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

Part 9

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 - 13501 words - Complete

A Matter of Stature

Chapter 41: Vigilante

Everyone was gathered together listening to Erwin go over the previous day's simulacrum, discussing what was done right and what needed improvement. At least the pretend casualties were minimal. There was nothing out of the ordinary from the debriefing and it went by without any peculiarities. Afterwards, everyone went about their assigned tasks for the day, and you recalled you had to go to Erwin's office. When you got there, Levi was already present. You curiously took the offered seat, wondering what this was about. "This is not an official Survey Corps meeting," Erwin announced, "in fact, this meeting never happened."

Curious, you listened with attention, nodding your quiet agreement of silence. You weren't sure what this was about, but Levi was in on it, so if anything, it had to be worthwhile or he wouldn't be involved.

"As you know, there is a large quantity of food products stored in warehouses owned by Mona Lisa. The court has been unable to resolve the arguments between those involved in her business transactions and no one has been able to claim anything. As a result of that, a lot of the food is starting to go bad," Erwin explained, or rather reviewed, since that unpleasant truth was something you already knew. "Certain people from the Military Police," whom he clearly wasn't going to refer to by name, "have decided to take the merchandise and sell it illegally to several shops at Rose at a generous discount. Rose would benefit greatly from this transaction, but the missing goods will cause trouble... unless the warehouse happens to catch fire and the goods are presumed destroyed."

You were surprised, shocked even. Vigilantism wasn't what the Survey Corps were about, even if the cause was righteous. Part of you was excited, though it had a hard time showing through the surprise. "A fire," you mused, considering the risks. "Might be a bit hard to control."

Erwin nodded, smiling, as if satisfied by your reaction. You got the feeling he might have second thoughts about sharing this information with you if you seemed too eager. "Which is why the proper measures have been taken. What I need from you is absolute secrecy."

You nodded, "alright, I promise." An explanation of the plan followed. Some of the members of the Military Police had reached to the Garrison for illegal assistance and they had in turned reached to the Survey Corps. The system might be corrupt, especially in the Military Police, but at least this time the citizens of Rose who were suffering after Mona Lisa took over so much of the farmlands would catch a break.

The mission was simple, go to the warehouses and set them aflame, from the inside out to minimize the danger by burning a few small fires, rather than a single massive one. The fires would be put out quickly, but had to be allowed to burn just enough to serve as false evidence of the supposed destruction of the food, which would just be empty crates.

You would later found out that you father had called in a few favors from the Military Police to help make this happen and Erwin was apparently aware of it, but did absolutely nothing to stop him, you suspected he might have indirectly encouraged it given the special circumstances. Although your father was unaware of your involvement, which wasn't exactly part of the plan from the start.

You left for Sina soon after and made it there when it was dark. The horses were hidden away by members of the Military Police you didn't know, but Levi seemed to recognize. You had no ODM gear for the mission and instead of the scouts uniform you and Levi were dressed all in black like ninja, blending in with the night and with the remnants of the Gardenia guards.

Levi was sneakier than you when it came down to it and the less people involved the better, so you figured that as some point you'd have to split up, otherwise there would be no point in having two people in the same place doing the same thing. You arrived at a row of warehouses behind tall fences with a few ninja guards and a few Military Police officers. "The Military Police will ignore you or help you, the ninja won't," Levi warned. "Go to the side and you can go in from there, then set up the fires as planned."

"Got it," you nodded in understanding. You watched as Levi ran off in the opposite direction and and took off towards your own destination. There were a lot of Military Police guards on your side. One wordlessly opened the gate just enough for you to slip past the tall fence and you hurried to the first warehouse. You set the empty crates on fire and moved on quickly to the building next to it.

Unlike the first one, this one was actually locked. You were supposed to set them all aflame and the wooden area that held the metal parts where the lock was looped closed appeared to be suspiciously weakened. You concluded that you were supposed to break it, easier said that done. You used your special abilities to strengthen yourself and charged the door repeatedly until the wood gave out noisily and allowed you clandestine passage. You cringed at what a noisy ninja you were being and hurried to try to make up for lost time.

You set the crate aflame and hurried to leave, or at least that's what you were trying to do when the world turned into an invasion of noise and light, pain captured all your senses and you were thrown forward, flaming debris falling all around. You rolled back and forth trying to extinguish the flames that caught you and dragged yourself to your feet, stumbling to escape the approaching footsteps and shouting voices. You were surrounded by ninja, with the Military Police surrounding them, but not doing anything to detain them. The MP officer in charge started demanding their identities as well as custody of the intruder, you.

The ninja did not comply and instead responded by throwing smoke bombs at the ground and making seeing the direction of their escape impossible. You were lifted into the air by the ninja in ODM gear. This was a trap and by the looks of it the Military Police wasn't in on it. They were debating whether or not they should give chase or wash their hands of the whole incident, blaming it all on an intruder posing as a ninja. The MP wasn't exactly happy about having them around, it was their job to guard the goods after the course took them until it was decided who the legal owner was following Mona Lisa's death. The ninja also made their illegal sales harder to conduct.

After the smoke cleared, you looked around but saw nothing but the passing scenery and the ninja. The MPs were out, they had opted to stay out of this and blame everything on the ninja. It was a fine escape for them and the easiest way to get on the clear. Levi had been on the other side of the row of warehouses when the explosion occurred. He must have heard it, but you couldn't tell if he had followed the sound to its source on time to see the ninja escaping with you. Besides, how would he even know you were being taken? That explosion could have been anything and you were dressed as a ninja, blending in with them and the night.

You tried to move, but were completely numb. The explosion must have fractured something with the intensity of the impact and your body went on overdrive trying to heal you. You could feel your skin growing as hot as the flames with the speed of the regeneration. You were glad your burns were healing, but it was draining your energy very quickly and you had already used some of it breaking into the warehouse. You allowed yourself to go limp, until you were fully healed, you wouldn't be able to fight, that would only drain your energy faster.

This was supposed to be an easy job, no ODM gear needed, they didn't want any links to the MP or scouts or anything, as the ninja used slightly different looking ODM that you didn't have access to. You had a feeling that the trap wasn't necessarily from the MP, their contacts at the Garrison or Erwin might have been suspicious if it was. Besides, the MP wouldn't cause unneeded tension with people they negotiated with regularly, but what did the ninja have? With the Gardenia name basically doomed to fade away, their clan would be dissolved, unless they found a new sponsor.

You were taken through a tunnel by the five ninja and tossed to the ground, the ninja surrounding you. A familiar man emerged from the shadows with a dim lamp to make his features just barely visible, but you knew who he was. "Mustache," you growled in recognition.

"That's Don Rocco to you," the fact that he was showing his face meant that he didn't expect his prisoner to escape, or to live for very long. "You do seem to know who I am, even if you insist on addressing me with dangerous disrespect. I wonder who you are?" The ninja mask was yanked from your head, revealing your face for Rocco Montrel, alias Mustache, head of the Sina mafia, to see. "The dying girl? What a lucky break! I just wanted a list of the MPs that dared to steal my goods out of you, but it looks like I'll get so much more. Transport the girl to a secure location. Fredrick will have to show up and listen to my demands now."

"You won't get anything from my uncle! He's not a criminal anymore, he's not evil!" You argued in sudden burst of anger. Rocco have you a mocking look and motioned for his guards to take you away. Two ninja grabbed your arms and began to drag you away. You were healed by now and focused as much as you could in making your arms stronger, though they looked the same on the outside, their density and weight changed.

The ninja exchanged glances, as if noting that the skin that a moment ago gave in to the pressure of their hands was now much more solid, as if made of dense highly compacted muscle, but it was too late for them to react. You pulled your arms free from their grasp, grabbing onto the front of their uniforms in a swift motion and smashed their heads together. The other three ninja went on the attack, while Rocco shouted words of anger and disbelief. He was not informed of your abilities and had been tricked into believing that your illness had weaken the elixir making it all balance out into an ordinary human without the same abilities as Tony.

The tunnel was suddenly filled with smoke and someone grabbed you and pulled you away, "retreat." Levi, you didn't know how, but he actually found you and came in from the other side of the tunnel. He probably knew the mazes that led to the underground city better than even Rocco's people. You hurried through the smoke following Levi until you could see where you were going.

In the distance, the warehouses were burning, the fire was kept under control, not affecting the areas around it, but the fire fighters did a good job of pretending to struggle with it. Some of the buildings in the middle were left intact though, the fire not allowed to risk them due to concerns of the danger of more possible explosions. You and Levi made it back to the horses and retreated without any time to look back. The MPs blamed everything on the ninja and were detaining them to protect their own names. Rocco must have retreated in the midst of the commotion, not wanting to expose himself further.

You wondered if Rocco had Tony, but doubt that was true. Without the original sample of the formula, your uncle couldn't do much except be silenced or be used to capture Tony. The way Rocco had mentioned demands made you think he still needed Fred for something. A theory surfaced in your mind, what if Tony was with Fred the whole time? If Fred's days as a desperate experimenter were truly over, then Tony would be better off with him than with Mona. It was still hard to imagine Fred as cruel after he had been so kind to you growing up.

The next day at the scouts base, you and Levi went on with your normal routine as if nothing unusual had happened the previous night, though the scouts had their own theories about your tired state. You didn't have the energy to blush about their likely thoughts anymore, so you just let them be and went about your day. Erwin had been informed of the happenings and would take care of things regarding the MPs, though it was still troublesome that Rocco knew that you weren't exactly an ordinary human. For the time being, making a direct move would be too dangerous, so you had to let things be. In the mean time the scouts, you included, continued training for a mission they didn't know when they would go on, but they prepared for it as if it could happen at any moment.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 42: Implications

Your head collided with the table above harshly and you let out an undignified, "ow," as your brain processed the implications behind the calmly spoken question. After recovering from the sudden impact, you turned your attention back to the spot you were cleaning on the table's underside.

"Well?" Levi inquired from a few feet away, momentarily pausing his task of cleaning under the bed to glance in your direction.

"What?" You blinked in confusion.

"Are you coming"?" Levi repeated, though the context of his question didn't quite sink in for you.

"Sure," you nodded with little fuss, then paused to add, "where are we going?"

"The bath," he reminded. Your head collided with the table above again when your brain once again processed the implications and furthermore confirmed that they were true. "Why do you insist on breaking the table with your head?"

You had asked Levi what he was going to do today, to which he replied he would clean the room and take a long bath afterwards, as it was his day off, unless there was something you wanted to do. You haven't really thought about it and couldn't come up with an answer on the spot, so you just joined him. "Oh, I thought you were kidding." You continued the cleaning while you allowed it all to sink in with a mixture of excitement and nervousness.

"You already cleaned that spot," Levi pointed out.

"Oh, right, looks like the underside of the table's all clean," you declared, not really analyzing if it was up to his standards or not.

Levi joined you under the table, looking at your work critically, "(Name)," he frowned in disappointment, "what did I tell you about corners?"

"Corners are the deadly ally of dust." You dutifully repeated, then hurried to go over the corners underneath the table where the furniture's legs were.

"You never answered," Levi pointed out while he retreated from under the table.

To your credit, you didn't bump your head a third time. "Oh, well... You know, I have to walk Fluffy, but if I'm back early then, yeah." You saw Levi nod from the corner of your eyes and stopped yourself from rambling further. 'I have to walk the dog?' You quietly thought to yourself. 'What a stupidly obvious excuse, now he probably thinks I don't want to. Of all the times I could've picked to suddenly feel insecure, why now?' You frowned at yourself as you attacked the wood with your cleaning cloth, then moved on to the nightstand, cleaning the top, sides and bottom.

"(Name)" you looked at Levi, though your hands kept moving as you did. "Clean, don't rip the paint off, just clean." he reminded. You realized how rough you were being with the furniture. Your right arm felt heavy, as if you've been putting your energy into its density without noticing. You nodded and returned to your cleaning. Levi had moved to cleaning the window, he loved cleaning windows, it was ridiculous, yet endearing.

xoxox xox xoxox

The day went by rather uneventfully, except Levi actually took note of your energy when cleaning and sort of complimented you, if 'aggressive cleaning' could be considered a compliment, too bad it was the result of venting frustration.

That evening you went to walk Fluffy, just because you said you would, and instead found Armin playing fetch with her. You decided that she was getting enough exercise as it was and let them be. Fluffy seemed accustomed to her new haircut. You didn't dye her fur anymore and the pink had gone away, she was completely white now. Levi had the "dust collecting excess fluff" as he called it, cut off. He coat was shorter now, but still fuzzy enough to clothe her from the elements. She was probably more comfortable with the shorter fur anyway, since the weather was becoming warmer.

As you walked on, Mikasa spotted you and after a moment's hesitation, hurried to catch up with you. You greeted each other normally, then she asked, "are you busy right now?"

"Not really," you replied, "I was just going for a walk to pass the time. Do you need anything?"

"I wanted to talk, mind if I come along?" Mikasa revealed.

"Sure, let's go," the two of you left, off to the streets of Rose, which were not too heavily transited at that hour. People were either home or at a few public establishments, bars and cafes, but they weren't walking down the streets and most of the shops had closed for the day.

Your first guess as to the topic of Mikasa's conversation was what she knew about you. Maybe she had gotten curious about your healing abilities and thought it was about time she received an explanation. She didn't bring up that subject though, instead bringing some context to the conversation. "You're married," she stated, and you wondered if she had somehow learned the secret origin of your arranged marriage. She paused, as if trying to rephrase her question in a way that didn't sound like she was prying.

You gave her an encouraging smile, "it's ok, whatever it is, you can just tell me."

Mikasa nodded and finally inquired, "I was wondering about how you... well, how you got Levi's attention."

"Oh..." You weren't even sure how to answer that, but tried to reply as honestly as possible. "He noticed I liked him and I guess he decided that I had traits that he liked and there was no reason why it shouldn't work. He did think of reasons why it wouldn't," you mused, "but none of them fit, so that just left the reasons why it would. I'm sorry, am not making a lot of sense, am I?"

"I understand what you mean," Mikasa voiced thoughtfully, "so Levi knew you liked him and he thought about it. How did you make him notice that you liked him?"

"I didn't," you admitted. "I think he noticed before I even realized it myself. Then when I did realize it, I was kind of in denial. I think my father knew it too before I fully admitted it. So then I told him," there was supposed to be a story that constituted your background with Levi, but you were too focused on the memories to think about how the slightly vague tale would fit with the previously established narrative. "Actually, I thought he didn't like me, but the only way I could move on was if I got everything out of my system and let the rejection sink in, rather than holding on to some vague hint of hope. It turned out better than I expected," you blushed at the memories. "I guess, his final reasoning was to not say anything if I didn't," you mused. Mikasa took it all in with a thoughtful expression. It wasn't hard to guess what she was thinking of. "So, are you going to confess to Eren any time soon?"

Mikasa stopped walking, a mix of denial and excuse ready on her lips, but instead she laughed, as if she knew just how hopeless it was to try to hide it. "I don't know," she admitted unsure. "Sometimes I think he likes me, but even if he does, that doesn't mean he wants to do anything about it. There's a lot going on and he's focused on that. He can turn into a titan, the future of the scouts is uncertain right now, not that it wasn't before. There's just so much to think about that I also think this may not be the best time to bring it up. I want Eren to know I'll wait for him as long as he needs."

"If you've made your choice, then you should tell him, you said it yourself, you want him to know. Besides, this isn't a big secret, he has probably noticed by now, especially after what happened at the Christmas party," you reminded, causing her to blush at the memory of when she and Eren kissed. That had also been the first time you and Levi kiss, not counting on the cheek, though it was still mostly for the audience back then, though perhaps not entirely. Either way, it was certainly real now.

Mikasa nodded in determination, "you're right, it's not like I'm asking him to do anything or even give me an answer. I can be subtle and just let him know that I'll always be there for him. Thank you, (Name) and..."

"You're welcome, and my lips are sealed," you assured.

xoxox xox xoxox

Mikasa and you headed back to the scouts base. Mikasa went to find Eren and you, having somehow gotten over most of your nerves, went on your way back to your and Levi's room. That meant that the two of you were walking in the same direction for part of the way. You passed in front of Eren's door first. You gave Mikasa a thumbs up and were about to move along, when the voices coming from the room gave you pause.

The door was carelessly left open a few inches, allowing the sounds of the conversation going on inside Eren's room to quietly flow out into the hallway. "And I just worry about it sometimes," Eren confessed. "You know, that she'll just get fed up with all the waiting and move on. But then there's a million other things I need to worry about too. I mean, I can turn into a titan and I don't even understand why."

"I don't think that changes anything for Mikasa," Armin's voice reassured from within the room. "If you're that worried about losing her then at least give her a clue. Let her know that she's not waiting in vain."

"And then what?" Eren inquired unsure.

"I don't know..." Armin initially replied, though Eren's sigh made it obvious that he wasn't being helpful and that prompted him to rephrase the answer. "Then you'll feel better and she'll feel better and nothing has to change right away."

"But will it ever, can it ever?" Eren's voice raised in volume as his frustration became evident. "I'm glad to be able to fight the titans, and I still want to get revenge on every last one of them, but I still don't know what I am or what I'll do other than that. Everything is just so uncertain and..." there was a pause and after a moment, he went on in a quieter tone. "Just what is she waiting for? I don't know what my future holds, so how can I ask her to wait? To wait for what?"

The door suddenly flew open, Armin jumped, Eren froze and you stood there in shock. Mikasa had pushed the door open with such force that it slammed against the wall and slightly bounced back, crooked on its weakened hinges. "I'll wait for you, no matter what," so much for being subtle. After speaking those words, Mikasa let out a breath, as if exhaling all her tensions, and calmly walked out of the room.

Eren stared after her in open mouth shock until Armin nudged him to move. Slowly at first, Eren took a few steps, then bolted with amazing speed, catching up to Mikasa further down the hall, in front of the stairs at the end. You couldn't tell exactly what they were saying, but there was blushing involved.

You looked at Armin, who was still getting over his shock. He joined you at the doorway and glanced at the couple down the hall. "I guess I'll give them some space," he decided. Smiling, he added, "you encouraged Mikasa, didn't you? Thank you, I'm sure they'll work things out, I'm happy for them."

"You're welcome, though I don't think I did much," you replied. "Mikasa pretty much had things figure out. I'm not sure what was keeping her from acting, or Eren for that matter."

"I guess everyone backs away from doubts or the illusion of doubt sometimes," Armin mused, which gave you something to think about. "Well, I'm going back to my room. I think I'll read a little, then go to sleep early, I have breakfast duty tomorrow, we're making pancakes."

You walked with Armin in the direction opposite to Eren and Mikasa, parted ways with him in the next hall after exchanging good nights, then kept walking until you realized you didn't know where you were going. Well, you had been heading back to your room, but Eren and Mikasa were parked right in front of the stairs and you didn't want to interrupt them.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, you entered your room, feeling satisfied that things were working out among your friends. Levi was sitting on the bed, wearing pajama pants, the light of the lamp illuminating his well toned bare torso. He held several papers with various notes and illustrations pertaining to scouting mission strategies.

You didn't dwell on what the papers were other than scouts stuff and why he was looking at them, instead your eyes were drawn back to his exposed upper body and remained there until he spoke. "Are you just going to stand there?"

He didn't sound impatient, but you still rushed to reply, albeit it was too late to cover up your staring. "Of course not," you closed the door behind you and suddenly the reality of the situation sunk in. Levi's day off was basically over, long bath day had gone by, he'd shower tomorrow and not take more time for it than what was needed to be his flawlessly clean self. "You took the bath without me..." You concluded.

Levi looked up from the papers with curiosity, though he still maintained his ever present poker face expression, you had just gotten better at reading the very subtle differences in his face. "I thought you didn't want to join me. Where did you go to walk the dog anyway?"

"I didn't," you admitted. "I'm late because Mikasa and Eren were confessing their love at the stairs and I didn't want to interrupt them." You had checked in on them discreetly and seen them shyly kiss on one occasion. Every other time you peeked in from the other end of the long hallway they were sitting at the stairs talking with a variety of expressions, ranging from smiles, to frustration, to regret, to stubborn determination, to blushing like ripe tomatoes. It was like they were recounting their entire lives to each other, even though they've for the most part, witnessed the same things.

"It's about time," Levi concluded, not at all surprised by the well known fact that Mikasa and Eren liked each other. "I suppose I can excuse your tardiness."

"Eren's room was a few feet away, I don't know why they couldn't just talk there." You recalled the door and mentioned it in passing. "Eren's door needs some repairs, it partly came off one of its hinges and it's crooked."

"I move Eren out of the cellar and he not only prefers to obstruct traffic on the stairs, but breaks the door too? Maybe I should move him back." You knew Levi wasn't serious, though you still defended Eren.

"It wasn't really his fault, Mikasa broke it when she barged in to reassure Eren that she would wait for him as long as he needed. He was in his room talking to Armin at the time," you explained.

"And you and Mikasa were eavesdropping? You're corrupting my cadets," Levi shook his head in hopeless disapproval, though you could just barely detect a vague hint of amusement. "I might have forgiven you for being late, but I can't forgive this."

"My deepest apologies," you joked, then let out a breath, lamenting lost opportunities, it was ok though, it's not like it would be the end of the subject forever. "I'll make up for my transgressions tomorrow. I'm going to shower and go to bed. Armin let me know that there will be pancakes for breakfast tomorrow and I don't want to be late for that."

The next morning, you were late for breakfast...

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 43: Half the Things, or Maybe More...

The passing of the week brought at least some good news, though there were uncertainties that still remained. The whole drama with Mona Lisa was resolved, at least in what concerned the Survey Corps as well as the general public. Tony, Artie and Melinda where nowhere to be found and your father kept trying to sneak off to look for them, only to be dragged back and told not to get in the way of the investigation. He was detained a few days ago, as in officially arrested, though he was back home now. The bakery and atelier remained close with only your father occupying the structure.

You considered inviting your father to live at the scouts base and casually brought up the possibility during conversation, but before you could fully offer, he had refused. You didn't even have time to plan out how to ask Levi in your head, before you launched into an unsuccessful attempt to convince your father to accept the possibility. "He hasn't contacted me in a long time, if I'm at the base, the chances of him talking to me again will be less and he's the only one who knows..." Was your father's excuse for his adamant refusal. You realized that he was referring to your ever elusive uncle who had all but dropped off the face of the planet.

Though there were still a lot of things to think about, for the time being, you closed your eyes and tried to clear your head, focusing on the pleasant sensations of the here and now...

xoxox xox xoxox

"Wow, look at those numbers," Hange exclaimed as she examined a sheet of paper. "That soap is really selling and now that the government sorted out Mona's mess and the merchants has mostly quieted, the scouts are finally out of the red numbers and we'll get our normal budget back."

"Now that our operations are not longer frozen, we will likely need to go on a mission soon. Mona Lisa's influence on the farmlands went further than what we expected," Erwin frowned at how that situation had blown up in their faces. "The boycotts that Gustav was tricked into influencing which led to Mona's purchase and the later temporary ceasing of work, left the seed supplies very low for the next farming season. The higher ups expect the Survey Corps to prove their worth by making up for it."

Hange put the paper down on the desk between them and gave the commander an incredulous look. "Are you serious?" She shook her head, "so they're sending us out to get more seeds or something?"

"In essence," Erwin got up from his desk, walking to the window of his office. He opened it, letting some fresh air inside. "It may seem like an odd mission, but it may turn out to be vital for the people that are counting on that food supply. If the price of food continues to rise because of another small harvest it'll be bad for everyone, especially for Rose."

"I guess we'll have to bring back a lot of seeds then. If we can prove ourselves by coming back without casualties, then the Survey Corps' good name would have been defended and we won't hear complaints about failed missions and tax wasting from people anymore, or at least not as many complaints." Getting excited, Hange considered the possibilities further, "maybe I'll make an interesting discovery out there!"

"I'll have a meeting with all the captains this afternoon at 1400 to go over the details, the cadets are to be briefed tomorrow and ready by the end of the week," Erwin decided.

"Gotcha, I'll let Levi know when I drop this off," Hange picked up the paper she had been examining before and exited Erwin's office.

xoxox xox xoxox

Out in the hallway, on her way to give Levi the paper in his room, Hange saw Eren and Jean talking in front of Eren's room. "so, are you and Mikasa going out now?" Jean glared.

"Well..." Eren considered the question for a moment, a blush adorning his face. "Not exactly," he finally replied, though Jean's fleeting hope was soon dashed away by his next words. "It's more like a promise that we'll get married once the titans are all defeated."

"You what?" Jean loudly exclaimed, before collecting himself and trying to be rational. "You do realize that may never happen. She'll get tired of waiting for you."

"I'll make it happen!" Eren stubbornly argued, the volume of his voice and intensity of his tone raising. "Every last titan out there, I'll make them all disappear!" Jean took a step back, Eren could be pretty scary when he got all excited about fighting titans.

"Hey boys," Hange popped up out of seemingly nowhere, causing both Eren and Jean to jump in surprise. "Could you give this to Levi and tell him Erwin is having a meeting with all the captains today at 1400? Thanks!" Before they could reply to her request, she was gone, just as suddenly as she came.

Eren looked at the paper that had been shoved into his hands. It looked like some sort of accounting sheet. He shrugged, Hange said he had to deliver the document, not interpret it. "Let's go give this to Levi." His fierce tone and murderous atmosphere had dissipated entirely as he walked off towards the stairs.

Jean couldn't help it but to curiously follow. Eren could take care of the errand by himself, but he might as well tag along so he wouldn't think he was scared of him, or Levi, or anything. Besides, it's not like he had anything better to do at the moment anyway.

xoxox xox xoxox

Eren and Jean arrived in front of the closed door to Levi's room. They paused before knocking and listened to the sounds coming from the other side of the door.

"Hmm... That feels good... Ahh... Don't stop... This is so nice... Levi, you're wonderful!"

The two boys remained frozen, a pink tint invading both their faces. Jean swallowed his shock to find his voice and whispered. "Do you think he's doing that?"

"What do you mean that?" Eren whispered back, unsure if he wanted to know the answer.

"You know, that," Jean searched for an eloquent wait to phrase it. "Popcorn," he finally settled for the keyword.

"Popcorn?" Eren repeated in confusion, before recalling the time of Hange's Levi x (Name) fanfiction reading and how he had asked about popcorn at random to try to prevent Hange from asking an embarrassing question. "Oh! Popcorn!" After a moment's thought, Eren shook his head. "I still say that's physically impossible."

Jean puffed out his chest and bragged, "I bet I could do it."

"No one could do it," Eren insisted. "But that's not the point. Whatever they're doing, and I'm sure it's not... that... popcorn... whatever it is, it's still... private, so we shouldn't interrupt."

"No kidding captain obvious!" Jean exclaimed, perhaps a little too loudly. "If we interrupt now, Captain Levi will kill us."

Eren nodded in agreement, and thought about what they could do. "Should we push this paper under the door with a note about the meeting, or should we come back later?"

Jean paused to think about it, then decided, "let's come back later. If we push the paper under the door, he'll know someone was here and that paper," Jean pointed at the document Eren held, "might make him ask Commander Erwin who sent it."

"Then he'll say Hange and she'll say..." Eren's eyes widened in realization at the fatal mistake he almost made.

"Exactly, she'll say the names of the marked for death, us!" Jean completed.

"Ok, let's come back later than, good thing you pointed that out," Eren nodded.

Before Jean could comment on the fact that he saved the situation, the door to Levi's room was opened. The two boys jumped, then became still as statues in frozen shock and fear, as Levi demanded to know, "what are you two doing standing there?"

"We're sorry!" Eren and Jean recited in a shaky chorus before realizing that Levi was indeed fully clothed. They curiously began to try looking behind him, tilting their heads upward to see over Levi's shoulder, much to his annoyance.

"Who's at the door?" You curiously went over to the door. Your hair was covered in a particularly viscous shampoo, a towel draped around your shoulder to keep the stuff from dripping on your clothes. The sensation of Levi's fingers massaging your scalp was very pleasant (bless his wonderful neat freak hands!) and quite frankly you were not happy about the interruption.

"Just these two," Levi glared at them, which reminded them that they were yet to state their purpose for being there.

"We brought you this," Eren held up the paper like a mix between shield and peace offering.

Levi snatched the document and glanced at it before inquiring, "is that all?"

"We also have a message," Eren continued.

Realizing that he hadn't done anything to justify his presence there, Jean quickly intervened. "Commander Erwin will be holding a meeting with all the captains today at 1400!"

"I see..." Levi nodded calmly, his voice perfectly level, which made Eren and Jean let out a unanimous breath of relief. "Now tell me, why are your faces so red?"

Eren and Jean looked at each other, at a loss for words, their faces growing even more red at the memory of what they had assumed was going on behind the close door. Hair washing, was not their guess. Then they both grew ghostly pale at the fear that Levi might think they were eavesdropping and assign them some terrible punishment.

You curiously looked at the distressed young men and shook your head. "Was Hange reading weird fanfiction to anyone who would listen again?"Neither Eren nor Jean dared to voice a reply, but they both lowered their head, the red tint returning to their faces. You wondered if having their blood rush to their faces, then their feet, then their faces again so subsequently would be bad for their circulation. None the less, they didn't need to voice a reply, because their shamed expressions already spoke volumes. You spoke gently, since Levi was scaring them enough as it was. "You guys know that half the things Hange writes are physically impossible, don't you?"

Eren and Jean gasped in surprise, while Eren let out a victorious, "I knew it!" Before he could turn his attention to Jean and give him a big satisfying 'I told you so' as 'I told you so's often tend to be, he recalled the delicate situation he was in and bit his lip before he could speak any further, though thankfully, not hard enough to draw blood.

Levi's aura of extremely dangerous extreme annoyance was palpable, but before Eren and Jean could get an earful, you decided to show them some mercy and send them away. "Thanks for delivering the paper and message," you smiled sweetly.

"You're welcome!" Eren and Jean chorused as they unanimously saluted, perhaps out of habit as well as a sign of respect, since they were not about to wait for Levi to dismiss them himself before they made their hasty escape.

Levi let out a breath and shook his head. "Hange never learns not to meddle," he closed the door and suspiciously examined the floor with a critical eye.

"I didn't drip," you assured, before taking a seat again and waiting for Levi to continue.

"Your hair is already clean," Levi pointed out. "Besides, it's almost 2."

"Oh, right," you nodded, recalling that 1400 was 200pm. It was Levi's day off, but sometimes he had to do scouts stuff, there were no real days off for the Survey Corps after all. "I guess I'll go wash this off, have a good meeting." Making sure the towel prevented any bits of goopy shampoo from dripping off to the floor, you hurried to the bathroom, while Levi left the room.

xoxox xox xoxox

Hange was heading off to the Survey Corps captains meeting when she ran into Eren and Jean, who were having a very peculiar discussion. Armin and Connie were there, with Armin looking embarrassed and Connie constantly repeating, "you do have a point..." switching between agreeing with Eren and agreeing with Jean every time either of them said anything.

Since she heard her name being mentioned, Hange curiously walked over and asked, "what are you talking about?"

The four boys, who were huddled in a circle of perceived secrecy, jumped in surprise at her sudden appearance, seemingly out of thin air. Jean decided to end this argument once and for all and asked. "Are the things you write in your fanfiction really physically impossible?"

Hange laughed, "of course they are," her laughter continued to echo while the boys watched in shock, mouths ajar, eyes wide. "Only about ten percent of the things I write are actually physically possible, but it's still fun to write about the things that are not."

"Ten percent?!" Jean exclaimed in disbelief.

Confused by the discrepancy, Eren pointed out, "(Name) said half the things you wrote were physically impossible."

Hange's laughter ceased all at once as she blinked in confusion and shock. "Really?" Eren and Jean nodded in confirmation. "Wow, that's... wow..." She paused, another more interesting thought appearing in her mind. "Did she happen to say which half?" Both Eren and Jean shook their heads and Hange smiled mischievously. "I guess I'll have to ask (Name) later." With that said, Hange went on her wait to the captains meeting with Erwin.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, Levi returned to the room he shared with you to find you had finished removing the shampoo from your hair and drying it. You were sitting on the bed, squinting at a piece of paper. It was the letter your father had given you, which went through the wash, as you had forgotten it in your pants' pocket. The water had messed up the ink and the words were impossible to read. You looked up from it, as Levi entered. "How was the meeting?"

"We'll be going on a mission next week," Levi revealed, "we'll talk about the strategy tomorrow, there will be a meeting with all the squads, that should be announced at dinner today."

"My first mission..." You recalled that you would be with Hange's team this time, though maybe you'd be with Levi in the next one. Stopping your thoughts from progressing further, you reminded yourself that the mission wasn't an occasion to hang out, lives would be at stake and you had to stay focused. You smiled, remaining positive, "I'll do my best."

"Just remember your training and be careful," Levi sat on the bed beside you, curiously examining the paper in your hands. "What's that?"

"A letter from my father, he said they were business tips for my eyes only. I forgot the paper in my pocket and washed it along with the pants. I finally got around to trying to figure out what it says but it's just impossible." Giving up on the blurry letters, you crumpled the paper into a ball and tossed it in the trashcan, you'd just have to tell your father to write up those business tips for you again. "Do you have anything else you need to do today?" You asked, "or anything else I need to do?" It was your day off too, but that would inevitably change if something really needed to get done.

"Not really," Levi wrapped his arms around you and you leaned into him comfortably, returning the embrace. He kissed you, both of you enjoying every moment of it, then whispered in your ear, "want to find out if more things are possible after all?"

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 44: Mirages and Explosions

You petted Knight's mane, hoping that the world out there didn't scare him too much. He was such a calm and loyal pet, you wondered how he would react to the sight of a titan. The gates would open soon, you saw Levi riding Cali close to where Eren and Mikasa were. You went over the formation in your mind, recalling your position. Hange didn't seem to be worried, she looked excited, like she couldn't wait for the gates to open. Your father was another story, his smile was clearly forced, his eyes filled with stress and worry, while he fought to keep any complaints he might have from escaping. "Be careful out there, princess."

You smiled in reassurance, "don't worry, I'll be fine." He nodded, trying to convince himself of it. "By the way, about the letter you gave me a while back." Your father tensed, you attributed it to the stress of your first mission outside the walls. "I kind of forgot it in my pocket and it went through the wash. I later tried to figure out what it said, but the ink was all blurry and I couldn't read a word."

Your father let out a breath as if something suddenly made sense. "It's alright, princess," he tried to look reassuring. "Maybe it's best this way, it was wrong of me to write that letter, cowardly. We should talk in person when you return. Whatever happens, remember to live without regrets, regrets will only enslave you."

"Ok," you nodded, wondering just what kind of business practices the letter had described.

The announcement was made that the gates were about to open and your father stepped aside to allow the scouts to pass. The giant doors parted, offering the first glimpse of the territory that once belonged to humanity before Maria's fall. The scouts began to gallop out, moving into formation as they did and the gate closed behind you.

Initially, the scenery wasn't too different from that which you left behind. The houses were a little ruined and clearly lacking maintenance, but they still stood, relatively undamaged. You heard the echo of barking up ahead, Fluffy was in the saddle bags of Erwin's horse, providing an additional warning in terms of what path should not be taken.

The formation had not yet spread to its full size, so you could still see most of the scouts. No flares were needed to direct the troops yet, since everyone was in sight of several others and could easily follow the pack. Hange shifted direction and you followed, turning down another street.

A titan, that had been apparently sitting, stood and towered over a building up ahead, though it didn't seem to notice the scouts rushing by behind the structure. It was only a matter of time before the sounds of the horses' hasty gallop was heard and the creature squeezed between the two tall houses in front of it to reach the street where the last of the formation was passing by. Fortunately, by then it was too late, as those assigned to support the scouts as they went further away from the wall got rid of the titan swiftly.

Erwin switched directions again to get back into position as you left the urban area. The expanse ahead had few buildings and they were in worse condition than the others, nothing but ruins. It felt as if you were truly outside now, though at least the visibility was better, albeit there were still a few places behind which titans could hide. Erwin should be aware of them though, even if Fluffy's barking was too far for it to carry all the way to your position in the formation.

Hange looked back, your eyes met hers, as if waiting for instruction, "(Name) fall back a little and keep an eye on your right."

"Ok!" You guided Knight to pace himself. You had been so focused on not breaking formation that you kind of did. Hange was in front of you, so you were concentrating on following her, but the space between you and the scout behind you had become too great, you were supposed to be in the middle. You allowed Knight to fall back in pacing until Hange became a dot in the distance and you could see a another dot behind you that you reasoned was Connie.

The formation didn't look this wide on paper and after the briefing you had imagined that you'd be riding closer to the other scouts, not as close as in the simulacrum since that had limited space, but closer than this. With this much space between the scouts it was no wonder the flares were used, it wasn't a convenience to make the communication faster, it was a necessity for the communication to happen at all. You looked to your right, towards the edge of the formation. You didn't see any titans out there yet.

You heard the echo of a flare being shot and looked ahead, but didn't see any smoke. For you to hear it, it must have been relatively close, but if Hange didn't fire it then who did? You looked back and saw red smoke, Connie had fired it. You hurried to relay the message with another red flare.

You had expected titans to come mainly from the front, but that one was right behind the formation. Fluffy probably couldn't detect it from further ahead and Erwin must be unaware of it. It was ok though, you assured yourself as you looked up at the red smoke of Hange's flare echoing yours. You could probably outrun the titan, this wasn't an emergency situation yet, being aware of the titan was only a precaution.

You rode for a while until you reached a forest. Some scouts positioned themselves to defend the area while other went into the forest to collect the needed flora. You hurried around on foot, trusting your companions to watch your back from the trees, stuffing everything that looked medicinal into your bag. Another group of scouts would be off in an area that used to be a farm, looking for different types of seeds.

You heard something that sounded like sniffling and wondered if someone had cracked under pressure. The whole titan situation was still kind of sinking in for you, since you had only seen them from a distance thus far. You put the backpack on and followed the sounds, hoping to reassure whoever was crying. To your surprise, you found a young man, his green eyes reminded you of Eren, but his hair was blond. He looked at you in a mix of fright and curiosity.

You noted with embarrassment that he wasn't wearing anything, though you soon realized that he had the same anatomy as a titan and your embarrassment turned to shock. "What... What are you?"

The young man smiled, and reached out to you, but before his hand could come into contact with your person, it began to dissolve into titan dust. He looked at it in distress and screamed, then ran to you, but turned to dust entirely just as he reached you. you yelled in shock and brushed the dust off, only to find that it had continued to become so thin that it was imperceptible. You thought you heard a flare being shot, but didn't see its color.

"(Name), are you alright? Did a bug crawl on you?" Hange was nearby with both your and her horse, curiously watching your odd little dance of dusting off yourself. "Titans are surrounding the forest, we need to move on," she reminded with concern. "Did you see the flare?" She placed her hand on your shoulder and smiled. "It's ok, we'll be fine."

She must have assumed it was just nerves getting to you, but that wasn't entirely the case. You shook your head, still shocked by the odd experience. "I saw a young man, he was like a titan, but the same size as a human. He was here, then he turned to dust." You looked in every direction nervously, but couldn't see anything like him.

"A human size titan?" Hange looked unsure if she should be excited or worried. This was Hange, why wasn't she bursting with joy at the discovery? Then you realized the cause of her doubt, she didn't entirely believe you. "Are you sure?"

You paused to think about it. The whole thing happened so quickly and it's not like you injured the boy in any way, why would he simply disintegrate like that? "To be honest, no," you finally replied.

"Better not dwell on it then," Hange decided. "Can you go back to the formation?"

"Yeah," you replied, trying to convince yourself of it. Was the boy really an illusion?

"Ok then, let's go, or we'll fall behind," Hange got back on her horse and you got on Knight, following her out of the forest and getting back in formation as soon as there was enough space to do so beyond the thick vegetation.

The formation continued moving forward. There was a more expansive area that used to be a farm up ahead. Once the scouts were done there, they could return home. There haven't been any casualties yet, so things were looking good overall.

You had galloped a good distance from the forest, changing directions at Erwin's command twice after that, even before red flares were seen. It looked like Fluffy was doing her job properly, no wonder she was able to guide Levi back before if she was this good at it. Why was she so good at it anyway? You shook the enigma out of your head and focused on the right, you were supposed to be watching for titans after all.

Your mind occasionally went back to the strange occurrence with the young man that might have been a hallucination, but you tried not to think about it. Loud footsteps echoed, followed by a louder animalistic growl of agony. The field to your right was relatively clear with few trees and vegetation. Across the vast expanse of grass, you saw a large titan rapidly running towards the formation screaming and flailing. That had to be an abnormal.

You shot a black flare in warning, but the creature was still coming and there was no time to wait for the order to change directions. You commanded Knight to speed up as much as possible. The titan had gotten close enough to be seen from Hange's position and she slowed down to allow you to catch up. "That one will tear the formation apart, there's no time to get away, we need to stop it," Hange decided.

Connie had caught up with the two of you by then. "Can we really take it?"

"We have to," Hange smiled at the thrill of the battle. "Alright, let's go, just like we planned. Connie and I will distract it, (Name), you need to sneak up behind it and take it down. Don't forget to make your arms strong when you slash to make sure the cut is deep enough," Hange reminded and you realized that she knew all about your special ability, though Connie didn't react, perhaps he didn't know. At this point it was both useless and unnecessary to keep it a secret, so it was for the best that Hange knew, as she was currently your captain. You assumed that Levi had told her at some point, since he knew you'd be in her squad for this mission.

You left the distraction to Hange and Connie while you went behind the titan, jumping off Knight and switching to ODM. The hook caught the titan's back, but it was moving around so much it was difficult to stay steady. you were slammed against its back when the hook retracted and fought to regain your bearings and make the final cut. You slashed across the back of the titan's neck to no effect. You made your arms stronger and tried again and again until you realize you were half way to decapitation and it still wasn't working. "It doesn't work!" You continued trying, slashing away as quickly and strongly as you could until the head came off.

"Lower!" Hange called out, narrowly dodging being hit by the falling head.

You cut lower down the neck and back. The creature was running away from the other scouts. Hange and Connie managed to hook onto its back just above the waist and began stabbing at the spine. Suddenly a big explosion echoed. The scouts from the middle of the formation had reached your previous position and were near the head. You thought it was cannon fire a first, but that didn't make any sense. You hadn't seen any cannons and it would be hard to hit the titan's weak spot from the ground. Besides, you were near the supposed weak spot and whatever they were shooting at wasn't there.

You looked towards where the head had landed in horror, there was a crater on the ground about as large as the head had been. The head itself was nowhere to be seen and there were bloody injured scouts, and parts of scouts everywhere. You felt sick , yet you couldn't stop looking at the terrible scene. Hange stabbed her swords into the middle of the titan's back and with a spray of blood, the beast finally fell. The monster's skin began to glow red rather than disintegrate.

"It's gonna blow!" Hange shouted. You didn't waste any more time and neither did Hange or Connie as they rushed away from the titan's body to take cover behind some nearby trees. Hange hooked her ODM to the trees and pulled herself forward much faster than her legs could carry her. "Follow me!"

You and Connie followed her example and reeled yourselves in towards the trees. You didn't stop at the trees, you continued running to put some extra distance between yourselves and the expected explosion. Spotting another three, Hange aimed for it and dashed forward, expecting you and Connie to follow, though you weren't sure you could hit a target that was so far. "Go (Name!)"

You shot your ODM gear, having no time to argue with Connie about who should go first. You missed the shot and shouted with frustration, "you go!"

Connie took aim and managed to hook onto the tree, where Hange was calling for you both to hurry. Connie tried to grab your hand to pull you along with his ODM, but you slipped out of his grasp and watched as he was pulled away, occasionally hitting the ground as he went. He would be bruised, but otherwise alright. Everything happened in seconds and you were thrown to the ground by the magnitude of the explosion behind you, titan dust, dirt and mud flying everywhere.

You picked yourself off the ground as Hange rushed towards you. Connie tried to limp over at a much slower pace, but finally gave up and sat on the ground next to an abandoned dry well. Hange arrived at your side and looked you over for injuries. "Are you hurt? Are you in pain? Describe it to me!"

"I'm ok... Just a bit tired," you should be covered in cuts and bruises, if the state of your uniform was any indication, but you were healing, which also meant using up your energy.

Connie's sudden shout caused you and Hange to look in his direction. Two young men identical to the one you had seen earlier emerged from their hiding place in the well and dashed towards you. They both had green eyes, blond hair and they weren't dressed, though their anatomy was the same as titans. One of them, the slower of the two, disintegrated with a creepily human-like scream of agony before he could reach you and the other one hugged you.

Hange's jaw dropped, "they're like tiny titans! (Name) why didn't you tell me it was for real?" She squealed in delight.

"I wasn't sure," you voiced in shock, as you tried to reclaim your personal space without startling the creature. What in the world was going on? You heard approaching horses. If there were any signal flares fired during the fight, you were too focused on it and didn't notice. You saw Levi riding on Cali, Knight was running beside him and there were several other scouts not far behind. Your stallion seemed to be alright, though his white coat had partly turned a muddy ground from all the dirt and mud that was thrown into the air from the explosion.

"You're not going to believe what we found!" Hange cheered loudly in place of a greeting for the other scouts.

Levi gave her a deadly glare as he got off Cali and approached. "Why is (Name) so filthy?" His glare intensified as his tone became dangerously threatening, "and why is there some naked guy hugging her?"

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 45: Tragic Enigma

"He's not some naked guy, he's a little titan!" Hange corrected with fascination, though that didn't seem to lessen Levi's glare towards the creature clinging to you. "Don't get jealous," she had the courage, or foolishness, to pat Levi on the back as she explained. "It's completely innocent, just look, see? He's hugging her like a child clinging to his mother, it's clearly not romantic in the least. I think it's sweet."

"Then why don't you get it to hug you?" Levi more so ordered than suggested.

"Great idea!" Hange rushed over and started cooing at the creature. "Come here baby, gimme a hug, it's ok, I won't hurt you!" She extended her arms invitingly, but the creature only hid behind you in fright. Hange approached, moving to his side, causing the being to move to the opposite side, using you as a shield against Hange. The motions continued until they were running in circles around you.

"Enough!" Levi interrupted, fed up with the antics. "We need to tend to the injured and regroup, and someone needs to explain why there was an explosion here too," he demanded. "Tie that thing up and take it back to the base if you want to study it. We don't have time to play with it now." The creature yelped in fear, Levi's harsh demeanor scared him more than Hange's fangirl approach. The being doubled over in pain and began to disintegrate without warning before Hang could tie him up. The titan dust became thinner until it was gone, the small particles carried away by the wind. That was the last drop of Levi's patient, "what the hell is going on?"

"We don't exactly know," you shuddered at the feeling of someone being there then not being there. Hange started crying hysterically, mourning the loss of the creature, while you continued to explain as calmly as possible. "We've seen three of those creatures and they all met the same fate. As for the explosion, the titan's head exploded after decapitation, then the whole body exploded after the weak spot was cut. Except it wasn't were it should be, it was lower in the middle of the back, but still in the path of the spine."

"I think it's a mutation!" Hange piped up excitedly, her tears suddenly gone.

"That mutation did a lot of damage," Levi stated, not that it was news, though you were still in shock and not yet able to think about it too hard. The part that was news was when he added in a serious tone, "and it wasn't the only one."

"Did anyone...?" You couldn't finish the question. Everything was going so well and then this had to happen.

"Yes... We're regrouping now, Erwin should be here soon with the others," Levi announced. So it was a whole new plan now. If there were exploding titans out there it had to be investigated. Even if there were casualties and this was not the mission that was expected, the scouts couldn't go back to the city now. What if one of those titans got too close to the wall, they killed it and it blew up a part of the wall? It was imperative to get a better idea of what was happening so that something could be done about it.

You opened your mouth to inquire further about who had died or been injured, but you decided against it and held your silence. Even if it wasn't someone you were close to, it would be someone with people who missed them, so the information wouldn't be a relief to everyone. Even so, you couldn't help it but to look in every direction trying to spot your closest friends.

You saw Jean helping Connie get his ankle bandaged, he would be out of commission for a while, though his leg wasn't broken, so it wasn't too much of a serious injury. Sasha was nearby talking to Krista, Armin and a few other people, she had a huge backpack on that made you wonder how she didn't fall over. She must have really been into the whole seed collecting thing and probably picked up a few fruits and vegetables along the way.

Eren was half listening to Sasha talk, then broke away from the group and sat on the opposite side of the well where Connie and Jean were, he must have witnessed something that disturbed him. Mikasa kept patting his shoulder, speaking soft words that you couldn't hear. She offered him a drink of water from a canteen, he drank then nodded at her and smiled, seemingly calmer after hearing her out. Just what had they witnessed?

The formation was set up for minimal casualties, Eren wasn't in any particular danger, aside from the same danger everyone else was in, but he wasn't the target this time as he had been during the female titan incident, so there was no need to hide a competent fighter away in the middle of the formation. Eren should have been right behind Levi on the left of the formation, with Mikasa behind him and Armin further back.

"What happened out there?" You finally asked Levi, keeping your voice level and quiet so as to not make a scene. You caught a glimpse of Erwin followed by several others. Hange went to talk to him, offering information about what had happened on the right side of the formation.

"A titan came up from the rear, we dodged all the ones coming from the front, but the rear and sides were exposed. Normally, we should be able to outrun those, but this was a very fast moving abnormal, it barreled through the center of the formation from the back. Your dog gave the alert, but because there were no flares from the scouts in the back, Erwin initially thought she was signaling a threat from the front. The titan broke towards the left suddenly and dashed out in front of Eren, no one was expecting a titan to come from the center of the formation." Levi discreetly looked, stepping closer and keeping the tone of his voice low, even if the scouts had in part witnessed these events, there was no need to rub it in their faces so to speak.

"Its feet were covered in human blood," Levi whispered in explanation, your eyes widening in horror at the thought of all the people the monster trampled. "It dashed out of the formation on the left and Eren shot his ODM gear at its back. The titan carried him away, Eren decapitated it and it tripped over its own head, which then blew off its legs. Eren got hurt, but not enough to stop him from fighting on, he's healed by now. He kept stabbing the titan until he found the weak spot on the spine in the middle of the back and Mikasa pulled him out of the mess before he got himself blown up. I was further ahead when this happened and didn't get any flare signals. I went back when I realized Eren wasn't following me just in time to see Mikasa toss him over her shoulder, jump on her horse and rush away." In any other less grim situation, seeing Mikasa ride off with Eren like that would have been hilarious.

"Fortunately, they were able to get far enough from the explosion that they didn't get hurt." Levi concluded his explanation by narrating a reaction that didn't really surprise you all that much. "I caught up to them, kicked Eren in the face and gave him a good scolding, then I came here."

"Poor Eren..." What was he supposed to do after realizing a titan had stepped on a bunch of people so quickly that no one even had time to give a signal? Seeing one of those monsters running away on feet that were covered in human blood would be pretty angering.

Levi would probably say that Eren needed to be more disciplined and not act so rashly and that it was better for him to get kicked in the face than to get killed. But Erwin finished talking to Hange and called everyone to attention, so he didn't have time to reply. The conversations going on all around quieted at once and you were left with an incomplete explanation from Levi as everyone gathered around to hear what was to become of the mission.

"Everyone, listen," Erwin called out in a loud commanding voice. "A new type of abnormal titan has been discovered. Any body part severed from this type of titan will explode. Their weak spot may not be the nape. If we encounter a titan and fighting becomes necessary, aim for the nape first, but be prepared in case it doesn't work. If it is ineffective, aim for the middle of the back over the spine. If you see a slight protuberance over the spine, cut there." Thinking back on it, there was a bump on the titan's back, but you were so shocked by the fact that the nape weakness didn't work that you didn't think to attack it, you barely noticed it at the time.

"When the titan is about to explode, its skin will glow red," Erwin explained. " This information is based off only a few opportunities to make observations, so even if the normal weak spot works and there is no indication of anything abnormal, everyone is to retreat away from the dead titan immediately in case it explodes. It is imperative that we learn more about this new class of titans before they get close enough to endanger the walls, but we must also warn the city of the danger. We will divide into two teams, one team will take the injured and the supplies we gathered thus far back to the city along with the warning of what has happened here. The other team will conduct a study on this new threat and try to gain as much information as possible about it."

After the explanation, Erwin proceeded to divide people into teams and explain further details about the new plan, while hastily writing a prompt communication addressed to Dot Pixis. Eren was not happy to be sent back to the city and the look on his face made it clear he was about to protest. Before he got himself into trouble and lost all the progress he had made in being given more freedom, he noticed the look Levi was giving him and swallowed down his words.

"You have to defend the city," you reminded in a whisper. Eren seemed to calm down, noting the logic in that. He clearly still wanted to go titan hunting, but he understood what needed to be done.

Mikasa wasn't happy to be in the investigation team, since Eren was being sent back to the city, but she was very skilled and had a better chance of returning alive after the investigation than most, so her assignment was no real surprise. Normally, Eren going back would mean that Levi would have to go back as well, since he was officially keeping an eye on him, but Eren wasn't expected to transform, let alone within the walls. If any titans approached, Eren was to assist the Garrison in stopping their advance outside the walls, before they got close enough to damage the walls if they exploded. Thus Levi remained outside of the walls.

Though normally the communication between the Survey Corps and Garrison wasn't officially frequent, if the situation required it, Erwin and Dot Pixis would reach an unofficial agreement and come up with a way to work together for the good of human kind. After Eren returned to the city, he would temporarily be under the command of Pixis, working alongside the Garrison to ensure that no titan even got close to the walls. The Garrison would, in light of the emergency, extend their reach beyond wall Rose, while the Survey Corps tried to figure out what was going on, to come up with a better solution to stop the new problem at the root, whatever that could possibly mean.

If the situation got worse near the city, the Survey Corps would have to return to help defend the wall, though in the long run a purely defensive strategy could only hold for so long. It was vital to understand what was happened and figure out a better way to combat it. It was unnerving that two exploding titans had been found so close to each other. The colossal and the armored were believed to be exceptions, but it was too soon to assume that the exploding titans were exceptions, and that was also part of what the scouts had to figure out.

The team that was to return to the city was sent on its way, consisting of a few escorts to ensure their safe return to the city, a lot of injured scouts and a considerable number of dead bodies. Those were not all the casualties though, as some were left in so many pieces that it was determined it was best to just report them as missing.

You realized then that the scouts from the middle of the formation that had arrived around the time the head exploded weren't necessarily there to offer help, but to seek it. Most of their neighboring comrades had been trampled and just as they reached the right wing spotters, fleeing too desperately and randomly to spare a moment to signal or notice signals, there was the explosion.

When Erwin finished slitting the teams it was unnerving just how few people there were left. The whole middle of the formation, save for the very front, was wiped out. It was terribly ironic because the part of the formation that was supposed to be the safest, in the center and towards the back, was the part that was annihilated first.

You were with the investigation team, as expected. Erwin gathered those who were left, while the other team retreated in the distance. "There is something else that we need to investigate aside from the exploding titans. There are some strange human sized titan-like creatures out there." You were wondering if that would be mentioned and what connection they had to the appearance of the exploding titans if any. "These beings have not shown to be particularly hostile, but we should still be careful around them just in case. If we find one of those creatures, our goal will be to capture it alive. (Name)"

You jumped to attention when Erwin addressed you, "sir!"

"I'm assigning you the task of capturing the human size titans if we encounter them again. If there's anything else going on at the time, make that your priority and leave the rest to us," Erwin decided.

"Yes, sir!" You saluted, you should have seen that coming, since the little titans had taken an inexplicable liking to you. Hange was right though, it was not attraction per se, it truly was similar to a frightened child clinging to his mother.

"Hange, go over the strategy, (Name) come here a minute," Erwin took you a few feet away from the group, leaving Hange to entertain them with a few additional details pertaining to her observations. Once you were far enough not to be heard if you kept your voices low, he went straight to the point. "Do you know anything about this?"

You noted that his tone wasn't really suspicious, he didn't seem to think you were hiding something, but wanted to ask just in case. "Nothing really, except what we've seen. I suspect that this may be connected to my uncle somehow, but that's just guessing in the dark, I have nothing to support that theory."

"And nothing to deny it?" Erwin inquired and you nodded in response. "Then we can't assume that he's involved and we can't assume that he's not. We can't assume anything really, today's mission has proven that beyond a doubt." He had a point, every expectation had been turned upside-down and twisted around.

You rejoined the group and everyone went on their horses. Many of the animals had been lost, but all those who stayed had a ride, since the scouts that went back to the city mostly rode in the wagons, save for the ones that were tasked with escorting the retreating group. Knight and Cali were alright, and Fluffy seemed to be doing ok despite everything that was happening. She was still sitting in the saddle bag of Erwin's horse, quiet and alert to any suspicious scents in the air. This was clearly not instinct alone, she was trained, and the fact that she was so youthful and healthy was also suspicious. You had Fluffy for years, a dog should begin to show its age by now.

The group changed tactics and instead of advancing, you investigated the area in the forest. That was where you first encountered a miniature titan and it was close enough to the well to assume that the creatures might have come from that direction. Besides, the forest provided a good cover, so if they or anything else, wanted a place to hide, that would be a good option. It wasn't guaranteed that the human sized titans were related to the large exploding titans, but it would be a very big coincidence if they just so happen to appear around the same time and in such proximity. Capturing one of those creatures and attempting to establish communication was the best strategy at the moment to get to the bottom of the ever growing enigma.

Speed was of the essence, especially since the creatures disintegrated and there was no telling just how many of them were left and for how long they would remain solid enough to provide clues. However, staying alive was also vital, so the already small group was again divided. A few would take to the trees to serve as guards, while the others traveled by land with the horses to search for the strange mini titan creatures.

To be Continued

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