Are All People Deserving of Success?
"Are all people deserving of success?"
The six, intimidating words hung in the air, heavy and overcast. Krell looked around the room, a sea of nameless faces appearing to be just as unsure as he felt. This only comforted him momentarily when the professor smacked her cane against the chalkboard, once again drawing attention to the question.
"Are all people deserving of success?"
Krell shifted in his seat, too muscular to fit comfortably, his shoulders hunched up by his ears and left leg dangling awkwardly to the side. This caught the attention of the ancient Draik, whose sudden jerk of excitement startled the monstrous Kyrii.
"You had something to say?" she asked expectantly. Krell figured he’d have to answer anyway, even if he embarrassingly explained he was simply squished like a sardine with thighs stuck between the seat and desk. Instead, he attempted an answer.
"Uh. I mean, yeah? No?" A shiver ran down his spine.
"Well, which is it?" she laughed. "It can’t be both!" The rest of the class nervously joined in, watching him from the corners of their eyes, relief echoing in their laughs, thankful they hadn’t been the ones singled out.
Krell silently cursed his physique—how much trouble had it gotten him in?—and muttered a final, "I don’t know."
The Draik raised a wrinkled hand, but was serendipitously interrupted by a Weewoo, chirping loud and determined. The professor placed both hands on the base of her cane, tapping long nails against the carving of the Abominable Bori. "Alright, keep in your seats! Class hasn’t been released yet! I except all of you to have a written response to the question by tomorrow. Consider this your first taste of Brightvale University homework."
The class groaned, pulling out shiny new notebooks to write the question done, some going as far as to pen in the professor’s name, class name, and date. Krell chewed the eraser-end of his pencil, heart beating so noisily in his ears he struggled to understand the words around him. His hand was shaking far too much for him to write anything legible, disbelief at having been called out on the first day of class. He wasn’t even an "official" student at Brightvale University; he was required to take one class before he was eligible for Yooyuball tryouts. That was his only shot at making it in this world—obviously studying Philosophy wasn’t his forte.
"Oh, Mr. Vitor?" The singsong tone of the professor made Krell jerk. She was looking down at her desk, straightening paperwork, but the undeniable shadow of a smile ghosted her lips as she said, "I expect a verbal response from you tomorrow."
Krell smiled weakly, and spent the next three minutes wishing Fyora would strike him into a bug, embarrassingly attempting to remove himself from the desk without splintering it into smithereens. At least then something else would match his self-esteem.
Later that afternoon, Krell made his way to the practice field to work on his technique. Growing up, Krell had always been bigger than his friends, and stronger, and all-around stranger. He wasn’t an outcast by any means, but he was raised by parents who could barely afford to clothe and feed him. After saving a friend from a Pant Devil attack, it become well apparent that Krell was destined for something better … and more sports-related. His parents, eager that their son had something special about him, invested every spare Neopoint into Yooyuball; uniforms, lessons, even books on past team members and coaches. His personal Kiddie League coach had called him "the best defender this side of Terror Mountain", but Krell was never very good at geography so he took it as a compliment.
If he didn’t blow the coaches away during tryouts, he’d end up like his parents—living in a small house, working long hours at a bakery just to get crumbs on the table. His neighbors—Fyora bless them—had raised enough money to send him here to Brightvale University, paying for his nerve-wracking Philosophy class so he’d be eligible to try out for Yooyuball.
This really was his only chance.
His thoughts were interrupted by a Darigan Yooyu whizzing by at near-fatal speed, missing him by a few millimeters. A small white Techo jogged by, pausing to catch his breath. "S-sorry," he mumbled through gasps. "T-those things … are insane …"
"You here for tryouts?" Krell asked. He mentally kicked himself, because of course he was. Why was he so bad at interacting with people?
"Yep," the Techo responded without missing a beat. Sweat dripped off his forehead, patches of dirt stuck to his cheeks. "I’m Windelle, but the girls call me Wizard." He winked, reaching out a hand. "Well, actually, everyone does, but that’s besides the point."
Krell shook it. "Krell Vitor."
"Uh, no nickname? Nothing to scream from the stands?"
The Kyrii laughed. "Nah, not for me."
"Maybe we should call you … Muscles. That only makes sense, right? That’s why they call me Wizard, I’ve got—" the Yooyu collided with his stomach, dropping Wizard to his knees. A giggle erupted from the Yooyu and it was off, a purple flash of danger in the distance. Wizard coughed, eyes starting to glisten with tears. "I really hate Yooyuball," he moaned.
Krell tapped his nails against the small desk in his dorm room. Brightvale was too far of a commute from his home in The Haunted Woods, so he was forced to apply for on-campus living. It wasn’t so bad—he moved in earlier and his roommate was nowhere to be seen. He definitely had one, though; Meridellian-themed everything covered every inch of his roommate’s side; from the pajamas that poked out from the dresser to the sheets that lined the mattress, red-and-blue coated all of the possessions. It wasn’t terrible to look at, but Krell was extremely curious in learning how they managed to sneak all that stuff into Brightvale.
He heard the doorknob jingle and an oddly familiar voice shout, "Hey—it was just a joke! I’m sure your sister is very pretty!" A loud thud resounded from the other side, and a flash retreated to the safety of the dorm. The mysterious roommate—at least, he assumed this was his roommate, but perhaps it was just the closest room—turned around, muttering something about girls under his breath, before stopping midsentence to beam up at the Kyrii. "Yo, Muscles!"
"Wizard? You’re my roommate?"
The Techo laughed. "Well, this must be fate. You aren’t studying, are you? Did I—did I interrupt?"
"Just an essay." It was only a partial lie. It wasn’t necessarily a full-on lie—he just didn’t feel like having to explain the details of his Philosophy class to someone always running a million miles an hour. Based on the few hours he spent with him on the field, he got the impression Wizard did a lot of talking and not a lot of listening.
"So," he sighed, hopping onto his bed, legs dangling off the edge. "What’s your study program?"
"My … what?"
"Your study program," he repeated, using his eyebrows to emphasize the words. "You know, what you’re going to study while you’re here?"
"Oh, uh." Krell paused, thinking of something to say. He decided against this, as he didn’t want to actually lie, so dejectedly, he responded, "Actually, I’m only here for the one class. It’s … required for Yooyuball tryouts."
"You mean, you came all the way from … uh … wait, where are you from?"
"The Haunted Woods."
Wizard let out a low whistle. "You hiked those massive arms all the way from the Woods for one class? Don’t take this wrong way—you look like you take stuff the wrong way—but, what if Yooyuball doesn’t, you know … pan out for you?"
Krell crumbled the sheet of paper he had been scribbling on and tossed it into the trash bin. "That’s not an option."
"But lots of talented Yooyuball players get passed up—"
"WIZARD. It’s not an option." Krell smashed his fist on the desk, causing the pencil and his roommate to jump. His face grew hot, embarrassed; he didn’t mean to scare him. Why did everything about him have to be so big and exaggerated? Why couldn’t he be normal? Why couldn’t his life be simple? He thought of that stupid question he had to answer, bouncing around his mind, reminding him how empty it was. Are all people deserving of success?
Krell looked at his roommate, who had now settled back into a relaxed position. Perhaps it was because he was a Techo, but everything just slid over his back like it had no real effect on him. "What are you studying?"
Wizard grinned deviously. "I made my folks go mad with my indecision, but I finally settled on five."
"FI VE?" Krell felt dumb for struggling to get through one class; wasn’t each program made of sixteen? Five programs … attempting the math physically hurt.
"Macroeconomics, Astrophysics, Kreludan Engineering …" he counted, using the fingers to keep track. "Maraquan Ecology, and … uh … oh yeah!" He winked. "Meridellian History with an emphasis on Kingdoms."
"Do you do everything to the extreme?"
"Yeah, except getting a date." He rubbed an invisible knot on his forehead. "Guess girls these days can’t take a compliment. Or a joke." He sat silently for a few seconds before asking, "If you did decide to stay—no pressure!—and wanted to complete a study program … what would you pick? I’ve got you pegged as a Theater or Qasalan Pottery kind of guy."
"Ha," was Krell’s flat response. "I don’t know, honestly. I don’t think I’ll make through one class, let alone an entire program." It was a relief to get it off his chest, but now he feared Wizard would contort it into some sort of joke. When Wizard opened his mouth, he expected a ‘brains versus brawn’ remark, but instead heard:
"What’s that essay you’re working on?"
But in typical Wizard fashion, it was accompanied by wiggling brows.
"It’s for Philosophy." Under his breath, Krell added, "Are all people deserving of success?"
Surprised by the blatancy in his remark, Krell gave Wizard a quizzical look. "No? Why not? Aren’t we told that? Like, we have it in us or something?" He had vague memories of his coach rambling on about success and skill and other stuff ignored by a rambunctious kid.
"Potential, maybe, but deserving? I don’t think so." Wizard hopped off his bed and rummaged through his backpack. After a few moments, he pulled out a heavy, old dictionary.
"Are you serious? I know what the words mean."
"Just listen, okay? The meaning of the word ‘deserving’ means ‘to be given assistance’. Which, on its own, means—" he flipped to the front of book, searching before continuing, "—‘to give help’."
"So you don’t think everyone deserves help?" he thought of how long his neighborhood worked to save for this opportunity. People he had hardly even met, except to rake their leaves every autumn, sacrificed so much. Watching Wizard tell him … what? What was he trying to say? Krell couldn’t interpret where he was going with this.
"I didn’t say that, so calm down, Muscles. Your question was is everyone DESERVING of success. Right? Let me ask you—did you get help coming here? I can already tell your answer is yes. Why did they help you? Because you wanted it? No. Obviously, it’s because you’re an extremely talented Yooyuball player and they knew it would be hard for you to do it on your own, so they chipped in—a little, a lot, whatever."
Krell groaned, his head throbbing. His brain felt like it was cramped into a desk during a lecture in Wizard’s School of Nonsensical Rambling. "Tell me where you’re going with this before I get too old for tryouts."
"It’s obvious to me and your cheer squad that you needed help getting a leg up on achieving success. Your talent got the short straw when it came time for opportunities, so you’re having to suffer through boring Philosophy classes to be eligible for something you should’ve been handed to you on a silver platter. But because life is unfair, you have to work twice—no, a hundred times harder. So, in the sense that ‘deserving’ actually means ‘given help or a chance’, then no. I don’t everyone is deserving."
Krell chewed his bottom lip. "I don’t think I’m convinced, though. When wouldn’t someone be deserving of success? Give me a break."
"All good. Someone like me isn’t deserving of success."
"What? Why not?"
"I don’t need the help, Muscles." He shrugged. "I’ve got two uncles who guard King Skarl’s castle, my parents own four different food kiosks and are thinking of expanding to The Lost Desert, and … dude, I’m enrolled in five study programs."
"But … what about ‘deserving’ in the sense you earned it? You said it means ‘to get assistance’, but can’t it mean ‘to earn’ or something?"
"Maybe colloquially … but, for the sake of discussion. Who could decide that, Muscles? What makes your hard-work different than mine? You might practice for ten hours and I practice for three. In my books, three hours is pretty dedicated."
Krell thought for a second. "What if we changed the meaning of ‘success’, then?"
"Oh, now we’re getting somewhere. What are you thinking, big guy?"
"Well, I might be doing this wrong, but usually we think of success as doing something great, or profitable, but success for me would be playing Yooyuball and success for my dad … his bakery is his pride and joy. It doesn’t bring a lot home, but he loves it, so I think that makes him successful."
"So in those terms, you think you and your dad are deserving of success?"
"I … wouldn’t say that. I just think somewhere along the line, someone saw we were able to do good with our talents and thought they’d encourage us. Anyway, where I was going with this was that sometimes success could be bad. Sloth would consider himself successful if he destroyed Neopia. And he’s really smart, and has a lot of followers, but he doesn’t deserve success because that would spell out the end for us."
Wizard smiled, beaming as if he just made a major scientific breakthrough. "You’re going to do great here, Muscles." He set the book to the side and wandered off to get his pajamas, brightly colored like a true Meridellian through-and-through. "My dorm’s always open, whether Yooyuball works out or doesn’t."
He left Krell alone, giving him ample time to crawl out from the desk and collapse on his bed, thinking about the difference between help, success, and Yooyuball.
"Mr. Vitor!" the Professor called. "I expect to have an excellent answer from you today."
Krell grimaced. The class was silent, and begrudgingly took it as a cue to begin.
"Yes … and no."
The Draik murmured something under her breath. The Abominable Bori glared menacingly from between her fingers. "Go on."
"You have to take every situation as a different entity altogether. What is this person’s life—are they from a poorer area, do they have a lot of people who are encouraging them? Are they always working toward their goal, improving and learning? Are they respectful and thankful to those who help them, understanding to the ones that can’t, and content with their own selves? After you consider all that, what are they hoping to accomplish? Is their idea of success something that can change the world positively or negatively? Does success define them, instead of themselves defining their success? I believe … an old man who works his fingers to the bone every night to bring home crumbs for his family and saves to send his son off to University is more deserving of success then a son who never took the time to say ‘thank you’ once in a while … or even a son who’s too afraid of going after other dreams."
Slowly, like snow melting, a smile spread across the Draik’s face. "Mr. Vitor, what a pleasant surprise," she said. "You’ve got it in you after all. Do tell … what are you studying?"
Krell returned the smile. "Actually, Professor, I’m sort of torn between two programs."