Chapter 59: I Bought a Whorehouse (Part 12)

Grimacing as he took cover in the treeline - and watched as most of aforementioned treeline vanished in a burst of fire and orbiting cannonfire - Cayman made sure Lilim's head and more important bits were covered beneath his form, heat and whipping wind alongside stinging bits of shrapnel making him resist the urge to sigh in exasperation.

"Never forgetting my armor EVER again."

"You okay down there, Lilim?"

A frightened whimper left the Succubus as she held onto him for dear life, the male honestly feeling a little bit bad that she kept getting dragged into his bullshit as the Demon trembled like a terrified kitten, the bombardment thankfully coming to an end as Issei swung a Boost empowered Destruction into the sky as a blast of air and pressure disrupted whatever floating cannon had been raining down hell.

Not that it kept them from a whole helping of additional trouble, bullets whizzing through the air as a hiss escaped the Gamer's lips, one projectile slicing a thin, freezing line across the back of his neck as another round caught Till center of mass and caused her to burst apart in a spray of light before reforming at his side, Asuka forming a wall of shimmering and verdant energy that caused glints of metal to go flying around them as Cayman whipped out his Castigator, taking aim towards where he assumed most of the fire was coming from before letting loose with a [Flame Wheel] enhanced bullet that probably didn't hit anything but illuminated the forest in a burst of flame that briefly highlighted their attackers, robed and hooded figures armed with a variety of weaponry that he wasn't given a chance to further engage as the aerial cannon was back at it again, laying down covering barrages from high overhead as - in what was clearly adding insult to injury - golden hoops of annihilating energy also joined the fray.

"Okay, this is getting a bit out of hand."

Thankfully he wasn't in the battle alone, Onisaki stepping forward as her two Ninja Spheres began chasing after the brightly glowing rings and firing off pillars of ice that neatly perforated the center hole…except the persistent things immediately began chewing through the frozen material, Eleanor taking over Asuka's job of guarding against the deluge of gunfire as a wave of water proved effective at slowing the projectiles, the USF Taimanin smirking towards the sky as emerald wind covered her body, Issei having used Destruction to once more disrupt the aerial menace.

And through it all Cayman couldn't help but wonder just what the fuck Griselda was doing. The blonde Human turned Angel was easily the MVP of their team and he'd put decent money on her being able to solo the entire cavalcade of nastiness they were currently experiencing.

A glance to the side revealed precisely why that wasn't the case, Cayman's brow furrowing and mouth curling into a scowl. Covered in a hazy sphere of orange light was the Queen of Gabriel, held motionless and unmoving as if perfectly suspended in time and unable to use her vastly superior strength to bail them out.

"Oh come on! I get an overpowered ally to help out and they immediately get put on the freakin' bench?!"

Not at all happy with that state of affairs the Surveyor immediately turned to take stock of their options and saw both Yumi and Issei fire off a salvo of attacks against targets that weren't even there, the male hollering, "Yumi, Issei! Those aren't real, Nightmare is still in play!"

"Are you kidding me?! Shit looks pretty real to me!"

"That's the point! Oct!"

Opening his mouth and letting the Summon dart down his throat Cayman raised his spear and let their combined power fuel both a [Galeforce] and [Frost Lance] that he launched at full strength…and was caught off guard by the absolute torrent of lacerating ice winds that shaved through a not insignificant part of the opposing treeline and basically brought an end to the blistering crossfire, the only noise remaining being a muted collection of cracks and thuds as wooden trunks toppled over.

"Holy shit. I never tried to really let loose before this and I had no idea I could do that."

Quickly shaking off that idle thought he instead focused on regrouping with his teammates, mindful of the limited timer he was on after combining with Oct as he shouted, "Keep your heads on a swivel and let someone know if they're going after an illusions, Nightmare is still out there-"

Instincts, a hasty shield courtesy of Till and lightning quick charge from Yumi meant his spear barely managed to deflect both an initial slash and follow up cut from a blurring figure, said blur coming to a stop with a gleeful shout of, "Hoo wee that shit is hard to control! But a grand hello to all of you regardless, my dear and soon to be dead foes~!"

"Oh you have GOT to be kidding me."

Gradly posturing before them was none other than the grindhouse comedian himself, Freed Selzen, waving around Excalibur Rapidly like it was a conductor's baton and clearly having the time of his life.

"Now I hope you don't all mind if I try out this newfangled gadget by sticking it up your asses and seeing just how 'holey' it can make you~!"

"Keep it in your pants, Freed! We've got a mission to carry out and you going rogue doesn't help with that!"

Eyes widening as he beheld a figure he really hadn't expected to see made their presence known Cayman had to wonder if he'd have actually preferred the original Kokabiel spin instead of this new one.

Lint Selzen - a fairly sane young woman who really shouldn't have been chasing after and aiding her crazed brother - hanging back a modest distance away, Nightmare held tight in her grasp while at her flanks were two young girls that he identified as Mishea Silkies and Gracia Sol, USF operators that had been trained from an early age to handle the autonomous weapons that had been hounding them.

"E-eh?! Miss Asuka?! What are you doing here?!"

And just like he'd hoped Mishea spotted the other USF Taimanin and promptly began to wonder what the hell was going on, said Taimanin striding forward with a scowl as she snapped, "That's what I want to know, why are you two helping a bunch of disgraced slavers? Wait, scratch that, why are you two even deployed right now, I thought you were back in training?!"

Proudly crossing her arms over her chest as an enormous floating cannon came to a halt beside her Gracia boldly replied, "We received exclusive and highly important orders from Demon SOF, what we should be asking is why you're here on a completely different set of orders!"

"Oh don't you dare start getting full of yourself, twerp! I'm here on Joint Operations Command specific request so don't go thinking you've got seniority here…actually, why are two separate USF forces operating on different sides of the same…AO…ahh shit."

Asuka had apparently come to the same conclusion that Cayman had, that someone from the Succubus faction - or more likely Real, given his plethora of connections - had an in with a USF big wig that could quickly spin up a reason for USF special forces to be deployed in highly suspect circumstances on short notice.

Something Mishea also picked up on, appearing a bit uncertain although her more stubborn companion simply scoffed, proclaiming, "You can spin things however you want, we've got our orders and we're not going to disobey them just because a self-important hag says we should turn around and go home!"

While Cayman could physically feel Asuka's twitching brow and imminent desire to throttle the smaller girl Freed interrupted the dialogue with a hyena's bark of laughter, crowing, "Can't believe I'm saying this but the brat's got the right of it, we're not here to debate - at least not too much - we're here to complete a mission and fuck shit up in the process~! Hey, get your ass up here!"

Shouting over his shoulder one of the concealed figures dragged forward a rather significant complication in the form of a bound and gagged Dark Elf child, sword held steady at their throat as Eleonor instantly made to lunge forward with a worried gasp if Asuka hadn't set a hand on her arm, Cayman noting that their enemies didn't exactly have a uniform response to the presence of a hostage.

Notably, Lint and Mishea had pursed lips or averted gazes while Glacia appeared supremely indifferent, Freed predictably getting off on the older Dark Elf's worry. Of even more interest was a small, likely feminine form hanging back covered in a bodysuit and helmet different in style from the Exorcists, the Gamer casting a quick analyze their direction-

Tosca , LVL 16

HP: 600

MP: 7,000

STA: 900

STR: 90

DEF: 150

AGI: 230

MAG: 700

MAG DEF: 500

-and promptly felt himself perform a double take, frantically thinking, "Wait a minute, isn't that the girl who was friends with Yumi and had the Sacred Gear that preserved her-oh NOT FUCKING NOW, ALAYA!"

[Reunion!]

[Details: Free your bodyguard's friend from the control she's under and discover the mastermind behind your attempted murder!]

[Rewards: Sybaritic Graduate skill upgrade, 7000 EXP, 1000 Reign.]

Resigning himself to the added difficulty curve - and trying not to think about how his last rescue quest had gone - the male thought fast, keenly aware that his combined state with Oct could only last so long and that the situation had become a true nightmare - no pun intended - with the inclusion of a hostage.

"So here's the thing, you all go home and sit pretty, we take the Surveyor and Succubus and you get all your pointy-eared darkies back safe and sound. Not a bad deal, right~? Almost saint-like compared to what I would ask for~!"

The crazed man's eyes landed on the still frozen Griselda, tongue tracing over his lips as he purred, "I mean, who wouldn't want a life-sized Angel sex doll? Shame that it can't make any noise, but any port in a storm, am I right?"

Issei growled and let his hand pointedly drop onto Destruction's hilt, Freed latching onto the action like a hawk as he jeered, "None of that now, after all if I feel threatened then my pal's hand might just…slip~!"

A snap of his fingers, surge of anxiety amidst the group as the figure holding the Dark Elf drew their sword across the hostage's neck-

-and promptly kicked off a mass staring as everyone awkwardly paused, what should have been a clean and easy throat slitting catching only air, the effect almost comedic with how unexpected it was as the figure holding onto the Elf appeared just as confused, head switching between the Demon and blade as if unsure which should hold their attention.

The real punchline was Cayman raising his pistol at the same moment Lilim gasped for air, the Succubus channeling what little power she had to mess with the sword-wielder's mind and cause him to whiff as an [Ether Waltz] enhanced bullet carved a trench through the guy's skull, the Surveyor taking care to aim wide with little chance of collateral damage.

The man toppled backwards and hit the ground with a subdued thud, all hell promptly breaking loose as Cayman turned on his heel and ran like the wind towards where Griselda was still held immobile, relying on his allies to keep him safe as he attempted to break their ace free.

A strategy that was quickly caught onto as Freed blurred into existence right next to him, sword streaking towards his face until he was forced to divert with a startled curse as Yumi was right on his ass, a veritable storm of steel flashing into existence as his blonde protector bought him time, the Surveyor reaching Griselda's prison and lashing out with [Esoteric Parry], nodding in satisfaction as the light around the woman faded into nothingness, the reincarnated Angel taking only the span of a second to figure out what had happened and what needed to be done, drawing her longsword and with a single sweep of the blade made his earlier display seem like child's play, a storm of purifying light flashing outwards like a tidal wave of sunlight that curved around their allies and struck the enemy lines with the force of a tsunami, Cayman having to cover his eyes due to the fierce glare and belatedly wondering if he was about to fail his quest right then and there.

He didn't have to worry for too long, Freed dashing into view with a smoldering cloak but still in the fight, pistol firing off bolts of concentrated light that forced Cayman to sidestep as Gracia and Mishea resumed their bombardment, the landscape scarred and scoured by the barrage…that didn't have any force or heat behind it, the group quickly realizing that they were under the effect of Nightmare once again and ignoring the artillery as the hallucinations fizzled out, Griselda taking to the sky on her wings before returning a few moments later, features twisted into a displeased scowl.

"They must have used Transparency, I saw no sign of their withdrawal."

"Well I can't really blame them for calling it quits after that display. Come on, let's figure out our next move."

A quick jog to the rest of the group revealed everybody intact and without serious injury, Eleonor consoling the shivering Dark Elf that had been one nicely timed illusion away from death.

"...ank you for what you did, Lilim. If you hadn't acted-"

"Ah geez, you don't need to be that excessive about it!"

Despite the protests the Succubus' tail was lashing about like a delighted puppy's, features ecstatic and proud as Cayman remarked, "As much as I would like to take a moment to sit down and rest I think it's been proven pretty convincingly that Freed isn't against wiping someone out on a whim, the sooner we move the less time he has to get any ideas involving the rest of the people that were taken."

"Unfortunately, I agree."

Meeting Asuka's gaze he asked, "Any chance you can get those two USF operatives to stand down? It'd be a hell of a lot easier if we didn't have to worry about their weapons and presence."

The brunette pinched the bridge of her nose, grumbling, "Mishea I could probably convince but Gracia? That brat was raised to follow orders and won't listen to anything I say unless I beat it into her stubborn skull. And Mishea will try to look out for her so that's a bust as well."

"Bummer, guess we'll just have to deal with them the hard way. Any preference as to alive or dead?"

"Alive. If you can manage that, I mean. No promises in combat, right?"

While the words were jovial the content was grim, Cayman saved from any further awkward interaction as Eleonor hesitated, clearly torn between continuing the mission and escorting her kin back home safe until he offered, "Oct can make sure your people get back home safe, Eleonor. But first…"

Reaching out with his intent and inherited knowledge Cerb appeared in a burst of light, shaking himself awake as Cayman quickly said, "Sorry bud, I'll answer questions later but right now I need you to sniff out the people that aren't us and where they went."

Proving himself to be an eternal good boy Cerb didn't even so much as quip, simply shifting into his animal form and sniffing the group for a few seconds before darting off into the distance, nose kept low to the ground as Issei muttered, "No way, he's even got a hunting dog? That's not fair…"

Eleonor rattled off a few quick questions to the younger Elf before Oct gently cradled them and began swiftly winding his way back to the settlement, the busty Demon informing them, "She couldn't remember much else other than them being kept in a dark room with everyone else who was captured, unfortunately."

"No sense in sticking around, then, let's move. You know which way your dog went, Lute?"

Smirking at Asuka's inquiry he promptly replied, "What pet owner doesn't?"

Leading the group as they once again took off - Lilim riding on Onisaki's back as she could no longer keep up with their pace - the Ice Taimanin affixing him with a pointed look as she asked, "So why did that psycho want you and Lilim instead of anybody else? Especially when you say you randomly ended up here?"

While he had a bunch of perfectly plausible theories backed up by evidence aplenty he didn't have conclusive evidence, the Surveyor eventually shrugging before stating, "I've been doing a lot of things that have pissed off a lot of people. Once we know more about whose cereal, exactly, I've been pissing in I can tell you. And while we're on the subject of unfortunate reveals…"

He gave Yumi a pointed look.

"I know who the person that trapped Griselda is."


Taking a grateful swig of the provided water bottle Lint let the cool and refreshing liquid do away with some of the exhaustion she felt at the end of their brief skirmish, idly observing Nightmare as it rested across her lap, the sword responsive to her commands but a mix of unfamiliarity and imperfect resonance - according to Valper - meant she could only make limited use of the blade on such short notice.

But still, for a dropout of the Sigurd Institute to be able to make use of one of the famed Excalibur Fragments? That was something to be proud of, the young woman contemplatively taking a more modest sip of her water-

-and sidearmed the rest at Freed's head as hard as she could, the bottle impacting with a plastic crunch and causing him to drop the energy bar he'd been eating.

"Ow! The fuck was that for, sis?!"

"That was for the fact that you tried to kill an innocent hostage less than a minute after introducing them! You basically told that group that they shouldn't bother holding back and that any attempt at deescalation is pointless!"

Crossing his arms with a feral scowl Freed growled, "Oh joy, let me just buckle myself in for this round trip lecture train conducted by miss holier than thou!"

Fingers tightening around her sword's grip Lint hissed, "Your bullshit is going to get yourself and everyone around you killed, Freed. You want to run around and kill shit, acting like the world is your personal little oyster? Fine, but don't drag the rest of us down with you."

"Oh just fuck whatever god saddled me with you as an annoying little tagalong…apparently I need to remind you that you're the one that decided to come along on this little adventure, helping out the kid killers or whatever and pretending you have the moral high ground."

Feeling her jaw clench Lint furiously retorted, "What I'm trying to do is-"

Freed rose to his feet, getting right in her face and snarling, "And what are you trying to do, huh? Fix your fucked up little brother, pretend that you still have some kind of family after being kicked to the curb by the last one?"

He spat on the ground, stalking away with an angry growl of, "I'm going to find Valper, that old bastard doesn't try to hide the fact that he's fucked in the head. Like attracts like, now don't it?"

A cold silence was left in her brother's departure, Lint feeling a familiar exhaustion combined with migraine assail her skull as she stared down at Nightmare.

…What did it say about the broken state of the original Excalibur that she was found worthy to wield it?

"Umm…do you want some?"

Snapped out of her morbid thoughts by a soft and hesitant voice at her side Lint raised an eyebrow as Mishea awkwardly extended a bag of M&M's, trying for a smile and not quite managing to make it look genuine.

"Thanks, but not right now."

If she was going to eat something unhealthy then it may as well be for pleasure and she didn't have much of an appetite.

"Oh, okay then, erm…you seem really unhappy, do you want to talk about it?"

Blinking at the sudden question and almost painful earnestness in Mishea's eyes Lint merely sighed, resignedly stating, "It's nothing serious, just…I followed my brother after we were abandoned by our previous guardians, thinking that if we stuck together we would be able to turn our misfortune around, make things work despite the hardship."

Lint couldn't help but morbidly chuckle.

"Except Freed's only gotten worse over the years and our attempt to find freedom has only dumped us deeper into the proverbial hole. The best part? My brother is right, I could go somewhere else, do something different and stop following him everywhere…but I can't. Always espousing about justice and fair play while trailing after a psycho killer like a lost and lonely puppy."

Lint was surprised to see Mishea seem oddly empathetic, gently replying, "I know what you mean, we're not really mistreated by our superiors but Gracia never really stops to ask herself if what she's doing is right, legal or even what she wants out of life…I'm worried that one day she'll do something that ends up with her badly hurt or worse."

"Something like this mission?"

Mishea blinked at Lint's grim smile.

"Come on, we're on the side that's killing and kidnapping kids as the team up on the other end of the equation has Sanctuary aid as well as a combined force in support of the natives…do you really think we're in the right here?"

"I'd say we're on the bad guys side just because your brother is an asshole!"

They both startled, looking as Gracia annoyedly strode up next to them before seating herself with a huff, Lint finding the whole display admittedly cute.

"Wait, so you think we're on the wrong side, Gracia?"

"Who cares if we're right or wrong, we have our orders and all we have to do is follow them."

Mishea sagged slightly, Lint understanding why she was so worried with such blind obedience on display…although maybe she wasn't one to judge on that front.

"Well I can't argue about my brother being an asshole. Honestly, some days I want to kill him myself."

"Hmph! I knew I was in the right! Also, why do you keep telling me to think and all sorts of other hard things, Mishea? That other USF soldier also didn't seem happy, what gives?"

"Freedom…is important, if you don't have it."

The trio startled, the Tosca girl sitting with her back to them and speaking as if against her will, hand abruptly flying to her head as if pained before quickly slipping the faceless helmet back on, the trio exchanging weirded out gazes as Mishea tried to once more impart on the emerald-haired girl a life lesson, Lint tuning out the conversation as she idly considered that she might very well have bitten off more than she could chew with this mission and faced down the very real prospect of dying.

"Well, maybe not. After all, Valper was hinting that he has that big shot Demoness or whatever arriving soon."

Shaking off that morbid thought Lint instead allowed herself to enjoy the brief moment of quiet and comradery with such an eccentric group, figuring that as far as calms before the storm went it wasn't half bad.


So I recently got a lot of PMs that the original Hedonism at its Finest got posted on Webnovels or some other site and while I sincerely do appreciate people letting me know...I'm not really making any of these stories as a way to earn a living, I don't have a or anything like that so if somebody lifted my work page for page I'm not really losing anything by them doing so. And while it's been a long ass time since I've read the FF terms and conditions I'd bet my left nut there's very little IP protection for anyone who posts.

Not to mention that I checked out the story in question and it looks like they had a foreign AI try to translate and then post it, it's got a scuffed description and words all throughout the first chapter are weirdly placed.

...

I mean I HOPE that's the fault of shitty translation and not my original writing, oof.