"The world around me died when I saw that heartbeat
I knew it wasn't a sin
Can someone tell me why this has happened to me?
Why was it only in death, were you redeemed, my child?"
-My Child, Disturbed
"It's going to be all right," Levi ground out between clenched teeth. He clasped Mikasa's hand as tightly as he could, but it was nowhere near as hard as she was gripping his. This was going to leave one hell of a bruise later, but he didn't care. His lover was hurting a lot worse right now. "It's going to be all right, Mikasa. Just keep breathing. Breathe."
Mikasa, her face flushed and her short dark hair plastered to it with sweat, glared up at him from the hospital bed she'd lain in for the past five hours. "I know that," she snapped. "If you're not going to be helpful then shut up, Levi!"
"You're doing very well, Squad Leader," a redheaded nurse told her for about the six thousandth time. "Deep breaths now, soon you'll be ready to start pushing."
Levi thought the woman should count herself lucky that Mikasa only gave her a grunt instead of a sharp-tongued insult. "Oi, miss, she's almost there, right?" he asked her, and then let out a hiss as Mikasa, another contraction stretching her painfully, tightened her vice grip on his hand about tenfold. Forget bruises, he thought as he felt the bones in his hand being ground together, if she kept this up she was going to snap his hand in half.
"Just about, Corporal," the nurse told him, measuring Mikasa's contractions. "Don't worry, this is completely normal."
Normal, huh? Levi looked down at Mikasa, shutting her eyes tight against the agony. The doctor had said that the level of pain a woman experienced during labor varied, and hers was exceptionally intense. If the situation weren't so serious he'd have found it a bit funny: Mikasa, the prodigy worth a hundred ordinary soldiers, really was exceptional at everything. But this was the woman he loved in the worst physical pain of her life; only a man with a truly sick sense of humor would laugh at that. Levi didn't care if this was normal or not: he didn't like it one bit. "Can't you give her any more morphine?"
"We're sorry, Corporal, but it's in short supply," another nurse told him. "We've already given her all we can spare for her."
Levi's eyes narrowed, and he wondered if labor had been easier all those centuries ago before the fall of the first human civilization, before they'd been forced to start all over. Somehow he doubted it. Levi tightened his own grip on Mikasa's hand. "Come on, Mikasa," he murmured. He never had been very good at comforting others, but he sure as hell was going to try now. "Just a little longer. You're a soldier that puts near every other one to shame, you can win this fight easily too. Compared to the Titans, this is nothing."
Mikasa gave him a twisted smirk. "Compared to this, Titans are nothing," she corrected in a strained voice. "I assume you mean I put everyone but you to shame, Levi?"
"Sharp as a fresh blade even now, aren't you?" Levi spoke lightly, but the knot in his stomach that formed seeing Mikasa like this only grew. She kept a brave face, as always, but Levi knew any other woman would be howling in pain right now.
"It's hurting you as well, isn't it, Corporal?" Levi was, once again, infinitely thankful that he'd learned to conceal his emotions completely early in his life, so he would not react in the slightest upon seeing or hearing him. Xaphan. "You'd like to end all this pain, wouldn't you?"
Get out of here, he thought fiercely at the demon. You have no place here. Get out!
Smooth and soft as silk, that voice kept going. "Oh, but this is the one place I simply have to be with you, my dear Corporal. Childbirth is dangerous, after all, and you never know when you might need my help."
Levi pretended he didn't just feel that chill running down his spine, and did not turn around or even twitch in Xaphan's direction, focusing only on gripping Mikasa's hand tight enough to distract them both. Over the past couple decades, he had seen the persistent demon often enough to know just what he looked like now: leaning against the wall, completely relaxed and at ease (Levi had never once seen him so much as tense up) with his omnipresent smirk playing on his lips. Levi could feel the demon's eyes - an unnatural ice-blue, with a bright, fiery glow in them - fixed on his back. Xaphan always appeared to him as a young human, around the age of the newest recruits, but he knew it was only a disguise to make him more comfortable in his presence...not that it worked on him.
Xaphan went on: "Come now, we both know you don't mean it when you say you don't want me. You know as well as I do, anything could happen in the next few minutes. I would remind you of all the myriad ways things could go horribly wrong, but I think you're already doing that yourself."
Mikasa torn open from the inside and bleeding out, their baby coming out strangled on its own umbilical cord, Titans coming out of nowhere to overrun the camp and - NO!
He could not think like this. He wouldn't! Years of mental discipline - diligently practiced to keep Xaphan's frequent bids for his soul from eating away at his sanity, which humanity could not afford to lose - kept his mind focused on the outcome that would occur. Their child would come into the world, crying and scared at first but safe. Mikasa would be exhausted, but content as she held them. She and Levi would raise them to be strong and to survive. Perhaps one day they would decide to join their parents in the military. And he would fight until he was killed to protect his child. That was how things would go and he would not let this hellspawn tell him otherwise. Every word out of your mouth is a lie, Xaphan. Get away from us!
"Make me," Xaphan challenged. "Just try and keep me away from you and that luscious soul of yours."
Levi heard the quick, wet sound of his serpentine tongue flicking out to moisten his thin lips, an especially annoying quirk of his. He didn't understand just what it was about his soul in particular that drove Xaphan to follow him around incessantly, trying everything he could to persuade Levi to sell it to him. What would he do with it, anyway, if Levi were stupid enough to make a ridiculously one-sided deal with Xaphan and willingly condemn himself to an eternity in hell? Eat it? Absorb it? Use it as a demon chew toy? The answer he'd received when he'd asked was far more vague and more disquieting: "It's the price of our contract, as you know. I'll keep it with me always, since it's the proof that you sold yourself to me. It's proof that you belong to me, Corporal."
Well, you'll just have to content yourself with lusting after my soul until I die, demon, he thought angrily at Xaphan. It will never even be in your reach, so why don't you stop tantalizing yourself with it and leave me alone?!
"On the contrary, Corporal, my chances have never been better." Xaphan's voice was more cheerful than usual and Levi couldn't figure out if it was an act or not. "Parents, especially expectant ones, are quite the popular target for my kind. Normally they'll do anything to guarantee the safety of their precious child, especially with the way the world's been for the past century or so. And I know very well all the fears that have plagued you these past nine months, don't deny it. You should know by now that you can't hide anything from me."
Tch. That's what you think. The only thing plaguing me is you, demon. But Levi knew Xaphan was right. When Mikasa had first told him she was carrying his child, his first and strongest feeling had been terror, which had lingered all through the past nine months. The incredulous looks the other soldiers would give them, before quickly looking away once they saw Levi or Mikasa looking back at them, only made his worries intensify.
The others were absolutely right, he knew. He felt the same way that they did: What had they done, what were they thinking, bringing a child into a world like this? Who in the Survey Corps had ever even thought about having kids? They routinely traveled far out of reach of any safety or protection, and risked brutal death every second of their lives. Soldiers who had been trained for this purpose for years had little chance of survival - what chance did a pregnant woman or a young child have?
His child, screaming, being grabbed up and chomped in half - No, stop that! Stop it!
He and Mikasa were the strongest warriors humanity had on its side, Levi reminded himself, and they were at all times surrounded by the most battle-ready soldiers in the military. With so many available to guard and look after them, their child would be plenty safe without demonic intervention. But still a worrying voice at the back of his mind nagged him, "What if it's not?" Levi's jaw tightened, forcing the voice into silence. It WILL be!
"Is that so?" Xaphan responded smoothly. "I can understand rejecting protection for your lover, considering the only one who can surpass her as a soldier is you. But now you don't want to protect your own child? Even if I must obey the rules and not collect on our deal until ten years from the day we make it, that won't give you much time to defend them by yourself, in the long run. I must say, I'm disappointed in you, Corporal. I never pegged you as heartless."
Levi clenched his teeth harder to keep from snapping back. Xaphan constantly brought this up. For his friends, then his soldiers, then Mikasa, and now his child, he offered a deal for vague "protection." Xaphan had once called this playing his trump card, and Levi found that to be a fairly accurate description. Of all the times Xaphan had appeared to him, that was the only offer that truly tempted him.
A sharp yelp from Mikasa broke him out of his thoughts, and he looked down to see her eyes squeezed shut and her face flushed a darker red. He turned to the nurses for an explanation, but neither were paying attention to him. The younger nurse was running out saying something about bringing the doctor and the elder was at the foot of the bed, telling Mikasa that it was okay, and she'd be telling her to push in a minute...He didn't need to ask. It was almost over, their child was coming.
Levi reached out with his free hand to stroke Mikasa's hair, saying softly, "Almost done, Mikasa. You're almost done, you've done such a good job. Just a little more, okay?"
"All right, Squad Leader - one, two, three, push!"
Mikasa's grip only strengthened on his hand, and he began to seriously hope she didn't break anything. She had her jaws clamped shut, breathing through clenched teeth and devoting all her effort to bringing the baby out at last.
"What would she think, I wonder, if she knew you had it in your power to keep your child out of danger forever, and you've been constantly refusing it?"
Shut up, you lying filth. The one thing that kept him from agreeing on the spot was that Xaphan had never really elaborated on what his "protection" entailed, and Levi knew better than to trust the demon's word anyway. How did he know there wasn't a catch, and he wouldn't end up unwittingly hurting his comrades by agreeing?
"Oh, I'm hurt, Corporal!" Xaphan said, feigning a wounded tone. "You don't think I can do it? I could turn your child into a thousand times the warrior you and Mikasa are combined, gift them with enough strength to win any fight, give them enough speed to be the only one never in danger of being caught and killed, anything and everything they need to survive. If you asked it, I could grant them the abilities to wipe every last Titan off the face of this earth without breaking a sweat. The only thing you need do is promise me your soul, as you know. But doesn't that seem a small price to pay?"
Levi knew better than to be swayed by the demon's alluring words. It seems too good to be true, and I learned early on in life that if something sounds too good to be true, it always is. You expect me to trust you? You, who talks a lot but can never prove that what you say is true? You, who's been deceiving me from the start with a false body? How long will it take to get it through that thick skull of yours? My soul is mine, and mine alone, and if I've survived this long in the Survey Corps, then I can live and protect them for far longer than the time you'll let me have! My decision is final - get out of my life, you damned demon!
"Hm. Damned demon, how redundant," Xaphan said flatly. The change in his voice made Levi tense up: usually, the demon could control his temper well enough that Levi could never guess at his true feelings, but now he was annoyed enough to show them. The lapse was momentary, however, and Xaphan gave his usual mocking chuckle a second later (even if it did sound a touch forced). "You don't seem to get it either, Corporal: I'm not going anywhere no matter what you say. I'll always be here with you, just in case you change your mind. You might regret it if I left and something were to happen."
"I can see the head! You'll need to push harder, Squad Leader, you're almost done! One, two, three - push!"
If it wouldn't have looked out of place, Levi would have turned to give his own smug smirk to the demon and watch his perpetually smug face fall. Tch. You can't see that they're being born just fine without your help right now? I don't need you, so just go away from -
An alarmed cry of "Erna! Where is the doctor?!" from one nurse to the other almost made him jump, and his stomach lurched when he saw the panicked look on her face and the faces of the other nurse and doctor as they bolted in.
"What's wrong?!" he barked, making all three jump. "Tell me what's wrong!"
"C-Corporal, calm down - " one nurse tried to say, only to be cut off when the doctor shouted for her to help and for Mikasa to stop pushing.
Realizing there was trouble, Mikasa tried to lift her head high enough to see. "What...What's going on?! Tell us!" she demanded, not yet so spent that she could no longer speak as forcefully as her partner.
When no answer came, she turned to ask Levi, but he didn't seem to hear her. He stared with mounting horror at the doctor and nurses, catching words that built his answer: shoulder dystocia...no oxygen...can't adjust...they can't...No no no no NO! He glanced down at Mikasa. For the first time, he saw panic and distress clearly on her face. She looked up at him with tears in her eyes. "Levi..."
A light laugh came from behind him. "My, my," Xaphan said, his voice soaked in sadistic glee. "Remind me again, what were you just saying?"
Wild, fiery rage surged through Levi. You did something, didn't you, bastard?! DIDN'T YOU?!
"Oh, so just because I'm a demon, everything's my fault? I see how it is. Well, it doesn't matter. You know there'll never be a better time than right now, Corporal, so if you want your child to live you'll hurry up and sign your soul over to me."
No...I won't do it, I can't -
"You idiot!" Xaphan roared suddenly, and Levi actually flinched. In the decades he'd known him, Xaphan had never raised his voice before. Had he unknowingly finally made the demon lose his temper? "You refuse me now, at the moment you most need me?! Don't even try to tell me you don't! How dare you refuse my power?! I am Xaphan, king of demons! I am the one who has kept the fires of hell burning for millennia, and the one who will turn Heaven to a blazing inferno one day! There is only one being greater than me, and he would never bother with a pitiful human like you! Your little lives are worthless to my kind! The ones I offer to preserve mean nothing to me, but they mean the world to you, don't they?! Were you lying to them, Corporal, when you said that you despise needless death?!"
For once, Levi had no answer. He'd never felt so weak and helpless, it was like each of Xaphan's words was a full-force kick to his gut. His body was simultaneously numb and shaking, and he struggled to breathe. After resisting for decades, he couldn't bargain with the demon, he couldn't. But if he let it go, it would break Mikasa...and their child would die before even leaving their mother...Why was he thinking like this, as if he had a choice?! There was no choice. So many of his friends' and comrades' lives had been lost because he'd been powerless to protect them. If he had the power to save this one life, his child's, then he wouldn't let it be lost too.
The bastard's right about one thing. I do despise needless death.
Levi shut his eyes tight, as if about to be hit. Do it, Xaphan! Do it! My soul, my life, it's all yours! Just save theirs!
At first, he heard nothing, and was about to start yelling again when he heard it: "It's coming out - it's okay!" The shrill cries of a newborn filled the room. Levi opened his eyes at the sound of their voice, still stunned. He felt something squeeze his hand and looked down to see Mikasa smiling up at him.
"It's okay..." Tears of relief streamed down her face. "Levi, they're alive."
Levi's face softened as the tension rushed from him. It was okay. True, his soul was no longer his own, but at least he had ten years left with Mikasa, and his child. Ten years to be the best partner and father he could. His thoughts immediately turned to how to make the best use of the time -
"Yes, about that..." Levi froze as Xaphan snickered. "You were absolutely right, Corporal - every word out of my mouth is a lie."
Before he could make a sound, Levi felt a harsh, powerful pull somehow in his entire being, as if something inside him were being roughly yanked out, and then darkness flooded his mind and he knew no more.
It happened so quickly and quietly, Mikasa only realized something was wrong when his body pitched forward, his forehead slamming into the rails of the hospital bed as he crashed to the ground. "Levi!"
Blood streamed down his face from where he'd hit the rail, trickling into dull eyes still stretched wide with shock. The doctor was the first to shake off his initial alarm and rush to the fallen soldier. With a practiced hand he touched Levi's throat and wrist, then the corneas of his eyes, murmuring with each touch, "No pulse...not breathing...no reaction..."
Mikasa felt her insides go cold as she looked at the motionless body. No,she thought. NO! This wasn't happening! Not now, not to him!
Her scream carried to the end of the hall, and Eren jumped, his head snapping up at the noise. Without even thinking about it, he leaped up from the bench and started to sprint for his sister's room, oblivious to Armin calling after him to wait. "Mikasa!"
"Eren! Eren!" Jean grabbed Eren's upper arm and yanked him back. "Just wait, will you?! We don't know what - " Eren's fist flew out and slammed into Jean's jaw, snapping the other man's head back, and he wheeled around and kept charging down the hall. He threw open the door to Mikasa's room so hard the knob went right through the wall.
"Mikasa, Corporal Levi, what - !" His next words disappeared into an incoherent sound of horror as he saw his superior splayed out on the hospital floor. "Corporal...Corporal Levi..." he whispered, too stunned to speak any louder than that. Mikasa didn't seem to realize her brother was there.
"Levi! Levi, you idiot, you get up right now!" she shouted down at her lover, and when there was no response she only shouted louder, drowning out the doctor's half-hearted protests. "I said get up, now! Our baby..." She looked over her shoulder at the newborn crying in the nurse's arms, and saw that he was male. "Our son, Levi," she pleaded as she turned back to him, "your son, if you won't get up for me, then for him! You have to! Levi!"
"Mikasa..." Her brother's voice was so uncharacteristically soft that she didn't hear him, and she jumped when he put his hand, gentle but firm, on her shoulder. She looked up to see his sea green eyes brimming with tears. "He won't get up," Eren forced himself to say. "Whatever happened, there's nothing we can do." The tears escaped at those words, streaming down his cheeks. Eren felt his legs give out from under him, and he collapsed to his knees between his sister's bedside and his superior's body. When he tried to speak between sobs, his voice shook so badly Mikasa almost couldn't understand him. "He won't wake up...Nothing we can do...He's gone...C-Corporal..."
All of a sudden Mikasa felt like she'd been hit by a tsunami: Her love had just dropped dead out of nowhere. Their son would grow up without his father. She would raise him on her own...She would never see Levi again. With a wordless howl of pain, she let Eren awkwardly wrap his arms around her and pull her to his chest. At the sound of their baby's wails mingling with the cries of his mother and uncle, Mikasa could only form one thought: We were supposed to be happy, we were supposed to be happy...
"They still don't know what caused it?"
Hanji shook her head. "The meds in Sina are ruling it a heart attack. I rule that horseshit. A heart attack lasts on average fifteen minutes, it doesn't just happen like that." The last word was punctuated by a frustrated snap of her fingers. "And if it were a heart attack, he'd have symptoms, like being unable to breathe or feeling pain in his chest; he wouldn't just spontaneously drop dead."
"But that's exactly what happened," Mikasa muttered, half to herself. "And we're all still just as clueless as we were five years ago."
"You know, I do wonder if any of this is connected to how Rivahn survived," Hanji remarked, rubbing her chin thoughtfully.
"What does Rivahn have to do with any of this?" Mikasa asked, instinctively tensing up at the memory of her son's near death at birth.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm as happy as everyone else that he survived," Hanji quickly reassured her. "But such severe shoulder dystocia should have suffocated him before the doctor was able to get him out. With a case like his, logically he shouldn't have - "
"What are you getting at, Hanji?" Mikasa snapped.
"Nothing, yet. Just...Levi died literally seconds after Rivahn suddenly turned out okay. True, it's not likely that it's anything more than a coincidence...but my mind keeps drifting back to it, trying to figure out a connection."
"Well, keep it to yourself then. I'd like to relive my husband's death and my baby's near-death as little as possible, if you don't mind."
Mikasa heaved a deep sigh, and looked down at the Survey Corps uniform laid out on the living room table in front of her. It had always been in excellent condition - when he had the opportunity to wash his clothes between missions, Levi would not settle for less than immaculately clean - and she had meticulously kept it that way for the past five years. She reached down and lightly ran her fingertips over the thin white fabric of his shirt, remembering what it was like to feel his heartbeat, strong and steady, beneath it, wishing she could feel it just one more time. Just then, the sound of familiar voices outside - two of them deep and calm, one high and energized - made her lift her head.
"Sounds like Rivahn and his uncles are home." Hanji glanced at the uniform. "Do you want me to help you put that away, or..."
"No." Mikasa shook her head. "Rivahn likes to see it." She had only ever told her son that Levi had died before he was born, and she wondered how long it would be before he found out that his birthday was his father's death day.
"We're back," Armin announced as he pushed the door open.
Eren followed close behind with five-year-old Rivahn riding on his shoulders, and he had to bend low coming in to keep from banging his nephew's head on the doorway. "Okay, down, kid," he muttered, and he was close enough to the ground that Rivahn could jump off and run right to Mikasa.
"Mama! Remember those wooden swords Uncle Eren made for me? He was showing me how to use them like the soldiers do, and he said if I keep practicing I'll get really good like you, and Uncle Armin said if I wanted he'd lend me some of his books on - " The boy stopped short when it registered with him what was lying on the table by his mother. "...That's Papa's, right?"
Mikasa nodded, and Rivahn slowly reached out to touch the Survey Corps patch sewn on the jacket. The four adults went silent, but no one said or did anything to stop him; they knew he wouldn't damage it. Even at his young age, Rivahn seemed to know that the uniform and the rest of his father's possessions were important, and he treated them like holy objects. Mikasa felt something twist inside her heart every time she saw her son with one, not playing with it, just holding it in his little hands looking so quiet and thoughtful. It was the same every time he announced, with his dark eyes wide and bright with excitement, that he wanted to grow up and be just like his parents, and every time he acted on it too.
Like how a few months ago, she'd caught him in front of the bathroom mirror with a picture of Levi he'd gotten from somewhere or other, painstakingly trying to comb his hair to look like his father's. How on his third birthday, when he'd gotten building blocks and a set of wooden toy cavalrymen as presents, he'd built a little arch (enlisting her and a visiting Jean to help when to his dismay, it kept falling down) and kept making the soldiers ride around and through the archway. When Mikasa had asked him if he was having fun, he'd told her yes, and explained that the two soldiers at the head were him and "Commander Uncle Erwin" leading the Survey Corps around outside the walls. How when he'd finish a drawing, he'd always sign it, in his shaky child's handwriting, "Future Lance Corporal Rivahn Ackerman."
All those times, just like now, she would watch her son with a mixture of pride and sorrow, hoping that if Rivahn still held that ambition when he was old enough to understand that their jobs were not a game, he would be able to stay with her for far longer than his father had.
"Hey, Mama, when I get big, am I going to wear a uniform like this too?" Rivahn asked.
"You probably will," Mikasa told him softly, keeping her voice level. She had a sudden mental image of a teenaged Rivahn donning the uniform of the Survey Corps, proud and resolved. People always said that they couldn't figure out which parent the boy resembled more, but when Mikasa saw her son, she always saw Levi in him. She reached out to ruffle his soft black hair. "I think if you do, you'll wear it well, like your father."
Rivahn turned to her with a look that was half surprised and half pleased. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a somber look on Eren's face, and she knew they were thinking the same thing. If, when he grew up, Rivahn truly wanted to follow in his parents' footsteps and join the Survey Corps, then she knew from experience that telling him no wouldn't deter him at all. But she - with the help of her brother and her friends - would make sure he knew just what he was getting into and that it wasn't the only option, so he could make the best choice for himself. And whatever her boy did, Mikasa swore to herself that she would be there to guide him. She wo, and to give him enough love, support, and protection for both parents. uld be en
"You know, I thought the post-partum depression would take her out for sure," Xaphan said conversationally, leaning on the web of white-hot chains next to the prisoner they held as he watched the little family through a conjured-up window. "But you were right, she's quite a fighter. And that kid of yours, he wants to be just like Mama and Papa. Five years old and he's already training with the wooden blades, isn't that adorable? I can't decide whether he looks more like you or your supergirl, what do you think?"
Even if Levi knew what Rivahn looked like, he couldn't have answered; he could barely understand what Xaphan was saying. At first, he had tried so hard to see what the demon described, but if he really could create a window to the world of the living, Levi couldn't see it. By now he didn't have the strength to lift his head and try to. Years of belonging to Xaphan had made sure of it. There was no actual fire now, but he was in so much agony there wasn't much difference. The chains had impaled his palms and the soles of his feet, and agonizingly intertwined with his muscles and veins, searing his whole body from the inside. They held him up above the floor, spreading and stretching his limbs much farther than they were meant to. Every ash-filled breath ached, every tormented muscle burned, and every nerve screamed for mercy it would never again receive.
Xaphan's constant attentions were even worse. Since the moment he'd been dragged down here, he'd been tied up like an abused pet in the demon's personal quarters and never taken anywhere else. There was never anything but Xaphan and his endless tortures. Myriad red-hot weapons stabbed into every part of him; a pack of hellhounds chomping and tearing at him like an oversized bone; Xaphan's hands, sometimes gentle, sometimes rough, burning like ice as they ran freely all over his body, the demon taking whatever he wanted...
Five years? It seemed like five thousand years he'd spent rotting in this place. But one thing kept him from ever regretting it. One thing that could still fill him with strength. One word of Xaphan's speech that still registered with him. Son..."R-Ri...Rivahn..."
"Yes, she went with that weird name you picked out instead of the one she liked. So sweet." Xaphan extinguished his window and leaned in close to Levi, dragging long black claws across his bare chest. "You've never seen or heard him, so you wouldn't know, but the kid's a lot like you, my darling Corporal. I like that, I like that very much. So much that I might have to pay him a little visit in a few years."
"You...You keep away from my son..." Levi ground out, glaring furiously at the smirking demon. "He's...protected..." Xaphan responded with a derisive laugh, and Levi tried to lunge against the chains at him, feeling numerous muscles tearing inside him for it. Strengthened by rage, he yelled at the demon, "My deal keeps him safe!"
"Oh, did I neglect to mention this one little loophole? They are protected, from everything but me. And they are both oh so desperately wondering what happened to you. They would dearly love to see you even one more time. I'm sure you understand, it's very important to them." Xaphan pressed his scaly crimson forehead to Levi's, close enough to whisper into his ear. "Maybe even important enough to sell their souls for."