Chapter 8

Edgar pushed away the rest of the day’s paperwork and leaned back in his chair.

This important work, how crucial was it, really? It seemed he had bigger fish to fry. Although he’d had been uneasy for... ever since Ghaleon had come to Figaro, certainly, that report from Kefka’s Tower had given a tangible form to his unease. Now it had blossomed into full-bodied worry.

Danger was certainly not something unknown to him. Anything he could face, out-fight, out-think, whatever was needed, he could handle. That was why, no matter how uneasy Ghaleon made him, he did not genuinely worry about the man’s purposes and goals. That vague feeling that there was something dangerous about the man, some secret he hid for his own reasons, concerned him, yes. But that was something he could, and would, deal with when the time came.

The events described in that report were different. This was a matter entirely foreign to his fields of expertise, and that made Edgar more than nervous.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, there was no one to even discuss it with. Celes had been busier than ever, as he himself had been, and even if their schedules had coincided, he suspected that she would be disinclined to talk after the altercation they’d had in regards to Ghaleon. Sabin had went to Narshe to help out his old martial arts master with the rebuilding effort there. Locke, always reliable to relieve some of the pressures of command with a healthy dose of day-to-day life, was underground.

As, for that matter, was the court musician.

Edgar shook his head.

He wondered how Cyan was faring. By now, he should have linked up with Strago. Had they reached the tower yet? Edgar checked his calendar. No, not yet. Perhaps in another day or so. And then there would be preparations to be made, of course. Edgar knew he could trust it to Cyan. As to Strago’s knowledge, on that count he could only hope for the best.

Was it really magic? And if it were, did that mean the espers had returned as well? And what did that mean to...

Terra?

He shook his head.

He was overworked. That was the only explanation - either that or he was hovering on the verge of madness from it all. He could swear he could hear her voice, calling his name-

“But, Miss Branford, His Majesty specifically requested that he not be disturbed!”

Edgar blinked. Had Vesper just said-

“Edgar?”

Terra’s voice. Not some daydream brought on by exhaustion. Genuinely her voice, here and now in Figaro Castle!

“Vesper, by all means, see Miss Branford in,” Edgar said, more quickly and much louder than he’d intended. Terra. Here. Now. She’d sent no confirmation that she would even be coming for the Anniversary celebration, much less so soon.

The door opened, and she stepped inside.

It had been nearly a year since he had seen her. Her hair was shorter than he remembered, but still pulled back in a simple, convenient ponytail. Her face was devoid of the cosmetics most women he knew used so skillfully. Her clothes, of a plain cut and fabric, were more functional than flattering. Surely, there were more beautiful women by far than Terra Branford.

But her smile had not lost the ability to take his breath away.

“You... look well,” he said haltingly.

Should he take her hand? Would it be permissable to enfold her in a kingly hug? No. Best to restrain himself. He’d gotten off to such a bad start with Terra, that day so long ago. He motioned to the chair across from him.

“As do you, Edgar.” She seated herself and folded her hands on her lap. “You look very well.”

He doubted that was true. Work and worry had taken their toll on his usually immaculate appearance. His hair and clothes were unkempt and at this time of day, the Figaroan heat had bathed him in sweat. But then, he doubted Terra noticed such things.

She looked at a person’s eyes, and that was all.

Edgar looked back.

Her big green eyes were warm. They held an expression of ever-present joy which stemmed, Edgar surmised, either from a truly generous outlook on the world or from a quiet resolution not to show sadness to others. He had never been quite sure.

In any case, it was an expression that took years off a man’s life. Especially the years put on by duty.

An expression that left one speechless, and glad to have nothing to say.

Still, he made the attempt. “So, Terra. How have you been this past year?”

“Everything has been wonderful. Duane and Katarin are excellent with the children. And Gau has been a great help to everyone.” Terra beamed. “He’s quite a bright boy, you know.”

“Oh, really.” Edgar wasn’t interested in the state of Moblitz, or even of Gau for that matter. But he wasn’t about to tell Terra that.

“He’s learning ever so fast, now that he’s had the chance to really do so. Why, he’s got his nose in a book whenever he gets a free moment - I think he must be the smartest of us all.” She seemed poised to go on.

“But how are you?” Edgar asked again.

Terra brushed a loose strand of hair away from her face. “Well, how could I feel anything but wonderful - things have been going so well.” She looked away for a moment. “But Moblitz must be so boring to you, Edgar. How have things been here in Figaro?”

Changing the subject might have deterred an overly curious child - no doubt that was why Terra had acquired the skill. But Edgar was no child. “We have been busy, but not overly so. Everyone here will be so glad to see you.”

“I’ve missed you all so much,” Terra said. She smiled. “I am very happy to see you.”

And I you, Edgar thought. But he said, “Unfortunately, you just missed Cyan.”

“He is away?” Terra’s face fell for an instant, then brightened just as quickly. “But surely he’ll be back soon.”

“Before the Celebration, I hope,” Edgar said. Whatever was bothering Terra - and he intended to find out what it was - would not be compounded by his own worries.

“I am so looking forward to that. And to seeing everyone again, especially.” She leaned forward and glanced at the pictures on his desk. Edgar gulped as her eyes passed over the little portrait of her he had set there.

Relm painted this,” Terra said matter-of-factly, running her fingers along the top of the portrait’s frame.

“Yes. She did.” Edgar hoped his embarrassment was better hidden in his voice than it must have been in his face. But Terra was admiring the painting. “It’s... quite a good likeness, don’t you think?”

“Oh, yes. It’s a wonderful painting. That’s how I knew she’d done it of course. But why do you have it, Edgar?” She cocked her head so that she could see him.

He had it because the little snot had given it to him as a parting gift, and, Edgar decided in retrospect, probably with the intent of just this sort of thing happening when Terra came around. He grinned sheepishly. “Oh, she gave it to me to give to you, if you’d like it.”

“Really? Oh, I couldn’t possibly.” Terra shook her head.

“I admit, I’m rather fond of it myself.” Then, quickly he added, “the brushwork, I mean.”

“Yes, so beautifully painted.” Terra sat back in her chair. “You have so many beautiful things, Edgar. I’d forgotten how wonderful your castle is.”

Edgar raised his hand. “And when you’ve been here a little longer you’ll remember how hot my castle is, and forget all about the beautiful things.”

Terra laughed. He’d forgotten how much that tinkling, innocent laugh could put him at ease.

He’d let himself be distracted, hadn’t he? Oh, yes indeed he had, and loved every minute of it. But something had been amiss with Terra earlier, he just knew it, and he still intended to discover what it was. “Was your journey safe?”

“Oh, yes. It’s so wonderful, really - everything seems to be getting back to normal.” Terra glanced to the window. “You’ve done a lot, Edgar.”

“And so, I gather, have you. I don’t think we could have managed if Moblitz hadn’t taken in so many of the refugees.” Edgar reached across the desk and took her delicate hand. “You have all our thanks.”

“Oh, I didn’t do much of it, really.” Terra’s other hand clasped around his. “You, Edgar, have saved the world a second time.”

He could only hope that wouldn’t become literally necessary. “At most, I have ‘administered’ its salvation.”

Terra nodded. “It is enough,” she said.

“I hope so.”

Terra retrieved her hand.

Edgar, reluctantly, drew back his own. He had indeed been correct to instruct Vesper that he was not to be disturbed. After all, he was so busy. And his Chancellor had been wise to attempt to carry out those instructions, knowing how little work would get done with Terra here.

He really ought to get back to his work.

“You had no trouble getting to the castle? Some of the roads are quite dangerous,” he said.

“No trouble at all. All the way here I had no trouble at all.” For a moment, Terra’s face lost its warm glow. She wore an expression Edgar hadn’t seen on her since-

And then it was gone, so quickly he wondered if he hadn’t imagined it. “Well, I’m thankful for that.”

“Yes,” she said softly.

“I’m surprised you could get away at all. I know how they all depend on you.”

“Well, I had to come early, of course, since the ferry only leaves once a month, and I didn’t want to miss a moment of the celebration.” Terra had regained her composure and was again smiling with not just her face but her eyes as well.

So that was why she’d come. It wasn’t because she’d wanted to... to what? See him? Now, he thought, you’re just being hopeful, Edgar Figaro. “I... we are all grateful to the schedule of the ferry, then.”

“Thank you, Edgar,” she said. “You’re always so sweet.”

Edgar looked down at the paperwork on his desk. It really couldn’t wait - he had to get it done today.

He raised his eyes to hers.

He could work late.