Chapter 24:

Alone in the desert

BRO: Battle Royale Online

Horrified, Rin remained motionless for a few moments. Her round eyes stared at the corpse in horror. Slowly, I pulled her away from the body.Bookmark here

"Come on, let's get out of here. Other players will probably come here."Bookmark here

She nodded slowly without taking her eyes off the man. She swallowed, then mumbled a few words, "I wanted to help him, but…"Bookmark here

"Yes, it was a trap."Bookmark here

From the way she had acted earlier, Rin suspected that she was throwing herself into danger, probably in the middle of a trap. But she would never have imagined that the man she thought was a beginner would be part of it too. She had imagined that he was like her, and she had immediately felt close to him. Thinking that they were going through the same things, she had wanted to help him. But she had made a big mistake and had almost gotten herself killed. And to top it all off, she had taken her partner with her.Bookmark here

It wasn't hard to guess what was going on in her head when she turned to me and said, "I’m sorry... I was wrong about everything, and I put you in danger."Bookmark here

Unable to stop me, I ran my hand over her head and ruffled her hair.Bookmark here

"Don’t worry, that's what I'm here for."Bookmark here

She gave me a hopeful look before lowering her eyes to the ground. She mumbled a vague "thank you" and we started walking again. Leaving the stadium, I decided to turn left. From the top of the scaffolding, I had seen something interesting. Passing it, we soon came across a concrete area covered with vehicles of all kinds. I hadn't been dreaming, it was a car park.Bookmark here

Rin asked me, "Are we going to take a car?"Bookmark here

I nodded. We had walked well this morning, but my goal still seemed inordinately far away. If we were going to go to the desert in a day, we needed transportation. Scanning the car park, I spotted a few promising vehicles. I approached one of the two 4x4s I was most interested in but huffed in frustration when I noticed its flat tires. The second one was no better, it was missing a wheel altogether. I sighed. Unfortunately, there were no other off-road vehicles to drive on the sand. I looked around at several other cars that could have done the job, but none of them were fit to drive. Out of spite, I finally approached an old white van. I looked at its wheels and exclaimed in surprise: they were all there and in perfect condition.Bookmark here

Well, it looks like fate has chosen you.Bookmark here

I tapped on the van's body, and a nice metallic sound came out. It probably wouldn't stop bullets, but at least it was in good condition. I pushed the handle and the door opened without any difficulty. I let out a soft whistle. Even the interior was clean. I sat down in the driver's seat and motioned to Rin to go around. Smiling, she sat down next to me. After a few seconds of rummaging through the doors and glove compartments, I turned to my partner.Bookmark here

"Can you lower the sun visor, please?"Bookmark here

She gave me a puzzled look but complied anyway. Immediately a thin metal object fell onto her lap. She gasped in surprise before calming down as she recognized the object: it was a car key. She handed it to me and I inserted it into the ignition, praying that the car would respond. I turned the key, and immediately there was a roar. It was almost too good to be true.Bookmark here

Before I left, I took one last look at my holographic map. The lonely spot in the desert had not moved. It was still waiting for me. I sighed, a slight smile on my lips.Bookmark here

When did this become a habit? Every time we ran into each other, we felt compelled to confront each other. The first few times were just coincidences, but as revenge went on, we began to look for each other on the battlefield, eagerly awaiting our next duel. But today the sign was clear: he was waiting for me.Bookmark here

Suddenly Rin turned to me, "But tell me, do you have a license?"Bookmark here

I shook my head.Bookmark here

"Of course not!"Bookmark here

Her face immediately changed into a grimace of fear. I burst out laughing and decided to step on the gas.Bookmark here

Rin shouted, "I want to get off!"Bookmark here

And I laughed even more. Soon I had to slow down to leave the car park and get back on the road. Rin glared at me.Bookmark here

"Never again."Bookmark here

We stared at each other for a few seconds, then a thin smile spread across our lips. Suddenly, we both burst out laughing. This sentence had become a kind of a joke between us, a quip that reminded us of our meeting.Bookmark here

When the van started to roll down the empty road, I accelerated slowly.Bookmark here

Rin gave me an uneasy look, "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"Bookmark here

"Don't worry, even if I don't have a license in the real world, here, I must have a hundred hours under my belt."Bookmark here

"And how many accidents?Bookmark here

I didn't answer.Bookmark here

"Do I really have to repeat my question?"Bookmark here

I grumbled.Bookmark here

"A few, of course! But you can't really say that they were accidents. Imagine: you're driving along, and suddenly a guy comes along and shoots at you! What do you do?"Bookmark here

She seemed to think for a few seconds, but I resumed before letting her answer.Bookmark here

"Well, I turn the wheel and run him over, that's what I do."Bookmark here

Rin opened her eyes and sighed. It was her fault, she had forgotten what kind of game she was in.Bookmark here

Deciding to let go, she sat down more comfortably in the passenger seat. With a distracted eye, she watched the landscape go by. I kept my eyes on the road, ready to react to any danger. This kind of petrol-powered vehicle made so much noise that it announced our position to every player around, but I was counting on our speed of movement to keep us out of trouble: there was no reason to be discreet if our opponents could not reach us.Bookmark here

On the left, a large tower miraculously intact appeared in my field of vision before disappearing behind us. Gradually the landscape changed again and the residential area gave way to dilapidated buildings like the one where I had met Rin. Only this time the sun was shining high in the sky. Between the buildings, large stretches of sand appeared from time to time. We had reached the border of the desert area. The road was buried in the sand in places, and dunes crashed into the buildings. This desolate landscape left no doubt that soon the whole city would be buried under the sand.Bookmark here

I looked at my map, then turned right into a small street that went into the desert. Soon the road disappeared and we continued on a kind of barely marked path. The track gradually turned to run along the front of the town about fifty meters away. The smaller buildings were already covered in sand, with only bits of roof sticking out of the dunes. One building, much larger than the others, seemed to dominate the whole area. Its facade was completely ripped open, the skeleton of beams and concrete was open to view. Its first floors were completely buried under a gigantic dune, the foot of which forced our little path to take a diversion.Bookmark here

At about the level of the building, I turned the steering wheel and left the track to go into the desert. Then a little before the point, I stopped.Bookmark here

Turning off the engine, I turned to my partner and said, "Let’s have some fun! You get off here, and I'll keep going for a little while."Bookmark here

Rin looked at me for a long time, wondering if I was pulling her leg.Bookmark here

I explained, "All you have to do is wait here for a few minutes, and then we'll meet again. But you have to be careful to hide, okay? You lie down on the sand and don't move until you hear my signal."Bookmark here

My partner nodded slowly, slightly reluctant to get down in the middle of a desert. She complied anyway and dismounted.Bookmark here

Before leaving, I gave her one last piece of advice, "Keep your pistol drawn and be prepared to fire it at my signal. It doesn't matter if you aim or not, what counts is the noise!"Bookmark here

She nodded and drew her gun. Satisfied with my plan, I set off again. The van skidded in the sand for a few moments, then finally agreed to move forward again. In my rearview mirror, I saw Rin lie down on the sand and disappear behind a small dune.Bookmark here

I slowed down a little further and stopped the vehicle. It was my turn to get out. I left the van and jumped onto the sand. Kneeling down, I crouched under the cover of a tire, before opening my holographic map. The dot had disappeared. Well, he had seen me. Confident that the one waiting for me would not shoot me without warning, I stepped out into the open and started walking. My feet sank into the sand, but I kept my course, moving straight ahead. Behind me, I heard the soft sound of sand slipping, but I did not look back. When I was well away from the van, I turned around. Immediately the sand exploded at my feet, and the echo of a bang was lost in the desert.Bookmark here

A laugh soon flew through the air. Suddenly, a man in a sand-colored uniform appeared beside the vehicle.Bookmark here

"Mordred! You are not careful enough!"Bookmark here

The man's tone was jovial as the smoking barrel of his sniper rifle was pointed at me. I smiled gently. Everything was exactly as planned. Seeing me arrive with a vehicle, he had first made sure that it was safe.Bookmark here

He continued, "I expected more from you! You could have made an effort: our fight ended before it even started!"Bookmark here

I raised my hand and shouted back, "You seem very sure of yourself, Orso!"Bookmark here

He hesitated for a second but did not let himself be disconcerted.Bookmark here

"Of course I am! I'm not sure how you're going to get through this one!"Bookmark here

"Let's just say I have a plan…"Bookmark here

This time, he glanced around feverishly, looking for a threat.Bookmark here

I continued in a provocative tone, "But go ahead and shoot! You'll see what happens!"Bookmark here

Faced with my deceitful smile, his smile faded. He straightened his weapon in front of him, then pointed it at me.Bookmark here

"Your car is empty, you're alone, and if you make the slightest move I'll shoot! You're screwed, Mordred!"Bookmark here

My smile grew even wider. Orso was stamping his feet, not understanding where my confidence came from.Bookmark here

I shouted at him in a worrying tone, heavy with innuendo, "But who said I was alone?"Bookmark here

Despite the distance, his face seemed to drop and his eyes widened.Bookmark here

I shouted, "Rin! Now!"Bookmark here

Immediately, a bang echoed, and the ground exploded about ten centimeters from my rival. He gasped as I made round eyes.Bookmark here

Did she aim? No, it can't be... Was it a lucky shot then?Bookmark here

I shook my head, repressing my questions. The details didn't matter, only the result: my partner's shot had had the desired effect and even more.Bookmark here

Without losing my facade of self-confidence, I said to him, "So what do you say? If you kill me, my ally kills you."Bookmark here

Rin chose that moment to appear, standing on the small dune above us, her gun pointed at my rival. Orso stared at her. I didn't want him to notice our bluff, I said in the same tone, "What shall we do?"Bookmark here

Returning his attention to me, he smiled broadly.Bookmark here

"A duel!"Bookmark here

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