“Dreaming about the Professor again?”
I looked up in confusion. Was that a dream? It certainly was. The unrelenting summer sunshine is piercing through the windows, leaving no room for the gentle moonlight whatsoever. My hands are resting on a wooden desktop, not on some metal panel. There is no grass around, and no noises of propellers. This is a classroom, probably in the university I am attending, and I fell asleep during lectures.
Then who woke me up? I knew that voice. Without looking at her face, I muttered,
“I’m surprised you even remember me after dreaming of another woman!” The girl in front of me stared at me with great intensity. Her face it that of a despondent housewife after she found out her husband’s affairs. “Alex. You even called out her name so passionately in your dreams!”
“It’s not like I can forget that beautiful voice of yours after hearing it every day for 10 years.”
“Speaking like a true womaniser. Do you think I will forgive you this easily?”
“And it’s not like I can forget about how delusional you are.”
Henrietta chuckled; looks like my jokes won this round. She stood up and her face, seemingly enraged a moment ago, now restored to its natural state. A tall and slender woman, Henrietta had this disposition to attract the attention of her surroundings. It was only natural; no matter how you look at her, on the surface Henrietta was a beautiful, mild-mannered woman. She towered over most people, yet her slender figure conveyed an unnatural elegance like that of a princess; her hair, darker than the starry skies and finer than Estranian silk, naturally flowed down to her shoulder like a waterfall. Her facial features were well-defined and attractive; and the crowning jewel --- her green eyes, shone like the Great Emerald of Anteland, with a charm that seemed to draw people’s eyes to them like Sirens seducing people to their tragic fates...
Yes. Like Sirens seducing people to their tragic fates.
"You must be super impolite to me in your head again.”
“Politeness is wasted on you anyways. Your ‘politeness’ is simply ‘beat the shit out of them’, like how you dealt with the men that fell for you, right?”
"How many men fell for you innocent looks only to be permanently scarred by the monster you actually are?”
“Did you count the poor maidens you cold-heartedly and savagely rejected, their hearts shattered in the wind by that vile tongue of yours?”
“Yes, I did. There were 41 of them since I started school.”
“And you called me a monster.” Henrietta quipped. She paused for a moment, then noticed our classmates had all left the room --- the lecture was over a long time ago, and we shouldn’t be here any longer. Seemingly resigned, Henrietta let out a sigh and asked,
“Are you free after this?”
“The Glasshouse, right? With the usual crew? Sure.”
“How you figured it out so quickly is a mystery to me. The rest of the crew will be late, though.”
“It’s not like we have been meeting there every week.”
On the northern end of the campus once stood the Glasshouse, a palace made of stained glass that earned its reputation as the main attraction of the otherwise dull, stone-and-concrete University of Frescia campus. Older than the university itself, it was originally an exhibition space modelled after an ancient Terran structure, with three neo-classical towers and two wings that were both five stories high. Throughout its history it was extensively modified, expanded, and reused. Surviving through the Revolution, the Global Wars, and the Great Arbitration, it was used as a noble’s residence, an armoury, a lecture hall, and even a greenhouse, before meeting its end in a still-controversial university renovation. Even today, the Shard Tower --- the central tower that was spared the demolition --- is still a symbol of the university. The students would talk about how the spiral staircase casts rainbows on the ground, and how much they wanted to climb the tower at sunset, bathing in the seven-coloured light. Not that they were ever allowed to do that; today the structure is too fragile to endure a mob of curious students; those who once climbed the tower existed only in legends.
On that bright summer day, however, the Glasshouse stood as a social space for students and faculty alike. Having been built well before the Revolution, it espoused an extravagance that had more in common with the Empire’s palaces than with the Frescian Republic’s functional and minimalist architecture. That was exactly why the Glasshouse was popular amongst the students: despite being born in a country that upholds equality as its founding principles, its citizens couldn’t help but to dream about lives as kings, queens and nobles --- and smart local businessmen who bought the rights to use the building were quick to exploit that admiration. A luxurious shopping mall was established inside the building, decorated in faux-Imperial style, attracting tourists from far and wide. Not even the Shard Tower was spared; it was converted into a greenery space with a teahouse, the Walled Garden, at the very top.
Sitting under a large glass dome, Henrietta and me silently sipped tea, as we were rendered speechless by the magnificent view. The setting sun was about to be swallowed by the placid sea, its rays illuminating the harbour and casting long shadows behind the university’s buildings. Beneath us were the stained-glass staircase, which was shining like jewels with intricate colours. Above us were a sea of clouds, dyed golden by the setting sun and occasionally intruded by contrails from airplanes. Seagulls flew next to us, and Henrietta subconsciously reached out her hand, as if she was trying to grab them. Her eyes, shining like the rest of the view, were enthralled by the horizon. Her teasing expression was all but gone from her face, and in its place, I felt a subtle melancholy.
“As if you are dreaming…” I broke the silence.
Henrietta turned towards me, seemingly awake from the whatever dream she was seeing. “I do dream, too,” she spoke with her usual confidence, but in a softer and more subtle voice than I knew. The subtle melancholy had yet to disappear from her face.
“The Professor. I can’t help but to think about her, just like you.” She looked up towards the sky. “It is hard not to think about her. She’s talented, knowledgeable, humorous, kind, and an exceptional beauty to top it off. She is like the ideal person, the homo universalis, in the flesh. But all of that pales compared to what she had achieved… She is clearly not just your normal university professor. I wonder why she is our tutor.”
The sun had fallen well below the horizon and the moon had taken its place. A clean blue light shone through the glass dome, signalling its arrival to the diners in the Walled Garden. The moon was marred by white scars and green patches, like a blue marble floating on a tranquil sea. The ancients used to say “once in a blue moon” as a metaphor for rare occurrences, but here, on Titania, it’s an everyday phenomenon. The white cliff near the harbour obtained a blue sheen, and the bioluminescent Bellflower in the vase on the table had started to glow. The Moon Lysithea. White cliffs. Blue Bellflower. Just like that day…
“Just like that day when we first met the Professor --- when we first met Lysithea’s Orphan.”
Sorry for the lack of new chapters last week --- I was going through some important exams and had little time to write. From now on until the end of the competition I should have a bit more time to stick to the schedule.
It is my first time writing novels so if you enjoyed it or think there are stuff I should improve, please let me know!
In the next chapter, Henrietta and Alex recall their first meeting with the Professor --- the titular Lysithea’s Orphan.