“Oh, so that’s what it means,” I muttered as I scribbled words on my readings.
He chuckled. “Yup. What else?”
“Panitikan . . . wait, you already said this a while ago.” I tried remembering the English translation of the word and I flashed a smile when I finally recalled it. “It’s literature, right?”
“Good job,” he commended.
We were sitting next to each other after he volunteered to help me with my reading assignment, and I chose the best hidden spot in the library so we would not attract any attention. Somehow, this reminded me of our Kas1 class during our first year but he might have already forgotten about that.
“Try reading the next sentence,” he said.
I felt a wave of nausea after hearing those words but he continued encouraging me until I gave in.
“Please don’t laugh,” I pleaded, worried that I’d just embarrass myself.
“I won’t,” he replied.
Taking a deep breath, I started reading. “Ang mga uri ng panitikang sumibol sa Pilipinas noong sinaunang panahon ay ang alamat, kuwentong bayan, epiko, mga awiting bayan, salawikain, karunungang bayan, sawikain, at bugtong.”
It took me a minute to finish a sentence and it felt humiliating because I got tongue-tied and stammered a lot even though I was reading too slow.
“Hmm, you’ll get better after a few more practice, I think,” he noted with a serious expression on his face.
I didn’t respond and just focus on understanding the words I just read. Translating and comprehending the sentences were harder than I thought they would be but having a dictionary and him by my side made them easier.
“Ah, didn’t you have a meeting?”
Looking at his face, it seemed like he had forgotten about that.
“You should go,” I said. “They are waiting for you.”
He stood up and grabbed his things, but I called him before he walked away. He turned around, curious as to why I stopped him.
“Salamat,” I mouthed.
He grinned widely and waved at me. “Walang anuman.”
I watched as his figure gradually disappeared from my sight. Looking at the scribbles and notes on my readings, it felt like I did something Steff or Jess would do. This was the first time I had spent this much time in the library but it was worth it.
My phone vibrated and I saw unread messages from our chat room.
mugiwara: have you seen the top articles today?
moonlight: oh wow, puro sa batch nina Darryl
mugiwara: but Gewena wrote another one about that Alice
cafemocha: ah, we approved of that since it was a lot better than the previous one
kingtrex: seems like Kevin’s the hot topic this week
I hurriedly checked what articles they were talking about and saw that the first and second spots were about Alice and Jess. Gewena wrote another article about Alice entitled, Alisson Jane Diaz: A Commoner turned Princess Consort and a picture of them holding each other’s hands was used as the cover photo. On the other hand, the story about Jess was about her height compared to Patrick’s, which was cute and funny, and how he continuously teased her about it.
moonlight: geez, who captured those photos?
moonlight: they are better than the paparazzis lol
yeoshin: well, at least, the contents are better now
yeoshin: I just hope they won’t invade their privacy and personal space
kingtrex: here comes the angel
cafemocha: hahaha you’re too kind, shin
cafemocha: baka ma-inlove si king nyan lol
I let out a snort when I read mocha’s reply. As if that would happen.
mugiwara: ‘di bagay ang isang dinosaur at diyosa
moonlight: I choked hahahahahaha
kingtrex: mabulunan ka sana sa kape mo, mocha
kingtrex: masyado kayong bored
moonlight: secretly shipping it
mugiwara: you’re the only one who calls her differently lol
mugiwara: we call her shin, sometimes goddess, since that’s what her username means
mugiwara: you call her angel
mugiwara: sweet boi
It was getting harder to keep myself from laughing because of them. It’s been a while since we had this kind of atmosphere. These past few weeks, we weren’t able to talk lightly due to the seriousness of the top articles and the concerns of the administration regarding our portal.
yeoshin: you guys are so funny hahaha
cafemocha: yeoshin reacts
cafemocha: uy kinilig
kingtrex: kung kilala ko lang kayo, babatukan ko kayo
moonlight: buti na lang hindi lol
moonlight: pero pwede mo namang kilalanin pa si shin
mugiwara: a boy is flustered
kingtrex: I’m done talking bye
Moon, Mocha and Mugi continued teasing King even after he signed off and I was fighting the urge to laugh out loud since I was still in the library. Before I could cause a scene, I cleared my things and went outside.
They would always poke fun at King because they knew he would give up easily and sulk for several days. Since he was the timid kind of guy, the very opposite of Mugi, he was an easy target for them.
I was fine with not knowing them personally but I got curious after that lighthearted conversation. I hope I could see the faces behind their usernames.
The next day, we went to Alice’s house to spend some time with each other and to check on her. Unlike me, Alice finds it hard to be left alone for a long time. In high school, she would always ask me and Steff to come over when her parents weren’t around. This time, I knew she would feel lonely and frustrated after all the attention and hate she had been getting from being linked with Kevin.
Steff and I were a bit late and we caught Alice and Jess bantering about the articles I sent to our group chat last night.
“How’s the princess consort?” I greeted and Alice glared at my direction.
The three of us continued teasing Alice but we didn’t expect what happened next. Her father appeared behind us right after Steff asked her if they were already together.
Tito used our weaknesses to get the answers to his questions and it was fun seeing Alice getting worked up. Steff immediately betrayed her when Tito offered a whole chocolate cake, while Jess and I just wanted to tease her.
Alice and Tito went upstairs to talk while the three of us started eating the chocolate cake. Moments later, I noticed Jess staring at me and Steff suddenly asked a question.
“How’s your readings? Okay na?”
I nodded. “I think.”
“For real?” Jess reacted. “Wait, kaya ka ba nasa library noong Friday?”
Steff looked surprised, too. “Nag-stay ka sa library?”
“Well . . . but how did you know that?”
“Patrick saw you,” she replied. “Hinahanap kasi nilang tatlo si Gisel para hindi na siya makatakas. They went to the library and Darryl saw him when he was about to get out. Si Pat naman, nasa loob na no’n at nakita ka raw niya sa dulo habang nagbabasa ng readings.”
My heart almost dropped when I heard her story, but at least they didn’t see me with him. I wouldn’t be able to leave peacefully if Jess or Alice learned about my encounter with Gisel.
“Speaking of Gisel, parang ang daming nagkaka-interes sa kanya ngayon,” Jess noted.
“But he seems uninterested,” Steff added.
“Ah, alam niya kaya na may meeting ulit sa Monday?”
“Maaga siyang umalis, so baka hindi.”
Jess sighed. “Bahala na silang maghanap sa kanya.”
I got distracted when my phone chimed. There were notifications from Kingdom Nook after I updated one of my stories before coming here and a message from moonlight.
moonlight: shin, remember when I told you about Kingdom Nook?
Seeing Kingdom Nook on her message made me nervous. Did she find me there? No, that would be impossible. Yes, I got to know Nook because of her but I didn’t tell her that I signed up and became a writer there.
yeoshin: ah, the writing site? why?
moonlight: YUP LOOK LOOK GISEL IS READING A STORY THERE hahahaha
My phone almost fell from my hand when I saw a video of Gisel giggling while staring at his phone. Jess and Steff looked at me suspiciously, so I had to keep myself calm.
moonlight: his classmates said he suddenly got interested with the site lol
moonlight: ang cute ‘di ba! Feeling ko magiging article ‘to
moonlight: it’s been a while since we had something about this guy
My heart thumped painfully upon learning that from moonlight. I immediately checked my account and saw a recent account with a strange yet obvious username.
iamaroyalty: This is cool and funny at the same time. Hoping for more chapters, Miss notaroyalty.
“Oh my god,” I muttered as I repeatedly read the message.
That moment, I knew my life wouldn’t be peaceful anymore because the kingdom I had been keeping a secret for so long was invaded by an outsider. By a prince.
“Himala, you’re early,” Steff commented as she sat down right across me.
I forced a smile. “Yeah, I woke up early.”
She pulled out a chocolate bar from her bag and started nibbling it. Unlike Alice and I, Steff preferred to be early so I already expected to see her here even though her class would start at 11:30 A.M.
“Ah, I have a question,” I said. “What’s nakaka . . . bago? Wait, was that the right word?”
She chuckled. “You mean, nakakapanibago?”
“Yeah!” I beamed after hearing that word. “That’s it.”
“Hmm, it’s kind of like you’re not used to that kind of setup or attitude or whatever you just encountered.”
“Ohh.” I see. But why would he say that?
“Did you hear that somewhere?”
Uh oh. I wouldn’t be able to escape once Steff started asking questions.
“Alam mo, feeling ko talaga may something sa’yo ngayon,” she said with a suspicious look. I could pretend I couldn’t understand but she used basic Filipino words so she would see through that.
“Eopseo (Nothing),” I retorted. “You know that I’m busy surviving our subjects.”
She finally stopped questioning me but her eyes were still doubtful. We spent our remaining time talking about Alice’s situation and she looked pissed because of the articles and rumors about Alice and Kevin. This was one of the reasons why I couldn’t tell them my secrets. I knew they would get hurt and feel betrayed because most of the articles on the portal were about Campus Princes and Princesses.
“Do you know that Gewena—”
She wasn’t able to finish his question because Darryl hugged her from behind. I find it cute that she still gets flustered whenever Darryl does things like that.
“May strawberry cake sa cafeteria,” Darryl said and Steff’s eyes twinkled.
Both of them looked at me and I already knew what they were thinking.
“Yna, do you want to—”
“Ka (Go),” I said, dismissing what they wanted to say. “It’s okay, I have a group meeting in ten minutes.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yup. Go and be with your bebeboy,” I teased.
They were still hesitating but after repeatedly telling them to go, Steff slowly got up and I signaled Darryl to pull Steff away.
Heaving a sigh, I, too, left the garden since it looked like it would rain. Somehow, it felt strange to be alone in the campus. Before, I would always be with those three but things had already changed. I knew our time together would be less compared before because of their boyfriends.
That’s okay. I completely understand that. Besides, they know when to prioritize our friendship and their love lives and that’s what matters the most.
After checking some notifications in my phone, I went to one of my favorite places—behind the Arts and Letters building. However, I suddenly remembered a scene that sent me into cold sweat.
“Oh, so you’re notaroyalty?”
If only he wasn’t behind me . . . he wouldn’t know my identity. Well, as long as he doesn’t say anything to anyone, I’m safe. But waiting for his next move was making me more anxious. Would he really be able to keep my secret? Could I really trust him?
Turning around, Jess’ face came into view. She flashed a playful smile and I had to calm myself to keep her from asking weird questions.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“I forgot my umbrella,” I replied.
“Bakit hindi ka sa library?” She looked at me suspiciously. “May hinihintay ka ba?”
“No way,” I scoffed. “And you? Why are you here? Where’s your unknown particle?”
“Busy,” she sighed. “Steff and I will be busy, too, starting this week. Iniisip ko pa lang, napapagod na ako.”
We were quiet for a few seconds but she suddenly gasped and pointed at something.
“Hoy! Gisel!” she yelled while marching toward the opened window and I saw the person I was hiding from.
“Kanina ka pa hinahanap ni Sir Santos! May orientation mamaya for taking the advance courses. Alam mo na ba ‘yon?”
“Ah. Oo nga pala.”
Jess sighed. “Magpakita ka nga kay Sir, para hindi ka niya sa amin hinahanap. Ang hirap mo pa man ding hagilapin.”
“Okay,” he smiled. “A-attend ako mamaya. Thanks for reminding me.”
I kept my back turned against them, hoping he wouldn’t see or recognize me but Jess called my name. Oh, great.
“Yna! Let’s get inside. Lumalakas na ‘yong ulan,” she commented as she pulled me closer to her.
“Yna?” he muttered innocently, as if he didn’t know my name.
“Ah, best friend ko, si Yna,” Jess said. “Anyway, um-attend ka later, ha?”
“Yeah,” he responded. “Saan nga ulit?”
“Okay. See you later.” He smiled. “And nice meeting you, Miss Yna.”
After saying that, he leisurely walked away, and Jess dragged me inside the building.
“Cute ni Gisel, ‘no?” Jess remarked.
“Hala? Cute kaya lalo na kapag naka-smile.”
“I’m telling that to Patrick.”
“Grabe, I was just complimenting him! Besides, minsan ko lang naman siya makausap. Mailap ‘yon.”
My forehead furrowed. “What’s mailap? Ah, and the word you used earlier . . . uhm . . . hagipalin?”
Jess chuckled. “Cute mo! Well, mailap means elusive. And it’s not hagipalin. It’s hagilapin. Meaning, to look for someone or to catch hold of someone.”
I immediately typed the words and their meanings on my phone. Speaking Filipino was always a struggle for me but those three kept on encouraging me. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to converse in Filipino because I was still awkward with some words, especially when using the tenses.
“For example, si Gisel. Mahirap hagilapin ‘yon kasi mailap sa mga tao,” she explained. “Come to think of it, among the Campus Princes in our batch, parang never pa akong nakarinig ng kahit anong issue o rumor about him.”
I agreed in silence. Darryl, Patrick and Kevin would always be in articles because of their antics and they were always linked with Campus Princesses but that guy would only be mentioned as one of the Campus Princes and as part of their band.
Jess and I parted ways since our classes would start in a few minutes. I just wish my class would end early.
“I’ll leave your reading assignment at the photocopy station later. We’ll have our quiz about that next week. Maliwanag?”
We answered in chorus but I was already imagining how low my score would be. We had to read a journal about how the Filipino language started and it was written in Filipino. I already gave up after reading the first few sentences.
I wanted to consult Steff or Jess but I also didn’t want to disturb them since they were probably preparing for their advanced courses. I could ask Alice but she sucked at explaining so we would just waste both of our time.
One hour. That was the longest time I stayed inside a library and that was because I fell asleep when I accompanied Steff during our freshmen year. I never thought I’d stay longer than that until today.
Roaming around the references section, I found some Filipino-English dictionary and I stayed in front of that shelf as I read the first sentence of our reading.
“Pinakamahalagang yugto ng kasaysayan . . . what is yugto?” I muttered and I immediately flipped the pages of the dictionary to check its meaning
“Stage,” somebody said. “An act or part.”
Peeking from the shelf in front of me was the most elusive Campus Prince of our batch. He smiled when our gaze met each other.
“We meet again, Miss Yna.”
Maybe it was just me, but I was starting to see and notice him more often, as if fate was playing a bad joke on me.
“You need help?” he asked while pointing at my readings and that moment, my desperation won over my pride.
The only people I could rely on with stuff like these were Steff, Alice, Jess and my brother, but their hands were full at the moment. Maybe I was really that desperate because I accepted his offer.
“Yes,” I whispered. “Please?”
He smiled once again. I thought he was just mocking me and would make a run for it, but this time, he didn’t slip away.
The most elusive prince stayed.
For these past two years, I made sure nobody close to me would know my personas because that meant exposing my private matters. I even hid it from my best friends yet someone I only talked to once discovered my writer username.
“Aish!” I grunted as I looked at the screen of my phone.
My frustration temporarily dissipated when I saw a notification from the portal’s admin group logs. I breathed deeply and read the thread for post approval. There were still pending posts on the portal and before any writer could publish their article, at least three out of five administrators should approve it. Otherwise, it would be rejected.
One of the articles was about Alice again so I immediately read the content and I got pissed before I could even finish it. Of course, the writer was Gewena.
It was a background story about Alice and she blatantly criticized her just because she wasn’t a Campus Princess. We already knew that Steff and Jess were smart while we were just ordinary students. They were chosen as Campus Princesses because of their intellect, beauty and attitude. Truthfully, I felt intimidated and smaller sometimes even though they were my best friends.
The students supported the Steff-Darryl and Jess-Patrick couples but why couldn’t they do the same for Alice and Kevin? Was it because she wasn’t like Steff and Jess? Because she was just an ordinary student? Unfair.
Another notification came into view and it was from cafemocha.
cafemocha: do you know Alice or Kevin personally?
My phone almost fell from my hands when I saw her question. How did she know? Wait, was I that obvious?
yeoshin: no. why?
cafemocha: really? Haha wala lang, para kasing ayaw mo sa articles na lumalabas kapag about sa kanila
yeoshin: hey, I am always like that. I just hate it when writers only look at one side and put so much of their opinion in the articles
cafemocha: sabagay, you did that with the fourth-year campus princesses too
yeoshin: haha I just find it unfair especially when it can potentially affect the subjects of the articles
cafemocha: wow naman si miss goddess, sobrang bait
yeoshin: what where how lol
I was able to breathe when her suspicion subsided. Someone had already discovered my writer persona. I couldn’t let another person find out my identity as one of the portal’s administrators.
That night, I wasn’t able to sleep well. That incident kept on replaying in my mind and it made me uncomfortable.
It’s been a year since I last talked to Gisel so I didn’t expect him to remember me. I was having a problem with our reading material since it was written in Filipino. We didn’t have any seating arrangement in Kas1 and fortunately, he was my seatmate. He helped me translate the difficult words and I managed to understand the lesson.
All my life, I had only relied on my three best friends when it comes to the Filipino language because I wasn’t really the type to ask for help from a stranger. That was the first time someone offered help so it felt weird. However, after that, I didn’t have any interactions with him anymore. Until yesterday.
I was up early and I couldn’t go back to sleep anymore so I just went to the university even though my class would start at 11:30 A.M. I was on my way to my usual place when I suddenly remembered what happened there yesterday. Scanning the surroundings, I carefully walked behind the building, hoping nobody would show up but I halted when I saw a strange figure behind the bushes.
“Is that a person?” I muttered. “Nugu-ya?” (Who is that?)
It seemed like the person was sleeping, though I couldn’t understand why he would pick this place to sleep, so I decided not to stay here. But before I could step back, the person lifted his head and I stumbled back when I saw who it was.
He looked at me with his still dozy eyes and I flinched when he suddenly pointed at me.
“Ah. You’re notaroyalty,” he calmly said while waving at me while I frantically looked left and right to see if there were students near us.
“Joyonghi hae juseyo!” (Please be quiet!) I mouthed as I put my index finger on my lips.
“I said please be quiet.”
Heaving a sigh, I turned around and was ready to run away when he suddenly called me again.
“Please don’t call me that!” I yelled as I turned to his direction but he just smiled at me, as if he was enjoying my misery.
Woah, this guy was starting to get on my nerves.
“What should I call you then?” he asked. “What’s your na—”
He wasn’t able to finish his sentence because we suddenly heard a group of girls passing by.
“Are you serious? Magco-confess ka?”
“I mean, if someone like Alice Diaz can make Kevin fall for her, siguro naman may pag-asa rin tayo, ‘di ba?”
“And? Si Gisel ang target mo?”
“Bakit? Matagal ko naman na siyang crush. Saka hindi lang naman guys ang pwedeng mag-confess, ano.”
“But where will you find him? As far as I know, that guy is the most elusive out of the Campus Princes in our batch.”
My eyes shifted toward him and there was a hint of uneasiness on his expression. His gaze met mine but I immediately turned away. Involving myself with someone like him would just pull me into the limelight and I wouldn’t want that to happen.
I was about to leave when he suddenly grabbed my arm and dragged me away from that place. This scene would have been romantic in a novel but it was displeasing and ungraceful in real life, especially when the guy was walking too fast.
“Ya! Na jeom nwa jwo! (Hey! Let go of me!)
“You know what? I can’t understand what you’re saying but I hope you’re not cursing me,” he said while chuckling as he continued dragging me away.
He finally stopped walking and I realized that we ended up behind the library. I was still catching my breath when he let go of my arm.
“There,” he huffed. “Sorry, I can’t leave you there. You might sell me out.”
I gave him a death stare after hearing his reason. “What? Do you think I’m that kind of person? Whoa, i saram . . .” (Whoa, this person . . .)
“Aish. I told you not to call me that.”
He chuckled. “Oh, sorry. I haven’t got your name yet.”
“Yna,” I replied.
“Okay, Ms. Yna. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.”
His words seemed sincere but the look on his face wasn’t. It was like talking to Darryl or Kevin, but with a gentler face. That would make him more dangerous than them.
“Ah. And about what happened earlier,” he paused. “Can you please not talk about it to anyone?”
“Hmm? That confession thing?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I don’t want to be the subject of any article on the portal, especially now that everyone has their eyes on the Campus Princes and Princesses.”
His words lingered in my head. I thought he was the type of person who would just shrug off any rumors about him but it turned out he was conscious about what people think of him.
“Oh, right. I haven’t introduced myself yet. I’m—”
“Calvin Gisel Villanueva,” I said, cutting him off. “Of course, I know you. You’re the pianist of our batch’s band. Ah, and a Campus Prince.”
He stared at me for a few seconds and I got conscious when he wasn’t taking his eyes off me.
“Nakakapanibago,” he mumbled while scratching his right cheek. What did he say? What does that even mean?
“Nothing,” he replied. “Well then, see you around, Ms. Yna.”
He started walking away from me and I just watched his back until I couldn’t see him anymore.
I just hope he would keep his promise, or else, I would put him in a place he would surely hate—in the center of everyone’s attention.
Breaking the Royalty Couple Streak: Kevin Fuentez and a Commoner
I almost cursed when I saw the top article in the portal. I knew Alice would appear in one of these nasty articles sooner or later because of her involvement with Kevin but why do they have to write the headline like that?
The content irritated me but I didn’t realize I blurted out some reactions and caught their attention. I tried hiding my phone but based on their expressions, it seemed like they already knew what I was trying to hide.
“Nice try but nope. Show me,” Alice said.
“But . . .”
“Wait, are you on that portal again?” Steff asked.
“Nope,” I lied.
“You’re not a good liar, Yna,” Jess commented. “Si Alice, oo, ikaw hindi.”
In the end, I gave up. They read the article and I felt guilty when I saw Alice’s expression. I got my phone back and scrolled down to see the name of the writer. It was Gewena Zarsa, the girl who begged Kevin not to leave her.
She told us she was okay but I could see her sadness behind that cheerful facade. Alice was the strongest emotionally among us so it was hard to look at her with such troubled expression.
Steff and Jess left for their classes and I also excused myself to settle something.
I carefully tread toward one of my favorite space and plopped on the grass as I leaned against the wall of the building. My phone was already receiving tons of notifications and I had to turn them off so I could focus on my works.
A chat suddenly popped up so I opened it and read the conversation.
moonlight: hey, Gewena's latest article is on the top spot!
cafemocha: ikr, it seems like students really like gossips about the campus prince and princesses
mugiwara: lol almost all trending articles are about them
yeoshin: but this one's too much, don't you think?
kingtrex: because of the word commoner?
I heaved a sigh. It's been a while since all of us were online but when we do, it would always take at least an hour or two before we resolve all of our concerns. Being the administrators of the underground site or portal was exciting and draining at the same time.
Steff and Jess were both Campus Princesses while Alice could dance and exude confidence through her expressions and words. The three of them were talented while I was the only one who didn't have anything to be proud of. Steff said I was observant, which I didn't believe at first, but later on, that was what got me here.
When we were still freshmen, I learned about the portal from my classmate in one of my subjects and I was fascinated by how a simple information or gossip could reach thousands of students in a few hours or even minutes. I tried applying as a writer and got accepted after several days. What made it more special was that we could stay anonymous if we wanted. All current administrators were anonymous so we could freely talk without worrying if we knew each other personally.
mugiwara: you have a point
yeoshin: who approved the article?
moonlight: well, I got excited. sorry
kingtrex: should we take it down?
cafemocha: but half of the campus already read the post. what's the point of taking it down?
She had a point. The damage was done. Alice was already getting targeted by Kevin's admirers. I just hope she could still act like herself even if everyone's eyes were already on her.
I exited the group chat to focus on the thing where half of my notifications came from. My lips curved upward when I saw the messages but I also felt the pressure from their expectations.
Thank you for your patience! I'll upload the next chapter this week xxx
I was about to exit the thread but the unexpected happened.
"Oh. So you're notaroyalty?”
Besides the portal, there was another site where students go during their free time--Kingdom Nook, a fiction writing forum. I got to know this site through moonlight but they didn’t know I became one of its writers. Not even Steff, Jess and Alice knew about it.
“Your fan fictions are really popular among my classmates.”
I looked up and saw a guy who was leaning out of the window above me. He was staring at my phone and I immediately turned it off but he just chuckled at my action. His gaze shifted toward me and he flashed a lighthearted smile.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone,” he said and he pulled back, leaving me dumbfounded. “Ah. We have met before, right?”
Yeah, I wanted to say, but my voice wouldn’t come out. I knew him well.
Calvin Gisel Villanueva, one of our batch’s Campus Princes, and the person who helped me in my Kas1 report before. That was already a year ago so I didn’t expect him to remember me . . . but he did.
And now, he knows one of my secrets.