I resisted the urge to roll my eyes in annoyance. No one in the class was listening. The teacher kept yammering something about the history of the Philippines. I was bored out of my ass, but I tried my best not to yawn and listen to the poor old guy who was doing his best to ignore the fact that no one was paying him attention.
I felt bad for the teacher. I had no idea how North Vale handles the students’ education, but it’s easy to tell that not everyone valued it. I could count in my fingers how many people were actually listening to the teacher, jotting down notes and nodding their heads in understanding.
Damn it, if dad only knew what the situation was in this hellish place. It’s impossible to learn anything here. I guess I had to study harder than ever just to pass the exams.
I looked around the room and saw the girl who gave me the attitude so early in the morning. She was surrounded by her minions, talking out loud with their phones in their hands. They’re the typical bitches who wore revealing clothes just to get attention from people. Based on how the other girls were looking at the blonde, it’s safe to assume that she was their leader. Everyone in her group had dyed hair and thick make-up, making them look like they’re older than a thirty-year-old.
I snapped my head to the side and saw Leander calling me. I raised a brow at him, curious as to why he wanted my attention. “What?” I asked in a hushed voice. But there’s no difference as the class was buzzing with everyone talking like they’re the ones teaching in front.
“Do you understand a word the teacher’s saying?” he asked.
He scooted his desk closer to me, copying what the other students had done with theirs. The classroom was already a mess with all the chairs and desks scattered all over the place, with crumpled papers and trash on the floor—it was chaotic.
“Yeah,” I murmured. How could I not? I heard the history of the country every damn History class from elementary to senior high. I didn’t need to listen to the teacher to know the rest of what he had to say about the Americans colonizing the Philippines.
Leander pursed his lips before heaving a tired sigh. “It’s so noisy in here. How can anyone learn anything?”
No one wanted to learn. Some might, but not a lot. “Do you think we can eat lunch together?” he asked out of nowhere. “I don’t know anyone here and I’m afraid to eat alone. I heard the cafeteria is a very dangerous place.”
That was the most absurd thing I’d heard yet. “What? What does that mean?”
He moved closer to whisper in my ear. “That’s where the bullies gather. Didn’t you know? And if they see someone as weak as me, I’m sure they’ll bully me to death.”
I wouldn’t be worried if this was just any normal school. But this was North Vale, also known as a rehabilitation school catered for the scummiest of scums. “Sure, we can eat together.”
“Thank you,” Leander said, beaming at me. “You look strong, I mean…you’re a delinquent, right?”
“Did you just judge me?” I asked as I pulled an amused smirk.
He gasped. “No, of course not!” He was panicking after saying things that he thinks I find offensive. “Sorry, I’m not judging you. That was a mistake.”
I cracked a smile to show him I wasn’t affected by what he said. It’s not like he was wrong. I acknowledge the part that I’m strong and that I sometimes use it to intimidate people, but of course, only the bad people that needed beating up. I don’t go around town punching random passersby who didn’t do anything. Only assholes do that, and I’m not one of them.
“I got scared for a second,” Leandro said as he sighed in relief. “I thought you won’t come with me to the cafeteria because of what I said.”
“I’m not that petty,” I said while rolling my eyes at him.
“Great. I can tell you’re a good person. Very different from the others,” Leander commented.
I stared at him. I knew what he’s trying to do. Sticking close to someone strong in order to survive this environment was a wise thing and I commend him for that. I’d do the same thing too if I was in his shoes. I don’t know a thing about this Leander guy but there’s nothing wrong in trusting him…for the meantime. I always had trust issues especially if the person I’m talking to, was a stranger. Before leaving us, mom taught me that the world was too dangerous. Putting your trust in the wrong person could ruin your life.
“Pick the people that you’ll befriend and protect them like family. That’s how I do it.”
Oh, mom. If you only listened to your own words.
The class went out for another hour. By the time the bell rang, I was exhausted. Everyone rushed to get out of the classroom and only Leander and I was left alone. I put my stuff inside my bag before standing up. I didn’t expect sitting in History class doing nothing would make me hungry.
I could eat a horse.
“Let’s go?” Leander urged. He had his bag slung on his shoulder. Wait, what?
“Where are you going?” I asked. Why’s he already carrying his bag? Was he planning on cutting class?
“We need to change classrooms,” he answered, his lips curling into an amused smile.
“What? We do that?”
I looked around the classroom and saw everyone brought their stuff with them when they left. I shrugged my shoulders and grabbed my bag. “This is weird. Do you do this back in your old school?” I inquired. I was genuinely curious about this matter. In my old school, you only get to use that one classroom for the entire year.
“Yes?” Leander said. “I mean, I don’t know. I grew up in an orphanage. We only have a few rooms to study.”
“So how did you know?” I asked.
Leander turned to me. “Didn’t Mr. Montero tell us about it? During the orientation?”
The young, handsome face of Mr. Montero who facilitated North Vale’s entrance exam and hosted the orientation flashed in my mind. Yeah, how could I forget? I didn’t pay much attention when he was talking. I was too bummed that I’m going to be imprisoned in North Vale.
We exited the classroom, heading our way to the cafeteria. The corridors were tall and wide, and the glass windows gave us a magnificent view of the forest that enclosed North Vale. I hated to admit it, but this place was just…amazing. To hide an almost modernized institution with mid-rise buildings that resembled that of a city, it’s mindboggling. It was as if this school was on another dimension like it doesn’t even exist. There was no connection from the outside world—a perfect getaway paradise for people who wanted to hide.
I might not know a lot of things about North Vale, but I could tell it hides dark secrets—secrets I’d rather not know.
I clenched my fists.
The way to the cafeteria was far. We had to use the elevator to get to the first floor where it was located. Thankfully, there were multiple lifts that could take us anywhere we wanted without squeezing with the others who were desperate to get to the cafeteria.
The elevator door parted, and Leander gasped like the drama queen that he was when he saw who was inside. He looked flustered for a second. “O-oh, hello!” he greeted awkwardly, waving a hand at the girl.
I eyed her and remembered she was the same girl we met during the entrance exam. The tall, somber gal who was with her mother.
She lifted her head to look at us, her gaze was as dark as the night. This girl always looked like someone murdered her family. It’s depressing to even be near her.
“Hi,” I greeted as well. It’d be rude if I acted like I didn’t see her. If only Leander ignored this girl, I would have too.
The girl just stared at us before turning her head away. She stood in the corner of the elevator, matching the energy of those Japanese ghosts in horror movies. Her long black hair covered her face. She’s beautiful and tall, very tall and curvy too—but her aura was just…bleak.
Leander stood close to me and it’s so obvious that he’s interested in this girl. He kept glancing at her while rocking his body like he was high on drugs. He wanted to talk to her again but was scared of being ignored. I should know. Stephanie does the same thing too when she wanted someone’s attention but was too scared to do the first move.
I nudged him by the elbow, annoyed with his antics. “What are you doing?” I asked through gritted teeth.
His eyes widened at me. “What?”
“You look like you’re trying not to shit your pants.”
Leander’s mouth dropped, shocked by what I said. “What? Of course not!”
The elevator dinged and the door opened. We let the girl get out first before following her out. It seemed like she was heading to the cafeteria as well. Leander didn’t waste the opportunity and rushed to walk beside her.
“It’s too bad we’re not in the same class, huh?” Leander said. I cringed from how he started the conversation, it was lame.
The girl didn’t pay him any attention and just kept walking. He laughed nervously, sheepishly rubbing the back of his head. I’m sure he’s embarrassed. I was.
“I’m Leander, by the way. We met before…in the orientation. Do you remember?”
“Don’t talk to me,” the girl snapped, shooting Leander a deadly glare. I was surprised to hear her talk. Her voice was very deep, it sounded like it came from the ground.
Leander stopped walking and just watched the girl walk away from us. I didn’t need to look at him to see the dejected smile he had on his face.
“Well, that was awkward,” I murmured.
“Why did I even try?” Leander whined. “I shouldn’t have done that! That was so embarrassing.”
I scoffed. “Yes, I saw.”
I didn’t fail to notice the bandages that were still wrapped around her arms. The bruised though, it’s better than when I saw it before. She was black and blue during the orientation and I wondered if it was because she got into some kind of brawl…or someone beat her up. Judging her over-all presence, she’s not someone who knew how to fight. The girl was taller than most girls in her age but there’s not an ounce of muscle in her that knew how to fight. Of course, I might be wrong. I’m just basing everything about her on pure observation.
Arriving at the cafeteria, I was in awe at how big the hall was. It’s the same size as the gym at my old school. And to think that Leander said this wasn’t just the only cafeteria in this building, it’s insane.
The white-marbled floor clacked as students walked around, grabbing food from the buffet-style counter in the middle of the floor. This was so different from any other schools outside, it’s almost like I’m in some sort of elitist institution. It didn’t help that everyone was wearing the royal-blue blazer and checkered skirts and pants as we belonged in some anime universe that my ex-classmates used to watch. It’s insane.
“Is everything here for free?” I asked Leander.
“Yes, everything’s taken care of by North Vale,” he replied. He guided me to the middle and grabbed the two of us steel trays. “Didn’t you know?”
“I wasn’t really paying attention during the orientation,” I confessed. My focus was on the dozens of different food presented in golden bowls—there was Asian cuisine, Western and Mediterranean…what is this place?
Chicken, beef, pork, and even fish, there were too many selections, and I didn’t even count the desserts placed on the other side of the counter. This was like what they served in those fancy hotels. Given that I haven’t been in one, I watched too many telenovelas to know.
“North Vale really loves to show off their wealth,” Leander whispered in my ear. “But if you ask me, it’s a little suspicious where they get all this money.”
“Aren’t they being supported by the government?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Do you really think our government can afford to sponsor a place as gaudy as this? Almost half of the students that go here come from very wealthy families, like very wealthy—some are even sons and daughters of prominent politicians.”
I raised a brow at him. “Is that so?”
I took a scoop of rice on my plate while still listening to what Leander had to say about North Vale. I had no idea how he knew this stuff about the infamous school, but I reckoned he made some sort of research about it. I would as well if I wasn’t too lazy about everything that’s connected to North Vale. I hated that I was forced to go to this hellhole. My perception of this school changed when I discovered Liam was here. Call me crazy but my world just becomes a better place now that I met Liam.
He’s everything that I wanted.
“Anyway, this place is strange,” Leander finished. We were now on our way to find a vacant table which was not difficult as the place could host weddings that could invite the whole village. It’s that big. “We should be careful. They’re breeding monsters here.”
I tried not to roll my eyes. After meeting two of them yesterday, I believed Leander.
“It’ll be better if the two of us sticks together, I mean—”
We looked at the guy who suddenly screamed and witnessed him pushing a couple of others who were getting their food to eat lunch. I was about to stand up (damn you, reflex) but Leander was quick to stop me.
“What are you doing?” he asked, his eyes suddenly going fierce.
The guy who just forced himself to be in line first kicked the one he pushed and God, I had to restrain myself from charging at the f*cker to give him his own medicine. That was f*cked up.
“I’m going to save that guy,” I replied.
“Are you crazy?” Leander barked. “Keep your head down and eat!”
I noticed no one reacted to what just happened, not even the girls who were sitting beside us. They were just eating their salad, busy browsing their phones and listening to music in their AirPods.
“Stay here, Isaiah. For our safety,” he added. He took his hand off me and beckoned me to sit back down.
I did, dejectedly. I stared at the guy who was probably as big as that gorilla, Keanne. He had silver hair and tanned skin, his black eyes glaring at anyone who tried to fight back. Everyone made way for him as he walked like a king followed by his posse. It’s disgusting to watch this kind of scene. I’m sure what I witnessed was nothing compared to what North Vale still had to offer. This was just the tip of the iceberg.
“How could anyone just sit there and do nothing?” I asked. My palms were twitching to start a fight but for Leander’s sake, I decided not to as I didn’t want to do anything that would thwart my supposed to be behavioral correction period. I still need to prove to dad that all this was unnecessary.
“This is normal here. Major power-tripping, the survival of the fittest stuff, you know?” he said in a hushed voice. “The weak are used to being trampled.”
I gritted my teeth. “That’s irritating.”
“I know but no one cares. This is a prison,” Leander said in a matter-of-fact voice.
I smirked. “You were fairly excited before, weren’t you?”
Leander laughed dryly. “I’ll do anything to get out of the orphanage. And North Vale’s one of the easiest ways.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. For some reason, I didn’t believe that.
My stomach was satisfied with the food North Vale had but that’s it. There’s nothing else redeeming about this place, nothing. Well, maybe except for the beautiful view and the modernized buildings and clean environment—then there’s nothing more.
“We still have ten minutes. Do you want to go to the library?” Leander asked.
“What? People still go to the library?”
He gasped. “Of course. People like us. Let’s go.”
“Fine. There’s nothing better to do anyway,” I said to myself.
Taking our bags with us, we left the cafeteria in haste. Leander couldn’t wait to get out of that place. I’m sure he was spooked after seeing that little bullying incident that happened in the cafeteria.
I thought it would take us another ten minutes to get to the library. There’s one on the sixth floor, the same place where the connecting bridge to the juvenile building was. For a second, I briefly wondered if I could sneak past the bridge to get to where Liam was.
But finding him would take time. And I couldn’t risk missing any of my classes. It’s my first day. I promised my dad I’d behave here.
But still—it’s Liam, damn it.
I could do anything for that guy.
We stepped out of the elevator and walked into another spacious and long corridor. I saw the hallway to the juvenile building thanks to the signage posted on the walls. The library was straight ahead, and I figured I’d make a quick detour before following Leander.
“Hey, go on first. I need to take a leak.”
He gasped dramatically. “You’re leaving me?!”
I groaned at him. Wow, I didn’t expect this guy to be a drama queen. “What? You want to come with me to the toilet?”
“Fine, hurry up. I’ll be waiting for you,” he said, shooing me.
Once I made sure Leander couldn’t see me, I marched my way to the juvenile department. I wasn’t particularly nervous to step into a new department where the country’s teen murderers, rapists, and psychos were gathered to study. I’m confident with my strength and all. What I’m nervous about was the thought of running into Liam in some random corridor. My heart would drop.
I walked through the empty corridors, confused as to why there were no students roaming around. It’s different from how it was in my department where there were people every corner of the corridors.
But I realized everyone was busy eating lunch.
I didn’t know what came over me, but I decided to go the other direction. I was walking to where the restroom was but something inside me screamed to go to the other side. I turned around the corner and gasped when someone suddenly bumped into me.
My heart skipped a beat when I smelled that familiar, intoxicating scent that hit my nose the instant I held the person’s arm.
F*ck, it’s Liam!
“Woah, Liam?” I immediately noticed his face was as white as a sheet. I looked around the place and saw there was no one. What the—? What’s he doing here? And why did he look like he’s going to faint? “What the hell happened to you?”
He gasped. He raised his head to look me in the eye and I could see the horror registering at those beautiful grey orbs of his. But I stopped admiring him when I saw the blood on his clothes. “Wait, is that blood? Wha—?”
Liam’s lips trembled. “N-no…don’t let them see…!”
What? See? No one’s there to see, we’re all alone. He tried to get out of my grasp, but I didn’t let him. “Hey, calm down. What’s wrong? Are you alright?”
His hand was so cold, it almost burned me. I didn’t need to ask any more questions to know that something was wrong with him. Liam appeared to be distraught. He was sweating bullets and was panting hard as if he couldn’t catch his breath—it’s scary.
“Please, please…!” Liam begged, holding into me with shaking hands.
To see him like this broke my heart. I wanted to punch the lights out of the person who did this to him. Instead of pressing him for more information as to why he was like this, I took his hand and dragged him back to where I came from. I didn’t give a damn if I’m doing something that’s punishable. Right now, I wanted to make sure Liam was alright.
I had to calm him down.
The restroom would be a good place. Maybe a cold-water splash on his face might help.
The urge to protect this person from whatever evil was out there to get him grew strong every time I see him. I just wanted to keep him close to me to make sure he’d be alright every time he wakes up.
It’s incredibly ridiculous how I could be this attached to a person I barely know, as I’ve stated a hundred times before, but Liam’s presence just completed me. Every time he’s with me, it felt like I’m at peace.
His gentle demeanor and warm smile captivated me the moment I saw him. And I knew that under that compassionate smile hides a broken soul that I wanted to mend so bad…
All of a sudden, I noticed his hand slipping away from mine. I turned around only to realize he was about to collapse. But before he could fall to the ground, I managed to catch him. I hugged him close to me, my heart beating so fast out of fear that he’d hit his head.
“Jesus, what the f*ck?! Liam!” I tapped his cheek to wake him up, but it was futile. He was out cold. I didn’t think twice about carrying him like a princess, running back to where Leander was.
Damn it all, I’m so going to beat up the person who did this to him!
// latest chapters are available on Patreon (uncensored) and Radish (censored).
// UNCENSORED VERSION IS ONLY AVAILABLE ON PATREON AND ONCE THE BOOK IS COMPLETED, YOU CAN EITHER BUY THE PDF COPY (UNCENSORED OF COURSE) OR THE EBOOK ON AMAZON.
// thanks for everyone who’s supporting me on Patreon and Radish!
// if you wanna get the early access of my books + a lot more rewards such as reading sneak peeks and exclusive books that are not going to be posted anywhere but Patreon, click the link: patreon.com/ellesugi.
// and please if you can, support me on Patreon. any kind of financial support will be a big help for me to continue being a full time writer.
// as always, thank you. :)