Chapter 195: Light : Dark

Hearing Vahn’s words, Chloe just shook her head slowly as she put away her daggers. While keeping eye contact with Vahn, she said plainly, “I’ll explain in more detail later, but assassination is actually my profession. Are you surprised?” As she asked, Chloe tilted her head playfully but Vahn could see her aura fluctuate slightly. Though she was acting casually, Vahn understood she placed a lot of weight in his response.

Releasing a sigh, Vahn said, “I’m sure you have your reasons, and one day I’d like to find out. For now, the only thing that really matters is that I know you are a gentle and thoughtful girl that likes to be spoiled.” Vahn smiled as he spoke and Chloe could see that there was no hesitation or judgment in his eyes. Though he couldn’t see it on her face, Vahn knew she was happy since her aura had stabilized.

Vahn reached down and placed his palm on the area where Laverna had fallen and asked, “I really am sorry, Chloe…you had to do something I didn’t have enough courage to do myself…I’m a coward.” Strangely, when he spoke, Chloe laughed slightly as she walked over to him and squatted down next to where he had knelt down. Before Vahn could ask, Chloe pushed his shoulder a bit and Vahn fell onto his butt with a stupefied expression on his face.

Chloe looked at Vahn with squinted eyes and said, “Cowards don’t run into enemy territory on their own and save damsels in distress, Vahn. Do you think Milan and Tina would believe the words you’re saying right now?” Hearing her words, Vahn felt a bit of hesitation and considered her words before trying to speak.

Seeing that he was trying to find his words, Chloe continued, “Tell me, Vahn, after you saved Milan and Tina, how many people did you kill?” Though Vahn was confused at her question, he answered after a brief hesitation, “None…” After he answered, Chloe pulled down her face mask and smiled as she said, “You’re unable to kill people unless its to protect other people…even if those people are trying to kill you.” When she spoke, Chloe poked the unconscious body of Kuji that was nearby.

Verifying that he was still alive, Chloe continued, “You’re a good person Vahn…you aren’t a coward, nor do you lack courage. If anything, you’re closer to a hero that lacks common sense than anything else.” Chloe began laughing at her own words before she calmed down and showed Vahn a gentle and concerned smile and said, “I’m sure you’ve realized it yourself, but there are a lot of people drawn to you…do you know why that is?”

Vahn furrowed his brows slightly before responding, “Because I’m nice to them and try to make them happy…?” Hearing his response, Chloe began laughing as she sat next Vahn and rested her head on his shoulder. After a few seconds, she said in a quiet voice, “It’s because you can empathize with people…you’re very perceptive and thoughtful to the concerns and needs of others, and you’re always trying to consider things from their perspective…”

Chloe grabbed Vahn’s left hand and began fiddling with his fingers as she asked in a lazy manner, “Isn’t that the reason why you couldn’t kill that goddess?” Vahn remained silent for several seconds as he contemplated her words. As she said, even though he wanted to act out to release his pent of emotions, Vahn couldn’t do it after learning Laverna’s Divinity and the fact she didn’t specifically order Milan’s torture. Her greatest sin was negligence, but she wasn’t inherently evil…just someone that had been twisted by the whims of fate.

Releasing a long sigh, Vahn asked, “What do I do, Chloe? I don’t want things like this to happen anymore, but I don’t know what I can do to stop it…” In response to his question, Chloe also sighed and explained with a sad expression on her face, “There really isn’t anything you can do, Vahn. The brighter your light shines, the more prominent the darkness around you will become. Even if you tried to extinguish the darkness and went on a crusade to eliminate evil, it wouldn’t be long before you became tainted by the very same darkness you sought to destroy…”

Her words caused Vahn to frown deeply as he recalled the matters that had happened in the past and how he reacted to them. Vahn knew that the more he interacted with that type of person, the more twisted his own nature became. When he saw people tormenting others, he felt a powerful desire to force them to undergo that same torment. Even though he knew it was wrong…even though he had the power to easily kill the people that wronged him…Vahn still couldn’t restrain himself easily. Just as Chloe said, if he truly tried to eliminate ‘evil’, it wouldn’t be long before he became the very thing he hated…

While Vahn was lost in his own thoughts, Chloe continued to play with his hand as she said, “The best thing you can do is to continue being yourself. Just as there is a lot of darkness that would gather around you, there are just as many people that are drawn to your light in order to escape their own darkness. Many people have tragic pasts and things they regret, and it is people like you that allow us to move forward. Your presence gives us hope that things will one day be okay…”

Chloe’s words caused Vahn to think about all of the [Hearts Desire]’s that he had seen, and he understood very well what she meant by her words. Everyone around him seemed to have some great tragedy they were trying to overcome, and it was one of the reasons Vahn felt so driven to move forward and grow stronger. However, Chloe’s words also caused him to realize something as turned toward her and asked, “You also…?”

Tilting her head in response to his question, Chloe locked eyes with him and Vahn could see the sadness contained behind her smile. When she responded to his question, Vahn could hear an uncharacteristic tiredness weighing down her words, “Some of us are born into darkness…and it isn’t easy to escape the past…”

Vahn felt pained by her words and squeezed her hand that had been fiddling with his. Ever since she had helped him, Vahn had always thought Chloe was a strong and reliable person that he could admire. He never even considered that she was also one of the people that had suffered in the past and was using her own experience to influence her treatment of him. Now that he was aware of the situation, he felt like he had wronged her even more so than he had previously thought.

Before he could say anything, Chloe used her free hand to poke Vahn’s cheek as she began to laugh playfully. She then said in a somewhat bemused tone of voice, “See, that is what I’m talking about~! The moment you learn something new about a person, you immediately change how you feel and think about them. This is the reason why so many people are drawn to you, but it is also why you’ll struggle in the future.”

Releasing Vahn’s hand, Chloe stood up from the corridor and dusted off her butt before turning toward him and saying, “I’ve already taken action to escape from my past, so I’m happy as long as you continue being yourself. My only hope is that your light is able to shine brightly without ever being marred by the darkness. As someone that has already been fully immersed by it in the past, you can leave those matters to me~.”

Vahn stood up and quickly closed the distance between Chloe and hugging her tightly with a serious expression on his face. He felt a mixture of anger and sadness as he stared through her mischevious facade and straight through to the melancholy hidden within her heart. With his brows furrowed, Vahn spoke in a sad tone, “I could never accept that…I can’t let you bear that burden.”

Remembering everything she had done for him, Vahn felt like he was going to cry as he stared into her eyes. Not only did she save him when he first came to the City, but she even killed a goddess because of his unwillingness to take action. He felt like he had failed her since he hadn’t realized everything she had gone through. Even though she had done so much for him, Vahn felt like he had done nothing for her at all…

Chloe’s smiled turned into a gentle one as she reached her right hand to Vahn’s face and whispered, “It is my choice what burdens I bear…just as you choose to bear the burdens of so many. We’re somewhat similar, you and I. Just like you’re willing to go against your own nature to protect those you care about, I’m willing to walk through the darkness to make sure your light continues to shine brightly. If you think you owe me anything, just promise me you’ll never change…” As her words finished, Chloe stood on her toes a bit as she gently kissed his lips.

Though Vahn would normally enjoy the sensation, he couldn’t help but feel a powerful sadness as she held her lips against his own for several seconds. With tears beginning to fall from his eyes, Vahn put strength into his embrace as he returned her kiss with his own. He knew there was little he could do to change her decision other than becoming stronger and more reliable. With enough power and influence, there would be no need for her to burden herself in this manner.

After nearly a minute, Chloe pulled away from the kiss and gave Vahn a gentle smile as she whispered, “I need to leave from here soon or it might complicate matters. The next time we meet, I’ll tell you everything you want to know about my past, okay? Don’t be sad for me, Vahn, since I’m happier now than I’ve been in a long time. Like you said to me in the past, I prefer to see you smile as well~” As she spoke, Chloe used both of her index fingers to forcibly change the frown on Vahn’s face into a smile.

Though he wanted to smile in order to please her, Vahn instead said in a firm and serious manner, “One day, I’ll pull you out from the darkness entirely. I’ll find a way to clean up my own messes without losing my light…”

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Chloe smiled and pulled her fingers away from his mouth before kissing him again for a few seconds. When she was satisfied, she separated from Vahn and squinted her eyes with a cheeky smile on her face as she said, “I believe that day will come as well but, until then, just make sure you spoil me properly whenever you can~! Every little bit of Vahnobtanium brings me one step closer to the light~nya.”

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Even though he had a frown on his face, Vahn couldn’t help but loosen up his expression as he asked, “Vahnobtanium?” In response, Chloe put her hand over her mouth and laughed as she responded, “It’s the affection you show others~nya! Though it might not be rare, it’s a very precious resource that drives away a little bit of the darkness in their hearts. I think I’ll coin the term and popularize it at the next meeting~nyahaha.”

Before Vahn could say anything else, Chloe put her mask back on and ran down the direction of the corridor where Kuji and Laverna had been headed. Since she would likely cross paths with other people if she went back the way she came, Chloe decided it would be best to follow the escape path to its exit. Vahn watched her run away with an incredulous look on his face for several seconds before letting out a sigh and the briefest bit of laughter.

Noticing a movement out of the corner of his eye, Vahn turned towards Kuji who still had a burnt hole in his stomach. If he wasn’t treated soon, he would probably die from either blood loss or the severe trauma that his body had undergone. If not for the fact that weretigers had high vitality and he was a Level 4, he would have already died long ago.

Vahn approached Kuji’s body and saw his eyelids twitching a bit as whatever drugs he had taken were probably wearing off and causing his body to experience immense pain. After thinking for a few moments, Vahn turned his head down the path that Chloe had taken to escape. Without changing his expression much, a glint of resolve appeared in Vahn’s aquamarine eyes as he pulled out a non-descript black sword and drove it through the heart of Kuji.

Even if Kuji hadn’t heard any of the conversations between him and Chloe, Vahn wasn’t willing to risk having her identity exposed by healing Kuji’s wounds and allowing him to spread the information. If Chloe was willing to kill a goddess to keep him on the path of light, Vahn was willing to kill a criminal to protect her secret. Kuji had done many bad deeds in his service of Laverna, and Vahn was giving him a mercy by relieving him from the pain he was suffering.

Ignoring the notification that he had received a small amount of negative karma, Vahn put the sword away as he began backtracking along the path toward the surface. There were many people waiting for him, and he had grown tired of the dark and stagnant corridor that smelled of burnt flesh.

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Chloe’s Burden’,’Light Within the Darkness’,’No Witnesses’)

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