Zeke glanced at his younger brother, who was leaning against the same wall as him. True to his word, he had come, and had disguised himself, looking very different from how he had looked four years ago. Only by peering at him closely had Zeke been able to tell that he was indeed Eren Yeager.
Zeke cleared his throat. "First of all, Eren...thank you for acknowledging what I had to say and coming all the way here. What Yelena told you is exactly what I think. Since you have understood it, I wonder if you'll comply."
Zeke glanced at Eren. "The plan to euthanize Eldia. Will you approve of it?"
Eren was silent for several moments before speaking.
"Over the past four years I've gained access to all of Father's memories. Everything he saw, everything he felt. I know you didn't have the best relationship with him, but he regretted how he had treated you, and never once blamed you for what happened, not even in his mind."
Zeke looked mildly surprised.
"And he learned from his mistakes. When raising me, he didn't try to force his ideas and plans upon me. It was my mother who would scold me and who tried to keep me in line."
Eren smiled softly. "She certainly had to work hard, I was quite the handful."
His smile faded. "The only thing Father ever forced upon me were the Titan powers he had acquired. The Attack Titan he'd been given by the Owl, and the Founding Titan he'd stolen from the Reiss family. Sometimes I resent him for having done that, but if he hadn't given me the power of the Titans, I probably would have died long ago."
Eren glanced at Zeke. "But as I said, Father didn't treat me the way he treated you. As a result, everything I have done throughout my life has been the result of my own ideas, my own thoughts, and my own decisions."
Zeke looked at him carefully. "And where have your ideas led you?"
Eren shifted his gaze toward the wall that surrounded Liberio district. "Growing up, I hated the fact that we were trapped inside the walls, caged off from the rest of the world. And when Wall Maria fell...my mother was devoured by a Titan right before my eyes."
"I swore to kill all of the Titans, to get revenge for what they had done, and to finally free humanity from its cage. For years I was driven by this goal, by my anger, my hatred. But over time, things changed. While I had been exposed to the brutal cruelty of this world at a young age, there was still much about it that I was ignorant of."
Zeke prompted him. "Such as?"
Eren grimaced. "I believed that people were either good or bad, and that it was easy to distinguish between the two. But after Annie, Reiner, and Bertolt revealed their true colors, I realized it wasn't that simple. I believed that Titans were nothing but evil monsters. But then I found out that they had once been human, and in some ways were just as much victims as the people they consumed. I believed the fate of humanity rested on my shoulders, only to realize that humanity was alive and well outside of the walls, and that everything we had believed for the past 100 years was a lie. At that point, I wasn't sure what I should do. All I knew was that countless people had given their lives for our freedom, and that I had a duty to ensure their sacrifices weren't in vain."
Eren glanced away. "I'll be perfectly honest, when Yelena first told me of your plan, my first instinct was to reject it. We had spent all this time fighting for our freedom, and you wanted us to arrange for our own extinction? How could we agree to such a thing?"
Zeke tensed slightly, but waited for Eren to finish.
Eren looked down at his hands. "But then I thought back to the moment when my mother was devoured by a Titan. The Titan that ate her had once been Dina Fritz...your mother."
Zeke's eyes widened.
"And in that moment I realized the horrible truth. On the one hand we had my mother, an innocent human being who had done nothing wrong, eaten alive by a monster. And on the other hand, we had your mother, an innocent human being who had only tried to do what she thought was right, turned into a living weapon, doomed to forever wander the lands as a mindless killing machine until the day she died. I hope that no one will ever have to suffer either of these fates ever again."
Eren closed his hands into fists. "But as long as Eldians exist, Titans will exist. And as long as Titans exist, both of these situations will continue to happen. It's inescapable. And as long as the power of the Titans exist, Eldians will always be feared and exploited, whether by the people of the world, or by other Eldians."
Eren glanced at Zeke. "I have a duty to the people of Paradis, and a strong desire to protect those I love. But I also recognize that, as holder of the Founding Titan, I have a responsibility for the future generations. The 145th king was a coward. He claimed he wanted peace, but all he really did was make a temporary truce, ultimately trapping the Eldians on the island behind the walls, and abandoning the Eldians on the continent to be oppressed and exploited by Marley. He neither planned nor cared for the future. I will not be like him."
Eren faced Zeke and pressed his hand against the wall. "The Eldians who are alive right now have a right to the life they were given. But if we want to free the world from the fear of Titans, and give humanity a chance at a better future, then no more Eldians must ever be born. Promise me that you will enable me to use the Founding Titan to protect my people, and I swear to you that I will bring an end to the two thousand years of history dominated by the Titans. Until that day we will continue to advance. Isn't that so, brother?"
Zeke looked at Eren with pride. While they had lived very different lives, and endured many hardships, they were still able to come to an understanding, and do what needed to be done.
Zeke nodded. "Yes. Let's do it."
Zeke reached into his pocket. "Normally this would be the point when we affirm our promise with a handshake, but if we were to touch now it could be bad. In place of that accept this."
Zeke pulled out a baseball and tossed it to Eren, who deftly caught it. Eren nodded before placing it in his pocket, turning around, and walking away.
Zeke soon followed suit. As he walked away his steps felt lighter than normal, because for the first time in a long time, he didn't feel quite so alone.
Yes Eren. For sure, we will save everyone.
Author's Note: So here's a short little story I had rattling around in my head for a while after pondering the conversation that Zeke and Eren had in Chapter 115. Because let's be honest, there's no way in hell Eren was being honest to Zeke in Chapter 115. What he said goes against what his character has stood for all along, and sounds suspiciously like exactly what Zeke would want to hear. So I'm all but certain that Eren was lying to Zeke, and will be backstabbing him before the story is over. Because if Eren were being honest and actually agreed to Zeke's plan, I think this story is closer to how the conversation would have played out. Let me know what you think. Pretty please?