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September 10, 2012

I Hraet You (36)

Beat 36: Now That’s What I Call Gentlemanly

Gaston held a hand in front of his mask, and then waved coquettishly at Lloyd.  “Oh, you,” he said with a chilled chuckle.  “You’re making me blush.”  He sashayed a bit, throwing his ruler-wide hips left and right.  “Don’t you know I have to maintain my girlish figure?  And why on earth would I want to consume the plebian slop of your kin?  Your brutish father…your miserly brother…and the delusional prince of love himself…ku fu fu…I’m afraid even a taste of your gruel could corrupt me beyond aid.”

Lloyd folded his arms and frowned at Gaston.  “You force your way into my home and insult my family…though I am obliged to be a good host, I would ask that you be a good guest in kind.  Otherwise, you may find yourself facing dire circumstances.”

Gaston leaned forward; if he’d shown his face, he’d no doubt have plastered a yard-long smile atop his face.  “Oh?  So you fancy yourself a warrior prince, I take it?  How delightful!  Ah, if only I’d remembered to bring my rapier with me!”  He leaned back and pressed a palm to his face, while his other hand continued its writhing motions.  “Ah, what a shame!  An oversight!  A tragedy!”

He glared at Lloyd, his mask’s eyes nearly radiating with a red glow.  “I would have loved the chance to run you through.”

“Enough.”  Lloyd’s eyes ran to the left, and then to the right, and then focused back on Gaston.  “Where is Miss Walters?”

“Not too far, I assure you.  Act in accordance with my wishes, and I can assure you that you’ll be reunited very soon -- and of course, that she’ll see no harm.”

“You would harm a decent woman in a bid to get at me?”

“I would harm a decent woman for any number of reasons,” said Gaston, and he started counting off on his fingers.  “Because they’re in my way.  Because they annoy me.  Because they make the perfect material for panicked rescues -- and blackmail, and ransom, and extortion.  Because I need actors to play the necessary roles.”  He shrugged, somehow managing to make even a simple motion into a Broadway show.  “Or simply because I feel like killing someone.”

“Why you --!”

“Keh HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Oh my, just look at you, all incensed and eager to duel!  I never would have guessed that the prince of love -- or rather, the heartbreaking jester -- could act so seriously!  Ah, a shame that it’s little more than a flimsy façade.”  He held out a hand.  “What have you done in the name of your ideals, Lloyd?  Nothing -- nothing but failures to your name.”

Lloyd recoiled at the thought, and took a step backward.

“Oh dear.  Seems as if that courage you mustered has started to wane.  I would have called you a mangy guard dog mere moments ago, but I suppose you look more like a Chihuahua than any sort of noble canine.”

“Don’t underestimate a Chihuahua!” Lloyd shouted, thrusting a finger at Gaston.  “They may be small, but their loyalty and ferocity are not to be trifled with!”

Gaston ran a finger across his forehead.  “Always the irreverent one…but I suppose you wouldn’t be a very good jester if not for that foppishness.”

“Then let me do you a service and have you be on your way.  Whatever business you have with me, let’s have it finished before sunset.”

“Then it’s settled.”

“Yes.  We’re agreed, then.”

“Very well.”

“So be it.”

Lloyd and Gaston stared each other down, with neither glasses nor mask able to mute the roaring auras emanating from their cores.  All it would take to come to blows -- perhaps to even set the house ablaze -- was the slightest twitch from either of them.  One false move, and Porbeagle would become a smoking crater.

“…So what do you want?” Lloyd asked.

Gaston gestured toward the kitchen table.  “A discussion -- a meeting between two rival forces, so that we may ‘pound out our differences’…in a figurative sense.”   He didn’t bother waiting for a reply; he just headed for the kitchen, letting his cape swish about with each grandiose step.  “Come now, Lloyd; a gracious host wouldn’t dare keep his guest waiting, now would he?”

“You have a point.”  Lloyd groaned softly, but couldn’t bring himself to lash out -- not with at least three lives on the line.  He followed behind Gaston with rigid steps, and felt his body grow cold as he took a seat across from Gaston and gripped the table’s edge.  “Speak.”

“Ah-ah-ah.  You didn’t say the magic word.”

 Lloyd cracked a slight smirk.  “Speak now, or forever hold your peace.”

“Very well.”  Gaston leaned back in his chair, and crossed both his arms and legs.  “I’ve come to Porbeagle to mount my assault on this mundane, maladroit world.  This town will be the center, the Mount Olympus from which my influence -- my new world order -- will spread.  It’s only a matter of time before Porbeagle, and all the lands beyond, become a stage, wherein its people act in accordance with my direction.”

“World domination.  So, that’s your aim.”

“So to speak.  But I’m afraid I may have misspoken; though I use a phrase as trite as ‘new world order’, the world, and the future I envision, will have anything but.  I would assume that society as we know it would break down.  No institution of man would survive or be maintained.  All will degenerate into beautiful, bold, bombastic chaos…and the vestiges of the current world will crumble.” 

Lloyd turned aside and covered his mouth. 

“Problem, Lloyd?  You seem to have grown rather ill.  Has my proclamation shaken you?  Can you feel the fear assaulting your innards?”

“No, of course not.  I was merely thinking how absurd of a character you are…”  He turned back to Gaston.  “And how boring you are as a result.”

“B-boring?”  Gaston pressed a hand against the table’s surface, his fingers nearly carving grooves into the wood.  “You would think me boring?”

“I can think of no better description.  It’s a consequence of naming yourself a villain.”  Lloyd folded his arms, and tapped a finger against one of his elbows.  “At their core, villains are all the same: people that are unsatisfied with the world the way it is, and seek to change it for their own selfish reasons.  For their own selfish ideas and desires.  They refuse to accept the happiness that countless others may feel -- and worse yet, would steal that happiness with their actions.  To be a villain is to play a sorrowful role -- one that invites great burdens and heartbreak.  And moreover…more than anything else…”

He stared at Gaston -- not with rage or loathing, but with a cool, focused gaze.  “Pity.”

Gaston clamped his hand into a trembling fist.  “You miserable fool…you earnestly think you have an advantage over me?”

“I don’t have a single advantage over anyone.  As you said, I’m little more than a Chihuahua.  But even if that’s the case…”  A sly smile crept across Lloyd’s face.  “The antics of a single Chihuahua are more than enough to ruin one’s day.  I speak from experience.”

“Is…that…right?”  Gaston tapped his fist against the table, then tapped it again, then pressed against it, then slammed against it, and then struck with nearly enough force to snap it like a graham cracker.  “If that’s the case, then…then…!”

He looked up at Lloyd and tilted his head.  “You’re everything I hoped for -- and more,” he nearly sang.

“What are you playing at now?”

“What am I playing at?  Isn’t it obvious?”  Gaston leaned back, and spread his arms wide -- almost as if he wanted Lloyd to throw a punch.  “I am the villain.  And no villain complete without an opposing power to stand in his way.  An unstoppable force must have an immovable object.  The night must have a day.  The tiger must have a dragon.  And that is why I need you, Lloyd.  To oppose me.  To play the role of the hero…so that when I inevitably claim and reform this world, my victory -- my play -- will become that much more worthwhile.  Understand?”

“So I am at once your rival and your pawn.  And you assume that you’ve already won?”

“Can you prove me wrong?”

Lloyd hesitated, but eventually shook his head.

“Of course not.  But then again, the true time of decision has yet to arrive.”  With a muted chuckle, Gaston set his palms atop the table, and leaned forward -- almost as if he wanted to steal a kiss.  “I’ve come here today to issue a challenge -- a formal declaration of war.  No words you speak can deter me from my path…just as no words I speak can deter you from yours.  We are as shadow and light; while one may breed and beckon another, only one may claim a territory as part of his kingdom.  Therefore, I’ll call you to the battlefield -- to abandon your slapdash days in exchange for a struggle against your better half.” 

He extended a hand.  “Can you best me?  I welcome you to try.”

Lloyd started to hold out his own hand, but relented; he stared at his palm, noting that the heat had long since returned -- perhaps even magnified.  “How strange.  Just hours ago, settling into the school routine was a high priority,” he said, more to himself than to Gaston.  “And just days ago, building -- or failing to build -- a harem was a constant exercise in disappointment.  But to think that I would face such a twist of fate…”

He turned to Gaston and nodded.  “Gaston Leroux.  If you would have me as your rival -- as the sole force you’d acknowledge as capable of upending your malicious order -- then I have no choice but to accept.  But know this: you’ve made a triad of fatal mistakes.”

“Oh?  And what would those be?”

“The first, and most obvious, is revealing yourself, your plan, and your abilities to me -- a grievous tactical error for a would-be warlord.  The second is assuming in any way that my manner of combat is in any way conventional; though I’ll be the first to admit I’m a conduit for catastrophe, I would think it’s only a matter of time before that catastrophe plagues you as well.”

“Ku fu fu…you’re sharper than you let on, Lloyd.  You already have a guess as to the rules of engagement.  Well done.”  Gaston gave him a quick yet grandiose bit of applause.  “And the third?”

“The third is crossing my friends and family.  If you merely committed crimes against me, I would gladly bear them.  But to target those closest to me…I will give you no quarter!”

Gaston’s shoulders started to rock as he chuckled.  “A gripping sentiment.  But I would accept no quarter from you, Lloyd.  Only your misery and pain as I crush you into dust, and scatter your remains into the wind!”

Against all reason, Lloyd started to smile.  “Then we’re agreed.”

Gaston nodded.  “So it would seem.” 

Lloyd and Gaston reached across the table, and shook hands.  “Then let the battle begin.”


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