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Chapter 1
This decision was spontaneous. There were several ideas: fishing, hunting, relaxing on the beach, a trip to a ski resort. The chosen option would have been hanging out somewhere at the very end, if one day Cheryshev, tired of the indecision and arguments in the team, had not asked: "Well, shall we go camping then?" And so we did.

After the defeat at the World Cup the national team needed some kind of positive emotional shake-up, so Cherchesov, looking at the doomed faces of the team members, decided to do something like a small trip to the countryside before the players were officially sent "to their homes and clubs". Of course, the support of the fans at the stadium and of the whole country was well felt, but it was obvious that the guys need to finish this stage on a positive note, to finish the show not with a dramatic murder but with the unexpected resurrection. Stanislav Salamovich did not insist: if someone wanted to hurry back to his family or on his own initiative go somewhere - he did not persuade to stay and spend some more time with the team members, moreover, on the first day he said that he would not keep anyone on a leash: go if you want. Cherchesov himself would not be able to go for health reasons, but he was not going to abandon the organization of the trip. Contrary to fears, no one even twitched in the direction of their hometowns and clubs, the atmosphere of some cohesion and united fighting spirit still prevailed in the team, so the Russian national team set off for the campaign in full squad.

The training camp took two days: quite fast, given the fact that for each player separately it would take a good week. All the members of the national team went to the store, where a decent amount of money was left in the cash register that day, despite all sorts of discounts on goods, and Cherchesov suggested that this was all dictated by the desire to get into the whole preparatory process of their little adventure.

Smolov, having lost last night to Zobnin in the wish cards, bought a bright green sleeping bag in flowers. Roma appreciated the choice of his friend and wanted to offer him the same pillow for a complete set, but got only a slap in the forehead. For Miranchuk they dug out somewhere in the warehouse two sleeping bags in bright turquoise colors, while the rest of the team settled for something more restrained and either single-color or with some unremarkable ornaments. It's not clear in front of whom to show off at night, but almost every player looked for something not only warm but also nice-looking.

They took eight tents: three with dark camouflage fabric, one yellow, one maroon, two navy blue, and a brown one, which was trimmed to look like the bark of a branchy tree. They also bought several light spare blankets, small pillows, and roomy backpacks. They took food based on what and how long they could carry on their shoulders. The players' endurance was much higher than that of ordinary people, but it did not alter the fact that they, too, could become fatigued. Taking canned food is certainly good, but they weigh not so little, so they took the arrangement of food and water in backpacks seriously: they didn't need anyone else to pull their back. The team really felt the spirit of some still light excitement and cohesion, and sometimes Igor, who carefully watched what the others were doing, felt as if they were all a big family, going to a war of their own devising.

On the third day, after throwing all their belongings into the transport that was to take them to the forest base, the team set off on their little ten-day journey before temporarily leaving for home until mid-August.


"What a territory," Denis whistled, warming up after the long bus ride.

"Maybe you meant to say, "What a dump?" Fedya Smolov raised an eyebrow.

"No, territory."

In front of them stood a tall three-story building, which could hardly be called a house - a whole cottage covered the forest and served as a kind of gateway to its vast lands. There was a small garden around it, a pond with a gazebo on a tiny island to the left, with two bridges leading to it, and a parking lot and, probably, an underground garage on the opposite side. The house itself was lined with thick timber logs that sat on a brick foundation. The windows were large, nearly two-thirds the height of the entire wall on the third floor, the frames covered painted patterns burned out of the wood, flowing smoothly to the sides and generally forming painted lianas, which only remained to be painted green to complete the picture. The roof was lined with dark red tiles, the symmetrical metal balconies were painted brown, and the front door, to which a stone path led, was carefully and invitingly opened as if inviting new guests into its domain.

A man rose from the steps, trying not to lean on his sore knee, and waved a hand in greeting, calling the players to come closer.

"Why are you standing there like strangers? I don't bite."

"Good evening, Pavel Ivanovich," Stanislav Salamovich said, holding out his hand to the elderly man. "How are things?"

"Everything is all right," assured the forester, "bears are not in season in these parts yet, foxes roam everywhere, and to be afraid of wolves is not to go to the forest."

"Wolves?" Golovin spoke up, raising an eyebrow.

"And you thought we'll be alone here?" Zobnin exhaled.

"Yes, we can tear these wolves with our bare hands if they stuck to us," Cheryshev said optimistically throwing his arms on their shoulders.

"They won't, we'll be at the other side," forest ranger interfered. "I - Pavel Ivanovich, I know who you are, so let's get acquainted. I run this shop," he waved his hand in the direction of the house.

"I leave all you eagles on his shoulders," said Cherchesov.

"They're sick, by the way, so don't be cheeky."

Pavel Ivanovich, whose last name was known only to a select few, had lived in these parts for a very long time. All his life he worked and continues to work as a forester and with the permission of the local authorities arranges small hikes with tourists who come to see the local scenery. And there was a lot to see: both the vast forest that stretched for kilometers in different directions and the rocky terrain in the middle, one of whose heights reached a thousand and a half feet. It was beautiful here year-round, both in the day and in the evening, but it was better to go hiking in the morning rather than toward night.

"Come into the house, I will see you there." Pavel Ivanovich stepped back from the aisle and began to drive everyone with his hand. "And in the meantime, I'll have a talk with your coach."

Igor adjusted the backpack hanging from his shoulder and went inside the building, immediately feeling the smell of fresh wood, mixed with something pleasant and sweet. The furniture was wooden, matching the whole house, the windows had lovely purple polka-dot curtains, and Akinfeev involuntarily smiled when he noticed a rug on the wall, and in the corner, there was a shelf with an icon and three candles. The setting brought back memories of his childhood when Igor was sent to his grandfather's dacha in the summer, where he liked to chase sheep on the field, play Cossack-robbers with the boys and steal sour cherries from the neighbor's plot, for which he always got a scolding from his grumpy grandmother when she saw her grandson soaked in red berries. In that old oak house, which, over time, did not even sag, it often smelled of wood, the pleasant antiquity of years gone by, and the sweet aroma of baked goods that filled the house from the early morning.

"It's nice here," sounded in his ear, and Igor shuddered in surprise, pulled out of his memories.

"Yeah," he agreed, looking at Dzyuba, who was on the same level as him.

"Ready to go, captain?"

Akinfeev shrugged uncertainly because he did not know how he would feel in the forest. Of course, he had gone with his grandfather to pick mushrooms, and they had stayed overnight a couple of times, but that was a long time ago, and then it was not scary at all, because Igor felt safe next to his grandfather and did not even think about the fact that he could be dragged away by Leshy right from under the side of his relative at night. Now, of course, no Leshy would hunt him, and it is unlikely that behind the opaque tree cover could hide any danger, but the uncertainty of the adventure of the trip, floating in the air, alarmed and at the same time stirred the blood, making him remain in anticipation.

"I'm sure it is," Igor nodded, forcing himself to lean against Artyom's shoulder as a laughing Denis came at him from the other side, apologizing immediately. "They're not a boring bunch."

"Come on," Artyom grinned, "you'll never forget this trip. We'll start pulling sticks with the numbers soon."


"Well, there are twenty-two of us and only eight tents," Dzyuba stretched, suppressing a yawn. Fresh air always had a quick effect on him. "We didn't decide who would share the room with whom on the way."

"I don't know about everyone, but Alan and I decided a long time ago that we were going to sleep in the same... what?" Igor raised an eyebrow, noticing the strange look on Artyom's part.

"And me?"

"What about you?" Igor didn't understand.

"Maybe, I also want to sleep with you in one tent," Artyom pretended to be offended. "See, all you captains Igor Akinfeev are like that, first you make a tame animal out of a wild animal, feed it from your hand, and then you leave one to its fate, and you can not, because "we are responsible for those whom we tamed!""

Igor rolled his eyes, elbowing Artyom in the side.

"You're not like a fox, and I'm not like the Little Prince, I'm sorry."

"And the princess?" Artyom joked, and took a few steps to the side, smiling just in case. "Haven't you seen on the Internet that memes don't just do to your leg?"

"Fuck you," Igor jokingly swung back.

Of course, Igor saw it. And he saw not only the journalistic photos from the World Cup but also the fan creations, whose hands drew all sorts of wreaths or hearts on his head and called him and Artyom the King and Queen of Russian soccer. He had nothing against other people's creativity; on the contrary, sometimes it was even amusing to see what soccer fans were doing besides watching matches, shouting "Russia!" and drinking alcohol. But Igor really didn't understand why Korolev was the one. Apparently, there was some strange logical chain of reasoning of his own, which he was unlikely to ever get to. After all, let them do what they want as long as it doesn't break the law because even if Igor happened to come across some post that praised the love between him and Dzyuba (and that's where people come up with all this stuff?), Akinfeev would just ignore it because nothing ever happened between them, never did and never will.

That's what Igor really thought as he looked at the smiling Artyom, who childishly showed him his tongue and held out a stick pulled from the general pile. I think he said something to a saddened Dzagoev, only Akinfeev could not hear. Igor opened his palm to Dzyuba's satisfied buzzing over his ear and looked at both sticks, comparing the already identical numbers with the numbers "one".

We set out for the hike in the morning.

Chapter 2

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