20 The Training of a Monster*
*The Eldovian Era, Year 1705*
"Yo, Rassa! Heads up!"
Rassa tilted his head to listen, then raised his hand to catch the apple coming his way. He wrapped his hand around it with a smile, nodding to James who stood with an annoyed pose at the base of the next tree over.
"Thanks," Rassa said, taking a bite from the apple then turning to Jane who was picking apple beside him, "Want a bite?"
Jane rolled her eyes, "We're supposed to be picking the apples, not eating them".
"Come on, you know you want it," Rassa grinned.
Jane glared at the pale boy with a deep set hood that cover his eyes and only allowed for that kind yet mischievous grin she knew so well to peek out. It didn't matter how long she knew Rassa, every time she looked at him, he seemed to make his way deeper into her heart. She leaned forward before taking a bite from the apple in his hand. Rassa turned back to where James watched, the other boy still seething.
"I think he's jealous," Rassa stated, taking the apple back to eat it.
"That's his problem," Jane sighed, swallowing.
"Are you ever going to give him the time of day?" asked Rassa.
"Not while he's like that I'm not," Jane replied, bending down to pick up her basket of apples.
Rassa grinned, then picked up his own basket which had been full since quite a while ago, and followed her out of the Orchard.
It'd been nearly three years to the day since he'd been trapped in that cave, but apart from his father, no one suspected a thing. Rassa had discovered that he only needed to drink blood once a week to feel satisfied, and hence his guilt of killing animals was lessened. Especially when he discovered that larger animals were more satisfying - mostly because they contained more blood. He therefore had not had a repeated incident of the mass grave of bunnies.
That didn't mean he wasn't careful though, nor that he had fully accepted that this was a part of him.
Despite the fact he knew that it did little for his wellbeing and was only really for the sake of keeping up appearances, Rassa ate normal food like everyone else. It didn't taste nearly as good as it used to, which was a massive disappointment for him, but he ate it all the same.
A few months into his hat wearing, he had gotten sick of the damn thing flying off in the breeze or having some of the other children steal it. Seeing this, his mother had made him a deep-set hood that folded over slightly at the front and kept his pale eyes in the shadows. He loved it so much he only ever took it off when he needed to bathe, or when night came around and the hood was nothing more than an inconvenience to him.
As for the training sessions with his father, they had progressed slowly at first. It was no easy for his father to see Rassa's limits, but his father insisted on Rassa testing himself until he could say things like "I can't do this, or I wouldn't be able to do that". It took some months because not only was Rassa getting used to his new physical abilities, he also seemed to be getting stronger. The more blood he took in, the stronger he felt. On more than one occasion he'd felt a pull from his life lines, letting him know that something was changing, shifting. It was times like this where he would take himself back to the lake and look down at his reflection by moonlight to see what had changed.
Some of it was easy to understand, such as the rabbit that represented his first kill, or the moon that represented his preferred time of day. Others were more obscure, like the small rose at the base of his spine. While he vaguely remembered when it had appeared, he could not pinpoint exactly what it represented, and there were time when it irked him.
After several months of testing his limits, his father had finally started to teach him combat. Unfortunately, they had worked out rather quickly that it was not safe for the two of them to spar as the odds of his father being hurt were quite high. Instead, his father gave him basic drills to build his muscle memory, and then let Rassa get creative. His father would critique him, but often times Rassa exceeded expectations. He picked up the art of swordplay and hand-to-hand combat with such ease that it baffled his father. Even more to the point, Rassa was so elegant in his movements. Even as a twelve year old boy, Rassa was so relaxed and fluid in his movements that there were times beneath the moonlight where Phillip could not help but compare him to an avenging angel. As if swords were not enough, Rassa began training in other weapons, whatever he could get his hands on. Spear, bow, axe, hammer...and every one of them was learned so well that Phillip questioned if he was actually teaching, or was simply a witness to a military prodigy.
The truth was, instinct drove Rassa. As soon as he began the drills he could feel it in his very soul. He left his muscles learn the movements, and honed his instincts with ever session, forcing himself to stop randomly, or react to the unexpected. He knew his father was training him so that Rassa could not be harmed, but the truth was, Rassa was positive he could decimate the entire Empire with little to no effort. There was no real challenge for him, and hence his frustrations could only grow.
It was at the end at one of these sessions that Rassa finally admitted to his father that the weapons he used, while deadly to a human, would barely glance scratch someone like him. Even if it did, his ability to rapidly heal, which he had discovered quite by accident whilst out hunting one night, would ensure he would be very VERY hard to kill.