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?


27. Chapter 27

“The location of two of the original escaped players? Not the two who escaped with you?’ I said.


“That’s right,” Irady said confidently. “I have met them here, and I know where in Praya they are hiding. If you give me my freedom, I will give you the location of those two players.”


I uncrossed my legs, leaned in closer and narrowed my eyes. I didn’t get it. It didn’t make any sense. Irady...he pretty much let himself get captured by us. And now he is so easily betraying his fellow players for the freedom he so carelessly gave up? Something had to give.


Without saying another word, I stood up and went out of the room. Saaler, Thunder, Quaker and Thunder all gave me expectant looks. I quickly told them how Irady said that he was born blind and homeless, and that was why he wanted to stay inside iSync. He had nothing to go back to in the real world. And then I dropped the bomb of a deal he offered: his freedom for valuable information.


“This doesn’t feel right,” Flower said. “This...this is going too smoothly. Almost as if Irady wanted for things to go like this. Something is wrong.”


I nodded. “I thought that too. But I just couldn’t really tell what exactly was wrong.”


“Why did Irady let himself get captured by us so easily?” Flower thought out loud. “He was the one who wrote the note to you. He was the one who choose the meeting place in a city he had several days to explore, and if what he said was true, meet two escaped Queenstown players.”


Flower paused for a moment to think. None of us said a word. By now we’ve all learned not to interrupt Flower when she was on a roll.


“The way he ran towards us...maybe he planned it that way,” Flower murmured. “He had the full power to choose a meeting place, why would he choose a meeting place where he would be at an disadvantage. When he saw all of us surround him, he didn’t make the slightest attempt to escape. He didn’t even have any of his knives equipped when he meet us. Why didn’t he have his knives?”


Flower paused again.


“It can only be two ways,” Thunder suddenly said. “Either he lost them in combat, or he wanted for us to capture him.”


“Even if he lost them, he could easily buy new knives, even just basic ones, before meeting us,” I said.


“That’s true,” Flower let out a profound breath. “The only conclusion I can reach is that he wanted for us to capture him.”


“But why would he want to get captured?” Quaker asked.



We all thought for a while. Eventually, it was Flower’s brilliant mind which sprung the new idea.


“He needs protection,” she opened her eyes wide and turned towards the door. “If all he wanted was to give us the location of the two escaped players, then he could have simply written in the letter at the Tea House, without losing his freedom. Now he is captures, but his custody protects him from anything that might want to harm him, since we will be guarding him.”


I reviewed this chain of thoughts and nodded. It made sense. It made a lot of sense. Which leads to the million-dollar question.


“What could possibly scare Irady enough to seek protection?” I asked.


Nobody knew the answer to that one.


“I’ll go ask him,” I said and opened the door.


Hearing me come in, Irady looked up and smiled. I looked back at him. Was he pretending to act confident, or was he actually scared to the core? What was it that would drive him to seek help from players who would obviously hate him? Was it a threat which transcended the different goals of players?


I sat and let out a profound breath.


“Irady...what are you running away from?”


Irady let out a breath, and closed his eyes. After a few moments, he opened them again.


“Issa, it is not just because of my eyes that I want to stay in iSync,” he said. “With iSync, for the first time in my life, I have people whom I can call ‘friends’ and ‘companions’. It is here that I am able to escape the torture of my life in the real world. In the real world I am nothing. I am on the streets everyday, fighting for myself, doing my best to survive.


“But that’s not everything. Don’t you think that iSync is the way life ought to be lived? It is only here that you have experienced emotions that you would have never felt in the real world. The cry from the deepest depths of your heart for the death of a companion. You cry with the greatest joy you ever felt with each hard fought victory you have earned with your friends. In the real world, even such high emotions have been dulled. Every day you follow the same routine. You have never felt such great emotion in the real world, have you? You have never felt such deep sadness, and sky high joy outside iSync, am I right? From morning to night, you go to school. Then you go to a good university, and from there you get a good job at a respectable company. Day in day out. It has dulled your ability to feel the greatest emotion your heart is capable of.


“I’m sure you have admired the landscapes on the way from Queenstown to Praya.  Great planes of grass, beautiful landscapes of lakes, ponds and pine trees. This is the way life is meant to be lived, Issa. Not every day staring at a screen, then commuting home looking at concrete walls and paths, asphalt streets and skyscrapers which block the sky. This is life. This life is closer to the way life was meant to be than real life.”


Irady took a deep breath.


“We are not so  different, Issa,” he said. “We both fight for what we believe is right. But about what scares me? I guess what scares me is that I know this dream will end. I just want to live it for as long as I can. And I don’t need anybody’s protection from what I’ve seen when I was exploring Praya.”


“Then why are you here?” I asked him.


“To warn you,” he said. “If you don’t go find the two escaped players now, you will never be able to find them.”

“Why won’t I be able to find them later?” I narrowed my eyes.


“While I was exploring Praya, I met two of the escaped sixteen platers,” Irady answered. “Together we explored the city, but then we came across a dungeon. We went inside it...and, since we were all Queenstown players, the dungeon monsters behaved extremely hostile. Then we came across...”

Irady paused for a moment and took a breath.


“We came across something. I wasn’t sure if it was another player moderator, or regular player, or an iSync controlled monster. When we first met him, we asked him what he did. With a smile he told us ‘I’m  an anti-virus program. My job is to eliminate and permanently erase foreign players’ data in Praya’. Instantly he began attacking us. I barely managed to escape. My friends however, are still hiding somewhere down there. If what that anti-virus program said was true, if a player is erased by him, then he won’t materialize as a vegetable body in his native city. He will be permanently removed from the iSync servers.”


“...then no one from Queenstown will be able to escape,” I ended his sentence is a whisper.


I paused for a moment, thinking about what Irady just told me.


“Stop,” I said and held up my hand. “I have one last question. What do you know about that hooded player outside in the forests?”


Irady smiled. “I think you will find out soon enough.” 

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