The rain soaked ground felt cool beneath him but he could hardly notice anymore. His entire body felt numb by now. How much more blood could he lose before he lost all consciousness? He had been wounded only several moments before, and already his mind felt fuzzy.
Why was he even in this mess in the first place?
Then it struck him like a slap to the face.
Tch. Of course. He had to go to ward off the titans in order to protect that damned brat, Eren. Although, Levi supposed, there were worse people to have to protect. It was much better than having to protect that damn good-for-nothing president like those military police swine. Eren was the ‘hope of humanity’ after all. He was irreplaceable both to the public and to their mission. He had to be protected at all costs.
‘Humanity’s greatest soldier’ is a title that can be filled in by anyone who can fight well, so Levi figured it was only right that Eren’s survival be first priority. Hell, the brat’s girlfriend, that girl with the short black hair, was already just about as good as him with the 3DMG. Sure, the damn brat and Erwin might be a little upset that he just up and died on them, but it’ll just be even more reason for them to fight harder.
As he lost more blood from his wounds memories from his past floated through his mind, some painful, some sad, some amusing. But one particular memory from his early childhood crept into his thoughts and he allowed the strange, nostalgic recollection to play in his mind.
A homeless, 7 year old Levi walked along the dark alleyways of the poverty stricken district he lived in. Being homeless with his parents having died when he was very young, Levi had no choice but to steal what little food he could eat and sleep wherever he found cover. Sometimes the church would supply the homeless children with clothes. Sometimes not. The church wasn’t too reliable, often using the money they sucked out of people’s taxes for their own gain, only occasionally giving some to the poor children in the district. Levi wasn’t the only child like this. In fact there were many, but he could not befriend anyone. No, they were all competing for the limited resources they had and had to look out only for themselves. And they all knew it.
Levi hated it. He hated having to steal. He hated being looked at like scum. He hated being treated like trash.
That was human nature. If you’re not useful to them, they’ll turn their backs on you in a second. If they think they can gain something from you, they’ll sing your praises and kiss your ass.
It disgusted him.
God, if he ever became someone people oooh’ed and ahh’ed about, he’d rather tell them to shut up than have them cheer for him.
But even more than all of that, he hated the filth. The dirt and trash everywhere, The stench of sewers, uncleaned ground, and rats. If he had it his way, everything he owned would be sparkling clean. But that was just not a reality. It would never happen.
Levi continued to walk down an abandoned alleyway looking for some shelter to spend the night when he heard the voice of an old woman call out to him.
“Come here boy, allow me to tell you your fortune.”
Levi instantaneously pulled his tattered coat closer to him out of instinct. He paused a moment before turning toward the old grey-haired lady sitting against the wall of the alley.
“It will only take a minute.” The fortune-teller continued.
Levi narrowed his already glaring eyes at the woman. He was used to the fake ‘mystics’ claiming to be able to see the future. It was a bunch of bullshit if you asked him. Some phony trying to make a quick buck. The rich people were suckers for it though.
“I don’t have any money.” Levi warned, prepared to keep walking.
The old woman merely chuckled in response and motioned him closer.
“I don’t ask for any money boy, just a moment of your time.”
Levi hesitated, then shook his head.
“No thanks. I need to find a place to sleep and I’m not into that superstitious shit anyway.”
“Oh, come on boy. Humor an old woman, will you? Here, I’ll even let you use my extra blanket for the night.” The woman offered.
Levi looked at her strangely before slowly walking over to her and sitting down. He couldn’t refuse that offer.
“Fine.” Levi said curtly. “But why are you so set on reading my fortune?” The old lady grinned a toothless grin and simply said, “I can tell just by lookin’ at you that you have an interesting one! You’re bound to a strange fate, boy.”
Levi quirked an eyebrow. Was that really true? All he could ever think about was how to survive in a daily basis, he never really even thought about his future.
The old woman reached out her hand.
“Let me see your palm, Levi”
“Alright-wait, I never told you my name!” The old woman merely smirked but didn’t saying anything else on that topic. She traced the lines on his palm, murmuring to herself quietly.
“Well?” He asked impatiently.
The old woman smiled slightly
“You’re quite eager for someone who didn’t even want their fortune told, no? Well, let’s start with you life line. It’s deep but not very long, see? That mean you will have a powerful but rather short life. See how the line ends suddenly? Your life will end abruptly.”
Levi gulped. Short life, huh?
“How soon?” He asked emotionlessly.
The old woman smirked again seeing the ever so slight gleam of panic in the young boys eyes.
“Oh, do not fret boy. Not until you’ve grown up into a man. You’ve still got quite the ways to go.”
Levi nodded soberly. He didn’t usually believe in anything fortune tellers said but he couldn’t shake the feeling that everything she said was right.
She pointed to another line in his hand.
“This is your heart line. See how it’s starts bold but gradually goes thinner? That mean you will slowly cover up your emotions as you grow older. Although I must caution you Levi, that it is bad for your health to keep such things locked inside.” she said wisely but then chuckled at her own foolishness “But fate has already planned that for you so I suppose it will happen whether I warn you or not.”
“This line is your line of success. It starts weak but quickly grows bold and straight. You may have a rough upbringing, but you will be extremely successful in the future. In fact, it’s very rare that I see a success line this bold.”
Levi felt an emotion bubble up in his chest. It had been so long since he felt it that he couldn’t recognize it at first, but soon he realized that it was hope. Perhaps one day he really could get away from this filth and have a life with meaning.
Levi looked to the old woman again as she continued .
“Humph, your line of head tells me that you are very practical but not very imaginative.” She looked at the boys expressionless face and felt a pang of pity.
“Although I suppose growing up on the streets doesn’t allow for much imagination.”
Levi sighed. “Is that all? That really didn’t tell me much, and to be honest, other than career, my future doesn’t sound too great. Why did you say my fortune was so interesting?”
“Ah! But look at your line of fate! So strong and unwavering. I’ve never seen a line like this before. It’s as straight as an arrow and goes far past your line of life! Do you know what that means, child?” Levi shook his head.
“It means that your existence will shape the world around us, even after you die.”
“And the fact that it is so straight tells me that it is a fate you cannot hide from. You will never stray off the path of your fate, it’s impossible.”
Levi was captivated now. He thought to himself that this woman could make a lot of money as a storyteller if that were a job.
“Now my dear,” the old woman pulled out a stack of card from her pocket. “Run your fingers over all if these card and find one that calls to you. Take that one out if the deck and hand it to me.”
Levi obediently ran his fingers across the deck, expecting to just pick one at random, but… One of them felt much cooler than the others. Like ice. He hesitantly grabbed it and handed it to the old woman.
“Any others feel different?”
Levi slid his fingers across the deck again and this time one felt warm. He picked it and gave it back to the woman.
He reopened his eyes.
“What did I get?” Levi asked, interested now.
“You got ‘the hanged man’ and ‘death’.”
Levi cringed at his poor luck.
“Isn’t that the same thing, really? A hanged man is dead right?” Levi said dispassionately. The fortune teller gave a hearty laugh. “I suppose that is one way to look at it, but no, these two cards mean very different things, and while they may seem bleak, there’s more to them then what you think.”
“Okay, well what does ‘the hanged man’ mean?”
“The hanged man means that you will come to a great crossroads in your life and you will only have two choices, yes or no. But seeing as your fate line never strayed in the slightest, I’m sure you’ll choose correctly. But figuring out which is right is up to you, when you get to that point.”
“And the death card?”
“Don’t worry, picking the death card doesn’t mean your demise is coming soon or anything of that sort. It means change, child. A great change will happen in your life. Someone or something is going to take you out of the shadows and into the light and that is when your true journey will begin.”
Levi had already wrapped himself in the blanket the fortune-teller had offered him since the sun had long since gone down. However, levi didn’t feel sleepy at all, he was too caught up in the old woman’s predictions.
The old mystic chuckled suddenly.
“You seem disappointed boy. What? Would you like me to tell you about your demise? I could do that for you if you like. But keep in mind, once you know, you can’t go back. Some people can’t handle the stress of knowing how they perish.” Levi gave her a straight stare. She didnt have to look at his gaze twice to know that the boy has already been through hell. His eyes practically screamed that not even his own death would phase him.
“Alright, let me pour you some tea, And I will read your leaves.”
She set the cup in front if him and levi quickly drank it in a few gulps. He had been thirsty anyway. The woman stared at the leaves twisting the cup around as she looked.
She sighed and looked back to Levi.
“First of all, I must warn you that you will live a life filled with death. Death will be constant the people around will never be around you for very long. You will probably try not to get attached, which is the immediate human reaction, but being a human also means connecting with people despite trying not to. it is inevitable.”
“And now onto your own death, boy. I see this almost always with people with similar palms to you, Levi. Deaths like these are often reserved for those who have the fate of a hero, the fate of those who give others hope. It’s a sudden death, one that will feel empty at the time, but go on to do something great. Levi your death will catalyst something greater any of us can imagine, which is why your fate goes so far passed your life line. You will bring great change both during your life and after. You are destined for this fate boy, but remember the way you must live.”
“Like the hanged man card implies, you will often have to make many difficult decisions. However, you must make them no matter what. Sometimes they will be the right decision, sometimes wrong, but you won’t know until you make them. And remember your fate child. Don’t go being a hero until the time is right.” The old woman looked over at the boy but noticed that he had nodded off into sleep. She wondered how much of it he had heard, and if he had any other questions.
‘Oh, well.’ She thought ’tis the way it was meant to be’ the woman picked up her things and disappeared into the night. Leaving behind only a blanket and a note.
Your destiny is a treacherous one but a very important one. Stay strong Levi.
Levi. Levi! LEVI!
Levi was shocked back into a cloudy consciousness by someone screaming his name. Urgh, couldn’t he at least die in peace?
“Shut up will you? You piece of shit brat.” Levi wasn’t at his best but he could still tell it was Eren kneeling next to him, screaming in his ear.
Who else would be that inconsiderate to a dead-man?
“Levi-heichou! Oh shit, this looks bad. Fuck… Don’t worry corporal, I’ll get you out of here.”
Levi rolled his eyes at the naïve boy.
“Listen Eren. This is where I die. I’ve served my purpose and have done my duties to the fullest. Listen Eren, it’s not me who’s going to save humanity. It’s you. I’m just a stepping stone for you to get there.”
Tears filled Eren’s eyes as he hovered over his superior.
“What are you talking about corporal? We’ll get you out of this. You always find a way to survive, always! We can get you to Hanji-san and she could-”
“Eren, my legs are gone.” Eren’s face paled as he seemed to notice for the first time that there was nothing where the corporal’s legs should be.
“But that doesn’t mean you have to die!”
Levi was starting to get irritated now. Did his last moments seriously have to be him arguing with the kid?!
“Where do you want me to die, Eren?! In a veteran hospital? Alone and bored with no meaning in life, sponging off of the public’s tax dollars in order to support myself? No thank you.”
“Why did you do it?” He whispered.
“Huh?” Levi said, his weak voice still somehow filled with annoyance.
“I know your orders were to protect me at all costs but you could’ve defied orders! You could’ve lived! You’re a better fighter than me anyways, you’ve taken out way more titans than I ever have! Why did you have to go and be the hero corporal?! That’s not your style.”
Levi snorted. “Thanks for your faith in me.” He said sarcastically.
“When the fuck are you going to get this through your thick-skull, brat? You’re the only one who can save humanity now. If you die, we all die, and that is not about to happen on my watch. Not to mention, if you die everyone else who tried so hard to protect you, all of their deaths would be in vain. Petra, Erd, Oulo, Gunter, and now myself as well.”
“You must understand that you’re going to have to let people die for you, and that is really shitty, but you need to grow the fuck up and not go berserk every time it happens! Use your goddamn brain for once and realize that those who don’t have the power to change the world will gladly give their lives in order to support those who can, and that is our choice, and our choice alone! So don’t you dare try and get in the way of by throwing away your life pointlessly.”
Levi chuckled dryly, “I swear to God, if you do I will find you and haunt you forever, you piece of shit.”
Levi could feel his heart beating slower and it getting harder to breath but he knew what his last message had to be .
“I can be replaced Eren. Mikasa is already a better soldier than I, but you cannot, Eren. Letting people die for you sounds selfish but in your case it’s not. You, who would gladly die in order to save another, must refrain from doing so, and respect the wishes of those who choose to die for you and. Live. On. Eren, you must. Because as long as you’re alive, humanity has hope and as long as humanity has hope, no person’s death in the scouting legions was in vain.”
Eren said nothing, but when Levi looked in his eyes he could tell something had changed in the boy. Something he said had finally gotten to him. He finally understood his role and the importance of it. A smoldering flame burned in his green eyes and Levi felt its warmth spread throughout him and was comforted. He had done his job at last.
His heart raced towards its last beatings and his lungs were finding it harder to pull in oxygen, but Levi used the last of his strength to snatch Eren’s hand in his own.
“E-eh? What is corporal? What do you want?”
“I just remembered something from my childhood not too long ago.” He rasped.
He flipped the boy’s hand over, palm side up and stared at it.
A ghost of a smile touched to corporal’s lips.
“What do you see?” Eren asked in a shaky voice full of tears.
“You’re lifeline is very long and fades near the top. You will live to be an old man Eren. And humanity will go on as well, because your’s and humanity’s fate are one and the same.”
Eren stared at his hand in wonder, much like Levi had after the old woman had told him his fate.
Eren smiled a watery smile.
“Yeah I guess you’re right.”
“Eren.” Levi said with his last breath.
“Make sure… When this is all over… You make it… Outside the walls…like you always wanted… and make sure… You come back and tell me… What it’s like…”
Eren knew what he must do now. Never again would he waver. Never again would he doubt himself. He would be strong for the sake of humanity and in the memory of Corporal Levi and everyone else who had ever died for his sake. He would look forward from now on and he would save humanity.
Levi felt like he was floating. He had never felt so at peace in his entire lifetime. He stayed lying down for a while before finally opening his eyes and standing up. He stood and saw them.
“Everyone…” He whispered
Everyone. All of his men who worked for him and with him in battle who had given the ultimate sacrifice were present. Petra took a step forward and saluted him with a large smile, holding her fist tightly to her chest. The rest of Squad Levi followed suit and Levi felt tears gather in his eyes even though he wasn’t sad. Not in the least.
“Reporting for duty, sir!” Their voices echoed together in unison and Levi thought that he had never heard those words sound so nice before.
Levi saluted them back as passionately as he could.
“Stand down, soldiers.. Know that thanks to your sacrifice, humanity still has a hope. You all did your duty till the last second. I am the proudest corporal in the world.”
“It has been an honor to die alongside all of you.”