Chapter 60: I Bought a Whorehouse (Part 13)

Reflecting that his stats were actually gaining him tangible benefits in a noticeable way Cayman slid to a halt alongside the rest of his team, only lightly panting despite the fact that they'd been sprinting through uneven terrain for almost an hour at this point. Back on normal Earth he'd made sure to keep himself at a reasonable standard of health but definitely not to this extent, in fact he was fairly certain he was in peak physical condition for a baseline Human…which sounded pretty impressive until one remembered he was in a universe where peak normal Human was probably just the bog standard requirement to not get killed by random passerby.

"Oh well, baby steps in the right direction, my focus wasn't on the physical spectrum anyway. And it's not like people back home were flinging around magic spells so it's not like I can compare to them on that front anyway."

Kicking those myriad thoughts out of his brain as they convened in front of a massive overhang attached to an admittedly impressive canyon wall the Surveyor noted that Eleonor hadn't been exaggerating in the slightest when she said that you could hide all sorts of crazy shit in these places, the amount of terrain that was covered by the rocky outcropping was significant and considering how large and expansive the canyon was you could probably hide a small army in there. One facility that tended to keep to itself was likely an easy way to fly under the proverbial radar, Cayman able to spot a recess that might have been a door.

"So what's our strategy? I doubt we want to go in guns blazing and possibly risk the locals getting upset at our intrusion, taking out the hostages in the process."

In response to his words Griselda withdrew a tightly bound tome from within her cloak, explaining, "One of us will be able to sneak inside once I cast this blessing upon them, they should find the captives and ensure their safety until such a time that we are able to move in and secure the area…preferably within ten minutes."

Asuka huffed out a breath, wryly remarking, "Kind of a tall order when none of us know even the slightest hints of a floor plan for this thing. And how, exactly, does this blessing of concealment work?"

"It makes you invisible to outside perception as long as you do not act in a way that would draw attention to you. Someone could look directly into your eyes and as long as you made no sound or contact that would alert them otherwise you are all but invisible."

"...Would it be a safe assumption that this as of yet unknown underground fortress consists of narrow and not easy to navigate geometry?"

"That's how all evil underground lairs are constructed, why?"

Onisaki's curious inquiry had Cayman's eyes dropping downwards, pointedly staring at the 'assets' the majority of them possessed.

"No offense, ladies, but I don't know if you're the ones best suited to go sneaking through cramped spaces."

Catching on to his insinuation Asuka merely smirked while Onisaki and Eleonor blushed, the former hastily remarking, "T-that's not something I can control, okay?!"

"Who said I was complaining? That aside I think Lilim will be the best one to go and secure Eleonor's people."

All eyes - none more so than the Succubus' - focused on him, the Demon hastily asking, "W-what?! Why me?! I don't know how to fight!"

"Cayman, while I'm going to assume you're not saying that as a joke why Lilim?"

Heartened at Yumi's concern for her friend he nonetheless said, "Because she's the absolute luckiest of everyone present and that's going to be crucial for this plan. And yes, I believe luck will be the carrying factor for this operation. Besides, look at it this way, if we have all of our best fighters out here we can mow down the defenders all the quicker and get to her aid that much faster. Unless anyone has some kind of crazy teleportation spell the captives are gonna be stuck here until we can escort them back, right?"

Reluctant consensus was reached, Griselda remarking, "If you're certain your companion can handle this then I will defer to your judgment on the matter. And merely label this a bad idea among a collection of worse ones."

Eleonor gave Cayman a tentative look, wordlessly asking if he was sure of this as he firmly nodded, certain that his faith in unusual forms of plot armor would bear fruit…and there was always that necklace and alter ego to consider.

"Hey, you'll be fine, okay? Just get in there, trust your instincts and you'll do fine."

Reassuringly placing a hand on the openly nervous Lilim's shoulder the Succubus heavily swallowed, quietly stammering, "Y-you're certain? Why not Yumi, or anyone that-"

"Yumi's gonna be needed out here, not to mention she has unfinished business with the fragments. I didn't choose you because you're expendable or the most comedic, Lilim, I did it because - ironically - you are the one most suited to get us out of a sticky situation."

+10 AFC with Lilim [10/100]

Seeming to gather her courage a little bit the Succubus nodded, slapping her cheeks and hyping herself up as she muttered, "Right, I can do this!" before wagging her spaded tail to and fro, obviously invigorated by his words.

Griselda motioned for the Demon to approach, flipping open the tome and quietly intoning some kind of chant or prayer as Cayman instead watched as Yumi and Onisaki sidled close, his bodyguard quietly murmuring, "She is going to be okay, right?"

"No less okay than the rest of us. But that's just more reason to reach her quick, right?"

"I still don't think it's a great idea, she clearly doesn't know how to fight…"

"All ears for a better option."

Onisaki subsided with a clear grumble of disappointment as Cayman reflected that the Taimanin was probably considering her own Taima art for this assignment and belatedly realizing it wouldn't actually work all that great. While it was some real invasion of the body snatchers level shit he remembered it being limited in that it required physical contact and a general know how of personality and inclinations in order to properly impersonate the target…no criteria in which they had the luxury of adopting.

Asuka motioned for them to come over for a last minute meeting, Lilim in the final phases of receiving her 'blessing' as the Taimanin quickly relayed, "Okay, team up is like this. Myself, Eleonor, the little perv and Griselda will be the vanguard-"

"I resemble that comment."

"-while Cayman, Onisaki, Till, Yumi and your dog will be watching the sidelines and our rear, as well as providing relief if one or more of us get stuck in that weird Sacred Gear again. No telling what the home defenses are like but I'm pretty sure they have some kind of barrier around the place."

Issei patted Destruction, smirking as he said, "Not powerful enough to withstand a few Boost empowered hits from this particular bad boy. Just let me at it and I'll-"

"Save your energy for the main fight, if I could drop the Sacred Gear no problem then I can do it for the shields around this base."

Issei sent him a deadpan stare.

"Dude? If you insist on stealing my thunder each and every single damn time I might actually get mad."

Asuka playfully punched him on the shoulder, teasing, "Relax, kiddo. No one's questioning your dick size."

"Ugh, fine. But only because you asked me nicely."

"Good. Thirty seconds, then we run."

Cayman took the opportunity to mentally contact Oct, asking, "How's it going, you dropped off the kid yet?"

"Just now, Master. Would you like for me to return?"

"Yup, we're about to get started, I'll warp you back."

Summoning his, well, summon in a burst of light Onisaki jumped at the abrupt appearance, Cayman quickly explaining, "Kid's safe back in the village, I'm gonna need his help, though. Cerb? I want you to prowl the edges of the battle, make sure no one tries to enter the base when we're fighting or actually go inside. Permission granted to use em' as a chew toy."

The Hellhound nodded as Griselda finished her work, Lilim not appearing any different to his eyes but the Surveyor decided that this was a bit of a roundabout way of murdering someone by proxy and decided to have faith. Pun intended.

"You better be grateful you get to work with someone like me, you know."

Tilting his head at the sudden and bold comment from Onisaki as the woman held herself up proudly he merely smirked, extending a fist and stating, "With an experienced operator like you? Why wouldn't I be?"

While she seemed momentarily confused at the proffered fist the blonde was quick to catch on and accept the gesture, knocking her fist against his own with a brash smile.

+5 REP with Onisaki [25/100]

"Alright, set? Go!"

Breaking cover they sprinted as a group towards the concealed base, Cayman grimacing as despite his increased stats he was still the slowest one of the group, bar Lilim who at least had the rather valid explanation of not being meant to fight.

Thankfully he didn't let them down for long, only a few precious seconds passing as they skid to a stop in front of what he could now visibly see as some kind of shimmering field, spear firmly slapping into his palm as he launched an [Esoteric Parry] strike against it-

-and with a voltaic crackle like an old radio shitting itself the boundary vanished, allowing them free access to the interior as they swarmed in, spreading out in their assigned groups as they tensely waited for any response to their actions, charting a general course for what they believed to be a door.

"Well well, if it isn't an old comrade of mine…it has been far too long, Quarta. And I see you've even taken the Red Dragon Emperor under your wing. While it was only brief I have long wondered how perfect of a match he would have made for one of the Excalibur Fragments…"

Except a series of concealed speakers promptly interrupted their game plan, the voice grating in its education and loquaciousness, as if intellectual tentacle porn had decided to give them an unannounced and undesired colonoscopy.

"Someone you know?"

It was Yumi who answered, voice naught but a low growl as she hissed out, "Valper Galilei. I knew he would somehow be involved in all of this."

They arrived at the main entrance, a solid hunk of metal that looked like it wasn't opening anytime soon as Asuka snapped out a wicked pair of blades from her prosthetic arms, verdant turbulence surrounding them as she prepared to go to work, Valper continuing without concern as he said, "And to think what I had once dubbed a failure stands before me…Real was quite disappointed that he let you go, considering the talent you now display."

Cayman's bodyguard tensed at the words but to his relief she didn't let her anger get the better of her, watching their surroundings like a hawk even as her expressionless helm seemed to radiate murderous intent.

"But alas, your presence is no longer required by any metric."

Right on cue Askuka's eyes widened just as she was about to get to work on the door, kicking away from it as a blast of energy almost took her head clean off, the area turning into an expected form of chaos as instincts once again guided Cayman's spear into blocking the blurred form of Freed Selzen, both their eyes meeting above the locked weapons.

"Okay, what's his deal with always going for me first?"

The idle thought was reciprocated in a more verbal manner as Freed spat out, "Would you quit fucking blocking me?!"

"Never knew you liked going at it from behind!"

They separated in a mutual shove as Lint intercepted Yumi's rush forward, a barrier courtesy of Tosca deflecting Onisaki as Cayman risked a glance behind him, Gracia and Mishea running support for almost a dozen of the assumedly reduced roster of hooded guards as they supported and made use of Transparency to level the playing field somewhat. In a straight fight they'd likely get demolished but Cayman could attest subterfuge and misdirection could go a long way in carrying one to victory.

He quickly turned his attention back to their side of the equation, figuring the rest of the group was fine as they paused for a moment to collect themselves, Yumi calling out to the distant and helmed form of her old friend with, "Tosca, don't you remember me?! Yumi, from the Holy Sword Institute?!"

She didn't so much as twitch from where she was sequestered behind Freed and Lint, the male guffawing out a laugh as he crowed, "Seriously, that's someone you know~?! Star crossed lovers or some shit? Well I hate to break the news to you, lady, but Real's had his greasy ol' hands on her for a long time and I bet she's had her cute little cunt speared open by all sorts of no-no adult touches that have fucked up her mind beyond repair~!"

An outright pornographic leer adorned Freed's face, tongue licking his lips as he jeered, "Who knows? Maybe the old bastard will let me borrow his equipment as I get to experiment on you-"

He barely avoided a sliver of ice that would have skewered his right eye, Onisaki's tone thick with disgust as she growled, "I hate beasts like you the most."

Nonplussed by the attack Freed snickered, retorting, "Why don't I show you just how beast like I can be? After all, like any good predator…"

He eyed the Taimanin's chest appreciatively.

"I enjoy prey with a bit of meat on em'."

"Would you shut up and focus on what we're doing? We can't afford to screw around, I doubt everyone else will have much luck taking on everyone else."

"Tch, ruin all the fun, why don't yah?"

Cayman found himself agreeing with that statement as he would have been perfectly fine waiting for the other half of their team to finish with their side of the equation before working to take out this one as they idly shot the shit but of course things could never be easy all the time.

Oct quickly wound himself down Cayman's throat as they combined their respective strengths, the Surveyor hoping for a quick and dirty win as with little preamble he launched a massive pillar of flame towards the opposite trio, Freed quickly whirling Rapidly in his hand so fast that a vortex caught a hold of his spell and promptly redirected it, Cayman willing the [Flame Wheel] out of existence - a neat little trick that he hadn't really had cause to use yet - as he instead raised the Castigator and fired off an [Ether Waltz] round that impacted Freed's skull and phased right through it, the male cursing as Lint's sword once again fucked with their senses, Yumi taking offense at the action before going with the simple but effective solution of just carpeting the area with swords and ideally forcing the female Exorcist to focus on other things.

A plan Onisaki seemed happy to emulate, a matching barrage of serrated ice flying out of her ninja spheres in a lethal arc as she closed in on the assumedly real Freed-

-only to be held firm in a haze of orange light, Cayman leaping forward to free the Taimanin from Tosca's Sacred Gear with a lunge of [Esoteric Parry] as she began moving freely again, a bit caught off guard by the momentary shift forward in time but handling it like a champion nonetheless.

Deciding to not let up with his assault and go for broke two of Oct's tentacles sprang from his back and wound through the air, hovering above where Freed and Lint were back to back as he called down a dual mix of [Volt Thrust] and [Galeforce], the elemental barrage forcing the pair to split apart…and Freed took the opportunity to engage his Fragment's ability once more, Cayman inwardly sighing as he had an idea or three of what was going to happen.

"[Defensive Drive.]"

Sure enough a shield from Till and added durability from his spell meant Freed's sword only found shallow purchase on his bicep, having avoided the deflection from his spear as a truly pissed off expression marred the Exorcist's features.

"Would you quit fucking cheating?!"

A snap shot from the Castigator almost had him eating a bullet, the male backing off as Cayman languidly retorted, "Why don't you slow down and take your time, maybe aim properly?"

While the cut stung like liquid fire it was nothing compared to the ire in Freed's eyes, eyes that flicked to the side before he barely managed to deflect a slice from Yumi that would have removed a significant portion of his body's ability to keep blood and organs inside, his bodyguard launching as assault that was almost feral in its intensity as the Exorcist madly parried, either unwilling or unable to use Rapidly to escape as he growled, "Fucking hell, is this shit personal or something?!"

Using Oct's appendages as a medium once more he conjured up a wall of flame that hid the pair of them from Tosca's gaze, ensuring that his body was always between the brainwashed girl and the dueling Onisaki and Lint. He didn't know for certain if she needed clear line of sight to activate the Gear but it seemed like a prudent countermeasure as Onisaki tried with little success to strike her target, mirages and misdirections meaning the majority of her strikes hit nothing but empty air, the woman vocally announcing her ire as she complained, "Enough with that stupid sword of yours!"

"This might just be the chattiest battle I've ever taken part of."

Letting the idle thought pass without much more than cursory contemplation Cayman figured it would be better to end this fast now that they were in the thick of it, rather than risk a drawn out encounter.

To that end he had Oct leave his body, working past the disorientation of the maneuver before sprinting past Onisaki and Lint's duel, Tosca's faceless helm swiveling his direction-

"[Tantric Rejuvenation!]"

-and while he hadn't managed to figure out how to not have his MP plummet to zero after the maneuver every time he used it the results spoke for themselves, a haze of pink aura falling over the various combatants as Onisaki, Lint and Tosca all stiffened and lost their composure for a few seconds.

+20 REP with Lint Sellzen [20/100]

+20 REP with Tosca [20/100]

+20 REP with Onisaki [45/100]

"Wow. Be neat if that was repeatable, maybe I could spam REP with that. Probably not, I'd bet my nuts it's a first time thing."

Even as the observation made its way through his brain and tested out some theories he'd already rushed over to Tosca, Oct rejoining his body as a flick of his spear and careful application of [Amp Charge] knocked the concealing helmet clean off her head, revealing the girl's face and prompting a moment of genuine sympathy from the man.

She looked like Hell, to be honest. White hair plastered tight to her scalp, sunken eyes sporting a vacant and distant expression, a weird dissonance between her obvious youthfulness and the weight her experiences with Real had afforded.

"Well, sorry. But this is absolutely for your own good."

A grabbing of her head before she could jump away or activate her Sacred Gear and a swiftly applied low voltage [Volt Thrust] had the poor lady hit the ground in a spasming and helpless heap, the Gamer motioning for Till to watch over her as she turned back to the ongoing fights-

-only to find Lint bearing down on him at a frightening pace, Onisaki hot on her tail as rather than waste precious MP that was already draining quickly due to his and Oct's meld he cast his version of appraisal, finding the real Lint to be a pace to her doppleganger's right as he flashed a quick hand signal Natsume, Mai, Yukikaze and Jinglei had been happy to teach him, essentially a very basic but very effective Taimanin sign language.

It bore fruit as rather than go for the fake Lint Onisaki's brutal sidekick caught the Exorcist full in the side, sending her crashing down in a brutalized heap as the male couldn't help but wince. Beautiful and luscious as they were he didn't doubt the twin-tailed fighter's legs carried a mean wallop behind them, Lint well and truly out cold and quite frankly he didn't blame her.

Thankfully there were no further dialogue trees he had to navigate, just sending Onisaki a nod of thanks as he kicked Nightmare into his inventory and joined the Taimanin in rushing towards where Yumi and Freed were still locked in a fast pace melee, his bodyguard surrounded by a swirl of steel as the Exorcist tried in vain to find a gap in her defenses to no avail, although he was swift enough to avoid receiving so much as a scratch in turn.

"Pass me Nightmare, I'll finish this. Make a ruckus when charging."

While a bit perplexed at Onisaki's sudden words - Yumi and Freed were still totally blind to their approach - he just shrugged, retrieving the sword from his inventory and tossing it to her as he whipped out the Castigator, still not in any hurry to waste his precious stock of MP before laying on the trigger, Freed managing to dodge most of his shots out of pure instinct and Rapidly's abilities before he guffawed, shouting, "Double teaming me~? I knew you were all a bunch of sinners~!"

The brief reprieve due to his interference coincided with Lint rushing out of the dust that had been kicked up by the raging battles, Nightmare held firmly in her grasp as Freed rounded on the Exorcist, snapping, "Well what the fuck took you so long?! Making me fight my own-"


A moment of tender silence passed as Freed looked down at where a spike of ice had pierced and dragged his heart outside his body, the frozen spear emanating from Lint's hand as the crazed Exorcist blinked in mild confusion, as if having a hard time believing what he was seeing.

Well aware of how much of a cockroach the guy was Cayman elected to not take any chances, taking a second to aim and fire before a [Flame Wheel] enhanced bullet took the male between the eyes, causing everything above his collarbone to burst apart in a spray of ash, flame and disintegrating gore.

"Natsume's return from the dead is proof that people can survive a lot of shit in this universe…but I'm not willing to bet on that."

What he was willing to bet on was his swiftly declining MP, Oct once more vacating his body as Till and the Injuu Prince stuck close by, his lack of energy meaning any ambush on his person was a hell of a lot more dangerous than it otherwise would be.

Breathing heavily Yumi sheathed her sole permanent blade, the rest dissipating as Cayman sent Onisaki a raised brow as the Taimanin dropped her Lint disguise with a shifting and crawling of flesh and bone.

"Word on the street was you don't like using your Taimanin powers."

Her features scrunched but tone was resolute as she explained, "I don't, and they're not even my style to begin with…but against creeps like this?"

She stomped on Freed's corpse for emphasis, the force of the gesture likely collapsing a chest cavity or three.

"I'm more than happy to make an exception."

"And I'm happy to accept it."

He made to check on Yumi next but the girl waved him off, drawing herself upright as Onisaki grabbed both Fragments and tossed them to the Surveyor, added to his inventory as Till raced up alongside his ear.

"Your suicidal actions aside-"

"Still alive, that's a false statement."

"-the other two will live, provided the one Onisaki kicked gets aid sooner."

"Right, we'll worry about that in a moment."

As one they turned to reinforce their comrades, only to stop short as they realized there really wasn't any need. Griselda was proving as domineering a force he'd hoped, glowing Angel wings that sprouted from her back blunting and turning away Gracia and Mishea's attacks as if they were nothing as the pair of USF operators found themselves hounded into a corner. Issei was apparently having the time of his life as he wildly grinned, leaping and chasing after an invisible target that he suspected was the Transparency wielder, swinging Destruction and causing a massive detonation with every move that ensured none of the other defenders could benefit from the blade's abilities, trying in vain to take on the combination of Eleonor and Asuka to dismal results as the Dark Elf conjured up writhing snakes of shielding water, the USF woman able to go fully on the offensive as she could ignore the bullets and blades trying to flank or ambush her.

"I think they've got it."

The words punctuated Cerb leaping down from above and ripping out the throat of a local who tried to hightail it inside, retreating back above with his gory prize.


And while he was more than happy to sit the rest of the battle out and let the OP characters carry him Cayman couldn't help but feel like things had been a bit too easy. Sure, it wasn't like the whole series of events had been a cakewalk or anything but considering what kind of a mess he'd wandered into it had ultimately gone pretty well and that worried him.

"Oh well, nothing I can do about that except watch my MP trickle up slowly but surely. Here's to hoping Lilim's come through for us."

"Oh WHY did I let that stupidly handsome jerk talk me into this?!"

Suffering a near panic attack as she heard the pounding of feet approach her position the Succubus hastily shimmied up a wall and plastered herself against the ceiling in a display of flexibility that would have had her preening in any other circumstance that wasn't terrifying, hooded figures holding rifles and swords racing beneath her without so much as an upwards glance even though they should have reacted to a sexy Demon like herself waiting no more than an arm's length above them.

"I guess that church lady didn't deliberately mess up her spell just to purify a heathen or something dumb like that…why do I keep getting talked into doing stuff like this?!"

Slowly letting herself down from the ceiling Lilim softly landed before continuing her hasty march into the facility, nervously glancing about and finding it to be unreasonably creepy with its lack of decoration or personality.

Plain metal walls, cold metal floor, simple and heavy doors on smoothly oiled hinges…she hadn't even tried poking into any rooms she'd come across, figuring it was just more of the same alien efficiency displayed thus far.

Her hand grabbed the necklace he had given her, fingers squeezing the oddly reassuring pendant tight and wishing she had thought to ask for a weapon more stubbornly, arriving at a set of doors and no more hallway as she slipped in through the rightmost entrance-

-and came to a blinking stop as she realized a locked cage held about a dozen of the Dark Elves they had come to rescue, blindfolded, gagged and shackled but all still alive as she gave a brief fistpump of victory…and froze as a pair of arguing voices drew close at an alarming rate.

"...ants to use them as meatshields."

"Didn't they already try that?"

"Fuck if I know, you want to tell them no when we've got a group like that breathing down our necks?"

The Succubus bluescreened, unsure of what she was supposed to do in this situation as she had no idea what the correct course of action was…and decided to go for broke, readying herself in front of the door as the duo drew close-

-and right before they barged through she threw her entire weight against the entryway feet first, slamming the thing outwards and striking the first guard square in the face as he went toppling backwards…whereupon his finger squeezed on the trigger of his gun and blew a hole in his partner's head, one of the ricochets also causing a splatter of his own brains to paint the floor crimson and left Lilim blinking as she stared down at the duo.

"Oh. That went better than expected."

Nodding to herself at a job well done and ignoring the scent of blood and viscera that entered her nostrils she pilfered their pockets and found no money - unfortunately - but a key that probably fit into the cage as she approached it, briefly wondering if she should try to reassure the Dark Elves that she was a good guy before deciding that was a pointless gesture, since she didn't have the slightest clue how to reassure a bunch of strangers that they weren't in danger anymore, that was Eleonor's job.

She extended the key towards its slot-

-and felt her body freeze, primal fear and anxiety halting her movements as a cold sweat immediately broke out across her scalp.

"Hmph. It appears I must truly do everything myself, if this is all the aid I can expect from my supposed 'allies'. What utter wastes."

Lilim forced herself to look over her shoulder, breath coming in short and stuttery gasps as a visage she recognized with no shortage of horror stared back at her.

Flowing emerald hair. Snake like staff. Hourglass body put on display by a flowing and ruffled dress. Cold and cruel orange eyes that stared at her the way one might look at a particularly annoying insect in a jar.

Ereshkigal, self-proclaimed Incubus Queen, one of the Phantom Lords of the old Demon families.

Lilim couldn't even resist as a gloved hand lazily reached out and encircled her neck, picking her off her feet and cutting off her airway as she weakly struggled, the last thing she heard being the Demon musing, "How fortuitous it is, that I will be able to execute both you and that accursed Surveyor in the same breath."