A/N: Please remember to review! They really make my day~ And thank you for all your support guys, it's really helping me along. Even though my condition has gotten worse, I'm pushing through. Take it one day at a time.
Important: Now going to incorporate the Levi's Backstory manga, but it's obviously going to be heavily tweaked.
Also important: If you're having problems reviewing, you can alternatively leave a guest review instead. I SUGGEST READING THIS CHAPTER ON MY ARCHIVE OF OUR OWN ACCOUNT BECAUSE THE FORMATTING IS BETTER IN THE FIRST SCENE, SO THE READ MIGHT BE MORE ENJOYABLE.
Warning (1): This story is about to get more twisted and sick than before, please proceed with caution. I've watched like four horror movies to spark my creative juices, and chapter 55 isn't exactly toning them down.
Warning (2): I am Euregatto and have no mercy for any characters in my stories, no matter how emotionally attached I am to them. I hope that clarifies this story.
Armed With Death
Chapter 7: Ominous Rising
(You used to trust me. You used to trust her. Silly boy, we are one in the same.)
He lied to me.
I don't know who you're talking about.
Don't you see?
They're going to erase us.
His hands shake profusely before him, fingers clenched into loose fists, and blood has dried along the lines of his palms, beneath his finger nails, is sticky like garnet glue. He doesn't think it's his. There's no immediate pain. Maybe he's okay. Maybe the other person isn't.
You know who.
They've been behind us since the beginning.
He can't pinpoint the origin of the voice. It's so familiar to him but he can't, can't understand it. It's making no sense. There's blood on him, why is there blood on his hands? Filthy. Filthy.
Who are you?
You know me.
I gave you that scar.
The one that burns when I'm near.
You can't forget me.
"Demetria," he seethes into the darkness. Her rebounding laughter reverberates through the still void, breaking the blackness and irking the pain in his chest into motion. He glares down at the sticky blood coating his hands, smeared across his legs, his uniform shirt, and then he presses his palms to his face, the blood is warm, still fresh. "Where am I? What have you done?"
I haven't done anything.
You should just see for yourself.
Levi's vision comes into focus. His nerves kick start into motion. It's almost like he's being released, from chains or a paralyzing state of existence, and he can breathe, he can hear the creaking of floor boards, he can taste the dampness in the air, smell something that reminds him of burnt flesh. He gradually rises from his knees, grunting as the numbness ebbs into feeling.
A basement. Light filters through the cracks in the floor above, the spokes of rays illuminating the dust – filthy, filthy, filthy – but barely bright enough to see ten feet in front of him. He waits for his eyes to adjust to the jet shadows engulfing him, but when his vision does not focus he glances around for the glint of a lamp.
Where is this place?
You know where.
Then where are you?
I'm in your head.
Where else would I be?
He scoffs humorlessly, shuffling around, his shin ramming into the leg of a table. He curses under his breath. "It's so freaking dark. How do you expect me to see where I'm going if there's barely any light?"
As if on cue every lamp hanging from every other post ignites, fwoosh fwoosh fwoosh, flames shooting up one after another in perfect synch. The explosion of light forces his arm to snap over his eyes, shielding them from any possible harm, his retinas scalded by the abrupt change in color. The fire exposes his surroundings.
Do you know where you are now?
The tables to both his immediate left and right are layered in dried blood, caked in flayed segments of skin from torsos, legs, faces, human body parts, human flesh. Before him, the next four tables, decapitated and mutilated and skinned and tortured corpses, all chained down or strewn about, one chest cleaved open with every rib broken upwards like a blossoming flower, the organs within relocated to the bucket beneath it.
He wants to vomit, to scream or to run or to demand that Demetria reveal herself so he can kick the ever living shit out of her for showing this to him.
It's just a dream.
This isn't real.
This can't be real.
You're remembering what you saw that day.
Levi backs up swiftly, slamming harmlessly into the farthest wall and rattling the chains suspended from the rusted pegs. Every lamp flickers, one after another, another bullshit delusion that hypnotizes him, irking the writhing fear within him. It agitates him, how easily this stupid dream is affecting him, even when he knows it isn't real. It could never be real, no one in their right mind would ever be capable of something like this.
Thundering footsteps slam down the passage of stairs above, the old oak wood screaming in protest under the massive assailant's weight, threatening to fracture and splinter like panels like fragile shards of glass.
"How?" Levi hisses but he finds himself pressing to the floor none-the-less, rolling instinctively under the work bench to his side. He keeps low on his knees, shifting the stool before him to better conceal his obvious presence, scooting back into the darkness cast beneath the table. How is he here? He's dead! And this isn't real! But the more he repeats his arguments in his mind the longer the doubt lingers insistently. There's a truth in this that sets it apart from his persistent ache of brushing off the severity of the situation.
Why are you telling me this?
Do I need a reason?
Do you want to end up a basement experiment?
Or maybe you would prefer if Zoë killed you?
You can go out like those two dimwitted friends of yours.
What were their names?
Yes, just like them.
One broken leg,
one broken gear line –
- and a few unfortunately placed Titans.
I said shut up, fucking bitch.
The silhouette of a man – shadowed out, every detail smeared in darkness – appears at the foot of the staircase. He grumbles incoherently before moving over to the closest table that is occupied with a body, or in this case, what's left of one. He slaps a notebook onto the table, a thick, leather-bound and worn journal, the ribbon bookmark shredded on the ends from all the years of use.
That looks familiar, Levi ponders, instinctively drawing further back when the man turns towards the work bench. He's looking for something.
After a beat of complete silence the man lurches forward, shuffling towards the empty shadow on the wall perpendicular to him. He whimpers pleadingly, something incoherent that falls muted to Levi's ear, like a missing piece of a puzzle, and the darkness ripples along the rigid surface in response. He speaks more firmly, declares something, again it is silent. The darkness continues to ripple.
Suddenly, the shadow whispers, "Anselm."
It's replying to him.
"Anselm Zoë," Levi mutters to himself, tasting the name on his tongue.
Do you remember it all now, Levi?
The man's head snaps over to the work bench, as if hearing the voices in the corporal's head. Levi sinks down, feeling exposed in the garnet fires of the man's glare, praying that the shadows are concealing him. He knows I'm here.
Anselm turns his torso, then his legs, completely facing the table. From this direct angle Levi remembers just how dangerous this man had been – six feet of pure muscle from working in the silver mine. His heavy boot steps echo out through the frigid silence of the basement room as he moves for the hidden soldier, faster, pace ascending with urgency. Levi readies himself to attack and make a break for the steps.
Anselm reaches the work bench.
Something shuffles above on the table top, metal scraping wood, Levi thinks. It bothers him that the noises and movements are so familiar. But this isn't real.
It used to be.
Many years ago.
Her voice is like a venomous honey, dripping with truth and toxic all the same, poisoning his every thought with the foreboding past he long thought he had forgotten. Demetria is right (not that Levi would ever dare admit that out loud). He's been here before. He's remembering it all, detail for detail, even though he convinced himself that the suppressed memory would never resurface again.
Anselm gyrates around, gradually, torso first again, and as he shambles off for the tables the dull sheen of the meat cleaver in his grasp reflects off the dim light from above.
Levi studies the man as he stripes his coat and opts for an apron suspended from a peg on the wall, the same material and brand the bakers around the main square use to keep from dirtying the front of their clothes. It's so human of him Levi almost laughs.
Anselm turns to the shadow again, says something incoherent, and moves to the armless body at the nearest table.
He lists the cleaver above his head.
It swings down, sinking deep and precise into the leg.
Levi can hear the shredding of skin and breaking of bones, wet and sloppy and thick, the copper sheen of dried blood distracting his gaze. He stares blankly at Anselm raising the cleaver, bringing it down, thwack, into the tender flesh of a thigh.
I remember when this happened.
You hid under the table.
Just like now.
I was a child.
A stupid brat.
Foolish and scared.
Levi's gradually curling up on his side, palms pressing to cover his ears, the remnants of fear he has always reluctantly held on to ebbing into shock and weariness. Then everything falls into a sullen darkness, the empty void of his mind, soothed by the lullaby of Demetria's sadistic laughter in the back of his head and the sickening crunches vibrating through his every bone.
He waits, he watches, he remembers. He relives.
This isn't real.
At what point in your life did this ever stop being real?
Erwin is staring out his window, observing a handful of soldiers taking their evening break on the stone benches of the courtyard, when he hears his office door slam shut.
The difference between Levi storming in and someone else entering is that Levi doesn't knock, Sina forbid he ever had the common courtesy, and it gives him a jump scare so intense he thinks he's actually shook hands with his father at some point – so by the lack of an immediate warning he assumes it's everyone's favorite role model. But then a forlorn sense of dread leaks down his spine like dripping acids, or skeletal fingers raking down vertebrae for vertebrae, tracing every notch in his tensing back.
It isn't Levi. There's something here.
In the reflection of the transparent pane he can see Hanji. Her expression is blank, but the enlarged shadow cast on the wall behind her is taking a life of its own, twisting sideways so he can see the wide grin and rows of jagged teeth. It looks like it's laughing.
He gradually turns to face her, to face that thing. The distraught commander grits his teeth when he realizes they are one in the same.
"No more excuses, Erwin," Hanji hisses through grit teeth, slamming the lock into place. "No more protecting me. No more games. Tell me who Demetria really is!" She slides the dagger out from the back of her belt, her fist tightening around the hilt bit by bit for every dangerous step she takes towards him, until her knuckles are bleeding white and the crimson fires in her eyes have turned into an inferno.
"Tell her, tell her, tell her!" The shadow chants hysterically, as if amused by the pressure gravitating towards him, clawed hands turning up to scratch the brick face of the walls. "Little Zoë wants to know! Give her the truth, gives her your lies, it's always been so difficult to tell the two apart!"
He tilts his head back as the blade presses against the expanse of his pulse point. Calm down, he tells himself, arcing his neck up in futile escape from her blade, don't let her see you falter. "Hanji-" he starts.
"I found my father's notebook in the evidence archives!"
"You don't have the authority to go down there, how did you-?"
"It doesn't matter. All that matters is you telling me everything that happened that night." She twists the hilt, slicing a barely noticeable wound into his neck. The droplet of blood races down, soaking into the pristine collar of his shirt. "And don't you dare lie to me again!"
His sky-fallen gaze wearily casts down to observe the cutlass, before skimming the length of her scarred arm up to her face. Finally his glare turns to the distorted shadow, still grinning, the scritch-scratching of its claws ceasing in turn. "If the truth is what you want, I hope you're ready for the consequences."
"You won't even believe him," the shadow, Demetria, remarks snidely.
Hanji grits her teeth but refrains from making a comeback. She refuses to entertain that…thing. She withdraws her blade, decidedly pacing back to the other side of the room. She saunters aimlessly in circles on an almost perfect figure eight, tapping the tip of the dagger blade against her temple rhythmically, rapidly, as if giving her thoughts a railway so she can focus.
"Daddy's going to lie to you again," Demetria quips as she shifts along the wall to the adjacent one. "You can't trust him!"
"Shut the fuck up!" Hanji screams and throws her dagger with almost perfect precision so the blade slams into the center of the shadow's forehead. The cutlass reflects harmlessly off the wall and rattles loudly as it impacts the floor hilt first. "He's not my father!"
"But can you trust him?" Demetria whispers, her hands extending from the dimensional shadow, forming into the metallic claws that could easily slice them both down in a single swipe. Hanji's pupils dilate, fixated on the mesmerizing darkness swirling at the exit points of the forming arms, long and slender with obsidian bone shards layering the forearms and backs of the hands.
Erwin doesn't know what he's witnessing. He doesn't remember how to move. He just stands there, poised behind his desk, watching the event unfold before him and wondering, by Hanji's stoic reaction, just how many times this has happened before.
Erwin Smith has never been afraid. Not like this. Never like this.
Blackness is leaking from the flesh-less muscle, like infected blood, dripping across the hard wood floor. It slides from the claws. Drips from the rising teeth. An extra pair of eyes split open at the forehead where the jagged horns are peaking through, arcing up and back over the skull, outwards from the base of her head. "Can you trust him, after all the secrets he's hid from you…? Can you trust him, when he's never had the heart to even tell Levi?"
Hanji lets the clawed fingers wrap around her gently, not hard but possessively. "I have to trust him," the scientist utters under her breath, "he knows the truth. And you obviously won't tell me."
Demetria laughs – maniacally, the insanity woven into her voice unraveling and threading through the air, emitting jolts of pain through the back of Erwin's skull. He winces but refuses to show the monster that she's actually affecting him. "Daddy knows best!"
"Fine," Erwin says decidedly, and Hanji turns her gaze to him. "If that's what you want, I'll start from the beginning…"
There's a knock on his office door and Levi glances up from his paper work, startled from his slumber by the acute sound. The quill is dry against the paper and he dunks it into the ink vile, checking his hands and sleeves for marks before clawing the weariness from his eyes. A nightmare, he tells himself as the remnants of the dream scatter to clear his head. It was just a stupid nightmare.
"He lied to me. To you. To us."
He pauses, pondering Demetria's words. What the fuck does that even mean?
Another knock. "Levi!" Hanji exclaims, "I'm coming in!"
He thinks he needs more time to recover from his nightmare and considers telling her to fuck off elsewhere, but she's already let herself in, kicking the door shut with the thick of her heel. She throws herself into an immediate hug, one armed because she's grasping a satchel in the other hand, humming into his shoulder with some hopeless giddiness. "Are you alright?" he questions, not bothering to return the hug, and when she gets her fill she draws back.
"Of course. Something wrong?"
"No, you just seem…" He wafts his hand at her absently. "Never mind. What's in the bag?"
"This was outside your bedroom," she chirps as she holds up the leather medical satchel, dropping it onto his desk top with an acute thunk. Whatever is in the bag is solid. "You didn't see it so I just brought it to you!"
"From who?" he asks quizzically (suspiciously), cautiously unfastening the zipper, tugging it down notch for notch. In the upper field of his peripheral vision he watches Hanji perch in his chair, folding her arms over the back and crossing one leg over the other. She's waiting. Observing. Her garnet eyes are flashing with the flickering candle light as she ponders, waits, lips gradually twitching up into a menacing grin. She doesn't even answer his question.
Who's it from, Hanji?
He pushes the leather walls apart with his palms –
"A present from Demetria," Hanji whispers, but her voice is resounding like a crash of thunder through the room that strikes Levi with the intensity of a careening boulder – like being smashed with a Titan fist or crushed by jagged, crooked jaws. Horrifying. "Because the self-righteous bastard lied to us."
Levi jumps back, tripping over his chair and slamming back-first into the wall, cowering away from the contents of the bag as it rocks towards the edge of his desk, balance disturbed by his abrupt movements.
The satchel's contents tumble out –
-and Erwin Smith's severed head hits the floor.