Chapter 33:


BRO: Battle Royale Online

As I looked down, a thin ray of light entered my field of vision, filtering under my virtual reality headset. I was back in reality. The truth of my situation became clear to me: I had lost. I closed my eyes and plunged back into the restful darkness that had greeted me when I died. I had failed. Dejected, I clenched my fist.
Bookmark here

Rin's face suddenly came back to my mind.Bookmark here

There's no point in thinking about it. I'll never see her again.Bookmark here

I pushed her out of my mind. Thinking about her could not do me any good. I lay there for a while trying to clear my head. In the pitch black, only the sheets I could feel on my back reminded me of where I was.Bookmark here

The real world... I miss BRO already...Bookmark here

Thinking back to the game, my partner's face immediately came back to haunt me.Bookmark here

Rin... I hope you didn't suffer...Bookmark here

My mind wandered once again to the past. To a girl I barely knew but with whom I felt closer than with anyone else. I had never had as much fun as I had since I met her. For a long time, I had played alone, shunning any friendly player. But she had broken through my defenses with consummate ease. And now, I cared about her. I sighed heavily.Bookmark here

And it's now that I care about something that I regret having to go... We should never have met.Bookmark here

As I was feeling sorry for myself, a squeaky sound came from a little further away.Bookmark here

A caring female voice came out, "Sora? Are you awake?"Bookmark here

"Yes, you can come in."Bookmark here

The door creaked louder, then slammed shut. I put my hands to my head and grabbed the helmet that covered my skull. Immediately, light came over me. It was late afternoon, and the setting sun was already beginning to disappear behind the buildings on the other side of the window. I put the helmet on my bed and my eyes wandered to my hospital room.Bookmark here

This is my reality... I'm not Mordred or anyone else, I'm just me: someone who's just realized that he doesn't want to die.Bookmark here

I shook my head as a thin, wry smile spread across my face.Bookmark here

The nurse stared at me, "Sora… Are you sure you're okay?"Bookmark here

The young woman moved closer to me and I turned my head away to face the window, pretending to lose myself in contemplating the world outside. I had just noticed my red, wet eyes. Had I been crying? Probably.Bookmark here

The nurse laid a hand on my shoulder but I did not react. She sighed as she withdrew her hand.Bookmark here

"Sora, I'll take your headset and put it right next to you, okay?"Bookmark here

Without turning around, I nodded. She took the virtual reality headset and placed it on the large bedside table next to my bed. I felt her sorry gaze on me, then the door creaked again and slammed shut one last time. I was alone again.Bookmark here

Slowly, I turned and looked wistfully at my helmet.Bookmark here

It has taken me through so much...Bookmark here

Before BRO, we were playing a fantasy game like any other. My friends from the hospital and I had formed a guild. But when the first of us left, connecting to this other world became too difficult. Around our guild table, his absence was all too painful.Bookmark here

That's when we discovered BRO. Another way out. The doctors who urged us to use the helmets they had given us were at first skeptical about the violence of the game, but seeing the progress we were making and the bond we now had, they came to accept our passion.Bookmark here

They were the ones who had pushed us to try virtual reality. For me, it was only when I joined this specialized center a few years ago that I discovered the joy of visiting these other worlds. Before that, when I was still living like any other teenager, I had never been attracted to such things. My life was exciting enough as it was, so why would I need to seek out another reality? But now that it had taken an unexpected turn, it was only in these other worlds that I felt alive.Bookmark here

Sharing these thoughts, I quickly befriended the other young people at the hospital. Nami, Rei, Alan, Roman... All of them dreamed of one thing: to escape from their reality to dream a little more. But of course, reality caught up with us. And one by one, we all had to accept it. Soon it would be my turn.Bookmark here

But suddenly, Rin's face came back to my mind.Bookmark here

"I will not leave without you! I need you!"Bookmark here

Her words had the effect of a shock. Faced with her angry, tearful face, I didn't know what to say at the time. But now... Now, I knew what to say.Bookmark here

Me too, Rin. Me too…Bookmark here

A new wind swelled inside me. I refused to give up. I would survive, the operation would be successful, and I would heal. And finally, I would find Rin. I only knew her name, but it didn't matter: I was sure I would recognize her, even if we were lost in a huge crowd.Bookmark here

As my resolve strengthened, I sat on the edge of my bed. Reaching out, I opened the window and a cool wind immediately caressed my face, blowing the thin curtains aside.Bookmark here

Suddenly, a voice came from the square below.Bookmark here

No! It can't be!Bookmark here

I jumped to my feet and rushed to the window.Bookmark here

A shout rang out at once, "Mordred!"Bookmark here

I would have recognized that voice among a thousand.Bookmark here

I poked my head out and looked down. I immediately met the clear blue eyes of a young girl with brown hair.Bookmark here

"Rin!" I shouted back.Bookmark here

Despite her different hair, her face and eyes hadn't changed. She still exuded the same cheerful and mischievous aura. I would have recognized her even in the middle of a festival.Bookmark here

When our eyes met, a huge smile stretched our lips.Bookmark here

Behind her, stood another girl, a little shorter, whom I did not know.Bookmark here

To cover the distance between us, I shouted again, "How did you find me?"Bookmark here

"I searched! There are not twenty-thousand centers that use virtual reality for their patients! And then, I'll just say that I got lucky to find you in the first one I tried!"Bookmark here

My eyes widened.Bookmark here

"Were you really going to go through every center one by one while shouting my nickname?"Bookmark here

"Yes, why?"Bookmark here

A laugh escaped me. She was always true to herself.Bookmark here

Rin shouted again, "Mordred! I have to tell you something!"Bookmark here

Around me, new faces appeared at other windows, curious to know what was going on. As I blushed inconspicuously, wondering what she could possibly say that was so important, my partner continued.Bookmark here

"Thank you!"Bookmark here

Was it just for that?Bookmark here

I shook my head.Bookmark here

"I'm the one who thanks you!"Bookmark here

Had she come only to hear me thank her as we had agreed?Bookmark here

Just as I was about to repeat myself with more spirit to please her, she cut me off.Bookmark here

"No, you don't understand! Thanks to you I won the tournament!"Bookmark here

My eyes widened in surprise.Bookmark here

What? She won the tournament?Bookmark here

I quickly pulled out my phone and went to the official BRO website. The first line, written in huge letters, said: "BRO's 8th tournament won by a total stranger?" Was this true? It was all over the net: a beginner, a girl from nowhere who no one had ever heard of, was winning the annual tournament of a game that had become mythical. People were going crazy about it and messages were flying by at an incredible speed. The tournament had already ended hours ago, but the craze for the unknown girl seemed to go on forever.Bookmark here

I was dumbfounded.Bookmark here

Downstairs, Rin became impatient, "Well?"Bookmark here

I bowed my head, not understanding what she wanted from me. But with her rosy cheeks and her chest puffed out with pride, I finally understood.Bookmark here

In a playful tone, I exclaimed, "Bravo Rin! It seems that the student has surpassed the master!"Bookmark here

His smile widened even more.Bookmark here

I continued, "So you managed to beat Milena, the traitor?"Bookmark here

Immediately, her smile faded away, and the girl behind her swayed from one foot to the other. She nodded slowly, but her face closed slightly.Bookmark here

Then, in an embarrassed voice, she said, "Actually, Miko would like to apologize for what she did to you…"Bookmark here

I unconsciously clutched the windowsill until my knuckles turned white.Bookmark here

Is it that girl? That innocent-looking girl is Milena Starlust? The one everyone is trying to bring down?Bookmark here

I couldn't believe my eyes. Then suddenly, she came forward and bowed sharply. Her long, black hair swung around her face. Her eyes were riveted to the ground, but her voice still rose.Bookmark here

"Mordred… I'm sorry. Perhaps I got a little carried away."Bookmark here

Rin immediately slammed the edge of her hand down on her friend's skull.Bookmark here

"Ouch! Well, okay! I definitely got too carried away! Please forgive me!"Bookmark here

I nodded, then Miko raised her head and glared at me. She clicked her tongue and then looked away as if the sight of me bothered her. I sighed. Milena would always be Milena.Bookmark here

Rin came and stood in front of her, nudging her in the ribs. Then she looked up at me again.Bookmark here

"Mordred! Don't you dare give up, okay? You better get well!"Bookmark here

I smiled again at her sparkling eyes.Bookmark here

"Of course! You'll never make it without me!"Bookmark here

Rin laughed, then resumed in her usual mischievous tone, "You have to be in shape to watch me win the next tournament again!"Bookmark here

I laughed back.Bookmark here

"Are you dreaming? I am the one who's going to win the next tournament!"Bookmark here

Milena suddenly raised her head with a wide smile as if she had only been waiting for this moment to intervene. But seeing our beaming faces fixed on each other. She preferred to remain silent and only grumbled something I couldn't hear.Bookmark here

Then hospital security appeared and the two young women ran off, their laughter rising into the air.Bookmark here

Turning to me one last time, Rin shouted, "I'm counting on you! See you soon, Sora!"Bookmark here

And that was it, I was no longer allowed to die.Bookmark here

For the first time, I looked forward to the future. If it was with Rin, then I felt I could do the impossible. I would survive, and I would play with her again. I was certain that only this bright future awaited me.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

In the young man's pocket, a phone vibrated and its screen lit up. At the top of the screen, a banner appeared. If he wasn't lost in his thoughts, with a silly grin on his face, he would probably have read these words: "Unexpected teams were the heart of the tournament this year. So the next 9th BRO tournament will be a new experiment open only to teams of players! Better prepare yourself! And see you next year!"Bookmark here

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