Chapter 3:

The leap of faith

BRO: Battle Royale Online

Pushing away the corpse of our aggressor, I let myself fall on my back. This skirmish had exhausted me. All the tension I had accumulated suddenly escaped from my body with a deep sigh. Curled up a few inches from my head, the girl looked at me with a blank stare. We had survived. She couldn't seem to believe it. To tell the truth, I had thought myself I was going to die several times. This was the first time I had been forced to use this kind of method. Typically, I would shoot down my enemies in a flash before they were even aware of my presence. Whether it was with a sniper rifle or a knife, if I had managed to climb so high in the rankings and build a solid reputation, it was thanks to the speed and cleanliness of my kills. Usually my opponent was dead before he had even noticed the slightest danger. And I had to admit that this was a source of pride for me.

But here... What had just happened in this small room of an abandoned building was far from satisfying me. I had been forced to improvise from beginning to end, always dancing on the tightrope. And to top it all off, for the first time I wasn't alone. She had put me in danger and yet she had ended up saving my life. To my amazement, I was glad she was there.

My eyes met hers. Although she appeared deeply shaken by the latest events, she seemed to remain strong. I had underestimated her. As I gently smiled at her, she burst into tears.

Aaah I didn't see that coming!

I sat up painfully and leaned against the wall before putting an arm behind her shoulders. She let herself fall against me, before curling up into my neck.

"I shot... I thought I had killed him. I could have killed him!"

Her words were interspersed with sobs, but I could understand why she was in such a state: it was the first time she had used a gun against a man.

In just a few minutes she had seen a dead body, people had died in front of her and she had shot someone with the intention of killing. That was a lot for a first-timer, especially for someone like her.

"Shh, it's all right now. It's all over now."

She couldn't hear me. She was close to me, but her mind was elsewhere. She kept repeating a few words over and over, swaying nervously. Her heart rate was racing.

"Please calm down, if you keep getting excited like this you'll be disconnected. The game will think you're having a stroke or something and disconnect you for safety!"

I didn't dare push her for fear of making things worse but my words didn't reach her. Nothing helped. No matter how much I spoke to her calmly or hugged her gently, she remained completely sealed off from the outside world. I could feel her heart beating next to me, thinking only a few seconds remained before she was forcibly disconnected. As a last resort, I grabbed her shoulders firmly, forcing her to look into my eyes.

"STOP!" I shouted at the top of my lungs, before resuming in a tone that I wanted to be encouraging, "Try to calm down, if you disconnect now you won't be able to get over your fear! It won’t be your choice! But I know you can do it, you are stronger than you think."

At this point, I couldn't tell if my words had reached her or if they had the desired effect. Her eyes fluttered for a few seconds and then her body went limp. Before she collapsed against me, I thought I heard her whisper a few words. Although I understood almost none of them, I could at least make out one quite clearly: "Thank you." Exhausted, she fell asleep against me.

That was fast!

As her head bobbed gently against my shoulder, I looked at her figure, soothed by a dreamless sleep. She exuded an aura of wholeness and innocence despite her tear-stained and blood-stained face. To my astonishment, I found a certain heartbreaking beauty in the contrast that emanated from the scene. Peace and violence... two sides of the same coin...

I laughed nervously.

Ha! So I'm still capable of this kind of silly thinking and grotesque feeling! I thought I'd changed more than that... But then again, I still can't seem to get over that sort of thing.

She uttered a slight grunt and I turned my attention back to her. I would soon have to decide what to do with her. I knew she was a weak point and had no business being in this world, but I didn't have the heart to give her up just yet.

The minutes passed, disturbed only by the faint moans that escaped from the sleeper and the clicking of my tactical watch. The light from the holographic map reflected off the puddles slowly forming on the concrete. Outside, the rain was pouring down on the asphalt, but no other noise disturbed our peace.

I confirmed the position of the clashes on the map. For every bullet shot, a red dot appeared on the plan. Luckily, none of these dots were close to our position: the main clashes seemed to be concentrated in the Forest to the west and the Desert to the east. On the other hand, the icon indicating the objective had disappeared. I thought for a few more minutes about what to do now that my objective had been reached by an opponent.

Contorting myself as best I could so as not to wake the sleeping girl, I reached out to retrieve the rifle of the man who had attacked us as well as our two pistols, still lying on the concrete. We'd been really lucky this time.

Well, despite all these setbacks, my plan remained the same: my main objective was still the drop point. Even though other players have probably already been there, I'd be very surprised if they took everything. And even if I didn't find any equipment, I was sure I would find tracks leading to other players.

Outside, the noise of the drops was swelling. What was just a light shower a short while ago was turning into a real storm. A gust of wind blew the rain into our shelter, pulling me out of my thoughts. The night was already falling, it was time to leave.

Gently, I shook the girl awake, we had to leave this place and I had no desire to carry her. She flickered her eyes for a few seconds before noticing the drool dripping from her chin onto my shoulder. She wiped it off, embarrassed, and then walked away from me. Her face quickly darkened as soon as she finished emerging completely.

"I’m sorry for all this..." she said, sounding teary-eyed again. "Please forget everything you just saw. It wasn't me. I really wasn't up to it. I know that, but…"

She searched for words and stumbled over every syllable, obviously still shaken. With a wave of the hand, I put an end to her hesitation.

"We don't have time for this: it will soon be dark and I don't want to spend the night in such an open place."

Before she could react, I said, "You can stay here if you want, but it will be without me. If you want a last piece of advice: you'd better spend the night underground. Hopefully, it will be deep enough to escape the radar. At least that's what I'm going to do on my side."

Her eyes widened.

"What do you mean by 'on your side'?" brushing away her tears she added, "You're abandoning me?"

"Look, I can't take you with me right now. You're too weak and too unstable. What would I do if you happened to do the same thing in the middle of a fight? Do you think the opponent will feel sorry for you because you are a girl or because you are crying? You'd only be a burden to me... You'd better give up now. Here, take this gun."

She reflexively took the pistol I was holding out to her.

"Put the barrel in your mouth and pull the trigger. If you want to stop everything, this is the only way to disconnect."

Shocked, she fell silent. She stared at the gun for a moment before dropping it as if it had burned her hands. The weapon I had picked up fell back on the floor.

"If you want to be safe, shoot yourself and never come back to this game. Think about it as much as you’d like: you can either disconnect or leave on your own. There is no shame in choosing to abandon, if you do so this will all soon be a bad dream for you."

Slowly, she fell to her knees. Her tears began to flow silently again. Without a word, I walked over to her and slipped the gun she had just dropped into her hands. I gently stroked her head and muttered a soft "Good luck" before leaving the room. With a heavy heart, I descended the concrete staircase. With every step I took, a leaden blanket fell over my shoulders. I still hated playing the bad guy. Strangely enough, I had become so attached to this stranger that I genuinely wished she could accompany me. But I knew that deep down it wasn't the right thing to do. For her own good, it was best to stop here. If she came with me, everything would only get worse, she would end up broken and I didn't want to see that. As I reached the entrance hall, a bang echoed.

It was sad but she had done the right thing.

As I walked out into the street, the rain soaked my clothes in a split second. The storm was raging. Almost instinctively I looked up at the upstairs window where I had left the girl. I didn't really know what I was looking for, perhaps a slight wisp of smoke blowing in the wind, but there was nothing there. Slowly, I turned around, ready to close the book on our short misadventures.

Suddenly, I heard a scream. I turned around in a flash. Squinting to see through the gusts of rain, I saw a figure straddling the window sill. She made a gesture that I could hardly make out and then a gun landed at my feet. With a trembling hand, I picked it up. Despite the rain, it was still warm. The shot had been fired, but the person who was spreading her arms over the void was alive and well.

At least for the moment.

I rushed under the window to catch the idiot who had found nothing more theatrical than to make a leap of faith to join me. She took a semblance of momentum and then jumped with a slight scream that got lost in the rain. The next moment she landed heavily in my arms. Unable to bear the shock, we both collapsed to the ground.

Rolling painfully on the concrete, I turned to her, ready to give her a dressing down. Only to be caught off guard when I saw her panting face: she was laughing.

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