240 The Proof Needed*
*Eldovian year 1713, 8th day of the 8th month*
Saying he would find proof and actually finding it was two entirely different things. Rassa had honestly been stumped as to what to do on the way home that night, and it had led to a sleepless night gazing out his bedroom window. Though, admittedly, this time the night sky had been a little more welcoming than it had been the past couple of years.
When Rassa heard his parents stirring the next morning, the routine of the past few years pushed him from his position, only for him to realise as he stepped out that it was unlikely there would be consequences worth his time if he didn't stick with routine for the day. The thought carried itself through breakfast, enough that when his father was finishing up, Rassa feigned leaving early so that he wasn't obligated to walk with him to the fields.
Instead, Rassa made his way towards the Baron's manor. What he wanted was unlikely to happen in the illusion, but Rassa needed this. He needed to speak with Aegin.
Of course, without help from his abilities, he was not nearly as stealthy. Not to mention the mindset of a hunter was something that Rassa had avoided for over two years. He would have liked to think it was something he could just fall back into, but without his enhanced senses and abilities, he was just the regular human he'd desired to be.
It took him only a few moments to locate where the Ridge Men were, but Aegin, who had never liked the other Ridge Men to begin with, was not nearly as easy to spot. Rassa waited an hour on the outskirts of the garden before he was ready to find another method, but just as he was about to move, he felt a blade at his waist.
"You better have a good reason for standing there, I'm not all that tolerant of spies".
Rassa froze, turning ever so slightly to find the lavender eyes he'd waited for staring back at him.
"Actually," Rassa said, "I'm waiting for you".
The brows over those familiar eyes drew together in confusion, "I don't know you".
"No," said Rassa, "Not here you don't...but in another life".
Aegin frowned before he withdrew his blade and put it back in its sheath, "They weren't lying when they said those out in the boonies have a screw loose".
Rassa cocked his head to the side as he watched Aegin turn to walk away, then he called out to him, "Hey".
Aegin turned back, a barely present tolerance in his gaze.
"If you had a choice between a normal life, and the one you've lived, which would you pick?"
He frowned, clearly confused as to why Rassa was posing the question, "Man, I've got no idea who you are, and I'm not inclined to talk to you".
"It's just a question," said Rassa, "One which I would really appreciate the answer to".
Aegin huffed, "Does it really matter? We're all only born once, no matter your beliefs of another life. Even if we are reincarnated as some cultures believe there is no proof that anyone actually remembers the lives they've lived before".
"Of course it matters," Rassa replied, "It's your life".
Aegin sighed as he looked away, as if exasperated that he had to deal with the mentally unstable intruder rather than a dangerous one, then he turned back to Rassa, "My life has led me here. I don't see the point in worrying about an alternative path if I can never go back, just forward".
Aegin then turned and walked back towards the manor. Rassa stood still as he watched Aegin walk away, then he couldn't help smiling.
"Yeah, figured," said Rassa, "Though I wish you were actually here to tell me that, or at the very least complain about how stupid I've been".
After all, that was what family was for.
"Rassa," said Jane, a little surprised as he walked into the bakery later that day, "What are you doing here?"
"I just needed some time to think," said Rassa as he sat down against the wall opposite the counter. Jane smiled as she placed her wash cloth down and turned to come sit beside him.
"Oh? What brought this on?" asked Jane, "Making big plans are we?"
Rassa scoffed, "What kind of big plans can be carried out here?"
Jane shrugged, "Whatever you put your mind to. You've never been one that lacked imagination".
"Just the courage to see it through," Rassa muttered.
Rassa shook his head, then turned to her, "You know why I did it right?"
"Did what?" asked Jane.
"Why I cast you aside like that," said Rassa.
Jane's smile dimmed as she turned away, "Well...I get that it wasn't because of me".
"Gods no," Rassa nodded, though knowing they were speaking of two entirely different events. Her of their 'engagement' and him of the time where he'd sent her off to the Academy without a kind word, "Never because of you. You're my best friend Jane. I loved you and still love you like a sister because you were always there for me, even when I didn't need you. But I think it's time".
"Time for what?" asked Jane.
"We have to put the past behind us," Rassa replied, "We have to leave it where it belongs. I can't spend eternity worrying about what could have been. You will always be important to me, Jane. The girl who still wanted to treat me as her friend despite her fear of the monster within. But you do fear it. I know you do. And I'm just beginning to see that that is entirely okay".
Jane looked at him, her eyes confused, "You aren't a monster, Rassa. You're just you".
Rassa smiled, "Thank you for saying so. Can I get one of the apricot buns to go?"
Jane smiled, "Of course".
Rassa was munching on that apricot bun when he arrived back at his parents' cottage. Though he'd paused at the far end of the street as he took in the two Ridge Men outside the front door. With a sigh, Rassa stepped forward towards them as he finished off his bun.
The Ridge Men stepped forward to stop his approach to the door.
"Not now, come back later," the gruff voice spoke.
Rassa sighed, "I live here".
The man looked at his companion, then knocked on the door behind him. The voices within went quiet. Then Anna opened the door. Her eyes widened as she took in Rassa.
"Rassa," Anna said, fear in her gaze, as if begging her son to leave. The boy in him opened his mouth to play along, to turn around and not come back until the intruders had left, but it was the man who spoke.
"Afternoon Mother, I didn't realise we were having guests," Rassa said as he stepped forward.
He helped his mother inside, taking in where Aegin sat in the corner of the room, his father Raymond standing opposite Phillip.
Phillip looked at Rassa, his gaze full of warning, then Raymond spoke.
"You've got a son," said Raymond.
"He's got nothing to do with you," said Phillip, his eyes turning back to Raymond.
"Your father wants you back, it would be wrong of me to take you and your wife but not your son," said Raymond, then he turned to Rassa, "Any grandchildren by any chance?"
Rassa frowned, "I'm not married. Who are you?"
"I work for your grandfather," said Raymond, "I've been ordered to bring the long lost son home to Fountain Ridge".
Rassa raised an eyebrow as he looked at his father, "Ordered? So then we can't have time to consider it as a request instead? Cordon is humble but it is our home, we don't have the money to travel to the other side of the Continent".
"Expenses will be paid for," Raymond said, a smile blooming on his face as he realised Rassa was considering the request, "You won't have to pay a cent".
"We're not leaving," Phillip stated adamantly.
Raymond turned to Rassa, "I'll be back in the morning. Try to talk some sense into your father. You'll be happy you did considering you have the blood of the Empire in you".
Raymond stepped out the door, Aegin following behind as he gave Rassa a strange look, then silence pervaded in their little cottage.
"I know," said Rassa.
Phillip and Anna both looked at him surprised.
"I heard you talking. Can't say I really care for our relatives and I don't have a desire to go with them either, but what exactly is the alternative?"
Phillip looked stumped as he considered it from his son's point of view.
Rassa sighed, "Why don't we just have a nice dinner. They won't be back until morning so we have plenty of time".
If Rassa had any say, it wouldn't matter anyway. He didn't plan to still be here when the sun rose.