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Chapter 32

“Aren’t you going to do anything about it?” Bastian asked, thrusting his phone onto Erska’s face who was busy typing away on her laptop. For someone who was in the public spotlight, she had been awfully calm about the recent developments surrounding her ‘new lover.’

She pushed it back forcefully and said, “Don’t you think it has stopped spreading now? Anyways, I don’t care. It will die down after a few days. People have nothing to do. My novel will shut their mouths when it releases.”

“Wow. Confident much now?”

“Of course,” she said, looking up. “No matter how delicate, frightening or temporary it feels, I’m confident with regards to what I write.”

“That would be great if you could be confident in other things too…” he chattered away casually without much thought.

“Bastian. There might actually come a day where I might wring your neck. It’s coming a lot sooner than I thought.”

“Or the tabloids say, you aren’t exactly against having me as your new lover, huh?” he teased.

“I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not?” she asked, looking up. “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”

“I do have a girlfriend,” he admitted. “Let’s be real. Didn’t you have a crush on me? Isn’t that why you wouldn’t mind letting go of news like this?”

“Did you hit your head somewhere? Got it into some kind of fantasy where you seemed to attract all the females or something?” she asked, amused by his behaviour.

“You might think I’m an idiot but remember when we went to this club and you got so drunk that you told me that my eyes were pretty,” he said getting up as he walked over to the opposite side to make her feel intimidated. “Why, you even tried to feel my hair. Remember?”

Erska laughed in his face. “You eyes are pretty. What kind of cheesy line is-” She bit her lip while a hazy memory jogged through her brain of being absolutely unruly as she could ever be but she wasn’t letting some idiot rile her up. “Something must be wrong with your head, Bastian,” she continued with a straight face.

“Really?” he said, thoughtfully rubbing his chin. “I have a great idea then.” He removed the band that tied up his hair, letting it flow, leaning in. “Why don’t we recreate the scene? Might bring you back something.” He took her hand and let her touch his strands. And she was caught up in the moment, her fingers slightly grazing his cheeks as it ended up getting caught in an ocean of silk-like threads. “Look a little bit deeper into my eyes,” he continued smugly. “You’ll probably get what you are looking for.”

“Bastian,” she whispered, her breaths quivering, her insides knotted while she let her fingers stroke his head, looking into his emerald eyes. “I admit that I did have a crush on you but don’t you have a girlfriend now?”

He blinked in confusion. “What?”

“You must be one flirty little asshole. What can I do? I don’t think I have a crush on you anymore,” she replied, her fingers twirling his hair.

“Well, what are you still doing then?” he asked, flustered at seeing her being so daring.

“I mean, you got a girl but you don’t mind the flirting. And I don’t really mind this feeling of intimacy. I’m not a slut but if you can play games, so can I. Let’s just say I’m using you for a while,” she replied, scrunching her nose playfully while letting go of his hair. She sat back in her former position and continued to type, leaving Bastian shell shocked not only by Erska’s sudden change but also by Quincy’s angry stature who had been standing quietly for a while.

As Bastian left the room to appease Quincy, Erska fell flat on the table, covering her face. The things that you have begun doing, Erska. Fuck. Why do I still have a crush on him? I thought my heart would pop out. Served that idiot, right though. How dare he keeps getting things his way always? And….Her thought process was interrupted by another, more amorous one as she began feeling her fingers. Erksa! Get your mind out of the gutter!

“Quincy! Quincy!” Bastian yelled as his friend who was taking impatient paces forwardly but suddenly stopped to turn back and grab Bastian by the collar.

“What the hell were you just doing?”

“I was…I was,” he stammered trying to wiggle his way out but he gave up. “I flirted with her for a bit.

“Because? Hopefully, you have a good reason,” Quincy said, his fist already closed.

“Quincy. Isn’t that what we usually did? Flirting and fooling around. What’s wrong now? She was being all testy and I played with her. Like how we do.”

He furiously interrupted. “You mean like how I did? When did you start doing all this? Even if it was just an assignment, you were bloody committed to one woman, right?”

“Chill, man,” he said, oblivious of Quincy’s feelings as he dusted Quincy’s shoulders. “I was just playing with her. No big deal. Didn’t you always say this - live the life that I’ve got to the fullest.”

“Have you made up with Fleur yet?” Quincy asked, diverting the focus to which Bastian’s expression changed to a more stoic one, getting Quincy’s hands off him. “I’ll do that at my pace, Quincy. I’ll get going if there isn’t anything else.”

All Quincy could think about was the consequences, constantly running through his head. The more he hung out with Erska, the more Bastian wasn’t himself. You’ve done testing my patience, man. I’m going to do shit that you won’t like. I’m looking out for a friend – don’t mistake me.

“I’ll be back soon, Tamago. Don’t worry,” Haruhi cooed to her cat as she closed the door but her thoughts diverted instantly towards a weird combination of two familiar figures walking past her.

“What the hell are you both doing here?”

“I just wanted to show Erska how messy Bastian can be,” Quincy said, his face exaggeratedly disgusted as he showed Erska into Bastian’s room. Erska looked back and forth at Haruhi and Quincy. “I’m just trying to humour him, Haruhi. Don’t mind me,” she replied as she followed Quincy inside.

Quincy was right. The room was messy which attained its special nature only after Quincy moved in with Bastian. It even got Erska suspicious, eyeing Quincy’s movements carefully because the major part of the mess consisted of fashion magazines and restaurant pamphlets apart from a generous wardrobe of clothes bundled up on one edge of the bed and milkshake glasses on the wooden table. Emphasis on the milkshake. As she slowly settled on the bed, looking at the neon sign, taking in the scent and searching for mild traces of Bastian. Quincy pretended to clear out a heap of clothes by shoving it under the bed to have a glance at the object that was about to cause chaos.

“See?” he said, in a loud voice as he gestured towards the bed. “You’ll find a lot more mess under.”

“I’m starting to wonder if it is yours, Quincy,” she said with a wide grin, playing along with him as she knelt to have a look under the bed.

Quincy’s feet pushed the clothes to the other side for Erska to get a clear view. “What the hell,” Erska whispered in a muffled tone as dust swirled, settling on the clothes but what caught her eye was a whiteboard of sorts which had black flowchart like diagrams, seemingly handwritten yet lack of light prevented further exploration. She reached out to the board and pulled it out of its hiding place, covering her nose. Her eyes went into a temporary blur, blinking but it stopped in a sudden shock when the word ‘ERSKA’ caught her eye. Rubbing her eyes, she got up and sat back on the bed as Quincy let her have the moment register deeply in her. The whiteboard planner that Bastian used to understand his assignments usually -it contained glimpses of Erska’s personal and public life which included her likes, dislikes, hangout places and other possible details one could grab from stalking her. Apart from that, a part of the planner was allocated to Bastian’s observations about her. Erska’s fingers trembled, her breathing slowed down while her eyes got teary. Her whole life was a background story to him. Her every movement was like data fed into a system for his personal use which could be used whenever Bastian liked, whenever he wanted to push or pull, whenever he wanted to catch his prey. An unsuspecting prey that fell under his charm eagerly.

“I thought I had caught him in the act but it is this bad?” she managed weakly, her fingers rolled in, absolutely unbothered by the fact that the sharp ends of her nails were starting to tear her skin.

“Erska, I’m not sure what is-”

“Did you know about this?!”

“No, Erska. I did not,” Quincy replied, almost stumbling on his words. He was surprised to find himself staring at Erska’s furious black eyes and a frowning forehead.

“I’m going to deal with this directly,” she said, pushing past him as she marched downstairs with the whiteboard in her hand. Quincy followed her hurriedly.

Downstairs, Bastian was caught up in a tussle with Haruhi while he was stealing carrots from the refrigerator.

“I heard from Quincy that you haven’t still made up with Fleur. That doesn’t seem like you, Bastian,” she started.

“Aaaaah,” he yelled, his hands placed against his ears.

Haruhi hit him on the head with a ladle. “Listen to me first. Fleur’s life span is almost at its end, yea? Is this the time to be fooling around like a rookie? I had the feeling you were proper but now you want to slack around, huh? Can’t you just finish this thing and take the vacation you want? Something wrong with your bird brain?” Once again, she tapped his head with the ladle a little too hard because she wasn’t going to miss this chance of being able to scold him.

“I-I just…” he mumbled only to give in, his head cowering. “You’re right. I’ll do that.”

“And I also heard that you were flirting with Erska. If you are going to behave this way then I’m going to whoop you-”

Haruhi’s reprimanding halted as soon as Erska strode in, her lavender hair bouncing, slow breaths, twisted lips and angry eyebrows. A seemingly worried Quincy followed her in.

“Talk of the devil!” Bastian roared heartily until his eyes fell on the object that she was carrying, His pupils dilated as he looked at Erska’s eyes – fierce and unmoving while he felt like a thief caught red-handed.

“Erska. I can explain,” he began, moving forward while he tried to get hold of her hand but she stepped back.

“Obviously. You fucking liar,” she said as she stepped forward as threw the board down in fury. “Let’s see what else you have to explain.”

“I’m sorry..” he whispered, looking down

She stepped forward “Sorry?! That’s the best you could say right now? Do you have other boards for other girls? I mean having a girlfriend and the way you behaved towards me..hah! Says a lot about you and what you do..”

He noticed that though Erska’s stance seemed angry and ready to pounce yet her fingers quavered while her toes shifted continuously- cloaking her feeling of being betrayed. She grabbed onto his chin tightly, her peach shaded lips twitching in disgust. “Seriously why waste your time trying to help every single person like Prince Charming. So, that everyone would like you? Aren’t you the kind that can wrap your finger around any person once you set your mind too? You have no regard for personal space, do you? The way you treated me like I was just some plaything even when you were in a relationship. Did you like that? Making a fool out of someone and playing with their feelings? Like a fucking slut-”

“That’s enough!” Bastian growled, flinging away her hand so rashly that her comparatively small form staggered back. “I was interested in you, I agree. I did all that planning and shit to approach. I don’t do stuff directly. And then I met Fleur and we got together. That’s all. Stop making meaningless accusations.”

“Meaningless accusations?! Bastian, please don’t act like you are innocent right now. From time to time, you keep teasing me when you felt like. Like that wasn’t enough-”

He snickered to Erska’s fury, covering his mouth while she got astonished. “Don’t you know the difference between teasing and flirting? Learn to draw the line, dear. Have you ever been in a proper relationship? I’m not sure you even know that. What we have shared is a friendship, hear me? It is called F-R-I-E-N-D-S-H-I-P.”

By the time he could finish conversing, Erska had walked away, letting her legs take control of her, wherever it wanted to steer to.

As soon as she left, Bastian’s composed self dropped to the floor, exhausted. “You alright?” Haruhi asked, placing her hand gently on Bastian’s shoulder as he hugged his knees.

His eyes were tight shut, exhaling. “All this is starting to take a toll on my emotions, Haruhi. I have got immense bad luck today.”

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