Disclaimer: I don't own Shingeki no Kyojin
A/N: I crossed my goal of 600 reviews! You guys are fantastic, I'm so happy, thank you!
From hereon, Christa will be referred to as Historia. Other than that, I know some of the spellings (such as Hanji) are different from the official English spellings, but as someone who reads the Japanese manga, I hope you're okay with my decision to stick to the more Japanese spellings, and usage of words such as 'heichou' even though the setting here isn't actually Japanese. It's just a personal choice.
Please actually read the Author's Notes at the end of this chapter because they are quite important.
Spoiler alert: contains spoilers up till chapter 59 of the SnK manga.
Chapter 12: Solution
"Levi, was it really necessary to tear the roof apart?" Another man, golden-haired and cloaked in green, dropped through the hole Levi had created in the roof, looking exasperated.
"Absolutely necessary," Levi said darkly. "That scrawny little fucker was about to take a bite out of Mikasa and the last thing she needs is more injuries to worry about."
"Erwin-danchou!" Armin cried immediately, saluting the new arrival, and Eren, Connie, Jean and Sasha quickly followed suit, Mikasa struggling slightly as she used her good hand to lift her damaged arm.
"Are you hurt?" Eren rushed towards her, dropping down to have a look at her arm. "How the hell did that even happen?! It was just one Titan, right?"
"Blame her," Jean said acerbically, shoving Annie off of him. The petite blonde looked unusually distraught, her blue eyes wide open. She didn't say a word.
"I'll tell you how it happened," Levi seethed. "One little Titan snuck in and this group of imbeciles could do nothing but flail and screech like toddlers. And you're supposed to be my new Special Ops Squad. Tch. You're a disgrace to your predecessors. That display right now was worse than fucking training camp rejects. What the hell were you thinking?"
"But they're humans!" Sasha wailed. "It's harder to strike them now that we know they're humans!"
"And what's Mikasa then, a fucking potato? Your refusal to kill one stinking Titan could have very well killed her!"
Sasha's eyes grew wide, a horrified expression taking her face. She fell to Mikasa's side, sobbing. "Mikasa! I'm so sorry! I'm so so sorry! I'm terrible! I swear I'll do better next time! I'm so sorry!"
"It's fine," Mikasa mumbled, patting a sniveling Sasha on her head, as Levi next rounded on Jean.
"And you! Kirschtein! What the fuck were you doing rolling around on the floor with that bitch?"
Jean straightened up, looking mortified. "I – I'm sorry sir! Mikasa – I – "
"And Jaeger!" Levi barked, marching up to Eren, who shrunk back, intimidated. "I thought I told you to take care of her?"
"I – I wasn't there, sir – "
"Why the fuck weren't you?"
"I was speaking to Ymir outside –"
"And you thought it was safe to leave her with these retards? Get your head out of your ass, Eren!"
"I'm sorry, I –"
"Levi, give them a break," a female voice said, as yet another person squeezed into the room, opting to clamber through the window to make her entry. "Quite a little party we're having in this place, aren't we? It's a bit cramped though."
"Shut up, Hanji." Levi scowled at her, before turning back to his group of sorry looking soldiers. "And who the fuck was on guard duty?"
"Nobody," Eren replied meekly, before turning to Ymir accusingly. "You told us we didn't need guards!"
"I swear, I have no idea how she got up here!" Ymir defended, looking genuinely shocked. "It's never happened before!"
"And you listened to her. Good job, idiots. I can't believe you." Levi raked a hand through his hair, looking utterly frustrated.
"Let him rant a bit," Hanji advised the others cheerily. "He's been worried sick. This is his way of showing affection."
Levi turned to Mikasa and began interrogating her about the extent of her injuries.
"It's not much," Mikasa muttered. "I'm fine."
Levi, Hanji and Erwin were updated on the situation by Armin and Ymir, after which a grim-faced Erwin announced that though he hadn't decided whether or not the Scouting Legion would support or partake in Ymir's scheme, the three of them, at least, were prepared to stay around for a couple of weeks to assess the situation and plan out their strategy.
There were no more attempts to sleep that night.
Levi had eventually calmed down, and Jean, Sasha and Connie apologized profusely to Mikasa. Mikasa's arm was battered up, and Hanji said it would take a week or two longer to heal fully, but other than that she had escaped the encounter with just scratches. Annie's behavior was the strangest; she had quickly reverted back to her cold, emotionless self, though Eren noticed that her gaze was colder than before and surprisingly venomous when directed at Levi.
Ymir had apologized as well. "I really didn't expect one of them would learn how to climb. I guess it's because she was smaller and more nimble than the rest. I'm still shocked she managed. They're getting smarter. We'll have to start keeping guards and being more careful."
"Do you think any of the others are a threat?" Armin asked.
"I shouldn't think so. I also commanded all of them never to try climbing the cliff ever again and threatened them with dire consequences if they did. They seemed to listen. Except the abnormals. You can never be sure about the abnormals. It's impossible to communicate with them."
"Where do the abnormals come from?" Armin asked.
"It's the same as with humans," Ymir said. "Some people are mentally unstable or suffer from diseases which affect mental capacity. When those people turn into Titans, you get abnormals."
"Are you sure you're feeling okay?"
Mikasa looked slightly amused. "For the fifth time, I'm fine Eren, you really don't need to worry about me so much."
Eren ran a hand through his hair, blushing. "You're one to talk about worrying too much."
"Could Ymir read the letter?"
"Um… are you sure you want to talk about that now?" Eren gestured at the crowded little cabin, and Mikasa nodded, standing up. "Let's go for a walk."
Once they were outside, far enough to not be overheard, Mikasa looked at Eren expectantly.
"The letter. Yeah." Eren took a deep breath. "She could read it."
(a few hours ago)
"How do you have this?" Ymir's eyes grew wide.
"Can you read it?" Eren asked, as Ymir's eyes scanned over the contents.
"Of course I can, but it's an ancient script that should have never made it inside the walls - "
"What does it say?!"
"- and this is the research, his research, and how on earth did you - oh…"
Ymir trailed off, her eyes meeting Eren's. There was a long silence as the female shifter came to terms with the realization. Then -
"You look nothing like him!" she blurted out. "Or at least - what I remember of him - "
"I take after my mother," Eren said, and there was another awkward silence.
"I - I'm sorry," Ymir said after a moment.
"About what?" Eren asked bitterly. "The fact that I ate the savior of humanity and the one man who could have found a cure for this mess?"
"He - he passed his abilities onto you, didn't he?"
"Not his brains, just his shifter powers."
"But - "
"Besides, he injected me. I still don't know with what, but it was all around the same time."
"It's all - it's all given here. Your father - he managed to replicate the serum that turns people into Titans in the first place."
"The three tubes… where are they?!"
"Hanji-san has them."
"What?! Eren why would you give them to her?!"
"She's conducting experiments with them! We didn't know anyone who could read the script - "
"Eren, if she injects anyone with what's in those tubes, the consequences would be disastrous!"
She wouldn't do that, Eren wanted to say, but he swallowed his words, along with the growing lump in his throat. Knowing Hanji, there was a high chance that she would do exactly that.
"So I think my father injected me with that," he said after awhile. "I think that's how he deliberately turned me into a Titan. And I think - I think he meant for me to - well I had to gain shifter abilities somehow…"
"How do you know that?" Ymir asked sharply, though Eren immediately gaged what her actual question was. How do you know that the possible saviour of humanity meant to have himself eaten by you?
"I don't. I just - it's just a thought." Eren refused to meet Ymir's questioning gaze. "Maybe I - I just want to believe that he meant all of this to happen, even if - "
"There's no point getting into that now," Ymir said brusquely, cutting him off. "The test tubes. We need to get them back somehow."
"What's in them exactly?"
"The Titan solution. Whatever it is that turns people into Titans - all three parts of it. If we had it we could use it to develop an antidote."
"What do you mean all three parts of it?" Eren asked.
"This letter - it isn't actually a letter. It's a formula. It's the formula and procedure for making all the individual parts of the serum," Ymir said. "If we could replicate it…"
"What parts?" Eren repeated. "I don't follow you."
"According to this, there are three components to the Titan solution, as we'll call it. One component is listed here as 'Strength'. The Strength solution, if injected into the blood, will bestow the one who is injected with a temporary boost of power, speed and agility," Ymir translated, running a finger along the strange runes, before pausing. "That's probably why Titans are able to do things like break buildings even though their actual mass is the same as a human."
"Go on," Eren urged.
"The second component is for regeneration. If injected into the bloodstream, it will induce cell multiplication and the capability for a user to heal any part of the body, and even regenerate bones, muscles, skin and entire limbs."
Eren's eyes flew open. "Just regeneration?! We can use that on Mikasa's hand - "
"Not so fast," Ymir cut him off. "It says here - Strength and Regeneration were both tested on small mice, and seemed to work effectively enough, granting temporary boosts of speed, power and healing capabilities respectively. Indeed, it would seem that the combination of the two would turn a user into the perfect soldier, the perfect weapon; one who never tires, and is capable of self-healing to the extent that any injury can be overcome - however - when injected into the bloodstream of humans, it seems to trigger some sort of mutancy. Perhaps it is because of incompatibility with human blood, because individually, each component works seems to work well enough, at least temporarily. But when mixed together, they have a terrifying effect, turning any injected human into a - "
"Titan," Eren finished. "But if they work well enough temporarily, we could still use the regeneration part of the solution to fix Mikasa's hand!"
"It - it doesn't really have details here about whether that's been tested on humans," Ymir said doubtfully.
"It says each component works well enough individually," Eren said. "That's all that we need!"
"Do you really want to risk it though?" Ymir asked him. "Anyways, we'll come back to that later. So it looks like your father essentially managed to replicate whatever it is thats turning people into Titans."
"What was in the third tube then?" Eren asked. "If not an antidote…"
"It says here, contained in the third tube is the component for… enlargement?" Ymir looked confused for a moment, before it dawned on her. "Of course. The Colossal Titans. They must be using a different formula for them, one which contains not two, but all three of the components."
"What do we do now?" Eren asked.
"Isn't it obvious?" Ymir rounded on him. "We need to figure out a way to get those test tubes back, Eren! They're our only chance at developing an antidote, and they could be lethal in the wrong hands!"
"Who is even capable of developing an antidote here?" Eren fired at her.
"I - I don't know at the moment, but I'm sure the Ape Titan will have some answers."
"Where is he and when is he coming back?"
"I don't know. We don't actually have any means of contacting him. Let's start heading back?"
"Yeah. I still think there's a chance of using that regeneration solution on Mikasa."
"You'll need to get it first before you start thinking about that."
"Well, Hanji-san is most likely at the headquarters. I think Levi-heichou would be there too."
"We're not sending you lookingfor them, it's too dangerous."
"Didn't you say you wantedthe Scouting Legion on your side."
"I did but - wait."
"Did you hear that?" Ymir froze suddenly, putting a hand out.
"That's when we ran to the hut and, well…" Eren trailed off, and Mikasa, who had been perfectly silent as he recounted everything to her, finally spoke in a soft voice. "Hanji-san is here now. She'll surely have carried the solution with her, right?"
"I hope so," Eren said, his eyes locking with Mikasa's as he reached out to run his fingertips over her bandaged hand. "Mikasa… about your hand…"
"Eren, don't worry about that," Mikasa said quickly. "There's only one tube of the solution, don't waste it on me. The priority is to see if an antidote can be developed."
"What's wrong with you?!" Eren's eyes flashed. "Don't be ridiculous, Mikasa, the formula is written on that piece of paper, I'm sure Hanji-san can figure out how to make it - "
"Do you really think it's worth that risk?"
"What if she can't figure out how to replicate it correctly? What if there's an error in the formula?"
"There's no error in the formula, and Hanji's crazy, but she's good at this kind of stuff!"
"Eren, if an antidote can be made…" Mikasa trailed off, her eyes glistening. "I - I want to, Eren. I hate being so crippled, so helpless - "
'Mikasa…" Eren murmured sadly, placing his arms around her shoulders and pulling her towards him.
"- and I'd usually jump at the opportunity to improve myself so that I can protect you - " Eren sighed at this, but said nothing, merely resting his forehead against hers, letting her continue. "- but - looking at what everyone has been through, the number of people who have died for all of this… including your parents… it wouldn't be right…"
Eren raised a hand to stroke her hair, before mumbling. "I know. You're right. I - I just - " he broke off, choking up slightly. "I just wanted to fix things."
Mikasa's gaze was unspeakably tender as she leaned in to plant a soft, chaste kiss on the corner of his mouth. "You already have, Eren." She began to pull away, but Eren's grip on the back of her head was firm. He leaned in, slanting his lips over hers, and she melted into his mouth. Eren's hands moved down, skittering over her lower back, until he looped his arms loosely around her waist. They pulled apart after several soft kisses, noses still brushing, both refusing to meet the others eye. Then -
"I've been wanting to do that again for a while." Eren's voice was coy, rather shy, and his cheeks were flushed.
"It's been really hard to get time alone here hasn't it," Mikasa murmured.
"Mm." Eren leaned in to steal one more kiss, before moving away, his expression growing serious. "Even if we can't do it know, at least we know there's a way. To repair your hand, I mean. In the future."
Eren's eyes were bright. "I'll take over my dad's lab in the basement and make it myself if I have to," he declared. "But I promise, Mikasa. I'll find a way."
"Sorry to interrupt your honeymoon, but I'll need to steal Mikasa from you for a few hours," Levi said bluntly, striding towards them. Eren spluttered, retracting his arms as if stung, and jumped a few feet back, though Mikasa remained calm, her eyes narrowing. "What do you want?"
"I see you've forgotten your manners again. Would you like me to teach you?"
"Get to the point."
Eren wondered why Mikasa was acting colder and ruder to him than usual – and how Levi was letting her get away it; had he been the one using such a tone, Levi would have had him scrubbing toilets for a week. But Eren had begrudgingly come to accept that Mikasa got a certain level of special treatment from Levi, though he wasn't sure why.
Maybe he sees himself in her. Or maybe she reminds him of someone? Petra? No… that would be really weird…
"Actually, I have a present for you." Eren and Mikasa both looked surprised at this announcement.
"Stop glaring at me like that," Levi chastised her. "I think you'll actually find it to your liking. Come walk with me."
"I'm coming too," Eren said immediately, as Mikasa stood up, albeit unwillingly.
"No you're not. Hanji needs you, actually. She wants to discuss the results of her latest experiment with you."
"What?" Eren blanched. "I'd really rather not –"
"She was really excited." Levi smirked at him, revelling all too much in Eren's trepidation – conversations with Hanji about experiments could be quite – taxing, to say the very least. "Sorry." He didn't look sorry at all.
"I'll see you later, Eren," Mikasa told him.
Eren watched their retreating backs, and swallowed hard, trying to calm the unease in his stomach. He tried not to let it bother him, but sometimes, Levi's blatant favoritism towards Mikasa was unsettling to say the very least. Eren had never thought of himself to be the possessive it was obvious that underneath all the bickering and occasional outward animosity (the latter mostly on Mikasa's part), Levi and Mikasa shared some kind of bond, some kind of mutual camaraderie; one which he didn't share with either of them, despite having known them both for longer. Eren had noticed it ever since their joint mission to Shiganshina, and though a part of him felt slightly left out, he knew that wasn't the real reason that he'd develop an uncomfortable, churning feeling in his gut every now and then when Levi displayed particular interest or attachment towards Mikasa.
Eren refused to admit that he was jealous, not to himself, and certainly not to Mikasa. He hadn't ever bought it up with Mikasa, and he wouldn't, because his doubts sounded ridiculous, even in his head. Eren didn't know why he felt this way, and he hated it. He had, after all, admired and looked up to Levi for years. And Mikasa was his wasn't she? They had finally expressed their feelings for one another, so he shouldn't have anything to be afraid of. Besides, Levi and Mikasa's mutual amity was a preferable state of affairs to the earlier days, when Mikasa's pronounced animosity had made things rather tense.
Though she had seemed rather upset with Levi lately, and it bothered Eren that he had no idea what was going on. Eren didn't even want to entertain the notion of Levi possibly having special feelings for Mikasa. Was it even possible?! How much older was Levi to them? Levi wasn't anything like that pesky Jean, and yet, for some reason, Eren felt more threatened by him, though he wasn't sure if he even had reason to feel threatened at all. Eren wasn't the most perceptive person in the world, but ever since Mikasa had been injured, he had been getting weird vibes from Levi. Yes, Levi was overprotective of Mikasa, and at first Eren was glad, since Levi had protected her when he had failed, Levi would protect her in the future as well. But a part of it still nagged at Eren, and he couldn't help but wonder why Levi had chosen to grow so attached to Mikasa. There was something else there, Eren was sure of it, but if he pondered over it too much, it would make him sick to the stomach.
Eren was so caught up in his interior musings that he hadn't even noticed Hanji standing in front of him, waving brightly.
"Eren!" she greeted. "Just the Titan-shifter I was looking for."
"Ah! Hanji-san. Um - heichou said you wanted to talk to me about something?"
"I did, actually! I was checking out the - test tubes - you gave me awhile ago. And I must say, I have some downright wall-breaking results."
Eren flinched slightly at the description - a bit distasteful, he thought - but nodded, following Hanji to the private tent that had been erected for her, a little away from the others.
"Ymir read the letter to me, so I guess I should tell you about that too."
"Did she now?! Excellent! I can confirm my findings then."
"What did you find out?"
"Where are we going?" Mikasa asked curtly, as she followed Levi through the forest.
Levi threw her a glance over his shoulder. "I'm training you."
Mikasa stopped in her tracks, staring at him. "Are you really – "
"Why? Erwin-danchou said I have to rest – "
"I can see it's bothering you. If you don't have an outlet for all that pent-up frustration, you'll explode."
"But how? My hand, and my wrist too right now – I can't – "
"You'll see. I told you I got you a present, didn't I?"
"Connie. I want to talk to you."
Connie nearly dropped the chicken leg he was munching on, eyes growing wide. "Sorry, what did you say?"
"I want to talk to you." Annie's voice was as flat as her expression, her icy blue gaze off to the side.
"You - you've never wanted to talk to me before," Connie said, looking rather suspicious. "Ever. Not even when we were trainees."
"Well I want to talk to you now. Alone."
"Like hell we'll let you be alone with him after what you tried doing to Mikasa," Jean snapped. "Say whatever you want to say here."
"Jean," Armin said warningly, placing a placating hand on Jean's arm. Annie was silent, not responding at all to Jean's jibe. "Connie… maybe you should talk to her," Armin suggested.
"Okay." Connie stood up, looking unsure, but eventually followed Annie out of the hut.
"What do you think she wanted?" Sasha asked, staring after them.
"I don't know either," Armin said, as Jean and Sasha both turned at him expectantly.
"Why'd you let him go with her then?" Jean demanded. "She'll probably try to kill him or something! Let's go after them!"
"No, no, Jean, she's not like that."
"How do you know her so well? Did you see what happened to Mikasa, because of her?"
"I - I don't know her that well," Armin admitted. "But - I just have a feeling that she's not all that bad, you know."
"You're just saying that because she spared you once, Armin - "
"Look, she's not going to try and kill him, Jean - "
"Do you think she's going to - seduce him?!"
"That's definitely not it, Sasha…"
"Are you going to kill me?!"
"If I wanted you dead, you wouldn't be here right now," Annie deadpanned. Connie gulped, and she sighed. "Besides, how would that serve any purpose to me at all?"
"How the hell do I know? I don't know what you're freaking purposes are, you were ready to let Mikasa be eaten just a while back!"
"I didn't want her eaten, I just didn't want her to - kill that Titan. You should understand. It's not like you were able to do any better."
"I know I fucked up, we all did, but you deliberately shot at Mikasa - "
"Once again, I have impeccable aim. I did not shoot to injure her, I only shot to disarm her."
"It was still risky! You took that risk to save a Titan - and while I agree they are former humans, Mikasa's human too and -"
"I can't believe you are lecturing me about this," Annie snapped suddenly, losing her usual cool. "I thought that you, of all people, might understand."
"Understand - what?"
"How do you weight the lives of Titans against the lives of humans, Connie?" Annie asked. "What would you have done, were you in my place?"
"I - I wouldn't have endangered one of my friends, that's for sure."
"Well Mikasa isn't quite what I'd call a friend. In case you haven't noticed, I'm not particularly fond of her, and vice-versa."
"Still, the bullet could have hit her hand - "
"And injured her, not killed her."
"But she was one of your former squad members - "
"So in my place you wouldn't have done what I did, Connie?"
"Of course not! Why are we even having this argument - "
"You would have saved your former squad member?"
"I wouldn't have deliberately endangered her is for sure - "
"Even if the Titan was your former mother?"
Connie froze, his blood going cold at Annie's words. "Wha - what - "
"Your mother turned into a Titan too, didn't she Connie? What would you have done if that had been your mother's Titan form attacking, say - Bertholdt or Reiner? Or even someone closer, like Armin? Or Jean? Or Sasha? What would you have done?"
"I - I - " Connie's mouth went dry, and he stared at Annie, gaping. There was a terse silence, and Annie said nothing, though her usually cold eyes were blazing.
"Was - was that Titan your mother, Annie?" Connie asked after a long time, his voice barely a whisper.
"Her face was warped, but I could still see her in it," Annie said quietly.
"Did you ever - did you ever try - talking to her?"
"I did. Multiple times. She didn't recognize me even once. Tried to eat me twice, and I barely got away by 3DMG."
"Does - does Ymir know you tried?"
"Yes. That's why she refused to let you."
"Oh." Connie stared at the ground for a few long moments. "I - I'm really sorry Annie."
"Don't be." Annie crossed her arms. "I loved my mother, but I loved myself more. I wasn't ready to get eaten."
"You - that - that doesn't even have to be - that shouldn't be the way out," Connie gasped.
"Don't tell me you haven't considered it. Didn't you say that there were shifters here who could transfer their powers?"
"I - I didn't mean it."
"Don't lie. You meant it."
"...are you okay? Stupid question, sorry."
"I've had a while to accept that this would happen eventually. Besides, going by what Ymir said… it's probably better for her being dead than being trapped in a Titan's body for who knows how long."
Connie fidgeted for a few moments, unsure of what to say. "Is this what you called me out here to talk about?" he finally asked.
"There's more, actually," Annie said.
"I want to help you find your mother."
Connie looked dumbstruck. "You - you what?"
"Do you have some hearing impairment?" Annie sounded slightly impatient.
"No - no - I heard you, but - " Connie stared at her, amazed. "Ymir forbade it, didn't she?"
"Ymir doesn't need to know."
"But would it work? You said you tried, and - and nothing."
"I did try, and that was the case with me," Annie replied. "It'll probably be the case with you too. But does that mean you still don't want to try?"
Connie swallowed, tears pricking at his eyes. "I had really - I had really begun to give up, you know?"
"Then you're a lot weaker than I thought you were," Annie informed him disdainfully.
"Do you think - do you think anything will come out of it?" Connie looked at her hopefully.
Connie's face fell. "Ah. Okay. But still - why would you agree to help?"
Annie shrugged. "I know this place better than you do, and I can always transform if there's danger. You won't manage finding her without me."
"I guess what I meant to ask is," Connie cleared his throat, scratching his head a bit awkwardly. "Why would you want to help? As far as I know, you and I aren't really close at all, we never were."
Annie stared at him for a long moment, narrowing her eyes. "Do you want my help or not?"
"Of course I do, Annie! And I can't thank you enough - "
"Don't thank me, it's likely to be a failed mission."
"I just can't help but wonder why you would go out of the way to do this for me - "
"It's nothing to do with you," Annie cut him off sharply.
Annie lifted a hand, adjusting a lock of blond hair that had fallen over her eyes. "Atonement," she finally answered, before turning around and walking away without another word.
"Well, that matches with my test results perfectly," Hanji said, nodding vigorously after Eren had explained the contents of the letter to her. She ran a finger almost lovingly over each of the test tubes, before picking one up and shaking it slightly, so that the contents swirled around. "Three test tubes, three different solutions. Strength, regeneration and enlargement. It's ingenious."
"Ingenious?" Eren asked incredulously. "They cause a mutation in human cells!" Of course, leave it to Hanji to consider anything associated with the Titans was ingenious.
"But Eren, don't you get it!" Hanji asked excitedly, grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him. "Strength. Regeneration. The Titan issue is just a rather fortuna - erm, I meant unfortunate side-effect - but don't you get what they were clearly trying to aim for in the first place?" Eren stared at her blankly, and Hanji looked like she was going to combust. "Perfect soldiers!"
"Perfect soldiers!" Hanji repeated reverently. "Think about it. Soldiers who are blessed with extra speed and stamina, thus tiring less frequently than normal soldiers, and ten times as deadly. Plus they would have regenerative powers so it would be near impossible to kill them! Ideal weapons of mass destruction! Think of having an entire army of Levis and Mikasas, except for with self-healing capabilities."
Eren scowled at the metaphor, but pressed on quickly before Hanji could continue her ebullient recital about the marvels of perfect soldiers. "We already knew why the damn thing was invented - or at least we guessed - but that's not relevant here anymore! There are no perfect soldiers, there are only Titans! Do you think you could develop an antidote?"
"I've been trying, Eren," Hanji said, frowning. "Unfortunately, in that aspect, I'm nowhere close to as gifted as your father was."
"Ah. Do you think you could maybe - replicate the solutions based on the formula?"
"I could, possibly, but again, no guarantees. Besides, I would need to go back to my lab, I haven't actually bought many of my supplies here."
"Ah. Okay." Eren tried not to sound too disappointed.
"Eren, even if I could replicate the formula, it won't be possible to inject Mikasa with it," Hanji said, cottoning on.
"What?! Why not?"
"That's actually related to the other discovery I made," Hanji said. "You remember when I took your blood tests, a long time ago?"
"Yes." Eren stared at her, bemused.
"I was always a bit curious about how Mikasa was so strong. I mean yes, she's a natural fighter, just like Levi. There's something that the two of them possess which makes them so athletic and gives them more speed and agility than most. It's probably genetic."
"Genetic?" Eren scrunched his face. "How does that have anything to do with - "
"But even if you discount for her higher than average speed, strength, stamina and agility, it still doesn't add up," Hanji rambled on. "Mikasa is fantastically fit, yes, and her body is toned and muscled. I've seen it myself." Eren flushed, trying not to think of Mikasa's aforementioned toned and undoubtedly fantastic body. "But Levi said that during training she was able to physically overpower even him a couple of times. And given that he's a lot more built up and ripped than she is, it didn't make any sense at the time."
"Maybe he went easy on her?"
"Levi doesn't have to go easy on Mikasa, Eren. Why do you think he enjoys training her so much?"
"What exactly are you getting at, Hanji-san?"
"Mikasa has definitely been gifted with more athletic capabilities than most, but given her size and build, she still possesses and overwhelming and exaggerated strength which isn't physically possible. Even after sustaining injuries, she is able to fight to a degree that most people should not be able to - not even stubborn midgets like Levi. It's unnatural. He told me that she picked up his 3DMG maneuvers faster than he developed them himself."
"Well if he was training her privately - " Eren began, but Hanji was quick to cut him off, yet again.
"Even though I don't doubt Levi's an amazing teacher, if you ignore his general prissy attitude, his techniques are ridiculous, and Mikasa shouldn't have been able to execute them so perfectly, so quickly."
"I know that Mikasa's better than - most of us, Hanji-san. But how is this relevant to using the regeneration solution on her hand?"
"I checked Mikasa's blood," Hanji clarified. "It seems to contain a component which is nearly identical to the 'strength' solution which your father formulated."
Eren was floored by her statement. "How - how - "
"I checked with Levi about it. He's had dealings with - people of her kind, in his past."
"You know she's the last survivor of an ancient race that we call the Orientals, right?"
"Apparently, some Oriental tribes used to make it a practice to inject themselves, and their children, from a very young age. They would inject themselves with a secret solution… the solution of super strength."
"So you think Mikasa was injected?"
"I don't think Mikasa was injected directly. Her blood seems to contain a dilute form of the solution."
"She's only half. Her father wasn't - "
"That could explain a part of it. But it's also possible that she wasn't injected directly at all. The practice has been occurring for generations, so it's entirely likely that the Orientals' blood eventually adapted to the solution, or that it was passed onto her genetically. That's probably why its effects don't seem as intense on her as one would expect, though that could also be attributed to her pre-existing natural skill."
"So…" Eren took a deep breath, trying to process it all. "You're saying that Mikasa's blood has some of the same stuff that turns people into Titans?"
"Yes, that's basically what I'm saying," Hanji nodded. "Wonderful, isn't it? I hope you're not repulsed by it, Eren, poor girl doesn't have a clue - "
"I'm not repulsed by it!" Eren almost shouted, stunned that Hanji would even think of such a thing. "Why would I be repulsed by it?! I'm a Titan myself!"
"Looks like you and Mikasa have more in common than you think," Hanji said, winking at him, and Eren shuddered. Though it wasn't the same as being blood-related, he didn't want to think about the topic of sharing blood or blood components or anything biological with Mikasa. God knows she had harboured some kind of brother-complex about him for long enough, and he had only recently managed to drill it into her head that he was not, in any way, blood-related to her. Not that one component counted, right? All human beings shared certain components of blood with one another, that's what made them humans!
"I guess you understand why injecting Mikasa with the regeneration solution would be… problematic," Hanji added delicately, jolting Eren out of his train of thought. Eren's stomach plummeted as the implications hit him. Mikasa already had the strength component in her blood, and mixing it with the regeneration component could very likely have the same effect of injecting her with both of them directly.
"As impressive of a specimen as she may make," Hanji began, but Eren shook his head violently, feeling sick.
"No way. No."
The last thing he wanted was for Mikasa to turn into a Titan.
Mikasa slumped to the ground, sweating, and utterly exhausted. Levi leapt down from the tree he was crouching on and was by her side in no time. "Are you alright?"
"Take some rest."
"I can go again - "
"Take some rest first," Levi ordered, before flopping down on the ground next to her. "Erwin will give me hell if he sees you looking so dead. We'll go back in a bit. I'm sure Eren misses you."
He glanced over at her out of the corner of his eyes, noticing the barely-there blush under the moonlight. It was already that dark; they had been training for hours, and Levi was pleasantly surprised by Mikasa's progress. Of course, he had expected it of her. They shared blood, after all.
Maybe I should tell her, Levi thought. Now seems as good of a time as any. A part of him wanted to tell her. He wasn't about to blurt it out while he trained her, and risk having his head blown off enough to dissuade him. But now, they were alone, sitting under the stars, and nobody would disturb them, at least for awhile.
Mikasa spoke before he got a chance to though, surprising him. "Did you ever - love anyone, heichou?"
Levi narrowed his eyes, staring at her for a moment. "Deja vu," he said finally. "Yes. We've had this conversation before."
Mikasa stared at him steadily. "Answer my question. Have you ever loved anyone?"
"Do I look like a love counsellor here? Don't tell me you want advice on that brat, Mikasa. If he's not caught on by now, give up already. You deserve someone smarter."
"This isn't about me. I'm asking about you."
"Oh? And when since when have you been interested in my personal affairs?"
"I just - " Mikasa hesitated. "I realized that we don't really know you. That well."
"So now you want to become chummy with me?" Levi raised an eyebrow. "That's unlike you, Mikasa."
"I - I considered you - in Shiganshina before, since then I - "
Levi watched with amusement as Mikasa struggled with her words, though a part of him warmed up at what he knew she was trying to say. "You don't have to say it," he told her. "I get it. I knew you'd warmed up to me. Don't get too attached though. It'll never do anyone any good."
"I'll do my best sir," Mikasa muttered. "Now answer my question."
"Are you referring to romantic love?"
"No. Any kind of love. Did you love your parents?"
"My parents..." Levi crossed his arms behind his head, leaning back. "I didn't really have a typical relationship with my parents, you know."
"What do you mean?"
"My father was - why the hell am I even telling you this?"
"I'm listening," Mikasa said, taking a step forward.
"You probably guessed from all the rumors floating around. Rumors that during my youth, I was involved in a gang of sorts."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Mikasa lied, without skipping a beat.
"You're an excellent liar but you can't fool me," Levi shot back. "Anyways. My father was a gang-leader of sorts. A kind of don in the underground world…"
Levi wasn't the type to share his life-story with just about anyone, but Mikasa had always been different from the others. He found himself telling her, and he was even more surprised that Mikasa was receptive, and that she listened.
He told her about his parents, and how he lost his mother, and then killed his father. He told her about his mother's obsessive cleaning habits, and how he had picked them up from her, first to make her happy, and then to remember her by.
He mentioned his gang life, his stint with drugs - without going into much detail though. Mikasa didn't ask any questions, and Levi didn't want to talk much about it. There were certain details which he certainly did not want her finding out about.
Primarily, the fact that it was his order which had killed her parents.
Levi skipped that part completely, a lump in his throat. He recounted instead how he first smuggled and started using 3DMG, how he found in it a freedom that helped him escape the vicious cycle of drugs. He told her how he even managed to use it proficiently enough without fuel, something which even Mikasa seemed impressed by.
He told her about Isabel and Farlan then, and about Erwin.
"Two years into the Scouting Legion, Isabel and Farlan were both devoured by Titans on an expedition. That made me want to kill Erwin even more, because if he hadn't forced us to serve, they would have been alive. I did actually attempt to kill him one night. We fought, blade to blade, and it was probably the only time in my life I have actually had a challenging opponent - till I met you, of course. You were fair, I guess."
He told her how Erwin had spared him, and then about how he had met Hanji, but Mikasa interrupted him there.
"How did you bring yourself to forgive Erwin-danchou?" she asked.
Levi narrowed his eyes. "Why would you ask that question?"
"I just wonder... I mean, when you think of it, even if he wasn't directly involved... it's still his fault, right?"
"Erwin was always willing to sacrifice humanity for the greater good. It's just unfortunate that those sacrifices included people close to me," Levi said carefully.
Mikasa said nothing, but stood up, stretching her limbs slightly. Levi continued, wondering what exactly he was trying to justify, and to whom. "Death is staring us all in the face. It's just closer to some of us than others. We'll never know who and how close though. That's the tragedy of it all."
"Mm." Mikasa was pacing around behind him, and Levi mused aloud. "I wonder if I would be missed if I die."
"H-huh?" Mikasa's pacing stopped.
"Would people miss me?"
"You - you're humanity's strongest soldier. Of course they - "
"I'm not asking if they'd miss Levi, the serial Titan-slayer. I'm asking if they would miss me, as a person."
Mikasa was silent, and Levi idly wondered if he should tell her then. After all, she had been curious and receptive enough when it came to knowing about his future life.
"Hm?" Mikasa froze, the gun pointed straight at the back of his dark head. Her finger trembled as it rested on the trigger. She forced herself to keep her voice calm, even. "What is it?"
Thoughts were swirling in her head, Jaeger-sensei's handwritten letter still fresh in her mind.
I can end this. I can pull the trigger now, and end this, once and for all.
Mikasa's grip on the gun tightened.
Somewhere during his inner turmoil, Levi thought he heard a slight click. It wasn't an extraordinary sound, but to one who had lived for years in the company of gunmen, it was also a sound he was accustomed to hearing.
You're being stupid, Levi told himself, refusing to turn around and meet Mikasa's eyes. There's nobody here but you and her. You're just looking for an excuse, any excuse to run away and not face her. Man up, Levi. Where the fuck are your balls?
Do you care about me, he wanted to ask her. Do you care about me, Mikasa? Do you care about me enough to consider me family?
But for as fearless and precise as Levi was when it came to fighting enemies and slicing through Titan necks… he was a mess at expressing his feelings for people he cared about. It was one of his greatest regrets, and he thought he had been ready to talk to Mikasa, but he clearly wasn't.
So instead, he asked her - "Would you miss me, Mikasa?"
He was greeted by silence. Of course she is, she's probably confused by your lame-ass question!
"If I died," Levi clarified. "Would you miss me if I died?"
He heard her inhale sharply behind him. "I - "
"If I died, would you cry?"
For a moment, Mikasa wished that he would turn around, just so that she could see the expression on his face. Levi's question seemed to reverberate in the silence - or maybe it was just in her head. Mikasa wondered if she even needed to answer him, if there was any point in it at all.
"I don't think I have tears left to cry," she finally whispered, before turning around and walking away.
She slid the gun back into the holster, wiping away hastily at her eyes with her scarf.
Not over you. Not anymore.
Mikasa was entirely silent on their walk back. She didn't even bother answering back to some of his snarkier comments, jibes he deliberately made to edge her on. Levi wondered for a moment why she was so unusually subdued, but then dismissed it as exhaustion, or some other part of Mikasa which he couldn't be bothered to understand at that point.
No, what bothered him more were the baleful looks that Eren Jaeger had been sending his way from the moment he and Mikasa walked towards the campsite, where the others were gathered for dinner. Eren probably thought that he was doing a good job hiding his obvious jealousy, but according to Levi, there was nobody less subtle than Eren. Heck, even Kirschtein was doing a better job at seeming more indifferent and less woefully agonized about Eren and Mikasa's growing proximity, though Levi had caught him a few times, casting plaintively longing looks in Mikasa's direction.
Though Eren himself was on another level altogether.
That brat really needs to stop wearing his emotions on his sleeve, Levi thought scornfully, though he figured he would have to deal with the problem sooner or later, better sooner.
He really didn't want Eren hating him, especially when the stupid brat had absolutely no reason to. Levi sighed, squaring his shoulders and walking towards Eren, who was sitting next to Armin on a log near the fire.
Levi really didn't want to have this conversation.
"Arlert. I need to talk to Eren. Scat!"
"Yes sir!" Armin said, obediently running over to join Connie, Jean and Sasha.
"Heichou!" Eren greeted immediately. "How was - training?"
Levi was not having any of that shit. "Do you resent me, Eren?" Déjà vu, yet again.
"H-huh? Why would I – resent you?"
"Because of Mikasa?" Levi sighed at the look on Eren's face; the teen was really far too transparent. "You know, you have no reason to be jealous or anything."
"I'm not – I'm not jealous!" Eren cried, red-faced.
"Sure." Levi rolled his eyes, wondering how to best explain it. Don't worry, I'm her older cousin brother and I'm not into incest so it'll never happen. Or maybe, don't worry, the woman I loved is already dead and I'm not about to go down that path again. No, neither of those seemed feasible options.
Still, the last thing he needed was for Eren to be jealous of him. The very idea was absurd. Maybe if he appeared to support their relationship, Eren would feel better? Though Levi was pretty sure that he had done exactly that in the past, not that Eren would understand or appreciate it, the moron.
"Maybe you'd feel better if you just spoke to her about it."
"About what?!" Eren looked rather jumpy and Levi was losing his patience.
"Stop being so emotionally constipated, Eren! Just tell her how you feel!"
There was an awkward silence after that, as Eren stared at Levi, as Levi busied himself with straightening his cravat. What a waste of time. This is more fucking trouble than it's worth. Why the fuck am I even playing matchmaker for them? I'm not a fucking cupid.
Then – "Actually I – I already did."
Levi stared at Eren, certain that he had misheard the teen's mumbled words. Eren was staring at the floor, flushing, but still managing to look oddly proud of himself.
"What do you mean?" Levi asked sharply.
"We – well we – we're together now. I told her that I love her."
"Don't lie to me, Jaeger."
"I did! Ask Mikasa if you don't believe me!"
Levi scrutinized him for a long moment, but when he spoke, he sounded mildly impressed. "Good job. I didn't think you had it in you."
"Aren't you going to – yell at me for – fraternizing with another soldier?"
"Are you stupid or something?"
"And you're not – threatening me?"
"You already know what I'll do to you if you hurt her. Though if you want a clarification I'd be more than happy."
Eren gulped. "Ah. Yeah. That's okay. I get it."
There was another long, awkward pause.
"Why are you so attached to Mikasa?" Eren blurted out.
Levi raised an eyebrow. About time he came around to it. "Already getting insecure about your place?"
"No!" Eren bristled. "I told you, I'm not jealous or anything! I'm just - curious."
Levi considered teasing him more but then decided against it. "No reason. She's a good kid. Do I need a reason to like people now?"
"You seem to care about her a lot more than you care about other people."
"Does that bother you?"
"N-no. I'm glad actually. You can protect her when I can't."
"You sound just like her," Levi said, rolling his eyes. "Made for each other."
Eren blushed at this, but Levi noticed the smirk pulling at his lips. For a moment, Levi was overcome by an irrational urge to punch Eren's teeth out; anyways he would regenerate them overnight. He decided to save that threat for when Eren actually deserved it though.
"Stop looking so fucking smug, Jaeger."
"Does my happiness bother you?"
"Cut the sass. Your beloved is headed right here and I don't think you'll make a pretty sight for her with my handprint on your face."
Levi regretted ever having the talk with Eren. Ever since then, all traces of shame had left the brat, and he was more than happy to hold Mikasa's hand when Levi was around. It didn't bother Levi, not really. But Eren's smug expression of self-satisfaction made Levi's fingers itch to punch him, and the unspoken 'she-likes-me-more-than-you' that seemed to emanated from every little smile and glance cast his way was annoying. Levi was fully aware of Mikasa's preferences, and they didn't bother him. Still, Eren had no right to be such a jaunty little bitch about it as he flounced around holding hands with Levi's younger sister. Well, cousin sister. Not that she knew.
Jean was another case altogether. Sometimes Levi felt sympathetic towards him because it was clear that even Jean knew he was fighting a losing battle. Eren and Mikasa had been extremely careful about their interactions around the others, but they were still obvious in their looks and glances. Levi was pretty sure that Jean had figured out that something more was going on, that their relationship had deepened, and a few times, he almost felt like yelling at Eren to just tell the poor Kirschstein boy and put him out of his misery. But then again, maybe Jean was happier not knowing. Or, maybe he already did know. It actually wasn't Levi's concern at all. Nonetheless, Levi derived a bit of a sick amusement watching Eren and Jean squabble over Mikasa once in awhile (usually in her absence); Jean was clearly jealous, and Eren, despite the fact that he had Mikasa, was still enough of a possessive idiot to fall for Jean's taunts.
It was during dinnertime, just over a week later, that the Military Police also arrived. Sasha and Connie, who had been on guard duty that day, spotted them first, a group of about 15 soldiers on horseback, headed their way. There was still no sight or word from the Ape Titan, and Annie, Bertholdt and Reiner had left for Wall Rose the night before, to round up another village that had transformed into Titans/and bring them outside the wall. Begrudgingly, Ymir agreed to follow Erwin's command, at least temporarily while their goals matched.
"Where's Levi when you need him?" Hanji grumbled, just as Jean began panicking. "Where's Mikasa?!"
"Levi took Mikasa to the forest," Erwin said, clarifying as he was met with confused looks. "Training."
"She's too weak to train!" Sasha protested.
"It's just rehabilitation training," Erwin assured her, though Eren had his doubts about that. Mikasa hadn't said much about it when he asked, and he wasn't going to prod her. Still, she came back from the training sessions looking exhausted, but otherwise unharmed, so Eren figured that since it wasn't aggravating her injuries and Erwin was clearly okay with it, it wasn't his place to protest. He figured Levi was training her in hand-to-hand combat, since 3DMG wasn't possible given the condition of her hand.
"We need to find them," Eren said immediately, but Erwin shook his head.
"We don't know how far they went. Besides, Mikasa will be safer with Levi, away from all of this. We need to be prepared. Go arm yourselves. 3DMGs, guns, whatever you have."
"But - they - they're soldiers." Jean looked dismayed. "What's the point of guns, we wouldn't actually shoot people?"
"If it comes to it." Erwin said firmly, before slanting a look at Ymir. "What of the Titans?"
"They'll get excited but they won't climb up," she said. "Are they necessary?"
"Best keep them out. We don't want the Central MP learning about the situation as far as possible. Only if things get out of hand…" he looked at her meaningfully, and Ymir nodded.
"There's a way up from around the other end of the valley, but it would take an hour."
"I think we'll manage well enough without them," Hanji said quickly, eyeing the identical looks of terror on Jean, Connie and Sasha's faces at the prospect of using Titans as potential weapons.
"Reiner, Bert and Annie will be another week at least," Ymir muttered. "Though Eren and I can always shift if necessary."
"You might not need to," Hanji began, but Erwin shook his head. "There's no Levi with us this time to take down an entire squadron and none of them are experienced when it comes to fighting humans. Be on your guard, and Ymir, Eren, if you feel it absolutely necessary, I permit you to transform. Just make sure nothing gets out of hand. If we can capture one or two of them, all the better."
They split into two groups - Erwin, Eren, Ymir, Historia and Connie in one, and Hanji, Jean, Sasha and Armin in the other. The plan was simple enough: hide in the trees and ambush them before they get a chance to attack.
"Couldn't we just let them go?" Connie asked hopefully. "If they can't find us, what's the point?"
"They can't discover the village," Ymir hissed. "It has to be kept a secret."
"Besides, if they find the hut they'll figure it out sooner or later," Erwin said. "We can't hide here forever. Best end this before they bring an entire army."
"I'm surprised they even had the balls to leave the inner walls," Eren muttered, disdain coloring his voice.
Erwin chuckled, though his face was grim. "You sound just like Levi. The fact that they're here makes them even more dangerous. They're desperate. They're going to fight to get what they want this time and we have to be prepared to face that."
"Consider it training," Ymir said wryly. "For the day we go against the King. There will be hundreds of these flies buzzing around and we'll have to swat them all."
Connie looked rather nauseous at the thought.
"I hope the others are alright," Historia murmured. "Sasha and Armin looked really upset about the whole thing. Jean too…"
"Worry about yourself right now," Ymir advised her. "If they have any clue who you are, you're in big trouble too." Historia gulped nodding.
"They're headed towards the village," Ymir looked over at Erwin. "We can't let them make it out of this forest. We have to engage them."
"I'll go first," Erwin said. "They'll know who I am and they're not about to shoot the Commander of the Scouting Legion. I'll try to find out who is commanding them and what their purpose is."
Erwin was the first to break cover, dropping down from the trees and presenting himself to the Military Police. As he had suspected, they recognized him immediately.
"That's him!" one of them cried, and the entire lot raised their guns, pointing. "That's Commander Erwin of the Scouting Legion!"
In the trees, Eren made a move to jump down as well, but Ymir stopped him with a hand on his wrist and a look. "Wait."
Erwin didn't seem even slightly fazed for all the guns pointing at him. "I would have expected a salute, at the very least, given you know of my name and position. Your manners have degraded considerably."
"We don't salute to traitors!" one of the men barked.
Erwin raised a thick eyebrow. "Traitor? Are you talking about me?"
"Erwin Smith," a woman coughed, bringing out a tight scroll. "You are wanted for questioning by the King. A warrant has been issued for your capture."
"When was this?"
"Ten days ago."
"On what grounds, may I ask?"
"Assisted escape of criminals Mikasa Ackerman, Armin Arlert, Sasha Braus, Jean Kirschstein and Connie Springer. Suspected fraternization with, and harboring of high-rank criminal and terrorist Eren Jaeger."
Eren's blood ran cold at the title - criminal was one thing, but terrorist? Is that really what they think I am, inside the walls? Is that how I've been presented, to civilians as well?
The idea that there were possibly children inside Wall Sina who would grow up with the notion that he was a terrorist was unsettling to say the very least, but there was no time to worry about that now, not when there were about ten armed gunmen circled around Erwin.
"It's sad to know that the very boy who helped seal Wall Maria and save humanity after the breach at Trost is being called a terrorist," Erwin commented, anger lining his voice. "What are the soldiers of the Scouting Legion being marketed as now? Rebels?"
"We only follow our orders, sir," the man who had first accused Erwin said stubbornly. "Please come quietly, or we will have to resort to… other methods."
"Besides, everyone knows that all the Scouting Legion is really good for is sending a few people off as Titan bait once in awhile to reduce overpopulation," another soldier piped up callously. "And still they're such a strain on the Crown's funds."
Eren was horrified at the sheer ignorance in the remark, and wondered for a moment how the soldier could possibly believe such blasphemy. He would have gone on an all-out rage - hiding be damned - had it not been for Erwin himself first losing his well-maintained calm.
"I'll make you regret that," he said, his voice a deadly whisper, still loud enough to carry through the trees. "The Scouting Legion has sacrificed countless things for the sake of humanity. Of course, I can't expect people as narrow-minded as you to understand that. You're a disgrace to the word soldier and I'm going to make you regret every careless statement you've made about the people who risk their lives on a daily basis to save your pathetic existence. And those criminals you were talking about earlier? Mikasa, Armin, Sasha, Jean and Connie are my soldiers and I will not let you lay a hand on them."
Chaos broke out soon after that, as the sound of gunshots echoed through the forest. Erwin had used his 3DMG to launch himself up and take to the trees, the Military Police scrambling after him. He was faster and more agile, but they were more in number, and they would catch up to him sooner or later - that, or he would be hit by a stray bullet in the gunfire.
"Go!" Ymir cried, and she swung out of the trees as well, followed by Connie, Historia and Eren, all of them armed with their 3DMG. Eren swerved sharply to dodge a volley of bullets - it was a lot harder than dodging a Titan arm, since they were faster, and harder to see - and spun around, coming directly behind the soldier who had aimed at him.
All it would take was one slice, and the man's head would be separated from his body. Eren had killed humans before, after all, to save Mikasa when they had been nine.
His stomach clenched weirdly, and Eren scowled, before bashing the man's head with the blunt end of his blade. The soldier crashed to the ground, immediately, and his leg stuck out at a weird angle. The fall alone probably hadn't been enough to kill him. His comrades could worry about him later if they survived. Swallowing the nauseous feeling that had risen in his stomach, Eren went on ahead, noticing that Connie and Historia were employing techniques similar to his - Connie, looking extremely pained as he did so, flipped under a soldier to shoot at his feet, and Historia slashed at another soldier's calves, which resulted in him crumpling down, unable to continue pursuit.
As they flew through the trees, a flurry of blades and wires. Eren knocked away a soldier's gun with his blade, before slashing at his 3DMG directly, managing to sever some of the straps, though his blade cut into the soldier's side as well. Blood blossomed across the soldier's jacket, and he careened through the air, entirely unbalanced as the 3DMG straps came loose around him. Eren noticed that this particular squadron of Military Police was comparatively clumsy when it came to 3DMG, not as smooth or fast as the Scouting Legion soldiers he had grown accustomed to fighting with.
Then again, the very design of the 3DMG - which revolved around fighting Titans - made it not entirely unsuitable (for it was still a dangerous weapon) but a bit tedious and cumbersome for close-combat with humans. The large swings that the 3DMG afforded and facilitated, though extremely effective for fighting Titans - where getting far away from an incoming Titan hand very fast was of utmost importance - made fighting in close quarters a lot harder. There was also the fact that the mechanics of the 3DMG made it very difficult to operate a gun. The user's hands were usually occupied with the grapple hooks, bringing out the blades only when the achieved distance was acquired, to slash away flesh - but with guns, which often required continuous shooting from a distance, it was impossible to shoot when maneuvering with the grapple hooks, and impossible to fire the grapple hooks when engaged in a non-stop volley of shooting.
Despite these hindrances, and the incompatibility of their guns with their 3DMG, the Military Police were still formidable opponents, and Connie and Historia had both suffered bullet wounds in the fray: Historia in her shoulder, and Connie, on his already tender, not-entirely-healed side. Eren's cheek had been grazed with a bullet, but the wound closed up almost as soon as it had formed, steaming.
There were only four Military policemen left - Erwin and Ymir had also dealt with a few of them - and Eren was pretty sure they would emerge from the scuffle victorious, when suddenly, the remaining four swerved away, taking off in different directions.
"Do we follow them?" Ymir called.
"No, I'm pretty sure their intention was to split us up," Erwin replied. "Let's try to regroup with the others!"
"They dropped something!" Historia cried, pointing at a round, solid, black object hanging off of one of the trees. She rushed forward to inspect it.
"Don't - " Erwin began warningly, but just moments later, the object exploded, sending out a wave of white smoke.
It had been a smoke bomb of sorts, Eren realized, and he struggled to see through the opaque whiteness that had spread through the trees at an alarmingly quick rate. He could make out a shape ahead of him but he couldn't tell who it was. His eyes watered, and he felt his throat constrict as he breathed in the noxious-smelling vapor. He felt a rush of light-headedness, and his fingers were going numb. He could barely breathe, and there were black spots obfuscating his vision. Finally, he opened his mouth and breathed in involuntarily, his body demanding oxygen. He struggled to bring his hand to his mouth - all he had to do was bite - but he seemed to have lost all control of his motor functions. He thought he saw a person - wearing what looked like some sort of a mask - before his eyes fluttered shut, lungs burning, and he lost consciousness.
It was five soldiers between the four of them. Sasha, who had the best aim of them all, had taken a page out of Annie's book, aiming at their guns. She successfully disarmed two soldiers, before leaping on one of them, engaging him immediately in hand-to-hand combat. Jean pounced on the other, and after a short scuffle, Jean and Sasha had them both pinned on the ground.
"I'll kill you if you move even a muscle," Jean said threateningly, as he stood over his new hostage, gun aimed, his finger at the trigger. He didn't shoot. Sasha didn't either, though she was in a similar position.
Armin leapt down, dodging a volley of bullets, and Hanji knocked him aside to engage his attacker instead, shooting at the man's legs before kicking the gas canister of his 3DMG, hard, and denting and dislocating it. The soldier felt to the ground with an agonized cry, and pressed his grapple hooks, shooting himself towards the tree. Blood streamed down his legs, and he wasn't able to properly maneuver without the use of his lower limbs, and the now malfunctioning gas… he fell to the ground with a sickening crack, and Armin winced. He'd smashed his head on the hard ground. One down.
"Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty," Hanji quipped, kneeing a burly man with a bowl-cut in the groin. The man fell over, groaning as he clutched at his family jewels, and Hanji smashed the butt of her blade on his head, knocking him out cold.
She dealt with the next soldier similarly, damaging her 3DMG so that she couldn't escape and then slicing her a few times with a blade - not deep enough to kill, but enough to make the girl stumble, clutching at her sides - Hanji was behind her in a heartbeat, pulling her up by her shaggy, light brown hair as she held a blade to her throat. "I think we're done here."
One man had fallen to his death, and another was out cold. They had three hostages not including the passed out bowl-cut man; two being held by Jean and Sasha, and the young woman Hanji was holding, who had gone limp and had given up struggling the moment the steel touched her throat.
Jean's gaze was fixed on the lifeless, bloodied body of the soldier who had died. His voice was raspy. "There may have been a way - a way that didn't require him dying…"
"Has the incident with Mikasa taught you nothing, Jean?" Hanji asked, though not unkindly.
Jean grit his teeth, the gun shaking in his grasp. "Titans are different. But these soldiers? They're still humans. They're not… irreversible."
"Jean!" Sasha screamed suddenly, "look out - "
The girl below Jean had managed to procure another pistol, one she had kept hidden within her clothes. She pointed it, her finger moving to press down on the trigger.
"Jean, shoot!" Hanji yelled, but Jean hesitated, a for a moment, time seemed to slow down, as he and the girl held their guns at one another, trembling violently, but not shooting.
Her fingers flicked down before his did, towards the trigger.
"Jean!" Sasha screamed.
The gunshot echoed in the forest, blood splattering everywhere - across Sasha's terrified face, and seeping into the grass, staining the earth red.
Jean crumpled to the ground.
Eren cracked his eyes open groggily. His head was pounding and his limbs felt weirdly numb. He tried moving, until he realized that he had been tied up. He was gagged as well, a thick piece of cloth stuffed into his mouth, making it impossible for him to even bite his tongue.
He blinked, looking around the dark room, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. He seemed to be in some kind of enormous, makeshift tent of sorts. He could make out Connie and Historia across from him, similarly bound as he was. Connie seemed to be knocked out, though Historia's blue eyes were wide, darting to and fro frantically. Eren struggled with his bindings, but to no avail; he was tied against something large and heavy, and he couldn't even scoot himself forwards. Whatever drug had been in that smoke - because Eren was sure he had been drugged - had dulled his motor skills considerably. He could hear voices, gradually growing louder.
" - fell an' cracked his goddamn skull."
"Fuck, are you serious?!"
"I never liked him but - fuck - dead, just like that…"
"They have Marlo an' Hitch held hostage. I couldn' get them - it was a fucking - mess - "
"Slow down. Here, have some water."
"Bitch with glasses - kicked Marlo in the balls - knocked him out and then - "
"It's okay. Calm down."
"What about Alice?"
"A - Alice?"
"You know, the new girl. Brown hair, ties it in a ponytail."
"The one that got engaged a week ago. Sam's fiancee."
There were retching sounds outside the tent, and then - "Shit, someone get him a bucket!"
Eventually, the retching noises stopped, and three Military Police walked into the tent, one of them looking faintly sick as he rubbed at his mouth with his sleeve.
"They're awake!" one of the men exclaimed, and moments later, two more soldiers had filed into the tent.
"What do we do now? Orders, sir?"
"And if they don't talk?"
"Isn't that obvious?"
"But we can't torture him! He'll turn into a monster if we even prick him!"
"The girl then. She doesn't look like much. She'll talk."
"No! If she's the Reiss girl, we're supposed to leave her unharmed!"
"How do we know if she is? We have no idea what she's supposed to look like."
"Well, she's not the Ackerman girl, or the Braus girl. Her face doesn't look like either of theirs, see the photos."
"There was another girl with them, and she didn't fit the description for Ackerman or Braus either. She was taller."
"Where is she now?"
"She got away…"
"Then we don't have a choice."
"Don't risk it. Go for the baldie."
"He matches the description for Connie Springer."
"It's okay. We don't have specific orders about him, it should be fine."
Two of the men nodded to one another, before walking towards Connie, who was now wide-awake and struggling.
"Connie Springer?" one of them barked, leaning down and tearing the gag out of his mouth.
"What do you want with me?!" Connie choked, his voice hoarse.
"Not much, just answer some simple questions."
"Like hell I will! Whose orders are you under anyways?"
"Look at him, he's got a mouth on him." One of the men chuckled, before leaning down, his voice menacing. "I really recommend that you let us be the ones asking questions. Otherwise, you'll find things a lot more painful than they need to be."
"Torture me all you want!" Connie shouted out heroically. "I won't say a word!"
Eren had to respect Connie's resolve, but he was not going to sit around and watch how the Military Police reacted to that. He had just managed to free his index finger from the tight bindings, and dug it into his palm, struggling to break the skin. Before he could draw any blood, there was a loud ripping noise from above. The roof of the makeshift tent was rent open, a sliver of the star-studded sky visible through the large tear.
"The fuck?!" one of the soldiers cried out. "How did that - "
Her words were cut off, as a figure somersaulted into the tent from above. The person was using 3DMG; that much was obvious, though it was impossible to tell who they were because of their speed and all the flipping, whirling and spinning. Still, with that signature fighting style, there was no doubt as to who it could be.
He really knows how to make an entrance, Eren thought, relief flooding through him as Levi shot down the soldiers, bullets firing out of the hurricane of momentum like missiles. He wondered how Levi was able to keep such a steady stream of shots while operating the grapple hooks and moving - with the design of the 3DMG, such a task should be impossible - but the man had always been a miracle-worker on the thing.
All five soldiers fell to the ground, bullet wounds in their chests, arms and legs - they had been hit before they could even react.
The blur that was Levi finally slowed down, swinging in neatly to land in front of Eren, except - it wasn't Levi who was staring at him with concerned eyes, undoing his binds and cords with gentle hands.
"No fucking way." Connie was gaping, equally thunderstruck.
"Eren, are you alright?" She pulled the gag out of his mouth and Eren finally spoke, choking out. "Mikasa?"
"Four out of ten." Levi said disparagingly, as he dropped down into the tent, landing on the ground neatly. "I told you, there's no need to spin so much with this one, you're wasting too much energy."
"It's your precious technique," Mikasa shot back.
"For killing Titans. The centripetal force and momentum of the spin assists with cutting flesh, but you're shooting with guns here, not blades, in case you didn't notice."
"I managed to hit all of them."
"While wasting a ton of bullets, smartass."
"I had two more cartridges -"
"And you'd reload them while spinning in the air like a fucking tornado? With that hand of yours? I think not."
"It looked good, I'll give you that, and maybe it added to the shock value. But I still think that given your physical state, since you haven't fully recovered yet, you should really try not to - "
"No spinning. I got it."
"Good?" Connie couldn't help but blurt out. "That was the was the coolest fucking thing I've ever seen!"
"How are you even - your hand - how - " Eren jumped to his feet as soon as he was free of his bindings, examining Mikasa's still-bandaged arm. "How did you do that?"
"They've come out with a new 3DMG design," Mikasa said breathlessly. "There are buttons instead of triggers so I can operate the grapple hooks even without all of my fingers, and I only need one hand to use a gun."
"So this means - " Eren swallowed, his eyes stinging slightly and gave him a soft smile, her voice trembling with emotion. "I can fight, Eren. I can fight by your side again."
She took his hand in her good one, intertwining their fingers. Eren wanted to kiss her, and almost leaned in, when Levi interrupted. "Just in case you forgot, you have company," he pointed out sourly. "And we should get going soon."
"Is this what you've been doing?" Eren asked, turning to him. "All those times you were rehabilitating her or whatever?"
"Congratulations, Eren. You've been dying to know the big secret, haven't you?"
"How did you even get this? Did Hanji make it?"
"That bat experiments with chemicals and animals and Titans. She couldn't fucking fix a leaking toilet if I asked her to. No, we picked these up from a pair of Military Police who had the misfortune of running into us on the way here. It's a new design, one which only the elite MPs have. Though, if you asked me, if they were supposedly elites, that pair sucked. Such a waste on them…"
"How many did you get?" Eren asked.
"Don't get your hopes up, brat. There were only two. I've been using the second one while training with Mikasa."
"The design seems really… different," Connie observed, and Levi rolled his eyes. "Perceptive as always, Springer. Mikasa, Eren, start patching him up, blondie too. Can't you see they're bleeding?"
Eren helped Connie bandage his wound with strips of his shirt, as Mikasa assisted Historia. Unfazed, Connie pointed at the new 3DMG again. "The harnesses are different."
"The bulk of the harness is placed on the user's shoulder and back, so the controlling motions are different," Mikasa explained. "It's less strain on your hips, and it makes sharper turns easier too."
"I don't see how that makes any sense but okay, I'll go with you on that," Connie said, nodding vigorously. "What else?"
"Well, there are extra barrels instead of blades to reload the gun, since this design is primarily meant to be used with pistols rather than swords," Mikasa said, before pausing. "Though, I guess you would still need two hands to manage that efficiently…"
"You've picked up it up really well so quickly," Historia gushed, as Mikasa pulled her gag off. "But then again, as expected of you, Mikasa!"
"I don't understand why they would make these though," Connie said, puzzled. "How is this design any better than the other for fighting Titans? Other than the fact that you could be holding your swords more often, which I guess is helpful since it saves the split second it takes to draw the blade. But what's the point of the rest of the stuff?"
"That's because this design wasn't made to kill Titans," Levi stated. "These are specialized 3DMG designs that belong to the Military Police's elite faction - the anti-personnel squad."
"Anti-personnel…" Connie's eyes widened in horror.
"These 3DMG were made for killing humans."
"Jean!" Sasha shrieked, rushing forwards - her hostage had taken advantage of the commotion to slip away, but that was the least of her worries.
Jean stared at the blood pooling out from beneath the young woman's body, as she thrashed a few times, before going completely still. Sasha dropped to her knees besides Jean, not even bothering to wipe the splashes of blood across her own face. "Jean, are you okay?"
"He's fine," Hanji said sharply, still keeping a firm hold on her hostage. "Sasha, restrain that one over there before he wakes up." She nodded at the bowl-cut man who was still passed out, before looking at Armin. "Armin… good shot. You just saved his life."
Armin doubled over in response, spewing vomit all over the grass.
Jean was still staring at the dead body of his would-be killer, looking extremely harrowed. Indeed, it would have been him lying on the floor lifeless, if Armin, at the last moment, had not had the presence of mind to whip out his own gun and shoot the girl straight in the chest, before she could shoot Jean.
"Jean, if you're not injured, get up," Hanji ordered, though her voice was gentle. "We'll discuss this later. First, we should deal with the hostages and regroup with Erwin and the rest.'
Erwin was waiting for them outside of the tent, which seemed to have served as the Military Police's temporary base.
"I see it went well," Erwin said, nodding at Levi.
"I told you we wouldn't need your help," Levi shot back. "Any sign of Hanji's group?"
"Not yet, I wanted to stay here in case intervention was needed," Erwin said, before nodding at Mikasa approvingly. "I see you're on your way to mastering the new 3DMG. Good for you."
"Thank you, sir," Mikasa said, saluting.
"Where are the rest of them?" Historia asked. "Ymir too, where did she go?"
"Right here," Ymir said, leaping down lightly from a nearby tree. "I was just checking on the Titans. They were a bit excited, but fine otherwise. At least the village wasn't discovered. I'm sorry I couldn't save you Historia, I couldn't see you in the smoke, and by the time I had transformed and gotten away, they had already taken you all."
"That's alright, Mikasa and Levi-heichou got to us before anything bad happened."
"We should destroy all traces of this camp," Erwin said. "Before heading back to the campsite. Mikasa, Levi, could you go on ahead and look for Hanji and the others?"
"I'm going too," Eren said almost immediately, and Erwin nodded. "Alright. We'll meet you all back at the campsite."
"You really can use it properly," Eren said, amazed, as he watched Mikasa twist and turn through the labyrinth of trees as they made their way through the forest.
"No she can't," Levi interjected. "She hasn't healed fully yet, and she's still using too much momentum in her swings. Smaller swings, Ackerman, how many times do I have to tell you, you're not fighting Titans with this thing."
Mikasa said nothing, but adjusted her movements accordingly. Levi, Eren noticed, was as smooth on this new 3DMG as he was with the old one, though rather than all of the spinning around, he seemed to have a propensity for somersaulting through the air, a feat which Eren thought was equally incredible.
"Showoff," Eren heard Mikasa mutter next to him, as they raced through the trees.
"I heard that!" Levi called back. "And don't diss my new signature move, especially when you know you're going to be the one ripping it off the most!"
"Tch." Mikasa rolled her eyes, but Eren noticed a small smile tugging at her lips - she seemed genuinely happy at just being able to use the 3DMG again, and seeing her like that warmed his heart.
"How do you even do that?" Eren asked Levi, watching him flip over a yet another branch.
"Don't try it," Levi advised him. "It's easier on this 3DMG since the weight is located along the back and shoulders, but you'll pull a muscle if you try it with that one."
"I'm not going to try it," Eren said, before pouting slightly. "You still haven't taught me the spinning move. You promised you would."
"It's overrated, Eren," Mikasa told him. "He just uses it to try and look cool."
"Again, coming from the person who has used it more often than I have ever since I taught her," Levi retorted, flying through the trees upside down.
"You're just jealous that I'm better at it than you are," Mikasa shot back, smirking slightly as she mimicked his position.
"Ha." Levi flipped back up, noticing Eren's distinctly awed look. "I'll let you have a go on it later, if you want," he offered.
Eren beamed. "Really?!"
"Sure," Levi said airily. "Though that'll cost you a week of toilet cleaning, because the makeshift one here is fucking filthy."
Hanji, Jean and Sasha were in an extremely somber mood when they found them at the campsite. Jean and Sasha were tying up two soldiers - a girl who looked around their age, with fluffy, chin-length hair, and a tall young man with a glossy black bowl-cut - both wearing the Military Police uniform.
"I see you got hostages," Levi said as way of greeting. "That's good. Mikasa finished off most of our potential candidates."
"You told me to," Mikasa muttered.
Jean, however, whirled around to stare at Mikasa, his voice hollow. "Mikasa? You - you killed the rest of them?"
"Of course she did, what did you think, we were going to run a hostage camp here?" Levi snapped at him.
"Where's Armin?" Eren asked, looking around.
"He's by the trees over there," Sasha said quietly. "He's not feeling very well."
"Armin just scored his first human kill," Hanji said, by means of explanation.
Eren and Mikasa both exchanged a shocked look, before rushing towards the direction Sasha had pointed in.
"Armin!" Mikasa cried, and both she and Eren were by his side, each placing a hand on his trembling soldiers. "What's wrong?"
"Mikasa? Eren?" Armin hastily wiped at his mouth, spitting on the ground. "I'm sorry."
"Don't worry," Eren said immediately, patting him on the back. "They - told us what happened."
At this, Armin retched again, his blue eyes watering. "I'm sorry," Armin repeated. "I'm sorry… I'm sorry…"
"Armin…" Mikasa said sadly.
"Have you two gone through this?" Armin asked them. "I'm sure you have, haven't you?" Mikasa and Eren were both silent, waiting for him to continue. "There's something I still don't understand, though."
"Armin? Are you okay?" Jean stepped into the clearing, accompanied by Levi.
"She was shooting at Jean, you know," Armin said, trembling. "And when I was preparing to aim my gun, I already thought it was too late…"
Jean knelt down besides Armin, his expression dark. "I'm so sorry. I should have been the first one to shoot under those circumstances. You shouldn't even have had to."
"No," Armin said, shaking his head vigorously. "She should have been the first one to shoot. She already had her finger on the trigger you know. You and her both had your guns out before I did… and yet… why was I the first one to pull the trigger?"
"That's because…" Jean looked distressed. "Before she opened fire, she hesitated."
"Exactly," Armin said softly. "She hesitated, but I shot. She must have been a kind person, she must have had more morality than me - "
"Armin, you can't think about it like that," Mikasa said softly. "If you're saying that about yourself, what does that make me? I killed five people today."
"How do you do live with it, Mikasa?" Armin's round eyes were tortured as he looked at her, almost pleadingly. "How do you - "
"Armin," Levi cut him off sternly. "Your hands have already been dirtied, there's no going back, and there's no point torturing yourself over it. Just try to accept your actions. If your hands had stayed clean, Jean wouldn't be here with us right now. The reason you pulled the trigger was because you were witnessing your friend's imminent death. You were smart, and you knew at that moment, that a half-assed decision wouldn't save anyone. If anything, we should be thanking you for what you did, Armin."
"Yeah, Armin," Jean mumbled. "I really really owe you. I fucked up."
"That you did," Levi agreed. "From the sound of it."
"You know, Levi-heichou," Jean said. "I always thought your ways were wrong. Mikasa too, actually. I found it really shocking sometimes, when she said that she would be ready to kill a person. Whenever you and Mikasa displayed such ruthlessness when talking about other human lives, I always thought you were both wrong. Or rather, I selfishly hoped that your ways were wrong, because I was seriously scared of using my own two hands to kill other people."
"Jean - " Mikasa began, but Jean shook his head, continuing. "No. I was the wrong one." He clenched his fists. "I'm truly sorry. Next time I'll be the one to shoot."
"Even I can't exactly say if my ways are correct," Levi said. "We can never predict the end results of these kinds of situations, and we can't risk them either. Titans, humans… what even is the big difference?"
Dinner was a somber affair that night. Armin didn't eat a single bite, despite Mikasa's insistences, and Jean didn't speak a word to anyone. Hanji and Erwin skipped dinner to speak with the two hostages, both of whom were tied up inside one of the tents.
"I'll take first watch," Levi decided, seeing that Armin, whose turn it was, really didn't seem in the state for it. "Arlelt, you've had a rough day. You should rest."
"Thank you, sir," Armin said gratefully.
"I'll come with you," Mikasa volunteered, standing up behind him.
"Are you sure?" Levi raised an eyebrow. "You're not tired from before?"
"Not at all," Mikasa told him as she followed him out of the campsite.
"Best we take one more with us, in case there's another ambush," Levi said, catching glimpse of Eren's forlorn expression. "Jaeger! Make yourself useful."
"Yes, sir!" Eren scrambled up, expression brightening almost instantaneously.
They took their watch atop the thick branches of the giant trees at the edge of the forest; it gave them an excellent vantage point, much better than any ground watches would do, a precaution Levi insisted on taking.
To their left, the Titan village stretched out under the cliff's edge, serene and tranquil, not a single creature in sight. To their right, in the distance, the top of Wall Maria could be seen, peeking over the hilltops. And straight ahead, if one looked far enough, was the sea, waves crashing against the rocky cliffside.
"Do you think Armin will be okay?" Eren asked.
"He's stronger than he looks," Mikasa murmured.
"He'll bounce back soon enough," Levi drawled, from the branch above theirs. "He's a smart kid for his age. Erwin has a lot of faith in that boy. Sees himself in him."
"In Armin?" Eren sounded surprised. "I guess that makes sense…"
"Armin would make a good leader someday," Mikasa mused.
"Hanji's interested in him too," Levi said. "Thinks with his brains he would be helpful in the labs. She'll corrupt him with all her nonsense, poor kid."
"Do you think she'll be able to find a cure though?" Eren asked. Levi and Erwin had been filled in on everything regarding the solutions and the letter by Hanji, and since the three of them were alone, he figured it was safe to breach the topic.
"I don't know." Levi sighed. "Pretty messed up though."
"What's messed up?"
"The idea that one person's fuck-up is leading to humanity's downfall right now. Assuming that the Titan mutancy thing was a dumb-ass mistake and not deliberate."
"Do you think it spreading was a mistake too? Or was that a deliberate move by the government, or some other party?"
"I have no fucking clue, Eren, do I look like the mastermind behind all this crap?
"Wall Maria is sealed now," Mikasa said. "They could repopulate."
"They could," Levi agreed. "But for how long will it stay that way? By the sound of Ymir's grand plans, they plan to wage an all-out war."
"Do you think Erwin-danchou will support that idea?"
"He wants to speak to the monkey boss before he commits to anything."
"What about you? Would you support it?"
Levi considered the question for awhile. Then - "If you, Ymir and your hairy ape friend could prove that you're capable of controlling a whole army of Titans, then yes, I would fight on your side."
"And if not?"
"If not what?"
"If we can't control them well enough, but they decide to go ahead and break the walls anyways. What would you do then?"
"What would you do then, Eren?" Levi asked. "Whose side would you fight on?"
"I - I don't know," Eren admitted. "I'm really confused about a lot of things. Mikasa?"
"I think," Mikasa took a deep breath. "I think that Ymir and the rest are less of an enemy for Eren right now than the Military Police, since we have no idea what the Military Police want from him. So for that reason, I would support any side that keeps Eren safe from their grasp, at least for now."
"Typical." Levi rolled his eyes. "And what about after? You'll become all chummy with them again? Even the blonde bitch?"
"I don't think that's an option," Mikasa said slowly. "But if they… if they behave acceptably, I could be persuaded into not killing them."
Levi let out a bark of laughter. "You against three - no, four Titan-shifters? I'd like to see that, Mikasa."
"You'd help me though, wouldn't you?" she asked him.
Levi sighed. "If you're asking me if I'd stop you from getting yourself killed, then yes, I would."
Mikasa smiled to herself. "So whose side are you on, really?"
"Scared that if I'm not on yours, you won't be able to hold up against me in a fight?" Levi teased.
"You'd fight against us!" Eren looked aghast.
"No," Levi said, very seriously. "Which is why I hope that the two of you use your brains instead of thinking out of your asses for once, when it comes to deciding."
"What does that supposed to mean?" Eren asked indignantly.
"I'd rather not be on the losing side," Levi said simply. "So choose carefully."
A/N: And then Eren and Ymir managed to control the Titans, so they broke into the walls, waged war, and overthrew the evil King and the evil MP. Historia was restored as the true queen, and she was a kind and benevolent ruler.
The walls were broken down once Hanji and Armin developed an antidote and it was administered to everyone, including the previously turned Titans (via Scouting Legion soldiers using blades doused in the antidote to prick the Titans' necks), curing humanity for good. Mikasa's hand was also cured using the regeneration solution, which was safe to use on her once the Titan antidote had been developed. Annie helped Connie locate his mother, and she was actually the first Titan to be turned back to a human using the antidote.
Eventually, life went back to normal, and all of the destroyed districts, including Shiganshina, were rebuilt. Eren, Mikasa, Jean, Connie and Sasha all served in the police force, now using their skills to fight crime. Levi finally revealed to Mikasa the secret of their blood relation, and though initially shocked, she ended up taking it very well; Eren was absolutely thrilled. Eventually, Eren and Mikasa settled down and got married, and had children (two daughters, Carla and Petra; Levi, the uncle, was extremely attached to the younger one, Petra) and lived happily ever after.
So I feel at this point I've tied up all the things that I needed to tie up, incorporated whatever recent bits of the manga that I could, and have hopefully answered questions about Titans and shifters and why people did what they did. And everyone is reunited, and sufficiently happy, for the time-being. And Eren and Mikasa have admitted their feelings for one another, so are pretty much an official couple now, and Mikasa has, in her own way, come to terms with Levi's involvement in her past, and has forgiven him. They have a plan, they have the possibilities of developing an antidote, they now kind of know what is going on with all the Titan mess. There is a possibility that things could turn out happily ever after, as mentioned above.
BUT I have other plans for this fic, plans which will not result in a happily-ever-after as optimistic as the one outlined above. I think this chapter tied things up decently enough, and I'm not trying to discourage people from continuing on with this fic. However, I should warn you: next chapter, things will start to get mega-screwed up, in a way that makes Mikasa losing her hand in chapter 4/5 seem like baby-shit. I kid you not, the next chapter will be ruthless. And yes, I'm warning you now, main characters are going to start dying. Of course, everything won't end in utter tragedy (I actually have an ending planned out that is different from what I wrote above, but one I'm personally happy with) but there WILL be tragedies along the way, and the next 2-3 chapters will be quite screwed up, even in terms of ErenMika angst. Also, updates may be slower, as my holidays are coming to an end, sadly.
I guess I've warned you enough. It's your choice if you wish to continue on with this fic, and if you do, I'll be very happy. But if you don't want to subject yourself to reading things that would upset you, I understand that as well, so I thank you for sticking around with me till now! I really appreciate all of your reviews and kind words. You guys have been amazing, and this was a pleasure to write!
Feel free to PM if you want to talk! (also thoughts on the new cast list for the SnK live? I am super excited, a lot of my favorite actors and actresses are in it!)
Please do let me know what you thought of everything with a review, if you can! To those who plan to stick around, see you next chapter!
Levi Ackerman formerly known as HighQueen
p.s - hope the jargon about the solutions and the mutancy (don't think that's an actual word, oops) and the 3DMG didn't go over your heads. I'm not a medical student, nor am I an engineer, so I didn't want to go into too many details, and I hope that what I wrote is at least somewhat believable! I tried fitting it all in and explaining it as best as I could, hopefully it worked for the sake of the story!
p.p.s - sorry about the Jean death scare, but I ripped that directly off of the manga... at least I didn't make you'll wait an entire chapter like Isayama did, he was so majorly trolling with those manga panels