Curiosity and Chaos
Sleep had not been too kind to him. Though he was in repose, his body felt restless, trapped in a light sleep without the presence of dawn. His dreams kept him prisoner it seemed. Ever since he and his little ones had made their deal, his nightly visions were full of pain and heartbreak – illusions of failure and death to the last of his family. The titan was surprised that he hadn't tossed and turned in his nest as of yet – something he feared greatly for his little ones risked getting flattened by his weight. However, Armin and Mikasa had confronted him three or four times about crying out in his unsound sleep. Each time they stated their concern and worry, Rogue naturally shoved it away and gave a rehearsed smile – trying to indicate that nothing was wrong.
The titan shuttered, trying to mentally run from a vision of his little ones becoming dinner. Rogue clenched his teeth tighter as he cringed. A small and desperate whine slipped through his maw just as the faint rays of twilight descended down into the cove. As his skin soaked in the light like a sponge, the titan forced his lids to peel away. Gradually, he lifted his head from the dried leaves, letting reality sweep out the dreams from his mind. Rogue let out a hushed sigh and slowly placed his eyes onto his little ones. He himself was laying on his side, the two small children, who were deep in their sleep, resided in the dip between his ribcage and his pelvis. For a long moment, he watched their little chests rise and fall softy. They were so small, innocent, and helpless in a world full of monsters. The thought of bringing them outside the cove haunted him further. Rogue's eyes descended to the leaves in his nest as he thought. He couldn't. He could not expose them to the hunger of the titans. Yet he couldn't let his little ones starve.
The creature blinked, turning back to look at the two children nestled on his flesh, trying to come up with an idea to free himself from his deal and make him feel better all around. Rogue's ears suddenly perked up as a plan played out in his mind. His little ones were in a deep sleep whereas he was awake and alert. If he was careful, he could sneak away, get the meat they spoke of from animals, and return to the cove with food in hand. Granted, Armin and Mikasa could be awake by that time. Most likely they would be disappointed, angry even. But what could two small children do to hurt a fifteen-meter titan?
Nothing physical to say the least.
Rogue nodded to himself at his decision. He felt much better leaving them behind to wait in safety. As much as they wanted to see the outside world, his little ones would have to be patient. He would make the world safe for them first. Putting his plan into action, the titan slowly lifted his mammoth hands to the children. Rogue held his hitched breath as he placed one hand open and the other over the two. The creature then carefully lifted one of his tiny humans with his thumb and index finger with the same precision of threading a needle. The titan then placed his little one into his open palm before repeating the same nerve-wracking task with the other. Rogue took a precious moment to study the tiny figures. He was a bit amazed at his accomplishment, both proud and relieved that he had not accidentally broken the delicate bones in his little ones' bodies or woken them up. Rogue then gradually lowered his hand to the warm dry leaves, successfully removing them from his palm and tucking them in their leafy bed. The titan stole a few more gratifying seconds to watch for signs that his little ones were awakening, signs of failure. Once satisfied that the two children were still in repose, Rogue began his attempt to sneak from the nest – the action an obstacle course within of itself. The titan maneuvered awkwardly, placing himself over the two as he began to crawl on his hands from the hollow. Rogue could almost feel his body heat rising with his nerves. Not only did he have to make sure he was silent, but each placement of his knees, feet, and legs had to be precise. He would hate to lose his little ones by his own hands.
Rogue glanced from the wrong way up between his outstretched arms for the fifth time before bracing his foot against the rear of the trunk, supporting himself as he pulled his other leg from the hollow. However, the pressure of Rogue's extremity against the ancient bark of the vast tree, forced the wood to creak loudly across the tranquil hideaway. The titan paused, his heart drumming against his ribcage as he checked his little ones once more. His breath hitched in his quaking chest as Mikasa and Armin stirred slightly, making the creature's surroundings become fogged and a blur. After a few tense seconds, his little ones then settled like two baby birds in a cradle of twigs – making Rogue breathe a cloud of steam in relief. The titan then promptly removed his foot from the hollow without any second thought. The quicker he escaped, the better. A smile forced itself to form on his face. He was almost home free and the deal would be subdued. Perfect!
He froze at his name being innocently spoken, blood running cold through his hot veins. Rogue shut his eyes in aggravation, softly cursing himself with a small growl. Just his damn luck. The titan let out a sigh, turning to see that both his little ones were sitting upright in his leafy nest with their awakening eyes upon him in question. Guilt then washed over Rogue once again as the tips of his tapered ears traditionally turned red.
"Rogue?" Armin began, his tone showing obvious worry. "What are you doing? Are you okay?"
The titan dithered, looking at the tops of his knees fretfully, knowing he had backed himself into a corner. Finally, he gave a tired grin and performed a few meaningless hand gestures, grunting to get his point across and hoping his odd quirk wasn't giving him away.
The blonde tilted his head at the titan's explanation, to Rogue's better favor he looked confused. "Why – are you sitting outside the tree?"
Rogue huffed and teasingly extended his legs before him, flexing his feet to show that he just needed a stretch. The titan purred a bit, trying to coax his little ones to believe a lie, to his relief Armin began to consider the fact – but Mikasa's distrusting eyes were ever telling. The girl then sighed.
"I know you're lying Rogue." His little one began, forcing the titan to freeze with fear. "Carla told me about your little habit with your ears and how they turn red when you're fibbing. "Now, were you – trying to sneak away to hunt food for us?"
Rogue cursed himself again with another low and short growl. His plan had completely backfired on him. After instinctively running his fingers through his hair in shame, Rogue nodded sheepishly in return, eyes fixed to the ground. He couldn't bring it upon himself to look at them. He simply sat like a misbehaved puppy, waiting to be scolded.
"Rogue, you don't need to worry about us. You're a big titan." Mikasa continued, stern but nice enough to get a point across without sounding irritated. "In fact, you're strong – you tore the titan that killed Carla and Grisha to shreds. With you leading the way with Armin and I in tow, we're very safe."
For a moment, Rogue silently panicked. His little ones only knew about his slaughter of the smiling one – not the genocide he performed upon the others almost every day. If he could count the kills, he would lose count. Ever since that day, Mikasa had seemingly adopted his human's motherly instinct. Although she was understanding and nurtured him to the fullest extent, his little one was overbearing at times and concerned of his whereabouts and well-being. Rogue only knew that it was because she cared for him greatly just as Carla did, but due to her protectiveness – it was one of the main reasons as to why Rogue never indicated what he carried out on his hunts.
The titan moaned a bit in a mixture of disagreement and aggravation. There was no way out of this predicament. Even if he told them to stay they would only insist and if he just walked away he would face their angry human tongue later. Rogue then sighed, finally nodding his head meekly in agreement.
"Good. Now as another way to persuade your stubborn disposition, if you remember, Armin and I will be sitting on your shoulder the whole time opposed to walking on the ground. We'll be right with you! How does that sound?"
Rogue dithered once again, still not completely sure if their plan was sound and without holes. But he just knew that there was no escape. No point in arguing. Finally, he purred in likeness – the only act of reassuring that seemed good enough. The titan watched as his little ones put on smiles at his answer, making a knot grow in his chest.
"Fine then, it's settled." Armin began as he carefully climbed from the nest after Mikasa. "The two of us will get dressed, gather some water, and then we can head out. Just wait here and give us a minute."
Again, the titan nodded at his little one's request, watching as they each went to their designated corners and crevices to change their garbs in private. While the two rushed to get prepared, Rogue remained seated – still silently cursing himself at his mistake. He didn't feel good about this. At all.
With winter slowly departing from the land once again, the forest was left in a melancholy state. The once thick blanket of snow was now nothing more than a few mushy patches – slowly melting away at the summoning of spring. With solid now liquid, the earth was damp and nearly muddy in blotches of exposed dirt. The low trees that did not keep their green during the white winters were beginning to slowly awaken – buds sprouting among their branches. Finally, after the frigid days, spring was on the horizon once again.
The forest was quiet except for the rhythmic thumps of Rogue's giant feet. An early morning fog had settled over the wood, provoking the titan to utilize his translucent third eyelids. The thin membranes were a new aspect about himself he discovered recently that proved to be quite handy in allowing him to see through the mists and titan steam. Rogue's tapered ears flickered and angled about, trying to pick up the sound of potential prey and steps of other titans. However, with his little ones chatting on his shoulder, they were not being helpful – their voices like a foul scent to animals and a beacon for his mindless kind. The titan then turned slightly to interrupt with a stern grunt, one that told his talkative little ones to be quiet and stay quiet.
"Sorry, Rogue." Armin whispered. "We forgot."
Rogue only scoffed and held his index finger over his mouth – a common human gesture that his little ones had told him meant silence. Upon seeing the titan's response, the two children quieted as Rogue pressed onward. The towering creature sniffed once again, his nose still hooked on his target. Truthfully, the titan was not after deer. During their initial depart from the cove; Rogue had yet again forged a plan – this time to escape killing a deer. He loved the quiet creatures, and he did not want to see them become a meal. So, in exchange, the titan had begun to track the furry growling animals. He never liked the creatures, and his forest would be better with less of them. His little ones had said that every living and breathing thing was made up of meat, so the growling creatures seemed to be the perfect substitute. The muscles in Rogue's face relaxed, a streak of worry crossing them. Hopefully the two would be happy with his decision.
The titan paused in his step, ears angling and nose sniffing bellicosely. They were close now, their pungent odor forcing his brow to furrow and ears to flick at the sounds of false aggression – toying snarls and growls. Rogue slowed his pace as he approached, stepping lightly like a cat stalking a mouse. The titan's breath grew steady, sharp gaze locked on the pack of seven wolves as he contemplated his approach. His little ones looked at one another in confusion as Rogue selected his victim like a trained hunter – a fit and well-fed alpha, perfect prey. A small voice met his ear, but Rogue was much too focused, watching the creature's breath and listening to its mesmerizing heartbeat, completely indulged. As he waited for an opening in the small creature's activity, the titan allowed his body to lighten – a trait that was often utilized by his kind, commanding his heavy frame to grow light in mass in order to move at a fast pace. Granted, he normally was fairly quick for a fifteen-meter monster, but with the lightening 'magic' trick, Rogue's speed was nearly doubled. He didn't use the trick often, only when hunting down his victims, and in this case with the tiny predators - it would be ideal. The titan completely dispelled, allowing everything to turn still as an undisturbed pond while he waited. Then, the window opened.
With a powerful kick that upset the earth, Rogue surged forward into the growling creatures' territory. The titan roared with authority as he barreled through the brush, taking no notice of the small trees perishing in his wake. With an outstretched hand, Rogue easily swiped the small animal from its feet and held it before his face as the others scattered back into the forest, fleeing for their lives. Thinking back to the moment when the small creatures had terrorized and nearly killed his human, Rogue grasped the neck of the troublesome animal and snapped it in two, delivering a quick demise. The titan hummed cheerfully as he looked at the limp creature in his hand. A smile bestowed itself onto Rogue's face as he held the growling creature up to his little ones, proud of his accomplishment. However, to the friendly titan's dismay, his little ones only glared at the wolf in distress. Did – they not like his offering? Wasn't it meat like they wanted?
"Rogue." Armin coughed. "Um –
"NNEAAAT!" The titan insured, hoping the tiny humans understood. However, the boy shook his head.
"Yeah, it's meat, Rogue. However it's not –
"NNNEEEAAT!" He reassured; pressing the animal closer for his little ones to take it from his hands so he could hunt more. To the titan's amazement, the two took no action to retrieve their gift.
"Like I said," Armin began diligently. "Every living thing is made up of meat, including the wolf you just killed."
Rogue nodded vigorously, waiting for praise at a job well done with emerald eyes sparkling like light reflecting from water.
"Thing is, some meats do not taste good to humans. The wolf, the animal in your hand Rogue, its meat doesn't taste good to us. It's why we eat deer. Deer have good meat. Understand?" His little one explained, making the titan feel completely mortified.
Rogue groaned a bit in disappointment as he lowered the dead animal back to the earth unceremoniously. However, a gentle tug on his ear provoked the titan to stop. He then turned to see Mikasa eyeing him thoughtfully.
"Thank you for getting us the wolf, but Armin is right. It's not good to eat. Its fur on the other hand Rogue, can keep us extra warm in the winter. So we can keep it." The girl smiled softly in encouragement.
Although he felt ignorant for another failed plan and his lack of knowledge, Rogue simply nodded in understanding and handed the wolf to his little ones for safekeeping. Once he made sure they were settled on his shoulder once again, the titan rose to his feet and ventured further into the wood.
With each stride, Rogue carried his precious cargo further and further from his cove. The trio had surpassed the boundaries that the titan had marked, wondering into unfamiliar woodland that was nothing like Rogue's. Despite the current state of his forest being one of transition, this collection of trees wasn't the most attractive all around. There was nothing secure or comforting about it. Gloomy was the correct term. Trees drooped against their will and the earth was never covered in any sort of green, just impractical mud. Rogue himself had only ever ventured into the dour forest a few times in his entire existence. Nothing seemed very fertile and the moistness of the ground wasn't the best to move on – especially for something of the titan's stature. However, Rogue knew that deer used the grim pass quite often between his forest and the other lush ones. He wasn't familiar with these particular few, so perhaps he wouldn't feel much remorse.
The titan prowled further into the musk-grown landscape, each weighing step causing the moist ground to gurgle beneath his feet. Rogue let his ears angle about freely, searching for the familiar pitter-patter of hooves and a tiny heartbeat that didn't belong to his little ones. With each minute that passed, a sense of nervousness clung to the titan like tar. Not only was he sick at the thought of killing one of the only species of animal that ever bothered to understand him, but also being in an unfamiliar forest with his little ones made him want to finish his task quickly. Suddenly, upon the verge of turning back, he heard it. The small sound of flouncing met his eardrums, making Rogue stop in an instant. Declaring that his target was close with the rhythmic thumping rapidly approaching, the titan looked down just in time to see a large deer prance between his feet and into a clearing. Rogue remained vigilant, watching as the four-legged mammal slowed to feast on a lone patch of malnourished grass. The deer was a six-point buck with a good amount muscle – meaning that it possessed a great amount of stamina and was most likely from another sumptuous forest. Rogue tilted his head as he began to access the situation. From what he exhibited in his deer, they were quick and wiry creatures and could prove to be difficult to catch. The titan himself had never, in all his years with a beating heart, tried to pick up a deer – only pet them and grunt in an attempt to form a conversation. Rogue swallowed back another knot of worry as he slowly edged forward from the cover of a tree, breath restrained at the thought of what he was about to do.
With the sound of a deep thump echoing across the clearing, the buck looked up to meet eyes with the uncertain Rogue. The dark eyes of the deer became wide and frozen as it stared at the titan's immense frame. Its ears stilled, pricked forward in alarm as its body became petrified. Fear, the titan realized – an expression that caused paralysis without injury and made the mind swarm in panic, one he sometimes experienced. It was an opening, but one that Rogue wasn't truly wiling to take. The titan took a few steps further, crouched as he sulked to his prey – a much less aggressive approach from the one that he had performed earlier. As Rogue came within striking range, the buck finally found the will to move, more or less run. With a single kick, the deer threw itself into a sprint. Then, oddly, the creature stopped and turned, pausing to look upon the titan in question.
"Rogue you might want to hurry before it gets away." Armin suggested quietly as he griped tighter onto the titan's locks.
The giant gave a weary nod in return before trying to focus on his objective once again. With another colossal step in advance, the buck darted into the opposite direction again – this time showing no signs of slowing. In that instant, a sudden impulse to not withstand failure propelled Rogue into action. The titan barely allowed himself to lighten before he made a dive for the miniscule mammal, rattling his little ones with the sudden burst of speed. Landing onto his knees, the titan made a single swipe – catching the defenseless deer in the palm of his hand. Rogue let out a jet of steam in shock as he rose to sit upon his calves. The deer squirmed in the monster's grasp, antlers barely scratching his tough skin. The animal then began to announce its terror with a series of pained noises that Rogue had never heard from his own deer. Guilt and remorse settled into Rogue's stomach like a load of bricks as he peeled away his fingers to see the buck's body. The titan trembled as his shame grew at the sight of the small animal's frame. Its chest heaved in panic as Rogue examined his undoing's, the deer's back leg was twisted inwardly while another in the front was bent at an awkward and sick angle, bone puncturing through skin with crimson staining brown fur. Rogue let out a pitiful whine as he observed the deer nearly seizure in his palm. How could he kill something, let alone hurt something so innocent?
"Good job, Rogue." The raven-haired girl spoke softly into the titan's ear.
Hearing words of praise made Rogue feel worse. The titan let out another soft cry, eyes nearly welling up with tears at the thought of what he had done. His little one only sighed and patted his neck in comfort.
"We know you didn't want to kill the deer, but you have to look at it this way. Its sacrifice will help Armin and I live. But of course, humans eating deer is the natural order of things, Rogue. If you didn't, eventually someone else would have."
The titan paused in his acts of sadness to consider his little one's words, whimpering quietly. The way things worked in the world was cruel. Deer ate the grass, humans ate the deer, and the mindless titans ate humans – natural. Yet, he and his little ones, their harmony with one another, was a perfect example of something unnatural but beautiful itself. A perfect ideal. Their mismatched family even lived in peace with the deer and the forest's bounty. Did they really have to kill innocent things to survive?
"The kindest thing would be to put it out of its misery rather than letting it suffer." Armin began. "It's sad, but –
Rogue turned and addressed his little ones with a whine of disapproval, but looking upon their faces only made him collect himself. It had to be done. He loved them too much.
"It has to be done. Otherwise we'll starve."
With his little one's truthful words, the titan finally nodded and raised his opposite hand to the buck's neck. Rogue swallowed as he placed his thumb and index into place, shutting his eyes in revulsion as he quickly carried out what he had to do. The titan sighed as he removed his hand to reveal the dead deer. Not willing to look at the animal any longer, Rogue quickly handed the deer to his little ones, watching their faces light up in excitement as they took it with open arms.
"Thank you Rogue!" The blonde boy exclaimed. " Mikasa and I understand that it was a harsh thing to ask of you, but now we won't go hungry – in fact we'll probably be healthier than ever thanks to you!"
Rogue's ears flickered at the boy's words. So this meat made his little ones' health even better? The titan blinked, if that was indeed true then he no longer felt much pity. Knowing that his little ones were going to be okay, he was more than willing to carry out their deal. As long as the deer he was to hunt were not his own, he was at peace. The titan finally emitted a pleased rumble in reply; it made him feel good to see his little ones happy in an unforgiving world.
"Looks like we'll have enough food for the next two weeks! We can preserve it with some of the materials Rogue collected." Armin informed as the titan slowly rose to his feet, still looking at his little ones and awaiting an order. If they needed more, he would get it.
"EEERRR?" Rogue queried, gesturing into the forest. Mikasa shook her head.
"We've got enough for now, Rogue. We should head back now so Armin and I can prepare, eat, and preserve the meat." Mikasa paused. "Again, thank you."
The titan smiled at her kind gesture, letting out a squeak as he dipped his head as if to say 'you're welcome.' Rogue then turned in the direction of their home, but an all too familiar stench hit his nose, making him stop immediately in his stride. The small hairs on his neck stood up and his body froze. Rogue's face fell at his realization. No! Not now!
Feeling their vast friend's frame seize up, Rogue's little ones looked to him in worry. The titan's green eyes widened as his ears naturally angled independently in search. His hands trembled and heart hammered within his rib cage as another titan, thirteen meters tall, emerged from the trees. Rogue looked on in horror, ignoring his little ones' gasps in fright, as the titan paused in its lumbering waltz. Before he could make out the monster's facial features, his ears alerted him to another titan. Quickly, Rogue turned to see a hunched eight-meter glaring at him with soulless eyes, ones that only reflected hunger. With his conscious buzzing, Rogue took a step back in retreat – just as a third titan, a ten-meter, emerged from behind him. He hastily spun to face all three, cursing himself again for the umpteenth time that day.
He had been ignorant, wandering into a forest that wasn't marked with his scent. Because of his stubborn intentions to catch a deer that he didn't know, he had placed his innocent little ones into certain jeopardy. To make matters worse, he was in no position to fight them. His family, his precious babies, were seated onto his shoulder with their meat. Not only were they present, but also the soft and wet ground would make any fight a fatal one. If the titan were to make a wrong move and get stuck in the mud, it would be over for his human companions.
"I…I think – we'll be okay." Armin whispered shakily. "We smell like Rogue and as long as we don't move, I'm sure we will not be noticed."
The words were medicine to him. His little ones would be okay. They matched his scent, but surely –
Simultaneously, to Rogue's incredible dismay, the three titans took a step forward, saliva running from their lips like rivers for they were fully intent on their prize – a chance to satisfy their gullet. Did his scent mean nothing? As the titans advanced, the primal and feral instinct within Rogue forced itself up front and center once again. His eyes narrowed and pupils slit with rage. The fifteen-meter's breath grew ravenous and foreboding as his ears placed themselves against his head like an aggressive wolf. Rogue let loose a sinister hiss from between his teeth, letting his animalistic instincts awaken fully. He couldn't act – he was a cornered beast, but perhaps his own theory was true.
'YOU…FUCKERS.' Rogue's mind snarled as he watched two of the monsters roar dolefully in insolence. 'WHY!'
One of the beasts took a cautious step forward, forcing Rogue to release a threatening and savage growl. His eyes widened further, pupils shrinking a bit as anger ran white hot through his veins. Rogue then let out a feral howl directed at his enemies. Nothing was going to harm his little ones. He would make that clear in this undergoing standoff. He rushed forward a few steps, giving a separate roar to each of three titans – eyes darting back and forth from each with murderous intent.
"Rogue!" Armin whimpered. "We need to –
His little one's words only drowned in his fury as Rogue continued his threatening display, back arched and fingers twitching in pure wrath. The seed had been planted and there was no way to dig it up.
For what seemed like an eternity but was mere seconds, the four titans exchanged threats. Like his body, Rogue's furious state of mind only escalated. His luck was the worst it seemed. Why? Why did his kin have to intrude? Why… did they have to eat his little ones – or his humans?
'WHY… DO YOU… DO… THIS!' Rogue thought irately as he released an earth shattering roar, provoking his little ones to cower behind his ears, struggling to protect their own hearing from their massive friend's madness. The protective titan bellowed again and slammed a foot into the damp earth with authority, trying his best not to lash out at his foes for the safety of his little ones. 'YOU…
The thirteen-meter took a foolish step forward, spiking Rogue's anger higher like mercury in a thermometer – his rage and growing temperature bringing forth steam from his lipless maw and various pores upon his skin.
Rogue's mind churned and stormed, spiteful words igniting like lightning and echoing throughout his skull like thunder. The titan's eyes began to glow a menacing green as he watched the other two titans shift in their stance. If they were too dim to listen, he would be forced to act.
'EAT THEM!' The titan concluded; inner words and another powerful roar firing off like a cannon. Rogue then prepared himself, slowly raising his fists before him in a defensive stance, daring them to attack. Just as he was about to throw a punch, the thirteen-meter took a step in retreat – an unheard of feat from a titan. Rogue then watched as the larger titan changed direction and lumbered off into the trees seemingly without another second to spare. Before he could ponder further, the two other members of his kind turned to follow suit. After what had appeared to be a grueling and possibly heartbreaking battle, the despondent forest grew quiet once again.
A wave of relief swept over the titan aggressively. Making him nearly drop to his knees. Rogue let out a great breath of steam as his chest and heart heaved from shock. The titan leaned against a neighboring tree for support as he attempted to cool and gather himself. At least he knew that it wasn't his scent but his angry pheromones that were keeping his kin at bay.
"Rogue?" A tiny voice cooed into his ear as a small and delicate palm pressed against his toned neck. "It's okay now." Mikasa spoke maternally. "You scared them off."
Every muscle in his body loosened at his little one's voice, one that had the same caring tone of Carla that always put him at ease. Rogue's grim face then softened, like putty in the hands of a child as he turned to look at the two children perched upon his shoulder. They were clearly shaken, but better than being in the pit of a titan's gut. Forcefully, he smiled feebly with a small growl in acknowledgement. His little ones were okay.
"Thanks for saving us again, Rogue." Armin added, the titan knowing very well what his words meant. "Now, how about we go home?"
Rogue nodded vigorously in agreement, watching eagerly as the two got settled before motioning in the direction of the cove. However, as he walked, he could not help but feel the intense eyes from the two children. Not willing to eavesdrop on their shaky words, Rogue let himself submerge in his thoughts. It was still far too dangerous to bring his little ones upon these hunts. For now on, no matter how much they begged, he would not allow his tiny humans to come with him. He would make the world safe first. Rogue's eyes then peeked from their corners, glaring off into the trees that his evil brethren vanished into. Those three titans. Later he would hunt them down, and kill them. He would enjoy every rush that would descend upon him with every spill of crimson on his skin and earth along with his foes' cries of mercy. He would make sure of that.
The titan let out a cocky snort at the thought; as soon as he was able he would take care of the bastards. With his day's bounty and incidence – he deserved to carry out this act of revenge. Rogue found himself nodding to his small commitment, but then another familiar scent worked its way into his nostrils. The titan's head turned abruptly in the direction the smell's origin, eyes wide and ears facing forward. Was it really them again?
"Uh, is everything okay, Rogue?"
Hearing his little one's query, the titan turned to the two children, noting the concerned look upon their faces. Like usual, the towering creature played his trepidation off with a practiced crooked grin and a deep purr. To his better favor, the two only nodded in reply and returned to their conversation. Rogue began to walk again, gate slightly quicker than before. Was it the flying humans again? Could it be true that they were back in titan territory hunting in their pack again? The beast looked down at his little ones once again before returning his line of sight in the direction of the source. As soon as he returned his little ones to his nest, he would find them too. He had to see them again!
Hange shifted in her spot on the high branch, barely able to contain her excitement. Ever since she had been told the news, she had been looking forward to this day for over a month. Admittedly, Hange had her doubts when 'No Bullshit Levi' filed her request for approval. Not too many Scouts took her seriously when it came to her experiments on titans. In fact, she was surprised that Levi had even listened to her in the first place. Over the few weeks of the approval's gestation, Hange's unease invaded her mind like a disease – maybe even like a drug. Then, just as her request seemed to be another in the rejected pile, Commander Erwin demanded that she and those who witnessed the strange titan first hand retell their encounter. After a thorough listen, the man approved Hange's request. However, as usual, there were terms and strict orders.
With every mission outside Wall Rose, the regiment's continuous death toll made the higher ups in Wall Sina weary of even keeping the Scouts –quite often fighting over the option of putting away humanities spear. In fact, it had been an uphill battle just to get approved five years worth of missions and permission to capture small specimens. With the case of The Rogue Titan, Erwin had taken a risky approach. The idea of an intelligent and genetically advanced titan was incredibly hard to swallow even for the Scouts, let alone one that wouldn't eat a human at the chance to do so. At the present time, if the facts were exposed, the Scouting Legion would lose all credibility and the fraction possibly terminated. Instead, they would gamble their stakes at keeping their observations of The Rogue a secret. These missions would be purely scientific observation with no interventions with their subject unless it was absolutely necessary. If the titan were to grow hostile against them, it would be killed immediately with no further question. The treks into Wall Maria would be disguised as their usual monthly exterminations, if they encountered a regular titan they were to dispose of it in order to keep suspicions from rising to the surface. Of course, all of this would only be carried out if the Scouts were to make contact with The Rogue Titan upon their inaugural mission. Otherwise, the case would be dismissed.
The scientist let out a deep breath as she peeled away the branch before her to check the clearing where the first experiment had been placed. Hange was nearly boiling over in excitement at the idea of it. The test was a simple but effective intelligence test designed to form a conclusion whether or not the titan had accelerated brain activity, using objects to stimulate intrigue. Normally, titans cared for nothing except their next human meal and paid no heed to human objects and possessions, except for the wall that they constantly scratched at. This test would also determine the Scout's next step as well.
Hange scanned the clearing as best as she could before letting out a sigh in defeat. Nearly two hours had passed and their fish had not taken the bait. She didn't need to look to know that the other soldiers were growing restless, especially Erwin, Mike, Molbit, and Levi who were all seated next to her in wait – their eyes carving into the clearing as well.
"You know, for once I actually wish one of those naked bastards would show up so we have something to do." Levi muttered darkly to himself. Erwin shook his head.
"Humph, its actually peculiar. We are here in the territory that you encountered The Rogue, a titan that goes after its own kind. Who's to say that the titans are staying away because of him." The Commander spoke deeply, his face like stone and voice laced with authority. The man was a powerful figure, a wise one too. Although there were constant jokes about his eyebrows being too big for his face among other accusations, Erwin's smarts and seriousness make him greatly respectable.
"You're probably onto something there." Mike supported. "It's past noon and we've only encountered a few titans, less than ten I presume. From what I saw of this titan, he's a nightmare to the others. I would stay away too if you ask me."
"Still, I wish that I had something to do besides hear Shitty Glasses squeak or squeal every five minutes at nothing." The Corporal grumbled.
"Hey!" She hushed. "I'm just excited for you to see my beautiful baby, Levi! You and Erwin are going to love him!"
The stout man scoffed. "I'm sure I won't. The fact that you treat these monsters like they're your children is disturbing, Hange." Levi grumbled as he nuzzled into the trunk of the tree, condensing his body for warmth in the chilly air. "Besides at this rate, The Rogue Titan is not going to make its appearance."
Hange only smiled gleefully. "He found us last time so he may find us this time."
Erwin looked to the Section Commander in question. "What makes you say that?"
Her grin remained plastered onto her face as she cleared her throat. "Well, titans can smell humans for miles. Our subject can as well, but his knack for hunting his own species just tells me that he can identify their scent also. If a titan finds us here, then the hunter will follow his prey." Hange nearly hummed as she peeked into the clearing again.
"Well, I do hope that –
A series of thumps then met the soldiers' ears, provoking them to prepare and look out into the clearing. Hange's heart hammered against her rib cage as her excitement of looking upon the magnificent titan swept over her again. To her disappointment, a single medium sized titan with a dopey face and chubby build had emerged from the trees. It moved in a shaky jog, heading right for the tree that the five of them rested in without any intent other than to consume.
"It's a five-meter!" Hange announced as she prepared to carry out Erwin's directives to slay any normal specimen, but just as she was about to give the order, Levi dived from his perch much like a bird of prey – movement so fast that he was difficult to track by the naked eye. With much precision, the Corporal dispatched the threat from their wake. The five-meter then toppled to the ground as Levi rejoined them in the trees, casually wiping the blood from his blade. The man's impassive face reflecting the idea that nothing had ever occurred.
"Well, let's see how true your theory is now, Hange." He spoke calmly as he continued his guilty pleasure of sterilization. The scientist only sighed, still keeping the smile upon her face despite Levi's arrogant attitude. Just as she was opening her mouth, Mike suddenly stood, his face becoming a much more serious one.
Everyone froze at his words. With her eyes wide as grapefruits, Hange and her subordinates turned their attention back to the clearing. The woman's body trembled in excitement as she squinted her eyes in an attempt to see through the rapidly ejected titan steam. At the edge of the forest, sheltered behind the towering trees, was a looming fifteen-meter shadow with eyes that nearly glowed beneath the evergreen canopy. For several minutes, Hange observed the titan excitedly – patiently waiting for it to emerge out into the open. However, as time passed, The Rogue Titan only remained in its place – its breath echoing across the clearing and making the eager scientist tense.
"If he's as smart as we believe him to be, then perhaps Levi should have not killed the other titan. The Rogue has seen what we do and knows about his own weaknesses." Mike muttered as he continued to observe the hiding fifteen-meter. "I doubt he will even come out now."
Hange barely heard Levi scoff in response. All of her attention was glued to the titan. Her heart lifted into her chest and a fearful heat flushed into her face. Had the monster somehow been steered away? Was it too leery to come out and greet them?
Suddenly, the titan's green eyes glanced into the center of the clearing right at the two objects upon the ground. The scientist watched, smile growing bigger as she registered the beast's consideration. The Rogue then adverted its gaze to the trees once again to look where the hidden Scouts were located.
"Well, he's certainly aware of us that's for sure." Erwin whispered so quietly that he could barely be heard. "He doesn't seem to have an appetite for us either, otherwise we would be dead by now."
Hange held her breath at the Commander's words. He believed her on this absurd matter. 'Come on.' She thought. 'We won't hurt you if you don't hurt us. So be a good boy and come on out!'
The Rogue Titan then released a breath of hot steam in an apparent snort. Just as Hange was about to let depression take her, the fifteen-meter took a step forward – its footstep vibrating the trunk of the very tree that she and the others resided in. Gradually, in a careful way, the titan exposed himself. Hange nearly squealed in excitement. The green-eyed titan was just as magnificent as she remembered him.
"Humph, it's an ugly son of a bitch isn't it?" Corporal Levi spoke quietly as he stared intently with steely eyes at the beast.
"Nonsense!" Hange whispered enthusiastically. "He's incredible and handsome!" She corrected as she turned to her assistant. "Molbit get ready to write down all I say and take note of anything that is of interest!"
"I have to admit, Hange." The Commander continued as he scrutinized the titan with great concentration. "The Rogue's unique in appearance I'll give you that."
'Just you wait!' The woman thought maddeningly as she began to assess. "Here we have the fabled 'Rogue Titan' in his natural habitat." Hange began with Molbit rapidly scribing her words. "He seems a bit shy, but this titan is fully aware of his weak spot and itself. After much hesitation, it seems like he's finally decided to emerge from his territory." The scientist narrated as she watched the fifteen-meter like a hawk.
The titan then stepped fully from the trees, its powerful frame coming into full view of the Scouts once again. Quickly, The Rogue looked around, its pointed ears fidgeting. The creature's hand then snaked up to its neck like it had done before, shielding the area from unwanted penetration. The titan's green orbs then danced among the surrounding trees again, watching for any sudden move of offense.
"As previously discovered, The Rogue Titan is protecting its nape from harm."
"Well, what do you know?" The Commander spoke, shock coating his voice like flour. "It's aware of its weak spot.
"This guy is a genius compared to the other little shits like him." Levi spoke, his stern tone scarcely covering his amazement.
The titan then snorted again with its gaze lowering from the distressed soldiers to the experiment before him. Hange watched as the creature's long and tapered ears pricked forward and its head tilted in amusement. The Rogue then let out a strange gurgle that was unfamiliar with the Scouts as its eyes stared at the objects – irises infected with what one could only determine as wonder.
"Looks like our specimen is showing an interest in our experiment!"
The fifteen-meter then motioned forward once again, gate shifting to a curve and an almost nervous one. The titan then paused above the two items, shifting a bit in hesitation as it debated on what to do. Finally, the creature gradually crouched down to rest on the balls of its feet. Everything remained silent and still as The Rogue glanced over its shoulder once more time before returning its focus to the experiment. The titan tilted his head in the opposite direction as it began to look at the shining object with child-like curiosity. The Rogue then emitted an almost gentle rumble as it held a single finger just over the object, an unused blade. The sight nearly made Hange release a massive squeal.
"Here we have The Rogue Titan showing its intelligence! Unlike other non-responsive titans, he has shown incredible interest and expressed amusement in a blade we use to kill his own kind. The titan even makes sounds of a suggestive gentle nature!" She squeaked. "Fascinating!"
The titan then lowered its finger to the blade warily, touching the cold steel lightly before pulling the digit away cursorily as if it was a rattlesnake prepped to strike. The creature then tilted its head again as it scrutinized further, body shifting a bit as it looked at the murderous tool from various angles – reminding the scientist of a puppy. After several seconds of the titan's observations, the beast delicately took the blade in hand – the sword appearing so small that it could be called a toothpick in the giant's forefinger and thumb. The Rogue then raised the weapon before its face, green eyes wide in curiosity as it looked at its refection in the steel. The titan made another series of grumbles as it inspected a ray of light reflect onto the blade, completely intrigued as it moved with every shift of the creature's hand. Hange then watched as The Rogue's attention was then thrown to the ground where a spot of light reflected off the tip of the sword. The creature's pupils dilated larger as it watched the spot move and shake upon the ground, unaware that the movement was provoked by its own doing. Then, much like a cat, the titan impulsively removed its opposite hand from its nape and brought it down upon the spot, a loud thump sounding across the clearing and nearly stifling a laugh from Hange.
"Oh look how curious he is! The Rogue Titan also displays animalistic traits as well!"
Levi sighed. "Big idiot."
Again, the scientist dismissed the crude comment and continued in her observation. For a moment, the titan continued to stare at the light, now on top of its hand, in confusion until it quickly covered its nape once again – seemingly realizing its mistake. The Rogue then glanced around at the trees, making sure it was in the clear before returning its attention to the blade. The titan tilted the deadly instrument again, watching the dancing light for a moment as it slowly came to conclusions, its eyes looking from the spot to the sword as The Rogue waved it back and forth.
"Incredible! The Rogue Titan displays basic problem solving skills! How vast its intelligence spans, we don't yet know!" Hange narrated excitedly, receiving a growl from Levi.
"Hange shut the fuck up." He groaned. "You can inform us without being annoying as usual."
Once more, she ignored the man's orders and continued to study her subject. The titan then kept its focused onto the sword, brows knitting together as it squinted in suspicion. The titan then suddenly held the blade to its calf and gradually poked the metal past its flesh, making Hange yelp.
'What on earth is it –
As blood slowly leaked from the small wound, The Rogue's face showed slight discomfort before pulling the steel away. The creature watched in awe as the small lesion steamed and healed in seconds to spare before tossing the weapon away with a small disgruntled growl.
"Looks like The Rogue shows interest in what human weapons are capable of inflicting!" Hange sighed with great relief. "How interesting!"
The strange titan then shifted its focus to the second object placed before it, an old mattress that had probably belonged to a long dead soldier that was either rotting in the earth or part of a titan pellet. Levi had been stern about throwing the ragged item out, but Hange had insisted that there was a better use for it – that being titan experiments as expected. The Rogue then surprisingly let its body relax, shifting from kneeling on its heels to seating itself upon its rump. Hange's eyes followed the titan's free hand as it gently tapped the mattress, scooting the object to and fro before placing it between its legs. The creature's ears then placed themselves fully forward again in intrigue, tilting its head once more much like it had done with the previous object. Suddenly, the titan shifted itself to sit upon its knees before bending over to sniff the worn mattress in question, The Rogue's breath loud and rustling the scattered leaves upon the ground.
"Now we see the titan sampling the offering in an attempt to identify the object! What will he do next?"
"Hange, so help me if you don't –
The Rogue then returned upright again as it stared down at the mattress with inquiry. The Scouts watched as the titan then lifted the mattress again with ease to bring it towards its face. To Hange's surprise, the fifteen-meter bit into the corner and with a smooth turn of its head ripped the edge off with no strain. The titan's eyes grew bigger as cotton spilled out of the mattress and between its knees. For a moment, the titan seemed to be in a state of shock judging by its frozen expression and body until it released a deep rumble and began to push the gutted cotton across the earth with its hand. The strange rumbling changed pitch every so often as the titan began to toss and mess with the innards of the object. The others looked on as the titan suddenly became very animated.
The Rogue then roughly sat the old mattress back down before bending over once again to meet the unnatural white fluff spilled onto the earth. The higher ups looked on, faces twisting up in confusion as the titan suddenly gave in to its strange desire and removed its protective hand from its nape, placing its maw close to the ground and even licking cotton clumps before spitting them out in distaste. The titan then continued to rumble and push the cotton around, making the scientist only more ecstatic and fuming with more questions.
"Incredible! The Rogue gives in to what may be more quirks! Even in the presence of humans!"
Levi's brow wrinkled in bewilderment. "What the hell is that thing doing?" He grunted as he watched the titan cover its nape again but continue to throw cotton in the air, watching it closely as it fell lightly like snow.
Hange scratched her chin. "Well, I think he's smart enough to where he's testing it. Like a child, he's never seen a mattress before so he wants a close look and in this case dissect it."
The Corporal folded his arms neatly over his chest, scowl growing deeper. "He's smart for a titan I'll say that. As far as a level of human intelligence goes, he's quite simple – like a toddler." Levi paused as continued to watch the titan. "What's he going to do next, roll in cotton like a dog rolls in crap?"
For the first time, Hange's eyes narrow. "Levi! Don't insult my test subject!" She put simply as she directed her attention back to the beast, watching as it now relaxed once again on its rear – still looking at the remains of the mattress now strung out across part of the clearing. 'Could… he really be doing what I think he's doing? Is it some form of –
Suddenly, the titan lost interest in the strewn bedding and stiffened, eyes wide but not in curiosity. The higher ups watched in alarm as The Rogue began to sniff the air aggressively, breath heavier and deeper than before – growing savage as the seconds passed. Abruptly, the titan got to its feet, ground shifting slightly as its nose continued to survey more assertively. A massive growl then erupted from the titan's chest, pupils transforming into slits and sending a wave of fear through every Scout. Hange's heart missed; did the titan finally turn hostile?
"Erwin! Your orders!" Levi began as he readied a blade.
The Commander's face grew grim, but as he opened his mouth to instruct, Mike received his attention with a firm hand placed onto the man's shoulder.
"There are three approaching titans from the west. I believe he's noticed them."
To confirm suspicion, the titan suddenly charged back into the tree line with a mighty roar, upsetting any sort of balance. As The Rogue Titan was swallowed into the evergreen foliage, both Hange and Levi looked to the Commander. His face was steel and difficult to read like most of the time. The man then readied his gear.
"Follow The Rogue Titan. I – need to see this." Erwin ordered as he shot forth a cable and was off. Hange soon joined him, laughing almost hysterically.
"Trust me, Commander! You're going to enjoy the show!"
Rogue charged forward with sheer rage and determination to see to his enemies' deaths. With a lightened mass, he was pure speed. He could only describe the feeling as exhilarating, the trill of the hunt. During his search for the flying humans, he had been hoping to run into the three titans from before that dared to cross him, let alone targeted his little ones. He almost wanted to thank the uniformed men for drawing them close to him. Although he was capable of bringing forth incredibly cruelty upon his kind, humans were his to protect and didn't need anymore suffering in their life.
Truthfully, he had not expected to run into them firsthand even though he was following their scent specifically. He began to ponder as he moved faster, letting the blood and adrenaline pump throughout his body. Rogue had been amazed that he had actually pushed himself into human domain. But as long as he covered his weak spot it seemed, the flying humans couldn't kill him. Still, their presence this time puzzled him. They made no move to attack or hunt down any of his kin except for the small titan that rushed upon them with no notice. The uniformed men only watched and waited, speaking human tongue to one another as they remained hidden like birds in the canopy. Of course, during his exposure, the titan knew to be less threatening even though he had no intention to kill. Then of course there was what he assumed were presents, things that his little ones often would bring back in the past so he could look at them. Was it possible that the flying humans were thanking him too? Where they giving him those things for rescuing them before? Still, he couldn't say for sure. But one thing for certain, he knew they were just as interested in him as he was with them. Rogue wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.
Rounding a tight corner, he spotted the three hulking titans that he had encountered before. A sneer placed itself onto his deformed face as he raised a clenched fist, now that his little ones were safe in his cove, it would be the perfect time to carry out what he had picked up from the fighting book. Rogue roared in pure rage as he burst forth into the mindless ones' wake. The fifteen-meter seized up his great frustrations and previous heartbreak as he targeted the second tallest of the bunch. The furious titan then swung his raised fist, hitting the ten-meter underneath its chin so forcefully that it threw the monster into the air with its decapitated head landing several meters away, blood spraying up into the heavens and sending pleasure all throughout Rogue's frame. He rushed forward and almost gleefully bit into the still intact nape, tearing the vital spot away with crimson and spinal fluid painting his face. With no time to waste, Rogue spun around to face his other two foes, green eyes narrowed with revenge and nearly insanity. The feeling of ripping apart his own was bitter as it brought forth thoughts of his previous loss, but somehow it felt good all the same. He loved it.
The two titans before him turned to acknowledge his presence, bellowing their own late greeting. Rogue snarled through his clamped jaw and raised his fists before his face, letting the feeling of near invincibility wash over him as the imminent brawl began spawn. The titan rushed foolishly forward with a screech, making Rogue's lipless grin grow more ghoulish.
'I…WILL KILL…YOU!' His conscious roared as he threw his fist at the advancing giant, hitting the pathetic thing in the jaw. Before the blood fell, Rogue grasped the titan's uneven shoulders and brought his knee into the creature's weighty abdomen viciously, forcing the monster to double over and vomit a river of blood. Rogue took no time to celebrate his new move's success or feel the gratification of sprayed crimson as he quickly took hold of the titan's nape. With another furious howl, the fifteen-meter began to separate the spine from flesh, his victim releasing a bloodcurdling scream that hurt his eardrums – but was satisfying to hear nonetheless.
As his prey fell dead at his feet, Rogue, with the separated spinal column in hand, shot his piercing eyes to the biggest titan of the three. He almost laughed, in fact he nearly did at the thought that the creature was getting what it deserved. With every titan he saw, the memory of his humans being devoured only fueled his urge even more. None of the titans were safe from his wrath. None. Zero. Rogue then slung the rapidly evaporating spine at the thirteen-meter's head, the severed part hitting its mark to blind the beast. He then lunged and encased its fucked up face in his palm. Again, he roared as he slammed the titan's skull into the thick and tall tree, making a sickening crack echo among the forest as bone was split open. Rogue snarled and repeated his assault multiple times, eyes blazing in reprisal as the creature's precious life juices and brain tissue decorated his body and bark. Even as the nape was destroyed, Rogue carried out his slaughter for several long minutes until the skull was unrecognizable, a nauseating mass of red. With crimson-coated hands, Rogue threw his head back to announce his rage and victory.
The titan sighed as steam rose from the corpses and blood evaporated from his frame. These three wouldn't be eating his little ones anytime soon. His day's bounty was truly rewarding. There were now a few less monsters in the world. Soon, it would be safe for his little ones and the rest of humanity.
"Damn, it's like flipping a switch."
Rogue froze at the voice. Quickly, he covered his nape and turned to look in the surrounding trees. High in the branches were the flying humans yet again. The titan swallowed fretfully, had they been there the whole time? Watching his hunt? Rogue remained still as he looked at the group of uniformed men in the center of the pack. Two of them were the same humans he had seen the first time he met the flying humans. There was the tall man with the hair on his chin and the female human with messy hair and glasses that made what seemed like excited squeaks every other minute. The other two that were with them were not there the first encounter. The bigger human had a stony face with hair the shade of Armin's and large eyebrows. The other Rogue almost mistook as a child for his short height, but his experienced face told the titan otherwise. His Adam's apple bobbed a bit as the titan swallowed fretfully. What were their intentions? Were they following him?
"Isn't he magnificent!" The messy haired woman squealed. "Such resentment for his own species!"
Rogue blinked, unable to make out most of her words for they were far too complex. He watched cautiously, debating whether or not to make a beeline for his cove. He watched as the big blonde human muttered something beneath his breath before giving a silent signal with his hand. Rogue surveyed in confusion as one by one the humans dispersed together into the trees before vanishing completely, leaving only their scent.
The titan tilted his head in question. What were they up to? Did they want something from him? Rogue stood still, glancing behind him in the direction if his home before looking back at the route the uniformed men had flown. The beings were so strange that he wanted to learn more from them. Despite the massive difference in size, they had the hatred of his kind in common with the lust to kill them. It intrigued him. Rogue peered over his shoulder again as he contemplated. The sun was setting on the world and his little ones would be asleep with the flying humans. His mind then hatched an idea. With his little ones safe behind the rock walls of their cove, he would go and investigate the uniformed men. He could observe them freely as they lay in repose if he was quiet enough. Sure, it was risky, but it would be worth it - he had absorbed enough sunlight to last him a few hours. The titan released a prolonged huff of steam before taking a step into the direction where the flying humans had vanished, hoping he wasn't making a mistake.
Night had descended upon the forest, coating everything in darkness but gifting the Scouts with safety. On expeditions, every soldier was thankful for the presence of the moon for it restrained the titans from feeding. Levi settled further into his hammock that hunk from the limb of a towering tree, a practice carried out by the Survey Corps. In areas with no safe houses, they took to the giant trees like perched birds in safety – hanging from a hammock as if it was their cocoon – thankfully not a coffin. The smaller man shifted a bit, trying to rest his eyes through annoying snores and songs of crickets. Of course, the main thing that plagued him from sleep was the thoughts swimming in his head. Weeks ago, he heavily doubted Hange as usual, but seeing The Rogue Titan from Garrison myth left him in a state of awe that he had instinctively tried to cover up. The titan was just as described, pointy ears and all. Smart to a degree and tactical, but absolutely rabid and merciless when against its own kind. However, something was pulling at him, an odd feeling. How would that titan know to cover its nape – especially in the presence of the Scouts? After a moment, Levi sighed. Perhaps he was dwelling on it too much. The Rogue had probably picked it up from watching the previous expedition when the others had been ambushed the horde of titans. Then again, the stories the Garrison soldiers told, how did it –
Levi sighed and decided to delay his train of thought. The man then rolled over and let his eyes grow heavy with exhaustion with every passing minute. Finally, his lids closed and he allowed the coming sleep to claim him.
However, a deep rhythmic breath forced his eyelids to peel open. Levi bit his lip in aggravation. Really? Why did Hange have to be annoying in her sleep as well? That much he knew from finding the scientist in her office multiple times slumped over her desk with drool tainting the wood and snoring as loud as a man three hundred pounds heavier. Levi growled and rolled over again, trying his best to filter the noise out but was unsuccessful. As the Corporal listened he grew angrier, if Hange prolonged any further he would personally wake her up with a hard kick.
A thump met the weary man's eardrums followed by the soft whinny of a horse. Levi's brows furrowed as he blinked in confusion. For a moment he pondered. Why was a soldier down on the ground? Even if they had to shit or piss they were ordered to do it in the trees no questions asked. Levi blinked as he listened to the deep breathing again in suspicion. His heart then stopped in realization.
That wasn't Hange or any soldier.
Fully aware, Levi peeled away the cloth of the hammock to stare down at the forest floor beneath them. His eyes grew wide as he saw it. The fifteen-meter, The Rogue Titan that they had been viewing before, was in the center of their campsite – at night.
"What the fuck!" Levi hissed quietly as he watched the titan marvel at the soldiers' tethered horses. The man's breath hitched in alarm, observing the kneeling giant look around their ground level camp, a fire lit clearing that boasted the Scouts' supply wagons, larger weapons, and other tools before placing its attention back to the horses. Levi swallowed as the giant being carefully held a finger to the nearest equine, making him silently panic further. The Scouts' horses were bred to not be so easily spooked by a titan, but he wasn't sure if those genetics counted against a titan that would most likely pick them up.
"Looks like we have an unexpected visitor!"
Hearing her ever-familiar voice, Levi turned to see Hange, excited as ever, sitting upright in the hammock next to him. He swallowed, praying that the woman's elation wouldn't give them away.
"Hange – what the hell… it's awake!" Levi stammered, watching as The Rogue tapped a dark stallion with his finger. As a result, the horse grunted in annoyance but surprisingly stayed sane. The titan tilted its head, ears flickering at the four-legged mammal in amusement.
"I thought I smelt him."
Both Hange and Levi turned to see Mike and Erwin climbing down from their hammocks to rest next to the two on a lower branch.
"It – followed us." The Commander added quietly. "So, it's active at night as well."
"Unfortunately." Corporal Levi grumbled. "How should we approach this Erwin?"
For a moment, the Commander had no answer as he continued to scrutinize the situation. "We watch and wait. If it shows aggression, then we have no choice but to bring it down."
The titan then continued to examine the stallion, running a finger across the horse's back – releasing a soft and lasting rumble that made Hange squeak in delight.
"I didn't know they could make that noise!" She whispered excitedly. "I think that's purring!"
"Hange, it's not a fucking cat." Levi groaned as the fifteen-meter then directed its attention else ware, its massive frame highlighted by the fire and green eyes glowing unnaturally as it scanned the contents of a nearby wagon.
"How interesting." The scientist whispered as she pulled out notebook that had been tucked under her pillow, amazingly writing perfectly in the dark. "The Rogue Titan has tapetum lucidum!"
The Corporal sighed in aggravation. "English Hange."
"Oh! It's a layer of tissue in the eye that's behind the retina. It reflects light back through the retina to increase any available light!" She nearly giggled. "It's like night vision! This is exciting! I've never seen this in a titan! The trait itself has only been known to be present various animals. Hmm… I think it's the type seen in carnivores, choroidal tapetum cellulosum if I remember correctly. Wow!"
"So you're saying that this is an adaptation to being able to stay active at night?"
"Could be." Hange answered as the group continued to examine their uninvited guest. The titan had since begun to fish around in the contents of the nearby wagon, one containing both food and medical supplies. One by one, the fifteen-meter pulled an object before its face, looking at it intently with ears angling before placing it back into the cart with uttermost care. Next, The Rogue pulled out a crate, prying the lid open to reveal ration bars that Levi admittedly hated the government for making. The beast's unnaturally large and long tongue snaked from its maw to lick the compressed goods – coating them in saliva and nearly making Levi gag.
'Fucking disgusting.' The short man thought as the titan tossed the crate away in disgust – the sound making some soldiers rustle in their hammocks. To his dread, a few of them awoke to see the fifteen-meter below, stifling a scream. The Scouts looked to Erwin awaiting an order, only to see him showing a firm hand to halt before pressing a finger to his lips. As usual, they obeyed; sweat beading on their faces as they began to watch the show with their superiors.
The titan then moved on to retrieve other odds and ends, looking closely at dinnerware and cups as it breathed steam, sniffing the dishes in curiosity and eagerness like a dog. Again, the towering behemoth licked a few plates, brining the sickening feeling back into Levi's gut.
"I'm not eating off of those ever again." He grumbled while the titan continued, pulling out gauze and splints. The Rogue Titan's glowing eyes observed as the roll of gauze unraveled, falling like a waterfall to the earth and provoking the titan to tilt its head with inquisitiveness before directing its focus onto another nearby wagon. "This one has a lot of balls to come here in our camp."
"Titans don't have genitals!" Hange snickered.
"You know what I mean." Levi growled.
The titan rumbled softly as it pulled the canvas tarp from the neighboring wagon, uncovering the larger weapons used primarily for titan captures such as the barbed cannons, barrel cannons, and spiked nets. The Corporal swallowed, hoping that they weren't loaded. The Rogue then drew the net from the wagon's contents, putting its fingers through the holes as it stared at the object intently. After several tense minutes of toying with the metal netting, the titan returned it to the wagon. Its illuminating eyes then scrutinized the barb cannon, the heaviest piece of equipment that the Scout possessed. It was like the barrel cannon, but with far more shots. Both of the weapons produced barbed cables designed to penetrate titan flesh and make it difficult for even the biggest of titans to escape. The giant then gradually tilted the heavy cannon from the cart, wood crackling and creaking from the shift – making more soldiers rustle from their sleep. Immediately, The Rogue froze up and placed its hand over its nape, looking around and listening before removing its protective cover and returning to its examination.
"Oh, I hope those cannons aren't loaded!" Hange gasped. "If he pulls the trigger on the back – he'll be in a world of pain with barbs in his face!"
"Relax, they're not loaded." Erwin reassured as the titan lost interest and began to look around the campsite for more to investigate, walking oddly on its hands and feet as it kept along, probably reducing the weight in its steps as Levi concluded.
By now, half of the Scouts were awake and watching the titan in secret, sweating profusely as nerves gripped them like prison chains. The titan then stood upright, glancing at the contents of the camp once again before turning in preparation to leave. Levi sighed in relief, but his quiet celebration was cut short by a loud snap in the branches. An opossum had removed itself from a series of overlapping limbs to travel to a neighboring tree. The Rogue Titan's green eyes were instantly hooked, preventing the creature from leaving. The giant humanoid suddenly turned and walked right up to the source, ears facing forward in attentiveness as it peered upward into the treetops. Honestly? A monster being interested in horses and opossums? Seriously?
"Why can't that that thing just –
However, Levi halted his words as he realized the titan's shining pupils we not watching the small mammal but staring heavily at a hammock where a soldier lay asleep. His heart began to pound and perspiration formed upon the back of his neck. Soon, the other officers on the branch and the still recruits had come to the same horrifying conclusion as The Rogue stood on its tip toes, trying its best to look closely at the hammock.
"At least that's the closest he'll get. Titans are unable to –
Before the scientist could conclude her statement, the strange titan did something that shot a bullet of fear through every heart in the Scouts.
It grasped the trunk of a nearby tree and began to climb with surprising ease.
"Damn it! What the hell!" Corporal Levi stammered, words nearly stumbling over one another like a drunken man. He then sat up fully, preparing to grab his gear and ready his blades. As far as he knew, the titan's curiosity had gone too far or it had finally decided that the opportunity was perfect. Levi quickly scrambled from his hammock, but was immediately halted by the Commander.
"Remember, we only attack if it does." The man spoke sternly, brows narrowing as The Rogue scaled over twenty meters up the gigantic tree.
Every soul, with eyes wide, watched as the titan planted its sharp nails securely into the bark, allowing it to lean over and view the hammock. Several of the hanging soldiers covered their mouths to keep their cries of fear from escaping as they watched The Rogue come a mere few feet away from the sleeping soldier. Levi glanced over at Erwin once again who remained unchanged and unfazed by the level of horror in their mists. Even Hange had acquired a state of seriousness in the dangerous situation. Tight breaths could be heard from neighboring hammocks as the titan reached out much like it had done with the tethered equine, clawed finger hovering a foot away from the sleeping soldier.
"Fuck Erwin! Your orders!"
The Commander's mouth opened, but yet again words did not escape. Erwin remained still as stone as the titan's finger became inches away from the fabric. Before the Scouts could react with a shriek to their comrade, The Rogue tapped the hammock, the temporary bed rocking gently as the giant pulled its hand back swiftly like it had touched something poisonous. All was still as the titan watched the hammock sway, Levi waiting for hell to break loose from either the soldier waking up or the titan giving in to its desire for a midnight snack. The Survey Corps watched uneasily as the titan's green eyes followed the movement, pupils larger than its irises until the swinging seized. The officers held their breaths as the titan's gaze remained on the soldier, the creature blinking in what seemed like innocence. Thankfully, The Rogue broke its eye contact with the slumbering Scout and looked just above – spotting the soldier's maneuver gear. As expected, the strange titan reached out and plucked the vital piece of equipment from the branch, the only weapon that rested up in the trees with its users. Levi breathed a sigh in relief as the titan descended back to the forest floor, seating itself against the base of the tree as it stared at the piece of equipment.
"Thank god. Now let's hope it doesn't tear that up." The short man spoke, tone full of annoyance. With each passing moment, the situation only grew more hazardous. Why? Why didn't it just leave!
"Hmm, I wonder what made the big guy want to follow us." Hange smiled as she watched the titan look at the gear. "He's almost cute."
Levi rolled his eyes. "I'm going to pretend that statement never left your lips."
The Rogue Titan then pulled the gas canister from its holster and sat the rest of the equipment on the ground. As it had done before, the titan brought the canister to its ugly face. The creature sniffed, its nose wrinkling at the stench of gasoline, but the beast did not let its distaste deter it from its inquisitiveness. Unexpectedly, the fifteen-meter brought the canister between its large teeth – and bit down. Compressed gas escaped the container and sprayed into the titan's mouth, the vile taste causing the creature to cry out in disgust – waking every living soul in the camp.
"Shit! I knew this was going to happen!" The Corporal snarled as the soldiers took notice of the vast intruder.
The titan coughed violently until its sounds of suffering grew hoarse. Finally the beast recovered, realizing its mistake as it heard the panicked soldiers above. Impulsively, The Rogue placed its hand over its nape and looked into the branches, pools of green meeting Levi and the other officers. For a heart stopping second, all was still as the titan remained, its body seemingly petrified. The orbs of glowing emerald stayed wide and unblinking, the creature barely breathing. Ultimately, the titan hissed through its teeth, completing the standoff as it scrambled to its feet and bolted back into the thick forest – leaving the Scout's camp in a state of bewilderment.
"HOLY CRAP THAT WAS UNBELIEVABLE!" Hange squealed, first to respond as usual. "He's so amazing!"
Levi wiped a hand across his sweaty brow in an attempt to calm his nerves. For the second time since joining the Scouts, he had felt real fear due to uncertainty. But of course, he hid this away with his ever-present scowl. The Corporal then turned to Erwin, seeing the Commander rub his chin in thought while other solders began speaking of what had occurred. "So. What are your thoughts, Commander? A valid candidate to study or fear?" Levi asked, eyes harder than steel.
The blonde man didn't shed a sigh in relief, face still fixed in a confident expression. "After what I've seen, The Rogue Titan's behavior gives me further reason to allow continued observation. As I said before. Not a word to the Military police, Civilians, the Government, and most of the Garrison except for Pixis. This case is to be kept top secret until further notice. Understood?"
"Sir!" The officers replied with a loyal salute. Hange laughed, cackling like a hyena once again.
"I can't wait! Maybe we can adopt him!" The crazed woman celebrated, earning another eye roll from the Corporal
"He's a damn titan. Not your pet or your kid Shitty Glasses." Levi retorted.
She only responded with a mocking smile. "True. It would be impossible for a collar to fit him or to find clothes big enough."
The strict man only turned to look in the opposite direction knowing that it was useless to even argue with the titan fanatic. However, his eyes caught sight of the Commander's face once again, now transformed onto one of question.
"Levi?" Erwin asked as he folded his arms, a thick brow raising and a small smile contributing to his appearance.
Erwin then leaned against the trunk of the tree, paying no mind to the bark digging in his back. "I'm starting to wonder just who is watching who."
Sunlight seeped into his flesh, warming his body and making the blackness fade away from his closed lids – turning into a shade of orange that could only be described as womb-like. The sweet smell of flowers and fresh grass gently flowed into his nostrils and filled his lungs. His exhausted body felt at peace, but oddly he was uncomfortable. His nest was harder than usual.
The titan's tapered ear twitched at the shrill squeak, but his body demanded more rest and nourishment from the rays of the sun. Rogue let out a content puff of steam, letting himself relax further as he recharged.
"Rogue! Get up!" The voice spoke, angry but urgent.
The creature stirred, eyelids twitching but remaining shut. The titan yawned, curling inward on himself despite his uncomfortable bed.
"Damn it, Rogue! Wake up!"
Suddenly, the titan's mind left behind his desires. Slowly, Rogue forced his eyes to peel away, seeing his little ones before him. The titan nearly smiled in greeting like every morning, but then registered that the two children bore looks of worry and disgust – and the fact that he was lying in the grass instead of nestled into the hollow. Puzzled, Rogue quickly sat up in alarm, looking around at his peaceful home before turning his attention to the not so peaceful young humans.
"Rogue!" Armin began painfully. "You were gone all night! Where were you!"
The titan hesitated, nervously interlocking his fingers as the memory of the night before began to replay in his head. He had gone off to get answers about the flying humans by paying their camp a midnight visit. Rogue remembered that he found quite a few things, some he knew but most he was still questioning about their purpose. The titan recalled the four humans that seemed to be the pack's leaders – talking amongst themselves with hand gestures and the glasses wearing female squealing like a farm pig. An ever-familiar wave of sheepishness then washed over Rogue. How could he explain?
"Where were you." Mikasa demanded, eyes narrowed and mouth in a tight line.
Rogue hesitated, debating whether he should answer his little ones' query or not. Again, he decided to dance around the question to avoid a straight and verbal response by grunting a barrage of gibberish and hand gestures – his ace in the hole. He had heard humans in the past call the practice 'playing dumb' or as some of the uniformed men with flowers on their back used to say – 'playing titan.'
"Where were you Rogue! You had us worried sick!" The girl continued, her stern voice escalating into an angry yell. "We had no idea!"
Again, the titan remained unresponsive, surprised at his little one's tone. He had never heard her so angry. So furious. Truthfully, as big as he was and no matter how much of a monster he could be, she scared him.
"Are you acting stupid on purpose? We… we thought something terrible happened to you, Rogue!" Mikasa pressed further, voice full of frustration. "We… thought you were dead!"
Rogue's emerald eyes widened at the mention of the word meaning death. His ears drooped, shame spreading throughout his body. "SSORRrrEEE." He finally spoke, hoping his apology was enough, but his little one only grew more upset.
"That's not good enough!" She cried, tears soaking her face. "You're being too reckless! I don't want to see you die Rogue!" Mikasa forced from her mouth, racing up to the titan and punching his knee, making the beast feel more guilt than ever. "You can't die!" His little one sobbed, pressing her face into his knee and making a gloomy state descend upon the cove. "You can't be stupid, Rogue! Especially when Armin and I leave next year to the wall!"
The threes' eyes grew wide as the chaos quieted with her words. Rogue blinked in shock, watching his little one's body freeze and back away from his kneecap slowly – the child spellbound. Had he heard her correctly? Were his little ones leaving? Had they really been planning on leaving him! Rogue shook his head; he had to have heard them wrong. They were too close to break apart. They – loved him didn't they?
"Mikasa!" The boy uttered, chiding her softly. "How? We couldn't tell him yet. He – isn't ready for this." Armin responded, voice barely audible.
Rogue dipped his head, eyes narrowing at the grass. His own little ones, after all he had done to nurture them and make them safe – they just wanted to leave him alone! How could they do something so terrible? Sorrow, pain, and anger swelled within the titan's generous heart. Just how? How could they discard him! He did not deserve this! Rogue then slammed his fist into the earth, breaking his knuckles and knocking the two children from their feet. The titan roared; ears planted against his skull while his shoulders hunched over angrily. His muscles tightened, face twisting into an exasperated grimace as he stared as the two startled children.
"UUUuuu! S...SSTTEYY!" Rogue ordered, pointing a finger at the two before gesturing to his nest. To his surprise, his little ones only looked to him is awe, the children baffled by the first complete sentence that the titan had ever spoken to them. "UUU SSSTTEEYY HEEER!" Rogue bellowed, rough and throaty voice reverberating throughout the cove.
"Rogue please! Let us –
"NNNOOO!" The titan roared, suddenly rising to his feet despite his exhaustion. Rogue then initiated a tantrum, retrieving a boulder and chucking it at the haven's mossy wall before snapping a cluster of average sized trees with a powerful kick. He cried again as his fist met the wall. How could his dear little ones do this to him! After the horrors they experienced! How could they be so heartless! He was their guardian! Their protector! How! They were his little ones! His babies! His!
Rogue's brain stormed with fury, vile thoughts and truths flooding his impaired mind. Submersed in his fit, the fifteen-meter kicked the hard stone barrier. A sickening snap sounded throughout the cove as the creature's shin split. With a wail of pain, Rogue crashed face first into the grass. His newly healed hands upset the earth as the devastated titan began to tremble and cry in sorrow. Was he really useless? Did he do something to anger his little ones? Why? Did they secretly loathe him all along?
"Rogue?" Mikasa spoke gently, much like his human Carla as she placed a tender hand onto his head. "Please let Armin and I explain. It's not what you think and we don't hate you. So please hear us out." The girl alliterated.
Hearing her soft tone, Rogue slowly raised his head, face covered in mud as he stared at his little ones' tear stiffened cheeks. For a moment he dithered, before nodding to proceed. There had to be a reasonable explanation.
"Rogue." Armin began solemnly. "You've done so much for us and we appreciate everything, however we know you can't always protect and provide for us here. Mikasa and I – we decided a few months ago that it would be best if we left here and lived behind Wall Rose with the rest of the humans. Sure, you can now get us meat, but what if there isn't enough? What if one of us gets deathly sick? There would be nothing you could do except watch either of us suffer. We don't want to put you through the heartbreak of losing us forever, Rogue."
A lump formed in the titan's throat and his ears fell further. A salty tear leaked from the corner of his eye. "Nnnnoooo." He groaned, burring his chin into the soil.
"However, Mikasa and I have a plan, one that could help you."
The titan glanced up in question before propping himself up and resting his chin on folded arms, eager to hear more.
"Armin and I plan to join the Scouting Legion when we're old enough to be cadets next year." Mikasa began. "This way we can leave at certain times to visit you and perhaps – find a way for you to live and see the ocean with us."
The titan lifted his head from his arms at her words. So they were doing this for him?
"Yes. I know it's hard for you, Rogue. But listen to what we said. It's the best thing for all of us." The boy finished as he sank to his knees with Mikasa soon joining him.
The cove then retrieved its usual calm atmosphere again as the titan began to wonder. They were right. There were times in the winters where animals were hard to find or asleep in their dens. If his little ones grew ill he could not produce a cure to make them feel better. He wasn't going to take them outside the cove after what had occurred. He couldn't risk the dangerous gamble of their safety. If they lived with their own kind, they would be safe, be well. If this 'cadets' and 'Scouting Legion' helped them and possibly fulfilled the dream of seeing the water called the ocean – then he had no qualms against it. His little ones were growing like one of the great trees in his forest. Although they would always be little to him, the two tiny humans would soon no longer be human young but adults. It would be cruel to deny them freedom in the beautiful but dark world. He had no choice.
"YYEeeSs." Rogue muttered, gaze looking at the blades of grass.
Stunned at the titan's answer, the children looked to Rogue.
"What?" Mikasa spoke weakly. "Did you just –
"Yyeeess." The titan answered again, watching as his little ones' faces lit up in excitement. Without warning, the two children ran to Rogue and embraced his face in gratified hugs.
"Thank you Rogue!" The girl wept as she rubbed against his flesh. "You're the best brother I could have."
The titan raised a brow at her confession, skin pulling back to smile at the memory of his humans telling him that Mikasa was his little sister. His heart weakened as he gave in to emotion, nuzzling into her small body while his other little one thanked him as well. Rogue then released his signature purr, vibrating the two's small bodies and warming them to their bones. He loved them so much, but little did he know that his choice would change their lives yet again.