To the recipient of this letter:
You have been chosen to participate in the first NaNoRenO Game Show. During this event, you will be pitted against other contestants in a series of challenges. If you can overcome them, you can make any one request and whatever it is, it will be fulfilled.
This is a one time offer. If you choose to withdraw, your spot will be given to someone more worthy. However, I selected you because I trust that you will not disappoint.
This event takes place at the date and location written on the back of this page. By choosing to arrive, you understand that we will not be held responsible for any casualties. Once the games begin, no one else will be allowed in or out until the end.
Don’t be late.
His Royal Highness
Prince Alexandrite of the Vi
This letter, handwritten on a sleek beige parchment, is what found its way into the possession of 5 different groups of people. Despite some of the chilling implications, they decided to accept this strange, little invitation. Whether it was out of a desire to win, from being pressured by a meddlesome friend, or even a mistake, the recipients showed up at the place enclosed in the letter.
It’s a domed building, a Taj Mahal with classical architecture seemingly inspired from Greek times and the Renaissance. All glass, like those black one-way mirrors that lets you see from the inside but not from the outside. It’s at the heart of a dense forest in the middle of nowhere, where scrub, ferns, and overgrown foliage of all kind abound. Yet, none of them dare to curl up over the pillars that uphold the portico or even graze the perimeter of its imposing walls.
Once you went through those vaulted doors, you knew there was no going back.
Welcome to the arena for the NaNoRenO Game Show.
It’s a rounded room of cold marble, a gray world with an upraised dais in the center for your hosts. It’s the kind of chamber suited for an ancient tribunal, a place where both the innocent and the guilty were walked out before a jury to fend against a death sentence. In keeping with that image, the stands are choked with men and women, an audience of a hundred eyes.
However, the contestants don’t have much time to marvel or gawk at them before Onyx, the darkly armored swordsman, leads them to your podium. Each team has their own – a svelte, oddly shaped platform where one could have rested an entire dinner. It stands some distance away from the dais and by the furthermost wall of the stadium that faces the entrance.
Depending on how early each invitee decided to arrive, they might have had to wait for quite some time or hardly at all. However, none came late because Alexandrite makes good on his threats.
If you’re even a second late, those doors remain locked from the inside.
[As soon as the clock strikes whatever time Alexandrite had set, Onyx steps forward on the dais.]
Onyx: The NaNoRenO Game Show will begin now.
[His words resonates faintly within his helmet, lending it a sort of hollow, possibly metallic quality. An almost inhuman voice. Farther back, one corner of Night’s mouth quirks up with a suppressed chuckle.]
[The young woman ventures forward, heels clicking beneath the hem of her glittering blue dress. With her snow-white hands clasped together, she sweeps forward in a traditional bow. When she speaks, her voice manages to carry across the room without being raised, but it’s one that’s easy to miss.]
Ambrosia: Welcome, one and all. We thank you for making the effort to come all this way to our humble venue.
[Some ways behind her, Wildfire raises a brow, while Wind scoffs and folds his arms across his chest. After running her gaze across the spectators, Ambrosia turns her smile towards the contestants.]
Ambrosia: I’m sure you were quite startled to have received an invitation so out of the blue. I most certainly would have been! You are all courageous men and women to have come here without any foreknowledge of the trials you must face.
Wildfire: Hah! Leave it to Ambrosia to make it sound like some big, world-changing event. Listen up! This is a game show. You won’t know what you’re playing until we tell you. No but’s or if’s about it. If that sets your boots knocking, then feel free to run with your tail between your legs. There’s the door.
Arsenik: You’re as hospitable as always, Valkyrie. A true class act.
Wildfire: Just telling it like it is. Not like anyone would’ve had any idea of what Ambrosia’s beating around the bush about.
Ambrosia: Our guests may indeed forfeit, if they should so choose. I will, on my end, withhold any judgment. The unknown is, without a doubt, a fearful thing! There is no shame in choosing not to befriend it.
Arsenik: However, it must be said that they will be abandoning any chances of winning the prize. The fulfillment of one request, one wish – whatever that may be.
Night: And you can be sure that Alexandrite has the resources to do it. He’s the prince, after all.
Ambrosia: I do believe we’re being quite remiss in not introducing ourselves.
Chase: Right! Well, we’re your hosts –
Chase: – and your judges. But, personally speaking, I’ll try not to be too hard on all of you. This is your first time, right? Anyway, I’m Chase of the Trold clan, and this is Wildfire.
Wildfire: Of the Valkyrie. And that prick over there’s Arsenik from the no-good Hulder.
Arsenik: I can tend to my own introduction, thank you very much.
Wildfire: Under five words?
Arsenik: You might need to learn how to count because what you said was well over five words.
Wildfire: Still would’ve been less than yours. Oh, and this mute boy is Wind of the Imugi.
Wind: I know how to speak. But I can show you what it’s like to be mute.
Wildfire: Well, bring it on, boy. Don’t be all talk and no action.
Onyx: His Highness, Prince Alexandrite, wants these proceedings to run smoothly. If you choose to engage in hostilities, you force me to intervene.
Night: And this dutiful warrior’s Onyx. You can call me Night. We’re both from the clan of the Vi.
Ambrosia: As for me, I am called Ambrosia. I hail from the Phoenix clan.
[Once more, she leans forward in a formal bow.]
Ambrosia: Now then, please tell us what you are called. Ah, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Wind: Or do. We don’t have all day.
Ambrosia: Hehe…please don’t mind Sir Wind. I’m sure he’s only impatient to see who will be crowned the victor!
Ambrosia: Mm. Let’s start with your team first, shall we?
[Stepping off the dais, she approaches the closest podium. Now that she’s up close, you might notice that she has a stature of 5’3’’, but her heels put her a little over 5’6’’. However, that’s only if you’re particularly observant or keen to these minute sorts of details.
You might have noticed nothing more than the warmth in her smile and almond-shaped eyes, almost as if she were gazing upon someone dear to her.]
Ambrosia: Please tell me your name.
Banality Man: Greetings, citizens of this game show! I’m Banality Man. Bureaucracy killed my parents, so now I fight bureaucracy—with my fists! I didn’t read the rules because they’re tools of oppression. So if this is a dating show, my favorite hobby is punching and I identify as justicesexual. If this is a singing show, my range is baritone and I’m moderately proficient at a cappella beatboxing. And if this is a cooking show, oh boy am I screwed.
[At the mention of “justicesexual,” Ambrosia’s face colors, but by the end of his introduction, she has recovered. Wildfire, on the other hand, snickers.]
Wildfire: I like this one.
Chase: He’s doing this all by himself? That definitely takes courage.
Wildfire: Didn’t you hear him? He’s Banality Man. He doesn’t need anyone or anything but his fists.
Night: I don’t know how much that will help him in the first challenge, though.
Arsenik: Now, now, let’s not give it away.
Ambrosia: Thank you very much for introducing yourself, Sir Banality Man.
Wildfire: Wow, that’s a mouthful. Just call him Banality Man like everyone else.
Ambrosia: You sound like a man of many talents! We have many different challenges planned, so I’m sure they’ll have the chance to shine.
[She turns her attention towards the next podium and begins to approach the next team.]
Ambrosia: Now then, all of you are…?
[Stood at this podium were three contestants. Two of them were dressed in lavish, brightly coloured robes, and they both wore gold accessories in their flowing hair. The girl was clad in reds and golds, while the man was dressed in blues and yellows. The third, however, a youth of indistinguishable gender, was dressed in drab colours, in robes with torn and frayed hems.]
[The girl was the first to speak. She seemed unfazed by the crowd, and drew herself to her full height with the manner of someone that was used to addressing them on a regular basis.]
Princess Yanyu: I am Princess Yanyu, heir to the throne of Nantu. Pleased to meet you.
[Without any prompting necessary, the man spoke next.]
Prince Shun: I am Prince Shun, also of the Kingdom of Nantu. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.
[The prince looked over at the youth expectantly. The youth pushed a lock of hair behind their ear as they took in the sight of unfamiliar eyes upon them. One of their hands lingered on the hood of their cloak, as though they would very much like to pull it up over their face and disappear from everyone else’s field of vision.]
Zheng: Zheng. No fancy title here. I live in Nantu though. It’s an alright place, I guess.
Princess Yanyu: Would it make you feel better if we called you the “Citizen of Nantu” or something?
Prince Shun: I am afraid it would have to be “A Citizen of Nantu”, considering the kingdom does have more than one person living there… not much of a title, is it?
Princess Yanyu: Oh, I guess not, huh… Ooh, what about what we called Zheng when we first met them? “You Vile Witch”? That could be a title!
Prince Shun: It does have a certain poetry to it…
Zheng: Right, that’s our introductions done. On to the next contestants, please.
[The princess hid a laugh behind her sleeve, while the prince wore the slightest of smirks on his face openly. The youth was already looking like they’d much rather leave right this moment.]
Zheng: (…Just think of the rewards and riches, and nothing else.)
[At Zheng’s expression, Ambrosia’s smile softens in sympathy before she obliges him by turning her attention to the next team.]
[The only girl among the team immediately steps forward with an eager smile, practically radiating confidence. She gives a small curtsy before speaking.]
Princess Charming: Hello! I am Princess Charming, and I am honored to be here today. While I am not certain how this event will play out, I will do everything I can to ensure that my princes and I leave victorious.
[Prince Snow chuckles to himself, while Prince Mer just shakes his head and sighs. Princess Charming elbows them with a light laugh.]
Prince Zel: I-I don’t know about that, Charming…
Princess Charming: Oh, come on! I am one of the best magic-users in the world, and everyone knows it.
[After a moment of hesitation, Prince Mer conjures up an illusion of text mid-air.]
Mer’s Illusion: Well, I believe we are in a different world now, and our new companions seem quite amazing indeed. Who knows if your magic will even prove useful? This is not to discredit you, of course.
Prince Snow: Mer’s right, Charming. Personally, I think we should just enjoy this. This sounds like it’ll be very enjoyable.
Princess Charming: Well, of course! I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think it would be fun. Still. This is a competition. I’m definitely not going to hold back.
[The princes all sigh in unison, shaking their heads in reluctant amusement at Princess Charming’s typical antics.]
Princess Charming: What? Stop staring at me like that. Go on. Introduce yourselves too.
[Prince Snow steps forward and bows with a flourish.]
Prince Snow: Good evening. It is my greatest pleasure to be invited to this event. I am Prince Snow of Snow Kingdom, and I’m very honored to meet you all. I’m afraid I can’t say much more about myself for fear of taking time away from the other contestants, but if you would be interested to learn more about me, please feel free to find me for a nice, long chat whenever you want.
[Prince Snow ends his speech with a flirtatious wink at the audience. Princess Charming rolls her eyes with a laugh, pulling him back from center stage.]
[There’s a beat of silence after Prince Snow’s introduction as Prince Mer and Prince Zel look at each other, both waiting for the other to continue. Prince Zel coughs, bowing his head to hide a blush as he peeks up at the audience shyly.]
Prince Zel: Hello, I am Prince Zel of Forest Kingdom, and I’m really excited to participate. I… I am sadly not the best at public speaking, haha! But really, thank you so much for inviting us today.
Mer’s Illusion: I am Prince Mer of Water Kingdom. As you may have guessed, I cannot speak. I will be using illusions instead to convey my thoughts. My apologies, and thank you all for the consideration.
Prince Snow: Is there anything else we need to add?
Princess Charming: I don’t believe so. Perhaps it’s time to let the next group speak.
Wildfire: …Ahaha! Wow, look, there really is a mute boy here. Seems you’re not the only one, Wind.
Wind: You know I can speak. I don’t know whether you’re brave or just foolish. Probably the second.
Ambrosia: Lady Wildfire, please, you’re being rude.
Wildfire: I just don’t know what Alexandrite’s thinking, inviting someone like that.
Night: It’s all right. Princess Charming sounds like she’s perfectly capable of leading her whole team to victory.
[He turns a smile towards the princess in question. Was his gaze lingering a little longer than it should? It’s hard to tell.]
Ambrosia: Oh, now! I have no doubt they each have their own unique ability, which will only add to their strength as a team.
Wildfire: Careful. Or it’ll sound like you have favorites.
Arsenik: Like when you expressed your partiality for Banality Man?
Wildfire: He sounds fierce. No shame in that.
Arsenik: Well, as I’m sure all of you can tell, Valkyrie comes from a clan that lacks a certain finesse. I hope none of you will take her brashness to heart.
[The team of four all stands silent, waiting for one of them to take the initiative and introduce themselves. After a few awkward seconds, one man turns to the lone woman of the group.]
Paige: Well what?
Blake: Introduce us already!
Paige: What? I’m no good at that stuff. Why don’t you do it?
Blake: For heaven’s sakes, you were the one that dragged us here.
Paige: That doesn’t automatically make me ambassador of the team! I’m just here for the game part.
[The tallest of the group steps forward with a smile in the midst of the other two’s bickering.]
Colt: Hi, everyone. Sorry for the confusion. We’re a bit out of our element here. Um, I’m Colt. I’m a former semi pro hockey player and current physical therapist. I enjoy long walks on the beach and deep conversation.
Blake: It’s not a dating show, you idiot.
Colt: Obviously not, or you wouldn’t be here. In fact, why are you here? Unless there’s a contest for scowling the hardest, I can’t imagine what help you’ll be.
Blake: Shut up, string bean. I could break you in half. How’s that for something useful?
[The woman moves between them and pushes them apart with a nervous smile.]
Paige: Anyway! I’m Paige. I love playing sports and so when I got the invitation, I thought it would be a fun competition for me and my hockey teammates. Despite the arguing we actually do work pretty well together once we’re in a game, I promise.
Blake: Yeah, I’m sure we’ll be great against the people that can shoot fireballs out of their hands.
Paige: This obnoxious loudmouth is Blake. He is quite adept at getting on people’s nerves.
Blake: What did you call me?
Jordan: An obnoxious loudmouth.
[Their gaze shifts back to their last member of their group who has mostly remained invisible. He doesn’t look up from playing his games on his phone.]
Jordan: She could also use rude, whiny, difficult, offensive, cantankerous.
Colt: Cantankerous. Ha, that’s a good one. Sounds like a disease.
Paige: That’s Jordan. He’s pretty quiet, but he’s got amazing reflexes. He’s honestly the best goalie I’ve ever seen.
[The tips of Jordan’s ears turn red as he pretends to be concentrating on the screen in front of him.]
Colt: No fair, I want a compliment from Paige.
Blake: At least you didn’t get introduced with an insult.
[Paige ignores their grumbles and focuses on their hosts.]
Paige: Anyway, uh, thanks for invitation. We may not have cool superpowers, but don’t underestimate us! We’ll be great competition.
[At their amusing banter, Ambrosia hides a small chuckle behind her fingertips.]
Ambrosia: Yes, I have no doubt you will all prove to be quite fierce competitors!
[A group of three stands in the middle of the podium; two young men – one with platinum blonde hair, who looks less than pleased, dressed in a blue waistcoat. One with silver hair that had a pair of wolf ears that looked surprisingly good against his magenta scarf – and a girl with long, chestnut brown hair, rubbing away the sleep in her eyes with her sweater sleeve. The girl notices that the room’s gone silent and nudges the other two into attention.]
Bianca: Er. Nice to meet you all. I’m Bianca Hayes, and…
[The girl rubs the back of her neck, seemingly at a loss for words. The wolf-looking guy begins to cover his reddening face with his sweater.]
Bianca: Wow, I’m no royalty or magician or anything; just some girl studying for finals. I guess you could say I’m good at paying attention to details, and I’ve been told I have something of a calming presence? Man, that sounds kinda lame compared to all the magic and stuff… but it’s all good, probably.
[One of the people standing behind her, Ettore, begins to speak, seemingly trying to keep his facial expression in check.]
Ettore: Pardon me, but may I ask the hosts a few questions? Where is this? What do you mean by “game show,” exactly? How long will this take, and… why are we doing all this, again?
Bianca: Ettore, calm down. Earlier we all thought it’d be fun, remember?
Ettore: T-that’s true, yes, but… now that we’re here, I’ll admit I’m feeling a little on-edge. Especially – no offense – looking at that “Banality Man.” What does being a “justicesexual” entail?
[The young man dressed in blue turns to Banality Man, eyes wary. Cecil puts his hand on his shoulder, looking worried.]
Bianca: (. That concept must not exist in his world. Uhh, what was it again, um…)
Bianca: (Hold on, did my thoughts come out censored? How?!)
Cecil: Ettore, calm down. I-I don’t think he’s going to hurt us, or anything. Besides, you can use, um… light magic, right?
Ettore: I suppose, but I have a pretty broad range of abilities within “light magic”…
[For a brief moment, his eyes flick to Princess Charming and her entourage.]
Ettore: Besides, I’m not sure how well I’d fare against the others here, so let’s gloss over it for now.
Bianca: You forgot to introduce yourselves, you two.
Ettore: Oh! Pardon me. I’m Ettore, an astronomer and alchemist living in the town of… ah, we do seem to be in a completely different world, so perhaps it’d be of no merit to bring things like that up here.
[The blonde finishes his introduction. When the strange, silver-haired boy notices that the room’s eyes are on him, he jumps slightly before taking a deep breath to compose himself.]
Cecil: U-um… hi…! My name is Cecil. Um, last names weren’t much of a practice with my family, so I don’t have one. S-sorry. I’m kinda shy…
[Cecil fiddles with the hems of his gloves.]
Cecil: I-I wouldn’t know anything about stuff like long walks on the beach, but I like to cook! I’m not very good at it yet, though, haha…
[A somewhat worried smile passes onto Bianca’s face, and puts her hand on Cecil’s shoulder. Ettore does the same.]
Ettore: It’s okay, Cecil.
Cecil: H-huh? Um, thank you?
Bianca: (I wonder if this’ll really be alright…)
Bianca: …Well, whether we win or lose, it’ll be nice to participate with you all.
[Throughout their introduction, Wind’s gaze remained on Cecil. His eyes were golden, almost serpentine. You might sense that there’s something animalistic about him as well. Heedless of this, Ambrosia smiles kindly upon Cecil before bowing to everyone.]
Ambrosia: Thank you, one and all, for honoring us with the acceptance of our invitation. I have no doubt you will amaze us all over the course of the next few challenges. I wish each of you luck.
Wildfire: So, who do you think will win?
Night: Hmm…I have my eye on Princess Charming and her team.
Wildfire: Well, you know my bet’s on Banality Man.
Night: Oh, so this is a bet?
Arsenik: Now, now, these aren’t competition dogs. You don’t really think they appreciate being wagered on, do you?
Chase: Aww, it’s all in good fun. My guess is on the hockey players. Whatever that is, but it sounds neat.
Wind: Are we done wasting time yet?
Onyx: It’s time for the first challenge.
Ambrosia: Then, let’s begin, shall we? I hope everyone is ready. Please enjoy your stay at the NaNoRenO Game Show!
Who do you think will win the game show? Cast your vote here!