Categories > Anime/Manga > Attack on Titan > A Matter of Stature

Part 4

by Milia 0 reviews

A girl from Sina is engaged to a man she's never met. She must find out why and solve the hidden secrets of her family. (LevixReader, ErenxMikasa)

Category: Attack on Titan - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Humor,Romance - Published: 2015-05-03 - Updated: 2015-05-03 - 8924 words - Complete

A Matter of Stature

Chapter 16: Ride Like the Wind

The ball was a blur of stiff dances and hypocritical congratulations, though at least the food was good and there was cake. After it was all finally over, a carriage took you and Levi back to your house. A very tired Artie, who had cooked the majority of the banquet, was driving. Levi looked very uncomfortable and you knew he couldn't wait to take off his shoes.

As you had been getting into the carriage, you tripped, though you were fortunately caught by Levi. Before you began a new battle with your long dress to climb on the carriage, Melinda ran to your aid, completely ignoring Levi's murderous glare, the shoes of doom were her creation after all. You weren't sure what Melinda did, but she somehow detached the outer layer of the skirt and you suddenly found yourself in the knee length, much more manageable skirt that was under the longer one the whole time.

Upon arriving at your house, you hopped off the carriage, ready to call it a night, though you recalled you had a lot of explanations to give Levi and a couple to transport. Levi had said 'we' when explaining the plan, which meant you were expected to tag along, instead of catching up the next day. Levi took a moment to exit the carriage as if every step hurt. "Want a piggy back ride?" You offered as a joke.

"No, I do not want a piggyback ride," Levi replied grumpily.

Artie stepped in protectively, "the little lady offered you a kindness," he scolded Levi. "Don't complain and show some gratitude." Without warning, the tall muscular chef lifted Levi and placed him on your back. You stumbled a little at the sudden weight, but managed to regain your balance while Levi responded with a few impolite adjectives. Artie ignored the insults and offered, "would you prefer if I carried you both?" He inquired as he held the door to the mansion's main entrance open.

"No, no," you assured, "I got him," you moved forward, feeling quite silly, yet at the same time amused, and realized that in an odd playful way, Artie was trying to cheer you up. Though it wasn't the most comfortable position in the world, you still found it inexplicably enjoyable.

You made it past the once elegant, now empty, large living room and to the base of the stairs, looking at them as if they were a hungry titan. "I can go up on my own," Levi hopped off your back and painfully made it up the stairs.

"What? Can't accept a little help from me?" You teased.

"Is this supposed to be an advance payment for the cleaning lessons I offered to give you?" He shot back. "With your pitiful level of skill, you'll have to do a lot more to pay me back, slob."

"At least I'm better at walking." You proceeded to very easily lead the way to your room, where you assumed the both of you were expected to stay. Even if Levi went to a different room later, at least you could talk there without interruptions. Upon entering your room, you found some luggage that you recognized as Levi's. "I never got around to ask what you packed, that's a lot of stuff to bring on such a short trip."

Levi made a beeline for the bed and sat down to relieve his aching feet before replying. "Those are Hange's titan experimentation tools that she wants me to try to get your father to make more of and donate them to her research. She wouldn't leave me alone until I agreed to bring them. Clearly, she overestimated our connections. Your father is broke after all."

"It's that obvious..." It had to be known eventually and the fact that you were taken back to your house, or what once was your father's mansion, hinted that he knew there was no point in hiding it. "I guess that explains why I wasn't hidden away behind a wall of bribes," you laughed humorlessly.

"Your titan symptoms are manageable, is there another danger I'm supposed to protect you from?" Levi went right to the point, while he worked on removing his shoes. Yet before you could reply he stopped and stood up, then walked past you towards the closet. you were about to question his sudden odd curiosity for seeing what was in there, but the way he walked with such purpose and alertness, the pain of the shoes ignored, made you remain silent. The door to the walk-in closet was only open an inch, he threw it open and immediately jumped back, dodging the knife wielded by the masked man in black. You screamed, but just as quickly as the attack occurred, the danger had passed, as the mystery assassin was knocked out by a single punch to the face by a very irate Levi. "Such as that?"

"I don't know..." You admitted. You knew your father would be out late with his business partners who still didn't know how broke he was, and Melinda was staying late cleaning up after the party. You weren't sure where Tony was, but you hoped he was safe with a babysitter somewhere. You, Levi and Artie were the only people in the mansion. "I need to warn Artie."

"Little lady!" The aforementioned chef called loudly as he rushed up the stairs. His suit jacket was off, his shirt pressed against his bulging muscles as he breathed heavily in alarm. "Are you alright?" You looked you over for any sign of injury. "I found an intruder."

"So did I," Levi pointed at the unconscious man on the floor. He removed the coverings from his face to reveal unfamiliar features. "Anyone you know?"

"Yes," Artie replied. "This one, and the one that's on the kitchen floor are part of lord Gardenia's private security team."

"The escort," you gasped.

"Mr. Ackerman!" A man called from the front door. "Mr. Ackerman, we must go now!" You rushed to the window and saw Gustav pounding on the front door. A carriage with two horses was parked in front of the mansion, you guessed Mona Lisa was inside.

"What escort?" Artie questioned.

"There's no time," Levi began to put on his ODM gear, which he had in his luggage in case of an emergency.

"I demand an explanation!" Artie shouted in alarm.

"Levi's escorting Mona Lisa to Rose where she's going to take over her father's fortune so she can be with her lover," you summarized.

"The tyrant has a lover?" Artie sounded surprised.

"Mona's not that bad!" You defended.

"She's manipulative," Artie argued. "We only allowed her to talk to you because she was nicer than the others and we thought her nature didn't matter because we wouldn't let her use you in any way. Besides, you were always so happy when someone other than your father, Melinda, Tony and I was actually civil to you. It's like you were reassured in thinking that the world outside of your family didn't automatically hate you."

"Why does everyone keep saying that about Mona?" You pouted as you interrupted the chef, then you were subsequently interrupted from defending Mona any further.

"We're leaving," Levi was wearing his ODM gear and a backpack full of Hange's experimental tools. He didn't have time to change out of his suit, having only removed the jacket for convenience's sake. You didn't even have time to protest before Levi picked you up and jumped out the window, using his ODM gear to land safely.

"You better get her to Rose without a scratch!" Artie yelled from the window above. He wasn't planning to stop Levi, you realized. But why?

The situation with Mona was dangerous and Artie wouldn't let you rush into danger like that. Levi wanted to get to the bottom of everything and your presence might still be useful in dealing with Mona, so he had reasons to bring you along, but why would Artie allow that? Then you realized it, whatever danger you were heading into on your way to Rose, it wasn't as bad as what lurked in Sina. You hated being in the dark and guessing at what was really going on.

You and Levi rushed into the carriage, you went inside with Mona, Levi jumped on the roof after handing off the backpack to you, watching out for any attackers, and Gustav was at the driver's seat. The carriage took off at breakneck speed and you watched as your childhood home became a small dot in the distance beyond the dark road you left behind. You knew it in your heart that you would not be returning to the residence you grew up in ever again, but most of all, you knew your father, and possibly Artie, Melinda and even Tony were in danger, even if you didn't know the details of it.

Mona smiled at your arrival, despite how the carriage bounced around as it moved forward. "I'm so glad you're here, (Name). I'm sure you'll inspire your h-Mr. Ackerman to do his very best as an escort." Perhaps Mona had insisted that you tagged along for that purpose.

"I'm sure everything will be fi-" The carriage shook and you dared to look outside. Men dressed all in black like ninja were swinging around from the buildings on ODM gear. A few people screamed from their windows, but the ninja moved forward too quickly for anyone to interfere with the chase. Levi didn't let them get too close to the carriage though, fighting them off with his twin swords. His speed and precision were amazing. You couldn't stop looking up to see the blades of Levi's swords appear from the edge of the carriage's roof to counter one enemy attack after another.

"Get your head back inside, idiot!" Levi scolded. You squeaked and quickly pulled yourself inside the carriage.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 17: Levi vs. Ninja

The carriage continued rocketing forward as fast as the well bred pair of horses could pull it. You smiled nervously at Mona, who sat across from you, gripping the armrest to maintain her balance. You could hear the crash of weapons on the roof and Gustav's voice urging the horses to run faster. You wanted to see what was going on, but you didn't want to get your head chopped off as a consequence of your curiosity.

You looked over Mona's shoulder at the window in the front of the carriage where you could see Gustav sitting, driving the horses through twists and turns on the road and little known alleys that were a tight fit for the carriage despite it being light and small. Then you saw it, from every direction, ninjas were gathering in front of the carriage's path. They could see it from the tall rooftops, you realized, and the ODM gear made them able to fly faster than the horses could run, it was inevitable, the ninja couldn't be outrun.

"Gustav!" Levi shouted over the noise of hooves on the road and blades colliding against blades. "Take us to an open area!" If the carriage was boxed in, it would be over, Levi could only parry so many attacks at once and didn't have much room to move around in.

Gustav urged the horses out of the narrow passage and into the larger main road. The ninja followed quickly. "There's too many of them!" Gustav shouted in alarm.

"(Name)!" You were surprised when Levi called out to you. You had not been hazardously leaning out to see the fight this time. "See if you can find something useful in the backpack, there are some guns of some kind in there."

"Right!" You answered back and quickly began to dig through the backpack. You ended up spilling a good portion of its contents on the floor of the carriage, but found something that looked gun-shaped. The item had a water bottle attached to the top. You peeked out the window carefully and sprayed the water on an attacking ninja. The speed at which the liquid was shot out was far greater than any water gun and judging by the steam produced and the ninja's scream, the water was boiling. Unfortunately you didn't have a refill, so you were back to digging around the odd assortment of tools, just what kind of experiments did Hange do anyway? You weren't sure you even wanted to know.

You grabbed another similarly shaped gun, but instead of a water bottle on top, it had a metal can that must have been rather thick because the contraption felt heavy. You held it with both hands and cautiously aimed out the window again. Levi was blocking the attacks coming from the front, so you kept an eye on the back and spotted the glint of twin swords as a ninja swung towards Levi from the back, while two others attacked from the front. You aimed as best you could and fired. A strange green liquid was blasted out from the gun and caught the ninja on the arm. The ninja screamed in agony, weapons abandoned and ripped off the black sleeve as the scent of burning flesh invaded your senses. You really didn't want to know what kind of experiments Hange was involved in.

You continued using the acid gun, trying not to empty it too quickly. Eventually it ran out and you went to search for something else to use. A hook hit the carriage's side and one of the seemingly endless numerous ninja, daringly tried to board the carriage. Levi cut the rope, disabling half of the ODM gear and causing the ninja to be unable to recover in time and suffer a nasty fall. The impact however, was enough to push the carriage to the side as it turned a corner. One of the horses lost its footing and the carriage looked like it was about to topple.

Gustav tried to stop the other panicked horse from continuing the run, pulling hard on the reins, which caused the animal to kick at the carriage behind it and finish sending it sideways. Mona screamed and shielded herself with her arms, though she was far enough from the pile of items on the floor of the carriage not to get any serious injuries. You felt something stab you in the stomach, but it wasn't too deep so you pulled it out. Then a device shaped like big metal jaws triggered and trapped your leg. You screamed and tried to get it off. You managed to open it, but the damage to your leg was considerable. Mist began to form around you, but you forced yourself to calm down. You couldn't transform now, what if you couldn't control it? You weren't even meant to be a titan shifter, the mist was very thin now, probably signifying the expected progression of your condition. What if you only did another partial transformation and ended up with an oversize useless malformed limb that slowed you down far more than it helped? It was too risky, you had to calm down.

"(Name) cover me, we have to move!" Levi called from outside. You snapped to attention. Levi was terribly outnumbered, you had to watch his back as best you could. You scrambled to grab anything that may serve as a weapon, the darkness of the night not at all helpful in your task. You managed to find another gun shaped item and pulled yourself to the window. Levi hooked one side of his ODM gear to the carriage and the other to a building on the side of the street. He used the gear to pull the carriage upright and once again took his place on the roof. At the same time you shot the random gun shaped weapon, the first one you managed to grab. A thick gray smoke spread around the area. "Go!" Levi shouted as the carriage was pulled upright.

Gustav urged the horses to move forward once again, speeding up as much as they could, though not as much as before, since one of them appeared to be injured. Most of the contents of the backpack had fallen out the carriage windows. You searched for another cartridge to put into the gun. It was similar to a flare, but produced an effect like a smoke bomb, so maybe you could use it to throw the ninja off your trail if you shot it at the right moment.

"(Name), do you have more smoke bombs?" Levi asked.

"I found a few in different colors!" You replied, one was black, another white and another red, though the red and white would draw attention more than anything else. You couldn't find any more blacks, aside from the one and there were no other grays either. "Only one is black!"

"Save it!" Levi replied. You did and began to scan the carriage floor for anything else that you could use to help. You could hear Levi turning in every direction stopping the ninja and spinning around like a deadly tornado. You had no doubts that he really was humanity's strongest soldier. After the spin attack that knocked a few ninja into each other, leaving them with injuries that would make handling ODM gear very difficult, Levi gave Gustav some directions.

"But that leads to a dead end," you heard Gustav protest.

"Do it!" Levi commanded with finality and you knew no one would dare to defy him.

"(Name) get ready!" Levi called out.

"Ready!" You answered, prepared to shoot out the black smoke bomb.

The carriage turned down a narrow alley then broke down, losing one of its wheels on the side that one of the horses had kicked it earlier. "We're close, keep moving on foot!" Levi ordered.

Everyone abandoned the carriage and horses to follow after Levi. "Don't lose track of each other," Levi hurried towards a tunnel. A terrified Mona grabbed Levi's and Gustav's hands, you were inevitably stuck in the rear, since you had to cover the escape. You grabbed Gustav's hand, to make sure you didn't become separated from the group in the darkness, with Levi leading the escape. "Now!"

You shot the black smoke behind you as Levi turned left, right, and turned corners running through dark unfamiliar tunnels that he felt oddly confident about traversing. "This place is like a maze!" Mona complained in alarm.

"I know the way, now shut up if you don't want to give him any clues," Levi snapped.

Mona let out an undignified "hmph," but didn't speak further.

It felt like you were going deeper and deeper underground and it was pitch black. The light from outside you left behind could not reach this far into the tunnels. "We're going up, hold on to me," Levi announced. You tried to do so, at the same time as Mona and Gustav, hoping that Levi's ODM gear could lift the four of you. The hooks were shot up and the ropes pulled you along until your feet could no longer feel the ground, higher and higher.

"Stop choking me," Levi complained in the darkness.

"I'm trying not to fall!" Mona Lisa countered.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, you reached the surface. "Follow me and stick to the shadows." You, Mona and Gustav obediently followed Levi through narrow streets and dark alleys until the realization sunk in that you were no longer in Sina. Somehow you had passed below the wall and were now in the innermost area of Rose. That wouldn't stop the ninja from pursuing you if they found you though, so it was vital not to be spotted.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 18: Honeymoon

Levi led you, Mona and Gustav through the city. In a dark alley, a hooded figure waited with three horses. As you followed Levi closer to the mysterious person, you recognized him as Erwin. "Erwin? You're in on this?"

"Sometimes you have to bend the rules," Erwin replied. "Good thing I decided to come early." Looking back on it, you realized you didn't see him at the party, though you were fairly certain he was invited. He must have spoken to Levi before you arrived at the ball and arranged to meet him here. You ended up ditching the carriage early and taking a detour, but in the end, Levi managed to lead the group to the meeting spot. "I see you wore the red cloak like I asked, and you were seen in it?"

"Yes," Mona Lisa replied. You had assumed she was wearing it to protect herself from the cold of the night, despite its color screaming 'target.'

"Let's switch quickly," Erwin urged.

Mona Lisa took off her red cloak and put on a green cloak with a rose emblem. It would be odd for the Military Police to patrol Rose, as their territory was Sina, though peculiarly none of them showed up during the chase, probably due to bribery from Monocle. Rose was the Garrison's jurisdiction and Erwin intended to make Mona and Gustav look like ordinary soldiers on patrol. With both of them wearing hooded rose adorned cloaks that left their faces hidden in shadows, they mounted two of the horses. Erwin put on a Garrison cloak as well and rode the third horse.

Levi refueled his ODM gear but made no effort to hide his identity, though he looked like he wished he had asked Erwin to bring him a pair of boots, as he wasn't expecting to still be wearing the uncomfortable shoes from the ball. Erwin's comment about being early confirmed that Levi expected to be at your house for a while longer with enough time to talk and prepare. "(Name), keep your face covered and don't fall off." Levi handed you Mona's red cloak.

It sunk in that you were to become Mona's decoy. You put on the cloak, trusting in whatever plan Levi had, though you did have one question. "Don't fall off what?" All the horses were occupied and it would slow them down and make them suspicious if any of them was seen carrying two passengers.

"It's my turn to give you a piggyback ride," Levi explained. "I'll need my hands to fight, so I won't be able to hold on to you. Just make sure you don't fall," he glared over at Mona as he added, "and don't choke me." Mona frowned but refused to acknowledge the complaint any further.

"Ok," you covered yourself with the cloak as much as possible and climbed onto Levi's back.

The horses galloped off with Erwin leading the way, slowly at first, then gradually faster. After giving them a moment to get away, Levi activated his ODM gear and moved through a different route, vaguely in the direction of the scouts base. Mona would be staying with Dr. Facio, so they would be fairly close to the base, but the ninja were made to think that Mona was being taken to the scouts base. After they realized they were tricked, it was logical to think they would guess that Mona was hidden somewhere far away and wouldn't think to look for her in any of the houses nearby.

Levi took off into the air and it didn't take long for the ninja to spot him and give chase, though at least by now their numbers had been reduced and they were hurt and tired. Three ninja attacked from different directions, "hold on." Levi spun in the air, reaching out with his two swords, stopping the enemy swords and injuring them. He managed to hit one of the ninja ODM gear ropes as he spun, but the ninja recovered and moved on the attack again with just one usable hook. Levi cut the remaining rope and kicked the ninja hard, sending the black clad fighter flying into the window of a two story shop. It was closed at that hour of the night, but the owner would arrive the next morning to the nasty surprise of a broken window. Perhaps it would be assumed it was a rock rather than a ninja that broke it.

The chase went on through the city until the ninja continued to lessen their attacks. Finally, everything was quiet as the chase stopped though Levi warned, "there's at least one that's still following us." He purposely took a long route to get to the scouts base giving Erwin as much time as he could, allowing the ninja to believe that you were Mona Lisa.

The whole time you held onto Levi, careful not to fall off or have your face become uncovered. After the attacks ceased, the tension lessened for you. The red cloak kept you warm, so the cold air of the night wasn't really much of a bother. Levi moved with precision and you wondered how he knew when to shoot the next hook and at what. He minimized the damage to the structures as much as possible and didn't hit any windows, effortlessly moving as if guided by instinct. It really felt like flying.

Levi finally landed in front of the Survey Corps base. You thought you would be relieved when you got there, but it felt too soon. The sun had began to emerge from the horizon, though it wasn't yet visible beyond the walls. None the less, the dark sky had began to lighten and you could see the world coming to life with color instead of being shrouded completely with the shades of gray of the night.

You gasped, taking a moment to examine Levi. "You're hurt!"

Levi sheathed is swords and looked down at his stained clothes. "It's not mine." He tried to brush off some of the blood stains, though he knew full well that wouldn't really help. "They were fairly shallow cuts, it would be troublesome if dead ninja were found. It was just enough to make them retreat. It's still disgusting though, I don't know how you managed to hold on."

"I thought you were just sweaty from all the exercise," you replied, though you hadn't been exactly clean yourself.

"You can take off the cloak now," Levi reminded. "Let the ninja that followed us know it was for nothing. I'm sure Erwin's part of the plan is done."

You removed the red cloak and let your face be seen. You looked around for any signs of a ninja, but couldn't precise where the spy could be. "The ninja?"

"Just left," Levi assured.

"Oh," you had completely missed that.

"Looks like I got blood all over you, is there that much on my back?" Levi looked at the front of your once white dress.

"Actually, most of this is mine, but my healing ability must have kicked in because I somehow went from trying to ignore the pain to not feeling it at some point." You poked your finger through the hole in the dress at your stomach where you had been stabbed. "Everything in the backpack spilled out when the carriage was overturned and something stabbed me. Then my leg got bitten by a bear trap. It seems to be fine now, it hurt like crazy when it happened though."

"At least this confirms that you do indeed have almost instant healing," Levi pointed out. "If the injury isn't mortal at least," he assumed.

The door was suddenly open as Mary Anne took out a trash bag, filled with egg shells, empty milk cartons and other byproducts of the preparation of breakfast. She was clearly displeased to have gotten stuck with the chore, but the scouts knew that Levi could return at any moment and they were not going to leave any trash bags laying around for him to find. Mary's jaw dropped as she stared at the sight in front of her. Before she could rationalize that though the image was shocking, it presented no danger, she screamed and dropped the trash bag, spilling its contents all over the base's entrance.

"Look at this mess!" Levi scolded angrily. "Why are you taking out the trash through the front door anyway? You should take it out through the back door! Clean it up, I want everything spotless!"

While Mary was still too shocked to move, Hange appeared at the door. "What's all the yelling about?" She spotted you and Levi, taking in your appearances. "Woah! That was some honeymoon!" She rushed out past the petrified Mary and examined you and Levi in more detail, her eyes taking in every inch. "Interesting," she muttered. Your arms were visible due to the strapless dress bodice that could no longer be called white. Your legs were also easy to see below the knee.

"Very interesting," Hange turned her curious gaze at Levi who gave her a warning look to keep her distance. In spite of that, she grabbed his arm and pulled up his sleeve. He pulled his arm away, but she grabbed his other arm and repeated the process. "Aha!" She exclaimed as if making a huge discovery, then tried to roll up Levi's pant leg, only to end up face first in the dirt, courtesy of Levi. Not at all discouraged, Hange sprang to her feet and announce at the top of her lungs. "(Name) is a sadist!"

"What?" You exclaimed in surprise at the sudden conclusion.

"It's true!" Hange declared at the top of her lungs. "You're both bloody and your clothes are dirty and torn, but only Levi has scratches and bruises on him. That means that he's the maso in this ship and (Name) is the sado!"

"That's not... I'm not... I didn't!" You babbled incoherently, trying to find an explanation. You would be hurt far worse than Levi if you healed at the same pace as a normal person, but you couldn't reveal that, you didn't want to drag more people into this.

"I don't have time for this, out of my way four eyes," Levi shoved Hange out of the doorway. "And someone better pick up the trash!"

Hange was knocked into the still petrified Mary Anne, who remained motionless and offered no response as Hange hurriedly voiced a quick, "excuse me," before chasing after Levi, calling out at the top of her lungs. "Levi, tell me all about your sexy pain, describe it to me! And when did you get taller?"

You waved a hand in front of Mary Anne's face, she was still too shocked to move. You sighed hopelessly and started to clean up. You were already bloody and dirty from the ordeal, so you wouldn't get much worse by picking up garbage. At least you were home now and in a few minutes you would be in a nice warm tub. Then you caught yourself, home, though you still held your old home in your heart, this was your new home and despite it all, you were glad to be back.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 19: White Knight

Levi got cleaned up and changed into a uniform. You went to get cleaned up next, wondering if he really was planning to continue with his day without rest. At least he wasn't wearing the uncomfortable shoes anymore, but he hadn't really gotten any rest. After you were all clean, you curiously went to see what Levi was up to, but couldn't resist making a small detour to the kitchen. Sasha was on cooking duty that morning along with Mary Anne and Hange, and Sasha was an amazing cook, when she didn't eat the ingredients.

More cadets had began waking up and roaming the hallways on their way to the mess hall by then. You resumed your search for Levi, but he found you before you could spot him. "We can talk about what you learned now," he made it clear that he wasn't going to wait any longer.

You followed him to his room without protest and sat down. "You already know father's broke," you stated. "That's part of the reason why he sent me to you, bribes won't work to protect me from... whoever they are." Levi gave you a dissatisfied look, he expected you to be more specific than that. "Father doesn't know, someone else negotiated with some strange people and conducted titan research, but those people, no one really knows who they are."

"Could they be related to whoever gave Annie, the female titan, the ability to transform? Levi asked.

"I don't know, maybe." Giving it some thought, you supposed it was a rather likely option. My father wants to make up for it all though, he wants to fix everything but he doesn't want me to be at risk so he won't tell me what he's doing. Another thing I learned is that I'm not really a titan shifter. My ability is only regeneration and the shifting is a side effect that will ware off. I think it's already starting to go away. Also, I don't think I'm the only one with this ability because it was supposed to have been tested before, but I don't know on who, or if that person is even still alive."

"Regeneration without the danger of becoming an out of control titan..." Levi mused. "Since it was tested, assuming that everything you learned is true, that would mean the other person with the same abilities is unable to go titan by now. That would imply that the danger isn't really from that person, or at least not that person alone. Do you have any suspicions on who that person is?"

"Yes," you admitted, because you knew Levi would see right through you if you denied it. You suspected that person was Melinda, she was definitely hiding something that pained her, she had to be deeply involved in this. "But I don't want you to go around chopping off limbs to see if they'll grow back. Besides, I do believe my father and all those who are with him really are trying to fix things."

"If that's the case then why all this?" Levi asked. "Why not just work together with the scouts?"

You thought about the question instead of replying with your first instinct which was that you didn't know. Then the answer came to you. "They're not hiding this from you, they're hiding it from me. They know I'll try to protect them and put myself at risk, they're trying to protect me by leaving me out of it."

"Then if I ensure you'll be kept in the dark, they might cooperate?" Levi inquired.

"I don't want to be kept in the dark," you protested.

"(Name)," Levi spoke seriously, "this isn't only about you," he reminded.

You sighed hopelessly. You wanted to protect your family, but you also wanted to know. It seemed that rather than putting yourself in danger, the sacrifice you would have to make right now was not knowing. "Possibly."

"Then I'll go talk to your father," Levi decided. He got up and headed for the door.

"What? Now? You're going back to Sina?" You blinked in surprise, wasn't he exhausted? And besides, you just came from Sina last night.

"Your father isn't at Sina," Levi revealed. "I got caught up in the report on his movement while you were getting cleaning up. your father is at Rose. I must speak to him privately, but some of his past staff is with him, so you may come along if you wish to see them."

"Of course!" You hurried after Levi still quite surprised, not at the fact that your father was being watched, but at the fact that instead of staying out late with his business partners for the sake of appearances, he had spent the night traveling to Rose.

The two of you exited the Survey Corps building and went to the stables. It occurred to you that you had never ridden a horse and pointed that out, to which Levi replied with a simple piece of advice, "learn." That was, of course, easier said than done.

He took his usual brown horse from the stables and led you to the horse you would be using. You recognized the animal immediately. "Knight!" Your voice woke the horse from his nap and he seemed to remember you. He was friendly when you petted him, unlike your own pet, Fluffy, had been before. This was your father's pet stallion, you didn't expect him to be here at the scouts stables. You petted his smooth fully white coat and mane, which gave you a sense of nostalgia, looking out the window of your childhood home to see your father in the yard brushing him. "Why is Knight here?"

"Sasha said a woman called Melinda dropped him off very early in the morning and said this was your horse," Levi explained. Melinda must have not stayed to clean up after the ball after all. She was delivering the horse instead. You were glad to see Knight again, but you had a bad feeling about this. What if your father gave you Knight because he knew that soon he wouldn't be able to take care of him? "Hurry up and get on," Levi impatiently woke you from your thoughts.

Knight was already saddled from when Melinda brought him. If she left on foot, then her destination couldn't be too far. Since this was Knight you were riding, your father's well behaved refined stallion, it would be a lot easier than you expected. "Down, Knight," you gently tugged on the reins and Knight obediently lay down, making climbing on his back very easy. "Up, Knight," you gently tugged the reins up and Knight stood. You smiled and scratched him behind the ears. "Good boy!"

"Your horse is a wimp," Levi commented as he began to move out of the scouts terrain and towards the road, though thankfully not too fast.

"Don't pick on Knight, he's a good horse." You tried to remember what your father did when he rode on Knight around the yard and followed Levi.

The horse ride was rather short and you quickly arrived at a little shop consisting of two floors. A familiar pink poodle was sitting outside in front of it. She stood, wagging her tail, but the warm welcome wasn't for you, but for her fellow household pet, Knight. You had Knight let you down and waited for Fluffy to go on a barking fit. She sniffed the air and growled at you suspiciously, but she didn't freak out like she had before. This didn't necessarily mean she recognized you though, maybe she had seen so many unknown people at Rose, that she didn't care to bark at every new stranger anymore. You wondered if Tony was around, but didn't see him as you and Levi left the horses out front and entered the shop.

Artie was behind the counter tending to the bakery that occupied the first floor. He was wearing his chef uniform and smiled over at you when he saw you. The customers took their bread and cakes, heading out of the shop and Artie went around the counter to greet you. "It's wonderful to see you unharmed, little lady!"

"Thanks," you smiled back, though you were surely about to burst with questions.

"Is Mr. (Lastname) here?" Levi inquired.

"Yes," Artie replied with a protective warning look. "He is upstairs, helping Melinda unpack her materials. She'll be running an atelier soon."

Your father soon emerged from the stairs without having to be called, after having seen Knight out front through the window. "My little princess!" He hugged you in greeting, happy to see you were unharmed. "What brings you here today?"

"Um... well... Levi wanted to talk to you and... What are you doing here, anyway? I thought you were still at Sina." It didn't make sense. If he wanted to keep whoever was after you away, then why was he so close to your location?

"I live here, thanks to the kindness of Artie and Melinda, I help out around here with whatever needs to be done. I guess you could say I'm like a majordomo." Your father explained calmly.

"What about the danger and... and... and the I don't know what?" You asked.

"You need not worry, that has been taken care of. If they come, they'll aim where they cannot reach." It was another puzzle that you couldn't solve.

"I'd like to speak to you, privately," Levi requested, or more like demanded.

"Very well," as your father agreed, you saw Melinda heading down the stairs. Levi rudely walked away without as much as a glance of acknowledgement, maybe he was still a little bitter because of the shoes. His feet must still hurt, since despite wearing more comfortable boots now, he hasn't really rested.

While your father and Levi went upstairs, a cloud of silence fell over the first floor. "So... is Tony here?" You finally asked.

"Not right now," Melinda replied with a hint of sadness that she couldn't fully hide. "He's staying with some relatives for a while." You didn't know Artie or Melinda had any relatives, but you were too curious about the conversation upstairs to ask about it at the moment, though it was obvious Tony must have been sent away for his protection.

You looked at the stairs and Artie shook his head hopelessly. "Oh, what's the point. Go on, eavesdrop."

"Artie!" Melinda protested, but you didn't have to be told twice before you headed upstairs as quietly and quickly as you could. "(Name)!"

"I'm sorry, Mel, I just can't take it anymore..." You heard Artie say, his mask of cheer gone, before the sound of his quiet voice was lost to the distance and your attempt to listen to the voices on the other side of a door.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 20: Truths and Negotiations

You tensed as you listened to the conversation going on beyond the closed door, between Levi and your father. "I want the truth, all of it," you heard Levi demand.

"That is knowledge I do not possess," your father calmly replied.

"Then what do you know?" Levi insisted in a no nonsense tone.

"Not much," your father admitted, though that was a matter of opinion. "My brother in law may know more, but I would sooner die than show him ingratitude or provoke his wrath. Don't bother asking (Name) I made sure she never knew who her uncle was."

"The records shows that your late wife didn't have any siblings," Levi pointed out.

"He likes his privacy," your father replied with a tone of forced serenity.

"I'm not here to waste time," Levi reminded. This was getting really tense and you feared it would become violent. You didn't want them to fight, but how could you stop them?

"(Name) stop listening at the door and come inside," your father's words took you by surprise. The door was closed and you were very quiet. How did he know? "(Name), don't pretend you didn't hear me."

You opened the door and stepped inside. "Sorry," you apologized and joined them at the small table. Fabrics, sewing supplies and boxes were all over the room that was to become Melinda's atelier.

"It's alright, princess, I do wish you would grow out of this bad habit though, I fear that eavesdropping will get you into trouble one day," your father worried.

"Father..." You could feel Levi giving you a look of some kind, but you didn't look at him to see the details. "Am I invited to this conversation?" You pressed on.

"Yes, I'm sorry for keeping you in the dark, but a contingency plan presented itself and secrecy is no longer a necessity," your father explained. You and Levi waited for him to continue with the explanation, listening with attention. "There are people in this city who don't belong, people linked to the female titan incident. I have never met them myself, but as I'm sure you already suspected, they are within the walls. There is another group, they have no formal name, but they were basically double agents. Eventually they realized that the spies would not take them into their side, so they concluded that they had no choice but to side with humanity, or so I've heard. None of this is confirmed, but very likely."

"Those people somehow obtained a substance that could turn humans into titans, though only a limited amount. Most or all of them were supposedly killed by the spies, but the substance went from one hand to another, until it reached the black market. A gang got a hold of it and began to consider a super soldier project. The idea of having a titan fight for humanity was too radical at the time, this was well before Eren's abilities became known, perhaps before he was aware of them himself. So they tried to make a substance that granted regeneration and super fast healing that would be combined with rigorous training to create humanity's champions."

"My brother in law was a part of that project and, without my knowledge at the time, sacrificed many people to the failed experimentations. He only pretended to work for that goal though, a secret private army controlled by the darker side of Sina, the mafia if such a thing exists within these walls. His true goal was to cure his sister of the genetic disease that eventually killed her. Though I didn't know of his activities, I helped fund his research along with the mafia, so I feel responsible for it."

"The elixir failed to save my wife, and I learned of the atrocities. Yet, I didn't tell anyone, I simply decided to convince my brother in law to focus on normal medical research and I thought he listened. He didn't though, and the experimentation took many lives. Then finally, years later, he told me that there was a successful elixir, one that can make a person regenerate and immunize them against any illness without a permanent titan side effect. The titan shifting part was weakened, I'm not a medical expert, but from what I could understand, the formula included something to make the body clean out that part of the process, keeping the regeneration."

"Because (Name)'s immune system was weakened, it would take longer for her and she was at a greater risk of becoming a wild titan." Your father looked at you apologetically. "The problem is that because your body sees the titan shifting as a virus, it would attack the titan skin around you and it in turn would drain energy from your body to maintain itself. You would die within a few hours, after rampaging through the city. I had obtained information that Levi could retrieve a human that had gone titan. Surely he would want to interrogate you rather than kill you. I had to keep him close to you so he could save you, since we had no idea what triggered the transformation, and for all we knew it could be entirely random. I had expected this to happen, but miraculously, it seems that you managed to stay in human form."

He didn't know fear was the trigger, maybe it wasn't always the trigger, maybe it was random and this was something that happened only in your case. "What about Melinda?" You asked before you could hold yourself back. "The formula was tested on her first, wasn't it?"

"No," your father replied, a bit surprised by your theory. "Did she say that?"

"No, I just guessed," you admitted.

"Melinda was not the test subject, if she was, she could have told us how the elixir felt and what she thought caused each reaction," your father explain. "The test subject couldn't give anyone any information because he couldn't speak and by the time he was able to, it was all forgotten." You stared in confusion as your father continued. "I didn't know Artie or Melinda back then. When she was close to giving birth, she and Artie were attacked by robbers in Rose. You wouldn't recognize Artie if you saw him then, such a scrawny boy. That experience changed him though, not just physically. He trained to be strong so he could protect his family in the future and became determined to always be cheerful and not let anything get to him so that Melinda wouldn't be sad."

"Melinda did give birth and recovered, but the child was born in a very fragile state due to the hits she received from the robbers. Young Anthony wouldn't have been able to walk, he could hardly breathe. In desperation, they took the miracle cure that my brother in law offered and saved their little boy. I found out and resolved to protect the boy to atone for not having stopped my brother in law. Tony went through a seemingly random transformation stage, but because he was only a baby, his titan form was small and a little clumsy in moving, so we managed to keep him hidden in the basement of our old house. He eventually grew out of it and became a normal healthy boy. We knew then that the elixir had indeed been perfected and that's when we decided to give it to you."

"Obtaining the proper materials was difficult, even if my brother in law knew the formula. Apparently, there was only one sample of the original substance and it was a key component of the new formula. I don't know what the size of the sample was, but there was little of it left at that point and it had not been possible to figure out what was in it. That's when my brother in law took things into his own hands again, he offered the mafia Tony, a perfect candidate for the super soldier project, as he was young enough to be easily trained, in exchange for the last portion of the substance. He made the formula and it was delivered."

"The original sample of the titan shifting substance is completely gone as far as I know, the clue that could lead us to identify the spies linked to the female titan incident and very likely also Shiganshina leads to nothing, and the mafia is after Tony. The only thing left to do is to protect him from the life of a mercenary slave slaying titans for a reward, rather than for freedom. My brother in law wants to give him up, to calm the mafia and wash his hands of all this. With the money I gave them plus Tony, they'll leave us alone, but I can't let them have that boy. For all the people that I didn't help and for all the suspicions I willfully ignored, because all I could see was the hope of keeping my own wife and daughter alive, I must save this boy."

"Why not tell me the identity of your brother in law?" Levi spoke for the first time in a long while.

"He has no one identity, he can change his appearance as he pleases, he's a shape shifter, a secret that he discovered and refused to share with anyone but me. He said it would be too dangerous for the mafia to know that it was possible, that the formula for shape shifting would exist only in his mind and die with him. It's like a human sized titan, a human with an extra outer layer that has a different face. I don't believe you'd be able to capture him. You'll only get yourself killed if you pursue him."

"Are you saying that he could impersonate anyone?" Levi inquired with alarm.

"Yes, but not if you know that person. His copies are not precise, if you're familiar with a certain face and especially a certain voice, you should be able to tell there's something wrong." Your father explained, which at least gave you some small degree of reassurance.

"Is Tony hidden somewhere safe?" You asked.

"He's with Mona Lisa," your father revealed to your surprise. "Mona wants the glory of a hero for a son, so she's adopting him. He'll be trained, though in much more humane ways than the mafia would train him, he'll join the scouts when he's old enough and become humanity's new strongest soldier. Mona will treat him well, I'm sure she won't risk upsetting him, Tony is smart and determined well beyond his years. Once Mona is in power, she can keep him safe after taking command of the ninja clan that once served her father, until he's old enough to keep himself safe. Though I'm sure the mafia would have given up by then, if Mona doesn't wipe them out to claim their territories and riches first. She's quite daring."

So that was the change in plans that came up, a negotiation with Mona Lisa. You wouldn't run off to protect Tony if he was already safe behind an army of ninja, so telling you about him would no longer cause you to put yourself in danger.

"I insist that you tell me the identity of your brother in law," Levi repeated.

"Fine, but first, I want to see (Name) fight," your father's reply took you by surprise. What in the world was he talking about?

To be Continued

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