Three: “Okay, so I died, what now?”

Luminarist + November 2015 – June 2017: Chapter Three — “Okay, so I died, what now?”

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?

Alhena cradled the overwhelming bright sphere of light in her arms, and thought she should conceal it. Although she wasn’t aware of anyone else who could travel between the three worlds other than angels, she wanted to be careful. The third world was an unknown; it was a variable that refused to be measured. She had never gone there herself, and all kinds of negative ideas spread through Celestial Institute’s campus like the early morning frost on the dawning of a new autumnal day. If Terra was thought to be like heaven, and Earth the world tree, surely Faerel was the equivalent of hell. She shuddered. The Acolyte had never sent her there – yet. She knew she was listening to wild speculation, but really, nobody had anything to off of as a basis for factual information. Nothing solid was known, she had poured her attention all over the library hoping to discover something. There was only the briefest side notes, a mention of someone referred to as Prince Zeru, but that was it. She didn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to visit Faerel to collect souls; perhaps it truly was a hellish world.

Back to the task at hand, Alhena placed the little girl’s soul into the gold of her silver tiara. She brushed her hand against the billowing fabric of the Veil that separated the worlds, and a gate of fire blazed before her. She waited there, somewhat impatient, but the man who watched the gate could be engrossed in his training. She didn’t have to wait too long, an all too familiar figure approached as a shadow in the enlarged flames. She could make out the details as he came closer to her, stopping before the lock.

“Who goes there?” went the masculine voice that made her shiver if she weren’t in careful control of her body.

“The Shining One greets the Gatekeeper of Terra’s Fire,” she stated formally. “It is I, Alhena, daughter of Mirai, returned from a task set by the Acolyte of Archangels.” Her words were accepted, and a gap in the flames allowed her to pass through the barrier and step on to the campus of Celestial Institute, the only establishment on the small world of Terra.

Brick red-orange hair greeted her cold blue eyes first, tied into a low ponytail with a side braid against the left of his lightly toned and freckled face. Grass green eyes filled with an emotion she couldn’t decipher; they stood there staring at each other for a long pause. Her eyes travelled downwards, once again making note of his lean athletic build, toned to be swift yet strong enough to wield the two handed sword strapped to the back of a golden tunic tied with silver cording. He wore colours like these for a reason, to remind her of their polarity. A crimson vest provided warmth on top of the tunic, and a thick leather belt for the sword went from his right shoulder to his left hip. She dared not to allow her eyes to flick lower than where the belt disappeared at the hip to be met by whatever metal that composed the deadly weapon. Her cold blue gaze returned to his grass green, but not before being narrowed at the sight of a black leather cord choker at his neck. Well, that was new. It hadn’t been there before.

“Where is the soul?” he finally broke their uneasy, silent visual interrogation.

“She’s in my tiara, Zenith. Her light was too bright to safely transport here.”

“Too bright?”

She rolled her eyes at him, although she didn’t actually wish to do so. “Oh good, you caught two words of what I said. Yes, she’s too bright.”

He frowned at her. “At least the brighter souls have the kindest deaths.”

She glared. “I’d hardly call this one kind.”

The frown softened, but his lips remained thinned. “Alhena, are you all right?”

She stalked past him, but a hand grabbed her right arm above her elbow more quickly than she was able to react in time to dodge his grasp. “What?” she growled at him.

“You’re not well. This particular death affected you.”

“Oh, fuck off. That’s the understatement of the year that you just uttered like a simpleton. No brain in that skull of yours, hmm?” There was a flash in grass green eyes, and she knew she should stop, but she kept going. “Honestly, if you weren’t able to unlock my healing powers, I’d drop you like a hot sack of potatoes.”

His grip on her arm tightened briefly enough to make her wince, and he let her go. “We need to heal the soul before you release her into Terra.”

“I know that. Will you shut your trap and just work with me here? We’ll do it as we go to present her to the Acolyte.” He nodded; a chill that could have frozen the grassy colour was present now in his eyes. Playing the victim, Alhena allowed the fierce iced gaze to slice into her. It gave her more reason to press on with her deception. They walked towards the temple situated between the Earth and Wind Towers, but first they had to work their magic.

As they passed through the courtyard to the south of the Fire Tower, fellow students respectfully gave the pair their space to walk as they pleased. Terra was in a perpetual autumn season. Alhena glanced at the orchard far to their left, with the training grounds just north of the vast field of fruit trees. Those trees were a chief source of food – not that Terrans needed food, but it seemed to give them comfort to retain some Earth habits. To the far right were the quarters of the temporary residents that the healer students, the Raphael class, would attend to. They were proceeding to the heart of the campus, to the administration building where she was housed in her private chambers. It would be here that the Acolyte and this soul would meet for the first time.

The Earth Tower was erected beyond the administration building, the Water Tower was due west and the Wind Tower due east. Passerby scattered for them. The library was situated between the Earth Tower and the Water Tower, Alhena made a mental note to do some research there later. The entire campus was built as a city of cathedrals, and the sounds of the bustling students were hard to put aside. She could catch wisps of the flower gardens and even the freshwater lake. If she focused hard enough, she could smell the books in the library. This place was home. Celestial Institute was the only home she’d ever known.

“Ah, it’s the Shining One!” someone squealed nearby as they adjusted their position to move aside.

“And the Gatekeeper!” said another excitedly.

Then she heard it, the whispers that filled her heart with both hope and dread. “Do you think they finally hooked up?”

It would be too obvious that she was seeking to spy on his reaction if she dared to look at his face, instead she flicked her eyes to his left hand that had hung guardedly next to his thigh. Did it tense up at all? She couldn’t be sure; his more subtle movements were hardly detectable even to trained eyes such as hers. Grass green slid to the side to peer at her. “Wings away,” he told her emotionlessly. She was losing him, and yet she couldn’t stop herself from pushing him further away.

“Yeah, whatever,” she bit back like a coiled serpent. Still she obeyed, thankful that her silver wings topped with white feathers were small enough to have avoided most detection when she wasn’t being mindful. She could feel his careful stimulation of her energy centres and meridians, channeling into her what she needed, manipulating the flow of her life force in order for her not to be exhausted. It was like a gentle brush inside of her. She wasn’t quite resigned to this, for Zenith was the only student who managed to resist her in such a long, dragged out fight of her customary seduction techniques. She resolved to find something that would ensnare him – once she had her fill, surely her thirst would be satisfied and she would have no desire left in her for him.

“Focus,” he uttered coldly. She was tempted to scowl at him, resisted instead. Her attention settled on her tiara, she felt the imprisoned soul respond easily to her emerald green healing light. The child’s soul was eager to be let out, to see this ‘heaven’ that she thought she was headed for.

Something like it, Alhena thought to herself, it’s the closest to heaven you’ll ever be until your end.

Once the soul was pleased and ready to be presented to the Acolyte, Alhena and Zenith went inside the temple, made their way to the very back of the cathedral like establishment to knock on a sealed entryway. Alhena felt the Acolyte’s approval, the lock dissipated and the two went inside. Rainbow hued firelight greeted them in many colours, and the metallic blue haired man rose from a hard chair bearing no cushions, stepping closer to them. They immediately bowed simultaneously, acting as one form. “Acolyte of Archangels,” their voices rose together in a melodious sound, pleasant to the Acolyte’s ears. If only they would get over themselves, or more precisely, if only Alhena would act on her logic instead of her feelings, then this wall wouldn’t be between them.

“Hello, Shining One and Gatekeeper. How was the mission?” His voice was kind and soft, a cotton puff being pulled by a stream in the air. It was a fluffed wisp of vapour in the clear skies bearing no threat to the land dwellers far below.

“Successful as usual,” replied Alhena.

“The soul is ready for your examination,” Zenith continued.

“Very well, leave it with me.” They bowed once again, and exited the chamber. They didn’t perceive the stricken look in the Acolyte’s facial expression as they left.

He breathed in deeply at the sight of the sphere of light that shone far too bright, yet it didn’t hurt his eyes, it only hurt his heart. He supposed that fate wouldn’t wait on him for an eternity. “Soul, take your Terran form.”

The soul obeyed his command, growing and changing and taking the form of an olive skinned, full-bodied woman instead of a skinny little girl. Long, wavy tresses of lavender hair in all its richness and thickness covered her naked form from his sight, covered her from the head to the middle of her calves. She lay there curled into a ball, her breathing deep and even as if she were asleep. She was simply resting after all of that work.

He sunk to his knees, nervous, but placed a hand on the crown of her head. “Soul, what is your name?”

Large, dark purple eyes, many shades deeper than her tresses, cracked open slowly. A smile graced her lips as her gaze discovered him. “Hi, ya! I’m Meissa.”

He nearly clutched his cleric clothing as his chest constricted in pain born of emotion, kept himself composed. “Hello, Meissa. Welcome to Celestial Institute on the world of Terra.”

She propped herself up on her hands, exposing her chest and the rest of her torso. The Acolyte averted his eyes, focused on her dark purple ones. “Do I know you? Are you going to be my teacher? What’s Celestial Institute? What world is Terra? This isn’t heaven?”

“Allow me to answer your questions one at a time,” he told her patiently, and took on a less formal manner of speech to speak with her now that the ceremonial part was over. “You don’t know me, at least not yet. I’m not your teacher, but something akin to a guidance counsellor. Celestial Institute and Terra aren’t heaven, but close to it. The Shining One brought you here. Now I have a question for you. Do you remember anything prior to awakening a moment ago?”

She tapped her chin, kept herself in position with her other hand. “I had a dream that I was riding a really big roller coaster. I got to the top of the first hill, and just before I could fall, a pretty Indian lady with wings picked me up from where I was strapped in. It got all dark and I don’t remember anything after that.” She smiled. “But then I heard your voice, and I woke up.”

“What sort of clothing would you prefer?”

“Huh?” she blinked at his turned face. “Clothing?”

“You need clothes, Meissa.”

“I guess a hospital gown isn’t good for this place,” she laughed. The hand that was tapping at her chin brushed her collar, and her eyes went wide. “EH?” She looked around wildly for something to fling at him. “I don’t believe this! I’ve been naked this whole time and you now said something?”

“My apologies,” he muttered as he shifted to rise and turn his back to her.

“And you’re a boy! I mean a man! Aaah!”

He tossed a thick, warm blanket with stars weaved into the fabric. “What sort of clothes would you like?”

“Can’t I pick for myself?” She hurriedly wrapped herself with the blanket, not caring at the moment that he most likely slept with it.

“I must create a basic set for you until someone of the Gabriel class outfits you.”

“Okay, I want something frilly. I like ribbons and lacy things. Just please don’t make me my underwear.”

It was too late for that. A white dress trimmed in light blue lace with a large baby pink bow to hide her chest more and bearing pink straps for her shoulders, presented itself to her. The sleeves were low and somewhat puffed, a white collar and headband that were also trimmed in light blue lace materialized before her, followed by simple panties. She was about to question why she didn’t receive a bra as well, then realized that the dress was built to support her bust. No wonder he had added that big pink bow.

“It’s so pretty,” she sighed happily. “Thank you, um … what’s your name?”

“Please put those on.” He completely ignored her request for such personal information. “I am the Acolyte of Archangels.”

“Okay,” she argued back as she adjusted herself to put on her new clothes, “but that’s a title, not a name. What’s your real name?”

“You will address me by my title,” he replied stiffly, though not coldly. It wasn’t quite in his nature to be mean spirited or cruel.

“I’ll figure it out, just you wait,” she grinned at the rear of his blue haired head. It was a beautiful shade like the colour of the sky, but with a metallic sheen. Knowing she was being dismissed, she left the way that Alhena and Zenith had passed through when they had brought her here.

“That woman will be the death of me,” the Acolyte said mournfully as he returned to his comfortless, practical chair, long fingers clasped together in prayer as he stared aimlessly into the rainbow firelight, the visual ambiance casting a spell of peace over his troubled heart. “Alhena, you succeeded far more than you believe. You chose well. You found her. You found The Shining One.”

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