13 The Line is Drawn*
Phillip had to admit, this was nothing like what he had expected. It was no wonder his son had refused to say anything more. The fear in his eyes was justified. While Phillip had not been around to watch his son drain the rabbits of their blood, Phillip knew it must had been horrifying for him. But if it was blood that Rassa needed then...
Clearly, he'd had closer sources than the rabbits. It was through this logic that Phillip concluded that Rassa had consciously held himself back, to an even greater degree than Phillip had originally thought. It was a surprise even to Phillip the inner strength that his son had managed to muster. Rassa had no desire to hurt those around him, that much was clear. And this was the major reason that Phillip covered the mass grave of rabbits once more, then packed it down and spread leaves, branches and whatever else he could find over it. He might eat blood now, but Rassa was still his son, and until he was given a reason not to, Phillip would protect him.
Unfortunately, Phillip knew the other villagers might not see things the same way. Even Anna, who Phillip knew was far more open-minded than the others, might hesitate to call Rassa anything but a monster. Phillip then moved back towards the village.
It was only part way back that he saw a lone figure sitting on the small field between the orchard and the forest. Phillip didn't hesitate.
As he approached, Phillip realised that his son had taken off his top and jacket and washed them. both, letting them dry under the moonlight. His life lines were on full display, and Phillip noticed they had shifted ever so slightly in one corner to form the shape of a rabbit. Phillip turned away. Even if he knew what is symbolised, he still felt it was rude to intrude on that part of his son's life.
"You know then...what I did," Rassa said into the air before him. He hadn't turned to look at his father, but Phillip had realised upon seeing the rabbits that his son had become quite the hunter. After a moment of surprise, Phillip sat down next to his son.
"I do," Phillip replied.
"I had no choice," Rassa stated. His voice seemed detatched.
"That was your other choice, wasn't it?" asked Phillip.
Rassa hesitated, then nodded, "I'm a monster".
Phillip sighed, "A lot of people will say that, yes. The question is whether or not you'll believe it".
"But I am a monster," Rassa replied, "I...it hurt less and less every time. What happens if one day, I feel nothing?"
"What is a monster to you, Rassa?" asked Phillip, "How do you know a monster from any other being?"
Rassa turned to his father, "How?"
"A monster kills and takes without reason or mercy. They have no care for anyone or anything but themselves," Phillip stated, "You...you might have taken life, Rassa, but it was not without reason, and you certainly weren't uncaring about it. The reason it hurt less every time, it was because you were beginning to accept that this was how you had to survive now. This was your reality, and while it is horrifying to many to you it is truth. So what will you do with that truth? With that awareness?"
Rassa turned away again, silent.
"No matter how many people speak the words, Rassa, you are not a monster unless you believe it, unless you submit to it," Phillip continued, "From what I've seen, you are determined to fight. Now, will you continue to fight, and in the end conquer your instincts, or will you submit to them".
Rassa continued to stay silent, then his father touched his shoulder, "You will always be my son, Rassa, monster or not. I will do everything in my power to protect you. Now come on, let's get you some dry clothes". Phillip stood, and Rassa followed slowly before he paused and looked at his father.
"If I submit...don't let me become a true monster," Rassa said, "Promise me".
Phillip hesitated. The look in his son's eyes was so determined, so resolved, despite his inner turmoil, Phillip could not refuse, "I promise, son".
Rassa nodded then picked up his wet shirt and jacket.
"I advise you keep your life lines covered, in order cultures that possess them, it's considered a grave tattoo to touch or stare at them without permission," Phillip stated as they walked back to the village side by side, "Also, we'll come here every night from now on, it's time you learn how to defend yourself".
"I don't think there's a need for that, they can't harm me," Rassa replied.
"You'll learn all the same. There are more powerful foes out there than trees," Phillip gave a small, amused smile. And Rassa, despite his dark emotions, couldn't help but crack his own smile at his dad's joke.
"Yeah, that tree was pretty tame," he added.
So that was it. The line had been drawn. They were father and son, but now they were also monster and tamer. Teacher and student. The path ahead was not at all clear, but they had resolved between than to try their best to make it a better future. To make it so that despite his differences, Rassa could live in peace.
They would try their best. That was all either of them could ask for.