§ Prologue §
The clear toll of a bell rang through the dusky grey sky.
The Liberty Bell—
It was the name of the bell that everyone in the Shiganshina district was familiar with.
The bronze bell that was hung up on the fifty metre wall was the city’s most prominent landmark. It had been built as a warning bell but it was lucky that it had yet to be used to this day.
It wasn’t especially bright out, yet Angel Aaltonen still raised his hand to cover his eyes from the light and looked up upon the towering, cliff-like Wall Maria before him.
It was gargantuan monument and up close it seemed almost to be almost endless. It exuded a suffocating aura of awe, with some even believing the wall to be a sacred artifact. In this world without any gods worth worshipping, the wall was the one thing that the humans could believe in.
However Wall Maria hadn’t been built to be a holy monument. The reason for building the wall was simple and it was to protect those inside from external attack. This meant that outside the wall something existed that threatened the very existence of Mankind, and the wall was required to protect against those fearsome monsters.
“Well no one knows for sure if they actually exist.”
Angel furrowed his brow, his slender face twisting a little and he roughly grasped some of his tousled hair. If he were to trim it properly then his golden strands of hair would actually be able to reflect light, but maybe because he wasn’t one to care about such things that his hair appeared darker than it should be. This wasn’t the only way to describe his hair of course. Perhaps it was because Angel was always cooped up in his workshop working on the equipment that his face was especially pale. Even his co-workers would make fun of him and call him a weakling.
He didn’t look too healthy, and while it was true he wasn’t exactly living a healthy lifestyle, Angel’s physique was surprisingly sturdy. This could be observed clearly even under his work robes. It was probably because of the nature of his job that his body had gotten strong even without him noticing. A body full of vigor very much suited an eighteen year old boy like him.
“If the wall was a little lower...”
“You were going to say ‘Then I’d be able to look out’, right?”
A calm voice sounded from behind him. Without even turning around, Angel smiled wryly in response.
“I don’t think it’s that surprising to want to see outside when we always have to hide like this.”
“Is that what men like to think?”
“It’s just curiosity,” Angel muttered under his breath. He glanced sideways at the girl standing right beside him.
The girl who was calmly gazing at Wall Maria was called Maria Carlstedt. She stood straight with an air of impeccability and one could see that even from the military attire she wore. The roses of the Garrison were emblazoned across the back of her khaki jacket, exuding the pride and confidence she had in her duties. Her shining black hair, tied up high on the back of her head, signified her determination.
“Please refrain from doing anything stupid. If the Military Police get wind of you, it won’t end well.”
“Is that a warning from a soldier?”
“It’s advice from a childhood friend.”
This was an age where it was forbidden to have any interest in the world outside the walls. If one were to wonder about it too blatantly, they would definitely be blacklisted by the Military Police.
(They should hurry up and disclose the information publicly already.)
If they revealed what was going on outside the walls, then people would probably just lose interest. However the king and his government would not do that, most likely because if they did, someone would lose their profits.
“It’s a fact that the wall’s in the way of my work though.”
“Without this wall, we wouldn’t be able to survive at all,” Maria raised her head to gaze upon the well. There was a prideful expression on her face. To a member of the Garrison like Maria, Wall Maria was a very important structure. It was because her duties were to strengthen and maintain that wall. The wall was not only the very core of the city but played a vital role in the military as well.
But Angel wasn’t like Maria. He didn’t have any special opinion about the wall.
(A wall is just a wall.)
Angel probably thought like this because of his livelihood, which was to make weapons and armour for the military’s use.
(Offense is the best defense after all.)
Although that was what he thought, he didn’t say it. He knew that even if he did, Maria would never agree with him. It would just lead to a heated discussion that would go on like a pair of never-ending parallel lines. Incidentally, Angel had had a few bad experiences with raising such topics. Namely, he was always criticized severely every time he tried to talk about it.
“Which reminds me, what’s wrong with your hair?” Maria sighed and began to comb Angel’s messy mop of hair with her fingers.
“H-hey I’m not a kid! Cut it out!”
Angel was particularly bothered about the looks the people walking by gave them but Maria didn’t seem to care.
“Since you’re not a kid, don’t keep adding to my problems.”
“Ok, ok, I get it.”
“Remember to shave properly too.”
Content with her work on his hair, Maria circled around Angel, inspecting his attire and grooming. She nodded in satisfaction.
“And...you haven’t been slacking around here, have you?”
“I just finished my night shift! How is that called slacking?”
Maria glared at Angel. It was as if she was saying reproachfully ‘How should I know, I’m not like you.’
“So you’re here to welcome Solmu home? You two sure get along.”
“Isn’t that what you’re here for too?”
“I don’t remember getting engaged to Solmu,” Angel mumbled. Maria raised an eyebrow in response to that.
“Ahem, what I meant was, Solmu and I are just very good friends.”
As Angel and Maria amused themselves with idle banter, a commotion by the gates arose. Perhaps people had gathered because of the chime of the bell. A large crowd was forming. Men and women, old and young alike had gathered and there were probably over three hundred of them. All of them had the same objective as Angel. The Recon Corps had returned from an expedition outside the walls. They would enter the city and pass the main streets in the northern and southern areas of the city, back to the barracks. They marched tall and proud, as if it was a triumphant procession. To the residents of the Shiganshina district who had very little to celebrate about, the return of the Recon Corps was indeed a very large-scale and joyous event.
(But that’s all in the past...)
Although it seemed like there were quite a few people gathered, it was only a small proportion of the residents. Around thirty thousand people lived in Shiganshina in total, and with such a small turnout, it was obvious that the return of the Recon Corps was no longer a major concern of the residents. Most of those gathered had come merely to revel in the bustle, and only the friends and relatives of the members of the Recon Corps were wholeheartedly welcoming them home.
However it was actually perfectly reasonable for the citizens to have become so apathetic.
(Not disclosing information publicly, no apparent results, and using taxes for the expedition funds...)
Some important political decision had probably been made which allowed the Recon Corps to exist despite the unhappiness of the people towards them. There was already very little transparency where the expeditions Recon Corps were concerned, and thus even if the government were to make any backroom dealings, most citizens would be none the wiser.
“The heroes have returned.”
The walls were obstructing their view of the noble figures of the Recon Corps but they could pick out the rhythmic sound of steps from just beyond the walls. It was the sound of the clatter of hooves of dozens of horses. As they approached, the sounds of the hooves got louder, and the movements of the soldiers seemed to hasten as well. As a result of the strict daily training regimen, the soldiers did not make any unnecessary movements. They moved calmly and orderly, as if they were machines. The opening and closing of the gates was something that had to be done swiftly and thus such mechanical efficiency was required.
“I hope everything went well,” Maria swallowed her unease.
“You mean the mission?”
“You don’t say.”
“Of course, the mission’s not what you’re really worried about.”
“It’s not like that.”
Maria would not admit it, but that was most likely not what she really felt. She was probably more concerned about her fiancé, Solmu’s safety than how the Recon Corps’ mission went.
(Well, it’s the same for me though.)
His friend’s life weighed far more in Angel’s heart than some mysterious mission.
“That damn honor student.”
Before Angel and Maria could begin their conversation properly, the Recon Corps were already nearing the wall.
Dozens of horses stamped across the ground, and the earth felt like it was shaking.
“Open the gates! Open the gates!” the sentry positioned at the lookout cried out the command.
The ten metre high wall gates rumbled as they swung open without a moment of delay. Angel squinted and arched his body forward, trying to catch a glimpse of the world beyond the gate.
(All I can see is a huge plot of wasteland.)
No matter how Angel strained his eyes to see, he couldn’t see anything that was worth mentioning. And even before he had gotten a look at anything, the outside world had been obscured by the dust that the horses kicked up.
(It would be good if those rumoured monsters did exist.)
However he was sure the creatures before him weren’t any monsters, they were just a troop of horses. The riders of these horses all donned jackets with the crest of wings emblazoned across the backs, with hoods pulled over their heads. They were the soldiers of the Recon Corps.
(Putting aside their reputation, they’re exactly what I would expect of soldiers.)
The visage of the riders passing through the gates one after another in quick succession was truly awe-inspiring.
“Close the gates! Close the gates!”
The moment everyone in the Recon Corps had passed through, the wall gates swiftly swung shut. The efficiency was indeed praiseworthy. The gates had only been open for about a minute in total. From that, one could see only too clearly the Garrison’s conviction in preventing any danger from getting in. Maria had an expression of pride on her face.
However the Recon Corps hardly batted an eyelid at how flawlessly the Garrison had completed their duties.
“There are lesser of them than before...”
Around fifty soldiers had returned. About eighty of them had been sent out at the start of the mission. The mission had only lasted for about half a day and yet such heavy losses had been incurred. Some of the luckier ones weren’t injured at all and over half of them were just slightly injured. But some had lost their limbs and there were those that had returned as corpses.
(I don’t know what kind of mission it was, but from the looks of it, they probably failed.)
He could tell that from the hardened expressions the soldiers wore. The citizens seemed to have sensed that, and their cheering died down a bit. It now seemed more like a return devoid of fanfare. No one looked particularly disappointed, but that was probably because no one had expected much from it in the first place.
(After all, the best way to avoid disappointment is to not get your hopes up.)
Angel sighed deeply and began to scan the faces of those that were fortunate enough to make it back alive. They all wore dauntless expressions, as expected of elite soldiers like those in the Recon Corps. And among them, he caught sight of the handsome face of a familiar young man.
Solmu Hurme was the brightest recruit in the Recon Corps, and was also Angel’s childhood friend.
(He’s become quite the lady-killer huh.)
Solmu’s face was covered in a soot and dust, but he didn’t seem to be hurt. His sharp eyes stared straight ahead, gently tugging at the reins and guiding his horse ahead at a steady trot.
“Hmm, I knew he wouldn’t drop dead so easily.”
“Of course. If I became a widow before I got married, that would be pretty troublesome.”
“You’d better get him to write in and request a transfer to another division. Or that joke might not be funny anymore.”
“If only he was someone who would take advice from other people...”
“I guess you’re right about that,” Angel smiled wryly.
“I should just be happy he was able to come home safely.”
While Angel and Maria got to be happy about Solmu’s safety, the relatives of those who had not returned safely could only despair. Just by participating in those missions, it was entirely possible that one could lose their life. And it was not just the soldiers themselves, but their family and friends who were entirely aware of that kind of outcome the moment they stepped out on a mission.
(But most of them never really thought they’d be the ones to die.)
Their dismayed expressions told all.
But what caught Angel’s attention the most was a woman wearing maternity clothes. She seemed to be around twenty, with pale skin and a slender build. She looked so tragically fragile.
Maria caught sight of that woman who was drifting around unsteadily like a ghost and her face clouded over.
“You know her?”
“Yes, her name is Elena Munsell. Her husband is squad leader Heath.”
“Squad leader...then he’s Solmu’s superior?”
As they had never met, even if he knew the man’s name, Angel had no idea of what he might look like. However this Heath Munsell was probably one of the elites in the Recon Corps, as his title of squad leader could attest to.
“Squad leader Heath didn’t make it back. And they had just married not too long ago too...”
Maria’s face looked extremely pained.
(What if something like this happens to me tomorrow...)
Elena staggered towards the soldiers, asking repeatedly about her husband. Her eyes were dull and she looked like she was about to fall over any moment.
“She’ll be able to get insurance from the government right?”
“She won’t have a hard time with living expenses.”
“But money won’t be able to replace her husband.”
“I wish we could do something for her.”
But there was in fact, not much they could do.
(She probably just wants to scream “I don’t want money, just give my husband back” right now.)
In other words, there was probably nothing they could do that could be of any help to her.
(Only time can heal her pain, but...)
As he wracked his head about it, a thunderous boom suddenly erupted over his head. The air seemed to tremble from the impact of the sound blast. Angel immediately straightened and looked around. It definitely wasn’t thunder.
“What’s going on?!”
As if in response to his question, a faint smell of chemicals wafted towards him from the north.
Angel twitched his nose, inhaling the faint smell riding the air.
(Saltpeter, charcoal, sulfur, aluminium powder...)
It was the smell of gunpowder.
“Did they fire a cannon?”
They couldn’t be sure from ground level where they were, but that was most probably the case.
The reason why he had come to this conclusion was very simple.
(This means the cannons I made were installed up on the walls...)
He had received an order from the military asking for about ten cannons, but he had not been informed of how they would be used. But from the deafening booms of cannon fire overhead, it meant that they had been installed up on the wall.
“Why did they fire just now?”
“I think it was a warning shot.”
“Are you saying the rumoured titans are about to make an appearance?”
The monsters that preyed on humans were called titans.
Mankind had built the giant walls because of the titans. They had no choice but to live behind the walls in order to defend themselves from the danger the titans posed. The heavy injuries the Recon Corps had sustained were probably from those titans.
(For future reference, I really want to see one for myself. Just once.)
While it wasn’t particularly hard to imagine what kind of monsters titans would be like, Angel didn’t feel especially afraid of them. It was because he didn’t know how to be afraid of an opponent he barely knew anything about. To Angel, the titans might as well be disembodied spirits.
“It sounds pretty bad out there...”
Angel clasped both hands over his ears and furrowed his brow at the ear-splitting sounds of cannon blasts.
(I’ll probably get an order for some sound deadeners tomorrow.)
He smiled wryly to himself. The cannons fired for the tenth time, but fortunately it was also the last time. The explosions had stopped.
“Did they get them?” Angel gingerly lifted his hands from his ears and turned to face Maria.
“It’d be good if they did, but I’m guessing it was probably useless.”
“Useless huh...” Angel mumbled unenthusiastically and looked up at Wall Maria. Even if they didn’t manage to hit any titans, firing the cannons ten times like that should have rendered the surroundings a sea of flames. Nothing should be able to survive in that.
(A normal living thing would definitely die in that.)
The titans might be monsters beyond understanding, but the cannons had taken that into account in terms of their firepower.
(One roasted titan, fresh from the oven.)
The sound of approaching footsteps coming from the other side of the wall immediately shattered Angel’s confidence.
“Oi, there’s no way...”
“It’s probably because the titans are really close to the wall,” Maria casually explained that to a dumbfounded Angel.
“So that’s why they stopped firing?”
The indestructible Wall Maria had always succeeded in keeping the titans out. This was because it was thick enough to prevent titans from breaking through and the edge was high enough to be out of reach of the titan’s hands.
“You’re saying it like you knew something like this was going to happen.”
“Well if they were just firing all over the place, then the wall might get damaged. It’s more logical to just stop firing.”
“I made those cannons so I kinda have a different opinion...” Angel clenched his fists tightly.
(But I can’t believe these are footsteps...)
Angel suspected that something might be wrong with his ears.
The encroaching sounds were thunderous booms completely different from human footsteps. They were just like earthquakes, and in fact the ground was actually trembling. This was probably proof of how enormous the titans were.
(So is this what they call a walking disaster?)
In that moment which could also be described as a natural disaster, the disembodied spirits that he didn’t believe in had suddenly become real.
Titans weren’t figments of imagination.
They were an actual threat to Mankind.
Angel’s theories of the titans were hurriedly rewritten in his mind. And when that had been done, an inexorable chill ran through his entire body. His back was drenched in cold sweat, hair stood up on his entire body and his heart was hammering against his chest. His instincts were crying out to him, warning him.
The rumbling of the titans drew closer.
One step. Yet another step.
The speed of the footsteps was as sluggish as that of a cow’s, but the distance between him and the titans was slowly but surely decreasing.
The footsteps stopped abruptly, probably because the wall was in the way.
(The titans are going to attack.)
Angel got into position, concentrating and priming all his senses to gather everything he could about the movements of the titans. Yet he was unable to detect anything significant.
“Why aren’t they doing anything?” Angel crumpled his brow, “I for sure they’d try to break through the wall or something.”
But that was just Angel’s own biased opinion because of his ignorance. He probably just wanted to force his expectations of ‘what titans should be doing’ on other people.
(If they had the intelligence to come up with a way to destroy the wall, Mankind would have become extinct a long time ago.)
Angel turned around and gazed up at Wall Maria.
“Luckily for us, we’re protected by Wall Maria.”
“So do you understand why need the wall now?”
“Yeah, I get it.”
“Then do you still think offense is the greatest defense?”
Angel shrugged his shoulders in response to Maria’s wide grin.
Their light-hearted conversation had relieved some of the tension from earlier, and the citizens too appeared to have calmed down as well. It was even possible some might have even mistaken the cannon fire as a salute to celebrate the return of the Recon Corps.
“We should probably go look for Solmu now.”
Just as he was telling Maria that, a drop of rainwater landed on Angel’s face. He wiped it off with the back of his hand and raised his head to face the sky. The sky was covered by heavy, grey clouds. The atmosphere seemed rather sad, as if tears were about to fall from the sky.
“I guess this is what they mean when they say the heavens are crying.”
“It’s probably going to rain harder soon...”
Angel raised his hand as he would to block out the sun’s rays from his vision, and fixed his eyes on the ominous skies.
Bit by bit, more rain fell. From the looks of it, it might just turn into a storm soon.
(We should hurry up and get out of here.)
Just as he thought that, a black, spherical object suddenly came flying into Angel’s view.
Angel immediately changed what he thought, because there were no sphere-shaped birds in this world.
“Get out of the way!!” someone yelled from above him. For a moment, Angel’s body was rooted to the ground. The shout had come from someone from the Garrison stationed on the walls.
(Get out of the way??)
The soldier was pointing at the black sphere hurtling to the ground, but Angel had no idea what sort of danger it posed. Even if he knew what that thing was, he wouldn’t have any time to react anyway. He saw it fall straight onto the stone pavement a few metres away.
Angel and Maria crouched down together.
They couldn’t tell if the lump was explosive in nature, but for all it was worth, it split open like a ripe fruit when it landed, its unidentifiable contents spurting out in all directions.
The lump was already badly deformed from the impact of the crash, but one could still identify what it actually was.
“Is it...a head...?”
It was nothing like how a head should like, but one could probably tell it was one on closer inspection.
The eye sockets were hollow, the nose was split and although the lower jaw was gone, there was clearly sign of a mouth. It was probably because of the hair that it looked like a black lump. The unknown liquid that had spurted out had been the brain fluids, mixed with chips of shattered bone.
Angel’s stomach churned upon witnessing such a gory sight. He felt vomit rise in his throat. He clapped a hand to his mouth as it filled up with bag, and began to gag. Thankfully, he was able to force it back down and prevent the ground from being splashed with his throw-up.
“What the hell...what the hell is this...”
A woman shuffled to the disconcerted Angel’s side. It was Elena.
“Ah, lying around in a place like this?”
Elena made her way to the head and without any concern about dirtying her clothes, bent down and picked up the head that was firmly stuck to the pavement. She hugged it tightly to her chest.
“So that’s why you were late.”
Elena began giggling eerily.
“That head...is her husband’s?”
“We can only be sure if we get it examined, but it most probably is...”
Elena was cradling the piece of flesh in her arms, whispering non-stop to it. She was probably unable to accept the fact that Heath was dead.
(But, why did a head fall from the sky...)
Angel looked skyward for an answer. The sight he saw was what could only be described as unbelievable. Several heads were arcing across the skies, like shooting stars. The heads being catapulted over the walls splattered one by one onto the ground, forming twisted, blooming roses. Every time a head fell, screams would erupt.
“Are the titans throwing those heads?”
Just by assuming that it was the work of the titans, even a bizarre act like this one had begun to make sense.
“But why would they throw those heads...”
“There’s no reason.”
“What do you mean?’
“If they want to eat something, they’ll eat it. But if they hate something, then they’ll throw it away. It’s probably like that.”
Isn’t that just like humans—Angel had almost blurted out those words, but swallowed them back in. There was no way he was going to acknowledge something so ridiculous.
As Angel wracked his brain to think of possible reasons behind the titans’ actions, heads were continuously flung, one after another into the interior of the walls.
“Damn it! Do they think it’s some kind of fucking ball game?!” Angel furiously cursed them.
While it was fortunate that no one had gotten hurt, the ground and buildings had all been spattered with spurts of brain juices, bodily fluids and lumps of flesh. It was a frighteningly unholy visage.
The nauseating turn of events had terrified all present, and the citizens who had gathered here to celebrate the return of the Recon Corps began to scatter in all directions, screaming their lungs out. That was only natural of course, since human heads falling from the sky wasn’t exactly something commonplace.
The attack soon ceased, and no heads had stopped being thrown over the walls. The people were already in a captive state of fear at present, and entering the stage of mass hysteria was only a matter of time.
(How dare they just do whatever they like...)
Angel was unable to keep his composure. But in a situation like this, the only ones who were able to were those of the Recon Corps. They had hardly flinched at the gruesome sight before them, still standing tall with unfaltering courage. This could probably be attributed to the gruelling training they had gone through and was also testament to the many trials they had experienced before.
And within these elite, hardened soldiers, there was a man who exuded an aura of sheer power, stronger than that of any of them.
The man whose face was as dignified as a statue, was the captain of the Recon Corps. Jorge removed the flare gun he had holstered at his waist and aimed it towards the sky. Without any hesitation, he pulled the trigger. A bright light shot out of the gun’s barrel accompanied by a sharp blast. The bullet exploded in mid-air, spraying out ribbons of light that was not unlike sunlight.
“That’s White Star right...”
That was the name of the bullet loaded in the flare gun.
White Star was meant to be used to illuminate the darkness at night as well as to signal to other soldiers. However this time, it was being used to attract the attention of the people who were currently in great disarray. All of them suddenly stopped in their tracks, their eyes fixed on the streams of light above them.
For a moment, everything was engulfed in silence.
Jorge took hold of the opportunity without a second thought and galvanized into action.
“Please calm down! All of you, calm down!!”
His voice rang louder and clearer than the gunshot, and resonated amongst the people.
His plan had worked perfectly. As if they had all just been exorcised, the citizens began to regain their reason.
To Jorge who was in charge of commanding a legion of hardened soldiers, instilling morale in the citizens was something he could do without thinking. He had done it through a rather unconventional method, but it assured the people that the Recon Corps were here to protect them. However, there would be no time for any sort of celebration.
The drizzle from before was getting heavier.
Perhaps the rain would be of help to the people, and aid in washing away the brain spatter.
No translation notes until I get the Jap RAWs yup yup. Plus we have to make do with these Chinese scans because the Jap RAWS...do not exist. I hope everyone like this! It was really fun to translate.
Current Mood: relieved
Current Music: omake-pfadlib (Shingeki no Kyojin OST)