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?


9. Chapter 9

Chapter 9


“I designed the streets, the fountains, the shops...and every single inn,” said Sven. “I still remember the layout of Square’s Inn.”


Intrigued, me and Quaker watched as Sven drew out a rough blueprint for Irady’s base. Knowledge was power. And if we knew the entire layout of Queenstown and every building in it, we could outsmart Irady just like he outnumbered us. Sven drew out the first floor where we met Irady, then showed us that there were two rooms behind the bar counter.


“Irady came out of one of them,” I pointed. “Did you two notice which one?”


Quaker and Sven shook their heads. It was pretty dark behind the bar counter, none of us took notice of what we couldn’t see clearly.


“The problem is,” Sven began to draw the second floor of the inn. "That there are also some rooms on the second floor. There is a chance Irady might move upstairs, then we would have no idea where he and the two girls are staying. He himself might choose to stay downstairs while moving Flower and Fefe upstairs.”


I considered it, but then thought back to Flower’s words. Guys like Irady tended to be more insecure inside. I looked closely at the first floor layout. The two rooms are perfectly hidden behind the bar counter, one of them even further inside the mini-corridor, completely out of sight. I looked at the second floor. The second floor layout was extremely simple. With only one narrow corridor and five rooms.


“I don’t think he would do that,” I said.


“Why do you think that?” asked Quaker.


I pointed at the bar counter. “Flower said that guys like Irady tend to feel more insecure inside, that is why they feel the need to prove themselves by gathering power, and iSync offers the perfect environment to do that, where you can act under your ID name. If Irady is really as insecure as Flower says he is, then he would choose the first floor rooms, which are hidden behind the bar counter. Even though it’s useless, but in a way, the bar counter blocks people from the two rooms downstairs, giving him a sense of protection.”


“...which would appeal to his inner insecurity,” Sven added.


I nodded. “This is all speculation. But I remember how he was using his whole body to block my way to the bar counter. He was trying to protect something. Most likely whatever is in one of those rooms. Flower and Fefe.”


“But how do we break them out?” asked Quaker.


I was silent. That was the one key question I didn’t have the answer too. Luckily, we had the architect here.


Sven drew an extra line behind the two rooms. “This is the street behind Square’s Inn. In that area I built wider streets, since the alleyways around the Jolly Tavern became a bit  too narrow. I wanted to keep Queenstown compact, so what I did was to make the walls of the inn thinner to make space for the streets.”


I smiled. “So you mean...”


Sven nodded. “These walls are easy to break. With an instant-freeze spell and a large two-handed hammer, we could break through.”


Quaker opened the AirMenu and found a two-handed hammer in the standard issue default equipment list. It only had seven points worth of Attack, but for our purposes it should be more than enough.


For practice, Quaker swung the hammer around a few times. I watched as Quaker was using his hammer, and counted how many seconds it took him for one full swing. Then I checked the AirMenu and saw I had the instant-freeze unlocked by default. I asked Sven if he had it, he nodded. He then demonstrated it on a piece of furniture. I counted how many seconds it took him to write words “freeze” in the air.


There was a big problem. Due to the momentum and weight of the hammer, Quaker would make a three-quarter rotation when swinging it. Even if the wall stops his momentum, it would take about two seconds to pick the heavy hammer up, and then another two seconds to swing it a second time. Even if Sven and I cast the instant-freeze spell at the same time, the entire operation could take four seconds to break the second room. In those four seconds, Irady’s men would have noticed the noise of the first wall breaking. 


I told Sven and Quaker about my calculations. We needed to somehow break the wall to both rooms at the same time, or else risk losing the element of surprise.


“Even if we do break them out, what do we do afterwards?” asked Quaker.


I chewed on my thumb nail. That was true. The whole plan wasn't thought out well.


“I don’t think we can stay in the Jolly Tavern anymore, probably not even Queenstown. May Day will be looking for us for sure,” I said.


I looked at Sven. “It is also risky for you to help us, since everyone knows you’re Soul Driver’s leader.”


“That's true,” Sven agreed. He folded his arms and began to sink into deep thought. Perhaps he was trying to think of who he knew outside Soul Driver who had the instant-freeze spell unlocked. And who could cast it fast enough for a second time in a row.


Suddenly, the door swung open. It was Safire.


“There is more trouble!"


We all turned to her, surprised at her sudden entrance.


“May Day members are approaching players who joined neither guild, and are trying to push them into joining May Day.”


“Just the person I need,” Sven pointed at her with a smile. 


*  *  *



Over the next hour, we explained to Safire everything that had happened. How Fefe proposed that she and Flower use their charm to persuade Irady to calm down, how we went to talk to him and he held them hostage, how we came up with a rough plan to break them out, and in the end how we needed one extra person to make it work.


“How come you didn’t get captured by Irady when you went to talk to him?” I asked.



“I have this,” Safire grinned and held up her hand. She was wearing a light red ring with a blood red stone attached to it. “While you guys spent your money on armor and weapons, I decided to focus on spells. With this ring, even though the refresh cool-down is slightly longer before I can use it again, I can cast an upgraded level two FIRE spell immediately without writing the words in the air”


Nodding, all of us understood. When May Day members laid a hand on her, she blasted them away with that.


“Of course I didn’t aim directly at them,” Safire chuckled. “Or else they would be dead.”


“Would you be willing to help us?” I asked directly without beating around the bush.


Safire nodded. “I’m only part of a small team, so helping you won’t affect Soul Driver.”


I nodded. With this, the plan should work. Safire and I could cast two instant freeze spells at the same time. Quaker would break one wall with his hammer, and at the same time, Safire could use her FIRE ring to blast open the second room, since the ring wouldn’t be affected by the magic points cool-down of the instant-freeze spell.


There was just one more issue hanging over our heads.


“What do we do afterwards?” asked Quaker.


We were all silent. Nobody had the answer to that one. It was Sven who eventually broke the silence.


“I don’t think you’d be able to stay in Queenstown. Irady will most likely organize a manhunt.”


“But then where do we run to?” I asked.


“Run through the Northern Gate,” Safire said. “My team is currently guarding it, I’ll tell them to let you through, and spontaneously close the gate to delay May Day.”


“Thank you,” I nodded at her.


Safire waved it off. “No worries. I just don’t like Irady.”


“After you run through the Northern Gate, if you walk for about four hours, there should be a small town called Intos along the road,” Sven said.


“How do you know that?” asked Quaker.


“I know bits and pieces of the area around Queenstown,” Sven replied. “But I mainly focused on designing this place.”


I nodded, and rested my chin on my fist. All was good, everything was arranged, yet I couldn’t help but feel hesitant. Was all of this a good idea? Maybe it would be better to just join Irady, fight one Gate Guardian, and then have it over with. But then, nothing could make sure that Irady won’t make us become permanent members of May Day.


I thought about it, and all I could think of in the end was that Irady was too suspicious to be trusted. If he was honest, why would he put Flower and Fefe to sleep, and insist on keeping them. The fact that he used all his power to prevent Quaker, Sven and I from seeing them, means that they are being held against their will.


Irady was too greedy. And Flower and Fefe simply weren’t aggressive enough like Safire to get away. If we didn’t put a stop to him here, his power would grow and he would have a monopoly over all of us.


Sven was probably thinking the same thing; someone like Irady shouldn’t become the leader of such a large guild.


“Alright,” I stood up and nodded. “We break out tonight.”


*  *  *



When night fell (this is the first time I have noticed, but the sun does go down in iSync), Quaker, Safire and I moved out. As quiet as possible, we walked past Square’s Inn and around the back.


Before we moved out, Sven told us that he told Soul Driver members to do some late night “practice” on the main pathways to the Northern Gate. This way, when the entire mini army of May Day moved out, they would be slowed down by the crowd. Safire told some of her team members to also wait at the larger roads, and to tell May Day members that we had gone to the Southern Gate. In the heat of the moment, the pursuers shouldn’t recognize the lie.


Sven also transferred the map data of Queenstown to my AirMenu and marked out the quickest way to the Northern Gate. He promised us that he would try to meet us in Intos if he could make sure May Day wasn’t following him.


While walking to Square’s Inn as silently as possible, I kept fidgeting with my fingers, practicing the instance freeze spell in my mind. There were so many things that could go wrong. If we got caught, in the heat of the moment, the May Day players could potentially kill us. Sven also warned us that the girls would most likely still be asleep, or else they could have used the voice call in the AirMenu to call for help. But at this point, no one should be able to cast a high level sleeping spell yet, so simply slapping the girls across the face should be enough to wake them up.


Yet we simply had to show defiance to Irady. If we weren’t careful, he might become a dictator, and in the worst case scenario, enjoy his position of power so much that he will cease all efforts to get out of iSync.


We finally arrived at Square's Inn.


I swallowed, made eye contact with Safire and nodded. This was it. Quaker rested his two handed hammer on his shoulders, ready to swing it anytime. He would take down the left wall, Safire would take down the right.


With my fingers I signaled Safire.










We cast our instant-freeze spells, and with the sound of crystal falling to the ground, ice formed at the walls which Sven pointed out. For a moment, all of us remained silent. We could still let the instant-freeze spell expire, and avoid conflict with May Day.


“Do it,” I nodded at Quaker and Safire.


Simultaneously, Quaker swung his hammer and Safire let out a blast from her FIRE ring.


Quaker’s hammer only managed to tear about half the wall down. It took him another three seconds to pick up the hammer and swing it again. We were already roughly five seconds behind.


Safire had managed to blast the wall open. We were face to face with a bewildered Irady.


For a moment, there was nothing but silence. He and I made eye contact, neither moving nor speaking.


Irady reacted faster. He squeezed his fingers together and summoned the AirMenu.


“Oh no, you don’t!” Safire shouted and cast a low level FIRE blast at Irady. It made a respectable ‘boom’ sound, but since we felt no pain in our chest, it means he die from the blast. As the leader of May Day, he should have also leveled up a bit, the damage shouldn’t be too great. I hope.


By the time Irady got knocked back, Quaker had finished a second swing and busted the second room open. Safire and I rushed over. I had never been so glad to see someone. There they were, Flower and Fefe, fast asleep.


We grabbed the two girls. I gave Flower a gentle slap, but her eyes remained closed. Instead, she let out a low sigh, smiled and snuggled up to my arm. I could hear a thunderous slap from Safire’s side. With a gasp, Fefe woke up.


“Sorry Flower,” I grimaced and slapped her nice and hard across the virtual face.


Flower gasped as she ripped her eyes open. With a mouth open, she glanced around, in complete confusion to the chaos that is around her. “Issa? What is-”


“Shh,” I silenced her by putting my finger on her mouth. “We have to get out of Queenstown first.”


“Let’s go!” I shouted, grabbed Flower by the hand and started to run from Square’s Inn. By now, all May Day members should be awake.


I saw Quaker grab Fefe, Safire followed closely, and together we ran.


From behind us, I could hear Irady cursing at the top of his lungs, hollering for all May Day members to kill us.


“We better run fast,” I said and tightened my grip on Flower’s hand.


“Shoot!” I could hear Irady shout from a distance.


Safire and I turned around while running. What did Irady just say?


Moments later, I could hear arrows whizz past our ears, some just inches away from finding their target.


“Run faster!” Quaker shouted.


We began to speed up our pace. The further away we got, the harder it would be for them to shoot us.


Suddenly, I felt an incredible pain in my chest. Gasping, I fell to the ground. It was the same pain I felt when Thirteen and Ireland from Safire’s team got killed by the Lizard monster.


Someone got hit.


“Fefe!” I heard Quaker shout with desperation.


Fefe was hit?


With immense effort, I got on my knees and turned to Quaker’s direction. Fefe was on the ground, with an arrow in her throat.


Her throat?


Normally a hit in the back shouldn’t have killed her, but the throat must have been a critical hit spot, just like in real life.


“Fefe!” I managed to croak, but before I could utter another word, Fefe’s body dissolved into a million tiny, colorful crystals.


“Fefe!” Flower screamed despite the incredible pain we were all in. The rain of arrows had stopped, May Day members should also be paralyzed by the pain.


“Let’s go...” I panted and stood up with shaky legs.


Quaker and Safire were all shocked by the sudden death, yet we all mechanically stood up and fighting the pain - physical and emotional -, continued to move at a jogging pace. Flower was in tears, in complete confusion, it took all my effort to lift her off the ground and make her move.


Right now, we couldn’t grief for Fefe. We had to move before the May Day shooters recover.


Ten minutes later, we were at the Northern Gate.


Safire rejoined her group. She and I shook hands.


“I won’t let Irady get away with this,” she said decisively.


“We’ll keep in touch,” I nodded.


Safire gave us some supply packs for our journey to Intos. There were four bags. But now there were only three remained. With a growl, I picked up Fefe’s bag and shouldered it along with my own.  


This wasn’t over. No way.


We bid our farewells, and as quickly as we could, put some solid distance between us and Queenstown.


The heavy Northern Gates shut behind.



We became the second group of players to truly venture out of the Queenstown. 

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