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One year. It took one year for Bastian to get back to his full form. For all the mess they had caused at the HQ, he received a bit of leniency for not having used the Ambrosial Liquid but punishment was inevitable. Yet when Orfer saw the state of Bastian, all he could do was sigh. He was being punished his own way. Therefore, the focus shifted towards Bastian’s recuperation.

The first few months Bastian spent the time wandering in Lessa like a hollow ghost, mostly at Erska’s grave, sometimes by Bon Voyage, at Leisure, Cafakla or her house – following a trail with a hand he once held, recalling her smell, her smile, every little bit of her, retaining and refilling the memory every day, over and over again – hoping maybe he could see a glimpse of her somewhere. Sometimes, he would get wasted at the wrong places. Sometimes, he would cry himself to sleep, he would cry until his body yielded. Sometimes, he would smile as he selected a particular memory to replay. And touch his hair the way she touched, feel his cheeks the way she held him. And repeat all this over and over again until Quincy got tired of babysitting him and dragged him to the HQ where they began roleplaying lots of odd jobs to find their fit. Bastian’s original vision of a villa overlooking the beach did not suit him anymore, he was definitely attached to the Drapha community and preferred staying back at the HQ except for some occasional trips.

Alice, on the other hand, retired and stayed at home – taking time for herself. Richard, who began overworking himself as a result of his daughter’s sudden demise shifted usual tactics and went back home to take care of his wife while recuperating himself, in a way, spending some lost time as a couple, as a family which was now incomplete. While the world thought they had lost the Saphines dominating the public spotlight, they returned back in less than two years to launch the Erska Saphine Foundation for budding, well-deserving and underprivileged creatives around the world to complete their daughter’s dream.

Her friends - Alia, Gina, Shania, Ira, Freya stuck together and went on long trips for months uncountable. They had lost one of their own, regretted that they were not fully able to support Erska through her recent times. When they heard that the Saphines were launching a foundation, the girls participated in it actively and contributed towards it.

‘The End?’- sequel to Erska’s first book ‘His way. Her rules.’ skyrocketed in sales, in numbers no one could believe. As much as she was bashed, she was once beloved. Support poured in, people actually gave a chance and read it, some internally blaming themselves for being hypocrites. Everyone’s thoughts were similar – it was such a pity that Erska never got to saw how much she was actually celebrated. How much the world adored her for who she was. They simply pitted against her for the sake of their brief entertainment that they had failed to look past it. Not one could believe that the young author had met with such a tragic passing. That the ink had stopped flowing from her pen.

“I cannot believe you’re an actual reporting officer, Quincy. Life takes a surprising turn after all,” snickered Bastian as he check listed through the items Miriam, the receptionist at the Records Archive had sent for him.

“How dare you talk about me!” he retorted, hitting Bastian’s lowered head on the desk with a file at irregular intervals. “What about you? As if you’re doing a better job, right now? I cannot believe you are going to take over Miriam’s position. That snarky old woman!”

“You’re just pissed off that she called you a gold digger yesterday because of your costume!” Bastian responded as he looked at Quincy up and down. “I have to agree with Miriam. You actually do look like that.”

“Except for Orfer being pissed off by my extravagance, there’s no other problem with it,” he said as he dusted his shoulders off the leopard printed full suit with a pink tie, gold chain and brown tinted frames. “You don’t look that good either.”

“What’s wrong with me?” Bastian enquired running his hand through his now cropped head, the aftermath of cutting off his silk-like tresses. “This is also less sweaty.”

“You’re a fashion disaster.”

“By the way, Fyre’s switched another girl again. Looks like he’s following in your footsteps, banging people left and right,” informed Bastian.

“I couldn’t care less…” said Quincy, shrugging.

“Really? Because I thought you were just kissing him yesterday at the Waiting Room behind the curtains,” Bastian stated as he looked at Quincy. “What was all that?”

“That…um…that..was something casual..” he mumbled, pursing his lips.

“Great. So, this is like karma? You’re letting someone screw you around casually?” pressed Bastian.

“Shut up!” Quincy yelled, hitting him on the head again. “You just go back to your business. Oh and Haruhi wanted us to come by Lessa next weekend, there’s going to be a small party at Mint&Spice and apparently, Mrs. Delaney wants someone to test the new menu,” he said as he pointed himself.

“That would be great! It’s been a while since we visited Haruhi. So, is Fyre also joining us then?” Bastian teased in glee.

“He is, actually,” admitted Quincy. “Can you stop smiling like that? God! I want to knock down your teeth! He’s going to bring his girlfriend too.”

“Ohhhhh and why were you both kissing yesterday?” he continued. Without a reply, Quincy began hitting him with a file, not even allowing Bastian to protest.

“Okay. Okay. I’ll stop,” said Bastian as he looked at Quincy fuming.

“I’ll talk to you later,” Quincy said as he stomped out, not waiting for a reply but the blonde-haired girl wearing a short blue dress walking past got him stopping on his tracks. He was not sure if he did a double take, so he ran behind her until she stopped in front of the reception.

She said, “I want to meet my reporting off-”

Bastian raised his hand while his head was buried in a bunch of papers. “Give me a minute.”

Quincy looked at both of them back and forth, even slapped himself, not sure if he was dreaming. He began pacing back and forth much to the girl’s annoyance because he was staring at her face a little too hard.

Sensing his antics, Bastian said, without looking up, “What are you still doing here, Quincy?”

“No, it’s just,” he muttered, tapping his finger against Bastian’s desk, unable to take his eyes off the girl.

“I’m sorry, my friend can be quite a flirt,” apologized Bastian on Quincy’s behalf which frustrated him even more as he raised his fists to the sky.

“Me? How could I? How dare I?” he rattled as he turned towards the girl. “Just a quick question. What do you think of my friend here? Romantically,” he asked, indicating Bastian.

“Shut up, Quincy!” Bastian said as his hands tried to grab the nearest glue bottle that would bounce off Quincy’s head but when he could sense a shadow in front of him lower, he understood that the person was also playing along with him.

“Just to humour you,” she said as she seriously looked at Bastian, pushing away her blonde tresses away from her face. “He’s okay. Not my type.”

“What?!” Quincy groaned, flabbergasted. “That’s impossible.”

She began waving her hand hysterically in defence. “I mean, he’s cute but...I kind of think he’ll look better with long hair, just a feeling. He’s looking down, so I can’t see…”

“That’s so funny. I actually had long hair,” Bastian replied as he set away his papers and took Miriam’s checklist of reporting officers and corresponding active Draphas and looked up. “What is your name-”

Bastian’s system paused, he began shaking his head vigorously, checking if he is alright or not. Quincy placed a firm hand on his shoulder and whispered. “I see her. She’s real.”

“Are you alright? Should I come back another time?” she enquired seriously as Bastian stared into her familiar raven black orbs.

“…you can stay, I mean. I’ll check what you want….” stuttered Bastian, unable to take his eyes off her as he flipped the pages randomly. “You’re hair looks pretty….”

“Thanks,” she replied, frowning at Bastian’s bizarre reaction, his fingers obviously fumbling.

“Okay, let me handle this for you,” interrupted Quincy as he took the list from Bastian. “Your name?”

“Erska,” she stated, looking away from Bastian’s obnoxious gaze.

While Bastian let Quincy handle everything, he stared at her while fingers clasped hard onto the desk, scratching. How long it has been and she’s right in front of him as if his days of misery had been in vain, he couldn’t resist the temptation to whisk her away her like the doll she was and kiss her. Soft, cloying kisses that would leave her parched throat begging for more. Kisses that would shock the past into her, their memories into her.

“Erska…..okay. Your reporting officer is Choi Jin Ri. Her office will be present at Sector 8,” said Quincy, trying to wake a frozen Bastian.

“Thank you,” Erska replied as she walked away but was instantly pulled back as she staggered back in surprise. Bastian was holding her arm, a little too firmly as he searched for some sort of recognition from her side yet Erska seemed increasingly annoyed by this rude interruption.

“I’m sorry, he can daze off some time,” intercepted Quincy as he removed Bastian’s grip on her. “He’s not like this usually.”

“Hopefully,” she mumbled and walked away in a jiffy, turning back for a glance as she went.

“Bastian, you need to calm down, right now, okay?” appeased Quincy, patting his back. “First, calm down.”

“Calm down?!” he screamed in Quincy’s face, fidgeting with his fingers. “That’s Erska! I’m going to ask her! What kind of sorcery is this!” Bastian got up from his seat but Quincy was quick to push him down.

“What else? She’s a Drapha, Bastian. Why else would she be here to receive her assignment?” reasoned Quincy as he clicked his fingers, trying to wake him from the shock.

“Drapha?! How is that even possible? Didn’t she just fulfill her desire? Her novel’s released. What else could she possibly want? I’m sure they made a mistake. There has to be a mistake,” ranted Bastian which earned him a hit from Quincy.

“Are you this dumb? Do you or do you not know that human desires are always changing, you dumbass?” he scolded as he continued hitting him on the head with a file.

“Are you telling me she lied? That she did not want to release her novel? That is so stupid!” refuted Bastian, his one track mind having not diverted into any path.

“I cannot believe your brain can’t think of anything rational when it comes to her, where did my sensible friend go? I’m supposed to play the role of a moron,” sighed Quincy sadly, pinching Bastian’s cheeks.

Bastian swatted his hand off in annoyance. “Well, let’s see what kind of genius you are then!”

“Are you sure writing her novel on her terms was the only thing that she desired?” asked Quincy, trying to provoke him.

“It isn’t? I mean, all that she wanted to do was do that, she had to fight her parents, her friends…. what else? She came out of her house and stayed with us to complete her goal,” stated Bastian, wracking his brain.

“Oh my god….” muttered Quincy as he rubbed his cheeks in disbelief. “What about the part where she fell for you? I don’t think she asked for a package deal.”

“That-” Bastian was stuck again. “Huh? What?”

“I’m gonna take a wild guess, in the little time you spent, how far did you progress?” questioned Quincy.

“Umm… we hugged, we kissed. That’s all. Nothing more than that, Quincy,” said Bastian.

Quincy twisted his ear in impatience. “Tch. Tch. Did you tell her you love her?”

“I…. never told her,” Bastian replied, rubbing his ears. “How does that make sense?”

“Umm did she tell you?”

“No. We never really…. crossed that part but…” Bastian said, shaking head. “Please, if that’s the reason she became a Drapha…”

“There is no other possible way. She had her eyes all starry for you till the end and never got to confess. What else could possibly happen? You know her better after all,” explained Quincy. “I don’t think some sweet kissing time would have sealed the deal.”

“Oh man….” muttered Bastian under his breath as he shivered, burying his face in his palms while dealing with a whimpering angsty heart, bearing misery that was too much for the little organ that it was. Baby girl, did you come back for me? He rubbed his chest, slightly uneasy. His long lost craving had begun chugging once again.

“So, what are you going to do now?” asked Quincy.

“What else?” said Bastian as he smirked to himself. “It’s my turn to chase her now. How can I let her go?” Wait for me. I’ll be right next to you, Erska. No matter how long it takes me.

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