"From the moment we're born, all of us are free. Those who deny it, no matter how strong they are, have nothing to do with it. The fiery waters, or the lands of ice... it doesn't matter which. Those who've seen them are the ones who've gained the greatest freedom in this world."
To you: 2000 years from now.
Several hundred years ago, humans were nearly exterminated by Titans: creatures similar to them in form with no intelligence whatsoever, with heights varying from 4 to 15 meters. A small percentage of humanity survived, walling themselves in cities protected by extremely high walls.
For 100 years everything was safe.
Year: 845 – A Colossal Titan breaks a hole in Wall Maria with the help of an Armored Titan. Titans merge into the wall devouring humans. More than 10000 perished, got missing, or vanished.
1/5 of the humanity was lost.
Year: 850 – The 104th Trainees squad graduates. Eren Jeager engages in his first battle with the colossal titan who appears again to break the gates of Wall Rose.
The teen discovers his ability to turn into a titan. The military forces use him as the Rogue Titan to block the hole with a giant boulder. Mission succeeds and Wall Rose is secured.
Eren joins the Surveying Corps, aka Recon Corps, under the strict supervision of Corporal Levi and Commander Erwin.
Annie Leonhart, a former member of the 104th trainees' squad who joined the military police,is discovered as the female titan and was taken into custody. She manages to encase herself with unbreakable crystals right before her capture and is now under observation in the dungeons.
After the battle with her as the Female Titan, a face of a giant titan appears behind the cracks on Wall Rose and Pastor Nick quickly tells the fighting teams to cover it from the sunlight so it won't move.
Hanje Zoe, a Squad Leader from the Survey Corps and a main researcher in the military, starts investigations.
Reiner and Bertolt were discovered as the Armored Titan and the Colossal Titan. Ymir decides to betray humanity and run away with these two, to secure Christa's safety, aka Historia Reiss who is of a noble family and might have information about the secret of the walls, and the only person Ymir claims to be her best friend.
Year: 851— Current time.
Levi and his new squad members: Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Sasha, Jean, Connie, and Historia move to a house in a mountain-side village nearby the walls till further orders, while the military carries on with its inquiries.
At the mountain side of Wall Rose where no civilization exists:
Titans' roars faded into the horizon as the sun sank slowly behind thick 50 meters high walls. Flaming scarlet painted the clouds in what seemed to be the blood of those departed.
Sunsets were pretty much something men in the walls readily waited for.
Especially the Garrison men which patrolled over the edges every day…
There was this magical sensation in looking right at the titans falling down, one by one, in weary and drain, deprived from the sunlight.
Something with a bit of joy to the forces, who thought they can finally rest a little before their agony starts again the next morning.
Sometimes it made them hate the sun. Sometimes it made them want to live in eternal darkness. For every day that shined with golden rays on them meant titans feeling that as well. The warmth and softness of the daylight roughly meant anything to those men but the reminder of Hope after darkness.
What a cruel, cruel world they lived in… Yet so, so beautiful…
A certain someone was sitting on the brick rooftop of the small wooden house in which the squad was resting— yawning and sighing in boredom and complaint.
Man… this is so booooooring… either I clean, or I sit here watching out for intruders… even TITAN fighting now seems fun… "Corporal Levi is just boring…" Jean mumbled rolling his eyes as he lay back.
"Slacking on the job?"
"No, sir!" Jean quickly answered, sitting back up in full awareness.
Levi sighed as though this kid was testing his patience. Even Sasha was proven to be useful in cleaning this house—or what looked like a dumpster the first time they stepped in. Jean, on the other hand, couldn't even fix his bed or help making food—and that made the corporal tensed that he just wanted him out of the way.
Watching out for anything or anyone who came close to this small cabin seemed like a good task.
No one really knew why Corporal Levi had chosen this group among all of those whose skills would fit perfectly with his—perhaps except for Commander Erwin, who got to know his second-in-command to a point; he's able to predict his reactions.
He had picked them all by the name.
He started with Eren— that "suicidal brat" from Zhiganshina district which was first invaded by the Titans— who was always getting himself in trouble, especially after learning his ability to transform into a titan himself, which caused a big fuss in the inner walls. Somehow it all ended into Levi beating the shit out of him in front of the military court to prove that he'd never hurt humans, and that he's under control. The corporal had hurt him so bad that Eren kept cringing every time he approached him.
Despite that, the last battles had proven him to be suitable for combat –and Levi was to supervise him directly.
As for the other members, he had observed them all for a week-time period and could realize a lot of their attributes might be helpful. They were, at the same time, the only people this boy-titan could bond with.
He noticed Historia's innocence yet ability to aid others—apart from being the daughter of a noble family who knows the secret of the wall, Sasha's spontaneity and creativity, Connie's bravery and loyalty, Armin's intellect and strategic thinking, Mikasa's strength and agility, Jean's leadership and decision making, combining that with his battle skills and experience, he probably thought they just need a little bit of discipline and he will be able to compensate for his loss... his former team that was known for its rank.
"Go eat with your comrades; I'll be watching guard tonight." Levi continued.
"Yes, sir." The fair-haired jumped up with a big grin at the mention of food, then realized his leader wasn't smiling so he just let his gaze down and walked into the house. He turned back to look at him; Corporal Levi was just there standing still, face towards the nightfall. His green cape fluttered with the wind and the freedom wings of the recon corps emblem flickered in front of him. Despite his leg being injured during the last battle with the Female Titan, his leader still stood restlessly strict for his mission.
It was one of the reasons that made Jean look up to his superior and respect him.
"There you are! Mister can't-flush-properly, haha!" Connie joked as Jean appeared.
"Suck it." The latter snorted and sat by the table, his friend's laughter still going on.
"You haven't eaten since morning." Historia said with an angelic smile, placing a plate of potato soup in front of him. "I hope you like this. There's nothing else."
Levi sighed, somewhat listening to the chit-chats the group was having.
Those brats... They're so much like them… He thought, taking a deep breath and calmly letting it out.
"Where's Mikasa?" Jean asked, looking around.
"I think she's out with Eren and Armin, practicing close range combat." Connie replied, signaling him to the window. "Sasha hasn't been back either."
"They've been out all day long." Historia added; a little concerned.
Jean's eyes turned into slits as he chewed on his food harder in irritation. "What does she like in him?" he muttered.
"The fact that he's a good housewife?" Connie elbowed him and laughed.
It was no hidden fact to everyone that Jean really admired that young woman; who didn't? She was attractive, strong, and ranked as the top student among the 104th trainees' squad— someone with no precedent talents. Yet it was also clear she had no interest in anyone but Eren- her adopted brother, so much that she'd kill mercilessly for him.
It was somewhat getting on Jean's nerves; he really tried to impress her whenever it was possible.
"I said Shut up!"
"Guys…" Historia pointed a big wooden spoon at them, "No fighting."
Levi sighed again placing his hand by his forehead in thoughts. He could also hear Armin's pain moans coming from behind the nearby trees.
"C'mon, give it your best!" Eren shouted.
"I am! I-I'm not giving up!" Armin yelled back. And then another groan was heard.
"You're doing it wrong." Mikasa commented.
Was it really just something that happened? Or was it at my own hands? Levi's mind now focused on the events of the battle in the breached Wall Maria: his special operation squad being killed one by one, Petra's face bleeding as her body was crushed by the tree… Eld… Gunther… Oluo…
He sighed again; shaking the pictures of their deaths out of his head.
It never ceased haunting him.
The recon corps was not a place to relax–everybody knew that. Sure you get to venture and see what's beyond the walls, but no one really wanted to go outside of the walls with all those flesh-eating titans around. Every mission, someone—a lot of soldiers— died. Every time they went outside the squads had to be ready to lose a childhood friend, a comrade, or a family member. Unlike the military police, the recon corps' job required direct contact with titans, something the MP never really knew the feeling of.
Sacrifices had to be made in order to keep humanity safe.
And the Recon Corps was the only offence forces they had.
For the glory of humanity… Levi's dark gray eyes sharpened in determination.
I have to protect them this time…
"Man… this was a LONG day." Eren said leaning down on his bed, grateful for the softness of his blanket.
"Eehhh…." Armin barely breathed as he slept on the upper bunk part, all tired, scraped knees and wounds here and there tinting the sheets in red.
"Can you guys keep it quiet? Someone is trying to sleep." Jean mumbled as he covered himself fully by the other side of the room—not willing to hear about their day together.
"You should have been sleeping in Corporal Levi's room." Connie said, leaning down from above and poking his head out to him. "Or maybe in the girls' room?"
The fair-haired cadet felt the red flush his cheeks as the thoughts of Mikasa in a nightdress filled up his mind; he ended up throwing a pillow right in Connie's face.
"It's getting cold." Eren's voice interrupted the peace surrounding his Leader on the roof. Gentle cold breezes hissed with the trees covering the team.
Levi barely looked back and then turned again to face the dark meadows and the forests.
"Shouldn't you be asleep, kid?"
"Well… I was… But the window was opened and it got sort of chilly, and I ended up awake. I thought I'll take your shift watching out and let you sleep… Sir. " The teen attempted sitting down and lost his balance, he ended up with his bum crushing the few bricks below him painfully. It made the scene even more awkward for him. "Ow ow ow!"
Levi sighed, giving him a glance from the tip of his eyes. "You and Historia are the ones being protected here." He stated, "It'd be less of a burden if you try to stay in the house and wander less in the forests."
The boy noticed the look the superior had and how it clearly told him I saw you sneaking out last night and I did not like it.
Eren just looked away pretending not to notice, and changed the subject. "So… Does that mean you're not going to sleep?"
Levi didn't need to answer that.
An hour passed, and the stillness of that night had made the teen more tensed.
Ever since he joined the Recon Corps, Corporal Levi was more than eager to teach him about the life outside the walls and the dangers it included. He probably attempted more often to scare the little man than to encourage him on fighting. However, Eren knew, for certain, that his Superior's experiences had well sharpened his mind. It made the man's reactions faster, his decisions clearer, and his objectives and priorities definite. It was something that made him praised by everyone, especially Commander Erwin, who had known him for years.
But something always troubled his fifteen year-old mind; something about the stories he had heard before, concerning the Corporal's life, made him seem a little bit… too phenomenal, maybe. Or maybe that the truth held within those rumors had just started to get clearer the more time he spent with him.
He remembered Petra's words, telling him about how he's a different type of heroes than what people thought he was. He's short, grumpy, violent, and freakishly clean. He remembered Petra's words, and that when she said them, there was this warmth in her eyes.
Eren had felt it, that despite the facts mentioned Corporal Levi was still a well suited captain whose kindness and sacrifices had managed to keep humans safe.
The more he knew about his commander, the more confused he got.
"Corporal, ummm…" Eren looked up, breaking the silence, "May I ask something?"
"Why did you choose the life of the Surveying Corps?"
The dark starry nights had an effect on the way things looked, because for an instance Eren saw that Levi's face had a frown, but then again he was just as normal and as blank as he can be; ignoring his nosy questions. The teen kept looking at the wall's edge beyond the forest and the trees. He decided it is better not to ask again.
Everything was pitch black, yet the wall had created a fine blue line that collided with the sky— it made Eren think more of the pages he's seen about the outer world.
"Sir…" He stopped a bit, thinking whether or not he should try to make a conversation again. "Have you ever… well…outside the walls…seen big watery surfaces… Called oceans?"
The man looked down, sort of in a questioning look; not a doubtful one but more about how could someone like you know of this?
"From afar. Yes. Many times." He answered calmly.
"What about the lands of ice?"
"Once, or twice." Levi stated.
The teen stood back up in interest and somewhat excitement. "How did it look like? Was it cold? Does it really -?"
"How do you know of this?" The corporal interrupted, still as calm as his usually is.
"Armin and I… We had this book that his parents left… You see, they were also among those who died amid the Recon Corps' expeditions. It talked of the oceans, the seas of sand, the water that burns and the lands of ice. I've always wanted to see those!"
At this moment, the sparkles in Eren's jade eyes were evident, even with the moon hidden behind those early winter clouds. He was thrilled, smiling with enthusiasm and passion for the world; the same passion he had when he was 10 years old. "I'm wiping out all of those titans and going to travel the world one day."
The man's expressions lightened a bit. The boy wasn't sure what it meant.
"You do seem like you have a certain purpose. You're still just a spoiled shithead though. Make sure your impulsiveness doesn't get in the way."
"What do you mean?"
"You're strong, but your recklessness will get you into more trouble than what you think. You need to have better control over your emotions when in battle."
Eren looked down with a bit of frustration, hands turning into fists. "But–"
"Like now for instance." Levi interrupted, staring at him quietly like a ghost.
"If you stay agitated all the time you will end up not only causing trouble for yourself but your team too. Instincts are fatal if you don't have the means to accomplish the purpose. You must learn to synchronize your skills with the rest. It's something of big important when facing strong titans which you can't fight alone; especially the intelligent ones we're investigating. You need to believe in your comrades. You're still just a brat who can't fight on his own."
A flashback of the special operation squad's fight with the female titan blurred Eren's sight of the Corporal. He remembered the day they told him to count on them, how they were a "team" that will accomplish the mission perfectly. He watched them fight together, as though they could read the others' minds. They filled what their comrade lacked.
Sadly, the lack of information and the strength of Annie had outmatched them…
That's a proof of their hard long practice though, if we train together like that. But Corporal Levi … out of all people why did he pick us?
A gentle pat on the shoulder woke him up from his thoughts. Eren stared at two cold, sharp, gray eyes.
"But don't worry too much." The man affirmed in a soft voice, "After all you're under my protection."
This moment probably made Eren realize that being a leader such as Levi hides a lot of pain behind it; a lot of pain and responsibility. He's already seen the hurt and agony the last battles had caused; the people who died, got injured, and at the least traumatized by the amount of friends they lost. Although every mission was for humanity's sake and his protection as a link to discovering the secrets behind the Titans, not a single Recon Corps squad leader ever complained. Ever.
Just how much have they witnessed that made them so indifferent to these feelings of loss? Do they even have any emotions left? The teen thought, watching as his superior went back to his surveillance by the other side of the roof. How does Commander Erwin, Squad Leader Hanji, Corporal Levi and the others feel about the deaths of their comrades now?
I never even saw him mourn his friends…
The black sky slowly shifted into a lighter bluish color, announcing that dawn is near.
Eren yawned more, stretched on the roof, heard the bricks beneath protest as he shifted his weight, and then suddenly realized he was actually waking up – because he had fallen asleep instead of keeping watch with his leader.
He looked to his left, where he remembers he last saw the man. Levi was settled down, still staring straight as though the night had just started.
I guess he's been used to this…
A green recon-corps cape slid off of his shoulders as he sat up—a cape that was not his. He looked again at the Corporal and immediately felt embarrassed.
Way to go… trying to look all tough and you ended up sleeping like a baby…
"Welcome back, kid." Levi stated, with a bit of a mocking attitude. "You almost convinced me that you're able to take this night shift and I was thinking of offering you the next one."
His voice came out gentle yet frustrated, "I'm not a kid…I just –! Eehh…" and it almost made Levi smile.
A giant tree from the other side of the forest fell down making a loud thud. Both Eren and Corporal Levi turned their gazes towards the sound, cautiously staring.
"I don't think there's anyone here to chop wood at this time of the day." The teen commented, then turned his looks at the leader who had his eyes in daggers and a position of a soldier set for battle.
"If your comrades are still asleep after this, wake them up. Tell them to prepare their gear. Mikasa will take you and Historia to the closest village. Let Commander Erwin know about this."
"What? I'm not leaving and—"
"This is an order Eren." Levi stared at him. "Mikasa's ribs were hurt and she can't fight. Protecting you and Historia is our first priority here. I suppose you haven't forgotten that."
Eren gritted his teeth in frustration and jumped down into the house.
Connie, Jean and Armin had already gotten ready. Sasha was packing potatoes in her bag while Historia was trying to convince Mikasa she shouldn't wear her gear.
"Eren!" The girl shouted as her way to welcome him, obviously mad he was out of the house.
"Corporal Levi wants us to move to the nearby village and send the Commander news about this." He said, looking at both Historia and his adopted sister.
"What happened?" Jean interrupted.
"I suspected it yesterday while we were training in the forest." Armin looked down guiltily and hassled, "There has been someone tracking us. Someone or something… I kept having this eerie feeling of being watched. Then I saw crystals under a tree but I didn't think—I didn't want to think—that it could be of the same type we saw Annie encase herself into."
"What do you mean crystals?"Jean feared. They did not plan for this.
Connie approached, "Titans?"
Armin shook his head. "I don't know whether to say there are titans here, or if this place was an old place for titan experiments."
"Eren!" Levi's voice was heard from outside, rushing the teen.
Mikasa didn't leave them time to talk and grabbed her brother's hand, pulling him out. "Historia, let's go!"
"NO!" Eren stopped and snatched his arm back, the blonde girl hesitating behind him. "I'm staying. You and Historia will go to safety."
"Eren, our main purpose of coming here was to watch over you two and keep you safe." She objected.
But the young man wouldn't settle, "I wouldn't leave my friends to die because of me again!"
"Mikasa! Take them out!" The leader shouted. "NOW"
Sasha quickly placed a full bag in Historia's hands, "protect it with your life" She mumbled, a piece of bread between her teeth, and then got out instantly. Connie gave Eren a quiet look and rushed after her.
Jean looked down in a bit of confusion as his hands turned into fists, "Protect them." He said, facing Mikasa's eyes. "Don't fight. Avoid everything that can hurt any of you. You're not a position for your courage to take over. If anything, send us a green flare to indicate you're safe, and a red one to indicate a handicap. We'll follow you as fast as possible."
Armin stayed silent, looking down and swallowing-in his uncertainty.
"Let's go." The man pointed to the door and hurried after the others, the blond following him.
"Eren." Mikasa gave him a look. "It's not the time for your stubbornness."
"But I agree with him." Historia interrupted. "Ymir is there somewhere. She had her reasons to stay back and I'm sure she did everything for my safety. I'm not willing to lose more people just because they want to protect me."
The conversation didn't last long, as louder thuds were heard; steps coming out of titans. Yet behind Wall Rose how can there be more Titans since the wall wasn't breached and the military forces were still surely surrounding Rakago village?
This was supposed to be a clear deserted area.
"Capture them alive." Corporal Levi said as three 14 meters male Titans emerged from behind the trees.
Armin's eyes widened their bluish color a bit dimmer than usually "They look just like…Annie's…" He muttered. "A-Assuming they can harden their skin. Try to only engage on the Joints. Make them still and you win."
"What are such things doing here?" Sasha protested.
"They're people." Connie said, clenching his teeth in anger; remembering what happened in his village with his family. "They're people who chose to be like this. Like Reiner, Annie and Bertolt!"
"They're here for Historia and Eren." Levi stated. "No matter what, we must stop them. Attempt Capture. Mission objective changes if they try to follow their targets. Kill when necessary."
"Yes, Sir!" The group said as one.
The titans stood tall in front of them, red flesh bending up as something like a smile appeared on their faces.
Corporal Levi took his blades out, his team following his lead.
This time… I'm going to protect each one of them…