241 The Decision is Made*
Whilst he could see that beneath the surface his parents still worried for what was to come, Rassa did his best to keep the dinner they had casual and calm. He asked his father about work that day, and apologised after a scolding for missing it himself. He complimented his mother's bread and asked if she needed him to massage her wrists again. They'd been seeming a bit weaker the last couple of months.
Then, for what he knew would be the last time, he sat down out the front of his house with his father and stared at the stars above in companionable silence whilst his mother sat inside, patching some of their clothes with a practiced and skilled hand.
"Are you sure you're okay?" asked his father, and Rassa knew immediately that his father was referring to the revelation about the Kildares, "I don't consider this an easy reality to accept".
"It's not," Rassa agreed, "But it will always be part of who I am. The important thing is to remember what and who I was before. The moment I forget, that I let it consume me, that's the moment I lose sight of who I am. The past may not be pleasant, it may even be horrible and worthy of being buried and forgotten, but if I bury it, I do a disservice to the me of that time. After all, it was the me then that got out. It was the me then that didn't give up".
Rassa paused, turning to look at his father, "Do you think I can do it, father? Do you think I can stay strong enough to remember?"
"You will always remember it, no matter your strength or will," Phillip replied, "Accepting it and living with it is where your strength will be tested".
Rassa nodded in agreement as he turned away, then he felt his father's hand as it clapped down on his shoulder, and he turned back.
"But I think you can do it," Phillip smiled, "You've always been the type that once you find something you want, something you care for, you will go after it and protect it. Even if it means hurting yourself on the way. It drives your mother and I crazy".
Rassa smiled back, then he pulled his father in for a hug.
"I love you, you know that, right?" asked Rassa.
Phillip, somewhat surprised, hugged his son back, "Of course, Rassa. I love you to".
Rassa held his father for a moment longer, allowing himself to cling like a child for one more moment before he pulled back and stood up.
"I'm going for a walk, but I'll say goodnight to mother first," said Rassa.
"A walk?" asked his father, "Don't go too far".
Rassa smiled, "I'm only going to the orchard and back, nothing to worry about".
His father nodded.
Rassa entered the house to find his mother had fallen asleep on her chair in the corner as she knitted. He smiled at her, taking in her aged face and wishing that she'd been able to live this long in reality. That his last memory of her was not her teary-eyed sadness and longing as she watched him be pulled away in a cage. He stepped over and leaned down placing a kiss on her forehead.
"I love you, mother," Rassa whispered, "And I have not and will never hold it against you. You're only human after all".
Then Rassa stood straight and took one last look around the room before he stepped out, waving goodbye to his father and making his way to the Orchard.
Surai was there this time, waiting for him on the rock as she looked out over the water. Her eyes were hard as she turned to look at him.
"I won't apologise for what I said last time we met here," Rassa began, "Besides the fact that you had little business meddling with my problems in the first place, I really don't think you're an authority on whether I'm taking the right steps on my path or not, you're not the one walking it".
Surai said nothing as she stared at Rassa, and he took in a breath before he walked over and sat down beside her, "That being said, I do thank you for accelerating the process. I don't know how long I would have spent in self-loathing and pity before I finally realised what my problem was. But I am ready now. Ready to face it and walk my path properly, not half-heartedly".
Surai looked down her nose at him before the corner of her lips twisted in a small smirk.
"I daresay you are," said Surai, "You certainly seem a lot less conflicted. Perhaps not entirely resolved, but there are few who are, even those who live for eternity. If anything, they tend to have more problems".
They lapsed into silence before Rassa sighed, his fear speaking out, "How long has it been since I've been here?"
Surai shrugged, "No idea".
Rassa turned to looked at her, surprise in his expression, "You don't know?"
Surai's appearance then shifted ever so slightly, no longer did she appear as the young widow Rassa had always seen, but as a woman in a Southern outfit that wrapped around her body and was tied in the middle. Though the biggest changes were the two ears on her head, and the eight fox-like tails that spanned from her tail bone, the same golden shine as her hair.
"Time moves differently in the Fairy Forest," she admitted, "Well, it'd be more accurate to say we don't have a reason to keep track of time. It is very much a life of solitude. That being said, I did synchronize your days here in the illusion with the days and night I am experiencing in reality, so the same amount of time has passed in both".
It wasn't much of a relief, especially seeing as he didn't know how long he'd been at the bottom of the ocean, but at least he had a hope that the others, the family he'd built, wouldn't be old, or worse, long dead. As for everything else, he'd have to see for himself.
"Seeing as I'm no longer welcome to pretend to know what your path is about, is there anything you need once this illusion is finished and you find your way out?" asked Surai.
"Blood," said Rassa, "A lot of it, and preferably from the source".
He turned to look at Surai, though she didn't appear all that bothered, "Very well, there are some unwelcome guests not far away, I'll invite them for dinner".
Rassa raised an eyebrow, but didn't question her on it, "How do I get out?"
"You know the answer to that," said Surai, "You've always known".
She stood, her tails flicking behind her as she hopped delicately onto the beach before turning back to look at him, "I'll see you on the other side, Rassa Moonshadow".
Then she promptly disappeared like dust in the wind. Rassa looked up at the sky, then turned to look back towards the village, then his eyes came to rest north, towards Greenvale Forest.
"Sure, I've just got to find cave that barely existed in reality, let alone in an illusion," said Rassa. He stood and turned away from the lake, stepping back towards the moment he'd sworn that oath so long ago.