31: Irrefutable Evidence
Naturally, that was easier said than done. The gondolas that floated around Avalon’s towers never once strayed from their preset paths, and the vendors refused to produce anything Dante could have used to build even a rudimentary boat. Instead, he had no other option than to strip down and throw himself at the sea.
A hundred metres out, the waves conspired to turn him back.
Defeated, he spent the Monday trying to ascend the various towers clustered around the island’s Recreational District, but each one turned him away. If he didn’t have the authorisation, he lacked the credentials. Unless he proved himself in some sport or test of strength, he would remain stranded at ground level, forced to forever stare up at the skies and contemplate his weakness. It was just like Malkuth, and the system of karma and kudos that controlled access to its various terraces.
It didn’t help that Horatio Stark and Hermia Adelheid had made quick progress through a number of tournaments in just a few days. Dante was surprised that Theseus Armstrong hadn’t followed in their wake, putting his combat prowess to the test in one of the various martial arts leagues, but he had seen little of the former soldier since their arrival. John Smith had also vanished, as had Chris Shaw, while Joel was spending more and more time with Kaori now that their little bout of drama had blown over. Dante spent his third night in Avalon alone in his apartment, pacing about his room as he searched for the crack he needed to expose Avalon and all its lies.
Now it was Tuesday, and frustration had brought him to the central tower, to that crystal shard looming over the island as Malkuth loomed over its surrounding lands. Dante had assumed it would be some kind of administrative complex, an axis from where the Fortunate Isles controlled their little illusion of Paradise, and thus a place he would stand no chance of entering—so he was surprised to find rolling fields running down to a sparkling lake, all signs of the Recreational District outside obscured behind a veil of blue skies. An illusion within an illusion, and one made more obvious than most by the quartet of giant trees that surrounded the lake, their trunks some fifteen metres thick at Dante’s best estimate.
“What do you think they are?” asked Katrina, offering him a drink from her flask. “It’s tea, obviously,” she said. “No sugar.”
It tasted just the wrong side of tangy. “Supports,” Dante replied, gaze wandering up the trunks to their overshadowing boughs of green-blue leaves. In reality, the tower rose above them for at least half a kilometre, and even the most advanced of materials—the sort that could carry a city into the clouds—had to obey the laws of physics. “They probably run all the way to the summit.”
“Almost.” Kat reached out to fuss her turquoise cat behind its ears. “They’re elevators. We’ve seen them on other levels, though they’re not usually disguised as trees.”
Dante wondered how high she had managed to climb. Like Theseus, he had hardly seen her since the day they arrived. No doubt the blame lay with Phoenix Rogan and her obsessive desire to expose conspiracy and corruption.
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I mean, you’d have to be pretty crazy to spend your holiday trying to expose some convoluted conspiracy, right Dante?