"Woohoow! And the game you will play shall be… The Mist Valley Challenge! Woohoow!"
Lester's announcement didn't receive the hype that was expected. Everyone just stood there looking the panda who still had his paws high up in the air in a weird pose.
"Cough, cough. Woohoow! Anyways, the challenge will be set on an open area covered with mist. The goal is to go through the mist and reach the target that is in the other side. This challenge is fifty man one, which means that you need fifty participant before the game can start. Woohoow!"
The panda then paused for a second before a smirk covered his face. "Woohoow! One more thing, in the misty valley, there are a lot of deadly traps and cunning monsters, so please proceed with care. That's it for my explanation. For now, I'll let you enjoy the meals specifically prepared for you. Woohoow!"
With a poof, both Lester and the roulette next to him disappeared.
[The challenge for the third floor has been set]
[Numbers of participant needed: 45]
"Your worries weren't unfounded, Shesmu."
Amaterasu looked at Shesmu in the eyes. "Before entering the tower I counted the number of participant. There were around 70. If we take into consideration those who already died and lost, the number fifty encompass almost everyone left."
"So, we'll have to face the monster in this round," Leo concluded.
"Do we have any idea about what kind of monster is the hidden boss? It feels weird having to deal with something that we don't even know the extent of its power?"
"I know what kind of monster it is," Shesmu responded.
"But before talking about the monster, let's make somethings clear. First of all, I'm guessing that everyone here knows that I came from the future, right?"
Everyone nodded at Shesmu's words.
"Okay, good. Well, I come from ten years in the future. If you count in the time dilation and the amount of time I spend outside of the game, I spent 70 years playing Ashes of Gods. So yeah, I do know a lot of things."
"70 years," Leo muttered.
"Yeah, I'm an old man by today's standards. But don't worry, that won't stay for long. In another 20 years or so, you'll think of it as normal."
"20 years…," Both Amaterasu and Kazumi muttered.
"Shesmu! Your perception of time is broken!" Amaterasu exclaimed.
"Haha, you'll get used to it soon enough. But, enough about that. Let's talk about this next stage and this tower in general. This tower has 20 floor, each of which has its own interesting challenge. The hidden boss is Nyarlathotep. As with the myth, it's a shapeshifter beast that is cunning beyond measure. It also has an interesting property, it grows stronger the more people die-"
"Wait, then shouldn't we have stayed with the main group so as to kill it before too many people die?" Amaterasu cut in.
"Well, first of all, that's not as easy as you make it sound. Remember, I'm not just going to spill the beans to everyone just because of one challenge in the beta. Second of all, there is, or maybe I should say, there was another way to go through this tower. You see, Nyarlathotep cannot access the fifth floor and above."
"Oh, so we just need to reach the fifth floor and we won't have to deal with him, right?" asked Kazumi.
"It's not so simple," Amaterasu responded. "The challenge on this floor is a 50 man one, that means we have to deal with him no matter what."
"Yes, that's the problem. And here is an even bigger one, if 10 people die, Nyarlathotep's stats will be higher than mine. It's also a high tier monster, so its AI is very developed. In terms of mechanics, it's probably better than current me."
"So, is there a way to defeat this boss?" asked Leo.
"Well, here is the thing. This is just the beta, so a minor setback is to be expected. As things stand now, it's impossible to go past this floor. Let's just get used to his strategies and gather info, that's what the beta is for at the end of the day. In the live game, we'll have the tools to fight against him better."
"But what guarantees that we'll be together in the live game's tutorial too. We were only able to find you because of the directions of the great mage who told us when to enter the game exactly," said Amaterasu.
"About that, I have my ways. The game will be open 35 minutes before the official time, just be sure to log in right at that moment."
"Wait, if we can do that, we'll be the first to finish a dungeon this time," said Leo.
"Well, about that. Yeah, of course."
There is still the character creation thing that I haven't told you about yet, but we can leave that for later.
"You seem to be hiding something."
Amaterasu starred at Shesmu with her red eyes. Shesmu felt as if she was looking into his soul.
"N-no, it's just that it's too long to explain and I don't want to go into a tangent here. In any case, it's not something we can solve here so no need to clog your mind with it. Rather than that, let's enjoy the food here. You may not know this yet, but the high grade food here taste even better than in real life."
The table was filled with food and drinks. Shesmu took a bottle from the table, turned it and looked at its label. It said: LeBourgeois 2050. Shesmu smiled and looked at Leo.
"Here, a drink to all of you. Cheers! Also, Kazumi, Amaterasu, orange juice is on the other end of the table. You can serve yourself."
"Hey, I'm not a kid!" rebuted Amaterasu.
"Kid or not, you're still not of legal age. If you drink alcohol, you'll be booted of the game by the main system."
Amaterasu's face turned red, but she couldn't find the words to fault Shesmu. Thus, she just opened the bottle of orange juice aggressively and emptied it in one shot.
"Ah, this stuff is good!"
Amaterasu's eyes were hazy. She kept moving forward towards Shesmu, but her steps were wobbly and she was about to lose balance.
"Did she… get drunk on orange juice?" Leo asked.
Shesmu was speechless too.
"I-I guess so?"
Kazumi then also emptied a bottle of orange juice. After he gulped the last drop, he started laughing.
"Hahaha, it's all fun, it's all fun! Great Master, Master Leo, let's all have fun!"
Shesmu looked at this scene in shock before just laughing it away.
"You gotta learn from the brats. They sure know how to have fun. Leo, cheers!"
Shesmu and Leo raised their cup of wine before sipping on it. The party then chatted, drank and laughed for a good while, until new players started coming in.
"So, like I said, Ryan has this weird habit of always looking at the stars for half an hour before going to sleep. I have never seen him, not even once, sleep without going to the roof and looking at the stars. Don't you think that's hick-weird?"
"Yeah, yeah, if you say so."
Shesmu took a few step back as Leo kept complaining and hiccuping at the same time. For half an hour, Leo haven't stopped talking. The moment he took his first shot, it was as if a bomb exploded. Leo became a chatterbox that couldn't be stopped"
"Hey, Leo, you already said that like three times already. Also, Shesmu's ears are about to burst. Give him a break, will ya?"
For a second, Amaterasu looked like an angel to Shesmu. Wings sprouted out of her back and a halo appeared on top of her head. She then looked at Shesmu and gave him a thumbs up.
"Oh, there is people talking. Were we not the first party to arrive?"
Shesmu's party turned to look at the unknown voice. A party of ten people entered through the palace door. However, this time, there was no panda accompanying them.
"Hello all, were you the party that defeated the boss of the second floor? We didn't find any monster on the last platform."
A tall blonde man with slick hair that reached his back took the lead and reached with his arm for a handshake with Shesmu.
"Yes, we were the party to slay the first and second floor's boss. May I know your name?"
"Arthur, that is my name."
If I remember well, this guy was the leader of Everlast. Shame they disbanded later and left the spot of Lord of Cubain to a bunch of noobs.
"Good to meet you Arthur, name is Shesmu."
"So, the challenge for this floor is one that cannot start without a certain number of participant. I wonder if there are even 50 players left. Around 10 died in the first floor, who knows how many did in the second."
Arthur then looked at Shesmu's party.
"I guess that all of you are safe, right? We tested everyone in our party to see if they're players or not. I assume it's the same for you guys, right?"
Shesmu looked at Arthur in the eyes for a second, before drifting to the other members. Five of Arthur's teammates never stopped looking at him. The most obvious of the five was a pink haired woman that looked at Arthur with fervor in her eyes. The four other members kept stealing glances at Arthur before whispering things between them.
Oh, so there is some internal conflict. Interesting.
"This is my vice captain. Julia, come here."
The pink haired girl came forward and handshook Shesmu.
"Hello, my name is Julia and I'm the team captain. Thank you for pioneering the stages. Thanks to you we had a much easier time clearing the tower."
"Ah, no problem. Here, let me introduce to you my team members. This Leo, Kazumi, and Amaterasu."
After exchanging some pleasantries and everyone introducing themselves, Arthur brought up the matter with Ryan.
"And, who is that boy sleeping over there?"
"Ah, that's Ryan. He received some shock in the boss fight and the system booted him out. He will be back shortly I believe."
"Yeah, we had that happen to one of us in the Forest of Beginning," added Julia. "The fights are so realistic and the pain feels like the real world. It's no wonder some people can't handle it."
Julia then looked at Arthur.
"But of course, Arthur is not so weak as to succumb to a mere boss. Tanking, damaging, he can do it all."
"Hahaha, you flatter me, Julia. Really, I'm not such a heroic character. In fact, you guys who could handle such strong bosses with such a small party in a record time are much more impressive."
Arthur then came closer to Shesmu before asking, "Could you please teach us your secrets?"
Shesmu took a step back and said, "Really, there isn't much of a secret. We just tried our best and our team happen to be a little mechanically gifted, that's all."
"Haha, what confidence! I like it!"
"Well, let's not just stay here and chat. I'm sure that you all are tired. Here, serve yourself. We can discuss the strategies for the third floor while eating."