Chapter 5:

Campfire

BRO: Battle Royale Online


While I struggled to catch my breath, I looked at the map.

Perfect, we don't appear on it!

With a glance, I scanned all the points: there were half as many as yesterday! Despite the size of the map, the number of players had never fallen so fast! We would have to pay extra attention.

Many red dots appeared in and around the city. There seemed to be a big battle going on in the desert area. The industrial area to the north, on the other hand, seemed almost empty. It seemed that some big players were there and had decided to clean up. Finally, in the forest, the players seemed more scattered. Gathered in a few clusters here and there, with a single red dot in the center surrounded by a no man's land.

That sounds promising!

Luckily, the dots seemed to stay away from the river. We should be safe here for the night. Reassured, I closed my map, before turning my attention back to the one who was accompanying me from now on. Sitting next to me, the girl was breathing heavily, clutching her aching hand.

"Sorry, I forgot you were hurt."

She gave me a contrite smile, her wound still obviously painful.

"No problem, the pain is already starting to fade. I don't really feel like I've been shot, it feels more like a wasp sting, although more violent. It's a bit weird, isn't it?"

Ah, the pain system... Another particularity of BRO…

"Let me explain: in this world, pain is obviously not real. To put it simply, it's a kind of reproduction of the pain you would have experienced in the real world for a similar injury. Or at least that's how it was originally intended. Only, the Virtual Reality Safety and Decency Committee would never have let such a game be published. It would have been far too dangerous! One of their first laws states that it is strictly forbidden to make the player feel too much realistic pain. And that's where the difference lies! The pain cannot be too realistic! That's why the creators of BRO decided to replace the sensation of being shot by a bullet with that of being stung by a wasp. The pain is still significant and definitely deterrent, but it's totally legal because it doesn't try to replicate the pain of a bullet wound."

"I think I get the point. They just got around the law!"

"Exactly! It would be boring to play a game where you can't feel any pain... But here they found the right compromise: a wasp sting causes a sharp and important pain but remains bearable. But nobody is crazy enough to be stung voluntarily or stoic enough not to react to it. And to ensure that, they even turned it up a notch."

"But at least the pain fades relatively quickly. But what about the hole still in the middle of my hand, is it normal ?"

With that, she waved her injured hand in front of my eyes. A gaping hole from which a small trickle of blood was coming out appeared under her fingers.

"Give me your hand, it needs to be bandaged to prevent you from losing too many life points. It will also speed up the healing process. Why didn't you tell me this before? You'd hardly be in pain anymore if we'd done it before!"

"I... You seemed busy, I didn't want to disturb you," she said slightly embarrassed.

"Pfft, next time don't hesitate. It's bad enough I'm dragging a burden, but if this burden is injured…"

She frowned but didn't answer.

"Come on, give me your hand."

Carefully, I took her injured hand. A grin of pain appeared on her face as soon as I touched her wound.

Hmpf, "The pain is already starting to fade" you bet! It's good that she's trying to be tough, but she has to be careful not to overdo it either.

I opened my back pocket and took out a roll of bandages.

"Brace yourself, this is going to hurt."

Placing the cloth against her palm, I rolled it up, being careful not to block her thumb or other fingers.

Even with an injured hand, she should still be able to fire her gun. But then, she would have to be able to pull the trigger in the first place!

With each new twist of the bandage, she moaned quietly, trying to hide her pain as best she could. This newbie was definitely funny!

"That’s it, I'm done."

She brought her palm to her face as if to inspect the quality of my work, then closed and opened it in succession. Despite the slight grimaces of pain that ran down her face with each movement, she seemed satisfied with her bandage. She looked into my eyes and uttered a word of thanks.

I unbuckled her pistol from my belt and handed it to her.

"Here, for your own safety, you must always remain armed."

She stepped back surreptitiously. Doubt was painted in her eyes. Then, with infinite caution, she took the gun with her fingertips and put it back in its holster. She sighed slightly, proud that she had even managed to touch up a firearm.

Well, it looks like she's almost over it already. I hope tomorrow she'll be ready to shoot again.

The sound of the drops coming down seemed to be getting louder. Outside, the storm was growing stronger, its noise reverberating against the walls of the tunnel. Although the depth seemed good enough to escape the satellite, we were too close to the water level and we risked getting soaked if it ever rose.

"Come on, let's move. We have to get away from this muddy water."

Without a word, the girl stood up. She seemed too tired to speak. I took the lead of our expedition and went further into the dark. Without a flashlight, we were soon forced to grope our way along the damp wall. Suddenly, my hand met nothing but emptiness. I stopped, looking for the next fork in the road. In the pitch black, the girl bumped into my back with a slight grunt.

"Sorry," she whispered sheepishly.

When my hand found the firmness of the wall, I started walking again. Her intact hand on my shoulder so as not to lose me, the girl followed me. The sound of the drops grew louder. Further on, a ray of light appeared. A drain hole was piercing the ceiling.

This will be perfect for smoke evacuation.

"We’ll stop here, just behind the drain hole."

She nodded, then slid limply to the floor.

"Wait a second, I'll light a fire."

Curious to see how I would do it, she turned her half-asleep eyes on me. Reaching into the deepest pocket of my army fatigues, I pulled out a small red cube. Her curiosity piqued, the girl sat up slightly.

"You haven't forgotten that we're in a game, have you?"

Putting the cube on the ground, I pressed on its top. Suddenly, the cube unfolded with a metallic crunch, and a flame appeared.

This item might be a consumable that I have to buy every time, but I find it absolutely essential still.

Now that the fire was lit, we would be able to recover much more quickly and enjoy a restful sleep. All our exhaustion-related maluses would be gone by morning. Indispensable.

"Well, go to sleep, I'll take the first watch."

As she was about to comply, she turned around.

"Wait a minute! With all this, I don't even know your name! I'm Rin!"

"Didn’t anyone ever tell you never to give your real name on the internet?"

She answered me slightly offended, "Oh right, I thought we were close enough to call each other by our real names... But in that case, you can call me Eryn."

"Eryn... Rin... Yeah, that's not much better."

Offended, she exclaimed before kicking me in the leg.

"Hey, it took me a while to find a nickname I liked!"

"Yes, yes, I believe you!" I answered, amused by the situation.

"Well, now it's your turn."

Straightening up as best I could in this cramped tunnel, I declared, "In this world, they call me Mordred. But you can call me Master!"

"Master? And what else? I haven't seen anything yet that makes you worthy of that title!"

Hilariously, she continued to throw me a few jibes about my performance of the day.

"If it wasn't for me, you would have died three times already! We have already seen better as a 'master'!"

Unfortunately, I had to admit that she was right.

Tomorrow I'll show you a level you'd never even dream of reaching!

"So your name is Mordred... The Knight of Discord from the legend of King Arthur, is it?"

I nodded, proud of my pseudonym.

"Well, that’s an okay name, I guess… And you won't give me your real name?"

"Of course not, we've only known each other for a few hours. And if it wasn't for the tournament, I would never make you my partner. I hunt alone. I hope you understand that."

She pouted, then muttered something I could only make out in outline. It went something like this: "I don't see the point of playing an online game if you're going to play it alone."

"It’s late, go to sleep. You need to rest for your hand to recover."

Frustrated that I ended the conversation, she turned to face the wall. Still, she murmured a vague "Good night".

"Good night. I'll wake you up in a few hours so you can take over for me."

The rain had stopped. Outside, dawn was beginning to break. On my right, Rin was still sound asleep. I hadn't had the heart to wake her up earlier, but I only had a few hours left to sleep and I needed it badly. I gently shook her shoulder and the sleeper let out a grunt.

"Come on, wake up! I want to sleep too!"

Slowly, she awoke from her slumber and sat up.

"'Morning."

"It's your turn to stand guard. Remember to keep your gun ready at all times. If you see someone, don't hesitate to shoot. On the other hand, if you don't see anything but suspect something, don't wait to wake me up."

With these last words, I lay down on the hard ground and wished her good luck.

***

Slowly, Rin drew her weapon. The familiar weight of the pistol rested in the palm of her hand. Strangely, she did not tremble. Satisfied, she tried to straighten it in front of her as if to shoot a target. But her body shivered, images of the man she had shot filling her head. Her weapon fell to the ground with a metallic clang that echoed through the tunnel. She gasped.

Slowly, she leaned forward to pick up the gun. With her fingertips, she gripped it and sheathed it. She wasn't ready yet.

***

When I woke up, a soft breeze caressed my face. The sunlight was streaming through the ceiling grate. I sat up and looked for the girl. In vain.

Ahh, where the hell is she again!

I hurried around the camp, but she was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, I heard a rustling sound that seemed to come from the entrance of the tunnel. Without taking time to think, I rushed in. There, right in front of the exit, stood the girl.

"Idiot! What are you doing outside? Do you want to die?"

She looked at me puzzled.

"The satellite!"

In an instant, she understood and rushed inside.

"It’s already suicide to go out alone in the open, but if you do it right when the satellite is coming, you definitely want us dead!"

She didn't answer.

"I hope I arrived in time…"

I opened my map with a quick gesture, then located our position with a glance. There were two red dots on it.