Chapter 1: A Misunderstood Soul
Rays of the early morning sun peered down from the heavens, decorating the clandestine cove in dappled light. The forests within Wall Maria were flourishing at the arrival of spring. Flowers bloomed, seedlings sprouted, and new life was birthed beneath the protective branches of the giant trees of the forest.
The secret cove lay within the deepest region of the wood, hidden by thick foliage and seemingly untouched by man. Surrounded by towering rocks and large overhanging branches, the cove was a safe haven – one of the only ones in the beautiful but cruel world. Forget-me-not's grew abundantly among the earth and between the rock crevices, reflecting in a crystal pond that revealed all life beneath the surface. Residents of the forest such as rabbits, squirrels, and deer frolicked among the fresh morning dew.
At the rear of the cove grew one of the great trees that pierced the sky. In its hollowed out trunk, a massive figure lay nestled in a bed of dried leaves, the creature's deep but gentle snores filling the cove with a strange but soothing atmosphere. Feeling warm light resting on his leathery skin, he stirred. He rolled over lazily and stretched his body like a sleepy cat before giving in to his body's needs and the sun's demanding arrival. Slowly, the creature sat up fully, swinging his limbs over the edge of the bark nonchalantly as he took his time to fully wake from his deep slumber. The monster released a yawn, the sound rumbling deep in his chest and throughout the small cove before he unshielded his piercing and bright green eyes that glistened like emeralds. The creature took another stretch; reaching upwards before letting out a sigh in content, steam wavering from his lip-less jaws before running his large fingers through his hair – fixing a case of "bedhead" before relaxing. It looked to be another pleasant day.
A gentle sound captured the creature's attention. Looking down, he discovered the four-legged animals, things known as deer he recalled, gathered around his lake in a small group. A soft spot swelled from within his chest and his ears pricked forward in anticipation at his realization. There, within the small group of adults, a newly born fawn struggled to get it's footing. It wasn't but a few minutes old, still wet with fluids. The corners of the creature's mouth pulled up slightly as he attempted to smile. Giving into his avid curiosity, he slowly rose from his resting place to his full height of fifteen meters, the ground shifting before squatting next to the minuscule four legged animals. The adults paid him no heed as they were used to his presence, the cove being their home and he its guardian. The fawn however, was frozen in trepidation. He took notice of this and paused in his approach before letting out a rumbling purr in reassurance. Though he was a monster to all that didn't know him, he wanted to win the little one over and show that he meant no harm. In an attempt to appear as docile as he could possibly be, the vast creature lowered his head with his eyes half lidded, letting his shoulder length hair drape over his face as his ears drooped a bit. He tilted his head like a kicked puppy as he carefully outstretched his arm, watching the young animal flinch at his clawed finger that now hung before its nose. The monster sat in silence, waiting patiently before the fawn warily took a step forward and brushed its nose against his fingertip. He let out a low but soft rumble in greeting as the small deer finished and wobbled over to its mother to nurse.
The great being let out another wave of steam in content; it warmed him further that these creatures tolerated him. His reflection in the small pond constantly reminded him as to why that was. He was a titan, the most powerful and bloodthirsty monsters known to exist – the reason for the walls and the fear that ran throughout the land. They were towering, humanoid creatures with strength that seemed to know no bounds and had a taste for killing and engulfing humans. Only the fifty-meter stonewalls kept the titans at bay from devouring the lives within them. However, the titan in the cove was a mystery, even to himself. He had not a clue as to how he ended up on the wrong side of the walls or why his kind was supposed to consume the humans. The titan knew he was different. He felt no need to eat anything or anyone and he was more aware of the demanding world around him. In fact, as humans go, the titan was weary of them and usually avoided crossing paths – knowing that it wasn't the best thing to expose himself with his kind's reputation. On the other hand, if he ever smelt the sent of man, the titan usually found himself watching from a safe distance for he found them interesting. Humans looked so much like him, but they behaved in a completely different manner. The titan let out a heavy breath of hot steam as he rose to his full height again and made his way towards the exit of the cove. The soft spot swelled within his chest again, thinking of the only two humans that never saw him as a monster or ran away – perhaps they would finally pay him a much-needed visit.
The titan then began to scale up the twenty-five meter rock face of his cove, looking back once to make sure that all was still peaceful and just before proceeding. Routinely, he stuck his head from the vine-shaded entrance and sniffed the air, his ears flickering to distinguish any sound that came his way. Positive that no soul was around, he removed himself fully from his shelter and made his way into the unforgiving world.
He walked through the wood; his heavy footsteps making the nearby leaves tremble in his wake. The titan knew this forest just as well as he knew his own backside for he spent the majority of his days wandering – looking for anything that would pike his interest. Most days, he would only come across the usual animal or pond, but on other days he would stumble upon humans that were either hunting or taking the road less traveled. Sometimes he would gather any object that they left behind to take it back to his cove and observe it. Today however, it appeared that it was going to be like any other day.
Little did he know how wrong he was.
The titan's ears flickered as he picked up the sound of water lapping against rock. A small river then peeked through the trees, presenting itself to him with a radiant sheen from the sunlight. The creature let out a steamy sigh and gradually lowered himself to his calves with his massive muscles rippling beneath his hide. The titan took his time to relax, carefully shifting himself to sit cross-legged against the trunk of one of the large trees, trying his best to not upset the surrounding vegetation. He then rested his hands over his knees gracefully as he peered at the river's surface with likeness. This river was one of his most beloved things to view. It was teeming with life from the small swimming things with no legs to the rather bulky furry animals that moved on all fours. However, his favorite thing about the river was the way the sunlight reflected from its constantly morphing surface. It glittered like diamonds and he found it to be one of the most beautiful things his eyes had ever beheld.
For several long hours he remained by the flowing water and soaked in all his surroundings. The titan had since graduated from relaxing to playing in the river bank, swirling his hands and fingers around in the shallow water in attempts to catch the fish – grunting in annoyance at every failure. Aggravated, he prepared to remove himself away from the river when a sliver of red caught his eye. His head jerked abruptly in the direction where he had spotted the wisp of red. There, up in a tree across from the river, a red piece of cloth revealed itself from the wind of an approaching rain. For a moment, the titan watched it in incredulity before he rose to his large feet and motioned toward the red. Before the object was blown from the branches of the tree, the creature's massive arm reached upward and plucked the cloth from the tangle of twigs. The titan then brought the object close to his face in curiosity. His large fingers held the red thing tightly but delicately; careful not to rip it for with his strength he could so easily do so. The titan's ears then pricked forward as he recognized what the object was. The humans called them a scarf and would often wear them to keep warm. Though it was the beginning of spring, the air still possessed a slight chill – the scarf was still fairly clean and wasn't exposed to the unforgiving elements, so it couldn't have been in the tree for long. The titan ran his thumb over the weaving of the scarf in awe, admiring the intricate wool. This was his favorite thing he had found so far.
His mind briefly thought back to his two humans. He remembered the first time he met the lady with amber eyes and how she was so terrified before she was able to get to know him. The titan was fond of her soft voice and how she spoke lovingly to him, the words always kind no matter what the situation. The titan missed her mate too, the man with what he called "glasses" over his eyes. He would often if not always accompany the lady and proceed in teaching him about human things. The gargantuan being sighed, releasing a jet of steam from his teeth with worry as he clenched the scarf. He hadn't seen his two humans in a while. They used to come to his cove weekly, but then over the seasons their visits thinned to once a month and now once every few months. The titan couldn't decide if the lump that grew in his throat at the thought of this was aggravation or sadness.
But he was for certain that he was lonely.
Before he could sulk further into his depressing thoughts, a scent had found its way to his nose. The hairs on his neck stood up and his eyes widened. Alarmed, he took his attention away from the scarf and lifted himself upright to face the scent's source. The titan sniffed again, making sure his hypothesis was correct. It was unmistakably blood. Human blood. And it was fresh. The titan let out a whine in concern, knowing the sweet smell of human blood in his forest wasn't a good thing. He had only smelt it once before. At the time, the air was radiating with unease – just as it was currently. Something, something somewhere wasn't right.
The titan hesitated, staring at his feet as he pondered about the current situation. His senses were practically screaming at him that something was amiss and someone was suffering. He shook his head, trying to dismiss the fact but to no avail. Maybe everything would be fine. Perhaps the uniformed men would come and take care of it. Then again, this region of Wall Maria was very rural; help would most likely come too late. The titan stared off into the direction of the scent's source, a stressed whimper escaping him. Worry and curiosity forced him to make his decision. The titan took the scarf and wrapped it tightly around his left pinky, tucking it to insure that it wouldn't be lost, before taking a step forward.
The foul stench of death grew stronger as the creature walked quickly through the wood, his mind in a haze of thoughts. He moved as if he was in a trance, only focusing on his primary goal of reaching his destination. With the smell of liquid crimson in the air, most of the forest's residents had retreated into the ground and foliage, making the landscape ghastly quiet. The titan's nostrils flared wildly as the stench hit him full blast, alerting him that he was very close now. The monster slowed his pace as he neared the edge of his forest, ducking a bit beneath the shorter trees in caution that the uniformed men could have arrived as well. He had always been told to avoid these men by his humans for they would jump at the chance to turn him into a steaming pile of evaporating flesh. The titan swallowed nervously, hoping that his inquisitiveness hadn't put him into danger.
He paused at the tree line, making sure that he was still hidden before delicately pulling away a branch that obscured his view. Before him was a small human dwelling made of wood and surrounded by a well kempt garden. The titan tilted his head in confusion. Everything looked to be rather normal, even in the dying light things seemed, as they should be. But why could he smell blood so strongly? It wasn't his imagination. His sense of smell was never wrong. The titan held his breath as he listened in, his ears facing forward and straining to pick up the slightest sound. Nothing. Not a man or animal stirred. Maybe he was wrong after all.
The titan hesitated yet again, thinking that he should just make his way back to his cove. However, something just wasn't setting with him right. His green eyes focused on the cottage in doubt. Taking a risk for a hunch, the titan looked around the property and the landscape. Seeing no humans of any sort approaching, he slowly emerged out of the trees, something that he had not done in years. As carefully as he could, the titan squatted down and hunched over to peer at the human home closer. His thundering heart skipped a beat as he noticed that that the door was wide open – and smeared in blood. The titan let out a grunt in surprise with his glowing green eyes wide and big as wagon wheels. He then threw his attention to the interior of the cottage, his heart skipping a beat.
Lying in their own pool of blood were two humans. Not his humans, but a man and a woman nonetheless. The man was leaning awkwardly against a wall, bleeding from a wound on his abdomen while the woman lay on the floor with her head nearly decapitated. They had been dead for hours.
The titan quickly shook his head to snap him out of his shocked state. He hurriedly checked his surroundings to find no one before returning to the deceased couple. A moan of sorrow rumbled from his chest and his ears drooped in sadness. He was too late. A part of him pictured steam rising from their wounds as they healed, but he quickly reminded himself that these poor souls were only human and didn't repair themselves like titans. The two were an unhealthy pale, nothing but cold and dead meat. As much as he wanted to turn away and leave, he couldn't. He then spotted something suspicious.
Though they lacked a heartbeat and were defiantly dead, their eyes remained open, their faces fixed in a look of surprise. The titan had seen this trait with prey that fell victim to predators and hunters – meaning that the humans were ambushed. They had no idea what happened until it occurred. The creature frowned a bit and scanned the carcasses. His first thought was that the grey, four-legged growling creatures that ran in groups had done such carnage. However, the titan realized that the possibility of the animals being the culprits could not be true. The humans' wounds were clean cuts and not just savagely ripped flesh. An animal could not have done this. The titan's eyes scanned the inside of the small cottage, seeking anything that would give him answers. His eyes then caught sight of a dull shimmer. Just a few feet from the female was a long object with a bloody blade fixed to its end. The titan's body shivered. He had seen humans use this tool in his forest, calling it an axe, to cut the smaller trees down. Man used this tool, and it was men that killed their own kind savagely with it.
The titan backed away from the scene and brought himself to his knees. Why? Why would humans kill their own kind? It made sense for a human to kill an animal or even a monstrous titan, but why their own kin? These humans weren't killed like game; their bodies were just left there to rot. The act was simply done out of hatred and greed. A distressed moan from the titan vibrated across the rooftop of the small cottage as he prepared to leave – knowing he could do nothing more. However, he was stopped again by another set of scents. For a moment he thought of the uniformed men until he realized that among the scents were blood and one that was similar to the couple's. The other four odors were distinctively different as well. The titan strained his neck and sniffed aggressively, discovering that the scents headed into the deep region of the forest. He blinked in question. Could the humans that had done this taken something from the couple? Eager to know, the titan rose to his feet and ventured back into the trees and brambles. He had to hurry. Rain was closing in with the thunder announcing a coming storm.
Soon rain was falling down in a fury and thunder echoed among the heavens. The sun had since set as well and the titan's energy was fading – but he was stubborn and willful. Over time he had learned how to push his body's energy to the limits, challenging the moon and darkness. He used to be only able to remain awake after the sun left the sky for three hours. Now with much dedication, he could stay up five hours and nearly six on a rare good night. Something deep within him, a sort of sense, told him he would be put to the test. He grunted in frustration, the rain was washing away the humans' scents and in no time there would be nothing left to follow.
The titan weaved within the trees as silently as he possibly could, remaining parallel to an old weedy path that was scarcely used anymore. For what seemed like hours, he found nothing of value. Just when he was about to hang up his act and quit his mission for the final time, he heard an unmistakable sound.
Quickly, the fifty-foot monster shielded himself behind one of the massive trees. For a moment, he listened intently to human tongue and footfalls until a small group of three men came from around the bend. Two of them were rather tall, one lanky and the other averagely built. The third that led the group was a stout and chunky human that growled and muttered words at the other two every time someone opened their mouth. He could feel his stomach knot up as their stench met his nose full blast. The titan held his breath and listened in as best as he could.
"Of all the days it had to storm, it has to be this one." The plump man growled; his voice laced with venom and cruelty. "These brats better put the boss in a damn good mood and fetch a pretty penny for all this shit we've had to go through." He continued through his teeth as he struggled in pulling his cloak over his head in a sad attempt to keep dry. "He's already going to be pissed off that we killed the mother – the whole reason for this fucking journey." The man concluded as his eyes narrowed at the man behind him whose face swirled in disgust.
"It wasn't my fault! The bitch put up a fight!" He retorted. "At least we're not empty handed. One of em' has the mother's blood. The other one isn't much to look at, but could still fetch a small price."
The titan paid no attention to their words for he couldn't understand what they fully meant anyway. On the contrary, his gaze was locked to a large canvas sack that the second man was carrying over his shoulder. It was defiantly where the scent of blood was radiating, but what was in it? Before he could think of the possibilities, the bag moved! The titan's eyes widened as the bag rippled and a series of muffled whines came from within. The man holding the bag strained, desperate to keep his grip on the cloth.
"Would you cut the crap?" The human bringing up the rear chided. "They're not that damn heavy!"
"It's not that! They… just won't quit… squirming!" He grunted roughly in reply, making the man in the lead even more heated.
"Shut the hell up. Look, we're still far from Wall Rose and we need to reach it before morning in order to avoid getting caught. This storm is already making things bad enough so best shut your mouths and hurry up!"
"Heh, we're most likely going to be paid very little or not at all for this." The rear human uttered beneath his breath after a long pause, his teeth clacking slightly from the cold. "The mom is dead, we're soaked right down to the bone, and probably going to get pneumonia – hell I don't think it could get much worse."
"I said shut up."
As the men ignored their leader's commands and continued with their squabbles, the titan kept his eyes glued to the moving bag. What was in there that smelled like the dead humans at the cottage and moved about like stressed prey to be slaughtered? Yes, it was alive but what was it? Was it an animal? Another human? Just before he could ponder further, the thing inside the bag hit the carrier with a blunt blow on the small of the man's back. The titan watched as he yelped in agony and dropped the sack to the muddy and wet path. As the injured human struggled to recover, the bag moved violently and became untied at the top. The monster's eyes widened at what the cloth had stubbornly revealed.
Two smaller humans… human young. Yes, they were children – their soft round faces showing youth. One human was a little boy with bright blond hair and blue eyes while the other was a little girl. Her hair was black as the night sky and her eyes a dull grey. The titan's chest constricted in both guilt and anger. The two children had clearly been through hell. Their frail bodies were bruised and battered and their faces reflected nothing but fear and pain. To make matters worse their limbs and waists were bound together – the two connected at the waist. Cloth was wrapped around their mouths, cutting deep into the corners of their lips. In comparison, the boy looked to be in a better state with only minor cuts and a few unhealthy bluish splotches upon his skin. The little girl however, was in a much more damaging condition. Blood from both her and her deceased parents stained her thin nightgown and the side of her head was swollen slightly from a brutal hit. Among the bruises and violent shivering, the thing that alarmed the titan the most was her expression. The girl's face was deathly still, almost resembling that of a corpse – petrified with defeat. If it weren't for her breath, he would have assumed that she had met the same fate as her parents. At the very sight of the cruelty that had been cast upon the two, the titan's blood boiled with rage. These men were not human. They were animals.
The boy and girl seized the chance and struggled to get themselves upright, the two having great difficulty in doing do. Bound together, they clumsily limped and stumbled unknowingly in the titan's direction, catching the rear man's attention away from his fallen ally. The man's greedy hand yanked the two children back to the muddy earth and pulled a knife. Frightened eyes stared at the blade and the man's smirk, wincing as he laughed heartlessly.
"You two best be getting your little asses back in that bag." The man sneered as he pressed the blade against the girl's cheek, the cold steel making her body limp and useless. "Your buyers are waiting." He concluded, sliding the blade across the girl's bruised flesh. Water shed from her eyes and a pained cry escaped from her gag. Blood ran down her face like molted metal and mixed with the falling rain.
A long dormant emotion and purpose erupted from the pit of the titan at the sight. Fury and an overwhelming need to protect – something that he had only felt once before in his lifetime. His body fumed, streams of steam rose from his teeth, nose, and the pores on his back. These men weren't animals. They were monsters. No! They were scum! But if they wanted a monster, he would give them one.
The titan announced his presence with a deep, guttural growl - the terrifying sound causing a hushed silence to fall over the area. Everything became still.
"The hell was that?" The stout man began after several seconds, looking around their surroundings in question. The two accomplices shook in their boots.
"That's way to big to be a bear." One man hushed beneath his breath. "Could it really be a…"
The man didn't finish his sentence, interrupted by the thunder of footsteps that shook the damp earth. The leaves rustled and the trees quaked as the fifteen-meter titan emerged fully from the forest, carefully stepping right over the young humans. The men froze in their place, their eyes glued to the towering figure in pure horror. The titan's menacing and glowing green eyes burned in nothing but hatred and wrath. He then threw his head back and released an earth-shattering roar that made the thunder above seem tame and shook the very earth that they stood upon.
"It's a titan!"
"How the hell is it behind the walls! We have to run!"
"Not without those brats!" The leader ordered, sending the group of kidnappers into an argument – as if they had forgotten about the monster.
The titan stared down in skepticism. Why weren't they running? He watched as they continued to squabble. It sickened him that despite death could be imminent; they were still willing to retrieve their prize from bloodshed. The titan hunched over and unhinged his jaw, opening his mouth to its furthest extent as he let out a shrill shriek of displeasure – giving them a chance to rethink things.
Two of the men took the threat and promptly spun on their heels to leave. However, the plumper man grabbed their collars before they could take a single step. "You two are not going anywhere! Titan or not, our job is to retrieve those fuckers no matter what!"
The titan felt his body seething, a primal instinct overpowering him at the use of the word 'fucker'. It was a very cruel human word that cut him deep for personal reasons. Lightning struck, illuminating the sky in a blinding light – making the titan snap. His irises became predatory slits as he sprung forward with his fist aimed at the men. The plump man and the 'bag man' quickly jumped from the fist's wake. The man that had brought up the rear of the party however, wasn't quick enough. Without a second to spare, the man's body caved beneath the creature's great hand. A sickening crack of bones filled the air and blood decorated the radius of the area. Despite the thunder and the falling rain, it grew eerily quiet except for the gasps of fear.
The luminous green eyes of the titan grew in shock and his body trembled a bit as he lifted his hand in disbelief. The man could not even be recognized as a human. He was nothing but a cesspool of a soupy mix of flesh, bone, and blood smeared all over the path. The titan watched as the man's intestines and what could be other organs slowly slide across his fist and into the bloody mess. His breath hitched in his chest at what had just transpired. He had never killed another human before, breaking a vow that he had made long ago. He blinked as he continued to stare at the carnage. Strangely, though it was horrifying, he felt no remorse from his act. The titan's eyes slowly turned to the other men. Of course, real men knew right from wrong. These men were only vessels of voracity. They were filth. After briefly glancing back to check if the two children were still there, the titan released another formidable roar and lunged forward.
The two men ran in opposite directions with the titan going after his nearest victim. The human ran as fast as his legs could possibly carry him, his mind regretting every foul decision he ever made. Unfortunately, the man's boots caught themselves and he fell to the ground in a heap. He barely had the time to turn to look at his pursuer before the titan's foot came crashing down upon his frail body. Crimson juices bubbled beneath his toes before the titan turned in search of his last foe, the short plump man that was the leader of the group. His green eyes narrowed as he released a snarl at the sight of the man heading towards the two children. After all that had occurred, he was still determined to see his vile mission through.
Before the man could reach his prize, the titan crouched and slammed his hand between the two small humans and the man. His ears pressed against his skull and his eyes radiated with rage, glaring at the stout man so intently that it was as if the titan was trying to tear apart the man's soul piece by piece. The titan let out a booming growl, daring the man to make a move. For what seemed like minutes, the two continued to stare until the man uttered profanity beneath his breath and ran in the opposite direction, knowing his decision was completely futile. With a powerful swing, the titan's palm flattened the cruel man into nothing but a red smear. Scum upon the earth.
Thunder cracked overhead, but the scene was now still. The titan heaved a breath of steam in relief, taking a moment for his furious mind to calm and his body to cool. He lifted his hand and wiped his palm upon the grass. Hearing the two children whimper behind him, he slowly turned to look upon them. The girl and boy had somehow pressed themselves against the trunk of one of the large trees as if they were trying merge like a dryad to disappear. A lump grew in the titan's throat at the sight of the frightened young humans that were much more scared than ever - knowing they were alone with the beast. He swallowed nervously. Clearly he had not thought his plan of rescue through.
Suddenly, the two attempted to get back to their feet, their exhausted and nearly frozen bodies giving out beneath them. They shivered violently from the cold rain, if they remained, they would not last. The titan continued to plot his next move. He had already come this far and he couldn't stop now.
The titan seated himself upon his calves, letting out a small rumble – the same he used to greet his humans and animals of the cove. Of course, the two children remained petrified. The titan loosed his muscles and let his face relax, hunching his shoulders to look as harmless as possible. Ignoring his decaying energy once again, the titan gradually reached out to the two while letting out another soft rumble in reassurance. As his fingers brushed their bruised skin, the children screamed through their gag with their hoarse voices. He paused in his approach, but their current state of despair urged him to continue no matter what.
Not hesitating to wait, the titan gently scooped the little girl and boy into his hand, cupping them to ensure that they did not drop to the forest floor. His tapered ears drooped a bit at the freezing little humans as they backed up against his fingers in retreat. For a moment he simply observed them as they continued to suffer. His eyes then traveled to their bounds, rough and prickly ropes that almost cut into their skin and surely blocking circulation of blood. Knowing what must be done, the titan lifted the children closer to see with clarity. Ignoring their silent pleas, the creature lifted his opposite hand and carefully placed his sharp nail between the two. He could not look at their faces of fear for the delicate task required all of his focus. If he made a mistake, he could so easily kill them.
With a small and almost fluid motion, the titan's claw snapped the old rope in ease. The boy and girl broke apart, taking a moment to saver a deep breath in their strained lungs before turning to gaze at the titan in utter confusion. Raising his hand again, he repeated his process with the rope upon their hands. Once they were free, the two massaged their bruised and frozen hands, watching as the color returned to them before proceeding to fully untie themselves. Quietly, the titan watched, as the boy was the first to free himself and moved on to help the girl. A frown came to his face. The tiny female was so cold that her fingers could barely get a grip on her restraints to get them off. Holding back a concerned moan, he watched as she pressed herself further into his hot skin, desperate for heat.
Once their gags were removed, the children looked up in unease – still in a state of shock but had surprisingly not screamed in terror. The titan continued to stare at them, noticing how their bodies slowly gave in to their desire for warmth and pressed into his skin as deep as they could go. He felt his heart welling up in his chest. Was it possible that they were starting to trust him? As if to answer his query, the girl sat up and pulled the titan's thumb against her like a blanket. His chest tightened at the scene, but he could not smile yet for she still quivered – and he swore he could hear her miniscule bones rattling. The titan looked to his pinky at where he wrapped his scarf. Although, he liked it very much, he didn't need it. Minus another thought, he reached and pulled the woven cloth from his finger and held it above her head. Unsure of how to put it on without killing her accidentally, the titan just rotated the scarf over her head before letting it drop in a messy fashion. The two children sat in silence, looking from the scarf to the titan in bewilderment. The girl then curled in on herself and buried her face into the cloth. Suddenly, she uttered a phrase that he could not have heard if he wasn't a titan.
He blinked in awe before letting out a content and tender grunt. The titan knew those two words well. They were kind human words meant to express gratitude. As much as he wanted to soak in the pleasure, the two children were still very cold and the rain wasn't letting up. Not only that, but drowsiness was beginning to claim him. With no one around to retrieve the girl and boy, the titan went with his only available option. Knowing how hot his body ran and the fact that he was exhausted, his cove was the best place to spend the remainder of the night. Making sure that the two were nestled firmly in his hands, the titan clumsily and lethargically got to his feet before heading deep into the safety of the trees – leaving the carnage behind for the waiting wolves.
After what seemed like an endless trek, the titan finally climbed into his little haven. Rain came down in sheets from the cracks in the branches above to feed the grass and flowers. Though the cove was soaked, his tree was a dry beacon. The titan looked down at his two guests, seeing that they were looking up at him and waiting, he forced his mouth into the best smile of assurance that he could possibly manage. He watched their eyes light up before making his way across the cove to the base of his tree. The titan covered the two with his other hand before shaking his head much like a dog to rid his unkempt hair of water before stepping into the hollowed out tree. Just as he did every evening, he settled down into the mass of dry and toasty leaves with the exception of being extra careful of his small humans. Once he was on his side, the titan gently placed the children against his warm chest, his hand still loosely cupped around them. The titan then lay his head down, arched to peer at the two with kindheartedness. As the rain continued to fall and the thunder rolled, the titan drifted off to sleep.
To say that the day was an eventful one was surely an understatement. Armin had awoken to perform his usual routine before heading out of Shiganshina to the inner wall of Maria to spend a day of what was supposed to be fun with his only friend. However, when he had reached her home, he found the horrible sight of his dear friend's slaughtered parents. Her abductors were already tying up the beaten girl when they suddenly decided to take him too – greedy for a profit. For a while, within the canvas bag, he thought about his fate. Armin had never pictured himself becoming a child sex slave with his friend, being used, bought, and sold like a farm horse. Of course, he never visualized any ray of hope to come to them –let alone a fifteen-meter titan that lived right under the military's nose within the very walls that protected them from its kind. He also never expected the titan to behave as it did, the opposite of what he knew. And now, against all odds, he and his friend were residing in the beast's own lair – with the titan curled lovingly against them.
Rain continued to pour and lightning prolonged in lighting up the sky. Armin stared at the titan from his position in its hand. Not many people, including him, had ever seen an actual titan before. The thing's face looked terrifying to the small eight year old. Though it was dark, Armin could make out some of the titan's grotesque features. It had shoulder length messy hair with pointed elfish ears that peeked from it. Its face was much more angular than that a normal man's with gaunt cheeks, a hooked nose, and a pronounced chin. Of course, the thing that was clearly noticeable even in the dim light was the titan's frightening mouth. Its maw lacked any sort of lips, instead its human like teeth simply stuck out from its skin – its jaw divided into two rows making it serrated.
Armin watched as wisps of hot steam rose from the titan's teeth, the monster rumbling in complete content. For a moment, he swore that it was smiling again with the skin at the corners of its mouth pulled upward – something else that he never imagined a titan would be capable of. Armin then turned to his tired friend that had pressed herself up against the creature's chest, her head rocking from its powerful but steady heartbeat. Thanks to the titan's internal body temperature, they were no longer cold and uncomfortable. Despite this, his best friend's face was still and almost dead looking. Armin swallowed, heaven forbid what the girl had seen. Knowing that her parents would be too sensitive to speak about, he decided to express his thoughts on their current predicament.
"Mikasa?" He whispered, trying not to wake the sleeping giant.
The girl lifted her head, staring at him with her dull grey eyes for a minute before speaking. "Yes?" She asked; her voice still riddled with anguish.
"Are you okay?" Armin replied, but nearly cursing himself at the realization of his words. To his surprise, she paid no heed. Instead, she turned her attention to the titan's face.
"I'm – fine." Mikasa paused, her hand clutching the red scarf. "But what do you think about this?"
Armin turned his attention back to the titan, watching its ears flicker at the sound of thunder. "Well Mikasa – this titan is different." He assessed, trying to scrutinize the monster's form in the dark. "The lesson at school a few years ago, when they first told us what the titans were – I don't know how or why but this titan defies a lot of speculation." Armin began with Mikasa sitting up fully to listen.
"How so?" She uttered, her face remaining stoic.
He swallowed. "Well, for one this titan looks different. A scientist in the Scouts said that titans look close to humans, but they have some form of body deformity – mostly with their heads, torsos, and limbs. They are disproportionate compared to us. Mikasa, from what I could see, this titan's body looked – normal. Not only that but with what little I was able to make out earlier, its body was muscular instead of frail or fat. Of course, its face is defiantly malformed with its mouth." Armin paused as he watched the titan's ears flick again and the beast breathe a small cloud of steam.
"Its ears are different from what the teacher told us, too." Mikasa added while she watched the titan along with Armin.
"Yeah you're right. They're pointed like an elf's plus they move a bit like an animal's. The titan's eyes are much different from the descriptions as well. They say that a titan's eyes look almost dead, a layer of fog covering over them. There is no other emotion in them except for incredible hunger. This one's eyes look so… alive and full of emotion. But this isn't what's bothering me." Armin paused, shaking his head in disbelief, contemplating how to put his next statement. "Titans – they're not supposed to be self aware, this one – it's intelligent."
Mikasa absorbed Armin's words like a sponge. For a moment she watched the titan that looked like it was experiencing a pleasant dream; thinking about how the thing had behaved. "You're right. When it came to us earlier, it recognized those men were up to no good. When it saw that we were in peril, it zeroed in on the men and killed them – it didn't devour them like a normal titan." She paused, bringing the scarf to her face, looking at it thoughtfully before glancing back to the titan. "He – knew I was cold. He gave me this and brought the two of us here – to protect us."
Armin dipped his head. "It's a titan, but it's like he's a different –
Before he could finish, the titan stirred. The two held their breaths as the creature's head shifted. Suddenly, the titan's face pressed against Armin and Mikasa – and began to nuzzle them. They remained in a state of shock as the giant being begun to make a sound that was unmistakable to their ears.
"He's purring." Armin whispered. "Like a cat."
Several minutes ticked by, the titan's gentle rumbling filling the hollow tree and vibrating their small bodies. The creature continued his rubbing, obviously happy. Armin watched, for the first time that night, Mikasa's body fully relaxed and leaned into the titan with complete and utter trust. From beneath her scarf, Armin thought he caught her smiling.
"He's not going to hurt us." She spoke lethargically as the titan stilled, his head snuggled against her. "I trust him."
Armin opened his mouth to reply, but then he noticed that Mikasa had dozed off. He remained quiet and unmoving as he stared at the two who looked like they were in pure peace. Armin sighed and leaned into the titan's nose and cheek, the unnatural warmth-radiating deep into his bones. His eyes watched the rain a bit before he allowed himself to loosen. Although the weather had only let up in the slightest, everything in the cove felt tranquil. Armin let himself drift off, the titan's soothing purrs lulling him and all life in the cove to sleep.
Sunlight peered in through the cage like branches, decorating the cove in fresh light. The grounds were damp, puddles being the only evidence of the hard shower. The deer and other creatures had emerged from their shelters as if nothing had ever happened the night before. The blond slowly stirred, forcing his eyes to open through a layer of crust to stare up the old tree. He blinked, letting a groan escape him, his body completely sore. Then his ears heard the deep rhythmic breathing. Quickly, Armin turned to see Mikasa still asleep and the titan next to her, his hair covering their faces. The boy swallowed. 'So it wasn't a dream?' he thought as he attempted to get to his feet. Armin staggered a moment before motioning to Mikasa. His small hands grasped her shoulder, giving her a slight shake that woke her. Nonchalantly, she brushed the titan's hair from her face that was still expressionless. Several minutes passed as she stared at him before looking to her bruised feet.
"Um… I guess you and I should head home now." Mikasa spoke, her voice barely audible.
Armin gulped back a wad of uncertainty at her words. He knew very well that she was an orphan now and didn't exactly have a welcoming home to return to. Still, they couldn't stay here and had to return. By now, his grandfather and others were probably wondering where on earth they were. "Yeah, let's head home." Armin finally replied as he took her hand and guided her towards the edge of the hollow tree. Perhaps, the military was at Mikasa's residence and they could sort things out then.
The two carefully climbed down the tree's ledge and back to the grassy earth before walking out into the lush cove. To the two small children, the landscape of the cove presented itself like a mythical place in a storybook. It was like an untamed organism, never tainted by human hands. Compared to most places in Wall Maria, every life form flourished. Both the plants and animals were at their best condition. For a moment, the two paused in their walk to absorb their surroundings. They had never seen anything so beautiful within the walls. Suddenly, Armin realized.
"How – are we supposed to get out of here?" He began, the two gazing up at entrance they had used last night. "That has to be over twenty meters up from –
A loud groan intervened his words, knowing the only possible source, both Armin and Mikasa turned to see that the titan had woken up. The giant was almost sitting, his hair flipped up wildly on one side – almost bringing a laugh to Armin. Instinctively, the titan brushed his messy locks back down before letting out a loud yawn that rumbled across the cove. Armin swallowed in revulsion at the span of the beast's maw, its mouth wide as a snake's – its long tongue very similar. The titan then sat up fully, taking time in getting fully awake. Its attention then sharply turned down to its hand, seeing that he and Mikasa were no longer there. To his surprise, the titan let out a concerned whine and began to search his nest frantically. Armin felt his chest grow heavy in guilt at the creature's sounds of distress. Obviously the titan was worried, but was it just concern for their safety or had the titan taken them for himself like pets?
Before Armin could think of how to handle this, Mikasa stepped forward without any fear present in her face. The ascetic girl then cleared her throat, making the titan look up from his frantic searching.
"It's okay." Mikasa began. "We're still here."
In awe, Armin observed the titan tilt his head in question like a dog at the two of them. It made a small hum before it slowly stood from the hollow. Now that the sun was out, Armin could clearly see that his assumption about the titan's body was right – if not more than right. Yes, its entire body was naked and lacked any sort of genitals, but it was far more muscular than any man that he had ever seen, even more than the men that lifted heavy goods in Shiganshina for a living. The titan's tan and leathery skin was pulled tightly over its frame, each shift making the muscles flex and ripple like they were trying to break free of the fleshy barrier. Like its hands, the nails on its feet were slightly clawed as well – another odd trait that Armin had forgot about. The giant being then carefully lowered itself, the ground shaking as it situated onto its knees. The titan looked to the two of them, its ears facing forward in attentiveness and its head still tilted in question. With most of the titan's hair out of its face except for a single lock, Armin could see it with clarity in the bright light. Its eyes were incredible. The titan's irises were the hue of emeralds with hints of teal, but that was not what astounded him. The eyes were so clear – so human like but still slightly reflected the feral wildness of an animal. They also held intellect, something that some people even lacked. Armin squinted, seeing a feature that he had missed the night before. The titan's eyes were outlined in a nearly black shade of skin. Remembering his grandfather's old book about the outside world, the eye pattern reminded him a bit of a small mammal called a raccoon that he had seen in its pages. Overall, with the titan's features, Armin began to think that his hypothesis of the titan being a different breed than the others was possibly true.
The titan then let out a series of dejected but curious grunts and whines as if it was an overgrown toddler trying to speak – what could be expected from someone lacking lips. Armin's face twisted into a grimace, feeling bad that he considered the idea that the titan had only saved them for himself. The creature's mobile parts of its face expressed a mixture of sadness and disappointment – the titan's eyes wide with unease, its brows knitted together, and the corners of its lipless mouth pulled into a frown. When he and Mikasa didn't respond, the titan let out another moan as if to ask what they were doing. Armin then gave a soft smile.
"Titan…thank you for rescuing us last night." He dawdled, watching the giant being's face change in eagerness and its ears flutter. "We wouldn't be here if you had not shown up." Armin spoke slowly, not entirely sure if the titan could possibly understand him. To their surprise, the fifteen-meter forced its mouth to smile awkwardly, looking a bit silly as his ears wiggled and eyes glowed owlishly in excitement. The titan gave a garbled response in return as if to say 'you're welcome'. The small blonde blinked, looking to Mikasa who seemed to be in awe at the monster's reaction.
"Wait." Mikasa began lugubriously. "You can understand us?"
To their shock, the titan gave them a confident nod.
Armin nearly let his feet fly out from beneath him. The entire human race only knew titans to be mindless and ravenous beasts with no regard for anything. Yet here he was with a titan that was fully aware of its existence and able to understand words. How many? Armin was unsure, but at least they could communicate somewhat. "Wow," he trailed off, a bit lost in thought. "So… so um" – Armin milled on, almost too excited to speak. "Do you… have a name or something?"
When the titan's expression immediately changed into a dumbfounded look with a brow raised, the young blonde froze, realizing what he asked knowing the titan was unable to speak. Or perhaps the titan didn't have a name at all. Of course, it could just not understand what was asked. The face of the titan suddenly furrowed, its eyes staring at the ground intently. Armin swallowed, had he somehow insulted it? The titan's eyes suddenly narrowed and its gaze shot back to him and Mikasa, its irises glowing with determination as it let out a puff of steam. Before he could take a step back in retreat, the titan's jugular shifted and it opened its mouth.
Armin's eyes widened. 'Is it …
'My god, is it really trying to…
'Talk? It… can speak?'
For a long moment, silence blanketed the cove. Both he and Mikasa were in complete shock as the humanoid creature stared at them expectedly. It was the girl that finally spoke.
"So, your name is Rogue?" She questioned softly, with the titan letting out a trill in happiness. Armin then shook himself from his stupor.
"You can talk?" He asked hopefully, trying to provoke the titan further. "How many words do you know!"
The titan responded with a look of complete confusion, tilting its head in question. Armin sighed in slight disappointment, perhaps Rogue didn't know as much as he thought. "Would you like to know our names?" he began as he changed his tactic. "I'm Armin Alert." The boy gestured to himself before pointing to his friend. "She's Mikasa Ackerman." Armin continued, watching the titan nod in understanding before letting out a few rumbling grunts. "It's very nice to meet you."
Rogue replied with another series of blissful gurgles and chirps, obviously much more comfortable with his own form of ape like language. To both Armin and Mikasa, talking was not something that came naturally to the titan. When Rogue had spoken, his voice was throaty, gruff, and could have easily been mistaken as just another one of the titan's grumbles. Not only that, but the creature's thyroid had moved in what was certainly a strained and painful way when he had made the attempt.
Armin watched as the titan observed Mikasa whose body language still reflected the shock of the unfortunate event the night before. Rogue had lowered himself to her further, moaning a bit with his eyes filled with concern – obviously completely distraught. Mikasa had buried her face in her scarf, obviously holding back tears and her small frame trembling. To Armin's amazement, Rogue reached out a hand and tapped Mikasa upon the head with his finger, blinking his eyes slowly and giving her a slight nod before purring. As he removed his appendage from her, Mikasa surprisingly grabbed the titan's finger, hugging it in a tight embrace and pressing her face into the heated flesh. Armin's heart welled up in his chest as he heard her holding back a sniffle, Mikasa was never one to burst into tears in front of someone. In fact, the girl never showed too much emotion to begin with. Before, she only expressed herself to a certain extent around Armin and her parents. Now that she had lost her mother and father, Armin could only guess how it would affect her. Still, the fact that the titan was sympathetic towards Mikasa meant that he understood human emotion – perhaps better than words.
"Rogue." She whispered. "I want to go home."
The titan's ears drooped further as his face turned to a dour expression. Finally, after what seemed like a few minutes of deliberating, Rogue nodded in understanding. Armin took a step back as the titan lowered his hand before them. Without a second to spare, Mikasa climbed into it. He was amazed at how fast she had come to trust the fifteen-meter Rogue whereas it took him a while to get used to even seeing the beast. Armin then joined her in the warm palm, taking a moment to brace himself for what was to come next. The titan suddenly stood, making both he and Mikasa press into Rogue's skin forcefully and experience a disorienting case of dizziness from the sudden change in height. To Mikasa and Armin's surprise, the titan lifted them to his shoulder, his head gesturing to the two of them to go there. Carefully, they crossed onto Rogue's shoulder, the titan's muscles tight and hard beneath their feet. Even though the fifteen-meter was standing still, Armin could feel the entire frame of the titan moving; every breath, every shift, and the heat radiate into the soles of their feet – it was raw power.
Rogue waited patiently as both he and Mikasa took their seats and grasped handfuls of the titan's hair in a stronghold. Armin gave the titan a nod, signaling the giant figure to march forward. The titan then climbed his way out of the cove, extra vigilant of his fragile cargo.
The forest had been replenished by the night's rain, making spring progress further forward. The sky was a soft shade of blue with not a cloud in sight, allowing the sun to shine clear to the forest floor through the canopy. It looked like another peaceful day.
From the corner of his eye, he watched the two children upon his shoulder and clinging to his locks. The titan scrutinized in awe as they gestured to one another and spoke in human tongue. They amazed him so! Just like his humans, they did not fear him – even spoke to him without insult! Armin and Mikasa as they were – even questioned if he had a name and he was bound and determined to share the only title that his own humans called him by. Rogue let himself sneak a small smile. He would remember and brand his new found friends' names in his head, but he would reefer to them as his little ones.
Rogue sniffed again to get a sense of how much further he had to go, discovering that the cottage was just a few minutes away. Instinctively, he glanced back to the girl on his shoulder. Mikasa was still not very expressive, making him worry. He didn't like it when one of his little ones was upset and even more so that he couldn't really do much to help other than comfort her and return her to her home. The thought made Rogue quiver, but maybe his little one would recover from the trauma in time.
Hearing a series of voices not far from up ahead, the titan slowed his pace, stepping as lightly as he could to avoid the ground quaking in his wake. His little ones noticed the change in his advance and quieted as well. Rogue then stopped a few meters from the tree line, peering through the spaces in the leaves at the cottage. His eyes widened and his chest stiffened at what he saw.
The cottage was in the same state that it was the night before with the exception that the bodies were removed and wrapped in blood stained cloth, ready to be placed in the earth. Three uniformed men inspected the premise and grounds with a fourth interviewing an elderly man and none other than his own humans. Rogue nearly let out a sorrowful whine at the sight of his companion's faces. They were disturbed; the amber-eyed lady was shedding eye water and making pained noises along with the old human. The doctor simply gazed at the ground in distress, one hand placed in comfort on his mate's back.
"That's my grandfather." Armin spoke in realization, getting the titan's attention.
"Look's like Mrs. Carla and Dr. Jaeger are here too." Mikasa added, trying to avoid turning her observation to her deceased parents' bodies.
Rogue looked from his little ones in question before returning to his humans. If Carla and the doctor were there with the boy's guardian then his little ones were in good hands. He trusted them with his life. Feeling a tug in his hair, Rogue turned to see Mikasa pointing at the cottage, telling him it was time without a word. Reluctantly, he lifted his hand to them, waiting for them to hop on, before gently kneeling down to place his hand on the ground. He watched with his heart growing heavy at their imminent departure as Armin and Mikasa stepped down to the grass. His little ones looked back to him, their faces revealing their gratitude and grief.
"We have to go now." Mikasa whispered to the titan so no one but themselves could hear.
"Thank you again for all that you've done, Rogue." Armin added. "You're an amazing friend."
Understanding the word "friend" and "go" – the titan could not help but express a small moan and letting his face fall in despair. It seemed like he didn't get to spend much time with his little ones. Rogue then watched as the little girl rubbed his finger in reassurance.
"Don't worry Rogue, we'll come back and see you sometime." Mikasa beamed softly, the first distinguishable emotion that she had expressed in twenty-four hours. "We promise."
The titan let out a miniscule purr at her words, happy that the two children would return. He then watched his little ones turn and head for the cottage, the two looking back to express a human gesture called a "wave" – a greeting or goodbye depending on the situation that was taught to him by his humans long ago. Rogue gave a small dismal wave in return, watching their eyes grow in surprise before they left the tree line. The titan remained where he was as he observed the humans gasp and cry at his little ones' sudden appearances. His green eyes absorbed the exchange of human emotions amongst themselves, making him gain a sense of pride. Rogue watched as his humans embraced his little ones in nothing but affection. The amber-eyed lady then began to speak with Mikasa tenderly with the doctor nodding to her words. The placid titan observed as the girl suddenly became animated and hugged the lady very tight. Rogue pressed his hand to his chest, feeling the tender warmth that had swollen in his heart. Knowing his job was done, the mysterious titan turned and vanished within the giant trees.