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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6. Chapter 6

Chapter 6

 

Half an hour later, Flower and I left the Jolly Tavern and headed to the fountain plaza. Everyone was there already. All eighty-eight players who still had their minds intact were waiting for Sven to make an announcement. We quickly found Quaker, Fefe and...Faith was nowhere to be seen.

 

“Where is Faith?” I asked Quaker.

 

“I think she made friends with that Safire girl,” she shrugged.

 

I nodded and sighed inwardly. Even though I didn’t know her as well as Flower, it still felt a bit disappointing for someone to leave our group. But then I remembered that Fefe and Faith seemed to be quite close, why was she still here?

 

I asked her, and Fefe averted her eyes. “I just don’t like Safire, that’s all.”

 

Ten minutes later, Sven stood at the edge of the fountain again, this time making a carefully worded announcements to stir as little panic as possible. He told the crowd exactly what he told me. The origin of the forced ZERO update, what happened outside Queenstown, why this update was made and so on. Then, at the very end, he added one bit he hadn’t told me.

 

“Our physical bodies in the real world are most likely being taken care of,” he announced. “It has been more than twelve hours, if there wasn’t anyone to take care of our real bodies, many of us would feel real fatigue already.”

 

“But just now I felt hungry when I went to an tavern!” Safire raised her hand.

 

“Don’t panic,” Sven immediately returned. “Feeling hungry is normal. After all, your mind is used to feeling hungry after not eating for a certain amount of time. The very fact that you have the ability to feel hungry in here means that your real body is being taken care of.”

 

There were many relieved faces in the crowd. With our physical bodies in good care, we could focus on finding the escaped sixteen players.

 

Which lead to the next elephant of a question: how to find those sixteen players?

 

“There are three main gates which lead out of Queenstown!” Sven announced. “All three are guarded by a monster which is programmed to prevent you from leaving.”

 

Sven and I made eye contact. He nodded. Confused, I could only raise an eyebrow and give him a questioning look.

 

“Issa and his team have already defeated the monster at the Northern Gate!” Sven announced. “They will go and do it again, and with that, everyone should have a better idea on how to approach hostile forces.”

 

I already stood out from everyone else with my Eagle Coat, but now that that Sven has called me out, literally all eyes were on me.

 

Before I could protest, Sven had already come over.

 

“Please do it again,” he said in a quiet voice so only I could hear him. “If everyone can see you defeat that thing with their own eyes, there will be hope.”

 

I understood. Sometimes, hope was the most important thing to keep alive.

 

I nodded. Sven smiled. “Thank you.”

 

As we walked to the Northern Gate, Sven explained several more things to Quaker, Flower, Fefe and I. He showed us that now, we had the option of permanently keeping the AirMenu open by ticking a new box inside the General Settings menu. This would allow us to monitor the health points of our team members, and also select different abilities.

 

We asked what those were, and Sven smiled. Those abilities, he explained, were part of the ZERO update. If one went into the abilities window, one could select from different spells. Spells were activated by selecting them in the AirMenu, and a small window would open showing you which hand gestures to make in the air to initiate the spell. Currently were only two available: the “HE” spell and “FI” spell.

 

The HE spell stood for “Heal” and could recover the health points of one other player. The FI spell was an offensive “Fire” spell that would deal damage to the opponent it was aimed at. All four of us tried the Fire spell against a brick wall. It wasn’t a big, explosive flame that formed, but it would certainly do some damage if aimed right. It was activated by pressing the pointer and middle finger together, and writing the word “FIRE” in capital letters in the air.

 

Our group of four quickly formed a strategy. Since Quaker had a larger frame, he would equip one giant shield and use both of his arms to support it to fend off attacks by the monster. After the monster attacked, Flower would fire her crossbow at it. If it hits, it should create an opening for me, and I will rush in with my Eagle Crossbow in my left hand, and a medium sword in my right and do heavy damage. Fefe will then use the FIRE spell to deal the last blow, or use HEAL if any of us should have suffered injuries.

 

 

Before we walked through the Northern Gate with every player in Queenstown behind us, Fefe practiced her spells a few more times. We then waited for another ten minutes for the spell cool down period to recover. I couldn’t help but smile inwardly when I saw it. The developers weren’t amateurs. In order to balance the combat system of iSync, they enforced a waiting period before the same spell could be used again. This would erase any inbalance between spell casters or sword users.

 

 Once Fefe’s spells had recovered, we went through the Northern Gate.

 

 

*  *  *

 

The light blinded us temporarily, but within a few moments, our eyes adjusted. What stood before us was nothing short of a surprise.

 

“Issa, what is that?” Quaker asked.

 

With a scowl, I glanced behind us, where Sven stood with all eighty-eight other people, a save distance away from us. Then I looked in front of us again. What stood there wasn’t the combination of horse, lizard and man with long claws. Instead, what we saw was some kind of minotaur on legs, with two long swords in each hand. Why did the system change the monster guarding the North Gate? Was it part of the update? Or was the artificial intelligence of iSync evolving? Two long swords would be a bigger threat than two sets of claws.

 

“Don’t shout,” I quickly said before any of them could react. “We can’t let them know that we are fighting something else, or else panic might break out.”

 

By now, the minotaur had detected us, and was entering it’s attacking position. In about two seconds it should sprint towards us.

 

“Issa, what should we do?” Flower asked.

 

“We stick to our plan,” I said decisively even though I wasn’t too sure myself. The same strategy against claws should also work against long swords.

 

I made eye contact with Quaker. We both nodded. My biggest worry was that the minotaur might have more strength than the lizard from last time, I wasn’t sure if Quaker could hold the defense on his own.

 

 

With a thunderous roar, the minotaur charged at us. At once, I noticed that something was off. In its current position, it would attack Quaker with its horns rather than the sword.

 

“Quaker!” I shouted, but I was already too late.

 

Quaker, who concentrated on holding the shield with both of his arms, didn’t notice that the minotaur aimed to penetrate his giant shield with its horns. I watched the shield broke and an inch of one of the horns buried itself in Quaker’s shoulder. Quickly I opened the AirMenu and kept it open. At the very top, it showed Quaker’s, Flower’s, Fefe’s health bar, as well as mine. Quaker’s health bar was reduced by about one-third.

 

“Fefe! Heal!” I shouted.

 

From the corner of my eye I could see Fefe writing “HEAL” in the air.

 

Flower and I automatically raised our crossbows and fired at the minotaur, which was about to enter its attacking motion to finish Quaker off.

 

Both shots hit it square in the chest, and it roared out in pain. It’s red eyes scanned for the source of the shots and found Flower and I. Instantly it charged for me. It would take a few seconds for it to reach me, I had to make a split second decision. Summoning a shield to try to block the attack would be useless. I wouldn’t be able to stop the full force of the minotaur’s charge by myself.

 

“Flower!” I tossed my Eagle Crossbow at her, which she caught without a fumble. Her reflexes were impressive.

 

While sprinting, the minotaur raised both swords above its head and was aiming to cut me down. Just as it was about to reach me, I sidestepped, dodging the charge, and using both of my arms to support my sword, made a deep side cut into its stomach using the minotaur’s own momentum.

 

It moaned in pain, however just as it was about to pass me, it quickly turned halfway and smashed me in the back of my shoulder with its elbow. I felt my breath being knocked out, but didn’t feel much pain, the game system seems to automatically numb it.

 

“Fefe! Heal Issa!” I heard Flower scream.

 

Lying on the ground, I raised my head slightly and could see Flower raising both crossbows and firing at the minotaur. I couldn’t help but smile a little. Dual-wielding crossbows really suited her.

 

Both arrows found their mark, yet the minotaur still wouldn’t die. My God, just how much health did this monster have?

 

I heard Fefe shout “Heal!” and I could see a silky layer of white light embrace me. In the open AirMenu, I could see my health bar return to full.

 

Yet Flower was slightly too late. The minotaur had already entered the attack motion to finish me off and couldn’t be stopped anymore.

 

I quickly rolled to the side, and could feel the small pieces of dirt on my face as the swords smashed into the ground.

 

“Issa!” I could hear Quaker shout from behind me, and he was rushing over to help. But he was too far away, the minotaur was already raising it’s heavy swords again, and Fefe couldn’t use her FIRE spell because she needed a moment to recharge after the HEAL spell. It would take at least another second for Flower to reload.

 

The minotaur was about to let its sword smash down on me when I heard someone shout “FIRE” and flames engulfed the minotaur. The minotaur moaned in pain, and its sword were by its sides, leaving it wide open. Without thinking, I raised my medium-sword and stabbed it right in the gut.

 

There was a short moment of silence, the minotaur let out a last moan and dissolved into millions of tiny polygons.

 

I stood there, breathing hard, the adrenaline still pumping high within me. Did I just win? I’m alive, right? I dropped my sword and sat down on the ground. What just happened? I couldn’t help but feel that the lizard from last time was far easier to fight. This minotaur had greater speed, physical strength and attack power. Not to mention those horns which destroyed Quaker’s defense.

 

Before me, a window opened, congratulating me. On it, it said that I have reached level 3 (I should check my profile stats later), and that I had received “Minotaur’s First Fury”, which was one of the swords it was using.

 

I looked behind me and saw that Quaker, Flower and Fefe all had windows open. Yet there was a fourth person. Who fired that FIRE spell?

 

“You saved my life, I saved yours,” Safire appeared before me, and helped me get up. “We’re square.”

 

“You fired that FIRE spell?” I asked.

 

Safire nodded, and looked at my AirMenu window which I still hadn't closed. “Oh, you got the First Fury?”

 

Before I could ask what she meant, she opened her own AirMenu and showed me her Inventory. In it, it had the “Minotaur’s Second Fury”, meaning the second sword the minotaur was using.

 

With a nod, Safire stepped back into the crowd that was watching us.

 

At first there was only one clap. And then two, then suddenly, everyone watching us started clapping. Some players came forward and starting shaking our hands, patting us on our backs, or offering us a small wooden containers that had some kind of juice in it.

 

Grateful, the four of us accepted the drinks, and slowly we moved back into Queenstown. Under Sven’s advice, Safire and a group of other players stayed at the Northern Gate so that the minotaur (or whatever other monster the game had in store for us) would not respawn at the gate. And if it should appear, they should quickly withdraw back to town.

 

On our way back, I noticed that Flower didn’t have the Eagle Crossbow anymore. I asked her where it went, and she said that it disappeared right after the minotaur was defeated.

 

I checked my Inventory list, and there it was, the Eagle Crossbow had transferred right back to me.

 

“Know what?” I smiled, selected the Eagle Crossbow, took it in my hand, then tapped it with both my fingers to open the options menu for the silver crossbow. From there I selected “Trade” and selected Flower as the trade partner by tapping her on the shoulder.

 

“Accept it,” I said simply.

 

“Are you sure?” asked Flower. “This is your first...”

 

I shook my head. “This crossbow is more useful in your hands. I still need a lot of work on my aim, such a fancy crossbow is wasted on me”

 

Flower beamed, and I couldn’t help but smile myself seeing her so happy. 

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