15 The First Lesson*
As the sun went down, Rassa's eyesight became clearer and clearer. Finally, when darkness descended, he did not struggle in the slightest. His eyesight was even clearer than it had been in the day before his change. He ate dinner with his parents, then, towards the end of the meal, his father stood and indicated for Rassa to come with him.
"You're going out?" asked Anna, confused.
Phillip nodded, "I think it's time Rassa learn about...my past".
Anna's eyes widened, but after a moment she nodded in acceptance.
"Not too late okay, he still needs his rest," Anna insisted.
"It'll be a nightly thing from now on," Phillip informed Anna. Anna only nodded. It was clear from this interaction that Anna knew enough about her husband's past to know that despite her wishes, there was no way Rassa could avoid his bloodline forever.
Anna simply grabbed Rassa's coat and ensured he put it on then waved them out with another reminder not to stay out too late.
As they exited the village, Phillip spoke in a low voice, "Are you hungry?"
The truth was, Rassa wasn't. He felt that maybe he could do with a glass of blood, but he wasn't starving like he had been previously. If possible, he wanted to avoid that eventuality for as long as possible. He shook his head.
"No, I'm fine," Rassa replied.
Phillip nodded, "Come on, we'll be walking for a while. If I'm going to train you, I have to know what your abilities are now. It's a good thing if you know as well. If you know your own strength, you're less likely to make reckless decisions".
"Then...what are we testing?" asked Rassa.
"Well, from last night's incident it's clear that your strength is far superior to anyone I've ever seen," Phillip stated, "And I think you also know you are quite fast now, yes?"
Rassa nodded, "Last night, from the tree to the lake by the orchard...it took me less than ten seconds?"
Phillip looked surprised for a moment, then thoughtful, "Perhaps your life lines are enhancing your physical attributes".
"Is that possible?" asked Rassa.
"I've never heard of it before but I suppose it's possible. A new kind of magic. Your eyesight is effected too?" asked Phillip.
"Not just my eyesight, all of my senses," Rassa stated, "I could smell you the moment you came out of the forest, and hear every footstep as you approached".
"What about touch, is everything more sensitive?" asked Phillip.
Rassa shook his head, "It's..."
Rassa paused, frowning. Now that he thought about it, it was only really the strength or force of something he could not feel. The features of something that touched him, whether it be skin, clothing, fur, food, wood or something else, he could feel every fibre to a minute detail. He tried to explain this to his father who nodded.
"I see. It's indeed interesting".
Phillip said nothing more as they continued walking north along the forest's border, past the orchard and into the uninhabited hills beyond. After a while, Rassa realised it was unlikely they were going to stop soon, and decided to ask a question.
"Can you tell me more?"
"About what?" asked Phillip.
"About how you met mum?"
Phillip looked down at his son, for a moment he said nothing, then he nodded, "Very well, where did I finish last time?"
"You walked in on your eldest brother holding a business dinner," Rassa replied. Phillip chuckled.
"Ah yes, he was not very happy about that..."
*The Eldovian Era, Year 1692*
The doors crashed open and reverberated against the walls as Francois Kildare entered the main study with his youngest brother strolling in unperturbed behind him. His guests had left to the elder sibling's apologetic sincerities and the younger's indifference.
"You were supposed to arrive just after noon," Francois snapped, turning to glare at his youngest brother.
Phillip shrugged, "I did. Thought I'd spend some time getting to know the city for the day".
"Varkevia is one of over forty trade cities in the empire, and over a hundred outposts of the Kildare Trade Association, getting to know one city is not worth your time," Francois stated.
"I think it is," Phillip replied, "After all, how can we know what the people here want if we do not know them?"
Phillip relaxed onto the day bed to the side and Francois glared over at him.
"So you're serious about the family business then?" asked Francois.
Phillip scoffed, "Do I have a choice?"
"No," Francois replied, "Though considering you were galivanting at that knight school for the last three years I think you're far behind what is expected of you".
Francois picked up a document and handed it to Phillip, "Here, what do you think of this?"
Phillip took the sheet of paper and scanned it quickly, "This is the trade deal with the elves?"
Francois nodded, his expression softening. He may have been disappointed in his brother's earlier conduct, but Phillip was still his brother. If anything, Francois was reluctant to squash the free-spirit that had brought such light to their household in their early years when their father was rarely present.
"Why trade with them for food? We have no lack of fertile crops in the area, nobody has starved to death in years, a feat I remember the Emperor is well-known for," Phillip stated.
"It's not just food," Francois replied, "Volotun Fruits are ripe with magical essenses, eating them has many extraordinary benefits".
"Such as?" asked Phillip. He had never heard of Volotun Fruits.
"It can heal incurable diseases, make the lame and insane well again, even regrow limbs in the right circumstances. And, in rare instances, it can awaken latent Magician Genes," Francois stated, "The Emperor is very eager to get his hands on them for the advancement of the people".
Phillip's eyes widened as his brother's list grew, "And the changes are permanent?"
Francois nodded, "Very much so. It's already been tested at Jarrica".
Jarrica, the coal mine. It was a well-known prison mine, and there were talks of what went on there. Of inhumane experiments on those of "lesser" status.
Phillip frowned, "Are you sure its safe? And what do they even want in return?"
"That's pretty simple actually, they want to be able to use our Magicians," Francois stated, "After all, their people can only produced Earth and Nature based Magicians, Magicians of the other elements don't appear there".
"Why?" asked Phillip.
"Sorry?" asked Francois.
"Why do they want our magicians? I mean, its reasonable to assume that we want this Volotun fruit to do the miraculous, but the Elves have been a stable society since before the Lithian Era*, why do they want access to the other elemental magicians now?" asked Phillip.
Francois paused at this, as if it was not a thought he'd had before, then shook his head, "It's not for us to question. This is a mutually beneficial deal, and I have full authority to negotiate and sign off on it. You're here so you can watch and learn".
"You're already on thin ice with dad, Phillip, please don't push it," Francois begged.
Phillip had never seen his brother beg. His brother was domineering and unmoveable, the perfect heir to the Duke's title. And yet...there was more to his position than met the eyes. More to this family and its business. There was a reason Phillip had run, he was just too cowardly to acknowledge it. Now...it seemed he would no longer have a choice in the matter.