Chapter 1:

First blood

BRO: Battle Royale Online

Behind the scope of his sniper rifle, a helmet appeared. The skirmisher held his breath and cocked his rifle. This was easy prey. Suddenly, his ear picked up a muffled noise coming from the stairs. He raised an eyebrow but did not move, waiting for the intruder to betray himself again. But no other noise was heard. It was probably a draught coming through the window he had broken a few minutes earlier. The man turned his attention back to his target on the other side of the window.

That was his last mistake. I stepped out of the darkness of the ruined hallway and, in a flash, brought my hunting knife to his throat.

"If you say a word, I'll slice your carotid artery."

The skirmisher froze. Well, he had understood me. Slowly, I sat down beside him and looked through the scope. Immediately, the man in the street below appeared to me.

No, that's no good... You have to aim lower or the bullet will bounce off.

As I whispered behind the window, I readjusted the sights towards his throat. The man hadn't noticed anything and was moving cautiously down the street in front of the ruined building. His gun in his hand, casting worried glances around him.

Pfft, a beginner... I quickly get rid of him and the other moron and move towards the objective.

Clutching the rifle to my shoulder, I stopped breathing.

At once, the man turned sharply in my direction. He must have seen the reflection of the scope. I could now see his face clearly: a middle-aged man with sun-tanned skin. But it was too late. A bang broke the silence and at the same time, the man collapsed to the ground. A clean shot to the throat. Despite the distance, it was not so bad.

Under my blade, the skirmisher shivered. He waved his lips as if to beg me to spare him but no sound came from his throat. With a confident gesture, I slit his carotid artery. The man died in silence.

I wiped my blade and holstered it as I rose to my feet. A familiar beep echoed through the street before another one echoed at my feet: a skull and crossbones icon appeared above the two eliminated players.

Two kills right off the bat is not that bad. But if I want to quit in peace, I'll have to do much better!

Today was the 8th BRO tournament.

Today I entered the legend of this mythical game.

Today was my last day in this world...

The dead man's sniper rifle wasn't very good but it still had most of its bullets, which was far from being the case for mine. So I decided to make an exchange, thanking the dead man not without a touch of irony. I stowed it in my back, keeping my pistol on my belt. A quick glance out the window informed me that the man in the street had no good equipment, so I would leave his corpse in peace.

It was time to leave: other players had probably heard the shot and were already coming. With a tap on my watch, I displayed my map. The objective was one kilometer north, just outside the Ruined Town, at the edge of the Western Forest. Given the immense size of this year's map, I had to be one of the closest to the point, but that was no reason to take my time: if players had already found vehicles or spawned near the drop point, they might already be there. The map didn't say exactly what the objective was, but I hoped it was a high-level piece of equipment. Determined to get there first, I set off again.

Perfect, the corridor is empty, I can go.

I was just passing the doorway when I heard the familiar click of a gun being cocked at my temple.

Wait a minute! The hallway is NOT empty!

I kicked my attacker's gun hard and jumped back.

Damn it! I don't have time to use my new rifle in this narrow corridor! And if I try to draw my knife I'll be dead long before I reach my opponent! Think!

Going through all my options, I looked up at the person who had taken me by surprise, looking for a flaw in my opponent’s defense. But my distraught gaze only met frightened blue eyes. A girl. That was quite rare in BRO.

The girl was pointing a heavy black pistol straight at my head. But her fingers were shaking. In fact, her whole body was shaking. At the time I thought it was strange that the one standing behind the gun was shaking the most. Slightly reassured, I tried to get up.

"Listen, little one…"

"Don’t move! If you take one step closer I'll blow your head off!"

Despite her trembling hands, her tone was firm.

"Listen to me! I don't want this to end in a bloodbath, okay? Not for you, not for me."

I needed to buy some time. I needed her to let her guard down. I tried to approach her.

"Don’t move!"

As she screamed these words, her hands began to tremble irrepressibly. Her eyes were going crazy, I could see a visceral fear in them. I knew for sure: she wouldn't shoot.

"It’s your first time, right?"

She hiccuped in surprise.

"It’s always the same the first time. The game feels so real... You must be unsettled, right?"

She nodded slowly. Well, I had it under control.

"Don’t force yourself if you can't do it. Although the game is fake, all this tension is real."

"I know it's a game!" she said, panting.

"I know. You know it. But not your body. Your senses tell you it's real. That the weight of the pistol in your hands is real. That the sweat on your forehead is real. That the stranger in front of you is real. Your heart tells you that all this is real. That if you pull that trigger you'll really kill someone. And that... That's a little unsettling."

"What do you know about it?"

"I’ve been there too. Except for a few cases, we've all been through this. Even if it's not real, we all remember our first victim or dream of our first death. Although the pain is fake, the fear of death is real."

I paused for a moment, giving her time to recover. The adrenaline rush must have made her lose her mind, but she was already looking better if we excluded the slight tremors that still ran through her body.

"Come on, put your gun down. You don't want to do this."

She hesitated for a second, staring at me, then lowered her pistol.

Out of nowhere, there was a rush of footsteps down the stairwell.

That’s bad! A team!

Without thinking, I grabbed the girl's free hand and threw myself into the room I had just left.

The body of the man I had shot just earlier had still not disappeared. The girl could not help but give a small exclamation of surprise. With a quick movement, I put my hand against her mouth to prevent her from making any more noise.

I whispered to her, "Are you crazy? Do you want those guys to spot us?"

She nodded but didn't make a sound, her gaze focused on the corpse lying by the window.

Ah, her first corpse... Maybe I should have warned her before entering the room.

The girl shivered as she stared at the thick blood lazily flowing from the gaping wound on the body's neck.

"Remember: none of this is true. It's just a game, okay?"

She nodded vigorously. Good. Despite the slightly distraught look on her face, she had at least calmed down a bit.

With a light nervous chuckle, I added as if to myself, "It's pretty bold to choose BRO as your first full-dive VR game, though!"

On the stairs, the noises were getting louder. They were getting closer, quickly. I could already hear their voices.

"I heard screams upstairs!"

"There must have been a fight!" said a second voice.

A third, slightly deeper voice answered, "Perfect, we just have to finish off the survivors. We're coming up, now concentrate."

The footsteps became much quieter right away. We could barely hear the clanking of their weapons and the shuffling of their soles. We had to move, and fast. I dragged the girl close to the corpse and gave her a silent order to hide underneath. She was much smaller than the man, so she should be able to slip under without any problem. Her eyes widened in panic. She shook her head vigorously, but there was no time.

I whispered in her ear, "Keep your pistol drawn and be ready."

Then I ruthlessly pushed her close to the window and forced the corpse onto her body. A breech-clap sounded a few feet from the door. She froze. I smeared her face with the blood of my victim while she looked at me with terrified eyes. They seemed to be shouting at me, "And you? You have nowhere to hide!" She was right, but I still tried to give her a reassuring smile.

Well, now the worst is yet to come.

A few seconds later, the men burst into the room.