Jahr Unseres Gründers c.854

Heimat Territory, Continental Marley


That was the first thing Colt registered when he was abruptly shaken awake by someone- a someone he quickly realized was a bloodied Magath. His superior's injured face suddenly shoved the memories of what had just occurred back to the forefront of his mind, and he was on his feet in an instant, mind wracked with fear for the safety of his brother, and that of his own life.

"Kommandant, what-"

"One of the ammunition crates blew!" His commanding officer cried over the noise, an noise Colt abruptly realized was a combination of screaming, gunshots, and what appeared to be massive footsteps-

Oh Gott. Helos protect us.

He could see it.

The Island Devil had to be at least fifteen-meters tall, about at height with the Armour, though lacking Braun's signature plate-armour. The Titan did not lack for muscle, however, putting even Annie to shame, he was sure. It's face was almost skull-like, adding to it's demonic visage, and it's green eyes seemed to pierce his soul.

This was a Titan made for killing, Colt realized numbly. He is the hunter, and we are his prey.

Said Titan, thank Gott and Helos above, payed no attention to the overturned boxcar that Magath had seemingly pulled him behind, instead turning his head towards the way the train had been coming from, before promptly leaping that direction with a horrendous roar.

What is he-

Colt's thought cut out when the enemy Titan, for lack of better words, body-slammed one of the boxcars before smashing two other with his fists, and the Kriegerin's heart plummeted.

Those are the officer compartments. He's going after the top-brass.

Besides him, the Kommandant swore in a way Colt had never heard him do before, seemingly coming to the same conclusion. "Gottverdammt! That damned devil...!" Magath growled, before grunting. "Thank Helos that the Calvi took the direct rail to the capital. If we lost him-"

A flash of gold cuts Magath off, and Colt turns in it's direction, almost weeping with relief when the Armored Titan emerged with a enraged roar. Another light appears further up the track, heralding the arrival of the Female Titan, and this time Colt did weep, because Annie had been with the Heirs, and she wouldn't have left until all of them were safe, he knew, which meant that Falco was either okay or dead. Either way, it meant he could focus on doing what had to be done, whatever that was at this moment.

So, he turned to his Kommandant, face resolute, body sore and tired but ready and willing to serve.

"What are my orders, sir?"

Magath face him, expression grim. "We, as humans, cannot engage the enemy Titan head on, and we lack the sheer magnitude of the Mid-East's anti-Titan weaponry. We have to hope that the Armored and Female Titan will be enough to take it down, which I think possible. Reiner's armor is nigh-unbreakable other than from what the Alliance had to offer, and Annie is our best Titan combatant below the Beast. The two should be able to handle the devil."

The two men shot a look at Braun, who was stomping towards the enemy Titan, who, in turn, advanced towards the Armor in anticipation for combat. Leonhardt was still to far off to help, but she was getting closer every second that went by, the thuds of her steps growing louder.

Colt managed a week, but genuine grin. The might of Marley's Warriors are arrayed against you, devil. You're done for-

A far-of sound caught the Kriegerin's ears, and he paused for a moment then he heard a buzz emanating from the air, and he paused.

"...A blimp?"

And then he heard another sound, one that seemed to rapidly grow closer and closer towards the rail and the battle that encompassed it. It was a sound Colt would come to fear for the rest of his days.

The sound of a line being reeled in.

"You all know our objectives tonight, everyone. A retrieval and a weapons test. In and out."

Over the noise of everyone preparing for the operation, strapping themselves in to the ODM-Gear, both anti-Titan and anti-Urban, the Eldians paid close attention to their commander. The plan was a daring one, but daring plans was the norm for the 104th at this point. They had all grown used to it, especially when said plan involved their Suicidal Bastard in some way.

Even the men and women who hadn't been a part of the 104th Kadet Korps during training were grinning in anticipation. They had been chosen for this, for they were best of the best. Daring plans in the middle of enemy territory or no, this was an opportunity to prove themselves worthy for promotions, or to prove themselves in the eyes of the Great Hunter.

"Yeah, yeah, Jean, we get it," Mina groused from one corner. "As if Armin didn't explain it a hundred times on the way here."

There was a muffled "Hey!" of indignation from the cockpit, and the soldiers chuckled, Jean included. "I know, but he has a point. No dying, any of you."

"My, Jean, I didn't know you cared!" a snarky voice piped up from the back, and Jean rolled his eyes. "Floch, for fuck's sake, I'm telling you the potato-thing-"


"-wasn't my fault! How was I supposed to know they made for deadly projectiles?!"

There was laughter again, and inwardly, Jean thanked Floch for it with a subtle nod (because Floch was as conniving of a bastard as he was a good friend, annoying as that was). They had been trapped on the blimp for days now, flying nonstop over Marleyan territory to the coordinates Historia had given them. The cramped space had led to arguments about petty things, and the last thing Jean needed was for those things to resurface now.

But, it didn't seem like it.

I hope you know what your doing, Eren. Then again, this was the King he was talking about. The bastard probably already knew they were coming for him.

"Jean," Connie called, emerging from the cockpit. "We're here. Armin and Hange can see the fires. We think he must've blown something up."

"Of course he did," Jean groaned. "Probably appeared out of nowhere and gave a weird speech, too. That guy… I don't see what Historia sees in him, honestly." That last part, Jean said with a smile, because, in truth, he did see what the Queen saw in her King.

He'd never be caught alive admitting that, though. He had a reputation to uphold.

"Alright, then. Everyone ready?"

When the members of the retrieval team gave him their affirmatives, Jean nodded, and flung the door of the blimp open, revealing the expanse of forest below. In the distance, towards the fire and the railroad they heralded, he could hear the shouts of enemy soldiers and the roars of Titans.

They were right on time, then.

Jean turned to the men and women under his command. For some, it would be their first true combat experience against enemy Titans.

The 104th scouts looked as determined as he felt. The Jaegerist soldiers looked ecstatic, which Jean had honestly expected, seeing as they were going to rescue their god and all.

All in all, spirits were high. If they did this right, they might even be able cripple Marley's high command, an added bonus to their mission.

And like hell we aren't going to take that chance.

So, letting himself get swept up by the buzz of it all, Jean raised a clenched fist. He had never been one for speeches (that was Floch's forte, which was probably the reason why he was the Minister of Propaganda), so he kept it short, simple, and to the point.

"Lets bring our Suicidal Bastard home!"

His fellow scouts let out a cry of approval.

And out of the airship, the soldiers of the Survey Corps flew.

The first blow Eren landed on the Armored Titan held within it two years worth of fury and, and it smashed squarely on the Titan's face.

Two years spent away from home, watching my people serve as slaves in all but name. Two years fighting a stupid war where they sent my people on suicide charges. Two years serving my enemies.

Fuck. That.

Eren liked to think he had come a long way from his old temperament. Being thrust into kingship on top of the politics in Mithras had a way of changing a person, and marriage did as well. Though his his old violent rampages happened less so than they used to, that didn't stop him from occasionally tapping into the berserker-like rage from time to time.

Like now.

And Gott, it felt good to let loose.

The Armored Titan stumbled back with a growl, hands instinctively moving to cover its broken face, and the Attack Titan grinned.

Hange's experiments are paying off after all.

Then there was a flash of lightning down the track, and the Female Titan came into existence, glaring at him. Eren return the glare with one of his own, unwavering, though he took a few steps back to prepare himself, catching a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye.

I've spent years sparring with the most powerful being in the world. So, if you think you an beat me, you've got another thing coming. But…

The Female Titan had reached her comrade, now, and th two of them began to stride forward, ready to face him together.

And Eren moved to meet them, green eyes flaring. If you want me, then-

The King of the Devils beat his chest and howled his challenge for all to hear.

"cOmE aNd GeT mE!"

One moment, there was a commotion further down the train, and the next, Annie's world flipped sideways.

It was so abrupt that the she had no time to brace herself, so when the cart tilted, Annie was thrown against the side, hitting the back of her and almost knocking herself out. Then the train stilled, and she found that she could finally move again. Fighting the encroaching darkness and ignoring the steaming wound on the back of her head, the holder of the Female Titan forced herself to stand, gazing wild and searching.

The kids! Where are the-

A groan brought her attention to the another corner, where she saw the Heirs looking battered, but still alive, thank Gott. The rest of the cart's inhabitants ere also getting up groggily, with the exception of one Eldian whose neck had snapped.

Ignoring the corpse, Annie rushed over towards the kids (because that's what they were- Heirs to the greatest weapons in the world or not, they were still kids) and checked them for injuries. Finding none that were life threatening, she held back a sigh of relief. "You all alright?" she asked, and they all nodded.

"What's happening?" Zofia asked her, and Annie grimaced. "I don't have an answer for that, but-"

A roar.

Something outside the cart exploded, and the tranquility within the upturned boxcar disappeared with that explosion, cutting Annie off abruptly, and she paled.

I- I don't recognize that roar.

Her mind raced, discarding theories left and right, before settling on the most likely one, and Annie felt fear.

"Oh Gott," she whispered. They had been played, hadn't they? That speech from two weeks ago… it wasn't just a warning- it was a signal.

There had been an enemy Shifter in their midst, and they hadn't suspected a fucking thing.

The loud thuds of a Titan's footsteps shook her from her thoughts, and she turned back to the Heirs, and the other soldiers with them. "Zofia, Udo, Gabi, Falco. Stay here, and do not come out. The rest of you," she gesture to the other Eldians, "guard the Heirs. I'm going out."

Ignoring the protests of the children (and some from her fellow soldiers- she could allow herself to do so because, technically, she outranked them all), Annie aimed her arm upwards for the door that was now above her, and slashed her finger with her ring-blade.

A five-foot arm shot out from it and broke through, easily bypassing the wood, before it Annie disconnected from it, and the holder of the Female Titan clambered up the rapidly-disintegrating limb into the night.

And Annie ascended into hell.

There was afire burning somewhere down the track, illuminating the utter panic and disarray that had befallen them- including the enemy Titan, who looked as if he had risen from the depths of hell itself.

He might as well have, Annie thought angrily, seeing as he just appeared out of nowhere. Maybe there was an explanation for that, but she wouldn't be finding it here. Not now, anyways.

Oh well.

She'd just beat the answers out of the Devil, then. That worked just fine with her.

Once more, her blade slashed skin, and in a flash of gold, she was fourteen feet tall and storming towards Reiner, who seemed to be losing, somehow. Then again, Reiner had never been great at hand-to-hand, seeing as the emphasis of his training had been put in anti-fortification maneuvers. There had never been any real need for hand-to-hand training, since there were no foes large enough to be able to challenge them to such. That was the rational behind the thought, at least.

One that Reiner was probably regretting. She couldn't have that.

So, the Female Titan jogged over to aid her comrade, and after making sure he was still combat ready, she began to stride forward alongside him, only faltering for a moment when the Devil roared out its challenge. Annie issued a roar of her own, shifting on the balls of her feet and preparing for combat-

-only for something small dig into the skin just above her shoulder, and Annie instantly placed a hardened hand on her nape to protect it.

Then she heard a shout, from the trees, of all places.

"Weapons free!"

...Wait, wha-

Something stabbed into the back of her hardened hand, sheathing itself halfway through her palm.

Then that something exploded.

All according to plan, thank Ymir.

The Survey Corps, while most definitely outnumbered, had the element of surprise and superior weaponry, and Jean made sure that those advantages were used to their fullest potential well use of that.

As soon as they heard the King give the order, Floch's squad swooped into action, emerging from the cover of the trees to harass the soldier below with gunfire, the ones without armbands, at least. Ymir's squad began the weapons test, flinging thunder-spears at the Armored and Female Titan, who retreated from the sudden onslaught, doing their best (and failing) to swat their new assailants out the sky, and Jean grinned when he saw the armour crack and break under the barrage. But, like all good things, said barrage came to end when the spears were all spent, leaving the Armored Titan battered but still standing.

Oh well. That was expected. The weapons test was a secondary priority regardless.

He would have loved to try and finish them off or capture them, but the Marleyans seemed to have realized that there were enemies in the sky now, and the air was becoming increasingly dangerous to idle in with the large quantity of bullets being sent their way. Not to mention, he spied several soldiers further back dig out a piece of artillery from the wreckage that Jean could only assume was the anti-Titan pieces that had been taken from the Mid-East.

Yeah. Time to go.

And that was what his squad was for. They couldn't very well leave without what they had come for, could they?

He, Connie, and Sasha swung down from the trees to their waiting King, who seemed to be watching the chaos with a sort of amusement, and Eren exited his Titan when they landed on his shoulders.

"Jean. You look good," his friend greeted, and Jean smirked back. "The mustache does not suit you at all."

"I missed you too."

Letting the other two converse with Eren for the moment, Jean pulled a signal-flare from a holster and fired it, yellow smoking coloring the sky.

Mission complete.

Then he turned back to his friends and gestured to the King. "Alright. Who wants to carry him?"

Sasha huffed, but grinned, pricking up Eren before slinging off into the trees, Connie and Jean close behind.

And, just like that, the enemy soldiers disappearing into the woods from whence they came, demons returning to their dark realm.

The faint sound of cheering and faint laughter was all the indication Armin needed to know the outcome of the mission, and he felt his shoulders slump in relief. Sure enough, the telltale sounds of ODM-gear began to fill the air, hooks latching onto the blimp. Armin turned towards the cockpit door with the intent to let his returning comrades in. "Hange, turn us away. I think we're done here."

The captain (or was it kommandant? Or section-kommandant? Armin wasn't really sure now, and he was pretty certain Hange didn't know either) gave him a chuckle and a wave of acknowledgement before turning back to the controls, and the blonde let himself out and strode towards the outer door. Just as he predicted, as soon as he pulled it open, the other began streaming back in, all of which in a celebratory mood.

Then the last expected ones arrived, and Armin's eyes brightened. Thank Ymir, he's safe.

Leaning out of the door, he looked down.

"Yo, Armin. It's been a while," his old friend said with a grin, and Armin held out his hand, his own smile widening.

"Hey, Eren. Welcome back. We all missed you, you know?"

Eren's smile softened, then. "Same here, Armin. Same here."

The King of Eldia reached upwards towards the outstretched hand, grasped it, and held as Armin pulled him up into the jubilant boxcar.

Welcome home.

A/N: No full-fledged Titan fight today, unfortunately. Soon, though. Soon.

...Right, anyways, I need to talk about the ending.

I... don't like it.

If you do, that's absolutely fine, because your opinion is yours and yours alone, but for me? That last chapter ruined so, SO many things, left more unanswered, and it seemed to do away with tons of foreshadowing, parallels, and character-arcs. And so, while I acknowledge that Isayama has written that chapter as canon, given that it's a stupid-ass ending, I have elected to ignore it. What that means for this story, I'm not entirely sure, but the end goal remains the same, so don't worry.

...Okay, mini rant over. Till another chapter, my good fellows.