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Chapter 23

“They are actually letting you make lunch?” Bastian asked as he popped in a piece of carrot into his mouth.

“Not exactly,” Erska replied, immersed in peeling potatoes. “But I suggest that you leave now.”

“Why? Afraid you’ll mess it up?” Bastian teased, clapping his hands while making weird noises in irregular intervals.

“Damn it, Bastian!” she fumed as she pulled the potato’s flesh along with its skin.

“Exactly where I thought you’d be- harassing, my client,” commented Fyre as he walked in. “Should I throw him out, Erska?”

“He’s not worth it,” she said, shaking her head, “Here’s something for you.” She handed over a paper to Fyre before going back to peeling. “That’s half a plot. You promised me chocolate beignets.”

“A promise for me to keep. So, do you want takeout or perhaps, go out? Like a cozy date? The place is a real treat for the eyes, you know?” he said, flashing his signature grin.

Before Erska could refuse, Bastian interrupted, saying, “Why would she go on a date with you?”

“Why would she not? I’m a good catch,” he said, dusting off his shoulders.

“That’s right. Why would I not?” Erska said, cocking her eyebrows.

“Woah. Just did not seem like the type to go on random dates,” Bastian answered, perplexed.

“None of your business,” she said sharply and turned towards Fyre. “It’s a date.”

“At your service, my lady,” he replied as he left them with a bow.

“What a crackhead,” muttered Bastian under his breath.

“Why? Are you jealous or something?” taunted Erska.

“Je-Jealous? Why am I jealous of him?” he stuttered, throwing his hands up in the air.

“Then, why did you call him a crackhead?”

“Because he behaves like one!” Bastian exclaimed, rolling his eyes.


With that Erska went back to examining potatoes while Bastian sat, swinging his legs back and forth, unsure what to talk.

“So, what’s your plot about?” he asked.

“I told you that’s confidential.”

“Just a little bit. Come on, Erska!” he exclaimed, slightly punching her on the shoulder. “For old time’s sake!”

She looked at him hard. What an annoying rat. “Promise you’ll leave me alone if I tell you a bit?”

“I swear.”

“It’s a sequel.”

“A sequel? Sequel to what?”

“ first book.”

“Sequel to your first book,” Bastian asked, baffled. “The sequel that you hated doing? Is Fyre forcing you? Should I threaten him or something?” Bastian was on his feet, attempting his best angry stance.

“What? No. No. No,” she said hurriedly. “It was my decision. It was actually sensible. He asked if I can try it under this new environment I’m in because I’m the one with creative control over my work.”

“Ohh..” he dragged as he sat back down.

“Yea..and it seemed wise to do that because new ideas weren’t exactly hitting me and I can’t keep waiting for something to hit my brain too. So, maybe this wasn’t a bad plan too..”

“That-That’s actually good to hear. That you are actually progressing and stuff,” he complimented. Why didn’t my brain think of that?

“Hopefully it goes well,” Erska said, crossing her fingers.

“It sure will,” he said with a smile as he slowly got up.

“Umm where are you going?” she asked.

“I’ve been disturbing you.. so, I thought I’ll probably head back and check with Haruhi if anything needs to be done or something,” he said, scratching his head.

“Oh, actually I wanted to ask you something,” she said without giving it much thought. Erska felt bad looking at his suddenly droopy self. I can’t even try to be mad at you.


“Oh ummm..” What the fuck do you wanna ask, you idiot? “Ah yes! The combs! The pin! I mean your interest for those old things. Antiques! Yes, antiques! That’s what I meant!” she blurted with a sudden burst of enthusiasm.

Bastian sat back and pondered for a while. “Umm okay. What about it specifically?”

“Come on, Bastian! We’ve been friends for a period of time! I never knew you liked antiques and stuff. So, tell me about it. How did you start? Why do you like them? Everything!”

“The thing is I travel a lot. I’ve been to quite a few countries. I suppose since I started being among different cultures, I also became interested in their differences – beauty, aesthetics, things that are representative of each culture. It gives me a weird sense of nostalgia, all these man-made objects once held precious by someone in my hands. I collect all sorts of things. Coins, hats, ornaments, and sometimes clothing also. And learning a bit of history makes it all the more special”

“Why don’t you share it often?” she questioned.

Bastian looked away as if the horizon had caught his eye. “I get made fun of. See, it’s something that is very dear to me and if I’m going to have to re-think twice or thrice before I share my collection, I’d rather not do it at all. Why go through the mockery over and over again? I’m just happy with it all by myself.”

“Have you looked at yourself in the mirror when you talk about it?” she said, laughing.

“Why?” he asked, frowning as he touched his cheek. “What’s wrong with my face?”

“Are you serious? Do you know how happy you look? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this happy! Your face looks so bright!” she exclaimed, leaning in.

“Oh..I-I don’t think I ever think about it like that happily..” he managed, partially dumbfounded and embarrassed. No one has ever told him that. Obviously, because he doesn’t share his interests except for Quincy who doesn’t care much for it.

“I wish you could share it. Or at least get to know other people’s interests, if they match, you could open up about yours, you know?” Erska beamed.

“Maybe I could?” he muttered, still unsure.

“Bastian!” she barked, her face staring directly into his eyes to the point that the glint in her eyes started overwhelming him. “I’m not joking! You should really try doing that! Okay? Will you do that?”

“Okay. Okay,” he said, grabbing hold of her shoulders and lightly pushing her back. “Geez, man. Why are you all hyped up?”

“Because-because you have so much joy and I wish you’d really share it with everyone!”

“Alright, I hear you, Erska. I will do that. Enough of all this,” he said, unable to withstand Erska’s sudden outburst of passion.

“Why did have to fake being a writer? You should have shadowed as an antique collector or an antique dealer. I would have totally fallen for you..” she mumbled out her heart a little too blunt, instantly biting her lip.

Bastian’s ears perked. “What did you just say?” he asked, leaning in.

“I said you should have been an antique collector or dealer. I would have totally fallen for-fallen for- I meant totally fallen for your act! That’s what I meant because obviously you have good knowledge and that would have helped you with your cover,” she stammered, trying to manage the damage she had done to herself.

But Bastian being the naughty idiot he was, wasn’t letting her go that easy. “Are you sure? I thought you were talking about falling for me and-”

There he starts, rattling like a baboon! She bit her lips as she kept looking away from Bastian who was trying hard to maintain eye contact with her.

“Someone’s trying hard to fly away from the truth,” he gloated with a smirk.

Erska pinched his cheeks suddenly. “Well, who’s the little kid that likes to play with his shiny, old things? Huh? Isn’t that our lovely baby Bastian?”

“You-you need to stop that!” he yelled but his body froze and he was captive at her mercy.

“Uh-huh! I won’t and never will!” she replied, the ends of her lips in a wide grin while she bumped her forehead against his, causing them to brush their noses in the few seconds span of time. It left Bastian flustered, no ammo for the chain of reactions that Erska was firing him with. So, he just let it happen which was a big mistake. For the first time, he understood what it was like to be in Erska’s position. To be totally wrapped under someone’s fingers, absolutely defenceless. Her teasing was almost mute to his ears because his brain could only afford to send visuals of her cocky eyebrows, glisteningly coal eyes and almost peach lips all set on her bronze shaded skin. He just wished he wasn’t blushing right now but it wouldn’t be as worse as listening to his heart thump like a bulldozer gone rouge.

“Are you broken or something?” Erska asked, knocking on his forehead.

“Wha-What?” he stuttered as he got up on a whim, the chair falling down. “I-I got to go. I’ve taken too much of your time.” He almost ran out of the room, leaving Erska blinking for some time as she scratched her head. Did I tease him too much?

“You’ve grown so much more mature, you know?” Haruhi teased, partially pulling Quincy’s leg. “That’s what retirement does.”

“I’m so not in the mood for this, Haruhi. How long is this going to take?” he asked as he looked at the men setting up their cleaning equipment inside Solitarie.

“They told me it would take an hour.”

“Are you in shortage of money or something? Should I ask the HQ?” he repeated for the tenth time, flabbergasted by Haruhi’s decisions.

She slightly flicked his forehead. “Don’t try acting smart with me, Quincy.”

“Guys! If you haven’t got anything for me, I’m probably going to hit the club and- Woah. What’s going on?” asked Fyre who was all hippity hoppity until he saw that Solitarie was filled with a dozen unknown people.

“It seems like this cleaning company offers door to door service and since it is their first anniversary, they are offering free services. I’ve asked them to take a look at my store and the motel,” explained Haruhi.

“Alright, then. I’m off-” Fyre was prevented from retracing his steps outside Solitarie by Haruhi’s hands clinging onto his collar.

“You aren’t going anywhere. You and Quincy stay at Solitarie and keep lookout while I’m accompanying the ones to the motel.”

“Umm why don’t I go to the motel? You and Quincy and stay here,” counteroffered Fyre, who was still unable to make proper eye contact with Quincy.

“You..” Haruhi looked back and forth at both of them. “Haven’t you both solved your differences yet? Very good! Now is the time!” Patting their backs, she went off, accompanying some of the workmen towards Franklin’s Motel.

Fyre propped onto a chair, his vision restricted to the men at work who were cleaning the counters and the glass cases laid on the walls as he brushed his dusky pink shaded mullet on either side, adding to his defence as a vision blocker. Quincy sat beside him, sighing to get his attention. Fyre glanced at him and went back to his usual status.

“Do we have a problem?” Quincy asked, poking his arm.

“No, no problem,” he muttered, still looking away.

“Then, what was Haruhi grumbling about?”

“Haruhi is perhaps, mistaken. There is no problem,” Fyre replied, still brushing his hair.

“If there is no problem, why don’t you look at me and talk?” Quincy said, grasping Fyre’s arms and turning him his way.

“Well, it’s awkward,” he said, his head lowered.

“What was so awkward about it? Are you hurt because I scolded you or something? Aren’t you one hell of a smartass, Fyre?” Quincy asked, shaking Fyre’s arms.

“Yea…” he dragged, turning back to his former position when Quincy loosened his grasp onto him.

“You’re weird, man,” Quincy commented as he got up, patting Fyre’s head.

“Don’t-Don’t do that,” he warned, his voice shaky.

“Do what? This?” Quincy provoked, letting his fingers into Fyre’s wispy curls, making a mess of his head.

“I said stop it. Do you understand?” fumed Fyre, holding onto Quincy’s hands.

“That’s a tight grasp, alright,” he groaned, rubbing his hands. “I always forget you are stronger than me.”

Fyre got up and walked past Quincy, pretending to survey the cleaning process. Me too. I should have punched your annoying face the other day. I wonder why I did not.

“I’ve got some work to do. I believe Haruhi would understand. See ya, man,” Quincy said as he began walking out the store.

Fyre began to complain. “That’s not fair! I should’ve hit the club-” But Quincy was long gone. I’ll get you next time, dumbass.

“Sir, we’ve completed,” said one of the men in the service’s uniform.

“I was told it would take an hour,” Fyre said.

“Normally, yes. But I believe the owner has taken some time to clean I suppose. I’m afraid we don’t have much work to do,” he answered, slightly laughing.

“Thank you, anyway,” Fyre replied.

“At your service,” the man remarked as he left, following him were other men who walked towards their van.

Once they were inside the van, one of them connected a phone call to the main company.

“Well?” spoke the voice from the other side.

“We’ve tapped into their cameras, phones, placed voice recorders all over the store. Some are still doing the motel. We’ll be done in twenty minutes and the live feed will be up soon.”

“Were you able to do it unseen?”

“Oh please…” he sneered. “These are a bunch of idiots. The lady herself requested us to do the motel too. I don’t think we’ve ever had an easier job than this.”

“As long as our work gets done.”

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