- Tai Ping District, Free State of Schangau, Confederate States of Northern Avalonia
March 22nd, 1990
nton had been hauling his hiking gear and shotgun for over two hours over what seemed like millions of hills and valleys, just to get to one village. The name “Sheung Shui” wasn’t kidding; the trek up to the little hamlet of around 100 folks was three hours long, and his patrol was only two-thirds of the way there. The town elders had frequently complained about wild boars raiding their crops, and yesterday’s raid had ruined Grandma Tai’s prized radish farm.
While the normal course of action was to let the villagers deal with the boars themselves with their own firearms, the hunters had requested some extra firepower– a schoolboy had spotted at least a dozen of them roaming through a nearby grove the day before.
“Who’s up for a break?” Luka’s forehead is dripping with sweat. It’s only 7 in the morning, and it’s only going to get hotter.
“Pass the water.” Bowen still looks properly drenched; he’d slipped in a small stream half an hour ago much to the amusement of everyone else.
“Need a smoke?” Christof’s already made himself comfortable, leaning back on the base of a tree. His hand is outstretched with a pack of cigarettes in hand, shaking it like a baby rattle. It works; Luka’s already got his lighter out and Yang’s rushed over from the back of the pack to grab one.
His canteen feels unusually light after he takes a massive swig of water. It’s refreshing, and so is the sight from where he stands. From behind gently sloping hills lush with flora and fauna, the morning sun shines over a river that looks as if it’s lazily winding through the landscape. There are no clouds in sight; the birds in the sky take their place as tiny black dots coasting across a sea of orange and teal. If he could frame it, he would.
Christof exhales a puff of grey smoke from his nostrils. “You guys hear what happened to the station at Sha Tin?”
“Something about a ghost sighting, right?” Luka speaks up; he has a friend in Sha Tin. “Apparently, it spooked a sentry. Accidental discharge.”
“More like negligent. Good luck trying to shoot disgruntled spirits away with double-aught buckshot.” Bowen interjects with a witty remark. For being ethnically Bakanese, he’s somehow the least superstitious of the group.
“Has their commander called for the fung seui man yet?” Yang looks morbidly curious about the story. “Who knows? The vibes might be off there.”
“What are they gonna do, huh? Shift some furniture around? Close some doors?” Bowen shoots back.
“Alright, boys.” Luka cuts between the two. “Time’s up for bickering. We’re almost there, so get ready.”
On command, everyone else groans as they get up and get ready. Everyone’s eager to get some shots off; a successful boar hunt means a village barbeque, with all the pork belly anyone could ever ask for. Nobody likes the long trek, but that’s what their job entails as border guards. When he transferred here all those months ago, he wasn’t expecting to become a walking public relations machine for the government, all the way out in the countryside. At least he didn’t have to deal with rowdy drunks in downtown Schangau every evening; the fresh air out here certainly helps.
“Hey, Anton!” Yang calls out to him. “Hurry up!” He’s further up now.
“Yeah, yeah! Coming!” His legs aren’t going to like the rest of this.