“He’s retired. That’s why,” stated Orfer.
“You are telling me that Quincy was going mad because he retired?”
“Precisely,” he said, nodding.
“I’m really in no mood for joking, Orfer,” explained Bastian in a patient tone. “It would be great if you could come to the point very fast.”
“Bastian, if you are going to dig deeper, the consequences are severe and-”
Bastian’s fists drove into the desk so hard that Orfer almost jumped out of his seat yet his expression seemed nonchalant. “Orfer, you can punish me all you want for the thing I’m about to do. Your very calmness is telling me something is very wrong about it and I wouldn’t think twice about wringing your neck.”
“Bastian, your words are going to get you in trouble,” said Orfer in a firm tone.
“Wouldn’t care for it much after I put you in pain,” he replied carelessly. So careless that this was the first time he had openly opposed a senior official and that being the Drapha Head. “You know my skills. You can take my training evaluation to have a look.”
“Okay, then. I must warn you, if you want to know further, you will get retired,” stated Orfer mischievously but still serious.
“Sorry, what? Retired? What’s that supposed to mean?” enquired Bastian, sitting down, sensing Orfer’s sudden change in attitude.
“Bastian, have you ever wondered why we do not have any kind of powers like other celestials?”
“Isn’t that because we don’t require anything? The Angels act as guardians for people, deal with blessings and Nature’s will. The Grim reapers, apart from reaping souls and reincarnation also deal with afterlife grudge,” he said after careful thought. “Now that I think, we don’t have a lot of duties except to guide the humans to their paths so they are at peace. We have many divisions but the main work is one thing.”
Orfer sighed at the sudden diversion. “There’s a reason why we don’t have powers. What do you know about how we came into existence?”
Bastian frowned, wondering what Orfer is getting at. “We get chosen from the Celestial Pool from which souls are randomly assigned to the Angel HQ, Grim Reaper HQ and Drapha HQ. The only difference is that we are a separate unit while others are connected with Heaven and Underworld respectively.”
“That, my dear boy, is where you are wrong. That process does not apply to us.”
“Umm okay..so how do we become this big?” Bastian asked, indicating himself.
How does this boy try to be funny even now? Geez. “That’s because we are humans. Not exactly celestial.”
Bastian blinked, staring at Orfer before throwing his head back in laughter. “You are trying hard, Orfer. You have the worst kind of humour. The Drapha Head is actually telling me this seriously!”
In contrast, a funny smile formed on Orfer’s face. “Have you ever thought about this – what happens to the human soul when it is unfulfilled?”
“Unfulfilled? How is that even possible? Draphas work so hard, meticulously work out details and stuff. There’s nothing unfulfilled about it..” he rattled but looking at Orfer’s stiff face, something was definitely weird.
“There are times when it goes unfulfilled. And when that happens, they are given a second chance.” Orfer exhaled. “They eventually become Draphas.”
“What? Oh, come on, Orfer. That does not seem logical. Stop pulling my leg,” Bastian joked. His mind was in a very slow process of registering new found information.
But Orfer continued his assault anyway. “That’s why we do not have any kind of powers, Bastian. Because we are unfulfilled, we are guiding the unfulfilled. Our desperate search and determination have us working like a mechanical doll non-stop to help others in our position.”
“Orfer, that’s bullshit…” Bastian muttered under his breath, his pupils quivering, his fingers scraping the desk in repetitive motions.
“This is our cruel fate. Our lives as humans are completely erased so that it won’t interfere with our work. Neither would people from our past lives remember our faces. And have you wondered why our assignments have the same pattern? Do you think we dictate because we want to? Because we want to make you feel uncomfortable on purpose? No. That has got to do with our character, we are purposefully set up with the same kind of people so that, we always keep doing our job, without deviating from our original purpose.”
Bastian wasn’t listening anymore, fiddling with his fingers. “Orfer. I want you to be serious right now-”
“If you don’t believe me, Bastian, why don’t you have a look at your Draphacon?” suggested Orfer.
“Draphacon?” Bastian said as he fished out his Draphacon from his pocket but as soon as he had a good look at it, his fingers lost control and dropped it onto the desk. The usual grey coloured pearl was replaced with raven black which glimmered underneath his signature.
He felt the newly coloured gem in disbelief. “Orfer. This. This-”
“That is what retirement means, Bastian. When we realize our true nature, we become retired because it no longer prevents us to do active duty any longer,” Orfer explained coolly, adding fuel to fire as if there was no other way. He continued, “Let me remind you, you were the one who pestered me into disclosing this information when it wasn’t your time exactly.”
Bastian’s shoulders drooped as he bit his lips. He kept staring at his Draphacon like it was a dream. “So, you’re telling me I had a whole life, a family and everything..”
“Yes,” answered Orfer cautiously, quickly ready to change the subject. “Bastian since you are retired now, you can no longer be in active duty.”
“What?! Oh, come on, Orfer!” Bastian exclaimed, coming back to his senses. “I am kind of devastated but not to the point where I’d actually go mad like Quincy!”
“Really?” Orfer asked, low key amazed at the way Bastian was responding. Should I use this method from now on? It’s a lot less violent and he’s even subservient.
“Yes. He’s an impulsive idiot! I can still continue my active duty, sir!” Bastian replied firmly, his fingers drumming on the table.
“Bastian, as per protocol, you aren’t supposed to do active duty. We can’t be breaking the rules especially for you in here. You are no VIP,” reminded Orfer.
“But-But,” he mumbled, trying to come up with an excuse. “What about my current assignment? I have to at least complete it, yeah?”
“I can send someone else to take it over, Bastian. That’s not a problem,” said Orfer.
“Orfer, my assignment has got very few days left. It won’t be right if a different person is going to take it. It would be wasteful if she goes unfulfilled. Let me finish it and I’ll officially go through all the processes you want me to,” he pleaded. As Orfer’s eyes narrowed, Bastian continued, “You can trust me. Honestly, what kind of troubles have I even caused? All my assignments went perfectly well except recently, I got caught into a gossip on Earth which is a total lie. I would have done some silly things but besides that, what has happened really?”
I can’t believe I’m risking this for the sake of experimentation. “Okay but you’ve got to keep in touch with Vidya often. You need to stay in your lane, do your job and be back. No more excuses."
“Are you seriously not planning to dust this place?” asked Quincy in the middle of coughing. “What are you going to do when other Draphas come over here? Haruhi, is this the way a stationed Drapha ought to welcome people?”
“Don’t worry about it,” she said, kicking the boxes aside as they got out from the elevator. “People rarely die at Lessa and you’re the only idiots stuck around here.”
“You have to be thankful that we adjust to everything,” said Bastian as Quincy nodded his head. “There might be others who might feel uncomfortable.”
“Uncomfortable? I’ll just force them to follow my orders. I think if you get to know people for a while, you’ll come to conclude that everyone is an idiot,” Haruhi disclosed as she shrugged her shoulders.
Quincy sighed. “You think too much of yourself….what the hell is wrong with those two?” he asked.
In the empty shop of Solitarie, Fyre and Erska were engaged in a staring contest.
“You guys are here at last,” said Fyre in relief. “She’s been like this for the past two hours.” Erska’s forehead was in swirls, concentrating hard as if her soul was in a struggle. Quincy waved his hands in front of her which got her pupils to quiver but her hands, in a moment of reflex, swatted away Quincy, annoyed at his antics.
“What happened to you guys after we separated last night?” enquired Haruhi. They had been so engrossed on one side of the drama that they had almost failed to remember the other side.
“After you guys went your own way,” Fyre explained as he narrowed his eyes, obviously pissed. “I got into a fight with her group of friends. Goodness! What a bunch of gangsters, they are! They were insisting on taking Erska to her house.” Then, he threw an annoyed look at Erska which seemed to have an effect on her as she smiled apologetically.
“Wow. What a turn of events. What happened?” Quincy asked.
“Erska, being such an amazing negotiator, fell asleep in exhaustion halfway through it. And there I was – a single man fighting a group of vicious bisons.”
“Hey!” protested Erska, instinctually.
“Seriously, Erska? For all the trouble you put me through?” Fyre countered, ready to throw a punch.
“Okay. Okay. Continue, guys,” Haruhi said, nudging Fyre.
“Well, basically, they kidnapped her. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t going to be caught in that place. So, I kinda headed to her house first thing today morning only to be waylaid by one of her crackhead friends. I was ready to cause a huge scene and shit but Erska walked out of the place on her own legs.”
“Ohhh. That’s an improvement,” complimented Bastian.
“True. I did a great job,” Erska beamed though her face drooped in an instant, “And I just ran my mouth, spouting some protagonist dialogue, challenging my mother. I just hope I don’t become eighty to tell my mother that she was wrong about me.”
“Ahhh. You’ll do that sooner,” said Bastian, playfully patting her on the arm. “Besides, you seem to have a plan with the way you were sitting.”
“Oh yes!” Erska exclaimed, clapping her hands in excitement. “I guess quarrelling with my mother does bring me great ideas. I cannot believe it didn’t strike my head before! I could self-publish my book.”
“Self-publish?” questioned Haruhi.
“Yes. I think I was so obsessed with the traditional route that I had forgotten that there were other ways but the thing is, it takes a lot of effort to do that. But what can I do? If no one is ready to help me, then I’ll do it myself!”
“Someone has been putting ideas on your head or something?” asked Quincy, taking this opportune moment to flick Erska on the forehead.
Bastian face palmed himself. “Right! What happened to Fleur?” The past few minutes he had spent trying to find what element was missing in the scene.
“How can I forget the amount of shit she put me through! After you guys had to leave and I was done battling with the bisons, Fleur started whining about the rumours and how ungrateful Bastian was and how he could leave her in the middle of the street..blah,blah, blah.” Then, Fyre caught Bastian’s shoulders. “I had to drive her home, man. What a non-stop chatterbox! How do you even date her?”
Bastian smiled awkwardly in response, removing Fyre’s hold from his body. “She maybe hyper but she’s cute and loyal.”
“Fyre, if you didn’t know,” interjected Erska, “Bastian is the kind of guy that does all the talking except when it comes to his girlfriend. He gets stepped on like a doormat no matter how much one tells him.”
Quincy was ready to fire away but Bastian was faster than him. “That’s because she’s a child in her heart. She’s had a tough time. Problematic parents. No real affection. We aren’t that different, eh? If we had the time to listen to everyone, we would all bond,” he stated in a very calm manner to Erska’s surprise, half-expecting him to go bazooka on her.
Erska found herself nodding in agreement before saying, “You’re right but are you a counsellor or boyfriend? Just because we understand each other out of empathy doesn’t necessarily mean we all fit with each other. That is just trying to be human. I have a feeling that in most of your relationships – you were just the babysitter. That’s probably why you are reasoning it out vaguely. Ask yourself – do you really like her?”
Once again, dear Quincy was ready to blast away given the recent consequences that went down but this time, Haruhi interrupted. “Enough of this crap,” she said in a high pitched tone to get everyone’s attention. “How are things on the internet? Have the articles gone down?”
“Yes,” replied Fyre. “Though new ones keep popping up, they are being deleted but social media is on a buzz. Probably if some other hot news comes this way, then it would die down.”
“It will go away,” added Erska, waving it off.
“Of course, it will go away,” intruded Fleur, flinging the door rashly as she strutted straight towards Bastian. “You’re not the one in a relationship, Erska and as for you,” she said, turning towards Bastian with her fingers rolled up. “Do you call yourself my boyfriend? After all that shit, you just disappear somewhere. And I have to keep watching the internet go wild with false rumours?!”
Bastian exhaled. “Fleur, I-”
“No. You don’t have the right to do this every time, consoling me and shit while that bitch, doesn’t feel anything,” she said, pointing towards Erska, “You deserve this at least.” And a thundering slap fell across Bastian’s cheek.