Chapter 25:

Duel in the dunes

BRO: Battle Royale Online

A slight laugh escaped me as Orso lowered his sniper rifle. Behind him, Rin hesitated to do the same. I signaled to her that she could put her weapon away. Seeing my rival start to walk, I did the same and we met halfway. Less than a meter apart, we stared at each other without moving. Suddenly, Orso's face lit up and we both smiled.

He held out his arm and said, "Good to see you, Mordred."

I shook his hand vigorously.

"Glad to see you too, Orso."

A shadow passed over his face.

"But tell me, they say this is your last tournament, is that true?"

I nodded slowly. Orso sighed.

"I’ll miss you…"

He continued in a tone of voice that showed a certain curiosity, "And… why? If it's not too indiscreet."

My face closed up right away, it was never easy to talk about it. Seeing my gloomy expression, Orso regretted his question. I tried to give a semblance of an explanation but my rival interrupted me.

"Okay, I get it. Whether it's for a personal reason or not, there's no need to talk about it."

Then, to liven up the conversation, he said, "Well, since this is our last duel, we'll have to make the most of it! What was our last score? 11 to 12 for me?"

I exclaimed, "Are you dreaming? It's 11-13 for me since the last fight!"

Orso's face took offense, "We said that this one didn't count!"

After a few seconds of staring at each other, we both burst out laughing.

After catching his breath, my rival leaned towards me and whispered, "But tell me, you weren't like this before. When did you become so... lively? It's because of her, isn't it?"

With that, he slowly turned his head to face Rin, who was watching our exchange from afar. He winked charmingly at her and Rin turned her head away, her cheeks turning slightly pink. My eyes widened.

Just as Rin was gradually changing through our alliance, it was likely that she also influenced me. Of course, I had noticed, but... was it that obvious? At my astonished look, Orso gave me a teasing smile. I glanced at my partner and our eyes met. She turned her face away again. Somewhat embarrassed by this, I turned my attention back to my rival and decided to change the subject.

"What about our duel?"

Orso straightened up, then exclaimed in a loud voice, "Ah yes! As this is our last duel, how about spicing up the game with some bets? If you win, I hand you something, and if I win, you give me something. Does that work for you?"

I thought quickly about his proposal. Yes, it wasn't a bad idea. The winner could always help himself to the corpse of the vanquished anyway so it didn't make much difference after all... I lowered my eyes to think, and my gaze caught a metallic glint hanging from his belt. A hunting knife! It could replace the one I lost! I smiled softly, yes, that was a good idea... With the little equipment I had, I didn't have much to lose either. I nodded, then turned to Orso.

"That’s fine with me. But I warn you: I have very little to offer you."

"Don't worry, I've already found what I wanted," he answered with a mischievous smile.

I arched an eyebrow but didn't think of it any further. He clapped his hands together in delight and then reached into his belt to unbuckle the knife hanging from it.

"I suppose that' s what you want?"

The surprise hit me again.


"It's easy! If you had your knife, you would have drawn it already, am I right?"

Not wrong...

Decidedly, Orso knew me well. Almost too well for my taste...

He waved the weapon in front of my eyes, then put it away again.

"If you win, it's yours. But if I win…"

He paused, building up the suspense.

"I want her."

He turned abruptly to point at my partner. She gasped in surprise, then my rival winked again.

I shuddered. No, I couldn't accept that. Besides, it wasn't my choice to make!

An idea crossed my mind.

Yes! If she refuses, he can't say anything!

Despite his grandiloquent airs and his frankly questionable humor, Orso was a good guy. I knew Rin was safe with him, but I didn't like the idea of her leaving me to go with my rival.

I mean, if that ever happened, it would mean I was dead, so... I guess I wouldn't see anything.

The image of my partner being forcibly dragged away struck me. I couldn't let that happen. Then, as if to compare, I now imagined her following him of her own free will. It was almost worse. I shook my head.

There's no point in torturing myself, it's up to her anyway.

Confident in my partner, I decided to call her.

"Eryn! Can you please come closer?"

Beside me, I heard Orso whispering her pseudonym softly. No, I definitely couldn't let her go with him.

Rin walked slowly towards us, giving me a worried look. I had called her by her nickname. It was the first time. She soon reached our level, and Orso greeted her with a bow. I almost clicked my tongue.

Oh no, that's Milena's habit! I've never done that!

I explained the situation to my partner in a few words. Her face was tinged with surprise when she heard my rival's request. Then, when I had finished, she remained silent, seeming to think seriously about the question. But I could see that she did not want to follow Orso. Satisfied, I nodded slowly. She was going to refuse and he would have to choose something else. Imagining his dejected look, a smile began to spread across my face.

He'll probably choose my sniper rifle, but then I'd much rather lose it than Rin.

My partner's face lit up. She had made her decision.

"Okay, that's fine with me!"

My world fell apart as I heard Orso exclaim with joy.

What do you mean, "I'm fine with it"? Oh, what are you doing to me, Rin? This wasn't planned at all!

I stared coldly at my partner's innocent face.

Noticing my dark look, she questioned me with a confused look, "What’s wrong? I shouldn't have done that?"

I wanted to scream. Of course she shouldn't have accepted! I had even called her by her pseudonym so that she would understand! Out of nowhere, Rin grabbed my arm.

"Whether I accept or not, you'll do your duel anyway, right?"

I nodded slowly.

"Well, now you have one more reason not to lose!"

Proud of her strategy, she paused. Then, she continued in a slightly worried tone, "You were planning to win, weren't you?"

I nodded again without losing my air of astonishment. So that was it... She had warned me before: she didn't want me to take any risks. And if I decided to take risks anyway, she would do anything to get me out of it. Including putting her life on the line in a stupid bet. All just to motivate me. My determination turned into an icy resolve. I was not allowed to lose anymore.

I turned back to Orso who was watching our exchange, a smile on his face.

"Okay, it's a deal. Prepare to suffer your 14th defeat."

Then I faced Rin.

"Since this is your idea, would you mind being the referee?"

Beside me, Orso nodded, while Rin questioned me with her eyes.

I continued, "You’ll just have to shoot in the air once you see us both in position. That's all. After that, you'll just have to take cover to avoid getting a stray bullet. Do you think you can do that?"

She answered in the affirmative in a small, excited voice. Strangely enough, I got the impression that she didn't mind the situation all that much. Orso nodded in turn, and slowly we moved into position.

About twenty meters from the van, Rin was standing, clutching the knife she had been given in her free hand. Her feverish gaze alternated between two points in the sand. About fifty meters to her left, the glare of a grey sniper rifle's barrel betrayed the presence of a desert-clad sniper. Opposite him, about fifty meters to her right, stood a second sniper whose black outfit contrasted with the light tones of the sand.

I swore, aware of my disadvantage. Flat on my belly, I retreated slightly and disappeared behind the top of a dune. Through my scope, I saw Rin's face appear before me. All trace of amusement had disappeared from her tense features. She seemed to be regretting her choice at last. With her worried look, she seemed to be frankly wondering why she hadn't tried to end the duel earlier. I sighed. She had had her chance and she had blown it.

I turned 60 degrees to the right, and my opponent appeared in my view, a hundred meters away. Or rather, only the tip of his gun and his sights appeared at the top of his dune. Covering his body and his weapon entirely with sand, Orso had become almost invisible.

The pressure of the duel came upon us in a second. No one dared move and the air itself seemed to freeze. Only the sound of wind carrying gusts of sand into the distance betrayed the passage of time. Big drops of sweat ran down my forehead, a combination of stress and perspiration under the blazing afternoon sun. The duel was about to begin. I had no right to fail, if I died here it would be a total failure. For the first time, my two goals coincided perfectly. Losing Rin and losing the tournament. Both options were unacceptable. More determined than ever, I calmed my breathing and put my finger on the trigger of my gun.

Then suddenly, a bang echoed. Two more followed within a second of each other. The sand rose up in front of me and sprayed my face. Ahead, my opponent did not move, sand flowing a little below his position. I had missed him. Not wasting a second, I stepped back and slid down the dune where I had been perched. If my opponent had buried himself in the sand, then perhaps I had a plan.

When I reached the foot of the dune, I leaned swiftly against its crest. As I was about to stick my head out, a bang rang out and a bullet came through the sand. It whistled past my ear and ended up in a dune a little further on. That was close. But thanks to this, I had been able to verify one thing: bullets could penetrate thin layers of sand.

I leaped out into the open to seek the cover of a second dune a little to the left. Less than a second later, a shot went off and the sand exploded right where I had been standing. It looked like Orso had made progress. As I ran, I saw my partner's worried look on me. I was not in a good position. Another bang echoed and I dived just in time behind the new dune to hear the bullet pass me by. I gasped as I started to climb the dune, which was slightly taller than the one I had just left. Sliding with each step, I soon reached the top. If my calculations were correct, then I should be now a little above my rival. Or at least I hoped so. I lay down in the sand, careful not to betray my presence, and then slowed my breathing. At once, I stopped breathing and stood up at the same time. I put one foot on the ridge, and with the other knee in the sand, I aimed at my target. Slowed by the sand in which he had buried himself, Orso was a second late in turning towards me. That was more than enough. I cocked my sniper rifle against my shoulder and placed the top of my opponent's dune in my sights. I fired, and a bang rang out. Losing my balance, I almost went down the dune, but I held on. Suddenly, a scream echoed through the desert. Traveling through the crest of the dune, my bullet had hit him right in the back. I sighed.

And that's 14.

I slung my rifle over my shoulder and crossed to the other side of the ridge before sliding gently down its slope. After slowly bleeding to death, Orso died and the echo of a beep was lost in the wind. As if marking the top of the dune, a skull icon floated at its peak, pointing to the body buried just below, where the gleaming barrel of a grey sniper rifle protruded from the sand.

Careful not to slip, I joined my partner. Upon seeing me, she dashed towards me, a big smile on her lips. I raised my fist in the air with a victorious look.

At this very moment, a bang rang out and we instinctively ducked. I looked up at the source of the shot and the sand rose up between Rin and me. Immediately, we exchanged a panicked look and rushed towards the van.

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