The Curse of the Thirteenth Staircase
"What do you think of the transferees?" Effie asked while sipping on her iced milkshake.
Nasa cafeteria kami ngayon since lunch break namin.
Chaos shrugged. "I want to avoid them. Their very existence annoys me." Saad nito habang lukot ang mukha.
Matix laughed. "You just can't accept the fact that you lost to them in a deduction battle." Tudyo nito.
Masama ang tingin na pinukol ni Chaos kay Matix. "Shut up."
I interfered. "Oo nga pala, Chaos, anong binulong mo kay Matix noon?"
Matix immediately shouted. "No! Don't tell it, Chaos. It's embarrassing."
This time, Chaos smirked. "Oh, I whispered—"
"Shut up, Salazar!" Matix shouted with panic in his voice.
Sumabad si Effie. "Ganun ba kalala yun?"
"Yes" Matix answered
"No." Chaos answered at the same time as Matix.
Umiling-iling nalang ako. Hindi talaga nagkakasundo ang dalawang iyon. Well, hindi naman talaga nagkakasundo si Chaos sa kung sino man eh.
"It's a surprise that X had been quiet for days now." Biglang sambit ni Chaos.
Tumango ako. "Maybe he's planning something big."
Magsasalita sana si Effie nang biglang may naglapag ng tray sa table namin. We all looked up and saw our classmate. I forgot her name pero siya iyong nabangga ko noong first day of school.
"Hi!" She gleefully greeted.
I awkwardly waved my hand. "Hello."
"Mind if I seat with you?" Tanong nito at umupo sa tabi ni Matix.
"You're already seated." Matix pointed out.
The girl laughed. "I'm Twilight by the way. Twilight Martinez."
Twilight? Weird name for a girl.
"Is that your real name?" Effie asked.
Twilight nodded. "Yup. My parents had weird brains." She winced.
"So, bakit ka umupo dito? There are lots of vacant seats." Matix said.
Twilight pouted. "May tinatakasan lang ako. Tsaka, I don't like being alone. Mga kaklase ko naman kayo kaya okay lang naman diba?"
I smiled and nodded. "Oo naman. Okay lang."
Twilight grinned. "Thank you, Friday!" Anito.
Chaos was silent as he eats. He doesn't like socializing kaya siguro tahimik lang ito.
Matix was silent as well. Kami lang ni Effie ang nakikipagusap kay Twilight.
"Woah, is that a Hydra 10 software?" Manghang tanong nito sa katabing si Matix na abala sa paghahack.
Nanlaki ang mata nito. "You know this software?"
Twilight nodded earnestly. "Of course! I happen to also have a Hydra software in my computer. Though it is not in the latest update." Sagot nito.
Matix looked at Twilight suspiciously. "You hack?"
Twilight smirked. "To earn money." Simpleng sagot nito.
"Cool. I earn money through hacking too." Matix smiled before continuing his work.
"I see you're trying to spy on someone using another laptop." Puna ni Twilight.
Matix nodded earnestly. "Yup. A request from a student."
Patuloy si Matix sa ginagawa habang nanonood lang si Twilight. Ako naman ay nakikinig lang sa kanila.
"The laptop you're hacking has an easy software to hack. It usually take 2-3 minutes. You've been on for five minutes already," kapagkuwan ay ngumisi ito, "are you not good at hacking?"
Matix frowned. "Are you mocking me?"
Twilight laughed. "Eh kasi, you are hacking for five minutes already. In fact, it should be finished around 2-3 minutes. Even 1 minute will do."
Matix breathed heavily. "It's because it's my first time hacking a computer to spy on someone. I'm trying to learn the basics."
Twilight laughed while shaking her head. "Here let me help." Anito at kinuha ang laptop at inilagay sa gitna nila ni Matix.
"First, you need to crack the computer's wifi," mabilis itong nagtipa ng keyboard, "when you're already inside the network, you scan it to see which ports are open." Nagtipa ulit ito, "then hack its system and...there! Open the webcam and you can already see who you're spying." Ani Twilight.
Manghang tumingin si Matix kay Twilight. "That was actually easy."
Twilight smiled. "I know right?"
"Thanks for the help, Twilight. I just have to send this to my client and then I'm done." Ani Matix at mabilis na nagtype sa keyboard.
Chaos then interferred. "Let's go back." Sabi niya.
Bumaling ako sa kaniya. "Huh? Saan?"
"To our meeting place." Maikli nitong sagot.
"Can I come?" Excited na tanong ni Twilight.
Mabilis na sumagot si Chaos. "No."
Twilight pouted. "May pinagtataguan kasi ako. I don't want to see them since they are embarrassing the hell out of me." Padyak nito.
"Sino ba pinagtataguan mo?" Effie asked.
Ngumiwi si Twilight. "Someone not important."
I smiled. "Sige, pwede ka sumama sa amin pero panandalian lang kasi itong kasama namin," tinuro ko si Chaos, "may pagkasensitive sa mga taong di niya kilala. Nagiging abusado."
"Hey!" Sigaw ni Chaos.
We all laughed saka tumayo na at tumungo sa storage room na ngayon ay meeting place namin.
As soon as we entered, three men, casually sitting on each chair greeted our sight.
"Anong ginagawa niyo dito?" Tanong ko. These men are none other than the three weirdos.
Tuluyang pumasok sina Matix kasama si Twilight. "What the hell?! Sinusundan niyo ba ako?" Galit na tanong ni Twilight sa tatlong lalaki.
Nanlaki ang mga mata ko. "Kilala mo sila? Are they bothering you?" I asked.
Twilight clinged unto my arms. "They are bothering me, Friday. Hindi nila ako tinatantanan." She pouted.
Napailing-iling ako. "Sabi na nga ba, mga weirdo kayo." Saad ko.
Tumayo ang tatlo at nakapamulsang lumapit sa amin. "Damn it, Twilight, pinagmukha mo naman kaming stalker mo." Ani Slate.
"What? Totoo naman ah! Buong araw niyo ako sinusundan." Twilight clinged unto me like she's asking me to protect her.
"Don't worry, Twilight. Isususmbong nating sila sa principal para maexpel agad sila." Sambit ko.
Twilight nodded. "Thank you, Friday." She earnestly said.
"Fuck it, Friday, we are Twilight's brothers!"
"Ha?" Tanong ko. Obviously dumbfounded.
Tinignan ko si Twilight na hindi manlang nagreact. Masama ang tingin nito sa tatlong weirdos.
"M-Mga kapatid mo sila?" I asked.
Twilight nodded. "Unfortunately, yes."
What the hell? So si Twilight pala ang kausap nila noong nasa cafe sila?
"What the hell are you three doing here?" Chaos finally spoke, with hands crossed.
"Well, we couldn't find our sister so we planned to ask for your help kaya pumunta kami dito sa meeting room niyo raw but we couldn't find you so we waited. Kasama niyo lang pala ang kapatid namin." Midnight explained.
Rebel sat again and casually playing with a pen. "Why are you with them, Twilight?" He asked arrogantly.
"Anong pake mo?" Twilight asked back.
Rebel tsked. "I asked you a proper question."
"So? Gusto mo bang magalit ako?"
Lumambot ang expresyon ng mukha ni Rebel. "W-What? No!"
"Then don't bother asking." Mataray nitong sabi.
Chaos went near Rebel. "You're sitting at my chair."
Hindi nagpatinag si Rebel. "Sorry, I'm sitting on it now." He smiled teasingly.
Bumaling si Chaos kay Twilight and it seem like Twilight received the message. "Kuya, let Chaos sit on his chair or else..." banta nito.
Biglang tumayo si Rebel at walang choice kung hindi umupo sa sofa katabi ni Effie.
"For someone who has a strong appearance, you're weak when it comes to your sister." Tudyo ni Effie kay Rebel.
"Shut up." Anito kay Effie.
Si Twilight naman ay humiwalay na sa akin at ngayon ay kasama na ni Matix for some computer works.
Katabi ko si Chaos habang pinagmamasdan lang ang buong storage room. Effie keeps on teasing Rebel. Midnight and Slate are threatening Matix for being near Twilight while Chaos is massaging his temple.
"The storage room is so noisy!" Komento nito habang minamasahe ang ulo.
I laughed. "Hayaan mo na. Mukhang hindi aalis ang tatlong weirdo na yun hanggat nandito si Twilight."
Chaos grimaced. "We need to relocate. Somewhere those three weirdos wouldn't find."
I just laughed and shook my head habang pinapakinggan ang bangayan ng apat na magkakapatid.
The room was noisy until a student suddenly barged in. Hinihingal ito at mukhang hindi mapakali.
Everyone went silent so the student spoke. "I need your help." Anito na nakatingin kay Chaos.
"A murder?" Chaos asked.
The student shook his head. "No. May pinapakalat na tsismis ang mga estudyante ngayon and I want your team to prove them wrong."
"Great!" Slate exclaimed bago tumingin sa dalawang kapatid na lalake. "It's our time to shine—"
"Shut up." Ani Chaos.
"Anong tsismis ba?" Effie asked.
"May tsismis na may curse daw ang thirteenth staircaise sa third floor. Ten students were sent to the hospital after they stepped on that thirteenth staircase." Kuwento nito.
"That's absurd!" Chaos exclaimed.
"What's your name?" Matix asked.
"Khaleb." Sagot nito.
"Okay, Khaleb, we will work on it. In exchange, how much will you pay us?" Tanong ni Matix.
"Matix!" Suway ko.
Tumingin sa akin si Matix. "What? Of course we have to earn some money!"
Umiling ako at humarap may Khaleb. "Don't mind him. We will solve this within the day. Makakaasa ka." I smiled.
Khaleb smiled back and left. As soon as he left, Midnight spoke, "we'll be the first one to solve it."
Effie spoke, "We don't even know if it's really true—"
"Oh it's true." Sagot ni Slate at kapagkuwan ay tumawa. "Apparently, when Rebel stepped on that thirteenth staircase, he slipped. Good thing he held tightly on the handle but even the handle was slippery so we had no choice but to hold him." Kuwento nito.
"Why did you say that?!" Singhal ni Rebel.
Midnight and Slate were laughing. "Sorry, bro. Your face was funny at that time."
Habang tumatawa si Midnight at Slate ay nagsalita si Twilight. "Pagpasensiyahan niyo na mga kapatid ko. Mga may tama sa ulo kaya ganiyan."
Midnight and Slate continued laughing while wiping their tears. "Shut up." Ulit ni Rebel.
"Let's go." Sabi ni Chaos at agad naman namin siya sinundan. We then left the four siblings in the storage room.
"Lock the door." Utos ni Chaos.
Napatanga kami sa kaniya. "What?" I asked.
"Locked it." Chaos said seriously kaya di namin alam kung nagbibiro ba siya o nagseseryoso.
"Huwag niyo nalang pansinin." Sambit ko. Nagpatuloy kami sa paglalakad hanggang sa nakarating na kami sa third floor kung saan naroon daw ang sinasabing curse.
"No one's using this stair." Puna ni Effie.
"After hearing the rumor, the students are probably using the elevator instead of this stair." Chaos said.
Tumango si Matix. "What could possibly be the cause of why almost ten students were hospitalized affer hearing the rumor?" Anito.
Chaos was about to step on the first staircase when a voice spoke, "Okay, guys, we'll take it from here."
We all looked around and saw Midnight, Rebel and Slate with Twilight.
"Ugh, they're so annoying." Chaos whispered but loud enough for me to hear.
"Ano na namang ginagawa niyo dito?" Iritang tanong ni Matix.
"Hey! I still don't forgive you for coming near our Twilight." Ani Midnight.
"Siya ang unang lumapit sa akin!" Matix defended.
"Anong ginagawa niyo dito?" Effie asked.
Slate grinned. "Of course, we're here to solve this mystery."
"We can handle this ourselves. Khaleb personally asked us." Chaos uttered.
Rebel then, grinned. "Then, let's have a battle!"
Midnight and Slate immediately shouted excitingly. "Yes!" They exclaimed.
"What battle?" Effie asked.
"The team who gets to solve this mystery first wins." Rebel answered.
Chaos shrugged. "Sure. My team and I solved a lot of crimes and mystery before. I'm confident we'll win." He said with confidence.
Midnight chuckled. "Right, you have never seen us solve a crime before."
Bumaling ako kay Twilight and mouthed, "What are they talking about?"
Lumapit sa akin si Twilight at bumulong. "Dating mga self-proclaimed detectives ang mga kuya ko sa dati naming paaralan. Sila rin ang inaasahan ng mga police sa lugar namin pagdating sa pagsolve ng crimes dahil sa bilis at galing nila sa pagsolve. I only do the hacking if needed." Sagot nito.
Tumango-tango ako. "Dapat ba kaming kabahan?" Nakangiwing tanong ko.
Mabilis na umiling si Twilight. "Naku, hindi. As I said, self-proclaimed detectives ang mga kuya ko. Feeling magaling hindi naman. Kaya no worries! I'm sure your team will win." She smiled.
"Let's start!" Rebel shouted.
Mabilis na umakyat si Chaos patungong twelveth stair para inspeksyonin ang thirteenth stair habang sumabay naman si Rebel.
"You found anything?" Matix asked Chaos.
Chaos went down the stairs and faced us. Nagkumpulan pa kami para hindi marinig ng ibang grupo. "The thirteenth stair was shiny and indeed slippery unlike any other stair." Sabi niya.
"So, may wax ang thirteenth staircase?" Tanong ni Effie.
Chaos nodded. "Yup, there is wax but there is something else." Anito.
"What?" Matix asked.
Bumaling ako sa kabilang grupo. They are also formed in a circle and talking.
"Wax is not naturally slippery. It can't be wax. There is something else applied to that staircase that made it slippery." Chaos explained.
Si Effie naman ang umakyat para iobserba ang staircase. Inamoy pa niya ito at hinawakan. Makalipas ang ilang minuto ay bumalik siya sa amin habang nakangiti. "It's just mild soap."
"What?" Chaos asked. "How did you know?"
"Siyempre, inamoy ko. It smells soap na nahaluan ng floor wax. Of course, soap is very slippery. That explains the curse." Effie explained and continued, "kaya hindi napansin ng ibang students ay dahil natabunan ng floor wax ang amoy ng soap but the presence of soap is still there kaya madulas."
"Excellent, Effie." Puri ni Chaos.
"Wait, where's the other group?" Marix asked.
Agad kaming bumaling ng tingin sa dating puwesto ng ibang grupo pero wala na sila doon. "No! They solved it faster than us!" Chaos shouted.
We ran until we reached our meeting room. Matix immediately sat on his chair. "Matix, hack the cctv in the third floor's hallway. We need to find who the hell put wax and soap on that floor." Utos ni Chaos.
"On it." Matix answered at mabilis na nagtipa ng keyboard.
Makalipas ang ilang minuto, Matix shouted full of frustration. "Bakit?" I asked.
"The cctv video was deleted a few minutes ago and my computer address was blocked from the school's computer software." Matix explained.
"What?! How did that happened? Akala ko ba mahirap ihack ang laptop mo?" Chaos asked.
Matix combed his hair. "I know that but…" napatigil ito sa pagsasalita ng may maalala.
"Shit. That sly girl..." he mumbled and continued typing on his keyboard.
"Why, what happened?" Effie asked.
"It was Twilight. She deleted the cctv footage after they watched and saved it and then blocked my computer address to the school's computer software para hindi ko maretrieve ang video. Damn..."
Matix continued, "Twilight knew that my software was Hydra 10 so it was easy for her to block my software."
"So anong gagawin natin?" I asked. Mukhang mananalo na ang grupo nila Twilight.
Akmang magsasalita si Chaos nang bumukas ang pintuan ng storage room at pumasok sina Midnight, Rebel, Slate kasama si Twilight na nakangiwi. "Sorry, guys. Kahit gusto ko kayong tulungan, mga kapatid ko parin itong mga ito kaya wala akong choice." Anito at bumaling kay Matix. "I'm sorry for blocking your computer. Don't worry, in-unblock ko na."
Midnight immediately interferred. "Hey, don't talk to that guy!" Sigaw nito.
"So, you found the culprit who put soap in that staircase?" Chaos asked with arms crossed.
Rebel smiled teasingly. "Yup. We work faster than you, fortunately."
Chaos stood up and faced Rebel. "This case was easy. Amateurs like you would obviously win this game."
Chaos and Rebel stared at each other for a long time. Ang mga titig nila sa isa't isa ay matatalim na para bang papatay sila ng tao. In the midst of silence, Effie cleared her throat. "So, who was the culprit?"
Slate answered, "Isaac Lim. Apparently he was punished by community cleaning for a month because he was caught cheating for the third time on a test. The students kept teasing him so as a revenge, he placed floor wax and soap to that staircase."
"There were no particular reason why he put soap on the thirteenth staircase other than the other stair." Midnight added.
Napatango-tango ako. "You guys did well." Puri ko.
Twilight smiled. "Thanks, Friday. But I should be the only one receiving the compliment not these three weirdos. Wala namang inambag ang mga ito." Turo nito sa mga kapatid.
"Sumosobra ka na, Twilight ah. We actually did well!" Slate defended.
I just laughed. Uminga ulit ang storage room at parang mga batang nagsasagutan sina Rebel at Chaos kung sino ang pinakamagaling. Oddly, Twilight was siding with Chaos na lalong ikinagalit ni Rebel. Habang si Effie naman ay nakapalumbabang pinapanood ang dalawang nagbabangayan.
Si Midnight at Slate naman ay tinatakot si Matix na huwag na daw lumapit kay Twilight.
Napabuntong hininga nalang ako. Wala na talagang pag-asa ang mga ito. Tama si Chaos, we need to relocate dahil sa sobrang gulo ng apat na magkakapatid na ito.
I was about to sit but a knock on the door filled the whole room.
"Ako na." Alok ko na buksan ang pinto.
I opened the door but instead of seeing a person, there was a letter.
Pinulot ko iyon. "What's that?" Chaos asked.
"A letter," tinignan ko si Chaos, "from X."
"What does it say?" Effie asked.
I cleared my throat at binasa ang sulat na natanggap.
"A piece of advice from yours truly, do not just welcome any guests. You don't know what they might be hiding."
"What does it mean?" Effie asked.
"It's obvious," Chaos answered and looked at the four siblings, "what are you four hiding?"
The four were silent and no one dared to speak. That's when I realized, they really are hiding something...
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