The next morning, Eren and Levi assisted in taking me to the office of Commander Erwin. He'd said he wanted to see me, but what for? Levi kept me in his room once more last night, sleeping next to me in his monstrous bed. Once Eren had found out that detail, however, he didn't seem pleased. As the boys held onto me while I limped, Eren finally began speaking to me.
"Ava, what's the Commander need with you anyway?" He asked, taking my whole body up in a bridal carry.
"Dunno, Eren. Maybe it's about what happened with the titan in the forest, and my injuries." I looked over at Levi, who was glaring up at Eren.
"Whatever it is, I hope all goes well. I'll hand you over to Corporal, now." Eren helped steady me as I stood, Levi putting a hand around my hips.
I watched as Eren turned away, frowning slightly. Levi helped me go up a flight of stairs, which lead to Commander Erwin's office room. Once we did get up, I wanted to collapse in pain. Side note, it had taken me 15 minutes to clear the stairs even with Levi's help. Him and I walked in, taking a seat on the couch. Erwin pulled a chair over, sitting it in front of us.
"Ava, how're you feeling? Have your wounds been healing properly?" Erwin sounded sympathetic.
"Y-Yeah, my muscles are just incredibly sore." I nervously chuckled, leaving out the part about the steam I saw.
"That's great to hear. We've got an important expedition lined up in the coming months." Erwin scooted his chair closer, earning a raised brow in curiosity from me.
"So, I caught word Levi here slipped up and mentioned your father." His tone had changed, as well as the look on his face. Erwin had become more serious.
"Yes, Commander Erwin. But there's no way he could've angered my father in any way, he died in Shiganshina." I felt my nose beginning to burn and my eye tear up, but I stopped it.
We sat in silence for a long while. Levi setting up pillows for me so my neck wouldn't get strained. Erwin kept getting lost in thought, sometimes staring directly at me. Levi appeared to be growing impatient, so he cleared his throat rather loudly.
"Erwin, get to it. She needs that physical therapy if she is to be ready for the expedition." Levi sat up straighter on the couch.
"R-Right, sorry. Ava, do you remember when we met in The Underground? The day you threw yourself in front of Levi?" Erwin leaned in, placing his arms on his legs for support.
"Yes, of course I do." Why was he asking me all of this?
"Which means you remember how I knew your name, and where you lived?" Erwin reached for my hand, placing it in the middle of his.
"What's your point, Commander Erwin?" I was both annoyed and creeped out at this point.
"Ava, Alisha and Lennord weren't your real parents. Oliver isn't your real last name. Jared isn't actually your brother. Your real name is Ava Smith, and you're my daughter." Erwin tightened his grip on my hands.
I wasn't sure what to feel. The fact that I'd been lied to for as long as I can remember? That the man in front of me was supposed to be my actual father? The man and woman who had so lovingly raised me, weren't actually my parents? I had watched them both die in the fall of Wall Maria, on that day in Shiganshina. My mother, mouthing the words "I Love You" as a titan closed its mouth around her neck. And my father, whom I dropped when Hannes picked me up, taking me away from my home.
And now, I was just supposed to believe that these people weren't as connected with me as I thought. I guess the emotion I felt now was...rage. I shot up, adrenaline allowing me to forget the tormenting pain of my still healing injuries.
"Who the hell do you think you are?! You leave me alone for my entire childhood, meet me once as you're beating someone near death, and expect me to believe you're my father?!" I was furious, my face beating red as tears streamed down the side of my face.
"I know you're feeling betrayed, angry, and confused. Come in my office later tonight and we'll talk. You can even bring your dinner." Erwin pulled away, smiling calmly at me. Levi stood, beginning to guide me to the door.
"Erwin, I'll be taking her to Hanji for her medicine, and then we'll do physical therapy." Levi opened the door, allowing me out first.
"Fine by me." Erwin finished, as Levi shut the door.
Hanji had just finished giving me my checkup, making sure my wounds were healing correctly. She was baffled, however, at how fast they were healing. For instance, when the attack first happened, I had 4 broken ribs, a fractured tailbone, busted kneecaps, and several torn ligaments. But, over this 3 day period, everything was healed except for the ligaments, which were taking longer. Could it have something to do with that steam I saw? I kept my thoughts to myself, however, not wanting to trouble Hanji.
"You're healing so fast, Ava, it's almost like you don't need physical therapy anymore." Levi joked, patting my shoulder.
"What is there to do, then?" I responded, now walking entirely on my own.
"Well, we need to have a meeting with everyone who is going on the expedition here in a few weeks. Mind gathering your trainee friends?" Levi began to turn off, going outside the castle.
"S-Sure, I'll tell them." I smiled nervously, feeling a little sad that he had left my side. Levi had been with me a lot these past few days, so not having him here felt weird.
Walking up to my floor, I decided to go to my room first and change out of these constricting bandages. As I was unwrapping them, I noticed how they felt intensely warm. Granted, they were on my body, but...they were practically burning. Taking a closer look at my skin, I noticed more small streams of steam rising. What the hell was this?! Should I tell Levi, or Erwin? Or Hanji? I shook my head. Those were ridiculous ideas, and they would never believe me. Once I had changed into my regular uniform, I made my way to Jared's room across the hall.
"Jared, are you there?" I asked gently, knocking a few times on the door.
"Come in." He responded. At that comment, I turned the door knob and entered Jared's room.
"What's up, sis? I see you're walking now." He came over and gave me a hug, still keeping gentle. I flinched slightly at him calling me 'sis'.
"L-Levi wants all the trainees in the meeting room promptly. He says it's important." I pulled away from Jared, looking up at him.
"I'll be right there. Oh, how come Corporal Levi allows you to call him just his first name, but freaks whenever someone else does it?" Jared pondered, getting his Survey Corps jacket from the closet.
"I-It's a long story, Jared." I chuckled, my gaze finding its way to the floor.
"Never go crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man, Ava." Jared laughed, punching my arm and heading out for the meeting room.
I flashed a side smile, leaving his room and shutting the door. Next, I went to Armin's. He was already on his way out of his room, so I just told him to head on down. Mikasa wasn't in her room, so I had to catch up to Armin and pass on the news. Jean wanted to blow it off at all costs, but I forced him to go. Connie, Sasha, Ymir, Krista, and Marco all smiled and agreed. Lastly, was Eren's room. Instead of knocking, I just walked in. My right eye widened in surprise at what I saw. Eren was standing shirtless, his back to me. I could feel my face heating up, quickly facing downwards.
"Oh, hey, Oli. What do you need?" Eren asked, casting me a quick glance. Once he threw a shirt back on, I sighed and walked over to sit on his bed.
"Corporal Levi wants you in the meeting room. It's about the upcoming expedition." I smiled, as Eren took his seat next to me.
"I see you're walking on your own. That's fantastic!" Eren beamed, giving me a gigantic hug, nothing like Jared's gentle one.
"Did you not hear a word I just said?" I found myself laughing, sitting in his embrace.
"Yes, Ava. Lemme grab my uniform jacket and we can head over." Eren dug his jacket from a pile of dirty laundry.
"Sounds like a plan." I smiled over at him, standing and walking towards the door.
"Hey, Ava. What's up with you healing so insanely fast? You're not even wearing bandages, and you're nowhere near the amount of pain you were in this morning." Eren tilted his head in curiosity.
"Oh, I think it has something to do with the st-" I cut myself off. Should I tell him?
"With the what, Ava?" Eren and I began walking out of his room.
"N-Nothing, I lost my train of thought." I shrugged it off, walking next to him to the meeting room.
Once we got in, nearly every seat was filled. Commander Erwin and Levi stood at the front of the room in front of a chalkboard and desk with several maps scattered across them. Eren and I had to sit in the top back, we were able to see everyone and everything, which was nice. There was a notebook and 3 pencils neatly stacked in front of Eren and I. I guess Levi expected us to take notes. This must be important. I opened the notebook to the first blank page, ready to listen to what was to be said.
The first half hour or so went by with basic explanations on how expeditions usually went down. I wrote everything I possibly could, my small but legible handwriting occupying the front and back of 4 or so pages. Eren was having trouble keeping up, so I slid my notebook over for him to copy. He smiled at me, writing a smiley face at the top of the page as some sort of 'thank you'. Once the basics were covered, Erwin began drawing the formation we'd take. Several groups were drawn to represent the various squads and where they would be placed, as well as the supply caravans.
"Excuse me, Commander!" I raised my hand.
"Yes, Ava. What's your question?" Erwin turned to me, his face overcome with seriousness.
"Where exactly will we be going on this expedition?" Although this was all intensely detailed, he had failed to mention where it was we were going.
"This is a special inside mission to Wall Maria. This is the first endeavor to take back our lost land." Erwin turned back around, finishing the chalk drawings.
I slumped back, my lips parting in shock at what I'd heard. He expected us to go back to where it all started? For me, Eren, Armin, Jared, and Mikasa, how were we to do that without completely breaking down? Eren noticed my distress, and scooted closer to me.
"I said I'd be here for you always. This is no different." He whispered, grabbing my hand.
"Jaeger! What're you doing up there with Cadet Oliver?" Levi boomed, his voice carrying throughout the crowded room.
"I uh...u-uhm..." Eren stuttered, clearly flustered.
"You will go immediately to your quarters after this. Then, we'll have a discussion." Levi growled, picking up the map that was placed on the desk.
"Y-Yes, Corporal..." Eren's face was red as a strawberry.
Erwin was beginning to explain how we'd get set in our formations as we were riding to the broken entrance to Shiganshina and what we'd do once we'd entered the city. Eren gave up on writing everything down, still embarrassed from Levi yelling at him earlier. I was drawing the maps of formations when I heard my name called.
"Ava Oliver! You will be in the elite Squad Levi. Others who will be in this squad include Petra Ral, Auruo Bossard, Gunther Schulz, and Erd Gin." Erwin finished, circling the innermost group in the formation.
"That'll be all for now. Please study these notes and come in here for refreshers whenever they will be scheduled from now until the expedition. You are dismissed for dinner." Levi began rolling up the maps as Erwin cleaned off the chalkboard.
Eren slammed his notebook shut, rushing out into the crowd. He dropped it in the process, forcing me to pick it up and chase after him. Of all the nights I can't stay with him for dinner, it has to be this one... I remembered my summoning to Erwin's office. If this man actually was my father, he had some serious explaining and convincing to do. I grabbed my tray, heading for his office. Once I arrived, I noticed him already in there, sitting at his desk eating. I knocked on the slightly opened door, awaiting permission to enter.
"Ava, come on in and take a seat." Erwin gestured towards a chair in front of his desk.
"So, you're supposed to be my father, are you?" I asked, sitting down and beginning to eat my bread and soup.
"You're my daughter. It's simple as that." Erwin sounded desperate, which made my heart hurt a little.
"Tell me, if you would. Why did you abandon your daughter for over a decade without any contact?" I felt myself swell up with emotion, but I tried to push it down.
"Ava, when you were born, your mother disappeared shortly after. You're an only child, and I wasn't sure how to raise you properly. I had been a Commander in the Corps for a short number of years then, and sure as hell didn't want you to live the life I was immersed in. So I found a wealthy family inside the Stohess district of Wall Sina, and placed you with them. I made them promise never to reveal anything, as to keep you safe." Erwin was tearing up, using a tissue to dot his eyes.
"Y-You're really se-serious..." I stammered, feeling no hint of anger, only sadness.
"But, I see now, my efforts were futile. You still managed to find your way here, into the horrid world that is ours. Hell, you've even lost an eye. But, you graduated at the top of your class. You threw yourself in front of Levi on that day, even though you could've been hurt. You've lived through so much hell in your young life, but I'm beyond proud to call you my daughter." I felt a breakthrough in my heart, as if my soul was swelling to a more loving size.
Him and I sat there for a while longer, as he told me stuff about my childhood that I couldn't remember. He said my mother was a woman of great strength and stubbornness, that she was a retired Military Police sergeant. I smiled widely, my dimples adding to my happy mood. My mother was a great woman, if only we had actually met... I threw my trash away, returning to my chair to listen more. I think that I was finally feeling acceptance towards Erwin, he had proven himself through only words.
"Ava, I've one more thing to ask of you." He calmed down, we had just got done laughing.
"Yes?" I asked happily, softening my smile.
"I'd like to promote you to the rank of Squad Leader. You're the #1 graduate from the 104th Trainees, and I have faith in you both as my daughter and as a leader." He stood, placing his hand out as if for a shake.
"I accept, father." I shook my father's hand, ready for the road ahead.
"You're dismissed. Til tomorrow, Squad Leader Ava." My dad waved, to which I saluted and exited his room.