Chapter 191: Despair : Hope

(A/N: Disclaimer: Serious Trigger Warning. This scene is not pleasant to write, and I imagine it will not be pleasant to read as well. However, I’m not fond of shying away from uncomfortable topics since it helps build the character and plot. If you know anything about how cruel people/criminals can be, you’ll understand that this situation, though disturbing, it likely how things would have played out given the context.)

While Vahn was healing Milan, he was also diverting some of his attention to the other auras within the building while paying the most attention to Tina. Though he wanted to go to her immediately, he couldn’t leave behind Milan before she had recovered. Just imagining leaving her in the room alone surrounded by corpses made Vahn uncomfortable. After she had been healed enough to no be in danger of dying, Vahn moved the seven men’s bodies to the side of the room and covered them with a large cloth.

Vahn then continued healing Milan as he purchased a towel from the system and used his [Decanter of Replenishment] as a water source to wipe away the grime and buildup on Milan’s body. Her captors had beaten her to an almost unrecognizable extent and had poured various types of potions and chemicals on her body to prevent her from dying. With his enhanced sense of smell, Vahn had nearly vomited from the smell of ammonia and refuse that they had covered her body with. He couldn’t understand how or why they would do such a cruel thing, especially if they intended to use her as leverage against him.

After wiping her body clean, Vahn was able to expedite his healing efforts and quickly rid her body of wounds using his [Wound Transfer] and other support items. Since his healing was unable to regrow hair, Milan’s ears and tail had grown back and had a light fuzz instead of the chestnut-brown color of the past. Though it was a strange sight, Vahn was just happy they were able to be grown back. It was fortunate that he had tiger-like ears and a tail when he was doing the [Wounds Transfer], or there was a very high probability they’d have been lost forever. The downside to that, of course, was that Vahn had to experience the nerve endings of his own tail being severed which caused his mind to numb from the pain.

If not for the fact that he was entirely focused on Milan before him and Tina in his mind, Vahn would have likely collapsed from the pain. Towards the end of the treatment, he had even transitioned from his Báihǔ form into his turtle form. There were even the wisps of tiny vermillion-flames beginning to break through the small cracks in his skin, but Vahn repressed the transformation using his willpower. He didn’t dispel it entirely, however, as it may prove useful when dealing with the remainder of the captors.

After around fifteen minutes, Milan’s body had been returned to her former healthy and lithe looking state. Though Vahn might have admired her form in the past, now he just felt an incredible sadness as he scanned through his system and purchased a cloak for her to wear. Since he could only gift one item a month to each person, Vahn had to make do with something that could cover her entire body at once. With a bit of effort, he managed to slip the cloak around Milan’s unconscious body before cradling her gently and using [Hands of Nirvana] to ease her mind and try to awaken her.

Not long after, Milan’s eyes opened slowly and stared in a daze at the foreign ceiling. She felt like she had been having a terrible dream and had suffered inhumane treatment. She remembered being happy with her daughter and taking care of the customers while they both talked about the young boy that had made his way into their lives. For the first time in a long while, Milan began to feel like things were getting back on track and both she and her daughter would be able to find happiness.

**(Trigger Warning Starting Now: You can skip toward the bottom where the warning ends if you are uncomfortable.)**

Soon after, while she was cooking in the kitchen, Milan had heard a commotion coming from the front of the Inn. Assuming it was just a rowdy customer, she made her way through the small doors toward the dining room and saw several aggressive men ejecting all of the customers as they began to trash the place. Though she didn’t have a weapon on her, Milan was still a Level 3, so she immediately set out to give the men a thrashing.

Things weren’t going too badly, even though the attackers had two Level 3 of their own, and Milan was hoping to be able to hold out until the authorities arrived. Since her Inn was located near the main branch of the Hephaestus Familia, the security in the area wasn’t supposed to be a problem. As long as she held out for just a few minutes, there were bound to be several people that would show up to assist. Unfortunately, one of the scumbags had managed to find her daughter and captured her.

Unable to continue fighting after Tina had been captured, Milan surrendered and the two Level 3 men, one scarred-faced man, and an emaciated-looking dark-skinned elf, began to beat her for a short period of time for her earlier resistance. Even though her daughter cried out at the brutality of the sight, Milan continued to bear the heavy blows while trying to protect her vitals. She even hoped that the men would beat her for a longer period of time in order to allow for help to arrive, so she put up a small amount of resistance against them every time they stopped their attack.

Eventually, one of the members of the assailants pointed out the issue of time and the two men stopped beating her they tied up her body and carried her and Tina out the back entrance of the Inn. One of the last sights Milan had seen before she passed out was the image of the Inn she had built and operated for the past ten years going up in flames. Though she hadn’t cried at all as the men beat her, she couldn’t help but shed some tears at the sight before she finally passed out.

The next thing she remembered was waking up after being dropped heavily to the floor. Milan could hear Tina’s screaming voice and opened her swollen eyes to try and find her daughter so that she could assure her everything would be okay. As she turned her head towards the crying of her daughter, she saw one of the men heavily slap Tina’s face and knock her to the ground. She felt her mind buzz as she called upon strength she didn’t know she had as Milan launched herself at the man and tried to strangle him.

Though she managed to get her hands around his neck, it wasn’t long before Milan felt a heavy block to the back of her head that made her vision blacken as a powerful throbbing feeling ran through her mind. She hadn’t been knocked out by the blow, but all of the strength she had mustered previously faded from her body as she looked toward her daughter that was laying on the ground sobbing.

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She tried to crawl toward Tina and comfort her, but two of the men picked her up by her arms and dragged her out of the room. After taking her to another area in the dark building, the men began to tear away at her clothing and her instincts allowed her to resist against them. However, no matter how much she tried, the men only took a sadistic pleasure in her struggles as they knocked her to the ground and began systematically breaking the bones in her body starting from her limbs.

They poured buckets full of waste and refuse onto her naked body and called her cruel and derogatory names before some of the men took out their penises and peed on her defenseless body after one of them called her a toilet. Though the smell made her want to vomit, Milan’s stomach had long been emptied of its contents and she could only gag and spit up bits of blood tainted with small black particulates.

One of the men saw the black clots in the blood and realized that she would probably die soon, so they poured low-grade potions onto her body before trying to force a foul-smelling liquid down her throat. Milan resisted and tried to prevent from being forced to swallow the contents by gritting her teeth, but one of the men used a small leather club to shatter her jaw to prevent her from resisting.

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As the viscous contents slid down her throat, Milan tried to force herself to vomit it out, but the damage to her body prevented her from having enough energy to do so. She could feel a heat spreading through her body and realized what the men’s intentions were. Though there was next to no strength in her body, Milan desperately tried to resist against the men and managed to scratch and blind one of their eyes in the process.

The screaming of the man caused others to become alerted to what was going on in the room and several other people entered and began beating her alongside the original two. It got to the point where Milan couldn’t move her body at all and she felt like death was close at hand. If not for the fact that her daughter was still held hostage, she likely would have died then and there. Unfortunately, the only reward for her resolve was the man she had blinded using his thumb and blinding her eye.

Unable to resist, Milan’s body seized up at the pain and she cried out with a croaking voice as she tried to pull her head away. Incited by her reaction, the men began to laugh cruelly as they took a pair sheers and began to clip off pieces of her ears. They didn’t cut them off all at once but cut off bits and pieces at a time before the only thing remaining was mangled stubs. It was more painful than anything Milan had ever felt, but it was nothing compared to what came next.

The tail of a cat person was one of their most sensitive spots and housed thousands of nerve endings toward the base of the spine. It was a tradition that only the significant other of a cat person was allowed to grab their tail since it would activate their instincts and cause them to bite forward. Since cat people were considered somewhat exotic and were popular in slave-trading circles, the sensitivity of their tail was well-known to most criminal groups. Using that knowledge as a basis, the same man that blinded her eyes gripped Milan’s tail firmly.

Milan gnashed her teeth because of the disgusting feeling that was welling up in her body, but it didn’t last long as a sheer dread took over her mind when she saw the cruel look on the man’s face. Unable to form any words, Milan opened her mouth and just released muted whines as the man tightened his grip and twisted powerfully. All of the pain receptors in her body fired at once as her body jerked from the intense pain. Undaunted, the man twisted in the opposite direction and alternated his grip until eventually separating the tail from her body nearly three excruciating minutes later.

**(Trigger Warning Has Ceased: Though it still isn’t too pleasant, enjoy the story.)**

Afterward, Milan had absolutely no strength left in her body and couldn’t even form any thoughts. Even when the men started beating her and tormenting her body once again, she didn’t even feel any new sensations since her body had gone into a severe state of shock. The only thing she could think of was her daughter Tina who had been left alone in the previous room. Milan remembered how vibrant Tina’s smile had been when they were both happy, but now she feared it would be replaced by the fear and anxiety that she had seen earlier. Even if nobody showed up to save her, Milan wanted her daughter to be saved from this nightmare, so she began to utter a silent prayer through her swollen and torn lips…

Unaware of how much time had passed, Milan felt a strange sensation spread through the room as a strange golden glow flashed. The impacts that had been forced on her body for so long came to a halt in an instant as complete silence spread through the room. For several minutes, there were no sights or sounds other than a hazy darkness and a throbbing sensation in her mind that had replaced all sounds.

Milan thought she might have died but, suddenly, there was a warm sensation pushing away the throbbing sensation in her mind. Though all of her nerves felt like they had fried, she could feel a gentle energy spreading through her body as a heat emanated from areas where she had lost all feelings. Soon after, Milan could feel a numb and tingling sensation spreading over her body and she realized that the incredible pain that had become her existence was slowly fading away.

When a moist and warm feeling landed on her face, a sense of relief appeared in her heart as hope began to spread through her anxious mind. Almost as if it were a distant memory that she had suddenly recalled, Milan was able to recognize the energy entering her body and the image of a kind and gentle boy appeared from her memory. Though she still had an incredible anxiety in her heart and a profound concern for her daughter in the focus of her mind, Milan knew that help had finally arrived. Hearing the gentle and comforting words of Vahn, Milan, unable to express her relief in any other way, began to cry as darkness encroached upon her mind.

(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Cruelty’,’Within the Depths of Despair’,’Light in the Darkness’)

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