44 Second Encounter
"Between all hundreds of contestant that you make, one of you is a monster in disguise."
Aldrien's voice struck like thunder. Silence issued after his declaration, before a torrent of murmurs surged.
"A monster? How?"
"What kind of joke is this!"
"Well, that's a change of pace. A monster between us players. It's sure gonna be fun," said DepressedRyan.
He then pondered for a second before adding, "But won't that be way too easy. Finding the monster between us that is. We can just all decide on answering an obvious question from the real world and the one who doesn't answer will obviously be the monster."
Hearing this, Shesmu chuckled. If only it was so simple.
"What makes you think that the monster doesn't know about real-world knowledge. Also, by what criteria are you going to eliminate people. If someone is slow on answering, do we kill him? Because, you know, once the first person answers, the monster will immediately imitate him. Plus, I think that standing out so early is a dangerous idea."
"Why do you think so, Shes?" Leo asked.
"Well, this game might look like a simple find the odd one out type of game, but actually it's far from it. This is a psychological game. Tell me, what will happen if I say that someone is a monster, but it turns out he isn't?"
Leo pondered for a second before DepressedRyan cut in.
"You'll be toasted. Everyone will think that you're the monster and that you wanted to kill us using a borrowed knife. And, even if they don't immediately think so, the monster can urge them to do so."
"You're right, that's what will happen. That's why the best thing to do in this type of situation is to sit back and let the heroes try and be heroes. We'll keep gathering clues from the sidelines until the time is right. Understood?"
"Cough, cough" Aldrien coughed two times to get everyone's attention. "You don't need to worry as of now. The monster won't attack until you enter the first floor. For now, you can rest easy."
Aldrien then pointed with his finger to his right and a new portal appeared. "You can challenge the tower by entering this portal. Contestants, I wish you the best of luck."
All of the players made their way to the blue portal. Shesmu stopped both Leo and DepressedRyan dead in their tracks.
"The key to heaven is noodles."
"Nothing, that's our safeword. If the monster is a shapeshifter, it will help distinguish real from fake."
Not even giving them the time to be confused, Shesmu jumped into the portal before the duo came after him.
Shesmu came out of the portal and found himself in a cave. The blue portal was still open behind him. After a few seconds, both Leo and DepressedRyan came out.
"What is the key to heaven?" Shesmu asked.
Both of Shesmu's friends answered immediately and without hesitation.
Sorry guys, this is the only way to check if you're real or not. The AI has a hard time absorbing all the information from your brain immediately, so this is the only possible time to confuse it.
"Good, seems like none of us is the imposter-"
Shesmu was about to continue his speech when a new party passed through the portal. A man and a woman of teenager age appeared. The boy had brown hair that matched his eyes, while the girl had long purple hair with ruby eyes.
Once the cursed words had been uttered, dread clutched at Shesmu's heart.
"It's master, isn't it?! I knew that our fates were intertwined!"
The boy lunged at Shesmu for a hug- a hug that Shesmu wasn't really looking forward to. With a sidestep, Shesmu dashed backward and hit his head with the back of his palm.
"Ouch! That hurts master!"
"Kazumi! Are you hurt anywhere?"
The purple haired girl sat on her knees and caught Kazumi's hands, her eyes showing concern. She then looked at Shesmu with fierce eyes and bellowed, "You! You had the opportunity to become the great hero Kazumi's master but turned it down. Now you have the gall to injure him! Death is but a slight punishment for such a transgression!"
"Woah!" DepressedRyan exclaimed. He then turned towards Shesmu before continuing, "Are they your friends?"
"Such a clear cut answer," commented Ryan.
With one swift motion, Kazumi stood up. He gave the purple haired girl a hand.
"Amaterasu. You cannot say that to the great master Shesmu-"
"How did you know that?"
"How did you know my name?"
Shesmu's eyes were cold. He knew for sure that he didn't divulge his name to Kazumi and Amaterasu. Kazumi saying his name so casually alerted multiple red flags on Shesmu's mind.
"You're the great master Shesmu. Of course, I'll know your name."
Hearing this, DepressedRyan teased Shesmu. "Great master Shesmu, huh? Is that what you're telling strangers?"
"You, shut up." Shesmu didn't have time to joke around. "What do you mean by the great master Shesmu. As far as I know, I never held that title."
"Huh? You don't know? Did you lose your memory? You're the great master, the old prophet, the hero-"
Amaterasu cut Kazumi mid-sentence. Her eyes were sharp as she looked at him.
"He doesn't know, because he still isn't any of those things," she added.
Shesmu was more than a little bit annoyed at being ignored while they talked about him.
"Hey, you two. What do you mean by all of that? I am not a great master, and I will not be. So why are you two talking about that?!"
Even if there is only a fractional chance that you guys are from the future. I am not any of those things. Are you guys trolling me?
Shesmu knew that in most cases, the two were just roleplaying an already written scenario. However, he couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. In the slim case that the two did come from the future, Shesmu threw a hint in his speech to see if they know something.
"See, he still doesn't know," Amaterasu concluded.
"Yes, he doesn't, but he is still so strong right now. We didn't come here for nothing, his teaching is something that we couldn't obtain before. This trip wasn't wasted."