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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31. Chapter 31

Quaker and Thunder sat together with Irady in his little prison. It had been five hours already since Issa, Saaler and Flower went down into the New Victory dungeon that Irady told them off. Since then, they had received an update from them every hour half an hour or so. But ever since the fourth hour, there had been radio silence. Since neither Thunder, Irady or Quaker felt any chest pain, it meant that nobody had died. But the fact that they weren’t receiving updates anymore could only mean one thing; the group of three had run into a stiff fight. 


Thunder was breathing calmly, but was fidgeting with her sword. She knew how strong her brother Saaler was. He was among the elite of the experienced Praya players. If they had run into a stalemate fight with even his strength, it meant real trouble. 


Quaker glanced over occasionally, watching Thunder grow increasingly uneasy. He frequently opened and closed his AirMenu to make sure that he hadn’t missed any new messages. At first he wasn’t worried about Issa, Flower and Saaler. Issa and Flower had gained much strength in little time, and Saaler was absolutely incredible in both speed and strength. With a nervous sigh he looked at the time on the AirMenu. He gulped.


Irady was at ease. He watched the two guards licking their lips, fidgeting, becoming more and more nervous. He smiled. He smiled not because there might be chance to escape. He smiled because the longer the group of three was down there, the better it was for  him. As long as either Issa, Flower or Iren died, it was a good thing for him. And the longer they were down there, the higher were the chances of that happening. 


He thought back to the time when he explored the New Victory dungeon with Iren. He was excited at first to have found a friend who wanted to stay inside iSync just as much as he did. He wasn’t even scared when he encountered Yamil. Through his experience at Queenstown, he had gained confidence in his speed. 


Yamil showed him just how much of a snail he was. 


“Have you gotten any new messages?” Thunder asked Quaker even though she already knew the answer.


Quaker opened his AirMenu again. He shook his head. Nothing. 


Thunder stood up and did some stretches. Sitting in the wooden chair hour after hour was a painful exercise. She arched her back and made some cracking sounds. Quaker followed suit and he too started stretching. 


Irady sighed. He was all tied up. 

 

---

 

Safire was frustrated. 


She kicked a tree stump. 


She let out a long sigh. 


She was so annoyed because she was losing to Sven. Big time. 


There were two reasons for her frustration. The first is that Sven’s group of Queenstown players were obviously more skilled than her group. Ever since they separated at the East and West Gates, they had been sending each other data on levels and progress on combat skill of their players. While they were even at first, Sven’s group quickly gained more momentum and sped past her. 


It wasn’t fair, Safire thought. Sven helped build this world. Of course he would know the best ways to level up. Before iSync, Safire rarely ever played video games. It was only through her unique circumstances that she choose to participate with the iSync beta test. 


The second reason for her frustration was that Sven’s group had already caught three escaped players. Two of the three were the two who escaped with Irady and the other one was one of the original escaped sixteen. 


Safire’s group had so far caught only one single escaped player. And it wasn’t even a difficult catch. When Safire questioned him why he escaped Queenstown, he simply said that he didn’t listen to the instructions and felt like exploring. But when he wanted to return to Queenstown he got lost and had been wandering around ever since. 


“He’s lucky to be alive,” Safire thought with a sneer. “I wonder how the other escaped players are. If they are all as clueless as he is, then it shouldn’t be a problem.”


She raised her ring and blasted a tree into flames. In the past few days, she had gotten better at controlling the blast radius of the flame that came from her ring. Make it too small and it’s ineffective. Make it too big and she might hurt herself and her own teammates. Also, raising your arm to fire isn’t like aiming down the sights of crossbow. It is much less accurate. 


Now she could hit a tree with high accuracy. But a moving target was still difficult to hit unless she increased the blast radius significantly. 


There was a rustle behind her. Without looking she turned her right arm over her shoulder and her ring glowed red. 


“Stop! It’s me! Faith!” a panicked voice sounded. 


She turned around and cancelled her attack. 


“What is it?” 


“The NPC caravan we are traveling with is moving forward. We should also start moving so that we don’t lose them” 


Nodding, Safire picked up her bags. She left behind a burned tree. 

 

---

 

Sven was whistling. He was in a good mood. Things were going much better than expected. Along with Safire’s caught player, they have already four out of eighteen players caught in a matter of days. If Issa’s group managed to get hold of Irady in Praya, then that number would go up to five. And Irady was a big fish. Out of all the escaped players, he seemed to be the most ambitious. 


He watched some of the players, training. While he didn’t know the surroundings of his beloved Queenstown, he did know some of the methods that would be best to train quickly. Experience can only be gained after months and years of hard work. But in iSync, levels and stats also counted. His group lacked experienced, but they had increased their stats tremendously. 


He also knew that Safire was in a bad mood. He also knew that Safire was in a bad mood because the stats of his group were higher. What Sven knew but Safire didn’t know was that if they ever got into a fight, Safire’ s group would most likely win. In Safire’s frustration, her group trained less efficiently, but they made up for it with work ethic. Their levels may be lower, but instead their training was more dangerous, adding to their experience. 


Sven shuddered just thinking about having to face Safire’s flames if she ever got angry at him. 


He opened his AirMenu and looked at the map. His group was already a good distance away from Queenstown. At their current speed, judging from the rough estimates that Saaler and Thunder gave him, both his and Safire’s group should arrive at Praya in two or three days. 


Sven smiled. Once they arrived in Praya, he would finally be able to see just what Gavin had been up to. As developers they were bitter rivals. And now that he was dead, Sven was even more curious as to what his rival had built. If they found even more escaped players there, at their current pace of finding escaped players, they will be out of iSync in less than a month’s time. 


Unlike Safire’s group, Sven’s group was in an area of wide grasslands. Here, they used the wide landscape to train their Wind Boots. While none of them had gained the speed Saaler and Thunder had without Wind Boots, or even Irady’s speed, everyone had gained far higher efficiency. Probably still not fast enough to escape Safire’s blast radius if she ever lost her temper, but sufficient for combat. 


Currently about half the group was away, scouting the wide grassland for traps, monster training grounds, small towns or any hidden dungeons. The other half was with Sven at the base camp. 


Sven let out a long sigh and gazed across the landscape. It was very much like the road to Intos. He remembered talking to the graphics development team before he jumped into iSync. The graphics team had one hell of a good time developing the landscapes. For references, they traveled to every corner of the world, taking pictures and videos and even putting air into glass containers. They went to such an extreme extend because not only did they have to feed the visual data into the servers, they also had to replicate the smell and air moisture. They had to clone every aspect of mother nature. 


The Queenstown creator shook his head. They poured their blood and soul into this project, and indeed this was a perfect reality. It was what the world ought aspire to be. It is what the world could be if not for the constant need for economic and industrial expansion. 


While on one hand it was tempting to stay inside iSync, even Sven had no idea how long their bodies would last with the mind gone. There was a reason why they called this session a beta test for iSync. This was nowhere near the final product. 


“Sven!” a voice called out. 


Sven turned around to see one of teammates standing behind him with his AirMenu open. The voice belonged to a young female player called Cynthia. She was his favorite player. She was the direct opposite to Irady. Much like Flower, she specialized in ranged attacks. But she had found a specialization in extreme long range. While training in this vast grass landscape, she found that she had a knack for hitting long range targets. When Sven asked how she was so skilled, she simply shrugged. She said she simply put the target in her mind’s eye, and her body does the rest. She was a natural. But like everyone else, she lacked battlefield experience. 


“What is it?” 


“Group A has found a small village to the north!” 


Sven got up and put on his Wind Boots. 


“Let’s go have a look.” 

 

---

 

My name is Issa. 


And I am scared. 


I am really scared. 


We made a split second decision. It wasn’t a pretty decision. We simply had to do it, or else everything was lost. 


Flower and I took Iren and made a run for it. I quickly opened my AirMenu and pulled up the map of the New Victory dungeon. Normally it would have taken me a few minutes to figure out the best path to the exit from just looking at a map, but this time, desperation pushed my brain to new heights. 


Immediately I saw the shortest pathway to the exit. Go straight. Turn right. Turn left. Straight. Then the right diagonal turn. Make a sharp left. Up the stairs, past the church. 


It was a long and complicated pathway. No mistakes were allowed. Getting lost in here would be deadly. We weren’t hunting monsters or escaped players anymore. We had become the prey.


I checked behind me. Flower and Iren were still there. They too were running at full speed, concentrating on the pathway ahead, making sure that they turned corners without slowdowns as not to lose even a second worth of time. 


None of us knew wether Saaler was alive or not. Since none of us were Praya players, we wouldn’t feel any pain if Saaler died. His sister Thunder who was above ground with Quaker would be the first to receive the news. Saaler was strong. But Yamil was stronger. From short glance I managed to steal before running away, Saaler was struggling to get out of Yamil’s gasps. 


My breathing heavy, my heart pounding, we reached the exit in record time. I wonder if this what Irady felt like when he powered to full speed in the narrow corridor. High concentration, not a single cell in the brain was wasted on a different thought. Everything was on speed. 


We burst through the trap door and appeared in the New Victory building. It hadn’t changed at all since the last time we were here. It was still completely made out of glass. We had to be careful not to run into any glass walls as we made our way out. 


Once out of the glass maze, we turned our Wind Boots to full speed and speed down the streets. Iren was on my back, in a complete daze. In order to carry him while running at the highest speed possible, I had to dive deeper than I had ever before. I went so deep that my chin almost touched the ground. 


Chances are I would never be able to achieve this breakneck speed again. 


Everything happened in a flash. 


We got to the small house where Thunder and Quaker were. I dropped Iren on the ground like a sack of potatoes and shut the door. Flower thought even faster than I did. As soon as I had the door shut, she had already started bringing over chairs to block the door. Well, not that they would make too much of a difference if Yamil really came here. 


“What happened?” Quaker rushed out of the room where we kept Irady.


“Shhhhh!” I shushed him anxiously. 


If we were lucky, Yamil wouldn’t be able to track us immediately. If we just stayed quiet, we could have some valuable extra time to regroup and think. 


“Get Thunder!” I said. 


Seeing my urgency, Quaker followed my order without question. 


Thunder came out of the room. Her eyes scanned the situation. Three players. Two old ones. One new one. Her brother is missing. 


“Thunder, have you felt any chest pain?” 


Thunder shook her head. 


“Where is...Saaler?” she asked.


Flower and I were both breathing hard, doing our best to calm down. But the fear that penetrated us after seeing Yamil’s strength and killing intent wouldn’t go away. Although our bodies didn’t, our hearts were shaking. 


We had to get out of Praya. But since Thunder said she didn’t feel any pain, it meant that Saaler was still alive. There was no way she would leave without her brother. 


I was about to open my mouth and explain the situation to Thunder and Quaker when we heard footsteps outside the door. 


The footsteps came to a stop.


There was a knock. 

 

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