Chapter 28:

As a farewell

BRO: Battle Royale Online


I sighed. As always, arguing with her was not leading anywhere. With my pistol dangling at the end of my lowered arm, I gave her a dark look which she immediately returned.Bookmark here

"Do as you like, but I warn you: I won't change my mind."Bookmark here

She replied in quick succession, "I won't either."Bookmark here

Rin turned around and started walking ahead of me again. Without stopping, she glanced over her shoulder.Bookmark here

"One last thing: don't ever try to decide for me again. I warned you once before. Don't make me warn you a third time."Bookmark here

Her tone was heavy with menace. Until now I had always considered her relatively harmless. But for the first time, she gave me the creeps.Bookmark here

She wouldn't actually hurt me... would she?Bookmark here

I swallowed, not really sure if I knew the one walking with me anymore. She had changed since the beginning of the tournament, but I had never seen this side of her. The cold, calculating look she was giving me was years away from the image I had of the girl. She clicked her tongue and turned her head again. As I stood still behind her, she called out to me in a loud voice.Bookmark here

"What are you doing? Come on! Don't you have a tournament to win?"Bookmark here

I nodded silently. The whole scene seemed surreal to me. Then, with a hesitant foot, I followed her.Bookmark here

We walked in silence. The air seemed heavy and the tension was still palpable between us. Although the setting sun was igniting the sky, my heart was covered with ominous clouds.Bookmark here

I checked our position on my holographic map. The area displayed was not far away. Soon the final battle would begin. And I still had no intention of letting Rin participate. My resolve had wavered before hers, but I wasn't about to listen to her. Perhaps deep down I saw her as a child who didn't know anything of the world —and coming to think of it, there was certainly some of that— but I refused to let her suffer for me. It was my job to protect her! Not the other way around! I didn't want to see her innocence disappear.Bookmark here

Losing myself in my dark thoughts, I vaguely noticed the way my partner was watching me from afar. Her blue eyes filled with sadness and regret met my annoyed gaze. She immediately looked away and her shoulders slumped. This pitiful sight shook me slightly. I wish we could have parted with a smile. But fate seemed to oppose my wish.Bookmark here

Anyway, I can't leave things like this.Bookmark here

In a weak voice, I hailed my partner.Bookmark here

"Rin..."Bookmark here

Despite my hesitant tone, she stopped immediately.Bookmark here

I continued, "I'm sorry..."Bookmark here

She flinched but did not answer, still ostensibly turning her back to me.Bookmark here

"I shouldn't have raised my gun against you. But I just want you to know that I would never have fired. I would never dare to hurt you."Bookmark here

As I was losing myself in apologies, a jolt went through her shoulders. Suddenly, a crystalline laugh burst out into the deserted street. I froze, overwhelmed by a whirlwind of conflicting emotions. It had always been like that with this girl. Since I had been met her, feelings that I thought had long since disappeared resurfaced, confusing me. And once again, her reaction caught me off guard.Bookmark here

Rin turned to me, and an embarrassed smile appeared in my view. She walked over and put a hand on my shoulder. Her voice filled with tenderness when she said, "I know."Bookmark here

She plunged her blue eyes into mine and continued in the same tone.Bookmark here

"I always knew you wouldn't hurt me. I never doubted it."Bookmark here

Then she resumed in a more teasing tone, "Wait, did you really think I would have done that if I wasn't sure you wouldn't shoot? I'm not suicidal!"Bookmark here

Her voice was convincing. But even so, I heard the lie behind her words. Maybe she knew I wouldn't shoot. But at that moment she was ready to sacrifice herself. It was only when I raised my gun that I, myself, knew I could not shoot. Perhaps she had wanted me to fire. That would probably have been best for both of us. But I was too weak.Bookmark here

Despite her lie, I returned her smile and the mood improved considerably. I started walking again, this time with my partner at my side.Bookmark here

Luckily, we didn't meet any of the other three players on the way, and soon we were less than two hundred meters from the zone. I motioned to Rin to duck slightly, and we walked along the buildings, weapon in hand. Detonations echoed ahead, and clouds of smoke were already rising in several places. There was no doubt about it: the final battle had begun.Bookmark here

With infinite caution, we approached the source of the gunfire. It would soon be dark and there was not much time left. I held Rin's assault rifle in my hands, and with my finger on the trigger, I moved forward, ready to fire at any moment. We were only about fifty meters from the zone and I could feel my partner trembling behind me.Bookmark here

I knew it was a bad idea to let her come...Bookmark here

The further we went, the louder the clashes became. Explosions echoed at every step, to the point of shaking the walls around us.Bookmark here

I shouldn't have come with her!Bookmark here

Looking at its boundary on my map, I stopped just outside the zone. I turned to Rin to try and convince her one last time when suddenly the sound of gunfire got closer. I instinctively crouched down and pressed myself against the wall of the ruined building we were using for cover. Looking around for a place to hide, I spotted a tiny building whose walls were miraculously still standing and turned to my partner. Immediately her eyes widened. I frowned in confusion when I noticed that it was not me she was staring at, but behind me.Bookmark here

With a metallic clang, a grenade landed a few feet meters from us. I threw myself to the ground, dragging my partner with me. Immediately, it exploded in a deafening blast and a ball of fire rose into the sky. Dazed, we both stared at the crater in the middle of the street, and then I leaped up. Grabbing Rin by the hand, I raced across the street towards the shelter I had spotted. I kicked down the old wooden door and rushed in.Bookmark here

Rin rushed after me and threw herself on the ground behind me while I leaned against the entrance wall and watched the outside. With my eyes on the lookout and my finger on the trigger, I waited. But our adversary did not show up. On the contrary, the sound of gunfire and explosions gradually faded away. I sighed softly. We were not the target of that grenade.Bookmark here

I roughly put the door back in place and turned to my partner. Seeing her clutching her small pistol in the semi-darkness of the room, my decision firmed. I would never let her follow me.Bookmark here

I addressed her in a soft voice, "Listen…"Bookmark here

"I refuse."Bookmark here

No sooner had I said a word than Rin cut me off. Her tone was dry and her gaze determined.Bookmark here

Almost in spite of myself, I got carried away, "You saw it! We haven't even set foot in the area yet and we're already under attack!"Bookmark here

It wasn't quite true, but I hoped she wouldn't notice.Bookmark here

"You can even hear the explosions from here! Imagine the violence of the fight! You'll never survive!"Bookmark here

Then, in a calmer voice, "Rin… It's not too late. You don't have to fight. You don't have to suffer for me..."Bookmark here

"I'm willing to take the risk."Bookmark here

I shook my head.Bookmark here

"No... You don't understand! What we're up against is far worse than anything we've faced before! I'm talking about the best players! You're no match for them."Bookmark here

Suddenly, a frightening scream rang out. The pain was palpable in the high-pitched, shattering scream. An icy chill ran through our team. The complaint died slowly, as Rin looked up at the ceiling in fear.Bookmark here

I swallowed, then after a few seconds of silence, resumed, "There. That's all that awaits you if you insist on following me. Suffering and pain. That's what you're heading for."Bookmark here

Rin remained silent, staring into the distance.Bookmark here

I continued, "Go away, Rin. Stay away from the fighting. If you feel strong enough, kill yourself. If not, stay here and wait for the zone to close in."Bookmark here

She shook her head, again refusing to listen to me. The easiest thing would have been to shoot her here and now. That way I could have ensured that her death would be quick and easy. But I didn't have the strength. I cursed my own weakness, then decided to try another strategy.Bookmark here

"If you stay with me, I will not hesitate to use you. I will make you do things far more horrible and dangerous than anything you've ever done before. I will even go so far as to sacrifice your life if I need to. Don't stay! With me, only a certain and painful death awaits you."Bookmark here

Rin locked her wandering eyes on mine.Bookmark here

"Very well. I accept. Use me as you wish. I'll be your weapon or your shield, just ask me."Bookmark here

She took a round object out of her pocket and presented it to me.Bookmark here

"Look, I stole a grenade from Milena, I'm even ready to blow myself up if you ask me to."Bookmark here

I grabbed my head in my hands and rubbed my scalp.Bookmark here

But this can't be! How far is she willing to go? Will she ever listen to me?Bookmark here

Faced with her composure, I gradually panicked. I had just realized one thing: I could never change her mind. As she put the explosive away in her trousers, I sighed.Bookmark here

Well, it looks like I have no choice.Bookmark here

Abruptly, I held out my hand to her. Looking at my friendly hand, her eyes widened slightly. She stared at me suspiciously, then stood up with the help of the wall. I watched her do so with a slight smile on my face. Once she came to my level, I locked my eyes into hers and asked, "You won't change your mind, partner?"Bookmark here

She immediately smiled and grabbed my outstretched hand.Bookmark here

"I won't," she replied with sparkling eyes.Bookmark here

As soon as her hand closed on mine, I pulled it back with a sharp tug and pulled her towards me. She hiccuped in surprise and tried to pull her hand away. But it was too late. My trap closed on her. Smaller and weaker than me, she staggered forward. As she was about to crash into me, I put my second arm under her neck and, using her momentum, forced her to pivot. Immobilized in this stranglehold, she gasped for air. She struggled for a moment but I tightened my grip. Breathless, she quickly calmed down.Bookmark here

I lowered my head slightly, then whispered in her ear, "Sorry… You know I don't want to do this. But you leave me no other choice..."Bookmark here

Rin grumbled something, but with her throat crushed by my arm, I couldn't make out what it was. I released her hand and she immediately punched me. But in this position, her blows were far too weak to make me let go. My heart clenched as my grip tightened. I pulled a plastic hose clamp from a pocket to tie her wrists behind her back, but her agitation prevented me from placing it properly.Bookmark here

"Stop moving!" I shouted at her in a loud voice. "Don't make this harder than it already is..."Bookmark here

She stopped struggling and I loosened my grip slightly. Her throat cleared again, she said in a weak voice, "That's not fair..."Bookmark here

I sighed. It was she who had pushed me to such extremes. I would have much preferred not to have had to do that. But if I had to hurt her slightly and risk her hating me so that she wouldn't have to suffer, then I was willing to do anything. I slipped the plastic collar around her wrists and then tightened it. Before I pinched her skin too much, I stopped so as not to hurt her more than necessary. When I had done so, I let go of her neck and she slumped to the floor. I immediately regretted my action. It was my fault she was suffering. Clinging to the hope that it was the lesser of two evils, I swallowed the flood of excuses and pleas that rushed through me.Bookmark here

As she was catching her breath, I looked around the room for a place to tie her up. In one corner I spotted some sort of copper or steel pipes that seemed to do the trick. I picked Rin up and brought her down to their level. She didn't even protest and collapsed to the ground as soon as I let go of her. My heart sank again. I felt like a monster. But, trusting the little voice inside me that kept telling me it was for her own good, I held back from softening. I moved her hands to the larger pipe and, after making sure it was secure, attached my partner's hands to it with a second hose clamp.Bookmark here

There, it's done. Now she is safe. She won't have to suffer because of me.Bookmark here

I suddenly thought of Milena and the deal I had made with her. I shuddered at the thought of her ever finding out what I had done. Thank God I would never play this game again! Surprised by this absurd idea, a contrite smile appeared on my lips.Bookmark here

At my feet, Rin remained motionless, her face lowered to the ground. I drew Orso's knife and threw it between her legs.Bookmark here

"Here. With this, you should be able to kill yourself. Or free yourself for that matter. I don't have the heart to leave you completely to your fate."Bookmark here

I paused for a reaction, but she did not move. The grip on my heart tightened a little more. Gathering my courage, I continued anyway.Bookmark here

"If you ask me, you'd better not touch it. We're still outside the zone, so if you don't move, in less than twenty minutes you'll be out."Bookmark here

Seeing that she still didn't answer, I decided to put on another layer, "You mustn't come with me, you understand? Do you see what I'm prepared to do to you if you follow me? You are in danger with me."Bookmark here

Her gaze still fixed on the concrete, she seemed to have completely shut herself off from the outside world. I sighed.Bookmark here

So this is how our separation is going to happen? I could hardly have imagined worse…Bookmark here

Turning away from her, I felt tears welling up inside me. I gritted my teeth. I couldn't let go here, not now. I grabbed my rifle again and headed for the exit. Less than a meter from the door, Rin's small voice rang out for the first time since our fight.Bookmark here

"Wait!"Bookmark here

Her tone became pleading.Bookmark here

"Before you leave, please tell me your name!"Bookmark here

I gasped in surprise.Bookmark here

"What—"Bookmark here

"You've known mine since the beginning! But you never told me yours! Don't you think that's unfair?"Bookmark here

Her face was raised and her eyes were staring at me with determination.Bookmark here

I exclaimed, "My name? But why ask me now?"Bookmark here

"So that we can meet again, of course!"Bookmark here

I swallowed.Bookmark here

To see each other again? So that means she didn't hate me?Bookmark here

With a hesitant voice, I questioned her, "But you're not angry with me? Despite everything I did to you, you still want to know me?"Bookmark here

She seemed to think about the question for a few seconds.Bookmark here

"Let's say I'll only forgive you if you give me your name!"Bookmark here

I widened my eyes. Once again I couldn't follow this girl. Under the inquisitive gaze of my victim, I paused for a moment before resuming.Bookmark here

"You know, this is not a good idea... Nothing good can come of getting to know me."Bookmark here

She smiled.Bookmark here

"Yes, it will! We can meet again in real life! I'm sure we'll get along just fine, and with Miko too!"Bookmark here

I shook my head.Bookmark here

"But no... You don't understand! If we got close now, I could only end up making you sad!"Bookmark here

"It's a bit too late to worry about that, isn't it?" she said with an embarrassed smile.Bookmark here

As I searched for a new argument, I felt her confident gaze on me. She would never give up. I sighed. I would never be able to handle that girl...Bookmark here

"Well, if you're sure of yourself, I'll tell you my name. But before I do, there's something you need to know."Bookmark here

She nodded enthusiastically, her cheeks turning slightly pink.Bookmark here

"I'm sick, Rin."Bookmark here

Immediately her smile faded.Bookmark here

"And not some little illness that's easily cured... Quite the opposite. I told you about the friends I used to play with, didn't I?"Bookmark here

She nodded slowly.Bookmark here

"If they stopped playing, it's not because they got bored, but because they died, Rin."Bookmark here

She was livid, her round eyes fixed on my strained face.Bookmark here

"I met them in the hospital. We were all suffering from the same disease so we often bumped into each other."Bookmark here

The memories flooded back like a tidal wave, forcing me to pause. I clenched my fist to calm myself, then resumed.Bookmark here

"To try and stimulate us the doctors gave us virtual reality headsets and that's how we discovered BRO. But as you know, today I am all alone. The only hope I have not to end up like them is a major operation. But the chances of success are low. Do you understand what it means, Rin? I'm going to die."Bookmark here

Too shocked to answer, my partner stared at me with her mouth open.Bookmark here

"They may be specialized in this sickness, but I'm under no illusions... The operation didn't work on any of my friends, so... What are my chances?"Bookmark here

I sighed.Bookmark here

"This is my last tournament. Do you understand what that means? In any case, I don't have long to live..."Bookmark here

Silence fell again in the small room. Rin gradually regained her senses, then stammered, "But... But... It's not possible!"Bookmark here

I shook my head sadly.Bookmark here

"You still want to know my name?"Bookmark here

She nodded. I smiled gently. Of course.Bookmark here

"Sora. My name is Sora."Bookmark here

She repeated my name softly, then turned her eyes on me. They were filled with a new determination.Bookmark here

"Sora, I will never forget you. Now go and win the tournament."Bookmark here

A wide smile spread on my lips.Bookmark here

"I intend to!"Bookmark here

This girl was strong. We both had learned a lot from each other. I tightened my grip on my weapon and left our shelter. Outside, the light of dusk tinged the clouds floating lazily above me. I turned my sharp gaze ahead and headed straight for the sounds of battle. Suddenly a voice tore through the twilight.Bookmark here

"Good luck Sora! Win!"Bookmark here

I smiled. My last fight had begun.Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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