Alone in a cell of her own, alone for the first time in a foreign land, Gabi Braun can only reflect on the past month. She's deeply worried about Falco, who is elsewhere in this prison. She's worried about the Braus family, who took care of the two of them, and even defended her for the most part once her origins were revealed. Then the soldiers, especially the dark-skinned boy who is the lover of the girl she shot, they protected her as well. She cannot help but feel a strange sense of guilt. "...They're just devils… Why me… Like this… I don't get it!"
The door to the cell opens. Gabi looks up to see the Attack and Founder Titan waltz inside, followed by a soldier. Immediately, she's filled with fear, the last encounter fresh in her mind. He, however, glares at her. "Yo, the brat that killed Sasha."
"Wha… What do you want?"
"If you wanna save Falco, then let's cooperate."
"Cooperate? To do what?"
"I'll have you make a radio call for help. To make the invaders who infiltrated the walls react…" Eren turns to the sound of choking by the soldier, only to have a pistol aimed at his face.
"Don't move. You too stay quiet, Gabi."
Gabi, however, can barely contain her happiness of the dark-haired woman who came for her. "Pieck!"
She holds a finger up. "Quiet… You must be Eren Jaeger. Well, am I right?" Eren doesn't answer, but it seems Pieck takes his silence as confirmation. "Gabi, point that rifle at Eren." Remembering the last time she was threatened to not move, Gabi hesitates until Pieck eyes her. "Gabi."
"Eren, get your hands out of your pockets."
"What if I don't?"
"I'm pulling the trigger and your brains are getting splattered across the floor. You've never seen it? You won't even have the time to turn into a Titan."
"And? You're still not shooting me? If you aren't pulling the trigger now, then what have you come here to do? What happens if I just leave my hands in my pockets?"
"Well, there won't be any way for you to know what happens. After your brains get splattered across the floor, that is."
Eren steps up to Pieck, placing his forehead on the end of the barrel. "No, I know. You won't shoot. You aren't permitted to kill the Founding Titan. Your orders are to 'make sure to recapture the Founder no matter what.' Even in a situation like this, you would have to temporarily turn into a Titan and eat me while keeping me alive. Don't you?"
Gabi raises her rifle, ready to shoot. "Pieck!"
"Gabi. Remove your finger from the trigger."
Eren frowns. "Those who'll pay the bill for such a serious violation of military rules won't just be you, but the family you still have in the internment zone."
Pieck sighs and holds both arms up. "Yes, I can't shoot you. I think it's definitely impossible for me to eat you, either. Sorry. You found the footprints my Titan left behind when I invaded, right? I wanted to try and conceal myself before you made a move, and I was glad I could come all the way here. But… There's another reason why I couldn't shoot. If you were to use the Founding Titan's power, I thought you might be able to defeat Marley."
"Well then," Connie says under his breath, but audible enough for me to hear, "we're just gonna stay here watching everything unfold?"
I turn away from the group behind me as Mr. Braus and Nicolo serve tea to the 104th and the former's family. Placing my forehead on the cold steel bars, I sigh as I respond to Springer's question. "It is all we can do now."
"Hmm. Armin, You can't use your Titan power to get us out of here?"
"I can't. I'm just gonna blast the whole city. The Colossal Titan can't do something that requires this much dexterity. Unlike Eren…"
"So why did you get your ass beaten by Eren," Jean asks. "It's about time you talk about it, you know."
Armin lowers his gaze. "He said hurtful things to Mikasa...so I started a fight and I got hit back."
Jean narrows his eyes. "When you say he hurt Mikasa, how did he do it exactly?"
"Stop," Mikasa pleads. "It's...fine."
"No, it's not. Tell us how he hurt you."
"Jean," I say sternly, 'let it go. But you're right, it is not fine."
"That just means he's become a total piece of shit. Going as far as hurting the three people he should've cared about the most without a reason. He's already lost himself."
"Assuming he's still sane," Jean comments. "I don't think he'd do something like that without any reason. Somehow… Aren't his real intentions somewhere in there?" I cup my chin in thought. Freedom, that's what Eren spoke a lot about. I know him well enough to know what his goal is. I shared it once, for a different reason.
"On the other side of the sea...is freedom. That's what I always believed. But I was wrong. On the other side of the sea are enemies."
He turns to us. "Every part of this is exactly how I saw in my dad's memories." Turning away, he points out to this horizon. "Hey… Armin, Mikasa, Joshua...If we kill all our enemies…over there...will we finally...be free?"
"It's been a while, heroes of Shiganshina. It truly pains me that we have to meet again across these iron bars." Yelena. It takes all of my willpower to not grab that dull-eyed, blond haired woman and smash her face repeatedly on these bars. I only can't because she's out of reach and Kaya is here. She's not alone. With her stands Onyankopon and Nicolo's assistant, Grior.
At the presence of the former, Conny becomes irate. "So you are on their side too! Get us out!"
Onyankopon sighs. "Isn't that asking a little too much after putting me under house arrest and dragging me around. Until Zeke and Eren touch, stay here and stay quiet."
I place a hand on Conny's shoulder as Jean steps up. As one of two senior officers in the cell (and between Jean and I, the only one who might not kill Yelena yet) he approaches the bars as calmly as possible. "I'm glad, Yelena. You must be feeling quite good since things are going so well for you. Getting Eren to work for Zeke using yourself as an intermediary, having him attack Marley and getting the support of the citizens from our nation of Eldia. Since you gained control of the Army Corps thanks to the wine laced with spinal fluid, getting your hands on the nation of Eldia and Power of the Founder and avenging your motherland by taking down Marley, that was the true reason why the volunteers came to this island, right?"
"We made this island flourish," Grior says. "This primitive island that was a hundred years behind."
"That was so you could live the good life, right," Nicolo interrupts. "You, who would become the rulers of this island."
"Those who got fooled lost the game. That's all there is to it."
"Grior… Looks like you got promoted to the ranks of Yelena's servant after selling us out, you fucking snitch. Are you stupid?"
"The one who betrayed us and started supporting the devils is you."
"What are you…"
"Even drooling over that stinky potato woman who descended from the devils."
Nicolo's eyes sharpen as he reaches out the cell for Grior. "You freaking… I'm going to kill you!"
As Jean struggles to hold Nicolo back, Grior continues to insult my girlfriend. "I had to sit through your rambling about that woman every night. It was stupid of me to thing you might come back to your senses after that whore kicked the bucket."
"You bastard… What the hell did you say?"
"I'll say it in a way that even you can understand. That whore was nothing more than a filthy descendant of the de-" Grior's head suddenly explodes and he drops on the floor with a hard thud.
She turns to me, not Nicolo, and bows apologetically. "I sincerely apologize for his rude behavior. Fellows who would call you devils are no longer needed on this island. And please believe me when I say that our real objective is nothing as meaningless as vengeance against Marley. Breaking the cycle of hatred of this world so that even Marley and Eldia can be saved, this is our true goal. Without hiding anything, I shall explain it all to you Zeke's secret measures to save the world. The euthanasia plan, in it's entirety.
Pieck relaxes her back against the wall, keeping her gun down. "There's no way you would have made the whole world your enemy if you didn't have any chance of victory, right? But speaking of chances of victory, do you have anything else other than the Power of the Founder?"
"Pieck," Gabi confusingly calls, "what are you saying?"
"Gabi, lower your rifle."
Eren trades glances between the Marleyans as Gabi lowers the rifle. "In that case, what is it you wish for?"
"I want the Eldians who are being controlled by Marley and the rest of the world to be liberated at once. I want to free my family from the internment zone. I became a warrior so that my father, the only family I had, could receive direct medical care. Father's life was prolonged, but he's overcome with sorrow knowing that I don't have much time left before the end of my term. Before I die, and by my own means, I want to show Eldia's bright future to my only remaining family. In order to do that, Marley needs to be crushed. I'm ready to cooperate in any way I can. If you can kill all Marleyans, then I'll do as you say."
Gabi can't believe what she's hearing. Is Pieck...betraying Marley too? "The mastermind behind the attack on Marley was Zeke. Pieck… You too? For what purpose have we fought until now? Wasn't it so that if google Eldians were acknowledged by the world, someday… Eldia would be freed?" She raises her rifle at Pieck. "You're the same as Zeke! Are you a traitor?"
"Gabi… What are we? Marleyans? Eldians? What do you think?"
"...We are...honorary Marleyans."
"That's wrong. We are the Subjects of Ymir." Pieck steps up and snatches the rifle from Gabi. "This is an inescapable truth. No matter which name we give ourselves, we are a race of people who can turn into Titans. As you saw in Fort Slava, sooner or later the Power of the Titans will no longer be effective. In other words, we'll run out of use for Marley and one day they'll kill us all. Even if you keep proving that you are a good Eldian, the day of our liberation will never come. We have no choice but to claim our rights with our own power."
"Prove it," Eren speaks. As Gabi and Pieck turn to him, they can see his right hand removed from his pocket, a finger dripping with blood. "If you say you're willing to collaborate, then show me some kind of proof."
Pieck nods. "I will tell you where my comrades who're lurking in this city are located."
"How will you do that?"
"If we go to the rooftop of this building, I can point them out to you immediately."
Eren glares at Pieck, but the formation of healing smoke on the finger proves he's willing to go along with her. "Fine, then."
"So children will no longer be born?"
Yelena nods to Armin's question. "That is right. The aim is to rid the world of the suffering resulting from the existence of Titans slowly and peacefully."
Jean scoffs. "No, wait, how is that peaceful? If the Subjects of Ymir disappear, the population keeps decreasing, in its final years, the only survivors will be feeble old people, right? How can we protect the country in a situation like that? You think other countries will just leave us alone?"
"As for that, it's going to be exactly like it's been up until now. For us to be able to use the rumbling as a deterrent, it will be essential to maintain the succession of the Founder and the royal family. Luckily, Queen Historia has been blessed with a successor."
"What?" I stare at Yelena, searching for the lie in her eyes...but I do not find it. Historia...is pregnant? How long? Since when? She didn't say anything when I was there a month ago, and it seems I'm not the only one of our class to be in shock over the news.
"The queen's closest friend didn't know? Shocking."
"If that child has lived out the rest of their days," Jean tries to understand, "several Subjects of Ymir inherit the Founding Titan… Then everything will be perfect, is what you're trying to say?"
"Perfection. Absoluteness. Things like that don't exist in any country. Each and every country carries out its own distinct problems. However, one thing is certain. The enormous threat that Titans represent, the history of blood and tears, the people who can put an end to it all do exist. Zeke and Eren. I do not know how many more thousands of years human history will keep going, but will the people who can accomplish such a great feat appear after that, I wonder? The two brothers will become symbols who will be passed down for the next millenia. just like the gods of ancient times. And then, even after death, the two of them will become the sun that shines on humanity as their saviors." Grunting from behind me gains Yelena's attention, belonging to that of Armin as he holds his forehead. "What's wrong?"
"No...that you'd think such a...noble thing… I was moved… I'm so glad" I frown, wondering who is truly speaking, Armin or Bertholdt.
It matters not to Yelena. "I'm happy...that you understood too."
"Yelena!" A soldier comes running down to the cell block in quite a frenzy. "Come quickly! An intruder has…"
"Is it okay that I've become your ally?"
"If you can point out the other intruders," Eren harshly states as he leads Pieck and Gabi down a hallway filled with alarmed and armed soldiers. "Until then, you are chained to that Marleyan brat. If you're foolish enough to try and shift, that child will be beaten to a pulp."
"Don't worry, this child too will understand very soon."
As the trio walk up a staircase leading to the roof, Gabi hears the confused state of the soldiers due to Pieck's presence and Pieck leading them on. But her sole focus is not on Pieck's betrayal, but the condition of her friend. "Hey… Falco, where is he?"
"Falco is here, but… He ended up ingesting some of Zeke's spinal fluid.
"What do you mean," Pieck exclaims.
"Who knows. They say he got some of the wine containing the spinal fluid into his mouth."
"Ah," Gabi freaks out. "Could it be...that time...because of me...again…"
Pieck sighs. "I see… With Zeke's spinal fluid you controlled an army. Do you know why Zeke's got that special ability?"
"Who knows. Do you know why?"
"No, nobody knew except for Zeke. Ever since I met him it looked to me like Zeke continuously kept on telling lies, but… It was four years ago that I could finally be certain of it. Because in front of you, he spoke his true intentions for the first time. 'I want you to trust me. I understand you, Eren. Someday, I will save you.' If he doesn't lie in front of you, wouldn't he have told you about the secret of his special ability as well? For example, that secret...has it got anything to do with using the Power of the Founding Titan or something like that?"
Eren says nothing as the doors outside open, with some people standing on the other end. Pieck chuckles as she spots one of them, the woman in the lead. "Ah, did you shave your beard? Even though it suited you so well."
As the Marleyans are escorted outside, Yelena steps up to Eren. "Eren… It's too dangerous to trust this woman."
"Yeah. I don't trust her just like she doesn't trust me." He follows the foreigners out as Pieck stops at the edge of the courtyard, looking over the city with the brat beside her. As he steps in the center of the courtyard, Pieck turns back to him.
"Anyway, you still aren't using the Power of the Founding Titan? Where's Zeke?"
"That's something you will know soon enough. That is, if you can confirm and show me the location of your allies." He clenches his right hand, ready to attack at any sign of trouble. "Show it to me. Where's the enemy?"
Pieck lingers for a moment, turning back to the city, then to the girl beside her. She smiles at the brat before turning and pointing back at Eren. "There." She suddenly grabs the girl and jumps out the way. Before Eren can react, the roof underneath him begins to give way. He barely hops up before enormous jaws clench down on his legs.
The Jaws Titan.
Gritting his teeth, Eren activates his transformation, causing a pillar of debris to fly up.
"Galliard!" Gabi hides with Pieck as the Jaws protects them both during the transformation of the Attack Titan. But how...how is this happening?
Pieck chuckles to herself. "It is difficult after all…"
"Pieck? Didn't you betray us?"
"Gabi, did you think I'd sell out my comrades? But… Even if you work for Marley, I'm telling you there's no future for us. Look up." Gabi does so, seeing the might of Marley floating in the clouds. So it has begun, the true invasion of Paradis Island. "I don't trust Marley. I wish for the liberation of the Eldians. I just… I trust the comrades who fought together with us."
"There's the signal," General Magath shouts. "Pieck and Galliard have revealed his location. It's the Founding. "Carry out our revenge for Liberio."
Reiner nods as he stares to the southernmost city of the walls. The place where this all started...and the place where it will end. For Eren. For Joshua. For the devils...and Reiner will save the world.
"What the hell?" Conny picks himself up as he stares up to the ceiling. I join him, narrowing my eyes as I stare upward. So Eren was forced to transform, huh? I see no reason for him to do so...unless Marley has made their move. I clench my fist as only one name rolls off my tongue.
The final fight between Marley and Paradis continues in the next chapter...