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The Storm

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The rain was falling from the sky endlessly. It formed a wall of water encircling them as they continued their slow progression along the steep path. The boy's clothes were soaking wet. His hair, damp under his coat's heavy hood, was curling and sticking to his forehead. It began raining hours ago, when they started walking, and it hadn't stopped since then. The boy never complained, not even once. Complaining wasn't like him in the first place, and besides, he did not see any reason to do so. He liked feeling the rocky ground under his feet, the drops of water trickling down his skin, the icy wind whipping his face. He liked everything that made him feel alive (everything that made him feel human). Therefore, the rain was not a problem.

The storm that was forming over the horizon, however, could prove to be one.

A fact about the storm. It wasn't an ordinary storm. It was big (the boy had never seen so many dark clouds gathered in the same place), and more importantly, it was moving in a way no storm should move, like it had a life of its own. It made it look particularly threatening.

Still, the boy wasn't worried. He was certain that the Knight had already noticed it, and he trusted her. Surely she had faced things a lot worse than a storm like this one. So he stayed silent and followed the steps of the broad silhouette climbing ahead of him. It was somehow reminiscent of another ascent, another night, in a certain forest, near a certain town. But circumstances were different. This time, he was walking behind, and not in front of her. This time, he was not shaking. He was not afraid.

Soon, the path reached a fork. To the right, it kept going up the mountainside. To the left, it narrowed and disappeared between the trees. The Knight stopped.

"The storm is coming," she said.

The boy nodded. It had been a while since he first looked up at the sky, and the clouds were only getting bigger and darker and thicker.

"Follow me."

She took the left.
He followed her, down the narrow path, under the trees, to a cave carved into the mountain.

A fact about the cave. It wasn't very big or very deep. In fact, it was a bit too small to be called a cave, and a bit too large to be called a hole. There was barely enough room to fit both the boy and the Knight, pressed against each other and the hard rock. It was just as cold as outside, and even darker, if it was possible. But it was a shelter nonetheless. Neither the wind nor the rain could enter it. The place could have almost looked warm and cosy, if one managed to light a fire in it. Of course, the boy couldn't light a fire. And even if he could have, he wouldn't have had any room for it. But he could still picture it. So he did.

The rain was falling harder by the minute. Every now and then, a silent flash of lightning ripped across the sky and illuminated the mountain, creating dreadful shadows who lasted only a second. Then came the noise, a tremendous roar reverberating throughout the forest, sending chills down his spine. It was frightening, and also beautiful.

The storm was there, and they could count themselves lucky to have a roof over their heads; although it had actually nothing to do with luck, and a lot to do with what the Knight knew.

She knew how to survive.

They stayed like that for many minutes (or maybe hours, the boy couldn't say), without a word. They were waiting for something. Probably for the elements to calm down so they could resume their journey. That's what the boy thought, at least, and he didn't seek confirmation. There were a lot of questions the boy wanted to ask the Knight, and this one wasn't the more pressing (or the more interesting).

Finally, he decided to speak.

"There is something I have been meaning to ask," he said.

Silence.

"You're not like the other knights. They came in town and then left without doing anything. But not you."

She said nothing, but the boy knew he had her attention. He kept talking.

"You stayed, and you tried to help me. Nobody tried to help me before. Why? Why do you care so much about me?"

A moment passed by, and the boy thought the Knight wouldn't answer him. But eventually, she did, in her deep and quiet voice that was unlike any other.

"Because," she explained, "I am like you."

The boy blinked a few times. He wasn't sure he understood what that meant. But before he could think about it or ask another question, the Knight stood up. Not entirely, because the cave's ceiling was too low. Even so, she was still a lot taller than the boy.

"The storm has passed. Let's go."

She was right. The lightnings had stopped a few minutes ago. The rain had turned into a light drizzle. Everything was back to normal, or so it seemed. But things didn't look quite the same as they did before the storm. The boy didn't know what changed exactly, but he was fairly certain something did.

In any case, it didn't matter. It was time for the travelers to leave. After all, they still had a long way to go before they reached their destination.

The boy got up and set foot outside the cave. He shivered instantly. The wind was still blowing, and his clothes were still wet, even after all that time they spent in the cave. His teeth started chattering.

The Knight offered him her coat. It was a lot thicker than the boy's, and longer, too.

"Put this on. You don't want to catch a cold, Ravi."

The boy smiled and took the Knight's coat. He liked it a lot when someone called him by his name. It reminded him that he had one.

"Thanks, Ashe."

He wasn't so sure (it was hard to say, with the armor, and since it was so dark) but he could have sworn the Knight smiled back at him.