COPYRIGHT © 2019 Miu
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the Author.
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All pictures and multimedia used are not the author’s work and doesn’t claim any legal rights.
MATURE CONTENT and VULGAR words not suited for young readers below eighteen (18) years old.
“What’s going on?”
Everyone turned towards the pleasant voice of a handsome man who was smiling from ear to ear. At the sight of Alvaro, Aaron frowned. He didn’t like him the moment he saw him. Mostly because he was handsome than him and . . . his tingling senses honed from adventuring kept on alerting him to stay away from the man.
Alvaro’s smile didn’t waver upon being gaze by different eyes. He stared at Maxine, who had a pinched mouth and sour expression.
Seeing Alvaro, Maxine loosened her tight expression and walked towards him. “Alvaro, these guys refused to carry my things even after I paid them half already.”
Alvaro swept Maxine before the four Frost people and finally rested on the line of backpacks on the ground, which he knew belonged to Maxine alone.
Realizing the odds were against them, the four Frost people glanced at each other, and Alvaro didn’t have to guess what they were conversing in secret. Their eyes said it all. Resigned to the fact that they might not make it back alive.
The Frost people’s homes where together with the mountain and it was very rare that they would traverse the city for jobs, and it was equally rare if someone hired them because of their lack of education. In a sense, they were stuck inside their village, and the only income they have were guiding the tourist up to the mountain. And because of that reason, they valued their job highly more so than their life. But these men also have families and children.
He turned towards Sherak and gestured with his head. Sherak went towards the four Frost and conversed with them. After minutes, he came back and whispered to him their conversation.
After which, his gentle smile remained on his lips while he glanced at Maxine, who was staring back at him with a flush face. When she was caught staring, she averted her eyes, face redder than before.
Alvaro’s eyes remained fixed on Maxine as he continued to smile, yet his voice was firm. “Maxine, I agree with the Frost. You have many unnecessary things that are going to be a hindrance when climbing. It’s best if you leave it here in the base.”
Maxine’s infatuated face cracked. She didn’t expect that Alvaro wouldn’t take her side. She had always taken her side before. “B-but . . . I’ve already paid them. And they were fine with it the first time, and now they backed out when we reached the base and about to climb? What kind of service is this?”
She glared at the four. She wanted to slap their faces even if it was out of character for her to do so. At this moment, she was angry, betrayed, and annoyed.
Alvaro’s expression remained slack as he explained, “They said they didn’t expect your things were very heavy. To compensate you, they said you don’t have to pay one of them.”
Biting her inner cheek, Maxine still wasn’t happy about it. The feeling that the helpers cheated her still remained in her mind. What is money? She didn’t care about it. What she cared about was that she was scammed!
“But my things! My things are expensive. If I leave it here, others might steal it.” She refused to budge from this.
The smile on Alvaro’s face slip. Though it was still a bit there on his lips, his eyes, however, spoke another tune as it turned into slits. “Maxine, I think you still haven’t registered the severity of the situation you’re in. Do you even know what climbing an eight-thousand-meter mountain means?”
“I-I . . .” Maxine couldn’t speak when she saw Alvaro’s eyes. It was like something was gripping her neck.
Alvaro didn’t let her speak and intrude, “It’s fine that you want to put yourself at risk. But it isn’t acceptable for you to put others at risk. Will you die if you didn’t have a table? Will you go hungry if you don’t heat your already ready to eat foods?”
Biting her lips, Maxine didn’t say anything and lowered her head. Tears pooled in the corner of her eyes while her fingers clutched her jacket. Betrayal. She was betrayed. Alvaro didn’t take her side. He was to take her side. He was supposed to defend her all the time! Why?! Why?! Why?!
Thinking Maxine finally conceded when she remained silent, Alvaro’s pupils returned to its size, and he gently patted Maxine’s head. “We’ll have your things stored in the government’s base. They have a tent here for things like this.”
He then gestured at Sherak, and the man went to the four Frost people and relayed that everything was okay now. The four stared at him and smiled while speaking incomprehensible language Alvaro could only digest as thank you.
Alvaro then glanced at Aaron, who remained a stone at the side, stationary and useless. Well, at least a stone has its used. “Leader, when are we going to set out?”
Only then Aaron snapped from his death-like state. Clearing his throat, he mustered what face he had left and took control. “Everyone, we leave after five more minutes.”
Not far from the party, Rozarria watched the scene in silence.
“That man . . . nice.”
She heard Shura mumbled beside her.
Nice? Halfway Closing her eyes, Rozarria smiled. On the outside, maybe.
Rozarria paused when she heard her name. She looked at the rosy face of Maxine, who was extending a hand at her.
“My name is Maxine Celestine. I’m a fan of your jewelry. In fact, Alvaro and I traveled from Black Pine all the way to attend your auction event.”
Rozarria slipped a small smile and accepted the woman’s hand. “Miss Celestine, a pleasure to meet you.” She had nothing to feel awkward about because she knew there was nothing between her and Alvaro except lust.
Maxine shook Rozarria hand with both hands. “Please, just Maxine is fine, and I’m hoping you don’t mind if I call you Roz?”
“Not at all,” Rozarria replied before she pulled her hand back.
Maxine beamed. She clasped her hands behind her back and chatted with Rozarria as they threaded the snow. “It’s always a comfort to know that there’s another woman in the team besides me. But I never guess you’re a fan of mountain climbing.”
To match the girl’s pace, Rozarria had to take small steps since Maxine was having difficulty in walking in the snow. “I have been doing mountain climbing since five years ago. Though my schedule only permits me to climb one mountain a year.”
“That’s awesome.” Maxine’s eyes twinkled. “I didn’t know you’re very adventurous in spirit. Just like my fiancé!”
Rozarria paused, but she resumed walking like nothing happened. “Fiancé?”
Lifting her head, Maxine smile while thinking about Alvaro, sneaking looks at him in front of them. “Alvaro Cole, my fiancé. We’ve traveled here to have our holiday vacation.” She beamed. Though she was in a gloomy mood because Alvaro had been cold towards her and only worsened at the event that transpired a while ago, the love for him didn’t diminish. It only intensified the more he was aloof to her.
“We’ve grown up together, and our family is very close. It’s like destiny that we fell in love with each other.” Maxine broke eye contact and looked away when Alvaro peeked at her from his shoulder. A rosy blush colored her face, eyes staring down. “When we tie the knot, I hope you can attend our wedding.”
Maxine’s kept on rumbling, but Rozarria wasn’t paying attention. Her brow rose when Alvaro playfully winked at her before he turned forward.
“Alvaro is like a brother and a caring boyfriend to me. He’s very nice and always takes care of me. I remember one time he . . .”
Maxine continued, hands clasping each other cheeks. She had always boasted about how Alvaro loved her in front of every woman she knew. It might be a defense mechanism on her part since she was threatened with Rozarria’s face, but she couldn’t stop herself. She must draw the line to make sure that the woman understood it was hopeless to try even to get close to Alvaro.
Rozarria’s stoic face remained stony while a response tumbled her lips, almost a dead tone, “I see . . . lucky you.”
“Oh.” Maxine stopped. She covered her lips and smiled. “Sorry, that’s insensitive of me. I shouldn’t have rambled my happiness to others like that.”
Rozarria answered with a simple, “It’s fine.”
Hesitating, Maxine asked, “I heard you’re single. Any man in mind? If you want, I can introduce you to a few friends. All of them are a nice catch.” This was a tactic she always used towards single women, so none of them would have any desires with Alvaro. She would talk about how Alvaro loved her, and no one could come between the two of them to make others give up. And, she would introduce another equally handsome man. By this, she would deter other women while she made friends by introducing them with illegible bachelors.
This always works against women, until now when Rozarria replied.
“No need. I’m happy the way I am.”
Maxine didn’t give up and pushed. “I hope you don’t mind but aren’t you already in your thirties? Aren’t you scared to pass your expiration date?” Playfully nudging Rozarria, Maxine pointed towards Aaron. “I can see Mr. Dave has a thing for you. I caught him stealing glances at you from time to time.”
Even with the personal questions, Rozarria forced herself to remain in the presence of the annoying woman. Her face still calm and passive. “I have no interest in dating still. I’m very much contented with my life.”
Subtly, Rozarria resumed her regular walk. Because she matched Maxine’s pace, they were already meters behind from the group while their helpers go on ahead to scout for potential dangers while the others stayed at the back to make sure no one was left behind.
And of course, Maxine caught with her pace as she persisted her one-sided conversation until after minutes that she went silent, catching her breathes due to the arduous walking. Panting breaths swallowed all her words, and Rozarria smiled in secret.
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