Chapter 23:

The newbie

BRO: Battle Royale Online

We froze in our tracks. The screams seemed to come from a point about fifty meters ahead of us, on the other side of the houses we were walking along. We exchanged glances and then rushed in their direction. I looked up to see the roof of the huge stadium that overlooked the whole neighborhood. I had a bad feeling. We turned to the left and landed at the exact spot where the cries for help seemed to come from. A stadium towered over us. Its roof was in a sorry state and seemed to have collapsed in places. It had a huge metal frame running through it, already completely eaten away by rust, while construction scaffolding still stood around it. It had been abandoned before it was completed.

Faced with this impressive sight, we both slowed down. Rin seemed to hesitate, then rushed towards the stadium. I hurriedly put a hand on her shoulder and stopped her.

"Where are you going?"

"It's obvious! I'm going to help this man!"

From inside the stadium, the calls for help were still ringing out.

Rin continued, "We can't leave him like that!"

I objected firmly.

"No, we're not going to help him. We'll turn around and go on our way as if we hadn't heard anything."

Rin protested and the voice rang out again, "Please help me! I know I'm just a beginner, but if you get me out of this, I promise to do everything I can to repay you!"

My partner flinched. He was a newbie. Just like her. I shook my head. The stranger had said precisely the words I didn't want to hear. In front of me, Rin seemed more determined than ever.

And now that she knows that he's just starting too, she'll never accept to leave him...

I sighed as my partner addressed me in a calm voice.

"Mordred? I want to go and help him. You heard him like I did, didn't you? He's a beginner, just like me. I could have been in the same situation! Worse, it could have been me screaming from that stadium! Would you have passed by and left me to my fate?"

It was exactly as I feared.

She's too nice for her own good...

So I tried one last strategy.

"Okay, if you want to help him, go ahead. Just so you know, it might be a trap. I’ll stay here and wait for you to finish."

She made round eyes. Faced with my detached attitude, she seemed to seriously hesitate. But another shout from the man shattered my plan. She nodded decisively.

"Okay, that's fine with me. Stay here if you want. "

She paused.

"You’re right, I don't want to put you in danger on a whim, so I won't force you to follow me. But please just wait for me here for twenty minutes. If I don't come back by then... well, I guess there’ll be no point in waiting anymore."

With that, Rin turned around and ran towards the stadium. I made a move to hold her back but stopped at the last second. It was her choice after all. I watched as her small figure disappeared inside the stadium while the screaming started again. I thought:

This reeks of a trap. She must have realized that, but she still decided to go... She is changing...

Left alone outside, I thought about the trembling girl I had met on the first day of the tournament. We had come a long way since then. The more time passed, the more I had the impression that she was evolving, I was even beginning to fear that I wouldn't recognize her anymore. At this thought, I realized that she wasn't the only one who was changing... I would never have had this kind of idea before.

I sighed, I couldn't let her go into danger alone! Besides, there was also this sort of oath that bound me to Milena that weighed on my conscience: I had to protect Rin.

Having made my decision, I approached the stadium in turn. The gates that closed the entrances were already almost all on the ground. I was about to step over one of them to follow my partner when another idea crossed my mind. Slowly, I turned around and walked away from the entrances. A little to the right, an outdoor scaffold was going up behind the bleachers. I tapped on the rusty beams. A bit of flaking paint peeled off, but the structure seemed to hold. I quickly walked around it and found a ladder on one side. Perfect, I had found my access.

I patiently climbed the iron bars, making sure each time that they were solid. I soon found myself at a height that would not forgive any mistakes. Despite my precautions, I knew I was running out of time. Rin, who had rushed through the main entrance, had probably thrown herself into the lion's den. Joining her by the same access was too dangerous, and I risked not finding her. I relied on my plan to solve both problems.

Suddenly, a bar let go under my weight, and I toppled halfway off. The iron bar fell with a cacophony of steel as it hit the metal structure before crashing into the concrete, dozens of meters below. I gasped. I had almost died. More slowly than ever, I regained my footing and began my ascent again. I was well aware that time was short, but I told myself that Rin would probably prefer to have help arrive alive rather than dead.

All of sudden, a bang echoed, far too loud to be my partner's little gun. I froze, listening. No more noises. I grunted.

Please don't let her be dead. Please don't let it be her...

A slight wind began to blow in my ears, but I ignored it, deciding to speed up. I had changed my mind: I had to get to the top, fast. There would be no point in arriving alive if the one I had come to help was dead.

Soon, I reached the end of the scaffolding. Through the metal frame, I could see the inside of the stadium. In the center of a surprisingly green lawn stood a single chair. A young man was tied to it. My gaze roamed the rest of the stadium and the stands but I didn't see Rin anywhere.

Looking down for a walkway between my perch and the stadium, I realized my mistake: there was none. Because of its rounded shape, there was a space of about five meters between me and the stands. I sighed.

But it can't be! When did my luck run out? When I met Rin? Maybe before that?

I had no choice but to jump. I climbed the last bars that separated me from the platform crowning the scaffolding and got up quickly. A gust of wind nearly toppled me over the edge right away. I flattened myself against the metal plate.

Okay, let's do it again, but more carefully this time.

With my arms outstretched, I stood up again. I could hardly stand on my feet because of the wind and the altitude. In front of me, the stadium seemed further away than ever. Underneath... No, I must not look down. A new bang echoed and I ducked down by reflex. I had no time left. I took two steps back, as far as I could on this thin platform, and then began to count down. Rin's face came into my mind. Without finishing my countdown, I dashed forward, she needed me. The void opened up beneath my feet as the wind whistled past my face. I reflexively flailed my arms for a moment and then a violent shock went through my legs. I had done it. I had landed on the other side. I breathed a sigh of relief as I stood up on my wobbly legs.

Then a clicking sound echoed at my temple. A gun being cocked. I turned in a flash, ready to dive.

Hidden in the shadow of a pillar, Rin trembled behind her weapon. Our stunned eyes met.


Giving her a dark look, I hissed her name between my teeth. She promptly lowered her weapon.

"I’m sorry! I... I don't know, that must be a reflex of some kind."

Once again, my partner was after my life. This bad habit was slowly starting to worry me.

"Why are you only aiming when it's against me?"

She exclaimed, "That’s not true! I also aimed at Virion!"

I grumbled.

Yes, well, it's sure that she had done well there... But it was the only time!

Rin became slightly flustered by my successive attacks. Little by little our debate became more heated and the tone rose.

"If you can't aim, fine! Don't aim! But don't just aim at me all the time!"

"I'm telling you that I'm not doing it on purpose! It's just that you have this bad habit of always coming up behind me! You weren't even supposed to come in the first place!"

Come to think of it, maybe she wasn't wrong, the last two times she had threatened me, maybe it was my fault for jumping in front of her without warning.

As if I was going to admit defeat like that!

Just as I was preparing a new scathing argument, a bang rang out. The echo of the shot was lost in the stadium, while a thud echoed in the stands, a little below us.

We threw ourselves to the ground to seek the cover of the seats in the bleachers.

I cast an accusing glance at my partner, "Can you explain this to me?"

She shook her head.

"There must be a sniper hidden somewhere in the stands opposite, he's the one who forced me to take refuge here: as soon as I pretend to approach the pitch, he shoots me!"

"And the beginner?"

"He's tied to the chair that's lying around a bit lower down. Since he heard the shots, he doesn't dare speak."

That's what I thought... The beginner is a bait that forces the players to fall into the sniper's trap. Of course, at this distance, with his sniper rifle, he has a clear advantage.

I smiled.

Except that I have one too!

I unhooked the long black sniper rifle from my back and lay down on the concrete floor. Wedging my gun between two seats, I put my eye to the sights in search of my opponent. I could not see him anywhere. Turning my attention back to the lawn, I placed the victim in my sights. Thick ropes held him in a hard plastic chair. I aimed at the grass about a meter away from him and pulled the trigger. A bang echoed instantly and the ground exploded. The prisoner let out a frightened scream and jumped, causing the chair to tip over on its side. He lost his balance and crashed into the lawn.

Rin gave me a murderous look and opened her mouth to protest.

"What the hell are you—"

I held up a finger to signal her to stop. Realizing that I had a plan, she fell silent, but not without muttering some invective.

Just afterward, I raised my sight and scanned the bleachers opposite for my opponent. A dark shadow passed behind the chairs.

Found him!

The man was walking down aisle after aisle, appearing to be heading for the pitch. I put him in my sights, then shifted slightly, anticipating his next move. My finger trembled on the trigger: I would only get one shot. I cleared my mind, then blocked my breath. With a sudden pull of the trigger, the shot went off. 80 meters away, my target fell to the ground. Right between two seats, I saw his body collapse and the familiar icon rise above him. I blew out a breath, I had succeeded. Beside me, Rin's eyes widened. From my point of view, the shot was not particularly impressive, except that the target was moving. But on a moving target, I was quite proud of my shot. I turned to my partner, a victorious smile on my face.

"How’s that? Still not master enough for you?"

"Well, I must admit it wasn't bad.

Suddenly an expert in precision shooting, Rin was being difficult. I sighed.

Well, that’ll be for another time...

I stood up quickly on my feet, then put my rifle behind my back. I drew my handgun, then declared, "Come on, let's go see your rookie."

A big smile lit up her face as she nodded excitedly.

We walked around the stands and down the stairs to the pitch. Proud of herself, Rin walked with victorious steps towards the one she considered to have saved. In reality, she had hardly done anything, but she didn't seem to care about such details. We were soon on the lawn. Even though I hadn't seen any other enemies, I tightened my grip on my gun, ready to fire at any moment.

Rin snapped me out of my thoughts, "If we see any more enemies coming, we can always hide behind that guy over there, you know."

She pointed at the hostage lying on the grass. My eyes widened in surprise. She wanted to take cover behind him? When she had come to rescue him? I swallowed. Deaf to the confusion she had created inside me, she looked at me with her innocent air.

She is definitely changing...

Seeing us approach, the man exclaimed, "I beg of you, please help me! Don't leave me here!"

Rin rushed towards him.

"It’s all right, we've taken care of the one who did this to you. You're safe now."

With difficulty, she straightened the man and his chair, then crouched down to untie his feet. A little after her, I joined the newbie and stood behind him to untie his hands. With her head on the floor, Rin spoke continuously to reassure the victim.

The man stood up. Rin looked up and discovered the barrel of a pistol pointed straight at her. The man smiled. Then a second click sounded behind him. He turned around and his temple hit the cold metal of my gun barrel.

"When did you realize?" he blurted out in a worried tone.

I answered with a devilish smile, "Right at the beginning."

Immediately, I pulled my trigger and the man fell to the ground.

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