Chapter 2: When The Storm Comes, What the Storm Brings

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The snow fell upon the mountain mercilessly as it usually did, contrasting with the darkening sky and covering the ground in an icy embrace. Tall trees with dead branches rose into the sky and swayed with the chilling wind that howled through the trees like crying ghosts, icicles hanging from their branches. It was like the mountain was frozen in the embrace of winter, turning the bright colors to faded ones of white, black, and shades of grey. However, a pop of color could be seen against the starch colors the world of winter created.

A steed as red as crimson and as sturdy as a thousand men stood tall and proud as it walked on, creating muffled footsteps in the snow, despite the person that sat upon it. Layers of brown fur were wrapped tightly around the man that sat upon the horse, starting from his feet and transforming into a large hood that hid more than half his face. The man truly did look more like a beast than a beast did. However, underneath the fur laid a man that was not at all what the illusion of his clothing gave off. His face was handsome and sharp with amber eyes full of intelligence that stood out sharply against his pale face and midnight colored hair.

Upon his face was a slightly blank but flushed expression as he drank multiple mouthfuls of liquor from the Hyotan Sake Flask hanging from his waist. It was the only thing that kept his freezing body warm. Though it wasn't smart to drive a horse and drink, let alone up a steep terrain like this. Luckily though, he had an iron liver and couldn't get drunk easily unless it involved an endless supply of liquor.

Feeling the crisp wind once again pierce him to the marrow of his bones he brought the dark colored bottle to his lips and took a swig. The sweet taste hit his tongue and he smiled. As he thought, nothing tastes better than a bottle of good liquor. However, he did not stop to savor the taste for the situation pressed down on him.

Looking up at the darkening sky, his happy smile turned into a deep frown. It wouldn't be long till the rain would fall and the blizzard to come bearing down on him. He knew how bad the weather up in the mountains was at this time of year and when the blizzard hits he knew he wouldn't be able to travel as he would like. And that couldn't happen.

The marriage proposal sat in his bag hanging by the horse's saddle as it weighed upon his mind heavily. He had spent 2 years courting a young woman of extreme beauty in the city of Song An, just past this mountain range. So far he had ridden over three mountains, each bigger than the last. Now he had only one more mountain to pass through and the largest one of all. If he did not get there in time...the thought sent him into a grim mood.

Putting the cork into the bottle he let it hang by his waist as he grabbed the limp reigns hanging around the horse's neck and kicked the sides of the horse gently, changing its slow gate into a fast trot. If the information he had gotten is correct, at the base of the last mountain and the ending of this one was a village. If he got lucky he would get to the village and find a shelter halfway up the mountain before the blizzard hits. The worst-case scenario would be camping out in the rain and freezing snow. Just the thought of the cold wind freezing him in his sleep made him grimace.

He really did hate the cold with a passion. After breaking the through the thick forestry he came upon the village in a few seconds as the sky turned a darker shade of gray. What was happening in front of him though made him stop a few seconds to take in the situation, despite knowing he couldn't waste even a couple seconds. The whole village seemed to be at the end of an odd celebration. Only a couple men and women danced around a large fire at this point and the large tables piled with food were being put away or dispersed to the other villagers.

The folk music being played was dimming down into a slow hum before it stopped completely and then picked up again. It was an odd sight to him. Coming from a refined and civilized family with social status that had long been gone, he had never seen such a sight like this. He thought it was odd, but did not refuse that the celebration seemed to look quite fun. However, he couldn't just stay in one place and stare at them all day.

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