Culmination, Part 10

“You wanna do WHAT?” exclaimed Emelien Fanas, incredulous. “Are you COMPLETELY insane?”

“I assure you, sir, I am fully sane,” Belfamor replied, stone-faced. He was standing in Fanas’ office on the top floor of the tallest skyscraper on Revellia, a huge, open space full of glass and gleaming metal. It was very modern and tasteful, and completely inappropriate for the office of the SCIAF. For one, it was completely indefensible. If Revellia was attacked by an enemy force, Asteron Tower would almost certainly be the first thing to be destroyed, if only because it was so exposed. If an invading enemy force realized that Fanas had his office at the top of Asteron Tower, it would definitely be the first thing to be destroyed.

“Look, Belfamor, I know that you’re having a hard time, what with your wife having been kidnapped and all,” Fanas said, trying to sound patient, “but surely even you must see that invading Trisitania is not the best way to get her back! It’s more likely to get her killed than to rescue her!” Fanas was a handsome man, Belfamor supposed, eyeing him with disdain. He was tall and well-muscled, with long, wavy black hair and a charming smile, but his nose and ears were too big for his face, his hairline was starting to recede, and his washboard abs were starting to give way to fat. Belfamor wondered how much of his supposed prowess with women was real, and how much was the product of his own imagination.

“Which is all the evidence you need to know that I am not proposing this plan for personal reasons,” Belfamor said in a hard voice. Fanas replied by making an exasperated snort and rolling his eyes.

“Come on, man!” he scoffed. “What other possible reason could there be?”

“The only reason that makes sense,” Belfamor said. “The unification of the Empire under the rule of Valador I.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Fanas said scornfully. “The Emperor is far too cautious to agree to such a reckless plan.”

“The Emperor has already all but approved this ‘reckless plan’,” Belfamor said coldly. “All I need is your approval, and the plan will go ahead.” Immediately Fanas threw back his head and started laughing, a loud, boisterous laugh.

“You ARE insanse, Hemetal,” he yelled, still laughing. “The Emperor knows I would never approve such a ridiculous plan! This was just his way of letting you down gently!” He continued roaring with laughter, while Belfamor folded his arms across his chest and gazed at him impassively. After a while, Fanas’ laughter slowed, and he flashed a broad grin at Belfamor while wiping away a tear, but one look at Belfamor’s face caused the grin to slowly fade away.

“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Fanas said, shaking his head wonderingly. “You really think you can convince me to agree to this crazy plan.”

“Of course I do,” Belfamor said flatly, “because it’s the right plan for this situation, and as thick-headed and ignorant as you are, even you have to see that.” Fanas rolled his eyes and shook his head at this.

“Insulting your superior officer?” he said with a smirk. “Never a good idea, especially if you want something from him.”

“It’s not an insult to speak the truth,” Belfamor replied with a sneer.

“Oh ho!” Fanas exclaimed. “Good one, good one. I still fail to see how these little jabs at me get you what you want. I would think that if you’re really trying to convince me to approve your plan, you’d be a little nicer to me.” Suddenly a malevolent smile crept across his face. “You know what I think, Hemetal? I think you came up with this plan, knowing all along that I would never go along with it. I think you just wanted people to believe that you were a bold, manly man, coming up with a grand scheme to save the Empire. And I think you want me to deny approval for your plan, because you’re really a coward.” Belfamor turned as white as a sheet, and a fire appeared in his eyes as he took a menacing step toward Fanas.

“How dare you!” he hissed.

“Well, it makes sense,” Fanas said with a nonchalant shrug that was belied by the wicked amusement in his eyes. “If I turn you down, then you get all the credit for coming up with such an audacious plan, without any of the risk of actually carrying it out.”

Belfamor’s eyes widened in shock and rage, and he took two steps toward Fanas, fully intending to punch him in the face as hard as he could, but then he stopped. The thought suddenly dawned on him that if he struck his superior officer, that would kill any hope of getting his plan approved. He took a deep, steadying breath, and then turned away.

“You’re right, sir,” Belfamor said in a voice that was calmer than he felt. “I should be acting more respectful towards you, not only because I want something from you, but also because you are my superior officer. I apologize for my indiscretion, and humbly seek your forgiveness.”

“Apologies from Lord Hemetal?” Fanas said skeptically. “I can hardly believe my ears. If you keep up this attitude, I might actually listen to you. Maybe.” Belfamor could hear him sitting down at his expansive desk and placing his booted feet on top of it. “Very well,” he said grandly. “State your case.”

Belfamor could hardly believe his ears himself, but he turned around and opened his mouth to start defending his plan. Before he got a word out, however, Fanas cut him off.

“Okay, I’ve heard enough,” he said with a malevolent smirk. “Approval denied.”

“WHAT!” Belfamor roared.

“You heard me,” Fanas replied, his smirk deepening. “Your plan is too risky, and nothing you can say will change my mind. Now get out of my office before I throw you out.” Belfamor stared at Fanas, his mouth opening and closing soundlessly in shock, and then he shook himself slightly, turned sharply on his heel, and stormed out of the office of the SCIAF without a word.

To be continued…

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