67: Solo Leveling
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'I solo. I grind. Forever. I solo bosses. I solo armies! I solo the game itself!'

Ben was playing Dance Dance Revolution in his dorm room...

*Tap* *Tap* *Tap* *Tap*

He brought the pads from home and hooked them up to his computer monitor. Before going out, he thought it was the perfect way to warm up his body and brains…

***

There it was, the flashing red neon sign: "Domina." It was once again a good night so Ben was back at the dungeon. He waited on line now. Working the line didn't seem like a good idea to him because everyone was in groups. He wasn't confident about defusing obstacles inside, let alone outside where it was quiet and there were fewer distractions.

[Dungeon guardians detected]

As Ben reached the front, he received that message. There were several large bouncers checking IDs, the titled guardians. As one prepared to check Benny BeVito, a voice emerged from his walkie talkie: "Shaggers! Shaggers! We got shaggers!"

Ben squinted. 'Is Austin Powers working here?'

The two bouncers exchanged glances and one of them ran inside while the other held up the line. A minute later, the bouncer who ran in and another staff member escorted out a 30ish couple with ruffled clothes. Then, the bouncers resumed checking IDs and allowed Ben inside. As he entered, a guy from inside brushed past him and rushed up to the head bouncer, asking, "Why are you kicking my wife out?"

'Should be an interesting party…' Ben thought. Walking in, the speakers sent waves of dance music through his body, giving him deja vu of the last visit. He walked up and got a place at the bar, ordering a ginger ale from the cute female bartender.

[Dungeon mini-boss detected]

'...So all the staff are in play,' Ben realized. He tried to hit on her and the other cute bartenders, but they were too busy to give him much of a response. So he began scanning through the guests, spotting a pretty girl in a two-set not far from him. He walked over. "Hey, this—"

Before Ben could finish his opener, the overweight friend of his target cut him off. "Stop! Don't talk to us until you get taller, ok?"

After a moment of silence...Ben sneered at the obstacle, asking her, "Can you dance?"

She blinked. "Of course."

"Then how about you go dance over there while I talk to your friend…"

She didn't know how to respond.

"And I'd like to counteroffer your height demand. You can consider it while over there." Ben interlocked his fingers in front of himself. He watched Shark Tank at the gym earlier... He narrowed his eyes and paused for dramatic effect. After double-checking the numbers in his mind, he delivered his offer. "I'll get taller...when you get skinnier!"

...

The bartender overheard and had to cover her cackling with her hand! She walked to the other side of the bar as if saying, "I'm out!"

Even the target snickered!

The obstacle's face turned beet red in embarrassment...but Ben didn't care. Since she shamed him for something he couldn't change. It was more than fair game for him to shame her for something she could!

The obstacle stormed off. It was unfortunate for Ben that her cute friend followed her despite still giggling at the third-degree burn... Looking at the target leave, he wasn't upset though. 'She held bias against the thin…'

Ben returned to his spot at the bar and searched for a new target. He knew tonight wouldn't be easy, since he still didn't have a decent grasp of defusing obstacles, and that was with a wingman's help. Now, he'd have to do it alone, somehow keeping the obstacle busy while he worked on her friend. It's a good thing he expected the problem in advance and made some preparations. Now, it was time to see what worked.

With most of the crowd dancing to the upbeat music, Ben noticed two girls standing alone near the wall. He went over. The opener went well. After chatting for a minute, he held their attention. 'Ok, now I have to keep the obstacle occupied.'

Ben leaned into the obstacle and whispered into her ear, "Hey I have a present for you…"

Her eyes turned shined in expectation…

He handed it to her with the best of intentions: a magazine…

Then, Ben ignored her, letting Conde Nast Publishing do its job, while he started chatting to her cute friend.

The obstacle stared at the magazine for a long time with her face frozen in confusion…

Half a minute later, Ben was back at the bar reviewing the failure. 'She didn't like House & Garden…but that's her loss. Good luck keeping a husband without knowing how to keep a good home…'

He sighed. 'I guess a magazine is a bad move…These women don't want to read passively. After all, this isn't a waiting room. I need to consider a more active approach…' He already had a few ideas. At that moment, two girls walked up to the bar with perfect timing, and Ben opened them.

Like the last set, the opener stuck and he conversed and laughed with them. Then, it came time for dealing with the obstacle. 'Something more active…' He reminded himself.

Ben told her, "Hey, you seem super smart to me…"

Her face brightened at the compliment.

Ben gave a warm smile back, then he handed her something—his last week's unfinished math homework...

"Enjoy…" Ben turned and started teasing the cuter friend.

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