The Scout Regiment wasn't your Military branch of choice when you first signed up as a recruit. You knew that you wanted to leave home, to pursue a greater cause, but you had not decided upon which route you would take -- of course, the Military Police was tucked away within the inner wall, and if you joined them, you would be very likely able to remain safe, away from the monstrous Titans.
But you had lived within the confines of Wall Sina all of your life, protected by the outer walls and the people whose blood was sacrificed to defend them. You were tired of the bureaucracy, the corruption, and the utter lack of concern for human life. The people here lived in carefree bliss, hiding behind their greedy hordes of money and luxuries, while others labored away in blood, sweat, and tears.
Even those of the Garrison had grown inattentive to their duties. Wall Maria had never been breached before, but even with one hundred years of peace, how could everyone ignore the fact that the Titans were still out there? They had nearly devoured the human race to extinction, after all.
There was a world outside of the walls, a brilliant place full of beauty and wonder. There were many books located in the library upstairs of the manor that depicted these places and phenomenons. There were stretches of land made out of ice, briny waters far larger than anything you could imagine; there were beasts and birds, and all other creatures you would never be able to lay eyes on. You spent many days looking at these books, and when your father discovered you with your nose in the text, he was furious. He locked up the library, forbidding you access. When you questioned him, he scolded you harshly. You were not old enough, not mature enough, not responsible enough to understand the dangers within the contents of those books. Your father told you that he would ensure you were never bored enough to even search for those books again, that those secrets were meant to be kept. He had plans for you.
You were as livid as he was and desperate to leave this place. That was when you saw an advertisement in the Square, where citizens came to gather to hear news. You turned your attention to the recruitment and signed up before your family could stop you.
You had always been a sprightly girl, a young woman with hopes and an imagination that could not be contained. You did not know how well you would fare as a trainee, but you figured that anything would be better than the life you led within Wall Sina.
It turned out that you were rather good at being a soldier. Your skills were top-notch, and you had both focus and confidence. You excelled in the classroom, able to drink in your lessons and spit back out the information when asked. Your training officers did not lather you with praise, for positive feedback was so rare in this line of work, but even so, your marks were high. Upon the graduation ceremony, you were revealed to be at the top of your squad.
Of course, this meant that you had dibs on where you would choose to go from there. Many of the recruits were eager to work for the Military Police for the same reasons that you did not want to. You spoke with other graduates, gauging them for a response -- the people you respected the most chose the Scout Regiment. The Scout Corp was known for its strong level of discipline and selfless mission to protect and further the interests of humanity, and its soldiers were among the strongest and most sincere, untempted by the prospect of gold or power -- they only sought to buy mankind a better tomorrow at whatever cost. This was something you needed, structure in your life beneath which you could thrive.
So you chose the Scout Regiment without a second thought.
Your father sent word that you were to return home immediately and choose another branch, but you ignored him.
You tacked up Anteros, making sure that his bridle was on correctly, that his saddle was not too tight. Your life would be in his hands -- or hooves -- today.
"Do you feel ready, _____?" Iliana asked. She was a close friend from your training squad. You had relied on your fellow soldiers to get through the bone-breaking regimes, the times when you thought your lungs would burst, the humiliation suffered when obstacles came your way -- that was how you all became strong. That was how you made it out of training alive.
"I don't think anyone feels one-hundred percent for their first mission," you admitted. You were nervous. The chances of a new recruit surviving his or her first expedition was slim, though it increased exponentially thereafter. You weren't worried about your own life, though. You were concerned about the friends you made, the people you had grown to care about -- would this be your last hello to them?
You heard the call for the Scouts to line up. Commander Erwin was ready to leave in mere moments, and you climbed upon Anteros. Iliana followed closely behind on her horse. You found your position, having memorized the scouting formation last night with the others. You took one last look around you -- these soldiers and comrades might not be here when you returned.
Someone stepped his horse next to yours, and you turned around, expecting your assigned partner, Van. "C-captain Levi?" You exhaled, trying not to sound too surprised. "Where is Van?"
"He's been replaced." Levi stared ahead, barely acknowledging you.
"So you're my scouting partner now?"
"Not so unfortunate for you. If I'm watching your back, chances are you'll make it out of this first expedition alive. Just try not to be too reckless."
You hated him a little more. "Sorry if I don't sound too enthused," you replied beneath your breath. Whether he heard or not, you weren't sure.
The gates to Wall Maria opened, far slower than you had expected them to, and you were off. You didn't have the opportunity to steal a glance at Levi, though you were sure he was just as pissed as he always appeared to be. Actually, you didn't think he was angry all the time -- that was probably just his natural face. You had never seen him smile before.
Anteros sped into a gallop, accelerating gracefully as he flew across the land. As soon as the gates would close behind the Scouts, supply wagons at full speed, you would break off into your pairs. You wondered briefly why Van had been replaced with Levi -- it wouldn't be mere coincidence after your initial run-in with the Captain. You had a feeling that your father played a role in this. Even if he wasn't willing to leave the safety of Wall Sina, he was still able to extend his influence.
Levi steered toward you, guiding you toward your place in the formation. This annoyed you. As if you couldn't control your own horse.
Your goal was to defend the supply convoys until you could reach your destination. The Scout Regiment had been setting up base camps, fortifications, and supply stations outside of the walls, one day in hope of reclaiming the land that once belonged to humans.
There were no signs of Titans so far, which was a relief. The wind in your face brought you a sense of calm, despite knowing that there would be more dangers up ahead. You thought that everyone probably felt that way -- they had to find something to revel in with this foreboding atmosphere.
Wasn't that how people lived in dark times?
It came so quickly, the first flare, a red one that signaled danger. "I got it," you said to Levi as you pulled out your flare and alerted the rest of the party to the presence of the Titan. Soon after, a green signal was fired -- this was Commander Erwin's orders. You were to move northeast to avoid the Titan in the west.
This was all that happened for an hour. It might have been due to your position in the formation that prevented you from confronting any Titans, which was why the supply convoys were kept in the center, but you were ready for any movement in the event of a black flare.
And then it came. Misery sure loved company. The signals were staggered sporadically from the west, which Levi had noted as well. "It's coming," he said.
Sure enough, the Titan came charging through the sidelines, teeth bared, eyes bulging. This was your very first Titan, and its sheer size and ferocity caught you off guard. It seemed to be most interested in the large group surrounding the supply convoy.
You reached for the mechanism that would unleash the grappling hook of your 3DM gear, but Levi acted first. He moved quickly, far faster than you had ever seen anyone move through the air. In a splatter of blood and smoke, the deviant Titan had fallen, its nape hacked out in two clean cuts, and Levi landed with both feet on the ground.
You slowed down, herding his wandering horse back toward him. You were speechless at how flawlessly that kill was executed, how there was no reluctance in his movements. Perhaps you would have asked him, but your silence spoke far more volumes.
"We need to catch up to the supply convoy," he said, not even acknowledging the kill.
"Yes, sir," you replied, and you eased Anteros back into a gallop.
Screams echoed in the distance, but you and the other Scouts were instructed specifically to not break the formation. Otherwise, that would defeat the purpose of having a formation in the first place. Unless a deviant Titan was in attacking range and you were confident in your abilities to kill it, you would refrain. Avoidance was your company's best chance at success.
Levi said no more until you saw the forest in the distance. That was where you were to set up the base camp. This particular forest was old, large trees as high as the walls of the city -- it was situated near and upon the mountainside, which was safer because Titans generally preferred not to climb steep hills. The trees would offer protection -- a location from which to overlook the lands, plenty of trunks to make use of the 3DM gear, and finally a place to retreat, if necessary, as Titans could not climb effectively.
Still, the journey through the wooded area leading up to the mountain was dangerous because Titans could ambush soldiers from behind the thick coverage offered by the trees.
Without any second thoughts to this pending danger, you dove into the cover of the forest, the other Scouts ducking in at different vantage points. There was no beaten path, except for a thinly tread trail down the middle, which you assumed would lead straight to the base camp. To your pleasant surprise, the forest had driven you closer to your companions; it was comforting being able to see them. Iliana was to your right. You were relieved to see that she was still alive and doing well.
But then a Titan appeared from behind an oak, pouncing toward your friend. She let out a shriek, veering toward you and the supply convoy to avoid the trees in front of her.
"Iliana!" you cried. You had already had your scare for the day when you ran into the first deviant Titan -- you were ready for them now, and you would not be surprised again. You kicked Anteros to the right to move past Iliana, letting your 3DM gear grapple the upper section of a tree. You swung around as the Titan was distracted by her, gliding your flesh-pairing swords into the back of its neck. Once, twice. Before you could turn around to see if you had succeeded, you let loose another grapple to bring you to the ground.
You tried to make your way toward Anteros, but another three Titans had emerged from the forest. You had to think on your feet. You let loose another grappling hook, dodging one of the Titan's attempts at eating you. Another recruit from your training squad had also joined you, and he quickly dispatched that Titan as it fell to the ground trying to grab you. He could not avoid the second one, however, and as you looked on with a horrified expression, he was eaten alive, chewed apart as he screamed and screamed.
"No," you breathed, though you swung past the Titan that had consumed your friend in an attempt to catch it off guard. It was fast and caught the wire of your gear as you were in midair, causing you to swing backward immediately. It waited for a moment for your momentum to die, and you growled as it stared at you with hungry eyes.
No. You would not die today, not after your friend had just given up his life to protect you. With a cry, you swung a blade upward with your dominant hand, cutting off each of the Titan's fingers that had grasped your equipment's thread. You had not thought so far in advance -- you should have because gravity was no new concept, but before you could reactivate the grappling hook to save yourself from a painful fall, you felt a jolt as someone caught you around the waist.
You were soaring through the trees, and when you looked to see who your rescuer was, you saw a stern pair of eyes. "Captain Levi..."
"You need to be smarter than that, _____. At least two steps ahead. Always," he said.
He descended, letting you go once your feet touched the forest floor. Your horses were nearby -- they certainly were trained well.
"Hurry," he commanded. "We don't have time to lose."
You nodded, mounting Anteros, and immediately easing him into a gallop. The base camp was right up ahead, and fortunately, you had no more trouble on the way there. It was built from stone, shielded from plain sight by the branches of the trees that had possibly overgrown the lookout since it was built. You were told that this fortress had been discovered, an old edifice that had been used by your ancestors before the Titans had appeared. The Scout Regiment filed through the stone gates, finally able to take some rest.
The casualties, while not devastating, were still disheartening. You felt brave while on the battlefield, but now that the smoke had cleared and you were safe, you did not feel quite so courageous. You saw one of your squad-mates and friends die right in front of your eyes. The survivor's guilt was immense, eating away at your conscious and heart with each breath you took.
After all of the supplies had been unloaded, rations were handed out. You weren't hungry, however. Others seemed to be comforted by the warmth of the fire and the company that surrounded it. All you only wanted was to be left alone.