A green canvas. The same green canvas he had woken up to in the last two years was in front of him, just like always.
With the help of his hands, he managed to sit himself in the bedroll. His eyes were heavy and he was still a little sleepy, but Gray would always call him to help prepare things for their walk, so he had created a habit of getting up as soon as possible. He pulled the blankets from over his legs and slowly stood up.
It was dark inside the tent, the light from the pillars being blocked by the canvas, but he soon noticed Natta sleeping, which was very usual, for she was always the last to go to sleep and to wake up. Although she wouldn’t do much when she was awake anyways.
Nico then walked towards the door of the tent and opened it. Now outside, he could see dozens of different circular tents. Some of them had fabric textures in their exterior, some had a plain color, some had even some symbols in them, as a way to show off clan status and prestige. Some of them were already being dismantled, some had their doors open, others their doors closed and everyone inside sleeping.
But that wasn’t what he was looking for. He searched around him, looking for Gray, but couldn’t find him. Where was he?
He entered the tent again, and with the door open shedding light inside it, he now noticed Gray sleeping.
This was something unusual, for normally he would be the first to wake and get up, and then call Nico and Natta until they also do the same and go help him dismantle the tent, when they would finally eat something and start the walk. And it wasn’t like Nico had woken up way too soon too.
“Gray, Gray” he whispered as he squatted beside Gray and poked his face, “wake up.”
After some time of this, Gray mumbled something incomprehensible and rolled to the side, turning his back to Nico.
“Hey! Come here!” said Nico, but as the sleeping Gray didn’t reply back to him, he stood up and went towards the other side of the bedroll. “Come on, wake up Gray.”
Once again, Gray didn’t do anything.
Why was he like this today? Even on the unusual days he slept more than he should, it was easy to wake him up, but, today, this was turning out to be a pretty difficult job.
Nico put his hand over the left side of Gray’s face and kneeled on the ground. Gray mumbled something. Nico couldn’t understand very well, but he thought it might be something sounding similar to “sorry”. Anyways, what Gray said in his dreams didn’t matter to him. He was trying to wake him up. And so, he bent towards Gray’s strangely warm face and whispered in his ear:
“Graay, wake uup.”
This time, Gray shook his head a little, so Nico took his hand out of his face. He contorted his face and, after some time, slowly started to blink.
“Uh, Nico?” he mumbled, as he slowly started to get up.
“You overslept a little.”
“Oh, I see…” Gray murmured as he rubbed his eyes.
And so, they started doing their routine as usual. Taking out things from inside the tent and putting them inside the cart, waking Natta up, and then dismantling the tent all the three of them together.
After some time preparing it, they all had breakfast. It was, just like always, a small cup of soup and a leaf of bread. After all, more difficult to digest things had to be left for dinner, otherwise they would have difficulty walking all day.
Of the three, Gray was the first to stop eating.
“Hm? You’ve already finished? You usually take a lot more time” Nico nonchalantly asked as he ate his soup.
“I think I’m not going to eat it all,” Gray answered.
Paying closer attention, Nico now noticed that Gray had only eaten slightly less than half of his bread.
“I just don’t feel like it. Nothing special.”
“Huh, I see.”
This was a little weird, considering Gray usually ate a lot, but it shouldn’t be anything to worry about, right? Sometimes people just don’t feel like doing much for no reason at all.
After finishing eating, they put what was left in the cart and started their walk.
Their walk was just like always, Gray and Nico chatted while Natta watched silently. After that, they ate dinner and after some hours went to sleep.
Nothing different from the normal.
The next day, Gray overslept just like the day before, and ate little just like the day before, and after that, they walked just like in the day before, except for the fact that Gray was very sweaty and slower than normal. Well, this wasn’t anything strange, after all he was pulling a huge and heavy cart for days, he would obviously get tired.
The day after that, it was just like the previous one, except for the fact that Gray wasn’t saying much. Well, once again, this wasn’t anything weird, everyone has days when they don’t want to talk much.
Next, it was more of the same, but Gray went to sleep before having dinner. Nico thought maybe he should start to help him pull the cart. After all, Gray was already getting old and it was something pretty exhausting to do.
Another day, and things went mostly like in the previous ones, except for the fact that Nico was also pulling the cart together with Gray. As he did this, he couldn’t help but notice Gray’s body had a pretty high temperature. Maybe it was still too much effort for him. But at least he ate a little before going to sleep this time, and he also said he’s okay after all.
And then the next day his legs faltered and he fell into the ground as they walked.
His legs faltered and he fell on his knees.
His hair and clothes were soaked in sweat. He breathed heavily and his eyes were half closed, and his expression was contorted.
“Gray?!” Nico quavered. “What happened?”
Gray turned his face towards Nico. He tried opening his eyes and looking at him, but every time he did this, he ended up blinking.
“…I think that maybe I’m having a fever…” he panted, his face full of pain.
“H-here, I’ll help you get up,” Nico put his arm under both of Gray’s arms and tried to stand up. Gray’s skin was hot and his sweat covered him, drenching Nico’s clothes as they made contact.
His arms were weak, and every few seconds, he would groan in pain.
“…My head hurts,” he mumbled
All of this was way too sudden.
No, Nico acted like all of this was way too sudden.
Why was this happening? Why was Gray supported on his arm and shoulder, groaning in pain?
No, there was something else.
The truth was…
No, he didn’t want to accept the truth.
I have to take care of him first, this comes later.
“Natta!” Nico shouted, “bring some water!”
She didn’t give an answer, and he couldn’t see her, as she was behind the cart, but after some time, he heard the noise of someone searching something in the cart.
“Oh, that’s why we stopped,” Nico heard a voice say from behind.
Soon, a canteen full of water fell from behind onto the ground in front of him. Then, sounds of someone coming down from the cart and then, once again, silence.
Looks like that was all the help for now.
“Is it difficult to at least give me the thing?” Nico mumbled as he took the canteen with difficulty using his left arm.
He then opened it only with his left hand and put it in Gray’s mouth, who started to drink from it. At the end, he seemed a little better, but still could barely stand by himself.
Nico helped Gray to go behind the cart, where he seated as Nico opened some space on top of the cart for him. With this finished, he now needed to put him there.
But he didn’t have the physical strength to do this.
“Hey Natta,” he turned to his back, towards Natta and called her.
She didn’t answer and stayed silent. Staring at him and Gray, without doing anything.
She still didn’t do anything.
Like always. She only stared, stared and stared, accusing them of only the gods know what with her gaze. She never helped them with anything, and only replied to them aggressively. Now, her father was there, ill, and once again she was doing nothing, nothing to help him, who cared for her so much no matter how ungrateful she was, how mean she was.
How egotistical can someone be? How absolutely despiteful can someone be?
He started approaching her, his eyes locked on hers, his fists clenched, and his steps steady and firm.
“Can’t you fucking go there and help me? Is it too much of a bother?”
Instead of giving a direct answer, her eyes assumed an expression of scorn, looking down on him, and a small mocking grin formed in her mouth.
“Why are you looking at me like this? You can’t even help him yourself?” she said and laughed at him.
He hesitated for a moment, breaking eye contact, but soon looked at her again, face to face.
She continued looking at him from above, but he was now unwavering, and stared back at her, in silence.
It was a little awkward.
“So?” he asked.
“If you’re that pathetic I can try and help you.”
He turned his back to her and the two of them took Gray and dragged him to the top of the cart, where some space was prepared for him. When they finished, they heard a weak “thanks” coming from him.
“It’s nothing, Gray” Nico answered with a forced smile.
Natta didn’t reply to her dad.
Just like before, when they put Gray on top of the cart together, now the two of them pulled the cart side by side.
It was heavy, and pulling it was difficult, but Nico was sure he wouldn’t stop walking for a single second. After all of this, they were now behind the rest of the column by at least some few hundred meters.
And so they walked.
“He was obviously ill” Natta suddenly said, without looking at Nico.
“…I guess so.”
“If things continue like this, I bet he’ll die-”
“No, he won't,” he objected. “I won’t let this happen.”
“You could’ve searched for some help before it got this bad” she said and then laughed in a weird, unnatural manner: “And when he dies it will be your fault.”
They continued walking in silence for a moment.
“Do you find this funny? Do you want him to die?”
This time, it was her turn to hesitate.
“…I like to think so.”
“What will you do if he dies then?”
“I don’t know, maybe laugh my ass off and then die too.”
This was a weird answer.
This was a crazy and horrible answer, coming from a horrible person.
“…I hate you.”
“How funny, I hate you too.”
He hated her, but now he had to walk side by side with this person, without stopping.
Because it was his fault that they were so behind the column.
If he had accepted the reality in front of him, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. But he gave in to convenient lies.