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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.

 

Chapter Text

It has been two weeks since the incident. After that, the princess -even though she didn't look like one- didn't bother to take one step outside the palace, not even once. Which means that the only time they met one another was that crime scene. The lemon-colored hair princess tried to sway this memory out of her mind. Yes, she tried. But no one said she was able to erase that memory.

After all, it has never been like that.

Her routine remained the same those fourteen days. Getting up, taking a shower or something, fragrance embracing her after it, then she would be having a fancy breakfast on a long table, long empty table. Having a fancy breakfast, all alone. Maybe this will be followed by a two or three-hour martial arts training with the king.

It has always been like that.

The days were always dull. Almost black and white. Maids, servants or even knights wore no expressions, if they happened to have ones, it will probably be hidden behind a mask or a helmet. If it was a smile from a maid or another it would be faked.

After that she would be followed by her two previously childhood friends, currently bodyguards. They would be mostly talking about stuff she didn't care about, this talk can be about the rest of their missions for the day, or an outgoing the planned for, or maybe ladies, or even a play the watched..

She was walking in front of Reiner and Bertolt who were recapping the scenes of the play they watched the day before, she could hear Reiner on her left talking enthusiastically about the play and how great the stage actors and actresses were, she heard no response from her right but humming, probably Bertolt agreed with Reiner with a nod before each hum.

Reiner gestured and had a hand laying on his chest, while the other swung in the air, he closed both of his eyes and finally talked.

"Will I see you again~?"

Annie blinked and stopped as she heard Reiner say those words in the most thin tone he could get out of his vocal cords, causing Reiner to walk into her, but he quickly retreaded as soon as he touched her back, a bit startled and confused at the same time.

"What?" murmured Annie.

"What?!" repeated Reiner.

Annie took a step forward before turning around to face Reiner, "Will I--see you again?" this question, this voice, they rang in the back of her mind. That's it. That's really it. She thought. It's about time..

She noticed both their childhood friends give her a puzzled look. A second or two of silence passed.

"Hey."

Bertolt flinched at Annie's voice, but Reiner still had the same expressions on his face.

"Just what's up?!" asked Reiner once again.

"Do you remember, four years ago, when kingdom Maria fell?"

Reiner raised an eyebrow and placed both of his hands on his own hips "Yeah, what's with that?"

"Great." Annie nodded "Where's their shelter?"

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me. The shelter of those outsiders, where is it?"

Reiner's lips curled up at the question, he looked at the taller almond-skinned male next to him, who also looked back at him in confusion, as if they were talking to one another through their eyes. Uh, should we tell her? Well, we will get in trouble if the king knew. We should not. We totally should no--

"Hey!!" Annie said once more, slamming her foot on the wall, making both her childhood friends jump in surprise.

"It's in the western forest, the nearest spot to the wall surrounding our kingdom!" Bertolt tongue slipped, Reiner hissed at him and nudged his side "Bertolt!", Annie smirked.

"You are a big help." She said before marching forward, Reiner crossed his eyebrows at his buddy before following her quickly, their third party soon followed.

"Hey, wait up, why do you even want to know?"

Annie stopped again and glared at Reiner, he stepped back.

"What are you to ask me questions? It's obviously non of your business."

"But as your guard I must help if you needed something!"

"Help? If I needed something?" Annie slowly repeated his words, she quickly pushed her hand to Reiner's collar and closed it into a fist, and pushed him to the wall, Bertolt almost gasped "Here is how you are going to help me. Don't. Ever. Tell. Dad I asked about it."

Reiner choked, but made no effort to struggle, the princess spoke again "Are we clear?", Reiner nodded and Annie released her grab, making him fall to the floor, Bertolt ran to him. Annie soon left, telling them she was going for a walk.

Western forest. Nearest spot to the walls. Annie kept reminding herself. It will take no time if I took my steed for it. She thought, but then brought her thumb nail to her teeth, wait, won't that capture a lot of attention?

"My lady, wait!"

Annie heard a familiar voice approaching, she looked at the direction of the voice to find Bertolt. He threw a long piece of cloth at her before wrapping another around himself, hiding his head to abdomen with it.

"A cape?" Annie asked, she looked at it, then back at Bertolt who took his horse and walked to Annie, she waited for any explanation patiently.

"Wear it so that no one would notice you during our ride." He said quietly, waiting for Annie to ride on his horse, he offered his hand to help her.

"Our..?" Annie asked again, Bertolt cleared his throat.

"W-well, it's because I know the way to the shelter. It will be better if I took you there."

He's right. Annie thought..it will save the time of getting lost once or twice, and by that, she can memorize the way there..just in case she decided to pay the shelter another visit. She decided it was the best choice now, then she can threaten him or something to stop accompanying her. 

With that, she took his hand and got on the back of his horse, he rode in front of her and started their little trip to the western forest. Their trip went unexpectedly smoothly, it was because Bertolt chose the roads that had no people. Annie kept capturing the surroundings with her eyes, hoping her brain won't betray her next time.

Next time.

The ride took almost thirty-one minutes. With every step, the palace looked smaller, and the forest seemed closer. She started to hear voices of people, probably coming from the shelter. Bertolt stopped his horse, and Annie jumped off it, she took the cape off her head. Taking note how far the shelter is, she convinced herself that nobody will know who she is.

"What's your name?" she remembered.

"Your name?"

Annie took a deep sigh and looked at the shelter, it wasn't the way she imagined. It was just a bunch of tents. It was freezing cold, well of course, it's the western forest after all. She looked to the left side, finding some kids playing some games. Their clothes were full of dirt and somehow torn. She looked at the other side to see ill old people or other slim ones. She wondered if they ever receive supply. She remembered that Bertolt was still there, he was getting ready to get off his horse but he was stopped.

"Wait. You..go back to the palace." Annie whispered.

"But--"

"Go back!" She hissed.

Bertolt sighed "Alright. I will come back later to pick you up, in this place." he crossed an X with his foot, Annie nodded, well she had no other choice after all, she cannot send him back to the palace without the horse either. It might take him forever.

Without any other talk, Annie walked into the shelter to the kids who were playing, she knelt and asked them

"Hey, do you know by any mean where Armin Arlert is?"

Armin Arlert. Bertolt noted, before getting on his horse and riding back to the palace.

"Armin.." one of the kids repeated.

"Does she mean brother Armin?" asked the other, whispering, shrugged the others.

Annie decided to just go with the flow and nodded. One of the kids pointed toward the wall "He might be there, that's where I saw him a while ago." nodding again, she thanked the kids and went to where they pointed. Hoping it was no prank.

Western forest. Shelter Maria:

On her way, she made sure with every step that those people were really treated as an outsiders. They were nearly abandoned, it seems that they are eating less and less each day that passes, their ill are all on their way to death sooner or later. People sleeping on the ground, shivering and trembling, coughing and sneezing, and it seems like they lost hope in caring about life or death.

After all, they have faced death once, maybe some of them faced it more than once. It seems like others wished they died four years ago.

She spotted a tall guy with spiky milky-chocolate hair color, and an undercut, he -surprisingly- seemed a lot cleaner than the others in here, as if he was out of place. Not bothering with the details, she approached him, deciding it won't harm if she made sure of Armin's place.

"Um." Annie began, catching the male's attention.

He turned to look at her, she now has a better look at him. He clearly wasn't the one other guy with him. This one had longer face, his eyes had matching color with his hair, his eyes widened as he looks at her, both in surprise and confusion, he leaned closer and narrowed them now.

"Aren't you...?"

Annie blinked, Oh crap she thought at the back of her mind, but decided to shot him the question anyway

"Armin Arlert."

"Huh? Armin?"

"Where is he?"

The male was about to answer when both of them heard a familiar voice "Hey, Jean."

Jean? Annie repeated in her mind, before looking at the voice owner. Oh.

"Oh, Eren, good timing. Armin has a visitor."

"A visitor?" Eren inquired, he walked to Jean "He said he wasn't feeling well and went ho--" Eren looked at Armin's familiar visitor.

"And where's that home?"

"Hi."

"Which way?"

Eren clicked his tongue "I'm trying to be friendly! It's this way." Eren pointed behind him, and Annie just gave him a nod and headed to where he pointed, the green eyed-male was about to follow till he was stopped by his taller friend.

"What do you want, horse face?!" Eren asked.

"Shut up! Who is she?"

"Huh?" Eren broke free from Jean's grab "I don't know? But I remember Armin mentioning her name was..Annie?"

"Annie?!"

The lemon colored hair princess stopped as she looked around her for Armin, she soon heard a familiar voice.

His voice.

He was coughing, again, in some corner, resting his back to a tree, with both his hands over his mouth. He looked up to see who was coming after hearing some footsteps approaching, fearing that maybe it's his grandpa. He looked overly tired and weak. He had a book on his lap, it showed some drops of blood on it.

Annie glanced down at him, with her usual -expressionless- face. He put his hands down to give her a smile. An exhausted one.

Squeeze.

"So...we met again."

"Did you bite your tongue again? I'm impressed you can still talk." She sat beside him.

"Um..I fell down, that's why." he said after a second or two.

"Since when did that start?"

"..What?"

"The tongue bite and all."

"A month? Two? I stopped counting the days. How did you know my place?"

"Well, you are from Kingdom Maria, that's the only place I can find you. I also asked one of your..friends."

"Friends?" Armin repeated, wiping his lips and rolling his eyes up to remember who was it "Jean?" he concluded.

"Yeah, I think that who he was."

"He is a citizen from Kingdom Rose, just like you!"

Annie blinked and looked at Armin, who was giving her another smile, as always.

Thump.

Citizen..from Rose?!

"It's his turn to come today, since it's Monday. He works at the same place as Eren as a part-timer. He is helpful! He gives us leftover food, medicine, and clothes when we ne--are you listening?"

Annie decided it was the best not to get worried about that now, he still has said nothing about it. No wonder he thought she looked familiar. So, she nodded her head.

"You read books?" Annie asked.

Armin nodded and held his book up "Yes, I read books and then I would gather the children every once a while and tell them about it!" He said cheerfully

So that's why they called him 'brother', huh? Annie thought.

"Armin." called out another familiar voice, both of them looked at its owner, it was his black-haired friend this time.

"Mika--" "Armin, put that on. Your grandpa said it was time to come home, since you cough a lot. It's getting cold."

Armin looked at Annie then at Mikasa, then back at Annie, as if he wanted to stay longer, or waiting for Annie's permission.

"It's okay, it's almost time for me to go back to the pal--home." she stood up, and gave Armin a last glance, before both parted to their ways.

On her way out of the forest, she met both Eren and Jean again, and surprisingly, Eren started talking politely...she glanced over at Jean, then back at Eren who was still talking politely, He must have told him..she thought, but played as if she didn't notice. They agreed it was also a better idea to meet up at Jean's place sometime, since they go their almost everyday for their part-time and all. Well, it was a better idea after all, now it will be easier to shrug Bertolt off.

Soon, both her and Jean were alone, Jean took his horse and walked to Annie.

"I don't understand," he began "what would make someone like you come here, of all places?"

Annie stared at the blank, it was actually a very good question, she wasn't sure if she new the answer of it. She brought the cape up to her head, sighing. She could see small clouds forming from her breath. It was indeed cold.

"Can you not go spread the news all around? One is enough."

He whistled, so she noticed he concluded. "One is enough, the rest is up to you. But, other people will know, as long as we are in Rose." he reminded her.

She gave no answer.

"Well, My lady, come over whenever you want, I guess." was the last thing she heard from Jean.

This visit was a short one, but it made her understand some stuff..

Actually, to answer his first question. It was probably because the life in palace kept becoming more boring everyday. As she imagined, black and white. Even though she was surrounded by maids and servants to serve her, even though she lived in high all mighty towers, even though she can have all what she wishes for, all what she wished for except things that cannot be bought with money or wealth. In here, even though they all looked as if they were suffering, their lives were full of feelings, full of colors, they were all friends that shared each other their worst and best.

She thought that maybe, just maybe, if she visited them once..twice..or thrice...she can be a part of this colorful life.

Thus, a new part was added to her routine.