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Thread: Caged No More (Shingeki no Kyojin / Attack on Titan)

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    Dead Apostle Eater Gally's Avatar
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    Caged No More (Shingeki no Kyojin / Attack on Titan)

    Since we can post none Type-Moon related fics in here, thought I'd post the longest fic I've ever done (at approx. 150,000 words), which I'm currently in the process of re-writing (for the hundredth time since I started it):



    Adieu by Enter Shikari

    -----

    The world is cruel. Humanity has been beset by monsters known as Titans for a hundred years; a seemingly endless tide. Nobody knows where they came from, what their purpose is, and, most of all, how to effectively end them once and for all. In desperation, the people hid themselves behind three fifty meter walls for their protection, thinking themselves safe for those hundred years. Yet, they were being kept in the dark for the inevitable.

    Everything changes when they are given a grim reminder of what it means to be locked in a cage.

    The Year is 845. All she remembers is the blood, tissue, and bone. All she remembers is the torment of the mindless. All she remembers is the face that haunts, the face that always reminds her that the world was cruel. That it always was, that it always has been, and that it always will be. And, as she runs away from her fate, this is how the world shall start its end.


    -----

    Table of Contents:


    Sources used:

    (Official) Attack on Titan written and illustrated by Isayama Hajime. Attack on Titan: No Regrets written by Gun Snark and illustrated by Suruga Hikaru. Attack on Titan: Before the Fall written by Suzukaze Ryō and illustrated by Shibamoto Thores. Attack on Titan: Harsh Mistress of the City written by Kawakami Ryō and illustrated by Murata Range. Attack on Titan: Lost Girls written by Seko Hiroshi and illustrated by Fuji Ryosuke. Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom (video game) based on the manga written and illustrated by Isayama Hajime.

    (Doujinshi) A Distant Fragrance written and illustrated by Tokawa. MESSENGER written and illustrated by Tomo. Story of the Goddess Who Sought Death written and illustrated by Kuzumochi Shio. Night At the Hut in the Mountain (and other shorts) written and illustrated by tbtbii. Song of Prayer Dedicated to You written and illustrated by Poncho.

    Chapters:

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

    1

    Leftover snow soaked into her clothing as she lay curled in a fetal position. The chilled voice of hunger whispered into her ear as the images crept back into her mind. Blood still licked her tongue. Vomit spewed from her mouth, her mind wanting the images to be expunged and the taste of the blood to be expelled.

    Neither would.

    She curled even tighter into a ball at the sounds that now accompanied them, as if doing so would bring comfort and make them go away. Make them disappear. She wiped saliva covered finger-tips into blackened mud, nails scraping at the hard dirt underneath, and gagged.

    They didn't.

    The screams. A decimated village, burning to ash, smoke as it billowed toward the sky. Claw-like hands dug into the ground, small beady black eyes staring out into the distance. The feeling of flesh. Far away, four dark specks against the sun. The crunching of bone. Three children, all young boys running for their lives in her wake. The taste of blood. The whimpering, garbled noises they had made. Insignificant. Only what hung dangling, significant. Her head to the sky, jaws widening, biting down. Cartilage and bone. Snapping, breaking, pulverizing. Skin and blood. Swallowing, spitting, devouring.

    The images assaulted her as she tried to rise, only to collapse from their weight.

    On her stomach, the snow wetting her skin, she buried her face into the dew with the worms and other creatures in a vain attempt to suffocate them. She vomited again.

    Keep moving.

    She pushed herself up and looked at the imprint of her face in the mud.

    Keep moving.

    Scratching and tearing herself on thorns, she followed a path overgrown by time and obscured from unknown eyes until she finally came to it: shelter. Crawling up its weathered steps, weakly pressing on one of the doors, it creaked as she eased herself inside.

    Looking around, it was a church.

    The long row of wooden pews lining either side were old and rotted, the various statues and crosses adorning the walls foreign and unrecognizable, and the windows were missing their stained glass décor, but, it wasn't unlike the ones she had once known. At the front, stood a lone podium. Behind it, an altar. Two large statues flanked them. Something forgotten long ago.

    Using the altar as a support for her weary limbs, she stopped to catch her breath before looking up at one of them. Its dusty plaque, rusted and cracked, was cold to the touch. Small dark shapes appeared as her hand wiped across its surface. Knowing them to be letters, she stepped back and tried to sound out the word they formed, but it hurt just to look at them, and she looked back up to the statue.

    The depiction of what they were. What they were called.

    A... An…

    "...gel. An... gel. Angel."

    Pushing herself from the altar, she crouched beside the podium. It was hollow in back and, scrunching herself into the space, putting her knees up against her chest, and resting her chin on top of her hands, her eyelids were heavy for the first time in what felt like ages…

    —&—

    "Words have meaning, but names have power. They are undying labels, etched on the sins of our behaviors."

    A few days and nights passed since she first came to shelter inside the confines of the church, and in that time she had gathered twigs and broken branches from the surrounding area to build a fire.

    Gazing up at distant stars through the trees—barren trees that had lost their youthfulness and color, skinny and pathetic things with no purpose other than to feed the fire she had made—she wiped and repeated those words she had heard so long ago: "Names are your past and your future. They represent who and what you are, your identity to the rest of the world."

    She couldn't remember hers. Her past. Who she was, where she was from—but, as with the letters, words, and phrases that slowly came back to her, she guessed that, given time, it would too. Huddled close to the fire, its heat warming her chilled bones and frosted skin, she looked into its heart, watching its flames lick the air and consume the wood needed to fuel its life. Crackling, wisps of light danced into the sky and ashes shimmied to the ground.

    She grimaced.

    Patches of snow were still here and there, but the season was changing and, soon, the grass would sprout and the sun would shine. She recalled that time would be called Spring, but, nothing more than that.

    From the back of her mind, it hurt as she tried to remember more and she abruptly stopped trying. "The power in a name," she whispered, reaching out to the brightest star, the pain subsiding. "What... is my name?" she asked, as if the star would answer her question. Kicking the logs of her fire around and scattering the ashes, she lumbered back inside the church once again. She glanced at the angel statue as soon as she passed it, then curled up in her usual position inside the hollowed out space of the podium.

    —&—

    Running, running as fast as humanly possible. Running away, the world around her a sea of grass. Greens, yellows, browns. Healthy grass, weathered grass, dead grass. And there she was, just running in its midst. She wanted to keep running, but, her legs wouldn't carry her anymore.

    She fell.

    The ground began to shake.

    She tried to stand, desperately tried, but her arms wouldn't respond.

    The shakes turned into tremors, and she was forced to listen to them as they got closer, and closer, and closer, until, finally its shadow loomed over her. A claw hooked underneath the skin of her back.

    She cried out.

    Silent as it hoisted her high above the sea of grass, now a scarlet shade, she stared into those black eyes, seeing herself in their reflection, before falling into its mouth as she looked up toward the sky—searching for stars that weren't there.

    Its teeth sunk into her legs and bit through skin, muscle, and bone as she gasped.

    The never-ending pain.

    Ripping into her thighs and tearing, chomping down on her intestines and pulling them out as she vomited acidic blood, burning her mouth. Spitting and coughing it out, the juices spilled down her chin and stung as they dripped onto her chest.

    The unrelenting pain.

    Ribs crushed, lungs squeezed, breathing intensifying as she tried to suck in more air, her heart was about to burst, full of pressure as her veins clotted from the strain and it formed into one pasty mass.

    No more.

    Her arms pushed on its mouth, heart ready to explode as she let out a scream that died in her throat. Snot fell from her nose and tears her eyes as the world became dark.

    Jolted awake, she slammed her head into the podium and knocked it over, retreating back to the altar, sweating profusely. Nails digging into the sides of her head, she shook violently, trying to expel the monster from her mind.

    She didn't want to go back to the way she was.

    Didn't want to be that way again.

    She hit her head against the stone of the altar and looked down at her hands. She relaxed. Normal hands. Cut and scrapped, normal, human hands.

    She winced, touching the back of her head. Something wet, something red. Blood. She was bleeding. She laughed, tears falling from her face. Staring at bloody fingers, she wanted her past to wash away with her tears.

    Moving closer to the angel statue, she drew her bloodied hand across its surface. Agony split through her skull, her vision filling with more of those blinding shades of red. Red flashes of pain, as she tried to remember it.

    Outside a decimated village, a gathering of monsters stood, watching her every move. They started to speak. Childish attempts at communicating their thoughts into one word. The word being spoken to her. The word being chanted to her.

    Repeated over and over and over and over again.

    Hands shaking, mind-breaking, she concentrated all her thoughts on that one word—that one desire to know her name—and bit down hard on her hand, drawing blood to keep from screaming because of the pain.

    Then, nothing but darkness.

    —&—

    Awhile later, her body felt incredibly hot as she slowly rose to her feet and looked around.

    Steam billowed from the floor around the skeleton of something lying there. Something that she had been just a few hours before. Spinning around to the scene behind her, she let out a small laugh as she stared absentmindedly at an even more ruined church, now reduced to rubble. Casting her eyes over the statue of the angel, smashed to pieces, she didn't even give it a second thought as she stumbled outside into the evening light.

    Laughing even louder now, she knew what it was—what she had been waiting and searching for until now. She mouthed it as warm, bittersweet tears streamed down her cheeks.

    Her name was...
    Last edited by Gally; May 24th, 2017 at 01:28 AM.

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    Dead Apostle Eater Gally's Avatar
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    Historia replayed the scene of her mother's death in her mind for what seemed like the thousandth time.

    That hateful stare, those frightened eyes. Her pathetic attempts at struggling as the knife was drawn across her throat, slicing so deep it carved into the bone. Her blood gushing forth, and the warmth of it when it sprayed. Running like a fountain down her neck, drenching her clothes and soaking the ground.

    Her final words, cut short by her killer's blade: "If only…"

    Historia touched her cheek where her mother's blood had hit. Directed at her, their intent had been clear enough. She had long since filled in the blanks.

    If only you hadn't been born.

    She stared at the grass growing all over the field, stalks of wheat and other grains swaying briskly in the breeze. Reclaimed territory set aside for orphans after Wall Maria's fall. Ahead was the farm, with its crooked door and broken windows, mold and decay seeping into its cracks. Her new temporary home.

    They'd meant nothing from the very beginning. Just a whore and her illegitimate child.

    Eyes peeked out from the building. Nobody had come out to greet her yet. She knew why, having been seen as little more than worthless the past several weeks, being moved from place to place. She was a bitch's daughter, only alive because of the father's mercy. A mercy, she also knew, was vain. For show. Just an aside to keep his appearance in check, lest he simply become the ruthless man who murdered his mistress and subjugated his bastard child to the same fate. To not be the monster bereft of what once could be called his humanity.

    She remembered the way he fidgeted, how he refused to look either of them in the eye as his men pressed their knives to their throats. His cowardice, turning away as he gave the order, still not looking when the deed was finished. His back to her, telling his men to take the body away. To dispose of it someplace nobody could discover it by chance.

    The words he'd spoken after.

    "Going to stand there all day?" the man who'd brought her asked. Sweaty and smelling heavily of alcohol, he poked at her. "Get on. Move it."

    She didn't react, lost in her memory.

    "I said move!" With a raised hand, he slapped her. Hard. Then, lifting her by a tuft of blonde hair, he spat and dragged her to front of his carriage, behind the horses. "You'll learn one way or another." Taking a last swig of his flask, he poured the few drops left down her throat and tossed it as she coughed it out. "What it means to be nothing…"

    His hand caressed up her thigh, and she continued to think of her father's words as the man clumsily tried unlacing her undergarments beneath her dress, punching her in the stomach out of frustration when he couldn't quite do it.

    Grunting, Historia's eyes went to the flask he'd tossed away. As he licked her cheek, groping her chest, her fingers brushed the top of it and grasping it between small fingers, she knew what those words now meant.

    And, as she brought the flask down as hard as she could on the side of the man's head, it shattered into a dozen glassy shards that cut into the palm of her hand.

    As he withered on the ground from the sudden blow, she picked up one of the larger shards and slashed his neck. He made his last sighs in gurgles of blood as she left it embedded deep in his throat.

    Staring at the body, she fastened her undergarments on again.

    Looking at her hand, blood ran along the crevices of her palm, dripping onto the ground. She wiped it off on her dress and turned to the horses, then the farm was in the distance. She looked down at the man again, back to the farm, then to the horses.

    Climbing up on the end of the carriage, she crawled to the front and took the reins of both horses between slippery fingers. Unhooking the harness that bound them and watching them glance around in confusion at the sudden freedom given to them, Historia scooted onto the nearest one's back and leaned down. She embraced it around the neck.

    "Everything's going to be alright," she told it. "You're free now, so you can do whatever you want. You can go wherever you want." The other horse was already gone, galloping into the wild. "You friend left you… you're all alone now…" Tears rolled down her cheeks. They tasted sweet on her tongue. She tugged at its mane. "You're all alone with nowhere to go, but, you're free now so it doesn't matter. So go! Leave already!" The horse just tossed its head forward, then back, and threw her off, but, it didn't attempt to run away.

    Staring up at slowly drifting clouds, she had to forget herself. Who, and, what, she was.

    Her father's first, last, and only words to her.

    From here on, your name is Christa.

    —&—

    She named the horse Almonds, after its color.

    Since leaving the farm, they had gone a far distance, following the trail the carriage had taken, and finally reaching the outskirts of a tiny village in the evening, yet many of the villagers were up and about because she could hear them working away. Sounds of hammers on wood, splashing of water into wells, flapping of clothes left out to dry. Almonds trotted over to a tree, under the shade, and Historia stroked his mane. He was tired and deserved the rest. She hopped off his back and set her sights on the village and its closest well.

    When she came close to it, she glanced around.

    Nobody.

    Pulling on the lever, the bucket dropped down with a thud and she reared back, bumping into something. That something cleared its throat and she looked up into an old woman's wrinkled face. The old woman's hat cast a shadow over her and, after a moment, she spoke.

    "That one's no good," she stated with a slight hoarseness in her voice. "Better off coming inside and taking what I have stored there."

    Historia gulped. "I—"

    "No need to apologize, just come inside with me. I'll get you some fresher."

    Nodding, Historia followed her to the back door of her house, and as she stepped inside, looked back to where Almonds was.

    The old woman took her by the hand, ushering her all the way. "Your horse is gonna be fine, I already gave him some water and an apple after you'd came sneaking over. Don't worry about him right now." She led her to a table and sat her down, then went to a counter, poured a cup of water and offered it to her. "Here."

    Taking the cup with her good hand, Historia hid the other, injured one underneath the table. As she finished and set it down, the old woman gave a tilt of her chin at the concealed hand.

    "Let me see it."

    Historia rested it on the table, palm side down.

    "Flip it over."

    She flipped it over.

    Grabbing a cloth and a bottle of what could only be alcohol, the old woman firmly held her hand down as she went over the cuts and wiped away dirt and dried blood. Historia winced as she rubbed the alcohol in afterward.

    The old woman sighed as she began wrapping the cloth around it. "Young girls shouldn't behave so recklessly. Now, do you want some bread I baked yesterday? It's still fresh."

    Historia watched her get up and go get some. "Why are you being so kind to me?" she asked when the old woman brought it over and sat back down.

    The old woman didn't hesitant and ruffled her hair gently. "My own selfishness. My daughter, you have the same loss of innocence she had."

    "Your... daughter...?"

    The old woman nodded. "She joined the military before Maria fell. Hasn't been home since, the ungrateful child." She chuckled. "I don't even know if she's dead. They burn the bodies, did you know that? Could just be ash by now... and I wouldn't even know." Tears welled in her eyes. "She's alive," she continued. "Otherwise, I would know… I would know."

    Searching her face, Historia put her bandaged hand on one of hers. "I believe she is... has to be…" She glanced down at the old woman's hand—it was covered in calluses. "Can I... stay here a bit longer before I move on...?"

    The old woman nodded. "Of course. I wouldn't let you say no for an answer." She wiped her eyes with a sad smile. "My name is Isolde. Isolde Lenz."

    Her father's words coming back to her, Historia returned her smile. "Christa."

    She buried her head into Isolde's shoulder, squeezing her hand tighter.

    "Welcome to your new home, Christa."

    A smile that was all too fake for her own good.

    —&—

    The village of Thorpe lay on the fringes of Wall Sina. Its main purpose was the raising of livestock and production of grains that were to later be hauled off to Yalkell, a District within Wall Sheena, where it was processed foremost for those citizens of the Inner Wall and the leftovers spread among everyone else. Refugees from Maria's fall were given the remaining scraps.

    In its entirety, the village was self-sufficient, only requiring fresh water from other sources during seasons of dry spell to keep its sustainability intact. Everyone lived in longhouses made primarily of wood, their floors lightly covered in hay or grass. People, livestock, and food storage were all located inside these longhouses, sectioned off from one another, and as a result the community was tight-knit. Homely.

    Though, not without toll.

    Since becoming a part of it, Isolde had put her to work on her farm just at the village's edge, the same place where she tried to take water from a well that had none to be found months before. Bruises regularly covered her hands, dirt on her clothing, and tiredness in her eyes.

    Nothing she wasn't used to be before.

    Herding sheep, laying down crops of barley, hay, and wheat with other kids whose families owed Isolde a favor one way or another for this or that, or simply wanted to help—which wasn't so rare a thing around these parts—was a common daily task for her now.

    Though, when the other kids would look at her, they only saw a delicate creature taken in by a lonely mother. Their stares, their whispering, their accusations and assumptions—they wouldn't go away.

    Nothing had really changed.

    She could never escape it no matter which way she turned. Left, right, up, down, north, east, south, west—it didn't matter.

    Gripping the ends of her broom as she swept the porch of Isolde's farmhouse, Historia chewed on her bottom lip deep enough for blood to trickle down her chin. What once was soft and timid was still the same, no matter how hard she tried to change. She scanned the fields where she rode Almonds in her free-time and the tree where he spent his nights under.

    Something to be used, like her mother before her.

    Something to be cherished, like Isolde always reminded her.

    Whether she was one of the rats that scurried along the floor, poking holes in the sacks of grain and eating their fill, or one of the hawks that circled the skies above, waiting for them out in the open to snatch them up, she had no way of knowing.

    Already in her short time here, she had learned a great deal—most notably the importance of herbs and medicine—from Isolde, and, yet, a relatively peaceful existence healing the local villagers various cuts and scraps wasn't enough. Her grip around the broom tightening further still, it just wasn't enough. Then, she remembered. Isolde's daughter. Her only daughter. Her real one.

    Isolde had spoken a lot of her, about her being a soldier in the military, one of the protectors of humanity. She said that, in the end, Riecka and the others were the only thing between them and the Titans. Their saviors, putting their lives on the line for a cause greater than themselves, and their martyrs, dying for humanity's sake.

    And those monsters she had also talked about, the things that had taken over Wall Maria and its lands within: Titans. Two of them, the Colossal and Armored, being the ones personally responsible for breaching Wall Maria, needed to be dealt with before they breached Wall Rose, and that the soldiers would stop them. That they would eventually take back Maria and drive the Titans out.

    They were people to be proud of. People worth value—fighting for what they believed and sacrificing themselves for what humanity might accomplish in beating the Titans once and for all.

    Historia stared at her feet, the bristles of the broom, the gathered junk still on the porch's wooden finish, and whispered her father's words beneath her breath, adding to it.

    From here on, your name is Christa. Christa… Lenz. A soldier of humanity. A savior. A martyr. A light in the dark.
    Last edited by Gally; May 24th, 2017 at 01:04 AM.

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    Dead Apostle Eater Gally's Avatar
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    Annie, listen to your father. I want you to treat this whole world as your enemy.

    The military. The last line of defense in humanity's desperate struggle against the Titans. She had gotten in, and glanced down at her uniform.

    A light brown, khaki-colored jacket that stopped midway to her waist with two pouches on either side as it opened up down the middle, held together by a dark brown sash over white pants and knee-high leather boots, it was distinctly reminiscent of those back home. Though, the one difference was stitched into the jacket's shoulder, as well as the left-breast pouch: the patch of 104th Training Corps's designated emblem—a shield crossed over by two swords. There was no red armband to speak of.

    Looking back up, eyes focusing on the bald scalp of the Chief Instructor as he got in the other trainees' faces asking for their name and place of origin, Annie recalled the day before she arrived here.

    The laughter of those kids playing tag, running around without a care in the world. One of them, the monster, and, the rest, the fleeing villagers not wanting to be eaten. She tensed, feeling sweat run down her back, as she remembered one of them who had played the part of the monster. With a big hand, he had reached out and grabbed the smaller kids by the back of their shirt collar and lifted them up. Horsing around, as if what they had done never even occurred to him. Never even registered in his brain, his hearty laughter bellowing out his guilt.

    Something came up from her stomach, then. Something acidic, vile, and putrid. Up her throat, trying to escape and, swallowing it back down, she knew what they did couldn't be dismissed with laughter.

    Only screams.

    Her stomach ached.

    Yet, regardless of how she felt, it was far from over. She wasn't dead yet. Therefore, she couldn't just abandon it now. She had made a promise. Something that could only be cured with screams.

    Now panning over all the other trainees around her, lined up in single rows awaiting their turn to be hazed by the Chief Instructor, his dome like a beacon in the way it reflected the light from the sun overhead, she wondered which one of them it might be, as she watched him move up and down the ranks, having passed her by with not a word moments before, until he stopped at his next victim: the boy she had met back then. That wide grin on his face, it was one of the stupidest things she'd ever seen.

    "You with the idiotic face! Who are you and where are you from!?"

    "Sir!" The boy saluted with a fist over his heart; the military's universal salute, signifying its loyalty to the people and how it carried each and every one of their hopes and dreams with them to victory against the Titan threat. "Friedrich Brandt! Trost District!"

    What she, this boy, and all the others present now represented: the next batch of lamps to the slaughter.

    "Brandt, you say?!" the Chief Instructor repeated, looming over him.

    "Yes, sir!"

    The Chief Instructor inhaled sharply, puffing out his chest like an owl. "Well, Brandt, let's hope you're not a disappointment to the two who came before you!" He might have seemed imposing from first glance, but from his scraggly beard with little strokes of grey here and there, to the wrinkles and stress marks mapping his face, and the dark, deep circles beneath his hollow, haunted eyes, betrayed him for what he really was: a thin-skinned coward too old and tired to still be a soldier and—especially—a warrior. "Why are you here?!"

    "To see my older sister sir!"

    "Well, when you even get a fraction of the talent your sister has, then you can act as bait for her! Row Eight! About face!"

    The Chief Instructor grasped the top of the boy's head and forcibly spun him around. The others in his row followed suit. This was the sign that he didn't like what he heard, and, with the majority of the trainee rows also turned in the opposite direction from their original positions, the man didn't seem to like much.

    He went on to the next trainee, and then the next.

    A few of them he passed like herself, and, from the corner of her eye, she looked back at the boy, Brandt, and saw that his eyes were bright and hopeful—the exact opposite of the ones the Chief Instructor was leaving alone. The horror that was hidden behind them. That look which told him they had already seen what needed to be seen. How the world truly was.

    If only he knew.

    Yet, beneath this boy's… she saw something that the Chief Instructor didn't. Something that she herself knew all too well: a promise.

    So, promise me, Annie.

    No. They weren't the same. She couldn't think about this boy any longer, he was unimportant. He had just been there to help her fill out her form and get admitted in the training corps. Whatever goal he had of his own, whether it be a promise to fulfill or not, didn't matter.

    Promise me that you'll come back.

    She went back to the Chief Instructor just as he picked up a short boy with a shaved head by the sides of his face, then abruptly dropped him to gawk at a girl beside him, busy stuffing her face with a potato in full view as if the action would somehow go unnoticed.

    He asked her where she'd acquired it, the reply being that she "procured" it from the mess-hall earlier. He then asked her why she took it in the first place, and why a potato. The girl, Sasha, explained that she had been hungry and, perhaps in an attempt to get away unpunished, offered him what she considered to be half of it. To Annie, and everyone else watching, it was obvious her offering wasn't even close to half. On top of that, she had given him the smaller of the two pieces.

    And, with that, the opening ceremony was cut short so he could show them an example of what disobeying the rules—theft of provisions, in this instance—got them.

    —&—

    Now watching the girl who was being dubbed "the Potato Girl" because of the incident earlier that morning, Annie grimaced at the way she ran—like a fish straight out of the water, flopping her arms about carelessly. The least she could do was use some type of form to finish quicker and save herself further embarrassment.

    "How long do you think he's going to make her run?"

    She glanced over. The boy, Brandt, was standing next to the stairs of her dorm. That stupid grin was still on his face. It appeared to be plastered on. She didn't answer, continuing to watch the girl run instead.

    He came beside her then, looking down at the spectacle. "Harsh, don't you think so?" When she didn't respond, again, he put a hand under his chin, leaned over the railing, and pouted, a concerned look in his eyes. "I guess that's the way the world truly works, huh?"

    She ignored him.

    "Say, I think I deserve a thank-you for helping you fill out those papers," he said after a moment.

    She looked at him, then. Was he trying to blackmail her? "What are you insinuating?"

    "Ah. Did I say something wrong?"

    She scowled. No, of course not. An idiot like this. "You didn't do anything." Though, she could never be too cautious. "Yet."

    He raised a finger to protest. "Actually, I—"

    Her scowl deepened. "Told me to fill out 'big nose' for my name and 'the center of my face, you can't miss it' for my residence."

    "Hey! You don't have to get so upset about it," he said, laughing nervously. "Your nose isn't even that big! It's the perfect size, I really like the shape!" He looked to the side and scratched his cheek. "Honest… I was only joking…"

    "The way you grin is stupid."

    He blinked, looking back. "Is that… supposed to be a thank-you? Hey! Are you listening to me?

    She grunted. One of her hands formed into a fist.

    He noticed. "Ah, I get it... I won't bother you anymore, then, alright?" the boy said, shuffling his feet as he began to backtrack down the stairs.

    "Wait…" She relaxed her fist. Even if this boy was nothing to her, even if she took her father's words to heart, right now wasn't the time to be making enemies. "T-thank you…"

    She felt her face grow hot when he smiled afterward. "Fritz. Call me Fritz."

    "Fritz." Averting her eyes, she cursed. Why had she done that? Marcel's face flashed in her mind then, but, this boy...

    "So, erm…"—he sniffed and wiped his nose with a finger—"Does this mean we're on even terms now?"

    Annie stared at him for a few moments, then at the railing. He looked nothing like Marcel, so then why did he…? "I guess…" She noticed him grin again and scoffed. "Only if you knock that off first… and don't stand so close to me."

    He scooted away. "S-sorry…" He laughed, scratching the back of his head.

    "As long as we're clear."

    "No problems there."

    No, he was nothing like Marcel, but, regardless, he was going to be a nuisance all the same; she'd known it the moment he'd asked for her bread back then. Now, he was searching the clouds for something, and the way his eyes moved back and forth… No, she had to ignore him. Her promise, she had to—he said something about finding her again. His sister.

    His promise.

    Yes, she had to make as little contact as she was still able with this boy…

    —&—

    "These are the potatoes that girl stole?!"

    It was now late into the evening and dinner was being served in the messhall. Yet, even with how hungry she was, Annie couldn't bring herself to eat her food and was forced to set her cup of water down. Waves rippling across its surface from how ravishly the boy across from her was eating, she glared at him already sinking his teeth into his second helping.

    The sound of him vigorously chewing, swallowing, and swishing it down was the last thing she wanted to hear while trying to eat. Not to mention, these potatoes… they were undercooked and bland, their color a sort of mucky yellow without the skin, and, here he was, going through them like he hadn't eaten in a matter of days.

    Blocking him out the best she was capable of doing, Annie glanced over at the serving line. The menu also included soup and bread, but one look at either and she'd honestly rather have the potato. So, taking up her cup again, she finished the rest and was about to leave when the boy wiped his face free of potato and slapped his hand on the table in a fiery passion.

    "You're not going to eat?" he said, halfway out his seat and leaning over the table. "You have to eat if you want to keep your strength up, even if the food is bad!" Was he trying to motivate her?

    She scowled. The only reason she had accepted his company was to lead him astray and keep him from poking his nose in her business anymore than he already was, but it was having the opposite effect. He only poked her harder. "We're officially starting training tomorrow. I don't want to throw up during it."

    "Then…" His hand was already hovering over her tray.

    Well, so much for that. "Take it." She pushed it toward him with enough force to slide off and splatter, but he just caught the end of it and started chowing down right then and there. He didn't even seem to chew this time.

    Huffing to herself at his lack of tact, Annie took the opportunity to look around the room, trying to spot those two.

    The majority of the trainees were huddled around one table in particular where she heard them talking about the Titans. At their center sat a boy with a cocky expression of his face, proclaiming how he'd send all the Titans to hell starting with the Colossal one—the one responsible for breaking down the outer gate of Wall Maria. She scanned the other faces in that crowd for the two she was familiar with, but, they were nowhere to be seen. Her scowl worsened.

    She would have gotten up right then to find them, but, with this idiot on the other side of her, she wasn't about to run the risk of him discovering something—even accidently—if he continued to follow her around. She should have just knocked him out when she had the chance.

    So, eyes traveling to the other tables where smaller groups were seated, she continued searching in vain until coming upon another table where three girls were sitting. The first was tall and dark skinned, practically dwarfing the two sitting across from her. One of them had red hair, stone-faced as she blankly stared at her wooden spoon submerged in a bowl of soup, and the other with the blonde hair and soft, pleasant features—in stark contrast with one another—appeared to speaking to her, holding a half loaf of bread though she didn't seem to be getting through.

    Annie didn't know them, and Reiner and Bertolt were obviously not there with them, but, she distinctly remembered seeing the tall one with the dark skin at the opening ceremony.

    Her eyes widened for a split-second.

    Had she imagined it? No, there it was again. That same girl… was glancing in her direction. As if she knew she was being watched.

    They narrowed again.

    Just then, her attention snapped back to the table with the crowd from how loud it'd gotten as now another boy, equally as annoying, mocked the latter's vow to kill every last Titan and what was ultimately his decision for wanting to join the Scouting Legion, saying that he was more likely to become fodder for the Titans than their executioner.

    The other boy said something in retort, then both of them sprang to their feet and looked about ready to come to blows when the bell chimed.

    Dinner was over.

    All trainees were to immediately head back to their dorms, sleep, and then be up first thing the next morning for prep.

    Without waiting for her new friend, Annie slunk away the table and left the messhall, not stopping when she heard him run up to the doors and shout 'good luck tomorrow!' after her, no doubt grinning like the idiot he was.

    She sighed.

    —&—

    Thinking of that dark skinned girl on her way to her dorm, she would have to watch her carefully from now. Be more cautious.

    And, at her door now, though she was loathe to admit it, the same went for that idiot. She knew that if she let her emotions get the best of her, it would jeopardize their mission. And that would mean breaking her promise.

    Find the Coordinate. Don't let anyone survive if they have it. It's extremely important that you destroy it. No, you don't need to know the details as to why, just that it's something dangerous and mustn't be allowed to exist. Can you do this for me, Annie?

    Getting into her bunk, Annie stared at the bed above her own. Her bunkmate was still out and about. She read the name on the side of her bed to refresh it in her mind: Mina Carolina. She remembered meeting her clearly, shortly after that idiot had come to her asking to be friends.

    This girl, Mina, was the type she disliked the most, and it had only taken that one encounter for her to solidify her disdain. She was worse than that boy in that she truly happy behind her eyes.

    Sitting up, Annie pulled her knees to her chest and gazed forlornly at the golden ring on her left index finger, remembering those hours after the Wall fell, forever burned into her memory.

    They were swarming the village; gigantic, terrifying, and bloodthirsty. Reduced to ruins, smoke rising from the embers as she looked on, watching villagers getting snatched up and eaten, she felt her stomach tie itself into knots as the sky rained blood.

    She saw one of them, a young girl around her own age, as she bolted from one of the houses toward the far end of the village. Hair blowing through the cold morning breeze, zipping past other houses and ducking under their debris, she sprinted with all her might, but, just as she reached it, she came face to face with one, and… then...

    People like her never could be.

    —&—

    Suspended in mid-air, Annie swayed in her harness and balanced herself just as the Chief Instructor had explained, dangling above the ground as still as possible. The less quivering, the better. Looking up at the device that held her in place, a simple three prong stand, she watched the ropes that were tethered to the top tighten further relax as she was lifted down after a moment, where she then unhooked the other end of the ropes secured to her belt, swatting them away as they now hung lazily, loose and ready for the next occupant.

    In front of her were the rest of the trainees, all five hundred or so of them. Clumped together in a mass, each of them was waiting for their turn, the ones who've already completed the exercise having to wait on the sidelines. Glaring at them, she noticed a couple glared back, most notably that tall girl that'd been at the table along with those other two. Anyone that didn't glare back was either too busy on worrying about the exercise, didn't meet her eyes, or… smiled back.

    The boy, Fritz, and the girl, Mina, were the main culprits.

    Ignoring them, she moved to the sidelines and stood next to a girl with a red scarf around her neck. The girl said something under her breath and Annie thought it was "Eren", but that was all before a masculine voice called out to her. She knew who it was without turning around as she felt him bend down to get nearer to her ear.

    "You're still going to help us, right?" Reiner said. His shadow loomed over her, and she had half the mind to knock him to the ground just because of his presence, but now wasn't the time.

    It had changed entirely from before. It irritated her to no end. Almost as much as those two idiots. "Tonight."

    "Remember, anything about it is of top priority."

    "I know." No, it wasn't Reiner himself, but his attitude towards the situation. What they'd done back then. How it didn't haunt him in the slightest. Almost as if it he didn't remember any of it.

    "If you don't find anything, it's alright." This time it was Bertolt, standing behind him. "I doubt there's going to be anything valuable anyway…"

    She moved away from Reiner's shadow and took a step towards Fritz. Then, abruptly, she stopped. "Reiner, Bertolt, I'll find something, don't bother me about it. Just go back to the exercise. You both look suspicious."

    Glaring back at them until they left, she went back to Fritz, her glare now concentrated on him. He was staring at her. Again.
    Last edited by Gally; May 24th, 2017 at 01:06 AM.

  4. #4
    Dead Apostle Eater Gally's Avatar
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    Fritz stared absentmindedly at the wooden logs stacked one atop the other that served as one of four walls to his dorm and drew his blanket closer to himself in order to keep warm. He hadn't expected the nights to be colder than back home, and chuckled at himself. This was nothing, he could handle a few chills.

    Wiping his nose and holding back a sneeze, he huddled together even tighter.

    Yeah, he could deal with this. No problem.

    "What's the matter Friedrich? Bit of cold too much for you?" he criticized aloud. "Well, think again!" Springing from his bed, his little attempt at self motivation backfired when he bounced off and landed on his back with a thud. Wincing, he rubbed it.

    "What the hell are you doing?" someone groaned, and he looked upside down at the boy lying in the bunk across from his own. "I'm trying to sleep you dumbass," Jean said, glowering at him. "This,"—he proceeded to prop himself up on one arm—"isn't the time to be moving around. Do you even realize what time it is?" He pointed to one of the windows and waited for him to look at it. "See that? It's dark outside. You know what that means? It means: 'shut up and go to sleep'. If Shadis finds out you're up, then you'll get all of us in trouble."

    "Leave him be Jean," Marco, who was in the bunk below Jean, said. "He's not doing any harm. It's not like he's going to personally go to the Chief Instructor and tell him 'I'm awake'. Right Fritz?"

    He nodded and continued on rubbing his back. "Y-yeah, that's right. I'm not so stupid that I'd get caught." He had to admit that often being called "the droopiest flower in the garden" by his family sometimes proved true, but, he also knew for a fact that he wasn't so stupid as to do something like that. That was something Connie would do. "I'm just going out for some fresh air."

    "See Jean? Told you!"

    "Whatever." Jean rolled over and pulled his blanket over his head. "Just don't wake me up again."

    "Count on it."

    "And quit saying that, it's annoying."

    Fritz didn't pay him any more mind and sucked in through his teeth as he slowly made his way to their dorm's door. Opening it gently and easing himself outside, he went to the wooden railing that ran halfway horizontal around the dorm and stopped at the stairs. His thoughts skipped back to the day he decided to leave his mother and little sister behind.

    After Ines's early joining of the military before Wall Maria's fall and the unexpected death of his father, his mother had tried her hardest to keep them composed, the family having grown smaller in the blink of an eye. Then, the second oldest son, his older brother Lex, had went off to follow in their footsteps, only to die during a training accident before he even really began.

    That had been the last straw for his mother.

    She'd forbidden him to join the military like his father and two older siblings, but, against her wishes, as a Brandt was ought to do, he'd run away to join of his own accord, wanting to find Ines since she hadn't written them in recent years like she usually did, even in this time of strafe.

    The Titans, terrifying giants that had taken down Wall Maria and extinguished countless lives already. His older sister was at a greater risk than most because of these... things; tasked with reclaiming lost territory from them and gathering information about their movements, their tactics, and their origins as a member of the Scouting Legion.

    He didn't want to lose her, too. He had even memorized the last letter she had sent them to heart. It was shortly before the Titans had breached Wall Maria. She had talked about her hopes of her Squad Leader as the next commander of the Scouting Legion. Of their first ever expedition where no heavy casualties were suffered, thanks to the new formation he had improvised to limit them. That it could only mean with him as commander, the future of humanity became just a bit brighter.

    Of the newest additions to their ranks, most notably highlighting on one in particular. A man named Levi, who she said possessed an enormous amount of skill that surpassed many within the Legion despite lacking any formal training. Also, that she felt he was untrustworthy, given his background, and her own fear of him being allowed to freely roam their facilities because, if he was, then who was to say that others of his ilk wouldn't be given the same privileges?

    It was that critical, but caring side of her that had been missing up until then. Proof that his older sister was still the same Ines he had known all his life. He knew that she was still alive out there, somewhere. Thus, he wanted to find her. He had to find her.

    And, thoughts drifting to more recent events, the time between running away to sign up and finally seeing it become a reality was also when he'd first met her, after Maria fell. Her name was Annie. Annie Leonhart.

    He had seen her, just standing there, watching two men—two refugees from Wall Maria—fighting in the middle of street over a piece of bread. Like she had been observing insects, and was disgusted at the sight of them bloodying themselves over something so trivial, at first glance. Sickened, by their behavior.

    She had been holding a half-eaten loaf herself, and that was when he asked if he could finish the rest because if she didn't, someone else surely would. Forcibly, if it came down to it. Food was scarce as is, and to the refugees, even scarcer still. He felt that she didn't quite understand that and let his pride get the better of him, confronting her on the matter in the only way he'd known how.

    The way he was still handling her, despite making himself look like an idiot. Well, an even bigger idiot than he already was.

    And now, here he was, arms folded over the wooden railing outside his dorm, looking out into the gloom, wanting to see her again already. Or so he kept telling himself. Folding his arms, he yawned, then blinked upon seeing a peculiar sight.

    A female trainee was walking at a mule's pace, seemingly weary of her surroundings by the way she was hunched down and looking very suspicious. He tried to make her features out more clearly, but yelped in surprise and sudden anguish, as something clapped him hard on the back.

    "What you starin' at?" Connie asked.

    Fritz greeted him with a pained smile. "N… Nothing in particular."

    Connie followed his stare. "You OK?" He put a hand on his shoulder.

    "Y-yeah… I'm fine…"

    It was only their first day, but the two of them, in addition to being bunkmates, had became friends fairly quick and at that moment he couldn't help but wonder if it was because both their thinking processes were slower than average. Wincing as he turned back around, the trainee was gone.

    "Whatever you say, man." Connie bumped his arm with a fist. "Anyway, see you tomorrow, I'm going back inside!"

    "Yeah… you too…"

    Fritz chuckled as Connie waved in an attempt to look cool with his back turned, waiting until the door shut to look back at where he had seen that trainee. That girl… It was strange, he thought, for someone to be wandering around late at night. But, then again, who was he to judge?

    —&—

    The morning after was scorching.

    The trainee behind him practically breathing down his neck, Fritz tried his best to stay still, as they and everyone else stood at attention in their assigned lines on the training field the same as yesterday and the day before, waiting for Chief Instructor Shadis to pair them up into groups of two for the start of their first exercise toward eventually becoming true soldiers: martial arts.

    If they were to be going to fight the Titans, then a certain level of strength and conditioning was required in the next two years. This first exercise was to see where each trainee stood at the beginning for the top ten places. Those with higher initial marks were more likely to earn a spot among it. With one of those spots, came the chance to join the Military Police—the branch of the military responsible for protecting and keeping the peace of the Inner Walls.

    The same top ten Ines had placed into years prior.

    Between this and the Chief Instructor Shadis's ear shattering voice, Fritz beamed. While his goal wasn't to get into the top ten as the Scouting Legion accepted even those trainees with the lowest scores, for Ines to have gotten in and still choose the Scouting Legion was something to take pride in as her younger brother. Something to strive for, being just as selfless, and he followed the Chief Instructor as he went up and down the lines pointing and shouting.

    He watched him lean over and scream at one unfortunate trainee—a girl with dark, braided hair that rested over her shoulders—who turned white as a sheet and just about ready to pee herself before he moved on.

    "You! Quit smiling like that and face front!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, spit flying from his mouth. The Chief Instructor had skipped everyone else between this girl and came straight for him with a murderous intent.

    "Yes sir!" Fritz yelled back, hand to heart in proper salute.

    "Very good! Just like that! That is how you should stand, Friedrich Brandt! Your partner for today's training with be Mina Carolina! Maybe you can knock some sense it into her!"

    "Yes, sir!"

    —&—

    Eventually, everyone was assigned their partners, and, after a short water break, the Chief Instructor ordered them to start immediately.

    "Catch you later!" Connie slapped his back, then disappeared with his partner.

    Fritz was still looking around for his among the dispersing crowd when he spotted a girl with dark hair standing off by herself. Guessing that she was his partner, he wondered why he hadn't noticed something as noticeable as that red scarf before, and tapped her shoulder. When she turned, the first thing he noted was the slight slant of her eyes, and her calm, collected expression. She looked at him for a moment and he quickly pulled back, brushing the scarf.

    "Ah! Excuse me!" He itched his nose in embarrassment at getting too close. "Hey there! I'm Friedrich, b-but you can call me Fritz! I'll be your partner for training today!"

    The first thing she did was put her scarf at its original position. Then, she pointed over her shoulder. "My partner is behind me," she stated bluntly, voice muffled.

    Fritz leaned to get a better look and standing a ways back was a fairly tall boy with a friendly face, who waved.

    "I think you have me mistaken for someone else."

    "So you're not,"—he crooked a finger, now feeling incredibly embarrassed for not realizing it sooner—"Mina?"

    "No." She adjusted her scarf away from her mouth. "Mikasa."

    "If you're not… Then where—"

    Someone tapped on his own shoulder and he spun around, face to face with a homely gray-eyed girl sporting braided black hair. The same one from earlier. She cleared her throat and held up a hand in greeting.

    "I'm Mina. It's a pleasure to meet you, Fritz." She smiled warmly and it was so welcoming that he turned the same shade as the other girl's scarf.

    "I… Y-yeah! It's nice to meet you, too!" He wildly shook her hand, "I'm—!"

    "I know," Mina said before he could introduce himself properly, poking his chest. "You're my partner." Then she casually waved over his shoulder. "And hey Mikasa! Bertolt!" she exclaimed.

    Mikasa acknowledged her presence with a nod and Bertolt another wave.

    "I'll take him off your hands! Come on, you!"

    Pulling him by the wrist, she led him in the other direction.

    "I just want to say that I'm excited to get started!" she said once they were situated, pumping her fists. "How about you?!"

    He couldn't do anything more than nod, brain still processing everything that'd just transpired all at once. "Ah… I…" Looking her up and down, he raised his hands dumbly. "Ready... when you are…"

    "Here I come!"

    As she did, out the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of blonde hair and thoughts immediately going back to Annie, his guard dropped just as one of his anxious partner's fists connected with his jaw.

    Next he knew, Fritz was staring up at the sky again, with Mina standing over his sprawled out body.

    "You OK? I didn't know I could hit that hard," she remarked, as he stared up at the clear blue sky and thought he saw Titans in the clouds. Quickly regaining his wits, he sat up. "What's the matter?"

    "Someone I know," he said, hastily searching for who he had just seen.

    Mina slyly put a finger to her chin. "May I ask who?"

    He waved a hand down the right side of his face. "She has one long bang, a big and kinda pointy nose and blonde hair. Uhm, and, anyway, I t—"

    "Oh! You mean Annie?!" She lifted the finger. "I know who you're looking for!"

    "Really?" He perked up. "Annie? Annie Leonhart?"

    "Mhm!"

    "Do you know w—"

    She was already pointing somewhere off to the left. "Over there. You see that broken fence? And that small tree next to it? The logs underneath? I bet she's there."

    "How do you figure that?"

    Mina crossed her arms. "I would know. I'm her bunkmate, after all! She wasn't in bed yesterday. I got worried, you know? So, last night… I followed her. That was where I found her. For awhile." Looking over to where she believed Annie to be, a faint frown on her lips, she sighed. "I wish she'd open up more, instead of choosing to be a loner…" When she finally looked back at him, she gave a wink. "Think that you can talk to her? You might have better luck than me."

    "But, the exercise… We can't just abandon the drills."

    She shrugged. "We'll just say we're switching locations. They won't care as long as we aren't slacking off, like Annie. So, let's go!" She grabbed his wrist again and pulled him along.

    —&—

    The ground of the training field was barren, but, outside it, grass and flowers could scarcely be seen, and he wondered how anything could survive in this heat as he looked at the broken fence.

    Worn by time and the elements, it was rotting in most places and when they passed it and came to the small tree, it looked about ready to fall over and die, too. Though, the logs underneath were in fairly decent condition. Moving closer to them, he saw feet sticking out from the other side. Her blonde hair was tied back in a bun that dipped out in three directions.

    "There she is," Mina whispered. "Doesn't she look lonely? Well, good luck!" Without warning, she pushed him forward and retreated to the broken fence. "I'll stay here and watch out for Chief Instructor Shadis!" she said, waving him on.

    Grimacing as he gave her a shaky thumbs up because his back was still sore, Fritz mosied up to the logs. Clearing his throat, he was just about to break the ice when Annie did it herself

    "What do you want?" She turned her head, eyes piercing into him. They made him uncomfortable, like she were studying a new species that she was detested to even know the existence of. Her tone was cold and detached.

    "I came to ask if you wanted to join in the exercises with Mina and me?" He indicated back at Mina, who smiled encouragingly. "I just thought, since we're all friends, that—"

    "So, if I beat you, will you shut up and leave me alone?"

    "Huh?"

    She sighed, brushed herself off, and already gotten past him, now standing in the sunlight, stretching. "Are you going to stand there all day?"

    Mina called over from the broken fence. "Hey! What's going on?! Did something happen, Fritz?!"

    He didn't really know himself. What was she…

    She scoffed. "Are we going to start or what?" she said, assuming a lower posture.

    "A-ah! Yeah, just let me…!" He joined her out on the field. That was when he noticed. "Wow, you're so short."

    "You're not much taller," she retorted.

    "Twenty centimeters," he countered, comparing their heights.

    He yelped when she swept his legs from under him without warning. Landing on his back, pain shot down his spine as he sat up and shook dust from his uniform, his mind trying to catch up with his body. But, before it could she had already circled around him and had his arms pinned behind his back.

    Grunting from the pain, he felt her hot breath on his neck as she pulled him up ear to mouth. "You lose." She released him with a shove.

    "Looks like it hurt," Mina said, beside him now. "Hey, Annie, you didn't have to..." she started to say, but whatever the rest Annie cut it short by walking away. She snapped her fingers. "Darn it. What you'd do that made her so mad?"

    "Nothing," he said, rubbing his back and wincing. He was still trying to piece together what just happened.

    Without taking his eyes off her as she went off to who could guess where, the image of that trainee slinking around in the dark last night resurfaced to occupy his thoughts.

    Nothing that he knew of, anyway.
    Last edited by Gally; May 24th, 2017 at 01:08 AM.

  5. #5
    Dead Apostle Eater Gally's Avatar
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    "Achi, can you hand me that blanket?"

    Pointing over at it lying by Sasha's feet, who was snoring without a care in the world, Christa waited for Achi to do so and then covered her up. Taking care not to wake her—not that would be such an easy task—she wiped the drool from her face with a cloth and smiled it was done. Now tidying up the area, she waved Achi over again, asking her to help sweep this time. The auburn-haired girl shrugged, taking up a broom.

    Standing by the doorway of the dorm, Ymir spat outside the door and sniffed. "Hey, why're you wasting still your time with that?"

    Christa ignored her.

    Their brief conversation died then and there.

    She heard Achi call for her, needing another hand to help clean up whatever Sasha just threw up. Rolling up her sleeves, she went back to it, thoughts drifting weeks back to her time in that forest shortly following her farewell to Isolde and the village of Thorpe.

    She had left under the cover of night, not having looked back. Trekking through the wilderness alone had been a frightening experience, but, she had managed to make steady progress, only having to stop when she needed to refill her canteen every so often in the creek Isolde would often send her and the other children to fetch buckets of water from.

    Other than being a primary source of clean water for the village and a means to cool off in the warmer summer months, the creek also connected to a river which ran through the District—one of the other ways Isolde said they could reach it, if they needed to. Using it as a natural guide, her journey had gone much smoother than without it, and luckily the only dangerous animal she encountered was the occasional rabbit, no bears or wolves.

    Wiping the last bits of food from Sasha's mouth, the girl had eaten too much again, having scarfed down of an entire squad's worth of food. She smiled. At least it was better than the first time they'd met the night of the opening ceremony. Practically the opposite. Now she had free reign to take as much as she wanted, instead of vying for scrapes after being made the laughing stock of the entire Corps.

    Today's exercises had been especially brutal, and feeling through her own hair, Christa pulled a small twig that had gotten tangled. Staring at it in her palm, her smile faded. She remembered the broken flask. That man's slashed throat. The blood.

    Their lives were about as significant as this twig, easily plucked and discarded like trash. She didn't want to believe that, but couldn't help it, and snapped the small thing.

    Looking over at Achi, shifting her thoughts and tossing the two halves outside, she puffed her cheeks in a childish fashion. Doing away with that memory of her past, seeing the first star twinkle in the twilight above, that day had also been the one she had first met Achi, as well. Before her, it was Ymir.

    She watched them talk, staring down at her feet, red and raw just like that last leg of her journey from the village. Sore with each step she took, cutting through those grasslands after surviving the forest, it had ended the moment she'd seen those cannons gleaming under a harsh sun atop those Walls, fifty meters in height.

    Remembering sneaking into the District beyond them via a caravan that she memorized the route of during her time at Thorpe, she looked up at Ymir.

    That evening the two of them had first met, walking through those streets, gripping at the sleeves of her jacket, she had been afraid somebody would notice who she was, and in her anxiousness, tripped shortly before reaching the recruitment center set up in the town.

    Expecting to be recognized right then and there, when those people went by without a second thought to her lying there, nose bloodied and knees scraped, it truly dawned on her that if someone was really after her life, they would have taken it a long time ago. That her father would have. It was then she knew what her life was truly worth: nothing.

    Her time with Isolde had only helped her to deny the reality. Further solidified her belief that the military, that becoming a soldier, was her best chance to change that. To become something better that what everyone wrote her off as.

    That is, all but one of them.

    A girl, imposing tall, had came up behind her as she lay there covering her nose and clutching her knee and hoisted her to her feet again, carrying her the rest of the way while beginning a conversation about going the same way.

    Dumbfounded, the only thing she could do, staring up at her freckled face through the pain, was nod and turn red as the hue of the sun shining above their heads. Though, whether it was noticed, the other girl had just moved on with conversation.

    Christa laughed, then. Ymir must have thought she was one of those stupid girls, like the ones back at Thorpe. She frowned, holding a fist to her chest. Not that… that were untrue… in a way… Yet, for some reason back then, and even more so now, she felt that she could trust her.

    And the time couldn't have been more perfect, when a group of scary looking men had broken free from the crowd. Heading straight for them, she had yelped when Ymir suddenly changed direction and ran full speed away from the recruitment center, diving into that alleyway with nowhere to run and getting in the front of her, saying that those men were dangerous and to keep behind her, as one of them with a crooked nose came forward brandishing a knife.

    She recalled him calling her a tiny mouse, and Ymir an ugly shrew, the others with him laughing at his comment. That was around the time Ymir had flung a rock at his face, plowing into him in the confusion that followed with her in tow, ducking down a side street and losing them.

    She laughed again, recalling Ymir's blush of embarrassment afterward.

    "Thank you for saving me… Ymir…"

    "It was nothing," she grumbled. "They weren't any trouble."

    "I'm Christa Lenz. It's a pleasure to meet you, Ymir!"

    "Likewise..."

    Her smile came back as the memory faded. After that, she had known, no doubt in her mind, that this girl was someone she could put her trust in. To be safe around. Looking at her now, still hanging outside with Achi, she wondered why. What was Ymir's reason for being there that day? What was her motive, for wanting to join the military?

    "Hey, you sick too or something?" Ymir called over without turning around.

    "N-no, I'm fine!" Christa hastily replied, shaking her head.

    "Whatever you say. Say, Achi, about that…"

    She sat down, red in the face again, trying to clear her head. Humming a tune, she watched as more stars appeared in the night sky, and then, frowned. Where had she heard that song before?

    She couldn't… quite remember…

    —&—

    Later, walking back to her own dorm alone, Christa now thought of the other member of their trio.

    Not long after signing up, she and Ymir had both met another girl who had surprisingly been shorter than her. Achi, at first, had been so distant and forlorn. So… dead inside. Frowning again, she knew that feeling so much it hurt just to think about it, and, looking down at her feet, gave her irresistible urge to help her.

    It had taken some time to get her to open up, but eventually Achi had came around. Though, it appeared that in spite of all her effort, Achi was more inclined to listen to Ymir, and her influence was starting to show with each growing day. Not that it was a real problem, but she would have at least hoped to have some noticeable effect on her.

    She sighed.

    That, maybe, if she helped Achi, then she herself could heal.

    But, instead, she…

    Stopping in her tracks, Christa clenched her fists. It hadn't done a damn thing. She began to tear up. She hated thinking that way, wishing she wasn't such a piece of trash.

    "Oh well," she said to herself, now dragging her feet along in the gloom. It only served to—her attention broke away from her thoughts as she caught a glimpse of something moving ahead of her. She looked back up, vaguely able to make out what it was. Or, rather, who it was.

    Curiosity getting the better of her, again, Christa went after her, spotting her round a corner of one of the larger buildings within the camp and looked up. It was where their group seminars were going to be held soon. Whoever it was, was entering an area they weren't allowed to be in outside after hours. They were up to something, but, turning the same corner, nothing was on the other side. She tilted her head in confusion. Where had they gone? They couldn't have jus—

    "Mhhmaff!" Something cold clasped itself over her mouth the moment she took a step forward.

    Pulled further into the darkness on the other side of the wall, she couldn't struggle from the sudden attack because her arms were subsequently pinned, probably by the attacker's other hand. Once again recalling that time, whatever their reason for ambushing her, she wasn't the helpless girl she used to be!

    Reacting quickly, Christa twisted her body and kicked out with her heel to try and knock whoever it was off balance, but, they anticipated the action and she was slammed against the wall, her arms locked even tighter. Though, she wasn't about to be taken that easily!

    Flinging her head back, she hoped to stun them like she'd practiced in their exercises, but, again, they moved away before it made contact—just like she thought they would! Spinning around, she came up with all her might, fist raised, and lashed out, only to have the same thing as before happen. Her attacker grabbed her fist, twisted it behind her back, covered her mouth, and slammed her into the wall for the second time. Grimacing, she could feel the person's hot breath on her neck as they leaned in closer.

    "Why are you tailing me?" Annie whispered. Her voice was cold and detached, bored even, as she gripped her hands even tighter around her mouth and arms. "Answer me."

    "Mhm! Mafffm!" The pressure loosened, and Annie's hands moved away. Christa huffed, seeing the other girl just standing there, fists raised, ready to fight. She knew she couldn't win and slide down the wall in exhaustion and defeat. That one struggle had taken all she had. Panting, she took a moment to catch her breath. "I… could say the same to… you! If you're thinking of cheating, you can't!"

    At her outburst, Annie approached. Christa felt her gut drop, thinking the other girl was going to pummel her into the dirt, but instead she just lowered her fists and stared at her blankly for a second. "You thought I was going to cheat? That's why you followed me?" Her tone was unreadable. Then, hoisting her up by the collar of her shirt, Christa caught a slight hint of contempt in it. "Cheating?"

    "That's… right…!" What other reason was there for going into the lecturehall before we're supposed to?!

    Annie dropped her. "I have no intention of doing that."

    Rubbing her behind, Christa looked up, glaring at her. "Then… why…?"

    "I should be the one asking the questions." Annie bent down, getting in her face. "Why were you really tailing me?"

    Startled at the sudden accusation and ferocity now plain in the other girl's voice, she lowered her gaze. "I… happened to see you… So, I just…"

    She heard Annie sigh. "What a waste of my time. I'm going back to my dorm. Listen, this never happened. Got it?"

    "Hey, wait…" Christa called after her, but Annie was already gone. Sitting there alone, she cursed the cold night air and looked up to the stars again. "I suppose everyone has their secrets, huh…?"

    She wondered about it again.

    The twig, something so insignificant yet when thrown into a fire it could help keep it burning for hours longer.

    The soldiers of the military, people who were humanity's fire, their saviors, burning brightly in the night, blinking out as the daybreak came as they sacrificed themselves to keep the light of humanity going. Martyrs for the future. People worth something.

    She was going to be the brightest of them all.
    Last edited by Gally; May 24th, 2017 at 01:11 AM.

  6. #6
    Dead Apostle Eater Gally's Avatar
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    "The sole interest of the Titans is the eating of human beings,"—the instructor in charge of their more studious lessons, continued—"They have absolutely zero interest in anything else and if we consider that they've existed without eating humans for a hundred years since the Walls have been built, we can assume that they don't need to eat." He looked down at the book in his hands and then wrote something on the board behind him.

    Exterminate.

    "This can only mean that the Titans' sole purpose is the eradication of the human race as a whole, which has been halted indefinitely by the building of the Walls. It does not stop them from still trying and ultimately succeeding, just as the case with Shinganshina with the Colossal-Type and Armored-Type Titans." He flipped a page. "And from the information we've gathered thus far, they are able to regenerate injuries, even re-grow their head if it's been blow off."

    Someone raised their hand. "Does that mean they're unkillable?!"

    "No, it does not."

    The instructor drew the head, neck, and shoulders of a humanoid, then proceeded to circle the space between where the neck connected to the shoulders.

    The nape.

    "Major injury to this area of the body has been confirmed to effectively kill a Titan. For that purpose, you trainees are going through this training to use the Vertical Maneuvering Gear properly."

    As he went over to one of the disassembled devices laid out on a table in front, Annie's focus was on the blade which served as their primary weapon against the Titans. It was made for flexibility, forged to be as sturdy as possible, but, she wondered if it would be any use against human enemies. Watching him demonstrate its reliability by swinging it this way and that, she assumed the answer was yes.

    Later, with her own hands on one of these Titan-killing blades, she gripped the handle and looked around the training field. The Coordinate could possibly be any one of them here. She had to be cautious. She couldn't let her guard down. Especially after the last several days, where not one idiot was now pestering her at seemingly every turn, but two. It was getting more difficult to keep them away. Even beating them to a pulp had little effect, and, her eyes wandering over to Fritz despite herself, it was only a matter of time before they started scratching past the surface.

    Right now, he was conversing with that boy with the shaved head. Again. In fact, he was more cheerful and even more of a grinning fool than before. If that was even possible. If it was about her, she couldn't hear, but she knew that if they didn't practice their drills like everyone else, the Chief Instructor would make their next moments a living hell.

    They were just simple motions with the equipment for getting them used to the weight and feel of the blades before they moved on to the Vertical Maneuvering Gear after spending these first few weeks hardening their bodies, but the two of them—no, she shouldn't concerned with fools like the two of them.

    Instead, she turned her attention to the others around her, watching them go through their own motions. Most were just walking around with it on or doing simple stances, but one caught her eye. It was the girl with the red scarf.

    Annie now knew her name as Mikasa Ackerman. Her features were… unlike any she'd ever seen. Strange. Foreign. Not like the majority of the others here. Yet, there was something familiar about it. Though, she couldn't tell for certain what it really was. The triangular structure of her face? The slight slant of her eyes?

    Turning her attention to what the girl was looking at, beside her was the cocky boy, Eren Yeager. Other than that incident in the messhall with the other boy whose name she couldn't recall but reminded her of a horse, after seeing him hanging upside down in his harness that day, dangling there helplessly after all that big talk, she realized he was full of nothing but hot air, and the other one, not notable whatsoever, was Armin Arlert.

    The three of them always seemed to be together.

    And, moving on then to another trio, now that she thought about it, that tall girl's features, as well, looked familiar. Even more so than the other one. She went over her name and the other two in her tall girl that she was also now certain had been watching her in the messhall that day, was Ymir. No last name. The one with the blank expression, who now just seemed generally upset all the time, was Achi Almen. And, the blonde one who had unwittingly stopped her that one night, was Christa Lenz.

    Just three more to keep an eye on.

    —&—

    Annie gazed up the length of the cliffside they were required to climb in pairs. It was a great deal lesser in height than the fifty meters of either of the three Walls, but, still a formidable challenge. She turned to her partner, Eren Yeager.

    "I'll go first, keep pace with me and we'll both be fine."

    He nodded. "Right."

    Having already gone over the fundamentals of the Vertical Maneuvering Gear and its uses, it was now time to test them out for real.

    Great physical strength was required to be able to use them, especially in the lower half of the body, where the majority of the equipment was situated. The equipment itself consisted of a harness that went around the shoulders, chest, abdominals, down to feet, and all of which met at the waist, where the Gear itself—the wire propelled grappling hooks perfect for latching onto various surfaces and not to mention Titans—resided along the gas canisters that fueled them.

    The device itself was taxing to operate, and thus, they were now out here to further condition themselves for its more complexities with more simple, and very intensive, physical training.

    Making sure her harness was secure before they were set to begin the climb, Annie looked over at the piles of hay that were to serve as their cushions if either of them were to fall. If one of them did, they'd have to do it over from the beginning. There could be no mistakes.

    She glanced around.

    The other pairs were prepping themselves as well, and she turned back to Eren after another check and saw him doing the same. Both of them were ready, and, she had to admit that beneath all that hot air was a surprisingly strong sense of courage. Very.

    In front of their feet, a line was drawn in the dirt, signifying the start point. At the top of the cliff were the Chief Instructor and two other advisers, his hands clasped behind his back and bald head still reflecting the sun's light. He inhaled.

    "Each pair has exactly twenty minutes to scale the cliff and make it to the top. If you can't make it to the top, you must start over! The first pair to reach the top will be receive the most points toward their overall score, and the last will naturally receive the least! Remember, each point towards your score means the one step further you are to getting into the top ten!"

    And, before long, he was shouting down at them to begin.

    She rushed for the wall, Eren beside her all the way.

    Touching surface, she caught a foothold and started her way up. Anywhere she could get another foothold she took the opportunity, noticing the further up the looser the sediment, meaning the more chance for slips-up and, if one wasn't careful enough, their inevitable plummet to the piles of hay stacks below. Briefly looking down, she saw Eren just a few footholds behind her, to the right side. He was moving too slowly—some of the other pairs were already ahead.

    "Hurry up!" she yelled down as she climbed.

    "I am!" he yelled back, anger stretched across his sweaty features. He seemed to be locked there. "It's only… I… No… don't worry about me…!" Something passed over his eyes and she understood the look. His resolve. Quickly, he managed to close the gap between them. "Keep going!"

    She nodded and after a few more minutes of climbing was nearly to the top, when she felt something was terribly wrong. The rocks were the loosest here, and even one slight mistake meant failure. Sweat dripping down her forehead, her brow, her cheeks—everywhere—she knew she couldn't let that stop her. It wouldn't stop her.

    Yet, the same couldn't be said for her partner.

    She heard him grunt, having pierced a hand on one of the more jagged rocks, and looked down again. He was trying to climb with the injury despite the further exertion needed. Pained, blood licked footholds were left in his wake and, then, she saw it… He'd missed one of firmer footholds, reaching for one of the looser ones. And, with his injured hand…

    "Don't!"

    The moment his bloody hand grasped the rock, it crumbled and he slide, but managed to catch himself. Holding on with one hand, he was lifting the other up when she'd grasped his forearm.

    "If you fall we start over!" She used what strength she dared to muster and pulled him up just a bit further, the blood from his injury making the task difficult. Slippery.

    "I can make it the rest of the way! Let go!"

    "No, you can't! The further up you go the harder it is! And you're already at your limit!"

    "My limit?!" Eren scowled. "Not even close!"

    His free hand grasped another foothold and she was forced to let go of the other. Then, she thought she saw something that shouldn't be possible, that shouldn't happen to anything other than a Titan. The wound to his hand had already healed itself, and then, she realized: when? He hadn't even realized it, and still didn't as he went to yet another foothold and was now right beside her on the cliffside, his confidence returned.

    How?

    Her eyes widened, then narrowed immediately. She remembered her father's instructions, but, where they were now, bit her lip and held back from doing anything.

    She had to keep it that way. For now.

    "Then if you think you can keep up,"—she reached up to a further foothold and looked back down—"Then do so!"

    "Watch me!"

    —&—

    Before long, they were at the top, heaving and gasping for breath. Hand against a tree, Annie looked over at him again.

    Eren Yeager.

    He was staring at his previously injured hand, at the blood that was no longer there. The possibility of him being like her at the moment was high, but, there had been no exhaustion of steam from either the wound or his blood.

    Even so… could he be…?

    She found herself twisting her ring again, a new habit, and shook her head free of the thought. No, she needed to wait it out and see. She doubted he even knew he was the same as them. Maybe… he was something entirely different. Or maybe she was just suffering from the heat. Maybe he wasn't even a Shifter at all.

    "Hey! Annie!"

    She groaned. Just what she needed right now, a headache on top of dehydration.

    Drenched in sweat, Fritz stumbled as he skid to a halt in front of her, grinning.

    Why? Why could he be so carefree, looking as happy as he did despite what laid behind his eyes? The regret, the musings, the darkness? The promise that he wanted to desperately fulfill? What… what made him a good person despite the evil that constantly grasped at his heart? She...

    No.

    His interest in her was too suspicious to be under the mere guise of wanting a friendship, she couldn't let herself be swayed by his vague resemblance to Marcel.

    One way or the other, she was going to have to deal with him soon before he figured something out that would be best left alone.
    Last edited by Gally; May 24th, 2017 at 01:12 AM.

  7. #7
    Dead Apostle Eater Gally's Avatar
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    "When inspecting and cleaning your Gear, always make sure to double and triple check the axles around where the steel wire revolves once it's released."

    That's what Chief Instructor Shadis had first told them when they started the duty of inspecting their Gear, but, over the last several days since, still struggling to first even remove his gas canister, Fritz wondered if he would even make it to that step.

    The cylindrical shape of the canister was designed in such a way to make it a fast and easy removal and resupply, though his seemed to be caught on something inside the rectangular fitting it was housed in. It's supposed to pop right out, though at this rate he was going to lose points for being twice as slow as the rest. He didn't want that to happen. Otherwise...

    "Stupid thing!" he grumbled, tugging on the fitting.

    The trainee next to him, a tall girl with freckles, snorted. "There's a button on the side, dumbass."

    "Huh?"

    She pointed to a something on the bottom of the fitting, "There."

    He pressed it. The canister came free. He blinked. Twice, still not grasping what he was looking at. It was so simple, and yet he… he looked up, frowning at his own lapse of intelligence. "Thanks…"

    "Don't misunderstand. If Shadis catches me next to a guy like you, your stupidity will rub off onto me and I'll lose points by association."

    Peeking at her own work, he raised an eyebrow. His frown curled into a smile. "Oh?" She wasn't doing much better than him, crudely banging her Gear against the table and tossing the pieces around without a care or proper respect of the equipment.

    She glanced back over, seeing him watching her clumsily move this way and that over her Gear, and scowled. "Say anything, and I'll fucking kill you."

    His smile widened. He wasn't just the only one, after all.

    —&—

    Now at dinner, Fritz was busy going over the motions of cleaning and setting up his Gear in his head, until a sharp whistle from Connie snapped him out of it.

    "Hey, you in there?" Connie waved a hand in front of his face.

    Looking up from his plate of untouched food with a furrowed brow, Fritz shook his head. "No. I-I mean yes! I was going over the exercises today. Memorizing them."

    Connie rested his head on one of his arms, and inhaled through his nose, seemingly disinterested. "That stuff's easy," he said.

    Fritz quickly looked back down, blushing from embarrassment. "Ye-yeah, it is!"

    "Are you going to eat that, or what?"

    "No. Not r—"

    Whistling loudly, Connie sprang back up, suddenly alive again. "Hey Sasha! Come 'ere! Do you want Fritz's food?! Says he doesn't want it!"

    Fritz followed his friend's eyes, centered on a table in the corner of the room where he saw three people huddled together. Of course he'd seen them before. They were one of four infamous trios that everyone in the 104th Trainee Regiment knew of by now. Two of them, Eren and Armin, had their backs to him, but, the third, the same one from back then on the training field, who was looking straight back at he and Connie, was Mikasa. All the trainees were saying how talented she was.

    His eyes drawn to the red scarf she always seemed to have looped around her neck, he wished he had something like that to keep himself warm even if it was old and ragged. Then, he looked back at Connie. Why woul—

    "Gah!"

    Someone's hands were sneakily reaching for his plate literally right behind his back, and he jumped up, knocking heads with whomever it was. Rubbing it, he winced and looked down, seeing a girl crouched on the floor and clutching her forehead.

    "What the…?"

    "Ow, ow, ow!" the girl whined, and he bent down, offering a hand.

    "Ah! I'm s—" The next thing he knew, he was on the ground with a hurt jaw, dazed and even further confused as whoever it was had taken him down and was currently devouring his plate. "H… uh…?"

    "Quit pestering people, damn." He craned his neck, seeing someone standing over him. "It's annoying as hell!" He then saw them lift something up, and, starting to regain his senses, with a shake of the head, it was none other than the tall freckle-faced girl from earlier. Strewn across her shoulder was another person. She looked down at him. "You owe me one, kid." With that, not even giving a second thought before stepping over his sprawled out body, she left, taking whoever she had unconscious in her arms with her.

    He sat up, dazed and even further confused. He spun, watching her go. "Hey…! Wait! Where are you going! Hey!"

    The girl just kept walking. "To her bunk." Soon, she was at the messhall doors, where she stopped and turned to look directly back into his eyes. "Remember kid: you owe me one."

    "My name is Fritz! Fritz! F-r-i—!"

    "Whatever!" She waved him off, pushing open the door and disappearing into the night just as a fairly small blonde haired girl shouted after her, yelling for her to stop and apologize, racing after her shortly thereafter.

    Fritz heard her say the name Ymir. He tried to follow after them, when the Chief Instructor came bursting through the doors, screaming at the top of his lungs, seething.

    "What is all the commotion?!" Veins practically popping out of his head, he cast his unflinching gaze over everyone in the messhall.

    It was silent. Nobody moved a muscle. Fritz had bolted back into his chair, and kept his head lowered. Partially from the headache he felt coming on, and partially to stay hidden. To hopefully go unnoticed, and not be blamed for something he had spent the majority of the time knocked down on the floor for.

    Shadis took a frightening step forward. "Anyone want to tell me?"

    "Sasha found a new lover, sir." Everyone looked over to see Mikasa standing up, hand raised. Fritz felt his face turning bright red. She was staring right at him! No, stop, stop that! Before he—! He dared peek back at the Chief Instructor.

    Yet, Shadis just stood there for a moment, twitching. Then, he coughed and scratched the back of his head. He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Erm, well, then tell Blouse and her new 'lover' to meet me first thing in the morning!" With that said, he left, still red in the face, though more of out of embarrassment than rage this time. And, as soon as the sound of his boots crunching on gravel could no longer be heard, the messhall erupted with laughter.

    Laughing the loudest was Connie, and, by that point, Fritz wanted to bury his face into his hands and forget he ever existed.

    —&—

    "Blouse! What is your excuse for making Brandt here your new 'lover'?!"

    "He gave me food, sir!" the girl shouted back, not missing a beat. "A whole plate's worth, sir!"

    The Chief Instructor reeled back, totally dumbfounded. He just couldn't figure this girl out. And, to be honest, neither could he. "Well, lucky for you, Blouse! Your and your 'lover' are now going to run until I tell you to stop! Is that clear?!" he was shouting at both of them this time.

    "Yes, sir!" they shouted back in unison, holding their salutes firm.

    Then, he dismissed them. "Get started!"

    Their run lasted all day, and, by the time he told them they were done, much to the relief Fritz's sore, calf muscles, did he fall to the dirt in a sweaty heap and nearly collapse. Yet, somehow, he managed to pick himself up and continue for a little while longer.

    The world before him was nothing but a haze, and as he was engulfed in its heat, seeing the images of Lex and Ines in the distance, did he reach out calling their names until he finally succumb to the exhaustion. Cursing Connie's name as his face hit the ground for starting the whole thing in the first place, he continued to do so hours later when he woke up hours later.

    Opening his eyes, he weakly and wearily looked around for any sign of that girl, but, it was too dark to see anything and on top of that his head hurt. So, he put it back down. Rolling over, he stared up into the sky, wondering why it was such a dark green color and then flinched as something fell on his face. Lazily flailing an arm, he slapped it away. It floated up and it took a moment for it to come into focus: a leaf.

    Still suffering from his headache, he slowly sat up. With a grimace, he stumbled to his feet and held onto it, using it for support. Holding himself steady, he balanced himself out, and rubbed his eyes. Starting forward, he bumped his knee on something, and cursed, looking down at a log which jutted out from a pile.

    "I wouldn't move so soon, your body is still recovering."

    "Huh? What? Who's…" he hoarsely called out, peering in the direction the voice had came from. He saw someone standing there by a tree next to the pile of logs, leaning against it, and tilted his head. "A… Annie?"

    "You were running with that idiot for a long time," she continued. Her tongue clicked on the word 'running'. "You're lucky I found you when I did, or else your—"

    Fritz scratched the back on his head and winced. There was a bump. "So, is this a confession?" he asked, trying to read her expression in the dark. He heard her mutter something as she bounced off the tree to come face to face with him—or as close as she could manage with their height difference.

    "Tell me," she spat, blue eyes piercing into him. "How do you want to die tomorrow?" she snarled.

    He quickly held up his hands, backing away. "I-It was a joke! Just a joke!" he exclaimed, taking another step backward. "Don't you have a sense of humor?!" No response, but, she didn't move to snap his neck, and, after a moment, he breathed a sigh of relief. Clearing his throat and now spreading out his hands in a gesture of thanks, he went to change topics fast. "Anyway, why did you bring me here? I mean, you could have just dropped me off at my dorm, right?"

    Her stance eased. "I wanted to talk with you about something." She crossed her arms, looking away suddenly. "I wanted to know if you wanted to have another match. A serious one, this time."

    Fritz pointed at himself. "Me? Why me? And why a match?" He painfully remembered the last one. At this very same spot even. "You'll just beat me up without even trying again."

    "I want to see… how far you've improved," she replied. "If you have at all," she added haughtily, glancing back.

    "Hey! Who says I haven't?!" he retorted.

    "Then how about the next time we do hand to hand exercises?" she challenged, eye flashing.

    "You're on!" he accepted, grinning as he jabbed a finger at her and poked her right in the nose.

    She scowled, slapping his finger away. "It's decided, then." Breaking eye contact, Annie walked away, not looking back.

    Fritz watched her vanish into the night, breathing another sigh of relief as soon as he was certain she was gone. He didn't know how he was going to feel in the morning, let alone when that time came, and propped himself onto the pile of logs, muling it over. The 104th reminded him of home—the hectic nature of it all—and he smiled at nothing in particular as he saw the sun starting to shine over the clouds in the distance.

    —&—

    Later in the week, after their training for the day was done and Shadis had dismissed them to get some rest, Fritz stretched his sore and aching limbs.

    Having Ymir as a partner was harsh. Though she hadn't brought up anything about favors or owing her one, he'd been fearful the whole time. Eventually she was bound to bring it up again. When that time came too he dreaded what might happen, but, for now, he was hungry, and decided to head back in the direction of the messhall, wondering where someone like her was from to be the way she was. Her words still echoed at the back of his mind: you owe me one. As he walked along, two trainees stopped in front of him, both wet and muddy from the day's events.

    "Alright, Sasha, say what you wanted to say," Mikasa said in a flat, but hard and firm, voice. This was one of those rare times seeing her without either Eren or Armin, not to mention both. She pushed the girl cowering behind her forward.

    The girl, Sasha—the same one from the messhall incident and that grueling punishment afterward—fell to the forest floor, bowing her head. "I-I-I'm so sorry!" she stammered, louder than necessary. "I didn't mean to get you in trouble! I just… wanted your food…" She looked up, a sad smile on her face that reminded him of a pouting dog.

    Fritz held up a hand, blushing. "It's alright! I understand!"

    Without hesitation she came up, clasping his hands in hers. "Oh! You do? You really do?!" she cried, eccentric. "I'm so glad, I—!" Mikasa interrupted with a clearing of her throat. "O-oh! Right! That's right! Let me reintroduce myself!" she said then, still holding his hands. "I'm Sasha Blouse! It's wonderful to meet you!" She beamed, now shaking them wildly.

    Fritz let out a nervous laugh. "Likewise, I'm Friedrich Brandt. Call me Fritz!"

    "I was so happy when you selflessly gave me your plate! So happy!" she went on, still beaming. "I was so grateful! I thought I was going to die back there if not for your kindness!"

    "OK! OK! Calm down! Easy!"

    Mikasa clapped her hands together, breaking up the exchange. "Now that that's settled, our lunch is getting cold," she said, pointing at the trail that led back to the main camp. "We should hurry. I have to check on someone."

    "Right, let's not waste anymore time!" Fritz agreed, head held high as the three of them continued down the trail together upon seeing the look in her eyes. A look that meant this person was very important to her. He knew that all too well, as she lead them through the forest.

    Staring at the back of Sasha's head, her brown hair, her ponytail, she must have come from a village scarce with supplies and having limited contact with the larger Districts. Looking over at Mikasa, he had no guess to where she was from, like Ymir, and, thinking of it now, nor did he know where Annie came from. Thoughts focusing on that girl he'd met in his hometown, where had she grown up to learn to fight like that? How many of the other trainees would he meet in his full three years here? How many of them would even get through their first?

    Gazing up into the tall trees of the forest, he tried to see the sky beyond them, catching patches of grey here and there. Drops of rain fell on him. Having rained earlier, it had let up to drizzle, and he welcomed it. It cooled him off.

    Looking forward again, he wondered if Lex and Ines had shared similar experiences to his own, and hoped that his oldest sister was alright.

    Whatever these three years would throw at him to prepare him for what was to come in the future, he vowed that he would join the Scouting Legion himself and meet up with her one day. He had made that unspoken promise with his mother, and he wasn't about to abandon it yet.

    No matter if he had to face Titans or something worse—if there even was such a thing—he was ready and resolved to see it through to the end.
    Last edited by Gally; May 24th, 2017 at 01:13 AM.

  8. #8
    Dead Apostle Eater Gally's Avatar
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    Ymir stood by the well closest to her dorm, tapping her foot as she waited for Achi to finish up with her duties for the day and get together with her and Christa.

    In addition to the mandatory training exercises and lectures they had to participate in to earn points toward their overall scoring, if you were really determined to earn them you could volunteer for the opportunity to gain extra ones by doing menial tasks around the camp.

    Or as she referred to it: kissing Shadis's ass.

    Stuff nobody else bothered to do unless they were forced to. Mostly the nasty ones like cleaning out the latrines or shoveling horse shit. Though, there were less disgusting ones like helping in the messhall in either cooking or serving food, or cleaning up afterwards, and those with a bit more weight behind them—the ones Achi commonly chose to do when the chance presented itself—such as staying close to the wagons and carriages which brought supplies to and from the camp to prevent the loss of resources either from attacks by wild animals, bandits, random bumps in the road, or even—thanks to idiots like Sasha—the members of the military.

    Looking down at Christa standing beside her, she thought for sure the girl was going to take part in such an unmissable opportunity too, and scoffed. But, here she was, soaking up the sun with that sad look on her face that nobody else seemed to notice nor she herself was aware she made when she thought nobody was watching her.

    Ymir spat. Clutching at her forearm, digging into her skin, it was so… so… irritating.

    Her thoughts traveled back to then, when she was nothing but an urchin. A thief, slinking between the shadows, running from the wealthy shopkeepers of that town after swiping their goods and wares. Ducking into alleyways, waiting outside the reach of the moonlight, hearing them give up but still proclaim proudly that they could get a new shipment of whatever items were stolen faster than she could steal them.

    Of that one fat fuck, who hadn't stopped hunting her, even sending those goons after her, all because of that trinket. The trinket she had risked her life to get, and, in the end, shattering into a million pieces and scattering in just as many directions, was just a piece of junk. Similar, but the same, as that one in her dreams.

    Digging deeper into her skin, she ignored the pain, thinking of it again. That necklace. It had been so vivid, so… so—

    "She's late," Christa said. Looking up, that haunted expression was gone, replaced by an even more disgusting one of concern. A false one, faker than even that fucking trinket. "I'm worried. You don't think something ha—"

    She huffed. "Achi can handle herself."

    Christa looked down. "T… That's true, but…" Her brow furrowed. When she looked back up again, they were lit up in anger. "The least you could do is show a little concern! She's our friend, isn't she?!"

    Ymir clicked her tongue. There she went off, again. "In case you haven't figured it out yet, Achi isn't you. She's not helpless like you."

    The blonde haired midget sprang to her feet. "Wha—?! I'm not helpless! I" Only to get flicked in the forehead. "Ow! What was that for, Ymir?!"

    "Even Sasha here is better than you," she replied, pointing at the girl who was coming over with a bucket.

    "Huh? What? What's going on?" Sasha said, looking like a frightened rabbit, about to bolt any second. She froze in front of them. She proceeded to put the bucket on her head. "Why are you staring at me like that?!"

    Even though she said that, looking at her as she cowered pathetically like that, both Sasha and this girl who was now glowing in her anger had the same problem: not being who they really are. Afraid to show the world, they each hid behind something or other. That was what frustrated her the most: cowards who didn't let their true selves show. For the idiot with the bucket over her head, it was the way she talked. The other one, how she acted.

    It really ticked her off, and she was going to put a change to that, right now.

    "Yeah, but even if she's more capable than you, she's still an idiot." She knocked the bucket off Sasha's head and leaned in. "It's really starting to get on my nerves."

    Sasha leaned back. "P-pardon?"

    "That overly polite way you talk. Why do you keep it up, even around us?"

    She looked away, jaw slacked, eyes downcast. "Well, erm, you see, a-about that…"

    Ymir smirked. "Wait, let me guess. Back where you grew up, you must be ashamed of the way they talk?" The girl's jaw snapped shut. "Bullseye. You know, you're pretty sensitive… for a dumbass."

    "That's enough!" Christa exclaimed, trying to get between them, but she just pushed her back.

    "So, all you know is how to hunt, and you're afraid of society, right? You probably don't have much of a reason to become a soldier, either!" Glaring down at Christa, Ymir was going to give a piece of her mind, too. "Are you gonna spend the rest of your life playing a character because you're worried about what others think of you?! That's so pathetic! Isn't it okay, just being yourself?!"

    "Uh… erm… I…"

    "Hm? I can't hear you! Come on, talk to me in your own words! Drop the act, dammit!"

    Sasha bowed her head. "I… thank you… very much, but, ah…"

    Before she could launch into her again, Ymir felt something ram her from behind, and looked back. Christa had smashed her head as hard as she could into her backside, and was now holding it in the aftermath. Stupid girl, it was sure to leave a bump.

    "Y… Ymir…" she strained to say through clenched teeth, eyes watering. "Knock it… off! Sasha! You shouldn't change the way you speak just because someone tells you to!" Going up to the girl, Christa stood in front of her, as if doing so would help defend her from further onslaught. "She's the one who's lived her life! She's already speaking in her own words, and, you what? I like that about her!"

    Rubbing her back, Ymir grumbled. More than Sasha, this girl was… "Tch." Too stubborn for her own good. Her hand sliding to the back of her neck, she scratched the nape. Dammit. She turned her attention back to Sasha. "Well, I guess even if you did change the way you talk, it wouldn't stop you from being annoying…"

    "Ymir!" Christa grabbed her arm, startling her for a split second. "Not everyone's as thick-headed as you, you know!"

    She tore it free. "Hah? What the fuck's that supposed to mean? You trying to start something?" Despite herself, she found herself turning red. Dammit! Sasha started laughing, then, and Ymir shot knives at her. "And what're you laughing at, hah?"

    That shut her up immediately. "Oh… sorry… excuse me…"

    Christa shook her arms, fists clenched, pouting in frustration. "I wasn't going to do anything! And don't threaten people like that! Between bullying Fritz and constantly hounding Sasha, the least you could do was help them in more positive ways! So, when are you going to start?!"

    "Hah?" Ymir ran a hand through her hair and flicked something from her fingers. "I don't know yet, but what I do know is that he pisses me off just as much Potato Girl here."

    And, despite herself anger, Christa spoke up. "What do you mean?" Curiosity gotten the better of her.

    Ymir crossed her arms. "Can't say."

    "Ymir! If you're thinking of bullying him more, then—!"

    She looked to the side. "I dunno. There's just something… odd… about him. Besides his status as a fucking moron."

    "Odd?" Christa giggled. "Well, that certainly fits him to a T."

    She sighed. Ah, what was it? "Well, whatever. I don't care anymore!" She stomped off, brooding. What was it, that this girl reminded her of?! That sent her off so much?!

    "Hey! Where are you going?!"

    "To find Achi!"

    "W-wait! Let me g—"

    But, she was already out of sight, disappearing into one of the buildings farther away. She plopped down on the floor, propping herself again the way. Just what had she been thinking, getting involved with that stupid girl? She slammed a fist into the wall, remembering being chased by that fat fuck's goons again.

    How they had covered her the first time, and how she had managed to escape, breaking the leader's nose. His screaming at the others for them to kill her as he bled, doubled over, the cartilage of his nose twisted at an unnatural angle as he tried moving it back into place, only to sneeze out more blood.

    Her slipping underneath them, running into a crowded street, searching for any viable hiding place, anything at all, until chancing upon another church not unlike from before then, bolting through its doors and diving under one of the windows. Waiting.

    And, as she had, looked around its interior.

    Bigger and more extravagant than the previous one, the only thing she remembered about it was that lone statue of one of those monsters: a Titan. Ominous in appearance, it had a disproportional body, black eyes, and large, sharp teeth. A mockery of human anatomy. Taller than the tallest man. A church with a Titan as the centerpiece.

    She felt herself about to gag. That Titan… it had looked… just like… No, she wasn't that. She wasn't like that anymore. Whatever it had been, wasn't her. Spitting, it was complete and utter bullshit.

    "Bunch of lunatics," she said to herself, remembering what happened shortly after.

    While broodingly condemning those ugly paintings that had been on the ceiling, the doors to the church creaked open and she huddled behind the podium, partially out of instinct. Partially out of habit. In her mad dash to shake off those goons, she had dropped her guard and forgotten the possibility of others coming in and, hearing footsteps, held her breath.

    "But, she's been born out of the wedlock! She can't possibly be the heiress because of that! A bastard child!" a man huffed, his voice tight and hushed, the matter he was discussing no doubt a secret affair. "The family isn't going to accept her as—!"

    "There's nothing we can do about it. We can only hope that this is somehow overlooked," another man retorted, easily the calmer of the two.

    "But, it can't be unless she were killed! Maybe they should have killed her as soon as she was born so this whole fiasco didn't evolve in the first place!"

    "No, that would've been too rash. She is a blood relative, after all. Simply killing her isn't the way to go about it. Driving her out worked in our favor and... for her sake as well..." The calmer man sighed and started to walk back to the entrance. "Come, we'll discuss this further in my chambers—away from any prying eyes that may overhear us in public."

    Politics and family feuds—neither of which she wanted to be a part of, but, despite that, something compelled her to see what the fuss was all about. If nothing else, to see the outcome, thinking that she could use it to her advantage.

    … Or had she?

    Wanting to change, wanting to be different from the monster she had been—she doubted for a split second if she couldn't in fact shake off that side of herself, then freed her mind of the thought and looked down at her hands.

    No, she wouldn't go back to the way she'd been, she'd just be a different Ymir altogether, one who would live only for herself and nobody else. That was what she had told herself back then, and what she would continue to tell herself, forever.

    And, thinking of that stupid girl, she was going to make her see that logic, too. Even if she had to beat it into her.
    Last edited by Gally; May 24th, 2017 at 01:14 AM.

  9. #9
    Dead Apostle Eater Gally's Avatar
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    When she was younger, Achi Almen had loved her village. From its thatch roofed houses, two stories high and made of timber harvested from the nearby forest that offered protection from the harsh cold in the wintertime when they could do little but wait for the summer season, to the walls that surrounded them, enclosed them in a circle and kept them safe from the wild creatures that roamed the countryside. It took many generations to build and wasn't too empty or too crowded and everyone had a duty to see that it stayed that way.

    For her family, this had been watching over and tending to the livestock, and it was her duty not let them wander outside the walls for more than a few times per day, where they were at risk from being attacked by those wild creatures that prowled the forest and surrounding countryside. Wolves, her father had said they were called—large, fierce, sharp-teethed and sharp-clawed animals that would show no mercy to those not paying attention to their duty.

    It took a sharp eye and deft hand to make sure that none of the livestock went missing. It had been difficult work, and, as she grew older, had begun to hate but, now, many miles away from home, walking alongside a carriage bringing fresh supplies to camp, she couldn't have been more grateful.

    And, as she and the carriage came into camp, she was greeted by Ymir—the person she was most grateful toward, among a select few others.

    "Hey, kid," Ymir said, hands on her hips. "Took you long enough."

    She shrugged. "I miss anything?"

    Ymir scratched a cheek. "Nothing much…"

    She looked around. "Where's Christa?"

    The taller girl scoffed. "Dunno." Rubbing the back of her neck, she changed subjects. "You coming or what? Or you just gonna stand there all day?"

    "Shut up," she replied, following after her.

    —&—

    That night, listening to her talk about how much Sasha annoyed her as they ate, Achi liked Ymir and, to a lesser extent, Christa. They were friends, and Achi would even go so far as to say her best friends. That was what her mother had told her was one of the most precious things a person could have in the whole world, and, right now, being with them was the only thing on her mind as she slowly edged out of her hiding place in her family's kitchen closet, remembering that morning.

    The morning hell had come knocking on their door.

    She had tried to block the memory of it from her thoughts since it happened, and wanted to concentrate on eating, but, could only muster up enough to sip a few spoonfuls of her soup before giving up. She grimaced.

    "Achi? What's wrong?" Christa asked.

    "Nothing." She got up from the table. "I'm getting some fresh air." On her way out, she heard one of them get up from the table, as well. Glancing back, of course it was Christa. "Alone."

    Outside now, she stared into the fire of the sconces on one of the buildings and sat down. She just couldn't keep it away. Gritting her teeth as her nostrils flared and she swallowed, trying hard not to throw up, the image of it—her mother's body, splattered across their kitchen table, her insides hanging over the side of it like tangled red rope against the backdrop of that humongous hole in their kitchen wall, smashed through by some monster's giant fist—was always there. And, those houses and walls she had loved so much, that she once felt so safe inside, in ruins, smoke rising as those monsters swarmed the village.

    She could still see the one that'd snatched and hoisted her mother into the air like one of the many dolls in her room, playing with her and jostling her around. Only her mother wasn't a doll, and when she'd struggled to grab hold of something so she wasn't thrashed around like one, it pulled her apart.

    She could still the hear the snapping and the tearing, as her mother screamed in agony, and the thud, as it dropped her, like a sack of dirt. That was when her father had told her to hide as he got the monster's attention and led it away. To make a dash for the far edge of the village as soon as he had. Her father trusted her to do it, and trust was one of the most valuable things in the whole world. Their family's golden rule.

    Her mother would have told her the exact same thing.

    Hot, stinging tears streaming down her face, she didn't want to see any of it anymore. She didn't want to see all those people getting eaten like her mother. Didn't want to see their anguished faces or hear their tormented cries.

    She wanted to wake up from the nightmare.

    It was all just a horrible dream and everything would be alright when she opened them again, but, the only thing she saw was the blood and spit coming from her mother's mouth—gurgling up from her throat, pooling behind her head, and spilling all over the floor.

    She couldn't take anymore. All the pain, all the sadness, all the hurt—it was eating away at her no matter how hard she tried to deny or bury it. But, she wasn't going to cry again, she wasn't going to—Sucking snot back up her nose and rubbing her eyes, she wasn't going to cry anymore!

    Getting up on her own two feet and going back inside, she sat down at the table again, and looking now to the plate of biscuits, Achi knew what to feel to fill her emptiness as she reached for one. It rose from the depths of her beaten heart as she took a bite of her biscuit.

    Taking another bite, she remembered that monster. That Titan. The one who'd eaten her mother and, shoving the rest in her mouth, swallowing hard and starting on a second, she knew what it was...

    "Hey, Achi, you shouldn't…"

    "Leave her be. She's gonna need it for what's coming up."

    It was anger.

    —&—

    A few days later, they were out in approach of one of the giant forests dotted throughout the territory within Wall Rose commonly used for practice with the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment for a new exercise: split into two groups coming from opposite directions, they were supposed to be making a round trip to a destination the Chief Instructor had chosen while recording their progress along the way and set within a given period of time. Once at the destination, they were to exchange information and return via the other group's assigned route.

    Officially, it was to evaluate the trainees' ability to keep themselves occupied and alert when there was nothing exciting going on. Unofficially, to Achi, it was all a load of crap. Whichever group made it the fastest there and back would be rewarded with a point in their favor toward their individual scorings for the top ten—that was why it pissed her off so much.

    All that work she'd been doing for months meant nothing if everyone was going to get a pat on the back anyway. Which was why when her group had pushed themselves so hard to get there, having already exhausted themselves not even a third of the way, she was thankful that Eren was such a suicidal bastard. He had rushed on ahead, forcing the rest to catch up, and they were now camped for the night indefinitely.

    Under torchlight, while Marco and Armin, the group leader and record keeper respectively, were going over their next course of action, Achi took it upon herself to shorten Sasha's food rations because the Potato Girl was obviously well overstocked.

    Hefting a bag of uncooked vegetables, she went to the small firepit she, Sasha, Christa, and a few others had built and began heating one of them up on a stick. Christa, who had been gazing up at the stars until that point, called her out.

    "Achi, that's stealing, you know."

    "Yeah, yeah."

    Christa came over then, watching her rotate her chosen vegetable, which was surprisingly not a potato, and attempted to scold her further. "That's Sasha's, not yours."

    "And how would you know that?"

    "I…" She went quiet all of a sudden.

    Somewhere else, she heard someone complaining about the lack of food—probably Jean—and another person tell them off—most definitely Eren—and held her stick to the moonlight. "So?"

    "I… I helped her pack it..." Christa said softly, barely audible.

    "So… then… that makes it yours too, right?"

    "H-huh?"

    "Take it." She handed it to the other girl, took out another one, and began roasting it too. When it was done, she blew on it and let it cool, then took a bite. Looking over at Christa, she was upsettingly reminded of her mother in that Titan's hand.

    Like a doll to be thrashed around and eaten by the horrors of the world, helpless to stop it, Christa just stood there with her stick in her hand. The expression on her face… it was unsettling. Then, as if remembering where she was, it lit up, becoming more animated. Like a mask stretched across her face not unlike that of a Titan's.

    Fake and pathetic. "I get what you're saying, but that still doesn't make it right to just—"

    Achi loathed that side of her. "And what about you? Why did you help her pack it in the first place if you weren't going to take any of it for yourself?" Well, knowing that bottomless pit, maybe she thought she wouldn't get the chance, but… "Were you trying to do something generous for her again?"

    "I-I…"

    "Why? What has Potato Girl ever done for you?"

    She didn't respond, eyes on the ground.

    "Ymir was right. You really are helpless."

    With that said, she continued eating her vegetable, leaving Christa to keep standing there with that look on her face, and when the sun came up and they were starting on their journey again, paid her no attention until they reached the outskirts of the forest.

    "Hey… Achi…" Christa spoke up, having brought her horse up beside her own and keeping an even pace. "About last night…"

    She scoffed. "Don't want to hear it. Save it for someone who cares."

    Pulling her horse ahead, Achi left the other girl in the dust, not looking back.

    —&—

    The next morning, after having endured through another one of Jean and Eren's bickering like a married couple about having no food which devolved into just their tired old argument of who was the better trainee, Achi groggily sat up in her sleep bag and rubbed an eye.

    Peering around in the fog that had settled in, she was thirsty, and knew there was a basin not far from where they'd setup camp. It was still early and everyone was asleep, and she was about to head over to get that water with her canteen in tow when she heard the trees rustle, and the sound of hooves in the distance.

    Thinking it to be the other group, as they were each close enough to one another by now, Achi simply yawned and went down to the basin, whereupon she found Christa and her horse. Not wanting to talk to her or even see her face, she scooped some water from the basin into her canteen after dumping the old and took a sip.

    An awkward silence hung between them, and it was Christa who broke the silence, but whatever she was going to say was interrupted by sound of a shotgun being cocked right beside each of their ears.

    "Don't move, and we won't have to hurt either of you."
    Last edited by Gally; May 24th, 2017 at 01:16 AM.

  10. #10
    Dead Apostle Eater Gally's Avatar
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    Staring down the barrel of the gun pointed at her head, it was dark and ominous and foreboding. Like that small cave she had hold herself up in during her journey from Thorpe to Yalkell. Uncertain of the dangers that laid within, scared of what they might be, and, yet, conquering her fear, she had strove forward into that darkness. That time, she had come out relatively unscathed—bugs and other slimy creatures in her hair being the worst of it—but, this time, she wasn't sure she was going to be so lucky.

    Giving a glance over to Achi, she had just wanted to apologize for not being honest, for being such a piece of shit that couldn't even tell her friend the truth—that she had only helped Sasha to help herself—and that deep down, she was sorry for using her, too. Though, the words hadn't come out. Ymir and Achi were right, she was just helpless. It didn't matter if she tried to improve through training or by eventually becoming a member of the military if all she continued to be… was worthless. Thought of others, as worth more.

    A part of her wanted to scream at Achi, tell her off for not even trying to listen to a word she'd said before, then maybe… maybe they wouldn't be in this situation. Maybe if she did it now, the gun pressed to her ear would go off, and end it all.

    "Now, if both of you would come quietly…"

    Another man came forward then, holding two sacks similar to the ones he and the two pointing the guns at them were wearing over their heads. Though his voice was muffled by the sack, Christa could have sworn she recognized it from someplace…

    "... we can negotiate a ransom without…"

    But, now wasn't the time to be wondering about it.

    "... having to resort to violence."

    No, all she should be, was what was in store for she and Achi when those sacks were placed over their heads. Her mother's throat, the knife carving straight to the bone, flashed through her mind, then. She couldn't go out like that. Something as… unfulfilling as that.

    She wasn't going to die to these bastards.

    Not back then, not today, not ever.

    She might be nothing, just a bitch born out of wedlock, but she was far from helpless anymore! Slowly lifting her knee, she—! As if noticing her intentions, partially reading her mind, Achi gave her a signal with a flick of her hazel eyes: do it.

    Spurred into action, Christa kicked the shin of the man behind her, hearing him grunt and curse as he tried to keep his gun steady and copied what Ymir did back then: she scooped up a rock, and chucked it at his face. The rock crunched into the side of his head and, as he fell back from the sudden blow, using the opportunity, Achi spun and began wrestling the gun from her own captor's hands.

    But, despite their determination, the struggle was brief.

    Achi was quickly overpowered, while she was snatched by the man who had been holding the two sacks. Hoisting her over his shoulder, he removed his hood and smiled at her. He was scruffy and looked as unkempt and filthy as one of the rats back in Thorpe—only terribly under fed in comparison. She saw gaps in his teeth.

    "Now, why did you have to go and do that?" he said, motioning to the man she had kicked in the shin.

    Achi, who was pinned to the ground, continued to fight, and, after biting the hand of the man who was holding her down, yelled at them. "Bastards! I'll—guagh!"

    "Achi!"

    Seeing her get kicked in the stomach by the man who she'd just bitten, Christa could only watch as she was stood back on her knees. Coughing, she gagged and threw up. Vile trickling down her mouth, she bared her teeth like a wild animal, spouting profanities at them.

    "Feisty."

    Handing her over to the man she'd hit in the face with rock, the man who had her over his shoulder—obviously their leader at this point—crouched down to get eye level with Achi.

    "Hrmm..." He rubbed his chin, eyes going up and down her body. "You look capable enough, girl, so what do you say to joining us?"

    Achi simply laughed in his face. "You guys are some of the lowest of the low and I don't acknowledge shit."

    The man's face contorted and he licked his lips. "That's cute." Getting back to his feet, he then told the other two, his lackeys, to round them up.

    Her arms being tied behind her back, Christa grimaced as the rope dug into her skin. Especially coarse, it wasn't unlike those they used to pull up their buckets of water from their deepest wells back in Thorpe, of which they only had two coils of in the whole village. She also knew what Isolde had mentioned about them—that they were actually used to tether ships to the docks in Yalkell, but, since they were sturdy and could last for a long while as well as take a great deal of force to break completely, meant they could really for anything. Meaning, they were highly expensive.

    As she and Achi were tossed into the back of their kidnapper's wagon, it all began to come together. Huddled beside her, Achi tried to wiggle free of her restraints, not knowing when to give up.

    "Ah, none of that, hear?" the man, their leader as he opened the wagon's curtains for one final word, said with a deadly look in his eye. Christa now noticed his sleeves had dried, crusty bloodstains. "Now, girl, this is your last chance to get out of this. What do you say?"

    Achi smiled halfheartedly. She had noticed them, too. "I'm not so low that I'd kill people to get what I want, unlike shits like you."

    "Oh, you mean this?" He held up his sleeves. "Animal blood. It's hard, you know, waiting." He glanced back over then. "We're only trying to survive too, don't you see? The world is cruel to people like us."

    "Oh yeah? Well, all I see are pieces of shit, nothing else, and shit can't do anything other than stink up whatever it's near. Things that needed to be disposed of with the rest of the trash."

    He flew into a fury then. "I'm not going to take that from you," he retorted. "You think just because we kill people and you don't that you're better, that you're not trash too?! Do you honestly think you're not the same as us?" he argued as he stepped forward into the wagon in the flurry of his rant. "Well, tough reality, girl, but you are! Even if you aren't a murderer, you're still trash like the rest of us! As long as all of us are here, that's all we'll ever be!"

    He pulled something from his coat: a knife. It was at that moment that everything clicked. Christa's eyes widened. She remembered now! Not only were they probably not acting alone, these men were those same goons she and Ymir had encountered back in Yalkell!

    And, as he slowly crept forward, poising the knife to plunge straight into Achi's chest, inhaling enough air to make her seem twice her own size, she had to—!

    "You should have accepted my offer bi—!"

    Christa screamed at the top of her lungs, causing the birds around them to even scatter from the trees in fright.

    "Agahh!" The man clutched his ears—stunned. "What the f—"

    His vulgar language fell short when Achi's boot snapped his head back. He fell backward and tripped through the curtains and over the edge of wagon with a thud. Scooting after him, Achi yelled at her to start running as soon as they hit the ground, seeing her roll out the wagon, stomp the man for good measure, and start in a zig-zag for the treeline.

    Adrenaline pumping, Christa sprinted after Achi as she tumbled out the wagon herself, glancing down and back at the man as he cursed and reached for his bleeding nose, now doubled over, the cartilage twisted at an unnatural angle as he tried to move it back into its original position, sneezing out more blood and screaming for his lackeys to stop them.

    "Don't look back! Keep running, dumbass!" Achi shouted back in a rush as they broke through the trees.

    Just then, a bullet whizzed by her head, scraping her cheek. Another nearly hit her in the side, and she tripped, feeling her blood leak from the wound as all she heard then was the sound of Achi's voice, yelling her name, telling to get up and move.

    Seeing Achi running back, she tried, but, her legs, they were numb. She couldn't feel them. And the wound. It was warm. It was numb. Her arms. They was lifeless. Dead-weight.

    And, as she was pulled back to her feet by the man's lackeys, Achi tackled one of them around the legs and brought him crashing down. "Run, you stupi—guaff!"

    She was smacked in the face by the butt of the other man's rifle and rendered unconscious. Her limp body was carried by the man she'd tackled—who also was the same one she'd bitten the hand of—as their leader shook his head with a tsk, tsk, holding his bloodied and broken nose with a cloth.

    It had already began to swell. "Ah! Now you've done it. First that, and now this." He sighed. "I didn't want to have to do this, but…"

    Seeing him get close to Achi with the knife, Christa begged him not to do it. "Please!"

    Though, he simply his cloth over her mouth. "... We can't have you causing any more unnecessary trouble."

    Just the same, a cloth was put over hers, as well.

    "After all, finding you was trouble enough."

    With that, he had them put into the wagon again and left them in darkness as it started off to only they knew where.
    Last edited by Gally; May 24th, 2017 at 01:17 AM.

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