|But in the end...I was nothing more than a bystander, after all. I've always been powerless to change anything.|
|— Keith Shadis accepts the futility of his actions|
Instructor Keith Shadis tells Eren, Hange and Squad Levi everything he knows about Eren's father, Grisha Yeager. About twenty years ago, Grisha was found wandering outside Wall Maria with amnesia, and Keith, a member of the Survey Corps at the time, took him in and introduced him to the life within the Walls. Grisha got a job as a doctor and some time later saved Shiganshina from a plague, including Carla. They fell in love and eventually married. Keith became the commander of the Survey Corps, but continued suffering great losses and had a discussion with Carla about it, during which he met her baby, Eren. After years of disastrous expeditions, Keith resigned in favor of Erwin. On that day, Wall Maria fell, and Keith found Grisha among the fleeing crowd. After finding Eren and learning of Carla's death, Grisha led his son to the forest while Keith waited outside. Seeing the lightning of Eren's Titan transformation, Keith entered the forest and found Eren unconscious with no trace of Grisha, so he took him back to the shelter and left. Back in the present, Keith tells Eren about Carla's last words to him, and remembers the time when he sabotaged Eren's vertical maneuvering equipment balancing test to prevent him from joining the military and save his life, but changed his mind after witnessing Eren's immense will.
Eren Yeager, Hange Zoë, Mikasa Ackerman, Levi Ackerman, Armin Arlert, Jean Kirstein, and Sasha Blouse pay a visit to Keith Shadis. Meeting privately, Keith remarks on how much his former trainees have changed in the few months since they graduated. Levi remarks that Keith has also changed since the last time they met, prompting Keith to recall when he had Erwin Smith replace him as the head of the Survey Corps. Hange asks Keith if he has figured out why they are paying him a visit, and Keith turns his attention to Eren, commenting on Eren's similarities to his parents Grisha and Carla. Hearing Keith mention his parents, Eren demands to know what Keith knows of them. Keith reveals that he knows nothing, and invites those present to listen to a story with "no benefit whatsoever to humanity," if they would like.
About twenty years prior, Keith, while on a Survey expedition beyond the Walls, encountered Grisha Yeager outside Wall Maria, near Shiganshina District, on a day when, strangely, there were extremely few Titans around. Startled, Keith demands to know how Grisha got beyond the Walls. Grisha, in return, asks what Keith and the Survey Corps members are doing outside the Walls, nervously asking if they are fighting. Keith is surprised by the question, but is even more surprised to find that Grisha does not know what the Survey Corps is, or who he himself is. Keith decides to take Grisha back inside the Walls so that the two of them can talk.
After returning inside the Walls, Grisha is arrested for venturing beyond the Walls. Keith is surprised, and while watching Grisha's cell with Hannes, comments that he had not been aware that it was a crime to venture beyond the Walls without permission, and that he has never heard of the law being applied before now. Hannes suggests that this is because no one besides the Survey Corps is stupid enough to leave the Walls, prompting Keith to ask if there is a law to arrest drunken soldiers such as Hannes. Hannes suggests that Grisha is an alcoholic who ended up outside the Walls with no memory as the result of heavy drinking. Keith is not convinced of Grisha's story, and suggest that he is simply a suicidal debtor who tried to falsify his family registry. Hannes points out that Grisha did not harm anyone, and he and Keith agree not to tell their superiors about him.
After Grisha is released, Keith accompanies him as he leaves, asking Grisha what he will do now, and if he plans to continue to use a name that does not show up in any birth registers. Grisha reveals that he also remembers that, other than his name, he remembers that he is a doctor and asks Keith to show him to a hospital. He also asks Keith to teach him about the world.
Keith would proceed to teach Grisha about everything he had forgotten, including the Walls' creation and history, names of places within the Walls, and the concept of money. During this time, he noticed that Grisha took particular interest in the way humans lived. Upon learning about lifestyle within the Walls, Grisha comments that although there are economic problems, there is peace within the Walls, and that humans do not have to live in fear of the Titans.
Upon hearing Grisha's opinions, Keith reveals that he feels differently: while people like Grisha can be happy with food and drink within the Walls, staying happy by never thinking about the world beyond, and that he does not agree. Grisha asks if that is why Keith and the Survey Corps leave the Walls. Keith explains what the Survey Corps is, before lamenting that, more than anything, the Survey Corps just seems to serve to remind the populace of their fear of the Titans. Grisha encourages him, saying that he is wiser and stronger than those living within the Walls, and claiming that the Survey Corps is the pride of humanity, to Keith's surprise.
Keith and Grisha are approached by Carla, who asks if Keith is trying to recruit Grisha to the Survey Corps, telling Grisha that he should not let himself be talked into such things. As Keith adamantly tries to deny her accusations, Grisha corrects her, claiming that he would not be of use to them, as the Corps needs more special people than him.
As Keith listens to officials criticize the Survey Corps' lack of progress during a meeting, he inwardly mocks them, claiming that they do not realize that they are living in a rats' nest. He inwardly claims that if he becomes commander, he will get results for the Corps. One day he will do something so great that no one will make a fool of him. They will all understand how he thinks, and they will all recognize him.
Keith carries Carla into the hospital where Grisha works, screaming erratically that she has contracted the disease too. Grisha instructs him to place Carla on a bed in the back of the hospital. Carla manages to grab Grisha, telling him that her parents need help, but Grisha cuts her off, telling her that everyone will be fine. Grisha excitedly informs Keith that he has found a cure for the disease, to Keith's delight. However, as he is leaving, Keith glances back, and is alarmed to see Carla hugging Grisha in gratitude.
As time progresses, the commander of the Survey Corps is eaten outside the Walls, and Keith is named the next commander. Soon afterward, Carla and Grisha get married. At their reception, Hannes ask them how they first met. Grisha claims that it was when Keith took him to the place she worked at, but when he tries to ask Keith if he is remembering correctly, he finds that Keith has left.
As the Survey Corps continues to lose ground to the Titans, Erwin Smith presents Keith with his new Long-Distance Enemy Scouting Formation that will allow the Corps to avoid engaging the Titans on expeditions. However, Keith refuses to use it, telling Erwin to use it when he becomes commander.
While returning from another mission, Keith listens as he is openly criticized for his strategies by onlookers, who simultaneously praise Erwin, who has not lost a single member of his squad. Carla watches from the crowd with her infant son Eren, and calls out to Keith. Keith approaches, noting that he had not heard about Eren because he was busy. Carla informs Keith that Grisha is also worried, and asks Keith if he is going to continue doing what he is doing until he dies. Keith grows angry, asking Carla if she knows why so few accomplish anything before they die. He claims that because they lack imagination, they are never able to find value in anything beyond their own lives. He claims that great deeds cannot be accomplished by ordinary people, and that he doubts that they would even be able to understand such great deeds.
Over time, Keith begins to realize that he is not one of those capable of accomplishing great deeds, and asks Erwin to take over as Commander of the Survey Corp for him. He informs Erwin that he will be returning to the capital to give them a report, and that it will be his final mission.
However, on his way, the news that Wall Maria has been breached reaches Wall Rose. As Keith is swept along by a crowd of panicked civilians, he is caught by Grisha. They are informed by another soldier that Shiganshina has already been destroyed. Grisha tells Keith that his family must be in the shelter, and requests that they split up to search. Keith begins searching for Carla, remembering how his last encounter with her, and wanting to apologize. As he exits one of the shelters, he sees Grisha waking up an unconscious Eren. Keith arrives in time to hear Eren inform Grisha that Carla has been eaten by Titans.
As Keith collapses in grief, Grisha instructs Eren to take revenge for his mother, before taking him away. Keith asks him where he is going, and Grisha replies that they are going to the forest, and tells Keith not to follow them. Keith asks why Grisha does not avenge Carla himself, saying that Grisha is special, and that if Eren is not special like Grisha, then Grisha is just cursing him. Grisha replies that Eren is not like Keith because Eren is his son, and asks Keith not to get involved. Keith is left speechless, but follows them after hearing what sounds like thunder and seeing a flash from within the woods. Keith enters a clearing to find Eren curled up on the ground and Grisha nowhere in sight. Taking Eren in his arms, puts him back on the shelter and leaves.
With this, Keith finishes his story claiming that is all he knows. Eren, stunned, asks if there is anything else, but Keith remains silent. Hange claims that they now understand why he decided to retire to a training camp, claiming that he is running away from reality for a very childish reason, and claims that he does not need to decide whether his information is useful to them, telling him not to bring his feelings of inferiority into the matter, as that is what it means to devote yourself to the greater good.
However, Eren agrees with Keith: Eren was not special back then, he was just the son of a special man, and that was the only reason he was given his Titan power. Upon hearing this Keith recalls when his last meeting with Carla. He recalls her asking him if being special matters, and if people have to recognize you, before claiming that she does not think so in Eren's case. That Eren did not need to become great, and that he did not need to be better than everyone else. Eren was already great because he was born into this world.
As Eren and the others leave, Keith recalls the time when, three years ago, he met Eren at the training camp. Upon seeing the fire in his eyes, Keith decided to sabotage his balancing test by breaking the fittings of his vertical maneuvering equipment belt, believing that Eren would be torn to ashes if he left the Walls, never knowing Carla's wishes for his life. As Eren struggled with his broken equipment, Keith had believed that Eren did not belong in the Military, and that he should live according to who he really was. However, Keith was taken aback by Eren's persistence, and as he watched Eren momentarily master the broken equipment, he realized that he was once again a bystander, powerless to change anything.
Characters in order of appearance
- Hajime Isayama considers this chapter to be his best work in the series.
- The story of Grisha saving Shiganshina from a plague had been already mentioned by Hannes in Chapter 3.
- When Keith finds Eren unconscious after receiving the Coordinate, there is no trace of Grisha. In Eren's memories, Grisha's lower body was next to him. However, due to Grisha having the power of the Titans, it is possible that like Titans, a human with the power of the Titans' body disintegrates when they perish, or perhaps Eren may have moved a short distance away from the scene of the event before collapsing.
- The fact that Keith was the one who sabotaged Eren's vertical maneuvering equipment belt before his balancing test was hinted by himself at that time when he stated that the fittings of the belts never break on their own.