“Hello guys!” cooed Bastian as he peeped into the kitchen, interrupting a serious discussion that was going between Haruhi and Quincy who appeared to be startled by his sudden intrusion.
“Hey,” said Haruhi as she waved him to sit down.
“So, where’s Erska?” Bastian asked, sitting down. “I thought we should probably do like another fan meet, you know, to boost her popularity and stuff…I should talk to Fyre about this. I’ll be right back,” he said as he got up but was forced him back on his seat. “Geez. Quincy. Talk about being rude,” he grumbled, brushing off his shoulders.
“Bastian,” began Haruhi as she looked all stoic. “We want to talk to you about something. We..ummm..we..”
“We saw you kissing Erska, Bastian,” shot Quincy, getting tired of Haruhi’s stutter.
Bastian froze, his fingers fiddling with each other with his head lowered. Taking a deep breath, he looked up. “That did happen.”
Quincy was about to go off but Haruhi raised her hand. “That is not supposed to happen, Bastian.”
“You are going back to the HQ. Pack your bags,” interjected Quincy brashly as he got hit by Haruhi.
“Come on, guys!” said Bastian, his demeanour suddenly playful. “It’s just a peck and I do it all the time, I flirt and shit, isn’t that true?”
“Not with the way you were behaving with Erska and you know that,” reminded Haruhi. “At least recently. It is obvious that you like her.”
Bastian’s form slumped in the chair as he began to tap his feet nervously with his face drooping. “Can’t I be with her till the end? I promise I won’t do anything.”
“Bastian, I’m being very patient,” explained Haruhi. “This is not how you’d be treated normally for the offence you’ve just committed.”
“Offence, Haruhi?” he argued. “Can’t I just stay until she..passes away?”
“No, Bastian,” she said in a firm tone. “We cannot take such risk. The cycle will go unstable.”
“The cycle of life, Bastian. Life and Death. That’s our job: to make sure it runs smoothly and not disrupt it. If it happens, consequences will be grave,” Haruhi said in the coldest way she could have.
“Well, fuck the cycle,” he muttered under his breath, shocking both Haruhi and Quincy.
“Bastian?” called Quincy, shaking him.
“You heard me right,” Bastian said, his eyes all empty. “I said fuck it all! Job and bullshit! What job? Us? Draphas? Oh please. We are just discarded humans who have no meaning in life. Like, look at me. My job is being a goddamned escort, making sure all these girls had their own style of boyfriend with them until death calls them! When, when we could have been more than all this mundane shit!” he roared, slapping his thighs while his clenched fists began trembling.
Both Haruhi and Quincy watched him in horror as Bastian started breaking down in the same way they had done before. As much as they knew how sorrowful it was, they had to be strict to minimize damage.
“I don’t care. I’m going to see Erska right now! Stop if you can!” Bastian growled, his face pink in anger as he stomped off upstairs.
“Should we tell him?” asked Quincy.
“Obviously,” replied Haruhi as they saw Bastian walk past them towards the motel’s entrance in a fury. “There’s no use in hiding the truth. Specifically, now.”
Minutes later, Bastian was in the kitchen, tired of searching.
“Okay. What did you both do with Erska?”
“We did nothing, Bastian,” replied Haruhi as she folded her hands. “She’s sick.”
“Of course, I know that. I wanted to know where is she. Do you understand me?” he asked in a rude tone. “Where is she?”
Tired of his antics, Quincy intruded. “She’s in the hospital. She had an attack.” That once again earned him a hit from Haruhi for being explicit. “Don’t worry, Fyre is with her,” assured Haruhi.
And the world crashed for Bastian, his furious demeanour withering away as he trudged forward slowly. His emotions were taking a toll, switching instantly, on and off. “Please,” he begged. “Let me see her. Just once.”
“I can’t allow you,” repeated Haruhi.
“Well, I don’t care!” he thundered as he turned around. “I’ll find my way-”
A knee drove into Bastian’s back who had suspected no foul play as Haruhi hit him on the neck twice, pinning him to the ground with the help of Quincy as her back up. It was all too soon for Bastian to comprehend, his body was falling with no defences to protect back, unable to fight back with his currently disabled reflexes yet he struggled with all his might but with two people weighing him down, he had no chance of getting up. His fingers felt something coarse against the hand which he speculated was a rope. They were tying him up. Not like this. Not like this. Please. Not like this. “Not fair! How-”
One more jab on the head and he fell flat, his blurred vision going dark which seemed like it was forever.
The past few hours were dubiously discomforting for Quincy, specifically with how unfazed Haruhi and Orfer looked. As soon as they had tied Bastian up, Haruhi had contacted Orfer to ‘restrain’ Bastian. Within twenty minutes, two anonymous members of Umbra, all covered up except for their eyes, outfits resembling a ninja - had come to Lessa, helping them transfer him to The Cells. That’s what Haruhi called them, a facility like that had remained unnamed throughout the years and ended having something too literal to describe. For the first time, he was going underground, having heard of it only during his initiation session. As soon as they reached the Portals, gateways to the other realms, they headed for the broken Portal. It was supposed to teleport Draphas directly to wherever they wanted but the experiment had failed and someone had fallen into an endless chasm. The legend was quite infamous and no one dared to go near it though he had heard stories of people mistakenly falling through it and getting punished for insubordination. Quincy had often wondered why they never removed it and today he got his answer. Initially, he thought it was a trap because as soon as he stepped in, he was floating as if there was no gravity in a background of black. He began to panic but Haruhi assured him to calm down. Minutes later, the illusion faded and they were in a normal elevator. The illusion was just a way to throw off its real purpose. If people stayed calm, the elevator returned to its original purpose while the occupants present were scanned for authorization simultaneously. But if they began to panic, alarms would go off and Umbra would assemble immediately, to carry out the orders of the Drapha Head.
Quincy was almost giddy as he held onto Haruhi the entire ride down. Bastian was sleeping like a baby, both members of Umbra holding onto him nonchalantly. As soon as the elevator stopped, Quincy trudged behind the others through the endless corridor which had doors on either side. In the beginning, the rooms were wide-spaced with glass windows, ninja clothed people who were sitting in groups or in training. Everyone turned towards them as they passed room after them. So, this is was were the Umbra gathered and trained yet as they progressed, rooms got smaller and were grilled. Quincy stood rooted, horrified as a bruised face of a prisoner caught his eye who was smiling back at Quincy. Haruhi nudged him to move forward, pushing him.
“Haruhi..that-that…what is all this?”
“That’s what happens when Draphas don’t accept their fate. They are imprisoned here until they die,” said Haruhi.
“What?! But they never told us anything at the initiation session,” protested Quincy as his eyes travelled cell after cell.
“Quincy, the initiation is to introduce the basics of survival into your second life and most importantly, to take count because some go rouge without informing. They’ll be counselled and everything but if they persist, this is their eventual end which is why I made this decision of taking Bastian here. He may not be past the counselling stage but…” she sighed, faint memories flashed into her head. “Prevention is better than cure. The heart is heavy, he’ll break even more. It is better to be safe than sorry.”
“So, what happens to these rogues?” he asked.
“They die like that. They’ll be reincarnated with the same problems over and over again, even going through the Drapha life. I heard it through an Angel friend of mine – it must be true.”
“What about you? You told me you were at The Cells too..”
She snickered. “Yup. I used to break out all the time to expose and stuff…it has been how many years, let me see..” she pondered as she counted using her fingers. “ I was 25…so, it has been like four years since retirement. It has expanded though,” she said, looking around. “Umbra was not well fortified at that time, I would go around bashing them.”
On cue, the two guards holding Bastian turned around and gave her a look before continuing to walk.
“Don’t blame me, guys. I was just too good. If it weren’t for me, your rooms over there wouldn’t be given the extra budget that it required,” she said as she indicated backwards. “Though I have no idea why you’ve still got the Incubation Chamber at its old place when it is easy for everyone to access,” she said, trying to catch a glimpse of the ‘Restricted Access’ sign that was supposed to be present on the other end. “When are you guys going to learn?”
“Okay, Haruhi. That’s enough,” Quincy pleaded as he looked at Bastian’s unconscious figure.
They soon halted in front of a door which was opened by Orfer to everyone’s surprise. “ Don’t mind me. I just wanted to see an old friend of mine,” he said as he looked at Haruhi while the two guards went to tie Bastian to the shackles at the ends of chains, that hung from the wall.
“How can I help you, Orfer?” asked Haruhi while Quincy knelt down next to his injured friend.
“Why restrain him and go all violent? Even I don’t prefer this method anymore,” Orfer enquired.
“That’s because, Orfer,” Haruhi said while she looked at Quincy. “I don’t want it going worse.”
“Don’t you think this is worse right now?” interrupted Quincy as he got up, startling the other two.
“Quincy,” she said. “He was trying to act calm. He was not being violent as most do. I’m sure you remember the first time you heard the truth. Loads of stuff are building on upon the other. To be frankly speaking, even I thought Orfer’s experimentation might have a breakthrough but I was wrong once I saw Bastian breaking down. He had abandoned all his reason as a Drapha and began following his instincts.” While they continued their argument, the chained up Drapha was stirring awake.
Bastian’s head was in a constant state of dizziness, swaying back and forth while his eyes were out of focus. Somewhere dark, somewhere dingy and a fan in a corner slowly moving. A sharp pain pulsed through his spine as he moved forward, only to be thrown backward against the coarse surface due to the restrain placed on both his hands yet his legs were free. He stepped forward again with all his might, this time, he heard the clear resonance of the shackles that were bound around his hands. He took a moment to look at the rusted metal, trying to wriggle his wrist but ended up bruising himself against the sharp edge, forming a cut. He slightly flinched in pain which caught the attention of the other occupants of the cell, who were in busy discussion, a few metres away from Bastian.
He tilted his head in confusion, feeling the shackles and began shaking his head vigorously due to his distorted view because all his eyes could afford was a smattering of blinding light and some grey vagueness. His body suddenly jerked as soon as he heard rising footsteps towards him.
“Did we hit him too hard?” asked a familiar voice in a very worried tone.
“Oh please, Quincy, this is nothing. We were violently beaten. This is what it means to be a Class A. One shoulders a lot more responsibilities,” retorted Haruhi.
“And that isn’t because you were continuously breaking out of the cell?” interrupted Orfer to which Haruhi coughed in response.
“But-But…isn’t it because you were pretty strong? Come on, he’s…he’s an Empath Specialization. He might not be able to handle this,” stressed Quincy, rubbing his palms in anxiousness as he looked at the state in which his friend was. “I’m sorry, man.”
But Bastian was in no position to talk back, simply shaking his head.
“Okay, Quincy,” said Haruhi as she began nudging his crouched form. “That’s enough, let’s get going.”
“I’ll get someone to feed him. He seems dizzy,” said Orfer as he commanded the two guards to carry out said orders.
“He’ll be alright, yeah?” repeated Quincy.
Haruhi simply held onto his arm firmly and shifted his body towards the exit while she did a quick salute towards Orfer. “I’ll assure you that. Do not worry. We’ll have to check the situation with Erska now.”
“Yeahh…” muttered Quincy as he let himself be dragged by Haruhi, looking at the cell as he left. He was doubtful if this was the best decision made. “What if Bastian goes rogue, Haruhi?”
“There are less chances, Quincy. Trust me. He’ll be back in no time,” she said as they entered the elevator that would take them back to the Portals. “You should remember how you went bonkers for some time, yeah?”
“I know that Haruhi but I did not have to be chained up. I created even more problems than Bastian,” he reasoned. “Is this purely because he’s Class A? That’s stupid.”
Haruhi sighed. “Not just that. He interfered with human affairs and she’s definitely going to be dead soon.”
“Then, he could just see her until she died, right?” he suggested. “Isn’t that more..comforting though a bit painful?”
“You may think that way but Quincy in this similar way, many human cycles have been broken down by extending deaths. Read the signs! He likes her, though I’m not sure when but there’ll be at least one spark that crosses his mind, asking him to save her. And her death extends. If that happens, it will affect other lives and the realms will start bashing us once again. This is no joke,” she explained as they got out of the elevator. “Let’s just focus on the present,” she said, patting Quincy on the back.
They stood in front of the Portal that led to the human world along with the some other Draphas who were waiting. Suddenly, all of them turned and did a salute or a bow towards someone behind them which caused them to turn.
“Carry on, everyone!” Waldo said as he took off his cap in salutation, greeting or slapping their backs while mopping the floor. “I’m just doing my job!”
“How many jobs does this man do?” wondered Quincy.
“He’s a mystery, alright,” replied Haruhi.
As Waldo went around greeting, he spotted the two of them and waved. “Well, well. What are you guys doing here? Such a surprise!”
“We just dropped Bastian off,” said Haruhi, discretely indicating the broken Portal.
“Ohh….” said Waldo as his voice went low. “What happened?”
“Girl trouble, Waldo,” she said. “Dropped him right before she could die, I think.”
“Hmmm….That’s sad. Didn’t know that he’d have to go to The Cells….why does he look spooked though?” asked Waldo as he looked at Quincy.
“Friend trouble,” she replied, patting his back. The elevator dinged and people began getting on and off. “Looks like we have to leave,” she said as she dragged Quincy in.
Waldo looked hesitant as he waved them off and asked, “When is the girl dying?”
“She’s in the hospital now, her condition is serious. Very soon maybe,” called out Haruhi.
Waldo looked at Quincy and gestured a thumbs up. “Don’t worry, Quincy. It happens to the best of us. Sadly.”