Dear Mom, Dad, Mina, and everyone else,
It has been exactly nine years since that day when Bertholdt Hoover, Reiner Braun, and Annie Leonhart broke through Shinganshina's gates, opening Wall Maria to the invasion of Titans. We were born into this world believing that we were the last bastion of humanity, a world surrounded by enemies that sought to drive us out. A herd of cows encaged in a series of fences surrounded by wolves. They let the wolves in.
As soon as I was on the other side of the inner gate, I paused for a moment to look for my parents. "Mother! Father! Ahh!" I was knocked to the ground by a passerby, yet I continue to look for my parents. They should have still been outside the city, so I know the Titans couldn't have gotten to them. "Mother!"
"Joshua!" I turned away from the Wall, seeing both my mother and father come to me. My mother gets to me first, helping me to my feet. "Oh, I'm glad you're safe!"
My father looks over me. "Are you hurt?"
I shake my head. "No."
"We have to get out of here, quickly!" We begin to run, my mother dragging me by my hand. Another set of rumbles stopped us as we turned to the Wall in time to see a huge boulder come our way. Time slowed as I felt a pair of hands touch and push me away, my eyes darted to the sight of my father's face before I-and the boulder-make contact with the ground.
A few groggy moments later, I push my face off the ground. I look around. The area is not as populated as it once was, but there are still people running. I turn to my back, seeing the boulder on the ground where...my parents last stood. I look at the ground underneath, seeing a red pool flow where the boulder meets the ground.
I barely had time to process what happened before a voice calls to me. "Can you stand up?" It is a Garrison soldier who touches me with a hurried tone. He seems frightened for some reason. Are the soldiers not fighting back? Are we not...winning?
"I can stand." I prove it by standing up, much to the pleasure of the soldier. He grabs my arm and pulls me.
"Run to the boat!" I followed after him, once again running for my life. The sound of breaking stone gathered my attention, in which I looked back to see dust fly out from the inner gate, covering the boulder that is now my parent's grave. At the epicenter of the cloud stands a figure, one of Titan size, but its behavior and appearance are atypical. In the brief glimpse I get of it, I can see blonde short hair, an armor-like body, and eyes that flashed red in the cloud of dust. It would be a Titan that would haunt my dreams for years, even the name it was given was enough to trigger me.
I joined the military as soon as I was able, burning with desire to avenge you, Mom and Dad. For three years, I trained side by side with my friends, some still alive, others who I write to now, including you, Mina and Thomas, my best friends during that passage of time.
I chuckle. "Yeah, I'm good… Matter of fact, I have a better idea. We'll personally train together."
Thomas' jaw almost dropped. "W-What? But...why would you want us tagging along with you?"
Mina's eyes became wider than her face. "Yeah. We'll just slow you down. Why burden yourself with us? You hang with Jaeger and his gang, don't you?"
I smile. "Sure, but… We come from different places in this world, but the fact remains that the Titans want us gone. Thomas, you want the Military Police, Mina, you gave your goals, I have mine in the Scouts. For all I care right now is that we get through this together." I stick my hand out, eyeing them challengingly. "Now either you accept my offer, or prove Sadies right." Mina didn't take another moment to think about it, she immediately joined my hand with hers. We looked to Thomas, who finally gave in and joined. "Good. We'll begin tomorrow."
Those three years with you guys and the rest of the 104th were hard but fun years. Yet we were all afraid. Some of you initially wanted to join the Garrison or the Military Police, but after a speech by Eren, your resolve drove you to the Scouting Regiment. That day was supposed to be our last as trainees, and in some ways, it was our last day.
"What is on your mind, Eren?"
"Has it really been five years?"
I cross my arms, chuckling. "Either it has, or we've grown in a matter of days that even to Hannes you aren't a little brat. Maybe we're dreaming." I look to the town as well, a smirk remaining on me. "Five long years. What has changed, my friend?"
"Look at us. Ready to stand tall again. We can do it. Mankind didn't start this fight, but we're going to finish it!" I nod along, brushing my hair back. The wind stilled afterward, just as if the world itself went on pause. It was just for a moment, but at that moment, the hairs on the back of my neck rose.
Then lightning struck.
Eren and I turn around, gasping in the shared shock of my fellow cadets as we stared eye to eye with the terror that just appeared. Horror replayed in my eyes of five years past, freezing me with fear. I'm sure the same words replayed in Eren's head as they did in mine. Oh no, this cannot be happening. Not again.
The Colossal Titan. Nearly fifty meters tall, his fleshy head stares almost level at us with his exposed scowl, just as a powerful vortex of steam escapes its body. The force of it is enough to push us off, but the heat of the steam causes us to react. We are sent flying off the Wall, lucky to be equipped with ODM gear. We grapple on the Wall's side and hang vertically on it.
"Samuel!" I turn to see Conny cry the boy's name, and Sasha makes a desperate rescue attempt that has one of her hook grip Samuel's foot as the other hang on the Wall.
"Try not to move! Understand?" As Sasha begins to bring Samuel up, I stare back at Mina, seeing her fear across her face. Given our distance, I cannot reach her without moving into a new position, yet I don't deem the situation that critical.
"You okay, Mina?"
"Yes… Is this really happening?"
"Yeah. It is." I turn to Eren. "Almost lost Samuel. Shit."
"That was too damn close." He looks down to the lower part of the Wall, my eyes following. I knew I heard an explosion below us, but now that we see it, the two of us could only hang our jaws. "Oh god, no. Not again! They're going to get in. They're going to get in. They're going to get in!" Eren pushes himself off the Wall, I trail right behind. We land on the road leading to the Wall, getting a closer look at the hole in the Wall.
"The Wall… It's been destroyed!" I grit my teeth in anger and fear as the first Titan begins to walk in. I look up to the others still hanging on the Wall, their fear overcoming their readiness to fight. Giving the surprise, I understand it, but now we can do what we couldn't five years ago, and I will not let this opportunity be wasted. "Hey! This is what we've been training for! We must defend the city until the others can get here!" I draw my blades behind a ready Eren, and we take charge at the incoming Titan.
As we head out to the city a third time, we hear a scream. It could have been anyone in the world, but for some reason, it sounds like...Armin?
"What the?" Conny and the rest of us pause in our movements as he points to the west. "That came from the direction Eren and the others went! Hurry!" We zip as fast as we can to Eren, Armin, Thomas, and Mina's location, only to see three of the four looking off to the distance. I land beside Mina, turning in the direction they are looking...just to see a Titan hugging the steeple of a church. It moves its head slightly to the right, showing a human caught between its teeth. Upon closer inspection, I believe I recognize the hairstyle. Holding my breath, I hold my telescope to my eyes to see that it is Thomas that is caught between those teeth.
"Thomas!" The Titan holds his head back, making us watch in horror as the monster slurps down my friend like a noodle. A switch flips inside me, burning me with rage as I step forward. "THOMAS!"
Mina tries to reach out to me. "Josh! No!" I ignore her pleas, bursting off the roof. I heard Eren right behind me, cursing the Titan aloud as I do so in my head. I'm going to kill you. I'm going to gouge your eyes out, lacerate your throat, and rip out your stomach to get my friend! As I come close, I hear a cry from behind. I turn to see Eren fall and slide on several rooftops. I abandon my crusade to look for my comrade.
I spot his fallen form hanging dangerously off a roof. "Eren!" He's unconscious, bleeding from his head and his left leg is severed. Below, I spot the Titan that might had gotten to him, chewing happily. I look back down the street, seeing Armin, Mina and a Garrison soldier after us. I wanted to continue my chase, but then a greater horror happens. The soldier collides with a giant head. Mina has one of her ropes snatched. Another soldier is captured. Armin, stunned in shock, falls to his knees as he looks at Eren's body. I shake myself. Where's Ymir, Conny, and Christa? Were they...No. I cannot lose anyone else.
I head back down the street, ignoring Eren and Armin, heading to the Titan that now grasp Mina in its hands. "Mina!" I have my blades ready, but just as I prepare to make my rescue, I spot another Titan just underneath me in the road, the one that got Eren. It tries to bite me from below, but I react quickly enough to dodge but not fast enough to avoid crashing through a window. Landing on my sides, I roll until I hit a wall with my head. My vision blurs, but through the haziness, I watch as Mina is swallowed.
It still hurts to remember just how helpless we were, how powerless I was. If I was stronger, better, I could have saved you, Mina, and so many others. But...because of that, I was able to lead us trainees to the barracks and eventually out of the city, but I cannot take credit for it alone. Without Mikasa's harsh inspiration, Armin's thoughtful planning, and Eren's titanic transformation, not many of us would have escaped to the walls.
Fearful of Eren, Trost's Garrison Regiment rightfully took him into custody, but also threatened his life. Having lost him once earlier in the day, I joined Armin and Mikasa in defending Eren. We survived due to Eren's incomplete transformation protecting us and the timely arrival of Commander Pyxis. Believing Eren to be vital to defending Trost, he and Armin hatched a plan to recover the city. It succeeded, but not without more sacrifices.
"YA!" I jump off a Titan's nape, not watching it die as I continue to protect Eren from the Titans. He's almost there, halfway down the road. Mikasa and Armin escort him from the ground, while I dally behind, watching our friend's back.
It hurt to look around me, seeing the deaths of so many of our own, but we know it is a necessity. The Titans will swarm Eren otherwise, and they were already ignoring until we provoked them. Mitabi and Ian are dead, I haven't checked on my other friends, but seeing so much blood spilled for Eren. It is disheartening.
I watch as one of the elites, a woman named Rico, slashes the eye of the Titan in front of Eren, Mikasa running around and flying up to cut the nape. It falls over, clearing the path to the gate. I fall on my knees in disbelief. This is not the end, there is no way it ends like this. There are no happy endings for us.
Not until now.
With a mighty roar, Eren sets the boulder down, sealing the gate. My jaw hangs low, my tongue dries, my eyes are the dark clouds that pour rain on my cheeks. He did it, no, we did it. We fought fire with fire. We made sure the deaths of many weren't in vain. We saved Wall Rose and the remaining four-fifths of humanity. We stopped the nightmare of five years ago. We beat the Titans!
As the yellow signal darts skyward, so does the idea that for the first time in history, humanity won.
The battle ended with the timely return of the Scout Regiment. Being the only able-bodied in my group, I join the Scouts in the cleanup of Trost and even gained some renown afterward from the higher-ups of the Scouts.
Levi looks at me. "If you mean to thank me, you should thank this kid instead."
Rico nods. "A member of the 104th Cadet Corps, just like Eren Jaeger, who blocked up the hole in the Wall."
The redhead woman throws her hands up in surprise. "You may not have noticed, Erwin, but I had no idea this soldier was a freshly graduated cadet."
"I see." Commander Erwin steps up to me, testing my ability to contain myself. "You did well to stand up to your fears and fight, cadet."
I salute. "Thank you, sir!"
"You really did an outstanding job today," the eccentric lady says. She leans in my face, clearly having no notion she's in my personal space and that I'm uncomfortable. "I think you will become a fine soldier." The gaze she has on me spells interest, and I fear for what I'll have to go through if she gets her hands on me.
Section Commander Hange Zöe took me under her wing and for the month leading up to the 57th Scouting Expedition, I assisted her in various missions as a fledgling Scout. Eren was placed in the care of Lieutenant Levi and his squadron, in which we'll have joint-missions with. During that time, a scandal involving the murder of two captured Titans sent waves through the regiments but was largely underinvestigated.
As the operation commenced, we followed the plan laid before us, but a huge hitch in it appeared as well. A female Titan.
As we got close, Armin signals us to space out. Jean and Reiner will flank her sides while Armin and I stay behind. However, as I look at my favorite brainiac, I can tell he senses something about our prey. Whatever he senses, he doesn't call the plan off. That's enough for me.
I look at her. We won't try to kill her, there's no point in fighting an intelligent Titan unprepared. But in the meantime, we might be able to surprise her. I have no doubts she knows we're giving chase or that we know she'll protect her nape, but there are other ways to hurt her. We just need to slow her down, the quickest way is by cutting her legs.
"Your skills are on par with Mikasa's despite your placement in cadet rank. Do you think you could kill her?"
I shake my head. "No. Something tells me that she'll protect herself before she protects the Titan's body. The Colossal Titan has steam, the Armored Titan has armor, she's more like Eren. Killing her without restraining her movements to protect her nape is impossible. But if anyone could, I wager Levi could." I look back at the Titan, yet unless my eyes deceive me, she's looking back at Armin. Oh shit.
Jean tries to engage the Titan by attaching his hooks, but they bounce out what seems to be some hardened exoskeleton. The lady turns, swinging her arm first at Jean, using the wind to knock off his hood. I attempt next, flying up towards the nape, but the Titan swats me like a fly. She then steps forward, swatting the ground by Armin. No, it looks like she actually hit Armin's horse. The Titan looks at my fallen figure first, now that my face is exposed. She looks away from me after a momentary staredown between us before leaving. If what Armin believes is true, she let me live due to my inability (or will) to attack her, and she ignores me afterward due to the fact that I share little of Eren's characteristics.
Those eyes though...I might be crazy, but do I sense recognition? No way...yet...That shade of blue...they're so familiar.
His two punches to her face missing, Eren rises up to look down upon her before roaring angrily in her face. As he rises back up, something goes wrong as Eren's Titan starts to spasm out in the face. This opening is all the Female needs as her left eye open and her arms grips Eren's, punching him off her. However, the fight is not over. Even with her arms working, Eren continues to manage to keep the Female grounded and on the defensive when she stands.
At least, until she sidesteps, hardens her hand, and uppercuts Eren. "Eren!" I start to dread, but it is misplaced as Eren uses his intact upper jaw to grind along the hardened arm and punches the Female in the gut. She lands on her ass, slumping against a tree. She barely gets on her feet and dodges Eren's knee. Eren, tired, catches his breath against the tree while the Female takes a few steps away. They turn to face each other, Eren still against the tree, but able to raise his arms up.
Then he gasps. Since my attention is mostly focused on him, I arc my head to the Female Titan as she takes a step closer to Eren. My jaw slackens, my eyes grow wide, and my legs nearly give out. No, there's no way. That cannot be-
We figured out she was Annie and, depending on who you ask, the mission was a success or failure to capture her, but we did recover her crystallized body. It did, however, lead to more questions than answers, one as big as a Titan standing within Wall Sina.
Since only me, Armin, Mikasa, and Jean were the only cadets from our corps not suspected to be Titan shifters aiding Annie, I was sent back by Commander Erwin to the location the rest of the cadets were under surveillance and asked to give the news to Section Commander Miche. As I arrived, the Scouts were preparing to evacuate as a horde of Titans approached. Joining them, we split up to warn of the Titans that had breached Wall Maria.
Sasha and I eventually came upon her hometown, where we rescued a little girl from danger. Placing her in the care of Sasha's father, we regrouped with the other teams and took a rest at Utgard Castle. What we thought to be a moment of respite turned out to be a literal nightmare as Titans, abnormally active at night, attacked. Only the senior soldiers and I had equipment to fight, but the numbers of the Titans began to overwhelm us. Soon after Nanaba, Gregor, and the other senior Scouts fell, I was left as the only one able to fight.
Or so I thought...
"Conny, give me that knife you had."
"Huh? My knife?"
Ymir stands over him, reaching her hand out. "Just give it to me."
Ymir pats Conny on the head. "Thanks."
He swats her arm away. "What do you want it for?"
"Hmm? Well, you see… I'm going to fight with this."
"Ymir," Reiner says with about an equal amount of surprise as the rest of us. There's no way she's serious, right? "What are you planning?"
"Who knows? I don't even know myself." She walks away from the others, back to Christa and I.
"Christa." Ymir grabs Christa's shoulders. "You've probably forgotten all about it by now…" A crash shakes the top of the tower, even making Ymir looks aa bit nervous. "But this might be the end, so… Try to remember...that promise we made training on that snowy mountain." Ah yes, that mountain. I do not remember the reason we went there, but we nearly got caught in a blizzard trying to get to shelter. Ymir, Christa, and Daz were still out there when most of us arrived, and in hopes of finding them, we searched. Luckily, everything turned out okay. "I have no right to tell you how to live your life. So, actually, this is nothing more than a hope of mine. I want you...to live a life you're proud of." Ymir's face glows with the light of the rising sun as she steps away from Christa. She then turns to me with probably the first genuine smile she ever gave me. "Sucks we might never get to have our planned fun, huh?"
Any other day, I might laugh, but not knowing what Ymir is planning (plus the present situation) has my humor turned off. "Ymir…"
"Joshua… Do you remember what I told you on Trost?"
"Yes, I do."
"I'm going to prove myself right. But can I ask you one thing, for me?"
"When the time comes...Protect Christa, okay? Can you do that? Shush, I know you can." She turns around again to Christa, tapping the tip of the knife. "Remember our promise, Christa." Ymir runs towards the tower's edge, just out of Christa's desperate reach. She leaps off, much to my surprise, and I prepare to make the jump to catch her.
She swipes the knife against her right palm, blood spilling in the air. For a split second, the air changes, and by this point, I'm quite familiar with that change. No… Yellow light surrounds Ymir as her descent continues. A roar erupts from the ball as light becomes muscles, tendons, skin...a Titan.
Ymir and I barely held off the Titans in time for the Scouts to join. Led by Hange, the soldiers eliminated the Titans and rescued us recruits. Ymir, a Titan… Christa, a royal… A mysterious Beast Titan that came and went without any known objective… Add in the mystery of the wall, and the questions of our world continue to pile up.
Then the world was struck with betrayal...
Armin steps off, his mind churning. "There's been nothing like this in five years. Why is it all happening now?"
"This world is getting more and more out of hand." Sasha and Mikasa follow along shortly, but I stand with Eren a moment longer before I gesture to him.
"Come on, before your head explodes from thinking." I catch up to Mikasa, walking beside her as I think about what's happening. Ironically, that makes my head hurt. "I knew there wasn't a breach."
"Eren, have a minute? We need to talk."
"Last night, when I was fighting, somehow that idea came to me. The Beast Titan, he climbed the Wall instead of breaking through. Given...other recent information about the Walls, it made sense."
"Five years ago, we demolished the Wall and began our attack on humanity."
"Hange told us the Wall is made of that hardened material Annie produced. They have a similar composition."
"I'm the Armored Titan and he's the Colossal Titan."
"Then it explains why they never breached the Walls in any case, but the city gates. Maybe the Walls themselves are too hard to break through… Hey, where's Eren?" I notice Mikasa stops moving to look back, so I follow her sight to Eren, Reiner, and Bertholdt conversing behind. I begin to call them, but then I catch Mikasa's glare silently telling me to be quiet. Confused, I whisper "What for?"
Sighing, I heed Mikasa's command, tuning in to Reiner. "Our primary goal was to ensure all of humanity was wiped out, but now there's no need for that."
"Eren, if you agree to come with us, we won't have to destroy any more of the walls. Understand?"
What? What is...Reiner saying?
"No, wait! I don't understand at all!"
"I'm saying… Why don't you just come with us? I know this is sudden, but we need to go now."
"Right now? Where will you take me?"
"I can't say that yet. But… Well, it's something like our hometown. So? What will it be, Eren? It's not a bad deal, right? You can easily avert this crisis."
"I wonder about that..." Eren sighs and looks our way. Being just a step in front of her, I can see Mikasa's become near murderous while my own is still confused. Behind me, Armin calls to us to get us moving, yet we stand still.
"Yesterday, Hange gained Annie's records from Sasha and told us that two others came from the same area as she did in the 104th… Reiner and Bertholdt." I gasp softly as I look back to the trio, seeing Eren with his arms folded as he gazes to the sky. There's...no way…Reiner and Bertholdt were from the same place, I knew that, but never has Annie spoken of home. "Do you remember the scouting expedition? Their units were told Eren was in the right-wing, correct?"
"Annie...attacked from the right-wing…There's no way Reiner and Bertholdt are like her in any way. They never talked, never! Hell, she almost killed Reiner! She had him in her ha-"
"What did you think would happen? That I'd nod and say 'Sure, let's go'?"
Reiner is silent for a moment as he looks away from Eren, his eyes sinking in his face. "That's right. What the hell was I thinking? Have I really gone crazy?"
Eren turns around to head to us. "Come on, let's go." Please, come with us, Reiner and Bertholdt. You are not who they think you are. That's when the wind picks up, fluttering the flags along the wall strongly that one of them manages to snap apart and fall down the wall. The change in the air...the parting of the clouds...the brightening of the sky...all feels deathly familiar. Unconsciously, my hand reaches for my blade, though I barely manage to hold it steady. I'm not the only one; Mikasa, too, shakes, her hand betraying her face.
"I see," Reiner says softly. "That's it. I've been here too long for my own good. It's been three long years surrounded by nothing but idiots. We were just kids… We didn't know anything. If only I never knew that there were people like this, I...wouldn't have become...such a half-assed piece of shit!" Reiner reaches for his sling, taking it off his neck and slowly unwrapping it. "It's too late now. I don't know what's right anymore. But the only choice for me now is to face the consequences of my actions, and as a warrior, fulfill my duty to the bitter end!"
Reiner's arm, the one that was injured, shows the dark veins and arteries that are now around Ymir's head and shoulders, in addition to the steam evaporating from the healing wound. In an instant, those markings vanish. That...proves it...and I snap.
"Reiner! Are we doing it?! Now?! Right here?!" Bertholdt...that makes you the other...the Colossal Titan who started this all…
"Yeah. We settle this...right here, right now!" Reiner steps forward to a puzzled Eren, but he never makes it.
"You son of a bitch!" Blades out, I leap out from behind Eren, severing Reiner's newly healed right arm while Mikasa dashes after me and cut's Bertholdt's throat. My blade stuck in his left arm, Reiner and I share a glance, him knowing why I came for him specifically before he throws me aside and shoves Mikasa off Bertholdt. We land on the side of the Wall, furious. "No!" I push myself back up over the Wall, but I'm already too late.
"Bertholdt!" Yellow light shines around them, as I land behind Eren, the others running up behind me. Reiner's determined face… Bertholdt's pained… Before I could attack again, lightning strikes.
Knocked to my feet, I use my cloak to protect my face from the wind and steam as I see half of Bertholdt's Colossal Titan rise on the Wall, Reiner's Armored Titan standing behind him. Turning my head, I see Eren hanging on the edge of the Wall but suddenly drops. "Eren!" Reflexively, Reiner reaches out, grabbing Eren. At the same time, Bertholdt reaches over us for something.
"Ymir!" Ymir? I remember now when Ymir revealed her form, Reiner and Bertholdt...they knew who she was. But why bring her? For her power? I see Reiner leap off the Wall, hearing Armin call for Eren's name. Tears evaporate from my eyes as I look up to Bertholdt, gritting my teeth in an effort to hold in my cries.
I wipe away my tears as the force of the Colossal Titan's steam begins to wear off. Several hundred meters between me and Bertholdt...fine then.
To my right, another flash of lightning, then the familiar roar of Eren's Titan. I stand up, staring up to Bertholdt with a raging, murderous determination. He had the nerve to cry...so be it, I'll make him cry.
Reiner… Bertholdt… I will kill you both… You damn traitors!
Reiner and Eren would fight, but the enemy would eventually capture Eren. We chased Reiner and Bertholdt, eventually catching up before sunset. We tried to get some answers from them, but that came to an abrupt end as Commander Erwin and the Scouts lead a group of Titans towards the traitors. While Reiner and the allying Ymir tried protecting Bertholdt, Eren, and Historia for their own gain, we charged into the carnage to rescue the latter two. We retrieved Eren and got Historia and Ymir to come with us and retreat, but then Reiner began separating us by throwing his assailants. With our chances of escaping growing dimmer, I gave Conny, Sasha, Historia, and Ymir a chance by using myself as bait.
"It's strange… When I'm with you, no matter how screwed up it gets, I'm not afraid." I hear gas beside me, seeing Christa and the others alongside me. We manage to take out the Titan together, but others begin to head our way. We land by our horses, watching the incoming horde. Farther away, I can see Reiner's mobility increasing as he discards the last of the surrounding Titans away. People are dying. I'm separated from my friends. Where's Jean, Armin, Mikasa, Eren? Are they caught up in this mess?
All I know is that the five of us, even Ymir, is in danger. I grip the necklace around my chest, hard enough to hurt my palm. I cannot ask them to join me. I cannot ask them to fight with me for their lives. Someone must get away, someone must live. Conny must get the truth of his hometown. Sasha must return to her father. Ymir and Christa...they need each other. If they are to get away... "Damn it all."
"Joshua!" I turn to Sasha, sitting on her horse. Conny is on his while Christa rides Ymir. "Come on!"
"Sasha…" I get on my horse, but instead of turning in the direction away from the Titans, I face them. "I'm sorry."
I reach into my pocket, taking out the notebook Thomas gave me. "Do me a favor...hold on to this for me. And this too." I take off the necklace Mina gave me and hand both objects to Sasha.
Unlike me, she doesn't fight back her tears. "What are you doing?"
"There's too many of them for us to run away from, and...even though she can handle it, I don't want Ymir to fight for me. Reiner...is right there. Conny!" I look to the bald-headed boy, allowing only one eye to cry. I made my decision for myself...it's stupid, so stupid, I'm becoming this idiot. "Get them home, no matter what. Promise me you don't let Sasha and Christa die!"
Conny looks to me to protest, but once he sees my resolve, he relents. "Sure."
"No, not good!" Sasha grabs on to me, trying her best to convince me to retreat. "If you go that way, you'll… I don't want you to die."
"Sasha." I grab her, holding her for what could be the very last time. "I promise you, I'll live...as long as you believe I am, I will never die." I pull her away, unable to contain my tears. "The next time we meet, we should go hunting, yeah?"
"Go. Whatever words you have to say… I know. I do too." I smack her horse, sending it galloping away. She calls out to me, but Conny drives her forward. I turn away from them, looking forward to the coming Titans. I glance at Christa and Ymir, nodding to them. "Go, I got this. Ymir, for a moment longer, protect Christa. And Christa…protect Ymir for as long as you can."
"Joshua." I look to the golden-haired goddess, watching her salute me. "Come back, please."
I imitate her. "See you later, Historia." I snap my horse's reins, charging solo to the horde that chases us.
My survival was due to chance. I killed the Titan that almost ate me, but the others were mysteriously commanded by Eren to attack a Titan from his childhood, and later on, Reiner. I would learn Ymir went back to help Reiner and Bertholdt, and that would be the last I ever saw of her.
In the aftermath, as the secrets of the world began to fit together, we learned that we had more enemies, but they wore our faces and ruled our land. While Commander Erwin began a secret plot to overthrow the monarchy, Levi and my friends were set to protect Eren and Historia. Of course, it failed, and once again we had to go rescue them from the clutches of Rod Reiss (Historia's father), Kenny Ackermann (some relation to Levi) and the Interior Police. While evading the Police, we chased them to the Reiss homestead. Rod became an enormous Titan, larger than Bertholdt's Colossal, and we were forced to take him down. In the aftermath, Historia took the throne as queen, we learned that Eren's ability to command Titans is due to the Founding Titan within him and we learned what it takes to make a Titan.
But the true answers of the world came four months later when we returned to Shiganshina for a final battle with Bertholdt, Reiner, and the Beast Titan.
An acoustic shell fires from below us, above the inner gate. "Here! There's a cavity here-GAH!" That gasp alerts me as I (along with Lieutenant Levi) hurriedly steps over to the edge of the wall above the inner gate. There we see the Scout fall down to the street below, followed by the appearance of a tuff of pale blond hair topping a muscular body. Before Levi or Armin can react, I react faster.
"Reiner!" He catches sight of me at the last second, unable to do anything as I impale his neck with my blades. I run him down the wall with an angry roar, using my second blade to impale his heart. "I told you I've come for you." Believing I might have killed (or mortally wounded) Reiner, I relaxed a moment too soon. He takes a surprising breath of air and his eyes roll back to normal position. Shocked, I remove myself from him, returning to the top of the wall, letting Reiner tumble to the ground. "Shit! How did he survive that? That was his heart and his throat!" I look to Eren for answers, but he doesn't have them. Are there Titan powers we still have no knowledge of? Whatever the case, Reiner ignites the sky with the light of his transformation, so I stare down with greater bloodlust as the man becomes a Titan.
"Keep on the lookout!" Commander Erwin shouts. "Locate his allies-" A series of thunder-like explosions rock our ears from behind. Turning to the land within the gate, we spot the Beast Titan along with 20 or so Pure Titans. The hairy ape picks up a boulder, heaves it on its shoulder, and tosses it directly for the inner gate. "Boulder incoming! Get down!" When I say "directly for the inner gate", I mean it hit the hole spot on.
"He missed us?" I hear Conny say.
"No," I reply, standing on my feet. "He cut off the horses from us. We're surrounded. But as for what they'll do, I have no clue."
"To end it here," Eren says with dark determination. "Once and for all." He looks at me and Mikasa, nodding. "We won't let them win. We're getting our home back, our freedom back. Or we die trying." We both nod to him, drawing our swords as we look to the Beast Titan and his army.
"We're both hoping for the same thing," Commander Erwin says as he draws his sword. "To settle it once and for all. Humanity or Titans? Which side will live? Which side will perish?"
"I know what you're doing," Bertholdt continues to say to Armin. "You're just buying time. Surrounding me with soldiers and distracting me with this ruse while the others finish off Reiner! I can tell. You're standing there shaking so much, you can't do a damn thing."
"If you knew that much, why did you even come talk?"
"I wanted to know. To know whether, if I faced you guys, I'd start whining and beg for forgiveness again. But seems like I'm fine now. Yeah. You are precious comrades to me. I also intend to kill you."
"Is that...because you think we're spawn of the devil?"
"No. None of you have done anything wrong and you're not devils either. But you all still have to die. That's just how it is." Ironically, Bertholdt might be the dead one if Mikasa cuts his head from his necks as she rises up from behind. Bertholdt somehow catches Mikasa, reminding us how he, like her, was in the top five, number three if I remember correctly. For the first time, I see him fight seriously, managing to overwhelm Mikasa by injuring her arm whilst taking a minor (given his healing ability) cut to the ear. He manages to get away after Mikasa throws a blade at him, heading for parts unknown.
"Why aren't they given chase?" Conny asks.
"Myriad of reasons, knucklehead." Jean replies harshly. "One is he can transform. Knowing what happened last time, we wouldn't want a similar result. This Bertholdt cannot be reasoned with."
"But would he harm Reiner?"
"Not if he can help it, but Reiner is defeated for now. Either he'll hold out or...suffer the consequences."
I narrow my eyes while listening to my friends. "Where are you going, Bertholdt?" He isn't heading towards Reiner, that's for sure. The Armored Titan is just to the far left of where Bertholdt and Armin faced off, so either he made that course correction or…
Most of the Scouts went to the right… Oh hell no...he can't..."He's...going to transform…"
"This is a very strange feeling. I don't feel that scared at all. I can see everything clearly. feel like, no matter how this all plays out, I can accept whatever happens. That's right, nobody's in the wrong. There's nothing we could do."
Joshua," Jean says, "What did you say?"
"Because this world...is just that cruel."
Bertholdt's flea-sized body shoots up in the sky, still to the right of Reiner's Titan. but right in the middle of the Scouts. Those soldiers...that is my squadron. Right where Moblit...Hange...right where they are!
"Bertholdt's going to transform!"
"Everyone hold on to Eren now!" Jean, Sasha, and Conny latch themselves to Eren but I linger in place as an orange glow appears in the sky. "Joshua!"
The world around Bertholdt becomes a massive orange ball of light and energy. Shooting my hooks in the roof I stand upon, I fight the torrent of wind and steam that ravage the city around and beyond Bertholdt's massive attack. The explosion uproots houses off their foundations, sending them flying across the city. Recalling the previous explosion Bertholdt did, this is it on a more powerful scale. Bertholdt then was afraid to kill us all. Bertholdt now is determined to kill us all.
Joshua! It's too risky!" Conny, you are right. Is it risky? Yes. Call it a foolish grudge, a self-centered desire, a death-wishing ideal. I've waited five long years to avenge my parents and everyone who died here. I've waited four long months to avenge Mina, Thomas, Marco and the others who fell at Trost. I've waited a long time to avenge Gregor, Nanaba, and Miche. There are those who died trying to rescue Eren from them. We prepared months for this one moment... No, I am done waiting. This is the moment now!
"No, it's perfect!" That voice… I look away from Reiner to see a Thunder Spear dart towards his mouth, hitting its mark. Reiner's mouth hangs open, so I look up to see who fired that shot. I almost cannot believe my eyes. "Hange?"
She looks down at me. "Now's your chance, Joshua!" I leap off the roof and head to Reiner. He reaches out for me but I dodge and use his arm as a platform to jump off as I head for his mouth. Landing on his tongue, I take in the situation. This is my moment, the one I've waited for. This is not just a simple kill. This is me taking back what's mine. To avenge those who had fallen. To protect those who live. This is my vengeance. The vengeance of a human.
"Reiner! You're mine!" I shoot the spear down his throat and pull back. In a big flash of light and force, Reiner is expelled from the Titan. I fly around, grabbing him by his shirt. "Gotcha!"
I land on the street, throwing Reiner on the ground. I point my sword at him as the ground shakes. Above the row of houses, I see the Colossal Titan falling.
Armin, Eren, Mikasa...we crazy bastards did it. We won and took back at home. We beat them. Our mortal enemy, the Titans, we have beaten them once and for all. I look up to the sky and sigh in relief, releasing a single tear of happiness. It is over.
I will soon learn that I am so wrong.
In the end, most of the Scouts, including Commander Erwin and Hange's executive assistant, Moblit, died, but we managed to steal the Colossal's power and give it to Armin. Entering the basement in Eren's home, we found three books that detailed the truth. We are not the last of humanity, but our civilization was founded as an escape from those who sought to kill us.
The day we reached the sea, I swore with Eren to do whatever it took to ensure our freedom. Reiner and Bertholdt took so much from us, and deep down, I wanted to return the favor. The Marleyians want us to be the devils, so I am quite happy to oblige them.
"Oh my, it's good to see you again. You came, Mr. Leonhart."
"Miss Braun. I suppose we haven't met since the day we welcomed your son home. It would have been a shame to turn down the honor we've been given."
My vengeance will not end until my home is safe from everyone.