"Be careful George, this road is full of holes" Warned a middle-aged citizen to his companion.
Night riding was one thing, riding in almost total darkness on a treacherous road was completely different. Due to previous events involving the armored titan and mass evacuation, there was hardly anyone left to light the lamps in the streets, consequently leaving a world of darkness for the unlucky ones left behind. The faint light emitted by the moon and the twinkling light of a small lamp in the hands of one of the men was their only tool to orient themselves in this blackness. The horses breathed panting, tired of carrying heavy baggage from one place to another, and once stumbling in some hole, making travel even more difficult.
Realizing that his workmate was very quiet, the middle-aged man looked back and tried his best not to laugh at George's grumpy face, well .. he tried.
"What Piper!?" exclaimed the man known as George. His expression and tone of voice was clear that he was indignant.
Piper took a deep breath to regain the posture. "I'm sorry, it's just ... even in the dark, it's still possible to see your frown, George ... Ha Ha h-!" He replied, putting a hand on his mouth in order to prevent another wave of laugh.
George rolled his eyes before speak. "You know what's funny? I work hard all day like a donkey pulling cart, just wanting the end of the day to finally be able to sleep in peace a for a little time. So when I wake up, I find out that a titan son of a bitch has invaded the wall and there has been a mass evacuation. But that idiot has stayed behind, and now I have to work double in these worst conditions along with another idiot who unfortunately also stayed behind!" The angry man snapped.
The reaction of his friend was already expected for George. More laughter.
“Ha Ha Ha I think you're so accustomed to wearing that frown that petrified in your face! Ha Ha” Mocked Piper.
"Did you learn this from your own experience?" George answered, allowing himself to enjoy despite everything.
Suddenly loud footsteps and rustling of leaves caught the pair in surprise, frightened the horses, who whinnied with fright. George and Piper kept their tight grip on the reins in order to prevent the horses from cramping and so maintain control.
"Easy boy!" Said Piper, patting the long neck of the horse, now quieter.
George quickly dismounted from his horse and unsheathed a machete from his waist "Who is there?!" He shouted into the darkness ahead. "Answer your coward!" George shouted after just receiving the silence in response.
"It must have been just some animal" Piper commented as he adjusted his straw hat. George was skeptical of that. The presence of animals such as foxes, agouti and wild boars in these areas was normal, but these animals were not active at night. George reluctantly put his machete in his pocket. His eyes searched one last time just to make sure everything was okay before he turned.
“Right.. let's get back to work" George said, until suddenly he noticed a hooded figure behind his friend "Piper! "he warned, but too late.
Before Piper noticed what was happening, the hooded figure pulled him off the horse and shoved his head against a tree, rendering him unconscious. George gritted his teeth and picked up his machete again, but before he could thrust against the mysterious figure, someone knocked him out from behind.
Annie pulled her hood back before holding the reins of both horses and reassuring them, while Bertholdt dragged the body of the man known as Piper, and the one he had just knocked out of the way, in case someone passed there.
"Both the Survey Corps and the Military Police Brigade set up a heavily armed perimeter around the area that the armored titan is, and although some soldiers are helping with evacuation and others taking a beauty sleep right now. They still keep an active watch, so we'll have to be sneaky." Annie explained as she removed the heavy luggage off the back of the horses, to their relief.
Annie held the horsehair and saddle to try to climb and mount it, and groan at the difficulty. One of the problems of being shorty. Until then she felt someone lift her around the waist and help mount the horse. Bertholdt examined her to see if everything is all right, but Annie turned her face quickly to hide her redness. Never show your weaknesses.
"Any idea how to get through them?" Asked Bertholdt, as soon as he mounted the horse.
"By the south. There is a very large pine forest to be guarded, even if there have some soldiers patrolling that area, they will not be looking up. That's where we use three-dimensional maneuvering equipment" She explained, before hitting the reins. The horse began a slow gallop, then began to gain speed on the road ahead, with Bertholdt just behind.
Crossing the perimeter was not as difficult as Bertholdt thought. The area was too large to be patrolled by a limited set of soldiers just as Annie had said, and after all that uproar with the armored titan invasion and mass evacuation of the desperate residents residing in the territory of the Wall Rose, the soldiers were too exhausted physically and psychically to last through the night. While Bertholdt and Annie were looking for a place to leave the horses without suspicion, the couple caught at least four members of the Military Police Brigade sleeping in service in a corner hidden from the eyes of their superiors.
Noises of dried leaves being trampled echoed through the pine forest. A soldier carrying his rifle over his shoulder and a small lamp in the other hand that reflected his countenance of the Military Police Brigade, patrolled that area. A horse's neighing caught his attention. The soldier was surprised and a bit suspicious of why there were two horses grazing there, he did not remember seeing them when patrolling that area earlier. But this was a rural area, so it would be easy to deduce that it was common to see animals here, but .. with saddle and reins? The soldier inclined his head, wondering. Perhaps the farmers were desperate because of the armored titan invasion and abandoned the animals? It would be a good theory if it were not for the fact that riding on a horse would arrive faster at the gates of Sina than with two legs.
Preferring to hear his intuition, the soldier dropped the lamp on the floor and reached the flare gun. He was about to shoot when Annie appeared behind him and put a hand over his mouth, choking his cry of surprise as her other hand pressed a pressure point on his shoulder, making him unconscious in less than a second.
"Clean" Annie said, almost whispering, in case there was any other soldier nearby.
Bertholdt came out of his hiding place from the high bushes, carrying the two suits of three-dimensional maneuver equipment. They had to dress as fast and as quietly as possible, helping each other to properly adjust their belt from time to time. Before another patrolman came and saw them.
Bertholdt was uncertain about using the equipment. He had not used it in a long time, and because of what happened to his leg, he believed he would need some time to train so he could get used to the equipment again, but Armor did not have that time. Both religious organizations and military branches are on a tug of war about what to do with the titan armored. Bertholdt knew he would have to act before any decision was made.
A drop of sweat slid down Bertholdt's forehead from the nervousness as he settled the last belt of the three-dimensional maneuvering outfit. He never in his life imagined being in a situation like this; to free one of the most fearsome titans of the domains of one of the most well-trained military branches. He felt like he was a new member of the criminal world, planning a coup in one of the most important banks. The feeling was frightening. What he was doing was crazy, of course no other member of the Survey Corps would agree to do this. Maybe without a little extra push from Annie he could not have done it. He was never very good at strategies, usually he was always very nervous and breathless in situations that required a good plan and courage.
Annie noticed the change in Bertholdt and approached to see what was wrong, although she already had a clue.
"What's wrong?" She asked, wanting him to open up.
He looked at her but then turned away, embarrassed. "It's just ... if we did not make." It was the most words he could get together to describe the whirlwind in his mind.
Annie understood. Her boyfri... I mean Bertholdt, was worried about the consequences they would have to face if they failed. Both could be arrested for crime against the kingdom and crime against homeland security, or worse being killed by the gallows. And this titan, of which Annie has no idea how Bertholdt befriended with, would continue to be a prisoner and subjected to various tests with the scientists until he found a way to escape on his own.
"Are you worried about.. the armored titan, aren’t yoy?” Asked Annie. She was almost going to say 'your friend', but it was strange to refer in this way, she wanted to understand that story first of all.
"And with you" Bertholdt blurted out. The pair of crystalline eyes stared at him for a while, not knowing what to answer. She was never .. sentimental.
Bertholdt noticed the confusion in Annie's gaze, and decided to try to explain "I mean .. it's the first time we're doing this and .. and the risks are big. And I'm really worried about with yo-!"
“Bertholdt!” Annie shouted, interrupting him. But then the panic set in as soon as she realized she screamed loudly.
They both sat quietly looking around, then relaxed as they felt no movement. Annie said, this time whispering "Look, first step; take those negative thoughts out of your head. Second step; remember you were ranked third in 104 Training Corps and lastly .. you were the first human to go so far beyond these walls. You have great potential, you just need to work this out"
Bertholdt took time to process all this. It was good to know that someone believed in his potential. "You talk so confidently, it even looks like it was you who killed Beane and Sawney" Bertholdt said playfully as he crouched to straighten the buckles on his leg.
"Yes. It seems a lot with me. Even I would confuse myself" Annie said, a slight tone of sarcasm in her voice. At first Bertholdt did not understand what she meant by that, but then he noticed the hidden message. He stopped what he was doing and faced her again.
"Wait! Did you do it ?! "exclaimed Bertholdt, though he was careful enough not to raise his voice so much.
"Will you hand me over to the authorities?" Annie asked with a naughty smile.
"We both know I'm not in the place to do such a thing," Bertholdt replied, also letting out a playful smile.
Play time over. Annie made the first move, fired the hook into a trunk of a specific pine tree and landed on a branch, waiting for Bertholdt. He swallowed and followed Annie. He discovered that he still had a knack with three-dimensional equipment. They entered the pine forest, being careful to move as close as possible to the top of the trees, in order to avoid being seen. During the crossing Bertholdt got a little rough with the hooks, Annie had to at least twice repair the knot he caused with the cables and gains, but otherwise, he was doing well, and relearning to use the equipment correctly in a little time.
That area was not as unprotected as Annie thought. There were many armed soldiers patrolling that region. The couple had to double their attention in order not to get caught, and also had to make an extra effort to hurry, because with the sun rising, the darkness would soon give them enough camouflage to cross the perimeter and reach the prisoner titan.
Bertholdt followed Annie through the pine trees until she landed on a branch and signaled with a hand to stop. Berth landed on a branch next to her and looked around to see what was wrong. At first Bertholdt did not see any guard or anything that would meant a danger, but then his ears picked up strange sounds. At first it seemed like animal sounds. A choking animal. But when he focused more on the sounds he realized that it was .. moaning? Bertholdt looked at Annie. A clear doubt on the face. His doubt multiplied when he saw Annie trying to hold her laughter with her hand in the mouth. He tilted his head, and she pointed in one direction on the pine floor. Bertholdt's cheeks turned red with the scene he saw. With so many available moments, have these soldiers chosen to make love here and now? Bertholdt had to cover his eyes with his hands. Caught Sasha and Connie doing.. that, was much.
Now Annie was laughing at Bertholdt's reaction. The brunet just snorted and passed her, not caring to be careful of the noises, anyway the two little pigeons down there would be too busy to notice anything.
Bertholdt thanked God that he could already see the end of the pine forest, but he was worried about the illumination that the sunrise provided. It was probably three or four in the morning, and it would not be long before the rest of the soldiers woke up.
The couple landed on the roof of a two-story house and analyzed the environment. Further down there were fallen trees and wreckage from some houses. Bertholdt recognized this place, it was in this field that the battle between the two titans of fifteen meters happened. They just had to go a little further to get to the place where the titan was kept.
"There" Annie pointed “It's where Commander Erwin ordered to set up the camp"
Bertholdt followed with his eyes where Annie was pointing. He saw several tents and several stacked boxes and other things he could not identify. It was exactly in the direction Armor was. They would have to somehow cross them. Annie would not have trouble to be seeing, but they'd be surprised if they saw Bertholdt.
"We're going to have to go on foot, the noise of the hook can wake them up" Bertholdt said, before firing the hook at a nearby house and landing on the floor, followed by Annie.
Armor groaned in pain as he tried to free one of his arms. Throughout the night the titan was shaken to try to make the restraints give way, but it was a painful task. With each movement he made, the tips of the harpoons shifted and cut through his flesh, causing more pain, and as if it could not worsen, the flesh around it was repeatedly regenerating, causing the same area to be cut again and again. A massive titan accustomed to several battle wounds would easily overcome a simple cut, but when you have thousands of sharp needles on your body, and any movement could make them cut at the same time, that's another story.
The only harpoons that the armored titan managed to get rid of were those that were located in the knee down, since the shots had more focus in his torso and arm. However releasing only his feet was not enough to escape, if at least he could release one of his arms a bit, he could remove those sharp things one by one. Armor shifted again, he would have growled loudly because of the immense pain that ran down his spine if his jaw was not stuck, but at least he was pleased to feel some harpoons moving a few inches out.
Suddenly he heard sounds of rubber outsole crushing leaves. Another soldier who came to check him. Armor tilted his head as tightly as he could, and grunted menacingly at the unwelcome man. The human in front of him stopped in front of the warning, the fear and nervousness obvious in his face. Remembering that he should honor his countenance, the soldier returned to walk toward the titan to check the restraints. His footsteps were slow and cautious, and his fingers brushed the rifle.
"You do not scare me you giant piece of shi-Ah!”
The soldier screamed and fell back as Armor narrowed his eyes, making the luster brighter, and grunted louder in the back of his throat. The human did not think twice, he got up and ran away, forgetting his rifle back. Armor was sure to see a stain on his pants between his legs.
Armor snorted, causing a layer of steam to escape through the cracks in his jaw. At least now he could go back to what he was doing. But before he had the chance to try to free one of his arms again. Armor heard more footsteps, this time appearing to be more of a one human.
The armored titan was surprised, usually only a human came to check it, and not so soon. The titan grunted again menacingly but then stopped when he recognized the scent.
"Easy, it's just me" Bertholdt said, whispering as he left behind a few wreckage. He stopped his step and raised an eyebrow when he saw a rifle on the floor
Armor was a bit confused of why he was speaking low. Did not the other humans know he was here? He set his thoughts aside and grunted again when he saw the blond human. Unlike the previous soldier, she did not show any sign that he was being intimidated. In fact the woman at Bertholdt's side did not seem to care at all.
"Armor this is Annie" Presented Bertholdt pointing to the blonde "Annie. Armor." He pointed at the titan in front of him.
His golden eyes stare on Annie for a while. He did not understand much about human physiology, but he was pretty sure this is a female. She is considerably lower for the normal stature of a human, and even through these cloths that humans had custom to use, Armor could see that she was slightly physically built. She had pale blond hair moderately short, but not as short as male humans. And also a long fringe over the right eye. Armor wonders if she still had good visibility, but the feature that most caught Armor's attention, or what he found most funny, was the shape of her nose. He could have made a joke about it if he did not have his mouth fixed.
"Let's just get him out of here. We do not have much time left" Annie said, breaking eye contact with the titan, going toward those boxes, where harpoons came from, or what humans call target restraining.
Something about her appearance and lack of emotion reminded Armor of the female titan. If Annie had a titan version, it would certainly be the female titan. Maybe Armor warms to her.
It was a weight less for Bertholdt to know that he was able to introduce both without a problem. He thought that with all these situations and stress with which the titan passed, Armor would not be too pleased to see another human again. But Bert was glad that his titan friend was still the same.
Bertholdt walked toward his jaw, he was about to grab the harpoon as the titan snarled a warning. Immediately the brunet staggered back, startled. Acting by pure reflex, Anni grabbed the handle of the blade still sheathed. Maybe Armor was not the same anymore.
"What's wrong with you?" Bertholdt shouted. No one would recommend arguing against a titan, but from somewhere Bertholdt manages to get together courage that he did not know existed.
The imprisoned titan responded with a snort and tried to turn his head as far as the restrictions allowed. Bertholdt stood there, confused, not knowing why his drastic behavior change. But then he had a clue.
"Hey! It's not my fault you were caught if that's what you're thinking!" Shouted Bertholdt. Armor responded with a low grunt.
No. But that was because of you. Armor said in his thoughts.
Bertholdt could not believe that the armored titan blamed him for being in this situation. It was not he who asked Armor to climb the wall and bring the hell, probably must have been that giant monkey, or alpha titan, as the jaw titan used to refer. But then his anger left when his memory came. "Kill. This. Bug" was the order that the armored titan did not comply.
Bertholdt looked around, more specifically at the wreckage on the farms. He understood now. So all this was the result of Armor choosing to go against his alpha in order to save the life of a human. And even indirectly, Armor is on the ground arrested because of him. But then what if Bertholdt frees him? The titan armored will return to destroy everything again in order to reward the order not comply? This was a difficult dilemma. But then Bertholdt remembered how much Armor was surprised to see him yesterday, only by his expression it was easy to deduce that Armor did not know that he resided there, as the titan had once said to him 'there were many other strengths. Armor went up against the titan alpha once, maybe he will be again. It was difficult to bet on one maybe, but Bertholdt had promised himself that he would get him free.
"Look, if that's what you want to hear, okay. I'm sorry for making you go through this. I really do" Said Bertholdt, approaching again.
As there was no response coming from the titan, Bertholdt felt confident to touch the armor of his jaw. Annie tightened the grip on the handle of the blade, then relaxed as the titan made no move to push Bertholdt away. Although there was no response coming from the titan, he kept looking away, or Bertholdt thought it was, after all he saw only a glow on the visor that hid his eyeball.
"But you understand we're trying to get you out of here, right?" Bertholdt asked. Now the glow was on him. Armor growled softly in reply, that was certainly a yes.
Bertholdt stepped back and picked up one of the steel cables. He unsheathed his blade and tried to cut them, but not even a scratch was made. These cables are made to be resistant. Giving up, Bertholdt crouched and joined Annie to analyze the special target restraining weapon.
Unlike Annie, he had not done much artillery specialization classes, so he had some hope that she could give him some light.
"Any ideas?" He asked, hopefully.
"Well, this weapon has a retraction system, but it will not work if the harpoons are stuck on the target." She paused as she checked the sides of the gun, but specifically the latches "If I can get inside, maybe I can trigger it in manually" Annie explained as she pulled a pin in her pocket and tried to open the lock.
Bertholdt watched with curiosity as he wondered where she had learned this trick. Suddenly there was a sound of something heavy landing behind him. Annie looked frightened over his shoulder, before Bertholdt could ask anything Annie extended her blade and stood in front of Bertholdt to protect him from the jaw titan.
"Run! I got this!" Annie yelled, ready to make the first move.
"Wait! Wait!" Shouted Bertholdt. He grabbed Annie's arm before she could activate her three-dimensional maneuvering equipment. She had been reluctant for a while before staring at Bertholdt in amazement. Despite the temporary cessation, Annie still had a firm grip on the blade.
"She's a friend too," Bertholdt said, trying to calm her down.
Annie was known for being expressionless, but now her expression was a mixture of disbelief and horror. She turned to face the jaw titan and then the titan armored. Okay, one titan was easy to process, but two? Annie finally lowered the blades.
Realizing there was no more cause for conflict. The jaw titan approached the couple as secretly smelled the scent of Annie.
As the female titan had said, the night titans withdrew from near the walls under the orders of the beast titan.
There was no difficulty for the jaw titan to climb the walls and find the armored titan, after all it was only following the trail of wreckage and the male odors. Show offs. Although it has been a greater challenge to pass through the perimeter that humans have done around the area that the armored titan is located, the jaw titan had many previous experiences in sneaking through human fortresses. This was no different.
"You have a little weird taste for friends." These were Annie's first words after a long silence that had spread.
Annie could have swore she saw the corner of Armor's mouth lifted slightly. If intelligent titans have a sense of humor, maybe they are not so different from humans after all.
"All right .. there's no need to fight. We're all on the same side here" Said Bertholdt, raising his voice, so that everyone can hear "So Annie, about the retraction system .. "
The jaw titan climbed the body of Armor ignoring the humans conversing. She was not interested in the human Bertholdt calls Annie, her goal here was to free this stupid big idiot. Armor groaned in pain as the five meters titan stepped accidentally on the harpoons attached to his armor. She positioned herself on his back and analyzed the restrictions. She has no idea what these sharp things are, but it's a fascinating human toy
< Damn it! These humans got you well > The jaw titan grunted as she tried to pull the harpoons out with her hands.
< Fuck you! > With his immovable mouth he could not say much, but grumble a word or two.
Seeing that removing the harpoons one by one would be very laborious and time-consuming, the jaw titan decided to use a different technique.
There was a “click” when the pin in Annie's hand broke.
"Damn it! This pin is very fragile!" Annie cursed
"There must be something else we can use," Bertholdt said, looking around to see something resembling a pin to try to open the inside of the special target restraining weapon.
Suddenly there was a sound of breaking much larger than the pin. Bertholdt and Annie looked surprised at the jaw titan, but specifically at her mouth, where the broken ends of the cables swayed uselessly. She spat, and the remains of the cables and harpoons fell close to the couple.
"Can you cut the cables?" Bertholdt said, though it sounded more like a statement. He had an idea of her jaw strength, he had seen her several times tearing the muscles and tendons of other titans with ease, but cutting metals was new.
“Hm.. yeah” Answered the five meters titan as she grabbed another handful of cables. Annie was surprised to hear a titan speak for the first time, she knew that the rogue titan is able to speak, but hearing one in front of her was different. So does that mean Armor can talk, too?
Armor suddenly groaned loudly, warning them. Bertholdt and Annie looked toward the imprisoned titan, not understanding the message. Armor groaned again. It was impossible to speak words in English with his unmoving mouth. The jaw titan released the steel cables when she sniffed something strange in the air. She move her head to discover the source of the scent and froze as he looked toward humans, more specifically behind them.
Bertholdt and Annie looked at each other. With clear doubt in the face, until they heard footsteps coming from behind. The jaw titan was quick to flee and hide behind one of the wreckage large enough to cover a five meters titan.
"Hey what are you guys doing here?" Asked a soldier, by his young appearance he must be a new recruit.
Both Bertholdt and Annie stood up in surprise. They had completely forgotten about the patrolmen. The soldier looked at the couple, then at the cables and harpoons lying on the floor. Just had one thing to think about it.
“Oh shit.. wake up everyone! Traitors! Traitors!" Shouted the soldier loud enough to wake the remains of the soldiers.
Annie reached the fallen rifle on the floor and shot near the soldier's feet, causing him to stumble back and run away.
"Come on!" Annie yelled, grabbing Bertholdt's hand and pulling him away.
Armor followed with his eyes the agitation that was unleashed in the human encampment. A series of screams and orders flooded the air suddenly, then there was the shrill sound of a siren. Armor groaned and shook his head at the annoying sound that bombarded his ears. Sometimes having sharp senses had its evils.
"Where are they?!"
"They went this way!"
Shouted the armed soldiers who passed in front of the imprisoned titan. Armor shifted violently, trying to ignore the pains the sharp harpoons had caused. Bertholdt, and what was her name? Oh Annie! They were in danger, and if he can not let go now, he fears what might happen. Armor does not know if humans are capable of killing a member of their own kind, but Armor knew that those machines shoots that the humans carry was dangerous.
The jaw titan left her hiding place as soon as the armed humans move away. Now that they were distracted with Bertholdt and that blond human, she had more time to cut off the steel cables.
It was a bit difficult to balance herself over Armor as he shake violently, and she knew it would be useless to ask him to remain quiet. But suddenly he froze when his nose identified specific scent.
< What was it? > However the next two words spoken by her armored friend made her regret having asked.
< Black.. Female >