#lostinthewiind Tumblr posts

  • lostinthewiind
    18.01.2022 - 15 minutes ago

    Guys, look at this! The wonderfully talented @nataliestark drew/edited our very own Vera Kline into a recent scene in AoTđŸ€—

    I've never had someone draw or do any sort of fanart for an OC of mine before so this is super exciting for me!

    I cannot get over how adorable and fierce she looks! Our perfect little murder duo ❀

    #lostinthewiind#brave heart #attack on titian #OC#Vera Kline #omfg she and levi look so adorable together #vera vv angy #original female character #vera kline #tbh i wouldnt wanna get on veras bad side #murder duo
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  • lostinthewiind
    18.01.2022 - 1 hour ago

    Just a little update that there will most likely not be a new chapter for Brave Heart posted today as I am studying for my final during the day and have plans this evening. I do hope to have everything back on schedule tomorrow though!

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  • lostinthewiind
    18.01.2022 - 18 hours ago

    Brave Heart: Chapter Thirty-Six

    Attack on Titan

    Rating: Mature

    Warnings: sexual themes, death, gore, mature themes, extreme violence, body horror, blood, weapons, major character death, age-gap relationship

    "Commander, he's about to climb." Levi watched the Armoured Titan like a hawk, observing his every minuscule movement. On one side of the wall, they had Reiner to deal with, and on the other, the Beast Titan and its horde of smaller Titans.

    Gaze locked onto the Scouts, the Armoured Titan hardened its fingers and toes into sharp claws before charging the wall and beginning to scale it, just like Levi had said.

    "Soldiers, you are not yet to engage the Armoured Titan!" Erwin ordered, his voice booming as he commanded the troops. "Maintain a safe distance!"

    "Yes, Sir!"

    With every harsh crunch of the cement beneath the Armoured Titan's grip, Vera felt true fear begin to set in. Sure, she had been expecting things to go wrong from the start, and sure, she had also been expecting to face Reiner again—but after watching Levi spear him through the neck and having her emotions go to war with one another inside her, she was truly fearful. Vera wasn't afraid of the danger, per se; she had been surrounded by some form of danger for as long as she could remember. No, this time she was more afraid of having her childish feelings prevent her from doing the right thing should the moment come, and, inadvertently, put her friends in danger.

    "Hange, why doesn't he have us attack?" Eren turned to their superior for answers. "What's he thinking?"

    "The enemy prepared quite the welcome," Hange said before responding to Eren. "He's watching their movements for now. Erwin doesn't want to act until he understands their strategy."

    In the distance, the Beast Titan remained in place, unmoving and unwavering. It was then that Vera noticed another Titan by its side—this one standing on all four legs with some type of cargo strapped to its back. Based on first glances alone, Vera assumed this was also a human-controlled Titan.

    "They have one more intelligent Titan. It's that quadruped Titan," Erwin voiced exactly what Vera had been thinking. "Though there may well be others."

    Then, without any indication of what he was doing or why, the Beast Titan raised its fist, let out a cry that reverberated through the air, and slammed its hand down onto the ground. The earth beneath the Titan rumbled and cracked, and on cue, the smallest of the normal Titans surrounding it began stumbling toward the horses and Scouts waiting at the base of the wall.

    "Get ready!" Hange prepared the soldiers. "Multiple Two to Three-Meters approaching."

    With the wall still cracking under Reiner's weight and the army of smaller Titans approaching from the other side, the Scouts atop the wall had to decide on a plan of action, and they had to decide fast.

    "Sir, what now?" Armin turned to Commander Erwin. "The Armoured Titan is almost up! Bertholdt hasn't shown yet, but he must be nearby."

    "Yes, I'm well aware," Erwin acknowledged, his thick eyebrows furrowed as his mind worked overtime. After standing as still as a statue for the past couple of minutes, completely lost in his own head, Erwin drew in a deep breath.

    "You finally ready to say something, Erwin?" Levi asked. "Been waiting so long I could have made breakfast."

    Ignoring Levi's snide remark, Erwin turned to his Scouts. "Derk Squad, and Marleen's Squad too, join Claus Squad and protect the horses at the gate! Levi Squad and Hange Squad, I need you to take down the Armoured Titan. Employ the thunder speers at your own discretion. Do whatever it takes to achieve your objective! This is our moment, our chance to strike! The fate of humankind depends on this battle! Lay down your hearts and lives one final time for humanity!"

    "Yes, Sir!"

    As everyone turned toward their respective assignments, Erwin made one last demand. "Hey, hold on, you two," he called back Armin and Levi. "Hange can lead both your squads. I'm gonna need you right here, Levi."

    Levi glanced over his shoulder momentarily, grey eyes searching the sea of green cloaks until he found Vera. "So I'm going to protect the horses instead of Eren?" he huffed.

    "That's right." Erwin used his blade to point toward the Beast Titan. "And when the chance arises, you'll strike him down. You're the only soldier I can trust to dispatch the Beast Titan."

    Levi looked to Vera one last time, and at that moment, they both understood that it could very well be the last time they would see each other again. As naturally as possible, Vera lifted her hand to her collar and grazed her fingers over the pin beneath the fabric. Then, she gave a simple nod.

    "Understood," Levi told Erwin. "I wasn't fast enough to finish off the Armoured one earlier, but I'll atone for that by taking the Beast Titan's head."

    Then, without another word or glance back to the blue eyes trained on him, Levi leapt off of the wall and joined the Scouts on the ground with the horses.

    With that, Erwin turned to the smaller boy. "Armin, I have a plan for the Armoured Titan too."

    "Sir!" Armin nodded.

    "We have to win on two fronts to secure victory. I can handle one. The other, I'll leave to you and Hange."

    After Erwin have finished explaining the plan to Armin, Armin turned around and promptly re-explained everything to the rest of the squad.

    "He wants to use Eren as bait?" Hange questioned.

    "Yes, that was the Commander's order," Armin confirmed.

    Hange took a moment to replay the strategy in her head. "Hold on . . . so he's willing to risk Eren's capture just to protect the horses?"

    "You're kidding," Mikasa deadpanned, convinced this was a joke. "Even if we try it, Reiner might just go after the horses anyway."

    "No, he'll chase Eren," Vera said. As much as she hated to admit it, she knew how Reiner's mind worked. He had a goal, and that goal was to capture Eren no matter what, so that was what he was going to do.

    "Agreed." Hange's fingers moved to her chin as she thought. "If Reiner does go after the horses, then Eren can continue running North and wrap around the Beast Titan's formation. With Levi, the Scouts, and Eren, they can catch the Beast Titan in a pincer attack. Erwin must have said as much himself, right?"

    Armin confirmed her theory with a simple, "Yes."

    "Even if things don't go as we hope, the enemy doesn't expect Eren to flee," Hange explained. "So it might confuse them enough to get them to break ranks. The only question is: can Reiner see that far ahead?"

    "Knowing him, he should work it out pretty quickly," Eren said.

    "Okay." Hange decided. "This is where we'll bring down the Armoured Titan!"

    As the squad got ready to take off, Armin held his arm out to stop them. "Wait a second! There's one more factor we need to consider!" Armin drew everyone's attention back in. "He's still hiding, but Bertholdt must be nearby. The last time they fought, Eren outmaneuvered Reiner and had him on the verge of defeat, but then Bertholdt caught him with a surprise attack and he ended up their captive. There's a simple countermeasure: do what you can to keep the fight away from the walls."

    Just as Armin finished laying out his thought process and the squad had fled the wall, the Armoured Titan had finally finished its climb. The top of the wall had been deserted, however—completely abandoned, save one single Scout. Commander Erwin.

    It was at that moment, when the Armoured Titan's glowing yellow eyes locked onto Erwin, that Eren transformed into his Titan below. After making sure that Reiner knew exactly where he was, Eren turned tail and started running through the overgrown streets of Shiganshina, implementing the first part of the plan.

    After a few moments of deliberation, watching Eren stampede through town, Reiner finally complied with the plan—whether he knew it or not—and descended the wall again to give chase.

    As soon as Eren had reached the center of Shiganishina, as far away as possible from any of the walls, he turned and faced Reiner, ready to finally face off.

    With bated breath, Vera watched as the two Titans glared at one another, the people inside most likely thinking back to the last time they had battled. Although it had been close, Eren had managed to get the upper hand. Now that he was stronger, he would hopefully have an easier time duelling the Armoured Titan, but it also would have been foolish to assume that Reiner had stayed at the same skill set over the past few months. So, in the end, it really came down to who had improved more.

    As Eren hardened the knuckles of his Titan's hands, Reiner charged forward and threw the first punch. Eren, however, dodged it with ease.

    With Shiganshina completely devoid of innocent civilians, the two Titans completely let loose, not caring if they sent debris flying or dug up streets or levelled entire neighbourhoods.

    After only a few punches thrown back and forth, it was easy to tell that Eren was coming out on top. He was dodging Reiner's attacks left and right and landing his hits nearly every time.

    With a particularly hard hit to the face, the Armoured Titan flew backward, rolling a couple of yards before slowing to a stop. Green eyes shining bright in the sunlight, Eren's Titan let out a menacing screech as it glared down at the steam pouring from the Armoured Titan's regenerating face.

    Hands tightening around the handles of her thunder spears—a new weapon that Hange had helped develop that would hopefully assist in taking out the Armoured Titan—Vera waited until the right opportunity presented itself and she was given the signal to join the fight.

    Cocking his arm back as far as he could, Eren pummelled Reiner into a nearby building, bringing down the roof and walls in the process. With hardened fists, he punched, again and again, clobbering the Armoured Titan's face and crumbling its armour beneath his fists.

    When the Armoured Titan lunged, trying desperately to regain its footing, it managed to grab hold of Eren's Titan's leg and swing him completely off of his feet, using all his strength to throw Eren over his shoulder and send him crashing into an adjacent building. Refusing to let go, Reiner pounded Eren into the ground over and over, cracking the earth with how much force he was exerting.

    "He needs our help!" Mikasa had been aching to run to Eren's rescue ever since he had lost the upper hand.

    "Not yet," Hange disagreed. "Everything rides on our first attack. We need to wait and trust Eren to give us a good opening."

    For a while, Eren and Reiner grappled on the ground until finally, Eren managed to toss Reiner to the side and free himself. As Reiner tried to reorient himself, his back turned to Eren as he sat up, Hange gave the signal.

    "Go! Now!" Hange shouted as she took to the air.

    Following the section commander's lead, Vera adjusted her grip on her thunder spears and, using her ODM gear, began to glide between the buildings toward the Armoured Titan.

    As Mikasa and Hange approached from either side, they each deployed their thunder spears into the Armoured Titan's face, piercing each of its eyes before pulling the detonator lines and triggering the explosions.

    The Armoured Titan let out a cry as black smoke spilled from its eye sockets, but it was still far from being defeated.

    Swinging in alongside the others, Vera led the second attack from behind. With the Armoured Titan unable to see or detect their presence, the remainder of the squad plunged their spears into the nape of its neck, between the precariously placed plates of armour. Then, all at once, everyone pulled their lines and cleared the blast zone.

    As effective as the thunder spears were, they were also highly dangerous to the person using them. Extreme caution had to be implemented when activating a thunder spear because if you were within the blast radius, you were as good as dead.

    Already heading back to safety, Vera looked over her shoulder as she fled and watched for a brief moment as more dark smoke spilled from the Armoured Titan's nape.

    "Good! We got him!" Jean cheered. "The spears worked! The armour on his nape is in splinters now!"

    As the squad landed upon a nearby roof, they gawked at the sight before them, slightly surprised that their spears had done as much damage as they had.

    "Do it again!" Hange demanded. "You each still have a thunder spear. Use them to end this!"

    A moment of silence fell over the Scouts as they realized what they were being asked to do. They had always known this moment would come, but now that it was actually here, it was terrifying.

    They were being asked to kill someone who they had collectively once considered a friend. They were being asked to kill Reiner Braun.

    "Come on, guys!" Jean suddenly snapped. "We said we'd do it if it ever came down to this! So let's go!"

    Before she knew what was happening, Vera realized that all eyes were on her; looks of pity and sympathy plastered across the faces of her friends. She knew what they were all thinking, and no matter how much she wished she wasn't, she was thinking it too.

    "The Reiner we thought we knew never existed." Vera held her head high as she spoke, hoping it would portray the sense of confidence she desperately wanted to feel inside. "The man inside that Titan isn't our friend . . . he's the enemy. He would kill us all in a heartbeat and, whether we like it or not, we have to be willing to do the same. Like Jean said, the time has come." She drew in a deep breath and steeled her nerves. "It's time to end this."

    Adrenaline and encouragement coursing through their veins, the squad swallowed their reservations and moved in for what they believed to be the final attack.

    When Vera fired her thunder spear and watched it lodge into the flesh on the back of the Armoured Titan's neck, she swore she could hear Reiner's voice echoing in her head, begging for his life.

    Eyes shut, Vera thought back to the Reiner she had met during training camp—the Reiner who followed her around and bugged her until she agreed to be his friend. And even though she knew that Reiner wasn't real, she chose to remember that version of him in those final moments. Then, with no regrets left, she pulled the detonation line and said goodbye to that part of her past.

    Whether this actually killed Reiner or not, he was dead to her either way.

    As the explosion sounded and Vera felt the heat warm the back of her neck, the scream that clawed its way out of the Armoured Titan's throat didn't bother her one bit. In Vera's mind, that scream wasn't the one of a friend facing his final moments alive. Instead, it was the scream of an enemy who was finally meeting a well-deserved end.

    "We did it!" the surrounding Scouts cheered at the sight of Reiner's body hanging out of the Armoured Titan's nape, his face blown half off and steaming something fierce. "We blew the bastard's head off! The Armoured Titan just bit the dust!"

    Standing atop a nearby roof, Vera wasn't sure what feeling she was experiencing as she looked down at what was left of Reiner. As weird as it seemed, it was almost like she was feeling nothing at all—that her final goodbye had actually left her feeling numb to the sight before her very eyes.

    "We pulled it off." Jean let out a nervous chuckle. "You were a serious pain in the ass for us. Serves you right, you scumbag!"

    Jean and the other Scouts' reaction, however, was not shared by everyone present. Doubled over, Connie and Sasha were crying, clearly upset over the loss.

    "What the hell are you crying for?" Jean grabbed Connie and Sasha by the cloaks. "Stop it! Get up! We still have work to do! Don't cry for him! Remember what Vera said? He would have done the same thing to us!"

    "Let them grieve, Jean." Vera stepped up and pried his hands off of the two sobbing Scouts. "Just because it was so easy for you to let go doesn't mean it's so easy for everyone else."

    Jean scoffed. "Well, look at you! If you can be so nonchalant about the whole thing, why can't they?"

    "I made my peace with it a long time ago." Vera made eye contact with Armin over Jean's shoulder and flashed a small smile, silently assuring him that she was okay. "Just . . . calm down, okay?"

    Furrowed brows softening, Jean exhaled slowly. "Fine."

    "This isn't over!" Hange shouted, interrupting any moment of celebration that the squad might have been enjoying. "We'll hit him with another volley just to be sure!"

    As those with remaining thunder spears got ready for one last strike, Mikasa came up behind Armin and placed a hand on his shoulder. "You okay?"

    "I guess so." Armin's eyes remained fixated on Reiner. "It's not like we can negotiate. Their side has the knowledge. They make us look just as ignorant as we are weak. We don't have the ability to capture someone who can turn into a Titan on a whim, which means there was nothing we could do."

    A moment of quiet fell over the small group, and before anyone could change the subject, something happened that froze them all in their places.

    Jaw falling open, the Armoured Titan threw its head back and let out a bone-chilling screech. Then, once it had fallen silent again, it slumped forward once more, motionless.

    Worried about what that scream might have meant, Hange quickly went back to directing her squad, eager to finish the Armoured Titan off before it could yell again. Armin, however, had a different train of thought when it came to the scream and what it could have meant.

    "Hange, wait, we need to fall back for now." Armin pointed upward toward a barrel that was hurtling through the air over the top of the wall. "See that barrel? I'm sure Bertholdt's inside. If he transforms, we're done for."

    "Shit! Everyone, move away from the Armoured Titan!" Hange instructed as she led an evacuation from the area. "The Colossal Titan is falling towards us right now!"

    As Vera whipped between buildings, desperately trying to get out of harm's way like the others, she couldn't help herself from constantly looking up to watch the barrel fall. At this rate, there would be no escape. There was no way she could escape the blast radius at this speed.

    The transformation, however, never happened. As Vera looked back one last time, she was surprised to see Bertholdt jumping out of the barrel and using his ODM gear to rush to his friend's aid.

    "Reiner!" Bertholdt called as he descended upon the Armoured Titan's back, eyes wide and full of fear as he gazed upon Reiner's steaming body.

    Finally managing to make it so a semi-safe distance, Vera and the others watched from afar. Unable to see the Armoured Titan's body or Berthodlt, they simply scanned the rooftops and hoped the immense steam in the air didn't mask any movements.

    "Here we go. Our mission's primary objective just fell straight into our laps," Hange said, peeking back to make sure Eren's Titan was still with them. "You could call this a stroke of luck."

    "Hey, look!" one of Hange's men announced. "Someone's coming our way! It's Bertholdt!"

    Sure enough, when Vera turned her attention back to the buildings, Bertholdt was heading toward them.

    "The plan is as follows." Hange kept Bertholdt in her sight the whole time she spoke. "Armin, you take command of Levi's Squad, protect Eren. Everyone else, come with me. We've got two targets to eliminate."

    With that, Hange and her men turned to leave. Armin, however, had a different idea in mind and seconds later was blasting past Hange and making a bee-line for Bertholdt.

    "Stop, Bertholdt!" Armin landed atop a building a few meters away from the other boy. "Just wait a minute!"

    Gripping the side of the chimney she was standing beside, Vera observed Armin and Bertholdt intently, waiting for any little sign that Bertholdt wasn't going to just stand around and talk. If Armin was in danger, she was going to step in like she always did.

    "We don't have to fight!" Armin had to yell to be heard over the distance between him and Bertholdt, who had landed atop a roof a yard or so away. "Let's talk this over!"

    "If I agree to talk, would you all be willing to lay down and die?" Bertholdt responded. "We only want two simple things: Eren Jaeger and the death of everyone in the walls! That's the harsh truth of our situation! Understand? All of your fates have been decided!"

    Armin physically recoiled. "What? And who is it that decided that?!"

    Vera saw Bertholdt's mouth move, but he hadn't spoken anywhere near loud enough to be heard.

    "What was that?" Armin cupped his ear with his hand.

    "It was me, Armin!" Bertholdt repeated, this time much louder. "I decided your lives should end here and now!"

    Armin grimaced. "That's a real shame, Bertholdt! See, I was hoping I'd finally get to stop hearing Annie scream! There's only one person who can save her from the savages in the Military Police, and that's you!" He was once again attempting to use Bertholdt's weakness for Annie against him. "If you don't, she'll be fed to the pigs!"

    "Fine by me!" Bertholdt jumped from rooftop to rooftop, closer to Armin. "Let them feed Annie to the pigs; if they actually have her, that is!"

    As Armin moved closer as well, both boys eventually landed atop the same narrow roof. When Bertholdt drew his blade, Vera knew it was time for her to step in. Pairing blade at the ready, Vera interjected herself into the confrontation, body positioned in front of Armin.

    "What's the rush, Armin?" Bertholdt glared at Armin, and then Vera. "Didn't you want to talk?"

    Narrowing his eyes, Armin drew his weapon as well.

    "Stand down, Bertholdt." Vera sneered. "Don't make me hurt you."

    Bertholdt snorted. "After all this time, I see you finally developed a sense of humour."

    "You were the one who told me I should start small by proving I have emotions, right?" Vera smirked. "Well, here it is, Bertholdt. All the anger I have for you is on full display right now."

    "This doesn't involve you." Bertholdt shook his head before looking over Vera's shoulder at Armin. "Bet you thought that by bringing up Annie, you could make me lose my cool like last time. You thought I was still the timid fool you once knew and that you could trick me into letting my guard down. I know what this is; you're just buying time, aren't you? Half your comrades will surround me, and while I'm distracted the rest will go and finish killing Reiner. I can tell I'm right. Look at the way you're shaking, even when you're cowering behind Vera. You're scared out of your mind, aren't you?"

    Armin tried his best to steady his trembling body. "If you knew that much, then why are you talking to me in the first place?"

    "Because I needed to know if when I faced all of you this time, I'd start crying and beg you to put me out of my misery again. But it seems like I'm fine now." Bertholdt tightened the grip on his blade. "You'll always be my dear comrades, right up until I've killed you."

    "But why?" Armin's voice was shaky. "Do you actually believe that we're the spawn of the devil?"

    "No. None of you did anything wrong. I know you aren't devils. Even so, you can't be permitted to live. That's just how it is."

    One second, Bertholdt was standing still, contemplating his next actions. And the next, Mikasa had snuck up behind him, ready to strike him down with one fluid swing of her blade.

    Bertholdt's lightning-quick reflexes, however, saved him in the end. At the last moment, he spun around and deflected Mikasa's attack. Refusing to give up, Mikasa swung with her other blade, managing to slice Bertholdt's ear off before he pushed her off of the roof and charged toward Vera and Armin.

    "Stay back!" Vera warned Armin as she prepared to fight Bertholdt off.

    Bertholdt was the first to swing, and even though he came close to catching Vera's arm, she lifted her own blade to block his attack before kicking him in the shin with her boot. Hissing in pain, Bertholdt dropped to one knee before lashing out again. This time, the tip of his blade caught Vera's side, slicing open her shirt and skin.

    Sharp pain radiating from just beneath her ribs, Vera let out a squeal of agony as she stumbled backward. Sensing an opportunity to escape, Bertholdt rose to his feet again and quickly jumped from the roof.

    As Bertholdt headed back the way he had come, Mikasa and Armin rushed to Vera's side. "Are you okay?" Armin's eyes were wide with fear. "Is it deep?"

    "I'm fine," Vera seethed through clenched teeth. After sheathing her blades, her hands went to her side. Vera knew it was worse than she would have hoped when her fingertips came into contact with warm, sticky liquid. When she pulled her hands back, however, and saw them completely coated with bright red blood, she winced.

    Eyebrows set and jaw tight, Vera looked into the distance at Bertholdt's retreating figure.

    "Don't do it," Mikasa told Vera before she had the chance to even think about doing something stupid, like going after him. "We can't chase him. There's no telling when he'll choose to transform. If we don't keep our distance, we'll just get caught in the explosion."

    "I don't think Bertholdt intends to do that just yet," Armin said as he helped Vera straighten her body. "He must have seen how badly wounded Reiner is. Transforming now would probably kill him. Our best bet is to take Reiner hostage and fight Bertholdt with our blades."

    "'Cause that went real well for some of us last time." Vera glanced down at her injury. She was mostly joking, but at the same time, she was still surprised at how Bertholdt had gotten the better of her like that. Had he really gotten that much better at fighting in the little time that had passed? Or was it more a matter of Vera being distracted and not giving it her all?

    "That makes sense," Mikasa agreed with Armin's idea, "but from the look of him, it seemed like he had a plan. And not only that, he seemed more determined than before. Almost like an entirely different person."

    Armin nodded. "Yeah, I saw it too."

    Just as the three of them were about to head back to the others, Vera spotted something out of the corner of her eyes that stopped her dead in her tracks. Squinting as she stared up at the sky, Vera felt her breath catch in her throat when she saw Bertholdt propelling himself up as high as possible right above Reiner and Hange's squad.

    There was no mistaking what was going to happen next. Bertholdt was going to transform, and the blast was most likely going to kill them all.

    "Go!" Vera screamed and she, Armin, and Mikasa tried to make it back to safety in time—even though they had no real way of knowing just how far out safety actually was.

    As Bertholdt took form as the Colossal Titan, everything seemed to move in slow motion. The explosion was so loud that it nearly shattered Vera's eardrums. The heat was so hot that it made Vera's skin feel like it was going to melt off of her bones. The flash of light was so bright that Vera's eyes began to sting, even after she had closed them.

    Just when she thought that she and the others were goners, a large hand reached out, scooped the three of them up, and pulled them in for shelter.

    Ducking behind one of the many brick buildings, Eren's Titan was protecting Vera, Armin, Mikasa, Connie, Sasha, and Jean the best it could. The blast was still enough to nearly blow the lot of them away, but miraculously, they managed to withstand the force.

    By the time the bright orange mushroom cloud had faded from the sky, Vera's ears were still ringing, her skin was still dripping sweat, and her eyes were still stinging.

    "Are you guys alive?" Jean was the first to speak, his voice much louder than needed probably due to the temporary hearing loss he was experiencing.

    "Hell if I know!" Connie snapped back. "Are you?"

    "I'm fine . . . hanging in there," Sasha wheezed out.

    As Vera climbed out of Eren's Titan hand and onto the adjacent roof, she exhaled slowly, trying her best not to let the shooting pain in her side pull her out of this fight. "We're all alive." She exhaled. "For now, at least."

    "Where's Hange's squad?" Jean looked around for any sign of them.

    "They were right underneath the blast zone." Armin hung his head.

    Gasping, the group of seven turned to look back at the smouldering, flaming wreckage of Shiganshina that had been left after the explosion. And in the middle of all that chaos was the Colossal Titan, just as big and intimidating as ever.

    "Are you saying . . . the only ones who survived are the seven of us?" Jean breathed as the Colossal Titan rose to its full height and began destroying what was left of the town.

    "Oh, no." Connie's jaw dropped as they watched the Colossal Titan throw a handful of debris into the air, effectively creating missiles that served to further demolish the town.

    "Armin, what do we do now?" Jean looked to the recently-assigned leader of their squad for directions. "We can't just wait to get flattened by burning houses!"

    Placing her hand on Armin's shoulder, Mikasa grabbed his attention. "Hey, you're in command now, Armin. We'll follow you to the end."

    Eyes wide and hands trembling, Armin thought for a moment. "We . . . we retreat. Fall back to the commander and request new orders. To beat the Colossal Titan in a battle of attrition as planned, we have to keep our distance."

    "That was the plan," Jean reminded him. "But think, if we let the Colossal Titan reach the wall, the others will be finished. He'll spread that fire to the houses past the gate. Our other squads will be trapped between the Titans and the flames."

    "You're right." Armin's whole body went rigid. "Our only hope is to beat Bertholdt right now! Then we won't get help. We have to do it with the people we have here!"

    Just then, huge chunks of wood came crashing down onto the building beside them, caving in the roof with ease. "Hey, Armin!" Connie's eyes darted to the sky to make sure nothing was falling on top of them as well. "Your orders? Come on!"

    "What should we do?" Sasha yelped.

    Eyes brimming with tears as he watched the Colossal Titan decimate his hometown, Armin remained frozen in place. Despite the fact that the position of squad leader had fallen into his hands, he was failing to live up to the high-pressure demands of the job.

    When Armin finally turned back to look at his friends, his wide blue eyes and trembling lips gave away that he had absolutely no idea how they were supposed to defeat the Colossal Titan by themselves.

    The only thing anyone knew at that moment was that if they didn't do something quick, they and the rest of the Scouts were going to be wiped out just as Bertholdt had told them they would.

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  • lostinthewiind
    16.01.2022 - 2 days ago

    IF ANYONE WOULD BE WILLING TO RUN THROUGH A PLOT DEVICE IM HAVING TROUBLE WITH FOR BRAVE HEART THAT WOULD BE AWESOME!

    I'll try not to spoil the story too much, I promise. I just need help deciding if something it too out of character for Levi or not.

    Please and thanks đŸ„ș👉👈

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  • lostinthewiind
    15.01.2022 - 3 days ago

    Brave Heart: Chapter Thirty-Three

    Attack on Titan

    Rating: Mature

    Warnings: sexual themes, death, gore, mature themes, extreme violence, body horror, blood, weapons, major character death, age-gap relationship

    In the aftermath of the defeat of Rod Reiss' Titan, the people inside the walls were given a ruler they could be proud to look up to; a ruler who not only advocated for what was best for the citizens but who was willing to get their own hands dirty to make sure justice and safety were upheld. That ruler was Historia Reiss, through and through.

    From the crowd of ecstatic onlookers, Vera watched as Historia was crowned queen. Finally, she was able to perform a duty that she felt good about.

    People in the crowd happily chatted about how Historia had been the one to take down the Titan outside Orvud District, and with not a bad word being muttered in regard to the woman before them, Vera was confident that the rule of Queen Historia would be a long and prosperous one.

    "Long live the true ruler of the walls!" Flagel Reeves called out.

    "Long live Queen Historia!" the people chanted.

    Crown perched upon her head and magnificent red cloak trailing behind her, Historia stood before her people atop the high platform and saluted. The crowd burst out into more chants and cheering, fists high in the air and smiles adorning their faces.

    After the ceremony was over and Queen Historia was back to being just Historia around her friends—crown and cloak put away, leaving her in her white gown—she marched through the halls with the gang fast on her heels.

    "Wait, you're actually doing it?" Eren questioned. "For real?"

    "Yeah, I am." Historia led the charge down the otherwise empty hallway, her small figure dressed in white a stark contrast to her friends, who were dressed in their long Survey Corps trenchcoats.

    Eren grimaced. "Come on, it was just a joke." Eren tried to persuade her against what she was about to do. "Right, Mikasa?"

    "After you smack him, you should tell him this: 'I dare you to hit me back.'" Mikasa's response was far from what Eren had been hoping for. This wasn't unexpected, however, considering Mikasa had been the one to suggest the stunt in the first place.

    Eren rolled his eyes. "Real helpful." He turned back to Historia. "If it's not a serious grudge, let it go."

    "If I can't even do this, then how can I call myself a queen?"

    "That's the spirit!" Jean encouraged wholeheartedly. "Pound that runt!"

    Historia's serious expression faltered when she spotted Captain Levi standing at the other end of the hall, hands in his pockets and a calm aura about him, almost as if he had been waiting for the group to arrive.

    Fists clenched by her sides, Historia drew in a few deep, shaky breaths before steeling her nerves, raising her fists, letting out a war cry, and punching Levi in the bicep. Levi didn't even flinch, but the punch hadn't meant to be hard enough to cause any damage in the first place; the punch itself was symbolic.

    Everyone let out a shocked gasp while Mikasa grinned from ear to ear, thoroughly pleased that Historia had taken her up on her suggestion.

    "Did that hurt?" Historia backed away, smiling like a lunatic. "Well, I'm queen now, so too bad! If you have a problem-"

    Before Historia could finish her short spiel, however, Levi cut her off with a low chuckle. "Thanks, you guys." He smiled. "I needed that."

    Vera felt warmth spread in her chest at the sound of Levi's laugh—possibly the first laugh she had ever heard from him. But also, there was that same lightness as before present when his eyes creased at the corners from his smile. He looked happy; genuinely happy.

    And even though Vera knew this feeling was scarily similar to the one that ended in heartbreak and misery with Reiner, she couldn't help but enjoy the sensation. Of course, she was still wary about opening herself up to someone again, but if there was a chance that she had found something right in the sea of wrongs that she had been drowning in lately, she wasn't about to turn her back on it so quickly.

    As a smile played at the corners of Vera's mouth and she let out a soft, airy laugh, she glanced at Levi and wondered if her smile affected him the same way that his did to her.

    In the months that followed Historia's crowning as queen, a lot of things changed within the walls; one of which being how the ruler actually ruled. Instead of sitting on a throne all day and letting people make decisions for her, Historia had vowed from day one that she would get her hands dirty to help those in need, and she stayed true to her word.

    The largest and most acclaimed project that Historia founded and personally ran was an orphanage that she opened for kids in need, both from the slums above ground and the Underground. Wanting to do it right, Historia went to Vera and Levi for guidance and assistance, since they had grown up in similar situations. Together, they made sure that the lives of those who came after them would be better than the ones they had struggled through in their pasts.

    The orphanage, which was located on a farm with animals and acres of land for the kids to run around on, was one of the few things in the world that Vera had ever thought was completely and utterly good. Vera wasn't proud of a lot of things she had helped make happen in her life, but this was certainly one of them.

    "Hey, you get back here!" Historia scolded lightly as she chased after a couple of kids.

    From a distance, Vera leaned against a fence with Eren, Armin, and Jean and watched happily as the kids tumbled through the tall grass.

    "Nice palace." Jean eyed the farmhouse and barn, making it clear that if he had been crowned king, this would not be the life he would be living.

    Armin chuckled as Historia picked up the kids by the back of their shirts and began leading them back to the house. "Yeah, she's not exactly regal."

    "Well, it's only been two months since she was crowned," Jean said. "But it seems like she'd rather run an orphanage than a kingdom."

    "And that's what makes her a better ruler than the ones who have come before," Vera pointed out. "Only two months and look at all the good she has done. She's changed these kids' lives for the better."

    Armin nodded in agreement. "Have you heard the new name the people came up with for her? They call her the Cattle-Farming Goddess. I think it's a term of endearment."

    "Not the first time she's been called a goddess," Jean sighed before an evil grin spread across his face and he turned to Eren. "You know, if this keeps up, no one's gonna remember the chump who plugged up the wall in Trost."

    Eren just shrugged off Jean's words. "This is part of why Historia agreed to become queen in the first place; so she could do all this."

    Vera smirked as she watched some of the kids pulling and pushing at Sasha, Connie, and Mikasa. "She went from the Underground to the edge of the walls and saved all the orphans in need she could find. She even got Captain Levi into it. You know, since he grew up underground."

    "You helped too, didn't you?" Armin asked.

    Vera shrugged. "A little, but nothing compared to the two of them."

    "When Historia sees someone crying and saying that no one needs them, she has to prove them wrong," Eren added. "She told me that she needs them to be okay."

    As if to disprove Eren's statement, Historia came marching over to them seconds later. "Slacking off again, huh?" She stopped and placed her hands on her hips like a disappointed mother. "It's getting dark, you know?"

    With that, Vera, Eren, Armin, and Jean were ordered back to work. While Armin and Jean complained about Historia's cruelty, Vera hung back with Eren and Historia herself.

    "So you're practicing hardening." Historia engaged Eren in conversation as the three of them picked up small creates of supplies and started walking back toward the barn. "I hear it's going well."

    "It is." Eren nodded. "But we need to hurry . . . before they come back."

    Historia's face fell. "What would you do if you found Reiner and Bertholdt and had to face them again?"

    "I guess I'd have to kill them. No choice."

    Vera tensed slightly, first at the mention of Reiner's name, and then again at the thought of watching Eren kill him. There had been times in the past where she had managed to make her peace with the man she used to adore and accept that, one way or another, he needed to die. But every time he got right back up again after a battle, it made it harder and harder to let go.

    "I hope we find out soon . . . about this world and how it became like this," Historia said. "After all that we've done, I don't want to end up with any regrets. Even the kids from the Underground have been smiling lately. I refuse to think this was the wrong choice."

    "Yeah," Eren agreed. "You're doing good things here."

    Historia chuckled. "I wasn't-"

    "Which is funny considering how you said that humanity should get wiped out."

    Historia's smile disappeared in the blink of an eye. "Oh, come on! I got carried away!"

    Before anyone could say another word, Mikasa stopped in front of the trio, eyes narrowed and brows set, a clear indicator that she was about to chew Eren out—probably because he was doing manual labour when he was supposed to be resting between training sessions and experiments.

    Not wanting to be anywhere near the protective side of Mikasa, Vera quietly pushed her way past and continued toward the barn. Inside, she found where the others had been sitting down their crates and added her's to the pile. Just as she was about to return to grab another armful of supplies, however, she heard a quiet giggle from deeper within the building.

    Pausing to listen, Vera heard the giggle again, this time louder, and ventured forward to investigate. Following the gentle laughter, she pushed open the door of one of the many empty stalls, seeing as all of the farm animals were still outside, and spotted a little girl, no older than three or four, with freckles and bright auburn hair.

    When the girl spotted Vera staring at her, her laughter died down and her hand, which had been continuously petting the brown barn cat perched in her lap, halted.

    "Hello." Vera took a small step into the stall and crouched down in the straw.

    The girl didn't respond, and when the cat jumped out of her lap and made its way over to Vera to rub against her leg, she seemed a little upset.

    "Hey, little guy." Vera gave the cat a scratch on the head and noticed that it didn't have a collar. "What's your name?"

    "He doesn't have one. None of the barn cats do," the girl said, her voice soft and unsure. "But I call him Mouse."

    Vera quirked a brow and chuckled. "Mouse?"

    "He's the best at catching the mice in the barn," she explained as if it were obvious. "The other cats are too busy sleeping."

    "I see." Vera nodded and watched as the cat pushed away from her before returning to the girl's side, where she continued to pet him like she had been before Vera had interrupted. "Do you spend a lot of time in here with the cats?"

    The girl nodded, her eyes fixated on the feline. "Yeah. Most of the other kids are older than me, so they don't let me play as much."

    Vera was surprised at how well the girl could speak, considering her age. She wondered if the girl had had to teach herself to read and talk by herself, sort of like Vera had done, or if she had once had someone who cared for her before she became an orphan.

    "Well, that's not very nice of them." Vera repositioned herself and sat cross-legged on the ground. "But, you know what? I like it in here better. It's quiet and warm."

    The girl nodded in agreement.

    "My name is Vera," Vera introduced herself once she could tell the girl had warmed up to her a bit. "What's your name?"

    Clothes covered in cat fur and hair framing her freckled face in loose curls, the girl smiled a little as she answered. "Bonnie."

    "It's nice to meet you, Bonnie."

    Vera recalled the previous week when Levi had returned from a visit to the orphanage and had told her about a girl that usually sat by herself and didn't play with the others as much. She wondered if Bonnie was the girl he had been talking about or if there was more than one kid who didn't quite fit in with the rag-tag group of kids on the farm.

    She had never expected Levi to take special interest in one of the kids, but when he talked about the girl he had met—although failing to mention her name or any descriptive elements about her—he had seemed genuinely invested in her care. It reminded Vera of when she had rescued that girl during the battle between Eren and Annie and how, despite seeming like he would be totally against it, Levi had taken the girl from Vera's arms and made sure she was safe.

    "Vera!" Sasha's voice echoed throughout the empty barn. "You in here?"

    Standing up, Vera popped her head out of the stall. "Yeah, right here."

    "What are you doing?" Sasha eyed the strands of straw stuck to Vera's clothes.

    "Playing with a barn cat."

    "Okay then . . ." Sasha shrugged. "Well, we're heading back soon. If you're done slacking off while the rest of us did all the heavy lifting, we'll be waiting out front."

    Vera nodded. "Okay, be right there." She then turned back to Bonnie. "I have to go now, but if it's okay with you, maybe we can hang out again when I come to visit next?"

    Bonnie didn't look too convinced at first, but after a few seconds of contemplation, she agreed. "Okay."

    "Okay, bye then." Vera waved. "Bye, Mouse."

    The cat let out a long meow as Vera exited the stall, leaving Bonnie and Mouse alone as she headed off to meet back up with the others.

    On the way back toward the city, Vera caught a glimpse of one of the new anti-Titan weapons Eren had created with his new hardening ability; a weapon that Hange had affectionately dubbed the Executioner from Hell. It was an efficient way to kill Titans without putting any human lives at risk, and it sure was big and flashy, but Vera longed for the days when they would no longer need to create new weapons to fight the Titans with.

    She longed for a day when there were no more Titans at all.

    "That's great! We can win!" Marlo exclaimed that evening at dinner after Eren shared the news about the Executioner from Hell successfully taking out a Twelve-Meter Titan earlier. "With weapons like that, killing Titans will be easy as breathing."

    Ever since Marlo had transferred from the Military Police to the Scout Regiment, his newbie enthusiasm towards fighting Titans and saving humanity had taken the others some getting used to.

    "You're so damn excitable," Jean told him matter-of-factly. "You should know better than to be this pumped about joining the Scouts."

    "He reminds me of Eren when we first started," Vera said, drawing out some snickers from the others. "So gung-ho about everything."

    Stuffing a chunk of potato into her mouth, Sasha hummed as she chewed. "That reminds me, didn't Hitch try to convince you to stay an MP?" she asked Marlo.

    "Wait, Hitch?" Marlo cocked his head. "How come?"

    Within seconds, Sasha and Connie had been reduced to a pair of grinning, blushing idiots. "Because she's a thirsty girl and she thinks you're a tall glass of water," Sasha joked.

    "Can't say I follow." Marlo still didn't understand what the two knuckleheads were insinuating. "But Hitch did tell me off before, saying I wasn't cut out to be a real soldier. She told me I should stop acting cool and just coast along in life. I thought she was better than that, so I told her I was wrong about her."

    Jean shook his head disappointingly. "Asshole."

    "Are you that dumb, Marlo?" Even Armin was shocked.

    "No brain under that bowl cut," Sasha sighed.

    Eren huffed as he picked at his food. "Calm down. He didn't say anything wrong,"

    "Well, anyway, the only people as excited as you are these new recruits with no real battle experience," Jean said loud enough for the new recruits sitting at the table behind him to overhear.

    Turning around from said new recruit table, a boy with fluffy red hair named Floch grinned. "Give me a break. You think you're some kind of hardened veteran now?"

    "I know I am, compared to you, at least."

    "That's rude." Floch and his friends stood up. "We were in the 104th, same as you. Besides, we're not the only ones excited. Everyone in the walls is. We're taking wall Maria back! We're finally winning!"

    Jean sucked his teeth. "You think so?"

    Floch didn't answer at first, and as the seconds passed, the joy washed away from his face. "Well, you guys do seem a little different now. There's something about your faces. What, exactly, happened?"

    "Want to know?" Jean offered as Vera and everyone else at the table fell silent, unwilling to share the hardships of the past.

    "No." Floch shook his head. "I'll ask some other time."

    As Floch and his friends walked away, Connie finished the last of his meal and stood up. "I'm out. See you later," he announced.

    "Huh? Now?" Sasha questioned.

    "Tomorrow is supposed to be a prep day," Connie reminded her, "so I'm planning to head to my village in the morning. There's a chance I might find something new there. Goodnight."

    Collecting his dirty dishes, Connie excused himself from the table and left.

    "Think we could turn Connie's mom back to normal someday?" Sasha asked. Ever since Connie had found his village deserted, no one left except the Titan that resembled his mother too much to possibly be a coincidence, he hadn't been the same bubbly person he used to be. Sure, he still had his moments, but it was different now; and it was clear that Sasha missed that side of her friend. "I mean, it's not impossible, is it?"

    "Well, if our knowledge about Titans continues to improve, then yeah, maybe." Armin theorized, clearly thinking back to the day that they had all learned there was a strong possibility that every single Titan had, at one point, been human. It had been a dark day for humanity when that information came to light.

    " . . . like a nightmare . . ." Eren mumbled. "So much has happened that I haven't had time to question it, but who do you guys think that it is we're fighting against? The thing is, I've always hated the Titans. But what if they're just people being tormented by some nightmare? For a time, at least, I was one of them myself."

    "Eren!" Mikasa's voice dragged Eren out of the dark pits of his own mind. "You still have bread and soup left. You shouldn't be talking until you've finished your meal."

    Hanging his head, Eren complied. "Got it. You're right. Sorry."

    "Get it together, Eren." Jean rolled his eyes and rested his head in his hand. "Enough with the sad mumbling already. It's all you do these days. You know what you should be focusing on? That guy you saw from the memories you were given when Reiss and Historia touched you. You said you saw a Scout that must have known your dad, right?"

    Thinking back to the faint memory that Eren had shared two months ago, Eren tried to make sense of it. "Yeah, I think he might have been with my dad when the wall fell. If he's alive, he'll know something. He seems so familiar. I can't shake the feeling that I've met him somewhere."

    "Do you mean he seemed familiar to you, or just your dad?" Armin inquired.

    "Me, I think.

    "It might help to smack yourself in the head," Sasha suggested with a wicked grin.

    "Yeah, you should try that out," Jean deadpanned. "You know what else might be helpful? If instead of holding hands with Historia, you got a headbutt from the commandant."

    "If that'd help me remember, I-" Eren paused mid-sentence, realization flashing in his eyes. "Hey, wait." He stood suddenly, his hands slapping down on the table so hard it shook his bowl of soup and nearly spilled it. "That's who I saw with my dad . . . it's Commandant Sadies!"

    The next morning, Levi led the squad out to meet Sadies. On the ride over, Hange had informed everyone that Commandant Sadies had been the 12th Commander of the Scout Regiment and Commander Erwin's predecessor.

    Arriving back at the training camp where the 104th Cadet Corp had become soldiers was a surreal experience—especially considering that, back when they had roamed these grounds regularly, none of them had had even an inkling of what the future had in store for them.

    Thankfully, despite how much Sadies had seemed to hate those of the 104th—and especially some that were currently present—he had agreed to meet with Eren and the others and answer any questions they had.

    "What's the matter, Braus?" Sadies eyed Sasha, who was the only one still standing after everyone had all sat down at a table together. "Not gonna sit?"

    Stiff as a board, Sasha was sweating bullets. "No! I'm quite fine standing here, Sir!"

    "Let's see." Sadies surveyed those present. "If I recall, back in the day I'd call you in here a lot when I was about to chew you out. It's only been a handful of months, and yet I barely recognize you kids."

    "So, Commander Sadies . . . or, wait, Commandant now," Hange corrected herself before moving on. "We should be prepping to recapture wall Maria but, tell me, why do you suppose we came to speak with you instead?"

    Sadies, whose eyes were as sunken in and as cold as always, stared across the table at Eren. "Eren, you look like your mother in almost every way. However, the daggers I see within your eyes, those are your father's."

    "Tell me about him!" Eren rose from his seat. "Tell me everything you know."

    "I don't know much at all. Not in the grand scheme of things." Sadies broke the unfortunate news. "That said, I'll tell you a story that's of no value whatsoever to humanity. The story of my past . . . as nothing but a bystander."

    Pulling her chair in closer, Vera perched her elbows atop the table and got ready to listen to what Sadies had to say. Despite what he had prefaced with, if he was willing to take the time to tell the story, there had to be something of importance buried within it.

    "Twenty years ago, near wall Maria, I found him standing outside of the gate to Shiganshina. Was it a truth or a lie? He said he couldn't remember why he was outside the walls. All of his memories had been lost; everything aside from his name. Grisha Jaeger. He truly appeared to know nothing at all; not about this world, not about anything," Sadies explained before going on to detail how Grisha had grown accustomed to living within the walls and had once claimed that the Scouts, like Sadies himself, were special. "I was a chosen one. That was the first time anyone had told me that. But I knew that those walls were far too cramped for me." He shared how he had gone on to lose the love of his life, Carla, to Grisha—who had become a beloved doctor in the community—and how, even after he had become Commander, things just kept going wrong for him when, mission after mission, he failed his soldiers and the citizens behind the walls.

    Eventually, he saw no other option but to give his command to Erwin. His life had crumbled beneath him, and in a fit of rage, he had snapped at Carla, claiming that she could never be special like the Scouts—like he desired to be. He then told Eren about how, after the wall had fallen, he had watched Grisha take him into the woods, where he later found him alone, his father nowhere to be seen. "After I found you, I carried your unconscious body back to the shelter and left. And that is everything I know."

    A blanket of thick silence fell over the group. No one was sure what, exactly, they were supposed to say, so they opted to stay quiet.

    "So that's it." Eren was the first one to speak. "I see."

    "At least now I know the real reason you chose to resign," Hange said, recalling the part where Sadies had voluntarily given his command to Erwin when he believed he simply wasn't a 'chosen one'. "Not to atone for all the soldiers you got killed, but because you realized that you're not a special snowflake. Just a delusional, self-centred child."

    "Lay off him, Hange." Levi came to Sadies' defence.

    Hange, however, didn't listen. "You had no right to keep all of this to yourself! Just to spare your own ego! We pledged to give our lives and our hearts for the good of mankind!" She stood and saluted, a scowl plastered across her face.

    "Please, let it go, Commander," Eren requested. "The commandant was right. Just like him, I was never special. Looks like I was just the son of a man who was. That's all there is to it."

    "After I yelled at her, this is what your mother said back." Sadies paused briefly before continuing. "'Why should anyone have to be special? That just isn't the way I like to look at things; and when it comes to my child, I don't care if he grows up to be great. My son doesn't have to be better than anyone. I think Eren's special enough already, for no other reason than that he was born into this world.'"

    Eren was too overwhelmed with emotion to speak.

    "And you, just like your father wanted, chose to set your life ablaze and let it burn to ashes outside the walls," Sadies finished. "I tried, but in the end, it all came to nothing. I couldn't change a thing. I'm merely a bystander."

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  • lostinthewiind
    14.01.2022 - 4 days ago

    Brave Heart: Chapter Thirty-Two

    Attack on Titan

    Rating: Mature

    Warnings: sexual themes, death, gore, mature themes, extreme violence, body horror, blood, weapons, major character death, age-gap relationship

    "So you're saying, that to take this Titan down, we're gonna stuff gunpowder down its throat and hope that's enough to destroy the nape of the neck?" Levi seriously doubted Erwin's hail-mary plan.

    "That's correct," Erwin confirmed, his stoic expression proof that he either fully believed in his plan or simply refused to show that he understood the flaws in his strategy as well.

    Levi hummed to himself as he looked down at the map of wall Sina laid out on the table. "With all the heat the bastard's making, I'd expect the powder to ignite without a detonator. Although a lot of this is banking on the Titan hanging its mouth open."

    "An explosion outside of the nape may not penetrate," Erwin explained as he sketched a rough drawing of the Titan. "The flesh inside its throat is softer, more vulnerable; but the target may protect that point. It's been dragging its face along the ground. Frankly, we don't even know that it has a mouth to open. That's the gamble this time. Gigantic though it is, its vital point is still one meter high and ten centimetres across. Unless we destroy that, it will regenerate and form another shield of heat. We cannot waste this chance."

    By the time the sun had begun rising that morning, every available soldier was already wide awake, ready to put Erwin's proposal into action and pray that it worked before the gigantic Reiss Titan broke through wall Sina and into Orvud District.

    Trying to stay true to her promise, Vera vowed to herself that no matter what happened, she would stick to the previously agreed-upon plan and not deviate unless she absolutely had to. After getting some rest and a fresh perspective, Vera now realized how much more harm than help she caused by rushing ahead the day before. And thanks to Levi, she also grasped just how lucky she was to still be drawing breath.

    All of this, however, was simply background noise in Vera's head as she stood atop wall Sina, gaze fixated on the Reiss Titan that was slowly but surely approaching. With its thin, spindly limbs dragging its rotund body along the ground, it was sure to reach the wall within minutes.

    On the ground below, the citizens of Orvud were none the wiser to what was taking place mere miles away from them. Instead, they were bored and annoyed at the idea of a sudden and random evacuation drill. In that moment, Vera wished she could have been among them. The saying 'ignorance is bliss' was something that she had learned was shockingly true with every day she spent risking her life in the Survey Corps.

    If Vera had known what being a soldier really entailed when she was younger, she wondered if she would have ever actually enlisted as a cadet in the first place.

    As the first round of cannons went off, each and every one of them aimed at the approaching Titan, Vera wasn't shocked in the least to see that they did next to nothing to deter the beast. Still, the Garrison Regiment fired again and again, but the many small explosions were nothing in comparison to just how monstrous this Titan was.

    "Well, how'd that do?" Erwin questioned aloud as the smoke from another burst of cannon fire began to dissipate. Just like before, however, the Titan persisted forward as the Garrison fired their line of field cannons. "Looks like the field cannons are even less effective."

    "Makes sense," Levi noted. "The cannons on the wall have a way better angle. And they didn't do shit to it either. What's the problem?"

    "Unprepared soldiers. Scraped-together cannons. Shallow leadership," Erwin answered plainly. "The Titans have always attacked from the south. Not only is this a northern garrison, it's in the Interior. Therefore, I can tell you for a fact this is the best we'll get."

    Levi groaned as the Garrison fired yet again, still dealing little to no damage to the Reiss Titan. "Yeah, that much is painfully clear. And, of course, your strategy for getting us through this battle comes down to a gamble. Just like every other plan that you've come up with."

    "Erwin, I brought the goodies!" Hange cheerfully announced as she led a group of men, who were carrying a net full of barrels and other supplies, along the wall. "All the gun-powder, ropes, and netting I could find. We still need to put it together though." Hange then gestured to some sort of makeshift weapon with spikes and hooks that was being wheeled in. "Oh, got this too. There's another one just like it a bit farther down. The trigger's held in place, so once fired, it'll wind itself right back up just like ODM gear. So, we do any damage?"

    "Imagine a swarm of cicadas pissing on it," Levi described.

    Hange grinned. "Then we'll actually use these things. Exciting."

    As things began to ramp up, Erwin gathered the troupes and started preparing for the actual attack. "Captain Levi, Jean, Sasha, Connie, you handle that side."

    "Yes, Sir!" The four saluted before rushing to where supplies were set up a little bit farther down the wall.

    Hanging back with the others, Vera observed the way Hange was staring at the pile of ropes and barrels in front of herself, brow cocked like she was trying to piece together a puzzle inside her head. "How should we approach this. Lemme see," Hange pondered. "Think of it like we're wrapping up a nice gift for someone special!"

    As Vera and the others got to work wrapping the barrels of gunpowder up in the netting, Erwin approached Historia from behind. Vera didn't mean to eavesdrop, but from where she was standing, she could hear everything.

    "I believe you heard from Levi, Historia," he said. "Assuming we live through this, we'll have you become the queen who rules this world within the walls. So naturally, I can't have you fighting on the front lines."

    Sneaking a sideways glace, Vera watched as the frustration settled into Historia's features. "I doubt that plan will work," Historia retorted. "The people won't bow to a queen in name alone. They aren't that naive."

    "Exactly what are you suggesting?"

    As Vera listened to Historia explain her plan to win over the hearts and minds of the citizens within the walls, she couldn't help but grin to herself. It was nice to see that living for herself was working out so well for Historia; proof that it was, indeed, a satisfying way for a person to live out their days. Now, if only Vera could get it to work in her own favour so well.

    Hoisting a barrel into her arms, Vera helped Mikasa stack them in the middle of the netting into one large pile. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eyes, she caught sight of Eren punching himself in the face and muttering about how he was useless, immediately followed by Armin and Mikasa rushing to his side.

    As much as Eren was the best chance humanity had at escaping the wrath of the Titans, he really was still an attention-seeking brat at times.

    By the time the weapons had been put together and everyone had prepared the best they could in what little time they had available, the Titan had reached the wall, forcing the cannons to be aimed straight down if they had any hope at hitting their target at all.

    The Titan's back and neck were littered with holes caused by impact with the hundreds of cannon shots fired its way, but the holes were superficial at best and did nothing to harm or even slow it down in the slightest. Still, it seemed as though Erwin's plan was the best chance they had.

    Stopping at the base of the wall, the Titan expelled a burst of hot steam from its pores, nearly blinding the soldiers above and causing the hairs on Vera's exposed flesh to singe.

    As the steam began to fade away, bringing back minimal visibility, the Titan reached up, grabbed hold on the wall with both of its large hands, and pulled itself up. Just as Erwin had predicted, the many miles of dragging its face and underbelly along the ground had done some serious damage. The Titan's face was completely flat, grated down to a cross-section of bone, muscle, blood, brain, teeth, and orifices. The stomach had been reduced to the same fate, with the skin completely rubbed away, leaving nothing but exposed ribs and internal organs—all of which began to slop out and onto the top of the wall as soon as the Titan had pulled itself upright for the first time.

    By then, there was no doubt that the people of Orvud had noticed the giant, disgusting Titan looming over the district and the even more disgusting sight of its intestines draped over the edge of wall Sina.

    Within seconds, the Garrison Regiment had begun retreating; having accepted the fact that their cannons had done nothing and weren't going to be of any use moving forward.

    Following the lead of the other Scouts, Vera dunked a bucket into one of the many water-filled barrels and dumped the liquid over her head—a precaution that would help cool her down when coming into contact with the Titan's steam.

    "Looks like we're up, Eren." Armin turned to his friend.

    "Right." Eren nodded, his face a little bruised from when he had been beating the shit out of himself for whatever reason.

    As everyone cleared a blast radius for Eren, the boy grinned before biting down hard on his hand and promptly transforming into his Titan form.

    "All set, Commander!" Armin called.

    With the homemade weapons at the ready, everyone doused in enough water that they were dripping from head to toe, and Eren ready to put his part of the plan into motion, the only step left was to actually pull the damn thing off.

    With his right sleeve waving in the wind—a symbol of the strength he had to persevere despite everything he had overcome—Erwin drew a flare gun and held it above his head. "On my mark!" he shouted before pulling the trigger and firing a column of red smoke into the air. "Now!"

    Pulling the triggers of the weapons Hange had created, both Armin and Sasha watched as the hooks of their barrels sunk deep into the hands of the Titan before winding themselves back up and shooting towards the appendages. Upon impact, both barrels exploded, weakening the Titan's wrists and compromising its grip on the wall.

    "All right, it's losing balance!" Armin commented.

    As the Titan began to flop over, smacking its head against the top of the wall in the process, Erwin called upon Eren to execute the crux of the strategy.

    Emerging from the clouds of steam and smoke, Eren's Titan form rushed forward with the net of gunpowder barrels slung over its shoulder. When the Reiss Titan turned toward Eren, exposing its many unprotected orifices, Eren tossed the explosives right down its esophagus; and just as everyone had hoped, the incredible heat the Reiss Titan was already expelling was more than enough to detonate the gunpowder by itself.

    As the barrels exploded inside of the Reiss Titan, its entire body exploded into hundreds of small chunks of flesh; one of which was the nape of the neck that needed to be properly destroyed to ensure the Titan was dead and gone for good.

    "Go!" Erwin ordered. "Deploy your ODM gear and finish it off!"

    Propelling herself into the air along with the other Scouts, Vera drew her pairing blades and got to work at slicing and dicing every chunk of meat she came across. Of course, Vera was not destined to deal the finishing blow. No, that honour was to be bestowed upon the future leader of the people, Historia Reiss.

    When Historia took to the air, bright blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight and long golden locks dancing in the wind, it was obvious she was going to be the one to win this battle for humanity; and Vera watched as she did just that, just as her plan had called for.

    As Historia sliced the hunk of flesh before her, a colossal explosion engulfed the sky in a flash of bright light and steam. Thrown off course by the blast, Historia landed in a merchant's cart in the streets of Orvud and was quickly surrounded by the citizens who had watched her end the Titan threat with her own two hands.

    From atop a rooftop, Vera watched as Historia slowly pushed herself up and stood before the soldiers and civilians watching her. "It's okay," she assured those who were asking after her wellbeing. "My name is Historia Reiss and I am your rightful queen."

    The crowd began to cheer and applaud, and when Historia looked up and locked eyes with Vera, Vera flashed a quick smile and a thumbs-up before excusing herself to let the future queen enjoy the gratitude of her people.

    The battle that had begun at daybreak and lasted only a few short hours was somehow still wrapping up atop wall Sina even as the sun began to set that night and the sky had shifted to a painter's palette of blues, pinks, oranges, and yellows.

    Helping scrub the wall of Titan guts was a rather dull and time-consuming task, but Vera was more than happy to occupy her mind and body with something repetitive like cleaning—even if the smell and sight made her less than happy at the same time.

    "You played a rather medial part in today's battle," the low, soft voice of Levi sounded as he approached. "Nothing to write home about. No heroics. No death wish. It was all very underwhelming. Good job."

    "And now I'm cleaning." Vera lazily gestured to her hard-bristled brush and section of concrete that was only minimally stained red. "I aim to please."

    Levi nodded slowly before kicking the brush of out Vera's hand. "Follow me."

    Without another word, Levi turned on his heel and started in the opposite direction. Vera looked back down at her discarded brush and the pool of blood that still remained before jumping to her feet and jogging to catch up with her captain.

    Levi didn't say much as he rounded up a team of soldiers, secured his cloak around his shoulders, passed out rifles to everyone present, and led the rag-tag group on horseback back in the direction of Rod Reiss' estate.

    With her own cloak wrapped around her body and a rifle strapped to her back, Vera rode beside Levi in silence, wondering what the heck they were doing heading back to the estate and debating if she should speak up or not.

    "Kenny's like a cockroach . . . cut off his head and you'll still find him scurrying around," Levi deadpanned as if he could read Vera's mind. "I know he's out here somewhere."

    Vera nodded in understanding. She didn't bother to ask why he had ordered her to tag along because, as she had come to learn, the things in Levi's head usually came to light one way or another.

    Upon arrival, Levi ordered the soldiers to search the crater that was once the underground maze of chambers beneath the Reiss Chapel. Sure enough, the bodies of Kenny's crew were discovered among the rubble, but there was no sign of Kenny himself.

    "No way he'd stick around." Levi started walking away from the crater as if he had a sixth sense that was leading him to Kenny. Without needing to be asked, Vera followed, her rifle in her hands and eyes peeled.

    As the duo approached the edge of a small gathering of trees not big enough to be considered a forest, they spotted Kenny sitting against the trunk of a tree, blood dripping from a wound on his head, and his cowboy hat and usual spunk nowhere to be seen.

    "Kenny," Levi grumbled, and instantly, Kenny's eyes shot open. He wasn't dead—not yet, at least—but he looked in pretty bad shape.

    "I should have got you killed-" Kenny seethed, his sentence cut short as he began to cough up blood.

    Levi didn't pay the empty threat any mind. "Found what was left of your squad. It looks like they were crushed in the cave-in. I guess you were the only survivor."

    Kenny let his eyes fall shut once more. "Sure looks that way."

    As the sun continued to set, casting shadows upon Kenny's face and illuminating other features, Vera could see now that he was missing the hair on the right side of his head, where it had all probably been burned off in one of the many explosions.

    "Between the burns and the blood you've lost, there's nothing that can save you now," Levi told him.

    Even in this state, Kenny smirked. "Oh, yeah? I wonder." He pulled out a case and opened it, revealing a single syringe and a single dose of the Titan serum. "Swiped this sucker out of Rod's bag back in the cave. Seems if I just stick myself, I'll turn into a big, strong Titan. One of the dumb ones, unfortunately. But for a while, it ought to keep me alive."

    "You had the time and strength to inject yourself before we got here if you wanted," Levi said. "Why didn't you?"

    "Fair point." Kenny's voice was nothing more than a harsh whisper. "I guess I'm just scared. If I don't inject it right then I might turn out the same as Rod . . . all messed-up-like."

    Lowering his rifle, Levi sighed. "I know you're not just sitting here waiting to bleed to death. Surely you have a better excuse than that."

    "Well, runt, the thing is, I don't feel like dying without my dream coming true. But I see now . . . after all this time, I think I see why he did it."

    Vera tilted her head at the same time as Levi huffed out, "Huh?"

    A weak, minuscule laugh escaped Kenny. "We humans, we're all the same. Every last one of us. For some, it's drinking. For some, it's women. For some, even religion. Family, the king, dreams, children, power. All of us had to spend our lives drunk on something, or else we'd have no cause to keep pushing on. Everyone was a slave to something . . . even him."

    Vera wanted to ask who this 'him' was that Kenny kept referring to, but before she had the chance, Kenny began to sputter and more bright red blood spilled from his mouth.

    "So . . . what's your poison, runt? Heroics? Something else? Someone else?" Kenny's eyes lifted slightly to look up at Levi and Vera didn't miss the way his gaze flickered between the two of them.

    Having sensed the insinuation as well, Levi lunged forward and grabbed Kenny hard by the shoulders. "Kenny, tell me everything you know about the king!" He changed the subject. "The first king. Why didn't he want mankind to survive?"

    "Don't know. Beats me," Kenny answered. "That said, I know that's part of the reason that we Ackermans decided to turn coat." He coughed again and blood splattered onto Levi's cheek.

    Levi frowned. "So apparently, that's my name as well. Tell me, who are you? What were you to my mom?"

    Kenny grinned. "You dumbass. I'm just her brother."

    Vera watched the shock spread across Levi's face as he learned that Kenny, the man who had raised him, made him the man he was today, and also simultaneously ruined his life, was none other than his very own uncle; a blood relative.

    "That day . . . why." The words seemed to slip past Levi's lips without him even noticing. "Why did you leave me?"

    "Because I just wasn't cut out to be somebody's dad." Kenny grabbed the case with the Titan serum inside, snapped the lid shut, and thrust it into Levi's chest. Carefully, Levi took the case from him, and when he looked back up to meet Kenny's gaze, Kenny had drawn his final breath.

    Nervously shifting her weight, unsure of what to say or do, Vera slung her rifle onto her back again now that the threat of Kenny attempting one last attack was no longer a possibility.

    Unwilling to break the mourning silence—or whatever kind of silence this was to Levi—Vera stood quietly with her head hung and hands clasped behind her back. All this time, she had thought about what it would be like to prove that someone like Kenny couldn't get the best of her . . . to prove that he didn't know anything about her. But now, she saw it in a different light, and it was evident that Levi did as well.

    In a way, Kenny and Levi's relationship reminded Vera a lot of the one she had had with her own father, both before and after he had died. Vera had spent her days trying to escape from under the shadow of the life that her father had created for her, only to find out that he had tried his best to do right by her. In fact, he had turned out to be much better than she ever could have imagined.

    Of course, in the end, Kenny was a horrible man who did horrible things . . . but he wasn't all bad. He had done some good in his life, Levi being one of the primary examples.

    "I'm sorry, Captain." Vera finally found her voice.

    Clearing his throat, Levi stood back up from his crouched position in front of Kenny's body and shook his head. "Don't be. The world is a better place now that he's gone."

    "I know," Vera acknowledged. "But I'm still sorry. Not for him, but for you."

    Levi locked eyes with Vera, his stoic expression unwavering even though his grey eyes hinted at hidden emotions buried deep down that he was refusing to acknowledge. "Me?"

    Instead of elaborating, Vera just smiled and lifted the hood of her green cloak over her head. "We should head back, Sir. It's going to get dark soon."

    As Vera turned and started back toward the horses, she realized not everything that had come out of Kenny's mouth in his final moments had been complete nonsense. What he had said about everyone having a poison in life couldn't have been more accurate, and it was at that moment she realized what her poison was.

    Vera's poison was the light feeling in her chest that she got when Levi looked at her with his dark, grey eyes. Grey eyes that seemed to see her for who she was, not what he or anyone else wanted her to be. Grey eyes that noticed every little thing she was thinking or feeling. Grey eyes that noticed her.

    Never had the colour grey been so damn breathtaking.

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  • lostinthewiind
    14.01.2022 - 4 days ago

    Brave Heart: Chapter Thirty-One

    Attack on Titan

    Rating: Mature

    Warnings: sexual themes, death, gore, mature themes, extreme violence, body horror, blood, weapons, major character death, age-gap relationship

    By the time the sounds of crystal crashing down all around them had ceased and Vera had finally convinced herself to open her eyes and face what was left after the destruction, she was greeted by the sight of Eren's Titan form looming over her and the others, its body completely encapsulated by a hard shell of crystal.

    Using the many branch-like offshoots of crystal that Eren had produced to protect his friends, Mikasa and Jean climbed atop the Titan and broke Eren free of the hardened body.

    "Not too shabby, Eren." Levi gazed up at the crystalized Titan. "Even after we cut you from it, the Titan hasn't disappeared. This could be a game-changer."

    Eren, who had been pulled to the ground by Mikasa, sat and tried to regain his strength. "I almost forgot . . ." His eyes widened. "Listen, before I transformed, I drank from a bottle that said 'armour'."

    "Gotcha." Levi nodded. "Guess that's all you needed to pull it off because this time you did it easily. You saved all our lives. You came up with and built everything we see here in the blink of an eye. It's not exactly pretty, but I can see its potential. I bet this is how the walls were made too. Guess what, this means we finally have a real shot at plugging the hole in wall Maria. We had a hell of a time getting here, took long detours, watched friends die, but as ugly as it's been, look at the position we're in now."

    Hanging his head, eyes still lined by the faint red markings that appeared after transforming, Eren exhaled slowly, his mind clearly plagued by worry and doubt.

    "Captain!" Sasha called as she and Connie descended from a hole in the ceiling. "We've secured an exit, Sir!"

    "Hange's fine," Connie quickly added, putting everyone's worries at ease. "Armin and Moblit, too."

    "I'm glad to hear it," Levi acknowledged the welcomed information.

    As soon as their feet touched solid ground again, Sasha and Connie rushed over to Eren, who had still been trapped in his Titan body when they had first left to find a way out.

    "Eren!" Sasha dropped to her knees in front of him and bowed down before him. "We're all safe thanks to you! But to be completely honest, when I saw you run off into the lights, stumbling like a drunk and wailing like a baby, I thought we were screwed! You looked like an idiot and my fate was in your hands. It was awful! Quit your bawling, have some dignity! That's what I was thinking, anyway . . ."

    Grabbing Sasha by the back of her cloak, Vera helped pull her back up onto her feet. "Thank you for that, Sasha. Very helpful."

    "Yeah, relax." Connie side-eyed her.

    Spinning on his heel, Levi turned and looked up at the hole from which Sasha and Connie had emerged. "Let's go," he ordered. "We have a big ass Titan to catch."

    Working together, and with the help of Armin and Moblit pulling them out of the hole and back up onto the grass, the squad regrouped above ground. It was only then that they were able to appreciate the true damage Rod Reiss' Titan had left in its wake as it pulled itself meter by meter along the ground, its body much too large and its limbs much too thin and weak to properly lift itself up and walk. All in all, it was the most disturbing and pathetic Titan Vera had ever laid eyes on.

    Heading back to the wagon and waiting horses, who somehow hadn't been spooked away by what they had witnessed, the squad got ready to go after the Titan.

    With Eren and Historia resting in the back of the wagon with Hange, who was doing okay considering her injuries, Armin sat up front again while Levi, Vera, and Mikasa rode horseback this time around. Vera hadn't missed the way Levi had winced ever-so-slightly when he had used his sore leg to climb onto his horse's back, but she knew he would deny anything if she asked and decided to remain silent.

    Not long after they had departed the Reiss estate, Commander Erwin met up with the squad. "Anyone hurt?" his eyes gravitated toward Hange, who was lying in the back of the wagon, her face scratched up and blood staining the right shoulder of her white shirt.

    "Yeah, Hange took a hit," Levi informed him, even though he could clearly see that for himself.

    "Doesn't look like anything too serious," Erwin commented. "You've done excellent work, all of you."

    Levi gave a nod. "I've got a whole slew of things to report, but first . . ." He gestured toward the giant Titan crawling in the opposite direction as them a few yards away, the hot steam that continued to radiate from it preventing anyone from getting too close.

    "Anything on that Titan?"

    "It's Rod Reiss," Levi began with the most shocking tidbit of information. "I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this, Commander."

    "Time's short." Erwin looked back over his shoulder at the Titan. "We can't afford to stand here and chat. Head back to the wall."

    Levi cocked his head as Erwin pulled on the reins and turned his horse back around. "You gonna let that thing drag its fat ass all the way to Sina?"

    "Well, more specifically, I'm letting it continue towards Orvud District."

    Kicking their horses forward again, the squad continued their return to the wall while Erwin regrouped with his soldiers, the lot of them hoping to make it back with enough time to spare to come up with a suitable plan before Rod Reiss' Titan could reach Orvud.

    Travelling alongside the Titan, Vera could feel the heat on her right side and before long, sweat began to drip down her forehead and neck. The warmth radiating off of this enormous Titan was almost unbelievable, and with just how much skin it had to burn away and keep everyone at a distance, Vera wondered just how they were going to get close enough to kill it before it reached wall Sina.

    "All right, time to think," Hange said loud enough for everyone to hear, her brain working overtime even though she should have been doing nothing but resting. "First off, Lord Reiss was after the Founding Titan's power, and that power currently resides within Eren. Thing is, the Founding Titan can only be used at full potential by someone of royal blood. But then, when a royal does obtain the Founding Titan's power, they suddenly take on the first king's ideology; which means they'll refuse to do anything about the Titans. Well, this certainly is a conundrum. So the first king thinks this is true peace, huh? I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with him there."

    "You know, we still have the option to go back," Eren suggested, his voice quiet, almost as if he felt conflicted about bringing up the option in the first place. "We just need that Titan to eat me. Then Reiss will become human again. We could still have a true Founding Titan. It's possible."

    Mikasa, who was riding beside the wagon, overheard what Eren had said. "Wait, you don't mean-"

    "It's worth considering," Levi said. "Once Reiss turns back into a human, we could capture him and undo the first king's brainwashing. Assuming that it can be done, it may well open a path to save humanity. Tell me, Eren . . . if that turns out to be our best bet, are you really willing to do it?"

    "Yes, I am," Eren answered without a hint of hesitation.

    "Eren, I can't let you." Just as expected, Mikasa refused to even entertain the thought of a plan that put Eren in harm's way, let alone hinged on his actual death.

    "So we came all this way to rescue Eren, just to kill him anyway?" Vera quirked a brow. "Not to sound like I'm especially fond of Eren or anything like that, but sacrificing the only hope humanity currently has on a whim seems a little stupid."

    Shaking her head, Historia addressed the group. "Let's not forget the other option." She looked up from her hands, determination set on her face. "First off, the plan you're discussing is full of flaws. For one thing, it may not be possible to free my father from the first king's will. And no matter how you restrain him, if he alters everyone's memories, we're finished. And consider how much there is that we still don't know about the Founding Titan. This isn't worth the risk."

    "She's right," Armin agreed. "It's not even guaranteed that Reiss would turn back to normal if he did eat Eren; that's just a hypothesis. No one's actually seen it happen before."

    Historia nodded, silently thanking Armin for backing her up. "So far, we've only been led by destructive pacifists, and if they'd kept the Founding Titan's powers, that's how it would stay. This is humanity's first chance to escape from them." Historia turned to look at Eren. "Eren, your father wasn't evil. He was trying to save humanity from the first king. He stole the Founding Titan from my sister and then he murdered my father's wife and children because he had no other choice."

    Stunned, Eren reached up and grabbed a handful of his own hair between his fingers. "You mean . . ."

    "Yeah, that's right! The Doctor Jaeger I knew would only have done something like that if he felt like he had to," Armin told Eren.

    "Agreed," Mikasa added. "He must've known another way—a way to save humanity without Reiss blood. And that must have been why he left you the key to the cellar."

    "What, your cellar?" Sasha inquired. "Oh, yeah, right. I'd forgotten all about that. You mean it's actually important now?"

    Connie shrugged. "Apparently it is."

    "What matters most to me is that we have a way to plug wall Maria," Jean said. "The way I see it, that makes our choice pretty clear."

    "You know, that's actually a fairly convincing argument." Levi gave credit where credit was due.

    Adjusting slightly and wincing, Hange sighed. "For what it's worth, I think we should stick with Eren too. But listen, are you sure about this, Historia? That Titan's a major threat. It's not like we can just let it wander around freely inside the walls. Capturing it isn't an option, it's way too big. Which means that our only way forward is to kill your father."

    Blue eyes sparkling in the moonlight, Historia turned and watched the Titan that her father had become as it snaked along the ground beside them in the distance. "Eren, I should apologize." Her mood changed suddenly as she averted her gaze. "Under the Reiss chapel, I really considered turning into a Titan and killing you. And honestly, it wasn't to save humanity. I just wanted to believe my father was right. Even more than that, I wanted him to like me. But it's time for me and him to part ways now."

    Looking down from the back of her horse, Vera locked eyes with Historia and shared a small, warm smile. "Really sucks when parents don't turn out to be the people you thought they were, huh?"

    Historia cracked a faint smile in return. "Sounds like you have some personal experience."

    "Oh, you don't even know the half of it." Vera exhaled. "Just believe me when I say it's a lot more freeing when you start living for yourself instead of trying to live up to someone else's expectations of you. You should give it a try."

    "I might just do that."

    During what was left of the ride back to Orvud District, Eren attempted to use the power to control Titans on Rod Reiss's Titan, but no matter how hard he tried or how loud he yelled, the monstrous beast continued its leisurely crawl toward the wall. After yelling obscenities and realizing that his words were doing no good at all, Eren slumped his shoulders and admitted defeat.

    Once back behind wall Sina and within Orvud, Hange was sent to get some immediate medical treatment while the remainder of the squad got ready to attend the meeting where a plan would be put into place about what to do about the Reiss Titan.

    Before that, however, Levi stopped everyone, making it clear he had one last thing to say. "Historia, I forgot to tell you." He captured the blonde's attention, along with everyone else's. "There's something we need you to do."

    "What's that?" Historia questioned.

    "This is an order from Erwin," Levi prefaced. "Once we finish off this Titan, seeing as you're the true successor to the throne, you'll become queen."

    A collective gasp emitted from the gathering and Historia's jaw dropped. "Wait, Queen Historia?" Sasha blurted out. "You're kidding, right?"

    "The coup d'Ă©tat was successful but the people won't follow military rule forever," Levi elaborated. "We need to give them a heartwarming story—one where the rightful heir retakes her crown from the pretender."

    "Oh, I see." Historia hung her head and slumped her shoulders, clearly less than excited about this duty she needed to fulfill.

    Raising his hand, Connie didn't bother to wait to be called on before speaking. "Hey, you heard what Historia was saying earlier, didn't you, Captain? 'Cause, well, it sounded to me like maybe, in siding against her dad, she finally broke off from that part of her life, you know? It's just like . . ."

    "Like what?" Levi glared. "You have something to say, then say it."

    "Um, I-"

    Before Connie could explain himself, Jean piped up. "Hey, Captain. What Connie's trying to say is that Historia finally broke free from the Reiss family and decided she's more than just a bloodline. So for us to force her into another role for that reason, I . . . I just don't think it's fair!"

    "It's fine," Historia finally spoke for herself. "If my next duty is to become a queen, then that's what I'll do."

    "But, Historia . . ." Armin could see the reluctance etched into her features.

    "I do appreciate your concern, but whether this is forced on me is really up to me to decide, and I've decided." Historia smiled as she turned to Levi. "Captain, before that, I have one condition for you."

    Levi crossed his arms. "And that is?"

    "While my fate is still my own, I want to put everything I have on the line."

    Levi agreed without hesitation, and from there, Vera and the squad joined Erwin and a few other soldiers to meet and decide what the plan of action was going to be.

    When Historia strode into the room, uniform on and ODM harness strapped to her person, the look of confidence and happiness on her face had increased tenfold since Vera had seen her not five minutes ago.

    As Historia fell into line with the others, Mikasa nudged her shoulder and nodded her head in Levi's direction. "Once you're queen, you can punch that smug runt right in the face."

    Before Historia had a chance to react, a Garrison soldier entered to room. "Sirs," he addressed Erwin and the other officers present "We have determined the Reiss Titan's location. It's Southwest, approaching Orvud. It's fast; at this rate, it'll reach the walls before dawn."

    "Right, understood." The Garrison officer beside Erwin nodded. "Commander Erwin, I'm sure everyone here would like to hear your plan. How can we evacuate the people in such a short time?"

    "That's not part of the plan," Erwin said.

    "What's that?"

    "The people of Orvud District will need to stay exactly where they are," Erwin rephrased, causing the room to break out into hushed mumbles.

    The Garrison officer gasped. "But, Commander!" He grabbed Erwin by the collar of his leather jacket. "If we don't get these civilians out of the city, they'll die by the thousands! That hulking monstrosity will be a stone's throw from the wall by morning."

    "That Titan is an Abnormal," Hange informed him, her presence at the meeting a surprise considering how rough she had looked lying in the back of the wagon. Now, however, with her injuries tended to and arm in a sling, she looked only a little worse for wear.

    "Right, and what the hell does that even mean?" the Garrison officer snapped.

    "It behaves strangely," Hange explained. "Unlike most Titans we encounter, it's only attracted to large groups of people. Hence the word 'abnormal'. Put simply, given the choice between a few soldiers right next to it and a distant but densely populated city, it'll choose the city. So if we were to evacuate Orvud's populus to the Interior of wall Sina right now, the Titan will change its course, destroying the wall and anything else in its path. Left unchecked, it would make for the city with the greatest density of people, Mitras. The ensuing rampage would deliver a devastating blow to humanity. As we rode for Orvud, we had Eren Jaeger attempt to use his recently discovered power to control Titans. Rod Reiss' Titan didn't react in any way."

    Once Hange had finished detailing why the people couldn't be evacuated, Erwin continued with the plan. "If we're to stop this thing, it'll have to be outside the walls of Orvud District. For that to happen, we require the citizens here to act as bait," he said. "However, this doesn't change the fact that our first and foremost duty as soldiers is to protect the people. In the event that we're unable to halt the target, we'll take measures to minimize civilian losses. We'll announce a district-wide evacuation drill tonight. The people will be gathered away from the outer wall, ready to escape if the battle is lost."

    Eyes narrowed, the Garrison officer stared Erwin down. "It seems there's no other choice," he admitted.

    "The body of this Titan is the largest we've seen yet," Erwin described. "It presents an easy target. Our wall-mounted cannons should prove highly effective, but if we can't bring it down with artillery, the Scout Regiment will throw everything we have at it."

    With that, the meeting was adjourned and everyone was dismissed to get ready for the plan to take effect at dawn and get what little rest they could manage. As Vera exited the room and broke away from the group, eager to find a quiet spot to clear her mind and rest her body, she picked up on a quiet, barely audible pair of footsteps following her. At first, she paid it no mind, but as she ventured farther and farther away from the others and continued to hear her pursuer, she stopped in her tracks and sighed.

    "I know I told you to scold me after, but maybe not right now, Sir." Vera turned to see Levi standing at the other end of the hall. "You can scold me double if I can take a rain check this time."

    Levi clasped his hands together behind his back and cocked his head slightly. "How did you know it was me?"

    "Your footsteps were light and almost undetectable, like someone who knows how to move around unnoticed," Vera shared her reasoning. "But you were purposefully stepping with your heel first so that you wouldn't actually sneak up on me. You wanted me to know you were following me."

    "I'm impressed." Levi took a few more steps closer, this time completely silent. "Seems you are picking up a few things here and there."

    "I'm observant," Vera smirked. "A good little shadow. Kenny would be proud."

    Levi hummed. "Speaking of Kenny, care to share why, exactly, you were so adamant on fighting him earlier? You're extremely lucky you made it out unscathed, let alone alive."

    "I told you. He made it personal."

    "You have a nasty habit of lashing out when people personally attack you."

    Vera blew out a puff of air as a strand of her blonde hair fell into her face. "If I'm allowed to choose, I'd rather a scolding than having my head bashed in again." She thought back to the courtroom and how badly her head had pounded after Levi had bounced her skull off of the bannister a few times.

    "No scolding or beatings . . . this time," Levi assured her. "I'm just curious as to why you seem so eager to cut your life short, is all."

    Vera crossed her arms over her chest. "You think I'm reckless."

    "Rushing ahead after Kenny and his crew without any backup seems a little reckless to me, yes."

    Shaking her head, Vera refused to show a sliver of weakness. "He tried to kill me first," she repeated her previous excuse, unwilling to say aloud that the possibility of losing yet another teammate had pushed her past her breaking point. She didn't need Levi thinking she was incompetent; not when he was already aware of her fragile state surrounding the family drama unfolding around her constantly.

    "Yeah . . . you said that." It was obvious that Levi didn't believe her for a second, but instead of pushing for further details, he accepted her answer. "Just be more careful, okay? If you die, I have to fill out a lot of paperwork."

    The hint of a smile played at the corners of Vera's lips. "Worried about me or something?" Levi didn't humour that with a response. "Well, if I die, there isn't really any next-of-kin stuff to worry about. Just hand my belongings out to whoever wants 'em, fill my spot on the squad, and call it a day."

    Levi furrowed his brows and his lips pressed into a firm line. Still, he was silent.

    "You seem unamused by my making light of the situation," Vera commented, her joking demeanour starting to fade away. "If you agree to forget about what happened today, I'll let you have something of mine after I die to remember me by."

    Levi remained unimpressed.

    Dropping the act, Vera exhaled, her body deflating like a balloon as she slumped her shoulders. "Can we please keep pretending like we're okay? Just for a little while longer?" she pleaded.

    "You're the only one here pretending."

    Vera almost laughed at that. "Yeah, okay."

    Between Vera pretending that her emotional state was fine and Levi pretending that his leg wasn't still bothering him all the time, the duo had become a pair of regular liars—by then they lied to everyone else so much that it was evident they were starting to actually believe it themselves.

    All they craved was for the people around them to believe they were capable of doing their jobs with a clear mind and able body. Beyond that, nothing else really mattered.

    "You should get some rest, Kline." Levi broke the silence.

    "Yeah, you too, Sir," Vera responded. Before turning and continuing her search for a quiet place, she spoke up once more. "Oh, and, Captain? I'll have my head on my shoulders tomorrow. No recklessness, I promise."

    Levi just nodded before heading back the way he had come, leaving Vera alone in the dimly lit hallway with a whole new host of thoughts and feelings to decipher.

    View Full
  • lostinthewiind
    13.01.2022 - 5 days ago

    Brave Heart: Chapter Thirty

    Attack on Titan

    Rating: Mature

    Warnings: sexual themes, death, gore, mature themes, extreme violence, body horror, blood, weapons, major character death, age-gap relationship

    Eyes glued to the passing scenery of trees and bushes as she sat in the back of the moving wagon, Vera shifted her gaze to look over at Jean, who was guiding the wagon on horseback with a torch in his hand along with most of the Levi squad and Moblit. The remaining members of the squad—Mikasa and Vera—were in the back of the wagon with Hange and Levi while Armin sat up front steering.

    The group had been travelling for hours, but without the sun in the sky to aid in the passing of time, it was hard to tell just how much farther Rod Reiss' estate was. The only certain thing was that, when they arrived at their destination, they all had to be ready to fight for Eren and Historia—and this time it was known ahead of time that they would be fighting other humans instead of the flesh-eating monsters that they had grown accustomed to hating.

    "Hange." Mikasa's voice drew Vera out of her spiralling thoughts. "You said you might know where they are."

    "Oh, yeah. Guess I should explain how," Hange's response got the attention of everyone within earshot. Pulling out the same journal from before, Hange explained. "Erwin gave me this scout report from an investigation on Lord Reiss' land. It details a certain incident that occurred five years ago on the Reiss estate."

    "Five years?" Armin turned to look over his shoulder.

    "That's right," Hange confirmed. "It was the day wall Maria was breached. I'll summarize the most important parts from the beginning. So, as far as regional lords went, Lord Reiss was fair and well-respected by the people. He had five children—the most well-known of them was his eldest daughter, Frieda; she was a down-to-earth girl who even the peasants adored. But five years ago, on that night, disaster struck. With the fall of wall Maria having plunged the world into chaos, bandits raided and set fire to the only chapel around. Unfortunately for them, the entire Reiss family had gathered there to pray. And so, the entire family was massacred by bandits that night, save one; only Rod Reiss managed to escape with his life. To top it all off, this incident occurred just a few days before Historia's mother was killed by the Interior Police. So we know that in the immediate wake of losing his family, Rod Reiss sought out Historia, and something tells me that it wasn't out of a newfound paternal affection."

    Levi, whose arms were crossed over his chest, looked completely disinterested in the story. Nevertheless, he decided to speak up. "Well, she is of royal blood," he said. "Or do you think that bloodline has some other secrets?"

    "It's possible, but I'm not sure yet," Hange answered. "What really stood out to me, at least, was the fact that large parts of the chapel were destroyed. The chapel was built from stone—it would take a lot of time and effort to destroy it. If it was bandits, they'd have taken what they could and made a quick escape. Also, Lord Reiss was the only witness, no one confirmed his story. Then Lord Reiss rebuilt the chapel with his personal fortune almost immediately. What was his rush? When you think about it, the story could only make sense if it involved a Titan attack. It may turn out that I'm jumping to conclusions, but it's suspicious enough to merit investigation and it's the only lead we have."

    Feeling the chilly night air nip at her exposed flesh, Vera tucked her chin down into her jacket and tried to calm her mind and focus on one thing at a time. Like always, the new information Hange had dropped on her about her parents was swirling in her subconscious, dangerously close to transforming into a storm in her head.

    "Before the night is over, Reiss' land will be crawling with our soldiers." Hange's voice helped to ground Vera as she closed her eyes and attempted to block out the intrusive thoughts. "Unfortunately, we can't expect him to wait that long. We have to get there as soon as possible . . . before Eren ends up in someone's stomach."

    When Vera felt the wagon begin to pick up speed, she re-opened her eyes. When she did, she noticed that Levi and Mikasa had switched places in the back of the wagon, the former now sitting next to her. The change in pace indicated that they were nearing their destination, but Vera still had no idea how much longer she had to collect herself.

    Looking to her side, Vera locked eyes with Levi and his expression of indifference seemed to waver slightly. Vera could have fooled herself into believing that he had done it on purpose to assure her she wasn't the only person struggling with coming to terms with what was to come, but when he spoke seconds later it was proven that he was thinking about something completely different.

    "You should understand, this is Kenny the Ripper." Levi eyed Mikasa and Hange when he spoke since they hadn't had as much one-on-one experience with Kenny as Very unfortunately did. "If he's there, he's our biggest obstacle. In terms of his threat level, it's like you'll be fighting me . . . or wait, with those weapons of his, he'll be stronger."

    "Then he's unbeatable," Sasha said from the back of her horse, her grip tightening around the torch in her hand. "At least for us."

    "Maybe we should wait and meet up with other soldiers," Connie suggested.

    "No chance in hell." Mikasa shot down that idea before anyone even had the chance to consider it.

    Connie hung his head. "Right! Course not!" He instantly went back on his own words. "If we wait for reinforcements then Eren might get eaten."

    "You know, based on what the Captain just told us, the odds won't be entirely in Kenny's favour." Armin took his eyes off of the uneven road before him for a split second as he addressed the squad.

    "You really think so?" Jean asked.

    Armin nodded. "Yeah. His squad is well trained but we have way more combat experience."

    Elbows resting on her knees, Hange glanced across at Levi. "Have to ask—how is it that you lived with Kenny the Ripper but know next to nothing about him? Did the two of you never talk?"

    "Not much," Levi replied. "I only just learned the man's last name. Don't know if you heard, but it's Ackerman." His gaze shifted to Mikasa. "Might be a relative of yours."

    Mikasa's eyes widened slightly as she pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs. "I remember my parents saying that my dad's side, the Ackermans, were persecuted when they lived in the cities. My mom said her ancestors were Eastern; her appearance made it difficult for them to fit in. Both groups were chased deep in the mountains, near the edge of the walls. That's how my parents met. But my father never told me why the Ackermans were persecuted. He looked the same as all of you, so I don't think he was of a different race."

    "Tell me this," Levi prodded for more information, "have you ever suddenly felt a power awaken inside you?"

    Something seemed to trigger inside of Mikasa and she let out a faint gasp. "I have."

    With that, the clouds parted to reveal the large, blue moon that bathed the open plains in a blueish tint. The back of the wagon fell quiet for a few beats before Levi spoke again.

    "This has happened for Kenny Ackerman as well," he informed Mikasa. "Suddenly, out of nowhere, he felt an absurd amount of strength surging through him. And in that moment, he knew just what he needed to do. And it's happened to me too. Makes me wonder . . ."

    Levi trailed off, and before he could finish his sentence, the silhouette of a single, solitary building in the distance caught the attention of Jean and Moblit, who were riding in front.

    After Hange confirmed that the brick building was, indeed, the rebuilt Reiss chapel they had been looking for, the squad was given their final minutes to prepare for whatever was to come beyond the large, double wooden doors on the front of the chapel.

    After making their way inside the rather unassuming structure, they got to work. While half of the squad split up to search for anything that would indicate that the chapel was more than it seemed upon first glances, the other half began preparations for the plan that had been concocted by Hange and Armin during the ride over. As expected, it didn't take long for Hange to locate the metal door she had been looking for, which was hidden on the floor underneath a precariously placed rug.

    "Found it," Hange announced. "A hidden door. Reiss and Eren should be inside. Hopefully the layout's close to what I predicted."

    Glancing over his shoulder at the barrels that Armin was rigging, as per the plan, Levi sighed. "These presents better pay off, considering the time we spent prepping them."

    "The plan is good," Vera spoke aloud, more to convince herself than anything else. "It will work. It has to."

    "Speaking of the plan, can we go over it one last time?" Connie inquired. "You know . . . just so everyone knows what they're doing."

    "The anti-personnel ODM gear has a big weakness. The anchor points in the same direction as the gun, so once it's deployed, the gun can't be aimed again," Armin reminded everyone, his hands still working while he spoke. "Which means that while the user's moving, they're vulnerable to an attack from behind. But their greatest weakness is that once they fire twice, they need a few seconds to reload their weapons."

    "So that's the general idea." Vera clenched her hands into fists as she stared down at the metal hatch on the floor. "Use their weakness against them. Attack from behind and wait until after the second shot."

    "Exactly," Levi confirmed.

    After finishing the final touches on the final barrel, Armin stood to his feet. "Okay, we should be good to go now."

    "All right, then." Levi's eyes darted between each and every one of his squad members. "Is everyone here ready? 'Cause you're all about to dirty your hands." When no one dared speak, for fear their voices may give away just how nervous they really were, Levi nodded. "Guess that's a yes."

    With that, Hange opened the hatch and the squad worked at lowering the charged barrels down into the space below. From there, a single wooden door guided their only path through the chamber underneath Rod Reiss' chapel.

    Looking over his shoulder, Levi gave everyone one last chance to steel their nerves before he kicked the door open. On the other side, a vast room made of pure crystal waited for them, and directly before the squad, a staircase that proved to work perfectly in their favour.

    With the barrels already laid on their sides in a row, Levi kicked them down the stairs one at a time, the wheels that Armin had secured to either side helping them roll effortlessly down and into the room below. As soon as the barrels had made it to the bottom of the staircase and slowed to a stop, Levi gave the order and everyone rushed out. Pulling her pairing blades out, Vera advanced with the initial attack squad while Sasha took cover, lit her arrows with the single torch she had brought with her, and fired at the barrels.

    As soon as Sasha's flaming arrow pierced the side of the first barrel, the entire thing exploded, cloaking the crystal chamber in a cloud of thick smoke. One after another, the barrels exploded as Sasha shot at them and before long, the entire chamber was filled with black smoke, making it impossible for Kenny's men—who had been shouting to one another since the first barrel had combusted—to see, let alone shoot at Levi and his squad.

    As Vera took to the air, using the many crystal pillars throughout the room to sink the hooks of her anchoring lines into, those who had hung back and were not part of the initial attack squad—Connie, Jean, Hange, Moblit, Armin, and Sasha—began firing green signal flares into the air, making visibility even worse.

    "35 total!" Levi's voice echoed throughout the chamber. "In the upper parts of the pillars. Continue the plan! We'll take them all out right here!"

    "Everyone scatter!" A female voice followed Levi's, and Vera knew it must have been the second-in-command of Kenny's group. "Let them spread out, then surround them!"

    With that, Connie, Jean, and Hange joined the aerial battle as well and Sasha continued firing at the remaining barrels.

    Hearing the strained coughing of someone nearby, likely one of Kenny's men that had inhaled a little too much smoke, Vera followed the noise and tightened her grip on her blades, ready to strike. As soon as she emerged from the cloud of smoke and confirmed that the coughing was not coming from one of her comrades, she thought back to Levi's words about dirtying her hands and knew that this was something she had to do whether she liked it or not.

    Letting out a quick shout, Vera released her anchoring lines from the pillars and pushed her body into a spin to propel herself forward. Just as the man before her glanced back and their eyes met, her blades were cutting through his skin and bright red blood was soaking through his clothes.

    In a scream of agony, the man released his own anchoring line and fell downward, his body disappearing into the smoke before Vera heard the distinct sound of a body colliding with the hard ground.

    Seconds after Vera anchored herself to the side of yet another crystal pillar, she heard the sound of a gunshot and jumped out of the way just in time to avoid being hit by another damn bullet. The pain in Vera's arm from the previous bullet graze had subsided almost completely by then, but the mark was still there to remind her that Kenny's goons wouldn't hesitate to make sure the next bullet fired in her direction went straight through her skull.

    From the sidelines, Armin kept firing signal flares and Sasha kept shooting arrows, watching the squad's back and protecting them in areas that the smoke couldn't.

    Glaring at the woman who had just fired at her, Vera clenched her teeth and planted her feet firmly against the pillar, ready to dodge one last time. The woman had already fired once, so if she tried to shoot at Vera and missed again, Vera had a golden opportunity to lunge and strike.

    "Come on! I'm right here!" Vera taunted, recognizing the woman as one of the many that had been there the day Kenny had first attacked Levi and her in the streets. "What good are those guns if you can't hit anyone with them?"

    Taking the bait, the woman aimed her gun at Vera once more and pulled the trigger. As soon as Vera spotted the slight jerk of her enemy's finger, she pushed off from the pillar, narrowly avoiding the second bullet, and attacked. Unable to reload in time, the woman tried to flee into the smoke but didn't quite make it in time before Vera's blade was slicing open the back of her neck just like a Titan.

    Just as Vera was about to jump back into the smoke for cover until she located her next target, Levi's body zipped by in front of her, followed by the familiar drawl of the man of the hour, Kenny Ackerman.

    "Woohoo!" Kenny cheered as he fired at Levi, the bullet missing him altogether and hitting the pillar just above Vera's head and shattering a good chunk of the crystal. "Hey, Levi . . . and Levi's little shadow," Kenny smirked as he perched on a pillar across from the one Vera and Levi were clinging to. "I don't exactly have time to waste on you but I just can't have you getting any further." Eyes peering at the two from behind the brim of his cowboy hat, Kenny reloaded his weapon, making it abundantly clear that he was planning on killing the man and woman across from himself. "So be it. I'll just have to play. Catch me in you can, boy!"

    As Kenny leapt into the air, ready to play a good old-fashioned game of cat and mouse with Levi, Levi turned to tell Vera to stand down and avoid Kenny at all costs. Before he had the chance, however, Vera had already sprung into action and tailed the man.

    When Kenny spun mid-air to fire at Vera, Levi swooped down from above and intercepted the two by swinging his blades at Kenny, hoping to end it all on the spot.

    "You're a lively one." Kenny grimaced as he blocked Levi's blade with the large barrel of his gun. "Damn!"

    Firing again, this time at Levi, Kenny missed once more and before he could take another shot, Levi had ushered Vera into the smoke and away from the deranged maniac in the cowboy hat.

    "Go find someone else to chop up!" Levi told Vera. "You have no business facing off with Kenny!"

    "I agree with you wholeheartedly." Vera used a nearby pillar to propel off of with her feet and change her trajectory. "However, considering he already tried to kill me more than once and the fact that he takes every opportunity to talk to me like I'm some pathetic little girl who can't hold her own, he's made it personal. So, with all due respect, Captain, I'm going to keep fighting until he's dead."

    Levi furrowed his brows. "Kline," he warned.

    "If we make it out of this alive, you can scold me after, Sir."

    Emerging from the mixture of black and green smoke ahead, Kenny looked back at Levi and Vera and scoffed. "Ain't you tired of this game yet?" he quipped, his body disappearing before his voice reappeared seconds later from behind. "I taught you this one. When you're chasing your enemy, you shouldn't just stare straight ahead!"

    Before Vera could figure out where, exactly, Kenny was, a gunshot rang out and a wooden platform secured to a pillar above her exploded into a hundred pieces of splintered wood. By the time she and Levi had managed to dodge the falling debris, Kenny was flying toward them at full speed with a knife in his left hand.

    With Kenny swinging at them, both Vera and Levi darted out of the way, but not before the blade managed to nick Levi's cheek, giving him a shallow cut just below his left eye.

    Grunting, Levi decided it was finally time to pull out his trump card. Once he was sure Vera was out of the blast radius, he pulled a bag of oil out of his pocket—the same oil that had been used to charge the barrels—and tossed it toward Kenny. As Kenny fired once more at Levi, his bullet hit the bag instead, causing an explosion. Using the flames as cover, Levi charged Kenny once more, the two of them now engaged in a mid-air battle of the blades.

    Spotting her opening, Vera circled around from behind and waited until Kenny was completely distracted by Levi. Then, she struck. Kenny let out a yelp when Vera's blade pierced his leg.

    "You bitch!" Kenny snapped as he retreated. "That really hurt!"

    Before Vera had the chance to celebrate her small victory against Kenny, the sound of Hange's pained cry echoed through the crystal chamber and froze her in place. Following the sound of the commotion, and with the smoke now thinner than it had been, Vera was able to make out the sight of Hange's body lying flat on the ground at the base of a pillar, a trail of blood coating the crystal.

    "Hange!" Jean shouted.

    "Now!" The same woman from before, whom Vera had still yet to lay eyes on, called to the remaining members of Kenny's group. "We'll reform our defence at the fallback point! Time to regroup!"

    Hearing the hydraulic hiss of the anti-personnel ODM gear as Kenny and his goons retreated, Vera stared down at Hange's body and felt her blood begin to boil. She wasn't sure why, but in that moment, she thought back to what Armin and she had discussed when the topic of fighting other humans had come up—about how the world was neither black nor white. However, in this instance, Vera didn't find herself struggling to navigate the waters of any grey area. Instead, her feelings were easy to decipher. Kenny's people had tried time and time again to kill Vera and her squad, and now, for all Vera knew, they had succeeded—it was possible they had killed Hange.

    Nothing was grey about this situation. Kenny and his followers couldn't be allowed to escape after what they had done. It was as Vera had said before . . . it was simple.

    While everyone else stayed still, too busy watching Hange for any signs of life to bother pursuing the enemy as they retreated, Vera decided she needed to take action. Body acting on its own, Vera chased down Kenny.

    "Kline!" Levi called after her, but she was too focused on catching up to hear him.

    Following the hydraulic hissing through the remaining clouds of smoke, Vera swung from pillar to pillar. She had no idea where she was going or what she was going to do when she got there, but as she broke through the final haze and spotted a large tunnel with two large wooden structures on either side and a net hanging above it, she knew that was the right direction.

    As the last of Kenny's men disappeared into the tunnel, the net began to drop over the entrance, effectively blocking the way and preventing Levi and the others from following. Sinking the hooks of her anchoring gear into the wooden structures on either side of the opening, Vera flung herself forward and catapulted into the tunnel just before the weighted net prevented her from entering.

    By the time Vera hit the crystal ground hard and skidded to a halt, Kenny and his followers had already disbanded. Dusting herself off and noting that she would no doubt be covered in bruises the next day, Vera pushed herself to her feet and followed the tunnel.

    As her surroundings got darker and darker, Vera came upon a door. The tunnel continued further down, but when a muffled scream rang out from the other side of the door, Vera felt it in her bones that this was where she needed to be.

    Blades at the ready, Vera slowly and quietly pushed the door open. Peeking her head in, the first thing she noticed was that it was yet another crystal chamber. This one was much smaller than the one she had just come from, and it had a lot fewer pillars, but she quickly realized that that was the least important part about what was behind the door.

    Another muffled cry could be heard and when Vera looked up, she spotted Eren atop a ledge, shirtless, gagged, on his knees, and chained by his arms and legs.

    "What's the matter? Why are you glaring like that?" A female voice spoke up, and when Vera's gaze fell to the bottom of the ledge, she spotted Historia and Rod Reiss standing and staring up at Eren.

    "Because he's realized what it is that we have to do," Rod told Historia. "The power his father stole for him must be returned to its rightful place. Historia, that place is with you."

    Straining against the chains, Eren screamed out yet again. Crouching down, Vera continued to watch from afar, ready to step in if Eren seemed to be in any immediate danger.

    "The cavern we're in now was built around a century ago using the Titan power of our ancestor," Rod continued, completely ignoring Eren's desperate cries. "The very same power was employed to build the three walls, and it's thanks to those enormous walls that humanity has survived. The voice of this Founding Titan reached out to touch the people's hearts and altered their memories forever. Understand that, although a few bloodlines were exempt, even their knowledge was lost over time. Today humanity knows nothing of the world before the walls.

    "The only exception is your sister, Frieda Reiss. Frieda possessed far more than the power to become a Titan; she knew what this world was once like and she knew what brought it to its current state. She was only 15 years old when she took the burden of that knowledge upon herself. It was eight years ago that she performed the ritual. In this very chamber, she ate her uncle, my younger brother. In doing so, Frieda inherited the Founding Titan and the memories of this world, as her uncle had before her . . . as our ancestors have for a hundred years."

    "Does that mean . . ." Historia's voice was quiet and uncertain.

    Rod sighed. "It's true. Had she survived, Frieda could have used her tremendous powers to eliminate humanity's woes with ease. In time, she could have wiped the Titan scourge from the face of the world." He then looked up at Eren. "But then his father came and stole that power away. Now that power resides within Eren, but it's wasted with him. The Founding Titan's might can only be wielded by a member of our bloodline. As long as he remains the vessel for that power, this hell will never end."

    Historia drew in a shaky breath as she switched her gaze from Rod to Eren. "Then-"

    Before she could finish, a familiar voice called out, interrupting. "Hey, hey, hey! Just a damn minute!" Kenny descended from above. "Sounds like you said that if someone who isn't a Reiss eats Eren, they won't get the powers of the king."

    "Yes, that's right." Rod nodded.

    "So then, what?!" Kenny seemed confused and upset. "Even if I do turn into a Titan and eat Eren, it ain't gonna do me any good?!"

    Rod narrowed his eyes at Kenny. "What are you saying?"

    Lunging forward, Kenny grabbed Rod by the front of his shirt and lifted him up, gun pointed at his face.

    "Let him go!" Historia shouted, and when Vera glanced up to see how Eren was doing and if she could possibly use this diversion to free him, she spotted him staring straight back at her.

    Eyes wide, Vera pressed her finger to her lips and sunk down even lower, silently instructing Eren to pretend she wasn't there and avoid blowing her cover.

    "What's gotten into you?" Rod choked out. "Do you think I'm lying?"

    "No, I don't," Kenny seethed. "I waited a long time for this day because I knew if there was one thing you weren't lying about, it was the succession ritual. Damn, you prick! You knew what I was after this whole time and you knew I didn't have a chance in hell of getting it, but you went ahead and used me, huh?!"

    Looking past the gun shoved in his face and at Kenny, Rod remained calm. "I'm very grateful," he said. "When my brother first brought you into his service, I thought it was just one of his foolish whims, but-"

    "You keep on talking shit about Uri and you can kiss this half of your head goodbye!" Kenny snapped as he pressed the barrel of his gun up against Rod's right eye.

    "Stop it!" Historia decided to interfere and pulled the gun away from Rod's face. "Get away from my father!"

    Kenny rolled his eyes. "Come on! This is pitiful. Don't you get it yet, Historia? Your daddy doesn't give a damn!" He yanked his gun back, shaking Historia free in the process and sending her stumbling backward and falling down. "He brought you here so he can turn you into a monster, and after that, he's gonna make you eat your buddy, Eren."

    Hardening her soft expression, Historia pushed herself back up again and glared at Kenny. "If that's my duty, then that's what I'll do."

    "Yeah?"

    "Yeah." Historia straightened up. "I've decided . . . I'll eat Eren and bring my sister back! I'll inherit the world's history and exterminate every last Titan! If that's my duty then I'll do it!"

    Vera felt her breath catch in her throat. All this time, she had been expecting to rescue Eren and Historia from Rod Reiss. Never once did she possibly imagine that Historia would switch sides and turn against her friends.

    "Damnit, Historia. Think about this." Kenny let go of Rod and let the man drop to his knees. "What the hell has this old bastard ever done for you?"

    Historia gasped when Kenny pulled a knife on her father next and held it inches away from Rod's face.

    "Only reason he picked you up is because of that royal blood of yours," Kenny continued, his eyes focusing on the glint of his blade instead of the glint of hurt in Historia's eyes. "This piece of trash is too scared to turn into a Titan himself. That's why he forced his brother and daughter to do it for him. That's the kind of man your daddy is!"

    Reaching up, Rod wrapped his hand around Kenny's blade, cutting his own hand in the process as he pushed the knife away. "He's wrong, Historia. That isn't the truth." Rod's voice was quiet and barely audible for Vera. "It's essential that I do not become a Titan myself. You mustn't believe him. I'm the only man alive you can trust."

    "Is that so?" Kenny finally let go of Rod completely and let his tired body flop over.

    "Father!" Historia rushed to Rod's aid.

    Coughing, Rod looked up at the man before him. "Kenny, you served me well up to this moment. You're free now. Go find another purpose for your life and live out your years."

    Kenny was silent for a few moments before replying. "That'd bore me to death," he huffed, and instead of leaving, he began to climb the crystal staircase up to the ledge Eren was chained upon.

    "Kenny!" Rod called after him. "Just what are you planning to do?"

    "If she wants to turn into a Titan, well then that's her choice to make." Kenny walked over to Eren before grabbing him by his hair and lifting his head. Then, he released the gag from Eren's mouth. "But I say, the boy should get a fair shot. They can both turn Titan and fight it out. If Historia wins, well then you'll have your peace. But if Eren takes her down, the situation stays the same."

    With that, Kenny pulled his blade and sliced open Eren's forehead. Eren didn't even flinch as the blood poured down his face and into his eyes.

    "Go on living for the sake of drawing breath," Kenny scoffed. "That doesn't sound like any kind of life to me."

    Jumping to his feet, Rod pulled a syringe from his pocket and shoved it into Historia's hands. "Historia, take this injection and you'll become a powerful Titan!" His desperation was evident in the way his eyes stared down at his daughter, unblinking and unwavering. "If you can remember, it's not enough just to bite him anywhere. To take his powers, you have to consume his spinal fluid!"

    Staring down at the syringe in her small hands, Historia was too stunned to speak. Mouth agape, she just stood there, unmoving.

    "Reckon I'd better step back." Kenny used his ODM gear to perch high upon one of the pillars, where he would be safe from the incoming danger.

    "Go on! You have to hurry!" Rod encouraged as Historia slowly grasped the syringe with one hand and held the needle inches away from her opposite forearm. Although she was going through the motions, it was clear to see that she didn't want to do this based on how much her hands were shaking.

    Sensing that her time to act was drawing near, Vera pushed the door open a bit more and began to carefully move toward the staircase that led up to Eren.

    Suddenly, Historia let out a gasp, as if she had realized something. "Eren, why?" She looked up at his defeated form, hunched over and motionless. "Why aren't you transforming? You're gonna fight back, aren't you? You can't just let me . . . defend yourself!"

    Lifting his head, Eren looked down at Historia, tears threatening to spill from his eyes.

    "Historia, this is your chance!" Rod continued to egg his daughter on.

    Historia, however, didn't move a muscle. Instead, she waited for Eren to say or do something—anything that indicated he was willing to fight for his own life.

    "It didn't have to be like this," Eren breathed out. "All that death could have been avoided. Five years ago, if Dad hadn't done what he did, your sister . . . she would have been able to do something to stop all this. But because my dad chose to steal your family's power from its rightful owner, countless people ended up getting killed. Armin's grandpa, Vera's dad, Thomas, Nack, Mina, Millius, Marco, everyone on Levi's squad, the people of Stohess, the soldiers who came to save me, and Hannis. I can never atone for all of their pain. That never should have happened. Those days I spent in training, that stupid dream that I could see the world. And me too! I shouldn't have happened. If nothing else, at least let it end at your hand. Take your power back and use it to save humanity. It's all up to you."

    By the time Eren had finished saying what he had to say, tears were streaming down his face and mixing with the fresh blood. He seemed completely and utterly defeated, and Vera began to wonder if it was even her place to step in at all. Was this for the best after all?

    "Eren, I remember when you said I was a normal girl," Historia recalled the conversation she, Eren, and Vera had had in the kitchen of the cabin. "I was so happy."

    Looking down at the syringe once more, Historia tensed up. "What's wrong, Historia?" Rod asked. "Are you scared? All you have to do is inject the liquid into your body."

    "Wait . . . Father . . ." Historia kept her eyes glued to the syringe as if she would plunge the needle into her skin at any moment. "For a hundred years, we had the power . . . but we didn't use it. Why didn't our family do something? If we could control the Titans, then why didn't we liberate humanity?"

    "That's because the same King who built this world within the walls for humanity wanted us to live in fear of the Titans for all of time. The first King believed this to be the only path to lasting peace. But I can't tell you why." Rod grabbed Historia by the wrists. "Because only those who've seen the world's memories can know. Many years ago, my brother and I pleaded with our father to free humanity from the Titans. We asked him time and time again. However, he would not fulfill our wish.

    "Eventually, the time came for one of us to succeed him. After my brother completed the ritual, when I looked into his eyes, I understood. My brother wasn't there. He had become something greater; an omniscient being exempt from death who built and rules over the world we live in. Do you know what such a being is called? God. There is no other word aside from God. So now it's my sacred duty to bring God back to this world and then to offer up my prayers. I'm praying right now, Historia. For God to return and lead mankind once again!"

    As Rod guided Historia's hand tighter around the syringe and the tip began to press against her skin, it seemed as though Historia was going to believe her father's words and let him turn her into a Titan. At the last second, however, something inside of her snapped and she jerked her hand away, throwing the syringe to the ground and letting it shatter, spilling the serum inside all over the crystal floor.

    Rod let out a distraught scream as he grabbed Historia hard by the shoulders. "What have you done?!"

    Eyes narrowing, Historia grabbed her father by the front of his shirt, the same way Kenny had, and used her cadet training to throw him over her shoulder. Something in Rod's body cracked upon collision with the hard ground and he began to screech and wriggle in pain.

    "God, my ass!" Historia shouted down at him. "If it's such an honour to become him, then why didn't you do it yourself?! I'm done with your shit! And I'm not gonna let you murder me!"

    Breaking out into a sprint, Historia grabbed a bag from the ground and began to rush up the steps toward Eren. Sensing this as her cue, Vera began to ascend the steps on the other side, meeting Historia at the top.

    A cackle erupted from Kenny as he watched the scene before himself unfold. "That's the spirit! This is getting good!"

    Reaching into the bag, Historia pulled out a set of keys before tossing the bag to the side, dropping to her knees behind Eren, and beginning to unlock the cuffs around his wrists and ankles. As Vera helped, the two girls made eye contact, neither one bothering to ask or explain the series of events that had led them to this very moment.

    "What the hell are you doing, Historia?" Eren asked, his voice still shaky from crying.

    "Setting you free."

    "No, stop!" Eren tried to convince her otherwise. "You can't! If you don't kill me, then everyone else will keep suffering! Just eat me already, damn it! I can't live like this so end it!"

    Before Vera could attempt to say something encouraging to calm Eren down from his hysterical episode, Historia hit him in the back of the head with her first. "Shut up, dumbass!" She snapped as she cycled through the keys, trying to find the right one. "Stop your crying! I don't care! I don't care about killing all the Titans and I don't care about freeing mankind either! I'm starting to get sick of humanity. I say let 'em get wiped out by Titans! And if that makes me an enemy of humanity, so be it! I don't care if I'm the worst girl who's ever lived!" She managed to unlock one of the cuffs around Eren's ankles and tossed the chain aside haphazardly. "You get the hell out of here with Vera. I'll deal with the rest."

    Before Vera had the chance to grab the next cuff and hold Eren's struggling limb still for Historia, a familiar explosion echoed throughout the chamber before them. In the blink of an eye and a bright, blinding flash of light, the skeleton of a huge forming Titan loomed over the trio.

    While hot steam forced Vera and Historia away from Eren, the two girls gripped the remaining chains tightly and tried to ignore the searing pain from the heat.

    "Stupid bastard!" Kenny could be heard shouting as he made a quick getaway. "What are you doing?"

    "Just leave me, Historia!" Eren pleaded with his friends. "That Titan from your family, let him eat me and everything will be all right! Get out of here!"

    Historia, however, continued to search for the matching key to the next lock. "Not a chance!"

    "Why won't you listen?!"

    "I might be an enemy of humanity now, but I'm still your ally." Historia stuck a key into the keyhole and tried to unlock the cuff on Eren's right leg. "I can't be selfless, and I don't want to be a God but . . . but I see someone crying, saying that no one needs them . . . I have to go and show them that it isn't true. You're feeling like how I felt for my entire life. That's why I need you to be okay!"

    As Historia finally unchained Eren's other leg, the steam billowing out of the Titan pushed him backwards slightly, knocking Vera and Historia off balance and sending them flying backwards. Before either of them smacked into the crystal wall, however, Mikasa appeared behind them and cushioned them.

    Seconds later, Levi dropped down from above, his grey eyes that were usually filled with indifference actually brightening for a split second when he confirmed for himself that Vera hadn't charged herself into her own death.

    "Give me the keys," Levi demanded.

    "Captain, all of you!" Eren whimpered as the rest of the squad landed on the ledge and worked together to unchain the remainder of Eren's limbs. "Just leave me here!" Eren insisted once more, like a damn broken record. "Forget it! Hurry up and escape!"

    Channelling some of Historia's energy, Vera gritted her teeth. "Will you just shut up already?" she snapped. "We didn't come this far to let you die!"

    "Stop whining, you half-naked weirdo!" Jean scolded him as well. "We've got gunmen and a Titan coming at us, so pipe down!"

    Eyes averting to look up at the forming Titan, Vera felt her heart drop into her stomach at the size of it. "Whoa!" Sasha gawked, proving that Vera wasn't the only one distracted by the giant monster before them. "It's even bigger than the Colossal Titan. Crazy."

    As the Titan's skeleton continued to grow and form, it quickly became too big for the chamber it was confined in and began to break through the ceiling, sending chunks of broken crystal falling from above like a rockslide.

    "The ceiling!" Mikasa warned. "Look out!"

    "Get back!" Levi ordered, and at the last second, Jean unlocked Eren's last chain and yanked him backward and out of the way of a falling crystal boulder.

    Shard by shard, the ledge began to break away due to the impact, forcing Vera and the others up against the wall with what little foothold they had left.

    "Damnit! We'll be buried alive," Jean said as the Titan's skin began to take shape over the large skeleton.

    Tears welling in his eyes once more, Eren slid down the wall and dropped to the ground. "Sorry," he wept. "I can't. I've been dead weight every damn step of the way. This power never should have been given to me. I can't be humanity's hope; I'm just too weak."

    "Come on! Stop playing the tragic hero," Jean scoffed. "Of course, you're too weak to accomplish jack by yourself, but no one expects you to."

    "Yeah, calm it down," Connie agreed. "We've been through a whole lot worse than this, man."

    Sasha grimaced. "Not that I really want to get used to it."

    "Still, it's gonna suck trying to fly through that mess." Connie gestured to the only way out, which the Titan and its gusts of hot steam were blocking.

    "I'll take Eren," Mikasa volunteered.

    "It's gonna take all that we have to not get hit, so hold on for your life." Jean turned to Historia, the only other person who wasn't equipped with ODM gear.

    Historia nodded. "Right."

    "It's useless." Eren insisted on only seeing the many ways they could possibly die. "You know we won't make it."

    "So we should do nothing?" Historia retorted. "Want to sit here and hold hands until we're crushed? Or until we burn to death? You know dying here won't make anything better!"

    "Listen," Levi interveined to put a stop to the bickering. "I really hate that I do this to you all the time, but you've got to make a choice here." He looked down at Eren.

    Instead of answering with his words, Eren grabbed a vial of serum from the ground that had fallen out of the bag Historia had discarded and charged forward. Seconds before leaping off the edge of the ledge and transforming, Eren placed the glass vial into his mouth and bit down, spilling shards of glass and the serum into his mouth. Then, just like he had countless times before, he transformed into his Titan form.

    Following another explosion and flash of light, Eren's Titan stood before the squad, except this time strands of crystal were shooting out all around his body, growing toward the ceiling like tree branches growing over the passing seasons.

    Sensing the plan almost immediately, Levi ushered the squad underneath Eren for protection as the crystal pillars providing support for the chamber began to break under the pressure of the expanding Titan.

    As the underground maze of crystal caverns beneath the Reiss estate began to crumble, Eren's newfound power—presumably from the serum he ingested—formed a spiderweb-like crystal barrier around himself and the squad to protect them from the collapsing chamber.

    While chaos unfolded all around her, Vera was only focused on the thing—the giant Titan that was now pulling itself along the ground, making its way back toward the wall.

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  • lostinthewiind
    12.01.2022 - 6 days ago

    *PLANNING* on writing a new chapter of Brave Heart tonight. You all have been so patient with me so you deserve it!

    Hopefully I'll actually have the motivation to start writing again!

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  • lostinthewiind
    09.01.2022 - 1 week ago

    SEASON 4 PART 2 PREMIERE OF ATTACK ON TITAN TODAY LADIES AND GENTS AND NON-BINARY LEGENDS ‌‌‌

    #lostinthewiind #attack on titian #aot #season 4 part 2 #premiere #IM HYPE ARE YOU HYPE?!?!?
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  • lostinthewiind
    04.01.2022 - 2 weeks ago

    Once again letting everyone know that Brave Heart has NOT been abandoned. I am on a holiday trip with my family until January 10th and then I plan to slowly start chipping away at the remaining chapters!

    I am very excited for what is to come and thank you all for sticking with me during this extended break while I deal with school and family stuff :)

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  • lostinthewiind
    14.12.2021 - 1 mont ago

    Update on Brave Heart for anyone wondering - I'm in a planning phase right now where I'm sort of planning out the remaining chapters and rewatching some of the show because I've forgotten quite a bit of the later seasons😂

    So, once again, I haven't abandoned it, just doing a lot of work behind the scenes currently!

    I think you guys are really gonna like what's to come!

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  • lostinthewiind
    10.12.2021 - 1 mont ago
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  • lostinthewiind
    08.12.2021 - 1 mont ago

    Brave Heart: Chapter Twenty-Nine

    Attack on Titan

    Rating: Mature

    Warnings: sexual themes, death, gore, mature themes, extreme violence, body horror, blood, weapons, major character death, age-gap relationship

    "Captain, we bought the supplies," Jean said as he, Armin, and Mikasa returned from the city to the temporary encampment in the woods the squad had settled into.

    Pulling a paper out of his pocket, Armin handed it over to Levi. "They were handing out these flyers," he explained as he pointed to the crudely drawn picture of Levi on the front, along with the blurb about how all Scouts were wanted criminals and needed to be turned in to the MPs. "If this is true, the Scouts will be disbanded. They say they'll be hunting for us in the mountains tonight. They're also posting guards on all the vital roads; no one can get through them without a pass. So, Captain, what now?"

    Glancing at the flyer over Levi's shoulder, Vera tutted her tongue as she skimmed the paragraphs detailing Erwin's arrest and how he had apparently had Dimo Reeves murdered. Vera and the rest of Levi's squad were so out of the loop they hadn't even known Dimo had been killed in the first place, let alone that the MPs were pinning it on Erwin and the Scouts.

    "We need to hurry and find Eren," Mikasa said for about the third time that day.

    "He'll be fine," Levi insisted. "They're taking him on a wagon. That gives us one day before they reach Reiss' estate and we need every second we can get to come up with a plan."

    All of a sudden, Sasha whipped her head around and stared into the trees. "Captain, I hear footsteps," she alerted, putting her past as a hunter to good use. "It sounds like they're approaching."

    Thinking fast, Levi ordered everyone except Armin into the trees. Then, using Armin as bait, they waited until their pursuers fell right into their trap. When the pair of young MPs stumbled upon Armin innocently collecting water from a nearby stream, they lifted their guns and pointed them at him without hesitation.

    "Don't move!" the male MP with black hair and a bowl-cut shouted. "Turn around slowly."

    Standing up, Armin lifted his hands into the air and spun around as he was instructed, a look of disinterest plastered on his face.

    "You must be a Scout," the male seethed. "Not a sound. Don't say a word. Now listen and do exactly as I instruct you to."

    With Armin giving the subtle cue, Mikasa and Vera leapt down from the trees, their blades to the MPs' throats in an instant. Levi had originally offered to carry out the ambush with Mikasa, but since his leg was still healing, Vera took his place instead. Her arm was still a little sore on occasion, but after everything she had been through, a little bullet graze on her bicep was the least of her worries.

    "That's the way," Levi nodded as he too descended from above. "Now hand your guns to the one in front."

    Lowering his arms, Armin collected the rifles from the soldiers. "Don't say a word, right?" He glared at the male.

    As soon as the MPs were unarmed, they were stripped of their cloaks and ODM gear. Levi suggested that a pair from the squad should try to slip past the checkpoint disguised as MPs and attempt to find out where Eren was. It wasn't the best plan, and Levi even admitted that himself, but time was running out and it was all they had.

    Pulling out the two IDs from each soldier's clothing, Jean handed them over to Levi.

    "Now then, you're Stohess District Military Police." Levi eyed the IDs as he paced, a single blade resting on his shoulder to induce fear. "Private Marlo Freudenberg. Same assignment, Private Hitch Dreyse. We'll need to dispose of you."

    Both Marlo and Hitch, who were now on their knees with their wrists bound, startled at the thought of what 'dispose' could possibly mean.

    "Because of what you did, Stohess was a graveyard!" Hitch, the girl with short blonde hair snapped. "Over a hundred people were killed!"

    Levi cocked a brow at the girl. "Huh?"

    "Hey," Marlo tried to warn his friend, but it was to no avail.

    "You bastards," Hitch seethed. "I bet you all think you're some kind of heroes of justice, but you're not! You dropped dozens of innocent families straight into hell on that mission of yours!"

    "Yeah, we did." Levi didn't even bother trying to deny it.

    Gritting her teeth, Hitch turned to look at Vera and the others. "Hey, you!" She addressed them as one. "You're from the southern Cadet Corps, right? So you trained with Annie Leonhart? Were you friends of hers?" She then hung her head. "No, she wouldn't have made friends there either. Way too gloomy and unapproachable for that. She was just afraid of people, like a scared little kid. Now I'll never get the chance to learn anything about her. She's officially listed as missing. You know why? It's because one of your Titans turned her into an ugly red stain on the street!"

    "Actually, no, it's because the Titan we captured was Annie Leonhart herself," Levi told them. Both Marlo and Hitch gasped. "Goddamnit, it makes me sick. Nobody knows a thing about this world; not us or anyone else. Except for the bastards at the center of it all. We're letting you go." He decided. "But we need to give ourselves a head start on you."

    Eyes wide, Hitch's jaw dropped. "Annie," she gasped.

    "Hey, Captain Levi!" Marlo looked over his shoulder at Levi. "Please, let me join in your cause! I believe that the Military Police are in the wrong here. If there's any way that I can fight this world's injustice, then that's what I want to do!"

    "Easy, calm down." Levi glared down at the begging boy.

    "I swear, I won't let you down, Sir!"

    Levi shook his head. "No, I have no way of telling if you have enough resolve to make an enemy of the state." He turned to his squad. "Let's go. Take them deeper into the woods and tie them up, Sasha."

    Running over with her bow and quiver of arrows she had picked up along the way strapped to her back, Sasha got to work. While she headed in the opposite direction with Marlo and Hitch, Vera and the rest of the squad trekked into the woods to escape.

    "Hey, Captain." Jean stopped Levi as he passed by. "Would you let me do it instead?"

    Eyeing Jean for any sort of trickery he might be up to, Levi shrugged. "Knock yourself out."

    With that, Jean replaced Sasha and took over escorting Marlo and Hitch further into the brush, still without their cloaks or gear.

    Trudging through the foliage, Vera wrapped her cloak tighter around her body and tried to focus on the steps she was taking instead of the constant barrage of troubles circulating her mind. Ever since Hange had dropped the suspected bombshell on her about her parents, she hadn't had adequate time to sit down and process it all; which, honestly, was probably for the best.

    Instead, Vera focused on moving forward and staying concentrated on what was really important. When Vera had signed up to be a soldier, she had taken an oath and swore that the good of humanity would always come before herself, and now she had to uphold that oath whether she liked it or not.

    Minutes after departing from the stream, Jean came jogging back through the woods, Marlo and Hitch still with him. At first, everyone had reached for their weapons, convinced the two MPs had taken Jean hostage and were coming for them next. When Jean explained that he had tested the two young soldiers and that they had proven their loyalty to the cause, he vouched for them to Captain Levi. Levi subsequently agreed to allow Marlo and Hitch to assist their efforts and returned their cloaks and ODM gear.

    Wanting to be as helpful as possible, and with the disguising as MPs plan off of the table now, Marlo and Hitch led the squad to a nearby checkpoint at the edge of the woods and showed them the best place to observe from without getting caught.

    "Far as I know, this is the least-manned checkpoint in the region," Marlo said as he pointed out the small checkpoint on the dirt road, manned by what only looked like four or five soldiers.

    "Good." Levi scoped out the surrounding area. "We'll handle things from here. Get back to your squad before they're suspicious."

    Marlo nodded. "Right."

    As they turned to leave, Levi stopped them. "Marlo, Hitch, we're grateful," he told them.

    "Sir." They saluted in response.

    "All right." Levi spun around to face his squad, who were crouched in the bushes. "This time we're picking the fight."

    Circling back to further up the dirt road, about a mile away from the checkpoint, the squad hijacked a wagon and from there, the hail-mary plan was concocted. With Jean in the driver's seat and Sasha and Connie on either side of him, they sped down the road and crashed right through the checkpoint barricade.

    Leaping out of the back of the wagon, Vera, Levi, and Armin helped take care of the remaining soldiers that Jean hadn't run over with his horse and wagon. In a matter of minutes, they had secured the entire checkpoint with ease and waited for Levi to retrieve the commanding officer in charge.

    "Stand down," Levi announced his presence as he dragged the groaning, pained officer through the grass.

    "Captain, isn't he-" Armin gawked at the man with long brown hair, a mustache, and the sense to keep quiet when it best suited him.

    "He's with the Interior Police," Levi said. "I've got questions for him. Let's move."

    Hours later, once the sun had set and the officer had spent a while tied to a tree to think about whether he wanted to cooperate or not, Levi started his interrogation with the cover of the night and the relative emptiness of the woods providing adequate privacy.

    "Screw you!" the officer snapped, clearly unwilling to spill any information without at least a little bit of coaxing.

    Giving the man a swift kick to the stomach, Levi tried again. "Where'd they take Eren and Krista?" He kneeled down to stare the man dead in the eyes.

    The officer scoffed. "You bastards. You think you're so brave? That post was manned by recruits. They barely even knew how to wipe their own asses. No one's gonna think you're heroes for beating them down."

    "Yeah, the guilt's tearing me apart," Levi said, monotone and emotionless as always before he shoved his boot into the officer's mouth, knocking out some of his teeth in the process. "But what really gets at me is this mouth of yours. I'm gonna suggest that you start talking while you're still able to use it. Now, where are Eren and Krista?"

    Vera winced slightly. She knew Levi had a violent side and wasn't afraid to use torture and pain to get his way when he needed it—hell, she had even been on the receiving end of it once before—but seeing him so calm and collected while he did it was chilling.

    Grabbing Levi's ankle, the officer threw the boot out of his mouth, spitting blood and teeth onto the ground. "You can't win! All that's left for you now is to find some filthy corner to hide in, covered in mud and shit!" he fumed. "If you don't turn yourselves in, then every last Scout we captured will get the noose, starting with the guiltiest one of all, Erwin Smith!"

    Lunging forward, Levi spun the man around before shoving his face into the bark of the tree, holding his arm tightly behind his back, and jerking slightly. The man let out a yelp when something in his arm snapped.

    Sasha and Connie, who were standing closest to the action along with Vera, had looks of shock and disgust on their faces as they watched the brutal scene before themselves unfold. Farther into the woods, Vera was sure Mikasa, Armin, and Jean could at least hear the screams and sounds of violence.

    "That's right," Levi seethed. "That's what you get for not answering my question. Some Scouts' lives are more valuable than others. Only those dumb enough to agree to that join us. Again, where'd they take Eren and Krista?"

    Sliding down to the base of the tree once Levi has released him, the officer shook his head, tears streaming down his cheeks and blood pouring from his mouth. "I don't know!" he insisted. "Nobody told me, I swear! Kenny Ackerman doesn't like to make his business known!"

    Mikasa perked up at the mention of the last name that she apparently shared with the infamous Kenny the Ripper.

    "Ackerman?" Levi tilted his head, intrigued. "I know Kenny. That his last name?"

    "It is!"

    "He never was much of one for sharing information; not important stuff, anyway." Levi dusted his hands off on his pants. "But I bet you have a rough idea. You best try to remember."

    As Levi approached the officer once more, he began to cry out and beg. "No, stop!"

    "You still have plenty of bones left for me to break." Levi held the officer's arm behind his back once more.

    "Damnit!" the officer shrieked. "Are you insane?!"

    Levi, as straightfaced as ever, just stared down at the man. "Maybe."

    Before Levi could inflict any more damage, Sasha had heard something in the distance and loaded an arrow into her bow. "Somebody's coming towards us!" she warned.

    Thinking quick, Levi pushed the officer down into the grass, holding him in place to make sure he didn't escape while everyone else prepared for a possible fight.

    "There's more than one," Sasha added as Armin and Connie dropped to their stomachs, guns at the ready.

    Drawing her blades, Vera pressed her back into the bark of a tree as she tried to stay as hidden as possible. Focusing on keep her breathing slow and even, she did her best to peer around the tree without giving away her position.

    "I told you. You're beat," the officer mocked them. "Struggle all you want. One way or another, the Survey Corps will be destroyed!"

    Even though it was pitch black outside, Vera could still make out the two figures moving toward them through the tall grass. Additionally, she could also make out the faint silhouettes of the guns they were holding, proving that whoever they were, they were armed.

    Vera's heart pounded against her chest, but as she tightened her grip around her blade handles, the two figures stopped just close enough for finer details to be seen and removed their hoods, revealing Hange and Moblit.

    The squad let out a collective sigh of relief. Weapons lowered on both ends, Hange handed over a report she had brought with her that detailed everything going on back in the city. While Levi held the parchment, eyes lazily sweeping from line to line, his squad gathered around, reading over his shoulder at the same time.

    "And there you have it, the coup was successful," Hange summarized as the squad finished reading the detailing of events that ended in the government being overthrown by Commander Pyxis and the Garrison Regiment, the outing of the false King, and the sparing of Commander Erwin's life. "Premier Zachary now has full control of the Capital and government. For the time being, at least. The nobles seem to be staying in line."

    "Okay, but what about the incident with Mr. Reeves?" Armin asked.

    Hange smirked, clearly proud of herself. "We got a public confession out of the Interior Police. Reeves' son Flegel really pulled through for us."

    "What a twist of events," Vera noted, greatly relieved that things were looking up.

    Pulling another folded paper out of her pocket, Hange handed it to Levi as well. It was a printed newspaper describing the events in detail for the public to read. "It's all written right there," Hange said. "The abuse of power, the bogus charged against the Scouts, and that King Fritz was both a puppet and a fraud. It's clear that we only acted in self-defence. In short, we're no longer criminals."

    All at once, Vera and the rest of the squad—excluding Levi, of course—began to cheer and celebrate, overjoyed that they no longer had to be on the run, evading civilization for fear of being captured and sentenced to death.

    "That can't be," the soldier Levi had tied to a nearby tree gasped. "They beat us?"

    Levi, however, just ignored the MP. Instead, he continued to scan the newspaper. "Looks like Erwin's gamble paid off," he commented.

    "That it did," Hange agreed with a nod. "But it wasn't just Erwin who gambled. Many people had to make a lot of hard choices for this to work."

    "Whereas my choices got three of your people killed." Levi looked to Hange, who was probably the closest thing he had to a friend, aside from Erwin. "I'm sorry."

    Hange just smiled, most likely a result of how things had turned out and the fact that Levi was showing some glimpse of emotion.

    "Here's the thing." Levi averted his gaze from Hange's grin. "The Interiors may have lost, but not all of them know it. They still have Eren and Historia too. We need to find them quickly."

    "Right." Hange yet again pulled something from her cloak, this time what looked like a book or journal of some kind. "I think I know where they might be. Let's get there and put an end to this fight."

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  • lostinthewiind
    08.12.2021 - 1 mont ago

    Ways to Make You Talk

    Reiner Braun + Porco Gilliard - Attack on Titan

    Synopsis: after being found out as an enemy informant among the Marelyans, you are put through hours of interrogation to spill your secrets. You've been trained to keep your mouth shut at moments like this, but Reiner and Porco have alternate ways of making you talk

    Rating: Mature/Explicit

    Warnings: female reader, threesome, rough-sex, penetrative sex, female anatomy, male anatomy, unsafe sex, orgasm denial, oral sex (both male and female receiving), double penetration, degradation, praise, torture, pain, mention blood and of bodily harm, profanity

    Hands tied uncomfortably behind your back and ankles tied to the wooden legs of the chair, you fought against the restraints and tensed your muscles in a fruitless attempt to escape. You had lost track of how many hours, or maybe even days, you had been trapped in the dark, dank cellar with just enough rest and water to keep you from passing out.

    Passing out wasn't the thing you were most worried about, however. No, the thing constantly playing on repeat in your mind was the top-secret details about your mission that you absolutely couldn't let spill from your chapped lips, no matter how much pain or how many mind games the Marelyans inflicted on you.

    Giving up information was not an option, but keeping silent was slowly getting harder and harder. However, nothing could compare to what Reiner and Porco had in store for you. They were determined to make you talk, and they had tricks up their sleeves that you couldn't have anticipated in your wildest dreams.

    When the door swung open and the two men stepped inside, you straightened in your chair and held your head high, refusing to show any form of weakness in front of them. Even though you had been threatened, blackmailed, beaten, and more, you couldn't let it look like it was bothering you, not even in the slighest.

    "Well, well, don't you look all high and mighty," Porco sneered, his eyes narrowing as he closed the door behind himself and Reiner, blocking the bright light from the hallway from getting in; the only source of light in the room coming from a small window in the corner and a single lantern. He then stalked over to you, leaning down so he was level with your face. "You must think you're real smart for pulling one over on us all this time. But let me tell you something, bitch, we've got you now and we're going to pry every last secret from you if it's the last thing we do."

    "Over my dead body." You spat onto his face. "I'm not confessing jack shit to the likes of you."

    "Over your dead body, huh?" Porco grinned wide as he wiped the saliva from his cheek. "Well, we can always arrange that if it's what you want."

    With that, Porco wound up and smacked you hard across the face. Your cheek stung and you could tell it was probably bright red, but it wasn't anywhere near the worst you had endured thus far and you didn't even blink when his palm made contact with your skin.

    "Pathetic." You smirked, slowly turning your head back to face him. "Some warrior you are."

    Porco wound up again, but before he could smack you across the other cheek, Reiner stepped in and grabbed him by the wrist. "Easy," he warned his friend. "This wasn't the plan, remember?"

    "Right." Porco shook his hand out of Reiner's grip before slowly lowering his arm.

    Making his way over to the small table against the wall, where the lantern and a few supplies that had been used to torture you sat, Reiner began to unbutton his cuffs and roll his sleeves up his muscular forearms.

    "Reiner Braun," you nearly sing-songed as you watched his muscles bulge underneath the skin-tight button-up he was wearing. "Always such a sweetheart. You gonna untie me and let me out of here, big boy?"

    Reiner just shook his head and scoffed. "And why would I do that?"

    "Because you like me." You batted your eyelashes, hoping you could use the large man's soft spot for you against him. "I promise I'll make it worth your while. I'll do whatever you want."

    "Fucking slut." Porco rolled his eyes. "You really think that'll work?"

    "You're just pissed because I never fucked you despite your many desperate attempts to get into my pants," you told him simply, hoping it hit him right in the fragile spot under his otherwise thick skin. "And neither did Pieck . . . and she never will."

    You could almost see Porco's anger rising and could tell he was seconds away from lashing out again, which was exactly what you wanted. Reiner was too calm and calculated to try and manipulate like this, but Porco was a whole different story; if you pushed just a little harder, he was more than likely to snap and make a mistake. All you had to do then was make your move.

    "Remember the plan," Reiner reminded Porco from across the room.

    You snickered. "What plan? I'm curious to see what you two geniuses think will make me talk when countless hours of excruciating pain hasn't."

    "We're taking a different approach this time." Porco grabbed your face hard and forced you to look up at him. "Pain obviously doesn't work on you . . ." he lifted his foot and settled it on the chair between your legs before forcing your thighs apart, ". . . but maybe pleasure will get you to loosen that pretty fucking mouth of yours. Either way, you'll be squealing real soon, bitch."

    You furrowed your brows as Porco squished your cheeks together, distorting your amused smile. "Pleasure?" you questioned, skeptical. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"

    "Exactly what it sounds like." Reiner was suddenly behind you, brushing your hair over your shoulder and whispering into your ear, his hot breath sending shivers down your spine. "You'll be a good girl and tell us what we want to hear, won't you?"

    "In your dreams, Reiner." You shook your head and pulled away from his deep voice. "Not only am I not saying a goddamn word, but I'm not going to let you two perverts have your way with me."

    "That's the best part." Porco reached for the zipper of his pants and began pulling it down, the sound slow and mocking. "You don't have a choice."

    Eyes wide, you struggled to find something to say in response to that. "So what, you two are just going to force yourselves on me?"

    "No, of course not," Reiner assured you as he pulled up another chair behind you, sat down, and reached around your body to ghost his fingers over your lower waist and thighs. "You'll be begging us for it soon enough."

    Your breathing hitched when Reiner pressed his whole hand down onto you, skipping any and all subtle touching and moving straight to palming your clothed core.

    "Don't fucking touch me." You craned your neck to look back at him, but he wasn't looking at your face. Instead, he was observing the way your body naturally reacted to him, your legs spreading wider and back arching ever-so-slightly.

    "I thought you would appreciate a change of pace." Reiner planted a wet, open-mouthed kiss to the crook of your neck. "All this pain . . . wouldn't you like some pleasure instead?"

    Speechless, you spun your head back around, but when you did you were met with the lewd sight of Porco standing before you, cock in his hand, slowly pumping himself to a full erection.

    "Jesus!" you gasped, both at the sight itself and the size of what Porco was packing. "This is sick. You're both sick!"

    "But look at you. Your hips are practically chasing after Reiner's hand." Porco pointed out, a shit-eating grin on his face. "Doesn't that make you sick too?"

    Dropping your head, you felt your body tense when you laid eyes on Reiner's fingers massaging you over your pants. Sure enough, without even realizing it, you had been subtly bucking your hips up to meet his gentle touch.

    "Fucking hell." You threw your head back, completely baffled by the situation and how you were reacting to it. In all your training, you had never been prepared for something like this, and clearly, it was showing. Your body was betraying you every chance it could, and even worse, Reiner and Porco knew it too.

    "Does that feel good, sweet girl?" Reiner's voice was in your ear again in between nibbles and soft kisses to your neck and shoulder. "Tell me what you want me to do. Where should I touch you next?"

    Forcing your lips together, you shook your head, refusing to answer.

    "Guess it's dealer's choice then." Reiner began to push his hand down the front of your pants while his other hand looped around from the other side and began to pinch at your nipple through your shirt. "What about this? How's this?"

    Eyes locking onto Reiner's, your mouth fell open when his rough fingers found your bare clit. Before you had the chance to get a single sound out, however, your face was grabbed harshly and something thick and hard was pushed past your lips.

    Letting out a muffled yelp, you stared up at Porco through your lashes in complete disbelief that he had just shoved his cock into your mouth without any warning like that. Sure, he had always been a cocky son of a bitch, but this was on a whole new level.

    "Ah, ah, no teeth." Porco disobeyed you with the shake of his finger when you tried to speak. "You know how to do this, I know you do. So be a good girl and suck my cock and maybe Reiner will give you what you really want."

    Jaw going slack, you closed your eyes in acceptance as Porco slowly sheathed himself all the way into your mouth, the tip of his cock poking the back of your throat when your nose pressed into his stomach.

    "So fucking warm and wet, just how I always imagined," Porco hissed. "Fuck all this bullshit. How about you just spill all your secrets right now and, if you promise to be my personal little fucktoy, we can spare your life."

    You furrowed your brows, facial expressions the only way you could express your distaste for that idea.

    "No, don't like the sound of that?" Porco laughed as he pulled out slowly, a string of saliva connecting your tongue to the tip of his cock. "Still not giving in?"

    "You can throatfuck me as hard and as long as you want," you challenged. "I'm still not telling you shit."

    Porco's eyes lit up. "Don't test me, slut." With that, he forced your mouth open again with his hand before shoving his cock back down your throat, thrusting hard and fast a few times to truly test your resolve. "Still nothing?"

    You shook your head.

    "Speak now or forever hold your peace, because you won't be able to say much of anything when I'm done with you." He gave you a few seconds to change your mind, but he was beyond pleased when you didn't. "Too bad . . . for you."

    Grabbing you by the throat, Porco squeezed as he started fucking your mouth relentlessly. Meanwhile, Reiner had been playing with your nipples and rubbing slow circles over your clit the entire time. Once Porco had fallen into a rhythmic pace, you were able to focus back on Reiner's movements and how well your body was responding to him.

    "I can tell you want to be full from the other end as well." Reiner licked a stripe up your neck to the shell of your ears. "I'd ask you to beg for it, but it's rude to speak with your mouth full."

    When Reiner's fingers travelled down to your entrance, you inhaled sharply, throat tightening around Porco and causing him to let out a moan of pleasure.

    "Fuck, dude, whatever you did, do it again," Porco told Reiner, and the ladder quickly obliged. You inhaled sharply once more when Reiner prodded you and, yet again, Porco moaned. "That's it, bitch, just like that."

    Then, in one fluid motion, Reiner inserted two of his thick, rough fingers into your pussy and you let out a muffled cry of pleasure. "You're so tight, princess," Reiner cooed, his soft and loving words a stark contrast to Porco's snarky, insulting ones. "Bet you'd feel so good around my cock. You'd like that, huh? Want me to hold you in my arms and fuck you like the good girl you are?"

    All you could do was nod, but even that movement was severely limited thanks to Porco's cock in your mouth.

    "Yeah?" Reiner's chuckle was low and caused you to clench around his fingers. "Shit, baby, I want nothing more than to feel your velvet walls around me. If I untie you, will you be a good girl?"

    You attempted to nod again, and when you did, not a single plan of escape crossed your mind. All you wanted at that moment was the use of your limbs again so you could use them to impale yourself on Reiner and ride him with every ounce of strength you had left.

    Pulling his fingers out of you, Reiner stuffed them into his mouth to suck your juices off before he shot a look to Porco, silently telling him to back away so he could untie you.

    As soon as Porco slid himself out of your throat, you drew in a deep breath of air followed by a light chuckle. "This is the best form of interrogation I've ever experienced," you admitted shamelessly. "Who knew you two had it in you."

    "Watch what comes out of that mouth of yours." Porco jabbed a finger in your direction, his other hand occupied with fisting himself. "Or I'll plug it up again."

    Before you could shoot back a remark, Reiner was using his pocket knife to cut the rope around your wrists and ankles. As soon as your limbs were free, he was lifting you off the chair and taking it for himself.

    "Strip," he ordered, eyes glued to you like a hawk.

    Smirk playing at the corners of your mouth, you pulled your shirt over your head and tossed it back at Porco, not even bothering to spare him a glance over your shoulder. Then, you undid the button on your pants and slowly slid them down your legs, putting on a little show for Reiner as a thank you for him treating you so nicely thus far.

    Once you were in nothing but your underwear, you straightened up again, waiting for his next command.

    "Off." He eyed your underwear. "Take it all off."

    Giving a slight nod, you looped your fingers under the band of your underwear and slowly stepped out of them, leaving yourself fully nude.

    Turning around, you forced a sweet smile as you approached Porco. When you got to him, you balled up your panties and shoved them in his mouth. "It's your turn to taste me." You gave him a gentle pat on the puffed-out cheek before turning your attention back to Reiner, who was patiently waiting for you.

    As you padded barefoot back in his direction, Reiner patted his clothed lap and you instantly obeyed. Straddling his muscular thighs, you wrapped your arms around his neck and pressed your bare pussy down onto the bulge in his pants. You both let out a breathy moan.

    "How come we never did this sooner?" You continued to grind on him, the pleasure starting to build with the faintest touch.

    "You were too busy being a dirty little traitor," he reminded you calmly. "But better late than never, right?"

    "Mmm," you agreed wordlessly seconds before Reiner grabbed the back of your head and shoved his tongue into your mouth in the most heated and passionate kiss you had ever experienced.

    Lips colliding over and over again, fueled by pure lust, you reached down between your bodies and, after a little bit of fumbling, managed to pull Reiner's cock out of his pants. He was already rock hard and, evidenced by the slick mess you had left on his pants, you were more than ready to take him.

    "Fuck me," you pleaded into his mouth.

    "Gladly." He sucked your bottom lip between his teeth, biting down just hard enough to draw blood as he lined himself up with your entrance and pushed into your waiting pussy.

    In unison, you gasped into each other's mouths. Neither of you was able to form a single coherent thought, the only thing going through your minds being the feeling of the other person.

    Your hands roaming Reiner's body, fingers brushing over his toned muscles, you eventually needed more and ripped his shirt open so you could feel his skin pressed against yours. While your hands explored every inch of his body, his hands were gripping your hips so hard his fingers were probably digging bruises into the supple flesh there. With his hold on you strong, he was able to move you up and down on his cock, maneuvering your body in whatever way felt best for him.

    Then, all of a sudden, you began to feel another pair of hands grabbing at and smacking your asscheeks. "I'm getting so lonely," Porco said as he knelt behind you. "Think you've got room for one more?"

    Mind too foggy with pleasure to even begin processing what that could possibly mean, you let out a gasp when you felt something warm and wet circling your asshole.

    "Hey, eyes on me." Reiner forced you to look at him when you tried to glance back at what Porco was doing. "I'm the one fucking you, right? Not him. He could never fuck you this well."

    You had expected Porco to pipe up when he heard that, but when he didn't, you remembered that it was probably a part of the plan from the beginning. That, and his mouth was too busy sucking and licking at your asshole. Despite that, you had to keep in mind that none of this was real—it was all a ploy to get you to start talking.

    However, just as soon as you had remembered, you forgot all over again when Porco pushed a single finger into your ass and you clenched around his digit and Reiner's cock.

    "Fuck!" you cried out, feeling fuller than ever and completely unable to comprehend taking both of their cocks at once.

    "That's it!" Porco exclaimed. "You're probably fucking thrilled to be used by both of us at once. Is this what you fantasize about in that filthy mind of yours?"

    You were unable to answer because, before you knew it, Reiner's mouth was on yours again and, after wrapping his arms around you, he stood up and brought you with him, cock still buried deep inside of you.

    As you wrapped your legs around Reiner's waist, Porco came up behind you, finger slipping out of your ass and replacing the sensation with his cockhead poking at your backside. "Ready?" He breathed in your ear before beginning to push himself inside of you, your ass barely loosened up enough beforehand for the experience to be anywhere near enjoyable. "Nevermind, it doesn't matter." He laughed. "You didn't think it would all be pleasure, did you? Come on. What's pleasure without a little bit of pain, huh?"

    Tears welling in your eyes, your jaw clenched as you tried to focus on the feeling of Reiner kissing down your neck instead of the feeling of Porco fucking you from behind.

    "It hurts!" you complained, fingernails digging into Reiner's back.

    "You can take it, I know you can." Reiner stepped forward, squishing you tighter between him and Porco "Be a good girl and take Porco's cock for me and I'll rub your clit just the way you like, okay?"

    As tears started to spill from your eyes and drip down your cheeks, you swallowed your wails and pushed through the discomfort and pain, just like you had a hundred times before this interrogation method. After all, if you really thought about it, this was nowhere near as bad as being beaten within an inch of your life; the only reason it seemed so bad was because you had been spoiled with nothing but euphoria lately.

    Drawing in a deep breath, you forced yourself to relax. "Good girl," Reiner praised as he shifted some of your weight into Porco's arms and used his free hand to rub small, quick circles into your clit just as he had said he would.

    "Shit!" Porco growled as he bottomed out and buried his face into the crook of your neck and pressed his chest flush against your back. "Even better than her fucking mouth, if you can believe it. I'm not gonna last long like this."

    "Yeah," Reiner grunted out. "This pussy is to die for. I'm close too."

    Sandwiched between the two men, you barely paid attention to what they were saying until they were addressing you specifically.

    "If you cum before us, I'm gonna rip your fingernails out one by one." Porco threatened and the idea of a true torture method after everything sent a chill down your spine.

    "You can hold out, can't you?" Reiner's approach was much kinder, and before you knew what you were doing, you were happily agreeing with a nod. "I knew you would say yes. My perfect little fucking girl. Such a good girl for me."

    You swore you could cum right then and there just from Reiner calling you his 'good girl', but you also fully believed Porco's threat, so you tried to think about something else while both men rutted into you over and over again, harsh puffs of air escaping their mouths as they neared their climaxes.

    "Gonna cum so far inside you, you'll be leaking for days." Porco tightened his grip on you and you whined in response to his dirty words. "Not so snarky now, are you? Pretty quiet after you've been fucked stupid, huh?"

    Not a minute later, both Reiner and Porco had picked up their paces, and after a few final thrusts, buried themselves as deep inside of you as they could and came together, chests heaving.

    You had managed to hold out, but just barely. You could feel yourself getting closer as they twitched inside of you, the coil of tension in your stomach ready to release at any moment.

    "Fuck, that was incredible." Porco loosened his grip on you, and as he pulled himself out of your abused hole, Reiner did the same.

    "Been too long," Reiner agreed.

    "Wait," you whimpered when your feet touched the ground and both men walked away from you, completely ignoring you and beginning to collect the clothes they had discarded. "What about me?"

    Porco scoffed. "What about you?"

    "I . . . I . . ." You pressed your thighs together, desperate for any little bit of friction you could get. Knees weak, you slowly dropped down, exhaustion and frustration taking over. "I was a good girl." You peered up at Reiner like a stray puppy. "I was a good girl for you, just like you asked. Don't I get to cum now?"

    "Well, of course, you do." Reiner tucked his cocked back into pants before kneeling down before you and hooking his fingers under your chin. "You've just got to do one more thing for me, okay? Then I'll let you cum."

    Brain completely drunk on the thought of getting the release you craved, you nodded enthusiastically. "Anything!"

    Reiner grinned. "Just tell me everything you know."

    #attack on titan #sexy time#lostinthewiind#smut #attack on titan smut #x reader#reader imagine#reader insert#reiner braun #reiner x reader #reiner braun x reader #porco x reader #porco galliard x reader #porco gilliard #reiner x porco #reiner x porco x reader
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  • lostinthewiind
    07.12.2021 - 1 mont ago

    Hello everyone, just thought I'd pop in to share a little announcement.

    So idk if I posted this on here, but for the past month my university has been on strike and I have had no classes (also severely fucked up my education but admin doesn't seem to care about that). As a result, I have been able to post and update a lot more frequently (sometimes 2-3 times a day)

    However, now that the strike has ended, I will be back in class until December 23rd, so I wanted to let you all know that updates for Brave Heart and other fics will probably be less frequent.

    I do not plan to abandon Brave Heart, it just might not be updated nearly as often as it has been.

    Thanks for all the love for my stories and fics recently, I really appreciate it! Much love ❀

    #lostinthewiind#fanfiction#brave heart#haikyuu #attack on titian #break#strike #my university literally doesnt give a single fuck about the students #im filled with stress and anxiety #help
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  • lostinthewiind
    06.12.2021 - 1 mont ago

    Brave Heart: Chapter Twenty-Eight

    Attack on Titan

    Rating: Mature

    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."

    "Sir!"

    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."

    "Like what?"

    "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.

    View Full
  • lostinthewiind
    05.12.2021 - 1 mont ago

    Brave Heart: Chapter Twenty-Seven

    Attack on Titan

    Rating: Mature

    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.

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  • lostinthewiind
    05.12.2021 - 1 mont ago

    Not me wanting to start writing for Fire Force because I suddenly remembered just how much of a HOT DILF Captain Obi is ❀ AND CAPTAIN SHINMON?! AND VULCAN?!

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  • lostinthewiind
    05.12.2021 - 1 mont ago

    Brave Heart: Chapter Twenty-Six

    Attack on Titan

    Rating: Mature

    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."

    "Oh."

    "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."

    "Yes, Sir."

    "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?

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