He didn’t think it was possible to sweat in the dead of winter, even for a vulpine. But, of course, so much has changed in Listonia over the years, it was becoming unusual to expect the normal. He had to set his shovel down for a moment, just a moment, to wipe the sweat from his brow using the rolled up flannel sleeve hugging his right arm. Even though there were hundreds of workers around him, the snow fell calmly, visibility decreasing slowly as the snow started to pick up. Thankfully, the wind wasn’t too much of a problem.

“Back to work!”

He felt the tap of an officer’s club. No, not a police officer. Listonian military. And no, he wasn’t in trouble. Just happened that in a developing state, the only organization with the ability to orchestrate these massive projects was the military. And that’s what The Yasterian Highway system had become. There were several such highways proposed - one from Isklevyu to Listonia, another from Allegheny to Dveria, with a few other mega highways in between. And that didn’t include the railway systems. But, he was in southeastern Listonia, working hand-in-hand with other Listonians and displaced Alleghenians in order to earn an honest wage during the cold winter months when nothing grew from the ground. Normally he’d have enough yield to save during the month, but due to the fighting in Isklevyu, he could use the money. Sure, some of his friends joined the military. But he wasn’t much for that.

He quickly picked up his shovel and went back to work. All they were doing was digging through a foothill to make it easier for the Yasteria 1 to wind through. But the ground was hard and progress was slow. Eight hours into a 14-hour workday didn’t really show much progress, but over the days one could see the terrain was gradually changing.

How he’d wish it was Spring again. The ground would soften, the days would get longer, the sun would get hotter, and he’d be planting and tilling, tilling and planting. It was a beautiful life, all the wars and suffering considered. He really wouldn’t want it any other way. Mostly because it couldn’t be any other way.


He snapped out of it and stopped shoveling.

“Hey was that you singing over here?”

“Me?” he said. “Uh, yeah. I can stop if you want.” He turned around to the officer.

“No…” the officer replied. “No, you may continue. Actually, please continue.”

He shrugged. To him, it was just everyday life. He loved to sing in the field, and he knew quite a bit of songs. But he had been singing about some obscure Listonian song, something about a man who’s complaining about how he’s so soft in the middle but his life and everything around him is hard as stone. About why he has such a short attention span but his nights are long and monotonous. This causes him to analyze his life. Suddenly, he can hear the cathedral bells, see the beauty of the Listonian landscape, and hear, really hear the tones of laughter.

To everyone else, it was something rather amazing. The officer and his men had never heard a voice so rich, rich as honey, but deep as Lake Miiyu. Someone who could effortlessly take the high notes and low notes effortlessly, barely breathing to emanate the sounds which pierced the cold wind with warmth.

When he stopped, he noticed those around him applauding.

“What’s your name?”

“Uh, Eri, sir.”

“Good. Eri, continue singing and I’ll see to it you get some kind of raise out of it.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Hell, keep doing it and you’ll probably go places.”

“Yes, sir.”