“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.