"What? Who's having a mental breakdown?! Your mom!"
With that outburst, Amaterasu stood up and looked at the party.
"What are you guys standing there in a daze for? Let's go to the third floor. I don't want to wait until the party with the monster arrives and we get stuck with it. Let them idiots deal with that."
"Haha, you're right, Amaterasu. But Great Master, just what dropped from that doll steel thing? Is it some epic weapon?"
"I still haven't checked. But before that, let me ask you guys a question. Why do you guys think that we tried to take the lead and not stay with the main group?"
"Wasn't it because it was safer to do so?" responded Leo.
"Well, yeah, that's part of it. Let me rephrase it if we were to stay with the main group, what potential scenarios could have happened? Think about it for a second."
The whole party pondered for a few seconds before Amaterasu spoke out.
"The monster would have probably tried to take some vital role in the exploration of the first floor, the main tank for example, and dropped the aggro of the boss to result in a team wipe."
"Close. Even without me or DepressedRyan, fifty people can easily kill an enraged Red Wolf King. It may result in a lot of casualties, but a team wipe is impossible." Shesmu then paused for a second before continuing. "However, the idea is the same. The monster would try to get a vital role and would betray us when the situation allows it. But, this is pretty surface level thinking. The real problem that we have, and the reason why I made sure for us to take the lead and not get stuck with the main party is that not a single person in this tower knows how to deal with a monster in disguise."
"Why is that a problem, Great Master?"
"Yeah, I don't understand either, Shesmu."
Both Leo and Kazumi's face showed their confusion. However, contrary to the duo, Amaterasu's eyes brightened up.
"They're easy to manipulate."
"Bingo, Amaterasu. That's the problem. No matter how we plan and what kind of strategy we make, it doesn't make any difference if the whole group cannot stick to it. In a situation with high tension, anything you say could be used against you by the monster. Even staying silent can result in conflict down the line."
Shesmu then went towards Kazumi and stopped right in front of him before continuing, "And, one last thing. In this tower, you can damage other players. You two probably want to adjust your pain settings. Turn it down to 12%, that's the optimal number."
"Wait, you can adjust pain setting in this game? Why didn't you say that before? I got stabbed so many times by those damn goblins, it gave me a trauma!"
"Now, now, Amaterasu. He told us about it now, so isn't it all fine?"
Amaterasu's outcry wasn't without justification. Even if the normal pain setting was barely a quarter of what one would experience in real life, it still hurts to get stabbed multiple times in the guts by green little creatures.
"Well, sorry about that, I forgot. Anyway, just go to your character menu and you'll see a slider. Just change that to 12% and that will be it."
Amaterasu and Kazumi busied themselves with looking for the slider Shesmu was talking about. After a couple of seconds, they were done.
"All done now. So, Shesmu, don't ignore the question, what did the boss drop? If you dare snag my share, you will never hear the end of it!"
Remembering the loot, Shesmu checked his inventory.
"Oh, we got some good stuff. A silver+ rank sword and a blacksmith recipe. Plus the gold and the magic stones as usual."
"Magic stones?" asked Kazumi.
"Ah, you guys don't know about these, right. It's some kind of currency that drops from bosses, we still don't know what it's used for though."
"Oh, okay. But how much gold did it drop? We're already broke from repairing our equipment and buying potions," reminded Amaterasu.
"Oh, it dropped 5 gold. I'll give each of you one, does that sound good?"
Amaterasu looked at the lying DepressedRyan for a second before nodding her head.
"Good. Also, since we brought up the matter of the loot, I'll give you your part for the Red Wolf King too. Anyone of you interested in a flame dagger?"
"Give it to Amaterasu!"
"Give it to Kazumi!"
The pair looked at each other for a second, before Kazumi laughed out loud.
"Haha, just give it to Amaterasu. I don't like daggers anyway, it doesn't suit my fighting style."
"As if it suits me. I'm a fencer, how will I even handle a dagger?"
"If none of you want it, I could just take it and sell it later. So now, who will it be?"
"I think Kazumi might want to try taking it. You have a very straightforward playstyle, so I guess that your main weapon is either a two-handed sword or a greatsword. I think that practicing with a dagger might show you your weakness and let you evolve much faster."
Leo's suggestion surprised Shesmu. He already knew that Leo was the more silent analytic type from his past life. But he didn't think that this trait of character was present even now, ten years before.
"Oh, mister Leo…"
"I think Leo is right, Kazumi, you'll be the one taking the dagger. Amaterasu, you'll have priority in choosing on next drops until we find a weapon suitable for you. Does that sound fair?"
"Yeah, that sounds good."
"You too Kazumi, does that sound fair to you?"
Kazumi looked at Shesmu for a bit before relenting.
"Yeah, it's fair."
"Good, now let's pack up and get to the third floor."
Shesmu lifted DepressedRyan's body from the ground and went towards the portal for the third floor with the rest of the party. Once they took a step into the blue portal, Shesmu was greeted by a spectacular view. The dark red turned into white and golden. The party stood in front of the door of a palace and behind was a plaza whose white ground reflected the sun.
"Wohoow! Congratulation esteemed guests of the golden generation. Lester, here to serve you. Wohoow!"
A short talking fluffy panda opened the door of the palace and greeted the party of five.
"Please, follow me inside. Woohoow! We'll shortly prepare the stage for your third challenge. Woohoow!"
"Is this… a panda?" muttered Kazumi.
"Yes, a talking panda," responded Amaterasu.
On the other hand, Shesmu wasn't the least bit surprised by Lester. This panda was something of a mascot for the game. All special events were hosted by him.
As for Leo, even though he was surprised to find a talking panda in a semi-realistic game, it didn't come off as a shock. He wasn't new to gaming after all.
Regardless of what they thought, everyone followed the panda into the palace. The first thing that greeted them was a table full of food and drinks, while on the back of the room a team of musicians was playing a calm tune.
"Woohoow! We have prepared for our guests with a welcoming party. Your hard work shall be rewarded. Woohoow!"
Lester then made a gesture with his paw, and next to him a roulette appeared with a poof.
"Woohoow! However, before you shall dine on this feast, let us play a little game. Woohoow!"
Oh, this part finally came.
"Woohoow! The roulette is split into 64 different areas. Each area corresponds to a different game. Depending on what comes out, the challenge that you shall face in the third floor shall be determined. Woohoow!"
By this point, everyone's attention was on the roulette. With a flick of his paw, Lester spun the roulette. As long as it's not a twenty-five or fifty men game, we're fine. Please, just make it a five men game.
The disk spun and spun until it finally landed on area 34.
"Woohoow! And the game you will play shall be… The Mist Valley Challenge! Woohoow!"