But Not Regret

by Tonya

I sigh and close the book. I don't feel like reading anymore, a sort of... anxiousness has overcome me. I idly wonder at its origin, then I dismiss it.

I hear a door opening behind me. I do not turn to look.

"Ghaleon, sir?"

I still do not turn. "Yes?"

"They're back, sir."

Well. That didn't take them very long. I would have thought that the business with the 'Dragonmaster' would have taken them at least a couple weeks. Ah, well... "Are they?" I ask absently.

"Yessir. Oh, and Lemia said she wanted to see them in the Great Hall, and she requested your prescense as well."

"Very well then," I say, standing up. "I shall be there straightaway."

Walking quickly, but not too quickly, I head downstairs and make for the Great Hall. Just before taking my place near the back, I greet Mia, who smiles and greets me back. If anyone could bring a tinge of regret to my heart, it would be her. With an inward sigh, I wait.

I'm there for barely a few minutes when Nash, the aspiring Dragonmaster, and... the girl enter and are directed by Nash to the appropriate places. I give Nash a quick, acknowledging nod and wait.

Lemia, that is, Xenobia soon enters and wastes no time in accusing the boy of wanting to destroy Althena and has him hauled off to the dungeon. As the guards take care of him, Xenobia escorts the girl to the Crystal Tower. I follow, not closely, but not far behind.

Once in the Star Chamber, I stay near the back as Xenobia ushers the girl into the centre and orders her to start singing.

As she starts, I feel a chill run down my spine. She has to be the one, there is no way she cannot be the one...

I close my eyes and do my best to dismiss the love/hate rising within me at that sound. This has to be her.

My efforts are made unnecessary as the song is disrupted by the entrance of Nash, Mia, and... the boy. But--no, someone else as well... Lemia! How could she have-- No, now is not the time to question. Now is time to play the part...

Mia yells some things at Xenobia, basically indicating that she's caught on to our little charade. With that, she pulls out the Mirror of Althena, and it's all I can do to keep from laughing my very head off.

No, child, that won't help you one bit against Xenobia... though Lemia seems to be recovering a bit... Ah, well, bound to happen, I suppose.

With that, Xenobia reveals herself, her sisters appearing and doing the same. I let my eyes widen with rather well-faked shock as I do a remarkable job of feigning self-disgust at how easily I had been 'decieved'.

I'm a -very- good actor, even if I must say so myself. And I believe I must, for who else knows I'm acting?

Well, Xenobia, Royce, and Phacia do, but I'm certainly not going to ask them their opinion of my acting skill.

Xenobia sends some monsters at the intruding three and the girl, which they dispatch with an almost frightening ease.

Xenobia and her sisters vanish, leaving me alone with those that disturbed us.

"Let's get out of here," I say calmly, then, without waiting, head for the exit.

* * * * * *

It's a few days later, after Lemia has recovered somewhat. It's such a pity about that, though now, the more I think about it, the more this is a golden opportunity for me. After all, I can make a perfectly valid excuse, and no one has any reason to question me, do they?

I arrange a meeting in the Great Hall for the following morning. Afterwards, I prepare the general form of my 'speech'.

Late that night, I pen a short note to Lemia which will not be found until well after... I reveal myself.

It's nothing much, just a short... 'confession', of sorts, and a denial of regret. And I don't. Regret what I have done and what I am doing, that is. Not to mention what I will do. But I just did mention it, so why don't I just forget the whole matter?

And having that completed, I go to bed. Even incognito Magic Emperors have to sleep now and then, no?

In the night, I dream, and the dreams are not pleasant, they are dreams that stir up memories best left forgotten, or at least buried.

I awaken the next morning shaken, and more tired than when I went to bed, having gotten little rest. Those damnable dreams...

Oh, well, I can't very well do anything about them, now can I? I push the thoughts of those dreams aside and ready myself for the fast-approaching meeting. I sigh as I feel a headache coming on.

Putting a hand to my head, I mutter, "Wonderful, just wonderful... This is a fine way to start things off..."

I shake my head and go downstairs. I'm about to enter the Great Hall when I hear Mia asking if I'm all right. I force a pleasant look, and say, "It's nothing, Mia. Just a touch of a headache. And I didn't get much sleep last night. But it's nothing, really."

Mia looks concernedly at me and says, "If you say so..."

I try to look reassuringly at her and say, "I do. And even if I didn't, you shouldn't be concerning yourself with my troubles. Don't worry about me. Please?"

"I... All right, Ghaleon." She turns and goes in.

For some reason, it always disturbs me when Mia addresses me by name. Maybe it's just something left over from when she was a little girl, when she was taught rather firmly to not address elders and the like by given name, or it might be the... tone she uses. The sound of it, the trust permeating that one single word. I don't deserve her trust. I don't want it either, knowing all too well how soon I must betray that trust. I... I don't want to hurt Mia, and I fear that if she trusts me so, I will...

A pure and untainted soul such as hers does not deserve to be hurt.

But I will inevitably do it anyways.

And I will hate myself for it, and for a thousand thousand unnecessary (necessary?) acts that I must (might?) commit.

No. I'm starting to confuse myself. My resolve must not falter. It MUST NOT falter. I MUST NOT falter.

"Ghaleon?"

Mia again. "Oh..." I say softly. "I'm sorry, I was just... lost in thought."

"You're sure you're all right?"

I shrug. "As all right as I'm going to get."

Mia looks at me, unconvinced, but there is nothing I can say to her to convince her. Instead, I head into the Great Hall, and am relieved to find that my relatively pointless meanderings did not make me the last to enter.

The boy had yet to appear. The boy and... the girl. I'll need them for this, she because of who she undoubtedly is, and he because he knows the specifics. The generalities I know are all well and good, I suppose, but generalities take too long.

The pair finally enter and the whole room looks to me after a moment's pause. This is it. The point of no return. I clear my throat, and begin. "Well... The events of the other day have proven to us that the Vile Tribe is not only slowly escaping from the Frontier, but that it is extending its influences and power to take control of some of our most sensitive and important positions. And doing it well enough that no one realizes the... replacements. Dare I understate and say that this is not good? It is because of this that I have come to... a decision. Though I have previously been loathe to do so in the past, because of... that one, it seems that I have little choice. I must seek out the dragons and become the Dragonmaster in order to aid in our fight against the Vile Tribe."

I pause and close my eyes, trying not to laugh at the simply ludicrous nature of what I had just said. Me, a Dragonmaster? Me?

But my headache is getting worse... I hold my head in one hand and pause for a moment before continuing. "At any rate, the location of the White Dragon is already known, I believe. So, if you don't mind, Alex, would you take me there?"

He stares at me, awed. "Of-of course, sir," he stammers. "And... And Luna, too?"

I give him a look that might be considered a smile, if only my mouth would move into the appropriate position. "Naturally," I say. Of course the girl had to come!

I look around the room, knowing this is probably the last time I'm ever going to see it. Pity. I could have been happy here, if circumstances had been other. But they were not, so no use lamenting the past. Even though I do it more than I should. "Well..." I say, "I have a few matters to attend to, after I'm done with those, I shall head for Meribia to make arrangements for our transportation. I suggest you two leave as well, as soon as possible. You know what they say about idle hands..."

And with that, I left, heading for my own rooms. Once there, I gather up a few items of minor importance and go to my study. I walk around the room a few times, drinking in the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, the stacks of paper lying in several places, the pens on or beside the papers, and the desk. How I wish I could take that desk with me... but I can't. It's not very mobile. Or light. But at least I can rig it so that if I can't have my desk, my books, my miscellaneous stacks of paper, et cetera, no one can.

Greedy little bugger, aren't I?

I take one last look around the room, and exit, shutting the door behind me. Facing the door, I cast a powerful spell of sealing over it and the room. Its nature is such that no one who does not know that spell can undo it, and no one even recognizes that spell, not anymore, anyways...

I close my eyes and rest my head against the door. I sigh, then turn and walk away without so much as a backward glance.

I leave the magic guild quickly, eager to get everything here, all of it, behind me. This place is crushing me. Or maybe I'm crushing me, with what I've done, am doing, and will do hanging over me all this time.

I don't want to have to betray these people, I really don't...

But I have to.

I wish I wasn't who I am to these people, I truly do. If I could just -be- the Magic Emperor to these people, and not Ghaleon, not a friend to some of these people, and trusted by most, not one of their damn heroes...

I keep walking. But wait-- is that Mia at the Spring? She's obviously not going anywhere, so... Don't tell me she's waiting for me, please don't...

She runs towards me. Oh, no. She is.

"I just wanted to say goodbye before you left," she says.

Why, why, why did she have to do that? Her intentions, her heart is good, but I will only, I can only hurt her. "Well, then..." I say. "Goodbye..."

"Goodbye," she says.

I hesitate. Then I close my eyes (I seem to be doing a lot of that lately, don't I?) and say, "Mia, a few words of advice for you before I go. One, a trust too freely given is easily betrayed, and leads to great hurt. Two, if you... should have a trust betrayed soon in the future, just remember that... that the one who did that... probably never intended for you to be hurt, never wanted you involved in the first place..."

There, I've said too much.

Before she can answer, I turn and get on the Transmission Spring.

I'm sorry, Mia. To you, I can be sorry.

The walk from the Transmission Spring to Meribia is a monumentally uneventful one--not that that's a bad thing, mind you. Just boring. Right now, I could do with clubbing some small, relatively defenseless monsters on the head.

Ah, well, I'm sure I'll get the chance sooner or later.

I enter Meribia an hour or two after my departure from Vane and am greeted by numerous stares and whispers. I'm suddenly reminded why I don't like leaving Vane. One would think that people who might actually consider asking Mel to lend them money would know to not gawk at the presence of another of the four 'heroes'. Nevermind that I'm notorious for not leaving Vane. They should still know better.

Of course I'm being childish, why do you ask?

After scowling at a few gawkers, I make for Mel's mansion-- he'd probably be the easiest way to arrange a ship.

His daughter Jessica is with him, apparently, so I knock before entering his meeting room. I wince as Mel roars, "What the hell're you doing knocking? Come in, or stay out, but don't be knocking about it!"

I meekly push the door open and go in. "Can I knock now?" I ask.

Mel loudly harumphs upon my entrance. "Oh, it's you," he says. "I suppose telling you not to knock is like telling a fish not to swim. So what brings you out of Vane, Ghaleon?"

I look for a moment at Jessica before relating the recent events at the Magic Guild. There's no reason she shouldn't know, and she'd be finding out soon enough, anyways. "So," I finish, "I thought that surely you would have no trouble in arranging passage to Caldor Isle for me."

Mel laughs. "Just like you, Ghaleon, you only come for a visit when you want something!"

I raise an eyebrow. "Well, I don't exactly ever see you breaking down my door to visit." And I'm glad of that. It's bad enough having to face Lemia without acting like I'm plotting hers and everyone else who's ever lived's demise.

"I can't, I'm busy here in Meribia."

I keep the eyebrow up. "And do you think I'm not busy in Vane? Trust me, old friend," I almost choke on the words. Another forthcoming betrayal. Another trust broken. I wish I didn't have to be friends with these people... "If I could come more, I would."

Mel laughs again. "Tell you what," he says, "once you're done with this dragon business, you come back here, and I'll talk your pointy ears off."

"Oh, -my- pointy ears," I say with obviously feigned offense. "You don't exactly have a shortage of those yourself, you know. And at least mine aren't sprouting hair."

Mel grins and says, "Bah, you'll be growing hair there when you're my age, too,"

"I'm probably older than you as it is, Mel."

It's Mel's turn to do some eyebrow-raising. "Oh, 'probably', is it? Probably?"

I pause to examine my fingernails. Ah, vanity, pointless vanity. "You honestly think I bother keeping track, Mel? Do you honestly believe I can tell you what year it is, right here, and right now? Because I can't, Mel." Not yet, anyways. I will know the year, for this shall become year 0, the year of the ascension of the Magic Emperor... This is the way that this must be, I have to believe that...

I idly continue to chat with Mel as my mind races through everything. What if this isn't right? What if it is? What if I'm wrong? And what if I am? What if, what if, what if. All doubts and lack thereof, twisting and turning within me. But there is no turning back now; it matters not whether I am right or I am wrong, for I have chosen my course. I hope it is the right one. I wish I could pray for that.

But I can't. Which leaves me to wonder if I am doing right.

But I have to be right... The world... needs a goddess... right? Right? It's the way it always has been and the way it always needs to be... Change isn't necessarily for the better... But that also means that it's not always for the worse...

I have to believe I am right.

But at the core of belief is always doubt... But in that lies the potential for change. But I'm in too deep to change, I can't let myself believe I'm right, I have to -know- I'm right.

With belief comes doubt. Knowledge is absolute. Therein lies the principle of the lies...

It's not an overly long time when the boy, the girl, and that annoying dragonspawn make their appearances. Mel introduces them to Jessica, then goes over the arrangements with them.

"The boat should be ready in the morning," he says, "and if it's not, they'll have to answer to me!"

Great, another day's delay, and another hour and a half of sleep to look forward to.

Jessica offers to let the three use her room for the night while Mel offers to find me a place. I thank him as Jessica leads the three away.

The night, when it comes, is not easy. The dreams, those terrible dreams of memories best left forgotten, wake me up within a half hour of my falling asleep.

I get up and re-dress myself, then go for a walk around the darkened streets of Meribia. Fresh air never hurt anyone. I wander aimlessly for a while, until I stop outside a building that seems slightly active still. A bar, unless my nose mistakes itself.

I am about to pass it by when I recall something about alcohol-induced slumber. If anything could block out the dreams, it would be that. And if it should happen to work, I can deal with the hangover. Checking my pockets for money, first, I go in.

There aren't very many people left there, maybe five or six sitting at scattered tables, but they stare at me as soon as I enter. I return the stares icily and the room rather quickly vacates itself. I head for the back of the room and seat myself at the bar. I look at the bartender for a good long while before reaching into my pocket and producing a few coins. "Give me something, anything, I don't care," I say absently.

It's some time later, when I've ascertained that I'm drunk enough to avoid the dreams, but not enough that I'm not able to see straight, when I leave.

I finally make it to bed and cross my fingers, hoping for a dreamless sleep.

I wake up in the morning with a roaring headache centred somewhere behind and above my left eye, but at least I don't remember if I had any dreams. Granted, that doesn't help me, because I still don't feel like I've gotten any sleep.

I go and inform Mel that I shall be waiting for the boy and... the girl at the docks and would he please relay that information to them?

I engage in idle chatter for a few minutes and head down to the docks.

I don't think that was a very good idea. The light (which is brighter than usual, why, oh, why doesn't the sun come with an off switch?) is stabbing into my skull and every little noise sounds like an explosion right next to my ear.

"Desperate," I mutter, "I had to get desperate..."

I'm halfway sitting down on a nearby bench when the boy and girl show up-- finally. But did they have to have that wonderful timing? Couldn't they have at least waited until I was fully seated?

I stand back up and greet the pair, ignoring the flying... thing. If it would just keep its mouth shut, but...

I gesture to the boat. "Well, shall we?"

They board, and after a moment, I follow, not before noticing that I now feel like my head is on fire. Lovely. Just lovely.

Some time later, when I'm feeling less... ah, delicate, shall we say, I stand near to the prow of the boat, staring at the sadly empty waters before me. If this damn boat would just go faster...

I hear someone coming up to the deck behind me. It doesn't sound like one of the sailors, the steps are too light. I take a guess, "So you're positive about this Dragonmaster business, aren't you?" I ask. There. I've offered the boy his final way out, his last chance to escape what must be done should he choose this course.

I turn to drink in the boy's startled expression, probably more because of my instant recognition of him than because of my question.

"Y-yes, of course, sir," he replies. Ah, the respect in that tone. Ironic, even funny, considering that he will soon be speaking my name in tones of utter hate.

I am going to have to kill him.

"Then may I ask you a question?" I ask.

"Of course, sir," the boy says.

I pause, choosing my words carefully. "Then... given the choice between saving the world, and saving the one you love, what would you pick?"

The boy's eyes go wide. Those eyes, those eyes, they're too green... "How can you ask something like that?" he asks, "And how can you expect me to make a choice like that?"

I stare down at the ground. "Because the life of a Dragonmaster is filled with choices like that. You don't have to have an answer yet, but the closer you get to becoming one, the more you should think about my question."

The boy closes his eyes.

I don't want to be here, right now, like this. "If you'll excuse me..." I say, brushing past the boy, and go belowdecks. I don't take well to boats, and if it must catch up with me, I'd rather be ill in private. Magic Emperors-slash-premiers of floating magic cities have to maintain their dignity, you know.

I just wish the damn boat would go faster. Even at its greatest speed (and this boat had BETTER be going at its greatest speed...), the trip between Meribia and Saith still takes a little over a day. And the boy says that the walk from Saith to Burg takes roughly a day, and from Burg to the cave and back is the better part of another. Good thing I'm not going to take the return trip.

Now, to kill time... I won't go wandering the boat, I won't be seen with my friend the bucket. And disposing of its contents will prove a problem, as well... Ah, I'll solve that when I need to. Maybe I'll do it in the middle of the night. Few enough people seem to be awake then. It seems that people like to sleep in the night... Sleep, hah. Sure, I'll try, but I'm not expecting to get very much tonight.

To sleep, perchance to dream...

But to dream can be a terrible thing to some. To me.

I wish I'd thought to bring a book.

I pace my (small, but what does one really expect from a boat?) room, muttering, "Entertainment, Ghaleon, entertainment... Something that doesn't involve me hearing the phrase 'a bucket for monsuier' directed at me. Or anything like that, for that matter..."

I sigh. One might think I would have had the tiniest speck of foresight in this. One might think. Of course, one might think a lot of things. They don't have to be true.

I decide to take my chances sans bucket and go back above. As long as we don't run into any large waves, I should be fine.

If I ever have to take another boat again in my life, I'm giving up eating.

I pick a spot right next to the rail and stare down at the quickly-passing (but not quickly enough!) water below. I hold my head and sigh as I look into the clear blue water. Water moving too quickly by to leave a reflection but slowly enough to seem like glass. Glass, broken by waves, and the disturbance of a passing ship. Broken glass, nonreflective save in small bits, when the light hits it just so. Broken glass, the shattered remmanants of a whole. If only she hadn't--but who am I talking about? Is it her that I mean? Or is it--

This line of thought is depressing me. I wonder why, I really wonder why...

I don't know how long I stared at that water, and I don't think I ever will, but when I finally look up, the sky is filled with stars, and the largest of them all, the Blue Star, a blinding crescent is dominating the sky in front of me.

It's such a beautiful sight, I wish I could appreciate it more than I have... been limited to. If... if only she, she and him hadn't been such idiots... She, I could even see, it would be so easy to see her engaging in such siliness and foolish pursuits. But he... he, I would have thought to have more sense.

Suddenly, it occurs to me how little real sleep I've gotten recently. With that in mind, I return to my room and go to bed with little real care if I should dream or not.

Quite naturally, I wake up feeling utterly terrible.

I don't know why I'm surprised, I should be used to getting no sleep by now. The hard part is acting like I got a full night's rest and all. That can, will, and does strain even my considerable talents. And the bags under my eyes certainly don't help. But those... those can be hidden. I don't like it, casting illusions to alter my appearance, that is, but I must do what is necessary. Always necessary... What I'm doing is necessary-- isn't it?

I sigh and go above, to be greeted by a still too-bright sun. Squinting to see properly, I make a beeline for the navigator and bluntly, without greeting or introduction, ask, "How much longer is it going to be?"

I don't get an answer for a moment or two, and am about to repeat myself when he answers me, "It's hard to tell right now. If I'd have to guess, I'd have to say an hour, maybe two."

I thank the navigator and return to my room. I flop down on my bed and stare at the ceiling for a while. All things taken into consideration, I don't suppose it's surprising that my eyes soon close, and I drift off into the land of horrors I've come to call sleep.

I don't know how much time passed between then and the time I awoke with a start, wide-eyed and breathing hard.

Why can't I let me forget?

I recompose myself and leave my room. And it seems that, if nothing else, my dreams have good timing. We are about to dock, it seems. About damn time.

The boy-- and the girl-- are already on the deck when I go back above. They say good morning to me, and I return the greeting, though as far as I'm concerned, the term is contradictory.

We pull into dock, and I'm the first off that damnable boat. One of these days, I'm going to have the ocean killed. Nevermind if that makes sense or not.

I take an idle glance around the 'port' of Saith and feel compelled to comment, "Well. What a... quaint little... hovel this is... But we should get going. No rest for the wicked, as they say..." He can't say I didn't warn him now. Nevermind how I warned him.

We leave for Burg not long after.

The boy seems pleased that he'll be able to visit his parents again. I suppose it's fitting that one sees one's family and loved ones before being killed. For I must kill him as I do the same to Quark, to wait longer is... too dangerous for me. Though I'll leave him an escape hole, alebeit a small one. I'll be relatively sportsmanlike about the whole matter, though it's really hard to say how much is 'relatively' by my definitions. And if he actually manages to survive, then he'll at least prove entertaining. I tend to bore easily, but if he can manage against something I may do to him, he'll probably be able to capture my interest for a time. And then I'll kill him.

But that's thinking a little far into the future and assumes that he'll survive whatever I decide to do with him. Which I doubt, but I have been wrong before.

I just wish I could get some sleep. Is that so much to ask?

We end up crossing a bridge into a forest. There's a clear path, which is good, because I can think of better wastes of my time than forcing my way through a bunch of trees.

However, the path poses another problem. As I absently slam a glorified walking bush into a nearby tree with my staff, I ask the boy, "Is this forest full of these things?"

He nods. "Yessir," he says, spearing another bush.

"Lovely," I mutter. I suppose I could just cast a spell to wipe the forest clean, but I'm in no condition to be doing such a thing. Which poses a problem for when I have to deal with Quark... But I'm sure I'll manage. I have to, don't I?

The forest isn't large, thankfully enough, but beating off Gorgons and bushes isn't my idea of fun.

We exit the forest after some time, coming out into the town of Burg. I turn to the boy and say, "I trust the tw... pardon, three of you can occupy yourselves for the rest of the day? I... would prefer to be alone right now..."

The boy nods. "Yes, of course, sir," he says, then he, the girl, and that... thing leave.

I remain alone to deal with the stares of the people of the town. I rid myself of a few of them with some nasty glares, but... Ah, it's futile. I'm just not cut out for being well-known. And now my headache's come back with a vengance.

I sigh and look for the nearest store.

As I enter, a little bell over the door rings announcing my entrance. Cute. I walk up to the counter, and, not seeing anyone there, cough loudly.

From beneath the counter, I hear a muffled, "Can I help you?"

"Yes..." I say. "Do you have anything for a headache?"

"Just a second..." At which the shopkeeper pops up from beneath the counter, covered in a large amount of dust. "Headache, was it? Sure, just let me fi-- Oh, wow!"

Another of my adoring fans. If making my name the most hated around will shut these people up, then that alone will make this Magic Emperor business worthwhile.

The shopkeeper keeps jumping up and down, squealing inanities as my headache decidedly worsens. "Are you going to be shutting up any time soon?" I snap.

The shopkeeper shuts up. "Oh... sorry... Headache, you said? How bad is it? And how long has it been going on?"

"It's not as bad as a migraine, but it's close. It's been recurring on and off over the past few days," I say, just glad I don't have to deal with that hideous squealing anymore.

The shopkeeper nods and begins rummaging around. In the end, I'm handed a small bag. "Be careful, that's really powerful. But it'll take care of your headache."

I shove the bag into a pocket and produce a handful of coins which I place on the counter. "That should more than cover it. Keep the rest," I say, then leave.

There is something I need to do yet, though... I head for the back of town, avoiding my... spectators and following a small, obviously rarely used path. I don't want to go here, but I do at the same time. To Dyne's... He may have proven myself an utter fool, but before that, he had been my friend, and... Another thing I can't forget.

I shake my head. Now... is not a time to be... hung up on events of the past. Not yet, anyways. I can wallow in the past soon enough, now is simply... a time to pay a respect to a friend, idiot or no... Just that, and nothing more. Now I just have to remember that. No bitterness, no accusations of foolishness directed at any goddesses or dead friends, just... Ah, why do I bother? Of course I'm going to be bitter while I'm there, of course I'm going to blame Althena for her foolishness, blame Dyne for his complete compliance with her foolishness, and denial thereof is just silly.

The path ends at the bottom of a grassy green hill, topped with a cairn of sorts. A sword, that sword protrudes from it. Pretty lousy monument if you ask me, but I haven't heard anyone doing that, so...

I pause, half-way up the hill, filled with the need to do something about the not exactly dull throbbing filling my head. I fumble through my pockets, searching for the bag I bought at the store. Inside is a small quantity of something that looks like some sort of herb compressed into pellets.

I shrug, and, seeing no other thing to do with them, toss them into my mouth. If anything ever tasted more horrible than those things, I want to know right now so I can have it anihilated.

I continue my way up the hill. I'm at the top, standing right in front of the monument as the headache stuff kicks in. It makes short work of my headache, leaving me feeling incredibly lightheaded. I sit down next to the monument and try to collect my thoughts, which seem to keep running away. Ah, well, it's the intent that counts. And that, in and of myself, will probably ensure that when it's my time to go, I'm just going to fry.

I realize it's getting late as I dimly notice that the Blue Star is rising. And then remember exactly how much sleep I've had of late (three or so hours, take an hour or so, and I'm not counting my alcohol-induced slumber the other night, because I certainly didn't feel like I got any sleep the next morning) and I rest my head against the monmument and drift off to sleep.

I dream nothing tonight.

I wake up in the morning feeling (for once) refreshed. Maybe it's a sign (a sign of WHAT, though?), or maybe it's just blind luck. I decide to go with the second and head down to the town.

I'm leaning up against a tree near the boy's house as it occurs to me that I actually did make it through that without the bitterness and-slash-or accusations at various divine beings and stupid friends. Nevermind if I think said bitterness and-slash-or accusations are justifiable or not. It almost makes me want to laugh. Bloody impossible, I would have thought that was.

But this line of thought is boring, so I just lean against the tree and wait.

I haven't the faintest idea how long it is I'm waiting before the boy, the girl, and that repulsive dragonspawn come out of the house. I walk up to them and ask, "Are we all ready to go?"

"Yes, sir," the boy answers.

"Well, then," I say. "Let's go." And with that, I spin on my heel and start walking away.

The walk to Quark's cave from Burg would not typically take so long except that the vast majority of it is through snow. Snow. I hate snow. It's cold, it's wet, and it gets into everything. My feet are absolutely soaked.

We finally enter into the cave after what was entirely too long a trudge through entirely too much snow.

As we walk through Quark's deep blue cave, I realize that I feel vaugely ill. But I'm sure it's nothing.

"Well, this is it,"

"Pardon?" I ask.

The boy shrugs. "Here's the entrance to Quark's lair,"

"Already?" I ask absently. The boy doesn't answer. I sigh and draw myself up to my full height. Throwing my shoulders back, I walk into the dragon's lair.

This is it. The end of the line, the final place where I can be... me, the last time before I must abandon the self that I have been and become, truly -be- the Magic Emperor. I, as I have been, have far too much... say, emotional baggage(which probably isn't the best term) to be effective as a Magic Emperor. I've... got too many problems, is maybe better. There are too many people who I... just don't want to hurt. I cannot afford that. Then, there are my constant doubts... Doubting what I do is not a luxury I have. And I've found that I cannot detatch myself from things. So I must become the embodiment of the Lie That is Truth to succeed. I believe in what must be done (but do I?), but there is no way I, as I am, could do it. So I need to create a seperate me, as it were, who is willing, is capable of doing everything that needs to be done, no matter the cost, no matter what stands in the way. I must worry about neither ill consequence nor the morality, the rightness of my actions. So I and the Magic Emperor must not, cannot be the same. I must receede, for I cannot hinder my own actions.

"Well, well... Visitors again? So soon? Oh, Ghaleon. What brings you here?"

The old, crusty voice nearly startles me off my feet. I think I'm well on my way to becoming a full-fledged nervous wreck. "I have business," I call up.

"Well, that's obvious enough. Go on."

Even as I collect myself, I start shoving myself into the background. Now is as good a time as any, probably better than some, to abandon myself, to start -being- the Magic Emperor. "I... have a question, of sorts," I say.

"And?"

Just shove myself into the background, just fall into the new part... "This girl... this... Luna... Is she the one born that day?"

The boy and girl look surprisedly at me, but I ignore them. Quark proceeds to tell me in no uncertain and very lengthy terms exactly why he shouldn't tell me, and I can't help but get offended at a lot of them. I am -not- emotionally unstable, I most certainly do not overreact to extremes, and I most certainly would NOT do something drastic if he told me. Only if he were to say yes. And if I am an incredible depressive, then--nevermind, if I continue with THAT, then I'll probably have to do something either horrendously embarrassing or damaging to my intestinal tract. Eating one's hat, I believe is the custom. And while I would like to rid myself of this ridiculous hat, I'd much rather set it on fire. I don't know who came up with that hat, but they deserve to be killed.

After Quark seems to have finished telling me why I'm completely unsuitable to know anything, I ask, "Are you quite done?"

No answer.

I'll take that as the affirmative. "Well, then," I say. "What would it hurt to tell me?"

"That's certainly a simple arguement," Quark rumbles.

"Sometimes simple is the best," I say icily.

"Sometimes," Quark agrees. "Very well, then. In answer to your question, yes."

Yes, yes, yes... It is, it IS! I pull off that ridiculous hat and begin to laugh uncontrollably. It seems I'm about to answer my own question.

"Ghaleon, what-" Quark starts.

"Not Ghaleon..." I quietly interrupt. "Not precisely Ghaleon, not anymore... Rather..." I pause, then speak slowly and precisely, "Magic Emperor Ghaleon."

With that, I throw my arms wide as I whisper a spell. As the spell takes hold, I feel the faint, barely describable (not quite nausea, but not quite anything else) feeling as I am 'replaced' with the self I am when I am Magic Emperor. If nothing else, the armour would be useful. That vauge feeling of illness intensifies, though.

The boy and girl gape at me. Quark just stares.

The self I have been receeds even further. Contrastingly, I begin to feel even more ill. "I suppose you can call this a... 'coming-out party', of sorts," I say dryly. "Don't you all feel honoured to be the first ones to hear my open declaration of my Magic Emperor-hood?"

I pause. This damn armour, it's pulling on my hair... I continue, saying, "But I do have business with you, as I said, Quark, beyond asking a little question such as that..." I begin to form a ball of energy in my hand. "It's been nice knowing you, Quark, but nothing lasts forever, you know? It's time to say goodbye..."

I release the ball at Quark. There's a lot of screaming and yelling as he's sucked into it, but what're you going to do? I reclaim the energy ball and dismiss it. I teleport to Quark's previous place of sitting. I glower down at the pair below. Neither of the two say anything.

I close my eyes, then say, "But Quark was not my only purpose in coming here. I came for something else, as well... I need..." I open my eyes and stare down at the girl. "You, Luna."

She gasps as I teleport her to stand beside me. She cries out for the boy as he looks up at me with a curious amalgamation of confusion and the foundations of hatred. I never wanted--but I can't be like that anymore...

"And now for you, boy who would be Dragonmaster..." I say softly. But he hears me. "I offered you your ways out... Because of your refusal to take them, you must now..." I send a bolt of force at him, sending him to the ground, unconscious. I take the girl and teleport away.

I feel positively sick.

Today is the day I have revealed myself as Magic Emperor. It is supposed to be a great and glorious day for me, the day when I shed all lies and openly embark upon exacting my revenge. The day when I abandon the self that has led me down this path, replacing it with a stronger, actually confident self. A wonderful day, right?

So why do I still feel even more dead inside?

Before this is all over, I'll feel a thousand different things, even through the deadness that dominates me. A thousand different things, but never that one.

But not regret.

But never regret.

I can't afford regret.

* * * * * *

Well. That was my first Lunar fanfic, and the single largest text file I've ever created. As of the writing of this note, it clocks in at thirty-five point seven k, and it'll likely get a touch bigger when I'm done. That's not really a size to get excited about, but, like I said, it's the biggest I've done.

I just wrote this to get me into the swing of writing fics of Lunar, which I always seem to want to write before finishing the game. ^_^

As for my choice of subject matter, this just felt right. Besides, any excuse to write Ghaleon :-P~~~~~~ ^_^

The idea of Ghaleon and the Magic Emperor being, essentially, two seperate identities just came to me out of the blue, but I rather like it. Especially because I have this thing for Ghal, and I have to somehow justify it to myself ^_^ . I like a lot of things I came up with here, though you have no idea how hard it was to not write Ghalon seeing the dancing purple elephants while he's all doped up on the headache crap. ^_^

'The Lie That is Truth' that Ghaleon mentions is something you'll find recurring in the fics I'm planning to do, you'll get an explanation there.

In case the presence of Royce and Phacia, as well as Luna going around with Alex and Ghal didn't tip you off, this is based on L:SSSC, because, due to a distinct lack of Sega CDs in my house, I, unfortunately, have never been able to play TSS. Which also means I haven't played EB, either, which I am desperately trying to amend, but if I have to wait until WD decides to gouge me for it, I will. Of course, if I don't have to wait, I'll give them my money anyways. But it won't be out for another six years, so... Maybe a pool on how long the English EB remake will be delayed would be a good idea. ^_^

You'll notice that in some parts, I ripped the dialogue right from the game. That's because a) I actually remember the line, and b) I liked the line. The rest is based on sketchy memory and elaborations. I like to think I did rather well with those.

The more I read, the more I realize that I'm digging myself into a deep, deep hole with the way I wrote Ghaleon's resolve (or, more specifically, his lack thereof), all things taken into consideration. Oddly enough, the knowledge that I screwed up gives me a perverse kind of joy. It's freeing, almost, to not have this absolute knowledge about a character, and why they did something and what they thought about it. For example, if you give me a dozen different (serious) FFVII fics about Vincent, I'll give you a dozen different fics that have Vincent at least once expressing the same feeling of guilt, for the same reason regarding Lucretia. Which is all well and good, but it nails down the coffin (sorry, bad joke ^_^ ) on his thoughts on the matter. Naturally, you can make preposterous suggestions, but they don't ever quite fit with what actually occurs. But that's babbling a bit much to just say that I like it when tons of little things about characters are open to interpretation. And this really is babbling a bit much to say that what I've been getting at is that I don't want people whining to me about how they don't like the way I wrote this fic, and how I wrote Ghaleon. Please, don't mention to me if I did this horribly wrongly. If this really bothers you, and you truly want a justification, just wait until an upcoming fic of mine is written, and is far enough in, and then you'll get to hear Ghaleon himself justify the way I wrote him. Until then, just don't bother me. ^_^

Oh, some advice to you all, if you're writing a fic that happens during a game itself, make sure you've beaten the game in question first so that you don't end up taking things that need to be fact on conjecture and speculation... ^_^;

Anyways, expect more fics from me soon, though they probably won't take as little time to write as this one did(started Monday afternoon, ended Thursday), but what're you going to do?

*-LS-*

Oh, by the way, don't ask about the dancing purple elephants.

Back to the Library of Vane.

Back to the Shrine to Ghaleon.