'The center of the anti-expedition faction is Nicholas Lovoff after all...' the commander muttered, arms crossed as he leaned into the carriage seat.
'According to the information I obtained, Lovoff has connections with the Lang Company, which delivers supplies to the Military Police. It seems his intention is to turn over the freed up funding from our suspended expeditions to them,' Erwin revealed.
'Would you allow me to take responsibility? I have an idea.'
'An idea? Even if you had a connection with a member of the parliament, I don't think they would be easily swayed by whatever you've got up your sleeve... Wait, you don't mean... Lovoff himself?'
'Commander. I believe it would be for the best if you don't hear any more about this. I will take care of everything using my own judgement.'
'I am a messenger sent by a certain man. Let me get straight to the point. It seems a man named Erwin Smith of the Survey Corps intends to capture you and make you join the Survey Corps... Once you're admitted I want you to steal certain documents from him and if possible, I'd prefer if you could "take care" of him. The reward is money and a place to live in the capital,' the stranger told the trio of outlaws.
Eren let out a huff of irritation as the man they were chasing swung around the corner of a building as fast as any veteran of the Survey Corps. He didn't know much about the trio they were after, only that Shadis had given Erwin the go ahead to conscript civilians that had illegally obtained 3D maneuver gear. As soon as the pursuit started Eren understood why Erwin was so hung up on them.
They were skilled and they were coordinated.
They were also really infuriating.
Eren watched wide-eyed as the man released the hooks on his gear, wires retracting like whips, only to perfectly dive into an open window of a building. He must have immediately gone into a roll because the next moment he was on his feet again and Eren saw him run deeper into what he assumed was a stranger's house.
He grit his teeth and eyed the window, lining himself up so he wouldn't end up smacking his face against the wall. If he missed, he wouldn't live it down for weeks. He tapped at the trigger on his right lightly, pulling him just a little bit over before he also released his hooks and wrapped himself up into a ball, crashing through the open window, hitting the floor with a solid thunk, and rolling into a table.
He grunted with the impact and grunted again when something that had been resting on the table previous to his spectacular entrance landed heavily on his back.
He quickly scrambled to his feet trying to catch the breath that had been knocked out of him to see that the man he was pursuing was nearly to another window at the opposite end of the room.
Eren narrowed his eyes, aimed his hooks at either side of the window and shot. He was satisfied to see the man startle slightly, but he failed to so much as glance back towards Eren.
Eren grinned, leaned back a little to brace himself and clicked on the triggers again. In an instant, he was hurtling towards the shorter man, the heels of his boots skidding across the floor. The next moment he impacted, the breath blown out of his lungs for the second time in as many minutes. He retracted the wires and grabbed the man about his middle as their legs crashed into the wall and they tumbled over and out of the window.
He heard cursing and felt the man's arms quickly go to his sides to operate his own stolen gear, launching them up before they could fall the three stories to the ground.
Eren gripped as tight as he could, swinging his legs up to wrap around the man's own.
“Get off of me, you lunatic!” the growled words were delivered with a harsh elbow to his ribs. Eren was sure if the angle had been less awkward, he would have been knocked loose with that blow.
The man may not have been big, but he was strong.
He was also extremely skilled and quickly adapted to the imbalance of Eren's weight on his back. He could feel the man bank to the right sharply to try to dislodge him. Eren strained to see where they were heading, but the man's dark hair was whipping back into his eyes and he had to squeeze them shut.
He felt them dive down, swing up, flip and dive again before he heard the click of the man's tongue against his teeth. That was all the warning he got before he felt them being pulled forward again and the man quickly snapping his hips to rotate them in midair before they crashed into the ground, Eren-first.
This time he did let go, his body sliding and rolling away, lungs screaming for air, world spinning. He wound up on his back, staring up into the dark ceiling of the cavern the underground city nestled beneath. The only thing that had saved the skin of his hide was the now tattered cloak beneath him. He didn't think he could get up right away.
Shuffling to his left alerted Eren and he let his head drop in that direction to see the man he had been pursuing climb to his feet, pants torn at the thigh with little red scratches beading up with blood.
He looked at Eren and he might have been about to say something, but the next moment, Mike barreled into him, knocking him off his feet and stealing Eren's thunder.
Erwin was right behind, feet tapping the ground as he landed. The man kicked back at Mike, his other hand pulling out a knife, but Erwin was there to catch his wrist before any damage could be done. Instead the man redirected his attack, leg sweeping out to hook at Erwin's. All six feet of the blond squad leader crashed to the ground. The short man launched himself on top of Erwin, but Mike snatched the back of his shirt, yanking him down.
Eren stared, engrossed as he watched the smaller man grapple with two experienced squad leaders and nearly get away before he was pinned down by Mike's knee to his back.
If Eren hadn't been impressed before, he was now.
It was then that Mikasa landed with the other man they had been after and Jean followed with the pig-tailed girl thrown over one shoulder.
Mikasa's eyes flicked over to him in concern, but he gave a quick wave of his hand and decided to try sitting up.
Erwin, meanwhile, was beginning his interrogation. When they weren't receptive to answering his questions, he quickly changed tactics. Erwin flicked his eyes towards Mike who grabbed the man Eren had been chasing by the hair and roughly slammed his face into the filthy sewer water puddled on the ground in front of them.
Eren winced when the man's head impacted, apparently Mike was feeling a little sore that a man half his size had been getting the better of him.
“Where did you learn how to use the 3DM gear?”
Suddenly the girl was shouting angrily, “No one taught us!”
“We learned to survive down here,” the other man spoke up, biting the words out. Erwin looked at them for a moment, face giving nothing away before he turned his attention back to ring leader. Mike yanked the dark haired man's head back so he could breathe.
“My name is Erwin Smith. Your name is?”
Unsurprisingly, the man didn't answer.
“You've got spirit, but… if you continue like this, your friends will be the ones to pay the price.”
On cue, Mikasa and Jean set their blades at the necks of their captives. The girl shouted at them, goading them into just getting it over with.
The man glared at Erwin with promised death in his eyes, growling a cuss out.
“It's Levi,” he ground out, bitter.
“Levi,” Erwin said, stepping forward before kneeling down in the slimy puddle, “Why don't we make a deal?”
“A deal?” Levi asked, warily.
“None of you will be charged with anything. In exchange, lend us you power. Enlist in the Survey Corps.”
The man looked shocked. Eren couldn't blame him. It wasn't exactly standard procedure to go to the underground to conscript soldiers.
“And if I refuse?”
“We'll hand you over to the military police. Think of all the crimes you've committed up until now. Your friends would also prefer to avoid that, correct? The choice is yours.”
Levi cut his eyes sharply over to the other two, catching the gaze of his male companion. Eren had the sense there was an unspoken communication between the two before Levi fired his eyes back to Erwin.
“All right. We'll join your damn Survey Corps.”
Eren let out the breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. At Erwin's instruction, they quickly stripped the trio of their gear and the few small weapons they were carrying. Eren found himself carrying everything at the rear while Erwin led the group and the rest escorted their new recruits.
When they reached the surface, two carriages were already waiting for them. Erwin and Mike hopped into the first and Eren deposited the reclaimed gear in the storage box at the back of it while Mikasa and Jean ensured the trio was loaded into the second carriage.
“Jaeger, you're with us,” Mike said when Eren finished stuffing the straps into the box.
With a nod, he climbed in and a moment later Jean followed. Mikasa remained in the carriage behind them to keep an eye on the trio, although Eren had the suspicion that the three had no intentions of escaping. He glanced at Erwin, guessing the man must confidently feel they wouldn't either, but Eren couldn't begin to guess why.
The carriage hadn't moved very long before it stopped again and Erwin got out.
“I have a few errands to see to. I'll see you back at Headquarters.”
Besides Eren, Jean snorted. That was more of an explanation that Erwin usually gave to people for anything he was doing, he must've been in a good mood.
Once the carriage started moving again Eren turned to Mike.
“Do you have any idea what he's planning?”
“Sometimes I think it's better not to ask, Mike answered.
Eren couldn't argue with that.
The next morning, Eren tried to get out of bed only to find his muscles stiff and battered. He would have stayed there if Mikasa didn’t brazenly barge into his small, but private quarters a few minutes later.
He could forgive her because she brought a steaming mug of willow bark tea. It tasted awful, but it worked for pain relief and muscle soreness.
“Shadis wants to see you,” she said as he took a sip too quickly and scorched his tongue. That would annoy him the rest of the day, especially while he was eating.
“He didn’t say, but there’s a meeting in half an hour so you better hurry if you want to get breakfast.”
Eren let out a huff of air, pushing himself out of bed and stumbling over to the wash basin and ewer on his small bureau. He grabbed the neatly folded washcloth next to it and the sliver of soap resting in a dish before glancing behind him.
“Do you mind?”
“I’ll be waiting outside,” she said, but Eren felt it sounded like a warning. He rolled his eyes after turning his back on her. When he heard his door shut behind him he quickly washed up as best he could with his time limit and threw on a clean, new uniform, since the one from yesterday was covered in filth and spotted with blood.
Less than ten minutes later he was out his door, trying to drink his tea while he walked next to Mikasa and mostly failing. They detoured to the mess hall and he was able to grab a bowl of oatmeal and an apple that he balanced in the crook of his arm before they headed over to the meeting.
He was proud that he was not the last one in the room, but that was only because he elbowed Jean out of the way and narrowly avoided spilling his tea and his breakfast on the floor in the process. When he sat down, Jean walked past and slapped the back of his head while he tried to take a bite of his oatmeal.
When he started to choke Mikasa hit his bruised back so hard that his vision went spotty from the pain.
The meeting started with Shadis and Erwin discussing some plans for the upcoming expedition, which Eren listened to with half an ear. They’d brief more in-depth as they got closer to the date of departure. He wasn’t entirely sure why he was even present until the topic switched.
“About the new recruits we acquired yesterday,” Shadis began but was quickly interrupted by another one of the squad leaders.
“It’s disgraceful!” Flagon spat.
Eren glanced around the table. It was clear from their expressions that a few of the other squad leaders felt the same and this was going to devolve into an argument if it wasn’t checked. He didn’t care to get involved. It’s not as though he’d really have much to do with the recruits that they ‘acquired’ as Shadis so eloquently put it.
He did his best to tune out the disgruntlement around him as he focused on his oatmeal. He still failed to see why he was even here.
Unsurprisingly, Erwin managed to quell the discontent, and when the meeting let out, Eren supposed it had been for the purpose of making sure all the squad leaders put on a public face of supporting the recent enlistment regardless of their personal feelings.
There was something to be said for keeping your opinions in check in front of the troops, since they had a tendency to emulate their squad leaders.
Eren stopped at the mess hall to drop off his empty bowl and cup. He would have gone to the armory to grab some blades for training with his 3DM gear if Mikasa hadn’t stopped him.
“We have a formation in the courtyard. You weren’t paying attention, were you?”
“Not a bit,” Eren admitted. He was generally more disciplined but he was woken up early and he was incredibly sore. While he was getting dressed, he had glimpsed the rather thorough bruising of his upper body in the mirror hanging above his bureau. His jaw was a little tender too, he had noticed, but he wasn’t sure when he had hurt that.
The courtyard was filled with soldiers milling around when they arrived. They had barely reached the crowd when the order to fall in was called out. They stepped into the empty space as the soldiers neatly organized themselves into rows and columns.
Once they were sorted, they were put into parade rest and they waited.
“What’s this about?” Eren asked Mikasa lowly out of the corner of his mouth, keeping his eyes firmly forward.
“My guess is…” she cut herself off as four people walked across the stage at the head of the yard. Eren found his question answered as he watched the three criminals they had apprehended decked out in brand new uniforms and coming to a stop center stage.
“Attention all troops!” Shadis called out from next to them. “The three new recruits you see standing up here are our new comrades who will be fighting along with us, starting today.”
If the soldiers weren’t disciplined, Eren would bet money there would be a lot or murmuring in the crowd. As it was, it was silent enough that Eren could clearly hear when Shadis instructed the three to introduce themselves, even though he had lowered his voice to a normal speaking volume.
It was the man that Eren had grappled with that spoke first. His eyes cut towards someone in the front row before looking back at the rest of them, clearly not fond of his recent enlistment.
“The name’s Levi,” he said, the slightest sneer lifting a corner of his mouth. Eren couldn’t blame him, really. The next two, Isabel and Farlan, were much more enthusiastic about their introductions and Eren did his best to keep the amusement from his face at the comparison.
The soldiers around him did not appear to share his mirth. If anything, when he subtly glanced around, they seemed a little disgusted.
Then Shadis spoke up again.
“They will be assigned to Jaeger’s squad. You will be in charge of them, all right, Eren?”
Suddenly Eren was no longer amused. Shadis must have suddenly gained a sense of humor for the first time in his life.
“You’re putting them in my squad?” he asked, incredulous.
“Is there a problem?”
On reflection, the odds of Shadis gaining any semblance of humor were as likely as Mikasa deciding Eren was a fully grown man who could look after himself.
“No sir, I just assumed they would be put under squad leader Smith’s care.”
“Erwin has his hands full preparing for the upcoming expedition with the new formation. He will be assisting me in the command of the entire unit. Are we clear?”
“Yes sir,” Eren said, saluting.
Well, this fucked up his plans for the day.
A quick glance towards the stage informed him that he had three other sets of eyes on him. One curious, one assessing, and the last quite clearly unimpressed.
It probably wasn’t just his plans that were fucked. His day was probably going to be shit, too.