//this chapter is censored
Paolo carefully watched me while I wait for Tyler to answer the call. We were on our way to the city to take a little break from the job my older brother gave me. Martinez was adamant about going to a particular mall just outside Manila and we all knew why he really came with us.
It’s to meet a girl he’s planning to f*ck.
Typical Martinez. His family consisted of perverts. If it wasn’t for his father’s wealth, he would have been a nobody.
There were lots of students that committed heinous crimes attending North Vale and most of them belonged to the upper-class society. Backed up with their family’s money, they could do anything he wanted without facing any consequences.
It’s scary how money and power corrupt the minds of these so-called teenagers. Capable of doing vicious things to other people just because they could, it’s disgusting.
But then again, who am I to talk?
My family was the worst of them all.
Compared to me, Martinez would be a damn saint.
Finally, Tyler answered the call after a couple of rings. The second he picked up the call, I heard the North Vale headmistress’ voice from a distance.
“Hurry it up, Tyler.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I gulped. Tyler absolutely hated being interrupted when he’s with the headmistress. “What?” he snapped.
“Did you finish the job?”
I think he already knew the answer to that. Tyler always had his eyes on me wherever I go—with men deployed all around the place I go to, they report every activity I had whenever I’m outside North Vale. And even when I’m at school, he’s constantly watching over me, making sure I wouldn’t do anything that’d endanger the Torres-Shao group. Ever since dad gave Tyler the task to train me, he’s been driving me crazy. It felt like I’d been living in constant fear thanks to my older brother’s obsessed acts. It’s as if I had a collar around my neck and a leash connected to Tyler’s hand.
“Yes,” I said. “We’re on our way to Bulacan. Something came up.”
I quickly noticed the change in his tone, and I cringed. He’s angry. Of course, he was. When was Tyler never angry anyway? “Kenneth wants you to sleep at his place before going back tomorrow.”
“Does he need a reason to see you, little brother?” he sarcastically asked. “I—”
His voice was replaced by Maria and I shuddered upon hearing her deep yet sensual tone. “Don’t worry about Tyler, Liam,” she said, and I could picture that infamous smirk she always wears. Maria Blaise Aquino was a terrifying woman, not because she was the headmistress of North Vale but because she was a part of the Blaise family, one of the biggest and most powerful Mafia group in the world. And to think that the Torres-Shao had some sort of connection with such an overwhelming family frightens me.
I didn’t know what kind of relationship Maria had with Tyler but I’d rather not know. They were always together when given the chance. Tyler acted like Maria’s bodyguard or something, often following her around like a dog. Ever since we were children, my brothers had been close to Maria and her family as we lived in one neighborhood. The Aquino house was just a couple of blocks away from ours and my older brothers would pull me along to play with Maria.
It didn’t bother me that she was years older than us. She always acted mature—an older kind of sister that always takes care of us. She was strict with my brothers when they attended North Vale before. A lot of students fear her and it didn’t help that a demon was always behind her, silently protecting her from the shadows.
“You can do whatever you want while you’re outside,” Maria informed. My eyes lit up and Paolo quickly noticed it as he had been watching closely watching me while I call my older brother. “I’ll take care of Tyler for you.”
“B-but—” I was ready to beg Maria not to let me do it, afraid of receiving Tyler’s punishment once I come back to North Vale.
I didn’t want that.
“You can come back on Tuesday. Have a little fun, okay?”
“Mistress, what are you—?”
I braced myself, waiting for Tyler to quip in. He might be obedient to Maria, but when it comes to me, he’s ready to talk back to her.
“Ssh,” she shushed. “Didn’t I tell you not to talk when I’m talking?” That immediately shut Tyler up. And for the first time, I was thankful for Maria’s existence. “Come back on Tuesday and then we’ll talk, okay?”
“Be a good boy, Liam.”
Maria hung up the phone. I sighed in relief. I thought Tyler would demand me to come back as soon as possible now that my job was done. But Maria knew better that I needed a little break before coming back to North Vale. I’d been Tyler’s punching bag for a week now and any more than that and I’d definitely lose it. Again. It takes a lot of effort and sheer will power to control the demon inside me. Only a few people knew how to get it out and unfortunately, Tyler was one of them. Training the demon would ensure the Torres-Shao would keep its place at the top of the hierarchy, and dad would do anything to remain powerful, whatever it takes.
Whatever it takes.
I looked out the window, putting my phone back in my pocket. I could still feel Paolo’s gaze on me. He had lots of things he wanted to ask me, but he knew better not to say anything about the Torres-Shao when we’re in the presence of others. Paolo’s always asking me how I’m doing every time I talk to Tyler. He’s aware of the abuse and tortures my older brother had been subjecting me to and even if he wanted to help, he couldn’t do anything against Tyler.
This was all for the Torres-Shao’s sake.
I snapped out of my trance, slightly gasping when Paolo woke me up from my slumber. I looked around and saw we were parked in the basement parking lot. I held my head, running my fingers through my hair. “Where are we?” I asked.
“At the mall,” he answered. “Martinez and the others already went out.”
I rolled my eyes. They couldn’t even wait to get out, huh? Understandable. We had been locked inside a prison-like school for a long time. Anyone would be excited to see other people than us. “Is he going to meet the girl?”
Paolo shrugged his shoulders. “Apparently. He’s really looking forward to meeting her. She must be beautiful.”
It made me laugh at how deadpan Paolo said those words. He looked at me with a small smile. Now that it’s just the two of us in the vehicle, he could finally say what’s been bothering him ever since I called Tyler.
“Is everything alright with the president?” he asked.
By president he meant Tyler. He was the current student council president and if that wasn’t enough to scare people, I’m sure they haven’t been personally punished by the president. He was regarded as the warden, the person who’s on top. He oversees everything in the senior high department and would teach the students who needed discipline on how to obey orders. It’s tough to guide people who already committed crimes. They weren’t scared of anything anymore, not even the authorities. But they knew what Tyler could do. One wrong move and they would end up with their organs missing and would be forced to live the rest of their lives…miserable and worthless.
“Yeah,” I said with a sigh. “The headmistress told me that we can come back on Tuesday.”
“So, we’re allowed to miss one day of school, huh?”
I nodded. “She says I need to take a little break.”
“Well, you did a good job dealing with the Cagadas. Even if you didn’t—”
I groaned, pouting at Paolo. “I don’t want to f*ck anyone.” At least…not yet.
Because he existed to protect me from the excruciating pain that it caused permanent damage not only in my body but in my head as well. It was the only way for me to cope up with the intense pain that would me up, over and over, not stopping until I was bleeding to death, down on the cold floor with nothing to hold on to.
I wanted to die.
But they wouldn’t let me.
They’d do it again.
Until I lose myself.
And when I woke up, all I could see were mutilated bodies surrounding me.
The testament of his existence.
He wouldn’t let me forget.
He’d make me remember it.
The exhilarating feeling of gauging their eyes out, murdering them in cold blood.
“I exist to protect you. Because no one else will.”
“Let’s not talk about that, okay?” I said, smiling at Paolo. “Tonight, we can do anything we want.”
Paolo stared at me for a second. And through those bleak dark eyes of his, I could see the worry he had for me. “Alright,” he said, smiling back at me. “What do you even want to do, Liam?”
It makes me feel good whenever he calls me by my name. Not with the boss that everyone usually refers me to. I’m not the leader of the Torres-Shao group. They didn’t need to address me like my father or brothers.
I’m just Liam.
I want to be just Liam.
“Hmm, eat? Maybe play arcade?”
It’s been so long since I last played in the arcade. Tyler wouldn’t let me do anything fun. He thinks I enjoy it when he forces me to watch his men beat someone up, whipping them until there’s nothing but a glob of bloody mass, or worse…witnessing someone be defiled—ripping them into half as he let his people feast upon their bodies like beasts—I closed my eyes to stop myself from remembering all the horrible things Tyler made me watch ever since I was a kid.
“You’re so childish,” Paolo teased. “Come on, let’s go eat first.”
Sliding the door open, he waited for me to get out first. He locked the vehicle before facing me. When he saw how amazed I was to see a real mall, not like the ones in North Vale where they only offer branded stuff like it’s the Rodeo Drive, this was the real deal. I wouldn’t lie, I’m skittish to see things I haven’t seen before. I’d been living a sheltered life for a long time that I’m acting like a kid about to enter uncharted territory, it’s silly.
“You’re excited, aren’t you?” Paolo commented, pinching my cheek to wake me up from my trance.
I grinned at him. “Yeah, I am.”
“Let’s go,” he urged, pulling me by the hand like a kid that I was.
While walking to the entrance, I couldn’t help but notice people glancing at me. I blinked, confused as to why they were looking at me like I’m an animal in a zoo.
Was it because Paolo kept holding my hand even though we look like we’re the same age? The only difference was that I was smaller compared to him, but only a couple of centimeters. I wasn’t exactly…bigger than the others but I wasn’t bothered by it.
No one in North Vale questions my height. Or maybe because they were afraid to even talk about it.
I suddenly felt conscious of it.
I tried tugging my hand back from Paolo, but he wouldn’t let me. “Hey, let go.”
We went through the entrance and he still wasn’t letting go of me. “I can’t let you get lost,” he said. “Your sense of direction sucks, Liam.”
I playfully glared at him. “Blame that on Tyler,” I said. He wouldn’t let me go without anyone guarding me, often guiding me wherever I go. I hated being spoiled but they wouldn’t let me go without any bodyguards looking after me.
When will they ever stop treating me like a prince?
Wait, not a prince.
I’m more than a prisoner than royalty.
There were rows of fast food and restaurant filled with people going in and out of stores, idly roaming the place looking for things they could spend the money on. “Where do you want to eat?”
I had no idea where to go. It frustrated me that everything looked…foreign to me. How many years had I lived in North Vale that I ended up like this? A teenager who knew nothing about the world.
“You pick,” I said to avoid the pressure of picking a restaurant.
Paolo guided me to a ramen restaurant. There weren’t any people inside, and I loved that the place was almost empty. Paolo opened the door for me, and we were greeted by the staff welcoming us.
“Hi, welcome. How many people?” the waiter asked, pulling a menu from the podium.
I let Paolo do the talking. “Two,” he simply said. The waited broadly smiled at us and led us to one of the vacant tables. He let us sit first before handing us the hard-bounded menu.
I flipped it open and stared at a dozen different kinds of ramen that were available for us to eat. North Vale had lots of restaurants inside from different cuisines that would satisfy everyone’s palate but eating outside the school brought some sort of fulfillment—like I was living a normal life that I always wanted to have.
“What do you want?” Paolo asked, eyeing me.
The waiter turned to my direction, waiting for me to tell him what I wanted to eat. I was hesitant to tell him what I wanted to order but I pointed at a random ramen menu that I think was tasty. “One order of black king ramen. How about a drink, sir?” he asked, still smiling courtly at me.
“Uh,” I fumbled through the menu, flustered that I had no idea what drink to order.
“We have iced tea, canned soft drinks, coke, sprite, root beer. Maybe you want juice? Shake?”
“He’ll get fresh orange juice if you have one,” Paolo interrupted, saving me from the overzealous waiter. “I’ll have the red king, and a bottle of beer.”
The waiter nodded, jotting down our order in his notepad. “Anything else?”
Leaving us to ourselves, I sighed in relief. “What will I ever do without you?” I asked.
“Can’t the young master order his own food?” Paolo mocked, smirking at me. “Or are you that dependent?”
“Shut up,” I muttered. I looked outside the glass windows and watched people walk, living their lives as normal as they could. I envied how they were blessed with a mundane life, worrying about trivial stuff that didn’t involve killing or being killed.
How wonderful, huh?
“What are you thinking?” Paolo inquired.
I smiled a little. “How amazing it will be to live like them.”
“Are you jealous of them?”
Paolo was the only person I could tell my feelings to. I trust he wouldn’t report this back to Tyler. Before he became his attendant, Paolo was my friend first.
There’s a lot of things I could tell him about.
And he’d keep it to himself and bring it to his grave.
“Yeah, I am,” I admitted. “They don’t need to worry about my family.”
Paolo chuckled. “They have other things to worry about. Like money.”
I leaned my back against the seat and smiled a little. “Money, huh?”
My family had too much money that it’s becoming a problem for them.
How ironic, huh?
The ramen was delicious and filling. Though the orange juice wasn’t as fresh as I thought it would be, I was more than glad to be able to eat at such a normal place. Growing up in a household that wanted nothing but the best of the best, I was used to eating gourmet foods from breakfast until dinner that it’s getting boring for me.
I craved other food, unhealthy food to be exact.
“Thanks,” I said to Paolo as he paid for our dinner. “That was really good.”
He scoffed. “Didn’t you eat in one of the finest ramen restaurants in Japan? The one with the Michelin star?”
I cringed. “It was good but…this is better,” I said, shyly. “My taste sucks, I guess.”
“I think you’re just too used to eating five-star quality food,” Paolo retorted.
“Where to next?”
I looked around and saw the escalator leading to the second floor. I wanted to see everything, go into stores, and see if something catches my eye. “Let’s go upstairs.”
I followed Paolo to the escalator, and he let me step in first before he could follow. As it ascends, I could see a variety of stores offering different kinds of stuff—clothing shops, shoe stores, and a bunch more. I was excited to visit each and every one of them.
I arrived at the top but was bumped into a couple of old people trying to catch the escalator.
“Hurry! They’ll leave without us!”
For a second, I was confused as people surrounded me before disappearing into the escalator. I looked around and found myself alone.
I walked further, hoping to find Paolo waiting for me but to my surprise, he wasn’t there.
I immediately took my phone out and rang his number. I started walking, my heart beating from my chest.
No, I’m not lost.
A couple of rings and Paolo wasn’t answering his phone.
God damn it.
Where could he be?
Walking around the place, I decided to just look around for him, praying that I’d find him as soon as possible.
I was too busy thinking about how I’d go back to Paolo that I didn’t notice a guy walking straight in front of me. Our shoulders bumped against each other, but I didn’t bother apologizing as I was worried that I wouldn’t find Paolo.
I dreaded to let Tyler discover that I got lost in a damn mall.
I stopped and quickly turned around, my eyes widening at the person who called me. For a brief second, I was mesmerized at how beautiful the guy. He was slender, a little bit taller than I am and his deep brown eyes staring into mine captivated my whole being.
There’s something about this person that could see right through me and I felt vulnerable. His little sharp gaze sent delightful shivers down my spine and it excites me to know that there’s a person out there who could wake up my inner desires—something I thought disappeared after being exposed to all the depraved things my brother planned for me.
I wonder if he could really see right through me.
“How about we test it, huh?”
I inwardly gasped, surprised to hear his voice all of a sudden. My heart began to beat faster than usual.
Returning my attention at the guy, we wore a public-school uniform and yet looked as magnificent as—it’s impossible to even compare him to anyone, that would be blasphemous.
I wanted to touch him, to sink my teeth into that golden-brown skin of his, to smell his scent and—
“I want him.”
No. Stop talking.
Calm down, Liam.
There’s no reason for him to come out.
I’m not in danger.
“Yes?” I asked, quickly recomposing myself to look like his presence didn’t just shatter my whole existence.
I noticed a slight hint of blush appearing into his cheeks and it made me smile. I hid it from him before he could see it. It’d be creepy if I smile without a reason.
I’d turn into Tyler.
“Y-you…you bumped into me,” he said, his voice small and shy. I didn’t expect him to sound like that.
“Oh, really?” I asked, feigning innocence. I did bump into him and it was my fault one hundred percent. I wasn’t looking where I was going and to be honest, I was thankful I didn’t. I wouldn’t have talked to this astonishing person if it wasn’t for that. “I’m sorry.”
I felt my phone vibrating inside my pocket, and it woke me up from my reverie. I forgot that I was lost.
Smiling at the guy, I regretted turning around to leave but I had to. Paolo’s looking for me and if he couldn’t find me in the next few minutes, I’m sure he’d call the whole Torres-Shao group to come and look for me.
It would only mean another embarrassment for the family and maybe twenty to thirty lashings from my dear older brother.
The thought definitely woke me up from my reverie.
I took my phone out and answered Paolo’s call. “Jesus, where the hell are you, Liam?!”
I could hear the panic in his voice. Paolo never panics unless it involves me. “Sorry, I was…I was lost.”
“You’re the only one I know who can get lost while riding an escalator,” he said through gritted teeth. “I can see you. Stay where you are. Don’t move, you understand?”
I nodded. I hung up the phone and stared at my feet. Looking back, the guy that managed to capture my attention was already gone.
I wonder what his name was.
“Hey,” Paolo called, tapping my shoulder and forcing me to look at him, “don’t ever, ever disappear from my sight again, do you understand?” I stared at him, my cheeks getting hot as I recalled those sharp eyes that pierced through my heart. Paolo raised a brow, bemused by my reaction. “What happened?”
“I think…” I stopped and held my chest, my heart beating so fast as the feeling of elation eat my whole body.
What? Why am I feeling like this?
“What, Liam? Are you alright?”
…even the demon inside me woke up just because of that guy.
“I want to know him.”
Yeah, me too.
Eyeing Paolo, I muttered, “I think…I’m sick.”
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