The Cursed Human (Mellissa’s Route) (4/4)
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I looked to see a grand mountain of steps leading up to the palace above. The stone steps were grayish, and at the sides were large pillars of white porcelain holding the structure around us up.

“This place is bigger than I thought.”

I said as we took our first steps upward.

"It's so grand, and to think that the Radiants inside that magnificent place... protect us."

I could feel a powerful spectrum flow resonating around as we made our way up the seemingly endless steps. It was like traveling into the clouds due to a light haze of fog dancing around us. As if entering a new world, we held each other close, not wanting to be separated in this mystical land made by the Radiants. We were greeted with a powerful sight when we finally reached the top of the stairs.

 

 

“Incredible…”

I've never seen a place this gigantic. Buildings were towering high in the sky to the sides of us, so large that I felt like a speck compared to it. Mellissa pointed to the gates in front.

“That is the entrance into the Radiant Kingdom. No one is allowed inside but those who the Radiants give access to. Even if we tried to get in, we don’t have the key to enter it.”

I gazed at the marvelous structure. In the hazy fog, it shined like fine silver and gold.

“So there’s no possible way to get inside? Is there a spell that locks us out?”

“Yes, and from what I’ve heard, no one has ever broken it. The Radiants won’t ever allow it.”

From what I gathered, only the outskirts of this Kingdom are allowed to look around. But anything within, the secrets they hold are locked away in that Kingdom. In a way, it made the Radiants all the more imposing, knowing that any truths are locked behind those gates.

“I would... love to see the inside of the Radiant Kingdom, but as a human or a vessel, that just isn’t a likelihood.”

Mellissa sounded dejected. How I wished I could sneak in and take her with me but I’d likely be killed if I tried anything suspicious near the Radiant stronghold. Curiously I looked around, trying to brighten Mellissa’s mood with conversation.

Statues of Radiants stood tall, some holding blades, spears, and other weapons. But there was one that stood out to me. So, I walked up to it, still holding Mellissa's hand.

[Raia.]

I looked at the tall bunny next to me.

“Who is this, Mellissa?”

Like a scholar, she put one finger in the air and closed her eyes.

"Raia was the god of fire. He is known to be the first level 3 ever to exist. If that is true, I'm not sure. But that's what the Radiants tell us in our textbook."

The man was fearsome and had fire around his body, representing the powerful aura just this statue gave off.

“What happened to him? Did he die in the War of the Gods like Annaba, the goddess of water?”

“No, from what we know, Raia never died. At least he never died in any war we know about."

Mellissa let go of my hand and pondered for a minute. I was confused but invested in this story of a new god. Mellissa seemed to enjoy the history of Prism, and she looked as though just speaking about this was causing her to smile in bliss.

"The god of fire was powerful, Feodora. Followers and travelers used to visit Red's Mountain to talk with him, plead with him, amongst other things, for blessings and help."

An image of a man surrounded by brimstone and ash came to mind. He was sitting on a throne as magma poured around him. The thought of someone like that existing made my body shake. I couldn’t imagine fighting against a god.

“Then what happened to Raia, Mellissa? If he didn’t die in a war does that mean he’s still around?”

Mellissa gazed at the grand statue before us and shook her head slightly.

“Nobody knows, Feodora? And that’s what makes the mystery of Raia so captivating.”

She closed her eyes and explained.

"This was before the war of the gods. We know the war of the gods happened nearly 200 years ago from today."

I thought about the date. It was April 1127 at the moment. The war of the gods must have happened in 927, give or take. That was when the Radiants battled against the goddess of chaos.

“Wasn’t Raia around during that time, Mellissa?”

I asked. Mellissa shook her head with a finger pointing at the powerful statue behind her

"Feodora, It’s been nearly 900 years since Raia vanished. It’s a mystery as to what happened to him, and most have long forgotten him by this point."

“So, Raia vanished around 227 Radiant Age?”

“Yes… and nobody knows how or why a man so prominent, powerful, the controller of fire… vanished.”

How does a god vanish with no trace? The thought that someone so formidable vanished suddenly. I had to know more, so I pressed it.

“There’s no history surrounding what happened to him? All we have… is this statue?”

Cutely, Mellissa shrugged her shoulders.

“What’s known about his disappearance is… Raia one day went to his chambers, and that was that. When his followers came to see him the following day, Raia was gone. Not even an ember was left of his flame.”

This place felt a tad colder all of a sudden. And strangely, this statue didn't feel as ominous anymore.

“What a mystery. Do you think the Radiants know the truth of what happened to them, Mellissa?”

“If they do, they aren’t saying much but what in the history books would tell us. However, Raia was Marx's best friend. They worked together to shape our world. So, I doubt they did anything to harm him."

“Marx is the current leader and ruler of the Radiant Kingdom, right Mellissa?”

Excitedly, Mellissa nodded.

“Yes, you’ve seen him before, remember? Marx gave us that wonderful message during the bombing incident.” 

I hadn't met him and only saw the video conference from him with the bombing statement. There was still a lot about the Radiants that I just don't know, but hearing that Marx, the head of the Radiants, and this Raia, the god of fire, were best friends showed me the connections that the Radiants had were sewed up deep in this world. It's more like a collection of mafia that I don't want to have a part of.

“Feodora, there is a spot I want to show you. It’s right before the entrance to the Radiant Kingdom!”

Entranced, I followed her as we made our way closer to the imposing castle. However, I could feel a presence, like a gate invisible to the naked eye. It was strong, and it only became more profound as we approached.

We gazed up at the massive castle before us. Outside of the entrance was a memorial to the right of the pathway, leading to the Radiant Kingdom. As I approached, I could make out the name of it.

“The Steeble Lake Memorial Shine?”

I read the name of a tombstone. It was decorated with bright flowers and looked like someone had recently laid more here before we came.

"Yes, it's a shrine to a tribe who fell close to Radiant City. Each of them passed away, and the Radiants, especially Elizera, pay tribute and respect to them by laying this tombstone here."

“I see…”

I wasn't versed in the tragedies or, for that matter, the history surrounding Radiant City. But this shrine felt personal as if it was a staple of this magnificent ground. 

Radiants in black suits patrolled the outside, unlike the city knights in the main city. One strange move and I'm sure they would attack without question. The Radiants have an air to them, and that is called power.

I turned to Mellissa, who gazed yearningly at the massive castle before us. Gold ridges in the outline and white, mystical fog danced about the palace entrance. The walls towered high into the heavens as if we were looking at a glimpse into the realm of the gods. A powerful pulse came from my chest as I looked at its splendor. Every object was magnified, making me feel like an ant in the vast landscape. This place, outside of the Radiant Kingdom, was certainly on an Olympic scale.

“Unbelievable…”

I whispered.

“Yes, it simply is… extraordinary.”

She continued to gaze at the palace. I watched her from behind as she marveled at the sight before us.

"Protectors of the world hold those they shield in their arms. With force so great, its people shall never fear. They shall never want… and be free to protect and love each other."

Mellissa spoke in a gentle, warm voice.

“Those are the first words I remember hearing from Marx, our leader, Feodora.”

She closed her eyes as if recalling a distant memory. I stood there silently, realizing that Mellissa was opening up to me.

 

“It all began when I was young, Feodora. The day… when I became a monster.”

 


 

 

I woke up in school, and children were crying around me. I tasted something metallic in my mouth, like blood. As I sat there in a haze, children screamed my way, calling me a monster... it terrified me. I had just turned six, and suddenly my life wasn't my own anymore.

A group of men in black suits and red ties came in and took me away. Radiants brought me to this place, in this very spot before the entrance to the Radiant Kingdom. I had never seen a place so profound as this, an image that seared into my memory.

But it didn’t measure up to the powerful aura of the man who exited the Radiant Kingdom.

I was crying, scared, hurt, and confused about what was going on. My body was trembling, and out of the fog came a man with dark grey hair, bright golden eyes, and the voice of a giant but the size of a man. He held my shoulders and touched my cheek.

“Annabella Cafree, is that your name?”

He said while petting my short dark hair. This man didn’t call me a monster or a demon like the children. He wasn’t scared of me, nor angry, but kind and understanding. Everything about his presence made me feel as though I was safe…

"Your life will be a difficult one from here on, Annabella. You will be hated, mocked, and ridiculed for the rest of your life… but…."

In a booming voice, loud enough for the heavens to hear, he roared the orders in my heart that still resonate with me today...

"Protectors of the world hold those they shield in their arms. With force so great, its people shall never fear. They shall never want… and be free to protect and love each other. Even you, "Mellissa," can be a protector of this world. So, never feel as if you are a monster.”

That was the first day I was called Mellissa. And from there on out, the Radiants legally changed my name from Annabella Cafree to Mellissa Cafree to reflect the curse of the humans. But my mother made sure that my middle name was Ann to keep the name Annabella with me.

After the day, another knight came to me as the moon shone down on this wonderful palace.

"Come on. I'll take you to your parents, Annabella."

The knight known as Jade Opal picked me up in her arms. They were soft like my mother's. Gentle and ever so endearing as she spoke with me. She rubbed my back and soothed my broken soul as we made our way to the great steps. During our descent back to Radiant City, Jade whispered the words that, to this day, echo in my soul...

 

 

 

"Don't worry… you will always be the sweet little girl, Annabella, in my eyes. So, no matter how hard it gets from here on out… know that you are still Annabella… even though the world will call you Mellissa."

Those powerful words were too hard for me to comprehend at that age. But… my soul must have understood… or maybe both the souls now tethered together... understood her.

“Nnng…”

Tears rained down my cheeks, and I screamed to the heavens. But Jade didn't scold me. No, she didn't say a word. As we continued our journey back to my home. Jade held me and her warmth was so overwhelmingly captivating that I found myself squeezing her like she was someone I knew for years... even though we first met that day.

That night I cried myself to sleep. And from that day forward, the bouts of missing minutes of my life turned into hours. On rare occasions… sometimes days.

And when I finally woke up, faces of pain, hurt, and scorn would be directed at me.

Friends I had left me, and adults refused to teach and tutor me. Eventually, everyone ostracized me… and I couldn't witness the monster that made it happen. But one thing was prevalent every time I fell asleep…

I would wake up to something remarkable…

I always found it astonishing that the Knights were there to ease the pain of the people around them. All the pain and suffering I would cause, the knights would make it their duty to do right for them.

And the Radiants directed and protected the city.

How I’ve always wished growing up…

 

To one day be like them….

The saviors of our world. The Knights and the Radiants of Radiant City. The heroes who fight…

So the people they love can smile.

 


 

Mellissa's cheeks were wet with tears as she expressed the emerging feelings in her chest. That fateful day when the human's curse chose her imprinted into her memory. How Marx gave her the glimmer of hope… and still to this day, Mellissa uses that as a power to keep moving forward. Even if the world hates her… She will one day be the protector that she strives to be. I found myself lifting my hand to her cheek, wiping away a tear with one finger. Her cheeks were warm.

“Feodora...”

Surprised, Mellissa called out my name. Her tone was sweet and affectionate, and it woke me up to what I just did.

“O-Oh.”

It was then I caught myself and brought my hand back. Awkwardly, we looked away from each other.

“I-Is that why you respect the knights and Radiants, Mellissa?”

 

 

I asked, still thinking about what I carelessly just did. Mellissa didn’t seem to mind as she curled her finger in her hair and continued.

"Yes, I… I admire the Radiants, Feodora. I agree that the knights can be heavy-handed sometimes, but without them… we wouldn't be able to smile and live in this wonderful city."

Those wonderful green eyes locked onto mine.

“Radiants are like superheroes, Feodora! They're secretive, but only because they're protecting us! Don't you think it's fascinating having them protect us?”

The wind caught her hair, making it dance in the dazzling fog. The allure of the palace merged with Mellissa’s love for the knights and Radiants. It all cultivated into this beautiful moment between us.

"The Radiant Order always solves the most complex and dangerous cases. If we're afraid of the monster coming to attack us, Marx would come and bring order by directing the Radiants and the Knights."

She held her chest and wiped her cheek with the other.

"I look up to Marx. Without him, I don't think I would have the will to keep going. I might have given up trying to be human…"

“Mellissa…”

These were the feelings hidden deep behind that wonderful smile of hers. A girl longing to protect the people around her… even though her curse won’t allow it.

"The human population decreased over the centuries, but the Radiants kept us safe. Without them… I couldn't imagine a world where the remaining humans could live so peacefully. It's scary to realize everyone around you is stronger than you by just being alive."

With her hand behind her back, Mellissa confessed her feelings.

"That's why I respect Jade Opal so much! She carried me home as a child, and I never forgot her kindness while doing so. If there was a way to reincarnate after death… I would be a Radiant like her!"

 

 

I thought about that overzealous knight, Jade. To think she was there, comforting Mellissa in the past too. Silently, I thanked her for doing that.

When she confronted me in the forest on our way to the Cero Village, I lashed out at her. But hearing this today I understood why she belittled me back then. Jade was looking out for Mellissa just like when she held her as a child. It gave me a brand-new insight into the soon-to-be head of the knights, Jade Opal.

Together we watched the fog roll past the entrance to the Kingdom. The area was calming as if the bustle of the world below couldn’t taint the serenity of these palace gates.

“So, the name of your curse is “Mellissa”, right?”

I asked. I wanted to further my knowledge on the matter. Wiping her tears away, Mellissa nodded and faced me.

“Yes.”

She nodded, causing her long hair to bounce.

“And your real name… your “human name” is Annabella, correct?”

Once again, she confirmed this to be true with a slight nod.

"Do you know why you were cursed to have Countess inside of you, Mellissa?"

She shook her head.

"No. From what the Radiants told us is this curse from centuries ago. Something happened, and humans were cursed. And that curse is placed on us. There's no way to break it, so the Radiants maintain it instead."

I put my finger to my lip, thinking about the past.

“How does the curse decide who is affected, Mellissa? Are there multiple Mellissa’s?”

Mellissa shook her head.

"No, only one human becomes cursed to be Mellissa. And when the cursed human dies, the being known as Mellissa possesses the next host. By trends, it's shown that the curse usually finds its way into newborns or young children, like in my case."

Her words made me question something. I was under the impression that Mellissa was in a way immortal. Her wounds healed rapidly so I didn’t consider that she could die… at least not easily.

“A curse… huh?”

 

 

A curse like this had to be powerful. Moreover, to span centuries made me wonder who had the power to do something so grand. As I looked at my girlfriend, I noticed her body trembling. Could it be that she was worried about telling me this? To ease her mind, I reached out and squeezed her hand gently.

“Hey, what do you like to be called by then? What name… should I call you?”

I asked, showing her that I wanted to put her feelings first. With that wonderful smile, she answered honestly.

“I was named Mellissa from Marx. So, I wish to keep that name and do my best to find a way to make people smile with it, Feodora.”

There was a weight to her words that she carried with those words. Mellissa knows the struggles that go with her curse, yet she strives to make beautiful connections and jumps at the chance to make those around her happy. In a way, Mellissa adores the thought of Knights and Radiants. They can achieve what she can't.

But that doesn't mean she can't connect with people because, clearly, I've been affected by her actions. I wish Mellissa could truly fulfill the want and need she has… to make people smile one day.

"You are such a beautiful person, Mellissa."

“H-Huh?”

Taken aback by my comment, my girlfriend looked to the side. Her face reddened, and I could tell that I had hit a critical point for that one. So, I doubled down on it.

“I said you’re a beautiful person, with ideals so wonderful… I can’t help but smile when I hear them, Mellissa.”

I crossed my arms and looked about, seeing the Radiants patrol.

“Yeah, I guess the Radiants are kinda cool, aren't they, Mellissa?"

 

 

I smiled back at her, causing her expression to brighten.

“Yeah, they are Feodora.”

We took each other's hands and descended the massive steps. A curse placed on the human race centuries ago still lingers today. Silently, I suspect that the Radiants, Polechenote especially, know more than what they are willing to say. But in a way, this brought me closer to Mellissa. I have my curse, and she has hers too.

If she could find a way to deal with mine, I would do the same… and try my hardest to work with her. I want to understand Countess, so these moments between Mellissa and I will last much longer.

“Ehhh!”

I jumped up, causing Mellissa to burst out into a fit of laughter. I reached down and took out my phone which was buzzing at me like an angry swarm of bees.

“S-Shhhh, I need to answer this.”

I pushed her shoulder, but she retaliated and pushed me back. It was pointless… but fun.

 

“Yes, Jade?”

(“You have Mellissa with you, am I right?”)

I looked over to the purple bunny waiting patiently to finish my call.

“Yeah, she’s right here.”

(“Alright, I have an urgent mission for Countess. Could you meet me outside the south gates of Radiant City?

We followed a lead from Vert and there’s a high ranked beast we need eliminated.”)

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