Chapter 137: Chapter 136: Muskan, Part I
A little after two years since the world changed…
“Sis… I’m tired.”
Muskan was carrying her twelve-year old sister on her back while climbing up a mountain trail in a rainstorm that had been pouring down for two days straight now. It didn’t look like it would stop anytime soon. “Please, hang in there…we’re almost to the next village. I’ll get you something to eat there,” Muskan said, panting.
“But I’m not hungry anymore.”
“No. Please…please.” Muskan was starting to panic when her sister said she wasn’t hungry anymore. That wasn’t a good sign. Muskan kept climbing in the rain, tears streaming down her face.
“Sis…” Muskan’s sister cried out weakly. Muskan knew it would be better to find a place to rest before moving on, but she couldn’t. Beasts had been stalking them since they left.
Muskan’s family was of the Dalit caste. While the caste system has long been outlawed, the treatment of the Dalits remained the same. During the long history of India, Dalits were considered to be lower than beasts. However, as time went on, treatment towards the lower castes had gotten much better. By the time Muskan was born, she and the other Dalits were allowed to go to school and pursue an education. At least, until the world changed.
The Great Change had flipped the whole world upside down. India was affected as well. A new type of power was introduced; a type of power that only existed in fantasy movies and novels. That power had provided some people a new start in life and ruined the life of others. The Great Change was the start of a life of hardship for Muskan and her family.
The weak chains holding society together quickly broke and the strong began to oppress and rob from the weak with no one around to stop them.
In an attempt to protect one another, people began to gather to create smaller societies. Societies that grew larger began to absorb other, smaller groups, or just plain plundered them.
It may seem obvious at this point, but Dalits were not included in these groups. Why would anyone want to group with Dalits? They had nothing to begin with, and couldn’t secure any don gates for themselves. They had nothing to trade, either.
There were no such thing as a safe haven for the weak and no one would ever willingly lend a hand to the Dalits. And so, after a year since the world changed, members of Muskan’s family began to die one by one for minor reasons; very minor reasons.
Her father’s head was severed when a deva fired off a skill as a joke, and her mother, who worked at a pig farm for eighteen hours a day, died in the rain, collapsing from overwork. Muskan became responsible for the remainder of her family at age nineteen. Only her fourteen-year old brother and her eleven-year old sister were left. But one day, her brother left, leaving only a letter saying that he would go find a don gate and sell it for money to bring back home.
However, not a few days later, news was brought that he was eaten by monsters. His friends that went with him had brought back a tattered shoe. It was all that was left of him.
In less than a year, Muskan had lost almost her entire family, but this wasn’t only her fate. Many other families had died or disappeared in a matter of days.
Muskan now had to live to protect her younger sister, but fate wasn’t very forgiving to Muskan.
Muskan had the dark, dark complexion of most Dalits and while she was never called a beauty, she wasn’t called ugly, either. She was completely average. That was the start of it all.
At first, she said no, but when she turned down a powerful man, she was fired from the farm she worked at for a piece of bread a day. Muskan didn’t know what else to do to keep her sister fed. The man persisted and in the end, Muskan sold her body, crying till the end and continued to do so for a year.
She lost count of the men who used her, but Muskan held on. Every day she wondered if she had to live like this and cried, but she continued on for her now twelve-year old sister, who only had Muskan left. Giving up on herself meant giving up on her sister. Muskan would hold on and keep holding on, until those beasts shifted their attention to her sister.
“Please…you have to hang on…we’re almost there.”
“Hehe. Sis, you’re so warm.”
Muskan tightly held on to her small, underfed sister.
-Come on! That village should be around here somewhere…but why isn’t it here?-
She had checked and double-checked the rumors that this village was at least a little better to live in, and had checked on a map before leaving that hellhole. She should have discovered it by late afternoon today, but night had already fallen.
She kept going, however. Those beasts that feasted on her body for the entire past year wouldn’t give up on her so easily. Muskan kept running, ignoring the cuts and blisters that were forming on her feet.
It was then that she found it; the don gate that all of her friends and family had given up trying to find, the gate that her brother had died for.
Muskan knew its worth and how countless people searched everywhere for don gates. She knew there were plenty of people who would pay fortunes for the gate, but she walked towards it, dragging her sister with her. A deva was granted eternal life; it was her best shot at saving her sister’s life.
==[Only adults over the age of 18 may use a don gate.]==
Muskan knew this but she had to try anyway, in case there was a chance she was wrong and it could work.
“Sis…it’s the…gate that our brother was looking for.”
“Yeah, Rimha, it is.”
“Hehe. Is Sis gonna be a deva now? Are you gonna throw fire from your hands and fly around in the sky now?”
“Mhmm, I will. I’ll become a deva and start making lots of money and buy you tasty food and get you a nice, big house, so I’m going to need you to hang in there.”
“Okay. I want chicken. I want the chicken that Mama used to make.”
“Okay! I’ll definitely make it for you. Just wait a little bit more.” Muskan picked up her sister and looked around for a place to get out of the rain. She saw a large tree and laid her sister down at the base of the tree trunk.
“I’ll be right back. Wait here, okay?”
“Okay. Hurry back. It’s cold without you.”
“Yeah, I will. I won’t be long.” She heard that the transformation didn’t take long. At most, it would take a few minutes.
Muskan quickly headed over to the don gate and reached out with her left hand.
A few minutes later…
As soon as Muskan was flung out from the don gate, she quickly got back up without so much as checking her surroundings, picked up her clothes and sprinted for her sister, only to find herself in the worst possible situation.
“Where have you been all this time in the rain without your clothes?”
“Hold up. That bitch doesn’t have her token on her wrist.”
“Shit! This Dalit bitch used a don gate?! Do you have any idea how much it’s worth?”
The men were furious. Even though the gate wasn’t theirs, they were furious that Muskan had used the gate without telling them, as if she had just robbed them. At that moment, one of the men kicked out and stomped right on Rimha’s head.
“No!” Muskan tossed away the clothes in her hands and ran to Rimha. She covered her sister with her bare body at an attempt to shield her from harm. When she touched Rimha’s cold body, however, Muskan felt a shiver run down her back.
“No…please…no. Don’t do this, please,” Muskan cried out, tears streaming from her eyes as she stroked her baby sister’s face. It was cold, too cold.
“Tsk tsk. All that work for nothing…”
“I know, right? Hey, she was already dead when we found her.”
“You bastards! You hurt my…” Muskan was cut off by a hard kick to the stomach.
“It’s your fault, bitch. Who the fuck do you think you are to be glaring at us like that?”
“You just took away an expensive don gate from us, you filthy Dalit whore.”
“It pisses me just thinking about it. Why would a filthy bitch like you get to use it?”
The men began to relentlessly kick and stop on Muskan, but Muskan didn’t let her sister from her embrace. She hated the world she lived in. She hated that she was born into a shit life to begin with and just when things were looking up, she was thrown back into hell once again.
“Hey, that’s enough. If she dies, we’ll have to wait around here for three hours.”
“Don’t worry about it. She’s a deva now. She won’t die from that.”
“Whatever. It’s late now. Let’s go.”
Now that the men had let out their anger enough, they grabbed Muskan by her arms and picked her up.
“No. I can’t leave her here. Let me go!” Muskan didn’t care about the punches and kicks from the men. The pain didn’t compare to her shattered heart. She couldn’t leave her sister out here to become fodder for monsters. She had to take her with her.
“She’s already dead. Leave her!” One man pulled Muskan’s hand away from Rimha’s ankle. He then picked up Rimha’s body and tossed it over to the nearby brush. “Burn it.”
“Alright. Fire Ball!”
Muskan wailed as she watched her sister’s body burn. For a moment, she was thankful. Her sister wouldn’t be fed upon by monsters now, but she also hated herself for having to think that.
Muskan was forced back to her old life as soon as she was dragged to the village she ran away from. Muskan hated that she was a deva now. She couldn’t die even if she wanted to. She couldn’t end her own life now.
It wasn’t until six months later that Muskan finally saw a ray of hope. The men she worked for had stupidly crossed a large guild. The village was eradicated soon, and Muskan took that chance to escape with a few golden rings in her possession.
Muskan headed straight for Mumbai where she visited a Store for the first time in her life, where she bought her first random skill.
==[Rainy Night (1/1), (Passive)
I don’t know if it’s tears or rain drops falling down my face.
Obtain a strong familiarity with water.
Power of all Water-based skills increased by 20%
All abilities increase by twofold during rainy days
All abilities increase by fourfold during rainy nights
Skill points required: 0
Golden rings required: 0]==
Muskan had heard things about skills and how rare random skills were but never heard about a skill costing 0 points and golden rings. Muskan learned Rainy Night and spent all of her skill points on Water and Ice magic spells.
Muskan found her calling as a Water/Ice Mage and found Rainy Night to be quite helpful. She also managed to learn the Rainstorm skill later on to increase her potency in battle. She could now hunt in fields that people usually stayed away from and grew stronger at a faster pace than anyone else.
When she was strong enough, she searched them out. She wanted her revenge. She wanted them to beg for forgiveness and to beg for their lives. She forced them to jump into the Sea of Reset, but it wasn’t enough to piece her broken heart back together. Vengeance couldn’t cure her of her depression and loneliness.
After that, Muskan had learned her second random skill.
==[Proper Conversation (1/1), (Active)
Hold a truthful conversation with a target, without the target’s knowledge.
Skill points required: 0
Golden rings required: 0]==
Muskan knew enough now to know that there was no one else in the world who knew two random skills. She knew that it was weird for skills to cost 0 points or golden rings. Still, Muskan learned the skill, even though it didn’t seem that useful in battle. However, it wasn’t long until she figured out that it was one hell of a skill.
==[You have activated Proper Conversation.
You may now hold a truthful conversation without your target knowing.]==
Muskan could target anyone she wanted as long as she could see that person. She could then have her target spill the beans about anything she wanted to know about. She began using it on many exalted individuals, and it would form a mirror image of her targets.
“Do you truly help the poor and pitiful because you wish to?”
“No. Why would I?”
“Then why do you help them?”
“I have to boost my reputation. I don’t care who it is, as long as they praise me, I gain strength. There isn’t a better way to boost my reputation.”
“Still, I like that you have ended up helping many people, regardless of your intentions.”
“Hah! Thank you.”
Once the conversation was over, the mirror image would disappear. Muskan began holding truthful conversations with anyone who was well known and it wasn’t long until she realized that the world wasn’t pretty. There was no way to survive in this world with only one mask. She realized that one would need many masks in order to gain true power.
After that, Muskan stopped using Proper Conversation. She didn’t want to learn anymore. She continued to train using her Rainy Night skill, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t find any consolation in her strength.
It wasn’t long after that when her third random skill found her.