Standing in front of him, the only other person present there was his father, who stared directly at his eyes, without uttering a word.
He tried to move, but couldn’t. His arms were shackled to a giant, never ending wall. A wall of glass, beyond which was a land which he could not see.
He opened his mouth and said something.
In his mind, the words echoed, but outside it, they couldn’t be heard.
Then, after he shut up, his father pointed at him.
“No, you’re doing everything wrong, you…”
Nico heard carefully as he spoke, but what came out after weren’t words at all.
A loud, repeated noise, which at the same time that it seemed like it was faded out in the distance, it also seemed like a big, strong hit directly at his head.
His father began to disappear, and in its place, was a dark green canvas. Then, more and more, one after the other, knocks could be heard.
Unless he had overslept, this was still very early, so this was really weird… Was it Gian? Did he need something?
His hands searched for support, leading him to realize they were free now, as they touched the ground and he started to, still dizzy, get up, as whoever was at the other side of the door continued with his knocks.
Honestly, this was a little strange. There was no need to knock so much, he had already woken up, he thought as he rubbed his eyes, and then there suddenly was a weird moment of silence, where no knocks were to be heard.
Weird as it sounds, it was as quiet as it could get, not even the noise of the wind could be heard.
He walked slowly up to the front of the door, and then took a deep breath. He would now open it and say hello to whoever was bothering him with all these knocks, when, out of nowhere, a thunderous sound suddenly echoed.
Then another, and another. Each time, the door would form a curvature towards the inside, and small cracks would be heard.
“Open it, infidel!” “It’s all your god damn fault!” “You are killing us!” “Leave or we will put this on fire!” “Cursed heathen!”
They wouldn’t stop shouting. From all directions, they wouldn’t stop shouting. His body was shivering, and he could almost feel the tent trembling.
Slowly stepping back, his legs faltered and he fell with his butt on the ground. What would happen to the canvas? It was strong, for sure, after all it did have to resist the winds, but so many people, with whatever they had in their hands, might be able to do something against it. He could already see it in his mind, they would tear apart the canvas from one side, opening a big hole on it, where a tall, strong man would then enter inside the tent, with a large, sharp knife on his hand, and kill him.
Slowly, he crawled to the opposite side of the tent, in between Gray, who lay on his bedroll with his eyes open, terrorized, and Natta, who was curled up at the corner, trembling, with her eyes shut.
It seemed like only a matter of time until they would break in, with knives, rods of wood and steel, and whatever else they had brought there. What would they do then? What would happen to Gray? Would they murder all of them? He wondered.
Soon, he started to feel something in his eyes, they were wet and wavering, and he had his head buried behind his legs. With his eyes closed, he tried to find some solace, but the sounds wouldn't go away, so he covered his ears with his hands, but even then, they didn’t disappear.
This was all too sudden, it came like a storm, and even now he didn’t know at all what was happening. Would they break in? Would they do something bad to them? Would they be safe?
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, the tears started to flow and he started to cry, sobbing. He didn’t know what would happen to him or what he held dear and the fear was, for him, too big.
So, he stayed there, curled up, contorted right opposite to the entrance of the tent. Waiting for it to either go away, or finally finish them off. Not knowing what would happen, at this moment he wished he had the strength to stop this, to stand up and protect himself and Gray.
But he didn't have it, so all he could do right now was cry helplessly.
At one point, he heard another person shouting, a voice different from the ones from before, and then things seemed to calm down, returning to silence.
He stayed there though, silent, without moving not even a bit.
Why did this need to happen?
After what seemed like hours, not that he had really kept track of them at all, there was another knock at the door.
This time though, different from before, it had a different sound to it, not violent, nor too strong. Instead, it had a, now seemingly somewhat unusual to Nico, gentle touch to it, as if the person at the other side of the door feared to scare him.
“Nico!” he heard Gian’s voice shout. “Are you there? Are you okay?”
He slowly raised his head, looking at the door. There was a small hole in it from where a small shaft of light entered as the only form of illumination in the dark inside of the tent.
“Uh-uhum” he said, with a voice that had a lethargic weight to it, and probably could barely be heard from outside
He didn’t really want to talk right now.
“Could you open the door?” Rocco shouted after his father.
“…Later” he finally answered.
They exchanged a few words, but soon Gian and his family went away, to their tent right next to Nico’s and Gray’s, as Nico didn’t seem very comfortable talking.
They probably had heard all of it too, and they must also have seen the mob, probably… Or, actually, did they also get targeted?
It was only at that moment that he remembered: he couldn’t just stay there, curled up, forever, he needed to stand up. So, first one foot, then the other, he did this and finally started doing something useful, changing the cloth on Gray’s forehead for another, wet one. As he did this, he also noticed that Gray’s skin was way too hot, maybe thanks to the nervousness inflicted by what they had just gone through.
Actually, looking at his face, you could almost visually see his head aching, so Nico rubbed the tears he had on his own eyes and put his hands to work, preparing the medicines the Shepherd had taught him. It didn’t take much time, and soon he had finished, giving the mix of tritured herbs which now constituted some sort of rough paste to Gray.
“Take this,” he told him, quietly. “Sorry for not giving it to you earlier.”
Yes, he should have done it earlier.There were no excuses.
With difficulty, Gray’s trembling eyes were directed at Nico and he gave a hesitant and weak nod.
…Yes, he also was probably scared.
Nico lowered his two knees in the ground, and then cautiously held Gray’s small, skinny shoulders as he raised his upper body. Graywas surprisingly light, and, right now, his members seemed extremely fragile.
“Here” he murmured, as he extended his arms around him, embracing Gray in a hug. “Don’t worry.”
Yes, Gray had already worried enough. He should rest.
He didn’t have to pass through this. He deserved a quiet, calm life.
Instead, he was the one who should assert that everything will be okay. It was his responsibility now, not Gray’s.
He would take care of him, and he would make sure everything would be alright.
He would do whatever it was needed, whatever that needed to be done, then everything would be okay…
And he would enjoy a happy life, taking care of him…
Gray would recover and they would talk all day, until one day when Gray would die of a very old age, and he would live happily knowing that thanks to him he didn’t pass through any other rough times…
At this moment, he felt a weak touch, and a trembling embrace of slender arms welcomed him.
“Here…” a rough, dry voice of an old man said.
Once again, the tears started to form, and he began to cry. He sobbed, and Gray’s slender hand caressed his head, comforting him until the moment he would stop. And so they came out, one after the other, until his eyes went dry.
“Thanks…” he murmured, as he left his arms and lowered Gray’s upper body until he was laying back on the bedroll, and then stood up once more.
So, once again, he failed in doing anything. And once again, Gray had to worry for him.
He, who was ill, and whose skin was burning with the most intense fever, was the one who comforted him as he cried.
Yes, ends up that even in comforting Gray he had failed.
He took a peek at Natta, who was still there, pretty much in the same position as before, although she seemed a lot calmer now.
Even if she was a cruel, terrible person, she didn’t bring problems to others.
At that moment, he wished he were able to do something about this. Maybe if he were his father, or if he hadn’t caused this in the first place…
Yes, he now knew why this had happened, and whose fault it was too, for that matter.
He let out a sigh, when would this end? Or, would it even end to begin with?
…Maybe the responsibility to end this was upon him.
Then, soon there was another knock on the door. He stood up and then walked to the door. There was a small hole, where he put his eyes and took a peek at the other side.
A tall man, dressed in a white robe, awaited for him at the other side. But, behind him was Rocco and his family.
“Hello…” he welcomed them as he opened the door and stepped forward. “Sorry for not opening befo-“
Before he could finish, he was suddenly interrupted by a boy around his age who jumped right at him in a hug.
“Nico! Are you okay? These people said a lot of scary things…”
Rocco’s arms were pressing him strongly against his chest, in a very tight embrace, and he was having a little bit of difficulty breathing.
“I’m not hurt, so get off me, please…”
“Great!” Rocco exclaimed, and the worried look he had just a moment ago turned into a wide grin while he got off Nico, as if nothing bad had happened just hours ago.
This attitude… Usually, he would like it when Rocco acted like this, but at this moment, it annoyed him a little. It’s not like just forgetting about it and continuing as normal could do much for him right now.
Anyways, no need to get mad over this though.
“I’m sorry,” now said Gian, who, at this moment, was skinnier than ever. “I said we would help you take care of Gray, but there was nothing we could do this time.”
“You’re not supposed to help him …The one who should’ve acted earlier is me,” the Shepherd interrupted, with a voice that seemed to have a hint of guilt behind it. “I’m very sorry, Nico,” he finished, bowing slightly.
“D-don’t worry …I’m sure you did everything that you could. Y-yeah,” Nico stuttered, surprised. The Shepherd didn’t say ‘sorry’ very often, as far as he knew, after all.
And so, they continued to talk for some time. Gian and his wife trying to comfort him, and Rocco being just his own usual self. Yesterday they had reached a pillar, so there was no need to walk for most of the day. At one point though, there wasn’t much to be said, and they went back to their tent.
“Well, bye Nico! Are you sure you don’t want any of us to go help you with Gray today?” said Gian, half ready to leave already.
“Don’t worry, there’s no need to.”
“Okay then, bye” he said, wavering at him, even though his tent was right next to Nico’s.
“Well…” he said, turning to the Shepherd, the only one remaining there, and who also hadn’t spoken much during this time.
You’re not going to leave or what?
“Actually…” he replied, as if he had read his mind, “I wanted to talk more with you. Do you mind going for a walk?”
“Nothing special. It just felt more adequate.”