“Woohoow! The number of participant still didn’t reach the required number. But since the players here are the only one left, in three minutes, we shall start the third floor’s trial: The Mist Valley Challenge! Woohoow!”
Lester appeared in front of everyone with a poof. Shesmu and his party were already used to his antics, but the other players starred in shock before whispering to each other.
“Just what is this thing? Looks like Mariano and Wibbie the pooh burped the worm in the mole hole and made this abomination of God.”
Shesmu let out a chuckle at Arthur’s joke.
“Well, that’s the mascot of this game, I think. Anyway, the trial is about to start, you might want to do some pep talk for your team. Also, for the challenge, since it is the mist valley one, the challenge will probably make us lose sight of each other or something. It might also be an illusion based. In any case, I think it’s better if you guys have some kind of code that only you guys know if some problem occurs.”
“Good idea, I’ll do just that. Thanks for the tip, Shesmu.”
Arthur was just about to stand before turning back towards Shesmu.
“Also, one last thing. We’re going to make a guild called Everlast. If you’re interested, you could join us. With you guys in the guild, we’ll become the best in the game in no time. Believe me, I already led top tier guilds in many games, and your team fit exactly the criteria for a top one.”
“I’ll think about it. For now, I’m not overly interested in guild affairs. But you got a friend in me, if there is anything you want, just give me the call. For the right price, anything is doable.”
“Haha, thanks, I’ll do that. Can I send you a friend request?”
“Sure, send away.”
Shesmu then received a notification. After accepting Arthur’s request, he bid him goodbye.
“So, what do you think? Is he the monster?” Amaterasu asked.
“I’m not sure, but I know for a fact that the monster is one of them.”
“Oh, why do you think so?”
“Look around you and tell me what you think?”
Amaterasu turned around and looked at the players around her. Each and every one of them stood in a group of two to three, whispering things to each other and looking around warily.
“They’re all scared. I mean, it’s to be expected when you know that anyone here could be the monster in disguise,” answered Amaterasu.
“You’re right, that’s the normal behavior. You see those guys over there.” Shesmu pointed with the corner of his eyes at two groups of three. “Those two groups are from a semi-decent guild in Demon Heart called Overlords. You see, even in the same guild, there is some conflict and distrust. At the end of the day, you can’t be besties with everyone. There will always be that one or two people that works as your safety net. That is the problem, none of the players in Arthur’s party have that.”
“I see, so that’s what makes you suspicious of them?”
Leo came in from behind holding a glass of wine.
“But still, this conclusion is way too hasty. Have you talked with the other teams? You might have found more information.”
“Yes, I did, Leo. The thing is, they’re way too suspicious of any contact. No discussion went past two sentences.”
“This definitely makes Arthur’s party the most suspicious one,” Kazumi said. “But kudos to Great Master Shesmu for finding that out so easily.”
“Well, having 70 years worth of knowledge about the game does come in handy now, doesn’t it?”
“Haha, well yeah it does. But don’t rely on me too much, Nyarlathotep has been known for his extreme intelligence. It’s a world-class boss after all. Even though this is just a downgraded version of him, it’s still cunning. So, stay sharp.”
“Woohoow! The three minutes are over. I hope that you had time to strategize for the next round. Let the challenge begin! Woohoow!”
The scene quickly changed when everyone was teleported from the palace room.
“Where is this? I can’t see anything!”
The mist covered everyone’s eyes, Shesmu couldn’t see even see five meters past his nose. He looked around and saw Leo, Kazumi, and Amaterasu standing next to him.
“Guys, whatever you do, never let me leave your sight. This place has shapeshifter monsters, and remember that Nyarlathotep can shapeshift too. This place is the perfect hunting ground for him.”
Shesmu then looked to his left and found DepressedRyan’s body lying down. He carried him on his back and looked around.
“Everyone! I want everyone’s attention please!”
Shesmu heard murmurs everywhere after his declaration.
“I want everyone to come closer and stay close to each other. I know that everyone’s tense, knowing that one of us here is a monster, but believe me, this is the only way we can defeat it and pass this-”
“Hey, are you the monster!?”
Players one after the other appeared in a circle that surrounded Shesmu. After hearing his call, everyone gathered around him.
“No, I’m not. Whether that makes you believe me or not, I don’t know and frankly, I don’t really care. But I’ll give you my reasoning on why this is our best shot at this challenge.”
Shesmu then took a deep breath.
“My name is Shesmu, the leader of the party that slew the Red Wolf King and the Greater Steel Doll. These were the bosses of the first floor and the second floor respectively. I know that all of you are scared-that all of you are paranoid, knowing that any of us could be the monster… and that’s great. We need to not leave the monster any room to breath. Doubt, suspect and share your thoughts! With all of us here looking for even the slightest of suspicious movement, the monster will not be able to do anything!”
“Guys, he is definitely the monster! He wants to sound all smart so that he gets the leader position and then stab us in the back when we least expect it!”
This time, it was a guy in the back, covered by the veil of the mist that shouted his concerns.
“Then prove it! Here, I am the center of all attention, everyone sees but me. Do you think that if I do anything suspicious, people wouldn’t notice? Plus, if I was the monster, why would I ever take the lead with my team and kill the bosses? Look around you! How many players are left? How many already died? Do you really think any of you would have reached this place if we didn’t clear the floor for you guys?”
“T-that… I don’t know.”
“Let’s say you’re right.” A burly man holding a battle ax appeared from behind the mist. “What are we supposed to look for?”
“Nothing in particular, just keep track of your surroundings and the movement of the other players. We have no idea what will the monster do or what is his strategy. Focusing on one thing will only make holes for the monster to exploit.”
“True. Okay, it’s decided. You have the full support and cooperation of the Appolyon party. Let’s kill that monster.”
“We’ll do just that.”
Shesmu’s mouth was still open when three sentences written in red covered his vision.
[Illusion and Reality in the mist converge]
[The Shadows loom over, evil heralds disorder]
[Traps and schemes you shall unveil through a guiding light, as it emerges]
A golden light appeared on Shesmu’s minimap. The map showed him as a blue point standing next to several green ones, while far in the distance, a golden point shone.
The red text faded, and in its wake, a countdown appeared.
“Let’s get going. The goal is eight kilometers away. If we consider the traps and the monsters in the way, four hours are barely enough.”
Amaterasu’s quick response put a smile on Shesmu’s face.
“The little girl is right, we can’t stay here all day, let’s go.”
Chapter 53 – Chapter 55