Disclaimer: I don't own Shingeki no Kyojin
A/N: I'm extremly sorry for the long wait. I was super caught up with a zillion things and didn't have time to write a word until yesterday! Without further ado, here is chapter 11. I hope you guys haven't forgotten the plot from the previous chapters, since there are parts here that may not make sense if you have. If you have I suppose it's my fault since I took such a horrendously long time to update. My apologies!
Clarification regarding previous chapter: Levi and Mikasa's fathers were brothers. This makes Levi Mikasa's older cousin brother, not older brother. But since they are both technically only children, for Levi, she's as good as a younger sister to him now.
Warning: This chapter has a good bit of exposition and dialogue since I had to explain a lot of stuff. Hope that doesn't bore anyone. It's important information though.
Hope you enjoy! Please review. I can't believe how much support I've been getting, you all are amazing.
Chapter 11: Titans
"Eren, calm down," Armin said nervously, inching towards the trembling boy. "Please don't transform or do anything - stupid."
"I can't believe you fucking - " Eren broke off, snarling, but at a loss of words. Jean and Mikasa looked similarly disturbed, but couldn't bring themselves to say anything as they stared at the scene below them, wide-eyed.
"They're people," Sasha was murmuring to herself frantically, pulling at her hair. "They're people, they're people, we can't harm them because they're people."
Connie was oddly silent.
Below them, the Titans were clawing ineffectively at the cliffside, a couple attempting to climb it, but toppling down before they could make it even a few meters up.
"We should go inside the hut," Bertholdt said worriedly. "They'll still be able to sense them, but at least the Titans will be out of sight."
"We're not going anywhere with you until you explain the meaning of this!" Jean snapped.
"When you said village, I thought there would be more people like you, more shifters!" Sasha cried shrilly. "I didn't think your village would be actual Titans! Why haven't they eaten you yet?"
"Not out of lack of trying," Reiner muttered.
"Reiner, Bertholdt, Annie, Christa - and Armin, since recently - all have to stay up here on the cliff," Ymir said, pointing towards the trees. "There's a hut back there. It's too dangerous for them to go down, and the Titans can't climb up here, so they are safe."
"What about you?" Jean asked.
"I told you. I'm their leader, their second-in-command, their 'queen'." Ymir smirked. "They wouldn't dare harm me."
"What she means is that she has the power to make them obey her," Armin clarified, seeing that Eren looked fully prepared to bite his finger and go on a rampage. "It's a rare power among Titan shifters, but not unheard of." His blue eyes pierced into Eren's own as he said this. "You know about it too, right Eren?"
"I - do?" Eren presented them with a suitably puzzled expression, but Armin saw right through him.
"There's no point hiding it, Eren. They already know."
"What are you talking about?"
"You have the power," Ymir said bluntly. "You possess the same ability as I do, the ability to control Titans. Why do you think we wanted to capture you so badly?"
"How do you - "
"Titan-shifters can hear your commands as well," Ymir said. "Unlike simple Titans, we are immune to being controlled and manipulated, but we can still sense your emotions and orders. The very first time you used your power, months ago, we found out about it. It made us even more determined to get you here at any cost, though the simple fact that you were a Titan-shifter was reason enough already."
"So if I tell them all to kill themselves, right now, they would do it?"
Sasha gasped at Eren's proclamation. "Would you really do that, Eren? Even now, now that we know they were all once - "
"Even if I don't, I can control them and make them kill this lot first," Eren retorted.
"I have the same power as you," Ymir told him threateningly, her eyes flashing. "And I'm years more experienced in yielding it, though it may not look like that. I don't think it's in your best interest to go against me."
"You wanna try that?" Eren took a step forwards, but Mikasa placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Eren. Wait." She turned to look at Ymir. "Explain."
"Good girl," Ymir said, a hint of condescension creeping into her voice. "Keep him under control, will you?"
It was Mikasa's turn to start forward and Christa jumped between them, waving her hands and laughing nervously. "Calm down, will you? We're all on the same side here, let's not fight - "
"Who are you to decide that?" Jean snapped at her. "We still have no clue what the fuck is going on and there is an entire village of Titans below trying to get at us! Not to mention that you monsters have murdered some of our friends and family members, and countless other people!"
"Can we please just go talk in the hut?" Christa begged. "We'll explain everything to you, but there's no point standing around here where the Titans can sense our presence is close, and see us."
"They're getting excited," Bertholdt added warningly. "It's best we go a bit further, so that they calm down as well."
The hut was small, and sparsely furnished - just a large room with a stove, a fireplace, a table, two chairs, and a stack of mattresses and blankets piled against the wall. It was nestled within the forest, a few hundred meters away from the cliffside.
"This is where we cook, and sleep," Christa explained, as if she were giving a tour of the place. "It's not much, but we make do."
"Cut the small talk," Eren snapped at her, turning to Ymir, "and please tell us what the fuck is going on."
"It's a long story," Ymir said, pulling out one of the chairs and taking a seat. "You may as well all sit down and make yourselves comfortable."
Reiner pulled out another chair for himself, but none of the others moved. Jean, Connie and Sasha all had their hands near their waists, where their 3DMGs were fastened.
"Not very subtle," Ymir commented. "Fine, then. Have it your way. I know it best, so I guess I'll tell it to you. Please refrain from trying to kill us until after I finish talking."
"Maybe if you'd hurry up and start already we would be less inclined to do exactly that," Jean muttered.
"I'll say this straight out, no point beating around the bush. Humanity is doomed. Doomed to turn into a race of mindless Titans. This started over a hundred years ago, and we still have no idea how and why. We don't know how and why the first Titans were created, but we do know that they came from humans. Every single Titan was originally a human, though judging by Sasha's comments earlier, you already knew that. It's the curse of humanity - kind of like a disease of sorts, though we don't know it's origin and how it is transmitted - but everyone inside Wall Maria and Wall Rose is likely to be contaminated, either by now, or in the near future.
We aren't sure about Wall Sina, but there is a possibility that there are those behind Wall Sina who are safe from the threat, which makes us suspect the involvement of the higher-ups in this entire mess. We don't know their motive, but we know that they are connected to the reason why random villages in the outer walls keep transforming into Titans. It's also connected to another great secret, one which I wasn't aware of myself until Chri - Historia told me about it.
The King behind the Walls isn't the true King, and the Royal Family are also fakes. The true Royal Family is the Reiss family, but they were murdered. The only surviving member is Historia, which actually makes her the heir to the throne, and the true Queen. She's on the run though, like us, and she's hiding, because if they ever found out she were alive she would probably be in more danger than all of us combined.
In regards to the Titans, whatever was causing humans to transform seems to be more prevalent now. Over the past few years, the 'disease' has been spreading, or speeding up at least. Or maybe it's just that the symptoms - transformation into Titans - are now starting to show. We don't have a cure in place. There was a man we knew, an acquaintance of ours, who was researching and trying to develop a cure. He disappeared though, a few years ago, and we have no idea regarding his whereabouts or how to find him, and we have nobody capable of carrying forward his research.
There is another way for a Titan to turn back to a human, or rather into a Titan-shifter: a human that is able to control their Titan abilities and is not a mindless threat to humanity. However, the only way this can happen is if the Titan eats another Titan-shifter. With this, the shifting ability gets transferred from one to another. If the Titan-shifter was, in addition, a family member, the new shifter gains the hardening ability as well. This is what probably happened in your case, Eren. It's likely that your father was a Titan-shifter.
The hardening ability can also come from eating a non-shifting family member, which is what happened with Reiner, as you all know. He ate his family first, which gave him the hardening ability, though he was only able to awaken that once he had eaten another human with shifter blood and turned into a shifter himself.
That is the reason why Titans eat humans. They can survive, in Titan form, without eating humans, but when they sense humans nearby, it ignites a primordial desire within them, their basic desire to turn back to their human form. That is why they continue eating humans, in the hope that one of them will have shifter blood, and be able to turn them back.
The life of a Titan is a miserable one, like an endless dream. I lived it for 60 years before I ate a shifter by chance, and was able to turn back. Often though, when in pure Titan form, you don't remember or realize what is going on, and you very rarely have control over your actions once there is a human in sight. It is impossible for Titans to resist the urge to turn back, resist the urge to eat humans. I guess Eren and I are exceptions in this case, since we have the power to control Titans, so we can prevent them from eating us if we will it strongly enough.
The Titans do worship me. But if I ever, even for a moment, wished or allowed them to eat me - they would try, undoubtedly.
Titan shifters sometimes suffer lack of control as well, though they usually manage to get a hang of themselves. We do have a serum though - it was developed by the man who was researching a cure to the Titan condition before he disappeared - which can temporarily induce even a controlled Titan-shifter to revert back to their uncontrolled state, or 'berserker mode' as we often call it. All Titan shifters, in their early stages, suffer the risk of turning to berserker mode if they allow the Titan to take over their minds or have a weak willpower. If a transformation is carried out several times in a short timespan, or when the human body is physically exhausted, a shifter is also more susceptible towards falling into berserker mode. Sometimes a shifter can revert back, if they manage to regain control of themselves. Sometimes they can't, and need to be cut out. And sometimes, if they are absorbed too deep, it's too late for anything to work, and the Titan-shifter reverts to a normal Titan, and the shifting power is lost for good. An incident happened like that, a few decades ago, though none of you were around to witness it. It was terrible though, and we lost out on rare shifter blood.
When in berserker mode, Titan shifters may be able to recollect events that occurred during their pure Titan stages, but they usual lose these memories the moment they are cut out. The only way to retain them is if they manage to retake control over their Titan forms, something which takes a strong heart, a lot of willpower and an extremely strong sense of passion or reason. I was told that Eren managed it recently, so that's commendable.
The Titans are a pitiable race and their very existence is a tragedy. But they are an entirely unintelligent and warped race, mere shells of their former human selves. We cannot allow the entire race of humanity to fall to such a pitiful state, and we cannot let years of development and advancement end in such a pathetic existence. That's the reason we break the walls, once in awhile. Everyone inside is doomed to turn into a Titan eventually. Isn't it better to let them die than to condemn them to such a life? A life of eternal suffering and ignorance? The life of a Titan is cursed, and anyone who has lived it and has managed to turn back will tell you that they would prefer death, if turning back was not an option. Among the thousands doomed inside the walls, there is a high likelihood that at least some, if not many, have shifter blood.
We have no way of confirming, and no way of distinguishing the shifters from the non-shifters, unless they manage to transform themselves, like Eren. That's why we have to keep trying, keep breaking the walls, keep letting the Titans eat as many humans as they can. At least that way there is a chance that a few Titans who do eat the humans with shifter blood can at least turn back. Before all of humanity turns into a race of Titans, isn't it better that the shifter powers are transferred so that at least some of humanity can be saved?
You say that we are monsters and that our actions are immoral and wrong. But I want to ask you this: which do you prefer? A future where all of humanity has been either wiped out entirely or reduced to dumb beasts? Or a future wherein, though at the steep price of sacrificing thousands of lives, at least some humans can be saved? You only need two humans to renew the existence of humanity: one man and one woman. It is likely though that the number who survive this will be greater, though we can't say by how much. The few who do make it can at least restore humanity to its former glory. That is what we are gambling on. That is what we are fighting for, and that is what keeps us going forward even after witnessing and committing the most heinous deeds.
There is no other option that we can see at this point. We may seem like we are the bane of humanity, but the true culprit is whoever started this entire mess. We are only trying to do damage control in the one way that is possible. We are the actual soldiers, the actual saviors of humanity. We know that we will never be recognized as such - there may never be anyone that will recognize us as such - but we don't care. We do what we have to, and now that we've explained everything to you - as traumatic as it all may be to take in - we hope that you'll take our side.
We aren't asking for forgiveness - we haven't truly forgiven ourselves either for everything that we have done. We haven't even forgiven ourselves for being the few lucky ones blessed with this shifting power which has allowed us to outlive our friends and family. So there is no way that we would ask you for our forgiveness just yet. But we're asking for mutual understanding and cooperation. We're all on the same side here - the side of humanity. So, what do you guys say?
There was a deafening silence following Ymir's speech, a silence which seemed to stretch on for hours. It was Eren who finally spoke up, his voice coming out soft, parched.
"I - I don't know how to respond to all of that right now," he said, unusually calm. "I guess I have a few questions for you all which I'd like answered first."
"Shoot," Ymir said.
"Assuming that everything you said is true, and there is some unknown disease that turns people into Titans... how is it that some people have shifter blood? Like, I get that you, Annie, Bertholdt and Reiner may have eaten other shifters to gain the ability, but how did the first shifters come up in the first place?"
"I don't actually know that," Ymir said. "It's the mystery we've been trying to solve. My best guess is that someone, at some point, did discover a cure, but it was distributed only among a few, and passed on and transferred ever since, when those first few shifters were eaten by Titans."
"Our entire village transformed, you know," Reiner said. "Bert, Annie and I, we lived in the same village. One day, everyone just began transforming. There were probably shifters in our village, shifters who hadn't awaken their powers. Three of them, since there are only three of us surviving from our village. We must have eaten them at some point. People transform at different times, but it seems that some transformations trigger others. Annie, Bert and I were some of the first ones to transform... and thus also the first ones to begin eating other villagers. Eventually, we must have come across shifters, and eaten them. By the time we had transformed back, most of the other villagers had turned into Titans as well. It was too late for them though... there were no shifters remaining, so they couldn't turn back, and all the others villagers who hadn't transformed were eaten."
"We can still recognized three of the Titans," Annie added sharply. "They're down there, with the rest of them, and their features and bodies have been warped. But if you look closely enough... you realize that they were once people, once humans from our village. Five of the others were killed by the Survey Corps at Trost... and that's all that is left of our home and the people who we lived and grew up with."
"How do existing shifters first awaken their powers?" Eren asked. "Like, I know the theory - you have to draw blood and have a clear focus in mind. But how is it that the power lies dormant for many years?"
"I'm fairly sure that has something to do with your emotions," Ymir said. "Once a shifter is experiencing extremely strong emotions - hatred, a sense of bloodlust, or even a desire to protect someone important - it triggers some chemical in the brain which... well, to put it simply, very intense emotions are what awaken the shifter power initially. Does that make sense?"
"It does," Eren said. "But I was eaten by a Titan, just before I had awakened my shifter powers actually. I awakened them when I was inside of its stomach. How is it that I am still alive and my powers weren't just transferred to that Titan?"
"You were lucky," Ymir said simply, and Eren stared at her expectantly.
"Did the Titan swallow you whole?"
"No, it bit off my hand. Another Titan had bitten off my leg though, a few minutes before."
"Then it's a miracle you're even alive," Ymir muttered. "Who the hell gets body parts bitten off twice."
"That doesn't answer my question."
"You were lucky that the Titan didn't bite your head off. It must have swallowed you relatively whole," Reiner clarified. "Simple mixing of blood isn't enough to transfer the shifter powers, the original shifter must die as well. Had the bite killed you, the blood and the power would have transferred. Even if you were swallowed almost whole, I'm sure you would have died in the Titan's stomach eventually, and your powers would have been transferred. It's fortunate that you managed to awaken them yourself before that happened."
"So death is a necessary condition for the power to be transferred?" Eren asked.
"Unfortunately." Ymir gazed at Eren shrewdly. "I know what you're thinking. If our blood alone was enough, we would all have been more than willing to chop off body parts and feed them to the Titans. It's not like we can't regenerate them later. But death is a prerequisite... we've even experimented with the Titans, and it's simply not possible otherwise."
Eren's face crumpled. Though it was foolish, a part of him had still been holding on to the modicum of hope that his father had survived somehow, and had managed to escape from his terrible fate the same way Eren had escaped the Titan that had swallowed him. But given that he possessed both the shifting and hardening abilities, Ymir's words only confirmed the fact that he was undoubtedly and irreversibly dead. The news that his blood would not be an easily distributable cure was also a blow, though he figured that if that had been the case, the antidote would have been administered long ago.
It was Mikasa who spoke up next, asking the question that Eren had been dreading to. "The man with the cure? The one who you said disappeared... what was he like? What was his name?"
"Ah, we never knew his name, actually." Ymir scratched her head. "He was referred to by everyone as 'Sensei'. I'd only ever met him twice. He was tall, with dark hair and a mustache. He wore glasses too. He seemed really dedicated towards his cause. He used to live within the Walls; he had a laboratory there, but I was told that he frequented our village once or twice every year. He was last here a couple years after the breach in 1845. We haven't heard anything of him since - no correspondence, no sightings."
"Do you think he was captured?" Sasha asked suddenly. "Do you think the Military Police could have found him? What if they tried interrogating him?"
"There's a possibility." Ymir shrugged. "There is a possibility that he was captured and they tortured him for information. There is a possibility that he turned traitor himself, or that he was a traitor all along. There is a possibility that he tripped, cracked his skull, and died. Everything is a possibility. I don't even want to start considering the 'what ifs' because it'll drive me mad and there is nothing we can do at this point. We would have probably heard if he was captured though, since we have spies within the Military Police, so I don't think that the scenario of them getting their hands on his research is a risk."
Eren and Mikasa exchanged a look, but said nothing. They both had knew that the 'Sensei' Ymir was referring to was Grisha Jaeger himself, though Ymir didn't seem to have picked up on the connection between Eren's dead father and the researcher she knew.
This means that what's in those vials and on those pieces of paper... that is the probably the end result of his research, Eren realized with a jolt. The very same research that Ymir was talking about. What if he did manage to develop a cure in the end? What if he entrusted it to me?!
He was getting ahead of himself though. He couldn't confirm anything until he spoke to Ymir in private and had her read the mysterious script on the second scroll, the script which even Mikasa couldn't decipher.
Shit! The tubes are with Hanji though. We'll need to get them back somehow!
Eren still wasn't 100% sure whether or not he could trust Ymir, but his father had instructed them to find her. Moreover, Ymir had been able to provide an explanation for all of their past travesty. Eren wasn't going to ponder whether the explanation was justifiable or not, but it seemed that their goals, at least to a certain point, matched.
"I have one last question," Eren said. "...for now, at least."
Ymir raised an eyebrow.
"You said that - that man had developed a serum. One which drove even controlled Titans into a berserker mode. Did you ever..." Eren trailed off, eyes darkening.
It was Reiner who spoke, looking apologetic. "We did inject you with it, that one time. The time we had all attacked with the Ape Titan. My blades had been coated with it, and I plunged one of them into your neck - "
"So that's why." Eren clenched his fists, taking a step forward. "That serum is the reason why I lost control that day. You're the reason why I lost control that day and attacked - " he broke off, glancing over at Mikasa. "You know. I really hated myself for what I did. I still do. You have no idea how fucking terrible I felt, and still feel."
"Eren," Mikasa said softly. "Drop it. Now isn't the time."
Jean, however, sprung in immediately. "Mikasa can't regenerate her hand, you know!" he spat. "She isn't like you freaks! You've crippled her for good!"
"I - we - we didn't mean to!" Reiner looked shocked. "I swear, we only wanted to kidnap Eren, for which he needed him to pursue us in a mindless rage! We didn't know that he would end up attacking her, we wanted his attention and his attacks directed at us!"
"We were never actually trying to kill or maim any of you!" Bertholdt added quickly. "Injuries are unavoidable at times but - "
"Injury?" Eren seethed. "She fucking lost three fingers, more than half of her hand! She can't ever fight again! That's not the same as a few fractured ribs or a concussion!"
"You really can't fight anymore?" It was Annie who spoke, her eyes locked on Mikasa. Mikasa's forearm and downwards had been heavily bandaged after her surgery, so Annie and the rest hadn't seen or been aware of the true extent and nature of her injury.
"Not with 3DMG - just yet. But my other hand works fine, and I can still hold one blade. And kick."
"That sucks." Annie said it so casually that Eren wanted to punch her, but refrained himself. Mikasa's eyes flashed, a flicker of anger crossing her face, but it was gone almost as soon as it had appeared, as she schooled her expression back to her usual blank one.
"I - I'm really sorry, Mikasa," Christa said in a small voice, sounding genuinely upset.
"Don't be. It doesn't concern you," Mikasa replied, and Christa didn't know how to respond to that.
"We really didn't mean this to happen, Mikasa," Bertholdt said earnestly. "You don't have to forgive us and there's nothing we can say, but we wanted you on our side as well. Maiming humanity's strongest after Levi doesn't do us any favors."
"I don't care what you meant," Eren cut in acidly. "You didn't mean for my mother to die either, I'm sure, but she did, and as a direct result of your actions. I'm going to go along with you for the time being, because we don't seem to have a better choice. But if we make it out through this shit alive..."
He didn't have to complete his sentence. The 'I'll make you pay, I'll hurt you, I'll kill you' went unspoken.
Reiner seemed ready with a retort, but Bertholdt held him back, gulping. "I guess we can discuss that later. If we get out of this mess alive."
"I'm with Eren," Jean said suddenly. "I haven't forgiven any of you for what happened to Marco - "
"Neither have we - " Reiner began.
"And don't give me your fucking lame excuse that he was your friend too!" Jean said explosively. "Because I don't want to hear it."
"I also remember you slicing at Mikasa with your blades." Eren said suddenly, turning on Annie. "Multiple times. And those weren't just aimed at injuring. You too, Reiner. You hurled your entire fucking blade at her."
"It was Mikasa. I figured she would dodge it," Reiner replied immediately. "And to be fair, she had just lopped my entire arm off moments before I did that."
Eren turned to Annie expectantly, but she just shrugged, before retorting callously. "If she couldn't dodge it, clearly she didn't deserve to be fighting in the first place."
"Fuck you Annie," Eren began, but Armin intervened yet again, holding him back.
"Now isn't the time for this, Eren," the blonde boy whispered.
"Maybe we should all have some rest," Christa suggested, a feeble attempt to alleviate the tension and palpable animosity in the room.
"You mentioned the Ape Titan," Sasha piped up. "Isn't he your boss? What's his deal? Where is he from?"
"He's a Titan shifter too, the oldest one around," Ymir said. "And yes, he's our boss. I haven't actually ever seen his human form myself. He can somehow communicate in fluent English, even when in his Titan form. Most Titans who do have the ability to speak either speak broken English, or use another language, a tongue of our own. But his English in Titan form is as good as any human, so he's never felt the need to reveal himself to us otherwise. He's the mastermind behind all the plans, and he's the one who told me most of what I just told you. I'm not even sure where he's originally from. He shows up here every couple weeks or so to check on how things are going, but we never know anything about his whereabouts and ongoings other than that."
"Why is his form a monkey?"
"I don't know that either," Ymir admitted. "I've asked. We've all asked. He never answered and we know not to bother him after a certain point."
"How do you trust him them?" Sasha demanded. "For all you know he could be working with the Military Police?"
"For everything that he has shown us and told us, it doesn't seem likely." Ymir sighed. "It's hard to explain, but when you meet him - if you meet him - you'll see. He truly wants what is best for humanity."
"What you think is best for humanity," Jean corrected, and Ymir ignored him.
"I have a question." It was Connie who spoke up, in a small voice. He had been unusually silent till then. Ymir nodded at him. "What's up?"
"My entire village... including my mother... were all turned into Titans," he said slowly. "Is it possible that - "
"I hate to stop you here, but I don't think you should go down that road," Ymir cut in, though her voice was gentle. "It is indeed possible that the Titan she turned into is living here. Indeed, all the Titans that haven't been killed reside in this village."
Connie's expression turned hopeful. "So then I could - "
"It's too dangerous to let you down there, amongst hundreds of Titans, looking for her. Even if you did somehow recognize her, there is no way she would recognize you. She would only see you as another human to eat - "
"She recognized me before!" Connie cried. "When I first saw her... lying on top of my house... she greeted me! She greeted me in our common tongue! She said - she said - we - welcome home..." his shoulder wracked with sobs, and Sasha put an arm around him consolingly.
Ymir looked distraught. "I'm really sorry Connie. Even if she could communicate with you then, that was only because she had just transformed, so a part of her humanity was still holding on. By now, she's probably long gone."
"B-but you can talk to Titans, right?" Connie pleaded. "C-couldn't you - couldn't you - "
"I can communicate with them, but they have absolutely no recollection of their previous lives, Connie. And some of them are dumber than the others, and merely respond to commands without speaking in return."
"Connie," Bertholdt said softly. "I know it's unfair, but do you really want to know? Do you really think you'll be able to see her like that and go on, knowing that there's nothing you can do about it?"
"There's also a chance - that she may not be around," Ymir said, as delicately as possible. "The Scouting Legion and other soldiers are often - very - effective. Though personally, I think death is a preferable fate."
"I won't give up!" Connie shouted, eyes flashing. "You may say that, but there's a chance that she's alive, and there's a chance that somehow, if she eats another shifter, she can turn back! I'm not giving up on her!"
"But we don't have any shifters," Ymir began.
"We have four actually, not counting Eren," Connie pointed out. "Bertholdt. Reiner. Annie. Ymir. What makes you four think that you deserve living as humans any more than the other Titans? Don't you think it's time to give someone else a chance?"
"Connie?!" Sasha stared at him, eyes wide. "Are you seriously - "
"Hey, Connie, calm down, man," Reiner said. "I know you didn't mean it, but don't go saying stuff like that." Though his voice was pleasant enough, his face was stony.
Connie seemed ready to retort, but Jean and Armin both put a hand on each of his shoulders, shooting him significant looks. Now isn't the time. Let's not get into this conversation now.
Connie sighed, brushing them off. "Sorry," he said stiffly. "I was joking. It was a bad joke though. Sorry."
"Maybe you should tell them your plan," Armin said, nodding at Ymir. "I think - I think it would be easier for everyone if they knew what comes next."
"We're preparing for war," Ymir said simply.
"You're what?!" Jean yelled. "Against whom?!"
"The fake King and all of the nobles holed up behind Wall Sina," Ymir said. "Going by what Christa told us, and our other suspicions, they're the cause of all of this. Them and those wall cults. We want to break through the walls - all of them - with an army of Titans - and attack the King. We'll free the Wall Titans too - all the Colossal Titans being cooped up within the walls - they're actually the only reason the walls even exist, the foundation of the walls altogether. Once we have the Kings and nobles held hostage, we can find out the reason for all of this mess in the first place, and hopefully come one step closer to obtaining a cure, if they haven't already developed one. And then we'll replace Historia - the true Queen - to her rightful throne."
There was a dead silence to this declaration. Then -
"What if the Titans just eat the King?!"
"How many fucking people are going to be eaten as a result of this?"
"What if the Colossal Titans turn against us?!"
"How will you control anything that happens?"
"This is all going to just lead to one fucking widespread massacre!"
Ymir waved her hands, waiting for the clamor to die down, as Jean, Connie, Sasha and Eren all belted out their issues with her grand 'plan'.
"We haven't chalked out the exact details yet," she said, "but controlling them shouldn't be too huge a problem. Eren has the same powers that I have, as does the Ape Titan. I believe that between the three of us, we should be able to control an army of a couple hundred Titans. We'll train beforehand, obviously, as the controlling is an ability which requires practice so that it can be executed over a long period of time and over many Titans. But I believe that it is possible with our combined efforts, even when it comes to the Colossal Titans within the walls."
"If what you're saying is possible, why the hell haven't you tried it before?" Jean demanded. "Instead of allowing the Titans to just run rampage and eat people?"
"We have - actually..." Ymir bit her lip, hesitating slightly before she continued. "When the wall was breached in 845, and then again in 850... the foremost aim was to get to Wall Sina. We failed, both times though, to maintain control over the Titans. We misjudged our own powers, and also the power of their base instincts to eat humans, which only intensify when confronted with such a dense population."
"You misjudged..." Jean was at a loss of words, and Ymir quickly continued. "We have been working to increase our own powers, and now we have Eren on our side as well! It will admittedly be tricky to prevent the Titans from running loose, but the Ape Titan believes that with enough practice, among the three of us, this is possible. We definitely have better odds than we did before!"
"Better odds?" Eren glowered at her. "You're saying you actually gambled on this when you broke into Shiganshina?! Was it all some experiment, one that you knew had a high chance of failing?!"
"We did take a gamble, but we had no choice!" Ymir cried desperately. "Even if our first plan failed, we fell back onto our second plan! The plan to allow the Titans to eat as many people as possible in the hope that they would revert back! And in the knowledge that the people would have turned into Titans eventually - so letting them die wasn't as terrible as one would think!"
"Who are you to decide when people live and die?" Jean fired at her. "What if the people inside weren't going to turn into Titans for another ten years? What if they could have lived happily for ten years, before disaster struck? Who are you to rob them of that, of that happiness, of years that could have been spent alive and well?"
"Isn't it better to pre-pone something inevitable than to let all of humanity turn into Titans for eternity?" Ymir shot back. "We had to sacrifice many lives, yes, but it was for the greater good and the end result - "
"The end result isn't the only thing that counts! Even the means you use to achieve it are important - "
"What is a hundred - or even a thousand lives worth - when compared to the very existence of humanity?!"
"Easy for you to say when those hundred or thousand lives don't include yours!"
"I have lost loves ones too! We all have! We aren't as heartless as you think!"
"It would have been better to let at least a large part of humanity live out their days in peace before disaster struck than to force it down upon them so that just a few could survive at the end!"
"You're just comparing numbers, Jean, but you don't realize that for humanity to rebuild itself, even two survivors are enough - "
"Who cares about rebuilding now?! Isn't it too late? Maybe we should all die, in our own time - after all, it's one of us that created this fucking mess, isn't it?!"
"We won't just die if we turn into Titans, Jean! We'll live on forever, cursed for eternity, wandering around mindlessly, trapped in a nightmare - "
"This is getting nowhere," Armin stepped in, raising his voice. "We can probably debate about this forever - and there's no right or wrong. But we need to focus on the issue at hand. I'm not sure if I think what these guys are doing is right either but it's true what Ymir said. With Eren here, chances at victory are probably a lot higher than they were before. If we can somehow get the Survey Corps on our side too, there is actually a chance it could all work out."
"What about the chance that it doesn't work out?" Jean asked softly. "What about the chance that it all goes horribly wrong and we end up with something that is Trost, but only a hundred times worse? What if hundreds - no, thousands - of innocent people... children... babies even... end up dead, far before their time, as a result of this entire 'war' scheme?"
"I can't answer that, or justify that, Jean," Armin said slowly. "One argument is that, well, they were doomed in the end anyways, at least we reduced the number of potential future Titans. But... I've experienced it firsthand, along with Eren and Mikasa. I've seen my entire village being destroyed, and I lost both of my parents and my grandfather in the attack. I know the pain, and the terror, and I wouldn't want to inflict it upon anyone, no matter how pressing the cause. But Ymir's right, it's the inside walls where the trouble began, so it's the inside walls we have to target if we want to end all of this. It's the only plan we have."
"We aren't going to just invade them blindly, right away," Ymir added. "We need to see how well Eren's abilities work, and maybe even try training the Titans in some sort of warfare, no matter how primeval. And we were hoping to somehow collaborate with the Survey Corps this time. But till then, we need your cooperation. So... are you wish us?"
The 'meeting' broke up soon after, the little hut still overflowing with tension. Eren, Mikasa, Jean, Connie and Sasha agreed to stick with their former 104th trainees for the time-being, though the atmosphere was still unbearably awkward. Eventually, even Christa gave up on trying to play peacemaker and make small-talk, and the two groups remained immiscible, Armin being the only one to flitter between them awkwardly.
Ymir had gone back to the village, and had offered to take Eren, but Eren declined the offer, saying he would visit another time. He wanted to discuss the situation with Mikasa and Armin, first, before he revealed anything further to Ymir.
Eventually Annie, Bertholdt and Reiner all left the hut together, stating that they were going hunting for food, and would be back within an hour. Christa soon scampered after them when she realized that she wasn't wanted.
"I am thinking of showing Ymir the letter tonight," Eren confided to Mikasa, whispering as they sat in a corner of the little hut. Jean, Connie, Sasha and Armin were all hotly debating the situation at hand, and the morality of the entire war scheme, so their private conversation went unheard and unnoticed.
"Do you think we can trust her?" Mikasa asked.
"I don't know... Armin trusts her..."
"You think we should ask Armin?"
"I think so. His instinct has never been wrong about these things..."
"You're right," Eren nodded. "My father also did mention that we could tell him these things."
Armin listened intently as Eren and Mikasa revealed the contents of the letter to him, before sharing a secret of his own: the fact that Erwin had assigned him to be a spy.
Eren gaped at him. "So you've been - you've been on our side all along?"
Armin looked slightly hurt. "I was never not on your side, Eren. Even if I hadn't been given this mission, I would have tried to find a way to make everything work out in a way that I could have helped you."
"Eren didn't mean it like that," Mikasa said quickly, shooting Eren a reproachful look.
"Yeah, sorry, it came out wrong," Eren added immediately, looking sheepish. "Sorry... I just - seeing you so close to them after everything that happened with us, and Mikasa's hand - just - really bothered me."
"I had to play my part, Eren," Armin said softly. "Though, I won't lie; a part of me pities them too, and likes them in spite of everything. They're doing what they think is right for humanity, and they're also fighting in the best way that they can given the circumstances."
"Do you think we can trust Ymir?" Mikasa asked. "She can probably read the second letter."
"Ymir is older and wiser than all of us, actually," Armin said.
"Not wiser than you," Eren joked, and Armin shot him a small smile.
"Do you trust her?" Mikasa asked Armin, looking steadily into his eyes.
Armin looked pensive for a few moments and then - "Yes. I trust her."
"It's done then," Eren stated bluntly. "If you do, I do too. I'll talk to her about the letter."
"Are you sure you want to go with my judgement though?" Armin asked, panicking slightly. "I mean your dad did say to consult her, but what if everyone is horribly wrong?"
"You're never wrong," Eren said immediately.
"Stop doubting yourself," was Mikasa's response.
"Okay, okay." Armin nodded, before sighing. "It's not like we have any better option."
"Oi! Armin!" Jean called from across the room. "Connie has a question for you."
"I'll catch up with you guys later," Armin muttered, standing up and walking towards the other side of the room, where Jean, Sasha and Connie were huddled.
"It's good to have him back," Mikasa murmured, before looking over at Eren. "Isn't it?"
"Yeah," Eren agreed. "Though we also have to find a way to get in contact with Levi-heichou. And Hanji-san. Hanji-san has the serum or whatever. And heichou... we need to tell him and Erwin-danchou about all of this, especially if the Scouting Legion is going to be involved."
"You're worried about him, aren't you?" Mikasa asked suddenly, picking up on Eren's unspoken words.
"Of course I am," Eren said. "We have no clue what happened to him back there, and while I know he's humanity's strongest and he is bound to have survived it somehow... it would still be easier knowing."
"Do you miss him?" Mikasa asked.
"Well... it's nice not being insulted or made to clean things all the time," Eren said with a small smile. "But I really got used to having him around all the time. Didn't you?"
"Hm." Mikasa made a noncommittal noise and said no more. Eren narrowed his eyes.
"What's up with you?" he asked.
Mikasa raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"Is something upsetting you?" Eren asked, watching her carefully. "Sometimes, you seem a bit - different."
"No. Don't worry about it."
"Ah. Okay." Slowly, tentatively, he reached out, two of his fingers gliding over her knuckles and then curling around hers. Mikasa smiled to herself, feeling the heat rise in her cheeks, accompanied by the usual flutter in her heart that occurred whenever Eren would look at her or touch her in a certain way.
Their hands entwined, and Mikasa scooted a little closer to him.
"If something is bothering you, you can tell me, you know."
"Huh?" Mikasa blushed. She had almost forgotten what they had been talking about in the first place, she was so pleased to be holding hands with him again - they hadn't had much time for such things given all that had been going on. "Oh. Thanks, Eren."
He looked at her expectantly, but she didn't say anything, content to simply hold his hand and enjoy the rare and relatively private moment that had presented itself.
"We got dinner," Reiner announced, holding up a dead goose by the neck as he stepped into the hut, followed by Bertholdt, Annie and Christa, the former two also holding dead geese.
The quartet of Armin, Sasha, Connie and Jean, all of whom had been engrossed in conversation, immediately fell silent. At the other side of the hut, Mikasa lifted up her head - which had been resting on Eren's shoulder - and pulled her hand out of his grasp.
Reiner, Bertholdt and Annie didn't seem to have noticed, but Christa's bright blue eyes were wide as she stared at them, a smile pulling at her lips.
"Eren? Mikasa?" she asked, wonderment coloring her voice. "Are you guys - " She broke off at Eren's forceful glare, rubbing her head sheepishly. "Ah, never mind. Ymir hasn't gotten back yet?"
However, as the others stood up begrudgingly to help with getting dinner ready, Armin turned around and shot Eren and Mikasa a knowing look.
"He knows," Eren muttered under his breath. "He's been giving me weird looks for awhile."
"Armin? Of course he knows. You didn't want to hide it from him... did you?"
"No... but I kind of liked keeping it our secret, you know?"
Mikasa blushed at his words and Eren went on, grumbling. "Christa better keep her mouth shut though, it's none of her business anyways. The last thing I want is for Jean to - " he broke off then, and Mikasa looked at him quizzically.
"For Jean to what, Eren?"
Eren seemed to be struggling with his words. "You know - you must know that Jean - well - he - he likes you, right?" It took him a lot of effort to admit it out loud to her, and he glared at the back of Jean's head.
"I've known for awhile," Mikasa said softly. "It doesn't change anything though. It never did."
Eren's dark expression cleared at this. "Of course it doesn't," he said. "You're mine - I mean my - well, you're with me. We've always been together, in a way. Right?"
"Always," Mikasa affirmed.
"I just - don't want to rub it in, you know. To him. He's a prick at times and he looks like a horse and you're way too good for him and should never consider dating a horse-face like that - " Eren flushed while Mikasa giggled at his statements. "But he - he's a good guy. A really good guy. If he wasn't such a creep around you I would like a him a lot more though."
"What are you trying to say, Eren?"
"We need him on our side. After Armin, out of everyone here... Jean's probably the one we can trust the most."
"I understand," Mikasa said evenly, before quickly leaning in to drop a kiss on his cheek.
"Wha - what was that for?!" Eren yelped, flushing deeply.
"I felt like it," Mikasa said coolly.
"B-but - someone - someone could have seen!"
"They're all busy fussing over dinner." Mikasa stood up in one fluid motion, turning to leave.
"Where are you going?" Eren demanded, not at all pleased with the sudden lack of proximity. You're too far away. Come back.
"To help them," Mikasa replied, so blandly, that for a moment Eren would have thought that nothing had happened between them at all.
"You can't just - do something like that - and then go away - and then expect me to - " Eren spluttered, pouting slightly.
"What do you want me to do?" A hint of amusement colored her voice, though her face was that unfathomable mask again.
"Nothing," Eren grumbled, standing up, before mimicking her tone. "Let's go help them."
Dinner was a stiff affair, as everyone ate in silence. Armin kept sending knowing looks to Eren and Mikasa, causing Eren to blush, and no reaction from Mikasa whatsoever.
How does she do that? Eren grumbled to himself inwardly. What's her problem? It's annoying. She should have the decency to emote. Or blush. Or something. And Armin should stop being so annoying too, acting like he knows everything.
His mental ramblings were cut short by the arrival of Ymir.
"What's for dinner? Goose? Smells pretty good..." she moved to sit down next to Christa, but Eren managed to catch her eye, nodding at her.
Ymir raised an eyebrow as she walked over to him. "What?"
"Can we talk alone at some point tonight?" he asked.
"Sure. I'll show you around the village."
"That really isn't necessary just yet," Eren said hurriedly, not at all enthusiastic about the idea of walking around a village inhabited by Titans, even if his powers would ensure him no harm.
"You'll have to get accustomed to them eventually."
"I know." Eren ground his teeth. "Just not now. I actually wanted to talk to you about something else."
After dinner, the topic of sleeping arrangements came up. The hut, with it's limited space, could squeeze in only five mattresses, and there were eleven of them.
"The five girls can sleep in here," Ymir decided. "We have a few tents, so the rest of you will have to make do with that."
Objections arose immediately.
"I'm not leaving Mikasa alone with the three of you." Eren's glare was mainly directed at Annie.
"I would rather share a tent with Eren." Mikasa, of course, would say that.
"Why don't we split up the way we have been all this time?" Connie asked sourly. "Eren, Mikasa, Jean, Sasha and I can take the hut. And Armin too, I guess. Or we'll take the tents, you five can have the hut."
"Don't we need someone on guard duty?" Jean sounded suspicious.
"There's no need for guard duty because there's nobody here except for us and the Titans," Ymir stated. "And they can't get up here, it's physically impossible for them to climb that cliff. And I thought you guys had more manners, but clearly, if you're okay with taking a mattress and letting a lady sleep on the ground - "
"Some people here don't exactly fall under the category of 'ladies'." Eren said snidely, and Annie rolled her eyes.
"You still don't know how to talk to girls, do you?" she shot back, derision lacing her tone.
"You'd be surprised. I can when I want to, but why bother with someone like you?"
Annie's eyes flicked over to Mikasa for a moment and she snorted. "Of course."
"Look, how about we let Mikasa, Sasha, Eren, Jean and Connie have the hut tonight?" Armin suggested. "They're tired and they have a lot to think about, and it's clear we all don't trust each other yet, so there's no point pretending that we're all back together at training, where the girls and boys need to sleep in separate barracks. Things have changed, and Ymir, if sleeping in a tent bothers you, we can just switch places with them tomorrow night or something."
There were grumbles, but everyone agreed to Armin's plan.
"Well, at least this way I get a tent alone with you, cutie." Ymir winked at Christa, while Reiner made gagging motions and the rest of the group was a mix of slightly uncomfortable, marginally amused, or, as in the case of Mikasa and Annie, entirely apathetic.
Eren's mattress was on the right side of the hut, next to Mikasa's. He was secretly grateful to Sasha, who had immediately bounced onto the mattress on Mikasa's other side, claiming it as her own; Jean had been eyeing it, and Eren was not looking forward to spending a sleepless night fretting over what that horse-face would be doing on Mikasa's left.
Jean took the mattress next to Sasha, and Connie the one on the very left, next to the door, and they settled down quickly enough, pulling the thin, scratchy blankets around themselves.
There wasn't much conversation that night, as Connie - the most talkative of the lot - was unusually subdued, and even Sasha, sensing his rather grim mood, didn't joke around much. Once they were all asleep - Connie's snores the only sound punctuating the silence - Eren carefully slipped his hand out of Mikasa's and crept out of the hut.
Sure enough, Ymir was waiting for him near the edge of the forest.
"So what's up?" she asked.
Eren rummaged in his pocket, his fingers closing around the scroll. "I need you to read something for me."
Annie bolted upright, her eyes flying open. Sweat was streaming down her face, and her fists, she noticed, were clenched. She steadied her breathing, placing a palm over her pounding heart.
It was the same dream. The same terrified faces, the same pleading and screaming, and the same metallic taste of blood in her mouth as bones cracked between her teeth. Annie didn't remember the details of what had happened when she first transformed in the middle of her village, a new Titan with no control over her actions. During her controlled transformations, she didn't usually experience any painful flashbacks or recollections.
But it was during her dreams that the memories resurfaced, memories of the most painful sort that were best forgotten.
There's nothing you could have done, Annie told herself, again and again, trying to assuage the guilt that inevitably plagued her. She swallowed the bile that had risen in her throat. Only a select few could survive, the rest were doomed to die, or suffer a worse fate. Better them than you. You're a warrior. You have to fight. You will fight and avenge them and make your life, and their deaths, worth it all.
Her father's voice echoed in her head.
You're a warrior.
But the memory of her father was one that she could recollect clearly enough, even when awake, though it was always accompanied with a wave of pain. Careful not to wake the slumbering Armin, Annie slipped out of the tent, quiet as a shadow. She wasn't going to get any sleep for an hour or two at least, so she figured she may as well be productive and practice her hand-to-hand combat.
Annie practiced her forms and stances alone in the forest. The silhouettes of the hut and the tents were visible in the distance, and she didn't pay them much heed until her sharp eyes caught a movement behind the trees. Annie froze, narrowing her eyes and listening carefully.
There it was - a rustling sound, and the soft, muffled, but unmistakeable thump of feet on grass. Annie squinted, trying to see through the darkness. She couldn't be sure, but she thought she saw a shadow, a little too large to be human, creeping towards the hut...
Jean's eyes flew open immediately at the strained cry, and he leapt out of his mattress, scrabbling for the burnt out lantern and the matchbox. "Connie?!"
The small flame lit up the room with an eerie yellow light, making the moving shadows against the wall seem larger and more menacing. To Jean's horror, Connie was wrestling with a 3 meter class Titan. The creature had managed to sneak in via the door, undetected, and had its jaws currently clamped around Connie's leg in an attempt to eat him.
"Get away from him!" Sasha shrieked, hurling a pillow at the Titan, and Jean cursed their lack of weapons. Due to limited space and Ymir's assurance that they would be safe, they had stored their 3DMG and other weapons outside of the hut.
Stupid. Fucking stupid. We shouldn't have listened to her. We should have kept a fucking guard.
Connie managed to displace the Titan with a well-aimed punch, and Sasha continued attacking it with pillows. It wasn't a particularly tall creature; in fact, with it's knobby limbs, stringy hair and relatively proportional face, it looked disturbingly human, more so than any other Titan he had ever seen.
"Jean, weapons!" Mikasa cried, and Jean scrambled out of the hut, grabbing the shotgun they had stashed against the side of the hut, along with a couple of 3DMG blades. The actual 3DMG would be useless; the hut was too small. Fortunately, their attacker wasn't particularly large either, and Jean figured they would be able to bring it down easily enough.
Inside, Sasha and Connie were both struggling with the beast, as Mikasa looked on, frustrated at the fact that due to the condition of her arm, her ability to engage in hand-to-hand combat was severely limited.
"Catch!" Jean shouted, tossing the shotgun to Sasha, who caught it neatly and jumped backwards onto Mikasa's mattress, aiming at the beast.
"Sasha - help - " Connie choked, pushing the Titan's gaping jaw away with his foot. Sasha aimed the shotgun, trembling.
"What are you waiting for?!" Mikasa cried. "Shoot!"
Sasha hesitated, her eyes wide. "I - I can't - "
"B - but Mikasa - once - human - " Sasha seemed to be going hysterical, and Mikasa made to grab the shotgun from her with her good hand, but Sasha's grip was tight.
"Jean!" Mikasa's gaze pierced his from across the room and Jean's heart skipped a beat, in spite of himself and the situation that they were in. There was a hint of desperation in her eyes, expectation written on her face .
She's asking me. She's depending on me to do this.
It should have been a ridiculously easy kill. The Titan was occupied with Connie, and all Jean had to do was leap up and slash down, and it would all be over. And yet, when he made to move, he was overcome by a paralyzing dread, as one thought echoed incessantly in his mind.
Titans come from humans. Titans come from humans. They were once humans. You are about to kill a former human.
"I can't - " Jean gasped out, echoing Sasha, and his fingers went lax around the blade, which clattered to the floor.
Connie had finally managed to free himself of the Titan a second time, and head-butted it hard, sending it flying across the room, yet again.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
Hot blood splattered everywhere, and Jean looked up in shock. Mikasa had managed to wrench the shotgun from Sasha's grip, and was holding it in her good hand, her eyes narrowed in concentration. The Titan crumpled to the floor, amidst the pool of steaming blood; Mikasa had pretty much shot both of it's feet off, rendering it incapable of movement until it regenerated.
"Mikasa," Jean called weakly, but she ignored him, shoving a mouth-agape, quivering Sasha out of the way and marching towards the creature.
"Mikasa, wait." Connie struggled to his feet. "We can tie it up - "
Mikasa sent him a withering look, before glaring at Sasha and Jean as well. "This soft-heartedness is going to cost you your lives some day."
"It's only 3 meters, Mikasa!" Sasha wailed. "You've already incapacitated it, let's just - "
"It's a cruel world we live in," Mikasa said coldly, aiming her gun at the Titan's neck. "If you want to survive in it, there are sacrifices that you must be willing to make."
Mikasa jumped back in surprise as the bullet hit the shotgun she had been holding, forcing it out of her own hand. "What the - you?!"
Annie jumped down from the little window, gun out and still aimed at Mikasa.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" Jean shouted. "Aiming at Mikasa like that!"
Annie's voice was calm as her eyes flitted between the recovering Titan and Mikasa. "If I had been aiming at her, I would have hit her. I was only trying to disarm her."
"Annie, get out of my way," Mikasa said through gritted teeth, moving to pick up the fallen gun.
"Shoot and I'll shoot you," Annie countered.
"What the - are you crazy?!" Sasha yelped. "I don't want to kill it either, but you can't just threaten Mikasa!"
"Look out!" Connie yelled suddenly, when without warning, the Titan, now limbs fully healed, sprung forward like an oversized frog, jaws bared and dripping with saliva. Annie and Mikasa both managed to dodge its path and it landed flat on the mattress. Mikasa was on it within seconds, first delivering a blow to its neck with her good hand and then reaching for the gun.
"No!" Annie shrieked, suddenly launching herself at Mikasa and wrenching her off the Titan. "I won't let you!"
Mikasa let out a pained cry as she fell backwards onto her bad arm.
"Annie, what the fuck do you think you're doing?!" Jean yelled, scrambling over the mattresses towards Mikasa. The Titan had whirled around and was advancing on Mikasa again, and Jean kicked it hard before picking up the blade a second time, steeling his resolve.
This time, I have to. I can't hesitate.
"Don't touch her!" Annie screamed, barreling forwards and knocking him out of the way before he could do anything, and Jean struggled with her on the floor. Annie's normally cold eyes were glazed, a wild expression on her face.
"Annie, what the fuck has gotten into you?"
"I won't let you touch her!"
"Move, you fucking bitch - "
"Do you hear that?" Ymir froze suddenly, putting a hand out.
"Do I hear wha - what is that?" Eren panicked immediately at the distant sound of thumps and cries. "It's coming from the hut!"
"Let's go!" Ymir shouted, and he didn't need telling twice as they raced towards the hut.
Eren and Ymir burst into the hut, Christa, Armin, Reiner and Bertholdt trailing behind them - they had all been awoken by the clamor and had rushed over to see what was wrong.
It was a small space, but there was so much commotion going on - Jean and Annie were wrestling on the floor, Jean shouting out expletives, and Annie's face an unusual mix of desperation and fear. Sasha and Connie were scrambling towards Mikasa, who was lying on the floor, cradling her plastered hand and attempting to fend off an advancing 3 meter Titan. The Titan suddenly jerked sideways, dodging Mikasa's kick and rolled over, jutting its neck out in an attempt to bite at her side.
Eren sprang forwards immediately, the single command of get the fuck away from her ringing through his mind, but he had barely processed what was happening when suddenly, there was a crash and a part of the ceiling split open, raining chunks of wood and debris on all of them, followed by a blur of blades, faster than lightening.
Before anyone could process what was happening, a chunk of the Titan's neck flew across the little hut, followed by a cleanly severed Titan head. Both splattered against the wall, leaving a trail of evaporating flesh and blood as they slid down with a squelch.
"Tch. Gross," a familiar voice muttered, as the cloaked soldier landed neatly on the mattress and picked up a blanket to wipe his steaming blade.
Eren felt a sudden surge of relief bubbling in his chest, and the others stared on, identical expressions of shock crossing their faces - except for Annie, who had suddenly let out an utterly anguished cry.
"Are you alright?" The man ignored them all in favor of crouching down next to Mikasa, who had managed to pull herself up into a sitting position, as she leaned heavily against the wall, cradling her injured arm.
Her dark eyes were swirling with unreadable emotion as she met his gaze, her voice stiff. "What are you doing here?"
"Saving your sorry ass from that midget of a Titan," Levi drawled, before standing up and swiveling to face the rest of them. "You are the most disgraceful, ill-equipped and utterly incompetent band of morons I have ever had the misfortunate of having assigned to my squad. Plus, who in fuck's name cleaned this place last? It's fucking disgusting."
A/N: Kudos to the people who called that Reiner stabbing Eren was what made him go crazy. I'm sorry I don't remember your names right now (it's like 4 am and I need to sleep) but I remember there were 1 or 2 who guessed it! Good job!
Hope that answered a lot of questions. I wonder how much of this will match up to what the manga reveals... I know my explanation was - sensitive - and definitely could spark a lot of debate and controversy. I explored some of this in all the arguments Jean and the rest were having with Ymir, but I guess you can go on about this kind of topic. If something didn't make sense to you and you want a clarification, or if you just wanna chat, do PM me. I've been so bad at replying to PMs lately but I will start replying to them all asap! Promise I'm not ignoring any of you, I do love reading your messages!
Also I know I spell Bert's name weirdly. Hope it doesn't bother anyone! I'm really too lazy to go back and change it everywhere...
Next chapter update won't take as long as this one, I promise. I've already started writing it, and have the plot planned out (with some additions due to recent manga chapter updates). I admit that I've been extremely distracted by Free! Eternal Summer, but I won't let that slow me down!
Please review! I'm not trying to be greedy but if I could cross 600 reviews with this chapter I'd be super super happy, hee hee. There was a bit of ErenMika in this one, not much - too much other stuff had to be dealt with. There'll be more in the next chapter though, I promise!