Sunset in Brightvale
The sun was high, the Weewoos were singing; it was a beautiful day at Brightvale University.
"I'm telling you, Ursula is making a comeback this year," Tobias told his best friend Hovri as they walked to their journalism class together. "And when she does, I want to be the one to report on it."
Hovri, who was disinterested in the sport of Gormball, shrugged. "I hope you realize that by the time the Gormball Championships come around, we'll be fresh out of university. No one will take us seriously for at least a couple years. Let's just focus on Yooyuball for the moment, shall we?"
Tobias opened his mouth to argue, but thought better of it. The Ixi and Grarrl reached their lecture hall, entered, and took their seats. Shortly after, their professor began to speak.
"Good afternoon, class," Professor Bartles said in his droning, monotone voice. "I finished reading your papers yesterday, and I have this to say... You're terrible. Each and every one of you is terrible." He paused, and sighed. "Not one paper received a grade higher than a C. I have never had a class this horrendous." He snapped his fingers, and fifty Weewoos came out from the rafters of the ceiling.
"I am giving you all a small packet of sheets which will detail how you can become superior writers. Also included are the essay I am handing back to you and your next assignment -- another paper, this time on a past event in Neopian history. When writing, pretend that you are journalists from that time period, and you are writing while your event is occurring. I expect you all to use the packet you are receiving to make this assignment better than the last one, and I expect to have the opportunity to give better grades to you all this time around. Class is dismissed!"
Tobias and Hovri packed up their things. "I suppose we should probably go to the library now, right?" Hovri asked his friend, who shook his head.
"No, we have to meet with the study group today, remember? We'll just be a little earlier than usual... Okay, a lot earlier."
Fifteen minutes later, the two arrived at the apartment of one of their friends, an Acara named Lucy. Tobias knocked, and Lucy opened the door.
"What are you guys doing here?" Lucy asked in a surprised tone. "Was your class cancelled?"
"Bartles cut it short because we all failed our last assignment," Tobias told her. "He gave us some instructions on how to do better and another paper to write."
Tobias and Hovri entered the apartment. Inside were their other friends: Vince and Kate. Vince was a tall blue Eyrie with a light-hearted attitude, while Kate was a yellow Kyrii and had a fiery temper. The two said hello, and Tobias and Hovri sat down in their usual seats.
"Did Professor Shivers give you any assignments for the week?" Hovri asked. Vince, Kate, and Lucy all had a class together: Musical History, taught by Professor Shivers.
Lucy shook her head. "Surprisingly, no. We've got an enormous exam next week, though, so we've got a ton of studying to do."
"Paragraph answers to thirty questions over six chapters... A ton is right," Vince chimed in sadly. "So what do you guys have to write your papers about?"
"An event in history, as told by a journalist from the era," Tobias responded. "I still haven't decided what event I'll choose, but Hovri seems to have his all figured out."
His friend nodded. "I'll write about when Neopet V2 trapped those children. They were from my elementary school, you know! I bet I could get all sorts of information from interviewing them."
"Hovri, I don't think anything they would tell you could go into your paper," Kate told him. "After all, you can't be omniscient, remember? You only know what they knew while it was happening."
Hovri frowned. "Ugh, you're right. Oh well, I'm sure it won't be too hard. After all, as usual, we've got a week to write this thing!"
The group fell silent for a moment, and Lucy decided to use this to her advantage. "Kate, Vince, we should probably get studying. After all, you can never be too prepared!"
Kate quietly grumbled an argument to that, but the three grabbed their textbooks and began to find their places in the pages.
"Well," Tobias began, "we suppose we'll let you get to your studying, and Hovri and I will go get something to eat! Okay?"
Vince mumbled an, "Okay," and Tobias and his friend exited the apartment.
"So, where do you want to eat?" Hovri asked. "You know me, I'm down for anything."
"I was thinking we'd go to the Shenkuuvian restaurant near the University," Tobias replied.
"Sounds good to me."
* * *
After a remarkably delicious dinner, Tobias and Hovri went to the Essel Library of Knowledge and Research. It was their favourite library, because it was the largest on the university grounds that did not have an entry fee. Rumour had it that on the rare occasion when King Hagan did not know something, he went to the Essel Library to read about it.
Unfortunately, this was not destined to be the day of Hagan's grand entrance. I'll just have to keep waiting to meet that genius, Tobias thought to himself as he and Hovri walked to the Neopian Times archives in the back of the library. Hovri busied himself in the issues from Y3, searching for articles on Neopet V2, while Tobias, still unsure as to what his subject matter would be, decided to pull issues at random. The first major event he found, he decided, would be what he wrote about.
After nearly an hour and fifteen issues, Tobias exclaimed, "Finally!"
Hovri looked up. He was almost done with the first page of his paper. "What'd you find?"
"You remember the time back in Y5 when the Petpets of Neopia disappeared?" Tobias asked. "Well, I'll be writing about that - what's known as the Green Jelly event."
Hovri scoffed. "It was never proven that they went to Jelly World." He spoke his final two words with distaste. He didn't believe in such nonsense.
"Remember, Hovri," Tobias began. "speculation is journalism too." With that, he picked up his things and walked over to the table and began to write.
Two hours later, the head librarian walked up to the two friends. "Listen, fellas," he said, "it's closing time. I trust you guys, though, you know that, right? So I'll let you guys stay here as long as you like, as long as you promise to lock up when you leave." He tossed Tobias the keys. "Put the keys in the flowerpot next to the door."
"Aw, shucks, you don't have to do that, Feivel," Hovri told him. "We can just come back tomorrow."
Feivel shook his head. "No, take as long as you need. I remember how stressful university is." He chuckled. "The sooner you finish something, the better you feel. Take tonight to do your work."
"Thank you very much, Feivel," Tobias interjected. "We'll be sure to lock down when we're done."
The librarian smiled, then turned and walked out of the library, leaving the two students alone. The library looks kinda creepy when it's deserted, Tobias decided. The books look like they're practically begging to be read.
Tobias blinked. The library seemed... darker than it had a second earlier. "Finally awake, huh?" Hovri grinned. "You were out like a light for about an hour. I thought about waking you up, but... where's the fun in that?" He laughed.
Tobias didn't feel groggy or tired, but he supposed he must have been in a very light sleep. In any case, he had lost out on an hour of work. He got back to writing.
It happened suddenly, with no warning: the lights went out. Hovri groaned; he was only a few sentences from completing his paper. "For the love of Fyora, why did this have to happen now - when we're working?"
Rather than complaining, Tobias asked himself questions: Why did the power go out? Were there any candles in the vicinity? He could at least answer one himself - he stumbled through the darkness to the front desk, where he knew Feivel kept emergency candles in case of a situation such as this one. He lit one, took it to Hovri, then lit another for himself.
Had Tobias ever read A History of Candles, as well as Essel Library, he would not have lit those candles. Alas, he did not know why the building had its name, nor did he know why the ethereal love candles so much. As such, when he went back to his seat, he found that someone was already in it... Someone transparent.
Tobias gasped. Loudly. "Hovri... Care to look across from you??
"Suuure..." His friend complied, screamed, then quickly looked away. "Tobias, what's going on?"
The ghost made a tch sound. "Oh sure, don't even try talking to the ghost. You're just like everyone else who's stayed after-hours." She sighed with annoyance.
"My name is Essel," she continued, "if at all you care. My mansion once stood on this ground, until one day I... passed away. King Hagan seized the opportunity, tore down my home, and built a library. It soon became quite obvious, however, that I was still here. They renamed the library to appease me, and the king himself offered an apology. Ever since then, I have only appeared at nighttime. I turn out the lights, and if a candle is somehow lit, then I can appear in all my glory. It's not much of a life," she sighed again, this time with sadness, "but then again, it's not meant to be, is it? My life ended a long time ago... but I cannot leave."
"Why can't you leave?" Tobias asked timidly. "Most Neopets do."
"At first, I was arrogant," Essel confessed. "I refused to admit that I was gone. Over time, I have come to accept my fate; however, I cannot move on.
"If, after death, you decide to stay but later change your mind, you must see a sunset. I only come at night... I will never be able to pass on." She let out a terrible wail.
Hovri and Tobias looked at each other in sadness. They both felt sorry for her, and wanted to help her, but... it seemed as though there was nothing they could do.
"Oh, don't look like that, boys," Essel snarled. "Don't feel sorry for me... I brought this upon myself."
Tobias looked around at the bookcases all throughout the library. If only they could help her, Tobias thought. Then, he stopped. He repeated this to himself. He smiled.
"Essel, a library is a place of learning," he said. "It has books about everything. Including, I'm sure, sunsets. We can find you a book about sunsets! With pictures! Maybe that will help you leave."
Essel thought for a moment. "That could work. Where would you find one, though? There are so many books here!"
"Nonfiction section," Hovri told her. "That only leaves about two fifths of the library. We can do that in a night!"
The three of them, Tobias, Hovri, and Essel, set out to find a book on sunsets. Several times, Essel strayed into the fiction section, and one of the others had to get her back into the searching area. They looked at so many books, so many titles, so many call numbers, that Tobias decided he would never read again after that night. Hovri, meanwhile, took a few breaks to read excerpts from some of the books he found.
"The Biology of a Meepit... Last checked out two years ago! Wow, unpopular book... What kind of a name is Joval, anyway?"
"Hovri!" Tobias yelled from halfway across the library. "Back to work!"
"Yes, sir!" Hovri gave a comical salute, placed the book back on the shelf, and resumed the search.
After four hours of painstaking work, Tobias saw it: Sunsets by Thomas Strait. He reached up to the sixth shelf of the bookcase, grabbed the book, and yelled: "I found it! I found it!" He started running back to the table they had deemed their headquarters. "Everybody, back to the table! Now!"
Hovri and Tobias reached the table simultaneously, with Essel arriving seconds later. "You found it, Tobias?" she asked. "You found a sunset?"
Tobias nodded. "Are you ready for your freedom?"
It was now Essel's turn to nod. "I've waited so long for this day... Thank you. Thank you so, so much... Both of you. Tobias, Hovri... How can I ever repay you?" She began to tear up.
Hovri shook his head. "We don't need anything except for the satisfaction of having helped you," he said, and Tobias nodded his agreement.
Tobias slowly opened the book. On page twelve was a beautiful purple, pink, golden sunset. Essel looked at it, and her body began to glimmer with a golden shine. Tobias and Hovri watched in awe as a golden portal opened in the air. Essel began to float up to it, her entire self sparkling.
"Tobias... Hovri... Thank you. You're the only people who ever bothered to help me. I'll be sure to put in a good word for you two. She winked at them with a kind blue eye, then she floated into the portal.
The next moment was one of total darkness. The portal was gone, and with it Essel. The candles had been extinguished, and the sun was still gone from the night sky. Yet, even through all that darkness, you could still see the smiles on the two students' faces.
The friends gathered up all their things, locked the doors, placed the keys in the flowerpot, and they left for their apartment. The sun was rising, the wind was calm; it was the beginning of another beautiful day at Brightvale University.