14 The Warm Reception*
The following day, the Doctor advised that Rassa was well enough to leave. He was still pale, and his eyes were still very sensitive to light, but he was much more energetic and was even eating again unlike the day before. The Doctor simply gave instructions to Phillip and Anna to bring Rassa back should any problems arise, and to keep a close eyes on him. After all, they weren't entirely positive as to what power Rassa had awakened.
As for his sensitivity to light, the doctor could only give advise, which was to ensure Rassa would either remain in shadowed places, or wear hats to block out direct sunlight. Rassa didn't think that would be enough. In his experience of the previous night, he'd pretty much worked out that night time was better suited to his new body. Unfortunately, he lived in a village that was most active whilst the sun was high in the sky. Until he discovered another way, he would just have to make do.
Returning home, Rassa was pleasantly surprised to find Jane and Falla, and even Diggory waiting for him.
"Rassa!" the girls called out happily. They raced up to greet him, both of them flinging their arms around him. Rassa barely felt them as they landed on him with their full weight, but for the sake of appearances, Rassa pretended to fall back onto the ground.
"Girls!" Anna scolded, "Careful he's only just gotten better!"
Rassa chuckled, "I'm fine, mum, promise".
Falla and Jane moved back though, looking at Anna sheepishly.
"Sorry," they mumbled, then they turned their full attention back to Rassa.
"Are you okay?"
"Why are you so pale?"
"Are you feeling better now?"
"What's with the hat?"
The rapid fire questions caught Rassa off guard for a moment, then he just smiled.
"I'm fine, the Doctor says I'm better now, but he doesn't know why I'm so pale, maybe its a side effect of whatever I had?" Rassa questioned. The official story that had spread around the village was that Rassa had caught some kind of disease, therefore, he hadn't been allowed visitors in the Doctor's office. Anyone who had seen his life lines had agreed to keep quiet about it. After all, there was no need to talk about something that could very well be used to bully the poor boy.
"What about the hat?" asked Falla.
"My eyes are a bit sensitive, so the Doctor said I should either wear one or keep to shadowy places from now on," Rassa replied.
Falla nodded, accepting the information easily, Jane nodded too, though was annoyed that Rassa had directed the answer at Falla.
Diggory approached slowly, then held out his hand to Rassa. Rassa smiled and let Diggory help him to his feet, "Glad you're feeling better".
Rassa nodded. Then frowned as he looked at Diggory.
"Don't you have lessons this morning?"
Diggory scratched the back of his head awkwardly, "...No..."
"Dig, you need those lessons if you want to be a Knight," Rassa frowned. It was at this point that Phillip and Anna decided to leave their son alone with his friends, venturing back to their home.
Diggory sighed, "Knights only need sword fighting, why do I need to know any of that reading nonsense?"
"But if you can't read, how will you know who you're supposed to fight? After all, a knight must listen to the Lord he is sworn to serve, but a lord can't always be around so he sends letters," Rassa stated, "And what must a Knight then do upon receiving this letter?"
Diggory sighed and rolled his eyes, "...read it".
Rassa gave a small smile, "The rest of us don't get to learn, Dig, you should at least try for us. I know I would be very happy if I could learn to read".
After all, his father had taught him without the knowledge of the rest of the villagers, and Rassa couldn't read in front of his friends for fear of them thinking ill of him. Being literate was a sign of higher status, and clearly, with Phillip being a mere farmer, Rassa was not of a high status, at least, not in the eyes of those in the village. If he was to say he now had a family name, and a Duke's family name at that...there was no telling how they would react.
Falla's eyes stayed on Rassa, "You want to learn how to read, Rassa?"
Rassa hesitated, then nodded.
"What use is reading around here?" asked Jane, scoffing, "There are so many better things to do!"
"Exactly," Diggory pointed at Jane, then seemed surprised he was agreeing with the girl. Jane seemed surprised too, and frowned at him in annoyance.
"Come on, we're going to go and help with the apple picking," Jane insisted, then she grabbed Rassa's hand and began dragging him towards the orchard. Despite the fact that it was now incredibly easy for Rassa to resist, he relented, letting himself be dragged by Jane. He looked back over his shoulder at Falla and Diggory.
Diggory had lessons, besides the fact that he would never hear the end of it should his father catch him doing the job of someone of a lesser status. And Falla...well, her family was more a merchant family than farmers. She often took lessons with Diggory, though Falla never talked about them, and never endeavoured to show her knowledge.
After they were well on their way, Jane dropped Rassa's hand awkwardly and dropped back to walk beside him.
"Are you really okay?"
Her voice sounded smaller than usual, not as straightforward.
"I'm really okay," Rassa reassured her.
"Because when you disappeared like that...then they brought you back like that...well it scared me," Jane admitted.
Rassa looked forward, "Well I promise I'm fine. How are you?"
"Huh?" asked Jane.
"You fell over when we were chasing the rabbit, you're okay now right?" asked Rassa.
Jane's eyes widened in realisation, "Oh, right, yeah. I'm okay. The doctor gave me some bandages".
Rassa nodded in acknowledgement.
The truth was, Jane had complelety forgotten about her own injuries. She'd been so busy worrying about Rassa for the past few days that she hadn't cared much about her own pain.
"Well anyway," Jane perked up with a smile, "Mr Harold said that the harvest this year is especially good!"
Rassa listened aptly as Jane animatedly told him the happenings of the last few days. And all the while, he could not help but wonder.
Will she still smile at me like that when she finds out I'm a monster?
He did not realise how much he appreciated her smile until he realised it might be taken away.