Chapter 1: The Announcements

The large plain white room was filled with young people, chatting amongst each other in a dull roar while waiting with great anticipation for their next test as young grim reapers.

As they were the new graduates, passing the preliminary test before graduating school, their next goal was to survive a year of training with a private instructor to hone their powers before taking the final test to see if they were ready to carry out their existence as Grim Reapers.

There was not a single young adult in the room who wasn't anxious about whom their teacher would be. The "A" grade students would usually get the better teachers, then "B" grade students, and so on. And the better a teacher you had, the better your chances were to pass the final test.

William was by far one of the most anxious of the students. He was good at words and numbers and office kind of work, but put him out in the real world and he didn't have a single clue on what he was supposed to do.

He loathed himself for being a "B" student. He was probably smarter than seventy five percent of the top students, but he didn't have the fighting skills or physical strength to prove he was as strong as them.

The students had no idea who their teachers will be, and while most of the teachers were okay, some of them were horrible; one way or the other on the scale, and very few in between. Some teachers would sit around, completely ignoring you for the full year while you struggled to understand anything. Others drove you into the ground.

The sharp trill of a whistle pierced the air and with rehearsed accuracy everyone lined up, first according to his or her grade letter and then by his or her name. The teachers filing onto the raised stage at the front of the large room as the students hustled around with silent panic

William pushed and struggled through the crowd to his spot, trying desperately to be perfectly in line like he was supposed to be. As he ran through the rows he spotted his open gap, speeding towards it and slipping into place just as the doors closed.

In front of him stood sixty reapers, all experienced in their field and all waiting to train a student to be as good as they considered themselves to be.

"See that woman in the middle there?" The boy standing to the direct left of him leaned over, nodding towards a tall, thin reaper with long white hair. William found her easily as she was one of very few female reapers and nodded back to the boy.

"That's the Silver Heart Reaper. She's legendary!" The boy's hushed whisper was excited and terrified at the same time. "She's supposed to be the most difficult teachers around. Nobody's even been cleared by her to test in the last 100 years!" William's eyes widened, as he knew that in order to even be allowed to take the final test, you had to be cleared for testing by your teacher.

"If I have to train under her, I won't even try- I'll just quit right then and there." The boy shook his head, obviously hoping that he wouldn't have to hold true to his word.

"Congratulations to you all!" The head reaper of the organization began talking, making both boys snap their heads forward. "You who have passed the test are now that much closer to becoming Grim Reapers!"

The students and teachers applauded, more out of politeness than anything as the fear in the room was growing with slow steadiness- everyone wondering which teacher picked them to tutor.

"I will now read the list of pairings for this year, once you hear your name, please find your instructor and follow them." The man pulled out a thick roll of paper, allowing the single page to uncurl to nearly knee-length as he began summoning the students.

The names echoed in William's mind although he never quite heard them, too much in a daze of worry to care.

The boy from earlier bumped his arm and he jumped; worried that he had missed his name. He looked around with alarm before realizing that they were calling the name of a boy second to them.

William nodded his gratitude to his neighbor before looking around; a chunk of the crowd had thinned out considerably as the "A" students had all left with their mentors. The Silver Heart was still standing with hard eyes and a scowl, ominously waiting for her student.

"Adam Habell." The announcer called, waiting for the tall, well-built boy to step forward. "Guy Helier."

A tall, sly man sauntered forward, smiling smugly as he waited for the student to approach.

William noticed the female reaper glare at him with unspoken loathing, eyes flickering with anger as the man shot her a dashing and flirty smile before walking off with his student trailing not far behind.

The announcer waited politely for them to leave before calling out the next name.

"Alan Humphries." William's neighbor stepped forward bravely, shoulders back and chest appearing puffed out due to him holding his breath in nervous anticipation.

"Theodore Eudo." The announcer nodded toward a slightly aged reaper coming forward on crutches, one pant leg swinging loosely as he presented himself, a welcoming smile on his face as he waited for Alan.

"It was nice meeting you." Alan smiled and bowed quickly to William.

"Yeah, you too." William nodded and returned a small smile, stomach rolling too much for him to be sincerely happy. .

"Hope I'll uh," He glanced to make sure his teacher wasn't getting mad. "See you around."

William nodded. "Yeah." His lips twitched upwards, seeing that Alan's teacher seemed to be even happier that he had to wait because his new student was talking to a friend.

Alan nodded goodbye before running up to his teacher, bowing deeply before slowly following him out of the room, the pair already engrossed in pleasant conversation.

"William Spears." William felt his blood chill, breath catching in his throat as he ordered his legs to step forward. With much hesitation they did so. He tried to appear as brave as his neighbor had been, but found his body slowly shrinking into itself.

The announcer glanced at the list before looking back at him. "Constance Abery."

William felt his heart start beating again as confusion replaced fear.

The announcer nodded toward his teacher.

One heart beat.

Two beats.

Three beats.

William's eyes followed the man's nod and felt his heart freeze over from the ice-like substance his blood had turned into as he saw the feared reaper step forward, gazing coolly at him as she waited for his approach.

He swallowed hard, unable to get his body to move, let alone his feet to carry him forward, as he stared with apprehension at the impossible teacher. His teacher.

Slowly, after what felt like a lifetime, his body began to work on it's own accord, eyes locked in a terrified fix as he felt himself march to what could be his death.

He finally reached the woman and looked down to meet her eyes, having been so intimidated by her appearance on the stage that he hadn't realized that she was a few inches shorter than him.

"Come with me." Her voice was cold and sharp, offering no introduction or greeting before she whipped around and began walking at a brisk pace, quickly leaving William to hurry jarringly after her as she headed out of the door.