A mission was assigned to the Survey Corps the next day. Suddenly yesterday's training seemed almost fruitless, because the muscles in Eren's body were still sore and aching. The Survey Corps was called to a meeting during the early morning hours, and Eren was stirred awake by none other than the Corporal, who thought it would be a wise idea to enter his basement home, unchain the boy, and lightly kick him awake. Stunned, Eren fell off of the side of the bed. "Good morning," Levi said in his perfectly irritating monotone voice. Eren rubbed the back of his head, squeezing his eyes closed multiple times until his vision came back into focus. Marine colored eyes scanned the cell for signs of his intruder, and glued to Levi as he walked over and kneeled behind the boy. "We have a meeting in approximately fifteen minutes. I suggest you move quickly," he said, then getting up and making his way back upstairs.
Fifteen minutes? Was this a joke? How could the most renowned clean freak in the entire Survey Corps only give him fifteen minutes to prepare for a meeting, after just being so rudely awoken? Whatever. By laying on the floor looking off into space, he was only wasting more time. After clinging onto his mattress for support, Eren got up and threw on his uniform. Five minutes left. Surely the Corporal would kill him if he didn't look presentable so he washed his mouth out quickly and used his fingers to comb out his hair. He stumbled out of his cramped bathroom while finishing buttoning up his uniform blouse. Making his way up the stairs, Eren noticed that this meeting was called particularly early, as it seemed the sun was only beginning to rise.
Five. Four. Three. Two.
To the others, Eren was on time; early, even. But to Levi, he was as late as ever. "You've got to finish taking your shits faster, Jaeger," was his greeting. Eren arched a brow. "In my defense, sir, you woke me up without warning, and with only fifteen minutes to spare."
Levi glared. "And is it my problem you can't get your ass into gear when I tell you to?"
"… No, sir."
"Precisely. Now sit the hell down before you collapse, you have bags under your eyes and they sure as fuck aren't fashionable."
Doing as he was told, Eren grabbed the chair farthest from the door. He scooted over to the table, leaning on it with his elbows. It appeared Commander Erwin would be joining them that morning, and as he was absent, Eren figured it must have meant he was still on his way. It didn't take long before Eren began to nod off, eyelids drooping as he heard the faint whispers of the other crewmembers, some sounding more concerned than others. The last mission hadn't gone so well. Many valuable members of the Survey Corps had been lost. However, the power of deviant type titan that had lead them to their dooms was unexpected, to say the least. Should anything of the sort happen again, most assumed that Commander Erwin would have a backup plan.
Just as Eren began to drift away from consciousness, a loud bang ruptured through their small meeting area. The door had flung open, hitting the wall and making an unsavory sound ricochet between the table, chairs, and tea cups. The culprit was none other than Hange, who sauntered in proudly and announced that the Commander had just led his horse to the stables and was making his way through the halls as she spoke. No sooner than that, Erwin had arrived followed by no more than a few guards. He was greeted with a salute from each soldier aside from Levi. Instead, Levi sat with his legs crossed, taking a sip out of the cleanest piece of fine china that Eren had ever seen. His dark eyes didn't even so much as shift their gaze when Erwin made his grand entrance. "That took you a bit"
Erwin stepped into the room and spread a map out on the table. "Sorry for the wait," he said, giving a quick glance to Levi in the process. "But I suppose we should get right into this."
The crew gathered around the table, each itching with the desire to know their assignment as Erwin went over the mission objective. The objective, Erwin said, was to find a safe route leading from Karanes around to Shiganshina. "That's all," Erwin secured, as the last mission that had been assigned had the exact same objective with an extra hidden motive that was hidden from most of the other soldiers, many of whom lost their lives due to the lack of information. Eren scanned the faces of the others present. Many looked skeptical. Their eyes appeared dim, soulless, dreary, tired; obviously these soldiers had lost many of their own friends during the last venture beyond the walls, although Eren was positive that was not the first time they'd witnessed the wrath of the titans. These were survivors, after all. But still, after being so confident in the Commander before, how would he be able to regain their trust?
Eren's thought was cut short when Erwin announced that there was a small shortcoming in their planning agreements. "I'm afraid we'll have to make due with what we have," he said, "and thus, the Survey Corps has only been given a matter of two weeks at most to prepare for this expedition."
A sudden silence cut like knives through the atmosphere of the meeting room. "Two weeks," A whisper emerged. "We can barely get prepared in a month! Are they just trying to kill us all off?!"
Eren's eyes grew wide, mouth agape as he turned towards the Commander. Calm and collected, as usual. How could he look so worry-free at a time like this?! The number of participating Survey Corps members wasn't that high to begin with. Didn't he care about his fellow men in arms?
Seeking consolation, Eren turned to Corporal Levi. The expression on his pale, almost porcelain face had not changed, but Eren supposed that wasn't saying much. He looked about as calm as the Commander had, maybe even more so.
Erwin began to speak up again.
"I notice many of you lack your usual enthusiasm."
Erwin stood suddenly, knocking his chair back in the process. He slammed his fist down on the table, causing a loud bang to rupture the silence. If anyone was asleep, Eren was sure as hell they were awake now.
"Listen up," Erwin said with a snarl. Was this really the gentle-mannered man who had accepted Eren into the Survey Corps only months prior?
"This could be our last chance to prove our worth. I'd be damned if they haven't considered cutting our funds, and that's the last thing we'd need. You," he pointed his finger to the group crowded around him, "Are official members of the Survey Corps. You are survivors. You've spat in the face of death one hundred times over. You know how to deal with this. And you know you have faith in yourselves. I highly doubt you would have signed up for this otherwise."
Erwin stood his chair back on its legs and regained his composure. "You all are to gather as much supplies as you can. I expect to be met with proper preparations when I return in two weeks."
Erwin nodded at the two soldiers standing by the door, signaling them to open it. His demand was met, and after the bulky door opened with a creek, both Erwin and his men vanished.
They weren't kidding when they called him a ruthless commander.
One by one, the other soldiers filed out of the room in silence, either heading back to their dorms or escaping for some fresh air outside.
But Levi stayed put.
Eren figured he should stick around as well. The Corporal looked quite lonely , sitting there in the dull candlelight and all.
"E-Ehm," Eren tried to begin a conversation. The prior events had left the room with a stiflingly awkward atmosphere.
Levi sighed, stood up, and left.
Eren backtracked. He'd barely spoken a word! If one could even call it that. Was the Corporal angry with him?
"Corporal Levi, sir?"
Levi turned. "What."
"Is anything the matter, sir?"
"Why would you think that."
Eren could feel beads of sweat forming at his temples, either from nerves or frustration. "Well, sir, I barely said anything and you just got up and left."
Levi blinked, long and slow. His entire demeanor bled sarcasm. "It's got nothing to do with you, Eren," he said before resuming his way down the hall.
"Wait up, then!" Eren called, jogging to the front of the Corporal, standing in front of him to block his path. Levi looked up at him, his glare cold as ice, piercing Eren right through the chest.
"What," hissed the shorter man.
Eren swallowed and continued. "Well, it's just… do you really think the Commander knows what he's doing, accepting a new mission this soon? I mean, we lost so many members last time, sir," Eren's eyes cooled and saddened as a pang of emotional pain clung to his stomach. The memories of his dead team members clouded his mind.
Levi scoffed and walked around the boy. "Have faith in the Commander. He wouldn't be in that position if he was that much of an idiot," he said.
"Sir," Eren began seething again. The Corporal cared about his men, didn't he? How could he remain so nonchalant, even after all that had happened? "I'd hate to break it to you sir, but you told me to have faith last time, too."
Eren clasped his hand to his mouth almost as soon as the words poured out of it. He noticed the Corporal visibly twitch and stiffen up before he turned to face Eren again. "Excuse me?" Levi said. Those two words alone were as harsh and as sharp as taking a hit from a sword.
"Wait, sir, I didn't mean it like that, you know I didn't," Eren stammered, mouth moving a mile a minute, thoughts flooding his head sooner than he could stop and assess the situation. He covered his head, expecting the impact of Levi's boot to knock him senseless.
But the blow never came.
Eren lifted his head up, eyes widening at what he saw. Though his facial features appeared remotely the same, the Corporal looked visibly hurt. It wasn't the way his mouth had assumed an angry scowl, no, it was his eyes. Something gleamed in them that he had never seen before.
It was sadness.
Levi cocked his head, only in the slightest of ways. "You know," he said, "They'd be rolling in their graves if they heard you say that."
Eren hung his head and tried to form an apology, but he just couldn't pull the words together. The Corporal was gone before he could even look up.
You really fucked up this time, Eren thought, you really fucked up.