THE PECULIARS’ TALE: CHAPTER 32

Original writer: AnakniRizal

Translator: whosays25

Editor: (still editing)

/32/ Truth or Die?

-Morie-

“Penelope.”

“What’s the matter, Jill?”

“Umm… what time is it?”

She glanced at her wristwatch, “8:50 pm. Thank goodness this watch of mine is still working even after submerging in the waterfall earlier.”

“Thank goodness then. Fine, thanks.” I returned to my seat. Half an hour passed but Aya is still not back that’s why the people are doing random things here at the common room, killing time while waiting for Miss Karen’s next orders. I can feel though that two of my classmates appeared restless while throwing me some occasional glances, I think they want to approach me.

“Jill.” It’s Baldo who sat next to me.

“Oh?”

“Those two, Celine and Trinie,  since earlier…” He pointed at the girls. “I also feel restless about them. If ever I’ll approach them.” He’s almost standing up, attempting to confront them but I pulled him back to his seat.

“Don’t. Let them be. I’m sure they will approach us later.” I said.

He can’t do anything but nod. “Fine, I’ll just go to Morris and Tadeo.” He notified me before leaving my side. I guessed correctly that they will go to me after he was gone.

“Umm… Morie.” Celine said, “I’m really thankful to you.”

“For what?”

“Earlier, for what you said to Miss Karen.”

Ah, about the dinner, huh.

“Also, we want to apologize.” This time, Trinie spoke.

“Apologize?”

“We chose Ireneo over you.”

“We’re really sorry.”

I can feel their sincerity and it made me speechless. But… I don’t know how to react about their words. I don’t know what to feel this time since I didn’t do that in order to hear their apology.

“It’s nothing.” That was what only came out of my mouth before I stared downwards. They left but I was surprised when more of them appeared in front of me to say their thanks and sorry. The event that takes place made me more speechless.

“Jill.” This time, Sabina took the space beside me. When I gazed at her, I found her looking at the front. It’s probably fine. After all, I already saw her eyes once and that is enough.

“Hmm?” I also focused my eyes upfront.

“You know how much I was bullied after those pictured were posted at the Freedom Board.”

“I know.”

“I didn’t choose Ireneo but you because I want to say thanks. For the words you gave me that day… I lost the people I thought as friends. No one stood up for me…”

“You’re wrong.”

She paused. “Even after everything, there’s still a person who is always there for you. It’s Baldo.” I feel her stares. “He’s doing everything for you but you became too blind. That’s why don’t be thankful to me, but to him.”

“Hey, I heard my name!” Baldo came out of nowhere but he was very shocked to see that Sabina is next to me, “Lexi…”

“Okay, Baldo, I’ll leave this to you.” I rose and made him took my seat.

“W-what, Jill?”

I tapped his shoulder and smiled before leaving that place. The two of them should really have a talk.

I’m already planning to join Penelope and Yue but someone barred my way.

“Are you finally happy?”

Ireneo was tall that’s why I’m not looking up but it seems he doesn’t want me to have my way through due to what happened earlier. He must have saw and heard the things that my classmates did.

“I think you’re forgetting what occurred before, Morie.”

“Stop that, James.” Someone meddled between us and when I raised my head, I saw it’s Morris.

“Whoa, look who’s here.”  Ireneo laughed, “Hey, Tamaki! Your best past is here, the best pal who betray—“

“SHUT UP! YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING JAMES!” The whole place was filled by Morris’ shout which automatically drew all of the people’s eyes. I know everyone was confused and intrigued so I held Morris arm to stop them.

“Morris, please.”

“Men, don’t take his craziness seriously.” Even Tadeo came in between them. “Let’s go, men.” He pulled Morris away while I am left with Ireneo. He’s not wearing his eyeglasses since it probably got lost after Tamaki hit him.

“Why can’t you look at my eyes directly, Morie.” He tauntingly said while we’re facing each other.

“Stop testing my patience, James.”

“Now you’re calling me James.” He started to walk around me, “Maybe you’re forgetting how this girl made her best friend commit suicide.” I gave everyone a fleeting glance and I saw how they went silent and lowered their heads. My balled fists tightened and I planned already to confront him if not only for the screen which suddenly lit up and revealed Miss Karen. Everyone’s attention was shifted to her because her unusual smile is very eye-catching.

“We’re finally at the last part of this game, but before we begin, let’s have a recap.” It was as if she’s hosting a tv show, or let’s say it’s really like a tv show because the events that occurred earlier flashed on the screen out of the blue. Moreover, like in tv programs while showing the video clips, she’s also narrating. “Six pm, when we started the game, all of you took the exam and Ireneo got the highest core while Morie got the lowest. The class chose between them who to rescue. Team One had twenty nine members while Team Two had only nine. In the end, Team one got here first but due to their defiance over the rule, Team Two won. Team Two continued the game by crossing over the ‘spider web’, eventually, the Mariah and Morie pair completed the task first. The fourth round between Morie and Mariah was a puzzle question, the latter correctly answered and she finally came here for the final round of this survival game.”

The recap ended so the video clips no longer appeared. Miss Karen is smiling but this smile didn’t reach the eyes. I heard the whispers of those people beside me and they are full of confusions and anxiousness.

To what will happen.

“Now, I want to present to you the survivor finalist, Mariah Elise Martinez.” Then the camera cut in another shot.

What the hell…

“Aya!”

All of us was bewildered when we saw how Miss’ place lit up. Aya is sitting on a chair and no hint of joy could be seen from her expression.

“Umm… Miss Karen, I thought I would see my prize?”

“I’m sorry Mariah, but your prize is not here.” Miss Karen sat opposite her, there are cameras all over the place and the view changes to whoever it focused on.

“Y-yes?”

“It’s in the common room.”

“Eh… then what are we doing here?”

“To play the last game. I am your last opponent.”

Penelope took my arm, her hand seems freezing. Yue and Baldo were also next to me and they were not speaking, but I know they were also thinking that something is not right. The rest were quietly spectating while also wishing for Miss’ game to end. I also want this to end so that the mysteries will be unveiled.

“The game is very easy, Mariah, easier when compared to the former. You just have to draw a card. If I guess correctly what it is, I win, if not, you win. But of course, we have to face the consequence whatever happens.” After that, she placed atop the table a deck of cards which she spread using her right hand. Miss Karen’s face exuded confidence and calmness, as if saying that she can accurately guess the card that Aya will draw.

“W-what will be the consequence, Miss?” Aya’s voice is shaking, as if she’s going to die… Penelope’s grip became stronger and she whispered Aya’s name. I held her cold hands to make her at ease.

“Don’t worry, Penelope, she’ll be fine. Just trust her.”She nodded.

I returned my focus on the screen. This time, Miss Karen fished out from her pocket a small remote controller with a single button. She smiled devilishly before answering, “Truth or Die.” Because of what she said, everyone in this room exclaimed in fear.

“Men! I told you! This is Death Bell! Death Bell!”

“Tadeo, don’t panic. H-how could we know, m-maybe Miss K-karen is only kidding us.” Penelope cried out.

“She’s not joking, Penpen. You know Miss.” – Yue.

Aya’s eyes enlarged due to what she heard. She couldn’t breathe like normal but she chose to be brave in this moment, “W-what do you mean about the ‘Die’ part… Miss Karen!?” Her tone has a hint of anger.

“You see this?” She help up the remote, “One press and everything’s going to be a mess.”

“H-ha?’

“The present for you which is in the common room… is a bomb.”

After telling the word ‘bomb, everyone began to panic. They tried exiting the place through the door but it won’t budge. The room was filled with shouts and cries but I remained calm. Miss Karen, why do you need to go far? Why are you doing this?

“Everyone! Don’t panic! We’re not going to die! Do you understand?!” Ireneo yelled. It’s a relief that they did so. Even though they are falling into fear and stress, they quietened down and went back to watching.

“If I guessed the card correctly, it means you have to choose, Mariah, you have to choose either ‘truth’ or ‘die’. If you didn’t choose to tell the truth, I’m going to press this button… and… kaboom!”

Aya held her breath when Miss uttered those sentences. I get it, the bomb thing was only a facade used by Miss so she can pressure Aya to tell the truth. But what if… what if Aya didn’t choose that? What will she do if Aya refused to tell the truth? Then she’ll press the button? I don’t think that Miss Karen could really do this… I mean… she won’t kill her students. I remember her first day in teaching, she taught us about ‘life’. Even when she forced us to face that life is full of competitions and unfairness, I think she value the ‘life’ in this world… There’s no way she could kill…

“Baldo, help me.” I said.

“To what?” His voice gave away his nervousness, probably because of the mess happening now. Yeah, who wouldn’t be anxious and troubled?

“To look for the bomb.” We searched all over the room while listening to Aya and Miss. The others also helped us.

“M-maybe t-this?” They found a shoe-box sized box hidden behind a trash can. With trembling hands, they opened it, a time bomb appeared. They almost started panicking again but I told them not to because nothing will be resolved by that.

“You have to tell me everything!” then I faced Morris who was beside since earlier, “Why her? Why Aya!?”

“Yoh, Jill. You told us to calm down but you’re not calm yourself. Chill! Don’t be that angry to Morris, men.” Tadeo stood between us.

“Mariah, please pick a card.” Our attention went back to the screen. Aya picked a card while her hand is trembling. “Very well… Then… “

“You picked… the Queen of Clubs.” Aya was shocked so it means Miss Karen is right. How? “Am I right? Queen of Clubs, right? Please show me your card, Mariah.”

Aya let go of the card on the table and Miss Karen is really miraculously right. Everyone in the class was shocked too. They couldn’t believe that she got it correctly. It’s either Miss did a cheap dirty trick or… she’s not normal… What I mean is… what if… she’s like me, which I suspected from the very moment she conversed with me at the counselling room. Is this connected on why I couldn’t see her future?

“So, what now, Mariah? I won.” She said while smiling. “You have to face the consequence now… I still have many questions to ask you, so you have to choose now: truth or die? When you failed to answer the truth, as I’ve said earlier: ‘One press, everything’s going to mess’. I won’t prolong the questioning, don’t worry. You know, they’re waiting.” Miss even pointed at the camera in our direction. “I know that they’re really excited.”

“She won’t choose die.” Penelope convinced herself. “She won’t.”

“Do you know that those puzzles were made by me in purpose, since it’s for you? First question Mariah. How did you learn to solve every puzzle that I gave? Truth or Die?”

She’s cruel… Making her students choose between the truth and death, this is so cruel. But we need to know it… What only I can’t comprehend is, why does it have to be Aya?

“Mariah, I repeat, truth or die?” She raised the remote, “If you don’t answer within five seconds, automatically…”

“Truth! Okay, truth.”

“Very well…”

“I learned that when I was in the last year of junior high, two years ago. It’s Lucille… She taught me all of those puzzles.”

What? Lucille? I can’t remember if they became close to each other. Lucille was my very best friend and she always opened up to me so I’m sure she didn’t mention anything related to Aya.

“Jill,” It’s Morris, “I promise I’ll explain… after all of these, I’ll explain to you… Whatever you’ll see, I’ll tell you later.” He held my hand then he closed his eyes. I can’t understand at first, but then, images flashed in my mind. W-what am I seeing?

***”Hi, Aya.”***

***”Aya?”***

***”I think Aya suits you better than Mariah. It’s better because it’s the same as you, cute.”***

***”Wow, I must also give you a nickname, Lucille, umm… Aha! Lucy!”***

I tried to let go of Morris’ hand but he grabbed me, he opened his eyes then all of the visions vanished.

What…the hell was that?

“Don’t tell me…”

“It’s the past.”

“How?”

“I said, I promise to explain later, when all of this ended.” I saw the pleading of his eyes which only made me took a breath. Whenever I looked at Morris’ eyes, I couldn’t see anything but past. It’s been long since I started pondering if… if we’re both… If…

“That’s correct.”

The mental condition of my classmates stabilized a little and they are now somehow calmly viewing the screen. Everything is planned. Her being there is also planned. And there’s definitely a significant reason behind this.

“Now… You said that Lucille taught you those codes and puzzles. I bet that they’re all confused on how you and Lucille became acquainted. How did you meet each other?  Truth or Die?”

Aya didn’t immediately speak. Is she frightened? Shocked? Those eyes she directed at Miss Karen is shaking and her mouth does not seem to open.

“Truth?… or Die?” Miss repeated.

“Why… why are you asking all of these? What do want to happen?” Her voice cracked, as if she’s about to cry but she’s forcibly holding back her tears. Yeah, why is it so? Why is it Aya?

“You are not allowed to ask a question when I’m asking you, or else I’ll press this button…” She warned her in a cold manner, “Tell me the truth.”

Aya smirked, “You planned this, right? You and Morris planned this in order to set me up, right?”

“Don’t test me, Mariah.” She was about to press the button but Aya cut her.

“I became acquainted with her the time when my life is full of darkness. What you all didn’t know is,” She lowered her head, “I experienced being a victim of extreme bullying from my former classmates. No one attempted to help me, no help arrived for me.”

***”Hahahahahahahahahhaahahahahahahahaha.”***

***”Hey, I know a pretty hairstyle, let’s try this.”***

***”Pour it all!”***

***”Boom! Three points!”***

***”Mariah is a certified loser.”***

Morris tightened his hold on me which appeared to transfer the moving pictures narrating Aya’s experiences.

No. I want this to stop but I can’t. Morris keeps on holding me that’s why the images are not vanishing… The scene only changes into that of a gloomy rainy afternoon.

“It’s raining. I was strolling the town when someone shared me her umbrella. I saw her. The only person who enlightened my dimmed world… She’s actually famous in White Knights that’s why I aspired to become her friend someday, even though there’s a huge distance between us. I studied better because I wanted to transfer at her school. However, even when we started living in the same block, I still couldn’t approach her.”

Aya stopped and slowly straightened her gaze. She’s crying, her voice is cracking and trembling.

“Because no matter when, she wouldn’t see me. Jill Morie wouldn’t become me. I wouldn’t be like her no matter what I do…”

I gaped.

“I envied Morris and Morie because they were so close to her.” She laughed in bitterness. I didn’t notice that my legs are also starting to tremble because it seems that what I’m witnessing is a different Aya. She is not Aya, I want to convince myself that she is not! “No one noticed me, not even one.”

“So, it’s you. You’re the one who put that letter under her desk.”

“Yes. It’s me!” Her tone changed, it became sharp and firm, and bitter. A cold smirk curved up from her lips and it seems her eyes too became sharp and taunting. It’s like a monster was released from her. No… This is not Aya. She’s not the Aya I know.

***”Morieeee, good morniiiiiiing! Have you eaten? Let’s have lunch together, pleaaaassseee! Say hi to the camera! Kyaaaah, Morieeeee”***

“I put that fake letter under her desk.”

Not only me, every one of us, especially Ireneo was bewildered by her confession. This is not true, why Aya? Why?

“I did that to take revenge against the two persons I envied the most!” She stood up and slammed the table while still crying, “To those two persons she trusted the most and treated as her best friends but didn’t stand up for her when she was feeling so low!”

“What is Aya saying, Jill!” Penelope shouted, sobbing. “Baldo! Yue!”

“I don’t know, Penpen…”

“Jill!” She shakes me but I also feel like I’m not myself. Only Penelope’s cries registered in my mind. Everyone was shocked. Ireneo sat down, dumbfounded. I again returned my gaze on the screen and I feel that it’s so difficult to see Aya like that. I feel my heart suffering for her. Miss Karen still has nothing in her expression even after listening to all of Aya’s revelations.

“What caused Lucille’s death, Mariah?” She insensitively asked as if the said death means nothing to her.

“She committed suicide.”

“It’s a lie.” Aya couldn’t speak when Miss Karen left her seat, “And because of what we’ve talked about… that only truth should be heard, you didn’t follow this rule.”

“W-what are you saying, Miss Karen? I’m not lying!”Aya said in a pleading manner.

“I’m sorry.” Then she pressed the button. They screamed, my eyes widened in fear and it’s like my whole system had collapsed. I remained standing while all of my classmates were scrambling and panicking. The time bomb activated which was signaled by a high-pitch sound.

Chaos.

10

Noisiness.

9

I can’t understand a thing.

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

Black out.

***

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