Chapter 4:

Mud and blood

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

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Louis sat in the trenches. He looked down at his knuckles, the scars have healed. It had been over three weeks since he was released from the field hospital with Nick. They were ‘officially’ injured in action, or that's at least what the military report said that was sent back to their family. He had lived a cushy life in the hospital. The beds were nice and cozy there, but now he was sleeping in the dirt again. Bookmark here

“Hey, letters are here.” A man suddenly said as he walked over, his arm raised. On the other hand, he held a bag labeled, Monia state mail. Once a month soldiers received news from civilians and the state, “This is for Fredrick Everland… and this is for- uhhhh… Louis Herbig” the man said as he distributed the mail. Bookmark here

“I’m here,” Louis said as he stood up. He then collected letters that were wrinkled and crumpled but he didn’t mind. The first two letters were from his relatives while the other one was official state news, the rest random letters. Louis then sat back down as he ripped open the letters. The first letter was from a distinct relative wishing him luck, the second, the same. The other mail was from young students from around the nation also wishing them luck. This mail came in every month and it was officially to keep the morale up, however many soldiers didn’t bother to read it. All the letters were so bland it might as well have been mass-produced. Bookmark here

“I got the same letter as usual,” said Louis as he let out a sigh. “What about you, Nick?”Bookmark here

“Same here.” Nick quickly replied. He had gotten similar mails from his relatives and school children. He too let out a heavy sigh. Bookmark here

Louis then rumbled on about the letters as he opened up the state news. Then Louis’ breath stopped as he looked down at the newspaper, his eyes were wide open. Bookmark here

“What wrong-” Nick asked but he was cut short as he too dropped his jaws in surprise and dread. Bookmark here

The newspaper headline read, “North Pauisbar invades Monia as Heinzdien soldiers close in on the capital.” This was the worst thing that could happen. Louis still with his eyes wide open rubbed his eyes rereading the lines. He couldn’t believe what was happening. Monia was going to be crushed by the two greatest powers in Glediah. Bookmark here

The horrible news then quickly spread through the ranks like wildfire along with many other rumors. In under half an hour every man knew about the news even before they received their newspaper. Many were scared and worried, and Louis and Nick were no exception. Many would have deserted but their pride had stopped them from doing so. They had to protect their nation. Bookmark here

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Ever since the horrible news, the bombardment from the enemies got much worse. “God damn it,” Louis sneered. “They’ve been bombing us for four days.” His eyes were bloodshot and tired. Ever since the bombardment he hasn’t been able to sleep well. Bookmark here

“I can’t even hear myself…” Nick groaned. His eyes too were bloodshot and tired. The booming continued, the smell of gunpowder and fire was heavy in the air. Bookmark here

Suddenly with a loud explosion, the ground shook hard. A rock landed on Louis’ head as sand and other debris rained down upon the men. “Oh fuck that landed near us,” Louis shouted. The explosion had rattled his brain, his vision shook as the sound echoed in his brain. Bookmark here

“Get down! Incoming!” Someone yelled from the trenches. The bombs whistled down as the bombardment continued throughout the night. Bookmark here

By early next morning, the battlefield was silent. The men in the trenches were fast asleep, the bombardment had ended. Louis too was sleeping in the mud, his head lying on the side of his gun. Many would have described the scene as peaceful, however, this was just the calm before the storm. Soon both sides were going to rush to each end, the fate of the nation sealed in the next battle. Bookmark here

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Louis was barely awake when he was running through the trench. In his hand, he held his rifle, on the front a bayonet. Sirens and bells rang as he quickly scurried forward. I must look like a rat, he thought to himself as he ran. “The enemies have started a frontal assault and waves more are to come.” A lieutenant shouted. Many people were shouting orders as they directed the men to the front-line trench. As he got closer the sound of a gunshot got louder. The air here was always the smell of mud, blood, and gunpowder. Then out of the blue Louis heard a strange whistling sound from the sky that sounded similar to the shells. With a sudden blast, the ground to the left of Louis flashed and a huge explosion happened. The smoke blew right up creating a mushroom-like cloud. As Louis looked up he saw that there were a few dozen flying machines filling the sky. This was the first time Louis had seen these flying machines. Many of the men stared in awe as they saw these machines in the sky. They were like birds, and he could barely see them in the sky. From the ground, they looked no bigger than Louis’ palm but he could see the big black cross on the wings. They were the planes of the enemy. Bookmark here

Louis had heard about planes. They were invented around the time he was born in a foreign land across the ocean. He had heard that they were expensive and hard to maintain. The technology was so new that only certain places in the world had these things called ‘planes’. He had also heard that they were now being used for warfare. These planes carried bombs which were like the shells from the cannons but much more deadly and accurate. Louis gulped down hard and he cocked his gun up pulling the trigger. This was horrible news for the Monian army. Bam! He fired once, then twice, however the planes seem to continue circling them like hawks. The bullets from his rifle couldn’t reach the planes. “Damn it,” Louis said as he reloaded his gun. The bombs continued to rain down from the plane as Louis rushed forward. There was no time to be wasting time here, Louis had to make it to the front trenches before his enemies got there. Bookmark here

As Louis ran forward the air got thick. He turned the corner and saw a sign that said “Frontlines, 20 meters.” The closer he got the smell of burning flesh and blood became more prominent. He hated the smell of it but by now he had gotten used to it. “10 meters,” said the sign. Now Louis was one corner away from living hell. He then took a deep breath in gripping his gun tighter as he rushed forward. It was total war. Bookmark here

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The frontline scene was familiar. Dead men, burning bodies, broken limbs, blood, mud, it looked like something out of gehenna. Louis sneered as he ran past dead bodies. The scenery still made him sick, but he believed that it made him human. As he looked up the sky was blood red, it was filled with dust and smog. Bookmark here

“Get up, I need support!” A man yelled with a huge blazing machine gun in his hand. Bullet casings were flying everywhere. Around him there was a mound of dead men, bullets were whizzing past him, some missing him barely. Louis quickly rushed to his aid, as he peaked up he saw countless drove of men rushing forward. They were so close Louis could see their faces through the smog as they got mowed down by the machine gun. They were all aiming for the machine gunner. Bookmark here

Through the mound of dead bodies, Louis aimed for his enemy. He lined up the scope with the head of his opponents. Crack! The gun jumped backward ramming its butt into the shoulder. The man Louis had aimed for fell down on the ground. A hit. Then again Louis aimed for the head of another man. Bam! As he pulled the trigger another man fell. Bookmark here

The gunshots continued as bullets whizzed past Louis’ head. The man next to Louis then let out a small grunt as he slumped onto Louis. By the time he fell off he was dead, blood seeped out of a bullet hole on his forehead. Bookmark here

“God damn it,” Louis yelled as he reloaded his gun. He kicked the dead body on him to the side before firing his gun. “Backup gunner,” He yelled as he cucked the gun back, his voice drowned out by the gunfire. Louis had to worry about the men charging forward. They were approaching the lines fast. Louis could have used the machine gun, however, he knew doing so will make him the living target. Before Louis could call out again for a machine gunner, a bullet zipped right past his cheeks. It zoomed right past his cheeks and ricocheted off the metal of the machine gun. That could have ended horribly, thought Louis to himself as he reloaded his gun. As he aimed his gun he heard the whistling sound he heard earlier from the planes. Then with a sudden flash, he felt his body rise into the air. I must have gotten hit by a bomb, Louis thought to himself. The explosion sound echoed throughout his brain. Then Louis lost consciousness. Bookmark here

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“Wake up, wake up.” Louis heard someone yelling. He felt someone shaking him by the shoulder. Am I dead, Louis questioned himself as he slowly opened his eyes. The bright light hurt his brain as he peered through a thin slit. His eyes were only half-open. There he saw Nick shaking him, the sky behind him was sky red. Bookmark here

“Heh, I didn’t die did I?” Louis scoffed. “Man, I guess the first thing I see after coming back is your ugly face.” Bookmark here

“Hey, that's not nice,” Nick replied grinning. “Anyway, glad you're doing well as usual.” Looking up, Louis felt guilty for saying something mean.Bookmark here

The sound of gunfire continued, as Louis starred up. The smell of blood and mud was overwhelming. “Am I hit?” Louis slowly asked as he padded himself down. There was blood all over him but it didn’t seem like any part of him was missing. Bookmark here

“Nah, you're fine,” Nick said. “You just got knocked out by a bomb that landed near you. You were out for like- around ten minutes. Lucky all the dead bodies around you served as a shield.” Bookmark here

“Well I guess that's good news,” Louis said as he reached up. Nick then promptly helped him up. “Whoa,” Louis shouted as a bullet whizzed past him suddenly.Bookmark here

“Careful,” Nick scolded him as he too got down. “They’re almost here.” Bookmark here

What Nick had said was true. As Louis peered up bobbing his head up and down he saw many men charging forward, they were coming in between a gap in the wires to his right. They were so close Louis could see the white of their eyes. “I guess we're back to trench fighting,” Louis said as he tightened the bayonet on his rifle. Bookmark here

“Yup, I guess we are,” said Nick as he too tightened the bayonet on the front. Bookmark here

“Let's get going!” Shouted Louis as he ran forward as fast as they could. It was hard running through the thick mud and dead bodies. The smoke choked his lungs as he rushed forward. Bookmark here

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Right as Louis and Nick got to the point of defense, the line was broken. They were engulfed in chaotic hand-to-hand combat. Around them, men from both sides stabbed each other to death with bayonets. Enemy men jumped into the trench with their bayonets and guns ready to take out Louis. Around him, he could hear the screams and cries of the dying men. Some died instantly while others cried for help as they saw their insides spill out. The battlefield had broken into a hand-to-hand skirmish. Many of the men’s guns were clogged with mud and blood forcing them to charge forward with the bayonet raised. Bookmark here

The man in front of Louis fell to the ground as another man jumped down onto him, the bayonet went right through his forehead as the man fell. Grunch! The man landed on the ground. He was dead even before he had the chance to scream for help. Out of reflexes, Louis charged forward, his mouth wide open. Louis could see that the man now standing in front of him was an enemy. The enemy man desperately tried to dislodge the bayonet out of the dead man’s forehead as he stared at Louis dead in the eye. The enemy man had a mustache, his face was mudded, he had high cheekbones, and he had brown eyes and black hair. He tried dodging the knife, however, he was too late. Louis could see the fear in his eyes as he plunged the bayonet into his shoulders. The man then fell over and squirmed for help, pain and misery filled his eyes. He flailed his limbs like how an ant would when it was getting crushed. Louis had missed his vital organ, and it pained him to see the struggling face of the enemy. It would haunt him for the rest of his life the many other dying faces he's seen. He quickly pulled the bayonet out of the shoulder and plunged it forward yet again, this time aiming for the neck. He felt the tip of the knife sink into the meaty flesh of the man’s neck. Through the handguard, he felt the blood pumping out of the neck. The enemy man then slowly slumped over. Blood dripped out of his mouth as he raised his arms reaching for the skies. He tried saying something as he opened his mouth, however, his vocal cords were crushed so all he could do was open his mouth in vain. For a brief second Louis saw fear, misery, pain, relief, and regret in the man’s eye as it went hollow. The arm fell in the mud as his eyes turned backward. He was dead. Bookmark here

Then suddenly Nick shouted, “Watch out!” He had his eyes wide open as he shouted. He too was fighting someone. Bookmark here

Startled, Louis quickly looked up, in a split second Louis jumped to the side. A knife barely missed him. The side of the weapon scraped his uniform. In front of him there stood a man wearing the same uniform as the dead man on the ground. It was an enemy. Louis had no time to grieve for the dead man on the ground, it was chaos. Shit, Louis thought to himself as he tried to jump out into a better position. The enemy man swung the gun sideways, the tip of the rifle rammed into the side of Louis. The impact caused Louis to lose footing as he fell over in the thick mud. Wham! Louis landed in the mud, his jaw whacked into a corpse. The shock made him bite his lips. He could taste the blood in his mouth. Bookmark here

As Louis rolled over he raised his arm, barely blocking the bayonet coming down at his face. The enemy man pressed down harder on the stock of the gun. Louis could feel the tip of the knife digging into his cloth. He felt a rush of fear as he looked up at the enemy man. He couldn’t see the shaded face of the enemy looking down. So, this is how I die Louis thought as he struggled to get up. Louis however wasn’t to give up that easily. He flexed his muscles as hard as he could pushing his gun up, giving himself enough space to move without getting stabbed. He then kicked his legs up using the moment to slide his body up a little. The enemy man startled, took a step back as Louis’ boot rammed into his chest. This gave Louis enough time to quickly stand up using the side of the trench as a wall. Heck yea, Louis thought to himself as he pronged his gun outward. He was still in a horrible position as the enemy man charged toward. Louis was planning on bringing it to hand-to-hand combat. Hopefully, he could win if he was standing. The enemy man then swung his gun forward at Louis thrusting forward at a forty-five-degree angle from above. Louis was caught off guard as the bayonet boss rammed into the muzzle of his gun swinging Louis’ gun down. The force ripped his gun out of Louis’ hand. The gun spiraled outwards as it spun onto the ground a yard away from Louis. With a loud thud, it splashed into the mud. Bookmark here

Seeing the chance the enemy man charged forward, this time he knew he would be able to kill Louis. The tip of the knife swung forward as Louis dodged it as fast as he could. The side of the knife cut his shoulder. It wasn’t too deep but Louis still felt a zap of pain run through his body. At this rate, Louis was going to die. Louis quickly dashed to the side again as the enemy pivoted towards him again. This time Louis fell into the mud as he tripped over the dead body. He hit the mud ground hard, the crash knocked the wind out of him. This time he couldn’t run anywhere. Bookmark here

Louis then stared up as the enemy man swung his gun upward. There he could see pain, misery, pity, and hatred in the eyes of his enemy. The sky was blood red and filled with smog, dust, planes, and bullets. So this is the last thing I’m going to see Louis thought to himself as he continued looking up. So this is how I’m going to die. Bookmark here

Louis had accepted his fate. His eyes were filled with misery and pain, but also a relief. He was proud that he was going to die protecting the nation. It was a bittersweet emotion. He was scared of death but he was now willing to accept it. Now he understood why many people died with relief in their eyes. I guess this is it, Louis thought to himself as he awaited the knife to plunge into his chest. Bookmark here

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“Bang,” Suddenly Louis heard a loud gunshot. Startled, he looked up. The man was still there, his arm raised ready to kill Louis. He had however stopped moving, as his eyes slowly turned backward. A red spot slowly appeared on his chest as it rapidly grew in shape. Blood. Then he fell forward, the knife plunging into the ground right next to Louis. The enemy was dead. Bookmark here

“Ya, okay?” Louis heard a familiar voice above him. It was Nick. He could see that there was smoke coming out of the barrel of his gun. Bookmark here

“Yup, I’m fine,” Louis replied. “Well, besides that fact that the dead body almost killed me.” Bookmark here

“You owe me one,” Nick said grinning. His voice was playful as usual.Bookmark here

“No, I don’t,” Louis said. “I could have taken him by myself.” The dead body was heavy and he had a hard time moving it out of the way. The warm blood from the dead man was bleeding all over him. Bookmark here

“I’ll help you move the body,” Nick said. “Is it too heavy for you?” He was making fun of Louis. Bookmark here

“This is no time to be fooling around, move him off of me,” Louis shouted back. Bookmark here

“Fine.” Nick groaned. He came over and moved the dead body off of Nick with the butt of his gun. Bookmark here

A bomb exploded nearby as Nick lifted the dead body off of him. Louis quickly said, “Thanks bro, you saved my life.” Bookmark here

“What?” Nick said, “I couldn’t hear you because of the explosion.”Bookmark here

“Nothing,” Louis replied grinning. “We better get going.” Bookmark here

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