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Chapter 7: In Which Lady Pergram is Constantly Confronted

She placed her hand on the doorknob and rested her eyes on the skin on the back of her palm. Such transparent skin, she could see her veins falling vertically down from her white knuckles toward her fine wrist. So transparent yet still mysterious, what did a blood vessel look like when it wasn't covered in skin? Why were her veins blue and her blood red?

Angelique passed the last few days in a dreamy haze, her thoughts scattering about like sand. She felt different, unlike herself in so many ways. If she had been the type of girl who opened her heart to others, they'd all tell her that it was natural to feel the way she did. Yet she was more displaced than simple grief. Grief and she were old comrades: first her father died, then her brother, now her lover. Or whatever Cooper had been to her. She called him lover, but that was because she had no better word to describe him.

The doorknob turned from the other side and was pulled out of her hand as the door opened. Grand Master Marning stood there, the shape of a smile on his face though his blue eyes were shuttered. He said nothing, only stepped back, inviting her inside.

She hesitated. Harlock had spoken fondly of this man, but Angelique did not particularly like old men, especially those who had deep frown lines digging into their face. She had not felt as wary of his secretary like she felt wary of this man and usually the secretaries were more troublesome than their masters.

"Lady Pergam," he said in a quiet voice. She strode inside, her face carefully guarded. He escorted her into the sitting room and invited her to sit.

She placed her palms nervously on her knees, sitting at the edge of the chair. She did not want him to ask her questions about her relationship with Harlock Cooper. No one knew its extent or magnitude; she had barely spoken since his death, allowing the world to think that she was in shock.

"Have you managed to rest, my lady?" he asked, showing kindness and concern. Or fake kindness, Angelique had fed on too much feigned kindness over the years. It made her ill.

"Grand Master," she said, her voice flat, "you have never been a flowery speaker, please refrain. I assure you, courtesy will only make me wearier."

He drew back in his seat, surprised. That was one thing Angelique always had at her disposal, the element of surprise. Her appearance dulled everyone's senses; she could make them forget she had a brain behind her silence. Maybe it was because she was a woman and a low-ranking noble. For whatever reason, she was always underestimated, and that suited her well. He grinned, this time a different grin, a sign of approval. "Very well," the Grand Master said. "Tell me, Lady Pergam, how well did you know the King's Magician?"

"You of all people must realise, Grand Master, that no one truly knew him." She would not open up to this man; she would not easily share what she didn't have to. From here on, there was no room for error.

He answered with silence, accepting it as the truth. He wasn't truly interested in their relationship, she realised. Only women cared for such things. He was interested in the meaning of things; he was interested in finding some sort of answer written on her face. She would give him none of that, but he could still find out if he so wanted; he was a magician after all. He could look into her soul and simply find all the answers written there.

"Lady Pergam," he said in quiet tones, looking at her with mild curiosity. "I have requested this audience on a personal whim, because I am trying to find out what killed Harlock, and seeing as you were with him in the last moment of his life, I feel that you must have some shard of information, some detail that could shed light on this mystery."

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