Description: Having heard rumors at Seijyun about a mysterious and accurate fortuneteller, Sada Asai seeks her out. Deciding she could use the practice, Elise indulges her... but might the con artist psychic have produced a too-accurate reading without meaning to?
Winter night doesn't seem like the right time for a circus, does it? And in truth, it probably isn't, which is why the Twilight Star performers typically restrict themselves to fair weather shows in the deepest, darkest months of winter. However, the circus DOES perform now and then, warming the tents and providing a pleasant, distracting outing for anyone willing to brave the cold and see the show. Of course, afterwards those people get to go home, while the circus folk? Well, they have all sorts of arranements. Some have local temporary lodging; others have caravans and such that follow the show itself. There is one among the latter type, though, that sort of... sticks out.
The design is wood, and even a little stained glass, though the wagon wheels on its sides are by necessity a more modern rubber over metal affair, and there's a large enclosed wooden box on the side that suggests a generator housing. But the entire affair, from wooden walls to fringed violet roof, is the spitting image of the stereotyped Romany fortuneteller's wagon. There's every expectation that one will step through its ellipse-topped wooden door -- complete with a star-shaped cutout -- and encounter a wizened crone, hunched over a cauldron or crystal ball, cackling madly to herself like she'd stepped directly out of Macbeth.
It was not, strictly speaking, *necessary*. As far as utility goes, it's more for show than anything else, though Elise Harkness legitimately has her own small 'apartment' in the back behind the area for... business. But she insisted on it, because as an experienced con artist, Elise knows that set trappings, the ~*feel*~ of the situation, is critical. Once you've convinced someone that you have mystical, future-sight powers because you meet their expectation of having mystical, future-sight powers, your work is halfway done. They'll fill in the gaps for you.
Ever since the blurb about her ran in the society pages, the mysterious Miss Harkness has been the talk of the town's gossips... and there probably aren't any better gossips than the ladies of Seijyun High. Rumors abound of the beautiful woman -- "she's a real true witch, I heard it from my friend in Italy!" -- with the ear of the powerful and genuine mystical powers circulate madly... as well as the information that if you can sneak in to see her, then she'll be able to tell you when you'll meet your first love, or whatever it is that teen girls want nowadays.
It doesn't hurt that Elise seeded the rumors herself, sat her wagon at the very edge of the staked-off space for the circus where evading the 'security' would be child's play, and then waited for the harvest. She wasn't disappointed, either; while the sukeban crowd was less than enthusiastic, plenty of rich businessmen's daughters were all too happy to gush about their lives to Elise as she swore up and down that true love was coming their way, etc.
Tonight should be like any other night. But the orange light glowing under the drawn curtains and through the star-shaped hole in the door suggest that whoever it is that works in this theme park-like setting, they're open for business...
Sada Asai is grumpy about her life. The nearly avoided battle with some woman named Chisaki while getting dinner last night wasn't encouraging; what is also not encouraging is the situation in the interschool tournament. Also, classes haven't quite yet started back up at Seijyun, leaving her...
However, gossip reached her, and this was more exciting than sneaking out to try and buy cigarettes again, which was one of the main entertainments for the bored girls who are also stuck on campus over the Christmas holiday.
And so it is that she snuck on out.
Sada comes when some of the other girls aren't there. She's not wanting to be seen right now, not hugely. She may not be getting crushed for failing to prevail over Tiffany Lords - who could expect anyone, save (of course) Zaki, to make a prominent show against the fighters of the world? But it's embarrassing nonetheless.
She lingers outside of the door for long moments, before raising one hand - gloved, and snugly within a slightly froofy but very insulating parka - to tap on the doorway. Her breath steams as she says, "Excuse me... Miss Harkness, isn't it?" into, perhaps, the void.
The door opens by itself.
It's not even a very good trick, really; it's a floor release that she can control by tapping under her chair with her foot. But again, it's all about ambience. What sort of witch has to get up and actually open the door with her own two hands? One without a servant or familiar of some kind and that's just not an option. And of course the path all the way to the wagon is lined with hidden surveillance as well, so Elise is prepared well in advance for these sorts of shenanigans.
That's why, when the door opens, Sada is treated to a vision by candlelight; the interior of the wagon is pleasant enough, lit entirely by well-placed and probably scented candles, as the small room has that herbal-ish fragrance one would expect, the scent of dried herbs and flowers rather than a more overpowering scent like incense. The center of the room is a table with a plain violet tablecloth, and two chairs, facing each other across said table.
And on the other side of that table sits Elise Harkness, all pleasant smiles and exploded curves, the wide brim of her authentic purple witch's hat obscuring her face in JUST the right amount of shadow for it to look fascinating and mysterious by cinematic standards.
"Well. Come in, Miss..." And here, a brief look of apparent concentration, before continuing "...Asai. And please do close the door behind you, or it'll be devilish cold in here before long." Her voice is melodious, betraying her Scottish heritage instantly, but it stops well before becoming a full-on, barely comprehensible brogue.
The door opening has a great effect on Sada, whose eyes are wide as she steps in. Her arms fold, even as she breathes in the cool and fragrant air, warmed as it is by curls of waxy smoke and the subtle aromas of herbs and flowers. The cool air helps, too.
Sada lingers on the threshold as she gazes on that witch-hatted woman. She purses her lips, and actually stiffens up at the calling of her name. How did she know!?
(Well, if she's been hitting up other girls for fortunes, it probably came up - Sada may not be very visually distinctive, but she /did/ try to beat the crap out of Tiffany and fail, twice. :()
She turns to close the door behind her, before pivoting around again and bowing deep at the waist for a moment. "Th - thank you! Uhm. Ahem, that is to say..." She tosses her hair back with one hand, as if to regain some composure. "I've heard about your... abilities, I thought I'd come and see for myself."
"What is it..." Elise begins, reaching under the table and producing a fat deck of cards -- considerably larger than a standard deck of 52 playing cards -- from under the table, "...about young girls in Japan and fortunetelling? Would you mind telling me?" Her tone is conversational, friendly, inviting; that the chair opposite her is for Sada herself to occupy appears to go without question. Meanwhile, the Scot is expertly shuffling the deck; the cards look impressively ornate, with the backing pattern being a twisting moebius of Celtic knots.
The *flp-flp-flp* of cards being lightly tapped against each other resounds as the deck is cut, shuffled, cut again, shuffled again, all with a speed that would make a Vegas dealer whistle. Clearly, the Scottish witch has deft hands indeed. "I mean, every girl has their own fantasies about the future. When will their destined prince come, and all that... ugly ducklings, the lot of them, wondering when they shall become swans." If you drill down into what was just said, it's rather callous, even cruel. But the hint of a smile on Elise's face, and her meeting of Sada's gaze as she says it, suggests that both Elise and Sada are here in a charmed circle, separate from that crowd of ugly ducklings.
And in fact, she practically says as much as she puts the deck on the table and gestures with a sweeping hand for Sada to cut it. "Not you, though. I can see in your eyes that you're not here to learn when Prince Charming is going to sweep you into the saddle. You have... bigger thoughts. Grander thoughts. Don't you?"
As she waits for Sada to cut the deck, Elise leans back in her chair somewhat. "Let's see what your future holds."
Sada's face blushes as she sets down, even as she unzips from her parka. Underneath she is a little more fashionable, with a fairly thick blouse and a neckerchief. "Well," she says, "I don't think it's like... surprising, really. All of us want to know what the future holds, and I guess sometimes you just kind of get a... trend, right?"
She attempts a smile. Her teeth are unnaturally neat and even. "I hope they haven't been bothering you too much."
Then, the cards get brought out as she settles in her seat. The words that come out are not things that bother Sada. The gentleness of the fortune-teller's tone doesn't really reach her: no. The cruelty of the words does. She relaxes, comfortably; smiles, a bit coldly.
"Ah!" she says. "Yes, that's it exactly --" She reaches forwards, and after a moment, figures out what cutting the deck meant here. She hits it near the bottom, putting the bigger stack down and putting the smaller on top of it. "Um - is that right??"
"Right, wrong... really those aren't words to be concerned with right now," Elise says with a smile, taking the deck back from Sada and letting the cards flow through her fingers again. She can sense it, something... off about the girl's reaction. 'That's it exactly' just isn't a phrase normal people use, not _really_. It's the sort of thing you say when you want someone to think you agree. And there was a momentary flare of... something. The con artist's quick mind is already trying to figure out what it is. She is *certain* this girl isn't here for dating advice. So, what was...
Carefully, the sultry Scot turns over the first card, placing it at the center of the table. On it, a woman in gold and orange robes sits on a throne, a tiger asleep at her feet and a tall, flowering branch held in one hand. The Queen of Wands. "We start with the center, the here and now. A woman of fiery passion, independent. The wand represents the element of fire... to ability to wield and control power."
There's a pause, and then Elise lets her eyes get heavy-lidded, letting a finger drift over the card, stroking it idly as if it were some sort of pet. Her voice is low when she speaks. "But power frustrated or restrained... it builds up within. With no outlet, it consumes, burns inside rather than... without?" She raises her head, looking quizically at Sada for some kind of confirmation.
What is it? It might be... killing intent.
Probably not, though. Sada is not a nice person, this much is clear, but there is perhaps no real fundamental craving for murder. But perhaps that is a bad thing in its final analysis. But then the first card is revealed - and Sada's mouth hangs open in surprise as Elise strokes the card, explaining things.
"Y... yes! That's - that's it exactly." Hm, maybe she learned that somewhere. "I mean - w, well, I mean it's a good analysis. I really like how she looks. Especially the tiger. Umm... I suppose I do have frustrations... you know, life's a little tough, and my family's kind of a pain, too..."
Sada toys with a lock of her hair. It isn't very intimidating. "What's the next one say?"
Elise draws her finger back with a pensive expression on her face. She lets a "Hmmm..." rumble briefly in the back of her throat, face obscured by shadow as she bows her head. It is, of course, an act; spinning plausible things out of what she knows not just of Sada's public appearances, but out of her understanding of people in general. An almost protective note in her aura, before... and now she resonated well with the idea of power stymied. Plus, she's at Seijyun, which suggests a few possibilities. Deciding to roll the dice, she flips over the next card.
"The first card represents your present; this second, your past." On it, a man in a loincloth languishes in obvious pain on jagged rocks, while above him, on a tree branch, is a coiled serpent, whose fangs drip venom onto the man's face. The fifteenth card of the major arcana. "The Devil... a card representing stagnation, obsession, bondage. Are you familiar with the legends of the Vikings, Miss Asai?" Elise asks suddenly, tilting her head. "That card depicts Loki, the god of mischief who killed Baldur, the joyful son of Odin. In retaliation, he's bound below this serpent who drips cold venom on him until Ragnarok comes. Hmmm."
With a faint smile, she coyly looks at Sada out of the corner of one eye, her long auburn hair falling in front of and obscuring the other. "I hardly think you're the Devil herself. But perhaps there's some past wrong for which you are torturing yourself?"
Sada looks down at that man and the snake. "No," she says, about the vikings, even if she seems utterly enraptured. Is she simply credulous, or is this hitting deeply home? It's honestly something of a mixture of both.
Sada purses her lips as she folds her arms loosely in front of herself. "Hnf," she then says, about torture. "You make it sound like I have to deal with some kind of guilt because I killed my pet bird or something, huh?" She looks up, meeting Elise's eyes, defiance flashing through that awed look. "Well, you're closer than you think... But I'm not Loki on that card. Or at least I'm not... really... Alright, let me start over..."
Sada sucks in a breath.
"That card... in that card, I'm a lot more 'the serpent' than 'the man.' But you're right... that it wasn't my doing."
"Torture," Elise says smoothly, "takes many forms."
The next card in the spread is the future. This is the trickiest one, because it's the card that everyone expects to come to pass if you are Genuine Fortuneteller. And because she is not necessarily controlling the cards that come out of the deck -- these truly are a randomized shuffling, the better to give up their form to the spirits to be manipulated -- it's all about spinning things in the proper direction.
However, it would appear the gods have smiled upon her, for as Elise flips over the next card. On it, five young men appear to be struggling wildly with each other, each of them armed with a length of wood they're using as a spear or quarterstaff. It hasn't turned bloody -- yet -- but there is a definitively competitive overtone.
"The Five of Wands. I've already mentioned that Wands is the suit of fire, of power and force. This third card represents your future, and I foresee considerable strife for you. But don't despair..." Here, she turns to Sada with a faint smile. "'Struggle' can mean many things. Perhaps you simply have more miles to go before you're forgiven... or maybe it means a slightly more direct confrontation."
Sada runs the tip of her tongue under her teeth as she looks down, seeing -- five men fighting with staffs.
Well, she thinks: That's pretty sweet.
However, she's then given an interpretation of it. "Aaaahhh," she says, leaning back and hugging her chest as she meets Elise's eyes again. She seems to be getting back into the groove of credulity.
"Does this mean there's someone in my way...? Don't get me wrong here, I'm not looking for anyone's [Forgiveness.] But I guess... there's mysteries and struggles, in life, and stuff." A truly great epitaph for one of the coming lights of Japanese womanhood!!
"Well... the fourth card represents an influence on your present situation. Outside forces acting that may change the outcome." But I hardly need a card to predict _this_, says Elise's inner monologue. If Sada is acting, then she is so good at it that she's fooling a genuine psychic whose sixth sense can feel the ebb and flow of her thoughts and emotions. Well, that and... Sada is a bit of an open book, really. NOBODY is that good a liar.
Flipping over the next card, Elise lays it in the spread, which has now formed 3 points of a cross with the Queen of Wands at the center, leaving space for only one more after this. The card, interestingly, depicts a broad-chested, powerful-looking man with a long red beard, in a wheeled vehicle pulled by two black goats with long, curved horns. In his hands, he holds an old-style warhammer. "How interesting. The Chariot."
Once again, Elise's fingertip is stroking the card, as if there were something inside it that physical contact is revealing to her, although in truth, the smoothness of the card's somewhat glossy finish is a nicely focusing tactile sensation. "I am certain you have heard of who the card represents: Thor, the god of thunder. Warrior of the Norse gods, riding to battle. The Chariot represents the wings of victory, you see... wealth, power, confidence... but here, inverted as it is, these qualities become twisted. Confidence becomes arrogance. Wealth becomes excess. Victory becomes... gloating?"
Sitting back with a satisfied smile, Elise waves a hand at the cards on the table. "Considering what lies before you, this should come as no surprise. A struggle lies before you. But is it with some tyrant, some vision of victory gone bad? Or perhaps the struggle is inside you, instead?"
Sada purses her lips. "Right," she says, about the outside forces; of course things can vary and change, and stuff. Though, she wonders, what if it's like that show, and changing your behavior to avoid the prediction makes it come true. But then...
Arises the Chariot.
The Chariot REVERSED! "Aah - Is it saying I'm going to be faced with too much success, and it'll ruin me?" Sada guesses, but Elise clarifies further. She pouts a little, leaning back in her chair, her cheeks puffing out slightly.
"There's only one person who's really been 'in my way.' But I don't think she's been an obstacle, not in - Wait."
Her eyes narrow. "Kashiwagi. Maybe it's /her/."
There's a moment where Elise is looking at Sada with a perfectly neutral, placid face. On the inside, though, a part of her is cracking up, if only because Sada is either in on the joke and providing in an epic way, or is just sort of genuinely a little off her rocker. Either way, it's entertaining... and that was really all this little exercise with the girls of Seijyun was. An opportunity to keep the skills sharp.
"One final card for the potential. It represents one possibility, one trajectory. But is it one your actions will bring about, or one that you must try to avoid at all costs? It's difficult to say." Reaching forward, Elise flips over one last card. On it, a woman with brilliant gold hair in a gown of diaphanous sky blue sits in a throne, a sword leaning against it. Her gaze is in the distance, fixated on some distant point.
"Ah, the Queen of Swords. Unlike Wands, the suit of Swords is associated with the element of air and wind. She represents clarity and wisdom, a figure of understanding. Hmmm."
Elise leans forward over the table, and now... now is when it needs to be sold. Now, every persuasive trick she can think of gets deployed. The blue-eyed gaze searches for Sada's, then attempts to hold it fast by intensity alone. "You, queen of wands, sit in power, but it is power stymied, and being so bound it turns within, destroying you. Struggle will come to you, soon: struggle without, and struggle within. If you can overcome it, perhaps you may find wisdom and clarity unlike what you have known." Her enunciation is clear as a bell, her voice rich with varying intonantions, selling the drama.
And then, just like that, the cards are swept up, returned to the deck, and the entire affair consigned to some out of sight place. "I'll be watching your fortune with great interest in the coming weeks, Miss Asai. I'm most interested in the outcome."
It is 110% the latter thing.
The final card - the potential, a trajectory, a vision of the real future. And then -
She likes the look of that. Sada's mouth opens just a bit again as that suit of swords and queenly figure is unveiled. She looks back up to meet Elise with her own black eyes, easily seized a moment later -- "Yes! I understand... I'll have to use my head. I can't just let myself stay constrained by the limitations I've been laboring under. I have to understand what I can really do...!"
Sada bows deeply at the waist, her hair hanging in her face. She tosses it back as she rises up. "And -- you will be? Oh... How long will you be in the Southtown area...?" Circuses travel, right? RIGHT?
A genuine smile from Elise, which given her nature is rare indeed. All that needs to happen is for things to fall into place for Sada Asai, which will cement in the girl's mind that there is truly something to her ability to foresee the future. Perhaps she'll even... take a hand a making it happen? Stranger things have happened.
Also, a tiny light goes on in her head. Note to self: read up on Asai family.
"I'm sure we'll be here for some time," Elise says soothingly, before shoo-ing Sada with both hands. "Best be on your way. The future won't get any closer with you sitting about here."
"Of course!!" Sada says, rising up to her full height, bowing again, and backing away towards the door. "Thank you so much!! I won't let you down, Harkness-san!! Please cheer for me if you see me on TV!!" She bumps the door and has to nudge it open with her hip.
And as for the lore of the Asai family?
Well, that's a story for another day.
Log created on 20:19:45 01/05/2015 by Elise, and last modified on 00:37:35 01/06/2015.