"What are you doing here?" you questioned.
The boys' eyes widened at your hostile tone; your voice had come out as a low growl due to your throat being dry from lack of water. The short, black haired man seemed unfazed by your hostility and continued to stare at you with cold eyes.
"We seek shelter," the black haired man replied in a monotone voice. His grey eyes continued to bore into yours as he slightly nodded his head in the direction where Jean sat. "We have an injured soldier who needs medical aid."
You ceased the staring contest with the short man after a moment of silence, by throwing your dagger into the ground by your bare feet. You let out a grunt and curtly nodded your head at the men.
"(First Name)," you said simply.
The black haired man remained silent for a moment, before replying in a bored tone, "Levi."
"I'm Eren Jaeger," the brunette said.
"Jean Kirschtein," the injured one said, smirking at you.
"A-Armin Arlert," the blonde one stuttered.
You walked towards your house and motioned for the men to follow you as you passed them. "Put him on the bed," you said as the men cautiously entered your home.
Eren brought Jean over to your unmade bed and Armin assisted in lifting his injured leg onto the mattress. You walked over to the kitchen without a second glance at the soldiers and grabbed a wooden bucket from beneath the counter.
"There's a river not too far from here on the right. Go fill this up with water," you said to no one in particular, and placed the bucket onto the table.
You could feel uncertain eyes boring into your back as you opened up your kitchen cupboards and rummaged through various unlabelled bottles and vials. You heard Levi order Eren to follow your instructions as you quietly picked out a bottle and brought it over to the kitchen table.
"Shirt. Off," you said, gesturing to the blood-soaked shirt covering Jean's chest.
Levi quickly silenced Jean's protests and removed the dirtied garment while Armin approached you with the strips of cloth he had found earlier. You snatched them from his hands and brought over another bucket that was already half filled with water, along with another piece of cloth. You soaked the cloth with the water and brought it to the wound on Jean's torso. A gash stretched over from the side of his left hip to above his navel and was temporarily closed by a layer of dried blood.
After rinsing his wound with the cloth, you grabbed a small vial of clear liquid from the table, uncorked it, and dripped some of the substance onto the wet cloth.
"What's that?" Armin asked, blue eyes furrowed in curiousity.
"Wild onion extract," you replied.
"Aaaand what's it for?" Jean asked with uncertainty lacing his voice. He attempted to shift away from you as you approached him with the cloth, but his open wound hindered him from moving very far.
"Anti-septic," you said and proceeded to dab the cloth onto his injury. He hissed in pain at the stinging the substance caused, and jerked away from you. "Stop. Your. Moving," you commanded with a harsh voice and firmly pressed down onto his shoulder with your free hand.
Jean had many injuries. Besides the gash on his torso, his left arm was covered in bruises and a two-inch long cut on his forearm. His torso and right arm had a few scratches, and his right cheek had another small cut as well. The worst part of his injuries, however, was the discolouration forming on his lower left leg.
After patching the remainder of his wounds, you gently prodded the tender area on his leg. Jean groaned in pain at your actions and you quickly mumbled an apology.
"You have a fracture in your leg," you stated, removing your hands and standing up. You turned to face the blonde boy and he flinched at the sudden attention. "There's some matches and dried leaves in a box over there by the fireplace. I need you to get a fire going," you said, eyes staring intently at him. "Please," you hesitatingly added in a softer tone after noticing Armin's uncomfortable fidgeting.
The blonde visibly relaxed at your change in tone and nodded his head. "Y-yes, Ma'am", he replied, blue eyes full of determination as he set about igniting the fireplace.
Without saying anything, you abruptly grabbed an axe hanging on a wall and exited your small home, leaving two startled boys and one suspicious man behind.
The sun was already beginning to set and the air was starting to cool down. You sighed in annoyance at the receding sun; you still had much to do before dark. You rushed over to a tree at the edge of the clearing, placed the handle of the axe between your lips, and proceeded to climb as fast as you could. You studied a particular branch before taking the axe into your hands and bringing it down upon the limb with as much power as you could muster.
"What are you doing?" came a voice from below.
You halted your actions and peered down at the short black haired man standing in front of the tree. "The Jean person needs a splint for his leg," you said slowly. To say you were rusty at communicating with others was an understatement.
Levi looked at you oddly for a split second, before his expression returned to stoic. He may have appeared to be bored, but you could feel his eyes watching your every movement like a hawk.
"You distrust me," you observed. He didn't respond. Turning back to your task, you lifted the axe and said over your shoulder, "If you're going to stand there and stare at me, then make yourself useful and collect the branches that I'll drop down." You heard him make a "tch" sound before you continued to hack away at the tree branch.
You dropped three branches down onto the ground from where you were perched in the tree. Levi picked up the fallen branches without a word and returned to the house before you could even jump down.
The house was brightly lit by the fireplace when you entered. You nodded at the blonde boy and attempted to show a smile of appreciation, but it turned out as an awkward grimace. He looked at you warily and nervously twiddled his thumbs.
"You," you pointed Eren who had returned with a bucket of water.
Eren frowned slightly at your outstretched arm. "What?" he asked.
"Pour the water into that pot," you pointed towards a large, black pot resting on the stone slab beside the fire, "and hang it over the fire. Then, go back to the river and refill the empty bucket."
"Do as she says, Brat," Levi interrupted Eren.
You turned your attention to Armin as Eren reluctantly exited your home with the emptied bucket.
"I need you to chop the carrots on the counter," you said. Armin nodded his head and walked over to the kitchen counter.
You switched your attention to Jean and handed him a bundled piece of cloth.
"What's that for?" he asked, eyeing you and the item suspiciously.
"Put it between your lips," you ordered, then sighed and rolled your eyes at his continued stare. "It's for biting into," you elaborated, then quickly shoved it in his mouth before he could react.
You moved your hands to his fractured leg and swiftly pulled his bone back into place. Jean's eyes widened at the sudden action and he screamed and bit down onto the cloth in his mouth. Armin halted his work at the counter and looked on at the scene with worry etched onto his face, while Levi remained silent and observed you and your patient with emotionless eyes.
With your guidance, Levi had helped you tie the two forked branches around Jean's fractured leg. You connected the splint with a smaller branch below his foot and wrapped a piece of cloth around his ankle. You then placed a stick against the ankle wrap and twisted it until his leg was straight, and then fastened it to the splint.
By the time you had finished tending to Jean's wounds, the pot of water hanging over the fire had begun to boil. You carefully dunked a teapot into the pot and filled it up with some of the boiling water, then dropped a tea strainer full of crushed mint leaves inside of it. You placed the teapot onto the counter and waited for it to steep while you cleaned up the mess you had made when tending to Jean.
"Um...I've finished cutting all the carrots..." Armin quietly told you.
"Good. There's a sack of potatoes under the kitchen counter. Peal five of them," you ordered, then added after a moments pause, "please."
"O-of course!" Armin said.
You poured the tea into a clay cup and slowly brought it over to Jean.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Mint tea. It'll help you relax," you explained.
You walked towards the front door with a basket in hand, and abruptly stopped just as you were about to exit your small home. You turned around and faced the black haired man who stood by the table, looking out of place. "Oi, short man," you called out.
Jean and Armin grew tense at your words and looked at you with wide eyes. The air quickly grew heavy, but you remained oblivious to the change in atmosphere as you patiently waited for the man to reply.
"What did you just call me, Brat?" Levi said. Armin and Jean visibly flinched at his dark tone.
You completely ignored his death glare and gestured towards Jean. You opened your mouth to speak, but paused, then slowly said, "You must watch over the...Jean...person...while I gather some vegetables from the garden. Let me know if anything goes wrong." You quickly left the house, not even waiting for Levi's response.
Jean stared at your retreating figure with confusion. "...What did she just call me?"
You returned shortly after picking some food from your garden, with Eren not too far behind you. He placed the bucket of water on the counter and you joined Armin in chopping vegetables. You added the chopped vegetables into the boiling water and sprinkled in some spices. While the vegetables were cooking, you went back outside and skinned and gutted the fox you had killed. You used the light streaming through the windows as your guide, as the sun had already gone down.
"Blonde boy," you called from where you leaned against the door frame.
Armin turned around to face you and visibly cringed at your bloodied hands. "Uh...yes?" he asked.
"I can't touch anything at the moment. There's some left over deer wrapped in a cloth in that cupboard over there. Cut it into cubes and put it into the pot...please."
"A-alright," he said.
You nodded at him and then went back outside to finish cutting the fox meat.
You returned with a bucket full meat and proceeded to wash your hands and the meat in the sink. The tap didn't work, but the drain did, so you always made sure to have the drain plugged and the sink full with fresh water. You flushed out the water after washing everything and replaced it with the bucket of water Eren had brought in. You then placed the strips of fox meat into the water and sprinkled it with salt.
"What're you doing?" came a voice from behind you.
You glanced over your shoulder and saw a pair of bright green eyes staring at you. "Preparing the meat for tomorrow," you said. "I don't normally hunt fox, as I can get bigger pelts from other animals, and their meat isn't very good unless prepared properly." You looked down at the fox meat and frowned. "But this fox tried to eat any meat I left outside to dry and was stealing from my garden. So I killed it. But I don't want it to go to waste after all the effort," you explained.
You almost regretted your decision to hunt the red animal. The little amount of salt you had was already in the house when you had stumbled upon it four years ago, and was quickly diminishing. You also didn't have any vinegar, and the climate wasn't warm enough to grow limes or lemons, so you had to substitute any cooking that required acetic acid with tomato juice, which wasn't very effective.
After preparing the meat for tomorrow, you poured the hot stew into five bowls and served them to the soldiers.
With the addition of four people inside your tiny home, the living space was certainly crowded. You were no where near prepared for guests, as evidenced by the hunting equipment and laundry cluttering all but one of the four dining chairs. Levi claimed the only empty chair near the fire, Jean was slightly propped up on your bed, and Armin and Eren sat beside each other between the bed and the fireplace. You situated yourself on the floor against the cabinet on the opposite wall from everyone.
The men sat in silence and stared at you. You sighed in annoyance when you noticed that none of them had taken a bite of their food. "It's not poisoned," you said. As if to show a point, you scooped a large portion of the stew onto your spoon and shoved it in your mouth.
Your guests started to slowly eat the stew. You figured if they weren't distrustful of you and the food wasn't so hot, they would probably be wolfing their food down. You were also incredibly hungry and exhausted from a long day and skipping lunch, but the stew had already burnt your tongue when you foolishly took a big bite, so you had no choice but to pace yourself as well.
Jean's face contorted into a look of concentration as he ate. "It's a bit bland," he commented.
You stared blankly at him. "I know how to survive, not pull chocolate cake out of my ass," you deadpanned.
Eren snorted at your comment, Jean choked a bit on his food, and Armin stared at you with wide eyes. You smirked at their reactions.
"Just be glad you're eating a meal and not starving, Kirschtein," Levi said.
"Uh, yes, Sir."
"So...um...(Name)," Armin slowly began, "what are you doing here outside of the walls?"
All eyes shifted towards you. You took your time with chewing the bite in your mouth and slowly swallowed. The suspense had them hooked, you could tell, as their eyes remained glued to you. Finally, you opened your mouth and simply said, "Surviving."
"Well, yeah. But how did you get here without getting eaten? And why are you here?" Jean asked.
"I dunno," you shrugged. It was true. You really didn't know. After four years of living in this fictional world, you still hadn't recalled anything of importance from your life before.
"How long have you been here?" inquired Armin.
"About four years."
"So...how old are you?" Jean asked, eyeing you up and down with a smirk on his face.
You frowned at him. "17 or 18. Maybe 19. Or 16. Not 100% percent sure. But must likely 18," you replied. While you did know your date of birth, you weren't sure of your exact age when you had arrived four years ago, so all you could do was guess.
The boys stared at you in silence, mouths agape in shock at your confusing answer.
Eren quickly changed the subject. "We didn't encounter any titans the entire time we were walking in this forest. And I didn't see any while fetching water," he said.
"Yup," you said. Eren looked at you oddly. Oh, he must want an explanation or something, you realized. "The forest is very dense. Plants and trees are all very close together. The titans are too large to fit through," you explained.
"That was obvious from the start. How could you not pick up on that, idiot?" Levi asked Eren.
Eren flinched. "I-I was preoccupied with carrying Kirschtein, Sir," he defended.
"Tch. You're as dense as this forest."
Noticing everyone had finished their meal, you abruptly stood up, effectively ending your guests' conversation, and placed your empty bowl on the counter. You grabbed the bottle of onion extract and a few pieces of cloth and spun around to face the men.
"I need to treat your wounds," you said, pointing to Levi and Armin.
"They're just scratches," Levi said.
You shook your head at him. "Doesn't matter. When out in the wilderness, you are much more prone to infection. Any wound, no matter how small, has the potential to turn into something much more severe if left untreated."
Your words halted any further protesting, and you soon had cleaned and patched up all of Levi and Armin's wounds. Eren didn't have any, of course, as you recalled him having some sort of self-healing ability, which you didn't dare let them know you were aware of.
Shortly after you had put away the medical supplies, you pulled out all the pillows and blankets you had in the cabinet and handed them out to your guests. Eren, Armin, and Levi took the items and set up their beds on the floor while you unstrapped all of your weapons and pouches and carefully placed them on the cluttered table.
"Where's your blanket?" Armin asked you as you laid down on the hard wood floor across from them.
"I don't need one," you mumbled.
"But you don't even have a pillow and you're...um...not in warm clothing. You'll get cold," Armin persisted.
"I'll be fine," you said, resting your head on your arm.
"I said I'll be fine!" you snapped.
Armin looked taken aback by your harsh tone and quickly stuttered out an apology. The room had become silent as everyone settled into their makeshift beds, with the exception of Jean, who took up your bed. Exhaustion finally caught up to you and just as you were about to fall asleep, a quiet voice filled the room.
"Thank you for your hospitality, (Name)," Armin said.
A collective mumble of sleepy "thank yous" followed after from the other men in the room. Your eyes shut closed and just before sleep completely enveloped you, your lips formed into a smile.