Helen absently rubbed the scar that she had left on the corner of her jaw from the day she had killed her first Wight. At the time, it had served as a reminder of the vicious cost of the ongoing war with the opposition. Now though, it simply ended up being a nervous tick that she couldn’t seem to shake. Every time she stopped paying attention to her hard, it crept upwards toward her jaw.
“Does it have to be here?” Helen asked with obvious displeasure.
Leyalta, her lieutenant since her first promotion had landed her on the front lines, shrugged. “There is no reason that other portals can be used. But as you know, travel across realms is extremely expensive. The individual must be keyed in very exactly to the portal in order for them to come through without any… mishaps. Some hasty teleportations have resulted in particularly acute versions of Aether Sickness-”
Helen waved her hand irritably. The portal operator was standing there chewing a piece of jerky, taking his time to open his mouth wide enough for Helen to see the gory details of the mastication between every chew. It was driving her up a wall. If this had been on the front lines, she would have knocked his teeth out. As it was, Helen had no desire to get tied up by some municipal authority in the Northern Province when they had to leave very quickly in order to make it to the Central Domain in time for the explanation of what was to come.
But here was the only place where it would be affordable to teleport Randidly. How did Shal manage it on the first teleport?
Smiling slightly, Helen handed over the payment for Randidly Ghosthound’s passage to the world called Tellus. As she did so, Leyalta scowled so powerfully that his whole body trembled. Leyalta was a very overweight man, but in a way that made him simply large to the point of being oppressive. Helen never did understand how he managed to keep on all of that fat while fighting in the meat grinder that was the front lines. She certainly never gave him any downtime.
“I hope… this man will provide you suitable repayment for this sacrifice.” Leyalta said frostily. If I am not mistaken, that refined ore was the sum total of the reward you’ve been given for your significant accomplishments, with no small amount of assistance from myself. I would hate if this individual failed to properly respect-”
“Don’t worry about it. He won’t be paying me back anyway. Because he won’t know how much it cost to bring him here. After all, I won’t tell him.” Helen gave Leyalta a look. She smiled. “And neither will you.”
Leyalta continued to scowl but fell silent. There was a reason such a capable man never moved past the position of lieutenant.
“Would you like to send a message to the recipient before I begin?” The attendant drawled around a mouth full of beef jerky.
In one of the hardest moments of self-control that Helen had ever experienced, she didn’t gut the worthless man where he stood. She even had the iron clad control to calmly nod her assent to his question, and ignore the glaring provocation of his shitty bitch attitude.
Helen looked at the reply message, furrowing her brows. All he responded with was K? And what world exactly was he coming from, that his teleport was almost impossibly expensive? Leyalta was right to say that it had almost beggared her to bring Randidly here, but she couldn’t explain to Leyalta that even with this, it was probably she that owed him.
In her chest, the flow of energy flowed forward without pause.
“Ready?” The infuriating man asked. It was even more annoying that he seemed to be mirroring her impressions so exactly.
“...yes,” Helen said before turning to Leyalta. “We should-”
There was a flash of light and a loud noise. There was no sort of concussive force from the teleport, but Helen stepped back as though there was one due to the light and noise. Leyalta, perhaps predictably, reeled backward while shouting. His arms wiggles like independent entities, grabbing at his fleshy body in an ineffectual attempt to grab at his spear.
When she recovered enough for it, Helen shook her head sadly. Perhaps this was why she hadn’t been promoted past Sergeant.
And Randidly was there, standing in front of her. His hair was shorn short, but otherwise, he looked the same. Tall, wiry, powerful, intense. His face went pale. He vomited onto the ground.
“That’s gonna cost extra,” The attendant said gleefully. Pressing her eyes closed, Helen tried not to both kill the man or look down to see the vomit on her shoes. It was something of a joke, saying that line, as about 99% of the people who passed through teleportation immediately vomit.
“...guess there is no fucking point in moving back now, is there?” Helen said, glaring at Leyalta. Randidly groaned.
“I can’t remember the last time I threw up… hell, it was probably the last time I came here,” Randidly said, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers. In the wake of the teleportation, he was left with a throbbing headache that almost made him nostalgic for the hangovers he used to get after a night of drinking in college.
Helen’s face still remained stormy, but she addressed him as if she wasn’t ready to lash out and attack him for vomiting on his shoes. “According to the attendant, high Levels and Stats just make it worse; it affects you more the more powerful you are. That’s why so few of the truly accomplished Masters ever deign to use the portals.”
Feeling the roiling sense of nausea that plagued him even 15 minutes later, Randidly believed her. He spared Helen another short glance while she said something quietly to the large man behind her. His time on Earth hadn’t made Randidly forget how explosive Helen’s temper was or even the strange electric tension that ran between the two of them. But it had served to dull Randidly’s recollection of her beauty.
She was all toned muscle and smooth curves, with a cascading mane of mahogany hair that flashed almost golden in the light. Although she was slender by Earth standards, her high arched eyebrows and generous hips made her the type that would become a fitness blogger on Instagram in Randidly’s old world.
But where those women were about positive messages and empowerment, Helen was focused on capability and violence. There were several small scars scattered across her body that Randidly didn’t remember, but seemed to fit her new presence. Her gaze hovered around him without ever settling on him, which was likely a testament to her anger. Aside from these small scars, she didn’t appear much different.
Somehow, Randidly could sense that long gone were the days that she was his Spear Attendant. This was not the type of person that would easily concede anything. Their brief clash almost 9 months ago would not serve as an indication of their relative strength any longer.
Still, that’s what Randidly liked about Helen. She would never make anything easy.
“How has… your health been?” Helen asked, her voice as smooth as a pitfall in a road.
Randidly coughed lightly into his hand, and then pounded his chest. It hurt, but it served to dispell most of the lingering nausea. Very quickly, he stretched and cracked his knuckles. Then he grinned at Helen.
“Let’s not beat around the bush then. Want to spar?”
Helen’s face lit up like a blooming flower. The overweight man seemed to groan, sagging beneath the weight of his own body.
“Perhaps that is not for the best,” the man said quietly, speaking in an extremely reasonable tone. “Mr. Ghosthound, you are no doubt still tired from your teleportation. It is best to save your strength for now, and perhaps after a sufficient amount of time has passed, you will have recovered enough to-”
“Leyalta,” Helen broke in with a vicious smile on her face. “Are you volunteering to spar with me in the interim?”
The man called Leyalta didn’t even bother to respond, but instead stepped towards Randidly. As he did so, Randidly’s eyes narrowed. Although this man was large he moved very quickly. It was hard for Randidly’s relatively rusty Perception stat to follow the movement clearly. And then, strangest of all, Leyalta extended his hands towards Randidly and engulfed Randidly’s hands in his.
“My condolences,” The man rumbled. But then he paused. “Perhaps this isn’t the best time to bring it up, but have you ever heard of disability insurance?”