Four: Affectionate Obsessive

Luminarist + November 2015 – June 2017: Chapter Four — Affectionate Obsessive

Celestial Institute, a boarding school for adults, is located on the fabled world of Terra. Only those chosen by the Shining One may enter. People of all walks of life come here to hone their gifts and effect positive change. The newest recruit is Meissa, a young woman anticipating the future.

She becomes fast friends with Nadir, a man with little self-confidence whose guardian is the powerful Zenith. Upon the school throne stands Alhena, the Shining One herself. Backing them is the Acolyte of Archangels. Becoming entangled in Celestial Institute’s inner workings, Meissa knows that everyone has purpose, and her light shines the brightest of them all.

Why?

Meissa made a diagonal right towards the administration building, jumping into little leaps as she went on with her way. The Acolyte had instructed her to go there in order to meet the fellow student who would act as a supervisor, a mentor, and hopefully a friend. She hoped to high heaven that the student would be the beautiful mystery woman, this Shining One that the Acolyte briefly mentioned to her.

Every building was like a magnificent cathedral. She smiled and waved in small gestures to anyone who passed her by, noting the many colours of hair and eyes. Some were tall, some were short, some thin as willow branches, and others were plump. There were all kinds of people here, and the natural variation in skin tones spoke that to her as well. There wasn’t a predominance of any particular ethnicity, and she found that to be a delight to her senses. This place felt like a closely knit, giant human family.

One minor detail caught her attention, however. The Acolyte bore long, pointed ears. She pondered on this until she was inside the administration building, entered a gleaming foyer with two spiral staircases. The one to the left plunged below the ground, and the one to the right disappeared high above her. Students bustled here and there all around her, yet no person approached either staircase. She was about to go to the one to her right when a high tenor stopped her immediately in her tracks.

“Miss! You can’t go there!”

She spun around to see a man dashing towards her; constantly bumping into other people, apologizing, dodging and weaving as well as he could through the moderate crowd. Short, messy white hair like feathers crowned his dark head with ear tails tied low neatly, as if they were small ponytails, and bright amber eyes sparkled at her. He had a fountain pen in hand, dressed in a green hooded sweater and a white sleeveless jacket. She noted that his stark white hair flared like wings at the sides of his head.

“Hello, hello! You’re the newbie, aren’t you, miss?”

“I’m Meissa.” She was somewhat disappointed. This bumbling, though polite, young man was her supervisor?

The light in his amber eyes faded, though he shook his head profusely. “I’m the senior who’s supposed to help you out, Miss Meissa. My name’s Nadir.”

“Just Meissa is fine,” she chuckled. The man seemed harmless. Okay, so she was stuck with a dude. Perhaps it wasn’t a rare occurrence here, but she had been expecting a female at least.

“Nope, nope, nope, Miss Meissa.”

She blinked. “I don’t suppose I’d have to call your Mister Nadir, then? Or Master Nadir? Or even Sir Nadir?”

His mouth fell open before shaking his head again. “Nah, Nadir is good enough for me.” He fidgeted. “Um, I’m not so good with big crowds.”

“Did you want us to leave?” He nodded; she followed him out and was stunned by the gigantic wall of fire encompassing the campus. It engulfed her vision far more than the gorgeous towers posted at the cardinal directions, the entire campus was a giant compass rose. Southwest of her were the training grounds and the orchards, but she was mesmerized by the raging yet contained flames.

“Ah, Zen is on duty. A shame, I’d have liked for you to meet him.”

“I don’t hear you calling him by a prefix,” she teased. “Who’s Zen?”

He blushed at her point, and the fire transfixed his amber as he spoke. “Zenith is the Gatekeeper of Terra’s Fire, or just the Gatekeeper for short. He’s also the best energy specialist here at Celestial Institute, which is probably why the Acolyte pairs him with Lady Alhena.” His voice trailed off. “Together, they’re a formidable team.” Meissa tilted her head. Nadir sounded so wistful as he continued. “Zenith allowed you to come here. He’s the third step out of four in the selection process. First, the Acolyte sends out Lady Alhena to choose from Earth those whom she thinks are worthy to come here to Celestial Institute. Then Zen gives clearance, and the Acolyte makes the final decision.”

“Is this Lady Alhena the Shining One?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“Wow!” she gushed. “Such a pretty name!” He laughed at her enthusiasm.

“It seems like everyone’s her fan,” he said, there was that haunted note in his tone again. Meissa was about to ask him what was the matter when a babble of students thundered past them. “What on Earth – err, Terra?” he wondered out loud.

There seemed to be no apparent cause until a woman of Indian descent gracefully glided past them, long braided pigtails swaying with the motions of her hips. She walked like a model on a runway, as luminescent as a natural satellite illuminated by a star. Meissa’s heart caught in her throat. The woman was absolutely breathtaking. A shimmering translucent turquoise gown hugged her curves up to her hips, almost in a mermaid fashion, but the skirt was open in front and trailed behind her like waves. Her calves were laced up and enthroned by glass slippers, as if an Eastern empress was walking amongst simple folk. Meissa forgot to inhale until Nadir tugged her away from the scene. She was upset; she wanted the goddess to notice her.

“Was that her?”

“The Shining One, Lady Alhena,” he growled, a sound so unnatural for a gentle man like himself. “You’d do best to keep away from her. She only decks out like that when she’s on the hunt.”

“The hunt?”

He sighed. “You don’t know the ways of this school. Lady Alhena has … quite the collection of paramours. She’s bound to be stalking one of them if she’s dressed that way.”

“What, a woman can’t look pretty for herself?” asked Meissa crossly.

“Not when that woman is Lady Alhena.” His tone indicated that the discussion was over.

“So everyone thinks she’s some kind of slut just because she’s gorgeous?” Meissa glared.

He didn’t take her waiting bait. “Have you decided on a program?” She blinked at him again. “Each program follows one of the four great archangels in some aspect of theirs. There is mine, Gabriel, focused on the arts. Zen’s is Michael; he’s learning how to be an effective guardian. Lady Alhena is in the Raphael program, all for the healers. And finally, there’s Uriel, meant for academia – Miss Meissa?”

She’d gone starry eyed at the mention of Alhena. “Raphael. I want to be in the Raphael program!”

He opened his mouth to retort. “Just because of Lady Alhena? Miss Meissa, you need to really think about this. You can’t just pick a program just because you’re idolizing the queen bee of the school like a typical first year in high school.”

“But being a healer sounds so fun! Maybe I can go back to Earth after this and help other children!”

“You’re only picking Raphael because of Lady Alhena – wait, other children? You’re a fully formed young woman, Miss Meissa.”

She realized then that perhaps only Alhena, Zenith, and the Acolyte knew she had been a child on Earth, most likely dead, while everyone else were transported here by their own will. “I – I meant other children like you know, kids that need a combination of all kinds of healing, not just with medication.”

He didn’t appear too convinced, but swallowed her fabrication anyway. Maybe it was sincere. He couldn’t read her mind, he didn’t know of anyone that possessed such ability. He still had that sneaking suspicion that she was only in the Raphael program due to Alhena’s influence, like a child going for the jar of cookies. The problem was that this particular jar of cookies was poisonous to all who tasted of its contents.

——

Alhena paid no notice to the fangirl episode that Meissa was having, she hadn’t spared the girl a single glance. With long strides, she went northwest, skirting past the Water Tower due west, then strode north to the library. Just past the library was a freshwater lake, although given Terra’s lack of size, it was slightly too small to be considered a proper lake. Everyone simply referred to it as a pond. This too she didn’t give her attention to; she was utterly focused on the library. The great fires blazed on, but they were not concentrated, they were unfocused. This was how she knew that the keeper of the flames, that annoying Gatekeeper, was not exactly on duty. Then again, he was quite the multitasking type. She inwardly grumbled at that thought.

A student pushed and held open the massive door for her, although this door was not as solid and decorative as the doors that led to the entrance halls of the cardinal directions’ towers. She gave the student a curt nod, and went in, the hush a comfort to her ears.

The library bore five floors, a ground level for reception was where she was now. The second floor was packed with scholarly tomes, the third bore documentation for all sorts of metaphysically based healing practices. A fourth establishment contained computers for fight simulators, and various resources for the arts of battle. At last, the fifth four was almost a museum, filled with books and various records of creations in many media.

Alhena had no need for elevators, no one on Terra did. Instead, she went to the fourth elevation, expecting the person she sought. She was greeted not with the sight of Zenith, but several others of the Michael class engrossed in their virtual wars. A small scale multiplayer online roleplaying game designed to teach the basics of spiritual combat was installed only here in the library, with the Michael class having exclusive access. The fourth floor had the tendency to be filled with the most noise, due to cheers and curses as results of the collective world inside Celestial Institute’s tight network. At the sight of her, however, a hush fell upon the floor, and most of the students forgot their video game.

She curtsied as well as she could in her part mermaid styled dress, which was still impressive no matter who criticized her. “I’m looking for the Gatekeeper of Terra’s Fire,” she stated.

“Zenith’s not here,” replied one of them.

“At least not on this floor,” she thought she heard someone else mutter under his or her breath, but it was hard to tell.

She already checked the training grounds, not finding him there either. This was absurd. Where else would a Michael be? Sighing inwardly, she descended to the second floor. There, tucked into a corner’s cubicle, was Zenith himself. She stopped in her tracks as if she died on the spot, or if lightning had struck her right there and then. A Michael student was on the Uriel themed floor?

“Oy,” she snuck up on him, poking him in the shoulder. “What on Terra are you doing on this floor?”

“Nothing to concern you at this moment,” he snapped in return, arms lashing out to conceal what he was working on.

“If you’re seeking information on energy manipulation, perhaps you should be on the Raphael or Michael levels. Most likely, the Michael floor is best for you.”

“Thank you, Alhena.” He returned to staring at the foremost wall of his cubicle. She picked up the subtle clues he was hiding, the fatigue that he was desperately fighting down from being revealed to anyone, and she suspected that she was the one that he most likely didn’t want to see at this moment.

“How long have you been sitting here?” she pressed on out of genuine concern.

“Nearly the entire day!” piped up a student in the background, a voice disembodied to the two with their focus on each other.

She placed her hands on her hips, although it was a far cry from a petulant manner. “Zenith, go to your room right now. I’ll join you later.”

“No,” he stubbornly refused.

“Look,” she began her daily tiresome tirade, “I don’t know what’s gotten into you with this sudden obsession with the library, but you’re overworking your body. When you’re not training, you’re tending to the Gate of Fire, protecting that sad excuse of a Gabriel student, or studying here. You don’t need food, water, or more exercise, I’m quite aware of that, but you require rest and some sleep would do you well.”

She thought she had lost him at the mention of the Gabriel student. “You will leave Nadir out of this,” he growled at her, which confirmed, not proved, her suspicions.

“You enjoy a simpering little puppy at your feet?” she sneered.

He turned his face for his grass green to glare into her cold blue, his gaze more iced than the colour of her eyes. “Nadir is just as valuable as anyone else. You should know that, Shining One. You chose him yourself.”

She wasn’t quite finished. “It’s a decision that I’m beginning to regret.”

He exhaled a breath of frustration. “Regret it all you like. He’s on Terra under my watch, and you have no say in or the right to regulate my activities, or what I do to pass the time.”

She turned on her heel to leave. “You righteous asshole, I’m coming to your room tonight and you had better be prepared.”

“As always,” he shot back, satisfied, and returned to his work, the mysterious whatever he was devoting all this time, energy, and effort into.

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