34 Meeting the Team and a Surprising Revelation

Nine o'clock in the morning, the date was December 12th, 2023. 

Michael was in the Technological Institute of the Philippines, specifically in the Mechanical Engineering Department. There he met his professors from different subjects. He waved a hand at them and they happily waved back. In front of him, was Mr. Delgado.

"You looked like you haven't slept all night," Delgado observed, looking at Michael from top to bottom.

"Well I have been busy sir," Michael rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. He looked around, noticing it was him the only student present inside the faculty.

 "Anyways, it seems that I am the first to arrive. Where are they, sir?" 

"Oh, they just messaged me, they'll arrive in a minute or two. They're just wrapping up something from their last class." Mr. Delgado glanced at his watch, then back at Michael. "In the meantime, why don't we go over your product for the PSME? Solar panel was it?" 

"Yes," Michael confirmed with a nod. "It's going to be groundbreaking and revolutionary in the field of renewable energy."

'Is that so?" Delgado mused, his interest piqued.

Just as they were about to delve deeper into Michael's project, the door swung open, and two students entered, both carrying hefty bags filled with books and papers. They were Kenneth and Janine, second-year mechanical engineering students known for their exceptional academic performance, boasting GPAs of 1.2 and 1.3 respectively.

"Sorry we're late, Sir," Kenneth said, catching his breath. "Our last class overran, and we had to sprint here."

Janine nodded in agreement.

Mr. Delgado waved off their apologies with a smile. "It's fine. You're here now, and that's what matters. Now, I want you to meet Michael Reyes, the third member of the team." 

"Pleasure to meet you," Michael extended his hand, greeting both Kenneth and Janine with a firm handshake.

"Pleasure is ours," Kenneth replied. Janine simply nodded with a smile, equally interested. 

"Now that you three have met, let's dive into the competition. The competition will consist of a question from higher levels so we have to meet every day at an agreed time for me to teach you those subjects. It's easy so you don't have anything to worry about. We will compete with the top engineering schools, it's going to be fierce. The reward for getting first place will be 100,000 pesos plus a school scholarship from the Technological Institute of the Philippines. Additionally, you'll have the opportunity to represent our school at the national engineering conference next year, which is a huge honor and a fantastic networking opportunity."

Kenneth's eyes lit up at the mention of the competition's stakes, Janine too. But Michael, was unfazed from the mention of the price as he already had a million in his bank account. But glancing at his teammates and seeing their expression that they wanted to win it, he couldn't help but smile. Okay, he'll do it for them and get that scholarship. 

"Remember the competition will take place on the 17th, so there is not much time, I want you to read in advance the lessons we are going to cover, I'm going to send it to our group chat." 

"Yes sir," the three intoned together. 

"Okay, that's for the introduction, see you tomorrow."

The meeting wrapped up quickly after that. Michael, Kenneth, and Janine gathered their things, exchanging contact information before parting ways to prepare for the intense study sessions ahead.

As Michael was about to attend his next class, he received a message from Catherine.

[Uhm…Michael, can we meet at this coffee shop? (With a location attachment).]

At last, for over a week, they finally had a tutoring session. Well, not that he'd care as even if there was no session, he is still getting paid. It's just Catherine's decision on whether she wants to top her class or remain average. 

[Sure, Catherine. I can meet you there after my classes, around 4 PM. Is that okay with you?]

He waited for a moment before Catherine's response popped up.

[Yes, that's perfect. Thank you, Michael.]

The rest of the day passed in a blur of classes, study sessions, and planning meetings with Kenneth and Janine. As 4 PM approached, Michael made his way to the coffee shop where he was to meet Catherine. But, he didn't see her.

"Possibly, she hasn't arrived yet," Michael murmured while looking around at the cozy coffee shop. He sat in front of the floor-to-ceiling window, offering him a view of the road and the parking slot of the establishment. Moments later, a customized Ford Raptor arrived and parked right in front of the coffee shop. Michael's attention was immediately drawn to the vehicle. It was a stunning piece of machinery, its sleek, dark exterior exuding power and luxury. The Raptor's aggressive stance and the roar of its engine as it idled briefly before shutting off made an impression on him.

A man stepped out from the driver's side, and Michael couldn't help but take notice. He was tall, easily over six feet, with a build that spoke of regular visits to the gym. His attire, a well-fitted casual shirt paired with designer jeans, complemented his handsome features. His hair was styled perfectly, and the confidence with which he moved was that of someone who was used to being in control. The man walked around the vehicle with a purposeful stride and opened the passenger door.

To Michael's surprise, it was Catherine who stepped out, a delighted smile gracing her face. She looked up at the man with evident admiration before turning her attention to the coffee shop, where Michael was seated. The man offered her his hand as she navigated the step down from the high vehicle

Michael felt a twinge of envy at the sight. Not only did this man possess a vehicle as impressive as the Ford Raptor, but he also had the looks and the demeanor of someone who was well-off, possibly coming from a wealthy background. The ease with which he handled himself and the car suggested he was no stranger to luxury.

Catherine and the man exchanged a few words, their interaction comfortable and familiar before she headed towards the coffee shop entrance. The man took a moment to lock the vehicle and follow her at a leisurely pace, his gaze briefly meeting Michael's through the window, a smirk subtly playing on his lips.

"What the hell…" Michael said to himself. "Why is he smirking at me? Is he looking down on me?" 

Catherine and the man entered the coffee shop.

"Joshua, meet Michael, Michael meet Josh," Catherine introduced them with a cheerful tone. Joshua extended his hand, the smirk now replaced with a neutral expression, though a hint of appraisal lingered in his eyes as they shook hands.

"Nice to meet you," Joshua said. His gaze was piercing, sizing Michael up in a way that felt almost confrontational. But as his eyes landed on Michael's simple attire and the older model phone that Michael placed on the table, his posture relaxed slightly, an almost imperceptible nod acknowledging Michael's presence without further judgment.

Michael, picking up on the subtle shift in Joshua's demeanor, felt a mix of irritation and relief. It was clear that Joshua had initially perceived him as a potential rival, possibly for Catherine's attention, but had quickly reassessed him as no threat based on his economic status. But why would he? Sure Catherine is beautiful but he doesn't like her romantically. 

"These rich kids again," Michael inwardly thought, the corner of his mouth tugging into a smirk.

"Catherine mentioned you've been helping her a lot with her studies," Joshua commented, taking a seat next to Michael, with Catherine sitting beside him. "I appreciate that."

Michael nodded, deciding to keep the conversation professional. "It's no problem. Catherine's a quick learner. We're just going over some advanced topics to prepare her for the exams."

Catherine beamed at the compliment, then turned to Joshua, explaining, "Michael's been amazing. I've learned so much already."

"Is that so? Well, I'm going to pick you up at six o'clock. After that, we go to BGC for dinner."

Catherine nodded. "No problem."

At this point, Michael realizes that Catherine is infatuated with this man. But the insulting gaze he cast on him earlier made him want to face-slap him. He opened his phone and browsed the Ford Raptor. It cost around 2.3 million.

But if he wanted to send a message that he's better than this guy, he must avail a more expensive vehicle, like three times that price. And that's where he came across this vehicle.

Ram 1500 TRX, srp, 8.85 million pesos.

"Give me three days," Michael promised to himself. After all, if he's planning on starting a business, having his own vehicle would be convenient to travel from one location to another. 

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