60 Before The Storm
"So, are you better now?"
Shesmu looked at Amaterasu for a second before smiling.
"I don't know if I feel better, but I do know what I should at least."
Shesmu's eyes then became focused and more resolute.
"I will talk with Leo and tell him everything. He has the right to know after all."
Amaterasu smiled at Shesmu's words before she put her hand on her chin and frowned.
"For Sophie, I really don't know what to say about that. It's such a complicated situation."
Shesmu let out a chuckle at Amaterasu's concerns.
"When the time comes, I will deal with that problem. No use worrying about it now, it will only impede my actions in the near future."
"Well, if you think that way, then that's good too."
Amaterasu paused for a second. There was no point in continuing this conversation, however, she still wanted to talk more and that made her feel awkward. She fidgeted with her hands for a second before an idea struck her.
"So, how is the search for Nyarlathotep going? Any clues?"
"Oh, for that. I have an idea about it." Shesmu looked at Amaterasu and grinned. "Do you want to know who it is?"
Amaterasu seethed at Shesmu's smug face.
"Nah, you can keep it to yourself. I don't want to be influenced by your biased idiot conclusions."
"Haha, okay then. We will have it that way." Shesmu then had an idea and his smile became even wider. "Actually, I have an idea. Let's play a game."
"A game?" asked Amaterasu confused.
"Yeah, whoever finds the monster first gets a reward. Scratch that, if you find Nyarlathotep before me, I will gift you something nice."
"Oh? And what could that be?"
"Well, it won't be fun if I tell you right now, now would it?"
"Aghh, I hate it when you do that!"
"Haha, well, let's forget about that for a second. Other than Nyarlathotep, the floor is hard on its own. We need to start preparing for it."
This time, Amaterasu didn't point out the fact that he was changing subjects. She was genuinely interested in what Shesmu was about to say.
"The layout of the floor is pretty simple. First, we have to deal with the hounds, we already dealt with those, so that's good. The next part of the floor is illusion based. All of us enter an illusion world where each person's experience is different. The transition from reality to illusion is seamless, so you don't feel it when you enter the illusion. The goal is to know that you're under the spell to break it."
"And?" Amaterasu asked, waiting for more.
"Nothing. After that, we just need to reach the destination in time. We still have around 3 hours to go for that."
"Ah, about that. We should probably up our pace. One hour has passed and we're barely a quarter of the way there."
"Well, we did stop for half an hour just to fight that horde of hounds. As long as we don't get stuck in the second phase for too long, we should be just fine."
Shesmu then frowned.
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"The problem stays with Nyarlathotep. I don't know how many has he already killed, but it's most likely more than thirty. His power grows with the number of players he kills. At this point, he is an opponent I can't hope to beat alone."
"That's why you have us!"
Amaterasu's smile made Shesmu smile too. She is right, he thought. I should no longer think that I'm alone. It's this type of thinking that almost made me lose Leo, such a mistake should never happen again.
"Well, that's an after-we-find-him story. For now, the game is still on. If you want to receive the surprise gift, you still have to find him before I do."
"Hey, you're still going on with that? First of all, just what is this surprise gift?!"
"Haha, not saying, not saying."
Shesmu and Amaterasu kept walking for a bit more before returning to the main party. From afar, both Shesmu and Amaterasu could see Julia talking with the rest of Hector's crew.
"Oh, seems like Julia is trying to know more about the other parties. We need to understand our strengths so that we could fight better as a team. As expected of Everlast's vice-captain."
Shesmu nodded at Amaterasu's words, but his eyes kept lingering for a second on Julia's figure before Kazumi took all of his attention.
"Yo guys, I've been waiting for you!"
"Hey, Kazumi. How are you doing? Are you fine now? Before, when you were thinking, you looked super scary that I didn't know you for a second."
"Haha, I was just thinking about the great mage and everyone we left. Forget about that, how about you guys. Great Master, is your mind at rest now?"
Shesmu looked at Kazumi for a second. His attitude was definitely much different than when they left and it threw him off guard. However, Shesmu didn't let his inner thoughts show. He swiftly responded.
"Thanks for worrying about me, Kazumi. But I'm fine now." Shesmu then smiled. "Actually, I have something to tell you about. I already gave this offer to Amaterasu, and I'm going to give it to you too. We already know that Nyarlathotep is one of the players here, and I have a pretty good idea about who it is, but I still have no proof. If either you or Amaterasu finds out who it is before I do, I will prepare a surprise gift for the both of you."
"Oh, a surprise gift?"
Kazumi's eyes turned into stars and droll spilled out of his mouth.
"Don't tell me, are you going to teach us a new technique?"
Shesmu laughed at Kazumi's enthusiasm.
"Haha! Well, I did say that it is a surprise gift. It won't be a surprise anymore if I say it to you."
Amaterasu clicked her tongue at Shesmu's predictable answer.
"Ehh, please, just one hint is fine."
Looking at Kazumi's pleading eyes, Shesmu was unfazed. He just smiled and said.
"No means no. But, if you guys do get close to the right answer, I'll give you a hint. So work hard!"
Kazumi nodded at Shesmu's words while Amaterasu just looked at him with hopeful eyes.
"I'm going to do some recon. Kazumi, you better go work too. We only have three hours left."
"Okay, let's go!"
Shesmu looked at Amaterasu and Kazumi's back before sitting down on the moisty floor.
"Now, what should I do? My trap will take some time before activating, and Leo was really mad. We really should have a drinking face-to-face before things become even more ugly. Agh, the more I think about it the bigger is my headache. Well, it's not as if I could do much in here."
Shesmu then stood up and put DepressedRyan in a more comfortable position.
"Since we're here, let's just have some fun. Dancing in little Nyarl's hand before biting it doesn't sound too bad."
However, just as Shesmu was about to move out, a certain conversation piqued his interest. While everyone was resting from the battle against the hounds, two players, one black-haired and the other with red hair were whispering to each other.
"Like I said to you. The monster is definitely one of those guys. Especially that golden-eyed bastard, talking as if he was our leader. He is probably the monster and he is leading us to our death."
"And like I said, why do you think so? It's normal for someone to take the lead. Else, we will never work as a group and all die to the monster."
"Haha, working as a group? Do you see us doing that? Those three teams only communicate with each other and leave us all in the dark. Don't you see the picture here?"
The black haired player shook his head in confusion.
"They're sacrificing us, that's what they're doing!"
"Yes, those three teams think that they're smart. They keep themselves in a tight circle so that the monster doesn't find an easy way to kill them without showing itself, and they leave us scrambled. We're just easy targets that serve as bait for the monster to focus on."
The red-haired player's face then cracked into a distorted grin.
"But what they don't know, it's that they're all just playing in the palm of the monster. They think that they're safe by grouping together that way, but that only made it easier for the monster to blend in with them. If the monster is that golden-eyed guy, then we're all dead!"