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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34. Chapter 34

 

Praya

 

We made eye contact. 


I froze. I did not move. 


Blankly, she stared at me, her eyes cold and unmoving. This mysterious female player with silver hair held out her arms wide as if she wanted to give me a hug. For one short moment I wondered what she meant by that, but I didn’t have to wait long. 


She entered a familiar stance. She focused her weight on her feet and her shoes began to glow blue. Wind Boots. 


I had a few seconds to make a decision. I could either quickly get off the roof, or stay here and see what she wanted to do. If I moved to the ground, if it came to combat, I would have no advantages. But if I stayed up here, even if she ran over right now, she wouldn’t be able to jump to the roof without any help. I reached for my Feather’s Cross. 


What happened next was difficult for my mind to grasp. It was a powerful reminder that in iSync, we shouldn’t take anything for granted. 


The silver haired girl launched off and left a visible trail of dust behind her. In less than a moment, she was within a fifty meters of the hideout house. She jumped and with the momentum of her incredible speed, she flew the last fifty meters. And then she landed...right on top of me. 


Stupefied by what just had happened, I couldn’t even raise my sword to shield myself. Grabbing me by both forearms, she pinned me down and we tumbled down the roof. I now realized why she had no weapon in her hand. Her finger nails dug into my arms, preventing me from moving or drawing a weapon. As we tumbled down the roof, she used her claws as hooks and forcefully swung me downwards, making sure that I made contact with the ground first and served as a pillow. 


I hit the ground with the back of my head. Unfortunately, I didn’t faint from the pain. Instead, I remained on the painful fine line between consciousness and sweet blackout. I glanced to my side, she had her claws firmly planted in both of my arms. I couldn’t move. 


I looked up at her. Her eyes were cold and vacant. I sensed that even if I tried talking to her, it would only lead to more pain. But there was no talking that needed to be done. In order to finish me off, she would have to let go of one of my arms to make the final strike. If she did that, I would have one free arm to fight back. 


Refusing to blackout, I waited for her move. Big mistake. She pushed herself back and stretched her neck backwards. She was planning on knocking me out with her forehead. 


“Quaker!” I screamed. This was no time for heroic pride or any code of conduct. Shameful or not, I desperately screamed for help. 


At that moment, a flash appeared before me. The silver haired girl’s claws were ripped out and I could feel a gust of wind. It must have been Thunder. Only she had this kind of speed. 


I quickly stood up and saw that Irady had the silver haired girl pinned to the ground with two of his assassin’s knives stabbed through her hands. Before I could even wonder why he was out of captivity, he raised his head and knocked her out with his forehead. There wasn’t the slightest bit of hesitation in his movements. 


He stood up, slightly unsteady, dizzy from using his own head as a weapon.


Automatically, I took my Feather’s Cross and pointed it at Irady. I remembered what happened the last time I held him at gun point. I got into position to kick him in the throat if he dived low to attack me. 


Irady ran towards me. I put my finger on the trigger. Right when I was about to fire, he quickly ducked, ran past me without giving me second look. I turned around to see that instead of running away he ran back into the house. 


What?


With my mouth half open, I didn’t even know what to say. Did Irady just safe me, and instead of escaping he voluntarily went back to captivity? 


I looked back at the silver haired girl. Irady didn’t even bother to tie her up. He simply left her unconscious on the ground. What was so urgent that he couldn’t be bothered to tie up a defeated opponent? Or at least finish her off? 


I hurried back into the house. I stopped dead in my tracks. Quaker, Flower, Thunder, Iren and Irady were all busy collecting every piece of furniture and throwing at against the door. I didn’t have to ask to find out why. There was the sound of knocking at the door. But it wasn’t just the sound of a single knock. Dozens of fists were knocking against the door. 


“What is going?!” I shouted.


With his back pushing against the pile of furniture, Quaker turned around. 


“When I helped you jump to the roof, I think we made too much noise. Suddenly they were...”


The knocking sound on the door intensified. With a grunt, Quaker stopped talking and pushed back harder. Irady and Iren took more pieces of furniture and added them to the pile. 


I swallowed. Maybe this was Yamil’s plan. Have the army of dead players trap us, then send in the strongest close quarter combat player in Praya to finish us. He could continue guarding his New Victory dungeon while cleaning up the city. 


There must be a way out. If we all used our Wind Boots, we might be able to outrun the hoard of players. I glanced behind. The backdoor was still open. Perhaps Yamil’s programming wasn’t so sophisticated after all. 


“Let’s go through the backdoor! Equip your Wind Boots!” I shouted. 


“Iren doesn’t have any!” Flower shouted back. 


Urgh. She was right. If I carried Iren, it would slow me down and both of us might die. If we tried to escape without Iren, he would definitely get killed and no Queenstown player will be able to log out. 


An idea hit me. The silver haired girl. She had Wind Boots. 


I rushed out of the backdoor. With a profound sigh, I came to a stop. Give me a break already. The silver haired girl was already on her feet. Without giving me the slightest bit of attention, she patted the dust off her shoulders. My eyes wandered to her feet. The boots she wore looked different from mine. There were symbols and lines of writing stitched into the leather. Those must have been Praya Wind Boots. Even if I gave them to Iren, there was no guarantee that Queenstown players would be able to equip Praya equipment. 


She turned to me. Her eyes were looking right past me. It seemed as if she was focused on the noise inside the hideout house. 


Oh, no. With her powerful claws, if she got into the tight space where the rest of the group was blockading the door, it would be a bloody massacre. I drew out my Star’s Cut. She will not pass.


She cracked her neck, then slowly walked towards me. I took a step back so that my body covered the back door. 


“Issa! What are doing?!” I heard Quaker shout.


I didn’t respond. At this rate, Quaker and the others wouldn’t be able to hold out much longer in there. But if I let this silver haired girl in, we wouldn’t last another moment. 


The girl stopped right in front of me. We were the same height. She looked me right in the eyes. The blank look in her eyes had vanished. Instead it appeared as if she was annoyed. One of her eyes narrowed, looking at me as if I was some fly on her plate of food. 


“Move,” she said with a low sigh. 


I froze completely. Not a single cell in my body dared to move. It wasn’t the refusal to follow her instructions. It was the natural reaction of fear when a creature was face to face with another being who so much more powerful than them that they seemed divine. 


She raised her hand slightly and gave me a gentle push by the shoulder. Automatically I stepped to the side, making way for her. It was the first time my body had this kind of reaction. Even against the Gate Guardians of Queenstown and Praya I had the will to fight.  The Tortured One down in the Intos dungeon did not have such an aura. This girl who was the same size as me, who seemed rather thin and frail up close had such an overwhelming presence that I did not even fear for my life. I could sense that if she wanted me dead, I would have been dead before I even hit the ground falling from the roof. Next to her, wether I lived or died was not for me to choose. 


Calm and collected, she strolled past me and into the hideout. 


“Issa?” I could hear Flower shout. 


“Who is that?” Thunder asked.


“The he-” I could hear Irady start but he stopped before he could finish. 


The silver haired girl did not kill any of them. If she did, I would have felt the pain in my chest. Suddenly, the sound of struggle, pushing and moving furniture all stopped. The sounds of Irady and Iren running around stopped. 


I could hear the silver haired girl speak. “Move.” 


There was the sound of everyone taking a few steps back. Not single word was spoken by any of them. 


Fighting my basic animal instincts, I forced my body to turn around. It felt like my entire body was made of lead, but I managed to move one leg forward, then another. My heart pounding with adrenaline, I managed to get into a position where I could see what was happening. 


The silver haired girl stood in front of the barricade of furniture with her arms stretched out. Her claws had grown to similar length of the Tortured One. Quaker, Flower, Iren, Irady and Thunder stood to the side, their bodies frozen.


What happened next was an awesome display of power. 


With two quick strokes, the silver haired girl vaporized the furniture, door and the front wall. We came face to face with the barrage of dead players. But none of us had any reaction to seeing dozens of elite players right in front of us. Our basic instincts told us that the silver haired girl was our number one worry. 


What followed next was something I would never forget


Using the same technique, she executed two quick strokes to blow away the first row players in front of us. With one arm behind her back and one in front, she turned like a whirlwind to cut down the next row players. Suddenly she stopped. It seemed as if she was eyeing a specific player in the meat wall. Making sure that she didn’t get overwhelmed by sheer numbers, she dived deep and focused her attacks on one specific player. It was as if she knew which specific players were more powerful and needed focused attacks to be defeated and which wall of players she could simply overwhelm with attacks that covered a wider radius. 


Normally in such a situation a single player would have been long buried under such a large number of opponents, but this silver haired girl was light on her feet, diving deep and always cutting through enough enemies to make enough space for her to move and dodge. She shortened and extended her claws at will, making sure that they worked at maximum efficiency and never got stuck when stabbed into an opponent who was still alive and hadn’t vanished, or grabbed by an enemy who was further far away. 


Watching her turning, focusing her attacks, spreading out the damage, shortening and extending her claws, my fear turned into awe. This was not a dance or a battle. This was a display of genius. Her use of her claws was far more efficient than any of our weapons. If an opponent was close, she shortened her claws so that she could swing them more quickly and deal faster damage. If more players needed to be cut down she dived deep, extended her claws to damage their legs first, slowing them down and buying herself a valuable split second. Then she turned 360 degrees with extended claws to finish them off. 


I had my Star’s Cut ready in case any players managed to slip through the silver haired girl’s net. Usually in this case I would have joined the fight too, but I sensed that if I did, I would be nothing but a nuisance. I would be too slow to recognize her attacks and get sliced up along with the dead players. 


This slaughter continued on for almost half an hour. The stream of dead players didn’t seem to stop. Perhaps Yamil recognized that someone incredibly strong was fighting his army and suddenly instead of trying to attack her as at once,  the players began functioning with more independence. 


They attacked in pairs or groups of three. Since there was more space, they could move with more freedom and higher speed. It was then that we realized that even the weakest Praya players were stronger than us. 


Individually, they handled their weapons with far more precision and purpose. They always picked the perfect moment to strike, but the silver haired girl was always one split second faster. She constantly turned and twisted, as if her body could sense even the slightest movement in the air. 


Standing next to me, Flower had readied her crossbow. It seemed that she was ready to shoot down any opponent who got through the silver haired girl’s defense. 


One thing I noticed was that she was starting to slow down. Her movements were still awe inspiring, but they lacked the razor sharp edge she had ten minutes ago. Now they were “only” sharp. 


I heard Flower fire off a shot next to me. A purple haired player who was about to strike the silver haired girl from behind went down with an arrow in his head. The arrow ignited and his head exploded into bits and pieces. I grimaced but the silver haired girl didn’t turn around with surprise. Without even a glance, she continued fighting. 


It was at that point that I understood the intensity she was fighting with. Only by taking life and death for granted, could she fight with such boldness. That is why she didn’t even notice how Flower saved her. Her eyes didn’t even spend one nanosecond thinking of what happened in the past split second. The only thing she saw was her next strike. Death was of no concern to her. 


After another few minutes of slashing apart players one by one, right when she was about to slice apart the last one - a big armored guy - she jumped back and positioned herself next to Flower.


She raised her claws and pointed at the last one. At first none of knew what she meant by that, but then we realized: she wanted to give Flower the honor of finishing off the last one. 


Flower raised her Eagle Crossbow, aimed down the sights and the armor lost its head. 


With a profound breath, the silver haired girl shortened her claws and raised her hand. She wanted to shake Flower’s hand. 


“My name is Honoria.” 

 

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