They set camp a few miles from Maria, a couple hours after nightfall.
The recent findings about sunlight as a source of titan energy had been very helpful for the Legion.
Luckily, this time they would be able to get some actual sleep in the middle of the expedition, provided that they waited the hours needed for the titans to lose the fuel gathered by day. That would be a first time. Commander Shadis determined they should be on the safe side however, and find somewhere the landscape favored surveillance.
“How are you enjoying being a soldier so far?” Hange asked the three new recruits as she fluffed her sleeping bag.
“The food is good,” Isabel considered, slipping in hers and rubbing her feet against each other to warm them up. “But I gotta say today was nutty. I’m so done with horse riding I can’t feel my buttocks anymore.”
“Just one day in and you’re already complaining.” Farlan scolded her in a teasing way, as he and Levi zipped up their sleeping bags. “We haven’t even killed a titan yet! I wonder what if feels like.”
“I know what it feels like!” Hange beamed. “It’s hard to sink the blade into the skin, but once you’ve got it going it will slide just like that. You don’t really have to put in a lot of strength after the initial breaking in, just enough for the blade to maintain its course and keep going deeper, though for the bigger ones it does come a point where you feel like the blade’s too small because you know, the higher-class the titan, the larger the cut you have to make. It’s okay though, that’s really just a feeling, because the gear blade was actually designed so that its length is enough to make a big enough cut even for the biggest classes ever spotted, which was actually a seventeen-meter class thirteen years ago. Seventeen, can you believe that? I don’t know if I do, since the reports for that specific expedition were really confusing and some stuff don’t feel right, but that’s what they say, so.”
“Seventeen meters sounds a lot.” Isabel said mildly worried.
“It does, but actually” Farlan interrupted. “I meant the feeling as in the feeling of facing and killing the titan, the adrenaline and stuff, not so much the feeling of cutting meat.”
“Oh, that’s fun too,” Hange started again but was cut off by Levi.
“Fuck me, do you never shut up? Some of us are trying to sleep here.”
“He talks! Ha, sometimes I don’t even notice you Levi. You’re quiet but also you’re so small I really don’t notice you.” Hange joked, unmindful of the grumpy stare she received.
“No way I’ll sleep on my back, not after riding a horse all day,” Isabel complained again out of nowhere, turning over and laying on her stomach. “That’s what I like the least about being in Survey, really.”
Levi ignored them as best as he could. After a few minutes it was clear he wouldn’t be getting a lot of sleep. He didn’t know about military etiquette, but he was certain that the usual thing wasn’t to chat cheerfully in the middle of the night in an expedition.
He rose up from his sleeping bag. “I’m going for a walk.”
“Trouble sleeping?” Erwin asked when Levi sat beside him. They were in one of the uppermost branch of a towering tree that overlooked the whole camp and miles beyond. It was the best place to watch for titans during the night, and Erwin had volunteered to take the first watch.
“You could say that,” that wasn’t entirely true, but wasn’t a lie either. Even if Farlan and the others had actually kept their mouths shut, Levi knew he was too agitated to get a single wink.
Erwin watched as he fidgeted uncomfortably in the branch, pulling the 3DMG aside and finally setting for a decent position.
The view from a point so high above was magnificent and ethereal. The grass was a dusky green and Rhine River danced with the reflection of the moon and the shimmering stars. It was the first time Levi took in that kind of forsaken beauty. Nothing like it existed behind the Walls.
“Makes it worth it, doesn’t it?” Erwin broke the silence again. “Trying to reclaim it from the titans, I mean.”
“That’s you speaking, not me.” He waved a dismissive hand, but his tone was apathetic and his eyes were still drinking in the sight.
“And it only gets better further on,” he smiled contentedly. “If you ignore the fact that everything is quite titan-infested, of course.”
“Not that you’d know, though. You’re huge and you’ve always got that stupid look on your face, the titans might well think you’re one of them.”
He was still getting used to Levi’s foul mouth, but it still stunned him sometimes. Especially when he wasn’t expecting it. “I might manage to pass for a three-meter class if I was standing next to you, yes.” He retorted playfully, unafraid of Levi’s reaction. “I do look tall in comparison.”
If Levi was so good at deriding everyone around him, he should be capable of enduring some bullying himself.
Erwin knew he had managed to surprise him back when the younger ripped his eyes off the scenery and scowled him. “Tch,” Levi scoffed after a few moments of not coming up with a retort. Instead he shifted his attention to swiping his hands clean from the moss that stained them in his way up. He looked really focused in what he was doing, Erwin mused, finding it strange and almost comical.
“Did I offend you?” Erwin asked in mock concern.
“You’d know if you had. I got to start my kill count somewhere, and like you said, it wouldn’t be hard to convince everyone that I mistook you for a titan.” He muttered, folding his cloth back when he was satisfied with the cleaning.
“Not coming from you, it wouldn’t.” Erwin scoffed, remarking how expressively tiny Levi’s hands were.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
Erwin had Levi’s right hand between his own, and was now tracing his fingers with his considerably larger ones. “I won’t eat you, don’t worry.” Erwin replied, glad that Levi hadn’t just pulled his hand away yet.
He just stared at Erwin curiously.
“Then you’re a fiasco of a titan.” He sounded amused. “Seriously though, what are you doing?”
Erwin sprawled his fingers open and pressed Levi’s hand flat against his, aligning their wrists. He noticed with a small smile that his palm covered most of Levi’s full hand, his fingers hardly reaching halfway though Erwin’s.
It was charming. But he knew that if he said what he was thinking, Levi might in fact kill him.
“Finding evidence for you,” he lied, folding his fingers between Levi’s. “I do cover you up entirely, it seems.”
“You should be watching for actual titans, though, instead of helping me plot your own shitty murder.” Levi scoffed, looking at their hands and folding the tip of his fingers in the same fashion, over Erwin’s hand.
Erwin suddenly looked over, knowing that he would have heard if a titan somehow appeared at that improbable hour, but worried nonetheless. “And you should be trying to sleep. It will be a long day tomorrow, you should be rested.” He reluctantly let go of Levi’s hand.
“You too, though. When is your shift over?” Levi set his gear back, preparing to go back to the camp.
“Just one more hour and I’ll be back,” Erwin indulged in the thought that Levi had asked out of worry.
“Okay then. Try to not get distracted again and get us all killed.” Levi’s lips twitched in a faint smirk as he disappeared back in the night.