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

Part 11

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 - 13866 words - Complete

A Matter of Stature

Chapter 51: Raging Fire

"We'll have to explore this whole area, there must be another clue nearby," Erwin decided. Before he could speak another word, the little titan disintegrated. It wasn't all that surprising by now, since they always met the same fate before.

Following the occurrence and a few stares from the people who were seeing it for the first time, Fluffy dashed by full speed. Levi whistled loudly and she returned. You blinked in surprised, she listened to him more than even to you, though she was supposed to be your pet. The horses must have taken this as a signal to come because three of them arrived on the spot, though you thought you saw a few more running around nearby. At least Knight and Cali were among the ones that came back, you were fond of them and didn't want them to get lost.

"We're changing tactics, we'll have to move slower on foot to search for clues. Horizontal formation, be aware of your surroundings and don't stray from the group. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious." Everyone got into formation and once again Erwin began to lead the expedition. You alternated between looking at your surroundings and at the ground in case there was anything that served as a clue, though it was difficult in the darkness. The three horses and Fluffy were taken along, she was quiet and calm for the most part. Another of the horses found the humans and instinctively sought after the safety of their company.

After a while, Fluffy started howling, which meant that the female titan with translucent hair was nearby. The group followed her head, but came face to face with an abnormal titan and it was very tall. Fluffy was still howling and pulling on her leash. Erwin picked her up and dodged the titan making a grab for her. It looked like following the scent of the female titan was taken as a priority over dodging the other titans, a fact that the scouts had been unaware of before.

Levi's ODM gear pulled him to the tree tops, then he dropped down, spinning rapidly. His blades cut from the back of the titan's head down its spine, to wherever the weak spot might have moved down the spine. "Take cover!" Everyone ran away. You forgot to count, but dropped to the ground and protected your head when you saw the others do the same. The explosion sounded off and once again you were assaulted by branches and rocks that were thrown by its magnitude.

After the explosion was off, it became evident that Fluffy wasn't an infallible titan tracker, but a creature trained to have priorities. As everyone got up and stretched their sore bruised limbs, Erwin voice what was already on your mind. "It has to be Fredrick." It was the name he had taken on later, his previous name held no meaning, as if his previous identity never existed.

The scouts advanced in hopes that retrieving the human within the female titan brought them answers as well as the whereabouts of Fredrick. He must have trained Fluffy to find the female titan and used the roses as a signal for her to try to recognize him, though he seemed to stop needing Fluffy at some point. If he occasionally took her from your home at Sina when you were younger, there was no way for you to know, since you were drowsy and disoriented most of the time during that era of your life.

Fluffy kept howling, but that didn't mean the female titan was the only one out there, so the scouts advanced with caution. The group arrived at a clearing where the light of the moon and stars shone through, illuminating the terrible scene below. The translucent haired female titan was there, wailing quietly in a terrible, haunting agony before the body of a man, two bouquets of roses placed over the cadaver.

"Father..." You felt your entire being go numb, then a burning pain overtook you as tears flowed down your cheeks. You rushed towards the body, as if needing to confirm beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was him and he was dead. You thought you heard Levi say your name, but you didn't stop until you fell to your knees next to him. "Father!" The female titan didn't run away, her face showed shock as she stared at you, then anger as she picked up your father's body, cradling it in her hands. "You monster, did you do this?" For a moment, fury almost overtook you, but then you saw how protective the titan was of him, even in death. "No... It wasn't you... I'm his daughter, I need to know who did this!"

From the corner of your eyes you could see Mikasa, Armin, Sasha, Kyle, Levi, Hange and Erwin surrounding the female titan. They planned to get her tangled in their ODM gear ropes and cut out the human inside. The monstrous looking, yet gentle titan woman stared at you for a long moment and finally lowered her hands, doubt still evident in her eyes. You looked into your father's face, he looked like he was sleeping, but his face was very cold and he held no hint of breath or pulse. He presented no wounds, as if he had passed away in sleep or rendered unconscious and killed by poison.

The ODM gear was fired and the scouts moved quickly around the female titan. You jumped back just in time not to get tangled up in the ropes and watched as she fell to the ground. The monster got angry and screamed in a deafening roar that left your ears ringing. Loud footsteps were heard from every direction. The titans were coming and the scouts were surrounded. In another surprise twist, the female's translucent hair moved like tentacles, grabbing the scouts by surprise and throwing them in different directions. Her skin gave way easily and ripped out with the ODM gear hooks as you as the others were thrown through the air.

You shot your ODM gear to prevent hitting the ground harshly and it hooked onto a tree. You pulled yourself towards it, leaves and branches scratching at you, then you felt something large grab your leg. You sliced away the titan's hand, freeing yourself from its grasp and moving out of the way of the explosion. The explosion of the fallen limb damaged the titan's legs, though not enough to blow them off. You shot your ODM gear and missed in the darkness, then shot the other side and moved out of the way just in time to dodge the titan making a grab for you with its other hand. You went around and cut downward, from the neck to the spine, until your swords hit a bump. You deepened the cut there and a spray of blood gushed out, followed by the telltale red glow. You moved out of the way, counting down to the explosion and took cover.

That was one titan down, but there were others nearby. You heard a few explosions in several different directions and didn't know which way to go. Your heart was racing and your mind was foggy. You had moved on pure adrenaline powered instinct during the fight, you didn't think, you just reacted. You wanted to scream at the top of your lungs, the world just wasn't making sense to you anymore, life seemed dead set on stealing everything from you. You fell to your knees on the ground, trembling in rage and confusion and punched the ground. Then another explosion echoed, and another after that. the scouts, your friends, your comrades and your lover were still fighting. You took big deep breaths. you couldn't think of anything but the fight now, 'focus, figure this out, save them, avenge father, live, I have to live to do all that,' you told yourself as another titan came close enough for your limited light to illuminate it.

xoxox xox xoxox

Armin got to his feet after being knocked down by the aftershock of the exploding titan he had just slain. He was breathing heavily, absolutely terrified, but refusing to die. His hands trembled as he gripped the ODM gear controls on the swords' handles and considered his next move. There had been another explosion nearby, it seemed to be the closest, so he reasoned he should head in that direction to try to regroup with the others. He moved a few steps and suddenly, saw the light of someone's lamps, and in a blur of motion, Levi had landed in front of him. "Captain Levi," Armin hurried to meet him, searching for guidance on what to do next.

"We need to regroup with the others and retrieve the human that's controlling the female titan," Levi began to move in the direction of another explosion.

"Right!" Armin quickly followed, moving from one tree to another.

There were three consecutive explosions nearby, which made Levi change course. Then another two sounded off in a different area, but it was further away. Footsteps came from the side and Levi halted his advance to get rid of the titan that had began to chase after them. "Armin, go ahead and-" He stopped cold.

Armin looked at Levi, then at the approaching titan and gasped. Something was hanging from the side of its mouth by the hair. It was a human head that looked all too familiar. "(Name)..." Armin let out a quiet terrified whisper.

Levi dashed forward in a spin attack and sliced the titan into small pieces that glowed a threatening red. Armin knew it was time to retreat, he forced himself to do so and trusted Levi to do the same. After the explosion had passed, Armin picked himself up from the ground and searched for Levi. The captain was standing a few feet away, looking more enraged than Armin had ever seen him. The blond boy silently approached him with a trembling voice and disbelieving tears, "c-captain..."

"Get out of the forest," Levi ordered darkly. "Find the others and tell them to get out of the way. I'll bring the culprit out if I have to destroy this whole damn forest." Armin's eyes widened, but he dared not speak a word of protest. "Go!"

Armin managed to choke out a frightened, "yes, sir!" and moved in the direction of the multiple explosions that had gone off earlier, as another went off in the same place. Whoever was there was clearly giving the titans a very tough fight.

Armin moved forward, towards the area of the explosions. The fight seemed to be over and he thought he caught a faint light in the distance, belonging to someone's lamp, but then it went out. "Hello?" He swallowed the lump in his throat and tried to call out again, managing to make his voice loud enough to be heard this time. "Is there anyone here?"

"Armin!" A familiar voice replied from the darkness.

"Mikasa!" Armin called back. He halted his advance in a precaution. He couldn't see her and didn't want to accidentally hit her with one of the ODM hooks if she was up in a tree. "Where are you?"

"I'm right up ahead, I can see your lights," Mikasa called back. "I lost one of my lamps in battle, a titan swallowed it, and the other one had a leak, so it's out of oil now."

"I'm heading over to you," Armin moved a bit closet, calculating Mikasa's position, then dropped down and advanced on foot. He spotted Mikasa climbing down from the tree she had been in to meet him on the ground as a series of explosions sounded off in the distance. "Here, take one of my lamps," Armin removed one of the lamps from the side of the ODM gear and gave it to Mikasa, the explosions catching his attention with growing alarm. "We need to get out of here, we need to find the others and retreat. Levi's planning to destroy the forest to bring out the culprit."

"What? That's crazy, he can't destroy the whole forest by himself, how is he going to-" Mikasa was interrupted by something that looked odd in the distance, like a glow. She looked in that direction, feeling as if there was something there. "Wait," she went up to the tree tops again to have a look and came down with the news. "The forest is on fire!"

"He really is going to destroy it..." Armin whispered, expression shocked. "It's (Name)," his voiced trembled at having to deliver the news. Mikasa looked at him, bracing herself for the worse. "(Name) is dead."

xoxox xox xoxox

You made your way around the forest, trying to meet up with another of your companions. There were many explosions some distance away, clueing you in to which way to go. The sound of flowing water made you realize that you were near the river, though you had move upstream in the course of that last fight, the titan moved very erratically and it was difficult to hit him. You looked at the hand on the edge of the river and shuddered at the sight. You flexed your left fingers over your face over and over just to feel and see that they were indeed there. The regeneration had really taken a lot of energy, plus you were already tired from all the running around. The nap and meal you had before the mission was starting to wear out.

You caught sight of a light upstream. The group had not passed by this area before and you wondered why there was a light there. You went to examine it and found a cave on the river's side on a little hill and several empty bottles at the river's edge. You climbed up the hill and noticed the cave was more like a tunnel, with a smaller opening in the opposite end. The lamp on the ground had been abandoned, so you picked it up, extinguished it and took its oil for your own lamps. You turned one off to conserve oil since there was no immediate danger and investigated further. The cave branched out in the direction away from the river a short way inland in a dead end.

You crawled into the little cavern, reasoning that no titan would be small enough to fit, and if one reached into one side of the cave, you could exit out the other, not that they could see you there while you were investigating. There were several supplies at the cave. You examined the supplies and found a bottle of water. You were thirsty and weren't about to drink the river water with all that fell into it, so you drank from the bottle. The water was clear and tasted normal, so you reasoned it was fine.

You rummaged through the supplies some more. Maybe your uncle was camping out here, maybe he would be back. You felt nauseated at the sight of food, though the food itself was perfectly fine. You just didn't have an appetite at the moment, but you were tired and the sunlight was not present to empower you. You knew you could use the energy boost, even if it turned your stomach, so you forced yourself to eat some bread and cheese. You realized the bread was wet, though it had been dry when you picked it up. You dried away your tears and swallowed the rest of the sandwich. You heard more explosions go off and footsteps nearby, yet the steps were light in comparison to a titan.

After killing at least twenty explosive titans one after another and starting a fire when he lost one of his lamps in the fight, when five of them foolishly decided to gang up on him, Levi had to take a moment to catch his breath and organize his thoughts. It simply wouldn't do to become too reckless. He spotted a little cave beside the river and went in, there didn't seem to be any titans nearby, but at least this way he would be harder to see. He sat down, his back against the cave's stone wall. His breaths were heavy with exertion, his uniform was torn in several places and his swords and equipment were filthy. "I won't forget you..." he whispered under his breath. "I'll win for you... I love you (Name)..."

You jumped out of the little cavern and tackled Levi in a hug and kissed him, drawing strength and determination from the fact that you still had him in your life and you also had friends that you could still make many memories with. "I love you too!"

When you parted, Levi spent a good long moment staring at you in shock. "You're alive..." He pulled you close again and kissed you one more time.

"Of course I'm alive," you voiced, when you stopped for breath. "What ever happened to trusting your comrades to be alright? I'll probably be sad and disturbed by all that happened for a long time," you admitted sadly. "But you were right, every mission, is a chance to make every other mission that came before it worth it. I'm not going to let any of this go to waste, not my father's life and not any of their lives."

"Yes, that's right, we'll make sure no sacrifice is in vain," Levi agreed. The image of the titan and the head made no sense to him now. "It's not that I didn't trust you, I was convinced you'd be alright until I saw a titan with your decapitated head in its mouth. A wound like that wouldn't have been possible to recover from."

"I'm sure it wouldn't be," you held up your left hand, the sleeve torn at the end. "I got hurt, but I'm alright now and I'm certain I didn't get decapitated, so that wasn't my head you saw. But if you did see a head, that means that one of the others is..."

"No, it was yours, Armin saw it too, there's no mistake, unless..." Levi paused for a moment, considering another possibility. "Could it had been the head of a small titan that looked like you?"

"Tony has the same abilities I have, but how in the world would they make a titan of me, I've been with the scouts the whole time. I don't know, but I would imagine a sample of sorts would be needed," you mused.

"That's another mystery to solve," Levi looked towards the direction of the fire, the wind had stopped carrying the smoke, instead filled with the scent of burnt flesh. A strange mist, as if loaded with titan dust invaded the forest. "Looks like the fire was put out, but by whom? Let's investigate."

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 52: Say Goodnight To Your Prince, Fair Lady

Erwin examined the surrounding area. He couldn't see any of the others nearby, but the sound of the explosions told him that they had to be close. Every time he tried to advance towards them though, he would run into a titan, slay it, then run for cover from the explosion and try to advance again, only to repeat the process. Ten titans later, the Survey Corps commander was finally making progress. He stopped upon spotting something on a branch that gleamed against the light of his lamps. He investigated and found a headband that split into three bands on the back, attached to square goggle-like glasses.

"Hange!" Erwin called out, but received no reply. He searched the surrounding area for any signs of her, but there was nothing. He took the glasses with him and moved forward, keeping an eye out for the light of lamps nearby. He stopped when he saw some light from the corner of his eyes and advanced towards it. The light was on the ground, he approached to find ODM gear on the ground and nearby a pair of legs hanging from a tree trunk. "Hange?"

"Commander? is that you?" Hange's voice echoed in the hollow tree she was stuck in. "Am I ever glad to run into you! Well sort of run into you. First I got tossed in the air, then there were those exploding titans, then I lost my glasses, then I found Tony, but he wouldn't come out of the tree, and now I'm stuck in the tree."

"You found Tony?" Erwin inquired for further information. He felt a bit odd talking to Hange's behind rather than her face, but she carried on with the conversation as if they were facing each other normally.

"Oh yes, he's here with me inside the tree, but he's sleeping and won't wake up no matter how much I call him. He's definitely alive though, I can hear him breathing. I think he was sedated," Hange theorized.

"Let's take him with us and regroup with the others," Erwin decided. "When he wakes up he may have some answers."

"Alright, let's go!" Hange cheerfully agreed, though she didn't move an inch. A silent moment passed and she began to move her legs as if running in place.

"Stay still, I'll give you a hand," Erwin instructed. He attempted to pull Hange out of the tree, but ended up pulling off her boots. He fell back on the ground, boots in hand.

"You're supposed to free me, not undress me," Hange reminded jokingly.

Erwin set the boots aside next to the ODM gear. Some people thought that most of those who joined the Survey Corps were crazy, and while Erwin wouldn't go that far, he knew for a fact that there was a fair share of insanity, anger issues, odd obsessions and randomness. He tried again, this time pulling Hange by the waist. "There's no way a grownup could fit into such a small hole, even if you took off your gear. What possessed you to try?"

"You don't know what you can do until you try!" Hange cheered, despite her less than favorable position, especially if a titan showed up now. Finally, Erwin managed to pull Hange out of the tree, falling to the ground with Hange sitting on top of him and hitting his head on a rock. "Ah! Fresh air! This feels good, thanks for the help com-" She turned her head back to look at him, noticing that he was knocked out. "Oops..." She turned around and began looking for her glasses, Erwin mentioned that he had them, but where did he put them?

Hange found the glasses and lamented the fact that Erwin's falling body crushed them. Then she heard a voice calling her name "Captain Hange!" Armin came rushing over, waving frantically, as if he was about to take flight without the use of ODM gear. "We need to-" he stopped mid explanation and examined the scene before him in more detail. His face paled, "is the commander...?"

"He's not dead!" Hange got up and moved Erwin to a sitting position and examined the back of his head, her hand coming back stained with blood. "He probably fractured his skull, but he's still breathing," she frowned apologetically. "I'm so sorry about this, Erwin."

"What did you do to him?" Mikasa asked suspiciously, with dubious curiosity, unsure of whether or not she wanted to receive an answer. "And why are you out of your ODM gear and boots?"

"I didn't do anything," Hange pouted. "What do you think I would do?"

"Experiment," Armin and Mikasa replied in unison.

"Well I didn't," Hange put on her boots and ODM gear after propping Erwin's limp form against the hollow tree. "Is that really what it looked like?"

A 'bandit pillaging a corpse' would be an accurate comparison, but Mikasa held her silence about that.

While Hange geared up again, Armin took a moment to explain the situation, his voice raising in pitch as he panicked more with each word. "We need to get out of the forest. (Name) died and Levi's burning this place down."

"What?" Hange exclaimed, her face shocked. "Are you sure?"

"She got decapitated," Armin whimpered. "Levi and I saw her head."

"Poor (Name)," Hange frowned, her teeth gritted to hold back tears. "We better tend to Erwin, take Tony and regroup." At Armin and Mikasa's puzzled looks, Hange elaborated, "Tony is in the tree." She tried to wake Erwin but he was out cold. "C'mon commander... It's no use, he's in dreamland. Help me move him." They moved Erwin out of the way, then Hange peeked inside the tree where Tony was still sleeping. Instead of repeating her mistake, this time she cut an opening and got Tony out. "Here you go," she handed the boy to Mikasa.

"Alright, Commander, time to regroup," Hange positioned Erwin and picked him up piggyback style. "Geez, you think I was heavy when I fell on you? Try carrying yourself." Bent over from the weight on her back, Hange wobbled forward. "Alright, since Erwin is knocked out, that puts me in charge, let's go, we need to regroup, save all the scouts we can and get that boy to the city, he may have the answers we need. By the way, what's that smell? Is Sasha making barbecue in the middle of the mission?" Hange's joke seemed to lack its usual energy this time.

"That's probably Captain Levi burning titans and everything else in his path," Armin theorized.

"Well, let's meet up with him," Hange decided. "Having Levi on the team will make it much more likely that we'll actually make it."

"Um... Want some help with Commander Erwin?" Armin offered.

"Oh no, you have a more important job," Hange tried to smile. "Grab one of my lamps and add it to your ODM gear, I'll be fine with just one. You're going to be keeping the rest of us safe from titans, so you should have the double lights. I can barely see three feet in front of me without my glasses in the darkness and Mikasa is our best chance to protect Tony, so she has her own mission. This is your mission Armin, be our bodyguard. Mikasa, if the rest of us fall, you need to get Tony back to the city at all costs."

Mikasa looked as if she was about to protest to the idea of going ahead without the others, but Armin nodded, as if indicated he didn't mind if he had to be left behind. Mikasa sighed and nodded uneasily. It was vital to obtain the answers that Tony had.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Ugh..." Sasha stumbled away from the bushes where she had emptied the contents of her stomach. Her mouth formed a marked frown, her eyes watering with disgust.

"Are you quite... done?" Kyle called from a few feet away. At first he wondered why Sasha had made an emergency landing and darted towards the nearest bush, but the answer became clear. Sasha nodded, her frown very much present. Kyle pulled a small item from his jacket pocket and offered it to her, "here, have a mint, to get rid of the taste."

Sasha never refused food, so of course she accepted the candy and put it in her mouth with a sincere, "thanks." As if exploding titans weren't bad enough, she had to deal with seeing horse guts and a dog head. The little titan tracker had made it far, but it was the end of the line for her. "(Name) is going to be so sad. Her dog and her favorite horses are all dead."

"They served us well," Kyle took a deep breath, then immediately regretted it and covered his mouth and nose to shield them from the putrid smell in the air. Someone had to have started the fire, though it seemed to be out by now. Though the titans exploded, there were no sparks involved, they just blew apart, the shockwave ripped whatever was too close apart and sent it flying in every direction. "C'mon, we can still turn this around, so don't lose hope, alright?"

Sasha nodded quietly. "Can we walk?" She requested, her stomach still felt queasy and she wasn't quite up to flying through the air with branches assaulting her body just yet.

"Actually, I think that might be best, let's save up our gas, but we need to be careful in case more titans show up. Let's save up our oil too, one lamp each, opposite sides," Kyle suggested.

Sasha nodded, "ok," she turned off the lamp on her right, as Kyle was walking to her right and he turned off the lamp on his left. "Where did you get those mints?" The candy was supposed to last longer, but Sasha couldn't help herself and bit into it. "They're delicious!"

"My mother owns a candy shop in the edge of Rose, close to the gate to Sina," Kyle revealed. "Here," he pulled out a little bag from his jacket. "You can have the rest."

Sasha's face brightened as she received the candy, "thank you!" She began tossing one white and red striped ball into her mouth after another until her cheeks had expanded to contain them, making her look like a gluttonous chipmunk.

Kyle laughed at the sight, recalling when he did that in the past. "My mother always gives me a bag of mints to take along before a mission because they're my favorite. When I was a rookie, I used them to calm down before a mission and kept stuffing my face until the taste of the mint was so strong I couldn't think about being nervous." He didn't do that anymore, having gotten accustomed to being a scout by now, but his mother still gave him a bag of mints whenever he was scheduled to go outside the wall.

Sasha smiled, her mouth full of candy. For a while, all that could be heard was the sound of Sasha's chewing, impatient with letting the candy melt slowly. Kyle quietly mused that she must have quite the set of teeth if she could do that. The explosions in the distance lessened, as the titans that had been summoned by the female were mostly defeated. This was a different mission with a more aggressive approach. The point wasn't to move to a specific place, but to uncover the mysteries that hid in the forest and the less interference there was running around, the better.

The sound of footsteps was heard and Sasha and Kyle turned on both them lamps and took to the trees in preparation. "They're coming at us from both sides!" Sasha realized.

"I'll take the right, you take the left, we cut, then retreat, if we move fast we should be able to do it more or less at the same time, so the whole titan will blow instead of having to deal with explosive limbs falling on us if one dismembers the other." Kyle called out from his tree.

"Got it!" Sasha swallowed the crushed candy, feeling the strong taste of mint run down her throat. The titan from the left, was fast, though smaller, and it arrived first. Sasha shot her ODM gear to the trees above then swung down to cut down the four meter titan's back.

Kyle's target seemed to have deviated its course slightly, but he wasn't about to let it get away. He gave chase, catching up with the seven meter tall monster and cutting down its back until blood sprayed out as the weak spot was hit.

Sasha lost sight of Kyle for a moment as she retreated, "Kyle?"

"I'm here, go!" Kyle's voice came from behind her. They ran to put some distance between themselves and the coming explosion.

Sasha heard an explosion and felt Kyle tackle her to the ground, causing her to land with a heavy thump, followed by a sharp pain on her right shoulder. "Ow... Kyle?" He made no reply or motion to get up. "That hurt! Kyle?" Sasha dragged out herself from under him with difficulty, her back felt oddly wet and her shoulder was in a lot of pain. She gasped when she realized why he wasn't moving and what the pain on her shoulder was.

A multitude of blades were stabbed into the area all around. One of them had gone straight through Kyle's chest and stabbed her shoulder. More blades in various sizes were stabbed all over his back and limbs, as well as on the ground around them. This didn't make any sense, if there were this many swords and daggers laying around, they would have seen them. Unless they were... Inside the seven meter, that's why it moved so slowly. Sasha trembled as shocked tears ran down her face, if Kyle hadn't been running behind her, she would be dead.

She took big breaths of air as she got to her feet and stepped back. She gulped and took a step towards the body. "Sorry, but I have to..." Trying her best to ignore the pain on her shoulder, Sasha took the gas and oil Kyle had left. "I have to go now, I have to warn the others..." She sobbed, "thank you for the candy and for everything," then she ran away, in the direction they had been heading before.

xoxox xox xoxox

"A titan!" Mikasa suddenly exclaimed.

"I'm on it," Armin took to the trees with Mikasa watching him go. She gave Hange an impatient look.

"Let's trust him," Hange insisted, moving forward at a slow pace with Erwin on her back and taking cover behind a tree, motioning for Mikasa to do the same.

Armin darted past them, not seeing them behind the tree and dashed away, then dropped to the ground as the explosion echoed and the shockwave sent ripples of energy through the air. Hange and Mikasa had to hold on to the tree, as well as hold Erwin in place or they would be thrown back. Distance and staying low to the ground was the most effective way to avoid the strange shockwave, it was quite the unnatural explosion. Armin got up and looked around. He spotted the others and ran over to them. "Three meters, I actually got it!" It wasn't too big, but solo kills weren't Armin's thing, so it felt like a big leap forward. "Is everyone alright?"

Hange and Mikasa looked like they had headaches, they didn't get hit by the debris, but the shockwave somehow made their heads vibrate in a painful way. They nodded as they groaned in pain, but they soon noted that there was an additional set of pained sounds in their chorus. Erwin was waking up.

The commander rubbed his aching head and stood dizzily. He was a bit disoriented, he remembered finding Hange's glasses, then there was a blank and the next memory was what had to be a dream. He had found Hange, but she was wearing bunny ears, had a grandfather clock on her back and kept repeating she was late. He noticed that he was, not only in the company of Hange, but also Mikasa, Armin and a sleeping Tony.

"Oh good, you're not in a coma," Hange let out a breath of relief. "We were just on our way to regroup with Levi. Tony's still unconscious. (Name) is dead and Levi's gone Eren."

"What?" Mikasa snapped suddenly.

"Titan kill kill vengeance crazy," Hange explained, with Mikasa frowning and glaring.

"The fire was put out though, so maybe he didn't start it after all, or not on purpose?" Armin theorized. "He did want us to get out of the way, but maybe that was just because of the explosions from the titans."

"Either way, the explosions stopped now," Mikasa got to the point. "And if the stench is any indication, we must be close to where the fire was."

"But who knows where Levi ran off to now?" Hange wondered. "We need to catch up with him and help out, this forest is too much for any one scout to handle, no matter who it is. Operation Levi's Heartbroken Titan Kill Kill Eren Style Vengeance Craze must go on!" She shouted.

Erwin stared at her for a moment, "Hange... Did you hit your head when you lost your glasses?"

"Yes, and my headache hasn't gotten any better," Hange admitted.

"That explains it, looks like you got a pretty bad concussion, you always act like you're drunk when you have a concussion." Erwin shook his head, which was still pounding. His memories had fully returned by now and he remember the tree incident. He wasn't sure what was worse, Hange getting stuck or him getting hurt trying to get her out. Of all the ways for the Survey Corps' commander to get injured, this was not the most likely scenario.

"But I didn't kiss you, or force you to kiss anyone," Hange argued in favor of her fragile sanity.

"What?" Erwin gave Hange a suspicious look. He had forgotten about the events of the Christmas party due to his hangover powered amnesia, so he assumed she was talking about something that occurred while he was unconscious. He gave Armin and Mikasa suspicious looks, but they shook their heads and remained silent.

xoxox xox xoxox

An explosion sounded off nearby, which in itself stood out because the explosions had lessened recently, but what stood out even more was the voice of a man who blamed the titans for everything that ever went wrong under the sun. Levi darted towards the sound, with you following close behind. Four titans, from four to eight meters tall approximately surrounded Neil Ral, who was looking quite bruised, but very much alive. Just as two of them attempted to grab him at the same time, Levi flew between them on his ODM gear and snatched the other scout away. They landed away from the four monsters and you wondered if you should go on the attack, even if it meant setting off a chain reaction. A rain of explosives could be very difficult to escape.

"We'll get them all at once, so that the explosion is done and over with," Levi decided. "Neil, can you still fight?"

"Y-yes!" Neil looked like he was still surprised that he was actually alive. After being surrounded, he was sure this would be his end.

"I'll get the two in the middle, you get rid of the one on this side," Levi told Neal as the titans moved towards their prey. "(Name) get the one closest to you! I'll be the distraction, cut all the way down the spine ." With no time for further explanations, Levi pulled himself to the tree tops then jumped down in the middle of the area. The titans tried to surround him, two of them exposing their backs directly to you and Neil respectively.

You hurried to dispatch your target, trying to time it along with Neil. As soon as Levi saw the two of you were in position, he pulled himself forward, passing next to one of the titans, then went up its back, spinning rapidly and in the same motion, went down again, spin cutting the titan in front of the first. The four titans began to glow red and the three of you darted away to put as much distance as possible between yourselves and the explosion. you nearly ran into Sasha, who had dashed out of the tree line as if death was on her trail, though it was on all your trails really. "Run!" You pulled her along.

"No, no! Behind the trees!" Sasha tugged your arm, pulling you away from the straight line you were running in and towards a thick tree. "Everyone!" Levi and Neil followed, taking cover behind trees and the explosion passed.

You rubbed your aching head. "We could have gotten a few more feet away," Levi approached you and Sasha, followed by Neil.

"I know, Captain, I'm sorry, I know distance and being close to the ground usually works best against the vibrations, but-" Sasha was cut off mid sentence as another titan arrived.

The new arrival measured at least seven meters and was heading straight for the group. Levi dispatched it swiftly, and the group once again began to run as it glowed bright red. "Behind the trees now!" Levi shouted, Neil seemed to be caught off guard by the seemingly contradictory strategy, but Levi managed to pull him behind a tree just as the titan exploded.

"You... went behind... the trees...?" Sasha dizzily asked, in way of inquiring if everyone was alright. Her head, as well as everyone else's, were pounding with the strange vibrations of the explosion. Though it was only a minor inconvenience at first, and the headaches were attributed to the noise, the Garrison and Survey Corps who fought beside them to push back the explosive titans, found out the hard way that enough of those vibrations sometimes somehow caused concussions, though no one really understood how.

Though not everyone noticed right away, Levi did put trust in the other scouts and never disregarded what they said without explanation. "Now I see what that was about," Levi pointed at the opposite side of the tree and Neil paled, realizing he almost wasn't out of the way on time.

"Darts? Poison darts?" You guessed, as you looked at the metal needles stuck to the tree.

"Most likely," Levi agreed, because regular needles just wouldn't be troublesome enough. "Is this the only new problem you were trying to warm us about?"

"No," Sasha replied, still surprised that there were more things coming out of the exploding titans. "The other one had swords and daggers inside and..." She trailed into silence.

"Sasha, you're bleeding!" You took note of the big red stain on the ripped fabric on her shoulder. It was hard to see with so little light and at first it looked like it might have simply been a mud stain.

"Yeah..." Sasha placed her left hand over her injured right shoulder. "One of the swords that came out of the titan stabbed straight through Kyle and got to me. He... didn't make it. Fluffy and the horses are also gone. Are we the only ones left?"

"No," Levi replied, a little too quickly, though he had his reasons. "We've survived this far, the others are skilled too." Yet he couldn't lie about it. "It's highly likely at least some of them are still alive." Some, but not necessarily all, it was a sad thought, but a truthful possibility. "One thing is for sure, Fred, or whoever is behind this," though at this point it felt unlikely that the culprit was different. "Is getting desperate, he knows we have him cornered and is trying to get rid of us, we can't back down now."

You understood where Levi's logic was coming from. Thinking about it, there was no way the titans could naturally produce swords and needles. Someone had somehow put those things inside the titans, someone who was done hiding and would do anything to get rid of the Survey Corps.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 53: The Past is Put to Rest

You continued looking for the others with Levi, Sasha and Neil. Sasha's shoulder had been tended to with the limited resources. At least she wasn't bleeding anymore and the wound was cleaner, though she would still need proper medical attention as soon as it became available. You reached the area where the fire had been, and found a few titan bones that were already dissolving. Someone had tossed a few titans into the fire to smother the flames, they didn't explode though, it was another strange peculiarity.

"Hurry! We need to carry out Operation Levi's Heartbroken Titan Kill Kill Eren Style Vengeance Craze!" Hange announced loudly, as she reached the area where the titan remains were finally fading into nothing.

"What did you say?!" Levi snapped. It wasn't him that shocked everyone though.

"(Name!)" With Hange leading the pack, followed by Armin and Mikasa, you were soon surrounded and drowned in questions, while Levi's protests went unheard, at least until they realized the questions were overwhelming you and they went to him for answers.

"Weren't you burning down the forest in a heartbroken rage?" Hange questioned.

Levi raised an eyebrow, examining Hange's crazy, or rather, crazier, expression. "Concussion?"

"Yes," Erwin confirmed.

"Either way, burning down a forest in a fit of rage is more like Eren's style than mine," Levi pointed out and Mikasa pouted. "That would have destroyed the evidence."

"(Name?)" The familiar voice caught your attention and when the group parted to grant you passage, you saw Tony with Erwin, the real Tony. You immediately went to him, a million questions that he didn't understand spilling from your lips. You silenced yourself at his confused expression and waited for him to speak. Having just regained consciousness, Tony was still very drowsy. "It hurt... No more... Please... Mama... Papa... Make it stop..." His eyes focused on you for a fleeting moment. "(Name)..." Then he got that terrible lost expression again, "it hurt... it hurt... stop... please... not again..." It was haunting.

"It's ok, Tony," You hugged the little boy, trying to sooth him. "You're safe now, no one will hurt you anymore." You didn't know what it was that he went through, but it must have been terrible. It became evident that Tony wouldn't be able to provide any information any time soon.

Heavy footsteps were heard, signaling the approach of another titan, it was about seven meters tall and moving very slowly, which made it suspicious. "It'll probably shower us with blades and needles, run ahead, I'll get rid of it," Levi offered.

"Blades and needles?" Erwin inquired in confusion.

"You'll see what I mean in a second, just pick a thick tree and stay behind it," Levi easily avoided the titan's hand and landed atop its head. He stayed there, giving the others time to move away, then spun, cutting all the way down the spine. Subsequently, he retreated to find cover. The titan exploded, but no blades or needles came, instead there was gas. "It's a trap, run!"

Everyone ran as fast as they could, you still had Tony in your arms and lagged a little behind. Levi easily caught up to you, taking the boy in one arm and your hand in the other. The scouts kept running and coughing. Everything was disorienting, the imagery was wavy, the sounds echoed and every movement seemed to send a painful jolt of electricity all over your limbs.

Suddenly, the group stopped running and at first you were at a loss as to why. You realized that the gas had dissipated and more distance wasn't really necessary, but that wasn't the only reason why they stopped. The ground was covered in blades and Kyle's body was nearby. The group had run in a random direction trying to get away from the danger and ended up where Sasha had been before.

You recognized the blades, they used to be mounted on the walls of a room back at Sina as collectors' items when you lived with your father. Most importantly, you recognized the man, "Fred... Fredrick Facio, why? Why did you do all this? I didn't want to think you were evil, but you are!" Everything was out of focus and your head was pounding. A strange echo was all around and your eyes kept watering. You could only guess that everyone else was in the same conditions as you, trying desperately to recover from the effects of the gas.

"That's not my name," his face changed from that of the doctor to a different face. He slowly approached the group with a bottle in hand. "This isn't my identity either, I'm not your uncle, girl, and I have no value for your life, I only wanted your blood to restore her, but it's too late." Once again his appearance morphed into something else, a face unknown to you. "Your father didn't know his brother in law well enough and the whole time he thought I was who I claimed to be. If only I had killed the fool on the day he stole her from me!" He shouted angrily and laughed at the same time, as if he had gone mad.

"Your uncle died a long time ago, brat, I took his place. I'm the one who should have stayed by her side, and you, the vile monster who stole her life, you should not exist! It's been too long, she's already lost, she can never return, her original form has been all but fully consumed within that monster. You're useless to me now, no improvement on the formula can ever reverse her fate! It's over, after all these years it's finally over, but I won't fall on my own. My final gift to her, after keeping her hidden for so long beyond Maria... My final gift will be to avenge her from all those who would do her harm. I wanted this to be your death, a slow painful poison for a normal human, something faster, but maybe worse, for someone like you, but it doesn't matter anymore."

He tossed the strange bottle at you and in your shocked state you struggled to catch it. It almost slipped out of your hands, but Levi managed to grab it. The unknown man began to change, titan mist surrounding him. Levi and Erwin were the first to charge forward, but a strange shockwave sent them back as the transformation was completed. A four armed twenty meter tall titan with short white hair towered before the scouts.

"Sasha, take Tony and get out of here!" Erwin shouted. Sasha knew she wouldn't be able to properly maneuver with her injured shoulder, she could barely move her right arm as it was.

"Hold onto this too," Levi gave the small bottle to Sasha. She wasted no time in picking up Tony with her good arm and ran away as instructed, trying to keep the boy safe.

As you watched them run and tried to focus on the battle, you suddenly came to a realization. You recalled your father's words from that conversation that felt so long ago. "I brought her roses often..." "My most stubborn rival, stabbed me in the back..." "I don't know what ever happened to Julius..." "The possibility of childbirth would shorten her life..." "Occasionally, she would say my name or yours, though she never recognized her brother..."

"Julius," you concluded. "You're Julius!" The man who had killed your uncle and stolen his identity. He had manipulated your father through his pain and controlled him with fragile hope. Your father's past rival for your mother's affections, he never truly let her go. Then that meant that the female titan with translucent hair was...

The four armed titan picked up some of the daggers that were on the ground and began to throw them. The scouts either got out of the way or batted them away with their own swords, but the thrown blades kept coming. It was you, Levi, Neil, Mikasa, Armin, Hange and Erwin versus the four armed titan. The monster soon ran out of blades to throw, but it was evident that he was only toying with the scouts, as it wasn't a very effective strategy in the first place.

The scouts moved to surround the titan and shot their ODM gear. Levi tried to climb up his back, spin cutting his spine, while the others attempted to keep the creature's four arms busy. Neil was captured in one of the monster's hands and Armin in another. Mikasa began to cut Armin free, but had to retreat as another of the being's arms tried to grab her. While one arm was busy trying to grab Mikasa and the other attempted to capture Erwin, you took the opportunity to cut Armin free, while Hange did the same for Neil.

Levi cut all the way up to the titan's head, but found nothing resembling a weak spot along the spine. He attempted to blind the beast to buy some time, but the monster batted him away. Levi dodged just on time, but Julius managed to grab onto his ODM gear cable and pulled him back. Erwin, Hange and Mikasa led the charge towards the face, narrowly avoiding being grabbed, while you, Armin and Neil tried to keep the arms occupied without being captured. Julius jumped and spun, causing all of you to be tossed around, attached to his body by the ODM gear cables, until the cables came off, with broken flesh and the scouts scrambled to shoot the hooks again to avoid a fatal fall. Julius kept spinning to stop everyone from advancing and focus on Levi without interruptions, as he had been deemed the most dangerous opponent.

Free to use his four arms against him, Julius managed to grab Levi while everyone was still trying to recover from all the spinning and climb back up from the ground. You desperately tried to reach him, fearing that he would be crushed to death. Sasha's battle cry echoed as she darted up full speed on her ODM gear. Julius had disregarded her since she was injured, but she wasn't out of the fight yet. To your surprise, a familiar yet strange woman was on her back, operating the right side of her ODM gear. The woman was a small titan that looked like you. Sasha sunk one blade into one of the titan's eyes, while the woman attacked the other. "Sorry to disobey orders, but I had to deliver our ally! Slice him up and blow him up!"

The sudden attack was sufficient for Julius' grip to loosen around Levi just enough for him to attack within the titan's fist and cut his way out. Sasha retreated to take care of Tony, while the little titan who looked like you bit the four armed titan until the monster finally crushed her into titan dust in his fist. The whole situation was very confusing, but you knew that human sized titan came from you. Erwin, Hange and Mikasa moved down to cut down the titans' feet and limit his movement. Armin, Neil and you followed, while Levi spiraled all around the monster, looking for the weak spot. After Hange cut off the monster's toes they started to glow red and Sasha's words suddenly made sense. "Everyone to the head!" Erwin led the way up the back, cutting off an attacking hand on the way.

The explosion from below blew off more chunks of the feet and lower legs, causing the titan to fall to his knees. Everyone continue cutting off chunks of the creature. You thought you heard Hange yell, then fingers glowing red fell. You saw a slight bump moving through the titan's torso and it caught your attention, though it was far from your position near the left shoulder. "Over there, near the left side of the waist!" You hurried to the spot, though it kept moving until it was in the front of the abdomen. Levi had already moved towards the head to prevent the eyes from regenerating, while the rest of you were busy preventing the limbs from growing back.

The titan's legs were severed to the knees and the scouts kept batting the pieces of flesh towards the arms. The pieces were small, as were the explosions, but the shockwaves felt like they were piling up and it was hard to focus with your painful headache. The scouts tried to catch up to the suspicious bump that was moving across the titan's body, while keeping the explosions going. He had turned into an explosive titan because that little titan that looked like you bit him.

Though it seemed that all human sized titans had the appearance of a young adult, if she was like you, then she should have a similar mindset, even if she didn't have the full intellect of a human. She knew what she was doing and wanted to help everyone, but where had she come from? You pushed the thoughts away for the time being. Sasha should have some answers about that she could share later. What mattered was that the Survey Corps were finally making progress.

Feeling trapped, Julius appeared, breaking through the skin of the titan's chest while it laid on its side. Neil rushed over to attack, but Julius pushed himself with the stubs of his legs and four arms and began to roll over, throwing everyone into a tangled mess as he flailed around with what was left of his limbs. Neil managed to grab Julius' true body and prepared to stab him. All the flailing had slowed down everyone's progress in catching up to Julius true body, Neil had simply been close by, suspiciously close to where Julius happened to emerge.

"It's a trap!" Levi tried to warn him. Julius jerked strangely, the titan's spine cracking as he did, though he seemed mostly unaffected by it, the titan was already broken. The sudden movement delayed the scout's progress, with a few ODM gear hooks ripping off pieces of skin and coming loose. The titan's skin was oddly thin, as if there was hardly any substance to him despite his large size. The skin broke off easily, so the hooks couldn't be shot from too far away or they would lack the force to go in deep enough to support the scouts.

"Neil, get out of there!" Everything happened in a split second, but it felt like an eternity. Levi's ODM gear hooked nearby close to where Neil was trying to stab Julius, struggling against the strong mutant, who held the scout's arms motionless. The titan rolled, the ground approached. Neil let go of one of his swords. Julius thought he had forced him to let go and released Neil's fractured arm to grab the discarded weapon.

Neil said something that you couldn't hear and reached for the hook of the ODM gear that carried Levi towards him. He pulled it out from the fragile skin and released it. The titan finished rolling and Neil disappeared under him, while the rest of the scouts were left on his back. You would later find out that Neil's last words were "my choice." He knew that Levi was trying to save him and knew that he would likely die trying. It would take some convincing, but you would eventually make Levi understand that no matter what the Ral family may say, Neil's final action proved that he didn't hate him or blame him for his death or Petra's, at least not anymore.

The titan was still for a moment, "this is our chance!" You reacted to Erwin's voice and continued the efforts. Though Julius had likely succeeded in killing Neil, his sacrifice bought precious time for the others to attack and it couldn't be wasted.

"No!" Sasha called out in terror, "Tony!" Her voice cut through all the other sounds and you couldn't help it but to look in her direction. She was trying to catch up to Tony. He seemed to have recovered somehow, but he was strange, he was glowing as if he would explode. It happened before he even reached Julius, who was suddenly regenerating rapidly, his hair going from white to ginger, as if he had somehow absorbed Neil's very life to heal himself. You realized the trap was different from what you had thought, Julius meant to allow someone to reach his true body, not to kill them but to steal their life energy for himself.

Tony blew up in a rain of guts and limbs that you couldn't comprehend. From each piece there materialized a human size titan. The little titans joined the attack, devouring the flesh of the large one until they tunneled through to the torso. Levi was the first to reach their position as the small titans jumped inside the large one. He looked inside for a moment, considering his strategy, then, seeing as the inner walls were not as hot as he would have guessed, he jumped in. Shocked, you hurried after them and threw yourself down the opening followed by Mikasa. You caught a glimpse of Erwin in the fleshly tunnel entrance, but the skin closed up before he could go in.

You later found out that Tony remembered something, he said that Fred cut off his arms and legs over and over and used a strange liquid to turn them into little titans. He drank the poison that was meant for you, Sasha had been caught off guard and couldn't stop him, a fact that she felt terribly guilty for. You tried to reassure her when you heard about what happened, trying to focus on helping your friend move on rather than the terrible things that happened to Tony in a past you couldn't change.

You told Sasha that there was no way she could have guessed Tony would do something so crazy. That regardless of who was with him, it would have happened the same way. You reminded her that she had warned the group about the exploding titans being filled with weapons, made it so that Kyle's sacrifice wasn't in vain, brought the little titan you to the fight and turned the whole battle around by blinding Julius' titan. That had also been a vital factor to Levi's survival, which you were especially grateful for.

If the small titans were formed from limbs, then the titan of you must have been made from the hand you regenerated. Julius had been camping in the little cave near the river, he must have dropped some of the same liquid Tony drank into it. The head that Levi had mistaken for you, belonged to another human sized titan of you, it must have formed from the hair you had Levi cut off earlier. Clearly, the effects of external and internal contact with the substance were different, though the details about what it was remained unknown.

Inside the titan it was dark, moist, hard to breathe and all around stinky and disgusting. It began to move just as the lamps were starting to give out. Julius true body was inside, while the others were fighting his titan form from the outside. You knew the only way to finish him was to destroy his true body and it was only a matter of time before he destroyed all the little titans. The large titan didn't change, so simply being killed inside it wouldn't make it one absorb any energy.

You saw what was left of Neil's remains near the bottom of the torso cavity, he looked like he had been torn apart by human sized bites. You realized that Julius ate his flesh with his true body to pass that energy onto his titan. You saw Mikasa nearby and approached her, the two of you automatically agreed to cover each others' backs. You kept looking for Levi but didn't see him, his lamps must already be off, yours only had a little oil left because you had found some to add earlier at the riverside cave.

Several explosions came from outside. The scouts began to focus on blowing holes through the torso, even if it meant the limbs would grow back without the constant attacks aimed at them. The area outside had been completely cleared out by the fight and the faint light of the full moon and stars began to shine through the holes. You finally spotted Julius, moving rapidly in the thick walls of the titan's torso. Levi was chasing after him, but every time he tried to stab him, he would go through the flesh, moving to a different area with great speed. Levi had been the one closest to the gas trap, he inhaled the most gas and even though he made an effort, he wasn't quite up to his usual speed. Mikasa and you, tried to trap Julius between the three of you, but he was too fast and the lack of proper illumination made it hard to track his movements.

A loud voice you had heard before echoed and a series of explosions followed. A large hole was blown on the torso and the cause became evident to you. The female titan, your mother, she brought several explosive titans, attracting them with her voice and was destroying them to attack Julius. The scouts fighting outside had retreated, giving her room to continue her assault. Her long fingers reached past you and grabbed Julius just as he emerged from what was left of the torso in front of you. His true body was separated from what was left of the titan and the female bit off his head.

Julius' lifeless human body fell from her mouth and you felt yourself fall to your knees. "Is it really over?" You looked at the female titan, wondering just how much of the situation she really understood. It had been years since she last saw you, so she couldn't recognize you. Yet you had addressed her husband as father, did she truly understand you were her daughter? After all this you thought she had to. "Mother..." Her strange long hands reached out for you, but you didn't move an inch, then suddenly, something in her eyes changed and in less than half an instant Levi had sliced off the long hand. "What?" You were confused at first, then you saw it. The face of Julius became visible on the female titan's forehead.

The titan that was once your mother screamed, but the explosive titans wouldn't heed the commands, that power was your mother's, not Julius', and he didn't know how to use it. Somehow, before his brain died, in the split second when his head was in her mouth, he attached himself to her titan body and his brain used it to survive. The titan jumped and contorted strangely in mid air, and from where the creature's heart would be if it were human, it pulled the remains of a body with its one good arm. The body, or rather the torso, as the limbs still hung from the titan's chest, was human and badly damaged. It was bony, with too many patches of skin missing, but you knew the face was that of a woman, your mother, what had been left of her, which could never be human again.

The titan that was now under Julius' control, jumped and twisted in the air to dodged the hooks of the ODM gear, but the scouts didn't stop in their attack. He couldn't be allowed to run away and recover, even if the scouts were tired and injured, their lamps were out of oil, save for one of yours, and all their ODM gear was out of fuel. The scouts kept throwing the hooks by hand, trying to tangle the enemy together. The explosive titans no longer listened to the translucent haired titan's commands, but you still ran the risk that Julius would figure out how to hit the right vocals to mount a full scale attack given enough time. "He's gone mad, we won't get any information out of him, don't try to capture him, kill him the first chance you get!" Erwin shouted, this enemy was simply too dangerous.

Eren's words rung out in your head from when you last saw him right before leaving on this, your second official mission with the Survey Corps. "Don't forget, they are the prey, we are the hunters." Tonight your prey would burn. You smashed your remaining lit lamp into the long translucent hair just as the titan managed to jump away. The flames spread and the titan fell, rolling on the ground, with the fire spreading to the flora all around, yet they couldn't be put out from the monster's body, fire was this titan's weakness. You watched it be consumed, reduced to ashes that turned to dust. You watched your past burn to nothing, everything you used to know was now gone. You felt Levi wrap his arms around you and held onto him tightly. It was finally over, truly over, but you still had him and your friends.

Thunder crashed in the distance and a few droplets of rain unexpectedly fell. The forest was filled with exploding titans, so the scouts retreated in a hurry, leaving the forest before the downpour began. Hange seemed to be amused by the escape, cheering, "giddy up, Erwin!" while he carried her piggy back because she had fractured her leg in combat. The titans, which had mostly gathered in the forest began to explode. Out in the open, the scouts avoided them all easily and headed home.

Garrison soldiers came to meet the group as soon as they were spotted and took them back to the city. You sat on the wagon close to Levi. You had a lot to say, but you couldn't quite say anything yet. For now, you just wanted to be close to him and let the fact sink in that the battle had ended and the enemy, at least this enemy, was defeated, even if the war against the titans would have to go on.

Finally, the scouts crossed the gates of Rose. The place felt drastically different than it was when you left, though it had been only hours ago. The losses were hard, but the mission had been completed and many lives had been saved with the sacrifices made. Wall Rose continued to stand, and humanity continued to live within it because of the Survey Corps. Though Eren was still recovering, he was far too stubborn to stay bedridden, he and Dot Pixis were right next to the gate when you, Levi, Mikasa, Armin, Erwin, Hange and Sasha returned.

xoxox xox xoxox

The room was filled with light, but you didn't feel like getting up. You were back home in your warm bed, with Levi's arms around you in a cocoon of blankets and didn't want to be anywhere else. You looked at Levi, who lazily opened his eyes when he felt your head move. "Morning... What time is it?" You asked sleepily. "Do we need to get up?"

"Not morning," he replied. "It's about noon, but we don't have to get up today. The Survey Corps are on break." Technically, they were on recovery rather than on vacation, but the point was that they could take a break.

Last night after getting home you got cleaned up and went to bed. You were just too tired to think, or talk, or do anything. You felt that you wanted to say something, but you didn't know what. So much had happened, but simply stating it wasn't what you wanted to say. Levi already knew what happened and it would be easy to figure out how you felt about it. You didn't want to be told it would be alright, because you knew nothing would be the same again. You closed your mouth after producing no words.

Levi kissed you and you allowed yourself to focus on the sensation of his lips, his taste, his body pressed against yours in a tight embrace, the arm that held you around the waist and the fingers that ran through your hair. "It's never completely ok, but it does get better," Levi finally broke the silence and you felt that you could believe in those words, they held hope, but not unrealistic hope.

"I know it will, we'll make it better. That's what the wings of freedom do, right? In the end, even if I look back and think I should have done things differently, how would I have made such a choice without knowing what I know now? And a different choice means a different situation anyway, so the whole picture would change. What I mean is... is... I'm not making sense, am I?" You trailed off, you didn't understand the logic of your own thoughts anymore, if there was even any logic left. You tried to say something that would put everything into context, but you couldn't find your voice and instead occupied yourself in rubbing your eyes to dry them.

"You don't have to keep it all in," Levi held you tightly as you finally spilled the tears you held back in the battle field. "You are making sense, you understand, I respect that about you. You know that regret is not something that you should hold onto, it only brings more regret. You already know, the best way to honor the past is by granting the wishes made for the future. If I held onto regret, I would probably be dead by now. I would have focused so much on regretting setting off that stupid gas trap in the forest and been unable to make any choices in battle anymore, or even the choice to make up for it. Don't stop making choices for fear of regretting them, don't stop living. I know that's what should be done, even if doubts come sometimes, I know it."

You mused over the meaning of his words. Levi was right, this was something you already knew. Your father had regrets, he knew how heavy they were and raised you to live with none, always telling you that the best way to remember your mother, was to grant her wish for your happiness. Throw away the bitterness and keep the lesson that leads to a better choice next time. You slowly calmed down and took a deep breath, finally lifting your face from Levi's shoulder. "I'll grant my father's wish for me, to live a good life, a happy life, with no regrets, it's the least I can do for him, that's the choice I make today, to honor that wish. It's not an easy choice, but I won't regret it. I'll also do my best to remind you not to be held back by regret. Making the past worth it... Making a better future... Making every present moment count... That's what we do..."

"That's how we're free," Levi agreed. "I'll remind you of that too when you need it... (Name)," he looked into your eyes. "I almost didn't allow myself to love you because I thought I might lose you one day, but I'm glad regret didn't steal this moment. Whatever happens, this is something I won't regret." He kissed you again, allowing you to focus on what you did have, rather than what you lost. You allowed yourself to pour all your love and passion into each other, to live in the moment and to make another precious memory together. Levi and you would live by your choices and live without regrets.


xoxox xox xoxox

Bonus Epilogue

(It's up to the reader to decide if the bonus is part of the story or not. I wrote it just for fun and it has a much bigger those of silliness than the rest of the story.)

You finished maintaining your ODM gear and polishing it, Levi would be proud. "Ok, I'm done, now we can play!" You looked around, but didn't find the one you were looking for. "Oh, oh..."

Levi showed up at the door to the equipment room and you smiled sweetly at him. "Hi Levi, look how shiny my ODM gear is!" You could tell by his expression that he wasn't amused. You pouted, "are you mad at me for some reason?"

Levi shook his head hopelessly, "(Name) I told you to keep a closer eye on him." Ah, so he had been found, good.

"I was, but I swear, that boy can teleport!" He couldn't do that really, a fact that you were immensely grateful for. The child was already a handful as he was, though you still loved the adorable chibi. "He didn't break anything, did he?"

"He got all dirty!" Levi exclaimed, as if it was an irreversible tragedy. "How is he even capable of getting so dirty so quickly? He doesn't get that from me."

You laughed lightly and gave your husband a quick kiss, "don't worry, he'll grow out of it." Every day you assured him that it was perfectly normal for a toddler to get a little dirty when playing. Yet every day Levi would worry that he was doing something terribly wrong and raising his son to be a slob. It was ironic that was the only thing he complained about, it wasn't exactly the worse thing the boy had inherited from you.

Levi finally took a moment to examine your ODM gear. "Not bad," he commended, running his finger on the gear's surface as if inspecting it for dust. "It looks like you're done with your assigned tasks for today, and Eren is giving our dear little mischief maker a bath, so we both have some free time right now."

You and Levi decided to make the best of that free time in whatever way happened to occur to you after you returned to the room you shared. On the way there, Levi told you exactly how he found your son, which was another alarming yet amusing tale for your collection of favorite memories.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Weeee!" Hange exclaimed as she was thrown through the air and caught in a fit of cheers and giggles.

"Put that down, it's filthy!" Levi scolded with urgency. Kids run around, it's normal, they trip, it happens, they scrape their knees, it's nothing serious... under normal circumstances.

The titan put Hange down, pouting with his overly cute baby face. "Aw..." Hange had a similar expression, as she had been enjoying the 'experiment.' "We were playing."

Levi glared at her, then turned his attention back to the titan. "Change back," he ordered impatiently. The titan only pouted some more, his eyes watering slightly. Levi took a deep breath and tried to calm down. 'It's ok, he's not too big yet...' though he seemed to be getting bigger. 'We're behind the Survey Corps base, no one from outside the scouts saw, it's still a secret...' "Look, I'm not angry at you. Change back, I know you can do it. C'mon, I can't pick you up if you're like this."

The titan seemed to calm down, and in a puff of titan mist, he disappeared, it was a special ability he had to turn back at will, though he still needed a trigger for the initial transformation. Where the titan used to be there was only a small toddler. He looked a lot like his father, having only inherited your eyes... and a manifestation of your 'special condition.' The little boy ran to Levi, lifting his arms in an indication he wanted to be carried. Levi picked up the boy and examined him. "I told you to be careful, look how dirty you got. You're a year old today, you should be getting used to keeping yourself clean." Levi continued the losing battle of trying to keep a toddler clean. His son only giggled in amusement at his neat freak father's attempt to clean his face, which had bits of chocolate on it. With all the sweets the scouts gave their little 'nephew' it was no wonder he was always hyper.

Though you and Levi had many friends that were quick to volunteer themselves as honorary aunts and uncles, dealing with a toddler who could turn into a titan wasn't easy. At least his titan form wasn't too big yet, though it had been proportionally growing along with him. You had initially thought that your child was the same as you and he would grow out of the transformation phase. However, your abilities were a modification of titan shifting and though you weren't a shifter yourself, your genetics carried the possibility. The boy's trigger was blood, it was the same as Eren's and all known shifters. It didn't help that kids tend to have an uncanny ability to hurt themselves in the most harmless of situations, it was simply the nature of being a child.

Fortunately, it was also in a child's nature to learn quickly by instinct, so it didn't take him long to get used to retaining his human consciousness while in titan form and he could change back into a human at will. Pain was still too much of a distracting factor for him to hold back the titan transformation, but he should be able to control that when he got a little older, until the possibility of scraped knees was no longer any more dangerous to him than to any other child.

Eren, Mikasa and Armin rushed over. "I found Eren!" Armin announced. The blond had a smear of dough on his cheek and a kitchen apron. He had witnessed the transformation from the window and ran off to find Eren, just in case.

"I'll stop him from running off! Don't worry, uncle Eren is coming!" Eren made a motion to bite his hand, but stopped when he realized there was no danger.

"The situation is under control," Levi informed.

"That's good..." Armin breathed. "I should get back to helping Sasha make the... you know what." Armin slipped away to the kitchen, refusing to say the word 'cake' though the birthday boy was probably too young to care whether or not the cake was a surprise, as long as there was cake.

"If you really want to help, give him a bath." Levi handed the one year old boy over to Eren.

"Didn't he already have two baths today?" Mikasa recalled, it was only the afternoon.

"Three," Levi corrected as he went off to find you. You had better done a fine job with your ODM gear maintenance to have lost track of the tiny titan shifter. He turned back for a moment as Eren, Mikasa and Armin walked off with the boy. "Don't make a mess."

"Aw, you won't make a mess, right?" Eren cooed at the little boy.

"Bubble!" Was the toddler's only comment about the whole situation.

"I was talking to you, Eren," Levi clarified and Eren only laughed nervously.

Mikasa recalled the occasion quite well. The little boy loved playing in the water and kept asking for more bubbles. Eren, being the sweet uncle he was, kept adding more bubbles to the tub until the bathroom was flooded in soapy foam. "I'll make sure the bath goes without incident," Mikasa offered. At least (Name) and Levi's child was generally careful in titan form and haven't had any accidents so far. Perhaps that time he stepped on a lego barefoot while learning to walk traumatized him. Mikasa sighed happily, picturing the day when she and Eren would be running around trying to stop their own child from stepping on people.


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