A couple of weeks passed by quickly. Whenever I wasn’t trying to avoid the Commander, I was too consumed by my training to even have time to dwell on anything.
That’s how it should have been ever since the beginning and I need to give my best, if I want to fight next to Captain Levi. Yes, nothing else should occupy my mind…
Training Corps, Year 850
- Alright, you brats, I am about to tell you the results of your three year training. I will now announce the top 10 graduates.
Those ten people and the rest of you will have 24 hours to inform me of the military branch you’ve chosen to apply to. Let’s start.
I worked hard, and even if I didn’t make it into top 10, that won't really be an issue, since I’ve already decided.
But I am still curious, so I listen carefully to Captain Levi’s next words.
- 1st is Mikasa Ackerman
2nd place goes to Reiner Braun
3rd place – Bertolt Hoover
4th place – Annie Leonheart
5th place – Eren Jeager
6th place – Jean Kirstein
7th place – Desi
8th place – Connie Springer
9th place – Sasha Blouse
10th place – Krista Lenz.
Huh...did he just say I’m in 7th place?!
- Good work, Shortie!
Jean congratulates me, and I do the same. I can hear the excited voices of Connie and Sasha. Captain Levi speaks up once more.
- Good work, cadets. Now, Commander Erwin Smith would like to say a few words.
- Thank you, Levi.
I literally hide myself behind Jean the second I hear the Commander’s name. That is probably the stupidest thing I could have done, but I don't really want to face him.
Jean is taken by surprise, but once the Commander speaks, his attention goes back to him.
- I would like to congratulate everyone. You’ve shown wonderful results throughout your training, and I don’t feel any less than proud!
The Commander’s gaze is moving from one cadet to another, until he notices me. I quickly avert my eyes. The Commander continues his speech.
- However, there is something important I need to discuss with all of you. I won’t lie; the Survey Corps are in need of talented young people like you.
My request goes to everyone here: to those who want to fight for humanity’s freedom, to those who wish to give their hearts for the ultimate mission of putting an end to the Titan oppression.
At this point I have already moved back to my spot, and am listening intently to the Commander’s words.
- It will be dangerous, it will be very dangerous, you can die at any given time, but I still ask of you – join me and the rest of the Survey Corps, and let’s change the odds for humanity!
Commander Smith allows his words to sink in a bit, before he adds.
- Those of you, who don’t want to join the Survey Corps, are free to go.
My gaze moves to the others around me. Many of them turn around and leave, and don't even look back. Some are still in conflict with themselves. Jean looks at me.
What he sees in my eyes is probably sadness. I don’t really want him to go, but I also don’t want to keep him away from his true desire, so I smile and nod.
I’m sure he can easily read my thoughts, which simply tell him “It’s alright, you can go”. And so he does. I turn my gaze back to the Commander, who is still waiting in his spot.
This time I don't avert my eyes, but instead study his blue irises. I am curious to know what kind of thoughts and emotions are going through his mind right now.
“So, Levi was right. She wants to join the Survey Corps. She didn’t even move from her spot. She already made her decision before coming here today, huh? Such a peculiar girl.”
Erwin Smith couldn’t hold back the subconscious slight smile, which formed on his lips.
It was a very faint smile, and it didn’t last long, but I’m sure I noticed it. Just like under a magic spell, I smile back.
I quickly realize what I did, and curse my inability to withstand his charm. It’s like time between us stops once more. This feels like déjà-vu. But the moment doesn’t last long.
I feel someone’s hand on my shoulder, and Jean’s voice reaches my ears.
- I can’t do it, Shortie. I can’t leave you alone in the Survey Corps. Who knows how fast you’ll die without me to keep you safe.
I turn around to face Jean, my mouth wide open in surprise.
- Why do you look so shocked? Is my decision so unexpected?
- But, Jean...what about the Military Police Brigade?
- Eh, you were right; they’re a bunch of lazy jerks. I still don’t feel good about this whole “fighting titans” business, but I guess this is fine as well.
A couple of happy tears escape my eyes, but they are quickly replaced by irritation from his previous words.
- Hey, who says I’ll die? I’ll tell you this; I don’t need anyone to save me!
- Sure you don’t, Shortie.
- More like you’ll need my protection.
- As if! Besides…
He tells me the rest in a whisper.
- “I can’t really leave you alone with Commander Smith. I don’t trust you to have good judgment around him.”
I turn bright red, and pull on Jean’s ear hard. We are only teasing each other as usually, and end up bursting in laughter.
Erwin Smith’s eyes were still fixed on her. He was now a witness to her genuine joy when around her friend.
“That boy, Jean Kirstein, they seem to be very close. Well, they grew up together, more or less. Nothing wrong with being good friends. Still, I wish she could be this free around me."
Erwin willed himself to concentrate on the rest of the cadets, and what he came here for.
“It’s none of my business anyway. And these kinds of thoughts are very wrong."
But the unsettling feeling didn’t leave. What he didn’t know was that Levi was paying close attention to him, and shook his head in disapproval.
- To those of you, who decided to stay, there is only one thing I can tell you. I admire your courage! For me, it will be an honor to fight together with such brave young people!
And the Commander salutes us. We all do the same. I can see that some are still not sure whether they made the right choice, but my decision is firm.
Even more so, now that my dream is becoming a reality.