They came upon the lion, only to discover a man hanging upside down and facing the other way a few feet next to it. Emmitt and Tessa quickly went up to the man swords and daggers at the ready. "Hes knocked out hard." Tessa said. "Ill examine him quickly than and get that out of the way." Emmitt said . "His face, I think I know him he seems familiar but Im not sure why its kind of fuzzy." Tessa said wrestling with her mind to just unlock this man from her thoughts.
"That does not matter here chief. We have our own laws here." Emmitt reminded her with his sword ready and close to the new mans neck. "Hey. Hey!" Emmitt hollered trying to get the sleeping man awake and his attention. Julian startled awake. Looking up facing Emmitt as he was the only one in view. "Who are you?" Emmitt asked with a voice that demanded respect and authority.
"I need to examine your body. Before you answer that. If you pass you will be cut down and brought back to our other leaders where you may be offered help. If you fail, well lets just cross that bridge if we come to it. I will take thin needles to your back chest it will be quick if you stay still. "Julian just nodded. "Alright do what you need to do." Emmitt took about ten minutes but was very through. "You are clean. You are no shadow or Tentoria. What would make you cross into the hunting lands?" Emmitt asked him curiously. "I crashed not far from here. Im looking for someone." Emmitt listened carefully as he cut the man down. He helped Julian to his feet.
"Im looking for…" Julian stopped talking when he looked up and just started starring at Tessa as if she were a ghost. Julian charged quickly straight for her throwing his arms around embracing her in the tightest hug hes ever been a part of out of fear that she may float away. Emmitt close behind about to yak the strange man off of her but paused when he heard him finally spoke. "You
e ok!, you
e alive. Ive been looking for you for so long and your finally here." He pulled away looking her over from head to toe. "Calm down there buddy."
She said in a steady voice. "Do I know you?" The question hit him like a knife in his heart had just ripped it out. "Tessa its me, its Julian. Its Jules. Its me Tess." He said pointing his palm to himself. He grabbed her hands and put on eon his heart. "Your memory has not returned fully yet after all this time?" Emmitt saw the man in front of him look so defeated and broken almost felt sorry for him.
"Who are you and why are you here?" Emmitt said putting himself between Tessa and the strange man still not sure whether hes a true friend or another traitor. Tessa sliding behind Emmitt feeling more comfortable behind him than the strange touchy man. "I am Julian Rodriguez Im the President of Atheo and the people aboard the United Destiny ship up there in space over us right now. I don mean to cause any friction with your people, but it is my first time or any of our Leaders besides Riley first time down here; and I came for my people. I came here for Tessa mostly." "Did you finally start to notice your chief was missing there did ya? Why have you waited so long to come? Shes been here for months."
"It was not safe to leave my people until now I came as fast as I possibly could get here. Tess is way more to me than just some title of chief warrior." Julian almost barked the last part back. "How much more? Why would the President himself come to come find one woman?" Tessa asked curiously in a mocking tone. "You are not one woman. You are the only woman. You
e my best friend Tessa. We
e engaged to be married. Your my one and only woman." Julian pleaded with her in hopes that sparks some memory of him.
e the man I covered when the two bombs went off. I got stabbed for you! And what did you do in return you sent me on the first pod out of there to crash in the middle of the woods without memories, a letter, or even a damn canteen of water. Hell rabid dogs got more than that. How could you do that to your best friend. "She said friend in the most sarcastic tone she could muster using her fingers for quotations.
"I did it to save you, it was my last option for those bombs went off because you were the target. No way in hell was I gonna give someone the opportunity hurt you. This time apart has been hell on me too. Our people miss you; they need you Tessandra. I missed you. I need you Tessa." "I don care to hear about your wants or needs and damn sure don care about your piddly ass troubles. You
e a stranger to not only these lands but to me. We will bring you to Circle and be debriefed. With any luck at all you will be sacked and banished to Atheo. Weve come too far for you to come in and mess things up now. Mr. President."
"Tess look Im so sorry. What can I do or say to make you understand that what happened to you was our chance to keep you safe?" "You could have given me a choice, a picture, a note, or memory. You took everything from me. Hell for about two days you even took my damn name. As of this moment onward we are not engaged as you call it. I will not be returning with you. Bind him Emmitt hes still needed for Circle." "You heard my chief, lets go big man." Julian did not resist as Emmitt restricted his hands and walked behind him as Tessa lead the way anger radiating off every inch of her.
Julian did not want to anger her any further he did everything Emmitt told him to do all the way in walking in heart break the whole way through. Emmitt walked on with his heart part in his stomach, part in his throat. Tessa marched on like a woman on a mission full of rage and like someone took her heart and squeezed it dry of any emotion. If she was thought so high up by these people or even someone who she was willing at one point to share her life with why did they do this to her? When they arrived the other leaders were surprised to see the other tall dark man with them. "Emmitt, dear who is your new friend?" Tahlia asked sweetly.
"I am Julian Rodriguez President or main leader of Atheo and united Destiny." "Ah, we know of you. You
e Rileys boss. A wiry one that Riley he truly is something else." Ira said pleasantly with a small giggle they all chuckled and agreed. "Yes his title is just right under me. I believe we have a treaty with you the Declan Circle. And all the Village within. I have and mean no ill intent or hurting the pact." "Noted. Why are you here after all these years you people finally send a main leader, minus Riley, to communicate with us?" Malik asked in an accusing tone.
"This is my almost second year as President. My father is no longer with us he did some pretty bad things in his years of leadership. I took over his place, voted in by our people to lead them and I am trying to right the wrongs of the past leaders of power." Julian said while stealing glances at Tessa every chance he got. "I am the only man in office brave enough to venture down here I guess to meet in person. I cannot lie my whole sole purpose was coming down to collect Tessandra Alderman and of course to do our job."
"Why? What do you plan to do with her? She has been missing almost a whole year now. Your kind have never come to personally collect any of the others weve had to help find their way back to their memory. Or any others that went astray." Luca asked with such strength in his speech and aggression. Which was not something you would hear from Luca of all people too often.
"I have entrusted Atheo with much power but we have traitors within our walls both here on the ground and up in the air on the ships. They need to be stopped. The only one who knows whose behind it is Tessa. They tried to wipe her out last year on the ship. I sent her down on an escape pod to save her only a handful of people knew. I was trying to save her. Shes my best friend and fiancé. I would follow her through hell."
"At this moment in time I would like nothing more than to do than send him there personally." Tessa whispered out loud. "Play nice." Emmitt whispered back. "Tessa calm yourself we know how much pain and weight you bare my dear child." Tahlia told her with a sad understanding stare. "Mr. Rodriguez." "Julian please call me Julian."
"Julian heres whats going to happen child. You will spend a while and a very long talk with me Luca and Malik here. We will explain what has been happening here. You will be a welcomed guest from one leader to another. You will not venture in these woods alone. You will stay with the Declan tribe of Luca and Maliks people the healers and warriors part of the tribes. Be warned you will not be admired. I believe your stay will help with the process of awakening our lovely Tessandra. She is promised to help in the war your people chose to start. What of you Julian? Will you stand with us and help us clean up your own peoples mess? No it is no you who is our common enemy but they have corrupted your peoples findings and research."
"If Tessa trusts you to fight with you than so will we all. We will weed our snakes out and stand with you. My trust goes where Tessa does. She is our main Doctor and our Head chief of soldiers. She is the heart of our people it would be stupid not for the brain to follow suit." "Get your boots up all its getting mighty steep in here." Piers mumbled out.
"Piers mind your tongue how generous of you Mr. President. Is your sword hand as strong I wonder as you wit." Abriel asked. "I trained with the best you should know she stands in front of you I ranked in the top ten with her." "I agree shes an incredible talent. How do we know you
e not here for any other intentions."
"If I had other intentions I would have sent someone else. I want to fix the wrongs that happened our side of the fence. Weve all been squabbling for so long. I was about to be a part of a family of my own. Should I been lucky enough to have a child, I wanted them not to bare of burdens of the past but of a peaceful future. I am a man in power thats my responsibility to change what I can."
"Thats some beautiful thinking who taught you to live so honorably your parentage?" Tahlia asked so kindly. "No, her." Julian pointed at Tessa. "Those were her ideas and our beliefs." The other leaders turned to her and smiled. "Tessa you are required to spend time with Julian while he is here in between your other lists of things to do. We are still honoring the treaty and I think this will be good will do a great deal for you for the better in the end. Emmitt why don you take Tessa to get fed while we continue here." Tahlia offered.
"Julian who else knows that you
e here?" Emmitt asked before he and Tessa walked out. "Only one but he has no idea where I am right now just where the pod crashed. I know they will be looking soon enough. Is there any way I can get word to Riley to just not to worry over at Atheo?" Julian asked. "We use hawks. You may make your note here with us. You may not give this location but you may use our name." "Thank you." "Tessa we will see you later dear. You will be with piers tomorrow in the Neo Village. "Yes, maam." Tessa nodded in agreement and the took their leave. Tahlia and the others began to explain everything that has happened starting with the truth about Tessas parents.
"Are you ok?" Emmitt asked her calmly. "I am calming down. Aggravated to have to spend time with that nit wit." She spat out. "I think that its actually a good idea. Time with him might make something click Tess. We
e better with all of your memory." "Really? You of all people think this is going to be a good idea to spend quality time with the ex-fiancé?" She teased the last part out with her finger air quotes again. "Yes, hes telling the truth. You know he is you are our human lie detector and you know he is telling you the truth. I believe him. If I was in his place I may have done the same thing. Only I would have asked you or had you at least be part of the decision . If I was to start a life together it should always be joined choices on the big issues ."
"Well at least you get it." "You owe it to each other to try Tess. Im not ashamed or too proud to admit emotionally Im not comfortable with it and yes Im jealous I have competition. I am a patient man. I am open minded and I will wait for your choice. I will not push you or force you into anything. I will do whatever you ask of me if its what you wish. But you will not use me out of spite or vengeance." Emmitt said flatly.
"You honestly think I would use you that way?" She asked offendedly. "No, I don think you could ever do that to me I just needed it to be said out loud. I have full trust in you. I just want to do the right thing. I want the best things for you. For whatever you decide I will support it. I want the best things in life for you even if it doesn have me in it in the end."
"Thank you Emmitt. I know that. Should I find other sleeping arrangements ? Is all this too much for you?" She asked hoping nothing would change between them from this morning and last night she wasn sue her heart could take that but didn want to be unfair to Emmitt feelings. " No, unless my home is not where you wish to be?" He asked nervously.
"Its the only place I want to be curled up at the end of the day with you at home." "You are always welcomed to it. Whats mine is yours." "Even your bed?" She teased. "What I have is mine is yours you
e most welcomed to all I have especially myself." Emmitt winked. "However I am no fool, when your memory comes to and it will very suddenly. You may choose to need space from me. Thats ok by me."
"No, its not ok Emmitt you are my best friend. If I can share something with you its not worth doing." She said out loud in a pleading tone. "You feel that way now Tess because this is what you grew to know. You were going to have a life with that man. Maybe even start a family, whether you hate him right now or not you risked everything for him at one point if not more. Are you really ready to give up all those years the time all that energy and feelings invested into that one person. Do you really think you can just push all that out? Your instincts you said were never wrong theres a reason you invested and risked so much for him."
"You owe it to yourself to remember why. You can just push him away. Don get me wrong Id love to bury him and keep you for myself but hes doing all this for his best friend and he can share it with her. He can even begin to make it right and thats wrong and you know it. Theres no honor in being too proud to forgive .Forgive him Tessa not for him but for you. You will never have power over you if you don ." "I will think about it Lets just eat." Tess said exhausted from the conversation of Julian. "Come on, I wanna take you somewhere before we eat." Tessa followed being intrigued.
"I don even know where to begin to apologize for so much wrong brought to you and all the others." Julian said with the voice of a broken man. "Does Tessandra know her parents invented the drug that started all of this in the first place?" "Emmitt is taking her tonight right now actually to tell her. It is the next stage of the process; she will not handle this well. Malik and Luca will take you to them. You will wait until they tell you to go in, our girl sure is a pistol."
"With all due respect Ive been in trouble with my very pist off beloved. Shell come around when shes ready but none the less. This Emmitt man should not have to suffer her wrath when most of it is meant for me." "Julian does she know your father went whats that word twisted three days from Sunday?" "Yes, I believed she did." "I am not nor do I share his beliefs." He begged from them to believe him. "Julian we can see that. Tessa when shes fully Tessa knows that. Shes still grieving subconsciously. Tessa needs to collapse but her mind won let her. Itll happen in good time. I believe when it does she will need both you and Emmitt to get through it."
"I understand. I want to thank you for everything youve done for all our people and especially Tessa. Id like to thank Emmitt too. It seems we will have lots of business together in the future I hope. After the Tentoria are handled I wish to reevaluate our treaty maybe have a market to exchange goods and foods?" "We like our ways here. Well take things in baby steps." Tahlia said. "Well gentlemen after you." Julian said to Luca and Malik to show him the way to Tessa.
"Where are we what is this?" Tessa asked confused standing in front of a trailer looking home. This is the last place your parents lived before they were taken from us." "You mean this is the place they came when they left me." "Taken from you. Look Tess this the next step of the process we need to do this tonight."
"You knew you were bringing me here today?" She asked harshly feeling like it hurt her feelings. "Yes, If I would have told you, you wouldn have come and it would be a violation of the treaty." "Duty calls I get it." She snapped. "Lets do this and leave." She said walking in not feeling so happy with Emmitt at the moment. "You know everything about them right."
"Yes I did. Well I knew the most anyway." "So Ill go through their stuff and you tell me some stories and we can both feel like we tried when we leave deal?" She asked coldly. "Deal." "Im… Im not mad with you Emmitt. Im heart broken and confused. Mad at everything else." "I get it, thats ok." The sad thing was is she knew he did. "Ok, so begin. Ok I need clothes lets go through the closets and trunks." She rifled through all kinds of boxes and trunks putting some things inside a duffle bag or side bag she found inside.
Emmitt told her many stories some impressive, some sad, some funny like right now how hes finishing up telling the story of her dad had to pull a two hundred fifty-pound weird looking boar hog out of a tree log after trying to mate with a squirrel who was running away from the hog. Laughing hard while still going through journals she found so many it was hard to stop reading once you got started her parents were very smart all their findings were inspiring pieces of work. She was feeling impressed and proud until she came across a certain book that felt all too familiar. After reading through the certain section she grew very angry and you can read it upon her face.
"No. No, no. This can … this can be it can it? They didn Did they?" Emmitt couldn look her in the eye. "No! No no why? Why would anyone do this? How could they do this to people." "Those people chose it as a second chance they made the choice Tess everyone made the choice." "Everyone but me made the choice Emmitt and whoever else who may have been forced. I didn get to make this choice. My parents are the reason the Tentoria are controlling themselves and the shadows because they made this damn serum this drug thats destroyed so many of these villages and their people. That is so inhuman."
Malik, Luca and Julian appeared in the trailer but not got Tessa attention of being there, however the caught Emmitts and they remained silent watching the scene unfold. "Did your people know? You took them in after what they done to everyone? How could you forgive them" She screamed at Emmitt. "LOOK!" He yelled back.
"They were tried by our people for their actions and crimes and they were forgiven. They followed orders by not just their people but their friends people they deeply trusted. They were betrayed and tried to destroy it all but it was already too late.. They made a mistake Tessa and deep down you know that. We are all human beings, we
e not perfect not by a long shot. Their hope for rehabilitation for those who deserved a second chance got in the wrong hands that wasn their fault. Tess they have suffered enough and paid the price. You have suffered enough so just do me a big favor here my dear. FORGIVE.
Release all that power held over your head like a big ol noose around your neck release all the hatred. Forgive your parents, forgive Julian but more important forgive yourself because you felt all the things that you can take back and realize that its ok Tess. " He said begging her walking up to her watching the tears. In her eyes begin to fall and hugged her close to him. "Its ok to fall Tessa once in a while. Its healthy for the soul. We will all be here to catch you." He said softly rubbing her back trying to bring her as much comfort as he can.
He looked over to Julian while she sobbed in his arms uncontrollably falling apart but reeling herself back in at the same time. After a couple minutes she wiped her face tuning to the quite yet patient men behind her. "Your people are really big people. I want to be a bigger person too. Julian on the way here I had a flash back with you. We used to eat dinner and pray before we started the meals." "Yes, we did." Julian said proudly.
"It was something I felt I had to do. You just did it for me. So why don we go around the fire with dinner and pray. Emmitt can come for me when it gets late." "Ill come find you in a little while lets head back to the village first together." Emmitt spoke up. "I look forward to it." Julian answered looking at Tessa with a slight smile.
"You can share stories with me if I haven crossed to many lines with you today." "I could never be crossed with you Tess." Tessa looked down doubting that very seriously with events in her life this past year, walking out of her parents home leaving everything she packed up not wanting it anymore at this moment it was best left here. " Emmitt, I owe you a huge thank you. For all you have done."
"You owe me nothing. Tessas done this herself. Shes offering you a chance; she hasn given it to you already. Go prove you deserve it." Emmitt said coldly. Julian nodded and followed out after Tessas. "That was well done Emmitt, you were wiser beyond you years with the way you handled her." Luca said proudly. "Yes, indeed you reacted the way a true leader should, youve done the Aldermans proud may the rest in peace. So when are you going to tell Julian that you
e the better man for her?" Malik asked like it was casual question.
Emmitt starred in shock wondering what exactly does Malik know knowing how keen he is on all observations of him. "Malik." Luca snapped. "Aw, come on Luca we helped raise this boy and I have never seen you so… happy, content, whole even. You maybe fooling everyone else but you
e not fooling me or yourself. She will choose, you
e not out of the race if you keep being yourself son." Malik said balancing a hand on Emmitt shoulder being supportive.
"Nothing is going on Malik." Luca tried reasoning with Malik. "No Luca Im saying it already did." Malik smiling smacking Emmitt on his shoulder making his way out of the tent. "Just, just promise me youll be smart." Luca begged as he walked out meeting with the others. "Tessa was right should have just stayed tangled up in bed all day." Emmitt mumbled to himself.
The small group made their way back to the village as Tessa introduced Julian around to the people put on a smile for her sake out of respect and tried their best to be welcoming. Doing in highest respect for Tessa and the other leaders, and it showed. "Over here." Tessa went to one of the many small fires and sat down. "No one will bug us here." "The people are quite taken with you, no doubt that didn take long. Except for the dude staring at me like I will burst into flames." Julian joked.
"Oh, thats because of you actually kind of into me in a playful way though, I think. I just play it off because he is a great friend." "Ah well who could blame him for trying." "Oh the girl who gave you the plate whose looking at you like a serial killer Thats Grandmother Roca and her granddaughter Chloe they are like my family last year Ive grown close to them especially Chloe shes one of my two best friends here."
"Can I ask who the other is?" Julian asked already knowing the answer. "Ya, its Emmitt." " I understand why no one better knowing your history; helps tremendously all thats been going on. He is doing a great job here. I hope as leaders we can let our peoples grow together in a neutral area like markets, hospitals, trades goods and so on."
"They may not go for that. Its simple here and it works. I really enjoy it." "I see that it shows straight through you." "They really are great people, Im sure theyll warm up to you, or at least really try." She giggled. "And what about you? Do you think you can warm up to me?" "Julian… I ." "Wait, I just want you to know, I know how much crow you had to have swallowed to just sit here next to me after all Ive done to you and all the things Ive caused you this year. I will prove to you that trust or faith in me will never be misplaced ever again. We have time and I will show you. Remind you why you chose me in the first place." "Thats a lot of confidence there Jules." She teased with a smirk taking a drink from her water. "What did you say?"
"Confidence?" She questioned lifting an eyebrow asking If thats what he was looking for. "No." "Jules? I think thats what I used to call you sometimes, right?" "Ya it is." Julian said eyes shining bright in happiness his heart skipped a beat with excitement. " Ok, lets try this." She said taking his hand in hers hesitantly and bowing her head. He followed suit.
"Ok, uh oh Lord. God heavenly father man. " She struggled trying to find a grove in this she used to have. "Thank you for this amazing meal were about to get into out tummies. Thank you to the animal who gave its life so ours could go on. Let us not on a path of darkness, but of light and strength. Let us forgive those who have wronged us and ourselves. Amen." "Amen. You are a natural just like old times." Why don you shine some lights on old times?"
"I really rather talk about you now. You have won so many villages over in just a night with most of them. Ha thats my Tessa. What you have done here with these people, with the materials you have it is incredible. You are amazing. Always doing what we trained to do. Do the best you can, with what you have…" "With where you are" They finished in unison.
"I remember." She said happily surprised that she could they shared the laugh. "Ya I remember that teacher hated me because I was the only one to ever to take him down. Addie and Kylie always telling me to tone it down or Ill never get anywhere. Addie and Kylie They are my friends aren they. Addie I think had blond hair, and Kylie has hair like a raven or crow?" "Thats right." Julian nodded getting even more excited watching he memory coming to her in small waves.
"Actually Addie used to double date with us all the time with another best friend of our named." "Jared" Tessa cut him off. "We did, I always wanted whats his name I wanna say Connor to be with Kylie." Jules shook his head yes. "Well you guessed right I walked in on them both just before I left to get down here." He laughed out. "Maybe a screw or two loose but I still got it." She joked.
Tessa was shocked that she was actually enjoying her time with Julian eating around the fire. She really was getting new waves of memories flooding back to her and for once they weren all painful and leaving her with more questions It felt so familiar. "This really was a good idea. Its true it wasn a lot of progress. Yet it was just enough for this long day that will never end." Emmitt walked up at that moment.
"Good evening hows it going? I see the President Rodriguez is still breathing among us, so thats got to be a good sign." They all laughed. "Look Julian Tuca has offered his hut for you to share during your visit. If thats ok with you?" They laughed deep again looking at Tuca who still looked like he wanted to kill him. "That would be more than just an honor." Julian struggle to say with a straight face because he did appreciate the gesture.. Tessa laughing so hard she fell off the log. Emmitt smiling helping her up laughing with her. "The hour grows late. " He said sweetly to her.
"I agree with you there. Jules look I do understand why you did what you did, I do. It still should have been a mutual choice. Youve taken so much from me. I have accomplished much and still have so much further to go to achieve here. So I from the bottom of my heart forgive you. Its just in the long run. At this point in time based on the main highlights I don see us romantically coming back to where we used to be whatever they may have been. But lets just restart out as friends. We do have a village of our own that we need to handle to win this war we owe each that much I think.
"Tess, Im ok doing whatever you need me to do. Whatever you need me to be Ill be. I have time. We started out as friends before the first time. I made you love me once I believe I can do that again. Life is full of moments you don like me today you may love me tomorrow or in the future. Like you said I will keep the faith. Good night friends." Julian said sweetly with great confidence of winning his woman back over. They left him there with Tuca. After getting back to their home. "So how did it go?" Emmitt said cheerfully.
"I- you look so content." "You know what I am. I remembered a lot at the same time a little. It felt so familiar like muscle memory ya know. Like something it was just used to. It definitely was progress. Thank you. You were right it as a good idea." "I know it was, it came from me." Emmitt teased as she shoved him playfully on his chest. "Did you man what you said to him? Do you really think you can make those promises to him just yet so soon, because hes right too you know. Know you won feel the same way you today as you will later."
"I know its been months and even with my memory back Im always going to wonder being in my profession things will go bad every once in a while, but when they do how many more times is he willing to send me away on a whim the way he did?" "I understand Tess really I do, but hes here now. We need him to convince your people to fight you have to have some trust or they won follow us. You guys ran those people together as a team. Those people are going to need to see that teams strength to find their own."
e too smart for your own good. You know that right?" She said entering the room they shared cleaning up herself with the basin of water in the corner and a rag. "Ya I know I was raised well. Every day with you I realize Im still learning though; and at the end of those days I feel like I got such a long way to go still." "I feel the same way with you." Tessa said walking up to him hands playfully upon his chest sealing the truth of her statement with a kiss. "Do you mind if I cuddle up to you I fall asleep? Its such a long day I just need some type of stability feeling." She asked as it came out of her mouth she grew nervous.
"Tess Im going to take every moment I can to hold you close to me and not let go until you tell me to." He replied crawling into his bed with her. "Remember my dear here at home we are us and you are mine, I am yours." He said spooning her close to him. Tangling their legs and hands into each other. As the breathed in their scents from one another it was so quick to give into sleep. As Emmitt was dozing off he realized he was hooked to the woman in his arms. It was aching how much really does love her. Entangled with her at that moment he couldn see her with anyone but him; and it left his heart aching for it to remain it to be true even with her past knocking on their future.