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Always like that.

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Year 1266, kingdom Maria:

It was just like any normal day. Merchants calling for people to check their new items, people walking through them, some of them buying, other pointing, another asking for the prices or some other general questions. Married women or unmarried washing clothes, doing laundry, cooking, or cleaning their houses. Birds swinging their small wings in the air, flying from one tree to another while chirping peaceful songs. Dogs chasing kitties. Kids laughing and playing around..

Kids..

Exactly, Kingdom Maria is the home of the famous trio: Eren Jeager, who was hotblooded, the brunet who always ran into the crime scene with his fist and loud scream. He always was prepared to take risks. Although he was into like more than hundred fights, neither of him nor his two friends could ever remember that he had won one..nevertheless, he never failed to scare those who he fought with.

He? That wasn't hundred percent correct...She? Yes.

Mikasa Ackerman, his non-biological sister who was taken into their home after her parents got killed by some robbers. Always getting called by their tiny little friend, the black-haired girl always followed Eren into the same crime scene, not only with a fist, it can be a fist, a kick, and as a service, she offers her glare as well. She seemed to be overly obsessed with Eren, who had rescued her from the robbers at that awful day.

Their tiny little friend? He wasn't as hotblooded as Eren, or overly obsessed with him as Mikasa. People often wondered how can someone like him be a friend of those two. He didn't have the skills or the will to fight like his two friends. He used to save himself from the crime scenes by four or five wise words he read, or heard from his grandpa, but guess what? It never worked. He was a part of the crime, always the victim.

Maybe he was always the victim because of his slim, weak body? His foreign look? Blue eyes, neck-length golden hair? Or was it because he wasn't into fights like any other kid, replacing the will to fight by the will to finish two or three books a day. 

The scene of crime is always messy. The trio and their fight-buddies never failed at this part. Breaking neighbors windows, tripping over the laundries or the items displayed in some shop. The mess didn't end with that..Eren usually goes back home, his clothes and face all covered with dirt, it was the same for both of his friends. They get scolded by nearly everyone, of course, including Eren's mom.

See? It was a normal day.

Like any other day..

Except that the night was unusually bright..

It wasn't the street lights, it wasn't the neighborhood's candle light either..It was way more brighter than a candle..maybe a bunch of candles? Yes, maybe that's it. Except that the base of the candles was wax, but the wood of the neighborhood's house..

Not only one house, not two, not three. Looking at the horizon, the whole kingdom was on fire.

The birds chirps were replaced by cries. The merchants calls were replaced by soldiers shouts and threatens. The kids laughter and play were changed to the screams of people dying, or captured prisoners..

It was when the golden-haired little friend knew that the fights his friend had was no real fights. It was nothing but...a game to this, what can he call it? Nightmare?!

"It's war!"

He heard his grandpa whisper.

War..

"Please, take Eren and Mikasa with you! We'll follow soon!"

"Wait, but mom!"

"Over there!" A knight shouted, making Carla Jeager -Eren's mom- gasp lightly. It wasn't the time to think now, she pushed Eren and Mikasa to Armin's grandpa's arms, she sat on her knees, placing one hand on Eren's shoulder, and the other on Mikasa's "Promise me, that whatever happens, you will be good kids! Ah, and no drinking till 18!"

"Wait, mo--" Eren couldn't finish his call, Carla nodded one last time to Armin's grandpa before heading back to their place. Eren started to struggle and Mikasa wanted to follow, but were stopped by Armin's grandpa.

The last thing Armin could remember is the cries of his childhood friend, being informed that his mother was dead, and his dad was nowhere to be found. Grief on Mikasa's face. Although they were able to get onto the ship heading to Kingdom Rose, it wasn't happy news at all.

It's always like that.

"Did you hear? Kingdom Maria fell." a lady whispers

"What a pity? And, what now? We get to feed them from our food?"  another replies

"I heard it was because the king of Maria didn't accept the offer king of Sina made to him." a third came into the talk

"Really? Oh, way to go."

Say no to one of them, and your life is going to be like hell. Pull everyone into the same hell. While they? They are probably sitting drinking a cup or two of wine with some maids around them.

It's always like that.

"Unwanted!"

"A burden!"

"Just die already!"

A mistake of a  word slipping from their tongues, can lead to the suffer of many people.

It's always, and will always remain like that.

Year 1270, kingdom Rose:

It has been four years, lots of things changed since then. It is not the same scenery they used to see before. Their houses are no more to be found, their parents are no longer around.

They merely get food, they rarely get medicine if they were ill, even if someone was going to die. Armin's grandpa's health wasn't excellent either.

Kingdom Rose, by its name, you can already guess how beautiful its nature is. Yes, birds chirp, and roses almost everywhere. A river runs through the kingdom from the very south till its very north. People living their lives normally, as if no one came for shelter from kingdom Maria.

Must a beautiful kingdom have a perfect king?

In the center of the kingdom, placed a large white palace with more than thirteen towers. This palace was obviously the home of the king and his princess. The king was fearful, no one dared to get into a war with kingdom Rose because of his well known strongly built army. Not to mention, he himself was feared. Like his kingdom citizen, he wasn't very kind, nor gentle. Not after the death of his wife..

He was cruel to everyone..

Including his own daughter, Annie Leonhardt.

You'd think that she is a young girl in the age of eight, wearing a long white dress, with a pretty flower crown decorating her hair that had a lovely style, or a golden necklace, matching her hair color, with a grey-blue emerald matching her eye color, laying on her neck.

But half of that was not correct,

She had her golden hair and grey-blue eyes, alright. But none of the long white dress, flower crown, lovely style, or golden necklace were anywhere to be found. Instead, a messy bun was used to tie her hair up, the necklace was replaced with dirt, and she was wearing a white hoodie and baggy trousers, that if a traveler was to have a chance to see her, would never imagine she is a princess.

She fell hard onto the ground of the palace courtyard after receiving a hit from her father's -the king's- fist. While her guards -childhood friends- flinched at the fall. Ouch, that must have hurt.

"What's wrong, Annie? Is that what you were taught?!"

Annie coughed as she clutched the hit spot, she gathered her left power to get up. Without making the effort to look at her father, she new he was probably cursing her or looking at her with his cold eyes, full of hatred.

Those eyes..

It's always like that, the same eyes people look at her with. It's either hatred, fear or compliment, all because of her dad.

"I like you." you lie.

"You are beautiful." you jest.

"Princess Annie...she is the best!" shut up!

None of them was real to her.

"We are over for today." Without another word, the king took his steps back into the palace. Her guards, Reiner and Bertolt ran over to her

Bertolt sat on one knee and patted Annie's back "Are you alright?"

Annie shook his hand off her back with hers, she slowly got up "Yes." and undusted her clothes. She glanced up at Reiner who was looking at her with a smirk, she coldly asked "What..?" he shrugged.

"No, it's just, you don't seem like yourself today. I was wondering where the Ann--Uh, the princess" he corrected "Who used to beat me up went?"

Annie clicked her tongue. Maybe she got her cold temper from her father?

"It's nothing,  I just need to go have a walk in the fresh air."

"Go have a walk?!" Bertolt asked

"We will come with you." Reiner nodded and was ready to take a step when he was stopped by Annie's glare.

"Alone!" she said loudly, just to make sure they heard her. Making both of them almost choke.

Without waiting for their reply, or bothering to change her clothes, Annie took her steps to the palace gate, and in minutes, she was out of the palace in her father's kingdom streets. As always, noisy, like her mind, but filled with life, unlike her own.

Walking through the different streets of the kingdom, she could see all kinds of feelings on people's faces and expressions. Here is a young girl crying because her mother was scolding her, probably sad? Or regretting what she has done?, Here is another boy laughing with his friends at maybe..some joke? Does that mean they are delighted? Here are people drinking in the middle of the day. Here is a girl confessing her feelings to her loved one, is she..nervous? Is she happy? What about him?, Here is a hug. Here is a smile. Here are their eyes glitter. They stare at one another, they inch closer, they close their eyes and they--

Annie quickly looks away and dashes through the streets. Privacy matters.

But then again, smile? Laugh? A sniff? A sob? A cry? Tears? Happiness? Sadness? Nervousness?

What did that feel like?

To Annie, it was ambiguous. She only knew the words to describe the feeling, but when was the last time she experienced ones?

"Huh? What do you think you are doing?!" Annie heard the shout from a narrow street in the abandoned neighborhood. She thought it won't harm if she just took a look.

She could see a boy with golden hair, she couldn't exactly catch his eye colors because the scene wasn't really that close to her. His hair was neck length, he didn't really have a well-built body, seeing the his clothes were nearly baggy on him. He was standing in front of a young girl who was hiding behind him, probably being guarded by him. She looked opposite to him, were three other males standing, they didn't look so friendly, to be honest. Annie looked back at the other male as he spoke.

He looked at the girl behind of him, his voice softened "The main street is at that side." he pointed towards the place Annie was hiding, she quickly hid again before anyone could see her.

She decided it was the best for her to run as fast as she could as well. It was non of her business anyway. She began waking to the main street too, but she heard the male's voice again.

"Run as fast as you can."

"You must be kidding me!"

Annie heard a shout that was soon followed with the echo of a bunch. Another echo of a body falling hard onto the ground, and soon small footsteps started to get closer. Annie stopped. She could see the girl running past her, she probably didn't see Annie because she was overwhelmed by fear. Another bunch echo followed, another one, and the other..

"Where are your other friends today huh, brat?!" one of them said as he kicks the male's gut

"Guess they are not there!" the other said laughing

Uh, shit!

Annie found herself turning back and running towards the crime scene, each step was followed by another one, faster than the previous, she clinched her fist and ran towards one of the three guys who was pulling the male's golden hair in his hand.

"This kid has been annoying, let's get this over wi--" he was cut off by a bunch, most probably much stronger than his own, meeting his face. Annie felt something broke upon her fist, well, who cares? Look at him, he fell onto the ground as well. Weakling.

"What--?!" one of them choke

"Yeah, you are right." Annie sighed as she gestured herself in front of the victim, both of her fists in front of her face "Let's get this over with."

"You basta--"

Annie shot them a glare and stepped forward, making the three of them flinch and step backward. She stood their patiently.

"You will regret this!" The first to runaway was the one who ate Annie's fist, the other two slowly started retreating and ran after their buddy, leaving Annie alone with the other male.

Annie sighed and turned to the other male, she brought her foot to the male's arm "Hey." she called out, and his arm twitched at the contact, as if he was getting ready to receive another hit.

Annie was slightly annoyed, she sat on her knees "Hey, they left. Are you alive?" The male slowly put his arms which were protecting his face down on his laps, he looked around and sighed a deep sigh in relief, before he started coughing, really hard, he had his palm on his mouth as he coughed. It made Annie blink, maybe in surprise, she leaned forward and patted his back to help him.

"What's your name?" The male asked between his coughs. Annie frowned at the question, deciding to get away from the question with another.

"You don't know me?" She asked, raising her eyebrow. The male shook his head.

"My apologies.." his coughs faded away a little but he choked, and his cough resumed "I..I'm not really from this kingdom, so it's not like I know anyone from here."

"Tell me yours, first."

"Armin. Armin Arlert, from kingdom Maria."

"An outsider, huh?"

Armin chuckled weakly, closing his eyes "I get that a lot." he rested the back of his head to the wall behind him, his cough stopped and he slowly removed his hand off his mouth. Annie felt her eyes widened at how his palm looked like, quickly holding his wrist, bringing his hand closer to her, hoping her eyes tricked her.

"Is that blood? Did they bunch your hand palm?! Are you hu--" She was cut off when Armin pulled away his hand and closed it into a fist, whipping his own lips.

"Your name?"

"...Annie."

"That's a nice name."

"..Thanks, I guess."

"I bit my tongue as they hit me, it's nothing serious."

Annie raised an eyebrow "That much blood?"

Armin smiled and shrugged. They took a moment to stare at each other, as if they were trying to register their appearances in one another's minds. Annie now can have a better look at his eyes, so he has blue eyes, huh? Annie thought.

The stare was broke as she heard footsteps coming towards them, she heard the victim's name getting called.

"Armin! Are you alright?!" called a brunet, who was followed by a black-haired girl.

"Eren, I'm goo--" "So, it was you?!" Eren interrupted Armin as he stood in front of Annie, Mikasa went over to Armin to help him set up, while Annie kept her icy-glare at Eren.

"Eren no, wait!" Armin grabbed Eren's leg, Eren almost lost balance but his attention was caught by Armin "She is the one who saved me!"

Eren looked from Armin to Annie, then to Armin again, and then gave Annie another look before freeing his leg from Armin's grab, he then went over to Armin to help him get up again

"Man, what up with your lips again? Did your bite your tongue?"

Armin chuckled "Ahh, yeah..."

So, it is really... Thought Annie, she looked at Armin to find him looking at her, making her a bit, surprised...

Thump..

"Sorry about Eren, Annie.."

Annie looked away "No...It's fine." She stood up and Armin's friends began helping him to get up as well, as soon as he got up, he began coughing again, with his hand on his mouth again, she could swear she saw blood again through it, she narrowed her eyes. Then her attention was caught by his brunet friend.

"Man, his tongue bite is sure wild."

"Eren, let's get him back to our shelter, he is starting to tremble." his black-haired friend suggested.

"You are right." Eren then looked at Annie, he nodded his head "Thank you for that."

Annie nodded back without any other reply.

They really didn't know me..

"Annie!"

Thump..

Annie looked at Armin, who smiled at her. He really looks worn out. He can barely stand on his feet.

"Thank you for today, really."

Annie nodded, and began taking her steps back to the palace. It's almost time to go back....

"Will I--"

Thump, Annie stopped. Almost involuntary.

"--see you again?"

A moment of silence passed. It seemed long, although only few seconds passed, "Who knows." she replied quietly before beginning to walk towards her home again. Quickly.

 

She walked with her full speed back to the palace. He doesn't know me. Annie began to speed up even more. I don't know him. Her heart began to speed up as well. Yet, I helped him. Was that because she was tired already? He said my name was nice. She reached the palace, running quickly through the halls of the palace to her room, ignoring the calls of her friends, or the maids welcome to her, or the scolding of the others telling her she was late. Entering her room, closing the door behind her. She cupped her own cheeks and happened to pass by her mirror. She was full of dust and dirt all over her clothes and face, her hair was more messed, everything else was in the same place. Except that he lips weren't in the usual frown. They formed a curved line, forming what they call, a smile. Am I excited?

"Will I..see you again?"

His voice rang in her mind. Someone asked if they will meet me again.

For the first time. It has never been like that. It was the first time she saved someone. It was the first time someone didn't know her. It was the first time someone compliments her without knowing who she was. It was the first time someone wanted to see her again. It was the first time her heart thumps like that. That was her first time smiling like that, as far as she could remember. It is the first time she was excited for tomorrow. It was the first time she could experience a new mixture of feelings. Maybe it was the first time she will make new friends.

Maybe this time, it was real.