Published at 27th of December 2018 03:29:31 PM

Chapter 2

"Those aren't mine nor my coach's…" I explained without any sense of guilt while sitting in the conference room of the board .

" . . . Before the competition started, the contestants were asked to wait in the hallway . I was sitting on the long bench when a girl suddenly dropped her envelope . Its contents scattered on the floor . I helped her pick it up and the papers fell . That's how I had a glimpse of those printed layouts" I added confidently .

My mind brought me back to what happened earlier . Clearly, I just wanted to confirm if the contents in the envelope were the same with those that were given to us in the competition . And here I was few hours after, in front of twelve people trying to clear my innocence . Since I was confident that I didn't do anything wrong, I didn't tremble a bit .

"When the competition started and the links and articles were revealed, I noticed that those were the same ones I saw earlier . I know perfectly well that those are supposed to be confidential and shouldn't be given to any contestants before the competition . Seems like she was cheating, but I wasn't sure of that yet . That's why I tried to check it again when I saw the envelope in the bench during break . "

"And that is when Mr . Lagdameo saw you right?" The Chairman of the Board asked .

"Yeah right . "

I frowned when I remembered him—Darryl Lemmuel Lagdameo . I heard these adults talking about him earlier before we started, as if that boy was some kind of a celebrity or whatsoever . I even managed to know his full name just by listening to their unending stories about him . Not that I care much, truth was— just the thought of him made me want to vomit out of disgust .

"Well, thank you for explaining yourself Miss Dugmoch" The Chairman spoke with formality . "Actually, we have already investigated your case and have found your innocence . We just wanted to hear your side as a witness in this case . Also, we are a bit worried knowing that you passed out earlier . You think you can still continue throughout the competition?" He asked with some sense of concern .

I blushed a bit out of shame . I didn't know that my fake fainting had reached their knowledge . Was my acting that great that rumours about it spread as fast like wildfire?

"Well, I think it was a nausea I got from the long trip . You see, we came from a very far district . "

I glanced towards the direction of my coach who sat on a chair beside me quietly . I gave him a sign to confirm what I just said and in return, he nodded hastily in front of the Board in agreement, but didn't say a word . Did coach Gem just lost his tongue?

Well, all I said was true . It took us twenty hours by land to get here, imagine the long drive we've come through . The competition we were attending was held in the capital city where they were commonly sponsored . We were on a STEP conference this time—a competition for student technologists and entrepreneurs . In this competition, all schools in different parts of the region competes in different kinds of contests like bartending, cake making, painting, embroidery, dance sports, publishing etc .

I was here for the desktop publishing contest where I needed to do a layout for a publication . A contest like this isn't new to me . I used to travel here in the city almost every two or three months to join one but this was the first time some beast accused me of some cheating . Did he even know I was from Rivendell? I wanted to slap that truth to his face . The nerve!

"I see . In that case I think you need to rest then . I'll dismiss you now, so you can go and find your room assignments . "

"Thank you, Chairman," I replied gratefully . My coach shook hands with the Chairman and some of the Board members before we headed out the room .

When we were already alone outside, my coach sighed in relief . I looked at him with a sad smile knowing that I caused him too many inconveniences today .

"You did a great job earlier at the Board," he praised me when he noticed my uneasiness .

"Thanks Mr . Gem, I'm really sorry for earlier . " I pouted like a baby in front of him . I did it to escape his fury for the trouble I made .

"It's okay girl . Also, you did me a favor earlier . When you hit me badly, the coach of San Sebastian High ran to my aid and held me in his arms!" He narrated with shining eyes .

I rolled my eyes at the sight of him being delighted with the incident . I almost thought he would nag all throughout the night over my silliness this morning . Never did I expect that the coach that meddled with us earlier would be my saving glory .

"San Sebastian High?" I asked as soon as I realized that the school's name sounded familiar . "Isn't that the school that always win as the overall champion in this competition?"

"Oh yes . That's why their coach is popular because of his expertise and his muscles" He said with full admiration in his face . "Wait a minute! Why did you try to punch that Lagdameo kid earlier?"

"Eh? because he was so distrustful and he made me a culprit . He was so harsh and threatened to eat me alive! " I narrated with fear all over my face . Of course, I faked the emotions . I knew coach will side with me when he realized how much trauma that jerk created .

"Errr—really?" He looked at me with suspicion and narrowed his eyes . Since he has been my coach for the last three years, then he might have known that I was exaggerating it . He knows me pretty well .

"But Coach, aren't you the one who taught me that?" I added as soon as I realized that he was not convinced over my drama .

"Taught you what?"

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"That if I couldn't make a deal with words, then I should make the deal with swords! I just used my hand as a sword instead," I chinned up and put my hands on my hips while reminding him .

"Did I teach you that?" He questioned while trying to escape my gaze . His face was full of guilt .

"Coach! Xhem!" A familiar voice called over . A young boy with curly hair ran towards our direction . Ziggy's grey eyes were shining at the sight of us . He almost lost his breath when he stopped in front of us .

Another boy was walking behind Ziggy with his hands on his pocket and another hand on a bag . Like the latter, he had fair complexion, but he had long hair that was neatly tied . His ocean blue eyes and Roman nose gave him an Adonis look .

"Hey boys!" Mr . Gem was also delighted to see them . Before we entered the conference room earlier, he sent them a text about our situation . Ziggy and Huzey are my classmates and best friends . They have constantly been my companions for as long as I can remember, especially in competitions like this .

"Xhem, are you okay? I heard you had trouble," Huzey asked me with concern . I could tell that he was worried from his eyes .

"Oh, she's fine . Also, she always gets in trouble so she sure is used to it . " Mr . Gem assured both of them .

I smiled towards Huzey and he tapped my head to cheer me up a bit . Huzey has always been like this . Even though he's older than me, he treats me like a little sister who needs his protecting .

"Mr . Gem, we went to the information area and got our room numbers already" Ziggy informed our coach . "It's on Annex 8, room 206 . I believe that's on the third floor of the university dormitories . "

"We should go there now so you guys can rest," Mr . Gem suggested as he glanced on his wrist watch . "We still have an hour before dinner, so let's head there so you kids can take even a few minutes nap" .

While walking towards the university dorm, Mr . Gem told the boys in detail about the incident involving that beast .

Both boys went to an early orientation for their respective competitions when the incident happened . I was the only one who had a competition earlier; that's why coach was with me . He made sure first that the boys were settled in the orientation before accompanying me to the competition area this morning . However, because I was sent to the clinic and was later called to the Board, he was not able to attend on them the whole afternoon . He ended up asking them to wait for us and get our room numbers and meal tickets instead .

"This is it, room 206," Ziggy pointed to the room in front of us . The door was wide open, and I could see a couple of students inside .

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I frowned as soon as I realized that the room was not exclusive for us . As I was about to convey my disapproval, Mr . Gem and the boys already entered the room .

"Hello everyone!" Our coach greeted the crowd in a buoyant mood .

"Hello Coach Gem! " A couple of students replied . Our coach, for some reason, is also popular so it's normal for most students to recognize him .

"Rivendell Academy, right? " A woman with red hair, and probably in her mid-twenties, approached us . "I'm Miss Lin, assistant coach in this team . We are glad to share this room with you guys . "

"Mr . Gem De Silva" Our coach formally replied before reaching out her hand . "You may call me Gem . Also, this is Huzey, Ziggy, and Xhem" .

"The four beds at the corner are available . Feel comfortable here with us," She replied warmly . "By the way, we are going down for our meals, would you like to join us?" .

"You guys go ahead first . I'll have my kids unpacked their things first before having dinner"

" Okay, suit yourselves," She answered before instructing her students . "Kids let's go . Also, can one of you inform the other students and coaches from our team that we are going down to eat?"

" Yes Miss . "

A minute after, only the three of us were left in the room . I dragged myself to an empty bed in one corner and unpacked my stuffed animal, Cryzer . Cryzer is a cute lamb that my grandfather gave me when I was three . Since then, he has been with me constantly especially when I go out of town .

"Bathroom directions and bathing schedules are in here" Ziggy instructed while checking out a small green board placed in the corner . Since it is a one-week competition and several students from different schools participate, it's only practical to have bathing schedules to cater such number .

"I didn't know that we have a company . " I started while crossing my legs as I sat on the bed . I gazed to the coach's direction and added, "You didn't mention . "

This was the first time that Mr . Gem decided to settle us in university dormitories . Ever since we started competing, we always have the privilege to stay in nice hotels, not until now .

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"Is it a big deal?" He didn't bother to look . He picked up his phone and busied himself with it .

"Nope . It's just that I didn't know" Actually this was the first time I would be sleeping in room with a couple of people . There are ten double decks in this room and I saw an extra mattress spread out neatly on the floors . To be honest, sleeping in a room with a couple of people didn't bother me . But sleeping in a room with strangers—a lot of them—did bother me .

"We are only four in a team . This room will look empty if we keep it to ourselves . " Huzey said calmly . I know he was trying to convince me to let the issue pass . However, I was already frustrated when Mr . Gem told us days ago that we would be staying in university dorms . Much to my frustration, I needed to squeeze myself in a room with people that I don't know .

"Also, this competition has a lot of students this year . Thus, they need a small team like us to share rooms with other teams . " Huzey continued while unpacking his things .

"What team is that coach by the way?" Ziggy asked while retreating to a bed beside me . He finished checking the green board and decided to unpack .

"San Sebastian High" This time, the coach put down his phone and gazed towards the three of us .

"The school who always win as the overall champion?" Ziggy confirmed with amusement .

"Yes, and this is the reason why we are not staying in a hotel this time," he explained . "To be able to mingle with the top team will be a good experience for the three of you"

"San Sebastian is a big team . I heard that in each contest they have a participant . There are at least fifty contests in this whole conference . In my calculations, the people here earlier were only fifteen to sixteen . I believe the organizers gave them at least two or three rooms to cater their students and coaches . This must be one of their rooms . " Huzey calculated while lying on his bed comfortably with both arms supporting the back of his head .

I thought of it as I decided to lie down and hugged Cryzer on my bed .

San Sebastian High is a great school and they always made it to the top when it comes to competitions . That school has a very strict admission process and the only qualification they require is your brain, regardless of what social class you come from . Thus, San Sebastian High is known for its brilliance and standard education, but not for luxury since most of their students are from either the low or the average class .

Our school on the other hand is different . It is an exclusive school for rich kids with above average IQ—not necessarily geniuses but advanced kids . Throughout the generations, Rivendell Academy has been dominated by the wealthy class and it hasn't changed till now . But due to the peculiarity of every student they require, only a few gets admitted . That's why we have a small population and that fact alone disqualifies us for being an overall champion .

At the thought of this, I fell asleep . An hour later, the boys woke me up and we headed out to have dinner . The canteen was in the first floor of the dormitory, so we took the stairs down to get our meals . When we reached the counter where the foods are displayed, I was stunned by what I saw .