As soon as Bastian woke up, he stretched his legs across the floor while allowing his head to settle comfortably on the bed. Last night, he had fallen asleep, kneeling against Fleur as he watched her sleep on the bed while holding her hand. He hadn’t planned on staying the night but sleep had other plans. His fingers reached for the strands that had covered her eyes and parted it away. He took her clasped hand and planted a kiss on it.
“Man, these lovers though….” groaned the man standing in front of them. As soon as Bastian heard these words, he flinched, his back hitting the wall. He was staring at a black curly-haired, dark skinned man with a very dense French beard. He was dressed in black from head to toe except for a brooch resting on his right breast, shaped in the form of a vine of Cala lilies below which was embossed the name ‘Harish’ on a gold plate attached to the jewelled flowers.
Seeing Bastian’s reaction, he was taken aback himself. “Can you see me?” asked Harish as he waved his hands in front of Bastian’s terrified form.
Bastian stumbled as he got up, trying to process the situation. “You-You’re a Grim reaper?”
Harish stepped back in shock. “This human is actually talking to me, huh?”
Bastian facepalmed himself while his fingers fished for the Draphacon out of his pocket and showed it to him. “A Drapha here.”
“It’s my first time seeing a sentimental one,” Harish said as he composed himself. “So, that is your assignment, huh?” he asked as he pointed to Fleur who was fast asleep. “She is dead.”
“Dead?” Bastian asked as he looked at Fleur for a while before turning towards Harish. “Time?”
“Around seven in the morning. It has been an hour,” he said as he looked at his bronze pocket watch which contained an enamel painting of the Cala lily on the back, attached to his pant. “I often turn up late because I can’t stand all the crying and whining but it seems..this is going to be a quieter one…”
Bastian was more bothered about how sunken Fleur’s cheeks looked, feeling them slowly for one last time. She seemed like was in a deep slumber. That was satisfaction enough for Bastian but he still wanted to know more. “Aren’t you supposed to collect her soul?”
“I would if you would allow me to work in peace. Can you please get going to your next assignment or something?” he said in a rude tone, displeased with a Drapha interfering with his workspace. “This is not something you guys can deal with. You’ll be pretty sensitive.”
“I’m retired if you didn’t know,” replied Bastian as he showed his Draphacon once again. “I want to have a look at the result.”
“Orfer is going easy on y’all, huh?” Harish snickered as he looked at his Draphacon while he popped out a glass ball like structure from his pocket. Bastian stepped away from the bed, allowing Harish to perform his duty. He placed the Necrosphere up above Fleur and began chanting incoherent verses until a white glowing energy form rose from Fleur and rested its position in the Necrosphere. “She’ll be reincarnated,” he said as he showed Bastian the ball. “I’m happy it is not grey or else I might need to fill paperwork and send everything to your HQ…” he ranted as he rolled his eyes. “It is simply not worth the time.”
Bastian was trying so hard to go all ballistic on this annoying little wimp but diverted his attention instantly. Well, that’s the last one. Rest in peace, Fleur. You did good. He followed Harish out of the room to see Fleur’s mother still fast asleep. “Oh no…what about her..” Bastian whispered, realization hitting him. He looked back into the room at Fleur’s lifeless form.
“It’s not her time yet obviously,” said Harish as he explored the apartment. “She managed to outlive her daughter. Goodness.” He turned towards Bastian who looked anxious, his hand placed against his forehead. “Do you think you are human all of a sudden? Why are you so worried?”
“Still isn’t she going to be alone?” fumed Bastian as he pointed towards the sleeping figure. “Why are you being so annoying?”
“Celestials don’t mess with human affairs,” Harish reprimanded, unaffected by Bastian’s question. “Stop being amateurish. If you can’t handle this much, what are doing in the field right now? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to leave,” he said and with a snap of his fingers, he disappeared into thin air.
Our kind’s common dislike for the Grim reapers always had justification. What a scum. Bastian shook his head, sighing. He dialled the telephone that was in Fleur’s apartment. “Hello 911? This is apartment No.9 in Miu Enclave, Cafakla. I was supposed to deliver a package and found the door open. One woman seems to have died and the other is hysteric.”
“Hey guys!” yelled Bastian, announcing his arrival to his friends who were busy eating a rather sorry looking breakfast of bread, butter and jam. As he set the pink netted fabric wrapped hamper containing irregular sized gold foil covered chocolates down, it caught their attention. A decorative butterfly shaped card was attached on the fabric that said ‘Congratulations, Erska!’
“Where’s Erska?” Bastian asked as he pushed the hamper forward so that they’d get a better view while he settled against the counter, almost breathless. “How did everything go?”
“First,” began Haruhi as she glanced at the hamper. “Where the hell were you all night?”
“Why? Did I miss something important?” he asked, as his eyes darted back and forth between Haruhi, Fyre and Quincy.
“It didn’t go as well as we thought it would …..her fans did not like it, they said it felt too serious when all they wanted was an enjoyable read. Therefore, her live stream was a disaster and she froze in the middle,” explained Haruhi.
“The internet did her worse,” added Fyre. “They started calling her a one hit wonder, fraud and a little girl riding on a horse that her daddy got her. Really, I don’t understand how people come up with these ridiculous terms. Or do they just wait to jump on someone and drag them down?”
“Why so much drama in one bloody night?” Bastian grunted as he popped out his phone to have a look at internet’s offerings.
“Seriously, where the hell were you anyway?” inquired Quincy. “It is kind of unlike you..”
“I ended up staying at Fleur’s,” he answered as he sighed. “She’s dead.”
“Fleur’s dead?!” asked Quincy.
“Yea…” he dragged as he exhaled. “She will rest in peace. That makes me a little better.” His frown lines appeared on his forehead. “I wanted smack that Grim reaper. What an asshole!”
“You met one on field? That’s the worst,” agreed Haruhi. “So, now that Fleur’s dead, what do you plan on doing?”
“What else? I’m going back to the HQ. My work is done, nah..” stated Bastian but he was unsure himself.
“Ummm aren’t you going to stay until the thing with Erska is done?” asked Fyre in a feeble tone, totally unlike him. “It isn’t your job, of course,” he added quickly. “Yet, weren’t we in this together?”
“You seem matured. It is surprising the crap out of me,” said Quincy as he patted Fyre on the head which Fyre tried hard to wave it away because he was waiting for Bastian’s reply.
“I-I,” muttered Bastian as he buried his face in his palms and rubbed his face. He looked up and saw that everyone was looking at expectantly. Bastian shook his head. “I really want to leave…I can’t do this anymore. Seeing Fleur in the morning and everything, it is better for me to go back as soon as possible. I’m feeling too much. That Grim reaper was right. I am starting to get emotional.” He paused as he took a deep breath to get a hold of his trembling heart, afraid someone would look through him. “I want to get myself back, guys,” he said as he got up, not sparing anyone a glance. “I’m going to pack my things.”
While Fyre looked at him in a confused state, Haruhi and Quincy understood that he was on the edge.
“At least tell Erska that you are leaving, Bastian. She’s holed up in the bed since yesterday. Though it is not the best time, you need to acknowledge a few things,” said Haruhi which felt more like an instruction that she wanted Bastian to comply with.
Bastian walked weakly towards the counter to take the hamper and carried it upstairs. As he was about to walk into his room, he stopped and hesitated. He walked to the opposite room and knocked on the door. “Erska?” He pushed open the slightly ajar door to find her rolled up in a blanket while the lavender mop was visible at the top. Not sure if she was asleep, he walked nimbly towards the bed and kneeled beside her, leaving the hamper on the side table. Her face was partially nestled in her arms but stains of tears were obvious. He ran his finger across her cheek to confirm his suspicion. The smoothness was temporarily replaced by a slightly cracked exterior. “How long did you cry, you fool?” he whispered cautiously as he stroked her cheeks.
Something on the inside was slowly crawling its way out without warning, without Bastian noticing because there was no onlooker currently. It started to spread, invade Bastian as he slowly leaned in towards Erska only to halt with a jerk. His fingers clasped tightly into the edge of the bed, making sure that he was at a safe distance from her. He would have let himself go. The feeling in him began to burn and murmur like the rain pitter-pattering against a windowpane. There was no witness. What could possibly happen? Suddenly, his mind plunged into chaos as he sat down and closed his eyes, slowly breathing while he wound the mess tightly and locked it in once again. Just stay wherever you are supposed to. I did not give you permission. He got up in a jiffy, dusting off his pants. He stared at her, pausing for a minute. He went closer and planted a quick peck on her forehead before racing outside.
Bastian never felt more fish out of water than at the initiation session. The crowd almost looked absurd. How did Quincy even go through this thing?
What’s worse was he had forced himself into when an initiation session was going on midway and so, he basically sat like a dumbass while everyone was engaged in a serious discussion. Vidya and Orfer had tried to stop him but he wanted to pummel through everything until he could stop himself from feeling horrendous.
Few eyes in the crowd followed him as he entered. The older counterparts didn’t seem bothered, it was like they were ready for it while there were unfortunate young ones like him too. Bastian couldn’t help but overhear a few whisper about him from behind. Great. More things to be annoyed about.
The door opened with a bang, getting the crowd to flinch. There was an obvious irritated look on some while most went back to chatting with their neighbours, an animated discussion was stirring among the younger ones.
“We just saw the Incubation Chamber y’all!”
“Yup! Man, it looked so weird. Like the ones in the sci-fi movies. Humans lined in coffins being fed by some gold liquid in pipes. It was…what was it called again?”
“The Ambrosial Liquid. It seems they always get a supply from Heaven to awaken the dead humans as Draphas.”
“But do you know what is even more sinister? Huddle up, people!”
Bastian felt the shadows moving closer. He leaned a little back. Obviously, he was interested.
In a breathy whisper, someone said, “They say anyone can be revived with the liquid. Anyone. That’s why only a trusted few are allowed in that process. We were only allowed to see a glimpse of the room, after all.”
“No wonder we had no clue when were in active duty. We didn’t know we had an underground floor. And that broken Portal totally works! But still, we could steal it, right?”
“I suppose your group is up next for the tour, right? Near the Incubation Chamber, there are also some prison cells for those who go violent. It’s simply called The Cells. I think they’ll explain further but as we passed through, chills ran down my spine! Not kidding!”
Bastian’s shoulders sagged against the chair. Just how fucked up are we?
The door opened once again but this time a single stride walked forward, causing silence all of a sudden. The stride stopped in front of Bastian. He looked up to see Orfer staring back at him. Bastian got up in a hurry, wondering what had gone wrong.
“You won’t stop causing me trouble, will you?” fumed Orfer as he exhaled.
“You.....you are wanted back in Lessa. Apparently, an assignment is insistent about your presence and since we cater to our assignments,” said Orfer as he sighed. “You are not supposed to return to the HQ until it is over.”