a shitty meme from my side.
stan aruani or i'll steal your kneecaps
a shitty meme from my side.
stan aruani or i'll steal your kneecaps
Imagine HitchAnnie playing animal crossing together and somehow Annie's character is still shorter than everyone else's.
She got hers from Ymir who sold her a hacked version, everythings the same except the character is shorter.
Title: Games // AO3
Status: COMPLETED (one-shot)
Summary: Restless after beginning their days as trainees, the 104th decide to relax a bit by playing strip poker. It goes about as well as anyone can imagine.
Tags: Gen, Strip Poker, Strong hints of EreMika, trainee days
Characters: Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackerman, Armin Arlert, Jean Kirstein, Marco Bott, Ymir (Shingeki no Kyojin), Krista Lenz | Historia Reiss, the rest of the 104th
Thoughts: I miss the 104th. Whenever things become too much for me, this is one of my go-to. It reminds me of the simpler days.
Attack on Titan
Warnings: sexual themes, death, gore, mature themes, extreme violence, body horror, blood, weapons, major character death, age-gap relationship
Clenching her jaw, Vera tried to stay quiet and still while Armin tended to the wound on her arm. The bullet had only grazed her, so the cut wasn't that deep, but it stung like hell and Armin, whose hands were trembling, was taking longer than normal to disinfect and bandage it.
"You're crying again," Vera pointed out, her voice soft and concerned. "Are you sure you're all right?"
Sitting back on his haunches, Armin let out a shaky exhale and wiped the tears that were streaming down his cheeks. "How was it so easy for you?" he asked. "Killing other people, I mean."
"I don't know," Vera answered honestly. "I guess when I realized that those other people were willing to kill me without so much of a second of hesitation, I didn't think of them as people anymore . . . just another monster."
Hands gripping at the fabric of his pants, Armin doubled over and his entire body began to shake as he cried some more. Heart shattering at the sight of sweet Armin in such mental anguish, Vera lunged forward and pulled him in for a hug. She wasn't exactly sure when it had happened—or if there had even been one single concrete moment that it had begun—but somewhere along the way she had grown to care for Armin deeply, like a younger brother almost. Vera never had siblings, but she imagined this is what it might be like.
"Y-you're arm," Armin hiccuped. "I'm sorry. I haven't finished wrapping it."
"It's fine. I can do the rest," Vera told him. "Or better yet, maybe Jean should do it. After all, I got shot saving his ass in the first place."
Armin let out a muffled laugh in between sobs. "Are you sure?"
"Yes." Vera hugged him tighter. "You saved my life today. You've done more than enough."
Once Armin had managed to calm down a little and catch his breath, he joined the others who were seated on crates in the middle of the warehouse they had found shelter in for the night—the same warehouse that Armin and Jean had been taken to earlier that day after being kidnapped. Hanging back a little, Vera sat in the corner with a lantern offering little lighting as she used her left hand and mouth to sloppily wrap the wound on her right bicep.
Across from her, she made eye contact with one of the men that had been behind Armin and Jean's kidnapping—one of the many men Mikasa, Connie, and Sasha had taken down. With his hands behind his back and a gag in his mouth, he couldn't do anything but glare back at her.
"You're doing it wrong," a gruff voice said suddenly, and when Vera looked up, Levi was standing over her and observing her messy handiwork.
"I'm trying my best," she mumbled out through the gauze that was stuffed between her teeth.
Shaking his head disappointingly, Levi crouched down in front of Vera, pulled the gauze out of her hand and mouth, and proceeded to bandage her arm for her. As Levi worked, his dark bangs fell into his face and for a split second, an urge rushed through Vera to reach out and brush them out of his eyes. She didn't, of course, and quickly pushed the thought from her mind. He was still the same man who had smashed her head into a wooden bannister in front of a courtroom full of people, so she didn't put it past him to slice a finger off or something if she touched him without permission.
Clearing her throat, Vera watched as he worked and wondered what was going through his head at that moment. Was he thinking about what had happened that day? Was he dwelling over the reappearance of Kenny, the mass murderer who had apparently raised him as a child? Was he beating himself up for losing Eren and Historia?
"Sir," Vera spoke, but as soon as Levi lifted his head and his eyes met hers, she felt small beneath his gaze and changed her mind about asking any of her previous questions. "Your leg." She settled on inquiring about his injury instead. "Is your leg still okay?"
"It's fine," he answered as he finished wrapping her arm. With that, he offered his hand to Vera and when she took it, he helped her stand up. When he did, however, he winced slightly. "Maybe it still hurts a bit," he admitted when he caught Vera staring at him. "What about you? How's the arm feel?"
Moving her arm a little, Vera shrugged. "Maybe it still hurts a bit," she echoed his previous response. "But it's a lot better now, thank you."
Turning on their heels, the duo walked toward where the others were sitting, and once everyone was gathered—aside from Sasha, who was outside keeping watch—Levi handed out a small piece of bread to everyone as their meal for the evening. It wasn't much, but it was all they had. Hardly anyone touched their food, however; too worried about the events of the day to eat.
"What's wrong?" Levi asked as the six of them sat around a single dim lantern. "Did all this filth kill your appetite?" He gestured to the dingy, dusty warehouse they were in.
"No." Armin shook his head before looking up. "Vera, there's something I don't understand."
Picking at the bread in her hands, Vera sighed. "What?"
"When I turned around to try to save you, that man already had his gun to your head. It's funny. How could I have shot before he did?"
Vera thought for a moment before shrugging. "I don't know."
"You shot first because he hesitated. Just like how Vera cut down that woman before she shot Jean. He hesitated too," Levi said. "It's simple."
"I'm sorry, Vera," Jean apologized out of nowhere. "You wouldn't have had to save me if I had just done my job."
Vera waved off his apology. "And Armin wouldn't have had to save me if I had done mine. We've never fought other people before; it's a whole new territory."
"I know what it is," Armin interjected, his voice quiet. "The man I shot back there . . . I bet he was a really kind person. He must have had a lot more human empathy than I ever did. I pulled that trigger so easily . . . without a thought. I'm . . ."
"A killer," Levi finished his sentence for him. "And now that your hands have been soaked in blood, the person you once were is gone for good."
Mikasa gasped. "Why would you say that?"
"And you shouldn't regret it for one second," Levi added. "Because if you had chosen to keep your hands clean, Vera would be a corpse on a cart right now. I'll tell you why you pulled the trigger. Because your comrade was about to die. Armin, everyone in our squad survived today because you got blood on your hands. Thank you."
Vera nodded in agreement. "Thank you, Armin."
"Captain Levi, I thought it was wrong for us to fight other humans, Sir" Jean spoke up. "I thought it was wrong that you ordered us to do it. I mean, we became soldiers to protect people, but now I see that I was in the wrong, Sir. Next time, I swear I'll shoot."
"I never said anything about what was right or wrong." Levi was clearly using the opportunity as a teaching moment to make the rookies in his squad stronger. "My moral high ground is shot to hell. I have no idea who's in the right at this point."
As Jean's face flooded with realization, Levi stood from his crate. "Now then, I think it's time we heard what our guest has to say." Levi glanced over at one of the men who was tied up. Walking over, he pulled down the cloth that had been tied around the man's mouth.
"Mercy, please!" the man immediately began babbling. "I'm just an old man that used to move cargo. I didn't want to but-"
"I've met this one before." Mikasa eyed the man as she stalked closer. "He seemed to be a prominent merchant."
As soon as the man recognized Mikasa, he went silent.
"Yeah, I know him," Levi said. "Dimo Reeves, right?"
"This damn job was forced on us by the Military Police," Dimo confessed. "And now that we've completely botched it, they'll plunder the Reeves' company for everything it's worth. First, they'll kill me, then they'll set up accidents for all my employees. My dumb son too."
Levi crossed his arms over his chest. "You just gonna lay down and take it? There's a reason Trost recovered from that Titan attack. It's largely because of jobs and money brought in by the Reeves' company. Tell me, if your company were to disappear, how many would survive the coming winter?"
"So what? You want me to join you?" Dimo huffed.
"We just need to know where Eren and Historia are," Levi told him. "If you're in contact with the MPs, I think I have a plan."
Dimo thought about Levi's proposition for a moment. "And can you give me your word the people of Trost won't end up starving to death?"
Dropping down to one knee, Levi shook his head. "I can't guarantee it. That said, I believe they'll have a better chance with us than without."
With that, the plan was put into place and a message was delivered to Hange detailing everything. The following night, thanks to Reeves' contacts in the MPs, a team was sent out to a previously vetted meeting place away from the city where Levi and his squad were waiting for the crooked soldiers to arrive. When they did, they were ambushed.
"Sorry, gents," Dimo deadpanned this his previous MP contacts. "That's how it is."
Among the MPs sent out for the false meeting was the man who Hange had suspected of murdering Pastor Nick, and when she arrived with Moblit by her side, she made a bee-line directly to the cellar where Levi had tied him up.
From the upper level of the building, Vera and the others could hear the soldier's screams as they bounced off of the stone walls; a direct result of the torture Levi and Hange were no doubt putting him through.
Since the plan had been devised, set up, and put into action in under 24 hours, Vera was having a hard time keeping up and wrapping her mind around everything that was going on. And from what she could tell, she wasn't the only one.
"Here we go again." Jean winced as another screamed echoed from the cellar.
"The screams seem a lot louder than they were when the Captain did it," Sasha whispered.
Vera fiddled with her hands beneath the table they were sitting at. "Hange's got it out for the man. She blames herself for Pastor Nick's death. For her, this is personal."
"I know it's to save our friends but . . . it still makes me sick," Connie admitted.
Staring into the flame of the candle sitting in the middle of the table, Armin drew in a deep, slow breath. "Let's face the facts. We're criminals now," he said. "Our last enemy wanted to eat us. We don't have an excuse like that for killing these people. It's just that their views are different. No, it's just that they're in another group. For that, we'll take their lives."
"These people are worse than Titans." Vera decided, unsure if it was because she truly believed it or because it made her feel better about herself. "Titans kill because it's in their nature. People kill because they want to. It's different. It's . . . simple."
Armin, who was clearly still struggling with the reality of his actions, folded his arms across the tabletop and slouched. "We're not good people," his voice cracked when he spoke. "Not anymore, at least."
Looking up at Armin, Vera exhaled. "Would you rather I was dead?" she asked.
Armin's eyes widened. "W-what?"
"Would you rather I was dead if it meant you could have kept your hands clean?"
"No." Armin shook his head frantically while everyone else watched the confrontation take place. "Of course, not!"
"Then why?" Vera prodded some more. "Why did you save me, Armin?"
"Because you're my friend! Because . . . because it would have been worse if you had died instead!"
"Exactly." Vera settled once she had made her case. "Because it would have been worse. It's like the Captain said, things aren't simply right or wrong. The world isn't black or white. In this world, we have to choose between two options every day, and all we can hope is that we choose whichever one makes us feel less like shit than the other."
The room fell silent after that, and from then on, no one so much as cleared their throat.
Sometime past midnight, after Levi and Hange had eventually coaxed the truth out of Pastor Nick, they shared the information they had gathered. Apparently, the Reiss family was the true royal family, and once that truth had been brought to light, so did a whole slew of other things.
"You mean the rightful heir to the throne is Historia?" Armin gasped.
"That's correct." Hange nodded. "And based on that knowledge, we're assuming that she and Eren have been taken to Lord Reiss."
Pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket, Moblit unrolled it and stuck it to the wall, displaying a hand-drawn photo of a man with a round face and thin mustache that Vera could only assume was Lord Reiss himself.
"That's him." Levi pointed to the photo, confirming Vera's suspicions.
As the minutes turned to hours, Hange and Levi continued to pry information out of the MPs and relay that information to the squad in turn. Sitting at the table, waiting for another bought of news to flood out of Hange's mouth, Vera took the time to think about the fact that Historia was the heir to the throne, and as she did, she remembered a time back at the cottage when Historia had shared what growing up for her had been like.
Historia had grown up on a farm owned by the Reiss family with a mother who barely even acknowledged her and a father who met her for the first time five years ago before disowning her, changing her name to Krista Lenz, and sending her off to become a cadet.
It was a terribly sad upbringing, and Vera felt so sorry for everything Historia had been through, along with everything she was currently going through.
Vera thought that, if she had known this sooner, maybe she and Historia would have been closer.
"You look lost in thought." Armin's voice startled Vera slightly. She had previously been sitting alone at the table while everyone else had gone to try and get some rest or stand watch, so his sudden presence had spooked her. "I'm sorry, I can go."
"No, it's okay." Vera gestured to the seat beside herself as a wave of guilt washed over her; she felt bad for being so harsh on him earlier. "Have a seat."
Shuffling over, Armin sat down next to Vera, his hands in his lap and his head hung. "I'm sorry," he whispered, just barely loud enough for her to hear. "I didn't mean to make it sound like I had wished I hadn't saved you."
"No, I should be the one apologizing," Vera insisted. "I was too uptight about the whole thing. It's a difficult situation . . . there isn't one right way to think about it."
Armin chuckled slightly. "You sounded exactly like Captain Levi."
Vera cracked a smile. "Damnit, now I really am sorry."
As Armin's laughter died down—a sound Vera couldn't remember the last time she had heard—he sighed. "I am glad I saved you," he said. "Really, I am."
"I'm glad you saved me too," Vera agreed. "Thank you."
Before either of the two could say another word, Hange and Levi marched out of the cellar, the former shouting about how everyone needed to gather up for the lastest collection of information.
Once everyone was seated around the table, the candle in the middle still burning strong, Hange dropped the news on everyone—the news that confirmed the theory Eren had had about the conversation he and Vera had overheard between Ymir and Bertholdt.
Armin's jaw dropped. "So they plan to eat Eren?"
"Yeah," Hange confirmed. "Eren remembered a conversation between Ymir and Bertholdt—a conversation that you heard as well, right, Vera?"
Vera nodded. "Yeah."
"Based on this, we can speculate Ymir used to be a mindless Titan just like the others until she consumed someone," Hange continued. "Someone from Bertholdt and Reiner's group. We've never seen a Titan turn back into a human by eating one before, that said, Reiner's comrades aren't normal humans and there's a different set of rules for humans that can turn into Titans. My thought is this: if a Titan eats someone with that power, then it'll transform back into a human. What's more, they'll obtain whatever powers that human had. In the battle the other day, Reiner was throwing Titans at Eren as he tried to run away. He knew that Eren had the power to take command of feral Titans with his scream; if Eren's death would have meant that power was lost, he wouldn't have risked it. I think he hoped one of those Titans would eat Eren and take his power. My point is, if the government has a Titan of their own, they'll use it to eat Eren."
Without needing to hear another word, Mikasa started for the door. Before she could leave, however, Levi stopped her. "Calm down," he ordered. "I know you want to get Eren back, but going on a rampage won't help with that. Anyway, we're heading for Rod Reiss' estate. Prepare to leave at once."
As the squad stood up and left to gather their things, Vera felt a hand wrap around her wrist and quickly pull her in the other direction. One second, Vera was heading out with the others, and the next, she was in a small storage room with Levi and Hange.
"Ummm." Vera's eyes flickered toward the door. "Am I in trouble or something?"
"Quite the opposite," Hange stated before cutting to the chase. "Levi has made me aware of your predicament, what with your mother and Reiner and all that. As a result, I did some digging but was unable to find anything about a woman named Silvia Lepstein who lived in Shiganishina in the time period around when you were born."
Vera cocked a brow, confused. "So my mother never existed is what you're telling me?"
"Not exactly." Hange seemed to almost vibrate in place with how excited she was about this information. "While living in the slums, as you and your parents did, it is all too easy to go undocumented if a person really wishes to. So, the fact that there is no paper trail of your mother doesn't give us any concrete answers, but it does give us one important question, which is: why didn't your mother want to be a recorded citizen?"
"I have no idea." Vera shrugged. "I don't remember her being caught up in any sketchy dealings, but then again, I was very young."
"I'm unsure of the answer as well, but what we can rule out thanks to a little more digging is that it wasn't some personal choice your parents had made because both you and your father have a paper trail that is all too easy to follow," Hange said. "So this was a decision your mother made alone."
Vera nodded along, understanding what Hange was telling her but unsure about what it was all leading up to.
"Will you get on with it already?" Levi rolled his eyes.
"Yes, yes, I'm getting to it!" Hange pushed her goggle-like glasses further up the bridge of her nose. "While I was researching you and your father, I did stumble upon one thing I found very interesting. I was able to get my hands on a record of your father's finances, and despite the fact that he worked tirelessly almost every single day of his life, there is a period right after when you claimed your mother died where there is simply no trail of where his money goes; it simply disappears."
Nervously, Vera shifted her weight. "Yeah, I always thought that was odd too . . . he worked all the time and yet we were still dirt poor. It didn't make any sense to me, but I never asked him about it."
"I thought it was odd too, so I kept searching for something. And just like I had hypothesized, I uncovered where all your father's money was really going. Almost every last bit of his paychecks went toward a very prominent trading company from around that time. I even confirmed his name in one of the logbooks the government confiscated when the trading company was shut down a few years ago."
Vera sighed, somehow even more confused than before. "Trading company?"
"Or so they claimed." Hange smirked. "This trading company was actually a front for a business that dealt in much more . . . let's say, under the table dealings."
"Well, in your father's case, protection."
"Protection?" Vera asked. Suddenly, the curtains remaining closed in the house at all times and having to barricade the door at nights when she was younger made sense . . . and at the same time, it made no sense at all. "My father was using all his money to pay shady people to protect himself?"
Hange waved her finger in Vera's face. "No, not himself. You."
Vera scoffed. "Protect me from what?"
"That's exactly what I was wondering," Hange said. "And although I can't be sure, based on the timeline of events, it isn't a stretch to assume it was someone close to you. Hear me out, if your mother is trying to bring you back to wherever she is now, what's to say she wasn't trying to do it when you were younger as well?"
Vera felt her blood run cold. "You . . . you're saying my father worked himself to death to protect me from my own mother?"
"And when he couldn't keep up with payments, he accumulated debt. Debt that later fell to you after he died!" Hange exclaimed, too caught up in the brilliance of her deduction to take note of the seriousness of the topic at hand. Eventually, though, she realized the look of uncertainty and sadness on Vera's face and dialled back her enthusiasm. "Yes, well, I understand this must be hard to hear, but I thought you'd want to know."
Vera drew in a long, unsteady breath. "So you're telling me that all this time I assumed my dad was throwing our money away on gambling or something and accumulating debt selfishly when he was really trying to protect me . . . from my own mother?"
"That's what it seems like, yes," Levi answered. "It seems you've been wanted for quite a while."
Hange nodded. "While I was digging, your name cropped up on a few lists for some underground gangs that deal with human trafficking and the likes. Whether it's your mother or not, someone has been trying very hard to find you for a very long time."
"Seems that your life of laying low and joining the cadets as soon as you could inadvertently kept you safe," Levi said. "That, and a lot of these underground gangs have been shut down in the past ten years or so."
"Holy shit." Vera sat down on the nearest crate and buried her face in her hands. "Do I know anything about my parents or my own life?"
"I can't answer that," Hange responded even though it was obviously a rhetorical question.
"Yeah," Vera let out a faint puff of air that could have been construed as either amusement or disbelief. "So all my father wanted was to keep me safe, and in the end, he was killed in the Titan attack that the bastards working, presumably, on the same side as my mother were the masterminds behind."
Taking a few steps closer, Levi looked down at her. Worried she would start spiralling again, he looked to Hange for help, but she just shrugged. "You okay?" he questioned.
"Yeah, sure." Vera let out a breathy laugh. "In the past month, I've found out that my mother, who I thought was dead, is actually alive. I learned that she's been trying to—for lack of a better term—kidnap me for almost my entire life. And on top of all of that, I always thought so poorly of my father when he literally gave everything he had to protect me from my own mother! No, yeah, I'm good. Just give me a second to process all of this and I'll be okay."
"Kline-" Levi started.
"No, I said I'm good and I am." Vera stood up suddenly, wiping the tears that had accumulated in her eyes and taking a few deep breaths. "Rescuing Eren and Historia is more important than whatever messed up family drama I have going on. It's bigger than me. I'm fine."
With that, Vera pushed past Levi and Hange and exited the room, making a bee-line for the others so she could collect her gear and get ready to head out.
At that point, Vera didn't believe anything she had been told about her parents, her life, or even herself anymore. From there on, she was going to create a new Vera Kline—one without a past and only a future; one that she could control.
i can just imagine
Attack on Titan
Warnings: sexual themes, death, gore, mature themes, extreme violence, body horror, blood, weapons, major character death, age-gap relationship
"Try not to walk clustered together. We'll stand out," Levi instructed as he led his squad through the bustling streets of Trost. "Eren and Historia, just act normal."
Eyes wandering, Connie kept glancing at the various flags hanging from doors and windows. On top of that, the city seemed to be more decorated and colourful than anyone remembered. "Why is the royal flag hanging everywhere?" he asked.
"Today must be the anniversary of the King's coronation," Sasha guessed. "Once a year they hand out extra rations to celebrate it."
Stomach rumbling, Vera tried to forget about the hunger she was feeling. After walking all night long, she could definitely go for some breakfast and a quick rest to soothe her aching feet.
"May I have your attention, please?" A Military Police soldier atop a wooden stage spoke to the gathered crowd of citizens. "King Fritz has heard of the hardships in Trost. He is donating the royal family's reserves. Form a line! There's plenty to go around."
Immediately, the citizens began to cheer and praise their King. With joyous smiles on their faces, they began to do as the soldier had requested and form a line to collect their share of the donation.
"All that food and he's just giving it away?" Sasha asked.
"It's not as if he needs it all," Levi scoffed, clearly unimpressed. "Easier to control people when they're not starving."
Ushering everyone forward, Levi once again directed them through the crowds, reminding everyone to keep their heads down and avoid suspicion. Suddenly, however, he came to a stop and whipped around. "Behind us!" he warned, but it was too late. "Look out!"
Just then, a horse-drawn cart raced through the streets and men in the back hoisted Historia and Eren into their arms as they passed by. The men cackled as they rode away, but Vera nor the others panicked too much. Sure, it would have been a real crisis if the real Historia and Eren had just been kidnapped, but they hadn't. Instead, the two kids that had just been captured were Armin and Jean, who were currently disguised as Historia and Eren.
"Armi-" Sasha started but stopped herself. "I mean, Krista and Eren! Those bastards are running off with them!"
Elsewhere in the city, Eren and Historia were being transported via an enclosed wagon so no one could identify them from the streets. Levi wasn't stupid, he knew that entering Trost was still a huge risk, even if it was currently in chaos after the murder of Pastor Nick.
Immediately, Vera, Levi, and Mikasa took to the rooftops to follow the cart. As expected, the fake Eren and Historia were taken to some sketchy warehouse at the edge of the city, a block or two away from the wall itself.
After scouting out the building and making sure Armin and Jean were in no immediate harm, Mikasa returned.
"How's everything going inside?" Levi questioned.
"If we wait very much longer, they'll see through Armin's disguise," Mikasa said. "He's getting pawed at."
Vera gritted her teeth at the idea of poor, sweet Armin getting felt up by a bunch of old, disgusting men. Sure, he had been more than willing to pretend to be Historia when it meant keeping the real Historia safe, but he probably never imagined it would involve getting prodded at.
"I see." Levi nodded.
Turning to Levi, Vera looked down at the leg he had injured when the three of them had been fighting the Female Titan in the forest. "How's your leg?" she inquired. She hadn't seen him favouring it as much recently, but she could tell it still bothered him on occasion. "Any better?"
"I can move well enough," Levi assured her before directing attention back to the task at hand. "Now then, did you notice? These kidnappers are obviously rank amateurs. Why wouldn't they use professionals for a job like this?"
"Maybe these guys aren't connected to the government at all?" Vera suggested.
"Maybe." Levi stood to his feet and looked over his shoulder at Mikasa. "Handle the rest on your own. I'm going to make my way to Eren. Vera, you're with me. Come and meet up with us when you're done taking out the trash here."
"Yes, Sir," Mikasa nodded.
Heading toward the edge of the rooftop, Levi stopped in his tracks. "There's one more thing you should know, just in case," he said. "Tell Armin and the others too."
Levi then explained that, with the use of amateurs, he agreed with Vera in thinking that this kidnapping was not by order of the government. Instead, he suspected a different organization; one he was familiar with.
From that moment on, the Titans were no longer the sole enemy. Starting then, they were fighting humans as well.
Wasting no time, Mikasa took the message with her and left to meet up with Sasha and Connie, who were waiting to help her rescue Armin and Jean. Heading in the opposite direction, Vera followed Levi along the rooftops to where Eren and Historia's wagon was currently stopped in the middle of a packed street with nowhere to go.
Taking cover behind a large stone chimney, Vera and Levi met up with Nifa, the redheaded woman who had delivered Erwin's message the day before. She was the one currently watching over Eren and Historia, along with a few of Hange's men scattered throughout the city.
"Captain," Nifa greeted.
"Well?" Levi questioned.
Peering down over the roof, Nifa locked eyes with the wagon once more. "The road's crowded but I've seen nothing unusual. It's not far to Commander Pyxis' from here, so I think we're good . . . but how's the body double mission?"
"A success," Levi answered.
Noticing his grim expression, Nifa cocked her head. "You don't seem very pleased about that."
"I'm not." Levi never let his eyes leave the wagon for even a second. When Levi didn't continue speaking, Vera followed his gaze and watched as, suddenly, the people in the street moved out of the way all at once. It was definitely odd, and Vera picked up on something right away.
"Something's not right." The hairs on the back of Vera's neck stood up. "The wagon is about to move again."
Glancing at the redheaded woman, Levi sighed. "Nifa, you heard of Kenny the Ripper?"
"That mass murderer in the Capitol?" Nifa clarified. "The one who slit the throats of over a hundred MPs? Of course, but I always thought he was just an urban legend."
Hood falling further over his face as he hung his head, Levi tensed slightly. "The stories are all true. He's no legend." As he spoke, his eyes shifted from Nifa to Vera, as if he wanted to tell this part to her specifically. "I lived with him back when I was a kid."
Nifa chuckled nervously. "Yeah, very funny, Sir."
Vera didn't laugh, however. She didn't even crack a smile. She could tell that Levi was telling the truth, and not just because he said he would never lie to her. It was something in his eyes; the way he looked at her like he truly believed she could understand what he was saying.
"This isn't the time to be making jokes," Nifa said.
Suddenly, Levi's eyes went wide and he lunged forward, grabbing Vera and hugging her to his chest. Not a second later, the sound of a gunshot echoed over the rooftops and Nifa's blood was splattering all over Vera and Levi. Nifa was dead in the blink of an eye.
Vera didn't even have time to see who had fired the bullet, because before she knew it, Levi was dragging her around to the other side of the chimney for cover.
As more and more gunshots rag out throughout the city, citizens could be heard screaming as the murdered bodies of the men Hange had sent with Levi dropped from the rooftops and into the streets.
Levi's eyes were as wide as Vera had ever seen them and his face had flushed pale. For the first time, she was seeing true emotion on his face, but considering the circumstances, she really wished she wasn't.
"Long time, Levi," the man who had shot Nifa said, his voice calm and confident. "Still a runt or have you grown some? And who's that little lady you've got with you?"
Levi's hold on Vera tightened as the sound of metal cartridges clanged against the rooftop, but it was unclear if he was changing out gas for his ODM gear or ammo for whatever weapon he was currently brandishing.
Then, in a split second, they were surrounded. With men and women cropping up from every direction, the man on the other side of the rooftop propelled himself over the roof with his gear, dual-wielding guns pointed directly at Vera and Levi.
"Nope, don't look like you've changed much at all, boy." The man grinned, his long brown hair and cowboy-esque getup catching Vera's eye.
Pushing Vera to the side, Levi drew his blades as a heavy-set scowl donned his features. "Kenny!" Levi screamed, and then it hit Vera; this was him . . . this was Kenny the Ripper.
Swinging his weapon, Levi released the trigger at the last second, sending the blade itself flying out of the handle and toward Kenny, giving him just enough time to throw his cloak off as a distraction, grab Vera by the arm, and start running.
"Do not stop moving!" Levi looked back at her as the two of them slid down the slope of the roof. "Follow me and don't look back!"
Unable to get a word out due to the fear tightening her throat, Vera nodded before she felt herself drop from the rooftop. Doing as she was told, and because she didn't want to end up with a bullet in her head like Nifa, Vera followed Levi's every move through the streets of Trost.
Swinging out into the main road, Vera felt her stomach twist when she caught sight of the wagon, the cloth torn away from the frame and both Eren and Historia lying in the back unconscious with red darts protruding from their necks. The driver of the wagon had also been shot and replaced with a woman who was no doubt working for Kenny.
As Vera and Levi turned a corner to follow the wagon, they came face to face with three more of Kenny's underlings. Just in time, both Scouts used their anchoring lines to pull themselves out of the way before they were shot at.
The scenery of Trost was flying by so fast that Vera was unsure how she was reacting so seamlessly and not crashing into any buildings. She had to assume it was a mixture of adrenaline, the sound of Kenny's people behind her, and the intense glare of Levi when he looked back over his shoulder at her every few seconds to make sure she was still there.
It wasn't long after that Kenny himself caught up with the pair, and when he fired between Vera and Levi, the two were forced to split up, just as he had hoped. Darting down a back alley to avoid being shot, Vera could hear Levi calling her name once he realized she was no longer behind him; and although she knew she needed to find him again as soon as possible, she was also confident that it would probably be easier for them to avoid harm if they were apart.
With a woman following her every move, Vera was weaving in and out of the streets so fast that she wasn't even sure what direction she was headed in anymore. Buildings passing by in the blink of an eye, Vera waited for the moment she accidentally fired her anchoring line into nothing at all and collided with the cement, but thankfully, it never happened.
Heading down a dead end, the woman still on her heels, Vera propelled herself up and over the tall building in front of her. When she reached the roof, she looked down and spotted Kenny standing in front of a small building. From the way he was lurking at the only entrance, and the way the front door had been smashed in, Vera could only assume that Levi had crashed into the establishment and was now trapped inside.
Hearing the woman behind her, Vera had no time to really think her plan over. With a prayer and a sudden surge of bravery, Vera swung down from the rooftop and collided with Kenny. The two of them skidded along the dirt, dust accumulating in the air and causing them to both cough and sputter.
"Captain, run!" Vera managed to squeak out before Kenny had grabbed her by the hair and thrown him off of her.
"Why, you little bitch!" he seethed, but he didn't even bother to point his guns at her. It was obvious he thought she was too weak for him to even concern himself with, and clearly, his objective was Levi and not her.
Pushing herself to her feet, Vera placed herself between Kenny and the entrance to the building—of which Levi had yet to exit. If there was one thing Vera knew, it was that if Eren and Historia had a chance of getting out of this situation unscathed, Levi needed to stay alive. With Erwin arrested, he was the only person left to take charge.
"Look at you!" Kenny laughed mockingly. "You're no bigger than Levi and you think you can fight me off? Even he had the intelligence to flee."
Eyebrows furrowed, Vera didn't dare say a word for fear that her shaky voice may offset any sliver of confidence she may have been displaying. Instead, she reached for her blades, but before she could unsheath them Kenny had lurched forward, grabbed her by her harness, and thrown her through the front door and into the building as well.
"Best you both stay where I can see you!" Kenny snarled.
Sliding across the wooden floor, Vera looked around to see customers with drinks and plates of food in front of themselves staring down at her, wide-eyed and slack-jawed. Just as Vera had managed to get her feet underneath herself again, a hand grabbed her from behind and dragged her up and over the bar counter at the back of the room.
Vera let out a cry of pain when she hit the floor hard on the other side, but silenced herself when she spotted Levi crouched over her, blood pouring down the left side of his face.
"It's the damndest thing!" Kenny cackled as he approached the entrance from outside. "I seem to be smelling a couple of rats in this fine establishment. Come on out, little rodents. A sheriff is here, and I aim to exterminate all the vermin I can find!"
Standing beside where Vera and Levi were ducked behind the bar for cover, the owner of the bar began to tremble profusely.
"Oh, come on!" Kenny shouted. "Come on out!"
"Right here, Kenny," Levi spoke up as he wiped the blood from his eye, still remaining by Vera's side behind the bar. "Been a while. I really thought you'd be dead by now. What, with all the MPs you were butchering. But now you're great friends, huh?"
Kenny exhaled loudly. "Yeah, well adults do plenty of things kids like you can't understand. Oh, right, my mistake, you're supposed to be an adult now but you're still such a runt it's hard to tell. Always hoped that I might get to see you in action someday. I can't say I'm disappointed either, seems you still remember every trick I've taught you . . . and you've even passed a few along to that pretty little thing you've got throwing her ass on the line to save you. She's feisty, that's for sure, but doesn't she know that getting caught up with you will probably cost her her life eventually?"
Trying to slow her breathing, Vera closed her eyes and tried her hardest to tune out Kenny's monologuing.
"Didn't I ever tell you what happens to cornered rats?" Kenny continued. "'Cause if I had, you'd know that wherever you run, you'll find a couple of bullets waiting. Hey, Levi-" there was a pause and the sound of something scraping against the hardwood before a chair was thrown over the bar, smashing into the bottles of wine on the shelf and covering Vera and Levi in red wine, "-you must have become a Scout for a reason, and I think I know what that is. We were forced to survive in that little hellhole, giving everything we had just to stay alive. So when we found out just how big the world really was, you could bet it hurt like hell. But you know what saved us? We found something we enjoyed doing. It's just that simple. Every man needs himself a hobby, maybe the only source of fulfilment he'll ever find in this wretched world."
"Oh, I see. Is that why you blew off my people's heads then?" Levi reached forward and spun one of the wine bottles around so he could see Kenny's reflection in the glass. "Because it's fulfilling?"
"Yeah." Kenny could be seen holding another chair in one hand and a gun in the other. "To achieve my grand goal, I'll kill as many as get in my way. And you're no different, you kill too when it benefits you."
Grabbing a rifle that the bar owner kept under the bar for protection, Levi just smirked. "Yeah." He swung the rifle over the top of the bar and fired, using the reflection in the bottle to aim the best he could.
Kenny let out a yell when the chair he was holding exploded in his hand and he flew backward out of the building.
"Thanks for the help, old man." Levi gave the gun back to the owner before grabbing another chair and throwing it out a side window. Sure enough, Kenny's men fired at the commotion, expecting it to be Levi trying to escape.
Turning to Vera again, Levi opened his mouth to tell her something, but she beat him to the punch. "Yeah, yeah, follow you." Vera gestured to the shattered window. "Lead the way, Captain."
With the ghost of an impressed smirk playing at the corners of his mouth, Levi threw himself out the window and, in one fluid motion, shot his anchoring hook into the head of one of Kenny's men, killing him instantly. As soon as Levi took to the rooftops again, Vera followed suit and the two of them used the limp body as a human shield while the rest of Kenny's underlings shot at them.
Once they were a couple of steps from the edge of the roof, they tossed the body, drew their blades, and simultaneously cut down the remaining enemies in their path.
Zipping through the streets once more, the pair was able to track down the cart carrying Eren and Historia again and tail it. Kenny's goons weren't giving up yet, but Vera and Levi had developed an efficient way to deal with them. Every time one of them popped up, Levi would snag them out of the air with his anchoring hooks, pull them in, and then the two of them would cut the bastard down with their blades.
Thankfully, Mikasa and the others joined the fight soon after, ready to lend a much-needed hand. "Listen up!" Levi explained the situation to them quickly. "These soldiers were trained to fight other people. They've already taken out three of ours. If you hesitate for so much as a second, you'll be dead. The moment you see an opening, go for the kill."
"Yes, Sir." The thought of killing another human if it meant saving Eren didn't even faze Mikasa.
It was then that Vera realized she had graduated from killing Titans to killing humans without so much of a bat of the eye. She wasn't sure if she should be worried or not about how smoothly she transitioned into butchering her own kind, but the one thing she did know what that she didn't have the luxury to dwell on it right then.
Acting fast, Levi hooked the man standing in the back of the wagon with Eren and Historia and pulled him out. "Armin, secure the wagon with Jean!" Levi ordered. "We'll keep you two covered!"
"Sir!" Armin nodded.
Jean, however, was not exactly in the right headspace to hear much of what was being said to him. "He killed him." Jean's eyes locked onto the person Levi had just cut down.
"Come on!" Armin encouraged, and with that, the two of them descended into the wagon.
Swinging down, Vera kicked the woman driving the wagon into the back for Armin and Jean to take care of. From there, she dropped into the driver's seat and tried her best to steer the spooked horses.
"Don't move!" Jean pointed his blade at the woman, but it was clear he was nowhere near ready to take the life of another human. "Stop!"
Sensing Jean's unease, the woman swiped his weapon out of his hand before knocking him down and pointing a gun in his face. Spotting the commotion out of the corner of her eye, Vera let go of the reins and jumped into the back.
"Damnit, Jean!" Vera snapped as she pierced the woman's body with her blade from behind. Startled, the woman spun around and fired her gun, the bullet just grazing Vera's arm. Face whitening as she bled out, the woman's eyes clouded over as she dropped to the ground. Glancing at bright crimson blood running down her arm, Vera winced. "It's us or them, Jean," she told him.
Temporarily distracted by the pain in her arm, Vera didn't notice the man who had landed behind her. As he rose his gun to Vera's head, another gunshot rang out and the man collapsed, taking Vera down with him and startling her.
Covered in a mixture of blood that both belonged to her and didn't, Vera looked up to see Armin sitting in the driver's seat, eyes full of tears as he held out a gun with shaking hands. He had just saved her life.
Caught up in the moment, she, Jean, and Armin failed to pay attention to their surroundings. Just as they were about to be ambushed, the others swooped in and saved them. After pushing the dead man's body off of herself, Vera found herself in Levi's arms seconds later.
Unfortunately, this gave the remainder of Kenny's men the opportunity to take control of the wagon and ride away with Eren and Historia. Mikasa, of course, was determined to make chase but Levi stopped her.
"Let them go!" Levi grunted. "We're running on fumes."
"No!" Mikasa argued as the cart disappeared into the distance. "Eren!"
Mikasa's desperate cry echoed through the barren streets, but it was no use. They had lost. Kenny had the Military Police had won; for the time being, at least.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀𝖺𝗇𝗇𝗂𝖾 𝗆𝖾𝗌𝗌𝗒 𝗆𝗈𝗈𝖽!
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀𝖽𝗈𝗇'𝗍 𝖼𝗈𝗉𝗒 𝖻𝗋𝗈! <333
Remember what his name was? Remember when he used to be the biggest deal on the show, practically the series mascot, not counting Eren or Scarf Girl? Remember what an enigmatic personality he had?
NEITHER DO I!
Says something when your Titan has more personality than you do........
Attack on Titan
Warnings: sexual themes, death, gore, mature themes, extreme violence, body horror, blood, weapons, major character death, age-gap relationship
With a white rag tied over her head like the others, Vera moved from surface to surface, dusting vigorously to make sure there wasn't a single spec of dirt left behind on the desks, windowsills, tables, or anywhere, really.
When the newly-formed Levi Squad, composed of Vera and her friends, had moved into the run-down cottage for their own protection from the vengeful Military Police, Captain Levi had ordered them to clean the place from top to bottom. Of course, their cleaning was nowhere near up to Levi's neurotic standards, and they had been punished as such countless times already.
"Hey, Sasha, you even try to steal any more food and we'll have Captain Levi chop you into bite-sized pieces, got it?" Jean's voice could be heard from outside the cottage, and when the front door opened, Vera and the others turned to greet him, Armin, and Sasha.
"Who, me?" Sasha nervously chuckled as she helped bring the newest supply of rations into the kitchen. "I would never. Probably."
Yanking the white cloth down from over his mouth, Eren frowned. "Hey! Did you guys wipe the mud off of your shoes before you came in?"
"Huh?" Jean cocked a brow as he set a bag of flour down on the nearest surface—a surface Vera had just spent ten minutes dusting. "Are you kidding me? Do you not see all this stuff we're carrying?"
Marching over, Eren's grip around his broom handle tightened. "You idiot! Do you think an excuse like that is going to play with Captain Levi? It's bad enough I had to make your bed for you this morning! Now you pull this crap?"
"Dirty bags off the clean table, Jean!" Vera jabbed her duster in his direction. "I will not hesitate to throw you under the bus when Captain Levi asks why everything is filthy."
"You two are getting just as bad as him," Jean started to grow irritated. "Who are you guys, my parents?!"
Just then, the front door opened and closed again and Mikasa and Historia—as she preferred to be called now—walked in, arms full of the firewood they had collected and chopped. "We're back," Mikasa announced, immediately sensing the tension in the room.
"Wait, you were chopping firewood?" Armin asked.
Mikasa nodded. "Got to stay in shape somehow."
"You got grabbed by a Titan!" Armin reminded her, worry etched into his features. "You should be in bed recovering."
"Armin, almost everyone here got grabbed by a Titan," Vera pointed out.
"That doesn't make it okay!" Armin turned to her. "You should be recovering too!"
Eren let out a scoff as Mikasa pushed past them. "I think you're wasting your breath," he told his friend. "I caught them both doing sit-ups earlier today."
"Oh, so you're a nag and a spy?" Jean snapped.
"What?!" Eren furrowed his brows. "How the hell is that spying? They were right out in the open!"
While Eren and Jean continued arguing and Armin went after Mikasa to pester her about taking it easy—something he bothered Vera about daily as well—Vera turned her attention back to the windowsill she was dusting and tried to tune everyone out.
"Funny . . . it almost feels like we're back in the cadet core, doesn't it?" Sasha said as she set a crate of potatoes down onto the table in the middle of the room. This caught everyone's attention and the various side conversations ceased.
"Mm-hmm." Armin nodded. "Chaos. Makes you wonder why they chose us for this new Levi Squad. Protecting Eren and Historia is such an important mission."
"Because we're all so talented, I assume." Sasha snuck something from the food rations into her bag when she thought no one was looking. Everyone was looking, however.
Letting out an exasperated sigh, Armin eyed Sasha. "Sasha, what did you just shove into your bag?"
"It's something that's definitely not bread."
"Really?!" Jean walked over with a disappointed but unsurprised look on his face. "What did I tell you?!"
"Come on, put it back," Connie gently encouraged.
Broom handle still clenched in his hands, Eren huffed. "Hey, can we focus here? We've got to finish cleaning before the Captain gets back!"
"No sense in cleaning if Jean is just gonna keep dirtying everything up right after." Vera narrowed her eyes at Jean.
Jean clenched his jaw. "How could you even tell if I dirtied something up when you miss half the dirt anyway?!"
"Put back the bread, Sasha," Armin told her.
With everyone in the room talking over one another, no one was able to hear the front door opening and closing once again. "What's all the commotion?" Captain Levi asked, but no one had even noticed his presence yet; not until he stepped into the middle of the room and ran his fingers along the underside of the table.
In unison, everyone froze.
When Levi pulled his hand back and eyed the dust particles clearly visible on his fingertips, Vera wished she could shrink in on herself and completely disappear.
"I'm quite certain I gave you enough time," he said flatly. "Nevermind. We can discuss your utter failure at a later date. Eren, Hange is anxious to get the experiment underway."
"Right." Eren wiped the nervous sweat from his brow. "Yes, Sir."
Later that day, with Hange running the aforementioned experiment, Vera and the others stood by for support and assistance in case things got out of hand. With Mikasa down on the ground on horseback, Vera, Hange, and the remaining Scouts stood atop a nearby ledge where they could watch the situation safely.
After transforming into his Titan form, Eren let out a screech before collapsing to the ground, completely motionless.
"Eren! What's wrong, Eren?!" Hange shouted down at him as his muscle began to waste away and he was soon nothing more than a pile of skin and bones in the grass. "Get up! The future depends on you, damn it! Get up!"
"Third time," Levi deadpanned, somehow seeming completely unaffected by the horrendous experiment results. "And his form's changed again. He's not even ten-meters tall and some of his body lacks muscle. Plus, Eren's scrawny ass is hanging out."
Glaring down at Eren's legs and torso, which were protruding from the Titan's back, Hange huffed. "I can see that!" She thrust her blade in Eren's direction like a pointer stick. "Eren, think you can still move? Give us a signal or something, will you?!"
Jumping from her horse, Mikasa ran to Eren's rescue to pull him from the dilapidated Titan body.
"Great, the brat's at it again." Levi rolled his eyes. "Off to the rescue. She never learns, does she?"
"There's no response. We're done here." Hange kept her eyes trained on Eren. With that, she used her ODM gear to get her down from the ledge so she could help pull Eren free. "Hot!" she shrieked as she yanked him free of the muscle binding him to the Titan. "Think you can ease up on the steam a little?!"
"Hey, be careful with him!" Mikasa warned. "Can't you see he's bleeding?"
As soon as Eren's face came free, Vera winced at the sight of nothing more than a skull and sunken, empty eye sockets. Even though she knew he was capable of regenerating, it still sent a chill down her spine.
"Ah!" Hange shrieked once more before turning her fellow Scout. "You see his face, Moblit?! Quick, we got to get this!"
"Section Commander!" Moblit barked. "Have you no compassion at all?!"
Before Hange could order any more tests to be run on Eren in the field, Mikasa cut him free. Falling backward into Hange, Eren didn't say a word as his handless arms slumped to his sides and his tongue lolled out of his skinless mouth.
"Sorry about that." Hange apologized.
Tutting his tongue, Captain Levi shook his head. "Not the outcome we'd hoped for." He looked back at Armin. "We're still a long way from being able to use Eren's Titan to seal the wall."
"Yes," Armin agreed. "We've known all along this would be like grasping at proverbial straws."
"The plan is strategically sound, and simple, in theory," Levi said. "All we need is to get Eren there. This could still work but it's going to depend on him."
Humming, Armin nodded. He knew just as well as anyone that they had a long, tough road ahead of them. It was just hard to see a solution on the horizon, but no matter how far or fast you ran, you were never able to reach it.
"Experiment's over!" Hange declared. "All troops withdraw at once!"
As Vera and Armin got ready to leave again, Levi turned to Historia, who was wearing a large green raincoat to disguise her identity. "You ride back with Eren," he said. "I'm going with Hange's group. We're headed for Trost."
"Sir," Historia acknowledged.
As Historia started toward the group taking Eren back to the cottage, Levi's dark eyes locked with Vera's. The two shared an understanding between them—an understanding that Vera was to keep her eyes on Historia and Eren the entire trip back in his absence.
Mounting her horse, Vera gave a nod, signifying that she understood what the Captain wanted from her and that he could count on her to do as he ordered.
Ever since Vera had been rescued alongside Eren and interrogated for hours on end, things between her and the brooding Captain had shifted slightly. He was more cautious now, especially since he was responsible for keeping them all safe, but Vera hadn't failed to notice how he seemed to keep her under special surveillance—almost like he didn't trust her not to get tangled up in other mess like with Bertholdt and Reiner. The last time anyone had bothered to give any sort of special attention to Vera, Reiner had manipulated her. It wasn't like she believed Levi was doing the same thing, far from it, but the sideways glances and additional observation only served to make her more nervous in the long run.
Vera often thought back to what Levi had said about safety; she'd been thinking about it ever since he insisted on walking her back to her barracks. Was he just trying to protect her from herself or was it something more?
That evening, while Vera helped with dinner by peeling potatoes, she soon found herself lost in thought. She did that a lot lately, but it wasn't exactly unreasonable considering she had quite a bit to think about.
Vera was still no closer to finding out if her mother was really alive or not, and the uncertainty was slowly pushing her over the edge.
Staring down at the potato, Vera's hands seemed to move on her own as she peeled and peeled. In the background, she could hear Mikasa shaming Eren for being out of bed so soon when he should have been resting—the roles from their conversation that morning now flipped.
"Besides, it's my fault the plan got shelved, so the least I can do is help." Eren settled between Connie and Vera and picked up a knife.
"No, you tried, didn't you?" Mikasa tried to comfort him. "Don't beat yourself up."
"All I care about is getting a chance to bring down the Beast Titan." Connie's eyes clouded over as his mind filled with the horrible memories of when he and the others had been stuck in that castle—memories of having just found out there was a possibility that his entire home village and family had been turned into Titans and memories of laying eyes on the largest, most terrifying Titan anyone had ever seen—a Titan over 17 feet with hair all over its body that had been dubbed the Beast Titan.
"That hairy bastard took everything from me. I want it dead!" Connie continued, his face softening when he realized everyone was looking at him. "It's about time to switch lookouts." He changed the subject and glanced out the window at Jean and Sasha, who were currently standing watch atop the wooden towers around the cottage. "You ready?"
Without another word, Connie and Mikasa left the kitchen to start their lookout shifts.
With just Vera, Eren, and Historia left in the room, the three let the air fill with a thick silence. Picking up another potato, Vera kept her eyes trained on the vegetable. She knew she should say something, but after what she, Eren, and Historia had gone through together, there wasn't much more that needed to be said.
"Must be nice." Historia was the first to break through the tension, which was odd since she hardly spoke at all anymore. "You guys and the others know what you want, even if it won't be easy to get. But with Ymir gone, I've lost my purpose. I don't even know what I'm fighting for anymore."
"Saving her is something to fight for," Eren told her.
"Maybe." Historia's head drooped. "At the time, I didn't understand what she was doing. I just wanted her to be safe. Since then, I've been thinking . . . when she left, Ymir chose her own path. I have no right to change that. She doesn't need me to."
A small, crooked smile spread across Eren's face. "Finally. About time you started talking again."
Vera smiled a little too. "Good to hear your voice again."
Turning away from the sink to look at the other two, Historia cocked a confused brow. "Hmm?"
"When we got here, you told us your story," Eren reminded her. "But then you just kept your mouth shut. Stopped smiling too."
"Why should I bother?" Historia shrugged. "Sorry, but the sweet little Krista you thought you knew . . . well, that girl isn't me anymore."
Eren put down the knife he was holding and turned to face Historia. "Good. I didn't really like her," he stated, shocking Historia. "No one's actually as nice as you pretended to be. It was unnatural and, frankly, exhausting."
"Now . . . well, now you're just a normal girl." Eren grinned. "Stupidly honest, maybe, but still normal enough. Still, you don't have to decide about Ymir yet. There's a part of me that still thinks-" Suddenly, Eren's eyes widened and his body stiffened. Clearly, he had remembered something. "How did I forget that." He whipped around, clearly about to ask Vera something. Before he had the chance to, however, Sasha's voice interrupted.
"Hange and the others are back!" Sasha announced. "We're meeting in the main room!"
Dropping the potato from her hands and placing the knife down, Vera joined everyone in the main room to hear what news Hange and her men had brought back with them.
"Now, what's this about?" Levi encouraged Hange to start talking.
Distress visible on her face, Hange shook her head. "I'm sorry . . . Pastor Nick . . . he was murdered. Today, in the Trost barracks," she informed everyone before explaining how she suspected the Military Police were behind it. "I figured the church would want to get their hands on Nick when they learned he was cooperating with the Scouts. That's why I hid his identity and had him stay in the barracks. I never imagined they would use soldiers to kill him. This was my fault. I should have been more careful."
Deciding that everyone needed to sit down and calm down a little, Levi suggested a tea break; he really did enjoy his tea, which might have been the only thing in life he enjoyed. Once the table and surrounding armchairs were full of Scouts with cups of tea in front of them, the room fell into an eerie silence.
The only sound was the occasional slurping of tea.
"They tortured him," Armin breathed out. "Presumably for information. Did they just want to know what, exactly, he had passed on to us?"
"Most likely," Levi answered. "But these are the interior MPs we're dealing with, so you can bet there's something deeper at work here. Now, how many nails was the good pastor missing?"
Vera shuddered a little as she thought back to Hange telling them that Pastor Nick's fingernails had been removed. For what reason would they have done that? Was it only for the pain? Just more torture? Or was it something else?
Hange seemed a little taken aback by the question.
"How many?" Levi asked again. "You saw, right?"
"I only caught a glimpse of him," Hange said. "But all the nailbeds I saw were empty."
Levi thought for a moment. "People who talk, talk after one. If they don't, ripping off more won't make a difference. I'm impressed. I didn't think highly of Pastor Nick, but whatever his faults, he stuck by his beliefs until the end. Which means they have no idea we know about the Reiss family . . . but the government is up to something and we've got a target on our backs."
"Captain Levi, Sir!" The front door suddenly burst open and a woman with red hair walked in. "I have a message from Commander Erwin. I went to tell him about Pastor Nick, but he gave me this and sent me off."
Taking the letter from the woman, Levi unrolled the paper and his eyes scanned the words upon the page. "Get your gear, now!" he ordered, eyes darting up from the message to look at Vera and the other Scouts. "We're leaving. Make it look like we were never here."
Knowing by then that questioning Levi was useless, Vera and the others jumped up from their chairs and got to work. Throwing on her long coat, Vera grabbed her pack and the rifle she kept under her bed. Once the entire cottage had been scrubbed of any and all evidence that pointed toward it being inhabited anytime in the recent past, everyone left without so much as a glance over their shoulders.
With the sun setting fast, the squad stopped a few miles away upon a ledge that overlooked the cottage. From there, they watched as the Military Police barged in, obviously looking for them.
Vera swallowed hard when she pictured what might have happened if they had still been there when the MPs showed up.
"That was close." Connie stared down at the cottage. "What if they had caught us?"
"My thoughts exactly," Vera echoed his concern.
Connie gulped. "Would they rip our nails off?"
"How did Commander Erwin know they were headed here?" Armin inquired, his gaze shifted to Levi for the answer.
"The government's passed down some new orders," Levi started, relaying the contents of Erwin's message. "There's been a freeze on all Scout activity outside the wall. We're to hand over Eren and Historia."
"Captain, I didn't have time to tell you but some MPs came for the Commander right after I left him," the redheaded Scout passed along the information once everyone was safe for the time being.
Hange huffed. "What, like he's some kind of criminal?"
"They're bringing this fight out into the open." Levi tightened his grip on the rifle in his hands. "No more working from the shadows."
"They're going to protect the wall's secrets at any cost," Hange spoke with a mixture of anger and concern in her voice. "But why? And what, exactly, are they after Eren and Historia for? They don't want them dead, so what are they planning?"
Levi exhaled, still devoid of any emotion despite the serious predicament they were in. "Who knows? But they want these two and they're not being subtle about it, which makes lingering here dangerous. We'll move Eren and Historia to Trost."
"We're taking them to the same district where Pastor Nick was just murdered?" Moblit challenged.
"Heading toward the Interior would be worse." Levi defended his reasoning. "With Trost in a panic, it should be easy to slip in. And if things do go all to hell," he pulled back his coat to reveal his ODM gear, "we can use these in the city."
Armin nodded. "That's true."
"We don't know the identity of our enemy yet." Levi furrowed his brows as he schemed. "I have an idea of how we can change that. Hange, I'll need you to lend me some of your squad."
"No problem," Hange agreed without hesitation. "All right, I'm going after Commander Erwin. Moblit's with me. The rest of you will go with Levi."
"Roger." Hange's squad affirmed.
As Hange turned to mount her horse, Eren grabbed Vera by the wrist and ran up to her. Vera was beyond confused with what was happening, but Eren was talking before she got the chance to ask what he was doing.
"Hange, here." Eren handed over a folded piece of paper to her. "I remembered a conversation between Ymir and Bertholdt. I wrote it down for you. It's all there. Vera witnessed it as well. She can corroborate it."
Holding out the paper to Vera, Hange let her skim the words. As soon as Vera read what Eren had written, the memory sparked in her mind. She had absolutely overheard that conversation as well, although she wasn't quite sure of the importance it held. She hadn't regarded it as odd in the slightest, considering the circumstances.
"Yes," Vera confirmed. "I was there too. What Eren has written is correct."
"Thank you." Hange tucked the note away. "I'll take a better look at it later."
Climbing atop her horse, Hange rode away from the squad with Moblit by her side. Feeling a presence beside her, Vera turned to see Levi standing next to her. "You remembered something?" he inquired.
"Not until I read what Eren had written, but yes," she told him. "I didn't think it meant anything special at the time, and if I'm being honest, I still don't . . . but if Eren thinks it means something more, I'll believe him."
Levi gave a curt, understanding nod. "If you remember anything else, you make sure to tell me."
"And do up your jacket properly." Levi reached out and, without warning, grabbed Vera by the collar of her jacket and zipped it up all the way to her chin. "It's cold out here. The last thing I need is you getting sick."
"Sorry, Captain." Vera tucked her chin into her jacket. "Won't happen again."
"See that it doesn't."
As soon as everyone was ready to start heading back to Trost, the overnight trek began. Adjusting the pack on her back, Vera made sure to keep her finger close to the trigger at all times, her head on a swivel and senses on high alert.
No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't forget what Levi had said about the enemy always being closer than you thought. And no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't help but be suspicious of everyone around her, even if she did consider them friends.
Vera's relationship status with someone hadn't stopped them from deceiving her before, so why should it now?
Attack on Titan
"Come on, Kline! Do I look stupid to you?" Levi slammed his hands down on the wooden table separating him and Vera. "You're seriously going to sit there and tell me that you knew nothing about Reiner Braun and Bertholdt Hoover?"
Levi's voice pierced Vera's skull every time he rose his voice, a headache beginning to grow in her temples. "For the millionth time, no!" Vera answered, unsure just how many times she had to say that for Levi to finally believe her.
After returning following Eren's rescue outside the walls, the news about Reiner and Bertholdt spread like wildfire. Consequently, Captain Levi had dragged Vera into a room and began questioning her about every little interaction she had had with the two boys since she had first met them.
Vera understood how it might have seemed weird that she didn't know a single detail, but every time someone doubted her, she felt undeniable embarrassment course through her as she explained over and over again that the person she had once considered to be her closest friend had been lying to her the whole time. And even worse, she hadn't suspected a thing.
Running his hands over his face, Levi let out a frustrated sigh. "From the top again," he ordered. "Tell me everything."
And so, Vera did. She told him about the first day of cadet training camp when she had first met Reiner and Bertholdt, she told him about the very first time she spoke to either one of them, and she told him about how they had slowly but surely coaxed her out of her shell—and how it all seemed so suspicious in hindsight. As the minutes ticked by, Vera recounted growing closer to Reiner, how she regarded him as her first real friend, and eventually, how everything she believed to be true had crumbled around her.
Vera even told the truth about her feelings toward Reiner; and how, even after he had potentially lied about something as big as her mother still being alive, she continued to harbour conflicting emotions about losing him.
Vera was way past feeling shame about how she did or didn't feel. At that point, as she sat in the windowless room, completely unaware of how long she had been there or what time it was, all she felt was exhaustion. The story tumbled from her mouth like a well-rehearsed ruse by the time she reached the end once again, and honestly, her tired brain was starting to question if it had all actually happened how she was retelling it or if she had started making up details somewhere along the way.
Had Reiner actually tried to make her believe that her mother wasn't dead? Had he actually kissed her in that tree branch? Had she actually ridden away without even bothering to look back?
"And your mother is dead?" Levi quirked a quizzical brow at her from across the table. "You are sure of this?"
Sitting back in her chair, Vera crossed her arms over her chest. "Look, I don't have a death certificate or anything like that if that's what you're looking for," she said. "All I know is that when I was younger, my mother was just gone one day and my father told me my mother had died. He wouldn't lie about something like that."
"How old were you?"
"I'm not sure . . . three, maybe four?"
"Do you remember your mom being sick at all?"
Drawing in a deep breath, Vera closed her eyes and tried to think back. Her memory was foggy at the best of times, but she knew there was no sense in trying to bullshit or half-ass any of the answers to Levi's questions. They had already been there for what felt like hours on end, and she was sure he would stay hours more if he needed to.
Finally, Vera shook her head. "Not that I can remember, but again, I was young. There is a lot I don't remember," she said. "In fact, I don't remember most of it."
"How old were you when your dad died?" Levi asked yet another question.
"And I'm assuming you have a pretty good memory of your time with him then?"
"How did your dad tell you your mother died?"
"We didn't talk about her a lot."
"That's not what I asked." The sound of the wooden legs of a chair scratching against the floor prompted Vera to open her eyes, and when she did, she watched as Levi removed his black suit jacket, carefully draped it over the back of the chair, and sat down opposite her. "Did your dad ever tell you how she died?"
Vera let the deep breath she had taken earlier leave her lungs slowly, trying her best to relax into the uncomfortable chair when all her body wanted to do was tense from the lack of sleep, food, water, and abundance of prying, personal inquiries.
"I don't think so," she answered. "No."
Levi seemed to soften his features, only enough to be barely noticeable. He was either growing weary himself or he had noticed how on edge Vera was, but no matter the reason, he sat back, physically backing off. "You can see how this situation might be confusing, yes?" He eyed the young woman before him. "From everything you are telling me, there is a very real chance she is still alive."
"Why does it matter one way or another?" Vera failed to understand why someone as important as Captain Levi was so interested in the status of a woman from Shiganisha who had presumably died fifteen years ago. "Even if she is alive, why do you care?"
"So you're willing to admit there's a chance?"
"You're avoiding my question, Sir." Vera retorted.
"It matters because, from what you yourself have reported—as well as what Eren stated—it's the whole reason you were kidnapped in the first place," Levi explained, his dark bangs falling into his eyes as he tilted his head to gauge if she was understanding or not. "From what I'm hearing, your mother—alive or not—is the reason Reiner and Bertholdt ever befriended you in the first place. It's the entire reason you've been wrapped up in this mess."
Vera knew that Levi was only stating facts and that he meant no harm in his words, but that didn't mean that they hurt any less.
"Yeah, I know." Vera hung her head and a single strand of loose hair fell from behind her ear as she stared at her lap. "It was all a ploy to get to me. None of it was real."
Bottom lip quivering ever so slightly, Vera felt utterly foolish for getting so emotional—not just about the situation in general, but for letting her emotions show in front of Captain Levi, easily one of the most emotionless humans alive. She wanted to blame it on her fatigue, but even she knew that wasn't the cause—not the sole cause, at least.
There was once a time when Vera would have been able to hide how she was feeling with ease; a time when the mask she wore was secured so tightly that it almost felt like it was a real part of her sometimes. She longed for the years when she was able to count on her barriers to step in on instinct and protect her from getting hurt.
"Did Reiner ever mention anything else to you about the home he wanted to take you to?" Levi spoke up once more, his voice cutting through the thick silence and startling Vera out of her intrusive thoughts. "Maybe about where this home was?"
Biting down on her bottom lip to keep it from quivering and giving away her emotional state, Vera peered up at Levi through her eyelashes. "No," she answered. "He just said he was taking me home . . . but the way he worded it, it wasn't just his home, it was my home too."
"I thought you grew up in Shiganishina."
"And you never lived anywhere else?"
"Not that I can remember."
With every question asked and answer given, Vera's headache slowly migrated from her temples to behind her eyes and across her forehead. Her exhaustion was beginning to set into her bones and it was a chore to try and keep her eyes open.
Trying to fight his own desire to call it a night, Levi watched as Vera struggled to take everything in stride. He knew she needed a break—hell, even he needed a break—but he couldn't risk her forgetting anything that may prove to be crucial. He needed to get as much information out of her now while everything was still fresh in her mind.
Glancing toward the door, Levi sighed. "You seem tired."
Vera couldn't help but crack a smirk. "Do I? Wonder why."
"Tea?" Levi offered, and when Vera narrowed her eyes at him, he elaborated. "Would you like some tea? Maybe the warmth will help wake you up a little."
"I don't want to wake up." Vera was so pathetically close to pouting. "I want to sleep and forget all of this ever happened."
"That's precisely why I can't let you sleep just yet," Levi told her as he stood and headed for the door. Slender fingers wrapped around the doorknob, he turned back to her. "Tea?"
Seeing this as her only lifeline, Vera accepted. "Sure."
With that, Levi excused himself from the room. As soon as the door closed shut behind him, Vera folded her arms across the tabletop and rested her head on them. She hadn't planned on falling asleep, because even though every muscle in her body ached for a soft bed, she did want to offer any and all information that she possessed. When she decided to rest her eyes for just a moment, however, it wasn't long before her breathing slowed and she drifted off.
When Levi returned not ten minutes later, he wasn't the least bit surprised to see Vera passed out on the table. Hair having fallen around her face, her small figure rose and fell rhythmically as she breathed.
Closing the door as quietly as he could, Levi placed the two cups of steaming tea down onto the table. He reached out to wake the woman, but before his hand made contact with her shoulder, he decided against it. The least he could do was wait to wake her until her tea had cooled down enough to drink.
So, he sat back in his chair, rested his head in his hand, and waited. He didn't have to wait very long though, because soon enough, Vera startled awake on her own, her body finally having realized that it wasn't supposed to be resting just yet.
Eyes shooting open, Vera slowly sat up, her cheeks tinting red when she noticed that Levi was sitting across from her and staring. "Sorry," she immediately apologized, assuming he was mad. Levi, who wasn't about to admit that he had shown a moment of weakness, even for a fraction of a second, allowed her to believe that he was disappointed in her for falling asleep. He didn't chastise her, but he also didn't correct her assumptions.
"Your tea will get cold." He gestured lazily to the cup he had placed in front of her. "Drink up before it goes to waste."
Small hands wrapping around the cup, Vera hummed to herself as she felt the warmth from the ceramic spread to her palms. When she took a small sip and the hot liquid ran down her throat, she visibly relaxed. "Thank you, Sir," she whispered. "This helps."
"Now, before you fall asleep on me again, is there anything else you can remember that might be pertinent for me to be made aware of?" Levi returned to his line of questioning. "Any little detail could be useful, so think hard. Something Bertholdt said in passing or something Reiner did when he thought you weren't looking. Anything."
"No, I've already told you everything I-" Vera started, but halfway through her sentence, something popped into her mind. She wasn't sure if it was the tea or Levi's incessant prodding that had forced her to remember this seemingly innocent moment in time, but nevertheless, she did.
"What?" Levi leaned closer, intrigued. "What is it?"
Reaching into her jacket pocket, Vera pulled out the picture of her and her parents that she kept on her person. "I showed Reiner this photo once," she said as she pushed it across the table toward Levi. "When I did, his eyes seemed to flicker with something when he saw my mom's face. It happened so quickly that I didn't pay it much attention at first. But now . . . I don't know, maybe this sounds crazy . . . but when I think back on it now, it was almost like he recognized her."
"You think Reiner met your mom before?" Levi picked up the picture of Vera's parents and her younger self.
"Like I said, I know it sounds crazy but . . . maybe?"
Levi shook his head. "Crazier things have happened. Especially recently."
Collapsing back into her chair, Vera let out a shocked scoff. "If that's true, then she's alive." The stark realization crashed over her like a rogue wave. "My mom really is out there somewhere . . . all this time she's been alive. She didn't die, she left us. She left me."
"Easy there, Kline." Levi noticed she was beginning to spiral and had no idea how to stop it. "This is all one big maybe, remember? I'm just covering all the bases. I mean, you even said it yourself, would your dad really lie to you about the death of your mother?"
A warped smile spread across Vera's face. "I don't even know anymore." She couldn't help but feel amused by the complete and utter trainwreck that was her life; it was the only emotion she could allow herself to feel because if she allowed sadness or anger to take over, she feared it might consume her and the last thing she wanted to do was come across as unstable in front of Captain Levi.
Of course, her ill-fitting grin didn't fill him with much confidence about her mental state either.
"I don't even know what's true or not," Vera's voice was soft and eerily calm. "There is a very real possibility that everyone in my life has done nothing but lie to me. What . . . what am I even supposed to do with that? Where do I go from here?"
"Hey, I've never lied to you, have I?" Levi offered up, hoping it would help ground her a little. Vera stared across the table at Levi, carefully examining his features. Before she could respond though, he answered for her. "I haven't," he said. "I don't care enough about you to bother with lies."
Vera chuckled lightly as she reached for her teacup and took another long sip. "I know you meant that to be cold and disconnected, but that's actually the most comforting thing I've heard all day," she shamelessly admitted. "How pathetic does that make me sound?"
"It doesn't," was all Levi said in return.
Vera scoffed. "There you go . . . your first ever lie to me."
Picking up his own teacup, Levi shook his head before taking a small sip. "Do you remember anything else?" he asked, a content hum following his question as he too felt relaxed by the warm beverage.
"No." Vera wracked her brain, but this time, she really was sure that there was nothing else of importance stored away in her foggy memories. "That's all I know, Sir, I promise. I was just as in the dark about this as everyone else."
"I believe you, Kline." Levi's dark eyes seemed to haze over, almost like he was thinking about something so intently that he had left his body and been transported into his own little world inside of his head.
Vera observed Levi carefully, his emotionless expression throwing her for a loop as she could never really tell what he was feeling. "Sir?" She tried to get his attention.
"Hmm." He hummed once more, proving that he was still listening. His eyes then flickered down to the tea in his cup. "I should have watched you more carefully. I said you were my responsibility and I slacked on my duties . . . too busy keeping Eren in line . . . not that it matters since I let you both get kidnapped."
"How were you supposed to know two of our comrades were the enemy all along?" Vera pulled her knees up to her chest and adjusted in the chair.
"The enemy is always closer than you think," Levi told her plainly as if it were a simple, irrefutable fact that everyone already knew.
Vera nodded. "Wise words."
"There's nothing wise about me," he denied. "Paranoid, maybe."
"Either way, you're still alive. That's something."
Before either Levi or Vera had realized it, the interrogation had devolved into a general conversation between the Captain and his rookie. Vera had always thought that Levi Ackerman was just another snob-nosed soldier who thought he was better than everyone just because he was good at his job and had a high rank. The more she got to know him though, the more she realized this wasn't the case.
In all honesty, the more she got to know him, the more he reminded her of herself. Vera wondered if she reminded him of himself as well.
Wrapped up in the comfort of the oddly friendly conversation, a personal question slipped out of Vera's mouth before she was able to catch herself. "Is it true you grew up in the slums?" she asked, immediately regretting it. "I'm so sorry, Sir." She slapped her hand over her mouth. "That was not an appropriate question to ask."
"No, it was not," Levi agreed, but somehow, he didn't seem too bothered by it. Normally, a prying question like that would have earned Vera a scowl and an insult, at least. Maybe his own fatigue had something to do with it; even though she would have assumed him being tired would only make him more irritable, it seemed to have the opposite effect and made him less grouchy. "But yes, it is true."
Vera had not been expecting an answer at all, and now that she had gotten one, she wasn't sure if she should leave it at that and drop the subject or see just how much information she could get out of the elusive Captain.
Instead, she asked a question that pertained to herself. "Am I going to be on probation again?"
Levi cocked a brow. "For what reason?"
Vera was unsure why she even had to explain it. "Because of everything." She gestured all around herself. "Bertholdt and Reiner, getting kidnapped, being an emotional wreck right now . . . everything."
"This interrogation doesn't mean you're in trouble, Kline," Levi told her. "It's just a formality. And it's also for your safety."
"For my safety." Vera echoed as she finished the tea in her cup. "I can't even count how many times I almost died in the past 48 hours."
Levi nodded understandingly. "The 'safety' thing is also just a formality. None of us are ever really safe with those Titans lurking around every damn corner these days."
Setting her cup down and pushing it away, Vera let out a yawn and covered her mouth with her hand. She was seconds away from passing out but she didn't want to seem like she was complaining; not any more than she already was, anyway.
"I think it's time to call it a night." Levi finally decided, and when he stood back up again, Vera felt pure joy. "I'll escort you back to your room," he offered.
Standing up as well, Vera eyed Levi as he opened the door and ushered her through first. "Is this some of that safety you mentioned?" she questioned, poking fun instead of actually trying to debunk the reasoning behind why Captain Levi didn't think she could make it to her barracks by herself.
"Sure." Levi walked beside her, eyes focused straight ahead. "Safety."
Does anyone know any good fics where Reiner, Annie and Bertholdt betray Marley and live on Paradis permanently? Pls I need the comfort
Raku Spa 🧡💗💙
PLEASE someone tell me I’m not the only one that sees her as one of those 70s aesthetic skateboarders... Also, I’m not sure why Annie turned out so much more cartoon-y than the others. Reference
Attack on Titan
Arm outstretched, Vera continued to call to her friends for help. With every thundering step the Armoured Titan took away from the forest, Vera's footing almost gave way and she wondered how bad it would actually be for her to fall to the ground.
Right then, a couple of broken bones sounded immensely more tolerable than being kidnapped by someone who forced her heart and mind to go to war with one another. Reiner had lied to her about so much and caused her so much pain, but when he had kissed her—even if his lips had only just grazed her's—she had felt that same, familiar warmth spread throughout her chest.
Vera felt disgusted with herself for feeling such a way about a murdering psychopath who had brought about the death of her father. But at the same time that the soft spot she harboured for him continued to live on, the rest of her being was filling with rage—rage about what he had done to her and, more importantly, what she had let him do to her.
This, however, was not the time to be so wrapped up in personal, complex feelings. What Vera had to focus on instead was the squad of Scouts racing after her and the others on horseback, Commander Erwin leading the charge.
Tears pricked Vera's eyes. They were coming for her and Eren. Their comrades were coming.
Despite the fact that the smaller Titans from the forest were following suit, hot on the heels of the Scouts, Commander Erwin didn't falter once; and thankfully, the fact that Reiner had been forced to transform before he had fully recovered meant that he was now slower than his usual pace in Titan form, allowing the Scouts to remain caught-up to them.
Reaching into its mouth, Ymir's Titan pulled a saliva-coated Krista out. As soon as a breath of fresh air entered Krista's lungs, she started coughing.
"Krista!" Bertholdt exclaimed.
"Ymir!" Krista beamed when she noticed that the large hand wrapped around her belonged to her dear friend.
Steam billowing from the back of the Titan's neck, Ymir's human form emerged. Dripping with sweat and with strings of muscle still attaching her to her Titan, Ymir looked up at the blonde girl. "Krista!" she sputtered. "No, Historia. I'm sorry about eating you. You're probably pissed."
"What is this?" Krista's eyes darted around, spotting an unconscious Eren strapped to Bertholdt's back and a very upset-looking Vera. "What's going on? Talk to me! We came to rescue you and-"
"Just shut up!" Ymir snapped, bringing the soft moment of reunion to a screeching halt. "I don't need rescuing. Things have changed. I'm with Reiner and Bertholdt now. Like it or not, you're coming with us. There's no future inside the walls! Hear me out for a second, okay?"
Eyes wide and brows furrowed, Krista remained silent, fully willing to listen to what Ymir had to say. Krista was always willing to hear people out, even when it wasn't in her best interest to do so.
"Life outside isn't as bad as you think, believe me," Ymir continued. "For starters, there's no one saying the world would have been a better place if you'd never been born."
"Yeah, I don't think Titans would say much either way!" Krista retorted. "They'd be too busy trying to devour me!"
Ymir scowled. "We've all got flaws! They're not so bad if you just give 'em a break! It's complicated, all right? Get off your high horse!"
"Ymir, I don't know what's going on in your mind, but you're not making any sense! Come on! What did Reiner and Bertholdt say?" Krista asked. "You're doing this against your will! They threatened you!"
By that point, Vera was too emotionally and physically drained to step in. She'd already tried and failed to warn Ymir about Reiner and Bertholdt. She didn't have the strength to try to warn Krista as well.
"It's the opposite, actually," Bertholdt whispered to himself.
"I'm right, aren't I?" Krista struggled against the grasp of Ymir's Titan. "Let me go! Whatever they've got on you, I don't care! We can fight them! Put the past behind you. What matters is right now! I'm here! I will always be your ally!"
Ymir's face stilled with contemplation. It was clear she wanted nothing more than to believe Krista's gentle, accepting words, but whatever had happened in her past had obviously conditioned her into thinking she wouldn't ever deserve such compassion.
"Ymir, in case you haven't noticed, the Scouts are closing in," Bertholdt told her. "If we'd left earlier, there might have been a decent chance of outrunning them. Going back for Krista was your idea. You forced us, remember that. We waited . . . for what? Damnit, Ymir, what the hell did we do this for? You can't have a change of heart! You want her to rot inside the walls? Does that seem acceptable to you now? Don't be a fool! Think!"
"Let go!" Krista kept her bright blue eyes trained on Ymir. "Don't listen to him!"
"I can't." Ymir's face soured with distress. Head hung, she began to cry. "I wish I could. I'm sorry, sweetie. I know you think I did this for you, but at the end of the day, I did it for me." She looked up at Krista, the setting sun casting harsh shadows onto her face. "A long time ago, I stole the power of the Titans from one of their comrades. Not much I can do against them. Sooner or later, I'm screwed. But they said if I cooperate, hand you over, maybe I've got a shot at leniency. Maybe my crime gets overlooked. You're crucial to the church. You know the truth about the walls. When this world started going to hell, I thought to myself, 'it wouldn't hurt to have a bargaining chip in my back pocket.' The castle is as close to death as I ever want to get. Old experience traumatized me, gave me perspective. If I have to play dirty to stay alive, then I have to play dirty. Pathetic, yeah. Doesn't make me the ideal friend. Like I said though, I didn't do this for you. You deserve better, but there it is. I need you. Please save me, Historia!"
The words 'I need you' struck something deep inside Vera. The way that Krista's face flooded with emotion when Ymir said it to her was almost a carbon copy of Vera's expression when Reiner had said it to her; confusion, joy, anger, denial . . . love?
"Well, like I said." Krista looked up at Ymir, her eyes brimming with tears. "I'm here! And I will always be your ally!"
At that heartfelt statement, Ymir began to tear up once more. After her speech, it was clear she had been fully expecting to lose Krista altogether. That was why she had dove headfirst into her selfish persona. That was why she had tried to leave emotion out of it completely and only focus on survival.
It hadn't worked, however, because Krista was a person who only ever acted on emotional impulse, and it was her feelings toward Ymir that led her to this situation in the first place.
Still holding on tight to the Armoured Titan's exterior, Vera startled a little when she heard a grunt from below. Looking down, she recognized Hannis, the soldier from the Garrison Regiment. Along with him, the Scouts had finally caught up enough to make a move.
When Vera turned to see how Bertholdt was reacting, she was pleased to notice that Eren had woken up. Blinking wildly with his head on a swivel, he tried desperately to understand where he was and what was happening.
As an anchoring line sunk into the Titan's muscle between Vera and Eren, Ymir's Titan grabbed the line and tossed it away with ease, sending the Scout who had attempted to make an attack to the ground.
This mission, however, was nowhere near over. Mere seconds later, Mikasa had swooped in out of nowhere, slicing the eye of Ymir's Titan and making a bee-line for Bertholdt and Eren.
"Reiner!" Bertholdt called out in fear. "Protect us!"
As Bertholdt jumped onto the Armoured Titan's collar bone, Mikasa dove in. Just before she could reach Eren, however, the Armoured Titan wrapped its hands around its neck, shielding them from Mikasa.
"Mikasa!" Vera tried to flag her down frantically, but she had tunnel vision when it came to rescuing Eren and at that moment, no one else mattered.
When Mikasa switched her target to Ymir, opting to take the smaller Titan out first, Krista jumped in between the two to protect her friend. "Mikasa, no!" Krista cried. "You're not going to kill Ymir?!"
"That all depends on her!" Mikasa replied. "What'll it be? She can step aside or she can die. Her choice!"
Krista shook her head, tears streaming down her cheeks. "That's not fair! She'll die if she doesn't go along with what Reiner and Bertholdt tell her to do! She's screwed either way!"
"Listen, there's only so many lives I can give a damn about," Mikasa said, her tone dripping with animosity toward anyone standing between her and Eren. "Cruel, but that's the world our enemies gave us six years ago. Sorry, I don't have any heartstrings left for you to tug on. You want compassion? Move on. You want fair? Tough shit. Time's wasting. Pick your side, Krista. Eren or the bitch I'm gonna kill?"
Ymir, whose human body had been sucked back into the nape of her Titan, snarled and got ready to swipe at Mikasa. "Ymir, stop!" Krista warned her. "Look at her face. She means it! Don't make a move!"
Accepting her fate, Ymir's Titan huddled up against the Armoured Titan's back and surrendered against Mikasa.
Meanwhile, Vera had moved from the Titan's shoulder to the collarbone as well, her eyes peering through the gaps between the fingers at Bertholdt and a struggling Eren.
"Let them out, Reiner!" Vera pounded on the muscle with her bare hands, knowing full well he probably couldn't even feel it. "Bertholdt, give Eren back! Let us go!"
From inside the protective barrier of flesh and bone, Bertholdt was fighting against Eren. "Good luck talking sense into that one, Bertholdt." A familiar voice remarked. "When something lights a fire under him, that's it. Getting Eren to calm down is a lost cause. Take my word for it. I've been on the receiving end more than you have. What do you say we teach him patience? Come on, show yourself!"
When Vera looked back over her shoulder, she spotted Jean hanging onto the Armoured Titan as well. Before she knew it, Mikasa, Armin, Connie, and Sasha had joined as well.
"You guys came!" Vera felt relief wash over her at the sight of them actually in front of her, so close she could touch them.
"Of course, we did!" Sasha beamed. "We're friends, right? That's what friends do."
Vera's mouth curled into a smile as well. "Yeah . . . friends."
"Give him back right now!" Mikasa's eyes had clouded over with determination. Her grip tightened on her blades, ready to start slicing as soon as the occasion called for it.
"Guys, really?" Connie looked up at the Armoured Titan and then through the gap in the fingers at Bertholdt. "This is some kind of joke, right? No way this is you. You've been lying to us this whole time? We were supposed to be comrades!"
"They still are!" Sasha insisted, her heart of gold shining through even at a moment like this. "This is all just a misunderstanding."
Vera just sat back and let the others work through their emotions. She had had plenty of time to process this sudden influx of important information regarding those they had, up until recently, regarded as one of their own.
"Where do you think you're going?" Jean asked. "You can't keep running forever. We're not gonna let that happen, rat bastards. Through thick and thin we slept under the same roof as soldiers for three years. Matter of fact, the positions you would sleep in were an artform, Bertholdt. I'm not kidding. We all loved waking up to see your contortions in the morning; used to predict the weather with them." There was a short pause, Jean's face falling after remembering the good times. "How'd you do it, Bertholdt? Must not have had a care in the world. Lying beside your victims, yet you slept like a log."
"Was it all just an act to you?" Connie peered in at Bertholdt. "What about the way we used to talk about surviving this together? About growing old, looking back at the worst of it over drinks. Remember? Was that all bullshit? Answer me! Go on! What was the point? What were you trying to do?"
Before Bertholdt could even think about answering, not that there was much chance of that happening anyway, Mikasa stepped in. "It doesn't matter anymore," she said. "Shut up and focus on opening the traitor's neck. Hesitate for a moment and we forfeit Eren. Who cares what they pretended to be? This was their choice."
"No! You're wrong!" Bertholdt shouted from inside the Armoured Titan's hands, his voice shaky and filled with pain. "Who chooses to be this? Tell me! What do you think I am, huh? What?! You think this is what we aspired to be? People loathe us, and why wouldn't they? We're monsters. We deserve to die for the things we've done. We're lost. We could live a thousand years and never again know peace. Try to imagine that darkness. The only light was our brief time as soldiers. It was never a lie! Do you understand?! We're not who we said we were but it wasn't an act! We genuinely thought of you as our friends. I'm not stupid, I know I have no right to ask forgiveness, but please . . . I beg of you, if we were comrades, someone find us."
Silence fell over the Scouts, each and every one of them torn between cutting the traitors out of their lives and welcoming their friends back. Well, everyone except Mikasa.
"Give him back," Mikasa requested once more. "I won't ask again."
"I'm sorry, I can't," Bertholdt told her. "One of you has to do it. One of you has to stain your hands with my blood."
Before anyone could even think about entertaining that idea, Hannis called up to them from the ground where he was riding horseback alongside the Armoured Titan. "Guys!" His voice was loud and stern. "Get down from there and take cover!"
Unsure what it was they were supposed to take cover from, everyone turned to look in the direction the Armoured Titan was running. Sure enough, heading in their direction was a horde of Titans led by Commander Erwin and some of his Scouts. There were way too many Titans to even begin counting, but nevertheless, Reiner kept moving forward, his pace never slowing for even a moment.
At that point, with Titans behind and in front of them, the outcomes of this situation—as many as there were—didn't seem the least bit pleasant. Unfortunately, Vera didn't see a way out without a least one of them paying the ultimate price with their life.
"Jump, damn you!" Hannis shouted. "Get the hell out of there!"
As the others started to leap off of the Armoured Titan one by one, Vera realized that she had nowhere to go. With no ODM gear and no way to get down herself, Vera was along for the ride whether she liked it or not.
"Vera!" Armin called up to her, he and the others realizing too late that they had abandoned her. "She doesn't have ODM gear! What do we do?"
"Hang on, kid!" Hannis told her. "We'll get you down!"
Vera knew, however, that there was no time for a rescue attempt before the Titans reached them.
"Squadron, break!" Commander Erwin ordered. "Make the Titans scatter!"
As the Titan horde in front got closer and closer, Reiner leaned in with his shoulder and picked up the pace, clearly hoping he could just muscle his way through them. When he made contact with the first two or three smaller Titans, Vera felt her grasp from around the Armoured Titan's finger slipping. Krista, who was still holding onto Ymir's Titan, let out a yelp.
At first, it seemed as though Reiner's plan would actually work, but as more and more Titans clung to him, weighing him down, he eventually dropped to his knees.
Fear coursed through Vera's veins when she found herself eye-level with the sea of Titans. When one of them reached for Krista, Ymir used her Titan form to fight back. When one of them reached for Vera, however, she fully believed this was how she was going to die.
"No!" Vera tried her best to climb higher up the Armoured Titan's body to escape, but it was no use—her unsteady legs kept failing her and she kept losing her footing.
As one of the Titan's fingers brushed Vera's back, the Armoured Titan let out a ground-shaking scream and headbutted the other Titan, managing to protect Vera while still keeping Bertholdt and Eren safe behind his hands. Then, before she even knew what was going on, Bertholdt was reaching between the Armoured Titan's fingers and pulling her into safety.
Gradually, more and more Titans piled on top of Reiner. Ymir's Titan was dealing with them at a steady pace, but not nearly fast enough. The Armoured Titan let out scream after scream as it tried to stand up again, but for every Titan Ymir bit the nape of, two more seemed to pile on.
"Is he going to die?" The words left Vera's mouth before she even knew what she was saying. When Bertholdt looked to her, the same fear etched on his features, she spoke again. "Is Reiner going to die?"
Bertholdt opened his mouth to answer, but before he could get a single syllable out, one of the hands protecting them lifted away from the Titan's neck. Taking a gamble, Reiner used one of the Titan's hands to start fighting back while still trying to protect Vera, Bertholdt, and Eren with the other.
"Advance!" Vera heard Commander Erwin's voice echo over the plains, and as she looked over to see him and the other Scouts approaching, she let out a scream when she watched a Titan sneak up beside the Commander and bite down on his raised arm, completely tearing him off of his horse.
"Commander Erwin!" The other Scouts slowed their paces, unsure what to do should their fearless leader die.
Erwin wasn't one to give up so easily, however. "I said advance, goddamnit!" he ordered, his arm still trapped in the jaws of a Titan while his body dangled underneath. "Eren's right in front of you! Do not falter!"
While Commander Erwin continued to struggle against the Titan, unwilling to let this be his demise, the Scouts under his command followed what very well could have been his last order and charged the Titans.
Vera watched Scout after Scout get stepped on, snatched up, and eaten. Every time, she pictured herself being the one meeting such a gruesome end and her stomach knotted and twisted.
Unsurprisingly, Mikasa was able to make it through the onslaught of Titans with ease. In the blink of an eye, she was taking advantage of the fact that Reiner had left Bertholdt, Vera, and Eren slightly unprotected and was diving head-first toward them.
Mikasa slashed at Bertholdt, sending him and Eren flying out of the way when the ladder dodged the attack. So focused on saving Eren, however, Mikasa had just unintentionally thrown herself into the grip of one of the many Titans.
Eren's scream was muffled by the cloth gag in his mouth, but the sound was just as chilling. Mikasa let out a cry of pain when the Titan's hand clenched around her.
"Mikasa!" Vera wished she could do something, anything; but as things stood, it seemed she was going to have no choice but to stand there and watch her friend be eaten.
"You piece of shit!" Jean swooped to the rescue just in time, sinking his blades deep into the Titan's eyes. "Get your hands off of her!"
In that moment, Vera was sure that both she and Mikasa were eternally grateful for Jean's hopeless crush. Sure, there had been many a time in the past when Jean had been an insufferable jackass, but now Vera was just glad he was on their side. That, and he was one loyal son of a bitch.
"We've come too far to give up now." Vera heard Bertholdt say, and when she spun around, he grabbed her hard by the wrist and began pulling her up into the Armoured Titan's hand. "We are going home and Eren and Vera are coming with us!"
Vera tried to pry her arm free, but Bertholdt's hold was too strong and tight around her wrist for her to escape. "I already told you I'm not coming!" Vera fought tooth and nail against him.
"Bertholdt!" Armin's soft voice interrupted the situation. Brows set and jaw clenched, he was perched atop the Armoured Titan as well, glaring down at them. It was clear he was trying to think of something to say to make the whole situation go away, but even Armin's words weren't that powerful; that's what Vera thought, at least, until a large grin spread across his face. "So you're okay with this? Leaving your friend behind to face the music? I guess Annie was weighing you down. Do you know where she is?" Armin poked and prodded at Bertholdt's weak spot. "Way up North in the Utopia District being tortured. The silent treatment only goes so far. The body may heal, but her screams are an object lesson on the limits of endurance. Oh, don't worry, they're taking special care she doesn't die . . . or get a moment's rest. So many methods, so little time. Mustn't waste a prized specimen like Annie. She's too precious."
"Shut your mouth, hellspawn!" Bertholdt snapped. "I'll kill you!"
As Bertholdt lunged forward, taking the bait just how Armin hoped he would, Armin utilized this moment to advance as well, using his blades to slice the bindings attaching Eren to Bertholdt's back.
With Eren free and falling toward the ground now, Mikasa swung in to grab him before he hit the grass. Before Vera had a chance to congratulate Armin, the blonde boy was wrapping his arms around her waist and descending toward his horse with her in tow.
"My turn to save you," Armin told her with a smile.
Vera couldn't help but laugh; a mixture of relief, exhaustion, and joy filling her. "My guard dog." She hugged him tight as they landed upon his horse and started off in the opposite direction.
"All soldiers retreat!" Command Erwin, who had escaped the Titan's jaws by severing his own arm, led the remaining squad away from the Titans. With Eren secured, the mission was deemed completed.
The Armoured Titan let out a menacing cry as the Scouts rode away, and even though Vera wished she hadn't, she peered back over her shoulder for a split second. When she did, her eyes met with the glowing yellow ones of the Armoured Titan—of Reiner.
After Krista had killed her first Titan in the midst of saving Ymir, Connie rode by and snatched her up. Ymir's Titan bounded after them while Krista tried to convince Connie and Sasha that she needed to go back with Reiner and Bertholdt to save Ymir's life.
Before anyone could get very far, however, a Titan was hurdled through the air from behind, landing in front of the retreating Scouts and blocking their path home.
"He's tossing Titans now?!" Jean looked back at the Armoured Titan. "That son of a bitch has gone berzerk."
A scream echoing through the air, Reiner tossed yet another Titan in their direction. Before long, the fields had been clouded over with Titan steam and dust.
"Eren! Mikasa!" Armin stopped his horse and turned around, eyes wide when he spotted his friends lying face down in the grass after having been struck, either by the Titan itself or the shockwave of it landing.
As the haze began to dissipate, a huge Titan with a wide grin on its face emerged. Never picking up the pace or slowing, it took steady steps toward Eren and Mikasa, who were now staring up at it, frozen in place.
Rushing past Armin and Vera on his horse, Hannis raced to the defence of the two. Just as the Titan swung at Eren and Mikasa, Hannis put himself between them, taking the force of the giant hand and stopping it from reaching the kids. With a grunt, Hannis sliced off the thumb of the Titan and grinned when the Titan pulled his hand away.
"Can you believe this luck?! Crazy right?" Hannis laughed before turning back to the Titan, blades at the ready. "Watch me! This is the least that I owe your mother! She'll finally have the vengeance she deserves!"
"That's the Titan that killed Eren's mom," Armin explained as he kicked his horse into action just as Jean rode up as well.
Without hesitation, Hannis secured his anchoring lines into the Titan's skin and went in for the kill. "He needs backup!" Jean pointed out, but before they could make it, another Titan landed in front of them, startling the horses.
"Reiner." Armin looked over at the Armoured Titan, who had just thrown that Titan right at them; clearly to stop them from getting to Eren. "Doesn't he care if Eren gets eaten?"
"Move it or lose it, asshole!" Jean seethed. "I'm tired of your shit!"
Jean took the initiative first and charged forward, Armin soon following suit with Vera clinging to him from behind.
Slash after slash, Hannis eventually managed to distract the Titan away from Eren and Mikasa and direct all the attention onto himself. Using the time Hannis had given them, Mikasa slowly rose to her feet, paring blades drawn and ready to help despite the fact she could barely even stand. Then, she cut Eren's hands free, which had just finished growing back all the way.
Stepping forward, Eren locked his eyes onto Hannis and the Titan as he bit down on his hand. Just like the time in the tunnel, however, nothing happened.
Feeling the ground beneath them tremble, Vera looked over her shoulder once more, jaw dropping when she noticed the Armoured Titan was stumbling toward them, tossing the Titans off of him one by one.
"Jean!" Armin screamed, alerting Vera to look forward just in time to watch another Titan land right in front of them.
Ground splitting from the impact of the Titan, Jean's horse reared and he was thrown. Letting out a garbled grunt, his body rolled a few meters before coming to a motionless stop.
"No!" Armin leapt from his horse, momentarily forgetting Vera was holding onto him and pulling her down as well. Together, the two hit the ground, managing to take the fall rather well and jumping back to their feet in seconds to rush to Jean's side.
"Oh, God." Armin lifted Jean's unconscious body into his arms. "Stay with me, Jean."
Looking up, Vera's heart sank when she saw a Titan coming their way. Trembling, she looked from Jean, to Armin, to the Titan, over and over again.
Terrified, Armin began to back away with Jean still in his arms, swinging his blade in an attempt to deter the beast. Vera felt a sense of fear she had never experienced before overwhelm her, but as she looked back at Armin and Jean once more, suddenly it was all gone. She felt nothing; she felt at peace, even.
Knowing what she had to do, Vera stood to her feet, her legs threatening to give way any second, and stepped forward.
"Vera, stop!" Armin cried out. "What are you doing?!"
With a soft smile on her face, Vera turned to Armin. "You know, when I first signed up to be a cadet, I did it because I wanted my life to mean something. And when I died, I wanted my death to be for the greater good," she told him honestly. "But all this time, I've struggled to figure out what, exactly, giving my life for the greater good would look like. How would I know my death wasn't going to be in vain?"
Armin's eyes welled with tears. "Vera . . ."
"But now I know," she grinned wide; the happiest, most genuine smile she had ever displayed upon her face. "There is no greater good than protecting my friends."
Armin continued to yell at Vera, his voice breaking and tearing at his throat as he screamed, but she tuned him out; if she was going to go through with this, she had to.
Walking toward the Titan, Vera was surprised by how steady and confident her steps were. Every time her boot hit the grass, she pictured Armin and Jean escaping and living on to become great Scouts, and that alone gave her the strength to push forward, step after step.
Looking over, Vera caught a glimpse of Hannis's limp body in the Titan's grasp and immediately knew he was dead. Then she spotted Eren and Mikasa kneeling in the tall grass, tears in their eyes as they shared what they assumed would be their last moments alive.
All around her, Vera watched people die. Swallowed whole, bitten in half, crushed, stepped on, swatted, beaten. And all around her, she watched people take their last breaths, say goodbye, prepare to die.
This was what they had all signed up for. No one forced any of them to choose this path in life. No one held a gun to their head. They had all joined for the same reason: to pave a way forward for humanity. And similarly, they would all die for that same reason as well.
When Vera felt the Titan's slim fingers wrap around her body and lift her from the ground, she closed her eyes. Drawing in a deep breath, she tried to picture a future where humanity thrived, finally free from the oppressive reign of the Titans.
She felt the Titan's hot breath on her skin and exhaled. "For the glory of humanity," she whispered to herself.
That was when Eren let out a scream so loud it tunnelled right through Vera's skull and took root deep in her brain. Eyes shooting open, she looked up at the Titan that was looking down at her, mouth open, grip firm, but not making any attempt to eat her.
Then, in the blink of an eye, the Titan dropped her to the ground before turning and charging toward Eren. Stunned, Vera watched as the Titan that had had her in its grasp not two seconds ago lunged at the Titan that had killed Hannis.
In turn, every single Titan in the area did the same thing. Frozen in place for a few seconds after Eren's scream, they all turned their attention toward the Smiling Titan and charged, completely ignoring the humans around them.
Before long, the Titan that had killed Eren's mother and Hannis had been pushed to the ground and piled on top of by every other Titan within earshot of Eren's scream. The Titan was ripped limb from limb, flesh torn off and organs bitten out.
Not wasting any time, Eren hoisted an injured Mikasa onto his back and started running in the opposite direction.
Pushing herself up, Vera spotted the Armoured Titan, with Bertholdt on its shoulder, thundering toward Eren and Mikasa.
After just witnessing whatever it was that Eren had done, Vera knew she couldn't allow him to be kidnapped again. Vera thought back to when Reiner had casually referred to Eren as 'the coordinate.' At the time, she hadn't paid it any mind, but now things were different.
Vera made a move to run after Eren and Mikasa, hoping that if she threw herself in Reiner's path, it would deter him from anything too violent. What she quickly found out, however, was that Eren had everything completely under control.
Skidding to a stop, Eren turned to face Reiner and Bertholdt head-on. "Get away from us!" He demanded. "Rat bastards, I'll kill you where you stand!"
With that, the Titans that had been devouring the Smiling Titan stopped, stood up, and started toward the Armoured Titan. Before they knew what hit them, Reiner and Bertholdt were surrounded.
Knowing she needed to get out of there quickly, Vera ran over to where three horses were standing around, grazing lazily as if nothing bad were happening at all. Hopping on, she helped Armin and Jean first.
"What were you thinking?" Armin whimpered as Vera helped hoist an unconscious Jean onto the back of his horse. "You almost died!"
"Yeah." Vera nodded, unable to deny the relief of being alive that she was currently feeling. "But I didn't, and most importantly, neither did you guys."
With that, she smacked the horse just behind the saddle, encouraging it to take off before Armin could spiral into any more of a panic. Vera then mounted her own horse with the third one in tow for Eren and Mikasa.
As Eren and Mikasa climbed aboard their ride, Commander Erwin rose from the chaos to order a retreat.
While the Titans swarmed the Armoured Titan, Vera forced herself not to look back this time. Not even when she heard Bertholdt's distressed pleas for help. Not even when Ymir said goodbye to Krista before turning back. Not even when she could feel Reiner's eyes staring holes into the back of her head.
Gaze focused forward, Vera fought the tears threatening to spill from her eyes. She had to accept that she would probably never see Reiner again. She had to accept that her time with him was all for not and that that part of her life was over. And worse of all, she had to accept that he had never been the person she thought he was.
The Reiner she knew was never real.
But Vera didn't have the luxury to dwell on the past; not when the future waiting for them behind the walls was so dire.
With reports maintaining the likelihood of wall Rose having been compromised, citizens of the region were forced to take refuge in a subterranean city within the confines of wall Sina. However, though emergency provisions had been stockpiled for the purpose, with over half the population relying on them, rations could last, at most, a week.
Beyond that, lurked a terrible choice: turn on each other like animals or face the prospect of starvation.
To avoid a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions, within a week of the Titan onslaught, authorities declared wall Rose secure.
"I allowed myself to be kidnapped," Eren said as he, Vera, Mikasa, Armin, and Jean waited for Connie to return after reporting to Commander Erwin, who was still recovering after the loss of his right arm. "It's my fault. Because of me, the Scouts lost over half of their veteran contingents. All in a single rescue attempt."
Vera, who was staring up at the bright blue sky, sighed. She wanted to say something to make him feel better, but no words came to mind; nothing that would help, anyway.
"Still though, there were no casualties on the way back," Armin pointed out. "The Titans completely ignored us. They were too fixated on Reiner and the others. Jean and I, we mulled it over between us once we got back. Hear me out . . . supposed they acted that way because of you."
"It's just a thought, of course," Jean added. "But as far as an explanation, it's about as good as we've got. I'm not saying I envy the position you're in. Maybe all those people really did die for nothing. That all depends on you. If you're really worth the sacrifice, you'd better prove it. There's no time for second-guessing."
Balling his hand into a fist, Eren nodded. "You're right, I have to be decisive. If this is real, if I can control Titans, I have to plug up wall Maria then make Reiner answer for what he's done. People died for me. I have to earn what they gave."
"What about you, Vera?" Armin drew her into the conversation. "How do you feel about all of this . . . you know, considering . . ."
"You don't have to tiptoe around the subject," Vera told him. "We all know what happened between Reiner and me. I'll be okay . . . after all, it isn't like I'm the only one who lost someone. I'm just glad I figured out the truth sooner rather than later."
Eren leaned against the wall they were standing beside. "What about what Reiner said about your mom being alive?"
"I honestly have no way of knowing if he was telling the truth or not." Vera shrugged. "All I do know is that there is a great deal more going on in the shadows that none of us is aware of. . . and I have a feeling that once we uncover those secrets, nothing will be the same."