The Tree of Good and Evil
It was almost a year and a half since Humanity had prevailed over the Titans’ terrifying hold; many things had changed others not so much. While it was true that humanity didn’t have to cower behind walls anymore, their minds, their hearts were still surrounded by the invisible walls of fear. Eren couldn’t really blame them, it was impossible to wipe centuries of conditioning out in such a short amount of time. It would be a lie to say that it didn’t hurt; he was just another monster in their eyes, although to be honest the only approval that did matter to him was that of his family, friends and comrades. The ones that had glared at evil dead on its eyes, the brave soldiers that despite going through hell they pushed through. His heavy sigh seemed to echo in the silent hall, Eren stopped startled; he was so lost in his thoughts that he had missed the doors leading to the Queen’s Garden. Turning around lazily he began to walk to his inner sanctum, faintly noticing the clipped sound of footsteps behind.
Being on the palace gardens always brought a sense of peace, comforting his soul when he was feeling melancholic, the heady aroma of the beautiful flowers, the sun warming his skin, the smell of clean air…It felt refreshing. Ignoring with practiced easy the obvious presence of the sentries, he sat down in the grass, the leafy cold blades tickling his flesh. Eren closed his eyes, he wondered about what Armin and Mikasa were exploring and discovering, what new culinary delicacies Sasha had created, what kind of mischief Connie had managed to cause, how Corporal Levi was doing… He missed them so much that his heart skipped a beat; Eren wished that he could be with them, but it was not to be. The breeze picked up and his hood rustled in the wind, subconsciously gripping the fabric he inhaled deeply. But the cloak didn’t smell like his Corporal anymore, the scent long faded away. A rosy blush covered his face, a little appalled at this mental slip, how he wished that he could call the one he loved his.
“Stupid old man” He muttered fondly, “he had the gall to call me a brat, when he is the one that was behaving like one.”
The Corporal guarded zealously his emotions wearing a cold façade, keeping a tight rein on them, but he was not under any concept a man that lied to others or himself for that matter. All those months ago when the Corporal told him that even if he loved Eren they couldn’t be together he had been hurt and disappointed, life was so cruel already why not seize what little opportunity to find happiness they had? But now, after listening to the rumors running around, hiding in the shadows like mice, well… he was glad that almost everybody he cared about was far away exploring and reclaiming territory in the name of humanity. He didn’t want to tarnished their reputation in any way, more so when people finally was giving the Survey Corps the respect and recognition they deserved, they were loyal and fiercely protective after all they went through together. Eren knew, he learnt to listen to his instinct and they were screaming at him that his squad would try to protect him if those pigs from Sina turned on him, wanting to execute him, which incidentally, they were. Knowledge was a funny thing, it was fulfilling but its taste was bitter and the aftertaste left you unsettled. Lying down on the grassy floor, shrouded by the sweet fragrance of roses and the warmth of Levi’s cloak, he felt glad that his loved ones wouldn’t be caught into a new snare of greedy political machinations this time around. Memories from thirteen months ago resurfaced…
Eren stared at his best friends serenely, as it was expected, Mikasa was shaking with barely contained rage and a worried frown marred Armin’s face. In contrast, Eren felt calm; to be truthful. Even if the brunette was nineteen years old already, maturity had nothing to do with age. The moment the last titan fell something inside him changed, he couldn’t pinpoint it at first until he realized what was missing, the rage, that all-consuming rage that propelled him forward was gone. The emotion fanning that fire had vanished, every drop of it drained until he felt oddly empty, he was still stubborn and passionate to an extent but the red haze had lifted and now he could see and think more clearly. Taking a steadying breath he prepared to speak, racking his brain trying to find an argument good enough so Mikasa wouldn’t fly out off the handle.
“Look guys, I know we promised to go together, and we will, just not at first. The government’s stability is shaky at best, they accepted Historia as Queen but they know that she wants to change things; they are unable to understand that it’s for the better, nobles are afraid to lose their privileges and the common folk just want to live without fear once and for all. Civil unrest wouldn’t help the situation.” Their stance softened; suddenly Armin smiled slyly ruffling his hair.
“Well, well look at that…I see that you have giving the matter some thought, what a novel idea…well coming from you, that’s it.” Mikasa tried to smother her not so low snort in her red scarf.
“Ha, ha very funny Mushroom, just because you are taller than me now and you grow that bowl cut phase out, it doesn’t give you the right to be all smug and smirky,” Eren said moodily trying to smooth his wild hair down.
“You have to admit that you usually aren’t the voice of reason.” Mikasa chirped out.
“Mikasa!” The titan shifter exclaimed mockingly pretending to be shocked, sending the three young adults in a fit of giggles. “But seriously, you go ahead and discover extraordinary things to awe me while I keep company to Historia, Miss Hanji, Commander Pixis and Horse-face over here. It will be boring as hell, but please guys let me live vicariously through you! It doesn’t make sense that all of us stay here to suffer the same horrible fate when there are other options available.”
“Come on, admit it Eren. You just want to be lazy, lounging around while you eat pastries and we do all the heavy lifting.” The former blond Mushroom laughed loudly when aquamarine eyes rolled and he was punched playfully in the arm. Suddenly he got a thoughtful look in eyes, his brows furrowing slightly, “you know what is kind of weird. The Corporal went ballistic when he learnt that you wouldn’t be allowed to come with us in the expedition.” He tap his index finger against his chin, “well nobody in the Survey Corps thought strange how defensive and fouled mouthed he gets when it comes to you, but his phrasing…the way it seemed to bother him that we weren’t allowed to explore the world together…it was …” Mikasa let out a disgusted little growl.
“Who cares?! The midget got pissier than usual, so what… He is just a control freak with issues,” both boys looked at her incredulously but she carried on before they could latch into it. “It worries me to leave you alone, not because I don’t trust you to protect yourself…I just feel like we are abandoning you in the wolf’s den.” She glanced to the side, burrowing part of her face in her scarf, feeling suddenly guilty as if she was deserting the only family she had left.
“Mikasa,“ his soft voice and touch catching her attention. “As you just said yourself I can protect myself and the others if necessary, almost everybody thinks that I can’t shift anymore because I’m the last titan and that’s partially true, without titans I don’t have a goal, a purpose to shift, but even then I’m still a soldier. Besides, bad things happen all the time, no matter what, no matter where you are or who is around.”
Mikasa smiled softly reaching out and holding her family’s hands in her own, bringing them closer together, the moonlight glowing over their skin like a silvery halo. Moments like this, even if they were bittersweet they would treasure them. They spent the rest of the night together, their laughter, their dreams and hopes dancing in the dark. At morning when they parted, surprisingly, it was not with a heavy heart, their heads and chests ablaze with love and memories. Some bonds go beyond life and death.
The World is Cruel, but it is also Beautiful