A tense air filled the room.
This was to be expected, as we all, inversely, have unexpected personalities. Such a heavy atmosphere was unavoidable in such a seemingly unavoidable situation.
I looked around.
Ren sat next to me, oddly enough. In front of me, the female 'Bishop' Elise sat, her black hair pulled back into a ponytail that did not look out of place on her.
Everyone looked at everyone else.
Watching their actions.
Judging their actions.
Were they really on our side?
Apparently, Ren had 'sworn loyalty to me', so I can still say I'm safe for now. However, David, the male 'Knight' has sworn loyalty to the 'Queen' Rain Starset, who sat diagonally from me.
I began to think.
To think hard.
So hard I was afraid that my brain would explode, but then I'd just recollect the scattered pieces and begin to think even harder if that was the case.
Ren's currently loyal to me. I can't doubt the only source of information I have right now, so I have no choice but to trust it. On the other hand, David is loyal to Rain, and I don't know Rain's current standing concerning me. It could very well be that she considers me an enemy, and if that were the case, then I'd have two enemies facing me.
Jonathan is a protector of justice.
However, that is a lie.
That is because the definition of justice varies depending on the person.
Jonathan's sense of justice is based on his own thoughts and personality, so if I seem to be 'just', then he'll be on my side. I don't need to worry about him so much.
As for Elise, I can say that she's basically the same as Jonathan is; if I do what's right in her eyes, then she'll be on—
Just hold on a second.
Why am I so concerned over who is my ally?
That question suddenly hit me.
Why does it feel like I've been doing this for years? Why does it feel that I'm already used to not trusting anyone?
The last thing I remember was being at home, I'm only sixteen, so there's no way that I could be so distrusting of everyone so quickly. That's not how I am.
My hands started trembling, so I moved them under the cover of the large mahogany table to hide this fact.
I felt disgusted with myself for doubting these people so quickly. A sense of revulsion rose within me, so strongly that I had to fight the urge to empty my stomach over the table.
This revulsion sunk into my pores, clawed at my heart, tore at my face. It seemed to try and take control of my entire body.
It felt like I was going to sink.
Sink into a sea of regret.
But why do I regret?
What do I regret?
Isn't it natural to doubt?
No, it's not. Not to this extent to where it was almost natural—
"Is there something wrong?" Ren's slightly concerned voice brought me out of my thoughts.
I looked at her. Her eyebrows were furrowed as she gazed at me with brown eyes.
Shaking my head, I looked away. "It's nothing, just thinking of something."
Thanks to her abrupt interruption of my thoughts, my head was cleared and I no longer felt disgusting.
Rain raised her voice, seeing that Ren and I were talking.
"First of all, let's make it clear that I don't wish to have anyone here as my enemy, and I'm sure no one else wants anyone as their enemy, either. We have enough problems with the fact that we have to worry over the fact that there are fifteen other people who are out for our lives."
At this statement, David nodded, like an obedient dog.
"So I propose that as a team, we have to work together to get out of here."
"But we have to make the other 'King' give up, don't we?" Albert spoke up, hands crossed over the table. "In that case, won't we have to... kill someone from the other team."
At this juncture, I spoke.
"I won't allow it. There's no way I'll let any of them be killed; if that happens, we run the risk of killing the 'human' player."
"Then what do you propose we do?" David asked me, knives in his glare.
"Hmm?" The question caught me off guard, so I didn't have an immediate response. Seriously, even though it was an expected question...
"From your face, you're currently saying that you will kill someone, regardless of who it is," Ren cut in with a cold expression. "Are you seriously saying that you can live with the fact that you took another person's— another living thing's life?."
David shrunk back from that glare that was colder than the one he threw at me.
"Can you live with such a burden on your shoulders?"
"Exactly. In any case, we must avoid killing a person—"
"And exactly how will that be possible? Should we run away when they find one of us?"
"No, probably, their only goal is to eliminate us without restraint, meaning that they would without a doubt attempt to hunt you down once they see you. If you encounter an enemy, make sure to call us with your terminal. The best course of action would be to scare them away with numbers, but if they attack, try to immobilize them."
"Keep them from moving, huh... Somehow, that sounds a lot harder than killing them."
Yeah, especially when it comes from a hypocrite like Ren.
I mean, didn't she shoot someone in the back with an arrow not one hour ago? This only goes to prove that I cannot completely trust her.
"He said we have food and provisions for two days a person... We'll have to finish this game before then, right?" Shana wondered aloud.
"True," Rain agreed. "If we drag this on any longer, we'll be forced to search for more food, and the only ones that we know have food are—"
"The black team," Jonathan finished Rain's sentence for her.
The way things were developing now weren't good.
Not at all.
If we maybe had enough food for five days or so, we could drag this fight out. We took the enemy 'Bishop's rations when Ren killed him, so that's about four more packs we have. But that's not enough for eight people...
"Anyways, don't kill anyone; we don't want to risk killing a 'human' player," I said decisively, putting a hand to my chin.
"...You're really as caring as they say." The sudden words from Rain caught me by surprise.
What did she say? That I was caring? What's with that?
Rain giggled slightly at my reaction, before opening her mouth.
"You're quite popular at school for being so selfless. You won't let anyone get hurt if you can help it. We at the student council have been watching you for a while to make sure that you didn't take it to extremes, and while you haven't, you do tend to go on the verge of overboard."
I've heard myself being called that many times.
I've been like that for a while. Never caring for my own safety no matter the situation, it's an attitude I adopted after a certain incident with my little sister.
She was almost raped.
By a friend of mine. One I considered my best friend at the time.
The bastard had the nerve to try and rape my little sister in my house. After I beat the crap out of him (and took some damage of my own), I waited for the cops and promised that I would never let anyone be hurt if I could help it, even if I had to sacrifice myself.
But petty backstory aside, I can also agree that I can be rather aggressive in my selflessness, which resulted in my title.
But back to the subject at hand, Rain just said 'student council', right? I do remember hearing her name here and there... Ah, yes, if I can recall correctly, she's the student council president.
Her motto for running was that she would help everyone be happy. Like this, and being a beautiful girl with a slender figure and top grades, she was wildly popular among both the males and females.
"Student council president, huh..."
"Is there a problem?"
At the awkward conversation taking place, everyone's terminal suddenly began beeping. Almost as if in unison, we all pulled out the white objects and turned on the screen.
What appeared was a simple map like the ones that a GPS would have, only showing the roads, but these had no names. Blinking on the map, moving at a fast rate, was a single red dot.
It was headed towards our location.
Apparently, everyone else was also seeing this map, as I saw Rain and Ren furrow their eyebrows. David's expression remained passive, and Elise's was complex, as if she were debating over what it was.
"Could this be a radar of sorts?" I wondered aloud, watching the dot. Judging from the map, the person was still quite a distance away, and it would take a short while for them to get to our location.
Nonetheless, we were growing slightly agitated. This person could try and kill us, but at the same time, this person might be the 'human' player who has come to defect.
"Probably," Rain agreed with me, intently watching her terminal. "If that's so, then it would be wise to move as soon as possible."
"But how do they know we're here?" Albert asked, scratching his head.
"Maybe... Look," Ren commanded, "this map looks like a chess board, doesn't it?"
When you look closely, it does; the streets are all arranged to be perfect squares with each other, creating a pattern similar to a chess board. Also, in the 'blocks' in front of us, were eight blue lights, not moving. Most likely, these were the 'NPC' 'Pawns' of the white team.
"You're right. And I remember looking at my map when I woke up; everyone was in a different block— meaning we woke up..." Shana trailed off as she spoke.
"In the chess board's starting positions." Rain finished bluntly. "And the 'King' ran off towards the other side by accident."
"Why didn't I see a 'Pawn' then?"
"Most likely, they don't move without commands?" Albert said, showing us the screen of his terminal. On it were two buttons that said 'Command' and 'Auto'.
I clicked the home button on my own terminal and opened the 'Comrades' app, clicking on the 'Pawns' and seeing the same thing as Albert. Curious, I clicked on 'Command', and a keyboard popped up, along with the buttons numbered 1 through 8, and the last button being 'All'.
Ren, who was looking at me as I did this, nodded.
I clicked all and began typing.
Do not allow intruders to pass.
I clicked the enter button, and almost at the same time, Rain gasped.
"Ah, they're moving!"
Quickly, I opened the map again, and saw all the blue dots converging on one block, where the red dot was about to pass. The dots all touched, and began moving around.
Everyone watched intently for about thirty seconds, before the red dot began moving back.
The red dot continued moving back, and the blue dots moved back to their original position. Amazing...
"This might prove advantageous to both teams," Ren remarked with a grim expression.
"Eh? Why?" Shana asked, surprised by her words.
"If our 'NPCs' can defend so well, doesn't that mean that their 'NPCs' can do just the same?"
"Hmm... You have a point," Rain agreed, standing up from her seat. "For now, we should get out of here. Seeing as the enemy was headed in a straight line for here, it could be that they know where we are."
I had no choice but to agree with her. If we stay here, we could all be hurt.
"Yeah, I agree. We need to move fast."
"But what should we do?"
"The best defense is a good offense, right?" Albert said as he also stood up and grabbed his bag from the floor. "At this point, we really have no say in the matter, as they'll all try to kill us without restraint."
"Please don't kill any of them," I asked with a stern tone, though I doubt that would work against Albert, who had a lot of muscle on his body.
"I don't want to kill anyone either, you know," Albert shrugged. "I'll do my best not to kill them, but hopefully there's not going to be such a situation."
"Yes, we need to stick together," Jonathan said as he too stood.
I got out of my seat as well.
It's been a few hours since we learned of the rules of this game.
So far, nothing bad has happened; we left the 'command' building and went around, searching the buildings as best we could. Also, I put the 'Pawns' on 'Auto', which I learned basically gave them a mind of their own as guards.
We haven't managed to find any food or provisions of sort, nor were there any weapons laying around in any of the buildings we searched. There were some buildings that were clean and near-new, and there were some that were rotten and felt like they were about to fall apart.
Neither yielded any results.
For the entire time, Ren stayed by my side, no matter what (thankfully none of us have felt the urge to use the restroom yet), and I've been watching everyone's actions to make sure they're not thinking anything bad.
Jonathan and Elise are good people at heart; they're stubborn, but they're great to have as partners. So far, it looks like they're friendly.
Shana is somewhat muscular despite her slender frame, and like Elise, she is stubborn and single-minded.
The only ones who are proving a challenge to me right now are Ren, Albert, David, and Rain.
For the life of me, I can't figure out any of them's true motives. Is Ren really not trying to kill me anymore? I want to trust her, but at the same time, I'm afraid of doing so.
As for Rain and David, it's more like I can't trust David, who swears 'absolute loyalty' to Rain and follows her around like a dog.
Rain's motto is to make everyone happy, and for that purpose, she would attempt to refrain from killing the enemy or a teammate. However, David is impossible to get a grasp of. If I did something that he didn't like against Rain, he would direct his rancor towards me and me alone; the same goes for anyone else.
I had to be extremely cautious around him.
"By the way," I said to Ren as we walked towards another building. We adopted a two-person team strategy to be safe as we checked every area. "How did you get your weapon out?"
"On the terminal, after pressing 'Weapons', you can click whichever weapon you want to summon from your inventory."
"You're surprisingly used to this kind of stuff."
"..." Ren directed a glare at me.
"I've told you before that my goal is to catch 'Chrysanthemum'. For that purpose, I've already been in several boxes by now. The same goes for you."
"Eh? But I only remember the 'Kingdom Ruin'."
"That one was the longest of them all. In truth..."
"Hmm?" I tilted my head as Ren trailed off.
She shook her head, her black hair spilling over her shoulders. "It's nothing. Let's go."
She sped up her pace and entered a building— a diner, it looked like it. Ren was probably thinking that there could be food here, and I somewhat agreed with her on that.
Together, we searched the inside of the diner, looking at the refrigerators in the back as well as freezers, but there was nothing.
Not even an eating utensil.
"Dammit," I sighed as we left the diner. I was starting to get hungry, I realized as my stomach complained.
Come to think of it, it's been hours since I last ate, so this could've been expected.
Glancing at Ren, I saw that she had no look of fatigue on her, and thus, I didn't have an excuse to rest and eat whatever provisions we have.
At this moment, our terminals decided to ring.
Hurriedly, I pulled my device out, thinking that it could be another attack. However, instead, it had a message on it, sent by Elise.
I stopped in my tracks as I read it.
Why is she apologizing?
"Don't tell me!?"
Did she kill him? Did Elise kill Albert? But how? How did she manage to kill him, when he was such a strong-looking fellow?
I opened my map.
"Two blocks away!" Saying this, I broke into a run, doing as Ren told me and opening my 'Weapons' app. I clicked on the 'Di Sword', and in my hand, manifested a weight.
There was no visible sword, I could only feel the weight of the weapon weighing down my hand.
For some reason, I felt oddly used to that weight. Probably as a result of the 'Kingdom Ruin'.
At the same time, Ren caught up to me, running in pace with me. "We need to hurry; where's your weapon? Didn't you call it out?"
"I'm holding it right now," I said, moving my hand up to show her. It only looked like my hand was wrapped around a cylindrical object, as if it were imaginary.
Ren opened her eyes wide in surprise for a moment before summoning her sword 'Excalibur'. "Doesn't matter, come on."
I nodded, pushing my legs to their limit.
On the floor lay a crumpled body of a muscular man.
Blood pooled around him, and his body was twisted in ridiculous directions. His clothes were tattered and ripped, as if he went through a fight.
Apparently, Elise sent the message to everyone, as when I arrived, Rain was holding her sword up to Elise's neck. Elise was sobbing.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I couldn't do anything."
"What the hell happened!?" Rain yelled as she gave Elise an icy glare.
"The map... didn't tell us! And caught us by surprise."
Elise's own clothes were torn in some places, and cuts lined her upper right arm and left side of her stomach. Her bloodied curved sword lay on the floor beside her, unsheathed and gleaming in the dim light.
"Elise, did you kill Albert?" I asked with as soft a tone as I could. Being agitated wouldn't get us anywhere, and would only slow us down.
Elise shook her head.
"No.. No, the enemy came and fought with us... we tried fighting back, but..."
Could I trust her? The map told us last time that the enemy was getting close to us, and the 'NPCs' kept them back. Why is it that this time, we weren't alerted?
Rain seemed to be thinking the same thing.
"Our maps didn't alert us this time, how can we trust you?"
"They... they moved slowly..." Between sobs, Elise managed to choke out a reply.
"Don't make me have to use my 'Will Override' to get you to talk."
"I'm telling the truth! The person... had a tear on his sleeve and had brown hair."
These words prompted Ren to react.
"That man that tried to kill you before," she said to me, looking around the area with great care.
Was she talking about the one she shot with the arrow? That man... didn't seem to express pain when he was shot, only disappointment. It wouldn't be surprising if he was the culprit, considering he sounded so lifeless.
But, can we truly believe Elise's words? Considering the current situation, can we really trust her words?
I don't want to doubt her, but it's extremely difficult to trust her...
"Who's there!?" Ren suddenly yelled, interrupting my thoughts. I looked at her, and she was baring her fangs at a place beyond my sight. Confused, I ran to her side, and saw a person standing there with a sword in his hand.
He had a tear on the right sleeve of his trench coat and spiky-ish brown hair. Looking at us with a no expression at all, he moved closer, step by step.
He emitted such an aura that I could hardly breathe. This man, who seemed much calmer than the other, was somehow emitting a scarier feeling than the other man.
A chill pierced my spine.
He had skill with the sword. Even though his current stance indicated he was just trying to look cool, he walked with such a gait that I instantly knew he was far more skilled than the other man. That's why...
That's why I feared for Ren.
For some reason, I knew that Ren was about to charge in on her own. Oddly enough, I knew that. Despite being my enemy, she was about to charge in to protect me— or us.
I could tell from her pose from my peripheral vision. She would barely stand a chance. I saw that she knew that, too.
She could see his skill too. Her face showed it.
Her face showed her understanding of that fact.
She charged in, wielding that oh-so legendary Excalibur, covering the 10 meters between her and the man with quick steps.
Swinging in with a horizontal slash from the right, she aimed for his uncovered left flank. However, with swiftness that was near impossible, the man blocked Ren's attack, countering with a slash at her right shoulder. Ren barely managed to dodge the incoming swipe by jumping back, but lost her center of balance in the process.
The man, taking advantage of this, sliced towards her chest, cutting the cloth of her shirt, but not scratching her body. Ren could only keep moving back in order to not lose her balance completely, and the man continued to slash at her in order to either try and rip her shirt off or kill her.
She fell on her butt, and the man—
Stabbed her leg.
With incredible force, he stabbed her right leg. So hard that the sword actually penetrated the concrete with a loud cracking sound. I think the sound of her leg bone breaking also amplified that noise.
That disgusting, sickening sound.
That terrifying, blood-curdling sound.
Along with Ren's scream.
A shrill scream of pure pain. Unrivaled, unwanted pain.
Can't take this.
How dare she?
How dare she, my enemy,
Try and save me?
"Dammit!" I yelled— mainly at myself as I rushed in.
"What the hell!" I yelled again as I felt the oddly familiar weight of a sword in my hand as it swung towards the man's abdomen.
The man must've had great instincts, as he jumped back as I swung, pulling the sword out of Ren's leg in the process. This caused another ear-piercing scream to ring out from her.
I didn't spare her a glance as I pressed my attack onwards, slashing up, down, left, right, blocking, I don't know how, but I could feel the length of the blade I held and perfectly knew its range, in spite of it not even being visible.
I ducked under the man's quick stab and retaliated with a kick to his knees. He stepped to the side and brought the sword down, aiming for my neck, but I rolled out of the way.
Getting up, I faced him, standing about one-and-a-half meters away.
"You're rather good despite your appearances."
"I'm fairly surprised myself."
Truly, I was. I'm sure no teenager should have reflexes this good, nor such a judgement capable of making the right decisions.
I'm only sixteen, so it should be more-or-less impossible, considering the fact that I've only held a sword in the 'Kingdom Ruin', I think, and from my memories, I was bad.
"My name is Chris Smith, nice to meet you."
"Is there really time for such a conversation!?" I rushed in, swinging down my sword from above. The man named Chris could barely block it as he can't see the length of my sword considering it's invisible. In this aspect, I'm at an advantage, but his skill level is higher than mine, undoubtedly.
"Well, I just want to end this game quickly, and it's not like we'll retain our memories outside of here, you know!"
We won't retain our memories?
If that's the case, couldn't I do anything I wanted to right now?
—If I can remember the 'Kingdom Ruin' even though slightly, there's the possibility that everyone here can remember this 'Game of Royalty'.
—And then, what if this guy's just trying to lie to me?
What if he doesn't know that he's an 'NPC'?
What if he's the 'Human' player?
I can't risk it.
"I can't risk it!" I repeated aloud, ducking under his slash and attacking his abdomen. I felt a slight resistance, and at the same time, a gap opened in Chris' stomach, showing red.
It wasn't deep, not even an inch into his skin, but enough to make him back away.
"Damn." Again, Chris displayed his disappointment as he clicked his tongue. He then turned around and fled at an insane speed, turning the corner.
Jonathan, who I had forgotten was there, ran at a matching speed, but as soon as he arrived at the front of the alleyway in which Chris turned, he stopped. Hesitating for a second, he turned his head to me, then shook his head.
He got away again.
At the same instant, pain assaulted my head as I realized what had happened. The tip of the sword in my hand was now slightly visible due to the blood trickling off of it.
I had not held back as I slashed at him.
I was really trying to kill him.
I wanted him gone.
For hurting someone.
My head hurt. My cheek stung. Did he scratch me there?
My arm felt a warm liquid trickling down it, and there was a stinging sensation on my forearm. The same went for my right and left legs.
How many times did he scratch me?
What was I doing? Not paying attention.
What's happening to me.
I dropped down on my knees and let go of the invisible/ visible sword with a clatter.
Tried to kill someone.
I lowered my head until it touched the asphalt. It was cold due to the lack of sunlight, but I didn't care.
Tried to kill them.
Where did my 'selfless' self go during that moment? Was it because he hurt someone? Or was it because he hurt—
I looked over to her. She lay there, her shirt ripped open cleanly, her gorgeous black hair disheveled, her leg bleeding profusely. Her chest was rising and falling at a rapid pace, and she showed her pain through her body movements.
In spite of that, her gaze—
— was focused on me.
She did not have a disappointed expression on because I betrayed my morals. She did not show me scorn.
It was gentle.
In spite of her obvious pain, her gaze was gentle.
Please don't show me that expression.
Don't betray my expectations of you!
Don't make me think that you're a friend!
Don't do this to me.
Everyone else watched from a distance, before Elise finally moved despite her mental state. She rushed over to me and placed a hand on my back.
"..." She didn't speak, but just like Ren, gave me a gentle look.
My head was exploding at this point. There was nothing that made sense.
Seeing Elise take action, Rain ran over to Ren and called Jonathan over. Seeing this, Rain left me and rushed to Ren, who was in a more serious condition.
"If... if we had some hydrogen peroxide and some sticks or metal poles, I could make a splint to keep her leg from moving. Right now, I need a piece of cloth or bandage to make a tourniquet to stop the bleeding, it's too profuse."
Despite her earlier state, Elise was taking control of the situation, commanding Jonathan and Rain. They followed her orders hesitantly, but obediently, pulling out a first-aid kit from their bag and handing it to Elise.
"It's great we have these. Jonathan, hold her leg straight while I tie this. Ren, this might hurt a bit, I don't know," she said as she tied the bandage around Ren's thigh to constrict the blood flow, before feeling around the bleeding area.
"I feel a broken bone, does it hurt?"
Ren nodded furiously with pain contorting her face clearly now.
"Hmm... Let me check your wrist— Yes, you sprained this, when you fell earlier."
"And you..." David's voice came from beside me. His tone was mocking.
"You can't do anything, in spite of being a king."
"You can't even uphold your own beliefs."