Chapter 21:


BRO: Battle Royale Online

With my one good hand, I held Rin close, getting ready to take the shock of the landing that was sure to come. Below us, the opposing players looked up as they saw a human cannonball flying over their heads. The ground was approaching fast, too fast. I closed my eyes just before the impact, trying to curl myself into a ball to cushion the impact and protect my partner with my body. Then, with unprecedented violence, we hit the paving stones of the square. The impact took my breath away and I felt like coughing up my lungs. My thoughts became blurred and I almost lost consciousness as we rolled on the stone. After a few meters of sliding, I finally stopped. Rin, who had left my arms at the moment of impact, lay a little ahead of me. Her back to the ground, she seemed to have fainted. I couldn't see any blood on her, but with the world spinning around me, it was quite hard to tell.

Despite the pain radiating from my body, I tried to get up, only to fall back down. As I tried a second time, our opponents gradually turned towards us, tearing their gaze away from the roof of the disused factory, which was collapsing with a howl of tortured metal. Between them and me, Rin lay on the ground. I let out a grunt. I still had to protect her. My thoughts were still foggy, but I knew that if she went down now, then I'd have done all this for nothing. And there was only one thing I could stand even less than Milena, and that was sloppy work. I snorted as the image of Virion appeared in my confused mind.

Oh yes, there's that guy too... Well, I guess that means I'll have to redo my list...

As the men began to surround us, I finally managed to stand up on my wobbly legs. I could feel their amused eyes on me. Faced with an opponent in this state, I had to admit that I wouldn't take him seriously either. Except that in this case, they were greatly underestimating my determination. A cold flame ignited my heart.

With a shaky hand, I unhooked the weapon I had attached to my belt by a miraculous reflex. The man closest to me smiled in a superior manner. I smiled back: I was going to make him regret underestimating me!

Abruptly, I dived to the side, brandishing my weapon. I squeezed the trigger and an oblique burst came from my gun as I crashed to the ground. The man fired back and bullets whizzed over my head. My shoulder hit the concrete hard but I didn't stop firing. Turning 360 degrees, I showered generously all the players who tried to surround us.

One by one, they fell to the ground. A succession of beeps sounded in the night. This noise, which announced the death of my opponents, sounded like sweet music to my ears. Even after no one moved, my finger remained tight on the trigger. But the shooting stopped. I had no more bullets. Slowly, I took my finger off the trigger. Around me, five skull icons were facing me. I laughed softly as I slumped to the ground. We had survived...

Suddenly, a voice rang out in the night. I turned towards the collapsed roof from which it seemed to emerge.

"Riiiiiiiin! You have to run!"

Milena had survived! She had always had a reputation of being nearly immortal, but here I was frankly impressed: whether it was thanks to her reflexes or luck, surviving a rocket launcher shot was still a miracle.

At the call of her name, my partner seemed to stir. Holstering my empty weapon, I rushed to her side and gently shook her shoulder after making sure she was okay.

"Come on, wake up! There's no time!"

I sat her up and shook her a little harder. She grumbled softly.

Hurried footsteps echoed. Their owners weren't there yet, but they would be soon.

Knowing that we had been spotted anyway, I shouted, "Rin! Wake up! Now!"

She finally opened her eyes and jumped back on the alert. Her legs gave way under her weight and she collapsed to the ground with a dazed look on her face.

As voices began to reach us, I called out to her, "Come on, get up, we have to move!"

Without giving her time to answer, I grabbed her arm and forced her to her feet. She still had to lean on my shoulder, but this time her legs held up. Realizing where she was, her eyes darted around the square, stopping at each corpse that littered it. She gave me a look of concern and admiration.

"Did you do this by yourself?"

I nodded silently as she gave a little whistle of admiration. I pulled her by the hand, dragging her along with me.

Despite her reputation, Milena could never survive such an assault. To my surprise, I didn't want to abandon her, but I just didn't have much choice. If we stayed here, the three of us, we were signing our death warrant.

Sorry Milena, but we'll have to go on without you...

Then suddenly, voices rang out.

"They are here!"

"Fire at will!"

"Try to capture the girl though, she must be a friend of Milena's!"

Another man answered with a fat laugh, "If she has any!"

Behind our backs, some hilarious players had just appeared from behind the factory. Not acting time, I dived behind the fountain that centered the square, dragging Rin after me. A deluge of bullets rained on us. I drew my pistol and began to fire back. But my firepower was far too weak. Behind our shelter, seven well-equipped players moved slowly forward, firing at any suspicious movement. Soon they would surround the fountain and we would be finished.

I swore.

It can't be! It can't end like this! I promised myself I would win, so I can't die here! Especially since I have nothing to do with this conflict!

An idea crossed my mind in a flash. I was indeed just an outsider who had gotten involved in this fight, so... maybe they would let me switch sides?

I looked at Rin calculatingly. All I had to do was push her out of the shelter and they wouldn't care about me. As I tried to weigh the cost of her life, my partner gave me a tearful look as if to say, "Please get us out of here!" This felt like a cold shower.

What the hell am I doing? Are you out of your mind, Mordred? You swore to protect her, not to sacrifice her!

Before the astonished eyes of my partner, I slapped myself violently. My already low health points dropped slightly. I smiled quietly, my mind was clear again. Giving up Milena was one thing, sacrificing Rin was another. A shower of bullets rained on the fountain, sending shards of plaster flying around. I held out my free hand to my partner.

"Give me your assault rifle! I've got no more rounds in mine!"

Rin nodded and unhooked the commander's rifle, which she had never used, and handed it to me. I grabbed it with one hand and checked that it was loaded.

I looked into her eyes and said in a serious tone, "When I start shooting, you’ll run straight ahead and get away as far as possible. Don't turn around for any reason and don't stop as long as you hear shooting."

Rin instantly understood what I was getting at.

She answered me in an equally serious tone, "And you?"

I didn't answer.

"I repeat: and you? What are you going to do? I will not leave without you! I need you!"

Her voice filled with anger.

"I refuse to let you sacrifice yourself for me! You have a goal, don't you? You'll do anything to win the tournament, right? Then why do you care about me all the time? Why do you always put yourself in danger for me?"

Heavy sobs mingled with her fury.

"Why do you take so many risks to save me? You hunt alone, remember? Then go away and leave me! You've already done it once in the forest so you can do it again!"

Her face flushed as she shouted these last words. Her statement felt like a stab in the back, reminding me of my own weakness.

Behind the fountain, the bangs had fallen silent in the face of this voice that screamed and threatened to break at any moment. Their target had straightened up to tower over her partner, but neither of them dared pull the trigger, probably too confused to even think about it.

I tried to quiet my mind to prevent myself from shouting back, and replied softly, "Listen to me, you have to run. I refuse to let you die here. Once you're gone, I can fight to my fullest. I've always managed, this time it will be the same, right?"

"No! And I refuse to abandon Miko too!"

A loud voice rang out from the building, "Shut up, you idiot!"

Leaning against the metal door frame, Milena Starlust had just appeared at the top of the rusty stairs. Her left arm hung limply against her body, blood soaking her sleeve.

Hadn’t the metal platform exploded completely?

Immediately, the men who had been threatening us turned and unleashed a hail of bullets on their real target.

Milena disappeared behind the wall, but her voice rose again, "When someone tells you to run, you run! Why do you always want to argue all the time? It's such a pain!"

Rin hiccuped in surprise, her anger seeming to drop a notch.

"But you're right about one thing: you'll never make it on your own!"

Rin had shouted so loudly that even Milena had heard our conversation. Her face reappeared in the doorway, and she planted her red eyes in mine.

"Mordred! I entrust her to you a little longer! I'm counting on you to keep her alive until I come back!"

She then gave her friend her best smile, without any trace of mockery or malice.

Yet another unknown facet of Milena...

Like me, the opposing players froze at the sight of this rare spectacle. They had never had the opportunity to see this kind of expression on her face. For the first time, the cruel Milena Starlust seemed soft and fragile.

She said in a mischievous tone, "Go on, get out of here! I hope you enjoy my farewell present!"

Pulling her second hand out of the shadow of the wall, she brandished her infamous grenade launcher. Immediately, our enemies recovered and pulled their triggers. A deluge of steel rained on the factory as Milena retreated into the shadows. A detonation rang out and a grenade landed at the feet of our opponents. Their panicked cries disappeared in a fireball that lit up the night sky. Mixed with the roar of the explosions and the cries of terror, a burst of evil laughter floated through the night.

I leaped out of my hiding place and pulled my trigger. Caught in the crossfire, the opposing players had no chance. One by one, they crashed to the ground with a familiar beeping sound.

I smiled, sure of our victory. But at this very moment, another squad appeared from the other side of the abandoned factory. I turned to Rin and pushed her back.

"Go ahead and run! I'll be right behind you! I'll find you, don't worry!"

Rin looked into my eyes with determination, I held her gaze firmly. More convinced this time, she nodded and ran into a dark alley.

Good! I'll hold them back a little longer, then join her! One thing's for sure: I'm not going to die here!

I turned around, ready to fight. Milena had disappeared into the factory again, and I could hear the sound of explosions at times as the building started to crumble again.

I dived behind the fountain and shot at my opponents from my hiding place. I killed two of them, but four more came to replace them.

There is no end to it! I already thought thirty players were too many, but they must be even more than that!

I was soon stuck behind my shelter, bullets whistling in my ears with every move I made.

Suddenly, a burst of crystalline laughter broke out in the night. Milena was back at the top of the stairs.

"Do you need help, Mordred?"

My opponents turned around right away.

"Come on, don't be afraid! Get closer! I am right here! Come and fight, you cowards! I'll take you all at once!"

A deluge of explosions sounded as she laughed out loud. The sky was soon lit up as if in broad daylight. Without a second thought, I discreetly slipped away and ran into the dark alley where Rin had disappeared.

Behind me, the sound of explosions gradually diminished before disappearing altogether. Surprised, I listened for any sound that would indicate that Milena was still fighting, but only silence answered me. I uttered a silent prayer:

Thank you, Milena, your sacrifice will not be in vain.

Plunging into the darkness of the alley, I started walking again. Rin and Milena... They were a complicated pair... One wanted me to do everything to keep the other alive, while the other forbade me to do so... Rin's angry face suddenly came back to me: she wanted to stay with me as long as possible, but she would not let me take risks for her... I shook my head. That wasn't going to be possible either...

I stopped for a second, thinking about the commitments I had made to the two women: I was going to protect Rin until the end and win this tournament. Despite the obvious opposition of these two objectives, I preferred to close my eyes to this contradiction for the moment. Yes, I was going to win this tournament as I had originally planned... and I would take Rin with me. With my determination stronger than ever, I dove into the night in search of my partner.

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