Not So Lucky
Ah, fall. The weather grows colder, leaves change color and students scramble to prepare for university life. Brightvale University is by far the most popular choice. And why wouldn't it be? King Hagan transformed an obscure shabby school into the cornerstone for learning with his own funds. Or, well, I guess technically his people's funds. Taxes can be quite handy, I suppose.
I used to have a future there. In fact I was practically handed scholarships on a silver platter. So you might wonder why I haven't been enrolled.
I wish I could say I didn't like the food or the campus was rubbish. Unfortunately, the real story includes explosions, panic and plenty of personal humiliation.
It took place four years ago when I received a letter...
- - - - - - -
Dear Lucky of White Diamond Estate,
We have reviewed your application. Your exceptional score has placed you in the top tier of entrants. You have been awarded a generous sum to aid you in your studies. Brightvale University preview day is this Wednesday. We expect to see you soon.
Headmaster Leonard Lockwood
I stared at the glossy stationary in shock. I had been a mixture of nerves and excitement the second I had seen the golden weewoo seal.
"Hey, Short-stuff what's with the face?" Storm, my irritating Ogrin brother, waltzed it the room to pluck my letter out of my paws. "Did you get invited to a fancy party? If it's formal, you'll have to rent a tux from the kiddie aisle. And remember to be home by eight for bedtime." Grinning stupidly, he waited for my reaction to his pathetic jokes.
"I-I got in! Brightvale University wants me!" I was in too good of a mood respond to his continuous teasing. "I've got to tell Mom."
I raced through the house, heading directly for the study. The teenaged girl was scribbling in a notebook, periodically sipping from a brightly painted mug. I cleared my throat and stepped in the packed room. Presumably, "inspiration" had been striking her as supplies were normally somewhat organized.
When I shared the news, my owner furrowed her brow in momentary confusion. "I didn't know there was Neoschool."
"This is a university, not Neoschool."
"Oh! I'm so proud of you." She sat up straighter, accidently shoving the clutter on her desk. "Why didn't you tell me before?" Lazily, several papers drifted to the floor.
"It was a spur of the moment kind of thing." I shrugged, handing her the misplaced documents. "I honestly didn't know if my essay would hold up to their standards. They're pretty strict."
"If anybody can handle the challenge, it's you!" She affectionately ruffled my ears and I beamed.
By this time, the rest of my nosey family had congregated in the hallway. Ruby and Violet, my Lupe brother and Xweetok sister respectively, congratulated me while Storm made awful jokes. Sand, Ruby's magical kepru, sulked the entire time. Because I refused to study sorcery, she was giving me the cold shoulder. Overall, I was happy, confident and excited, which was probably why everything went wrong.
Wednesday finally arrived and I was more than ready. Three days were plenty of time to conduct rigorous research: reviewing courses, budgeting supplies, memorizing the blueprints of the entire school... standard school preparations.
"Mom! Today's the day!" I tripped over haphazardly placed plastic wrap on my way to the dinner table. At my owner's wide-eyed gaze, I deflated a bit. "What is it?"
"Er... well..." she stuttered, twisting her hair guiltily. "I've got to take Ruby to the doctor."
"That's okay." I hid a twinge of disappointment with a lopsided smile. "I'll take Violet and you can come during welcome week." Her renewed grimacing gave me pause. "What's wrong?"
"Lucky, I hired a company to fix up our property and Violet has to oversee the outdoor work. Inside they're doing some heavy cleaning."
"I don't mind visiting alone—"
She signaled for my attention. Bracing herself, my owner looked me in the eye. "The thing is... no one can be in the house. Violet will be working, but Storm, well... his 'help' isn't particularly beneficial."
I felt sweat trickle down my neck. I knew where this was headed. "Yo-you're not asking me to babysit Storm are you?" Her sheepish look was a distressing confirmation. "Mom! Give him some Neopoints and send him to an arcade or something."
Sighing, she massaged her temple. "Storm is technically grounded right now."
I felt my stomach plummet.
"He needs to be watched and I'd have Violet take care of it, but our resident ghosts like to come out when he's around. I don't want to deal with the insurance when the cleaning crew experience on-the-job frights." She peered at me hopefully. "Please, Lucky? Pretty please?"
My resolve crumbled. "Fine. You owe me big time." Before she could say anything, I added as an afterthought, "Just make Sand tag along with you."
"Are we there yet?" Storm slumped on the tiny bench seat of the Uni carriage.
I shoved at him, irritated since I had been wedged between him and the door. "Seriously Storm? The trip isn't even that long. And we started five minutes ago."
"But I'm hungry!" the Ogrin whined, plastering his face against the other window.
Across the carriage, a loud blue Pteri was gossiping animatedly with a distressed looking Darigan Flotsam. Feeling a spark of empathy, I interrupted the Pteri by commenting on her ridiculous chartreuse hat. Smug, she explained the top-of-the-line fashion and exclusivity of that particular brand.
I found it burned my retinas.
Fortunately, we arrived at our stop in no time. Storm and I escaped before that Pteri could offer any advice. The Flotsam watched us longingly.
I breathed in the crispy air, getting my bearings.
"Where's the school?" Storm glanced at the nearby village in confusion.
"Relax. It's close." I pointed to a path up a hill. "We go that way."
Grumbling, Storm trudged up the trail. Although Storm complained often about his predicament, there was a bounce in his step as he kicked leaves aside. When he reached the top, he froze.
"What?" Until I joined him, I couldn't figure out why he was so entranced. "It's... wow."
The winding trip down the hill led to magnificent limestone structures. In the middle was a domed tower with a "U" shaped building curving protectively around it. Sunlight filtered through numerous stained glass murals adorning the walls.
Ecstatic, I nudged Storm. "Let's go!"
Racing down the slope, I slowed when we entered the flow of Neopets seeking admission. After my paws and tail were repeatedly stomped on, I gave up most of my politeness. Storm noticed and used his boney elbows for good. It might have been easier to carry me; however, I loathe that.
The first room inside was a large open area. The slick beige and gold tiles glittered merrily, freshly polished. A crisp green banner hung proudly on a banister reading: Welcome to Brightvale University! The mascot, a golden weewoo, perched solemnly with a white feather clenched in one claw and a laurel in the other.
I dragged Storm through the busy swarm to the headmaster's office. Spying the shiny Lockwood sign above a private office, I knocked on a thick door.
"Excuse me!" A Cybunny with a nasally voice stormed up behind us. "You can't bother Headmaster Lock-"
"Lucky! Welcome! Come in, come in!" A sharply dressed biscuit Acara threw open the double doors, beaming at us. "Matilda, please make sure we aren't disturbed."
Storm shot a smug look at the disgruntled striped Cybunny as we were ushered into Lockwood's room. I was struck by how spotless the perfectly matching furniture was. It appeared peculiar for a space someone would work in for long periods of time. Personal items were sparse. A lone photo of an enthusiastic Mr. Lockwood with his arm around an uninterested blue Acara rested next to an empty coffee mug. I identified his unwilling companion as Professor Chesterpot.
"It's always good to see new faces here!" The headmaster flattened nonexistent wrinkles in his shirt. "I recognize you from your application picture with your striking eyes." He shook my paw firmly. Most people were drawn to my mismatched eyes, one blue and one brown. "But what is your older brother's name?"
Suppressing my scowl, I dug my claws into my palm. "Storm is my younger brother, actually."
From my peripheral vision, I could see Storm biting his lip. At least I didn't make the mistake of calling him my "little" brother.
"Oh. It's good to meet you." He narrowed his eyes at the venom lurking below the surface of my words. "I'll go fetch the schedules. You boys stay here." He exited a side door promptly.
The second the latch clicked shut, Storm was snooping through the headmaster's cabinets. Loudly, I cleared my throat, but he ignored me.
"Knock it off!" I glared as Storm wrestled with a jammed handle.
"Chill out." He stuck his tongue out childishly. "I'm starving and I bet Headmaster Sweater Vest has something around here. Like crackers or peanuts or breath mints...."
"You can't poke into his stuff. He's going to be right ba- ACK!" The nosey Ogrin's rough movements sent a decorative jar flying. Although he caught it, the blue gel inside splattered on my face.
Naturally, the headmaster returned before we could do anything. We all stared blankly at each other in shock. I was horrified, the headmaster looked petrified and Storm was just surprised.
"I saved this!" Storm announced in an overly-casual manner. "You're welcome."
"Th-thank Fyora!" He cradled the container carefully. "This is a very special brew to magnify spells. It hasn't been tested yet."
Suddenly my mouth was as dry as the Lost Desert. "What will it do to me?"
"To Neopets?" Lockwood transferred the gel to a desk drawer. "Assuming you aren't a magic user, it will have no effect. But if-"
"Nope." Storm answered, almost seeming disappointed. "He's just a dull, normal, average Bori." He turned, curious when I didn't reply immediately. "Right, bro?"
Laughing nervously, I spoke up. "No magic. No, not me. Not a thing." I scrubbed the gel off my fur as fast as I could.
Composing himself, Headmaster Lockwood ushered us out the door. I couldn't blame him for wanting to rush us away from his office. "Let us join up with the rest of your group. Then we can start the tour." He strode past his grumpy assistant, who was dejectedly filing a mountain of paperwork. "Matilda, be a dear and get Lucky's records to the main office A.S.A.P."
Hearing her infuriated grumblings, I glanced back at the Cybunny. An unpleasant tingling sensation traveled down my spine. Eyes growing wider, I watched in fascinated dread as paper clips, scissors, and a pencil holder scooted to the edge of her workspace. When three paper clips suddenly struck and stuck onto my back, I instinctively dodged the scissors that came next. With a wailing groan, the desk scraped forwards a few inches, much to the bewilderment of Matilda.
Scrounging in a file cabinet, the Acara meticulously thumbed through the countless folders. "Brightvale University has much to see. Our library holds both ancient and modern literature, our science lab has state of the art equipment, and if we are fortunate, we may be able to visit the new potion room!" Oblivious to his experiment's effects, the headmaster kept babbling, now beginning a brisk pace.
"Sure, that's all good and fine, but how's the food?" Storm lazily raised an eyebrow at my abrupt insistence of walking in front of him.
Unfazed by the change of subject, the Acara passionately continued, "The cafeteria is designed to be roomy and spacious. Artists have created stunning stained glass windows to appreciate while you dine. I can tell you the exact measurements of the ceiling curvature-"
"Uh, maybe some other time." Storm nodded at the cluster of potential students. "I bet they want to know... how old the school is and stuff."
"Ah, yes." As we entered the room, the Neopets gravitated toward Lockwood eagerly. "Greetings! It is a joy to see new faces fill BVU. I trust our campus lives up to its reputation."
"I'll know once I measure the distance between all of the windows. They're supposed to be symmetrical with the hangings of the paintings," a Nimmo muttered to his friend in a reedy voice.
"What about the miniatures of the campus buildings? They're supposed to be precisely 1/400th of the size of real thing," his friend, a Scorchio, replied leaning in confidentially. "We'll see about that!"
They both broke into disturbing schoolgirl giggles.
"Wow, Lucky. I didn't know dorkier Neopets than you could exist," Storm (I suspect purposely) whispered in a not-so-quiet voice. "This raises the bar on weird."
The beginning of the tour prevented them from retorting. Storm may act like an incredible jerk, but I don't think he teases with the intention of bullying. He and his friends trash talk each other for fun. I can understand to a point; however, that Ogrin knows no boundaries.
The Acara marched out the door. "We shall first visit the engineering rooms."
The tour went smoothly and I enjoyed myself. When the only magical mishaps were weewoo banners changing color and making the Garlic Kiko briefly allergic to everyone, I convinced myself it wasn't likely to get worse.
The Headmaster beamed after conferring with a Neopet, who had emerged from a laboratory. "What great luck! Professor Sharon has invited us to see her new potions." He waved to the group to go inside the strangely cinnamon scented room. "Have you been testing my prototype?"
Tucking an errant hair behind her ear, the Camouflage Elephante stood aside to clear the way. "Indeed, I have, sir." She scrutinized our actions. "Please refrain from touching anything. These mixtures are very delicate." Satisfied with our chastised caution in exploration, she conversed with the headmaster.
I got a stomach-churning feeling in my gut when the prickling sensation grew stronger.
Storm peered at me worriedly. "Are you okay?"
"I-I need to step outside for a bit." I clenched my teeth against the nausea.
"Dude, should we call Sand?"
"What? Why would I want her here?"
"Didn't she say this would happen?" He shrugged at my mystification. "She was giving you a really long lecture about magic studies and said the astronomical arrangements of some obscure constellations meant you would be infused with power. Then... blah, blah, no one listens to me, blah, blah, technical stuff, you'll see etc." He frowned suspiciously. "Wait, do you actually use magic?"
"That's ridiculous!" I fumed, torn from anger and guilt. "When have I done any magic?"
"Professor!" A Neopet in a fancy robe recoiled from the row of bubbling vials. "Something's wrong!"
The rest of the students leapt away as the experiments foamed up, spilling over the flasks. The Elephante moved swiftly, but the abundance of panicking 'pets hindered her damage control.
"Is this you?" Storm muttered in my ear, distracting me from my effort to remain calm. "This would be so awesome if I wasn't afraid of melting into a pile of radioactive goo." Protectively, he wrapped his tail around himself, fearfully avoiding the glowing liquids. "Now would be a good time to stop."
"I don't- I'm not sure if this is me!" I hissed back, my hackles rising. "Instead of asking pointless questions, you should leave me alone."
"It's going to blow!" someone called out.
Promptly, Storm and I ducked behind a table after shoving it over, following other Neopets' leads. Headmaster Lockwood and two students somehow managed to tackle Sharon behind a desk just as the potions began to interact.
Opening my eyes warily, I peeled myself off the floor. The entire room was coated in thick multi-colored dust except for the areas directly beneath cowering Neopets. My fur was splattered with pale blue in the exact shade as my left eye. I nudged the slate gray blob that was Storm.
"Aw man..." He lurched upright. "And I thought this day was going to be boring." Storm examined his coat. "At least I don't look like that guy."
The Nimmo, who Storm had mocked earlier, was now a shade of intensely bright yellow.
"Is everyone alright?" A rumpled headmaster stumbled to the center of the room. His legs were stained orange, but nothing above his knees.
When Sharon strode up livid and completely orange, I assumed she must have landed on the Acara. "I want to know who did this!"
"Sharon, don't jump to conclusions. We don't know that anyone caused this." He herded us out into the hallway. "We have no reason to accuse that."
"Well, I know something!" The Nimmo's Scorchio buddy trilled self-importantly. "They-" He gestured at Storm and I. "-were talking about the short one's ultimate power of destruction."
My ears flatted reflexively. "You're crazy! I-er no one would ever do this on purpose!"
"It might not have been on purpose, but it cost me months of research!" the Elephante bellowed, bearing down on me. "Why wasn't your access limited if you have no restraint over your magic? This is an outrage!" She whirled around to confront the Acara. "Leonard, you of all people should know better!"
His expressions altered from puzzlement to thoughtfulness to severity. "Professor," Lockwood began in an icy tone. "I assure you if I had been previously aware of the boy's situation I would have prevented this."
Sharon was partially mollified.
"Lucky, why didn't you mention this when I asked?" I was so flustered with the events and the disorienting consequences of forcibly suppressing the magic that I couldn't respond.
"Well, it's not like it's his fault entirely," Storm piped up, solidifying my doom. "I mean, our kepru said she saw his destiny lay with the supernatural arts, but it's hard to listen to her when a petpet is trying to plan out your life for you." Shrugging at the headmaster's disbelief, he stood casually. "I guess Sand was right after all."
"No! No, she's not!" I shouted, distraught. Why couldn't I have control for once? "She can't push me around like that! I make my own choices!" Anger burned the back of my throat.
"The windows! They're cracking!" Everyone retreated as fissures in the massive stained glass murals multiplied.
"I don't want this. I never asked for this responsibility." I sank to my knees, exhausted by the power struggle. "It's not mine."
Simultaneously, the windows exploded. Shards of glass rained down, shattering on the cold floor. Storm slunk to my side.
For half a second, nobody said a word.
"You two!" We both winced at the headmaster's tone. "To my office. Now." Irate, he held up a paw to prevent Sharon from commenting. "Take the rest to the medical facility." Pivoting, he stomped off with Storm and I at his heels.
It was no big surprise that I was banished from Brightvale University. To be precise, my restraining order reads, "....The offender is allowed no closer than 600 feet near the campus." I imagine it would have been worse except Mr. Lockwood believed his experiment had a hand in it. That would make investigating awkward if he had reason to keep that quiet.
You might be thinking they overreacted about a couple windows; however, the truth is I didn't break a couple. Nearly every window was destroyed.
It was bad.
Although my personal experience was awful, Brightvale University is a wonderful school. Just don't trash the place.
I would like to thank everyone who has supported me. Special thanks to Anemone (fairyxhearts) and Bianca (vanessa1357924680) for taking the time to share thoughts to improve my writing. They were incredibly helpful. :) Happy Brightvale University Day! ~thedoggirl_97