Miss me guys? I'm changing the names to the original Levi and Erwin. Mostly because I've been exposed to it for too long, and I can't seem to revert to the 'initial' spelling.
I'm sneaking a bit into Levi's past, so bear with me. I know the story is progressing slower than you'd might like, and my speed of writing is at the average of 1 word per minute atm (haha). Everything is going to be hella-confusing at this point, but once again, bear with me. It will be revealed, eventually.
Sorry for the mildly shorter chapter. It will get longer and hopefully more interesting as the story slowly unfolds... Onwards! Hope you enjoy this chapter!
(I hope this chapter doesn't sound like gibberish... I really do)
Chapter 9: Pitch black
The corporal sneezing startled me. I looked over at where he was glaring ahead, seemingly unhappy about having done it despite being natural. He grumbled something about dusty the air was, but other than that, the rest was to muffled to be made out.
Averting my gaze from him, my eyes were set back on the road where some civilians were tending to their every day life. Though the population of Trost had decreased due to the recent attacks, the numbers were still significant enough to give rise to a lively atmosphere.
The street Corporal Levi, Hanji, Squad Leader Krauhser and I were on had rows of open stores, and people were up early tending to their businesses. Even we had our own.
"Huh? The Trost headquarters?" I questioned.
Armin and Mikasa told me everything. Apparently, whilst running berserk the first time, the cadets were trapped in the Trost HQ and had to defend themselves when the higher ups cowered. I was impressed by their bravery, and needless to say, Armin's quick thinking in strategies despite the drastic situation.
I never actually had the chance to see this headquarters, since the one I had gone to some time ago was merely a substitute while the current was undergoing repairs. I hadn't seen the extent of damage done by the titans, if any. The routes to the back gates of the Trost district never passed the original headquarters, and I must say, I was curious to see the state it was in.
"Like we've said: it's where the ammunition and guns that were used today were stored," the corporal spoke, speaking in the manner that made it sound like an obvious thing.
"Of course, that's not all. Only a small handul of people are aware that there is a underground system. It's not big, but it's enough for small titans to creep through," Hanji nodded over her chest. She glanced over at me with a wide grin. "If it has certainly been opened, then we have a chance to capture more titans and try to comminunicate with them. What a splendid thing we have come across!"
A slight chill went down my spine, seeing Hanji started to dive into self-amusement. She started chanting to herself what she intends to do if she ever got her hands on a titan. To be honest, I don't know who to feel sorry for.
"But why would there be an underground that connects to the outside if people knew how dangerous the titans were?"
"Who knows. We can only speculate that the undergrounds were created even before the walls were erected," Squad Leader Krauhser shrugged.
Considering that no one actually knew the history before the titans appeared, I guess it wouldn't be impossible. And the last thing the military would want was for people to know that there was a potential route the titans could take to enter town.
Corporal Levis cup being placed on the table caught my attention."In any case, we're just going to ensure two things: firstly, the gun and ammunition used are from there. Secondly, the goddamn hold that the titans leaked in from is shut."
"Such a sweetheart you are, Levi, trying to protect humanity," the only lady in the room teased.
"Shut up. I just don't want to waste my breath having to play cat and mouse with these things."
And that was how we ended up making an early morning trip down to the original Trost Headquarters.
Sneaking into the Trost headquarters didn't take much of an effort when the workers reconstructing the building only started their job at noon. The sun had only begun rising a short moment ago, and we had ample time for our task. Krauhser had decided to search for the storage for ammunition, and that left the three of us to enter the undergrounds.
I led them to the main meeting hall and stood on the podium. Circling the table where the high ups sat at, I shoved the chair away and lifted the red carpet that was under it. Finding the indent latch, I pulled it open, revealing a near vertical flight of rock stairway.
By then, Hanji had three fire torches lit and ready, and each of us held onto one as we descended the steps. It was deep, some twenty feet under. No one knew how or when this was created, and no records of history had ever written information on it. Though, alike the walls, it may have just been hidden away, never to be leaked.
"I've never actually been in here," Eren gulped after a short walk. I could tell he was nervous even before entering the location. He was wary of the surroundings, holding his fire torch in front of him. Sunlight could no longer enter where we were, and the pitch black darkness would've rendered you blind.
"Wouldn't think you'd want to," Hanji sneered, wagging a finger.
We descended the stairs which took a while, proving just how deep this location had been. It was a labyrinth of pillars and walls down here. Some were large than the rest, supporting whatever was in here. And frankly, there was nothing. Just rocks, dust and a tinge of death. Neither the two of them knew about the dark secrets this place held, and I had no intention to reveal it either.
"This is incomparable to the one in Sina. It's so... dark in here. And cold," Eren commented.
"The one you had been trying to trap Leonhardt with isn't considered 'underground'. That's almost equivalent to a basement, but as a pathway," I scoffed. People frequented those routes to cut through the city without the hassle of detours. Hence, it was often well-lit with wall torches. This underground, however, would never see the light of day, or be visited by anyone in their sane minds.
"It's been ages since," Hanji whistled, "How long has it been, Levi? Four, five years?"
"You've been down here before?" Eren asked, walking alongside the woman.
"Hmm yes and no. I've been down one of these before, but it wasn't in this district."
Over my shoulder, I heard the boy squawk a bit.
"There's one in every district. Oddly, enough, these underground systems always mirror each other. I've been to three different districts, and they're exactly the same," I commented out loud. From the back, I heard Eren give an impressed 'oh'.
Eren's next sentence had me stopping in my tracks. "You seem to know where you're going, corporal. Almost as if you're used to being in here."
I peered over my shoulder and Eren flinched back immediately, thinking that he had said something offensive. It wasn't, in fact, but I hadn't expected the brat to notice such a small detail.
"I'm sorry. I mean, you were walking ahead pretty confidently, so I thought that you were familiar with this place."
No, he wasn't wrong at all. It was simply I who had read his words too deeply. Eren's skull was a little too thick to process little things.
"I've lived and breathed this air. That's all." I proceeded to walk ahead, disregarding the surprised look on Eren's face. He was quiet after, falling into unvoiced contemplation.
The rest of the walk continued in silence, and our footsteps against the rocky ground could even echo. Eren tried to stay close, though attemping to keep his distance at the same time. Hanji kept herself within reach as well. Though she had been down in these places a few time, she didn't have the map that was my memory.
Every pillar, every wall and every corner was an image in my head. Despite the darkness that hadn't even allowed you to see your own hand, I could run through the entire area that spanned bigger than the district itself without getting myself lost. Knowing the place like the back of my hand was an understatement. I knew every crook and cranny better than I knew myself.
We treaded along for a good moment, and I could tell the two were slightly nervous. As amusing as it might have been knowing that the usually crazy woman was unsettled, this wasn't a time to be entertained. It was colder in this area of the undergrounds, and if possible, even darker. They held onto their fire torches as if it was their lifeline, whereas I could've made my way through blindfolded. It made no difference to me.
"Corporal," Eren suddenly called out. The dead silence since ages ago made his voice sound louder than it seemed, and it startled me just a little. I glanced over at him, and his green eyes were reflecting a hue of red from the firetorch he held. A fierce glare adorned his features, and it was directed ahead of me. "There's something there. I can hear it."
Hear? The only sounds I could actually process was our breathing and heavy footsteps. The slosh of a puddle once in a while, but other than that, I heard nothing.
"It sounds like... breathing. It's loud."
"Are you sure it's not your ima-"
"Levi!" Hanji shouted all of a sudden, and it was that moment that I heard something move.
The next thing I knew, my back was aching and I had a dead weight on top of me. The firetorch I held clattered to the ground, but thankfully the flame hadn't landed in a puddle that could've extinguished it. I grunted in annoyance as the same weight removed itself from me, and even called my title.
I was about to give Eren a piece of my mind for tackling me to the ground when I noticed a hand right at the spot I had been standing at. A human hand, but easily five over times the size of mine, had its fingers digging into the ground.
"Oh... OH!" Hanji's immediate hysterical squeals echoed in the silence. There could ever only be one reason why she did it, and I mentally groaned. "Levi come see he's such an adorable baby!"
Fuck. I hadn't expected to see one of them this quickly. Then again, I should have been anticipating that we may meet one, considering where we were. The entrance to the underground from outside Wall Rose should have been well hidden, but shit happened once in a while. If we were to head further down this path, I wouldn't be surprised to find more of these sort of titans, near dead or possibly lifeless already.
"Kill it before I kill you," I seethed at the woman who was waving her torch in the direction of a humanoid body thrice our sizes.
Eren stood up and held a hand out, to which I stared at for a good second. It changed to a slight glare to the culprit who had knocked me down in the first place. I took the hand, regardless. A quick tug from him and I was back on my feet.
"But Levi! Look at him! Can we keep him? Please, please?" Hanji was pleading and on the verge of sobbing. She resembled a spoilt brat wanting a toy badly.
"And just how do you think we can move this stinking shit?" I growled out.
Where Hanji was flapping about, I could see the titan clearer now. It was somewhere between a two and three meter type, laying on its stomach and unmoving. Like a starved person, its bones were more prominent, and skin much paler than the normal ones we saw outside. It was sluggish, except for the moment when it had apparently tried to grab me.
"The lack of sunlight must be causing them to be like this," Hanji started talking to herself as she observed the dying titan. The abnormal creature merely stared at the same spot, eyes glazed and unmoving. "We've never actually concluded how many days a titan could live without eating, or if they would die of this cause in the first place."
"That's because we've never even kept a titan long enough for that to happen," I scoffed, digging the heel of my boots against the titan's temple. It didn't even move. I brought the torch close to its open eyeball, grimacing in disgust at what possibly was a layer of dust on it. That only was enough to tell that it had been here for a very, very long time. "For all you know, this thing could've been here since Shiganshina's fall and rotting away bit by bit."
"Then the ones that had gone to the surface must've been 'live' ones, if you know what I mean."
Hanji's eyes let out a certain glint that I knew too well.
"Try to take it back and I'll leave you here in this labryinth to die alone."
"Awww but Leviiiii..."
"Um... what's going on?" I heard Eren meekly question. He must've been highly confused, and the situation was probably too complex for his small head to comprehend.
"Oh, don't worry, Eren. We're just saying that someone must've been able to lead the small titans to the surface of Trost by some interesting method! I want to meet this person. They're probably like the Pipe Piper of the titans ufufu..." Hanji resumed talking gibberish to herself, and the brunette was even more puzzled since he probably didn't get the reference.
"It's a bit unsettling to know that titans may live underground though...That's like having a rabid pet in your basement," Eren muttered out. That was when his emerald eyes visibly widen.
"There was never a worry for titans heading to the surface, mostly because the titans seem to lose their activeness without the sun. Plus, all the exits are too small for their bodies to actually fit through. How sad, if only I could only take them back up..." Hanji babbled to herself.
There was a very good reason why that wasn't happening, especially with this woman. The only reason why there would be a titan here in the first place was due to the connection this underground had with the land outside Wall Rose. Previously, she'd only entered the undergrounds of Wall Sina's districts, to which none were connected to the lands where titans roamed. Plus, none of these undergrounds were connected by any path. Not that I knew of, anyway.
Also, I'd leave her here if she ever decided to bring one of these things back. The number of people who knew these undergrounds could be counted by a single hand, and if she didn't want to die here, she'd listen.
I noticed that the hand of Eren's not holding the fire torch was clenched tightly. His head was tilted, eyes affixed on an aimless spot on the ground. He simply stood there without a single twitch of a muscle.
"What's wrong with you, now?"
My question broke him out of his trance, and he returned my gaze. Perspiration beaded his forehead despite the coolness of the surrounding, indicating that what he was thinking then must've been quite impacting.
"Erm... bad thoughts... I guess..." He mumbled to himself and I told him to speak up. Eren jumped a little, and swallowed before continuing: "I remembered my house basement. Up til now, I haven't a single clue to what may be in there. Now that I think of it, could it have been possible that I was a titan all along, and that my father kept me down there?"
"Sometimes I feel: 'why me?'. Why, of all people, did it have to be my father who has to hold all these secrets? Why couldn't he have shown me what was in the basement earlier? If we could've prevented Shiganshina's fall, none of this would've happened. It's all his fault!"
The brat's voice got loud with every word he spoke. He was almost shouting by the time he reached the last sentence. He had this odd habit of rambling to himself questions even though he knew he wouldn't receive answers. I didn't even know why anyone bothered in the first place. It was pointless.
There was a spark of anger sent my way. I wasn't the least affected by it, considering how his was a child's intensity compared to some other looks I've received. "Don't say that name. I'm not like my father. I'm not a man who abandons his family and left his people for dead."
"Say what you like, but nothing's going to change. You can cry and whine about it for the rest of your life like the brat you are, but the fact is you can't change what has happened. Frankly, I don't give a shit about what's in your basement; I'm only following orders. And one of my orders is to watch over your sorry ass, and get you back to your house."
I picked up the fallen fire torch, mildly surprised that it was still burning despite being left on the ground for several minutes now. I tossed Hanji a look and she pouted at me, but backed away. The fire torch was being discarded on the titan's head, and what was left of its hair was immediately set ablaze. Even as the fire ate at the body slowly, the titan didn't make a sound or move.
Since the brat didn't like being addressed by his family name... "Eren," I called out, and the sudden call of his own name startled him. He probably thought that I was mad at him or something, because he flinched right away. "I told you before, didn't I? No one blames you for anything. Neither you, nor your father."
"That... I've heard you before, but..." Eren trailed off, still unmoved by my words.
Ignoring the boy, I brushed past Hanji was seemed engrossed with the titan burning in the flames.
"Let's go. Nothing's happened here."
"Oh? How can you tell?"
"How many people do you know are actually capable of navigating through this place? We're way outside the border. We're heading back. Dawdle and I'm leaving you here. Eren, move it," I told the other, and he merely nodded.
"So the titans couldn't have entered from here, huh?" Hanji concluded, rubbing her chin. "Then the only other possible way is someone having opened the gates to let them in."
I left Hanji to speculate things on her own. Over my shoulder, I glanced at the body that was burning. Seeing titans down here again wasn't a pleasant sight. It reminded me of so many things I wish I could forget. Even this pitch black darkness wouldn't be able to render me blind from what I've seen.
When we were back at Pilna Kruze, the entire Scout Legion were already packed and prepared to set off. We were moving to the castle we had stationed at before between Trost and Hermiha. It rained all of a sudden, and the entire Scout Legion made the trip with hoods over their head. By the time we reached the castle, we were drenched to the bone.
A third of the members were given stable work, while the rest of us dealt with moving stuff and under the order of the corporal, set out to do clean-up duties. It was mainly the rooms and halls he wanted clean, since we couldn't do the exterior because of the weather.
Alike at the tavern, everyone was sharing rooms. However, the numbers could be either two or three, depending on the size of the room itself. I had been planning to share with Armin, but apparently Jean was one step ahead of me again, this time Connie in the picture as well. We nearly got ourselves into a fist fight but the corporal happened to pass us by, and shut us down there and then. In the end, I was stuck with a room at the end of the hallway, to which my room companion went anonymous.
I sighed a little but the time I reached the said room. It was the last location I had to deliver the sheets to.
"Pardon my intrusion," I said out loud, out of politeness. I swung the slightly ajar door open, thinking that no one was inside. However, I had been wrong. Taking a second's glance at the occupant, I shut the door right away after.
"I'm sorry! I didn't think anyone was inside!" I yelled, back against the door.
It wasn't a situation where it was embarassing, because it wasn't. In fact, I felt my blood turn cold from fear instead, because the person I had walked in on was Corporal Levi. He had been changing out of his soaked clothing.
"What the hell is your problem?" The door behind me opened all of a sudden, and I nearly stumbled backwards.
I looked over at the open door, seeing the corporal only in his pants and glaring in my direction. It was fleeting, but the bandages around his chest had a mildly darker hue of grey, indicating that it was also wet. The only thing that crossed my mind then was that it had to be changed.
"Oi, you damned brat."
"Aah..." I stuttered a little as I turned to face him. "I'm sorry. It seems like I've got the wrong room."
A fine brow of the corporal's raised. "No, you're not wrong."
I didn't know if the prickling sensation on my neck was out of nervousness. Sure, I've shared a room with the corporal before, but it had been me who gave the invitation, not the other way round. I didn't want to read the situation incorrectly, but why exactly had he wanted me here? I didn't think he would be the type to enjoy sharing his private sanctuary, if it was.
I must've been dreaming, to think that Corporal Levi would be willing to share a his room with him.
"Cast any ridiculous thoughts out of your head, Eren. The only reason I need you is because Hanji's skill in bandaging would leave me suffocated and dead." Corporal Levi went back into the room.
"Oh," I replied, surprised that the corporal had appreciated my skills.
Having gotten into fights a lot since young, tending to injuries was almost a second nature to me. Armin used to get hurt a lot because of his clumsiness, and there were times when neither Mikasa nor I could get to him in time when he got bullied by those neighbourhood idiots. I hardly walked away unscathed either, and Mikasa was just as good in dealing with injuries.
A smile graced my lips at the tought of Hanji's workmanship. She was great with titans at all, but I didn't think she would be a nurturing type. Her tending to people's injuries was a funny, but painful thought. I could almost imagine her wrapping someone in bandages from head to toe, or pouring one of those stinging wound dressing by the bottle.
I placed the clean sheets on the bed just as the corporal started peeling the bandages off his chest. The look on his face showed that he wasn't impressed by how clinging the material was, and there a slight grimace of disgust when he removed a certain patch covering what used to be an open wound.
"The stuff are in the cupboard," he said.
Nodding, I went to the said furniture and pulled out a small box which had the items I needed. I stood behind the corporal, carefully coiling an entire roll of bandages around his chest. The doctor had said that the bandages were more of a make-shift cast for the broken ribs, rather than covering up an injury. Apart from this, the corporal didn't seem to require any other patching up, having made a swift recovery.
While executing my task, I came to observe the biting marks of the harness, along with other scars of old injuries. It never ceased to amaze me how much they proved. It would be interesting to know of the corporal's previous endeavors as a Scout Legion member, but I doubted he would sit and chat about it willingly.
Come to think of it, Corporal Levi was a really mysterious person. Apart from his obsession with cleanliness and unrivaled battle skills, I knew nothing else of him. Back when we were in the undergrounds, I noticed that he was scowling the entire way, as if wary for something. At first, I thought it was because of the titan, but he hadn't even noticed it until I pulled him out of harm's way. So it couldn't have been the titan that made him uneasy.
"What?" Corporal Levi's voice grabbed my attention. I peered up from the bandages, meeting his storm grey eyes. They were intense and questioning.
"Just thinking," I responded. It wasn't a lie; there wouldn't have been much use to it anyway.
Odd. The corporal never usually pressed on matters.
It took me a moment's consideration, but I decided to be honest: "Corporal, you seemed familiar with the undergrounds. Hanji-san was busy admiring the darkness, but I could tell that you were tensed for some reason... but it couldn't have been the titan, because you weren't even aware of it."
Very slightly did the corporal's eyes widen. He closed them after, turning away and out of my view. I was left staring at the back of his head.
"You don't talk very much, do you, corporal?"
"And you talk too damn much."
I gave a mild chuckle for some reason. Had it been months ago, I would've been nervous just standing next to the corporal. Now, I couldn't quite fathom how I was standing next to him and laughing.
"... Aren't you going to ask?"
"Huh? Ask what?" I questioned back, tucking the bandages so that it stayed.
"About how I knew of the undergrounds."
I shrugged despite Corporal Levi being unable to see it. "You know a lot of things I don't. You've got the experience, in and out of battle. I'm curious... but I'm also sure that if it was important, you'd tell. Plus, my mother used to call me a nosy person, and scolded me often for getting myself involved with things that didn't even concern me," I laughed slightly, even though it had been a painful memory for a second.
"That sounds about right," Corporal Levi snorted. "Who's in charge of the kitchen today?"
"Dinner? Hanji-san said that she would be, and was going to-" I didn't even get to finish. A dark look was behind thrown over a shoulder at me and I stiffened.
Corporal Levi grabbed the front of my shirt and pulled our faces an inch apart. It hadn't be a threatening stance, but it was intimidating enough to have me gulping. "Get that maniac out of the kitchen this instant. You're in charge, and if I see Hanji near the kitchen I will personally skin you alive."
"Um... yes sir!"
When I went down to the kitchen after the death threat, I found out the reason why the corporal had been so apprehensive about Hanji being the chef for our meals. I barely stopped her from throwing whole apples into a large pot which contained some suspicious green-purple concoction.
Wall Sina, inner district
"You made quite a scene for yourself this time, Smith."
Recognising the voice upon hearing it, I turned away from the high balcony. I had been killing time observing a group of militarians chatting and laughing among themselves at the gates. As usual, they did nothing productive.
Glancing over, a man and a woman stood by the doorway, awaiting permission before entering. I laid the side of my fist against my chest, lowering my head.
"May we? I hope we're not intruding."
"Of course not, do come in," I replied, and signaled for the visitors to take a seat on the couches provide. "To whom should I thank for this honourable visit?" I questioned as I took a seat opposite them.
"I'm sure you've received an earful enough from the court council. We're not here for business – merely personal interest," the lady replied with a small laugh, straightening her long dress where she sat. "How have you been?
'Unchanging' was the only word I could truly give. There wasn't a significant difference to the current time and five years ago. Everything was similar, if not the same. Nothing could spark a significant change in the events, be it for the better or worse.
"How is Levi?"
"In which aspect?"
"Everything; his mood, his life..." The woman's smile faltered, and was turned upside down. "I heard about what had happened to the special operation squad. How is he taking it?"
I closed my eyes for a brief second, remembering the time when I saw Levi after the retreat. His eyes were downcast, avoiding my gaze when I asked where the team was.
I had remained quiet for a few seconds, digesting his words. The only reply I gave after was: "I see."
There were no emotions to show. There was nothing to show, in truth. We've lived seeing countless deaths, attended one too many funerals. Silence was our only companion.
"The same way we always deal with such... incidents," I finally replied after a moment. A loud, exasperated sigh followed, and I traced it to the lady.
"That boy... I've told him times before. He should share his burden sometimes. It won't help to a great extent, but at least it could ease the pain a little."
"We all know the very reason why Levi doesn't take partners, or get himself too attached to a person," the man sighed out, reaching over and grasping his wife's hand that laid on her knee. Their eyes met each other's for a brief second. "Not only him, but many others of the Scout Legion members abide by this self-limiting law."
For me, it was because duty was of higher importance. I won't deny that my only drive in life was following my parent's footsteps. My bed getting warmed once in a while was fine, but with no strings attached. I wasn't interested in having a relationship.
Levi, on the other hand...
"You'll have to understand, my lord and highness. We live on the brink each passing day, and sometimes having a second half would be a burden rather than a blessing."
"But surely you'd all like kids some day?" The woman questioned. "Maybe not, if you don't like them, but a lover?"
I shook my head. We were going around in circles at this rate. Interlocking my fingers, I rested my elbows on either knees and leaned forward. Peering up at the couple seated opposite me, I explained in a tone which could not amplify my seriousness:
"That is not necessary. It was often we warn the people within the Scout Legion that they had to be prepared to give their lives up... and that their families must be able to deal with this fact. And sometimes, it's not the ones who die who will suffer. It is those who still live."
The underground links more towards Levi's past than to be an actual plot scenario. Re-read the prologue :D It's a clue.
I know this chapter is a little dry, but it was necessary to go on. You'll see why! Commander will be back with the Scout Legion troupe in the next chapter. That's where the real fun will begin.. ufufu...
I hope you've all been well! I'm glad to cease my unofficial hiatus. With that, I bid you guys good days to come! Remember to follow my on my fb page and tumblr (links on my profile!) I've been arting a lot lately, so I have some colorful works up on tumblr and fb :D