Chapter 23

"There must be some mistake,” Ghaleon said.

Edgar shook his head. “I assure you there is no mistake. Furthermore, I assure you that trying to evade my questions will make this conversation far less pleasant for all of us.”

It grated on Edgar that he could have been deceived for so long. Having his suspicions proven right did nothing to alleviate the feeling. So he had even less intention of letting his court musician direct the course of the conversation than he otherwise would have - which was to say, no intention at all.

Edgar suspected that he’d caught Ghaleon at a bad time - bad for the latter, anyway. Ghaleon tried to protest again. “I do not have to respond to-”

This time, it was Cyan who stopped him. “You will respond as His Majesty commands,” the captain of the Royal Guard said. Edgar didn’t have to turn to know Cyan’s hand would have drifted to the hilt of his katana.

Ghaleon didn’t have to turn, either, because his gaze was clearly fixed on the motion. At last, he said, “Very well, Your Majesty.”

Edgar smiled. Such a victory, no matter how small, was worth advertising to the enemy. “Then let us be brief about this. Are you a scholar of magic?”

Ghaleon didn’t say anything for a moment.

Behind him, Edgar could hear the soft sound of leather glove against leather-covered hilt.

“Yes,” Ghaleon hissed.

“Excellent,” Edgar said. “Now we’re getting somewhere. Before magic was lost from this world, were you, yourself, a spellcaster?”

Ghaleon needed no prompting this time. In fact, something of his typical arrogance returned to his voice as he said, “I was.”

“And were you a servant of the Empire at that time?” Edgar asked.

Ghaleon paused again. His features were as coldly unreadable as ever, which irked Edgar. What was going through the man’s mind? Trying to lie would surely get him nowhere. If he had been a spellcaster, he had to have been an Imperial.

“I do not wish to answer that question in... present company,” Ghaleon said, letting his ruby eyes dart to Cyan.

Edgar narrowed his eyes. He had no fear of being overpowered by Ghaleon if Cyan were to leave the room. While he was far from as muscular as Sabin, Edgar could see that he was in better fighting trim than Ghaleon, and he had years of training and experience.

At the same time, Cyan’s presence was intimidating. That was something Edgar had difficulty matching.

Intimidation was not what Edgar wanted to use. “Very well. Cyan, await me outside.”

“Your Majesty?”

Edgar shook his head. “It’s all right, my friend. Call for two more Royal Guards - the court musician will need an escort to Figaro dungeon after our conversation.”

Ghaleon was a pale man to start with, so Edgar couldn’t say for sure if he lost more color at those words. An Imperial would know dungeons as places of torture, perhaps even as a source of test subjects. No reason to say that it was otherwise in Figaro.

But no, Ghaleon’s expression hadn’t changed since the moment he’d asked for Cyan’s removal. Edgar approved of that - either Ghaleon was a very good actor, or he was as supremely confident as he’d always appeared to be.

When Cyan shut the door behind him, Edgar said again, “Where you a servant of the Empire of Vector at that time?”

“I was,” Ghaleon said. Any indecision was now gone from his voice.

“You chose to conceal this from me, and from all of us, for what reason?” Edgar asked.

It was a particularly obvious question. Ghaleon gave the particularly obvious answer. “For fear of my life and liberty.”

Edgar nodded. “Yet you came here, to Figaro - the proverbial lion’s den. Why?”

“Because I needed access to your library.”

Edgar’s eyebrow raised a bit. “You would take such a risk for that reason alone?”

“I would.” Ghaleon’s tone was haughty. “I used the Empire as I saw fit, and, frankly, Your Majesty, I have done the same to Figaro. I honestly do not care what nation-state is called master of this world, so long as I am permitted to continue my work.”

“Frankly, court musician, you say very little with many words.” Edgar fixed Ghaleon with a glare. “Now. Why are you so dedicated to your work that you would risk, as you yourself said, life and liberty?”

“Is not the pursuit of knowledge an end in itself?” Ghaleon asked, smiling.

Edgar nodded. “It is, sir, and a noble one, but I do not believe that it is your end.”

“Perhaps then, one might select... survival?”

Edgar stopped. His instinct was to send Ghaleon to the dungeon and leave him to rot there - perhaps even to introduce him to some of the particular charms he might have ascribed to an Imperial dungeon.

But instinct was not always right.

“Yes, survival,” Ghaleon continued. “My research is, in fact, into a matter which I believe you yourself are quite interested. The rift growing over the former city of Vector, surely, is motive enough to drive me to take such risks?”

Edgar’s mouth went dry. How could Ghaleon know of it? Had it existed before, during the tenure of first Emperor Gestahl and later Kefka? Before that even?

“Oh, yes, Your Majesty,” Ghaleon said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “you are not granted exclusive rights to that particular interest. I would go so far as to say that I knew of it far before you did.”

How to respond to that? Edgar didn’t know how much, if anything, Ghaleon knew. “And you believe that this gives you some right to deceive me and those around me?”

“Yes,” Ghaleon said.

Edgar nodded slowly. The man’s unabashed arrogance was grating. His deception was unforgivable. What other problems had he caused? Edgar could only speculate.

But if he knew something...

Ghaleon interrupted his thoughts. “Of course, perhaps you would prefer the solution proposed by Miss Branford?”

No. Not that. Never that. If Ghaleon knew a way, even thought he knew a way, Edgar had no choice but to listen.

“Very well, Ghaleon. I will tap your knowledge, however illicitly gained. But know this - you will be a prisoner in this castle, kept here at my discretion only, under my power. I will know your every move, your every action, your every thought.”

Ghaleon just smiled his cold little smile.