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Although they hadn’t met for a while, for some reason Luon felt there something odd about Shizuka.
‘Why isn’t she putting down her weapon.’ The very fact that she still has her gun pointing towards him shook his morale a bit. He merely thought it was due to the basic human instinct to keep guard, but for some reason, his heart told him otherwise. Did she have something against him? Although they haven’t met recently, they did attend classes and events together, and Luon couldn’t remember doing anything that might have offended her.
Luon felt that there was more to this competition than what it seems just from seeing how serious Shizuka was being. To even consider eliminating her friend to reduce the number of competitors. For now, Luon’s life was in her hands, if she wanted him dead, she could have pulled the trigger and the very fact that he isn’t dead yet was because she was still weighing the values of killing Luon here.
Luon took the initiative and slowly raised his two hands stating his intention, Shizuka who noticed his actions slowly backed away and lowered her weapon to point where it was deemed less threatening.
As Luon who faced Shizuka didn’t know what to say at this moment, for starters, he said, “Umm. Hello?”
Greetings are important, they convey intent, rationality, and personality which could be read in the tone and expression it is used in. Shizuka only responded with a nod once more, Luon thought, ‘The cold treatment again, before she used to talk to me like normal friends, rather she would say hello when I did so. What could possibly be the cause of this?’
More importantly, could they be considered friends? The number of times they talked one on one with each other may be counted on two hands, and the border between friends and classmates are rather broad.
Friends may not have the same interest as classmates, and the only thing that the Shizuka and Luon had in common was that they both like engineering.
Luon began to evaluate the relationships between himself and others mentally and categorized them and classmates, friends, and roommates and as he did he realized that the people he knew can be in multiple categories at the same time. He considered Shizuka to be his friend, rival and classmate but he felt that she didn’t feel the same with the way she treated him right now unless some kind of circumstances made her like this that is.
Seeing how her wariness has yet to disappear Luon decided to probe her intentions by saying, “I just came here after being attacked by a group of people. So if you could be kind enough to respect my wishes, can you please ignore me? I’m not going to attack you from out of nowhere. Although this is a competition, I’d like us both to pass without having to deal with each other.”
His words interested her, the moment Luon said he wasn’t interested in attacking her, and how he said he was just chased by a group of people her wariness went down by a notch. Luon who noticed this slight change recalled the mob of people he had met earlier. He suspected that they weren’t only looking for him who devastated their formations due to the very nature of the competition. Instead, they attacked him under the impression that they were chasing after Shizuka.
They both wore the same type of clothing which people could easily misunderstand when they appeared in the darkness. It was a black military uniform with golden trims and besides the random smudges of dirt on the side due to handling.
Unlike Belle who wore her own design and Arisa who edited some minor features, Luon and Shizuka’s clothes looked exactly as they intended for it to be as, prim and proper.
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All of a sudden, the surroundings became noisy as various alarms went off around them. Luon suspects that Shizuka had developed a similar product to his sensory devices that he made on the spot. Shizuka who noticed the arrival of new enemies became wary of Luon and asked, “Did you intentionally bring them here?”
Her suspicion had hurt Luon’s feelings once more, but this time it was better than being suspected without reason. It made sense for her to doubt Luon when a series of enemies came right after him, in fact, if Luon was indeed the enemy she would have fallen for the trap if she wasn’t on guard.
“Nevermind that, if you don’t trust me it doesn’t matter. The first thing we got to do is get out of here. If you want, you can go your own way, and I’ll go with mine,” Luon shrugged.
Shizuka looked at his expression carefully before bluntly saying, “Let’s go, follow me.”
Shizuka quickly ran towards a direction, and Luon followed after her. It was better to leave the navigation to someone who knew the layout of the terrain. He trusted her judgment since for one, she had set up the alarm system, so she had time to learn what the terrain was like. Two, her judgment skills must have been improved since she had started the space command class. And three, because he trusted her, and wanted her to know that.
The two left the region uneventfully, but that couldn’t be said for their pursuers. As they searched for the enemy, they encountered a series of landmines which followed after the pesky alarms. Luon couldn’t help but sweat bullets about how one of those poor folks could have been him if he had taken the wrong route towards the center of the formation and if he had run away without knowing this if she didn’t agree to let him follow. He was fortunate to meet her in these circumstances.
By the time that they had left the region over 1/3rd of the overall contestants had been eliminated. There were roughly 60 more contestants that needed to be eliminated excluding the 10 winners out of the calculations.
The two of them were soon led to a cavern that was shrouded by thick vegetation. It looked well-hidden to the point where Luon wouldn’t have noticed it unless he stopped and evaluated the surroundings more carefully.
Once he was inside Shizuka covered the entrance with rocks and plants to the point where there was only a small hole remaining used for ventilation. Luon slowly evaluated the layout of the cavern, despite its size it seemed really small as it was filled to the brim with scraps. Luon found himself a nice spot and started to lay out his belongings alongside Shizuka who had done the same. While Luon was searching for materials to use, Shizuka had only gone out to search for food. Although their real bodies didn’t need anything to eat, their minds are consistently working which caused them to feel hunger artificially.
Dying to hunger would be the worse way to get eliminated in the examination. Luon couldn’t help but feel bad for himself if he was eliminated that way as he only noticed this fact now. He was so blinded with the task of developing better tools and weaponry; it was to the point where he neglected hunger.
His stomach voiced its displeasure a few seconds after she had finished placing all the food she had painstakingly gathered. Hearing his stomach rumble, Shizuka couldn’t help laugh, she tried to hold it, but as soon as it roared out once more, her feelings burst out like a dam with a hole. She continued to laugh until she could no longer do so.
Despite being in a cooking class, Luon did not cook their meal as Shizuka insisted that she does it herself. It took her a while to actually create something editable due to several factors, one they didn’t want to create smoke inside of the cavern, so she had to take it outside and carefully make it under the watch of moonlight. The second reason was that they didn’t have a stove top or anything like that, so she had to use the old method of a campfire. Luckily she managed to find a nice spot for the operation, she hid the smoke by building a small pit for the fire and hovered a tree branch coated with wet tree leaves.
While she was off cooking for their meal, Luon worked on developing more tools and evaluating his stock of weaponry. Due to the sudden attack of his enemies, he exhausted all of his sensors, and the majority of his ammunition leaving only one cartridge left behind and to his misfortune, the pile of junk that Shizuka had did not have any more for the rifle.
Going through the pile of junk Luon managed to find a revolver with a few bullets, a sword, and a shield. Crafting a sword and shield would be most difficult in these circumstances, but it was entirely doable if the competition lasted more than one day in the virtual world.
When Luon had finished sorting through the scrap, Shizuka came back with what Luon found to be a vegetable soup made out of materials found in the forest. As he ate it, he found the taste to be worse than usual. It was quite understandable regarding their circumstances, the simulation didn’t even bother hosting animals for them to hunt. It was as if the hosts wanted all of the engineers to be vegan, or to die even faster. Fortunately, this wasn’t the first time he experienced this. Luon couldn’t help but recall their survival training camp where they had to forage for food while hunting down Inzektors.
Once the dreadful meal was over, they got to business right away. The way Shizuka looked at Luon was better than what had happened only moments ago. Luon recounted his experiences, from the temple to the gang of engineers to meeting her. Once Shizuka heard the later part she couldn’t help but shiver.
Luon who noticed this reaction didn’t bother asking her about it. The more he knows about, the more he would likely get involved. Shizuka let a small sigh and just when she was about to explain her circumstances Luon said, ” Oh, by the way, how come your tools look way better than mine? And where did all this scrap come from?”
Shizuka explained, “When I first started out on the map I was spawned next to a supply depot after I had finished looting the place I found 2 more guys and one-sidedly eliminated them. It took a lot of my bullets using the revolver though.”
Luon examined the revolver and indeed saw signs of it being used quite recently.
Shizuka continued, “Now about those guys tha-”
Just as Shizuka was going to explain what her circumstances were, Luon quickly replied, “Ah, I think it’s time to get some rest. After we get up, it’s going to be a long day after all. I need to make myself a nice place to sleep.”
Luon got up quickly, but before he could leave the cavern, she asked, “Do you not want to hear my story?”
“No, I would rather not, and your circumstances don’t matter that much to me as I am merely a bystander to all of this. It doesn’t feel right for me if you don’t feel right about sharing it,” Luon shrugged.
Shizuka felt touched by Luon’s remark she couldn’t help but ask, “Then do you want to team up for this competition?”
Luon gave her a smile and said, “Why are you asking this? Aren’t we already a team? I am willing to help even without being told to do so. More importantly, we need to get some materials for our bedding.”
Shizuka agreed, and the two of them departed to find something nice to sleep on. They only managed to find enough leaves for one bed and sticks for a light fire to keep warm with.
The first day of the examination had passed, and by the end of it, about 40 people were left.