Chapter 51: I Bought a Whorehouse (Part 4)
"So what, exactly, is the point of this whole field trip?"
"Simple. It's to make sure no one ends up shot, stabbed or magicked in the back if we end up having to fight or work together at some point in the near or far future. That'd be just a little bit embarrassing, don't you think?"
Yukikaze dismissively shrugged, going back to her stretches as Cayman inwardly marveled at the flexibility and allure of a tanned, athletic leg somehow pulling itself behind its owners ear before deciding that he should focus on his own shit, flipping through the instructions and checklists for his armor before nodding in satisfaction, rolling his shoulders and feeling the odd sensation of slight resistance to every movement, just enough to be noticeable but nowhere near enough to hinder his movement, as if he was pushing through a thin layer of water.
Apparently that was a 'feature' of a lot of the early generation exoskeletons. While later models purportedly felt like wearing nothing as the software in the suits got better and better at reading human body movements as well as pushing with each and every flexing of muscle the earlier generations hadn't quite reached that level of sophistication, applying a light resistance to every movement in order to properly calculate how much it should push in return.
A small price to pay for massively increased strength, durability and an impressive sensor suite that the male figured was part and parcel of 'heavy infantry'.
Besides, who wouldn't like having a cool 800 pounds of extra lifting strength at their disposal?
"Are you sure this is going to work? Seems like a big ol' mess just waiting to happen."
Glancing at Shirone as she padded up alongside him the Surveyor could only tilt his hand back and forth, replying, "It's not waiting to happen, it's already and going to happen. This team is a riot of personalities and butting heads that are just raring to have a go at each other, that much has already been made pretty apparent. Which is why I want to have all of it occur now instead of in a situation where we can't work it out in time."
He gave a pointed look towards where the tension between Rin, Caren, Yukikaze and Jinglei was a tangible force of interconnected competition, Felicia and Kuroka of course not able to resist the temptation to throw fuel onto an already blazing fire and tossing out the occasional comment that riled up the quartet like surly cats, even if Caren's responses were more…dangerously languid.
"Hey, why are you looking at us?!"
Innocently whistling to themselves Cayman and Shirone averted their gazes from the four in question, Rin, Yukikaze and Jinglei sending the pair sour looks before returning to their preparations, Shirone idly remarking, "Surprised you're not more worried about the Vampire."
"I'm worried about everyone. But yeah, she's lower on the totem pole of trouble. Sure, she's a mischief maker but so are the Demon trio and Felicia is more likely to bite someone - me - than she is to bite someone's head off."
"Aww, I knew you had a soft spot for me~!"
A pair of arms snaked around his neck before a body pressed itself against his back - the sensation regretfully muted due to servos and plates of armor - as the Vampire additionally chirped, "So when are we getting started, huh? This is gonna be so exciting~!"
"As soon as Till leads her mom back with today's objective, shouldn't be long now."
Slipping off his body to instead chat with Shirione - the Nekoshou predictably exasperated at the Demon's overly friendly attitude - Cayman gave the Vampire's combat attire an appreciative glance, the pinkette going with an almost conservative ensemble that heavily leaned into the femme fatale aesthetic.
A heavy leather jacket zipped up to the middle of her cleavage, tight leather pants that hugged her legs and posterior in a very flattering manner while high-heeled combat boots - which were a thing, because of course they were - finished the outfit, similar to the one he vaguely remembered her wearing in one of the Taimanin universe iterations except a bit more 'modest'.
"See something you like, Mr. Surveyor~?"
Shirone briefly scowled at the attention given to the Vampire before once more smoothing her expression into placidness as Felicia cocked a hip in a way that really drew attention to her ass, Cayman replying, "Like you need me to say it."
"Aww, but I like compliments."
Saved from any further pressuring for flowery adjectives Till flew back with her mother in tow, the larger Fairy giving the widely varied group an arched eyebrow before turning to face the Surveyor, remarking, "I hear that you desire a collection of more dangerous creatures threatening our lands to exterminate. Proactiveness is appreciated in those that contract to defend us."
"Well we aim to please, Your Majesty. What have you got for us today?"
"Are you familiar with Scylla's?"
"Ooh, I know how to make a few of those~!"
Felicia's eager proclamation drew a brief glance from the woman before she amended, "The alive and non-corrupted ones."
"Depends on which variety we're talking about and how closely these ones resemble 'myth'."
Nodding at his words Titania pointed in a direction vaguely northward, stating, "A dozen kilometers away from our people's ancestral falls that feed the rivers coursing through our territory a nest of the creatures has taken root, my daughter will inform you of their capabilities but the sooner they are exterminated the better."
She affixed the Surveyor with an imperial glance, casually remarking, "I think you'll find them a challenging enough foe, provided you do not allow the more powerful members of your group to run wild."
"Roger that. Okay, everyone gather up!"
As everyone drew close Cayman had to wonder if these Scylla were actually monstrous versions or some kind of weird sexy kind before deciding that was pretty irrelevant, since it ultimately didn't matter if the thing trying to rip his face off was a 0/10 or 10/10, it was still trying to rip his face off.
"Alright, so what are we looking at here, Till?"
Titania watched from the sidelines as her daughter took center stage of the briefing, said daughter confidently relaying, "Okay, these Scylla prefer to be near sources of water but trees work just as well, since they can use their twelve grasping limbs and six heads to spot from a multitude of angles and directions. The older and more powerful a Scylla gets it can begin to make use of various kinds of magic while the younger and smaller ones can still combine their strengths and affect a person's mind so that they act more sluggishly than normal."
"...So we're fighting octopus chimpanzees? Great."
"Hectopus chimpanzees, Cayman. I see counting still does not count among one of your stronger talents."
"Guess that college degree isn't paying off after all."
Caren offered an angelic smile at his quip, the Surveyor nodding to himself before stating, "Alright, then let's get ready to move out."
The group began settling into a rough approximation of their theoretical formation, Titania motioning for him to wait a moment as she stated, "My daughter spoke of what you're planning in regards to her earlier proclaimed wish, of the lengths you've gone."
A slight smile adorned the Demon's lips.
"You've been very good to her, I imagine it will be her time to surprise you in turn."
Of course the Fairy didn't bother to explain herself and departed on an enigmatic note, leaving behind a notification of,
+20 REP with Till-Titania [30/100]
and Cayman wondering if she meant the recent DEV upgrade or something else entirely. What he assumed meant 'Devotion' had given his stats a further percentage increase and all that remained to be seen was if he had to form some kind of contract with an individual in order to get further increases or earning DEV would simply apply them regardless.
He was leaning towards the former as that would be in line with what evidence he'd gathered so far, and it meant there were all sorts of intriguing possibilities. Magi such as Rin could create shared mana channels between individuals while Magicians in the Supernatural side of things could become 'contracted magicians', whatever that meant.
If he got his relationship values high enough he could probably convince his companions to go ahead with these various connections without a second's hesitation.
"Well, something to look forward to in the future."
"So what did mother want to talk to you about?"
"Nothing too crazy, just that you'll likely surprise me sometime in the future and that I'd make for a great Prince and son-in-law."
The Fairy playfully smacked his shoulder plate as the Surveyor slipped on his helmet, everyone wordlessly settling into their positions for the long journey ahead as Cayman once more ran over it with an appraising eye, hoping that it all worked out okay in the end.
They had taken on the shape of an inbred Isosceles triangle, Felicia, Cerb, Shirone, Jinglei and Yumi acting as the outer points, the latter two acting as dual vanguard while Shirone handled the rear, Cerb and Felicia rounding out their flanks. In the center was Asia, Till, Yukikaze, Mai and Rin acting as a QRF and healing while a bit behind them and ahead of Shirone was himself, Natsume, Caren, Kuroka, Oct and the Demon trio, acting as a secondary QRF as well as sensory squad for pinpointing enemy locations or any unwanted surprises headed their way.
…In theory it would pan out well. While it may have made more sense to have someone like Shirone or Felicia act as the vanguard given their vastly higher strength than the rest of the forwards he wanted Jinglei and the rest to quickly get used to working together in order to make up for their relative 'weakness'. In that regard Jinglei's overwhelming strength and Dragon-like nature would pair well with Yumi's precise and varied assaults thanks to her Sacred Gear and the multitude of options it afforded her.
The center was more what Cayman was expecting to change. While Yukikaze and Mai were more than capable operators with both ranged and medium-ranged capabilities - never mind the powerhouse that was Rin when given the opportunity to cut loose - he wasn't too sure how having both Till and Asia in the same group was going to work, since if people needed healing on two different sides of the idiot triangle they were going to have to make split-second decisions on how would go with who.
Of a bit more certainty was their final group, Cayman confident that with his variety of buffing spells and newly acquired long range options in the form of his Castigator that they had a bevy of options available to both keep the more vulnerable members of their group intact and respond to unseen threats as needed. He could amp up Kuroka if they really needed a heavy hitter or bring up Natsume - who didn't have any kind of combat speciality beyond being a trained Taimanin - to their level and Oct could always combine with Cerb or himself for a massive boost of strength if needed.
…He still hadn't brought up the possibility of his summon combining with the other members of the group although the Injuu Prince had suggested that was certainly a possibility. He was fairly certain Natsume or maybe even Mai or Yumi would agree to serve as a test for it but he hadn't missed the weirded out looks he got when deepthroating his summon, that was an ask for a later date.
"You alright in there, nya?"
Snapping out his ruminations at Kuroka's inquiry Cayman realized he'd completely lost track of time and space, running on autopilot as a quick glance at his digital clock readout let him know he'd been out of it for a solid thirty minutes.
"What, am I driving on the fucking interstate again?"
"Yeah, I'm good. Just running through various strategies and formations we can adopt if this one doesn't work."
"Must have been a lot of running, Natsume was leading the group for you, nya~!"
Giving the lovely woman a grateful nod that she returned with a demure smile the Gamer remarked, "Not sure if I'm supposed to be paying all of you but if that ends up being the case remind me to pay you extra."
"Yeah, a little bit of cash wouldn't-"
"Nice try, I'm already giving you salaries."
Lilim quietly grumbled alongside her two friends as their most uninspired attempt at easy money to date fell through, the Gamer instead tuning to the rest of the group as he heard Asia worriedly ask, [Shouldn't we be worried about staying too long in the Demon world? I've heard that less than a day in its territory can cause people to become mindless beasts and monsters.]
Tapping her throat mike Caren magnanimously explained, "That is for people with no resistance to its miasma and who hold sin within their hearts, individuals such as ourselves would take significantly longer or simply not turn at all, that goes especially for those that contain a Sacred Gear, as their souls are blessed both by God and the being within the Gear."
[Oh! Well that's good news?]
Her golden eyes met Cayman's own, playful smirk adorning her lips.
"Although I imagine some of us would be faster to fall than others, considering how corrupted and debased they have allowed themselves to become."
"Stop, I can only take so much flirting before I give in to my debaucherous and corrupted desires."
The Exorcist merely rolled her eyes at his easy and immediate response, no doubt warming up another rebuttal until Kuroka's ears twitched, the Nekoshou tilting her head before announcing, "Couple bad guys incoming, watcha want to do, nya?"
"Let's see how this formation plays, might as well as start figuring out whether it's a dud or holds promise."
Shifting his shoulders Cayman silently mused that the implant surgery Moko and his little harem had carried out really did do the job, basically unnoticeable unless he flexed his shoulders in a specific way and easy to forget about until he needed it, a focused thought causing his armor to open up a team-wide channel as he announced, "Alright, eyes open. We've got our first customers of the day. Yumi, Jinglei? You're up."
He cast a [Defensive Drive] on the pair, adding, "You'll hit less hard with this but you also don't have to worry about getting knocked out in one hit, assuming these things are as strong as suggested."
[What, you think we aren't capable of taking on creatures like these?]
The Taimanin's sharp response drew a smirk from Cayman, having fully expected such a protest.
"Not at all, but you're a valued part of my team now, that means ensuring everyone survives even if on paper there's no danger right now."
[...Oh, umm. Okay.]
Blinking at the notification of,
+10 Rep with Su Jinglei, [80/100]
Cayman had to wonder if Sybaritic Graduate was beginning to work overtime or if that was just the girl calling upon some of her tsundere traits, Kuroka weighing in on the conversation as she dramatically groaned, wryly commenting, "You're really not going to rest until you have a legion of deadly ninja babes at your beck and call, aren't yah? And geez she's easy."
"Now now, Miss Jinglei has worked as an intelligence officer for most of her life and was under constant pressure to perform. Having a superior take such a vested and honest interest in her wellbeing must be quite novel."
Cayman didn't have the heart to admit to Natsume that while he certainly didn't want either Yumi or Jinglei to die his comment had been more to defuse a mild rant than it had been a mission statement.
"Oh well, might as well own it."
"Shush, it's starting."
Off in the distance a brief shudder and twisting of the treeline could be seen, Jinglei stepping forward as her gauntlets quietly crackled with ebon flame, Yumi placing a hand on the hilt of her vibration blade as Cayman resisted the urge to frown as a strange heat haze seemed to rise from the cursed weapon.
While Moko had assured them that the thing was only as dangerous as the wielder let it be he wasn't exactly thrilled to have one of Yumi's trial runs be with a snake that could reach out and bite her.
"Shit, I said this was the time to work out any kinks in the system, I might as well own that statement."
He remained quiet as the group settled in to wait, their two frontliners coiled and ready to pounce like springs-
-and with a sudden shriek of disorienting pitches and howls three creatures descended out of the treeline, Cayman instantly examining them.
Wild Scylla, LVL 39
MAG DEF: 120
And boy were they ugly. Resembling their mythological counterparts in shape and grotesqueness but twice as large as a horse and thrice as mean looking.
While he was worried for a moment that both girls would be thrown off by the burst of noise he was evidently worried for nothing, Jinglei merely baring her teeth as she rushed forward to meet two of the beasts while Yumi's helmet had shielded her from the worst of it, watching Jinglei's back as the third Scylla attempted to circle the Taimanin.
All that said he was still worried for them, well aware that despite the level disparity that had thus far meant not a whole lot-
-and promptly sighed at himself for being a worrywart.
One of the Scylla launched a three directional assault at Jinglei with its tentacles, the thick and muscled appendages looking full well like they could dent steel with sufficient force…and the former PLA operative simply hopped over one of the strikes, contorted her body to avoid the second and caught the third in the crook of her arm, absorbing the blow and skidding slightly before her free arm tore a thick gouge out of the tendril, the Scylla shrieking in pain as Jinglei let go of the thrashing limb, leaping forward and launching a vicious haymaker that sent fangs and even an eyeball flying, one of the heads slumping over as two more received less crippling but equally debilitating hits, the remaining three shrieking with panic as they chaotically tried to flee the vengeful woman-
-and instead opened up a prime opportunity for the Taimanin to streak towards the second untouched Scylla, flaming wings adding extra thrust as her fist tore through the creature's center of mass, a deluge of black fire cooking it alive before it could react as the crisped and smoking body collapsed under its own weight…and that was while the young woman had been under the effect of [Defensive Drive], god knows what she could do to the poor things with her full arsenal of offensive talents available.
Yumi had also handled her side of things with remarkable grace under pressure, waiting until the third Scylla fully committed with a full frontal assault and proceeding to unleash hell on the unsuspecting creature.
Six unmarked blades sprouted from the ground, lacerating its striking limbs and causing them to spasm and hesitate with shocked pain, the blonde taking advantage of its brief moment of vulnerability as the vibration sword was ripped from its sheath, soft hum filling the clearing as with three deft strokes half of the Scylla's limbs and heads slumped to the ground, arterial blood spraying everywhere before the remaining heads bellowed in confusion at the sudden turnaround.
Not that it did them much good, the blonde performing another three swipes and that was really that, Cayman idly watching with a raised eyebrow.
"Soooo…guess that training with Shirou and Medusa is paying off. Why was I worried about this again?"
Rolling his eyes at himself the Gamer instead complimented, "Nice work, let's keep moving," before flicking off his mike, able to see even from a distance the proud and poorly hid cheerfulness of the Taimanin as she rejoined the formation, Yumi - features hidden behind her helmet - appearing a bit more subdued with her body language but nonetheless confident.
…He could practically taste Kuroka and Natsume's smug looks, as if they could tell exactly what he was thinking despite the helmet.
Thankfully he didn't have to deal with any snark as they approached the vague direction Kuroka could sense a whole mess of life energy, doubtlessly the home nest as they prepared for the main assault and what was obviously going to be a more pitched effort than two of their own easily dispatching a few scouts on the periphery. The terrain wasn't great for visibility either, a tremendous waterfall creating plenty of noise and mist while thick undergrowth lined the banks of the river, what looked like deer trails - or whatever the Demon world equivalent was - traced hidden routes throughout.
Not really ideal terrain for bipedal humanoids that gave up tree hopping several evolutionary stages ago and gills several hundred evolutionary stages ago.
"Kinda hard to tell, nya…we're definitely flanked on both sides while most of em' are across the river. Not really moving that much so I guess they're waiting for us to do the honors."
"Might as well oblige them, then."
Staring at their formation and lightly tapping a finger against his leg Cayman ordered, "Felicia? Switch positions with Jinglei and Yumi, I want you to frontline this one since you have that whole near instantaneous regeneration thing going on."
[So you're saying you don't want those other girls to get messed up but not little ol' Feli?]
"Nice try, I know you like it rough."
Thankfully no one raised a stink at the shifting formations and the order was obeyed without so much as an errant glare, a strange sort of tension settling in as everyone gazed out over the no man's land that was their side of the river versus the Scylla's side, two minutes slipping by as Lilim nervously remarked, "D-do you think they don't want to fight? I mean if they don't want to fight that would be great and I don't-"
A unified, howling roar that was almost lyrical in its brutality rang out through the arena, the Demon trio shrieking and covering their ears as dozens of the creatures burst out of the river, trees and even ground as they found themselves in the middle of a multi-pronged attack within the blink of an eye.
"Here we go."
Not hesitating in the slightest Cayman readied his Castigator, took aim at the forefront of the beasts charging in towards Yumi and Jinglei and fired off a .38 enhanced by [Flame Wheel] that caught a Scylla right in its center of mass-
-and the thing's chest exploded outwards in an fiery display of ash and smoking bits as the male blinked, caught off guard by the sudden execution.
"Huh. Thought it'd take more than that."
He wasn't given time to think any further on the matter, instead firing rapidly into the pack and Yukikaze did the same for the flank charging down Cerb, her shots far more accurate and fast coming than his own but less immediately lethal, since electricity - while excellent at downing the beasts for a short time - tended not to be as instantly destructive as his [Flame Wheel] unless the girl really cut loose with the voltage or applied some kind of lingering effect.
Rather than immediately start launching her own assault Mai used the precious few seconds before contact to throw out a bevy of paper origamis in the shapes of birds and rabbits that stayed close to the group, no doubt awaiting her command as Rin prepped a few gemstones in hand, not yet releasing them and instead keeping a close eye on the battle with the intent to leap into action if it became necessary.
Then the scattered lines made contact and Cayman laid off the trigger for a moment, observing the various battles with a scrutinizing eye since it was his responsibility to ensure everything went as according to plan as possible, as well as any changes that might be needed if it didn't.
Felicia was…well she was Felicia. A gleefully laughing pink and black maelstrom of death that wielded a scythe - an impractical melee weapon at the best of times - as if she'd been born with it in hand, tearing the Scylla that approached her to shreds as shadowy beasts rose from the ground and joined the battle at her side, what few blows landed on her body promptly regenerated from as Cayman reflected that he really shouldn't have worried about her, passing over Yumi and Jinglei's conflict as he was familiar with what they were capable of and instead focused on Cerb, his summon putting on an impressive showing despite the overwhelming numbers.
Blasts of fire from his maw kept the flanks safe alongside a bit of support from Yukikaze and Mai's origami constructs, any Scylla that did get into melee combat finding itself matched by the Hellhound's strength and outmatched by his powerful bite and rending claws as opposed to their six heads and twelve tendrils.
But the problem was numbers and Cayman quickly spotted holes in their plan, Yumi and Cerb suffering simultaneous injuries that had their first QRF momentarily torn on which direction to go until Rin and Mai went to backup the duo with Till flying alongside them, Asia and Yukikaze going to reinforce Cerb as the nun would be able to heal the Hellhound's broken leg quicker than Till could Yumi's severe limp, Cayman raising the Castigator and firing off several shots in quick succession in order to help alleviate some of the pressure on their team.
And just as quickly as it started it ended, the rest of the Scylla falling back as Rin and Yukikaze peppered them with Gandr curses and bullets alike, Cayman and Kuroka quickly using a combination of [Frost Lance] and the Yokai's Senjutsu fire to douse the fires with steaming but still effective water, the Surveyor asking, "Mission accomplished or are they just gearing up for round two?"
"Round two, I believe. There's no shortage of steadily growing anger and malice at our intrusion."
Blinking as it wasn't the cat that answered but instead Caren of all people the Surveyor raised an eyebrow at her calm and collected appearance, as if the Exorcist had slipped into a trance.
"I thought Daemons were your area of speciality."
"That they are. But considering the myriad of threats and heretics the faithful face on a daily basis it seemed practical that I learn more than one means of detection since I am of limited use in direct combat. Using my Masochistic Spiritual sensing as a springboard I am quite aware of all manners of 'sin and piety' in a large area around me, up to, oh, shall we say a kilometer?"
"And you didn't think to mention this at all?"
Caren merely smiled at Cayman's dry comment, chirping, "This is the first time I have been able to confirm it works and there was no point in replacing the sinful cat's duty as she is more accomplished than I."
"You're lucky I like sweet and sour, together, nya."
Shaking his head Cayman briefly debated the benefits of giving the Exorcist shit over her cagey attitude before deciding it wasn't worth it and that she'd probably get a kick out of him getting all upset.
"In that case…Kuroka? You're replacing your sister and keeping an eye on our rear. Natsume? You join up with the rest of the QRF."
Opening up the team channel he continued with, "New game plan. Felicia, Shirone? You're the flankers. Yumi, Rin, Jinglei and Cerb? You're the vanguard. QRF? Natsume is joining up and you're splitting into two groups. Yukikaze, Mai and Natsume are to guard Asia at all times and get her to where the fighting is thickest. Till? I'm relying on you to stay mobile and handle the less crippling injuries."
[Wait, what about Kuroka? Isn't she our sensor?]
"Caren's been holding out on us, she's got the scanning part done and settled."
[Wait, when could the Church bitch do THAT?!]
Chuckling at first Yumi and then Yukikaze's comments the Gamer lost some of his humor as everyone quickly sorted themselves, Till giving him a quick wave of reassurance as she could no doubt sense his displeasure with the strategy just fine.
Sure, the Fairy had defensive spells, could fly, was a small target and if worst came to worst she could just reform using his MP but something about leaving his contracted Fairy to fend for herself just really did not sit right with him.
"Great. I'm already becoming overprotective."
As if on response to that thought a dozen or so illusory Tills sprang to life and began idly floating alongside the real one, Cayman glancing Kuroka's way as the Nekoshou slipped him a cheerful wink, the Gamer reflecting that he was going to have to do something nice for the cat in the near future.
"Any other last minute surprises you have to brighten my day, Caren?"
"Unfortunately not, although I shall endeavor to see your dumbfounded expression more often."
"You keep it up with that proactivity and I'll make it extra dramatic for you."
A small smirk that didn't tell the entire story.
+0 AFC with Caren [0/100]
"...A little freaked out by apparently having Caren getting in my good graces, not going to lie, but maybe every successful man had at least ONE crazy girlfriend during the course of their life."
He was brought out of those meandering thoughts as said crazy girlfriend abruptly stated, "A not insignificant amount of irritable energy is coming our way, I would wager that-"
A cave built into the cliffside released a howling roar, spitting out a truly gargantuan Scylla that was the size of a respectable house, twelve baleful eyes landing on their group as just shy of a hundred of the smaller varieties rose up alongside it, Cayman's lips peeling into a grin as he beheld the creature's stats.
Omega Scylla, LVL 72
MAG DEF: 700
"I think I just found that heroic act part of Edelweiss' quest…let's see if this qualifies."
"Everyone focus on the small fry, the big one is mine. Cerb and Oct will support me."
"H-huh?! You're going to fight that thing alone?!"
Smirking at Lilim's freaked out comment Cayman merely patted Oct, the Injuu Prince thus far having patiently waited for further commands.
"Not quite alone, remember? Keep your eyes peeled and get the cameras ready. Natsume is in charge if I can't respond."
And before he could change his mind about how crazy this actually was the Surveyor charged forward, summons quickly joining him as the Wild Scyllas crashed headfirst into their reformed lines, the larger variant slowly but steadily coming up behind them as the gamer ordered, "Cerb, Oct, combine and tear into that thing, I'll support you!"
Dashing around the melee both summons seamlessly followed his commands, the Hellhound opening wide as Oct darted down the canine's throat, the bestial creature momentarily convulsing before a length of fiery red tentacles burst from his spine like a flaming mane, the combined duo charging well ahead of Cayman as he slammed the butt of his spear into the river, water swirling around his ankles as he shouted, "[Warcry!]"
1500 MP went down the drain but the effects were immediate and noticeable, a transparent heat haze surrounding both the Surveyor and his summons as a sensation akin to an adrenaline high mixed with primal fight-or-flight instincts combined into a potent cocktail that he could control and direct as he wanted.
"Oh this is the GOOD shit."
Snapping up his Castigator he fired an unenhanced round into one of its heads, a bloody but ultimately shallow furrow carved into is flesh and serving to do little other than piss the thing off as three of its oversized appendages lashed towards him and Cerb/Oct, the trio throwing themselves into evasive rolls, senses working overtime as Cayman idly reflected that [Warcry] seemed to make time move just a little bit slower than normal, thanks to all the chemicals pumping through his system.
Clocked up perceptions were nice, considering the force of the impact one of the tentacles left behind had crushed river gravel into a compressed mess a quarter of a meter deep.
"Yup. Can't get hit by THAT."
"Burn the heads!"
Having neatly dodged their own attempts at pancaking Cerb reared back his head, Oct's tentacles emanating hellish flames as an overcharged blast of fire engulfed one of the Scylla's heads, wreathing it in an inferno that didn't seem eager to go out once Cerb snapped his jaws shut, the results of Oct's significant MAG stat combining with Cerb's carrying with it a bevy of advantages.
The burning head was no dummy, however, immediately launching itself into the deepest parts of the river as the other five jerked out of the way, Cayman smirking as opportunity presented itself.
The Castigator fired off yet another round, impacting the submerged head and with a shriek of freezing water coated the neck and everything below it in a shell of ice, a follow up [Volt Thrust] bullet striking the iced over skin and cracking through its fractured resistances before blowing a significant chunk of flesh away due to the extra 'oomph', the Scylla rearing back with one head flopping about, screams of panic echoing throughout the terrain.
Not that it was idle in its agony, twelve appendages furiously waving and striking about until Oct used his own glistening lengths to lock one of them down, Cerb planting his feet as Cayman rushed forward, spear at the ready.
With the extra force his weapon ripped right through the heavily muscled length, a quick squeeze courtesy of Oct divesting the remaining tendons from their base as the Scylla went well and truly berserk, practically throwing itself at them in a homicidal rage as the Gamer came to the rather unfortunate realization that in closing the gap he had, well, closed the gap.
The spell completed just in time for him to catch a thrashing tentacle right across the chest, enhanced reflexes nowhere near enough to avoid the strike as the air left his lungs in a harsh cough, spit coating the inside of his helmet and a few less than graceful tumbles only stopping once he dug his boots into the shallows, servos hissing in exertion as the Surveyor just knew he was going to have a hell of a bruise come tomorrow, the exo groaning slightly whenever he tried to move it and carrying just a little bit extra resistance.
True to Till's warning the five remaining heads reared back, azure lines of energy manifesting as they launched a magic assault, compressed balls of water and streams of liquid firing at them as he activated [Esoteric Parry], deflecting the orb as it burst apart in a wild spray of droplets, spear meeting the solid line of force with a noise like a hundred yellow pages being ripped apart at once, Cayman eyeing his MP and noting that a battle of attrition wasn't going to favor them in the slightest.
He had started with a bit over 8000 MP, less than a minute of frantic battle downing him by 2800 MP, leaving him shy of 5000. In return they'd only wounded the thing, and not critically either. Long story short, they weren't in a winning position in the game of resource expenditure.
…Which might explain why he had a smile so wide that it felt like his face was going to split open.
Sucking in a deep breath the Hellhound fired off a wildly oscillating tidal wave of fire, Oct's tentacles wavering like a bonfire as the Scylla was engulfed in a cloud of steam, the river going up in great gouts as Cayman once more charged forward, a tentacle whipping through the mist as he stood his ground, spear raised and letting a breath escape his bruised lungs.
"[Amp Charge], [Galeforce!]"
The appendage flew past him in two pieces as he sliced it right down the middle, blood splattering across his armor as he resumed the headlong sprint, the Scylla finally catching Cerb/Oct as the Hellhound was sent tumbling due to a lucky strike, Cayman flipping up his visor and allowing the scent of nature, blood and ash to fill his nostrils.
Leaping free of Cerb's throat Oct slipped past Cayman's lips with the familiar and always bizarre sensation of deepthroating a lubed up pool noodle the Gamer felt his already overclocked perceptions expand even more, grateful that the intrinsic lust accompanying the meld geared more towards battle at the moment rather than fucking…popping an erection while encased in an unyielding shell could prove a bit uncomfortable.
He cleared through the mist, finding the Omega Scylla swiftly turning its attention his way as one of the heads fired an instinctive burst of water magic his direction, [Esoteric Parry] deflecting the assault while a snapshot from the Castigator paired with [Flame Wheel] convinced one of its lashing appendages to pull back from where it would have splattered him across the ground.
Oct's limbs and his suit's servos pushed with his legs as Cayman launched himself into the air, coming to a stop right above the main Scylla's body as its intact heads all turned towards him in unison, compressed water preparing to skewer and crush from five different angles.
Hurling his spear in a whirling arc only possible with the borrowed knowledge of his class the growing formations of liquid were ripped apart, a trusty and ever reliable piece of rebar manifesting in the Surveyor's free hand.
"[Offensive Drive], [Ether Waltz!]"
Sacrificing defense for all the power he could muster Cayman fell on the beast's main body with all the force manageable, length of rusty metal digging deep into the thing's flesh-
-and a blender of raw, untamed Ether ripped apart its insides, his boosted MAG stat showcasing its prowess as the Scylla jerked a shrieked for a wild few seconds…and promptly stilled, heads and limbs falling in different directions like a puppet with its strings cut, the surrounding terrain seeming oddly quiet all of a sudden.
"...So where's the fucking victory jingle?"
"I can hum a tune if that will accomplish a similar goal, Master."
Chuckling at Oct's words he popped his helmet's visor once more and the Injuu Prince promptly exited, Cayman pulling free his faithful rebar…and almost laughed at himself for the brief moment of genuine loss he experienced as all that was left of the discarded construction material was a slagged and bent nub, the hardy object finally throwing in the towel.
"You served me well, oh piece of garbage. Rest in peace."
Chucking the useless tool away he turned around to see how the rest of his party was doing, only to be met by a bevy of gazes that had him smirking to himself. While Kuroka, Felicia and Shirone didn't seem overly awed - why would they be, when any of them could have likely solo'd the damn thing - he nonetheless got a cheeky grin from the Vampire and thumbs up from the smaller Nekoshou, everyone else sporting various expressions of awe or thinly veiled approval…mostly in the more 'ice princess' archetypes of his group.
"I know I'm awesome, but make sure there aren't any other things lurking around trying to chew on us, okay?"
That got no shortage of eye rolls or snickers, the spell broken as everyone got back to work, Cayman hopping off of the Scylla's corpse and asking, "You good there, Cerb?"
Both his summons shifted to their human forms, the Hellhound rolling his neck and shoulder with a wince.
"Thing hits like a truck. Nice finisher, leader."
"Indeed, I feel a fair bit stronger already."
"Well before I check how far we advanced…"
Pulling out Edelweiss he examined the spear and its previous requirement…before smirking, the task to pull off a feat worthy of a God fulfilled and checked off his list. The wording had been vague enough that he hoped a powerful monster not too far out his league falling by his hand without aid from a cheat code like the Toujou sisters or Felicia would qualify, since killing a big bad and overwhelming beast was part of, like, half of all creation myths.
Turns out he'd been right.
"And as for stats…"
Cayman Lute, LVL 37
MP: 8800 + (20%)
MAG: 725 + (20%)
MAG DEF: 940 + (20%)
Cerb, Hellhound (Summoned Companion), LVL 37
MAG DEF: 590
SKILLS: Odor Tracking, Hell Flames, Mature Breeding, Shapeshifting, Soul Tracking.
Oct, Injuu Prince (Summoned Companion), LVL 37
MAG DEF: 810
SKILLS: Body Melding, Hypnosis, Breeding, Shapeshifting Illusory Magic, Female Seduction.
"Oh now that is the GOOD shit. Good work, you two. Today has shaped up to be a rather good one overall~!"
"It's gratifying to hear you say that, Master. And I shall endeavor to restrain my aura when inhabiting your body."
Cerb barked out a laugh as Cayman flexed his hips and bent his legs, trying and failing to shift his raging boner into a position that didn't feel like the banana bunker had gone and collapsed in on itself.
Turns out having a hentai-sized dick wasn't all that handy when you had a cup of literal metal keeping your balls protected.
"Something wrong downstairs, Leader~?"
"Let's just say I'm going to need a [Frost Lance] in my pants real soon. Ugh, melding with you in conjunction with [Warcry] really gets you going…"
Seriously, even though the battle was over he was still jumpy and amped up, that jitteriness now switching over to horniness since there was nothing left to kill and Oct's aura had well and truly taken over his higher brain functions.
"Oh well, Till and I already made arrangements, not to mention Felicia and Kuroka have basically said they're down for some fun, Natsume likely wouldn't say no either. Just gotta keep my cool until we're back in the Fairy's home."
"Join up with everyone else and make sure everything's dead that needs to be dead, would you?"
Both summons nodded at his orders, Cayman taking a moment to compose himself - not that it helped his erection any - before limping back to his team, hoping he could pretend he was injured instead of stiff as a board.
"Cayman, are you injured?! Take off the armor, I can heal you!"
Aaaand he forgot he had a hyper attentive and pure hearted nun on doctor duty.