Chapter 13:

Bandages and reunion

BRO: Battle Royale Online

I stopped at the edge of the hill, completely out of breath. With my back arched forward and my hands on my knees, I assessed my situation: I had made it. The rest was of little importance. I could have been blamed for the inglorious way I had used a corpse as a shield and reminded of the risk of punishment that now hung over my head, but I didn't care.

It didn't matter if anyone found fault with my methods or if the moderators decided to punish me. I had survived and I was willing to do anything to win the tournament, that was all that mattered to me at that moment. And then, even if I was punished for the more or less scandalous use I had made of the corpse, taking advantage of its indestructible protection, I did not intend to return to the game once the tournament was over. With a slight sneer, I thought:

Let them penalize me if they want to! Go ahead, take away some of my levels, or ban me for a few days if you like! Or even more! It doesn't matter anymore: this tournament will be my last.

It was full of determination that I was ready to challenge the committee.

The reason I had managed to pull off this feat and get out of this tight spot was because of the special status the bodies of fallen players had in BRO. Simply put: they were indestructible. This was a decision of the Virtual Reality Safety and Decency Committee. They felt it was indecent that a player's corpse could be used as you pleased after his death and dismembered just for fun. To prevent this, they wanted to simply remove a player's body after death. However, the two original creators of BRO were strongly opposed to this decision. What was a war game without corpses? After much debate, they came up with this compromise: after death, corpses became indestructible and rigid but remained nonetheless on the field like any other object for 10 minutes.

Silently, I thanked the two developers for allowing me to survive.

I took one last look at the two bodies lying a little behind me. It had been a very close call... I had to say that both of them were talented.

Once I had regained control of my breath and the adrenaline was starting to come down, a sharp pain radiated from my thigh. I had taken a bullet. I cursed and examined the wound through gritted teeth. Fortunately, it seemed to me that it had only gone through and had not hit anything sensitive. It should heal well, but I still had to bandage the wound.

I tried to put my hand in the pocket containing my medical kit, only to realize that I had no strength left. I could hardly feel my arms because of the corpse I had been carrying when it was far too heavy. It was at times like this that I cursed myself for having hardly improved my physical strength. But then, what was done was done, and I had no way to change the distribution of my abilities.

I don't really have a choice, I'll ask Rin to do my bandage for me.

There was something strangely pleasing about the idea. Was it the proximity of her face leaning over me? Or was it the look of concern she would surely put on as if she was worried about a complete stranger? I shook my head, it was ridiculous. Feeling some sort of liquid in my eyes, I wiped my forehead with a distracted hand before running it through my hair. When I pulled it out, it was covered in blood. Surprised, I touched my cheeks with the fingertips of my other hand and withdrew it. It too was stained with blood.

Great, and now I've got blood all over my face...

I wiped it off quickly on my sleeves, then walked to the edge of the hillside. The slope below came into view, with its giant tree behind which Rin must still be hiding. I opened my mouth to warn her that the fight was over. Immediately, a whistle passed by my ear, and a bang echoed.

"Oh! It’s me!" I shouted as I instinctively ducked.

Lower down, a small voice answered me, "Sorry…"

"And since when have you been able to aim? You nearly took my head off!"

"I… It was a reflex, I didn't actually aim. I'm sorry…"

I grumbled a little, then deciding to get over it, I said, "Well, it doesn't matter anymore… Join me up here!"

At these words, Rin left her shelter and started to climb the gentle slope that would lead her to me.

As she climbed, she began her explanation, "You know, I heard a lot of noises up there! First shooting, then screaming... I knew there was something wrong, but I didn't know what was going on!"

Her voice tinged with emotion.

"Then I heard a terrible scream! Then a bang, then nothing. I thought you were dead!" she stopped to catch her breath. "Then when I saw someone covered in blood just at the top of the mound, where our opponent was standing earlier, I thought he was back and you had lost!"

Her voice was about to break. There was no point in saying any more. I cut her off and said, "Except that I survived!"

Then, with a teasing tone, I resumed, "You could trust me a little more!"

Rin looked up and saw my face covered in blood. She couldn't help but let out a small hiccup of surprise.

"So much blood! What…"

"Don't worry, it's not mine!" I replied with a slightly malicious smile.

Rin was almost there, I offered her a hand. She quickly grabbed it, and I pulled her over the edge of the cliff.

Bringing her against me, I told her in a tone that softened at the sight of her worried face, "Besides… Didn't you promise not to shoot me again?"

Her face filled with surprise. She then blushed, slightly confused…

"Er… sorry? Do you forgive me?"

I burst out laughing.

If I forgive her? Of course!

This time I could not hold back, and before we even realized it, my free hand landed on her head to gently caress her. Rin froze. The worry disappeared completely from her face, leaving only an expression of utter confusion. I let go of her, and she slowly moved away from me. She lowered her eyes to the ground, unsure of where to stand. As she did so, she noticed a sort of reddish stain on her clothes that had not been there before. She looked up at me inquiringly, then down again, searching for the source of the strange liquid. Her gaze came to rest on my thigh. Shock spread across her face.

"Wait… You're hurt!"

Her voice became worried, and her distraught eyes darted back and forth between my wound and my still-bloody face.

I asked her, "Yeah, I know, it blows... Hey, I'm exhausted, don't you want to bandage me up?"

Rin exclaimed, "Of course! Come on, sit down here, I'll do it right away."

She pointed to a small rock lying around. Painfully, I dragged myself to the point she had indicated. Although I had hardly felt anything earlier, the pain had now fully awakened and radiated in burning flashes up my thigh with every step. I slumped heavily against the rock. Rin took out her medical kit and pulled out a roll of bandages followed by some kind of ointment.

"Don’t move, it'll sting a bit."

With her rare air of seriousness of special occasions, Rin set to work. With a worried look on her face, she approached my wound and applied the ointment.

"It’s ugly," she said. "It might take a while to heal even with the ointment."

I nodded, aware that my wound was worse than I had first thought.

"Brace yourself, I'm going to bandage you."

Without further warning, she placed the bandage on my thigh. I groaned through clenched teeth, preventing myself from screaming in pain.

As she was about to start the second round of bandaging, I whispered, "A little... delicacy... please."

Embarrassed, she stammered, "Yes, of course! I'm sorry…"

This girl definitely liked to apologize.

So, with infinite care, she finished bandaging my wound.

There, that was the face I wanted to see...

The ointment was already beginning to take effect. Fortunately, this was a game and the body's recovery capacity had been increased. Slowly, I bent my thigh. Good, I was almost pain-free. I stood up, put my foot on the ground, and leaned on it.

My leg gave way right away and I staggered. I tried to regain my balance but only landed in Rin's arms as she lent me her shoulder to help me stand up. I then took a few steps in front of her, while she watched over me.

Well, I can walk, that's already something. But it's going to be difficult to run if I can't stand on my right leg.

Realizing that I was in a rather embarrassing position, I left my partner's arms. Then, for the third time, I thanked her. But this time it was in an almost maternal tone that she replied.

I turned around to hide my embarrassment, then, deciding it was the least I could do, faced her to apologize.

"I’m sorry I worried you."

Then, carried away by the emotion of the scene, I added, "I won't do it again."

Rin answered me with a bright smile capable of making the sun itself fade.

We stood there for a moment, looking into each other's eyes. Then we both turned away, too uncomfortable in this situation.

Quickly changing the subject, I said, "We’ve been here for too long, it's time to leave."

Rin nodded quickly, then turned around, pulling back her rosy cheeks away from my view. Then, for the first time, she took the lead.

"Come on, follow me, I'll guide you!"

"But do you even know where to go?" I questioned her with an arched eyebrow.

"If we go deeper into the forest, we'll eventually find a quiet place, right?"

Not having any other plan to propose, I shrugged. Satisfied with her plan, Rin left first with determined steps. A little startled to see her taking the initiative, I started walking with a few seconds of delay. Hurrying to catch up with her, I limped along, hopping on my one good leg.

Turning to see if I was following her, Rin exclaimed and her smile faded, "You have to tell me if you're having trouble keeping up!"

I replied with a small embarrassed smile. My partner came back to my level and smiled too, also vaguely awkward. More slowly this time, we set off again, taking the path where the duel took place. Before we reached the rock where so much had happened, we passed a huge pool of blood. The two corpses were already gone for several minutes, their countdowns having come to an end, but they had left behind a huge trace. Rin stared at the scarlet puddle.

"Don’t ask questions, please."

Slowly, Rin nodded, not taking her eyes off the place where the bodies had disappeared, leaving only a vermilion memory behind. With this sight, it wasn't very hard to imagine what had happened here a little while ago. I looked down at my partner and noticed her shining eyes.

Maybe I should have told her everything after all... She seems to be imagining so much worse...

I shook my head and led my partner, who was already starting to slow down, after me. We then passed my new favorite rock. I silently thanked it for saving my life and apologized for all the injuries we had caused it.

Slowly, to the rhythm of my wounded leg, we left the scene of the battle and went deeper into the forest. The sun was barely penetrating the foliage, plunging everything under the canopy into a semi-darkness where heat was only a distant memory. Drowned in this ocean of dark green, we were on the lookout. The strange sensation that the forest was watching us, never left us since we started walking. With our weapons drawn, we advanced with caution. The vegetation was dense and behind each trunk, an enemy could appear at any moment. Despite the coolness of the shade, big drops were sweating on our foreheads.

Out of nowhere, a whirring sound reverberated. Instinctively, I raised my head, while Rin flinched. Looking up at the blue sky through the foliage, I searched for the source of the noise. Then I spotted it: a drone was flying high above the trees. It could only mean one thing: a very high-level player was nearby.

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