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Chapter 43

Appointing Fyre to babysit Erska, both being spectators to the Bastian-Fleur tussle, Haruhi and Quincy were having their own meeting outside Solitarie.

“No matter how I look at this, it is definitely weird,” Quincy began, absolutely frustrated.

“Unfortunately, I have to agree but Bastian seems very calm. I thought they would re-locate him or something because frankly speaking, he has not done anything wrong. Bastian and Erska share a good friendship, that’s all,” said Haruhi after careful thought.

“Are you kidding me, Haruhi? I saw them being all intimate and shit!” fumed Quincy.

“Even if it was that way, Bastian’s a bloody professional, he’ll get back on track no matter how bad it gets,” she reasoned firmly. “I cannot believe I’m trying to defend your friend here.”

“That’s because no matter how strong we are, we still end up losing our marbles when we retire. I’m just looking out for him,” Quincy replied, rolling his eyes. “And I don’t have a good feeling about what had happened…”

“There’s no way Orfer would leave it like that…how could he just scold him and allow him to come back to his job like nothing had happened? After all, Bastian did make an obvious mistake. Drapha presence going viral. There has to be some sort of punishment,” insisted Haruhi. “It is not Orfer’s style to be this calm.”

“Has that old man gone soft? Did you know how cruel he was when I got to know it? I shouldn’t have accepted that stupid dare. I walked into some senior Draphas talking and it scared the crap out of me,” mumbled Quincy.

“I want to know what class Bastian belongs to. At least we’ll know what he would have to go through.”

“Haruhi, you need to stop talking as if Bastian’s active days are over,” he retorted sharply. “I won’t let that happen to Bastian.”

“I’m saying just in case, Quincy,” said Haruhi, feeling anxious for some reason. “If only I can get his file..”

“Oh, come on, Haruhi! What is the difference between Class A, B and C? Aren’t we all going through the same despair?” protested Quincy. “What Class were you anyway?”

“Class A. Athlete Specialization,” she said, her face slightly beaming yet in an instant she was back to lecturing. “It makes a difference, Quincy. The higher the class, the higher the consequences.”

“So, you’re saying we feel nothing compare to y’all?” Quincy enquired, a Class B himself.

“No, you’ll understand it soon,” she said, tapping her feet in anticipation. “Now, we need to get our hands on his file somehow or find out what exactly did he talk to Orfer. Everything feels too calm to be true.”

While these two were contemplating, Fyre was trying his best to hold Erska back from entering into Bastian and Fleur’s scuffle. Fleur’s slap had startled everyone so hard that Haruhi’s first instinct was to take Erska away from the scene because she knew no matter how harsh anyone was, Bastian was not the one to flinch. She would have personally made sure Erska leave if not for more pressing matters running in her head which was even more startling. Besides, she also had to deal with Quincy from being a hyperactive idiot who would end up doing something drastic. Therefore, the responsibility fell on Fyre, who wanted to ditch the place more than anything but he stayed for the drama and a growing sense of responsibility that he himself was unaware of.

While Fyre held Erska’s fuming self in one arm, he looked at Bastian and Fleur back and forth. The only thing Fyre was missing was popcorn to Bastian’s dismay- rather than focusing on what Fleur had to say, he was looking at Fyre’s funny smile.

“Bastian, are you even hearing me now?!” Fleur blasted, seeing his wavering attention.

“Uh uh..yeah…” he mumbled, not sure what to say.

She felt Bastian’s cheek. “Did it hurt?”

“Hurt, my ass-” began Erska, speaking for the first time but Fyre was quick to use his other hand to close her mouth. Therefore, a medley of incoherent words and Erska furiously protesting against Fyre began. It went on for a few minutes until she had used up all of her energy after which she grew as silent as a mouse.

“Aaah,” Fleur groaned as she looked at Erska. “Seriously, what is your problem?”

“You keep treating Bastian like a doormat and-” She wasn’t able to justify her stand as Fyre resumed his babysitting. This time Erska resorted to a cheap trick, surprising everyone. She bit Fyre’s fingers so hard that he stumbled back from the chair he was sitting on. “Erska!” he yelled.

“Give her some dog food. Maybe that would calm her down,” retorted Fleur.

“Really? Don’t you think you also would need some? You keep barking unnecessarily like a moron,” Erska shot back.

Fleur exhaled, trying not to get annoyed. “You,” she said pointing to Erska. “Who the hell are you to keep interfering?” Before Erska could react, she continued, “Friend? Look at Quincy. He seems to have known Bastian a lot longer than the rest of you do. Does he care? No. Because he knows he isn’t supposed to step in between couples and created problems. We’ll solve it among ourselves. Know your place, Erska.”

Erska’s face burned in disbelief. “That’s because Quincy is a moron and..and..” she stuttered as she looked at Bastian who was blinking like a lost goat. What an idiot. “You know what?” Erska said, rolling up her sleeves with newfound confidence. “I have every right to defend Bastian because,” she said, as she exhaled. She couldn’t believe what she was about to say. “I like Bastian and if you keep acting like a moron, be careful. I’ll steal him away from you!”

Everyone gasped at the sudden confession. Fyre was no longer the babysitter but the audience, wondering how it was going to end. While Fleur stared at Erska sceptically, Bastian looked amused at the sudden turn of events. He bit his lip, unable to control his smile as he looked at an annoyed Erska.

“Are you kidding me right now?! Are you listening to this, Bastian?” Fleur complained, shaking Bastian’s shoulder. “Didn’t I tell you she was being weird?”

“Whine all you want, Fleur but let me tell you one thing,” Erska added with a smug. “No matter what you say, he wouldn’t scold me at all.”

The tides turned a different way in a second, putting Bastian in a difficult position all of a sudden. Fleur turned to Bastian. “That’s also true. You don’t defend me at all, Bastian. Tell me – is it me or her?”

“You, of course,” Bastian replied quickly, patting her head.

Erska was quick to add fuel to fire as she interrupted the lovey-dovey perfume in the air. “Which won’t last for very long. You know, I stay at the motel with him all day. I could use that time. When you are working, I’d pluck him like a flower,” Erska said, gesturing the mentioned action.

“Fleur, she’s just joking,” Bastian said, holding Fleur’s fingers firmly. “There’s no way that would happen.”

“Of course, there’s no way that would happen,” Fleur mumbled as she pecked Bastian on the cheek. “I’m just worried about that bitch, especially when work is calling me now.”

Erska blew a kiss. “Wishful thinking. Bye, bye Fleur. Watch your back,” she said, waving as Fleur left Solitarie. Bastian waved back in reassurance. Fleur threw an irked look at Erska before walking away.

“That was some drama,” Fyre said, stretching his arms out. “You should be an actress.”

“Thank you,” she accepted, doing a slight bow.

“You like me, huh?” asked, Bastian, flicking her on the forehead for which Erska slightly punched his arm. “Thanks for standing for me anyway but maybe reduce these kinds of jokes around her. She’s pretty sensitive.”

“Okay,” Erska answered with a shrug.

“Perfect,” said Bastian, making a mess out of her hair playfully.

While Erska swatted away Bastian’s fingers playfully, her mind was engaged in a serious thought process. I might actually have a chance at stealing you. Should I do it?

“You haven’t slept yet? What the hell are you doing here?!” yelped Bastian in surprise. He had been so engrossed in looking at his phone for some antiques he could purchase that he hadn’t anticipated anyone to be present in the kitchen.

The lights were off, except for the laptop which made Erska’s figure look hideous. Bastian turned on the lights and the mop of lavender hair woke up, pasty looking as if she had forced herself to stay awake. “Why did you turn on the lights?” she asked, rubbing her eyes, her dark circles visible.

“Sleep, man. Stop forcing yourself,” Bastian said as he poked her when she started using her laptop as a makeshift pillow. He went to get himself some water and settled beside Erska, glancing at the screen. As soon as he sat down, Erska sat upright, eyes still bloodshot. “How can I help you, mister?”

“What is so important that is keeping you up late?” he asked in confusion. All he could see was her various social media accounts opened on different tabs.

Erska heaved a sigh. “I was wide awake but I suppose the idea of actual work got me lazy right now. This is some huge shit that I got to dabble with,” she said, gesturing her laptop. “Now, that I have decided to opt for self-publishing, it means I’m going to start setting my new social media accounts.”

“Why?” he inquired, tilting his head. “Don’t you have accounts already?”

“I do but I never used them, I mean, it was always monitored by someone to make me seem like I was active and interacting with my fans and such. If I have to do that, I need some money which I’m not ready to do. So, I have to do this from scratch myself.”

“Why is it so hard? Don’t you guys enjoy using it?”

“Aaah,” Erska dragged, putting her hands up in defense. “Not me. I find it tiresome to reply and post stuff. In fact, I don’t post photos or anything, I’m not fine..with being in the spotlight.”

“Maybe you should ask Quincy and Fyre,” he suggested. “Quincy’s drowns in social media. He can get you geared up for anything on the Internet.”

“I could use help. I definitely can’t manage this alone,” Erska sighed. “What are you doing this late though?”

“I just came for some water,” he shrugged as she peeked into his phone. “This..I’m just looking for some things that I can buy.”

Erska giggled at his awkwardness. “That’s some nice way to describe your hobby, Bastian.”

“Sometimes, I think about losing those three hair pins and it hurts,” Bastian said, clutching his chest dramatically. “Either I find something on the net to purchase or go on a trip and hunt.”

“Wait a minute,” she interjected, her eyes widened. “You actually go on trips just to find something? Like a jewel? Like that?”

“Yea. I do that sometimes. My most memorable one was when I got the chance to be a part of a diving team that was involved in finding the lost loot of a Mexican pirate. Though I wasn’t able to procure anything, I got some memorabilia for keepsake.”

“That’s freaking cool!” Erska exclaimed, slapping him on the shoulder a little too hard. “Next time, you do this, you should definitely call me! Okay?”

“Call you?” he said, his forehead crinkling as sudden anxiousness hit him. You’d be dead, Erska.

“Why? You won’t call me?” she huffed. “Just you and your girlfriend, huh?”

Bastian knew she was playing but there was this itch in the back of his head that just won’t let him go, therefore, making him unable to concentrate.

“Yo, I was just kidding. Geez. It’s okay. Just you and Fleur. I’m not going to get all feisty,” Erska added, seeing that he was still frowning.

“Nah, nah,” he comforted her. “I was just joking. Of course, you can.”

“Ask your girlfriend to treat you properly, Bastian,” she warned, trying to seem serious though a part of her was. “Or else tell her I’d steal you away.”

“You? Stealing me away?” he asked as he went back to his amused self. “That was some confession today.”

“Got her good. She would actually treat you better,” Erska stated, staring off to the ceiling as she whispered to herself. “If I was a little faster, maybe we would have gotten together.”

“Sorry, what?” Bastian asked, startled as he arched back.

“It’s true,” she said with newfound confidence. “I did have a crush on you if you didn’t know.”

“Didn’t know? Besides you confiding it yourself, you should have looked at the way you go!” he snickered. “You were obvious!”

Erska’s shoulders slouched, her fingers clasped as she placed them on her thighs. “You are telling me you knew that I liked you?”

“Yes. Your blushes were out of control,” Bastian teased, pinching her cheeks.

“You-You!” she yelled, hitting his hands hard while she buried her face in her palm, her eyes visible among her fingers like those of an owl’s, hiding in the dark. “That’s bloody embarrassing.”

“It was kind of funny actually,” he stated, amused at Erska’s reactions.

Her face went stoic, unable to digest the way Bastian was reacting as if he was slightly taking advantage of the fact that she liked him when he was in a relationship. She was on the losing side anyway. She knew it. Then, why the fuck am I talking to him about all this? Desperateness? Longing? That’s fucked up, Erska. She stood up without a warning. “Sleep calls me. Gotta go, lover boy,” she said as she picked her laptop. Hitting him on the head, she strolled out casually, her mind still rambling with regards to her conversation with Bastian.

Bastian himself resumed his previously unfinished train of thought that was starting to make him uncomfortable. It is only normal that assignments meet their inevitable death. Every Drapha knows that and it isn’t something new. He looked at his fingers that were involuntarily engaged in scratching the table as if it was on a loop. Why now? Is this what happens when we get retired? Doubting our own capacity?

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