The Examiner's Choice
"Spell 'develop', please," the small green Kacheek said. He looked up at the nervous white Chia, who fiddled with his robe nervously before blurting out, "d-e-v-e-l-o-p." He snapped his mouth shut as sweat dribbled down the side of his face.
The Kacheek twirled his pen around, accidently giving himself a moustache, before saying, "Correct. You may go in." The Chia sighed with relief and said, "Thank you, Examiner," before he hustled into the palace. The Grarrl standing guard squinted out at the crowd fiercely as he moved his spear aside so the Chia could enter the palace, daring anyone to try and sneak in.
A bubbly Bruce hopped up next to try and enter the imperial exam. The Kacheek looked up at her and said, "Spell 'working', please."
The Bruce thought for a moment before chirping, "Working! W- r- o- k- i- n- g!"
The Kacheek pursed his lips disappointedly and said, "Wrong. Please remove yourself from the line." The formerly-bubbly Bruce left, sobbing her eyes out.
The Kacheek looked down at his papers and said, "Spell 'galaxy'." After receiving no answer after a few seconds, he looked up and snapped, "I said, spell "GALA-" before snapping his mouth shut in shock.
Before him was Lord Taishi's Ogrin son, Ronan. Ronan stared down at him disdainfully, and said, "Let me in, Kacheek. I am the son of Lord Taishi, and as such I should be allowed free entry."
The Kacheek nervously began twirling his pen around, and he mumbled something incoherently.
Ronan's eyes narrowed, and he said, "What?!"
The Kacheek looked up at him and timidly said, "Ronan Taishi-son, I can't do that. It's against the rules. I am sorry."
The Ogrin frowned angrily, then slowly broke into a sly grin, and slid a small bag out of his sleeve. He quietly said, "This ought to make you reconsider, eh?" He lowered his voice even more, and said, "That's 500 NP right there, and there'll be more if I am let in."
The Kacheek pulled the neck of his robe away from his neck in an attempt to cool his flushed cheeks. He stared at the neopoints, neopoints that could be used to purchase books and food for him and his weewoo. But then he thought of how his guard would be disappointed in him, and how it went against everything he stood for.
He hardened his eyes and said, "No, I'm sorry, Ronan, the Imperial Examiner does not accept bribes. Now spell 'galaxy' if you wish to take the exam!"
The Ogrin rolled his eyes and said, "G- a- l- a- x- i- e. Now let me in."
The Examiner smiled slightly and said, "I'm afraid that is incorrect. Please leave the palace gardens. Good day."
Ronan's eyes flashed fire, and he snarled, "I am the son of Lord Taishi! Do you know what that means, you stupid Kacheek?!" He rushed towards the entrance of the palace, but the Grarrl guard stopped him before he entered.
The Grarrl's deep voice boomed through the park, "Ronan, Son of Taishi, you have NOT answered the question correctly. Do as the Examiner says, before I escort you out!"
Ronan blanched, and scurried out of the gardens, embarrassed. He stopped at the gate, turned around, and shrieked, "YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE LAST OF ME! I'M TELLING MY FATHER OF YOUR INSOLENCE!" before disappearing around the corner.
The Examiner wiped the sweat off his brow with the bright red sleeve of his robe. He smiled his thanks at the guard, who nodded back at him. He turned to face the next contestant, a green Acara. He opened his mouth and said, "Please spell 'galaxy'." The Acara answered, and the rest of the entrance questions went without a hitch.
Three days after the Exam had taken place, the Examiner received a highly ornate scroll from the mailman. He tipped him five neopoints, and went back into his small one-floor home to read it. He plopped down on a plain cushion and opened it. It stated,
Lord Taishi of Shenkuu requests your audience at Shenkuu Palace. Wednesday, at three o' clock. Sharp.
the Master and Caretaker of the regions Ruene and Kiyari.
The Examiner gulped and rubbed his balding patch of fur lightly. He glanced toward the weewoo, who twittered away in its wire cage. He hoped he wouldn't be thrown in prison, if only for the sake of the weewoo, who had known no other master. He glanced at the calendar, and then at the clock.
It was Wednesday, at 2:25PM. He groaned, and ran to pull on his best robe, and then he sprinted to the Lord Taishi's palace as fast as his little Kacheek legs could carry him.
"You may rise."
The Examiner rose from his deep bow and stood before Lord Taishi, who sat on a heavily embroidered cushion. The refined Gnorbu motioned for the Examiner to do the same, which he did immediately. As a cool breeze whistled in the window, he was grateful for it, as it cooled his flushed and sweating face.
Lord Taishi genteely picked up a small patterned tea cup and sipped from it with only the grace a noble would have. He leaned forward slightly, put the cup down, and cocked his head slightly to the left. The Kacheek put his up down with a light clatter.
Lord Taishi sat up and said, "I wonder if you would be able to dictate the events of the day of the Imperial Exam relating to my son."
Sweating visibly now, the Examiner stammered, "Lord Taishi, er, well, he, Ronan, I mean, uh, told me to let him in and, um, he, uh, tried to bribe me and I, ah, didn't take it...." He trailed off miserably, staring at the delicately painted doors as though expecting guards to rush through and throw him the dungeon.
Lord Taishi raised his eyebrows and smiled slightly. He leaned his elbows on the table and said, "Examiner-san, would you mind telling me what you do for money when you are not at your post for the exam?"
The Examiner said uncomfortably, "Lord Taishi, the Exam is my only position. It pays enough to keep me throughout the year..." He fidgeted uncomfortably, realizing that his good robe was slightly threadbare, and that he barely ate two meals a day with the money he earned once a year.
Taishi clapped his hand together lightly. He said, "When I heard of Ronan's.... rudeness, I was shocked. I believe it is because he has grown up on a pedestal, so to speak. He needs someone to treat him as an equal instead of a future lord." He stared directly into the Examiner's eyes, and the Examiner looked back and saw nothing but worry for his son and kindness there.
"Will you do it?"
The Examiner blinked, startled by this request. He said, "Lord Taishi?"
And the Lord replied, "He needs a tutor, someone smart who will treat him as an equal. Will you do it?"
The Examiner closed his eyes and thought for a minute. On one hand, he realized he would have more money and a better place to stay. On the other hand, he would have to teach that nasty Ronan....
Was he up for the challenge? He knew Ronan had been spoiled by many years of adoration. But... this way, he could fix him. And that would help the country of Shenkuu and all who inhabited it... The Examiner decided that he would do it, if only for Shenkuu. He opened his eyes and said, "I accept your gracious offer, Lord Taishi. Thank you."
Lord Taishi's eyes glinted with happiness. He waved his arms and said, "Of course, thank you. The pay is 100,000 NP per year, and you will have apartments at my palace."
The Kacheek nodded, overjoyed at this prospect. He nearly fell off his cushion as he nodded with joy. "I-I'll go get my possessions and come start right away!"
As the small Examiner hurried away, Lord Taishi smiled. He knew his son would gain a new tutor, and more importantly, a true friend in this small, kind Kacheek.