"Right there." A young adult male points to the ground, spotting deer tracks on the moist ground. He kneels, inspecting the closest imprint. "I think it is recent. What do you think, Sasha?"
Red-haired Sasha Braus, a young woman of 18 years, drops on the ground and sniffs the print and the few leading away from it. The boy watches as his friend crawls along the ground, but he is unfazed by the action, much unlike the younger girl with them. Not only is he used to this after years of hunting with the girl, but he also pays more attention to Sasha than to her actions. Who can blame him? She is in hunting gear comfortable for the summer, which means a short sleeve, loose-fitting shirt, and shorts. Of course, he keeps his mind restrained, challenging as it is when his girlfriend's ass is perked up like that.
It has been a long six months for Joshua Hardin, Executive Officer to Scouting Regiment Commander Hange Zöe. Being in that position gives him little to no free time, especially with Paradis Island's new developments in the world. However, he managed to get some time off, courtesy of his superior, and requested the same for Sasha.
Being equal to greater than Lieutenant Levi in rank has its many perks.
Sasha rises up and points deeper in the woods. "Yes, very recent. But I got its scent. If we move quickly and quietly, we can catch up."
Joshua nods. "Alright. Kaya, stay low, stay quiet."
The young blonde nods silently then they follow Sasha's extremely sensitive nose. Once upon a time, when the pair were cadets, there was a soldier who could smell Titans before they could be seen. Sasha's hearing and smell have evolved that soldier's technique, though, for the past two years, it has been useless. Titan sightings are so rare it has been decided to say the monsters have been cleared off of Paradis.
From what they've heard from dignitaries of other nations, Marley is in the middle of a war with another nation, which began shortly after the retake of Wall Maria. It explains why the enemy hasn't returned in force during the three years since they lost a naval fleet around the same time as the start of the war. Scouting ships from Marley have come and, save for the one that had the Anti-Marleyan Volunteers aboard, were swiftly dealt with.
"Hold." Sasha holds her fist up and points towards their target, a mature male deer. It seems to be a few years old, old enough to have a few reproductive chances. It grazes calmly on the forest floor, unaware (or not feeling threatened enough) to notice us and run away. Joshua steps forward, guiding Kaya slowly to get as close as possible without alerting the deer. Once they're in a good spot, Joshua nods to the girl for her to arm and aim her bow and arrow. Sasha watches from the spot she stopped the group, holding her weapon up as well to provide secondary fire. Kaya is only eleven and an inexperienced hunter; Sasha has been hunting for most of her life and Josh had prior experience before he met Sasha, yet the boy is the better shot.
Her eyes on her boyfriend and her adoptive sister, Sasha smiles as he reviews Kaya on how to properly hold her bow and where to aim at the deer. Her mind slowly wanders to a more dangerous territory which she quickly blames on the heat of the weather. It has been months since they've spent more than a few hours together and as people, not soldiers. She has a hunger for the dark-haired boy and it is eating her up. It isn't helpful when a former Marleyan soldier named Niccolo (captured during Marley's second attack) has been treating her with exceptional cooking.
Kaya fires her arrow, hitting the deer approximately where the lungs meet the heart. Shock, the deer falls over, suffocating on its own blood. Kaya happily celebrates her first successful hunt and claps Joshua's hand. Sasha smiles as she stands up and walks over to the deer, taking a knife out to end its suffering. Wiping the sweat off her face, she turns back to the pair. "Hey, I'm not carrying this by myself."
Joshua laughs as he and Kaya come to help Sasha lift the carcass. "I'm surprised you didn't eat the deer by now."
"Hey, I am not a glutton...to that degree."
Many hours later, the Braus farm eats an appetizing meal including meat from Kaya's hunt. Sasha's parents, Kaya and the other orphans the Braus' took in, and the young couple enjoyed a festive night, but before long the children and the older adults had tired themselves out. Letting her father rest, Sasha offers to check on the animals before retiring for the night herself. Once she had finished that task, she steps into the bathhouse and begins to bathe herself. Humming a song she occasionally hears her boyfriend singing, Sasha washes from head to toe.
After dousing, drying, and reclothing herself, Sasha exits the bathhouse and looks towards a single bright window. It is the window to her room, so that means Joshua is still up. It is late, but for him, for someone who works more than her and their friends, it probably isn't close to his bedtime. Commander hange must work him hard, but she guesses someone had to fill the void Moblit Berner left behind, just as Hange herself fills the shoes of Erwin Smith.
The last three years have changed their world so much. The technological progress that Paradis was kept from in the century under the old regime now flourishes. In a short amount of time, the Paradisans have advanced years into the modern era, but according to a diplomat from the country of Hizuru, it'll take them fifty years to fully catch up. Her favorite "catch up" so far is the railroad system, completed just the previous week (hence Josh's ability to gain vacation time). In a few days, the system will officially launch.
She enters their room, a minimalistic space since neither of them frequent it as much to make it truly home. But they're now used to it, so the simplicity of a bed, a few dressers, a desk, and their gear. Joshua sits at the desk, quietly writing in his new journal. What began as a hobby to honor his friend became a habit in the years following the final entry in the original journal, the arrival at the sea.
Sasha walks over and wraps her arms around his neck, looking over his head at the latest entry. He is writing about today's hunt with Kaya and how proud he is of her. Smiling, Sasha kisses the top of Josh's head. "You're happy for Kaya."
"Of course I am. Someone I train becomes successful in their skills, I can't help but be happy."
Sasha's fingers brush against a wooden object dangling off string around Joshua's neck. She takes hold of it and lets her sense of touch feel every layer there is to his most prized possession, a carving of the Wings of Freedom, the symbol of the Scouts. His first love, Mina Carolina, gave it to him sometime before graduation. Her death during the Battle of Trost still weighs heavily on his mind, along with the death of Thomas Wagner, the boy who gave him the original journal.
She is not the only other girl to have in place in Joshua's heart. There's Historia Reiss, formerly known as Christa Lenz, the current Queen of Paradis. Joshua probably has spent much time in the queen's company as his work constantly takes him to the capital, Mitras. Sasha doesn't consider Historia a rival for Joshua's affections, but...well, she understands Joshua's unease about her new favorite cook.
"You coming to bed anytime soon? I'm sure the deceased can wait." Joshua chuckles and closes his book, then grabs Sasha around her waist. She squeals as he picks her and carries her to the bed. In an incredible show of strength, she flips Joshua on his back, straddling his lap, lowering her forehead to his and teasing his lips. "Not so fast, Executive Assistant."
"You do know that I technically outrank most of the Scouts, including the Lieutenant. So as your boss, I suggest you take your clothes off."
Staying on top but now rising up, Sasha holds her hands in front of her. "My mom and dad are down the hallway. What would they think if they heard their only biological child and her boyfriend in the middle of the night?"
Joshua raises his eyebrows. "You say that, yet you just unbutton your shirt." That makes Sasha laugh as she discards her white shirt, leaving her black bra on. Lowering back down, she kisses Joshua slowly and sensually; she's right, after all. She did not want to wake her parents, or God forbid, the children. After a minute, she pulls back and lays on her side. Her knees, adjusting themselves, brush up against Joshua's counterargument-the one that wishes to go further on, so to speak.
She lets her leg rest there, but not to discomfort him. "I missed you."
"I know. I missed you, all of you. But with the development of modernizing Paradis, I have come to the conclusion that Moblit deserved more rest than he asked for. Which is why I got me and you this. The others can wait."
"Conny was quite unhappy when I left."
"Springer will be okay. He's our best soldier, we need him at all times." Sasha slaps Joshua's shoulder at his rude remark, but doesn't stop the pair from laughing. "But yeah, ever since Kiyomi showed up, we've been busting our asses. Thankfully we have the volunteers. Actually, I guess I should give my praises to Yelena and Onyankopon. Without them, none of this would be possible. But…"
Joshua sighs and stares at Sasha. "Zeke's plan of euthanasia. Everytime I think of it, I get worried that we'll be too late to stop it. I know, we always come through, but… by now, we don't have a plan that I know of. Why we're being hesitant to fight back, I wish I knew. I wish I understood a lot of things about this world."
Sasha nods and traces a finger along Joshua's jawline. Fuck it, her boyfriend needs this vacation pretty bad, else he might turn into a younger Moblit. She decides that if anyone hears them, that means that they were listening.
Surprising Joshua, she kisses the path of her finger, ending on his lips while simultaneously shifting her body back on top.
Immediately she notices her earlier work with her legs paid off. "Hey, you're right, we're gonna pull through. We defended Trost despite impossible odds. We overthrew the Fritz government and put Historia on the throne. We took back your and my home. We beat Reiner, Bertholdt, and Zeke. We're going to survive Marley."
Josh grunts as he hovers over the sizable bosom of Sasha, the girl flustered as he switched their positions during her monologue. She reaches for the hem of his white shirt, helping him remove the article. Both caress the hardened torsos of the other, shaped by three years of harsh training. He glances up, seeing the desire in her eyes. He is the only barrier between her desire and their satisfaction...and he'd be an idiot amongst idiots to deny her. "You remember the promise we made back in Trost, when we were enemies of the state?"
Sasha nods. "I always do."
"Promise me, no heroics. I know I say it selfishly because you would do anything to protect your friends, but... Each time you do so…"
"Okay." I raise her face up, making her see my face and words. "I promise not to take unnecessary heroics. How about that?"
Sasha sighs as she places her head underneath mine, lowering her arms to my waist. "Better than nothin', I suppose." We laugh at the use of her accent before standing together in quietness underneath the merging of light and darkness, using this time to forget the troubles yet to come.
"I want to change it a bit. No unnecessary heroics for me unless trouble comes between me and my future with you."
Sasha turns red. "Joshua…"
"I know you can handle yourself, you were top ten whereas I was not. But...back then, I had my past driving me, and I have long avenged my parents. I look now to the future. If I have to do it myself, I will stop Zeke's plan because no one will interfere in my future with you, Sasha Braus."
Sasha beams with happiness and takes hold of Joshua's head. This is why she loves him. Her knight in green, her valiant avenger. Seizing a deep kiss she pushes him aside, settling for a cuddle tonight. She can have him tomorrow. "I know you will protect us, and I will protect you. As for the unlucky fellow who hurts me, he or she will rue that day they hurt your beloved Potato Girl...for vengeance shall be yours!"
Joshua shakes his head as he closes his eyes. "...I do not sound like that."
"Yeah, you do."