The plated ground beneath the masses’ feet started to release a sharp, blue light. Beads of sweat slowly floated above their heads with the prominent stench of perspiration vanishing together with the motion.
A cold breeze swept through everyone within the vicinity, making them sigh in relief as comfort took over their bodies. One fair-skinned girl, in particular, giggled at the mesmerizing sight,
“Wow, This is better than what was written in the book! This is so exciting!”
She stared at the ground in amazement. Some people tried to grasp the liquid forming above them, but as soon as it was touched, it would start to evaporate, leaving nothing but a dewy smoke.
The girl took out a small pouch from her pocket and filled it with a handful of the turquoise powder that fuels the magical glow inside the wide crevices of the floor.
A beautiful girl, dressed in a formal dress, having three guards by her side, hovered the Arkium with a large bang as their entrance. Shrieks erupted from the crowd as everyone’s attention immediately darted towards the source.
A few gasps could be heard from the crowd but none dared to tear their eyes away from Princess Aurelia Fenn at the front, staying afloat gracefully in her magic pad. She waved her hand before speaking on the enchanted microphone,
“Hello, my esteemed examiners! Welcome to the annual Crystal Examination. An exam where you get the chance to acquire your own fated glyphorite. An event that leads to unknown paths and destinies-one that will surely change the lives of those present here.”
Everyone cheered loudly at the remark. One guard took out a piece of paper and spoke on behalf of the princess,
“The handling of personal sheets has now been officially closed with 224,036 participants in total, both in and out of the kingdom, Royalty and lower people alike. As stated in your guide books, the Forest of Illusions will only permit one glyphorite per person.”
“A clutch of your fated piece inside the forest will bring you back here in Ryola Square without a single scratch despite the injury you sufficed. If you die while taking the test, you will instantly be teleported here in the vicinity. Alive and well, but without any glyphorite on hand.”
“Only sponsored examiners are allowed to bring any kind of object inside the Forest. Water might be reconsidered but other than that, we strictly forbid anyone to tamper this rule. Raphans will force body-checks near the Arkium to prevent mischief, through the use of their own magic.”
“Even for those who were given the recipient badge, Raphans will still scrutinize your item if it carries the seal of your sponsor. That being said, the Forest of Illusion will test you. Glyphorites might be free, but only the person it deems special will be able to wield it. ”
“The Crystal examination isn’t called an exam for no reason.”
After the last statement had been uttered, all three guards knelt down towards Princess Aurelia. She broke one of the blue pearls hanging around her neck, creating a thunderous rumble near Forest’s entrance.
The enormous grimy roots covering the Arkium’s concave-shaped doorway started to quiver as each of its elongated parts slithered back down to the earthen ground. With a flick of her finger, the portal’s opening shimmered a majestic blue light.
Princess Aurelia flew in the direction of the eastern border atop her magic pad with the three guards beside her, leaving a hundred personnel with their own respective magic pads to handle the rest of the situation.
Much to all of the new-comers’ shock, not a single person disobeyed the instructions given. Everyone obliged with their stationed personnel’s order and entered the Arkium one by one after the body-checks. It didn’t take too much time since the Raphans could scan them by gliding their hands across the air.
The fair-skinned girl combed her black hair using a spare hand as it continues to crinkle due to the movement in her surroundings. She held the brimming pouch in her side-pocket and thinks about what will become of it.
Gosh, what a big waste. There’s no guarantee that the floor will still glow after the event. Considering this is a souvenir from my first exam, abandoning it here would just be a big blow to my commemoration hoard. It’d still get confiscated though if I don’t leave it...
A white lass creeps up to her back with golden eyes full of mischief. She snaked her hands to the eyes of the unsuspecting girl then clamped it tightly, pulling her head back in the process but also blocking her line of sight.
The poor girl tried to thrash but she left that thought after noticing the familiar texture of the hands. She giggled at the girl’s attempt.
“Oh no! Save me! Somebody, please tell my wife I love her...”
She dramatically hyperventilates, clutching her shirt like she just received a tremendous blow to the guts as her body leaned to the amused girl behind her.
“Brithan o Cozin! You did read The Passion Fruit! You said that these types of books bore you but the acting-the lines, it’s just perfect. I’m inches away from giving you a big fat smack right now.”
Brithan laughed, jerking her hair side-to-side in a bumptious manner. “Please Airen, those types of books bore me but I don’t remember anything about not reading them. No one can escape the eyes of Brithan.”
“That’s so like you. Anyways, what got you so worked up that you didn’t notice a person sneaking up on you?” I asked while we walked together with the crowd. She sighed and handed me a small, dirty pouch filled with blue powder.
“You know how this is our first Crystal Examination right?” She questioned to which I nodded in answer. “Well, I did see it within the guide book, that we cannot bring anything inside the forest but I thought they would just overlook the matter. Even my dad said he was able to bring a knife the last time he went to the exam.”
“Now that got me wondering, why didn’t your father join these previous years and even now?”
“Having a glyphorite might sound enticing, but you know the following events after the exam, right? People celebrate these events by packing the streets and tiring themselves to their heart’s content. Restaurants would be filled with customers, shops selling out their items, street vendors will fill every corner of the four lands, Inns apologizing to their clients for they are fully booked.”
“This is like a shower of profit. What kind of an idiotic businessman would miss this out for a glyphorite that he might have a low chance of earning? ”
I bobbed my head in satisfaction, “No matter how lawless Rosen can be, people would still celebrate this after-event in capital Renne. Even security gets a little serious.”
She scratched her head and looked at me, “How did we end up with this conversation? As I was saying, I can’t afford to leave that pouch here, I need it as a part of my commemoration hoard. But then-no, I made up my mind.”
She was about to drop the dirty pouch on the ground but I took it from her hand. I flashed her a toothy-smile, showing that I have a plan in mind to which she replied with a chuckle while shaking her head in my nonsense.
After a few more trudging, it was finally our spot’s turn to get body-checked. Five Raphans went towards our direction, swaying their sky-blue hair back-and-forth as their pale skin glistened under the late morning sun.
Before they could start scanning our bodies, I took Brithan’s hand and walked towards the two Raphans that I’m familiar with out of the lot.
“Jarth, and er... her beautiful companion. Remember me from earlier? This might be too sudden but can you do our body-check somewhere where there aren’t many people?” They understood my discomfort and need for privacy so we moved to a less crowded corner near the Arkium.
I took my necklace off and gave it to Jarth while his companion proceeded to scan us, gliding his hand across the air, producing a light blue mist before coming near to my spot as he lent out his hand.
“My name is Karol, Jarth’s older brother.”
If you exclude everything they have in common: hazel eyes, hair color and length, the small stature, and just focus on their body structure you will surely know the difference. Jarth has a more curvy waist while Karol has that broad shoulders and toned muscles.
I shook his waiting hand which made his face scrunched up in bewilderment, “I meant the pouch on your hips, filled with our handmade powder.”
Oh, why didn’t you just say so?
I grabbed the pouch and held it tightly in my hand, “Are we really not allowed to bring anything pass the Arkium?”
A voice popped out-of-nowhere behind me and answered my question in Karol’s stead. “Sorry but we Raphan’s take no side when it comes to the safety of our home.” Jarth handed me my necklace, detailing that it was the end of the conversation.
I pouted miserably and was about to tell Brithan bad news when she added a catch,
“But if you don’t plan on using it inside the forest, seeing that we are friends, instead of confiscating it, I’ll hold it for you till’ you finish the exam. We’ll meet near the western border.”
Brithan who heard everything suddenly appeared beside me and gleamed in happiness, we both thanked her in gratitude. After everything was said and done, we stepped inside the portal to prevent holding up the crowd.
Suddenly, a terrible headache pounded through my head. I managed to look beside me despite the pain and I saw Brithan also experiencing the same aches. My face forming up unreadable expressions as the world gradually grew darker and darker.
Alas, my body finally gave up, feeling myself weakening as I fall into a deep slumber.