Levi hadn’t expected to wake up in a cave, when he’d finally succumb to fatigue he’d been leaning against a tree trunk with a vista of leaves, now all he saw was cold rock. His head ached, and his muscles protested at the tiniest twitch. Despite this, he forced himself to sit up and inspect his surroundings.
He was in a cave, long enough to fit a 15-meter titan but too narrow, it was also a very lived-in cave. The walls were covered in all manner of fabrics from curtains to tapestries to kitchen clothes; all had their corners hammered into the walls, the floor was more regular, just carpets of varying sizes and shapes, all in all it was a dizzying array of colour. The mouth of the cave was blocked by hanging deer skins, but he could see just enough to tell it wasn’t at ground-level
There wasn’t much in the way of furniture: a working desk in the corner, a fire-pit near in the centre and the bed he was laying on, set against the wall be near enough to the flame’s heat. The working desk looked homemade, it was more a roughly smoothed and rectangular log while his bed was lacked a frame instead it was two mattresses stacked on top of one another, just surprisingly comfortable nonetheless
There was, however, a person. It was a young woman, stood over the fire-pit stirring a dented cauldron. He would estimate he was his age, maybe a bit younger. She was average height for a woman, about equal to him and had a slim build, although a glance at her triceps told he she was very fit. He immediately sized up his odds of overpowering her and realised they weren’t good, depending on her fighting skills may have stood a chance but the throbbing in in side told him that he was badly injured.
He continued to catalogue her. She had medium-length, dark blonde hair and unremarkable features. She wore a vest with what a leather jacket tied about her waist. Her trousers, he suspected, were originally a man’s as the hem near her ankles looked frayed off, as she’d adjusted it herself, and the it was only held up with the support of a belt.
The young woman seemed to feel his eyes then and beamed unnervingly at him, as if he’d saved her cat or something ridiculous
“Oh, hello, what a good time to wake up the foods almo-“
“Who are you?” He drawled, outwardly calm but internally hissing like a cat. She tried to smile reassuringly but it was just too…amazed? She looked in awe of him, and not it the way people usually were, more like how Hanji would look if a titan decided to say ‘hello’
“Bora Kerchuff, nice to meet you” She unhooked the caldron from the fire and marched over to him, her hand jutting forward. He stared at it for at least 5 seconds before giving in and shaking her hand, she just beamed broader.
“Where am I?”
“You’re in my cave” Seeing that he expected more she supplied eagerly “it’s about 30 km south-west of Karanese”
She returned to her fire, testing it with a dented fire-prod, before retrieving a few logs from the lip of the cave and throwing them in. She then settled back to her cauldron, dispensing the contents in to two out of place look china bowls.
The Corporal observed her clinically, she wasn’t a threat it seemed, and in fact she had probably saved his life. The last thing he remembered, an aberrant titan had broken into their formation, taking out Rauli with its gnashing maw before any of the squad could blink. He’d ordered them to go on ahead while he dealt with it, and he succeeded, but the bastard managed to hit him across the midriff, damaging his flares and Manoeuvre Gear beyond repair. This left him stranded dozens of kilometres from Wall Rose and with no means of communication or transport. The wound on his midriff was bad deep enough to puncture muscle, without medical treatment, it was a fatal injury.
Levi observed his stomach, it was wrapped tight with clean white bandages and his other, more minor, injuries were dressed as well. It almost professionally done, it was as tight as the bandages doctors normally gave him, it just wasn’t quite as neat, moreover, the bandages looked slightly ratty, as if they’d been left sitting around.
He abashedly noticed his previous clothes had been removed, replaced with a man shirt long enough to serve as a hospital gown. He would have been more indignant about being changed if didn’t remember the state his uniform had been in, torn and filthy as it was.
“So you’re a Survey Corp member? What’s your name?” Her eyes flicked over to the foot of the bed, where his tattered uniform lay
“Correct, I am Corporal Levi” So, he thought, ‘Bora’ was originally from inside the wall then. He deducted she was probably an original inhabitant of Wall Maria
“Corporal? Wow…” If it were possible she looked more goggle-eyed than before “I found you near Fulkham Woods, it’s lucky I got to you when I did, another day and you’d have been a goner” She smiled at him like she successfully averted the apocalypse before gingerly passing the china bowl she’d filled earlier to him.
For a moment he eyed the bowl warily. He was fairly sure that she didn’t mean him harm and in any case he had watched her pour her own serving from the same cauldron. He downed the meal before she’d even taken a slip of hers, scalding his tongue in the process. The soup wasn’t particularly appetizing and the meat was unidentifiable, but he was far too hungry to care. To his hollow stomach, the food was fit for the King.
“Sorry about the taste, cooking was never my strong suit” There it was again, that unsettling smile, that made him think either met before or she was insane
“Thank you for the meal, you have been most generous”
She waved him off bashfully “Nah, no half-decent person would’ve left you like that, besides you’re a member of Survey Corps, helping you is practically human duty”
There was ease about this woman that Levi found oddly infectious, despite her odd friendliness. It was odd, he thought; how someone could live outside the walls yet seem more relaxed than many of those within it.
“What’s that look for? Am I being weird?” She sighed dejectedly “You’re the first person I’ve spoken to in a long time, my people skills may be a little rusty”
That explained it then, why she looked at him like he was so very bizarre.
“No, you’re fine, forgive me for being rude. Would you mind explaining why you’re here Mrs Kerchuff, instead of inside the Walls?” How had she, seemingly a civilian, managed to survive when each expedition cost the Survey Corps countless lives?
She smiled ruefully at him, gesturing towards the cave mouth “My old house is a little walk that way, though it’s more a ruin now. This cave was my version of a tree house, when the panic started I came here by instinct. By the time I dared look down the hill, everyone had been evacuated and Titans roved around like stray dogs”
He got the sense their was more to it than that, people didn’t normally just stay stranded in the wilderness for nearly 3 years without even trying to seek rescue. But, he wasn’t in a position to demand any answers.
Suddenly, her face lit up and she rushed forward, he tensed and got into a defensive stance. She paused and held up her hands in apology.
“Sorry, sorry, I just got excited” He eyed her wearily before relaxing, inwardly he smirked, her manner was just so very odd, it was hard to not be a little amused. “I was wondering, if you knew my brother?, His name’s Kurtz, he joined Survey Corps about a month and a half before the Wall Maria was breached, he looks a bit like me only….well male”
He frowned; he didn’t have to think much to guess that her brother was dead. Less than 50 of Survey Corps’ 300 or so men were around 3 years ago and he knew each one personally. That meant that either her brother had transferred out or, more likely, he was killed. He also felt a bit guilty; he avoided getting too close with new recruits, most ended up dying so quickly he didn’t think he could handle knowing all of them.
But, he could hardly tell her that.
“My squadron is separate from most of Survey Corps, I don’t meet many recruits”
Her face feel but to her credit she remained cheery “For the best, I guess, I’m sure, not to be rude, but you strike me as a perfectionist, and if you’re subordinates were half as scatter-brained as Kurtz you’d have gone crazy”
Levi was a bit bemused; nobody (except maybe Hanji) spoke to him so informally. He wondered if she would act this way if they were inside the Walls and she was just a regular civilian or if she knew his reputation.
“So what brings Survey Corps around here?” She sounded for all the world like he’d merely wondered to an obscure part of town, not neck-deep into Titan territory.
“We’ve been setting up supply lines for the eventual retaking of Wall Maria”
She nodded “’Retaking Wall Maria’…it sounds like a dream” She rephrased after his pointed look, nothing annoyed Levi more than a defeatist “Not in a ‘it’s impossible way’, I just mean that would be really great”
“Yes it would, which is why I need to get back to my squadron” He made to stand up, but she rushed over to place a restraining hand on his shoulder.
“Stop, you move too much and you’ll start to bleed out again. My medical knowledge only goes so far, if you get an infection it’ll kill you” He just glared at her, he hated nothing more than being babied “Look, you’ll get back, I promise. I spent the whole time you were sleeping thinking of ways to get you to the Wall”
At this he stilled and fell silent. If she could imagine ways to get to the wall without a horse or Gear, why hadn’t she tried to do so by now? He even asked her as much
“Why would I want that? I’m perfectly happy right here” She grinned as if it was the most obvious thing in the world
Levi was dumbstruck and disbelieving. How could she possibly be ‘happy’ out here? Even without the Titan problem, being completely isolated from humanity for 3 years was extreme and this was coming from a man who was hardly a social butterfly.
“Aren’t you ever lonely?” It was a very uncharacteristic question but he couldn’t help himself
“Sometimes, although I’ve been meaning to get a pet” She replied cheerily
They had a silent stare-off, him wanting her to elaborate and she wanting him to drop it, in the end though, Levi’s stare trumps all
“Yes I do get lonely” She sighed, “But I’d rather loneliness than the alternative beyond those walls”
“What do you mean? What ‘alternative’?”
“People okay? I remember seeing towns when I was young, seeing people swarm on all sides, like ants.” Her eyes were wide and her voice hushed, the word ‘town’ breathed out like a curse
Levi cocked an eyebrow “I’m a person”
She rolled her eyes and spoke as if he were being purposefully stupid “You’re one person and especially good person at that, hardly representative of those people” She closed her eyes as if trying to force down the fear “I know I sound insane alright? And maybe I am but as long I stay away from people and people stay away from me then everyone is happy”
Levi looked deeply sceptical but shrugged, if her people problems were bad enough to risk her life then that was her choice “Alright, I understand”
She smiled, relieved “Okay, but lets get back to the matter at hand, shall we? Getting you over that Wall”
Levi was uncertain, should he accept her help? He grudgingly accepted that he needed her in the short-term; his wounds were too severe for him to even walk, but what about after he’d recovered? Yes he should accept her, he thought rationally; despite her quirks she was clearly competent; she had to have extensive terrain knowledge as well as some method of evading the Titans, if not killing them, without any kind of transport. If she was truly offering no-strings attached aid then who was he to refuse?
“What’s in it for you? Why are you helping me? And don’t give me that ‘it’s for humanity’ bullcrap” He spat out suspiciously, he suspected she was being benevolent but it never hurt to make sure
“Um, well…because you seem like a nice person? Because I’m hopelessly helpful? I don’t know, I can make up an evil and entirely selfish reason if it’ll satisfy you?” She said the last part jokingly
He decided to just take her word for it, in the end, what did he have to lose? He was already in an unimaginably horrible position. Really, he thought grumpily, the worse part of the situation was that he may end up owing her not once but twice for saving his life and getting him home.
“Fine, I’m trusting you. You said you’d thought of a ways to get back,” Levi said resolutely, once he placed his trust in someone, that was it, second-guessing could be deadly
“Right, well I’ve thought about it and decided our most significant challenge is Wall Rose itself”
Levi’s jaw set in understanding and he continued her thought “The gates are always sealed except when letting expeditions through and there is no way to signal the guards to open it from this side”
“Yes, from the top the two of us would look like ants” She nodded “But there’s another problem, the concentration of titans increases the closer you get to the gates due to the towns, we won’t be able to just wait there until the next expedition comes through”
“So what do you suggest?”
“I have three plans, Plan A is you scaling Wall Rose”
“My Gear is broken, in pieces somewhere near where you found me,” He said bluntly, with a hint of incredulity
“Bear in mind that Scaling Wall Rose is still just an idea, but am I right in saying that titans sometimes swallow people whole and then regurgitate them back up?”
“Yes, where are you going with this?”
“Once, a month or so after I started living here, I found I grove full of these large red boulder-things, inside them you could see bodies. At the time I guessed that was what they were but I was never quite sure”
“If the titans swallowed any Survey Corps solders then I’ll bet that same grove is where they regurgitated them back up, I suggest we go to the grove during nightfall and scavenge a Manoeuvre Gear”
Levi felt slightly queasy at the thought of rifling through the corpses of his dead comrades but quashed the feeling
“Do we even know if they stuff they would be regurgitated in is solid? If it is then breaking into it would be impossible without tools”
“No, I remember it being gelatinous 2 years ago. The gloop stuck to the sole of my shoes”
Levi sat back and thought
“This plan relies on 2 large assumptions. That they will regurgitate the remains in the same place and that there will be a working Manoeuvre Gear somewhere amongst them”
“I can’t guarantee that they will use the same place. But, the fact that they all chose that specific place before tells me they prefer throwing up there for some reason. And there doesn’t even have to be a single perfectly functioning one, I assume you know how to assemble them?”
“Right, and we aren’t particularly pressed for time nor are we planning to use it in combat, it only has to be good enough to get you up the Wall”
Levi looked pensive
“Plus, there isn’t much risk involved. I go to the area around the grove at least once a month anyway. We may as well check it out” She shrugged
The Survey Corps corporal could barely supress snapping at her. Levi understood to her the idea was routine but to him any mission in Titan territory was always risky.
“Fine, if that’s Plan A, what’s Plan B?”
“Plan B depends on the Survey Corps, when is the next time you estimate they’ll go outside the Walls?”
“Well, if they’ve already retreated, which I suspect they have, they the next Expedition should be in 2 to 3 months”
Bora nodded “And do you always leave through the gate at Trost?”
“Yes, most of the expeditions work towards patching up the holes around Shiganshina and Trost is closest”
She sat back and thought, they could hide in the basement of a ruined house lining the road out of Trost using the animal fat as cover for their scent. That posed problems though, namely that they had no idea when exactly the expedition would depart. Waiting a month would require more supplies than they could carry or at least that they could carry and still be agile enough to make the journey.
She relayed her concerns to her companion
Levi nodded, while he would never show it, she impressed him. Given proper combat training, she had great potential as a strategist but, he reminded himself, she’d clearly decided she’d rather be a hermit
“There is no way of narrowing down that time frame”
“That’s okay, that’s why its Plan B. Plan C might be better, it’s less risky but any also be less effective. We just relocate somewhere the next Survey Corps expedition is bound to pass through, probably a crossroads of some sort or just somewhere you think is a likely destination.”
“But it’s problematic, we have no way of knowing the next expedition’s exact route, we’ll have to scout above ground during the daytime to avoid missing them, we’d be generally exposed and may still have resource problems. Additionally, by that point the gate will have closed and you’ll probably end-up tagging along for the duration”
“What’s wrong with that? And what do you mean by ‘resource problems’” Levi was not one to shy away from duty
She shrugged “Nothing necessarily, you’d just lack a briefing, uniform, horse or equipment, I’m sure they’ll have spares or not all of it will be important but it’s just a bit inconvenient. As for the resources, I’m not certain I’ll be able to hunt enough for the both of us if we move to different terrain”
Levi snorted “I can take care of myself”
She held up her hands in mock-surrender
“Well, whatever, let’s just try Plan A first? I like Plan A, it doesn’t involve waiting.”
Levi watched at the Bora-Titan, collapsed, her slim body falling like a tree. Slowly, the it melted away until he saw her body splayed amidst the creature’s neck
“Bora” He whispered, eyes wide with shock
Erwin barked out orders and her limp form was bound in handcuffs and dumped in the back of the wagon.
“Taking her back to headquarters, Levi, for questioning. Something tells me she hasn’t been entirely honest with you”
Levi just nodded, what could he say in her defence when he’d thought those same thoughts? He turned to her limp from, impassive on the outside but deeply conflicted within. How could someone like her be a Titan? What would happen once they got back?
Erwin placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder “Don’t worry Levi, if she co-operates I’m sure I can convince them she’s of more value alive than dead”
He’d been here for a while, just watching her sleep. Levi had never seen her sleep like this before, the way someone only sleeps when they’ve been thoroughly exhausted. If he didn’t know better, he’d even say she was comfortable, although he knew from experience that those prison beds were like cleverly disguised rocks.
Erwin joined him not long after that, they greeted each other with a nod a of the head and then, not 15 minutes later, she awoke.
She yawned, although it sounded like a groan, a reached to rub her eyes like she always did in the morning but the manacles on her wrists both stopped her and woke her up in an instance. She looked around frantically, finally relaxing slightly when she laid eyes on him.
“Levi? What’s going on? Where am I? Why does my head hurt?” She sounded so pathetically lost, it made his inside squirm with guilt, if she’d never come across him, she’d be probably be waking up in her cave right about now.
It was Erwin that finally spoke “Mrs Kerchuff, we’r-“
Then she screamed, stunning both of them “PERSON, you’re a person” She dissolved into sobs of pure panic leaving Levi honestly shocked, he’d remembered their conversations about her isolationism but never had he thought it was this bad. She was in hysterics, how could she be as afraid of Erwin and many are of Titans? She’d never even met the man?
Erwin shared a meaningful look with him and they exited the room, closing the door and drowning out Bora’s sobs
“What’s wrong with her?” He questioned, in his usual steady voice
“She told me once she didn’t want to go beyond the wall, when I asked why she just insisted that there were ‘people’ there and that she’d rather be lonely, I had no idea her phobia went this far…”
“You don’t think it’s an act then, a ploy to get out of interrogation?” Erwin was as calm as always
“I don’t believe so Sir” He forced himself to think rationally “but I may not know her as well as I thought I did”
“Right, in any case we need to question her and to do that she has to be reasonably calm, do you have any suggestions?” In Erwin’s eyes in saw he had become a reference book for all things Bora, which was fair in some ways, seeing as how he may have been the only living person who knew her.
“I’ll ask the questions, she seemed okay when she thought it was just me”
Erwin shock his head “We can’t, at least 2 officers are supposed to be present at an interrogation for good reason, besides you’re far too emotionally involved”
“I’m fine” Levi growled, “How about you or someone else listens in out of her view? I’ll even stick to to pre-prepared questions”
Erwin thought about it, “That should work, Hanji can listen in as well, she’s desperate to study the Titan-“
“She isn’t a Titan, not primarily at least” Levi reminded him
“Of course, and I doubt pre-prepared questions are necessary, you know what we need to find out”
Levi nodded duteously, and Erwin walked over to the door to let Hanji in. The Titan expert had been pressed so close to the door she almost fell forward.
Erwin nodded to Levi and he walked into the jail room, leaving the doom open purposefully
Bora had stopped crying and was now curled into to foetal position, or as close as the manacles allowed her to get
“Bora” He called patiently
Her head bobbed up frantically scanning the room for more people
“Levi? There are no more people here right? Just you?” She sounded bone-chillingly scared
“That’s right it’s just me” He held up his hands in mock-surrender, even stepping to the side to demonstrate no one was there
“Good…good. Levi where am I? Why are there people here? I heard another one just a moment ago, out there” Gestured to the door with her eyes and Levi watched as Hanji shrank down a little in shame.
“You’re in Survey Corps HQ”
The blood fled her face “That means I’m…inside the Walls” There was a pause as she digested the information before she looked to him frantically, clasping her hands together “Please let me go Levi, I’m begging you, please, I promise I’ll be good just let me go back to my cave”
“Tell me about the Titan, Bora”
“The Titan?” She paused for a moment eyes screwing shut in concentration for a moment, before they opened with a spark of recognition “I transformed didn’t I? Into it” She spoke with a slow almost monotone voice.
“If by ‘it’ you mean a 30-meter class titan then yes, you did”
“Please, please-“Levi wasn’t expecting her next words “-please tell me I didn’t hurt anyone, not again, never again”
Levi’s eyes were like daggers “You mean you’ve heard people before, when?”
“I need to know if”
“No Bora” He shouted “I’m the interrogator, answer me”
She was silent for a moment or two before continuing
“I promise to tell you everything I know about it, I swear, but it’s a long story and I need to know if I hurt anyone” She looked him square in the eye “Please tell me”
“Fine” Levi frostily replied “You killed a man named Amos, trampled him to death while he waited for medical assistance”
“No, no, no, not again, no no” She chanted to herself, a hand over her mouth “Did he have family? I bet he did, most people have family, and what are they doing now? I need to die, I need to die, I have to die, someone has to ki-“
“Bora, maybe you do need to die but not until you tell me what happed before, who else did you kill?” Levi’s voice was calm like steel
“Okay” She took a breath “When I was young, about 7 and a bit, I got very sick. My parents took me to this famous doctor and he said I had a rare disease, he said he’d pay in they let me have ‘extended check-ups for a case study. At first, they were just long and frequent trips to his house but they got longer and longer, until one day they just dropped me off and didn’t come back. That’s when it got bad.” There was a long pause as tears streamed down her face
“Carry on” Levi intoned
“First he moved, I don’t know where, somewhere remote, either beyond the Walls, I only saw out of the carriage window once while we were moving, it was very hilly. But when we got there we strapped me to the bed and when visitors came round I’d be gagged so I could scream, not that I understood that I should anyway…Then the needles came, needles everywhere, I remember one was even here” She tapped a spot on the back of her skull “and here” she rubbed her lower stomach. “That lasted for a month, then he came to me and said ‘there, you’re all done’ and pulled all of them out. I thought it was over…”
“Then he said he still had to ‘test his hypothesis’, he’d start cropping bits off then timing how long it took for them to grow back-“
“Grow back?, cropping what off?” Levi remained as stoic and ever but he was starting to crack, Bora wasn’t lying, he knew that but how he wished she were.
“First it was the small bits, like my ears or my toes and they grew back slowly; it took at least a day when they didn’t get infected and more when they did, he had to cut it off and start again. But I got faster and he got bigger, by the end he cut me right across here” She drew a line around her waistline “It took a while though, my hip bone got in the way.”
She sighed, “He gave me a kiss after that and said I was perfect and that it was now the final stage. He invited all the people in the village to a birthday party, I think it was mine. He told me I should say horrible things to them and that I should hit people for no reason and that if I didn’t he’d have to go back to ‘testing his hypothesis’. After that the whole village hated me, I think he wanted that, at school people would rip my dresses and hit me, one time they stole my clothes and forced me to walk home naked because ‘animals didn’t wear cloths’. One day I told him I wished they’d all just die and then he asked me if I really meant it and I swore I did. A few days later he took me to a clearing in the woods where all my classmates and told me to kill them. And I did”
“How Bora? How did you kill them?” Levi said
“Please don’t make me say anymore” She was weeping openly now “please just kill me please, please, please, I don’t want to be it I don’t”
“Bora, tell me or I promise you your death will take a very long time”
“Fine” Her eyes screwed shut “I hit the first girl with my fists, her name was Amy Larrson, she had red hair and light blue eyes, she loved orange but it looked horrible on her. I hit her and hit her until the nails on one of my hands broke the skin in my fist and I bleed then I felt my body explode. It’s hard to describe the feeling but it was over in a second and then I was it”
“When I woke up the town was gone and everyone was dead including him, there was no town the buildings were all rubble. There weren’t just dead though, they were mutilated. I saw the bodies, I pulled them apart piece by piece until they may as well have been pork. After that, I came home, it was night time and I didn’t run into any Titans on the road from the village to Shiganshina. Not many people were out at that time but those that were stared at my bloody cloths, no one stopped me though. I walked all the way into Wall Maria before I collapsed, there Kurtz found me about 10km from home. Apparently the doctor told my parents I was dead. That’s it, now kill me or let me go back to my cave, please, Levi.
“Why didn’t you try and get to Wall Rose after Maria fell?”
“I told you, people, there are people, everywhere people I could kill, like ants, like a kid stepping on ants”
“There were people in your old home as well, what was different?”
“Nothing, I lived in my cave before the Wall fell too. My parents thought it was due to the psychological trauma but that was a lie, I just didn’t want to risk killing them every time they told me off. I knew if I evacuated inside Wall Rose, there would be no cave. The only person I talked to was Kurtz”
“He was an idiot” She smiled for the first time “He was a complete idiot, no matter how many lies I came up with or times I tried to scare him off he just kept coming back screaming about playing tag together, in the end I gave up. I could never kill Kurtz anyway, I could never want to, even for a second” She looked lost yet determined as if killing her brother was a sheer impossibility
Levi’s mask cracked for a second and he said softly “What about me? Why aren’t you afraid of killing me?”
“Because you’re strong, Levi, I guess I have to confess to another lie. I was watching when you killed that Titan, before you got injured. I watched you and thought, ‘if any one could stop it it’d be him’. I thought that maybe, with you I could be normal, or at the very least know you’d almost be somewhere out there to stop it. I was even thinking about going with you by the end. I was wrong though, you can’t stop it, I killed Amos and you were right there! If you can’t then no one can so please just send me back to my cave, please Levi or kill me. You’re safe, I’d never want to hurt you, you’re like Kurtz but nobody else is, I’ll kill them all. That man I saw earlier, that was the Erwin right? The guy you told me about? Well, I’ll kill him Levi, I’ll rip him limb like those villagers! Please, he seemed nice, I bet he has a family or a dog or a something, please…I wish I could do it myself but I can’t take the risk…”She descended into to incomprehensible hysterics although he could hear the name ‘Amos’ crop up from time to time
Levi slowly backed out of the room, and closed to door before slumping into a nearby chair and burying his face in his hands, he didn’t cry, he never cried but a part of him wished he did, at least as an outlet.
“What do we do?” He asked his colleagues and only friends
Erwin sighed, “For the time being? Nothing, she’s too mentally unstable at the moment to be useful, from what she’s said her power is goal driven. If her only to goals in life at the moment are suicide and that cave, she can’t be much use to us. The only option is trying to make protecting humanity or something else a thing she aspires, anything as long as we can work it to our advantage.”
“So no experimenting?” Said Hanji morosely
“Not without consent, I shudder to think what her reaction to a scalpel would be” Erwin glanced at Levi, “You should spend time with her when you can, try to redirect her goals, make want to help us or at least you”
“Yes Sir” Levi said tonelessly, guilt further plaguing him, this woman saved his life repeatedly and he has left her suicidal wreck and now will exploit her mental state for his own ends. He’ll still do it, he knows he must be prepared to sacrifice his own humanity but doesn’t make it easy.
“Levi” The Corporal looked up, meeting Hanji’s resolute gaze “Don’t think of this as exploitation, it’s better for her as well in the long run, nobody can be truly happy and suicidal at once
“Hello, Bora”`, He had absolutely no idea how to go about ‘changing her goals’. He could barely think of anything to say
“Hi, Levi, how are you?” She said wearily
There was a drawn out, awkward silence but finally Bora couldn’t stand it
“Look, Levi can we forget about before?” She said pleadingly
“What counts as ‘before’?”
She smiled that lazy smile at him “Not everything, just the interrogation”
“A variety of reasons, but mostly because I’m embarrassed. I mean I understand you needed the information, I get that your approach probably gained the best results, even if it was harsh. I just hope what I said is as helpful as possible” She grinned good-naturedly
Levi let out a sigh of relief and leant against the wall. He had wondered if his mock death threats and shouting made her resent him but at she was as annoyingly understanding as always.
“Why do you hope to be as helpful as possible, Bora?”
“Well, a number of reasons I suppose. For you, you want it to be helpful, so I hope your goal succeeds but also for the benefit of humanity. Although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it was part selfishness as well”
“Selfishness?” How could her information being helpful possibly be selfish?
“Of course, if it helps then stop being worth the risk and some clever man will order me put down”
“I’ll you stop talking like that” He shouted, losing his temper and immediately scalding himself for it
“Like what?” She asked clueless
“Like you go bed dreaming of being dead Bora, do you honestly think we’d be better off with you gone?”
“Please, you just can’t bear the guilt so you’re trying to go the cowards way out. You could save hundreds of times the number you’ve ‘killed’. And you not even directly responsible for those deaths you agonise over. What you should really be ashamed of is those people that die because you’re too busy wallowing in self-pity” By the end of his rant, he was worried he’d gone too far but her glare stopped him
“You don’t understand, it can’t save lives, it can only destroy”
Levi shrugged, “Maybe I am wrong, if humanity is headed for destruction anyway, then what difference would it make?”
“I guess I’m just too much of a coward to bear the risk of it being my fault…”
“Hello Bora” Levi gave his perennial greeting as he sauntered into the room, or at least, his side of the room. She still didn’t like the idea of him unlocking the door of her jail cell.
“Levi, I was going to explode with boredom if you didn’t get here soon” She put the bookmark her place and shuffled to the end of the bed
“Do you not like the book?” Levi’s brows scrunched, he’d been so sure it was her kind of thing
“It’s not that, I love the book-“ She held up the tome so he could see the bookmark “-see, I’ve already finished like half of it, I’m not used to having this much free time. I think it’s called going stir-crazy”
“Luckily for you, I’ve of something a little more productive you can fill your time with” He declared
“Levi, I’ve already polished your shoes, broaches, belt buckles and Manoeuvre Gear, its weird that you have so many broaches by the way, if you bring me any more shit I’m going to start thinking you’re buying stuff just for me to clean”
“There can never be too much cleaning”
‘Anyway, it’s something more productive than that” His tone grew more serious “I’d like you to meet Hanji, Bora”
“No” The reply was immediate, “I can’t do it, I-“
“You are, even if you don’t say a word, you have to get used to being in a room with someone other than me”
“But, Levi, she’d inevitably going to hate me, then she inevitably going to tell other people and within a week there will be Lynch mobs!” Over the past 2 weeks and a bit he’d slowly gotten her used to the idea that she wasn’t such a danger to be around and to transform into a Titan at any moment and kill everyone. Now the issue was more that Bora was cripplingly anti-social, being a virtual hermit from most of her life had done some quite deep damage. Unfortunately Levi sensed still she spent a great deal of time thinking about all the ways she could accidentally people
“Stop being so melodramatic, you know that your existence is still a state secret and I’ve told you that your Titan abilities mean that she’d like you even if you had the foulest personality in existence”
“Fine” She sat on the bed, as rigid as the bars to the jail cell
Levi scoffed at her behaviour before opening the door ushering the whirlwind of Hanji Zoe
“Heeeellllllo, I’ve been meaning meet for ages but Levi kept being so evasive, it was all ‘soon’ this and ‘almost’ that, anyway I’m Hanji Zoe and we’re going to be getting very close” Hanji managed to say all of this in a single breath before sticking her arm through the bars of the jail.
Bora’s eyes stared horrified at the hand, did the woman care so little for her arm she’d sacrifice it in a attempt to be friendly?
“Hanji, we talked about this” Levi said, causing Hanji to look down at her hand, make a soft ‘oh’ sound and retreat 3 steps, hand still outstretched.
Bora walked or well…shuffled towards Hanji then shook her hand in a blindingly fast and retreated back to her far wall
“Hello, Doctor Hanji” She squeaked out
Hanji smiled brilliantly before bursting with laughter, “How can have the garrison be terrified of someone so cute? I don’t think I’ve ever been more jealous of you Levi, well just you wait one of these days she shall be mine, all mine to cuddle and examine”
Inexplicably Levi had the urge to scowl, he avoided it though with his trademark scoff instead
“Well, uh thank you?”
“So polite” Hanji lifted a clipboard into her arms “well then lets started shall we? Date of birth?”
“17th September 829?” Bora arched an eyebrow at Levi who supplied
“She does this to everybody, just accept it” He shrugged and Hanji beamed
“I don’t know, it was 140-something last time I checked but I was 13 then”
If anything this seemed to make her happier, “No worries, I have my tape measure” She beamed, unfurling the measuring device dramatically “Come here and stand with your back to the bar”
Bora slinked over carefully, as she read the measure “Alright, 157cm, Levi has you beat by 3”
Levi again had to fight the urge to irrationally react, it was just 3cm, for King’s sake, he had no cause to feel as happy as he did
The evening carried on with Hanji collecting hordes of data and Bora slowly learning to relax
“We’re eating downstairs today”
“You heard me”
“Bububutt, surely I don’t have permission yet to leave the room…”
He glared at her “You’ve had permission for over a month and you know it”. He unlocked the door, she still insisted it be kept locked during the day, and held open the door
Levi sighed as he felt her huddle to his back, like a turtle’s shell. He turned around abruptly, causing her to run straight into him
“That fucking hurt, why did you turn around so suddenly?” She clenched her jaw in pain, it had collided with his surprisingly solid torso
He scowled down at her “To prove a point, it’s impractical, dangerous and annoying to walk that closely behind someone, idiot. Either walk keep a greater distance or walk to my side, your choice”
“But I need human shielding”
“No you don’t
“We’re here” She had time to look up before she was thrown into the view of people, Levi turned his head just enough to see her already pale skin become icy and resisted the urge to laugh
“What do I do?” She stared at the dinner queue like it had come straight out of the bowls of hell.
“You get a plate, fill the plate with what you want, then get cutlery and whatnot at the end, alright?”
He filled the plate then sped off to a nearby table, Levi want to sit down and enjoy Bora’s induction to the world of normal, it was clumsy, awkward and she managed only a single baked potato, while knocking into at least 5 people, she failed to get cutlery so he had to lend her his knife.
Hanji, who sat with him, Erwin and most of the other senior officers was laughing uproariously
“Well I know how to gut and skin a deer in under 10 minutes so there” She said playfully, causing Hanji to laugh harder
“That may be true but you certainly can’t cook one” Levi intoned dryly, he caught Erwin laughing slightly
“Pah, my cooking skills just a finer palate to be appreciated”
“You don’t like your cooking either, before you started making me do it after the first week!”
“Fine, fine, I admit I’m a appalling cook, therefore if we’re ever stranded in the wilderness again, you’ll be the cook from day one”
Levi scowled but it was his amused scowl (such a thing does exist)
“Speaking of that Bora, I’ve been meaning to speak with you about your training schedule” Bora went rigid upon being addressed and nodded astutely, Levi couldn’t help but sigh, she’d come a long way from when she first arrived here but he’d be the first to admit she had her issues
“We need you to become at least proficient enough with the Maneuverer Gear to keep if we have trouble with the horses. You can ride a horse can’t you?”
“Yes sir”, Levi cocked a brow, that was unexpected, he couldn’t see where in his imaginary timeline of her childhood she’d could learned to ride a house, he’d ask her later
“Good, you’ll still need some training to get used to ours but that shouldn’t be too difficult, the most critical thing is that we manage to control your ability”
Levi could appreciate the need not to dawdle given the times but she looked nauseous at the mere thought of activating her power willingly. He gave her what he hoped was a reassuring head-pat. And Erwin signalled to him to continue.
“We’ve decided to start with the Titan training, we need to test how to works then see where to go from there, this is entirely uncharted territory. We’ve found a patch of forest to the northeast of Wall Rose that ought to work, it’s secluded and the trees are tall enough to give some semblance of secrecy”
“Who’s going to be there?” Bora asked in a small voice
“Everyone” Replied Levi, to her dismay “We can afford to take any chances, you understand?”
“Yes, in fact I’m glad, just remember not to hesitate to cut me out should it go wrong, my limbs will grow back” Levi saw her eyes faze out slightly as wondered why, at last until he remembered that she’d regrown her limbs before, over and over and over again.
“Yes, Bora” He said determinedly.
They were deep within the site Levi had picked out, Yorbrough Forest. Each Survey Corps officer had there place, arranged in rings with Bora in the centre amongst the thickest trees.
“Levi, is the parameter in place?” Shouted Erwin from his position, facing Bora in the innermost ring of the formation, they’d given her a wide berth, just in case there where early motor control problems. Hanji was just to his left, pen poised to make observations
“Yes Sir” Levi was closet, situation in a tree to Bora’s rear left; the perfect place to strike in the need arose
“Yes Sir” Came a tentative response
“Attempt 1 shall now commence; three, two, one…GO”
Bora bit her hand as hard as she could, drawing blood even, however after a long, heavy pause, nothing happened
“What happened?” Erwin called to her,
“I don’t know Sir, I’m sorry” There were titters from the Survey Corps officers and Bora bowed her head ashamed, Levi wanted to snap at them all to shut it.
“It’s Okay, we’ll try again”
“Remember, you have to concentrate on a goal” Supplied Hanji
Bora nodded in her direction
“Attempt 2; three, two, one…GO”
Bora bit her hand again, this time her left, once again she drew blood and once again nothing happened
The titters from the treetops were louder this time and she wished the ground would shallow her up
“Kerchuff? What’s wrong”
“I’m sorry captain, I just can’t do it”
“Don’t be defeatist, one more time”
Levi broke in just before Erwin started to count down “Wait Sir, I’d like to try something”, he swung down to land in front of Bora
Erwin looked concerned “Are you sure? We don’t know if it’s safe to be that close”
“Don’t worry, Sir I understand the risks:
Erwin nodded, holding Levi’s gaze “Zakarius, take Levi’s previous position”
“Levi” Bora hissed, “You’re too, who knows what could happen?”
“Don’t worry Bora, I’ll get away in time, for now I just want you to listen to me”
“Yes” Bora stared determinately into Levi’s eyes, while he stared back
“I want you to sit-down in your Titan-form, that’s all I want you to do, okay? Repeat that”
“You want me to sit down in my Titan-form, you want me to sit down in my Titan-form…
“Go continue doing that, picture me nodding at you after you do, okay?”
“This feels stupid…”
“Just to it” Levi grumbled annoyed, he gave Erwin the signal behind his back
He picked up her right hand, which had healed by now, a started raising it upwards; with his other hand he pointed his Gear towards a nearby tree
Her hand was by her neck now, his finger set over the gear trigger
Her teeth were poised, ready to bite down, he didn’t let go though, as a sign of support
Levi’s voice echoed, “Sit”
Then electricity shot trough the air and an unimaginable boom sounded, a there was Titan-Bora. Levi’s Gear kicked into action just as the giant’s body appeared and he narrowly missed being incorporated into Titan-Bora’s foot
Her semi-skinless form towered over everything, even the trees, making him aware her height had been underestimated by at around 5 meters, to those who hadn’t seen the colossal Titan, and not many had, she was the tallest thing they had ever seen. Her hair was as he remembered down past her lower back. Levi also noticed that Titan-Bora had pattern to her skinless-ness, her inner body, the head, neck, torso and inner thighs were covered in skin while most of her limbs showed bright red muscle.
Suddenly she moved and the Survey Corps tensed ready for Erwin’s order. She started to move down
“It’s okay, Sir, I told her before she transformed to try and sit-down. I think she’s just doing that”
After a moment a deep thud sounded, she’d reached the ground, she looked searchingly around until she saw Levi and then she did something nobody expected.
She started clapping.
The sound was deafening, whilst the wind and ground tremors made staying in position difficult.
They frantically tried to make her stop but nothing worked, Levi wondered if Titan-Bora could even understand them, finally he resorted to scaling her body with his Gear and screaming in her ear
“Bora. Stop. Clapping.”
She after a few moments more, then looked around in shock at the blown about officers, she gestured to them then herself and looked at Levi with what he guessed was a questioning face. He interpreted it as ‘Did I do this?’
“Yes, you did this, idiot”
She gestured to the soldiers once more then made a motion of slitting her throat before pointing to herself and using the same confused expression
“Are you asking if you killed them or if they want to kill you?”
She held a single finger to indicate the first one
“I doubt it, although I’m sure everyone from here to Wall Sina heard your stupid clapping, so much for you being a secret”
“Levi” He heard a shout from below and looked to see Erwin gesturing
Levi used his Gear to swing down leaving Titan-Bora to watch on confusedly
“Levi were you talking to her just now?” Asked Erwin incredulously
“Well I was interpreting her crappy sign language, yeah” Levi nodded
“What was she trying to say?, it’s not as easy to understand from below” Asked Hanji
“First asked if she was the cause of the damage from the clapping then she asked if she killed anyone”
“Interesting” Hanji muttered, jotting down notes “It seems as if in Titan-form, Bora retains her basic personality but loses some of her intelligence and maturity, at least at this stage, she may improve with time. Commander, I propose we conduct further tests but at this stage I’d say this has been a success, she responds to commands, at least Levi’s and doesn’t seem to aggressive towards humans”
“We’ll stay as long as we can here, opportunities for these kind of tests are like gold dust. Hanji, how would you like to proceed with the testing?”
”The majority of it can be done either on the ground or from her shoulders, I also wanted to find things like her top speed and whether she can get over the Walls but that can wait for a better time”
“She may also need more combat experience with Titans in this form in the longer-term” Remarked Levi “Bora could come on the next expedition beyond Wall Rose, that should give us enough time to train her up in how the Manoeuvre Gear works”
“Agreed” Said Erwin.
“Right, the first tests are cognitive tests, they require us to be within earshot so we’d better be on her shoulders”
She flinched and jerked as Hanji and Levi scaled her torso, which made the climb infinitely more difficult, when they finally reached her shoulders she scowled at them and made raising and lowering motions with her hands and used her fingers as make believe grappling hooks, Hanji just looked confused
“What does she mean?” She asked Levi as they sat on Bora’s left shoulder with her vast face staring down at them
“I think she’s is trying to say that the Gears hurt a bit and that next time she’ll just pick us up herself, is that right?”
Because nodding her head was slightly dangerous for them, she settled with a thumbs up
Levi rolled his eyes, “You’re a baby sometimes, know that?”
Seeing as she also couldn’t shrug she settled for what may have been the largest middle finger ever
“Ohhh, that’s just rude” Chorted Hanji
Levi caught a glimpse of soldiers laughing despite themselves at Titan-Bora’s antics. He swore he’d get her back for this, even if she didn’t remember doing it.
The cognitive tests were fairly mundane but the physical ones were surprisingly amusing.
First, Hanji asked Titan-Bora to try to pronounce vowels, then consonants, then finally common words and names. She found that while she could comprehend what to say just fine, the giant voice box made human speech impossible. That said, he decided he could recognise his name when she said it although it was more like ‘leeeeeeheeeeee’ than ‘Levi’
As it turned out Titan-Bora was also very useful for scouting, her larger eyeball lens thanks to like made for disproportionately good eyesight and when she held somebody up in her hand we was a portable watchtower