Winx Club and all its characters are property of Rainbow S.r.l., Rai Fiction, and Nickelodeon. All characters are fictional and resemblance to any persons living or dead is coincidental. No copyright infringement is intended.

I Believe in Fairies
By Sailor Chronos

Chapter 1: Project

There was something about other people that had always fascinated Kendra Renault. Since childhood she had been exposed to artwork and media from many different cultures, thanks to her mother's job at the city's Museum of Fine Arts. When the time came for her to enter university it was no surprise to anyone who knew her that she had decided to become a cultural anthropologist and immerse herself in the world's civilizations.

However her chosen career path wasn't an easy one, for a number of reasons. Anthropology was not a highly sought-after skill these days. Being aware of this, she also pursued a minor in education which would give the option of going into teaching, but going so effectively doubled her work load. And then there was the bullying. Her mother's ancestry was from the Middle East, which showed in her own olive-brown skin and dark hair. Thus her appearance alone was enough to cause suspicion and even outright hostility from those too narrow-minded to understand her for the person she was instead of a media-portrayed stereotype.

During the third year of her studies she learned to watch out for the "Delta Crew": a group of high-strung girls who were all members of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority chapter and used that status to get away with numerous shenanigans. Their leader was Cyndi Neymeth: a willowy, brown-haired young woman with a surprisingly cruel streak. One rumour claimed that when Cyndi was a child she would ambush dog walkers and douse the dog with mud.

One of the Crew was in almost all of Kendra's classes, which made attendance quite stressful. Most of her classmates had been the victim of a prank at least once. Kendra herself discovered one day that someone had broken into her locker and replaced an expensive textbook with a folder full of pictures that had been digitally altered to look like her in embarrassing situations. A note threatened that the photos would be spread across the Internet unless she paid Cyndi an exorbitant amount to get the book back. After grudgingly paying the "fine" for her book, she destroyed the photos and replaced her combination lock with a high-end padlock that could not be picked or removed with anything less than bolt cutters.

The harassment didn't stop there, and Kendra began to wonder if the animosity stemmed from an incident back in high school: Cyndi had intended to embarrass her by tampering with a chemistry experiment, but she had realized that something was wrong and was able to avoid a serious spillover. Cyndi was disciplined and Kendra had thought that was the end of it, but apparently not. It certainly seemed obsessive of Cyndi to continue this now, especially since the stakes were higher.

Over the course of the semester she was pelted with spitballs in class (somehow the professors never noticed), had vicious but untrue rumours circulated about her, and one of her social media accounts was hacked and bombed with the same photos that she had been threatened with earlier.

Neither she nor a computer-savvy friend was able to determine who the hacker was or where the photos originated. This left her with no choice but to painstakingly remove all of her account's contents (a process that took most of a night) and delete it. Next she changed the passwords on her email addresses and all the other online services she used, just in case.

The frustrations continued to pile up when she and others attempted to alert the school staff to what was happening. Professors, guidance counselors, the DPE sorority president, and the Anthropology department chair were all consulted, and the promises they made to look into the matter only served to mitigate things for a brief time. Kendra and a few of her peers resorted to watching out for their possessions and themselves to the point of paranoia.

But the worst was yet to come.

At the beginning of March, the teacher of her Mythology and Occultism course had a surprise announcement. "The final assignment for this course will be two-fold," Professor Munroe informed the startled students. "First you will submit a research document on cultural mythology. BUT," he stressed, "you must choose a subject that is relatively obscure. That means no Greek, Norse, Roman; any of the big ones. I will ask each of you to see me individually during the next class to submit your topics. Hopefully that will ensure no second thoughts or possible repetition. Now, the second part is an oral presentation or slide show on the same subject that will be presented to the entire class."

"What percentage of the mark will this be?" someone in the back row asked.

His reply was, "Since this in effect replaces a final exam, it will be worth sixty percent of the final grade, in accordance with the standard rules." Murmurs of dismay rippled through the class, but the professor held up his hand to quell them. "Given the quality of the work that I've seen from most of you so far..." He paused pointedly, and Kendra didn't have to look around to know that several people were grimacing in embarrassment. "There should be no trouble with this assignment."

At the next session two days later, Kendra waited in the corridor outside the classroom along with the rest of her classmates. Few people were talking, given the seriousness of the assignment, and tension was high. She was confident in her topic selection, though, and paid little notice to Cyndi's smugness.

Professor Munroe wasted no time in asking when she took her turn to enter the classroom, which was empty except for him sitting at his desk. "So, Miss Renault, have you decided upon your project?"

"Yes, sir. My research topic will be the cultural beliefs and deities of the pre-Islamic Arabian mythos."

The professor scowled and checked a paper. "Are you aware that Miss Dillon has already chosen that subject?"

Kendra blinked in confusion. Her choice had been deliberately obscure in order to lessen the probability of others also selecting it. "No, I didn't know." She cleared her throat and stated her second option. "The oral traditions and mythology of the Polynesian peoples."

Professor Munroe shook his head. "I'm sorry, that's been taken by Miss Neymeth. Try again."

One classmate choosing the same topic as hers could be discounted as coincidence, but two? Glancing quickly at her notes, she picked one far down the list. "The traditional religion of the Yoruba people of West Africa."

Now the he looked annoyed. "That's Mr. Lang's topic. If this is some kind of game, you'd better get serious or stop wasting my time."

Kendra was stunned into silence. The only way this could possibly be happening was if someone had copied her notes! But how? She had taken every precaution short of memorizing the entire lot. "Sir, I suspect that someone copied my topic list without my permission and distributed it to the class," she said stiffly.

Unfortunately he didn't believe her, but that wasn't surprising because she hadn't expected him to. "It's more likely that because your surname is near the bottom of the roster, the others beat you to the punch," he said. "If you can't come up with a unique topic I'll have to reduce your credit."

His statement panicked her. In order to achieve her degree requirements, she had to pass this course! She begged, "Please give me until five PM, and I'll come up with an alternate." That was when his last class for the day ended, which would give her the time to get to the library and do some lookups.

He sighed heavily. "All right, but be sure it's a good one," he said as he gathered the papers on his desk into a folder. "I'll meet you here, and please don't disappoint me."

She nodded curtly and left the room, fuming inwardly. Several of her classmates had remained behind and gathered a short distance down the hallway as if they had sensed that something was about to happen. Cyndi was openly snickering. "So, did you get the topic you wanted?" she asked in an insincerely sweet tone.

It suddenly became clear. "You!" she accused. "You stole my notes and told everyone!"

"You have no proo-oof," Cyndi sing-songed with a wicked grin. "Now I'll get top marks in the program and finally have my revenge on you. It's gonna be awesome!"

Kendra glared at her rival and said scornfully, "You're sabotaging me now just for a stupid thing that happened back in high school? You need to get a life. And I'm not falling for your little trick." She turned and marched away.

"You already have," Cyndi called after her, and then laughed.

She didn't stop walking until she had reached the corridor that linked the Arts building to the main concourse. Now that her classmates knew what she had researched, she would have to start from the beginning and find an entirely new subject. And in order to put an end to Cyndi's juvenile game, it had to be something that no one else would have considered.

Her gaze fell upon a newspaper rack. There were over a dozen of them around the campus; they held the school's weekly magazine and a few other periodicals. She recognized one of the papers as a local free tabloid, and its front page had a large headline: "Do Fairies Exist?" Intrigued, she picked it up. It was common knowledge that tabloid articles were sensationalistic and mostly false, but like any story, there was a glimmer of truth in it somewhere. Perhaps this might give her some inspiration.

Quickly she rolled up the paper to obscure the headline and moved away from the rack. She couldn't look at it here. If someone from the Delta Crew happened to see her, the word would spread faster than a tweet, and the last thing she wanted was to give Cyndi more ammunition to use in her war.

When she reached the library and found an unoccupied study nook, she sat down to read the article that she had picked up. The coastal town of Gardenia in California had recently been the site of various strange incidents that the locals had attributed to "fairies", including a miraculous transformation of an offshore oil platform to a high-tech solar power collector. The centre of the alleged fairy activity was a shop called "Love and Pet" that specialized in the care of various small creatures that were claimed to be magical.

Now her curiosity was piqued. Fairy myths existed in many cultures, but this was the first time she had seen anything of this nature in modern times. Perhaps it was worth checking out.

She set up her laptop computer, and after it connected to the library's wi-fi she did Internet searches to find the Winx Club Love and Pet web site. It had a very professional layout, used a bright pink and yellow colour scheme, and contained concise descriptions of the services that were available. There was even a variety of pets on display, but their appearance was unlike anything that existed on the planet and therefore couldn't possibly be real. When she attempted to "download" one of the fanciful pets, a message popped up: "We're sorry, but new adoptions are not being offered at this time. Please contact us by email or visit our shop."

Humming thoughtfully, she said, "I might just do that."