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.

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

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

"Yes, it was a trap."

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.

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."

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

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

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.

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

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.

Well, it looks like fate has chosen you.

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.

"Can you lower the sun visor, please?"

She gave me a puzzled look but complied anyway. 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 roar answered. It was almost too good to be true.

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.

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.

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

I shook my head.

"Of course not!"

Her face morphed into a grimace of fear. I burst out laughing and decided to step on the gas.

Rin shouted, "I want to get off!"

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.

"Never again."

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.

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

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

"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."

"And how many accidents?

I didn't answer.

"Do I have to repeat my question?"

I grumbled.

"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?"

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

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

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

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.

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.

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, and 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.

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.

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."

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

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."

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

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!"

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.

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. Putting a knee to the ground, 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 at my feet exploded, and the echo of a bang got lost in the desert.

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

"Mordred! You are not careful enough!"

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.

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

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

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

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

"Let's just say I have a plan…"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shouted, "Rin! Now!"

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

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

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.

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

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?"

Returning his attention to me, he smiled broadly.

"A duel!"

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