could puncture his skin was being used. Iron bamboo.
The men swerved around the beast, propelling themselves along with both gas and cables – just like the very same that his family utilized. Terrified greens watched barrels raise once again, his ears practically ringing as triggers were pulled. More metal buried into his hide, blood splattered and steam spilled from his wounds. Who were these men! Why were they after him! What was going on! Before he could shield his face, one of the flying men, dressed in black like all the others, lifted his weapon and fired – the bullet drilling into his eye. Rogue screamed, the pain absolutely unbearable.
"THAT'S IT! BLIND THE BASTARD! YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO!"
His heart thundered even faster at the words. The titan's fight or flight instincts were overpowering. These men were out for blood and he did not feel like waiting to see if their intentions were to kill or capture. With bullets penetrating deep into his muscles with blindness and blood in his eye, Rogue's mind switched onto the defensive. Completely panicked, Rogue turned to bolt into the woods, foolishly following a seeded instinct.
"YA TRYING TO RUN BIG BOY? WHERE DO YOU THINK YER GOING?" A voice boomed overhead. "TAKE EM' DOWN!"
His breath sharpened, brows lifted high in panic as he charged straight over a tree, knocking down the timber with a splintering crack, causing him to stumble but still he kept his pace. Rogue's shoulder roughly knocked another tree from his wake, his ears fanning with the sounds of whirling gears. For the first time since the other deviants had invaded, he was utterly terrified.
"READY THE TRANQS AND ARTILERY! PREPARE TO ENGAGE!"
Rogue whimpered, reaching up to pluck out his useless eye. The voice, it was so rough and sounded absolutely venomous. It was chilling, worthy of making his blood run cold in his veins. The shadowy men began to close in, able to move easily in the relatively dense forest. In an effort to slow them down, Rogue threw his useless eye at his pursuers – not hitting a single one of the nimble adversaries with his vision impaired. Steam billowed from both his eye socket and between his teeth. Perhaps the hot clouds could ward them away; give him time to retreat and take the others to safety in the city. Sure, he would be breaking the strict rules that had been placed upon him, but this was an emergency. He had no idea who his hunters were and why they seeked him.
This was certainly a time where he did not fancy being the mouse.
With another step and a felled tree snapping from his body's sheer force. Rogue stumbled into a small clearing. However, before he could even formulate a plan and choose the direction that he wished to go in, another loud bang rattled his eardrums, the noise so loud and close that it made his ears ring painfully. Just as he was able to open his eye again, netting flew from the foliage and spread open over his face, the weights at the corners completely wrapping themselves around his head. With his stomach suddenly heating up in rage, Rogue instinctively stalled and reached up to savagely and desperately rip at the ends of the net, stumbling around and hunched over as he tried to untangle and tear at the tightly woven rope. He had to remove it!
Another shot sounded violently through his ears and pain ignited on the right side of his rump that forced another yelp from his esophagus, feeling just like the pain from the projectile before. Furious, Rogue snarled – finally able to tear the netting free from his face. Peeling open his now healed eye, the titan quickly looked in the direction that the net was fired to see two men trying to reload the cannon – men that he decided to be his targets as he quickly threw the net they had used against him at them. The two men were too slow to move as the webbing wrapped around them like a cocoon and sent them tumbling over and over in the grass and ivy. With green eyes wild with rage, Rogue turned to the rest of the men and roared, the bellow projecting his warning all throughout the forest. However, his threat practically went unnoticed as the men in black rushed him. Swirling around his bulk like acrobats, they raised their guns. Growling, nostrils flared, and slit pupils as thin as paper, Rogue lifted his hand to snag the wires of the closest individual to him. Unfortunately, before he could even wrap his hand around the cable, bullets from another man pelted his arm – the pain stinging down to the bone. Rogue screeched, both angry and knowing that he needed to disable the enemy, the titan lifted his other arm again only to receive the same treatment. His furious gaze was then replaced by fear. How was he supposed to grab the men by their cables without getting shot?
"I HEARD ABOUT YER LITTLE TALENT OF GRABBING CABLES AND TOSSING THE SCOUTS INTO THE TREES ROGUE JAEGER! LUCKILY WE HAVE A WAY OF PREVENTING THAT! OUR GEAR WAS DESIGNED TO NUTRALIZE MEN, BUT IT LOOKS LIKE IT WORKS ON YER ASS TOO!" The voice chuckled darkly from up in the canopy, making Rogue tremble at the use of his name and at the meaning of the man's words. "FIRE!"
Rogue could think no further as another boom echoed across the clearing and a searing sting ignited in his breast. Glancing downward, the beast spied another one of the large syringes sticking out of his tough flesh. Feeling the need to keep moving, Rogue quickly pulled the dart from his chest and hurriedly removed the other from his rear before bolting once again into the thick foliage.
"WHAT A USELESS ENDEVOR YER MAKING!" The voice continued. "JUST LIKE A SCARED DOG! HE'S EVEN GOT THE COLLAR FOR THE ROLE!" His adversary laughed. "KEEP ON HIM! HE'S NOT TO LEAVE THE FOREST! YA'LL KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH A DESERTED SHEEP!"
He swallowed, limbs snapping and leaves rustling as he charged through the timbers with his pursuers hot on his trail. Rogue's mind buzzed with both confusion and panic. Thoughts practically flooded through him as his breath grew heavy. These men were aiming to capture him, but for what purpose? More importantly, how was he going to be able to string the men and women up by their wires in the trees and brush like marionettes? Rogue swallowed. He didn't want to kill them. He couldn't. It was possible that his hunters were only acting on orders from the man that he had smelled. The only option he had was to try and swipe earlier so their fingers had no time to pull the triggers upon their guns. Besides that, he could only run to safety before meeting up with Historia and Molbit and go find his family. He was 'in deep shit' as Levi always said. Rogue kept running, exhaling puffs of steam as he began to feel completely ignorant. His instincts had forced him to enter the forest to investigate. The deer urine was clearly a cover up for the men and women's assortment of scents. Their leader had clearly allowed his scent to be detected for he knew that he himself had smelled it before and feared it. He should have never ventured into the woods in the first place! He should have just gathered those he loved and started for the city with no regrets of breaking any rules! Now here he was in a heated chase with little options.
He didn't want to kill anyone. He didn't want to live with the sins that he had committed haunting him for the rest of his life.
Pinpricks of pain along his spine brought Rogue back to the reality of his horrible situation – the feeling of grapples buried into flesh kicking himself into high gear. Out of the corner of his worried eyes, Rogue watched as two men dived downward – clearly aiming to swerve around his legs. However, before he could attempt to make the grab, two men took lead of the dark clothed pack, raising their guns and pelting his back with bullets. Rogue's teeth grinded together, tears forming in the corners of his eyes while crimson began to decorate his tan hide. Rogue whined, pushing himself to run but recalling the two men that had previously made a dive at his feet. Looking down, Rogue watched as the two men weaved around his calves before turning and skillfully flying in reverse. The titan roared in agony as the iron bamboo bullets pelted his shins and blood ran down his legs in a pattern like candle wax. What was he going to do!
"PREPARE TO FIRE!"
At the order, another one of the narrow cannons nestled in the brambles that sat on a tripod like structure – the barrel following the titan as he approached and Rogue noticing the instrument far too late as the weapon fired. The behemoth's howl in anguish bounced off the trunks of trees as one of the massive darts impaled his stomach. Rogue grimaced, his eyes looking down at his abdomen – the needle of the large syringe stuck deep in his muscles with its contents emptying into his bloodstream just like the others. Teeth grinding, Rogue quickly pulled the dart from his belly and tossed it behind him. He needed to get away. He needed to run.
"GIVE IT YER ALL! HE'S A STUBBORN ONE! PREPARE TO ENGAGE FURTHER AND SET THE HEAVY ARTILERY! THIS ONE IS A BIG BEAST! HE'S GOING TO TAKE MORE AMMO!"
The titan curved around another bend but meeting more trouble as two other hunters leaped from their perches. Immediately, Rogue dipped his head and shielded his face as more bullets dug into his forearms. He could practically feel the metal beneath his skin, his muscles stinging every time he moved. Rogue found himself cursing his incompetence and envious of Luana and Ansgar yet again. If he could only harden himself, he could easily do what he needed to do to save himself and everyone he loved.
Hearing that no man or woman was approaching from the air, Rogue lifted his head to look afore him again. However, as he did, a sense of dizziness hit him, nearly making the beast stop and gather himself. Rogue blinked, his vision blurring and his eyes suddenly seeing double of nearly everything. His heart thundered in horror as a bit of drowsiness began to creep upon him. Panicked, Rogue blinked in an attempt to focus, only managing to lose the double vision as his pace began to slow. What the hell? Why was he growing tired? Why was his vision dulling?
"Yes! It looks like he's getting sleepy!" A man laughed from behind him. "The tranquilizers are starting to work on the brute!"
Rogue blinked again, questioning the man's statement. Tranquilizers? Was it possible that the man meant the strange syringes that the skinny cannons fired? They were the things making him sleepy? Rogue gulped, face painted in horror as he kept moving – slowed to almost a light run from a sprint. He was likely going to succumb to repose. He didn't have much time left to escape. He needed to move!
Suddenly, the stinging infected the small of his back, more bullets forcing themselves past his skin. Rogue screeched, the cry not nearly as piercing as the previous he had emitted. The dizziness hit him once again, his limbs suddenly feeling much heavier. The titan stumbled, but kept himself upright as his vision doubled once again before blurring – his eyelids growing heavy. Rogue blinked, shaking his head in the slightest before forcing himself to carry on in a jog. Bullets seared his shoulder, bouncing off the metal plating upon his collar. His breath grew ragged, the world around him almost seeming slow. Still, Rogue growled in determination. He had to outrun them. He had to get away.
He had to move.
He had to move.
With the fog and effects of the tranquilizers clouding his mind, Rogue couldn't react quick enough to the sound of the blast – another dart implanting deeply into the side of his neck and fully injecting more of its contents. Rogue yelped, stumbling and leaning dangerously before pushing himself to jog forward once more. The titan reached upwards with the intent to remove the dart.
Frightened, confused, and knowing that it was likely that he was to be hit with another dart, Rogue forced his tired body to move faster. Unfortunately, he never noticed the cannon he was closing in on. Another loud bang vibrated his eardrums and sent more birds flying, a large cannonball flying through the forest - snapping limbs and whipping leaves as it barreled straight for its target. As the titan brought his leg forward, the cannonball met its mark, impacting the side of the knee. Rogue bellowed as blood sprayed the earth as the cannonball exited the other side of the behemoth's knee. His leg buckled inwardly, unable to hold his weight, Rogue tumbled to the earth. The ground shook and trees were uprooted as he rolled like a ragdoll down a small knoll.
"WE GOT YA NOW! PREPARE TO TAKE THE BASTARD DOWN! HE DOESN'T HAVE MUCH LEFT IN EM!"
Rogue whined, flopping over as he struggled to push himself upright. With determination, the beast was able to stand, but quickly found that he was unable to run and could only manage a shaky hobble for he couldn't put any weight upon his right leg. With his heart still pounding in panic, Rogue soldiered forward. Another wave of fatigue and dizziness fell over him as he stumbled into a glade – one full of the men and women dressed in black. With his head feeling immensely heavy, Rogue looked up with his eyes only able to see a blur of shapes.
With the final command, the earth seemed to rattle again as more cannons fired, two nets swarming around him with their weights tangling and pinning his arms to his sides. The titan stopped, his entire body feeling unbearably heavy. Exhaustion gripped him in a vice as tears welled up in his eyes as the realization hit him. There was no way he could escape with the others and protect his family and his babies now. Whatever had been injected into his body was making him grow unbearably drained and forbidding him to move his body easily and impairing his vision. The men perusing him with guns had only used their bullets to steer him into this trap. He had fallen for every bit of their tricks. He was so incredibly stupid.
He had made a huge mistake.
"FIRE THE BARBS! HE'S DONE TAKE HIM DOWN!"
The sounds of blasts rattled the forest yet again and dozens of barbs sunk into his legs and hips. Rogue droned, the entire world tilting. In a last ditch effort to reach safety and escape to the city, the titan lifted his leg and sluggishly brought his foot forward. Around him, his hunters gasped as he began to pull the barb cannons from their resting spots – dragging the machinery with him. At this, Rogue couldn't help but feel a slight sense of hope, but such was diminished when another shot echoed across the glade. Rogue yelped as an added dart implanted into is back and spread its contaminants. Time then seemed to stand still as his body gave in to defeat.
With another wave of dizziness and fatigue drowning the towering beast and black dots crossing his vision, Rogue's legs finally gave out beneath him with the titan dropping down onto his knees, the ground trembling beneath his weight. The world seemed to spin around him as tears soaked his face. Suddenly, the great beast's strength left him and Rogue fell forward. The land shuttered at his impact and a chorus of cruel cheers celebrated his loss. The titan's breath labored, chest heaving as he rolled in the slightest onto his side. He couldn't help but whimper and whine like a frightened child. He had lost. He had been captured by evil men and he had not the slightest idea as to what they planned to do with him. His babies. He couldn't get to them. He couldn't save them.
He couldn't protect them.
He had failed.
The titan struggled to stay awake, twitching in his binds and suffering from a state of mortification. Even though the world around him seemed opaque and indistinct, Rogue was able to hear the slight nickering of horses and rustling leaves.
His heart began to pound once again at the familiar voice. With his muscles stiff but mind coated in worry, Rogue arched his neck to see Molbit and Historia at the edge of the tree line – a horrified look plastered onto their faces. No! They needed to get away! They needed to warn the others! The titan parted his maw, ready to roar a warning but only able to manage a pitiful high pitched moan as the wooziness swept over him again. Unfortunately, his vocal drew his hunters' attention to the frightened pair.
"Historia! We need to go warn the others!" Molbit ushered the teen, the girl resisting.
"But Rogue –
"Right now we have no way to free him! We need to go find the Corporal and the others!"
For a moment, Historia seemed to hesitate before giving in and following the man on horseback, the titan unable to see the tears gracing her cheeks.
"Hurry! Go after them and bring the girl! Kill anyone that gets in yer way!"
Rogue froze at the words. They wanted Historia too? Why would they –
The titan's thoughts were suddenly stalled by the sound of a deep black chuckle – a smug and rough tone lacing the vocal. With his eyelids sinking even further, Rogue slowly turned his head, the foul stench of his enemy hitting him full blast. Practically feeling his own heart beating in his ears, Rogue's eyes made out the outline of the man that he had seen before – dressed in dark clothes and a hat with a wide brim covering his brow. The titan felt nothing but fear as his vision grew dimmer. The man stopped just inches away from his face and folded his arms, the smirk on his face so wide that Rogue could make out the very form. The tall and slender male then chuckled again.
"Well, well. Yer sure are tough. Usually it takes only two of those lovely darts to send one of you titans off to dreamland. Yer ass took seven of them, but I can't say I'm surprised since you are the infamous Rogue Titan – the fifteen-meter titan slayer and King of Earth." The man practically hummed. "I was honestly expecting more of a retaliation from you, but in reality beneath that tough exterior yer just a scared little child!" His adversary snickered, making heat pool in his stomach at the insult. Though he was incapacitated, Rogue mustered the strength to let out a rippling snarl that would make most soldiers piss themselves. To his dismay however, the man gave the opposite reaction, simply folding his arms in defiance and sniggering again. "Oh? So ya do have a bit of fight in you?" The man laughed before lifting his foot and planting it down hard on the beast's nose. Rogue growled weakly, unable to move to even get away from the unwanted contact. "Well, we'll just have to do something about that won't we?"
Rogue observed as the man rotated his head to meet the company of another man that was approaching them – the only detail that he could make out was the man was plump with his vision fading.
"So – this is the Rogue Titan?"
The man, who seemed to be named Kenny, nodded. "Yup. The big bastard in the flesh."
There was a slight pause before the other man began once again. "My family has been waiting a hundred years to get their hands on this titan. Now – he's in our possession."
"Ah." Kenny acknowledged, leaning closer to look at the beast. "I have to tell ya, he's quite stubborn and willful. The big boy fell for our trap though due to the fact that he felt the need to protect his own. He's a fighter I'll give ya that. We pumped em' with enough drugs to put at least five seven-meters to sleep – yet he's still struggling to stay conscious. There's no doubt that he's going to be quite temperamental."
The stout man nodded in understanding. "I see. We'll need to break him then. I cannot have him misbehaving."
Kenny nodded, smirking once again. "I'll see to it, Boss."
"I trust that you will be taking him to that – arena you frequent."
"Yup. I think that will break his sanity into pieces and pound it into dust. I'll ensure that he gets the special treatment there. Of course, we'll keep him doped up like a dirty little whore so there's no risk to anyone attending the show or handling him. He'll make things pretty interesting."
Rogue blinked, his body still and his eyelids sinking as darkness began to creep over him.
"Ah, and with the moon full it's the perfect night to carry out our plans. I think I'll even come to these little games of yours Kenny. Just to keep tabs on the both of you and see how you tame this wild creature. Now, what of my daughter?"
"Historia? Well, ya don't need to worry about her. I and the elite part of my squad will go and fetch her and bring her to you in time for the event this evening. We know where they are headed. We'll dispose of any obstacle that gets in our way and do the job quickly. Don't ya worry, Boss."
"Good. Do not fail me. Tonight, I'm finally going to ensure that we will forever have peace."
Rogue sighed, muscles going slack. His mind was far too worn to comprehend a thing that had been discussed. Finally, with no energy left, the titan succumbed to an awaiting slumber.
Levi folded his arms in displeasure as he faced the group of teens afore him. It was a sunny and bright day in Olvid district with admittedly fine weather. Much to his annoyance, the great day had drawn out what seemed like every person from every nook and cranny. In the market part of the district there were men, women, and children of all ages moving about and purchasing goods. Admittedly, Levi would say that Olvid district was surprisingly better than Stohess district. There weren't that many arrogant aristocrats but there was still the stuck up and greedy merchants – not to mention the sheer number of people was not something he found favorable.
Of course, with what he and his squad were trying to pull off, a crowd of people was both a blessing and a curse. In their plain clothes and unmarked hoods, they could easily blend in, but if by chance they were noticed – things would go down a shitty path quickly. He knew this all too well and itching at him was the feeling that something wasn't going to go their way today. They had arrived the previous evening and quickly got a room at a cheap inn that tested his patience. Staying with several teenagers in the evening was an experience he didn't want to repeat anytime soon. Due to how pricey even the affordable inn was, they had been forced to take the single room instead of getting several. Sasha and Connie were constantly digging into the free pastries that the room service provided. Jean complained about the simplest things such as someone taking too long to shit and the water being too hot. Armin and Mikasa had behaved pretty well for the most part – wondering about Rogue and going over what they were to say when they were called as witnesses for the trial. He himself found the room in need of a slight dusting, but he forced himself to tolerate it. Thankfully, amid the chaos of settling in, Levi did get an hour to explain the plan to his squad. Of course, he was still envious of Erwin and Hange getting their own rooms at a pricier inn much closer to where the trial was being held.
When morning had dawned. He wasted no time in getting the teens out of bed, prepared, and out of the inn to find a good morsel before they were to head for the trial at noon. Currently, their party was stationed around a single bench eating the things that the teens simply had to have for breakfast. Bacon and green apples. Levi was the first to admit, it was an odd and strange combination of foods but he wasn't minding. Bacon was an incredibly rare shipment they received at headquarters and green apples was a food that he only ever saw the rich and privileged eating back when he lived in the Underground. He was no stranger to the common red apple, but the green ones had a somewhat tangy and sour taste that he appreciated. Levi took another bite from the fruit, getting close to the core as he continued to think and contemplate about all sorts of matters. Rogue, Historia, and Molbit would have gotten to the Ness's farm late the previous evening and were likely indulging on homemade foods. The giant brat was probably chasing chickens or something of the sort while being safe from other sets of eyes. Erwin was probably being prepped to give his testimony while Hange was likely preparing as well along with keeping a sharp eye out for any incoming news. The Corporal exhaled, tugging on his hood again to ensure that it was covering his face. He couldn't wait till the trial was done and they could head back to headquarters.
He just wanted to get this over with.
"So, Fritz is supposed to be at this trial listening in?" Jean began as he took a sip of water from his canteen.
"Unfortunately." Levi muttered beneath his breath, thinking of the news that a messenger of the court had given them just shortly before. "Of course, he's really just a stand in so we won't have to worry about him. It's just the government and nobles that we need to persuade. And it's likely they work with the Reiss. No doubt will they be harsh about Rogue."
"I'm afraid of this trial." Arlert began, eyes looking intently at the apple in his hands. "Even though Rogue didn't do a thing, they might have put the dots together and figured out that Rogue is the reason why the invasions are happening. They might decide to terminate Rogue thinking that they are solving the problem." Armin expressed his worries with Mikasa noticeably growing tense next to him.
Levi's grip tightened on his meal, knowing that the teen had expressed a valid point. "I do agree with you. We have a right to be nervous. It is likely that many people have figured this out and it's not just the government but those that never supported Rogue to begin with will take it as the perfect opportunity to retaliate against us. Of course," Levi paused, going over the facts in his head. "We are there for Erwin's decision to break the rules. Erwin is the defendant and Rogue is just a witness. So if anyone should receive any sort of sentence, it's Erwin. Of course, the Commander was faced with an emergency situation and had to make the call. He didn't have any other choice. I hope the jury sees to reason in this situation."
"If things don't go in our favor, what could Erwin be sentenced with?" Sasha asked quietly.
The Corporal found himself hesitating. This was a query that he was afraid to answer. "Truthfully, I am unsure. It could be a simple jail sentence with a fine or as extreme as execution for treason." He admitted, watching as several of the teens stiffened. "Of course, I think our case is a strong one. Pixis himself is testifying as well."
"So – there is no telling how this will go?" Jean began bluntly. "We have no idea what the outcome will be?"
Levi released a vexed sigh. "No. Now let's keep the talk of this silent for now. We can't have everyone overhearing – especially with the recent events that transpired." He informed with the others blinking before nodding. For several minutes, the group continued to indulge on breakfast and listen to the surrounding conversations, waiting on any message to report. Levi took another bite of the apple, getting closer to its core.
"I wonder what is going on with Rogue and Historia right now." Connie began. "I bet they had one hell of a breakfast this morning." The teen chuckled, obviously trying to lighten the mood. "I wonder if Rogue is chasing around animals or something. Seems like a likely thing he would do."
"True." Mikasa smiled discreetly. "He's never gotten to see any of those animals close up so I bet he is enjoying himself."
"We need to keep any subject about Rogue to ourselves for now. We can't afford someone important overhearing." Levi quickly intervened, watching as a few of the teens looked at him in surprise before conveying their understanding in curt nods. The Corporal then sighed, turning away from the group to observe his surroundings yet again while the teenagers continued to talk about things that no one would have an interest in including himself. The street continued to be busy and he didn't see anything that would be a cause for concern. Levi shifted his weight, feeling his maneuver gear that was tucked away beneath his cloak – ready for any emergency. The recruits had brought their gear as well, the weapons hidden away in their transport cart that was stationed nearby, ready to travel to the trial. They were prepared for anything. At least, that was what he was able to determine at the very moment.
Again, Levi took another bite of the apple in hand, his face instantly screwing up in displeasure as the man bit into a seed. Quickly, The Corporal spit out the unwanted bite and tossed the core of the apple away. For a moment, Levi glanced at his inside pocket and back to the apple stand. The fruits were delicious, although expensive, he wasn't sure when he would get the chance to indulge on them again. Giving in, Levi reached into his pocket and pulled a few coins from his bag, taking the time to ensure that he had the right amount before walking forward.
However, much to his unfortunate luck, he never got to the stall.
A tall man bumped into him roughly, nearly knocking him over and the money that he held flying out of his fingers. Levi's brows narrowed.
"You need to watch where you're going kid."
He froze at the insult, face heating up at the jab at his height. He could practically feel a vein bulge in his neck. "You could watch where you are going yourself." Levi blurted out, turning to scrutinize the man who was a plump individual with a thick mustache. The man wore a scowl and was obviously not the friendly kind let alone the forgiving.
"You should probably learn some manners and –
However, to his dismay, the man paused, blinking in disbelief before a single brow rose in cunning. It was then that the Corporal realized that his hood had slipped off in the shove. Inwardly, he cursed himself as the man let out a laugh.
"Well, you're not some kid after all. You're Corporal Levi of the Scouts." He laughed. "I didn't picture you to be as short."
Levi said nothing, simply glaring at the man while his squad watched nearby. A bead of sweat appeared on the back of his neck as the man's words drew nearby onlookers' attention.
"What are you doing here in your plain clothes? Not to mention you're in a hood trying to hide your face." The man snickered. "Let me guess, you're hiding because of the mess your titan has caused!" The plump male chortled, making Levi's brows narrow and his face heat up. With this statement though, he was unsure of how to reply. "I'm right aren't I?"
As much as he wanted to reply, Levi found himself unable to speak. This was the one thing that he did not want to be spoken.
"Your lack of response tells me that I have a point. I bet that Armored and Colossal bastard came here to just get rid of the one thing protecting us. Hell, maybe your beast is special."
Levi's brow wrinkled. "I would shut up before you dig yourself into a deeper hole and look like an idiot. We are the last of humanity on earth. Those monsters are desperate for food so they came knocking on our fucking door. There is no proof that they would be after Rogue." He lied sternly, knowing that he was likely saying something that was described in the papers. Now, our titan as well as the rest of the Scouts are the only ones capable of ridding ourselves of our enemy. If we had not intervened, it would have been very likely that the Armored and Colossal would have advanced all the way into the interior and thus allowing the titans into every section of the walls. So – think before you speak."
He could be the first to admit that he took a bit of pride seeing the man's dumbfounded face, the male opening his mouth to reply but ultimately unable to produce a single vocal. Seconds passed, and Levi observed the audience to their spat turn to one another and discuss what happened. Levi felt his face heat up. He did not like this situation. How had he been so careless?
Finally, the man cleared his throat. "Well, whatever. But I still think that the Scouts are covering up some –
However, the man's reply was abruptly cut short by a frantic clatter of hooves. For a moment, Levi's heart stilled as he watched citizens frenetically move out of the way. Time seemed to pass in slow motion as two horses rounded a corner, their riders instantly making both his squad stand and fear and confusion course through his body. Upon the equines' backs, were both Historia and Molbit – looking panicked more than he thought possible. Their hair was messy, clothes dirty, and a slight bit of dried blood leaked from minor cuts. His heart pounded. Rogue was not with them nor was Mr. and Mrs. Ness. It only meant that what they had tried to prevent had occurred.
"Levi!" The two yelled in unison as they pulled the reins for their steeds to stop. The stunned man was soon joined by his squad with an incredibly horrified looking Mikasa. "Levi!" Historia quickly dismounted from her horse, nearly tripping over her dress before stopping afore them and trying to catch her breath.
"What happened!" He demanded, Mikasa and Armin saying the same in unison with him. The small blonde gasped, finally able to stand straight.
"Rogue… they captured Rogue!"
Levi's heart nearly stopped again. The big brat had been captured? Was it by the titans that they had tangled with before? Did they breach the wall again? Were mindless titans invading once more? Shit! They didn't need this! His squad were the only ones around! They didn't have an army to pursue and get Rogue back!
"Who captured Rogue!" Mikasa demanded, breaking him out of his paralysis.
"It was some men dressed in black!" Historia informed, catching the party off guard. It wasn't titans? Humans had actually managed to trap what was supposedly the most powerful titan? Levi swallowed. Only the Scouts were capable of doing such a thing so who could possibly have the strength and know how to capture a fifteen-meter deviant?
"Men took him?" Armin stammered. "How is that possible?"
"They did it with some sort of tranquilizers!" Molbit exclaimed. "The also had trapping equipment like ours!"
Levi's eyes widened, revealing a demeanor that was not witnessed by many.
"Yes!" Historia continued. "Not to mention, they had gear like the Scouts except it was arranged differently! They had guns instead of swords!" Historia paused to catch her breath again. "They – shot at Rogue and overwhelmed him pretty easily!"
The Corporal remained stunned. The words were loud and clear and he couldn't second guess himself. With the news, something finally clicked in his head, making him recall the event that occurred a month prior and the two men that had ambushed Rogue on their property some time ago. Next to him, Armin appeared to have come to the same conclusion with a gasp.
"The first squad." He began, the eyes of those that weren't aware turning towards him. "Is it possible that the same people that killed Nick were able to capture Rogue? Were – the men that snuck up on us at headquarters the same as well?"
"Oh my god."
"Yes." Levi quickly agreed. "By the description it does sound like them."
"Hold on." Connie cut in, his amber eyes as large as grapefruits. "Who is this first squad?"
Without hesitation, Armin quickly turned to the teen and began to hastily explain. As he did, Levi's mind began to race. The first squad had managed to capture Rogue. By the use of similar traps like their own, it was clear that the ambush was premeditated. The first squad must have known that the Scouts were to report to a trial along with Rogue and it was highly likely that they had seen the titan along with Historia and Molbit going to the farm during the night. Shit! They knew nothing about their new foe and had no possible idea where they were taking the beast. If their equipment was indeed like that of the Survey Corps, then it was likely that they were transporting Rogue beneath a tarp on a covered wagon. And in such a rural area, no soul would likely see the first squad making a getaway. This was not good. The men were clearly after Rogue and –
Levi's train of thought was brought to an abrupt halt when a chorus of screams pierced the air along with the thunder of wooden wheels over bricks. With movement capturing his gaze, Levi looked up to see something else absolutely horrifying. Nearly plowing through the crowd, was a wagon being pulled by two horses with several men and women dressed in black on board. The driver of the wagon had their eyes clearly set upon them. Finally, able to feel his body after the previous state of numbness, Levi quickly shoved himself into his squad. "Move!" He ordered with the teens leaping out of the wagon's wake.
Historia however wasn't quick enough.
The small blond was able to avoid the wagon's impact, but the girl was unable to avoid the grip of one of the men atop the carriage – hands hoisting the small teen onto the wagon as it proceeded to venture further. For a moment, Levi and the others remained stunned, Molbit struggling to get a hold of his spooked horse until pure instinct hit him. Quickly, Levi reached inside his cloak and pushed his gear into position, grabbing the hilts and preparing to make his move. "Grab our wagon and trail them! Use your gear if you must! Molbit! Go alert Hange!" Levi ordered as he pulled the triggers, launching himself into the air to take pursuit. He pulled his triggers harder, exhaust leaving his gear's canister as he propelled forward so quickly that his eyes produced tears in protest.
Suddenly, there was an echoing bang and something whizzed past his cheek and shattered the glass of a passing building. For a moment, he found himself wanting to go rigid, but recalling his days in the Underground, Levi reverted to the instinct held by prey. He swerved just as a collection of booms rattled his ears and more bullets flew by him – turning various things into Swiss cheese. Needing to get an edge and move into a better position to size up his foe, Levi propelled himself upwards and began to weave through the spires and chimneys. His breath hitched and adrenaline flowed in his blood as more bullets flew by like a swarm of locus. Levi laced around a tower, not daring to look behind him as he quickly dived down to a lower rooftop and scrambled to take cover by a chimney. He remained still, concentrating on controlling his breath. His ears listened to his pursuers' gear as it edged closer and stopped, the Corporal taking note at the slightly different tune of the motor and the reeling mechanism. Discreetly, with his stern looking face showing an absolute stone cold expression, Levi angled his head around the corner to peer upon what he and his squad were now dealing with.
His brows immediately rose in astonishment. Historia's account that the first squad's gear was much different was more than correct. Instead of on their lower backs, the gas canisters and reels were placed high on the user's backs. The gear didn't have the hilts for swords but rather two guns for each hand. One barrel was clearly one made to fire a wire and the other longer barrel was made to be the actual firearm that resembled a blunderbuss. Around each thigh were extra barrels full of ammunition. Levi swallowed, a bead of sweat forming upon his brow. The things were absolutely intimidating. It was no wonder why Rogue was quickly overwhelmed. The titan probably had no time to grab a cable before another man shot his arm. To a titan that couldn't harden its skin – this was a more than effective weapon. In addition, this was a very formidable weapon against a human.
Their odds were certainly not good. Swords against bullets always lost.
"Well, what do ya know? It's been a hell of a long time Levi!"
His eyes widened and he felt his heart skip a beat. That voice – he knew that voice from his childhood. Oh how he knew it! It belonged to the man that had taken him under his wing, taught him how to hold a knife and defend himself before leaving him. It was the man who had taught him everything he knew.
"Look how much you've grown!" He laughed, the sound of his mirth raspy like the tones from smoking men. "Ya haven't changed a bit have you?"
Slowly, Levi turned and came face to face with none other than his own uncle, Kenny Ackerman. The man looked the same as he always had, tall and slender with a short beard around his jawline. His eyes had a bit more wrinkles than he remembered but overall Kenny looked the same as he did years ago. He even wore the same old hat that he always did. The Corporal's face twisted into a grimace. Of all people it had to be Kenny! The man was crafty and amazingly clever. It was no wonder as to how the man managed to capture Rogue. He would have to move quickly and get to a safe place so he could think about how to deal with his opponent. Unfortunately, for the time being, he would have to leave the recruits to tail the wagon. He had to take care of this unfortunate obstacle at once.
"I don't think you've changed much either. What the hell are you doing here Kenny?"
His uncle chuckled. "You should know better. I'm just working a job!" The man proclaimed as he quickly lifted the barrel of one of the guns.
At this, Levi's instincts kicked into gear once again. As quickly as he could, he dethatched his cloak and threw it before him to obscure as he turned around to dive from the rooftop, the sounds of bullets cutting through the air meeting his ears and leaving his cloak like a moth-eaten cloth. To his dismay, Kenny shadowed his move, arching over him with his guns aimed at his target.
"I thought ya'd run!"
Just as the taller man began to press his triggers, the Corporal resorted to utilizing his only way of firing a projectile – like lightning, he plunged a hilt into his scabbard to attach a blade before drawing a sword. Next, in his desperate attempt of defending himself, Levi pressed the release on his hilt, dethatching the blade with its momentum carrying it forward in a deadly spin – a trick that he had picked up when joining the Scouts to blind a titan. He wasted no time watching the piece of steel fly inches by Kenny's head to slice a few hairs as he advanced forward.
Levi launched himself into the air, pushing his gear to its limits as he moved when necessary to avoid the incoming rounds. As he suspected, Kenny was working beneath someone. The man had always been a hired assassin. With Rogue and Historia being captured, he had a pretty good idea as to who the man was working for. It had to be none other than the true king of the walls, but the question as to why was still up in the air. Why go through the trouble trying to conceal and dispose of the one weapon that was capable of defeating the titans and why would the king want his own daughter? Was it possible that he wanted to get rid of the girl too?
Levi cursed beneath his breath again. Of all people, why did he have to deal with Kenny? The man was dangerous. He was fast. And we was skilled enough that he would be able to predict his every move.
His heart began to pound as more bullets whizzed by his head, forcing him into an instinctual dive. Like a frightened fawn running from prey, Levi swerved left and right in a zig zag pattern with people running from his wake. He carefully glanced over his shoulder to see three other men in black trailing him with guns drawn and Kenny leading the way. It was proof. His uncle was the man in command of what was the first squad. They were up against a truly formidable opponent.
This wasn't good. Rogue had been taken and now there was a chance that they wouldn't be able to catch up and retrieve Historia.
Suddenly, bullets rained down upon him again, pelting the walk and only missing by mere inches. Following instinct, he swerved yet again in a new direction, flying through a lonely alleyway that he was thankful wasn't home to any homeless drunks. However, as he did, several more men leaped down from the rooftops with guns drawn. His heart rattled in his ribcage as he abruptly changed direction once again. His ears were practically ringing as the party fired their weapons another time. He nearly bit through his lip in pain as one of the bullets grazed his side – the ever familiar feeling of blood soaking into his shirt present. Levi gritted his teeth, but just as he pulled his triggers once again, more bullets swarmed around him like aggravated hornets, hitting the bricks on the adjacent building and causing them to combust into pieces, two of which traveling across his cheek and brow. Instantly, blood decorated the side of his face and obscured his vision. Levi cursed again as his ears picked up the arrogant laughter of Kenny just behind him.
"YOU CAN'T RUN YA LITTLE SHORT BASTARD! THIS IS QUITE THE FAMILY REUNION!"
Inwardly, his mind churned, instantly looking for ways to escape just like any prey. Quickly, his eyes spotted a saloon and aimed a cable right for the front of the building above the doorway. Levi then pulled his triggers as hard as he possibly could, propelling him through the double doors of the establishment and right onto the top of the bar counter itself, ripping the doors from their hinges in the process. Regaining his bearings, Levi immediately reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief and began to quickly and thoroughly wipe away drying and dripping crimson. His head throbbed and his side stung. The day was an absolutely shitty one.
"Is that – Corporal Levi of the Survey Corps?"
He paused at the spooked voice, pressing the cloth to his head as he gradually looked up to view the interior of the saloon. Bars such as the one he was currently in were not too common in the walls like they were decades ago. The establishment was indeed a saloon with the short double doors that had once hung at the entrance and a mostly wood and rough around the edges design. Stiff and stunned patrons sat motionless with wide eyes at tables while several of the men struggled to clean up their spilt beer. The bartender looked both spooked and in awe as he peered at him from behind the bar with wide and questioning eyes. Levi grunted, lifting the handkerchief away to see if he had stopped bleeding, finding that it was indeed starting to slow. The saloon seemed like the kind of place that several soldiers would frequent to unwind and one that he would only visit once in his life.
Suddenly, his ears were filled with the sounds of whirling gears and boots hitting the brick walk. Instantly knowing that his foe had arrived, Levi displayed a hushed gesture to the customers and dove behind the counter of the bar to squeeze beneath the top. He swallowed, pressing the cloth to his face again. He was prey that had been backed into a corner. He would have to weasel his way out quickly and reunite with his squad. He would have to be smart. Maybe he could even gain information.
"I smell a rat!" Kenny's voice carried into the saloon, the sound of his boots hitting the wooden floor making him search all the more desperately for a plan. "Where are ya Levi!"
Levi hesitated, taking a breath to calm himself with his eyes catching sight of one thing that could save his skin and allow him to make a break for it. Tucked beneath the counter of the bar was a long old rifle that was obviously kept for the saloon's own protection. Quietly, Levi leaned over and plucked the weapon from its spot. His eyes looked the object over. It wasn't a hunting rifle with real bullets but rather a gun that fired rubber bullets used for crowd control. He wasn't surprised at the fact. Most shop owners used guns like such since they risked any sort of misfire with a bullet injuring an actual customer. That didn't mean the weapon wasn't useful. He could still stun or even knock Kenny out with it.
"I know you're in here ya little rodent!"
The Corporal exhaled, calming himself. "I'm here Kenny. You're right it's been a while."
A cocky laugh sounded throughout the saloon. "Ha! I'm curious to see what your face looks like again after I tore it up! I'm here to see what color yer brains are!"
His brow twitched. "You know, I actually thought you were dead Kenny. So – I take it that you're the leader of the first squad huh?"
For a moment there was a pause until Kenny let out a slight laugh. "Heh! Indeed! I'm guessing you learned that from that poor sap with a big mouth that I sent to visit Nick!"
Levi's brows narrowed. Kenny sure was cleaver, already thinking of the one possible source that the Scouts could have learned about the real king's secret squad.
"I suppose I can't let you live now knowing that. As for everyone else, we have ways to keep em' quiet. Some – well are probably frowned upon by many."
Levi exhaled, calculating his next moves. He needed to get as much information as he could. "So. What do you want the big brat for? Not to mention it seems you took the girl for a purpose. What are planning to do to the two of them? Kill them I presume? Get rid of the problem that the king thinks he has? Am I right Kenny?" Levi spoke as he leaned forward and turned one of the liquor bottles upon the shelf behind the bar, making the label face away from him and allowing Levi to see Kenny's reflection in the brown glass. The man stalled for a moment at his query, casually leaning against an empty chair.
"Eventually." The man finally answered, almost humming. "But there are matters that need to be taken care of first. Other things that must be done and things that need to be accomplished."
Levi clenched his teeth, feeling his frustration brewing. What else did they wish to do with Rogue and Historia? Besides erasing what the true king deemed as a threat, what else was planned? His eyes narrowed further, he knew that Kenny would not tell him even if he asked. The man would just dance around the question.
"You know Levi, even though I lived in a shithole part of my life it was worth it in some ways. In my profession, it provided an abundant hunting ground." Kenny began once again, making the Corporal's blood begin to boil for he knew full and well as to what the man was talking about. "Not only that, but there were plenty of poor bastards to slit throats and shoot and many more men willing to fork over a small fortune for someone's head! Like you, I got an incredible opportunity where the payment was citizenship above ground. I carried that job out in a single fucking day – splattered that fucker's brains all over his dinner table!" Kenny continued his tale, several of the bar patrons standing to leave in a rush. "After that, I got me a small place out in the country where I thought I'd try to live a calm life as a hunter who sold meat and furs to the rich. It was good fucking money, but it didn't feel so satisfying. I've shot down six point bucks, tracked down and field dressed bears, and slaughtered colossal boars – but I never got the thrill of the kill like I had when my prey was human. For a while, I weighed my options. I could live an honest life or return to the life I had to satisfy the particular blood I craved and eventually be judged by my sins. One day, I had an unexpected offer – an invitation to work for the king as part of his personal hounds. As ya can imagine, I accepted. For a long time, the boss wouldn't explain why we were killing certain targets. There were deserting nobles and even priests. Then, the breach happened and the boss finally told us about our real target – the infamous Rogue Titan! For years, we practiced and trained until this day came, Levi." Kenny chuckled darkly, picking up a beer from a neighboring table to take a few swigs before throwing the bottle to the floor. "You should have seen your prized pet! The beast was reduced to nothing but a frightened animal – a toddler that screamed like he had lost his mother. Our bullets pelted the bastard, making his blood spray against the trees and earth. Our cannons shattered his knees and the drugs we injected rendered him utterly immobile and useless. He was a worthy beast of hunting! The most prized of big game! Hunting a titan is an unforgettable experience." Kenny continued. "That big bastard is going to give me more than just a fortune." The man practically purred, suddenly lifting the chair in hand and throwing it behind the bar, bottles shattering and alcohol spilling. "Now – do you remember Levi? About the lesson of cornering a rat?"
The corporal gritted his teeth, realizing that Kenny had the saloon surrounded. His chances were slimmer than ever!
"No matter which way ya go, we're just gonna swoop down on ya!" The man's mirth grew louder as he neared. "I love this hobby of mine, going up against a formidable opponent gives me quite the rush. I can see why you joined the Survey Corps." Kenny smirked.
"If you like killing titans so much, why didn't you just become a Scout? You clearly have the credentials, Kenny."
Levi watched as the man's grin grew even broader. "Because of benefits." Kenny paused as he picked up another chair, mere feet away and forcing Levi to ready the gun. He would need to be quick before his uncle could move. "Ya kill too when it benefits ya as well right?"
As Kenny lifted both his weapon and the chair, Levi saw his only window. "Yeah. You're right Kenny." The Corporal spoke as he quickly tilted the gun up over his head and the counter. For a moment he took a second to witness Kenny's stunned façade before he pulled the trigger. The bang echoed throughout the saloon as the rubber bullets met their mark, packing quite a punch and sending Kenny nearly outside the saloon. Next, he tossed the rifle to the bartender who clumsily caught the weapon while he thanked the man with a curt nod. He would need to think of his escape quickly.
"Is that Captain Ackerman?"
"Is he dead?"
"No he's knocked out! Quickly, prepare to engage the Corporal! He's armed and dangerous!"
Levi began to kick himself into high gear yet again. The saloon was surrounded by heavily armed men and women that would shoot as soon as he tried to make his exit. A distraction was needed first and he couldn't fly out of the entrance for it would be suicide. A side window would be his best bet. He swallowed, sticking a hilt into his scabbards and drawing out a blade made for taking down monsters. As much as he didn't want to resort to what he had practiced before, he would have to do what he could to survive. If he was later tried for such acts, he could easily claim self-defense. Knowing that he could wait no longer, Levi set his plan into motion and grabbed one of the many now empty chairs and made his way to a far right window. He would have to be quick.
Steps away from the window, Levi pitched the wooden chair as hard he could, shattering the glass into thousands of pieces. Instantly, there was gunfire and the chair was reduced to splinters in the smoke. With a blade drawn and his finger curled around a trigger, Levi waited for the right moment where there was a pause in confusion. Then there was the click of an empty gun and a confused gasp. Cleared to move on with his plan, Levi aimed a cable for the building next door and propelled himself forward with alarming speed. Like he had been trained in the field to watch out for his moving targets, Levi briefly looked to see two men standing on the neighboring building's rooftop as well as the man perched on top of the saloon reloading his gun. Levi quickly planted himself onto the side of the building out of range of the two men. Shifting his gaze to the man who had fired at him previously, Levi decided that he needed to proceed. With no regrets sitting badly in his stomach, he aimed a grapple and pulled the trigger – puncturing the man right through his throat and neck to kill him instantly. For a moment, the other men seemed utterly spooked at their ally's demise, watching petrified as Levi began to reel in his cable, pulling the man's body from the roof and into his arms. Bracing himself and making sure he had a good grip on the corpse, Levi hoisted himself onto the roof and held the body before him like a shield as he approached his other two targets.
"What the hell!"
"He killed Duran!"
"Fire! Kill him!"
The men fired their guns with purely horrified expressions upon their faces and their bullets tearing into the carcass like a group of piranhas tearing into meat. Levi continued forward, gritting his teeth. His second window opened as one of the men's guns jammed and the other had to reload. Tossing away the body of their friend, Levi quickly drew his blades and rushed forward. The steel made to cut apart a titan's thick hide cut the men in half like a stick of butter. Far too desperate to return to his squad, the Corporal didn't pause to wipe the blood that sprayed on his hands and face but flew on ahead with his enemy still trailing behind him. Levi wasn't a religious man, but he prayed that his squad was still alive.
'What an absolutely shitty day.'
Kenny moaned, the pain in his chest great as he slowly sat up, getting over a wave of dizziness before slumping over to let his arms hand casually over his knees. He simply couldn't believe that the short male had gotten an edge on him. Deep down, he oddly felt proud of the fact that his early education he had given the man had proved to pay off, but then again he had a job that he needed to get done and a goal to accomplish. He wasn't going to let even Levi get in the way of his plans either.
"Captain? Are you alright?"
He lifted his head to view a woman that was his second in command named Delilah that shared practically the same ideals and was skilled in all the fields that she needed to be. He grunted.
"I'm just dandy. Healthy as a horse. I guess they do have bar owners that keep guns as self-protection."
Kenny chuckled, placing his hat back over his head. "That shrimp did well. Avoiding us wasn't an easy task. Sure, we scuffed him up a bit, but he got away."
The woman folded her arms. "What are your orders? You want us to go after him?"
He shook his head, snickering once again. "No. I thought ahead. Knowing the duty of a Corporal, he's going to relocate his squad who's currently and probably trying to chase down that little blonde brat. We've got plenty of men waiting to ambush them. Besides – we have some other work to attend to. We have to go play with that titan."
"I do know one thing." Kenny continued as he gradually stood. "If that little shrimp or the other Scouts continue to get in the way – I'll be further away from achieving my own dream."
Armin whipped the reins yet again, urging the horses to move faster after the carriage that was far ahead. Normally, he hated to swear, but under these circumstances, he simply couldn't help it. The first squad that Levi and Hange had told him about that murdered Nick had captured his best friend and guardian along with his friend and squad mate Historia. They couldn't let them get away! There was no need to think of the reason why the first squad had captured them. The thought of what they were planning made him sick to his stomach, but he couldn't help but to be confused. If the true king wanted to kill the two of them, especially Rogue, then why bother to capture them? Why didn't their adversaries just kill them right away? A lump had formed in his chest at this knowing that something else was being planned. The only question he had was what.
"Hurry Armin! We need to get to them and get Historia back so we can figure out where the bastards are taking Rogue."
He gulped as he briefly set his gaze onto Mikasa before looking back to the road outstretched before them. He knew good and well that she was furious and frantic. Armin didn't blame her aggression for he felt the same. Sure, he feared for Historia, but in truth he knew Rogue was more venerable. He had been captured by men that knew fully well how to take down a titan. Not to mention, the true king wanted to no doubt erase him. They wouldn't hesitate killing Rogue when the time would come. No doubt, there would be more hesitation when it came to Historia. She could even prove to be useful if the king changed his mind. To the king, Rogue was just a big problem. Armin swallowed. Rogue was probably absolutely terrified. If he had been drugged as Historia had claimed, he was likely very weak and there would be no way he could escape.
Things were not good. At all.
Suddenly, the sound of maneuver gear met his ears, forcing the group of teens to turn their heads to the source. However, to Armin and the other's dismay the approaching man wasn't Levi but rather one of the men dressed in black – and wearing a device that resembled their own gear. Armin's arms tightened, his gaze transfixed. The man's gear looked almost identical to their own except for the fact that it was placed differently on the user. That and the pairing blades were replaced by guns – that were aimed right at them. Before Armin could even blink or steer the carriage into another direction, a cable impaled the gunman's chest and the Corporal emerged from seemingly nowhere and cut clean through the man – severing the individual in half. Instantly, the group of teens became even further petrified and Armin nearly vomited as he watched what was left of the man and his innards fall unceremoniously to the ground below. His brows rose in realization. The man was one of the same wearing what they used to capture Rogue and the first squad that was hunting them down as well.
Levi then dove downwards and landed in the carriage. The Corporal looked like he had been through hell. The man's side was stained in blood and Levi's face was cut up and splotched with dried blood. True to his habit, Levi quickly pulled out the cloth that he always kept handy and began to wipe his blood splattered flesh. The man breathed heavily, refusing to look at the startled group of teens as he peered all around them.
"Corporal Levi?" Sasha began. "What happened? Are you alright?"
The man grunted in aggravation as he examined a small gash on his side that clearly needed stitches. "I'm fine. I'm torn to hell and filthy but I'll live. Armin, change directions. We are abandoning our current adjective to retrieve Historia and Rogue."
The words caught the blonde by surprise. Had he heard the man right? Next to him, Mikasa's face tinted red and the girl snapped.
"Why are we stopping! We need to go after them!"
Levi only growled, looking at the dark haired teen seriously, with a gaze that simply said that he was not in the mood. "We have no choice. If we continue we are as good as dead. Their leader is an extremely dangerous man who will not hesitate to kill anyone. He's enormously skilled and he can predict nearly every move you could make against him. I know that right now he's got many more men stationed just up ahead ready to ambush us. So as of now, we are retreating to the closest safe house the Scouts have in the countryside. If we move quickly, we might be able to make it there alive. It's unfortunate, but that is my order under these circumstances."
"But – what about rescuing –
"We'll figure everything out once we are safe." Levi quickly informed, Mikasa stiffening and silent until she gave in to a weary nod – her fire clearly extinguished. Although Armin hated the order, it was necessary. As he steered the wagon onto another road, the Corporal cleared his throat to start again. "Now, if more of those bastards come at us again, I need several of us in the air and ready to defend. That will myself, Ackerman, Blouse, and Springer. Jean, you and Arlert fire from the cart. We brought rifles just in case we needed them and it looks like we might have to utilize them." Levi paused, taking a moment to let out an exasperated sigh. "Before you even ask, yes – I am telling you to kill someone if you must. These men are ruthless. They torture defenseless people and are the true king's assassins. They are monsters. You should be used to killing beasts by now anyways so you should have no regrets in doing so."
Armin swallowed, unable to rid himself of the lump that had formed in his throat at the Corporal's statement. If they were attacked, he would have to do the unthinkable. His stomach nearly turned over again at the thought. He couldn't do that – there was no way that he could take the life of a person no matter how cruel! Armin's knuckles grew white. Oh how he wished that it wouldn't come to such a thing. However, deep down, he had a horrible hunch.
To his dismay, his hunch turned out to be correct as several men swooped down from the rooftops.
"Take them out!"
With both Levi's words ringing through his head and the men raising their guns, Armin pulled on the reins, forcing the carriage to swerve down another road. He urged the horses onward as Levi, Mikasa, and the rest of his squad that the Corporal ordered launched themselves into the air. Easily, Levi sliced his blades across the scalp of an individual and plunged his sword into the stomach of another. Sasha and Connie struggled to avoid several of the men, opting to simply cut the cables of their pursuers instead – which was proving to be an incredibly difficult tactic. Bullets rained upon the two who had barely the time to dodge – their whipping cloaks quickly littered with holes and a bullet grazed Connie's shoulder. In horror, Armin watched as Connie faltered in the slightest but ultimately regained himself and simply focused on moving as fast as possible. Armin's eyes then flashed to Mikasa who looked absolutely furious. The girl had her blades positioned to kill and there was something savage within her grey eyes. By her look alone, Armin knew that Mikasa was ready to do anything reckless.
Armin swallowed, reluctantly reaching down into the leather satchel in his seat to grip the small handgun that he had been entrusted with. Even holding the small weapon, he felt incredibly uneasy. Even when he was a trainee during target practice, he never liked holding or using such a thing even though his target was simply a painted bullseye. He swallowed, eyes scanning his surroundings yet again to land on Jean who sat at the back of the cart with his rifle aimed but shaking in his hands. The teen looked horrified, eyes blown wide, his teeth almost chattering, and paler than an expired body. Armin rotated in his seat, staring forward yet again to steer the carriage. Jean was certainly not prepared to commit the ultimate sin either.
"Jean!" Levi's voice carried over the chaos. "Take them out!"
Armin steered the carriage, glancing over his shoulder at the still petrified teen. Jean was utterly frozen as the men in black swarmed all around them. Bullets shattered clay roof tiles, bricks, and ripped through awnings. Even as the Corporal and teens held them off, some of the nimble men snuck ahead.
"Get ready Arlert!"
His heart hammered within his chest as a woman and man sailed over the carriage. Armin felt his body go rigid, unable to lift his weapon as the man held up his own. Suddenly, his entire life began to play out in his head. There was his days as a lonely child, the day that he met Mikasa after she vanquished the neighborhood bullies, the day that he and his best friend were rescued and befriended by a titan. He recalled everything.
Before he could blink, there was blood. Cold steel was pressed into warm flesh and there was a vocal akin to a pained animal. Mikasa had impacted the man, planting her blades straight through his chest. The expression upon her face was one of war worn by a warrior. He had seen such in old books where men fought titans. Mikasa had been out for blood and she had gotten it. Mesmerized by the sheer violence of her approach and the splatter of blood, Armin failed to notice the female had landed next to him until the movement of her raising gun captured his attention.
Then, before the woman could shoot, Mikasa's foot impacted the woman's head with considerable force, knocking her into the wagon face first. Quickly, Jean rotated in his seat and aimed the rifle at their foe.
"Don't move!" Jean ordered, his voice cracking and nowhere near threatening.
The teen's tone of voice made his brows rise. Armin simply stared at the shaky teen, knowing well that Jean was far too frightened to act. He swallowed, there was no way his friend would make the move. Suddenly, the limp body of the female came to life and before Jean could react, the woman swung her weapon, knocking the rifle from the male's hands before pushing the barrel of the gun into his face. Time seemed to slow and panic flooded his body. Jean's skin visibly paled and his pupils shrunk. Armin gasped, blood chilling. He was about to lose a good friend. However, it was then that his mind locked onto one thought that never existed before now – a primitive idea that represented the laws of nature. With the thought the only one in his head, his body reacted instinctively.
He pulled the trigger. Then there was blood.
Her breath was ragged; she was not expecting this. In a large room with fancy molding, a crimson carpet that looked like a painted battlefield, and windows on nearly all sides, Hange was seated in one of the few pews lining the sides of the room. Her hands were folded in her lap and her palms were sweating profusely. They had not been expecting this. Normally, cases were held in courts of law, but upon their arrival the witnesses and defendants were escorted to the last place that she wished to be. They were now converged in the throne room of the false king in the presence of the man himself along with four nobles. The room was crowded full of officials, guards, and military personnel. Although the room was elegant with its gorgeous paintings upon the ceiling with Corinthian columns and warm colors, the throne room had a dangerous aura. It made her more and more uneasy by the minute.
There was a reason why they had been sent here – one that had completely slipped the Scouts' minds. Not only were the most serious offences tried before the king, there was what was called the "three strike" trial. The details of such a circumstance was when a person or party was tried three times in a year – the third being held in the presence of the king to be judged by the noblemen. This wasn't good for them at all. With Rogue involved, Hange knew these men would look for any excuse to disband their regiment and get rid of the titan once and for all. Of course, Hange wasn't particularly sure if the noblemen were really working for the Reiss or not. The men could have possibly been just in the dark as they were. Of course, she couldn't rule out the idea that the men had ties to the true ruler of the walls.
Things were unfortunate and absolutely unpredictable.
Across from the pews she sat upon were more pews populated by both the MP's and the Church. At the rear of the room were other members of the Military Police as well as minor witnesses. Seated next to her was Pixis, Hannes, Rico, and several other Garrison members who had already read their testimonies. Poised at the head of the room across from one another were the four nobles, each of the esteemed men having distain upon their faces. They wore robes of finest quality and were nearly all plump from their riches. They watched a young Garrison soldier like lions observing their prey – gazes absolutely intimidating as the man explained what occurred on the day that the wall was breached again. Behind the nobles was so called 'King Fritz,' seated in a dignified throne with his chin resting on his palm – the man looking as if he was bound to fall asleep. Hange blinked. Fritz was the last thing she thought a man posing as a king looked like and behaved. Although he was well kept, he was dark beneath his eyes and slouched in his chair – leaning to the side seemingly without a care in the world. It was clear that Fritz would rather be else ware.
For the umpteenth time, Hange tried to get comfortable in her seat. For the past several hours, soldiers present during the encounter with Ansgar and Goliath as well as participants on the mission to retrieve Rogue had been giving their accounts of what had occurred and if they felt the decision to commit treason was the right one. Thankfully, each witness had given nearly the exact same answer and felt that Erwin and Pixis's choice was necessary. Just minutes ago, the Garrison Commander himself spoke strongly about his reasoning and delivered a very convincing statement that would sway the trial in their favor. However, Hange knew better. The nobles would try to find and menial thing to use against them. The scientist swallowed, watching as two guards tending to the doors spoke to one another. Any second, Erwin was to enter the room and the nobles would begin their questioning. Deep down, she was worried. It was obvious that Erwin was truly the one that made the decision to go after Rogue and convinced the other superiors to do so as well. It was likely that the Scouts' Commander was going to be treated much differently than the others before him.
She had a horrible feeling brewing deep down in her stomach.
Suddenly, there was a loud creak and a series of shuffling, drawing the room's attention to the double doors once again. Hange could feel her jaw drop before her teeth clenched in aggravation as several men ushered Erwin roughly into the room. Thankfully, he wasn't being dragged along but the man was rather pushed forward. The crowd watched as The Scouting Legion Commander was forcefully shoved down onto his knees. Hange's brows narrowed at the treatment until Pixis lightly elbowed her, likely to remind her that outbursts were not tolerated in proceedings such as the one that was currently transpiring. She then placed her focus on Erwin once again to find that the man had not attempted to get back to his feet or brush off the hands holding his shoulders to forbid him from moving. Her brows lifted in astonishment. The man called to witness didn't wear a single expression that hinted at any weakness or aggravation. Instead, Erwin dawned the very look that he always had when they were about to embark on expeditions – the very determined look he possessed when he led the brigade into battle. Hange found herself in a state of befuddlement. The Commander didn't appear too fearful at the trial's change. In fact, she could say his gaze was close to intimidating. Was it possible, she wondered, that Erwin was confident?
The first of the nobles glared heavily at The Commander, the plump man having short hair and a beard coupled with a gut and an unkind aura surrounding him, peering at Erwin with a deep grimace. For several tense seconds, it was quiet in the throne room as the noble scanned the amputee, his lip turning up in distaste before he cleared his throat. "You are Commander Erwin Smith am I correct? Head of the Scouting Legion?"
Erwin nodded, his expression still unchanged. "Yes, Sir."
"Well then. Commander Smith, you are being called here as a defendant today to testify and declare your reasoning with the recent decision to breach government issued orders. Now, to begin, a short time ago, Wall Rose was broken into by The Armored and Colossal Titans where Rogue Jaeger engaged the Armored in combat but was ultimately captured by the Colossal and taken into Maria. Is this correct?"
"Yes." Erwin answered simply, saying nothing further. The noble nodded.
"Alright. Now, shortly before the incident occurred, you were briefed that the Scouting Legion was restricted of going on any further expeditions into Wall Maria until Rogue Jaeger had control over his abilities correct?"
Erwin's chin lowered, his gaze still strong and imposing. "Yes. That was what the government issued."
The man nodded, shifting his gaze to another noble that was a thin and neatly shaven man who stood and cleared his throat. "Erwin Smith, just after Rogue Jaeger was captured, you stood upon the wall along with Commander Pixis and several other high ranking men and women and came to the decision to disregard the government order you were given. Can you explain your reasoning as to why you did this?"
Hange watched as Erwin nodded confidently. "Yes I can and would be glad to shed some light on my decision." The man stared intently at the nobles, no hint of fear upon his façade. "I believe it's an undisputable fact that Rogue is humanity's best chance in survival. He is our most effective soldier and a formidable weapon. He is capable of taking out dozens of titans within minutes as well as provide us with protection. Rogue, as you've seen when he sealed both Trost and Wall Rose, he also aids us with tasks that we as humans cannot achieve. Rogue is our trump card. If we lose him, humanity loses its sword and its shield. Unlike the many soldiers that dedicate their hearts to the cause, we are expendable. Rogue is not. Humanity cannot afford to lose him. However, I do believe that we did not commit treason by disregarding the government's orders."
The nobles' brows rose in astonishment at the blonde's answer, looking at one another in question before the man cleared his throat for a second time to speak once again. "And why do you believe this Commander? Why do you think your act wasn't treason?"
Erwin's brows pinched together, wrinkling the bridge of his nose as strong determination intensified on his features. "I'm sure the others who have testified pointed this observation out as well, but during Rogue's confrontation with The Armored Titan. He indeed went into what is known as Berserk Mode – whereas you've been briefed is when Rogue's body heat soars, his strength and speed increases, and his senses increase. As in Stohess, in the beginning of his transformation, Rogue was feral and uncontrollable – driven by the need to hunt his enemy. However, toward the end of the opposition, Rogue was able to get in control of himself and was able to make complex offensive and defensive moves against his enemy before his exhaustion and The Colossal's intervention. It was stated that Rogue needed to control his abilities before expeditions could take place in Maria. On that day, Rogue Jaeger was able to regain his own will and do things strategically. Thus, I believe my decision was without consequence."
The room was then silent, only a stray cough being heard from the audience. Fritz had finally fallen asleep in his chair while the nobles sat still, glancing at once another again. Hange couldn't help but to be confused at the nature of Erwin's confidence. The man almost treated his testimony as if it was nothing serious. Was Erwin onto something? In the view of everyone, the nobles nodded at one another and leaned in to whisper among themselves. Finally, the plump nobleman cleared his throat and stood.
"Thank you for your statement Mr. Smith. We have deemed your decision to be a valid one that was necessary. The witnesses that are waiting to be called to testify are dismissed. However, the Survey Corps will be under close watch for now on. More restrictions will be written by the council –
Hange couldn't believe what she was hearing. They had won? Without difficulty? How? Then a feeling of unease swept over her, making her skin prickle. Something – something was off. There was no way their offence could be dismissed so easily. The royals and nobles always believed that Rogue was a problem along with the Scouts themselves so why were they letting them off now? Befuddled, Hange's gaze drifted from a standing Erwin back to the noblemen, seeing something that she did not expect. Instead of a frown coated in absolute disgust, the men wore a small cunning smirk hidden by a hand either resting on their chin or pulling at their beards. In the men's eyes, Hange could see victory swimming. She was no stranger to such a look – one that reminded her of wolves finally able to trap their prey into a corner. It was clear, these nobles were planning –
Suddenly, the doors to the throne room opened hastily, the hinges creaking as someone began to push their way through the crowd towards the center of the room. The audience nearly stood from their seats at the intrusion. Several of the guards snapped out of their stupor and began to approach from their positions. Fritz was immediately woken by one of the men who tried to usher him away for his own safety if an attempt on his life was currently transpiring. Hange's heart pounded, her mind flowing in several different directions as the man frantically pushed his way through the crowd towards their own Commander.
Hange froze at the voice, knowing just who it belonged to.
From the tangle of bodies, Molbit freed himself and approached the startled blonde with a haphazard salute before trying to catch his breath. The scientist slowly stood from her seat, knowing that her assistant's presence in the room meant that something horrible had occurred.
"Commander Erwin!" Molbit breathed, leaning over to grip his knees. "Rogue and Krista – they were captured! We were ambushed!"
The woman's heart stilled at the news. Rogue and Historia, were captured? How! How did someone know where they were! How could someone besides the Scouts know how to catch a fifteen-meter titan? Still pondering, Hange quickly left her seat and began to approach her superior. She could practically feel her heart thudding against her ribcage. Was it possible – that the first squad that Sannes mentioned was involved? Were they more capable than they originally thought?
"Molbit, what happened?" Erwin ushered as Hange and Pixis came to join them with Zackley approaching. The man continued to catch his breath.
"The three of us were ambushed at the Ness's farm. There were these men that came at Rogue with equipment similar to ours. They shot at him with bullets, cannonballs, and tranquilizers!"
Hange's brows lifted at the final word. "Tranquilizers?" She asked. From her knowledge, she knew that sometimes such darts were used in hunting larger game and on rare occasion for defensive purposes. Never before had she heard of them being successfully used on a titan. Sure, the Scouts used a sleeping gas when they captured titans in the past, but one thing they could never figure out was how to produce an effective tranquilizer with potent enough ingredients. The fact that these group of men had accomplished such a feat said that they were extremely skilled and extremely dangerous.
Molbit nodded. "Yes! I don't know how they succeeded, but they were able to take him down fairly easily with nets and barrel shots. I took Krista," the man continued with Historia's alias. "And we rode straight for Olvid where we met the others. We were able to brief them about what was going on but just as we were, the men ambushed us again! They took Krista and rode off! Their maneuver gear was modified where they used guns instead of swords! I'm – not completely sure if they were able to make it." Molbit concluded, frowning and sweat rolling down his face.
For what seemed like an eternity, it was quiet among the three and the room around them didn't seem to exist. Erwin finally broke silence. "This is clearly the work of the first squad. No doubt about it." Erwin paused suddenly, his brows bunching together and his lips drawing up into a snarl – completely straying from his usual character. "Shit. They had this planned. They baited us."
With the Commander's statement, it was then that Hange finally realized what had truly happened and why the trial had gone as smoothly as it had. Her eyes drifted back to the group of nobles who simply sat grinning behind their hands – making rage boil in the pit of her stomach. The Nobles were indeed working with the real king. They knew that if they were brought to trial again it would take place in the throne room before them and the false king. They knew that with their testimony and the many witnesses that the Scouts would win. Their goal was to simply draw their regiment's most skilled members to one location and Rogue to another to break them apart and capture the two that they needed. They had planned everything. Now, they had no clue if the Corporal and his squad was alive or not or where Historia and Rogue were taken.
They were in big trouble.
"Alright, we have to work quickly. The more time we waste, the worse our situation will become." Erwin began again. "If Corporal Levi and the others are alive they were instructed to go to the closest remote safe house if trouble were to arise. Hange, you and I need to partner with the Garrison to form a team that will pursue these men when we get more information as to where they are."
"That is correct Erwin." Pixis began. "I and my men would be proud to lend you our assistance. I'll go now and rally some soldiers together. When you're ready just meet us right outside."
The Commander gave a curt nod in return. "Thank you. Zackley, if it is possible, can you have the MP's sweep Olvid for any sign of Corporal Levi, his squad, and any suspicious individuals? I know I'm asking a lot here –
The elderly man raised a hand. "It is necessary. Not only are your resources gravely important but men like these could threaten the innocent civilians. I'm sure the recent breach has your reputation tarnished as it is and I believe it would be wise not to make matters worse if people make the connection to your titan. The MP's will gladly serve the cause."
Although the truth behind the Supreme Commander's words clearly stung, Erwin nodded in thanks and watched as the high ranking man briskly made his way through the crown and began speaking to one of the MP guards. "Alright." Erwin began as he waved both Hange and Molbit to follow him from the throne room and down the long corridor. "Before we do anything, we need to try and get some intel."
Hange raised a brow in confusion. Did Erwin know something else? "Intel?"
The Commander however didn't reply as the trio rounded a corner and made their way down another corridor that housed several temporary living quarters and offices that were devoted to high ranking MP's. Hange blinked, wondering what on earth Erwin was planning. Finally, the man began to speak once again.
"Yes. We need to get intel and anything possible that can help us. Right now there is not much to go on and I'm having to resort to the safest of all my options. I'm not sure how much he can help if he can at all, but I'm going to ask Nile if he knows anything of our enemy."
The brunette could feel her brows lift at this. It was a known fact that the Scouts tried to avoid confrontation with Nile at all costs. Only the higher ranking Scouts knew that Erwin and Mike were in the same trainee core – and were once close friends. However, they parted in more ways than one when Nile went to the MP's. Over the years, Nile had grown arrogant and indifferent towards them – something that she and Erwin figured it was due to Nile's position in the MP's. The fact that Erwin chose Nile of all people was startling and something that she didn't truly understand. After all, there were other options. "Nile? You're going to ask Nile if he knows of the first squad?" Hange questioned with Erwin nodding but keeping his gaze forward.
"Yes. I would ask Zackley, but with all that's come to light, I think it would be best to keep him occupied with searching Olvid. Zackley has pulled so many strings for us in the past, but he takes orders from the king – which we can't determine right now as being the false king or the real king. I believe he indeed takes orders from Fritz, but with the nobles around, I don't want them to overhear Zackley sharing any information that he knows. Nile is the only person I know well enough in the MP's - I also know how to make him crack. I know his weak points."
Hange hummed at the man's answer. Erwin did have a point. At the moment, Nile was the safest they could speak with and the only possible person who could know something. "I see. So, we'll leave this to you. I'll just be an extra ear to hear it and Molbit can take down any notes if you need them."
"Thank you Hange. If I need anything explained, I'll ask you to clarify." The man replied as they came to a stop before one of the last doors in the long corridor. Without even knocking, Erwin opened the room and pushed his way through the entrance. Inside was a general but cozy interior with a bed, bookshelf, and a desk along with a seemingly stunned and startled Nile who was in the middle of buckling the belts of his gear. Although slightly ruffled, Nile wore a disgusted look as he always did.
"The hell are you doing here Erwin? You should know that it is polite to knock first."
Erwin's expression remained unchanged as he calmly strolled in and closed the door behind them. "I'm aware of that fact but this is an emergency."
Nile practically rolled his eyes. "Don't you think I'm aware of that? I really don't have time to chat Erwin. I've been ordered to look for injured civilians and for those that possibly harmed them."
"I know Nile, but before you head out – I need your help."
The man lifted a brow at this, folding his arms in what Hange believed to be a mix of amusement and disgust. "You – need my help?"
"Yes. Nile, I think you might be the only one capable of knowing such information – facts that could help us get back our biggest assets."
At the mentioning of Rogue, Nile's eyes narrowed. "You want me to help you retrieve the one thing that caused all the chaos in the first place? That's hilarious Erwin."
The tall blond stood straight at this and looked on in defiance – appearing absolutely imposing. "Before I continue, how is Marie, Nile? Last time I heard you had your third child on the way."
At the Commander's statement, Hange knew that Erwin was pulling the card that he spoke of earlier. However, the man himself remained quiet as he looked on at Nile. In his eyes, Hange could clearly see that Erwin's mind was turning and likely assessing Nile's loyalties as the seconds passed. Nile shifted his weight, his grimace weakening.
"She's doing fine. She's about thirty-four weeks in and my other two children are alright. They both recently started school."
Erwin nodded at the answer. "Ah, well that's good to hear. Now, to get on with our business, who do you serve Nile?"
The man raised a brow. "I serve the crown you should know that well, Erwin."
"I see. Nile – I'm fairly certain that you and the rest of the Military Police serve the true king of the walls and not under the hand of Fritz." Erwin began with both Hange and Molbit's eyes widening at Erwin's sudden approach and revelation. "Years ago, a Captain by the name of Jorge Pikale warned the Scouts of the MP's and the church about their connection to Rogue Jaeger. Today, I fully understand what is truly happening here. You as well as Zackley take orders from the Reiss, but Zackley is rebelling against them by aiding us any way he can. His attempts at keeping Rogue alive is what ultimately led us here. He too, knew that we would win again, but he didn't count on the king having a second plan to counter us." Erwin continued, clearly piecing everything together. "Nile, I do believe you are a genuine person deep down beneath the side of you that's devoted to your work. I also think that you only follow orders just so your own head doesn't roll. I believe – that you know that Rogue is the only thing that will allow humanity to have an edge against this war we have been fighting against the titans. You know that Rogue is really the only effective weapon that we have, Nile. I'm sure you know about Rogue's powers and what all he is truly capable of. Please think of your family Nile. I'm sure you want them to be safe."
At Erwin's conclusion, Nile continued to stare at the man with a seemingly unmoving expression. The man's nose wrinkled in distaste, eyes adverting away to look at nothing in particular just like a pouting child. Nile then gazed back to Erwin, his expression still unchanged. All that could be heard was the chaos of shuffling feet in the nearby hall. Finally, the man sighed.
"What is it that you want?" The MP caved, unfolding his arms and walking towards his desk to pour himself a drink. Hange could tell that Erwin smiled inwardly.
"Thank you, Nile. As I said before, I'm not sure how knowledgeable you would be on the subject, but let me ask you this - who is the group that calls themselves the first squad?"
Nile quietly sat down the glass bottle of brandy and capped the jar before tilting the glass to his lips to indulge before letting out a sigh. "You are right about my knowledge being limited. But I do know a little. Even though I am Commander, the king only shares information to those who have served him for a number of years and as you know, I've only been in this position for the last five years or so. However, on the day that I was sworn in as Commander, the previous Commander pulled me aside privately and informed me of a few things that I needed to know. One of them was details about this so called first squad. Even the previous Commander didn't know much, but he did say that the first squad was the king's personal group of assassins that he used to so called 'tighten the leaks' – in other words kill off anyone who talked or threatened him. They are mostly experienced soldiers that have previously served in the military – that includes some Scouts who mysteriously dropped out, those over the age limit, or were discharged some time ago. I myself have never seen them, but from what I've heard they are a ruthless bunch. Their leader is a madman who used to be a thug from the Underground."
"I figured that. Do you happen to know where they could be heading with Rogue?"
Nile tilted the glass to his lips once again before pulling out a piece of parchment and pen and began to write. "This is the only place I know of that they utilize. I don't think they could house a titan there, but it's where you can start looking. They use it as their headquarters. That's all I really know about the first squad." The Commander concluded as he capped his pen and handed the parchment to Erwin who looked at it with great interest before handing it to Molbit.
"Thank you Nile. What you're doing is risky, but it's much appreciated. Change of plans. When we leave Molbit and Hange, I want you two to head to the safe house we mentioned earlier. As I said, it will be the first Levi's squad would head to if there was trouble. One last thing before we depart. Nile, if you know it, what is the real king's name?"
The man hesitated, swallowing roughly before opening his mouth to speak.
The world was blurry, colors merging together and things tilted and spun. His lungs hurt with each choked breath he took. The warmth had left him and he was cold. His surroundings felt different. Not as heavy and dark. He blinked, screaming as he tried to get his vision to focus. He stretched his legs, able to finally do so fully without hitting the barrier. Shapes finally began to become more lurid and his vibrant greens began to brighten. Something panted near him, its breaths labored as it closed in – his frail body feeling the heat from the approaching figure's breath. He blinked again, greens spotting long tangled silk that brushed his brow and eyes the color of the heavens.
Suddenly, pain seared through him and he was airborne.
All that tore through his clogged throat was an agonizing screech.
Then, the world changed again. The willowy figure with long tangled strands towered over him, joined by many voices and eyes. There was more discomfort that swept through his body and suddenly he found himself against the warm flesh of something familiar.
He blinked again, seeing fields of flowers and forests of towering trees. The world was bright and serine, but faint and his body felt weary. However, his heart fluttered with excitement. He felt at peace, his face burying into the brow of another, strands of silk tangling.
Suddenly, the world twisted and turned backward. His body felt pain once again, the world towered over him and he could taste hot copper in his mouth. Eyes looked upon him once more. Several figures stood over him. Two roars rattled his bones and he became paralyzed by nothing but fear.
Then there was more agony but without pain.
His nostrils flared and a choked sound rose from his throat as the memory faded away and reality began to come to him. The titan's eyelids fluttered but otherwise remained shut. Instantly, he was aware of an incredible weakness that plagued his body right down to the bone. Rogue groaned softly. His head hurt and his stomach felt sick. He swallowed, the massive amount of saliva that had pooled in his mouth sliding down his gullet. Rogue groaned again. It felt as if he had been kicked by the Colossal Titan. Although he was weak, there was a sense of restlessness creeping through his frame. Rogue then shifted, trying to lift his head – but as he did something became painfully clear to him. Something that made his heart begin to pound.
He couldn't move.
He was pinned.
Alarmed, Rogue opened his eyes to see a blur of colors and shapes. He blinked rapidly, trying to get his eyes to focus but ultimately only succeeding in the slightest – his quality of vision hazy as it was in most of his dreams. Instinctively however, he blinked again as he struggled to make out what was before him. Rogue stared harder to find that several heavy chains cut across his face. His heart began to pound as he soon realized that an even larger chain crossed over the back of his nape over his collar. The titan's eyes widened as his panic rose, shifting and pulling his body only to find that that he had large chains crossing over nearly every part of his form. Another wave of dizziness flashed through him, making his body go slack and his chin fall to the hard surface of the floor. Rogue blinked, a short whine escaping him yet again as his eyes began to venture, still attempting to blink to focus completely. Although he couldn't twist his head to look around thoroughly he could tell that he was in some sort of incredibly dark room with a table and an assortment of objects lit by dim candlelight that he couldn't quite label. On his back, he could feel the familiar sensation of moonlight beaming down just above his pelvis. His ears flickered at the sounds of rats scurrying and water dripping from leaky pipes, making it quite clear that he was underground somewhere.
Rogue's breath hitched as a shiver coursed down his frame. What had happened? How in the hell had he gotten here? He was with Molbit and Historia, his body tensing and his breath catching in his throat. The men in black and the man in the hat had captured him. He had been shot with darts and cannonballs. The men flew on gear like his family and their blades were replaced with guns. He had been overwhelmed and the men took him away. Historia and Molbit bolted, likely toward the city and the men went after them. As the titan continued to go over the details, his eyes widened even further with his pupils shrinking to pinpricks. The men had chased them to the city, where his babies were. His heart pounded faster. Could they have been caught? Could they have possibly been slaughtered? Could they have been shot? Were they possibly bleeding out among the city walk?
A wave of dizziness coursed through him at the thought, the titan feeling faint. Rogue's eyelids fluttered, his head lolling to the side in the slightest as he began to whimper like a wounded puppy and water threatened to seep from his tear ducts. He knew nothing of his little ones and he was alone! He needed to get away! To free himself! He needed to get back to his family!
Absolutely frightened, Rogue attempted to pull at his binds once again, his joints weak and frail like a newborn fawn and his muscles feeling like lead. Failing to tuck his pinned legs beneath him, Rogue resorted to pulling at the chains crossing over his arms, only to have a searing pain prick at the crook of his elbow. Rogue yelped at the sudden throbbing. Naturally, he placed his attention to the source.
The cause made him more terrified than ever.
Running into his arm were several large translucent tubes tipped with some sort of makeshift needle that was submerged deeply into one of his large veins. Rogue blinked again, managing to focus further to see the other ends of the tubes were connected to a strange device that looked like a pump. On the device there looked to be some sort of glass barrel filled with a translucent but yellow substance that didn't look at all or smell like water. Another whine passed through him as he realized that his captors were putting something into him. Was it possible that it was the same contents of the darts?
Rogue forced himself to look away, his blood even chilling as his trepidation grew. The titan whimpered, suddenly giving in to a defensive instinct. Ears pressing against his skull, Rogue inhaled deeply and repeatedly. There was a musty odor that usually came from old stagnant water, the smell of rats, a hint of alcohol, and strangely the scent of both titan and human blood. If he was able, he would have lifted his head at this. They were not outside the walls were they? They had to be somewhere under the earth so why was titan blood present? Why was human blood present as well? It didn't make any sense. The only time the two scents could be found together was when the Scouts went on expeditions as well as when titans breached the wall. Rogue swallowed roughly, feeling his skin actually prickle. The aura of the place was incredibly unease as it was horrifying. What sort of hell had the men in black taken him to?
Suddenly, the world spun again and his chin met the floor once more. His stomach twisted and his vision doubled. Rogue coughed, saliva coming up from his throat and trickling down his chin. He droned, his head tilting as he struggled to regain his bearings. The titan's nostrils flared as he breathed, but in doing so he smelled a collection of scents that made his body go rigid. There was the odor of a female followed by an unfamiliar man, but the scent that stood out to him most and made his spine quiver was the very one of the man in the hat. The man with the name Kenny.
A loud creak echoed throughout the dark room followed by footsteps. Rogue's breath hitched, his body growing stiff. Weak and chained, he couldn't run. He was helpless. He could do nothing. Rogue sank in his binds, trying to get over another wave of vertigo. With his eyes half lidded, Rogue quietly groaned as he watched a blonde female approach the desk and began to fool with several glass tubes just like the ones that Hange often experimented with. The woman glanced over her shoulder at him, abet weary before she made some sort of signal with her hand before returning to her work. The titan's heart began to pound as the two other men began to approach him.
"Kenny! Have you gone mad! This is the largest titan we've ever brought in! Not to mention, this is the fucking Rogue Titan we are talking about! We don't have the restraints capable of holding him back if he gets aggressive – which he will. Not to mention the bastard is intelligent! There's no telling what he could do to us!" A man hurriedly spoke with Kenny letting out a snicker.
"Nonsense! He's more drugged up than an addict on the street. Even when he competes tonight, he won't be at full power. His majesty won't be at his best, but I'll be sure he puts on a show."
The other man was quiet for a moment before letting out a humored chuckle. "Well, if you say so. We'll just have to be vigilant. Keep the first squad on their toes and on standby if he tries anything. Humph! The Rogue Titan in the show. He'll bring in a fortune!"
Rogue grunted, blinking with confusion as to what the man was talking about. Whatever it was, he didn't like the sound of it.
"That he will. I'm going to tame this animal while I'm at it."
"I see. He'll be the finale Kenny. So when you're prompted in two hours you better have him prepared. You better make sure he won't cause any damage. I'm sure you would like to keep your head tonight as much as I would."
Kenny's snickering met his ears again. "Trust me, the Boss is here and I'm going to do my best to ensure that such doesn't happen."
"Ah. Well as always, be ready when called, Kenny." The man concluded before walking off and exiting the room.
Feeling another dizzy spell run through his body, Rogue couldn't help but moan and shut his eyes briefly to regain his bearings before opening them again to watch Kenny approach the woman at the desk. The man's cold eyes looked upon him for several seconds before turning to the woman who was still fiddling with vials and substances. Finally, he cleared his throat.
"So – the bastard's awake? What's is his status?"
"He's waking up from the sedative. He's certainly feeling the side effects now from it. He's groggy and obviously sick to his stomach. He's still weakened by the tranquilizers as well."
"Hmmm… well I for one am not in the mood to clean up titan vomit plus we'll need him ready soon. Give him an aliment for the side effects as well as something to calm em' down considerably. Just enough to keep em' under control for the time being."
"Yes sir." The woman replied as she grabbed several containers and motioned over to the contraption. In horror, Rogue watched as she opened some sort of lid on the clear canister and began to pour the contents of the jars into the strange liquid. Suddenly, Rogue's terror turned to anger and heat pooled into his stomach. The chained titan warily turned towards Kenny and let out as much of a growl as he could – a vocal that sounded more like an irritated message than a threatening snarl. For the first time, he was able to take in the details of the man's face. Although his vision was impaired, he could tell that Kenny was an older man with sunken in cheekbones and noticeable wrinkles around his deeply set eyes. The man's hair was slicked back with something smelling greasy and a short beard framed his face. With part of his mouth sitting in a permanent grimace, the individual had a dangerous aura. However, there was something about Kenny that seemed strangely familiar. Rogue grumbled again, but to his dismay, Kenny only smirked in amusement.
"I apologize for the uncomfortable accommodations Yer Majesty, but yer a bit of a problem. Yer a bit of a brute so we can't have you misbehaving!"
The titan's ears folded over and he drew the skin around his fleshless maw in as much of a vicious snarl as he could. However, before he could growl once more, an incredible warmth spread throughout his body. Every fiber in nearly every muscle went slack and Rogue was overrun by a strange sense of peace. Woozy yet confused. His gaze shifted over to see that the tubes running into him had filled with a reddish substance – one that was now flowing into his bloodstream. Weak and growing more slack, Rogue's head fell to the floor again, but even still his fatigued eyes stared at the slender man with sheer distaste. This of course, his foe found funny.
"That will keep you from barfing all over the fucking place. Unfortunately, with some titans like yerself, the sedative makes them sicker than a damn dog. This 'medicine' if you will also temporarily paralyzes everything from the neck down. Of course, when this little effect wears off, you'll still be in a weakened state for several hours – which as ya can imagine is quite ideal to us."
Rogue blinked at the news, suddenly feeling more uneasy again. What did Kenny mean by the other titans? What was the show that they were talking about? Where on earth had he been taken? He wanted answers.
"From what I've seen and the information I was able to gather, you Rogue Jaeger are quite the intelligent beast. Once ya get past the cuddly gentle giant yer truly a monster aren't you? You'll do some pretty nasty stuff in order to protect yer little family you've made. You'd even kill. Those green eyes of yours do bare a human resemblance, but they are more like the feral eyes of a beast aren't they? The way they glow with such ferocity is incredible. I can't wait to see that once again after I give ya that push to be the true monster you are." Kenny chortled sinisterly. "Now, I know that you can understand every little word that I'm saying, so I feel I can give you some information. If yer wonderin' where ya are, you are in an abandoned spillway which is like a vast tube used to carry water undergroud. A long time ago, water used to be pumped down here into this treatment facility to cleanse the water so it was suitable to drink. But then the water became tainted by sewage and this place shut down, the water dried and drained. Nowadays, it's used as a sort of gathering place if you will that every bit of scum from the Underground frequents for what we like to call The Titan Games." Kenny paused as he motioned over to the desk and made a grab for some kind of whiskey. Almost casually, the man came back before him and knelt down to be at his eyelevel. Again, Rogue grumbled lowly at Kenny's lack of fear against him.
"WHUtT… AR…R ItTAN… GAnnES?" Rogue muttered, the saliva pooling in his mouth once again as he was barely able to speak. Kenny practically swooned at his query, taking a swig of his drink.
"You even sound like a muttering drunkard right now." The man proceeded, his arrogance becoming more prominent. "Anyways, The Titan Games are the main event 'round here. You see, hundreds of years ago there was a civilization of people called the romans." Kenny hummed, the weedy titan assuming that the man meant a city of humans. "The romans had something that was called a coliseum – a place where men would compete and display their ability to survive. Sometimes, men faced hungry lions or warriors fought one another to the death." Kenny continued to explain as Rogue's tired eyes slowly lit up with even more fear. "The Titan Games are similar to the events that the romans held in their coliseum. Of course, we don't have any lions around so we use something even better, titans."
Rogue's breath caught in his throat at this. Did Kenny really mean what he thought he meant?
Kenny laughed. "The look on your face tells me yer catching on! As I was saying, our beasts are titans. Thanks to some of our members being previous Scouts, we have the knowledge of how to sneak into Maria through these very tunnels and capture small to medium sized titans. Now, most titans are stupid creatures who will eat a man as soon as they get one in their greedy hands. Here, things are interesting so to speak. The men and women that play in our games are lowlifes and just as stupid. So we sometimes let them loose with the beasts – because the animals get pretty fucking hungry and the Underground has gotta keep its own brand of justice in check." The man proceeded to inform. "As ya can imagine, we have to make it a little more fascinating than the romans did." Kenny paused as he walked over to the desk and retrieved a syringe from the collection of contents. The man then sat before him with a both intrigued and cunning smirk wiped across his face. "We make all sorts of medicine here. There's stuff to calm and paralyze all the way to what we shot you with earlier to make you sleep. The ingredients are hard to come by, hard to make, and practically illegal. We never write them down we catalog them in our heads for reasons I won't elaborate on. At times in our games, we throw a little of this in." Kenny held the silver syringe for the titan to behold, the large needle catching even the faintest of candlelight, making the titan wish to squirm in his binds. "It's small, but extraordinarily effective. As ya know, titans unlike yerself eat only humans, but when we inject them with this – the result is incredible. It makes a titan highly aggressive and they'll try to kill anything that moves before em' – which includes other titans." Kenny beamed broadly, displaying nearly every tooth in his mouth.
Rogue's pupils shrank. No! He didn't want that! Did Kenny really plan to inject him with something that would turn him into a monster? Frightened, the titan whined loudly, the sound pathetic as he tried his hardest to get his body to move, but ultimately, the beast was unsuccessful. Rogue turned his head away, the world tilting around him in the slightest as he cried out once again for any sort of person that was willing to aid him or any sort of god that would show him mercy.
"HEY!" Kenny's voice echoed in the vast room, the titan feeling a rather harsh tug on one of his locks that was so forceful that his scalp stung. Instinctively, Rogue turned his head with the intent to defend himself but Kenny harshly planted his boot on the tip of his nose and propped himself up to dig his heel into flesh, looking even more imposing than before. Rogue only froze, feeling like a frightened child. "You shut the fuck up! No one is coming to rescue ya!" Kenny spoke roughly, the titan's form going absolutely rigid. That was right, no one knew where he was! Molbit and Historia left as soon as he was taken down! At this, all Rouge could feel was his thundering heart. Things were worse than he thought. "Besides, it was decided that you don't need to have this little miracle drug in your system." The man hummed, the beast lifting a brow at the news. "You've already got a natural drive to kill yer kind, but of course – we need you completely aware of yer surroundings. As ordered, I've been instructed to make sure yer will breaks. I'm going to make you do things that you don't wanna do just to survive. I'm going to make this night a living hell for you, Rogue. You'll beg for mercy no doubt and want to be free of your sins yer gonna commit here tonight. I'm going to warp your mind and make you hate yourself so much that you'll beg for death!"
Kenny's laughter carried through the spillway once again. Rogue was absolutely silent, utterly traumatized. He found himself unable to blink and his blood had chilled by several degrees. With his mind clear for the first time since he woke up, Rogue was nothing short of stunned. Even as Kenny took his boot from his nose and walked away to join his partner, Rogue retreated into his head. He was trapped. His little ones and family had not a single clue as to where he was and this man, Kenny, was going to do something truly despicable with him.
"He'll start regaining the use of his limbs soon. Keep him company while I rally the squad and get things to our host for the evening. If he gets aggressive, resort to low dosage suppressants or iron bamboo bullets."
Rogue paid little attention to the conversation at hand. Slowly, his eyes began to water, tears clouding his vision and his head sinking to the floor. He was going to be in for a rough night. He just wanted to be free. He wanted his family. He wanted his little ones.
He wanted to go home.
His stomach twisted as he doubled over in the uncut grass, bracing himself with an unsteady hand against a thin tree. Armin's head spun with the vision of blood and splattering brain matter – the face of a woman being blown off and the body tilting over the speeding wagon to grace the ground. At this, nausea crawled up his gullet, a hot and acidic taste that swept up his throat. Instantly, Armin doubled over and spilled his stomach contents onto the ground, tainting it with what he had indulged on at lunch.
Armin breathed erratically, nearly hyperventilating as he struggled to get over both his queasiness and the sin he had committed. He had pulled the trigger of his gun. He killed someone. He slaughtered that woman on the wagon. The streets of Olvid ran red with her blood. How? He couldn't believe he had done such a thing! He had never done a single horrible thing in his entire life.
He was now a murderer.
At the thought of the word, sick breached his mouth yet again and spilled to the earth. His body shuttered, his limbs feeling weak.
He stiffened as he felt a hand gently laying on his shoulder, Mikasa clearly concerned. He stalled, spitting out whatever bit of vomit that he had left. They had just arrived at a small and run down cabin that lay on the edge of a trivial thicket. It looked abandoned and absolutely avoidable, but it was so remote and lonely that it was perfect. Levi quickly hid the carriage and retreated inside the small cottage, likely to tidy a bit. After they left the city and into the barren countryside and forests, the ride had been silent. No one spoke. Everyone had worn either a dour or startled look as they retreated. Things had been so chaotic that the realization of what he had done had not hit him until their arrival. As soon as the carriage stopped, the nausea hit him full force and he bolted to violently get sick in the weeds. He found something alarming however – he was surprised that no one else seemed to be in the same state.
Did this make him weak?
"Armin, it's alright. We're all alive. That's what matters." Mikasa began softly, the tone of her voice melancholy.
With his stomach settling for the moment, Armin weakly stood – wobbly like a newborn fawn as he turned to face Mikasa and the others who looked on at him in sheer worry. "Mikasa – I… I killed someone! I took a life! I'm a murderer!"
The teen's nose wrinkled in the slightest, a frown crossing her face. "Armin. I did the same. With my blade I took the lives of several men. So did Connie and Sasha. Levi as well." Mikasa paused, looking down at her feet as if she was trying to figure out what to say next. "But if we didn't do what we did Armin – none of us would be here."
Armin found himself unable to reply, his mouth opening and closing with only a few squeaks leaving his lips. Suddenly, Jean who had been shuttering for much of the trek cleared his throat.
"Mikasa is right Armin. If you hadn't pulled the trigger, I would have been the one to be a corpse on the street. You saved me. You did what was necessary. I – didn't have the guts to do what you did Armin. T…thank you."
The blonde remained quiet, listening on as Connie spoke up.
"None of us are really proud of what we did, man." The short male sighed, his brows bunching together. "But we just did what we had to. If we didn't act, we wouldn't be standing here."
Sasha nodded. "Yeah. Those men and women were trained to kill without mercy."
Armin processed his friends' words as Mikasa approached him, laying her hand upon his shoulder once again and looking into him as if she was trying to read his very soul. "You see Armin? You said it yourself once. To defeat a monster, you must become a monster. You did what you had to do to protect someone. Armin – a long time ago, Rogue had to break a vow that he made to Carla and Grisha. Against his own morals, Rogue killed three men to save us. I don't think he's truly ever forgiven himself for doing such a thing. But you know what? He moves on. Rogue became a monster to defeat monsters that likely aimed to do the most unspeakable to us. He did what was necessary. Just think of that. All we can do now is move forward. Sure, Rogue is incredibly strong but he isn't invincible. We need to protect him, by any means. Right now we have to do what we must."
His chest tightened, but Mikasa's words held truth. She – she was right. He reacted to basic instinct and did what he had to do. He had spared Jean's life. If you didn't fight you didn't win. The world was cruel, plain and simple. But his deed allowed him to live to behold the beauty of the world another day. He could think about his transgressions later, but at the moment they had to focus on saving their friends. Finally, after an awkward silence, Armin nodded in agreement. "I see. Thank you guys. I – needed that." The blonde beamed weakly, the sickness in his stomach letting up.
"Hey brats!" Levi called from the doorway to the cabin, gathering their undivided attention. "Get your asses inside. I need to go over something with you."
The group of teens looked at one another before gathering themselves and venturing into the cabin. Swallowing once again in an attempt to both rid the taste of vomit from his mouth as well as rid himself of the lump that had formed in his throat, Armin took his thoughts else ware as he looked around the miniscule cottage. Amazingly, with Levi having been in it for more than ten minutes, the interior was still quite shabby with at least a layer of dust over everything. By the contents, it was clear that the cabin one once used as a hunting cottage by the presence of several mounted deer and antlers as well as examples of taxidermy sitting in corners as well as upon shelves. Levi himself stood before a large burning fireplace to the right, his cold blues watching and monitoring the dancing flames. His teeth clenched. The Corporal, was always known to clean up any residence as soon as he entered, but this time with the way the man was desperately leaning with his expression close to looking spooked, Armin had a hunch that something was very wrong.
"I need to tell you all something gravely important. It's about just who is the leader of the first squad and how much of a danger we are facing." The man began seriously, no hint of humor or any other emotion found in his voice whatsoever. Armin's brows lifted. It was not often when Levi spoke this gravely. Even in the dim light, the blonde teen noticed a small bead of sweat forming on the man's brow.
"Sir?" Jean began, almost nervous to speak up. "Just who are we dealing with? No offence, but you seem like you've been knocked down a peg or two."
It was a long moment before Levi stood up straight and turned to them, Armin watched as Levi pinched his brows before folding his arms and letting out a deep sigh. "You'll want to take a seat for this one because it's quite a story and one that I've never told anyone but Rogue, Erwin, my previous squad, and Hange. As far as who we are dealing with, I never informed them of that either." Levi paused, interlacing his fingers as he rested his elbows into his thighs before looking at them. "The man that is the leader of the first squad is my uncle."
The second the truth was spoken, there was a collective gasp throughout the room. Armin felt a slight knot grow in his throat. Had he heard the Corporal correctly? The man that was Levi's uncle was the leader of the first squad?
"As I said, you all might want to take a seat. There are some things I have to explain." Levi waved a hand to several still dusty chairs and rocking chairs. Eager to know if what the Corporal spoke of was true the teens each quickly took their seats. Armin didn't even bother to get comfortable.
"Sir, you mean your uncle –
"Yes Connie. My uncle, who I previously assumed to be dead some years back, is the Captain of the first squad. His name, is Kenny. Kenny Ackerman."
Right away Armin's brows lifted at this. The man's name was Kenny Ackerman? Shifting his eyes over at Mikasa he saw that the teen came to the same realization as him with her normally stoic face turning into one of surprise. Was it really possible? Could his friend really be –
"Sir?" Mikasa began. "My last name –
"It's Ackerman." Levi interrupted. "My last name is the same and so is Kenny's. Of course whether or not we are blood relatives is quite up in the air. We could either be distant family or it's just a coincidence that there is more than one family with the last name Ackerman." He informed before his brow creased. "As I was saying. Kenny Ackerman is a ruthless and bloodthirsty man. He's cruel, arrogant, etc. Not to mention, he's an extremely skilled man in combat. Kenny is especially good with knives and guns. Not to mention, after today, he's exceptional on maneuver gear. He's not afraid to slit anyone's throat. The first squad is basically the king's men so he's a hired mercenary which he fits the role quite well. Kenny and I go back many years. He taught me how to fight and defend myself for the bastard is the one who ended up raising me."
The room was silent again, still like a lonely pond. Armin continued to remain speechless. If Kenny was as skilled as Levi stated, then the Corporal's effectiveness in hand to hand combat and combat in general made sense.
"He raised you?" Jean asked, the man nodded, shifting his weight uncomfortably in his chair.
"Yes. My mother was a whore in the Underground who's living was fucking for money. I was her only child and one day she became deathly ill with an incurable sickness. As my mother lay at death's door, Kenny walked in and took me under his wing for a reason that I still don't get to this day. The first thing I knew how to do was hold a knife. The man made me watch how he worked and taught me ways to defend myself and how to survive in the Underground. The day that I was able to successfully take down a man that wronged me, when I was merely seven, Kenny left. I never saw him again after that until today. Although he looks older, nothing about him has changed. He's as slender as he always was and he still has greasy hair and the same short beard." Levi paused, swallowing. "When I was twenty-nine, I had made quite a name for myself in the Underground as a leader to a band of thieves. Apparently, I attracted some attention and that's when I was assigned to steal a document from Erwin and kill the man." The Corporal proceeded to inform with the others listening intently. "We joined the corps undercover but my two friends were killed shortly after that by a titan. From that day onward. I served the corps and soon earned the trust of Erwin altogether." Levi let out an exasperated sigh. "Now you know my story. The only reason I'm sharing it with you is because you need to know about our enemy."
Armin sat back in his seat, secretly cataloging all the information that Levi had just told them. He supposed that Erwin's interest in Levi's skill made more sense now too. One thing was clear however. This Kenny that the Corporal spoke of was incredibly dangerous.
"Corporal." Mikasa swallowed. "Do you think Kenny has killed Rogue?" She spoke, having difficulty in getting the words out. At the query, Levi abruptly shook his head in denial.
"Kenny is capable of killing, yes. He's got the rescores apparently to take a titan down. However, Rogue was captured and tranquilizers were used against him. I think that there is some sort of plan that either Kenny or the real king has in store for Rogue otherwise he would have been killed instantly. Of course, this means that we have to think and work quickly to see if we can find and rescue him. I wouldn't be surprised though, if the enemy aims to get rid of Rogue rather quickly after they do what they want with him. Unfortunately, we have nothing to go on an all we can do is wait here until we get information that allows us to proceed in some sort of direction."
At Levi's conclusion, Armin couldn't help but swallow, the lump in his throat growing more prominent. The Corporal was right. Their foe wouldn't keep around a fifteen-meter titan for long. Especially one with Rogue's fame knowing that the Military was currently looking for him. After their work was done, they would try to get rid of the evidence quickly. Time was of the essence, and right now, they could do nothing until –
A sudden knock on the door silenced Armin's thoughts and made the swell grow even larger in his throat. Quickly, Levi held up a hand to steady and prepare them as he motioned for the door, pausing to pick up a blade that he had left to lean against the doorframe for protection. The party held their breath as Levi stilled before the door, standing upon the tips of his toes to see through the small peephole – a sight that the group of teens would have normally laughed at but forbid themselves to in the dire situation. To their relief, the Corporal quickly sat down the blade and opened the door to reveal and urgent looking Hange and Molbit.
"Levi! It's good to see you! Is everyone else alright?" She ushered with Levi stepping aside to allow the woman admittance.
"By the skin of our teeth. What happened at the trial? Your presence here just tells us that it was interrupted by the fact that Rogue and Historia were taken. Were you able to find anything out that could help our shitty situation?"
Hastily, the woman nodded and motioned for Molbit to hand her a piece of parchment. "We got a clue about a place that could lead us on the right path of finding Rogue and Historia. In addition to that, we also found the name of the man who's been pulling all the strings here."
"Spill it. We don't have time to wait. Rogue was captured for some sort of purpose along with Historia, and if the king's intentions are what we believe them to be, it's likely that we don't have long before the two of them are killed – especially Rogue."
Instantly, Hange absorbed Levi's words like a sponge and understood them, quickly nodding as she unfolded the parchment. "Erwin was actually able to get this information from Nile who we confirmed to be the only reliable resource at the time."
"Nile?" Mikasa stammered with Hange dipping her head.
"Yes, I know it is hard to hear, but Zackley was not in a position to pass information to us. I'd explain everything but we are short on time so I'll cut to the chase. Nile didn't know much but he did inform us of an old mansion about an hour's ride from here. It's an old manor that the first squad uses as their headquarters. Granted, it's not big enough to hide a massive titan like Rogue, but perhaps we can interrogate someone stationed there to see if we can find out any information as to where Rogue and Historia were taken. It's not much to go on, but it's a clue at least."
Levi nodded. "I will explain to you all what we've found out about the first squad on the way there." The Corporal decided as he slipped on a new cloak. "Didn't you say that you found out the bastard who's calling all the shots here – did you find out the king's name?"
Once more, Hange nodded. "His name is Rod Reiss. As of now, we have no idea of his location."
"Well then, we best start moving."
With the conclusion, the group quickly gathered themselves and began to load up into the wagon. Armin hurriedly took his seat only to see Mikasa in her own cone of silence, her fingers gripping tightly onto her scarf and her gaze lowered. Looking closely, Armin spotted the fact that the teen was close to tears.
"Armin, do you think Rogue is alright? He must be so terrified by now."
The blonde repeated her own words in his head, milling over them and trying to compare them to facts – the most likely thing Rogue would have done when he found himself in a tough spot popping into his head. "Just keep your hopes up, I'm sure that somewhere, he's fighting."
A long grown vibrated from his throat, transforming into a dog like whine. Thankfully, he was alone in the spillway once again and Kenny and his assistant had gone else ware. Rogue took a second to watch a lonely cockroach scurry across the floor before trying to pull at his restraints again – but still having no luck. The titan's brows pinched upward and his mouth frowned – the expression of fear clearly upon his face but no one to view it except lesser creatures. At least an hour had passed since the 'medicine' that made him unable to move his body was injected and it was thankfully beginning to wear off. Granted, he was still not in peak condition. His joints felt loose and there was a sense of weakness in his limbs that he couldn't quite describe. If was as if his mind was fully alert and his body was just begging for rest. Rogue pulled again, the chains sliding uncomfortably upon his wrists but otherwise not even budging – being made of heavy iron and each link as big as a man's head. Irritated, the titan gave a low hiss before his vocal transcended into a worried warble. Kenny's words were bone chilling. He didn't understand. What was the man planning to do with him?
Rogue paused in pulling at his binds, his emerald pools staring long and hard at the dirty floor beneath him once again. Were they going to have him do something with other titans? The man that Kenny was with said something about making a fortune – which was a term that he heard humans use that meant to make money. How could he make them money though? Surely they weren't going to sell him? That seemed impossible, yet with these shady men it could actually be possible. Rogue swallowed, he didn't wish to think about it. He needed to focus on getting back to his little ones.
However, before he could even think about a way to escape and make any attempt, the sound of a heavy door opening met his ears and the many scents of humans met his nose. His frame shuttered in panic and he immediately shifted his gaze to see several men and women enter the large room. The titan's eyes widened at the contents they carried as they prepared to swarm around him. Many of them were equipped with the very gear that they had used to take him down previously – the invisible wings with guns while others wore gloves with two men carrying what appeared and smelled like paint. Instinctively, Rogue growled, the deep vocal bubbling from his stomach, but to his dismay his warning was ignored. The titan struggled in his binds as the group swarmed around him, guns lifting, aimed and ready. Rogue grunted, snarling again to project a threat that went unrecognized.
"Remember! Kill him if he attacks us! As soon as he's released, push him toward the door! Get him ready!"
Rogue growled again before fear settled into his system once more, the beast attempting to curl in on himself with his ears pressed to his scalp. He did not like this! The titan shuttered, feeling sets of hands grip the chains and pulling. This perplexed him further, what on earth had these men planned?
"What number should we put on him?" Spoke a man to another one that stood near his shoulder. "It's gotta be good!"
"No. That's unlucky."
"Naw, how about the most demonic number you can think up? These things are demons and this guy is the king of em' man. He looks like a fucking demon too."
"Oh, I know!" The other giggled cruelly, the titan feeling paint being brushed over his arm.
Rogue continued to growl and whimper, not knowing if he should fight or flight. He needed to get free! He needed to get back to his family! His heart pounded as the men and women continued to swarm around him. The titan's frame stilled as several of the group approached his neck, their hands beginning to pull at his collar – the one thing that was protecting his venerable nape. At this, Rogue nearly screamed.
"Take the damn thing off and set it aside. We need the nape exposed if we have to kill him!"
The titan shuttered, his spine quaking in sheer terror. Feeling the chains loosen around his neck before falling all together, Rogue lifted his head from the floor and looked around the room thoroughly – his eyes immediately catching light beneath what appeared to be a wide door that resembled the wall's gates. A sense of relief passed over him at the sight of possible salvation. It was promising that he could run!
"Get ready! The chains are coming off!"
The titan blinked, his head turning this way and that as he glanced at the group around him pull chains and lift their guns even higher.
"Be prepared to close the door!"
Suddenly, Rogue felt the chains puddle around his wrists and ankles. At the sensation, the beast quickly pulled his hands and feet free and arched himself to hunch over on the balls of his feet, swaying as his own limbs felt as if they couldn't support his weight. Rogue groaned before he felt a searing pain in his forearm – the sting of a bullet. His eyes shifted to see the men and women taking aim and pulling the triggers. Feeling the wrath from what seemed like steel hornets, Rogue released a screech and stood to make his way for the light, his knees faltering and causing him to crumble onto the floor. Desperate however, Rogue scrambled ahead. Suddenly, the clamor of guns ceased and there was a thud so heavy behind him that it startled the beast and physically shook him. The light sharply decreased when another door came down before him, his bulk pounding against it.
Rogue panicked, his chest heaving as he tried to understand what was happening and his new surroundings. The titan breathed rapidly, quickly placing himself into a corner and drawing his legs to his chest. He shuttered, eyes darting back and forth. He was in a box – a small room of some sort. It was pitch black, making the titan curl up and wallow in what seemed to be a lake of mass confusion. Where was he now? What was going on? Where had the light gone? Rogue swallowed, he needed to get out and quickly. His hands ran along his legs, he was still weak and there was no way that he could stand long much less run for long periods at that point. With his goal in mind, the giant unfurled himself and his hands began to search the corners and groves of his containment – looking for any latch or weak spot. It was then however, that his ears caught a sound that made him go stiff. Both startled and curious, Rogue paused to listen – rotating his ears toward the door and straining to hear what lay on the other side. Beyond, he could hear a booming beating along with what sounded like a mass of shouts and cheers. The titan pressed his ear against the cold door, quietly listening as a voice began to carry above all others.
"Ladies and Gentleman!" The voice of a charismatic man announced. "Tonight's finale is one of legendary proportions and one that all of you have been waiting for! Courtesy of the first squad, you will witness the most bloodthirsty and ferocious titan known to humanity! This behemoth is the ruler of them all and even feeds upon his own kin! This big boy clocks in at a staggering fifteen meters and weighs as much as several fully loaded passenger ships – the biggest titan we've ever had the pleasure of pitting in this arena! You are in for a show folks! This is no common fifteen-meter as I've said! This beast is the ultimate weapon, the most powerful monster, the most dangerous of deviants! Ladies and Gentlemen… I give to you – THE INFAMOUS ROGUE TITAN!"
He couldn't process the meanings of the spoken words as the door before him suddenly began to lift skyward. Rogue pressed himself against the wall behind him, petrified as cold and warm light spilled into his tiny holding area. With eyes blown wide, the titan remained frozen, his heart feeling as if it was leaping out of his chest. What was he going to do! He couldn't go back and forward was most certainly another dimension of this hell he had been thrown in! Rogue hunkered down further like a terrified puppy, the people beyond nearly silent for a moment before there were complaints sweeping through the audience. The foul scents of alcohol, titans, sweat, and the tinge of blood met his nostrils, nearly making him snort in disgust. He shuttered again, mind searching for any plan that would work. However, before he could gain any clues to his escape, the door behind him began to rattle with the sounds of clanking metal and furious yells.
"He's being a chicken! Open the door a smidge and shoot him!"
At the very word that stated their intentions, Rogue's mind instantly snapped to the need to move forward. With his feet nearly sliding out from beneath him, the titan abruptly left his small holding area and ventured into the light – but he quickly skidded to a stop and collapsed onto his hip. Rogue's eyes widened, greens laced with nothing but sheer trepidation at what he beheld around him.
He was in some sort of massive concrete pit, circular in shape with big walls all around it. At the top of the surrounding wall was what looked to be iron bars barricading the pit. Behind the bars were hundreds of spectators that were clearly the lowest of the low. There were drunks galore, women that bore so much skin that it was a wonder how their clothes stayed attached, scuzzy criminals, men and women puffing more smoke than a chimney, and even bratty children that were screaming their heads off at him. On the other end of the pit behind the barrier was a tall tower that overlooked the area where a man in what appeared to be some sort of flashy costume that resembled what the aristocrats in Stohess wore stood. Above, the ceiling extended upward into a high shaft that was open at the top, allowing moonlight to pour in to the depths below, bathing the pit in both the light of the full moon and firelight from several makeshift torches surrounding the pit. Rogue hunkered down again, a long whine leaving the beast as he instinctively motioned backward, but a crunch beneath his feet alerted him to place his attention to the floor beneath him.
The titan's heart stilled at what he saw.
The floor of the pit was covered in splattered blood, limbs, and even stray guts. Scattered around the carnage were the fractured and broken bones of victims. Rogue's eyes widened, a sharp yelp leaving his mouth as he stumbled against the back wall, standing halfway upon his hands and feet as he tried to desperately move away. It was then that Rogue understood where he was.
An arena. A place where men and monsters fought to the death.
Rogue droned, his eyes searching for a way to freedom once again. Looking up, was it possible he could climb out of the shaft above? With the need brewing, Rogue unknowingly attempted to get to his feet, his knees wobbly like a toddler's as his head met the base of the iron bar barrier that surrounded the arena – making several spectators produce unsettling noises at his immense size. However, the beast could do nothing as his weak joints caused his leg to bow and he tumbled down onto his knees. Mortified, Rogue released a quiet whimper as he scooted back to crouch against the wall – the audience above laughing at him.
"As you can see ladies and gentlemen, The Rogue has been impaired by the effects of some of our infamous medication, so you don't have to fret about him getting a bit angry with us! Of course, he's still well enough to brawl!" The announcer cackled with the audience cheering. "Now, what has been said about this beast is true! He's self-aware and incredibly intelligent! The Rogue also thirsts for the blood of his own kin!" The man continued with the humans roaring in favor. "So! How about we start things with a bit of an appetizer!" The announcer laughed cruelly as he waved towards another door that slowly began to open.
Rogue swallowed, his ears pinning and pupils shrinking as he observed a relatively small titan emerge into the pit. His heart thudded even harder against his ribcage at he witnessed the other titan's appearance that looked anything but what he was used to from his mindless kin. The titan afore him was a five meter that was hunched over in a way that reminded him of Mehr, but its body shook and trembled unnaturally with resentment. Its brown eyes were locked onto him and for the first time, they did not appear cloudy or far gone but rather had intent in them – the drive to maim. Saliva and foam pooled from its maw and its body was painted with lewd images as well as what appeared to be a number. Rogue lifted himself to crouch upon all fours again with trepidation. This beast was bound to attack him and in the state he was currently in – he could only do so much. He gulped again, knowing that this was the effect of the medicine that Kenny mentioned. He couldn't help but feel incredibly apprehensive. The titan looked almost like how he had seen some wolves infected with something that Dr. Jaeger referred to as rabies. Hopefully, it was not the same thing and he couldn't contract it. He certainly didn't want to be near this creature! The unsettling feeling his instincts gave him was alarming!
It was then that an idea popped into his head. Recalling all of the information that Hange and the others had told him about his power, Rogue wondered if he could possibly control the titan before him. Perhaps he could send it back into the spillway. His opponent gave a shriek and took a few steps in advance. With his only plan in mind, Rogue snarled at the beast as he turned to face it, giving him a demanding roar of command that echoed all throughout the arena.
However, his attempt was futile as the smaller titan suddenly charged at him with surprising speed. As quick as he could, Rogue lifted his bulk to dart out of harm's way as the other titan smashed headfirst into the wall. The audience above let out a collective sound of disapproval. Rogue let out a series of heavy breaths as he tried to get to his hands and feet again, eyes staring in shock. His ability didn't work? Was the titan far too enamored by the medicine to listen to him. Rogue swallowed at his failure. He had but one option now. He would have to do what he had to get through this.
"Kill the bastard!"
"Is the Rogue frightened! What a big baby!"
"Eat the damn thing!"
The titan then pulled itself to its feet and turned toward him again. With saliva spraying from its maw, it shrieked as it lunged right at him. Defensively, Rogue raised his fist and brought it down upon the five meter's head, squashing it like a melon before its jaws could snag his skin, his action making the crowd go wild. For a moment, he found himself reveling at the attention, but recalling their true loyalties, Rogue put those feelings aside and focused on his own survival. To put the creature out of commission, the fifteen-meter quickly smashed the monster's nape and shuffled to the center of the pit, resting upon the balls of his feet as he awaited for what his foe could throw at him next. Feeling another wave of weakness course through him, Rogue sat on his thighs. He was unsure how much longer he would be incapacitated, but he damn sure hoped that it wasn't all evening.
At the carnage, the crowd seemed to grow even more unruly with the host throwing his arms out in approval. "Ah! You see that folks! Look how easily he took out a single titan! He's painted the floor with its brains! So do you want more?" The man asked the audience who let out a loud cheer that made Rogue swallow another wad of uncertainty. "Then we shall give you more!"
The vibration of two heavy doors lifting free, tore his attention away from the man and to the open spillways. Almost instantly, two titans pushed their way into the arena. They were both much larger than the last beast. One of them was a nine meter and the other was a seven meter. Both stood upright, abet hunched over as they stared at him with the same amosite that the previous gave him. Like the first, they were painted with numbers and images – one even having its normally blonde locks tainted with some unnatural color. Knowing that he couldn't possibly fight two titans at the heights they were standing, Rogue quickly forced himself to get upright on his own two feet, nearly tipping over as he teetered dangerously. He panted, panicked even further at the thought that his ability was useless here. Green eyes darted back and forth between his two foes who's eyes were locked onto him. Their teeth were wet with a nauseating look of saliva and blood, foam running down the corners of their mouths onto their chests. For a split second, Rogue swore that the expressions upon their faces changed into even deeper scows and snarls. Weakly, he held up his fists in what was supposed to be his signature fighting stance, wrists trembling. Lowly, he growled as a natural response with the other two titans hissing. If he could sweat, it was likely that at the very moment he would.
Suddenly, the beast to his right lunged forward with its jaws agape and ready to separate flesh. Quickly, but clumsily, Rogue turned and encased his palm around the creature's face and gave the hardest shove that he was able to muster. He felt his frame nearly topple as the other titan fell to the hard floor of the pit. Before he could stand straight however, a weight forcefully rammed into his back and a set of teeth was snapping at his ear. At the feeling of skin brushing against his nape, Rogue instinctively reached over his shoulder and gripped the base of the titan's skull. With his teeth grinding against one another, he heaved the monster's body up and over him to throw the giant onto the carrion littered floor of the pit. With the weight of the beast however, Rogue's legs buckled and he felt himself fall forward. Awkwardly, he rolled in a messy somersault before coming to rest on his side. His chest shuttered as he inhaled, green eyes instantly searching for his foes only to find that the two of them were attacking one another like two wolves fighting for dominance. For a moment, Rogue even found himself watching them. Yes, they were just like feral dogs with the way one pinned the other on its back and was currently pulling the skin around the creature's throat away. It was unnerving however as blood splatted all over the creature's face – the titan not even blinking its eyes. Rogue's moment of observation soon ended when the dominating seven meter suddenly placed its attention to him once again. Leaving behind its current victim, the monster blindly charged at Rogue who promptly lifted his foot to kick the abomination in its face – the skin and flesh tearing right off and sending the creature backwards and toppling onto the other.
As the audience raved at the carnage, Rogue struggled to stand again. He would need to take the two enraged beasts out quickly. They were far too dangerous and unpredictable. Now on his feet, Rogue motioned toward the two recovering titans – nearly dragging his own legs as he carried on. With another low growl, Rogue lifted his foot and stepped upon the exposed nape of the struggling seven meter. The spectators cheered at the sight of blood as he shifted his focus on his now single opponent who had managed to get upright. Rogue had barely the time to react as the nine meter came for him again with its mouth ready to tear him to shreds. At the last moment, he managed to catch the creature's neck and pushed it into the wall, rattling both the people and bars above. As the behemoth turned its head to hiss in defiance, Rogue, lifted his arm to jab his elbow into the titan's face and staining the wall once again with blood. Not wasting any more time and needing to sit again, Rogue flipped his stunned opponent around and plunged his teeth into its nape. He took a moment to savor the taste of his enemy's blood and the feeling of his teeth going through meat. While the audience cheered at the sight he contemplated eating the meat in hope that he would gain energy, but then he recalled the sick feeling that was involved in pellet passing afterwards and decided against it – spitting the chunk of his foe's spine back onto the floor in dissatisfaction before letting the beast's body fall at his feet with a rumbling thud.
"Hell yeah! Kick their fucking asses!"
"Look at that big mother fucker!"
Rogue ignored the commentary as he weakly leaned against the wall, huffing clouds of steam before hobbling back to the center of the pit to crouch down with his head between his legs, suddenly dizzy. Without warning, his stomach rolled and he began to spit up between his feet. He must have been coming off more of the medicine his mind figured. Ill, he shuttered. He just wanted to go home. He just wanted to get through the night. Get away and return to his little ones. With his ears flickering, he caught the sound of something that made his chest tighten and tears nearly come to his eyes – cruel laughter that was aimed at his disheveled state.
"It's sick as a damn dog!"
"That's something that happens with drugs ya bastard! Get used to it!"
Rogue's body shuttered, but before he could break down completely, the announcer began again.
"See how he tears them apart folks! Even a drunken devil does fine work!" The man cackled. "That was a bit easy for him wasn't it! Two titans are nothing to this guy! Simple filth like ourselves! What do you say ladies and gentlemen? Should we give The Rogue a challenge?"
He lifted his head at the startling information as the spectators to the vile sport agreed with a chorus of yells. Rogue whimpered. He wasn't feeling like himself and as impaired as he was he didn't think he could take on more titans!
"Good! Let's give humanity's hope something to fight that will make him a bit squeamish! Let's test his soul!"
Rogue swallowed in a poor attempt to rid himself of his queasiness, blinking as he slowly lifted his head. He needed to get up and prepare himself. He had to continue. He had to push though his weaknesses! He couldn't afford to lose! He had so much to live for!
Below the tower, another spillway door began to open. "Let us give a warm welcome to our champions tonight!" The announcer continued, making Rogue tremble even further. He knew the word 'champion' well. It meant a tough opponent or the top rank in battle. The mere mentioning made him whine yet again. He was in for trouble. As Rogue struggled to stand and prepare himself, a perplexing sound swept the arena – the sound of booing. Before he could even question the reason as to why, the announcer pressed onward. "Tonight, for your viewing pleasure we have three champions that are the lowest of the low straight from the Underground!"
At the news of three confirmed foes, Rogue quickly lifted himself to prop his frame on his heels, stabilizing his bulk with his hands pressed into the floor and appearing not unlike a seated canine. He had to be ready to at least dodge.
"These three, a thief, a slut, and a gang member who wronged his don – will face off against the Rogue Titan himself! As always, whomever survives wins the round!" The man cackled.
Ready to defend himself, Rogue's ears rotated and he lowered his head to let out a low growl. The least he could do was prepare himself. Green eyes scrutinized the lifting door and the blackness on the other side, watching for his emerging foes. However, as soon as his enemies' forms came into the light, Rogue's heart stopped for several beats and his tough façade gave way to absolute terror.
Before him were his new opponents that were not titans but rather humans – two men and a woman with horrified faces wet with sweat and a single old iron bamboo blade held in their shaky hands. It was then that the truth hit him. These so called champions were purposely ill equipped – making it painfully obvious that this was set up to be an execution.
And he himself was the executioner.
His blood went cold, pupils shrinking to pinpricks. Slowly, he backed away, shaking his head in denial. Desperately, he moaned, looking up at the announcer before pressing himself into the wall behind him. "NOooo." He voiced his opinion, his say going completely ignored as the announcer and the others laughed. Was this really – did these humans really enjoy seeing this! Rogue swallowed, feeling his body tremble and hunker closer to the floor. He didn't want to be here! He didn't want to kill humans! He couldn't! He promised!
"Remember champions! You know good and well what happens if by small chance there is ever a draw!" The man shouted with the three contestants gulping in unison. "When the bell is rung, you begin! Good luck!"
The world seemed silent to Rogue, the roaring audience a muffled sound and every soul moving in slow motion. Green pools studied the three humans thrown into the pit, taking note of their disheveled clothes, filthy skin, and faces that only mothers could love. There was no way. He wasn't a monster. These men and women had done nothing to him or his family. They were strangers. They hadn't killed anyone. Levi had been a thief and what he assumed was close to a leader of thugs in his past, but he was a good person. He didn't know what a slut was, but he assumed that it wasn't the worst sin in the world. Even still, he couldn't kill anyone. The day that he had slain the three men from taking his babies had always haunted him – knowing that he had broken a very important vow that he had made to his beloved parents. Sure, he had done the world a service, but there was no way that he could kill these humans. The fact that these people enjoyed such a spectacle made him feel even sicker.
After what felt like an eon, a loud ringing of a large iron bell echoed throughout the room and summoned him from the torture of his own mind. The three humans before him simply stood, shaking in their own shoes. Rogue himself remained petrified, struggling with what to do as the three glanced from themselves onto him.
"Oh my god! I can't do this!" The female panicked. "I don't deserve to be here! It was a mistake! I'm innocent!"
"Someone just shoot me! I'd rather it be quick than face the torture of being eaten!"
"I can't die yet! I have to go home! I need to see my daughter again!"
His heart struggled with the words that the three spoke. Surely it was a lie that the announcer said! Could these humans be innocent? With the sword shaking in their hand, one of the men took a step forward, his teeth grinding and his face lit up in absolute terror. Naturally, on reflex at the advance, Rogue shifted his weight in the slightest – moving a hand as he prepared to poorly avoid the humans even further, his eyes noting the trail of urine that had begun to navigate its way down the man's pants. Neither party wanted to do this – and these humans were only doing what they were being forced to do.
"Kill them! Kill them! Kill them!" The crowd chanted, making the hairs stand upon his neck.
"Eat the fuckers!"
"Spill their guts out chicken!"
"Kill the bastards!"
Acting on a natural instinct that was deeply woven into him, Rogue cautiously sidestepped, keeping himself low like a sulking and injured animal as he began to move around the pit, glancing over his shoulder at his opponents every so often to see that they were warily shadowing him. Rogue's green eyes wandered to the stands, noticing the increasingly agitated crowd. Now however, he spotted several of the first squad members perched at the top of the bars on small platforms, overlooking the pit like gargoyles. They were obviously posted to extract orders when needed. Orders to kill him and perhaps the three humans chosen to duel him. Rogue took another step again, his line of sight catching the figure of Kenny now hovering behind the announcer, watching the proceedings with a frown. From his position, he noticed that in the fair outer edge high in the stands was a little room sectioned off from the rest of the crowd. Behind glass, stood Historia with a taller and plump man with his hands resting upon her shoulders - making him recall the stout male that was with Kenny when he was captured, the man that provoked Kenny to have him take part in these grim games. The thought itself made Rogue stall and growl at the fact, but before he could allow himself to simmer with anger, the titan caught movement from the corner of his eye – forcing him to quickly rotate his neck to see that the three humans were right upon him with swords trembling as they raised them. Rogue yelped and pushed himself to move out of harm's way and to cower on the other side of the pit. Even with this act, Rogue still felt the need to steer clear rather than to slaughter. It was as if this instinct was controlling him. He didn't want to do this!
Of course, with his unwillingness to carry out what was demanded from him, the spectators to the cruel sport strongly disapproved.
"What are you waiting for! Kill the bastards!"
"Slaughter them you sorry excuse for a titan!"
"Paint the pit with their guts!"
"What are you waiting for! Destroy them!"
"Kill them you piece of shit!"
Rogue could practically feel his own heart rip into pieces at the statements – the old phrase that his mother had shared with him about sticks and stones did not mean a single thing here. The words were just downright cruel and their meaning behind them made him feel even worse. A lump formed in his throat once again as he proceeded to shuffle and gradually make his way around the arena, keeping his eyes onto the opponents pitted against him as they nervously followed. This only angered the audience even further and their rage projected even louder.
"YOU STUPID FUCK! GET YOUR ASS TOGETHER AND KILL THEM!"
"EAT THEM YOU IGNORANT MONSTER!"
"DUMB ANIMAL! RIP THEM TO PIECES!"
"KILL THEM! I PAID GOOD MONEY TO WATCH YOU PAINT THE WALLS WITH THEIR BRAINS!"
Rogue shuttered, unknowingly pausing and his mind submitting to the torment.
The beast's jaw began to quiver, pupils shrinking into even smaller pinpricks. No, he couldn't do it! He wanted to go home! He wanted his family! He wanted his babies!
His joints seemed to tighten as his body was overcame with both astonishment and alarm. How was he to run away! He was weak, he couldn't get –
Before he could finish a thought, the titan felt something blunt impact his shoulder and ooze out onto his skin, the feeling making him jump in the slightest and turn to see something that completely cut through his current mentality and only made him even more uneasy. Upon his shoulder and running down his flesh was an egg – a raw egg that reminded him of the day that a man threw an egg at him after their failed mission back in Katness. Rogue's heart faltered. Disregarding his surroundings, Rogue lifted a hand to promptly wipe away the yolk and shattered eggshell when something else flew out of a hand and smacking him in the face right beside his eye. Abandoning his current observation, Rogue lifted a hand to his face to feel a somewhat chunky liquid before catching the object's unmistakable scent that had crossed his nose – a rotten tomato.
At the realization as to what was transpiring, Rogue brought himself to move again around the outer edge of the area. As he took a step forward however, another object hit his back, this time shattering and the foul stench of booze sweeping his nostrils. Looking over his shoulder again, frightened greens caught sight of many humans sticking their hands out of the gaps in the bars with objects held within their fingers. Rogue's heart pounded as the audience prepared to enforce their wrath. Quickly, he turned but was met with several objects from eggs and tomatoes all the way to hot cigars and more beer bottles. The behemoth let out a long whine as he tried to start forward and evade his punishment.
"KILL THEM NOW!"
"THE FUCK ARE YOU WAITING FOR? TEAR THEM TO RIBBONS!"
"YOU ARE MADE TO KILL SO YOU NEED TO GET KILLING YA' STUPID BASTARD!"
Rogue yelped, ears lowering as he proceeded to try and scramble from the path of projectiles, but the method proved fruitless as whatever direction he turned in he was met with some sort of object. The beast yelped as a stay whiskey bottle shattered near his eye, the alcohol burning the mucus membrane. Instantly, he screeched, reaching up in a poor attempt to relieve himself. Off balance, the titan swayed with the audience laughing even louder in amusement, igniting them to only continue their cruel torture. Another egg smacked his head and more booze wet his locks. The smell of feces even met his nose as a horrid woman threw her infant's used diaper at his back. The titan screeched again, yelping and whimpering as he struggled to rub his eye and scramble from the crowd's cruel work.
Suddenly, he felt a searing pain ignite in his foot. Letting out a cry of agony, Rogue abandoned his current discomfort and turned to see that one of the men that was victim to the game had plunged his sword into the top of his foot. Eyes growing wide in shock, Rogue watched as the other man raised his blade. Witnessing this, the titan lumbered forward as the other man managed to slash his ankle. Again, Rogue yelped as his blood splattered across the pit. Another bottle hit the side of his face, provoking him to move faster or as much as his impaired body was allowing him to go. Unfortunately, another wave of dizziness swept over him, causing his feet to cross and the behemoth to stumble. The ground came up to meet Rogue and his body rolled hard and awkward into the wall. With tears filling his eyes and his vision clouding, Rogue whimpered as he attempted to get back to his feet, embarrassingly falling to his belly before moving across the pit in an attempt to evade both the so called champions and the objects thrown by the laughing and angry audience.
"WHAT A FUCKING IDIOT! AND THEY SAY HE'S SMART!"
"KILL THE BASTARDS!"
Rogue's limbs shook as another bottle of brandy cracked and spilled over his brow. His nostrils filled with the horrible scents of everything that had been thrown upon him and kept being thrown upon him, making him completely nauseated. Fear crippled the beast and he instinctively began to hug the walls again as he moved, edges feeling safe to the creature as he continued to refuse what he was ordered.
"KILL THEIR ASSES!"
More objects rained down upon him, staining his back and hair in an array of colors. Rogue stalled, his joints trembling and his head hanging low as he tried to get over another wave of queasiness. He hated this. He wanted to go home! He didn't want to do this! He didn't want to kill people! Deeper he fell into his mind's torment as more beer and objects continued to paint and pommel him. A tear finally fell from his eye, flowing down his chin and onto the bloody floor of the pit. He was in hell. He was truly in hell. And even still he refused to do what the devil told him. Even though they had drawn blood from their prey, he still felt no need to retaliate. He didn't want to kill again. He couldn't! He was made to hunt bigger prey. He could not do this! He couldn't –
Suddenly, there was a searing heat that hit him and shook his frame to the core, pain exploded quite literally in his left side and sent Rogue falling into the wall. The world spun around him. Rogue shrieked in agony – the bone chilling sound bouncing off the rooftop. With wooziness quickly sweeping over him and the crowd growing silent, Rogue turned to see that his entire side was caked in crimson and sinew – the result of a small grenade that had been tossed to pause the proceedings. The titan gritted his teeth, hissing in the slightest as he attempted to raise from his position. Rogue heaved a breath as he managed to hoist himself onto his hands and feet. He lifted a hand to grip his steaming wound, the rapid loss of blood provoking him to grow dizzy yet again. However, as he looked up he noticed something that made his blood chill.
There, standing in place of the announcer, was Kenny himself with an absolutely sinister grin upon his face.
"LADIES AND GENTLEMAN! BASTARDS ALIKE!" His enemy began charismatically. "I THINK IT'S TIME WE GIVE THIS BEAST A BIT OF ENCOURAGEMENT! WHAT YOU SAY WE GIVE EM' A BIT OF A PUSH!"
Before Rogue could even contemplate as to what Kenny meant, the men and women of the first squad that had been perched above, descended into a dive with their own blades and guns drawn. Immediately, the crowd roared in triumph and the instinct to flight ignited within him. Panicked, Rogue quickly pushed himself to his feet and nearly teetering as the squad swarmed. Rogue screamed as a wire wrapped around his leg while bullets riddled his right side. He tried to move, run with no possible destination. A man curved downwards before arching upwards again, digging his swords across his arm and leaving a wide and deep gash in his flesh. Once more, he cried as his own blood sprayed against him. The titan gripped the open wound desperately as another man landed an anchor into his scalp and brought his swords over his face, cutting Rogue's brow and allowing crimson to gush for the umpteenth time. Rogue screeched as his façade was tainted red. Instinctively, he moved again, a man swerving around his midsection and blasting his side, the bullets making hundreds of holes as another did the very same to his calf. Fearing for his life, the titan quickly covered his nape, feeling the blades of a solder dig deep into the tendons of his fingers – making him scream. Desperately, he willed his frail limb to keep its position. He panicked. There was hardly any room to run inside the arena and he was still so weak that he could barely hold himself not to mention his reflexes weren't up to par. There was also nowhere he could string up the men and women, leaving him with only one option which was to roll them roughly to the ground. Rogue swallowed, of course, there was the other option, but such was out of the question.
Another man dived, swerving beneath his arm. Catching his movement, Rogue urgently swiped at the man's wires only to snag air. At his miss, the same human spun around and sliced into his shoulder, a pained screech peeking between his clenched teeth. Bullets hit the small of his back, making his body grow still for several precious seconds at the immense pain growing in his spine. Rogue droned, green eyes trying to focus, the room seemingly spinning again as he pushed himself to try and stay upright. Another squad member circled his hip, iron bamboo steel slicing into his abdominals and spilling more vital crimson. Rogue roared, the sound lonely and filled with agony. Again, his eyes attempted to focus on movement of his foes. A man moved low, blades poised to strike his ankle. Rogue tried to steady himself, his knees wobbly as he prepared to execute a move to defend. The titan lifted his leg, but before he could do what was needed to protect himself, a man flew at him with alarming speed and planted his swords into his throat, tearing open his esophagus as his other opponent cut across his his ankle. Rogue screamed, the sound drowned by gushing blood and his free hand shooting up to cover his throat. The behemoth stumbled into the opposite wall, his eyes blown wide in horror as blood spluttered from the wound, coating his fingers and pouring down his chest. He coughed, red spraying his teeth and misting the southern side of the pit. To protect himself, Rogue released his nape and pushed himself closely to the wall. The world tilted and black dots scattered across his vision. Steam shrouded his shielding fingers as nerve endings slowly began to repair themselves – his weak body unable to regenerate what was needed promptly. Again, his stomach twisted and rejected his stomach contents, acid and blood falling at his feet. Rogue shrieked in agony as he felt his gaping wound burn like hellfire. His legs nearly buckled, the once powerful creature using everything he had just to partially stand. His suffering was only mere amusement for his audience.
"KEEP ON EM' I DON'T THINK THE BIG BOY UNDERSTANDS YET!"
Willing himself to keep moving through another wave of unconsciousness, Rogue looked up in horror to see that the squad was advancing yet again. Trying to find his determination through his ever growing fear, Rogue narrowed his eyes and lifted his shaking hand. Wires snagged into the flesh of his shoulder, igniting him to quickly reach to tear out the grapples. However, his fingers never made it as the tips of them were severed clean off. Rogue howled, the sound gargling in his damaged throat. Bullets seared across his chest as he felt his thigh being torn open – blood coursing down his frame like hot wax. Rogue hissed, eyes franticly searching for a window of opportunity. Squad members swarmed him like the carnivorous fish that Armin told him about in his books – their eyes hungrily looking for a spot to target. His vision tunneled in the slightest, the titan stumbling as he nearly fainted yet again – stepping in his own sick and filth that covered the floor of the pit. Cables sailed towards his own chest, the titan managing to wrap his fingers around the woven steel and pulled. Thinking quickly, the beast yanked the man and threw his body to the ground – the individual tumbling and rolling over and over as he turned his attention back to the swarm.
His reaction however, was far too late.
A squad member dropped another one of the explosive stones onto his shoulder from above, the blast incinerating his skin and tearing deep into his muscles. Shrapnel imbedded itself into his jaw and cheek – rattling his entire frame from the force. The titan stumbled, his vision blurring as he screeched yet anew. More bullets flew into the flesh of his jaw while his opposite cheek was torn open by more blades. His mind was in a flurry. He was weak! He could do nothing! He had to stop his attackers and incapacitate them!
Another set of pairing blades dug into his back as another surge of dizziness swept over him. Images distorted and the creature wobbled, looking like a drunk trying to find his way home. The muscles in his legs burned from both exertion and his steaming wounds. With his ears still ringing, Rogue entered a haze. As a last attempt to protect himself, the titan covered his nape with both his beat up hands and dipped his head like a frightened child in a thunderstorm. A series of whimpers sounded through his maw all the while the audience cheered and started to pitch their belongings once again. While more bottles shattered, the squad kept up their pressure. The titan could feel every bullet and every swipe, yelping louder and louder with each one. Rogue shut his eyes tightly, retreating into the one place he could – inside his head as the abuse continued.
'WHY?' He thought frantically. 'I… JUST WANT TO GO HOME!'
A man swooped, cutting just behind his kneecap and nearly causing him to fall to the earth.
'I CAN'T – THEY ARE… JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS! I CAN'T KILL! I – CAN'T!'
Beer and blood painted his scalp, matting his hair as a woman unloaded her guns into his forearms again, adding to the collection of bullets that were imbedded from his earlier encounter.
'I CAN'T! I CAN'T!' Rogue suffered, the audience chanting all around him.
"TEAR HIS ASS UP! WHIP HIM INTO SHAPE!"
"YEAH! MAKE THE BIG BASTARD DO SOMETHING!"
"JUST KILL HIM ALREADY!"
'I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T!'
Steel met flesh and bone, tearing free his fingers and a champion's sword plunging into his foot again. His frame shuttered like a dead tree in a gust – shivering like a cold animal.
'I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I CAN'T!'
The laughter of both a madman and an unforgiving audience echoed in his ears. The cruel words cutting deep into him just as each and every swipe of a sword.
'I CAN'T! I CAN'T… DO THIS! THERE'S… NO WAY I –
Time seemed to suddenly stop for the beast as he came to a sudden epiphany.
"YEH BETTER DO SOMETHIN' YA BIG BRAT! I DON'T THINK YA CAN LAST MUCH LONGER!"
'THESE… HUMANS. THEY… ENJOY THIS. THEY… LOVE THIS! THEY… ACT LIKE… ANIMAL.' Rogue proceeded to think. 'THEY… KILL THEIR OWN KIND. FOR… FUN! I… DID NOTHING TO… THEM! THEY… LOVE – PAIN! THIS… THIS IS… CRUEL!'
Another attack commenced, but Rogue was still wrapped in his thoughts even as his blood trailed.
'THESE… HUMANS…NO! THESE… MONSTERS! THESE… ANIMALS, SCUM – ARE ALL… BAD! THEY… ARE – MEAN! THEY… THEY TOOK ME HERE! THEY… WENT AFTER MY… FAMILY! MY BAIBIES!' His consciousness darkened, heart pounding faster. 'THEY… COULD BE – DEAD! SCUM! SCUM! THEY… CAN'T BE… GOOD! THEY ARE EVIL! THEY… ALL SCUM NEED – TO DIE!'
Men and women reloaded and the audience continued their mirth and unkind contributions.
'I… NEED TO… GET RID OF THEM! MAKE THEM… PAY! I'LL TEAR THEM… APART! THE PIGS! SWINE! I WILL… MAKE IT ALL… RED! RED! RED! THEY… WANT A MONSTER! I'LL FUCKING GIVE THEM ONE!'
As the torment proceeded, a hot surge swept through his body, his weakness and frailness suddenly vanishing with a hatred fueled heat pooling in his stomach. His breaths grew ragged, the others still unaware at his transpiring shift. Slowly, his eyes peeled open to unveil feral blazing greens with pupils in thin slits. His hair ruffled and ears folded over, nostrils flaring at the foul odors of his foes.
'I… WILL TAKE… THEM TO HELL! I'LL – SHOW THEM… HOW MUCH OF A MONSTER… I CAN BE! I'LL – SHOW YOU WHAT A REAL… TITAN IS LIKE!'
A squad member dove from his perch, his bullets tearing into his shoulder before the male's eyes searched for another target – but never having the chance to execute his second move as Rogue locked onto him. With rage festering in his blood and more blades digging into him, the titan suddenly left his defensive position and released a rattling roar. Like lightening and fueled on nothing but anger and adrenaline, the titan swung his open hand with tremendous force.
The man would never know what had hit him.
Bones were crushed at the impact of the titan's open palm instantly. Like an old raggedy doll, his limp body was launched across the arena, silencing all life around. Green eyes beheld the man make impact, feeling absolutely triumphant as the corpse became nothing but bloody pulp – smashed like an insect. A few brief moments passed before the man's dead body, or what remained of it, peeled off the wall and fell to the pit below. Rogue snarled, feeling nothing, not even a hint of regret at his sin.
At this, the audience only went wild, cheering at the carnage. Only the squad could read the situation clearly.
"Oh sh –
Before the flying humans could even think of how to act in retaliation, Rogue swung his arm, backhanding several of his targets and turning them into nothing but red smears. The scent of blood filled his nostrils, alerting him of his success.
'YOU! YOU… ARE FILTH!' The beast growled, saliva dripping from his jaws. 'YOU… DESERVE DEATH!'
"Quick re –
Numb to any other emotion, Rogue lashed out, snagging a man in his hand. Wild emeralds beheld his victim squirm and scream. Needing to condemn his catch to the depths of hell, the titan began to tighten his grip. Not willing to waste his time, he squeezed. His victim didn't have the seconds to plead for mercy as he extracted his revenge, organs rupturing and skeleton reduced to dust. The titan then discarded his kill unceremoniously and threw his head back to bellow a threat to all sinners surrounding him.
Rogue then lowered his head, back arching in the slightest as his illuminating greens locked onto Kenny whose expression was both a mix of horror and disbelief. The titan snarled, looking absolutely savage.
'I'LL.. KILL YOU NEXT!'
"RESTRAIN THE BASTARD AND PREPARE THE TRANQUALIZERS!"
'YOU… DID THIS!'
Rogue roared and began his advance, one of the champions defeated by his massive foot. The titan's eyes narrowed, another shriek leaving his mouth as he bolted full tilt toward Kenny. He would crush him! He would kill him! Pound him into mush and paste! However, before he could reach his prey, a man swung around his wrist, wrapping his appendage and pulling it in another direction. At this, Rogue released another growl and pulled his arm back, wrapping his fingers around the man's – scum's cable and yanking him away from his work and hurling him across the pit, his body hitting the iron bars so violently that the man was nearly severed. Even still, the spectators enjoyed what was clearly no longer a sport but rather a slaughter.
'YOU… FUCKERS! I'LL… MAKE YOU SORRY!' His mind screamed as he rotated to face the swarm, placing his attention away from Kenny. Completely blinded by rage, the titan seeked his next victims. His eyes captured movement and quick as a whip, Rogue snagged the man's cables. Like the monsters he knew so well, Rogue lifted the man to his teeth and bit down. Screams and cheers filled his ears as he tore the man's head clean off with one fluid motion from his neck – the man's blood completely tasteless upon his tongue. The titan spat out the man's flesh and immediately snagged another set of cables. The titan roared yet again and pulled his prey around him before slamming his own body into the wall, rattling the pit and leaving those trapped beneath his flank as flat as pancakes – the soulless reduced to condemned bones. Swiftly, he turned and punted another champion high and far to where their death awaited them. With buzzing of gears in his ear, Rogue abruptly pivoted to grip another solder in his hand only to turn and throw them to the unforgiving floor with their limbs twisting in all the wrong directions.
'YOU! ARE ALL EVIL! I – WILL KILL YOU ALL!'
An echoing boom vibrated his eardrums and pain erupted in his hip. The fire from a needle forced him to yelp, but overcome with fury, Rogue ignored the tranquilizer as he placed his attention to one of the guns mounted and manned at the edge of the of the wall. Releasing an earthshattering roar, Rogue charged forward, blazing greens beholding the gunman's petrified face before he swatted. Crushed metal and bricks flew as the man perished beneath his might. Snarling, Rogue turned to face the fleet once more. Seeing them serve to avoid him, the titan swung his arm outward to lay waste to his foes. Blood fell like rain as he quickly turned his head to snag another squad member's leg between his teeth. Crimson painted itself upon his chin as he severed the limb with his powerful jaws, allowing gravity to take the individual straight to hell. With his chest puffing like a proud robin's breast, Rogue inhaled before releasing another earthshattering roar – spreading his arms and throwing back his head to ensure that all the scum upon the earth could hear him.
The arena rattled with another blast, agony spreading into his shoulder and leg as two more needles penetrated his flesh. Still, the beast was blinded by rage as he proceeded to hunt. He had to punish all of them!
"YOU FUCKING THING!" A man shouted as he pulled the triggers to his weapons to shroud the titan's frame in bullets. "YOU KILLED MY FRIEND!"
The statement was ignored by the monster as he quickly snagged the man's wires and pulled him into his waiting palm much like a child's toy and reduced him to mush like a squashed grape.
Rogue's body flared, heat surging as saliva foamed in his maw while he ignored more of the newly injected drugs. Steam spilled from his nostrils in a hard jet as his eyes scanned for his next victims. 'IF… I AM DEVIL… THEN I TAKE… YOU ALL DOWN!' The creature's mind projected as he howled with wrath. All these spectators and his captors were evil! Scum! Scat! Shit! Mere bags of spoiled meat! He was the king and they would face every bit of his fury!
The titan's glowing irises seeked what remained of his flying foes – two men that wore the look of horror quite prominently and quite well if he were kind enough to give them critique. With one of the animals too fearful to even move at the fact that he was looking death straight in his emerald eyes, Rogue seized the chance and swung – catching the mortified and terrified man in his grip and forcefully returning him to the earth. Even as Kenny commanded, more blasts rang out, and more of the medicine flowed into his bloodstream, Rogue locked his eyes onto the last flying human remaining in the arena. The monster behemoth nearly grinned at this fact. He was doing well at wiping the slate clean.
"FIRE GOD DAMN IT! TAKE THE FUCKER DOWN YOU WORTHLESS IDIOTS!"
Rogue's nose wrinkled as he emitted another snarl, disregarding more incoming tranquilizers as he watched his prey like a cat would to a bird – the bird too hyped on adrenaline and pushing himself as fast as his gear could carry him. Wires shot out and Rogue swiped, his fingers missing by but mere inches and allowing the remaining man to curl around to the backside of his frame. Just as the titan aimed to spin around and face his opponent yet again, another syringe planted itself straight into his chest – the pointed steel rubbing bone and making the titan scream in rage. Undenounced to the beast, the final man drew his blades and closed in for the beast's neck. But instead of the sickening sound of dividing flesh, the crack of steel met the titan's ears.
"Huh? What the f –
Before the man could even finish his question, his body met the titan's shin as Rogue performed a powerful kick – leaving the corpse to splatter the wall. The audience yelled in favor as the beast tried to catch his breath, chest heaving as his eyes caught sight of the only other poor soul sharing the pit with him. The so called champion gazed up at him, the old blade still shaking in his hands. Rogue growled, the sound rumbling the stone floor beneath him as he almost casually strolled up to the last human. Even as their face grew more desperate, his judgement had already been made. The man wouldn't have been sent to execution if he hadn't done something wrong. The crowd practically chanted as he lifted his foot high into the air, letting it hang for several precious seconds before bringing it down upon male. For a moment, he was mesmerized by the crimson bubbling beneath his feet until he lifted his foot once again to slam it down onto the body using every bit of his weight. When the deed was done, he repeated it, over and over as marrow was reduced to dust and sinew to a scarlet soup.
"Hell yeah! It finally got good!"
The titan brought his foot down for a final time, rattling everyone to the bone. It was quiet as he stood, head hung and his breaths easy, steam spilling from his teeth. The atmosphere became eerie, the audience and gunman looking on in confusion as he remained still. Then, ever so slowly, Rogue lifted his head and faced the audience, his greens blazing dangerously as the audience began to cheer yet again. The titan's eyes narrowed and his face contorted into a hostile snarl.
'I'M NOT … DONE YET! YOU… ARE ALL SCUM!'
Suddenly, the towering beast roared and lunged right for the wall, the structure tremoring with his impact as he gripped the iron cage and pulled. The bars snapped at the sheer power behind his tug.
It was then that the audience found no more humor but rather terror as Rogue pried the barrier apart and exposed his next targets.
"GET THE BARB CANNONS AND RESTRAIN HIM FOR FUCK'S SAKE!"
The titan's eyes watched as the spectators began to scramble, but he would allow no escape! Rogue howled and brought down his arm upon several of the fleeing humans and stone seats. With a low growl, the titan raked his arm across the stands, sending the petty people flying and bathing the beer soaked seats in blood. Rogue roared, taking pride in the strings of intestines and other organs strung about and the great amount of gore before letting out another threatening vocal and slamming his arm down upon several spectators once again. He rumbled at the sight of red and the mangled bodies. They were all scum! Stupid beasts that took pride in killing and watching slaughter! His brows pinched together, bringing his fist down upon another victim. He was doing the world a favor! These people were evil!
Humans ran like panicked ants as they retreated down a stairwell, igniting the flame in him further. Rogue braced himself and crawled upwards, scrambling to get a good grip before pressing his face as much as he could into the stairwell. The titan roared, the sound deafening to the humans retreating down the tunnel. He snarled, saliva spraying as he snapped his teeth as a desperate attempt to grip a part of anyone but was unsuccessful. Rogue grimaced, pulling his head out and pushing his hand down into the depths, grabbing at nothing. Frustrated, Rogue pulled his limb free and roared one more, his eyes searching for more scum that could not go unpunished.
However, it was then that he stopped – his eyes meeting a grueling sight that instantly cooled his rage and replaced the emotion with sheer horror. Laying in the stands, alone and crying at the top of its lungs, was a tiny baby covered in the blood of its dead mother. His heart fell to his stomach and his eyes widened in alarm. The titan's ears lowered and his frame trembled. Ever so slowly, he turned his head to look upon what remained of the stands. Everything was painted crimson and flesh lay haphazardly in every direction. Rogue switched his focus back to the wailing infant, spying the blood caked all across his skin and seeping into every fold upon his hands. The titan's body went rigid, freezing at the realization of the great crime he had committed – blood feeling like ice in his veins. 'WHAT… WHAT HAVE I DONE! I KILLED… THESE HUMANS! I… DID THIS! I –
His panicked thoughts were silenced as pain exploded all across his back, the now familiar feeling of barbs implanted into his deep muscle recognized by the beast. The cables grew taught, yanking the titan backwards and roughly away from the stands. Rogue struggled, gripping onto the damaged wall as he tried to keep himself standing – the sudden feeling of faintness returning to his body as he peered at his enemy once again. Startled greens watched the first squad move to their positions and reload – making another fact come to his head that instantly ignited his anger once again. 'THEY… THEY MADE ME DO THIS! THEY… MADE ME KILL! I'LL – I'LL WIPE… THESE MEN OUT FOR THIS!'
"GET READY TO FIRE!"
Heat coursed through his body and his muscles bulged. His fingers singed, digging into the wall as his nails elongated and sharpened into talons. Pain coursed through his maw as his tombstone sized teeth lengthened into fangs. The titan's eyes began to blaze yet again as he faced his foes with an unworldly bellow and charged.
"FUCK! FIRE! FIRE! BRING HIM TO THE FLOOR! UNLOAD THE TRANQS! RESTRAIN THE BEAST!"
"WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING TO IT!"
Rogue unhinged his jaw, preparing to let out another cry of dominance, but his decent into madness was halted when more barbs sunk into side, bringing him to an abrupt halt. The titan swiveled his head to deliver a shriek, but was cut short when more of the barbs were launched into his leg. Before he could even question what a reeling sound was, his frame toppled and his body crashed to the floor. Fear suddenly dominated him again as he began to squirm and screech, trying to find his footing.
"FIRE! KEEP HIM DOWN!"
As the titan prepared to release a roar of warning, the arena sook with sounds akin to cannon blasts and gunfire. Rogue screamed as pain coursed all across his body with more piercing syringes decorating his flesh and more barbs pulling him from above and feeling as if some angered god was damning him for his deeds. Frightened, Rogue whined, whimpering as the weakness quickly crept over his frame once again as his ears rung from the explosions. To the titan, it felt as if an eternity had passed before the weapons went silent. Gun smoke filled the air and began to mask the scent of blood. The surrounding squad said not a word and the only sound that could be heard in the arena was his deep and shaky breaths. With his energy rapidly depleting, the titan peeled open an eye to weakly look around him. Like before, everything was blurred and a mess of colors and shapes. Feeling a great wave of faintness with his vision blackening, Rogue let his head roll and gave in to panting, eyes shut tight as he fell further into a state of mortification.
"ALRIGHT! PACK EM' UP AND GET HIM THE HELL OUT OF HERE! WE SUCCEEDED. OUR JOB HERE IS DONE!"
Rogue whined softly, his head spinning and his darkened lids falling over his eyes.
"PLEASE! DON'T HURT HIM!"
"QUIET! SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND KEEP MOVING!"
The titan exhaled heavily, his ears listening to the clanking of heavy equipment, shouting, and the wails of an orphaned infant up in the stands. He was a monster. They had molded him into one. With his heart completely shattered, the titan finally succumbed to unconsciousness.
"What the fuck are you –
The man was cut off as Levi threw the individual into a tree, putting his boot square in the center of the man's chest. "Quit complaining. Let's get down to business."
Armin watched silently along with the others as the Corporal rolled up his sleeves in preparation to interrogate their current hostage. They stood on the edge of a large moor, having arrived an hour before to investigate their lead that Hange had delivered to them. As Nile had stated, the first squad's mansion rested in the middle of the empty field – looking like it needed some tender loving care with peeled paint and overgrowing vines covering every statue. The mansion itself was surprisingly crawling with off duty members of the first squad. Upon their arrival, Hange had formulated a plan to restrain or take out the men and women residing within its halls but leaving one member for interrogation without issue. Thankfully, the squad was on standby and unarmed so they were met with little to no resistance. Armin secretly thanked whatever god existed for that fact. He had been hoping that he wouldn't have to draw his blades. He already would have to live with the idea that he had taken one life and he damn sure did not want to live with the idea that he had taken more. However, if it was one thing that he was relieved about it was the fact that the mansion infested with the first squad was real. It meant that they were on the right path to wherever Rogue was located.
The blonde swallowed, dipping his head as he retreated into his mind. As they had guessed, Rogue was not at the mansion. He couldn't help but be increasingly worried along with Mikasa. Where on earth has Rogue been taken? What was happening to him? Armin knew that Rogue was mentally a child and didn't handle stressful situations well. Knowing that Rogue was with many violent people, Armin knew the titan had to be utterly terrified. He swallowed. There was no telling what had been done to the beast by vile people that weren't afraid to kill. He just hoped that Rogue wouldn't carry any physiological pain with him afterwards. Mikasa too, expressed the very concern to him shortly before. Rogue, despite being a massive, powerful, and terrifying behemoth, was very delicate. Still, he had tried to reassure her that Rogue may carry no scars of his ordeal. After all, he had been taken by the very titans that had indirectly murdered his own parents and destroyed half of humanity and was the very same goofy titan. Armin swallowed at the thought. Of course, Rogue had been captured by humans this time around – and it was possible that the mere fact could prove to be more terrifying to the gentle giant.
The thing he was most worried about however, was if they could get to Rogue and rescue him in time before the King used him for whatever purpose he had in mind before disposing of him. He also prayed that the man before them would be of help. Armin desperately hoped that they could figure out what Rod Reiss wanted with his best friend and that this man knew where find him. They couldn't afford to lose any more precious time. He didn't even want to consider the possibility that Rogue could have already transpired.
"Now," Levi began again, the man's face molded into an expression so dark that it made he and the rest of the members of their squad uncomfortable. "You are going to tell me everything you know right now or else you won't be having a pleasant evening. So it would be wise to talk and speak truthfully. The last guy I interrogated probably couldn't walk or breathe correctly after I was done with him. First, where have they taken The Rogue Titan and Historia Reiss?"
The man below Levi's boot frowned in disgust, the right side of his lip pulling up in the slightest, his long greasy hair falling over his face. "Go fuck y –
Their victim was cut off as Levi's fist suddenly made contact with the man's cheek, his head violently twisting to the left and a few of his teeth landing in the grass, blood painting the man's lips a bright cherry red. The man groaned, swearing beneath his breath before yelping as Levi hoisted him roughly into position by the collar of his shirt. Eyes like cold steel then bore into the man once again – no wonder some Scouts found Levi to be unnerving when he was in a foul mood. "You know damn well that's not the answer I'm looking for." The Corporal practically growled out. "Tell me where the hell Rod Reiss and Kenny Ackerman took the titan and the girl! What do they plan to do with the two of them!" Levi enforced strongly, his tone more venomous than before.
The long haired man grumbled in return, still more concerned with the lack of his missing teeth than the Corporal's query. The lack of response however, provoked the short man to deliver a vicious kick to the man's face. Armin's stomach nearly turned over for another time as he watched the man's teeth go through his lip and more crimson spray the green blades of grass. Their hostage let out a pained wail as he flopped over and rolled upon the ground, holding his now bloodied and broken nose as he moaned and groaned.
"You might want to answer. We don't have all night."
The man nearly shivered at Levi's voice, holding up his hands in both protection and defeat. "Alright! Alright! I'll talk! I'll fucking talk!"
At this, Levi stood and folded his arms. "Smart choice. Starting now, tell us everything you know and remember, lying or bullshitting I won't tolerate."
Their victim swallowed, lifting a hand to brush his bloodied nose on his sleeve before gulping yet again. "I… I'm not really a member of the first squad." He stuttered, his fingers clearly shaking. "I was just a hired hand for the estate. A cook. But – I do know some things and I do have an idea where your titan and the Reiss girl were taken!"
Levi dipped his head at the information, only replying with a hand gesture for the man to continue.
"Okay, the… the first squad are the King's hired group of assassins that he uses to do his biddings. They… are a weird bunch – they're a cult of sorts with Rod as their leader."
"A cult?" Hange questioned in surprise with the man nodding.
"Yes! I… don't know what they plan to do with the two of them, but I… know they do these rituals and I think I know where they do them!"
At Levi's demand, the man nodded promptly. "The Reiss… they own this little chapel in the middle of the forest – just southwest from here. I've… heard the squad members say that there is a large chamber beneath it that's connected by tunnels that are part of an old spillway. I think that's where they hold the rituals and have our ironworkers go! It's a tiny white chapel in the middle of a clearing about a mile from the river. You can't miss it! Now… as far as what they want the titan and the girl for – I couldn't tell you. The squad is very hush about it around the estate's servants. But… they do seem much more interested in your monster rather than the girl." The man held up his hands once again. "I swear! That's all I know!"
For a long moment, it was still between them until the Corporal swiftly punted the man beneath his chin and instantly knocking the male unconscious. He then stood and popped his knuckles and turned to face them. "He cracked much faster than I thought he would." Levi's eyes narrowed as he motioned over to climb back onto the wagon, sitting down and grabbing the reins. "Well, you all heard the man. Let's get to that chapel. We're wasting moonlight."
Armin and Mikasa seated themselves with the wagon moving again, more perplexed by the mystery than ever as well as terrified even further.
What did Rod Reiss plan to do with Rogue? What on earth did he want from the titan?
The world around him suddenly felt cold, lukewarm almost as his body felt as if it was dangling in midair – his head still spinning and restlessness infecting his limbs. Rogue groaned, suddenly feeling incredibly heavy and his head starting to pound even worse. Then, behind shielded eyes, there was a flash of red, an image of a severed limb and the wails of terror. He whimpered, feeling his frame shutter as the nightmare continued to play. Rogue gritted his teeth, his chest heaving as he fought through another wave of heat and weakness. Laughter played out in his head, cruel and insensitive it sounded. Finally, his body snapped and the titan's eyes flew open to a blinding white.
Instinctively, Rogue winced, tightly shutting his eyes again in protection. Confusion then hit him. Why was it so bright? Was it possible that he – was dead and seeing the heavenly light his parents described to him long ago? No, it couldn't be. He could feel his own frame and every organ working – clearly meaning that he was alive. Curious and nervous as to where he was, Rogue slowly unveiled his emerald greens, blinking them several times to both focus his vision and to get used to the unnatural brightness. Quickly however, he found that his body still felt frail and his sight wasn't as crisp, but his eyes still held the ability to make out a distinct detail about where he was and why it was so bright.
Rogue blinked again, trying to further understand what he was looking at. The light from the moon wasn't present for he was still underground in some sort of cavern. Almost no firelight burned among the area either for the cavern was almost as bright as a sunny day. The reason as to why both perplexed the titan as well as surprised him more than ever. Covering the walls, ceiling, floor, and what looked to be stone columns of some sort was a layer of crystal, pale blue in color and reminded the beast of the hardened diamond skin that The Female Titan was once able to produce. Rogue swallowed, fighting another wave of faintness as he continued to try and understand. However, as he strained to angle his head to look about, another terrifying fact came clear to him.
He couldn't move again, something was wrapped around his wrists, ankles, and his waist – in fact his body was sitting upright with him resting on his folded knees and his arms were hoisted up into the air in some sort of messiah like pose. Rogue let out a small constrained gasp and turned his head to view what he could. The titan held his breath as he spied what he had expected and what was more than he expected. Around his wrists and ankles were pairs of massive shackles forged in heavy iron and bolted to weighty chains that were either fastened to the floor to hold his legs or running high up into the walls to keep his arms elevated and fully extended – leaving him in a highly uncomfortable position. Weighty iron was also wrapped around his waist in the form of chains that were secured to the crystalline floor. Rogue's heart pounded with his instincts pulsing just as fast as he pulled at his restraints pitifully, far too weak to even shake them. After a final attempt, another bout of dizziness overcame the titan and he went limp in his restraints, head and shoulders hanging low with a sliver of saliva seeping from his maw and traveling downwards.
The titan moaned, feeling almost borderline delirious. He had been injected with more of the medicine that Kenny had spoken of. That much he knew. But – how had he gotten here? What had happened?
Then it hit him, his eyes widening and head lifting as the images of blood and gore came back to him. Instantly, he went rigid. He – had been taken into an arena of sorts. An underground arena where they made him kill titans and pitted him against ill equipped humans. He refused, and the swarm of men and women in black came after him. There was an angry audience that threw things as hard as they could at his bulk. He was slashed and shot at and he – he snapped. He – had slaughtered people. He had killed some of Kenny's men, the people pitted against him, and he had even climbed into the crowd and crushed and thrown people. Rogue shuttered. He had ripped off limbs and bitten off heads – spilled enough blood to fill a pond. He had killed so many people – most likely some of them had been innocent. He had probably widowed wives and had certainly orphaned children. Tears slowly began to leak from his eyes and his chest tightened. He had broken his promise! He had committed the worst of sins! His hands – the flesh was still tinted crimson and he smelled of death! Rogue swallowed, suddenly incredibly sick to his stomach while black dots scattered his vision. How! How could he have snapped! Why didn't he just string the men up and ignore the audience! His head fell even further, guilt washing over him as he began to whimper like a frightened puppy. He did this and he was to live with his horrible deed for the rest of his life!
The titan faltered, finally breaking as he let out a high pitched wail and his eyes finally pouring out water. Rogue was broken. Absolutely broken. How was he going to tell his little ones? What would they think!
At his name, the titan stopped, inhaling sharply as he recognized the voice to be Historia's. Following the source, he looked down to see that the teen stood before him, appearing concerned. The titan blinked, trying to clear his eyes. Historia was not wearing what she had been wearing previously. In fact, she was sporting something that he had not ever seen a human wear at all. The teen was dressed in a long robe, purple in color and silk. A hood hung partially over her head – the outfit bizarre altogether. Putting his own transgressions behind him for the moment, Rogue decided that all he could do for the time being was focus on what was transpiring currently. Thinking about it now, he recalled that the men that had taken him mentioned that he was needed for another purpose. If he was to even see his babies or his family again, he had to make it through the night. His body was weak but felt so incredibly uneasy. Something wasn't right with this situation. Besides the fact that he was chained, something was horribly wrong. "HISSORIA -
"I see that His Majesty has finally awaken."
Rogue stilled, his nostrils flaring as a foul odor met his nose – the same that belonged to the plump man that had been with Kenny. His brows knitted together, there was a detail that he had missed previously. Laced in the man's musk was something that smelled alarmingly similar to Historia. Before he could even wonder as to why or connect any dots, the very man walked into his view. Rogue blinked, willing his vision to focus the best that it was able to do so as he scrutinized the male. Like Historia, he wore the same purple cloak. He was fairly short with black hair, slightly wrinkled eyes, and well kempt facial hair. All in all, he had an almost average appearance and if someone were searching for him he would certainly blend in with the crowd. Rogue swallowed, the way that the man looked at him was unnerving. His eyes and face did not hold a hint of distain but the man appeared as if he was beholding something stunning or magnificent. Still, Rogue could sense something absolutely disturbing in the man. His earlier behavior proved just that. He wasn't planning anything good he knew that much. The titan quietly whimpered. He had no idea what was going on.
He was more scared than ever.
"I'm not sure what all you remember Rogue, but like I stated previously – it's an absolute honor to finally meet you. Our family has waited a hundred years to be in your presence." The man spoke, his voice soft, calm, and collective. "I didn't get to formally introduce myself earlier either. My name is Rod Reiss. I am the King of the Walls and I'm extending my greeting from one king to another."
Rogue lifted his head as much as he could in realization. Rod Reiss? This was the King of the Walls? Historia's father? The beast remained silent, unable to find the words to even reply. Historia's worried expression deepened – suddenly increasing to the point that he could label her terrified.
"Dad? What – is going on? What do you want with me and Rogue? Why! Why are you putting us through all of this!" Historia's voice elevated, anger laced in her tone. "Kenny's men could have killed my friends! They – you made Rogue –
"Historia!" Rod interrupted, his calm pitch suddenly changing into a commanding tone, startling both he and the teen. For a long moment, the man glared at his daughter before his body went slack and he returned to his levelheaded disposition. "I see, that you nor Rogue are aware of the truth. Historia, I need to tell you something that long ago was erased from most human memory. I'm going to reveal to you just how powerful Rogue really is and just who he is."
The titan's heart stilled, his breathing became choked and his eyes widened more than ever. His hair ruffled and his ears rotated fully forward. Rod – knew his past? This man before him – he knew everything? Rogue remained still, stunned. Was he truly going to learn just what had happened to him? Was he really going to finally learn the truth about him that dragged him into this mess in the first place? Did this man really know everything that he did not? All of his history that he had lost in the far regions of his mind? The reason why the other titans were so interested in his power?
Rod nodded. "Yes. All that I know has been passed down from generation to generation of the Reis family. It is bits and pieces from our memories that we were still able to recall fragments of. You see," Rod addressed to the titan and the teen. "Humanity is only able to remember the fact that titans have trapped them behind the walls for the past one hundred years. That is as far back as history goes for much of the citizens within the walls. But in truth, the titans have been around for thousands and thousands of years."
Rogue looked on in absolute disbelief while Historia remained as shaken and skeptical as she was before. The titans – they had been around for ages longer than what was originally taught? Why on earth had humanity been lied to? For a moment, Rogue thought about interrupting to ask, but was quickly reminded of the position that he was in and stayed silent. Something told him that Rod was about to reveal the answer anyway.
"You mean – the titans have been around for far more than a hundred years and somehow everyone was unaware of this?" Historia speculated with Rod nodding.
"Yes. I'll get into why in a moment but first I'll continue my introduction. As I was saying, titans are an ancient breed. Now, most books and courses today on titans only classify these giants as three different species. Normal, abnormal, and deviants. Recently, with Rogue's return, the Scouts are moving away from this kind of classification and more toward the truth. In reality, there are actually nine different breeds of titan. First, you have the Colossals, the largest breed and the very one that breached Wall Maria years ago. Next you have the Skinless titans like The Armored and The Female. Then there are the Leapers that lived in the trees, carried their young upon their backs, and observed humans from afar. There are the Crawlers who run about on all fours and are small but fast. The Beasts live in the polar regions to the south and are smart plus their thick fur keeps them warm. There are the Hammer Titans who forge their own weapons from their hardened skin. The common titans you see are the Mindless and they are as their name states. Now," Rod paused again as he shifted his gaze to the listening behemoth. "Rogue is a very special breed of titan known as a Hunter Titan – which your Hange Zoe has taken to calling a Jaeger Titan. Hunter Titans are from a faraway continent from across the sea. They… were a proud race, intelligent and built to hunt and made for battle. Despite this, they were a peaceful species that lived in large packs that held structure and had very animalistic characteristics. They devoted their lives to guarding a settlement of people and were seen as deities by them. Titans of a certain rank engaged with some of these people on rare occasion as they did to them. They learned how to speak human tongue and would share their own memories to trusted individuals. Like the Leapers, they raised their own young from birth and molded them for certain roles when they reached adulthood. Rogue – is likely to be the very last of his kind. It is not known why, but the Hunters suddenly vanished from the world one day, practically gone without a trace."
Rogue simply sat, completely stupefied. He has suspected something was off, but he never imagined such to be true. He – was likely the vary last titan of his kind? He swallowed, throat bobbing. No wonder. No wonder his real family didn't come to look for him! They were probably dead! It wasn't that they didn't care for him, they were just up in the heavens with his parents! The beast swallowed again, the news absolutely unsettling and making a shutter course through his bulk. He really was all alone in the world. But why? Why was he the only one to survive?
"So Rogue is – the last Hunter Titan known to exist?" Historia asked, her voice somehow growing smaller. Rod dipped his head.
"Possibly. Now, Rogue himself – is a very powerful Hunter Titan. In fact, with his ability he is the most powerful living thing on Earth. He is the King of all Things. The King of all Earth. Ruler over all titans, beasts, and men. For he is what's known as The Coordinate. Now, you may think that The Coordinate is just the ability to control Mindless Titans and make them his armies – but that is not even the half of it."
The titan's brows lifted even higher at the declaration. There was more to his ability!
"What else does Rogue have the capability to do?"
For a moment, Rod looked almost thoughtful before he set his eyes back to Rogue. "The Coordinate has three other functions. In addition to controlling titans, Rogue has the ability to control humans as well."
Simultaneously, both Rogue and Historia's faces fell. Had he just heard the man correctly? He – could control people?
"He can –
"Yes." Rod continued. "The Coordinate has the ability to move our every muscle to do his bidding. He can also manipulate the memories of one's mind or mess with the memories of masses. This certainly explains why he doesn't remember his past altogether. Sometime long ago, he somehow wiped his own memories. As for the circumstance he did such under, I couldn't tell you."
Rogue's jaw slackened as he naturally tried to set up at the reveal. Was the reason why he couldn't recall his past due to the fact that he erased his own memories himself? How? Why had he done such a thing?
"It does explain why he remembers nothing and didn't know anything."
"It certainly does. The final thing that The Coordinate is – is an all knowing being with knowledge of the past, present, and future. Time doesn't limit his mind whatsoever. So, Historia – in correct terms, Rogue is an all-powerful and all-knowing being. In other words, Rogue is essentially a living god."
Rogue's brows knitted slightly, his ears pressing against his head in a mixture of confusion and anxiousness. God? He had heard so many meanings to this term in passing but the term that seemed to fit what Rod spoke of upset him even more. Learning from both his parents and Armin's banned history books, gods and goddesses were almighty beings that controlled all of the world – at least that's how he understood the definition. The titan's gaze drifted to the floor, his head shaking discreetly with disbelief. How on earth – was he a god! He wasn't nearly as strong as Goliath or Ansgar normally and he was an absolute idiot when it came to memorizing complicated letters or words!
"Exactly." Rod's voice brought him back from his contemplating. "Now, about two hundred years ago, the Hunters Titans built us these walls as a safe haven for the last of Humanity to retreat to in order to remain safe from the Mindless Titans."
"So – it was Rogue's kind who were the ones to build the three walls for us? Not humans?"
The man nodded. "Yes. At the time, their leader who was the current Coordinate decided that Humanity needed to live behind these walls until a time that they felt was right – a time when they returned and felt that the world was safe enough and we were ready to colonize the world yet again. A time that they felt we were strong enough. Until then, they wanted humanity to better themselves by making them forget their greed and what we could say were imperfections. So The Coordinate erased everyone's memories of their time in the outside world and to lessen the horrors of what we may have experienced beyond the walls."
Historia remained speechless, taking the time to absorb Rod's every word before clearing her throat. "But, how was our family able to remember all of this? How come no one else did?"
"The reason as to why the Reiss family is the only family able to retain some of these memories is the fact that our family is direct decedents of the many people that The Hunters protected. The Hunters trusted only us to retain the true secrets for their reasoning." Rod paused, suddenly laying a hand upon Historia's shoulder and guiding her towards him. "Over the years, the heads of the Reiss family kept this private, we said nothing for we saw how much better humanity functioned in a world ruled by titans."
Rogue's eyes narrowed at this. Was Rod serious? Humanity was ignorant! They were caged like animals!
"Which brings us to the reason why we are here today." Rod continued as he led Historia up a small set of stairs next to him before he and Historia stood upon his back. "The Hunter Titans fought for our freedom as Rogue does, but that jeopardizes our utopia here. As you can guess, this means that I have to take charge."
Rogue's breath hitched for the umpteenth time while Historia hesitated, the titan able to sense her climbing fear.
"Father – are you going to kill Rogue?" The teen asked, her voice turning hoarse.
He remained quiet, still as he waited for the man to begin again. Several brief seconds ticked by before Rod released a long sigh. "This is why we are here now. The Hunters and the people that they protected could share memories, meaning that we Reiss are able to do the same. Tonight, I am going to show you just how true this all is."
"You're – you are going to find out about The Coordinate? Are you wanting to know – how Rogue became The Coordinate?"
"Ah, yes. I've – gone through the memories of the Reiss family, and I'm pretty sure I've discovered the truth that the other titans are well aware of. Rogue's memories should confirm it. Afterwards, we can get on with our business here." Rod paused again as he led Historia up to his back, right up to his nape.
Rogue began to panic further, his breath growing labored and his mind swarming in fear. What – Rod was going to kill him! As he and the others expected, but what was he going to do before then! What the hell did he want from him! Where was his family! Where were his little ones! The titan shook in his restraints, trying to will his legs to move but he couldn't. Was Rod really telling the truth to all of this? Was he really the last of his kind and an all-powerful and all knowing god? His kind were the ones who built the walls? It – it couldn't be true! More confusion crippled the creature, making him shutter even further. He just wanted to go home. He just wanted to be normal and not extraordinary! He wanted things to be like they were, with his parents and little ones in the forest and his new family to be with him! He didn't ask for this! He didn't want any of this!
"Historia, what I'm about to show you and Rogue is the full proof of this truth. Together, we are going to learn Rogue's past and everything we wish to know about his power." The titan felt the man bend down to be level with his exposed nape, his spine instantly twinging as his enemy came far too close for comfort. "Historia, please place your hand onto his nape like so." Rod began with Rogue freezing at the touch, his heart pounding even faster as Historia unwillingly obeyed him – the beast feeling her soft flesh upon his tough hide. "Now, please follow my movements, completely clear your mind and relax your body."
Rogue whimpered, feeling the hands move along his nape in some sort of pattern that he was unable to distinguish. His knuckles grew white and he naturally tried to pull himself up again but to no avail. He – he needed to –
Suddenly, the hands pressed into his spine – igniting a painful surge of heat that coursed all down his frame. His blood ran as hot as lava then as cold as ice. His head drooped forward, his limbs growing numb and his fear vanishing – all emotion ascending else ware. His eyes widened, pupils shrinking and the emerald irises dulling and resembling cooling ashes. His organs slowed, the steam in his stomach dwindling as his bodily functions began to shut down. His pupils then enlarged, his vision going black while his mind opened.
And then – he remembered everything.
Aw, poor Rogue. He's going to be having it rough for a while but...
THE NEXT CHAPTER STARTS ROGUE'S PAST! Yes! There will be several chapter's dedicated to Rogue's past. 5 to 6 in total!
I also wrote chapter 25 ahead of time! So...
JANUARY 31ST! Is when I will post it! This way, everyone has time to read this one and I get a head start writing chapter 26.
The next chapter may be the cutest yet the most heartbreaking one...
Stay tuned! Hope you all enjoyed!