Zitera is a world where the conscious ability to control the energy of creation (i.e. magic) comes as Talents that are taught as physics. Since everyone has at least a small Talent, all are encouraged to learn physics at the Mage Sanctum.
For as long as Red can remember he's had an inner voice of wisdom whose paranoid advice keeps him safe and alone. Unfortunately, paranoia is considered a mental illness that requires treatment. Nearing the end of his twelfth and final year as a Mage Sanctum Initiate, Red learns that everyone must pass "mental health tests" to guard against unhealthy paranoia, anxiety, and depression. Knowing his voice is at risk, Red demonstrates his most impressive abilities to the girl he's in love with, Sylia. He hopes to impress her and enlist her aid in circumventing the tests. However, he botches the performance and injures himself. Sylia heals him, and offers Red a choice: teach her how he learned his abilities or she'll report him. Though furious about it, Red agrees.
Using Red's impotent fury, the "inner voice" pushes him into a meltdown. Relying on the inner voice, Red covers up the resulting damage. As more examples of why Red needs 'his' voice manifest, he begins to realize that his mistrust of everyone is unfounded. During a meeting with Sylia, Red forces the inner voice into the shape of cat and boots it out a 'mental' door. She asks if he's having a seizure. Free from the voice, Red talks with her about it and she reveals that her family was killed by similar madness. She urges him to seek help, saying that treatments involving a dream dimension were sometimes effective.
Later, Red enters a dream dimension using a special vehicle for traveling out-of-body called a 'Light Body.' While there, he separates completely from the inner voice. After returning to his body, Red discovers just how much he's always relied on the inner voice when two men come to kill him. When the voice, in the shape of a giant purple panther, shows up to save Red, he uses his Talent to trap the assassins and panther in another dimension. As the panther falls through the portal, it pulls Red's Light Body in too.
Unwilling to kill the assassins, Red enlists the panther to help him trap them in the dream dimension. After trapping them, the panther chases Red's Light Body across several other dimensions. At the same time, his physical self struggles to explain what's happening to Mage Sanctum Masters and keep Sylia happy. The panther catches Red's Light Body even as Red pushes Sylia into reporting his madness.
Red identifies the "Panther" as a self-aware spell-construct and then determines a way to use it that doesn't involve driving him insane. He absorbs the core of the spell, but creates a physical 'Panther.' Red returns with the panther and assassins to Zitera. A fight ensues and the panther and one assassin kill each other while Red defeats the other. Red's Light Body, paranoia spell, and physical body merge once more.
After Red receives medical attention following his ordeal, he's the subject of an Official Investigation. He explains that the 'madness' is the dead Panther, and learns that Sylia also healed brain damage that hampered his ability to trust. When the Investigation results come out, Red's required to undergo a procedure that will ensure he's mentally stable before he can continue his education. He refuses, and leaves the Mage Sanctum.