“Guess where I am, darling?”
“The next time you call me that - I’m breaking your nose, Quincy,” Bastian said as his shoulders tried to balance the awkwardly placed Draphacon against his ear and the plastic bags he was carrying.
“Tch tch, Bastian. That’s the reason why we mostly get caught by Orfer,” Quincy said as he tapped his nails against the counter he was leaning against.
Bastian rolled his eyes. “Do tell where you are, Your Highness. My life is incomplete without your daily trivialities.”
“I’m at the Grim reaper HQ.”
Bastian dropped the plastic bag on his foot, letting out a short yelp. He switched off the Draphacon, trudged on the staircase leading to his room and placed the plastic bag on his bed. He dialled back instantly. “What are you doing there?!”
“Chill, chill. I thought you were almost uninterested when you cut me off, sir...” Quincy said.
“That’s because I dropped something on my feet that I was carrying..can you please explain what kind of crap you are up to, Quincy?” Bastian asked with no end to his bafflement.
“Okay, okay. Since I got tired of Draphas, the females, duh… I managed to enter the Grim reaper HQ for the office work. Pestered Miriam a bit and that old lady gave in.. So, here I am and...”
“ Office work? I don’t understand…. there had to be someone suspicious of your intentions. How were you permitted?” Bastian asked in a perplexed tone as he massaged his feet.
“I just decked the reception with maple syrup candy and she didn’t even look up when I told her that I was going to Grim reaper HQ! Why, she even officially sealed the thing but she was busy chewing candy!”
“I sincerely hope you get struck by a lightning for wandering around …” sighed Bastian as he looked at the ceiling. “Maybe it is my thirst for vacation but my current assignment’s being a pain on my neck.”
“You are so spoiling the mood. I haven’t told you the best part yet..” Quincy said as he smiled back at the receptionist who was filing his complaint.
“Enlighten me..” Bastian said, absolutely bored of Quincy’s chatterbox.
“The reason.. ahem uh... I came to the HQ was to pick up Grim reapers. Remember Minthe?” he asked as he took the receptionist’s hand and kissed it. She bent forward and took Quincy’s Draphacon. Running her hand through her deep red curls, she asked him, “Who are you talking to, sweetheart?”
Quincy looked stunned yet managed in order to cover up his surprise tone. He wanted to keep things cool with the ladies. “My fr-friend Bastian.. you might have heard of..”
“Ahh yes, Bastian,” she said as she placed the Draphacon against her ear and spoke. “Hey Bastian. Heard you were the hottest among Draphas?”
Bastian’s spine went erect. That husky voice. It was almost as if he could feel her smirk. “Minthe,” he said acknowledging her.
“We should meet. The three of us. Looks like Quincy darling wants to fool around with me? Why don’t you join us?” she asked as she rubbed her red lips.
“Ahhh I’m on my assignment. Maybe ya’ll have a good time. Can you please put back Quincy on?”
She handed back the Draphacon and winked at Quincy who was rooted to the ground, staring at her light pinkish eyeshadow that covered her yellow orbs. “Shoo off, Quincy dear. I have a lot of work to do but call me soon.”
Saying that she slightly pecked his cheek and walked on. He turned towards her and could see she seemed to be a favourite in the eyes of other males as well.
Placing the Draphacon against his ears, he said, “Dude..did you feel that? She is just like a goddess! The way she talks and shit, ya feel me?”
“Unfortunately, I have to agree with you. Her voice is making my hair stand on its edge...ughhh..” Bastian commented as he stroked his hands. “Or maybe she’s just a very good flirt, Quincy.”
“Which I’d very much appreciate, of course,” Quincy replied as he got the elevator and pressed button ‘10’ which lead to the Portals.
“Did you just try to pick up Minthe, Quincy?”
“Positive. Why do you ask?”
“I heard you trembling through the Draphacon, boy. Slow down,” Bastian shot back as he snickered.
“How dare you! After all, I was the one to teach you-” Quincy began, furiously.
“She’s well known, Quincy. In every supernatural realm. I wouldn’t be surprised if humans fancied her too despite her very yellow skin tone. I bet you are going to be the talk of the town amongst Draphas and Grim reapers within a few days. That’s the result of hitting on Minthe,” added Bastian. He was clearly enjoying this.
“Shut up. What are you up to, Bastian?” he asked as he waited for the elevator to stop.
“I’ve got to set up my planner for my assignment which you are interrupting, mister good-for-nothing.”
“You’re such a disgrace to the community of men. Like a nerd, setting up stuff and all. Tell me. How is your assignment? Straightforward? Or innocent yet seductive? Uh? Uhhhh? Spare this brother no details,” Quincy asked eagerly.
“Bloody suspicious. From what I’ve seen. Haven’t gotten proper details yet.”
“It’s been..what..three umm four days? I don’t know. Honestly, by this time I thought you’ll be at the girl’s apartment. What the hell? Are you slowing down?” Quincy prodded.
“That’s an exaggeration. You think you are some kind of Casanova? Come on, dude. We are Draphas, not professional flirts.” Bastian said as he scanned his room to find a place to fit the whiteboard he bought.
“Way to ruin the fun. Stop acting all goody-goody on me. Anyways, If you’ve got any problem, ask me. You know I’m your saviour,” Quincy said, smiling to himself as he got into the Portal that would lead him to the Drapha HQ.
“Is that the reason why you spend nights with different women yet you don’t have a girlfriend?” Bastian asked.
“Hey!! You! You-” The connection got cut before Quincy could justify his reasons. Different girls mean different experiences. He’s missing life. The righteous bastard.
“Finally..let’s get started!!” Bastian unwrapped the laminated cover of the brand new whiteboard. Then, he fixed a spot for a nail above the window and began hitting it repeatedly. He hung the string of the whiteboard on the nail. His Draphacon rang again.
“Not again…what do you want, Quincy?” Bastian barked.
“We should go to a hospital, Bastian. Do you read the name of the caller before talking?” Vidya asked.
“Aaaah ah, Vidya. Sorry. I-I”
“When are you going to start reporting? It’s been three days. Not a word from you. Wasn’t ‘prompt’ your best friend? Are you changing sides?” she asked sharply.
“No. No. I apologize for the inconvenience. I don’t usually do this. It’s just my usual rate of collecting details is slower presently. I wanted something more strong in the sense like proper information..” explained Bastian dryly.
“That’s why we also contribute to a speedier process. Maybe because you have your own ways to do things, you’d refuse help but that is not the aim of what we do. It is to make sure the wishes of humankind are fulfilled before they reach the afterlife. You should understand how important it is” elaborated Vidya in a patient tone.
“I’ll keep that in mind. I’m obviously in trouble. Ask me though I’m not sure if it’ll help.”
“First, tell me about your assignment, Erska Saphine. What is she? Her parents and friends? Sum it up crisply.”
“She’s a writer who has just released her first novel. Under a niche publishing company Bon Voyage which is now owned by her mother, Alice Saphine. Along with her mother, her father known as Richard Saphine – they own Saphine Fisheries which is a big player in Lessa. They belong to a wealthy neighbourhood, Knoxville. Well known people around Lessa. Also, they are into real estate. As for Erska, she seems polite but I’m not sure what is underneath the politeness. That doubt is due to the pattern of all the assignments I’ve been assigned to.”
“Okay…So, do you want my advice or..?”
“I’ll report to you soon. Explaining the whole mound of info from my head is making it a bit clearer. I usually plan it with a whiteboard which I’m yet to do. I’ll be back with a better report, Vidya” Bastian said with confidence.
“Alright. Better not drag me around. See ya, Bastian.”
Swiftly, Bastian began noting down the points that flowed spontaneously. Picking up his smartphone, he did the required research and commenced charting out Erska and her environment. Apart from what he had conveyed to Vidya, he checked out YouTube in order to find information regarding her clique. One of her friends, Alia Singh was told to be one of the popular vloggers in the country. Through Alia’s vlogs, it was easier to find all the members of Erska’s clique which he had a vague memory of when he had first met her at the café Teenage Dream located at Leisure. Apart from the already identified members, it also included Shania Tawn – an internationally known ballet dancer, Ira Moe & Freya Hue handled ‘Poppy’ which specializes in delicacies customized for weddings, parties. Both of them belong to a family of businesses themselves. Lastly, was Gina Xu who seemed to occasionally model for her family’s line of jewellery. Erska also seemed to have been in no relationship, a constant inside joke that was present in the videos. Alia’s vlogs were more than enough of a resource to get to know the girls. Erska’s social media accounts were active but they seemed to be handled by a social media spokesperson rather than herself. Bastian concluded that the posse never really had a need for wealth.
He also had to find the position of Erska’s health and her knowledge regarding the potential illness. All this, he added to the planner.
Closing his eyes, he mentally went through his conversations with Erska. She was suspicious of strangers. She was polite only when it was confirmed by her trusted few (Bastian would build Nate a tomb of diamonds). When she apologized, she made it grand…maybe because of guilt? Thus, the invitation for the party which also was according to a consideration that Bastian was a struggling writer with no real connections. She was filthy rich with parents who were ready to help her kickstart. Through the vlogs, she enjoyed the companionship of her elite clique. So, on the whole, she is a rich girl with a humble exterior. Now, all Bastian was supposed to do was to crack the interior. And the unsuspecting invite that fell into his hands on its own was going to help him.
“Wait, wait…” he whispered to himself.
The dress. Her clothing. It did not seem as visibly as flashy as her peers who preferred stone-encrusted purses and perfectly set hair. She was in tracks all along but they were branded, alright. It reminded him of his experience at Teenage Dream. A tad weird for a person belonging to a neighbourhood that judges a person by appearance or was she just too damn famous that no one bothered even if she wore pajamas?
Also, his run-in with her at Cafakla. There was no way that he thought he’d meet her there. At least that was the kind of picture painted by everyone - ‘those who live in Knoxville, stay at Knoxville’.
Or what about the sudden change in the pattern of his assignments? He had managed to be in the good books of his assignments at least three or four days before getting to the wooing part. Very few assignments didn’t even require the wooing, ready to pour out everything. But progress in no direction – was it just incapacity? Or was he just too damn impatient, wanting to rush to vacation? He never understood why ended with such assignments since it made him uncomfortable to an extent. He had to get used to the so-called courtship in his initial years which Quincy eased out for him throughout his Drapha journey. There were times when things would go awkward but he was able to wave it off with experience and now, all of a sudden some assignment waltzes in to disrupt his momentum??
Oh. No. No. No. You don’t get to beat me. I get to do that.
There had to be a hopeless romantic side to her. That’s how the algorithm worked, concerning each Drapha’s assignments. He was always disgusted that ultimate goals in life of his assignments were to seek some half-hearted lusty romance and they all died true to their nature. But despite everything, he always understood his assignments and the choices they made. Poor things, even if they got him pissed often.
Now that Erska was taking too long compared to his previous assignments, Bastian had to ram heads on with this challenge. Specifically, the kind of challenge that was interrupting his chances of an early vacation by being unessentially a pain in the butt.
Okay, the game begins officially. Bring on the tricks, dear because I’ll be your match.
His ambitious face sprouted frowns as he fell on his bed. “I feel like I’m a fricking escort. Damn it…”