Note: I've changed the title from "Ice Queen Heart" I wanted it simpler and more fitting. Do you like it better?
Year I Part II
"The person responsible for granting mankind a fighting chance against the titans was named Angel Aeltonen. He was a weaponsmith who invented the Three Dimensional Maneuver Gear in…"
Eren shakes his head, suddenly drowsy from a flood of information. Armin is frantically taking notes beside him. He tries to blink the sleep from his eyes. Just a moment ago, the lesson had been interesting to Eren, but now he is finding it extremely difficult to stay up and pay attention. His mind is split into two. One consisted of berating himself internally ("pay attention, you might miss something important, you idiot"). The second one is focused primarily on the bright, sunny day framed by the window to his left.
"That's it for today," the young Instructor, Peter, tells the trainees. "Tomorrow we'll be having an in-depth discussion about the…"
Eren drowns the instructors' voice out. "What? It's done?" he asks no one in particular, finally awake.
"You were daydreaming half the time," Mikasa says.
"I wasn't daydreaming," he retorts.
"You were sleeping," Mikasa corrects herself.
Eren scowls at her. "I mean, history is important and all…kind of, but sometimes it just bores the crap out of me. I'd rather be out there and focus on my training. It's what really counts."
"You never know, Eren," Armin starts. "We can learn a lot from our history. Sometimes, the solution to the present lies in the past."
"I suppose you can be right," Eren replies after some thought.
"Besides, the history part will only be very brief. Peter said it's nearing its end already. A few more days, tops," Armin adds. "After that we're delving into strategy."
Eren could tell that Armin was looking forward to this.
"I like the sound of that," he tells him.
Eren's excitement does not last half an hour into 3D maneuver training. Despite proving himself to be quite competent after the rusty belt mishap, the drills were becoming increasingly more difficult as the passing of each day.
Today, they were tasked on actually using the grappling hooks for the first time.
"Hey, Jaeger. I'll race ya," Jean says quietly from beside him.
"Go away, Jean."
"I can't. Shadis paired us up, idiot."
Eren balls his fists in annoyance.
"First one who reaches the top gets the other's dinner, deal?" Jean continues, confident in his ability.
Eren stares up the intimidating 20-feet wall they had to climb.
"Is there a problem, Jaeger?" Shadis calls out.
"None, sir," he responds. "Deal," he whispers to Jean.
Aside from the fact that the trainees were already given rigorous lessons on the Three Dimensional Maneuver Gear in their lecture classes, they were also given brief yet specific instruction prior to the execution of the exercise. Eren, however, is still nervous given the embarrassment he endured only less than two weeks ago. This is also the first time that the trainees were instructed to actually use the Maneuver Gear for mobility.
With a little apprehension, he fires the first hook into the wall. Surprisingly, he reels himself upwards with ease. The second hook comes shortly afterwards and then a third. Soon, he finds himself seated atop the wall.
"Good job, Jaeger," Shadis tells him. "Now get your ass back down here."
The rappel back is much easier than the climb. It is also much more satisfying as he shoots Jean a smug look on the way back.
"Leonhardt, Arlert, go!"
Eren watches from the sideline as Annie makes her way up the wall almost effortlessly. She is graceful and quick. Armin, on the other hand, lags behind.
Annie climbs down while Armin is still halfway up. Thomas quickly replaces her spot.
"You made good time," Eren tells her when she is near him.
She eyes him briefly and then allows her yellow hair to fall across her eyes as she walks away.
Jean's stomach grumbles as he hands Eren his serving of soup, beans and bread.
"Do you really have to take that, Eren?" Armin asks. For a brief moment, Jean's brown eyes light up.
"Hey, a deal's a deal, Armin," Eren says with a smile as he grabs the plate from the deflated boy's hands.
The two boys make their way to their usual table. Mikasa is already seated with Sasha to her right.
"You have…two plates?" Sasha asks Eren curiously.
"Yeah. Jean had to give his up because he lost our bet," he says confidently, taking a bite from one of his rolls of bread.
"Lost a bet…I see," she replies thoughtfully.
"Eren, can I have half of your bread?" Mikasa requests unexpectedly.
"Sure. You can have the whole thing." He places the piece on her plate.
"Thank you," she says.
He is bringing a spoonful of soup to his lips when he spots Annie staring at him from another table. She quickly turns the other way when he matches her glare with one of his own.
For the next weeks, the trainees endure harsh drills each morning. Today, they are presented with a series of obstacles. Shadis has stressed multiple times that the most basic requirement for a soldier is physical fitness. 3D Maneuver gear also requires a level of fitness, particularly in the legs.
This kind of training is a preference of Eren's.
"Listen here, you little fuckers," Shadis calls out. "Today will be a little different. This is a race. Winner gets to sleep in and skip tomorrow morning's first set of drills. Got it?"
"Up for another bet, Jean?" Eren tells the taller boy.
"Pass," he replies.
"You scared to lose another night's meal?" he taunts.
Eren is confident that he can beat Jean again. While he has been working extra hard everyday for the past weeks on their drills and training, he'd sometimes catch Jean slacking off while the instructor wasn't looking. For Eren, acquire all the skills necessary in killing off the titans is the ultimate goal. But for Jean, the main objective was earning good grades that would allow him into the Top Ten and later on, the Military Police.
Jean snarls. "It's on, Jaeger."
The obstacle course they were used to is nothing compared to this one. Simply from looking at it, Eren could assess that it is at least twice as long and twice as difficult.
"Ready?" Shadis yells to the group of trainees. "Go!"
The rope is burning the palms of his hands as he pulls himself to the very top. He looks down and spots Jean's big head hot on his heels. Connie quickly surpasses Eren's progress on the wall and makes his way to the top.
"Hurry up, Eren!" Connie calls playfully from ahead of him.
Eren pulls himself up to the wooden platform and prepares himself for the long slide down. He was never afraid of heights, so he propels himself with no difficulty.
The breath is knocked out of his lungs when Sasha slams straight into him. They roll on the ground, a mess of limbs, before reaching a stop.
"I'm so sorry! Are you okay?" she scrambles to him.
Annie runs pass the pair without a second glance.
Eren ignores the soreness as he quickly picks himself up, pulls Sasha up by the hand, and bolts.
The barbed wire is so low; it snags the back of his shirt. His face is muddy and his elbows are scratched. Eren's vision is limited but he is aware of Reiner's large frame just behind him. Inch by agonizing inch, he crawls forward. He reaches the end and runs, disregarding the strain in his muscles. From his peripheral he sees Reiner followed by Jean crawling out of the muck.
Mikasa is already onto the next obstacle when Eren grabs the rope and flings his weight from one platform to another.
Sasha appears beside him and, moments later, Jean beside her. He grabs the next rope and progresses across the platforms.
He nearly misses the third fourteen-foot platform. One slight mistake can land him broken bones and a one-way trip to the farmlands. Eren gathers himself and jumps to the next one. He proceeds to the final pole and soon, reaches solid land. The finish line is only a few kilometers away and there are only three trainees ahead of him, Jean not included. His knees buckle but he pays no attention to the ache and pushes himself further.
('Come on. Almost there. Beat Jean at least.')
He allows himself a last look behind his shoulder and spots Annie clinging onto the last fourteen-foot pole for dear life.
For a brief moment he considers leaving her. But something unknown told him otherwise.
Cursing himself, he turns back and runs to where she is. With some difficulty, Eren pulls her up by the arms and drags her to land. She stares at him with curious eyes.
"See you at dinner, Jaeger!" Jean yells as he dashes past the two.
Confusion racks Annie's brain as she continues to stare at the boy in front of her. He disrupts her thoughts when he says: "Come on! We can still catch up to him!"
That night in the mess hall, Eren hands his meal of carrots, beans, stew and bread to Jean in defeat.
"A deal's a deal," he sighs.
Eren makes his way to Mikasa and Armin, noticeably food-less.
"Don't worry, Eren," Mikasa tells him. "You can have half of my plate."
"And mine too!" Armin adds.
"Thanks guys but—"
"No 'buts'," Mikasa cuts him off. "I don't really need to eat that much tonight. I won't be in tomorrow's first drill. So you can have it all if you'd like."
Unsurprisingly, Mikasa won the race gaining her the privilege of sleeping in the next day. Berthold was second with Connie close behind. Jean was in fourth, Eren and Annie in fifth quickly followed by Reiner and Sasha.
An obnoxious laughter fills the air from a few tables to his right. Eren watches in distaste as Jean greedily scarfs down what was suppose to be his meal whilst talking to Marco and the others with his mouth full. He could've beaten him. He was so close. If only he didn't stop.
Suddenly, a plate of beans, stew and a piece of torn bread is thrown unceremoniously on the table in front of the Eren. He looks up, and to his utter shock, sees Annie looking down at him. Her blue eyes burning holes into his.
"What's this?" he says as she begins to walk back to her table where Mina is seated.
"Now we're even," she says without turning back.
Note: I am very new to writing in the present tense, so I'm sorry if there's a mistake or two (or three). Please point out anything I missed. Hopefully there aren't any! Anyway, hoped you guys liked this chapter. Unless I decide otherwise, there's one more chapter left for Year I.