337 The Moonshadow Trading Company Short Stories: 1 - The Return to Rouke Island IV
Falla rubbed the non-existent spot on the teacup in front of her, her nerves getting the better of her as she sat in the Fire Falls Restaurant. She'd needed the relaxation of the waterfalls the restaurant was so famous for, but had only become more stressed when she'd arrived and heard the whispers about the ship with red sails that had docked in Port Leis. The Ship with the Moonshadow Symbol.
A quick check of her Tracking Charm had told her all she needed to know. Rassa and Ebony were back. She'd been preparing for it for the past couple of months, but hadn't put any thought towards how she was going to talk with him again. She was grateful that Jane had left. She didn't know how she would have handled that. She was loath to admit that Iah had been right, it was stupid to keep Rassa's arrival from Jane.
"You know, I would have been happy to meet you in your office". It had been years since she'd heard it, but his voice was still so familiar to her. Falla turned quickly to take in Rassa's hooded self in the doorway. He continued as a hand swept from side to side to indicate the space they were in, "You didn't have to book out a whole room".
Falla opened her mouth to reply, then closed it again. She hadn't booked it for him.
"How did you…?"
Rassa took out his Tracking Charm and Falla rolled her eyes.
"Of course," Falla sighed. She'd known he was on Rouke Island the same way.
Rassa walked across the room and sat down across from Falla.
"You okay?" he asked when her silence continued.
"Shouldn't I be asking that of you?" asked Falla, "You're the one that appeared dead for over two years".
A quirk of amusement to his lips, "Yes, sorry about that. I had a few things to sort out".
"You made us think you were dead on purpose?" asked Falla, her gaze accusatory.
"No," Rassa replied, "Well…it's a long story that will frankly sound more complicated that it is. It involves a Kitsune, a long-standing wish of mine and a whole lot of childish stupidity. In short, you'll be angry with me regardless of how I tell it so just be angry".
Falla raised an eyebrow, "I can't be angry if I don't…What's a Kitsune?"
Rassa waved a hand dismissively, "Never mind that. Important thing is that I'm back".
Falla sighed, "I suppose. Even if I am supposed to be angry at you, I'm glad to see you again. And alive".
"You too," Rassa smiled.
"You seem…different," said Falla, "Like, more different than you were the last time I saw you".
"You should see Ebony and Aegin," Rassa sighed.
"Aegin?" asked Falla.
"Well, you can't see him now, he went off on his own, but-"
"Aegin's alive?" asked Falla, sitting up straighter. She hadn't known the ex-assassin well, but he'd clearly been close with Rassa and Ebony.
Rassa nodded, "Yes, long story short, I saved him from dying by turning him into a Vampire, he wasn't all that appreciative of it and went off on his own. Ebony asked me to turn her as well, now, here we are two months later, back with a ship full of new allies and ready to make our mark on the world".
Falla didn't quite know what to say to that.
"You…turned Ebony and Aegin so that they're like you?" asked Falla, "The whole, feeding on blood, hunting in the night thing?"
"Yep," replied Rassa.
"Can you turn anyone?" asked Falla.
"Are you asking?" asked Rassa, his tone much more serious, "Because eternity like this is not exactly a light decision".
Falla sighed, "No, I can't think of anything I'd want less".
Rassa raised an eyebrow, "To each their own".
Falla dragged a hand across her face, "It is good to see you again Rassa, can I expect a business meeting soon?"
"Probably," Rassa replied, "I came to inform you that I will only be staying on Rouke for only a short while before I go to see Kit and Olly".
"So, you'll need a map there then?" asked Falla.
Rassa shook his head, "Charm was enough to find you. I'll find them the same way".
Falla frowned. She wasn't overly happy that her Mine would be exposed so easily, even if it was to Rassa.
"Then I suppose I should warn my people of your impending arrival," said Falla.
"They won't get the message in time," Rassa replied, "By the way, I'm also informing you that within the next couple of months I hope to move production to another location that is owned by my company and have the work done by Moonshadow employees".
Falla's eyes widened, "But-"
"I'm quite capable of protecting it, if that is what you're worried about. Your employees will of course be offered the work first, but their contracts will not be through Apple Star. Moonshadow will instead provide compensation to you for the loss of labour," stated Rassa.
"You can't do that!" Falla snapped.
Rassa raised an eyebrow, "You know I can. What? Did you think that my company would be reliant on you forever?"
Falla opened her mouth to protest, the closed it again. He was right, of course.
Rassa sighed, "It is no reflection on you, or your business, Falla. You have helped Moonshadow excellently over the past couple of years, but the simple fact is that we are no longer the same useless, defenceless start-up company we once were".
"No thanks to you," Falla grumbled.
Rassa chuckled, "Yes, I probably deserve that. But it is my company. The contract we signed will remain the same until it runs out. But after that…I do believe that we will need to renegotiate".
Falla sighed, "You're an asshole, springing this on me as soon as you've returned".
"No time like the present," Rassa smiled, "I'm not lying though, it is nice to see you again. I hear Jane was here".
Falla's eyes widened as she turned to Rassa.
"I…she left, back to the Imperial Guild to receive new orders," said Falla.
Rassa nodded, "She must be doing well then".
"Well enough…though she still believes you are dead," Falla stated.
Rassa sighed, "Probably for the best. She's got her own life now. If we happen to encounter each other then so be it, but until then, we'll live our own lives".
"You don't miss her?" asked Falla.
Rassa frowned, "I…she'll always be my childhood best friend, Falla. But I think you should know best that neither of us are the same anymore. I hope, that if we do meet again, we can be amicable. But I accepted long ago that it will never be the same as it was".
"I'm not sure she would feel the same," said Falla.
"Well as cruel as it sounds, that isn't my problem," Rassa replied, "I truly wish her all the best, as I do you and Diggory and everyone else from Cordon…but I'm also absolutely positive that after I slaughtered a whole contingent of knights then got dragged off in a cage, they'll never look at me the same way again. I've accepted that. It's their problem if they haven't".
Falla sighed, "Fine, Rassa. I suppose I will prepare to alert my staff to the change in things".
"Iah and Ebony are compiling a list of required staff, I suggest you present a list of the staff currently being used to craft charms. The Miners are all yours," said Rassa.
Falla nodded, "I don't much appreciate you springing this on me".
Rassa shrugged, "Wouldn't you have done the same if you had your own plans?"
Falla sighed, picking up her tea and flinching when she realised it had turned cold, "If you're this troublesome for the rest of our business deals, I shall have to seek alternative deals".
"This deal is the best thing that has happened to your business," Rassa said confidently, "I very much doubt you will discard it easily".
"Maybe I should, just to spite you," Falla glared at him.
Rassa flipped through a book he'd taken off the nearby shelf. Something about southern dress codes. He was positive the only reason it was on the shelf was to make the office's owner appear above everyone else that entered his office. Rassa, frankly, found it a boring read.
He glanced up at the setting sun. He hoped the owner of the office would be back soon, he had promised he would be at dinner.
Right on cue, the door behind him opened.
"…and make sure that order from Danfore is here before noon tomorrow, I don't want another complaint about late goods from-who are you?"
Rassa turned to look over his shoulder at Ishta.
"How did you get in here?"
Rassa smiled, "What, don't recognise an old friend, Ishta? I suppose I will have to excuse you, we only met face to face once before your Inktress tried to drown me".
"Inktress…" Ishta's eyes narrowed, "Rassa Moonshadow, I take it?"
Rassa turned and walked over to Ishta before dropping down in the chair beside him, "Nice to make your acquaintance, Ishta".
"What are you doing in my office?" asked Ishta, turning to glare at his secretary who stood shocked in the doorway.
"Don't blame her, I came through the window," said Rassa.
"This is the fifth floor," Ishta frowned.
"It was wide open, an invitation if ever I saw one," Rassa smiled.
Ishta stared down at Rassa before he waved his secretary out, "What do you want, Moonshadow? To kill me?"
"I certainly wouldn't mourn your death, Ishta, from what I hear you made things difficult for the people I care about," said Rassa, "But I think you lost enough with Illai".
Ishta looked the slightest bit pained before he masked the emotion.
"So, if not to kill me, why are you here?"
Rassa leaned forward, "I was going to offer you a business proposal".
Ishta raised an eyebrow, "You were?"
"Well, I have spent the last couple of months on the Southern Continent, and I find myself quite awed by the influence you carry there. Not to mention the amount of Evanine Mines in your possession there," stated Rassa.
Ishta gave a sarcastic smile, "Even with your wealth, you don't have enough to buy the mines".
Rassa chuckled, "I don't want the mines, just the Evanine".
Ishta sat down behind his desk, "You want me to provide Evanine for your Charms?"
Rassa nodded, "I will be establishing the Moonshadow Company on the Southern Continent in the coming years. The current mine I have access to…it will take too long to transport any completed Charms and orders to the Southern Continent, not to mention the ships that carry completed Charms will be quite the treasure to pirates and other merchants alike. So, instead, I will establish a crafting house on the Southern Continent to supply the stores I establish there. All you need to do is provide the Evanine".
"And what kind of deal would I get for this?" asked Ishta.
"I will buy the Evanine at 60% of the market price," Rassa stated, "In return, Golden Sands may have a 20% discount on any orders from Moonshadow".
Ishta frowned, clearly considering the offer, "50% discount".
Rassa smirked, "I am feeling generous, not desperate, Ishta".
Ishta sighed, "Then, how about 30% discount and… 10,000 large charms of my choice every year?"
Rassa scoffed, "If you want a 30% discount and an annual tribute, you're dreaming".
Ishta gritted his teeth.
Rassa stood, "I'll tell you what, I'll give you a 10% discount on purchases, and 10,000 small charms of your choice at every trader's festival".
Ishta raised an eyebrow, "10,000 or the equivalent?"
Rassa thought for a moment, "So long as I have a right to refuse".
Ishta sighed, but then stuck out his hand, "So be it".
Rassa took Ishta's hand, then pulled the man close. Ishta frowned in surprise before his eyes widened at Rassa's red eyes.
"Cross me, Ishta, and you will regret it," stated Rassa. His red gaze held Ishta for a moment before he stepped back towards the balcony, "I'll inform you when I am ready to send resources over to the south and set up shop. It won't be for another six months if not more, plenty of time to prepare".
Rassa stepped up onto the railing, "If you'll excuse me, I'm late for a dinner appointment".
"Well, who would have thought that the head of Moonshadow was such a handsome young man?" asked one of the boutique owners.
Rassa chuckled, "You flatter me, Mrs Harding".
"Oh no, it would be an honour to tailor for such a well-polished young man," she insisted.
"Yes, you must look good in anything," one of the men stated, another tailor, "Do you have colours you prefer?"
"Red and Black, though I will try anything," stated Rassa.
"And such a lovely young wife you have," said another.
Ebony blanched, "Oh, I'm not…"
"Oh, I thought Miss Iah was your sister, I didn't realise…"
Iah blushed, "I…"
Rassa laughed, "No, no. I am quite unattached. Iah and Ebony are both lovely, but I see them as sisters".
"But…you share the same last name?" asked one of the men.
Rassa gave a warm smile, "We do".
"Family does not have to be related by blood," Rassa stated, "Or marriage. Family can be chosen as well. I share my last name with them because I chose to. Frankly, I believe the family one chooses is all the more important than the one someone is born into".
The twenty odd business owners around the room all listened attentively, taking in Rassa's clear affection for the two young women like it was the word of a god. Ebony smiled and raised a glass of wine.
"To family, both old and new, far and wide," Ebony stated.
"To Moonshadow!" called one of the men.
"Aye, to Moonshadow!"
The room agreed, raising their glasses and drinking heartily, Ebony sipped from her glass, trying not to cringe as Rassa downed his. She raised an eyebrow at him.
Rassa smiled through his disgust, "Mingle".
"I'm hungry," she grumbled as conversation was struck up again among their guests.
Rassa sighed, "You'll have to learn to fend for yourself, I'll be leaving for two weeks. No one to hand you a napkin".
"I'm getting better," Ebony turned her nose up.
"Prove it," Rassa challenged her.
Ebony smiled arrogantly, "What do I get if I succeed?"
"The satisfaction of knowing you won't look like a murderess when you eat," said Rassa.
Ebony pouted as one of the young boutique owners approached Rassa. She grinned, and he greeted her back warmly and they talked about the writing implements that she sold. Ebony raised an eyebrow at him. He wasn't usually so overly warm towards women. Not openly at least. And the young woman was eating it up. Rassa had no idea how handsome he was.
When they finally left to hunt that night, she couldn't help but hear the whispered promise he gave the young woman, who blushed and wondered off.
"I thought you didn't like women," said Ebony.
"Whatever gave you that idea?" asked Rassa.
"You've never taken an interest before," Ebony replied.
"Yes well, before I was still getting over the fact that a high-class whore had violated and raped me in a prison cell," said Rassa. Ebony's jaw dropped in shock at how casually he said it, then he shrugged, "Two years stuck in an illusion of what could have been made me realise how ridiculous it is to keep myself stuck in the past. Better to embrace life and live it how I wish to".
Rassa turned to look at Ebony, "It's in the past. Now go and show me you can hunt without spilling like a child".
Ebony frowned, "You aren't hunting?"
Rassa grinned, "My prey is currently in a bath tub ensuring she's clean for when I arrive".
Ebony scrunched her nose in disgust, "Are you going to hunt like that every night?"
Rassa shrugged, "Not every night. I don't like whores".
"Just boutique owners with loose morals?" asked Ebony.
"Technically her father owns the store," smiled Rassa, "But he's away visiting his sister".
"How convenient for you," Ebony huffed.
Rassa grinned, "Eternity is a long time, Ebony. No use spending it with your legs closed".
"Or your candle undipped apparently," Ebony sighed.
"Candle undipped?" Rassa chuckled.
Ebony blushed, "Urgh, I'm done with this conversation. Keep your escapades to yourself".
Rassa continued to laugh as Ebony moved off to hunt.