Saran calls in a physician who injects a serum into Zélie’s neck while Inan watches, horrified. Saran says it is to keep her from passing out while they torture her. A soldier tears the back of Zélie’s dress and begins to heat his dagger over the flames of a torch. The knife sears into Zélie’s back, a pain so intense that Inan can also feel it. He runs forward and attempts to fight off the guards.
Unlike Zélie, who sees violence as a tool to fight oppression and protect her family, Saran uses violence to inflict cruelty and fear. He is adept at drawing out pain and exerting psychological as well as physical torture.
Saran scoffs at Inan, who feels the sting of his father’s disappointment. The guards pull Inan out of the room just as he realizes the soldiers are carving the word “maggot” into Zélie’s back.
Even though Inan has renounced his father’s ways, he still feels a desire to make him proud, showing that he has not fully rejected his father. Saran’s decision to carve a slur into Zélie’s back shows the way that his use of torture is linked to the way he dehumanizes and exploits divîners. He feels no qualms about hurting Zélie because he views her as less than human.
Desperate, Inan snaps into the dreamscape. He needs to bring Zélie there, to save her from the pain. Zélie appears, but she seems not to know where or even who she is. Crying, she says she can’t feel anything. Watching Zélie, Inan thinks of Saran’s refrain: “duty before self.” He thinks of Kwame bursting into flames. He realizes he must prevent destruction at all costs.
Seeing the pain that his father has caused, Inan again decides that his father’s way is unacceptable. But he also thinks of the divîners fighting back as evidence that their way cannot be right, either. He believes that if anyone has outsized power—be it his father or the divîners—then violence will continue in Orïsha.