Chapter 98 The Hundred Years – Seventeen Years (Part 4)
“You’re improvement isn’t so bad. Ten years ago I would never have thought you could do what you’ve managed to do in three short months. In fact ten years ago I was second doubting my decision.”
Hannah ignored the voice of the goddess. Although she hadn’t appeared too often, she’d come to understand that the goddess didn’t take Hannah’s actions, thoughts or even feelings with much consideration of seriousness. When Hannah had first come across the goddess, she’d been floored by the very notion of meeting a goddess. She’d jumped at the opportunity of attaining power enough to reach her goals.
It was only recently as her state of mind had finally attained some semblance of peace that she had finally begun to assess her relationship with this goddess.
’She disappears for years at a time. She speaks at me when she wants to, but has never answered my calls. Moreover, when I was breaking down, and reached my lowest point she was no where to be found. She all but ignored me when I could have used a hand.’
Hannah had come to the realization that although she’d been ‘chosen’ and the goddess had made it seem as if she was special, she wasn’t. At least it didn’t come off that way, the goddess acted indifferently towards her, never aiding Hannah when she needed assistance or even answering her calls when Hannah needed advice. She came and went and never spoke of anything important. If anything she had only recently appeared every so often to assess Hannah’s progress and nothing more.
‘The only time she showed up and said something useful was when my Status screen stopped working. If she hadn’t told me that the god’s magic that sustained that ability for all humans had been used up. I would have likely thought I was going insane back then.’ Hannah thought briefly.
Instead, she ignored the goddess’s words of ‘praise’ and continued her efforts. She’d cauterized the forest nymph’s vocal cords so she could no longer scream. Hannah was tired of the screams. In the past few months she’d been working tirelessly to further her understanding of how to heal, and had been forced to proceed to the step of using other living creatures to test her skills and further her knowledge.
Hannah had sought weak monsters and beasts to the strong alike, realizing that the race of the creature didn’t make much of a difference if they weren’t too different from humans.
Healing was a trickier subject than she’d anticipated. After she’d attained a decent understanding of her own morphology she thought she could apply the same principles in order to heal anything else only find herself at a complete loss for words when she’d realized how wrong she’d been.
Hannah had come to learn that understanding the morphology of the creature she was healing was paramount to succeeding. The amount of mana used when she understood her subject was infinitely less than when she was healing a creature blindly. Although it didn’t make as much of a difference on a superficial wound, it made a world of a difference with a deep wound that involved the organs.
She’d come across various creatures and she’d hunted them down, and begun hurting them from inconsequential superficial wounds to deep life ending wounds. She would hurt and then she would heal. The more she learned the more adept she became at her goal, and inconsequentially she’d picked up a talent she didn’t want.
She’d learned how to hurt just as proficiently as she’d learned how to heal. She had never put much thought into the subject, as even before she had focused all her efforts in learning how to heal she had relied on her death attribute and specific Death Follows skill to effortlessly end the lives of her enemies. After coming to understand so much, she now comprehended what a merciful death she’d been providing her enemies all these many years. She’d snuffed out the lives of others without them even realizing it and then they were just gone.
Recently she’d been searching for creatures closer to her own morphology, closer to humans so she could test herself regarding how much she had truly learned and whether what she directly applied to herself could be applied to others. She’d come across a gentle Forest Nymph who was protecting her tree, a large oak tree so large and wide that it stood apart from the others. It gave the illusion that the tree itself was the heart of the forest. If Hannah hadn’t been to the very depths of the forest herself she may have even believed it herself.
Although she’d been momentarily reluctant, a mere thought, a reminder of her goals and the reasons why she’d begun to walk the path she was on had been more than enough to clear her mind and allow her to do what she felt needed to be done. She’d taken the forest nymph by surprise and had wisely knocked it unconscious. After securing it in place, she’d begun ‘working’ on it.
Hannah had grown proficient at testing her skills. Therefore she’d also developed a habit of ripping out the the neck of her ‘test subjects’ and then healing the neck while leaving a permanent scar on their vocal cords, forever depriving them of their voices.
It had taken dozens of creatures before she had begun to do so, but the screams had begun to drive her insane. The repeated screams were all too familiar and they reminded her of her own worst experience. At first it made feel hypocritical to continue what she’d been doing. She’d almost let herself fall back into a cycle of self-loathing but she’d reminded herself of her goals.
While ‘working’ on the first ‘test subject’ that had some very strong similarities to a human (another forest nymph) Hanna had tried to temper her mind by continuing as if she was unfazed, but the screams were just too much for her to handle and when she realized just how much damage she’d done to the nymph she’d looked at it in horror. She’d subconsciously lost herself in her own memories and begun cutting it just as Tael had forced Kaden to cut her.
She was mortified. Disgusted with herself in a way she’d never been and even as she tried to stop herself from throwing up she couldn’t help herself as she turned away from the body. She’d backed away on the floor staring at the blood on her hands feeling like an absolute monster as the nymph made low muffled moans of pain, a look of horror and hate on its face.
Hannah had stared into its eyes and momentarily felt as if she had been looking in a mirror. A past version of herself looking at the monster she’d sworn to kill.
She’d swiftly taken it’s life with her <Death Follows> skill, she knew she couldn’t heal the nymph, it was the only act of mercy she had left in her.
She’d hugged her legs and knees to her chest and cradled herself rocking back and forth next to the corpse for hours as she’d tried to temper her mind.
Hannah had thought she would lose herself to her pain, but instead came to a deeper understanding. A deeper understanding both who she was and who she needed to be.
‘The world is a very cruel place. It doesn’t matter what happens to anyone, in the end there is no justice. The only justice is the justice you can make for yourself. What happened to Kaden and myself. That was Tael’s fault for what he did, and ours for being so weak we couldn’t stop him. I need to become strong. Strong enough so that I’m the only who decides what’s right and what’s wrong.’
Until then, she’d been killing the creatures she’d used for subjects. She would damage them, and then heal them until the damage was too much that she couldn’t fix. Then she would end their lives, she believed it to be a mercy on her part.
After this epiphany, this change of view in how she saw the world. She’d come to understanding that she’d had a shift in her morality.
She’d continued doing what she’d been doing. She needed to improve her insights, her skills. Hannah wanted to become stronger and she was even more driven then before, except she couldn’t handle the screams. So she would permanently damage the vocal cords of her prey at the beginning of her sessions. The difference being that once she was done with her subjects, she would let them live.
Some were mentally broken beyond repair while others looked at her in terror and everlasting fear. Those she pitied, while others gave her a look of a profoundly seeded hatred that she understood all too well. Those were the ones she couldn’t help but sympathize with… and hate.
Hate because they were so weak and yet they had the audacity to give her a look of hatred they didn’t deserve.
They hadn’t earned the right to look at her with hatred so blatantly. She could kill them as easily as she’d let them go, but she did nothing to stop them.
She’d come to believe that regardless of whether she let them live while broken and filled with hate or whether she killed them. Either act could be regarded as mercy, but either act could be viewed as torture or evil.
‘I lived through hell after Kaden’s death. I hurt the one person who’d tried to help me when he didn’t have too. I took Ava’s life in a moment of insanity. I survived for years even when there was only a shell of my former self. It was hell but I lived. There is no right or wrong. It doesn’t matter what I do, it only matters what I can do.’
Hannah had dropped the pretense of allowing her view and actions to be limited by a sense of morality.
Staring down at her new prey, she worked vigorously for a few hours. Once she was done, she looked down at a horror stricken and pitiful expression of sorrow on the nymph’s face. her arms and legs gone down to the elbows and knees, the skin perfectly healed over. The nymph’s mouth open as she moved her lips in the oddest of ways to Hannah. Hannah had to wonder whether she was saying the same thing over and over or whether it was still screaming.
Hannah looked at it’s pitiful state while admiring her own skills, and finally opened her mouth to ask the Nymph what she believed to be a merciful choice.
“I’m going to give you a choice now. I can cut open your wounds, and try to heal your arms and legs. I would be trying to reattach them, if they doesn’t work. I could try to grow them back for you. If I fail you’ll die though. I can leave you as you are. Lastly, I can end your life right now. I’m going to give you ten breaths to decide how you would like me to proceed. Once you’ve decided, I want you to either nod once, twice or three times depending on which option you’ve chosen.”
Hannah watched it without blinking for the span of ten breaths before asking it “What have you decided?”
The nymph’s mouth had finally stopped moving, a permeant look of pain etched on it’s face but for the first time in hours a slight look of defiance had finally reentered its gaze. Instead of nodding at all, it closed it’s eyes and waited.
Hannah stared but understood all too well.
‘I understand all too well. I understand what a poor choice you’ve made. Choosing defiance in the face of strength is meaningless. You should have chosen differently.’
Paying it no mind, Hannah left it there. It was the first time she’d done something so extreme but it was a necessity for her in order to test her own abilities and grow.
She walked away, no remorse or even a second thought as she left the vicinity of the woods. Instead she continued traveling what she believed to be north. Not for any other reason than she always believed to be walking north.