From This Moment On
Your heartbeat pounded in your ears as you heard the cries of the Titans that had taken over the Shiganshina District and the screams of their human victims. Whimpering, you huddled into the arms of your older brother, with whom you had taken shelter in an old, rundown shack in a back alley. Your parents were nowhere to be found, and even though you had the innocent mind of a ten-year-old, you couldn’t help but think that your mother and father had fallen prey to the atrocious Titans.
You, your parents, and your brother, who was four years your senior, were traveling merchants that journeyed through the different districts in Wall Maria. For your entire life, you had never stayed in one spot. While you enjoyed the journeys and seeing all of the different sights, constantly being on the move left you no time to make any friends. Even though you had your brother, you had bouts of loneliness and sometimes wished you had companions that were closer in age to you.
Another Titan wail, this time closer, echoed through the vicinity, and you let out a short squeak before burying your head into your brother’s side.
“Rhys, I’m scared,” you sobbed.
“Shh,” he hushed you as he comfortingly rubbed your back. “It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay. The Scout Regimen is going to be here, and they’re going to drive out those damn Titans and save us. We’re going to make it through this.”
You didn’t fail to miss the instability of Rhys’s voice. He felt just as scared and vulnerable as you did, but he tried his best to keep a strong facade. Neither of you were foolish. The both of you knew that the chances that your parents survived the onslaught were slim to none, and you only had each other left. The probability that you and Rhys could persevere and reach a safe destination was even lower, but instilled in you was your mother’s endless determination. It wasn’t in your personality to give up, even when the odds were truly against you.
Suddenly, the roof of the shack was torn off, and you screamed as bits of the ceiling came crashing down and scratched your face and arms. As the dust began to clear, you craned your neck to stare at the sky, but instead, you were greeted by the grinning face of a Titan. On instinct, you and Rhys slammed open the door of the shack and ran full speed just as the Titan began to reach inside to grab the two of you. You dashed out of the alleyway and into the open street as fast as your small legs would allow.
“(First Name), I need you to stay as close to me as possible!” yelled Rhys from behind you. “We need to find - ”
Without warning, an abnormal Titan jumped out from between two buildings you and Rhys were running past. You screamed and fell onto your face from the aftershock of its movements. Blood soaked the ground where your face was, and you quickly lifted your head and pressed your hand against your nose, crying out from the pain. When you heard a sickening crunch, you scrambled to your feet and looked behind you.
The top part of your brother’s body was hanging out of the Titan’s mouth. His blood dribbled down the monster’s chin and onto the ground below it. Rhys’s bright blue eyes were bulged out, and his right arm was dangling in its socket by a thread. You could do nothing other than stand in the same spot, in shock, as you watched the Titan crunch down onto your brother’s body again. His head snapped off and rolled onto the ground, stopping once it reached your shoeless feet.
Without thinking, you grabbed your brother’s head and ran. Tears threatened to spill over, but you couldn’t afford to let your emotions get the best of you. As you hugged onto Rhys’s head, you beelined down a narrow alleyway, one that a Titan couldn’t reach you in unless it had incredibly skinny limbs. Jittery, you pressed your back against the brick wall and slowly slid down until your bottom hit the dirt ground. Your breathing was ragged - on the edge of hyperventilation. Slowly, you extended your arms and stared at the pained expression on Rhys’s face. Waves of different emotions overcame you until you felt so raw, like you could no longer feel.
Hour passed as you sat by yourself and stared at your brother’s face. Your expression was stone cold as you stood to your feet when you heard a few Scout Regiment soldiers yelling for survivors. Wordlessly, you walked to the edge of the alleyway but didn’t call out to them, and a few moments passed before they noticed your presence.
“Hey, kid, are you - ?” The soldier stopped dead in his tracks when he noticed Rhys’s head in your hands. “Oh… oh god!”
His partner was better composed as he approached you. Kneeling down to meet you at eye level, he rested his hands on your shoulders as he stared unwaveringly at you.
“What’s your name? Where are you from?” he asked you.
“(First Name) (Last Name). Nowhere,” you replied monotonously.
The man stood to his feet and stared down at you. His partner, still flustered from the fact that you had a head in your hands, meandered over with his hand over his mouth.
“A-Are we taking her back to the evacuation point? It’s on the complete opposite side of Shiganshina,” said the muddled soldier.
“Depends,” the other man replied tersely. He turned and bore his uncaring gaze into you. “What will it be, girl? Stay here and wallow in self-pity, or be given a chance to avenge your loved ones. Your choice.”
You lifted your head and stared at the two men with such resolve, that even the emotionless soldier raised his eyebrows at you.
“I’m going to live… and I’m going to kill the Titans.”
Your eyes shot open in a panic. Sweat drenched your clothes and bedsheets as you struggled to bring your breathing back to a normal level. Turning your head, you squinted your eyes to try to read the clock by your head then sighed. It was only 0247. You rubbed your eyes then rolled out of bed quietly so you wouldn’t disturb your fellow cadets-in-training. After having yet another nightmare about two years prior, you knew you weren’t going to be getting anymore sleep for the night.
After the two soldiers had taken you to the excavation point and had managed to get you onto one of the boats, you had been left to fend for yourself on the streets of Wall Rose for the next two years until you were old enough to enlist in the military. You vividly remembered the stoic soldier that rescued you telling you that if you could survive a Titan attack and endure living on the streets until you were old enough to join the military, then he would personally recommend you. But, after asking around, you had come to find out that he had been killed during a scouting mission in Wall Maria.
Discreetly, you opened the door to the cabin then shut it behind you. The cool night air was a welcoming sensation against your overheated skin. You took a few paces forward then sat down on the steps and rested your chin in one of your palms. The area was completely silent, save for the occasional chirp of a cricket, but then your ears picked up on faint grunting noises in the distance. Lifting your head, you surveyed your surroundings until your eyes landed upon a boy, who looked to be around the same age as you, doing squats in front of one of the cabins. You watched him for a moment before you realized it was Eren Jaeger, who had been one of the ones that failed miserably during the three-dimensional maneuver device training the previous day. Because you secretly admired his courage and determination, you had been rooting for him but were disappointed when all he could do was hang upside down.
You weren’t much for socializing with others. You figured if you didn’t make any friends, then you couldn’t feel the inevitable pain of loss again, but you found yourself wanting to wander over to Eren and initiate conversation. He seemed friendly enough when he talked with Armin and Mikasa, and the only time you had witnessed him become upset was with Jean because of his constant antagonizing.
Hesitantly, you stood to your feet and sauntered toward Eren. You stopped a few feet away from him, but with his back turned to you, he had no idea of your presence. For the next half an hour, you watched as he did squat after squat, non stop, until he could move no more and fell onto his back, which was when he finally noticed you.
“H-Holy - !” He rolled onto his stomach and stared at you with wide eyes. “You scared the crap out of me! How long have you been standing there?!”
“Awhile,” you replied.
Using his arms, Eren pushed himself up and into a sitting position. Wordlessly, you sat down in front of him, and he stared at you curiously for a bit before speaking again.
“Can’t sleep?” he asked you.
You shook your head. “... I had a nightmare.”
You had no idea why you felt the need to tell Eren. Normally, you were taciturn and kept to yourself. But lately, the bouts of loneliness you regularly felt were happening more frequently, and at times, you simply wanted to be with someone. During the day, you were fine because you were usually in a pair or a group with the other cadets in some kind of training exercise, but at night, sometimes you just wanted to sit next to someone - to know that someone was there with you and that you weren’t alone in this crazy hell of a world.
“A nightmare about what?” Eren asked.
“The attack on Shiganshina.”
“What?!” Eren leaned forward, his eyes wide with shock. “You were there, too?”
You nodded your head while staring at the ground. “My parents were traveling merchants, and we were passing through when the Titans attacked… My brother and I got split up from them in the chaos.” You looked at Eren. “Did you live in Shiganshina?”
“Yeah…” he replied somberly. “... With Mikasa and Armin. My… My mom was killed right in front of me. My dad was away, and I still haven’t heard from him.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“But, what about your family? Did they make it out with you?”
Suddenly, all you could picture was your brother’s distorted face resting in your hands. Blood was pouring from his mouth and neck, and his eyes were bulging from their sockets. You couldn’t look away from his face as your breathing intensified. Eren leaned forward and grabbed your violently shaking hands, effectively snapping you out of your traumatic flashback.
“Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to trigger something for you,” he said.
“It… It’s not your fault,” you breathed.
Eren let go of your hands once you reassured him that you were going to be okay. You felt incredibly embarrassed for having lost your cool in front of someone you barely knew, but at the same time, he knew what you had gone through. He was in Shiganshina, lived through the Titan attack, and watched a loved one die in front of him. You felt a sort of bond with him just from those facts.
“I have another question, if that’s okay with you,” Eren said hesitantly.
“Go ahead,” you replied.
“What made you join the military?”
“... I made a vow that I was going to kill every single Titan.”
You felt ridiculous saying it out loud, because you knew it was physically impossible for one person to wipe out the entire Titan race. But, your goal was your driving force every day. It was the reason you woke up every day, the reason you trained until you couldn’t move, and the reason you lived. You survived the Titan attack, and the only thing that your mind could rationalize was that you persevered because you were meant to be a soldier. Not every person was able to go through what you did. You had an advantage over almost all of the other cadets because you had already dealt with the Titans firsthand.
“... Did you just say you were going to kill every single Titan?” Eren asked you in disbelief.
Eren grinned. “What was your name again?”
His reaction threw you off kilter, but you answered him anyway. “(First Name).”
“It seems like we have the same goal.”
Suddenly, you no longer felt absurd. There was somebody else who had the same drive, the same determination, the same audacity as you.
And for the first time in a long while, you smiled.