Louis Senki • The Tale of Louis (ルイス戦記)
There was once a young boy with dreams, his eyes gleaming with hope and joy. But now he stood on the battlefield, his eyes hollow and dead. From his pain and suffering, you could no longer see the person he once was. His uniform was mudded and ripped, his hair was scuffed and unkempt, his lips were cracked and dry. He trailed the group at the very end of a file almost two dozen men long. Scorched earth and corpses surrounded him, as burnt arms and limbs poked up like ungodly grave posts. Even still then, he continued to walk forward. He was ordered to do so.
His name was Louis, Louis Herbig to be exact. Brown eyes and soft blonde hair, he was an average kid. He lived in a nice neighborhood with his honest hard-working family. Many would have called him an average teen, but that however was before the war. Now he was a soldier. He even had a new name. It wasn’t Louis anymore, they didn’t even let him keep that. His new name was soldier 0777, or just triple 7 to be short. He now wore a greenish-gray uniform, a pickelhelm (pickelhaube), and also carried a big gleaming gun. On his back, he carried virtually everything he owned.
“Walk faster ya’ useless pieces of flesh!” yelled the man at the front of the line. They had to make it back to the camp before nightfall. The man at the front of the line continued to yell orders. He was a lieutenant and you could tell, thanks to the gleaming epaulette he wore. Out of the almost two dozen men (twenty-two to be exact), only nine of them had any rank whatsoever. The rest of the group including triple 7 had been stripped of their military rank and humanity a long time ago.
As they continued their futile march, one of the men in front of triple 7 suddenly collapsed. He hit the ground with a low thud, his breath heavy and short. This man had unfortunately taken shrapnel to his abdomen during the previous encounter. The fallen man clenched his jaws as beads of sweat rolled down his face, he knew better than to talk out and call for help. He has no rank. Just like triple 7 he had been stripped of his military rank and even his humanity a long time ago. The other men continued to march forward. No one even batted their eyes toward the man dying on the ground. No one cared. By the time triple 7 got to the man, he had been kicked into the ditch next to the road. Triple 7 like the others continued to march forward leaving the man behind. Not a single sound was made by either the man or the company of men leaving behind a comrade.
After this short and awkward incident, the lieutenant continued to shout orders. The air was dense, both from mixed emotions and a thick fog of smoke. The men were tired, many were hurt. Many were marching with a fatal wound they got from the last assault. One by one they dropped dead, they have pushed aside like the man in the ditch. Not a single man who fell stood back up. They looked at the ground with their almost lifeless eyes as they stared endlessly at a distant place across the horizon. By tomorrow they would join the scenery of dead men, burnt tanks, and ruins of what were cities and towns.
Night had fallen by the time the remainder of the company had marched back to their makeshift bases and homes. It was dingy and run down but it’ll do the job. It's already been four months since they came here. They all took a deep breath of air in as they let out a sigh of relief. The air was finally the smell of something besides iron, gas, and burning flesh. They were hopefully safe for tonight. As they took off their heavy sacks and gears the rest of the men turned around surprised to see one non-ranker still alive. Triple 7 stood alone, distanced from the rest of the men. He was the only non-ranker with so-called inferior blood to survive the mission today.
As the group recollected themselves the lieutenant boomed with all his might, “Great job for your service today.” His epaulette was still spotless. Out of the ten men who went to the mission today only nine of them were smiling and cheering for their ‘work’ today.
“Pfff, work you say?” muttered triple 7 as he looked down at his blistered hands. “What work did you do? Huh? What did yall do?” triple 7 continued to mutter. They had done nothing today. These ‘ranked’ men sat and watched as their so-called inferior comrades fought for their life in front of them. Those men who fell on the march back were the same men who were used as human meat shields in the battle earlier today. None of the nine ‘ranked’ men had even fired a gun today.
The complaints from triple 7 were soon drowned out by the lieutenant’s roaring. The lieutenant continued on, his long speech about victory and bravery ending with the standard, “Take care and rest well. We will continue fighting tomorrow.” He then lifted his left hand to salute while the other arm was raised in a forty five degree angle, his hand clenched in a fist. “Hail Holo, Hail Haizdien!” he yelled with all his might.
The rest of them followed. All of them raised their right arm clenched in a forty-five-degree manner. “Hail Holo, Hail Haizdien” they shouted. “Hail Holo, Hail Haizdien” they repeated in unison. This was the infamous line from the Haizdien military. The chant echoed throughout the dead silent graveyard of the soldiers who had given their lives for the cause. The camp had been surrounded by an entire battalion of enemy men.
The camp was split in two. The centered protected part of the camp was only for reserved ranked men. People like triple 7 couldn’t get a rank because of his blood. According to the men he was that of an ‘inferior race’. The camps were further divided by ranks, the no rankers were left to rot in the trenches far outside the reach of the main middle camp. Triple 7 too was left to rot alone in the isolated trenches. Many of the no-rankers would group up depending on their race or ethnicity, but triple 7 had no interest in doing so. He had no one to group up with anyways. His friends and his comrades were long dead.
Instead, triple seven would sit alone. He had dug himself a makeshift house underground on the walls of the trenches alone. He would normally sit there completely unaccompanied. From time to time a fat rat the size of his shoe would scurry down the trench. They were there to nibble on the rotting flesh of the dead. He had been abandoned a long time ago like the rest of the no-rankers. His house however was quite impressive compared to everything else. The walls weren’t too shabby, it was made from broken pieces of what he had scavenged from the battlefield. It was held up by a big plate of metal which he also scavenged from a tank. Conveniently there was a big hole in the wall which he could put his items in if he ever wanted. (Even though he had none.) This small underground hut also served as protection from the rain, mud, and most importantly the rain of gunfire and explosion. Nonetheless, it was nowhere as fancy as the concrete holes the rankers had to hide in.
Triple 7 then crawled into his makeshift house, alone as usual. He sat in the corner as he tipped his pickelhelm (pickelhaube) down below his eyes so he could not see. If he hid his face maybe he could escape from reality for a while. He picked up his pack of cigarettes and his lighter from his usual place. Tapped the corner of the box lightly so he could take one stick out. He then very slowly bit into the side of the cigar, the bitter taste of the tobacco spreading throughout his mouth. He then lit the cigarette and then slowly huffed and puffed his very precious stick of tobacco. Eyes closed, his cloth mudded, and his hands draped he continued to smoke throughout the night. He would have looked like a corpse if he wasn’t breathing. The ashes from the tobacco slowly fell as the last amber in his mouth died out.
The night continued to tick on as soldier 0777 continued to smoke. By then his makeshift house was full of smoke. His eyes were partially closed, and his hands were draped. Between the thin slit, one could observe that his eyes were staring endlessly somewhere far away as if he was looking for an oasis across the horizon. His eyes were no longer full of pain or misery like how it was earlier. His eyes were instead completely blank and hollow, resembling the eyes of the corpses scattered around the scorched battlefield.
Outside a group of men no larger than a squad was quickly approaching the trench. They wore completely black cloth and they had melted into the night. Each of them carried a sidearm and a toolbag which had many unique tools. As they approached the first layer of barbed wires they quickly ducked consoling themselves in the mud and the ruins as they slowly chipped away at the barbed wire one by one. They were quick and stealthy, none of them made a single sound. They marked every landmine with a red flag as they closed in on the trench. Quietly they would move the barbed wires, creating holes in the defense large enough for a man to charge through.
Further away just across the ruins were many men waiting to charge through. They too had blended into the night. They were waiting for the signal to charge. They were well equipped and they all had their bayonet attached to the rifle. Under their feet lay six men who were assigned patrol that unfortunate night. They lay lifeless on the ground as blood gushed out of the slit on the neck.
With an explosion, the ground blew sky high revealing the men with ill intent. They charged forward, mazing between the gaps in the barbed wires. They shouted as they charged forward, bayonets raised ready to plunder the unexpecting army that lay ahead of them.
The rumble of bombs and the constant sound of firing rattled his brain awake. The sirens blared as confusion and chaos ensued. They were here. Many scrambled to find their gear as the attackers mowed them down. The tactic of surprise has worked well. The sound of marching and running could be heard throughout the battlefield. The familiar smell of blood and gunpowder drifted in the air, as triple 7 snapped back to his senses. Another battle another day. He didn’t care what happened to others. His one objective now wasn’t to survive. It was to kill.
He crawled out of his makeshift dwelling still smoking his stick of tobacco. The loud flashes and bangs and sudden streaks of bullets filled the sky. It was going to be a tedious night he thought to himself as he equipped his bayonet to the front of his rifle. It was going to be hand-to-hand trench warfare. As he ran through the maze of trenches, he soon heard men screaming. No one could tell their friends and foe in the darkness. Triple seven then tightly gripped his rifle as he charged forward.
As he ran between the small alleyways in the trench he saw many fresh corpses lying in the mud lifelessly like a ragdoll. Blood still pumped out of their wounds. Their eyes were wide open in fear, some screaming, others smiling, while others had no expression. The blood and mud combined to create a vile stew of gunk. He ran through the thick unholy stew, ready to kill, and also ready to die. As he got closer to the center of action a bullet whiffed Triple Sevens helmet, tearing off the portion of the cloth that covered his pickelhaube. It all came down to luck.
As triple 7 turned the corner he saw a young boy. He was no older than 15. In his hand he carried a pistol and a trench mace, the rifle hanging from his back. In the darkness, triple could see that he wore a purplish-grey uniform. He was an enemy. Shouting he charged ahead, the bayonet raised high enough to penetrate the neck. The boy turned around revealing his terrified face. He had skin like that of a baby. He quickly cucked his gun, and aiming for the head he fired his gun. The bullet whizzed right above triple’s head, a miss.
“Unfortunate miss,” triple said as he rammed his bayonet right into the chest of the boy. “Your life depended on it” he quickly muttered as he twisted the knife. The knife cracked the boy's rips upward. Then with a loud thud, the boy came down tumbling. He was dead even before he hit the ground.
Survival came down all to luck. He didn’t know what was going on or even who was attacking them. All he knew was that he had to survive. He looked at the dead boy he had just killed. An enemy. He felt no grief whatsoever. Looking around triple seven quickly he assessed the situation. The attackers were heading straight for the middle of the camp. They had probably been wrapped into a frontal assault heading toward the main fortress located 10 miles inland from here. They were planning on using this makeshift camp as a possible launch point for an attack on the base inland, or at least that's what triple 7 thought. He didn’t know for sure. All he knew is that they had been surrounded and were being massacred by the opponents. A critical failure on their side that could cost him his life.
He then quickly concluded that he would stay in the trenches. If he headed to the center he would be wiped out with the same men that abused him. At least in the trenches, he could take them one by one. The trenches here could barely fit a man, hopefully, he could use this to his advantage.
There were 3 or more men in front of triple 7, he couldn’t know for sure in the darkness. Their faces were illuminated by the flashes of the guns and explosions. Their eyes were wide open in fear. Each carrying a rifle. They all wore the purplish-grey uniform. The color of the enemy. In a split second the first man charged forward, thrusting the knife. In a blink of an eye triple seven knocked the knife up, charging forward through the gap as he jammed the knife deep into the man's neck, screwing his body like a piece of beef. Using the dead man skewered on his rifle triple 7 ran forward. The volley of bullets tearing the back of the man apart. “Two,” whispered triple 7 as he rammed the dead body into the enemy. As his opponents fell to the ground, triple 7 pulled his secondary knife out of the scabbard, swiftly stabbing the first man in the forehead. The man's eyes rolled back as he opened his mouth in pain. The last man stood in fear with his mouth wide open, his pants stained. He had peed himself in fear as triple 7 strangled the man. His fingers tightly wrap around the man’s neck, breaking the spinal cord as the man spat out foam and other disgusting things. “Four,” said triple seven as he picked up his rifle. It truly was going to be a long night.
Triple 7 was covered in mud and blood. His bayonet and hands were covered in the warm blood seeping handle of the knife. “Nine,” he said as he ran the knife into the chest of another man. His eyes were full of agony, the pain aging him beyond his age. He stared down at his ninth victim. His eyes were wide open and surprisingly had no facial expression. “A hollow one,” he said as he continued to gaze at the face. Dead men always had three expressions. Nothing, pain, or happiness. He hoped when the time came he could die smiling knowing that he would be spared from this nightmare. There is no time to be thinking, he told himself as he quickly snapped back to his senses. Life and death depended on one moment. The battle had been going on for over an hour, the constant booming keeping him awake. He looked down looking at the face of the young boy he had just killed, his face was tender and soft. The face of a young child. This was the third youngster he had killed that night. He looked away. He didn’t like killing young naive kids and he had also never liked seeing the face of the men he killed, but every time he murdered a man he would look at their death face. A visual reminder of what he had done.
As he continued to scurry around the battlefield, knowing well that he was one of the last non-rankers still alive, he remembered the faces of the many men whom he had killed. He could never forget them. He continued to whisk past the other dead men and he decided not to think about it too much. What had to be done, had to be done. Hopefully, the dead men will forgive him. He then looked up at the sky which was blood red, a fire was raging somewhere. The sounds of screaming and cries for help were dying down. The injured men were dying off one by one in the night. Nothing could be done about it. Triple 7 then promptly put his weapon down to the ground, the battle had moved down closer to the main camp. Triple 7, had been spared.
With a sigh of relief, he sat down into the ungodly stew of flesh, blood, and mud. He didn’t care. He was already used to the dirtiness and human flesh. Next to him sat a dead body upright, his head missing entirely. As triple seven lit a stick of tobacco he decided to steal whatever the dead man next to him. “Thanks, bro,” he whispered as he went through the dead man's pocket. This was the way of the battlefield.
As triple 7 continued to rummage through the dead man’s bag, he heard a loud pop. The sound of gunfire. Startled, he looked up. He saw a man with a gun pointed toward him. He wore the same colored uniform as the man he killed. He was an enemy. As he opened his eyes in horror, smoke was billowing out of the muzzle with sparks. Out of the smoke, a bullet came hurtling towards him. Like out of a sci-fi movie the bullet slowly flung towards him. Triple 7’s eyes were wide open. He couldn’t dodge this shot. It was heading straight for him. He knew he was screwed.