Ashes of Gods Chapter 42: Dreaded Return
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While Shesmu and his party were talking, the rest of the players made their way towards the blue portal. The one leading to the first floor.
"Okay guys, one final thing. The key to heaven is meat buns."
"Huh?" Both Ryan and Leo were surprised.
"It's just our safeword. We have no idea what kind of monster it is, or what kind of trials there are in the tower. If there are any shapeshifters or things of the sort, we can use this safeword to distinguish between real and fake."
"Oh, that's smart. As expected of Shesy Shes," Ryan said while grinning at Shesmu.
The latter shook his head with his hand and responded, "Just please don't make that weird naming a habit."
"Okay then, do you prefer Shes-mu?" Ryan elongated the "mu" in "Shesmu" like the moo of a cow, gaining a chuckle from Leo.
"Okay, not gonna lie, that was mean but funny. Sorry, hahaha."
Both Ryan and Leo laughed at the expense of Shesmu. The latter sighed and said with a serious voice, "Well, this is all fun and well, but we still need to enter the tower. We're the only players left."
"Okay okay, Shes-mooooooo!" Ryan responded, laughing all the while.
Shesmu hurriedly jumped into the portal, prompting the duo to laugh even more. They soon joined 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 Ryan came out.
"A cave, huh," Ryan commented. "I wonder if there are traps around. Ya know, Indiana Jones style."
"Dammit Ryan, don't jinx it!"
Just as Shesmu was about to answer Ryan's musing, a new party phased through the portal. A boy and a girl of teenage 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 the boy's nape with the back of his palm.
"Ouch! That hurts, master!"
"Ryuji! Are you hurt anywhere?"
The purple-haired girl sat on her knees and caught Ryuji'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 Ryuji'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!" Ryan exclaimed. He then turned towards Shesmu before continuing, "Are they your friends?"
"Goddammit Ryan. Don't feign ignorance on me here."
"Hehe, sorry, had to do it." Ryan scratched his head while laughing sheepishly.
With one swift motion, Ryuji stood up. He gave the purple-haired girl a hand.
"Sakura. 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 Ryuji and Sakura. Ryuji 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, Ryan teased Shesmu. "Great master Shesmu, huh? Is that what you're calling strangers?"
"Ryan, please." 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."
"You were Ryuji's hero," Sakura cut in. "I don't know what his fascination is with you, but Ryuji has been following you since your days in Demon Heart."
"Umu! Ever since the great war between The Steel Army and Dawn's Resonance, I have been following master religiously, doing my best to learn all of his techniques!"
"Huh…" Shesmu had mixed feelings of disappointment and awe clashing in his heart.
Both Leo and Ryan grinned from ear to ear while looking at Shesmu. Their stares embarrassed him.
"Hoo, tell us more about the great master's epic adventures. Shesmu is too proud to ever tell us anything about that!"
"Oh goddammit Ryan," Shesmu immediately cut in, his face blushing from all the embarrassment. "Let's get going already, I want to climb this tower now."
Shesmu hurriedly marched forward within the cave, while Ryan and Leo laughed their hearts out.
"So, when did you guys start roleplaying?" Leo asked Ryuji and Sakura as they followed after Shesmu.
"Ehm, we've been doing it for a while," Sakura responded. "In every game we play, we always rp as the knight in shining armor and the damsel in distress."
She then looked at Shesmu's back with poisonous eyes and seethed. "Well, that's until a certain rude swordsman decided to butt in and ruin everything!"
"Haha," Ryan laughed. "Well, Shes can be brash sometimes. But he is a good boy."
"Haha, yeah, he is well-intentioned," Leo added.
Hearing everyone talk about him behind his back frustrated Shesmu. However, he didn't say anything. He knew that the more he would talk, the more they would tease. As such, he just gritted his teeth and hurried his steps.
Both Leo and Ryan noticed Shesmu's rapid pace and couldn't help but chuckle.
"See, he's almost cute, isn't he?" Ryan commented.
"Dammit, I never thought in my life that I would hear Shesmu and cute said together," Leo added before focusing on Ryuji. "Hey Ryuji, we were for real before. I want to know more about Shesmu, he never speaks about his past."
"Oh, really?!" Ryuji asked in excitement.
Sakura facepalmed and shook her head before muttering, "You just opened Pandora's Box, guys. Now, he won't stop talking until his vocal cords fail him."
Ryan heard Sakura's whisper and a sense of dread overwhelmed. However, before he could dwell on that horror, Ryuji started his speech with a booming, high-pitched voice.
"Well, if it's stories about master Shesmu, then we should definitely start with the war between Dawn's Resonance and TSA. The one where The Steel Army was 100.000 member strong, against the measle 20,000 of Dawn's Resonance. But with Cain's strategic genius and master's extraordinary ability to turn the tides, they were able to hold of…"
Once Ryuji started talking, there was no stopping it. No matter how Leo and Ryan tried to hint for him to stop, all of their efforts were met with failure. In the end, they just accepted their fate while Sakura shrugged and made a grimace that said "I told you".
The two parties made their way through the cave, dodging all kinds of booby traps and fake floors until they finally reached an opening. The entrance gave way to an absurd view. The floor in front of them was split into black and white tiles, like a chessboard.
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