A panda, laying face down on a pillow, was resting, sealed inside his room ruled by darkness. A small ray of light penetrated through the curtains landing right on his white feet, the only part of his body left unprotected by his brown sheets.
The quiet atmosphere abruptly faded when the phone on his shelf vibrated, waking the bear up.
A grunt of disappointment was the first response as he extended his paw towards the smartphone. After missing it a few times, he successfully grasped it in his paw.
The panda twisted his body around, now staring at the ceiling, turned on the screen only to squint at the strong light emanating from it. Once adjusted, he scrolled through his apps and found a new message from his ex-classmate, Cody.
A nostalgic vibe overwhelmed him as he read the message.
“Hey Nova! How's it going there? I miss you a lot, the entire class misses you a lot. It's hard to get used to it. I'm sure you're having a hard time as well, right? Moving out and stuff. You gotta tell me everything! I wanna know more about Manard City.”
“What's up? You sound depressed. Am I right?”
“Where are you now? I wish I could just run to your house but…yeah. Now you live somewhere else.”
“I'm laying in bed.”
“You serious? It's 4 PM. You're not that type of guy! Don't let this new situation overwhelm you, okay?”
“No you're not! You've always been full energy. Get up from bed and get going.”
“I need five minutes.”
“Alright, but just five. There's something I wanna show you.”
Nova's phone vibrated again, showing a photo of him, Cody and his entire class during their last day together.
“I…hope it didn't make you feel worse.”
“I miss my life, Cody.”
“I know, but it's not the end. You gotta keep movin’ dude! I'm sure you'll make more friends in your new school. Just don't forget about me!”
“Today me and dad will checkout the school.”
“That means you finished moving out then?”
“Yes, we just finished yesterday. It was a mess…”
“Don't be scared to start anew. I know my childhood friend very well. As soon as you see your new life you won't understand why you were feeling down.”
“I guess you're right. I'll see you later okay?”
“Sure dude! Keep me updated.”
Nova turned off the screen, and the phone fell to the bed. On the outside, since he would never complain to his family, the panda just accepted the change. He didn't want to start a new one. He liked what he had before.
Suddenly, the light conquered the darkness.
While lost in thought, his mother had walked inside and opened the curtains.
"Nova, I called you! Didn't you hear me?"
His gaze drifted from the ceiling to the polar bear wearing a blue shirt and black pants before mumbling back some sort of answer as his mother removed the sheets as well.
"I'm gonna kick you out of bed next. Come on, get up. You’ve slept enough."
"I need five minutes."
"You've been saying that since this morning dear. I'm not trusting you again."
Nova stretched his arms, yawned a few times and sat on the bed. His green pajamas were inside out with its label right in front of his lips.
"Oh Nova... You’ve done it again." His mother laughed, sitting next to him. “You okay? You started acting like this the minute we left our hometown.”
“Maybe? I don't know…” He questioned himself as he pulled off his shirt.
“I wanted to tell you that we appreciate what you did. I didn't expect that news either and you didn't complain.”
"Why would I do that?" He shrugged. "I saw how happy he was and how important that job was for the family."
"So I was thinking that you deserve something. You know, you've been such a good son and I wanna help you get used to this new city."
"It's okay mom. I don't really need anything.” He stood up and brushed off his pants. “Keep the money for something important."
"You are important. Dad moved here because he wants to provide the best for you and for me."
"I know,” he sighed, picking at his brown leather jacket. “I miss my friends though. It's not like I've stayed there for a year. I grew up in that city; with you, dad and Cody."
"I also miss Cassandra,” she admitted, handing him his red belt and blue pants. “Someday, probably on the weekend, I promise we'll go visit them."
A glimpse of surprise showed upon his face. "Really?"
"Yes, I promise,” she said, standing up. “We could go there next month but you've gotta give me a warm smile and try out the school, okay?"
A joyful smile spread across his features. "Thanks mom."
The panda dressed up, placed his phone inside a pocket and headed downstairs, leaving his mother behind to clean his room.
He opened the first door on his left to find a brand new shining bathroom that had already been cleaned. His expression twisted in horror upon seeing his own image in the mirror.
“Oh wow, I'm a hot mess.”
His appearance portrayed that he had woken up at five am and worked for twelve hours straight with no time to rest. His hair didn't help either; each strand seeming to move in different directions despite the lack of hair on his head compared to the rest of his body.
“Nova! Are you the one in the bathroom? Come here!” A deep, frantic voice called from another room.
“Dad give me a second I just woke up!” He yelled back, washing his hands and face.
The water that he splashed on his face landed everywhere, forcing him to take a towel to dry the white sink.
“Okay, coming!” He hurried outside after finally confirming that he at least looked presentable.
At a jog, Nova reached the dining hall where his father, a panda, had just finished reading a journal sitting on his loved red armchair.
“Morning dad,” he yawned.
“It's kinda late for that son but it doesn't matter now. I was looking at a journal and I found this!” He exclaimed, handing it to him.
The panda reluctantly accepted it to read.
“Wonder Phoenix officially opened one year ago and its popularity increased instantly, obtaining the title of dream school. They offer a promising future and the work most suited for them to every admitted student.”
Nova lowered the paper and stared back at his father utterly confused. “It sounds…weird?”
“What do you mean weird? This school is exactly what we were looking for!”
He raised an eyebrow, more perplexed than before.
“Isn't it amazing? A school that not only provides basic culture and knowledge but also offers the best suited job for you!” He explained, ignoring his son's question.
“Dad…I don't know about this. The school must be expensive if they offer it to every student.”
“That's not a problem Nova. My new work pays well. I could commit to extra days if that means ensuring you a great future.”
“Yeah… I don't feel pressured at all now.” He scratched his arm.
“You just gotta study as always. Were you bad at school?”
“Well, no, but I wasn't really the best.”
“Then it's settled. We're going to visit this school and see what they have to offer. I really want to know what they do there.”
“I feel like we'll go all the way there for nothing. From what I've read, the school must be private. I don't think they will accept me.”
“If they don't we leave. I just want to check it out…”
“You don't like when things don't go your way dad…” He mumbled back, lowering his volume.
“It's a school! What could go wrong?” He beamed.
Nova, defeated by his childish behavior, accepted wasting extra time to pursue his father's illusion. On the other hand, the bigger panda seemed convinced that he could stuff his son inside the prestigious school with no problems.
The younger panda took some money to carry along and watched his father happily hum around the house as he picked up the keys and some documents that belonged to Nova.
His father hurried outside to prepare the car while the panda stood there, staring at the journal now laying on the table. If they were going to that place might as well take it along. As much as he didn't really care whether the school would welcome him or not, what he read was interesting...and his curiosity won him over.
“I'M COMING! STOP!” He yelled, scared by the sudden sound of a car horn.
“Bye Nova!” His mom called from upstairs.
“Bye mom!” He replied back, hurrying to the car.
When he walked outside his dad was repeatedly honking, staring at him with the happiest smile glued to his face. Nova rolled his eyes and reached for the door of the black car covered in dust.
“You should wash your car dad,” he said, hoping to sway the conversation and calm him down.
“I can't find any time to do it…” He grunted, turning the radio on. “Some dumb kid also wrote ‘wash me’ on my side.”
A smile threatened to blossom on his face. “It could've been worse.”
“I guess…” He dismissively replied, starting the engine.
The scenery around them twisted and changed quickly. Nova was surprised that his dad seemed already so confident in which road to take.
“Do you know where this school is?”
“Yes, it's thirty minutes from home. It would be amazing to get you there. I can carry you to school and instantly go to my workplace. It's not that far from where you are.”
His ears twitched in surprise, “Oh really?”
“Another good motive to get you in.”
Nova took out the article again. In the end, his proposal didn't sound that bad. The schools will always be the same no matter where he went.
“The most promising work…” He whispered back, looking for the place where he stopped reading to continue.
“This school created a new modernized approach to the old conception of knowledge dispenser we know nowadays. Their methods and secrets are still private, only an accepted student has the right to use them. We tried to have an interview with the headmistress Yvonne but she dodged all of our questions. The only topic we were allowed to ask about is this new discipline they're developing called Jungle Madness. We didn't get any detailed information but we're sure that something big is coming next year and we can't wait for the moment they will finally open up to the general public."
Nova stopped to focus on that photo of the headmistress placed on the left of that article. She was wearing a grey jacket and black pants. That lioness looked graceful yet extremely professional and intimidating.
“Yvonne offered us a quick tour around the building and we're serious when we say that this school is huge and prepared for everything. We can't provide any pictures because they took away everything that could've snapped an image. We were able to see some students in their daily lives at the high school and asked their opinions. They all replied positively and confirmed us that they were truly training for what they wanted to be in life and not only focusing on learning the usual programs commissioned by the law.”
The Wonder Phoenix high school seemed great on paper, promising and absolutely a fantastic place to attend to but were they telling the truth? Was this place really good how they said? The basic programs were already hard and overwhelming as they were he couldn't believe that the students attending this place were able to move freely and focus on their passions without any kind of obstacle.
Thoughts about the school, what will happen and how his father will react were bouncing back and forth in his head. He closed the journal, pulled out his headphones and, after plugging them inside the phone, he started to listening to soothing music to calm down the storm of thoughts in his mind.