Karina Braun was no stranger to fear. For any Eldian living in the internment zones fear was just a part of life, as even the smallest violation of the most minor rule could have serious, even deadly consequences. It was true that if you kept your head down, toed the line, and did everything in your power to avoid drawing attention to yourself, you would probably be okay, but the anxiety and uncertainty was still ever present.
Life became marginally better after her son was accepted into the Warrior program and their family was made into honorary Marleyans, but this improved status came with new fears. The biggest one was worrying about whether her son would survive the mission to that cursed island, a fear that was well founded, as of the four original Warriors sent to the island, Reiner was the only one who made it back alive.
But while he had made it back alive, he was clearly not the same person anymore. Before going to the island he had been upbeat and determined, and very enthusiastic about his mission. Now, though, he was quiet and reserved, and only seemed to do his duty out of a weary sense of obligation, any real passion he may have once had as a Warrior long since snuffed out.
Worse yet, after eavesdropping on several conversations between Reiner and his younger cousin Gabi, she'd learned that the disturbing reason for his changed demeanor was because he'd come to feel sorry for the island devils, and rather than feeling any sense of pride or accomplishment about his mission on the island, he now only seemed to feel deep guilt and shame. The only explanation she could think of for this attitude was that he had been so traumatized by what he had seen on the island that his mind had become confused and fragmented, and he'd extended the grief he felt over losing his fellow Warriors to the devils that had killed them, unable to see the distinction between the good Eldians of the continent and the bad Eldians of the island any longer.
The only thing that complicated this theory was that Gabi, despite never having been to the island, seemed to not only accept what Reiner was saying but back it up with what she had seen in the memories she'd inherited from Pieck, also claiming to feel sympathy for the island devils. And both Reiner and Gabi had made statements indicating that their superior officer Magath also believed that the Eldians on the island were not truly devils, and that they only needed to keep saying that they were until some unspecified point in the near future when they could dispense with that line of propaganda.
And this raised an even more disturbing possibility: that Reiner and Gabi were telling the truth when they said that the islanders were not devils, which by extension meant that Marley had been lying to them for over a century now.
And that concept terrified Karina even more than the possibility of Reiner dying in battle, as even entertaining such an idea could be considered treasonous, and treason carried with it the worst sentence possible. So rather than confronting Reiner and Gabi over what they had said, or really considering what they had said on her own, she had done her best to push it out of her mind completely, reassuring herself that they were the good Eldians, the islanders were the bad Eldians, and once the war was over Reiner and Gabi would come to their senses.
It almost worked, but she couldn't quite push away the tiny doubts that niggled around in the back of her mind.
At least, on most days she couldn't. But today she didn't need to worry about that, as her attention was thoroughly occupied by what was going on at the harbor not too far from the internment zone.
She'd known the invasion was coming, but while most of her fellow Eldians had retreated to the basements of the buildings in the internment zone, morbid curiosity had compelled her to remain on the top floor of her home so that she could look out the window and see the invasion for herself.
A few other Eldians also peered out through their windows, waiting for the oncoming storm.
Reiner...Gabi...please be safe...
The first thing they saw right away was the six airships that appeared directly above the harbor, and though they were still very far away they had just been able to see that the airships were dropping something onto the harbor, though they couldn't tell what.
A few minutes later, a series of bright flashes enveloped the harbor, forcing Karina to cover her eyes. The next second, a roar of sound and a blast of wind swept through the internment zone, rattling the windows, hammering the walls, and blowing any loose objects on or in between the buildings into the air.
As the light, noise, and wind faded, Karina was able to see what had caused the explosions, which to her horror turned out to be almost two dozen colossal Titans, just visible over the line of buildings between her and the harbor. Her eyes widened in terror, and she briefly wondered if she should bolt for the basement before the 50 meter high monsters made their way over to the internment zone.
Fortunately for her, most of the Titans headed toward the sea, and all of them were killed before they could leave the harbor. But just as she breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing all of the Titans fall, she once again heard a roaring sound. This time, though, there was no accompanying light or wind, and she couldn't see what had caused it. However, after a few seconds she was able to see a line of smoke coming from the harbor, masked slightly by the steam from the dissolving Titans. She realized that the sound must have been cannon fire, and the smoke was coming from the Marleyan ships that had been hit by the enemy cannons. And judging from the amount of smoke rising into the air, a lot of their ships had been hit by the enemy.
Then, a few minutes later, another flash of light, one that eclipsed the others in both size and brightness, appeared in the center of the harbor, and was followed by another roar of sound and blast of wind. As Karina shielded her eyes, she could feel the sound and wind shaking the house, and she knew that if it had been closer to the source of the explosion her home would have collapsed like a house of cards.
After the noise died down, she slowly lowered her hand, and immediately felt her breath catch in her throat. For standing right in front of the harbor was the Colossal Titan. Even at a distance it was the stuff of nightmares, its massive red body and its skeletal face towering above everything in sight, with only the enemy airships above it.
She couldn't tell exactly what was happening, but it was clear that things were going very badly for the Marleyan army, and Karina felt that at this point it would be wisest to retreat to the basement.
But before she could, a smaller flash of light appeared directly in front of the Colossal Titan's face, and less than a minute later the Colossal Titan collapsed. After that, things suddenly became eerily quiet.
That second flash...that must have been either Gabi or Galliard...
Karina waited for a minute, then two, then five, and still, nothing more seemed to happen. There were no new sounds or flashes of light, and whatever may have been happening at the harbor was no longer in her line of sight.
She swallowed nervously as she eyed the enemy airships still hovering above the harbor, the only thing she could still see clearly.
What's going on out there?
Most of the day had gone by before she got an answer to her question.
Several hours after the harbor went silent, a large number of soldiers arrived from Fertig. A few of them surrounded the internment zone, while most of them headed straight for the harbor.
As she observed most of them, she could see that the soldiers looked very disheartened and subdued. This concerned her, but she also noted that none of the soldiers looked frightened or alarmed. This, combined with the fact that the harbor was still silent, led her to the conclusion that the battle was over, and whatever the soldiers were here for, it wasn't combat.
Her curiosity eventually getting the better of her, she exited her home and began to walk toward the front gate.
As she made her way down the front street, she was surprised to see someone else had also left the confines of their home.
"Falco." She exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"
He kept his gaze fixed on the gate, his lips pressed into a thin line.
"Same as you. I'm here to see what's going on."
Karina opened her mouth to say he was too young and that he should go back home before she remembered that he was also a Warrior cadet, he was the same age as Gabi, who was participating in the war, and he was older than Reiner had been when he had been sent to Paradis.
Since when was it decided that sending children off to war was okay?
Karina froze, and hastily tried to push the seditious thought away.
As she and Falco reached the gate, it was opened from the outside, and a single person stepped through before it was closed again.
Karina gasped. "Reiner!"
The holder of the Armored Titan looked exhausted, and his uniform was slightly disheveled.
He glanced back and forth between them. "Is everyone alright?"
Karina nodded. "Yes, everyone's fine. Most of them are still waiting underground for the all clear."
Falco looked at Reiner seriously. "What's going on?"
Reiner let out a heavy sigh. "The war is over. Marley surrendered."
Karina gaped at him in shock, unable to say anything.
"What?!" Falco sputtered out. "We surrendered?! To those damned devils and their cronies? Why?!"
Reiner shook his head slowly. "At Fertig, there was a surprise attack. They killed off most of our military leaders with the Attack Titan. We anticipated something like this happening, and we tried to capture the Attack Titan using the Warhammer Titan. But unfortunately our plan failed, and the Warhammer Titan was captured. Between the death of our leaders, the capture of the Warhammer Titan, and the damage that would be inflicted on Marley if the war kept going, Magath made the decision to surrender."
Reiner gestured vaguely in the direction of the harbor. "At the moment Magath and Willy Tybur are negotiating the terms of Marley's surrender with Erwin Smith and the other representatives of the Alliance. Apparently during the battle at the harbor Gabi and Porco managed to capture the Colossal Titan, so the first thing Willy Tybur did was exchange the Colossal Titan for the Warhammer Titan, which makes sense, given that the user of the Warhammer Titan is his sister. Now they're working out the other details."
Falco looked outraged. "So that's it?! They're rolling over just like that?! I can understand trading the Warhammer Titan for the Colossal Titan, but why completely surrender? Have they forgotten what those evil devils have done, and the threat they pose? How can they just let them have their way after a minor setback?!"
Reiner looked down at the young cadet sadly. "Falco, you're letting your anger about your brother's death cloud your judgment."
Falco's eyes widened in fury. "What?! What the hell are you saying?! You're the one who constantly reminded us of our duty to defeat these devils, to protect our motherland and atone for Eldia's sin-"
"It was all bullshit!" Reiner shouted.
An ominous silence fell over the three of them.
Karina's face had gone chalk white.
"What?" Falco whispered, gazing up at Reiner with fear and uncertainty in his eyes.
Reiner hung his head in shame, unable to maintain eye contact with either of them.
"It was all bullshit." He repeated more quietly.
"The truth is...that paper was telling the truth. The people of Paradis did have their memories wiped. They were left defenseless and helpless. Marley was the one who started the cycle of violence all over again."
His voice broke. "And...and I'm the one...who carried out Marley's terrible plan, and caused the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people."
He looked back at Falco. "It's my fault Colt died. If I hadn't broken down the wall, the people of Paradis wouldn't have suffered so greatly, they wouldn't have had a reason to go to war against Marley, and they wouldn't have killed your brother. If you're going to be mad at someone, be mad at me. Not the people of Paradis."
Falco took a step back. "But...but you were just following orders."
Reiner let out a bitter laugh. "You could say the same thing about any soldier. Does that automatically excuse what they did?"
Reiner knelt down and placed both of his hands on Falco's shoulders. "I know it's hard. But sometimes, for the sake of others, you have to let go of grudges. You're a smart kid Falco. Think back to before Colt died, before your grief and anger took hold. After reading that paper, you must have noticed some of the holes in Marley's narrative, right?"
Falco frowned, but reluctantly cast his mind back to the aftermath of the battle at Fort Slava, when the Mid East Alliance had released their first piece defending Paradis and denouncing Marley's propaganda.
It was true that, viewed impartially, the paper had made a compelling case. And when Reiner had dismissed the paper, Falco had noticed that his words, confident as they were, didn't quite reach his eyes.
Karina slowly stepped forward, her face still unnaturally pale.
"Reiner... I... I wasn't going to say anything originally. But... I heard you and Gabi talking...several times these past few weeks."
Reiner looked up at her sharply, while Falco glanced at her, his expression uncertain but mildly curious.
"Tell me...do you really see yourself as a mass murderer and a failure?"
Reiner flinched and averted his gaze before quietly muttering a single word.
Falco looked at him in shock, while Karina suddenly found it difficult to breathe. It felt like a hole was opening up in her stomach, and it was taking all of her willpower to maintain her composure.
"Reiner...I…" she stammered. "Did...you said the islanders were willing to trade the Warhammer Titan for the Colossal Titan. Do you think they will keep their word?"
Reiner let out a weary sigh. "They did keep their word. The trade already took place. Right now, while the negotiations are happening, the Alliance soldiers are working with our soldiers to repair the damage that was done to the harbor, including moving and treating the injured, gathering the dead, putting out fires, repairing damaged lines, and so on."
Karina's eyes widened, and the hole in her stomach seemed to grow even larger. All the doubts niggling around in the back of her mind that she had desperately tried to push away came flooding back in full force.
There had been numerous times when she'd overheard Reiner and Gabi making comments criticizing or outright dismissing what Marley had said about the war and Paradis. And as much as she tried to ignore it, she still remembered the broad details of what she had read in the now infamous paper, and the claims it had made. Among them was the claim that Paradis had suffered many civilian casualties at the hands of Marley, while when it came time for them to go to war with Marley the Paradisian forces had done their best to minimize civilian casualties.
And now, the islanders were offering humanitarian aid to the people they had just been killing, while the Tybur family, the heroes of the Great Titan War, were willing to negotiate with them. All of this was impossible, unless…
Unless they weren't devils.
Unless Marley was in the wrong.
Unless everything had been a lie.
This sobering realization became too much for her, and Karina collapsed to her hands and knees on the ground.
Tears began to pour out of her eyes, and she found herself unable to look at her son.
"I...used...you. I... I felt so hopeless and lost, and I blamed those de...islanders for my suffering, despite the fact that they'd never done anything to me."
She still remembered that day, how Reiner's father, after toying with her heart, had immediately abandoned her after getting her pregnant. She'd felt so angry and scared and alone, and so lost.
She knew that the reason he had left her was because she was Eldian. And rather than being angry at him for his behavior, rather than being angry at the unjust system that had led to this behavior, she had meekly accepted the lies she had been fed since birth, that Eldians were devils, and that if they defeated the 'bad' Eldians they would one day be free. And she had forced all of this onto her own son as well, pushing him down a path full of bloodshed and pain.
She sobbed. "And I... I used you as a tool of revenge against them. I never treated you how a mother is supposed to. I'm sorry."
Reiner knelt down in front of her and hesitantly placed his hands on her shoulders.
"It's okay, it's not your fault. We all got taken in by Marley's insidious propaganda. But things are different now. We can do better."
He pulled her into a hug, and she promptly began to sob her heart out into his shoulder. Despite his assurance, she wasn't willing to forgive herself just yet.
Falco averted his gaze, knowing that wasn't for him to see, and he was occupied with his own troubled thoughts.
As he held onto his sobbing mother, Reiner felt a fresh wave of guilt as he recalled someone who would never again be able to do what he was doing now.
I'm sorry Eren.
ONE MONTH LATER
The abrupt end to the war had taken the whole world by surprise, and the full ramifications of the war were still being figured out.
With the death of Marley's military leaders Magath had become the new head of the military, while Willy Tybur had officially stepped in as the new leader of Marley, supplanting the old regime and guiding the nation along the path toward peace.
Despite the losses they had taken, Marley was still a very large and powerful nation, but Magath knew that they had overextended themselves, and would not be able to sustain their massive empire unless they began conscripting Marleyan citizens into the military, something he knew would not go over well. With that in mind, new changes and compromises would have to be made to restore their standing in the international community.
Over the past century Marley had annexed a number of neighboring countries against their will, and stolen territory belonging to other nations, including several members of the Mid East Alliance. Now, though, the stolen territories were returned to their lawful owners, while the countries that had been annexed were given the option to leave Marley. Some had grown accustomed to and even benefited from the close ties to Marley, and so willingly chose to remain a part of Marley. But for the ones that wished to regain their independence they were allowed to do so.
Magath had expected the negotiations and deals to be stressful and time consuming, and they were, but thanks to the Tybur family's influence and Willy's charisma, things went much more smoothly then he had anticipated.
And now, only a month after the war had ended, the fruits of their labours were beginning to pay off.
The harbor of Liberio, which had been almost completely destroyed during the invasion, had been completely rebuilt, and it was here that the first large meeting between all the nations that had been involved in the war would take place.
Several large stands had been erected in one part of the harbor in order to accommodate the large number of VIPs that were attending, which included ambassadors, leaders, and reporters from all over the world. Among them included Willy Tybur, the leader of Marley, Kiyomi, the ambassador of Hizuru and the main representative of the other oriental nations, and Mazhar, the ambassador of Merkezl and the main representative of the nations that had made up the Mid East Allies.
The Warriors of Marley were also present, including Reiner, Galliard, Gabi, Falco, Udo, and Zofia. There were also several prominent figures from Paradis, including Erwin, Levi, Armin, and Historia. The representatives and reporters from the rest of the world were curious, as this was the first time many of them would be seeing the islanders in person.
For her part, Historia felt incredibly nervous. Not only was this her first time visiting the world outside of the island, but she would soon have to give a speech in front of hundreds of people, all while knowing that how she presented herself would reflect back on Paradis for good or ill.
Armin gave her hand a comforting squeeze. "You'll do fine. You've practiced and prepared for this."
She smiled at him nervously. "I know."
She rested her other hand against her slightly protruding belly, trying to remain calm.
Erwin glanced at the young couple before returning his gaze to the podium in front of the stands.
The harbor was full of ships that had brought the representatives of the world to Liberio, and off to one side of the harbor, stationed at the wharf nearest where the representatives were all gathered, was a medium sized ship whose purpose was unclear.
Of the people gathered there, the only ones who appeared to be on edge were Magath and Levi, as both were concerned about the possibility of either the other side trying something devious, or else some extremist taking advantage of the large gathering of VIPs and doing something crazy.
Erwin and Willy, on the other hand, weren't too concerned about either possibility, as the harbor was quite secure, and both were reasonably sure that the other side was acting in good faith.
Still, Erwin had made sure to leave Eren back on Paradis when it came time for this gathering. While he did trust the new Marleyan government, he wasn't naive.
After seeing that everyone had gathered and taken their seats, Willy Tybur stepped up to the podium, spreading his arms out wide in front of the large crowd.
"Welcome!" He cried. "Welcome to you all! Thank you all for coming here on this most historic day."
The crowd began to clap and cheer, and were very vocal in their support of the charismatic young head of the Tybur family.
After a moment the crowd fell silent, and Willy began his speech, his face becoming more grave.
"For the past 100 years the Tybur family has held a great deal of influence and power, both here in Marley and abroad, thanks to the role we played in the Great Titan War. However, for the most part we did not exercise this authority, instead leaving Marley free to do as it pleased, as atonement for the crimes of the Eldian empire and the sins of our race. But in hindsight, this was a dreadful mistake. While the Marleyan people were justifiably angry about the oppression they had been subjected to for so long, this anger was not tempered by reason or compassion in any way. After the fall of the Eldian empire Marley was reborn as a heroic nation that had defeated an imperialistic power with a history soaked in the blood of other nations, and was poised to lead the world into a new era of peace and prosperity. But what did Marley ultimately become? Another imperialistic power that oppressed a race of people it deemed to be inferior, and used the power of the Titans to trample on the sovereign rights of smaller and weaker nations. In other words, Marley became the very thing it had tried to destroy, plunging both Eldia and Marley down into darkness."
He gestured toward the representatives of Paradis. "And the light that pierced this darkness came from the most unlikely of sources, the island of supposed devils. They had been isolated from the world and robbed of the knowledge of their heritage by the 145th King, but in a strange way this ignorance allowed them to see the bigger picture much more clearly once they learned the truth about the outside world. While Marley saw the attack on Wall Maria as a righteous act of retribution, the people of the walls saw it for what it truly was: an unprovoked and unjustifiable atrocity, inflicted upon people who had not only done nothing wrong themselves, but didn't even know about the crimes their ancestors had committed."
The crowd began to murmur at this. It had been one thing to hear this claim about Paradis's innocence from the Mid East Allies, but to hear it repeated and reaffirmed by the head of the Tybur family was a shocking development, as it lent further credibility to the idea.
"During the height of the Eldian empire there was pervasive propaganda pushing the idea that the subjects of Ymir were a superior race, and those who belonged to other races ought to submit to their betters. After Marley rose to power, the script was flipped, and now the subjects of Ymir were descendants of devils, and needed to be locked up to protect the people of the world. But both strains of propaganda boiled down to the same thing: generalize the moral character of an entire race in order to boost the ego of those in charge and to keep an oppressed group in line. And both were entirely wrong. It is true that Eldians carry within them the power of the Titans, but this in and of itself is neither good nor bad. What matters is not what one is born as, but what one grows up to be. It is our choices that determine our moral character, not our racial or ethnic background. For centuries the world has bought into some version of the sins of the father concept, the idea that we should judge people based on what their ancestors have done. But the time has come for us to lay this idea to rest for good, to look at people on an individual basis, and to see them for who they truly are, and not to jump to conclusions based on our preconceived notions."
Willy's gaze softened. "This war has been hard on all of us, and there were many losses on both sides. But now that it is over, I solemnly swear that as the leader of Marley I will do what should have been done a century ago. I will lead the world into a new era of peace and cooperation, and strive to build ties between the various nations and peoples represented here that will ensure that our children will inherit a better world, one free from the hatreds and burdens of the past."
He bowed, and the crowd began to clap and cheer.
He smiled widely. "And now, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to the queen of Paradis, Historia Reiss!"
He stepped away from the podium at the same time that Historia stood up. They passed each other and shook hands.
"Nice speech." Historia murmured.
"Thanks." Willy replied quietly. "Though I'm glad that's over. I always feel slightly queasy whenever I have to address a large crowd."
Historia blinked in surprise. "Really? But you looked so calm and collected."
Willy chuckled. "I'm glad to hear it, but I think speaking in front of this many people is at least a little nerve wracking for everyone. Good luck."
With that Willy walked away while Historia marched up to the podium, his confession making her feel a little better.
As she stepped up to the podium the crowd clapped again, though it was more muted this time, as they weren't sure what to expect from her.
"I want to thank Willy for that wonderful speech. The only criticism I can think of is that it will be a very tough act to follow, but I will try my best."
The crowd let out a series of chuckles, while Historia spotted Armin giving her an encouraging look, which further helped to ease her nerves.
"The 145th king claimed to want peace, but as we have seen his actions did not bring about peace. He did not end the cycle of hatred that began two thousand years ago, he only prolonged it, and created more victims and more suffering. He did not solve any problems, he only ran away from them. The only way to solve any problem is to face it head on. In this case, when it comes to the cycle of hatred, the only way to end it and move past it is for both parties involved to set aside their grudges and try to make amends. Willy has done this, and I believe he sincerely wants to move us into a better world of peace and harmony."
She gestured behind her, toward the wharf where the medium sized ship was stationed. "In that spirit, I would like to make an offering to facilitate this new era. For the past three years we have captured every survey ship that Marley sent to the island, and we have taken every soldier on board those ships prisoner. But now that the war is over, there is no longer any need to keep prisoners of war, and so today we will return them all home safe and unharmed."
This created a stir, and the crowd began to look at the ship curiously.
Historia soon sat back down next to Armin, and accepted his offered hand.
A short time later, the prisoners began to be escorted off of the ship one by one, and were reunited with their friends and family, while the reporters from all over the world took pictures and interviewed the former prisoners.
Erwin watched the event unfold with a shrewd expression, as he knew the good this would do to help further improve Paradis's image to the world. Not only would the gesture of releasing prisoners of war be well received, but he had gone out of his way to make sure that the prisoners had been treated well during their stay on the island. Now that they were being sent back home they would carry with them the knowledge that the inhabitants of the island were not devils but human beings, and further improve the world's perception of the island nation.
Among the prisoners released was Niccolo, though Erwin knew that Niccolo planned to return to the island, as he had a restaurant and a girlfriend waiting for him there, something which would undoubtedly shock his parents a great deal.
Eventually most of the prisoners had left the ship, and only one was left.
Among the crowd of people near the wharf, one of them was mister Leonhart, who stood off to one side with a slightly hopeful expression on his face.
And as the final prisoner stepped off of the ship, the entire harbor seemed to freeze in shock.
For standing there, alive and well, was Annie Leonhart.
Annie and her father stared at each other for a long moment before abruptly running toward each other and tearfully embracing.
Erwin couldn't help but relish the stunned expression on Willy and Magath's faces, because while they had known about the prisoners Paradis was going to release, they hadn't known about this.
After numerous experiments they'd finally managed to get Annie out of the crystal. However, by the time they had succeeded the war was already over. Initially Erwin had been planning on passing the Female Titan on to one of their soldiers. But after negotiating with Willy and Magath about the terms of Marley's surrender, a new idea had occurred to him.
For one, Willy seemed to be making a genuine effort toward reconciliation, and for another, Erwin had the distinct impression that Magath suspected that they were bluffing about the Founding Titan. While that was partly true, as they didn't have access to the Founding Titan yet, they would before long.
And so Erwin had convinced the Paradis government to let Annie be returned to Marley. It would help the reconciliation process while also subtly letting Magath and the others know that they weren't bluffing about the Founding Titan, because if they were they would never have given up the Female Titan.
As the crowd gathered around the happily reunited father and daughter, Armin let out a soft smile, while Historia felt the same calm washing over her that she had felt the first time she had gotten to see the ocean. There would still be more battles to fight, more issues to resolve. But they had taken another big step toward making a better world for all of them.
Author's Note: So I'd planned on finishing and uploading this chapter several days ago, but was unable to. And this time it wasn't due to writer's block or self doubt, nope, it was just due to my own stupidity. I won't go into details, but let me just offer you some advice: If you decide to take some pain medication, make sure you read the directions very carefully, because if you misread them and take too much, life could really fucking suck for a while.
Anyways, this chapter explores more of the aftermath of the war. The first part with Reiner, Karina, and Falco went through several rewrites, and while I'm fairly satisfied with it I'm still not sure I got the emotion of the scene quite right. Oh well, let me know what you think.
As for the second part, some might object and say that Willy Tybur being completely on board with reconciling with Paradis conflicts with his behavior in canon. But I think there are a few key things to note, as the circumstances in the canon and this story are very different.
Firstly, while Willy and Magath both seem like smart and reasonable people, at the end of the day they are still human, and it's clear that at a certain level they bought into their own propaganda, in particular the idea that Eldians are inherently bad people, both because of their Titan powers and the history of the Eldian empire. And for them this idea was never really challenged in canon until much later, while here they were forced to confront counterarguments much sooner.
More importantly, though, is that Willy and Magath were primarily concerned with maintaining Marley's power and relevance in the world, and in the canon the best way to get the world to overlook Marley's flaws and unite behind them was to present them with a common threat, which is why they used Paradis and Eren as a scapegoat. But in this timeline it's too late for that, as the world still has a lot of disdain and and resentment toward Marley, and thanks to Erwin's proactive strategy the ploy of using Paradis as a scapegoat won't work anymore.
So their best option at this point is to accept defeat and adapt to the new circumstances of the world, and in doing so redeem themselves in the eyes of the world. And while they do now have to give concessions and reparations to other nations, they're still a large and powerful nation, and can easily bounce back from this. Besides, Willy Tybur does seem like a reasonable person, and if presented with new information would probably be willing to change his views. And if you factor in the crazy amount of influence the Tybur family has in the AoT world, if the Tybur family decides to facilitate peace, peace will probably come.
As for the thing with Annie, I've been planning that from the beginning. Hopefully it was a nice little surprise.
There's only one chapter left, but it will be a long one, so I'm not entirely sure when it will be out. I'll try to get it out by the end of January, but I can definitely promise that it will be out by the end of February. Well, unless I get hit by a car and die or something. Hopefully that won't happen.
Anyways, be sure to let me know what you thought, reviews really are appreciated.