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Chapter 40

While to everyone whispering around them, it might have seemed like a new couple in bloom, Fyre was wriggling within Quincy’s grip. Of course, he could flick Quincy off like an ant yet his partner’s presence and the angst it caused him had his beating heart trembling to rupture if it weren’t for the flimsy stitches that were holding it together, attempting to mend its bruises in vain.

“Quincy!” Fyre hissed into his ears yet his mouth wore a grin. “Do you think this is a joke?”

“A joke? Aren’t we just dancing? Since when did you care about what others thought? Didn’t you want to do this?” Quincy asked as he sent Fyre into a swirl, dipping him down and manoeuvred him back to his former position, holding his waist.

“But not like this, Quincy!” Fyre protested, his eye twitching but Quincy’s calm demeanour, his resolute face and flirty smile were enough to get Fyre to stop him right in his tracks and get confused. In the end, he was being led by the Piped Piper’s tune to God knows where.

“You whine but as you look at me, you forget everything you want to say, huh?” continued Quincy, pulling Fyre closer causing him to involuntarily put his arms around Quincy’s neck for support, wrapped in each other’s embrace but still swaying to the melody. Their bodies were in contact, faces inches away. Anything could happen, there were numerous possibilities considering how Quincy was shamelessly groping Fyre’s butt whilst they were chatting in a crowd.

Quincy’s fingers reached Fyre’s chin, grazing his lips. “Why do I feel like it is asking for something?”

Fyre blinked in silence but as Quincy closed on him, he began to panic internally, thrusting Quincy’s face away rather firmly. Quincy staggered back in surprise, losing his balance but Fyre’s quick reflexes caught his arm, bringing him to a more stable position after which he let go off his hold.

“What the hell, Fyre!” Quincy scolded, smoothing sleeves.

Fyre pocketed his hands into his pants, his toes tapping as he exhaled. His cowered head looked up but unable to look into Quincy’s eyes, his sight strayed to the nearest sky lantern floating at an edge. “Quincy. Is there any possibility this would turn into a real relationship?”

“That’s not what you asked for, Fyre,” replied Quincy, sensing a change in his demeanour.

“Well, I’m asking you now,” said Fyre, stepping forward. “Would we ever be real?”

“I don’t think so,” responded Quincy without giving a second thought.

“Then,” said Fyre, stepping back as his body slightly shivered. “Let’s just end this. I don’t want to do this anymore.” Saying that he turned his back so rapid that he almost fell sideways after which he rushed to exit the bar through the entrance.

Quincy loosened his collar, sighing. Sorry that it had to be this way. At least, it is over now.

Over the next ten minutes, normal paced Vidya was running down the corridor behind the rookie to Drapha Surveillance. Initially, she was called to the administration office to check up on a ‘minor issue’ which had turned into a race against time. By the time she had lazily walked to the administration office, she was almost whisked by the surveillance team rookie to follow her as if he was there on stand-by. He wouldn’t speak anything to her directly, annoying Vidya.

As she reached the reception of the destination, she broke down a bit, holding her knees while taking deep breaths. Straightening her back, she was stunned to see that the rookie was ready with a cup of water for her to get refreshed. Politely accepting it, she knew there was a final boss at the Drapha Surveillance that she had to get through for clearance. The rookie had already fled the scene when he found Alejandro standing, his untamed curly orange hair and eyes snarky with his nose up in the air. He was the kind of guy that looked like he read all his newspapers on his way to work only to come back home to babysit his four children. Adjusting his silver rimmed hexagonal glasses, he stated in a tone of extreme friendliness, “Welcome to the Surveillance. Now, if you’ll follow me, I’d be very happy to see you off as soon as I can. If it weren’t for Orfer’s direct appeal, I would be tending to my cactuses than overlooking this situation.”

He proceeded to walk forward into another room, pushing the doors hastily so fast that it hit Vidya in the face. Rubbing her forehead, she thrust the door rashly aside to catch up to him as she rolled her eyes. This was the first time she was inside the surveillance team because usually requests always went through the administration to the respective person if not for special cases. She felt small in that room, dotted with vines of endless computers and bloodshot eyes, moving like sloths yet their hands were nimble on the systems. That’s what happens when you ask a bunch of people to keep an eye on the entire world. In the front, there was a huge screen representing the world map on which green dots represented where each Drapha was present. The colour of the dot varied from green, yellow to red based on the kind of ‘trouble’ they were in. Her eyes naturally fell on Lessa, an alarming red blinking. Great. More trouble.

Alejandro crouched low in front of one particular computer, gesturing Vidya to take a look. As she lowered her head to the screen’s level, she flung her long plaited black hair across Alejandro’s face in a kind of cheap comeback but that was no time for rejoicing. She was shocked by the number of articles popping on the computer with captions like ‘The disgraced novelist is celebrating her new book and new lover!’, ‘Will Erska Saphine’s new novel be as intoxicating as her new beau?!’, ‘Who is the mystery man in Erska’s life and will he be the Romeo in her novels?’ Previously, Vidya felt assured since it was indeed a hazy picture taken, as if the pair was being chased but all the pictures that were displayed before her now, though shaky as if it was cropped from a video – the image clearly implied something else. Both of them were dressed formally, holding each other in their arms like they were dancing – resembling a couple of tragic lovers.

“It’s your call to make,” stated Alejandro, adjusting to the seriousness of the situation when all he could think of stepping on her foot.

There was no way she was going to be lenient this time. “This matter will be taken directly to Orfer. Thank you for your help, Alejandro,” she said in a firm tone.

“For some reason, I don’t see Fyre…” muttered Haruhi as she eyed Quincy suspiciously.

“Don’t worry. It’s finally over,” he replied rather sombre. “He’s out by the lawn, drinking. He’ll be fine.”

“Good. The drama’s finally over. Though you guys shocked Erska a bit today,” said Bastian, accepting a drink from Fleur as he thought for a moment. “Like y’all got some weird kind of tension going on…”

“I see what you mean,” agreed Haruhi. “Are you sure you don’t like him?”

“Oh, I’m definitely sure about that,” Quincy replied instantly.

“Really?” Bastian emphasized. “The way the both of you behaved today, to-touching and shit..”

Fleur almost spilled her drink on her pink dress. “What?!”

“Guys, yea, we did some stupid shit, irked each other but let me tell you I think those are two different things,” explained Quincy.

“That fooling around is a lot different from liking the person?” enquired Fleur, baffled by the incredulousness.

“Let me ask you this. Imagine this: you were in a serious relationship with a guy but you broke up. Now, you’re heartbroken, you want some casual relationship. Kind of like a rebound. So, isn’t the next guy going to be someone you sleep around with? You don’t love him but you still stay, yea?” stated Quincy, sounding smart at the most trivial things life offers. These are the few moments the halo floating on his head was visible to Bastian.

“But this is different indeed. You chased girls, not guys,” interrupted Haruhi, pitching the obvious question.

“Yea.. but I don’t think genders make a difference. Isn’t this shit..just physical?” he said with a shrug

Bastian raised his glass up in the air, prodding the others to the same as they reluctantly raised it up. “I’m toasting to Quincy who has finally become a full rounded playboy. He has broken the glass ceiling that very few dare to venture.”

“I’ll toast to that,” Haruhi agreed as she tinked her glass with Bastian’s and Fleur’s.

“Very funny, guys,” snarled Quincy, unamused at their antics as his shoulders slouched.

“By the way, Quincy,” Haruhi whispered. “Come closer.”

“Yea?” he asked, his head crouching.

“Don’t disturb my male customers, okay?” she stated seriously, loud enough for everyone.

“Haruhi!” Quincy hissed in exasperation, putting down his glass on the nearby table rather firmly that the table got wobbly for a second.

“Okay, man. I’m sorry,” she said, patting his back in an insincere attempt to console him while the others threw their heads back for a good laugh.

“What are you guys laughing about?” asked Erska as she made her entrance with her gang as if they had been snooping them for a long time before making a reveal.

“I’ll tell you,” said Bastian as he stepped forward with great enthusiasm. “Quincy-”

“Shut up, Bastian,” snarled Quincy as he threw a rather sturdy punch, affecting Bastian’s gut. Before Bastian could stagger as a result of the after-effect, his best friend held out his arm for support while others looked stunned at the amazing bond displayed in front of them.

“Well, that’s something…” mumbled Erska.

“Ummm guys?” Fleur asked, rather nervously as she eyed Erska’s clique. “Can we all take a picture together? Not to be hyper but y’all are kind of celebrities. So?”

“I don’t think that would be a problem,” replied Erska as she looked at her friends who nodded in acceptance.

“Great! Everybody get in!” Fleur exclaimed in a shrilly tone as she raised her phone up for a selfie while the others huddled behind her. With ten some people in one picture, Fleur didn’t mind even if part of her face had disappeared. She was going to be a hit on social media for being able to attend a private ‘celebrity’ party. As she was about to upload it to her profile, she frowned as she looked at the trending hashtag. Erska’s new beau? Erska has no- What the hell!

As soon as she clicked on it, multiple copies of the same image opened up. She had no time for reading the caption because the picture said it all. Bastian and Erska in a very clear picture, holding each other as if they were dancing.

Fleur thrust her phone into Bastian’s face. “What is this?!”

“What?” he asked, astounded by her sudden irritation. He got the phone from her to look as others peeked in curiously.

“What is going on? When did this happen?” yelled Haruhi at Bastian who was confused while Erska folded her arms in anxiousness. Gina put her arm around Erska to comfort her.

“Oh my god. Oh my god. I did not anticipate this,” muttered Alia as she grabbed the phone from Bastian. “I’ll call someone to take all of this down immediately.”

“Can someone please explain how this is on the internet? Isn’t this supposed to be a private party, people?” snarled Quincy in a harsh tone.

Alia said, “It’s my fault. I was live streaming. I didn’t think it would-”

It was Fleur’s time to fume. “Live streaming? Wow, Bastian. What a charmer you are when I’m not around-”

“Fleur. I’m ready to listen to what you say,” explained Bastian patiently. “But now is not the time..”

“Well, when is ever the time?” she asked, pointing the finger at him while behaving all hysterical.

“Guys! There is one more thing we might have missed!” exclaimed Ira as she scrolled through her own phone. She handed it to Erska reluctantly.

“Oh no…no…no…why?” mumbled Erska, her form trembling under Gina’s embrace who was now holding her tightly.

Seeing Erska’s distressed reaction, Haruhi removed the phone from her fingers to see a controversial headline at the top of the page that said ‘Will Erska Saphine’s new novel be as intoxicating as her new beau?!’

Unfazed, Haruhi asked Alia, “How long will it take for you to get it all down?”

“In an hour,” Alia replied, furiously texting on her phone.

“That is not much of a problem,” she said, placing a hand on Erska’s shoulder. “Be brave. Nothing is credible about this..”

“But who could have talked about her novel? No one was supposed to know that..” pried Ira.

“That could be easily done…After all, I did end up getting rejected by half of those publishers,” said Erska in a hoarse tone.

“It’s just buzzing left and right. Damnn it!” cursed Ira. “People got no other work to do! They’ve been talking about it for the past three hours! We should’ve been more cautious…How did none of us check the internet?”

“Three hours?! Are you telling me it has been going on for three hours?” exclaimed Haruhi rather loudly to other’s surprise. Her eyes naturally landed on Quincy, hopelessly. He frowned at her confusion.

All Haruhi could think about was a dark room, light seeping through from unnatural light sources and the whizzing sound repeatedly stirring non-stop. Fear. Anger. Rage. Sweat. Hunger and the feeling of dying a thousand deaths over and over again. Like a rite of passage. Oh no no. This is not going to happen again.

“I’m just sad that this could not be stopped. Seems like I should have been more vigilant….or to think in other terms, we can’t really control fate,” muttered Orfer at the sudden turn of events as Vidya presented new evidence before him.

“What are your further orders, sir?” she asked.

“What do you think about..restraining?” Orfer enquired as if her suggestion was vital to his decision making.

“But…isn’t that too early?” asked Vidya, who was standing in attention position couldn’t control her suddenly weak legs. Restraining? Already?! “Sir, couldn’t we just relocate him to a different place?”

Orfer leaned forward from his desk. “ What difference does it make? Once exposed to the truth, everyone gives in to madness. Now or in the future, does it make sense to delay the inevitable?”

“Then, should I inform-”

“Or,” he continued as he twirled his moustache, eyes twinkling. “Let me try a softer way this time. How long are we going to stay violent like our mindless ancestors? Yet the consequences will be harsher on him mentally.”

“He is a Class A Drapha, Sir. I think he might be able to handle it,” she added as she pointed to Bastian’s file. “He’s an Empath Specialization.”

“Even better. If this dabbling works out, let’s use this alternative..even if it a lot cruel. After all, aren’t we a cursed lot?”

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