From behind the mist, around thirty players stood. Murmurs and whispers covered the area.
The murmurs died down after Shesmu's order and everyone's attention was focused on him.
"Congratulation. Thanks to all of you guys' effort, we were able to hold off the horde of hounds and emerge victoriously." Shesmu then took a lighter tone as he continued speaking. "After the little break that we had, we will now continue our journey to the target point. We still have around 3 hours left, and we have no idea about what kind of trials are awaiting us."
"What about the disguised monster?" A person from the back snarled.
A red-haired person strode towards the front and faced Shesmu.
"We still haven't made any progress in finding the disguised monster. I thought that if we did as you said, we would have found him already by now. Wasn't that what you promised?!"
For a second, Shesmu stayed silent and didn't respond to the red-haired player.
Looking at Shesmu being silent, Arthur stepped up.
"Hey, stop that. Since Shesmu took the lead, no one had died. I think that's good enough proof that he is a good leader."
The red-haired player grinned in contempt at Arthur's argument.
"Since no one died from the moment he took the lead, you could conclude that he is a great leader. But you know what you could also conclude?" The red-haired player raised his voice and looked back at all the players behind him. "That he is the monster, and that's why no one died. It's so that he can gain our trust and trap us all later down the line!"
Murmurs and whispers became even more prominent after the red player's shocking revelation. Everyone started looking at Shesmu with the corner of their eyes, stealing glances to see if he was actually a monster.
"Haha," Shesmu chuckled under his breath.
"What are you laughing for?"
"What's your name, mister red hair?"
"Kleon, that's my name."
"Haha, great name. Mister Kleon, what you just said was great. Doubt me! Suspect me! I don't mind that. Just don't trust what anyone tells you, because anyone could be the disguised monster."
Kleon stayed silent for a second before laughing.
"Haha, is that your speech so that you gain back our trust, monster?"
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Shesmu smiled at the obvious taunt.
"Well, not really but… I'll make a bet with you if you don't mind."
Kleon tilted his head at Shesmu's declaration. He was puzzled by what Shesmu meant.
"If I don't find the disguised monster by the end of the second challenge. I'll log out and lose all my progress in this tower. This also means that I won't receive any rewards for making it this far, other than the loot I gained already."
Surprised exclamations overlapped as the crowd couldn't believe what Shesmu just said. He was willing to bet what he worked so hard for just to quench a revolt made by a baseless conjecture.
"Haha, okay then. You can't take that back, else I'll personally kill you and send you out of this tower!"
"Well, you'll not be able to do that, but whatever floats your boat, man," Shesmu muttered under his breath.
"Eh? Did you say something?"
"No, nothing. Moving on, we don't have that much time left, but I think that one important thing needs to be discussed first."
Shesmu looked at the crowd, and once he made sure that the earlier cacophony was silenced, he continued.
"Staying on the subject of the disguised monster. I'm sure that many of you already have their own theories about it. But just to make sure, I'll reiterate everything we currently know about it."
Shesmu took a deep breath before continuing.
"First of all, the monster knows about the existence of players. Else, there is no way it could blend in. Second of all, the monster must have access to at least some of the memories of the person it copies. The same reasoning as the first one, if it doesn't even have a basic understanding of the person it copies, there is no way it could blend in. Third of all, the monster must have some kind of offensive abilities. If it didn't, it wouldn't be considered a hidden BOSS, and it wouldn't be able to kill us either way. For now, this is all."
"One last announcement before we take off. I want everyone who isn't part of my, Arthur's, or Hector's team party up and decide on a leader. Please make sure to decide on your representative before half an hour passes. We don't know when we'll have to fight other monsters, so that can't take too long. With that, let's go. For victory!"
Arthur, Hector and the rest of the crowd followed Shesmu's chant before departing. Shesmu took the lead before Arthur and Hector reached up to him.
"That was nerve-wracking. Good job on handling that situation, Shesmu," said Arthur.
"Truly, but that bet was something else. You really went all in on that one, Shesmu. Haha!"
"Well, I think it's fun," said Shesmu with a smile.
"Fun?" Hector asked.
"Yeah, it's fun. We fear chaos because it's the environment where the disguised monster thrives best, but it's also where he is the most active and most vulnerable. I think playing on that thin line is fun."
"Haha," Arthur laughed. "I didn't know that you were this type of adrenaline junkie. But it's all good, I too am like that. Let's have some fun beating that monster's ass when he finds him later, haha!"
While Arthur was talking, Shesmu saw from the corner of his eyes, Amaterasu lingering in the back. Seeing that she felt too awkward coming up to him and talking while he was surrounded by the other party leaders, he signaled her with his hand.
"Hey, Amaterasu. Come on over."
Shesmu then coiled his hand over Amaterasu's neck and scratched her head with his other hand.
"This little beast is a fast one. Don't let her small frame delude you, she bites hard!"
Amaterasu forced her way out of Shesmu's grab pointed the tip of her sword at his neck.
"What did you just say about me? I think I misheard something."
Shesmu put his hands up and backed off in dread while chuckling nervously.
"Haha, she is indeed a fierce one," commented Hector.
After Amaterasu sheathed her sword, Shesmu focused back on the two team leaders.
"Well, everyone, other than the bet with the red-haired guy, I also made another bet. If Amaterasu and Kazumi get to find the monster before I do, a reward awaits them. I don't know where Kazumi is right now, but please introduce Amaterasu to your teams. I'm sure she would love to know them more. Once Kazumi comes, I'll send him your way too, is that alright with you?"
"Sure, I like bets. If I could help this little miss get something from you, then I wouldn't mind. Haha."
"Same here Shesmu. Anything I can do to help an old friend."
"I owe you guys one. Thanks a lot." Shesmu then looked at Amaterasu. "Here, Amaterasu. You should thank them too."
"Thank you very much, Mister Arthur, mister Hector," Amaterasu bowed and said.
"Well, come with me first," Hector requested. "I'm sure that Robin and you will have lots to talk about. She loves talking with competitive gamer girls, Haha!"
"Okay, then I will take my leave for now. Come to me later when you're done with Hector."
Arthur took his leave and Hector and Amaterasu followed soon after. Shesmu was left alone, spearheading the group, DepressedRyan still on his back. The mist became less and less dense as time went on. By this point, you could see a fair distance ahead.
Shesmu kept silence for the whole trip until Kazumi came from behind and asked.
"Great Master, are you alone? Where is Amaterasu?"
Shesmu looked back at Kazumi, and he couldn't help but remember the scene from before. Kazumi's cold eyes and decisive tone couldn't leave Shesmu's mind. However, he decided that it wasn't the time to confront him about it yet.
"Yeah, she went to talk with Hector and Arthur's team. She is working hard for the bet, you know?"
"Haha, that's such an Amaterasu thing to do. Even before, she did her best at anything she did."
Shesmu looked at Kazumi's smile and stayed silent for a second.
"Kazumi, are they done yet? Choosing their team leader that is."
Kazumi scratched his head and responded, "So you knew. My instinct told me that the monster could be in the separated parties. So, I went and talked with everyone to see if there was anyone suspicious. For the leader, they decided on Kleon- the red-haired guy. He will come in a second to talk to you."
Just as Kazumi finished talking, Kleon appeared from behind the mist.
"Hey, gold eye. The separated parties decided to have me as their leader. I still don't trust you and think that you might be the monster, but since I'm their leader, I will force myself to work with you."
Kleon's speech was as snarly as ever, but Shesmu's smile never left his face. He went for a handshake which Kleon reluctantly complied to.
"That's all I ask for. Pleased to work with you."