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.Bookmark here

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

I shook his hand vigorously.Bookmark here

"Glad to see you too, Orso."Bookmark here

A shadow suddenly passed over his face.Bookmark here

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

I nodded slowly. Orso sighed.Bookmark here

"I’ll miss you…"Bookmark here

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

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

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

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?"Bookmark here

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

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

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

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?"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. Slightly embarrassed by this, I turned my attention back to my rival and decided to change the subject.Bookmark here

"What about our duel?"Bookmark here

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?"Bookmark here

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... Lowering my eyes to the sand to think, 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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

"I suppose that' s what you want?"Bookmark here

The surprise hit me again.Bookmark here

"How—"Bookmark here

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

Not wrong...Bookmark here

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

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

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

He paused, building up the suspense.Bookmark here

"I want her."Bookmark here

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

I shuddered. No, I couldn't accept that. Besides, it wasn't my choice to make! Suddenly an idea crossed my mind.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

Confident in my partner, I decided to call her.Bookmark here

"Eryn! Can you please come closer?"Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

Suddenly my partner's face lit up. She had made her decision.Bookmark here

"Okay, that's fine with me!"Bookmark here

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

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

I stared coldly at my partner's innocent face.Bookmark here

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

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

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

I nodded slowly.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

Then I faced Rin.Bookmark here

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

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

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?"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

I turned slightly 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.Bookmark here

Suddenly, no one moved 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.Bookmark here

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. In front of me, my opponent did not move, sand flowing a little below his position. I had missed him. Immediately, 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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

I suddenly leaped out into the open to seek the cover of a second dune a little to the left. Immediately, a shot went off and the sand exploded right where I had been standing just a second ago. 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 slightly with each step, I soon reached the top. If my calculations were right, I should now be slightly above my rival. 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. Immediately 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.Bookmark here

And that's 14.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Suddenly, 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.Bookmark here

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