Attack on Titan Fanfiction – Bladesmiths & Librarians: Chapter 5

The Moral Compass

“While we struggle to pull the economy back to pre-war levels, organized crime syndicates are gaining local support by distributing free food and other essentials to the poorest families,” Levi explained. 

The people around the table give him miserable looks.

“If the state doesn’t step in and change this dynamic, the mob will impose their control over people’s lives through the services they provide for free,” he went on. He was a former mob boss. Even after he crossed over to the right side of the law he was still the resident expert on the criminal underworld, keeping himself up to date with its comings and goings.

“Is it really free, though?” Jean asked.

Levi shook his head. “Initially they don’t ask for anything in return. Distributing food is a tactic as old as the mob itself. A mob boss likes to present himself as a benefactor, power broker, charitable institution and friend of the poor. But handouts are not gifts. They are a tool, a means for future exploitation. The boss who gives away food parcels and clothing knows that he can count on the support of families he’s helped in the past. When the boss sponsors a politician for election who will further their criminal ambitions, he can count on these families to vote for them.”

“What other forms of payback do they expect in return?” Queen Historia asked.

“Payback always comes in some form or another. The most common means are dealing drugs, hiding contraband weapons, and aiding and abetting a fugitive.”

Levi was in a consultative role. He not only has to deal with the Yabo, an international crime syndicate, but also the local mobsters on the island.

This afternoon a top-level meeting was being held in the palace to update Queen Historia on the progress of post-war national reconstruction efforts. In the room were the members of Cabinet and the heads of the military. The topic Levi was tasked to speak on was the growth of the local mob in certain parts of the country. Formerly rulers of the underground city, these gangs went aboveground when the cave-like municipality was transformed into a bomb shelter. Now the gangs were expanding their control and influence over the poorer members of the populace. 

“Mob bosses consider themselves to be kings of their adopted towns. In order to govern they take care of people in their territory, providing free medicine, building roads, giving bonuses to schoolteachers and bribing local priests. While the boss is neck-deep in drug trafficking and commissioning the murder of rival gangsters, he is known to the townsmen as a benevolent, charitable, model citizen,” Levi continued. “We have to wrest control over the gang-infiltrated constituencies and the only way to do that is to put the economy back on its feet.” 

Frank Winkler, Minister of Food Control, frowns at Levi and gives his own updates on the efforts his department was making to address issues of food distribution.

Prime Minister Otto Dietrich, Queen Historia and Winkler discuss the situation for a while before the next minister takes the podium.

“Ahem,” Hans Fischer, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, clears his throat. “Speaking of livelihood, there is a national feeling that a soldier who fought for his country should be entitled to retire to a smallholding that would provide him with a livelihood. My initiative, called Homes for Heroes, will become openly redistributive in favor of ex-servicemen.” 

“When do you estimate the agricultural law shall be passed?” Queen Historia inquired. 

They proceed to discussing a revision of the old Agricultural Holdings Act, and then about giving county councils power to requisition land they could let as smallholdings to retired servicemen.

The Cabinet ministers argue loudly amongst themselves. Land reform is always a thorny issue. Levi sat there and scowled at them. At least, Fischer was among the capable ones, the brigadier thought. How long did he have to sit and watch the circus? All the way until supper time.

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Parliamentary government was Historia’s idea. 

It was the queen who pushed for the creation of a modern Cabinet system, with committee structures, formal procedures, practice and proceedings. Levi and Jean had been against it at first. 

“You’ll get a Parliament of Asses, led by donkeys. Not very bright ones, mind you,” Levi said in protest. He and Jean thought a military junta would be the most efficient way to run the country. Hange thought that either way had its own shortcomings; tossing a dice would end their squabbling. But Queen Historia was adamant.

“You see, the truth is that Eldians naturally go for the strongman. It’s easier that way. Easier to put your faith in the hands of someone who will make all the decisions for you,” Queen Historia told the assembled military junta at the time. “But we need to change this way of thinking. Our people need to learn to govern themselves. It will be a long and painful process but we want Paradis to become a parliamentary democracy and not a military-backed dictatorship. We want to move forward, not backward.” In the end, she managed to get Levi and Jean to bend to her will.

Her gamble paid off when the War Cabinet expedited decisions across government. They were a crucial part of the war effort as they made decisions on mass conscription and armament production tied into a general war strategy developed by Jean and overseen by the Cabinet. Now they reorganised into a Peacetime Cabinet as they struggled to deal with the exigencies of a post-war world. 

“After the war we will go through one crisis after another. I am certain of it. More than ever we need a highly organised and centralised government centered on the Cabinet,” the queen told the people as part of her address to them when the war ended. 

It was really a hit and miss, though, the Parliament as a whole, Levi thought. The only reason they were able to form a decent Cabinet was due to the fact that Historia never hesitated to let heads roll. If she was unhappy with your performance, or if you lacked accountability, there were hundreds of other elected Members of Parliament dying to fill your powerful role, she would inform underperforming Cabinet members with her cold, unflinching blue gaze.

It seemed the only one with a secure lifetime appointment was Jean Kirschtein. As First Lord of the Admiralty he was an honorary Cabinet member. He often butted heads with whoever the Prime Minister appointed as Minister of Defense. But Historia saw Jean as irreplaceable, the Minister fully replaceable. Thanks to Jean this cabinet post had the highest turnover rate. 

“If Marco were alive, I wouldn’t have to deal with a donkey each time,” he told Historia in the heat of an argument regarding cabinet appointments. In Jean’s eyes, Marco would have made the perfect Minister of Defense.

“Marco is gone. You need learn to deal with donkeys, Jean. Even a donkey can be educated, if the thoroughbred in charge is capable of doing so,” Queen Historia riposted.  

And so the heads of government and heads of the military would argue amongst themselves, all part of a painful growing process called democracy. Eventually, Jean became a staunch defender of a parliamentary government.

Now the Minister of Mining and Energy, Günter Bergmann, was taking the floor. He was telling the queen about the state of the latest iterations of the Mining Regulation Act. “There is little will or incentive for the provincial governors to enforce the act’s provisions intended to regulate the industry. Many key assembly members in the provinces are either owners of mines or have some significant stake in the mining industry.” The ice burst stone mines were government-controlled and operated, but there were privately-owned metal mines all across the island. 

Queen Historia was displeased. “Under no circumstances can we sanction indentured labour in any of the mines. We must work to abolish modern slavery.”

“Sponsor a bill to amend the law so that you can coordinate with the Army and use force to impose sanctions on non-compliant mine owners,” followed up Prime Minister Otto Dietrich. “I’ll make sure it passes. We’ll take away their licenses if that’s what it takes.” He knew forced labor greatly angered the queen; he’d better address the problem fast: his prime ministership was at stake.

They discuss this for a while, before it was Hildegard Krause, Minister of Education’s turn to talk. The issue was post-war schoolbooks and how much they should celebrate Eldian exceptionalism. “The Committee on Textbook Publication is split in half,” she told the queen. “On one hand there is a right-wing version of Eldianhood, celebrating indomitable exceptionalism, long-enduring Eldian traditional cultures and military prowess. Then there is the left-wing version, also celebrating exceptionalism but centers more on national unity and shared sacrifice and reward.”

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Queen Historia was displeased. “This kind of sentimental jingoism and empire-nostalgia cannot make their way into the books of our children. There has to be a thorough examination of our willful amnesia regarding the brutality of the Eldian empire, balanced with our ancestors’ worldwide contributions in the economic and infrastructure realms.”

Another discussion ensues, before Margarethe Pfeiffer, Minister of Public Health and Welfare takes the floor. The topic was legalised prostitution. “For many years our island’s approach toward sex workers has been largely practical, far more progressive than continental countries, I’m proud to say. So far our country’s sex workers are registered with the city council as well as Chamber of Commerce. They have health insurance and regular checks. We have endeavored to create a structure giving them safety and security. But the truth of the matter is, more and more women, usually widows and children of soldiers killed in the war, are joining the sex trade. Thus the problematic aspects of the red-light districts that we have so far failed to clean up are becoming worse. With the influx of new workers there is growing fraud, money laundering and human trafficking.”

Pfeiffer is another one of the good ones, Levi thought. She tells it like it is, more concerned with recognising and addressing the problem than saving her own skin.

More discussions ensue. More politicians take their turn to speak: the Minister of Trade and Industry, Minister of Finance, Minister of Labour, Minister of Information, Minister of Pensions, Minister of Shipping and Transport, Postmaster General, Attorney General, and so on. 

Levi took a good long look at each of them. There were the good ones, then there were the mediocre ones, the ones whose names he struggled to remember. The Minister of Pensions, for instance. No Cabinet minister has worked harder to make himself as forgettable as possible than this man. Every word that escaped from his lips seemed to lose its meaning the moment it was uttered.

When it was the heads of the military’s turn to talk Levi could feel the politicians zoning out.

The politicians bored the military and the military bored the politicians. They didn’t like each other much. When the politicians start yakking the military leaders’ eyes begin to glaze over, and vice-versa. It was as if they were playing a contest on who could be the dullest among them. Only Queen Historia seemed to listen intently to both parties, looking the speaker in the eye and diligently taking notes. 

How far she’d come, this petite but mighty queen of the island! How different this poised and self-possessed royal from the insecure fifteen-year-old girl that Levi had to manhandle and force to become queen. Years later it was still a cause of controversy between them. Whenever they had an argument Queen Historia would unhesitatingly remind him of the good old days.

“What shall you do, Captain, grab me by the collar and try to shake some sense into me?” she’d ask him sardonically.

“Oh no, Your Majesty. You and I are past that physical stage. I shall endeavor to convince you with the force of my personality,” he’d retort with equal sarcasm.

But all things considered, they got along pretty well. She put her trust in him, Hange, Jean, Mikasa, Connie, Hitch…In return they stood up for her and became staunch monarchists. They knew they needed each other. Better the devil you know, as the saying goes.

“I’ve been careless and lacking in foresight,” Hange began, when it was their turn to give updates. “I was so concerned with the acquisition and proliferation of the newest and latest technologies that I completely took for granted our ancient, traditional craftsmen. I failed to give them the necessary protection when the war was coming to an end.” Hange took the fall again, like they always did. Levi still felt it was more his fault than theirs, but they managed to convince him that military engineering taking responsibility raised less alarm than the Special Forces. 

Hange carefully framed the massacre of the castle bladesmiths in terms of a loss of ancient means of making traditional weapons. That was because even to the high-ranking politicians, the castle bladesmiths have been kept a secret. All they knew was that the Special Forces and a section of the Royal Marines acquired their close-quarter combat weapons from traditional blacksmiths from the western side of the island. They knew there was an allocation in the military annual spending plan for that. They took little interest in the blades themselves; they were only used for self-defense and were not a significant source of trade income. The island’s self-imposed anti-weapons export treaty kept them from selling and profiting from weapons sales. 

It was easy to cover up the incident since the police investigating the matter already made a statement: they suspected foreign bandits tried to steal the bladesmith products to sell in the blackmarket, but when the villagers put up a fight the bandits burned down the village. The police are currently hunting down these murderers and arsonists. This explanation seemed to satisfy the politicians. 

Hange then explains that they will proceed from now on to make factory-produced blades instead of the handcrafted ones they’ve always used. As Hange had intended, the politicians were bored by Military Engineering’s update. No one raised a single question. 

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When facing so dire a menace as the Yabo, the leaders of the country should be hunkered down in the palace situation room, masterminding the fight for national dignity, for protection of their ancient traditions. But Levi couldn’t have that yet. He couldn’t afford to disclose information, because he had come to the conclusion that there was a spy among them. 

Going through the catalogue of suspicious persons in his mind, he tries to pinpoint the one who could have sold them out.

He looked around the meeting room. At the head of the table was the queen herself.

Throughout the war, Queen Historia had been a class act. As a former soldier she put her trust squarely behind Jean, who masterminded their rather unconventional military strategy. It caused grumblings among some of the politicians who were wary of anything they didn’t clearly understand. But the queen showed her faith in Jean and everyone else fell in line. During the heat of the fighting she used her medic skills to help in the central hospital. While she hid her children in the underground city turned bomb shelter, she made sure her presence was felt by everyone aboveground. She personally organized the civilian wartime effort. The whole time her face had an inscrutable expression on it–ostensibly to hide the pain of seeing her people suffer–but she did what was required of her and more. She stepped up, proving to the entire island that she was far from being queen in name only. 

Being out on the streets and working alongside everyone else, she showed that she cared simply by being there. Queen Historia provided the clear moral leadership that not even the top-ranking politicians could provide. For a few anti-monarchists nothing she could have said or done would have made any difference, but for the majority of the population, having her steadfast presence among them was a source of comfort and strength. She represented two thousand years of tradition, an unwavering anchor amidst a sea of volatile, brutal, often incomprehensible and invariably overwhelming change. While she was a purely symbolic figure with no formal political power, her influence ran deep, her social clout undeniable. When she tackled a matter of contention and made her opinion known, the government toed the mark, the military listened, and most of society rallied behind her. 

Queen Historia was the island’s moral compass.

But now even the beloved queen herself was suspect. Among the royalty only the queen was aware of the exact location and true identity of the castle bladesmith village. Among the military it was just him and Hange. Thus, both of them were also suspect. 

Since there were no written records of the castle bladesmiths and all information about them were inside their heads, could one of them have given away this state secret without being aware of doing so? Given them away by accident? It was possible: perhaps a word here and there, mentioned offhandedly, an innocent-seeming question that one of them answered without much thought because of the years of trust built between them and the person–the spy–asking the question.

Everyone close to the three of them were now suspect. 

Levi made a checklist in his mind of those closest to the queen.

Captain Walter Kühn and the three others that made up the Musketeers were suspect. But Kühn was a homegrown soldier, one of the rare good ones from the Military Police who was among the first to join the Special Forces. When Levi created the Musketeers unit and asked for volunteers among his operators, Kühn was the first to raise a willing hand. He came from the same town as Marco Bodt; theirs was a community made up of descendant of men and women that historically served the royal family as administrators and petty officials. Levi trusted Kühn. The man kept an impassive face at all times, but the short-cropped dark hair seemed to serve as antennae, the pale blue eyes constantly on high alert, never missing a thing. Was there something else behind the facade of loyalty and service?

Even the twins’ governess was suspect. Levi had always admired the way she deftly handled the boisterous twins. The twins adored her and she adored them without spoiling them. Plus, she was neat and pleasant to look at, with her willowy figure and intelligent, dark chocolate eyes. Hailing from the continent, Lynn Sedara grew up in Lanumedio, a city in northern Sulati known for its scrappy, organized crime-tinged folklore. Her mother was a schoolteacher of continental languages, her father a half-Eldian medical doctor. Her family were archetypical members of the Lanumedion provincial intelligentsia. Did they have mob connections? Was she hiding something behind that pretty face and multilingual tongue?

What about the twins’ main tutor, Gustav Schreiber? Formerly a member of the Marleyan intellectual class, his name had some renown as author, scholar and university professor, before he decided to relocate to Paradis after Eren Jaeger died. He was among the first wave of Eldian refugees from the continent who immigrated to the island when Marley fell into chaos, before Theo Magat took control. Initially, the professor planned to stay on the island and help build the national library and establish a college. But when Marley was taken over by right-wing extremists and Magat assassinated, he decided to stay for good, eventually becoming Levi’s friend. Was there something behind his gentle, self-deprecating manner?

Then there was Ernst Hoffmann, the Lord Chamberlain. As the most senior official of the royal household, he was consulted on all matters regarding the royal family, from their daily schedule to the children’s education to charity projects and new business activities. Tall, fair  and gangly with an imposing air, Hoffmann was a former Walldian bishop coming from a long line of prominent Wallists. After Eren Jaeger destroyed the walls, the religious cult was disbanded, their members moving on to positions ranging from civil servants to village shamans. Levi found Hoffmann to be a bit of a snob, but his organizational skills were remarkable and he seemed to be genuinely passionate about his job of serving the royal family. Plus, he can hold a conversation really well, which Levi thought of as a useful skill because it entertained those who had to sit in the public waiting room hoping for an audience with the highly-in-demand queen. 

Then there were the Cabinet ministers, the entire lot of them, here in this very room. They had direct access to the palace and Queen Historia. Even Prime Minister Otto Dietrich, Queen Historia’s loyal right hand man, was suspect.

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The military personnel who served him and Hange were also suspect, because they worked so closely together and knew each other well. Perhaps too well.

Levi combed over each of them in his mind, determined the root out the spy among them. Who could it possibly be? Somewhere, deep in his heart, he knew there was a part of him that did not want to know the answer.

He didn’t want to be suspicious of anyone close to them, so he tried a different track: Maybe there was a madman out there in the immense, evil world that developed a means of stealing information while a person sleeps. Suck out the data from the victim’s brain while they were in dreamland. Who knows what kind technology people have been messing with these days?

Levi’s eyes followed the figures of Jean, the twins and Jürgen as they prance about the palace courtyard. He stood on a second floor patio overlooking the inner garden. At last, the meeting was over and everyone was hurrying home for supper. Jean was spending some moments with the twins before going home to his and Mikasa’s apartment in the capital.

He was giving Lily a piggyback ride while Len and Jürgen walked beside him, the twins conversing animatedly with the admiral. When the children were toddlers Jean used to hoist them up his shoulders at the same time, and they held their arms out like an aeroplane while making flying noises. They loved being carried on Jean’s shoulders: he was so tall the view up there must have been special for them. As they grew they’d take turns for the shoulder ride. Now they were too big for that and he was carrying them, one at a time, on his back. The twins loved to climb on Jean, he must be like a moving tree to them. 

And Jean, he had been there for the kids from the day they were born. Among the remaining 104th he was the one who took out as much time as possible to be with the twins. 

 “It’s great what you’re doing. You’ve really stepped up,” Levi remarked to him once. “You’re the closest thing they have to a father.”

I promised Eren, Captain. I swore to him I’d look after his kids,” Jean said wistfully, the lopsided smile on his lips full of nostalgia, the hazel eyes tinted with melancholy.

It was Jean who gave the twins their nicknames: Len for Little Eren, Lily for Little Ymir. Lilen would beg him for every story he had of their father, and he’d patiently recount the same episode over and over again because it was their favorite.  

Now there they were, gamboling in the courtyard and making a racket. It was a heartwarming scene. Even Jürgen was laughing and grinning. Jean and the twins were winning him over, this reticent, sorrowful, peculiar boy. 

The brigadier watched the four of them horsing around before Jean deposited the twins to the kitchen for their cooking duties. Jürgen followed them. He could imagine the boy insisting on helping the twins even if he himself did nothing to deserve the wash-the-potatoes kind of punishment doled out to naughty pranksters.

Levi’s mind returned to his root-out-the-spy ruminations. It wasn’t just a whodunit. They came after the castle bladesmith clan. Who was next? The stonemasons, glassmakers, leatherworkers, woodworkers, potters, needleworkers, builders? Levi listed the ancient craftsman clans in his head but came up with nothing that had a military application. Maybe it was just the bladesmiths they were after? What about Clan Ackermann, monarch-approved supersoldiers? Technically, they were also an ancient craftsman clan, their craft being the art of killing. But he liked to believe not even the Yabo would dare touch them directly. 

If someone out there wanted the castle bladesmiths’ secrets that badly, what else might they want? Aside from the ice burst stone, what other precious thing did Paradis have that an outsider might covet? The queen? Or god forbid, the twins? Anything but the twins! 

You’re being paranoid, Levi admonishes himself. Don’t be paranoid, think. Put yourself in the shoes of the menacing masterminds. If they know about the castle bladesmiths, what else did they already figure out?

Next – Chapter 6: Center of Knowledge

Back – Chapter 4: Lily and Len

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parliament of asses led by donkeys–roflol

you really do give levi the best lines!


historia being queenly ahhh! thanks for this i miss her alive and moving in canon shes disappeared completely i wonder what she did to be hated so much by isayama ugh she had so much potential your historia is better than his! <3

i like the part where she says eldians naturally go for the strongman me thinks its true for lots of people they dont want to do any thinking of their own they simply want somebody to tell them what to think feel want dream of hope for etc etc its easier that way also keeps one from taking responsibility when they fail

having said all that im like that sometimes! bad habit needs fixing uh-huh!

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