Chapter 2:

Chapter 2: Trench Life & Mule Boxing

Louis Senki • The Tale of Louis (ルイス戦記)

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Louis was staring down at his cold soup and stale bread. He was tired of having that inedible food every day. It's already been half a year since he came to the frontlines. He was starting to miss warm soup and good bread. He stared down, his eyes were tired and weary. In the reflection of the soup he could see himself, he looked at least ten years older than before. He continued to stare down at the moldy corner of the bread pondering whether or not to eat it. Bookmark here

“Hey Loui,” said Nick. “Want to trade your tobacco for a piece of bread?”Bookmark here

“Nah, I’ll rather die than eat another piece of rotting bread,” replied Louis. He was still staring down at his piece of bread. Bookmark here

“Oh ok,” Nick responded. He too looked dreadful. His eyes were weary and sad, the bags under his eyes made him look much older just like Louis. Bookmark here

In the past six months, Louis and Nick had encountered four battles. All four were victorious but they weren’t in a mood to celebrate and be happy, no one was. Every battle seemed to chip away at their humanity. They had both seen the horrors of hell. Burnt bodies, shredded men, dead faces, headshots, everything. They wondered how much longer they could last or how much longer they would live. Bookmark here

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Under the hot sun, they were getting grilled. The sun glared down upon the battlefield, the breeze picking up ashes, dust, and other sorts of things along with it. The pit toilet stunk, it was being fermented in the sun. The air was hot and sticky (and also quite stinky), not a single gust of wind went through the trenches. It was like a sauna. Louis sat there in the mud and dirt, trying to hide from the sun. He felt all sticky, his cloth was clinging to his sweaty skin. He hadn’t taken a bath, let alone a shower for two weeks. He was itching to go back to the rear of the battlefield where at least he would get a washcloth. Bookmark here

In the army, they would rotate trench positions. Men were stationed at the frontline trench for about two weeks before being sent back to the rear for around ten days where they got a washcloth and a clean set of cloth. Every couple of months (around 2-3 months), they had an actual shower. The last shower Loui had was in January which he missed dearly. There were many schedule changes depending on battles or other factors, but either way, he hated being in the frontline trench. He constantly had to worry about getting shot in the trenches, he had to poop in a pit toilet that was overflowing with shit, and they always had to worry about an enemy assault or a random shell that could take them out. It was quite horrible. Bookmark here

“Nick, what time is it?” asked Loui. Bookmark here

“Around one pm,” replied Nick. “We have five hours left till we can go to the rear.” Bookmark here

With a heavy sigh, Louis sat down in the dirt. The two-week-long shift was finally coming to an end. Time however seemed to be passing more slowly than ever. Now all they had to do was wait another five hours until they were saved from this trench. Bookmark here

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Louis was looking down at the cards he had. They were all dog water. It seemed like he got every single card that seemed to be bad. Luck just wasn’t on his side. He bit his nails desperately hiding his cards from Nick. He didn’t want to lose again since he was already on a five-loss streak. Bookmark here

“Bad cards again?” Nick said with a smile on his face. Bookmark here

“Of course not,” Louis said back looking at the bottom left of his hand. He was twirling his thumbs. Bookmark here

“Stop lying,” said Nick with a wide grin on his face. “You have a habit of doing that whenever you lie.” Bookmark here

“Of course I don’t,” Louis replied. Bookmark here

“You do,” said Nick, the wide grin still on his face. Bookmark here

“No, I don’t… In Fact, I have the best cards in the game!” Louis declared. He planned to bluff it out. Bookmark here

“Stop joking,” said Nick playfully. “You said that earlier when you lost.” Bookmark here

“No I didn’t- I have no memory of that what-so-ever. You must be imagining things,” said Louis as he cursed in his mind. Bookmark here

“Well, are you gonna bet more if you're so confident?” Nick said he was making fun of Louis. Bookmark here

“No thanks, I’m fine. I’m certain I’m going to win,” said Louis as he pulled the cards closer to his chest. Bookmark here

“Oh ok, then I’m going to reveal my cards. Here, I have a flush,” said Nick as he casually threw the cards onto the wooden box. He was so full of himself. Bookmark here

“Darn it…” expressed Louis as he looked down at his cards. He knew he was going to lose anyway but he was at least hoping he could win. “I have a Pair… I’ve lost.” said as he raised his hands in defeat. Bookmark here

“You owe me another stick,” said Nick as he stuck his open palms out. He was smirking like the grinch on Christmas eve. Bookmark here

“Oh cmon, I’ve lost so much. I have barely anything left. Give me a cut!” Exclaimed Louis. “What are you going to take next? my underwear?” Bookmark here

“Oh, yea that? Sure I’ll take that too,” said Nick as he pretended to write down a list of things. Laughing out loud Louis grudgingly handed over another stick of tobacco. He wasn’t sure if Nick was gonna get away with his stinky underwear. His pack of tobacco however wasn’t intact like his underwear. It was virtually empty at that point. Nonetheless, this didn’t mind Louis too much since Nick was like his brother. Bookmark here

“2 hours left till we leave,” said Nick as they continued to play a friendly game of poker. They were both smiling. Bookmark here

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They were finally back at the rear of the defensive line. Louis stretched his arm, legs, and every other bone in his body. It almost felt like a festival. People ran free without having to worry about getting blasted. It seemed more festive than usual. There seemed to be a partying mood in the atmosphere and people were drunk having the times of their lives. That didn’t matter to Louis at the moment. He was more concentrated on relaxing after coming back from the trenches just minutes earlier. It felt nice standing up straight without having to worry about a bullet being shot into the head. He opened his mouth wide open as he gulped down the air that didn’t smell like poop and gunpowder and other substances. He was already feeling much better than being in the frontline trench. Bookmark here

“Nice being out of that shithole right?” said Nick to his right. He was yawning as he too stretched his limbs. Bookmark here

“Couldn’t agree more,” said Louis. He was still salty that he had even lost his weekly ration of candy along with two entire packs of tobacco in the poker game earlier that day. Bookmark here

“So- You want to play another game of poker?”Bookmark here

“O-f C-o-u-r-s-e N-o-t!” Snapped back, Louis. He looked very hideous and quite frankly very foolish. Bookmark here

“Ha, ha, ha. You look ridiculous,” said Nick laughing. Bookmark here

“Shuttup,” said Louis. He was even saltier than ever. Bookmark here

“Don’t worry I was just joking,” exclaimed Nick as he put his hands around Louis. “We’ve gotta have fun tonight,” he said as he forcefully dragged Louis around by his neck under his left arm. It was odd for Nick to act so nice. Suspicious, Louis looked at Nick. He had the same crooked smile he had earlier when gambling. That's not good, Loui thought to himself as he continued getting dragged along. In his right hand, he was carrying a flyer for a mule riding boxing tournament organized by the officers. Horrified Louis stared at the crumpled piece of paper. Looking at the flyer he suddenly knew why people were being more festive than usual. He wasn’t salty anymore, he was more worried for his safety. Bookmark here

“Uh… What do you have there?” whispered Louis worried. Bookmark here

“Oh, this?” Asked Nick as he looked at the flyer in his right hand. “Oh yea this, it's the flyer for the mule riding boxer tournament held tonight.” Bookmark here

“And why do you have the flyer for the competitors?” Louis asked as he continued to break free from his iron grip. He could see clearly that it said: ‘Competitors’ at the very bottom of the flyer. Suddenly Nick tightened his grip. Bookmark here

“Oh, we’re signing up for it now,” said Nick casually. “There's a prize too!”Bookmark here

“What? No. No. No…” Shouted Louis. He was desperate to break free. He didn’t care about any cash prize. He cared about his life. “Help!” he shrieked. Bookmark here

Smiling Nick said, “Oh you aren’t getting away that easily. It's a team sport with 2 teams.” His smirk and wide grin were back. “Each team has two teams, and guess who's gonna be my teammate?” asked Nick. Nervous, Louis shook his head. Maybe by the hope of luck, he wasn’t thinking something evil. “You’re coming with me… You're my teammate. We’re getting the grand prize of beer, candy, money, and tobacco” Bookmark here

With his eyes wide open Louis continued to struggle, however, his head was locked in position under Nick's armpit. He was slowly getting dragged across the dirt. “Please someone help!” Louis shouted as he looked up. They were entering a tent with a big circus-like sign that read ‘Team Mule Boxing’. To the side, it said ‘ENTER WITH CAUTION’ in bold red font. Louis gulped down his spit as he was dragged in. Bookmark here

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Louis sighed. He wondered how he ended up here. He was currently waiting to join the ring. He started in the crowd, they were roaring and cheering as the men in the wooden ring boxed. He could see big muscular men almost double his size dueling it out. He heard sick crunches and other noises as he winced in pain. He wasn’t looking forward to getting beaten to death on a mule. To make it worse he was shirtless and his legs were tied to a mule, his hands were tied with a layer of tight bandages and cloth. It was honestly quite painful. The bandages squeezed his fingers too tight while the bandages at his legs were digging into his skin. They had tied it too strong, Louis told himself. His hands and legs both were becoming numb. He hated every moment of it so far. It was all Nick’s fault for signing him up for a ‘Team Mule Boxing Tournament’. He never knew such a sport existed until today, but nowhere he was, on a mule about to box. Looking down he patted the mule with his bound hands. Bookmark here

“Aw man,” he said sadly to the mule. “Guess we are in this together.” The mule didn’t seem to listen or care. Bookmark here

As Louis continued to pat his mule whom he was tied down to he was starting to get very nervous. He started sweating in fear because he sure wasn’t looking forward to getting used as a punching bag. The crowd was cheering as loud as ever as the battle in the ring became more intense. Looking up he saw the two huge men still dueling it out. Even from this distance, you could see the wounds inflicted upon each other. They were sweating and bleeding as they continued to punch what-could-be fatal blows onto each other. Then suddenly with a final blow, one of the men landed a clean hit on his opponent's temple knocking him out. The man then promptly tumbled down, his two legs still tied to the horse. With a loud thud, the man landed on his neck, his head then smashed into the sandpit floor creating a cloud of dust. For a split second, the crowd went silent. Then like a tsunami, a wave of applause, cheering, and shouting erupted from the crowd. They were going berserk and they wanted more. It was Louis’ turn. Bookmark here

“Oh god, oh god, oh god,” mumbled Louis as the mule walked to the entrance of the ring. He said it so fast it almost sounded like a pagan chant. Bookmark here

On the opposite side of the ring, he could see a big muscular man. Louis’ jaws dropped as he stared at the first opponent. His body was chiseled and muscular. He had brown hair and a big mustache but that wasn’t all, his biceps and abs were huge. He was at least half a meter taller than Louis. That was going to be whom he would fight tonight. Bookmark here

Luckily this was a team game so Nick would be fighting together with him. Hopefully, his other opponent wouldn’t look like a walking tank. If they teamed up on the weaker one first, maybe they could take the huge man down, Louis thought to himself as he looked at the other opponent. As Louis saw his other opponent Louis’ jaws dropped even more. There sat a man who was easily larger than the man Louis first saw. He was completely built differently, his body was closer to a tractor or a train than a human. He had bold green eyes and even the mule underneath him looked miniature. Louis wanted to cry. Just imagining getting beaten to death by these two men made him feel the pain and misery he was going to feel. Bookmark here

The crowd hooted and howled. “Clap that small kiddo!” said one of the men in the stands. Another said, “Beat him till he can’t stand up!” The people-watching in the stands continued to scream like wild monkeys. Bookmark here

Louis wanted to give up. There was no way they were gonna win. Slowly Louis turned his frightened face across to look at Nick for reassurance. Maybe Nick would have given up, Louis said to himself. And… Nope. Nick looked completely unaltered by the two muscular men. Surprisingly he looked more confident than ever. Nick even had the same sickening grin from earlier today as he cracked his knuckles. Nick was ready to fight. Louis looked down at the donkey and he let a drop tear out. Louis knew that he was fucked. Bookmark here

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The referee stood in the middle of the pit. He looked more like a drunk middle-aged man than a ref because he was an actual drunk middle-aged man with an unkempt beard. The only thing that made him different was the half-broken whistle he had hanging from his neck. The ref wore a dirty uniform like a coat. You could even see his belly because his shirt was wide open. He had just explained the "official" rules of the game which tended to change depending on how much booze he had. He also said that he would interfere with the games if it got too violent but Louis highly doubted that. The man wasn’t sober enough to tell the difference between the mule and competitor at this point. Louis knew this because the ‘ref’ continued to yell and the mule. All Louis had left was to hope he wouldn’t suffer too much. Bookmark here

“Hic*... So… Uh- Don’t kill each other… Ok?” said the ref drunkenly to Louis’ mule. “Ya gotta follow the rules… and yes. Don’t hit the mule. No… Mule hit -Hic* Ok? Hic*- Now Imma start -Hic*… the games.” Then he blew the whistle, starting the game. Bookmark here

With the sound of the whistle, the huge man in front of Louis charged his mule at him. He swung his arms barely clipping his hair. His hands were rock solid from the bandages surrounding his knuckles. Fuck, if I get hit I am going to die, thought Louis to himself as he tried to move his mule. Louis decided he wasn’t going to fight that man. He was going to run. “Go go go go!” shouted Louis. Hopefully, his mule could outrun the opponent’s one. Instead, Louis’ mule sat there like a rock. His face looked bored as his expressionless eyes stared into the distance. God damn it, thought Louis thought to himself as he saw the man with the mustache charge at him again. I’m going to get knocked out.Bookmark here

The muscular man was speeding towards Louis on his mule. The poor mule looked exhausted from carrying such a huge man. The man continued to charge forward as he raised his huge arm, preparing to deliver a devastating blow to Louis’s head. Louis looked at the huge man, his eyes as big as plates. The mule under Louis still sat there like a rock. Man, I got the worst mule ever, Louis thought to himself as he prepared to be punched in the face. The bandaged fist hurled towards his face as Louis sat there helplessly. He was about to cry as he waited for his painful fate. The man threw his punch. Bookmark here

“Fwoosh,” whistled the fist as it was lobbed into Louis' face. Right as the knuckles were about to make contact with Louis’ face the mule laid face down onto the ground as Louis fell with it. Bwossh, said the clenched fist as it missed Louis’s head yet again. He had been spared yet again. His opponent however was not as lucky as Louis. The muscular man’s mule couldn’t come to a halt to the sudden stop as it tripped on Louis’ mule’s tail and legs. He flew forward and he barreled into the sand. With a sickening crunch, the man landed face first in the face. The crowd shouted and laughed at the muscular moustached man in the sand. His donkey too sat head first in the ground, his legs kicking and squirming to be free. Bookmark here

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Nick on the other hand wasn’t doing as well as Louis. His confidence was nowhere to be seen as he fought the man with the green eyes. Surprisingly it wasn’t a one-sided fight. Nick sat on his mule desperately dodging punches as he exchanged blows with his opponents. “Thud, Crack, Bam!” The sickening hits echoed through the ring as the two men dueled it out. They threw punches at each other so fast that even Louis couldn’t see it anymore. It looked like an out-of-world battle. The thuds and cracks continued. You could see the scraps and cuts as they continued to punch each other. The air was heavy and dense, rumbling with excitement. Then suddenly the fight came to an abrupt stop as the two men stared at each other with their arms raised ready to strike. Bookmark here

“Give up,” said the huge man huffing as his green eyes stared at Nick. “You're a great fighter but you can’t defeat me. It's futile.” Bookmark here

Nick however wasn’t the type to back down now. Nick said “Nahhh, mate. I can win” as he smiled. “We’ve only begun.” Bookmark here

Nick was bluffing, or that's at least what Louis thought as he stared at the fight. You could see the wear and pain in his eyes, but there was also something else in his eyes. It was the flames of hope and strength. Nick was going to bet the entire fight on the next punch. The next blow was going to be the strongest one. Louis could tell just by looking at his form and face. It was almost miraculous that he was still standing. Louis sat there as he bit his lips down, as he looked down. Louis could in theory join the fight but he knew it would be wrong. Nick was betting it all, and if Louis joined it would destroy Nick’s effort. Louis wasn’t twisted enough to destroy the final effort of his best friend. Nick then slowly bent down, clenching his bandaged broken fist. He continued to smile as he flexed his muscles. Bookmark here

“Gyahhhhhhhhh,” shouted Nick as he swung his clenched fist at his opponent. His mouth was wide open, his eyes looked as if he was a hawk. The fist hurled towards the face of his opponents like a comet. On impact with a sickening crunch, the fist dug deep into the face as Nick’s knuckles broke. The punch was so fast that it picked up a cloud of dust off the ring floor. It was his final swing. With a loud whoosh, the crowd went dead silent as they stared at the fight. No one could see because of the fumes of dust, but finally, as the dust cleared they could see that Nick’s opponent was still standing. Nick’s final punch had not taken down his opponent. Bookmark here

Slowly the huge man moved Nick’s fist out of his face, clutching the broken knuckles. The man’s face was all bloody and twisted. Nick winched in pain as the man clenched his fist. This time it was the man’s turn to punch Nick. He then slowly pulled Nick’s arm up as Nick struggled helplessly to pull his broken hand out of the grip of his opponent. The huge man then raised his fist high, clenching his fist even harder. He was going to punch Nick as hard as he could, and Louis couldn’t stop it. Louis sat there on his mule helplessly. The mule didn't move at all, he was still laying down on the ring’s ground. He wanted to rush in to help Nick but his legs were planted in the mule. Please, stand up, thought Louis as he begged his mule to stand up. He had to save Nick. It was going to be too late. Bookmark here

The mule didn’t even stand up. Louis watched weakly as the huge man lobbed his fist into the side of Nick. The bandaged wrist made a nasty sound as it rammed into Nick’s side. Bam! With that, Nick flew up like a rag-doll, blood came out of his mouth as his eyes were wide open. The punch was so strong that the ropes that held Nick to the mule ripped apart like paper. It was nauseating watching Nick fly up. Louis winched in pain as he watched his best friend shoot up. His blood boiled with rage and anger. Then momentarily, Nick hovered up in the sky as Nick’s limp body fell right back down to the ground. He looked like a broken doll as he smashed right back down onto the ground. The impact was so large it created an explosion of sand and dust from the bottom of the ring. Nick had lost his fight. The crowd cheered as the huge man pumped his fist up signaling Nick’s defeat, but Louis couldn’t hear any of that. He was fuming with rage and he was ready to take it out on the huge man who knocked out Nick. Louis was so angry that he didn’t notice that the moustached man who was sprawling on the floor earlier had gotten up. It was Louis’ turn to fight again and he was sandwiched in between the two huge men. Bookmark here

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