iSync

Trapped in an online world called iSync, Issa meets a thousand other players from every corner of the world, who all go by their online ID names. Struggling to survive and fighting for a way out, he meets Flower, a mysteriously smart girl. How will a human mind survive in conditions evolution hasn't prepared it for?

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14. Chapter 14

Chapter 14

 

Breathing hard, I put my hand on my chest, trying to ease the pain somehow. I looked to my side, Flower was curled up like a ball, whimpering in pain. Glancing over to the stage, I could see that everyone had collapsed.

 

This meant that the killer was in pain too. Neither we nor he could move.

 

Groaning, I forced myself to stand up and dropped myself onto a bench. Who was it? Who got killed? Who was the murderer?

 

It couldn’t be Saaler and Thunder. If they had any intention of killing anyone, why would they wait until they were surrounded by every player in Queenstown.

 

Surrounded...the penny finally dropped.

 

Irady.

 

Right now, everyone was celebrating at the fountain plaza. Safire told Irady that there would be a big celebration tonight, so he would have known that few players, if any, would pay attention to Square’s Inn. Probably even the Soul Driver guards were distracted, looking out of the window to sneak a peek at the party. The music itself blasted all over Queenstown, so Irady would know exactly when it all started.

 

Taking a few breaths, I stood up and helped Flower stand up.

 

“Quick...” I breathed. “Tell Sven that I’m going to Square’s Inn.”

 

Immediately understanding by suspicion that Irady had taken action, Flower nodded and started making her way to the fountain plaza.

 

I opened my AirMenu and summoned my Moon Blade and Feather’s Cross. I closed my eyes, calmed myself for a moment, then started running as fast as my feet would take me. I imagined that at this moment, Irady would be running too. My only hope was to catch him at Square’s Inn, or else I wouldn’t know which city gate he would try to escape from.

 

Minutes later, I arrived. It was eerily quiet. Besides the sound of the light breeze, I couldn’t hear anything. The two guards that were supposed to be in front of the entrance door were gone. Were they dead? Or did they join the party.

 

I had no time to waste. I busted the inn’s door open, and rushed upstairs. Looked left, looked right. All I could see was one unconscious guard. I went down on my knees, grabbed him by the collar and tried to shake him awake. Moments later, he opened his eyes slightly and tried to raise his hands.

 

“Careful...” he managed to croak.

 

I heard a door behind me creak open. With a sharp breath, I turned around.

 

Irady was standing there, with a smug smile on his face. He held a medium length, night black knife in each hand.

 

“So, it has come down to this. Ey, Issa?” he smirked.

 

This was bad. In this tight corridor, he had the advantage with his short knives. I wouldn’t be able to swing my Moon Blade properly, and he would be able to stab me before I could raise my Feather’s Cross. From the way he held his knives, his confidence stance, it didn’t surprise me that he needed a good crossbow to defeat the Gate Guardians instead of fighting himself. He was a close quarter combat specialist.

 

An assassin.

 

“What do you want?” I asked him.

 

“What do we all want?” he returned. “Don’t you think, that this world, what you call iSync, is simply what life is supposed to be like?”

 

 

I gulped. I could see where this was going. If I didn’t stop him right here, the escaped sixteen would turn into seventeen. I watched as Irady took half a step towards me.

 

“Issa, can you honestly tell me that there hasn’t been a single time when you thought that iSync was better than the real world? Even for just a short moment?” he asked me.

 

With a scowl, I remained silent. I knew he was right. Hard work was always rewarded in iSync. In the real world, you can try as hard as you want, but if you have a fever on the wrong day, your entire life could be wrecked. In this world, you could do whatever you wanted. No job was looked down upon, no job was looked up upon. Everyone was equal, there was no discrimination. In iSync, with one’s own hard work and effort, anyone would be able to achieve what they wanted. So many of the social limitations that the real world had were non-existent inside iSync.

 

I couldn’t deny him. There were times when I thought the real world ought to be more like iSync.

 

Seeing that I was thinking, Irady put away one of his knives and held out his hand. “You’re a naturally skilled fighter, Issa. Let’s make peace and join forces. Let’s fight to stay inside iSync. Let us join the escaped sixteen players and live our lives to the fullest.”

 

I looked up at Irady. Now was the time. He had lost fifty percent of his fighting power. I raised my Feather’s Cross, and without really aiming, fired at him. Before Irady could even grasp what was going on, I had hit him in the shoulder.

 

There was a stunned moment of silence. This was not what I was expecting. The arrow had pieced his shoulder, but Irady had no reaction. He wasn’t disappearing into a million polygons, neither did he cry out in pain.

 

“I know I have killed Fefe,” he said. “So I will take this hit. Now that we have this is out of the way, will you come with me?”

 

I couldn’t believe this guy. Just how could he not even flinch with pain?

 

From the distance, I could hear players shouting. The sounds of quick footsteps came closer. I smiled. Soon, Square’s Inn would be surrounded and there would nowhere for Irady to run. All I had to do was stall him for maybe one or two minutes.

 

But Irady thought faster than I did. Like lightning, he dived and closed the distance between us in an instant. I had never seen anyone before with such speed. I was wrong about him. With this, he could easily take on a Gate Guardian by himself.

 

“We’ll meet again in Praya,” he said.

 

Before I could respond, he stabbed me in the right thigh. I was about to raise my Moon Blade to counter, but I lost all feeling in my arms.

 

“Sleep, Issa. Sleep,” I could see Irady smile.

 

I dropped my Moon Blade and Feather’s Cross and fell the to the ground. With the last of my strength, I watched Irady turn around and head down the stairs. Then my eyes forcefully closed. The world went black.

 

*  *  *

 

 

“Issa! Issa!” I could hear a voice shout.

 

With a tiresome sigh, I opened my eyes. It felt as if I had awoken from a deep sleep. Above me, I could see Flower.

 

Flower? What was she doing here? Where was Irady?

 

Irady!

 

With a gasp, I quickly got up and looked around. Sven and Safire were leaning against the wall, watching as Flower tired to shake me awake. Flower was still on her knees, looking up at me. Quaker was sitting at the stairs, and turned around when he heard me get up.

 

I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down, then I decided to ask.

 

“What happened?”

 

Sven stepped forward. “Irady escaped.”

 

For a moment, I stood there, not believing the words I was hearing. Then, I dropped to the ground. It couldn’t be so simple right? I mean...with all the players in Queenstown, somebody must have caught him, right?

 

“Are...you sure?” I asked in almost a whisper.

 

Sven nodded. “He ran off with two remaining May Day players. They split into different directions and each took a different gate, it made it difficult to follow them. In the end, we couldn’t catch them.”

 

For the next ten minutes, Sven explained what had happened since I passed out. One May Day player had helped dispose of the guards that stood in front of Square’s Inn. Then the second one went behind Square’s Inn, and through the AirMenu trade option, transferred two close quarter combat knives to Irady’s inventory. Irady then took out one of the guards whose head was hanging out of the window, trying to get a peek of the party, and poisoned the other one.

 

“The knives he had were painted with a sleep poison,” Sven said. “Using that, he dealt with you and the guard.”

 

No, no, no! This couldn’t be true. My mind couldn’t accept this. There had to be a limit to how badly I could fail. I looked around. I had let them down. Sven, Safire, Flower, Quaker.

 

I dropped my head. I couldn’t look at anyone right now. I was afraid to see the judgement in their eyes.

 

For a while, no one said a single word. Perhaps all of us needed some time to let it sink in. No one was sure of what to do. What were Irady’s plans? Why did he escape? Who were the two players that went with him?

 

And above all, he said he was going to seek out the other escaped sixteen players and form a new alliance or guild.  Altogether, it would be nineteen escaped players. Nineteen players who would do everything within their power to prevent a safe log out.

 

“I’m going to go explain this to the other players,” Sven headed for the stairs. “We meet back here in an hour. We need to decide on what to do next.”

 

*  *  *

 

 

For a while, I simply sat at a table downstairs, waiting for the minutes to pass. Quaker and Flower were with me, Safire had left with Sven to help him regulate the other players. This was bad.  Irady’s escape would further lower the morale of everyone. They would start to think that it will be impossible to escape iSync. We didn’t even find one escaped player, but rather we let three more get away.

 

I had already made up my mind. I knew what to do now. Like I told Irady, “every minute in iSync is a minute lost in the real world”. I couldn’t waste anymore time feeling sorry about how I failed.

 

There was work to be done.

 

“Quaker...Flower, I’m sorry,” I said.

 

There was a short silence.

 

“It’s not your fault,” said Quaker. “Irady was prepared to escape. He caught all of us off-guard.”

 

“It’s the fault of those who decided to escape with Irady,” Flower said. “Without them, Irady’s escape wouldn’t have been impossible. It was those two who had prepared the poisoned assassin’s blades, and took out the guards.”

 

I nodded. I felt so grateful. I felt pathetic and selfish, yet I was glad that the guilt wasn’t on me.

 

For a while, all three of us sat in silence. We did that because I think in a way, we all knew that this was the last bit peaceful silence we would be able to have in a long time. As soon as Sven and Safire returned from the fountain plaza, there will be work to do. Lots of work. The morale of the players could go down. More players might decide to join Irady and rampage through the city gates. This could all easily turn into a disaster.

 

Half an hour later, Sven and Safire returned. They quickly sat down to tell us what had happened.

 

Instead of feeling hopeless and helpless, Sven told us that Irady had played his cards wrong. All the players were dead set against staying in iSync and disliked Irady from the start as he forcefully tried to get players to join May Day. When he killed Fefe, players’ contempt towards him grew. And now that he had killed one more player, anger towards Irady had reached a maximum. Of course there were one or two players in the crowd who didn’t really care, but the majority were pretty riled up.

 

I couldn’t help but smile. Finally things had taken a turn for the better.

 

“What about Saaler and Thunder?” I asked.

 

“I’ve been thinking about them for a while,” Sven answered. “I think there are definitely  some more survivors from Praya, otherwise it would have been possible for them to make a safe log out. Most likely, during the Praya Tragedy, most surviving Praya players were scattered across the landscape like Saaler and Thunder. We will go to Praya and see if there is anyone alive there.”

 

 

Praya. The next hotspot. I told Sven how Irady said that we would meet again in Praya and how he intended to find the remaining sixteen players, albeit for the direct opposite reason. Sven folded his hands together and rested his chin on them.

 

“He must have the same idea as us,” he said. “If he doesn’t want to get out of iSync, then one of the first steps is to find the sixteen escaped players and join forces with them. Afterwards, the best way to gain more fighting power is to find survivors from Praya and get them to join.”

 

Sven covered his face with his hands and let out a low groan. “My God...it was a mistake to tell him about Praya. If we hadn’t told him, then he might have given up on the idea of escaping.”

 

“That’s not true,” I shook my head. “Even if you didn’t tell him tonight, the latest he would have found out is tomorrow morning when he other players tell him about Saaler, Thunder and Praya. If he declared peace with us by then, he would simply change his mind and escape anyway.”

 

With a sigh, Sven nodded. It was difficult to accept that there was little we could have done about Irady.

 

“It makes sense that he will want to meet us in Praya,” Flower said. Our heads turned to her, surprise that she had finally spoken up after all this time. “He seems the most skilled in close quarter combat. So, if he is going to meet us anywhere, it would be inside a city with narrow streets, tight alleyways and plenty of houses.”

 

She had a point. If I was going to face an opponent anywhere, I’d want it in an environment that would give me the biggest advantage.

 

“In one hour there will be a large meeting at the fountain plaza where anyone with combat ability will attend,” Sven said. “We have to decide on the most effective way to track Irady and his two partners, and also the other escaped sixteen.”

 

With that, he stood up and left. As I watched him leave, I couldn’t help but feel worried about him. He looked so stressed it seemed as if he could collapse at any time.

 

Without a word, I too stood up and went out of the door. I went straight to the weapons shop. With a simple blade and crossbow I wouldn’t be able to stand up to Irady. I needed better equipment. And I needed more training. Just where had Irady gained so much speed? He never trained, nor did I see him wear any special boots that would increase his acceleration.

 

Maybe his natural speed in real life was like that?

 

Without a doubt, he was a powerful opponent.

 

Minutes later, I reached the weapon’s shop, opened my trade window and started browsing the menus to see what the shop had to offer.

 

I heard the door behind me open. I turned around. It was Flower.

 

“What are you doing?” she asked.

 

“I’m preparing to go after Irady,” I replied.

 

She stepped forward and also opened a shopping window.

 

“And you are doing what?” I asked.

 

She gave me a stern scowl and locked eye contact with me.

 

“I’m going with you.” 

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