Randidly burned with shame. He didn’t understand the value of a life…? Wasn’t this all because Shal had made him swear to stick with him through this process…? Wasn’t all of this the repayment of his debt…?
So when Shal came, violence in his eyes, Randidly responded in kind wordlessly rushing forward and activating Empower and Haste. His shoulder was already mostly healed, the pain nothing particular to speak of. If Shal wanted to fight-
But the Shal Randidly was facing now was very different from the Shal that usually sparred with them. Although Shal was usually impossible to pin down, the current Shal seemed to phase out of existence before Randidly’s very eyes. This..
This was Spear Phantom’s Footwork. At a level that neared 200.
Randidly felt his arm snap in half, and the sharp flash of pain that followed, and grunted. But he did not stop, because that was not how he had been taught. He lashed out with his leg, hoping to catch Shal in the back of the knee, but Shal was already gone. His other arm now fell limp, this time with the shoulder joint absolutely smashed to pieces. Shal began to speak, his disdain clear.
“Perhaps I have driven you too hard. I forget how soft you started. Two years of violence…” Shal seemed to pause there, as he once more disappeared and smashed Randidly’s knees and ankles. “Two years of violence have taught you that killing is necessary, but not why. You are blind. You fear the killing, as you should, yet you resent your fear, and you kill more to show yourself that you do not fear. You wound yourself pointlessly, pridefully… Well let me show you. What you truly need to fear.”
Shal continued to systematically destroy Randidly’s body, and Randidly grunted, tears forming in his eyes. This was all because of you, Randidly wanted to say, but his jaw was broken and his tongue was ripped. That old, slowly waking part of him shook his head sadly.
‘No, it’s not.’ Randidly said to himself. ‘You chose this. Accept it, or go mad.’
Randidly collapsed, unconscious.
Helen stood calmly over the body of the man she had watched tortured and eviscerated before her very eyes. Again, she thought it remarkable both how peaceful he seemed while asleep, and the crazed violence that had been in his and his master’s eyes earlier that day. There was some deeper lesson going on between them, but honestly, Helen didn’t really give a fuck.
After all, it wasn’t like she was some fucking angel. Some lessons were hard to learn. Some lessons had to be taught the hard way. It was a violent world she had grown up in, but it was all she knew. Strength was power.
And power was everything.
The Ghosthound stirred, his eyelids flickering. His black hair had grown long in his time in the prison, hanging to his shoulders, and he now had a bristly beard like a jobless merchant. Helen’s lip curled up in distaste. That would need to go if she was do to what she thought was necessary. Both for herself, and for him.
So when he awoke, Helen held up a razor and a bowl of cream, and cocked her head at him in askance. For several seconds, she was held there by his emerald eyes, where a whirlwind of emotion seemed to seeth. Then it slowly settled. Then his eyes roamed over her, lingering quite long on her neck and chest. She held still, now actively trying to suppress the shiver.
It was strange, how much similar gazes from men had disgusted her in the past. And now she felt a hot sliver of enjoyment from the attention. Her mother had always said she would understand the use of her looks someday, and well…
Perhaps today was that day.
FInally, the Ghosthound nodded, and Helen moved closed, trying her best to not wrinkle her nose at the absofuckinglutely disgusting smell. Holy christ, had he bathed at all in his time in prison?
Helen supposed that was a dumb question. She honestly didn’t even know the last time she had bathed. They had been waiting for these fuckers to break out of the prison, after all. But there was a clear disparity between them in terms of smell, and it was a problem.
One disgusting step at a time.
A downside of increased Endurance was how resilient the hair became. The Ghosthound was no exception. She carved more than she cut, slowly cleaning his neck and face. After 10 minutes, she had mostly completely the process and she leaned back, satisfied with her work. But again, she was caught by his gaze.
With his dark hair, pale skin, and almost glowing eyes, the Ghosthound regarded her. The look in his eyes turning decidedly hungry. Her heartbeat sped up, but she let nothing show on her face. She slowly cleaned the blades she had used, taking her sweet time. Stroke by stroke, she wiped the last razor clean.
The whole tent seemed to be pulsing now, filled with a strange need. Helen couldn’t believe how much it was carrying her away. She tried to think of how covered in blood and sweat the man was, but all she really ended up doing is looking up and once more finding herself pinned down by that gaze. It was a light green now, like mint and chemical fire.
Helen took a calming breath, and then said, “Take off your clothes.”
She delighted in the way his eyes once more filled with wild emotion, need, panic, fear, hunger, confusion… but then it all passed, and there was a slow and sure confidence that filled his gaze. He smiled, almost lazily. “What?”
Waving her hand, Helen produced the washtub she carried around with her everywhere. It was just big enough for a grown man to submerge himself in, and then she began pouring hot water into it, to fill it up.
Helen’s parents hadn’t been rich, but they hadn’t been poor, Style-less folk either. She had some ways to procure steaming hot water at the drop of a hat. “You.” Helen said simply. “Are taking a bath.”
Randidly wasn’t sure what he was feeling. But he knew that the bath felt very, very good right now. Shal’s words earlier… in a way, they were echoing so loudly around in his head that he couldn’t even hear them. Randidly’s consciousness slipped under them, focusing on other things.
Like how soft and warm his spear attendant’s body looked in the dimb light of the tent. How good the hot water felt as he scrubbed himself clean. He couldn’t remember the last time he had taken a bath. Even though it was becoming increasingly popular in Donnyton towards the end, he was too busy training with Mrs. Hamilton-
Then he smiled and shook his head. From their perspective, very little time had passed. It had probably only been…. almost a month since he had left Donnyton, their time? It felt so surreal. The way that time could change perspective… It was incredible.
Releasing a long breath, Randidly allowed himself to float underwater. Then he emerged, stepping out of the comfortable water of the tub to the chill of the air. His spear attendant stepped forward, offering him a towel.
Her service was strange, and the fact that he was just naked in front of her was strange, for a variety of reasons. The most important of which was… it had been two years since he had seen her. He didn’t remember her name at all. And yet she so easily came forward to help him.
Randidly didn’t think he remembered her being this helpful, but he supposed he didn’t really have an experience like this before either.
At least, if she was going to look at him naked, it was now. It was a small, vain thought, but the system had done wonders to improve his muscle mass and definition. He didn’t look crazy strong, like he actually was due to the increased stats, but every inch of him was covered in tight muscle.
The spear attendant stepped forward, a strange look on her face.
“What?” Randidly asked, wondering what she wanted to do for him now.
She frowned at him, “It’s my turn. Move.”
Randidly laughed out loud, and moved off to the side. Shaking his head, he sat down and pulled out a leather bracer. He was thinking too much obviously, but it was an amusing distraction. But now, better to concentrate on something-
A strange, soft noise caught his attention. Almost by instinct, Randidly turned around. The spear attendant had taken off her robe and let it slide down. Every curve of hers hung there, for his eyes. She very deliberately met his eyes, and then smiled at him. Then she turned away, and walked slowly to the tub and hopped into it, her hair floating in the air behind her.
Randidly’s physical reaction was immediate. He spent several minutes just looking down at his bracer, trying to calm his breathing. He obviously wasn’t a virgin, but this…
In his mind, because he didn’t know her name… and had somewhat of an employer/employee situation….
But after a few minutes, she splashed out and stood, walking over towards Randidly. Drops of water clung to her as she approached. Almost unwillingly, Randidly stood, both literally and figuratively, and watched her approach. She offered him a small smile.
Randidly wordlessly unwrapped the towel and handed it to her. She looked down at his hands and towels, and then slowly took the towel, her hand lingering on his for several seconds.
But while that was happening, Randidly noticed a slight tremble in her hand. Some of the need and lust fell away, and he looked at her. This beautiful woman, with a spear user who she believed to be superior to herself, doing all these rather forward moves and he had… just stood there.
As she gazed up at him, he could finally see the hesitation and fear in her gaze. Like everyone else, she was afraid of rejection, and wasn’t really sure how to proceed.
There was a part of Randidly that wondered why this was happening, or what it meant, but there was another, bigger part that just wanted it. And ultimately….
It had been a very long time since he had sex.
So Randidly stepped forward and put his hands on her waist, gripping just tightly enough to feel his strength. She gasped and dropped the towel. Then, hope rekindled in her eyes, she looked up at him.
After receiving that look, Randidly promptly picked her up and carried the woman whose name he still couldn’t remember to bed.