Chapter 44 - Selfishness : Resolve
Lili began to feel restless under the penetrating gaze of the girl before her. She couldn't understand why the look made her feel so much insecurity. It was something beyond just fearing she would lose Vahn to this woman...but she wasn't able to understand. All Lili knew was that the gaze seemed familiar, but she wasn't able to place why and from where she had seen it before.
"Nyahaha~ Isn't your friend very cute, Vahn~? You should introduce me~" As Chloe began guiding them towards a small table, she gave Vahn a questioning look, almost as if her eyes were urging him to explain in detail how he met the young girl.
Vahn noticed that Chloe was acting very similar to their first meeting. Just like his case, Chloe seemed to be very sensitive towards those that had experienced suffering in their past. He smiled at her concern and the willingness she showed to let him act as he thought best.
"Yes...This is Lili. I can't go into too many details, but I've decided to help her become stronger." As he introduced her, Lili bowed her head slightly but didn't relax since Chloe made her feel very uncomfortable. "And this is Chloe...she is someone that helped me realize...a lot of things." When he spoke the words, he couldn't help but show a thankful smile.
Both Lili and Chloe noticed his expression; Lili was somewhat dissatisfied since it felt like she was in a disadvantageous position from the outset. Chloe just gave a cheeky smile while closing in on Vahn...and giving him a brief kiss on his cheek.
Afterward, she took their orders, though it would be more appropriate to say 'order' since Vahn had to make the decision for both of them. After Lili saw Chloe give him a kiss, she had begun to pout with her head down while refusing to speak and make eye contact. Without saying anything further, Chloe went to the kitchen to inform the chefs before continuing her rounds with other customers.
Lili looked up as Chloe walked away. She traced her path through the pub with her eyes before turning to Vahn once Chloe had gotten far enough away. "Vahn, please tell me about your relationship with that woman. I can tell there is something going on between the two of you, but it seems to be different than lovers."
Vahn shook his head. Even he didn't know what their relationship was...he just knew he had a lot of gratitude towards Chloe, and that he even wanted to confess to her in the past. "I would say...she is like a mentor, or maybe a guide? It's hard to put it into words really...but she saved me from my isolation and helped me realize a lot about myself. I want to become stronger to meet her expectations...but I'm not sure if that is to become lovers."
"But you wouldn't just let any girl kiss you...I can see that when she kissed your cheek you were happy." She continued staring, almost as if to blame Vahn for all her present grievances.
Vahn nodded and decided to speak about his past with Chloe. He told her about their first meeting, about how was afraid at how Chloe looked at him. He went over how she seemed to be trying to break down the barriers he had built around his heart and mind. After that, he talked about how they had agreed to a date on only their second meeting. He went over everything from the early rendezvous...the experience at the clothing store...and even discussed their viewing of the sunset together. Lastly, he talked about how he had even tried to confess but was stopped in the end.
Throughout the whole story, Lili just continued to silently listen. She watched as his expression changed between each scene, and could sense the emotions behind the words. Her heart began to feel pain with how much passion Vahn seemed to have when speaking about his 'transformation'. Though she hadn't been there, she could imagine the entire series of events...and began to realize she hadn't been taking Vahn's current life and past into consideration...
Lili began to shrink into her seat, afraid to look at Vahn. She realized she was taking advantage of his kindness ever since he had saved her. Even though he was making so many efforts to help her change, the only thing on her mind was trying to get closer to him...she even had possessive thoughts and wanted to prevent others from doing the same.
While she was lost in her thoughts, Vahn couldn't help but sigh after seeing her current state. He wanted her to know the truth so that she was able to understand he wasn't the powerful hero she painted a false picture of in her mind. In many ways, he was very similar to her...just a little bit further along the same road.
The two sat in silence, one unsure of what to say while the other brooded over the past. After a few minutes, Chloe arrived with their meals.
"Nyahaha~ One order of chicken-curry rice for Vahn, and one children's special for the moody cat girl~nya!" Chloe placed the meals on the table, and Vahn noticed the order for Lili was different than what he had ordered.
"Go ahead and eat up~nya! It's full of nutrition and even has a little toy you can keep for yourself~ Don't be shy~nya!" Chloe ignored Vahn and continued to pester the still silent Lili. She even slowly nudged the plate towards her while leaning over the table somewhat.
Eventually, Lili looked at the plate before staring at the girl that wouldn't leave her alone. "This isn't what I want...I want what Vahn-sama ordered for me." She stared directly at Chloe with a look of dissatisfaction. She didn't understand why Chloe was bothering her when she obviously didn't want to deal with her.
"Nya~? How curious, a little girl that thinks she knows what she wants, but is just sitting around while other people make decisions for her~. Vahn or me, why does it matter who chooses what you eat? Aren't you just happy someone is treating you to a meal~nya?" Without losing her smile, Chloe gave Lili a look of 'contempt'. She nudged the plate directly in front of Lili. "Go ahead~ Don't be shy little girl~."
Vahn wanted to interject, but he could feel Chloe's tail tapping his leg every time he tried to open his mouth. He decided to trust in her and began to slowly eat his meal. It was delicious...
Seeing Vahn start eating without saying anything, Lili began to feel betrayed. She could see he clearly wanted to speak up but then decided to suddenly ignore the situation. Negative emotions began to stir within her heart, and she wanted to vent them but didn't know how.
"Vahn-sama, please ask your friend to leave me alone. I'd rather eat nothing that be toyed with by her." Ignoring Chloe who had raised her brow in contempt, Lili tried appealing to Vahn.
"Nya~? Whats this~? You even ask for help to resolve such minor things~? Is Vahn supposed to be your caretaker now~?" Chloe began to chuckle while continuing to stare into the glaring eyes of Lili.
She began to inch closer towards Vahn in spite of the increasing intensity of the glare...
"Vahn, nyaaaaaaahn~" She opened her mouth just as Vahn was about to take another bite of his curry. He seemed to struggle internally for a moment before letting her eat the bite he was about to take. As she chewed on the spicy dish, she almost dropped her act seeing the sad expression on Vahn's face. Luckily, the wrath coming from Lili made her able to keep her cool.
"You thieving cat! Get away from Vahn-sama!" Lili was genuinely pissed. She couldn't believe Chloe would go so far as showing a public display of affection while simultaneously pestering her! She rose from the table and shouted the words at the top of her lungs.
Mama Mia had been observing the incident from the bar but didn't intervene since Chloe had warned her earlier. She just gave Chloe a look implying she needed to control the situation better or she would have to step in.
"Thieving cat~? Didn't you see with your own eyes him feeding it to me~nya? Instead of focusing on what we're doing, shouldn't you be brooding or eating your children's menu~?" At this point, Chloe had begun to snuggle against the now sweating Vahn.
Lili was at a loss of words seeing how her outcry went largely ignored. The only people that seemed to be affected were the other patrons, while both Chloe and Vahn remained unmoved. She began feeling very aggrieved...she couldn't handle Vahn ignoring her, and she began to hate Chloe for doing this when she just wanted to enjoy a meal with Vahn...
She fell back into the seat and started crying. She had never expected that the person who saved her would wrong her in such a way. He just ignored her while another woman bullied her right in front of him. Even though she had run away from the Familia to stay with him...even though she had moved into the same Inn and displayed multiple signs that she liked him...
Her thoughts began to become jumbled and she couldn't form anything coherent. She was just terribly sad, more-so than she had been when the elderly couple looked at her in contempt. Even more than when she was mistreated by her own parents...Seeing the boy that had shown her so much kindness now ignoring her made her feel more sad and lonely than all of her previous experiences combined.
Through her sobs, she heard a gentle voice speaking. "You really are quite the selfish child, aren't you?" Lili looked towards the source and saw Chloe staring at her with sad eyes and a gentle smile.
"You don't know me, you have no idea what I've gone through. Even though I finally found something I wanted...you're taking it right in front of me." Lili couldn't help but blame Chloe for everything that was happening. If Chloe wasn't here, she and Vahn would have been able to enjoy a happy meal like a date.
Chloe continued to stare at her while speaking in the same gentle tone. "That's why you're selfish Lili...you think you know what you want, but have you ever considered for a moment if that is for the best? Have you once considered what the person you 'want' thinks?"
Lili felt a heavy impact on her mind. Even though the words were very hurtful, there was no way she could refute them. It's not that she didn't think about what Vahn wanted, she just wanted to be there with him when the time comes. Surely that wasn't too much to ask for? Wasn't she allowed to be happy?
"There you go jumping to conclusions in your own head. Tell me Lili, surely Vahn has told you all kinds of things about his past and desires...but have you ever once asked him what he wants? Why did he want to be strong? Or have you just listened when he spoke while forcing your own desires on him in the end?"
Hearing the heavy words, Lili couldn't help but look towards Vahn. She could see the concern on his face...he was probably worried about her even though he wasn't saying anything. But, behind that gentle gaze, she could see the shadows of the pain she had observed on his face in the dungeon. Whenever he lost focus and allowed his mind to wander, Lili always saw a deep melancholy and profound loneliness in the eyes of the young boy. That's right, though he was older than her, he was still very young...
During her reflection, Chloe continued speaking. "You see, you aren't the only one that has suffered Lili. Though none of us can understand what you had gone through, there are always others that had gone through similar, if not worse situations. You probably wondered to yourself why Vahn would save someone like you, and I can tell you the reason..."
When Chloe trailed her words, Lili looked towards her. She wanted to know the answer since it had been something bothering her for a while. Remembering that Vahn had been willing to sacrifice himself to take on her injuries...she couldn't help but think he had ulterior motives, but her heart wanted to believe in the hero that saved her...
"It is because...Vahn has also suffered a lot. I'm sure he has told you bits and pieces, but I can tell that what he had gone through...is probably something more horrible than anything we can imagine." Both girls looked towards Vahn and could see the hurt in his eyes as Chloe spoke her thoughts.
For the first time, both Lili and Chloe's minds were in sync and felt they wanted to help heal the boy silently eating curry.
"But you see, unlike you, Vahn has found solace in the present. Though he can't let go of the past, he has decided to move forward. His desire for strength stems from his convictions and willingness to seize control of his own fate..." As she spoke till here, Chloe began leaning against Vahn's shoulder while closing her eyes. "And he can do it too, you want to know why?" She slightly opened her eyes as she asked the question.
Lili swallowed hard before slowly nodding her head.
"It's because he wants others to be able to believe in him. He wants to become strong enough, not to just escape his own fate, but to change the fates of others around him." At this point, both girls could see a fiery look in the eyes of Vahn. Within the furrowed brows a powerful conviction was present which caused both of their heart rates to increase.
"Do you think he can bear the burden of your selfishness forever?" Chloe dropped her final bombshell on the unsuspecting Lili.
Lili began remembering all the events leading up to this moment. All the suffering from her past that had been brought to an abrupt halt by Vahn's actions in the dungeon...all of his words and actions as he tried to guide her towards a path where she could become stronger...strong enough to control her own fate. She even remembered all the times he pampered her when she was feeling insecure, and how he always kept a certain distance when she tried to push things too far...their entire relationship was just her receiving over and over again. Lili knew it couldn't continue forever...thats why she wanted to become his lover. At least then she could repay him, even if it was with her body...
Looking towards Vahn, she could still see the conviction in his eyes, but the concern shown on his face had never left. ('Ah, I know what it is that I want...it's such a simple thing.')
"I want to become stronger...strong enough, not to avoid being a burden, but to be able to walk on the same path...using my own power." Still maintaining eye contact with Vahn, she saw a smile expand on his face. She even noticed, out of the corner of her eye, Chloe was also smiling.
"I guess you aren't as much of a child as I thought~nya."