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Four of the most intelligent students in the world gaped at the dull, iron, gate of the Labyrinth, torn between excitement and fear. They looked rather strange with their sparkling eyes set before a structure of black bricks. It fact, the simplistic decor was a sigh of hope to the four but a symbol of dread for a fifth.
He stood a ways behind them with his arms crossed and his eyes to the clouds, wearing a solemn expression, as if contemplating something, when his instructor passed him. The instructor faced the four students with his back to the fifth.
Unaware of the last student, he inhaled deeply and said, “ After you enter the Labyrinth, I will lock you inside. If you are the first to find the flag in the middle and return it to the gate, you will be deemed ‘The Most Exceptional Student’.” He cleared his throat and continued, “You may bring one item to help you find the flag and I trust you brought it with you today. When I call you, you will approach me and show me what it is.”
The first student rushed to his instructor, when he was summoned, carrying a ladder over one shoulder, and said, “ I’m ‘The Most Exceptional’ for bringing this ladder. I will use it to climb the wall and seek the flag from above.”
The instructor nodded and beckoned him away, calling the second. This student bounded towards him with a knife in hand. He gave a crooked simper and said, “ I’m not as smart as the first student but I will use this knife to steal the ladder from him.”
The instructor nodded, then called the third who had a paintbrush and pail full of red paint. She skipped to him, shrugged, and said, “ I brought this paint to mark the walls with symbols. That way, I can see where I’ve been.”
The instructor nodded and called the fourth student who wore a talisman around her neck, “I’ve brought this talisman to honor my god. If he wants me to win he will guide me to the flag.”
The instructor nodded and turned to unlock the gate when he heard a voice behind him.
“I brought this chisel!” The fifth student announced waving his chisel in the air, “I’m going to tear down this maze brick by brick.”
The instructor smiled, unlocked the gate, and threw it open. The first student rushed inside. The fifth student let the others pass before he entered. Once inside, he immediately got to work.
Several days passed with the flag still hidden and the four students soon grew discouraged. The first student was aggravated after the third took his ladder. When the culprit was sleeping, the first student stole it back. He then found his way to the end wall and climbed to the top where he couldn’t see the flag. He drew a tremendous sigh, dragged his ladder to the opposing side, and escaped The Labyrinth.
The second student recalled the view from the ladder he stole. While he did not catch sight of the flag, he remembered a path he found to the center and inferred it was something of importance. When he arrived at the center, he still did not see a flag. He sat on his knees and dug deep into the dirt floor beneath him, thinking the flag was buried in the center. He grew upset with a longing for color and weariness from digging. He returned to the gate, dug himself a hole, and crawled to the other side.
The third student had immense doubt in her ability to navigate the maze and failed to develop an efficient system of symbols to guide her. She soon grew disorientated and feared she would never find her way out of the dark maze. She screamed for her instructor until he found her and carried her out the gate.
The fourth student, who had nothing to do herself, awaited instruction from her god. After several days with no response, she figured her god did not think her “Most Exceptional”. She made her way to the gate, caught sight of the hole, and crawled outside.
The fifth student took down the entire maze but found no flag. Surrounded by scattered bricks, he found a hole in the center of the Labyrinth’s remains. It was a smart idea, he thought, to hide the flag underground. He dug a fresh hole beside the old one, and found the flag buried in the dirt. He knelt on the ground with the flag in his hands, its deep, blue, fabric was spun of soft silk and embroidered with swirls of sliver thread, reminding him of the stars. At that moment he realized, if he were to hand over the flag, he would never see it again, and all his time spent diminishing an elaborate structure would go to waste. Surely, he thought, if am the most exceptional student, I must do exceptional things. He reburied the flag so no one would see it and returned to work.
Later that day the four students came by to see what the fifth was doing. He refused to answer their questions but said, “May I borrow your ladder, your paint, your knife and your talisman?”
The four nodded and set out to retrieve their things. After they brought their tools and left, the fifth student took the paintbrush and painted a blueprint across several of his bricks. From his design, he re-stacked all the bricks to form a new Labyrinth. He thought it wrong to take the flag but unable to resist the temptation, cut a piece of it with his knife and kept it for him. He hung the talisman over his neck in ceremony, and used the ladder to climb to the top of his creation. He stood above it pondering all possible improvements, perhaps he needed to expand it and maybe it needed new paint but these were only minor issues. He laughed from the warm pride he felt. He discovered the secrete of the Labyrinth and next years “Most Exceptional Student” would find that secrete in his.