"Rogue, no you have to wear it."
"Come on! It's not bad Rogue!" Hange continued with eyes sparkling in excitement and nearly squealing as usual. "It's actually quite cute!"
"EEIII NNOO IIKKEE." The titan put bluntly, neck straining and chin buried in his clavicle as he tried to look upon the thing that was now around his neck. Growling like an irritated feline, Rogue reached up to bat at the thick leather band around his neck. He wanted it off. "NOOO."
Armin sighed; frowning with his shoulders slumped as the titan continued to project his displeasure in short hisses and disapproving grunts. "Rogue, you're going to have to get used to the collar. You can't go to Stohess without it."
Rogue groaned, fingers still pushing themselves behind the band with strong disapproval. His misfortune began nearly fifteen minutes ago. He had been practicing Hange's teachings in the courtyard with his little ones when Molbit and the mad scientist herself had approached him with what she said was a 'present' in a wooden crate that had just arrived at the castle. Knowing that the word 'present' was a good word that meant gratification, Rogue had been elated to see what he was getting. When Hange opened the box and held up a big leather strip that was stitched neatly with a metal loop and buckle, the titan instantly recognized what the object was. From his times roaming in his forest, he knew the object to be a collar – something that a canine wore when it was owned by a man and walked on a rope. Normally, he didn't mind when his family messed with his hair and styled it into ridiculous ties and braids –it served as amusement for lots of stressed soldiers and he liked making people laugh. However, the collar was unsettling to him. A seeded instinct told him to refuse and be weary, so when Hange, Molbit, and his little ones attempted to bestow it upon him, Rogue had given in to his own nature and ran in avoidance – pitifully hiding around the castle grounds before being cornered in his nest. It was then that he had no choice but to submit - his friends constantly saying that it was only a temporary thing and he needed it for their trek to Sina the coming day.
That was another thing that Rogue didn't understand fully. The morning after his brief disappearance, Levi had approached him to deliver the news that they had to go to the inner wall of Sina to see Zackley and Nile again to stand trial. According to the Corporal, the Government didn't like him and was on the constant edge that he himself, for any reason, would turn against humanity. They would do anything to get him out of the picture. Since the mission had failed, they had to go and explain why and he was supposed to state his reasons for acting as he did with the exception of a few statements that Levi had warned him not to disclose. But was the collar really needed? Everyone, to his knowledge, knew that he had no intent to prey on him or her whatsoever. So why? Wanting the infernal thing off, Rogue pled his case with a sad sounding whine, lowered ears, and beseeching eyes – a trick that always worked on Hange, usually. "OOFF EEAASSEE."
Unfortunately, Hange shook her head teasingly. "No! No! You're going to have to wear it Rogue! We need you to get used to it!"
The titan snorted, he was going to have to take matters into his own hands. Rogue quickly reached up to run his fingers along the buckle, pulling and tugging in an attempt to remove it. How on earth had the others put it on him!
"Rogue!" A voice shouted through the barrage of troubling sounds that had left his throat. "Rogue!"
At the sharp scold, the titan dropped his task and looked down to see that Levi had entered the barn to stand near Mikasa, arms folded and scowl present as usual. The man's eyes looked long and hard at Rogue before turning to Hange who still had a smile on her face. "Hange, what the hell?"
The creature's heart lifted; maybe the Corporal would help him!
"Do you like it Levi? I think it looks pretty good!" Hange addressed, the man giving a sigh.
"You didn't have to go all out on it. We only needed it for this one excursion in Sina."
At Levi's words, Rogue frowned. Apparently his superior was intent on him wearing the thing as well.
"Well, I wanted it to be durable Levi! I hired a great leatherworker and blacksmith to make it! I even had our insignia pressed into the leather as a nice detail!" Hange laughed, the only person doing so in the room. "I think I should have also requested a nametag and maybe a bell to put on it!"
Rogue observed as the man continued to stare darkly at the jumpy woman, finding absolutely no humor in her statement. His little ones too, had their palms over their faces – the titan could feel his own tinting red in embarrassment.
"No." Levi spoke flatly. "And if you did put a bell on there, hell no. I would have fed you to titans myself. If there was anything that you could have considered to put on it, I'd say a few spikes so he wouldn't fucking mess with the damn thing." The short male continued.
Hange frowned, but suddenly perked up. "Well, either way it's kind of a good thing! If you really think about it, that collar could protect his nape or something –
Aggravated and recalling his current irritation, Rogue growled low in a nonthreatening manner and resumed in trying to detach the collar, fingers trying to pry the strap from the buckle. Damn he wanted the stupid thing off!
The titan looked up to see Levi still wearing an angry scowl, arms folded neatly and tightly across his chest. "EEEVVII, EEII AANNTT OLLARR OOFF."
The man sighed, taking a seat on a nearby barrel of hay to get the weight off his leg. "Look brat, I know that you don't want to wear the thing, but it's a must for your trial in Sina. Sure, Zackley trusts that you're not a threat to him, but take it from me when I say that the people in Sina are – different."
Rogue tilted his head in confusion. Different? How could the humans behind the third wall be any different than those behind the second? Those from Maria that he came across were like those in Rose. Why did Sina differ? "AAHTT UUU NNEEAANN?"
"Well Rogue, Wall Sina is where the rich and wealthy live. Nearly all of its citizens are stuck up aristocrats and merchants. Most of the time, they are a bunch of rude and greedy people who judge everyone new around. The people of Sina have never seen a titan before, Rogue. Their only exposure is what's in the news or horrible stories that have been told to them. This is the reason why you have to be somewhat restrained. Those people automatically are fearful of any titan – you included. If we just let you walk free, it could cause mass panic since it appears that we could have no control over you. With you collared and your wrists chained, it gives them a piece of mind and there will be order – things go quicker. Of course, either way Rogue, those people are going to see you as an animal – like a lion behind iron bars in a zoo. In other words, a lot of shit is going to come from their mouths, they will treat you like a beast. Do you understand why the collar is necessary now?"
Rogue stilled, ears sinking slightly as he attempted to look at the leather band. He could see the reason for their cautioning. If he was human and had never laid eyes on a titan, he would be leery too. The titan sighed, even though he hated the thing, he would have to endure the collar for the time being.
Mikasa smiled, beginning to rub his wrist just as she always did. "Hey, at least you don't have to always wear it." She comforted. "Hange did say that you can take it off after lunch today."
The titan perked up instantly at the news, ears flickering in gladness. Was it true?
"Oh yes Rogue!" Hange added. "We'll take it off after lunch. We just wanted for you to get somewhat used to it before the trip."
Rogue dipped his head in understanding. At least he didn't have to endure the discomfort for the remaining hours of the day.
Levi then turned to Hange, shifting on his heel and glancing over at her messy workspace. "Well, the real reason why I came here was to see if you found out anything about The Female Titan's defense." The Corporal addressed as he waved a finger in the general direction.
At the man's query, Hange's grin vacated from her face before she motioned for her space of work. Spread across the wooden surface of the steel and wood table, were various notes and many contraptions that Rogue could find no name or purpose to. In the middle of the mess lay one of the eerie crystal shards from The Female Titan. It was a good-sized piece, as long as Hange's arm and giving off a soft glow – reflecting every available ray of light in the barn. Rogue blinked, how was the crystal still there even though every part of a titan including the teeth, fingernails, and hair evaporated upon injury or death? Maybe Hange had found an answer. He had seen the scientist up all night the previous evening trying to learn all that she could from it. By the look on her face, was it possible that she had found nothing?
"Well Levi," Hange began as she picked up the shard. "I did find out quite a bit about this thing including what it's made out of. It's – incredible." She dazed off, gawking at the crystalline surface.
"Alright, what's this damn thing made out of and why couldn't we crack it?"
She sighed. "Well to begin, I tested the durability of it – hammering, slicing, and you name it trying to get the thing to crack. When nothing put a scratch on it, I decided to take a deeper look and compare minerals from it to other samples I've taken from titans and a few known rocks and gems. What I discovered explained the reason why it's impenetrable."
Armin raised a brow, curious and eager to know. "What? What material is so hard that not even iron bamboo can cut it?"
"Ah! The shard is composed of two ingredients. Skin cells make it a bit organic, but the other material is what makes it so hard. Believe it or not, the shard isn't crystal as it appears to be but it's rather diamond."
Levi raised a single brow, looking almost surprised. "Really?"
His little ones sat up, the blonde looking incredibly intrigued. "Diamond? You mean like the gems that royalty and the rich wear?" Armin questioned, making the titan tilt his head in puzzlement. He had heard of crystal, but what was diamond and what was so special about it?
"Yes, exactly! It's astounding!"
Rogue grunted, gaining the fours' attention. "AAHHTT DDIIEENNOONNDD?"
Hange opened her mouth to comply, but Levi unexpectedly cleared his throat. "Diamond is the hardest material known to man. Besides a lot of wealthy morons wearing it in Sina, it can actually cut steel, glass, among many other things. It's incredibly expensive which was one of the main reasons why the military uses iron bamboo instead of diamond swords. Although it looks like crystal, it's the furthest thing from it." Levi informed the titan. "It explains why you were hurt so bad and why we were utterly defenseless against her."
Rogue blinked, letting his head sink slightly between his shoulders. No wonder his pelvis was split so easily. The titan roamed among his thoughts, could he ever do such a thing? Knowing The Female Titan could sever his limbs with one hardened kick, it made him wish for the ability to do the same. He could kill titans so easily – maybe even intelligent ones if he ever came across another one!
"How could that titan harden like that?" Mikasa questioned, face clearly reflecting her concentration on the subject.
Hange casually leaned against her workstation, locks falling loosely as she looked up at the ceiling. "Well, I can't say that this is a hundred percent correct, but I think it could be some sort of rapid sweating by a chemical reaction. The 'crystal' substance was ejected by her pores at a rapid rate – kind of like how sweat glands produce sweat on the human body or how sometimes Rogue ejects steam when he's angry. Maybe there were glands under The Female's skin and muscles that produced the substance by sparking a reaction. It sounds likely, but right now it's just a theory."
Armin nodded slowly, eyes glancing to the hay with what Rogue could call the look when the boy's mind was in motion. "Do you think Rogue could do such a thing?"
Hange tilted her head and looked to the behemoth in amusement, a devious smile growing on her face. "Hmmm… good question Armin. Rogue my dear; do you think you could try to harden your skin? Maybe you remember how The Female Titan did it and you can mimic her process?"
The titan raised a brow. Could he really have the potential to harden his skin? Rogue blinked, holding a finger to his face. Truthfully, he didn't really know how his foe had done it – it seemingly just appeared on her skin and muscle. Perhaps – perhaps he could do so with a bit of concentration. Holding his breath, Rogue glared at his pointer finger with eyes that didn't veer as he focused – thinking about nothing but enclosing his finger in hard diamond. Seconds passed but there was nothing, the only clear change being that he was getting red-faced and growing lightheaded.
However, as much as his lungs ached, he still kept going. He wanted to harden!
The titan still focused, digit now trembling and his face red as a beet. A sliver of blood ran from his nostril.
At the sharpness of the voice, Rogue snapped his head up, billowing steam from his maw as he tried to get a small case of dizziness under control. Feeling the wetness beneath his nose, Rogue reached to wipe the small amount of crimson from his flesh. The titan looked at the red in shock. Had he over exerted himself? How come he couldn't produce the diamond shield?
"You need to stop that now before you blow out whatever blood vessels you have upstairs." Levi ordered sternly. "I don't need you having a damn brain fart."
Rogue sat still, feeling pity at the idea that he didn't succeed in producing what he wanted. Mikasa scaled his knee, giving it a gentle rub as she looked up at him, her grey eyes showing bits of concern.
"Don't worry, you'll get it eventually. It's something that I'm sure a bit of training can unlock." She beamed warmly at him, Rogue reluctantly giving into a nod. He really wanted to be able to do it. The titan sighed, letting out a soft moan of defeat.
Hange exhaled rubbing her chin before looking at him thoughtfully. "True, we could still train and see if it's something he can do – then again he's a totally different species of titan so maybe he can't harden at all but has some sort of other ability that is native to his species." She smiled at him, the idea making him slump in disappointment.
"EEEIII AAANTT TOOO GGEETT HAAARRDD DDOOUUGHH." The titan grumbled – gathering a few snickers at his choice of words.
"Rogue." Levi began flatly. "I think Hange needs to teach you a more – appropriate way to word that."
The titan angled his head. What was wrong with what he just said? He was just making a statement. "EEHH? EEHHII?"
The messy haired female suddenly let her giggles escalate into laughter. "Ha! Well Rogue, it's kind of a human saying that's not exactly a clean one. Say 'I don't know how to harden my skin' or 'I don't know how to do the hardening ability.' One of those two is much better!"
The titan thought for a moment before nodding in agreement. Once more it was silent for several minutes, all souls listening to the chirping birds outside before Armin cleared his throat.
"Speaking of hardening, I wonder if the Armored Titan's plates are composed of the same material."
Rogue squinted, ears facing forward. Armored Titan? Did they mean – the Armored One?
Hange shifted her weight in consideration. "It's possible – but I doubt it. The Armored Titan's plates are completely different in appearance compare to The Female's hardened skin. Those plates seemed like a permanent part of it's body, but I am willing to bet that they are made up of skin cells and another hardened organic material."
Feeling the great need to ask, Rogue grunted again in worry, gaining his companions' attention.
"What is it Rogue?" The dark haired teen acknowledged.
The titan dithered. "UUHH… AASSS AARRNNOORRDD TTIITTAANN NNOO SSKINN? EELLOOW IITTHH AAA TTUURRTTLE FAACCE?" Rogue asked innocuously, wanting to see if he was correct.
"Yes Rogue – that's the Armored Titan." Hange replied suspiciously. "Did you see that titan – remember it?"
The creature threaded his fingers through his toes. "EEIII SSEEEE EETT AATT TRRRROOSST. EETT LEETTT IITTAANNS EENN. SSTANNDD LETT EEMM EEN." Rogue explained, but to his surprise, they only looked at one another with expressions that he couldn't quite read. It was a long moment of silence once again before Armin spoke up.
"Come to think of it, why would the Armored Titan not even advance and break through the inner gate like it had in Shiganshina? Why did it just stand and retreat as the other titans moved into the district?"
"I never – thought about that." Hange trailed off in an obvious daze.
"That is weird." Levi added, burring his chin into his hand. "It doesn't make much sense. Come to think of it, we haven't seen that giant battering ram in months. Let alone it disappeared for five years after the first breach before suddenly showing its face once again."
"You're right, Levi. That is rather odd. The Colossal Titan hasn't shown its face since the first breach." Hange paused, tapping her foot and swinging her arms. " Who knows, the last of Humanity is behind walls. After a hundred years of craving human blood, perhaps they converged to make their evasion. Maybe they are just as desperate as we are."
The Corporal sighed. "Well I'm just going to dwell on it." The man muttered as he gathered his crutches. "I've got some paperwork to take care of so take an extra hour for lunch. I'll report your findings of the shard to Erwin. Hell, we could use the damn thing as emergency funds in case we're ever in a bind since as of now there is no way to weaponize it." Levi paused, glancing over at the large piece on the long desk. "It's one hell of a defense method I'll give you that."
"Yeah." Hange sighed. "I'll continue to study it to see if there is anything else that can break it among other things."
With the woman's statement, Levi gave a simple nod and turned to leave the barn – moving awkwardly on his crutches, the titan's keen ears hearing the man's angry and frustrated grunts doing so. Hange then stretched, arms reaching to the heavens and emitting a bizarre squeal from her fatigued frame.
"Well," She spoke, scratching her scalp. "You three are welcome to run off for a while and have lunch or whatever. I don't want to bore you plus it's a nice day!"
"Really, you don't want assistance?" The blonde queried. "I could help you with note taking."
Hange shook her head. "I have Molbit for that. Besides, you three deserve some time to yourselves. I'm going to be working with some hazardous materials anyway. When the break's over, come back and we can remove the collar." Hange concluded without another word as she exited the barn, most likely in search of her assistant.
The titan then sat quietly, trying to resist the urge to pull on the collar as he watched his little ones exchange glances before turning their eyes to him. Armin waved his hands hesitantly, making the beast wonder what the boy wanted to disclose.
"Hey Rogue, Mikasa and I were wondering if you'd like to join us in a picnic – and visit Petra and the others."
The sun peeked high in the sky without a cloud to be seen. It was just like any day on the verge of fall. The weather was perfect, not too hot or cold and neither humid or chilly. The forest hadn't even begun to turn gold with the shifting of seasons. Rogue smiled to himself slightly. He always liked the particular time of year second to the time of spring. To the titan, he considered the period of winter transitioning to spring as life and fall to winter as the beginning of death – or perhaps a deathless sleep. It fascinated him.
The titan glanced from the corner of his eye to catch his two little ones whispering in one another's ear so quietly that he couldn't pick anything up. If he had to guess their context behind their silent words, Rogue would say that it was the two teens expressing their worry with one another about him. Over the last few days, his babies had asked him about seeing Petra, which still had him confused since its mention. Petra was long gone and with his humans up in the place called heaven. If she wasn't alive, then what did they mean? Well, he was visiting her somehow. His little ones would never lie to him.
Rogue allowed his peeking eyes to wander back the surrounding forest, following the running stream that shrouded the area in peace. Truthfully, he was nervous about seeing Petra or what remained of her. Since her death, he had experienced a great amount of depression and anguish that crippled both his heart and mind. In the week that had passed, the titan was slowly recuperating – putting on a smile to hide any pain. However, at points, her death still haunted him – making him go from cheerful to melancholy in seconds. Often, he tried to hide his feelings, but his little ones' keen eyes still caught him frowning and looking to his feet. As always, they encouraged and he recovered knowing that it wasn't his fault for what happened. Rogue swallowed, ears sinking a bit in weary expectancy. He wasn't sure what was to happen.
The titan looked to his little ones, green pools wide in curiosity as he nudged them with his chin. They hadn't given him any direction in a while and he didn't want to get lost. He had never been in this part of the forest before. After his bid for attention, the two faces looked up at him, beaming tenderly.
"Just keep walking straight Rogue." Armin grinned. "Where we're going is just beyond that line of trees – where the rose bush is." The small blonde explained as he gestured to a thick patch of closely-knit trees and a large bush decorated in bright red and beautiful flowers. "It's about time too. I don't know how much longer I could stand my stomach rumbling."
The titan huffed and with a nod, continued forward. As he happened upon the rose bush and the group of trees, Rogue carefully reached in the foliage to split the branches away from his wake and forbid the tree's fingers and claws from laying a scratch on his two companions. After shimmying through the upper greenery, Rogue blinked to adjust to the change of light and in curiosity. Before him was a clearing that brought his tapered ears erect in interest. Sunlight blanketed the area in a soft light, revealing every detail and even those that couldn't have been seen from beneath a roof of leaves. Other than various parts of the wood, the grass was trimmed and well kept – showing that the flying humans visited the place often. The most perplexing thing that the titan scrutinized was that the area was covered in various flowers in an array of colors – even new colors that he wasn't familiar with or that seemed to be a mix of others. Scattered around the glade were many stones that were unlike any that he had ever seen. They were smooth and a series of intricate lines were scribed upon their surface. They sat almost everywhere in the grass, the shallow part of the river, and upon the tall rock cliffs that almost surrounded the secretive little place. Rogue tilted his head. What was this strange habitation?
Feeling tiny hands tug on his hair, the titan lifted his palm to take his babies on a journey to the earth. "AAHHTT IISS LLAACCEE?" Rogue questioned as his little ones set foot onto the lush grass and gathered their picnicking materials, setting them neatly aside before turning to him.
"This is what the Scouts call a memorial garden, Rogue." Armin answered as he gestured to a nearby stone. "Memorial gardens, or this garden in particular, is where we honor those soldiers or others that lost their lives. The stones you see around you represent each Scout that has passed on. Although their bodies are gone, a part of them is still left behind here." His little one explained. "A lot of us come here to pay our respects to our friends – try to feel their spirit if you wish to put it that way."
Rogue nodded softly, eyes watching in intrigue as his little one motioned for a nearby set of stones. By the slight tilling of dirt, the titan could easily determine that the stones were recently placed. The cluster was small, and daisies were nestled in between them. Rogue rumbled quietly, kneeling further to rest on his knees and arch his spine to look upon the human scribbles. The titan then recognized that some of the marks were actually letters – those that Hange had taught him. Rogue then realized that he was looking at readable words in human tongue. However, the words contained letters that he was unfamiliar with. The titan opened his mouth slightly, trying to sound out single syllables that sounded like a collection of strange grunts that made the creature's two friends fight giggles. Understanding that he wasn't going to be able to sound out a single word, Rogue gave in and pointed to one of the scribbles. "AAHHTT SAAAEE?"
The titan watched as Armin and Mikasa knelt down to seat themselves in the grass next to him, looking at the stone that he was currently gesturing at. "Each rock has a Scout's name written on it. The one you're pointing at is Eld's. The one here," Armin continued as he let his index finger drift to the one next to it. "Is Oluo's. This one neighboring it is Gunter's and this one," His little one illustrated as he pointed to the last stone in the line – one that was very beautiful and graced in shades of tan and flecks of pink and pearl. "This rock is Petra's, Rogue."
The titan felt himself grow soft and warmth spreading into his stomach. Her sweet smile and words came back to him, making the broken feeling return – a feeling of need, a maternal need. He couldn't explain why he always wanted some motherly figure to guide and nurture. For a long time, Carla had filled the hole, but when she had become a titan's morsel, Petra took her role. Unfortunately, that pleasure was short lived. He did have Hange that he was thankful for, but Petra deserved to live her life. Like Carla, Petra was special. She didn't deserve such a horrible death. He missed her so much already. The titan whined quietly, reaching out to touch the stone bearing the redhead's name. For a long moment, the three were quiet, listening to the chirps of visiting birds. It was easy for Rogue to sense that his little ones were speechless, simply looking for something to say. Finally, Mikasa stood. Seeing her leave the shelter of his knee, the titan lifted his head to monitor the young teen as she strolled to a rose bush. Mikasa scrutinized each vibrant bud, taking a moment to run her delicate fingers among the petals to examine. Finally, the teen carefully snuck her hand into the twigs and snapped off a rose – careful of the prickly thorns. Rogue tilted his head in question, what was his little one doing?
"HEEEII IICCKK OOWEERR?" Rogue queried, moving a bit to make room for the teen to kneel to Petra's stone.
"This is how a lot of people pay their respects. They bring flowers here and do this." Mikasa demonstrated kindly, placing the rose at the base of the stone. "When the flower withers up and turns brown, a lot of people replace them with new ones."
Rogue grunted in understanding, a small smile coming to his deformed face. Wanting to do the same, the titan lifted himself onto his heels and lumbered towards a pink rose bush on all fours, the trembling ground vibrating the stones of the clearing and the glassware in the basket. Rogue then reached for the bush, pausing as he tried to figure out how to mirror Mikasa's action. The thorns wouldn't pierce his leathery hide, but the problem was how to pick the roses without damaging them with his giant fingers. However, too spirited to care, Rogue pinched the stalk of the plant between his index finger and thumb and gave a short tug – effectively retrieving the whole bush. Purring, the titan then navigated back to his two little ones. With their eyes watching in intrigue, the beast lowered the plant to the ground behind the stone. Rogue rumbled contently, rotating his head to reveal a crooked and blissful smile.
Armin giggled. "Well, I guess you can say that's a lot of respect!" The young male laughed, the titan replying with an eager nod.
"We could plant the bush there." Mikasa suggested. "That way the roses don't die. The bush could be Petra's."
Liking the dark haired teen's idea, Rogue nodded eagerly and lifted the bush. With a single finger, the titan made a good-sized hole and sat the plant upright in it, following his little one's instructions from when they planted crops in the cove. To complete the small task, Rogue then sheltered the roots with the rich soil before sitting back to admire his work. Surprisingly, it was straight and much better than the first time he tried planting – having put in the small apple tree upside down thinking that the roots would grow leaves and sprout fruit as well. "EETTRRAAS OOWWERS."
"That looks great." The blonde smiled. "You did a good job." Armin congratulated as Mikasa got to her feet again and retrieved a glass from the wicker basket. The two watched as she dipped the cup into the stream – filling it with liquid crystal before making her way to the replanted bush.
"Let's give it some water." The teen smiled softly as she lowered the cup to the base of the plant and began to relieve the glass – feeding the flowers. "That way it has a good start."
Rogue simply nodded, ears flickering as he watched the cup empty. It amazed him how something as simple as paying respects helped him. Though the gesture was small, it made a great impact. The titan then came to a realization: he had never done such a thing for his humans. Getting an idea, the titan rose to his feet.
"What are you doing?"
"OOOOHH SEEE." Rogue replied as he began to look around the stony wall, eyes searching for a suitable stone. Emerald pools scanned the crevices and fingers felt among the moss, looking for what he could deem perfect. A fairly round and smooth stone came across the titan's vision, provoking him to pick it up and place it into his palm for observation. Like Petra's it was beautiful, but with specks of blue and silver. Deciding it was good, Rogue kept it in hand as he continued his search for another suitable rock – humming pleasantly.
The titan carefully selected another rock, very similar to the one in his hand and sent it to join it. Satisfied with the stones, Rogue then proceeded to a patch of roses of different hues. The yellow bush was like his Carla, bright and sunny. The red roses were lovely as well, but for Grisha, he liked white. With his decision final, the titan retrieved the two rose bushes and began to make his way back over to where his little ones sat – their eyes peering up at him in wonder. Rogue kneeled, resting his knees into the grass and opened his palm. Judiciously, the titan then plucked the two stones from his hand and pressed the two into the soft soil, humming to himself as he did so.
"Are you – making a memorial for someone?" Armin questioned with the beast giving a quick nod in reply.
"EESS! EEIII NNAKKEE NNORRIAAL OORR CCCUURRLLAA UUNND GRRISSAA."
The titan missed their slight shock for he was too busy getting the stones quite right. Nonetheless, he caught their smiles, as the stones became just how he wanted them. Rogue then began to replant the bushes.
"So you're making a place for the Jaegers?"
He nodded, leisurely digging a shallow hole.
"That's nice." Armin grinned gently as he watched Mikasa retrieve more water.
"Come to think of it," the young woman began softly. "We never honored Carla or Grisha, let alone put them to rest because of all the carnage and chaos. It's great that we're doing this now."
"ESS! EETERR DDANN NNEEVERR." Rogue beamed down at them, enjoying their support. His little ones nodded in agreement. Mikasa then began to water the roses, the titan tilting his head, overlooking his work to ensure that it was just how he envisioned. His humans' memorials had to be perfect. However, his donations were not up to standards. Knowing just what it was, Rogue grunted loudly and gestured to his humans' stones, pointing repeatedly and then turning his finger to Petra's before displaying his request again with the two rocks. Their names had to be on them. But alas, he had no skill or physical means to meet that demand. The titan whined mutely, a little irritated that he couldn't do so, but he was happy to know that his little ones could.
"What is it Rogue?" Armin asked, obviously noticing his lack of patience.
"NNAANNEE. LEEAASSEE RRIITTEE NNAANEE." The titan pleaded, ears fluttering and green pools shimmering.
"Oh! You want their names on there like all the other rocks." Armin translated.
"What do we use to write?" Mikasa queried as she sat the cup down. "I don't have anything that we could do it with."
Recalling his own drawings on the quarry walls, Rogue grunted in excitement. "NNUUD!" The titan put forth, remembering clearly that something in the wet earth stained the rock face of the quarry. "RRIITTEE IINN NNUUDD!" He pointed to the stream, watching in almost amusement as his little ones turned to look at the banks.
"Oh yeah," Armin spoke as he stood and motioned across the clearing before bending at the water's edge. "The mud around here is really red, the pigment in it acts almost like a dye." The blond informed as he dipped a finger into the moist soil. "It's actually used to make paint. It should work temporarily until we can get something permanent." The blonde teen educated as he covered a finger in the reddish brown mud. "Which do you want as Carla's and Grisha's?" His little one queried, smiling as he waited on his request.
"CUURRLLAA." Rogue informed as he pointed to the yellowish rock and then to the other. "GGRRIISSAA."
The titan watched in intrigue as his little one knelt down just past his shadow and began to move his finger along the surface of the rock. In awe, Rogue bent even further to where his locks mixed with the blades of grass – nose and chin just inches from the small teen. It amazed him so how humans wrote words that translated into spoken words. Humans were so gifted. He wished that he could do the same so some of the words that he couldn't pronounce could be easier convey to his family. Deep down, he did hate his speech impediment when it came to having conversation. Even though she couldn't speak as well as a human, The Female Titan was much better at the craft than he was. He envied her possession of lips. His lack of them was both a blessing and a curse. But he made do with what he had. At least he could speak. That was all that mattered.
Rogue watched as Armin completed the last letter in his lost human's name before moving to the good doctor's stone. The titan tilted his head, watching as the boy's finger made curves and lines – trying to memorize them. Maybe he could write too.
"Well what do you think?" The teen beamed as he stood to admire his work, bumping into the titan's nose slightly. "Do you like it?"
Looking at their names, his chest grew warm once again. Carla and Grisha now had something physical retaining to them – a place where he could come see them as he could see Petra. Having their names scribed upon the stone only made his tribute even better. Thankful, Rogue then set his body low to the ground and let out a rumbling purr with the addition of nuzzling the boy with his nose.
"I'll take that as a yes." Armin tittered, words barely heard above the titan's loud display of affection. Just as the beast paused to verbally thank him, his ears heard the tell tale complaints of Armin's belly. He knew what that meant.
"HHUUNNGRRE?" Rogue asked, tilting his head like a curious dog. The teen nodded.
"Oh yeah! I forgot that I'm actually famished!" Armin laughed, turning to Mikasa. "Do want to pick a spot?"
"In the middle of the clearing is good. There is enough room for all of us."
Following the female's lead, the titan watched as his two little ones unfolded the large cloth and laid it across the grass, quickly sitting upon it so it wasn't ruffled by the gentle breeze. Rogue positioned himself as compact as he could. Even though the clearing was a large one, he didn't want to step or sit on any of the memorial stones. Finally comfortable after several attempts to cross his legs, the titan began to settle and watch his little ones take out their meals. Commonly, they ate things that they called 'sandwiches' again – leaves, meat and vegetables nestled between bread. Rogue kept quiet, watching the two humans chew. He then began to wonder into his thoughts of what had happened the week before, recalling how he actually wanted to eat the other titan that caused him so much suffering. Never in his years had he actually felt like feeding. Sure, he never felt what it was like to be hungry, but it made him wonder why he was so willing to try the blood of his kind. He knew that Hange was probably right, but even if he ever felt hunger – he didn't want to eat. The after effect was far from enjoyable and what was the point when all he did was throw up his stomach contents after?
Rogue then glanced to his feet, thinking back to the art of writing. He really did want to try. Deciding that it was a suitable way to get his mind off things, the titan lifted a hand to smooth out a nearby brown patch in the grass and lowered a clawed finger, teeth grinding in the slightest as he tried to decide what to write. He wanted to scribe his name in the dirt, but he lacked the knowledge of the entire alphabet. He only knew two letters in his name. The other three he hadn't covered. Unaware that his little ones were watching him, Rogue began to move his finger in the dirt. He would have to guess the other letters. Starting with what he knew, the titan messily wrote a barely legible 'G' in the soil with an equally blurry 'E' right before it – unknowingly writing backwards with the grace of a toddler. After scribing what he knew, Rogue began to make up the other letters using some of the same curves and lines that Armin had used previously.
"What are you doing Rogue?" Mikasa questioned. "Are you drawing?"
The titan looked up at the two, caught off guard. He didn't really want to distract them from eating. However, with their kind looks, he knew that they were expecting an answer. "EIII… RRIIHHTT NNAANNEE." He clarified. To his surprise, they left the blanket and came to the bald spot in the grass, still eating their food and looking at his letters with their brows raised in wonder.
"You're – writing?" Mikasa spoke up after swallowing her morsel. "Writing your name?"
Feeling a little embarrassed, Rogue gave a small grunt to confirm. If the titan could look upon himself in a mirror it would have been evident that he was blushing. He knew he was probably writing his name wrong. "EEIII… DDUUNNOOHH OWW DDOOUGGH." Rogue muttered, feeling a case of bashfulness settle in. "NNAAHHTT NNOO AAALL ETTEERS."
Armin smiled, suddenly taking a seat on the grass without a care about ruining the clean state of his garbs. "Well, you've got two letters right. The 'E' and the 'G.' However you have them backwards. In your name Rogue, the 'G' goes before the 'E.' The other letters in your name are 'R," The teen continued as he drew a new letter into the dirt – a loop with two sticks. "That is the first letter in your name. The second letter is an 'O." His little one continued as he drew a tall circle. "The next is 'G' and the letter after that is a 'U." The blonde drew. "Finally there is the 'E', which is the last letter." Armin educated, gesturing to the sequence. "That's how you spell your name, Rogue." Armin beamed widely. "Why don't you copy what I wrote?"
The titan hesitated, looking at his little one's letters and trying to remember the strokes. Gradually, the titan pressed his finger into the dirt and began to draw a line. The beast tried his best to copy Armin's fluid strokes and letters, but paused several times to erase a letter to make enough room for the others. Finally after several retries, Rogue had messily spelt his name. The titan's jaw contorted into the best and also the most awkward smile his mouth could make. For the first time ever, he had wrote his name! He could write! He could sign his name on his large doodles in the earth and scribe his name on everything that he wanted so Levi could say that he couldn't take it because it wasn't his! Rogue chirped loudly in excitement, completely enthused at his accomplishment. His humans and Petra would have been so proud of him!
The behemoth looked to his babies with expectancy, waiting for praise as he usually did. As he figured, they looked ecstatic.
"That's great!" Mikasa grinned tenderly, getting to her feet and tapping his index finger in congratulation. "Hange is going to be thrilled. Now, how about we make it a bit more challenging?" The dark haired teen continued as her foot swiped through both Armin and his own works – provoking a whine in disappointment from the titan. "How about you write it again without looking at anything and just memorizing it?"
Rogue's body stiffened slightly as he lowered his finger again on the fresh earthy pallet. Copying his name was a fairly easy task. But could he remember it? For as long as he had known, he had difficulty in remembering things in his lessons, never getting anything correct on the first try and taking a week or more just to learn simple phrases, complex shapes, colors, or numbers. It was another thing he hated. He didn't know why he had such difficulty. Nonetheless, he was determined to try. Rogue then began to write, quickly growing irritated as he tried to mimic his earlier moves. The beast grumbled at the exertion, brow furrowing and nibbling on his own tongue as he worked. Finally, he lifted his finger and waited on his little ones' critique.
"Well, it's a good try." Armin smiled sympathetically. "You got the 'U' and the 'G' mixed up. But that's kind of an honest mistake. 'Rouge' looks an awful lot like 'Rogue' – a lot of people actually mix that up all the time." The teen chuckled, trying to humor the titan. "Your lines are a little shaky, but that's because you're nervous. Don't be nervous! Just loosen up! Remember Rogue, no one is perfect and lots of people never get something on the first try!"
Realizing that his little one had more than likely made note of his disappointed expression, Rogue forced a smile and nodded in understanding. Yes, he couldn't be nervous. He had to be patient. He had to be loose. So he made a second attempt, doing as Armin said, the two teens smiling in delight.
"That's good Rogue, just don't leave out the 'O." Mikasa encouraged, the titan noticing error due to his negligence. Quickly, he scribbled it out to try again – making sure that he had everything in exactly where it should be.
"That's great!" Armin boasted. "You're right! Your writing is easier to read too because you relaxed. Well done!"
Rogue trilled loudly, scrunching his eyes and wiggling his ears in thanks. He had done it.
"Good, now would you like to learn how to write our names?" The blonde inquired.
At his suggestion, Rogue nodded profoundly. He wanted to learn how to write his little ones' names too!
"Alright," Armin began as he started to trace in the dirt. "My name is pretty easy to spell – it's exactly how it sounds. The letter 'A' is first –
The titan sat quietly as he observed the teen explain and express his teachings, his green irises traveling along with each stroke. Rogue bent to peer closer, wanting to take in every detail for he wanted to succeed on his first attempt. Suddenly, a force pulled him from his concentration; something was off. Instinctively, Rogue left his lesson by lifting his head to sniff aggressively – causing his little ones to go in a state of alarm and concern.
"Rogue? What's going on? What do you smell?"
His brow furrowed, skin prickling and hairs rising at the scent. The titan swallowed nervously, immediately positioning himself in a balanced squat and placing his little ones beneath him and behind a protective hand. Something wasn't right. The scent was human, but it didn't match any of the flying humans he knew or any of the other military personnel he had met. These humans were strangers, and they were in his pack's territory.
He did not like this.
As the snapping of sticks met his ears, Rogue peered sharply at the tree line. There were two sets of footprints, two heartbeats, and two distinctively different breaths. The titan hunkered down over his two babies who had donned looks of fear in light of his precautionary measures. Emerald hues watched as two men suddenly emerged from the foliage. The men wore clothes of an earthy tone and looked at the titan with intent. But it wasn't their sudden appearance that made Rogue hunker over his precious babies even further with tapered ears folded over in aggression. What the men held in their hands was the source to his alarm.
In both of their arms, the men held two long guns. Weapons that he knew were fashioned to instantly kill or badly wound, tools of bloodshed that were quickly lifted to point at him.
Rogue growled deeply, eyes turning feral. In truth, he wasn't fearful of the bullets that he had seen go through deer flesh countless times. Such a weapon would do nothing to him. But to his babies – the damage would be catastrophic. Knowing this, Rogue bent even lower in protection, eyes narrowed and hairs standing on his scalp. How did these humans end up here?
"Shit! Shit!" One of the men spoke beneath his breath, frantically looking at the other man. "It's huge! Holy shit it's huge!"
"Shut up!" The man before him snarled, still aiming his gun at its mark.
Why were the men not leaving? He had seen humans carry long rifles to hunt game, but normal humans were not supposed to come into Scout territory. To his knowledge, the fence around the perimeter was supposed to ward them away. Why had these humans crossed it? They knew not to come. So what was their reason?
"Damn this thing is ugly." The braver of the two, although not by much, sneered – obviously not secure with the amount of sweat on his brow. "It's one mean looking son of a bitch."
Rogue snarled sharply as both rejection and as a warning. His eyes narrowed menacingly, glowing with wrath and slits as thin as paper. As the leading man took a shaky step in advance, the titan jerked forward with a booming roar before holding his stance – sending a wet trail down the more cowardly man's pants and running back into the trees. Rogue snorted in disgust, wild hues turning back to the remaining intruder. Why hadn't this man bounded away while nearly tripping over himself? He could practically hear his rapid heartbeat pound against his ribcage. Why?
"Rogue!" Armin frantically whispered below him. "Whatever happens, don't attack them!"
The titan had no time to question anything as the man gradually angled his gun, lowering it to where his babies peeked over his hand. Rogue immediately arched his spine further; chin nearly touching the ground to shield his precious cargo even greater. The beast's eyes were nearly illuminating a solid green as Rogue allowed an idea to form in his head on just who the two men were. They looked to be after his little ones! Why else would this man before him lower his gun where the tip pointed at Armin and Mikasa! Maybe, just maybe, from all those years ago, these two men were related to the three that tried to take his babies away the first time they met! If this was true, he didn't have a single problem with killing them.
Rogue growled louder and deeper, making the crystal surface of the stream ripple violently. Then again, why was his little one telling him not to attack? They couldn't have known these people and vice versa. Otherwise, the two men wouldn't have their guns drawn. Damn it! What was he supposed to do! If these men were truly what he thought them to be, he would have to disobey and kill them, but deep down he wanted to trust Armin – the boy was right about things and knew a lot more than he did. So he had to just scare them – hopefully.
"Rogue! Don't attack! Don't kill him."
Hearing his little one again, Rogue took the words to mind – still not budging and keeping his furious gaze onto the armed man. However, the stress only greatened.
"Damn big bastard." The titan caught the man uttering. "I'm going to have to make him move."
Rogue narrowed his eyes. Yes, this man had to be associated with one of the kidnappers from years ago. He was sure of it. He wanted him to move so he could get to his little ones! With the idea in mind, Rogue bellowed loudly, breath whipping the grass and bushes. However, his action seemed to be the trigger that the man needed to pull as he suddenly lifted the rifle and commanded it to fire – the bullet disappearing into Rogue's bicep. The titan winced, eyes darting to look upon his arm to see a closing and steamy hole with a small river of blood flowing down his curved flesh. The beast's heart began to pound. The man had shot him. He really shot him! He wanted to kill him! Oh how he wanted to kill him! The fucker had commanded a bullet to penetrate his skin! Near his little ones even! He wanted to slaughter him, paint the roses red!
"Rogue! Don't! Nothing good will become of it!" Mikasa worded from below.
The titan frowned, heart still hammering his rib cage. Something was amiss. Why were his little ones telling him to hold back? Wait. How had that bullet gotten past his skin? Only cannonballs, iron bamboo blades and needles, and diamond hard skin could break his leathery flesh. Although he was confused, he remained in his defensive stance as the wound healed. Perhaps his little ones were onto something that he was blind to see.
The sudden voice silenced the clearing. Knowing just who it was, the four turned to see Levi, Erwin, Mike, Hange, and several other officers approaching on horseback. The sight made Rogue smile inwardly, at least the other members of his family could lay a hand on the man. The titan turned to face the intruder again, only to see that he had vanished from his spot and darted back into the woods, leaving behind a foggy wall of colored smoke.
"What just happened?" Erwin demanded as he dismounted his horse along with Levi and Hange whom had begun to take observation – the shorter male ordering the others to follow the man into the woods.
Knowing that it was safe to do so, Rogue released his cargo and Armin didn't hesitate to fill them in.
"We were just sitting her teaching Rogue how to do something when two men showed up with guns. Rogue scared one of them off but the other stood his ground for a while. Even though Rogue made no move to harm him, the man shot his right arm."
"What!" Hange cried upon hearing Armin speak the truth. "They shot him!"
Rogue dipped his head. "EEERREE." The titan pointed to his arm, letting the closing hole come into view – the wound disappearing in a puff of steam. As he expected, Hange bounded over and began to rub her fingers along his taught skin.
"That's odd. Normal bullets can only pierce the mucus membrane of a titan's eye. How could this one pierce his body?" The scientist thought aloud. "We'll have to dig it out so I can see why." Hange concluded with the titan nearly groaning at the idea – but ultimately deciding it was for the best.
"Yeah, it was no accident." Levi spoke as he brought himself back to the group. "We need to go over this immediately. The main hunter was someone I recognized. I remember seeing him a few years ago, but as far as his name I'm fucking clueless."
The Commander's brows narrowed. "Who?"
"He was an MP."
Rogue carefully lowered himself to where he lay down with his hands propping up his chin and bicep easily accessible. For a moment, the titan watched as the barn filled with soldiers and all of the higher ups settling themselves in for an imminent discussion before looking at Hange. The scientist was approaching him with a ladder and a metal box. She then set up the ladder and scaled it, setting her box on its top step and opening the tin lid to reveal several sharp and menacing tools. Rogue swallowed, they were definitely meant to carve flesh. Although he wouldn't likely feel any pain, his hatred for knives and medical tools forced a worried whine to resonate out of his throat.
Upon hearing his stressed vocal, Hange looked up at him sympathetically, face easy with a soft but caring smile. "Don't worry, Rogue. I'm going to be quick. This shouldn't hurt at all. It's certainly less bloody and painful than you just ripping your arm off and letting it evaporate so we can retrieve the bullet. Just hold still for me!" She hummed as she selected a tool – a short knife, and began to make her incision. Feeling no hint of agony, the titan let out a sigh and tried to relax. However, such a practice was difficult. He couldn't fully grasp what had happened in the garden. Why had those men come there? Could they really have been what he thought they were? Was it an MP like Levi had said? Rogue blinked slowly, his worries nibbling at his mind as green hues watched Hange clamp the split apart flesh to forbid it closing on her – observing as the woman wiped away the dripping blood contently. Knowing that his wound was nothing serious, the titan then focused on the cluster of Scouts before him.
"So Corporal," Erwin initiated strongly. "You said the man was an MP?"
Levi sighed, leaning back against the wall and propping up his crutches. "He WAS an MP. Several years ago I saw him posted as a guard during a meeting in Sina. I recognized him from my memory of seeing him constantly peel the tips of his nails off his fingers. He was dismissed as an MP about six years ago."
Erwin nodded. "I figured as much." He spoke, making Rogue wonder.
"The other man was more on the hefty side with short brown hair and a mustache. Could he have been an MP as well?" Mikasa questioned Levi who began to rub his chin in thought.
"I don't recall seeing anyone of that description in the MPs as long as I've been in the Scouts. He could be a civilian or merchant even – which is pretty likely if Rogue scared him shitless."
"I believe what happened is this," Erwin voiced loudly, gathering everyone's attention. "It's no secret that the MPs see Rogue as a powder keg just waiting to explode. It's entirely possible that some MP officer devised a plot to make it harder for Rogue to defend himself at trial. They were well aware that our probability of winning was greater so they got in contact with the ex MP to organize a way to get Rogue to lash out at a civilian."
"I thought that too, Sir." Armin agreed. "They set it up to look like a hunting accident. The MPs wanted to hire people that they could trust to do the job without them turning on them and reporting their actions. What better than an ex MP? Since he's not enlisted, they could just pass him off as a civilian and it's probably written like so in a census."
Levi sighed. "That's true. Although the military usually keeps records of their former soldiers on file – it is highly likely that proof of the soldier's enlistment has been terminated because a lot of crooked shit happens in the Military Police."
The Commander leaned against the wooden wall of the barn, folding his arms as his brows creased in deep thought. "I just don't know if Nile is really capable of such a thing."
Rogue watched as Armin and Mikasa's brows rose in unison. He too, was puzzled by Erwin's words. Nile hated him and he likewise. How could Nile not be involved if this was true?
"Sir," Mikasa began, the titan noticing that she was struggling to keep her temper in light of her need to protect him. "Nile despises Rogue. During his evaluation, he tried everything to get Zackley to disapprove of him."
"I'm aware, but Nile is the kind of person that loves his position of power. However, I know he is the sly type." Erwin paused; suddenly quiet for several pensive seconds. Rogue blinked, scrutinizing the man to see what appeared as a twinge of hurt. Perhaps the big leader had some sort of a past with Nile that he didn't want to share. "So we can't rule him out as not responsible just yet."
"Yeah this is either Nile's plan or some other group of people." Levi exhaled, hand snaking down to grip the upper portion of his thigh – a thing that Rogue noticed the man did as a habit out of pain along with the distinct deepening of his scowl.
"Well now! He's lucky that this isn't a personal protection round! If that were the case the bullet would have broke off once it pierced Rogue's skin – sending shrapnel all into his arm!" Hange delivered as she turned the utensil to peer at the object in awe as if it were art. "Isn't this strange!" Hange announced loudly in her work, Rogue feeling metal slipping past flesh as the scientist's apparatus pulled out a small cylinder and pointed object from his bloody muscle. Hange held it up for the small crowd of Scouts to see. "I haven't come across one of these in the flesh before! Ha! Literally!"
Rogue watched as Armin's face twisted up in confusion as he stared at the silver object intently. "That bullet… why didn't it melt from Rogue's body heat?"
"Is that what I think it is?" Levi uttered beneath his breath, sounding disgusted.
Hange nodded. "It is." She alliterated, now serious. "It's an iron bamboo bullet."
Armin continued to grow more involved, standing from his seat to look at the bullet with a questionable gaze. "I thought that only our paring blades were made of iron bamboo."
"Well you're correct Armin. They are and so are our cannon rounds. The factories used to manufacture iron bamboo bullets to use against titans as well, but when our maneuver gear was invented along with the fact that bullets really didn't faze a titan whatsoever, they ceased production. That was about seventy years ago. The MPs don't even carry them."
"That's true." The Corporal supported the woman. "The only places you could get one is the black market and probably collectors. When they were discontinued, they were melted down at a temperature hotter than a titan to create more blades. As far as I know, very few of those damn things survived."
"Even with the bullet as proof that Rogue was assaulted, it will be very hard for Zackley to determine the truth since it would be nearly impossible to trace a buyer for that bullet. There are many weapons dealers in numerous illegal markets. It would be a great risk to look for documentation, if it even exists, of a sale of bullets to a buyer." Erwin regretfully informed, making several of the others collectively sigh in the room.
"What should we do if it comes up in the trial, Erwin?" Levi spoke mutely, gaze hooked at the titan with dead earnestly. "We can't prove that it was truly the MP's and the only witnesses of the shooting are Rogue's closest companions that the court will assume to support no matter what, even if that means lying."
The Commander shifted his attention to Rogue, eyes sharp as ever. "Rogue will have to say that he took the necessary precautions in the defense of his comrades. He will have to describe in detail as to what happened. He must inform that he had reason to believe that his fellow Scouts were in danger when the suspect showed no sign of stopping his advance. He must say that he didn't act and only gave them a verbal warning as ordered to by Corporal Levi. Do you understand that Rogue? You must say what I told you if this incident comes up in your trial."
Realizing that the man was speaking directly to him and awaiting an answer, Rogue nodded.
"Now Levi," Erwin continued. "If Rogue is questioned about this, you must show them the bullet as evidence of Rogue's encounter and express that not many people even know that such a bullet exists – most being military personal and mention the identity of the former MP. If anything this will just peek Zackley's curiosity and focus the court's attention to the idea that the MPs could be doing a lot of illegal activity behind closed doors."
"Understood. I assume that if this happens Arlert and Ackerman could be called to the stand anyways to testify as well?"
The Commander nodded in confirmation to Levi. "Yes. However, we must keep in mind that this attack could not even be the MP's at all. Either way, we must keep our guard up. I suspect that there is a chance that this could happen again.
"I'm sure it's going to be okay Rogue." Mikasa spoke softly to him, tone a thoughtful one. "You don't need to worry yourself sick over the trial. Just relax."
The titan sighed, a low whine reverberating through his chest as he gently ran his thumbs over his little ones' heads. Night had fallen upon the Scout's territory and the castle and landscape had grown silent. Hange had long since settled in the backroom leaving the titan and his adopted babies to talk quietly among themselves. Rogue lay on his back in his nesting area with both Armin and Mikasa lying on their bellies facing him upon his pecks. After the higher ups conversation, the truth of what could come if he failed in the trial had settled in. If Zackley didn't believe him about the two men, he knew he was to be killed - taken away from his little ones and family forever. That couldn't happen! He had already been through enough hell! How could people still hate him after he had done so much to help them?
"Mikasa's right." Armin agreed, grabbing the beast's attention from his collarbone yet gain. "You can't stress yourself out Rogue. It could make you too timid to even properly do the trial. You have to relax."
Rogue's ears and brows sank with grief. He could hardly do such a thing knowing the overall risks. "UUTT…. EEII OOSSEE AAIIBBBIESS EEFF NNEESSS UUP." He reminded them, but of course they probably were well aware of the consequences and were just trying to make him feel better. The teens' faces frowned, both looking at one another in worry.
"Rogue, please don't think that." Armin continued. "We still have a good case no matter what. No one was killed earlier and you held back and followed orders. No one's in a body bag or infirmary and that's all that matters. That one guy's pants may be ruined, but that's all you're guilty of." His little one grinned.
The titan huffed at the twinge of humor, letting his skin pull and form into a feeble smile. His little one did have a valid point. Zackley did seem to like him anyway.
"It may sound a bit rude, but there are those that don't know Rogue that believe he's not capable of lying." Armin turned to Mikasa. "That works to our advantage too."
The dark haired teen nodded. "I hate to say it, but you're right."
Although he pitied himself for not being as smart as his two little ones or any other human he knew, Rogue was well aware that his ignorance or 'playing titan' did work to his benefit at points. He could weasel himself out of any situation he got into by acting unaware or pretending to not understand. He had done such to Levi many times without the intelligent man even catching onto him. The titan also did the same to get something he wanted. Keeping this in mind along with his little ones' other words, Rogue settled into the hay. To show the two teens that he trusted their words, the titan emitted a warm purr and angled his head to gift the two with a gentle lick. He then pressed his nose into their tiny frames, feeling their hands upon his pronounced cheeks. Rogue trusted them with everything he had.
"See? No reason to be nervous!" Armin encouraged. "Just do as Levi said and we should be back here before you know it!"
The titan nodded and lowered his head into the pile of pillows, hay, and feathers – shielding his vibrant greens in wait for sleep to claim him. Minutes passed as Rogue slowly felt his babies settling on his skin and he himself slipping into the void. He really hoped that things would be in his favor.
Warmth spread around his body, submerging him into a peaceful state. His ears could hear nothing. Not a bird's song, not a familiar voice, or even the wind whispering through the trees. The only sound that was clear was his own rhythmic heartbeat. The world around him was eerily silent and felt strangely small. Yet, it felt inviting – comfortable even. However, it was lonely. To him, it felt like he was the only one that existed. With the wish to see where he was, the titan decided to unveil his eyes. But their lids were heavy, sleepy feeling and his vision was incredibly blurry. He could make out nothing, not even a faint shape. All he could see before closing his eyes in exhaustion was the shade of pink.
Suddenly, he felt something that he thought was foreign in the bizarre environment, a touch to his frame. For a moment, he took the sensation in until something began to feel incredibly wrong. The peace was being swept away, replaced with an overwhelming torrent of unease. The world around him seemed to be pulling away. Panicked, he thrashed – trying to break free to escape. The place shook with him, only making him all the more terrified. Then, before he could even comprehend everything that was happening – the warmth was no longer surrounding him. It was cold, a barrage of noise violated his eardrums, his senses became overwhelmed, and everything was so unwelcome. Rogue opened his eyes, but everything was bright, too bright – white even. Then there was pain, promoting him to scream.
Then, everything changed. It was tranquil again and he could hear the tiny life around him. Insects scurried, birds chirped, and water dripped. Gradually, Rogue opened his eyes to find that he was curled up in a pile of fresh and dead needles that he recognized from pines. At first, the titan assumed that he was in his nest back in his cove, but he quickly discovered that wasn't the case. There were no wooden walls of a hollow tree trunk at all – just air. Curious, Rogue sat up from the unfamiliar nest to look around at the scenery that made his green eyes widen in wonder. He wasn't in a forest per say, but rather beneath one. Surrounding him was a large cavern, but not one that was dark and dreary like most. Sunlight poured in from a large hole in the cavern's ceiling, highlighting the small ecosystem below. Grass and moss grew among the cliffs and large boulders, sprinkled in flowers and fungi. In awe, Rogue stood from the pine nest and began to walk along the wide ledge in the cavern. He moved slowly, emerald hues looking down at his feet to see a large amount of objects scattered in the grass. In question, Rogue bent down to examine a few of the things nestled within the green. There were several objects that he had seen before: a big wooden cup, a doll, and a small foot covering. There were other things that he couldn't determine what they were. There was some sort of fur pouch, a pointed stick, and a metal head covering. Rogue blinked, he had never seen such things before.
Deciding to explore further, Rogue stood from his squat and walked out onto a large overhanging ledge that was below the cascading sun. For a moment, Rogue looked over his head, taking note of a lush forest around the hole before looking over the ledge. Beneath him was a clear and stagnant pond vibrant with white Lilly pads and cattails. Many silver fish swam in the shallow water, scales sparkling with the reflection of the light. Rogue sat, crossing his legs to look about with puzzlement. Where was he? Why was he sleeping in an unfamiliar nest? Why were the objects scattered around the cavern? Did someone live here? If so, they had to have been a lot like him.
His eyes widened, recalling Hange's idea about his nightly visions being something rather than a dream. Was this some sort of memory? If it was then perhaps he was the one who lived in the underground oasis. Question was, where exactly was he? He blinked, looking over his broad shoulder at the unfamiliar collection. Some of the objects – they looked and smelled old. What year was it?
The titan's ears quickly shifted, focusing on the northeast part of the cavern. Driven by a natural need, Rogue sniffed – brows lifting and eyes igniting in surprise. Could it really be? The phrase echoed in his head as he rotated to see just what he thought. At the foot of the cavern, standing at the mouth of some sort of tunnel, was the bearded and pointed ear titan that he had seen in his previous dream. Slowly, Rogue stood upon his perch, observing the titan in astonishment. If this was indeed a memory, then who was this titan? Desperate to know, Rogue opened his mouth to speak, but to his misfortune all that escaped was a silly grunt. Mentally, he cursed himself, guessing that he couldn't speak in this dream either. However, the titan before him lifted a hand and waved, sending the message that it wanted him to follow. With desperation overwhelming his body, Rogue scrambled from the overhang and ungracefully descended to the floor below. The titan then turned and was swallowed into the darkness of the tunnel with Rogue entering close behind.
The world suddenly became overwhelmingly bright before the light faded into a reasonable amount. Rogue blinked, grunting in surprise at the new surroundings. Any evidence of a cavern or cave was gone and replaced by a thick forest of towering trees and mossy boulders. The titan looked over his shoulder in search of any entrance that he had just exited only to find leafy greens. This definitely wasn't his wood and territory. It had trees that he had never seen, flowers that he couldn't identify either. Rogue continued to peer around at the environment, only for his pupils to land upon the same bearded titan from before. Fearing that it would suddenly disappear from him again, Rogue approached it slow and carefully, as he would do when stalking prey. Thankfully, the titan made no move to retreat but rather stared deeply into his eyes with its own. He could see the titan much clearer than their last meeting. Its eyes were so serious, almost reminding him of Erwin's – matching the determination and intensity right on point. Rogue swallowed, he felt so timid like he was just before any training session with Levi. With the beast standing, he could make out the titan's body type more clearly. The creature was indeed more bulky and hefty than he was. The titan's upper body was very muscular whereas its torso possessed a sizable gut. Its arms were a bit longer than his and its legs were shorter but contained a considerable amount of muscle nonetheless. Bravely, Rogue took a step closer to discover that the bearded titan did indeed have a pair of lips hiding beneath the black wiry hairs growing from beneath its nose and on its chin. The titan's feature disappointed Rogue in the slightest, but the shifting of the beast's ears still said that they were of the same variety. The titan was also taller than him, perhaps seventeen meters in height. Just who was he?
Suddenly, the titan took a step forward, looking at Rogue with the constant intense glare before opening his mouth.
"BALANCE." The bearded titan spoke, voice deeper than his, guttural, but with a twinge of ease laced in the direct order.
Rogue tilted his head in confusion, watching as the larger titan lifted a leg and began to stand on one foot. His eyes widened at the sight. The heavier creature was solid in the difficult stance, frame not even shaking in the slightest. The titan's bulk did nothing to teeter him. This amazed Rogue, balancing on a single limb was something that he still had difficulty with.
While still keeping his stance, the other titan pointed to him. " BALANCE." It repeated, obviously wanting him to copy the move.
Rogue swallowed nervously as he slowly lifted his right leg, immediately feeling his center of gravity disrupt him and body tremor – ankle wanting to give out. Green eyes looked at the seventeen-meter almost apologetically just before his ankle gave way and Rogue found himself landing roughly on his rump. His face automatically heated in embarrassment. To Rogue's surprise, the titan had approached him yet again and held out a hand, performing a human gesture meant to help one up. Stunned, the titan grabbed the hand and allowed himself to be hauled back onto his feet – only managing a grunt in thanks. Why was he doing such a thing?
Unexpectedly, the bearded titan bent over and moved his left foot in the slightest, making it veer faintly inward. " TRY NOW." The larger behemoth ordered, sounding more pliable than before.
Rogue tilted his head, ears uneven as he visibly pondered. This titan was incredibly intelligent. Where did it learn human tongue? Putting aside his questions, Rogue then balanced himself on one leg again, but this try was much different. He wasn't shaky like a newborn or swaying like a tree limb. His body was sturdy, just like the pines around him. A smile and nearly childish vocal escaped his grinning maw. He had never succeeded in such a feat! His little ones and Hange would have loved to see this!
Hearing a grunt, Rogue looked up to see the bearded titan pointing at an adolescent tree, a younger variety of those that seemed to pierce the heavens. "WATCH ME." It continued as it got into a position similar to what Levi had shown him. He simply stood, eyes growing wider as the hefty titan quickly lifted a foot off the ground and initiated a high and powerful kick. Rogue's jaw dropped in the slightest as the titan's form revealed itself – a process that differed from what the Corporal had shown him in the slightest but in the most effective ways. Although the difference in size was definitely apparent, the bearded titan executed the attack with as much grace as The Female Titan. The beast's foot sliced cleanly through the bark and sent the top half of the tree to the mossy floor below. Rogue was stunned. With the titan's foot slightly turned and torso both leaning and curving, the stance allowed a beast with such a great mass to keep its balance. Unknowingly he felt himself purring at this. He wanted to make the same attempt!
" NOW," The titan prolonged, taking a moment to observe a family of deer crossing their path in great interest before turning back to Rogue and gesturing to another young tree. " MAKE TREE PREY."
Rogue studied the bearded titan, seeing the clear sense of expertise in its shadow-rimmed eyes. He then turned to his wooden victim and positioned himself in the very stance that the other titan had formulated. Taking a deep breath, Rogue arched his powerful leg, sending wind ripping along the foliage as he swung. Muscles pulled and contracted beneath his taught flesh as his spine strategically curved. His bulk was hard, solidly planted into the earth with his bones not moving a single inch. A smile of triumph pulled at the corners of his mouth as his foot met his target.
However, his assault only caught air as the landscape changed. Still upright, Rogue slowly brought his foot down and quickly began to survey the area. The bearded titan was nowhere in sight and the surrounding forest was long gone. Instead, he was standing in the middle of a rocky fortress. Stone was the color of clay and there was barely a tree in sight. Old and dry bones were scattered around in the dirt, some even crushed into dust. He looked around frantically. The area felt so unwelcome, harsh, and smelled like a predator's old kill. Then, his eyes caught sight of another titan, the very one that sent shivers down his back and made his heart pound in rage. She was simply standing among the emptiness as if she was taking in the view herself. Then, The Female turned in his direction – violent and intense blues staring at feral yet innocent greens.
"Rogue!" A toasty voice called, a gentle touch on the tip of his nose. "Time to get up!"
He stirred, groaning with a slight amount of testiness before forcing his lids to peel away. The titan blinked rapidly to dampen the dryness before getting used to the change. The interior of the barn surrounded him in welcome arms once again. His little ones were standing before him along with Hange and a rather disapproving looking Corporal. Rogue scratched his head, discovering that he was still wearing the collar from the day before – having forgot about the accessory. The titan's maw parted to release a bit of steam in the equivalent of a yawn. Everything was a memory that he would have to soon make some sense of and share with the others.
"Alright brat, get the hell up. We're heading to Stohess."
Fire licked the night sky, flames dancing in a mesmerizing display before his eyes. The day had gone by quickly, the trek was mostly full of small talk between those riding on his shoulders and himself. Surprisingly, half of the flying human pack had chosen to join him while the others stayed to watch headquarters. If he had any guess as to why, he would say that it was because of the previous day's incident. Not to mention for support as well.
Currently, he was seated neatly before a burning bonfire in the company of Erwin and Levi. An hour before, they had stopped in a large field on the side of the main road to rest up for the night. Most of the soldiers had gone off to set up tents and participate in sleep. His little ones and Hange had left to fetch water from a nearby stream and set up their own quarters. For the last thirty minutes, Erwin and Levi had taken it upon themselves to inform and drill him about the coming scenarios of the trial and what exactly to say to each statement. Still, even though they were giving him all the answers to the impending test, he was growing nervous.
However, his mind had descended into his thoughts about his recent vision as the two men before him looked over their notes for anything that they had neglected to say. During the trip, Rogue had not gotten the chance to tell his little ones or Hange about his new memory, feeling that it would be better absorbed once the party had settled. Not only that, but he was itching to try what the bearded titan had instructed him.
"So do you understand all of that, Rogue?" Erwin queried, the tall blonde looking almost tired. "It's very vital that you perform well tomorrow."
The titan quickly nodded. He was well aware of what he was to do. Levi stood, stretching slightly before opening his mouth to make one last address.
"Good. Behave tomorrow. Remember, you'll be both chained and collared but barely." The Corporal informed, the titan simply grunting his acknowledgement, too focused on going to test out his memory. "Alright, you're free to go. Just don't wander into farmland or any other city."
Rogue dipped his head in both thanks and understanding before carefully getting to his feet, making a few of the logs in the fire shift and unsettle ash. Without looking back, the titan walked away casually, head occasionally looking about for any sign that anyone was watching – he really didn't want to bring attention to himself for a reason that he couldn't pinpoint. So far, it seemed that the others were already fast asleep, the plain nearly as barren as his naked form. Rogue then paused at the peak of a small knoll and glanced over his shoulder, seeing that both Erwin and Levi had separated into their own tents for the evening. A faint grin pulled at his lipless maw, eager to get started with his self-issued exam. The titan then took one last look around him before taking a well deserved stretch to loosen up before reaching to scratch his scalp and beneath his jaw – thankful that he didn't have to wear the collar for the day. Rogue then settled, glowing greens peering down at his large feet, the beast finding himself fretfully nipping the tip of his tongue. Hopefully the technique would work and he wouldn't make a fool of himself.
Briefly double checking to make sure that no one was sneaking a glance, Rogue turned his left foot slightly inward. Taking a deep swallow, the titan slowly lifted his right leg, bending his knee. Rogue nearly produced a squeak in surprise at the result. Like in the dream, he was standing just as sound as a great timber with not even a single shutter. His grin grew more lopsided; the beast beaming in glee as he smoothly extended his lifted foot out behind him – bravely leaning forward before returning upright. The titan unknowingly gurgled in complete delight at his achievement as he smoothly and slowly swung his leg out to the front before tucking it beneath him yet again and planting his foot into the lush earth.
The titan purred to himself, digging the tips of his toes into the ground with his ears wiggling in a mess of long locks. It really was a memory after all. The fact that he was able to successfully balance made him wonder. Just who was the strange titan that was with him? If there was one, were there more?
Wanting to make a second attempt, Rogue alternated and stood on his right foot – finding that he was just as stable as he was the other. The titan trilled, excited at his new discovery.
"Well now! When did you learn that Rogue!"
Hearing the ever-familiar enthusiastic voice, Rogue abruptly planted his foot back down and turned his attention below to see both Hange and his little ones grinning up at him. At the sight, he bent over to rest on the balls of his feet, warmly greeting them with several over enthused grunts and squeals.
"You did amazing, I've never seen you look so sturdy standing on one foot before." Armin congratulated.
Mikasa characteristically laid a hand onto his lowered finger. "That was good, did Levi teach you that?"
"NOO!" The behemoth informed, watching as the trio formed looks of confusion.
"Huh?" The scientist frowned, a brow rising above her glasses. "Levi didn't find a new way for you to balance yourself?"
Rogue found himself slightly flustered as he rubbed his neck, with the information he was about to spill, it was highly likely that his companions would be asking lots of queries and Hange would be jumping in joy. "ERRR… YEEAAH. EEVVII NOO EELLP. CCAAN… UUSS AALLLK?"
His little ones' eyes widened. "You mean – you didn't teach yourself that, Rogue? Someone else did?"
He nodded, watching as Hange's concern naturally morphed into gusto. "Ah! Well! Let's go settle in and you tell us all about this mysterious teacher of yours!"
Minutes later, his little ones and the messy haired woman guided him into a small designated spot that the three were apparently taking refuge in. Oddly, no protective tents were set up but instead all belongings were tossed aside, still in their packs from when they had left the castle. All that was fully established in the small settlement was a fire cooking what appeared to be the human food of soup. Familiar with how the Scouts always seated themselves around the flames, Rogue slowly rested onto his rear before situating himself onto his belly. As if he were observing a line of minuscule insects, the titan bent his elbows to prop up his chin on his palms. Outlined eyes watched as the other three beings sat down their small buckets of water before rummaging through their packs. He continued to keep to himself as Armin, Mikasa, and Hange lay out a few blankets over the bristly grass and proceeded in retrieving their own bowls of soup. Finally, the three settled onto their own covered earth and faced him, each sticking a spoonful into their mouths.
"Alright, so tell us who taught you to stand like that, Rogue." Hange began, her mouth full of bread. "Which Scout was it? Krista?"
Rogue shook his head, smiling softly as he decided to let each of them have a fair guess for the entertainment.
"Was it Connie or Sasha?" Mikasa queried, keeping her 'table manners' in check so to not speak with her mouth full. "You go hunting with Sasha and you goof off with Connie quite often."
Again, the titan denied her guess with a smooth back and forth rotation of his head. He already knew that none of them, not even Armin, would get the answer right.
"Was it Erwin then? Or perhaps Mike?" The blonde joined in, with Rogue denying.
Hange's brows rose, obviously befuddled. "Okay, if it was none of them then who was it, Rogue?"
The beast shifted slightly, folding his arms neatly, preparing for any sort of reaction. "EELL… EETT AAHHS A TTIITTAANN." Rogue informed, suddenly feeling a bit sheepish that he was revealing his vision so late. Truthfully, he could have sworn that he had shared the bearded titan with them before, but with the chaos of The Female Titan and the aftermath that she had left behind, it was likely that even if he mentioned it – none paid any attention. Now though, with the mention, the three were looking at him nearly spellbound.
"Oh, do you mean you watched an abnormal or something when we were out on the expedition do the same thing and you decided to try it?" Armin queried, the first to make any assumption.
Rogue executed a negative nod. "NOOO NNOTT IIKKEE DDDAT. EEII HHAADD NNEENNORRYY ASST NNIIGHT." The titan corrected, watching as his little allies sat down their bowls in extreme intrigue. Hange of course, had a slack jaw, nearly dopey expression, and dropped her spoon to the grass – both shocked and awed at the same time.
"Whoa! You mean you had another memory come to you last night, Rogue! This is stupendous! Please enlighten us!" The scientist fumbled over her words as she roughly tossed aside her soup and grabbed her journal from her pack; quickly opening the leather bound book and pressing her writing stick to the page.
"OOKAAEE. EENN NNYY DRREEANN – IIRRSSSTT AAHHSS UUZZZY UUTT DDEENN EEEII AUUHHSS IITTHH AA TTIITTAANN DAATT AADD NNYY EEARSS." Rogue articulated carefully, gesturing to his shifting ears. Again, the three's eyes grew even wider – reminding the titan of his round ball. Hange even appeared to have difficulty remaining still in her seat.
"OH! My god! So you saw another titan like you? Pointed ears? Lipless mouth? Great personality? Powerful muscles? Green eyes?" Hange spoke quickly, not pausing for a single breath. With the titan blinking rapidly at the rush of words, Mikasa quickly turned to the beyond excited woman.
"Miss Hange, you should probably ask him one at a time." His little one suggested kindly with the Squad Leader sighing at the request. Rogue too, let out a breath. He loved Mikasa dearly and he truly appreciated her protectiveness, but she wasn't the parent in this situation. He was. He could certainly understand Hange. Sometimes he believed that his little one had trouble accepting that he was growing more intelligent for she loved taking care of him – that was what siblings did anyway. Of course, he would never tell her that sometimes it hurt his feelings.
"Oh alright then. I'll just let him speak!" Hange squealed in excitement. "Just tell us what you saw, Rogue!"
"YEAAHH. TIITTANN LLIKKEE NEE. HHADD PPOOIINTEE EAARS, UUTT WAAS AA IITTLLEE DIIFFERRENT. HAAADD LLOONNG AAIIR." The titan illustrated as he held up a lock. "HHEE TAALLEER." Rogue continued as he hovered a hand two meters above the top of his head. "HHAADD BBEEARRD."
Rogue nodded. "ESSS. EELLOOOWW EEEYYEES IIITTHH BBLAACCKK RROOUNND LLIIKKE NNIINNE." The titan pointed to the dark skin around his eye then to his mouth. "IITTAANN HHADD IIPSS."
"Oh? It had lips?"
Again he nodded. "HHADD NNUUSSLLEESS." The titan spoke as he sat back up and flexed his arms. "BBUTT HHADD AA SNNAALL EELLY." Rogue informed as he traced a distinct curve around his stomach. "NNAAIILS IIKKEE NNINNE. SSKKIINN IIKKEE NNEE."
Hange wrote frantically in her journal, a maddening glint in her eye that came when she was deeply engaged in a new discovery related to either him or his kin. "OH MY GOODNESS! HOLY HELL!" She breathed, almost looking like she couldn't control herself and her massive fervor. "The titan you saw sounds like it really was one of your species! The pointed ears, the hair, and the dark bandit pattern around the eyes!" The woman nearly squealed.
"It does sound a lot like him." Armin rubbed his chin. "But Rogue said that the titan had lips –
"True." Hange beamed. "However in some animal species there are some slight differences in some individuals. I found a banned book once that spoke of a creature called a Leopard and one called a Black Panther. According to the text, the panther is actually a leopard with melanism – which is an excessive amount of black pigment. In the panther, melanism is a recessive gene and sometimes melanistic and non-melanistic animals are born in the same litter. Perhaps it is the same for Rogue's species. Maybe there is a dominant or recessive gene that makes a titan born either having lips or not." Hange giggled. "After all, the question if titans reproduce or not is still up in the air." She laughed, getting an eye roll from Mikasa.
"That makes sense, but titans reproducing?"
Hange held up her hands. "Hey, titans exist so nothing is impossible." The woman chortled. "Anyways, lets let Rogue continue. Please go on my dear!"
Finally getting his chance, Rogue nodded and lay on his underside once again. "DEE TTITTAANN TTAALLKK TOO. IIITT AAHHSS IINN…INNTEELLGGENNT." Rogue pressed on, trying to pronounce the word that his family often used to describe being smart. Again, Hange nearly stood from her seat with amazing passion.
"So it could speak too! Wow! Yet another display of this species' intelligence! What did this titan say? Did he have a name?"
Rogue shook his head. "NNOO NNAANNE. OONNT NNOO NNAANNEE YYEETT. WWEE IINN AA OORRESST. TTIITTAANN TTECHH NNEEE HHOOWW TOO AALLANNCEE. TTOOLLD NEEE HHOOW KIIKK. TTIITTAANN EELLPP NNEE EENN EEI NNESS UUPP."
The blonde's brows arched in intrigue. "So it was teaching you how to stand on one leg and how to kick?"
Rogue dipped his head, grunting in comply.
"That's interesting indeed!" Hange scribed. "Your species definitely were not solitary creatures. This titan was spreading knowledge to you! Teaching what I'm guessing was how to hunt! Amazing! Then what happened?"
He dithered, trying to decide if he should include his vision of The Female Titan, but ultimately denying it since it seemed that there was no point. "NNOOT NNUUCH. DREEANN EENDDS." Rogue paused. "DDIID SEE IITTANN IIN OOLLDER DRREEAN. WEE EEREE BYY OOCCEENNN. SSIITTING."
"Oh, so you've seen this titan before in a memory?" Hange quizzed, the titan's little ones looking at him intently at the statement – most likely wondering why he had failed to tell them.
"So the two of you were sitting by the ocean?"
"EAAHHH. NNOT TTAALLK DDOOUGH."
"I see." Hange pondered aloud, adjusting her glasses. "I wonder what this titan's relation to Rogue was. From this small but revealing amount of information, I want to say that Rogue's kind may have lived in close proximity to one another or in small groups. If titans do reproduce, then maybe he is some kind of blood relation to Rogue – a sibling, cousin, or maybe even a father to our lovely titan! Then again, he could just be a friend or mentor." She paused, smiling up at the stars. "Maybe Rogue has a family out there somewhere."
"Hange," Armin began quietly. "If Rogue had a family, then why are they not looking for him? Why is the titan in the dream not looking for him?"
The young teen's words made an uncomfortable silence fall over the four. For several minutes the humans glanced down at the content of their bowls while barely batting an eye, obviously feeling remorse for bringing the subject into play. For a moment, Rogue watched the flames of the fire spit hot embers until he couldn't stand their sorrow no more. He wanted to express the truth.
"NNYY AAANNLLIIEEE EERRE. IITTLLEE OONNSS, AANNGGEE, EEVVII, DEE SSCCOOUUTTSS NNYY AANNLLEE." Rogue purred.
At the titan's decree, his cherished companions looked up from their slumped stances, warm and tender smiles slowly spreading across less troubling faces. His little ones stood from their blanketed earth and approached his lowered façade.
"That's right, Rogue. We're family." Mikasa spoke softly as she stroked the bridge of his nose, making the titan purr even louder. "And you'll always be my big brother."
At the teen's heartfelt words, Rogue nuzzled his large face against her petite frame, the titan's purrs vibrating the ground beneath the three sets of human feet. Feeling the overwhelming need to share his affection, Rogue quickly scooped up Mikasa in his palm and playfully flopped over onto his side. The titan pressed his little one to his chest and quickly retrieved both Armin and Hange to join her. "AANNLLLEE!" The beast repeated in glee. "EEEII LLOOVVEE NNYY AAANNIIILLEE!" Rogue boasted as he curled in on the three and gifted them with a loving lick.
"Love you too Rogue."
For quite some time, the titan watched as his three humans fell asleep in his embrace. Rogue smiled softly at their restful faces, his own feet kneading – an odd little thing that happened to him on the occasion when he felt good. However, the titan ceased the activity when his mind began to wonder back to the conclusion of their conversation. Was it really possible? The titan like him – was there really a family, a pack of titans like him out there? If there really was, why had none looked for him? Why hadn't the titan from his dream showed its face? What was its relationship to him? How had he ended up inside the walls in the first place? How did he lose his memory? Rogue sighed, letting a small cloud of steam gently drift over his human company. Now he had more questions than ever with no answers.
The titan exhaled softly, letting his head fall into the grass and his eyes close. He was not looking forward to the coming day.
If it was one thing that he hated more than his collar, it was his binds. As he took each heavy step, the titan fussed at the uncomfortable apparatus. Rogue's eyes glared down at the metal links on his wrists in hatred, green eyes following the chain connecting each of the braces, meeting the loop that hooked them together, and following the links to where the chain was latched on the leather band around his neck. Rogue grumbled deep in his chest, instinctively shaking and scratching at the shackles with the determination to get them off – even though the flying humans had put them on loosely. Finally, seeing that the object of his irritation wasn't going to be removed anytime soon, Rogue let his arms drop, craning his neck to look upon the passengers of his shoulders – whining pitifully. He didn't understand why they needed to go THIS far.
Seeing his complaints, Mikasa beamed weakly and gently ran her fingers along the cartilage of his tapered ear. "I know it's uncomfortable, Rogue – but you just have to endure it for a few hours. You don't want to get in trouble do you?"
The titan groaned at her words before shaking his head in reply. No. He didn't want to get in trouble.
"Good, now remember, once we step through Sina's gates, you have to be quiet and on your best behavior. Only speak at the trial when you're prompted okay?"
Sadly, Rogue nodded in reply, he had to go against his instincts in order not to receive a bad reputation.
"Just remember." Armin began seriously. "The people in Sina are nothing like the other wall districts. It's just like Levi told you. Everyone isn't going to be too supportive. Most likely they will be saying some pretty cruel things, but you have to ignore them." Armin paused, looking over at the Corporal who was seated on his opposite shoulder. "Corporal?"
The man sighed. "Yes, Arlert?" Levi muttered, face in a deep frown – the man looking like he had almost sat through one of Hange's multiple hour speeches. His little one had been right when they had shared with him that the Corporal hated going to Sina with a passion. Rogue swallowed, Stohess must be terrible if Levi hated it. Then again, the short male was a man that appeared to hate neatly everything.
"I don't mean to sound rude or anything, but did you share the Wall Cultists to Rogue?" His little one laughed fretfully. "Just so Rogue is prepared if we come across one?"
Levi nodded. "Yeah, I shared the preaching bastards with him. Tch – if they are at the trial, which I'm sure that Nick and his closest followers will be, there is going to be a lot of bullshit flying from their damn mouths."
Rogue swallowed, Adam's apple rubbing against his collar. His superior had warned him about the group of people on the day the man drilled him on what to say. Strangely, these 'Wallists' were among the first thing he mentioned – even before what he was to say to defend himself. The group, by description, were an irrational group of people that worshiped the walls like deities – more precisely the three wall goddesses: Maria, Rose, and Sina. To the titan, humans pledging their loyalty to something inanimate was just plain weird, even stranger than a strange one's behavior and gate, but he guessed it made them happy. Needless to say, he wasn't looking forward to meeting them.
"Thanks, Corporal Levi. So if the event from the garden is brought up, you'll call us to the stand as witnesses?"
"Yes. If that happens, you both must say that Rogue followed your own orders…
The titan retreated to his own thoughts as the man continued to speak with his little ones. The day had been a fairly pleasant one, sunny with an early fall breeze rolling in. The morning was full of packing up and moving along the rural landscape, seldom farmers watching as they passed. Rogue tilted his head in the slightest, looking at the intimidating and towering wall looming over them as their regiment made their approach. Again, he swallowed nervously. Rogue wasn't so sure, even after all his family members preparations to prepare him that he was going to be ready. What if he messed up and lost? He could lose his life. The titan subconsciously grabbed his wrist, eyes looking down at his feet. Levi had also warned him that if that happened – he was to take his little ones and run beyond the walls while the Scouts slowed the rest of the MPs down – an act that would most likely involve losing his new family in terms of bloodshed. He did not want that to happen. If it came to such a thing, he would be scooping up as many as his hands and shoulders could carry and then retreat – all the way to the ocean if necessary. Hopefully he wouldn't have to kill anyone in the process.
"Are you alright, Rogue?"
Hearing Mikasa's voice, the titan turned his head, quick to replace his shock of being discovered with a smile.
"EESS. EEIII OOOD." He clarified. However, she was stoic, grey eyes looking up at the creature's red ears – making Rogue curse himself and his quirk inwardly for the millionth time. To his surprise, the teen keep the truth about his lie secret, only to gently rub the toasty skin of his neck as an act of comfort. He was well aware that she and Armin knew the same as he did about the possible outcome.
Upon hearing the order, Rogue stopped immediately, looking ahead to see that the team of Scouts was now at the foot of the wall with the gate slowly opening. The titan watched as a Garrison and two MPs began to speak with the blonde leader, words too quiet for him to make out.
"Kneel, Rogue." Levi worded in a low tone. "Those two will probably be over here to examine you. They are likely our escorts so be on your best behavior."
At this, the titan grunted in acknowledgement and slowly descended to rest on his knees. Rogue's ears began to droop with dread as he spied Erwin guiding the two MPs over. As much as he wanted to consort with his little ones, the giant humanoid remained still and silent – watching as each and every agonizing step grow closer.
"Remember Rogue," Armin encouraged softly. "Be friendly."
He gulped, green eyes absorbing as the trio came just a few feet from his knee. Rogue suddenly loosened from his tense stance, noticing the looks upon the two MPs that made him grow a little tender. The boy and girl were both teens – no older than his own little ones and the looks of clear fear were plastered upon their faces. The girl had platinum blonde hair and an outline of black around her eyes that almost reminded him of his own raccoon like markings – but with eyelashes that were onyx as well. Like every female soldier that he had seen, she was skinny with lanky limbs. The titan's keen sense of judgment began to do its work – the beast detecting that the young woman was definitely of a lazy sort that was the type to often be more concerned with her own well being. The boy was different. The adolescent male didn't look nearly as frightened as the girl but he could practically smell the teen's nervous sweat – the boy was forceful, but failed to keep a completely brave look on his face. He was a slender individual with long proportions and an odd haircut – having short fine hairs underneath like Levi but having a bizarre bowl like shape on his head. The boy's personality was definitely different than the girl's – having a bit more determination and a sense of justice. He was the type that would try to correct corrupt things, the boy sort of reminded Rogue of some of his own traits. It was clear to him though; the two had most likely never seen a titan at all.
"Everyone." Erwin addressed the titan and the four beings on his shoulders. "This is Marlo." The Commander gestured to the male. "And this is Hitch." The tall man pointed to the girl. "From left to right on the titan's shoulders is Corporal Levi, Section Commander Hange Zoe –
"Pleasure to meet the two of you!" The scientist greeted enthusiastically, getting a slightly fretful nod from the two young MPs.
"Anyways, that is Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlert – better known by the media as the 'Titan Children.' Finally, the titan himself is Rogue Jaeger."
Following both the order to be friendly and wanting to give some reassuring comfort himself, Rogue trilled in an affable manner with his eyes scrunched and ears wiggling in greeting. The action of the beast instantly made the two teens loosen to where they were closer to relaxation, eyes wide and with jaws nearly slack in surprise.
"It's… the titan is friendly?" Hitch fumbled over her words.
"Oh yes!" Hange chortled. "Rogue may be terrifying looking, but in reality he's a big teddy bear!"
"That's incredible." Marlo alliterated. "I never thought I'd come face to face with a titan, let alone one that seems approachable."
The scientist continued to giggle. "Yup! Rogue is one in a million! Rather than eating people, this big boy loves to cuddle with his adopted human babies!" Hange continued merrily, promoting Rogue and his little ones' faces to blush pink. He knew she meant well, but did Hange always have to go off and embarrass him?
"Since the introductions are out of the way, Rogue and the rest of you will be escorted to the courthouse courtyard by Marlo and Hitch. We will follow you close behind." Erwin concluded, giving a nod to the Corporal who dipped his head in return.
Feeling two distinct pats on his shoulder, Rogue rose up on command and stared down at the two young MPs as he waited for them to lead the way. Still nervous, the boy and girl looked at one another before waving for the towering humanoid to trail them. The titan waited until the teens were several feet ahead and most of the Scouts were now behind him before taking the first step forward – which wasn't enough as the titan's great weight forced the two MPs to tumble on their rears. It was clear to the titan that both Marlo and Hitch wouldn't be fairing well in his wake. As the MPs picked themselves up, Rogue turned to Levi, pointing at the two and then to the open palm of his hand.
"Carry them?" Hange asked. "I don't know if that's a good idea Rogue –
"Let him do it."
Collectively, his little ones and Hange looked to the Corporal in question. "Really?"
"It would add some support. Besides, a titan walking with two MPs in hand certainly would impress Zackley and would knock Nile down a few pegs. Looks good in court."
"You have a point." Armin whispered, nodding to Rogue to proceed.
The titan dipped his head and faced the two teens brushing themselves off, bleating loudly as he bent over with a welcoming hand. With his ears fluttering, emerald greens absorbed the view of the MPs looking at his palm in question.
"Just hop on." Levi suggested sternly but flatly. "Just tell him where to go. He follows directions." The man informed with Rogue nodding, humming in a friendly and encouraging manner.
"Are… are you sure this is a good idea?" Hitch muttered, face riddled with uncertainty.
"I'm just as fretful as you are but it shouldn't be hard. We'd get there quicker." Marlo encouraged the more nervous of the two, but still obviously tense himself as he cautiously scaled into the titan's hand. "It is like I've heard – it's really warm."
Hitch cautiously joined the other teen, Rogue able to feel her trembling body against his flesh. "Oh… this is a really stupid idea. What if we –
However. The titan didn't allow the teen to finish her sentence as he stood up again – the two small forms slamming into his palm with the force of change. Rogue nearly snorted in amusement – sometimes he found it rather entertaining to catch someone off guard. The MPs swayed slightly, experiencing a bit of vertigo – their faces nearly pale.
"We gave him a bath the day before we left so please try not to vomit on him." Levi continued sarcastically, dry humor in play yet again.
"UUUGGH." The male moaned. "I'm glad I haven't had lunch yet." Marlo muttered, Hitch completely silent. "Alright, just keep walking forward until we say to turn – er point in another direction."
Rogue grunted in confirmation and began his march, first footstep rattling his two new passengers with them squeaking in surprise and digging their fingers into his. The titan could almost feel a ghost of a smile appear on Levi's face. The beast could tell his other occupants were deeply amused as well, provoking him to lift his chin up proudly. He practically could hear Hange laughing behind her covering hand. Finally, the woman burst into her characteristic mirth.
"It's a bit overwhelming at first, but you get used to it!" The scientist called down at them, the two adolescent MPs looking over their shoulders, their nerves clearly visible. "Over time you'll find it more comfortable than riding on a horse! It has a better view too!"
The boy and girl were hesitant to reply. Finally, it was Marlo who forced a feeble smile through his nervous sweat. "Well, at least I have some bragging rights. Riding a titan and living to say that I did is pretty something."
"That's the spirit!"
Rogue huffed a cloud of steam in amusement as his bulk met the gate – just like he always did when entering and exiting through Katness district, the titan carefully bent over and began to shimmy through the short tunnel. For a moment, the beast found himself hesitating to enter the bright light on the other side – knowing that there was still a chance that he wouldn't be passing through it again – maybe going over it. Rogue stalled further, ears naturally shifting forward to listen for what was to come. Like his first day of returning to Katness after the battle in Trost, he could hear hundreds of voices. As his family had warned him, some didn't sound so welcoming. Rogue winced; he really wished that he didn't have to do this. A tender touch then stroked his ear, green eye shifting to see Mikasa grinning softly.
"It's okay. Keep moving. We're here with you."
After a few seconds of nibbling his tongue, Rogue grunted a positive reply and pressed on. Feeling the stone roof of the tunnel lifting away from his back, Rogue gradually arched himself to be upright once again – green eyes meeting his surroundings and widening at what lay before him.
"That's a titan!?"
"This is what a titan looks like?"
"It really doesn't have genitals!"
Hearing the comments, Rogue momentarily looked down to see a crowd of weary people at his feet standing well out of his way. They were definitely a different breed of human that was clear. Nearly all of them were dressed from head to toe in elaborate garbs – much more fancy and ornate than those his little ones wore when they were small. The men wore things that Armin had told him were suits or tailored shirts with the occasional hat. The women dawned large dresses in every shade of color he knew – their materials as well were much more than the plain cotton, instead being silk and lace. The females wore their hair in extravagant braids and buns and had beautiful stones donned around their fingers, wrists, and necks. The children too, were dressed to impress. Rogue swallowed as he continued to follow the two MP's directions. He was certainly not comfortable with the high society people. The way they were looking at him seemed like they were looking at an exotic animal at the zoo. REAL exotic.
"It's so big."
"The ears look like an elf's. They move like a cat's."
"Those teeth are so strange."
"Yuck, it doesn't have lips."
"Its hair is so messy."
"UGH! The nails! They need trimmed! They're so ghastly!" An older woman exclaimed, holding her hand over her mouth in shock – bright red and well manicured nails reflecting sunlight.
Hearing the insults, Rogue's ears drooped – his head hanging low. They didn't need to remind him that he was far from beautiful. He couldn't help his looks.
"That's one ugly creature." A man muttered.
"Disgusting as sin." Spoke another.
"The eyes are like emeralds, but the rest is just… ugh."
"Now I understand why they think that titans are frightening."
"So is that what they call a fifteen meter?"
"That is what's called a titan?"
"So… this is The Rogue Titan?"
The creature swallowed, feeling his face heat up in embarrassment. Oh how he wished that he were back home.
"It's so dense looking. It's supposed to be smart?"
"It's very muscular. I can see that it's easily true that the titan lifted that boulder."
"It's so horrifying."
"And I thought that some of the people in the underground were ugly."
"Atrocious monster." Another woman snickered to her husband. "It really makes you wonder what cavern of hell that thing crawled out from."
"It does, my dear!"
At the particular comment, Rogue's shoulders naturally sank with his head and eyelids hanging low. Whatever happened to the phase that Armin had shared with him, the one that said 'If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all?' Rogue whined lowly in his throat, the barely audible sound undetectable by the two occupants in his hands but clear to his other riders. For the umpteenth time, the titan felt a touch of comfort.
"Remember Rogue, sticks and stones right?"
The titan exhaled before giving into a nod. Yes, he just had to keep walking. He just had to ignore their words. He already felt enough anxiety even stepping foot in Stohess. Rogue exhaled a jet of steam and began to focus on things other than the people at his feet.
"Hopefully they decide to get rid of him for good. The bastard's got to be the reason why their recent expedition was cut short – and why a lot of the Scout's are dead." A man continued. "It's just a dumb animal. It doesn't know anything."
"I still think the thing is a waste of time."
"Damn dirty beast." Another onlooker said, getting Mikasa's furious glare.
Rogue swallowed, letting his eyes scrutinize the characteristics of Stohess. The human structures here were nothing short of amazing. They were tall, some even taller than he was by several feet. The buildings were nothing but brick and stone – some even with marble accents. The windows were far from generic – tall, wide, arched, and even framing a design. Rogue hummed in amusement as he continued his studies of the non-green landscape. The titan's nostrils flared naturally at the amount of prominent aromas. There were lots of scents that he had never smelt before! There was the smell of bread with something spicy glazed upon it, something insanely sweet smelling – which enticed him enough to turn his head to see a shop selling brightly covered small food. Rogue's ears flickered at the foreign objects. He had never seen such things before! With his nose hungrily smelling something else that was new, Rogue rotated his head again to look upon the source of interest – too occupied to listen to the cruel comments and his allies looking at him in concern.
"He must be smelling something new to him." Hange giggled.
"I bet it's the candy shops." Armin guessed. "Rogue's never come in contact with sweets before."
Hange beamed widely, hand stroking the titan's jawline. "As lovely as candy apples smell, we can't have you wandering off Rogue!"
At her mirth, the beast placed his attention back to his family, nodding in embarrassment before looking ahead again, moving along at an easy pace. With the two teens in his hand pointing to his left, the beast changed direction, entering another area with more cruelty waiting for him.
"Damn, that thing is disgusting!"
"Titans are naked? The Scouts should at least have the decency to cover it up! Its buttocks are clear to see!"
"It's chained up. Good thing too. Wild animals need to be caged and restrained."
"Hopefully Zackley does something about this!"
"I hope they kill the beast. We don't know if it could suddenly turn on us."
Rogue felt his heart sink in his chest. He almost felt like setting the two MPs back down and covering his ears for the rest of the way – just so he couldn't hear the vile comments. Rounding another corner, the titan tried to keep himself composed, nearly sinking in to his little ones' touches. To his favor though, the comments were less cruel and more along those that were just made as observation.
"Look, the titan's actually carrying soldiers. It has two MPs in its hand."
"Well it appears to be rather tame. I hear titans go after humans and eat them as soon as they get their hands on one."
"The two teens on its shoulders must be the Titan Children that the papers keep talking about."
"This titan – it's doing the opposite of what I read titans do."
"Alright er – Rogue, just keep moving forward now. It's the big building with the round roof and the steps just ahead." Marlo called up from his palm.
Acknowledging his guides, the titan kept moving to the building ahead. The human structure, like all that he had witnessed in Sina to the very moment, was like he had never come across. Sure, the castle back home was extravagant, but this was even more so. The stone was granite, white like pale flesh. The top tower of the building had a round like structure that reminded the titan of the top of his ball – a long steeple like structure perched on the peak of the curved dome. The windows were high and arched, along with the great wooden doors at the end of several widespread stairs. The entrance was a grand one; the trunks of tree like stones grew from the stairs to the belly of the building's rooftop. The building was a statement indeed.
However, seeing the structure injected another feeling of dread into his body. This was it. They were there on the doorsteps. He couldn't fail at the task – what he could consider as one of the most important and crucial assignments in his life. No! He could not screw up! He had to be careful and cognizant. For his family's sake! For his babies' sake! He had to survive! He had too! If anything happened, if he was sent to meet the executioner's blades, he was going to make good on his plan of escape. He couldn't lose. He just couldn't.
"It's alright." Mikasa whispered into his ear. "There is no need to shake." She pointed out, making the titan realize that he was indeed trembling. "You can do it. Just relax."
Fretfully, Rogue swallowed and nodded – trying to keep his pounding heart from leaping straight out of his ribcage. 'RELAX.' He thought privately. 'RELAX. YOU… CAN… WIN. YOU… CAN…DO… IT.'
The titan then stopped at the foot of the stairs on command. Standing just a few feet away were two more MPs – clearly higher in rank than those in his hand. They simply looked up at him, faces cold but clearly had the aroma of fear sticking to them. Even from where he stood, the titan could smell the stench of alcohol and smoke clinging to their uniforms. Rogue frowned inwardly. Was that the only thing that the MPs did? The Corporal did speak of the high officials often sneaking off or doing things that they were not supposed to do. The eyes of the older MPs stared long and hard at the two younger ones in hand, faces turning into unsettling ones. Finally, one of them cleared their throat to speak.
"Is The Rogue Titan, his handlers, Ackerman, Arlert, and the Commander all present and ready for the trial?" The bearded one began sternly, but still a hint of skittishness in his tone.
"Present and ready to get this damn thing over with." Levi spoke bluntly, face unchanging and nearly making Rogue huff at the man's forwardness.
The man below cocked a brow, but ultimately let the comment slide, due to the Corporal's status as the titan figured. "Good." The MP grumbled. " Hitch Dreyse and Marlo Freudenberg please – uh escort them to the courtyard."
"Yes Sir." The two replied; Marlo fully devoted to retorting while Hitch sounded bored and still fretful to be in his hand. The male then turned back to the titan, outstretching an arm toward a large stone wall connected to the left of the building. "Go there."
Once more, Rogue weakly nodded and took cautious steps forward. The beast's ears lowered, feeling an invisible sense of fear settle into him, making him almost sick to his stomach. His keen sense of smell picked up a large cluster of people just beyond another tall and pale brick wall that reached his hips. Being taller than the structure, he could see down into what he could have called a stony paddock. For a moment, Rogue stalled before the wall, teeth clenching and eyes yet again looking down at his toes nervously.
"You can do it." His little ones whispered into his ear.
"Remember Rogue," Levi muttered. "Stick to the script. Only say what Erwin and I told you to say."
He could do it, the phrase repeating in his head over and over. He could win. With a rather large gulp, Rogue then carefully stepped over the low wall and into the destination. Instantly, he was met with a view of his new surroundings, a gasping audience, and an unexpected sense of embarrassment.
"You can set us down now!" Marlo called again.
Snapping out of his shocked trace, Rogue hurriedly squatted to the ground and gently let the two young MPs climb out of his hand, Hitch stumbling onto the brick surface looking quite thankful to be back on solid ground – the action causing quite a stir among the titan's captive audience. Next, the titan focused on carefully lowering the messy haired woman to the earth before cupping the injured and rather grumpy Levi in his hands. Rogue made sure that the man found his footing and was back on his crutches before removing his fingers from Levi's side. Finally the titan looked to his little ones, his precious babies that he adored so greatly and nuzzled the side of his face into the two only for them to return his embrace. As the group of people gasped for a second time and began to mutter and utter words to one another, his little ones expressed their final messages of encouragement with the titan purring softly. He didn't want to lose them.
"Titan!" A rather bulky mustachioed MP called from the center of the piazza. "Titan!" The man repeated as he tapped what appeared to be a horsewhip against the brick surface, clearly treating Rogue as if he were a dog. "SIT!" He continued, making his Mikasa growl from the pit of her stomach herself with Armin thankfully restraining her from yelling.
As much as he didn't want to, Rogue sadly dipped his head and gently lowered his babies to join Levi and Hange. The titan then beamed feebly and tapped his pointer finger upon their heads as a message that he didn't want them to worry.
"SIT TITAN!" The man yelled again, nearly making the creature flinch at the aggressive tone.
With a final look of tenderness and a quiet trill, Rogue then navigated to where he was ordered, shoulders slumped in shame as he slowly took his seat. As he always did, the titan took his time to cross his legs to make himself more compact and give the humans the courtesy to have more room.
At the MP's furious tone, Rogue quickly finished his routine and nearly popping his hip. The titan then neatly placed his hands into his lap in a non-threatening gesture and bowed his head slightly with tapered ears more pliable. The titan snuck the man a less than pleased glance before adverting his eyes away. Normally, he would have given the great pleasure of a loud hiss in protest to the individual, but here there were different rules under tense circumstances. Like, Levi and the others had said, he had to look as pitiful as he could.
Now that he was seated, Rogue silently began to observe the less than friendly environment. The courtyard was nothing like that of the castle's. It lacked any sort of grass or wild flower and not a weed grew through the cracks of stone. Everything was bleached brick and stone, making the place cold and very unwelcoming. Two long and staircase like pews were lined on either side of the courtyard. Covering them like products on a shelf were various breeds of town people. Some were like those he had always seen in Rose and Maria while others were obviously a native of Sina with their quality garbs. His family and little ones were seated to his right on the first row of seats, remaining quiet while glancing at him every so often before looking back at several high podiums directly facing him. To his left, Rogue spotted a set of strange yet angry looking humans that dawned long grey robes and a set of shiny gold chains around their necks. The titan blinked, ears angling in slight curiosity. He had never seen people like them, and from their smell and what he sensed – he already knew that he hated them. Rogue continued to observe as one of the robed men brushed past the others of his breed to look at his bulk. Like Levi, the man's face was sculpted into a disgusted frown. His eyes were sunken into his skull with wrinkles framing them and his head was cut in a fashion similar to Connie's. The man reeked with secrecy and distrust – making Rogue recognize who he was looking at. Pastor Nick. The strange humans behind him were none other than the Wallists.
He swallowed fretfully, looking down at his shackled hands to notice the unevenly stained slabs, red mixing into the brick surface between his legs. Rabbit like, Rogue's nose twitched to catch the dull scent of old blood – human blood. The titan's crimson ran cold and if he were able to view himself in a mirror he would have noticed that his face had paled a little at the realization. He had only heard of this place from Levi's crude descriptions of Sina. This was an area for execution – where they killed criminals in agonizing and alarming ways. Rogue's heart began to pound. Why had they put him here? He was no criminal! He wasn't guilty of anything! Rogue bit his tongue slightly in consideration at the thought. No. He was sure it was because he couldn't fit into the human building. Yes that had to be it! He was far too valuable wasn't he?
Rogue then forcefully pulled himself from the thought with a slight shake of his head. Worriedly, the titan then began to opaquely eavesdrop on his audience. His elven ears flickered at each comment to discover that were just like those outside the courtyard.
"It – obeyed all those men and women?"
"The Rogue actually carried those two MPs and those four Scouts?"
"Those ears – they look like an elf's."
"It has so many teeth."
"Its mouth is so terrifying. The manic grin is appalling."
"Look, you can see veins close to its skin. That's so gross!"
"The titan's face has so many angles."
"As ferocious as the papers describe The Rogue – it looks almost scared to be here."
"Its skin looks so tough."
"I wonder how much it drools like a dog without any lips."
"Its irises are so green."
"Its face looks like a ghoul or goblin."
"It looks so dim looking!" A fat man cackled. "It's just sitting there naked looking like a mutt that just got caught for shitting on a rug!"
Rogue sighed, trying to ignore everything and focus on his delivery of his coming speech only to catch Nick's eye yet again.
"What an abomination!" The man whispered angrily – his higher tone of voice not fitting. "It's a disgrace to the walls and our great goddesses! It should be extinguished! The children that it raised as well! They're probably some sort of unholy hybrid of that monster!"
The titan felt heat pool into his gut at the Pastor's very words – speaking horridly of his little ones. So badly did he want to roar in defiance to prove the man wrong and retain his utmost dominance. If it was one thing he hated more than titans it was when his babies were threatened or talked to repulsively. Rogue snorted a puff of steam; he had just found someone that he officially hated more than Nile.
"Hopefully they just execute the damned thing!" A man grumbled. "It's a titan for crying out loud!"
"I bet it's only acting out all of this. It wants to kill us as soon as he's successful in getting everyone to trust him." A middle age woman speculated.
"Hopefully the Scouts win this." Spoke an obvious supporter.
"I hope it all ends here. This charade has gone far enough."
Suddenly, a man dressed in black came forth to stand before the great podium, silencing all of the humans in the courtyard and gaining every wandering eye.
"Members of our audience, please rise to honor the Supreme Commander, Darius Zackley." The man spoke deeply with his voice echoing across the fairly barren courtyard.
In awe, Rogue watched as the crowd around him stood to offer their focus towards Zackley who had emerged from within the adjacent courthouse. The elderly man looked the same, right down to every hair in his neatly groomed beard. The titan watched as the biggest leader placed himself at his perch and lay out a few papers decorated in human words. For a long moment, the piazza was quiet as Zackley's eyes rapidly danced along the dialect with trained precision before lifting his gaze to Rogue and the waiting audience – his face difficult to decipher.
"You may all now be seated." He spoke solidly but with great authority. "To begin, we are here today for the trial of Rogue Jaeger in light of the recent and unexpected return of the Scouts from the 57th expedition. Erwin Smith," The man addressed the matriarch of his family and the Commander of the Scouts. "According to your submitted report, the mission was going smoothly until a titan horde appeared from nowhere in an ambush – an unprecedented occurrence that cost you nearly a dozen soldiers. However, the number of losses climbed substantially when a unique titan displaying intelligence began to decimate the regiment – raising the death count to approximately eighty soldiers including nearly every member of Corporal Levi's elite squad. Am I correct?" Zackley peeked at Erwin with a sharp gaze, the titan witnessing a look that the Supreme had not displayed. Erwin nodded.
"Yes, Sir. This titan used defenses and attacks that we had never witnessed before."
"I see. Now Corporal Levi," Zackley continued. "It seems that the Scouts were able to momentarily trap this titan before it broke free and reached you and your squad. Your notes indicate that this titan may have been after Rogue and his previous territory am I right?"
The short male nodded. "Yes, Sir." He replied flatly.
Rogue blinked at this, it was clear that his family was trying to reframe from spilling the opposing titan's gender. They would probably just think of the act of mating for a number of important reasons.
"Okay, now the reports I have before me indicate that something went horribly wrong with Levi's squad, resulting in all their deaths except for Rogue himself. Written here is the fact that Rogue went after said titan. He was never given an order to do so. Now, I would like to hear from the defendant himself as to why he made his decision." Zackley illustrated, turning his gaze to Rogue with calculating eyes softening in the slightest. The titan couldn't tell if it was sympathy or disappointment. At the man's words, a wave of murmurs and comments sounded throughout the spectators.
"Needing to hear from the defendant himself? How! It's a titan!"
"How is a titan supposed to defend itself?"
"This is preposterous!"
With a scowl now present on his face, Zackley picked up what the titan made out to be a wooden hammer and began to pound it against the podium. "Silence! Like all trials, I will not tolerate outbursts! Now, to paint a picture as to how the defendant will defend himself, I must share what I learned upon an inspection that was quite unexpected for such a creature. This titan has an incredible gift that allows him to communicate and be understood by others. Rogue," Zackley continued. "If you please, could you demonstrate by reciting the oath in a court of law?"
The audience whispered again. "What –
The titan nodded almost bashfully, swallowing to salivate his mouth. "EEIII TTEELLL TTRRUUUTHH UUNND OONNEIII TTUUTTHH." The titan recited, remembering to hold up his right hand – the action sending the audience into a frenzy.
"A talking titan?"
"What is this freak show!"
However, the voice that was above all others was Pastor Nick.
"What is this monstrosity? He is more than a beast that violated the walls and disrespected the goddesses themselves! This is a demon! This my brothers and sisters is an unholy abomination sent from the depths of hell in the body of humanities greatest foe to enslave us all! This is none other than the devil himself!" The man preached angrily, receiving a small amount of praise and the cold looks of the Scouts – including a very deadly glare from his Mikasa. Zackley hammered his podium once again.
"I said silence! Pastor, please reframe from giving us your religious commentary! That is illegal in the court of law! One more outburst like that will result in your expulsion from the court. Do I make myself clear?"
The robed man grumbled, fists tight and teeth noticeably clenched. "Yes, sir." Nick nearly hissed.
The weight of the Pastor's words fell onto Rogue, but before he could dwell thoroughly into the cruel statement, The Supreme started again.
"Now, before I hear Rogue's side of the story, I would like to know Miss Zoe's theory as to why this titan was after our defendant. Section Commander, would you please stand and give your reason?"
Rogue watched as Hange stood excitedly from her seat, saluting before clearing her throat. "Your Honor, we have reason to believe that it was a territorial dispute!" The woman answered, the titan noting how she had left out the mating theory. "We have reason to believe that this is true due to the fact that we were on the outskirts of Rogue's old territory at the time. The titan in question was defending its territory and making sure that Rogue didn't get it back!"
Zackley nodded, picking up a pen to scribe something before turning to the scientist yet again. "Thank you Section Commander, you may now be seated. Now Rogue, please enlighten the court of what happened the moments after Corporal Levi dismissed you and his squad into the forest."
The titan dipped his head, exhaling a cloud of steam to keep his nerves at bay. He could do this. "NNEEE AANNDD SSAAHHDD EERRR AANNBUUSSHEDD AAFFTERR TTITTANN ESSCCAPP." Rogue began trying to remember every word that had been drilled into his head. "TTTIITTANN KKIILL GUNNTRRR. EETTRRAA UUNDDD RRESST OVVV SSAHHDD OOLLDDD NNEE TTOO GGOOO IINNDDD EEVVII."
Zackley nodded. "I see, keep going."
"EEIII OOLLLOOWW PPLANN, BBUTT EEII SAWWW TTIITTAANN KKIILL NNYY SSAAHHDD – NYY AANNLLEEE." Rogue stalled on a sad note, making sure he did as he was told even though he would have shown his emotion anyways. "EEVVII OOLLDDD NNEEE EEII HHAADD AATTHOORR… AATHHOORR…
"Authority?" Zackley corrected, getting a nod.
"ESS! EEVVII GAAVVE NNEE AAUUTTOORRIITTEEII TTOO NNAAAKKEE JJUUGGENNENNTT CCAALL."
Zackley sat up at this, a brow raised in suspicion. "Corporal, is this true? Did you give Rogue permission to make a decision?"
Levi stood, face glued into his signature scowl. "Yes I did." He said simply, getting a rustle from the audience. "I did give the power to Rogue. I also need to point out that in my squad, I alone are the one to give out orders to be followed. ALL of my squad members are of the same rank, Rogue included. When I am absent for whatever reason, they decide the most logical execution as a team."
The Supreme leaned back in his chair, interest clearly showing on his face. "To be frank, please elaborate on that Corporal. I understand that Rogue was found to have mental boundaries am I correct?"
The titan found himself sulking, shoulders hunching over in the slightest at the remark.
Levi nodded. "Yes, Rogue does have his difficulties when it comes to learning about our culture and a few other tidbits of general knowledge, it can take some time to learn. However, from a military standpoint, Rogue is a tactical genius – one of the best I've had the privilege to work with. He is amazing at analyzing situations and our enemy, making the right executions in combat, and is probably our best tracker we have in the Scouts. You should know this from the many times he bested us on our missions to capture him. In fact, Rogue would still be out in Maria if Ackerman and Arlert hadn't been found and coaxed him to join us."
Zackley took down the man's words, nodding to himself and rubbing a hand through his perfectly combed beard. "Alright, thank you for the clarification. Now Rogue, can you please continue?"
The titan sat up again at the command. "EEII DDECCEEIIDEEDD TTHAAT DDEE TTIITTANN CCOOULDD NNOOT RREEECHH AAMMMILLYY."
Zackley held up a hand for Rogue to pause. "Before you continue, can you please say your definition of 'family' to the court?"
Rogue's eyes widened in the slightest at the request, the titan glancing over at his comrades, seeing Armin give a barely noticeable nod before proceeding to answer. "SSCOUUTS. SSCCOOUTTS ARRR NNYY AAANNILLEEE."
"Ah, I see. I remember you also saying Arlert and Ackerman were whom you called your 'Little Ones' or 'Babies.' Is this true as well?"
Rogue tilted his head at the request. Zackley had to have a purpose for asking such a thing. Again the titan glanced to Armin who gave another discreet dip of his head. "ESSS. DDEEYY NNYY AAIIBBEESS." Rogue replied, sneaking a small smile that the elderly man bore witness to.
"Alright. If you feel the need, you may address them as such. Now please do go on with what happened."
"KAAYY. EEII DDEENN WEENNTT TTOO SSTTOOPP TTIITTAAN. TTOO KIILL EETT SSOO EETT NOOO GGEETT TTOO AANNILLEE. EEEII UURRTT TTIITTAAN BBUUUT ETT GGEET AAWWAAYY SSSOO EEII HHUNNT EET. EEII GGOO DDEEPP EENN OORREESSTT UUNNDD OOUUND ETT. WWEE AATTLLE." Rogue paused, painfully recalling every detail that happened. "EENN DDAA EENND EEII OONNNEEE. UUTT EIII AAASS HHUURRRTT AADDD. TTIITTAANNN BBRROOKKEE NNYY EELLVVIISS UUNNDD EEEII WWAASS WWOORRNN OOUTT." The creature scratched his chin trying to figure out how to word the scientific terms that Hange had taught him. "WHHENN EEII WWEEAAKK EEII HEAAL SSLOOOO."
"I see." Zackley spoke as he continued to scribe the titan's testimony. "So that is the reason why the Scouts chose to retreat back to Wall Rose?"
"Now Rogue, the report says that you also saved the Scouts from total annihilation from a hoard of titans under Corporal Levi's command. Is this correct?"
"It states that you killed a total of over forty titans on the 57th expedition alone. Those are impressive numbers. I congratulate you on your success Rogue."
The titan's tapered ears lifted a little in pride, spine straightening out. "TTAANNKK UUOOO."
Zackley nodded, picking up his notes and holding them before him, expertly scrutinizing his handwriting. For several minutes, the courtyard was quiet until Zackley cleared his throat.
"Going over the evidence in this case and both spoken and written testimonies, I can confidently say that Rogue is not guilty in this situation." The man declared, making the titan's heart lift into his chest and a broad smile appear on his face. Rogue's ears flickered and the beast hummed in pleasure. He had done it!
"What!" Nile, who had been silent the whole time until the point of declaration spoke up. "That titan acted on his own!"
The Supreme Commander transferred a pointed glare to the head of the MPs, the disgusted look upon his face nearly making the titan laugh. "Yes, but it was still under Corporal Levi's command. The Corporal clearly gave his permission to the defendant to make a call if need be. That call ultimately saved the rest of the Scouts. That is my decree. We will not go further into it."
Nile's face twisted into a deep frown, face tinted slightly crimson. "Sir, what about the report that was given to me this morning!" He hastily whispered, Rogue's blood running cold. No! Not that!
"Sit down, I'm getting to that now." Zackley muttered, noticing the MP calming and shooting a rather smug look upon Erwin and Levi.
"No, this is the worst case scenario!" Rogue caught Armin whisper hastily beneath his breath.
The titan gulped. No! Why couldn't they have ignored this!
Zackley cleared his throat. "However, I can not dismiss this trial just yet. This morning we received a written report by an anonymous person saying that they were hunting and stumbled upon the titan, Ackerman, and Arlert during the lunchtime hours. The report says that Rogue displayed aggressive behavior during the time. Cadet Armin Arlert – is this true and can you explain the moment for the court?"
The small blonde stood, saluting once before nodding. "Yes, Sir! This indeed occurred two days ago during our lunch hour. Mikasa Ackerman and I took Rogue to the memorial garden to pay our respects to the soldiers and his squad mates that lost their lives during the 57th expedition. While we were eating, two men with rifles emerged from the tree line with weapons aimed at Rogue and the two of us. Sir, Rogue is also trained to protect us if trouble arises. During this confrontation, Rogue kept us behind him as the two men made no attempt to retreat. Rogue only growled to ward them off; he never once viciously attacked them or made the move to attack. Not only did he listen to Mikasa and I's orders not to do so, Rogue follows an oath never to harm a human being unless they lay a hand onto us or any member of the Scouts with criminal intent. Sir, we firmly believe that this was no accident, the men never made any move to back down, and shot Rogue in the arm with the intent to make him act out. They were trespassing as well. Still, Rogue did not act and the two suspects only retreated when our superiors showed up to intervene."
Zackley sat still at the news, eyes turning to Levi. "Is this true Corporal? It notes here that you saw part of the event take place. Do you believe this was no accident?"
The shorter make stood firmly. "Yes, Sir. This was absolutely intentional. I was able to ID one of the triggermen as an EX MP."
Another wave of murmurs floated among the crowd as Zackley sat up fully at the news. "An EX MP you say?"
"Yes, I cannot name him, but I can say that he had short brown hair and a scar above his right eye."
The older man folded his arms. "Corporal, I'm sure that you are aware that isn't reason for me to believe that the man was a dismissed MP."
Levi quickly nodded and reached inside his inner jacket pocket. "I'm fully aware of that, but the assailant was foolish enough to use one of these." Levi countered as he pulled the bullet to view. "Please take a look at this." The Corporal asked as a man next to the great podium came to retrieve the bullet to pass off to Zackley. Rogue watched as The Supreme peered at the bullet in serious curiosity before turning to Levi.
"Is this Iron Bamboo, Corporal?"
"Yes. As you probably are aware, normal rounds cannot puncture a titan's skin and iron bamboo doesn't melt when it imbeds itself into a titan's boiling hot muscle. I'm sure that you're also aware that they quit manufacturing them about seventy years ago and that they were only addressed to military personnel. We think that the EX MP may have gotten ahold of one through the black-market – a surviving round that wasn't melted down."
Zackley blinked, adjusting his glasses as he looked at the bottom of the bullet. "You're correct about the date in which these were made – I'm sure you noticed a faint serial number on the bottom – a combination of numbers that would indeed date this thing older than seven decades. The 'M' does indicate that it was issued to the military. "As far as what branch, it was not etched on weaponry at the time as it is today. This bullet ironically saved your friend from execution." The man informed, making Rogue lift his head at the results. "However, there isn't enough substantial proof that this bullet was fired from the gun of an old MP, but whoever used it certainly knew what they were doing. In order to get down to finding the culprit, further investigation will have to be done."
"Sir!" Nile interrupted. "Are you implying that I or the Military Police are guilty of such a thing? Are you saying that we have been making suspicious trades or buys? That's ridiculous!"
Zackley frowned. "This was an attack with possible ties to the Military Police. At this point everyone, from civilians to soldiers, is a suspect."
Nile's face comically fell, making Rogue huff in slight amusement. However, as the titan continued to analyze the man's face and the troubling emotion on it, something within him sensed a great lack of deceit. The titan raised a brow. Somehow, Nile had nothing to do with what happened. He had a feeling. He couldn't explain it but Nile was innocent.
"Well, with that being said, I declare that Rogue Jaeger stays in the possession of the Scouts." Zackley concluded as he pounded the podium. "As for the incident at the Scouting Legion's headquarters, the matter will be further investigated. That concludes the trial." Zackley finished as he stood and began to gather his things – the audience free to express their held opinions.
"They let that thing free again!"
"Good! He was never guilty from the beginning."
"That unholy demon should have been killed!" Nick blabbered to his followers.
Nile swore. "I can't fucking believe this."
"Yes! He's not guilty!"
Rogue however, ignored the vast majority of words and comment as he slowly brought himself upright. His heart pounded in excitement, absolutely enthused that he could still be with his family. Rumbling in pleasure, Rogue carefully approached his little ones who bore broad and relieved grins. The titan then crouched before them with his jaw contorted into a lopsided smile, an odd squealing sound seeping from between his teeth. Emerald greens lit up in joy as he greeted his little ones as they climbed into his hands, watching as Hange enthusiastically bounded from her seat and over in his palms. Rogue chirruped, ears wiggling as his gaze drifted to Levi who was slowly making his way out of the section of pews. Deciding to make the man's trek much faster, Rogue quickly and gently snatched the man from the brick earth – much to Levi's disapproval.
"You big idiot!" The Corporal scolded as the titan placed him in his palm to join the others. "If you lick me, I will personally hand you over to that bastard Nile!"
Rogue simply purred, ringed eyes shut tight in bliss as he edged in and nuzzled the four – Hange and his little ones chuckling with Levi growling in annoyance as usual.
"You kicked ass!" Hange declared, brows arching high over her glasses. "Mommy is so proud of you!" The woman cooed as she buried her face between his nose and cheek.
"Hange, what the hell."
"See?" Armin beamed as his hand stroked the titan's cartilage. "It was easy wasn't it?"
Rogue hummed happily in response, pupils wandering to Mikasa who propped herself up and planted a tiny but affectionate kiss between his brows before pressing her own into his. "I'm so happy that you're not leaving me." The teen spoke, her words full of meaning, kindness, and love. "You did wonderful."
His little sister's words made growing warmth flourish and spread throughout his body. He was so happy! He would live and continue to love them. He couldn't wait to get home! Rogue purred loudly, the sound of affection echoing throughout the courtyard as he continued to gaze at the four humans that he was so very glad to be with. The wind then shifted, blowing strands of their hair and ruffling his own, carrying a scent that seeped into the tissue lining of his nose clear into his sinus cavities. Rogue stilled, the oh so welcoming warmth draining from his body completely and being replaced by a bitter cold rush. The titan's pupils shrank, becoming pinpricks as his muscles petrified throughout his body. The beast's breath grew coarse as sheer terror invasively infected him. Rogue nostrils flared repeatedly while he inhaled and exhaled like a hungry dog. No! It couldn't be could it? It was impossible!
"Rogue – Rogue what's wrong!"
Before the titan could follow the scent to its unwanted source, a piercing and inhuman shriek sliced through the air, bringing all of Sina to a silent standstill. Rogue immediately looked towards the city's edge and he paled as if he had seen a ghost – if she could be called one.
There, perched on top the wall, was The Female Titan.
His jaw went slack, he was speechless. All he could do was stare fixedly at the devil that had arisen from hell. How? How had she escaped! Could she have outlasted the horde? Could she have fought them off? She certainly was capable of doing so. Rogue's breath grew harsher as his sense of panic began to swell. Was it possible that The Female Titan only pretended to die? The sounds of anguish, could they have been merely a performance? Could she have let herself get beat up before taking down the horde when his family had left? It was possible; The Female was incredibly intelligent and capable of thinking up such a plan. Alarm then caused his rapid heartbeat to skip. She was here, in a human city full of humans. Although they were bitter and cold, they were innocent. The Female Titan was looking for him and wasn't shy about slaughtering anyone near him. No doubt about it, a lot of blood was about to be shed.
"Shit! The bitch must have played dead." Levi hissed through his teeth with the titan setting down his cargo in a trance. The shorter male then made his way for the Commander, shoving any scrambling person that got in his way. "Erwin! She's back! The Female Titan has scaled the wall!"
Thick brows rose in astonishment, the Commander's face obscured with piercing blues looking out onto the horizon. The man's brows then narrowed, watching as the monster leaped from atop the towering wall into the city of Stohess. He then inhaled greatly and turned to the waiting Scouts. "The Female Titan has returned and breached the wall! Scouts! Equip 3D maneuver gear and prepare to engage the enemy! Military Police!" Erwin continued as he turned to a spooked looking Nile and displeased looking Zackley. "Please, focus on –
"Erwin! What the fuck is this!" Nile snapped, suddenly changing his demeanor. "You clearly said during your reports and the trial that this titan was dead! You lied!"
The tall blonde's brows pinched, a muscle in his neck twitching. "I'm not lying Nile. This Female Titan – she is like nothing that we have ever dealt with. She has frightening intelligence and was able to plot against us. I believe that she faked her death when the titan horde corralled her deep in the forest. I'm sure you're aware that titan corpses evaporate upon the moment of death. The only indications we had to go on was that we never saw her again for the duration of the expedition and she failed to trail us to our headquarters for over two weeks. Not only that, but the last view anyone saw of her was her yowling in pain and being preyed upon by other titans. Trust me, this is as much of a surprise to you as it is to us. Please, we need to focus on evacuating the citizens of Stohess. Like I said, this titan is the strongest we've come across and is capable of doing things that we've never witnessed."
"Commander," Zackley began sternly. "As much as I am furious about your negligence, not visualizing this titan's death first hand before making a set determination, we must take the necessary measures to ensure that there are as few casualties as possible. Nile, the MPs need to focus on evacuation. Erwin, what is it that you plan to do?" Zackley spoke coldly, eyes giving the man a threatening stare.
Erwin stood still for a moment, peering from the corner of his eye at Rogue before turning back to the two men. "Right now, the odds are against us. Corporal Levi is wounded, and some of our regiment is still back at headquarters and they will not get here in time. Although we have some of our strongest soldiers with us, the situation is still rather bleak with the fact that we will have to take the time to equip. In truth, our best shot is to have Rogue engage her and we serve as backup support. The Female Titan has bested him once, but right now that's our only –
"So you're saying that you want to let that monster loose in Stohess to fight her! Erwin! What kind of move is that? You're risking more lives that way than any other way! What good will that do us?" Nile barked, suddenly wielding his gun at the blonde who didn't even seem to be fazed.
"I believe this is a step forward – a fighting chance at victory for humanity."
Nile's eyes widened at the Commander's statement before his brows narrowed even deeper. "The good of humanity? If you let that beast fight here, the city will be destroyed. The losses will be catastrophic! Your titan will then be executed or face the consequences."
Erwin's gaze darkened. "And he would have done so under my command. So I am responsible for whatever action he could take. If we do this, I will be responsible for the damages that occur and I will receive the necessary punishment. Not Rogue. In the end, he's just a soldier following an order."
Rogue sat in shock at the big leader's declaration, Erwin really felt this way? This – this was the plan?"
Suddenly, Zackley took a step forward and placed a gripping hand on the barrel of Nile's rifle, lowering it. "Stand aside Nile." The Supreme ordered with the MP reluctantly resisting but ultimately listening. "Erwin, why is this titan, a female, after yours?" He demanded.
Rogue gulped, the man was obviously trying to catch the blonde in a lie. Erwin however, still remained calm and collected.
"Territory and control – she wants to take Rogue's alpha status." Erwin informed promptly, glancing at the current chaos. "Please, Sir. We do not have much time. I apologize for urging you to make a decision such as this."
Zackley held a firm hand before lowering it. "Since this titan is as intelligent as you say, I don't believe we have the option of drawing her out of the city. Commander, I give you permission to carry out this mission, but you will be the one receiving punishment." The Supreme concluded, receiving an understanding nod from Erwin and a loud sound of revulsion from Nile.
"Sir! What are you –
"It's our only option." Zackley interrupted the MP. "Nile, please focus on evacuating the citizens. If you must, have your most skilled soldiers assist the Scouts. Now, Erwin – you'll be coming with me." He continued as a man approached the commander and encased his hands in shackles – the flying human receiving the act with stride.
"I gladly accept." Erwin replied strongly. "Levi, you and Hange are in charge until I return." The tall blonde included, receiving confident nods from both the Corporal and Section Commander, before following the supreme.
Rogue lowered himself to be with his companions. He looked at them worriedly, knowing his task. He was going to be pitted against the female titan yet again in a fight to the death – set in a cage with hundreds of helpless people. Not only that, but his little ones would be going against the monstrosity as well. Rogue whined softly at the back of his throat. He didn't like this. Not at all. No doubt about it, a lot of people were going to be killed. His little ones, babies, if they stood against The Female Titan – their chance of survival wasn't promising. They were strong, he knew that. However, was it enough?
"Rogue?" Armin began, capturing the titan from his daze, green eyes looking at the collection of people below him sadly, waiting for instructions, desperately not wanting a session of final goodbyes. "I'm positive you understood what Erwin said right?" The teen asked, getting a solemn nod. Armin hesitated for a moment before being urged ahead by a sharp gesture of Levi's head. "You're going to have to fight The Female Titan, and this time you must kill her. You have to protect everyone. You're humanity's only hope."
Rogue nodded strongly, trying to get ahold of any ounce of trepidation that he had.
Levi then cleared his throat. "Alright, I guess my sorry ass is going to have to take a standby position. Now Rogue, you're going to have to go and engage in combat first hand while we get the gear to cover you with. If there was a time where you had to remember all your training with me – this is it. I don't want that bitch walking out of here alive. You are the reaper that's going to send her straight to hell. That's your agenda, that's your mission – your purpose. Everyone, including me is counting on you, Rogue. Don't fuck this up." Levi addressed, ending in his familiar fashion.
"You must get going quickly." Hange began, more serious than he had ever seen her. "I do have to warn you though. The Female Titan has backed herself into a corner. She is desperate now - enough to come this far in the game. She will do whatever she can to take what she wants from you. Be vigilant and on your toes. Good luck."
Again, Rogue dipped his head in understanding before crouching lower to his little ones where his chin touched the pale bricks. The beast then gently leaned into them, soaking once anew in their tender and loving traces. He then felt Mikasa run her hand along the bridge of his nose – able to recognize her from the texture of her light skin. His ears twitched slightly, hearing the shakiness of her chest – indicating that she was on the verge of tears. Knowing that she desperately needed an indication that things were going to be all right, Rogue gently let the tip of his tongue glide over her brow – making her chuckle in the slightest.
"We'll be alright," She began. "You just focus on killing her. You'll be great. I know you will." Mikasa hesitated for a moment, trembling slightly as she rubbed her brow deeper into his skin. "Promise me. Promise us that you won't leave again, Rogue."
Knowing what her words really meant – a metaphor he recognized, Rogue only purred even louder, listening to Levi's irritated sigh – the man opting to stay quiet. With his ear twitching at the growing chaos in the distance, the titan reluctantly pulled away from his little ones after a final lick and sat up, allowing a few soldiers to undo his handcuffs and detach the collar from his neck. Feeling that their weight was free from his frame, Rogue then slowly stood, looking in the direction of trouble before glancing down at his little family one final time.
"Remember, we're right behind you." Armin urged.
Rogue nodded, deciding to give a proper departure. "LLOOVVVEEE OOOUUU." He concluded and let the view of his little ones soak in further before turning and exiting the courtyard, pausing slightly before taking a deep breath, inhaling the corrupt world around him. He had to win. He had to.
It was time to hunt.
"It's about time that the bastards showed up." Levi grumbled as a wooden military cart appeared before them outside the courthouse.
Both Hange and Levi stood in the open streets along with their new recruits. While several MPs unloaded the trailer with boxes of gear, she couldn't help but to look at the familiar faces. Most of them looked fossilized and shook up like they had seen a murder take place right before them. The scientist could certainly understand why. They were getting ready to go against a formidable opponent, one that could kill them so very easily – making them as fragile as a toothpick. In addition to this, she was well aware that none of the new recruits were trained in a situation like this. Sure there was the incident at Trost, but this was a whole new ballgame. Even though there was only a single threat – said target was over a hundred titans in one with intelligence to boot. She sympathized with them. Jean and Connie were unnaturally quiet with sweat beading on their faces. Sasha and Krista looked panicked. Armin would shiver every two seconds, his hands shaking as he put on the straps of his gear. The only two that didn't have an expression of uncertainty painted on their facades were not surprisingly Mikasa and Levi. The dark haired teen was completely wordless and stoic and Levi just looked as aggravated and constipated as usual.
Hange looked out at the maze of buildings as she blindly fastened the loops of her straps, mind moving quickly with theories and thoughts as to why The Female Titan had suddenly showed up before turning to the Corporal. Blinking in confusion, Hange stared at Levi with a dumbfounded look. The short male was completely ignoring his broken leg and was actually equipping his gear! That was definitely one activity that was far from the doctor's orders! For a long moment, she couldn't turn her eyes away as Levi simply pulled the straps over the suit he was wearing before until she grew brave enough to try and put her foot down. "Levi! What in the hell are you doing! You broke your leg for crying out loud! I hate to say it, but you really should sit this one out!" She strongly pleaded with many of the recruits now peering at the man questioningly.
The look he gave her would make a trainee's skin prickle, silver eyes darker than ever. The man then exhaled with strong irritation and finished up with his straps. "Tch – contrary to what you think, I'm more than capable of maneuvering in this state Hange. You'd be surprised how many times I had to learn to do such a thing in the underground in order to keep myself alive."
She was well aware of Levi's past and how horrible it must have been – a thing that shaped Levi's harsh personality. Speaking with Erwin about it once, from her understanding, the Corporal had done some pretty unspeakable things.
"How did you get gear, Sir?" Connie foolishly asked, getting a scowl from his short superior.
"You don't want to know." Levi spoke simply as he finished putting on his gear. "Now, as far as a plan of how to slow The Female down, we will split into three groups. Since I'm pretty much only good for giving orders, I'll stay on standby with a trapping crew. The bitch doesn't like us to intervene so the other groups will try luring her into our trap. The best place to take her would be downtown where the buildings are big enough to hide some of the shots." Levi paused, the scientist catching him biting his lip. "It's a shitty plan, but we don't have much to go on. Arlert, Ackerman, Kirstein, Springer, Blouse, and Lenz you go with Shitty Glasses. You'll be looking for Rogue and getting the bitch's attention. If you can do that, then you'll join up with another crew to lure her. If this fails, standby for further orders. Understand?" Levi concluded with the others silently nodding in clarity. "Hange?"
Hearing his sudden summoning, she snapped her head to the Corporal, noticing that his face had softened in the slightest. "Yes?"
"Something is bothering you. I can tell by the look on your face. What is it?"
Hange's eyes widened as Levi's unexpected words and the realization that she had been wearing her worried expression more prominently. "Well, I'm just racking my brain as to why The Female Titan would go this far to get to Rogue. Normally, territorial disputes only take place in said territory, battles for the Alpha status too. It makes me wonder…"
"What are you saying?" Levi demanded, his voice surprisingly not menacing but sounding interested.
"It just makes me think that maybe this is some sort of mating thing after all. Some animals get very desperate to find a mate and risk their own well being to do so. Of course, there still could be something that we are overlooking entirely and Rogue himself is clueless as to what it could be."
It was quiet among the group for a moment before Levi opened his mouth. "Well, we'll just have to ask the bitch won't we?"
His breath grew harsher with each cautious step he took forward. The titan sniffed, nostrils flaring wide in search of her atrocious scent. To his misfortune, he couldn't smell her. Rogue blinked, quickly twisting his head around in search of the skinless abomination; even still he couldn't see her. Where in the hell had she gone!
Rogue inhaled again, looking like a hound searching for an invisible trail, but he could only smell the overwhelming amount of people evacuating. Tapered ears pricked forward, rotating each way trying to pick up heavy footsteps but only hearing the high pitched shrieks of the fleeing souls scurrying below. The titan rounded a corner and came face to face with a crowd of people trying to make their escape to the second gate – a place that was still far from where they currently were located. Emerald eyes stared down at the crowd who looked absolutely horrified at his presence. He lifted a foot, instantly making the party of humans scream and bunch up like cells against the wall of a building as he took a weary step in advance, making sure to keep a broad distance from them. Rogue's ears sank sadly. How in the world was he going to hunt with all of these humans still around and stopping every time he walked through an area! They had seen him before! They knew he was a Scout right?
Rogue froze as the haunting thought crossed his mind. These people didn't know that he was still a Scout. For all he knew, they could have come to the conclusion that he escaped or he had lost his case and had been told to run just like he and Levi's backup plan! He didn't have a choice, with the humans as mortified as they were, he would have to convey he was on their side. Knowing of only one way he could, Rogue lifted his arm to gesture towards the direction of the inner gate.
"GGEETTT OOUUTT!" He urged, watching as jaws dropped. "HUUURREE! OOUUTTT! NNOOTT SSAAFFE!" Rogue dithered, observing as they continued to stare at him. "EEII AAHH SSCCOOOUUTT! HHUURREE! SSHEEEE IILLLL KKIILLL OOOOUUUU!"
"It can speak!" An elderly man announced, making Rogue all the more irritated. He could almost slam his foot into the ground and yell but he had to keep himself under control not to frighten.
"Oh my god."
"I think it wants us to –
"NNOOVVVEE!" Rogue pleaded pathetically. "PLLEEEESSEE!"
To his luck, the frightened bunch listened and nodded at the behemoth. They then ran out of his wake with Rogue pausing to make sure every man, woman, and child was gone before proceeding. The titan rounded another corner, desperately trying to avoid stepping on any humans – some even still standing and not knowing what was transpiring, causing him to keep on telling them to move. Since he had already spoken in the court, he figured that there was no point in keeping silent anymore.
Rogue then rounded another corner to find that the pathway was void of human traffic much to his liking. The titan stalled, sniffing again to find that the wind wasn't cooperating in his favor – blowing any scent in another direction. Deciding that he was to look for his foe visually, Rogue took in his surroundings. There were many tall buildings here that looked very established and elite just like the courthouse. Many of them possessed columns, arched windows, and elaborate carvings. At his feet was a wide street where it appeared that all human activity had ceased, belongings left behind and stands abandoned – the area shadowed by a large circular building with many windows. Rogue then scanned the details of the scene, looking for something that was more out of the ordinary than just a bunch of abandoned hats and handbags. Green pools discovered something that drew his attention away from the path. The titan bent slightly, running his hand across a nearby rooftop. Nonexistent brows drew together in suspicion. The perfect shingles had been disrupted from their permanent sleep. Some were pulled from their spots, cracked, or just plain missing. Rogue's eyes narrowed even further. A human couldn't have bowed in the roof slightly unless they weighed a few thousand pounds. The blemish was fresh, strategic even. The titan's breath caught in his throat. She was –
Before he could continue on his train of thought, something slammed into his side, firm and hard enough where pain erupted in his muscles and he disconnected from the earth. For a split second, everything was weightless before gravity pulled him cruelly. Rogue then felt another strong hit and something cave beneath his weight. His ears were overwhelmed by the sound of crumbling rock and screams; dust fogged the air and dulled his sense of smell. As quickly as he could, Rogue opened his eyes, confused as to what occurred as he tried to see through the dust. Slowly, he sat up and let his matte membrane glide over his struggling eyes. The titan looked skyward, seeing the interior of a building with many stained glass windows – coming to the conclusion that he had been pushed into the tall circular tower. Knowing just who was the culprit of his fall, Rogue sat up and put down a hand for support.
His heart rattled, something wasn't right. Something was wet.
He looked down and saw a scene that nearly made his stomach turn over and drop clear out of his body. There was blood everywhere, bodies scattered like littered trash. The carpet and stone was stained crimson with flattened forms, stray limbs, and innards strung like confetti. Rogue's body shook at the sight, pupils pinpricks as he watched survivors try to retrieve their loved ones from their new eternal sleep. His breath grew shallow, rickety at the horror afore him. The people were the very same that wore the grey robes and gold chains – why had they not evacuated! He… he… fell on them. He killed them! The titan whimpered. They didn't deserve this!
Rogue then turned his head trying to look away from the awful picture as he prepared to get to his feet – noticing the outline of the tall female form through the dust. He blinked, noticing that she was simply standing and looking – head moving slightly in search, indicating that she couldn't see him. Heat pooled in his gut, anger taking the place of horror. She had caused him to do this. She made him kill people. She! She! With aggravation flowing through him along with incredible guilt, Rogue gritted his teeth and quickly rotated, hand grasping The Female's ankle. With a roar, he pulled – the skinless creature making a loud cry of surprise as she tumbled to the ground. The green-eyed titan stood from the rubble, tightening his grip on her body as he hoisted her up and slammed her onto the vacant path. The Female hissed, blue eyes burning just as statistically as Rogue remembered. Looking upon her, the image of his Petra's death flashed before his eyes, the cries of his comrades as they met their end. She was responsible for his suffering. He wanted to make her pay! Make her bleed!
He would devour her!
Rogue raised his fist as he charged, ready to pound her skull into the earth. He wouldn't let her kill anyone else! The titan swung, but the female planted her foot into his abdomen at the last possible second, kicking him back into the remaining buildings. He snarled, green eyes looking dangerous as he hauled himself up yet again, returning her move with a powerful and threatening roar. Rogue bolted forward, fists poised and ready to beat his prey senseless. Muscles contracted, bulging beneath his flesh as he aimed an uppercut for her bottom jaw in hopes that he would send her head skyward. However, she was quick – something that he seemingly forgot about as she threw an arm up to disperse his fist into another direction. Before he could throw his other waiting hand, she grasped his shoulders and kneed him just below his ribcage, forcing him to fold over and expel a torrent of stomach acid. Rogue grunted, urging himself to attack as he swung again but only hitting the air. The titan growled in frustration, seeing that The Female was sprinting deeper into the labyrinth of structures. He roared and broke out in a run. His prey was not going to get away easily. But more than that, she couldn't kill anyone else! If there were people in the big building even after the order to evacuate was spoken, then there was likely to be more. There were also people still in the streets! He couldn't let them get flattened. They couldn't die!
Rogue whined to himself, the image of the people compacted by his weight stuck in his mind. No, he couldn't let anyone else fall victim – but how could he hunt and engage his enemy while trying to ward her away from the heavily inhabited place at the same time? He wasn't sure. Rogue took a brief moment and glanced around, seeing that the Scouts had not taken to the air yet. He swallowed, focusing on the monster's running form before him. Yes, he couldn't let her get away. He would get her before she did any further damage.
The earth and foundations vibrated as the two titans charged through the city. Stray human forms within buildings cowered as the beasts carried on. Rogue snarled and growled viciously as he continued to trail her, his greens locked on her skinless form ahead. Like a deer, she was moving in an odd pattern, zigzagging through the streets and structures – sometimes pushing herself right through them. With the wind blowing against his bulk, his nostrils were filled with her exotic scent with the addition of human blood. Rogue grumbled in frustration. The Female had no shred of compassion as she barreled right over the tiny and helpless lives still scurrying around in the streets. In truth, Rogue was losing precious amounts of time due to the fact that he kept looking down every few seconds to check for people in his path – sidestepping in avoidance every time he came in contact with a tiny soul. This irritated him greatly. Why couldn't the bitch just vanish?
The Female Titan then veered once again towards a large area filled with luxurious buildings and landscape. A large and elaborate fountain ran down the middle of the strip, surrounded by many startled humans that ranged from gentlemen to small children. Hearing the thundering footsteps and feeling the trembling earth, the citizens of Stohess looked up to bare witness the two tremendous creatures headed right for them. Rogue cringed slightly as a chorus of screams met his ears while his adversary crashed through another building and into the area. Trying to avoid causing casualties, Rogue took a small leap over the ruble, landing ungracefully in the fountain but still staying upright. He scrambled to right himself, snarling and leaking streams of saliva from the nooks of his teeth.
Suddenly, she twisted to face him, hand going through another tower and flinging more debris and lives to the harsh ground below. Rogue halted in his path, eyes witnessing his opponent keep her stance and loosen, poised with her blue eyes burning into his – her mouth pulled into a displeased frown. The hunter's ears pinned against his head, hair ruffling on his scalp and his breath cavernous. Still, he found himself resisting the urge to charge and sink his teeth into her esophagus. Judging by her body language, she wanted to address him. Rogue rumbled with intense distaste. This time, he wouldn't be asking questions.
"WHAT IS IT… WITH YOUR KIND… AND HUMANS?" She inquired, tone low and unmoved.
Rogue however, gave no answer. He just kept his dangerous glare.
The Female Titan withheld a response to his lack of thereof for several seconds before revealing a slight smirk. "IT IS… DIFFERENT." She continued. "SEEING YOU ANGRY. LESS SOFT. LESS…. DULL. YOU WERE SO… BLISSFULL. IGNORANT." The skinless titan paused, Rogue feeling his skin heat up at her words. "TELL ME… HOW DOES…IT FEEL… TO BE… THE ODD ONE OUT?" The Female sneered. "HOW… DOES IT… FEEL TO BE… A MONSTER AMONG MEN?"
He was done, not wanting to hear her further taunts; Rogue released a sudden roar that caught his opponent off guard. With a piercing shriek, he lunged forward, fist poised just so to plant itself into her face. However, her reflexes were sharp. The Female's arms shot up before her face in a defensive stance, her elbow covering itself in hard diamond. His eyes widened slightly at this, but it was too late for him to pull back. His knuckles crashed hard into her hardened crystalline skin, Rogue howled in both agony and frustration as his knuckles shattered and several layers of flesh tore from bone. The titan stumbled forward, ungracefully falling on his knees and creating two craters in the now blood splattered brick. Rogue shot is head up quickly to see that his foe's leg was coming in for a low sweep. With seconds to spare, Rogue pushed himself away and reached his feet. However, his adversary was looking for blood. The Female rushed forward and began her damning assault.
Wind ripped past his face while diamond hard fists swept forward. Surprisingly, he was able to sidestep and move slightly just in time to avoid such hits while keeping watch for an opening. Unfortunately, she wasn't giving him any clearance. Rogue gulped, narrowly dodging another lethal jab. Sooner or later, he would have to make a move and his luck of avoidance would run dry and –
Before he could finish his thought, a sharp pain coursed through his stomach. Gritting his teeth and glancing downward to see the skinless titan's fist planted into his muscle, her nails digging deeper with the intention to snag his stomach. Despite the nasty wound that would have killed any human, the hunter found his chance to make a move on his prey. Rogue quickly punched her kneecap, a crippling move that Levi had taught him to add to his index. However, he could not relish the fact that he met his target as the diamond substance prevented puncture at the very last second. Instead he was met with a grueling punch to the cheek that popped several of his teeth out. Steaming blood sprayed the walk. Rogue teetered, sidestepping clumsily as he tried to regain his composure. The hit was a brutal one and he was lucky that his head hadn't flown off. His jaw was definitely damaged with his tongue nearly bit through. Rogue staggered again, but maladroitly stopped in his tracks as he spied several humans running below him. Damn! He couldn't fight her normally with people around! If he could somehow keep himself from getting gravely injured why still trying to tire her out until the humans left – only when the area was vacant could he unleash all of his wrath upon the monster that had taken so much from him.
She lifted her leg into a high kick, signaling him to duck and slide to his right – narrowly avoiding stepping on a fleeing mother and her child. Immediately, he faced the she-devil once again in his signature defensive stance. His eardrums ached from the high-pitched cries of terror below, making him all the more fretful. If he had the ability to sweat, he would have shed lakes of perspiration. Rogue swallowed again, gulping down a massive lump as he narrowly missed another one of her advances. Every human seemed to be running through the wide area, making him come to the conclusion that staying in the facility was not a wise strategy. Perhaps luring The Female Titan deeper into the maze of human residents to where there was no longer any risk of trampling anyone was the best option. Deciding that it was logical, Rogue suddenly darted much to his opponent's surprise into the nest of buildings, the monster trailing its prey close behind.
Hange landed roughly on the shingled rooftop of what she could have assumed was a towering inn, the members of her young squad landing just as startled beside her. A half-mile from their gathering, they looked upon a scene taking place in a small market of the shopping district of Stohess. She watched as Rogue scarcely evaded The Female Titan's perfect high kick, observing as he messily avoided a group of still evacuating people. Hange's heart began to pound as Rogue made a move, but was quickly defiled by another one of the skinless titan's attacks – their titanic savior avoiding colliding with the nearby building as much as possible. Hange frowned, brows drawn together in concern knowing that circumstances weren't good.
"What the hell?" Jean began loudly, upsetting the shock between the squad. "He's fighting like shit!"
Surprisingly, Mikasa did not exchange a look of displeasure but rather nodded. "Yeah – something is wrong. Rogue is usually vicious when it comes to killing titans. With The Female and all that she's done to him – he should be going at her relentlessly."
"He's holding back." Hange illustrated, continuing to watch the brawl unfold. "I think it's because of the people still evacuating!"
"That makes sense!" Armin hastily agreed. "Rogue fights brutally. During the attack on Shiganshina, he ripped apart that titan with no worry in the world. He loves humans and he has an oath to never harm one unless they intend to hurt him or us. Rogue is stiff and holding back because he's afraid to hurt people." The blonde teen paused, suddenly squinting to scrutinize Rogue's muscular back. "That's not titan blood smeared on his back – that's human blood!"
"You're right Armin!" She exclaimed. "Something must have already happened to make him this skittish."
"What do we do?" Connie questioned, but Hange already had an answer.
"We will have to snap him out of it. He cannot fight so timidly! Rogue is going to have to let go to get the job done. All right, we still go with Levi's plan, but we have to go and distract The Female first. Armin, you and Jean need to convince him that he needs to grow a pair!" The scientist swallowed, head dipping slightly in shame. "It's awful, but it's unfortunately necessary. Sometime one has to give up one thing to gain the other. As for me, Mikasa, Krista, Sasha, and Connie – you will help me lure the bitch downtown."
"Good! We need to hurry! Time is precious!"
A roar escaped his lipless maw as he shoved his enemy into the brick façade of a building. His earlier plan had proven to be the wrong one as The Female had caught up to him. Their fight had prolonged into more tight paces by titan standards and there were still stragglers that were lagging behind the pack. They were now dueling at a crossroads. During the journey, he was disgusted with his work ethic, but what could he do with people still around! Zackley could change his mind if many people died! Plus he didn't want Erwin to suffer! Damn it! The humans needed to move faster!
Rogue raised his fist yet again, ready to deliver his message of hatred in a brutal fashion. He had her in a corner at least and she couldn't break his pelvis again in his position. All he had to do was pound her pale and cruel face in. Oh how he looked forward to seeing her splattered remains, tissues, corneas, and all! For him, a sight like that was peace of mind.
However, that hope of bloodshed was diminished again as his foe expertly dropped to her rear and slid herself between his legs. Rogue's breath hitched in shock as he quickly spun, only to face The Female Titan, her skin feet from his. Rogue tensed, positioning for another blow, but he was far too delayed as the titan planted a foot into his abdomen and sent him into the same structural cradle that he had laid her in earlier. His heart pounded! This was not good! He was much bulkier and the fit was tight, bulging muscles a downfall for he couldn't poise his legs and arms to make a move. Green eyes watched in alarm as The Female's fist hardened and raised to strike like an angry snake. Rogue swallowed, brows narrowing. No. He was far from the point of surrender. There was still one possible move that he could make. It was risky, but it was possible. Just before his enemy could swing her diamond weapon, Rogue lunged – fast and forceful due to the buildup of potential energy that was released in a kinetic blast of momentum. The green-eyed titan then encased his lipless maw around her throat and grabbed her wrists with his hands. The Female screamed in agony as he bit down, blood pouring down his throat and the crimson nectar glazing his tongue in a brilliant red shade. For a moment, he found himself in almost ecstasy. He had forgotten how good the taste of her bounty was. His prey was truly delicious!
Before he could rip out her throat, a sharp pain dug into his side followed by the horrifying sound of cracking ribs. Rogue let out a screech in agony for he had been violently kneed in the side. However, he wasn't down and out yet! Quickly, Rogue raised an elbow and made devastating contact to her cheek. He smirked as his ears filled with the sound of her jaw cracking, but the expression vanished as she stood her ground and kicked his hip – sending him flying a few meters across the length of the brick street. The titan landed roughly; skin peeing off in sheets, making a wicked burn across his flank. Hurriedly, Rogue tried to scramble to his feet.
But he stopped dead as his eyes caught a sight that seemed to paralyze his heart.
Below his arm was a human male, his young male offspring trying to pull his father from beneath him. It was clear; his impact had killed the man. Rogue abruptly lifted his arms, eyes wide in fear as he watched the child drag his father to the side. The titan's mind filled with the very image of his Armin trying to pull his deceased grandfather from the rubble. Rogue shuttered. He had killed another innocent person – a father and most likely orphaned a child. He could do nothing. He had no powers of resurrection – the very idea of that made him sick and whine in anguish. Even still, he couldn't take his eyes away from the two, but it led to a discovery. The boy wasn't giving him any look of betrayal but was rather staring angrily at The Female Titan who was approaching them with blues full of malice and face ridded with cruelty.
'NO. SHE! SHE... KILLED HIM! THIS IS HER FAULT!' Rogue's consciousness howled, words rattling his skull. With the thought, the fifteen-meter sprung to his feet, but suddenly discovering that in the fall his ankle had been twisted almost completely around the wrong way – bone sticking out in a sickly and deformed manner. A shriek left his gaping mouth as he stumbled upon the maim appendage, unfavorably falling into his opponent who was grinning like a crazed jester. The Female planted a diamond-coated fist just below his ribcage, hardened fingers curling around his stomach. A piercing scream erupted from Rogue's lungs as she tore the organ free from his body. The titan instantaneously vomited blood, is entire body crippled in pain. Stunned and disoriented, Rogue watched dazedly as the skinless female jabbed her elbow between the touchy gap at the base of his neck and start of his shoulder – making more agony flow throughout his body. As a natural instinct, Rogue grasped the wounded areas, left hand gripping his throbbing shoulder and right hand painting itself in blood from the hole in his belly. He had no time to retreat to heal as The Female Titan severed his leg with one fluid swipe – sending him tumbling like a sack of flour to the earth. Pain shot through his side when she kicked once more, sending him into another tall structure. The building crumbled all around him, showering him in debris – the needlepoint steeple of the building's crown descending down to spear him through the heart.
Rogue screamed, the sound hollow and muffled by blood leaking from his maw. Though his heart was impaled, the blow itself couldn't kill him, but being pinned for her to have her way would. He wheezed, shivering and coughing more crimson. He was done for. He was getting ready to finally greet death at its doorstep, lose everything he had dear in his life, leaving them to suffer a horrible fate as he did. Half-lidded eyes watched as The Female prowled over to him, his ears able to hear her low and pleased chuckling. She would finally get whatever she wanted.
However, before he could close his eyes in acceptance, the sound of aggressive shouts and invisible wing beats filled the air. Rogue looked to see several small forms sailing trough the air in assertive dives and darts, getting The Female's attention and drawing her away from her original path. He blinked, studying their faces only to make an alarming discovery. The Scouts had arrived. His Hange, his smaller humans, and his baby Mikasa had come. No! Not again! This couldn't be happening again! Rogue wailed, but the normally echoing sound was merely a drowned gurgle. He squirmed, tearing more tissue as he tried to spring himself free like a trapped animal. Shit! He had to get up! He had to help!
Hearing the familiar call, Rogue slowly rotated his head to see his Armin and Jean land near him. They both looked visibly shaken, eyes wide as they looked at his steaming wounds in absolute concern. The two began to quickly climb into the rubble, scaling over large slabs of concrete to get to his beaten face.
"Damn it! She was able to get an edge on him!" Jean growled, suddenly bending over to look him square in his large eye. "Listen! Quit your bullshit Rogue! I've heard stories about your legendary brawls outside Wall Rose and I've seen you fight those naked bastards brutally!" The teen yelled, making Rogue detect the heavy amount of anger laden in his voice and the twinge of angst. "Get your ass up and really fight! Tear the bitch apart! You… need to kill her." Jean stuttered, slowly lowering his head, shoulders trembling. "You have to… kill her. For us. For… Marco." The teen clammed up, his tapered ears catching his trembling ribcage. Rogue blinked. Marco. He wasn't sure who the person was, but it sounded as if they were once dear to the young man, perhaps a best friend.
Armin laid a hand onto the other's shoulder, provoking the usually arrogant teen to look up from his anguish. "I'll handle this, Jean. You go help the others with warding away The Female Titan." The blonde gestured, pointing out that the team of soldiers had successfully captured the skinless titan's annoyance and was luring her far down another street.
For a moment, Jean remained speechless until he finally gave in to a nod and promptly flew off. There was a split second of silence; before Armin gave him the most dead serious look he had ever seen from the kind boy. It was a look of sheer determination. "Rogue – I need to tell you something important. Right here and now. It may be hard for you to grasp and accept, but you need to be open to listen to reason. Sometimes you have to be willing to give up one thing to save another. It can make you weak. Rogue, I'm sure you're understanding where I'm coming from, but to make it clear – sometimes in order to defeat monsters you must be willing to become one. In order to save those you love, you must be willing to make a sacrifice for the greater good. To save humankind, you must be willing to embrace your inner beast, Rogue. It's the ugly truth, but it's what you must do in order to kill The Female Titan!"
Green hues peeked from the corner of his darkened eyelids at the desperate looking teen. Rogue winced as nerves realigned and a new stomach sat itself into place – allowing a knot of hard recognition to settle within his new gut. Armin – was right.
"Please get up, Rogue! We don't have much time! She could kill everyone!"
The titan blinked, eyes turning to the sky as his mind began to race. It was true. The world was a cruel place with fucked up inner workings. That much he had learned throughout his life. The world was a disease and he was the antibiotic. Life was all about sacrifice. His precious humans sacrificed their safety constantly visiting him and their time for trying to teach him the ways of the vile world. The Scouts sacrificed their hearts to give humanity a fighting chance. His little ones even had done such a practice when they left him behind in Wall Maria so they could get stronger and bring him into the flying human pack. He himself had come close to sacrificing his life just to save his family. He just never realized such a thing.
Rogue's eyes slowly narrowed. If he let go, manly lives could be lost, but thousands could be saved – even those closest to him. He could end this titan's terror once and for all if he accepted his inner strength, ferocity – the monster within.
'TO DEFEAT…YOU MUST… BECOME.'
He accepted with a low and tearing growl.
Levi remained perched behind a rooftop dormer looking out at the waiting trap with utmost anger and determination. The day had already been bad enough! Just when he could breath a sigh in relief, the titanic bitch had arisen from the dead to extract her original plan – whatever the hell it was. His scowl didn't show it, but deep down beneath his cold exterior, Levi was anxious. In terms of conjuring plans, he wasn't as gifted as the strategic Erwin or even Hange Freaking Zoe. He was good, but not great. The Corporal honestly didn't even know if his current plan was working.
He scrutinized the waiting barb cannons and steel nets – supplies they had taken from the military depot close by. Levi grumbled to himself. This trap was unfortunately a big experiment. The shots didn't possess the heavy cables they used on Rogue and the bitch before. If they were good for anything it would be just to trip her up and tangle her legs. The most reliable trap in their custody was the steel nets. With them, at least The Female Titan couldn't harden to escape the barbs. He was secretly praying for them to work but more so that Shitty Glasses, the new recruits, and Rogue would pull through.
Suddenly, a crashing calamity echoed among the downtown shops and trade businesses. Levi and his surrounding subordinates looked south to see The Female Titan stumble onto the street with Hange's squad circling around her to cook up her irritation and let down her guard.
'Good. Now the bitch just has to come.'
Levi steadied himself as he prepared to give the order while his target sprinted in their direction. He slowly raised a hand, soldiers watching him like hawks as she took step after giant step.
'Come you fucking bitch! Just a little more!'
The Female Titan then stepped into an invisible marker, right into the trap. Without so much as a physical word, Levi abruptly dropped his hand. Explosions echoed for several streets as the barb canons went off. As expected, the carbs didn't stop her from moving, but rather tangled and imbedded tightly around her legs and calves. The Female screeched as she fell forward into the brick way. Just as she squirmed to get on her back to right herself, the soldiers pushed the heavy steel webbing over her body to pin her to the street.
She lay awkwardly, half twisted onto her side with her neck unfortunately protected by her hand. She was simply silent, looking straightforward with unblinking eyes that could never not be unsettling. The Female Titan was simply still, almost restrained like a kitten's nape in the jaws of a mother feline. Levi then descended from his perch to meet Hange's squad below. Seeing that Arlert and Rogue were absent, The Corporal went straight to a stoical Mikasa.
"Where is Arlert and Jaeger?" He demanded, panic unfortunately staining part of his tone.
"Armin stayed behind with Rogue." The dark haired teen replied. "Rogue was holding back because of the people around and The Female got the best of him. Armin's trying to motivate him as he heals."
His hands balled into fists in aggravation. "Shit." Levi grumbled just as Hange's familiar devious chuckles met his ears. The Corporal turned to see the idiot scientist approaching The Female's face with sword in hand – Molbit shouting protests as usual. Levi sighed heavily. Hange was such a fool. As he made his way with the idea to yank the woman away from her bullshit, Levi watched and listened to Hange's dangerous antics.
The woman lowered herself right in front of the skinless titan's face, laying a hand on her brow and pointing the tip of her sword dangerously close to the megalith's eye – the pupil shrinking to the size of pocket change. Hange then dawned an expression that made her live up to her insanity.
"Well, looks like our mouse has been caught in the cat's claws." Hange spoke, tone sounding borderline insane. "Now my darling, I'm not the kind of person who loves diamonds and shiny things but rather like the idea of discovery." She continued, the titan looking at her without struggling an inch. Like regular titans, she was emotionless. "I want to devour you and soak up your story. So - what is it that you want from our handsome titan? Please enlighten us!"
Levi barely had the chance to call out as The Female Titan suddenly took action and swung her leg – uprooting the nets' anchors and busting up the barrel shots – taking out several soldiers in the process. Hange had barely escaped; she quickly joined him as they made their way up to the rooftop and overlooked the skinless titan as she pulled the nets off of her.
"Fuck! It didn't work!" Levi announced as he prepared for the worst circumstance – the plan failing and The Female going after themselves. The Scouts readied their blades just as the titan's burning blues turned to them – irises tinted with intense loathing.
However, before she could even strike, a earthshattering roar sliced through the afternoon air, a cry so ferocious and animalistic that it could have only originated from one thing.
The buildings began to tremble in the wake of repetitive and powerful thumps reverberating through the city. Shingles slid off several rooftops and windows shattered. Turning his head upwards, Levi spotted the familiar fifteen-meter tearing right down the street. He could feel the rage radiating off the approaching beast. Rogue was a stark contrast to his usual easygoing and fun-loving self. His green eyes were glowing with the feral wildness of an animal, muscles bulging beneath his skin and steam rising off of his shoulders. The skin on his face was pulled into a menacing snarl and his ears were folded over like a rabid beast. It didn't take an expert to be able to determine that Rogue was definitely out for blood – and he was dead set on bathing himself in it.
"I got through to him!" Armin announced as he landed next to the group. "He's all set!"
"I can see that." Levi muttered, still watching the charging titan as The Female took notice and began to run in retreat. "The beast is out of cage."
Rogue then brushed right past, the party feeling the heat from his flesh before the titan disappeared into the collection of structures, his roar causing some to grip their ears to save their drums.
"We follow him." Levi ordered. "We stay on watch and only intervene if needed. Of course, the way he is now, we may very well be sitting on the sidelines watching the bloodbath unfold."
Blood pumped throughout his body at a great rate, filling him with the needed energy to carry out his hunt. The Female Titan was just ahead of him, running diagonally through the structures. Green eyes were wild, locked on his running target. Free from his barriers, he was going to do whatever it took to defeat his foe. He would give up his morals, but only just this once. Steam rose from his shoulder blades and spilled from his nostrils, blood heating up with rage and adrenaline. He was finally going to make her his prey.
Make her his meal.
The titan then spotted his opening and let his muscles build. With a booming roar, Rogue launched himself skyward like a large cat going after vermin – The Female barely had the time to turn and face him. Their bodies clashed, sending them both off their feet and tumbling into the concrete and stone jungle. Glass, chunks of stone, and metal flew in all directions as the two forms plowed through building after building, laying waste to a residential district. Everything received devastating abuse, the brick way was cracked, foundations were leveled, and several corpses had unfortunately been produced. Hitting a dip, the two separated, crushing several obstacles before finally coming to a halt. Though he was sore and several pieces of glass and metal were buried into his flesh, Rogue felt nothing. He only felt alive.
The titan lifted himself to his feet, noticing that The Female Titan had landed a short distance away and was slowly getting her footing back. Not willing to let her do such a thing, Rogue thundered forward with another ferocious bellow – propelling his bulk through another building with debris raining down his shoulders. Hearing his aggressive stride and call, The Female Titan looked up from her recovery to see his manic greens and tremendous wake. To Rogue's dislike, his prey darted with no grace at the last possible second – causing him to create one less building among the unforgiving battleground. The beast snarled. Oh no! She was not going to get away from him that easily!
Like dueling dogs, the two great titans circle one another, eyes hooked and filled with nothing but harmful intent. Rogue snarls, hair raised on his scalp and looking absolutely rabid, eyes glowing but judging when to strike. The Female hissed, sunlight hair frizzing slowly as she glared heatedly at him. He then caught her sneaking a glance at his feet so to check his stance – creating the perfect opportunity. Rogue charged forward with a vile roar and aimed a fist right for her face, knuckles sweeping into golden strands before she gave a return, her hardened fist missing his ribcage by mere inches. The fifteen meter roared and sent an uppercut into play, The Female twisting with the move hitting her elbow – the sound of snapping bone music to his ears. Rotating again, she then swept low, Rogue stepping back for her to miss. While she was righting herself again to begin another attack, he was already prepared. The green-eyed titan threw a signature fist at his opponent, a mean left hook that The Female Titan hadn't anticipated. She only had the time to harden part of her cheek when skin met, her jaw breaking under the force and blood decorating the earth below. His prey was suddenly dazed, eyes glassed over and struggling to gain their focus. It was then that Rogue saw an excellent opportunity – one that he had been waiting to perform for quite a long time.
Sturdy as a great oak and fast as a whip, Rogue balanced himself on a single foot and swung his leg in a perfectly stable and powerful high kick. The Female Titan never saw the move coming as Rogue's attack hit on its mark – tearing off a large portion of her face. Gore flew in several directions. Torn ligaments and muscles littered the brick pathway, crimson coated white, and an eye flew right through a broken window – the other heavily damaged. Inside, Rogue felt a great amount of pride at his success. He had so much difficulty doing it before, constantly falling, messing up, or embarrassing himself. Finally he had flourished, thanks to an unexpected source.
Of course, he only kept this celebration to himself, unknowingly allowing other onlookers celebrate for him as he anticipated his prey's retaliation. Rogue remembered clearly an aspect to his training that Levi had told him time and time again – a certain move that almost every opponent did in return to suck a kick. As he had thought, The Female Titan, though missing much of her facial features and structure, was still compliant. She did as Levi had said, returning his move with a reverse roundhouse kick aimed right for his head.
He almost wanted to laugh.
Rogue quickly held up his arms in a block, absorbing the hit before taking hold of her leg. Then with great strength that far outmatched the strength of a thousand oxen, the hunter hoisted his prey off her feet and into the air- slinging the skinless creature several meters over many rooftops before The Female Titan crashed into another towering structure. He wasn't going to let her recover one bit! Rogue rocketed forward with his fist ready to pierce clear through her skull. Homes and buildings fell victim to his weight, suffering the consequences of being unable to evade his wrath as he lunged with a rumbling roar of dominance.
Before he could soak in the pleasure of trouncing his prey, the sly female slipped from his clutches at the last available second. Rogue slid to a halt and turned to meet his nearly unrecognizable foe again. Blindly, she threw a hit, missing him as she threw another. Rogue snorted, it was almost comical! Her hand then came at him again, knuckles hardened in diamond but far off target – easy for him to manipulate. Skillfully, he reached to catch her diamond hand, twisting her wrist and tearing it right off. The Female Titan screamed in vengeance, but before she could extract any move of her own, she provided him with yet another opening. Rogue then motioned assertively and took hold of her body, placing her so her back faced him and pressed against his torso. He then held her into a firm hold, arms swooping below her pits and weaving over her head with his hands locked together against her blonde locks – leaving her immobile and her nape wide open. The predator's prey screeched in protest as he squeezed his grip tighter. With emeralds glistening in maddening glee, Rogue lowered his head and parted his massive jaws, teeth descending onto her weak spot. However, just as his incisors met her pale and tough flesh, her arms slipped from his grasp and a sharp pain originated just below either side of his ribs.
Naturally, the beast wailed in agony and released his victim, noticing that she had fashioned her elbows into hardened diamond points. Before he could even make another move, The Female Titan raised a good hand and turned her nails into lethal gems – swiping across his face to cut deep into the bridge of his nose and his eyes. The world around him grew dark and agony swelled deep into his corneas, the troubling and unsettling feeling of blood gliding down his cheeks adding fuel to his fire and misery. Rogue instantly knew that he was blind.
He wasn't helpless though. Thanks to his amazing senses, he could still engage in combat skillfully. If it was one thing he knew, it was how to utilize his senses of touch, smell, and sound to locate his target. Rogue's ears pricked forward, nostrils flaring, and feet planting firmly into the ground. He prepared himself, but he felt no brutal assault from his opponent. His keen senses then detected thundering steps leaving the area, feeling the vibrations beneath his feet. He knew it. The Female Titan was taking the opportunity to get some distance between them so her injuries could heal. However he wasn't going to let that happen either. He may be temporarily blind along with his opponent who only had part of an eye, but he still had the advantage.
Confidently, Rogue stormed after her. His ears shifted; ready to receive sound as a series of deep rumbles left his maw. Months ago, before he found his new family and just after he had nearly been captured by the Scouts, Rogue had developed a technique for him to utilize just in case if he was ever blinded again in an area that he wasn't familiar with. He had learned the technique after observing bats. Seeing how they listened to sounds bouncing off obstacles and objects, the titan adapted the skill with ease and at times it felt almost natural. With each rumble that left his mouth, Rogue's ears listened intently as the guttural sound reflected off buildings while keeping his foe's position in check. His nostrils flared, still smelling his prey's leaking blood. At least the odds were in his favor. She hadn't healed completely yet. Judging by the amount, she still had a ways to go.
Rogue picked up speed, growling loudly as he felt the nerves beginning to restitch themselves in his damaged eyes. Still, his opponent was lighter and faster even with his weight lessened. Her slender form was perfect for weaving in and out of tight spaces. The Female of course, lacked the brute strength that he possessed which was his way of countering her swiftness. The titan powered forward, growling louder as the meters between the two creatures lessened. Rogue then felt his eyes complete themselves with a sharp sting, forcing his lids to unveil his blazing emerald greens. With her form now in his sight and range, Rogue lunged forward and rammed his prey into the unforgiving human residences. The Female shrieked as she all but flattened a townhouse. He raised a foot, ready to bring it down upon her head and nape to end it all, but he was foolish. She craned her neck, revealing her now fully healed face.
Before Rogue could even fathom her recovery, the skinless titan kicked out her leg – catching his single foot and causing him to lose contact with the earth. Gravity took its hold on his body, pulling Rogue violently to the populated street. However, he was quick to regain his composure and planted his heel into The Female Titan's face. He wasted no time taking pleasure in her screech or pausing to look a her clutch her broken nose as he picked himself up and crawled toward a large wagon carrying food supplies, hay, and large milk jugs. Rogue then spun around to see that his opponent had gotten to her feet, hand already hardening. Thinking quickly, he flung the heavy wagon and its contents into The Female Titan's furious mug. Wood splintered in various directions and goods flew for several meters like a firework as the large object hit her face. His prey stumbled backward and instinctively brushed the debris from her skin. Seeing his opening once again, he leaped into the air with a fist poised and ready to obliterate flesh from bone.
Unfortunately, his luck of landing a hit turned sour as The Female Titan raised her hands into a practiced block, crystalline surface coating her flesh and muscle. Rogue's fist make contact, peeling layers of skin from his hand and fingers and shattering bones while the skinless titan absorbed the otherwise devastating hit, her toes digging into the brick surface as she was vehemently pushed from her original spot. Rogue fell to his knees; looking up to see The Female Titan's stoic and nearly emotionless face- the only thing present was the sheer vindictiveness and determination in her hard blue hues. Her look, it mocked him so. Oh how he wished that she were already dead! How he wished to savor her flavor! Further motivated to slaughter, Rogue snarled animalisticaly, suddenly giving in to a predatory instinct as he arched his back and sprung forward with blood boiling and mouth agape to rip a chunk out of her neck.
The one moment of giving into a seeded instinct cost him dearly.
Before he could even make contact, The Female Titan hardened her shin and kicked, slicking off his leg in a clean sweep and tore his right arm off violently at the elbow. Rogue's bulk crashed into a neighboring building, but despite the hit, he held The Female Titan's leg firmly in his jaws. He tightened his grasp, ignoring any pain he had as he focused on his adversary, eyes glowing a solid green in rage. There was no way, even missing limbs, was he going to let his prey wiggle from his clutch again! The Female Titan's once impassive face grew into one that was now something that he could label furious, staring down at him with pale lips pulled into a deep grimace and burning blues ignited in a raging fire. He bit down harder, fully intent on ripping her leg off as The Female Titan raised a diamond coated fist.
The sound seemed to echo in the cluster of buildings. The Female Titan's face lit up in horror as she kept her gaze onto her target. Still wrapped up in instinct, Rogue maintained his vice grip, green eyes lighting up even brighter as he spied the series of large cracks in his prey's beautiful but deadly defense. He bit harder, taking comfort in the realization that his bite force was so great that it actually broke through The Female Titan's hardened skin.
Upon seeing his deed, the skinless titan shrieked like an angry banshee as she brought down her diamond fist into his skull. Pain exploded in his head as bone cracked, long brown locks coating in blood. So badly, did he want to scream, to cry, but he was determined to keep his hold.
Seeing her failure, The Female Titan swung again. This time, her fist hit his cheek, fracturing his skull further and knocking out several of his teeth. Still, Rogue did not make a single sound and kept his teeth enclosed on her leg.
So, she hit him again.
All he knew was agony and everything was blurred. Blood was everywhere, on the walk, building walls, his body, and coated all over his face, which was nearly unrecognizable. The right side was nearly smashed completely in, tissue and bone fragments exposed to the world. His eye was swollen shut and the other was barely open. The top of his head was unsightly. Hair had been ripped from his bloodied scalp and his once round skull was horribly abused. So much so that part of his still intact brain was exposed to the elements. He hurt. So badly, but he still didn't want to give up. He wanted to save everyone.
The Female Titan brought her fist down once again, snapping his nose and coating her appendage further in crimson. Finally, Rogue found that he could hold her leg no more and he parted his bloody jaws and fell limp. The skinless titan then stood, looking down at him with disgust before looking at her wounded leg – brows drawing together in distaste at the presence of the large teeth marks. Rogue exhaled as he fought unconsciousness. He had been so fucking stupid! Why did he choose stubbornness! Instinct! Stupid! He had failed! He was going to lose everyone!
"Get away from him you stupid bitch!"
"Engage The Female Titan!"
Willing himself through the intense pain, Rogue weakly looked up to see that several flying figures had manifested from nowhere and were now swooping like angry hornets at The Female Titan. His good eye widened.
Panic then naturally spread throughout his body as two figures in particular stood out from the other soldiers. His babies. No! Not again! They needed to stay back!
"Ackerman! Arlert! Pull back! Who said you could –
The words faded upon his ears as he continued to watch in horror. Mikasa, his little one, was charging full tilt toward the skinless demon with his Armin pleadingly shouting at her as he followed.
'NO! NO!' His mind throbbed. 'SHE'LL GET… THEM!'
Rogue whined loudly as he struggled to see his little ones. He was being hit with a cruel sense of déjà vu all over again. The Female Titan swung her arms, swatting away some of the other soldiers and staining windows red. He nearly froze completely as he watched Mikasa dive down and swerve, cable cutting into The Female's torso, forcing her to turn her attention from the other lashing soldiers to his little one. His heart began to pound fiercely. He wanted to scream, but he could barely manage a whine. Quickly, Mikasa went in for a second chance, moving like a blur as she sliced off one of The Female Titan's fingers. A wave of faintness fell over him, Rogue lifting his beaten head in the slightest as he tried to keep alert, but his vision was blurry and black dots were randomly sprinkling before his good eye. Rogue slumped against the corner of the building, no longer able to keep himself upright. God how he wished that he could speed the healing process in certain areas like his enemy could!
"Die you monster!" Mikasa cried as she swooped in for battle once again. Rogue continued to remain spellbound as she aimed right for the nape, but was unfortunately foiled as the diamond substance forbid her from hitting her mark. Mikasa's blades shattered on the impact, but the girl was stubborn just as he was and quickly replaced her blades midair before diving again.
Rogue's eye widened even further, heart lifting into his shaky chest as he discovered that Mikasa was heading right for The Female Titan's ankles – the towering behemoth watching her every move.
'MY BABY… SHE WILL… BE KILLED!'
He watched in sheer terror, still trying to drag himself forward as Mikasa closed in on his foe's heel, the skinless she-devil tightening her muscles in preparation. She was going to kick her leg back; his little one would be caught! Then, just before The Female Titan could make her move, Armin steered in front of the vengeful teen and hoisted her into his small arms – carrying her away from the impending fatal move.
The blonde denied her plea. "Mikasa, she'll kick and –
However, his little one couldn't finish his sentence as a giant foot grasped the boy's cables between the toes and swung. Rogue screeched loudly despite his current handicap as the two were sent violently tumbling across the brick pathway as Armin's cables snapped from the force. Finally, the two came to a lifeless halt just a few meters from him, in crumpled heaps with spots of red seeping through their clothes.
The world seemed to stop for Rogue as The Female Titan was warded away yet again. Ignoring his weakness, the broken titan scrambled as fast as his body would allow toward his two still babies. He whined desperately, falling on himself as he reached for them. No! They couldn't be gone! No! They had to be alive! He couldn't lose them again! He couldn't! They couldn't be dead!
Rogue cried louder, slowly reaching to the two small forms with his finger gently nudging their sides – but they didn't move. The titan blinked rapidly, trying to will his blurry eyes to clear, but failing to do so with the abundance of tears forming rapidly in his eyes. Unannounced to him, Rogue was wailing, much too panicked to take the time to listen to his little ones' still beating hearts.
'MY… LITTLE ONES! THEY ARE… ARE… DEAD! NO! NO!'
Rogue crumbled to the earth, burying his face into his healing stump, crying vociferously and choking on his saliva. Memories of his dear children flashed through his head. He remembered the night that he had rescued them, had them sleep with him in his tree and the many blissful days that followed that were full of fun and play. He remembered the innocent days where they would have countless picnics and afternoons full of the simple pleasure of tossing a ball. The memory of the breach came back to him, Rogue recalling the vow he took and the many nights he spent with the two cuddled against him during the frigid weather. He remembered the three of them cheering one another up in the most desperate of times and their last night together before he sent them to live with the flying human pack. Rogue recalled how happy he was when they reunited after three long and lonely years and how much they grew. He was so proud of them. He loved them so much and when they lived together at the castle he had found a long lost paradise. Now, just like his humans, they were gone! He wouldn't be getting them back! He would never hear their sweet and encouraging words or see their bright faces ever again!
And it was all her fault.
Rogue gradually lifted his head, staring in the distance where The Female Titan was dealing with the other Scouts. Yes, it was all her fucking fault! She was the reason why he lost the most precious things that he held dear! Her! Her!
His blood began to boil as he continued to wallow in hatred, body shaking violently. He would rip her apart for what she had done! Tear her limb from limb! Eat her alive! He would KILL her! SLAUGHTER her! DESTROY HER! TEAR HER TO PIECES! MAKE HER PAY!
'I'LL KILL YOU!' Rogue's mind thought furiously, pushing himself up into an upright position on the balls of his feet. 'I'LL MAKE YOU… DEAD! I'LL KILL YOU… TITAN! EVERY –
His heart pounded. Blood heating further.
His hair rose, limbs shaking.
His nostrils flared, a torrent of steam leaving his lipless sneer.
Suddenly, there was a spark deep in his core, igniting a sensation that he had never felt in his lifetime. An overwhelming heat spread all throughout his body, making him release a screech in surprise. Then, there was an incredible amount of pain as his nerve endings reformed and his missing limbs quickly grew back in mere seconds. His head stung and throbbed, a red shade descending over his eyes and causing him to shut his shadowed lids in agony as he felt everything redevelop. His bones regenerated, flesh, muscles, and skin resituated themselves on his newly repaired skull – long dark locks falling over his face as the regeneration completed. At first, Rogue assumed that he had somehow triggered a process similar to The Female's concentrated healing.
However, as more and more pain swept across his frame, it was clear to Rogue that this was something more.
Heat flooded his body from all sides, blood scorching in his veins. Rogue gritted his teeth as the heat spread to his muscles, limbs, and the tips of his fingers and toes. He groaned, as his face grew unbearably hot. Suddenly, his skin began to change, the shade of tan growing darker and the leathery texture turning as coarse as a cat's tongue. Steam erupted from the pores on his back, billowing out of his nose and teeth. His veins then grew red hot, glowing a bright orange from beneath his skin, decorating his body in ornate patterns and highlighting the threads in nearly every muscle. Then, the steam morphed into smoke, and then it transformed into fire – flames rising angrily from his super heated flesh. He could feel his muscles strengthen and swell, face wrinkling in pain as the change continued. The titan's hands trembled and toes curled as the throbbing sensation ran through him in spasms. Suddenly, his sharp nails grew into purely lethal and long claws, his hands now digging into the brick road and upsetting the aged dirt beneath.
Then the worst part of the sensation descended upon him.
The agony spread into his jaws, pain digging at the roots of his teeth as they too, began to change. Rogue gripped the ground harder, spine arching to allow the ridges to become more prominent as his teeth began to transform into nothing but sharp fangs, his jaws feeling as if they were going to split. The heat continued to soar throughout his body as a primal urge temporarily pushed his sorrows and nearly everything that was him on the back burner. Rage gripped every part of his bulk. Then, the pain stopped.
Rogue's eyes then shot open, kind emerald greens replaced by a solid and blazing blue highlighted by burning veins spreading from his eyelids. His nostrils glowed red hot, giving off the effect of a closed furnace. The strength the hunter felt was so overwhelming as he slowly rose upright. The fury – was incredible. Every wild desire was bursting at the seams. Suddenly, Rogue threw back his head, puffing his chest, and roared, a tremendous sound that shook all around him – the bellow so haunting and unworldly that it made all life stop and gaze upon the blazing titan – his aura was both terrifying and godly. His enemy and the world around him were about to bare witness to his reborn wrath.
The hunter's howl then died into a loud snarl, but a sudden and completely foreign sensation came to Rogue. The flaming beast raised a clawed hand to his abdomen in puzzlement to feel an unpleasant rolling and shifting. His ears pricked forward as they caught the distinct sound of gestational rumbling. The titan then realized.
For the first time in his life – he was hungry.
Saliva pooled beneath his tongue, leaking from the gaps between his now pointed teeth. His nostrils flared wildly, engulfing a scent that only made him hunger more. It was exotic, intoxicating, and titan. Rogue jerked his head upwards, spying the source to the delectable odor many meters away. It was a female giant, skin pale as death and form curvy. His mouth watered even further, saliva dripping from his chin at the sight of her exposed meat. She was a beautiful morsel! Ripe for the picking! He hated her with every thread of his body. She was going to be DELICIOUS! IT WAS TIME TO FEED!
With a loud and ferocious bellow, the hunter sprang forward. His lungs heaved with each thrust, steam spilling from his mouth like a vicious dragon. Rogue moved like a wild and desperately starving animal, moving on two feet and alternating onto all fours on occasion as he bolted toward his chosen dish. His tongue lolled out madly, flinging a stream of saliva as Rogue veered to take a detour – one that was quite off-road. The titan leaped onto the roof of a nearby building, moving to the next before it could cave beneath his weight, his faming body contagiously spreading fire to the wooden scaffolding and shingles. Muscles flexed and pulled with each charge and leap, the powerful and wild beast leaving behind far more destruction than he had produced earlier. The hunter's eyes grew wide in greed as her scent flooded his senses, the skinless titan almost in striking distance. His feet moved quicker, ground thundering, and stomach fighting harder for nourishment. With fire highlighting his massive bulk and the chaos shrouding him, both his prey and the tiny little creatures flying around her, beings that seemed to hate his prey as much as he did, paused and looked in the blazing titan's direction. Both species, both enemies to one another, completely stopped their confrontation and looked on in pure bewilderment.
His prey's face looked absolutely horrified, her shrunken pupils and agape mouth oh so satisfying to the beast.
"WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!"
"WAIT – IS THAT?"
"IS THAT REALLY?"
"MY GOD, IS THAT –
None could finish their sentences as Rogue rocketed into the air with a furious roar, talon like hands outstretched to dig into his target's flesh. Like ants beneath a magnifying glass, the flying humans scattered the premises, The Female Titan much too trapped in her own shock to even move an inch. The hunter loved it. The impact was tremendous as Rogue met his mark, sending the two beasts tumbling once again into a destructive frenzy. As the orange sky and cold earth traded places, the hunter snapped at his prey like a ravenous wolf, paying no mind to the crumbling landscape beneath their giant forms. He took pleasure in her cries of pain and shock, his prey feeling the unbearable agony of his claws digging into her luscious meat. Somehow, his meal manages a shove to break them apart. Nastily, he snarls. How dare she do such a thing? How dare she even resist!
The two great behemoths then come to a rough halt in the debris. The hunter wastes no time and gets to his feet, pouncing on his prey before she can even sit up. Rogue's ears filled with her piercing shriek of agony; an arousing sound as he sunk his teeth into her exposed shoulder. Blood rushed onto his tongue – his eyelids fluttering at the incredibly intoxicating and heavenly taste. He had to have more! MORE!
Before he could bite off a chunk to savor and pleasure his gullet, the hunter found himself being forced off his prey's body and into a still standing building. The hit didn't faze him as he got to his feet and rushed for The Female Titan a second time, tackling her to the brick earth. Rogue huffed. His prey was feisty; it made him want to play with his food! He then wrapped a large clawed hand around the back of her skull and with a bellow and brute strength; he lifted her struggling body and slammed her face first into the roof of another human residence. At her shrieking plea, he took advantage of his hold and thrust her into the roof of another building, sliding her face all across the ridges and chimneys, painting the plain bricks in abstract splatters of blood. The flaming titan roared in triumph as he hoisted her up again and threw her façade into the road, staining the circumference of the walk in deep red. The hunter lifted her again and repeated his punishing action. He roared furiously as he beat her, something deep within told him that The Female Titan had taken something near and dear to his heart away from him – something that he would never get back. The feeling and idea fueled his rage even further. For that reason, he would torture his meal to the furthest extent before finally feasting upon her.
Finally, he let his prey rest, her head a steaming and beaten mess, her eyes were barely in their sockets and her nose and mouth was no more. But he was nowhere finished! Listening to her whines, he decided that he wanted to experience the noise louder and more desperate. Grinning madly in his interior, Rogue flipped his victim over and mounted himself – he was going to do the one thing that brought him the most gratification when it came to the slaughter of his kin. The hunter plunged his hands into her abdomen, The Female screaming as his claws snaked around for her inner workings. With a cry of pleasure, the hunter tore her organs free from their foundation. Blood combusted everywhere and coated his frame as he tossed her stomach out of his wake and went in for the rest. He would have eaten the tasty treat, but he wanted to see her suffer. It would grow back anyway so he could rip it out a second time! And a third… and a FOURTH! Rogue roared again as he ripped open her chest, tearing away her liver, a lung, and other organs that he couldn't find a name to. Damn how he wished that his kin had intestines like the other creatures – those would be so fun to rip out! Pulling them like a rope and tossing them like confetti! Rogue then reached in again, pulling out several ribs and taking joy in watching the blood splatter. It was so beautiful! A lake of red!
Suddenly, he felt pain in his own torso, pausing in his activity to notice that he had neglected his prey's face and eyes – his target having lifted a diamond hard arm and impaled him just beneath his ribs. With a quick tug, The Female Titan pulled her arm to the side, ripping out his own – making him stumble and lean awkwardly. His prey wiggled from beneath him and began to run, arms desperately holding her frame to forbid any loose organs from falling to the walk. The hunter stared angrily at his gaping wound, watching as bones reformed, muscle, and tissue regenerated in seconds. Complete, Rogue stood and bayed at the deepening heavens, projecting his dominance before racing after his wounded prey.
His body throbbed; every joint was sore as if his own horse had kicked him. Slowly, Armin opened his eyes to see the crimson sky, his nostrils filling with the stench of burnt ash and his ears filling with the crackling of embers. The blonde blinked in confusion, setting up to look on in a daze. 'The Female Titan… Rogue… he was hurt… Levi gave the order. Mikasa she –
The blonde's eyes widened at the sudden realization of what had occurred. Armin then frantically turned his head. "Mikasa! Mikasa!" He yelled, spotting the dark haired teen's body lying just a few feet from where he sat. Concerned, Armin stood only to have a sharp pain course up his leg and send him toppling over onto the ground, gripping his ankle. He quickly examined it to find that it thankfully wasn't broken but badly twisted. He had numerous cuts and bruises on his body but thankfully nothing serious. Mikasa however, was still lying motionless. "Mikasa!" Armin called to his childhood friend, voice loud and desperate as he crawled to her body. 'Please! Please don't be dead!' The teen panicked as he met her frame.
He swallowed, Mikasa certainly looked worse than he did. She had absorbed most of their fall and it certainly showed. Several patches of her porcelain skin was scraped off and bruised, a nasty cut was on her head, but the worst was her shoulder that was obviously out of socket. With further examination, Armin let out a sigh in relief. She was thankfully still breathing.
Hearing his name, the blonde teen turned his attention skywards to see Jean, Connie, Krista, and Sasha approaching the pair. Upon landing, both Krista and Jean rushed to Mikasa while Connie and Sasha came to his aid.
"You alright Armin?" Connie asked, trying to help him up, Armin only able to stand on a single foot with Sasha's keen eyes taking notice.
"Something broken?" She asked. He shook his head.
"I'm fine, nothing's broken but my ankle is badly twisted. It looks like Mikasa had it worse than I did." Armin gestured, noticing Mikasa stirring in Jean and Krista's company.
"Mhogh… Armin?" Mikasa sat up, face stoic but obviously hiding pain. "Are you alright?" She looked at him, relief in her voice but also agony.
"I'm good! But you've got a bad cut that's going to need attention right away and your shoulder is out of socket."
Mikasa seemed to take his words in stride, but it was clear that she wasn't fully aware of her surroundings yet – most likely having a mild concussion. Upon hearing Armin's news, Jean and Krista rotated themselves to her injured shoulder.
"Mikasa, hold Krista's hand. I'm going to put your arm back into its socket." Jean informed, sounding utmost concerned and kind, his action clearly not to leave an impression but rather out of the need to help.
Mikasa nodded, gripping the small girl's hand tightly and bracing herself without another word.
"On the count of three then." Jean began as he took the necessary precautions. "One… Two…Three –
There was a loud pop followed by a distinct yelp from Mikasa. The move seemed to snap the teen into awareness. Her dazed expression changed into the look of absolute alert.
"I got it back in. You alright?"
"Yes." Mikasa stood, still holding her bleeding head. "But where is Rogue? Is he alright?"
Armin's heart skipped a beat when the four of them hesitated before Connie grinned widely.
"I'd say he's more than alright! If anything he got even more badass!" Connie cheered, leaving the two wounded teens in confusion.
"He just looks terrifying to me!" Krista denied. Sasha shook her head.
"What are you guys talking about?" Mikasa demanded.
Jean sighed. "I'd tell the two of you, but I think it's something you better just see for yourself." He paused hesitating slightly before turning to the dark haired teen. "We'll wrap your head when we meet the Corporal and Hange up ahead. We better get out of here though. It's not safe."
Mikasa hesitated before simply giving into a nod and giving Jean permission to carry her. Once Armin was in Connie's arms, the group of teens quickly left the vacant street and began to fly south. Ignoring the uncomfortable fact that he was being carried and the hot wind, Armin looked to the side to see a paralyzing scene. Dozens upon dozens of buildings were either completely in shambles of engulfed in flame. He blinked in bewilderment. Could this have been what his friends were referring to? Could this be Rogue's doing?
After several minutes, the ever-familiar sound of a whooping Hange met his ears. The group of teens then landed on the rooftop to join a cluster of Scouts. Armin quickly let himself down and a few medics came to tend to the two. Both his superiors were standing together looking out into the concrete landscape. Hange was indeed jumping up and down with Molbit trying desperately to calm her. Levi on the other hand looked the complete opposite. His body was still and so was his face, but his brows were drawn together in detectable concern. Armin swallowed. The man was clearly worried.
Suddenly, Hange turned to see both he and Mikasa, her face lighting up even more as she quickly made her way to the two teens. "Armin! Mikasa! Thank god! You're alive!" She addressed, hands visibly shaking, making him notice that it wasn't really excitement that Hange was expressing but a full-fledged panic. "You two! You need to see this! I think you triggered –
Before the shaken scientist could finish, a momentous and booming roar reverberated all around them. Armin froze; the sound was so animalistic and haunting that it sent a wave of shivers down his spine. Collectively, the two beaten teens looked to their left to see a spectacle that made Armin's breath hitch in his chest, his palms sweat, and his jaw drop.
Several meters away was a bloodied, battered, and pleading Female Titan. Standing over her body was a titan unlike any that he had ever seen or had read about. Its flesh was a deep tan and its veins glowed red hot from beneath its skin. Flames arose from its body and its nails were long and purely lethal claws. Armin felt sick to his stomach looking at the thing's teeth, ones that were extensive and sharp as daggers. Scrutinizing the titan further, Armin gasped at the frightening truth of the titan's identity, the creature's pointed ears having given it away. The blazing behemoth was none other than Rogue.
A very different and brutal Rogue.
"Hange?" Mikasa coughed out. "Is that –
She nodded. "Yes."
The teen shivered, slowly standing. "Rogue – I've… we've never seen him like this. He's never been… Hange what happened?" Mikasa queried, the scientist watching as Rogue grabbed The Female Titan's shoulder and bent it the completely wrong way – a sight that made Armin cringe.
"Well, this is a current guess, but I'm assuming that Rogue thought the two of you were dead and his emotions triggered this – some sort of awakened form." Hange level- headedly informed, with Levi suddenly approaching the messy haired woman.
"Since that moment, he's gone after the bitch with no mercy. In all of my days of fighting titans and observing him hunt – I've never seen him this brutal. The giant brat beat her head to pulp before ripping out her organs – only to let them grow back so he could do the same thing again. He's certainly stronger, he's overpowering her with ease."
Armin gulped at the news. "He – ripped out her organs…" He muttered, unaware that the Corporal had heard him.
"Yeah. He also destroyed half of the southern district. Hange, all I can say is that we're lucky that we saved several diamond shards. We're going to be paying for this in full. Damn brat. He's made a huge mess."
"Yeah …" Hange trailed off, watching the bloody horror before them. "You know, I bet this relates to the flammable substance that I found in his blood when I did my DNA examinations. Perhaps, like The Female's hardening ability, this is Rogue's." She continued as the skinless titan managed to slice off Rogue's arms – only for the appendage to grow back in seconds. Armin's eyes widened even further.
"No way." He stuttered. "No… way. That's impossible – how can a titan regenerate in seconds? It takes minutes!"
"True Armin." Hange intervened. "But perhaps in this 'Berserk Mode' his normal abilities are dramatically increased. From what we've seen, he can heal much faster; he's much stronger than before, his temperature is insane, his nails and teeth are sharper, and it looks like his senses are far beyond what they were." Hange paused, swallowing hard. "Rogue is completely feral. There's no sign of domestication there whatsoever."
"Then we have to help him!" Mikasa cut in as she prepared her gear, ignoring her wrapped head as she ran forward. "What if this form –
However, the teen was quickly halted by Levi's firm hand, getting a cold look from the teen but the man himself brushing it off. The Corporal's face was more serious than he had ever seen it.
"No." He said flatly, Mikasa's face igniting in disgust.
"What? Why, Sir!"
"Because." Hange interrupted. "We're not entirely sure if he can even recognize anyone in this state, let alone you and Armin."
The two teens grew silent, both petrified as they looked out at their childhood friend who was savagely slashing The Female Titan. The two were speechless and they didn't have the ability to form a single word in response. Armin gulped. Was it really possible that Rogue wouldn't be able to recognize them?
"Alright." Levi began sternly. "We obviously can't assist at all. However we stay at a respectable distance. We only intervene if we absolutely have to. Otherwise, stay the hell out of his way."
His rumbling stomach rolled around in its home, making Rogue's mouth cascade with water. Oh! He was in heaven as he pressed a knee into The Female Titan's shoulder and began to prepare to severe the appendage. He was in ecstasy! The sight of her blood spraying and dripping from his flesh was an alluring one and a true treat to his senses. Ripping out her organs was a journey in itself, so very satisfying and therapeutic. However, the hunter would have to very soon acknowledge his hunger and silence it. The very moment was drawing near.
Rogue roared tremendously as he twisted the limp and slashed arm off his prey beneath him, ears filling with the sweet sound of screams of the skinless titan. Crimson coated the walk in a beautiful shining glaze as he tossed the arm aside with a triumphant bellow. Rogue then turned to deliver his punishment again, only to receive a hardened fist to the jaw as The Female Titan managed to twist and make a hit. He growled in distaste at his missing but rapidly rejuvenating jaw, too late to react to his prey as she skillfully balanced herself on a single elbow and spun a nasty kick to his hip – cracking the bone and throwing him from her wounded body. Again, burning eyes filled with resentment as she scrambled to her feet and continued to make her way to her only hope of escaping – the wall. Feeling that his hip was now healed, Rogue got on all fours and began to make a beeline for his fast food. It was time for his dinner to be served.
The burning titan ran wild, carrying himself violently through the street and leaving nothing but destruction behind. Rogue's heart thumped, chest heaved and flames spilled from the japs of his pointed teeth, his appearance easily rivaling the vast might of the Colossal Titan. Rogue howled with ferocity as his target was rapidly losing ground. Right on his prey's heels, Rogue launched himself strongly with a single powerful kick and tackled his prey to the ground like a great feline –teeth sinking into her shoulder as the two titans slid into a cheap bazaar – flattening everything like paper in a press. His stomach growled loudly, the emptiness pulling at every fiber of his well-being. He would consume her now.
As The Female Titan sat up to regain her senses, Rogue reached around and planted his nails into her face, the strong talon like claws easily going through an eye, bone, and flesh. He then squeezed, an effortless action almost that ended with a loud pop, her eye bobbing out of its socket and more blood spraying the wrecked arena. Before she could even cry out in woe and anguish, Rogue rotated around and grabbed her golden and now discolored sunny locks and began to pull – the bitch screaming at the top of her large lungs as he began to scalp her alive. He couldn't help but roar in pleasure. Preparing his course was so much fun!
Suddenly, he was elbowed violently, causing his teeth to go through his tongue. In the next second, The Female Titan rotated again and kicked out his leg before propelling him into a nearby structure.
"Shit! She's going for the wall!"
"She's trying to escape!"
"Only engage if you must!"
Upon hearing the frantic sounds of human tongue, Rogue looked through the crumbling debris to see that his opponent had hardened her nails and was now struggling to haul herself up and over the wall into freedom. A rumbling threat left the depths of his throat. He would not allow that.
With another howl, the hunter raced from his resting spot right to his target. The titan launched himself yet again and wrapped his arms around her leg, feeling her body nearly give from his weight. Seeing that she was still trying to lift herself, Rogue decided to force her to surrender. Opening his jaws, he quickly sunk his razor sharp teeth into her calf, tapered ears twitching in likeness at her scream. Rogue let out a rumble in pleasure. The meat… it was so TENDER! SO GOOD!
Unfortunately, before he could even swallow the morsel for himself, The Female Titan planted her opposite foot onto his face and kicked – breaking his nose and forcing him back down to the unforgiving earth. However, he wasn't down for the count and his prey still had a long way to go. Using every bit of strength he had, Rogue leaped skyward and sank his front and back claws into her shoulders and legs. His enemy had no idea what was happening as Rogue smoothly jerked, pulling her off the wall like a tick to a dog's skin. The two behemoths then tumbled to the stained bricks, his skin puling into a sneer as he quickly pounced on his enemy again.
There was something different however.
The Female Titan was putting up no struggle whatsoever. She lay on her stomach and was still despite his weight over her. Her head was simply turned with a half dead gaze twisted to the side and staring at noting in particular. This bothered him. He wanted her to struggle! He wanted her to scream! Yet – he wanted to eat. He wanted to FEAST! Making his decision, Rogue raised a clenched fist.
The skinless titan then closed her eyes, sheading a light tear and frowning in the slightest. "I'M… SORRY… I… FAILED…MY… MISSION."
Her words fell death on Rogue's ears as he let loose a final haunting roar and brought his fist down to her head, the force decapitating it and sending pieces flying into the ruble. Blood fountained everywhere and his elbow split through his skin. For several seconds, it was silent and still. There was simply nothing but the sound of his breath and crackling embers.
Then, all at once, there was a chorus of cheers.
"She's dead now!"
"He's got her!"
"Rogue did it!"
However, he paid no attention to their celebration but to his own impending one. FINALLY! IT WAS TIME TO EAT! Rogue then roared in victory and plunged his face into her flesh and began his binge, sending a wave of shock and silence among his audience. The titan tore through her hide, swallowing the nape and pieces before diving into the depths of the slowly steaming carcass. His greedy jaws tore off chunks of muscle, swallowing them rapidly and painting his face in red.
"My god… is he?"
"He's eating her!"
Rogue violently forced his way through the dead titan's spine and retrieved her stomach, tilting his head back to swallow it whole before going back in to retrieve the liver and meat. IT WAS SO GOOD! IT WAS RAVISHING! HER FLESH AND BLOOD WAS PURE HEAVEN!
"I'm going to be sick!"
The titan huffed madly; feeling so enthused as he continued to feed. He scooped a pool of blood in hand and tilted his head to let it freely flow into his mouth in a sinister display. Pressed for time and completely intoxicated in her taste, Rogue plunged his head into her again, savagely stripping meat from bone, swallowing everything from the marrow, muscle, to organs – wasting none of his kill.
"We'll have to snap him out of this!"
Rogue swallowed another chunk of meat to send it on a short journey to his gullet. The titan could feel his stomach rapidly expanding and filling out – a feeling that he had no memory of experiencing. It was so INCREDIBLE! Rogue then leaned back and poured more blood into his waiting maw, nose flaring at the smell of the sweet perfume. The smell of titan blood was so exhilarating!
Then there was another smell that made itself known. One that made him completely freeze and halt his consumption.
Curious, he sniffed and sniffed harder. Suddenly, visions of two little humans filled his head – scenes in a cove, moments playing ball, sleeping in a nest of leaves and hay, and training with them as they flew by his side. Rogue blinked his body cooling at the thoughts. Pictures came together and the titan went rigid in shock as everything flooded back to him. Cautious, he smelt again. No. It couldn't be could it? They were gone. Unless…
Rogue then turned his head to the source of the scent to see the two very humans standing just a few meters away – his little ones.
His precious babies.
Armin's heart pounded in his chest. The two teens were still, breaths shaky and shallow as they gazed out at the carnage before them. What was left of The Female Titan lay steaming beneath Rogue's massive bulk. The vapor was strengthening, but the details of the gruesome display could still be seen. Blood was everywhere, pooling ubiquitously with lazy puffs of steam gently rising to the deep red sky. He swallowed fretfully. Rogue had certainly done quite a number on the skinless deviant. When he had begun to eat her, both Armin and Mikasa were purely terrified. Rogue had nearly eaten a quarter of The Female's body, practically consuming it to the point where there were two separate halves. The evidence certainly showed that Rogue had done the deed. Steaming blood was caked all over his face and body. The titan's abdomen had definitely changed. His belly was clearly distended and had taken to a more roundish shape – skin and abs stretched tightly over the mass in a way that could never be comfortable. However, the thing that was making the teens' hearts beat the fastest was the fact that Rogue was simply sitting still, looking down at the two with a difficult to read expression.
The blond swallowed, biting back the pain in his ankle as he continued to stare. 'Please! Please recognize us Rogue! PLEASE!' Armin thought frantically as he waited for any reaction from the titan.
Then, to the every watching eye, the flames burning from Rogue's pores died down into nothing but a gentle steam. The fire in his veins vanished and his skin began to tint several shades lighter. Rogue's nails then shortened and his teeth stubbornly went back to their more human appearance. The towering creature blinked, hot blues reverting back to vibrant greens. Armin held his breath as the normality returned to Rogue's appearance. It was the moment of truth.
Then, the titan's eyelids sank and his mouth drifted into a feeble grin. Armin let a smile come to his face as Rogue lazily lifted a gentle hand toward the two teens.
In an instant, the titan's arm fell to his side and his kind emeralds rolled back into his head. Much to their horror, Rogue then collapsed.
His forefinger and thumb came up to instinctively pinch his nose. The stench was horrible – like that of a public latrine. Still, Levi kept his famous scowl plastered on his face as the man before guided him throughout the long and dark corridor. If he wanted to make his displeasure apparent, he would have groaned. He hated having to stay in Sina for an extended period of time. Since the great battle in Stohess, the lower half of the city had been closed off while the rest remained open. The decision only made the place more crowded – the idea of being around so many people was one that Levi despised in general. The dungeons of Stohess were also if not more irritating than the citizens of Stohess. Some of the worst criminals stayed in each and every stone and iron hollow. The people were absolutely sordid and filthy. In fact more than half of the stalls smelled like shit and piss. He wanted this visitation to be as short as possible.
The guard and the Corporal finally stopped at a slightly cleaner cell at the end of the long corridor.
"Ten minutes." The officer informed with a face that looked bored. Levi simply nodded and walked up to the iron barrier.
Inside the cell were a single cot, a small table, and a pot for waste. On the bed sat a more worn Commander Erwin Smith. The man looked horrible to Levi's cleanliness standards but slightly less than normal to most. The man's hair was messily strewn on his head and he had ignored a patch of stubble on his chin. Erwin's eyes were dark, hinting that the man hadn't slept much since his arrest. Hearing his approach, Erwin looked up from where he sat on the thin mattress and slowly made his way over to the iron bars – his steps showing his exhaustion.
"You're a sight for sore eyes." Levi began with the Commander simply brushing the crude comment aside.
"I've looked better." Erwin replied, the short male noticing that the taller man was fighting a yawn.
"So, what's the status of your containment? What does Zackley plan for you?" Levi cut straight to business, watching as Erwin sighed.
"I have temporary suspension. Two months I am to remain here, but I will be closely monitored afterwards. I'm lucky I wasn't demoted or released. You are in charge until I get back." Erwin paused, eyes adverting away before turning back to Levi's grey pools. "So how bad was Stohess? They wouldn't give me the full details. They said you would know more."
"Well, there were almost two hundred casualties and dozens injured. About twelve of our own were killed. The big brat managed to kill her though." Levi paused, thinking back to the paralyzing event. "Rogue surprised us yet again." He stalled, not realizing that the anxiety on his face was obvious.
"What's bothering you?" Erwin asked suddenly with the Corporal quickly acknowledging him.
"Well, other than he destroyed half of the city while doing so, we believe that Rogue's emotional state at the time triggered one hell of an ability of his."
The Commander's brows rose. "Like a hardening ability?"
"Not hardening." Levi corrected. "Rogue can literally light his ass on fire. His teeth and nails become long and sharp as well. The bastard tortured The Female Titan before he eventually cannibalized her. Rogue was so strong that he could crack her diamond hard skin with a single bite."
"I bet that was quite a sight."
Levi dipped his head. "However, when he's like that Erwin, Rogue is pretty much feral. We couldn't give any commands and the only way he could snap out of it was when we took the huge risk and placed Ackerman and Arlert in front of him. This 'form of his' is also exhausting. Last thing I heard from Hange was that he's still out cold – and it's been four days since."
Erwin bowed his head, hand gripping the grimy bar. "I see."
"Another thing, just before Rogue killed the bitch – everyone witnessed her speak."
The blonde male perked up at Levi's words. "So Rogue was right. She could talk. What did she say?"
He paused, exhaling heavily at the strain the words had on his mind. "What she said is what I find to be the most troubling. The bitch said that she 'failed her mission.' Sir, what do make of that?"
The man was a silent, brow drawing together in worry and his mouth fixed into a serious frown. Erwin then rubbed his stubble, sighing deeply before looking back at the shorter male. "Levi," he whispered, the guard too hung up in swatting away a fly to hear him. "This is my best guess, but even so it leaves a reason for us to be on high alert. I think The Female Titan worked for what could very well be a clan of intelligent titans. The fact that she mentioned a mission supports that. Or perhaps it's a self-appointed one, but that's unlikely. The Armored and Colossal Titans are no less the same as her. Who's to say that they were working together for whatever reason? Also, in light of the attack in the garden, we'll have to watch out for a different kind of enemy as well."
Levi remained still. Erwin had a point. A serious point.
"Another thing." Erwin continued with no hint of whimsy. "In light of this new theory of the titans, it makes me wonder just what kind of role Rogue himself played before losing his memory."
A soft and gentle touch of warmth fell upon his skin. It tickled his nose, causing it to characteristically twitch. Inhaling, the scents of fresh hay and barn wood made themselves known. Tapered ears convulsed at the sounds of songbirds and voices. Ever so slowly, shadow rimmed eyes crept open to see the interior of the man made nest. The skylight in the ceiling was open further, revealing more of the glass roof and the blue sky above it. The aura was peaceful, reminding him of the mornings he used to share in the cove with his little ones. With not a cloud above, it appeared to be a pleasant day.
The titan let out a deep sigh and lifted his head, blinking the crust from his eyes. Why did it feel as if he had slept forever?
"Well! What do you know! Somebody's finally up!"
Recognizing the voice as Hange, Rogue then began to gradually sit. However, something felt off – heavier. He felt full – a feeling that he never experienced. Concerned, Rogue looked down to see the source of his discomfort. Opposed to being flat and rippling with firm muscle, his belly was very swollen and had taken a fairly circular shape. Lying as he was, he could feel the weight of it pressing against his pelvis and a gentle heat radiating from it. Inquisitive, the titan lifted a hand and ran it across his abdomen. His muscles and skin was unfavorably tight. Confused, the titan tilted his head, poking his flesh. How did he put on weight?
"Yup! If you remember Rogue, you made quite a meal out of The Female Titan!" Hange merrily skipped over to him. "Ah! And you unknowingly gave me a way to get an in depth look at our enemy!" The woman continued as she gave a friendly pat to his bulging torso, making Rogue's cheeks flush a soft shade of red.
"That's sick Shitty Glasses."
The titan looked from the scientist to see the short and grumpy Corporal entering the barn. The man was simply dressed in a more leisurely set of attire, which was just a plain black shirt and pants with the addition of his cast and crutches. Hange immediately shook her head at his brash comment, looking just as cheerful as ever.
"Oh Levi! It's a great thing! Scientific not sick! Since everything in a titan pellet is preserved, as soon as Rogue vomits his stomach contents I'm going to get a sample from The Female Titan's DNA! Genius huh?"
"Disgusting." Levi scowled, before letting his facial muscles loosen as he turned to the titan. "I see you're still rounded out quite a bit."
At his superior's comment, Rogue bashfully positioned his arms over his stomach with his gaze fixed to his feet. Did they have to rub it in?
Hange laughed at the titan's display. "Oh don't worry Rogue! It should be gone in a few hours or so! I think your disposing process slowed a bit due to the fact that you were asleep and because of the sheer amount you consumed." She smiled tenderly. "You ate a quarter of The Female Titan before you passed out. That includes even her bones and organs!"
"Hange, you're making me sick."
At her explanation, Rogue found himself dumbfounded. His memory of that time was so foggy. He could only remember the heat, the taste of blood, and his little –
Rogue's head snapped up as he realized. His babies! Where were they! The last he remembered of them was their broken looking bodies liking askew across a blood-splattered street. A lump formed in his throat. Were they really – if they were then why was Hange happy and Levi in a fairly decent mood? The titan quickly turned to them, eyes wide and pleading. "AAANNGGEE EEVVVIII! EERRREE AAAIIBBIIEESS?"
The messy haired woman cackled. "As much as I want to pull a pun here," She joshed as she gestured to his abdomen. "I'm not going to because I don't want to stress you out. Armin and Mikasa should be here any minute. They are just finishing breakfast."
He nodded. "DDEEEYY OOKKAAEEE DDOOGGHH?"
Hange beamed tenderly, massaging his thigh. "They're alive and well, Rogue. They just have some minor injuries but nothing too serious. The most was a twisted ankle, which will heal in time. So just you relax until they get here. With your belly as stretched and bloated as it is, I don't want to put too much strain on you. But do let me know when you start to feel sick! I want to help you out and take those samples!"
Rogue groaned softly at her remark. He could only imagine the amount of jokes Hange was to make when his process of passing a pellet began. Nonetheless, he nodded in understanding and thanked her with a soft grunt.
Tapered ears fluttered at the two voices that he was the most familiar with. The titan looked to see that his little ones had entered the barn and were making a quick jog, in Armin's case walking, to him. Relieved to see them in once piece, Rogue trilled loudly as positioned himself on his knees – stomach shifting uncomfortably as he moved each muscle. The titan then bent over, but quickly found that he couldn't perform the task as well as he expected to, having to completely resituate himself where he was lying on his side so he could greet his little ones with his face as he traditionally did. Rogue purred as he nuzzled into them, ears wiggling as he felt their small arms embrace his deformed face.
"AAAPPPYYY OOUUU SSAAFFE." The titan worded as his finger wrapped around their backs in affection. Thank goodness The Female Titan hadn't taken them to their graves like she had with so many before them.
"Yes Rogue, Armin and I are alright but you gave us quite a scare." Mikasa smiled as she tenderly patted his nose.
At her comment, the titan tilted his head in a perplexed manner yet again. "OOWW EEIII SSCCARRREIII?"
For a moment it was quiet as the four humans looked from one to the other. Finally it was his Armin that broke the silence.
"Well Rogue, we think you kind of found your special ability."
The creature lifted his head at this. Was it really true? "OOOHH! EEEIII GGOOTT HAARRDD!" Rogue guessed, noticing Hange's clear smirk and the roll of Levi's eyes.
"No, it wasn't anything like that, Rogue! However it was fucking awesome!" Hange bounced. "In simple terms, you become very animalistic and you can light your body on fire! Your nails and teeth become sharp too!"
Rogue's green hues widened at this. He could do that?
"Your strength and regeneration abilities increase in your what I'm going to call your 'Berserk Mode' by at least three times the amount you normally display! It's incredible!"
"Of course, he doesn't have much control over it." Levi commented, making the titan's awkward grin fall in the slightest.
"True, which probably explains why you don't remember much during that time Rogue." The messy haired scientist quickly added. "Of course, like with most things, I'm sure that Old Levi here can train you to master it!" Hange chuckled, receiving another eye roll from the Corporal.
"Yeah sometime after he masters other things." Levi ensured as he reached up to adjust his cravat. "You mastered the high kick from what I saw during Stohess – shaved the bitch's face right off. Doing that opens doors to other more complex moves that you need to know. Soon after you thin out, we'll be having some more one on one training sessions as well as those with my new squad."
Rogue nodded, mind swimming in curiosity. "NNEEWWW SSQQUUADDD?"
The stout Corporal dipped his head, naturally trying to fold his arms despite standing on crutches. "Yes, in light of our recent loss, I have to appoint new members to my elite squad. It will consist of you, Mikasa, Armin, Jean, Connie, Sasha, and Krista."
The titan lit up at the news. He was finally in the same small pack with his little ones!
"Now just because you are all together doesn't mean you can goof off with them as you usually do. That means no hunting pigs with Sasha, spitting on Jean, drawing dicks with Connie, letting Krista braid your hair, or loving all over your little ones. Got it?"
Much too happy at the idea that he finally got what he wanted, Rogue chirruped loudly and hurriedly pressed his face into Levi who nearly fell backward at the force of the sudden impact.
"Lick me Rogue and you're dead." The short male growled. If he was in the condition to make a quick getaway, he could have gone against the man's wishes just for the fun of it.
Hearing the unfamiliar voice, the barn's occupants looked toward the door to see a Garrison soldier standing with a clipboard in hand. The man had a cheerful smile on his face, short brown hair, and blue eyes that glanced from Levi to the titan in a look that Rogue could only determine as gratitude. The Garrison saluted to the shorter male as he made his approach before holding out his board and a writing stick.
"I just need you to sign this receipt saying that the Survey Corps paid for the damages to Stohess in full."
Levi sighed before approaching the man and receiving the clipboard. As the Corporal read through the written words, the soldier still kept his gaze and grinning face on the titan.
"So this is The Rogue Titan huh? The very one that raised two kids in Wall Maria as well as just saved the people of Stohess?" He asked in a jovial tone, still grinning at the creature.
"Yup." Levi answered as he signed the document. "That's Big Ears himself." He informed, his attention suddenly adverting adjacent to the barn's entrance. "Whose the little br – girl?" The Corporal questioned, narrowly avoiding using the word 'brat'.
"OH! So you brought her!" Hange whooped as she skipped over to the two men, making Levi raise a questionable brow.
"Sorry Levi! I made a promise some time ago to a special someone that they could see their hero! Come here Ellie!" The woman beckoned, taking a knee and waving her hand out in a coaxing gesture. Rogue's eyes instantly widened as the little girl he had seen in Katness stepped out to view. She was just as he remembered her: pink dress, pigtails, and his doll replica tightly held in her arms. "I arranged for her father here to deliver the receipt just so she could see him!"
"Yeah, I've been talking about it with your Section Commander here for a while now." The girl's father admitted bashfully.
For a moment, Levi's face was difficult to read before he nodded. "Well, go ahead." He concluded as he stepped aside. "Hange here can introduce the two of them since this matter is under her jurisdiction."
"Yes!" Hange jumped before she gently and motherly took the girl's hand. "Come on dear! Let me introduce you to my favorite colleague!" You already know Armin and Mikasa here but this big guy needs a formal introduction!" She continued as she brought the little girl just meters before him. To the titan, she looked so delicate and small; she was the littlest human he had ever seen. Surprisingly though, even in the presence of his massive bulk, Ellie showed no fear but rather great wonder. "Ellie, this is Rogue Jaeger. Rogue this is Ellie. She's your number one fan." Hange giggled as she urged the child forward with a gentle hand. "Rogue, why don't you say hello?"
The titan presented a lopsided grin, a warm, odd looking, but friendly one. "EEELLOOO EEELLLEEEEII."
At the sound of his greeting, the little girl's face lit up like stars against the night sky. "He can talk! He can talk daddy!"
"Wow, so the papers were right then." The soldier subconsciously scratched his head.
"Yup!" Hange encouraged. "Why don't you go touch his nose Ellie? He loves to be petted there!"
Upon hearing the messy haired woman's request, Rogue lowered his head and snout to the hay covered floor and waited with kind green emeralds.
For a moment, Ellie seemed hesitant before slowly making her approach. Gradually, the tiny child held up her hand, holding back for a moment as she pressed her miniscule appendage onto the tip of his nose. A broad smile instantly spread across her face.
"Wow! It's so warm! His skin feels like leather!"
Finding amusement in her reaction, Rogue gently pressed the bridge of his nose into her small body and began his signature purr, ears wiggling profoundly. Ellie giggled.
"He purrs like a cat daddy! His ears wiggle too! He likes me!"
"I see sweetheart." The Garrison continued, obviously spellbound. "I never imagined that a titan could do such a thing."
"With Rogue, everything is a surprise." Levi agreed, amazingly warming up to the added company.
Deciding to take his display one step further, Rogue parted his lips and gently licked the girl on the brow with the tip of his tongue, making Ellie squeal.
"He licks like a doggie too daddy! He's so cool!"
"Well, what do you know?"
Ellie continued to giggle as she stroked his nose. Suddenly, the child's eyes veered away from Rogue's green pools to his rounded and pooched torso, the small girl's face instantly igniting in confusion. She then lifted a finger and pointed to the temporary abnormality. "Did he eat a lot or is that - a baby?"
At her innocent words, Rogue unknowingly let out a squeak in shock – his face instantly turning as red as a beet. Of all things the child had to guess… it was clear to him that she really was too young to understand how the 'mating process' worked. Though he was suffering from a great amount of embarrassment, Hange burst out laughing along with his little ones.
"Oh boy! Well –
"Rogue here flattened half of a city chasing a girl before taking her out to dinner." Levi interrupted bluntly. "He ate well."
The titan stared at Levi and his unexpected response. As much as he wanted to laugh, he found it risky that the man would say the truth so brusquely to a young child. Hopefully, she wouldn't understand that man's pun. Much to his surprise, the girl beamed more than ever.
Rogue stretched his arms high over his head, feeling the tranquility of being light again. A few rather unpleasant hours had passed since he had woken up. No sooner after Ellie and her father had left he began to grow queasy. Not long after his first onset of feeling nausea did he find himself in the forest experiencing the worst case of vomiting that he had ever gone through and what was the most embarrassing by far with the addition of his little ones being present and Hange practically celebrating at the several masses that he produced. Now with Levi doing paperwork and Hange extracting DNA and doing tests on his stomach contents, Rogue was free to do what he pleased.
The titan then lowered himself to rest upon the field littered with daisies before positioning himself to lie upon his back. Rogue took a moment to stretch his legs and bend his toes before scratching is now muscular torso. Finally, he completed his routine by folding his arms behind his head as he fell into deep relaxation. He had wanted to partake in the simple pleasure of basking in the rays of the sun for quite some time. Not only that, but he had been stuck inside for days and felt the need to catch up on some guilt free nourishment.
Rogue found himself fully immersed into nature with each passing minute of chirping birds and frolicking insects. The titan shut his eyes and considered the option of sleep, something he didn't necessarily need but felt like doing anyway. Making his decision, Rogue yawned and let his body slowly sink into a waiting state of repose.
"Do you mind if we join you Rogue?"
Hearing the common question of invitation, Rogue snapped from his trance to find both Armin and Mikasa standing next to his head. Purring, the titan then carefully lifted their two small bodies to his chest before cradling his skull yet again. The three smiled at each other softly, the titan watching his babies settle on their bellies and face him with tired looking expressions themselves.
"Today is the perfect day to relax out here isn't it?" Armin began with Mikasa and the titan nodding in agreement.
"Yeah, the last few months have been tiring for all of us. So much has happened since we graduated and found Rogue again." Mikasa replied as she rested her head on his flesh. "Who knows? Maybe we will soon be doing this by the ocean."
He nodded. "ESSS. HOOPPPE EEE CCAANN SOONN."
"Yeah Rogue, who knows? Maybe in another year we will win the war against the titans and see the ocean and go explore the rest of the world. Like all those places in the book Mikasa and I used to read to you." Armin grinned at him, the titan nodding eagerly and taking note of his little ones slowly settling.
"LIIIKKEE DEE IITTE NNOOUNNTIIANNS? DEEE SSAANND FFIIEELLDDS? DEEE RRRAAIINNEEE OORRREESSTSS?"
"Yup, all those places and more." His little one yawned, shutting his eyes as he snuggled into the creature's warm skin.
Rogue smiled softly as he watched his babies slowly drift into repose. Lovingly, the titan wrapped a hand around their delicate bodies to shelter them from the breeze before relaxing once again. Shadowed lids then sheltered green hues as Rogue let himself fall into his trance yet again. Hopefully he could fulfill his little ones' and his family's wishes soon. He couldn't wait to explore and experience the world with them.
END OF PART ONE
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