Orphic Phantasia

8: Emily and Truth

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“You are troubled,” said the Princess.

“It’s nothing.”

“You are lying.” It took the Princess a fraction of a second to respond, but it was enough of a pause to reaffirm Emily’s suspicions. She was about to call her out on it when a delighted—and thoroughly unwelcome—voice called through the wreckage.

“Ah, Your Highness!” Phoenix Rogan stood in the middle of the ship’s flight deck—at least what was left of it—as if she were its captain, cellular tablet clutched to her chest, eyes bulging with a maniacal glee. Beside her, camera in hand, Katrina Ritches waved in greeting. Andromeda Blumstein, meanwhile, mumbled a half-hearted greeting from somewhere inside the chamber walls. Phoenix glared in her direction, then flashed a smile the Princess’s way—Emily might as well have been invisible for all the would-be journalist cared. “How goes your assignment, Your Highness?” she asked. “You have met more of my fellow initiates, yes?”

The Princess’s eyes lit up at the chance to recount her various encounters. Having already heard those tales in all their colourful detail, Emily instead focused her attention on Phoenix. At first, the Veritas chief maintained an encouraging smile, but as the Princess recalled her awkward meeting with Alonie, Emily noticed the corners of her lips twitch, desperate to break into a sneer of discontent. For all her supposed powers of insight, though, the Princess continued to babble, oblivious to the emotions beneath the facade. Curiouser and curiouser.

Then her recollection reached her meeting with Dante. “He concerns me,” she said. “He seals the truth behind a door in his heart. It must be opened, or he shall surely suffer.”

Emily’s skin prickled with apprehension at the Princess’s insinuation—and raw memories of what Prince Freyr had asked of her. Some doors, she thought, were best left closed.

He was right: she was a hypocrite.

Phoenix, oblivious to the schemes of the Sidhe, maintained her smile even as the Princess told of her encounter with Kaori and Joel, though it finally broke at mention of the latter’s awkward flirting. “Moving swiftly on,” she said, cheeks flushed with embarrassment, “perhaps Your Highness has some insight to offer regarding these ruins?”

Emily, still invisible and unimportant, stood back and watched as the Princess danced around the wreckage pulling names and recollections out of the aether. The more she did, and the more Phoenix questioned her observations, the more obvious the truth became.

Princess Phantasia was not alone. Sometimes, she would glance to her side, as if searching for reassurance from a more knowledgeable companion. Then there were the she paused for the slightest of moments, before proclaiming some truth or another with all the fabricated conviction of someone reciting words they read in a textbook but did not understand. And there was something about the nature of her observations, too.

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As annoying as she might seem, Phoenix is actually one of the Second Class’s best students.