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Chapter 46

“So, this is where it was? Either Haruhi’s real blind or doesn’t give a shit about it,” grumbled Bastian as he looked at the contents of a brown paper bag which was supposed to contain medicine but hidden underneath a layer of metallic shimmer was Erska’s secret chocolate stash. “If I had known this, I would have thrown it out a lot earlier..” he said as he started picking them one by one in his hand. He hesitated as he looked the curious holographic wrapper of the chocolate but continued to unwrap one anyway and popped it into his mouth. “Hmm..then, maybe it is left up to me to guard them,” he said, stuffing the rest into his pocket instead of disposing them, diverting from his initial plan.

As he turned around, Erska entered the room to find an unsuspecting figure inside but what caught her attention was an overturned medicine bag on the table, her eyes widening as she saw Bastian’s mouth slowly chewing. “Bastian. Don’t tell me you..”

Though Bastian was caught red-handed, that feeling faded away in seconds. “Yup, I took your stash. You don’t need it,” he said as he proceeded to walk out of the room but Erska stood rooted to the ground, disrupting him.

“That’s not fair!” she yelled, throwing a punch on the arm. “Stop treating me like a child! I can take care of myself! No one is bothered. What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Child, you say? Do you even remember that night? You had to be taken to a hospital, for God’s sake! And you keep forgetting to take medication. Do you know the symptoms for your thing is like zero?! You wouldn’t even know when it would affect you!” Bastian screamed in her face.

Erska looked flushed, blowing from her nostrils. “That’s my problem. Don’t overstep your boundaries, Bastian,” she said, hitting him on the chest consecutively with her finger. “Who the fuck are you to go around yelling me or others? My parent? Who the hell are you?”

Bastian heaved a sigh, frustrated as his fingers rolled into his palm tightly, hit the wall at the situation’s incredulousness. “Are you playing with your health right now?”

“My health or whatever the fuck it is, I’ll take care of myself, okay?” she said as her eyes caught hold of his pocket jiggling. “Now, give me those back!” Her fingers fumbled around to reach his pocket but Bastian kept evading her. Realizing that she was being persistent, he caught both her arms a little too firm. Despite the soaring pain, Erska wasn’t ready to give up. Who the fuck are you to keep coming in and out of my life to do shit as you please whenever you like? Not today, Bastian. Not today.

Just when it seemed like Erska had given up her pursuit, his grip over her loosened. She stepped on his feet as hard as she could which got him to stagger off guard, causing him to fall. Erska was too busy trying to procure her target that she hadn’t realized that she herself was pulled down, falling straight into Bastian’s arms. Unbothered about Bastian’s presence, she sat up and reached for his pocket and began picking, piece by piece, muttering, “You do whatever the fuck you want and now, you talk as if you got a say in my life. Asshole.”

Bastian got up, both of his arms supporting him as he was weighed down by Erska sitting on him. He lost his furious demeanour as he looked at Erska, frowning and pouting like a child who slowly stole back what was hers. “Hey…” he said, his voice suddenly softening while his fingers reached to brush the strands off her face. As if a switch was being turned on, Erska’s frowns vanished while her fingers dropped to the ground, the chocolates falling. “Do you have a death wish or something, Erska?” Bastian asked. “ All I’m asking you is to take care of yourself.”

Erska’s lowered head looked up. There was not an ounce of malice on his face. There never was. That’s why no matter how rational she was, these moments got her falling for him over and over again.

She looked away and let out a sneer. “Stop treating me like this.” Erska pulled his hand off as she got up. “I’m not your girlfriend, Bastian.” She turned to leave which got Bastian to hurry up on his feet, dusting off his pants. “I’m sorry about that but..”

“But what?!” Erska barked, swiftly turning around. “Why do you talk as if I’m going to die? What is wrong with you?”

And that he couldn’t answer, biting his lips instead. Though Erska was upfront in a threatening manner- Bastian’s vulnerable, sombre looking expression got her surprised for a moment. Annoyed at being swayed by him, her emotions zooming like a roller coaster, she stomped out of the room without looking back, having forgotten about her stash while all he could was heave a sigh.

“Well, that did not go the way I hoped it would,” he groaned, hitting himself on the head as he stepped out of the room.

“Hey! Did you pick a fight with Erska again?” asked Quincy as he walked forward.

“Again? What do you mean again?” Bastian asked back, his lips twisted. “I was advising her, geez!”

“Really? Because she was all ‘if you don’t ask your friend to shut his trap, I might call the police on him’ right now,” said Quincy. “You need to slow down, Bastian,” he continued as he held Bastian’s arm. “Why do you care all of a sudden?”

“I..I..don’t know…is this like a reverse reaction or something?” he muttered, burying his face into his palms. “I don’t know why I’m hysterical all of a sudden. Yes, Quincy I know she’s going to die and we can do nothing to stop. Let it be her or Fleur yet…It’s...”

Quincy slowly rubbed his arm, worried. “I know what you mean. It’s just a phase. Retirement does it to us, it gets us feeble because we aren’t suddenly some mystical beings but mortals with a kind of second chance in this hopeless cycle. We start feeling for our assignments, that’s why they take us off active duty. This weird feeling is just a phase. You’ll get over it, yeah?”

“I hope so,” Bastian mumbled back. “Seriously, how did you go through all this? All alone.”

“Ha!” blurted out Quincy weirdly. “We’ll talk about that later.”

“If you aren’t telling me,” pressed Bastian. “I’m going to ask Haruhi anyway..”

“Don’t you dare, Bastian!”

“I will, Quincy!”

“Orfer!!” thundered Haruhi’s voice as she forced open the doors to Orfer’s quarters after she flung off a few Draphas who were protesting her sudden want to see the Drapha Head without an appointment.

“Haruhi?” he exclaimed, surprised to see her. “I’m on my way to a General Hall meeting and considering how rudely you might have handled a few people out there, give me a good reason why I am to be stopped.”

“Oh. I’ll give you a good reason, Orfer,” Haruhi said as she walked past him and sat down in front of his desk. “What game are you playing with Bastian?”

“Bastian?” he said, turning around as he joined her at his desk. “I didn’t think I’d be found out this soon.”

“I’ve got all day, Orfer.” She plastered a smile all of a sudden. “I want straight answers.”

“Let’s see…” Orfer dragged, drumming his fingers on the desk. “I just tried to divert from the traditional approach.”

“By making him think that he brought it upon himself? It isn’t easy to get over this but you add this to his woes? Really?”

“Haruhi,” Orfer said in a calm tone. “No matter how it ends, it ends painfully. Who cares what approach is taken?” He shrugged, acting all oblivious.

Haruhi’s eyes widened while her hands hit the desk with a loud thud. “You’re joking, right? Has all these years of being a Drapha Head got you rusty in the head or something? You know I can actually stir up a revolution in here, right? You wanna bet?”

“Haruhi. Haruhi. Calm down. Think of it this way,” he offered. “What if this is a less painful way after all?”

“By still keeping him in active duty?”

“He had a point. The assignment was at its end, why switch to someone else and get a shoddy job done, huh?” asked Orfer.

“So, you played with his feelings? It’s still hard for a Drapha to go through all that when our emotions are all twisted up..”

“That is why I call this an experiment, Haruhi,” he chuckled. “ I mean Quincy’s did not end up that bad but I really thought he could get assigned despite being retired, no human attachments but he still ended wasted.”

Haruhi’s fists involuntarily clasped hard onto the arm of her chair. If I could shave that twirly mustache of yours now… “You were wrong still. If you thought Bastian was mingling with his former assignment, you were dead wrong.”

“Who cares?” said Orfer, leaning back in a relaxed manner. “Even if it was that way, isn’t everyone going to reach this stage eventually?”

“Now, you aren’t even bothered about the protocol, huh?” she asked, getting up to leave. “If something happens to Bastian, you are going to be answerable, Orfer. Let me remind you.”

Orfer saluted in answer as he got up but halted as soon as Haruhi turned back. “By the way, Orfer, what is his Class?”

“Class A. Empath Specialization.”

“Is that why you are testing him like this?” she asked, suddenly growing anxious. “Shouldn’t you be restraining him before it becomes too late?”

“He has been very calm. And people under the surveillance have also confirmed that. Why are you getting all riled up? Do you want me to be violent right now?” Orfer shot back. “If this works out, maybe we can work different approaches for various specializations…from the beginning, isn’t everything about our existence a method of trial and error?”

She sighed nervously. “You better hope this works, Orfer. I’m not letting you go that easily.”

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