... Chapter 132 happened...and before anyone asks...I am not saving anyone else. So...sigh. I love this series but my heart can't take it anymore. And to lose someone that not only did I liked watching the anime and reading the manga, but for my main character to lose... Why are the characters I like that are dead?
Anyway, as I said, I'm taking the story slow, but it's not on hiatus, so it may be a while before Chapter 27 is uploaded, or, if I can squeeze enough out of 130, 131, and 132, it might be two chapters. I don't know.
Anyway, enjoy this chapter and you guys hopefully sooner than later.
"We have to kill them all at once," Annie suggests as the warriors and soldiers of the 104th and Pieck prepare for battle. "It's the only way to secure the ship. We'll use the power of all our Titans as well as all of your weapons to do that. Okay?"
I cross my arms. "Sounds good, except one thing."
Mikasa nods. "An indiscriminate attack on the harbor will even cause the Azumabito to get caught in the crossfire."
"You might call them distant relatives, but to us they're enemies who attacked our homeland."
"No," Pieck counters, "it'll be a problem if we let the Azumabito die, Annie. Isn't that right?"
"Precisely," Onyankopon says. "I should be able to pilot the flying boat, but without the Azumabito's mechanics, it is nothing more than a wingless ship. It's wings are now folded so that it is easier to haul on the seas. And, of course, it will take more for it to fly than simply extending those wings. My understanding is that the plan was for it to be operable only after taking into a hanger, performing a service inspection, and conducting flight training."
"About how long would that take?"
"I do not know. It is up to the Azumabito."
Annie sighs. "I see. So...we need to protect the flying boat and the Azumabito while also buying time for the ship to be serviced. But also you don't want to kill any of the Jaegerists who will try to stop us from doing that. Is that what you're telling me?"
"No, I don't want to kill them," Jean answers. "We've known some of them since the training corps."
"So? What're we going to do? Think you could tell me? How exactly are we going to keep any harm from coming to the flying boat and the Azumabito while not turning any of our attackers into casualties as we buy time for the ship to be serviced?" Annie faces Armin. "Tell me, Armin. Tell me your big plan just like you did when you drove me into a corner."
"That plan doesn't exist," Pieck responds. "Either we settle this in one go or we mess up and lose the flying boat."
"Wait," Conny says, "you know we're here in order to save people, right? So...why are you making it sound like we're going to have to slaughter all these people on the island? How did it turn into this?"
"...You're right. None of you...ever had an obligation to do this with us. We don't have any right to force you to make this choice, either. I bet if it was up to you… You never would have destroyed the walls that day. Unlike us."
"You seven don't need to fight," Reiner adds after a moment of silence. "Stay with Gabi and Falco. Watch from a safe location. You'll be forced to make a decision whether you want to or not if the Jaegerists find you. Don't interfere."
"I'm not interested in acting like a spectator here," Hange says as she and Magath slides down the hill overlooking the harbor. "We've already killed four Jaegerists, anyway. Most of all, time is running out for humanity. I could see the Titans moving forward off the shore as they gave off a massive amount of steam. Judging by their speed, they're already arrived on the continent of Marley. Marley's cities to the northeast, the ones closest to us, must be annihilated by now. I didn't think they'd cross the ocean this fast… In this case, the other continents don't have long either. Who knows how many have been killed already…"
Magath strolls past Hange and approaches Yelena, grabbing her face and pushing her down. Stepping on her left arm, he leans down above her. "Tell me where Eren Jaeger is! Every time you don't tell me, you're discovering a new direction your arm can move in."
"Don't be scared. I won't kill you."
Yelena suddenly laughs. "That's a relief. I've changed my mind. I don't want to die until I see what happens here. Take me with you and I might just tell you where Eren went."
"We need to secure the flying boat first," Hange says as she gently moves Magath away from Yelela. Sighing, the man turns around and faces us adults of Paradis.
"Connie, Armin, Mikasa, Jean, Joshua, Sasha, Your Highness. I want to apologize for my behavior last night. We...were mistaken. I was flippant when I spoke about justice. That was...an unseemly attempt on my part to justify my actions, even now. I was afraid of having to look at myself because it'd mean seeing everything contemptible about Marley. This isn't your responsibility. It's wrong to place the sins of the past on your shoulders just because of your race. Pieck, Annie, Reiner. There's no reason for you to be burdened with the world's hatred either. But… We do have a responsibility to make sure that future generations learn about the bloodstained history of ours. Eren Jaeger wants to erase everything...and that is unforgivable. This hell will never end so long as we keep pretending to ignore our foolish actions. So please...just for now, close your eyes...to my own foolish actions."
Magath bows to us, but as I step forward, I raise him up. I look at him, then to the warriors, and then then candidates. "No. My eyes will be open. My hands are dirty, so what's a little more?" I turn to the rest of the 104th. "I don't care what you think of Marley or the rest of the world. I don't care what you think of Paradis right now. I don't care what you think of Eren. What's important is getting to our goal, and only the strong can save this world. I am strong. I am stronger than all of you. I am very strong. I have the ability to slay all of the Jaegerists that block our path! All by myself. Either you are just not as skilled as I am or you are all spineless cowards. It's really too bad. All of you just sit here on your hands and wait here. Sit here and watch."
Mikasa is the first to move. "You stole my speech."
I smirk. "But did it work?"
Jean clicks his tongue. "Damn, it did again. And it's Eren's fault, again."
"Floch! Where are you?" Connie, Armin, and I ride into the town on horseback, hoping to draw out the leader of the Jaegerists. This plan is bold, assuming we won't get shot on sight, but I guess if we've gotten this far, Armin assumed correctly. If it wasn't for the fact the Cart Titan came back in a hurry and we weren't greeted by the Azumabito, I'd believe the Jaegerists weren't here. "Anyone, I don't care! Hurry it up! Where are the Azumabito?"
"Joshua? Armin?" Ah, there he is, inside the building we're riding past. The redhead son of a bitch peeks his head out of a window. "Where've you been? What're you yelling about?"
"We're going after the Cart Titan," Armin answers. "She's with the Armor! They swam away! If we don't hurry, they'll escape! We need the flying boat now! Hurry up and get the Azumabito to make it fly!"
"This isn't going to work," Connie whispers to me.
"Oh, I know. I did drop him on his face last time while 'chasing' after the "
"...What are you saying," Floch says, quite unconvinced by Armin's plea.
"What are you doing, if anything? Weren't you going after the Cart? Wasn't it obvious that they'd escape to the south? They- They killed Jean and Onyankopon, you know!"
Connie points to the port. "Armin, Joshua, there's the flying boat!"
"You two go on ahead," I command as I turn back to Floch. "Hurry up and get the Azumabito mechanics out here, Floch."
"Where's the queen, Joshua?"
I scoff as I turn away. "You think I'd harm her, of all people?"
"You're right… Such a shame, though, that you aren't the father to her child. I heard it was some ranch hand from her childhood, but that didn't sound right to me. If Historia was to have a child, it'd be with someone she cared for...and whether you were oblivious or chose to ignore it, she loves you very much. Then Sasha 'died', and rumor had it you were with Historia around that time, so I just thought it finally happened. So I wonder now...if it's not you, then it must be him." Floch stares out to the smoking horizon, then looks back down at me. "Don't you think...something's strange? If you knew our enemies would be fleeing from the south, it'd be faster to pursue them by locomotive. Much faster than going by horseback."
I frown. "Floch…"
He turns his back to me and faces the interior. "Why would you need to sneak around? No, I can't be sure, but… I do think we need to nip any concerns in the bud." Floch fully walks away from the window, and a moment later I hear gunfire.
"Ah, fuck… Mikasa!" Just as I call her name and ride for the dock, Mikasa flies into the room Floch retreated into. Now I have no clue what happens inside, but next thing I know is Floch flies out scared.
"We're being attacked! Mikasa! Joshua! Armin! Connie! They've betrayed Eldia! Kill them!" Leaving the safety of the Azumabito to Mikasa and the others who should've infiltrated the estate by now, I make my way to Armin, Conny, and the docks. As soon as I get there, I see Armin drop to the ground as a result of being shot. Enraged, I leap off my horse and draw my pistol at the man who shot Annie and now aims his gun at Connie. Then when I see who it is, I gasp.
The dark-haired man keeps his gun trained on Conny as he glimpses at me. "Daz… Quick, blow the ship up. Hurry it up." Daz… I turn to my right to see Daz, that coward, kneeling down by the detonator.
"Samuel, c'mon," Conny pleads.
"You betrayed us, didn't you, Conny? Joshua? Didn't we say we'd take more land for ourselves and share meat together?.."
"Um, a little bit. Yeah." Sasha walks towards a pair of boxes and places the meat in one of them. "Just look at it this way. Pretty soon, we'll take back all the room we need for livestock."
A moment of silence is between us before one of us, Samuel, breaks. "I would really like a slice, please!"
Conny follows. "Hey, if he gets one, so do I. Just so you know."
"Me too!" I turn to Mina, herself excited for the prospect of meat. "I'm in on it, too!"
"Eren." He turns to me as I smile back. "Let's be honest, they're not going to miss the meat Sasha stole. Sasha, leave it to me. I'll grill it for us!"
"Agh! Dammit… How...did this… Huh?" The sky flashes for a moment, just enough for Conny to knock down Samuel. In the middle of that, Samuel fires, shooting me in the right shoulder. Grunting in pain, I drop my pistol and kneel. Meanwhile, Connie fights with Samuel over his pistol while the latter tries to stop our plans. "Daz! Blow it up!"
"Samuel! Mgh!" Daz is toppled by Armin, who holds the coward of the 104th down. "Armin! Stop this! Stooop!" Daz points his gun at Armin's head.
"Traitor," Samuel exclaims. "Why? Aren't we all on the same side here?"
"We are on the same side," Connie explains. "But...I…"
"Stooooooop!" Samuel is too late to convince me as I shoot Daz in the head. Connie uses the distraction to strip Samuel of his gun and shoots him as well. As Daz's body falls in the water and the three of us sink into the realization of what we've done, I stand up and look at the body of Samuel.
"Connie, Armin, stay here with the ship."
"Are you okay, Joshua," Connie asks as I turn away.
"My shoulder is fine. It hurts, but the bullet grazed my, thankfully. But if you're not asking about that… You just shot someone we promised to eat meat with, and I shot the guy whose life I've once saved long ago. Both fellow graduates of the 104th. And now, I'm about to join the battle with Mikasa and the Titans that killed my family to protect our one chance to stop a friend of mine from destroying the world. A plan… I once believed in. So I'm about to kill people whose ideals once matched my own… No, Connie, I am not okay."
"Joshua!" Sasha flies down in front of me, then faces the ship. "Change of plans. We're taking the boat to the continent to a service station. The engineers will prepare the flying boat there… What happened here? Why do you look so sad?"
I ignore the question as I watch Reiner and Annie take hits from Thunder Spears to protect the Azumabito, Historia, and Magath. As the foreigners board the ship, Connie comes up with the wounded Armin and hands him to Magath. "He's hit in the chest and stomach."
"And the jaw. He'll heal soon enough. You-"
"I'm defending the ship," Connie says as he walks up to me and Sasha.
"You sure, Connie," I ask, more concerned for his well-being than his ability, "and you too, Sasha?"
She nods. "We may not like it, but Reiner, MIkasa, and Annie can't do this themselves. There's only one solution to this. We will fight and defend this shi!"
"As will I," Coming up behind us is Historia, the young queen equipped to fight. But before anyone can voice their concerns, she speaks out. "Before you say anything, let me remind you all that I am one of the top ten of the 104th, like Sasha, Connie, Armin, Mikasa, Annie, and Reiner. Two, let me remind you that I am queen of this country, so no matter what you say, I outrank you. Third… I won't do anything stupid. I promise."
I sigh and look forward. "Ymir is going to kill me… You three, guard the ship, I'm going to find Hange and Mikasa. Defend this spot at all-" An explosion in front of us gains our attention. The Female and the Armored just took an enormous amount of damage. The Female is headless and armless, while the Armored is armless and barely has a head. The Jaegerists are prepared to finish the two off. "Forget what I said, move!" We blast forward, launching ourselves over Annie and Reiner. Using the cloud of steam as cover, we exit out to the surprise of the Jaegerists honing in on the Titans and eliminate them with ease. Those on the rooftops try to shoot us down, but Mikasa, Hange, and Jean back us up.
Landing on the roof, I switch my right blade for my pistol as I trade gunfire with the Jaegerists while getting Historia to cover. Sasha and Connie continue to fly around, I lost track of Hange, Jean, and Mikasa, and I wish I had eyes on Floch, who probably is surrounded with soldiers like the coward he is. As bullets whiz past us as we take cover behind a chimney, I drop my sight down and look at Historia's face. "You know, you didn't have to remind me how you placed in the top ten."
"Just wanted to remind you of that." Historia reaches for my waist and grabs my other gun. "May I borrow this?"
"Of course." As gunfire ceases for the moment, we lean away from the chimney and quickly fire shots before taking cover again. Now back face to face with bullets trying to get rid of our lives, I look down to the harbor, where a small boat floats towards the ship. Historia does the same. "Well, this is as exciting as I remember, though the enemy was trying to eat us. Speaking of which, I think I saw the Cart Titan."
"Then that's where Floch is. We need to-" The world flashes again in the presence of another Titan transformation, but who could… Pieck did say Falco went off on his own earlier. Hearing the roar of the third Jaw Titan I've encountered, the Jaegerists are thrown into a confused state.
"Now," I hear Jean shout. "They're no longer moving as one! Now is our only chance!"
"Let's go!" Historia and I run out of cover, shooting down any Jaegerist in our way. As the Cart and the bird-like Jaw Titan wreak havoc, I see that Floch manages to fly away. He heads for the ship, Thunder Spear ready to fire, but a shot hits the spears, causing it to explode prematurely. Floch drops in the water like the sack of shit he is, and his defeat demoralizes the Jaegerists so much they're easy pickings. Knowing they're beat now, they begin to retreat.
And that coincides with Onyankopon's call that the ship is ready to leave. "Let's go," Jean says. "We drove them off, but they'll be coming back-Wha?" Jean barely leaps out the way as a rampaging Jaw Titan appears. Falco's first transformation...and just like Eren's third (second if you don't count the one he did when the Garrison nearly killed us), Falco is unable to determine friend from foe.
"Falco," Pieck calls out, "our enemies are gone! Come out! Aahh!" Falco ignores the call and bites down on Pieck's neck, both rolling back to the ground. Concerned, we look over to see Pieck holding Falco down while Magath cuts the Jaw's nape. With Falco recovered, our attention turns to the senior shifters. I land on Reiner, cutting and retrieving him while Mikasa handles Annie. As quickly as we can, we make our way back to the ship. Magath hands Falco to Onyankopon and decides to "bring up the rear."
A soldiers' way of saying to go on ahead without me.
As the ship pulls out, I stand on the rear deck, watching as the harbor diminishes in size. I hear several footsteps approach me and a shoulder brush up against mine. "You did good today, Joshua."
"Same to you, Mikasa... All of you."
"We lucked out, though. There were reinforcements coming via locomotive, but somehow the tracks blew up. I wonder who did it."
I cross my arms. "I can't think of many people who'd side with us against the Jaegerists...though I do know a few with a grudge against them."
"Who," Jean asks.
"The man who trained us, and the 12th Commander of the Scouts, Keith Shadis." I sigh and drop my left arm, leaving the right up as I perform the salute. After a moment of inaction, Mikasa, Sasha, Connie, and Historia join me as we stare out to the harbor, saluting the man who trained us of the 104th, and, though we didn't think of it that way, the man who trained Annie, Gabi, Reiner, Falco, and Bertholdt...
Theo holds his rifle up at the man who lands in front of him, wary of his position. "...Are you the one who stopped the Jaegerist reinforcements?"
"That's right," Shadis says as he rises up. "Why didn't you get on the ship?"
Magath lowers his rifle and eyes a large boat to the far left. "That's a captured Marleyan cruiser, isn't it. They'd be able to use its speed to catch up to the transport ship my allies are on in no time and sink it. It can't stay here."
"...Then why don't I help you out?"
"They're charging in," Shadis says as he hears the clinking footsteps from the boarders.
"Fine with me," Magath replies. "I'm just here to set this ammo supply on fire… This is your chance to jump into the sea."
"No, it's fine. I was looking for a time to die."
Theo turns to the hard-faced man. "Why did you align yourself with us? It may spell this island's doom."
"I saw my students heading south from the fort in Shiganshina. Annie Leonhart was with them. That's when I knew what they were planning. It moved me. How they'd grown."
"It would've been over for us here if you hadn't stopped those reinforcements. You're going to be spoken of one day as a hero who saved the world."
Shadis chuckles at that remark. "Well… That makes two of us."
"I've done nothing I can be proud of… In spite of what my conscience told me, I instructed children to act in a country's best interest. I ordered them to destroy those walls. I finally realized...just how happy I would have been...if only those kids could've lived normal lives."
"Hey! Open up!"
"Well, you might not be. But I'm proud of you. I bet those kids are, too." Shadis hands Magath the rifle, and the Marleyan general lowers it down to a small pile of gunpowder.
"Thank you. By the way, what's your name?"
"Keith Shadis. Yours?"