19 Red Zone
The red zone didn't look any different from the normal zones. The trees were still as tall as ever, blocking the moonlight from illuminating the way for any traveling party. However, Shesmu and his friends didn't take any risk. Even though the scenery looked the same as before, they have been very careful with their steps, stopping every dozen seconds to reassess their environment.
'If I remember right, somewhere around here there should be a waterfall; behind it is the goblin den.'
Shesmu looked at the minimap and found that the waterfall was about 30 meters to their right.
"There seem to be a waterfall nearby," Shesmu announced, "if there is anything my experience told me, it's that these type of places are where hidden quests and treasures are located."
"Seems fair," DepressedRyan responded, while Leo nodded in agreement.
The party, after deciding on their next destination, walked towards the direction of the waterfall.
"But really, it's already been five minutes and we still haven't found any monster, isn't that strange?" Asked Leo.
DepressedRyan frowned and muttered, "you're right. It makes no sense." He then thought for a couple more seconds before continuing, "maybe- maybe, there is a boss close to here or something?"
Hearing his suggestion, Leo became excited, "A boss? Yeah, I know many games that did things like these. The area around the boss always lacks normal monsters."
"Ohh, you're right Leo. Many games have that feature, so as to not just swarm you with mob then kill you with a boss. What do you think, Shesmu?"
"Hmm, I guess? I mean, it could just be that there was a team before us that cleared the area. But then again, we would have seen corpses of the monsters lying around. Well, who knows?"
However, while Shesmu's mouth said one thing, his thoughts went in a different direction.
'This is the goblins' territory, and it's night so they are asleep in their den. Of course, there wouldn't be any monsters going around.'
Shesmu then continued, "Well, who cares about that for now. We're close to the waterfall so let's up to the pace. Hopefully, we find some treasure chests and get some good gear, the durability of my sword is already down by half."
Leo laughed at Shesmu's comment and added, "Yeah, me too! Also, let's wash our swords first before doing anything else. The handle is so sticky with goblin's blood that I can barely hold my sword properly."
"Yeah, we should do that too," Shesmu answered.
The party went through the dark branches only to be greeted by a silvery light. The water of the small lake in front of them reflected the light of the moon.
"Wow, this scenery is beautiful!" exclaimed Leo. The dark and gloomy forest took a toll on his mind, and that of his teammates too; now that they could finally see some light coupled with beautiful scenery too, their hearts were relieved.
The trio kept staring at the flickering light on the water for half a minute before Shesmu finally snapped out of his daze.
"Guys, I know that this is cool and all, but remember what we're here for. Let's start searching!"
At Shesmu's orders, the party started searching. They first checked the outskirt of the lake, each of them taking a position. Shesmu took north, Leo took west, and DepressedRyan took east.
They looked at every nook and cranny, next to every tree and in every hole, they could find. However, the party ended up empty-handed. After 15 minutes, they finally decided to stop.
"Well, we already checked the outskirt, so it's time for a dive!" exclaimed DepressedRyan, appearing happy. Shesmu made the both of them check out the surroundings first and foremost even though it was obvious that what they came here looking for was inside the lake.
"Yeah, finally! Let's go swimming-I mean searching!" declared Leo, correcting himself mid-sentence.
Shesmu looked at the duo in an incredulous manner for a moment. In his past life, for the longest time, the only thing he knew was work and work and more work. When he was streaming his gameplay for other people to watch, he had to control his conduct to conserve the image of his team. When he wasn't streaming, he had to train his fundamental techniques and familiarize with the new strategies. The only fun he had was the little bit of banter and challenges between him and his teammates. Now, staying with these two guys and experiencing the game in different more fun ways made Shesmu unwilling to go back to his previous lifestyle.
With his internal introspection done, Shesmu just smiled at Leo and said.
"Well, let's not forget about our goal here. But having some fun along the way isn't a problem."
With this, as if they were beast unleashed, the duo immediately jumped into the lake.
Without even taking off their clothes, they dived right into it.
"Ah! This is great! The water is so cool!" exclaimed Leo.
"Come in, Shesmu. We need to keep on searching for the treasures, right?" DepressedRyan added, then he continued with a taunt, "Or, are you maybe afraid of the cold water? Is that why you have been delaying the search of the lake for so long?"
The smug smile DepressedRyan had on his face quickly annoyed Shesmu. Then, without any notice, Shesmu jumped into the water, still fully clad.
"You little shit, just you wait!"
Shesmu swam with all his might towards Ryan, intent on teaching him a lesson for mocking him.
Seeing Shesmu coming at him with such ardor, DepressedRyan immediately ran away.
"It was just a prank bro! Please!"
However, Shesmu didn't have any of that. He kept on swimming, intent on catching Ryan no matter what.
While Leo was laughing his lungs out on the sideline, the duo kept on swimming, one running away and the other fully intent on catching his prey. Their speed was about the same, so the battle became quickly one of endurance.
'Tough luck, Ryan! With my enhanced lungs, you can never get away from me.'
It didn't take more than 2 minutes for DepressedRyan to no be able to keep up speed and be caught by Shesmu.
After Shesmu caught Ryan, he looked at him for two seconds while thinking, 'Well, now that I caught him, what do I do now?' He then kept looking at Ryan's nervous eyes for another 5 seconds before just sighing and letting him free. Shesmu couldn't bring himself to scold Ryan when he looked at him that way.
"Hey Ryan, I have never asked you this, but how old are you?" asked Shesmu. The opportunity didn't present itself before, but he was curious about DepressedRyan's age since he looked and sounded so young.
"I'm 15, what about you?"
"I'm 18," Shesmu answered, 'though I was 28 at some point.'
"Well, enough of all of this. Let's get to searching, we cannot waste even more time."
With this closing statement, the party went back to work. Everyone took one part of the small lake and started searching.
Less than 5 minutes later, Leo came back to the surface and exclaimed, "Guys! I found something. Come!"
"Oh, is it a treasure?" DepressedRyan asked.
To his question, Leo nodded. After that, everyone followed Leo's lead and dived under the water. It didn't take more than 10 seconds for the trio to reach the surface of the lake which was filled with algae. But between all of the green, a golden shine stood out. Leo spread the green plants, and a golden treasure chest had slowly shown itself.