"Explain to me again why we're always on the way somewhere," Dark_breed_Hyren the blue Grundo said as he tromped down a well-worn woodland path, glowering at the faerie Draik beside him.
"We're not always on the way somewhere," his brother ArPharazonTheGolden said. "We do get there eventually." Somewhere up ahead he could hear the gleeful cries of a certain disco Zafara, but he paid them no heed. He was on a most important errand and could not be bothered with his childish older sister's antics. "You could have stayed back in Meridell with Terra while she gets over her cold, Mister Grumpy Grundo. Why are you here?"
"Damage control," Hyren said with a shrug. He glanced up at his taller younger brother. "What I don't get is why you're here."
Pharazon stood up a little straighter and puffed out his chest. "Because," he said, "today's the day I'm going to become a Brightvale scholar."
The Grundo rolled his eyes. "I still don't get why you're obsessed with that kingdom, Pharazon. It's a bunch of stuffy, self-righteous know-it-alls. And personally, I don't trust anyone who likes stained glass that much."
"Well, excuse me for not wanting to be a rube," Pharazon sniffed, buffing his claws on his chest scales. "No offense, but some of us want more out of life than beating up the Pant Devil."
"Somebody's gotta bring home those Defenders of Neopia trophies," Hyren said. "I'm just worried that maybe you're overestimating—"
"You guuuuuuuys!" Blynn's voice cut through the morning air, sending a flock of Albats scattering into the trees. "We're heeeeere!" The aforementioned disco Zafara poked her head out of a nearby tree. "We made it to—" She promptly lost her grip and tumbled to the ground in front of the Grundo and the Draik.
"Right on schedule," Hyren said. "So, where does one need to go in order to become a Brightvale scholar?"
"The palace, of course!" Pharazon said as they crested the last rise. "Brightvale University is built right in to Brightvale Castle. So fitting!"
Before them spread a pastoral landscape peppered with small hamlets and patches of farmland. And straight ahead, past the gated city walls, rose a towering castle with white, green, and gold flags flapping sharply from its parapets. To Pharazon, the palace seemed to welcome him, to invite him to join its ranks of great minds.
"Such a marvelous bastion of knowledge!" the Draik said, clasping his paws as they strolled into the castle town. "The finest intellectuals in all of Neopia gather there for a veritable symphony of learning! Why, their collective brainpower could—"
"Hold that thought," Hyren said. "Blynn just took off for that fruit vendor." He turned and ran after her.
Pharazon was left to his own devices in the world of his dreams. He wandered down the main street, soaking it all in with his jaw hanging open. The sheer number of bookstores alone was staggering, not to mention all the shops dedicated to magic or scholars' supplies. Everything and everyone here was dedicated to the pursuit of amassing information. This was what Pharazon wanted—he was sure of it.
Other Neopets strutted about the streets, holding books and scrolls and looking quite important. Pharazon waved to them, but they simply regarded him with narrowed eyes and moved on. He was sure it was just because they, being scholars, were simply too preoccupied with their amazing research to socialise at the moment.
He was so busy daydreaming of how he would astonish all of his professors and classmates with his sharp mind, and earn no less than twenty-five degrees in various fields, that he suddenly walked into someone.
"I beg your pardon!" a female voice said sharply, almost as if it was Pharazon who should be begging for her pardon instead. But Pharazon felt she had every right to be upset because he was being careless.
Pharazon looked up to see a white Lupe standing over him, straightening her forest green robes with one paw, while her other arm held a stack of scrolls. Her snowy hair was pulled up in a tight bun and a pair of spectacles perched on her muzzle.
"I—I'm sorry," the Draik said. "I wasn't looking where I was going, I suppose I was just so absorbed in the marvelous atmosphere of this—"
"Well, get your head out of the clouds," the Lupe snapped. "Typical for a faerie pet! I was on my way to a symposium on the Petpet Puddle, and thanks to your carelessness…" Her golden eyes widened and her ears perked. "Wait—a faerie pet, here in Brightvale? Are you from Faerieland, by any chance?"
"I was only painted faerie," Pharazon said. "My family's originally from Neopia Central, but a few years ago we moved to Alt—"
"Neopia Central? How lowbrow," the Lupe said. "That's disappointing."
Pharazon fidgeted, unsure how to reply to that. "W-well, I'm actually here to get into Brightvale University!" He grinned shyly. "All my life, I've loved learning, and now I think I'm finally ready to become one of your famous minds!"
"Not just anyone gets to study at Brightvale," the Lupe said, pushing her glasses up her snout. "But… I may be able to offer some assistance. If you do something for me in return."
"Anything!" Pharazon said. "Please! I'll do anything you want me to!"
The scholar grinned rather toothily, a gleam in her eyes. "I'm doing my doctoral dissertation on faerie Neopets, but I've been having the most difficult time finding a faerie Draik to study. They're dreadfully uncommon, after all."
"I'd be happy to help!" Pharazon said. He extended a paw. "I'm ArPharazonTheGolden, by the way. Pharazon for short. Who are you?"
The Lupe regarded his paw for a moment and then shook it briefly as though it had something sticky on it. "Lady Celice Anfel," she said. "Currently going for my doctorate in General Magical Studies."
"Celice Anfel?" Pharazon asked. "You had an essay published in Modern Spells, didn't you! The one about the effects of Air Faerie magic on Shenkuu airship aerodynamics?"
"Yes, yes," Celice said, waving a paw as she beamed proudly. "And I do hope you've read The Mote Encyclopedia. I wrote the entries on Electrical Motes and Weewoo Motes, and the biography of Mada Llewor."
"Who?" Pharazon asked.
"An eccentric Haunted Woods scholar who dedicated his career to his crackpot postulations on the existence of Jelly Motes," Celice said. "Anyhow, here's the deal. You let me do research on your fae properties, and I'll introduce you to the Department of Magic. You're far more likely to be accepted with an endorsement from someone with my credentials, even if you are from…" She sniffed. "Neopia Central."
Pharazon twisted his tail nervously. "You'd—you'd really do that for me, Lady Anfel?" A grin spread across his face as he realised his dreams were coming true. "Oh, this is the greatest day of my life!" he said. His wings fluttered in excitement, throwing off cyan sparks of faerie dust. Several Neopets passing by stopped to stare at him, and his scales flushed in embarrassment. "S-sorry," Pharazon said. "They do that when I get worked up about something. It's a faerie thing."
Celice, meanwhile, took out a notepad and a pencil. "Beginning my observation of faerie Draik subject," she muttered to herself. "Subject has no decorum, the poor soul. This ought to be interesting."
"I think so, too!" Pharazon said.
The sorceress glanced up at him. After an awkward pause, she cleared her throat. "Yes—of course," she said, holding her notepad so Pharazon couldn't see it. "Well, let's be off to the University, shall we?"