Orphic Phantasia

31: Irrefutable Evidence

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Dante saw the forest, the scattered remains of dead Sophists, the polite man in the suit asking after his mother. So many things had happened that night because of her, so many forces weaving their schemes around one another, all because she was a Maiden. All because she was special.

Just like Emily.

He wasn’t sure when he started, or even how he knew where he was going, but soon Dante was leaving the Recreational District behind and making for the island’s far reaches. There, a distance ahead of him, he caught sight of Emily, her blue hair bright in the morning sun.

He had to save her. And perhaps, in the process, he could save himself.

~*~

When Dante caught up with Emily, it was at the last place he had expected to find her. She was standing on the edge of a synthetic woodland of silver-mercury trunks and turquoise leaves covering at least nine hectares of the western island. Dante had planned to explore it at some point in search of local avatars. He had not expected to follow Emily inside.

A short way in, however, she stopped and turned around. Her pale winter eyes fell on Dante’s position. His cloak, for all its technological prowess, had failed him. Nothing was truly unseeable if you knew what to look for.

“I think I’ve had enough stalkers for one day,” she said.

Dante traced the deactivation glyph onto his cloak and let the hood fall around his shoulders. His cheeks burned with a sudden shame. Emily continued to see him at his worst.

“Cheer up,” she said, flashing her crescent-moon smile. “At least you’re not trying to kidnap me with magical powers!”

He didn’t need to question her. The truth was too obvious for that. Burying his hands into his pockets, he felt the cold, lifeless shell of the Tablet and wondered how it might explain a man who could be seen and forgotten in the space of a heartbeat. “Misappropriated technology”, no doubt. It was the Saptamatrikas’ excuse for everything.

Next to the Tablet, he felt the bag of sweets Katrina had given him. Unable to think of anything else to say or do, he offered it to Emily. She plucked one free and studied it beneath the forest’s bioluminescent light.

“You got yourself away from that synthesized junk, then?” she said, before popping the sweet into her mouth. With a wince, she added, “I could break my teeth on these things.”

Dante stuffed the bag back into his pocket and struggled to hold back a twitch of a smile. It almost felt as if nothing, from their previous trek into a synthetic forest, to the drama in the Scar and those vague recollections from the World’s End, had ever happened. As if Emily had never seen Dante break down before Director Guirlande, or found him drunk and delirious in an attempt to escape the truth. As if she had never realised what a weak and ineffective man he really was.

Emily raised an eyebrow. “Are you angsting again, Dante?”

No, nothing was truly unseeable if you knew what to look for, not even emotions, not even thoughts. His mother had taught him that much. His mother, with her pale-winter eyes and crescent moon smile. His mother, the Maiden.

Emily held out a hand. “Come on,” she said. “I want to show you something.”

Dante wanted to ask her about the man from the cafe, to ask if she remembered him, and to remind her if she couldn’t. He wanted to know why she was in trouble, and what he could do to help her. To save her.

Without a word, he took her hand.

To be fair, when isn’t he angsting?