Four hours after the supposed breach of Wall Rose, unknown location…
Venturing outside the Walls was somewhat of an uncommon occurrence for the Garrison regiment. Taking into consideration the fact that five years ago a lot of Garrison troops had their first experience encountering Titans, none of them expected to ever expected to be put on the frontlines ever again.
That was until they received word that Wall Rose had been breached. The moment they heard one of their superiors utter those dreadful words all of the laughter and banter they had been spouting came to a sudden halt. Some hesitated, but when the order came for them to gear up and search for the breach; they all obeyed… even if some experienced terrible flashbacks from five years ago.
Families devoured, people losing everything…
Hannes' thoughts drifted to that fateful day. The day he decided to turn tail and run away from the very thing he thought he would face without a hint of hesitation. He remembered Carla's expression, she was relieved… but even if Eren and Mikasa had not been able to see it; he did. Carla, ever so defiant even in her final seconds, was scared. She had been scared the moment Eren and Mikasa had arrived to try and save her.
Hannes gritted his teeth, trying to force the memory out of his head and to try and focus on the task at hand. But given the situation; trying to think about anything else but Titans was proving to be difficult. He turned his head towards his fellow comrade; Phil, as he yanked the reins of his horse to try and make it run even faster.
"Captain Hannes, what's wrong?" asked Phil, wondering why his superior had been so quiet after departing. Normally Hannes would be the one to break the ice in any uncomfortable or difficult situation. But now it seemed that even a joker as Hannes could be at a loss for words.
"We haven't spotted a single Titan yet." Hannes replied, focusing of the Wall he had been tasked to inspect. "Don't you think it's awfully quiet?"
Phil nodded in agreement. "I don't understand it either. When Maria was breached, we knew where to look. Lots of Titans in one place." He too turned his attention to the Wall they were scouting and continued. "But now there's… nothing. There's just nothing. No screaming, not footsteps, just nothing." He closed his eyes in thought. This was truly a desperate situation.
"Either way, it just doesn't add up." Hannes stated, sighing audibly. "I hope this doesn't turn into the massacre we experienced five years ago…"
"Lift your head up a little, Hannes!" Phil replied, smiling. "Five years ago, we didn't have a kid who could turn into a Titan, remember?"
Hannes, surprised by the sudden burst of confidence from his friend and long-term brother in arms, took a moment to register the words that had just been spoken. After a few seconds, he couldn't help but grin slightly and reply. "That's right. And don't you be forgetting who taught that kid everything he knows!"
"Ha! And aside from over-excessive drinking and showing up late for guard duty, what else have you taught that boy?" Phil joked, earning an audible chuckle from the other soldier; Walter, who had been riding alongside them. "Besides, should Eren not be enough, we still have the other guy."
"Ah, so you believe the stories?" Walter asked, deciding to join the conversation instead of just listening. "Everyone has been going on and on about him, but have either of you ever seen him in action?"
Both Hannes and Phil did not respond and thus Walter added.
"Well, me neither. But with everything that's going on right now, I think I'll just have to take everyone's word for it."
"Maybe the reason we haven't seen any Titans is because he already took care of them?" Phil questioned out loud, holding his chin. "That would make the most sense. I mean; we've been traveling for a good two hours now and haven't seen anything yet."
Hannes shook his head and replied. "While I'd love to believe that, it's just an easy excuse we'd all love to use when we go back and report our findings." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "But we must be prepared for anything."
Phil and Walter exchanged worried glances and decided not to press on any further. If Hannes was serious about something it meant there was a reason to be worried.
'Eren, Armin, Mikasa, please be safe…'
Ten-kilometer run, every single day. That was the thing he actually dreaded the most out of his entire training routine. When he first started, he knew it would be tough. Physical exercise was grueling, but his overall condition had not been exactly… average when he started. More like; below average. Muscle pains were one thing, but running out of breath and feeling your lungs burn was a very unpleasant and overall crappy feeling.
"I sure showed myself." Saitama said to himself as he continued running at a speed any normal human being would never be able to achieve without the help of high-tech gear. Taking quick glances at the Wall he was supposed to be inspecting, he decided to jump up on top of it and take this opportunity to check his surroundings.
"I've been running for two hours now." Saitama muttered to himself as he dusted his clothes off. Walking towards the edge of the wall, he sat down and let his legs dangle off the edge. "Couple of years ago I would have called myself crazy to run this long. But I guess I got what I wished for."
Reaching into his pocket, Saitama took out something he had been saving for some time now. He had wanted to save it for a special occasion… but it was already a few days passed its expiry date. Unwrapping the energy-bar he had brought with him as a snack before heading off to the supermarket—and before he encountered Death Worm—he placed the bar in his mouth and took a bite. "I gwuess twhis place doesn't hwaf any of the gwood food I'm used to." Saitama muttered; mouth still full of energy-bar leftovers. He swallowed and then continued. "Then I should savor this moment and-, oh, it's already gone."
Saitama looked down at the wrapper in disappointment, realizing the bite he just took was a lot bigger than he expected. Sighing, Saitama threw the wrapper off of the Wall and stretched his arms and legs. "I do wonder how everyone else is handling this situation. If I remember correctly; the last time the Wall was breached a lot of people panicked and died."
Of course, this was to be expected. Even in a somewhat primitive world—compared to his own—there was panic and death around every corner. And to think these guys were holding out on their own without a hero to protect them when they needed it the most was just… crazy. But this was probably the result of having to protect yourselves without a professional's help. People try to become stronger and protect people; hero or no hero, they just do what they think is right.
Saitama had to admit, even though a lot of people he had met seemed scared; he saw that some of those people had the potential to become the hero they all needed. Levi being a prime example. If he just changed his attitude a little he'd look like the 'real deal' to the public. But even if that were the case… he had his limits. Without his fancy equipment and skills with a sword, what else had Levi to show for himself?
The question had been going around Saitama's mind for quite some time. He did not want to upset Levi and ask him directly, because deep down he knew Levi must have been thinking the same thing. He just wasn't on Saitama's level; and he never would be.
But even still, this place was filled with heroes in Saitama's eyes.
"I guess sometimes even heroes need a break," Saitama said to himself, looking up at the sun which shined brightly onto his bald head. "So, I'll be taking over from here on out."
Having said those words, Saitama leaped off of the Wall and landed on grassy ground once more and took off in a sprint. If there were indeed any Titans inside the Wall, he would make sure none of them ever got the chance to take a bite out of someone.
Speaking of Walls… if anything, the fact that there was an actual Titan inside of the Wall itself made Saitama wonder if there was more to them than meets the eye. While not as big and massive as the giant he had faced off against a few months back, it was still big. And from the looks of it; it wasn't just one. The Walls were massive and spread for god knows how many miles. If every piece of Wall was made of Titan, then would that mean there were like, a million of those colossal Titans hiding inside the Walls?
"As much as I'd like to put that theory to the test, the sun is still up and that pastor said that sunlight was a big 'no-no', so I'll have to wait until it gets dark. Oh, and bring some cloth to cover up the hole I would make."
Putting aside the fact that sunlight was bad, imagine the amount of time it would take to beat every one of those big guys would be tiring. Saitama was really not looking forward to that day. He'd imagine Erwin coming up to him and trying to convince him with a motivational speech to break down the Wall. Of course that would take too long so he'd just accept either way to avoid Erwin's monologues. That man seemed to be really fond of monologuing whenever he got the chance.
Saitama remembered the graduation ceremony he had attended. He remembered Erwin's speech… and he also remembered the amount of people that left when it was Saitama's turn to 'speech.' Lots of people were probably waiting for him to say 'sike.'
Some people just weren't cut out for the job; like Saitama was not cut out for monologuing and sentences above twenty words. Everyone has their short-comings. Some people's bones break easy and other people don't break any.
Actually, giving it some more thought, that only really counted for himself.
And speaking of broken bones. "Petra!" Saitama exclaimed, balling his hand into a fist and slamming it into the palm of his other hand. "She's still in the hospital! I should really play her a visit when this is all over. Maybe bring her a fruit basket too."
Although he wasn't sure is fruit was going to help fix whatever she was going through now, it was at least a start. Vitamins are usually good for the body and bones, so he could at least tell her that if she ever questions why he decided to bring her fruit. He figured Petra was the kind of girl that would always ask someone their reasoning behind their actions… Hm, maybe having someone else bring her the basket in his name was a better idea?
"Gah! I don't understand woman at all!" Saitama sighed, rubbing his temples. "If only Genos were here. He'd know what to do. He's smart and always analyzes things. I'm more of a 'act first, think later' kind of guy, anyway."
Taking a deep breath, Saitama added.
"But… I guess it wouldn't hurt to think this one over again."
Being a simpleminded individual had always been his way of living. Just do what you think is right and try not to upset too many people. Kind of just stay in the background and not attract too much attention. That was who he was. He didn't dislike it, but ever since he became an official Hero; Saitama had begun to question his previous lifestyle. He didn't dislike being easy-going and worrying about today's problems, leaving the problems from tomorrow to tomorrows you. Even while others took the spotlight for his actions didn't bother him that much.
But… a little recognition wouldn't hurt, now would it? Just a slap on the shoulder. A 'thank you' or 'great job out here' would suffice.
Ever since he made his debut in this place; people had seemed… grateful? Surprised? Scared? He didn't really know how to put it, but their reactions were… different than the ones he had received back home. Mixed reactions make for mixed responses, right? Well, as long as people were happy and felt safe, that's all that really counts.
At least Genos seems to be really grateful to him… perhaps a bit too grateful.
"His hearts in the right place."
The hero was about to increase his already incredible speed once more, but stopped when in the corner of his eye he noticed a familiar scene he had witnessed many times now. And having witnessed it, he knew what it meant.
"That's Titan steam." Saitama muttered to himself, coming to a halt. "I guess I found the Titans. The breach will have to wait. I just hope I'm not too late."
Blood splattered across his sweaty face as his blades once again slashed through the nape of another Titan. He let out an audible grunt when he noticed his blades had become dull. Switching them for new ones, he looked around him and took in how many Titans he had just killed.
Mike looked at the carnage he had made. It took some time, but he had done it. He had bought the recruits enough time to escape. He needed to leave this instant. He was down to his last pair of blades and his gas wasn't going to last forever. He placed his thumb and index finger in his mouth and blew, whistling loudly in the hope his horse would return as soon as possible.
'I've bought enough time. Still, I am worried about that Abnormal. It's just walking around, ignoring me.'
It took some time for Mike to realize that the Abnormal Titan was there, but when he did, he had thought his situation had just become more dire. It was probably around seventeen meters in height. Why it hadn't attacked him yet was nothing more than a miracle. A miracle Mike was happy to take advantage of.
The moment he heard the familiar neighing of his horse, his spirit was lifted once more. He sheathed his blades and patiently awaited the return of his fellow equestrian companion. It was time to regroup with the others and find out what in god's name was going on. Wall Rose had been breached and they needed to seal said breach as soon as possible.
Mike got ready to jump off the building he had been holding out on for what seemed like hours when his horse was almost near him. His resolve was a strong as ever. He would survive this!
'You came back! Great!'
It's funny how quick one's resolve can be shattered.
The moment his horse came close enough to the Abnormal Titan, it was subsequently grabbed and lifted up.
Mike's eyes widened in horror. Why did it go for the horse?! He watched as his fellow companion was crushed between the massive, fur covered fingers of the Abnormal. It then lifted its arm backwards and threw the horse towards Mike like it was a mere pebble.
Instincts kicking in, Mike was barely able to dodge the attack. Rolling off of the roof he was standing on, he fell and landed right in between the hands of an all too hungry; four-meter class Titan. The Titan opened its mouth and brought its jaws down hard on Mike's legs, crushing them between its teeth. Mike yelled out in pain as he tried to pry his way out of the iron like teeth of the Titan.
Mike thought he was hearing things. Was there someone else here besides him? Another soldier perhaps?
His thoughts were interrupted when the Titan who still had him firm in between its teeth bit down once more. Blood splattered over Mike's face—his own blood this time; as he yelled out in agony. He didn't want to die! He just had to find an opening and-.
"Huh, didn't I just say to wait?"
Mike's eyes widened in horror when the Abnormal hunched down on its legs and wrapped its hand around the face of the Titan Mike had been so desperately trying to escape from. The moment the Abnormal's hand fully enveloped the smaller one's face; it went splat and was subsequently crushed, causing it to open its mouth and in the process letting Mike tumble towards the ground.
"Tell me, what is that weapon called? The thing on your waist that flies around."
Mouth agape and eyes wide, Mike could only stare up at the thing that stood before him. He had seen enough Abnormals, but never one that could talk! How was it able to talk? It even spoke fluent sentences! No one prepared him for this. Titan were mindless beasts, so why was this one talking and behaving like it was a human being?!
The Abnormal stared at the poor Scout for a few seconds, waiting for a reply. When it got none it awkwardly scratched itself behind his pointy ear and muttered. "Hm, I'm certain we speak the same language. Perhaps you're simply too frightened?"
Frightened? He was scared out of his mind! Terrified, even!
"Oh, I see you use swords too. I guess that means you know we reside in the nape."
Reside in the nape? What was that thing talking about… no, it couldn't be?
"Ah, well, I'll just take it back with me."
The moment the Titan reached for him, Mike's primal fear took hold of him and he turned himself away from it. Cowering in fetal position and holding his head with his hands, he waited for his eventual death. When he heard an audible 'click' his eyes shot open. He realized the Abnormal had taken a piece of his ODM gear. He watched in horror as it turned around and started walking away from him.
Now Mike was left with nothing but fear and regret. He didn't want to die here. But there was no way he was going to be able to beat that thing! It was too big, too strong and too scary. Why wasn't Levi here to begin with?! He would have had no problem taking out this thing. Why was he left in charge of this mission?
'Only when a person stops fighting do they lose.'
His own words. The words he had spoken to Nanaba when she expressed her fears of defeat; echoed through his mind. The moment he stopped fighting… was the moment he let that thing take his means of fighting it! Determination filled his body as he reached for one of his swords and picked it off of the ground. 'As long a we continue to fight…' he thought to himself, clutching the handle of his sword tightly as he readied himself to run towards the beast. 'We are not beaten!'
And thus, Mike screamed. He screamed with all his might, turning his defeat into his final stand of defiance towards their oppressors.
"Oh," the Titan spoke once more. "You can move now."
And just like that all of his hopes were crushed. In his act of courage, he had forgotten what stood behind him. Mike gasped, and instead of trying to fight, he tried to run. But with his damaged legs, two meekly steps were all he took before he was once again consumed by fear.
One Titan took hold of his arm, while another bit down on his legs again. And all the Scout could do was scream and cry. All this time he was just the same scared little boy from all those years ago when he first joined the Survey Corps.
"So, you can speak."
And even while he was suffering—while he was dying, that thing decided to mock him once again.
"Please, stop! Stop it! Please!" Mike screamed in vain as the Titan's continued munching down on their prey.
Mike's screams stopped when he felt a sudden gust of wind from behind. He had closed his eyes and hoped it would end soon, but the moment he felt the wind in his back he opened them. He noticed his legs were free—if you could even call them that anymore—and that the Titans that had been eating him were now all gone.
Scrap that. They were up in the air, literally.
Mike's eyes widened when a white veil blocked his line of sight. The moment he noticed it was the moment he realized he was not alone anymore. What followed were red gloves, a yellow track-suit, and finally that magnificent bald head he had somewhat come to respect. Mike sniffed and through the stench of blood and saliva, he smelled the familiar scent of something he had thought he had lost a mere moment ago.
Mike looked up at his savior with teary eyes. "S-Saitama, you-."
Unfortunately for the Scout whose courage had just returned, his vision became blurry and he fell on his back due to exhaustion. Before his head would have hit the ground it was caught. Caught by a warm and comforting embrace.
Mike lay there, bleeding from almost every part of his body. His breathing had become ragged and he was slowly losing consciousness. It was unfair. Even after so many scouting missions and Titan encounters, he still ends up dying here. He wanted to see the outside world too! Why was this world just so damn cruel? In the end he was weak. He wasn't strong enough to even save himself.
"Man, did you do all that?" Saitama asked, motioning to the Titan carcasses. "I didn't really know where to look, but you sure helped me out by creating that much steam."
Mike turned his gaze towards the Caped Baldy and coughed. "I… I was scared." He muttered, sniffing as tears once again began to stream down his face. "I didn't know… what to do anymore…" he gritted his teeth and clenched his fist. "I tried…"
"Everyone gets scared from time to time. Even I do. But if everyone gets scared and runs away, who's going to be there to save everyone? You're still here, aren't you?"
Mike's eyes widened at his response. He wanted to say something but found himself too weak to even utter a final word. Instead, he clenched his hand tightly around Saitama's and for what seemed like an eternity, he smiled.
"You did fine." Saitama replied, taking Mike's hand into his own and squeezing it tightly. "Nice fight."
And with those final words that gave the scout a boost of confidence, he closed his eyes. If in the end humanity's strongest warrior said it, then maybe it was indeed a nice fight. Either way, he had deserved a long rest. And he was going to make the most out of it.
Saitama closed his eyes as he felt Mike's hand go limp in his own. Placing both of the soldier's hands on top of one another, he said a quick prayer and then stood up.
"Now this is a surprise."
Saitama glared at the fur covered Titan that now stood before him. Clenching his fist, he spoke with a voice filled not only with determination, but also anger.
"I'll honor his dying wish. You're up against me now, furball."
And… that's that, I guess. For those that might be confused, this takes place before Utgard Castle. Some people might be a bit angry, but this just goes to show that not even Saitama can be in every place at the same time. But I felt bad for how they treated Mike in the Manga/Anime, so I decided to give the guy the closure he deserves.
Thank you all for reading. I will see you all in the next chapter!