Ken opened his eyes. He was outside and lying on his back. He smelt smoke, heard the crackling of flames and felt the heat of fire.
He also heard clapping.
He turned his head to see Celestrico standing by the side of the road. She was enthusiastically applauding him.
"You did it!" she said with a wide, beaming smile on her pretty face.
"Yes! It looked a little dicey for a while, but then you found some hidden strength and pulled through to beat her."
"I did?" Ken repeated, more uncertainly.
This time it was his short-term memory that was fucked up. He remembered entering the bordello, going upstairs with Sulpa, and then...
He sat up.
The top left quarter of Sulpa's bordello was ablaze. There was a big hole in the wall as if something had exploded outwards. Debris lay on the road all around Ken. Some of it was still on fire.
"What a fight!" Celestrico gushed. "To come back like that when all seemed lost... you're the champion that can go all the way. I'm sure of it."
Ken was still holding his sword in his left hand. The blade was drenched in red blood.
"What happened?" he asked.
"What happened? You mean you don't remember?"
Ken smiled apologetically and shook his head.
"I remember going inside... talking to Sulpa... going upstairs with her... Fuck, did I really fuck her?"
"That was a little foolish," Celestrico said. "I know I told you to pretend to be one of her victims to get close to her, but actually having sex with her was way closer than you needed to be. That was too risky. Most men are lost the moment they put their dick in a succubus's pussy."
Ken thought he had been lost. The last he remembered was a fade to black that felt disturbingly close to death.
"Not you though," Celestrico continued. "You found a hero's strength lying within you. You broke her enchantment, cast her off and then fought and defeated her. It was marvellous to watch."
"I don't remember any of it," Ken said.
"That's weird," Celestrico said. She put a finger to her lips and frowned thoughtfully. "I wonder if this is a side effect of passing through the Arch of Lee-fee. It might still be interfering with your memory."
"Sulpa said it was you messing with my head," Ken said.
Celestrico rolled her eyes. "Pulease. You're going to believe the word of a skank succubus that just tried to suck your brains out through your cock over me, your faithful guide on this difficult and extremely arduous quest?"
There was a slightly awkward pause.
"Don't tell me that's the reason you let her fuck you."
There was an even more awkward pause.
Celestrico sighed and shook her head.
"No, it's my fault," she said. "It's the risk of going with Sulpa first. She's the weakest of the thirteen, but she can be very persuasive if given the chance to talk, especially when she jiggles those big slutty titties of hers and men start listening with their second head between their legs. I should have anticipated you'd be vulnerable to that, given that you've just passed through the arch and your head is still messed up."
Celestrico lowered her head in contemplative thought.
"I could have started with one of the others," she said, "but most heroes just don't have the stats to take them on at the start. Hmm, things to consider for next time."
"Wait, next time?" Ken said.
"Yes, for the next champion to come through the arch."
"I thought you said I was the one that was going all the way."
"Yes, you are. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't have some contingency plans in place. Just in case."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Ken said.
"Stop whining," Celestrico said. "It's very unbecoming for a holy champion."
Ken shook his head in exasperation. He looked around at the devastation someone—him, apparently—had carried out on the bordello.
"So I really am some kind of powerful demon-slaying hero?" he asked.
"Better than that," Celestrico said with a smile that showed off the delicate points of her fangs. "You're a level two powerful demon-slaying hero. Ding!"
What was it with the videogame terminology? Ken thought. Sighing, he followed her down the road away from the burning bordello.
"And thus did the mighty hero, Kenny, begin his epic quest to end the reign of the demon queen by defeating the sinful and thoroughly skanky succubus, Sulpa," Celestrico said.
"It's Ken," Ken corrected. "Ken not Kenny. I don't like Kenny."
Celestrico gave no indication she'd heard him.
Ken glanced back at the burning building. That was him, apparently. Which was kind of awesome.
Sex with Sulpa had also been kind of awesome, at least at the start. Shame he'd had to kill her.
A weird thing happened as he turned his head back. For a brief moment, when the bordello was in the corner of his eye, the smoke and all the damage appeared to vanish. The building reverted to its original undamaged state.
Only for a moment.
When Ken turned back to look at the bordello directly he saw fires were still raging on the upper floor, sending a thick black pall of smoke up into the sky.
He must have imagined it, he decided. He turned back and followed Celestrico down the road.
"That's Sulpa down," Celestrico said as the burning ruins of the bordello faded into the distance. "Next we take on Asphya."