The lights blaring, the sound of chatter filling the room, the space only getting smaller and smaller. A classroom of eager applicants sits next to each other, gossiping and waiting for the first exam to be a Guardsman to start. The door to the room swings open, and a tall man walks into the room holding a briefcase. The man pulls his tie to loosen it, adjusts his glasses, and then sets his briefcase onto the desk in front of the room.
“Okay, everyone. Listen up!” The man said in a deep voice, “I am your instructor, Dr. Nizo, and I will be conducting your exams for the Guardsmen application.”
Half of the applicants don’t pay him any attention.
“This will be a written exam to determine your mental capacity and knowledge of the rules of the Kingdom. Before we begin, anyone who fails this exam will automatically be eliminated from the rest of the exams and will have to retry next year. Do I make myself clear?”
The room falls silent; the last words out of Nizo’s mouth rang an alarm in every applicant’s head. They all stare at Nizo with determination glowing in their eyes.
“Good,” he says, “When I give you the exams, flip them over and begin. You have half an hour to fill out whatever you can.”
As soon as the tests are passed out, the sound of scratching pens and pencils fills the air. Nizo walks around the room of twenty or so applicants; glancing over each applicant’s shoulder to monitor their progress. The atmosphere in the air gets more intense as time passes, each second building more and more pressure. There’s the occasional sound of a person grunting in pain from his hand cramping up.
“Times up!” Dr. Nizo yells, “Drop your writing tool and pass in what you have done.”
One by one each applicant gets up, stacks their exam into a pile on the Nizo’s desk, and sits down waiting for their results. They all sit for an hour in silence; their anxiousness about their score crawls down their spines.
Suddenly, he takes a deep sigh and says, “If I call out your number, you have failed the first exam. Better luck next time.”
Several applicants sit up straighter, mentally preparing themselves for disappointment.
Dr. Nizo continues and says, “Numbers 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 18, and 20. All twelve of you have failed the first exam.”
Disappointment falls over those applicants’ faces as they walk out of the room in shame. Nizo stands up and glares at the remaining eight applicants.
In a booming voice, Dr. Nizo says, “Congratulations on passing the first exam. It will only get harder from here on out. Before you all continue to the next exam, I want you to say your name and why you want to become a Guardsman”
The remaining applicants look at each other in confusion. Suddenly, a man sitting at a desk numbered 1 stand up. He’s about average height, and very muscular. Half of his face is covered by a large dark blue jacket. His light blue hair waves as he stands up.
“I am Akahito Hayumi. I applied for this exam so that I may proudly serve my kingdom and support my family,” he says.
Akahito sits back down at his desk and waits for the next person to talk. A man from the desk numbered 4 stands up and puts his hands behind his head in a relaxing manner.
“I’m Acacius Powell, and I wanna’ be a Guardsmen just because I want to prove to myself that I am capable of doing great things,” he says.
Nizo looks at Acacius. He has long brown hair and is wearing a large trench coat; making it nearly impossible to see anything beyond his height.
“By the way the man acts, he’s childish, yet earnest. Interesting.” Nizo thinks to himself.
Nizo says to himself. Next to stand is a woman at a desk numbered 16. She has long, light green hair that falls to her back. Her arms are completely wrapped in gauze, yet she wears an innocent smile on her face. She wears a tan hoodie that has black Xs on both sides of it.
She proudly says aloud “I am Eden Drake. I wanted to become a Guardsman to prove my strength and see where my future takes me!”
Nizo looks at her with unease as he thinks to himself, “This woman is cute, but she’s way too happy…”
Afterward, a man from desk 17 stands up. He is slightly taller than average. His blond hair is held back by a camouflage headband. Just like his headband, his entire outfit has camouflage patterns on it.
With his hands in his pockets, he says “I’m Evander Drake. I’m only here to make sure my sister doesn’t get into too much trouble.”
Eden turns to Evander and gives him a big grin to show her appreciation. They both sit down.
Once the rest of the applicants were finished, Dr. Nizo says aloud, “Okay. Now that you all know each other, it is time to pair up into groups of four. The next exam is a team-based effort.”
The applicants look around at each other, unsure of which people they would want to group up with. Nizo slams the palm of his hand to his forehead and groans loudly.
“Fine.” He says, “I’ll pair you all up myself. Numbers 1, 4, 16, and 17 in one group. 8, 10, 12, and 19 in another. Now follow me to the next room”
Nizo turns around and walks off as the rest of the applicants hurry to catch up. When they enter the next room, there are five doors with spotlights on each of them.
Nizo turns to the applicants and says “Remember, this is a team-building exercise. In each room, there will be a scenario that you will be given. Your job is to work together and figure out what happened and how to diffuse the situation. Absolutely nobody gets left behind; otherwise, your entire group is disqualified. Got it?”
The two groups nod at their instructor. Nizo nods back and signals the groups to select a door.
Without hesitating, Eden runs up to a door and points at it, yelling childishly, “I like this one!”
Acacius laughs aloud and says, “Why? They all look the same.”
Evander looks at his sister with a disapproving and disappointed look on his face.
Eden grins runs to Akahito and pulls his sleeve saying, “C’mon! You agree with me, don’t you?”
Akahito blankly stares at her and softly says, “I do not care in all honesty.”
Acacius looks to the side and notices that the other group has already chosen a door. Acacius turns to Evander and asks, “Is she always like that?”
Evander sighs and says in an annoyed tone, “Unfortunately for us, yes.”
“Ha! Well, it’s kind of cute,” Acacius chuckles as he shrugs his shoulders.
Eden turns to the two of them and loudly exclaims “We have nothing to lose! Let’s just go through the door that I picked!”
Acacius throws up his right hand and shouts “I just want to get this over with, let’s go!”
Eden grins and without even considering anyone else’s vote, she runs to the door and opens it. An expression of amazement comes across her face. Unable to fight their curiosity, the rest of the group follows her into the room.
Inside, there is only a long dark hallway with a door at the end of it. Evander, completely confused, says, “This…this is so stupid” as he starts to walk down the hallway.
Akahito quickly grabs Evander’s shoulder and pulls him back.
Evander looks back at Akahito and asks, “What? What’s wrong with you?”
Akahito looks at Evander and softly says to everyone, “Look up. There are hoses and pipes all along with the ceiling of this room. This is a trap.”
Everyone looks up and notices the pipes that Akahito was talking about.
Evander chuckles and says, “Well, I’m man enough to admit when that was my bad. Thank you.”
Akahito nods his head and sternly says “We should lock arms and walk to the door together. We don’t know what we are going to encounter.”
Everyone locks arms and slowly walks down the hall. Each step they take only seems to make the door go farther away. Suddenly, Eden starts to sweat and shake.
Acacius looks at her and asks, “Are you okay? What’s the matter?”
Under her breath, Eden says, “I don’t know why, but it’s hard to breathe in here…”She looks up at Acacius and her face turns to horror as blood starts to pour out of Acacius’s eyes. Eden falls back and shouts, “What is happening?”
Evander rushes to her side and puts his hand on her forehead. Akahito looks at Acacius in confusion; with no blood whatsoever on his face.
Evander says aloud, “Back when I was in the army, I was the medic.” He checks Eden’s eyes and says, “They’re dilated. It looks like a hallucinogenic of some sort.”
Akahito looks to the ceiling, and in a louder tone, shouts, “They’re gassing us…we have to get out of here. Now!”
Evander lifts Eden who is still shaking. Acacius holds out his hand to comfort her, but she just flinches. Suddenly, Acacius turns to face the door they came in and a silhouette of a little girl stands in front of the doorway. Acacius’s breath becomes colder and heavier. The shadow starts to move towards Acacius. Sweat drops from his brow as he tries to back away, but a wall blocks his exit where the hallway would have been.
The silhouette, in a deep dark voice, screams at Acacius “You can’t escape me!!” and charges straight for him.
Acacius falls onto his backside trying to get away. He turns around and sees the hallway again.
Akahito turns and looks at Acacius saying, “I know, I’m seeing things too. We all must get through this.”
Akahito holds out his hand to help Acacius up. Slowly but surely, all four of them reach the end of the hallway completely sweating and breathing heavily. When they exit through the door, Dr. Nizo and the other group stand outside waiting for them.
Nizo claps his hands and loudly announces, “Congrats to all of you for your astounding teamwork. Whatever your situation was, you had to work together to get through it. Now, follow me for the final part of the Guardsmen exam.”
After everyone catches their breath, they follow Dr. Nizo through another room. When through the door, the applicants look up and marvel at a large staircase that looms over them.
Nizo looks up the stairs and says, “The exam begins once you reach the top of those stairs.”
One applicant yells aloud “That must be over 700 steps…”
Nizo shrugs his shoulders and says, “I found that counting them only added to my anxiety”
Nonchalantly, Nizo walks up the stairs without a problem. The applicants follow him to the best of their ability. Once everyone reached the top of the stairs, agony covers everyone’s faces. Eden looks up, completely out of breath, and suddenly points toward a man sitting on a throne in the room ahead. Everyone turns and looks at the man.
Dr. Nizo says aloud, “Let me formally introduce the ruler of this land. Your past, present, and future ruler of the Kingdom of Adrith, King Rathon.”