Lifting the beer mug in his left hand, Levi stared boringly above the long wood table, over the heads of the noisy half-drunk crowd, into the mid of the smoke-fogged bar. Their routine post fight celebration of his newest win and the most recent success of the Mike Zacharius Fight Club.
Levi hated celebration in general. It made him uneasy. But he did enjoy relaxing into the old sofa at the back of the room, his right arm trailing casually at its top right above where Hanji firmly planted herself, and watching her laughing and joking with everyone around the table.
He never understood the fuss. It started after the first guy from the Scout Legion, grumbling about the attention the new kid had got, called Levi out for a fight. It was a quick win, but the dumb guys just refused to take the message. They kept on calling him out, one after another, as if losing was nothing, and by losing, they actually proved themselves.
Fighting for no reason was a stupid idea to Levi. From where he came from, there would always be a reason or a purpose for a fight. You fight, your win or you lose. Winner takes it all. It was that simple.
Levi would be really pissed off by these stupid fights, if it had not been Hanji, who was always so excited about them that she could not keep herself from jumping up and down, cheering, laughing, hugging, and buzzing around him.
Mike was the other reason that he agreed to tolerate the stupid matches. Quick to see the lucrative opportunities, the damn Viking giant started collecting fees and taking bets right after the first fight. So far, it made Mike quite a small fortune and an equally handsome amount for him.
For that, he had to thank Hanji, his self-appointed, his very own, personal 'agent, coach, strategist, cheerleader and corner girl', as how she liked to put it. Unwilling to let Mike to walk away with all the profit, Hanji was tough with her negotiations from day one, and kept on pestering the huge Viking for more share on his part.
"We want seventy-five percent," Her voice was calm and steady.
Mike shook his head at her demand and retorted, as if disbelievingly, "What? Seventy-five percent? Are you nuts?"
The last three words tipped Levi off. Levi did not like people calling Hanji nuts. Everybody in the Scout Legion knew.
For the first time that night, his thin black brows started to knot, his nostrils began to widen, the white on his eye balls slowly disappeared, those long fingers of his right hand tapping impatiently and angrily into the worn-out leather on the back of the sofa.
Mike's shoulders tensed up and he scooted a couple of inches back into his seat, almost reluctantly.
Levi's brows relaxed at the sight. Mike had been fidgeting all night. From the way he pleaded, 'can we talk about it tomorrow?' Levi knew what he had in mind and where he wanted to spend the big swaddle of money he had pocketed that night. But Hanji just refused to let him go.
"No. It is now or never." her voice firm but patient.
Levi almost chuckled at how well Hanji 'manhandles' the big guy. It was not that she had any clue of the desires that had been burning like hot coal in a certain part of Mike. If she knew, she would have blushed. Hanji was never comfortable with such topics, and they could not be any further away from her thoughts. But she was quick to see that the whole negotiation business started to getting onto Mike's nerve and wanted to make the most of it.
"Come on, Hanji! Be realistic! Everybody wants their share, the Military Police, the Commander, even Erwin, our squad leader. There was not much left for me. " Mike pleaded, his shoulders slouching and his body bent even further forward. From the few quick side glances he shot towards his direction, Levi realized that the big guy was just changing strategy.
Levi moved the hand resting at the top of the sofa to Hanji's right shoulder and casually caressed the muscles there. In general, Hanji did not like being touched. It took them several months before she finally warmed up to his "casual" touches.
But this time Levi did it on purpose, and Hanji got the message.
'Not much? You could have fooled me. The mother of that girl of yours keeps on telling everyone about all the money you lavish on them!' Hanji's face brightened up by her "yes, gotcha" expression, her finger pointing at Mike's face, her voice playful, and her body relaxing even further into the hand at her shoulder.
Mike might be smart, but his girl was definitely smarter.
'So what? A man can do whatever he wants!' Mike blurted out.
'Ha! Can you do it without our money? With that amount of money, she'd better be one of the top courtesans in the Capital city," her eyes twinkling, her body bending forward her arms holding onto an imaginary hoop skirt, mimicking a fake courtesy at the high court, "servicing only the Lords and the King!"
The entire table burst into hilarious laughs.
"Enou…" before Levi could finish the word, Mike had already jumped out of his seat. The blood vessels at his temples thickened, his fists clenched at his sides. He took a step forward, pounding at the table with both hands and all the strength he had, yelling at the top of his lungs, "she is not a whore!"
Hanji had never seen Mike behaved like this. Her face turned white and her body shook, shrinking, leaning slightly into Levi's. But she did not notice-all her attention was on Mike.
"Enough!" The first word Levi said the night. Before it was completely out of his mouth, Levi had already sprung onto his feet, his entire movement smooth and agile like a tiger.
"Mike, sit down." his voice was with restraint, but the muscles in his body were tensing up, his knuckles cracking.
Mike did not budge. His fists were still on the table, his huge body still crouching forward.
Dumb guy was pissed off. Levi rolled his eyes towards the ceiling and added calmly, "please."
A very atypical thing for Levi to do.
Mike was surprised but he knew better than taking it for granted. He straightened his back, and took a step back, shaking the strain from all the pounding off his wrists. "She called my girl a hooker." His voice was calmer but still sizzling with anger.
"You called her nuts." Levi pointed out, his voice cold as ice, eyes staring intimidatingly at Mike.
Mike stared back. After a few moments, he grunted, "Fine!", and threw his arms up into the air. The chair behind him thudded as his huge body plunged back into it.
The muscles on Levi's body started to relax, but he did not sit down. Instead, he turned to his right side, pulled Hanji up onto her feet, and softly demanded, "Shitty four eyes, apologize."
"Hmm...What?" Hanji tried to swirl her head around to look at his face, but the hand on her neck would not allow it, firmly forcing her head into a bow.
Hanji got the message, and mumbled reluctantly, "I was just joking...Sorry, Mike, I should not have called...yah, hey, Levi, what are you doing? That really hurts!"
"Tsk." Levi released the hand on her neck, and pulled her back into the sofa with him, his right arm swung firmly around her waist. Hanji squirmed a little but soon she gave up.
She got the message.
He relaxed the arm and raised the hand up to Hanji's head, ruffling that bird nest of hair. It was messy, oily. Levi almost sighed. Hanji hated washing her hair. The low quality soap issued by the military scathed her scalp and left tiny red bumps itching all over her forehead and behind her ears.
One or two bottles of the expensive shampoo from that fancy hair salon in the Capital city would do the magic. He could almost smell the strawberry scent at his nostrils. Just imagine how it mingled with Hanji's natural body scent, the one that sent his heart racing and his blood vessels throbbing every time she walked out of the shower. Levi sighed, that was the reason he agreed to this fucking re-negotiation. They needed the money.
He tugged at the end of her messy ponytail and it sent Hanji into giggles. Realizing that she forgot that they were in public and everybody around the table was looking at her, shocked by her "unnatural response", she leaned forward, cleared her throat and claimed, "we want seventy five percent".
"What?" Mike could not believe that after all the drama, the outward show of anger, Hanji still would not give up.
"We want seventy five percent." Hanji patted the hand on her shoulder, and repeated calmly.
"Are you kidding?" Mike's voice still angry but Levi could tell that his patience was wearing thin.
"No. We are not. No Levi, no match. Simple, right? We want seventy five percent." Hanji insisted.
"No way!" After a long pause and no response from Hanji, he sighed, and gritted the following words between his teeth, "sixty percent."
"Seventy three." Hanji said with a smirk on her face, her feet tapping lightheartedly on the wooden floor.
"Are you …" Mike almost blurted out the word before he caught the shuddering look Levi shot across the table, "what is the difference between it and seventy five? Absolutely no sincerity. Let me show you an example. Sixty three percent."
"That was only one percent more!" Hanji laughed, clapping her hands, "Don't take me for a fool, Mikey, seventy one."
"Two-thirds." Mike extended his hand across the table and declared, "take it or not, that is it."
"We will take it!" Hanji blurted out, "Deal!", slapping into Mike's waiting hand.
That was what they had ever really wanted. Hanji jumped up onto her feet, her hands waving up and down, her own little victory dance. Levi had to pull her back into the couch so it would not agitate Mike any further.
But he was too late. The huge menacing Viking giant suddenly let out a short grunt.
Hanji was startled. He could feel her shoulder tensed up under his fingers. He wasn't doing any better. The revengeful flames burning in the back of Mike's eyes sent chills down his spine.