Within the outskirts of a nearby city. Far enough away from its glistening skyscrapers, amongst the other pieces of civilization, lies a state park laden with forestry. Filled with all kinds of flora and fauna. A mix of lush, and vibrant leaves to bathe in the afternoon sunlight. Along the trail, a man of college-age was trekking on one. He seemed to be hiking but in truth, searching for something. The man stopped in his tracks upon hearing rustling in the bushes. His eyes flashed and he took out a pistol and waited in bated breath.
A moment later, an animal came prancing about in the open. It looked to be the size of a doll. With its fuzzy tail bigger than its own body. It stood on its hind legs holding a spoon, nibbling on it. The man aimed his gun and pulled the trigger. Finding its mark and the creature scrambled all over the trail until it slumped in place.
"Caught you finally..."
The man holstered his gun and made his way over towards the unconscious creature. He took the tranquilizer out of its body and took the spoon from it. "Fortunately, you'll be awake in about an hour. Sweet dreams." He walked away before anyone saw what occurred.
After making his getaway, He stole a glance at his watch and grimaced. "Shoot! I wasted all afternoon trying to catch this thing. I better hurry back to the union."
The man ran as far his legs could carry him towards the main entrance. When he got there, he became relieved that the park hadn't closed yet. Reaching for his vehicle of choice, he unlocked everything from its post. He hopped on it and pedaled away.
The evening arrived with the moon making its way to replacing the sun. Cars stuck in traffic in the midst of struggling to get home. Bustling trains going stop to stop. Buses reaching their destinations to let people off. Advertisements spread throughout on jumbotrons installed on buildings. Civilians walked throughout the city.
Riding on a bike road, the man pedaled toward a building with neon lights named: Hidden Locust Union. Upon reaching It, he got off his bike and brought it with him towards the entrance. The staff started cleaning up for closing, with a few individuals finishing up their tasks. Another man sat at one of the desks, having slick-back hair with glasses to match. He took notice of the man in front of him.
"Oh, there you are Liem! Looking messy as ever underneath that baby face of yours," he remarked, looking at the face of his client. "Had me worried for a moment. That sciuri was hard to catch I assume?"
"I spent most of the afternoon looking for it." Liem presented the spoon to him. "Unlike their brilliant speed, they're pretty simple-minded. So their patterns aren't hard to pinpoint."
"Well now." The man with the slick back hairstyle picked up the object to have a gander at it. "A golden spoon? There are some teeth-marks from the handle. Otherwise, it's still in good condition."
"Isn't that a gift from parents to wish their kid a wealthy life, Jun?" Liem asked.
"Something like that." The now-named Jun began typing. "Good job finding that. The client who lost this will be quite happy."
Liem shrugged in a nonchalant manner. "All in a day's work. How much was this excluding the union fee anyway? Two-hundred?"
"One-forty now." Jun stretched his arms out. "After the notification, you'll receive the money in about thirty minutes."
Liem looked over his watch. "Got the notice. See you tomorrow."
"Hold on Liem, I need to talk to you."
Liem stopped in his tracks amidst all the shuffling and chattering. "Are you going to lecture me, old man?"
"First of all, I'm only older than you by fifteen years," Jun huffed. "You called it a lecture. I call it a precaution."
Liem got impatient but didn't show it as he respected Jun to an extent. "What is it?"
Jun took a breather and settled into his chair. "Well…For the past seven years we've known each other. I'm starting to worry about you."
Liem sharpened his gaze. "I appreciate the thought, but I didn't choose this lifestyle, It chose me. So, don't worry about it."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Jun winced. "If you get seriously injured on one of these offers. It could set you back for a lifetime."
"I'm aware of that and have been taking it easy." Liem touched one of his fingers. "I still remember I broke one of these last time."
"And that's just your finger." Jun pointed at Liem's other body parts. "It could have been your arm or your leg."
An announcement chimed in and said, "Hello, fellow union members. We have only ten minutes until closing time. Please finish and turn in any requests that you may have. Thank you."
"What are you getting at?" Liem asked. Wasting no time and cutting his sentences short.
"Please go find stable work," Jun implored, grasping his hands together. Loud enough for Liem to hear within earshot. "I know you got laid off from that one automotive company a few months back. But you could easily work for other companies."
"Thanks, but I would rather not deal with that again." Liem rubbed his forehead in frustration. "I start building a business elsewhere… It's not like I thought about looking for steady work from time to time."
"That's all I can ask from you." Jun began packing up. "Funny, for someone who's rebellious, you at least plan ahead."
Liem made a friendly smirk to his observation. "No point in being reckless about It. I always have a backup plan in case one fails."
"Well, that's one less thing to worry about." Jun gave a weary smile. "You get on home now. Wouldn't want to keep your friend waiting longer than he needs to."
"Yeah, see ya." Liem walked off with his bike in tow.
Jun meanwhile scratched his head with uncertainty. "What am I going to do with him..."
From dodging pedestrians to sharing the road with other vehicles. He reached a place he called home. Awaiting him, an adequate yet ordinary-looking apartment complex situated inside a neighborhood. Nothing much to it besides its clean aesthetics and white coated finish. Hauling his bicycle to his tiny establishment, keys rustled from his waistband and inserted in the keyway. Opening the door, someone was waiting for him. Bigger than that of a preschooler. With it wearing overalls and it might as well pass up for one. Taking away it's greenish appearance and no one could tell the difference. Liem saw it perk up and run to meet up with its owner.
"Why, hello Bobo!" Liem picked the creature up. "Hopefully you didn't wait too long."
Bobo shook its head and pointed at something in the living room. Liem looked and saw a computer case with its insides gouge out.
"Oh, you were playing with some computer parts?"
Bobo nodded while Liem looked around at his minimalistic dwelling. No couches or armchairs to be found besides a low table frame, covered with blankets. "Well, you just wait a little bit longer. When I'm out of the shower, I'll whip up something for the both of us."
Liem put Bobo down and it rushed off to play. Liem mounted his bike to a wall before heading over to the bathroom. He noticed some mail littered about on the table on the way there and proceeded to look over them. One of them caught his eye while scouring through them.
"Grandpa and grandma? Haven't heard of them in three months." He wanted to have a quick peek until his stomach growled, asking for food. "After taking a shower and eating of course."
In the back of his mind, he wondered about the contents of the envelope but he decided it wasn't urgent. More importantly, he hoped there was some meat in his fridge for dinner.
After a meal of rice porridge and fish. Both Liem and Bobo performed their nightly rituals and went straight to bed. Liem, however, just lay on his sleeping bag. Thoughts running through his mind of what Jun said to him earlier. Liem told him that he was fine but hindsight said otherwise.
"Besides freelancing and union work. It's like I'm trapped..." He whispered to no one in particular.
The obstacles in his way, the hurdles he climbed and being worked to the bone. The progress being made and a setback lay in wait for him. His finger became one example and took a hit on his finances. While insignificant, It was enough for Liem to rethink his strategy of how to maneuver life itself.
"I can't live like this… I'm only at the advanced rank in the union."
Those with high enough ranks could afford to live in luxury working for a union. Most people saw them as something to do in their spare time. Never really looked at as a serious career path unless someone specializes in one field of their choosing. Liem began to fume. Failure of securing jobs other than freelance work had set him back as well. Not many wanted to hire him for one reason or another. His demeanor towards authority in an office workplace might be the cause. Which explained his reasoning for joining the trades. Jun's words rang true about looking at other companies to work for. After being laid off, however, it left a bad taste in Liem's mouth and vowed to never work for another company again.
"My dream to start a business continues to move away from me."
Liem continued to stare at the ceiling. He envisioned starting his own business and making the goal of being his own boss one day. But, it was dashed from unchecked mismanagement at an automotive company that he worked for six years. Fortunately, Liem's aptitude for planning ahead helped him get as far as he did. Doing part-time at the Hidden Locust Union during his senior year. Liem continued to do so on the weekends after getting his job of choice. He also put whatever money he earned into his banking account during that time. Saving enough money that'll last him a while if something were to happen. But how much longer, he thought. What if something did seriously injure him and it took his entire savings to fix himself? What then? Both him and Bobo could be forced to live in even smaller accommodations than previously. Liem shivered at the thought.
"I'll refuse to live in those coffin homes," Liem muttered. "We're better off living in those dorm rooms or a comic cafe." He turned on his side and saw his grandparents' envelope.
"Oh yeah, almost forgot about it." He sat up and picked it up. "Might as well read of what they have to say."
He took out a letter opener to cut open the letter and conducted a search. It read:
We hope you are doing well making it in life. We also noticed that you were quite busy and weren't able to visit. In case you're wondering, we're doing just fine. Grandma is being a green thumb as usual. Tending her garden with the maids. I recently started building and painting historical miniatures. It's quite fun actually! Thank you for recommending me to this hobby and would love to have a battle with you soon. It's pretty boring playing the same opponents or by myself every time. With that out of the way, I can now get down to business as to why I'm sending you this letter. This may sound a bit odd coming from us, but we are wondering if you would like to inherit our estate? Your grandma and I believe that you are a good fit for it, judging from the small talk we had three months ago. Our own children have no such interest in this responsibility as they're going about their own lives and we ain't getting any younger. If you're interested, do give us a call when you get the chance. There should be a check alongside this letter. It'll help you with the plane expanses. We'll even have one of our maids come get you and Bobo once we set up a date for you to visit us. Do take care of yourself now and see you soon.
Liem's mind raced. Trying to absorb the information given to him. He looked inside the envelope and by his grandfather's words, a check laid bare inside.
How did he miss it the first time? He asked himself. Liem glanced at it and his eyes popped out. "Damn, there's about two grand in this check. There's grandpa being generous as usual."
He started to wonder if his grandparents knew about his situation. Liem had kept his struggles a secret from both them and his own parents. Telling them that he's doing well as always during the years. He put some thought into it and then shrugged. "Wouldn't put it past them. They can be quite perceptive."
Liem looked back at the still sleeping Bobo. "Unfortunately for the little guy, besides being forced to sit in a car. He's terrible on planes and restless on trains. But still..."
Liem discovered an opportunity. Something to get him and Bobo out of their rut. Some doubts lingered in his mind. Questions that are in need of answering. But immediately swept away by what seemed to be a solution to his problem. A way out.
"But how am I going to get there?" An idea crept up in Lein's mind. "Why, of course."
Liem laid back down and resumed sleeping with a smile remaining on his face.
The weekend came and Liem headed straight to Jun and relayed the information to him.
"Your grandparents want you to inherit their estate?" He became shocked by the sudden news.
"Yeah, they want me to come visit them again in Tolkien," said Liem.
"But isn't Bobo bad with planes and trains? Not to mention, you sold your car. I don't see how you would-" Jun paused at mid-sentence. His eyes widened at the realization. "You don't mean riding your bike there, do you?"
Liem could only nod and Jun's jaw dropped. "Liem, that's literally the other side of the country!" Jun became so loud, people inside the building looked in his general direction. "Sorry!"
Shaken by the absurdity, Jun pushed up his glasses up to his nose ridge. "Can your bike handle such a journey? It's a little over four thousand miles from here to there. Not to mention, we're in the summer season!"
Liem continued to gaze and amused himself by Jun's compulsive movements. "Fully aware of that and that's why I'm making preparations first."
He pointed at his bicycle. "This bike here is custom made with the strongest alloys. I haven't had any problems with it besides some minor issues for years now."
"Do your parents even know that this is happening? asked Jun.
"They don't need to know about it. I can just tell them that I'm visiting family," said Liem. "For my grandparents, I'm calling them tonight."
He then scratched the back of his head. "Things are set into motion already. I thought that you should be the first to know about it."
"I see…" Jun's eyes blinked. "You really want to go through with this?"
"Yes," Liem gave a curt nod while tightening his grip on the bike handles. "It's my only chance."
"Well, I'm in no position to stop you," Jun relented, leaning back on his chair. "But I can't help but worry."
"You're like my parents. Despite me leaving their nest, they still worry about their baby." Liem laughed. "Oh well, I considered you as my uncle anyway."
"At this point, I might as well be family." Jun sat back down. "I assume you have a plan?"
Liem just smiled, "Of course! The cycling association we have here has routes mapped out nationwide."
"We have such a thing?"
"I don't blame you for not knowing. Bike traveling is quite niche. The association has been mapping out routes for some forty-odd years so it's a recent development," Liem explained. "Considering how bicycle-oriented this side of the country is. It's not hard to put two and two together."
"Ah, I should've known that was the case." Jun leaned back in his chair. "It makes sense. You did this sort of thing?"
"You bet I did! For vacation, I took Bobo along the coastline on my bike with a guide two years back." Liem pulled out his smartphone to show Jun about his adventures. "Here's me, Bobo and our guide with the ocean behind us."
Jun studied the picture with great interest. "Wow, looks like you guys had a lot of fun traveling."
"Yes sir, came back with sore thighs though," Liem chuckled.
"I can imagine." Jun started doing his usual routine on the computer. "When are you going to leave?"
"End of this month. Since this sort of thing is going to take some time setting up." Liem inspected his bike. "I need to get everything right if I want to pull this off."
Liem looked at his smartphone. "Oh yeah, I'm going to do this today."
With a spring in his step, Liem walked out with his bike. Leaving his adviser alone. With the biker gone, Jun melted into his chair, his mind swirling in his thoughts. Chatter among both the workers. Keyboards typing all around him. He straightened himself up again to finish something on his desk.
"I shouldn't worry too much and help him out whenever I can." For both of them, the decision Liem made was something that could have endangered him. The dangers that lurked the moment Liem set off. Jun realized what Liem might go through, but remained optimistic for him. The only thing he could only hope for Liem to safely maneuver the journey ahead.
"May the gods watch over you, Liem."