Most people think time is like a river that flows swift and sure in one direction, but I have seen the face of time, and I can tell you: They are wrong.
Eren sat still as the ceremony began. A solemn expression on her face, Historia walked over to the man holding nine medallions, one for each of the survivors of Shiganshina.
As she started to place the medallions around their necks one by one, Eren found his thoughts wandering.
What was it we found in that basement? Was it hope? Or was it just despair? Our enemy is tremendously powerful. If nothing changes for the better soon, that calamity will only repeat itself. I'd give up my life in a heartbeat if I was certain that in doing so I could make a difference. But...
He looked up as she stopped in front of him.
I'm not about to sacrifice Historia's. I can't tell anyone about this. So...what should I do?
He leaned forward and kissed her hand.
The second his lips made contact with her hand, everything changed.
It was a strange feeling that Eren was never able to properly describe. On the one hand, he was still kneeling in front of Historia, his lips pressed against her hand. On the other hand, he was also somewhere else, somewhere very different.
As far as he could see, there was sand, stretching into the distance in all directions. Above him the sky was a dark blue, and there were many streaks of light crisscrossing all across the sky.
What? What is this?
He lowered his gaze, and saw that there were several small streams of water on the ground, and the patterns they made seemed to mirror the lights in the sky perfectly.
Directly in front of him the stream was slightly bigger, and he could see his own reflection in the water. There was a strange quality about it, something unearthly, unsettling. It flowed from left to right, but the water seemed much calmer and flatter than it should have.
But what quickly grabbed his attention was that he was not alone. Sitting on the other side of the stream directly across from him was a little girl on her knees. She was wearing rags, and her head was bowed low. She was pointing silently at the stream.
While Eren was tempted to ask her who she was and where they were, he decided to do as she had prompted and took a closer look at the stream.
As he looked carefully at the water in front of him, he saw a blurry image of himself kneeling in front of Historia.
In one sense, he was sitting in this strange place, staring down into the water. In another sense, he was still back in the room with Historia, time seemingly frozen. It was like when someone is physically in one place, but is imagining themselves being somewhere else. The only difference was that here, Eren couldn't tell which one was real, and which one was imaginary.
He looked a little to the left in the stream, and saw more blurry images. In one, he saw himself arguing with Floch before the ceremony.
His eyes widened.
He then looked a little to the right in the stream, and saw another blurry image, one of he and his friends dispersing after the ceremony was over.
Eren looked away from the streams, and returned his gaze to the sky.
I see...this must be what the owl described as paths...and this stream...it must be my own memories...
He frowned. So, what should I do? I suppose I could look into the future, and see if I can learn anything useful. But...there's likely going to be more pain and bloodshed down that way...I'm not sure I want to know about that...
He looked to his left. I guess I could look into the past, but that wouldn't really be that useful, would it?
He froze, as he suddenly remembered one of the last things the owl had said to his father.
If you want to save everyone, if you want to save Mikasa and Armin, you must complete your mission.
Mikasa? Armin? Who are they?
Hmm...no idea. I wonder, whose memories are these?
Wait...if it's possible for memories from the future to be seen by those in the past...then...could it be possible...to deliberately send those memories back?
Eren abruptly stood up. He glanced at the other side of the stream, and was surprised to see that the girl was gone.
That's strange...who was she?
He began to walk to the left, and as he walked he saw the stream begin to break apart into other, smaller streams, flowing in different directions, some overlapping.
He peered carefully at one pair of streams that split off. In one he saw an image of Armin emerging from the carcass of a Titan. In the other, he saw an image of Erwin emerging from the carcass of a Titan.
I see...this must be where Levi made his decision. In this stream, the one that I was in, Levi chose to save Armin. But in other streams, Levi chose to save Erwin instead.
He looked up, gazing at the stream that seemed to represent his memories as it faded into the horizon.
So...if these different streams exist...that must mean that the past isn't fixed, it can be changed. And if that's the case...
He began to jog alongside the stream, making sure to follow the correct one and ignore the ones that branched off from it. He wasn't sure where he was going, but he had a feeling that something was waiting for him at the end of the stream.
After running for what felt like hours, he finally did come to something that appeared to be waiting for him.
It was a massive hole. The water from the stream flowed up out from it like a reverse waterfall, creating an unnatural and unsettling effect.
As Eren peered down the hole, he could see water flowing up from the hole, but he couldn't see the bottom, only a darkness deep below the ground.
He frowned. I wonder...is this what I think it is? If it is...then maybe I can change things for the better. But...it looks like if I jump down...there's no going back.
He paused for a moment. A part of him was still kneeling in front of Historia, his lips pressed against her hand. He was sure if he concentrated hard enough, he would leave this strange place and be back in the real world. But...
As he thought of all those who had died because of him, he felt his resolve harden, and after only a moment of hesitation he leaped down into the hole.
The darkness rushed up to meet him, and he passed out before he reached the bottom.
The Nine Titans all have their distinct qualities...including the Attack Titan that dwells within me...it is even able to peer into the memories of future successors...in other words, it has the ability to foresee the future.
Eren abruptly felt himself on solid ground again. He opened his eyes, and found himself looking at a row of people dressed in military cadet uniforms.
He glanced back and forth, and realized that there were several rows of people, one of which he was standing in.
"Who the hell are you?!"
"Armin Arlert of Shiganshina District Sir!"
Eren was startled by the sudden voices, and looked around for their source. Before long he spotted Shadis and Armin, the latter shaking slightly as he was interrogated by the former.
Eren's eyes widened. Did it really…?
"And why did you join the military?!"
"To aid in humanities victory Sir!"
"That's wonderful! We can feed you to the Titans!"
Eren had to fight the urge to grin and dance around. He didn't know how, he didn't know why, but it had worked. Somehow, he had been sent back in time, all the way back to his first day of cadet training. Not quite as far back as he would have liked, but still far enough back to make a difference.
Eren looked around, and spotted a number of familiar faces. Near Armin was Mikasa, and while she had never been emotive, she did look noticeably less solemn then she had appeared after the battle of Shiganshina. There was Jean, who was about to get yelled at by Shadis, and…
And next to him was Marco.
Eren's breath caught in his throat. That's right. All of them...all the people who died...their tragic, often pointless deaths, many of which were my fault...they've all been undone. They're alive again. I'm not the only one who's been given a second chance.
Eren's gaze hardened. And I will not waste this chance.
After spotting Marco, Eren inexplicably found his eyes drawn to other previously deceased comrades. He saw Mina, Mylieus, and Nick all standing not too far apart.
Eren lowered his eyes. It's my fault they died. I was so stupid...whatever happens this time, I won't let anyone else die because I was reckless.
Eren then noticed Thomas, (hopefully that abnormal won't get to you this time) Hanna and Franz, (maybe things will work out for them this time), and Samuel (what happened to him last time? I don't remember).
And then Eren spotted them; Reiner, Bertolt, and Annie.
Eren clenched his teeth, but tried not to show any outward discomfort.
So, if everyone else is back, then so are they. I guess I should have expected that. Still, this time around I'm not completely in the dark like I was last time. They're in for quite the surprise…
Eren had to withhold a snicker as he saw that, once again, Sasha had the potato. A few yards away, Eren noticed Connie, who was up next to be interrogated by Shadis. Remembering what happened last time, Eren briefly caught Connie's eye and subtly raised his right hand. When Shadis called on him, Connie caught himself, and saluted in the correct manner.
After hearing Connie's reason for joining the military, Shadis looked like he was about to make a scathing comment, but abruptly stopped when he heard a munch, and immediately noticed Sasha eating the potato.
All at once everyone stilled, astonished at the brazen act.
Shadis began walking toward her. "Hey, what do you think you're doing?"
Sasha didn't seem to realize he was talking to her, and took another bite.
"HEY YOU! I'M TALKING TO YOU! WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?! YOU ARE OFFICIALLY ON MY SHIT LIST!"
Sasha hastily swallowed and snapped into a salute. "Sasha Braus from Dauper Village on the South side of Wall Rose sir!"
Shadis towered over her. "What is that you're holding?"
"A steamed potato sir! I found it in the kitchen looking good enough to eat, and so I couldn't help myself!"
Shadis looked incredulous. "So you stole it? But why eat it here?"
Sasha responded. "Potatoes are best eaten warm, and I thought it would be a shame to let it get cold, sir!"
"But why? Why would you choose to eat it now?"
At this point Eren was nearly cracking a rib trying to not laugh. The first time around the situation had seemed extremely serious, with everyone shocked and afraid about what Shadis would do, and it was only later that the incident seemed funny. But after everything he had been through, and the far more serious and traumatic events he had endured, Eren suddenly found this moment to be completely comical.
Afraid that he would burst out laughing if Sasha gave the same response as last time, Eren decided to intervene.
Everyone's eyes swiveled over to Eren, who had raised his voice and snapped into a salute.
"She says she's from Dauper. Dauper is a small hunting village in the mountains. Such places have gone through food shortages lately sir!"
Shadis rounded on him, and Eren felt relieved, knowing he wouldn't be tempted to laugh with the instructor right in front of him.
Shadis narrowed his eyes. "And just who the hell are you?"
"Eren Yeager, from Shiganshina District, Sir!"
"And why did you join?"
"To eradicate the Titans from the earth." Eren said quietly but firmly.
Shadis looked mildly impressed. "A noble purpose, but ultimately futile if you stick up for losers like Braus."
Shadis began to walk away, but Eren wasn't going to let that stand.
Shadis glanced back at him.
Eren continued. "With all due respect, there are no losers in the 104th squad."
Eren felt everyone around him straighten up slightly, and he could have sworn he saw a pleased glint in Shadis's eye.
"Well, you've certainly got faith in your fellow cadets. And since you're so eager to show it, you and Braus have a choice. Either run laps until you collapse, or miss out on chow."
Sasha whimpered upon hearing the second option, and Eren grinned. "Looks like we'll be running those laps sir."
Shortly after the opening ceremony concluded, Eren and Sasha began their laps. There was a time where Eren would have found the laps an irritating waste of time, but now he felt grateful, as they gave him a chance to think.
So, this is really happening. I've gone back in time. I have no idea how or why, and something tells me I never will. But that's not really important. I need to think carefully about what I'm going to do this time.
Eren glanced at the ground thoughtfully as he ran. Annie, Bertolt, and Reiner will most likely follow a similar course of action as last time. Their goal is to find the Founding Titan. To do this, they plan to join the Military Police, and then destroy Wall Rose, and use the ensuing chaos and their new positions to track down the royal family.
Eren grimaced. The only reason they didn't go all the way through destroying Wall Rose last time was because of me. So, how do I stop them? I can't confront them right away. While I have much better control over my titan powers now, there's still three of them, and they've all had training I haven't. If I took them by surprise I might be able to eliminate or capture them in an instant, but that's too risky. As powerful as I am, I can't do it alone.
Eren glanced at Sasha, who was beginning to pant slightly, then shifted his gaze forward again. I know I can count on Mikasa and Armin. But how do I tell them what I know? I can't tell them I came from the future. They'd think I was crazy, and even if they didn't think that, I don't want to burden them with the knowledge of that future, and all those who had to die.
Eren thought back to the memories he had of his father talking with Eren Kruger, and all at once an idea came to him.
That's it! I can just say the knowledge I have comes from the memories I inherited from my father and Kruger. It's not a complete lie, and they'd have no way of knowing otherwise.
Eren hesitated. Still, should I share what I know yet? Probably not. I'll have to share what I know eventually, but I don't want to weigh Mikasa and Armin down with it just yet. I know I can trust Erwin and the other Scouts, so I'll bide my time until I can join, and then confide in them.
Eren brushed a few drops of sweat off his forehead that were trying to get into his eyes. Still, how do I stop Annie, Bertolt, and Reiner from destroying Trost again? I guess I could 'accidentally' transform during training. That would get their attention, and they'd halt their plans to destroy Wall Rose. But...no, that's too risky. I don't want them to know about me, and there's no guarantees the government will let me live this time.
Eren frowned. But how? How do I stop them from destroying Trost without revealing myself? And what should I do in the meantime? Hmm. I think I'll avoid any major plans for now and just go along with the training again. Reiner and the others shouldn't make their move until after graduation, so I'll keep a low profile until then. I'll have plenty of time to think of a plan before that time arrives.
Eren glanced back at Sasha, his eyes softening. Besides, last time around I was so focused and consumed by my goal of destroying all the Titans that I didn't really pay that close attention to those around me. This time, I'll try to be a better comrade and a better friend, especially to those who died last time because of me.
Sasha noticed Eren staring at her, and looked at him uncertainly. "What? Is there something on my face?"
Eren shifted his gaze ahead again. "No. Just thinking."
After a few moments of jogging in silence, Sasha glanced at him again.
"Why did you defend me like that?"
Eren tilted his head thoughtfully. "Well, there's a few reasons. For one, we're training to be soldiers, and soldiers have to look out for each other. It's life or death out there, and if we don't work together as a cohesive unit and help each other, we'll just end up as Titan fodder."
Sasha nodded. "I see. That makes sense. And what was the other reason?"
Eren smirked. "I was trying hard to not laugh, but if you'd kept talking I'm pretty sure I would have lost it, so I interfered before it could come to that, potato girl."
Sasha blushed. "Oh shut up. Don't call me that."
Eren chuckled. "Well, you better get used to it. I'm sure others will have come up with that same nickname after what happened."
Sasha shook her head in exasperation. "Ugh! What's the big deal? It was a really good potato!"
Eren's smile faded. "So, why did you join?"
Sasha grimaced. "Well, if I'm completely honest, I'm kind of hoping to get into the military police and into the interior, where it's safe and there's plenty of food."
Sasha glanced at him. "I bet you think that's pretty pathetic, huh?"
Eren shook his head. "Not necessarily. There's nothing wrong with valuing your own life."
Sasha blinked in surprise.
Eren looked at her seriously. "But if we don't stop the Titans, it's only a matter of time before there's no place left that's safe."
Sasha looked away, her expression grim.
After they'd completed another lap, Sasha looked back at Eren. "And why did you join? Were you serious about wanting to eradicate the Titans?"
Eren nodded. "Yes. I know I can't do it on my own, but that's why I'm here, to hone my skills and to find other people with the same goal."
Sasha looked ahead thoughtfully, and Eren withdrew inward again, his mind buzzing with plans.
After almost six hours of running laps, Sasha finally collapsed in exhaustion. Eren decided that one of them collapsing was good enough, and carried her over to her barracks.
"Oh my goodness! Are you okay?"
Eren looked up and saw Historia walking toward him carrying a canteen of water and a loaf of bread.
Eren smiled. "I'm fine. And I'm pretty sure Sasha is fine too, just a bit exhausted."
Historia smiled tentatively. "Well, that's good. I brought her some food and water. Were you dropping her off at the barracks?"
"What's going on here?"
Eren and Historia turned around to see Ymir walking toward them.
Eren glanced back and forth between Ymir and Historia. Hmm, what to do about these two. Ymir seemed most concerned about Historia's well being, so as long as I can convince Historia to join our side, Ymir should follow. Still, I have to be careful. I need to remember, her name is Krista. Krista Krista Krista. If I slip up and say her real name, that would lead to a lot of awkward questions, and I don't want to have to try to talk my way out of that.
Ymir looked at Historia dismissively. "What's all this? You snuck out some bread and water for potato girl and this guy? Is this your idea of trying to be nice?"
Ymir smirked. "Or were you trying to get on his good side? Already scouting out for a boyfriend?"
Historia blushed. "I-it's not like that! They've just been running for hours, so I thought I'd bring them something…"
Eren smiled tiredly. "I appreciate it, but I can probably grab something at the mess hall. Sasha could probably use those though, once she wakes up."
Ymir sighed. "Well, since we're all being such nice people, I'll take potato girl off your hands, since you aren't allowed in the girls' barracks."
Historia stepped forward. "Oh, yes, I'll help too."
Eren handed Sasha over to Ymir and Historia, who draped each one of her arms over their shoulders.
Eren held out his hand. "Thanks for that. My name is Eren Yeager, and I'm sorry I didn't catch your names earlier."
Ymir shook his hand first. "The name's Ymir."
Eren raised an eyebrow. "Ymir, huh? That's an interesting name."
Eren was tempted to say more, but restrained himself.
Don't push it too much.
Historia held out her hand next. "My name's Krista Lenz. It's nice to meet you."
Eren shook her hand. "Yes, it's very nice to meet you too."
Eren studied her carefully. The moment his skin made contact with hers, she froze, and her eyes widened.
By touching her, I should have made the memories of her sister she had lost return to her, just like I did last time. Hopefully that will help her to realize that she isn't alone, and will value herself more as a result. I'm not sure if returning those memories is a good idea or not, but she has a right to them, so what the hell.
Ymir arched an eyebrow. "Krista? You okay?"
Historia snapped out of her daze. "Oh, I'm fine. See you later Eren!"
Eren nodded, then headed back toward the mess hall.
As she and Ymir helped Sasha to her barracks, Historia's mind was reeling.
She saw images play out in her head. Countless memories where she thought she had been all alone, suddenly had someone else present. Years worth of loneliness and isolation suddenly seemed to disappear as her recollections were altered.
What...these memories...all along, I thought I was alone. But I wasn't. She, Frieda, my big sister, she was there all along. She cared about me. But why did I not remember until now? Why did I forget? And why did these memories suddenly come back? What is happening?
Historia looked up at Ymir. "Huh?"
Ymir looked at her uncertainly. "You've been staring off into space for two minutes. Something on your mind?"
Ymir smirked. "Was it that Yeager guy? Are you already crushing on him? He is pretty cute I suppose."
Historia blushed. "No, I wasn't thinking about that!"
Ymir grinned. "Oh, so are you not into guys? Then which girl were you crushing on?"
Historia's blush intensified. "No, I wasn't thinking about anything like that! I was just...thinking."
Historia glanced away. "...nothing."
Ymir looked skeptical. "Right. Well, does nothing have a name?"
Historia shook her head. "It's not something I want to talk about."
Ymir held up her hands. "All right, all right, I'll stop teasing. For now."
"Do you think Eren has feelings for that girl?"
Armin looked at Mikasa, feeling startled. They'd sat down for dinner a little while ago, and Mikasa had been rather quiet, which was not unusual for her. But this was the first time Armin had heard this sort of question from her.
Armin swallowed. "What do you mean?"
Mikasa glanced down at her plate. "Well, he isn't usually so protective of strangers, yet he quickly came to her defense. It just seemed...rather out of the blue for him."
Armin had to concede that Eren's behavior was unusual. After the training for the day was over, he and a few of the other cadets had watched as Eren and Sasha ran their laps, and Armin was surprised by how easygoing Eren seemed. Not to mention that even after several hours he didn't seem tired, or at least was doing a good job of hiding it.
Armin chuckled nervously. "I wouldn't read too much into it Mikasa. Eren just met her, and I doubt he has any room for feelings of affection with all of that vengeance inside of him."
Mikasa looked off to the side. "You're probably right."
A few minutes later, Eren burst into the mess hall, and it looked like it was taking every ounce of will he had to force himself to walk like he hadn't been running for the past six hours.
The other cadets began to murmur amongst themselves when they saw Eren, but Eren didn't seem to pay any mind to them. His face brightened up when he spotted Armin and Mikasa, and made a beeline for their table.
He nodded at Mikasa appreciatively as she passed him a bowl of stew and a loaf of bread. "Thanks Mikasa, I'm freaking starving."
Mikasa looked at him carefully. "I thought you were supposed to run until you collapsed."
Eren shrugged as he tore into the bread. "Sasha did, and I figured that was good enough. I helped her back to her barracks until Ymir and H-"
Eren froze, and hastily amended his statement. "Ymir and Krista took her off my hands, so I came back here."
Armin frowned. "So why did you stick up for her? You've been acting a little odd since the opening ceremony."
Eren swallowed a mouthful of bread before answering. "Well, Armin, we're soldiers now, and a soldier is only good as the other members of his unit. If we don't have each others backs, we'll wind up dead when we face the Titans."
Armin looked puzzled. "I see. That's...a rather mature view."
Eren's reasons made sense to him, but Armin was still rather bewildered that Eren had thought something through like that. Maybe he was finally growing up?
Eren smirked. "Besides, I'm sure Sasha would have said something even stupider if I'd let things go on."
"So you're not infatuated with her." Mikasa said, a statement rather then a question.
Eren snorted. "What? Nah, Braus isn't really my type. I mean, sure, she's pretty enough I suppose, but so are you, Mikasa, and I've been hanging around you for years."
Armin was stunned by the casual compliment coming out of Eren's mouth, and he could have sworn that, for a brief second, Mikasa had actually blushed.
Eren shrugged. "Besides, I came here to hone my Titan killing skills, not flirting with girls."
Armin noticed Mikasa's posture relax slightly, and began to wonder if her question hadn't been as out of the blue as he initially thought.
The three of them looked up to see two of the other cadets approaching their table. Connie and Marco, Armin recalled.
Marco looked at them curiously. "Didn't you say you were from Shiganshina?"
Eren nodded. "Yeah, that's right. All three of us are."
Connie leaned forward excitedly. "So, you were there on that day, right?"
Eren looked down gravely. "Yeah, we were."
Before long a larger number of cadets had made their way over. Mikasa slipped away to a less crowded table, and Armin cursed himself for not doing the same. He knew this many people pestering Eren about the day his mother died would almost certainly lead to a massive blow up, and he didn't want to be anywhere near it.
Eren looked up mildly annoyed. "Yeah, I told you, I saw the Colossal Titan."
The other cadets began to murmur amongst themselves.
Thomas leaned forward. "So, how tall was he?"
Eren took a sip of water. "Tall enough to peak over the wall."
"I heard he stepped over the wall completely!"
"Yeah, that's what I heard too!"
Eren shook his head. "Nah, he was big, but not that big. I doubt we'll ever see a Titan as large as that."
Mina looked eager. "What about the Armored Titan?"
Eren shrugged. "That's what they call it, but it didn't look that different from a normal Titan to me."
"Then, what are the normal Titans like?"
Eren paused, and swirled his spoon around the stew thoughtfully.
Marco held up a hand. "Maybe we should cut it out with the questions. I'm sure there are some things he'd rather not talk about."
Connie winced. "Oh man. Sorry about that, we were just…"
Eren smiled softly. "No, it's okay. I'd probably do the same in your position."
Eren looked at them all seriously. "The normal Titans are...well, if I said horrifying or terrifying, that wouldn't even begin to come close to describing what they were like. They are the single most fear inducing thing I can think of. To be perfectly honest, I don't want to ever see one again."
Armin looked at the gathered cadets, and he could see a lot of them had taken Eren's words to heart, and Armin began to worry that many of them would drop out.
But before he could voice his concern, Eren continued.
"However, I know that in order to take back what we lost, I'll have no choice but to face them again. And that's why I came here. To learn the necessary skills I need to fight the Titans, and to be able to overcome my fears. If we don't fight back, it's only a matter of time before the Titans finish us off for good, and I won't let that happen."
The fear began to bleed out of the cadets eyes to be replaced with confidence, and Armin was impressed.
Well, it seems Eren has quite the gift for inspirational speeches. And I thought I was just impressed by him because I was his friend.
Eren grinned. "I'm going to join the Scouts, and once we drive the Titans out, we'll finally be free."
Eren placed his hand on Armin's shoulder. "And when that happens, we'll explore the whole world, won't we Armin?"
Armin nodded. "Right."
"Oi, are you freaking nuts?"
The crowd parted to reveal a brown haired young man, whose name Armin remembered was Jean.
Eren looked at Jean. "Maybe a little. Why? Are you planning to run from the Titans and join the Military Police?"
Jean smirked. "Yeah, that's right. I say it how it is, unlike some people who talk like they've got balls of steel right after pretty much admitting that they piss their pants whenever they see a Titan."
Eren feigned obliviousness. "Oh, was that a shot at me? Well, to each their own. But I'd like to see how you'd react to seeing your mother devoured by a Titan right in front of you. A big macho man like you would probably run in and kill it with your bare hands, right?"
The flippant way Eren spoke about his mother's death sent Armin's mind reeling, and he could see that Mikasa had (for her) a gobsmacked look on her face.
The other cadets fidgeted and murmured uncomfortably, while Jean appeared to be speechless.
Eren slowly stood up and walked over to where Jean sat. "I suggest that you take the time to learn about someone first before you start insulting their ideals or beliefs, or else you'll end up sticking your foot in your big stupid mouth."
"What was that?" Jean flared up and stood up at once.
Armin heard Eren chuckle softly before responding. "You're a funny guy Jean. I meant no disrespect or to say that you're doing the wrong thing, and I apologize if I came across that way."
Eren held out his hand. Jean looked down at it uncertainly before reluctantly clasping it. "Yeah. I'm sorry as well."
Armin was about to follow Eren when he saw Mikasa brush past Jean, whose face became even more bewildered than it had during his confrontation with Eren. He watched in amusement as Jean followed her to the door before the brown haired young man called to her.
Mikasa turned back toward him, and Jean seemed to fumble over his words. "Um, I-I've just never seen someone like you. You look different from the rest of us. Uh, you have very pretty black hair."
Mikasa looked at him disinterestedly. "Thanks."
She then walked away and headed out to find Eren.
Jean snapped out of his daze after a few seconds, and rushed out onto the porch. Armin followed him, and found him staring after Mikasa, who had just caught up with Eren.
Mikasa frowned at Eren. "You okay?"
Eren sighed. "I'm fine. It's alright."
"You tend to do stupid things whenever anyone brings up that day." Mikasa replied quietly. "I just wanted to make sure."
Eren smiled at her softly. "Well, I can't get mad at you for watching my back. Sorry I snapped."
Mikasa looked surprised at Eren's answer. Meanwhile, Armin could almost see the cogs turning in Jean's head as his face melted into a look of bitter disappointment.
As Connie walked out onto the porch, humming contentedly, Jean reached out and wiped his hand on the back of Connie's shirt.
"Hey!" Connie whirled around. "What the hell did you wipe on my shirt?!"
Jean looked at Connie dead-eyed. "My faith in humanity."
Armin was barely able to duck past them and away from the porch before he burst out laughing. Before long he managed to catch up to his two friends, still letting out a snort here and there.
Eren glanced back at him. "What's got you in such a good mood?"
Armin managed to stifle his mirth and shrugged. "I don't know, I've just got a good feeling about the next three years."
Eren nodded and faced forward. "Me too, Armin, me too."
They walked in silence for a little while, listening to the chatter of other cadets as they made their way to the barracks.
Without warning, Eren reached up and began playing with a few loose strands of Mikasa's hair, much to her and Armin's surprise.
"It's getting pretty long now, isn't it?" Eren remarked.
Mikasa looked ever so slightly self conscious. "Do you think I should cut it? It might get in the way of the 3D maneuver gear."
Eren chuckled. "Like that scarf won't? It'll be alright. I like your hair just fine as it is. If it actually does get caught, you can always cut it then, right?"
Mikasa nodded slowly. "Right."
She stopped walking once they reached one of the wooden buildings. "My barracks are here. Good night you two. Be sure to get lots of rest for tomorrow."
Armin nodded. "Okay. I have a feeling we'll need all the energy we can get tomorrow."
After they parted ways, Eren and Armin found their way to their bunks, which were across from each other on the bottom.
Once it was quiet, and everyone had appeared to drift off to sleep, Armin spoke up.
"Eren, are you awake?"
He had to wait a few seconds before Eren responded. "Yeah. What's up?"
"You've been acting a little...off today. It's nothing bad, it's actually kind of refreshing to see you not explode at every slight. But...why now?"
Armin strained to see Eren in the dim lighting.
After a moment of silence, Eren responded. "All this fanfare about training has got me thinking. Thinking about some things I'd rather not think about, but thinking all the same. We're going to be spending the next three years with these people. During that time, I have no doubt that we'll be forging some bonds and friendships that aren't easily broken."
Eren shifted slightly. "And at the end of it all, we'll be fighting Titans. And Titans kill. That's what they do. It isn't a question of if someone is going to die, but who is going to die. Like mom."
Armin swallowed. "Then why not shun all the bonding, if you think it would hurt too much?"
Eren shook his head. "That would be stupid. You can't have happiness without at least the risk of sadness. I swore I would kill all of the Titans, but I'm just one person. Realistically I'll never be able to do it all on my own. I need to trust in the strength of others, just as they'll need to trust in the strength of me, and it's through that trust that we'll fight back and reclaim what we lost. I don't like the idea that some people will have to die to make that goal a reality, but I know it's inevitable. I just want to work as hard as I can to minimize the number of people who won't come back."
Eren sighed. "I don't know if I'm making any sense right now."
Armin shook his head. "No, it does make sense. Although, I have to say, I'm a little surprised that you've thought this through as thoroughly as you have."
Eren shrugged. "Hopefully I'm starting to outgrow some of my bad habits."
Eren rolled over. "Good night Armin."
Armin settled down, but his mind was buzzing with thoughts for a long time, both puzzled with Eren's sudden change in attitude, and anticipating the training to come, and sleep took a while to come.
Author's Note: So first of all let me address the elephant in the room. Yes, this is blatantly borrowing a lot from the story Shingeki No Fate by HaveBookWillTravel. But a lot of it is different, and I intend to take it in a new direction of my own, so I wouldn't say it's plagiarism per se. Also, that story hasn't been updated in over four years, and with only three very short chapters it leaves you wanting more. So I feel like I'm allowed to step in and try my own hand at it.
When it comes to the exact mechanism that allowed Eren to travel back in time, that's not as important as what he's going to do now that he's gone back in time. But if/when the manga reveals exactly where the Titan powers came from originally, ie how Ymir Fritz got her powers, I may change the opening of this chapter a little. For now I just had the Truth from FMA be the mechanism that allowed Eren to travel back in time, because why not?
I will try to maintain weekly updates for this story, but I cannot promise that with absolute certainty. We'll see how it goes.
Leave a review, let me know what you thought.
Edit: So as you may have noticed, the opening of this chapter is a bit different. I'd originally had the Truth from FMA be the thing that let Eren travel back in time, but that was more of a placeholder to get the story rolling. Now that the manga has revealed more about PATHS and the origins of the Titans, I thought I'd have the mechanism for Eren's time traveling be closer to the canon. Plus, it seems that much of Eren's actions were influenced by what he saw when he touched Historia, so making sure that whole thing played out differently was important to make sure that the Eren in this story is distinct from the Eren that we see post time skip. I tried to make it fit within canon while also still keeping most of this story the same. Let me know what you thought.
Also, you get a cookie if you know what the opening quote is from. Well, okay, not really, but you know what I mean.