Chapter 20

Edgar willed himself to concentrate. This was no time to be happy! Concern for his kingdom, mourning for his friend, how could he even imagine such a transgression.

But it would be so simple.

He had only to look over at Terra.

She was seated on his left in the conference room, trying her best to pick through the old Imperial files, just as Edgar was. Edgar’s stated reason for the two of them to work there had been that they could work from a common stack of files, and Terra could ask him about the details of a particular report. It might even work out that way, though in fact it was, even to him, a rather flimsy excuse just to be with her.

She returned his glance and smiled, which made him, impossibly, unconscionably, even happier. Her smile faded quickly, though, as the weight of what was happening pressed back upon her shoulders.

A weight that, insofar as he could, Edgar would lift.

Which brought him full circle - happiness led to contentment led to inefficiency. He must keep his mind where it belonged.

Especially now.

He forced his eyes, and his thoughts, back to the matter at hand.

So far, just as he’d suspected, there had been not a single volunteer. The Empire had bred into their citizens, especially their government employees, a culture of paranoia that certainly hadn’t faded. The harsh war crimes ‘trials’ that had condemned many of the magitech researchers to death had probably not encouraged the survivors to come forward.

Since Kefka’s defeat, Edgar had stopped such practices and formalized the trials. He hadn’t changed the penalty.

Nor had he ever had to prosecute - none of the Imperial officials who had survived, if there were any left, were foolish enough to be captured.

It was no surprise, then, that they did not come running to Edgar’s beck and call.

It might not be a surprise, but it was certainly unfortunate.

He shook his head. Such thoughts were as fruitless - and much less pleasant - as those of Terra which had previously distracted him.

Not quite as fruitless - they explained why he was having such difficulties, though they did nothing to alleviate them.

Edgar would far rather the latter than the former. In his spare time - a concept all too foreign, of late - he had been fascinated by engineering. Pure science, with its emphasis on theories and formulae, had never held quite so much appeal.

Perhaps it was inevitable, certainly desirable, for a King to be more interested in results than in exactly what caused those results. It kept him focused.

He spared another glance at Terra.

For all his talk of results, there were some things he would never allow. For her to put herself in danger ranked high, perhaps first, on that short list.

All the more reason to redouble his efforts, then.

“Edgar...” The sound of Terra’s voice was more than enough to draw his full attention back to her.

She lowered her head. “I... I need to leave.”

Edgar started. “What? Why?”

“I promised Strago that I would take care of Relm for him,” she said quietly. “I must go to Thamasa.”

No! It was too dangerous to travel, especially the long road that would take her to Thamasa. That road (though to call a journey that would inevitably consist of many boats, carts and what few trains still functioned a road was an exaggeration) would, in its most direct form, pass right by the rift.

And...

Edgar could not afford to be honest with himself, not if he was to have any chance of convincing Terra to stay.

And who was to say that, alone, unprotected, she would not try to do what she’d proposed at the meeting?

“You can’t go now,” he said.

Why? Terra would shrug off the danger, and his personal wishes were irrelevant.

“But I must.” She rose. “I wish I could have been of more help, Edgar, but I have to say goodbye.”

Help! “Terra, you simply can’t. I need you here to help stop the rift.”

“You would not let me do my best,” she pointed out. She stepped closer.

Edgar got up and walked around the desk. “I need your instinctive knowledge of magic. Celes knows it in a practical sense. If there is any good luck left in any of us, we’ll find someone who knows it in a theoretical sense. But Terra, you know it as a part of your life.”

She shook her head. “But my promise-”

Edgar knew that, sooner or later, Terra would try to seal the rift herself. He would not allow it, now or ever. He put his arms around her. “Can be best kept by helping me, helping us, save the world - Relm included - once again.”

Just as on the night of Strago’s death, Terra did not pull away. “You really think I can help?”

Edgar nodded. “Please,” he said. It was amazing how much could be packed into that one, tiny, simple word.

And how much it conveyed. “All right, Edgar,” Terra said.

The door behind them opened.

Edgar, in his mind cursing whoever was there, released Terra.

Cyan bowed deeply. If he’d seen the two of them embracing - if one could even call it by such an affectionate term - he said nothing about it, and never would. That was his way. “Your Majesty,” he said, “I have found something. I think you will be most interested.”

Edgar raised an eyebrow, any spur-of-the-moment mental curses for Cyan now long gone. “What is it?” he asked, all business again now that some reasonable hope presented itself.

“If I am correct in my reading of these reports from Jidoor, we have been looking in the wrong place for magical researchers,” Cyan said, growling out the last two words in a lower, harsher tone.

“Go on...” Edgar said.

“Your Majesty, we should have just asked the court musician.”