The island was invisible to satellites and radar; you couldn’t see it from a plane either. Some strange force would interfere with the navigation systems, leading ships and aircraft past it. The island was the planet’s biggest mystery, and only a few people knew where it had come from. In the middle of it was a huge Arena where players from all over the world would fight for their lives in a very deadly game.
Clutching the creature’s body, I was sinking fast and sure. I had no strength left after the savage, bitter fight…
I suggest we give up! said a voice in my mind, devoid of all hope.
Just don’t screw it up, Nicky! Get your shit together, shouted my coach.
Why was I hearing his voice now? I must’ve lost my mind.
Feeling as if my lungs were being torn apart, I ignored my gut; I was exhausted, but I was determined to find the strength to keep going.
The creature finally twitched and took its final breath; I pushed it away from me and swam toward the surface, using what little strength I had left. Gasping for air, I emerged from the water. I was still alive and, surprisingly, not in any pain.
Having caught my breath, I looked around. I was in a dark cave with a waterfall. The noise it was making was almost deafening.
Somewhere in the distance, I saw a guy in a camouflage jacket. He was lying face down and not moving. I focused my gaze on him, and a semi-transparent window appeared above his head.
Status: The player has been disconnected from project [Lost].
I staggered to my feet and walked over to him. His black beard and stubble made him look like he was in his mid-thirties, although according to the rules, the participants had to be under twenty years of age. My gaze fell on the leather bag next to him. I checked its contents and pulled out a small flask, over which a message appeared.
Elixir of Vigor
Crafted by Corporal [Meriadoc].
Restores the body’s energy reserves, relieves fatigue.
Not paying attention to the corpse, I drank the cold liquid. Only then did I notice a flickering red spark on the guy’s wrist. I wondered who he was and how he got here. Having given it a thought and pushed past my initial squeamishness, I took the corpse by the hand. Staring at it, I felt as if I had been struck by lightning.
Everything went black and a message unfolded before me. I’d usually only get text, but this one I heard as if someone was reading it in my mind, in a hoarse and tired voice.
If you’re listening to this, no one has come to help me and I’ve met my doom. I’m pretty sure that this is where it all goes…
My name’s Green and I’ve no freaking idea where I am. Bastards… They fooled me and I tried to escape through their barrier with a random Teleportation Scroll. I ended up stuck in the middle of nowhere, unable to move or call for help. Geez, if only I had realized it a little earlier, I could’ve dodged some of their poisonous and paralyzing attacks... I could’ve gotten out of here…
Well, had I known how this would end, I would’ve cut off my hand with the Cultivator and tossed it into the portal. It would’ve been fun to see their faces when they realized that they didn’t get it.
Ah, screw it!
You’re probably wondering what this is all about.
I guess I can help you. I mean, why not, not like it matters anymore… If you’re lucky and we’re somewhere at the beginning of the Arena, you’ll find this useful.
First, you should know that you can get out of here. I know it for sure, even though I didn’t succeed. This place is a nightmare, but I’ll tell you something—you shouldn’t give up! Treat this as if it were a fucking video game!
Be a jerk and an egoist. Don’t give a shit about anyone. In the Arena, it’s every man for himself. If you trust someone, then don’t be surprised when you end up with a knife in your back.
Ah, damn it, it’s getting worse… Let’s wrap this up. Have you noticed my bracelet? This, my friend, is a Cultivator—an artifact so powerful that it’s like a nuclear bomb against savages with spears. Artifacts of this class are very rare. It’d be a pity if such a relic rotted away with my body, so I decided to leave this message. Take it and crush those freaks!
I failed… I was too stupid, too naïve even... I wanted to get out of here so bad that I failed to focus on what was really important: choosing my own path and killing to survive.
Just take the bracelet off my hand and put it on. Maybe this will help you in two months. In case you didn’t know, the Invasion is imminent. They will be here soon. You’ll need all the power you can get. The only question is how far you’ll have gotten by then—maybe you’ll still be a noob…
Anyway, good luck, dude. And don’t forget your buddy Green.
My head was buzzing. There was a crackle, and the message was cut off. I didn’t know what to think.
My life had become a desperate struggle for survival. Not so long ago, I was just a street kid…
What exactly was this bracelet?
I crouched in front of the corpse, not daring to touch it. The thin, skin-colored band was pulsing with a faint light. And although visible, it didn’t seem real.