A little earlier, in the Scout Formation
So far the mission was mostly peaceful. There weren’t many titans on sight, and the ones who did appear were quickly avoided, thanks to the smoke signals.
Everyone was visibly relieved, but some of them were still very aware of the possible dangers that could arise at any time. One of them was Armin Arlert.
Whether it was his anxious nature, or he had his suspicions, but he just couldn’t relax. Every single noise and movement startled him.
All of his senses had become highly sensitive, and he kept repeating to himself to calm down. And that’s when it happened.
He noticed the black smoke signals coming from all scouting groups behind him.
- That many abnormals all at the same time?? But that’s highly impossible…
He also took out his signal flare and fired a black smoke signal.
Commander Erwin Smith noticed the black smoke signals, but there was nothing to be done. They had to keep pushing forward.
He could only hope the scouts in the back of the formation are able to deal with the abnormal titans, or at least buy the rest of them enough time to move as far away as possible.
- Erwin, what’s your call?
Levi asked from his right side.
- We keep moving forward as planned. We won’t change the direction for the time being.
- Roger. Petra, spread the message around.
- Yes, Captain.
- It doesn’t look like anyone survived back there.
Jean’s attention was still on the black smokes, which had almost dispersed.
- But at least there is no sign of the abnormal titans. Whatever the scouts did, they ensured our safety for a bit longer. – Krista answered him.
Jean nodded, and willed himself to look ahead. What was about to happen in the near future was much scarier than a bunch of abnormal titans.
- And you assured me I won’t have to rescue you, Desi… - he mumbled to himself.
Sasha Braus was beside herself with fear. She feared her hunter’s instincts won’t be enough if she finds herself in a sticky situation.
She was so freaked out, that she didn’t even notice the obvious figure of a titan behind one of the houses.
When her mind finally caught up with the situation, the titan jumped in front of her horse, and she was barely able to escape at the last moment. She turned around, and sped ahead with her horse.
“An Abnormal!” she thought and fidgeted with her signal flare gun, but her hands were too shaky and she dropped the smoke shell on the ground.
The titan was about to catch up to her when Connie approached. He jumped up on his horse, aimed for the titan’s neck and landed a killing blow.
- Hey, Sasha, are you okay?
When Connie moved next to her, he noticed she was shaking and had turned into a sobbing mess.
He almost fell on the ground when Sasha suddenly clung to him and resumed her ugly cries.
- Hey, Sasha! It’s alright, calm down! Come on, we need to move ahead.
Once she finally let go, they both returned to the formation.
No more incidents occurred on their way, and the Survey Corps were slowly but surely reaching the Forest with giant trees.
Once he saw it in the distance, Erwin Smith turned his attention to Levi.
- When we enter the forest, I am counting on you and your squad when it comes to the titan shifters.
All I’m asking for is a chance to grab Eren and Desi, and get out of there as quickly as possible. Can you do that, Levi?
- Do you need to even ask? Consider it done.
- Thank you, Levi.
Captain Levi addressed his squad, who were riding behind him.
- You heard the Commander. Our task is to rescue the brats. No unnecessary fighting with the Armored Titan. We still don’t know what he’s capable of, and I don’t want you to end up dead.
Is that clear?
Everyone nodded, the serious look in their eyes saturated with confidence.
Forest with giant trees
We are high enough, so most titans can't even dream of reaching us.
Even so, we have to stop a couple of times, since it’s quite challenging to move with the 3D maneuver gear while carrying another person.
Not to mention poor Bertolt, who I’m very certain wishes he can feed Eren to the rest of the titans, instead of having to tolerate his constant outbursts.
- Hey, Reiner.
I have to start a conversation, whatever it is. Keeping quiet in this situation is making me very uncomfortable.
- Bertolt said your mission is much different than ours. What did he mean by that?
- I can’t tell you.
Of course, I expect this much.
- I’m still not sure whether I can trust you, or not. Taking you along was a spur of the moment.
I have always been foolishly honest, which is why I constantly got myself in trouble. Just like at this current moment.
- I don’t think you can ever trust me completely, though. And I’m sure you are already aware of that. My place is in the Survey Corps, next to Commander Smith, and that will never change.
- I know that. I still wish you could consider another option, though. You probably agree with Eren – that we’re traitors. It must look like that in your eyes.
- Actually, no.
And that isn’t a lie.
- I believe you have your good reasons for all of this. Everyone has battles of their own.
To execute such a desperate plan, and risk your position in the Survey Corps by revealing your true identities, you were pushed to the wall and had to act fast.
Reiner doesn't respond in any way. His silence is making me want to break the tall wall inside of him.
- You know, I never told you this, but the Commander wasn’t the only one I looked up to. I also admired you while we trained together.
You were like the big brother, the one who gave example to the rest and took care of us.
I don’t remember my childhood, so that’s probably the main reason why I considered every single one of you a family.
But that doesn’t negate the influence you all had on me, and the person I became. That’s why…I can’t bring myself to hate you.
I am mad, I am very, very peeved by this whole ordeal, but I don’t resent you, and I don’t resent Bertolt. You are way too important to me.
Reiner keeps quiet for a bit, before he makes a sound of annoyance, lands on the nearest tree and lets go of me. Bertolt follows after, confused.
- Reiner, why are we stopping?
Bertolt asks. But Reiner doesn’t answer him, and instead turns to me.
- As long as you don’t move from this spot, you will be alright until the Survey Corps arrive and rescue you.
- What…What are you talking about, Reiner?
I am visibly puzzled.
- I should have never taken you away in the first place. I won’t apologize for my actions, though. I did what I thought was right. I wish we could have more of those peaceful days.
Let’s meet again in the future, alright? Don’t you dare die.
Reiner ruffles my hair a bit.
- Come on, Bertolt.
And they both leave. I can hear Eren’s annoyed shouts, which grow faint with the distance.
My body slides down into a sitting position, and for the first time today I feel alone and scared.