Disclaimer: I do not own Attack on Titan. It belongs to the rightful owner Hajime Isayama.
About as late as ever I guess lol, but it's been sitting here for almost 3 years now so might as well get the start out but yeah… floating story for my other big AoT ship for all time, honestly am wondering myself just when this might actually get completed but well it'll be long after the anime's finished, though who knows how it'll end and if any more adaptations will come after.
This will also be a relatively long fic, though nowhere near as my first one is or hoped to be lol, since here we start at the end of the Return to Shinganshina arc and then really takes away the Marley/Paradis and Final arcs and so is already basically just an alternative endgame sort of thing!
Back 3 years ago lol, I had hoped to make this much longer lol but never really put decisive thought into contents and length and was mainly throwing out general random feelings on length but yeah the aim here is to do it in 20 chapters or so, basically if you took the story up to ch85, this AU continues off from in a 'what could have been' different outside world and history back in the old golden age of theorizing days before the Basement haha.
This isn't necessarily how I wished the story (which had been down-right near perfect for me up to ch82) had turned out – although I do wish it would have gone in a semi-related way but in Isayamna's original style and proper coverage – but it's a compilation of ways which I mused for an EreAnnie centric story but yeah… even though I still wish for it to have been different from the Basement onwards, the canon following arcs still had essential things that were shown to me but yeah anyways.
SPOILERS: With season 4 shown now, really no spoilers for anime-onlies. Will be some for when we get to the Paths content but I'm sure the anime will be done by then lol so really all safe!
' "speech" ' - thinking about someone else's words
Chapter 1 – Nexus in Twilight
'Let's say I'm not who I say I am…'
In the untraversable world, she was still waiting.
Many nights, he would see the image of that young girl standing before a tree of light.
Held together by the eternal night, it broke apart piece by piece and behind it…
… The new world fell down towards her.
The face of that monster -
His mind had already matched them together on the day before.
- And the face of that girl.
He knew it.
He knew it from that moment she turned to face him one last time, instantly taking the chance he had fully presented her to deal yet another defeat down upon him.
Perhaps it had been even before then.
From the start of the battle.
Or even the second he had turned back to see the monstrosity bursting out of the trees and chasing them.
There's was no way he could have told anyone of it.
He had to… he wanted to hear it from her firsthand.
- '… Why?'
But any chances and hopes of hearing that it was a mistake, were all buried beneath the collapsing stone.
He had done so. He had dug as far as he could already. He had dug so far and yet his foundations had not been made down deep enough.
'And you know you have to fight…'
The debris weighing down on him had punctured and crushed his lower body, the blood oozing out as his life was slipping away dangerously fast.
He should have already transformed the first time he bit into his hand.
His goal was clear.
All the conditions required to become a Titan had been met.
'Unless… Unless there's something deeper… keeping you from it...'
He could only mutter disbelief at the thought and mummer a 'what?'
Why didn't he instantly reject such an idea when Mikasa said it.
Why didn't he just deny it in whatever way he could think of.
Why was his heart just caught in that moment…
The twilight and winter set in as he kept recalling it over the months that passed since then.
Between ongoing fights and unfinished ones.
Of old vows and tearing bonds.
As every day and night passed, he kept remembering the expression on her face on one night.
Mid Winter of the Year 850 – Royal Palace Underground
A crystal forged of Titan hardening remained just as perfect, unrefined and undamaged in the constructed prison just as unchanged as it had been almost half a year ago.
"AGHCCH?!" The gathering dust made him sneeze and awaken once more.
Rubbing his tired eyes, his body shuffled, adjusting to the light and shuffling off something which was wrapping over his shoulders
Green eyes straight ahead, he sought out the girl that had locked herself away.
He had fallen asleep again whilst watching over their captive and enemy…
The room was deep underground and isolated so that nobody would ever see her without her Majesty's approval or an order from the military government up top under whose palace it lay.
His eyes blinked in confusion as he pulled the thing which had been wrapped around him. A blanket.
He had trouble recalling but he was sure it been there when he had come down.
The Titan shifter had gone alone and been sitting in the same spot for the past several hours. Someone must have sneaked in to check on him before going back and wrapping the soft fabric round him to keep away the dungeon cold.
Remembering to thank that person, he shuffled about and stood up. There was no way to tell how long he had been asleep for but since Hitch hadn't woken and kicked him out yet, he reckoned there was still time. That was assuming Hitch herself hadn't fallen asleep and forgotten. 'Wouldn't be the first time,' he remembered.
"Well there's nothing we can do about that now. Right, Annie?" Eren stared at the girl who had not changed, suspended in her own time.
Even though she never answered, he was sure she was listening.
Maybe she couldn't hear everything but whenever the Titan shifter spoke, he felt that his words were somehow getting through.
Perhaps through the connection between them to the Coordinate.
The sleeping beauty had her eyes closed in a peaceful expression. Trapped in an icy prison, safe away from the world.
"If you locked yourself away, expecting to be rescued then you might be waiting a long time," Eren reminded the girl. "Well… that doesn't sound like you. Waiting to be rescued. But maybe you didn't have any other choice either… just like when you guys destroyed the wall right?"
His mind was calm, but he couldn't stop himself completely with clenching his fist on instinct at the memory.
Releasing his fingers, he reached out to touch the transparent surface. His body relaxed and he felt the last traces of old anger forgotten from his body.
He still recalled the words Mikasa had spoken to him, on the last day he saw her, the last time he spoke to her and the first time he truly confronted her with the intention of killing her.
It never took long for him to reach the same answer to her question from that day.
'…' He hissed at the old thoughts of his younger past. 'Maybe there was something… but it doesn't matter now.'
Months had passed.
Months in which nothing else mattered except trying to decide on his future.
Reassuring himself that any lingering feelings, that might have once held him back, were all but gone now, Eren threw the blanket over his shoulder and turned to leave.
"Everyone in the Walls knows about the outside world now," he opened the door of the cell's entrance, "they know you don't have much time left and are ready for the day."
The crystal shell was weakening.
"Once you're out of there, we know you won't be able to return to your home alone."
1 Year Ago…
It was the last day of their Trainee Corps regiment. Today the 104th would be disbanded and they would all graduate.
Annie had been acting strangely on that morning.
For once, Eren arrived before her at the scheduled point. She was even less responsive than usual and didn't offer any words to help him.
'Maybe that's just her way of saying farewell…' Eren had thought sadly to himself.
In the end, he had been unable to convince his mentor to join the Scouts Regiment.
Whilst feeling a little disheartened, he drew himself at the ready, wishing to finally land one victory against her.
It had been the final day of their training.
'A final test…'
He knew he would never forget the battle power she had instilled within him. Not knowing just how far it would bring him someday.
And he would always be thankful to her. Not knowing what was troubling her.
Although they wouldn't be side by side anymore, it wouldn't mean it would be the last time they saw each other.
Not knowing the truth behind her mask even then.
Annie proceeded to meet him, exceeding his own efforts without mercy.
The clash was over in an instant and the victor was decided in an instant.
0 : 303
And his life would change drastically once more just like that day.
But throughout that last day, until the moment he met with the Colossal Titan again, his mind kept calling back to the words which she left him.
Turning away without looking back.
For once, she really did look just a bit like a fragile young maiden.
Late Fall of the Year 850 – Shinganshina Basement
5 years had passed since he was at last promised to see the secret beneath the house he had lived in. The words left behind by his father had left bitter feelings in him, struggling to understand what had to be kept a secret even if it was so important.
His mother had always forbade him to go in there. Perhaps she had her own suspicions but she never questioned his father about it either.
In the end, for some reason reaching this basement had never been his main objective. Perhaps it was because she died here on that day.
Just like he focused away from the blood on the path to here, it was an image of his past which he wanted to shut out.
But now things were changing. His anticipation was quickly soaring when he finally laid his hand upon the cover of the first of three books.
For a second, he saw Mikasa trying to reach out, perhaps having similar thoughts too. But the moment he touched the familiar cover, his doubts and trembling vanished.
The guide to his future was laid out before him, beginning with a blank page with only a strange image in the centre.
"I come from beyond the walls, where humanity continues its struggling existence."
On the back of the image called a 'photograph', his father's writing confirmed what they had surmised thus far.
"Humanity has not perished yet."
There was at least some settlement where people came from beyond the wall.
The hometown of Reiner, Bertholdt and Annie.
"I pray that whoever first finds this book will be an ally to the dwindling remnants of those from the outside."
As though he could picture himself writing it, concealing it and reliving the memories of his father, Eren's whole mind became absorbed inside the contents, as though he was able to clearly see them as his own memories.
"When I think about where to start, that day comes to mind."
A memory of a child and his younger sister, born inside collapsed ruins of a desolate land.
The world in front of them…. was dying.
There were no trees, rivers, grass, rain, sun nor hint of the ocean in the vast wasteland.
"However… by the time you start this, many years may have passed since my own end."
"So I wish to begin with telling you about the world I came from, and implore you to make haste to the outside world."
His father's plea brought an instant tension to the room. The book meant for whomever Grisha Jaeger entrusted with it's future… his son, Eren Jaeger.
It was asking him to set out into the unexplored land from where their enemies came, before everyone else who was reading.
"The current year as I start writing is 832 in our shared calendar. A few months have passed since I arrived inside the walls, having set out on my assigned mission. Some of my memories are still returning but I recall my journey here in it's entirety."
The page turned onto a rough sketch of the three walls in the centre along with the major mountains and rivers flowing out of it.
Flowing out from the centre down southwards through Wall Sina's Ehrmich District, Trost and then Shinganshina, the river turned south-eastwards down to the bottom of the page.
But not before passing a forest, a drawing of a Titan and then a building in the bottom right-most corner of the page in the shape of a tower.
"The world is quickly changing, and the information of my travels here will only be accurate to my time. Please always remain conscious and vigilant of both the monsters that claim these lands and of the still active relics left behind by the ancient empire before the age of the Titans."
The drawings were too incomprehensible for him to understand what exactly they were. Even so, he could picture their alien patterns and designs clearly in image of what they were capable of.
"In the centre of the world, is a great tree that stretches into the sky. It connects all 9 worlds that survived from the events of 2000 years ago."
The image thumped into the Titan shifter's mind, feeling as though his entire head was burning.
Beyond, beyond and beyond.
His father's notes told him of the journey made, coming up along the river from the south-east.
"It's a nightmare Eren. The outside world. You really have no idea."
"I'm going to return to the home that was taken from me."
That man, a boy at the time, had sworn to him.
"I will do it. No matter what."
Walking in the night woods, he would always remember the words shared between the four boys, two pairs of best friends.
"What about you? Why did you sign up?" The tallest one of them had asked him.
"Why I joined? I decided I had to kil– "
- A torrent of light.
"Why did you really sign up?"
There was no way that voice could ever belong to Bertholdt. At least not from the Bertholdt from back then…
For one, the voice was female, far too demanding and stabbing at his chest.
"I'm going to reach it." -
"Beyond the wall, is the outside world. There are many things about it, the ocean, the tundra, the flaming water, the rainforests and the sand dunes."
The world promised within a book.
"But beyond that… beyond that world covered with saltwater more than anything…"
Beyond the great promised see, was -
"I'm going to go to beyond the outside world, beyond the ocean… I'll reach it someday…"
- 'I… am… going to… - ' -
Mid Summer of the Year 851
She had been stuck in that crystal for almost a year now. It was becoming noticeable to others as well now that the transparent shell was becoming thinner.
The guard had been strengthened for when the day would come.
After the information within his father's notes came out, the true nature of their real enemy had come to light.
Immediately, as though the light had gone out, the new government began all defensive preparations outside Wall Maria.
Bolstering up the cannons along the walls, replacing the old rail and roads, and turning all but the fertile farmlands of Wall Maria into training camps and battle stages.
But all of it was simply ostensible and to make the re-settlers of Wall Maria feel secure.
With everything they knew in the light… the military government had been at a loss. Months had passed and nothing had changed.
There was no plan nor concrete decision on what they shall do to survive the oncoming threat.
But even that couldn't be helped. His father's notes had given them essential information and left behind everything he could do to help them… to help the world.
But it did not give them any solution.
Instead it was proposing him to go forth and confront the enemy in their heartlands.
A suggestion that was met very critically.
Especially when it came to revealing more of the importance of his power.
Or one of his powers at least.
The Power of the Titans was what had allowed them to survive.
They had now gained the Colossal Titan and had captured mindless Titans if ever the chance arose to obtain more.
Although it would be ideal for them if a talented soldier would inherit Annie's Titan, what came first was getting any information they needed out of the female warrior by whatever means they had.
And it was simply a matter of when.
At present, Hanji had suggested another month at least but the plans were already underway to move her to an even more secure prison, designed specifically for Titan shifters in the rebuilt ruins of the Reiss family chapel.
Once that happened…
His breath left a cloudy mist in the air which faded quickly. His fingers pressing against the crystal felt static, shaking a little as a crack appeared than run diagonally along the entire surface.
A tiny crack had appeared the last time he came here but had gone unnoticed until now. Tracing his finger along the sharp edge, the tiny sparkling light glittered for a few seconds before disappearing for good.
From the action, the crack widened and began to spread in different directions, signalling it was about to burst apart.
"Today's the day that the oldest trainees are graduating again," he spoke to the silent crystal, remembering the day. "I wonder how many will join the Survey Corps this time."
Finding himself before the silent crystal once more, Eren started up a lively conversation.
"Do you remember? That was the last time we talked…" he reminisced at the one-sided parting, "at least properly, face to face against each other."
"Ugh, you're here again?" A woman in the military police uniform voiced her disapproval. "You're already like an old married coupl- !"
Her boots froze in place as she observed the spreading dent before her eyes.
"W-What… no way, yesterday I…" The wavy haired girl rubbed her eyes to convince herself it wasn't her imagination.
"Don't panic Hitch," the brunet advised. "I don't think she'll be able to move much after she breaks out."
"Wh…What… how do you know?" She peered at him who responded in silence. "No, wait, that doesn't matter! It's sooner than what your commander said but- ugh, the procedure- uh, I'm supposed to-"
"Not so loud…" Eren hushed her.
There where guards in the floor above them and more further along the halls and all around the palace. This cell was separate from the rest of the dungeon and privately guarded. Guarded by the military police that was. Although they were more vigilant than before, that wasn't saying much.
For once he was grateful that their laziness meant they wouldn't come checking on how the prisoners were doing.
"I don't think anyone's going to find out until you raise the alarm," he told her calmly. "You wanted to ask Annie why she did it all this time, right? Now will be your best chance."
Hitch's voice caught in her throat. A turmoil of emotions suddenly gutted out at her.
She had yelled many things at the unresponsive girl. She had opened up and cried out her other troubles to the silent girl. She had watched over and gossiped many things to strike up conversation with the empty room.
The cracks spread all over the back now and were forming tinier pieces between them. So long as they fell off bit by bit, they would create a quiet ringing sound when they hit the floor and released the girl within.
"Hey, you…" Hitch whispered uncertainly, "you're causing this… aren't you?"
"…" Eren silently pulled back his hand. The cracks on the crystal only widening and then stopping completely. "Are you worried about what will happen to her?"
"HUH?!" The brown haired soldier coughed with a slight redness to her cheeks, "of course not! Thanks to her, I'm stuck with this bothersome guard duty every day down here! I don't care what happens to her."
Eren smirked a little, "then like always, pretend that I was never here."
"Y-Yeah, I know geez," she mumbled unconfidently, thinking up of a new excuse she would tell her superior for not filing any reports. "… What are you planning to do to her?"
"… Nothing as bad as what the government has planned," he confirmed, readjusting his jacket before turning to face the military policewoman. "Do you want in?"
She furrowed her brows, staring over to the girl in the crystal. It was strange that although they hadn't known each other long, she had been trusted into Hitch's care after the revolution.
The brown haired girl turned away as a shard of the crystal fell to the floor, crackling into tiny pieces before appearing to melt and disappearing like a Titan corpse. She closed her eyes and breathed in.
"… I think I forgot to check the containment traps upstairs," Hitch began to leave in a hurry up the stairs, "I should return to watching our prisoner after my lunch break. Ah, they are serving lamb today, guess I'll take a bit more time to enjoy myself."
Eren stared after her, getting the suggestion. He squeezed his hand whilst examining the shell once more.
The crystal was breaking open.
One of the sleeping girl's eyelids fluttered for a second.
Like a snake shedding it's skin, the first part of the surface cracked off and fell, followed by another in gentle waves.
The body of the blonde girl slanted forward as the entire thing collapsed and broken open.
The guard upstairs had already left for their change in shift and nobody knew he was here.
Annie's body fell straight down, hanging limply as a bit of evaporating water fell away from her face.
Catching the still sleeping girl, he lowered her gently to the ground.
The girl's body shuddered and vibrated all about as her body flickered back into life after stasis.
The silver ring around her ginger glinted in his eyes as he gently uncurled her fingers and slipped it off.
Annie's eyes flashed open as he pulled it off and stepped away.
Breathing out into the dark cell air, the blonde coughed, digging her first against the concrete. She gasped for air, gathering the strength to look upwards.
"…" Her blue eyes widened for a second when she saw those emerald orbs turning away. Her voice croaked, not being able to form words.
His back turned away, the dark longcoat fluttered slightly as he left.
Stopping before the door, he spoke back the words she remembered well.
The same words she had told him, 1 year ago.
"Soon… your whole life is going to become a one way road on a knife's edge, you'll always be on the border between life and death."
Her body calmed for a moment, gaining a firm understanding of her situation as the guards would notice if the man didn't inform them of her being freed.
"Do your best to survive idiot."
If she had been able to, she would have scowled at him.
He had been about to say something else after. But the female Titan shifter's eyes closed again, falling into unconsciousness once more.
3 Years Ago…
Just for that brief time… she may have enjoyed herself.
She couldn't say she had been happy. She definitely hadn't been.
But… just like her other two comrades, it was a time where she was able to relax.
"Don't just brainlessly jump to copying me," she scowled at him with a dull glare, her usual expression when faced with the troublesome boy.
The brunet, who was a year younger than her, dusted himself off whilst standing up painfully.
"Huh? What do you… mean?" With one eye closed, there was a certain honest innocence to how actively he would always listen to her and earnestly followed her suggestions.
A little too earnestly sometimes.
"You're mindlessly mimicking me right now." She said, leaning lazily against the barracks building whilst waiting for the brunet to recover. "You have strength that I don't have. Why don't you use it?"
"I… do? It just clearly doesn't work on you." Eren justified, "that's why I'm trying to learn to do what you do…"
"That's not learning," Annie countered. "At best you'll end up as a third rate imitation. Or is that what you want to be?"
Eren remained silent before nodding to her. "No… I won't end up like some useless good-for-nothing."
"Then combine your strength with the techniques," she raised her hands up once more, placing a foot forward in preparation, "and find a balance."
Responding in turn, the brunet rose up and readied himself in challenge, relaxing his body into an easier stance.
"A balance…" the brunet mulled over her words, "… you're saying that I should throw punches sometimes as well as your kicks?"
Her cold stare made his skin crawl and stomach loop a little. He really did try and give the correct response.
"Well even then, you're probably too thick-headed to ever do it right," she said, picking up her stance.
Feeling the displeasure in her aura, he instinctively readied himself.
"Huh, least you can respond quickly now," she gave a small bit of approval.
Just hearing that made him slightly pleased with himself. And that small bit caused his body to relax just a little bit.
"But you're still too complacent," she closed the distance and struck at his foot.
Quickly readjusting himself, he managed to land back and regain balance, already hooking an arm around Annie's own incoming arm, twisting her away before she kicked his stomach and pushed him back again.
The win to loss ratios were overwhelmingly in Annie's favour. Or rather, completely. The current score was 0 : 127 in Annie's favour.
They had though 129 times, and of those Annie had won 127 completely while the other 2 were classed as 'interrupted' upon Eren's insistence.
When he stopped to think about it… it really was a little ridiculous.
He counted every encounter or bout as a legitimate practise fight between them.
And he remembered every victory in her favour.
His stomach ached before the girl shot like a lightening bolt and staggered his other leg, bashing aside his fists and dragging them back as she hooked over his neck and kicked him upwards.
"One… One… last… time… Annie…" He huffed and spat out a bit of dirt in his mouth.
He had landed a little painfully on his wrist which he tried to hide.
"One spar a day with three rounds," Annie reminded him. "That's the rule we agreed on. I don't have the time to spend on you all day."
Her tone suggested the contrary. It was just a bit more than the amusement in seeing him hit the floor twice a day.
Maybe it was too far to say Annie was enjoying these matches yet but…
"Yeah… That's what… you… said Annie, but…" He coughed and rubbed his chest, still struggling to get the air back into his lungs after the impact. "You're-"
"I'm what?" She glared a warning.
'You're… an obvious liar.' He quietly thought to himself before changing the subject.
"Just… today… one last time…" Getting off the ground again, he pleaded to her.
The blonde didn't reply.
Her silence said that she was allowing him to entertain her a little longer.
"Hey Annie… why did you teach me how to fight?"
There was a clear sign that she wasn't expecting the question, but she hid it instantly.
"… Beat me once, and I'll tell you," she challenged him.
The prospect of it gave his entire body strength.
"Hah, fine." Eren sucked in his breath, throwing himself out and swinging his leg around in an almost perfect roundhouse position and aimed squarely at her side.
His ankle was struck in mid air and knocked into a painful angle that put the pressure onto his left leg as he felt himself losing balance once more.
Before the sky was behind him and the earth was below again.
0 : 129
Capital Mithras – The Day After Annie Broke Out of the Crystal
The entire headquarters was abuzz from the news that Annie Leonhardt had awoken and broken out her crystal shell.
Commander Hanji had been present in the capital along with Eren at the time and quickly took charge of their newly freed captive. The enemy warrior was moved to a heavily guarded prison in the lowest cell beneath the royal palace around which a thousand MPs where quickly readied.
Within a few hours, the remainder of the Survey Corps survivors had arrived and all gathered at their commander's call. And there they waited until Annie would awaken.
"Oi four eyes," the captain's narrow glare sharpened, "what did you just say you were doing?"
Everyone else was sitting nervously in the vacated room for the group of all nine. The one eyed commander sighed. "From what I've been told, Annie Leonhardt isn't even able to move yet."
"That's exactly why we should chain her up now," Levi pressed on. "Or are you looking to give her a chance to escape?"
The younger group all listened to their back and forth. The captain often chided the commander and they had a bit of back and forth between the two of them when they didn't agree to something. The rest of them would generally sit back and wait.
"Goodness Levi, we're going to do everything needed to keep her contained, however…" Hanji sat down with facing them all. "This is the opportunity we have been waiting for ever since we came back from Wall Maria."
"We're past the point of peaceful interrogation. Or do you have some idea to make her spill everything?" After a little longer, Levi followed suit and returned to his tea.
The rest of them were drinking or simply sitting in silence with their own thoughts or were looking around for more stuff to eat.
"Well… I think we should first figure out where Annie Leonhardt sits in all of this," the middle aged woman opened up the conversation to the group.
"Commander…" Jean spoke out first, glancing over towards the Titan shifter in the room once more, "shouldn't we verify everything we know from Annie first?"
"Yes… that is what I would like to do," Hanji nodded before glancing to Eren as well, "of course we fully believe in the account from Eren's father but there's more we can still gain from confirming everything we know."
"Then, what if we tested Annie first?" Armin continued on. "If we… first cover up how much we know and just begin with the premise from Eren's father, we can confirm just how much we can trust what Annie says."
Hanji nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, I would like to lead things like that first. If she talks that is."
"She won't." Levi remarked. "Why would she betray the bastards she's been working with all this time."
To the corner of the room, Eren and Mikasa were sitting in silence whilst Armin gave helpful input. At the other end, Connie was sitting sullenly whilst Sasha moaned a little in hunger. Floch was besides Jean as well, listening in to the conversation.
The whole time, he could feel Mikasa's stare at him as though she wanted to say something. Likely asking where he had been yesterday as usual when he escaped from her sights.
At that moment, a knock interrupted them and a grumpy looking MP guard entered. "Commander-in-chief Zackley is calling. The captive enemy has waken up."
Hanji nodded and stood up, leaving the room along with Levi. They returned a few minutes later, having been given permission to see Annie Leonhardt.
"So then," Hanji began, "only about three of us can go at once, who wants-"
Eren's chair scraped up against the floor. "I'll go. I'll make her talk."
Everyone in the room looked at him uncertainty. He had been silent all this time. Now he appeared determined to convince the commander to go.
"What makes you think you can?" Levi questioned him.
"If it's me then she will at least be more convinced about what we know… that is something a proper Founding Titan would be able to learn." The brunet pointed out. "And maybe, there's a chance something could happen… like if I see her memories as I did with my father's."
'Maybe if I had access to Royal Blood that is.' He added in his head. But that was something he had no intention of revealing. He had already made up his mind to keep her safe.
"… Very well," Hanji answered in his place as the captain still looked disapproving and slightly more suspiciously now.
"I will also." Mikasa stood up quickly, following his lead, just as Armin was about to volunteer.
"No. We're putting the Coordinate she is after all this time right in front of her," Levi denied her quickly. "I don't care if she were a hundred metres underground, there's no point arguing. Eren shouldn't be getting near her at all."
The other younger Survey Corps tried to suggest themselves but the matter was quickly decided. Along with Hanji and Levi, Eren left down the hall, passing into the dungeon tower of the royal palace as he followed down after them.
The temperature dropped a little and the guards opened up the doors for them to the lowest cell. Built under the central building of the walls, the dungeon was meant for political enemies of the old government in the past.
Being under the most important building, it was well built underneath the earth and allowed for over a hundred soldiers to be stationed inside. Several hundred more were throughout the palace halls and around the entire perimeter.
All of this had been planned beforehand, nearly half a year ago when Annie had been moved to the royal palace.
They all knew that someday, the Female Titan would break out of the crystal she had entrapped herself in and so, they had made these preparations already.
At the final door, Hitch herself looked over their way, or more specifically at Eren as though she was saying 'finally, what took you so long?'.
Turning away from the commander and remaining captain of the Survey Corps, the military police girl opened the door to them.
The room was small enough to keep her confined and unable to turn into a Titan but enough space for a reasonable cell. Her hands were naturally shackled but her mouth had been remained empty.
The wet clothes she had been stuck with all this time remained, her body no different in size than before.
Her hands were raised and pulled away from her towards the floor from where she was seated in a wooden chair in front of a table.
About 30 military police were all armed along the wall, their gun ready for any movement she made.
Her eyes were already fixated straight ahead and didn't look surprised at all as the three of them, followed by Hitch as well, stood before her like she had been expecting them all.
Levi nodded to the guards who walked to the walls and opened up the locks to the chains that were to the floor before shoving her forward like a chained wolf and pushing her chair in front of the table.
The three of them sat down in the prepared seats for them at the other end. The silence set in.
Hanji had brought a book of documents which she opened and laid out across the table wordlessly. Looking over them, Eren noticed some of them being copies made of his father's notes and others being her own speculations.
"Now then, Annie Leonhardt." Hanji addressed her from the centre. "Are you willing to talk and cooperate with us?"
Although her eyes were facing the commander the whole time, Eren sensed as though her entire vision was watching him the whole time.
"… That will depend on you." Her voice cracked, the first words she had spoken in a long time.
Eren flinched a little before calming his nerves. He had prepared himself for this but as usual, Annie's icy tone made his stomach turn.
"Oi," Levi kicked the table leg closest to her, "do you know the situation you're in?"
"Yeah I think I do," Annie responded dryly, "some people will always hang onto the past, not that I am blaming them."
Before the captain was about to snap back, Hanji raised a hand to him. "Miss Leonhardt. We do not want to start more conflict. But you've killed many of our comrades already… many friends who I knew for a long time. We cannot simply forgive you for anything."
Both the commander and captain were of the same mind. Rather the entire military government had already made the decision beforehand.
"However, maybe we can still work forward from here," the one-eyed woman took the first page and turned it around to the blonde. "If you help us, we can negotiate what will become of you. Of course you won't be let off easily… but there could still be hope for you.
Annie's expression told her that she didn't believe anything the commander had said.
"Your mission was to steal the Coordinate and return to your village," Hanji checked on Eren, giving him a sign, "but that has all failed. In the past year, we have exposed one of your comrades and believe we have a lead on another. The culprit is Reiner Braun, and the other suspect is Bertholdt Hoover. Is he also your comrade?"
"…" She looked over the form which held both her, Reiner and Bertholdt's details from the time they signed up for the military, all with the name of a fake village written on it. "…"
"It is Bertholdt, isn't it?" Eren spoke up to her. Her cold eyes turned to watch him, studying him closely just like she always did.
The movements of his body, where he was looking and the expression that allowed her to read him so easily.
He laid it all before her and hoped the message would get through.
"Yeah, he is," Annie resigned herself, "but you already knew that, didn't you?"
"… Yes," Hanji nodded, taking another page instead with a full drawing, "we did. But, this individual is another matter. Are they familiar to you?"
Her eyes visibly widened at the drawing of a massive ape – the Beast Titan. 'When did…'
"Who's this hairy bastard then?" Levi jumped in, "he your boss or something?"
"…" Eren sensed her watching him from the corner of her eye as he gave her a tiny shake. "Something like that."
"Spit it out clearly. Who the hell is this little shit?" the Ackerman demanded, giving away his doubled animosity.
Annie raised up to look at the two senior soldiers before looking blatantly at Eren. "Do you not know?"
"Huh?" Hanji blinked her remaining eyes and turned to look at Eren.
"… I had a suspicion," the brunet confessed, glancing to Hanji and Levi. "I told you before… when I saw him, I thought he resembled my father. And that photograph…"
"Then he is…?" The commander looked to the female Titan shifter.
"Yes… I'm guessing he would be your half-brother…" she answered. "His name is Zeke… Jaeger."
"Did you know about it from the start?" Eren questioned her for more information.
"No. We only began to suspect you when you appeared as a Titan in Trost." She began talking a bit more about it, opening up about what she sensed the Scouts had already found out.
All three of their identities had been compromised, which left hiding what she could about her other comrades and of her hometown.
"In all honesty, Zeke is a special individual in our village… he's always been secretive and he doesn't take to his father's name. There's not much I can tell you about him," she noticed Levi about to shoot a reply. "He's not my leader but he is our general."
"A pretty shitty general for how easily he got cut up and run with his tail between his legs," the captain wished to continue.
"So then, who is this leader? The one who ordered you to kids to attack the Walls?" Hanji intervened.
"… There is no one leader. It was something decided upon us." Annie replied, wearing a poker face the whole time. "… It just happened to fall upon us."
"Because of the calamity that is coming?" She posed, shifting across the notes of his father. " 'The day when the world burns and is reduced to ash.' ? Eren's father left behind his story to us. There's many things however which he left out, in particular this unavoidable doom which he speaks about. That was his, and your mission. To retrieve the Coordinate so your hometown can survive what's coming?"
"…" The tension in the cold room had been rigid from the start. He could tell clearly now though… Annie was angry. "Yeah, we'd use the Coordinate to save only ourselves and leave the rest of the world to hell because that's going to change everything."
Hanji sighed softly, "yes… that is what Grisha Jaeger's book told us."
108 years ago from now, the 145th King had retreated behind the great 3 walls with the Founding Titan, stole the memories away of the people and wished to keep his kingdom safe.
"That is what they say the past King of a century ago did… he stole the Coordinate from your hometown and wished to keep only this land safe." She recited the section of their history that aligned with what they knew from the Reiss family who were entrusted with the Founding Titan after the 145th King Karl Fritz. "It's true that we're all here trying to keep our world inside the Wall safe and away from the Titans. But we are not the ones who stol-"
"I'm aware of that. Not all of you people within the wall are like that cowardly King." She spoke with bottled up contempt. "The problem isn't that he abandoned all the others and fortified Midgard as his own paradise. It's the deals he made with our enemy to keep himself safe. What he and his predecessors allowed to happen to the rest of the world, and those he left vulnerable with no hope for us to survive."
She exhaled sharply before cooling off.
"Midgard… yes, that is what Grisha called this land as well…" She nodded along at the detail, "the world which is split into 9 realms, each one inhabited by the independent survivors after the last great calamity 2000 years ago… This event which Grisha warns about… It seems he is suggesting this is not the first time it happened?"
"…" Annie kept glaring at her, sensing the Ackerman becoming impatient as well.
"The records of the world since then are all lost… and could only be found within the memories of a Founding Titan." The commander motioned to Eren. Not including the fact that could only be possible with someone of royal blood.
The female Titan shifter had become unresponsive now.
"But it seems that back then, humanity was able to survive… just as the Titans did as well and naturally your folk too." She made the distinction.
The certain people that could use the power of the Titans and inherit it from each other. That was the people to whom Annie belonged.
Hanji had speculated that their hometown must be full of them but judging by the way they spoke, they were certainly not numerous. His father had mentioned that their gathering included many people of different lands and origins that lived together but that the bulk of them where those who could shift between the form of a human and that of a Titan.
Their current population, exact location and factions were all unknown. His father had claimed that he was unable to remember that for sure.
"Are you able to tell us first?" Hanji prompted again.
Annie was no longer responding to her questions after her short outburst. She had shrunk back into her seat after the guards pulled back on the chains and fallen silent as though she had spoken too much.
"This isn't going anywhere," Levi stood up. "Oi listen, if you aren't going to talk then we're going to make you spill everything."
The blonde didn't bother looking at him, picking up that the final decision rested with Hanji. The middle aged woman sighed again. "What Levi says is true… we need you to cooperate with us, Annie. Remember? What happens to you will depen-"
"You'll have someone else eat me right?" She pointed out. "If you can't, then you'll just kill me."
"That isn't set in stone," Hanji replied.
Annie didn't believe her.
"If you're worried about what will happen to you, we can -" Eren had been about to speak out again when a knock came on the door.
"Come in," Hanji called as Hitch pulled open the door for them. The messenger quietly moved to whisper to the Survey Corps commander before leaving.
"… It seems our time is done already," Hanji checked her pocket watch with a frown. "But earlier than was agreed."
In other words, the decision had already been made to move onto the next stage of making Annie spill all that she knew. Likely, the military government wasn't ready to trust anything new which she might have divulged and intended for a more torturous confirmation.
Holding back the urge to spit, he resisted the disgust which was filling him and stood up after Hanji and Levi.
"It's a pity, but thank you for what you confirmed for us." In the end, there hadn't learnt much else that was new, only what had been left behind by Eren's father. "We'll see each other tomorrow again…"
The guards pulled Annie back to the end of the cell and locked the chains again to the floor, before clearing out the desk and chairs.
"Ah, there is one thing. I suppose it might be right to let you know before the end," Hanji looked at her sadly but without hesitation. "The truth is that your comrade Bertholdt is already dead."
Annie blinked in response but kept her expression cold.
"We found out about him very soon after we captured you, as well as Reiner. Then about 9 months ago, we were able to take his power to save one of our own comrades." The commander stared down over the concrete floor. "There was still so much more we didn't know back then… and so much we still don't know now."
With no reply, Hanji left ahead whilst Levi stood glaring at her before turning to Eren and gesturing him to go first.
The Titan shifter cast a glance over Annie.
His old mentor continued to stare at him.
The green eyed boy turned and left, followed by Hitch who had been standing quietly this whole time as she closed the cell bars behind the captain.
The guards remained, glaring at her as the night quickly closed in.
The torchlight flickered as it danced in the cold air.
She hid a sardonic smile when remembering the time she had taught the green-eyed boy, the so named suicidal bastard, how to hide his facial expressions.
It seems he still had a lot to learn in that regard.
But perhaps that was all on purpose.
The Night After The Interrogation
Without any moonlight or window leading out, there was no way for her to tell how many hours had passed. She sensed that it was nighttime though after being asleep for such a long time, she wasn't remotely tired.
Physically however, her body still felt weak. She had raised her arms up and rattled the chains before being threatened by the feeble guard.
The iron was heavy to lift at the moment but not impossible to twist. There was little choice for her but to wait for now. She had considered attracting the guard over to her and catching his throat around the manacles but doubted from the look of these men that they would mind losing one of their comrades when it meant they would be responsible for her escape.
She decided to trust in the indications she had been left and wait.
A few times, Hitch had come to speak to her, asking if she needed the bathroom or anything to eat. She really was starving but as the guards commented, the prisoner wasn't going to be fed anything.
If tomorrow morning she was going to face torture, she would trust and wait out the night to see if any help was actually going to come for her.
Reiner would have returned home by now. Who knew if he was ever going to come back to help her.
Bertholdt was dead. There was no chance of the meeker boy pressing to save her either.
Her Survey Corps visitors had told her about what happened in Shinganshina. The Beast Titan had also been present as had the Cart Titan, who she didn't identify but did confirm as another Titan shifter.
'Guess Pieck and Zeke are still alive,' she didn't feel much better about her chances however. For a moment, she recalled back to her time as a warrior cadet and the black haired girl who managed to prove herself… and perhaps be the first that Annie might call - 'An acquaintance at best…'
She mocked herself for trying to feel hopeful.
There was little chance for them to come to save her, let alone at a time like this.
The only she could depend on… had always been herself.
A yawn filled the room, followed by another. The guards had all grown noticeably tired and weren't bothering to hide it. A few kept looking at their watches whilst another dozed off for a second.
When footsteps came down the stairs next time, Hitch opened the door with visible tiredness around her eyes. "Hey you guys, good work for tonight. The next shift have fallen asleep upstairs, they won't wake up no matter what I do. Can you guys get them for me?"
"Whatever," the guards growled and shook their heads in annoyance, quickly turning to leave after Hitch stepped aside.
Annie raised an eyebrow as Hitch continued staring at her once the last one of them left.
"Ah man, those guys are so lame. You agree, don'tcha?" The curly haired girl forced a smile before dropping it quickly. "… So, you able to tell me now?"
Annie remained impassive. "Tell you what?"
Hitch frowned at her deeply. "About why you did it. You know?! The things I was asking you about when you woke up…"
The blonde lowered her gaze. Just like when Hitch had confronted her yesterday evening, there was nothing she could say in reply.
There was nothing she could tell her to justify herself.
It was just how things happened.
It didn't matter what she wanted.
It just ended up… happening on the only road left to her.
"… Just answer me one thing then," the girl spoke quietly, unlike her boisterous and troublesome personality when they lived together in the shared room. "… Was there a reason… why you did it?"
She looked at the hazel eyed girl. "… Yes. But it's not something I can tell you."
"… Yeah, figures." Her bangs brushed over her eyes. "You know that tomorrow might be the last day you live like this?"
"…" The blonde's tongue scraped around her teeth but quickly withdrew. Even if she accidentally transformed here, the ceiling would collapsed and kill… "I know."
"… Ahhhh man!" Hitch made a stretch, "I'm so tired tonight, I'll catch you later, alright."
Annie opened her mouth slightly, about to respond but Hitch had already left quickly.
Setting down into the silence once more, she counted the seconds going by.
After a couple minutes, the next set of guards still hadn't arrived.
She frowned a little when 5 minutes had passed and she finally heard a set of footsteps.
One single set of footsteps.
Belonging to the person she had decided to lay her last hopes on.
"What are you playing at Jaeger?" She addressed him harshly, just like when he arrived an hour later before. It felt like he had stood her up.
"Shouldn't the captured princess be thanking me for coming to save her?" Eren joked without the humour reaching his face.
"Whatever crap you've been reading won't have included a past where the princess was about to be killed by the hero," she dryly replied.
"Nah, guess not," he shrugged. "… I'm glad you were able to notice."
"You made it so obvious that I was starting to doubt who you were." She said, catching his body flinch a little.
"…" The brunet shook his head. "This land inside the Walls and outside where the Titans roam… it's all a place called Midgard, huh?"
"Isn't that what your father's notes told you?" She drawled on, shaking her hands a little uncomfortably.
"Yeah he did… and then there's your home, Jotunheim?" He continued.
"No, the village is in a land called Jotunheim. Everywhere you go there, you'll find twice as many Titans as around here." She corrected him.
"Honestly, weird kind of names, right?" Eren shook his head, "but the more I say them… the more they seem to fit quite well in my head."
"It's what they were named two millennia ago," she frowned. "Something which only a holder of a Coordinate would have memories of."
"Yeah… if I were a true Founding Titan," he watched as he caught her curiosity. It was quite satisfying to be able to do it for once. "Wait just now… what do you mean 'a Coordinate'…?"
The blonde fell silent for a while, noticing her blunder.
"I can't tell you anything more here." She replied. "You know that it's you who we've been after this whole time?"
"Yeah alright…" Eren nodded solemly before opening his eyes again. "Well if you can't tell me here, want to escape outside first?"
"Huh?" She drawled at him, trying to tell what he was planning.
The youth's face lay open to her, meeting her in complete seriousness.
"… You want to escape here?" She asked.
"Yeah… for a long time now, I've been wanting to," he smirked down.
For all his life, he had wanted to.
"… After what's happened, after you… swore over and over like a buffoon that you would destroy the Titans…" A steady stream of memory and old feelings get surging through her. "You of all people… are now wanting to help your enemy?"
"It's not like I'm doing this for you," Eren clarified, "I'm just doing what I believe in. Besides… it's not like you've been my true enemy all this time."
"… Haven't I?" She coughed. "Does betraying and deceiving you not count to anything?"
"… No it definitely does…" His powerful green orbs held restraint and an equilibrium to them when she kept gazing into them. "After what you guys did back then, after you… doesn't matter."
"Doesn't matter…?" She repeated.
"No I mean… obviously it matters," he walked over towards her, "there's no way I'd ever forget… that day. There's no way I'd forgive you guys after what you all did…"
A part of her chest settled down. 'Of course there isn't.'
The idea that he still hated her… it comforted that sick feeling in her stomach that never let her forget,
"But, I'm ready to face the true enemy despite that," his clenched his fist easily. "All the training you gave me back then, all the times I entrusted myself with revenge, the fights I've had against the Titans until now… I think it's about time I faced the truth."
He relaxed up and leaned down before her on one knee.
"I'll go with you so that I can end this." he vowed. "You can take me back and complete the mission and I will drive the Titans out… you're the best hope I have left. I need your help Annie."
"… You should know full well what that means by now…" Annie's shackled hand brushed her bang off her eye. "I'd have thought that's the one thing you're father would have made obvious for you…. Trying to fight against the Titans is like declaring war against the sky."
"Yeah, then that's what I'll do." The 16 year old felt more resolute than he had been for the past year.
"What…?" The tension left her body.
"If it means this hell will end, I will go to the heavens and keep moving forward…" Eren rose up from the wall, approaching the one who betrayed his trust.
"… Until my enemies are destroyed."
"… After all this, you have the strength to think that… there's still much you don't know." The blue eyed girl warned him.
"Then would you be my guide and teach me again?" He outstretched his hand to her, flicking keys out in his other hand.
"… Are you serious?" Annie frowned at them.
Her head warned her that it could all be a bluff. Even if Eren was genuine, the whole situation could be a setup to get her to confess. The keys might be fake and Eren was likewise in the dark to it.
"Yes." He clenched them closely, waving his free hand to her once more. "It's already too late."
By stealing the keys he was already a traitor.
Just like her.
The Scouts would find out the information had been leaked even if he returned them now.
There was no going back.
"… There's no way I'd believe you so quickly," the female Titan shifter stood up as much as the shackles allowed her. "Just get me out. I'll talk if it's with you. But only outside of these walls."
The cell, the building, the three walls, had all been a prison to her for the past 6 years.
Clicking into place, her blue eyes widened as she heard the shackles click and release, the keys clattering down alongside them.
He didn't wait for a response. Grabbing her hand softly, he pulled her along, sensing that her body was weak from not having eaten since then.
"So, who's your accomplice?" She checked, hoping he wasn't planning on improvising the whole way out.
The brunet pulled his head into the corridor, stepping over the several dozen knocked down guards and rushing through the prison into a side door.
"There's a couple…" Eren mused whilst remembering the way, hoping he had not forgotten the route which he only had a few minutes to memorize. "I guess one friend of each of us."
Annie frowned, shrugging her hand out of his grip which he reluctantly let go to push open the doors once after another. Turning round the corner into another hall, she had guessed they were within Wall Sina. By the looks of it however, this was -
"Gosh! How much longer where you going to take?!" A familiar voice was waiting at an open window, looking particularly nervous.
"… Hitch?" Annie frowned in surprise without letting it show on her face.
"What's up with that look? At least pretend to be happy to see me…" The hooded military policewoman had become very impatient. "Come on! Get into the carriage quickly. Guuuh, I'm so getting fired for this…"
'A carriage? He prepared this beforehand?' Annie stared at Eren's back who went out and checked first before nodding to her and jumping down. She wasn't sure what she was expecting.
She knew she hadn't been expecting for him to do anything like this. Perhaps talking her over or trying to gnaw into her guilt, maybe she had been expecting an approach like that.
But then, how long had this been planned? Only a few days at most must have past since she broke out.
On the spot, she had just now imagining what the rush out of the walls might be like. Instead, everything was already prepared. Looking out of the window, Eren had dropped down from the second floor and was standing before a carriage, looking up at her.
"Get going idiot!" Hitch hissed already, hitting Annie's rear with the butt of her rifle. "I'm right behind you. Uhhh I didn't want to die so soon…"
Annie opened her mouth to say something but knew it wasn't the time. Her mind processed jumping out of the window and falling a few metres before suddenly coughing as she fell straight into Eren.
"GHUH-?!" The brunet collapsed down into the floor with her on top of him. "What the hell… why'd you land right where I was…"
"Shut up. At least break my fall if you aren't going to catch me," she cursed the lack of feeling in her body. After jumping out, she hadn't managed to spring off the wall enough to land where she wanted. 'Your fault for standing right below.'
Making a much more graceful landing than her, Hitch seemed to almost smugly show off to her whilst deadpanning deeply at them. "Is now really the time?"
It wasn't. Annie glared and got off him as Eren quickly raised up and followed right behind her to the carriage door. In the floor above, the lights were suddenly switched on and she could hear someone yelling.
How long would it take before the alarm was raised? Checking on her cell would be the first priority. The moment they realised the situation, messengers would be sent on the fastest horses out all the major roads, spreading the news out.
The walls would be locked onto and lined across every exit point before the carriage would get out. If they were to outrun the horses, they would need -
"It would have been faster to just use your Titan – is that what you're thinking?" A new voice asked her. The carriage door had been opened without her noticing and Eren was gesturing for her to get inside whilst covering her head.
Hitch had already jumped into the drivers seat and was ready to leave. The new voice inside was also a girl's, feeling vaguely familiar but also completely different.
Raising herself inside, she kept her eyes on the hooded figure whilst sitting on the opposite end to her just as Eren slide in besides her, closing the distance between them and locking the door.
Immediately, the carriage began moving, jumping up and down the rough terrain as Hitch took off into the night without delay.
"…" With the two between her, she felt enclosed as though ready to stop her if she jumped down and tried to escape from them. Peering down, Annie noticed the golden locks sticking out and the military jacket with a shield symbol on them. "Hitch is one thing, but how many do you have on the know about this?"
Eren frowned, taking it as a warning that Annie wasn't trusting any others from within the walls.
"This is it. Frankly involving Hitch was also up to her," Eren nodded towards the girl opposite them, "come on, aren't you going to introduce yourself? Also what's with the hood?"
"Eh? You said you would only agree if I kept myself hidden," the woman teased back at him.
"I meant for you to not get involved this closely, but well whatever, we're in the carriage right now," Eren sighed, brushing the blinds to stare out the window as they left through the fallen down fence to the side of the compound.
"I know, I know," the girl shrugged before taking the hood of from her, causing Annie to be completely surprised this time. "I suppose this is my first time meeting you Annie, I'm Historia – Christa's evil sister."
"Huh…?" Annie blinked for a little while, "you're Christa's twin?"
"Yep," Historia nodded with a smile, a cool aura around her unlike anything Annie recalled from the past girl during the trainees camp.
"More like the better half," Eren interjected. "But well… this is technically Christa, but who she is now – her true self."
"…" Annie took a while to check again, Historia now giving her a bright and fake smile reminiscent of the old girl she briefly knew.
They hadn't ever been close but Christa had always been forward with all the girls including her, which meant she was just about the only person who tried to speak up to her besides Mina and then Hitch.
"So… what's your relation?" Annie asked openly.
"… Eh?" They both turned to her and muttered in unison, causing her eyes to narrow like she had gotten a hint.
"Nothing, what are you talking about…" Eren plainly replied.
"Yeah, there's nothing between us if that's what you're asking…" Historia agreed with him entirely and they both nodded together.
"…" She sat down with her arms folded and giving them alternating looks.
"What?" Eren snapped after a minute's silence.
"What?" Annie copied him with an annoyed look, causing him to look away.
Historia smiled easily at Annie before she turned away from her too.
"Anyway…" The smaller blonde pulled off the hoodie, revealing a modest country dress as she handed it over towards the female Titan shifter. "Relax and enjoy the ride. We'll reach Wall Maria by midday tomorrow."
"Assuming we don't have to run before then," Eren pointed out, rubbing his knees gently before turning to Annie. "Are you able to talk now?"
"…" She hesitated. By all means there was no danger in revealing anything now. Eren had already committed himself to this escape, and clearly had already done so at least a few months ago. "… Not everything. Not yet."
"Why?" Eren frowned distastefully. "At least start with how long will it take to get to your hometown."
"2 weeks," she answered. The other girl glanced between them, looking a bit more uncertainly. "There's a place we'll stop before then for supplies first. Assuming there's any left."
"Alright…" He nodded to her. "What then?"
"…" She gave him the silent treatment.
Waiting for her patiently, Eren felt Historia hit his leg lightly, gesturing him over to Annie.
"After we leave the walls and get supply, we leave Midgard and cross into Jotunheim?" Eren added.
"Oh? So you're hometown is in Jotunheim," Historia perked up in curiosity, "so it's inside the Titan's originating land…?"
"Yeah, how has it survived until now?" The Titan shifter continued. "… Annie?"
"Shut up," Annie told him easily.
"… Why?" He countered back.
"… About how you've changed."
Eren watched the blonde's cold reflection in the carriage glass.
As though she was giving him a telling look.
Piercing past his soul and looking for a straight answer.
The existence known as Eren Jaeger.
He wasn't that person anymore.
He was escaping.
From the life of Eren Jaeger and abandoning everything he knew.
He was giving up on the ways in which Eren Jaeger had lived.
And was making his own escape.
So then who was he now?
In the end, we never really did learn if there was any other way for Annie's crystal to become undone although we also saw the Warhammer Titan using it, although in this case Lara Tyber was conscious and so supposedly would have been able to release it on their own. We did get mentioned about the abilities of the Female Titan to mimic other Titan shifters (perhaps meaning the crystal shell was a power of the Warhammer and Annie may not have that same control?) but despite being a very high potential ability, we never did see it getting used in the last fight.
But yeah, since I rather like the potential it has and could work very well here, I'm going to keep this 'mimicking' ability here as the Female Titan/Annie's power here.
However… the Titan shifters/Titan types are going to be rather different from canon here lol. Sorry as well that I didn't show the story of Grisha in this AU and everything which the Scouts found out since that's what I wanted to recount in the next few chapters as Eren and Annie depart into the outside world and talk about the contents of Grisha's books and Annie/the village's goal on the way.
Will talk more specifics later on I guess haha, but will have canon characters here in this AU setting and those from canon "Marley" (which won't exist here, at least not in the same way at all) and other nations in and old AoT setting.
She was right.
Annie had been right.
'Only a little though.' He corrected himself.
Ever since he returned from that Basement that day, he really hadn't felt like himself.
The story of his father had been confirmed in his memories.
When Mikasa and Armin had rushed to him after he woke again in the night, he informed them about his dreams.
Dreams which he knew fully where his father's memories.
And then of other people.
Other people who were not him.
No matter how many memories of the former he lived through, he knew at the end of the day, he was always the latter.
Eren knew they were just memories…
The lives of those that came before him and had been left for him to carry on.
He knew they didn't belong to him.
They were not who Eren Jaeger was.
They were not who he was.
'…can you then say whether you are you?'