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

Part 6

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 - 8577 words - Complete

A Matter of Stature

Chapter 26: Cleaning Lessons

You fought to maintain your balance, using the mop as a walking stick. You finally made it to the mess hall, where Levi was going to give you cleaning lessons, while the rest of the inhabitants of the scouts base recovered from their hangovers. You stumbled towards Levi, who did not look amused. "Why are you wearing those ridiculous shoes?"

"It was Mary Anne's idea," you tried to explain. You reached the side of the room and used the wall for support. "After you left this morning, she stumbled into the room, all hung over, babbling about sexy shoes and insisted that I wore these."

"And why did you humor her?" Levi questioned.

You shrugged, "well, why not? I mean they're just shoes..." Ok, they weren't just shoes, they were platform heels, as if one or the other wasn't a challenge to your balance by itself, handling the two together was nearly impossible. "Inconvenient shoes," you admitted.

"Idiot," Levi stated as if it was a matter of fact.

"Hey, I've just about had it with you calling me idiot, slob, brat and what not, you little neat freak," you argued back.

"Then don't earn it," he countered.

You pouted, "you were nicer to me when I first got here." Erwin had been nice too, not that he was mean now, but after you made some friends among the scouts he had pretty much left you to your own devices.

"There were some significant threats hanging over the scouts back then," Levi reminded.

Then it hit you, you weren't in danger of transforming anymore and your father's influence at Sina was lost. His bankruptcy had become public along with Mona Lisa's raise to power and the business partnership he was once a part of was no more. The rumor was that Monocle was a prisoner in all but in name and the great tycoons, Mustache and Nose had been reduced to common merchants. They were still rich, but not nearly as rich and influential as Mona Lisa had become. With all that had happened, what was stopping a divorce from taking place? Your marriage could only be held together by your social stature for so long.

You supposed maybe Levi didn't want to complicate things with your father holding a vital piece of information, the identity of your uncle. Yet he was trading the combat lessons for that, which he could provide regardless of if he was your husband or not. A divorce would surely take place at the end of the combat lessons at the latest. You expected to be relieved when this whole mess was left behind and you divorced Levi to return to your normal life. Except your old life was forever lost and living with the scouts had become your normal life. Yet even if you could, after going through Levi's training, join the scouts and continue living with your friends, doing so as Levi's ex-wife didn't seem very appealing.

"Wake up, airhead, this is no time to be daydreaming, pay attention!" Levi demanded and snapped you back into reality. "Come over here, I'll teach you how to clean corners, they can be tricky."

You tried to stumble over, try being the key word, and you ended up twisting your ankle painfully and falling to the floor. Unknown to you until then, Sasha had stumbled into the mess hall like a zombie, muttering "breakfast" instead of 'brains' and witnessed the event. She good naturedly went over to see if you were alright. "Are you ok, (Name?)"

"Yeah," you decided it was best to stay on the floor until you took off the deadly shoes. "I just tripped." Wanting to clear your head of your thoughts of divorce as well as get back at Levi a little, you pouted. "It was Levi's fault, he distracted me."

Levi glared, he hated when the cadets observed him, waiting for him to be sweet to you, pressuring him with their eyes. However, instead of giving Levi a look of disapproval, Sasha laughed. "That's a good thing, it would be bad if your husband couldn't distract you."

Your jaw dropped, you had metaphorically inserted your foot in your mouth. "Yeah, I guess," you felt compelled to agree.

"Change your shoes, you don't want to get distracted and fall again, do you?" Levi reminded in the most fake tone of forced sweetness you had ever heard.

You considered insisting on going barefoot, just to unnerve him, but decided not to push his buttons that much or he might make the cleaning lessons worse for you. Without another word, you picked up your heels and started walking back to Levi's, that is Levi and your, room, barefoot, to get a pair of more comfortable shoes. You could at least unnerve him a little bit with the excuse of not wanting to fall.

"And wash your feet!" Levi called out as you headed out of the mess hall.

"Excuse me, Captain Levi, sir," Sasha inquired hopefully. "Who's on breakfast duty today?"

"No one," Levi cruelly replied.

Sasha looked like she was about to cry. "(Name)..." she whimpered, like a child whining to her mother about her father's harsh punishment.

"Just go make breakfast yourself!" Levi finally snapped.

Sasha immediately brightened and saluted cheerfully, "yes, sir!" Then she happily ran off to the kitchen, miraculously fully awake by now.

A few minutes later, you returned to the mess hall after having changed your shoes and yes, washed your feet. "Took you long enough," Levi critiqued, then walked over to the corner of the room.

You picked up your mop, which you had left leaning against the wall and joined him at the corner. He then began to explain several techniques to get rid of all the dust, which you found to be quite boring. Your eyes idly glanced around the mess hall and you realized that all the trash from the party had already been picked up and all that needed to be done was clean. You could totally picture Levi getting up super early just to clean last night's mess.

By the time you looked back at the corner, Levi had wrapped a cloth around the handle end of the mop and had it upside-down demonstrating a trick to get to those hard to reach areas without having to crawl all over the floor. "Did you get all that?"

"Yes, sensei!" You saluted.

"Then why haven't you done it?" Levi asked suspiciously.

"Oh, right, I just take a cloth and tie it around the other end of the mop..." You glanced around for a cloth and spotted one in a bucket of cleaning supplies, another bucket filled with water was next to it. You picked it up and tried to tie it around the mop's handle like Levi did, but you failed miserably.

"Pay attention this time," Levi took your cleaning supplies and demonstrated the right way to do this, then handed them back to you. You stepped towards the corner, holding the mop upside-down like a spear, ready to stab the area were the two walls and the floor met. "Aren't you forgetting something?"

You looked at the mop, the cloth and the corner, "oh, right, water, so the dust sticks to the cloth." You dipped the mop in water and once again got into position, but stopped when Levi groaned in exasperation. "What's wrong this time?"

He removed the bandana from around his neck and tossed it at you. "You're going to get dust all over your hair if you don't cover it. I don't require the cadets to do it, but since I am personally giving you a cleaning lesson, I expect you to go the extra mile."

You attempted to tie the piece of fabric around your head and once again failed miserably. You were still fumbling with it when Levi lost his patience and took it out of your hands. He folded it properly and tied it around your head himself. It only took a second, but that second was enough for you to notice how close he was standing and be sent on a flashback of last night under the mistletoe. You immediately turned your attention to the corner, in hopes that your blush was less obvious if you were looking away, or that in light of your effort to be a good student Levi would choose to ignore it.

After getting the corners cleaned there was still the rest of the floor to mop. Levi demonstrated the proper way to do so and you followed his example as best you could. Levi was not satisfied and felt the need to point out you were supposed to clean the floor, not stab it to death with the mop. Then he criticized that you were forming an arch with the mop motions rather than moving in a straight line. You continued trying to modify your movements, but he called them too much like a zig-zag.

You weren't sure why mopping patterns were so important, he wasn't this picky with the cadets, though he did often criticize the results of their cleaning efforts. Perhaps he was somehow teaching you to properly judge distance with this simple exercise in an effort to hammer into your head the basic skills your childhood deprived you of?

"(Name), concentrate, you're all over the place. What's wrong with you today? You're more distracted than usual." Oh no, he noticed. You offered no reply, steeled your resolve and tried to move the mop in a straight and even pattern. "Better, but not quite right," Levi acknowledged. He stood behind you, reaching around you left and right to grasp the handle of the mop, his hands over yours. He moved the cleaning implement from side to side in demonstration.

Your arms went limp and you allowed him to guide the mop in what he claimed was the proper pattern. You could see the rhythm of it now, as if moving to the tune of imaginary music, left and right, stepping back as you went until the motions stopped. "Looks like you're finally getting the hang of it, it's about time." Levi concluded. You could feel him standing right behind you, his breath tickling the back of your neck as he spoke.

Then he stepped aside nonchalant and inquired, "is there something you wanted to say, cadet Sasha?"

Sasha, who had been standing at the doorway to the mess hall unnoticed by you, squeaked as she was discovered and stepped forward. "I was just wondering if you wanted some breakfast." She was holding a tray with two portions of breakfast food, which she set down on the table nearest to her. "Well, I'm going to go um... wash the dishes I used." Then she escaped from the mess hall, as if she thought she was interrupting something. The talk later reached your ears about how cute you and Levi looked cleaning together.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 27: Fluffy

It was a new day and winter was clearly showing. The white snow reminded you of a painting your father kept when you lived at Sina. It was a beautiful painting of a woman with long white hair, tinted in various colors, like the aurora was depicted in forbidden books about the outside world. She wore a dress with the colors of the sunset and was looking longingly into the distance. Your father had come up with the description of the painting and commissioned a well known artist for it. When you had asked if the woman was based on anyone, he had told you it was a painting of your mother.

Today, the majority of the scouts were out training, despite the cold weather. Erwin had taken them out to do some exercises to make sure the lack of missions lately didn't make them get out of practice. As soon as the cold let out and spring began to show its first signs of arrival, the scouts had another mission planned outside of the safety of Rose.

The base was left with only you and Levi, who was busy with his winter cleaning, because spring cleaning was too far away to wait for it. Besides, he didn't like it when people neglected their cleaning during the winter with the excuse that they would clean everything when spring came.

You were, as expected, recruited into the cleaning efforts and taught some more techniques, which Levi insisted that you recite back to him to make sure you were paying attention. In short, it was exhausting, but you were still thankful for the company, the base would have a very gloomy atmosphere if you had been left completely alone.

"(Name) make sure you bathe your dog," Levi reminded as he, in true neat freak nature, cleaned the cleaning supplies.

"Ok," you didn't protest and went off to find Fluffy. You weren't sure where in the world the pink poodle had ran off to, you haven't seen her all day. You checked her food and water dishes and found that the meal you left for her had been consumed, but the canine was nowhere to be seen.

"Fluffy! Here, girl! Fluffy!" You called as you searched for your missing pet. It took you a good while, but you searched all over the base and you still couldn't find her. Frowning in concern, you looked outside, finding that you had accidentally left the backdoor open after you took out the trash. "Fluffy! C'mon, it's cold out here!"

You heard whimpering and, cold weather aside, ran outside towards the source of the sound. Fluffy was scratching as at rock that was visible beyond the thin layer of snow. Her paws were muddy and the refined pooch was whining because of it, she seemed to be unharmed though. You rolled your eyes, at least this was better than having her roll around in the mud, such behavior had long since been trained out of her during her younger years.

"It's ok, girl, I'll get you cleaned up." You picked her up, carrying her with her back to you, so her dirty paws would be facing forward instead of towards you, and went back inside. You returned to Levi's room, intending to use the adjacent bathroom, too tired from the day's cleaning spree to consider that Levi might not want you to bathe Fluffy in the bathroom he usually used. "It's a good thing you've been taught to be so clean, or else Levi might not have let me keep you." You conversed with the dog as you walked. It was silly, but strangely entertaining.

You reached your destination, opened the bathroom door and froze. Levi's eyes locked on yours, then you dropped the dog and screamed as you dashed out, the image of the naked Levi burned into your brain. Fluffy was startled and started running like mad, barking for no reason and chasing you as if to defend you from whatever invisible terror assaulted you, as the dog could not understand the real cause of your distress.

"(Name!)" Levi screamed in a fit of both wrath and panic as you realized how dirty Fluffy's paws were. "Your stupid mutt is getting mud all over the place!" He had just finished cleaning the base top to bottom, this was a catastrophe. He didn't have time to concern himself with what you might have seen, minimizing the damage done by the rampaging muddy pawed dog was more important, so he grabbed the first towel he could get his hands on and dashed out in Fluffy's pursuit.

You had stopped screaming, but you were still running aimlessly as your mind raced to come up with some kind of apology for Levi. What if he was furious? What if he was convinced you were a pervert? What if... 'No, no, don't think about abs, think about apologies!' You mentally berated yourself.

You had made it downstairs and were running around in panicked circles in front of the main door. Fluffy had gone off in a different direction, vaguely following Eren's scent, blaming him for your fright, even if he wasn't around at the time. Then she picked up the scent of the real Eren and dashed down the stairs. The main door opened and you tripped, falling down for the returning cadets to see. Fluffy darted down the stairs with Levi in close pursuit. She jumped towards Eren, but Levi caught her in mid air before she could reach him.

After the chase had ended, the world stood still as if time itself had frozen. Then finally, you hurried to get up while Levi calmly explained, "we cleaned up the place, so try not to get it dirty." He offered no other explanation to the wide eyed cadets before he glanced in your direction and ordered. "(Name) clean up your dogs muddy paw prints." Then he walked off to give Fluffy a bath himself, as he had determined you were too incompetent to do so. He disappeared up the stairs nonchalantly, as if he wasn't clad in only a small towel.

As soon as Levi was out of sight, everyone's gazes shifted to you and you could have sworn you perceived some mischievous snickers in the crowd. Unable to find your voice, you silently retreated, tripped at the base of the stairs, got up in a rush, and hurried away from the curious looks and silent assumptions.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 28: Battle

You squirmed uncomfortably and stared at the wall as if you could drill a hole through it and use it to escape your life. You had been meaning to apologize to Levi, but couldn't get yourself to look at him in the face and didn't want to sound insincere. Besides, you had discovered that things such as abs and other body parts provided very distracting imagery when trying to compose coherent sentences in your head. You've also learned that a picture was worth way more than a thousand words.

"Stay still," Levi complained. It was the end of the day and the two of you were ready to get some sleep. Well, he was ready to sleep, you were certainly not.

You were once again back to back on the bed that was too small for two people to sleep in it without invading each others personal space. You had moved as close to the edge as you could get without falling off the bed, but it wasn't helping make you any more coherent than you were immediately after the incident. You supposed the shock would pass, you couldn't be driven insane by your experience forever, but right now it was hard not to think about it. You had already been confused enough as it was after the kiss and now this.

You tried your best to stay still, but you knew you wouldn't be able to sleep until you said something. "I'm sorry," you rambled. "It was an accident, I swear, I didn't know you were in there, honest!"

"I know, your scream of terror made that much clear, now go to sleep," Levi's reply wasn't quite as angry as you expected. You didn't sense any murderous intent in his words or even as much as a hint of vengeful intentions.

You went over his words again, scream of terror? Had you offended him? Did he assumed you thought he was ugly? No, that couldn't be true, no one could look like that and not be aware of how hot he is. No, wait, bad train of thought, shut up, shut up, shut up! You took a deep breath and tried to concentrate in measuring your words. "It wasn't exactly terror, more like shock," you clarified. "I was surprised and was worried that you would hate me for being too stupid to knock on the door first." You paused, considering the situation from a new angle. "Why didn't you lock it?"

Levi shrugged, "never had the need." That made sense. No one would dare to enter his room without permission and they had to get across the room to get to the bathroom.

"Well, anyway, I'm sorry..." You repeated, then made yourself shut up before you started rambling again.

"I forgive you, now shut up and go to sleep," Levi replied, clearly hoping that this was the end of the conversation.

You noticed you were making a much bigger fuss about it than him and told yourself that it was ok. Levi didn't hate you, he wasn't acting any different, so neither should you. You realized that you were about to fall off the bed and considered scooting closer to the middle, to reclaim the rest of your half. You did so, resolving that it would be worse if you fell off in the middle of the night, yelled before you could stop yourself and woke Levi then.

You moved to claim your full share of the bed, accidentally touching Levi's back with yours. You froze, but he didn't move or make any notion of the little accident. You took note of how still he was and his even breaths and realized he had already fallen asleep. All that cleaning must have really taken it out of him, and he had gotten up really early too. You focused on the quiet rhythm of his breaths, it was somehow relaxing. Though you didn't think it to be possible, very soon you had fallen asleep.

xoxox xox xoxox

You went to visit your father every now and then. One day, you asked him a question that made him pause. "Father, how did you and mother fall in love?" You didn't know the reason for his sudden surprise, but he waited in silence for a moment as if you would offer further explanations. The question was simple enough, so you didn't elaborate, instead giving him a puzzled look.

Finally, your father smiled and began his reply. "Your mother was very sweet and kind. She had a beautiful voice and an air of elegance. She was different from any other lady of Sina I had ever met, and at the time I didn't really know many people outside of Sina. Of course, I wasn't the only man who was captivated by her, but I wasn't about to give up. I brought her roses often and talked to her as much as I could. I listen to what she had to say, and the more I understood her, the more I fell in love. It took time, but I finally managed to win her heart. I remember when I asked her to marry me, I thought I would die that day."

"Because it was so exciting?" You asked with interest.

"Because my most stubborn rival, stabbed me in the back, literally." That was not the answer you were expecting. Your father laughed lightly, "I survived and I'm here now. It was quite a rude interruption, but it worked out in the end. Your mother was unsure about accepting my proposal because she knew her life would not be a long one, even if I tried to tell her that even a short time would be precious. When she thought I was deadly injured, she realized what I meant and decided that she wanted to spend as much time as she could with me, just as much as I with her. She taught me to live in the moment, rather than in the past or future, though I sometimes wonder how well I learned..."

"Wow, that's like something right out of a novel! So, what ever happened to your rival? did he ever bother you again? Did you get revenge?" You asked curiously.

"Oh no, your mother would always say that keeping anger and bitterness in the heart only steals away happiness. I don't know what ever happened to Julius, last I heard he was arrested, but I never bothered keeping up with any news about him," your father reminisced. "There were other difficulties after that. Your uncle didn't want your mother to marry at all, claiming that the possibility of childbirth would shorten her life. But after we married, she kept insisting that she wanted a child, that her life would be short anyway and she wanted to leave a part of her behind. I didn't see my brother in law often back then, he refused to talk to me and I've only ever caught glimpses of him from afar. He came around later though, your mother was very ill by then and hardly recognized anyone. Occasionally, she would say my name or yours, though she never recognized her brother, I guess it was because they had spent the last few years apart." The story had been both tragic and fascinating. It was a story you would not forget.

xoxox xox xoxox

The cleaning lessons came and went along with the end of the year, though the scouts new year festivities were very tame after the incident of the Christmas party. Your combat lessons started along with the new year. It was still cold outside, so you and Levi went to a vacant room to practice.

"Let's start with something easy," Levi announced, though you were inclined not to believe him. "Land one hit."

"One hit..." you repeated in confusion, surely he didn't think you'd be incapable of just that. "Ok..." You dashed across the room and tried to punch him, but Levi swiftly evaded your fist and kicked your legs from under you. "Ow..." Clearly, this was going to be harder than it looked.

"Your stance is pitiful, you're knocked out of balance too easily, get up," Levi urged with impatience.

You scrambled to your feet and tried to pay attention as he corrected your posture. The training session when on like that until you were at least staying on your feet for a good while. You still haven't been able to land a single punch or kick though. You tried to be unpredictable, throwing hits as fast as you could and dodging Levi's attempts to throw you off balance, but you could only dodge for so long before you were on the floor again.

You were starting to get frustrated and tried hard to stay firmly planted on your feet. You got an odd sensation on your legs, but it wasn't pain. You realized that though the first few times the titan mist had appeared it hurt, the last time it did, there was no pain. Now the mist was gone entirely, but your legs felt as if they were more firmly planted on the floor.

The next time Levi tried to kick your legs from under you he stopped for some reason, the hit came into contact, but there was seemingly little effort behind it. You took that opportunity and threw a punch, he moved his head aside, but your fist still managed to brush against the side of his face. Exhausted, seeing that he had stopped moving, you asked, "does that count?" You didn't think it did and didn't wait for him to point it out. "No? How come you stopped?"

"Interesting..." Levi regarded you curiously, then without warning he picked you up bridal style and bounced you a little in his arms, as if testing your weight. "So that's what it is." He set you back on your feet.

"What was that for?" At least you could attribute your blush to the exercise you had been doing.

"Titans are not dense at all, they're actually very light for their size." Levi stated and you nodded, recalling that Hange had mentioned that before. "It might be the opposite for you, rather than gaining a light giant armor, your body becomes more dense and thus stronger. I didn't see any mist, but the mist was very thin when you were kicking that guy in the alley and your kicks seemed to be getting progressively stronger. Even if you don't look any different on the outside, something must have changed on the inside."

You thought about his theory and it made sense, plus your legs did feel heavier, though the extra weight seemed to be dissipating. You had heard that humans were about as dense as water and when you thought of water, you didn't think of something particularly solid.

"Maybe you should talk to the boy," Levi suggested.

"Tony?" You considered it.

"Children are very adaptable and the modifications were done when he was still a baby," Levi reminded. "He never really needed to get used to something new, this is how things were for him from the start."

"Good point, Tony's a smart kid, even if he's young, he might have already figured this out. Either way, I think it'll be a good idea to talk to him. If this hasn't already happened to him, it might in the future." So it was decided, you would go see Tony.

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Chapter 29: Hope

You felt odd returning to Sina, having left Rose very early in the morning. It was as if it wasn't your place anymore. The ninja guards let you into Mona Lisa's mansion, the main Gardenia estate. You wondered if any of them were present during the chase, serving their past master. Mona greeted you with cheer, you noticed that she didn't look any different, maybe the baby was just taking its time. She swiftly took you to Tony without protest, you were informed that Gustav was away on business. Levi wanted to talk to Mona about something or other, you weren't paying attention. They went off to some tea room or something and you were left in Tony's room. The boy was all too happy to see a familiar face and hugged you, drowning you in a million questions about his parents, your father and even Fluffy.

You felt numb, this wasn't the joyful reunion you were expecting to have with the boy who was like a little brother to you. None the less, you managed to reassure him. You told him about the bakery and atelier, about Rose, the good things about Rose anyway. He seemed convinced he was being raised to fight for humanity, that this was right for him and his parents would be proud. You knew Artie and Melinda just wanted him to be safe, regardless of if he grew up to be regarded as a hero or not.

After the small talk went on for a while, you eventually got to the point and told Tony you were like him. He seemed excited that he wasn't the only 'super warrior' as he called it. "Are you already fighting for humanity? Do you protect everyone from the titans? What's it like outside the walls?"

"I'm still in training," you pointed out. "This is all very new to me, you actually have more experience than me, since you've had these abilities all your life and I've only had them for a little over four months. I actually wanted to ask you something..." You tried to explain things in ways that didn't sound too complicated.

Tony understood what you meant when you asked if he could make himself stronger. "You just concentrate on where you want to be stronger, like your arms, or legs, and when you start feeling heavier it means it works, it doesn't really look any different though, you have to feel it." You continued the discussion of abilities and how to control them. It seemed Tony knew by instinct, it was true that it was easier for him to control his abilities because this is all he ever knew.

In the end, you were relieved. You had obtained some good insight and confirmed that Tony was alright. He was living in luxury and had all the toys and food he could ever want. He was guarded by the ninja, until he was old enough and strong enough so that he no longer needed it, until he was ready to join the scouts. Yet, there was still a sadness to him that he tried to hide, as if hoping that if he ignored it, it would go away. "Are mama, papa, and lord (Lastname) coming to visit soon too?"

You didn't know how to answer that in any other way but to say "they'll be here as soon as they can, I'm sure they miss you and want to see you very soon." You believed every word, you knew it to be true. What you didn't understand was why the visit hadn't happened, though with some more thought you realized it had to be because of the danger. Mona wouldn't stop them from visiting, but she didn't exactly encourage it, since she wanted Tony to give all the credit of raising a hero to her when the time came. If Melinda and Artie got themselves killed trying to see their son now, it would only make things worse in the long run, so no matter how much they wanted to see him, they had to be smart about it.

You didn't stay over, instead leaving a mere hour after your arrival. Whatever Levi and Mona Lisa talked about while you were with Tony, she didn't seemed pleased. Your mind was too filled with other thoughts to ask about it though, so you didn't. You left along with Levi, and arrived at the Survey Corps base late that night. You went straight to bed, feeling a sense of security at Levi's quiet presence next to you.

xoxox xox xoxox

Several things occurred in the next few weeks. You and Levi went over to see your father, Artie and Melinda, with the conversations being fairly civilized for the most part. Of course, in the end Levi and your father ended up arguing about stains and stain removal in an odd exchange of threats and defenses.

You had accompanied Eren, Mikasa and Armin on a few errands. Eren was in control of his abilities and Levi knew that, so he let him walk around with as many legitimate excuses as he could come up with, though only after he had become certain it wasn't dangerous. The titan shifter was never to go out alone though, and his two best friends were always all too happy to accompany him.

The rumor had gotten around that your father was broke and people whispered that's the only reason why you married a scout, because you could no longer call yourself a lady of Sina. Hypocrites, they lived in Rose too and there was nothing wrong with that. At least no one had any interest in trying to kidnap you anymore.

The more surprising news was that Mona Lisa claimed a large portion of land. Gustav had a lot of family among the farmers, who weren't too happy with the merchants that previously owned the land. They sabotaged the products to force a sale to go through and Mona Lisa was all too happy to make the purchase. She claimed that the stress of worrying about all the farmers of Rose had left her in a delicate state of health that cause her to lose the baby. You didn't think there was a baby after all.

The connection came to light, it was true that Mona was not who you thought she was. Just as you were warned, it turned out that she was using Gustav. You wondered how he was faring, as Mona demanded more produce from the farmers and made their lives much more difficult than before. You feared that poor Gustav had been tossed in a dungeon somewhere. You also feared that Tony would defy Mona and suffer the consequences.

One day, when you and Levi were visiting, he and your father had gotten into a discussion, not an argument, but an actual discussion about stains and stain removal. You let them be, since they were being polite about it. It was the late evening, as you had gone over for dinner, so the shops were closed. Artie was downstairs finishing the cleanup and setting things up for tomorrow's early morning baking, while you were upstairs talking to Melinda. She was right in the middle of a sentence, saying something about a peculiar dress design a client had requested, when she started crying uncontrollably. You didn't know what to do, she knew you had seen Tony, though that was some time ago, and he was alright, but that served as less of a consolation as more time went by.

You were trying to comfort Melinda when Artie went upstairs to find the scene. He attempted to reassure her but ended up in just as much a desperate state. This was so difficult to see and you wished you could help him. "Tony is going to be a scout, it's only a matter of time before he moved into the base. Once he lives there, you'll be able to visit him every day and when he's out on the field, Levi can make sure he's safe... And so will I," you offered, yet that time seemed too far away. "Maybe we can convince Mona that it would be best to start his training when he's young. If it's to make him into a legendary hero, she'll have to agree. We can use that as an excuse to have him move in with the scouts!" The prospect brought hope to Artie and Melinda and that hope was the only thing that pushed them to hold on to their sanity.

After they were as calm as you could get them to be, you let them have a moment to themselves and headed downstairs and found Levi and your father looking over some sketches at the bakery counter. The sketches looked like soap bottles of some sort. Your father wasn't an expert on the subject, since he had someone to take care of the cleaning for him his whole life until recently. Albeit your father was as clean as it was proper for a normal person to be, you didn't think he would share Levi's fascination with cleaning supplies, you considered yourself to be a clean person yourself and you weren't particularly impressed by cleaning supplies after all. You smiled, thinking that your father was making an effort to be polite and maybe even trying to make friends with Levi. You held on to that little bit of hope, because hope was what kept you sane too.

xoxox xox xoxox

That night, you told Levi about Tony. You felt silly talking to him in bed while facing away from each other, so you turned over. Feeling the movement, he turned over to face you as well.

"I couldn't convince her." Levi revealed. So that's what he had been talking about that day. "I was counting more so on Gustav to be our connection than Mona, but who knows what happened to him. If he doesn't turn up soon, I'll be inclined to suspect he's dead."

You gasped at the theory. "Dead? Would Mona really...?" You couldn't even finish the question.

"It's only a suspicion at this point, but it's possible," Levi truthfully replied, his face serious. "She's worse than anyone ever guessed, it was a bad idea to escort her that night. We might have been better off letting her father capture her back then, but it's too late now." His frustration was evident. "We messed up, we were trying to make things easier for the scouts and we messed up. We're threading on thin ice now, Mona is pushing for a budget reduction and the merchants are all too happy to have less taxes to pay. They don't think the scouts are profitable enough. They just want to hide behind these walls forever, without freedom," you caught a glimpse of a side of Levi he rarely let out. A side that you knew had to be there, it had to be in every scout, the thirst for freedom that Eren declared at the top of his lungs. It was mixed with the frustration of knowing that it was very difficult to obtain and an unbreakable determination to claim it anyway.

"We won't let it happen, the scouts will go on and will succeed," you were in no position to be saying those things and you knew it, but you wanted to change that. "I know I shouldn't be one to talk, I'm not doing anything, but I want to. I want to join, I want to fight alongside my friends, I want freedom too!"

"Then you better be ready to go through my training, you have potential, but I won't let you join until you bring it out," Levi challenged.

"I'll do it," you assured, accepting the challenge. Something had changed, something had awakened, and once again, there was no going back.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 30: Preparations

The combat training had become more difficult and more ODM training was added to the program. You had fallen so many times, you were wondering if you would ever get the necessary balance to use ODM gear. At least you could regularly land a few hits when sparring with Levi now, which meant you were making some progress, even if you still thought he was inhumanly fast.

You tried to make yourself stronger to land a really good hit and focused your energy on your entire body. There was no mist, that time had long since ended, but you could feel the very fibers of your being becoming more dense, your hits more solid. It was also a lot harder to knock you down like this, allowing you to mount a relentless attack.

You finally had Levi nearly out of breath, you had never managed to push him this much before. Just a little more and you would win. You put everything you had into one last punch but Levi evaded it by a hair, your fist instead colliding with the wall behind him, at least you had managed to back him up quite a bit, but you were tired, so tired. Your breaths were ragged and you felt yourself get light again, your legs barely able to support you.

"Your abilities won't do you any good if you don't pace yourself," Levi pointed out.

"I'll be fine..." you gasped to feed your starving lungs. "Just let me... catch my breath."

You weren't sure what happened, but in a split second, you had switched places and you were trapped against the wall. "The enemy won't give you that chance. You can't assume that your next battle will be the last you need to fight before you can rest. You need to be prepared to continue fighting, you can't let your energy become this low because you're impatient to land one good hit."

"I... understand," you gasped, wishing that the world would stop spinning.

"At least you're learning to control your abilities, now the problem is that you're using them too much," Levi gestured towards the spot on the wall you had punched.

You stared at it and placed your closed hand into the indentation, matching it's shape. "I did that?" You were sure you had landed a few good hits, how did Levi even continue fighting after that? He'd probably be bruised later, though he seemed more interested in your progress than in that detail. Perhaps he really was inhumanly strong, but so were you.

The training session was interrupted when Eren, Mikasa and Armin rushed into the room with declarations of denial and disbelief being tossed back and forth between them. Mikasa said something along the lines of 'only a lowlife would break a woman's heart' while Eren reaffirmed his disbelief and Armin desperately tried to calm the tensions and push forward the idea of dialogue.

"Quiet!" Levi ordered. He looked over the faces staring at him, the three cadets were not alone, identical twin lawyers you recognized as the Itadaki brothers were with them. Levi decided that Armin was the most coherent of the three cadets at the moment, so he address him first, "Armin, what is this about?"

"Well... Captain Levi... sir..." Armin shifted nervously while Mikasa and Eren observed, the Itadaki brothers watched as well, their identical expressions becoming increasingly impatient. "These gentlemen say that they're here to process the divorce documents for you and (Name). We tried to tell them it was a mistake, but they insisted in speaking to the two of you in person."

"I didn't call them," you quietly voiced. Of course this had to be coming, it was only logical, yet you still felt shocked by it.

Mikasa looked serious, her eyes threatening murder, while Eren gave Levi a sad hopeful look, as if begging him to restore his faith in him. "I didn't call them either," Levi truthfully replied.

You let out a breath of relief that you didn't even know you were holding, and the atmosphere around the cadets relaxed noticeably. "I knew it," Eren declared with certainty, "it was all one big misunderstanding."

"We never claimed either Mr. Ackerman or Mrs. Ack- Miss (Lastname), called us," one of the twins pointed out.

"We're here by the request of lor- Mr. (Lastname)," the other brother explained.

You knew you shouldn't be surprised. It was still disappointing though, since Levi and your father finally seemed to be getting along, bonding over stains, stain removal techniques and cleaning product bottle designs.

"He arranged for this months ago," one of the lawyers explained.

"Even before the marriage was signed," the other lawyer added.

"Have you spoken to him recently?" Levi calmly questioned.

The two lawyers looked at each other in realization. "No," they admitted in unison.

"Looks like he set up the divorce and forgot about it, I suggest you confirm this kind of thing with your client before taking action," Levi summarized.

The Itadaki brothers stared and you couldn't help it but to stare also. "Then there will be no divorce?" One of them inquired.

"Your services are not needed here," Levi stated coolly.

The Itadaki brothers huffed in perfect sync. "No refunds!" They unanimously declared, before exiting the room and heading out of the scouts base.

"I get it now," Eren nodded in understanding. "(Name)'s father must have been initially opposed to the marriage when it was being planned and was sure that it would end in a divorce. But that was months ago, he must have forgotten to cancel the divorce procedures and the lawyers didn't even bother talking to him about it again."

You nodded, playing along, though you weren't exactly sure why Levi was playing along too. "Yes, that's right. There's nothing to worry about now, father and Levi are getting along just fine."

The three cadets nodded in satisfaction and went about their daily routine. Once again you were left alone with Levi, a million questions floating through your mind. "Um... Levi... How come...?" You left the question hanging and you studied his face, he had a very good poker face as you could gather no clues from his usual neutral expression.

"It would lower their morale if we divorce now. We have a scouting mission coming up as soon as winter lets up," Levi explained. Morale, of course, wait, did that mean that you would get divorced after that mission was done? You weren't even sure you wanted to ask, so you remained silent. "I'm actually fairly certain that Eren's theory is right and that your father set up the divorce and forgot about it with all that happened afterwards. I doubt he would have any complaints about things staying as they are for a while longer if we explain the reasoning behind it."

You nodded, "yeah, I think you're right."

"Well, you've rested enough, it's time to stop being lazy. I won't go easy on you this time," Levi warned. You found it hard to believe he was going easy on you before. Thus the training continued.

xoxox xox xoxox

Time passed and your training went on, fighting on the ground was a lot easier than in the air. At least you were making some pretty good progress on hand to hand combat, though your ODM skills still needed a lot of work. You could more or less balance yourself, but getting the hooks to do what you wanted was another story.

The scouts' budget was being reduced and the price of food was going up due to the low level of produce that could be obtained in the winter. A contingency plan was put into motion though, in the most unexpected way. You soon found out that the stain discussions that had become more frequent between Levi and your father were not just their peculiar version of small talk. They were getting ready to form a business venture and Levi had been perfecting his formula this whole time.

Your father struck a deal with the scouts, he would work for Levi, marketing his new all purpose liquid soap with a secret recipe and in return he would not be arrested for his past actions. It could be seen as illegal blackmail, but Erwin had called the deal, "more beneficial than an arrest." You wondered if Erwin had made other similar deals like this in the past.

Your father was a business expert and the only reason he went broke was because of the impossibly large sums of money that he spent due to his brother in law. Materials, hush money, bribery for the mafia, it was too much. It was a miracle that he lasted for as many years in the business as he did, anyone else wouldn't have lasted half as long.

You realized no one had been pushing your father to reveal the information he promised and you wondered if it had already been done, his relative freedom instead warranted by his marketing services. You suspected that the man who had delivered your cure was your uncle, but you didn't know who he was or where he could be at the moment. You asked about it and were told that all would be known after the soap contract was signed, that was when your father promised to reveal everything. The soap formula had to be just right for it to be the success the scouts needed to get out of the red numbers winter had put them in. They wouldn't have a second chance, so Levi the neat freak perfectionist had to make sure it was perfect.

You had settled into a new routine, living with the scouts, talking to your friends and training with Levi, training a lot. When February rolled around it felt only natural that chocolates would be exchanged among the scouts and as everyone expected, among a certain couple of which you were one half of. You had fun making chocolates with Mikasa, who claimed she was preparing friendship chocolates for Eren and Armin, though Eren's looked much more like love chocolates. Those two liked each other and everyone knew it, it was only a matter of time before they openly admitted it to each other, but there was no need to rush, let them enjoy their silly game of cat and mouse, in the end the result seemed inevitable.

To be Continued

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