Chapter 12

Celes sat down at a small table in the corner of the dimly lit room. Although it had been originally built as a second dining hall for the servants, it now served as a stopping place for any of the inhabitants of Figaro Castle who were too busy to make their own meals and too late for the common dinner held in the great hall.

She was most certainly both.

Celebration indeed.

Half of her was offended at the very thought of lying to Locke that way. The other half was simply relieved that he’d believed it.

It was quite a lie, and a lie upon a lie. Not only had she not touched a paper regarding the celebration in longer than she could remember, it now seemed unlikely that there would be much of a celebration at all.

Even if there was, she doubted she could keep her promises to Locke.

“Has a humble musician your leave to sit?”

She looked up to see Ghaleon, silhouetted by the small electric lamps that hung behind him. “Of course.”

He sat down across from her, his back still to the light. His ruby-like eyes alone shone from his face. Once, Celes had found them disconcerting, for their color was certainly uncommon. Now, she was used to them. And more.

Ghaleon as a whole was disconcerting still, but for a very different reason.

“I trust you have been well?” he asked.

After a moment, Celes said, “You trust correctly.”

His eyes shifted to the side and he raised his slender hand. “Two glasses of the King’s finest white wine,” he said. When Ghaleon chose to, he could make anything he said sound musical.

The servant two tables down looked up from his meal and rose.

Celes watched the man hurry off, wondering just why it was so easy to obey Ghaleon. “That is quite an extravagance for you, isn’t it?”

“Not at all.” The court musician had come to Figaro dressed in finery to match Edgar’s, and he had never been shy about spending money.

Celes had never thought to ask him what his source of funds was. “Sometimes, Ghaleon, you spend as if you were the king.”

His head lowered a little. Celes couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed, hiding something, or simply chuckling. When he spoke, she realized it was the last. “If I were the King, I would not be so cavalier with the King’s wine.”

She laughed. “I shall tell Edgar you said that.”

That too was meant as a joke, but Ghaleon rarely laughed at anything outside his own thoughts. Certainly he gave no indication that he found her statement humorous. “I think His Majesty would not be amused.”

“Possibly,” Celes said. She might have contested that, if she’d had the energy.

The servant whom Ghaleon had sent for wine returned a moment later with a glass in each hand, and a bottle tucked under his arm. He placed all three on the plain wooden table.

Ghaleon reached into his robes and placed a small coin in the servant’s hand. The man stared at the coin for an instant, then darted into the other room, presumably to show it off to the other servants.

Celes had seen the coin as well. “Jidooran gil?”

Ghaleon nodded. “My previous employer was, you will recall, a Jidooran.”

A single gil was worth well over a hundred now devalued Figaroan gold pieces. “In any case, Ghaleon, it is quite a tip for that servant. A fifth of what you gave him would have more than covered a fine meal anywhere in Figaro.”

“Then he will have five meals.” Ghaleon glanced at the door. “Or lose the piece to his friends at dice this evening, more likely.”

That was certainly true. Gambling, like most vices, had become all too common since Kefka’s destruction of the world.

“And my supply of such coins is not such that I must be frugal,” Ghaleon said.

That raised Celes’ eyebrow. “You have spoken of previous employers. But if you need not be frugal with a full gil, then you must be more wealthy than most of them.”

“I have made a comfortable living for myself. And,” he said, his glittering ruby eyes meeting hers, “I know when it is worth spending money.”

Her face was not any more hidden than his implication, so she fought - and won - a battle against the blush which threatened to creep up her cheeks. “Is this such a time, then?”

“Certainly.” Ghaleon seemed in a fine mood. He poured her a glass of the wine, and then a smaller one for himself. “I am, for the moment, thoroughly content with my place in the world.”

“Then,” Celes said, taking a long sip from her glass, “you are in a different world than I.”

“A different world? What do you mean by that?” he asked. His voice had grown suddenly less jovial, less musical.

“Only that... that you mentioned the word, and I turned it about.” She was more ashamed of her defensive tone now than of the blush which had threatened her exterior calm before, and less successful at keeping it in check.

Why should she care enough to be defensive?

She didn’t want to answer that question, even to herself, so instead, she tried to cover for it. “Perhaps I was just thinking about Terra coming for the celebration.”

“Terra?” Ghaleon leaned forward, his voice incredulous but once again flowing off his tongue like poetry. “The young lady His Majesty was dining with last night? What has she to do with a different world?”

“More than anyone else alive, since she was born in one,” Celes said. It was not exactly common knowledge, but it was also not entirely unknown to the common folk. Certainly there could be no harm in telling Ghaleon. Why, she was surprised he didn’t know already.

“Yet, she resides in this world,” he said.

“She was captured and brought here by the Empire when she was but a child.” Celes was surprised at how little bitterness was in her voice when she said that - normally, she could hardly think of the nation she’d once served without wincing, but this evening her voice barely wavered.

Ghaleon beckoned for her to lean closer as well, which she promptly did. When their faces were not so far apart, he whispered, “You simply must tell me more.”

Yes. She must. But... but had she any more to tell? “I’m sorry, Ghaleon, but that is really all I know. I may have been a magitech knight, but Terra is half-esper. She would know far more.”

“I... see.” Ghaleon stopped humming. When had he begun?

Celes’ face fell. She wished she could have told him more. And there was more to tell, but-

But she didn’t feel like it any longer.

What more she had to say was not something she intended to. It was unthinkable. Certainly unspeakable. Had she had so much to drink already that she had almost leaned closer still to him?

Instinctively, she shrank back to her side of the table.

“The wine is yours, Celes,” Ghaleon said, rising. “But for now, I am afraid I must be off.”

She started to speak, but then caught herself. It was for the best that he was off, for the best that he didn’t again begin gently humming under his breath - and most certainly for the best that she hadn’t tried to stop him. “Good night, then, Ghaleon,” she said, also rising.

She extended her hand, but instead of simply taking it as she’d thought he would, he bent down and kissed it. Then he spun on his heel and was gone.

In the dim light, Celes would have sworn she could make out a smile more satisfied than he had any right to be.