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Chapter 17

“She did what??” exclaimed Quincy, trying to keep up with Bastian who was taking unusually long strides, his face fuming in anger while kicking little stones on the pavement. If Quincy had long red nails, his look of the neighbourhood gossip aunt would complement the obnoxious glasses and leopard coat.

“Throwing her own daughter out! Absolute madness! I thought she sounded like a strict, dutiful mother, looking out for her daughter but she’s absolutely delusional!”

“I get that part. She’s a mother with issues. Blah, blah, blah…I think you are missing a major point here. We went there to ‘spy’ on Fleur and Erska happened. Did nothing occur that your useless brain might have missed?” Quincy asked in a rapid manner who was midway distracted with trying different milkshakes that he had missed out on major drama.

“That definitely was wild..” Bastian stated, sighing as he rubbed his temples.

“Well, aren’t you going to tell me?” Quincy pressed on.

“She was fine with it. I mean, yea, we had a tussle and everything but she was cool but then, things turned a one eighty and we had an overprotective mother enter the scene…”

“What do you mean ‘she was fine’? Did you not read through the situation properly or something?”

“No. No. She clearly was fine with new romance. Besides, she’s great company and a good friend with…really unfortunate circumstances..” Bastian said in a thoughtful manner.

“Ummm hello? Sir. Bastian. What did I teach you? You’ve learnt tactics from the master of courtship. There’s no way she reacted normally, you flirt!”

Bastian frowned. “She said the same thing. Stop saying that,” he said, holding onto Solitarie’s front door handle.

“Oh please. Let me remind you,” Quincy dragged as he followed Bastian inside Solitarie, “ I think you’ve forgotten that you are unconsciously trained in romantic courtship. Isn’t that the way you approach all of your assignments?”

Before Bastian’s thought process began chugging, a sight so familiar shook his existence momentarily.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!!” Quincy said, loud enough for the owner of the wispy rose blonde mullet to hear, back turned towards them as he was engaged in an animated conversation with Haruhi.

Haruhi got up to introduce the new visitor. “Just in time. Bastian. Quincy. This is Fyre-”

“Oh, I know them very well. Famed Draphas – it would be blasphemous to not know them. I had the very privilege to train under them,” he said with a grin that extended from one ear to another, his blue eyes twinkling. A grin that made Quincy want to throw a punch at his crooked, snub nose. His fist was already rolled up.

“A pleasure always,” Quincy replied, peering through his glasses. He personally felt his head ache for a second, his body reminiscing his combat training with Fyre.

“What are you doing here anyway?” Bastian asked, shooing away defensive demeanour from his brain.

“Obviously because I’m an active Drapha. I’ ve-”

“You what??” Quincy exclaimed “You’re too young! Something wrong with assigning at the HQ?”

Fyre’s eyebrows raised as he said, “ I mean they’ve got you people out. What’s wrong with me?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. Shut up..” Quincy shot, riled up.

“Quincy, manners,” Bastian said, trying to seem professional as he placed a hand on Quincy’s shoulder. “Anyways, welcome to Lessa. Since we know the place a lot longer than you – hopefully, we might be able to help you.”

Haruhi produced Fyre’s assignment to Bastian. “That you will immensely. He’s assigned to Erska.”

“You’ve finally gone and done the maddest thing you could ever possibly do,” Alia said, biting her nails.

Putting Alia on speaker, Erska reasoned “What do you mean the maddest thing? I simply asked for a little bit of freedom in choosing to do what I want to.” She prepared herself for a new start. She had spent almost two hours, filing away old notes, sketches that she had attempted to draft out the so-called sequel, to make sure she was only staring are empty, new pages – hopeful.

“A little bit of freedom, you say? You can’t deny the fact that it was your mother who put you in order. You struggled and always have struggled with it, she pushed you in the right direction and all the pieces of the puzzle – fit together.”

“I’m in no way going to deny that, Alia. I know all vagueness fell together because of the bit of pressure. I had always had problems with putting it in order but I think the protection part has to stop. For a moment, I might stumble but I want to realize my full potential – try to take charge of things in own hands.”

“I do not know, man. It is always wise to make decisions you know for sure. You’re all set. Why are you breaking the momentum?” Alia asked.

“Just different methods. Let me do this. Besides, I’ve got mother’s permission,” Erska said, her mind dancing to an imaginary tune.

“Your mother did what?!”

“Gave me permission to try a new novel.”

“I thought she wanted you to leave the house. What happened?”

“Well, I was pretty nervous after what happened. I really thought I was going to be thrown out but Lady Luck on my side, maybe? She said she was going to let me do what I want!” Erska exclaimed, partially shocked herself.

“Did she say why? I mean, why after all this time….”

“Apparently, Bastian has everyone charmed and let’s be frank – he’s pretty convincing.”

“This is a dumbass idea,” Fyre retorted.

Quincy was trying so hard to resist the urge to whack him on the head but he was shit scared of the consequences.

“Well, what do you propose?” Bastian asked.

“Approach her, of course. In some disguise,” he said. Fyre wanted to do things his way, especially his first assignment. He had always been intrigued with disguises since his training period.

“That’s exactly what I don’t want happening, Like I did the same thing. The approaching part yet I blew my disguise and-”

“Amateur,” he said, coughing.

“Too much of this ‘disguise’ is only going to lead to suspicion. So, this is a much better method,” Bastian said, pretending that the jeer hadn’t affected him.

“Good news, guys!!” Erska exclaimed, animatedly as she swiftly opened the door of Solitarie while balancing a tray of muffins. Passing over the tray onto Bastian, she sat down huffing and puffing, ends of her lips paining from too much smiling.

“Well?” Quincy asked, his right hand reaching for a third muffin while his left hand balanced two muffins but Bastian drew back the tray out his reach, leaving Quincy’s fingers dancing in the air.

“My mother is like totally fine with it. I mean, for the new novel umm what I mean to say is that she was going to throw me out of the house and then, she listened to me. She’s allowing me to do a different one!” Erska spoke rapidly, her eyes growing twice the size as she got up, still heavy breathing. Rooting herself in front of Bastian, she clasped his hands in hers. “Thank you so much! I wouldn’t be able to stick out my neck if it weren’t for you. I suppose I found a way to convince her. Finally!”

Bastian looked at her, smiling. “Congratulations, kiddo. That is so great to hear,” he said, attempting to loosen her tight grasp on his hands. “Well, some more good news for you. This is…Fyre,” he gestured towards the mentioned person who was halfway through choking on the muffin because he hadn’t anticipated introductions. Fyre got up instantly, wiping the crumbs off his mouth and flashed a wide grin. His firm handshake shook Erska’s person.

“He is sort of..ummm,” Bastian stuttered. “He is a good friend of mine..who is on a break, I mean, on holidays. He’s an editor herself. I think he’ll help you better. I started talking about the problem you are having with your novel to Fyre and his ideas are a lot more creative than mine. It’’s all falling into place, huh?”

Her forehead wrinkled, “Wow umm okay,” she replied, staring back and forth at Fyre and Bastian. “….But you’re still going to be there, yeah?”

“Yeah, I’m definitely supporting because what are friends for!” Bastian exclaimed, his voice high while he shook Erska’s shoulders.

Erska began saying, “That’s cool. We’ll be like the dream team. I got some ideas bubbling that I wanna get off my…like here-”

A knock on the glass door caught their attention. An impatient Fleur was waiting outside Solitarie, waving at Bastian. Erska bit her lip as she stood, staring at Fleur.

Bastian gestured towards Fyre. “Your ideas go there now, hon. See ya later! Got some work to do!” Patting on her head, Bastian grabbed his coat to join Fleur, hands clasped as they walked towards the end of the street.

“Oh boy, oh boy,” mumbled Quincy as he looked at Erska while his mouth gulped the third muffin.

“This is so not right. My tummy is rumbling A.F.” whispered Gina, fanning herself. “And I’m absolutely underdressed. I should have gone for a longer gown sort of thing. Why didn’t I get the memo that there was a party??”

“Memo?? I have no idea what is happening! Why are we the only ones caught in this position?? Alia mumbled in frustration, pulling the leopard stole off her neck and swiftly placing it on her camera.

“What do you think is happening?” Gina asked. “What is this moral support thing that we are to do?”

“Does it look like I’ve got the answer, girl?!” Alia hushed up Gina. Their instincts were riled up. They were standing in the corner of Bon Voyage’s ground floor with almost no space to breathe. The ‘library’ was pushed to the wall and all the benches, desks were removed. In its place were neatly arranged chairs in which no one sat. All the reporters from both T.V. and magazines seemed to be moving around, greeting each other in loud voices as if they had all seen long lost friends.

“Hello, Miss Singh. It is definitely weird seeing you without the camera,” interrupted a reporter, a mike dangling in front of Alia’s face. On the reporter’s signal, the cameraman started the video rolling on ‘cue’.

Ali and Gina instantly put on a smile. “It’s a pity. I definitely would miss documenting this..this..event,” she replied.

“That is a pity, indeed. Miss Alia Singh without a camera?! That would make the headlines,” he remarked, managing to slightly snide her in the process of the guerrilla like interview. “Do you have any idea why we’ve been summoned here, Miss Singh?”

“No clue but perhaps – it’s a surprise waiting for everyone to rejoice is what I can say,” Alia replied, gritting her teeth.

“Thank you for your time.” With that, he motioned for the video to stop rolling and turned to walk away when Alia swung her camera by the strap on his head a little too hard that the unsuspecting man staggered for a minute.

“Sorry. I think I just found my camera,” she replied, her pearly whites flashing, “I was just sooooo excited that I had found it.”

Before a possible commotion could brew up, Mrs. Saphine walked hurriedly into Bon Voyage towards the makeshift podium, causing a ruckus among the reporters as they began to crowd around her. As soon as she stood in front of the mike, she gazed through her sunglasses an icy cold look that earned her silence.

Tapping on the mike, Alice began, “Thank you, fellow reporters, for gracing us with your presence in such short notice. You see, it is very obvious when I call for a meeting as such - something really special is about to happen. My lovely daughter, Erska Saphine is in the process of working on the sequel of ‘His way. Her rules.’ In three months, it will release but here’s the juicy part. The sequel will have a cinematic production and I’ll soon announce the auditions. I’m looking for new faces, so, stay tuned y’all!”

A round of applause and a fight for questions cheered Alice as she went on to add, “We’ve arranged a small appetizer slash drink setting for you guys on the first floor. Other representatives will be there to answer any questions you have until you are satisfied. Thank you for rushing in as soon as possible. You can leave to enjoy the food now.”

As the crowd dispersed towards the first floor, Alice walked towards Alia and Gina, both stunned. “So, that’s all? Aren’t you guys a gang of sorts, always sticking together?” Alice asked, indifferent.

“Others ha-have other stuff to do, Mrs. Saphine,” stammered Gina, still shook by what had just gone down.

“You said something about moral support. I don’t understand why we are here, Mrs. Saphine,” Alia asked.

Alice linked her arms theirs and smiled, saying, “Of course, my dear girls. Moral support, indeed, for my daughter. If not, how is she to complete the sequel?”

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