The building from inside was nothing like, what it looked from outside. There were white tiles on the floor with black border around them. They were well polished and looked quite expensive. White tube lights all around the room went perfectly in sync with the setting of the room. The building had 3 floors in it, with each floor having the same settings and same arrangements of lighting. Each floor of the building could easily accommodate atleast 400 people at a time.
All the registered participants were taken to the first floor where they have a briefing with someone who was ready to test these people, inside out.
“ Hey! Ken….. Isn’t this whole test seems interesting?“ said Ak with excitement gushing out from his voice.
“The whole arrangement in here is quite boring… In fact, the idea of taking a test is itself a trash”.
“Don’t sound as if I pushed you here……. You were the one to take the bait”.
[Suddenly the door opened and 3 men entered the room]
“Good morning gentlemen and the ladies present here in the room. I am Marvin and we are from the representatives of the US army. “ said a well-groomed tall man, who wore a brown formal coat with matching shoes and a tie which was in accordance to his attire.
“ You people must be wondering what does the US government have to do in all this and why are we here?. Actually, the popularity of this game went berserk right from the day it was announced. The gaming company received so many registrations in a day the traffic crashed the servers of the company for the whole day. Then, considering the number of registrations, the gaming coming came to us to and requested us to step in here. Further, we studied the game pattern and everything and thus, the US government decided to step in.
When we questioned the company about their own crowd management systems, we came to know that the company never expected this many people to register for the game. Further, the number of applications were far beyond the capacity which the game could handle and they had no plans of taking in so many people and they would choose the people randomly based on a lottery.
This idea of selecting people based on lottery was easily exploitable and was perfect for those who had money and power.“ said the man who was standing on the right of Marvin.
“Seeing the situation and the gameplay of the game, the government chalked out this test and decided to let the US army handle the test. We are the same people who train soldiers and toughen their body and willpower.“ said the person standing on the left.
“With this, I hope that everything must be clear and without any delay let’s start with the details of the test. “
[ the person on the right moves forward and prompts] “ Well then! This test consists of three stages, stage 1 and 2 where you will be judged upon your physical strengths and details of the 3 rd stage will be disclosed on the spot. Since there are hundreds of you here, we will proceed in the batches of 10, details of which have already been put up on the wall.
Although the game is VR based but considering the gameplay we decided to keep these tests, so as to train your mind and body of what is to come.
So then! people in the first batch are requested to come to the second floor with me while others may wait for their turn. All the ladies are requested to stay back as they will have their test separately“
As the first batch started with their test, curiosity among people began to grow. Some felt it as farce and left, while many stayed back to gave themselves a shot at the ultimate prize. Meanwhile, Ak and Ken rested in the corner of the room where a lively conversation started between the two.
“Hey! Ken, don’t you think that the girl standing near the window is quite hot. Maybe I shall take a shot at her!”.
“Ya, give it a shot but don’t get shot instead”
“Ha ha! You seemed quite confident about what you say. [leaning towards ken] hey Ken! I have heard that the man in the corner there is a national level athlete and the person right there is a regional level gymnast. Perhaps, it isn’t our day” <with a sad texture to his voice>
“Let the players have the spotlight….. They work hard to maintain themselves….. And I don’t think that we two will be in the same batch as them. So, let’s see what happens. “
“ Yes! I hope that what you say is true…… I don’t want to be eliminated so early. <looking at the list>Oh! It’s my turn next”
“Good luck and make sure to hang on to it till the final round!”.
“ Yes! Sure dude” said Ak as he jogged slowly outside the room.
As Ak took his leave, ken moved to the corner of the room and took out his earphones from his pocket. Connecting them to his cell phone, he put them to his ears and sat there quietly waiting for his turn. Few minutes later, Ken stood up and keeping his hands to his jacket’s pocket, he moved out of the room to answer his call.
The room in which the test was taken, was a total mess. With stinky sweat to people jumping around madly, the room was no less than a circus in full swing. Ken entered the room and moved across the room to a window. Standing near the window, he observed everything for a while and slowly kept his earphones to his pocket.
“ You must be Ken Hoshi. Well, you are in batch 10 with the people standing there [pointing to a group of people] and in the first round, we have weightlifting where you have 3 different weights and based on that you will be judged. Be ready ….you are fifth on the list”. said an officer from before.
Ken took off his jacket and folded it gently. He was wearing a black vest with red borders. Although Ken looked like a normal person his body tells a different story. His back had cuts which seemed to be deep but was already healed and now they were just scars which constantly kept him reminding him of his past. His fists had black scars which seemed to have developed from stress or something close to that.
Marvin [the officer from above] who was standing there… Noticed this and came to talk to Ken.
“ It seems that life had been hard for you my son!”
“No, sir! I am the one who was hard on life “. Saying this, he kept his jacket aside and moved to the area where weights were kept.
Marvin on the other hand stood there for a moment and then quickly went out of the room as if he had realized something.
“So let’s begin your test, Mr.Ken. First up, is the 40kg weigh followed by 50 and 70 kgs.”
“Yes! Sir “.
Although Ken wasn’t too off a gym freak, surprisingly lifting weights turned out to be a piece of cake for him. He didn’t had much muscles to start with, but perhaps the continuous strenuous exercises had made his body swell and his abs were clearly visible under his black, sweat-drenched vest.
“Very well done Mr. Ken and now you now after a short break we will proceed with round 2”.
Wiping off the sweat of his face with his hands, Ken moved to a corner and sat down quietly with his head sinking down on his bent knees.
“ Hey did you see that worn out stick who was lifting weights here? “ a voice came to his ears.
“ Ya! He had his back completely worn out but considering his physic, i can’t believe that he pulled off the last weight. That was really hard even for..”.
“ What was that’s lad name again……? “. [a group of people were talking among themselves and unknowingly they were standing close to Ken, who was sitting down in the corner]
“ Ken Koshi….. I guess.” Ken certainly was aware of this discussion about him but it was too little to bother him.
“ I guess his parents would have been beating the hell out of him. “ one of them said making fun of Ken’s parents.
“His father must be a masochist who took pleasure in beating him.“ another one of them said to which the whole group laughed.
The above comment had already attracted Ken’s attention as he was observing them but this one did it for ken. He stood up, and went to him[the man who said this] and without a word, delivered a solid punch to his gut.
“ If you speak another word from your filthy mouth, I’ll make sure you never speak again. Now go and never show up here again”. [Ken said with his face clearly showing his rage].
“ How dare you, you idiot…” one of them from the group shouted as he moved towards ken with his clenched fists to punch him. Ken douched effortlessly as he tried to hit ken, first with hands and then with a kick.
“ Don’t interrupt when I am still talking? “ Ken said as he delivered a chop on the shoulder causing the man to fall on the floor.
“ Stop this right now… It’s not a place to fight. “ said a young, handsome man with a well-built body and wearing a white vest with blue bordered stripes.
He had curly brown hair with average black eyes. He was around Ken’s height but seeing his physic it could be said that must be hitting the gym regularly.
“It’s Harry Kovic, the national athlete.” A voice came out of the crowd who was gathered to see what was happening.
“Why are you beating these men mercilessly….. Go show your strength to someone of your own type. “
With a deep breath, Ken replied “I am still trying to find someone of my type Sir”. Besides, I didn’t knew that national level athletes are so needy that they leave their tracks and barge in competitions like these….. Isn’t the national athletic meet next month only.. “Sir”? “.
These words of Ken really pissed Harry off. Grinding his teeth’s against each other he said “ Hey! Aren’t you too cocky of a man….. If you want to fight I won’t hold back”.
“ I have no intention of doing so……. And next up are push-ups. So I am saving myself for that”.
“ Push-ups right?… Let’s make a bet. One who does the most push-ups in the allotted time would win. If I win, you will go down on your knees and apologize to everyone for what happen and if I win I will do whatever you say”.
“ Sounds perfect to me.”.
“ Someone call the officer, let’s get this started… “. With the officers signal, but began simultaneously. Harry was very fast at the beginning but eventually slowed down a bit and carried with the same pace till the end.
On the other hand ken was fast-paced from the start and never slowed down till the end. After a minute, the officer stooped both of them. It was clear to everyone who was the winner except Harry who was too focused on completing the push-ups as fast he could.
“The one who came first had done 30 more push-ups than the other and the winner is….. Mr. Ken Koshi. “
Harry’s frustration continued as not only he lost to Ken with a big margin but also lost his reputation among the crowd of people who were sure that Harry would easily win.
“ I won’t let you go so easily “ saying this, Harry went out of the room banging the door against the wall. With this, the crowd dispersed and everything came back to normal.
The officer informed Ken that both he and Harry had made it to the next round and he should be present on the third floor within half an hour. Ken picked up his jacket and wore it. Keeping the front open. He moved to the window to get some fresh air and stood quietly observing the outside.
A hand came out of nowhere on Ken’s shoulder. “ Are you Ken Koshi? “ trembling voice of a lady came to Ken’s ears. Recognizing the voice, he turned quickly and stood happily with what he saw. It was Ayako Yukki who was standing there.
She was 50 but still looked perfectly young and fit for her age. She was wearing a brown coat with a contrasting green high neck top, a matching brown skirt and black low heeled sandals. She had black curly shot hair with red round “hanging” earrings and black-framed specs.
Ayako Yukki was a retired army officer of Japan military and currently, she was serving as an official for the gaming company for Japan [the same job Marvin and his fellow friends did for America]. She was currently in San Diego on an official visit to submit the report of those who passed the test in Japan.
She was the one who raised Ken since the age of ten. After her retirement from the Japanese national army, she was appointed as a training officer for the army and she was the one who had sent Ken to America to work in his brother’s shop and stand up on his own feet.
“Oh! Ken, it has been six months since you came here. How have you been my child? “
In a saluting posture and with a slightly soft voice, “ this soldier of yours have been perfectly fine ma’am…..”.
Both of them burst into laughter as Ken hugged her “Godmother “.
“Oh! Ken you have become more handsome and charming in these few months, how many girlfriends do you have? “ Ayako asked with a really ‘cheeky ‘ texture to her voice.
“ Oh! Miss, you have always been like that.”
“ You were so silent and emotionless most of the time when I first met you, that I had to be like this. But I am happy to see that you have cheered up a bit. “
“No it’s not like that miss….. and whatever I am today is all because of the hard work that you put on me and I can never repay you for that”. Ken replied, keeping his head bowed the whole time.
“ Here….. Come up ken! All I did was to cheer you up, and whatever you are today is all because of you, yourself “.
“ By the way miss, how did you even find me here in San Diego? And why didn’t you inform me that you are coming here? “.
“ Well, I arrived yesterday afternoon in the town. I wanted to surprise you, so I went to the store this morning but it was shut down due to some incident. As I was about to call you, Marvin called me up and informed that you were here so I came running right from there to meet you, Ken”.
“ Thank you very much sir for taking care of my miss and for everything you did .”
“ No, I did nothing. It was just that she told me so much about you since yesterday that when I saw you here in the afternoon, I suspected that you were the same person about whom she talking and as such, I called her here immediately” said Marvin.
“That aside, what are you doing here Ken? I never thought that you would be interested in such competitions! “.
“Oh! This is nothing miss. Either way, I wasn’t going to participate in the competition even if I pass the test here… So ya, I was just passing my time here”.
“Why not, you have a very good chance of passing this test. I came here to know about your progress from one of the officers?” said Marvin.
“ I wasn’t even interested in the first place, sir. It was my friend who urged me to come here and besides I wasn’t even sure of making it through the test “.
“ Although it’s your decision about going further in the competition but I would strongly recommend that you do “.
Ayako, who was listening to them interrupted and said “Why not Ken, this is a great opportunity for you to grow in life as I person and earn some respect for yourself among the people out there. Here this might motivate you a bit. “
Ayako handed over a piece of paper to Ken. It was the list of people who were selected from Japan as participants. It contained over 100 names in it but one name out of so many was highlighted in it. Probably it was Ayako who had highlighted for Ken. Unaware of what was there in the paper, Ken took it from Ayako’s hand and began reading it
“ Participants from Japan
Ken’s voice began trembled and began to fade out as he was stunned by the name that he read. With his eyes wide open, he said to Ayako “ How can he be here…… No, it can’t be possible….. He shouldn’t be here….. It can’t be possible ” tearing the paper apart in pieces.
“ Ken, Ken“. Ayako shouted but his shout was in vain as Ken was completely spaced out there.
“!…………..!”. Ayako with her full force slapped Ken. “Are you done spacing out?. Look here Ken, it’s time that you face your past. It’s time that you finally fight against the everything, every wrong that happened with you in the past. “ she said holding Ken’s shoulder and his face towards her.
“ I can’t do that miss. And why should I do that, I didn’t want anything with these people and now if i participate in this competition it would bring everything in front of me? I quit miss”.
“ No you aren’t and you will not. Listen to me Ken, i know that you have seen faced too much in your life and facing it again will certainly be hard for you.
But Ken, it’s time that you finally overcome all that stuff and start your life happily from a new end. Go, eradicate all your bad memories and start a new chapter in your life……. If you can’t do it for yourself then do it for your miss! “.
“Life is a mixture of happiness and sadness.”. Those who say this are fools because they don’t what a person have been through in his or her life. For some, Life is meaningful while for others it’s meaningless. For some it’s still shining while for some it’s just starting to fade away.
It’s just the fact that everyone sees things from their own point of views. Those who are hopeful, find every task as a new mountain to conquer while those who are hopeless generally fade away on the flowing winds of time.
By Ayako’s words, Ken had somewhat understood this fact. He made up his mind to face his life and put an end to everything that happened to him in the past……after all it was her “Godmother” who had asked him to do it.
Holding himself up ken said, “ It’s alright miss, I will do it for myself and for you both. It’s time to do something new in life “.
“ Yes, that’s my boy! “ Ayako said as she gently kissed him on his forehead.
“ Ok! Miss I’ll be leaving for now….. See you soon! “.