Shen scratched himself just behind his left ear and shifted from foot to foot. Before him bustled a large crowd of children whose ages didn't stray too far from his. Beside him, leaning on one foot, was his older sister with jet black hair. Though, it was hard to tell whether she was boy or girl for her hair remained the length of a man's. She placed a steady hand on Shen's shoulder. He looked up at her, but found her sternly staring up at the front. Standing up there, on the slightly raised platform, was a tall, blurry man wearing a dark green coat. Shen himself was wearing clothing of the same colour; a pair of trousers, held on by string, and a loose linen shirt. He also wore a beanie, covering most of his curly, black hair. His sister beside him wore clothing of the same fashion; but they weren’t green, they were grey. All throughout the crowd girls and boys wore clothing of the same type but they were dark green, navy, grey, or maroon. Shen had asked his sister before why people wore colour coded clothing, yet in the end his answer was a silencing finger.
The tall man up front clapped his hands twice. The crowd quietened. Nodding, the man stepped down from the platform. He strode forward, hands clasped behind his back. The crowd parted before him as if he expelled an aurora of power, to which Shen believed indeed. The tall man stalked up to where the Shen was standing. He felt as if he’d melt under the power aurora flowing around the man. The man halted and pulled out a clipboard from his coat. He studied the piece of paper on the board then scanned the crowd for someone. He flipped the first paper over and studied the paper underneath as well. Then he once more scanned the crowd. His eyes fell on the Shen.
Shen began to shake in his goatskin shoes. The sturdy hand on his shoulder squeezed hard. The tall man stepped up closer to the young boy.
"Kid,” he said, his voice stern, “did you come alone?” The young boy was too scared to answer. His voice just wouldn’t work. Lucky for him, his sister spoke up.
“He’s with me, sir.” Her voice was strong and steady. Not a quivering note heard. The tall man nodded.
“Then let me ask you a question, since your companion is shaking too much to respond.” Shen hung his head, hiding his relief that he didn't have to answer. The man continued, “On your entry forms, both of you refused to fill in the surname blank. May I know why?”
The girl, keeping her expression blank, replied, “You should know that names are important information and not to be given away so easily. So we chose to at least give you our first names. That is all we shall give.”
The man lifted his clipboard.
“Zath and Shen? Who is who?”
The girl placed a hand on her chest.
“I am Zath, and he,” she gestured with her hand towards her brother, “is Shen. And if you need to have a surname on those forms; we shall allow the name Fake written in the blank.” The man nodded again and wrote down the new surname Fake.
“Very well, Zath and Shen Fake.” The man raised his voice, “I will give all of you ten minutes to form in groups of three and four.” The crowd began to murmur. “Your time begins now!” He strode back to his platform. Zath breathed a sigh of relief and smiled with Shen; they'd passed.
Everyone began to grab others and call to friends. The sound was like a herd of cows being rejoined with their calves. Zath yanked Shen closer and silently glanced around. She was looking for someone. Shen glanced up.
“Who are y--”
“Shhh.” whispered Zath. Then her eyes lit up. A young man wearing navy clothing waved as he approached.
“Good to see that you two made it.” Rex shouted to be heard over the callings. His tone was lighter than Zath's; but as arrived, beaming, Zath's face relaxed. Rex flipped his stringy blonde hair out of his light blue eyes. Shen smiled as Rex rubbed his head and patted Zath's.
Shen believed Rex was the strongest and coolest guy in the whole world. He was the one who found him and his sister half dead after the Great War. If Shen ever had an older brother, he wished it would be Rex. Rex was the one who was there when they were hurt, or in danger. He was the one who taught them all the techniques. All the tips on how to survive in the wild. He was their tutor, their friend, their brother.
Now they were here to prove they were strong. They had trained hard for the last month, and today they would take the test.
The test to find the strongest.
Shen would join the Secondary’s Contest later on, while both Zath and Rex would join the Masters Contest. But that was for the third and final part of the test. The first part was starting now.