People queued to exit the football field, and because of that Rayven and I got separated and left me alone walking with strangers. I let the people before me to go out first since I was not in a hurry to flee the area.
Pulling out my phone to kill some time, I tapped on my social media apps and browsed them. While scrolling up my newsfeed, I noticed that the two girls remained in the bleacher area. They were both wearing the L.O.M.S. uniform – white blouse and knee-length blue skirt.
They were trying to lower down their voice while gossiping on something. Unfortunately for them, I could hear bits and pieces of their conversation. It started about boys they have a crush on La Orden Academy. Then it escalated to their fellow schoolmate who skipped a few days of classes until their teacher went to the parents to check on the status of the student.
To the teacher's surprise, the parents were also on disarray. They just received a text from their daughter telling them that she wanted to move out of their house and go to the big city. The parents were not convinced with the text since it was out of their daughter's character to do it. They were planning to file a missing person report to the police station soon.
Moved by my curiosity, since we also had a similar case of "missing" student, I walked over to them. Noticing that a strange person came over at them, they halted their conversation and looked differently at me.
"Hi! I can't help but overhear your conversation. But if I heard it right, you have a missing schoolmate, is that right?"
The two of them looked at each other, and the one with ponytail raised her brow at me.
"Yeah, what is it your concern?" she asked irritably.
"Umm..." I stammered since I was also caught off guard by her question. So I lied to her. "...o-oh I'm part of the La Orden Academy's school newspaper. I just want to check if your schoolmate's disappearance has any link with our missing student also."
The two of them looked again at each other. While my hands began to sweat, I wasn't sure if I pulled a convincing act to them.
Then the girl beside the pony-tailed girl opened her mouth.
"Her name is Jane Manobo. She's a junior in our senior high school department, and she stopped going to school last week. But some people think she moved out of her parents' house, though if you're going to talk to her parents, they will tell you otherwise. Personally, I do believe her parents. I sometimes saw her at school, but she seems not the type who will run from their house."
"What made you say so?"
"Jane was your typical shy and nerdy girl. She's also part of their honor class based on what I heard. So yeah, if we're going to use her parents' word, it's out of her character to do it all of sudden."
Looking not convince on her reasoning, I looked at her friend expectantly just to check if she would want to add anything. But she suddenly grabbed her friend's arm and stood from her seat.
"C'mon, we gotta go now. Sorry, it's not our place to divulge further information about her. If you want to know more, I guess you should go and talk to her parents." Both of them fled from me, leaving me alone with my thoughts seeking for more information.
Pouting at myself, I exited also the area and tried to call and text Rayven. But he was not answering my calls or my text. I supposed I have to walk alone again. But since I will be sinking myself with a couple of essays I have to submit tomorrow, I thought I should drop by at the convenience store to buy some chips.
Exiting the school grounds, I went to the bus station where I found a lone high school boy standing and reading a book under the waiting shed. His face was being covered by the thick book he was reading, but from my distance, I could say he was a tall kid.
I stood meters away from him while we both wait for the arrival of the next bus. It was an awkward minute of waiting until the bus arrived before us.
The guy beside me closed his book and to my surprise, it was a familiar figure, to be exact it was Dylan Sytanco. He also looked over my direction and a look of recognition passed over by his face. He tucked the thick book back to his bag and rudely ignored me and went ahead inside the bus.
I scowled at him then went inside as well. The seats were already taken, so both Dylan and I were left standing at the isle. The driver pushed the button before him, and the door closed mechanically.
Dylan resumed reading his thick book. I don't think it was an academic book since it was not familiar with me. Since he will pretend that he didn't know me, I will just follow him and pulled out my phone from my pocket.
I leisurely played a game on my phone while killing some time inside the bus. A small TV box was installed above the driver's area where a variety show was being shown. Some of the passengers were hooked at the show. Some were laughing while the others were sleeping.
The bus halted its movement, making a stop for the next bus station. Unfortunately, I didn't control my momentum when the bus stopped its movement and lost my footing. And to my surprise, someone grabbed my shoulders to support me while I steady myself.
After composing myself, I looked over behind me and found the arms were connected to Dylan. He just looked straight face at me devoid of any emotions. He quickly pulled out his hands from me and resumed reading his book.
"T-Thank you!" I muttered.
I saw his eyes moved towards me and just tsked at me. I was about to open my mouth in protest or more likely to tell him that I'm retracting my thank you when the bus stopped again, and fortunately for him, it was my stop.
I got off the bus and walked straight at the path ahead of me. I could already see the rows of food stalls along the street where people started to flock them. I was walking at a slow pace when I noticed that someone was walking behind me. I turned my head and found the familiar book covering the face of Dylan.
Is he following me?
I hastened my steps and turned to another corner, but Dylan was tailing behind me also. My heart started to beat faster due to my nervousness. But I have to face him. So I stopped my tracks and faced him. He almost bumped at me, but at the last minute, he halted his steps and put down the book he was reading.
"Are you following me?" I said accusingly.
"For your information, this has been the same direction I've been taking for the past sixteen years going to my home." I could hear from the tone of his voice that he was clearly annoyed at me.
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I just shook my head to him and continued my steps again. I could already see from this distance the convenience store. I quickened my steps and arrived in front of the store.
And to my irritation, Dylan was still behind me.
"You know what, Dylan? I think you're really following me."
Dylan just scoffed at me and returned again the book he was reading back in his bag. "For the second time, I am not following you, Yuno."
"Then why are you also at this store. There are many stores around the area. Don't tell me your favorite snack happens to be available in this store only?"
From my corner, a woman behind the counter saw our commotion in front of her store. She pulled open the door and looking at us.
"What seems to be the problem, dear?" The woman who was wearing a blue apron on top of her clothes asked us. Looking at her face, I thought I saw those eyes before which were weird since I'd never met her before.
"Ma'am, this guy has been –"I didn't finish my sentence since Dylan intruded my talk.
"Mom, this crazy girl thought I was tailing her."
Mom? Did I just hear him calling the woman in apron his mother?
After some clarification with his mother, I found myself sitting while I propped up my elbows at the table. I'd already picked the chips I would be eating tonight from the rows of shelves inside the store.
Dylan was behind the counter, tapping on something on the monitor while her mother went upstairs to their residential house.
I stood up and went awkwardly to the counter. I looked at Dylan and gave him a forced smile.
"Again, I'm really sorry for the misunderstanding."
He just simply nodded at me and resumed tapping on the monitor.
"So yeah, see you tomorrow. I have to finish the homework essays." Then I turned my back to him. Then I muttered in a low voice. "And think about the missing students of this town."
"Excuse me?" Dylan asked.
I was startled since I thought I whispered those last few words to myself only.
"No, it's n-nothing! Don't mind me! Hehehe."
"No. I clearly heard you that there are missing students in this town. I thought Raymond was the only case?" He stopped tapping and focused his attention on me.
"It's just a hunch. But I heard something similar story from the memorial school. But I don't see any links between the academy's missing student and theirs."
"Is the student from the other school a junior also?"
Recalling the story of the two girls earlier, they'd mentioned that Jane Manobo is a junior in the senior high department. Then, I nodded at him.
"Interesting," he muttered.
"So I assume that Raymond is also the same year with us?"
This time, he nodded at me.
Just like what he said, this missing students' story is getting interesting. There was a pattern. Both of them were in junior year. But I had to dig more to uncover if there was really a connection between the two. I was deep in my thoughts when Dylan interrupted.
"Would you mind, if you share with me also the story of the missing student from the other school?"
"What made you interested?"
"Raymond used to be my best friend back in elementary. But we no longer talk to each other."
This made me sit back at the table again and recalled the story of Jane Manobo to him.
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