7: A Shrine to the Fallen
“That,” echoed Phoenix Rogan’s manic voice from inside the ship’s carcass, “is an excellent deduction!”
Although the Veritas chief was herself out of sight, Katrina Ritches lounged over the ship’s nose, camera in hand, and noticed Dante before he could backtrack.
“You alone?” she asked as he approached.
“Looks like it.” If Kaori had beaten him here, he would have known about it already.
“I guess the forest got them.” Kat reached out to scratch her feline automaton behind its ear as if sniffed at a nearby rose. “I’d say it was magic myself, but you’d probably prefer Annie’s explanation…”
At mention of her name, Andromeda Blumstein emerged from inside the ship and brushed curls of pink-tipped brown hair from her dark-rimmed eyes. She looked ready to pass out. “What’s magic?” she asked, looking at Katrina. Then she noticed Dante. “Oh, right, the forest. Yeah. Of course it’s magic. It can’t possibly have anything to do with all that Malkuthian crap floating about the place. Have you got enough photographs already?” she asked Kat. To Dante she added, “She took loads of that Princess girl. Thinks they’ll prove she was magic as well.” She rolled her eyes. “Why do I work with these people?”
Phoenix Rogan piped up from the wreckage, “Because we make an excellent team! Who is our guest, please?”
“Dante,” said her friends in unison.
After a brief shuffle, Phoenix popped her head over the ship’s bow. “Ah, Mr Orpheus! I thought for certain the forest would defeat someone of your rating. You had an enjoyable adventure finding this locale, yes?”
Phoenix Rogan scared Dante. She was the shortest of the three girls, with brown skin and dark hair, but bolder — and very much louder — than both combined. She fixed Dante with intense, unblinking eyes; Phoenix Rogan did not do things in moderation.
“It was just a walk through the forest,” he replied with a shrug.
Phoenix pulled herself from out of the wreckage and brushed the dirt from her oversized sweater. “And did you meet Her Royal Highness, Princess Phantasia?” she asked.
He looked away, ruffled his hair. “Something like that,” he said.
Phoenix replied with a suspicious hum and crossed her arms. At times like this, it felt like she was trying to read his thoughts. Knowing Phoenix, she probably thought she could. “Her Highness did say she would be meeting everyone who stepped into the forest as part of her assignment,” she said, “so I see no reason to be vague about it. Still, I presume you here to investigate this downed vessel, yes?”
“Eeexcellent.” Her nostrils flared. “Annie and I have just been studying the point of impact to judge the angle and velocity of the crash.” She held up her cellular — expanded to full size — and tapped the screen with a silver baton. “If you are truly more accomplished than your rating suggests, could you perhaps provide some commentary on our present findings, please?”
Phoenix likes her question tags.